Win, Lose or Draw: World Cup Qualifier Style

It was make or break in CONCACAF, time to grab the group by the throat in UEFA and the beginning of the campaign’s second half in CONMEBOL. Here are three of the big results from the last round of qualifying. Win: United States It should never have come to this: a last group stage home game against Guatemala in which a loss could have put the US out of World Cup qualification. Regardless, the Yanks got the win they needed, despite a rocky start. The shaky American defense was again exposed just five minutes into the game, when Carlos Ruiz easily slipped US captain Carlos Bocanegra before poking the ball past a flailing Tim Howard and passing the ball home. Lucky for the home side, Clint Dempsey was ready to take the team on his shoulders. Dempsey took six of the Americans’ 14 total shots on the night, with two […]

Win, Lose or Draw: Liverpool’s Woes Continue

Win: Arsenal The Gunners bounced back from last weekend’s self-inflicted loss to Chelsea with a 3-1 away win against West Ham to carry them into the international break. A 21st minute goal from West Ham’s Mohamed Diame had Arsenal fans wary of a Chelsea hangover, but Olivier Giroud answered decisively with his first Premier League goal of the season in the 41st minute. Theo Walcott came on in the second half with something to prove to his manager and did just that, firing the game winner in the 77th. Santi Cazorla capped things off with a left-footed strike from outside the box in the 83rd minute, after which West Ham could only manage a couple of chances. Despite claims early in the week that they would press Arsenal, West Ham seemed happy to concede possession, 69% of it in fact. The away side also dominated shots (21 to nine) and […]

Win, Lose or Draw: Finishers take the honors

It was a weekend for ruthless finishers as chance creation took second fiddle to chance conversion. Three high profile match-ups saw teams with all the shots fall short to teams with all the goals. Win: Tottenham Clint Dempsey’s goal proved to be the winner in Tottenham’s first victory at Old Trafford since 1989. His side was quick to strike, as Jan Vertonghen gave Spurs the lead just two minutes into play. Gareth Bale doubled the lead in the 32nd minute as the visitors took advantage of a Manchester United side reeling from the early onslaught and struggling to deal with the energy of their opponents. The defining period of the game proved to last just four minutes, as United came out firing in the second half, lifted by the introduction of Wayne Rooney. Goals in the 51st and 53rd minutes looked to spark United into life, but Dempsey’s goal between […]

They say it wins championships

Until the concession of Joleon Lescott’s header off a Manchester City corner this weekend set off a debate surrounding the merits of zonal marking, the primary talking point surrounding Arsenal’s defense just how stingy it’s been early in the new season. Even with that goal, the Gunners have rarely pulled the ball out of their own net this season, and only as the result of goal-keeping errors, the first a wild bobble from Wojciech Szczesny and the second a missed punch from Vito Mannone. That brings their goals allowed to a league low of two, tied with table-toppers Chelsea. So what’s new? Certainly not the players, as three out of the four regularly starting defenders this season are veterans of last year. Much of the credit has gone to new assistant manager Steve Bould, an Arsenal defender himself in his younger days. Under Bould’s guidance, fans at the Emirates have […]

Win, Lose or Draw: League table takes shape

After a busy weekend of Premier League soccer, most clubs have four games under their belts and an early picture of the league table has begun to emerge. Who put their mark on this season’s campaign and who lost ground? Tottenham: Win It took four games, but Spurs finally have their first win under new manager Andres Villas-Boas. After a 2-1 loss to Newcastle United, Tottenham faced successive 1-1 draws in which they were denied the full three points, first by a 91st minute goal from West Brom and then by an 85th minute goal from Norwich. There were no such dramatics against Reading this Sunday. Spurs dominated the newly-promoted Royals in almost every conceivable way, opening the scoring after 18 minutes of play and adding two more for comfort in the 71st and 74th minutes. The visitors were rarely in the game, their best opportunity coming from a denied […]

A little too relieved?

There was a palpable sense of relief in the upper level of Jack Demsey’s Pub after the US men’s national team’s 1-0 win over Jamaica.  Those who had been concerned before kickoff now claimed they were never that worried, while fans who were too nervous to admit any anxiety before the game threw back celebratory shots and basked in the warmth of victory. Yes, the US was back where it should be: in the driver’s seat of their World Cup qualification group, if ever so slightly.  But through the toasts and cheers there was still one question from before the game that remained unanswered. How did we get to this point? CONCACAF qualifying is notoriously messy.  Terrible fields, questionable refereeing and overtly hostile crowds make for unpredictable road trips in which the guiding philosophy has long been to get out with what you can and make sure you win at […]

Win, Lose or Draw: Week 3’s big results

The table is slowly taking shape as teams are starting to hit their stride, just in time to be thrown off again by the international break. Here’s a closer look at a few of this weekend’s big matchups. Arsenal: Win The Gunners finally snatched their first goals, along with their first win, of the season on a road trip to Anfield, courtesy of new signings Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla. And yet, despite the initial focus falling on the resumption of business as usual for the Arsenal attack, the real story here is in defense. Arsenal conceded a total of 49 goals last season, more than any other team in the top eight save Newcastle United. In fact, at this point last season, the Gunners had already bled 10 of those goals. This year, though, is a different story. Three games in, the North London club has yet to see […]

The Luka the draw

How much will Spurs miss Luka Modric? The numbers don't lie. Photo courtesy of caughtoffside.com It’s a North London sell-off, but Arsenal isn’t the only club to see its best player go. Luka Modric completed his transfer to Spanish giants Real Madrid Monday, bringing the saga that has plagued Spurs fans all summer to a close. The Croatian midfielder has been pulling the strings for Tottenham for the last four seasons, tallying 17 goals and 20 assists in all competitions in 160 appearances. But as solid as those numbers are, they don’t do justice to the buoyant effect his presence has had on the team. For the six seasons preceding Modric’s arrival, Spurs struggled to finish in the top half of the league table, just barely getting themselves over the hump on two occasions when they finished 10th and 9th, slipping below it when they settled in 11th after the […]

Win, Lose or Draw: Checking the numbers on the Prem’s opening weekend

Fans across the globe welcomed back the spectacle of the English Premiere League this weekend, but some were more pleased with their team’s showing than others. Manchester City: Win Roberto Mancini surely wasn’t expecting a stern test from newly promoted Southampton, but he got one nonetheless. Carlos Tevez started things off according to plan, putting City up in the 40th minute, but it was the visitors’ response that shocked the home fans. Rickie Lambert and Steven Davis converted two chances in the 59th and 68th minutes to take an unlikely lead. City didn’t take long to answer, with Edin Dzeko equalizing just four minutes later before Samir Nasri snatched the winner in the 80th minute. In truth, City dominated the game in almost every way. They held 64% of the ball, hogged corner kicks and took 23 shots over the course of the match, more than double the 10 opportunities […]

Entrances, Exits and the Hype Machine

Eden Hazard had fun toying with his suitors this summer, but will he prove as creative for Chelsea? Photo courtesy of telegraph.co.uk The so-called silly season is nearing completion, and while there’s sure to be a flurry of last minute wheeling and dealing as deadline day approaches, many major clubs have already made big moves in the market. These are just a few of the new faces you can see as the new EPL season kicks off, from a few of the more high profile players in the transfer market this summer. Arsenal The swirling transfer saga of Robin van Persie, and its less than satisfactory conclusion, have taken some of the wind out of Arsenal’s summer signings, but Gunners can be optimistic about some of the new faces they’ll be seeing around the Emirates this season. Santi Cazorla may well be the steal of the summer, as Malaga’s financial […]