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.
Dana Wessel produces the K-TWIN Morning Show on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am. The show is hosted by Cane Peterson and Eric Perkins/Rena Sarigianopoulos of KARE 11. We like it when he tells us what to watch in the Premier League this weekend. Dana?
OK. Has everyone simmered down and adjusted their underpants after Wednesday afternoon’s slate of matches? What an afternoon. An American scored, Spurs scored twice in 15 minutes to win, and the reigning champions find themselves in ninth place after yet another home loss.
The World Cup draw is this morning at 10am, and will be broadcast on ESPN2 starting at 10:30. This will set the opening matches for the US.
Regardless of what the draw holds, don’t fret. Even if we are in the Group of Death. We are the United States. The days of fearing other teams is over. Other nations are now afraid of us. We have gotten out tough groups before, and we will do it again. Now is a time to be excited, not hyperventilating over Nation X. This is the best US team we have ever sent to a World Cup, and it is going to be one heck of a ride regardless of who we draw.
Now, back to across the pond...
No. 3: Manchester United vs Newcastle United at Old Trafford
When: Saturday at 6:45AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: The eventual champions won a wild one in the corresponding fixture last season 4-3 on Boxing Day. Chicharito slotted the match-winner in stoppage time to annoy every non-United in the entire world. Thanks for ruining my favorite holiday, jerk! Seriously, what is Boxing Day? All I know about it is there is a ton of soccer on. Is that it? A soccer holiday? Somebody look this up and call me with the answer.
I have no real opinion on David Moyes one way or the other. Seems like a decent enough dude, I guess. But man, you just have to feel for him. He tried for eleven years as Everton manager to beat Manchester United at Old Trafford, only to watch Everton come in and win in his first year as manager at United. Hope his whiskey cabinet was stocked Wednesday night.
You also have to feel for how delusional and in over his head he seems. The headlines after the match were how he admitted that United are playing catch up in the title race and face a tough road ahead.
In honor of Moyes’ stunning revelation I will also admit that I face a tough road to make the NBA (Slamball is a different story. You’ll wanna get on my entourage now, because once it comes back, it’s all over) and I may not have as good of a chance with Anna Kendrick as I claim.
I understand Moyes has to go with the coach-speak but maybe it is time for him to be realistic and actually admit the real truth: United, the reigning champions, face tough odds to even qualify for Champions League this season.
After this weekend we will be through 15 of 38 matches. The table has taken shape. I think we can all say pretty confidently that the current top three of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City will finish in the top three in some order. That leaves Liverpool, Everton, Spurs and Manchester United battling for the fourth spot. And that isn’t even including Southampton and Newcastle - I think we all can agree they will regress to the mid-table teams we all know they are.
As of now, United really isn’t even in that dogfight, going winless in their last three league matches and trending downward. They welcome in a plucky Newcastle club that had rattled off four straight league wins, including a decisive 2-0 win over Chelsea, before taking one in the shorts against Swansea, 3-0 on Wednesday.
It is funny calling an early December home match against Newcastle a must-win for United, but that is the reality of the situation. It is a reality that Moyes and the boys are fully aware of. Surprisingly, United are just 3-2-2 in the fortress they call the Theater of Dreams, grabbing just 11 of a possible 21 points.
No. 2: Sunderland vs Tottenham at the Stadium of Light
When: Saturday at 11:30AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Spurs bagged all three road points in this fixture last season 2-1 thanks to a Aaron Lennon goal in the 51st. Can’t say I recall seeing this match.
I hope Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas bought Chiriches and Holtby a plate of wings or something, because he was about 15 minutes away from having a lot of time on his hands the rest of the winter. It's crazy how much difference 20 minutes makes. It was looking like a 1-0 Fulham win that would have pulled them out of the drop zone, the kind of victory to inspire the club after sacking their manager this week.
It also appeared that AVB, who seemed almost resigned to his fate after the 2-2 tie Sunday against Manchester United, would be on his way out, having gone five straight without winning - including that now infamous 6-0 loss to Manchester City.
But two goals flips the script, and possibly saved a job along the way. Spurs are riding high after an emotional victory and now have a trip to bottom-feeding Sunderland where a win would put them right back in the thick of things.
Hopefully the Black Cats don’t hang their head too low after an emotional loss to Chelsea Wednesday at home. They took a 1-0 lead on a Jozy Altidore goal, his first of the year (Ed. note: I deleted 93 exclamation points that Dana inserted here). They fought back to equalize at 2-2. They refused to quit when falling behind 4-2, earning themselves quality chances at an equalizer before falling 4-3.
That type of fighting spirit and resolve can get a team out of the drop zone and save a season as long as they don’t let themselves get too down. Points will come. All credit and congratulations to Jozy, for his first goal in the Premier League since about 20 years ago with Hull City (editor, please fact check). (It was February 2010 - Ed.) Say what you will about John Terry, but he is still a class defender and Jozy just posted him up and smashed one past Peter Cech, one of the best goalies in the world. Hopefully that is the boost young Josmer needed.
I am also a major loser, and see it as a total sign that he got his first goal of the season less than 72 hours before the World Cup draw.
No. 1: Arsenal at Everton at Emirates Stadium
When: Sunday at 11AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: This one ended without a goal from either side last April, in a match where both teams needed all three in their chase for a top four spot.
How could you not be happy for Everton? I thought the away stands at Old Trafford were going to fall over on Wednesday after that final whistle blew. Sheer joy and euphoria for the supporters who have waited 20 years for that moment. 'Tis why we watch.
The Toffees have more confidence than they’ve had in a really long time, after finally vanquishing the the (once) mighty Manchester United in their own backyard. They’ll need it. The scheduling gods didn’t exactly do any favors for Everton, with back-to-back matches on the road against United and Arsenal within a four day span.
Make no mistake, the victory over United wasn’t one of those "Well, it hasn’t happened in 20 years, so it was bound to happen eventually" kind of victories. Everton earned the much-deserved breakthrough in the 86th minute, were the better side on the day, and are the better side in the standings.
Arsenal will be a much tougher test for first year manager Roberto Martinez’s overachieving side. This will be an intriguing one and one of the toughest domestic tests of the season for the current league leaders. Other than the season curtain-jerker at Emirates, when Arsenal lost 3-1 to Aston Villa (and we all laughed maniacally, thinking that was a sign of things to come), the Gunners have been untouchable at the Emirates, grabbing all 18 points from six matches and only conceding six goals.
They're four points clear of Chelsea, but this is the stretch of the season everyone has been pointing at for Arsenal ever since they started rattling off wins in September. After hosting Everton, they travel to Napoli Wednesday for the final match in their Champions League group of death, where qualification is still up in the air. Then they head to Manchester City, and host Chelsea in consecutive Premier League weekends.
Arsenal cannot get ahead of themselves. Everton will have never been riding a bigger high than this. The smart money will surely be on the home side, but I think a scoring draw is very possible.
That’s it for this week. Myself and the rest of the Minneapolis Chelsea crew will be at Brits Saturday for the Stoke City/Chelsea match at 9AM. Come say hello!
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