Gyasi Zardes: The Right Place at the Right Time

If you took away penalties, the Major League Soccer golden boot race would look like this:

  1. Bradley Wright Phillips, 16
  2. Robbie Keane, 12
  3. Gyasi Zardes, 10 (Tied)

You read that right: only two players have scored more non-penalty goals in MLS this year than 22-year-old Gyasi Zardes of the LA Galaxy. Like Tommy Thompson and Wil Trapp, Zardes is a homegrown player, a product of MLS’s academy system. Given that, it’s surprising we don’t talk more about Zardes. Let’s change that.

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Soccer on US TV: 8/29-8/31

Friday, August 29th

2:30 PM: Marseille vs. Nice, BeIn Sport

8:00 PM: Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston Dynamo, NBCSN

Both of these teams are attempting to recover from 3-0 losses in their last match. If Houston is to make the playoffs, they’re going to have to string together results starting soon. SKC, meanwhile, can return to the top of the Eastern Conference (albeit having played one more match than DC United) with a win.

8:30 PM: Queretaro vs. Monterrey, ESPN Deportes, Azteca America 

10:30 PM: Tijuana vs. Leones

Saturday, August 30th

7:15 AM: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Nottingham Forest, BeIn Sport

7:45 AM: Burnley vs. Manchester United, NBCSN

How low can United go? On Tuesday the Red Devils lost 4-0 to League One side MK Dons in a League Cup match. Their squad for a Premier League match at newly-promoted Burnley will likely be a bit more impressive.

10:00 AM: Manchester City vs. Stoke City, NBCSN, Mun2

On the other side of Manchester, the champions are smiling after a 3-1 victory over Liverpool. City will expect to start the season with 9 points from 9.

12:00 PM: Chievo Varona vs. Juventus, BeIn Sport

The Italian champions begin their Serie A campaign with a trip to Chievo, who finished 16th last season.

12:30 PM: Everton vs. Chelsea, NBC, Mun2

The Toffees have started the season with a pair of 2-2 draws, and frankly their fans will have found both disappointing. Chelsea are one of the rare clubs that believe they can get 3 points from Goodison Park. Adding to the drama, Samuel Eto’o is expected to make his Everton debut against his old side. 

2:45 PM: Roma vs. Fiorentina, BeIn Sport

5:00 PM: Espanyol vs. Sevilla, BeIn Sport

6:00 PM: Puebla vs. Morelia, ESPN Deportes, Azteca America (Spanish)

6:00 PM: America vs. Pumas, Univision (Spanish)

8:00 PM: Tigres vs. Jaguares, Univsion Deportes (Spanish)

9:00 PM: Leon vs. Pachuca, Telemundo (Spanish)

10:00 PM: Atlas vs. Santos Laguna, Univision Deportes (Spanish)

Sunday, August 31st

8:30 AM: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool, NBCSN, Mun2

It’s the first big test of the season for Spurs, who impressed last week against lowly QPR. Liverpool won this fixture 5-0 last year, but this year’s side might not be on that level. Mario Balotelli is expected to make his Liverpool debut.

11:00 AM: Leicester City vs. Arsenal, NBCSN, Telemundo

Without Olivier Giroud, Arsenal have something of a question mark up top. Arsene Wenger has been fond of using Alexis Sanchez in the striker role, with mixed results at best. The Foxes got a draw with Everton in their first home match, and they’ll be hoping to spoil another big club on Sunday.

1:00 PM: Toluca vs. Veracruz, Univision (Spanish)

1:00 PM: Villareal vs. Barcelona, BeIn Sport

2:30 PM: DC United vs. New York Red Bulls, NBCSN

In one of the rivalries that stretches back to MLS’s inaugural season, DC will be looking to bounce back from a Wednesday night loss against LA and maintain their lead in the Eastern Conference. New York can’t afford many slip ups, given that they hold the final playoff spot by just a single point over Philadelphia and New England.

3:00 PM: Seattle Reign vs. FC Kansas City, ESPN2

The Championship match of the National Women’s Soccer League

6:00 PM: Chivas de Guadalajara vs. Cruz Azul, Univision Deportes (Spanish)

 

Those Feet, by David Winner

“What we cannot do by sleight we eke out by strength. No more concise definition of English football exists.”

The average American soccer fan is probably more familiar with names like Charlie Adam, Lee Cattermole, and Kevin Nolan than anybody who plays for Athletic Bilbao or Bayer Leverkusen. Nevermind that the former trio are nondescript players on nondescript teams, while Bilbao and Leverkusen will take part in this year’s Champions League. For a variety of reasons, English soccer receives far more attention than its continental counterparts.

For Englishmen of a certain age, this is still a bit strange. The English soccer David Winner is most familiar with was played on muddy pitches, defined by physicality, and of a lesser technical quality than the soccer in Italy and Spain. The modern day popularity and quality of the Premier League is due not to the English, but to the high priced foreign talent. In Those Feet, Winner sets out in part to answer this question: “why don’t the English play sexy football?”

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Tommy Thompson: A Bright Spot in San Jose

The San Jose Earthquakes are in eighth place in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference. With 11 games remaining in the season, it’s not inconceivable that they could erase the 8-point gap between them and the final playoff spot, but things are looking bleak. Their big summer signing, Matias Perez Garcia, scored in his debut, but has since undergone knee surgery. Having long ago exited the US Open Cup, 2014 is looking like a lost season for the Quakes.

Sometimes, however, good things are discovered during lost seasons. Due in part to injuries, the Earthquakes have called on their first-ever homegrown player, Tommy Thompson. The son of Gregg Thompson, who made twelve appearances for the USMNT in the 1980s, Tommy played for the Earthquakes Academy before going to Indiana University, where he was the leading scorer his freshman year. He turned 19 on August 15th, and has gotten his first two MLS starts in San Jose’s last two games. It’s far too early to make bold predictions on his future, but from what he’s shown  so far, the youngster is worth keeping an eye on.

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Thierry Henry: Second-Half Showcase

The New York Red Bulls entered Saturday night with a slim hold on the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Just one point kept them above both the Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution. A home game against the last-place Montreal Impact seemed like a good opportunity for New York to at least maintain their hold on fifth. Despite creating several chances early on, the Red Bulls went into half trailing by a goal. After the break, 36-year-old Thierry Henry took over. What you’re about to see is a 25-minute clinic on putting the ball into dangerous territory. There’s not much I can add to these gifs, so I’ll keep my commentary limited.

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XI: The Weekend of August 24th

photo credit: Calciomercato24 via photopin cc

photo credit: Calciomercato24 via photopin cc

-The slow start continues for Manchester United, as Louis van Gaal’s side managed only a  draw at Sunderland. Robin van Persie returned to action for the first time since the World Cup, but it was Juan Mata who scored the Red Devils’ lone goal. The good news for United is that they’re expected to sign Angel di Maria. The bad news is that he isn’t a defender, might not have a place in van Gaal’s system, and costs about as much as Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas combined.

-The most impressive performance of the weekend came from Tottenham, who demolished QPR—and former manager Harry Redknapp—4-0 on Sunday. QPR’s 3-man back line was constantly under assault in the first half, and Spurs broke through three times before the break. The third might have been the most impressive; Erik Lamela dragged the defense out of position, before hitting Nacer Chadli with a beautiful ball to culminate a 48-pass move.

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