Monday, June 23, 2014

Liverpool 2014 Season Preview: Schedule

EDITOR'S NOTE: Luis Suarez has fled to the greener pastures of Barcelona. So disregard all Suarez references. The preview remains the same, however. No one player is bigger than the cloob.

With the World Cup in full swing and people actually (kind of seriously) caring about soccer, it's the right time to start looking ahead to when the summer starts winding down, the chill returns to the air, and we all start looking towards the start of another football season.

European football, of course.

Yes, it's never too early to prognosticate some predictions about the English Premier League campaign, coming to an NBC affiliate station near you on August 16.

With that in mind, let's get in a few quick thoughts on the schedule of everyone's favorite one-eyed, one-horned, flying red-clad people eaters: Liverpool FC.

Full Liverpool schedule.

No rest for the wicked (and weary).

Luis Suarez might be the most polarizing player in world football. Tragically misunderstood as a bloodthirsty cannibal, he is actually a lover, not a fighter. And he loves victory, so he'll do whatever he can to get it. Including eating people, eating people, and stopping shots with his hands (despite the fact that he's not a goalie).

But it was against Ghana, so, it's cool?
Regardless, it seems like the powers that be have conspired to give the Reds a surprisingly difficult start to the season, with a home match to tricky Southampton, then two away matches at champions Manchester City and a talented Tottenham Hotspur side.

For the record, those last two are just referred to as City and Spurs. Handy soccer lingo. A 2-1 start would be excellent, and 1-1-1 wouldn't be too bad either. 

We could win every game between October 4 and December 20.

Of course, we could win every game of the season, but that rarely happens. (Oh, by the way, Liverpool is "we" now - deal with it). 

Fucking deal with it.

But for real, after the derby match with Everton on September 27 (more on that later), the teams that Liverpool play are rather pitiful. With the exception of Chelsea (3rd last year), the nine teams that we play had an average finish of 14th place (out of 20). 

That means that we should be at or near the top at Christmas, which is the spiritual and metaphorical halfway point in the season. It's also important because recent history shows that the top of the league table (aka the standings) doesn't change much between Christmas and the end of the season (which is in late May). Top at Christmas? You've got a good shot at winning the league. Seems simple, and it is.

Big games are scattered throughout.

There are no "Months of Death" in Liverpool's schedule (if that's even a thing). There's the huge early-season clash with City (August 23), the derby match at home against Everton (September 27), a birthday brawl with Arsenal (December 20 - send money to my Venmo account), and the return fixtures in these matchups: February 7 at Everton, the last day of February 75% of the time against City, and an April 4th match vs. Arsenal. 

Long story short: there are no two big games back to back, even if you count Chelsea among one of the sides to be reckoned with (I don't, despite their new signings. The Premier League has not been kind to Spanish forwards at Chelsea).

Wait, what's a derby?

Glad you asked. It's this - or if links aren't your thing, it's a local rivalry. Think Cubs-White Sox or Yankees-Mets (in terms of location) but Duke-UNC or Alabama-Auburn (in terms of intensity). Everton is the other major soccer team in Liverpool, and the stadiums of the two teams are separated by less than a mile. It's an absolute madhouse every time these two get together, and the cliche usually holds up: records and position in the standings mean nothing during a derby. 

It's also pronounced "darby" - Brits are a goofy bunch.

So there you have it - a tough start, a cupcake autumn, and the chance to space out and prepare for some big fixtures. Yes, we'll be playing in the Champions League as well (FUCKING FINALLY RIGHT?), so fatigue will be a thing. But with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge up front, I don't see why expecting another top-3 finish is out of the question.

 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  -- why not us?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

6 Reasons Why Phil Mickelson Won't Win the US Open, and 1 Why He Will

Just to be clear, I love me some Phil Mickelson. The guy is a genius with a golf club in his hand, and one of the best players to ever play the game. He's finished second at the US Open a record 411 times (just kidding it's six, but still), and, as usual, he's jazzed to get started at Pinehurst tomorrow. Ctrl+F "excited" in that link. It's like a damn Tim Tebow press conference.

Some people think he's finally going to get over this US Open hump, just the way he did at Muirfield last summer, and take down the career Grand Slam. Here are 6 reasons why that simply won't happen. And one why it might.

  1. No lefty has ever won a US Open.
  2. Only one player has won a US Open at an older age than Phil's 43 years, 364 days (yup, it's his birthday the day after the tournament ends), and that's Hale Irwin at 45 years, 15 days.
  3. The tournament has only been played at Pinehurst Number 2 twice, and neither winner on those two occasions grew up in the Western U.S. Time Zone.
  4. In fact, seven of the last ten US Open winners have not been American.
  5. No man with the initials P.M. has ever lifted the US Open Championship trophy.
  6. More startlingly, not only have zero Phils won this event, but there's nary a Paul, Peter, Patrick or Prescott to be found. The only winner whose name starts with a "P" is, you guessed it: Payne Stewart.

The US Open has only been played in the Southeastern United States three times. Twice at Pinehurst and once at Atlanta Athletic Club. Of those three winners, two of them (Payne Stewart and Jerry Pate) had names (first or last) that started with "P".

This has been your astonishingly dumb US Open preview. Jim Furyk or Matt Kuchar will win. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

5 Really Bold World Cup Predictions

One of my favorite quotes from "Game of Thrones" comes from the Imp, Tyrion Lannister, when he basically sums up the theme of the show in one sentence:

It's powerful and simple, and makes the viewer realize that what we thought we knew about how the world worked in a good and just society hold no sway in this story.

Kind of like what you think you know about the World Cup holds no sway once the actual tournament starts. (How about that for a segue?)

The World Cup is, like many lives in Westeros, nasty, brutish, and short. Characters take their turn upon the stage for three or four games, only to be ruthlessly beaten down and eliminated by more powerful opposition (usually the Germans).

With that cheery image in your head, let's get into some ruthlessly bold World Cup predictions.

(Editor's note: I had this post almost all written last night and it somehow got deleted. So this is going to be a severely shortened version. Take it up with Google if you have an issue.)

1. Colombia won't make it out of their group.

Ooh. Kill em.
Two words: Radamel Falcao. Colombia's all-time leading scorer, and one of the best players in the world, won't make the trip to Brazil as he recovers from a knee injury. That's bad news, obviously. They have some other solid players, like the sillily named Jackson Martinez and Napoli's Camilo Zuniga. But Falcao was the talisman (just look at that body), and without him I predict they fold like a house of cards. Plus, I think Japan is sneaky good and the Ivory Coast will finally realize their potential as a group of ubertalented stars.

2. The United States will not only escape their group, but will beat Belgium in the round of 16.

Boo. Hoo.
Two words: dark horse. That's what the US comes into this tournament as, and what people had been calling the Belgians until recently, when they just became a horse. The Yanks aren't even expected to make it out of the Group of Death, what with Germany (world #2) and Portugal (world #4) on the docket, as well as recent US-killer Ghana waiting in the wings.

But the US has won all three of its send-off matches, something that has never happened. And though they won ugly, they won. And winning builds confidence. And confidence builds more winning. It's like Fat Bastard's vicious cycle, but positive (unless you really like eating). So here's what'll happen: the US will go down and thrash Ghana 3-1. Then we'll draw with Portugal 1-1, and probably lose to Germany 2-0. I'm not gonna sit here and figure out goal differential and other team's records, I'm just gonna assume that we get through. Then, on to Belgium.

Belgium has a stupidly easy group with Russia, South Korea, and Algeria. They'll go 3-0 and win that group, having not been tested. And then, suddenly, they're in the knockout rounds. Shark-infested waters. These Belgians have a fair bit of experience, but don't boast any obvious goal threats with Christian Benteke hurt and Romelu Lukaku possibly nursing an injury. Plus, they're already being touted as an outside contender for the title. That's called pressure - something the US will have exactly none of after escaping the Group of Death with their lives. And in a single-elimination game, I'll take the team with no pressure on them over the pressurized team all day err day.

3. Bosnia-Herzegovina will beat France in the round of 16.

A face only an underage prostitute could love.
The talk of the tournament on the eve of the tournament is the players who will not be playing in the tournament.

Wait. What?

I'm talkin' bout injuries. There's been a slew of big-time players going down with ouchies lately, so much so that several websites have created their lists of best players to miss the World Cup due to being physically done for. One of the finest players to drop to the turf writhing in (actual) pain lately is that fellow up there - France's Franck Ribery, midfielder extraordinaire and World's Ugliest Man Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

So my prediction is that France win their group, Bosnia-Herzegovina gets second in theirs, and then the B-H boys beat the Frenchies.

Yes, France are stocked with talent (Giroud, Pogba, Evra, Benzema, etc.), but they're French. And French people fold. They folded HARD at the World Cup in 2010, then bowed out in the quarterfinals of the Euros to eventual champions Spain.

Granted, the Bosnians are no Spain, but they've got some motivation that the other teams don't - specifically, the fact that their country is barely 20 years old, and most of the players were displaced by the Bosnian war and grew up as part of the diaspora (SAT word). The country has not had a competitive football team in ever (in ever, Jerry), so this is kind of a "put the country on my back" deal for Edin Dzeko and the Bosnians. National pride means a lot in the World Cup. The French might still be stinging from the last two major tournaments, and the Bosnians will come in brimming with hope. (Plus they friggin dominated their qualifying group.)

4. Brazil will beat Argentina in the final, but Sergio Aguero will win the Golden Boot.

Mom made pizza rolls?!
Call this a parlay prediction. Both outcomes are rather likely (Brazil are 3/1 to win it all and Aguero is 14/1 to finish top scorer), but put em together and what do you get?

Bippity boppity boo?

No. You get a bold fucking prediction.

Argentina have scored a lot of goals lately against bad teams like Trinidad and Tobago (3-0) and Slovenia (2-0), with exactly zero goals from Captain Happy McChuckles up there. Their goals have come from midfielders (and Messi, duh), but that's OK. Goals in the World Cup come from forwards (except if you're the USA) - just check out this list of Golden Boot winners. You have to go back to 1974 and a West German named Grzegorz to find a dude who doesn't play forward winning that award. Rather strange, then, that the three players deemed more likely than Aguero to win this award are Lionel Messi (questionably a forward, often deployed on the wing), Neymar (questionably a forward, often deployed on the wing), and Cristiano Ronaldo (questionably a for-- yeah, you get it).

This will happen. Mark it down.

5. The Diego Forlan award for rocketing into the US's collective national attention will go to Angel Di Maria.

Once upon a 2010, an attacker from a prominent La Liga team went into the World Cup with high expectations, excellent hair, and a light blue jersey. After an explosion of highlight reel goals, Uruguay's Diego Forlan was the talk of the nation. It didn't hurt that he resembled Adonis's better-looking younger brother.

You want some of this milk?
After a scorching game in the Champions League final, Argentina winger Angel Di Maria is in great form. He'll rise to the challenge in Brazil, using his tricky feet and speed to get past outside defenders and either whip in crosses or take a few rips at goal. Plus, when the Argentines meet up with the USA in the quarterfinals, no one will be able to miss him with this righteous 'do:
(It looks like he's got an onion on his head)
A few goals, a few assists, a few embarrassed defenders, and you've got yourself a recipe for American stardom.

6. BONUS PREDICTION: One team's hotel will be robbed. 

I mean, it is Brazil. Something has to go wrong.

Monday, June 2, 2014

World Cup Preview: Group H Predictions

And we've arrived. Barely a week before the tournament, this is the final group preview in the World Cup. If I get enough time, I may do a knockout preview, but we shall see. Read everything you need to know about every World Cup group here.

Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, Korea Republic

Blue Steel.
This is the group the USA could have had. Weep for the poor Americans. Weep, I say.

Prediction: Belgium win group, Korea Republic second.


This picture is too good to use just once.
Belgium are kind of an under the radar superteam. Along with Eden Zoolander Hazard up there, Belgium has EPL studs such as Romelu Luk(kakukuku)kaku from Everton, Vincent Kompany from Manchester City, and the oft-maligned but undeniably talented Marouane Fellaini from Manchester United. They're just really stacked overall and they should have no problem rampaging through this group. There really are two types of groups at this World Cup - the deathy ones and the non-deathy ones. This is as far from death as you can get.

Korea Republic.


Not sure when these guys started going by "Korea Republic" instead of the ever-popular and much more easily understood "South Korea", but regardless. I think they'll get themselves out of this group. Mainly because their manager has selected a group of players that make their living in the more competitive European leagues, such as Arsenal's Park Chu-young, Bolton's Lee Chung-yong, and Bayer Leverkusen star Song Heung-min (that guy up there). 

The Koreans are a young team, with no player in their 30s. Youth usually equals fresh legs and strong lungs, two attributes that will be needed in abundance against the high-scoring Belgians and the pacey Algerians in muggy Brazil. That was a lot of adjectives. Regardless, look for Korea to sit back and play their possession game against Belgium, and perhaps press Algeria into a few mistakes at the back. The decisive game in this group will be Russia vs Korea on June 17.


Hey there.
Wait a minute. This isn't terribly model-esque. I think Eden can do better. Eden?

You got it, dude.
Thanks Eden.

Russia's problem in my eyes is that they just didn't take the right players. I don't care how out of form and favor some players are, the Russians are simply a worse team without Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Roman Pavlyuchenko. They play against better competition than the squad that manager Fabio Capello has selected, which contains only players in Russia's domestic league. The camaraderie might be invaluable, but I'm not sure how far it will get the Russians. Plus, Russia = cold and Brazil = hot, and their three send-off games are against the weak nations of Slovakia (a 1-0 win), Norway (a 1-1 draw) and Morocco (playing on June 6). 


Algeria has one of the coolest nicknames in the tournament: the "Desert Foxes". Unfortunately, they basically suck. They're sort of like Iran in that they're the best team from a terrible region. They barely snuck in after beating a country called Burkina Faso. They'll be lucky to draw a game.