Category Archives: Uncategorized

I will be down for a short bit…

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…

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3 matches and no real shocks in the CONCACAF CL

Robbie Rogers

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.

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Filed under Comunicaciones, CONCACAF, CONCACAF CL, FMF, Marathon, Puerto Rico Islanders, Rest of the World, UNAM, Uncategorized, USL

Gavin Vs. Daddy – EPL Prediction Challenge

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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.

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Filed under Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley, Chelsea, EPL, Everton, Fulham, Hull City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Portsmouth, Stoke, Sunderland, Tottenham, Uncategorized, West Ham, Wigan, Wolves

Gavin picks the MLS – Week 23 picks

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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.

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Filed under Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, Colorado Rapids, CONCACAF CL, DC United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Kansas City Wizards, Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC, Uncategorized

EPL Week 1 – 6 road wins, 4 home wins, and 1 upset

CHELSEA V HULL CITY, PREMIER LEAGUE

The Premier League season kicked off with a foggy start for some, mainly us Americans who had to wake bright and early to catch the opening match between Chelsea and Hull City.  It would go on to become an interesting weekend in which we found out a lot about what to expect this season, and though you might want to write a few sides off already, do not judge so quickly.  I only missed two matches this weekend, Stoke City v Burnley and Bolton v Sunderland, though many of the rest were watched at a later date during a busy weekend.  Here is what I saw and expect going forward.

Chelsea  2 – 1 Hull City

This match was entertaining from start to finish, having many Chelsea fans on the edge of their seats throughout after Hull’s new boy Stephen Hunt started off the scoring in the 28th.  Chelsea were not rattled and never looked like they would lose this match though, unless they failed to find the back of the net, which would also not happen.  A rejuvenated Didier Drogba would lead Chelsea to their opening win this season as he netted in the 37th and 90th to give the Blues the victory they were expecting on the opening weekend though; the 90th minute GWG was a beauty though as Drogba trying to cross the ball to the backpost actually chipped Hull’s keeper and found the net for the win.  Hull played Chelsea hard throughout though and actually deserved a point from this one in my opinion.  Do not write Hull off yet though as many of us have, including myself, because if their new signings come together and they can find the net consistently, they could be a side to be reckoned with this term as they fight to stay in the top flight.

Portsmouth  0 – 1 Fulham

I watched this match at a later time on the DVR and found myself fast forwarding to keep interested.  Aside from the Zamora goal in the 13th, the match had a lot of back and forth play and neither side looked to be able to hold possession for long.  Portsmouth looked like they would equalize many times throughout, but whether it was by luck or just poor finishing; they never quite found the final touch needed.  Fulham have added depth and should continue to improve as the season moves on, but Pompey looks to be in for a long season that could very well find them fighting for their lives in the end.  It was a hard match to watch, but I doubt anyone expected a different result in this one.

Wolves v West Ham

Another match watched from the DVR a day later.  I was actually looking forward to seeing Wolves play and was excited SETANTA decided to give us a free weekend as I cannot seem to bring myself to pay for the channel monthly.  Now do not pass judgment on Wolves by this one game because they had their moments.  They are this season’s West Brom of the promoted sides, bringing up what looks to be the strongest of the 3 teams, but did not show it on the weekend.  If the shots had found the net for Wolves this game could have very well have been a draw, but as it stands, they were unable to score in their first outing.  Both sides controlled the match for lengthy spells of time, but it was the Hammers in the end who found the net in each half to earn the 3 points.  Noble would send a strike from outside the 18 in the 22nd for the Hammers, and in the 69th Matthew Upson would send a header past the Wolves’ keeper from a corner to seal up the victory.  Wolves can do nothing but improve from here, and I would expect nothing less now that the opening day jitters should be out of their system.  West Ham on the other hand.  Well just look for them in the middle of the table and they should not be hard to find throughout the season.

Blackburn  0 – 2  Manchester City

I had to step out so I watched this match today, as I was just as curious as everyone else about the new Manchester side.  All the new big names for City would see the pitch in this one, except Roque Santa Cruz, who was not even on the bench.  City would make one substitution bringing on Tevez for Robinho, giving Tevez around 20 minutes to run around as he likes to do, but he really contributed very little as had Robinho who he replaced.  Adebayor would open up his account with City by scoring in the 3rd minute and old boy Stephen Ireland would finish out the match in the 90th with his own.  Blackburn just lacked the luck needed and the final ball to even the match up though, as City gave them many opportunities throughout the match.  City should improve as the season moves on and the players find their connections with each other, but do not look for Blackburn to have an easy season, as lack of a quality attack could lead to a poor finish this term.

Bolton  0 – 1  Sunderland

I did not get to catch this match, but I have to say I thought it was going to end in a draw.  Neither one of these sides looked to have the strength to take this match.  New boy Darren Bent found the net early on though, giving new manager Steve Bruce his first win with the Black Cats.  I have no further judgment to pass on these sides at the moment, but it does not look as if Sunderland will have the hardships many have predicted for the season, and we know Bolton will find a way as always to stick around.

Aston Villa  0 – 2  Wigan

I am not sure many could say they predicted this outcome when looking at the Week 1 fixtures, but if you did you most undoubtedly were a Wigan fan.  Coming off the Peace Cup victory, Villa looked to have a decent side coming in to the new season, and a depleted Wigan side with a new coach should have been no problem for them; but it was.  Villa’s defense was poor throughout this match and they never managed to link up properly to get themselves in position to score.  Ashley Young would try to take over the match for Villa, but his efforts would fall short as he never managed to keep his head up long enough to get anyone else involved, most times picking himself up off the ground after an attempt to draw a foul.  Wigan would surprise though as Hugo Rodallega launched a beauty into the net around the 30th; one that will most likely be up for goal of the week.  Finishing off the Villains would be Wigan winger Jason Koumas, who would find his way past Friedel from a tight angle to all but seal the match for the Latics in the 56th.  Wigan could impress this season, though many people did not and do not think they have the squad to compete throughout the season.  Villa should bounce back though, but now we know how badly the loss of Barry and a cohesive defense have affected the side.

Stoke City  2 – 0  Burnley

I was not able to catch this match, but it looks like a rough start that will not get any smoother for Burnley, as they face Manchester United next week.  Letting in a goal from Stoke defensemen, Ryan Shawcross in the 19th and Stephen Jordan’s own goal in the 33rd, all but sealed the fate for Burnley in this opening round.  I am looking forward to seeing the side play, and Stoke have started on the right foot to avoid relegation again this season.

Everton  1 – 6  Arsenal

Now if you had told me there would be a 6-1 score line in the first week, this would not have been the match I would have picked.  Maybe Chelsea could put up that many on Hull or the attacking train of Manchester City could have pulled in and dropped off half a dozen goals at the Riverside, but not against Everton, a team who pushed the top four last season and was thought to do so again this season.  Also, coming into the season, who thought Arsenal would ever be a side linked with a 6 goal performance?  Definitely not me, and I bet not you either.

Everton would come out competitive for the first 20 minutes, actually controlling much of the play, when Denilson launched a rocket to beat Howard and start off the scoring frenzy.  Now most would think that knowing Arsenal, they might tack on one or two more by the end of the match, not today though as they added two more by half time.  New boy Vermaelen would find the net in the 37th and William Gallas would finish out the half with a goal in the 41st, strangely enough these still aren’t the names you would expect to see on the score sheet.

Arsenal would not rest though, scoring 3 minutes into the second half through Cesc Fabregas to make it 4-0 early on.  Everton would hold Arsenal off for a bit after the 4th, but Arsenal were not done yet as Fabregas added another in the 70th and Eduardo would come off the bench to add his own in the 89th, making it 6-0 to Arsenal.  You would think that we would be done now as I did, but we were not.  Everton, though beaten throughout the match, never gave up, and Louis Saha would put them on the scoreboard in the 90th to finish out the match 6-1.  If you were an Everton fan I cannot imagine your thoughts after this one, but I do not think it can get much worse.  Everything went wrong for Everton on the day, but they should bounce back and have another strong season.  Arsenal on the other hand showed that they can score, and in bunches.  They are hungry for silverware this season and if they continue with this kind of form there is no reason they will not see any coming back to the Emirates.  Both sides should be interesting to watch the rest of the way though.

Manchester United  1 – 0  Birmingham City

Birmingham does not beat United, nor have they ever if what I have been able to find is true, and today would be no different.  Most people tuned into this match to see how United would be without Ronaldo, and I would think they would not be surprised to see that they are not doing so well.  I will say this though, United always start slow and I would not write them off quite yet.  Birmingham put on a good performance today and showed that they should be a side that can come away with some victories this season.  Rooney managed to find the net in the 34th to put United up with the only goal they would need today, and though the side is a bit injured at the moment, they got their point.  Opponents should look out for Birmingham though as their new boy Benitez looks dangerous and could prove challenging for opposing defenses in the future.  Look for City to bounce back and start to pick up some results as this season progresses, they should be able to beat out some of the other troubled teams this term to keep a place in the Prem in the end.

Tottenham  2 – 1  Liverpool

This was my major pick for the week.  Many people have talked about Spurs this summer, but most have really just poked fun at them, never really considering them contenders of any sort.  Liverpool helped matters some today though by just playing awful.  I am not sure they knew how bad the loss of a link up player like Alonso would be, but if the performance against Spurs was any indication, Benitez needs to get a replacement in fast.  Scoring for Spurs was Assou-Ekotto in the 44th from an awesome rebound from a free kick and ex Newcastle player Sebastian Bassong in the 59th to seal the deal.  Spurs would give Liverpool hope though as Liverpool picked up a penalty when Spurs’ keeper Gomes took down Glen Johnson in the 55th, resulting in a PK from Gerrard that evened the match up for 3 minutes.  Liverpool could be in trouble if they do not get going soon, missing points they need if they plan on challenging for the title this season, but I do not see them finding their 20th this season.

So to close out I would have to say it was a good weekend.  ESPN started us out bright and early to kick off the season and FSC brought the weekend to a close with a great match, showing the first real upset of the season.  I am already looking forward to the midweek matches and only hope some of these sides can get things going in the right direction.  I am going to give out a Player of the Week rating to one player each round this season, and I think this weeks is obvious as Didier Drogba has come back from his sulk and dragged his team to victory in Week 1.  So let us all get ready now as the next round is literally right around the corner.

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Filed under Birmingham City, Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley, Chelsea, EPL, Hull City, Portsmouth, Stoke, Sunderland, Tottenham, Uncategorized, West Ham, Wigan, Wolves

What you should expect this weekend in the EPL…

Soccer ball in stadium

So today is just another day right?  Wrong!  Today is the day before the kickoff of the new Premier League season and you all should be ripe with anticipation for it.  Compared to American sports the EPL has a very short off season, but an off season filled with transfer rumors that leave us fans foaming at the mouth for the new season to start.  I have posted my predictions, entered my fantasy leagues, and previewed every team from 1-20 for the coming season, now I ask you, what have you done?  Are you ready for the season to kick off?  So to help get some of you off to the start of the season I am going to do a quick, or what I hope is quick anyways, preview of the opening weekends action.  I posted 5 matches to look out for this weekend already, so I will start there and give a brief bit of attention to those that are left.

To start out the weekend, and this is not one of my five, Chelsea will be welcoming Hull City to Stamford Bridge.  Now you may ask why I should watch this match.  I give you two reasons right here.  1) Chelsea has looked stellar in the preseason friendlies and is looking to recapture glory by unseating Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United.  2) Jozy Altidore has joined Hull City.  Now I know some of us hope that Chelsea do not dethrone United, me being one of them, but Chelsea look tough and are the only likely candidates this round.  Also, some may be saying, why should we care about Hull City?  Well the most likely answer is that if you are reading the crap I sling here then you are most likely American, and should care what one of the future stars of our national side is up to.  Jozy is new to England and this will be his big test.  Hull are more than likely going to be relegated at the end of season, but who could possibly miss the opening match of the new season?  Unless it happens to not be televised, this is looking more and more likely as we are waiting on word from ESPN about a possible airing of the match.

Back to my matches to catch this weekend is Aston Villa taking on Wigan Athletic.  Seems a boring match when you look at it, but Wigan are going to look completely different this season than last and Villa will be missing a key ingredient too.  Wigan lost a lot in the off season with Antonio Valencia departing to Manchester United and manager Steve Bruce stepping aside to take the Sunderland job, but the Latics have brought in new manager Roberto Martinez and promised him a full 3 seasons.  Does this mean Wigan will fold this season and rebuild through the Championship?  It is likely to happen, but Martinez will want to prove his salt as manager and try to keep the boys up in only his 3rd season at the helm of a club.  Now Villa looked good in the preseason I was able to see, winning the Peace Cup over Juventus and bringing in some more young English talent.  They will be without their former Captain Gareth Barry, who has opted to move to Manchester City for a large payday, but will they really miss him?  I would like to think a player such as Barry would not disrupt this side going into the new season.  O’Neil has managed to hold on to many key players on the squad and they should again have a good start to their season.

Moving to much greener pastures at Manchester City this off season, but does money spent buy you a winning side?  I do not think they will crack the top four this season but an opening round trip to Blackburn should not worry them much.  This match will finally show the fans the new look of City, but with manager Mark Hughes sitting near the top of the sack list, a victory against a mid table side such as Blackburn will not be his saving grace.  City can come out and win 6-0 as they did at times last season, but unless their form evens out and they get results regularly, look for Hughes to be gone sometime this season.  It should be an interesting watch this weekend though as City rolls out the big guns.

I have predicted there will be two upsets this weekend of the big four.  The first will be by Everton, as they welcome Arsene Wenger and his young Arsenal side to Goodison for an early season showdown.  Everton have been pushing to get into the top four and this could be their opening shot of the season if they can manage to keep their proverbial foot on the throat of the Gunners throughout.  Arsenal have lost more than they think with Adebayor and Toure leaving in the off season, and a weak defense aside, it does not look promising that a side that has struggled to score at times in the past will prove themselves any stronger this season.  David Moyes will work his genius for cash strapped Everton as always, but this could be the final chapter for Wenger at the Emirates.  Look out for this match as it promises to be entertaining if nothing else.

The other upset on the weekend looks to happen at White Hart Lane.  Tottenham will welcome in the weakened Liverpool on the opening weekend and fans will finally find out how much Liverpool have been hurt by their recent losses.  Alonso is off to Madrid and Gerrard looks to be out injured for the opener, so where is the play going to come from?  I do not trust the likes of Lucas or Benayoun to lead a midfield, and neither should LFC supporters.  This will be a hard one to swallow for the Reds, but look for Spurs to come out and give them a game.  Nobody is really talking about Spurs to loudly this offseason, and honestly that could help them.  They have the talent in their stables and if Harry Houdini can get it right, they should be able to capture three points early, putting them way above their starting point in the last term.  This should be a telling match on the side of both teams, letting fans in on what we have not seen during the offseason.

My 5th match to look at this weekend was the Manchester United versus Birmingham City match.  Now United should be able to take this match with ease, but that is not why I put them in this slot.  This will be a first look for most at the new United, post Ronaldo era.  Can they recapture the title this season, and who will step up to provide the spark that Ronaldo gave the side?  I think I know, but I have not heard his name mentioned yet this off season.  United fans look out for Anderson this season.  He is still young, but with the aging midfielders around him, he should be able to shine this term.  Luckily with the choices at keeper limited that there is a strong defense, but the keeper situation will need to be solved shortly if United are to keep up without dropping too far behind.  Birmingham City will also be interesting to watch, though they should not win this match.  They have brought in quite a few new faces in the off season, with high hopes of succeeding in the EPL this time around.  I think they might just have enough if they can get points where they should and not drop points against teams around them in the table.  It will be a telling match though, as we see a newly promoted against United with a new face.

Other notables to look at will be Steve Bruce’s opening match with Sunderland at the Reebok.  Will he be able to make it work for the Black Cats this season, and will Bolton continue to show just enough to find themselves safe at the end of the season, or will one of these two sides be fighting it out in the relegation zone come the end of the season?  I picked this match to be a draw and I honestly think it will be a physical match from both sides as they try and scrap for the win.

West Ham will find themselves against last season’s Championship winners Wolves in the first round, and though I have faith in the Hammers to find themselves mid table as always at the end of the season, I do not see them getting out of this one with full points.  It should be an interesting match, as we see what the new boys can do against the Hammers, but West Ham are not known for their scoring prowess, therefore making it hard for them to get enough to leave with more than a draw.  Both of these sides should be fun to watch this season.  Wolves could very well do as Stoke City did last season and finish near the middle of the table, or they could fail horribly as West Brom did and find themselves fighting for their lives week in and week out, lets hope they stay true to form as one of the top sides coming up.  West Ham on the other hand always seems to find their spot early and maintain.  Zola will be in his first full season with the side, and things are looking up for the Hammers.  They are always entertaining to watch and should provide nothing less this season either.

Will Portsmouth be sold or not?  That has been the question all summer long at the club.  Dropping the side to almost bare bones is going to make it tough to have enough fight to stay up this season and Pompey will most likely find themselves battling week in and week out for precious points.  Fulham on the other hand have stocked the cabinets this off season ahead of their European campaign.  Fulham should take this away win at Portsmouth easily, but at times the side tends to struggle on the scoring end of things.  If nothing else the action will be entertaining to watch.  Portsmouth will look like a train wreck from the start and Fulham should take charge and hopefully find their scoring touch early on.  Lets just hope as American fans that we get a chance to see Dempsey reclaim his form and Eddie Johnson actually grace the pitch for a bit, even if he happens to come on late as a sub.  This match should give Fulham what could be called an extra preseason match to get some of their new faces out on the pitch ahead of a tough schedule that is coming for the side.

And to finish it off a side that shocked the Premiership last season, and the new boys, and I do mean boys.  Stoke City will be welcoming in promoted side Burnley on opening weekend, and look to maintain the form they finished off the season with last term.  Burnley will be entertaining to watch as their manager has done it with youth like Wenger, but will they have the bottle to do it against Premier League sides all season?  This match should be entertaining with the young boys and the Delap throw ins, but in the end look for Stoke to take it at the KC Stadium to start off their second campaign in the top flight.  Should Stoke manage to stay up again, and I think they will, there will be many pundits who predicted them to finish dead last in their first season that will still be shaking their heads.  Stoke are entertaining to watch and I am hoping Burnley does not disappoint either as I am looking forward to this opening round matchup.

So there it is.  Try to get some sleep tonight.  I know we are all excited and on the edge of our seats.  Now it is time to look out for something amazing to happen as the magic of the new season fills the air.  Make sure all of your predictions are in and your fantasy sides chosen, and get ready to sit back and watch the stories unfold.

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Filed under Birmingham City, Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley, Chelsea, EPL, Hull City, Portsmouth, Stoke, Sunderland, Tottenham, Uncategorized, West Ham, Wigan, Wolves

The H1N1 virus hits the USMNT

Sweden v USA

They say that playing a match at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City is tough, but following Wednesday’s match between the USMNT and Mexico at the Azteca, a breaking news story has surfaced.

Landon Donovan, who most USMNT supporters would consider the team’s best player, has contracted the H1N1 flu virus.  In an article posted on SI.com, soccer writer Grant Wahl is reporting that the USMNT star has tested positive for the virus. (Wahl’s article)

While the news most American sports fans will wake up to is the fact that Michael Vick has now signed with the Philadelphia Eagles after his two year stint in prison for his connection to a dog fighting ring, Donovan will only receive the back page stories.  What is the American media coming to when we no longer care about our stars who do right and play through the tough times, but instead focus on those who break the rules and receive a mere slap on the hand for doing so?  Vick, while he will be taunted and picketed against by various organizations this season, will be rewarded for his athleticism.  Donovan on the other hand, will be pushed to the back pages and none will be the wiser about his struggles in a tough match for the USMNT.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that we need to wake up.  We should not be giving attention to a player like Vick.  Donovan struggled throughout the match Wednesday, and while he thought it was just from the altitude, smog, and heat; it was actually something much more.  Donovan did not contract the virus while in Mexico, but here in the US where he was tested on Sunday.  Normally one of the most influential players on the pitch for the US, Donovan only managed an assist on Wednesday early in the match before looking sluggish and out of sorts to the viewing public.

Donovan has not said whether he will play this weekend or not, but one thing is for sure.  If he feels up to it and is allowed to play, he will be on the pitch captaining his team.  This has come at a poor time for Donovan as his current run of form has been brilliant the past few months, having netted in his last three MLS matches to help pull the Galaxy towards the top of the Western Conference.  This could hurt the Galaxy in the short term, and though I am not always the staunchest Donovan supporter, I do wish him well.  He has class and has come to show what it means to put your team before yourself.  So while you are reading your Michael Vick stories in the morning flip to the back and try to catch a glimpse at the blurb they give Donovan for his performance in a match for his country, during which he was obviously struggling.

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Filed under CONCACAF, International Football, Los Angeles Galaxy, Mexico, MLS, Uncategorized, USMNT, World Cup