A moment in soccer: 3/3/18

This is the first in what I intend to be a series of posts focusing on moments in soccer that illustrate why I spend so much time watching it. 

Major League Soccer kicked off this past weekend. The first days of the MLS season have become one of my favorite parts of the sports year, marking the return of domestic soccer played during reason reasonable timeslots. I love the league without apology.

Admittedly, it wasn’t always pretty. MLS is not the highest level soccer available; my admiration for it is on other grounds. There were a lot of really great chances that got wasted in embarrassing fashion. Like, a lot.

Today’s post is about one of those chances, but in a good way. In Saturday night’s game between Orlando and DC, the hosts found themselves down a goal and a man after a controversial first half. In the 79th minute, as the Lions pushed for an equalizer, DC’s Darren Mattocks got behind the last defenders, with the ball at midfield. Mattocks has long been one of the league’s fastest players.

That’s Mohamed El-Munir making the massive effort to catch up with Mattocks and stifle the chance. The 25-year old Libyan defender’s career has taken him to Serbia and Belarus before this, his first competitive game for Orlando. It’s hard to imagine a better way to endear himself to his teammates than that.
Admittedly, this moment may have faded into the past had the game remained 1-0. That seemed likely even as stoppage time began. But Orlando’s valiant performance in the second half was rewarded with a late goal by Stefano Pinho, also making his debut for the club.


Pinho plied his trade last year for Miami in the second-tier North American Soccer League. He led the league in scoring, but the NASL is, for a number of reasons, no more, and he fled ship for Orlando. He came off the bench on Saturday night, which might not have happened if not for the absences of Dom Dwyer and Sacha Kljestan, two players with established success in MLS. Pinho made the most of his opportunity, and 25,000 purple-clad fans won’t forget it.
Soccer is famously a sport without much scoring. This was a game with just two goals. But it’s the moments in between those goals that lend significance and narrative to them. Pinho’s goal is only important because of the tackle made by El-Munir fourteen minutes earlier.

The Revs talking about a new stadium

The below was originally posted on Veterans Day, but a week later it is already outdated. The Boston Globe brings us the latest story about the Revolution’s search for a stadium: “Planning is quietly underway for construction of a soccer stadium in Boston, one that would bring the resurgent New England Revolution closer to their urban fan base, according to people familiar with the Kraft family’s search for a site.

Numerous sources said the Kraft family has been meeting with state and city officials to discuss the stadium and possible locations over the past several months, with the team focusing on Frontage Road. It was not known Monday what additional sites the Krafts were considering.”

Read on for the long history of news about the Revs’ stadium hunt.

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I have accepted a position as an at-large MLS Contributor for Empireofsoccer.com. My first post went up there today, and while it’s a fairly-standard weekend preview, I encourage you to read it. This is good news for me personally, as it gives me an opportunity to reach a broader audience than I currently do.

This means that my posts on this blog will become more limited; I probably won’t write here every day, and when I do it will usually be about leagues other than MLS or offering my opinion. My book posts should continue. I hope, if you’ve read and enjoy my work in the past, you’ll continue to do so wherever it may be posted.

The Soccer Diaries, by Michael J. Agovino

“I…came to soccer through serendipity, endless curiosity, and a sense of an underground, populist international brotherhood.”

I’d be willing to guess that the majority of American soccer fans did not inherit their love of the game. Baseball and football are passed down from fathers to sons in this country, but soccer, long considered foreign, grabs hold of teenagers with too much time on their hands. This is especially true in the internet age, but The Soccer Diaries: An American’s Thirty-Year Pursuit of the International Game suggests that it was the case even in the early 80s.

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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)


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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XI: The weekend of August 10th

photo credit: Albumen via photopin cc

photo credit: Albumen via photopin cc

-In the first MLS game following Landon Donovan’s announcement that he would be retiring at the end of the season, his current team and his former team played to a 2-2 draw. Scorelines are rarely more misleading; the Galaxy dominated, outshooting San Jose 24-3. But Chris Wondolowski and the Earthquakes’ new designated player Matías Pérez García scored on their teams first two shots, and the visitors actually led 2-1 heading into halftime.

-In their only home game of the season against their in-state rivals, on the heels of the news about Donovan, the Galaxy drew just 19,719. Now, for the majority of MLS clubs, that would be a great crowd, but LA is used to averaging well more than 20k. Attendance is down by about 1,500 this year at the Stubhub Center, which, especially for a Friday night game, is in a less than ideal location. With the Galaxy playing in the suburbs, and Donovan retiring this winter, I believe that there is room for that second team in LA. But they can’t continue playing in their neighbors’ house.

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