Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP, File

Canada coach Herdman aims for 2022 World Cup

1 Comment

We haven’t talked about 2022 World Cup qualifying in some time, as the focus was on the USMNT finding its coach, then Gregg Berhalter implementing his style, and soon winning the 2019 Gold Cup to ensure a spot in the 2021 Confederations Cup.

[ MORE: Montreal adds Serie A striker ]

There should be a ton of focus on the U.S. bounce back for any number of reasons, especially considering that qualifying for the next World Cup may be the last time the U.S. has to truly worry about its berth (unless Gianni Infantino gets his way and miraculously implements an expanded field for 2022. Then Berhalter and Co. are set already).

So with three-and-a-half spots available, it’s of-note any time a manager admits his national team side should earn one of those berths in Qatar.

Today, we’re talking about the biggest underachievers in CONCACAF for the better part of the last 20 years, and that’s Canada. The Canucks are led by John Herdman, and he’s bringing a mentality of expectation that’s been lacking from the unit in some time (although there were strides under Benito Floro) From Sportsnet.ca:

“We don’t have excuses. I don’t want to be that guy making them. At the end of the day if we don’t qualify for [2022], it’ll be a disappointment. To put that level of expectations on the team is critical. The team wants that, they’re ready for it. They know it’s now or never for many of them,” Herdman said.

“So, when you say, ‘how do you know it’s going to happen?’, we have to make it happen. But more importantly, we have to believe, and I think that belief is there from the men who are going to be leading the charge.”

He also, albeit not in so many words, admitted that the Canadians have underperformed in recent cycles.

First of all, no one is catching Mexico this cycle. El Tri are in something akin to a golden generation, and have the following stars in their prime: Wolves’ Raul Jimenez, Diego Reyes, and Hector Herrera, with Hirving Lozano getting there and several veteran leaders on the end of their elite window but still easy CONCACAF stars (Memo Ochoa, Hector Moreno, Andres Guardado).

So that’s 2.5 half spots.

Canada is ranked 78th in the world by FIFA and is 68th in the Elo Ratings. That puts them 8th and 7th amongst CONCACAF sides, as El Salvador is much lower in Elo than FIFA (and Elo is superior as an analytical tool. We’ve placed the chart at bottom).

Considering that the USMNT historically underperformed in 2018 qualification and Panama lucked into the tournament via a goal that did not cross the line, and it’s easy to predict a reverse in fortunes for the those two, but can Canada get in the Top Three (or the playoff spot) by moving ahead of 2-3 of the U.S., Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Jamaica (Considering Canada a contender requires they pass El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago).

If anything, the time is now for this group of Canadians, considering they’ll host the 2026 tournament with the U.S. and Canada. Les Rouges have vastly under-performed at two of the last three U-20 World Cups since giving the Americans a scare in the 2013 Round of 16. But they had a quality 2017 Gold Cup, and missed the 2018 World Cup qualifying Hex because Mexico had nothing to play for in the final game and drew Honduras.

Canada is still very low on overall depth and has a generation of player-first entitlement to overcome, but has CONCACAF star power in Alphonso Davies, Junior Hoilett, Scott Arfield, Cyle Larin, and Jonathan Osorio, a UEFA Champions League goalkeeper in Milan Borjan, a rising Liverpool teen in Liam Millar and the wild card of Barcelona property and former Montreal forward Ballou Tabla. Not to mention, the new and promising Canadian Premier League will make it easier for Herdman to scout potential next level stars.

Canada is currently en route for a Pot 3 ranking for the fourth round of World Cup qualifying (the last stop before the Hex). It would be drawn into a group where the main combatants will be one of Mexico, the USMNT, and Costa Rica, and one of Jamaica, Honduras, or El Salvador.

It’s not crazy at all to think Canada would edge Honduras and El Salvador for a top spot, and a group with Costa Rica where points will be live in those two fixtures. And the Canucks have a tactical boss with a chance to outwit another manager.

Hot take: Los Ticos are still long on experience but a bigger question in terms of depth and youth, missing three of four U-20 World Cups. That tournament shouldn’t be the lone arbiter of future goodness, but it’s something.

Even given the 2018 qualifying embarrassment, I fully expect the Yanks to qualify for 2022 in Qatar. Honestly, I think Jamaica might be the third-best group in terms of talent, with Costa Rica and Honduras interesting for different reasons. To borrow from the other football, Panama out-kicked its coverage and should be considered no certainty for the Hex. T&T is tricky at home. If Canada can be, there’s a really good chance they make the Hex.

Gerrard: “Big result” to come back twice at Villarreal

Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Steven Gerrard remains unbeaten as a manager in Europe after his toughest test yet.

The Rangers boss watched his team go down 1-0 to Villarreal after less than a minute of their Europa League group stage debut, but ended up collecting a pair of equalizers and an impressive 2-2 draw in Spain.

[ MORE: PAOK 0-1 Chelsea ]

“It’s a big result and that’s always the way, my experience in Europe, you have to come away and get something,” Gerrard said on BT Sport.

“Obviously we came here to try and win the game and we nearly did through Scott Arfield at the end. We nearly lost it as well. They pushed, which is understandable but it’s a big point for us. Now we’ve got a home game and if we can take maximum points it’s a terrific start to the group.”

Adversity was there for Rangers, from Carlos Bacca’s first minute marker to conceding a second goal two minutes after Scott Arfield made it 1-1. But the Glaswegian side answered the ball through Kyle Lafferty.

Playmaker Daniel Candeias has plenty of praise for Gerrard. From Rangers.co.uk:

“When we finished the first half, the gaffer said in the dressing room to believe in ourselves and get a great result,” Candeias said. “I know we didn’t win, but a draw is a good result for us.”

Rangers will host Rapid Vienna on Oct. 4 in their second Group G match. Rapid beat Spartak Moscow 2-0 on Thursday.

Season Preview: What should Burnley’s expectations be?

Getty Images
1 Comment

Burnley at a glance:

Premier League (and old First Division) titles: 2 (Last: 1959/60)

FA Cups: 1 (1913/14)

League Cups: 0 (best finish: semifinals four times)

FA Community Shield: 2 (last: 1973)

Top Four finishes: 11 (last: 1965/66)

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]


The ultimate goal for every club, top to bottom, should be tangible improvement. Nobody wants to step backwards, whether it means relegation or otherwise.

So here Burnley sits, after its most successful season in club history with a 7th place finish in the Premier League table last season, qualifying them for this year’s now-underway Europa League campaign. Where do they go from here? What are reasonable expectations?

The Clarets were hard to get a bead on last year, going through numerous winning and winless streaks. Still, Sean Dyche was rightfully lauded for his leadership and organization that kept Burnley compact and defensive-minded yet still able to poach a goal or two up front.

Still, there are worrying signs. The squad is navigating a potentially dangerous Europa League qualification campaign that threatens to derail the early portion of the league season as it has to so many other mid-table Premier League clubs. On top of that, the club hasn’t purchased a single player this transfer window, a precarious position for a team in desperate need of depth. Will Burnley stake its claim as a consistent top-half contender, or will they fade after a one-season fling?


Burnley will repeat last year because….they have Sean Dyche. The manager has warded off interest from bigger clubs to continue leading the Clarets, and if anyone can protect this squad from overuse in the first half of the season its the 47-year-old former Premier League defender. He’s a first-class manager, and will do everything in his power to lead this team through the inevitable low points to keep them in a contending position.

Burnley will end up fighting relegation because….the squad is just too thin. They have not added a single player this transfer window, while newly promoted sides get better every summer day. They always say if you’re standing still you’re falling behind, and with the Europa League sapping players of their summer rest and energy required to compete in the long Premier League season, this squad could be in real trouble. Star goalkeeper Nick Pope has already gone down with a 3-month long injury while playing in Europe, while midfield rock Steven Defour recovers from a calf strain suffered in early preseason training. If they take more hits to important pieces, things could go downhill fast.

Best possible XI:

———————Pope———————

——Lowton—Tarkowski—Mee——Ward——

—————Defour——Hendrick——————

——Gundmundsson——————Lennon——

—————Vokes——Wood——————

Transfers In: NONE

Transfers Out: Dean Marney (Fleetwood Town, free), Chris Long (Fleetwood Town, free), Tom Anderson (Doncaster Rovers, free), Scott Arfield (Rangers, free).

Ranking their offseason: D+

Burnley narrowly avoids a failing grade this window for keeping James Tarkowski despite a wave of interest from the bigger clubs after a stellar season at the back last campaign. However, failing to add anyone to this point despite a Europa League campaign is downright unacceptable. Sean Dyche plays the unfair prices card, but the club earned a total of $156 million from its seventh place finish last year, rendering the excuse untenable. Burnley has been rebuffed most notable in a bid for West Brom pair Jay Rodriguez and Craig Dawson, but otherwise the club has barely even registered among the rumor mill. It’s worrying to say the least.

Star player: Only on Burnley would the star player be a center-back, but that’s most certainly the case. Tarkowski had a fabulous season last year, topping the Premier League charts in multiple defensive metrics. It’s stunning that, at age 25, Burnley has been able to ward off all suitors rather than cash in, but the Clarets have managed not only to keep Tarkowski aboard, but wipe his name almost completely out of the rumors completely; an English defender in his prime commands top dollar in today’s market. He has the talent to crack the England national team at their deep center-back position if he continues to play this well.

Coach’s Corner: Sean Dyche is a star and no matter what happens to Burnley this season, he is destined for a step up sooner or later. His loyalty to Burnley to this point has been admirable, and it’s only a matter of time before he earns a move elsewhere in the Premier League. If Burnley sinks this league season, it likely won’t hurt his stock. Dyche’s ability to neutralize an opponent’s strength has been proven time and again, grabbing points last season in matches against Manchester City, Manchester United, and Liverpool, among others.

PST Predicts: It’s crazy to bet against Dyche, but it’s also hard to overlook the failed transfer market. It would be sad to see such a likeable club relegated to the Championship, and that seems to be an extreme result, but Burnley could most certainly end up sucked into a battle. Ultimately, they should hang on to their safety, but it’s likely only downhill from last year’s result. A 14th or 15th placed finish seems about right for this season’s finish.

PL Sunday preview: Man City’s title trot; Wenger’s farewell tour

Leave a comment

Manchester City will play as the confirmed champions of the Premier League, though they won’t celebrate as such for a couple more weeks, on Sunday. Meanwhile, the only manager Arsenal have known for more than two decades begins saying goodbye

[ MORE: Man United come back to beat Spurs, reach FA Cup final ]

Arsenal vs. West Ham United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

So begins the Arsene Wenger farewell tour, and with a London derby at that. Wenger announced on Friday that he’ll leave Arsenal at the end of the current season, which has little to no chance of seeing the Gunners finish in the PL’s top-five, let alone the top-four. Sunday’s clash with West Ham will be the first of Wenger’s three remaining games at the Emirates Stadium, including the Europa League semifinal against Atletico Madrid on Thursday. Unfortunately for Wenger, three of his final five PL games (four of seven in all competitions) will be played away from home, where his side has lost five straight in league play.

Speaking of lost and wayward seasons, 14th-place West Ham are almost mathematically clear of relegation (there’s currently three places and six points between themselves and 18th-place Southampton). It’s hardly the future they imagined upon moving to the London Stadium at the start of last season. Andy Carroll scored the late equalizer in the Hammers’ 1-1 draw with Stoke City on Monday, which rescued perhaps a perfectly timed point with all five remaining games to be played against sides currently in the top-nine (Arsenal, Man City, Leicester, Man United and Everton).

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (knee), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Jack Wilshere (ankle) | West Ham — OUT: James Collins (hamstring), Sam Byram (ankle), Winston Reid (knee), Michail Antonio (hamstring), Pedro Obiang (knee)


Stoke City vs. Burnley — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Here’s what’s at stake at the bet365 Stadium on Sunday:

Stoke sit two places and five points adrift of safety from relegation, with four games left to play (17th-place Swansea City have a game in hand, to boot). After 10 seasons in the PL, it’s looking more and more likely that Paul Lambert (with a tip of the cap to Mark Hughes earlier in the season) will take the Potters back to the Championship for the first time since they won promotion in 2008.

Burnley trail Arsenal by just two points (though the Clarets have played one more game than the Gunners) in the race for sixth place. A sixth-place finish would be the club’s highest top-flight finish since 1966 (3rd).

INJURIES: Stoke — QUESTIONABLE: Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (groin) | Burnley — OUT: Steven Defour (knee), Scott Arfield (calf), Robbie Brady (knee), Jonathan Walters (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Ben Mee (knock), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (hamstring)


Manchester City vs. Swansea City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

While Man City won’t lift the PL trophy until their May 6 clash with Huddersfield Town, Sunday’s visit from Swansea will be Pep Guardiola‘s side’s first outing since clinching the title courtesy of Man United’s defeat to West Bromwich Albion last weekend. Guardiola’s focus has turned to breaking the all-time PL points record (95 — they currently have 87 with five games still to play).

“In the past, I won the league at Bayern and at Barca with five, six or seven games (left) but the next games were not good,” he said this week. “We have to think about how many points we can get, it can be a good argument. What we need to do is already done, the points record is not the most important thing, but maybe it can help us to be focused. It would be uncomfortable to finish in a bad way, there always has to be a target and maybe scoring the most goals and winning the most points will be a good focus.”

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Sergio Aguero (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: John Stones (thigh) | Swansea — OUT: Wilfried Bony (knee), Leroy Fer (achilles), Renato Sanches (hamstring)

Burnley 1-2 Liverpool: Last-gasp win

Leave a comment
  • Mane scores stunner; Klavan wins it late on
  • Burnley without a win in five
  • Liverpool unbeaten in 16 games

Liverpool extended their long unbeaten run and battled to a 2-1 win at Burnley on New Year’s Day.

In testing conditions Jurgen Klopp‘s side — who are now on their longest unbeaten run under the German coach — did most of the pressing and broke through in the second half with a superb goal from Sadio Mane who stepped up in the absence of the injured Philippe Coutinho and Mohamed Salah.

Johann Berg Gudmundsson nodded home late on as he looked to have snatched a point for the Clarets but then Klavan popped up with a diving header of his own to send the traveling Liverpool fans wild.

With the win Liverpool remain in fourth but move on to 44 points alongside Manchester United, while Burnley have failed to win any of their last five games but remain in seventh.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]  

Liverpool dominated possession early on and looked dangerous on the break with Ashley Barnes having a half chance for Burnley at the other end.

As the first half wore on Liverpool woke up and Nick Pope saved well from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Adam Lallana, making his first start of the season, raced back and made a crucial tackle as last man with Scott Arfield breaking free. A wonderful tackle from the England international to deny Burnley a clear look at goal.

Arfield nodded an effort towards goal which Simon Mignolet saved easily, then Dominic Solanke was tackled by Ben Mee inside the box as a good chance came and went for Liverpool. Half time arrived without a goal in an slow-burner.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

The rain continued to pour down in the second half as both teams battled the elements.

Lallana had shots deflected wide and Liverpool finally went ahead just after the hour mark. A cross from the right from Trent Alexander-Arnold found Mane on the edge of the box and the Senegalese forward controlled, turned and thumped home in one action to put Liverpool 1-0 up.

A moment of magic from Mane.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Alexander-Arnold forced Pope into a fine save late on as the youngster drilled a shot from distance towards the top corner, while at the other end Barnes volleyed just wide from the edge of the box.

Late in the game Burnley grabbed the equalizer as a cross was flicked on by Sam Vokes and Gudmundsson arrived unmarked at the back post to nod home. 1-1.

But Liverpool went straight down the other end and Dejan Lovren nodded across goal for Klavan to head home the winner right in front of the delirious traveling fans. What a finish and what a big win for Liverpool.