Weekend Preview and Predictions: Matchweek 22

Another weekend of important matches is nearly upon us in the Premier League. This slate of games has potential to shake up the table quite a bit. The marquee matchup of the weekend is between a red hot Tottenham Hotspur side and desperate Pep Guardiola-led Manchester City. Manchester United faces a test to stay relevant. Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal all face manageable games, which they must take advantage of.

 

Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur

Man City Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has been heavily criticized in recent days. He will need to be stellar in between the sticks on Sunday against Tottenham.

The difference in current form between the two sides could not be larger. Tottenham are winners of seven straight in the league dating back to last month. They are also enjoying second spot in the table on goal differential over Liverpool. As for City, they have lost two of their last three including an embarrassing performance last weekend at Everton. City’s slim title hopes and fading Champions League aspirations are on the line this weekend.

The key player in this match will be City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. Bravo was brought in from Barcelona to replaced the out of favor Joe Hart. His play has been heavily scrutinized as he owns the worst save percentage in the league this year. Tottenham is playing too well to not get their chances, but can Bravo make enough saves to keep City in it? Man City’s attack has also stalled recently and must get back on track. Although it won’t be easy against league-best defense. Can City break through? Maybe, but it won’t be enough for three points at home.

Manchester City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1

 

 

Stoke City vs Manchester United

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will look to get on the score sheet against Stoke City.

 

The Red Devils travel to Stoke this weekend in what is always a tricky match to get three points from. Stoke have long prided themselves on tripping up title contenders late in the season and derailing their hopes. If Mourinho wants to keep any chance of a title this year, United must get three points from this match.

One thing to watch for will be who controls the aerial game. This match features the top two aerial sides in the Prem according to WhoScored.com. It is not hard to see why, with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Stoke’s 6’7 striker Peter Crouch featuring in the game. In the end, it will come down to what it always has this season for United, finishing chances. Mourinho’s men will dominate possession, but can they score enough?

Stoke City 1 Manchester United 2

 

 

 

Chelsea vs Hull City

 

Chelsea will reportedly welcome back star striker Diego Costa to the lineup.

 

The Blues have built a seven point lead for themselves already in their first year under the guidance of Antonio Conte. They managed to win last week despite the absence of Diego Costa and the drama surrounding his situation. Costa will reportedly be back on the pitch at Stamford Bridge this weekend against Hull City. The Blues will be heavy favorites to continue to build on their impressive point total.

Unfortunately for Hull, a David and Goliath story doesn’t seem to be in the cards this weekend. The Tigers have only taken four points away from home all season and Chelsea have taken 29 of a possible 33 at Stamford Bridge. Look for Chelsea’s attacking trident of Costa, Eden Hazard, and Willian/Pedro to feast on one of the worst defenses in the league. Unless Conte’s men show up horribly under-prepared, I would expect no problems for the hosts here.

Chelsea 4 Hull City 0

 

Other Matches: 

Arsenal 2 Burnley 0: Burnley is worst in the league away from home, and Arsenal don’t seem in the mood to drop points at the Emirates.

Liverpool 4 Swansea 1: League-worst Swans are badly undermanned defensively to deal with Liverpool’s attack.

Middlesborough 0 West Ham 0: Two stingy, conservative defenses play to a stale mate with no Dimitri Payet to guide the Hammers.

Bournemouth 1 Watford 1: Interesting match up, thinking Watford sneaks one in here to salvage an away point.

Crystal Palace 1 Everton 2: Everton look good were very impressive last week, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them lay an egg here.

West Brom 1 Sunderland 0: West Brom are very sound defensively and aren’t in eighth for no reason.

Southampton 1 Leicester 1: Maybe a bit optimistic for Foxes to get an away point sans Mahrez and Slimani.

 

Why West Ham Should Let Dimitri Payet Leave

No Going Back

It is never easy to lose your best player. Especially in a game like soccer where there are no salary caps. For a team like West Ham United, talent such as French midfielder Dimitri Payet doesn’t come around very often. As a matter of fact, there are many West Ham supporters who would say Payet is the most talented player West Ham has ever had.

It is easy to understand why the Hammers are doing everything in their power to keep Payet. The disgruntled Frenchman reportedly told manager Slaven Bilic that he no longer wanted to play for the club. Payet’s eight goals and eight assists on the season in are perfect examples of his value. If Payet is truly homesick, then there is nothing West Ham can do but send him back to France and cash in on his success.What Bilic and the board need to realize is that they are at the point of no return.

It is very rare in any sport for a player to publicly acknowledge he wants to leave a team and then continue playing for them. The way Payet has handled the situation has turned the fans and his teammates on him. Even if he were to stay, the strain on the relationship between him and cub would be very tough to overcome.

An important aspect to remember is that Payet is 29. He is approaching the twilight of his career in the next few years. West Ham would be foolish to invest massive amounts of money into an aging star. A Payet sale will undoubtedly bring in lots of spending money. West Ham should sell while they still have time to use the money to buy in their bid to stay up.

Scott Hogan has had a wonderful season for Brentford and has caught West Ham’s eye

Replacement?

If West Ham do sell Payet, they will need to replace his tremendous talent as best they can in their relegation battle. One target is Hull City’s Robert Snodgrass. Snodgrass has been a surprise this season and one of the primary reasons that Hull is still competitive. His nine goals leads the team and is one more than Payet. If West Ham snatch him up for cheap they can chose to spend again.

West Ham’s other top target in January is from the Championship. Brentford striker Scott Hogan is just 24, and enjoying a breakthrough season. The Englishman has 14 goals in 25 appearances. A Snodgrass/Hogan combination would surely help West Ham with damage control post-Payet. And the cost of these two players would likely still leave money left over for summer.

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Champions League Prospects for City, Arsenal, Leicester

 

The Premier League has the world wide reputation for being the “best league in the world”. It is by far the most widely covered and pulls in the highest television and media revenue. But year in and your out in the past five years, Premier League teams have consistently disappointed on the big stage of European football. This year, the usual four English teams have already been cut to three after Tottenham failed to qualify for the knockout round. This leaves Manchester City, Arsenal and reigning Premier League Champs Leicester City as the three remaining hopes among English clubs.

Manchester City: Rd of 16 match-up vs Monaco

Sergio Aguero will look to lead Manchester City on a deep run in the Champions League

The Good:

City have been wildly inconsistent in all competitions in its first year under Pep Guardiola. However, they have shown they can beat anyone when playing well. They took down Barcelona 3-1 in the group stages. Guardiola is one of the most highly regarded managers in the world. It is difficult to imagine a Guardiola led side exiting Champions League in the Round of 16. City also have supreme talent on the pitch. Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero are two of the premier players on the planet. Raheem Sterling has had a bit of a resurgence under Guardiola.

The Bad:

The inconsistencies previously mentioned that have plagued City this season could very well be their downfall in the Champions League. One bad game and they could be in a hole that they cannot escape. Another concern for City is injuries. Particularly at the back where Captain Vincent Kompany is regularly injured and they have lost Ilkay Gundogan for the season. Monaco leads Ligue 1 in scoring by a large margin and will exploit any City holes at the back.

Arsenal: Rd of 16 match-up vs Bayern Munich

 

Mesut Ozil and Co. face a tough opponent in Bayern Munich.

The Good:

The Gunners have no shortage of talent. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are good enough to play anywhere. Petr Cech is still a top goalkeeper and Laurent Koscielny heads a strong back line. Like City, Arsenal clearly have upside and can have runs of brilliant play. In a brutally difficult Round of 16 match-up vs Bayern, they will need to be near perfect. But if Sanchez is finishing well and Ozil is given the ball in space, Arsenal could surprise.

The Bad:

Most of the bad for Arsenal comes from their opponent. For all of their talent, they are still severely outmatched by Bayern. It will very difficult for Arsenal to gain possession against the midfield prowess of Xabi Alonso, Arturo Vidal and Thiago. Arsenal will likely have to resort to striking off the counter attack. This is not something that possession minded manager Arsene Wenger likes to deal with. Wenger also does not have a great track record in knockout stages of the Champions League. Arsenal have been eliminated in the Round of 16 every year since 2010.

Leicester City: Rd of 16 match-up vs Sevilla

 

Riyad Mahrez will play a critical role in Leicester’s Champions League exploits.

The Good:

Well, the tale of two Leicester’s in this hangover season for the Foxes continues into the Champions League Round of 16. Claudio Ranieri’s side has looked anemic at times in its quest to defend its Premier League crown. However, in its first Champions League appearance ever, Leicester won their group to qualify for the knockout stage. Riyad Mahrez has looked significantly better in European competition and is the type of player who can single-handedly win you a game. Strikers Jamie Vardy and Islam Slimani also looked impressive in group stages. Leicester are also fortunate to not have drawn a tougher opponent in the Round of 16.

The Bad:

Quick, decisive counter attacking is the trademark style which the Foxes used to stun the world in 2016. However, in European competitions against top opponents, it can be difficult to win using such tactics. Sevilla is a very possession oriented side which will undoubtedly control the matches against Leicester. Can the Foxes find a way to strike swiftly when given a chance? It won’t be easy at this stage in the tournament.

 

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One Signing Each Premier League Contender Should Make in January

 

We are just past the halfway point in this Premier League season. As it stands, six teams are within ten points of the top. January is the final chance for these sides to polish their team as the final dash for the title is in sight.

Chelsea: Tiemoue Bakayoko, Monaco

Monaco’s Tiemoue Bakayoko could help stabilize Chelsea’s midfield.

The Blues have been tearing through the league this season. New manager Antonio Conte has instilled his 3-4-3 formation into the side and Chelsea has rocketed to the top of the league. The brilliant play of summer signing N’Golo Kante has been a large reason behind Chelsea’s turnaround season. The ability to win the ball in the midfield has allowed the Blues to feed their very talented attacking players. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa have each enjoyed bounce-back seasons.

If a side is going to run the 3-4-3 effectively, they need excellent defensive midfield play to make up for the one less defender at the back. While Kante and Nemanja Matic have done well thus far, Chelsea is still thin at the position. Bakayoko is just 22 years old and is enjoying a breakout season for Monaco. His dribbling ability through the middle would allow Hazard and Willian to play more wide. From there they can whip in crosses to Costa, one of the best in the air in all of England. Bakayoko’s youth is enticing as Matic is 28 and has been inconsistent at times this season. Although his playing time could be limited initially, Bakayoko will undoubtedly be a big part of the future at Stamford Bridge if Conte is able to acquire his services.

Liverpool: Quincy Promes, Spartak Moscow

Liverpool target Quincy Promes has helped Spartak Moscow to the top of the Russian Premier League

In Jurgen Klopp’s second season at Anfield, Liverpool have arisen as serious title contenders at this point in the season. Their plethora of attacking players, including Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho, and Roberto Firmino have been very efficient in the attacking third.

However, Klopp will be without Mane for a large part of the next month. The Senegal international will be participating in the Africa Cup of Nations. The tournament comes at a critical time in Liverpool’s season with matches against Manchester United and Chelsea on there horizon. Promes has had a great season at Spartak. He has netted six goals and also has six assists in the Russian Premier League as Spartak have surprised by leading at this point in the season. It may be tough to coax Promes from Spartak, but Klopp should try. Promes will give Liverpool some width while Mane is away. He can play opposite Mane, which will benefit the Reds when Mane returns from international duty.

Tottenham: Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace

Wilfried Zaha would bring creativity on the wing to White Hart Lane

Once again, Mauricio Pochettino has put Spurs squarely in the title conversation. Tottenham sit third in the table at the turn of the calendar year. Young players have stepped up this season, including 20-year-old midfielder Dele Alli. Spurs are fighting off Real Madrid for his services.

However, Spurs could use an outside threat to compliment their plethora of middle attacking players. Alli, Harry Kane, and Christian Eriksen have combined to score 25 goals in the league this season. All of those players are under the age of 25. 24-year-old Zaha could add to this “young core” that Pochettino has built at White Hart Lane. Zaha, who plays on the left wing at Crystal Palace, would compliment Kane, Eriksen, and Alli in the middle. Zaha is extremely skilled with the ball at his feet and has a tremendous ability to get crosses in from tough angles. Erik Lamela has been underwhelming again this season and Zaha could fill the void for Spurs.

Manchester City: Holger Badstuber, Bayern Munich

Holger Badstuber’s experience at the back could prove invaluable for Guardiola’s Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola’s highly anticipated first year at the Etihad has been up and down. A victory against Barcelona in the Champions League showed City’s potential under Pep. However, they have been very inconsistent at times domestically. Their inconsistency, especially at the back, is the primary reason why they find themselves seven points adrift at this juncture.

Man City payed quite a bit to sign promising young English center back John Stones from Everton over the summer. Stones, while very talented and promising, is still raw. There has been more than one occasion where he has looked lost this season. Captain Vincent Kompany’s injury woes have continued and it is difficult to rely on him for an extended period of time. Eliaquim Mangala consistently underperforms when given a chance in the starting XI. Badstuber is very experienced at just 27 years of age. He has 119 caps for Bayern and 31 for the German National Team. While a permanent deal is unlikely, Pep could explore a six-month loan deal for Badstuber. This would give City added security and depth at the center back for the remainder of the season while Stones continues to develop.

 

 

 

Arsenal: Ricardo Pereira, Porto (on loan at Nice)

Ricardo Pereira is a perfect solution to Arsenal’s right-back injury crisis.

Arsene Wenger is notorious for not making moves in the January transfer window, even when his team could really use them. Fifth place Arsenal have been by no means bad this season, but there is always room for improvement at the Emirates.

Promising young right back Hector Bellerin will be out for an extended period of time with an injury and his predecessor Mathieu Debuchy is rumored to be at odds with Wenger and on his way out of North London. This leaves the underwhelming Carl Jenkinson as the only right back on the Gunners’ roster. Ricardo, who is on loan at Ligue 1 leaders Nice from Porto has exploded this season. His 7.6 match rating on WhoScored.com has him placed in their Ligue XI team of the season. He provides sound defending and security at the back. Pereira is also a threat going forward, with a goal and three assists this season. He could be a perfect solution in the interim while Bellerin is injured. And his ability going forward could see him utilized as a wing-back or midfielder when the Spaniard returns.

Manchester United: Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid

Antoine Griezmann would be an expensive, but worthwhile signing for Manchester United.

After a disastrous start to the season, Jose Mourinho has begun to right the ship at Old Trafford. Despite being ten points back of Chelsea, things are looking up at Old Trafford. Manchester United have played well throughout the season, but have failed to convert the many chances they create. 31 goals in the League is significantly less than the other five “contenders”.

Griezmann is widely considered one of the best players in the world and would not come cheap. However is precision in the final third is exactly what United need. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a pure striker who doesn’t create, and while Paul Pogba is one of the most creative midfielders in the world, he is limited going forward to do the teams reliance on him from a defensive standpoint. Griezmann would fit right into Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1 as an attacking midfielder. He played this role brilliantly for France in this summer’s European Championships where he scored a tournament-high six goals. It also doesn’t hurt that Griezmann is close friends with fellow Frenchman Pogba. The two could do lots of damage if they play together under Mourinho.

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Mourinho has United Rolling, and the Rest of the Prem Should Take Notice

Paul Pogba’s 86th minute header gave Man United a vital three points on New Years Day against a scrappy Middlesborough side.

Bumpy Beginnings

Manchester United entered the year full of optimism following a Summer Transfer Window which saw them bolster their squad. Marquee signings include star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, crafty midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and promising defender Eric Bailly. United also signed young superstar midfielder Paul Pogba for a whopping world record €105 million.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s thirteen league goals have been a major factor in United’s recent success. (Courtesy of, i.dailymail.co.uk)

In addition to on the field signings, the Red Devils were also able to lock down the services of former Chelsea, Inter, and Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho. Mourinho has won the Premier League, Serie A, and La Liga a combined six times. He also won the 09-10 Champions League with Inter.

For a club who have struggled mightily in recent years in comparison for the lofty standard set under the reign of the great Sir Alex Ferguson, Mourinho offered a ream of hope that Champions League football, and even possibly a Premier League title challenge were on the horizon.

Autumn was not kind to United, as the club dropped points against lowly opponents such as Burnley, Watford, and Stoke City on their way to dropping as low as eighth after ten match days. The side looked out of sync, Pogba was trying to do too much on his own and prove he was worth his massive transfer fee, and Mkhitaryan was not even making Mourinho’s Starting XI on most match days.

Jose Mourinho signed a three-year contract with the club in May 2016.

Hitting Their Stride

United has gained traction in recent weeks, now winners of six consecutive league matches dating back over a month. Mourinho’s famed 4-2-3-1 formation is clicking as Mkhitaryan and Pogba have been brilliant over the last month.

Pogba’s 8.3 average match rating on WhoScored.com was the highest in the Premier League for the month of December. Ibrahimovic’s 13 goals is only one off the pace set by Chelsea’s Diego Costa.

It took time, but Mourinho has begun to instill a winning culture in the dressing room at Old Trafford. Pogba won four consecutive league titles in Italy before returning to United. Ibrahimovic has won a title everywhere he has been. United are finding ways to win games that they were not winning earlier in the year or last year under Louis Van Gaal.

Take the New Years’ Eve match against Middlesborough for example. United dominated possession and momentum throughout the match and even had a questionable disallowed goal in the first half. This was before conceding to Middlesborough midway through the second half. But Mourinho’s men showed their grit. Anthony Martial equalized with five minutes to go off a great pass from Ibrahimovic. And a minute later, Pogba secured the three points for the Red Devils with an emphatic header into the back of the Middlesborough net.

They are still ten points behind league leaders Chelsea. But sixth-place United are hitting their stride at the right time. If they continue their current form, United are very much a threat for a top four finish, and possibly to challenge for the title if Chelsea continues to slip. A January 15 showdown with rivals Liverpool will give Mourinho and Co. a chance to really make some noise.

Changing U.S. Soccer Landscape

 

The U.S. soccer landscape is changing on an eventful day. First, the MLS commissioner, Don Garber, arrived in Cincinnati to view the FC Cincinnati soccer facilities, a USL franchise, potentially for future inclusion in the U.S top tier. Second, the New York Cosmos, a second tier NASL franchise, are reportedly on their last leg and in serious danger of folding operations. Third, rumors are the NASL could fold entirely and their remaining teams may join the USL.

With Garber in Cincinnati many have put FC Cincinnati in the running to receive a MLS franchise. The second round of additions are scheduled after 2018, possibly 2020, when the league will expand to 23 teams, or maybe 24 if the Miami affiliate headed by David Beckham pull the proper resources together. If measures fall through in Miami, Cincinnati could be the next team included due to their excellent attendance and terrific fan support. It’s only necessary to see how many people showed up for Garber’s arrival at a local airfield to understand the support in Cincinnati.



The New York Cosmos had been rumored to be in trouble for a while. Reports coming out today have verified those rumors. Once the flagship franchise of the original NASL, which folded in 1984 returned under the same name in 2010, taking the field in 2013. They were successful on the field with three NASL Championship trophies, but a different story off the field with lagging attendance and no progress securing their own stadium.

Sad news surrounding the Cosmos was met with more bad news from the league. Reports from the league meetings suggest a possible NASL and USL merger. This is good for a league currently with ten teams scheduled to play next season, but bad for two of those teams in financial trouble, which could leave the league with eight.

If the merger goes through with all of the teams remaining there will be 39 teams in the new league. This is too many teams for one tier, but it can work in the short term. Long term, splitting into two tiers will be huge for the promotion relegation fight in the U.S. This long-term model would not be sustainable without the support of a television contract and the leadership of U.S. Soccer, including President Sunil Gulati.

A television contract will be the most important asset owned by MLS. This will be the surest way to expand the sport in the U.S. and pay the designated player salaries that drive attendance. For any USL/NASL potential merger to succeed there has to be either a partnership with the MLS or their own television contract to survive.

A Happy Game Haus Thankgiving

We decided a couple of weeks ago that we wanted to do a Thanksgiving piece and give our readers a chance to get to know us a little better! Below are some of the staff members of TGH telling you all what they are thankful for this holiday season. From Our Haus to Yours, have a very happy Game Haus Thanksgiving!

Jared MacAdam- Head of Esports: Well, I’ll go first, being the only Canadian and my Thanksgiving has passed quite some time ago. I’m thankful for the way this site has grown since its inception, how many great writers we’ve had and all the awesome content we’ve produced. I’m also immensely thankful for the way esports has matured in the past year; we’re seeing leaps and strides in key areas like players well being and stability. It’s an exciting thing to experience and to have a little part in. I’m also thankful for all the weirdos in the Front Office who lovingly mock my Canadianisms.

Josh Burris – Editor: I am thankful for sports. I am a proud Cleveland fan and with the exception of the Browns, good things are happening with our teams. I’m thankful I got to see a Cleveland team win a title. I am also thankful for my family and friendships I have at home, school, and from this site.

Ryan Moran – CFO: I am thankful for family, friends, and football. I am also thankful to be working for TGH and to belong to such an exciting community of sports and esports. I am also thankful of the unifying power of sports and their ability to bring anybody together win or lose.

Tim Miller – Vice President: Of course, when talking about being thankful, I have to be thankful for the opportunity to help lead The Game Haus. I’m also thankful to root for the mighty Ohio State Buckeye football team, and that Marvin Lewis should get fired after this year. I’m also thankful for a loving family and loving girlfriend. Finally, I’m thankful to live in a great country with freedoms like no other (no matter how you feel currently), and to go to a solid, christian university in Cedarville University.

Robert Hanes- President: While these last 365 days have been some of the most challenging times in my life, I can say that I have so many things to be grateful for. To start, everyone here at The Game Haus. These people are incredible, as you can read in their paragraphs of what they are thankful for. They have all gone through many things and have worked their butts off while working here. So thank you to all of the Front Office Members, Writers, Podcasters, and League Team Members! I am also very thankful for my friends. They have helped me through some tough times throughout the last year and I do not know where I would be without them. The same can be said for my Father, Mother and Sister. They have been my rocks as I have struggled many times this year. Lastly I am thankful to God and his son, while it sounds cheesy I know they have been with me every step of the way. From Our Haus to Yours, thank you and have a wonderful holiday season!

Terrance Singleton- Social Media Director: I am thankful for the life God has given me. Every time the holiday season comes around I think about how easily I couldn’t be here. My grandfather died on November 19, 2010 right before Thanksgiving. And I was in a pretty bad car accident on December 27, 2012 that broke my neck and cut my scalp open. So every time the holiday season rolls around I always think about how precious life, family, friends, and faith are important in my life and everyone’s life. So on this Thanksgiving when you are watching NFL football games and eating food until you can’t move, tell your loved ones how much you love them because tomorrow is not promised.

Dylan Streibig- NFL Writer: Whether we realize it or not, we all have a lot to be thankful for.  I am no exception this Thanksgiving or any other year. I am thankful to have a roof over my head and a family that loves me. I am grateful for the fantastic sporting events that go on all around the world. They provide me a momentary escape from my life with a physical disability. I am also thankful for my dog and the fact that I am now a published sports writer thanks to The Game Haus. Most of all, I am thankful for the loyalty of my close friends who do not give up on me, even when I give up on myself.

Matthew Hagan- Columnist: I’m thankful for the opportunity The Game Haus has presented me with. Writing about my favorite sport, football, and offering me a column has been one of the best things in my life. I am thankful to have parents, family and friends support while trying to get a degree in college. My mom has been the biggest reason I have made it this far and I am so thankful that I get to fly back to Vegas to spend Thanksgiving with her. I am also thankful I got to see the Cubs win a World Series and attend the victory parade in Chicago. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life. I am thankful for all the opportunities I have had in this amazing country. I am proud to be an American and this Thanksgiving is going to be one of the best ever. Thank you to everyone who reads my articles, weather you agree or disagree with them. I want to wish anyone who reads this, and anyone who may not, a safe, fun and amazing Thanksgiving.

Alex Keller- Recruitment and Retention: What am I thankful for? Where can I even begin… I guess it would have to be with my family and friends. I wouldn’t be in the position I am today if not for their love and support. But it’s so much more than that… the opportunity to even attend an institution like Georgia Tech, let alone graduate from it is an experience I’m incredibly thankful for. And of course, I have to thank everyone who’s been a part of making my experience with TGH so awesome. So, from our haus to yours, have a Happy Game Haus Thanksgiving everybody.

Klinsmann Couldn’t Live Up To His Own Standards

Jurgen Klinsmann was fired yesterday as the U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach and Technical Director. It came off the back of two tough losses to Mexico and Costa Rica in the first two games of the final stage, Hexagonal, of 2018 World Cup qualifying.

This firing is not a surprise for anyone who treats Klinsmann by the standard that he wished to be treated by when he took the job. He had a penchant for playing players out of position. Klinsmann also changed up the formation going into the Mexico game that failed to break through and score more than a goal, while leaving the back three vulnerable.

Probably the worst thing he did is undermining the MLS. Repeatedly saying that players needed to go to Europe and stay out of the MLS for consideration in his teams. But, his most recent team for the two World Cup qualifiers had eight MLS players and then seven after Tim Howard was injured against Mexico. Five MLS players started against Mexico and four started and two came on as subs against Costa Rica. Clint Dempsey, of MLS’ Seattle Sounders, would have also started if he weren’t injured.

Klinsmann was the Head Coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team for just over five years and had immediate success. He won the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2013. Then he guided the men out of the toughest group in the 2014 World Cup in a feat that was heralded as a giant success, but then fell in the second round of the knockout stage to Belgium.

The roster he took to Brazil was missing Landon Donovan, who is considered by many the best player to ever pull on a U.S. jersey, and the leading goal scorer. In this move, Klinsmann alienated many fans that thought that Donovan should be there no matter what, due to his experience and leadership. In his place he selected a 19 year-old Julian Green who was considered a future star for the US and his club team Bayern Munich, the top team in Germany’s Bundesliga for the last four years.

Then things started to go downhill in the 2015 Gold Cup, where Jamaica beat the U.S. in the semifinal and lost to Panama on penalties to finish in fourth place. This was a colossal failure due to being the overwhelming favorites to make the final and a loss in a third place game that was shown on a channel that many cable packages don’t carry, making it hard for fans to watch.

Copa America Cenentario logo. Courtesy of sportsmaza.com

Copa America Cenentario logo. Courtesy of sportsmaza.com

From there the U.S. was included in the Copa America Centenario, which is a South American tournament that was played outside South America for the first time. The U.S. finished a respectable fourth place but a loss 4-0 to Argentina soured the party. Realistically the U.S. never stood a chance in that game and after going down early weren’t able to recover.

Then came World Cup qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. In the fourth round, the first the U.S. had to participate in, he won his group by two points and avoided not qualifying by four points, but Klinsmann still made some fans nervous. After this poor showing the team goes into the Hexagonal and loses his first two games. Worse than that, he responded to people calling for him to be fired saying, “[Critics] don’t understand soccer or the team.” Well, if he was his predecessor, Bob Bradley, he would have been fired in 2015 after the Gold Cup failure.

Klinsmann was fired due to his failings after the 2014 World Cup. Many traditional soccer powers would have fired him then. He was then unable to save his job this summer with the Copa America Centenairo, after being the highest finisher out of North America. His failings in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup is the reason he will be looking for work. Not having a great first round put on a little pressure and the first two Hexagonal losses were the final nail in the coffin.

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