England’s 4-1 thrashing of a good, albeit injury depleted, Montenegro side should be further evidence that the self-loathing elements of the British press just do not see what Roy Hodgson is building and why he has England playing the way he does.
Honestly, I don’t see a lot of cracks in this England side. Playing organized and tight as Hodgson insists on playing them means England will be competitive in every game next summer in Brazil, regardless of the opposition and irrespective of how stylish that opposition appears to be. No other national side on the planet has the pace and ability to counter the way England does. Andros Townsend’s development just adds to that, giving England additional cover for Theo Walcott. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be back soon as well. If England can find a reliable midfield ball-winner, reaching the World Cup semi-finals will not be out of the question. People’s personal preferences dictate slick football with nice passing. But England can play a different way, some would say “negative,” but I would say different — plus indigenous and progressive in its own way. I believe England will do well next summer in Brazil.
Switzerland, under one of the most decorated club managers of recent times, German Ottmar Hitzfield, is an interesting multi-ethnic side. The Swiss bounced back from a poor European qualifying campaign with a strong World Cup qualifying campaign in a weak group. The Swiss could be a tricky side to face next summer representing the same sort of difficult team to face at the group stage that they did in 2006 and 2010.
If Bosnia Herzegovina can wrap up World Cup qualification on Tuesday by defeating Lithuania, they will take a victory lap in November in St Louis in a friendly versus Argentina. The Missouri city has a large Bosnian exile community, and World Cup qualifying could give Bosnians everywhere some degree of closure on the 1990s Balkan wars.
The Portland Timbers supporters tifo unveiled on Sunday night at Jeld Wen field may be my favorite tifo of this season. As an obsessive Beatles fan, it may in fact go down as one of my favorites ever.
Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Rowdies who have won the Coastal Cup over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers for the fourth consecutive season. It was also a banner weekend for Flight 19, the Strikers supporters group, who took a coach full of away fans (myself included) to St Petersburg for the game.
Speaking of the NASL, Commissioner Bill Peterson has been active on Twitter and on the airwaves during the past few weeks. His controversial interview with Pieter Brown of Ultras Alive is a must listen for anyone interested in lower division American soccer. Peterson talks in very aggressive terms about the potential competition between the NASL and Major League Soccer, echoing and expanding upon his comments to the BBC World Service the previous week.
The reaction among supporters I spoke with about the Ultras Alive interview on Saturday at Tampa Bay-Fort Lauderdale match was almost universally negative. While Peterson lays out his case case for why he feels the NASL can challenge the MLS’ hegemony over top-flight American soccer, most fans who are veterans of the minor league circuit in the United States are not in favor of yet another soccer war. Having seen teams and leagues come and go, most fans are skeptical of anything that could jeopardize the economic viability of the league. Many supporters just laughed at the interviews while others were genuinely unhappy that the league they support may embark on a reckless course. I will admit I was surprised by the reaction, having assumed the anti-MLS sentiments of some of the fans I know well, combined with almost slavish support of anything NASL has done or said in the past meant they would be more open to the idea of NASL challenging MLS, as preposterous as it might seem for most people. But it seems recent events chronicled best by Neil Morris of Indy Week have soured many of the most loyal supporters on NASL’s vision for the future.