Wednesday, March 28, 2012
After knowing about this for months, Liverpool officially announced today that they will face AS Roma on Wednesday, July 25 at Fenway Park.
As any Boston Red Sox fan knows, the Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner have owned Liverpool since 2010. With this year's 100th anniversary of Fenway, what better time to bring their two cash cows together for one night only.
Liverpool will be in the United States for 12 days this summer and they've already been slated for two exhibition matches. Big time European clubs often take U.S. tours (to improve the brand abroad) and Liverpool last appeared in North America in 2004 (NJ, CT and Toronto).
A group of four Boston executives closed a deal for Roma in August to become the first foreign majority owners of a Serie A club. New Roma president Thomas DiBenedetto is also a limited partner in the Fenway group.
"During its 100-year history, Fenway Park has hosted some of the best in athletic competition, and a match between Liverpool and Roma -- two of the world's most well-known and respected clubs -- is an appropriate way to ... showcase our ballpark to an international audience," Liverpool owner John Henry said.
The match also features the two teams that contested the 1984 European Cup final, which Liverpool won in a penalty shootout.
Liverpool is the fourth Premier League team to announce a preseason tour of the United States, following Chelsea, Tottenham and Aston Villa.
Boston will serve as Liverpool's base throughout the tour, and the team will train at Harvard University.
"Our goal is to create an unforgettable experience for our North American fans while building a lasting legacy for Liverpool here in the States," Liverpool chairman Tom Werner said.
I was lucky enough to get to cover Sporting vs. Celtic at Fenway two summers ago so I'm really hoping that I can get a credential for this one too. That first match was nice but admittedly, there aren't a ton of Portuguese or Scottish people in New England. However, Liverpool is a huge draw anywhere in the world and there are plenty of Italians (and wannabe guidos) in the immediate area-the North End might shut down for a few hours.
It couldn't come at a better time in the summer since by then, only Major League Baseball will be going on and the weather should be perfect. The Champions League, London Olympics (no U.S. men) and Euro 2012 will have all concluded by the time these squads make their way to Boston. Picturing Steven Gerrard, Pepe Reina, Luis Suarez and Co. at Fenway is pretty cool, this is going to be a can't miss event for local soccer fans who want a taste of European soccer and crowds.
UPDATE 3/30: Liverpool will play Tottenham on July 28 in Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium. Tottenham plays the LA Galaxy on July 24 and the New York Red Bulls on July 31.
Chelsea and Aston Villa also have U.S. tours. The 2012-13 EPL season starts on August 18.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
The good times continue to roll for U.S. star Clint Dempsey in England as he scored twice in today's 5-0 thrashing by Fulham against Wolverhampton.
Dempsey scored his 11th and 12th goals of the EPL season (tying his career-high), both in the second half at Craven Cottage, helping Fulham to its third straight league victory.
After receiving a pass from teammate Danny Murphy, Dempsey made it 3-0 in the 56th minute by dribbling around Wolves goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.
He rounded out the scoring and his incredible week with a goal in the 83rd minute off an assist from Mahamadou Diarra.
Fulham (9-9-9) is currently in eighth place in the EPL with 36 points. It doesn't look like they'll make the Europa League again (after playing in it last season) since they are 10 points behind No. 5 Chelsea.
It will be interesting to see what happens with Dempsey, who turns 29 on Friday, over the next few seasons. He's playing the best soccer of his life (21 goals in 2011/12 between Fulham and the U.S.) so you have to think that he'll go to a bigger club at some point. As Shimer pointed out, Arsenal could use him right now since he'd be the perfect help behind Robin Van Persie (currently the best striker in the world).
Regardless what happens, we have to enjoy Dempsey's season for Fulham since it is truly the greatest one ever for an American overseas. He scored the only goal on Wednesday to help the U.S. beat Italy for the first time ever and he wrapped up the week with a pair of goals in an EPL romp. It must always rule to be Clint Dempsey but particularly now. The guy is on fire everywhere he goes.
It's not hard to figure out why Chelsea hasn't won any major titles or the English Premier League in years, they have no consistency within the club besides sticking with veteran players that are past their prime (see: John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard).
After a 1-0 loss to West Brom yesterday, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich fired Andre Villas-Boas after only eight months on the job.
Assistant head coach Roberto Di Matteo will be the interim manager for the rest of the season. Chelsea is currently in fifth place in the EPL (one spot away from Champions League play next year) while they're also still alive (albeit down 3-1) in the Champions League and the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Chelsea's statement on the move:
"Andre Villas-Boas has parted company with Chelsea Football Club today. The board would like to record our gratitude for his work and express our disappointment that the relationship has ended so early.
"Unfortunately the results and performances of the team have not been good enough and were showing no signs of improving at a key time in the season.
"The club is still competing in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup, as well as challenging for a top-four spot in the Premier League, and we aim to remain as competitive as possible on all fronts.
"With that in mind we felt our only option was to make a change at this time. With immediate effect Roberto Di Matteo has been appointed first team coach on an interim basis until the end of the season."
Realistically, all the Blues can hope for in regards to a top four finish in the EPL is that they catch Arsenal (49 points), who is only three points ahead of them. Tottenham (53 points) is the only other team somewhat in range but Chelsea (13-7-7) would have to go on some kind of run which is unlikely plus Tottenham (16-5-6) would have to falter which I don't see happening.
If Chelsea drops out of fifth and it could happen since Newcastle (44 points) is lurking only two points behind, the Blues would miss out on the Europa League as well which is shocking for a club as rich and powerful as them.
It just goes to show you what happens when you stick with an older roster for too long and continue to change manager year after year. There's no consistency from the top and no matter how much money Abramovich throws at his problems, Chelsea is a black hole as currently constructed.
Di Matteo's first match in charge will be Tuesday night's FA Cup replay at Birmingham. Then Chelsea hosts Napoli next week in a Champions League second leg but they'll have to overcome a 3-1 deficit at Stamford Bridge.
Friday, March 2, 2012
The U.S. women won their second straight match at the 2012 Algrave Cup in Portugal, once again over a European foe as they beat Norway 2-1 earlier today.
After a scoreless first half, superstar striker Abby Wambach made it 1-0 in the 51st minute with her 133rd career goal for the U.S. Her shot from 15 yards out went off the post and in (something which I swear happens every game for the U.S. women). The lovely Heather Mitts (a former teammate of Wambach's at the University of Florida) had the assist.
While we take Wambach's incredible talents for granted, 21-year-old Sydney Leroux is quickly establishing herself at the international level. She scored what turned out to be the game-winner in the 81st minute. Amy Rodriguez crossed it to Leroux and the former Stanford star headed it in.
Norway ruined Hope Solo's shutout as they scored in the 93rd minute. It was so late in the game that the U.S. didn't even have a chance to kick off following the goal before the match ended.
Up next, the U.S. meets Japan for the first time since the 2011 World Cup final last summer. Japan beat Denmark 2-0 today as well but the U.S. has a better goal differential (+6) so all they have to do is beat or tie Japan (+3) to win the group and advance to the championship game.
No doubt Pia Sundhage's squad will be looking for some measure of revenge after they lost in such heartbreaking fashion (disastrous penalty kicks) to Japan last time around.
I discovered a nice nugget of information tonight when I was looking at ussoccer.com. All the U.S. Under-23 men's national team's 2012 Olympic qualifying games will be on television.
Their first three matches will all be on Universal Sports Network and if they advance to the semifinals and/or finals, those will be on NBC Sports Network and Universal Sports Network respectively.
Interestingly enough, all three Group A first round matches take place in Nashville, Tennessee at LP Field. The U.S. will play Cuba on March 22 at 9 p.m. Then they'll face Canada on March 24 at 7 p.m. Finally, they meet El Salvador at 9 p.m. on March 26.
Keep in mind that all the United States has to do to qualify for London 2012 is make it to this particular final. The U.S. would play in the second semifinal match on March 31 at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas. The winner of Group A and Group B (Mexico, Honduras, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago) will play on April 1 in Kansas City for the final.
Every match in the tournament will also be streamed live on CONCACAF.com in case you don't get Universal Sports Network or CBS Sports Network.
After watching the U.S. dismantle Mexico the other night, I see no reason why they can't run the table in this tournament and go into London on fire. If you plan on watching the Olympic soccer this summer, qualifying will serve as a sort of appetizer to get you ready for the real thing.