Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Hooligan's Wake Up: US Soccer delays NASL/USL fate as MLS expansion line grows

Yesterday's Scores
UEFA Champions League
FC Basel 1-4 Arsenal
(Doumbia 78')-(Perez 8', 16', 47',  Iwobi 54')

Paris-Saint Germain 2-2 Ludogorets Razgrad
(Cavani 61', di Maria 90+2')-(Misidjan 15', Wanderson 69')

Thanks to the unlikeliest of draws in Paris, Arsenal wins the group on the strength of Lucas Perez's hat trick. PSG will really feel like this group got away from them as all they had to do was beat a lowly club from Bulgaria to secure the top spot thanks to their two goals at the Emirates a couple weeks ago. Instead, they screw the pooch and allow the Gunners to win their Champions League group for the first time in five years.

Benfica 1-2 Napoli
(Jimenez 87') - (Callejon 60', Mertens 79')

Dynamo Kiev 6-0 Besiktas
(Besedin 9', Yarmolenko PK 30', Buyalskiy 32', Hutchinson OG 45+3', Sydorchuk 60',  Moraes 67')

This was the one group where nobody had anything locked up heading into the day's action. Besiktas had a solid shot at getting in as they took on already defeated Dynamo Kiev, but a truly disastrous night in Ukraine sunk them mightily. Napoli and Benfica move along thanks to that nightmare.

Barcelona 4-0 Borussia Monchengladbach
(Messi 16', Turan 50', 53',  67')

Manchester City 1-1 Celtic
(Iheanacho 8')-(Roberts 4')

Barcelona more or less had the group sewn up and City had second, so you didn't exactly see anybody giving their all here. Arda Turan took advantage of the playing time though with a solid hat trick as Barca took care of business while Manchester City lazily drew with Celtic.

Bayern Munich 1-0 Atletico Madrid
(Lewandowski 28')

PSV Eindhoven 0-0 Rostov

As awesome as that Bayern Munich-Atletico Madrid match looked on paper, it was utterly meaningless as both sides were locked into their fate regardless of the result. Atletico was looking for a perfect group stage and a Robert Lewandowski free kick gem derailed that. Bayern still takes second place despite the win and Atletico wins thr group. Rostov, thanks to their unbelievable win against the German giants last time out, will remain in Europe and play in the Europa League knockout rounds.

Champions League Tables

Headlines
David Villa has been named MLS MVP for 2016. He beat out fellow finalists Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips for the award. He also won it over Sebastian Giovinco rather controversially. Many feel Giovinco, who can score goals at will and also set up his teammates as well, is the best player in MLS. He wasn't even a finalist for the honor. Regardless, Villa's 23 goals and four assists along with a solid defensive record for a forward were enough to give him the MVP trophy in his second season with New York City.

The NASL death watch is still ongoing. According to a statement published on Twitter by the Federation, U. S. Soccer is postponing the decision for 7-10 days as they try to sort out this extremely complicated matter. Some say this is to give the NASL sides bolting for the USL time to get their things in order. Things like player contract structure are different between the leagues and it may take time to sort out. Others think that the NASL is still trying to save itself  and the federation wants to wait until the last possible moment to decide on their D2 or D3 designation should they survive. Reports indicate that only four teams remain slightly committed to the league, which is terrible for its future. Regardless. this whole saga will be dragged out even more.

As we were awaiting the fallout from the USSF meetings, the Carolina RailHawks officially rebranded themselves as North Carolina FC. The Raleigh based club also announced their intentions to put a franchise in the NWSL in the next six months or so, build a 20,000 seat plus soccer stadium, and, or course, they got themselves in line for an MLS expansion bid.

The line for expansion got yet longer as the Tampa Bay Rowdies threw their hat in the ring with the launch of #MLS2StPete. The club has already made the jump to USL and now has their sights set a little higher.  They have plans to renovate Al Lang Stadium, their current home, using private funds, which is an important part of being an MLS team. To tell the truth, they are further along in the MLS admittance process than their counterparts on the Atlantic side of Florida. David Beckham's Miami project continues to encounter roadblock after roadblock as they attempt to join the league in the next few years.

That takes the total MLS expansion line to at least six markets. Sacramento, St.  Louis, Cincinnati, Detroit, and now North Carolina and Tampa Bay have all held events of some kind in the last year announcing their intentions to bring MLS to their city. Throw these in with Miami,  San Antonio, Austin, San Diego,  and probably some cities I'm forgetting and you have a league with no shortage of demand. 

Today's Matches
UEFA Champions League
Bayer Leverkusen v. AS Monaco- 2:45pm
Tottenham v. CSKA Moscow- 2:45pm- FS2
Legia Warsaw v. Sporting CP- 2:45pm
Real Madrid v. Borussia Dortmund- 2:45pm- FS1
Club Brugge v. FC Copenhagen- 2:45pm
FC Porto v. Leicester City- 2:45pm
Juventus v. Dinamo Zagreb- 2:45pm
Olympique Lyonnais v. Sevilla- 2:45pm- ESPN2

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