Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia

Aaronson’s Big Move, Unsupported Shield, and League Roundup



Hey, soccer fans! Welcome back to The Sons of a Pitch: An American Soccer Podcast! We’ve got all your MLS and USMNT action covered in tonight’s episode.

As we run through the latest slate of games, we touch on the big topics surrounding Major League Soccer, including:

  • More transfers to Saudi Arabia
  • Aaronson’s move to RB Salzburg
  • Another VAR controversy between Dallas and Kansas City
  • Gonzal Higuain keeps running his mouth
  • How do you beat Toronto?

In the second half of the show, we review all the controversy surrounding the decision by the board of directors of the Supporters Shield Foundation to not aware the Supporters Shield this season. We review the statements put forth by the Independent Supporters Council (ISC), MLS, and the back-tracking the ISC has had to do after the backlash from fans. What do you think: Should we keep the Shield?

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


More Transfers, International Roster Rules, and Imagine No Salary Cap



Greetings, soccer fans! We hope you all survived the polar vortex and are enjoying warmer temperatures. At Sons of a Pitch: An American Soccer podcast, we keep things heated with a fiery discussion on the future of the league.

First, transfers and moves keep happening all around Major League Soccer (MLS). Vancouver and LAFC sign Hwang In-beom and Rodolfo Zelaya. NYCFC gets striker Alex Mitrita from Romania. Toronto FC sign Terrance Boyd to offset the loss of Toussaint Rickets, and Luciano Acosta’s deal with Paris St. Germain (PSG) falls through in the 11th hour. Acosta returns to DC United, but with what mentality?

Speaking of Rodolfo Zelaya, host Mike takes exception to the rule allowing Zelaya to occupy a domestic roster spot. As an El Salvadoran, he should take up an international roster spot, right? Not according to league rules allowing green card holders to be considered domestic players. Nick gives a reading of the rules, and the two debate the topic.

From there, an even lively debate was sparked. Both Mike and Nick address the future of the league, with Mike advocating for an open-market style with no salary caps or roster restrictions. Nick vehemently disagrees, advocating for the current system with steady changes. They might agree on where the league is going, but definitely not on how to get there.

Join the conversation @SOPSoccer or in the comments below. Thanks for listening, and be sure to spread the word of the Sons of a Pitch: An American Soccer Podcast.


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.


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