’10 to Track’ match previews for weekend 1/19-20 – call Noob “Mr. CONCACAF”

Noob’s return to Tracking important matches for rolls on!

This weekend, trying out something new.

Image result for CONCACAF

What follows are the most important matches from the top 20 leagues in CONCACAF.

Enjoy, as we get to know leagues and clubs from all over our local federation.

1. UANL Tigres vs. Cruz Azul – Liga MX
  • CONCACAF league rank:        they don’t do those, but MX is #1
  • Table positions:                        Apertura #5, #2
  • Stakes:                                           top 8 make the Liguilla
  • Time of season:                         Clausura just starting

For the rawest of Noobites, Mexico divides its football year into two separate tournaments – Apertura and Clausura. They’re just a game into the Clausura, so let’s look at the year’s first half:

Cruz Azul were the regular season champs! But they lost in the Liguilla (postseason tournament) final to #B CF America. They sported the best defense in the league, should be a contender once again.

UANL finished in 6th, also qualifying for the Liguilla. Their goal differential was second best in the league, but it wasn’t bad luck that kept them from a higher table position. They struggled against top competition, if often losing close at least. And they ran up scores against lesser foes. They’ll need to figure out how to get more scoring versus the real contenders if they want to join their ranks.

RESULT:   Cruz Azul   0-1

B. Atlas vs. Guadalajara – Liga MX Femenil
  • CONCACAF league rank:             hmmm…well, nowhere near as good as U.S.
  • Table positions:                             Apertura #4, #B in Group 2
  • Stakes:                                               top four from each Group make the Liguilla
  • Time of season:                             Clausura just starting

Mexico’s professional women’s league has their season divided the same as the men’s side. In this league also they are just starting the Clausura.

Unlike the men’s side, the women’s league is divided into two Groups of nine clubs each. Top four from each make the Liguilla, and these two were both in it. These two were the best defensive teams from their Group. They sported the best two defense in the league. Both will have to show they can score a lot more in order to challenge Group champs UNAL.

RESULT:        this match seems to have not been played;  an update will follow if more info becomes available

 

Image result for image redacted

 

The Number B image originally shown here was redacted.

I blame the agents of worn-out Number Two.

3. Oaxaca vs. Sonora – Ascenso MX
  • CONCACAF League rank:           might be third-best
  • Table positions:                             Apertura #6, #4
  • Stakes:                                               top 8 make the liguilla
  • Time of season:                             Clausura just starting

Previously, Noob has paid little attention to second-tier Mexican football. And while I may not spend a lot of type on it, as perhaps the third-best league in the region, we’ll get to know it a little.

There were just two or three teams in real contention for the regular season Apertura title. But that liguilla is just as shiny a trophy, and it was the #5 seed that won it. Oaxaca’s got the goal-stopping ability to make a push higher in the table here in the Clausura. Sonora’s got to win some close games this go-round or they won’t.

It’s worth noting, kind of sadly, that these clubs aren’t really offered a chance at Promotion into Liga MX. The overall winner is technically eligible, but there are safeguards in place so the last place Liga team can pay a bunch of money to stay in the top flite.

Fun Fact:   Oaxaca’s nickname – The Alebrijes – is a term for art depictions of fantastical creatures.   The form and term comes from artist Pedro Linares.  After falling ill, he had dreams of unreal animals and drew them upon waking.

RESULT:   Sonora   0-1

The rest are Caribbean region matches.  Two quick things:

  • I assume a rough correlation between a national team’s official ranking and the country’s domestic league strength.  I’ve never found formal rankings for the latter.
  • Here’s how the CFU (Cariibbean Football Union) qualifies teams for CONCACAF Champions League and CONCACAF League (which is itself a pathway to CL):

Image result for caribbean club championship

 

This year, countries with professional and semi-professional leagues can send two teams to the new Caribbean Club Championship.

 


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Other countries’ leagues can send their winners to the second-tier Caribbean Club Shield tournament.

 

The particulars of how each event qualifies teams to the CL and CONCACAF League can wait for another day.

4. Mount Pleasant vs. Portmore United – Jamaica National Premier
  • CONCACAF league rank:                about #6*
  • Table positions:                               #5, #1
  • Stakes:                                                  top six make league playoffs
  •                                                                  top two get byes
  •                                                                  Caribbean Club Championship berths
  • Time of Season:                                unsure!

Last year, this 12-team, league played a double round robin. This year, they’ve just reached that point and are playing on! But it’s not the playoffs.

Currently, this league is seeing a three-horse race for those top two spots. Portmore – which made the Caribbean Club Championships last year – have a narrow lead, but their defense is suspect. Fortunately for them, Mount Pleasant is a small-ball team – don’t score much, don’t concede many.

RESULT:   1-1

Mount Pleasant Football Academy Logo.png

 

Noob is looking for comments on what the interjection means.   Actual part of the Academy crest.

Here or @SoccerNoobUSA on Twitter

5. Agoaudo vs. Kourou – French Guiana Division d’Honneur
  • CONCACAF league rank:               top 15
  • Table positions:                              #1, #6
  • Stakes:                                                 Caribbean Club Shield berths
  • Time of season:                               approaching halfway

French Guiana could send two teams for the Caribbean Club Shield, but is not.  Maybe after this season.

Agoaudo are undefeated, lead the next team in the table by nine points. That’s not quite as big a gap as it looks like at first glance. This league awards four points for a win, two for a draw, and one for just showing up. Second-best offense in the league, runaway best D.

Kouro are merely midtable. Noob’s not certain they have the D to maintain a top-half finish in this 12-team league.

Fun Fact:   Nearby Agoaudo’s home of Apatou is the Guiana Amazonian Park.  Suriname is a French department (state, more or less), and this park is the largest French national park.

6. Moulien vs. USBM – Guadeloupe Division d’Honneur
  • CONCACAF league rank:        top 15
  • Table positions:                        #1, #3
  • Stakes:                                           Caribbean Club Shield
  • Time of season:                         halfway

Guadeloupe are sending 2017-18 their champs – Moulien – to the Club Shield, unlike French Guiana. That same club leads the league this year, too, but what a race it looks like so far! They lead the next team in the table by just a point, and three other clubs are within just five points.

Moulien will try to keep the score low. Not that they can’t score well themselves, but #3 (and likely true top threat for the title) USBM prefer a wide-open style themselves, and would play it far better.

RESULT:   USBM   0-3              There’s your new league #1!    Three teams trail by just a single point in the table.

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As a former radio dj, just thought this was cool.

7. St. Paul’s vs. Village Superstars – St. Kitts and Nevis Super League
  • CONCACAF league rank:                 top 20
  • Table positions:                                 #3, #1
  • Stakes:                                                   top 4 make league playoffs
  •                                                                   Caribbean Club Shield berths
  • Time of Season:                                 over 1/3 done

Village Superstars are the defending champions, will play Club Shield.   They lead the league this year as well, but their hosts today and Newtown United are going to both be there ’til the end.

These two sport excellent offenses, but lead the league in D.  It will be interesting to see what sort of pace St. Paul’s will try and dictate at home.

Fun Fact:  St. Paul’s are based out of the town of that name, but play their games in the national capital, Basseterre

RESULT:   1-1

8. Interwillemstad vs. UNDEBA – Curacao Sekshon Paga
  • CONCACAF league rank:        top 20
  • Table positions:                        #6, #B
  • Stakes:                                          top 6 make league  playoffs
  •                                                          Caribbean Club Shield berths
  • Time of season:                        earlyish

The season looks to only be 18 matches long here in the former Netherlands Antilles. So even at seven matches in, things are looking serious. Unbeaten Scherpenheuvel have opened up a five point lead over UNDEBA. But this is a good matchup for the visitors. They score goals like crazy, but play about no defense. But scoring is exactly where Inter struggles.

Curacao will host the Club Shield.   Jong Holland are the defending champs here, but deep down the table this season.

RESULT:   Inter   2-1        The winners climb into a three-way tie for 4th place.    The losers fall into a tie for #B in the table, six points behind the league leaders.

Image result for inter willemstad 2018-19

9. West United vs. Robin Hood – Suriname Topklasse
  • CONCACAF league rank:       top 20
  • Table positions:                      #8, #B
  • Stakes:                                         Caribbean Club Shield berths
  • Time of season:                       earlyish

Robin Hood are the defending champs, representing the league in the second-tier Club Shield tournament. They are one of three still undefeated teams here in 2018-19. They trail Leo Victor by four in the table.

The real question in this league would seem to be will Inter Moengotapoe (3rd place) be able to keep pace? So far offensive numbers say no. But it’s early. They should beat midtable West Utd. in their own house by a couple today.

Fun FactWest Utd. are from the Coronie District, of which the four towns have fewer than 4,000 people.

RESULT:   Robin Hood   2-4

10. Grenades vs. Parham – Antigua and Barbuda Premier
  • CONCACAF league rank:         top 20
  • Table positions:                         #3, #5
  • Stakes:                                            Caribbean Club Shield berths
  • Time of season:                          halfway

It may just be the halfway point, but there are also just nine match days remaining. Parham are just five out of the lead, but it feels like they have too many clubs to leapfrog to make a title run.

Grenades are just three back of the defending champs – Hoppers – and have the defense to stay in the race. This could be a tricky home game though. Parham are something of a traditional power here.

RESULT:   Grenades   1-0       Grenades  climb to #B, Parham slip to 6th.

Image result for Antigua Recreation ground

 

So long from the Antigua Recreation Ground in St. John’s, home of Grenades F.C.!

Capacity:  12,000

’10 to Track’ Relegation Monday (1/14) matches – more Suckitude than you can handle or deserve!

Monday’s world league scheds are exceptionally light today.  So, before we dig into Matches of Suckitude – ones that feature teams about to get Relegated for their poor performances – we start with some match mini-previews of happier import.  Enjoy.

1. Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers – English Premier League
  • UEFA league rank: #B
  • Table positions: #B, #11
  • Stakes: top 4 go to Champions League
  • Time of season: middle

The defending runaway champs can retake the league lead today with a win. They’ve reeled off four straight wins since a two-loss speed bump that allowed Liverpool to move into 1st. The last two of those were by a combined score of 16-0, though over non-Premier foes in Cup tournaments.

Wolves are in 11th, but would move into the top half of the 20-team table with a draw and jump to 8th or 7th with a win. How is a team that was just promoted doing so well? Money infusion from the Chinese conglomerate that bought them. (Thank you to the Bros Talking Soccer podcast guys for the answer to that one on their Slack.) They win with smallish ball – low scores for everyone. It’s not likely to work today…but “defense travels” is an axiom for a reason!

RESULT:   City   3-0

B. U.A.E. vs. Thailand – Asian Cup

The Group Stage of Asia’s national team championships is nearly done. The pods of four are playing just a single round robin, all matches in the host Emirates. The top two from each Group automatically advance to the next round. The four best third place finishers will also move on.

U.A.E. have already mathematically advanced. Thailand are tied with India for runners-up, but down to them on head-to-head tiebreaker. The AFC ranks homers U.A.E. #4 and Thailand #8 (FIFA ranks #79 and #118). But no matter – the Thais are so far the best of the third-place sides, are all but certain to advance as well.

RESULT:   1-1        The Thais advance as the Group runners-up!

Image result for letter B cartoon sword

 

 

Number B is back, and the quest to be rid of Number Two in lists is ON.

3. Newtown vs. St. Paul’s – St. Kitts and Nevis Premier
  • CONCACAF league rank: they don’t really do them
  • Table positions: #B, #3
  • Stakes: top 4 play for the title
  • Time of season: over 1/3 done

Two similar teams chasing Village Superstars for the trophy!

RESULT:   1-1

4 and 5.

Gotta be honest. It’s late here on Sodor where Noob is wintering. Gotta save time for continuing to put together the coming Isle of Sodor Premier League page.

So. The Coppa Italia (FA Cup is in its Round of 16. Also, there’s also a second division Portuguese league match you can Google up, should the Spirit move you.

And now, Matches of Suckitude!

6. Aris Thessaloniki vs. Lamia – Superleague Greece
  • UEFA league rank: #13
  • Table positions: #8, #14 (of 16)
  • Stakes: bottom 3 Relegated
  • Time of season: middle

Lamia are a fair bit better than the bottom two teams. They are one of three teams realistically trying to stay out of the last Relegation slot. That said, the fourth-to-last place team will play the 4th-place D2 team for the right to play Superleague next year. Lamia can’t score worth a darn, are likely to stay right where they are.

Noob doesn’t think they can even compete for a draw today. Thessaloniki score twice as much, are just as good on D.

RESULT:   Thess   1-0

Image result for Lamia football

 

 

 

Aaaaand stab yourself in the head.

7. Alki Oroklinis vs. AEL Limassol – Cyprus Premier
  • UEFA league rank: #18
  • Table positions: #9, #3 (of 12)
  • Stakes: bottom half do Relegation playoff
  • Time of season: middle

Worst offense and defense in the league. How A.O. are higher in the table than three clubs is beyond Noob. They’ll be doing well to keep this to a one-goal loss against the #3 side.

Fun Fact:   The team owner re-named the club after a fave of his that had just gone bankrupt and dissolved.   What the cuss?

RESULT:   AEL L   1-3

8. Hapoel Tel Aviv vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv – Israel Premier
  • UEFA league ranking: #27
  • Table positions: #12, #1 (of 14)
  • Stakes: bottom 8 do Relegation playoffs
  • Time of season: middle

Side note: This league has dropped a tied-for-worst nine notches in the European rankings this last year.

HTA aren’t likely to escape the Relegation playoffs at season’s end. Their small-ball ways aren’t working out. Ten draws in 17 matches have kept them from the table’s very bottom. And MTA are going to put up with none of their nonsense. Undefeated, best offense and defense in the league.

RESULT:   1-1

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We’re not taking you seriously with those stretches, HTA.

Get a Peloton for warmups.   Something.

9. Glacis United vs. Boca Juniors – Gibraltar Premier
  • UEFA league ranking:          #51
  • Table positions:                     #7, #9 (of 10)
  • Stakes:                                        last place gets Relegated
  • Time of season:                      middle

#51 of 55 leagues? Hey, it’s a rock with about the pop. of Ames, Iowa and they’re not #55. Noob’s actually more impressed that they even have a Second Division to which a team can be sent down.

The 9th-place finisher will have a playoff with the #B from the second tier. I’d say their offense is the worst thing ever, but last place-Lions only have two goals on the entire season to Juniors’ six. Truth be told, Glacis aren’t light years better, but at least they’re not giving up buckets of goals.

Fun Fact:   Argentinian Boca Juniors called and they’d like their name back.  Like, now.

RESULT:   Glacis   6-1

10. Red Star vs. Lens – Ligue 2, France
  • UEFA league ranking: n/a, second-tier league
  • Table positions: last, #5
  • Stakes: bottom 3 get Relegated
  • Time of season: middle

Two other league clubs are as poor on defense as Red Star, but those play a little to a lot more offense. Red Star might climb to 19th over no-goals Nancy, but won’t get higher.

Lens are well-enough balanced to stay in the top five and participate in the Promotion Playoffs later, if not so good as to be a threat to the top two and get automatically moved up.

RESULT:   1-0

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So long from Saint-Ouen (greater Paris), home of Red Star FC.

HUGE flea market, but is super-“professional”.

’10 to Track’ Globetrotting Friday (1/11) – Liga MX, Asian Up, CAF Champions League lead the way

Noob’s return continues!   Last Monday we celebrated Relegation matches of suckitude for the first time since the holidays.   Today, we return to our Globetreotting ways.  When the biggest leagues provide a little less, we spend our Friday perusing matches  far and wide!

Come, Noobites!   Let’s discover a world of soccer.   As always, we start close to home —

1. Atlas vs. CF America – Liga MX
  • CONCACAF league rank:            doesn’t have ’em, but this is #1
  • Table position:                               Apertura #15, #2 and Liguilla winner
  • Time of season:                              early

Atlas won their first match of the Clausura (second half-season of the Mexican football year). They needed a hot start after crapping the bed for first half-season. After getting just 11 goals that whole time, they already have two.

This is America’s first match. They’re awesome and will almost certainly perform terrible deeds upon their host tonight. View the carnage at 10:00 PM on Univision Deportes.

Fun Fact:  La Barra 51  are Atlas’ primary supporters group, named for 1951 – the last time and I think only time they ever won the top-flight championship.

RESULT:   America   1-2

B. Palestine vs. Australia – Asian Cup

This is the quadrennial championship for the AFC. The qualification rounds are done and the Group Stage is at hand. All the remaining matches are being held in U.A.E. Six pods of four teams each each duke it in a round robin out for two slots in the next, bracketed round.

Defending champs Australia (#41 in the world, #2 in the AFC) actually lost their first match. HYOOJ. Jordan also won their second match, so it’s looking like one slot will be theirs.

Palestine are rated the 16th-best national team in Asia, #99 overall by FIFA. They had a scoreless draw with Syria to open this stage.

RESULT:   Socceroos   0-3

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Number B- enticing you to join the question to be done with Number 2.

 

3. Leeds vs. Derby County – EFL Championship
  • UEFA league rank:                     n/a; second-tier league in England
  • Table positions:                        #1, #6
  • Teams promoted:                      3
  • Time of season:                          middle

Even as only England’s second-highest league, this is probably a top-15 league talent-wise in Europe. The top two teams will be Promoted to Premier League, with the next four having a playoff for one last slot.

Leeds still lead the league, but they’ve allowed it to be a tight race after losing two league matches in a row (and their recent FA Cup match as well). Both were road losses, but six goals conceded is bad against Nottingham and QPR.

Derby have kept their hopes afloat with a lot of draws of late. They don’t appear to have the defense to hold a top-six position, recently or over the season as a whole so far. Noob predicts a shootout today. First one to three goals wins!

RESULT:   Leeds   2-0

emblem

 

 

One of Noob’s all-time favorite crests.

So many design elements here give it a three-dimensional look.  This would make a fine ornamental piece.

 

4. Lobi Stars vs. Mamelodi Sundowns – CAF Champions League

If it seems like the last iteration of this tournament just ended, you’re not wrong. They’re moving from a Feb-Nov. timeframe to an Aug.-May format in 2019. So this 2018-19 version is the tweener, running Dec.-May.

The qualification round is done, and this is the first day of the Group Stage. Four pods of four clubs each compete in a double round robin for two slots each in the next, bracketed round.

Lobi won last year’s Nigerian Premier. This league is ranked #13 in Africa. Just a notch higher and they would’ve qualified the maximum two teams into this event. The Stars’ success is predicated more on defense than scoring.

The Sundowns are one of two teams from the #6-ranked South African Premier. Their league season is about halfway over. They;re in 4th place, but have 3-4 matches in hand over the teams above them. They’re also undefeated, though with lots of draws. They’re even more defensive-minded than Lobi.

If either teams scores, it will be Mamelodi. They should be considered a 1-2 goal favorite today.

RESULT:   Lobi   2-1

Image result for soccer compression socks funny

 

 

 

Soccer compression socks.

5. Mantab vs. Conaree – Saint Kitts and Nevis Premier
  • CONCACAF league rank:                 n/a; prolly not in the top few Caribbean                                                                             ones
  • Table positions:                                 #8, #5
  • Clubs relegated:                                  2
  • Time of season:                                   over 1/3 done

The winner of this league will probably qualify for the next Caribbean Club Shield – a new second-tier tournament for semi-pro and amateur clubs in that region. But neither of these two are likely to be vying for that.

Conaree aren’t bad, but don’t have the offense to nearly compete for international competition. Mantab are just trying to stay in the country’s top flite. The bottom two here will be demoted to First Division next season. Mantab couldn’t score even with the help of a map to the back of an opponent’s net. They’re above the cutline now, barely, and in real danger.

Fun-nish Fact:  Mantab’s home city of Basseterre – the SKN capital – has been destroyed seemingly countless times by war and natural disaster.

RESULT:   1-1

6. Somerset Trojans vs. Robin Hood – Bermuda Premier
  • CONCACAF league rank:               n/a; perhaps a little stronger than SKN
  • Table positions:                                last, first
  • Clubs relegated:                                2
  • Time of season:                                 middle

Undefeated Robin Hood are in a dead heat with Pembroke Hamilton for the league lead, tied on table points and goal differential. Noob tends to favor well-balanced teams like Robin Hood, but P.H. are the defensive stalwarts of the country.

Should be a fabulous title race, especially with wide-open styled X-Roads Warriors close in 3rd. Noob thinks this is one of the region’s fully professional leagues, which means they’ll be able to send up to two clubs to the Caribbean Club Championship.

Somerset have yet to win their first match. Their stats aren’t much worse than other bottom teams here, but they’re deep in last just the same. Defense is their undoing.

RESULT:   Robin Hood   3-5

Image result for somerset bermuda

 

 

Forget the footyball!

Noob’s down for learning that.

7. Tefana vs. Central Sport – Tahiti Ligue 1
  • OFC league ranking:                       n/a; probably about 4th INHO
  • Table positions:                              #4, #2
  • Stakes:                                                 top four make league playoffs, top two make                                                                  OFC CL
  • Time of season:                                almost halfway

Noob estimates this league’s strength based on guessing that national team and league strength probably corelate with smaller nations like these.

There’s actually a three-way tie for #B right now. Defending champs Central don’t bother with defense so much, but score like gangbusters in league.

Seven of the 10 league teams are very much in the hunt. It will be interesting to see if Tefana cam hang on to a spot. They’re well-balanced, but lack enough on offense to make Noob guess no. Manu Ura, more traditional powers Pirae or both will pass them eventually.

Fun Fact:  Tefana are one of two clubs to advance as far as the OFC CL final (2012).

RESULT:   2-2

8. Al Hilal vs. Al Raed – Saudi Pro League
  • AFC league ranking:                  #7
  • Table positions:                          #1, #9
  • Stakes:                                             top three make AFC CL
  • Time of season:                           middle

It’s not quite a two-horse race in Saudi Arabia, but it’s close to being such. Defending champs Al Hilal should be able to maintain their position atop the table hosting a midtable club.

Al Raed have overachieved to date this season. The second-worst offense in the league should be a lodestone around their necks that drags them down close to, if not into, the Relegation Zone.

RESULT:   1-1

WATCH: Al-Hilal supporters pull off freakishly good Mortal Kombat mosaic

 

 

Pretty cool “Mortal Kombat” mosaic the Hilal supporters pulled off.

9. Police vs. AS Kigali – Rwanda Premier
  • CAF league ranking:             unranked
  • Table positions:                    #5, #6
  • Stakes:                                       one berth in CAF CL
  • Time of season:                      almost halfway

Rwanda’s top flite may not be ranked at present, but they are slated to be #17 next version! That will still only be good enough for one league berth into the Champions League there though.

These two are all but out of the running. Police are nine points out of first in the table, still have maybe a glimmer of hope. Kigali are three points further back. Too many draws there. But for anyone to catch the top two, someone’s going to have to figure out how to score on them anyway. They’ve combined to allow just seven goals between them all season.

Fun Fact:  The Police F.C. manager’s first name is “Innocent”.

RESULT:   2-2

10. Adama Kenema vs. Dire Dawa City – Ethiopia Premier
  • CAF league ranking:              tied for #13
  • Table positions:                       #9, #10
  • Clubs Relegated:                       3
  • Time of season:                        earlyish

Like aforementioned Nigeria, Ethiopia’s league needs to climb just one more notch in the rankings to earn a second Champions League invitation. Neither of these clubs are likely to be there. They’re below average of the 16, making them slightly more likely candidates to to be Relegated.

Kenema’s going to be the better team, perhaps finish in the top half, given their offense. Dire Dawa will likely stay just where they are, scuffling along as they neither score many goals nor give up too many.

RESULT:   Adama   1-0

Image result for adama ethiopia funny

 

 

So long from Adama!

Adama University – cool building

’10 to Track’ returns — Relegation Monday! plus CONCACAF and other goodness

After a semi-farewell and long holiday break, Noob returns!     Twitter: @SoccernoobUSA

The plan remains to feature exclusive Isle of Sodor Premier League coverage here.  Soon!  I’m still wintering on Sodor, putting things together, even as the season is half-finished.   To get a feel, check out this site’s Page for last summer’s inaugural Isle of Sodor FA Cup.

But I’ve missed doing the near-daily Tracks, previewing the most important matches from the U.S., all CONCACAF, Premier League, continental Europe, and the world!

So for now, I’m bringing back Relegation Monday and Globetrotting Friday – the most unique content I provided.   So enjoy!   Today, several matches feature teams about to be Relegated, from “important” leagues to those far-flung.  Then there’s a few matches of happier  import.    Dig in.

1. Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Club Bilbao – Spain:  La Liga
  • UEFA League Rank:     #1
  • Table positions:            #14, #18 (of 20)
  • Clubs relegated:             3
  • Time of season:             middle

Noob’s return to at least Tracking on “Relegation Mondays” starts with a realistic upset chance! Athletic have only lost one of their last six matches. I’m not saying they’re storming the league and going to make a move on a midtable position, but only allowing one goal in their last four matches is a big step forward.

Celta Vigo, at home, should be favored. Their goal differential even indicates they may be worthy of a higher table slot. But they’ve not scored in two matches. Noob senses this is a bad matchup for them.

Fun Fact:    Bilbao are The Lions.  Their stadium was built near a church which was named for Saint Mammes, a Christian saint thrown to the lions.  He pacified them.  

So they named themselves after tamed animals?   Never mind from before.  You’re getting Relegated.

RESULT:   Athletic   1-2        The Lions climb to 17th place, above the Drop Zone for now

B. Moreirense vs. Aves – Portugal Primeira Liga
  • UEFA league rank:        #7
  • Table positions:             #7, #17 (of 18)
  • Clubs relegated:             3
  • Time of season:              middle

Aves have the worst defense in the league, and it’s not particularly close. That said, they’ve only allowed one goal in each of their last to matches, against excellent competition. They didn’t win either, though, and haven’t done so since late November.

Moreirense seem to be overcoming a dreadful start to their season when it comes to goal-scoring. They’ve won three of four matches running and scored multiple times in all of them.

RESULT:   Moreirense   1-0

Image result for letter B pumped up

 

 

The Quest for Number B to displace worn out Number 2 in lists is back on!

Clearly, the people want their Number B.

3. Ermis Aradippou vs. Enosis Paralimni – Cyprus First Division
  • UEFA League Rank:         #18
  • Table positions:                last, second-to-last
  • # of Clubs Relegated:      1
  • Time of Season:                 middle

One of Noob’s first ever Twitter (@SoccernoobUSA) followers is a Cypriot mother of two First Division players. This league will always have a little piece of my heart. Thankfully for Mom, her boys play for far better clubs than these sad sacks!

Aradippou have earned points in just three matches all season so far. They won their last match, but that was in their FA Cup. Against a Second Division club that is considered a “refugee team”. That haven’t played in their home city since the Turkish Invasion of 1974. Aradippou haven’t beaten a league foe since November.

Paralimni have earned draws in their last two league matches, lead Aradippou by five points in the table. Road wins may be tough to come by, but Noob wouldn’t be able to call this in upset even so. Both teams are just so lousy.

RESULT:   0-0          That seems more than fitting

4. Mont Bleu vs. Muungano – DR Congo First Division
  • CAF league rank:        #3
  • Table positions:         #12, last place of 16
  • Clubs Relegated:         3
  • Time of season:           uncertain

Last season, the Linafoot may only have been about 14 matches. This season, some clubs have already reached 15. The format also seems to have changed from three league divisions to one.

So what does Noob know? That Muungano have won just once and drawn not at all in their 11 outings. This is one of three teams that play far worse defense than everyone else. None of them look likely to climb out of the Drop Zone no matter when the season ends.

Mont Bleu are a bit better on both sides of the ball, though not nearly good enough threaten climbing to midtable.

RESULT:      ppd

Image result for OC Muungano

5. Ndanda vs. Ruvu Shooting – Tanzania Premier
  • CAF league rank:        #24
  • Table positions:         #17, #16 (of 20)
  • Clubs Relegated:         4
  • Time of season:           middle

Ndanda may be on the edge of daylight, but their goal differential is the worst in the league. If they had a strength, maybe they could climb. But they’re bottom-three in both O and D.

Still, a win today would move them above the Cutline (for the moment). Ruvu score a lot more, but sport the league’s worst defense for it. If Ndanda want to prove Noob wrong, this is a home must-win.

Fun Fact:  Ndanda’s Nangwanda Sijaona Stadium has a capacity of 15,000.

RESULT:   Ruvu   0-1

6. Muslim FC vs. Karachi Port Trust – Pakistan Premier
  • AFC league rank:       #46
  • Table positions:         #11, #13 (of either 14, 15 or 16)
  • Clubs relegated:         2, 3 or 4
  • Time of season:          very late

The number of league teams is higher now than when it last seemed to have played, in 2014-15. Assuming they’re still playing a double round robin, this season is on the verge of finishing. It started with either 15 or 16 teams. One or two of them aren’t playing for financial reasons. Bottom line is, just 14 appear to be actually playing and two of those will be Relegated.

And so, welcome to the worst-ranked league in Asia! Hey, they’re playing. Love football? Want to see it develop, improve everywhere. Noob’s got your back, Pak.

KPT and one other team are vying to stay in the country’s top flite. Baloch Nushki are playing, but have long since been mathematically cooked. And if it weren’t for Baloch Nushki, KPT would have the worst defense in the league.

Muslim are not much higher, yet appear safe in their position. They play small-ball, neither scoring nor conceding many goals at all. KPT won’t get one on them today, and they will go down a league.

RESULT:   Muslim   2-0

KPT FC Logo

 

 

We hardly knew ye

7. Rayo Majadahonda vs. Las Palmas – Spain’s Segunda Division
  • UEFA league rank:         n/a – second-tier league
  • Table positions:             #19, #11 (of 22)
  • Clubs relegated:             4
  • Time of season:              middle

Majadahonda are in a three-way tie for 18th through 20th in points in the table. But they’re one of the four worst in goal differential, simply must score more if they want to stay afloat. Try for at least a goal per game, fellas. It’ll work wonders.

Statistically, Las Palmas are perfectly average in every way. Yet strangely, they haven’t won a match since October, mostly achieving draws. High or low-scoring, doesn’t matter. They can’t seal the deal. Look for a 0-0 draw today, and contain your excitement, Noobites 😛

Fun Fact:   This is the highest Majadahonda have ever been in the Spanish football pyramid, having just been promoted this year.

RESULT:   0-0

Non-Relegation Matches of Treeemendous Consequence!

OK, might’ve oversold that.

8. Lille vs. Sochaux – Coupe de France

The French FA Cup is in it’s Round of 64. This is the only match for the event today. Lille is the current #B team in Ligue 1, while Sochaux are barely above the Relegation Line in Ligue 2. The only reason this match might not be a blowout for the home side is that Noob’s read this FA Cup is considered by clubs even less important than other top European leagues’ clubs consider theirs, which is so-so at most.

Here’s the link for the event. Hopefully your technology translates it for you readily.

RESULT:   Lille   1-0

9. Waterhouse vs. Cavalier – Jamaica Premier
  • CONCACAF league rank:        don’t think they do them; #B  Caribbean maybe
  • Table positions:                       #B, #3
  • Stakes:                                          top 6- league playoffs bracket, top 2 get byes
  • more Stakes                               Top two will have option to play Caribbean Club                                                           Championship.
  • Time of season:                        2/3 through regular season

#1 Portmore and Waterhouse have the offense. Cavalier boasts the top D. Unfortunately for them, Waterhouse is almost as good in that regard. The home team today is probably the most talented in the league.

Even given the relative table positions, a Cavalier win should be considered an upset. But given that they were just promoted to top flite this season, they’re performing incredibly.

RESULT:   Cavalier   0-1         So be it – upset!     These two are now tied in the table on points.  Cavalier is still in 3rd on GD.

10. UNDEBA (Banda Abou) vs. Scherpenheuvel – Curacao Sekshon Paga
  • CONCACAF league rank:                gotta think it wouldn’t be high
  • Table positions:                               #3, #1
  • Stakes:                                                 top six make the playoff subdivision
  • more Stakes                                      at least one club will have option to play in                                                                      new second-tier 2020 Caribbean Club Shield
  • Time of season:                                very early

Welcome to the former Netherlands Antilles! The top at some point the top six will be moved into their own Championship Subdivision. It’s unclear to me if at some point the top four from that will have their own bracketed playoff not. But the season is just a few matches in, so there’s all kinds of time to figure it out.

Scherpenheuvel are undefeated, outscoring opponents 12-1 to date. Banda Abou’s GD is 18-9. Can’t think their lack of defense will serve them well over a full season, but that 3+ goals per game average sure is shiny.

RESULT:   1-1

Image result for stoba goat papaya

 

 

Be inspired to find or make some stoba, a traditional stew from these parts.

And be bold!   Do the goat with the papaya.

Classic Noob revisited – “We are D-2” / “We Are the World”

Noob is preparing to morph this project into largely exclusive coverage of the inaugural Isle of Sodor Premier League coverage.    There will be joy.

In the meantime, please indulge in the D-Twos-Day Interviews.    This was the final post in that category (Page on right for all of them). 


Welcome, Noobites, to the final 2017 edition of D-Twos-Day Interview.  Noob’s had the unparalleled pleasure of interviewing coaches and myriad figures from the part of the soccer world we most celebrate: North American second division leagues!

But one of them, the North American Soccer League, is on its last legs.  They need our help!  Inspired by the 80’s classic song that raised nearly $150M in 2017-adjusted dollars to aid famine relief in Africa, Noob has gotten together an all-star cast to record a new version of”We Are the World”.

Thank you to all the surviving artists involved with the original for joining us.  Special thanks to Dominic Kinnear for not breaking out mid-song into any Rush classic.

And no, Noob has no idea how this will help.  But it WILL.  And if you don’t get this, go back and check out all the great Interviews!  The segment returns in 2018.

Lionel Richie:   There comes a time when we heed a certain call
When D-2 must come together as one.
Paul Simon:   A tier-two league is dying
And it’s time to lend a hand to NASL
Paul, Kenny Rogers:   A soccer gift for all.

Noob:  Noob can’t go on pretending day by day
That somehow, some way it’s gonna get saved
Tina Turner:   We’re all a part of D-2’s big family
Billy Joel:  And the truth, you know,
Noob, Tina, Billy:   Is this is all we neeeeeeeed

Choir:   We are D-2.  We are the coaches
We are the fans, the concerned parties
So let’s keep singing
Diana Ross:   It’s a choice we’re making
It’s not just USL
Diana Ross and NASL federal case judge Margo K. Brodie:   It takes both leagues to make a better day
Just wait and seeeeeee!

Puerto Rico FC head coach Marco Velez:   Thought Noob was my tio, but now I call him Noober
And our lives together are stronger and free
Willie Nelson:   As we have shown you, by calling him “asshat”
Willie and Marco Velez:   We’re strong.  And nothing can defeat us now!
(background: Cyndi Lauper – “but Miami FCeeeeeeee!)

Edmonton FC head coach Colin Miller:   Called him the C-word – in Scottish Gaelic
But he mailed me booze, 30 years old
Turns out Noob’s no dick!

(background: Noob – “Could we find a way to rephrase that please?)

New York Cosmos owner Rocco Commisso:  D-2 status be damned
Noob agrees with me
It’s true we should just care
About qualiteeee!

L.A. Galaxy asst. coach Dominic Kinnear:   When you’re down and out, there seems no hope at all
Huey Lewis:   But if you just believe there’s no way we can fall
Cyndi Lauper:   Well, well, well!  Let’s realize that a change can only come
Huey, Cyndi, Kim Carnes, and OKC Energy ‘Grid’ fan club prez Joseph Pugh:   When we stand together as one!
(Joseph Pugh cont.:  “WOOO!!  Do it, Nooner!)

Choir:   They went dark-arts, went Santeria
Burned rabbit bones and burned Pele’s jock
To save our leaaaaague!
Incoming USL club owner Bobby Jones:  Noob hates my teams’ name – boring Austin FC.
Jacksonville Armada owner Robert Palmer:  At least he didn’t think you were a reincarnated pop-rock arteeeeest.

(key change!)

Choir:  We are the fans, the concerned parties
So let’s keep singing
It’s a choice we’re making
It’s not just USL.
It takes both leagues to make a better day
Just wait and seeeeeee!

’10 to Track’ soccer matches previews – just One today – MLS final, Noob bids farewell of a sort

After well over a year of Tracking matches on a daily basis I’ve felt were most important to new American soccer fans like myself, project SoccerNoob in its present form is going on indefinite hiatus.

Thank you to The Management for daring me as a joke to write about the sport I knew least about. To Dan the former Intern-o Inferno, for his hilarious work on image production, support, and understanding I needed to put screen and other fiction writing on hold to learn the discipline to write every single day. I hope your work at the Swedish women’s soccer association continues to go well. And to my young daughter, “PersonNoob”, for writing verses to our silly theme song.

My focus has been on learning leagues and Cup tournaments, both at and close to home and the world over. In talking with many of you, I’ve learned as well about the big players, about how the game itself is played, and why it is such a joy for so much of the world to follow.

In doing it all, I’ve tried adding my own off-kilter brand of humor. Hopefully between that and covering matches from places most U.S. fans don’t read about anywhere, I’ve brought some enjoyment to long-time fans as well.

I’m continuing to winter on the Isle of Sodor, covering matches here. This site will soon be bringing you news and scores from their ongoing, first-ever Premier League. The site may have a new name, in which case soccernoob.com will forward to that. Or I may just keep it right here. And who knows. A podcast has considered! Noob’s not truly disappearing. (God help us.)

For the final Track, no “10”. Just the one. The most important match of the year.

1. Atlanta United vs. Portland Timbers – Major League Soccer Final

Noobites, since this is the swan song, it’s time to graduate to sites with more in-depth coverage.   (8:00 PM Eastern, Fox)

RESULT:   ATL   2-0          Single-season record-setting MLS for goals scored in a season, Josef Martinez, adds another.

ESPNFC match preview

CBS Sports match preview

Portland Mercury match preview

beIN Sports match preview

USSoccerPlayers.com match preview

AtlUtd.com match preview

Image result for soccer graduation

’10 to Track’ Midweek Edition (12/4-6) soccer match previews – Copa Argentina Final completes our Track

The Midweek Edition now stands complete at ten.   There was just one match needed for Thursday to complete the set.

Tuesday and Wednesday’s matches and results now follow further down.

Please consider following Noob on Twitter @SoccerNoobUSA.com.  Inquire for details on how to possibly join footyball discussions with cool cats on Bros Talking Soccer’s new Slack.   And click an ad , if you are so inclined.  Some of the stuff is even soccer-related!

Back again tomorrow for Globetrotting Friday!

Thursday

10. Rosario Central vs. Gimnasia LP – Copa Argentina

The Final! And this match is a one-off in Mendoza – a neutral location. Noob is continually surprised that outside Europe in particular that such otherwise weak-seeming teams advance to title matches. Rosario are in 14th of 28 Primera league teams and Gimnasia in 21st. The winner gets much more than a few pesos and a trophy. There’s a qualification to the next Copa Libertadores up for grabs!

Trying to get excited for this one, but it may be tough to watch. Rosario doesn’t score much, and they look like an offensive juggernaut compared to Gimnasia. Catch this one at 7:10 PM Eastern on TyC Sports International if you dare. And have a deep enough satellite TV package.

RESULT:   Rosario   1-1  /  4-1 PK’s        All hail the Argentine champs!

Image result for Mendoza argentina weirdSo long from Mendoza!

At least you can stay in a cool vineyard “hotel” when visiting.

 

Wednesday

3. Monterrey vs. Cruz Azul – Liga MX

Semifinals time in the Apertura (first half-season) Liguilla (playoffs)!

This this Round will also feature two-legged ties, same as the Quarters did. Regular season #1 Cruz Azul gets the honor of hosting the second leg of the home-and-away series, which means they open in Monterrey today.

Cruz Azul haven’t lost since October 20. They’d won five straight matches until finishing off their quarterfinal draw with a 1-1 draw last time out. Plenty of teams score as much or more than C.A., but none defend like them (just 13 goals given up in the 17-match regular season).

Monterrey haven’t proven to be quite as good on either side of the ball. But as one would imagine, they’re not that far off C.A.’s pace, given that they made the playoffs. They’ve not lost in five matches. But they’ve not beaten Cruz Azul in nine consecutive tries.

RESULT:   Monterrey   1-0                 Make that once in their last ten tries!

4. Manchester United vs. Arsenal – English Premier League

Arsenal just had a big, God-ordained win in the North London derby. After doing the Lord’s work in defeating named-for-an-historical-traitor (Harry Percy) Tottenham Sir Topham Hatt Hotspur, can they get pumped up again for Man Utd.?

Man Utd have had a dismal year compared to expectations, the usual-title contenders wallowing in 8th place right now. They haven’t won a league match in a month. None of this has been a fluke, either, as they’re struggling on both sides of the ball. For this team to rise again, the great goalkeeper David de Gea is going to need to lead the way. Defense has been even weaker than offense on the season.

Arsenal are in 4th, which is the number of clubs EPL will qualify for the next Champions League. One would point out their offense as the best around if it weren’t for league #1 Man City blowing everyone out of the water in that department. Defense has been spotty for them, too, at least compared to other table-top clubs. German international Bernd Lemo has decidedly been the weak link. Looking for a shootout today.   (3:00 PM Eastern, NBCSN)

RESULT:   2-2

Image result for Sir Topham Hatt happy

 

Sir Topham Hatt cannot be cross so soon after a Hotspur loss.

5. Atletico Junior vs. Atletico PR – Copa Sudamericana

The Final! And crap on a cracker, Noob would’nt have been passing on covering this event had I not had bad info stuck in my head.

This tournament is the equivalent of Europa League, a tournament below the level of Champions League – or, in South America – Copa Libertadores. Noob did not think the winner of Sudamericana automatically qualified for the following years Libertadores, but they do. And that’s some high stakes.

Columbia’s Junior started in the this year’s Libertadores. After finishing 3rd place in their pod in the Group Stage there, they were dropped into this event. They’ve been very strong in their domestic league statistically, yet are just in 6th place right now. Trouble closing out the close matches, anyone?

Atletico Paranaense only qualified for this event, were not dropped down from following a Libertadores round. They just finished the Brazilian season one spot (7th) out of qualifying for the next Libertadores already.

Based on general knowledge of the pecking order of domestic leagues in South America and Elo ratings from footballdatabase.com, it seems fair to say Junior are an even match at best at home today.

RESULT:   1-1

6. Zamora vs. Deportivo Lara – Venezuela Premier

This is the second leg of the Serie Final, which pits the playoff champions from the Apertura and Clausura stages of the season against one another. The first match was played at Lara and ended in a 1-1 draw.

If one is interested in a couple extra details, scroll down to the Leg One match preview from 12/2. Suffice it to say here and now that Zamora are the hotter team the second half of the year and most definitely favored today at home.

RESULT:   Zamora   4-1          2018 Venezuelan chamPEEENS will dance with that sexy disco robot from the future of 1984

Winners get to party at KirovBar, Barinas (home of Zamora FC) for disco and with this guy….thing!

7. Ulsan Hyundai vs. Daegu FC – (South) Korean FA Cup

The Final! First leg, anyway. Second one will be at Daegu. In Europe, FA Cup winners typically just qualify for the secondary Europa League tournament. Here, the winner not only qualifies for the next AFC Champions League, they’ll enter at the Group Stage (the latest any team enters).

Ulsan finished the K League 1 in third place. That’s just high enough to net them an AFC CL berth, but not as late as the Group Stage. They have to play their way into that as things stand now, via a “playoff round”.

Daegu finished just 7th, didn’t qualify for squat. They’re not nearly as good on either side of the ball as Ulsan, but particularly trail them in goal-scoring.

That said, Daegu haven’t lost in any of their last seven matches across all competitions. They enter vastly hotter than Ulsan. Noob thinks Daegu are easily an even match for Ulsan, maybe even should be favored, given all the momentum they have.

RESULT:   Daegu   1-2            #7 in the league, but #1 in our FA Cup-hearts!   

8. Northeast United vs. Bengaluru – India Super League

Reminder: India has two top-flite leagues. The other is the I-League. ISL is the one that does not have promotion/relegation. It was created under more of an MLS-like franchise model to promote soccer in the country. They do not qualify teams into international competition like AFC Champions League.

But that doesn’t mean this #B-#1 matchup is any less shiny and alluring! Top four will make the league playoffs. Bengalaru are still undefeated eight matches into the season. They have a game in hand on Northeast, on top of leading them by four points in the table. These teams are the cream of the crop defensively, so look for a low-scoring affair today.   (9:00 AM, Asianet Movies)

RESULT:   1-1        Bengaluru saved their undefeated record at 90′ with a goal

Image result for shiny things funny

 

That… doesn’t feel relevant…

Who’s doing images around here now, anyway? 

Noob missed Dan the Intern-Inferno.

9. Turbine Potsdam vs. VfL Wolfsburg – Frauen-Bundesliga

Lyon may be the #1 women’s team in Europe, but it’s Germany’s top league that ranks most highly. And no German team is mightier than Wolfsburg – 10-0-0 so far.

Top two will qualify for the next women’s UEFA Champions League. That second slot looks likely to either go to Potsdam or Bayern Munich. No one’ going to get Wolfsburg though. After all, they’ve outscored opponents 46-2 so far. Good golly.

RESULT:   1-1         The leaders can bleed, they’re human!

Tuesday

1. UANL vs. Guadalajara – Liga MX Femenil

Time for the second leg of the Apertura (first half-season) Semfinals! All four teams are in action today. This matchup intrigues Noob a little more because UANL are undefeated. Guadalajara got a 1-1 draw at their own place, no small feat.

Matching up with the league’s best on their own turf likely to be a whole other matter. UANL scored over three goals per match during the regular season, 2/3 again as many as Guadalajara, and while playing about the same caliber of defense.

RESULT:   UANL   5-3        On to the finals!

B. Montpelier vs. Lille – Ligue 2

Paris Saint-Germain are still undefeated, miles ahead of the pack. So the race is on for just two more Champions League berths. Lille have fallen to 4th, not having one in any of their last five outings. They’ve been outscored 8-3 over that time. Montpelier are #B in the table.

RESULT:   Lille   0-1        Lille jump up to # B

But wait, just two matches to start the week?  Yup.   Sounds like more high-quality content that soccer lovers everywhere want.   It’s time for a —

NOOB SANDWICH REVIEWOOB!

Last installment of NOOB SANDWICH REVIEWOOB, Noob took Subway to task over there new steak sandwich on sunflower bread, a catastrophe if ever there was one.

Today’s featured sammich is much close to home for Noob.  My six year-old daughter – PersonNoob -created this one recently.

What you’re seeing is four pieces of wheat bread in a

 

single stack.   Each is liberally covered with strawberry jelly.  Here pictured, I’ve removed the top layer to show what she has smashed inside — a Little Bites “birthday cake”-flavored mini-muffin.

We know from “Fizzy’s Lunch Lab” television program that “wheat is sweet”.  But four pieces?   I applaud PersonNoob’s creativity, but one only needs more than two if you’re layering the sammich in different ways between slices.  I blame myself as a parent.

The mini-muffins are fine as prepackaged fare goes.  Certainly eaten my share of ones PN hasn’t finished on our way to her school.

To my surprise, the sweet jam and the “birthday” aspect of the muffin didn’t make this sickeningly sweet, at least not at the first bite.    Yes, I tried it, though only ventured that one bite.  As you might imagine, the texture was just straight up waaaay too much bread.

So does Noob dare really rate a sandwich his own sweet daughter created?   You betcha.   And while this is the highest rating I’ve yet given a sandwich, the finished product still didn’t do all that well.

On the Noob Sammich Review sammich rating scale of one to five Sammiches, I rate the “Extra-Tall Wheat Jelly and Birthday Cake Mini-Muffin Sandwich” at just 1.5 Sammiches.

’10 to Track’ Relegation Monday (12/3) — previews for Matches of Suckitude

Noob always endeavors to bring us the ten most important matches to follow as newish American fans of the global game.

Monday’s, that “importance” takes a different turn – Matches of Suckitude!    Most of today’s featured games include at least one club on the verge of getting Relegated from their league, kicked out for poor performance.

As always, let’s start with a few matches of happier import —

1. Guiseley vs. Fleetwood Town – English FA Cup

This is the Second Round Proper of the tournament. There are Rounds before these two “Proper” ones, qualifying rounds for teams from levels 5-10 of the English football pyramid. At the First Round proper, teams from the third and fourth pyramid levels entered the competition.

Just a few teams from Level 6 (and none lower) remain now. Those are considered Minnows – underdogs. Folks like to root for them to make surprising, deep runs in this event. Guiseley, from West Yorkshire) will take all the support they can garner. They were Relegated from the National League (level 5) last year after a last-place finish and they’re doing little better this year a level down. The defense is okay, but the offense is nearly non-existent.

Fleetwood are from the third tier, League One. They’re below average there. But they’re fully professional and so should be heavy favorites today.

RESULT:   Fleetwood   1-2

B. APOEL Nicosia vs. Apollon Limassol – Cyprus First Division

Surprise, the Cypriot league is in the top 20 in all UEFA! If they rise a few more spots, they may soon qualify multiple teams for UEFA Champions League.

Noob has a soft spot APOEL, as one of my earliest Twitter followers is a mom of one of their players.

They’re in 3rd. Much as Noob wishes it were otherwise, I suspect this league will eventually be a two-team race between Apollon (the best team in the league) and #1-for-the-moment AEL Limassol.

APOEL are only an even match at best for their guests today.

RESULT:   APOEL   5-1        Oh MY

Image result for soft letter B

 

 

Noob also has a soft spot for soft Number B.

3. Bhayangkara vs. PSM Makassar – Indonesia Liga 1

Noob can never be accused of not being a citizen of the world. #27 league in Asia? Sure! The season there is nearly done and the title is undecided. Just one team may even possibly qualify for the next AFC Champions League from here. The champ may also end up in the AFC Cup, a secondary tournament for teams from what the AFC considers “developing football nations”.

Only two matches remain for all clubs there, and Makassar trail Jakarta by two points in the table. No other team is close enough to possibly catch them.

Unfortunately for Makassar, Bhayangkara still have something to play for. They can still catch the #3 club, and that slot might qualify for an AFC Cup berth. Bhayangkara don’t have the defensive PSM do, but the score about the same. At home, Noob considers them a slight favorite.

RESULT:   0-0

And now, your Matches of Suckit000000000d —

4. Levante vs. Athletic Club – La Liga

Three clubs will get Relegated from Spain’s top league at season’s end. Currently, Athletic Club are 18th of 20 teams. They’d be even deeper in the hole with their just one win, but they’ve earned draws in a mind-boggling eight of their dozen other matches.

Levante are 11th, as average as it gets. At home, that should easily be good enough to beat Athletic Club. Though I guess a ninth draw might be in order for the guests today.   (3:00 PM Eastern, beIN Sports)

RESULT:   Levante   3-0

Image result for wearing lots of ties

 

 

Lots of ties, Noob gets it.

The tiny soul patch is the more troubling facet.

5. Nurnberg vs. Bayer Leverkusen – Bundesliga

Germany’s is a another that gives three teams The Boot. Nurnberg is third-to-last, courtesy of not playing a goalie ever. Well, their stats make it look like that, anyway. Even so, they might have a coin-flip’s chance at a win at home today. #12 Leverkusen are better on both sides of the ball, but not by tons.

Fun Fact:    Nurnberg have been Relegated from Bundesliga eight times, most all-time.

RESULT:   1-1

6. Bubali vs. Estrella – Aruba Division di Honor

Aruba? Surely nothing could suck in that paradise. But they have Relegation even there. One team will be automatically sent down. We’re getting to know our CONCACAF brethren, even in states of Suckitude. Hallo, neighbors!

The next two in the table are pegged to participate in a Relegation Playoff. To be honest, Noob’s not sure if they play one another and the loser also goes down to Division Uno (second-tier league) or if they play teams from Division Uno for a chance to stay up.

Regardless, Bubali are in 9th of the ten teams. The season is just a few matches in there, but ti’s not too early to say that if they can’t up their scoring to better than one goal per, they’re going down. Estrella are in 4th, but don’t defend a ton. Still, they have the firepower to handle Bubali, even on the road.

RESULT:   Estrella   0-2

Image result for Bubali aruba

 

 

 

 

There’s Bubali on the western coast.

7. Tigre vs. Godoy Cruz – Argentina Premier

Tigre are in 19th of 28 teams. Not bad, if nowhere near good. Unfortunately for them, this league uses a three-year table for determining who goes down.

And Tigre were so awful the last two, there’s little they can do to save themselves from getting Dropped. They’re in last in that aggregate table, would have to jump three teams to stay up. Perhaps they might get a draw against 10th-place Godoy Cruz.   (3:10 PM, TyC Sports International)

Fun Fact:    Tigre made the Copa Sudamericana final in 2012, but refused to finish the match after falling behind 0-2 at the half (questionably citing “security concerns”).

RESULT:   GC   1-3

8. Yeni Malatyaspor vs. Akhisarspor – Turkey Super Lig

Y.M. just got Promoted to top flite this season, but it’s not them that’s Sucking. They’re in 7th. They’re parking the bus a little, not scoring or getting scored upon lots. It won’t get them higher in the table, but so far it’s easily keeping them afloat.

Akhisarspor are in third-to-last, and Turkey’s is yet another league that kicks three out annually. Their offense is almost average, but the defense is tied for worst.

RESULT:   1-1

Image result for turkey floating

 

Floating turkey.

 

No apologies.

9. AGF Aarhus vs. Velje Boldklub – Denmark Superliga

The Danish top league divided into Championship and Relegation subgroups later in the season. Top six play for the title. These two aren’t going to be among those.

Aarhus are in 11th. They show enough of a spark on defense to give hope that they’ll ultimately survive, not actually be Relegated. Velje, on the other hand, are just plain awful. They don’t score even a goal per match on average, and not because they pack it in on D by any stretch.

Fun Fact:  Aarhus were founded in 1880, primarily focused on gymnastics and fencing.

RESULT:   Aarhus   2-1

10. Dibba Al-Fujairah vs. Al Ittihad Kalba – U.A.E. Pro-League

We finish our Track today in the #4 league in all Asia. That shiny ranking is no thanks whatsoever to DAF. They’re the mirror opposite of well-balanced, sporting both the second-worst offense and defense. Kalba are below-average, but should be favored by a goal even on the road against this lot.

RESULT:   Kalba   1-3

Image result for Dibba Al fujairah stadium

 

So long from Dibba Al Fujairah Stadium!

It doesn’t meet the Pro-League’s reqs though, so they play in nearby Fujairah City.

 

Extra Credit:   matches from the women’s EAFF E-1 tournament (East Asia), #3 Dynamo Kiev vs #11 Chornomorets Odessa – Ukrainian Premier, #8 Astra Giurgiu vs. #9 Botosani – Romania Liga I, #12 Opava vs #1 Slavia Prague – Czech First Division, #10 Enosis Paralimni vs #4 AEK Larnaca – Cyprus First Division.

’10 to Track’ Sunday (12/2) soccer match previews – Liga MX, Premier League derbies lead the way

The ten most important matches to follow for us – the newish American fans of the global game.

Noob starts local and with Western Europe, but never ignores the world at large.  I hope that means there’s something here for any fan, not just Noobites.

Follow on the tweeterbox @SoccerNoobUSA.  Check back for match results.  And remember to never travel in a straight line.   Noob keeps things weird.

Note:  Noob’s sources for some CONCACAF things are…inconsistent.   The Ascenso MX (Mexican second division) Apertura Finals second leg may be today.  Really good league, probably one of the best five in CONCACAF.  Use your Google machine powers to find out more.

Also, there may be a Nicaraguan semifinal today.   Same CONCACAF weirdness issue on the interblag.

1. Pumas UNAM vs. Tigres UANL– Liga MX

Opening round of the playoffs, leg two! The top eight from the Apertura (first half-season) qualified. Pumas are the third seed, Tigres sixth. The first leg was at UANL and they won 2-1.

All the momentum is with Tigres. They’ve won four straight. Pumas have only managed one win in their last four tries. Winner will get either CF America or underdog Toluca.   (1:00 PM Eastern, Univision Deportes)

RESULT:   Pumas   3-1      And so they take the series 4-3 and advance

B. Arsenal vs. Tottenham Sir Topham Hatt Hotspur – English Premier League

This is the North London derby. Remember to pronounce that “ar” instead of “er”. You wouldn’t won to sound literate! For the rawest of Noobites, a derby means they’re bigtime rivals.

Being one of Europe’s best leagues, four clubs will qualify from it for the next UEFA Champions League. Noob-dreaded Hotspur are #3, Arsenal #5 with the season just over 1/3 over.

Arsenal lost their first two league matches of the season but quickly righted their ship and haven’t lost since. This, despite the fact that they don’t play quite the same caliber of defense that the other title-contenders do.

Hotspur have won six straight across all competitions. They have proven capable of winning both high and low-scoring affairs, may well be the top threat to #1 Manchester City. They are also named for historic traitor to multiple kings Harry Percy, are worthy of our scorn. Not that this is likely to affect a match result. Noob just can’t help but throw it in there.   (9:05 AM, Telemundo)

RESULT:   Arsenal   4-2        for great justice

Image result for fat controller pissed off

 

 

 

Sir Topham Hatt is displeased by the Harry Percy fawners.

3. RB Leipzig vs. Borussia Monchengladbach – Bundesliga

Germany’s top league has had a topsy turvy table compared to normal this season. Things are starting to look closer to normal, but M’Gladbach is a club they’re not used to seeing so high up. The enter today #B in the table, and it’s no fluke. Good offense, sterling defense. And they’ve won four in a row over all competitions.

Leipzig either play whatever is better than sterling for defense or parks the bus and doesn’t worry much about scoring. Either way, it worked for them early in the season. They’ve lost three of their last four now though and they sit in 5th place. Top four get into the 209-20 Champions League.   (9:30 AM, FS1)

RESULT:   Leipzig   2-0

4. Alaves vs. Sevilla – La Liga

Spain’s is another top flite that’s table has been filled with less-familiar names at the top. Last year, these were the 7th and 14th-placed teams, respectively. Currently they sit #4 and #1. Top four here, too, qualify for the next CL.

Alaves have lost two of three. They’re not consistently dominating teams much further down the table. They appear to have the defense to perhaps flirt with a top-four finish, but Noob’s not banking on it.

Sevilla are really well-balanced. If it weren’t for hard-charging Barcelona, Noob might think they could truly contend for the title. Plus, Real Madrid appear to be waking from their early season slumber. They’re 5th and will climb higher. For the moment, we get enjoy a breath of fresh air, some new scenery at the top of the table.   (2:45 PM, beIN Sports en Español)

RESULT:   1-1

Image result for Spanish fresh air

 

 

 

Eventually we’ll need these again.

5. Celtic vs. Aberdeen – Scottish League Cup

FA Cup – every club that’s a member or associate members of the Scottish Football Association. Challenge Cup – teams from levels 2-4 of the Scottish football pyramid, plus some lower clubs and a few non-Scottish invites.

And then there’s this one! It’s been being contested by the teams from the top four leagues. This is their one-off Final match. It’s in Glasgow, but not at Celtic’s actual home stadium. Not like they need a home-pitch advantage probably, either. They’ve been leading the Premier League there, while Aberdeen are down in 7th.

Celtic have only allowed six league goals all season, 15 matches. That’s insane. But while Celtic should be favored no matter what, Noob doesn’t have a sense of how big a deal this particular Cup is there. Some tournaments, some places, clubs use these as chances to give playing time to bench players.

RESULT:   Celtic   1-0       trophy time!

6. Manchester City vs. Arsenal – England Women’s Soccer League

It’s a battle of the two undefeated teams in the ladies’ top league in England! No one’s even gotten a draw with Arsenal, either. No wonder, they average over four goals per match.

Three teams have gotten draws with Man City. They score over twice as often as any other team in the league – yet only ¾ as much as Arsenal.

RESULT:   Man City   2-0

Image result for White Castle funny

 

Wish I could find the match on TV.   

Ready to party with leftover White Castle.

7. Heredinao vs. Alajuense – Costa Rica Premier

The Final! Noob loves some Costa Rican soccer. This league is every bit as strong as MLS. This is for the Apertura (first half-season) title. And this is the first leg, so they’ll play another match at Alajuense in a few days to complete things.

Alajuense tied for 1st in the regular season table, but lost out on goal differential. They had a quirky 22 matches in that not a single one ended in a draw. No other club had fewer than three.

Herediano tied for 3rd, but entered these Playoffs as the #4 seed, also losing out on GD. They’re a more traditional power there, but weren’t as strong on either side of the ball as their guests today.

RESULT:   Herediano   2-1

8. Deportiva Lara vs. Zamora – Venezuela Premier

Like most or perhaps all Latin American leagues, Venezuela divides their soccer year into separate Apertura and Clausura half-seasons. And for each half, they have a playoffs, crown a champions. But unlike many of those others, here the two tournaments champions face off at year’s end to decide an overall champion. Noob like-y.

Lara won the Clausura playoffs, despite finishing just 4th in the regular season. Zamora finished #B and then won the Apertura playoffs, but weren’t nearly so strong during the Clausura. There, they finished just 7th.

This is a two-legged, home-and-away series for the title. Zamora gets the honor of hosting the second leg, presumably by having the better overall record on the year. Both teams have already qualified for the next Copa Libertadores, so this is strictly for the shiny trophy.

RESULT:   1-1

Image result for shiny trophy funny

 

 

The runner-up trophy.

Maybe…

9. Emelec vs. LDU Quito – Ecuador Serie A

Ecuador call their two half-seasons simply Opening and Closing Stages. Concept is the same as Apertura and Clausura though. Or maybe they use those words there and Noob’s sources are just goofy about not translating for Ecuador for some reason. The world is weird.

In any case, there are just two matches to go in the Closing Stage. Opening Stage champions LDU de Quito trail Emelec by two points in the table. As many as four other teams appear mathematically alive for 1st, but one of these two is going to win it.

Emelec haven’t lost in six straight matches. De Quito have also been on a tear. Well, save for a weird loss for soon-to-be-Relegated Tecnico Universitario.

This one’s a big enough match that GOL TV is actually airing it internationally. You’d have to have a deep, deep satellite package to get it here stateside, but it’s on at 12:00 PM.

RESULT:   0-0

10. Basel vs. Young Boys of Bern – Swiss Super League

We finish our Track back in Europe. Noob’s saved this one for last because while it’s an irresistible #B-#1 matchup, there’s no title race going on here.

YBB are ahead by a whopping 13 points in the table less than halfway through the season. That said, Switzerland are a highly-enough ranked league in Europe that they’ll qualify two club into the next Champions League.

Basel have been the more recent studs, but might really only be the fourth-best team this season. The defense is down this season, the offense not enough to make up for that lack.

RESULT:   YBB   1-3

Image result for Basel funny

 

 

So long from the Christmas Market in Basel, Switzerland!

 

Home of creepy, nightmare-inducing holiday mushroom figurines.

You’re welcome.

 

Extra Credit:   Liverpool vs Everton – English Premier League, any of the Second Round English FA Cup matches, #3 Hearts vs #2 Rangers – Scottish Premiership,  #4 Anderlecht vs #B Genk – Belgian First Division A

#2 Vidi vs #3 Budapest Honved – Hungarian NB 1, #3 Academy Pandev vs. #B Vardar Skpje – Macedonian Prva Liga, #3 Feyenoord vs. #1 PSV Eindhoven – Dutch Eredivisie, #4 Besiktas vs #3 Galatasaray – Turkish Super Lig

#5 Independiente vs. #6 Boca Juniors – Argentinian Primera, a Peruvian Primera semfinal, #B Al Nassr vs. #4 Al-Wehda – Saudi Premier, #4 Etoile du Sahel vs. #B Sfaxien – Tunisian Ligue 1

Quarterfinal matches from El Salvador and Guatemala, a semifinal from Honduras, #1 Village Superstars vs. #3 St. Paul’s United – St. Kitts and Nevis Premier, plus maybe a final from Panama.  Info on Panama is the worst.

’10 to Track’ Saturday (12/1) soccer match previews – Liga MX, Premier League lead the way

Noob could choose to define the mantra  here of “the ten most important matches to follow, for us – the newish American fans of the global game” any number of ways.

But in the quest to learn soccer, I’ve learned I want to embrace the game everywhere  its found.    Today’s Track proudly sports matches from all six continents and federations.

1. Santos vs. Monterrey – Liga MX

This is the second leg of the opening, Quarterfinal round of the Apertura (first half-season) Liguilla (postseason tournament). Tonight’s match completes the home-and-away series.

These are the #4 and #5 seeds. They finished in a three-way tie with another club during the regular season and statistically look very much alike. Monterrey won the first leg at their place, 1-0. Best aggregate score will advance in the bracket.

All the momentum is on the side of Monterrey right now. They haven’t lost in four matches and have conceded only two goals over that stretch. Santos haven’t win in four matches, only score three times over those games.

The winner will almost certainly face #1 Cruz Azul in the Semifinals. They’re up 2-0 in their Quarterfinal and have yet to host their match.   (10:00 PM Eastern, Univision)

RESULT:   Monterrey   0-2        on to the Semis to face Cruz Azul  

B. Manchester City vs. AFC Bournemouth – English Premier League

This may be the English match today involving the collectively two highest teams in the table, but it sure doesn’t look competitive. Man City are the world’s greatest club running at the moment.

Bournemouth are tied for 8th. More, Noob’s Fighting Cherries have lost three straight, all by 2-1 scores. They had an extremely hot streak to start the year, but that magic has cooled.   (10:00 AM, NBCSN)

RESULT:   Man City   3-1

Image result for letter B cherry

 

Noob’s been faithful to the quest for Number B.

Number B stays loyal with me in support of the Fighting Cherries of Bournemouth.

3. Lille vs. Lyon – Ligue 1

Once you get past 14-0-0 PSG, there’s quite a race going on in France! Lyon are #B. Lille is one of three teams trailing them by just a point. Top three will make the next Champions league.

Noob doesn’t think Lyon have the defensive ability to maintain their table position, will be one of the odd teams out for a top three finish. Defense is Lille’s greater strength and so they should be expected to get a result here at home.

RESULT:   2-2

4. Flamengo vs. Atletico PR – Brazil Serie A

The last round of matches begins in Brazil now. #B versus #7 isn’t usually shiny enough to capture Noob’s fickle gaze, but this is one with specific meaning.

Flamengo can’t catch Palmeiras (and hail to the champs!), nor can they be passed by anyone. They’re headed to the next Copa Libertadores, qualifying straight through to the Group Stage.

Atletico Paranaense right now are the odd team out of the CL mix. Top six get in and they’re in 7th. APR have lacked on defense compared to teams like Flamengo all year. But with the hosts having essentially nothing to play for, who knows – they may start all scrubs.

Noob’s guess is that APR gets a result today and is still stuck in 7th, headed to Copa Sudamericana – South America’s version of Europa League.

RESULT:   Atletico PR   1-2          But Atletico MG also one, so no Copa Libertadores for Paraense

Image result for Flamengo youth soccer

 

 

Meet Flamengo’s U10 squad.

They’re probably starting this match.

5. Nigeria vs. South Africa – Africa Women Cup of Nations

Let’s get someone a trophy – it’s the Final! This is the most prestigious tournament for national teams in Africa and is held every other year. This match is a one-off in Ghana, where the whole tournament has been being hosted.

Nigeria are the defending champs and #1 team in the CAF, and it’s not even terribly close. South Africa rate fourth-best (#38 and #50 worldwide). It’s worth noting, however, that South Africa beat Nigeria 0-1 in the Group Stage.

RESULT:   Nigeria   0-0  /  4-3  pk                Nigeria are chamPEEENS!

6. Olimpia vs. Real España – Honduras National League

This is the second leg of the Apertura playoff Semifinals. Regular season runners-up Olimpia earned a 2-2 draw on the road in the first match of this home-and-away series. Real are high-octane – all O, no D. At home, the better-balanced Olimpia-ns should take care of business.

RESULT:   0-0        so with the aggregate score tied at two, Olimpia advances on away-goals

Image result for high octane funny

 

 

 

 

If he does “The Pigeon”, Noob’s going on a killing spree.

7. San Pedro vs. Verdes – Belize Premier

Is this match, this league “important” in the football world? Probably not by most anyone’s standards. It’s one of the weaker leagues of Central America. But Noob is bound and determined that we will gain at least a passing familiarity with all other CONCACAF member leagues. Hallooo, neighbors!

More, this is a Semifinal! As the lesser, #3 seed, San Pedro host the first leg of the home-and-away series. They’re not out of their class when comparing defenses here.

But Verdes tied for first in the Opening Stage (like Apertura) regular season, only missing 1st by lesser goal differential. And this league was never anything but a two-team race. Verdes are light years better on offense.

RESULT:         it now appears this was slated for 11/30 but was postponed 

8. Fiji vs. New Zealand – OFC Nations Cup

Oceania’s confederation host this tournament just once every four years. It serves as the qualifier for both World Cup and the Olympics.

And here’s your final! It’s a one-off match, being played in New Caledonia, as was the whole tournament. These are the only OFC teams to rank in the top 100 worldwide. New Zealand are the defending champs and 20th-rated team anywhere by FIFA. Fiji are ranked #89 and will have to try and be happy with second place. Because they’re about to get wrecked.

RESULT:   New Zealand   0-8                 Wrecked indeed

Image result for New Zealanders funny

 

 

 

Well that explains it then.

9. Consadole Sapporo vs. Sanfrecce Hiroshima – Japan J1 League

Just like Brazil’s top flite, this league is now in it’s last round of matches. The top three all qualify for the next AFC Champions League. Only champs (and congrats!) Kawasaki qualify directly to the Group Stage there. The next two will have to play in earlier rounds.

Hiroshima are #B, up just a point in the table on newly-minted AFC CL-titleholders Kashima and two above Sapporo. And what the fruit happened to Hiroshima? At one point they led the entire league by nine points. They’ve now lost seven straight matches. If they can manage a draw today, they’ll finish no worse than 3rd place and still qualify for the next CL. Even if they lose, Kashima has to win to pass them and knock them out of the top three.

Sapporo have won three of four and been reported by the Japan Times to be seen licking their chops endlessly in anticipation of this match.

RESULT:   2-2        And so Kawasaki win the league, Hiroshima hold on to second, and Kashima finish 3rd.    Sapporo – no AFC CL for yooooou.

10. Ballymena United vs. Linfield – Northern Ireland Premier

We finish our Track today with a shiny #B-#1 matchup. Does Noob care that it’s in one of the weakest leagues in all Europe? Not at all! (OK, maybe a little. They’ve fallen behind Gibraltar for goodness’ sake, which has the population of like Ames, Iowa.)

Anyway, the season is halfway complete in this semi-pro league. The race is shaping up to be a dramatic one. Linfield lead their hosts today by just a point in the table. Glenavon are just a point farther back, and defending champs Crusaders are just six back of their familiar spot.

The top four all average about two goals per game. But in this offensively-leaning league, it’s only Linfield that can defend as well. They’re the only club giving up less than a goal per game average.

RESULT:   Ballymena    1-2           We have a new leader in the NIFL Premier!

Image result for Slemish Mountain Saint PatrickSo long from Slemish Mountain, Ballymena – said to be first irish home of Saint Patrick.

This guy’s just a Sean Astin-wannabe though.

 

Extra Credit:   Any of the many second round English FA Cup matches, #5 Sheffield United vs. #B Leeds United – English Championship, #5 Grenoble vs. #1 Metz – France’s Ligue 2

#B Legia Warsaw vs. #4 Korono Kielce – Poland Ekstraklasa, #3 Zilinia vs. #B DAC 1904 Dunajska Streda – Slovakia Super Liga, #3 Domzale vs. #1 Maribor – Slovenia Prva Liga, #3 Malaga vs. #4 Granada – Spain’s Segunda Liga, today’s AFF Cup and women’s EAFF-1 matches