Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
Email Jon to talk about soccer.
HEADLINE | The Premier League kicked off in England over the weekend, and things at the top went more or less according to expectations. Manchester United put four past Swansea and won, Chelsea dominated Hull City and won 2-0, Liverpool beat Stoke, Tottenham beat Crystal Palace - all expected, all normal.
The exception was over at Arsenal. The Gunners scored six minutes in to lead Aston Villa 1-0, but everything collapsed from there; Christian Benteke scored twice from the penalty spot, Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny was sent off, and Villa defender Antonio Luna added a third to give the away team a 3-1 win.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has famously built successful teams on the cheap; since taking over in North London in 1996, he's won four league titles and four FA Cups, all while spending very little to acquire players. He's actually been a net saver in the transfer market during his stint - he's brought money into the club by selling players for more than he's spent, in sharp contrast to the spendthrifts at Manchester United and the oil-soaked profligates at Chelsea and Manchester City.
All of this is well and good, except that Arsenal hasn't won a single thing since 2005. Wenger promised to spend money in the transfer market over the summer to improve a team that once again squeaked into fourth place last season, but so far this year, he's put on one of his all-time miserly showings, spending exactly $0 and bringing in one player while letting an astonishing 22 (!) players leave.
After his team's loss to Aston Villa, he sounded increasingly unhinged, railing at reporters, "You got what you wanted, you should be happy... Before the start the season that was all you write in the papers so what do you expect?" Sure, it's early, but at the moment Wenger appears to have one of the richest clubs in the world headed for a rather confusing mediocrity.
US MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM | The USA ran their winning streak to 12 games - the seventh-longest in history for an international team - with a comeback 4-3 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo. Striker Jozy Altidore was the star for the Americans, scoring a hat-trick in the second half, including an astonishingly good free kick that made pretty much everyone say, "Huh, I didn't know Jozy could do that."
Sure, this was a meaningless friendly, and neither the Americans nor Bosnia-Herzegovina had a full squad. Still, it's an impressive win, on the road, over a team currently ranked 13th in the world. And Altidore - who's only 23, and is just starting his first season in England, with Sunderland - is on the verge of becoming the USA's next big star.
EUROPE | Spain's La Liga kicked off, and the league's two best teams both won - albeit in very different ways. Real Madrid actually trailed Real Betis 1-0 before fighting back for a 2-1 win, with Isco Alarcon getting the winner in the 86th minute. Meanwhile, Barcelona led Levante 6-0 by halftime, and won 7-0. Over in Germany, Bayern Munich beat Eintracht Frankfurt 1-0, and Borussia Dortmund got two late goals to beat Braunschweig 2-1.
MLS | Robbie Keane had a hat-trick as the LA Galaxy dumped Western Conference leaders Real Salt Lake, 4-2. Eight teams in the West are at least within a win of one of the five playoff spots, and all are now within eight points of RSL. In the East, New England beat Chicago 2-0, a game highlighted by a Juan Agudelo goal that has to be seen to be believed.
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