Weekend Watch List: August 9-11th

I sure do love August! While the summer comes to a close, it means the opening of European domestic leagues, starting this weekend with the German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1! Let’s get after it!

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Must Watch Matches:
*Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Monchengladbach

**Friday, August 9th at 1:30 pm CST on GOL TV
***True to the letter, Bayern Munich looks to start right where they left off at the end of the season by taking on Borussia Monchengladbach to kick off the 2013-14 Bundesliga season. In their final fixture of 2012-13, Bayern sent off manager Jupp Heynckes with an entertaining 4-3 victory over Gladbach, with a Franck Ribery brace and Javi Martinez and Arjen Robben each getting on the score sheet. However, under new manager Pep Guardiola, we will expect to see a slightly different Bayern side than last season, with the additions of Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara looking to make Bayern’s attack even more dangerous. Meanwhile Gladbach’s squad is relatively unchanged since last season, maintaining almost all of their main players and just adding three new signings in Max Kruse who had a brilliant first season in the Bundesliga last year with SC Freiburg, Christoph Kramer from Bayer Leverkusen, and Raffael from Dynamo Kyiv.

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*Montpellier vs. Paris Saint-Germain
**Friday, August 9th at 1:30 pm CST on BeIN Sport and Univision Deportes
***Ligue 1 action kicks off this weekend as well with the league title holders Paris Saint-Germain making a visit to Montpellier. This year’s PSG squad is looking even more dangerous than before with the addition of Edinson Cavani from Napoli in the summer transfer window. After claiming the Trophée des Champions following a late comeback in a 2-1 win over Bordeaux last weekend, PSG now set their sights on repeating the Ligue 1 title under the new management of Laurent Blanc. Fun Fact: PSG boss Laurent Blanc is the all-time leading scorer for Montpellier.

*Real Salt Lake vs. Houston Dynamo
**Saturday, August 10th at 8:30 pm CST on Comcast Sports Net
***Fresh off their 3-1 win over Columbus on the weekend, the Dynamo are on the road to take on Real Salt Lake in my MLS game to watch this weekend. All eyes were on the Dynamo attack, which is finally getting goals from strikers Cam Weaver and Will Bruin, and the spectacular form that Oscar Boniek Garcia has been in of late. However, this attack is having to go up against arguably the best shot-stopper in the league in Nick Rimando. While Rimando, Tony Beltran, and Kyle Beckerman were out with the Gold Cup squad, Salt Lake struggled but still remained atop the standings. With them back, Real is once again one of the strongest MLS sides. This weekend’s match will be a midfield battle with the Dynamo’s creative attackers such as Boniek Garcia and Brad Davis going head to head with Beckerman and Javier Morales.

*León vs. Morelia
**Saturday, August 10th at 8:06 pm CST on Telemundo
***While not the headline clubs in Mexico, these two squads have gotten off to hot starts in Apertura 2013 already. León is unbeaten so far in 4 games with two solid wins over Atlas and Atalante, led by Mexican internationals Carlos Peña and Luis Montes as well as new signing Mauro Boselli. Morelia has been on a goal scoring tear so far this season with 10 goals in 4 games led by the lethal Jefferson Montero with 5 goals and Hector Mancilla with 4. If you want a high scoring match, this game is for you!

*UANL Tigres vs. Monterrey
**Saturday, August 10th at 7:00 pm CST on UniMas
***You’ve got to love a good Mexican league rivalry, and this match is one of the biggest. Despite slow starts for both in Apertura 2013, Tigres and Monterrey have the two best all-around squads in the league and are expected to turn it on in this edition of Clásico Regiomontano. Tigres finally got their first positive result of the season with a 2-0 win over Pumas with Danilinho and Damiám Alvarez getting on the score sheet. Meanwhile, Monterrey have had three draws so far with Dorlan Pabon netting 3 times for los Rayados and Humberto Suazo picking up his slick form right where he left off last season.

Honorable Mention:
*Bordeaux vs. AS Monaco

**Saturday, August 10th at 2:00 pm CST on BeIN Sport
***Not very often does one recommend watching a team that was just promoted to the first league, however with all the cash AS Monaco has splashed out this summer it is definitely a club to watch in the French first division this season. New signings include Radamel Falcao from Atlético Madrid, James Rodríguez and João Moutinho from Porto, Jérémy Toulalan from Málaga, Ricardo Carvalho from Real Madrid, and Eric Abidal from Barcelona, just to name a few. It will be interesting to see what manager Claudio Ranieri can get from this hodge podge of new and old players.

*Manchester United vs. Wigan Athletic
**Sunday, August 1tth at 8:00 am CST on Fox Soccer
***David Moyes looks to kick off his reign as Manchester United manager with some silverware as the Red Devils take on relegated FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic in the Community Shield on Sunday. Despite a lukewarm showing in their pre-season tour, United is confident they will not suffer a similar fate as their “noisy neighbors” Manchester City did when they were upset by Wigan in the FA Cup Final last May. Also under new management, Wigan has been steadily rebuilding their squad with 10 new signings under manager Owen Coyle as they prepare to fight for promotion from the Championship league.

*Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders
**Saturday, August 10th at 6:00 pm CST on FirstRowSport.eu
***Not sure if you’ve heard but a certain someone caused massive waves in the soccer world this week with his transfer from the English Premier league to the MLS. No, not another old European, it’s the American, Clint Dempsey who completed a move from Tottenham Hotspur to the Seattle Sounders in a deal worth $33 million (Dempsey’s salary is now a whopping $24 million). No word yet on whether or not Dempsey will make his first appearance for the Sounders this weekend (he has reportedly been sick this week) but rest assured, Seattle is now even more so a threat and title contender in the MLS this season.

Make sure to check out my final Weekend Watch List next week!

Questions, Comments, Concerns, Recommendations?

An Interview with Oscar Boniek Garcia

Earlier this week Glenn had the opportunity to catch up with the Houston Dynamo’s midfield maestro Oscar Boniek Garcia to chat about the Dynamo, Honduras, and his life in soccer. Oscar is translated by Lester Gretsch.

GD: Do you feel like you are getting back into a better rhythm now, based off of injury and national team call-ups?
OBG: Over the last 3 or 4 games that I’ve played I’ve felt definitely more dynamic, I felt, a lot more desire to play. Definitely being involved with the team and being consistently playing has helped me get back into the groove of things so I’m definitely feeling a lot better than I did a few weeks ago.

GD: I got the sense against Chicago that he seems to be continuing to platform forward, is that the way you feel?
OBG: Yeah that obviously the case. Obviously depending on how the game is going and what Dom wants me to do on the field I may be getting a little bit further than you’re used to seeing me on the field but yeah, that’s something I’m trying to do more and more of as the season progresses.

GD: Does your role change by the game and by the opponent for the Dynamo? For instance are there certain games where he’s asked to attack more or certain games where he’s asked to play wide more or certain games where he’s asked to come into the interior of the midfield. Does your role change a lot based on opponents?
OBG: I don’t think so. I think it’s more of a case of the amount of space that I am given by the opposing club and also how the club is going. I always try to do the same level of work, try to be consistent in the way I perform on the field, but it just depends on how, like I said, how the game is going and whether I have those opportunities to get a little bit more forward than usual.

GD: We all know you’re great in tight areas, you’re great taking people on, you’re a breakdown type of player, how is that sort of nurtured, going back to your youth?
OBG: In Honduras I always used to play a lot of 5v5 soccer and on small fields and that definitely helped me develop my game and helped me develop the way I like to handle those situations and once I came over here, you know just acquiring the technique and the knowledge of soccer and the philosophy that they like to implement among players here has certainly taken my game to a whole new level in that regard.

GD: Is it the happiest you are, when you’re playing soccer?
OBG: I think so. I think that whenever I’m on the field and whenever I have a ball at my feet I’m at my happiest.

GD: How about Honduras in the Gold Cup. Was it difficult watching and not being able to play for them?
OBG: Yeah unfortunately it was frustrating and also sad just knowing that I couldn’t be there to help my country and my national team, help fulfill a goal that has eluded us for many years which is reaching a final. But definitely it’s just one of those things that happen. I knew that I wasn’t going to be playing the Gold Cup well in advanced so I wasn’t surprised but I was prepared for it. But definitely it’s just one of those things that happen, sometimes you just gotta grin and bear it and watch from the outside looking in.

GD: Let’s talk about Honduras in World Cup Qualifying. How do you feel about where the team is positioned in the ultimate goal of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil?
OBG: I definitely feel good about our chances. I know that we have four very difficult games coming up, especially the first one against Mexico in Mexico, but given the current state of affairs with the Mexican National Team I think that can actually be a game changer for us and for them as well, but particularly speaking for Honduras it could be one of these game that can actually give us the confidence we need to be able to get over that hurdle and qualify for the World Cup.

GD: How about the manager, Luis Suarez, for Honduras. What type of manager is he and do you like his coaching style?
OBG: As a person, he’s a very good person. He’s one that always likes for players to have an open dialogue with him to always bring up his problems or their problems and vice versa. He doesn’t like his players to keep things bottled up inside. As a coach he’s very demanding. He always expects the most out of his players, he always pushes them to the max. But of course, obviously, just like with any other coach when the results don’t go the team’s way, obviously the first one to blame would be him. But obviously he’s definitely a person who can take us where we need to go.

GD: How about a quick word on your trial over at Paris Saint-Germain. What was that like when you went over there? I know you played some friendly games for them so what was your European experience like?
OBG: It helped me learn a lot, not only as a person, on a personal level, but on a soccer level, on a professional level. It was a very intense period of 10 days where I just learned a lot and was able to develop a better understanding of how things are done in Europe and also how things would be done here in the United States, because there is also a great level of skill and a great level of professionalism in the league here in this country.

GD: We know you are a symbol to the Honduran fans and obviously there are a lot of Honduran fans here in Houston, how do we get more of those fans out to the games? I know some of them come but there are so many more! Any ideas?
OBG: Yeah I’m really proud of Central American people, particularly Honduran fans, that come out and support their teams, particularly during the Gold Cup. As we saw recently, whenever we played international games here that they really come out in great numbers but I really don’t have a clear idea as to what needs to be done in order to bring these people out in a more regular fashion to Dynamo games and to watch MLS. It’s probably just going to take some time and it will be a matter of just continuing to plug away and promote to those communities.

GD: Is there something specific the Honduran fan looks for when it comes to watching soccer live in a stadium?

OBG: Yeah, in my view I think just seeing an Honduran player not only playing here locally but also playing with the Dynamo, I think that should be motivation enough to get a lot of these people to come out and support the national team players.

Weekend Watch List: August 2-4th

I do love a good preseason! Especially when we get to see top clubs that wouldn’t normally get the chance to play each other face off in “friendlies”. This weekend, we’ve got some of these friendlies coming your way with the Guinness International Champions Cup and, of course, some good ‘ole MLS and Liga MX league matches.

Must Watch Games:
*Juventus vs. L.A. Galaxy

**Saturday, August 3rd at 7:00 pm CST on Fox Soccer
***Okay, so my bracket may have already been busted and in my opinion, it is all Andrea Pirlo’s fault. He decided to miss his penalty (which would have won the match for Juventus) to prove to the world that he is, in fact, human. Just kidding. Sort of. Not Really. Despite making a comeback in the second half (including a stunner from Asamoah outside the box), Juventus couldn’t make that final push to get past Tim Howard and Everton, losing 5-6 on penalties. Meanwhile, in Phoenix, Coach Bruce Arena decided to give the young guys a shot against one of the strongest squads in Europe. For perspective, Real Madrid’s starting frontline: Angel di Maria, Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo. L. A.’s: Jack McBean(18 years old) and Jose Villarreal(19 years old). Even without the likes of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, L.A. held their own and only lost 3-1 with the highlight of the game centering on Jose Villarreal’s sweet control and stinging shot in the 63rd minute.

*Everton vs. Real Madrid
**Saturday, August 3rd at 9:30 pm CST on Fox Soccer
***Well, Everton, aka the bracketbusters, impressed on Wednesday night with Roberto Martinez’s young squad seeming calm, composed, and dangerous, even with the immense pressure applied by Juventus in the second half (and when I say calm and composed, check out 19 year old John Stones cheekily chip the keeper in a must score situation in the penalty shootout). Everton’s marquee signing this summer, the highly touted U-19 Spanish international Gerard Deulofeu (on loan from Barcelona) did not feature in the game against Juventus but will hopefully see the pitch in the game against Real Madrid. Meanwhile, in Real Madrid’s opener, people came to see Cristiano Ronaldo but it was Isco, the 21-year-old new signing from Malaga who stole the show (and hearts of all the ladies in the stadium). The Spanish U-21 international playmaker lit up Lucas Oil Stadium, taking part in both goals via beautiful long balls over the top of the defense.

*Valencia vs. Inter Milan
**Sunday, August 4th at 3:00 pm CST on Fox Soccer
***It’s been a tough to 2013-2014 campaign for Valencia, and the season hasn’t even started yet. Los Che have yet to get a win so far in preseason (4 losses and a 0-0 draw) and have just lost their top goal scoring talisman Roberto Soldado to Tottenham Hotspur. Inter have had a slightly better start to their preseason (3 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss) under new manager Walter Mazzarri but have yet to form a distinct identity as a group. Inter lost their opener 2-0 to Chelsea while Valencia lost their opener 2-1 to A.C. Milan in their home stadium Estadio de Mestalla last weekend.

*A.C. Milan vs. Chelsea
**Sunday, August 4th at 5:30 pm CST on Fox Soccer
***Despite logging approximately 15000 miles traveling from their tour of Asia to the United States, Chelsea looked fresh and smooth, cruising out to a 2-0 lead in the first 30 minutes of the game against Inter Milan. Now the Blues face another team from the Italian city: A.C. Milan who were able to dispatch a lackluster Valencia squad 2-1 in Estadio de Mestalla last weekend before traveling to Munich to compete in the 2013 Audi Cup against Manchester City and Sao Paulo.

*Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls
**Saturday, August 3rd at 5:30 pm CST on NBC Sports Network
***This week’s most mouth-watering match up is an Eastern Conference top-of-the-table showdown between Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls. So far, Kansas City has gotten the better of New York this season with a 1-0 win at Red Bull Arena. As always, Thierry Henry is putting together another fantastic season heading the Red Bulls frontline, while Graham Zusi is always worth watching pull the strings in the midfield.

Honorable Mention:
*Houston Dynamo vs. Columbus Crew

**Saturday, August 3rd at 8:00 pm CST on Comcast Sports Net
***The Houston Dynamo are coming off a 1-1 draw last weekend against the Chicago Fire in which, despite earning Houston’s first goal from a striker since May 8th, saw Houston create a decent amount of chances but fail to capitalize on them. Meanwhile, Columbus has been struggling the past month with only 1 win in their last 4 matches and are looking to start off this new month and new era in ownership (Precourt Sports Ventures announced they have acquired the club from Hunts Sports Group on Tuesday) by getting a result off the Dynamo.

*Veracruz vs. Cruz Azul
**Saturday, August 3rd at 5:00 pm CST on Univision Deportes
***If you would have told me that Veracruz would be leading the table 3 weeks ago I would have laughed in your face, however, I love being proved wrong! Veracruz has come flying out of the gates in Apertura 2013, scoring 8 goals in 3 matches and led brilliantly by Angel Reyna’s 5 goals and 1 assist. The 28-year-old new signing has already matched his tally of 5 goals from his 16 appearances on loan at Pachuca in the 2013 Clausura from Monterrey and is looking like he is getting back some of the brilliance we saw from him at Monterrey and Club America. Cruz Azul has yet to get back the form they saw in Clausura 2013 and have been struggling to find cohesion in the attack.

*Portland Thorns FC vs. Kansas City FC
**Sunday, August 4th at 7:30 pm CST on Fox Soccer
***Miss U.S. Women’s National team action? Well we have what is gearing up to be the biggest match in the new NWSL between second placed Portland Thorns and league leaders Kansas City FC. Alex Morgan, Rachel Buehler, Christine Sinclair, and Tobin Heath will all be featuring for the Portland Thorns as they face off against Lauren Cheney, Nicole Barnhart, and Becky Sauerbrunn for Kansas City FC, just to name a few names. To continue name dropping, Glenn Davis will be calling the match!

Written by Cari Gelal

Coaches’ Corner: Stoke City’s Mark Hughes

Ahead of the Dynamo’s clash with Stoke City in the Dynamo Charities Cup, Glenn had the chance to chat with new manager Mark Hughes about being named manager of Stoke City, how the team is shaping up this preseason, and more!

GD: When you first looked at the Stoke City job, talk to me a little bit about the appeal of taking the job?
MK: Well, when the decision to make the change at Stoke was made, obviously the attraction was that it was a very stable club, it was a club that obviously wanted to make a change and wanted to go in a different direction and thankfully they picked me to work that change. I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve found at the club. It’s very stable in it’s ownership and in the group of players that we’re working with now, which includes obviously your compatriots. They’ve really impressed in terms of their technical ability as well, so I’m really happy that I’m working with them and I’m looking ahead to the future now because I think the future is going to be very good for us.

GD: Mark, you came in and made it very clear that the playing style is going to change, is going to be less direct football in many ways. You’ve made some changes obviously that reflect that with new signings. How difficult is it to come into a situation like this and really change the purpose of play?
MH: Well, yeah I think it’s evolution rather than revolution. I’m not just going to come in and turn out the template that’s worked very well for Stoke, they’ve stayed in the Premier League for 5-6 years or so and that’s no mere feat. But certainly I think given the way I’ve always tried to set up my teams before and there’s obviously going to be a change in the way we approach games, but fundamentals never change and in terms of defensive work, we’re very good at that aspect of the game and those fundamentals won’t change, I’ll have a good base to work from. But certainly going in an attacking frame of mind is something I want to instill in the minds of my players and make us more expansive if we can and possibly dictate to the opposition better than we have been able to do in the past possibly. So, there’s a lot of work to be done before we can get to that level so, as I said, it’s got to be evolutionally, we’ve got to do it step by step and at the right pace but given the technical ability in the group I think we’ll get there quite quickly.

GD: Will the signings of Erik Pieters and Marc Muniesa sort of symbolize this move to that type of football?
MH: Well, possibly. I think that people have picked up on the fact that we’re maybe working in different markets than the club has done in the past and we’ve been able to attract two very, very accomplished young players here as well which is something I want to do. I think it’s important that we’re viewed as a club that is progressive in terms of bringing players in and developing the and making them better and that’s something I’ve always tried to do wherever I’ve been. Bringing in Marc and Erik who are very accomplished and they actually fill certainly a void on that left-hand side because we were very short in numbers in terms of players that were naturally left-sided players, so we’ve brought two naturally gifted players on that left-hand side and have been able to obviously address a weakness in the bounds of the playing group and I’m happy with that and certainly delighted with the quality that we’ve been able to use to do that.

GD: Mark, just to comment a little bit on preseason so far, I think you were in France and if I’m correct, I think you’re about 10 days into it maybe?
MH: Yeah, we had a short break and we’re in our second week now. We had a great break in Evian overlooking Lake Geneva, if you ever get the opportunity to go I’d recommend it! It was perfect, the hotel was in a good situation, we had excellent training facilities within 200 yards of the hotel so everything about the training camp was first class and [it did a lot for me], in terms of getting the guys away together as a group and being with them 24/7, letting them understand a little bit more about how I operate and obviously allowing myself to have a real understanding on what they’re like on an individual basis as well as on a playing level so it helped on many levels, the trip. So we’re back at the training ground now, about to get a week’s work, and looking forward to the trip now.

GD: How about a quick comment on Geoff Cameron and, obviously, Brek Shea is not in camp with you, he’s with the U.S. National Team but he did score last night, how about those two young American players and what you see out of them?
MH: Yeah I’m looking forward to working with them. Geoff’s not yet with us, I gave him an extra week because he’s been playing non-stop football for about 2 years now so he was due a little bit of extra time off so I thought I’d give him an extra week. So he didn’t actually come on the break away to Evian but he’s back touring with the group now, he started Monday, and he’s showed a lot of ability which obviously I was aware of before I got the position here. He’s a good character, seems like a guy with a good personality, got a smile on his face and I’ve enjoyed his company in the short time I’ve been with him. Obviously in terms of Brek it’s been a bit more difficult because I haven’t really been able to get close to him on any level at this point but I’ve been talking with Jurgen Klinsmann for a couple of weeks now in terms of what his plans for Brek were and my plans obviously so we’ve been trying to get the best solution for everybody. We’re pleased, obviously, that he did well last night and scored a goal and at some point in the future I’ll get the opportunity to work with him but it hasn’t happened yet but it will in the future.

GD: Mark, I know you’ve made a number of changes, obviously the two we mentioned in Pieters and Muniesa, is there still some moves to be made by you guys and are you still pretty active in the transfer market ahead of everything?
MH: Yeah I think so. It’s difficult to bring the right quality in to the club. It’s a process that sometimes works very well and very quickly but other times if you’re pursuing a player and it takes forever and in the end you sometimes miss out. It’s not an exact science, you just have to take every deal on it’s own merits and hope that if you can bring the right quality in then you’re able to do it. We’ll look at what’s in the market and see what we think is appropriate for ourselves and we’ll try, obviously, to bring good quality players to the group we already have. But at the moment and in the next few weeks basically from my point of view it’s about really assessing the group that I have because it’s still early days in terms of my understanding of what I’ve got in the building. So, the next few weeks I’ll get a better understanding and understand the strengths and weaknesses of the group I am working with.

GD: Quickly just talk about the intensity of the pressure of being a manager in the EPL and how do you handle that personally, since you’re under the microscope 24/7 as a manager?
MH: Yeah, it’s tough. It can be unrelenting. There’s this huge interest in the Premier League now as you can imagine and it’s worldwide. When I started playing football, certainly it wasn’t the focus on managers and players as there is now. So it’s a step up in terms of that level but it’s something you have to deal with, it’s part of the parcel of your job description, the fact that you have to deal with the media and all the platforms people have to voice opinions and if you don’t win football matches, that never changes, then you come under pressure, so you have to deal with it. You have to have a strong mentality, you have to be, at times, conscious of what people are saying, but be strong enough in your own mentality to be strong in knowing that your football philosophy is the right one to follow. It tests you, and you have to be able to withstand scrutiny at all levels but in terms of a way to earn a living, it’s unbeaten. It’s a wonderful life. I’ve been very fortunate, I had a very good playing career and managerial career and to continue. I work exceptionally hard, you have to, to keep yourself current and the next few years will hopefully bring more success for me and for Stoke I hope.

GD: When you were a player at Manchester United, you had a very effective career there, scored a ton of goals for United, and then you moved to Chelsea. How difficult was that, just from the reaction of fans in making that move?
MH: Well, it was probably more difficult for myself because up until that point I had never played for a different club in the English League prior to Man United. I’d been playing in Europe for Barcelona and Bayern Munich but I came back to United, so I’d never actually played for another English team so the change for myself was difficult initially but I had had a wonderful career at Man United and then I got the opportunity to go to Chelsea, we’re talking late nineties when they weren’t certainly in the situation financially that they are now and I went there, probably, at the beginning of the cycle of success that they’ve had. I think I signed on the same day as the great Dutch international Ruud Gullit who went on to be the manager of Chelsea and we won trophies and I had a great time there. I had three good years and the fans were great with me, I think initially it was a shock to them that a Manchester United player was signing because obviously there was a big rivalry, and still is as you can imagine, between the two clubs but I think that once they understood that I was there to do my best for the club then they embraced me and I had three fantastic years.

GD: Last question. Your perception of Major League Soccer from the outside and what you think is going on at the professional level of football here in the United States?
MH: I think what strikes everybody from outside the U.S. is the quality that is going to America now and the quality of the league is obviously improving year after year and I think now they’re at a stage in their development as a league and, given the profile of the players that are coming over, it’s as healthy as it’s ever been. There’s a huge interest in soccer obviously at the lower levels and it’s about making sure that there’s a pathway from playing games of soccer at school level and college level, there needs to be a pathway right into the professional league and I think that’s what’s happening now and I think the league will be more healthy because of that.

Transcribed by Cari Gelal

Weekend Watch List: July 12-14th

In this week’s preview, it’s an ode to Gold Cup, MLS, and FIFA U-20 World Cup. Cheers!

Must Watch Games:
*USA vs. Cuba

**Saturday, July 13th at 2:30 pm CST on Fox Soccer (Coverage starts at 2:00 pm)
***After blasting 6 goals past Guatemala in a friendly on last Friday and burning Belize for another 6 in their Gold Cup opener Tuesday, the U.S. look to continue their hot, high scoring run against Cuba on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. Tuesday night’s match saw Chris Wondolowski pick up a new superstition after scoring a first-half hat trick with his last name spelled wrong on his jersey as well as Landon Donovan reach yet another landmark, becoming the first U.S. player to score over 50 goals and 50 assists all-time. Puebla’s Michael Orozco Fiscal and former Houston Dynamo midfielder Stuart Holden also got on the score sheet, a fine achievement for Holden who has capped off his return to the national team in excellent fashion, coming on as a sub in the last 2 matches and making a big impact each time. After holding their own in the first half, Cuba spent the second half of their opener subbing in as a punching bag for Costa Rica, losing 3-0.

*Martinique vs. Mexico
**Sunday, July 14th at 5:00 pm CST on Fox Soccer (Coverage starts at 4:30 pm)
***Mexico finally broke their losing streak Thursday night after a Raúl Jiménez header just before half and a second half penalty by Marco Fabián hoisted El Tri 2-0 over Canada. The young Canadian side seemed to stick with Mexico for the first 40 minutes of the game until the goal by Jiménez opened up the game and allowed Mexico to hold up the ball more and create more chances. The introduction of Miguel Layún at right back proved to be a great move from the start, as Layún was a terror up and down the right side all night. “Chepo” de la Torre will most likely stick with the same line up from Thursday night going into Sunday’s final group game show down with Martinique who sit tied with Mexico on 3 points. While Mexico was shocked by Panama in their opener, Martinique was the side doing the shocking in their opener, with a late 93’ goal from Fabrice Reuperne lifting them over Canada. However, their Cinderella story was short lived as Panama dispatched Martinique 1-0 on Thursday, putting the Panamanians through to the knockout round while setting up the showdown match up between the always favored Mexico and the underdog Martinique.

*Honduras vs. El Salvador
**Friday, July 12th at 6:00 pm CST on Fox Soccer (Coverage starts at 5:30 pm)
***In what is going to be one of the most intriguing matchups of Group B, favorites Honduras will battle a very feisty El Salvador who are coming off an entertaining 2-2 draw with Trinidad & Tobago on Monday. Rodolfo Zelaya had a brilliant game with his brace keeping the El Salvadorans in the match. Meanwhile Honduras kicked off their group play beating Haiti 2-0 off of goals from Rony Martínez and Marvin Chavez. While the possession remained steadily even for both teams throughout the match, Honduras came out with the majority of the shots, failing to capitalize on several great chances. El Salvador will definitely look to put a lot of pressure on the Hondurans so their failure to finish in the final third may come back and haunt them this game.

*France U-20 vs. Uruguay U-20
**Saturday, July 13th at 1:00 pm CST on ESPN (Coverage starts at 12:45 pm)
***Well, as always, this FIFA U-20 World Cup has been an exciting one! After defeating Ghana 2-1 in the semifinals, France has advanced to face Uruguay, who shattered our Cinderella team Iraq’s dreams after a 1-1 draw saw the South American team advance 7-6 via penalties. Now this final is yet another stage to showcase some of the most exciting up-and-coming world football talents. Players to watch include Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba and Arsenal’s new recruit Yaya Sanogo for France, while AS Roma’s Nicolas Lopez and newly signed Manchester United full back Guillermo Varela are players to keep an eye on for Uruguay.

*New England Revolution vs. Houston Dynamo
**Saturday, July 13th at 6:30 pm CST on KPRC Local 2
***Houston fans finally were able to breathe out a sigh of relief after the Dynamo’s dreadful winless streak was snapped last Saturday with a 1-0 win over Philadelphia at BBVA Compass Stadium. Now the Dynamo travel to New England who, after a streaky start to the season, have begun to gain momentum. The Revs beat the Dynamo at home in May 2-0 thanks to goals from 18-year-old Diego Fagundez and Juan Agudelo following a double ejection of the Dynamo’s Bobby Boswell and New England’s Dimitry Imbongo Boele for fighting in the first half.

Honorable Mention:
*FC Dallas vs. Real Salt Lake

**Saturday, July 13th at 8:00 pm CST on TWC Sports
***The two top teams in the Western Conference are facing off on Saturday as the top of the table Real Salt Lake host a struggling FC Dallas side who, despite jumping out to a fast start, are winless since May. Even though they are missing 4 players out on international duty in the Gold Cup, Real Salt Lake have been on cruise control, unbeaten in their last 7 league games.

*Ghana U-20 vs. Iraq U-20
**Saturday, July 13th at 10:00 am CST on ESPN2 (Coverage starts at 9:45 am)
***After brilliant runs to the semifinals respectively, both Ghana and Iraq must settle for fighting for a third place medal in Istanbul on Saturday. While they may not be battling for the World championship title, both teams have provided some of the most entertaining football of the tournament and are certainly worth watching over breakfast Saturday.

*D.C. United vs. Chivas del Guadalajara
**Friday, July 12th at 7:00 pm CST on ESPN2
***While D.C. United have struggled through the first half of the 2013 MLS season, they will face Liga MX side Chivas del Guadalajara on Friday night in a friendly as Chivas look to prepare for their upcoming 2013 Apertura season. Anytime we you can get a Liga MX-MLS matchup, it is definitely something to keep an eye on! Also, another incentive to watch, the game will be called by our very own Glenn Davis alongside Taylor Twellman.

Also, check out the other Gold Cup games coming up:
*Friday, July 12th
**Trinidad and Tobago vs. Haiti at 6:00 pm CST on Fox Soccer

*Saturday, July 13th
**Costa Rica vs. Belize at 5:00 pm CST on Fox Soccer

*Sunday, July 14th
**Panama vs. Canada at 2:30 pm CST on Fox Soccer

*Monday, July 15th
**El Salvador vs. Haiti at 6:00 pm CST on Fox Soccer at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston
**Honduras vs. Trinidad and Tobago at 8:30 pm CST on Fox Soccer at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston

*Tuesday, July 16th
**Cuba vs. Belize at 4:30 pm CST on Fox Soccer
**United States vs. Costa Rica at 7:00 pm CST on Fox Soccer

Written by Cari Gelal

Weekend Watch List: July 5-7th

Sad the Confederations Cup is over? Well, get over it because the CONCACAF Gold Cup is back and it kicks off this weekend! Here I will preview a few of the opening matches to watch along with MLS and other leagues to check out.

Must Watch Games:
*Mexico vs. Panama

**Sunday, July 7th at 7:30 pm CST on Fox Soccer (Coverage starts at 7:00 pm CST)
***Kicking off Group A action is one of the most intriguing matchups of the tournament: Mexico vs. Panama. The last time the two teams met last month in World Cup Qualifying, they played to a 0-0 draw in Panama. However, this game is certain to produce a different outcome, as Mexico is planning to field an entirely different team (their “B” team) since they sent their “A” team to the Confederations Cup. Only one exception has been made, as Club America’s Raul Jimenez has been approved by FIFA to be added to Mexico’s Gold Cup roster although he wasn’t on the preliminary 35-man roster due to his inclusion in Mexico’s Confederations Cup squad. Jimenez saw limited playing time during Mexico’s World Cup Qualifying and Confederations Cup campaigns however, during his brief appearances, the 22-year-old striker showed great poise and promise and will most likely start in the game on Sunday. Panama on the other hand, will be featuring their “A” team which had a very strong showing in their recent World Cup Qualifying campaign, despite their last 2-0 loss to the United States. As Panama proved they could play with the Mexican premiere team, trust them to give Mexico’s “B” team all they can handle in a very physical match.

*United States vs. Guatemala
**Friday, July 5th at 10:00 pm CST on NBC Sports Net
***The U.S. will finish out their preparation for the 2013 Gold Cup by facing Guatemala in a friendly match on Friday. Expect Klinsmann to be experimental in the squad as he looks to tune up the team for their Group C opener against Belize July 9th. The U.S. has dominated the Central American side in head-to-head action, with the US winning 4 and drawing 1 in their last five meetings. Guatemala did not qualify for the Gold Cup. [**Random Side-note fun fact: The US have never won in San Diego, with a 0-5-2 record all-time]

*Houston Dynamo vs. Philadelphia Union
**Saturday, July 6th at 8:00 pm CST on Comcast Sports Net
***Our Houston Dynamo are looking to break their lengthy and lackluster winless streak on Saturday by getting 3 points at home over the impressive Philadelphia Union. After a 2-0 dredging up in New York last weekend, the Dynamo had a lot of work to do, primarily with the defense whose lack of communication and poor positioning left Tally Hall completely exposed to the Red Bulls’ potent offense threats of Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Fabian Espindola, and Jonny Steele. Another issue is the offense of the Dynamo, which has been lacking creativity, precision, and finishing in the box, scoring a total of only 2 goals in their last 7 league games. The Union have been experiencing a very strong campaign so far but will be missing two players due to Gold Cup duty: Jack McInerney and Keon Daniel. McInerney has been Philadelphia’s golden boy so far this season. At 20-years-old, he has been leading the MLS goal scoring table and has been the x-factor in the Union’s offense, combining beautifully with the older and more experienced Connor Casey. As of yet, McInerney’s presence has yet to be missed as the Union drew 2-2 away at Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, however, the absence may catch up with Philadelphia this weekend at insanely difficult to play at BBVA Compass Stadium.

*Botafogo vs. Fluminense
**Sunday, July 7th at 4:30 pm CST on Gol TV
***If you were disappointed that the Confederations Cup is over, fear not, for the brilliant Brazilians have given us yet another great game to focus our attention on Brazilian football. This weeks Brasileiro action features Classico Vovô (Grandpa derby), one of the oldest derbies in the entire world (dating back to 1906) between two of the biggest clubs in Rio de Janeiro: Botafogo and Fluminense. Both teams are stacked with some of Brazil’s brightest talents, with Fluminense featuring 3 Confederations Cup winners including Silver Boot winner Fred. Both of these teams have kicked off the 2013 Brasileiro relatively strongly and are expected to be fighting for the title in the end, so this is definitely a match up all of Brazil will be keeping an eye on.

*Messi & Friends vs. The Rest of the World
**Saturday, July 6th at 6:00 pm CST on ESPN
***Lionel Messi along with around 20 of his closest friends are coming to Chicago to play a friendly match. Did I mention some of his friends include Edinson Cavani, David Luiz, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Michael Bradley, Carlos Bocanegra, Robert Lewandowski, and Thierry Henry just to name a few? A must watch all-star showdown.

Honorable Mention:
*Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders

**Saturday, July 6th at 10:00 pm CST on NBC Sports Net
***Ding, ding, ding! Round two of the Cascadia Cup match up between Vancouver and Seattle is in play! Seattle took the first tie between the two sides 3-2 at CenturyLink Field and now Vancouver are looking to get some payback on their own turf. Vancouver have not lost since their defeat to Seattle in early June and are looking to see the streak continue while Seattle, coming off a 2-0 win over D.C. United, are strong enough to challenge the Whitecaps on their home ground.

*Canada vs. Martinique
*Sunday, July 7th at 4:30 pm CST on Fox Soccer
***In the second Group A match we see the two teams least likely to advance out of the group, Canada and Martinique. Canada has had a decent run in World Cup Qualifying and have a chance to steal a point or so from Mexico or Panama while Martinique are shaping up to the the Tahiti of this tournament: they will be lucky if they even get a shot on goal.

*São Paulo vs. Santos FC
*Sunday, July 7th at 2:00 pm CST on FirstRowSports.eu
***Another Brazilian derby to keep an eye out for is the “San-São” classico between São Paulo sides Santos and São Paulo. São Paulo has produced players like Kaká, Luis Fabiano, and Lucas Moura while Santos is the former playground of Pele, Robinho, and Neymar, so both of these clubs are revered in Brazil, though so far neither team has gotten off to a bright start in the 2013 season.

Stoppage Time:
While only Group A plays this weekend, the rest of the Gold Cup groups spring into action this week:
*Group B:
**Monday, July 8th:
***El Salvador vs. Trinidad & Tobago at 6:00 pm CST on Fox Soccer
***Haiti vs. Honduras at 8:30 pm CST on Fox Soccer

*Group C:
**Tuesday, July 9th:
***Costa Rica vs. Cuba at 7:30 pm CST on Fox Soccer
***Belize vs. United States at 10:00 pm CST on Fox Soccer

Coach’s Corner: A Chat with USWNT Head Coach Tom Sermanni

Thursday night, Glenn had the opportunity to interview the new head coach of the U.S. Women’s National team Tom Sermanni who is in Houston this weekend for some Q&A sessions and a soccer clinic with the Houston Aces.

GD: Let me take you back to when you first find out that you got the job of being the U.S. Women’s National Team coach. I know it was a competitive thing to get that job. What’s the first thing that crosses your mind?
TS: Probably a little bit of the sense of being surreal. I had been in the Australian job for so long and was very much attached to that and then certainly to get the offer to come here it felt very surreal at the time. And obviously it was very competitive with a lot of very good coaches and managers in the mix so it was also a little sense of disbelief that I managed to get over the line.

GD: You know, I liken you to Pep Guardiola because Pep Guardiola has taken over the Bayern Munich side after they’ve just won the Treble including the Champions League. You take over the Women’s National Team after winning a gold medal. When you sat back and assessed that, how do you look at that team and say “ok, how do I come in and put my stamp on this without maybe disrupting this machine that just continues to forge forward”?
TS: Well that’s exactly what you try to do,I think, and I’ve said this to the players and I think I’ve said it publicly. It’s not often you come into a job where you come into a team that has been very successful, very well coached, very well managed, you tend to come into an opposite situation where you have to make changes. So coming into this position, I think the first key thing for me was to make sure I didn’t try to come in and make all these changes. So basically it’s just business as normal and then as you grow into the job, you start to put your own personality, your own plan, you own coaching philosophy, and your own managerial philosophy into the mix. But the last thing I wanted to do when I came into this job was to make any significant changes.

GD: Tom, was there a time period when you have to earn the respect of these players or was that instant?
TS: I don’t think it’s ever instant. You know, sometimes you come into a job as a relative unknown and that’s a bit tougher but probably the slight benefit I had coming into this job was that I knew quite a few of the players. I had been in international women’s football for a considerable period of time so I was already a little of a known quantity. In some ways that makes it good and in some ways perhaps not so good, but that helps you when you come in initially. And then its about how you do the job. You know, players judge you very, very quickly and when you’re in the job and you really get your feet on the ground, that’s when you really have got to earn their respect and earn their trust.

GD: When you watch the Olympic Games and when you see them win the gold medal, I know you’re looking at it in a variety of different ways and directions and then you relate the U.S.’s performance based on the growth of the women’s game and the rest of the world, are there areas you see that we certainly, I guess, the technical side of it is one thing we’ve certainly been impressed with a number of other national teams over the last couple of years.
TS: Yeah and I think that’s probably it. I think the U.S. are in a sense unfairly [just pigeon holed] as a team that has a great winning mentality, great physical strength, great power, etc. What I’ve seen since I came into the job, and before I came into the job, is that there are some very good soccer players on this team. So I think that one of the things I would like to do, like to enforce, is that the team gets appreciated for how it plays soccer as well as for being a winning team.So I think going forward, obviously teams need to continue to grow, teams need to continue to refine how you play because the game is getting much closer, there is much greater competition in women’s soccer now. Countries are putting a lot of finances into their national teams now and into development so we need to keep pace with that. So I think that, as well as those great strengths we’ve got, we’ve got to keep adding away and chipping away at how we actually play the game.

GD: Do you actually believe we can ever change the ideology and the mentality at the grassroots level where people equate success in youth soccer with young soccer players strictly with winning? Can we change that mentality or can we chip away at it?
TS: I think we chip away at it. I think the problem you have in the U.S. is the opposite of any country with women’s soccer, is that there are so many girls playing, the game is so big, to be able to control all of it is impossible. But I think that if you go around clubs and see the developmental structure that U.S. soccer is trying to put in place, you know I think there are making inroads into that bond development between the winning mentality, which you’re is still trying to keep, but the importance of development in relation to that winning mentality at all costs Now they’ve got a technical director in Mike Hamrick and an assistant technical director in Jill Ellis, a full-time coaches for under-14, 17, and 20 levels so there are resources put in and great emphasis on the technical development of our national team. And once clubs start to see the type of player that is being selected for the national team then I think that will start changing peoples focus and their development and how they coach their players.

GD: I’ve gotta ask you this question: it’s incredible the amount of great coaches that come out of Scotland.
TS: Yeah, its good and people keep asking me that question and I don’t [know]. Perhaps its the upbringing. You know people in Scotland, I think that most of us who have come into the coaching community have come from a working class background, very similar backgrounds, and are generally well grounded. So I don’t know if thats the main thing, but I think there’s a common denominator there.

GD: I think this is a great connection here: the Houston Aces women’s professional soccer team bringing in the U.S. women’s national team coach. The fact that you’re coming here too I think says a lot about you and a lot about you on the grassroots level and your overall interest in the game in this country. All in all, I just see this as a great winner. Can you expand on that?
TS: Yeah, well I mean, I just see it as, well I say it’s part of my job but it’s not part of my job. To do this kind of thing, I see it as something that is important, as the national team coach in some ways, you’re often the focal point and I think it is important to be available to answer questions and to give some insight into what happens at the national team level. To be able to express my opinions on what I think should happen in women’s soccer so for me it’s certainly something I enjoy doing and I think it’s something important. We are all in the same game. The coaches that are out there at the Houston Aces and other clubs and the parents who are getting their kids along and the girls who are out there playing, ambitious to become a national team player, we are all part of the same system and if I can help contribute to that it is something I would like to do.

GD: A little remark on being around Abby Wambach now and her breaking Mia Hamm’s goal scoring record.
TS: It’s fantastic. I mean it’s one great player breaking another great player’s record and it’s very fitting because Mia very much was a mentor to Abby in her early professional career in the old WUSA. I think the fantastic thing about [that] night was the way that she did it. There was always the concern in the back of your mind that she would break the record with a deflected goal or a last minute penalty in front of a few hundred people but to do it in front of 19,000 people, an incredible crowd on a Thursday night at Red Bull Arena, to do it in the style that she did it, you couldn’t have scripted it any better.

GD: Alex Morgan is, in some ways is she redefining the U.S. national team, and I say that will all respect.
TS: In some ways she is. She’s redefining the women’s game to be honest. Not just in America but worldwide. She’s just burst on the scene and become the face of the women’s game over a very short period of time. She’s become a very important player for her national team on the field and a very important person and player in women’s soccer. Off the field as well, she’s a great role model for young female players who want to emulate someone like her and she’s also helped to bring the focus and the popularity back to the women’s national team. She’s an incredible player and an incredible athlete and considering how quickly she’s come from being sort of a no-name to the most famous name in women’s soccer, she handles it extremely well and extremely professionally.

GD: Alright so if we look for 2 or 3 little Tom Sermanni touches on the U.S. women’s national team currently or that you are trying to implement what would they be?
TS: I think, looking at one of the strengths of the U.S. team is that we feel we want to put more pressure on opposing teams and actually play the game more in the opposition’s half and from the defensive perspective we are looking a playing a much higher line than we’ve been playing and really force the other team into mistakes. The second thing is that we want to be confident, and confident to play the ball from the back through the midfield into our forward line rather than just looking to go from back to front. The third thing would be that we’re looking at, particularly from midfield forward, having players play a little bit more closer together so that there’s more chance of combination play and support play so that’s kind of the three things that we’re focusing on at the moment.

GD: Excellent. Now if I gave you a magic wand that you could wave over the youth soccer community and you could change 3 things right now, what would they be?
TS: First thing would be that every training session that you go to you focus on playing soccer. That would be the first and the most important thing. The second thing would be that part of every training session the would be some technical elements, some skill practice, particularly with younger players from the ages of 11 to 14-15 I think is really important. The third factor is having some game related practice as part of every practice as well. It’s all got to be about soccer, there’s got to be a skill element in there, there’s also got to be game elements.

GD: Does the American female player create their own training environment enough? Are they supplementing their training sessions with just free-play on their own?
TS: I think that’s a great question because I think in the western world that is a problem all over. When you see, when you go back to, I’m giving my age away, but back when I was a young player, for example, you went out and played in the street between the lampposts and all that, played around the cars if there was a car there so you made up your games, made up your rules. The reality is that these days in western societies its very difficult to do that, you know, for safety factors and all sorts of other reasons. So most of the practices in pretty much all sports are all organized and controlled practices so I think it’s important at a young age that there’s three [things]. That when you actually go to training, you actually don’t do too much coaching, particularly young age groups. That you actually give them time to play, give them time to develop, give them time to think for themselves. And that is a problem, you know that in poorer countries that still happens, in Brazil, in the African countries, you know, kids are out kicking a ball made out of paper, or they’re out playing in the streets, playing in between cobblestones, etc. etc. But that doesn’t happen in western society.

Weekend Watch List: June 28-30th

So after such an exciting and action-packed multitude of games last weekend, this weekend is pretty much a snooze-fest. Therefore, I apologize ahead of time for the quality and length of this post. However, out of the few games that are taking place this weekend, I present to you a Confederations Cup final of epic proportions, a couple MLS battles, and a few U-20 World Cup gems to enjoy.

Must Watch Games:
*Brazil vs. Spain

**Sunday, June 30th at 5:00 pm CST on ESPN (Coverage starts at 4:30 pm CST)
***On Thursday, Spain barely escaped Italy in penalty kicks in what was one of the most exciting semi-final matches ever (and if you didn’t watch it, shame on you!). Now they face Brazil in what is to be the dream Confederations Cup final game. Brazil beautifully dispatched a feisty Uruguay side on Wednesday 2-1 thanks to two huge goals from Fred and Paulinho, both resulting from the work of Neymar. However, if Brazil are to win the final against such a dominant Spanish side, it will take the likes of Oscar, Paulinho, Luis Gustavo, and other players to step up and have brilliant games. Both Spain and Italy were hit by the heat and humidity in Fortaleza on Thursday and it showed. Spain looked flat and exhausted for the entire first half in which Italy, to their credit, played some spectacular football. It wasn’t until the introduction of Jesus Navas in the second half that the Spanish started gaining momentum and by the second half of overtime, Spain looked dangerously close to ending the Italians night early. However, the game went into penalty kicks and Spain ended up triumphing 7-6 over the brave and entertaining Italians thanks to Navas’ clinical final kick. IAs is the Spanish weren’t exhausted enough in the semis, they now have a very short turn around as the final is on Sunday night. Brazil have an extra day of rest and have played less minutes in their semi-final, so count on the Brazilians’ blistering pace to be used to expose the tiredness of the Spanish players. It will be an absolute battle of footballing giants on Sunday: will it be the young, fresh, and exciting Brazilian team who take the victory in the final in front of their home fans at the Maracana? Or will the dominant, classy, and experienced Spanish continue their reign in international tournaments?

*Uruguay vs. Italy
**Sunday, June 30th at 11:00 am CST on ESPN2 (Coverage starts at 10:45 am CST)
***As an appetizer to the Confederations Cup final, check out Uruguay and Italy as they battle it out for third place in the tournament. Both teams come into the match with a chip on their shoulder (especially over penalties as Diego Forlan missed an early penalty that could’ve made the difference against Brazil and Leonardo Bonucci missed his penalty that meant Spain advanced over Italy in the penalty shootout). While the Uruguayans have the advantage of more rest, this Italian side is one of the most resilient, strong, and tough squads in the world and have all the talent to overpower the backline of Uruguay.

*New York Red Bulls vs. Houston Dynamo
**Sunday, June 30th at 1:00 pm CST on ESPN2
***To sum up the pros and cons of the scoreless draw against Toronto last weekend, head coach Dominic Kinnear kept it simple: “pros=we got a shutout, cons=we got shutout”. The Dynamo struggled against the heat and humidity and have lacked their usual spark over the last few games but are looking to get back on track by taking on the daunting task of the New York Red Bulls up at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls squad will be rejuvenated with the return of Tim Cahill (international duty), Juninho (suspension), and Jamison Olave (suspension) who will look to help the Red Bulls bounce back from their pounding from Philadelphia last weekend after they went down to 10 men.

*Philadelphia Union vs. FC Dallas
**Saturday, June 29th at 4:30 pm CST on NBC Sports Network
***After starting off the season very well, FC Dallas has been in a June slump, winning only 1 of 5 games so far in all competitions (their only win coming against the Dynamo in a US Open Cup match). On the other hand, the Philadelphia Union have been on a thunderous run this MLS season, led by their young clutch goal scoring fiend Jack McInerney. However, the Union will have to find another way to score after this weekend as the 20-year-old striker has been called up by Jurgen Klinsmann to play for the US in the upcoming Gold Cup and will miss a minimum of three games for the Union. Last weekend, the Union put in a commanding performance over the New York Red Bulls, taking the game 3-0 with two strong goals from Connor Casey and one from substitute Antoine Hoppenot, proving that the Union can put goals away even without McInerney.

Honorable Mention:
*Montreal Impact vs. Colorado Rapids

**Saturday, June 29th at 6:00 pm CST on Univision Deportes
***The Montreal Impact have put together a fantastic MLS campaign so far, with their European flavor style of football proving dominant in the American league. Italian superstars Matteo Ferrari, Alessandro Nesta, and Marco Di Vaio have stamped their fingerprints all over this team after arriving a lot more quietly to MLS than some of their other big-name European talents have (David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, etc.) and have slowly built up a great system of play along with Swiss manager Marco Schällibaum that has steadily gained momentum in this season and will undoubtedly carry on into the postseason. Colorado on the other hand, has unfortunately been the MLS punching bag this month, most recently receiving a 3-0 spanking by a superb Portland Timbers side at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland.

*Mali U20 vs. Mexico U20
**Friday, June 28th at 10:00 am CST on ESPNU (Coverage starts at 9:45 am CST)
***As the young, talented Mexican team is about to make an unexpectedly early exit from the U-20 FIFA World Cup, make sure you catch the current CONCACAF champions as they take on a stubborn Mali squad in their final match in Group B.

*Egypt U20 vs. England U20
**Saturday, June 29th at 1:00 pm CST on ESPNU (Coverage starts at 12:45 pm CST)
***Last but not least, the game I am most intrigued to watched in this weekends final U20 World Cup group play stage is the lukewarm England squad against Egypt. The young Three Lions managed to save themselves a point in a 1-1 draw with Italy and are now desperate to get a win against already out Egypt in order to stay alive in the tournament. I say this England squad is ‘lukewarm’ as they have shown on several occasions that they have more than enough talent to take it far but have yet to find the perfect formula to get all gears clicking together.Hopefully they will get it together on Saturday if they really wish to advance.

Any suggestions on games to watch?

Written by Cari Gelal

Coach’s Corner: A Chat with NYRB’s Mike Petke

On this week’s Soccer Matters show, Glenn chatted with former player and current head coach of the New York Red Bulls Mike Petke about his first season in charge at Red Bull Arena.

GD: Mike, tell me how prepared you were when you get told all of the sudden that you were going to be the head coach of the New York Red Bulls?
MP: [laughs] To be quite honest with you, I don’t think you’re ever prepared when you’re not wholly expecting something, I don’t think you’re ever prepared for something of this magnitude, but it was one of those things that was an instantaneous “yes”. It’s a club that I’ve been with for so long and it was an honor to be asked and I literally got straight to work the second they asked me.

GD: I’ve got to think that, being an East coast guy and being at that club, all the way back to the Metro Stars, I’ve got to think there’s a burning desire in you to help the professional game also elevate itself on the East coast.
MP: Of course! You know, this is the one thing I’ve said over and over again, I’m not a journeyman that ended up managing a team in MLS, this is the club that I’ve been with for over 10 years and the club that, of course, I want to succeed above everything else. So it was a conversation with Andy [Roxburgh, Sporting Director] to make sure that everyone was on board from the management and the owner right down to Gerard Houllier the Global Sporting Director right to Andy Roxburgh, to make sure everyone was on board with this because the last thing I want to do is come in and throw a wrench into anything. I want this club to succeed more than I want to have a job as the Red Bull’s head coach, so everything lined up in place and yes we want this to be a successful organization.

GD: Now I figure, Mike, that the endgame for you always one day was to become a head coach, right?
MP: Yeah, honestly early on in my career it wasn’t a calling, but instantaneously as I came to the end of my playing career the last couple years I became very intrigued with [coaching] and did my studying and did some extra coaching on the side while I was still playing and it was something I obviously fell in love with. To leave the field as a player and jump right on staff as an assistant coach and learn a lot and be involved on that other side of the coin was invaluable to me.

GD: The instant you get this job, you’ve got designated players, you’ve got personalities, you’ve got egos of people like Thierry Henry, other monster players like Tim Cahill. How important was it for you to gain the confidence of those guys and was that easy, was that difficult? Is it a daily thing? What is it?
MP: Well, I mean first people have to understand that I’ve been around those guys, Thierry as a player,I was still playing when he came on board, and then both Thierry and Tim when I was an assistant coach on the staff, so the respect level was there on both sides, from me to them and from them to me. They know exactly what make me tick, they know who I am as a person and vice versa, I know all about them as well. But, of course, every day with players of that magnitude and personality and where they’ve been around the world, it’s a give and take in a way. They want to win, they’re competitive people, but it also trickles down to other players we have on the team, American players like Dax McCarty, for instance, you know, he’s somebody who is very demanding of himself and of his teammates as well. When you stand in front of 27-28 players and you try to dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s” everyday it becomes a challenge, to be honest with you, with all those personalities. Like I said, it all comes down to the roots of me, that they know what makes me tick and they know who I am as a person before I was their coach, so that’s a great help and a good balance there.

GD: So Mike, it’s a lot of dealing with individuals differently, right? Some guys you might have to massage a little bit more, some guys might need the closed-door riot act a little bit, it’s a mix of stuff, right?
MP: Absolutely. You hit the nail right on the head. Some guys, you need to put the arm around, that’s what makes them tick and some guys don’t respond to yelling but some guys do. I was always the guy who, since I was in high school, I really thrived on coaches getting in my face, that’s just who I was. But I’ve played with countless players and there are countless players on this team who are the direct opposite and it’s about figuring that out as quick as you can to motivate each one to get the most out of each player.

GD: Take us into the mind set of Thierry Henry and what it’s like to manage such an outstanding soccer talent. What are maybe some of the challenges with him, if there are any. Give us a little behind-the-scenes insight for my listeners.
MP: Well, someone like Thierry Henry, its amazing because all the conversations I’ve had with him as an assistant coach, deep conversations about where he’s come from and what he expects from himself and from his teammates, it’s amazing that at the end of the day, all Thierry wants to be happy is a game plan and to know that things are being done right. He’s the type of person that if you stand before him as a coach and you lay out a game plan, even if he doesn’t agree with it, the fact that you laid something out and there’s a plan in place and you have a way to get that plan across to the players, he will follow it. That’s really all he wants. It’s amazing to me that somebody who has won everything in the world, from a World Cup, EPL, Spanish Liga title, European cups, that really, still at this age and after accomplishing that much and now coming to MLS that he still wants what he did as a kid and that is just a game plan and that’s refreshing to me. Obviously at the end of the day, he’s been everywhere, he’s won everything, and he’s such an accomplished soccer player, and it’s amazing in practice everyday to see him still in the warm up when we are doing stride outs or something, to see him pushing it as hard as he can. It’s very easy for me to turn to a young American kid and say ‘Look at Thierry Henry over there, I mean, he’s doing it so there’s no reason you should not be giving your all right now, you should not be coming into practice and giving it everything you’ve have’.

GD: Yeah, on one hand we may be saying ‘Boy there are real challenges coaching a man like that’ but on the other hand ‘Boy what an asset it is and what an amazing opportunity that you’re working with this guy as a head coach’.
MP: Of course. It’s been great so far. There are always going to be ups and downs, like every coach has, but at the end of the day I know that he wants what I want, which is to be successful with his club. The same with Tim Cahill. The same with Juninho. There are some rough patches you go through, a bad performance or a bad training or two, and these guys are so demanding that it really gets to them, it will literally ruin their day and put them in a bad mood. But I would rather have someone like that who could get a little crazy sometimes than someone who just brushes it off, who as soon as they are in their car just go and get a coffee and are not thinking about it. I want people who care and that’s the people who I have.

GD: I like that. How about those three guys when it comes to working with the younger players. Are they patient with them? Maybe a rookie who is just coming into the league that is obviously going to make some mistakes, is going to be learning daily, how is their patience with them and do you see those guys reaching out and trying to help those players?
MP: Listen, at the end of the day, I would label them all very helpful with the young guys, but there are fluctuating circumstances throughout the year. I mean I can’t expect someone like Thierry to be patient every second of every day. In practice, again, with how competitive he is. Being that certain things come second nature to him where other things we are working on with these young guys. But overall, at the end of the day, Thierry, Tim, and Juninho are all great leaders, they’re great with the young guys. Just today alone, after practice, Thierry had two young guys out and they were doing crossing and finishing. Tim is usually that guy as well, rallying the young guys together and Juninho, in his own way as well, we get his experience and sharing with [the younger guys]. But like I said, it is fluctuating sometimes because you can’t expect them all the time to be that patient.

GD: Now I expect that everyone is expecting Tim Cahill back and the like of Jamison Olave. You guys had a tough game, you went down a man in Philadelphia. That was a tough night and now Sunday night is a big night for you guys to respond.
MP: Yeah, it was a tough circumstance in Philadelphia. Ironically, with 10 guys in the second half, I felt like at times we played some of our best soccer. If you had a chance to go back over the tape and look at the chances we created, the possession that we filled out from the back with Thierry dropping, being a man down, we just couldn’t translate it into a goal though we had our opportunities. But yeah, everyone in sport know that the most important action is the next one and that’s this Sunday night coming up and its a team, the Dynamo, that have proven over the last few years now to be one of the best teams in the league every year. It’s going to be a very difficult game for us.

GD: How different a Dynamo team is this one in your eyes? With the addition of Boniek Garcia last year and this year Scottish winger Andrew Driver, its a different Dynamo team, isn’t it?
MP: Yeah, but the thing is with the Dynamos and the Salt Lakes, I guess you could say over the last 3-4 years, and Bruce Arena and the Galaxy, no matter who they have every year, the one thing that I love about those teams and those coaches is that they have a system, and they get their players to adapt to their system and the way they want to play. So you could blink your eye and there could be 5 new players but they are still working as hard as any team in the league and they still have the quality and they still play the same system, and it’s been very successful for them. So yeah they have some new players and yeah they have players out, but they are a very dangerous team, they are a very similar team that they’ve always been and even though that might sound like they’re predictable when I’m saying that, but not in the least bit with the quality they have with Brad Davis and [Ricardo] Clark, also [Bobby] Boswell in the back and, like you said, Andrew Driver, the new addition. All these guys are game-changers in their own right.

GD: Mike, the managers sometimes overcomplicate it. Do you catch yourself sometimes saying ‘I have to simplify this, I know where I’m trying to go but maybe I need to just simplify this, in what I am trying to express to my team’ whether it’s purpose of play or the identifying of the specific individual role for a player?
MP: I have that conversation with myself every single day at practice! It’s like a roller coaster. Sometimes I’m saying I’m talking too much on something and then 10 minutes later it’s I didn’t talk enough on this but that’s how I feel I am going to improve as a coach. As soon as I got named it was a thousand things in my mind in front of me about what I want to do but then slowly over the weeks it was narrowing down to like you said, simplifying things. This is how I want to play and we are far from the finished product. Everybody says that I inherited a team but part of it is a rebuilding year because of where we came from and the attitude that was in place the last couple of years. I had to readjust a lot of things and I’m still in the process of doing that. But yeah, especially as a young new coach such as myself there is never second guessing but there is a bit of ‘did I do enough or did I do too much?’ talk constantly.

Weekend Watch List: June 21-24th

These are the kind of weeks soccer aficionados live for! On Monday we saw the thrilling conclusion to the 2013 UEFA U-21 Euro in which Spain retained its crown after a 4-2 spectacular win over Italy. On Tuesday we watched Jozy Altidore fire the United States to the top of the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying table with a 1-0 victory over Honduras. On Wednesday and Thursday we focused our attention to all of the excitement of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup down in Brazil. All in all, this week has been a fantastic, football-filled wonder, and this weekend is shaping up to be just as stimulating!

Must Watch Games:
*Italy vs. Brazil

**Saturday, June 22nd at 2:00 pm CST on ESPN News (Coverage starts at 1:30 pm CST)
***Two of the most exciting teams in the tournament, Italy and Brazil have had spectacular group stage play so far. Brazil has produced football reminiscent to the Brazilian Samba futebol of old, with a 3-0 win in the opener against Japan and a 2-0 win over Mexico on Wednesday. Whether you love him or hate him, Neymar has had one heck of a coming out party in this Confederations Cup, scoring two brilliant volleys, one with each foot, and setting up Jo’s goal at the end of the Mexico match with another insane run that has been added to the repertoire of YouTube highlights for the 21-year-old Barcelona-bound Brazilian. Italy has also reverted back to the steady and dominant Azzurri of old this tournament, led by the ever calm, cool, and deadly Andrea Pirlo in the midfield and the volatile and vicious Mario Balotelli up top. Italy coolly dispatched Mexico in their opener 2-1, but were responsible for one of the craziest games in the tournament so far when they fought tooth and nail to come back from a 2 goal deficit to battle Japan in an outrageous 4-3 victory on Wednesday night. Both teams are going into the match on Saturday already assured of their passage into the knockout stage, but the outcome in this match will determine who finishes at the top of the group.

*Nigeria vs. Spain
**Sunday, June 23rd at 2:00 pm CST on ESPN (Coverage starts at 1:30 pm CST)
***Spain showed their dominance by steamrolling tiny Tahiti 10-0 on Thursday, securing their passage into the knockout stage of the tournament. Their opponents, Nigeria, are looking to bounce back after losing 2-1 to Uruguay and they must get an upset result versus the giants of European football in order to advance into the next round of the tournament.

*Japan vs. Mexico
**Saturday, June 22nd at 2:00 pm CST on ESPN (Coverage starts at 1:30 pm CST)
***While their time in Brazil has come to an end, expect both Japan and Mexico to attempt to go out with a bang. Japan fought bravely but couldn’t contain the lethal Azzurri attack on Wednesday. However, they did put in an awe-inspiring performance and were able to put 3 past Gianluigi Buffon in goal. On the other hand, the woes of Mexico continue as El Tri suffered their second defeat in 2013 after being overpowered and outplayed by Brazil. There was some hope for them as you could see some of the old fire and spirit that used to be a staple of the Mexican national team in the past, but there was not enough to contain the brilliance of Brazil in the end.

*Uruguay vs. Tahiti
**Sunday, June 23rd at 2:00 pm CST on ESPN2 (Coverage starts at 1:30 pm CST)
***After getting a very important 2-1 win over Nigeria on Thursday, Uruguay is in the driving seat to secure the second place position in Group B qualification by a win over the honorable but overwhelmed Tahiti team. Currently tied with Nigeria at three points apiece, Uruguay looks most likely of the two to advance as Nigeria must attempt to steal points away from World Champions Spain in order to make it to the knockout round. As Tahiti has been torched for 16 goals in 2 games so far this tournament, expect Uruguay’s devastating offensive force of Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, and Diego Forlan to have a field day up top.

*FC Dallas vs. Sporting Kansas City
**Saturday, June 22nd at 7:30 pm CST on FirstRowSports.eu
***Taking a break from Confederations Cup action, lets bring it back state-side to the MLS Game to Watch this week and, much to the disgruntlement of Dynamo fans, it’s Houston’s two biggest rivals FC Dallas and Sporting Kansas City. Dallas met their match last weekend, falling to the Portland Timbers on the road 1-0 but still lead the Western Conference over the Timbers by a point. Kansas City sits in third in the Eastern Conference and have struggled over the last few weeks without several key players like Graham Zusi who are out on international duty. Kansas are looking to get their first win of the month after losing 2-1 to an impressive Montreal side and then getting knocked out of the running to defend their title in the US Open Cup by USL side Orlando City SC in an embarrassing 1-0 defeat. Though it will take a lot for Sporting to get a result in Frisco, remember this is the team that went into BBVA Compass Stadium and destroyed the Dynamo’s intimidating 36 home game unbeaten streak on the stadium’s one year anniversary so this team knows how to win in hostile territory.

Honorable Mention:
*USA U-20 vs. Spain U-20

**Friday, June 21st at 1:00 pm CST on ESPN2 (Coverage starts at 12:45 pm CST)
***This weekend, the FIFA U-20 World Cup kicks off from Turkey and the USA is set to take on mighty Spain in their Group A opener. Group A has already been labeled the “group of death” in this tournament, including the U.S., Spain, France, and Ghana and the reason is because of the massive amount of talent littered throughout these teams. This U-20 tournament has launched the careers of players such as Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi and this year’s tournament features a crop of incredibly talented youngsters. For the U.S. and Spain, their U-20 squads resemble their senior squads remarkably. The U.S. is similarly facing some big question marks at the back, with coach Tab Ramos having to convert Shane O’Neill and Caleb Stanko into center backs during the World Cup Qualifying campaign. Now, O’Neill must sit out the Spain game due to a red card received during the 3-1 loss to Mexico. However, the offensive future is bright for the U.S. with players such as Jose Villarreal, Benji Joya, Daniel Cuevas and Luis Gil who are all getting significant time with their senior club teams. On the other hand, Spain has literally become a factory for producing some of the greatest future talent in world football. On Monday, the U-21 squad put a cherry on top of a brilliant UEFA Euro campaign by demolishing Italy 4-2 to retain their title and now the U-20 squad is looking to further the success of the Spanish youth national program with a World Cup title. Just looking at the squad sheet is enough to make you drool. Óliver Torres of Atlético Madrid is billed as a mini-Xavi, and Real Madrid’s Jesé Rodríguez, Liverpool’s Suso, and Barcelona’s Gerard Deulofeu are absolutely deadly up top. Whether or not this young U.S. squad can repeat the upset the senior squad pulled over Spain in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, this is one match up to keep your eyes on!

*Mexico U-20 vs. Greece U-20
**Saturday, June 22nd at 10:00 am CST on ESPN (Coverage starts at 9:45 am CST)
***Yet another team with bright young talent, Mexico are tipped to make a long run in this World Cup and will start by taking on a overmatched Greek team in their Group D opener. The CONCACAF Champions are solid in all areas of the field but, like their senior squad, are missing that big time creative attacking midfielder who can take over the tempo of the game. Look for Mexico to get out to a quick start right out of the gate.

*San Lorenzo vs. Lanús
**Sunday, June 23rd at 4:00 pm CST on FirstRowSports.eu
***The Primera Division in Argentina has been giving us plenty of exciting games these past few weeks, but none have been as exciting as this fixture. Fourth placed San Lorenzo hosts second placed Lanús, and with just a point separating the two squads, they have a lot to play for. Lanús is having a tumultuous June, defeating mighty River Plate 5-1 at home and then losing embarrassingly to a weak Estudiantes team just three days later. San Lorenzo is on a nine game unbeaten streak stretching back to April, with their squad as a picture of discipline and consistency. Once again, will it be the steady, reliable squad of San Lorenzo who triumphs, or will the volatile Lanús pull it together again and produce another brilliant display?

*Houston Dynamo vs. Toronto FC
**Saturday, June 22nd at 8:00 pm CST on KPRC (Coverage starts at 7:30 with Dynamo Pre-Game with Glenn Davis and Eddie Robinson)
***After getting off to a roaring start to the season, the Houston Dynamo are looking to shake off this slump in form they have been in over the last month. The Dynamo have not won in 5 league matches and are coming off back to back defeats to Montreal Impact 2-0 in MLS play and the FC Dallas 3-0 eliminating them from the US Open Cup tournament. The Dynamo will play their first league match at home in over a month since losing to New England on May 18th and are looking to begin a new home unbeaten streak with a win over a struggling Toronto FC.

*Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls
**Sunday, June 23rd at 4:00 pm CST on ESPN
***Getting back into action after a three week break from MLS play, the Red Bulls are on the road at the Philadelphia Union in hopes to take recover from their disappointing 2-1 loss to Vancouver at the beginning of the month. With just three points separating the Red Bulls from the Union in the Eastern Conference standings, look for the game to be tense, especially with New York’s veteran striker Thierry Henry facing off against the Union’s 21-year-old star Jack McInerney who will be looking to add to his league-leading tally of 10 goals on Sunday.

Stoppage Time:
*France U-20 vs. USA U-20

**Monday, June 24th at 10:00 am CST on ESPN3 (Coverage starts at 9:45 am CST)
***Another enticing match up pits the US against a talented young French squad featuring the like of Lyon’s Samuel Umtiti at the back and Juventus’ fiery young forward Paul Pogba up top. Check it out as your Monday morning brunch break!

Questions, Comments, Suggestions?? We love to hear imput!

Written by Cari Gelal