For the first time in World Cup history the USA will be in the round of 16 for back to back World Cups, by finishing 2nd in Group G, the so called group of death in which a team like the Americans was supposed to be eaten alive by teams like Germany, Ghana and Portugal.
The exact opposite happened as they knocked off Ghana, tied Portugal and held their own vs the #2 FIFA ranked Germans battling hard in a 1-0 loss in their final group match this past Thursday.
In many sports the US is a team that people can’t wait to see go down quickly. The World Cup is different. Team USA is almost always made up of some of the toughest players in the sport with guys such as Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley.
Dempesy, in the Americans first game against Ghana had his nose broken by an accidental kick to the face from Ghana’s John Boye. It looked like it hurt quite a bit as blood surrounded his nose and he looked a little dazed but he stayed in the game.
In a sport in which so many players embellish small injuries to get a call and yell at the refs when they do not get it, Dempsey did the exact opposite of all that and soldiered on with no complaints.
Dempsey like many of the members of Team USA currently play in MLS, a league long seen as third tier and a joke to the rest of the football world. A team made up primarily of players from MLS or who got their start in MLS have outlasted such nations as Spain, USA, and Italy.
They are the ultimate underdog which makes this team even more likeable, out of all the nations in the round of 16 the US is the only one in which their players are not known by all in their nation. America is still very much a nation of Basketball, Gridiron Football and Baseball.
Even with soccer not being the #1 sport in the nation the World Cup has been able to bring this nation together, on Friday in Las Vegas and was able to catch the final 10 minutes of the second half of the Germany-USA game, at a restaurant at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino and as far as the eye could see the TVs were showing the match and there were fans rocking team USA jerseys.
If you told an alien that was visiting earth for the very first time that America was not a soccer nation they would be very surprised with the way that the hotel exploded in oohs and ahhs as the Red, White and Blue fought to equalize the the game in the final few minutes.
USA’s head coach Jurgen Klinsmann took a ton of flak for leaving off Landon Donovan from the squad, I was one of them that was floored by the decision but it is looking like a move that may pay off in the end, the offensive production on this squad has been coming from a number of sources in this tournament.
It has not just been Clint Dempsey who’s scored, this team has seen timely goals come from Jermaine Jones, Jozy Altidore and for the first time ever an American substitute in the form of John Brooks who scored against Ghana.
Aside from the World Cup, the sport has taken tremendous leaps and bounds in the past few years in America and MLS commissioner Don Garber is growing the league in a way that has kept not just kept all of it’s franchises sustainable (the only one that has had trouble in the past few seasons, Chivas USA is now league owned and will be re branded by new ownership for 2015) but made them very relevant in many of the cities that they are in.
Seeing North American teams do well in a tournament that’s dominated by European and South American teams is something that I find really cool. Canadians have even taken to jumping on the US bandwagon, something that in hockey, or baseball you’d never ever see. The run that the Americans are having is something that I know I’d love to see happen one day if Canada’s men’s team is ever able to make it to the World Cup again.
Everyone slept on the US and now they are making the world take notice.
On Tuesday, the USA takes on Belgium in their round of 16 match with the winner moving on to face either Argentina or Switzerland.
4 more wins separates the US from their first ever World Cup title, is it the road going to be easy? Heck no they will be in a fight vs Belgium but I believe this squad will find a way to get the victory. Even if this team falls to Argentina or the Swiss it will show once again that the squad with the bald eagle for it’s national bird is not a team that you’ll be able to take lightly anymore against the rest of the world.
By Avry Lewis-McDougall
For the first time since 1966 a team known as the Edmonton Oil Kings are the Major Junior Champions of Canada.
To say that many are overjoyed is putting it a tad bit lightly.
Edmonton’s winning ways on the national level with Hockey have come back in the past 12 months, first earlier this year with the U of A Golden Bears mens’ team winning the CIS national title and now the Oil Kings.
The Oil Kings stunned a Guelph Storm team in the final on Sunday 6-3, on the strength of 5 points from Phoenix Coyotes first round draft pick Henrik Samuelsson.
The WHL champions fought tooth and nail in the tournament, losing their first game to the same Storm, taking down to the host London Knights and then splitting two multi overtime games to the Val D’or Foreurs.
This season for the Oil Kings was also about winning it all for a fallen teammate in the form of Kristians Pelss who tragically drowned last summer in his home country in Latvia.
This squad rallied around the slogan “Play for Pelssy” which was trending last night on twitter across Canada.
Kristians was a warm and funny dude who I had the pleasure of interviewing for Avry’s Sports Show during his 1st year with Edmonton. A forward that was such a key cog to Edmonton’s success in years prior everyone on this team wanted to win for him especially one of his closest friends in the form of Mitch Moroz who had a goal in the game vs the Storm on Sunday.
The Edmonton Oil Kings finally on top of the CHL world has been quiet the road from their days as a sub 60 point team in the bottom of the WHL standings.
I first started covering the Oil Kings in the 2009-10 season, it was my first taste of blogging about the CHL and this was a squad that had a ton of talent but just couldn’t put the wins together as they finished with 45 points under original head coach Steve Pleau.
In the off season Pleau was fired and Derek Laxdal was brought in as the new bench boss. With Laxdal leading the team that 2009-10 season was the last time that they missed the playoffs, in 2010-11 Edmonton was a 69 point team and made the playoffs for the 2nd time ever in modern franchise history and in his 2nd year behind the bench they had become WHL champs.
There’s been chatter about NHL teams possibly being interested in Laxdal who is definitely now on their radar with how he has turned the Oil King into an elite club.
Many future NHL stars have been or are Edmonton Oil Kings property in the form of players such as Curtis Lazar, Mark Pysyk, Griffin Reinhart, and the aforementioned Samuelsson.
The development of many of these players has been wonderful through not just Laxdal but former GM Bob Green who is now working with the Oilers.
Players like Moroz and Edgars Kulda came into national prominence with their play and even the 4th line stepped up in a big way with Tyler Robertson scoring Edmonton’s 2nd goal of the game.
Edmonton is now the hottest CHL city and will be feted with an event on Wednesday in which I’m sure thousands of fans will want to welcome home their champs in the biggest of ways.
As I watched this game at the Toronto version of Avry Manor I thought back to how hard so many people had worked to see that this team would become a success in the Western Hockey League. In the modern era Edmonton and the WHL have been such an interesting mix, aside from the Oil Kings that played in the 60s and 70s it had not been a good combination.
The artist formerly known as the Edmonton Ice lasted just 2 years in Edmonton (1996-98) playing in the tiny Agricom across the street from Rexall Place during it’s days when it was known as the Edmonton Coliseum before packing up for Kootenay where they still play.
Over 95 games of blood, sweat and tears and finally, today the Oil Kings return to Edmonton with one of the most desired trophies in the hockey world.
They started this year will the goal of taking it all, and as we sit here in late March, we saw that they took it all.
By Avry Lewis-McDougall
The Red Devils that I grew up watching no longer exist.
The last trace of them from an on pitch player ended with the retirement of the ageless Ryan Giggs this week after an astounding 23 seasons at Old Trafford.
2013-14 marked the first time in 26 seasons that Sir Alex Ferguson (retired after 2012-13) was not in charge of Manchester United and the first time in over 20 years that they finished worst than 3rd in the Premiership table by finishing in 7th place with a record of 19 wins, 7 draws and 12 losses.
People thought that a new era was going be wonderful with the hiring of David Moyes coming from Everton but he did not even make it to the end of the season, being fired with four games left and Ryan Giggs would take over for the final four games becoming United’s first player-manager since Lal Hilditch in 1926-27.
It truly was weird to see Man U for the first time in my sports watching life struggle for an entire season in the Premier League and it was even more stunning to not see them get knocked out very early in the Champions League as well as a Round 3 loss to Swansea in the FA Cup.
Being an Everton fan as a youngster (well, younger than I am now because 21 to everyone on Earth still means I’m young-ish) I wanted to see the consistent success than United had for 20+ years. They became the gold standard for what a football team should be around the globe.
Manchester United is one of the most recognizable sports franchises in the entire world. If you ask a person what are the three most popular sports teams in the world they will probably give you a combination of Man U with the Lakers and Dallas Cowboys or Man U, the Lakers and the New York Yankees.
Man U’s true return to football dominance in the late 20th century in Europe came in 1992 when they finished 2nd in the old top division of English football and won the Super Cup.
Lets truly take a look at how much the sports world and just the world in general has changed since Man U last finished below 3rd in the English Football table in 1990-91….
-Ryan Giggs was in his first season with United.
-The top flight of English football breaking away from the old Football League to form the Premiership would not happen until 1992-93.
-The Chicago Bulls won their first NBA title, knocking off the LA Lakers in 5 games.
-John Major was the new PM of Great Britain, Brian Mulroney was the PM of Canada and George H.W. Bush was the US President.
-A cell phone during this time period looked like this…..
Wimbledon FC was still an actual football side….
The names since 1992 that have put on the red jersey have been outstanding, from Giggs to Dwight Yorke,
Christiano Ronaldo to Wayne Rooney to Paul Scholes to the most famous footballer of our generation, David Robert Joseph Beckham.
The current United squad still has players like Rooney as well as other stars in the form of Nani, Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck but they couldn’t prevent shocking losses at home to both Sunderland and Stoke City this season.
The football landscape is changing in England. A Manchester team is on top of the footy world in England but it’s now City.
Another era is going to start with the hiring of Holland’s Louis Van Gal to be the new skipper of the club.
Van Gal has been around top flight football for a very long time as in the past he’s had stints managing such teams as Barcelona and Bayner Munich and also currently in his 2nd go around with Holland.
Can he be the man that leads this team back to the top of the English football? United fans will not be happy with a 2nd straight season of severe disappointment, no matter who is in charge of the club.