Winners & Losers

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“I have no idea what it is”

Listen to Matty skillfully plug First Touch to Steve Lamacq on BBC 6 Music!

Check out Matty on The Round Table with Dion Dublin & Danny Kelly here

By Matty Lawrence

As the curtain falls on another season, we need to sit back and take stock of all that went before us.

There have been some amazing highs and lows (Jake Livermore, impressively, managing both at the same time), so it would be impossible to hit every moment of intrigue and notoriety, but let’s try and get close.

I hate this fact, but we have to start with Chelski and Jose Mourinho. Yes, they have a bottomless pit of money, but so do Man City and even Man Utd have a bottomless pit……….but, I think that’s called of debt.

Regardless, Mourinho is a genius.

The man is aloof, arrogant, cock-sure and every other similar adjective under the sun, but, boy, does he know how to assemble a squad and win games of football. And, any of you naysayers that had the gall to call Chelsea “boring,” hang your head in shame.

From opening day of the season, the majority of us (I hope you did, too) had them down as title winners: I’m not sure that any of us could have foreseen the canter at which they proved victorious, though. I love the fact that Chelsea  handled the pressure of front running. Man City got close as Chelsea slipped up slightly around mid-season, but Mourinho just pushed the clutch down and slipped his team into a higher gear.

Hazard and Mourinho ably abetted by Terry, Cahill, Courtois et al absolutely demolished the opposition.

Enough about them: too good by far………..well in England, anyway. But, that’s a story for another day.

Can we now tiptoe down to sixth place and discuss the positives and negatives of a certain Brendan Rodgers?

That’s the positives over and done with. My column is restricted to 1,000 words, so Monsieur Rodgers will get off lightly.

In summation: how the bloody hell is he still in a job? The guy has put his foot in his mouth more times than the contortionist I saw in the darkest depths of Amsterdam last summer. Ridiculing Spurs for the slack way they spent Bale’s transfer fee and then doing exactly the same with the Suarez money, before letting Spurs crash fifth place on the last day of the season. Get the steel toecaps out of his gob and call for Klopp.

Personally, I think it all went wrong for him when he started carnal relations with that LFC employee and I’m not even sure I need to add, allegedly. Sometimes it’s best not to believe your own hype.

As we trickle a little further down the league we start hitting the real over achievers. The triple ‘S’ of Southampton, Swansea and Stoke are the real stories of the season. All three teams were magnificent.

I have no qualms in admitting that I thought Southampton could be heading for the drop: what do I know? I dismissed them with a swish of my hand and not a second thought for the fact that Ronald Koeman may actually know what he is doing. I bow down and acknowledge my misgivings.

Can we just remember that they lost Shaw, Lallana, Lovren, Chambers, Lambert and, also, Rodriguez was injured all season? Koeman, the shrewd cookie, brought in Tadic, Pelle, Forster and Mane and boy did they flourish.

Seventh place they finished: only two points behind last season’s first team!! (Keep up at the back.)

And looking up at them was Swansea. I’d like it noted on record, your honour, that I have a maniacal dislike of Garry Monk. Never met the guy, not sure he ever elbowed me in Division Three back in the day, but I struggle to watch his interviews and not book into Dignitas at the same time. Look, it’s my problem, and I will find a solution.

The football issue is, the guy is a winner. Monk (lower league clogger) took over from Laudrup (genius footballer of note) and didn’t bat an eyelid. Monk took it all in his stride and upped the ante and produced a wonderful Swansea side that was a privilege to watch.

They even lost Bony and Garry Monk didn’t miss a heartbeat. Without a shadow of a doubt, Monk was my manager of the year. Swansea’s wage bill was minimal and their transfer budget was a good couple of  noughts below the hierarchy above and a fair few below.

I’ll pop a cork for Garry Monk. Fantastic season.

The third ‘S’ in the symmetry was Stoke City. Somehow, Mark Hughes hauled himself out of the cesspit that was QPR and achieved a formidable ninth place finish in the EPL. Hughes transformed Stoke from a team playing the ball in the air more than a beach volleyball team, to a crop of players who wanted to get on the ball and actually pass it with their feet…………..rather than hoof it 40 yards with their head.

Sparky, hats off.

If he achieves the same again next year I will be bloody gob-smacked. Once is luck and twice is skill, as my dear old college coach used to say.

Let’s now highlight the team who secured the final place in the top 10 in the EPL. Crystal Palace somehow found themselves so far up the league that they suffered more nosebleeds than I ever did crossing the halfway line. Who can they thank? Step forward Alan Pardew.

Step off the edge of the precipice every Newcastle fan that held aloft the Pardew out signs earlier in the season. You utter, utter bell-ends!!

Alan Pardew has systematically rescued Palace from the brink of relegation. An atom bomb couldn’t wipe the smile from his face…………and rightly so.

Nigel Pearson is the next manager who needs a million plaudits: that may well be an understatement. I had Leicester City relegated about Chrimbo time. I’m basically homeless now because of them.

That squad of players, marshalled by Pearson, won seven of their last nine. How? Apart from Cambiasso none of them had played football before. Okay, the keeper’s Dad used to be a player, but that was about it.  Give me some artistic license!!

So, with time running out on my final column of the season, let’s focus on the relegation zone. Look, Burnley and QPR were goners from the get-go.

Burnley’s wage bill is akin to my local McDonald’s and their transfer budget was slightly less than Wayne Rooney’s hair transplant bill.

QPR on the other hand spent the GDP of a large South American country on wages and transfers and still played like the staff at my local McDonald’s.

And Chris Ramsay sure is the man to drag them back into the EPL. I’ve always hated sarcasm.

So, the final place in the relegation hell-hole fell to Hull City/Hull Tigers. Let’s talk quietly, but we all wanted the trap door to fall on Newcastle: even half of the Geordies. That didn’t quite materialize and I feel incredibly sorry for Steve Bruce. I always manage to forgive his nepotism and hope he succeeds.

This season it wasn’t to be and they fell into the hell of the Championship and the rigours of a 46 game season and a bloody long way back. Of course, they get the parachute payments, but so did Fulham. Good luck, Steve.

See you next season for 2015/16.

 Listen to Steve Lamacq’s FA Cup round table with Matty, Danny Kelly, and Dion Dublin.

lammo

EPL 2014/15 – The Final Chapter

chelseaBy Jack Simpkin

Hull City were the third and final team to be relegated to the Championship for next season as they failed to beat Manchester United at the KC Stadium on Sunday while Newcastle survived by the skin of their teeth with a 2-0 home win over West Ham.

Further up the table, Tottenham and Liverpool secured places in the Europa League after finishing 5th and 6th respectively, alongside West Ham who have earnt a place in the first qualifying round by virtue of topping the EPL Fair Play League.

If Aston Villa beat Arsenal in the FA Cup Final this weekend then they too with earn a place in Europe’s second-string competition, otherwise England’s fourth available place will go to 7th placed Southampton.

Moussa Sissoko and Jonas Gutierrez scored the goals that secured Newcastle’s future in the EPL, Guiterrez of course made a return to the side this season after successfully recovering from testicular cancer. Despite the relief and delight that was clear upon the full-time whistle at Saint James’ Park, everyone surrounding the club will be really disappointed with the way the Toon’s season developed this time around, and they will be looking for a much better effort next season with whichever manager in charge. As for Hull, they will be looking to redevelop their squad over the summer and do what many clubs fail to do and bounce straight back up to the Premier League.

Champions, Chelsea finally got their hands on the Premier League trophy on Sunday for the first time in five years, having confirmed that this year’s title will be heading to Stamford Bridge a couple of weeks ago. They ended their season with a hard fought 3-1 win over Sunderland.

It has obviously been a very impressive season from Chelsea and they will be looking to learn from Manchester City’s failings this season as they go about defending their title in August.

Arsenal ended their home goal drought with a 4-1 drubbing of West Brom at the Emirates on Sunday. Arsene Wenger will be relatively pleased with their 3rd place finish but he’ll be looking to improve his squad over the summer to try and take his side right to the top next year. His immediate focus however will be on Wembley this weekend as Arsenal look to make it back-to-back FA Cup titles as they face Aston Villa. Tony Pulis should be pleased with his side’s 13th placed after he took over at the helm from Alan Irvine in January as West Brom go about fully establishing themselves as a Premier League side.

The match at the Britannia Stadium however trumped the Emirates’ for goals as Stoke pulled off and incredible 6-1 win over Liverpool to end their season. Mame Biram Diouf scored the first two before Jonathan Walters, Charlie Adam and Steven N’Zonzi all scored to give the Potters a 5-0 half time lead. Appropriately, Steven Gerrard got on the score sheet in his final Premier League game before he heads off to LA Galaxy, before Peter Crouch completed the scoring late on to give Mark Hughes and Stoke fans a dream end to their season. Brendan Rodgers will not have enjoyed his afternoon one bit and he’ll know that he and the club’s owners have a lot of work on their hands this summer to turn Liverpool back into the force that they were last year when they were challenging for the title.

Another EPL legend who is making the trip across the pond this summer to play in MLS is Frank Lampard who also fittingly scored in his final ever Premier League appearance as Manchester City ended their season with a 2-0 home win over Southampton. Lampard scored City’s first in the opening period with a trademark late run into the penalty area to score his 177th and final Premier League goal, an incredible tally for a midfielder. Sergio Aguero then doubled City’s lead in the second half with a simple tap-in header for his 26th league goal of the season, making him the league’s top goalscorer this year. Manuel Pellegrini and Man City fans will be disappointed that the club didn’t challenge Chelsea better as they went about defending their title this season but they will certainly make the adequate changes to their squad over the summer, and go again next year with everything that they have.

Leicester City ended their season brilliantly with a 5-1 win over Queens Park Rangers at home on Sunday. Having spent so long at the foot of the league, Nigel Pearson side’s incredible recent form meant that their great escape was completed last week so with the pressure off, the Foxes really turned on the style this week to end their season. It’s been a real team effort over the passed few months as Leicester secured their safety and it was therefore fitting that their five goals were shared around the team as Jamie Vardy, Marc Albrighton, Leonardo Ulloa, Esteban Cambiasso and Andrej Kramaric all found the net on what was a brilliant afternoon for the club and their fans. It was also fitting that QPR’s only shining star of the season, Charlie Austin, also got on the score sheet in what could prove to be his final game for the club as with Rangers now relegated, some Premier League sides will certainly be after his signature for next season.

Everton ended their season with a 1-0 home defeat against Tottenham, which in a way summed up their season. They finish it in 11th, which won’t please any one at the club, but they will be doing their upmost to come back stronger next year. The only goal of the game was of course scored by Spurs’ top scorer for the season, Harry Kane, who has undoubtedly been the break-through star of this year’s EPL. It was an important win for Spurs because it meant they moved above Liverpool into 5th and I’m sure the club will be pleased with that position, however, they will go again next season as they look to sneak into the Champions League any which way they can.

Crystal Palace also ended their season with a 1-0 win as they turned over Swansea City 1-0 at home.

Burnley ended their Premier League season with a 1-0 win at home against Aston Villa, but unfortunately for them, all the damage had already been done as their relegation straight back into the Championship was confirmed a few weeks ago. Much like Charlie Austin for QPR, Danny Ings has been the Claret’s star this season and he too will be looking for a move back into the Premier League over the summer. He was the man who got the goal, which came after just six minutes. Tim Sherwood and his side would have had much of their focus on this weekend’s FA Cup final, as all of their hard work to avoid relegation was completed not long after the former Spurs boss joined the club in February.

 

The Best & Worst Of Serie A 2014/15

serieA_172x121By Michael Ottolenghi

Following Roma’s 2-1 victory in Monday’s Rome derby, the giallorossi are guaranteed to finish second in the table and therefore qualify for next season’s Champions League. The final round of Serie A will therefore have one principal verdict to deliver, as the final Champions League qualifying place is decided when third place Lazio travel to fourth placed Napoli on Sunday evening.

Three crucial points separate the two sides and so Rafael Benitez, in what will most likely be his final game in charge of Napoli, will have to win to overtake the Roman side and qualify the partenopei for next season’s Champions League.

But as the season draws to a close, it is time for reflections on yet another year in Serie A, in the form of the best and worst things to emerge from 2014-15 in Italy’s top football league.

 

The Best:

Juventus.  The nature of their fourth consecutive league title in Serie A, secured with practically no drama and against risible opposition, has somewhat obscured the magnitude of their achievement. With the Coppa Italia also in the bag, Massimiliano Allegri has successfully improved on the inheritance of his predecessor, Antonio Conte.  And while Conte moaned about lacking the resources to compete in Europe, Allegri has steered his squad to the Champions League final, improving Serie A’s cachet across Europe.  At present Juventus are the only Italian club who mean anything on the pitch at European level (a couple of performances by Napoli in the Europa League notwithstanding).

Clubs from Genoa. This was the big story of the start of the season, as both Genoa and Sampdoria threatened to qualify for the Champions League. That hasn’t quite happened, and Genoa have fallen foul of UEFA and been refused a European licence anyway, but Genoa are sixth and Sampdoria seventh, above both Milan teams. Sampdoria’s manager, Sinisa Mihaijlovic, is rumoured to be in line for the Napoli job, and Genoa just beat Inter 3-2 on Saturday. After seasons in the shadows of other footballing cities, Genoa is back in the domestic spotlight.

Parma’s sportsmanship. Much has been written about the debacle of Parma, a once proud and successful club who have not only been relegated, but may cease to exist due to their bankruptcy.  But amidst the chaos at the club, the players and technical staff, led by Roberto Donadoni, have carried on despite not being paid all season. They have beaten Juventus and were allegedly abused by Napoli players for “trying too hard” on the pitch. With so many negative stories about Italian football, Parma’s players just wanted to play the game.

 

Worst:

Clubs from Milan. Not much remains to be said about the disastrous seasons of Inter and Milan. Both clubs will miss out on European competitions next season, while Milan do not even know who their manager will be after the failure of the Pippo Inzaghi experiment. Inter are in slightly better shape, with Robero Mancini’s mid-season arrival heralding a better attitude from fans, if not an upturn in results.  Must do better.

Football violence. Another year, another series of violent incidents in Italian stadiums. Monday’s Rome derby provided just the latest example of clashes between fans and with police forces.  While “ultra” groups continue to terrorise stadiums and affect attendances, the authorities do nothing, or worse.

Italian football authorities. When Roma president James Pallotta took a stand against his own clubs’ ultras after they had put up a banner insulting the mother of a Napoli fan killed by a Roma ultra last year, the silence from other clubs, Serie A officials and the Italian FA was deafening.  Predictably, no progress has been made in eliminating this scourge from Italian stadiums. Combined with an FA president who made racist remarks about African players, a former national team manager who says there are too many black players in Italy, and the amateur league president dismissing the women’s game as being played by “four lesbians”, there is a long way to go for Italian football to return to respectability.

So that’s it. Another year, another Juve title, more violence, and the requisite amount of controversy.  See you in August after a summer of transfers, real and imagined, shape next season in Serie A.

Are Rangers Prepared For A Return To Top Flight Scottish Football?

FTglobe_purpleThe Full Scottish with Brian P. Dunleavy

Last weekend likely meant a lot to supporters on both sides of the Old Firm.

On Sunday, Celtic received the championship trophy, marking the Hoops’ fourth consecutive Premiership title. The day before, Rangers moved one step closer to rejoining their city rivals in the top flight, by dispatching Hibernian in the semifinals of the promotion playoffs 2-1 on aggregate.

But while getting past Motherwell in the final seems to be a forgone conclusion for the Ibrox side, just how they’ll fare playing their first first-division football in nearly four years in 2015-2016 remains to be seen. After all, this is a squad that barely eked out a third-place finish in Scotland’s Championship, which is a far cry from its counterpart south of the border.

It should also be noted that Rangers rarely achieved success in Scotland’s major cup competitions during their three-plus years in exile, until they reached the League Cup semifinals this term. In that match at Hampden, they lost 2-0 to Celtic, and the scoreline flattered them. The Hoops dominated that match and could have—and perhaps should have—won by more.

Club savio(u)r Dave King has been quoted as saying it will take some £30 million for Rangers 2.0 to challenge Celtic next season. That’s likely a conservative estimate. According to Sporting Intelligence, Celtic’s annual payroll approaches £30 million, and, based on published reports, the Hoops spent in excess of £10 million in transfer fees this term.

With Cammy Bell and Steve Simonsen, Rangers are strong between the sticks, but the club’s back line is in need of a makeover. At 37, player/coach (and captain) Lee McCulloch is likely more coach than player. Vice captain Lee Wallace is in the prime of his career, but Darren McGregor is hardly a proven commodity in the top-flight, even in Scotland, and Richard Foster’s career to this point has been a series of fits and starts. Marius Zaliukas was in and out of the starting XI this season and Tunisian Bilel Mohsni is reportedly on his way out of Glasgow.

Fortunately, ’Gers are solid—and deep—in the center of the park, thanks to a strong (and young) midfield corps that includes Ian Black, Nicky Law, Kyle Hutton, David Templeton and Dean Shiels. An upgrade here wouldn’t hurt, of course, but it’s not vital.

However, the same can’t be said for the club’s strikers. Stalwarts Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd are both showing signs of age, while Jon Daly, who caused quite a stir in 2013 when he became the first Republic of Ireland-born Catholic to sign with Rangers, has missed significant time due to injury. Daly, though, has been a legitimate top-flight player in Scotland and should be again, assuming he stays healthy.

To date, current bench boss Stuart McCall has been mum in terms of identifying potential transfer targets, although he has said he wishes to put his own stamp on the team. Of course, that’s assuming he remains in charge. Rangers have remained noncommittal about McCall’s future, and rumo(u)rs continue to swirl that Dick Advocaat will be returning to Ibrox this summer. McCall told the Daily Mail recently that he’d be willing to work with a “Director of Football”—as long as the manager remained in charge of player signings. Stay tuned…

Obviously, Rangers could render all of this moot by failing to get past Motherwell in promotion play-off final, a two-legged tie with matches on Thursday and Sunday. The smart money has them beating the Steelmen.

But then again, how often have the words “smart, “money” and “Rangers” been used in the same sentence in recent years?

College Corner

FTglobe_orangeBy Pat Glodkowski

Recently I spent some time in Poland, visiting family.  Normally I catch up with my cousins after a couple hours of talking, drinking, and then having dinner together. In addition, I would often go with them and their friends to play soccer or simply hang out. 

During this latest trip, I met one of my cousin’s friends that for whatever reason I had yet to meet. Kamil was one of the local boys who played for the local 7th division Polish side, and said they had a pretty good group of players out there. Yes, I know, only 7th division in Poland, but these players had a coach, regular practices, and a relatively decent pitch, which helps provide the occasional entertainment for local soccer.

I had an interesting conversation about him regarding his playing and what he thought about the life style as well as the set up of the system in Poland. As a seventh division player, he felt that his options were really non-existent. As a player in such a lowly league, it really does not matter what level of talent he has reached, because no scout goes down that far in the ranks to find new talents. Unfortunately, a lot of those players are locked in down there, and won’t be able to earn promotion for their side or play on a higher level. There is some reasoning that they accept this pigeonholing – it is their local side. Most Poles traditionally do not like to travel for work, but if they have to they won’t uproot themselves, and rather stay in their home town, commuting up to 100 miles each way for their work.

These young soccer players face the same mentality – no real desire to move beyond their home side, despite being able to play in as high as the third division, but are not given the direction or motivation to pursue it unless they were identified as a child prodigy or live in a large city.

Kamil was in that situation, where he grew up in Slask region of Poland. It is an area where a couple large cities existed like Krakow or Czestochowa, but were still some distance away. For him though, he fears that with college years coming around, his amateur soccer career will have to end altogether. He will not be around to train, and only be able to make the occasional game.

I then told him about the American system. How young soccer players in the US, who are hesitant to take the next step in soccer have the ability to get an education, and then moving forward can decide if they want to keep up their athletic dreams or go for the path their degree can provide for them.

For him it was really a shock to hear about how the system works. How PDL plays into student-athlete’s schedule for the summer, and how the MLS Draft can springboard someone into a professional contract with a top-flight team. He did not realize American universities place such an emphasis on the athletes, and how the American sports leagues take a vested interest in drafting college talent, and using them to fill the youth ranks of the team.

He said to me if he could play for his university and use that as a method to have options in academics or athletics would be a true gift. Kamil is afraid that although he has skills, he may not have enough, or may not reach a certain potential where he is expected to rise to, and ends up back in the lower ranks, without any education.

For him, school is important, as that has been placed on him because of his parents. However, he still loves his soccer and will continue to play pick up with his buddies at college. Kamil was really upset he never had even conceived of the notion of attending a school in the US, as he really could have made the most of his playing talent, and pursue his desire to obtain an education.

In essence, he seems to be saying the same thing 24-year-old Red Bulls II midfielder Leo Stolz once commented on. The Red Bulls drafted Stolz this season after enjoying a fantastic college stint at UCLA and George Mason. Although it took him an extra two years to figure it out, Stolz decided to go for school in the US, rather than continue his time in 1860 Munich.

At the moment Stolz seems to be enjoying time in New York, despite rumors that he would return to Europe. The Hermann Trophy winner, though not entirely developed yet, has taken a nice position in the team, and ultimately got the degree that he sought to have, which does act with a buffer.  I even told Kamil about Stolz, and he was entirely envious.

He now believes he has to consider the move to the US, as Stolz took some time, he also realizes he can take some time to decide on his life choice. Barring financial constraints, the decision to come here would probably have already been made. The takeaway from all this is that the US college soccer system (if not the pro league) is envied abroad.

NY Greek Americans Head To Tennessee For Finals

cosmoyellowBy Jay Mwamba

CSL powerhouse New York Greek Americans go into the third annual U.S. Soccer National Amateur Championship in Chattanooga, Tenn., this Friday two wins away from the title of best amateur side in the U.S.

The 2014 USASA Amateur Cup winners face USL PDL titlists Michigan Bucks 5 p.m. at UT-Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium in the first semi-final.

Hosts Chattanooga FC, NPSL finalists last year, clash with Maryland Bays, the 2014 Werner Fricker USASA Open Cup champions, in the other semi-final at 7:30 p.m.

The two winners meet Saturday for the Hank Steinbrecher Trophy Cup to determine the top amateur side in Americans soccer.

“The title of best amateur team in the United States is again on the line,” said U.S. Adult Soccer President John Motta.

In addition to the USASA title they won last year, Greek Americans are four-time US Open Cup winners and eight-time CSL champions.

 

CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY

In the CSL, two titles will be decided this Sunday as the 2014-2015 league nears the end.

However, followers of one of America’s oldest and most competitive amateur leagues will have to wait until June 5 for the CSL championship match between current titlists Lansdowne Bhoys and Pancyprian Freedoms. It’s scheduled for 8 p.m. at St. John’s University’s Belson Stadium.

RED THREAT

Central Park Rangers Reds and New York Ittihad battled to a 1-1 draw in their only regular season meeting last fall. Both prevailed in the playoffs against the two division title winners and clash for the Metro One championship 12 p.m. Sunday on Randalls Island field 72.

Blake Berg, who along with co-manager Matt Hatcher revamped the Reds into a younger and more effective unit, sized up Ittihad thus:

“[They] gave us a good battle at the end of the fall and we felt that they were the toughest team we faced.

“They were well organized and composed across the board and have a few guys who are dangerous in the midfield and up top. The match was hard fought and it felt like a complete stalemate the first time around. It’s only fitting we play them in the finals.”

Top scorers in the entire Metro One with 65 goals in 16 games and boasting the best defense with just 14 conceded, the Reds have conceived a strategy to beat Ittihad this time.

“We have to come out strong and energetic and rely on both our strong defense — led by goalie Andrew Snell and center backs Eddie Walter and Sam Emsell — and our balanced attack to get us a big win,” said Berg.

“We’ve had several guys step up in big situations and put goals away for us led by forwards Timur Mone, Richie Kavanagh and midfielders Johnny Williamson and Declan Heffernan.

“So now the question is, ‘who will step up for us in the finals?’ I believe in our guys,” he added. “We have no shortage of confidence nor shortage of options if the strings come together as planned on Sunday. We play with a lot of pride and take nothing for granted on our path to the final. May the best team [win].”

BULLISH ROCKS

Shamrock coach Paddy McCarry also anticipates a tough battle when his Over-30 side tackles New York Dinamo in the early game [10 am] on Randalls’ field 72 for the CSL title.

The County Donegal native and his lads will be gunning for their second CSL crown since 2012. They’ve also won three division titles in that period.

Shamrock beat Central Park Rangers Old Boys 2-1 in the playoffs to reach the final, while Dinamo saw off Manhattan Kickers Premier 4-2.

“I am expecting a very hard physical game,” predicted McCarry. “We beat them twice in the league, 3-0 before the winter break and 2-0 afterwards to win the East [division]. They will have a very strong team out. I watched them [recently] in the State cup and their team was totally different from when we played them. They have four or five excellent players.”

Shamrock will have an almost full strength side against Dinamo.

“We are just missing our right winger Stephen Ampuero, who is a big loss for us, and we are hoping our right back Antoin O’Duibhir will be fit,” said McCarry. O’Duibhir suffered a knee injury in the playoff win over Old Boys.

Still, McCarry is spoiled for riches in a side that went 14-1-1 in the regular season.

“[It’s] very hard for me to pick out stars in my starting 11. We are a very tight bunch of players and work very hard for one another,” the young coach said. “We have had the best defense in the league which starts with our big keeper Sean McMullen.”

On his day, McCarry added, the hulking McMullen from Armagh is very hard to beat.

In the heart of the defense is skipper and center half Bingo O’Driscoll.  “One of the best in the league,” noted McCarry. “He has been brilliant all season and leads the team.”

O’Driscoll is one of four survivors from the side that won the CSL title in 2012. The others  are left back Ari Seidenstein, left winger Brendan O’Donogue and striker Stevie Doyle.

In midfield, the Rocks can count on the dynamic duo of Danny Parkin and Alex Berne who, McCarry emphasized, have been top class all year. “Danny can win a game all on his own and Alex is the engine of team and a fantastic header of the ball.”

Then there’s Shamrock’s two-prong attack of Sean Riley and Turkish ace Tayfun Gokeman.

“I think they will be key on Sunday,” remarked McCarry. “If they are on form we will be hard to beat.

“Riley is a great all round footballer and is a handful for any defense. Tayfun is the fastest man in the league and when he beats the offside trap he can’t be caught and he is a lethal finisher.

“It won’t be an easy game for one second but we are in the final and we are here to win it. These players are a credit to our club and I’m very proud to be their manager.”

 

FINAL FOUR

Also on tap this Sunday are the semi-finals of the Saunders and League cups.

The former features New York Ukrainians’ reserves against Division Two rivals Shamrock ‘B’ 1 p.m. at St. Michael’s Playground in Flushing, and Barnstonworth Rovers Metro vs.  Mola SC 11 a.m. at the Verrazano Sports Complex.

In the League Cup final four, Bill Saporito’s indomitable NYAC reserves square off with CPR Whites 10 a.m. on Travers Island, while CD Iberia and Manhattan Celtic   clash in the other tie 10 a.m. at Randalls Island field 75.

DIALLO BRACE

Hitman Souleymane Diallo notched both goals in the Manhattan Celtic Bhoys’ 2-0 win over Hoboken FC in an Over-30 make-up game in Jersey City.

NY Cosmos To Face NYCFC In Open Cup

bsBhuoQzRmJtOXn2gUcgowlbVE-g0dxrO-Ep7Odhwq4A pair of first half goals from Leo Fernandes and Sebastián Guenzatti and a late converted penalty from Mads Stokkelien propelled the New York Cosmos past Jersey Express in the third round of the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night at St. John’s University’s Belson Stadium.

“Our players took this game with the responsibility they needed to take it with,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said after the victory. “[Jersey Express] is a good team. For them this was the biggest game of the year.

“They came in extra motivated and tried to create difficulties for us. This was an important game and a good result for us.”

Fernandes gave the Cosmos a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute by bending his free kick from the top of the 18-yard-box around a wall of Express defenders and into the left edge of the net, past diving Jersey goalkeeper Matthew Turner. Guenzatti set up the attempt; he chested down a ball from Marcos Senna in front of the area, turned toward goal and was fouled trying to create a shot.

Guenzatti would double New York’s lead five minutes before the half. This time Fernandes found him near the top right corner of the penalty area. Guenzatti wove through a pair of Express defenders and fired a low shot through Turner to make it 2-0 in the 40th minute.

“Leo gave it to me, I faked a pass to [Hunter] Freeman and found an open hole,” Guenzatti explained. “I ran through the defense, shot and put it in.”

The Cosmos’ final goal came in the 81st minute via a converted penalty from Mads Stokkelien. Fellow Cosmos forward Haji Wright, who made his first professional appearance when he was subbed on for Guenzatti in the 79th minute, immediately raced past the Jersey back line and was taken down by defender Sylvain N’guessan trying to latch on to a ball in the penalty area.

N’guessen was shown a red card and Stokkelien stepped up for the ensuing penalty. Turner guessed right but Stokkelien shot left, and his score extended the lead to 3-0.

The handful of quality scoring chances Jersey had come in the second half. In the 70th minute midfielder Christopher Karcz swept from right-to-left across the top of the box, avoiding challenges from Freeman and Hunter Gorskie, and found substitute forward Carlos Victor Alvarenza Silva at the corner of the area. His blast ended up wide right of Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer’s net.

 

In second half stoppage time Express midfielder William DaSilva saw his free kick attempt from a dangerous area sail high.

Jersey Express came into the third round fixture having picked up its first two Open Cup wins in club history earlier in the month. The USL PDL side recorded a 3-0 victory over the New York Greek Americans on May 14 and followed it up with a 1-0 result against New York Red Bulls II on May 20.

The Cosmos will move on to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup, where Major League Soccer’s New York City FC awaits. That fixture will kick off on Wednesday, June 17 at 7:30 p.m. ET, with the Cosmos hosting at Shuart Stadium.

“It’s going to be a derby,” Savarese said. “These sorts of matches are huge for U.S. Soccer and New York. We’ll be matching up against a very good team. It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

But now the Cosmos travel to Minnesota for an NASL matchup with Minnesota United FC on Saturday, May 30 at 8 p.m. ET. After that the team will head to Cuba for a historic match against the Cuban National Team in Havana on June 2.

FIFA’s Immovable Force

esclogoTim Hall’s View From 101

If you’ve caught a whiff of sulfur and brimstone on the breeze lately, you already know that FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been in the news again. Even for a man so routinely battered by the media that he elicits sympathy from punching bags, this has not been a good week for the little round Swiss man. Anyone who claims it’s not right to kick a man while he’s down has never had a clear shot at such a detestable man’s doughy ribcage, so let’s line up and give this cartoon villain a solid punt or five.

We should start by getting a particularly thorny situation out of the way first. To put it very simply, Israel and Palestine don’t get along very well. You’re left up to your own devices to determine which of these actors is awful, and which is slightly less awful, but suffice to say things are dicey. All of which is unfortunate from a purely human scale, but so long as it doesn’t bleed into soccer is not of our concern. Nations have frequently been at odds on a governmental level and still suited up for a match. FIFA, to their credit, have been on the front foot demanding that elected governments not interfere with their nation’s football association. Unfortunately, FIFA is also at the forefront of selectively enforcing their rules whenever, wherever, and however they see fit. The Palestinian Football Association has filed a grievance with FIFA claiming that Israeli forces manning border crossings routinely give Palestinian footballers traveling for matches or training a hard time, delaying their transit for hours. That would certainly seem to fit FIFA’s ‘no politics in football’ rule.  Ah, but enter the great peacemaker Mr. Blatter, who once famously said that there is no bigotry in football, and if there is, it could all be sorted out with a handshake. Sepp stuck his pudgy little nose in and is working to have any talk of Israel being suspended from FIFA removed from the table. Instead, the FIFA president suggested the two nations play a friendly match in his home nation of Switzerland. Certainly no competing priorities there.

Given this foray into international diplomacy, you’d be forgiven for thinking Sepp Blatter is campaigning for a Nobel Peace Prize, except, he actually has campaigned for a Nobel Peace Prize. This was one of the revelations that came out of a recent hour-long documentary on Blatter produced by ESPN. For long time “fans” of Sepp, there wasn’t much else new to be taken away that we didn’t already know. He is an egomaniac and likely corrupt as the day is long, but shrewd enough to not leave a paper trail.

However, shopping mall Santa Claus and former CONCACAF head Chuck Blazer has turned state’s evidence and tipped the FBI off to corruption up and down the FIFA ladder. The other juicy tidbit from the ESPN report is that the fire is so hot under Blatter’s chair that, under advice from legal counsel, Sepp will not travel to the United States for fear of being arrested when he lands.

Surely, then, a man who is one flight away from wearing matching silver bracelets cannot last long as the head of soccer’s global organizing body. And, in fact, an election is upcoming for Blatter’s seat, an election Blatter once said he would not participate in. But ol’ Sepp is a fibber, and is widely assumed to coast easily to reelection, despite quality opposition standing against him.

One of the men trying to supplant Blatter was former world footballer of the year Luis Figo. Figo stepped away from the race in part to avoid splitting the opposition vote with fellow candidate Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein, but mostly due to frustration over the intractable election process. Thankfully, Figo did not leave the race quietly, taking a moment to call Sepp Blatter’s 17-year reign as the grand high poobah of soccer a “dictatorship” and the election itself a “plebiscite”, marking the first time that word has been used conversationally in centuries. That itself should be worth a handful of votes.

And all of this is to ignore, just for the time being, the ongoing comic tragedies that are the use of prison labor to prepare horribly regressive Russia for its World Cup in 2018, or the use of slave labor to build stadia in even more regressive and blisteringly hot Qatar for 2022. This isn’t to say that neither of these things are important, but when considering all of Sepp Blatter’s sins, there is only so much time in the day, and one has to prioritize.

Specifically, there is a World Cup this summer to worry about, the Women’s World Cup taking place in Canada. If you are unfamiliar with women, they are the objects that Sepp Blatter believes should wear tighter shorts on the soccer field to attract more male viewers. You may recall that this World Cup was in danger of not happening, as players from various countries, including America’s Abby Wambach, threatened a gender discrimination lawsuit, on the basis that all of this World Cup’s games are happening on artificial turf, which has not and never will happen to the men. That lawsuit has disappeared and the tournament will take place as scheduled. No one can prove it is because Sepp Blatter kidnapped the players’ parents and held them at gunpoint, but no one can disprove that either.

Among the likely breakout stars of the tournament is Alex Morgan. The American striker revealed to Time Magazine this week that, when she was nominated for World Player of the Year in 2012, Sepp Blatter did not recognize her at the awards ceremony. Morgan was, objectively, one of the three best players in the world that year, and the man who claims to be the “godfather” of women’s soccer thought she was someone’s date.

So, if you like the US Women’s team, or simply if you enjoy seeing an evil man be uncomfortable, you’ll root for the Stars and Stripes this summer to win the World Cup. And then in the trophy ceremony, Sepp Blatter will have to look Abby Wambach in the eyes and answer for the turf. He’ll have to look Megan Rapinoe in the eyes and explain why she should wear hotpants. He’ll have to look Alex Morgan in the eyes and recognize who she is.

And if there’s justice in the world, our neighbors to the north will let a few FBI agents over the border into Canada to haul Sepp Blatter off to prison. Now that would be a good mix of football and politics.

Republic of Ireland – Questions

keano1 – Name WBA’s first million pound player who played 66 consecutive matches for Ireland and won 110 caps in total?

2  – Aston Villa defender who won 102 caps and managed the national side on 17 occasions?

3 – Who scored 21 goals in his 92 appearances and played for Arsenal, Man City, and Sunderland?

4 – He won the first of his 88 caps while playing at Gillingham and later spent several years playing in France?

5 – Centre-back in Euro ’88 and the 1990 and 1994 World Cup finals who won the League Cup twice with Aston Villa

 

ANSWERS

 

Republic of Ireland Players – Answers

keano1 – Name WBA’s first million pound player who played 66 consecutive matches for Ireland and won 110 caps in total?

Kevin Kilbane

2  – Aston Villa defender who won 102 caps and managed the national side on 17 occasions?

Steve Staunton

3 – Who scored 21 goals in his 92 appearances and played for Arsenal, Man City, and Sunderland?

Niall Quinn

4 – He won the first of his 88 caps while playing at Gillingham and later spent several years playing in France?

Tony Cascarino

5 – Centre-back in Euro ’88 and the 1990 and 1994 World Cup finals who won the League Cup twice with Aston Villa

Paul McGrath

James Morrison Interview

morrisonBy Bill Thomas

For James Morrison of Scotland and West Bromwich Albion, following a year of misery in 2013/14, the campaign just ending has been like a breath of fresh air. Why? It’s all in the mind you know…

“I know this season went a bit closer to the wire than everybody would have liked, but for me, it has been really enjoyable.

“It wasn’t the best start to things, I had an injury that I’d carried for the second half of last season and it took a little bit longer than I’d hoped through the summer to get it sorted. I missed the first three games of the season with that but since then, I’ve had a pretty consistent season.

“But what I really focused on coming into this season was just enjoying my football, enjoying my work, because looking back, one of the reasons I struggled a bit the previous season was that mentally, my head just wasn’t right.

“This year I’ve put that right and felt the benefit of it. I made a decision to not let things that are out of my control affect me, to try and be positive and just deal with what I can control, concentrate on me and my game. They say that you learn most from the bad times and I certainly did last season.

“I think that’s the best way to be at the Albion because it’s been a lively place over the last few years hasn’t it? The Premier League is a tough environment as well and I’ve seen what it can do to people when things aren’t going well.

“You have to be mentally strong. I think I’ve moved forward with that this year, and on the pitch, I’ve been consistent in a couple of different positions so I’m pleased with that. Where in the past I might have kicked up a fuss if I wasn’t playing where I wanted to, now I just get on with it. It must be my age!

“We’ve had four head coaches in two seasons now so I’ve come to the conclusion that if you want to do well here, you need to be adaptable. It’s been seven managers in my eight years here which isn’t ideal, but as I say, you have to be mentally right to cope with that because you never know what will happen when a new one comes in, you don’t know if they’ll like you, if you’ll be their sort of player.

“That’s part and parcel of football. But I’ve played regularly under every manager which is great, I’m happy to have dealt with that side of things.

“Ever since I came here, I’ve been more or less a regular in the team, I’ve played over 250 games and that’s despite having missed most of one season with injury, so I’m proud of that game tally. That injury was a pretty tough time because it went on for a while and took time to resolve, so I didn’t come back until the end of February in that promotion season under Robbie di Matteo. But for that freak injury, I’d be up around the 300 mark now, so that’s a target for next season hopefully, to get up close to that”.

“I turn 29 later this month and people talk about me being in my prime, but I don’t feel like it physically! As you get older and play more games, I’ve found that you tend to get more and more niggles and that’s not just me, I think if you ask lads like Brunt, Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson, Joleon Lescott, we would all say the same.

“The body does complain about the stresses and strains every now and again but luckily, we’ve got good pros here who play through that and just get on with things.

“Go back a few seasons and physically, I felt great, I could just play and play, but as you get older, you have to look after yourself a bit more. What you do gain is experience. I’ve played over 250 games here, nearly 100 for Middlesbrough, I’ve got nearly 40 caps for Scotland so I’ve played a lot of football, and you learn from that. Being able to use that experience, along with looking after myself physically means I think I’ve got a lot of good years ahead of me yet.

“I made my debut for Middlesbrough in the FA Cup at Notts County in January 2004 and then I played against Portsmouth in the Premier League that May and then started to play more often the following season.

“I’ve been around a while in the Premier League now and it has changed a lot in that time. It has become a more athletic league in that time, a lot more about speed, running distances, stamina. At the same time, the tackling side has gone out of the game and that’s a bit disappointing I think, because you lose a bit of the spectacle.

“What has changed massively is the media side of it, the amount of exposure football gets on television especially, and then things like Twitter have just added to that.

“On matchdays, you can be coming off the pitch after a hard 90 minutes and before you’ve even got in the dressing room, you’re still blowing from the game, and you’re getting grabbed to do a TV interview and that’s a bit dangerous I think.

“All you want then is to get in the dressing room, sit down, clear your head and have a minute to think about the game but you get reporters maybe asking you tricky questions about incidents in the game and it’s very easy to say the wrong stuff.

“Clubs need to warn players about what might be coming before they do those interviews because it’s so easy for something to go wrong, but saying that, this season, the club has done a really good job on the PR side. The contrast to last season is massive and that’s been important for us”.

While some of players could head straight for the beach after Sunday’s final round of games, James has further footballing business to attend to with Scotland in the ascendant at present. A crucial European Championship qualifier with Ireland in Dublin on June 13th awaits with Scotland closing in on a first tournament since the 1998 World Cup.

“Things are going very well with Scotland at the minute. I’ve got a lot of admiration for Gordon Strachan, he’s a great coach, a great manager. There’s a very good feel to our group, a good spirit. Every time we meet up, we’re happy to see each other.

“Like here, every time we go on the pitch, we know what we’re looking to do, we’re solid and on top of that, we’ve got some exciting players. There’s real strength in depth now, players are fighting for their place, and that makes all the difference.

“It’s frustrating that we don’t play Ireland until the middle of June because it’s three weeks after the season which is awkward for everybody. It’s a long season and then you have to keep focused for the best part of a month extra when really, you’d like to go in and get that game played.

“We’re meeting up for ten days in total so we’re in a training camp and we really need to use that to the full because it is a massive game in Dublin because whoever wins that is in with a great chance of finishing in the top three of the group at least.

“It would be a big step towards qualifying for the championships next summer and we know it’s going to be a tough one. They’ll be out to redeem themselves after we won at Celtic Park, but a win for us would put us five points clear of them and that would be a big gap”.

And so we close by looking to the future. If James isn’t in his physical prime any more, what of the future? Has he begun to ponder a day when the boots get hung up one last time?

“I’m not sure about the future after playing, but I’d like to think I’ve got a good few years to make my mind up yet. You look at coaching and you see how stressful it is, so I need to give that more thought. It’s one that’s a few years away yet.

“I would be disappointed in myself if I didn’t stay in football, I believe I’ve built up my football knowledge over the years so I’d like to use that. I don’t think it’ll be in the media though – I say too much stuff don’t I!? I do say what’s on my mind and that doesn’t always go down that well!”

He’s right, but doesn’t that just show what an infantile world football is sometimes? We are always saying there are no characters in the game any more, yet as soon as somebody says anything interesting, we rush to mock outrage. It seems footballers just can’t win sometimes.

“It is a shame, but these days, you do have to say the right things don’t you? If you don’t, you get into trouble. I do think that is one of the down sides for modern players, the fact that you are always on duty really.

“Back in the day, fans used to be able to mix with players. Nowadays, you can’t do that today because if you have a quiet pint with somebody, or if you have a cigarette, it’s on Twitter inside five minutes! I do think the game has lost a bit in that way, you can’t interact with fans the way players used to, but that’s the modern world.

“Going back to what I said about the way the games has changed athletically, you can’t be out having a drink a day or two before a game, you do have to look after yourself in a way you probably didn’t have to 30 or 40 years ago. You do have to make sacrifices but the rewards that you get make that worth it, don’t they?”

NY Cosmos Cruise Past San Antonio

Photo by NY Cosmos

Photo by NY Cosmos

The New York Cosmos (5-3-0, 18 points) maintained their undefeated start to the season with a comprehensive 3-0 win over the San Antonio Scorpions in front of 5,032 fans at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium. 

“What made it complete was we never went down, [we were never] being comfortable,” Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese said. “We just kept going at them, pressuring them. Even at 3-0 we kept on making sure we stayed on the game plan. We played like it was 0-0 until the 92nd minute. It was one of the most complete games we played so far in the past three years.”

The victory extended the Cosmos’ unbeaten streak to eight games as they moved six points clear of Minnesota United and the Tampa Bay Rowdies atop the NASL spring season standings.

“Today was a complete match in all aspects,” Raúl said. “We had in front of us a very good team, technical and physical and I think the response from the team today was very good, the performance, the mentality. We are very happy, but now we have to go forward in the same way.”

Raúl had given the Cosmos the lead in the 18th minute, calmly slotting a low penalty kick to the right of Scorpions goalkeeper Daryl Sattler. Former Cosmos midfielder Joseph Nane pulled down forward Lucky Mkosana and referee Kevin Terry Jr. immediately pointed to the spot.

Moments after clearing a deep cross by Billy Forbes, Ayoze played a perfect free kick into the box where Roversio powered in a downward header from the edge of the six yard box for his first goal of the season in the 81st minute.

“Roversio read the game very well,” Savarese said. “I remember one of the plays he had the composure and calmness to steal the ball, play from the side and play from the back. He had a very good game today for sure.”

Five minutes later, Leo Fernandes made it 3-0 when he put a glancing header into the net for his third goal of the season after Mkosana headed on a ball pulled back from the end line by Raúl.

Fernandes, on loan from the Philadelphia Union, matched Raúl’s team-leading goal total with his third.

“It was a good counterattack. Raúl created some space. I made a far post run and Lucky made a near post run,” Fernandes said. “He headed it and I was in the right place at the right time and I was able to get it in the back of the net.”

San Antonio (2-1-4), which won the previous four meetings against the Cosmos, had few quality scoring chances. Goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer made just three saved to earn his fifth clean sheet of the season.

“We played very well, really limited their chances,” Maurer said. “They’re a good team, they have some dangerous guys, but our energy level, focus and commitment was just top notch all game. It showed in the scoreline at the end.”

It was the first match of what will be four matches in 11 days for the Cosmos, who host the Jersey Express in the third round Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at St. John’s Belson Stadium Wednesday night (kickoff is at 7:30 pm ET).

Savarese is hopeful Spanish midfielder Marcos Senna (hamstring) will be able to return to full training Monday and said he could be included in the lineup for the U.S. Open Cup.

“We need to maintain what we did today,” Savarese said. “Today we had a very good match, we did very well, we were very aggressive to pressure to win balls to score goals. We need to maintain that. We cannot be comfortable at any moment.”

 

Real Salt Lake Spoil Jason Kreis’ Homecoming

Photo by NYCFC.com

Photo by NYCFC.com

By Michael Schwartz

It was far from a happy homecoming for Jason Kreis as his side fell by a score of 2-0 to Real Salt Lake. In his return to where he made his name as a coach, Kreis’ new team had no answer for Real Salt Lake’s dominant performance. 

Along with Kreis and different members of his coaching staff, Chris Wingert, Mehdi Ballouchy, Josh Saunders, and Sebastian Velasquez all returned to play against their former side. After being outplayed for most of the evening, they would all probably like to forget about this match as soon as possible.

In the first half, New York City had some early momentum with their possession. However, they failed to exploit Real Salt Lake’s weaknesses in defending set pieces through some early corners. Throughout the first half, crosses from NYCFC didn’t find targets in the box as the team often got out wide but weren’t able to successfully produce a strong end product.

Saunders was then called upon to bail out defensive letdowns as he had to twice stop Devon Sandoval after the forward got in on goal on multiple occasions. Real Salt Lake favored the break to counteract New York City’s slow possession game. As a result, Real Salt Lake looked more direct and quick getting forward compared to New York City.

New York City’s best chance of the night fell to Mix Diskerud after receiving a quick pass from David Villa on a free kick. The Norwegian-American deceptively used his heel to get past Tony Beltran and unleashed a strong shot that unluckily banged the top the bar before sailing out.

Things began to fall apart in the 25th minute when Villa ill-advisedly tried to get a counter going in his own half through a quick flick that was taken away. Real Salt Lake quickly moved forward as Sandoval headed the ball past Shay Facey which allowed John Stertzer to get in on goal on the left. Stertzer achieved his first ever MLS goal by striking his shot into the opposite corner past Saunders.

Stertzer’s goal was the 8th conceded by New York City within the first 30 minutes which is the most in MLS. Considering that New York City has only scored once within the first 30 minutes of any match so far this season, Kreis’ side has been culpable of poor starts that have resulted in insurmountable holes. NYCFC looked vulnerable at the back especially as Real Salt Lake swiftly moved the ball up the field.

New York City’s only noteworthy response was a great cross by Jeb Brovsky in the 37th minute which seemed to stun Villa as the Spaniard barely got anything on a header that easily collected by the opposing keeper. Heading towards the end of first half, Real Salt Lake looked more likely to score after causing plenty of pressure.

While both New York City and Real Salt Lake both had 7 first half shots, Jeff Cassar’s side had five on target unlike Kreis’ which had one.

In the second half, New York City started off brightly as Villa had a bending shot from the left that was just a yard too high. After that early opportunity, Real Salt Lake truly controlled the first quarter of the second half in terms of possession and chances.

Kreis’ side was undone again by poor defending in the 49th minute when Luke Mulholland produced a great cross which found Alvaro Saborio in between Wingert and Jason Hernandez. The experienced forward assuredly headed the ball past Saunders in what turned out to be the decisive blow of the match. New York’s defending let the team down in terms of miscommunication and critical errors.

Afterwards, New York City began to predictably look more desperate through attempting long balls for Villa who was up alone against multiple defenders. It was hard to watch Villa battle seemingly alone up top as New York struggled to find him in a good position.

Along with the team’s continual inability to link up passes in the final third, most of the crosses by New York City were hopeful, inaccurate balls easily dealt with by Real Salt Lake’s defense. This was in contrast with Real Salt Lake who just seemed to produce more purposeful crosses with a higher probability of finding their target.

New York’s best opportunity to get back into the match came to Andrew Jacobson in the 67th minute after receiving a pass from Villa. Jacobson’s shot on the right from outside the box failed to hit the target as it rolled wide left. Ballouchy also wasted a good opportunity after blasting his shot from outside the box over the bar in the 69th minute.

In the 80th minute, Villa held up the ball well but Velasquez, who had come on as a substitute, failed to stay onside when receiving the pass before setting up fellow sub Thomas McNamara with a disallowed goal. Three minutes later, New York City nearly conceded their third goal after being caught out on the break again. Mulholland just missed the post on his shot which came as New York City was overtly pressing for a goal.

Overall, it was just the same old song and dance as New York City looked like an inexperienced expansion side being outplayed by a more established unit. Kreis’ side unsurprisingly lacks belief and confidence as a team due to all the struggles so far this season.

Any hope that momentum from the team’s comeback against Chicago would carry over dissipated as New York City fell apart at Rio Tinto Stadium. New York City likely cannot wait for Frank Lampard and potential other new additions from the summer transfer market to come in order to improve the team’s performances.

Jake’s Mistake

mattyl_logoBy Matty Lawrence

Who does Jake Livermore think he is: Keith ‘bloody’ Richards?

This Sunday he should be working his butt off to try and rescue Hull City FC from relegation out of the EPL. The best he can hope for now is playing the riff to ‘Satisfaction’ in front of his bedroom mirror. Probably.

What an utter pillock!!

(I suppose we should add the proviso, that as of the time of writing, we are still awaiting the results of his ‘B’ sample. What we do know for sure is that he has tested positive for cocaine and has already been banned from one EPL game and this Sunday’s, too).

Jake Livermore’s ‘A’ sample tested positive for cocaine.

Cocaine??

If it was a performance enhancing drug I may just about excuse it: I’m pretty certain that incessant talking and grinding your teeth cannot be considered performance enhancing. And it appears Livermore isn’t the only culprit in the last couple of weeks:

Jose Baxter, the former Everton midfielder, currently plying his trade for Sheffield United, has tested positive for ecstasy……….now the last thing that’s going to enhance your on-field performance is peace, love, harmony and hugs (Maybe that’s what Vinnie Jones was on when he was squeezing Gazza’s nether regions all those years ago?).

Aaron McCarey, a young goalkeeper for Wolverhampton Wanderers, has also failed a drugs test for a non-performance enhancing drug in the last couple of weeks.

livermoreJake Livermore is, obviously, the higher profile of these three professional footballers, so I feel it is more apt to focus on his indulgence, especially as the other two players are currently, strenuously denying any wrongdoing. Livermore has been a valuable member of the Hull City team this season. In fact, over the last couple of seasons he has been one of their most consistent performers. Last season he played 36 games and this season, before the ban, had already played 34 times. Livermore’s performances last season, while he was on loan from Spurs, persuaded Hull to make the move permanent and they shelled out £8m for his services. Allay the transfer fee with reported weekly wages of at least £50K per week over three years and you have a very tidy sum of money. A sum of money that deserves some respect.

Let’s be honest, these vast sums of money are unimaginable to just about every single football spectator; whichever part of the globe they come from. Is it really worth pissing that all into the wind for a couple of lines of coke on a night out?

Come on, if the kid had continued to perform the way he has been in recent seasons and carry on the upward trajectory throughout the forthcoming statistically best years of his career, further rewards would be his: there is every possibility he would have been adding England caps to the one he has already gained (vs Italy in August 2012) and a move to a bigger club would surely have beckoned. This being even more likely with the very realistic likelihood that Hull City will be relegated come Sunday, May 24th at Old Trafford. A daunting place to visit at the best of times, let alone when three points is your only option for survival.

Livermore could have retired comfortably at the age of 32/33/34, never worked again and holed himself up in the Chateau Marmont and taken every recreational drug available to man…………while still playing air-guitar in front of the mirror: the smaller one laying horizontally on his bed and the vertical one with his reflection in. Now, I fear he is up shit-creek without a paddle.

You would imagine that Livermore would be handed a two years ban. Rio Ferdinand was handed an eight months ban for forgetting a drugs test. Ferdinand had the luxury of not only being Rio Ferdinand, but also Rio Ferdinand at the height of his Manchester United and England career. He was nigh on indispensable and United had the luxury of being able to stand by their man safe in the knowledge he was not actually guilty of any drug offenses: the moral high ground, if you will. Ferdinand continued to be paid, as well. I don’t see Livermore, or Hull City, having this luxury. I hear the contract ripping as we speak.

Steve Bruce, the Hull City manager, was nigh on speechless when informed of the news. Bruce told of Livermore being in a dark place (no shit, Sherlock!!), but he still sat on the fence and refused to speculate on any punishments himself. To me, he seemed far too willing to leave everything to the powers that be above him: megalomaniacal owner Assam Allam.

All Bruce would say is that the club would “do the right thing,” whilst failing to actually elucidate on what the right thing was: send Livermore off to Thai rehab??

Dave Kidd an English journalist wrote a very interesting piece for his publication The Daily Mirror. Kidd said that maybe Livermore should be cut a little bit of slack:

“Bleeding hearts will always be in short supply when wealthy young men live the dream only to mess it up.”

I understood the slant, but couldn’t really agree. I’ve been in that situation: maybe not the suffocating atmosphere that many Premier League stars suffer, today. However, from the age of 16 years old I have always known that I can be drug-tested at any time. I abstained, I turned down the offers and got on with making mistakes in my life that were a little less dramatic. I am not taking the moral high ground here, by any stretch of the imagination, but I just cannot fathom what was going through Livermore’s head. Dave Kidd concluded that Livermore, and the like, are worthy of compassion.

While a corner of my darkened heart may feel a tinge of compassion, I find the stupidity and timing of Livermore’s decision to throw coke up his hooter, a little remiss. And that’s a bloody understatement. I sincerely hope that he survives the inevitable turmoil that he is going through. But, if I was a Hull City FC fan, just about to drop into the championship, I’m sure my compassion would be lacking.

In fact, zero.

Cosmos To Play US Open Cup Game At St. Johns University

 cosmosThe New York Cosmos will face the Jersey Express (USL PDL) on Wednesday, May 27 in the third round of the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Cosmos will host the Express at Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John’s University in Queens with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.

Tickets for the home game at Belson Stadium between the Cosmos and Jersey Express are on sale now. General admission, single-game seats will be $15. Fans can purchase their tickets by visiting https://oss.ticketmaster.com/aps/stjohns/EN/buy/details/COSMO527.

There is a rate of $10 per ticket for groups of 15 or more. College students and military, fire and first responders with valid identification can also purchase general admission seats at a discounted rate of $10. Cosmos full season ticket holders receive admission to the game at Belson Stadium as part of their ticket plan. Any other Cosmos ticket plan holder can purchase tickets at a discounted rate by calling 855-712-6766 or emailing fanservices@nycosmos.comin advance of the game.

The Carnesecca Arena box office, on the campus of St. John’s University, is also selling tickets to the match. The box office is open Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. ET and Friday from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. ET.

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, recognized as U.S. Soccer’s National Club Championship, is an annual competition open to all amateur and professional soccer teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer. The tournament has crowned a champion for 101 consecutive years dating from 1914. In 1999, the competition was renamed to honor American soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt.

This year’s winner will earn a berth into the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League and have its name engraved on the historic Dewar Challenge Trophy, one of the oldest nationally contested trophies in American team sports.

Seattle Sounders FC is the defending U.S. Open Cup champion, having won its fourth tournament title (following three consecutive triumphs from 2009-11) after a 3-1 road victory over the Philadelphia Union on Sept. 16, 2014. The Cosmos entered their first U.S. Open Cup in 2014 and recorded back-to-back wins – over the Brooklyn Italians (2-0) at Belson Stadium and the New York Red Bulls (3-0) at Shuart Stadium – before falling 2-1 on the road to Philadelphia in extra time.