New Blog: Spurs showed they were for real today

By, Kyle Gibson

The UEFA Champions League roared into 2018 the best way possible, with a sensational match in one of the game’s best cathedrals.

Many perhaps were not expecting much of Tottenham Hotspur in Tuesday’s first leg at Juventus Stadium. The Turin lights and a frenzied crowd seemed to rattle spurs early and sure enough, Gonzalo Higuian netted off set piece after just more than 90 seconds.

Not too long after, Spurs left back Ben Davies connected with Higuain in the box, setting up a penalty too hot for Hugo Lloris to handle. (I like Davies, but he played a part in both Juve goals today).

The crowd was going wild. Many teams would have folded and the game, and round, could have been over, with the Old Lady starting a complete rout. Prizefighter Higuain squared up to Spurs and delivered two knockout blows right on the chin.

But Spurs did not fall down. If we’re going to keep this boxing metaphor going, they collected themselves, went to the corner, and cut man/coach Maurico Pochettino told them just to hold steady and get back in the game.

Three players in particular then stepped up. First, the unstoppable Harry Kane connected on a Dele Alli pass and flew past legendary keeper Gigi Buffon to roll the Spurs lifeline home. It’s fitting that the day before Valentine’s Day, we got to see “When Harry Met Gigi.”

I want to see Kane stay at Spurs and break big Alan Shearer’s Premier League goal record, but he is world class and a much bigger stage is calling.

That stage also is calling for Christian Eriksen. The Dane is superb in every single game I watch him in and this game was no exception. He has gained the ability to take big games and control them. As soon as Erik Lamela earned a free kick in a dangerous spot, I said “Eriksen” out loud, probably confusing my dogs. Eriksen then delivered, with a little help from Buffon, who will want this one back. (The game would end at 2-2, which will give Spurs the advantage for the deciding match at Wembley.)

Speaking of control, Mousa Dembele was the third irresistible Tottenham player today. Anyone who follows my personal Twitter feed will no doubt be sick of my adoration for Dembele, who I think is one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. Today, he showed how versatile he truly is, keeping the team shape, knowing when to push the pace and when to slow it down and always picking the right pass.

As a colleague of mine once tasked me to watch, Dembele almost never loses the ball. He is not always in the Spurs first team, but I think he should be. He frees up Eriksen and Alli, while making the entire team look better around him.

This game was a warning to the rest of Europe. Tottenham Hotspur was on its last legs in the home of a European giant and on the verge of a first round knockout. Instead of faltering, this team clawed its way back and ended the night with two crucial away goals.

If Spurs advance, there is no reason for the squad to be afraid, no matter which giant they draw out of the hat next.

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Vermes? Donovan? Who should replace Bruce Arena as USMNT manager? Five early names

By, Kyle Gibson

I once said if U.S. Soccer ever built a national stadium like England’s famed Wembley, they should call it Bruce Arena.

Now, that name will probably never happen after Arena presided over the biggest failure in USMNT history and resigned Friday. 

Before anyone even finished reading Brucie’s words in his published statement, many were asking who his replacement would be (myself included).

Here are five potential managers the US should take a look at. Three coach in the U.S. One coaches in the Premier League, but is familiar with the USMNT and the other is a dark horse that might not ever happen, but we’re all just having fun, right?

Peter Vermes, Sporting Kansas City

Peter isn’t a sexy pick, but he is consistently one of the best coaches in MLS and has established a signature playing style in KC. Every time I hear him talk soccer, I am blown away by his knowledge.

Knocks against Vermes might be that he has only won one MLS Cup in his tenure. However, Vermes has lifted three US Open Cups with Sporting, which may help out his case, since World Cups are played in a tournament fashion. (Still yet, the US did just miss the World Cup by failing in a group-stage type of atmosphere. Just trying to be fair.)

Also, fans may not want another product of MLS after Arena, just like there was some sentiment against another fancy-pants foreigner when Jurgen Klinsmann left.

Tata Martino, Atlanta United

Martino was suggested on Twitter and makes sense. He has Atlanta playing electric soccer in its first season and has huge international experience as the former manager of Argentina and FC Barcelona.

Martino, Messi and Co. failed to win two straight Copa Americas in 2015 and 2016, however, after being rim-stuffed by God and Chile twice in a row. At Barcelona, Martino committed the cardinal sin of not winning a single trophy in his only season. Even though he failed to win the ultimate prize in these two jobs, I think he is still a very good manager.

Keep in mind, foreign managers typically descend into madness in MLS with its insane rules and long-haul flights. Martino has kept his head so far, which says a lot.

Caleb Porter, Portland Timbers

OK, I included Porter because I had seen his name thrown around. He certainly brings an attractive style to the table, but I do not think he should be the U.S. manager.

I think his Portland teams have underachieved besides his MLS Cup victory in 2015 and he was the manager for one of the US-U23 teams that missed the Olympics and cost the team development.

Porter is a good MLS coach. I just don’t think he deserves a chance with the national team yet.

David Wagner, Huddersfield Town

This one makes a little less sense, but for Wagner, not the U.S. The German, former U.S. player (eight appearances) finally has Huddersfield Town in the Premier League and the Terriors are hanging tough in 11th place with scrappy, no nonsense soccer and brief moments of real skill.

Why would Wagner leave the rarefied air of the Premier League to take charge of a side missing the World Cup? I just don’t think he does. Maybe in a few years, if the job looks a bit more interesting, he might consider.

Landon Donovan, Chilling/Broadcasting

This is that dark horse I was talking about earlier. Donovan is the greatest player in U.S. history and knows a lot about qualifying for World Cups. He scored 12 in qualifiers and another five at World Cups. As a kid, I remember watching Donovan and seeing how fearlessly he seemed to line up in those road qualifiers in terrible conditions.

Still, Donovan has no coaching experience. That alone should probably disqualify him. But, just hear me out, if Donovan was named manager soon and given friendlies and a solid, experienced staff, could he grow into the job in time to start the next qualifying campaign? I might have just talked myself into this one.

Who do you think the U.S. should hire? Keep tweeting me your names, or mention them in the comments.

NEW: Bruce Arena Resigns as U.S. Soccer Coach

Three days after leading the US Men’s National Team to its most horrific loss in modern history, Bruce Arena resigned as the team’s manager.

Arena’s resignation was announced by the US Soccer Twitter account, which had gone dark since the 2-1 (Christian Pulisic was the goal scorer) road defeat to Trinidad and Tobago that saw the team fail to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Arena, who previously guided the squad to its most impressive World Cup outing in modern history (quarterfinals in 2002) and notoriously flamed out in the 2006 group stages, took over the team in November from Jurgen Klinsmann.

Fans, ex-players and media figures have also called for the resignation of US Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati. As of Friday morning, there was no word on Gulati’s future.

New Post: Watch Bastian Schweinsteiger score on his MLS debut

By, Kyle Gibson

The Montreal Impact must not have read the scouting report on that new Chicago Fire player.

German legend and Manchester United cast-off Bastian Schweinsteiger needed just 16 minutes to open his MLS account, scoring a header on his home and league debut.

Schweinsteiger almost added a second goal late as well, but the Fire went on to win the match 2-1 anyway.

The silent treatment and shunning Jose Mourinho gave Schweinsteiger at Old Trafford this season was confusing, especially because the midfielder looked good in the handful of appearances he made. He never outwardly lost his class though, posting a heartfelt goodbye video.

Schweinsteiger was one of the best of his generation and in German history. Hopefully this is the start of a fun and successful second chance at a swan song in the Second City.

New Post: Watch the goals from the #USMNT win against Honduras

  By, Kyle Gibson

The United States Men’s National Team steamrolled Honduras 6-0 Friday in San Jose to climb up to fourth in the FIFA World Cup Qualifying Hexagonal.

For most of the bountiful U.S. goals, quality matched the quantity. As Stefon might say, this game had it all: free kicks, perfectly weighted passes, first goals, Tim Ream, etc.

The Bay area’s own Sebastian Lletget scored the first goal on the night, and first of his U.S. career, after a Christian Pulisic shot was saved into his path.

Captain Michael Bradley then capitalized on the space Honduras gave him at the top of the box with a very good goal.

The effectiveness of U.S. legend Clint Dempsey was up in the air before Friday’s match, due to his long layoff stemming from heart issues. Deuce showed he could still ball, though, grabbing the third goal off a great Pulisic pass.

Pulisic turned from provider to scorer in the second half, needing just about 15 seconds at the start of the half to make the lead 4-0. This 18-year-old is special, but you knew that.

 

Dempsey added a fifth goal a few minutes later.

The man of the hour then sealed the deal with a free kick, completing his hat trick and rounding out the score at 6-0.

I’d say that’s a job well done for Bruce Arena and Co.

New Post: Watch Liverpool youth player Curtis Jones’ sensational footwork, goal

Liverpool F.C.has several players  who can run at opponents and beat them 1v1 on the dribble and it looks like at least one player in the team’s youth ranks can as well.

Reds u-18 midfielder  Curtis Jones scored a goal Saturday against Blackburn Rovers that would make senior team stars Phillipe Coutinho, Roberto Fermino, Adam Lallana, Georginio Wijnaldum, Divock Origi and more proud.

Seeing a goal like this from a young player is encouraging, because academy players seem to normally play a conservative style of soccer. Jones not only bamboozles his marker on the run, but links up well with a teammate on the wing before getting the ball back to score the goal.

Jones had plenty of work to do after getting the pass back, as well. His quick footwork and presence of mind under pressure was fantastic. The finish wasn’t easy either, but he still managed to tuck it away.

Jones also scored a headed goal in the 3-0 playoff win. If he keeps this up, I would love to see Jones in the full Liverpool team in a few years.

Follow Kicking It Soccer on Twitter. 

 

New Post: This American youngster is turning heads

Kellyn Acosta is on fire for F.C. Dallas, and that Dallas burn is being noticed by U.S. Men’s National Team coach Bruce Arena.

The 21-year-old midfielder/defender has four goals in all competitions so far in this early season, including three in CONCACAF Champions League play.

Acosta has scored some quality goals as well. Take a look at this free kick from Wednesday’s 2-1 win against Pachuca.

Acosta also scored a very good goal in the opening week of Major League Soccer action against the LA Galaxy.

Hell, Acosta even has the approval of current U.S. Golden Boy Christian Pulisic.

Acosta has been selected for the upcoming World Cup Qualifier games against Honduras and Panama. Scoring threats from free kicks have long been lacking in the U.S. squad. Acosta’s brilliant goal against Pachuca is promising. His feisty play is an encouraging sign as well.

Hopefully the youngster will be rewarded for his good stretch of form and get a serious look from Arena in coming U.S. matches. A tweet from U.S. Soccer said the manager and his staff are keen on several of the younger players.

Players have to earn Bruce’s trust over time, though, so Acosta’s good play will definitely have to be sharp while he’s with the USMNT as well.
In crucial World Cup Qualifiers, Acosta might not get a nod from Arena, but turning the manager’s head in training and continuing to shine at Dallas could set him up for more opportunities with the national team down the road.