On Saturday night, the New York Cosmos won the NASL Soccer Bowl for a sixth time. According to my league and team sources, CONCACAF is trying to find a way to get the Cosmos, a second division team, into the continental CONCACAF Champions League. While I have not been able to confirm this with CONCACAF, I could see the Confederation working closely with NASL due to the common bond of Traffic Sports USA who provide marketing services for both entities and owns three NASL clubs.
Regarding the Cosmos victory, four of the previous five Soccer Bowl victories occurred in an era when the NASL was one of the top leagues in the world. The fifth occurred while the NASL was the recognized first division of the US even though the league’s standard of play at the time was only moderately professional. This triumph however is more controversial for a few reasons. Firstly, many opposing fans feel the Cosmos were given an unfair advantage by playing only half the season. Secondly, without any sort of salary cap or guidelines in NASL, and by playing a shorter season, the Cosmos had a disproportionate financial advantage over the rest of the league.
Nonetheless, the Cosmos must be congratulated for gelling a team relatively quickly and running roughshod over a league whose established sides are usually tougher to break down and beat than they proved this past season.
With the New York Red Bulls losing in the MLS playoffs, it is the Cosmos turn to gloat in the battle for New York.
In Europe, AS Monaco is beginning to look more and more disjointed as the season wears on and it seems those of us who had hoped for a proper title race in Ligue Un this season will be disappointed. Paris Saint-Germain continue to impress and seem destined to run away with a second consecutive title.
In the Championship, the way Danny Ings is scoring pretty and timely goals for Burnley makes me think Roy Hodgson should give him a look for England. Speaking of Hodgson, the call up of the Southampton trio of Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert are well deserved. In particular, Rodriguez can do a job for England in my opinion.
The last 48 hours have yielded some discussion in media circles if Jose Mourinho’s presence is leading to officiating decisions that favor Chelsea in the light of Saturday’s horrible decision to award a penalty when West Brom seemed destined to see out the game with a victory. I don’t buy this particular logic though it must be unpleasant for a match official every time Jose chooses to berate them.
Mourinho’s old mate, Steve Clarke — who I have dubbed “Mr. Chelsea” for his long service to the club both as a player and coach — got the better of Jose on Saturday. As always, Clarke had his team tactically set up well and the Blues had a very hard time breaking down the Baggies. Still Mourinho’s changes did liven up the match and while Chelsea did not deserve their equalizer, they perhaps did deserve something from the game.
Manchester City’s defeat at Sunderland was predictable given the Citizens recent record at the Stadium of Light and the club’s poor away form this season. But unlike the loses under Roberto Mancini that were hard fought affairs often decided on a questionable call, City made it easy on the Black Cats. Seeking a change in recent fortune, Gus Poyet’s side set up to attack and while Manchester City had injuries to contend with, playing a high line was suicidal. City’s backline lacked pace, did not provide any additional width to the side and the lone Sunderland goal took place because of defenders being caught up the pitch for no good reason. Manchester City have lots of problems at the back and unlike Roberto Mancini who built from the back, Manuel Pellegrini seems determined to force a philosophy on a backline that seems incapable of implementing his vision. The result is continued head-scratching loses away from home and the realization that City may not finish in a European spot this season.
It is worth noting that Manchester City did not lose a match before December 9th each of the previous two Premier League seasons and this season have already dropped four by November 10. Of course the retort to that can be that City have actually already secured advancement from a European group as opposed to the previous two European campaigns that ended in humiliation. Still by shifting the priority from the league to Europe in an increasingly competitive league environment, it is entirely possible Manchester City will not qualify for European competition next year.
Across to the other half of Manchester, all the talk that David Moyes was out of his depth and Manchester United were not title contenders seems rather silly now, doesn’t it Phil Jones is turning into the versatile type John O’Shea player that was so important to United’s title success between 2006 and 2009.
Near the bottom of the table, Fulham is in dire shape. Looking back at the last nine months of football, they have been far and away the worst squad in the top flight of English football. Shahid Khan has a decision to make. Take Fulham down and sweep the decks, or try to make changes to try and fight to stay up this season. While the answer may seem obvious to some, I am not so sure how obvious it is. Fulham have stayed in the top flight a lot longer than anyone expected and even reached a European final in that period. But I wonder about the long-term health of a club without a robust supporter base whose success has largely been down to the generosity and commitment of one man, the former owner Mohammed Al-Fayed. Fulham must learn to live within its own means and my feeling is going down may not be the worst thing for the West London club.