Written by: Hunter York
On a warm, muggy, and overcast Indiana Saturday night, this writer found himself watching some good ole American soccer. You must be thinking, “there is no MLS team in Indiana” and you would be right. But there is a NASL team. Indy Eleven is Indianapolis’ North American Soccer League team that has now been in existence for 2 seasons. The NASL is the 2nd tier of US soccer, with the USL residing below them. It’s no secret that the American soccer system does not have a promotion/relegation system like many other leagues in the world. So the 2014 NASL champions, the San Antonio Scorpions, will still be in the NASL this season. The league itself only has 11 teams in it at the moment but there could be some expansion in 2016 to bring in a total of 13 more clubs into the mix. The NASL was founded in 2009 and began play in 2011 with 8 teams after a season that combined the NASL and USL for a Division II league in 2010. The league has no connection to the original North American Soccer League even though it is run about the same way. The playoff championship game is called the Soccer Bowl and is held in the location of the higher seed in the final in a one game playoff.
The NASL has a different schedule than most people are accustomed to with a Spring season as well as a Fall season with an extended break from mid June to early July in between them. The NASL is no amateur league by the way. All of the players in the league are professional players and many have come from high profile clubs and some have even played in some more notable tournaments.
For instance, Indy Eleven midfielder Kleberson, was on the 2002 Brazil World Cup roster and even helped the country lift the coveted trophy. The Brazilian even had a stint with Manchester United from 2003-2005. He now plays midfield for the sophomore club and has quickly become a fan favorite around Indianapolis. Another name USMNT fans might know is Miguel Ibarra. The striker plies his trade for Minnesota United and is now a rising star in the national team stage. Minnesota United are of course making the jump to the MLS in 2018 and have made quite the buzz in bringing the MLS to Minnesota.
The fans do not seem to mind the “lower” level league as many of the matches in Indy and all over the league, sell out regularly. Indy has a special section called the Brickyard Battalion to help bring in a lively atmosphere to the match. Many of the clubs around the league have these types of supporter groups that the club itself endorses. A club might take note of the New York Cosmos, whom Brazilian superstar Pele once played for. The Cosmos sit at the top of the NASL table and have enjoyed success on and off the field with their style of play and style off the field with popular jersey and clothing sales. Former Real Madrid legend Raul now plays for the New York-based club and has been lighting it up so far. Having stars like Raul, Ibarra, and Kleberson seems to have added credibility to the league and is attracting many around the country to notice that there is more than one league in the country.
The quality of the league is growing and many fans have been calling for a system that would allow for some more diversity in the top flight in US Soccer. Many of these NASL teams play MLS sides in the US Open Cup and have some heated matches that cause the MLS teams to step up their games to squeak out matches. Could the increase in the competition cause a promotion/relegation system between the two leagues? The NASL thinks it would and want to potentially introduce the idea to the American soccer system. I personally believe it would help US soccer grow and bring some younger talent to both leagues as well as credibility.
The NASL is a growing league and is attracting more and more talented players from around the world to come play in United States and is helping US Soccer grow in general. I highly encourage anyone with a NASL side near them to head on down and check them out! I personally am a huge Indy Eleven supporter and love watching the boys in blue play. You will be surprised at the quality of players and the kind of soccer atmosphere you can only get here in the states.
It is now as unofficially official as you can get. Manchester United has won the Memphis Depay Sweepstakes. The Dutch winger has come to terms and will move to Old Trafford this summer. PSV will receive somewhere in the realm of 22 million pounds for their young star. PSV has even confirmed the move on their official team twitter page, putting rest any worry that this was just a rumor.
Depay will have a cast of characters who he already knows when he arrives in Manchester. Louis van Gaal was his national team manager, putting him on the World Cup team this past summer. Robin van Persie and Daley Blind are a couple players who have already played and trained with Depay. It is not simply a “good ol’ boys” reunion, as Depay has some major skills, and even some time to develop.
Memphis Depay is only 21 years old, but already has a couple successful pro seasons under his belt. He is the leading scorer in the Eredivise this season, and has already participated in the Champions League and the Europa League. He captured the Eredivisie title with PSV this season, and the U-17 Euro Championship in 2011, so he knows how to win at a high level.
Manchester United won the battle for Depay’s services over a host of other giant European clubs. PSG was rumored to be interested in the winger, while Liverpool emerged as an early leader. When Manchester United had announced they had gotten Depay, multiple fans had taken to social media to rub it into the faces of their Liverpool rivals. It is one of the bigger competitions for a player between the two in a long time.
With Depay coming in as a forward, it is interesting to see what happens with the other attacking options at Manchester United. Chicharito is on loan at Real Madrid, but is scheduled to return to Old Trafford this summer. There are rumors of him wanting a full-time move to Spain, so this might be a way to help that move. Nani is another winger, and has been on loan at Sporting CP. He too is scheduled to return, but Louis van Gaal hasn’t mentioned a word about him. Robin van Persie is getting up there in age, and won’t be around forever. This might be a time to move the striker while he still has value.
Man United has the option to buy Radamel Falcao at the end of the season, which is completely up in the air. Injuries and poor form have hindered the Colombian all season, all with a massive salary. He simply hasn’t performed up to expectations, and with a young forward added to the equation, it will be hard to justify either keeping or buying Falcao. Needless to say, United has a stockpile of talent at forward, and will likely be looking to unload some salaries this offseason.
Some people might be wondering where Memphis will fit into Louis van Gaal’s system. He uses his right foot primarily, and has been used as an inverted winger most of the time. He loves to cut to his right and give his powerful right foot a chance to do some major damage. He also has a bit of a reputation when it comes to having the ball. He has a much higher rate of shooting the ball compared to assists, otherwise known as being selfish, or being a “ball hog” if you will. It has worked out so far, so there is hope that it will continue to work out at Manchester United.
Too many times, football fans hear about the “next big thing” and never see that player come to the forefront. Americans have had this experience relatively recently. Freddy Adu, a kid who was dubbed the “next Pele,” was hyped up to be the greatest revelation America had ever seen. Media took hold and pushed Adu to turn professional at just age 14. Millions tuned into his debut, and eventually, he dropped out of the spotlight and almost out of the game altogether. There are multiple players who have followed this same trajectory, but now some young players are trying to buck the trend.
Brek Shea is one of those players. He grew up in a state that adores American football. Texas lives and breathes it, so it is relatively surprising that the state produces some of the top soccer talent the United States has to offer. Clint Dempsey, Stuart Holden, Omar Gonzalez, and Lee Nguyen are just a few examples from the Lone Star State. Shea grew up in Texas and honed his game at the US Developmental Center in Bradenton, Florida. He was a staple in the youth system for the United States, growing his reputation.
Shea rode that wave of hype into the 2008 MLS SuperDraft after signing a Generation Adidas contract straight out of high school. He ended up selected 2nd overall to FC Dallas, where he began his pro career. For the next 4 years, Shea was a utility man for FC Dallas, playing almost every position on the field outside of goalkeeper. He made 98 appearances, scoring 19 goals in his time at the club. He did show enough raw potential for European clubs to express interest. He ended up accepting an offer from Stoke City in the Premier League.
This was the move that threatened to derail Shea’s career. It did, for a time. Shea only made 3 appearances for Stoke, and a handful of others on loan to Championship clubs Barnsley and Birmingham City. Shea has lamented about his decision to go to Stoke, saying that he wished that he had waited for a better fit. Any way you put it, Shea’s time in England was a huge letdown. It was the type of letdown which many players never recover from. Then came his chance.
The MLS added two new expansion franchises, giving multiple players a chance to begin or resurrect their careers. NYCFC went with more proven players, while Orlando City decided to take a chance on Shea. Another important manager, Jurgen Klinsmann, has monitored the move with extreme interest. The USMNT is in severe need of a left back in the wake of DaMarcus Beasley’s international retirement. There are very few pure left backs in the United States player pool, so Shea has begun to give the position his best shot.
Shea has long been known to be a speedy winger, but has never really set a position for himself. His most common spot has been in the midfield, but with Klinsmann’s new plans, it seems left back is his position of the very near future. In fact, Shea has committed to the position at Orlando City as well, citing his national team career as a large factor. He has gotten lucky to cash in on the position change, with Klinsmann calling Shea up for multiple national team camps and friendlies.
2015 has been very kind to Brek Shea. Klinsmann has given Shea the chance to impress, and he has not disappointed. In his three appearances in 2015, Shea has two goals, including an absolutely brilliant free kick against Switzerland. He played all of the matches at left back, looking surprisingly competent for a player who has recently just switched to the position. Sure he got beat a few times, but even the best outside backs get beaten sometimes. He will be in San Antonio as the US takes on Mexico in a friendly, and it will be interesting to see if Shea gets playing time, or if Klinsmann will go with more Mexican-based players.
The past few months have been a whirlwind. Somehow that wind has propelled Brek Shea back into the limelight, almost willing his career back on track. For a 25-year-old, it was critical to see the field with regularity again. Thus, we have a nice little Brek Shea Revival.
The countdown is becoming a little more real. The 2015 Women’s World Cup is less than 60 days away, making it feel more real with each passing moment. The USWNT had been struggling to get results in friendlies, and have been looking to reverse the trend before the showcase event this summer. The team played New Zealand this past weekend in St. Louis, but still have three more friendlies to get into form.
There is a positive trend for the USWNT right now. Despite a draw in the group stage of the Algarve Cup, they were still able to advance to the Final. There they defeated France 2-0 to claim the title. Its not all sunshine and rainbows though, as the team has been exploited and given up multiple goals at critical stages in the game. Now that major players have recovered from nagging injuries, Jill Ellis’ squad is beginning to play like the contender that they are.
The women’s side of football is a little different, as many players will take off their domestic seasons in order to prepare for the World Cup. For the US, Abby Wambach is taking this approach. Who knows if it will pay off, but it is certainly something to watch for as we embark upon a short journey to Canada this summer.
They did have a game recently in St. Louis against New Zealand. In fact, they broke the all-time record for attendance for a friendly. 35,817 spectators were on hand to witness second half dominance from the US in a 4-0 victory at Busch Stadium. A 4-0 margin is very encouraging, especially considering that New Zealand have also qualified for the Women’s World Cup and are considered by many to be a dark horse in the tournament. Either way, The Kiwis didn’t have a single shot on goal, a promising sign that the US defense might be improving.
With Hope Solo back on the team and playing, it seems that Jill Ellis has one position locked up for the World Cup. The front line is pretty set as well, having a multitude of attackers to choose from. In fact, she cannot get them all on the pitch. Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Sydney Leroux, the list seems to go on and on. Either way, the forward position is also pretty set for the World Cup. Ellis has been experimenting with different midfield combinations, and has been tinkering with the back line as well. The team has a mix of veterans and youth that are sure to get some playing time, including Tobin Heath, Morgan Brian, and Megan Rapinoe.
Speaking of Rapinoe, the New Zealand match represented her 100th cap for the USWNT. This is quite the accomplishment for any international player, and Rapinoe deserves a round of applause for her contribution to the team. She will be one of the critical pieces if the US is going to advance deep into the tournament this summer.
The US has three more friendlies to get everything ironed about before heading to Winnipeg for their first group game. Throughout the month of May, The US plays Ireland and Mexico in California, while having their final friendly against South Korea in Harrison, New Jersey. Mexico and South Korea will also be headed to Canada for the World Cup, but Ireland failed to qualify. Avoiding injuries and major letdowns will be a huge part of these matches.
The US have their first group match in Winnipeg on June 8th against Australia. The next match is four days later against Sweden, also in Winnipeg. The Swedes are led by former USWNT coach Pia Sundhage, who led the US to a runner-up finish in the last edition of the World Cup. After Sweden, the final group match will be against Nigeria in Vancouver. If they place in the top two of their group, they will automatically progress to the knockout stages. If they finish 3rd, they will have to wait for Groups E and F to finish play. If they are one of the four best 3rd place teams, they will progress to the knockout stage. The bottom two 3rd placed teams will be eliminated. This expanded format will be a first for the Women’s World Cup, so it will be very interesting to see how it is played out.
There was so much optimism on the blue side of Liverpool after last season. Roberto Martinez had led Everton to an astonishing fifth place finish, and qualified his side for the Europa League. The offseason only served to fuel the fire of enthusiasm that Everton supporters had as the club managed to sign their top striker Romelu Lukaku on a permanent deal from Chelsea, while also bringing in the highly-touted Christian Atsu on loan and fending off interests from Manchester City for their star midfielder Ross Barkley.
Everything seemed to be in place for a historic season this campaign. It did not take long for the Merseyside club to come crashing back down reality. The first game of their Premier League campaign saw newly promoted Leicester City hold the Blues to a draw. This was followed by a disappointing draw to Arsenal where Everton relinquished a 2-0 lead in the final ten minutes of play. The disappointment would follow into the next fixture as Chelsea battered Everton 6-3 at Goodison Park. It was not until the fourth game of the season that Roberto Martinez finally tasted victory.
So far, the longest streak of wins that Everton have been able to string together is a measly two games. Barkley and Lukaku seem unable to rediscover the form that made them one of the most feared young tandems in the league. Tim Howard was forced to miss an extended run of games through injury, and even before the injury the veteran goalkeeper was not his usual self, allowing 41 goals from just 21 games. At the halfway point of the season, Everton sat 12th in the table five points out of the relegation zone, and had been knocked out of the FA Cup by West Ham United.
Since then, Everton haven’t looked any better domestically. The team has dropped down two places in the table and hover only six points away from playing in the Championship next season. Their Spanish manager went as far to say the team’s current situation is a relegation battle. The increased number of games from European competition seems to have taken away from the team’s domestic performances with the short recovery time between games and long travel days taking their tolls on the players. Out of the eight Europa League matches played, Everton have only won the following domestic game twice.
The one bright spot for Everton this season, however, has been the Europa League. Where they lack in the Premier League, they thrive in Europe. No team has scored more than once against the Blues, and only two teams have managed to score while at Goodison Park. Lukaku has managed to put away six goals in only eight matches (compare that to his seven goals in 28 league games). On three separate occasions Everton have won by three goals, with one of those victories coming away to BSC Young Boys in their Round of 32 matchup.
The Blues have conquered the likes of Kevin De Bruyne’s Wolfsburg and Divock Origi’s OSC Lille on their way to the competition’s Round of 16 where they will face Dynamo Kiev. The Ukrainian side currently sit atop the Ukrainian Premier League and have lost only twice during their Europa League campaign, but are yet to face any elite European sides in the competition. Everton will be the biggest test, by far, for Kiev and will provide two difficult games for Roberto Martinez to plan for.
Kiev will travel to Goodison Park today to take on the last English side left in the tournament, and have been uplifted by the news that striker Andriy Yarmolenko has had his suspension reduced and will be available for both games against Everton. Yarmolenko is the club’s top European scorer with three goals and will surely test Howard and the Everton backline who have allowed seven goals over their last four games.
If Everton hope to advance into the quarterfinals, they will have to rediscover their scoring touch. Lukaku and Co. has been held scoreless for the last 228 minutes of play. However, in their last fixture against Young Boys, Everton managed to put away seven goals in the two game span. With this being the club’s only realistic opportunity of winning any silverware this season, I fully expect Roberto Martinez’s men to play their best soccer against Kyiv and continue their fine European form. Prediction: Everton 2-0 Kyiv.
While usually I don’t get too excited about U-any level events, I couldn’t contain myself when I happened upon the U-20 World Cup Draw. Not that the draw itself was very exciting, because I missed that part, but the result of the draw is what has me jumping for joy. The reason is this: THE US FINALLY GETS A DREAM DRAW!!! But then I realized, what if we just wasted our one dream draw in my lifetime on the U-20 World Cup?!
With 2016 Olympic qualifying upcoming, along with the U-20 World Cup, we will have the opportunity to look at the future World Cup stars. The US barely qualified, but we can now be glad knowing that their group when they get to New Zealand is less than intimidating. They got New Zealand, Ukraine, and Myanmar — the team that qualified by hosting the event, one of the lowest ranked European qualifiers, and an Asian country that hasn’t made any real major tournament ever. This group of youngsters will be the backbone of the USMNT in the future, including the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Lets take a look at the US U-20 team members that might have a shot at the upcoming World Cup teams. Some of the players have already made their leap to the pros, while others may still be in college.
Rubio Rubin - Sure, he has already made his senior team debut, but he is still eligible for the U-20 team. The Utrecht forward has really found his stride in the Eredivisie and is an exciting prospect on the front line for the US. He’s still eligible for Mexico and Guatemala due to his parents, but seems to be locked into the US.
Erik Palmer-Brown - The 17-year-old has long been on the radar of the US system. He already has 5 appearances with the U-20’s and has been signed to Sporting KC. With World Cup veteran Matt Besler to mentor him, Palmer-Brown might just be the next defender out of KC to make the US team.
Cameron Carter-Vickers - Another 17-year-old with a hyphenated name who is making splashes for the U-20 team. He is still eligible for England, as he is a dual national. The big defender is at Tottenham’s youth system, signing a 2-year deal with Spurs despite heavy interest from Arsenal. I am very excited for this young man, as he is excelling with players close to 4 years older than him. Not to mention that his father was an NBA player, giving him an athletic pedigree. He said he is leaning towards representing the USA, so this prospect would be a huge get for Jurgen Klinsmann.
Dortmund Boys - Dortmund has a trio of Americans in their youth system that might make an impact for the USMNT in the future. Joe Gyau is a pretty known commodity, but is struggling to return from injury so far. Junior Flores made a splash in the U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament, while also stating the he will play for the US over El Salvador, despite invitations to their senior squad. Christian Pulisic is the latest American import to Dortmund. He got his Croatian passport due to his heritage and has even trained with the senior side. With American David Wagner coaching Dortmund’s reserve side, it is easy to see why some of the youngsters might be drawn there.
Romain Gall - The main scorer for the U-20 side during qualifying plays his club football for Columbus Crew. He took all the penalties for the US in the tournament, of which there were quite a few. He was born in France and is still eligible for the country as well. I am not as high on him as some others, but he is definitely one to watch.
T2 Squared - Tommy Thompson and Tyler Turner might get you tongue-tied if you try and say both of their names back to back. But they are both viable options for the US in the future. Turner is a defender for newly created Orlando City, while Thompson crafts his trade for the San Jose Earthquakes. Each put in some solid performances during qualifying, keeping us on the lookout for T2 Squared.
Emerson Hyndman - Saving the best for last. The 18-year-old is highly regarded as the best American midfield prospect. He already plays regular first team football at Fulham, and made his debut with the USMNT in the Czech Republic last year. He was very clearly the best player on the pitch during U-20 qualifying, but unfortunately broke his collarbone during the tournament. He is technically savvy and has a great mind on the pitch. Throw that in with the American tradition at Fulham, and I believe we will see Hyndman become one of the next best Americans out there.
The U-20 World Cup begins in New Zealand on May 30th, and will conclude with the final on June 20th. I would be very surprised if the US did not at least progress out of their group. Stay tuned for more updates about the future of the USMNT.
This week we lost one of the greatest US soccer players in history when Frank Borghi died at age 89. He was one of the last living players remaining from the 1950 World Cup Team that shocked the world in Brazil. The 1950 World Cup was also the last appearance for the US at the event until 1990. Since TV wasn’t as prevalent around those days, we only have stories from those who were there. Luckily for fans, filmmakers decided to chronicle the team with the movie “The Game of Their Lives.” Popular actor Gerrard Butler played the goalkeeper Borghi in the film. Butler has been a part of multiple soccer-related projects, including Soccer Aid 2012, a semi-annual celebrity soccer match in England that raises funds for UNICEF.
1950 was an interesting time, considering WWII had just ended. Multiple players on the 1950 team had served in the US military, including Frank Borghi, who received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his service. At the time, most of the players on the team were amateur players, as the US did not have an established professional league.
Borghi grew up in The Hill neighborhood of St. Louis. Four other players on the team also grew up on The Hill, in addition to baseball legends Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola. The area was highly made up of Italian immigrants, and is still very Italian today. Other players on the team from St. Louis included Charlie Colombo, Gino Pariani, Harry Keough, and Frank “Pee Wee” Wallace.
The team was coached by Scot Bill Jeffery, who was a long time coach at Penn State. Three players on the team were not even US citizens at the time. Joe Maca was from Belgium, but later received US citizenship. Ed McIlvenny was from Scotland, and was the captain for the match in the upset of England. Joe Gaetjens was of Haitian descent, and scored the only goal in the England match. Other team members included Walter Bahr, John Souza, and Eddie Souza. There were no substitutes during that time, so those 11 players played the entire game. A St. Louis sports journalist Dent McSkimming was the only American journalist to make the trip to Brazil, even paying his own way. He is largely responsible for capturing the magnificent story of the 1950 team.
The team was assembled very hastily, with many players scrambling to make the trip. Gino Pariani even had to reschedule his wedding to the day before the team left to get married. Considering most of the players were not even full time, no one in the world expected the Americans to even compete, with 500-1 odds of winning the tournament. The US lost its opening match to Spain 3-1, surprising many around the world for keeping it that close. Harry Keough was captain for the match, as he was the only US player who spoke fluent Spanish. The next match was against England, who were expected to compete for the Cup coming in with odds at 3-1 to win the tournament.
The Miracle Match took place in Belo Horizonte in front of 10,000 mostly Brazilian fans. Fans were allegedly very pro-US, as Brazil did not want to face England until the finals. The British absolutely dominated from the beginning of the match, with Borghi making some brilliant saves. The US didn’t even get a shot off until the 25th minute, which was easily handled by the England goalkeeper. The English kept pressing the Americans until the 37th minute when Walter Bahr took a long shot that Joe Gaetjens redirected with his head into the net. The goal gave the Americans the lead, and a breath of new life heading into the half. The 2nd half was much of the same, with Borghi continuing to deny England an equalizer. In the 82nd, England star Stanley Mortensen broke through the defense with the ball, until Charlie Colombo tackled him from behind. The English pleaded for a penalty, but the Italian referee only gave a free kick from outside the box. They failed to convert the opportunity, and seemingly took the life out of the favorites. That was the last real chance they would get, and the US held on for a 1-0 victory.
The shock of the match was felt around the world, with some British believing that the score was a misprint. The US and England would go on to lose their final group match, and crash out together with identical 1 win and 2 loss records. This single match might be the greatest performance by a US team at a World Cup ever.
So today we grieve the loss of an American, one who was a brave veteran, and an impressive soccer player. Frank Borghi may have died, but his memory and story reminds us that we can still be great.
While the adidas NitroCharge may never truly feel like a proper member of the Adidas family, there can be no doubt that many have found the newest adidas silo to hold everything that they look for in a boot instead of finding their joy in the Predator/F50/11Pro. The original Nitro actually provided a place for everyone looking for an adidas release that had some semblance of the older Predator releases or for a non-speed boot that took full advantage of adidas HybridTouch. Jordon and I often talked about how underrated the original NitroCharge was and we had high hopes that the newest version would only continue to forge ahead in terms of quality and comfort.
The Internet may be rife with rumors that all of the current Adidas boots that we love are soon to become a distant memory with a possible three stripes reshuffle on the horizon, let that take nothing away from the current NitroCharge. The EnergySling and EnergyPulse return to the Nitro, mixed with a new lacing system, some different upper texturing padding, and some tweaks to old aspects that we enjoyed on the original Nitro. However, did it all add up to a winning combination? We take a look under the hood of the Nitro and emerge with a verdict…
Adidas learned from the original NitroCharge that the fans of the boot and decent colorways did not enjoy the same color EnergySling slapped on every boot. Within the first two releases, Adidas showed that they would make the Sling match the overall aesthetic of the boot and show that they may have used all their stores of “slime” that had adorned so many Nitro releases in the past. The mixture of Nitro releases have avoided the loud nature of the Samba Pack Nitro and it seems that Adidas are hoping for the boot to always look a bit classier and more understated than its counterparts.
For our money, the black launch colorway and the current black/orange look are both big winners in terms of looks and appeal. It is tough to compete with any boot presented in a mostly black package, and both colorways allow the quality of the boot to speak out instead of the colorway…but what did the quality have to say?
One of our favorite aspects of the original NitroCharge was the slight padding given to the HybridTouch that was lacking with the F50 and we could not feel on the Predator (because of the elements all over the upper). This incarnation gave us the same style upper that gives a great leather-like touch while still giving a great leather-like padding on the ball. The EnergySling has actually widened a bit on this release, but it never changed how the ball felt and is a great benefit to the fit (which we will discuss later).
The tongue on the NitroCharge combines with the upper to make a great boot to drive through a ball with. Hard strikes and defensive stops with this boot give that fantastic warm feeling that you only get from a properly padded boot, and the Nitro remains one of my favorite boots to blast a shot with. The protection elements from the last incarnation return, but not in identical fashion as the mesh in the midfoot is adorned with some ribbing and the adidas three stripes. The heel pads return, but (once again) in slightly different fashion than the original Nitro.
Our only qualm with this Nitro is something that we felt with the original: we wish that the whole boot was the hybridtouch instead of having the mesh along the back half of the boot. I understand the protection properties that these materials bring, but the boot could really shine if the whole boot was covered in the high quality adidas synthetic.
This area is where the NitroCharge shined brightest. The lacing system of the boot allows for one of the best fits that can currently been found on the market. Adidas decided to couple the EnergySling up with the lacing system so that the entirety of your foot feels secure with the type of squeeze that you can completely dictate by how tight you pull your laces. The break-in was relatively quick with the only pain experienced derived straight from cramping from just wearing a new boot for too long on the first outing.
The soleplate is nothing new from adidas. The very dependable and oft-used Traxion 2.0 has been slapped on the bottom of this boot and coupled with the EnergyPulse to provide some stiffness to the soleplate and make this a very dependable boot. (Note: despite using a very dependable soleplate, these boots should only be used on firm ground surfaces)
While I have no doubt that this NitroCharge will also get very little focus, very little press, and very little love, it proved to be a quality release that has taken a positive step forward for Adidas. The quality of the upper, the touch on the ball, and the impressive fit that the boot offers makes this an impressive release for Adidas. The biggest qualms that I still have is the mesh sections and how little it seems adidas seem to value this release…why launch a boot if you do not put any of your support behind it? No matter if they don’t believe in it, we certainly have enjoyed our time in the Nitro and believe that, given the chance, you will too.
This boot has been tough to nail down for any player wearing the Nitro as many have either opted for the redesigned 11Pro or jumped back to the Predator ship that they left in the first place. However, you will probably see it being used by at least one player on the pitch every time that you tune in on the weekend for a major game. Once again, this area falls away as adidas really has not given a big face to this boot to help with attention…despite it being a decent value as it is a cheaper option than its fellow Adidas boots.
SIZING INFORMATION: True to size (great fitting no matter your foot type)
The draw for the Women’s World Cup brought an excitement that reassures us the main event is almost here. Despite not kicking off for another 6 months, the draw gave up plenty to talk about from now until then. FIFA put on a show in Ottawa for the Official Draw, while the 24 competing nations waited to see their fate revealed. Jerome Valcke, FIFA Secretary General, was the main host of the event and announced the nations as they were drawn into their respective groups.
With all of the seeded team placed in groups pre-draw, the interest was where the other 18 teams would land. The draw went great until Colombia was drawn into the same group as Brazil. The organizers moved Colombia to Group F and placed AFC nation South Korea in their Group E place. Other than that small blip, everything went smoothly. The draw created some interesting matchups for each of the groups.
Group A is made up of hosts Canada, China, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. Canada head coach John Herdman was manager of New Zealand from 2006-2011, giving the hosts a link to one of their opponents. As Andrew mentioned on the Center Circle, this group is oozing with potential for any of the teams involved. Canada will need their home field advantage as they hope to progress to the knockout stage.
Group B has two UEFA teams with Germany and Norway, in addition to Ivory Coast and Thailand. This will be Thailand’s first World Cup appearance, while two-time champions Germany will look to complement their men’s squad by adding a second World Cup in as many years. Norway will also be a threat, considering they are one of the four nations (USA, Germany, Japan) to win a World Cup.
Group C has reigning champions Japan, along with Switzerland, Cameroon, and Ecuador. The latter three are making their tournament debut. It seems Japan will have an easy path to the knockout stages, but the games have yet to be played. History is certain to be made, considering at least one of the debut nations will progress to the knockout rounds.
Group D has been dubbed this Cup’s version of the Group of Death. World power and two-time champions USA headline the group. Australia is always a fierce opponent, and Nigeria boast their resume as the reigning African champs. Sweden have former USA coach Pia Sundhage and three top 3 finishes at the World Cup to hang their hat on. Every team in this group had better strap on their goal scoring boots if they are going to progress out of the Group of Death.
Group F has an interesting mix with Brazil, South Korea, Spain, and Costa Rica. Brazil has progressed to the knockout stage in each of the last four World Cups, and they have Marta, the superstar who we had the opportunity to interview for the Instep. This will be the debut for Spain and Costa Rica’s women’s team, and the second tournament for the South Koreans. Similarly to Group C, it seems there is a favorite (Brazil), and three other teams hoping to progress.
That leaves us with Group F. The only team with a top 4 finish is France, who finished 4th in 2011. England, Colombia, and Mexico have all been to the tournament before, but without the success of some of the other groups. Any of these teams can progress as top 2 in the group, but don’t pencil anyone in until all the matches are played.
As usual the top 2 teams out of each group will progress to the knockout stage. However, with the expansion of the tournament to 24 teams, four of the six third place teams in each group will also progress, while the other two will be knocked out. Now managers have the task of preparing for their group games in the quest for the Cup. The first match will feature Canada vs China on June 6th, 2015 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.