Category Archives: Blog Post

Blog posts from The Sons of a Pitch: An American Soccer Podcast, covering MLS, USMNT, and CCL, along with all the headlines from around the American soccer landscape.

World Cup 2018 Kicks Off – Russia vs. Saudi Arabia Recap



The 2018 FIFA World Cup has officially kicked-off, and there was no shortage of goals in the first game … well, at least from the perspective of the host nation. Russia defeated Saudi Arabia 5-0, using a strong performance from their subs.

I thought Saudi Arabia would play better, even though I believed Russia would win the game. Saudi Arabia had plenty of time to prepare for this crucial first match. However, they played right into Russia’s strengths: mid-field pressure and counter-attacks. I was impressed with the pressure that the Russian midfield exerted. To me, it resembled an NBA-style, half-court trap. Their strikers collapsed back, the wingers pushed up, and the central midfielders pinched in, resulting in multiple Saudi turnovers and inaccurate passes. This strategy was perfect in this game, but a faster or better passing team should be able to break out against the Russians. After giving up a goal in the 12th minute, Saudi Arabia failed to sustain any meaningful possession, and Russia simply kept up the pressure.

I would have liked to see more out of Saudi Arabia, if only to evaluate the Russian defense. The goalie didn’t have much to do, and I’m not sure how he’ll handle a striker like Mohammed Salah of Egypt, or the combined offensive talent of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani of Uruguay. These three players are in the prime of their careers, and each is coming off a stellar season of scoring. I also wonder how the Russian defense will handle a technically superior team in Uruguay, and if they will employ a “bunker-and-counter” strategy. Russia started in a 4-5-1 (or a 4-2-3-1, if you’re really into tactics), and I wonder if they’ll keep the same formation over their next two matches. However, it might not truly matter against Uruguay, as Russia and Uruguay don’t meet until the third group stage game. If they both win their first two matches, their final match might only be for position in the knock-out round, and the coaches may choose to rest some of their regular starters.

With their first victory, Russia is in control of Group A. They have 3 points and are +5 in goal differential. With such an early advantage, they are free to play their style of soccer, and don’t have to worry about pressing for points (at least not yet). I still think Uruguay wins the group, as they are clearly the most talented team. What Russia really has done with this win is forced Egypt to beat both Saudi Arabia and Russia, and for Uruguay to try to overcome the goal differential if it desires to win the group. Uruguay opens against Egypt tomorrow, June 15, and can basically see themselves through with a win. They should beat Saudi Arabia in their second match, and then can take it easy against Russia in their final group stage game. This group schedule really shaped up nicely for Uruguay and Russia, assuming both teams win their opening games.

What else did you see? Who are your picks to advance? Please comment below and contact us with any other thoughts. I hope you all enjoyed the opening game and that you enjoy the rest of the tournament.
-Nick


MLS Players in World Cup 2018



The 23-man rosters for World Cup 2018 in Russia have been released and there is a contingent of MLS players included. Below is a graph breaking down the players’ club and country.

Costa Rica and Panama have a notable group of players based in Major League Soccer. Is their success or failure a reflection on the MLS as a league? Let us know in the comments below!

Last Name First Name Club Country
Ciman Laurent LAFC Belgium
Matarrita Ronald NYCFC Costa Rica
Calvo Francisco MNUFC Costa Rica
Waston Kendall Vancouver Costa Rica
Guzman David Portland Costa Rica
Wallace Rodney NYCFC Costa Rica
Urena Marco LAFC Costa Rica
dos Santos Jonathan LA Galaxy Mexico
dos Santos Giovani LA Galaxy Mexico
Vela Carlos LAFC Mexico
Cummings Harold San Jose Panama
Escobar Fidel NYRB Panama
Machado Adolfo Houston Panama
Murillo Michael NYRB Panama
Torres Roman Seattle Panama
Godoy Anibal San Jose Panama
Yotun Yoshimar Orlando City Peru
Polo Andy Portland Peru
Svensson Gustav Seattle Sweden
Gaber Omar LAFC Egypt

*This list based on ESPN’s roster release article, found here. If any player has been omitted (and I’m not talking Zlatan out for Sweden), either ESPN missed it, or Nick needs reading glasses.


Welcome FC Cincinnati!



On Tuesday May 29, 2018, the MLS announced that FC Cincinnati would become the newest expansion franchise and the league’s 26th team, citing the club’s record-setting USL attendance and the city’s growing economy. We at Sons of a Pitch welcome FC Cincinnati to the American top-flight and are excited to see their immediate impact in the league and how they develop as a team and as an organization. FC Cincinnati will begin MLS play next season, and plans to open its soccer-specific stadium in 2021. Check out the links below for all the news.

FC Cincinnati Website
MLS Soccer Announcement
Sports Illustrated Article
ESPN Announcement

Notably, FC Cincinnati has not been assigned to a conference, and there may be some realignment. As a way-too-early measuring stick, FCC currently sit 2nd in the USL table. They play Minnesota United FC in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on 6/6/18. Keep your eyes on FCC!


2018 MLS Playoff Predictions Revisited



Before the 2018 MLS season started, and long before the Sons of a Pitch podcast was conceived, Mike and Nick made their playoff predictions. They were mostly in agreement, and both bought into some pre-season hype. Nick was intrigued by RSL, Mike thought the Union would make that jump forward, and both believed the Galaxy would (somewhat) return to form. Now that we’re through about a quarter of the season, it’s time to revisit their picks:

Eastern Conference

  Predictions Currently
1 Toronto FC Atlanta United
2 NYCFC NYCFC
3 Atlanta United New England
4 Chicago Columbus
5 Orlando City Orlando City
6 Red Bulls (Nick) / Union (Mike) Red Bulls

Western Conference

  Predictions Currently
1 Sporting KC Sporting KC
2 Seattle Vancouver
3 Real Salt Lake LAFC
4 Portland FC Dallas
5 Dallas (Nick) / Vancouver (Mike) LA Galaxy
6 LA Galaxy Real Salt Lake

 

Are Toronto and Seattle too far down to make the post-season? Can LAFC beat the odds as an expansion team? Is Sporting KC still the best in the west? Please leave your comments below, and we’ll continue to track the playoff picture as the season progresses.