Friday, October 13, 2017

USA Has More Problems Then People Think

On Tuesday night, Oct. 10th, a country of just over one million beat a soccer team that contained a population of 350 million. If you’re late to the party, USA’s rocky campaign in the 2018 World Cup Qualifier hit rock bottom as USA was officially eliminated from Russia 2018.
I’ve actually warned people about this since 2012, the year I started to closely follow soccer. World Cup Qualifying is not a population game. It never has been. Think of the strong soccer teams that consistently make it to the World Cup, most are not in the Top 10 population in the wor
ld, like Germany, France, Spain, Netherlands, and Argentina.
Now, think of the biggest countries in the world, most of those countries don’t get to the World Cup. In fact, the Top 4 countries in the world: China, India, USA, and Indonesia all didn’t qualify for the World Cup.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, really, USA has one of the most overrated soccer teams in the world. They feed off of home points because Central American teams are below average. Think back to the 2014 Semifinal stage, the final game against Guatemala at home, a loss by Team USA would have eliminated them at the time.
We can say USA is underachieving all we want, but the truth of the matter is that USA’s team isn’t built properly. The average soccer fan complains about how below average the MLS is, yet 16 players from the USA squad play in the MLS. This is basically saying that the USA squad with a few exceptions is an MLS All-Star team. USA soccer fans can’t have it both ways because the last two points contradict themselves.
USA didn’t qualify because the rest of CONCACAF is getting better. USA needed a reality check and they got it on Tuesday night. The States needs better preparation for World Cup Qualifying and it starts with the MLS. There are way too many international players playing in the league. If we want to compare numbers with other low leagues in Europe, then having a diverse league is just benefiting other countries.
If an alteration in American soccer happens, then I would suggest eliminating the MLS Cup and adding relegation. This would scare some teams but would benefit the stars who would be playing in crucial games, whereas other players would be under pressure trying to save their club from going down.
Lastly, the Gold Cup needs to be a stronger competition by inviting teams like Peru and Iceland to play in the event. It needs to take a page out of the playbook of the Euro 2020, which forces all countries to play in various stadiums across Europe. This move is essential for the USA seems way too comfortable playing at home and way too uncomfortable on the road.
Playing in Central America is a big obstacle to overcome, though. Nonetheless, the US Men’s National team needs to seek out a more formidable schedule overseas. While the resignation of head coach Bruce Arena may spark change in this movement, this doesn’t necessarily cement USA’s plans moving forward.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Indians Fans Heartbroken But Never Alone

102 wins. Some people claim baseball is too long of a season, I ignore that theory every time I hear it. Throughout a 162 game season, there is more than just a playoff berth that a team is playing for.

Home advantage should be big thing in October, that's what the Indians were playing for when they won a historical  22 straight in late August to early December.

Noah Syndergarrd of the New York Mets tweeted out the greatest tweet of all time last year after his team was eliminated from the NL Wildcard game.

"Baseball has a way of ripping your heart out, stabbing it, putting it back in your chest, then healing itself just in time for Spring Training."

I think Cleveland Indians fans can relate to that this morning as the Indians special season came to a end in the worst possible way.

Lets be real though, the Indians weren't the first team to pull this feat. In 2002, Oakland won 20 straight games on route to a 103 win season. If you recall, they ended up losing in five games in the ALDS to the Twins blowing a 2-1 series lead.

In fact, the symmetry to the 2002 A's and 2017 Indians in amazingly similar. Both teams have exciting playoff atmosphere's. Cleveland has the drum and Oakland has the load horn. Both endured long winning streaks that flared out and the seasons ended way too soon.

Both teams know what it's like to be heart broken and back in the day both teams had rather small payrolls despite Cleveland deciding to spend a lot lately.

The theory that winning too much in the regular season hurts a teams chances of winning a Championship isn't new. That was the theory when Golden State blew a 3-1 series lead in the 2016 NBA Finals.

To add to this, The President Trophy winner in NHL rarely wins the Stanley Cup. Grabbing the #1 seed in the NFL by no means guarantees you an appearance in the Super Bowl and I could go on.

Now Cleveland has to wait all winter long, thinking of what could have been. How long is their window open for even. MLB is a very fluid league which means that it's tough to win three or four division titles in a row unless your roster is far better than the other teams fighting in your division.

When teams of this caliber don't preform in the playoffs it's hard to shift the blame right a way. Some franchises have a tough time winning the big game, but to make a knee jerk reaction right now would be unfair to the coaches and management.

I think something clicked in with the Yankees after they blew a 8-3 lead in Game two. Cleveland fans will be upset, but just remember. Your never alone.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Due or Die For Sweden This Week

It's came down to this for Sweden, with slim home of beating out France for the automatic spot for Russia 2018, Sweden is on a collision course for a date with Netherlands next Tuesday.

That's if the Netherlands beat Belarus on Saturday at the home of FC BATE Borisov. We know this isn't the same Dutch team that competed in the 2010 Final and 2014 Semi Final but I can't imagine the Dutch not being a favourite to beat Sweden despite Sweden's impressive qualifying campaign.

However, the first tie breaker is goal differential which Sweden have an advantage for and a on paper easier game come Saturday.

Unfortunately, 2nd place doesn't guarantee a spot in the back door playoffs. If Bosnia and Herzegovina,  Wales and the winner of the Denmark - Montenegro  all win their games this weekend, Group A runner up will be the one left out.

Sweden fans should be understandably nervous as the last few times they have had success was due to weak groups in qualifying. Getting to the top of the pecking order is amazingly tough after a team slides into the Top 20.

In fact, in the last 11 years, Sweden is 5W-10T-16L against Top level teams. Yes, there have been some good results, but 16 losses is a lot. Some of those games were on neutral field or home which Sweden won't have that on their side next Tuesday.

The other hope is that Sweden get scoreboard help over the weekend and the game in Amsterdam means less. I wouldn't bet on that happening. That doesn't seem likely as Belarus looked hopeless inboxed Sweden's 4-0 win last time out.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Things Will get interesting for the Mets this Winter

It was a frustrating season for the New York Mets, with hopes of making the postseason at the start of the year, and a chance to make the playoffs for the third straight was at stake for this team when the team opened the season in April.

The team got off too a decent start, 7-3 after 10 games. Unfortunately, it all sputtered out of control after that.

The Mets have an identity crisis. Their captain David Wright has been injured for what seems like the last two years, their what was a good young pitching staff has flared out to what has become a huge question mark going forward. Half their vets were shipped out at the trade deadline. Anyone who wants to think the Mets can contend in 2018 has to dig deep. It is hard to find the positives.

Too add to this, they don't have a manager anymore after Terry Collins resigned to take another position within the Mets organization.

Rene Rivera, Lucas Duda, Jose Reyes Norichika Aoki Addison ReedFernando Salas and Tom Gorzelanny will all be UFA's this off season to name a few. Other players have team options and other stuff that will hopefully make it easier to build a competitive roster in 2018.

The Mets have three options, they can either start over and rebuild everything and start over. That's what the Astros and Cubs did the past five years and look at them now. That being said, I'm not a fan of that route. Too long of a process when their is still some talent on this team when healthy.

Option Two: Go all in this free agency and hope to contend for a divisional title. Lots of free agents out there, maybe some potential for a block buster trade if something comes up. I'm not a big fan of this direction either. Very risky with the Nationals so good and the wildcard teams are only guaranteed one playoff game. Not to mention if the pitchers there is a injury plagued season this could blow up in there face.

Option Three:  The hybrid model. Build your team to be competitive this year without sacrificing the future or having a high payroll. This would allow the MLB ready prospects to play with a few veterans  like Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera along with another free agent from somewhere. This would allow them to build this team without taking.

The goal shouldn't be to win the World Series next year, the more realistic goal would be to make the baseball fun again while putting the Mets in a chance to blend a strong core together by 2019-2020.

The Mets need to avoid a 90 loss season next year. If they can't, I'll start to wonder if Noah Syndergaard will ever pitch a playoff game for the Mets again.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Week 7 EPL

Relegation is the  scariest thing that for a fan base when the end of the years comes around as the hope to stay in the top flight division is always the goal. Going down to the second tier is devastating to stay the least.

In England, playing among Britain's top teams is a treat that shouldn't be taken for granted. Crystal Palace this year is faced with the mammoth challenge of staying up after not picking a  single goal or point in there first six games and it's not looking good for them with Manchester United on the road and after a home date with defending Champions Chelsea is not the idea of a favorable schedule.

It's not the time to panic yet but it feels like it. They held City scoreless for 43 minutes last week before the floodgates opened up.

Personally, Palace will have life at some point. It's too long of a season for them not to. That being said, the more they lose, the more this Palace season will turn into Aston Villa's 2016 season that saw them being relegated after only three wins.

The United - Palace game will be the game I'll be focused on in the 10AM windows tomorrow. The Tottenham game and Chelsea game to finish the day are equally intriguing.

League table

PosTeam PldWDLGFGAGDPtsQualification or relegation
1Manchester City6510212+1916Qualification for the Champions League group stage
2Manchester United6510172+1516
4Tottenham Hotspur6321105+511
5Liverpool63211211+111Qualification for the Europa League group stage
8Huddersfield Town623153+29
9Newcastle United630365+19
12West Bromwich Albion622246−28
13Brighton & Hove Albion621357−27
15Swansea City612337−45
16Stoke City6123510−55
17Leicester City6114912−34
18West Ham United6114613−74Relegation to the EFL Championship
19AFC Bournemouth6105411−73
20Crystal Palace6006013−130

Saturday, 30 September 2017
Time/ResultHomeAwayVenue                                 TV
7:30AMHuddersfield TownTottenham HotspurJohn Smith's Stadium       TSN1 and 4
10AMManchester UnitedCrystal PalaceOld Trafford                       SN
10AMWest Ham UnitedSwansea CityOlympic Stadium                TSN 4         
10AMWest Bromwich AlbionWatfordThe Hawthorns                  TSN1
10AMStoke CitySouthamptonbet365 Stadium                  None
10AMBournemouthLeicester CityVitality Stadium                 SN World 
12:30PM ChelseaManchester City Stanford Bridge                   NBC

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Should Baseball Not Have a Shotgun Start on Final Day?

Down the stretch they come! No, this isn't the Kentucky Derby but the final week of the Major League season is supposed to be a drama filled week with many twists and turns along the way.

This year has been anything but, with seven out of the ten playoff teams already clinched and two others on the fringe of clinching any day now, this final hurrah has been fairly boring

However, the one race that will likely come down to the final day of the regular season is looking like the 2nd Wildcard spot in the National League. The Colorado Rockies hold a two game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals are right behind them breathing down their neck at three back.

There is no guarantee that the race comes down to the final day of the regular season, I'll put my money on Colorado going through. This is the third year in a row MLB has gone to a shotgun start for the final day of the regular season.

It begs the question, is this fair? Both games are 12:10 PT 3:10 ET on Sunday afternoon. More importantly though the two games will kick off at different local times that will favor the Rockies.
Denver is in the Mountain timezone and 12:10 translates to 1:10 a normal Sunday afternoon start time. On the other hand, Milwaukee plays in the Central timezone on Sunday and that translates to a 2:10 local time start time which is a rare start time through out the baseball season.

To me there is a big advantage for Colorado because Milwaukee has to adjust their daily schedule during a day they have to win a must win game. Or what happens if there is a rain delay in Denver or St. Louis on Sunday? The shotgun start theory is flawed.

I totally get it why baseball did this, I'm not arguing about that but to me it doesn't make sense to change a baseball players routine during a crucial last game of the season.

The idea to put every game on the last day of the regular season comes from soccer. Soccer is known to do this from the EPL to CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. That's soccer though. A sport that has no time stopping and therefore will end at the exact same time as well.

This is baseball, a sport where a game might take 2 hours to finish or could take as long as 4. Starting the games at the same time doesn't fix everything and I'm not sure it is the best option.
None of the other Top three leagues does this, NFL has a flex schedule but that's based on what are the priority games between CBS, FOX and NBC.

NBA does a semi shotgun start with the East Coast and West Coast, which because of how baseball divides their leagues isn't realistic.

NHL does nothing at all. They play out the schedule with how it was drawn up the previous Summer. The surprising thing is, no one complains.

Why did baseball change? Why did baseball have to mess with tradition in a sport that doesn't like to mess with tradition.

Baseball needs to find a better solution because the shotgun start to me is too odd.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Oregon Ready for First Conference Foe

Lots of College Football teams get off to 3-0 or 4-0 starts based to a weak non conference schedule among other things. I don't think the Oregon Ducks fall into that category.

The #24 ranked Oregon Ducks take their scorching to record into Tempe for their conference opener against a ASU team that is still trying to find itself after a 52-45 loss to Texas Tech last week.

Oregon defeated ASU last year 54-35 in Eugene but it was little consolation for their disappointing 4-8 season which triggered a handful of changes at the University of Oregon including the hiring of Wille Taggart as the new Head Coach for the Ducks.

The change over has been brisk but has also been a fun one as well. Oregon can match their win total from last year and we are still only in September. Can Wille Taggart keep this up to the point that Oregon becomes a Top 10 team? Unfortunately, we won't get that answer for another few weeks but as of now, Taggart is making this coaching gig look like it's a walk in the park.

I might not be able to watch the game tomorrow. I will be at a family dinner but I think that Oregon comes a way with a 51-38 win. Arizona State has proved that they have lots of work to do on defense and that does not look good for them as Oregon's offense looks like it is at top notch right now.

The game starts at 7pm and can be seen on Pac 12 Network.