Jul 21, 2018
I started this week to try to find out how the United States can learn from France, the newly-crowned World Cup champions. What I found is that Major League Soccer is way ahead of the game - but when you look deeper, you realize that while this is good, there’s only so much MLS can do.
Jul 20, 2018
Minnesota United has 14 games to go this season. It is probably not going to make the playoffs, but it still has a shot to do so. Yet the team is also building towards the 2019 opening of its new stadium. So should the team build for the future, or try to win now? So far, the team has proven they can’t do both.
Jul 14, 2018
For the Star Tribune, I wrote about the World Cup Final between France and Croatia, what to look for in the game - and why France would win.
(Postscript: I was right about France. I was wrong about the game being cautious and defensive; it featured a penalty, an own goal, and an all-timer of a goalkeeper blunder, and finished 4-2.)
Jul 7, 2018
This week in the Saturday Star Tribune, I wrote about Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappé, and Neymar - the three biggest stars of the World Cup, who’ll pick up the slack as Messi and Ronaldo fade away.
Jul 6, 2018
Minnesota United is halfway through its 2018 season, and so far, the first half of 2018 has been just as bad as either half of 2017. For 1500 ESPN, I identified three areas that need to improve - and if things don’t get better, I am expecting consequences.
Jun 30, 2018
For the Star Tribune this week, I wrote about the knockout round of the World Cup, and the expected favorites.
Unexpectedly, the paper also asked to print my picks. I leave them for posterity here:
Quarterfinalists: Uruguay, France, Brazil, Belgium, Spain, Croatia, Switzerland, England
Semifinalists: France, Brazil, Spain, England
Final: France 1, Spain 0
(I also wrote about 100 words why each team would win in the final; I’m sure whichever unlucky soul had to edit it laughed bitterly as he had to cut it down for the actual space alloted, which was about 20 words per team.)
Jun 23, 2018
Near as I can tell, Mexican soccer and American soccer are the same. Same challenges, different languages. And so at Soccer Insider today, I wrote about how Mexico beat Germany - and how the United States might have the same in its future.
Jun 20, 2018
The World Cup is on right now, and two of Minnesota United’s players - one of whom I admit I forgot about - are playing in Russia. At 1500 ESPN, I wrote about what this tournament might mean for those players, and for Minnesota.
Jun 16, 2018
I remember being unsurprised, when the United States got out of its group at the 1994 World Cup. I knew very little about soccer, but I’d seen the Olympics, and I was pretty used to Americans winning at everything. Plus, it wasn’t like the rest of the tournament was filled with countries with huge soccer reputations. Bulgaria? Norway? The United States was in a group with Romania and Switzerland. Who even knew they had teams?
Since then, of course, I’ve learned a lot about the history of American soccer. How the team qualified for the 1990 World Cup, but only as an accident. About how the United States got hammered at that tournament. About how everyone expected them to get hammered again in 1994.
Into this stepped Eric Wynalda, who even then was brimming with confidence. His free kick goal against Switzerland, in the first game of the tournament, not only earned the United States a 1-1 draw - it was what launched everything that came after. That moment was the beginning of pro soccer in the USA.
Jun 12, 2018
Along with Minnesota United beat report Megan Ryan, I made my 2018 World Cup predictions in today’s Star Tribune.
Jun 9, 2018
I am not the first person to turn against instant replay, in soccer or anywhere else. A year or so ago, I was all in favor of using replay to help blunt the effect of refereeing mistakes on the outcome of games.
I was very wrong! It turns out that in soccer, just like every other sport with refereeing, introducing a video referee just doubled the number of chances refs had to screw up - all while also taking a huge part of the entertainment away from the game. Soccer needs to act fast, soccer needs to act now. Kill VAR before it kills soccer.
Jun 2, 2018
I recently turned in a draft of a book about soccer stadiums around the world, which needed to include an American stadium. I chose Providence Park in Portland, not because it’s the nicest soccer stadium in the United States, or the most comfortable, but it’s absolutely the best to watch soccer. This week’s Soccer Insider relates to my trip to Portland, and the goosebumps I got there.
May 26, 2018
How in the world did Liverpool make it back to the Champions League final? This week’s Soccer Insider looks at Jurgen Klopp, the wildly likeable and irrepressible coaching genius behind Liverpool.
May 19, 2018
Just about every big European soccer team has at least a few Minneapolis-St. Paul fans. The most popular team of all, though, might be Tottenham, which has more than 500 people in its local fan club. Soccer Insider looks at why Minnesotans might feel so connected to their North London bretheren.
May 17, 2018
Minnesota United is trying to create something good on the offensive end. You can see that desire from their signing of El Cientifico, Darwin Quintero - their first big-money deal, and a move that’s entirely about offense.
May 12, 2018
There was a time, not that long ago, when Major League Soccer thought that Americans probably would never watch soccer - not without some tweaks to the rules, at least. (Ties! The horror!)
Soccer Insider looks back at a bygone area of rules changes - a time that’s hopefully gone forever in American soccer.
May 5, 2018
I’ve been reading a lot about the NASL, WUSA, and WPS - the three failed major soccer leagues in America. Right now, MLS is doing well and the NWSL has been more successful than any of its predecessors. But could they still fail?
(This is in the Star Tribune, where “Is MLS going to make it” is far more of a legitimate question than elsewhere.)
May 3, 2018
I’m writing Minnesota United columns every two weeks for the website of 1500 ESPN, a sports talk radio station in town. The first looks at Loons midfielder Ibson, whose skills are evident - but who may not be a match for what United needs right now.
Apr 28, 2018
Toronto lost the CONCACAF Champions League final this week, and there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth from Major League Soccer. Soccer Insider looks at how Mexico has become the MLS measuring stick, and why.
Apr 21, 2018
Arsene Wenger announced that he was stepping down at Arsenal after the season, one of those moves that suggests that he simply had been allowed to leave slowly, rather than being fired. Soccer Insider looked at his Arsenal tenure, and his status as the last capital-M Manager of a Premier League team.
Apr 14, 2018
The farther we get from Hillsborough the more impossible it seems to explain. The fans were in… pens surrounded by spiked metal fencing? They herded fans into them and didn’t bother to count how many people had gone into each one? How is that… possible?
This week’s Soccer Insider looks back at the darkest day of English soccer, which was also the last day of a bygone era.
Apr 7, 2018
If you are a soccer fan, reading this, you already know all about Zlatan Ibrahimovic. You know he’s one of the greatest target forwards ever; you know that his trophy case is stuffed to bursting; you know that he may or may not be a crazy person.
However, the Soccer Insider column really isn’t for people who already know about Zlatan. It’s for people like my dad, who don’t watch all that much soccer (and frankly what Dad watches is mostly so he can talk to me about it, which is very nice of him.)
Last weekend, as Zlatan put his immediate stamp on MLS after arriving in midweek to play for the Galaxy, my Dad was furiously texting me about him. Forgive me, but if Zlatan’s big enough that Dad is interested, then it’s time to try to explain Zlatan to the rest of the Star Tribune readership.
Mar 31, 2018
I keep coming back to one statistic from this week’s Soccer Insider column about the Portland Thorns. Take the Thorns out of the mix, and the NWSL draws about 3,600 fans per game league-wide. Meanwhile, the Thorns draw an average of 17,400.
There are other teams that play in soccer meccas, there are other teams that are owned by MLS teams, there are other NWSL teams that don’t have to compete with Major League Baseball in the summertime, but Portland’s the only place where the NWSL is taken seriously. The league’s goal is to figure out why.
(Side note: I really, really hope that one of those places ends up being St. Paul.)
Mar 24, 2018
The combined USA / Mexico / Canada bid is everyone’s front-runner for the 2026 World Cup. That said, though, Morocco is just the kind of country that FIFA loves picking, because FIFA loves nothing more than brand-new shiny usless stadiums to show off during the World Cup.
Mar 17, 2018
Things got out of hand at West Ham last week, with fans verging on a riot against club ownership. That doesn’t happen in America, unless an owner tries to steal someone’s team. It’s a reminder for MLS: #SaveTheCrew.