Brian McBride. Kristine Lilly. Bob Bradley. We all know these names. These names are special – really special. These three soccer-stars are this year’s National Soccer Hall of Fame Class of 2014.
Brian McBride was the face of US Soccer during the late 90s and early 2000s. As one of the most notorious players to ever grace the USMNT, he is 100% deserving of his Hall of Fame induction. Having scored 30 goals for the USA – third highest all-time – McBride set high standards for American Soccer as we know it today. As a mentor and a leader, McBride’s positive energy on and off the field filtered throughout an entire program.
McBride earned 96 caps as a member of the USMNT. He was the first American player to score at two World Cups, and he has the third most World Cup goals for the USA, with three. McBride also led the program through the 2008 Olympics, serving as Captain – even though he retired two years prior.
It’s that kind of spirit that qualifies McBride for the 2014 Hall of Fame.
The 1999 Women’s World Cup Team paved the way for many young girls playing soccer. It wasn’t until 1999 that the USWNT became a common subject, and players, including Kristine Lilly, became household names.
Among Lilly’s many accomplishments, she has scored 130 goals – third highest of all-time for the women, just behind Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach, she was the first woman to compete in five World Cups, she’s a two-time world champion, competed in three Olympics, and has the title for most capped player in the history of the sport. That’s right, with 352 caps, no man or woman has more than Kristine Lilly.
After retiring in 2008, Lilly has stayed very relevant in the soccer community, helping to operate camps with Mia Hamm and Tisha Venturini and serving as the assistant coach for the Boston Breakers since 2012.
Lilly’s success and leadership has not only served to inspire young women like Alex Morgan and progress even her younger peers like Abby Wambach, but it has also earned her a much-deserved spot in the Hall of Fame.
We all know Bob Bradley. After the disappointing 2006 World Cup finish, Bob Bradley took the USMNT to a second place finish in the 2009 Confederations Cup. Shortly thereafter, Bradley took his team to the 2010 World Cup.
The USA team faced a strong group in 2010, with matches against Algeria, England, and Slovenia. Though all games were hard fought, the United States topped the group, going 1-0-2 during the group stage. Unfortunately, the USMNT lost to Ghana in a 2-1 heartbreaking defeat in the second round.
After the World Cup, Bradley led the USMNT to the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Finishing second to Mexico, the team did very well only losing to Panama along the way.
After the Gold Cup, Bradley went on to manage Egypt’s National team. Now he’s coaching Stabæk Fotboll in Norway. He is the first American Manager to coach in a Premier European Division.
Though his reign with the USMNT was but a chapter in his 33-year-long and prosperous coaching career, the infamous coach is the epitome of the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
With all of our favorite European seasons starting to enter into the home stretch, it also means that the Champions League is starting to get back on track. One of the most intriguing aspects of this Champions League competition will inevitably be that fact that several teams will have the entire season outlook riding on their CL performance. Teams like Manchester United and AC Milan that are struggling mightily within their own league, yet CL glory could erase any woes (i.e. Chelsea last season). Then, there are teams that will be hoping that their Champions League journey will be coupled with domestic success so that the team can enter the off-season with the ability to draw the best players in the world. How did teams fair? Let’s take a gander…
The easiest story of these fixtures to convey will be how Paris Saint-Germain completely dismantled Bayer Leverkusen. As a team that is built to bring home French league titles with little difficulty, the Parisian giants will have moved their gaze to Europe’s biggest prize some time ago. Although the emergence of AS Monaco in France makes life slightly more difficult for Zlatan and co., it will definitely be a hollow success if they are unable to couple Ligue 1 with the Champions League title.
They certainly have one of the most potent attacks in world football, and you can never feel safe when Ibra gets in the mood for scoring. While they may still be a year or two removed from their best chance at the European crown, PSG could definitely still be one of the teams in the mix when we get down to the last four squads. This 4-0 destruction in Europe’s elite competition will certainly sound the warning bell for the rest of the teams…and PSG will hope to continue this type of run. As we approach the summer transfer window, we are already hearing rumors about the long list of stars that will be tempted by a big contract and a trip to Paris. There can be no doubt that PSG will grow stronger as every transfer window passes until they obtain their ultimate prize.
The other game on 2/18 was Barcelona attempting to prevent Manchester City from creating some European history to match with their recent growth in English stature. For 53 minutes, Manchester City proved that they are reaching the level necessary to match up with the best teams in Europe. A season ago, the Citizens seemed unprepared for the level of play that met them in the Champions League as they went out of the competition with almost a whimper. However, this game seemed to be the perfect opportunity for City to finally announce themselves. Then, with Messi attempting to break through on goal, City defender Martin Demichelis brought down the amazing Argentine.
A red card, an extremely questionable penalty (a free-kick seemed more appropriate), and the following Messi goal made them (unsurprisingly) start faltering. It is difficult enough to chase Barcelona with 11 men, but chasing their passing style with 10 men is nigh on impossible. It is easy to see how Barca were able to double their tally in the 90th minute and Manchester City will have a huge mountain to climb when they visit Camp Nou. If Barcelona march on, City will definitely feel that they had their Champions League campaign cut off prematurely. Having been one of the few teams to be on the winning side against Bayern Munich for the past few seasons, the momentum certainly seemed to be riding with the Citizens. However, Barcelona (especially in light of recent struggles) will definitely have a hard time convincing anyone that they are a potential CL favorite…it truly seems like their invincible mystique from a few short years ago has genuinely worn off.
The Champions League is almost like Christmas every single time that it comes back around. For me, the product on the field would have to be amazing in order for me to put up with so many Heineken commercials. From this set of games, Barcelona escaped, Leverkusen already look beaten, PSG are growing into the behemoth we have always been terrified of, and City will feel hard done by their result. Even though the World Cup is looming, the Champions League still rules the roost. Plus…I never grow tired of that anthem…goosebumps every single time…A CHAMPIOOOOOOON!
Considering that AC Milan are staring down the barrel of a Serie A finish that provides them with absolutely zero European football next season, there is serious importance riding on how they progress in the competition this year. As the game against Atletico Madrid got started, it was obvious that the Milan players were also aware of the club’s need to make an impressive European run. Milan were definitely the superior side for the opening half, but their inability to finish their chances could be their fatal undoing in the CL. Even after the half, despite looking a little more energetic, Atletico still seemed to be the second best side on the pitch. However, Atletico have the insanely in-form Diego Costa…and an 83rd minute header means that Atletico will be returning home with an away goal in hand.
Although Milan do still (and will always) command significant respect, will any marquee player truly want to join Milan over some of the other options that will certainly be available if Milan crash out of the CL and fail miserably in Serie A. It was already surprising that Keisuke Honda chose his big club destination by joining, what seemed to be, a sinking ship…but, AC Milan do not seem to have the same situation ahead of them as when Liverpool started to experience the same situation. Milan do not seem to be having a large influx of money coming in at any point to help them try and rejoin Europe’s elite and they also seem to have an amazing inability to choose a competent manager…failing at this point could have repercussions that are felt in Milan for years to come.
Over in London, Arsenal had to face last year’s champion and the club that is easily the early favorite to be celebrating once the last Champions League fixture has been played. The biggest news before the first whistle was Arsene Wenger sticking with his impressive attackers from their recent victory over Liverpool and keeping Olivier Giroud on the bench. But, with the pace of the Arsenal front-line seeming to actually unnerve the German giants in the opening minutes, it seemed that Arsenal might complete the bounce back from their Liverpool thrashing with a great showing against the biggest scalp (currently) in Europe. It seemed destined to be Arsenal’s night as Ozil stepped up to take a penalty after only 8 minutes of play…but the German’s spot-kick was too tame for a keeper of Neuer’s talent and it seemed to deflate the English team.
In the 37th minute, another English squad in the Champions League would suffer a red card and the deflation that is associated with losing a player. Arsenal’s keeper Wojciech Szczesny brought down Arjen Robben in the box and, despite some impressive antics from Arsene Wenger and a bit of embellishment from the Dutch winger, the red card to Arsenal’s keeper would begin the downward spiral for the Gunners. Amazing work from Philipp Lahm and a great game from Toni Kroos would be tough to handle with a full complement of players, and Arsenal were helpless to watch as the might of Bayern started to crash down upon them. Considering the might of Munich, Arsenal will believe that a 2-0 scoreline will have been the best result that they could have hoped for after Szczesny went off and, despite the impressive nature of Munich this season, there is still hope remaining in London.
Two teams from England played in their Champions League fixtures this week…and two English teams received red cards. Two teams from Spain played in the Champions League fixtures this week…and two Spanish teams walked away victorious. Although, as soon as you start to think that the Champions League is the least bit predictable…it will knock you for a loop. That is the beauty of the Champions League and the reason why we will all be tuning in every time that anthem plays and every time the fixtures kick-off. (cue Champions League anthem)
It’s going to be an interesting next few months for United States strikers. With only 4-5 open spots on the roster for forwards, no one envies the decisions that Jurgen Klinsmann has to make. We’ve got three vets that will be top prospects for Klinsmann this year: Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson, and Jozy Altidore. That leaves two potential spots… and no guarantee on who’s starting… for Team USA.
While Gomez also has years of experience under his belt, the 31 year-old forward was limited by a knee injury this summer. He’s entering 2014 healthy and ready to go, though it seems he’s had a rocky start upon return. With younger, healthier guys coming up as the future of the USMNT, one can’t help but wonder if Gomez is the right choice for the squad.
The 22 year old Icelandic-American is a goal-scoring machine. In the 2013/2014 season thus far, Johannsson has already scored 20 goals for AZ Alkmaar. With a recent minor injury setback, we are interested to see if Johannsson can keep up the scoring power he’s been packing. If not, it could cost him a potential spot on the USMNT roster when they head to Brazil.
Boyd has really come into his own, particularly in club play over the last two seasons, scoring over 40 goals (combined) thus far. Unfortunately, he hasn’t seen much international play with the US squad. What’s great about Boyd is that he knows how to finish it himself, but he knows when to set it up for someone else. He’s a tremendous hold-up player, and an equally solid distributor. Could he be the one to get the job done this summer?
While Wondolowski didn’t start the year off as a favorite for Brazil, he’s quickly letting his goal-scoring do the talking. He’s no rookie to the game, but he’s as committed as he’s ever been. He is a hard-worker and he gets the job done. It’s easy to see that Wondo is hungry for a visit to Brazil, and he’s not giving up his spot until that roster is finalized.
While you may think this kid doesn’t have the experience it takes to step up to the Tournament just yet, you may want to reconsider. His recent stints in league play prove that he’s not only ready, but he’s also hungry for the World Cup. While it doesn’t seem likely that he’s going to be Klinsmann’s first pick, if injuries continue to plague US strikers at their current rate, he wouldn’t be a bad Plan B.
Injuries have been huge this season. With Dempsey, Altidore, Gomez, and Johannsson suffering injuries, we can’t help but wonder if that will affect their play come June.
Dempsey. Altidore. Johnson. These guys are strikers. They’re the playmakers. But are they making plays? With the Sounders, Dempsey hasn’t marked near the goals he did with Fulham. Altidore is tough to gauge. Sometimes he’s hot, finishing everything that comes his way. Other times, he’ll go games without one mark. Can Johnson – though proving himself to be a solid choice for Brazil– continue his streak? Who’s going to get the starting position?
This is Klinsmann’s first World Cup with the United States. He knows that the country is looking to him to get this team out of the “Group of Death” and into the second stage. That puts all the more pressure on his decision and why he is going to pick who he’s going to pick.
We’ll pick five. We’re calling Dempsey, Johnson, Altidore, Johannsson, and Wondolowski. How about you?
Pepsi has unveiled details of their superstar 2014 football squad, bringing together an unprecedented wealth of international talent to create one of the most jam packed, multi-talented and iconic lineups ever. 19 of the world’s greatest players, spanning five continents and nearly 20 countries, are uniting with Pepsi to inspire fans the world over to “Live For Now” in 2014.
Record breaking football superstar Leo Messi, Argentinian international striker Sergio Agüero and young British talent Jack Wilshere will be joined by Brazilian defender David Luiz, prolific goal scorer Robin van Persie and Spanish great Sergio Ramos as part of the global Pepsi lineup. These super six will be bolstered by additional footballing greats from across the globe representing their home countries, including: Juan Guillermo Cuadrado (Colombia), Clint Dempsey (USA), Tarik Elyounoussi (Norway), Maynor Figueroa (Honduras), Mario Gomez (Germany), Vincent Kompany (Belgium), Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica), Victor Moses (Nigeria), Peter Osaze Odemwingie (Nigeria), Oribe Peralta (Mexico), Andriy Pyatov (Ukraine), Mohamed Salah (Egypt) and Gylfi Por Sigurðsson (Iceland).
“Football has been my passion since I was a little boy and it’s certainly one of the things I live for now. I am so proud to be partnering with Pepsi again and representing the brand globally as part of this star-studded team,” says four-time player of the year and Argentinian captain Leo Messi.
When the team was announced, the Pepsi players took to social media to unveil the entire roster in an exciting digital relay that reached fans across the globe.
David Luiz, Premier League player for Chelsea and vice-captain for Brazil’s national team, comments:
“I’m excited to be teaming up with Pepsi and proud to be part of such a great team. For me, playing football is about making the most of every second on the pitch and showing your love and character for the game – and for the fans. I can’t wait to join fans from across the world and celebrate football.”
The global player announcement also kicked off a series of exciting year-long activities as part of the 2014 Pepsi Football campaign. Not only will the players star in Pepsi’s global television commercial released later in the year, a selection of the players will also be featured on limited edition, eye-catching packaging and point of sale across the globe, designed to bring to life their flair and enthusiasm for the game. Special commemorative packaging featuring the global Pepsi players will start appearing in market in March, while integrations with music, art, digital, interactive experiences and additional special products will be unveiled throughout the year. Throughout the years, football has been a strong driver of growth for PepsiCo, with both its global beverages and snacks brands activating robust programs in 2014.
Kristin Patrick, Pepsi Global Chief Marketing Officer, PepsiCo Global Beverages Group comments:
“Pepsi has had a tremendous relationship with football, going back nearly 15 years. For this, our latest incarnation, we’ve brought together our most impressive Pepsi football roster yet, comprised of players who truly embody our brand spirit and excite and electrify us every time they step on the pitch. Our players know how to live for the moment, and throughout the year we’ll be collaborating with them to bring our fans exciting and engaging content, products and experiences – bringing fans closer to the game they love.”
It is very exciting for us here at the Center Circle to see an American be included in this campaign and we look forward to seeing what Pepsi has in store for this impressive campaign.
With the winter transfer window upon us and a massive amount of teams looking for a viable option to lead their attack, many teams will be turning their attention to Atletico Madrid and Diego Costa. A red-hot striker this season, Costa has paired himself with the best defense in La Liga to move Atletico to the second spot in the league and also propelled himself to the top of Spain’s striker depth chart (despite being Brazilian…you work it out). Will Costa leave Atletico or will he be the first big-name striker to stick with the Madrid-based club instead of allowing La Liga to return to the two-horse race that we were all used to.
For anyone shopping for Costa, there are some definite thoughts that every club should keep in mind before splashing the cash. First, this is only the second season that Costa has scored in double digits. He is also relatively unproven in European competition and most clubs that would want Costa will want him to play in the Champions League. Although someone will definitely make a rushed purchase in order to beat some of the bigger clubs to him, Costa is the type of player that should have at least one more season in top form before he warrants a big money transfer.
On the flip-side, Costa has some serious upside. He is only 25 years old and could still improve greatly despite averaging a goal per game this campaign. Another big factor is that Costa has constantly been floating around between teams on loans and he could benefit greatly from a club giving him some sense of stability. Add in that he will probably start getting international experience with Spain and Costa can only grow as a player.
One big aspect of this story would be if Madrid decided to keep Costa. In all of La Liga, any team that has a decent player seems to quickly lose that player to either Barcelona/Madrid or another larger club outside of their country. However, with Atletico sitting so high up in the table with a genuine chance to snag the league this season, it could be a huge first step in establishing themselves as a top Spanish dog for years to come. Although the defense could still return next season and be dominant, the best clubs in La Liga are the ones that can score at will. Personally, it would be great to see La Liga expand the title chase and put more pressure on Barcelona and Real within their own league.
Given how quickly teams are willing to write a check for a new player, it seems highly likely that Costa will either join a new team this month or during the summer. However, the story of this player has only truly begun. At 25, Costa has the capability to become one of the world’s greats and he also has the possibility to become one of the world’s biggest flops. Will Costa be heading for “greener” pastures or will he decide to avoid the career path of Fernando Torres and Falcao?
Any follower of the MLS post-season will be well aware of how Clint Dempsey and the Sounders made their exit at the hands of their most hated rival and really looked like they had been run off the pitch by a team without a true high-dollar star. Considering how much work the Sounders obviously need in the off-season in order to justify the money placed in their squad and in order to reward one of the greatest fan bases in the world, it is surprising that Dempsey would choose to head back across the pond…the biggest question now becomes: will this work?
For Fulham, the Cottagers need some serious help. Their defense is positively porous and their attack sputters if Berbatov is unable to find the back of the net. Martin Jol, the manager the last time Deuce found himself in Fulham, has already been sent packing and Dempsey will have to try and become a big part of Rene Muelensteen’s plans. If Dempsey is able to swing back to the stage where he became a household name and save Fulham from relegation, he might get a boost similar to what we would see when Landon Donovan returned from his time with Everton. Considering they are currently heading for relegation, Fulham has nothing to lose and everything to gain in this move.
For Dempsey, it is a chance to return to form. His time in MLS definitely started with more of a whimper than a roar and the Sounders would love for their big money asset to return to his defense-terrorizing ways. This move allows Dempsey to jump back into one of the most intense leagues in the world and face competition that will push his game to a completely different level. In reality, this move should please USMNT fans more than any other. The last thing the U.S. needs heading into their difficult group would be a sub-par Deuce. If Dempsey jets off to Brazil after a big impact at Fulham that carries over into the early MLS season, he will be a force at the World Cup. Considering the man is making BANK in Seattle, this move is a no-brainer for Dempsey.
The only downside for any of the parties involved with this loan would be if Dempsey flops. Considering the talent he has and how badly I (and any other USMNT supporter) want him to succeed, that seems unlikely. However, this is football..and anything (absolutely anything) can happen. Will Dempsey return to Fulham as a savior or will he leave England with his ex-club going down in flames? LET’S WATCH!
Considering how big a fan the entire footballing world has always been of the adiPure range from adidas, every incarnation of the boot has large shoes to fill. Although a good boot, the original 11Pro left many longtime fans of the adiPure range unsatisfied and became one of the few boots to see professionals actively leaving the silo for other boots. With the newest release, adidas will be looking to improve the 11Pro while attempting to bring back old fans and bring in new fans. Did they succeed?
After nearly 2 weeks with most of the Samba collection, we are not yet prepared to offer our full verdict on the new adidas boots, but we are ready to let everyone know what to expect with these new releases and share our initial thoughts of the boot range. First up, the 11Pro II:
The first thing to note for anyone hoping to bring in the new 11Pro would be the sizing. Although the final review will also mention this, going a half size down in this range offered a perfect fit. Especially considering the fact that any natural leather will stretch a bit, ordering your normal size will probably result in an awkward fit and will prevent you from enjoying the boot properly.
The second thing about this 11Pro has to be the inclusion of more leather, more stitching, and memory foam inserts around the primary use areas of the boot. The addition of the leather where the last 11Pro had a very plastic feeling band around the midfoot has been a massive improvement. For 99% of players, we love stroking around pass with the instep of the boot and the leather on this boot allows you to make those passes with ease. The extra stitching seems to be primarily for the inclusion of the memory foam in the upper, both of which seem to make for a much more cushioned area on the toe box. Although I expect this area of the boot to continue to soften with use, much like a higher quality leather, the initial softness is very impressive.
The new soleplate seems like a step back towards the original adiZero soleplate with a slightly wider base. Gone are the conical studs, replaced by the almost-triangular studs that adidas has been fiddling with for several boot incarnations. With the new F50 studs being a completely new set-up, it seems like adidas might have made a good choice with the 11Pro II, but to claim it as new technology seems a bit of a stretch.
Keep an eye out for the full review within the next few weeks, but the new 11Pro definitely seems like a better mixture of past, present, and future than the original 11Pro. Although the bright purple color may not suit the average footballer, the boot beneath the paint job is certainly worth your time.
Shortly after the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers romped to a close last night, the official US Soccer website put out a picture with the hashtag “YoureWelcomeMexico” as the USA rubbed salt into the Mexican wounds.
Make no mistake about it, Mexico got extremely lucky last night. El Tri were as listless and limp as ever as they succumbed to a 2-1 loss in Costa Rica to a Ticos side who had already qualified for the Mundial. Seemingly no one knows what to do to rectify the situation for El Tri…
Even the Mexican federation had little faith in their team, why else would they launch an early release of the new 2014 World Cup Mexico Jerseys? Way ahead of any other World Cup teams? Way ahead of the original set schedule?
What needs to happen? As blase as it sounds, Mexico needs to get Carlos Vela in there somehow…is he Leo Messi? No. But Mexico is an altogether different prospect when he’s in there with Gio and Chicharito. The team needs something to bring back the swagger of ages past and getting mad at the growth of major rivals USA is a great way to inject some anger into the team.
Beyond that…who knows? The two legged playoff versus New Zealand will be no joke, the All-Whites are a dangerous side who Mexico will do well to be wary of, El Tri is in for a fist-fight and that anger needs to be well in place before that playoff starts or NZ will ensure Mexico doesn’t appear at the World Cup in Brazil and that would be sad. Now there is talk of replacing Vucetich with Miguel Herrera as coach of the team…that would make four coaches in one month…not good at all.