Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund side will keep the Bundesliga race tight this season. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a player I had hoped several Premier League sides would pursue instead, ended up with the European runners-up as somewhat of an afterthought. On Saturday in his Bundesliga debut he recorded a hat trick, made runs from a wide position, and linked up well with Marco Reus, İlkay Gündoğan and Nuri Şahin. The return of Sahin to the Dortmund XI is also significant as he showed some of the signs of what made him arguably the most influential player in the league before his ill-fated move to Real Madrid in 2011.
I found it interesting that despite the new signings and toying with tactics, Pep Guardiola returned to tried and tested tactics/squad selection on Friday in Bayern Munich‘s season opening victory. Guardiola is spoiled for choice. And once Mario Götze and Thiago achieve full match fitness, look out.
An annual rite of passage with some in the media and blogosphere is to poke holes at Manchester United and say that this current team is not a “vintage” United side. I find this to be a case of commentators sitting in an echo chamber perhaps wishing for something to change. But David Moyes appointment as manager of Manchester United is bound to have more ramifications for Everton, who were chronic overachievers under Moyes than for United who remain arguably the most complete squad in England, with the best infrastructure and support with which to remain title contenders. Looking at the Red Devils, one does not see a whole lot of squad weakness outside of an aging central midfield. This is contrasted with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City all of whom have more obvious and pressing potential transfer needs. The ease at which Wigan Athletic was dispatched in the Charity Shield at Wembley reminds us of the professionalism of this United squad. Sir Alex Ferguson has left Moyes with a squad capable of winning the Premier League by some distance, as they did last season and contending for European honors. That doesn’t mean they will win the league or advance deep in Europe, but they still seem to be the most complete and battle tested squad in English football.
The Luis Suarez transfer saga has been most interesting for the involvement publicly of Liverpool owner John W. Henry. As an owner of a Premier League club, Henry’s hands-on management style will win him friends on Merseyside but very much may rankle the rest of English football in a similar fashion to the way Dave Whelan has. Henry seems committed to making a public stand, which perhaps is posturing to regain the goodwill of so many Liverpool supporters.
NBC Sports promotion of its Premier League package in the United States has been outstanding. The two programs aired on NBC over-the-air on Sunday afternoon raised the bar on coverage of the sport in the United States. Never before has such original programming aired about any league including our own domestic leagues on network television. A rising tide lifts all boats and while I have noted some bitterness among MLS/NASL/USL-PRO fans about the promotion of the Premier League on NBC, it will ultimately make the sport more popular and sustainable in the United States.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies, the subject of a World Soccer Talk mini-documentary, enjoyed the club’s first ever regular season sellout (7,000 +) at Al Lang Stadium Saturday against the New York Cosmos on Saturday. For those who don’t think the Cosmos impact is real, they should note the Rowdies — despite the on-field success they have had since 2011 — have had only one regular season crowd over 5,000 in that period.
Orlando City broke its regular season attendance record with almost 11,000 in attendance to see the the Seattle Sounders reserves in “inter-league” play between MLS and the USL PRO. Orlando got good news on the stadium front this week, and looks poised to move to MLS soon.
While Tampa Bay and Orlando were enjoying banner weekends, a third pro team in the state of Florida continues to struggle on and off the pitch. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers have 2 wins, 2 draws and 10 losses this season and barely drew 3,000 fans to Lockhart Stadium on Saturday night. This came just days after 67,273 in the same market watched Real Madrid defeat Chelsea.