The ten most important matches to follow, for us — the newish American fans of the global game. For the Midweek, Noob teases out ten over the three days instead of a full slate on each.
More first round MLS Playoffs action! *action flex pose*
But Noob isn’t all America all the time. We’ll also get to know some more about our CONCACAF neighbors as we finish up the Midweek Track. Tomorrow — Globetrotting Friday!
D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew – Major League Soccer playoffs
Battle of the Saved! To keep things to Ten on the Track, just previewing this one. The other match today is #3 LAFC versus #6 Real Salt Lake. It’s important, absolutely. But Noob likes to spread the love around, so just doing this one.
If you’ve followed this site or American soccer in general, you know the story arc of these two clubs’ seasons:
D.C. – stunk out loud, signed an all-time great from Europe, Saved their season.
Columbus – high-end average all year, looked like ownership would move them to Austin, Cleveland Browns swooped in recently and Saved the Crew.
Columbus looked so entrenched in #4 spot in the Eastern Conference for so long, Noob called their position a done deal weeks ago. Then they started mostly losing and drawing matches. Nearly all their matches. So with their offense AWOL, they slipped into a tie with D.C.
D.C. has the same number of wins as Columbus, but wins out for the opportunity to hose this match as the #4 by virtue of the second tiebreaker – goal differential. They haven’t lost a match since late August. And as much as all-world Wayne Rooney was the big reason early on in their turnaround, there’s no denying it’s the defense that’s carrying them now. They’ve conceded just two goals in their last six outings.
If Columbus are to have a shot tonight, they’ll likely need another incredible performance from striker Gyasi Zardes. He netted all three of the Crew’s goals in their regular-season 3-2 finale over Minnesota.
Kind of funny – If Columbus had lost, they’d instead be travelling to struggling #3 NYCFC. they’d probably have preferred that matchup over one with red-hot D.C. (8:00 PM EST, FS1)
RESULT: Columbus 2-2 / 2-3 PK What a match! Federeico Higuain with both goals for the winners. D.C. equalized at 116′ to send it to penalties.
Some Ohio edumuhcation for you.
(Buhhht where’s Columbus?)
Motagua vs. Herediano – CONCACAF League
It’s the second leg of the Final! Here are some of the event details from the post a week ago. What is this tournament?
That can be better answered to start by telling you who is (and isn’t) in it. This is 13 really good Central American teams and three top clubs from the Caribbean region.
Who this is not are the league champions from the five best Central American leagues. Those qualified directly for the CONCACAF Champions League. The winner of this event gets the 16th and final spot in the Champions League
Herediano qualified for this tournament by having the best aggregate record between the Costa Rican Apertura and Clausura (first and second half-tournaments) last season. Motagua were the runners-up in both those stages In Honduras.
Herediano are the better team in paper, but wow are they struggling in their current league season. They’ve lost four straight, only scoring in one of the matches and dropping to midtable.
Herediano have been the favorite, despite struggling in their current league season. They’d lost four straight matches before winning the first leg here, beating Montagua 2-0.
This had looked like a real opportunity for underdogs Motagua. They’d not lost in six matches. In league, their D has been A+. But two goals is a lot to make up against Herediano today, even at home.
RESULT: Motagua 2-0 But that means Herediano wins the tie 3-2. Hail to the victors! And congrats on your Champions League berth.
Santa Tecla vs. Alianza – El Salvador Premier
Just six matches left in the Apertura (first half-season of the year) and Alianza are still undefeated! But nearly half their matches have ended in draws, so they’re only two points up on #B Santa Tecla.
Noob isn’t overly impressed with Santa Tecla. The top eight of twelve league teams make the playoffs, so sure, they’re clearly getting into that. But title contenders?
They’re tough, gritty, but ultimately their offense is only have as good as Alianza’s. And Aguila’s. That club just going to be #B. S.T. may be able to get a draw at home today, but no better.
RESULT: Santa Tecla 2-1 Well color Noob surprised!
So long from El Infiernillo, Santa Tecla, El Salvador!
(Local club supporters now want to throw Noob into wherever that steam comes from.)
B. FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers – Major League Soccer Playoffs
Nitty Gritty: Top six in each of the two Conferences qualified for the postseason. The top two seeds in each get byes to the Second Round. The format is single elimination matches hosted by the club with the better seed.
Noob initially typo’ed with “Playoofs”. Dallas made a very loud oof-ing sound as they got figuratively kicked in the gut in their last regular season match. They came into the match at lowly-Colorado Rapids #B in the table, with a shot at the #1 seed.
Now, #1 Kansas City didn’t lose like Dallas needed for #1 to happen for them. But a win still leaves them #B and with a Playoff bye. Even a draw gets them the #3 seed.
Aaaaand they crapped the bed, allowing the Rapids two goals in the last ten minutes of the match. Colorado wins 2-1. “The Toros” slip to #4 on the heels of a three-match losing streak. At least they still get to host this match.
The only good news for Dallas fans is that #5 Portland has been inconsistent most of the season. The Timbers started 2018 hot, but were up and own the last 2/3 of the year. They lost their last match toi non-Playoff-bound Vancouver, but it’s hard to read too much into that. Portland went into the game with nothing at stake. They were going to be the #5 seed no matter the result of the last days’ matches around the league.
The biggest Dallas name to know on offense is Maximilian Urruti. But if you really want to impress coworkers around the water cooler, tell them Swiss international defender Reto Ziegler needs to get some energy drink going. The center of Dallas’ defense has been awful down the stretch, but he’s been the weakest link.
For Portland, they key to their success has been midfielder Diego Valeri. He leads the team in goals and assists both. Striker Jeremy Ebobisse has been controlling space up front well for them late. If this tandem are both on – and Noob thinks they will be against their fading hosts – look for a Portland road upset today.
RESULT: Portland 1-2 Valeri with both goals. Urrturi was up front, if not dominant. Reto Ziegler may actually have been the strongest defender for Dallas on the night.
Tandem Number B’s are about to make a grievous error.
NYCFC vs. Philadelphia Union – Major League Soccer Playoffs
It’s déjà vu all over again. These two just played in their last match, NYCFC taking it at home 3-1. That’s particularly disconcerting for the Union because they had something to play for. They end up with the #6 seed, but could’ve and would’ve climbed two notches up the standings with a W.
NYCFC were going to be the #3 seed no matter how that or any match went Sunday. Perhaps they were simply motivated to get off a two-match losing skid before the postseason began.
In fact, they’d only won one match in their last nine heading into that one. (Draws staunched some of the bleeding, and they were never going to drop far since Columbus was also dropping matches left and right.)
So what’s going to happen today? Goodness only knows. Philly’s once-vaunted offense pulled a Houdini act the last five weeks. But NYCFC ‘s did the same thing.
RESULT: NYCFC 3-1 Maxi Morales with a goal and an assist
Monterrey vs. Cruz Azul – Copa MX
The Final! And so, one last reminder of what we have here. The two Copa tournaments each football-year align timewise with their two league half-seasons. They aren’t like most other nations’ FA Cups, which let in teams from many or all leagues in some way. Here, only teams from the top two tiers ever compete.
This is a single-elimination Final match, being hosted in Monterrey. These two are #6 and #3, respectively, in the Liga MX (top tier) standings. This should be a defensive-affair. Cruz Azul concede the league’s fewest goals. And Monterrey has been surprisingly quiet on offense all year.
This isn’t one Noob would want to put pesos on – very even matchup on paper. But if you are so inclined, Monterrey is at home and the more traditional recent power.
RESULT: Cruz Azul 0-2 Aaaaand Noob now sees that Cruz are 10-8-2 in their last 20 against Monterrey. oopsie
That doesn’t seem ri–
No, never mind.
Fiorentina vs. Chelsea Ladies – UEFA Women’s Champions League
Like the men’s version, this is the top international women’s club tournament in Europe. They’re now in the Round of 16. Opponents face off in two-legged home-and-away series to determine who advances.
All the R16 series are heading into their second matches. Chelsea won 1-0 at home to begin this one. It looks, therefore, to be the most competitive series going this round. There’s not often a lot of parity in the women’s game. A lot of the series are already blowouts.
Fiorentina pulled a Maverick and Goose and slid into someone else’s qualification spot. Cue up the Kenny Loggins soundtrack. You’re welcome, “Top Gun” fangirls.
Last year, Brescia finished #B and qualified for this. But they sold their Serie A rights to AC Milan, who were starting a new women’s team. That meant #3 Fiorentina gets to play CL. But they’re not even doing that well early in their new league season.
No one beat Chelsea last year in England, but they’ve not started the new season all that well, either. I am loath to call a winner here. Noob’s still on a steep part of the learning curve for the women’s game. Part of why I’m doing this nutty site!
RESULT: Chelsea 0-6 Oh dear, that escalated quickly.
Guastatoya vs. Xelaju – Guatemala National League
If one guesses there is a co-relation between how a country’s National Team stacks up against others in their confederation and how their domestic league compares, then Guatemala’s is nearly the weakest of the Central American ones. But hey – they’re playing! And when have you ever known Noob to not be mesmerized by the shine of a #1 versus #B matchup?
Guastatoya are responsible for most of the sparkle. With six matches to go in the Apertura (first half-season), they lead Xelaju by seven points in the table. Best O in the league by a little, and best defense by a wide margin. They don’t even concede a goal every other match on average.
Xelaju are tied on points with Malacateco, lead them by one little tiebreaking goal on differential. Top six will make the Playoffs, and top two will get byes there. So every match is still vital for Xelaju. Noob think’s they’ll get that #B spot when all is said and done, but at least a draw and a point today might be a necessary starting point.
Crap! Ticked off the Guatemalans.
Is that a plastic green vuvuzela? If so, Noob surrenders right -now-.
Al-Ain vs. Sharjah Cultural Club – Arabian Gulf League
This – also often seen as “The UAE Pro-League” – is the top flite in United Arab Emirates, ranks as the 4th-best league in all Asia. In fact, here’s how things shake out in the AFC top ten, just for fun:
China and Qatar are the two clear best club football nations. South Korea and U.A.E. are the clear next best two. Iran, Japan and Saudi Arabia are #5-#7. After that, there’s a massive chasm before you get to Thailand and Australia. Uzbekistan currently rank 10th, but Iraq and Tajikistan are very close.
#1 Sharjah are one of two undefeated clubs remaining early in this league’s season. Al-Ain are not the other, but they’re #B just the same. Al-Ain are the defending champs, whereas Sharjah were just average in 2017-18.
Al-Ain were tremendous on defense last year and remain so know. But Sharjah so far have been every bit as dominant at goal-stopping. Go, Sharjah! it’s fun to see newer blood at the top and tight title races.
And Noobites, you’re welcome for not sticking in some stock 80’s pop music Culture Club reference. My pattern is to put the zany images and videos on the evenly-numbered matches. But if Sharjah stay atop the table, I make no future promises regarding restraint! The future may hold “Church of the Poisoned Mind” references.
(“Karma Chameleon” is too easy, overdone. Never travel in a straight line, Noobites. Never ever.)
RESULT: Sharjah 1-2
Adelaide United vs. Sydney FC – FFA Cup (Australia)
Australia’s calendar set up is unusual this way. Most countries play their FA Cup tournaments concurrently with the league season. Down Under, they’re only two matches into the league season, yet here they are, handing out a trophy already.
This is the first time the federation there has ever used a random draw to determine who will host. Previously, they FFA made deliberate selections. Probably it always went in favor of the larger of the two teams’ venues.
But Adelaide won the coin toss, or got a favorable reading of entrails or whatever upside down hoodoo they might do there. And the Reds need the advantage. They were a perfectly average team last year, look not much different early on now. Sydney destroyed the league, best in the biz on both sides of the ball.
Adelaide are a bit better on defense than goal-scoring, will likely look to take the air out of the ball. Noob’s guessing they’d be thrilled with it being 0-0 and see things decides by penalty shootout.
RESULT: Adelaide 2-1 Congrats to the victors! And perhaps should not be so surprised. Despite Sydney FC being the usually dominant power in Oz, Adelaide are actually now 15-7-9 in the series’ recent history.
This is now how to prepare for soccer in Australia.
You’re not leaving Juve so soon anyway.