We pick up the baton from where we left it last week, wondering if perhaps football clubs who dispense so swiftly with the services of football managers when the league table doesn’t look so healthy might be better served by doing a little bit of navel gazing.
Earlier in the season, when the admittedly controversial and slightly barking Paolo di Canio was shown the door at Sunderland and then pushed through it, we dared to suggest in these very pages that quite possibly the Italian wasn’t really the issue at Sunderland.
Well, more august names than ourselves are now joining in with the story – none other than Gus Poyet himself, di Canio’s successor:
“I think there’s something wrong in the football club and it’s not an excuse. I need to find that. If I don’t find it, we’ve got a problem. I don’t know what it is. I do think I know what it is at times but no, I don’t. It’s too many times, too many things.
“I always say to myself ‘What happened with Steve Bruce in the second year?’ ‘What happened with Martin O’Neill?’ ‘What happened with Di Canio?’ and what happens with me now?
“I don’t want to get away from the responsibility because I am responsible. I am the first one. But who is going to be next? A, B, C – you can call him anything and the club will be in the same situation. I don’t like it, it’s not me. I need to find the solution and whatever it is, I need to put it there. It’s sad because at the end of it, the one who goes is the manager. You try, you try, you try, you try but at the end, the one who loses his job and looks bad is the manager. So I’m going to find the solution before I go!”
The simple, complicated truth is that for a football club to succeed, lots of things need to come together, all the elements need to be dragging the thing along in the same direction, kicking and screaming if necessary. At Sunderland – and the club is not alone in that – that simply is not happening.
Cast your eyes towards Villa Park, a club that has stagnated ever since the departure of Martin O’Neill – the same Martin O’Neill that couldn’t fix Sunderland – and who remain in the relegation scrap as we speak. Two of manager Paul Lambert’s trusted lieutenants who have worked with him at four clubs now were suspended this week after what appears to be a complete breakdown in their relationship with the playing staff.
There’s no one size fits all explanation for the malaise at these clubs or at others like Fulham, Norwich, Newcastle or West Brom, for each has its own idiosyncrasies and issues, but the common denominator would appear to be clear. The growth of the Premier League into middle aged stolidity has rendered them all pointless.
We have a top seven who look as if they will forever remain untroubled, swapping places between themselves as they invest more and more in the nuclear arms race for the Champions League. For them, there is the opportunity to achieve, a carrot that drives on players, coaches, staff.
For the remaining 13? There is only the opportunity to fail. On day one, they know that there is no hope of reaching the fifth or sixth position the will open the gates to the Europa League. Among them, there is a mixed attitude to the cup competitions, some embracing them, others shunning them as too much of a distraction from the key task of finishing 17th. So with nothing to achieve, they measure themselves by not quite failing. What does that do to sports people whose early careers were measured in achievements?
For some, it is not an issue. There are many coaches and players of excellent character who are solidly professional week after week, doing their best and serving the game. But there is another coterie of talent that exists within a comfort zone, aware they will never make it to the sunny uplands of the top seven, or who are on their way down from there.
These are the mid-career men who cost around £5million, a lot of scratch by anybody’s standards, but the danger sum in today’s game, especially for attacking players. For this is the sum that marks the man of talent in the feet without the steel in the soul or the cells in the brain needed to make it to the very top. Good players, but with a bit missing, including self-awareness. Not as valuable to a side as the more limited player who will work himself into the ground, yet better loved by the fans who will roar approval at a single step over that disguises 89 minutes of anonymity. Players – coaches too – who can bumble along, making a very good living without ever pushing themselves, the sort who go missing when it gets tough.
The sort, who by definition, populate 8th to 20th in the Premier League, for so that competition has decreed. No wonder Poyet can’t solve the problem. It’s endemic.
by Cesar Trelles
After pulling off one of the more improbable title runs in recent sports history in 2013, the New York Cosmos know that they will have a target on their back this year.
What made their title run so improbable in 2013 was the fact that in less than a year’s time, they managed to assemble and hire a front office, followed by a coaching staff and finally an actual team.
Once those pieces were in place by the end of June, they were then asked to gel together immediately and play competitively in the fall 2013 NASL season, which would start in August. No problem right? On November 9th, 2013 the Cosmos accomplished what many thought they could not do and that was to be crowned 2013 NASL Champions.
This past Sunday, the arduous task of defending that title began at the place the Cosmos call home, Hofstra’s Schuart Stadium. It would begin ironically enough, against the same team that the Cosmos defeated for the 2013 championship, the Atlanta Silverbacks who are now managed by US Soccer legend Eric Wynalda.
In front of close to 8,000 people the Cosmos presented the 2013 NASL Championship trophy to one of their legends from the original Cosmos, none other than the great one himself, Pele.
The tone was set for a marvelous opening act for the Cosmos. Ten of the players that started the championship match in 2013 were back with the Cosmos with eight of them taking to the field on Sunday.
In fact their backline was exactly identical as most of the 2nd half of 2013 featuring native Long islander, Carlos Mendes, Hunter Freeman, Ayoze and Roversio. These four defenders anchored the success for the 2013 team and even though the Cosmos had to go with a new starting goal keeper in 2014 in Jimmy Mauer, fans of the Cosmos were confident in the defense that would protect Mauer.
Those defenders would not exactly have the game of their lives. In fact, their defense left much to be desired. At times the defense was crossed up and made careless mistakes that would allow the Silverback clear shots on goal. However, what they gave up in less than stellar defense they made up for by actually netting three goals on the day.
Defenders scoring three goals, is almost unheard of at any level of professional soccer. Two of these goals would come from Mineola native Carlos Mendes (23rd minute & 38th minute) who last scored a goal professionally 10 years ago.
The other defender to make the score sheet was Ayoze, when he was able to convert on a deflection to find the back of the net in the 32nd minute. Thanks to these defenders and the offense that they played, the Cosmos would go into the locker room with an unlikely 3-0 lead.
To start the second half, the Cosmos experienced several occasions within the first 20 minutes of the half where Jimmy Mauer was asked to save the day in between the posts. It wasn’t until about the 65th minute that the Cosmos offense started to pick their intensity up due largely in part to the fact that Head Coach Giovanni Savarese called upon Jemal Johnson to enter the game for Italian Striker Alessandro Noselli. Johnson was injured for almost all of 2013 and he would enter the match on Sunday and make his first ever home appearance for the New York Cosmos.
The offense seemed to be ignited immediately, due largely in part to the fact that it took him only 20 seconds to find the ball at his feet and fire a shot from about 20 yards out that sailed just right of the net.
Also picking up the pace in the second half was Sebastian Guenzatti, who went to high school in Queens, NY. Guenzatti broke free in the 72nd minute and fired a beautiful cross into the box from the right wing to find the NY Cosmos Norweigan newcomer Mads Stokkelien, who headed the ball into the net for the Cosmos fourth goal of the match. Just minutes later the Cosmos would almost convert for a fifth goal off of a corner kick when Hunter Freeman would fire one in that Roversio misplayed but that Guenzatti would blast off the crossbar with a header.
With their 4-0 win on Sunday the Cosmos are currently tied for first place with two other teams who also won their season opener, Minnesota United & Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The Cosmos will play their next match away against FC Edmonton in Canada. FC Edmonton played the Cosmos very tough in 2013 and was the only team to not lose to the Cosmos last year by way of ending in ties both times out with them. Game time is 9:00pm.
Cross Island Crew Tidbits:
• The next match for the NY Cosmos will be this Saturday 4/19/14 against FC Edmonton in Canada. There will be two viewing parties for fans to choose from. The Cross Island Crew will be hosting a viewing party in Long Island at Prost Grill & Garten (652 Franklin Avenue, Garden City, NY 11530). There will be beer specials as well as player appearances from players not making the trip to Canada and the Cosmos Girls will be in attendance. There will also be a viewing party in Manhattan at Jack Demseys (36 W 33rd St, New York, NY 10001) which the Borough Boys will be hosting.
• The next NY Cosmos home game will be Saturday April 26 against the San Antonio Scorpions. Game time is 7:00pm. You can purchase tickets for this match at www.nycosmos.com/tickets
Last weekend’s Serie A games confirmed, yet again, that Juventus have no rivals in the domestic game.
By dispatching Udinese 2-0 on Monday night after Roma had momentarily reduced the gap to 5 points by beating Atalanta on Sunday, Antonio Conte’s team has effectively started the countdown to their third consecutive title.
While Serie A may lack the both drama at the top of the table (as in the Premier League or La Liga) and teams that can dominate European competition (like the Bundesliga), what Italy’s top league does not lack for this year is goals. Serie A’s 2013-2014 vintage has seen an increase in goals compared to last season: this past weekend saw the season’s total hit 888 goals – already surpassing the 878 goals scored in the whole of last season, with five rounds of games still to play.
That has meant a glut of goals for the league’s (few remaining) spectators, and has provided strikers an opportunity to shine. That has been the case for the league’s new foreign strikers – Juventus’ Carlos Tevez 18 goals and Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain 17 see them among the league’s top 4 strikers., with Fernando Llorente not far behind on 14. But the real positive development, particularly in a World Cup year, has been the emergence of a whole raft of Italian strikers. We reviewed the principal candidates to get a boarding pass for the plane to Brazil as one of Cesare Prandelli’s 4 or 5 strikers earlier in the season, but as ever, events on the pitch have “changed hierarchies”, in Italy’s football jargon.
The one certainty for Prandelli remains Mario Balotelli, provided he manages to stay out of disciplinary trouble so as to avoid Prandelli’s “ethical code,’ which imposes bans on players whose actions on the pitch fall below a certain required standard. The three or four other places are up for grabs, as Prandelli’s other starter was expected to be Fiorentina’s Giuseppe Rossi, but the diminutive former Manchester United and Villareal striker has been injured for months and is only just back in training. A fit Rossi would be on the plane, but he has a lot to prove in the next month or so.
The contenders for the remaining places are many, and range from the 35 year old Luca Toni (17 Serie A goals) to teenagers like Domenico Berardi (12 goals). Prandelli has indicated that he is unlikely to bring players over 35, because of the conditions in Brazil and with an eye to the future. So Toni will almost certainly not make it, while Berardi has not maintained his early season form enough to justify bringing a 19 year old to a World Cup. So the real contenders are Torino’s Ciro Immobile (top scorer with 19 goals) and Alessandro Cerci (13 goals), Roma’s Mattia Destro (13 goals), Parma’s Antonio Cassano (11 goals), Genoa’s Alberto Gilardino (14), Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne (2 goals) and Juventus’ Pablo Osvaldo (no Serie A goals).
Destro has emerged as a viable candidate with a glut of goals since his return from injury in January, but has fallen foul of Prandelli’s ethical code by receiving a three match ban for punching Cagliari’s Davide Astori (a game in which Destro also scored a hat-trick). Prandelli must be tempted to call on Torino’s twin goal threat of Immobile and Cerci, although neither has been a particular favourite of the national manager. Cassano may suffer from his (deserved) reputation as a disruptive dressing room presence, Osvaldo has been a flop since his January transfer to Juventus and Insigne, although a hardworking and versatile player, hasn’t scored enough goals to warrant inclusion. Gilardino brings proven international quality, but is ageing and has played in lesser clubs since his heyday. All the contenders have plenty to prove in the next five games, hopefully with positive results on the league’s total goal tally.
It’s hard sometimes to separate your life out, time for work, time for family, friends and loved ones, time for yourself. Budgeting that time and mental space gets difficult. Similarly it gets difficult to mentally segregate your passions for the game. Love for my team, love for my club, love for my country, and on down the line. In the interest of expressing a certain segment of my passions, I’m going to admit a hard truth.
I feel like I should be rooting for New York City FC.
The simple truth of the matter is that a rising tide lifts all ships, and that a team based somewhere in the five boroughs of the world’s greatest city is a pretty big tide. And now that NYCFC is an announced reality and not some rumor or far off dream, for them to fail now would be a massive blow to the long-term stability of Major League Soccer, if not in any tangible economic sense, then at least in terms of the perception of the league both at home and abroad, and as we all know, perception all too often is reality.
So I was quite put off by the announcement this week that NYCFC will be spending at least the first three years of their existence, starting in 2015, playing in Yankee Stadium. I have nothing against Yankee Stadium; it’s where my favorite baseball team plays, it’s a beautifully modern stadium with all of the amenities required by the 21st century fan, but despite the modernity it still echoes back to the hallowed stadium which it replaced and all of the mystique and aura associated with it.
But it’s just not a soccer stadium. Watching a soccer game in an American football stadium can be a bit of a drag if a 70,000 seater doesn’t fill up, as fans of the Red Bulls nee Metrostars will testify, but at least the fields for both sports are shaped the same. Translating a soccer field into a baseball stadium just doesn’t work due to the angles and corners and high walls. The only way to actually get a good view is to sit higher up, and that’s just not conducive to a positive supporting experience.
Thankfully this is only temporary as the quest for land and permits within city limits continues, and the front-room and back-room dealings with bureaucracies marches forward. And it had better. Being in a half empty stadium can be a shot to the ego, but being in a 80% empty stadium murders the mood entirely, and supporters willing their team on shouting into a fifty thousand seat stadium eventually feel like they are whispering at a tornado. In a strange way, the louder they sing and chant, the more aware one becomes of the emptiness, and no one can say with a straight face that NYCFC will replicate Seattle’s success and pack them in even 30,000 deep on a weekly basis in a city not exactly starved for entertainment choices.
Hopefully the three year mark is just a worst-case scenario, laid out just in case, and NYCFC can find more accommodating surroundings before then, so that the world’s next great rivalry can take hold and MLS can further grow as one of the world’s great leagues.
Good, this is what you get. This is what you get, MLS, for taking the money of a new franchise that didn’t have a set stadium plan. This is what you get, Commissioner Don Garber, for forcing another team into this market to satisfy your wet dream. This is what you get, Sheikh Mansour, for belonging to the ruling family of a horribly restrictive and oppressive nation. This is what you get, fair-weather fans jumping ship, for your disloyalty. This is what you get, people too lazy to support your already established local team, for your sloth. All of you, this is your just deserts.
You get to suffer and miss portions of the action due to it taking place in a corner of the field you can’t see. You get to be miserable and have what should be the best seats in the house, right along the midfield stripe, be back 100 feet on either side. You get to feel like second-class citizens in your own home, and for all your talk about “identity” and the city, you’ll have to spend all your advertising dollars breaking your backs to explain your relevancy to a city that couldn’t care less.
For three. Whole. Years.
Enjoy your overpriced beer and pretzels! Have fun with those sideways looks from Yankees fans when they turn up to their house to find out that the field is ruined! Imagine how that’s going to play out when a divot turned up by some reserve midfielder making the league minimum ends up injuring the next high-priced free agent outfielder the Yankees sign, and you go from “barely tolerated sideshow” to “upstairs neighbor who stomps on the floor, plays their music too loud, and once had their toilet overflow and damaged our bathroom”.
You deserve nothing less. For your haughty attitude like you were just going to kickoff and instantaneously be crowned the kings, the gods of New York City, like all the other sports teams, Broadway plays, museums and tourist attractions would have to avert their gaze from the bright light your magnificence, you get to play ping-pong soccer on a field barely big enough to actually be sanctioned by FIFA. You get to look at the patches of grass covering the infield and pitcher’s mound every game and you will have no choice but to think about baseball and about how you are not wanted. And you’ll have to wait, every year, for the baseball schedule to come out and then have to beg the Yankees like they’re the only kid on the block with a swimming pool. “Can we come over today? How about tomorrow?”
And that stadium you might have built in three years? Yeah? Lots of cheap expanses of land popping up in New York City these days? Oh, and the bureaucracy? The politicians? Well, half of them don’t want you to build because a sheikh owns your club (yes, it’s unfortunate and unfair that sort of racism exists, but it is a reality) and the other half will bang the drum about park land and low-income housing to a mayor sympathetic to their plight.
Good. Suffer. Choke on it, all of you.
Wednesday, April 23: New York Red Bulls vs Houston Dynamo – It’s a rematch of the playoff series from last year that… bah, let’s not worry about all of that. It’s an excuse to blow off your job early on a Wednesday afternoon and then turn up Thursday morning worse for the wear. Join the Empire Supporters Club at El Pastor (570 Market St. Newark) to join in the fun.
New York Greek Americans continued the CSL’s two-prong thrust for national honors with a 5-0 destruction of Mass United in the USASA Region 1 Men’s Amateur Cup quarterfinals in Lynn, Mass., last Sunday.
Striker Keith Detelj, who was sidelined by injury most of last season and the fall, banged in a hat trick at Manning Stadium while Stephan Barea notched his third consecutive brace for the Greeks.
“[It] should have been 15-0. The difference in quality was palpable,” said Greek coach Stavros Zomopoulos. “We look forward to a stiffer challenge versus Danbury next month.”
That match against the Connecticut side May 11 will be in the regional semi-finals with the winners to advance to the finals June 15 in Horsham, Penn.
The Greek Americans could be joined there by their CSL compatriots Lansdowne Bhoys who saw off Newtown Pride FC 5-1 April 6 to reach the USASA Region 1 Open Cup semi-finals. Lansdowne face Mass Premier May 4 for a ticket to Horsham.
And in what’s shaping up as a treble quest for the Greek first team [they are one win away from the playoffs in the CSL top flight] another semi-final beckons in the Dr. Manning State Cup.
Standing between the club and a June date with surprise finalists Manhattan Celtic are United FC.
“We hope to play after United after Easter. With Celtic winning it’s almost like a premature final,” remarked Zomopoulos.
Young Manhattan Celtic coach Matthew Kane was once again able to coax his side, who are struggling in the league, to an improbable victory in the Manning Cup. OB Fenerbahce of the LISFL were their victims this time.
Goals in either half by Matt Negus and Jon Juchno earned the Celts a 2-0 win at Brooklyn Bridge Park after they’d missed an early penalty against the Turks.
“We dominated the game and at no point felt like Fenerbache was going to score,” said Kane, a Belfast, Northern Ireland, native in his rookie season with Celtic. “The club is delighted. Every player gave it their all and tactically we got it right on the day. [We’re] looking forward to the final!”
Celtic’s previous wins in the Cup were against the LISFL’s New York Polet [5-2] and formidable Lansdowne Bhoys [1-0]. In the CSL First Division [West], Kane’s lads need to win their two remaining games to avoid the drop.
Gene Small, Frank Lopez and Antonis Papasevastos, meanwhile, fired the Greek American reserves into the D’Arpino Cup final with a 3-1 win over CD Iberia ‘B’ on Randalls Island.
Meyo Beskovic pulled one back late after the Michael Megaloudis-drilled Greeks had the tie sewn up.
Zomopoulos had kudos for Megaloudis and his side for reaching their first State final since 2008 when they completed a hat trick of D’Arpino Cup victories that started in 2006.
With the team still in contention for the division title in the West, Zomopoulos hopes its depth and quality will lead to a league and cup double.
In a delayed quarterfinal tie, New York Ukrainians crashed out of the D’Arpino Cup 3-1 to Mineola Portuguese of the LISFL. Vitaliy Firsov had the lone goal for Steve Kovalenko’s second unit.
Shamrock’s fourth straight loss in all competitions saw them forked out of the Flamhaft Cup quarterfinals 5-2 by EDSL entrants Westchester FC.
Igor Carvalho — off an assist by fellow Brazilian Antonio Rebello — and Andy Horan scored for the Rocks.
The turning point of the match, from Shamrock coach Glen Wrafter’s perspective, came when Paul McDaid seemed to be taken down in the box by the last man with the CSL side 3-2 down. Shamrock was instead awarded a free kick outside the box and the offender went unpunished.
“It proved to be a pivotal point in the game,” observed Wrafter.
Central Park Rangers Reds squeaked into the semi-finals of the Strumpf Cup 5-4 on penalties after a close call against battling Lansdowne Bhoys metro on Randalls Island.
The Reds coughed up a 3-0 lead established by Henrick De Ruiter [two] and Eddie Walter in regulation time. Damian Mescall [pen.] and Johnny McGeeney [two] led the Bhoys fight back
In the shoot-out, McGeeney, Richie Morgan, Mark Finn and Mogo Flood scored for the Bhoys. De Ruiter, Declan Heffernan, Jonny Williamson, Omar Fernandez and Will Denslow clinched it for CPR, who meet Floral Park in the last four.
Floral Park, on the other hand, edged Mr. Dennehy’s 2-1, with Berat Islami on target for the CSL team.
“We barraged their goal for almost the whole of the second half but could not score,” said Dennehy’s Ronan Gardiner.
At New Utrecht High School, Manhattan Kickers Premier stormed into the final of the Marth Cup for Over-30 teams after swamping Oceanside 5-1.
Veteran English-born forward Joe Whiteman [two], former Bosnian international midfielder Izzy Aslarlovic and Italian native Guliano Soderini [two] tallied for Kickers who await the Istria-Guyana Veterans winner in the final.
Tournament winners two seasons ago, Hoboken FC turned on the style in the second half to thrash RBP FC 5-2 and advance to the semi-finals of the New Jersey State.
“[We] fell behind twice in the first half, but leveled each time. In the second half, Hoboken FC played more dominating,” reported Bill Marth.
Matt Miscione [9th] and Zach Cuttler [31st] twice pegged back fast starting RBP before Nick Matthews [53rd], Josh Corpuz [68th] and Isaac Asomani [81st] turned it around for the CSL envoys.
To reach the quarterfinals, Hoboken beat AC Milan of Wayne [1-0] and Union Ukrainians [3-1].
Second Division promotion rivals CD Iberia and New York Ukrainians are set for a showdown in the CSL League Cup semis after both stunned First Division opponents.
Ukrainians survived a fierce late rally by Pancyprian Freedoms’ reserves at McCarren Park to prevail 3-2, while Iberia, in first place in the second tier, edged Barnstonworth Rovers 2-1 on Randalls Island with ten men.
David Alkasimi, Joseph Betras and Rodrigo Oliver had Pancyprian in a 3-0 hole with 20 minutes to play when Adam Mathioudis and Evan Daviotis threw the Greek-Cypriots a lifeline.
“The game was open, Ukrainians had chances to score, but in the last five minutes Pancypians hit the post two times. We were lucky in the end,” manager Steve Kovalenko sighed with relief.
In the Iberia game, fullback Marcos Monteagudo was the hero after donning the goalie’s jersey and helping secure the 2-1 win after Augie “Pulpo” Shkreli was dismissed [60th] .
“Julian Escobar and Chiki Vazquez connected, but the story was Marcos,” said Diego Monteagudo. “[He] made a good save on the free kick following the red card and later on made a Victor Valdes-type save in the [upper corner] to secure the win in the final minutes of the game.”
CPR v STAL
The other League Cup semi-final is an all-First Division affair between CPR Whites’ second XI and Stal Mielec.
CPR nicked a 3-2 win over ten-man Manhattan Kickers on Randalls Island after playing catch up. Adam Rhodes and Ken Izuchukwu struck for Kickers. Brent Ferguson and Alberto Sanchis [two] for Rangers.
Said CPR’s Yuval Lion: “We put in a strong display against our higher league opponents and it turned into a classic cup tie. Twice we went behind but clawed our way back and with the Kickers down to 10 men near the end we found the winner in the last minute of the game.”
Stal blanked the Manhattan Celtic reserves 2-0 courtesy of Marcin Jaworek and Lukasz Jagodzinski.
In the Saunders Cup, NYC Metro Stars eclipsed Megas Alexandros 4-2 on Randalls Island to set up a semi-final clash with Manhattan Celtic Bhoys.
Ulrich Mokolo [20th], Giuseppe Romero [35th], Cesar Lima [55th] and John Guengueng [73rd] scored.
Celtic Bhoys topped FC Partizani 3-1 on penalties at Pier 40 after a goalless tie. Larry Rice, Gareth Hasson and Danny Arkus were on target in the shoot-out.
Hopes of a possible all-Celtic final four showdown in the Saunders Cup were dashed when nine-man Celtic Legends came up a goal short in their post-match shoot-out with Metro Div. Two leaders Brishna in Flushing.
Ian Woodcock’s lads lost 5-4 after a 1-1 draw.
They trailed to a Gurash Paiman goal [20th] and then had two players sent off on the hour.
Still, the Over-30 Div. One East leaders fought on. In the 75th minute, Woodcock, Legends’ player-coach, took down a cross from John O’Neil, and leveled at the near post.
“We held out with the nine men and it went to penalties [where] we lost 5-4,” said Woodcock.
Paddy Geraghty, O’Neil, Ansumana Gaye and Brad Andrews converted the Legend spot kicks. Tyler Fransen’s effort was saved by Brishna goalie Sabir Mashriqi.
Penalty scorers for Brishna were Gurash Paiman, Mujibullah Mashriqi, Hamidullah Pople, Mohammad Basir Mashriqi and Idris Mashriqi
Next up for Brishna in the semis are CPR Old Boys who dispatched their short-handed namesakes Barnstonworth Old Boys [BOB] 3-1, much to the chagrin of absent player-manager Dave Sheeran.
“I was out of town and I’m angry and disappointed that my squad thought that was an excuse to just not bother. Seven players showed up and we got dumped out of the cup by a team I would expect to beat if we had a full turnout,” fumed Sheeran. “Credit to those guys that did show up and out in a hard 90 minutes, keeping the result at a very respectable 3-1.”
Ben Warren was the BOB scorer. “Apparently a terrific 20-yard volley into the top corner,” said Sheeran.
In a Second Division fixture on Randalls Island, mid-table Doxa FC pipped Flank United 2-1 on goals by Kurt Cameron [6th] and Peter Tsioumas [20th].
Jon Titley and Nicholas Chang, the latter with a superb header from a Clifton Wellcome center, struck in Gotham Argo’s 3-2 defeat by CPR Blacks.
Brandon Levy [two] and Chris Valentine produced the CPR Metro Div. One win.
A 4-3 decision over New York Galicia on Randalls Island put Ridgewood level on points  with Metro Two frontrunners Brishna.
Ayhan Bekdemir [30th], Justin Osorio [38th], Emre Tetik [48th] and Viktor Baniv [53rd] tallied
For the Queens side.
And in Over-30 Div. Two, Nieuw Amsterdam outshot Brooklyn Gunners 4-2 with Ronnie Swinkels, Darran Cronshaw, Reza Watts and Najib Majaj the scorers.
With six games of the season still remaining the first team leaving the Championship has already been decided.
Having beaten Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 on Friday night, Leicester City were promoted when QPR failed to beat ten-man Bournemouth and Derby dropped points against Middlesbrough at the weekend. It may not be the most thrilling way for promotion to be sealed, but I doubt the fans or players will be complaining too much!
One of the things that makes the Championship so exciting is its unpredictability. Despite a good showing last season that saw Leicester finish in the playoffs, few had them down as contenders for the Championship title. After investing significantly in the squad over the past few years, Leicester instead opted to tweak their squad preseason, and it was only in January that they actually payed a fee for a player when Riyad Mahrez joined from AC Le Harve.
The fact that this is one of the earliest promotions to the top division shows just how dominant Leicester have been since the turn of the year. Their post-Christmas run has included eight consecutive wins, and their only loss came in the FA cup against Stoke.
One of the many reasons for Leicester’s success is a very settled squad and a consistent starting 11, with 15 players featuring in at least half the games this season. They have also been able to play the same back four for a large part of the season which always helps keep the goals conceded column low.
They have combined one of the best defences in the league with clinical finishing that has left them with an impressive +38 goal difference. Whilst they have managed to be amongst the top scorers in the division, they only have one player, David Nugent, who has scored 20 league goals, suggesting a real team effort to gain promotion. Most of the championship promotions have resulted from teams with goal scorers coming from throughout the team rather than over reliance on a single striker for the goals. This tactic not only leaves teams less vulnerable to injury and suspensions but also makes them much harder to defend against.
The final piece of the promotion puzzle is probably the most important, and that is the man in charge. After leaving the club for Hull City in 2010 claiming he was unwanted by Leicester, Nigel Pearson returned to the club three and a half years ago replacing sacked Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Whilst Sven’s win percentage was actually similar to Pearson’s, most of those wins came in the first few months in charge and, despite spending million’s, he failed to deliver a promotion challenging team. A settled manager is just as important as a settled team and, whilst the current trend may be to sack the manager at the first sign of poor form, looking back over the past few seasons shows this might not be the best choice. Most of the teams promoted over the last ten years have done so with the same man in charge for at least a year.
With one place decided it now seems likely that Burnley will soon be joining Leicester in celebrating promotion due to a nice ten point cushion between them and third placed QPR. However with the battle at the bottom looking likely to go down to the wire, most fans attention will be drawn there. After all it wouldn’t be the Championship if the last day didn’t matter for someone.
Listen to Paula’s latest Championship podcast
The Premier League panic button has been getting a lot of stick this year hasn’t it? Norwich City are the latest to knock seven bells out of it while rumours persist that Tottenham might still see the back of Tim Sherwood before season’s end and replicate the Fulham strategy of appointing two new managers in the same season.
You can see why Sherwood might be for the chop given his touchline demeanour – strutting around like a smitten chocolate soldier, wondering which of his own arms he’ll eat first, he loves himself so much – though equally, you have to wonder how and why he got the job in the first place.
As to why Chris Hughton was heaved into the jobless queue by the board at Carrow Road, call it the Di Canio equation. The Italian got the job around this time last year as Sunderland desperately sought a quick bump in heir fortunes to give them the handful of points they needed to survive.
At Norwich, it’s altogether more dramatic than that. Most observers have already written off their final four fixtures – home to Liverpool and Arsenal, away to Manchester United and Chelsea – which makes this Saturday’s clash with Fulham at Craven Cottage the most must win of all games. Were Norwich to do that, they would edge to 35 points, eight clear of Fulham with four to play and on the cusp of safety. Neil Adams, your canary needs you.
The irony is that Norwich’s calculation also factors in the view that Cardiff and Sunderland are all but gone, two teams who both changed their manager, Sunderland after just a handful of games, Cardiff at Christmas, yet without any benefit. Sunderland were 20th when Gus Poyet replaced Di Canio and they still are. Cardiff were 17th when Malky Mackay got the bullet and now they’re 19th.
West Bromwich Albion, Fulham and Tottenham are all now in the same place they were when Steve Clarke, Martin Jol and Andre Villas-Boas moved on, Swansea have dropped three places since Michael Laudrup was sacked and the only winners thus far from managerial change this term have proved to be Crystal Palace, moving from 19th at the end of the reign of the hapless Ian Holloway to 14th now.
Of course, further water will flow beneath the bridge before we get to the end of the season and the odd place might yet change, making one board of directors look as if they have the Midas touch while others resemble muppets. On the other hand, the evidence of another season of turmoil, turnover and gardening leave is that almost none of it makes any difference whatsoever.
In the end, the real difference between one team and another is – sorry if I’m stating the startlingly obvious – footballers. If you have good players, then you can win more games than you lose and vise versa. Given the nature of the transfer window, once the season gets underway, you have January alone to change things and few clubs do much business anyway then given the added premium placed on players. Thus they are required to stitch the collection of sow’s ears that they have inherited into purses of the finest silk as all the while, the pressure on everyone mounts.
But there’s more. Such are the changing structures at football clubs that the say of the manager in buying players diminishes by the day – understandable if the board reckons they’ll be handing him the sack before long. But in such circumstances, should it really be the manager who is the fall guy at the end of it all?
Perhaps it’s time that football clubs started to look at their player recruitment departments, their sporting directors. Or perhaps they should look to those who do the ultimate job of hiring and firing with little regard for, or understanding of, the inner workings of the game, the styles of play that fit the players they have and those which the incoming manager wants to play. Maybe it isn’t all the manager’s fault after all.
On Sunday the United States Women’s National Team played China in a friendly and, despite playing without their first and second choice strikers, won fairly easily, if not spectacularly, 2-0 on a Lauren Holiday header just before halftime, and a Megan Rapinoe free kick that was a cross awaiting a head on right up until the moment it somehow bounced into the far corner. Despite the injuries, relatively normal service for the ladies.
So, naturally, they celebrated by firing head coach Tom Sermanni.
Nobody saw this coming, least of all the now unemployed. The former head coach of Australia’s WNT said in an interview with Fox Sports “I was surprised, I didn’t see it coming, to be honest. Generally, you always have an intuitive feel about these kind of scenarios and I didn’t.” To be fair to him, he had no reason to expect his dismissal. After taking the helm at the start of 2013, Sermanni only spent that calendar year going undefeated. 2014 got off to a rockier start as the US failed to win the Algarve Cup, finishing last in their group, drawing Japan in the first game before losing to the usually dangerous Swedes and the upstart Danes.
To be absolutely clear, the Algarve Cup is not the end all, be all of competition. It’s a 12 team tournament, where only eight technically compete for the tournament championship. It’s held in an off year, and if you know who the eventual winner of the tournament was without looking it up, you’ve undoubtedly crossed the fine line between aficionado and obsessive (it was Germany). And in further defense of Sermanni and the Yanks, they were without the services of star striker Alex Morgan. Lest you think one injury to one player can make or break a tournament, ask Paris Saint Germain fans how they felt when Zlatan Ibrahimovich went down before the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals.
So, two losses, poorly timed by being in tournament play and being back-to-back, but one was to a Sweden side that figures to be on the short list for World Cup contenders in 2015 under the tutelage of former US boss (and dictionary definition of why people the world over think the Swedes are just a little bit off) Pia Sundhage. Surely two losses in glorified friendlies can’t be the cause to fire a manager mixing and matching to line everything up for World Cup qualification and the tournament itself, especially considering they were the only two losses to mar the Scot’s record in charge. Tom Sermanni will go to the grave being the only one to know if he took the Algarve Cup seriously or not, but what was clear from those games and the rest of his stint in charge was that he, like any manager in any situation anywhere in the world was attempting to introduce and impose his style on the team. As opposed to the previous strategy of winning by being superior athletes who simply want it more, Sermanni wanted a style focused on ball control and possession.
The US still have another friendly to play against China this week. Allowing the perfectly reasonable assumption that a tenured and well-respected coach of Sermanni’s stock did not commit an act detrimental to the team or, well, immoral or illegal, why the suddenness of the decision? If things were so bad, why not dismiss him before the camp was called? Conversely, if things were good enough to allow Sermanni to coach the first game, why not wait until after the second to show him the door?
In assorted exit interviews with the media, Tom Sermanni said all the right things about the players that you would expect: they played hard for him, they showed him respect, the team is in a good position going forward, and so on. So solid was the relationship between manager and team that, upon his dismissal, 19 of the 23 players assembled in camp came and thanked him.
Nineteen of twenty-three.
Losing your job is a pretty traumatic experience, even for a well-traveled coach. Anyone who has been fired unexpectedly knows that feeling of freefall and immediate questions you ask yourself about the future, about your family, about your life. Doubts creep in, you wonder what you could have done differently, and now come your former employees with whom you’ve traveled the world over the last sixteen months to come and show their appreciation for all their hard work. Each, one presumes, extending a hand or giving an embrace, saying a kind word, wishing you well, promising to stay in touch. Wouldn’t any of us, just by virtue of being human and caught up in the moment, lose count? Not even try to keep count? Not Tom Sermanni, apparently.
Nineteen of twenty-three.
We’ll never know, barring an unexpected and explosive tell-all by Sermanni or one of the players, who the four holdouts were or their reasoning behind it. It seems like saying “fare thee well” would be the sort of thing you would do simply out of professional courtesy and human empathy, especially when you see the majority of the rest of the team doing it. Who among us hasn’t offered a handshake to someone they didn’t particularly care for simply because it was easier than not doing it?
Nineteen of twenty-three.
It’s no secret that there are massive personalities and some inflated egos in play for the US Women’s National Team. Greg Ryan found that out when he made the decision not to start Hope Solo in the 2007 World Cup semifinal, which led to Solo blasting the coach to the media, and before long Ryan found himself looking for a job as well. In light of the holdouts that didn’t at least fake a goodbye to Tom Sermanni, it’s not at all unlikely that the inmates are running the asylum for the USWNT, and if not directly making decisions for US Soccer, then at least making some very strong suggestions.
US Soccer and the women’s team find themselves at a crossroads. Down one path is a rah-rah head coach basically only there to give motivational speeches and get out of the way. Down the other is a manager with a clear vision and the ability to grab the reins of this stagecoach before it goes plummeting off a cliff, one that realizes many of the stars and stalwarts of the side are on the wrong side of 30 and sees the need to build, not just for 2015, but beyond. For the future of the team that’s been atop the FIFA rankings for a decade, let’s hope they choose wisely.
Saturday, April 12: New York Red Bulls at DC United – Speaking of things in eminent danger of collapse, RFK Stadium, where the “we’re totally not Nazis *wink*” DC Scum hang their hats. Join the Empire Supporters Club at The Football Factory (6 W 33rd St. Manhattan) as a dangerous looking New York side look to pick up their first, and most enjoyable, win of the season.
CSL envoys Lansdowne Bhoys demolished Connecticut’s Newtown Pride SC 5-1 at Tibbetts Brook Park last Sunday to advance to the United States Adult Soccer Association [USASA] Region 1 Open Cup semi-finals May 4.
Midfielder Cian McBrien, a 23-year-old formerly with Ireland’s Galway United, notched a brace on his debut for the USASA Eastern New York champs.
Bhoys skipper Stephen Roche, Dwayne Reid and Sikele Slyvester were also on target for the recently crowned CSL First Division East titlists.
“We were dominant throughout,” said player-coach Austin Friel. “The players were excellent, my game plan worked 100 percent [and] overall we were deserved winners.”
The result extended Lansdowne’s winning streak in the Open Cup to five matches. They now await the winner of the delayed Icon FC [New Jersey] versus AC Blaugrana [Rhode Island] tie in the last four.
Lansdowne had previously defeated four-time US Open Cup winners New York Greek Americans [5-4], United FC [3-2] and Clarkstown Eagles [5-0], before edging NYAC 2-1 in the Eastern New York Regional I final last November.
In the CSL top flight, Pancyprian blanked Barnstonworth Rovers 3-0 at Icahn Stadium to move into second place in the East at the expense of defending champs NYAC.
Pete Halkidis [two] and Luke Sassano scored to give the Greek-Cypriots a two-point edge over idle NYAC in the battle for that second playoff spot in the East.
At Bushwick Inlet, Central Park Rangers slipped further out of playoff contention after a 3-3 tie with Stal Mielec.
Danny Riso, Conor O’Donoghue and George Fenwick scored for CPR; Marcin Jaworek, Lukasz Jagodzinski and Jacek Lawniczak for Stal.
“A lackluster performance against an improved Stal Mielic team meant we could only get a draw, which was a fair result on the day but damages our playoff hopes,” admitted CPR manager Yuval Lion.
Goals by Lukasz Olszowka and the 16 year-old Piotrek Dublicki blanked CPR’s reserves 2-0.
“Once again we dominated a game and could not find the net, and when we went down to 10 men due to injury late on we were made to pay for our earlier profligacy,” rued Lion.
In the West, a 7-0 shellacking of New York Croatia on Randalls Island left New York Greek Americans a win away from the playoffs.
Stephan Barea [two], Jack McVey, Chris Megaloudis, Josh Trott, Joe Ruesgen and Chris Greinzig upped the Greeks’ record to 7-4-2 , four points better than third place Clarkstown Eagles. The Greeks have three games remaining in the regular season.
“We had a bit more concentration and [were] more effective than we’ve been in the past which helped us finish the match early in our favor,” said coach Stavros Zomopoulos. “We are still improving and hope to have our best efforts starting next weekend in Boston for the Amateur Cup regional quarter final, and to seal our playoff berth the following match.”
Mass United is the opposition in “Beantown” 5 p.m. this Sunday at Manning Stadium in Lynn, Mass.
Zomopoulos’ reserves were equally rampant against Croatia ‘B’ in a 4-1 win. Gene Small [two] and Frank Lopez [two] scored.
Nine-man Clarkstown Eagles went down fighting against visiting West leaders United FC at Clarkstown High School South.
Bljedi Bardic had the hosts’ response to Paul Nittoli’s double for United.
“We had two sent off from [harsh] decisions and missed a penalty,” said Eagles coach Kevin Grogan. “I was actually happy as we worked really hard and could have tied in the end even with nine men.”
“[A] very good game, unfortunately the ref made this miserable for both teams,” conceded United boss Alex Zaretser whose side [9-3-1, 28] top the standings by five points.
Clarkstown’s reserves prevailed 2-1 thanks to Sacir Hot and Edmir Arucevic.
ALIVE & KICKING
Lucas Shanks and Mohamed Abdelwahab gave Manhattan Kickers’ relegation fight a boost with a 2-1 win over fellow West stragglers Manhattan Celtic at Pier 5.
Simon Kearney was the Celtic scorer.
It was last the place Kickers’ second win of the season [2-10-1, 7] and narrowed the gap with Celtic to four points with a game in hand and three to play.
Celtic’s Colin Hutzler and Pat Kelly scored in a 2-0 outcome in the curtain raiser.
Division Two frontrunners CD Iberia rebounded from the previous week’s shock loss to Polonia with aplomb, pasting New Amsterdam 5-1 on Randalls Island after trailing early.
Chiki Vazquez leveled; David Pinto made it 2-1 and goalie Augie “Pulpo” Shkreli denied United an equalizer, one-on-one with a striker.
“And on the very next play, Kun [Dominguez] scored to make it 3-1,” added Diego Monteagudo, whose side [10-3-1, 31] lead the second tier by a point.
Eric Vasquez got the fourth before luckless Amsterdam conceded an own goal.
Dani Alvarez and Dani Soberon handed Iberia’s reserves a 2-1 win.
Nick Matthews returned from injury with a bang at Riverside County Park where Hoboken FC blanked NYPD FC 3-0 to stay on Iberia’s heels.
Matthews broke a goalless deadlock with a Beckham-like free kick barely a minute after being subbed in by coach Andrew Darby [63rd]. He scored again [82nd] after Joe Skinner [80th] had added a second for Hoboken [9-2-3, 30].
Hoboken ‘B’ won 3-0 on captain Steve Korfiatis’ hat trick.
On Randalls Island, third place New York Ukrainians knocked off FC Japan 2-0 to maintain their title challenge.
David Alkasimi [50th] and Mike Gjani [65th] made it three wins in a row for Steve Kovalenko’s crew [9-3-2, 29] who are just two points off the pace with two games to play.
Japan’s reserves were dispatched 3-0 on goals by Boris Shapoval, Daniel Park and Gleb Mironenko.
Shamrock’s skid, meanwhile, continued with a 2-1 slump to Doxa at Van Buren High School – the Irishmen’s third defeat in a row.
“[We] dominated the first half and went ahead after Joey Aronovsky was tripped in the box [40th] and Antonio Rebello scored. Doxa came out strong in the second half and got two goals in five minutes,” reported coach Glen Wrafter.
Juan Ramirez got both for Doxa, the first set up by Kosta Sapountzis.
With Polonia topping Flank United 2-0, the Rocks’ dropped to fifth place [8-3-2, 26], five points out of first place, but with a game in hand.
Kevin Farrell [two], Wrafter and Mick McGreevy were on target in the Shamrock reserves’ 4-2 triumph.
Lansdowne Bhoys’ chart-topping Metro Div. One West side thrashed Dynamo SC 6-0 at Kaiser Park to stay a point ahead of Sporting Astoria in their sprint to the title.
CJ Doherty and Mark Finn had the Bhoys two up inside five minutes, a lead that was extended to three by Damien Mescall. Adrian Wynne [two] and a Ruairi Redican header saw off third-place Dynamo.
Lansdowne improved to 9-1-2  with a game in hand to Astoria.
Damian Paz struck twice off assists by Jorge Monsalve in Sporting Astoria’s 3-1 defeat of CPR Blacks on Randalls Island.
Isaac Hidalgo had opened the scoring from 25 yards in playoff-bound Astoria’s latest win [9-3-1, 28].
On a black Sunday for CPR teams in Metro One, East pace-setters FC Gwardia hammered CPR Reds 5-0 at McCarren Park.
Mateusz Chlost, Patryk Jarosz, Bartlomiej Stolarczyk, Konrad Sobotka and Maciej Kuczerski tallied for the Poles [9-2-2, 29].
Guillermo Arbelaez scored for New York Bravehearts in a 3-1 loss on Staten Island to a Grenadier Zenith side three points behind Gwardia.
Grenadier were led by Gregory Clena’s hat trick off assists by Allain David Milfort and Clifford Augustin [two].
Earlier on Staten Island, Mr. Dennehy’s had hat tricks from Josh Southall and Berat Islami in a 10-3 destruction of Missile FC at the Greenbelt Recreational Center.
Gerry Smith [two], Andy Bernhardt and Ian Peers got the other goals, while Jo Valentin, George Handy and Ben Alexandre replied for Missile.
In a clash between Metro Div. Two’s top side and its winless basement dwellers, Brishna, the former, could only eke out a 2-1 decision over New York Galicia.
Sayed Mashriqi and Gurash Paiman scripted the win for Brishna [10-1-1, 31].
Number two Ridgewood Romac, three points in arrears, were stunned 2-1 by New York Ittihad despite a tenth minute strike by Cosmin Chis.
Doyle’s Corner came from a goal down to hammer Homenetmen 6-1 at McCarren Park.
Andreas Moudatsos [two], Esteban Garcia, Bennett Stein, Andrew Hilland and Charles von Rosenberg all tallied in the second half after the Armenians led at the interval through Miran Keheian [24th].
Also in Metro Two, NYC Metro Stars’ skipper Desire Nizigama [3rd] and Ulrich Mokolo [70th] exchanged goals with Barnstonworth Rovers’ Bandon Rowley and Paul Nitto in a 2-2 draw on Randalls Island.
Tayfun Gokmen’s hat trick [15th, 47th, 65th] powered former Over-30 Div. One champs Shamrock to a 3-0 drubbing of New York Greek Americans at Van Buren High School.
And with Ian Woodcock’s Manhattan Celtic Legends besting Barnstonworth Premier 1-0 in their top-of-the-table-tussle, third place Shamrock [7-4-2, 23] moved to within two points of a playoff berth in the East.
At the Verrazano Sports Complex, Souley Mane Diallo nodded in Legends’ winner against Premier from a Simon Nee corner [75th]. The win catapulted Legends [8-1-3, 27] to the summit — two points clear of Premier.
In the West, Roland Demba and Robert Grishaj produced Clarkstown Eagles’ tenth win of the campaign, a 2-1 decision over CRP Grays at Van Buren.
Once beaten Eagles [10-1-2, 32] maintained their two-point lead over Manhattan Kickers Premier atop the standings.
Kickers Premier, for their part, thumped Barnstonworth Old Boys [BOB] 4-1 on Randalls Island.
Former Bosnian international Izzy Arslanovic [two], Joe Whiteman and Nick Bill connected. Jason Percy bagged his 10th goal of the season for BOB.
“Simply beaten by a better team,” conceded Dave Sheeran. “We made some errors in possession and Kickers have plenty of talent to punish you when you give them those opportunities.”
Kickers Over-30s, meanwhile, slipped 2-1 to New York Dinamo, whose Naim Kurtovic [20th, 60th] got both.
Short-handed Galatasaray Soccer Academy found SC Eintracht a ruthless lot in an 8-2 drubbing at McCarren Park.
Vinny Vascocelos [30th, 43rd], John Paul [37th, 65th], Ollie [50th, 60th] and Peter Maris [70th, 80th] showed the nine-man Turks no mercy in the Over-30 Div. Two fixture.
“They were short two men,” explained Tommy Strumpf.
Argo Silver were the other big winners in Over-30 Div. Two, trouncing Banatul 6-1.
Jon Titley set up Ryan Kampe twice – for two of his three assists — and then scored himself, while Cesar Jimenez de Pablo converted a penalty and created one of Carlos Wesley’s two goals.
Hoboken FC Veterans had goals from Bart Sicolo and Lucian Ciulla in a 6-2 late collapse to NYPD.
“After a well contested first half that ended 0-0, several injuries and the good play and pressure from NYPD took its toll,” said Ciulla.
At Pier 40, Manhattan Celtic Bhoys silenced Brooklyn Gunners 3-0. Addison Quale, Gareth Hasson and Jaime Gonzalez scored
“Tough opponents and well fought game,” summed up Milton Ospina after he and Raul Rodriguez had earned BW Gottschee a point from a 2-t tie with SC Gjoa.
Elsewhere in Over-30 action, FC Partizani lost 3-1 to Megas Alexandros.
Eni Zejnati hit the post with Partizani a goal down and then later Elton Lalaj won a penalty that Besi Ganaj missed.
Zejnati would eventually nod in Iglir Arapi’s corner [65th] for Partizani’s lone effort.
With six games to go in Serie A, the remaining suspense surrounds developments far from the top of the table. With both the scudetto and Champions League qualification spots all but guaranteed, the remaining battleground is the race for Europa League qualification, which now involves up to 8 teams.
Serie A will see the fourth, fifth and sixth placed teams qualify for various stages of UEFA’s second tier competition next season. Fiorentina, currently in fourth place with a five point lead over the fifth placed Inter and Parma, are virtually assured of qualifying, so the remaining seven clubs are fighting for two spots. Unlike in other countries, the Europa League is taken seriously in Italy as Serie A clubs seem to have recognised that the competition reflects their true value on the European (club) stage. Even mighty Juventus, eliminated from the Champions League yet again this year, are pinning their season on a Europa League victory in front of a home crowd in the Turin final.
The eight clubs involved reflect different attitudes towards the competition.
For fourth placed Fiorentina, fifth placed Inter and 11th placed Milan, qualification to the Europa League would be a minimum requirement this year. All started the season with hopes of making the Champions League, yet all have fallen short in some (or many) ways. Fiorentina have simply faced three better teams in Juve, Roma and Napoli, and have also been unfortunate with injuries to key players this season (notably strikers Mario Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi). In those circumstances fourth place would not be a catastrophic return for manager Vincenzo Montella.
For Inter and Milan, however, not qualifying for the Europa League would be disastrous. Milan are coming off a season playing in the Champions League, but after their exit against Atletico Madrid last month they have been disappointing in the league under new manager Clarence Seedorf. Although their 2-1 win against Genoa on Monday night was their third successive league victory, the rossoneri remain in 11th place and have to make up five points to qualify for Europe.
For Inter, not qualifying for the Europa League would arguably be even worse. The nerrazzurri played no European football this season, and new president Erick Thohir has made clear that Europe is a must for his new “project”. Inter are in fifth place, but have been unable to win in three games, with defensive frailties emerging and questions consequently being asked of manager Walter Mazzarri. Thohir did not make any rash decisions after last Sunday’s 2-2 home draw against lowly Bologna, but few doubt that another season outside Europe would herald wholesale change. Next month’s Milan derby may be a key clash for both Milanese teams’ hopes of making Europe.
On the other side of the expectation spectrum, for Parma, Lazio, Verona, Atalanta and Torino, qualifying for Europe would be either an unexpected bonus or the fulfilment of an unlikely dream. Parma are joint fifth with Inter and have arguably the easiest run in of all the teams concerned. Roberto Donadoni would become a hero if he returned the club to its European glory days (this time with no financial steroids).
Lazio have surged into seventh place under returning manager Edy Reja,only two points behind Parma and Inter, and while they have the momentum, that is a shifting commodity in the Europa League race. Just ask Verona or Atalanta. Both have been flavour of the month, with the newly promoted gialloblu showcasing exciting football under manager Andrea Mandorlini before a dip in February and March, while Atalanta recorded a run of six straight victories until their home defeat to Sassuolo last Sunday. The excitement created by Atalanta’s possible return to European football after over 20 years saw over 3000 fans turn up to the team’s mid-week practice session. Call it the magic of the Europa League.
Further down the table, amateurs of more classical Italian pastimes such as firing managers at hopeless points in the season will have been comforted this week. Bottom club Catania parted ways with Rolando Maran for the second time this season after a home defeat to Torino , while Cagliari owner Massimo Cellino reacted to his club’s 3-1 home defeat against high flying Roma by firing manager Diego Lopez. With six games to go, that takes the count to 14 fired managers this season.
Last Friday, April 4th I was fortunate enough to attend the New York Cosmos media day event held at Legends Bar on 33rd street in Manhattan. The day was an opportunity for the media to come out and talk to the players, coaching staff and some front office personnel about the team and their upcoming 2014 season. Some of the more interesting and informative moments of the afternoon came during the welcome speeches given by Cosmos Chief Operating Officer, Erik Stover and the team’s head coach Giovanni Savarese.
Before getting to the specifics of what was said it is worth noting an intriguing introduction given by Cosmos legendary goalie Shep Messing. He recalled how he and his Cosmos teammates followed the 1980 US men’s Olympic hockey team as Girogio Chinaglia at the time was married to the sister of the USA hockey team captain Mike Eruzione. Of course many will remember that their victory against the USSR in those Olympics was called the “Miracle on Ice”. On this afternoon, Messing chose to call the 2013 Cosmos the “Miracle of New York”. He chose this due to the improbable nature of how the team would win the 2013 championship after only having months to assemble a front office, a team and ultimately train together and prepare for the season. It served as his segway to commend the staff for their job in 2013 and ultimately introduce Stover and Savarese.
Stover announced that the team have their sights set on repeating as NASL champs once again. Of course he is also excited about the team’s possibilities in the US Open Cup this year. He described the run in the US Open as an “opportunity to test ourselves against the best teams in the United States and Canada and ultimately maybe in CONCACAF”.
One of the new developments is a more enhanced TV deal with ONE World Sports. He confirmed that they would no longer be working with SNY as well. Joel Feld from ONE World Sports was on hand and gave a brief summary of what the deal would entail. They plan on having a full distribution of ONE World Sports coverage on all of the cable networks such as Time Warner Cable, Optimum Cable and for the first time ever – Verizon Fios. Cosmos home matches will be shown live and in high definition. This is a plus since last season SNY shown several of the home matches on tape delay hours after the match and sometimes even the day after the matches occurred. An added bonus for Cosmos fans this year, ONE world sports also announced that Shep Messing would join JP Dellacamera and Janus Mihalik for select Cosmos matches. The matches would clearly be those were Messing did not have to work Red Bulls matches as he is currently under contract to broadcast those matches.
Gio Savarese also took some time to speak to the members of the media as well. Coach Gio informed us of some player injuries going into the beginning of the season. He mentioned right off the bat that one of the newer acquisitions, Hans Denissen, is still not ready to play due to his recovery from a knee injury that he sustained in the fall season during his time with the San Antonio Scorpions. While he feels that Denissen is ahead of schedule in terms of recovery he is still not confident enough to see Hans in full action just yet. Hunter Gorskie was also mentioned as 99% recovered from his knee injury from last year. Surprisingly enough he also mentioned that they “were checking on something with Roversio” however he was expecting Roversio to be at practice this week. Roversio was a major part of the defense for the Cosmos last season and it would be a big blow to the team if he was unable to play. Aside from these mentions, coach Gio summarized the team as much fitter for this opener this year than the team was for last season’s opener.
Coach Gio echoed Stover’s comments regarding the US Open Cup and expressed the importance of playing well during that tournament. Savarese added that the US Open Cup would serve as a good barometer to see how the Cosmos stack up against MLS sides. Adding to this was a mention on how the other teams in the NASL have also gotten stronger and his thoughts were that there was no question that they will be more competitive this year compared to 2013. Additionally, he also mentioned that the team was content with the roster that it had going into opening day and had no hesitations to play in the US Open Cup with that roster.
Of course whenever there is an opportunity to ask questions of either Stover or coach Gio, the proposed stadium at Belmont comes up. This night was no different. Stover re-iterated -,more job creation than any of the other three proposals the Cosmos are competing with, double the economic impact than those proposals and all of that with no tax-payer money to be used to fund the stadium. Stover was defensive when asked why the team was looking to build a 25,000 seat stadium for a second division team. As I have personally heard him state in the past, he repeated his sentiments that he does not feel that the Cosmos are a second division team. Their goals remain clear – that they would like to be at the top of the soccer landscape in the United States and if they have the opportunity to build their proposed stadium, he expects the stadium to be the best soccer stadium not only in the United States but quite possibly, all of North America. Stover also added that getting approval for their own stadium was essential to their long term plans of building a Cosmos team similar to what they fielded back in their first existence. He hinted that he is already getting the calls from “people” that would help that happen but the one obstacle remains their own stadium.
• The Cross Island Crew & The Borough Boys are teaming up to host an Opening Day Tailgate Party prior to the opening day match this Sunday April 13, 2014. The tailgate will be held in the parking lot adjacent to the stadium at the corner of Meadowbrook & Belmont Places. Prost Grill & Bar in Garden City will be providing the food for the tailgate party. The Cross Island Crew & The Borough Boys are asking for a suggested $5 donation to partake in the food. Everyone is responsible for bringing their own beer and soda for this tailgate. Come on out and get in a festive mood prior to the opener on Sunday! Tailgate starts at 3:00pm and runs right up until the start of the match at 5:00pm. For more details on the Tailgate Event please visit www.crossislandcrew.com .
• Next Saturday the Cosmos will be away as they play FC Edmonton in Edmonton. Prost Grill & Garten in Garden City Long Island will host the Official NY Cosmos viewing party in Long Island. There will be food and beer specials throughout the night. Game starts at 9:00PM.
• Cross Island Crew Supporters Scarves are available for sale for $20. For information email email@example.com or visit www.crossislandcrew.com
2 – Who did manager Nigel Pearson succeed as current boss?
3 – Which striker did Leicester City once sell for a club record 11 million pounds?
4 – Which American was on Leicester City’s 1997 League Cup winning team?
5 – Leicester were last in the top flight of English football in what year?