US Open Cup Final
DC United has had a terrible season. How bad is it? Their 0.5 points per match average this season is worse than every team in MLS history except for the 1999 MetroStars (in the last year of the old shootout rule to resolve tied games). It's still possible that they could challenge the MetroStars for the worst record in MLS history. Despite all that, Ben Olsen has managed to hold on to his job while head coaches of teams with better records have been fired. Perhaps part of the reason for that is that his team's improbable US Open Cup run could salvage something out of this season. If they win tonight, they will qualify for 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League and the allocation money that comes with it.
One indicator in their favor is former Sounder James Riley, who has been playing left back for DC United for most of this season. Tonight marks Riley's 5th appearance in the US Open Cup Final in 7 years. Riley's team has won the Final in each of his previous appearances. Coincidentally, the Sounders run of Open Cup titles ended after he left the team. His experience and leadership will be needed if DC United are to capture their third US Open Cup title in their fifth appearance. Although they're heavy underdogs, DC United is comfortable with having nothing to lose. Black and Red United gives a glimpse at the lineup we can expect from DC United tonight.
Real Salt Lake are hoping to win their first US Open Cup title and the second major trophy in their history tonight. RSL's communications team has put together a beautiful infographic previewing the final, with useful information about both teams and the recent history of the tournament. A Real Salt Lake win could wind up helping the Sounders clinch a spot in CCL if RSL winds up winning the Supporters Shield or appearing in the MLS Cup Final and Seattle finishes second (or possibly even third) in the Supporters Shield standings.
So what if DC United wins? Will it be the biggest upset of the pro era of the tournament? It would probably at least be as big as 1999, when the Rochester Rhinos defeated the Colorado Rapids, which was the last time a non-MLS team won the tournament. A win for DC United would almost certainly draw comparisons to last year's FA Cup Final, where soon to be relegated Wigan Athletic defeated Premier League runner-up Manchester City in Roger Espinoza's second domestic cup title in just over 9 months.
Beyond the matchup, TheCup.us has a story on the various names the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup has gone by, which was often a result of the lack of an official name for the tournament. Be sure to check that site out for more excellent coverage on the Open Cup Final and to learn some of the lesser known history of the tournament.
The University of Washington has emerged as one of the elite men's soccer teams in the country. They are in the top 5 in nearly all national rankings. The Huskies moved up a spot in the Top Drawer Soccer poll to #4. They also held on to the #2 spot in the SBI rankings. They'll have a chance to propel themselves to the top spot in both polls as they travel to California this week to take on Jordan Morris and Aaron Kovar's Stanford and top-ranked California.
One team in Washington that has been making some noise that nobody saw coming is the Gonzaga Bulldogs. After being picked to finish dead last in the West Coast Conference preseason poll and second last in a WCC preview on Reddit, the Bulldogs have emerged from obscurity to appear in the Top Drawer Soccer top 25 for the third consecutive week, where they are currently ranked #22. Part of the reason for Gonzaga's surge in the polls is the strong defense that has only allowed 3 goals all season. That defense is led by senior goalkeeper Ryan Caballero, a Sounders U23 alumnus who leads the nation in save percentage (92%) and has the third best goals against average (0.32).
US Men's National Team
After early reports yesterday indicated that Jermaine Jones would undergo knee surgery, which would cause him to miss 6 weeks with Schalke and the national team, Jones and US Soccer made it clear that he is healthy and available to play for both club and country. His fellow German-born national teammate Fabian Johnson's status is more doubtful. There are some additional injury issues that will affect the kind of lineup Klinsmann will have available to him in the final two qualifying matches.
Stoke City defender/midfielder Geoff Cameron expressed his frustration with Jurgen Klinsmann concerning his lack of a consistent role with the national team prior to the qualifying matches against Costa Rica and Mexico.
Updates on Former Sounders
Two of our favorite former Sounders managed to score goals yesterday. Mike Fucito, who has missed most of this season due to injuries, scored a goal and forced an additional own goal in a reserve league match against Chivas USA. Erik Friberg scored the only goal of the match for Malmö FF, launching his team to a 4 point lead at the top of the Allsvenskan table. This was the taco-loving Swede's sixth goal of the season, which is a career high. Prior to this season, he only had 6 goals in his entire career.
Managerial Changes in Europe
Former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini will get another crack at UEFA Champions League after being hired by Galatasaray, famous for being the current employer of Didier Drogba and the former holder of the Guiness record for loudest crowd roar.
Derby County has a new manager, shortly after the club parted ways with Nigel Clough. Former England national team manager Steve McClaren will try to turn around what has been a somewhat disappointing season for the Rams, who find themselves in the middle of the League Championship table. Former Derby winger and head coach of the Tacoma Stars and Seattle Sounders Alan Hinton shared plenty of thoughts on the change. Nigel Clough is the son of Brian Clough, Hinton's manager at Derby County.
As Sunderland haven't yet named a replacement for recently fired manager Paolo Di Canio, interim coach Kevin Ball will remain in charge of the team for at least one more match, as they take on Machester United this Saturday.
Barcelona president Sandro Rosell will face a vote of no confidence from club members for a series of events that seem to contradict Barcelona's "mas que un club" (more than a club) philosophy. You may recall that the ability of club members to vote out the team president is what led Drew Carey to introduce the idea to the Sounders organization.
Although he is in no immediate danger of losing his job, David Moyes is definitely starting to feel pressure to turn Manchester United's season around after a disappointing start. Some of the wounds he is currently having to attend to were possibly self-inflicted, after he reportedly ignored Alex Ferguson's advice to retain some of the existing coaching staff after taking over. Manchester United suddenly seems like a very different team under Moyes than it was under Ferguson.
Hugh Robertson, the UK's Minister for Sport, openly criticized FIFA for their mismanagement of the 2022 World Cup. He went as far as arguing that the countries whose bids were rejected in favor of Qatar should be compensated by FIFA. Robertson conceded that playing the 2022 World Cup during the winter is probably the only option.
Michael Garcia, the head of FIFA's ethics committee, will soon be visiting every country involved in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids to gather evidence of any wrongdoing leading up to the awarding of the World Cup to Russia and Qatar.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho abruptly left a press conference, annoyed at one reporter's questions about the omission of Kevin De Bruyne from Chelsea's lineup.
3 Way Race in La Liga?
After Atlético Madrid upset Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey, many saw the result as a bit of a fluke. Now, after winning Europa League in 2012, nearly winning the Spanish Super Copa against Barcelona and beating Real Madrid at the Bernabéau last weekend, perhaps it's time to take Atlético seriously
German Fans Oppose Homophobia and Racism
In a poll that was taken last weekend, German soccer fans seem to be pretty adamant that homophobia and racism have no place in "fußball". Not only that, but they don't think the DFB, the German federation is doing enough to combat the problem. The fans are even tougher on UEFA and FIFA.
US Open Cup Final - D.C. United at Real Salt Lake - GolTV at 6 PM