Tag Archives: England

Listener Questions, MLSisBack Tourney Preview, Americans Abroad Roundup



Hey, soccer fans! Welcome to another episode of The Sons of a Pitch: An American Soccer Podcast. Tonight we answer the questions burning in your mind. Specifically:

  • In soccer, is all defense “zone defense”? Would you ever put your best defender as a “spy” on the other team’s best player and have him follow them all over the field?
  • What is your fear of the MLS is Back Tournament being cancelled amid Covid-19 concerns?
  • What’s the best English Premier League team for Weston McKennie to transfer to from Schalke?
  • How many Americans do you see in Europe in the next ten years? Double what the number now?

We also talk MLS headlines, including

  • Chicago Fire’s tournament experience and edge to the new MLS season
  • Jurgen Locadia gets a loan extension and FC Cincy get the option to buy
  • Ezequiel Barco transfer rumors

Finally, we roundup all the USMNT players in England and the Bundesliga. Hear just how well our current and future stars – Pulisic, McKennie, Adams, Brooks, Llanez, Ream, Reyna, Vickers, Robinson, Sargent – performed for their respective clubs. All this and more in tonight’s episode of The Sons of a Pitch: An American Soccer Podcast.

Be sure to subscribe on YouTube to join the next live broadcast and get in on the conversation.

 

 


Parity in the World Cup?



Recently, I had a cousin ask if there was a power shift in world soccer this year, noting that many World Cup results were out of the norm. Her observations are not wrong:

DRAWS and UPSETS
-Argentina (5th in FIFA Rankings) 1-1 Iceland (22nd)
-Mexico (15th) 1-0 Germany (1st)
-Brazil (2nd) 1-1 Switzerland (6th)
-Japan (61st) 2-1 Colombia (16th) (1st Asian nation ever to defeat a South American team at World Cup Finals.)
-Croatia (20th) 3-0 Argentina (5th).

CLOSE VICTORIES:
-France (7th) 2-1 Australia (36th)
-Tunisia (21st) 1-2 England (12th)
-Uruguay (14th) 1-0 Saudi Arabia (67th)
-Iran (37th) 0-1 Spain (10th)
-France (7th) 0-1 Peru (11th)
-Germany (1st) 2-1 Sweden (24th)

Her first thought, and a reasonable one, is that there is a growing parity in world soccer, as lower tier teams keep getting better. To use an American example, we are no longer surprised to see a mid-major Gonzaga, Wichita St., Butler, etc. in the Final Four. In fact, it’s a point of discussion to pick the one mid-major that will advance that far. However, I think these odd World Cup results are the result of a few different factors.

PREPARATION
The groups for World Cup Russia were drawn on December 1, 2017. The first game was played June 14, 2018. That gave teams six months to prepare for their first match. Theoretically, teams were still fine-tuning rosters, confirming travel arrangements, and handling other routine business, and they also were preparing for the other two group stage games. However, statistics show that teams that win their first match advance at an outrageously high percentage compared to teams that lose. Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that teams spent most of the time preparing for the first game.
Iceland and Switzerland had the perfect game plans to neutralize Messi, Neymar, and the rest of those nations’ offensive talent. Mexico talked about how meticulous they prepared for Germany, and the benefit to controlling their group with the early win.

OVERCONFIDENCE
I think the top teams were all guilty of overconfidence after seeing their groups. Who out there wouldn’t have expected Argentina to advance? Or Spain and Portugal to escape their group? Even Germany and Brazil are not 100% safe.
In my mind, there is no other reason why the top teams aren’t scoring more, or at least dominating close victories. The overconfidence is evident when you see players attempting individual feats of brilliance rather than making the simple, safe pass. Overconfidence is evident when a team “flips the switch” and finally seems to come alive in the 70th or so minute. It’s in the goalies who look at their defenders with wonder when a ball goes in their net It’s in the faces of players who pass the ball to Neymar, Messi, Suarez and Cavani, or Pogba and Griezmann and wait for them do something amazing.
(Yes, this may seem counter-intuitive to the above point, but just remember that the top nation’s had six months’ preparation time, too.)

X-FACTORS
There are always unforeseen variables that can affect any team.Some teams may succumb to travel weariness. Red card suspension and yellow card accumulation can affect others. Injuries are always possible. Own goals have been in an abundance so far. Specifically, Argentina is mentally shaken, and several members of Sweden even got food poisoning! Is there some x-factor out there for the other tournament favorites yet to be reported?

There has definitely been a trend of odd results this World Cup. And the mid-major soccer nations are undoubtedly getting better. However, we’re only through half of the second round of group stage games. I fully expect the favorites coming into the World Cup to re-assert themselves and advance to the knock-out rounds. (Well, maybe not Argentina.)


A Little Less Conversation … – World Cup Days 4 & 5



…a little more action!

This Elvis lyric seems appropriate considering Belgium’s 3-0 victory over debutante Panama, and England’s late victory over almost-spoiler Tunisia on Day 4. Day 5 picked up where the previous day left off, with Japan’s historic victory over Colombia (1st time an Asian country defeated one from South America in a World Cup), Senegal upsetting Poland, and Russia continuing to roll with a 3-1 victory over Egypt. My last post asked for more action and more “Wow”, and I got it. (Maybe I should play the lottery?)

My biggest take-away was how much Belgium looked like a title contender. They played so patiently, absorbing the pressure from an energized and excited Panama squad, then picked out their opportunities and picked apart Panama’s defense. De Bruyne looked so in control, and his connection with Lukaku can’t be understated. Belgium has so much to offer, even without usual captain Kompany. Mertens had a beautiful goal, and he must be accounted for by every defense. They were a dark-horse favorite to win the World Cup, but they certainly moved closer to “favorite” status with this dominating performance.

England, another talented squad, underwhelmed. Yes, they won in dramatic fashion, but they can’t afford to miss so many opportunities against the better opponents to come. All it took was one stupid Kyle Walker elbow to give Tunisia a penalty, and the game was seriously in question. I appreciated the excitement of Kane’s goals. My eyes are always drawn to him when he plays. His movements are so smooth, he strikes with precision, and is always in the right place at the right time. However, Panama lost track of him on two occasions, and it cost them points. Also, as an Everton fan, it was great seeing Jordan Pickford start in goal for England. I hope he continues to play throughout the tournament. He could be the England #1 for a long time, and I’d love to see him bring that experience and confidence back to the Toffees and the Premier League.

Here come the Russians!
While maybe not the red scare of the ’60s, this Russian squad has scored 8 goals in two games, conceded once, and have shown to be a dominant offense in this tournament. Granted, they have played Saudi Arabia and Egypt (FIFA ranked 67th and 45th, respectively), but that doesn’t take away from what they’re doing offensively and how they control the middle-third of the field. They’ll be advancing to the knock out rounds against a team from Group B, most likely Portugal or Spain.
Meanwhile, fan-favorite Egypt looks all but eliminated in what will be remembered by fans as the “what could have been” World Cup. (Also, my podcast co-host Mike ran a FIFA 2018 World Cup simulation that had Egypt in the finals. So who knows what could’ve been had they had a full, healthy roster.)

 

The second round of group stage games are in full force, and a lot of story lines are developing. What are you most excited about? How are your predictions looking? Let us know in the comments below.