Sorry for my recent absenteeism from the blogosphere. After three trips in four weeks (Baltimore, Israel, DC), and a handful of other disruptive events and commitments, I’m finally finding a time to sit and collect miscellaneous thoughts. So let’s start with soccer.
Following a vapid, spiritless 0:2 defeat at the hands feet of Guatemala last week at the Estadio Mateo Flores in a World Cup qualifier, the US Men’s
National Team prepared for their rematch on Tuesday night in Columbus knowing that a loss could very well kill their chances to advance to the CONCACAF Hexagonal and then to Russia in 2018.
With soccerheads and talking heads up and down the dial and on discussion boards, including even on Boston sports talk radio, and including yours truly, lamenting the seemingly inevitable doomsday scenario all through the weekend and right up to kickoff, many were preparing for the unthinkable (the USMNT not making the World Cup for the first time since 1986) and the unavoidable (that uber-coach somewhat fraudulent Jurgen Klinsmann experiment would end in his firing after the loss).
And while I wasn’t able to watch the game due to Bedford Town Meeting, I did audibly gasp when the 4:0 victory for the US result popped up on Twitter. I won’t go so far as to call it redemption, as I still think Klinsmann needs to be canned (as well as Sunil Gulati, President of US Soccer, BTW did you hear about the lawsuit), but it was a rare positive result from the USMNT in a game that meant something. With 2 games left in the Fourth Round of qualifying, including one against minnows-of-the-minnows St Vincent and the Grenadines, the US is looking Hex-bound, but you just never know.
8 (or 11) Games To Glory
With 38 games played in the League Championship for Brighton and Hove Albion, their 19-4-5 record has them in second place, four points behind Burnley and one point up on Middlesbrough (who have only played 37 games). With less than 6 weeks to go in the season, that Top-2 finish and automatic Premier League promotion might there for the taking if the Seagulls can continue their outstanding run of recent results. Since their midseason swoon, they have gone 8-3-1 in their past 12 games, thanks largely to the inspired play up front from Israeli striker Tomer Hemed, who continues to lead the team in scoring with 13 goals on the season. Saturday will find them at Burnley for a game with massive table implications, and on the final matchday of the season (May 7), Albion travels to Middlesbrough, with that automatic promotion spot perhaps hanging in the balance. If the Seagulls miss out on the top 2 but still finish in places 3-6, they’ll duke it out with the other teams in those spots to try and grab the final promotion spot up into the BPL. And it’s not just glory that awaits the three promoted teams… it’s a 60 million pound windfall from the Premier League that comes along with the promotion.
Too Close To Call
It’s getting pretty tight at the top of the Ligat Ha’Al table, with a single point separating Hapoel Beer Sheva (20-6-2/66 points) and Maccabi Tel Aviv (20-5-3/65 points). With 8 games to go, including another head-to-head match between the titans on the weekend of April 29, it’s looking like the championship race will be going down to the wire. Of local interest, Maccabi Haifa has stumbled out of the gate in the championship playoffs, falling 3:2 to Betar Jerusalem and 3:0 to Hapoel Ra’anana, so it looks like 6th place is a foregone conclusion. In the relegation playoffs Hapoel Haifa (5-10-12/25 points) is still in the drop zone after losing 2:1 to Maccabi Petach Tikvah, so they’ll need to string together some positive results to stay in the Premier League next season. Relegation is more or less assured, though, for last-place Maccabi Netanya, who at 1-8-18/11 points will certainly be heading for Liga Leumit next season.
Who will be promoted, you ask? Well, FC Ashdod looks like a lock at 15-9-5/54 points, 7 points clear at the top, and they’ll be joined by the likes of either Hapoel Ashkelon (47 points), Hapoel Petach Tikvah (44 points), or feel-good Hapoel Katamon (44 points- see their badge on the right), whose coexistence brand of Jerusalem soccer (read here and here) is much better than the racist brand of Betar.