Just to let everyone know….I am and have been sick with some sort of bug…Wray on Soccer will be back up soon, after I get well and get everything caught up that I had to put off while I was out…. Thank you for your patience…
So Tuesday saw the opening of the CONCACAF CL group stages, and here we would receive the opening matches from groups B and C on the night. The other match played on the evening was from Group D, and in all honesty the result came out as one would expect. So for those of you following along with me, here are a few words on the two matches I was able to watch and I will make sure to drop the score line from the Group D game as well.
UNAM (Mexico) 1 – 0 Comunicaciones (Guatemala)
Columbus Crew (USA/MLS) 2 – 0 Puerto Rico Islanders (PR/USL-1)
I was not sure what to expect out of this match, but I have to say I always saw Columbus as the better side in this one. PRI would be missing a few players to injury and suspension, while Columbus had back their Argentinian leader Schelotto and hard nosed front man Moreno. The match would be played by both sides as expected, with PRI trying to attack through the long ball and Columbus relying on a number of creative passes to create chances. Columbus looked the better side from the start but could not find the net in the first half, taking the match into halftime at 0-0.
Going into the second half, the Crew coaching staff, seeing that they were the dominant side, would make a change to their lineup by bringing in another big attacker in Steven Lenhart to pair with Moreno up top. This would work for the Crew, and in the 57th Lenhart would find the net on a cross from central defender Chad Marshall. This goal would give the side the lead they needed to be able to bring off Schelotto, who is just back from injury, and use their strong defense to close out the match. I had no doubt about the result of this match after Columbus went up, but they surprised me as Robbie Rogers picked up a deflected cross in the box and slotted it home, taking the Crew up 2-0 and all but guaranteeing their win.
Columbus showed well on their first night, but with their group makeup I would not go writing them into the later rounds just yet. Their group also contains Costa Rican side Saprissa and Mexican side Cruz Azul, both teams very tough. So in the end the Crew got the result they needed, as it looks like the rest of the way might be an uphill battle.
Marathon (Honduras) 3 – 1 DC United (USA/MLS)
DC’s run of bad form continues. This is all I could think as I watched the match against the Hondurans. If you watched you would think that DC had the better of the possession and that they looked dangerous on multiple occasions, but I do not think you could say that you thought they would win this one. Having beaten DC handily last season in the CCL, Marathon knew what to expect from a DCU team, even if there were some new faces on the pitch. The Hondurans for their part, started out slow in this one, making even the announcers think DCU had some sort of advantage. The match should have only been 2-1 in the end, but a bonehead encroachment move on a penalty by a DCU player brought the saved penalty by Josh Wicks back to be taken again, at which time Mario Berrios finished his second attempt.
The Hondurans looked dangerous on the counter all night, as a slower DCU back line could not keep up when a ball was played long forward to the Marathon front men, and it was at one of these moments that Marathon’s Walter Martinez would find the opening goal; coming in the 23rd minute after a defensive blunder. DCU would strike back right after the break though with a header that left Luciano Emilio bloodied and highly ineffective for the rest of the evening. Try as they might DCU could not find another goal in this one, and in the 78th, Honduran International Jerry Palacios found the net for the goal that would put the Honduran side ahead. Insult to injury would be added from the penalty spot late, but with a busy schedule coming up; DCU will get on with it and return to DC to await the Galaxy of the MLS at the weekend.
DC do not look like they will make it out of the group stages at the moment, but as we have seen many times before, you cannot base the final from the first performance. The side currently looks to lack the talent to compete at this level, but with the transfer window still open, there could be more bodies on their way in. Marathon should be dangerous in this group with their combination of speed and attacking, but this match would not be one they would want a repeat performance of. Had DC been a better side the result could be very different, but Marathon made it work and fought through a performance that was not up to their skill level. The return leg of this one should make for an interesting match as DCU will now be looking for their first win in 4 against the Hondurans.
So there is the wrap on Tuesday night’s CONCACAF CL action, there are a few more matches this week, but the TV coverage is spotty and only showing the MLS sides I think. I will update with them as they come in, but I would not expect much in the form of an in depth story, as many of the matches in these early rounds will not be shown. So until next time, tune in to some MLS, CCL, or any of the other footy that has now started up around the world.
So after watching the opening weekend of the EPL and the opening matches of the UEFA CL, I have only one question regarding Arsenal. Is the side good enough?
Arsenal fans may think so, given their 6-1 defeat of Everton on the weekend and their 2-0 win against Celtic at Parkhurst, but I still believe there are questions to be answered by the side. No more than a week ago the fans and the press were all over Arsene Wenger for not picking up more during the transfer window, after losing Adebayor and Toure to Manchester City, but since their opening match I have not heard one word of doubt from anyone speaking about the Gunners. It is as though 8 goals in two matches has jaded the public into thinking that the Gunners have not lost a step, and will be able to challenge for silverware this season after all; something they have not picked up in a few seasons. But moving forward in this term there are still questions to be asked about the strength of the squad, and let’s not forget; Arsenal have won nothing yet.
So Gunner and footy fans alike, let’s have a look at the Arsenal scoring history to date. There have been 8 goals scored by the side, which is great for your record, but look a bit closer and you will see that only one of those goals was scored by an Arsenal striker, and by the time that goal was scored the match had been over for almost 45 minutes. Does this worry anyone? It would worry me if I were an Arsenal fan. Cesc Fabregas contributing and putting two goals in himself in the second half of the Everton match is one thing, but look at your other scorers. Eduardo put the last of the six on the board in the 89th minute of the Everton match, Denilson scored on a shot from distance against Everton, new boy Vermaelen scored on a header from a set piece against Everton, defensive winger Gael Clichy put a cross/shot in that was deflected past Celtic’s keeper, and central defenseman William Gallas has netted in both fixtures, though he did not seem to know much about the goal against Celtic. Would this worry me as an Arsenal fan? Of course it would, and how could it not? Out of 8 goals scored, all of them but one have come from places other than the front men, with half the goal total coming from the defense and another coming from a holding midfielder. I would be asking questions about the future if I were an Arsenal fan. The front men need to score, maybe not all the goals, but a better percentage than they have contributed so far. Arsenal have quite a few options up front already, but I would not doubt the goal total will be a reason for Wenger again to get out of having to spend any money.
Another area to question in regards to Arsenal is the defense. Do they have enough to make it through the season? The starters at the moment are doing well and contributing on both ends of the pitch, but how much depth is there should something happen. New arrival Varmaelen has already had to come into the starting lineup, and while he has not disappointed and actually looks like a quality option, how much depth is behind them? Now with what I would consider a quality replacement in Phillipe Senderos, after doing nicely during his loan to AC Milan last season, they want to sell him; further weakening an already shallow depth list in defense. This does not seem to be the brightest move when your main replacement is Silvestre, who has a history of finding himself unfit to play for long spells. Though at the moment it does not look like an issue, I think it is a question Wenger will have to answer before the season is over.
The only other real question I have is the youth in the side. Now I know that most of these young players have been playing in Europe for years now, and that they have experience in the big games, but is that enough. As Wenger has trimmed some of the fat from the side, he has left the team lacking in depth, and with a side who’s young players often find themselves injured; it becomes a question that needs to be asked. Yes they can play in the big games and produce, but how much pressure is going to be put on these young players as they have become the majority in the side? If enough of them can stay healthy to always have the depth they need, I think they will be fine, but look out for the pressure put on players if injuries creep into the side during a busy schedule.
So to answer some questions for you all. I do not hate Arsenal. In fact I like watching them a great deal, as they play very attractive football. These are questions that I think have been put on the back burner after a strong start by the side, but that are still issues going forward. I do not see Arsenal having the depth and strength to challenge for the title this season, but if they can keep their youth performing they should find some success in the cups this season. So beware Arsenal fans, as the season is long and the matches do not get any easier as things progress. I feel that this lack of scoring from the forwards is an issue that needs to be addressed, but as long as the midfield and defense continue to score with regularity the side should still at least look dangerous.
So since I am already up against two cats in the EPL prediction game this season, Fumo from 24th Minute and Mr. Wilco from Ginge Talks The Footy, I figured what would it hurt to have a competition with my own son at my blog. He has now post picked the first round, not like it would have mattered much as he is two, and made his picks for Week 2. So during the week when I post my EPL predictions, I will try to get his as well and we will see how much you really need to know to pick winners. So here is a look at his Week 1 picks, a comparison of wins and losses between us, and a look at his Week 2 picks. He enjoys picking the games for me so I am more than happy to let him participate.
Gavin’s Week 1 EPL Record: 6 – 4
My Week 1 EPL Record: 5 – 5
Gavin’s Week 1 EPL Picks:
**Bold denotes winner, no bold refers to a draw
Chelsea v Hull
Aston Villa v Wigan
Blackburn v Manchester City
Bolton v Sunderland
Portsmouth v Fulham
Stoke v Burnley
Wolves v West Ham
Everton v Arsenal
Manchester United v Birmingham City
Tottenham v Liverpool
Not a bad start for the little guy, but let’s see how he holds up during a long season. This should be interesting as he has the jump on me so far by picking Wigan, Arsenal, and West Ham to take first round matches. He did fall short however on results where he picked Hull, Blackburn, and Burnley to gain 3 points. So now looking forward at Week 2, here are Gavin’s picks.
Gavin’s Week 2 EPL Picks:
**Bold denotes winner, no bold refers to a draw
Sunderland v Chelsea
Wigan v Wolves
Birmingham City v Portsmouth
Burnley v Manchester United
Hull City v Tottenham
Liverpool v Stoke City
So let’s see what happens now. He seemed pretty determined and excited about his Week 2 picks, so we will see how he holds up going into Week 2. The challenge looks to be a tough one this season, but I am up for it and I know he is as well.
So after a dismal few weeks of picking matches in the MLS, I have decided to turn matters over to my son Gavin from here on out. Gavin is 2 years old, going on 3 in September, and I am working on getting him started into the game early as I had him watch the opening match of the EPL season with me Saturday morning; since he was awake already. So from here on out I relinquish control of the MLS picks to him, and he seemed to enjoy making them so it should be quite interesting, until he forms a real opinion or picks his own club. So without further ado, here are Gavin’s picks for MLS’ Week 23.
Last Week: 1 – 5
MLS Overall: 8 – 17
**team in bold is chosen winner, no bold denotes a draw
Los Angeles v Chicago
New England v Seattle
Los Angeles v DC United
Kansas City v San Jose
Toronto v Chivas USA
FC Dallas v New York
Colorado v Chicago
Real Salt Lake v New England
Seattle v Houston
Now here is my take on the matches, minus any REAL predictions.
Chicago should show strong as usual and LA are hurting at the moment, but I would not be surprised if LA come out to play in this one as Donovan will be a bit more recovered from his H1N1 virus, and they were managing before Beckham joined the team so his absence should not hurt them much.
Seattle got a result in what I can only guess was a horribly called match last weekend, but New England is struggling this season, and Seattle is a tough place to play this term. This could be an interesting match to watch, if one of the sides can get a goal early.
LA will go from a mid-week matchup in Chicago to DC, who will have played a CCL match on Tuesday in Honduras. This match in DC could go either way with both teams playing two matches in a short week. LA could bounce back in this one after dropping two, but DC has the deeper side and should give the Galaxy trouble in DC.
Two of the worst possible teams face each other this week in San Jose. Kansas City will come to town and will be looking to get on track, after going through a recent coaching change. San Jose could pose a problem to Kansas City though, as they have gotten some results of late, and do not look to be giving up on their season quite yet. This is probably one of the more useless matches to view of the week, the other taking place in New York.
After getting back on track against DC last weekend, Toronto will travel to the Home Depot Center to take on Chivas USA, who also managed to gain back some confidence in New York on the weekend. This should be an entertaining match, and very physical with the two sides involved. Do not be surprised to see more than a couple of bookings in this one, and maybe a player or two sent off by the end, as they both play a pretty physical game.
Dallas will travel this week to New York to face what has to be the worst team in the MLS at the moment. This match is almost pointless, except I am a Dallas fan and hope to see them do well. Dallas still has an outside chance at the playoffs, but New York really has nothing to look forward to for the rest of the season, and should be playing spoiler for the rest of their term.
The only other match I am really looking forward to is taking place in Chicago at the weekend, as Colorado come to town. Colorado has looked good of late and Chicago will be playing their second match inside of a week with a weakened squad. I am very interested to see if Colorado can take their show on the road in this one and find a result, but I am afraid I am going to be sadly disappointed by Chicago shutting up shop and defending like made. Here is hoping that Colorado gets a goal early so Chicago cannot get all their men behind the ball for 90 minutes.
New England will welcome Salt Lake into Foxboro this weekend after returning from a late week match against Seattle, in Seattle. With a weakened squad, I find it hard to believe New England can compete strongly twice in one week, but I would hope so since Salt Lake is not one of the stronger sides in the league. This match will most likely be a bore to watch, but there are some entertaining players, and if they can produce some fireworks it could be interesting to see.
After a disappointing result in Seattle a few weeks back, the match that earned Brian Ching his $500 fine for his comment on Twitter, Houston will welcome the Sounders to Houston. The Houston side will be on a short week as they open up CCL group play in the mid-week, but barring any serious injuries, Houston should be up for this match as they are used to this busy schedule. Seattle will also be on a short week after playing New England at home in the mid-week, but if they can find the net this could be a match to watch. The MLS new boys have had their ups and downs this season, but at the moment they still find themselves in position to make the playoffs, a feat not normally associated with a first year expansion side. This should be a match to watch this weekend though. I know I will be tuning in.
So there it is. Week 23 picked by my son so I no longer have to embarrass myself trying to pick a league based on parity, to be sadly disappointed as the results roll in. This should be a good weekend, as the MLS is packed with matches, the CCL and UEFA CL have action, and the EPL will start in the mid-week. Another busy week in the world of footy.
So with Week 1 in the books it is time to move on to Week 2 in the EPL. Starting mid-week this time around and finishing on Sunday, it should be another good week of EPL footy. Last week I managed to go .500 in my picks and I am hoping to improve upon that this time around. So here are the picks for the upcoming weekend.
Last Weekend: 5 – 5
**Team in bold denotes the winner, no bold means a draw
Sunderland v Chelsea
Wigan v Wolves
Birmingham City v Portsmouth
Burnley v Manchester United
Hull City v Tottenham
Liverpool v Stoke City
So looking forward, Chelsea should have no trouble making it past Sunderland this weekend as they travel to take on the Black Cats. Wigan will continue on their hot start by taking 3 points at home against Wolves, though I think Wolves will find their first Premier League goal of the season in this one. The hardest match to pick was Birmingham v Portsmouth, so I have chosen it as a draw, with neither team impressing in week 1. Burnley’s schedule only gets harder as they welcome in Manchester United, who should have no troubles, even with injuries in the side. Hull City performed well in Week 1 against Chelsea, but look for the Tigers to fall again as they welcome in Tottenham, who shocked Liverpool in week 1 by downing them 2-1 at White Hart Lane. Finishing out the weekend will be Liverpool v Stoke City. Though Stoke found a result in week 1, look for Liverpool to bounce back at Anfield and defeat City in week 2.
This should be a good weekend for football, as many sides continue in their quest to obtain a spot in Europe during the week, the action will not disappoint this week at all. I hope your sides all got the result you were looking for in week 1, and if not, it is only the beginning of a long season and you cannot do much worse.
So to make this a bit easier and limit the number of posts I need to make per week, I have decided to one big weekly prediction roundup post. This post could change format some in the future but for now we can consider it a work in progress.
Overall Record: 14 – 24
Last Weekend(Combined Results): 6 – 10
MLS: 1 – 5
EPL: 5 – 5
So it was a rough MLS weekend, and because of this fact I will be changing up how I pick for the MLS in the future. A new format will be unveiled for the MLS with this week’s pick, to follow soon. The EPL on the other hand only held a few shockers that tripped me up on the weekend. EPL fixtures will be up very soon as the week kicks off tomorrow, but I am feeling hopeful that this week will see me break even in the EPL and advance with a winning record.
All in all, I neglected the MLS this weekend to watch all but 2 EPL matches and therefore missed some great action I am sure. I am working on seeing what all happened, but with all the upcoming action this week, I am not sure when I will have the time.
For now this little blurb will be where I put the weekend prediction results, the only change coming when I add in the Champions League after the groups are decided. The EPL season is looking a lot more promising than the MLS at the moment, but I am sure my readers, as well as myself will enjoy the new format come this weekend.