EL BARRIO, EL FALLS: I got nothing this week. Not nothing like the no-show I was accused of last week. I mean nothing as in there is no real interesting story lines from the week that was. I could talk abut how it seems the NY Rangers only win in a shootout but that sucky-ness of the Rangers was covered yesterday. As for the Knicks and how they are in every game until the fourth quarter, I will leave that for Buddy Diaz, who is now off this Monday because he is partying in Houston. This leaves only one choice and that is to talk about the sport whose name must not be mentioned, Soccer. There are few interesting story lines this week so, let me go into it as this weekend’s headlines. They are Julen Lopetegui, Red Bull New York, Mexico And USA Find Coaches!
Julen Lopetegui: Julen Lopetegui’s story is the tale of how a man can be burned by ambition. Lopetegui was coaching Spain earlier this year, and they looked good in the warm-up matches leading into the World Cup. Before the World Cup, he gets approached by Real Madrid CF. Possibly the richest club in the world, one of the top 2 clubs in Spain, and the defending three-peat champions of Europe. They say: You look good with Spain, why don’t you come coach us after the World Cup? Of course he accepts the offer. Unfortunately, his Spanish FA bosses hear about this – and for some awkward reason – the President of the FA is offended and decides to fie Lopetegui… a day before the World Cup! Spain ends up crashing out in the second round, with everyone wondering what would they have played like if they had the coach that had been coaching them the last two years.
Lopetegui had to push that aside and get to work with Real Madrid. Unfortunately for him, Real management had decided to begin a rebuild by selling their best player, Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo is arguably the best in the world and best player of his generation. So now Lopey had a different mission. But Real is still always expected to win, as it is a two-team league. The new Real struggled without their best player and apparently some players are unhappy with the new coach. Rather than back the coach, the Real Madrid Board decides it best to sack the coach and get a coach that the players will like. And just like that, a guy who could have had the greatest 4-month run in the history of coaching has had the worst. Po bugger.
New York Red Bulls: The MLS Playoffs began this week on Wednesday. The number 1 seed in the East and overall are the New York Red Bulls. They are the Supporters’ Shield Champions. What is that? It is similar to the President’s Trophy in hockey; the award for the best regular season team. It is not a poisoned chalice as teams have gone on to win the MLS Playoffs after winning it. However, despite wining 3 of the last 6 shields, the Red Bulls have yet to become MLS Champions. Actually in the whole 23 year history of the MLS, despite being on of the leagues first teams when it was a 10 team league, the Red Bulls (and their previous incarnation, the NY/NJ Metrostars) have never won a championship. It is a bit typical that no matter the sport a NY team are chokers. This maybe the year they make it happen as they are arguably the deepest team in the competition, have the highest point total in league history and have league All-Stars or US Men’s team players a key spots. So as I read some fan pieces with people nervous and the first game for the Red Bulls tomorrow, I turned to Shakespeare for inspiration (tweaked for the Red Bulls)
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our current squad dead.
In the regular season there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of playoffs blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favored rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow overwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
Overhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest RBNY.
Whose blood is fat from previous campaigns of war-proof!
Campaigns that, like so many of the Metrostars’,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonor not your fans; now attest
That those whom you call’d supporters did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in Harrison, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble luster in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for the fans, Red Bull, and NY/NJ!’
Mexico And USA Find Coaches: The USA was eliminated from contention for World Cup 2018 slightly over a year ago. And since then, they have had an interim coach. This is insane in the world of international soccer. The excuse at first were elections and a re-organization. A new president of USA soccer was elected then a General Manager position was created so the GM would be responsible for the hiring of the coach and not just the president picking some guy but a professional. However, the guy they hired for the GM role, former Men’s team player and GM of the Philadelphia Union Earnie Stewart, somehow couldn’t get out of his MLS contract (national team and national league somehow can’t do what is best for everyone!?!) until June. When the guy is hired almost all of the top choices have already been locked down since normal nations hire their coaches within weeks of the World Cup ending. So as many American soccer fans expected it was going to be an American based coach and not an international coach. The leading frontrunner then was Columbus Crew coach, Gregg Berhalter. considering the offical decision still hasnt’ happened but more and more people are convinced it is Berhalter, the logic has been, that Stewart is waiting until the end of the MLS season for Berhalter. Berhlater’s Crew will play the aforementioned Red Bulls this weekend if the Red Bulls eliminate the Crew, then Berhalter will named.
Another MLS coach, Tata Martino, who heads up the upstart Atlanta United, is likely to be named the head coach of Mexico. It seems like a big leap for an MLs coach but Tata is not your basic MLS coach. He coached his way up in Argentina winning with one of the largest clubs in the country, which made he a national legend. As a result he was hired to coach in Spain and coach the other giant club in Spain, Barcelona. After middled success there he went back to Argentina before being selected to coach the expansion Atlanta United in the MLS. Last year in his first season with the club got them to playoffs and this season had them in the running for the Supporters’ Shield until they lost on the last day of the season (they only needed to draw to win the shield). This was a good and interesting pick by Mexico and though not confirmed it seems likely and I hope it happens.
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