Overlooked and Underloved: Chivas USA at FC Dallas

0 Comments

This is it. The final week of the regular season. We made it! Pat yourselves on the back. No more pencils, no more books. Wait, wrong chant.

This is the last time we’ll give you a game we think deserves to be watched but no one is talking about. We’ve been right, we’ve been wrong. Up today: Chivas USA traveling to FC Dallas.

  • I like this Dallas team. Sure, they didn’t make the playoffs, but they made a nice run after a bad start. And they have hands down the best story of the year with goalkeeper Chris Seitz.
  • You know what the end of the regular season means? It’s time to start asking questions about next year. As in: What the heck is going to happen to Juan Agudelo? He went to Chivas to earn some playing time, which he did, but it wasn’t the best season for the young man. Key word there, though: YOUNG. Agudelo has time. But check out the match to see what, if anything, he learned on the season.
  • Like we said, big changes coming.
  • Dan Kennedy should get a medal after continuing to show up in net for that abysmal Goats squad. At the very least, he deserves your eyeballs.
  • The two teams played less than a month ago. Bad blood? Probably not, but everyone wants to end the year with a victory.
  • Roll this match right into Los Angeles-Seattle and you have yourself a wonderful little Sunday night. Just sayin’.

Danger match for Chelsea in Ukraine – UEFA Champions League Group E preview

0 Comments

Shakhtar Donetsk caught a few eyes last match day with a draw in Turin, but coming short of a historic win over Juventus, the Ukrainian champions remaining Overlooked and Underloved ®. On Tuesday, Shakhtar get another chance to transcend their stature as plucky champions from a middle-ground league. With the competition’s holders visiting the Donbass Arena, Shakhtar have an opportunity to score one of the most important wins in their club’s history, and upset that wouldn’t be as most suspect.

That result would turn Group E on its ear. Chelsea and Juventus were picked by most to come out of this group, but if Shakhtar can fulfill their promise and get a key three points, they’ll have done most of the work needed to make the knockout round. In the process, they’ll have also pushed Chelsea or Juventus to the edge of Europa League.

Now, all they have to do is pull it off.

Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) vs. Chelsea (England)

Donbass Arena, Donetsk, 2:45 p.m. Eastern

We’ve periodically updated you on the farce that Shakhtar’s made of the Ukrainian season. Normally the Premier League comes down to the two derbies between Shakhtar and Dynamo Kyiv, but not this year. Twelve matches into the season, Shakhtar is perfect, has a 12-point lead and a +32 goal difference. They’ve lapped the field.

No player embodies that rise like Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The 23-year-old Armenian scored 13 goals in his two previous Premier League seasons. This year, he’s scored 14 times in 12 games, adding two more in Champions League. While an evolving role within Mircea Lucescu’s setup has meant more chances for Mkhitaryan, this Messi-esque goal rate has come out of nowhere.

Replicating that success against Chelsea is a big ask, but as Skahktar showed last round at Juventus, they’re capable of competing in this group. After taking a point in Turin, the Ukranian champions have carved a route into the next round, provided they stay on it. Failing to get a result against Chelsea wouldn’t sidetrack that effort, but it would leave Shakhtar open to being pushed aside if Juventus beat the Blues in November.

For Chelsea’s part, they’re coming in after a great performance at White Hart Lane, but there are a lot of circumstances conspiring against them. If the Blues weren’t playing in the Club World Cup, the trip to Donetsk would be their longest of the season. They’ve only had two days rest, much of their squad has just come back from international duty, and they have a major league match with Manchester United this weekend.

Even with some squad rotation, Chelsea will be the more talented side on Tuesday. Thanks to that superior personnel and the benefits of their formation, they’ll have fewer troubles with Shakhtar’s style than Juventus did. Still, this is setting up less like match Chelsea will win than one which they’ll try to survive.

From Shakhtar head coach Mircea Lucescu:

” I don’t want to talk a lot about their game on Saturday, because I think that at the moment we are stronger than Tottenham.”

Author’s note: He’s probably right.

From Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo:

“I remember Mircea Lucescu’s work in Italy very well. All his teams stuck to the same philosophy – they always try to play possession football. You can see how Shakhtar pass the ball. You can see the structure of the team. They are very good tactically and they have a lot of quick players.”

UEFA preview

More previews: Group E Group F Group G Group H

Nordsjaelland (Denmark) vs. Juventus (Italy)

Parken, Copenhagen, 2:45 p.m. Eastern

Juventus has only lost once since the beginning of last season (May’s Coppa Italia final to Napoli), but the realities of the three-point win leave the Old Lady in need of points. After draws with Chelsea and Shakhtar, Juventus is in third place, leaving them with little margin for error in Tuesday’s match at Parken. Anything but a win will be points dropped in a race where they’ve already been drawn at home by the team most likely to take a top two spot from them.

Though Nordsjaelland’s destined to finish last in this group, they’re no pushovers. They’ve been better than their -6 goal difference indicates, Given the pace at which Juventus plays, it’s not difficult to imagine the Danish champions snatching a point, particularly if they play for it.

In both of their Champions League games, Juventus started slowly, fallen behind, and had to comeback to salvage draws. In this weekend’s big match against Napoli, they didn’t break through until making late-match adjustments. If they’re similarly slow coming into this match, Nordsjaelland could hold on for their first Champions League point. However, if Juventus is intent from the opening kickoff, they could replicate Chelsea’s result.

From Nordsjaelland head coach Kasper Hjulmand:

“The team is the star. Andrea Pirlo is the key, though, as his distribution is second to none. He is a joy to watch – at least when you are not up against him. I am not the first coach to try to find a way to close Pirlo down. It is an almost impossible task.”

Author’s note: It’s almost as if these coaches don’t have access to film of Juventus’s visit to Chelsea. Nobody saw that and wants to emulate what Roberto Di Matteo had Oscar do?

From Juventus assistant Angelo Alessio:

“I have plenty of experience and a good feeling, so I am not worried that Antonio Conte is not here for this match … Conte decides who plays depending on the tactical outlay and the opponents we face.”

UEFA preview

More previews: Group E Group F Group G Group H

Overlooked and Underloved: Montreal Impact at Toronto FC

2 Comments

New York versus Sporting Kansas City? Borrrrrrring. The San Jose Earthquakes and the Los Angeles Galaxy? Star power is so 2011. Vancouver and Portland? Whatevs.

We want the first game of the weekend: the Montreal Impact visiting BMO Field. Boy, this could be a tough sell, but let’s count the ways.

  • Canadian against Canadian. Brother against brother, probably. You gotta like that drama. How can you turn away?
  • TFC hasn’t won since July 18. That. Is. Awful. But wouldn’t you like to say you watched when a squad broke it’s three-month winless streak?
  • Three months!?!
  • Maybe they will have some cool halftime show like “score a goal and start next week”?
  • If it’s a really terrible game, there is still plenty of time to watch another one and get it out of your system.
  • Overlooked and Underloved: Panama vs. Honduras

    1 Comment

    No MLS action this week? No worries. We’ll adjust.

    American fans will be glued to the United States against Antigua & Barbuda on Friday evening. Then, maybe you’ll focus on Guatemala-Jamaica or Canada-Cuba. That would be wrong, we tell you.

    The real action is Panama-Honduras. Estadio Rommel Fernández. Get there. Or, more likely, watch it on television.

    The reasons?

    • The battle for the top of group C. Honduras clinches the Hex with a win. Panama puts itself in prime position to qualify for the final round, with only a match against group whipping boy Cuba remaining.
    • Plenty of MLSers in action: Honduras has Victor Bernardez, Marvin Chavez, Roger Espinoza, Oscar Boniek Garcia, Mario Martinez, and Jerry Bengtson. Panama boasts the dynamic duo of Gabriel Gómez, Blas Perez.
    • Honduras wants revenge after Panama beat them 2-0 in San Pedro Sula.
    • The timing works: It’s after the U.S. match, a nice comedown after the Stars and Stripes (hopefully) earn three points.

    Okay, you’re right. This is a stretch. Watch US-A&B. Then celebrate. Then, take a deep breath, and don’t sleep on the two Central American nations. What, you have something better to do on a Friday night? We certainly don’t.

    Overlooked and Underloved: Montreal at Houston

    0 Comments

    Seriously awesome weekend ahead in MLS: New York-Chicago, LA-RSL, and a little thing we like to call the “PORTLAND-SEATTLE DEATHMATCH FOR THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST OR ANY LEAST THE US PART OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST THAT DOES NOT INCLUDE VANCOUVER.” (We’re still working out the kinks in the name.)

    But yeah, yeah, yeah. You should be watching the Montreal Impact take on the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Stadium. Let’s count the ways:

    1) The Impact aren’t making the playoffs, but the Dynamo are in a dogfight with D.C. United and the Columbus Crew for the last two spots in the Eastern Conference. Heck, they have an outside chance at moving all the way up to second. Playoff potential.
    2) Will Bruin. Dance on Dancing Bear, dance on.
    3) Houston went undefeated in their last six last year. Can they make a late-season run this year and win their last four. WE WILL FIND OUT.
    4) Montreal is out, but Jesse Marsch ain’t through tinkering. Some of the changes are due to injury, but you also gotta think he’s looking forward to next year. There’s something about guys fighting for their jobs that always brings out the best.
    5) The Impact get a two-week break after the match. Run, run, run, and then rest.