’10 to Track’ Saturday (11/17) soccer matches – UEFA Nations League leads the way once again

This site serves two purposes, or such is Noob’s intent.   We learn about the leagues and tournaments of the world through the lens of a newish American fan.  And it’s all presented with pretty oddball humor oft times, something for fans Noobite and veteran alike (hopefully).

Weekends, though, the zaniness gets comparatively left by the wayside.  Even during this, the European International Break – which in turn affects most of the world – Saturday and Sunday will offer the best matches of the week.

So let’s dig in and see what goodies the day has to offer.

1. Italy vs. Portugal – UEFA Nations League

Here’s a direct link to understand the basics of what this tournament is: http://www.soccernoob.com/2018/01/01/uefa-nations-league-explainer/

Portugal are in the driver’s seat to win the Group and make the Playoffs. They already lead Italy by two in the table and still have a match to play after this. For Italy, this is fourth and final Group Stage match.

Italy must have a win today and than likely are forced to root for Poland to beat Portugal in the final match for those two. If Italy win by more than two today, than a Poland-Portugal draw would suffice. If Italy can at least get a draw today, they will have avoided any possibility of being Relegated to the League B for the next incarnation of this tournament in 2020-21.

Italy have dropped to #19 in the FIFA rankings and failed to even qualify for the last 2018 World Cup. In getting an 0-1 win over Poland in this tournament, they had their first win of any kind since March, a streak of six matches. Just like our U.S. men’s national team, they’re trending towards younger players in a reset, and it’s showing.

Portugal made it all the way to the World Cup quarterfinals, are ranked #7 in the world. They beat the Italians 1-0 in their first meeting of this event and have one three straight matches. (2:45 PM EST, Univision Deportes)

RESULT:   0-0

B. Serbia vs. Montenegro – UEFA Nations League

This one is in League C, yet that means there’s more at stake, in a way. Those League A teams are all likely to qualify for the 2020 European Championships through a variety of channels. Not so necessarily with teams down here. Each League’s winner automatically qualifies for the Euros, and this may be the only realistic shot for some teams.

Both these teams have played four of their six matches. League C groups have four teams each, unlike the three-team pods in League A, so their double round-robin is longer. Serbia are a point clear of Montenegro and two ahead of Romania.

The teams are ranked #35 and #39, respectively. Given that Serbia won the first match between them on the road 0-2, it’s hard not to see them as the favorite today.

RESULT:   Serbia   2-1

Image result for unrealistic letter B

 

The Number B brings unmitigated joy!

No Number Two ever prompted that degree of delight.

3. Palestino vs. Audax Italiano – Copa Chile

It’s the second leg of the Final! And the stakes are high. The winners qualify for the next Copa Libertadores (South American Champions League). Neither of these teams was anywhere near the top of the country’s Premier League standings, so this has been there only possible path.

In the first leg, Palestino scored the only goal at 90 +3′. Now they have the chance to take care of business at home for the title. But they’re particularly challenged on defense typically, so don’t look for them to be able to take the air out of the ball and hold on for a 0-0 draw for the match.

RESULT:   Palestino   3-2        Victors!    Congrats on Copa Libertadores invite

4. UPNFM vs. Platense – Honduras National League

Honduras’ football season is divided into separate Apertura and Clausura halves. The Apertura regular season is completed and the Playoffs have begun. The top six make these Playoffs, with the top two seeds getting byes.

These two enter as the #3 and #6 seeds. UPNFM earned a 1-1 draw in the first match of this two-legged quarterfinal tie. They’ll likely look to push the pace at home, which is going to be very hard on the visitors. Platense didn’t score much all regular season. Anything but an 0-1 win for Platense is probably doom.

RESULT:   Platense   0-1      On to the Semifinals!

Image result for soccer doom

5. Namibia vs. Guinea Bassau – Africa Cup of Nations qualification

The CAF’s premier national team competition is next year. This tournament is the play-in for that. Groups of four, each clubs plays a home-and-away round robine. Top two finishers in each get invites to the ACN.

South Africa hosting Nigeria might be the best game from this event today. But more is at stake in this one. These two are tied for 1st after four matches. More, the two teams below them in their Group each have a win and a draw. And Zambia is easily the highest-ranked team in the group, so one can expect them to make a push their last two matches.

Namibia’s been the best of this bunch on defense, G-B on offense. Midfield control may well decide this one. A low-scoring draw would serve both reasonably well, giving both a four-point lead over the others. That feels an unlikely conspiracy though. A win for either all but guarantee a top-two finish.

RESULT:    0-0       low-scoring draw it is

6. Barry Town vs. T.N.S – Wales Premier

It’s International Break in Europe, but that’s not keeping the Welsh top flite from gearing up. Surprising Barry Town are merely average on both sides of the ball, yet sit tied for 1st nearly halfway through the season. They even just pulled off a very solid road draw against co-leaders Connah’s Quay.

Perennial power The New Saints have been perhaps even more surprising, at least of late. They’ve dropped two matches in a row to midtable clubs and only got a draw against another just before that. The studly offense has simply vanished somehow.

This is one of Europe’s weaker leagues, so only the winner will get a berth in the next Champions League.

RESULT:   T.N.S.   0-2

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Steve Carrell is pleasantly surprised by Barry Town.  Perhaps.

7. ASE Matoury vs. US Concarneau – Coupe de France

The French FA Cup is just getting underway. Well, the Regional Leagues’ amateur clubs have been competing to get to this, the Seventh Round. This is where qualifying teams from France’s overseas territories enter in, as well as the pro teams from League Two.

The overseas territories’ entries are the reason Noob is choosing to start highlighting this competition so early on. Some of those territories are CONCACAF members, and I’m more focused than ever on our getting familiar with our neighbors.

Noob’s not certain how ASE Matoury qualified from French Guiana. They and US Matoury finished #B and #3 in 2017-18 Division d’Honneur and are playing the Coupe, but not winners Le Geldar.

US Concarneau play out of the third division Championnat National league, where they’re struggling on defense and sitting midtable. Noob doesn’t have any sense of how the leagues and clubs compare, so it will be fun to see how the overseas territorial clubs do.

RESULT:   Concarneau   2-3

8. Edinburgh City vs. Alloa Athletic – Scotland Challenge Cup

Teams from levels two through five of the Scottish football pyramid compete in this Knockout tournament. They also invite a handful of teams from other nearby countries.

This is a quarterfinal match. Hosts Edinburgh are from the fourth-tier Scottish League Two, for the moment. They’re winning it, would be promoted if they finish #1.

Alloa are struggling in the second division Championship league, having just been promoted themselves. Still, Noob would easily favor the visitors to win by a goal or two here on the road.

RESULT:   Edinburgh City   2-2  /  4-3   pk            Upset City!   E.C. climbs back from an 0-2 whole to take it in penalty kicks.

Image result for edinburgh city fc 2018

9. Tolima vs. Santa Fe – Colombia Premier

The top eight make the Clausura (second half-season) here. This is the second leg of a quarterfinal two-legged tie between the #1 and #8 seeds. Tolima won the first match 2-1. Even on the road, Santa Fe still shouldn’t be counted out though. Statistically, these teams aren’t that far apart.

Colombia determines its entrants into Copa Libertadores by aggregate table, combining the Apertura and Clausura regular season records. That takes a tiny bit of the shine off things for these Playoffs, but but not much.

RESULT:   Santa Fe   0-1        But it’s Tolima who advance, 4-3 on penalty kicks

10. Hassania Agadir vs. Raja Casablanca – Morocco Botola Pro

We finish out Track in one of Africa’s best leagues. The most recent rankings as this sixth-best on the content, and their on pace to climb as high as #B by 2020.

This match features the current league leader against #10. Wait, 10? Yep. International Break means slimmer pickings, but this is an important match there, too. Raja Casablanca have only played half as many matches as many clubs there because of having been playing in the Champions League. They’ve not lost any of their four matches and are statistically the best team.

Agadir can really defend, are likely to be near the table’s top all season long, competing for one of the two CL berths for next year. But R.C. defend just as well and score a lot more.

RESULT:   0-0

Image result for agadir funny

 

 

So long from Agadir!

 

not trick photography

goats climb Argan trees for the fruit in Agadir.

’10 to Track’ Midweek Edition soccer matches – eep! #11, too – USL Final

Midweek Edition – time to slow down, tease out ten most important matches, for us – the newish American fans of the global game – over three days.  Think of it as a soccer slow jam, if you will.   Listen to a 90’s R&B fave whilst you read.

OK, or maybe not.  That got weird.  Again.

Tuesday and Wednesday matches and results are further down.

More Thursday

11.  Louisville FC vs. Phoenix Rising – United Soccer League

Good LAWD!   You’d think Noob would learn a lesson.  I tend to scout out matches for Track inclusion five days in advance.    This FINAL  Amuricuh didn’t appear on my primary sched source because it doesn’t do TBD.  Phoenix played their Semfinal  four days ago.

But that’s the reason, not an excuse.  And at least it can be rectified now, hours before kickoff.

Louisville are the defending tournament champions.  In the Eastern Conference this year, they finished #B, well behind MLS-bound FC Cincinnati.  They get to host this one-off final.  No return to leg to Phoenix, this is it.    Phoenix Rising look becomes Phoenix Risen with an upset win.   Noob says upset because they finished 3rd in the West.

Phoenix conceded far fewer goals than many other Western clubs – including those that made the playoffs.  But they don’t play any better on that end than L’ville, and their hosts have more firepower.  Noob smells a title decided by penalty kicks, but on paper this is advantage reigning champs.   (8:00 PM, ESPN2).

RESULT:   Louisville    1-0        Hail to the champions!

Image result for close call soccer gif

 

Noob’er with the save!

 

If barely…

 

 

Thursday

  1. Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers – Major League Soccer playoffs

The Conference Semifinals continue!  This is the second match of a two-legged tie.

The five-seed Portland won the first match 2-1 at their place.  This broke #B Seattle’s five-match win streak.  Noob has suggested this was a bad matchup for Portland.  Seattle’s offense had been playing their best ball of the season and defense is where Portland had often struggled.

That Timber defense did just enough to win.  Now we get to see if they can hold up on the road.  If they had a weakness, is up the middle some.  Expect to see Seattle run at defender New Zealander Bill Poni Tuiloma to try and get to and through veteran keeper Jeff Attinella.   (10:30 PM, FS1)

RESULT:   Seattle   3-2       And they don’t use away-goals as a tiebreaker.  Still, congrats to Portland!   They won 6-8 on penalty kicks.

  1. Portugal vs. U.S.A. – women’s international friendly

The FIFA #1-ranked ladies head to Lisbon to face the 33rd-ranked team in the world.   They’ve only ever met six times and the U.S. has won all the matches.

With a win today, the USWNT will have it’s 500th-ever program win since forming in 1985.  They should get it by a goal or two, even on the road.   (1:00 PM, ESPN2)

RESULT:   U.S.A.   0-1

Image result for America gif funny

 

Murican treasure Danny McBride is revved up for the game.

  1. Argentina vs. Panama – Women’s World Cup qualification playoff

Panama finished the CONCACAF World Cup qualification tournament in 4th place.  Only the top three finishers gained entry.  But Panama gets one last shot.  Like their men’s national team counterparts did last year, if the women get in, this will be their first WC ever.

Argentina finished 3rd in the Copa American Feminina, a South American tournament held once every four years.  The top two finishers qualified for WC.

This playoff is a two-legged tie, so they’ll play again on 11/13.  The teams are ranked #66 and #37 in the world, respectively.  Given the oft-seeming lack of parity in the women’s game, that difference is mammoth.  Expect Panama to win on the road outright.

RESULT:   Argentina   4-0     

Honorable Mention:   Congrats to Platense, winners of the Honduran Copa Presidente!   Noob was going to preview this match, but it was played yesterday.  My scouting had shown it slated for today.

  1. Vidi vs. PAOK – Europa League

Good thing Noob keeps back-up matches handy for such occasions.

This is Europe’s second-most prestigious international club tournament.  The Qualifying Rounds are done and the “event proper” – the Group Stage – is halfway complete.

Clubs have been divided into Groups of four each, playing double round robins.  Top two finishers in each will advance to the Knockout Stage.  And remember, the winner of the whole shebang gets an auto-pass into next year’s Champions League.

There are a slew of matches today.   Noob’s highlighting this Group L match because of how things sit in the table.  Chelsea have won all three of their matches and will not be caught.  But all three other teams are tied!

MOL Vidi qualified for the Champions League by being last year’s Hungarian top-flite winners.  They were knocked out in one of the later qualifying rounds by AEK Athens, and so have been dropped into this tournament.

PAOK were Greece’s runners-up last season.  They also qualified for Champions League, falling one win shy of making the Group Stage there.  Portugal’s Benfica housed them.

On paper, PAOK are the favorites by a fair bit.   They play out of UEFA’s 14th-ranked league compared to Hungary’s at #33.  In terms of Elo rating, the Greeks are 100 points more highly-rated.  They should probably win 5/8 of the time on a neutral pitch.

But this ain’t no neutral pitch.  More, Vidi won the first matchup in Greece, 0-2.

RESULT:   Vidi   1-0

Image result for harold and kumar at white castle

 

One of Noob’s dream’s is to own a White Castle in Vidi’s home city of Szekesfehevar.

It translates, of course, to “white castle”.

 

Wednesday

  1. CSKA Moscow vs. Roma – UEFA Champions League

Today’s slate of CL games may not quite match up with yesterday’s matches.   But Group G may be about to turn into a super-tight race if the home team

CSKA-Moscow were the runners-up in the Russian Premier League.  This is a stronger league than many realize, ranked #6 by UEFA.  They’re in 3rd, but just two points behind their visitors today and Real Madrid.

That all said, Roma are a lot better.  They finished 3rd in last year’s Serie A (#3 in UEFA).  Noob-fave for Elo ratings footballdatabase.com is back up, indicates a pretty be gulf between the two.  Even on the road, Roma should win this by goal or two.  The Soviet side just doesn’t score enough.

Roma won the first Group Stage matchup with CSKA-M 3-0.

RESULT:   Roma   1-2

Image result for funny Russian sportsCome to Moscow for the surprisingly decent soccer. 

Stay for the chessboxing.  Yep.

  1. Plaza de Amador vs. Costa del Este – Panama National League

One of Central America’s stronger leagues?   Nope.   Getting to know all our CONCACAF neighbors just the same?  Aww yeeeah.

One last round of matches and the Apertura is complete.   Noob’s sources are in conflict, sio I reserve the right to correct this after the fact 😊   What I believe is that the top six clubs all make the postseason tournament.  The top two will get byes.

CdE can lead #B Tauro by three, others by four or more.  They can do no worse than #B and will get a bye.  They haven’t won any more matches than several other teams, but have earned a lot of draws and suffered only two losses.

PdA are in a three-way tie for 3rd, lead the other two on tiebreaking goal differential.  none of them can finish worse than 5th, so they’re qualified for the postseason.  This is the league’s Small Ball club – they appear to pack it in on defense and not score much themselves.

RESULT:       Noob has no idea.   It now appears this may have been a Copa match.  it may be that it ended 0-0.  Or it may have been cancelled.   The entire Copa may have been cancelled according to one source I saw.  *shrug*

  1. CD Aguila vs. Alianza – El Salvador Premier

El Sllllllllavadoooohhhhhrrrrrr!   Always am compelled to get that out of my system.

This is a bit stronger of a league.  Top eight of 12 make the Apertura postseason tournament.  Here, they have four more matches to go.

These are the #3 and #B clubs.   Aguila has almost no chance to catch Alianza, are playing to maintain their current table position.  This is a pretty well-balanced club, though perhaps a bit soft on defense.

Alianza are just a point behind #1 Santa Tecla.  They’re better than balanced.  A- defense and A++ offense.  Noob knows that’s not a real thing, but you get the idea.   They’re going to win the Apertura.

RESULT:   Alianza   1-2

Image result for el salvador gif

 

El Salvador Jr. – Mexican luchador.

Yeah,. Noob doesn’t get that, either.

 

Tuesday

  1. Napoli vs. Paris Saint-Germain – UEFA Champions League

It’s the most prestigious club competition in all world football, Europe’s championship.  The early “qualifying” rounds are long since done now and the biggest teams have joined the qualifiers here in the Group Stage.   Here, we have eight Groups of four clubs each. Top two finishers advance to the bracketed Knockout Stage.

This is where Noob very much takes liberty with the Track’s mission statement.   There are many CL matches today and nearly all are more “important” than any others anywhere.  But fans who want info on every single match aren’t typically here.   Noob and Noobite we be, and I will filter.

The most interesting match today appears to be this one.  Why?  Because PSG are really, really good.  They’re blowing away everyone at home in Ligue 1.

And they’re in 3rd in this Group.  The idea of them not advancing to the next Round is borderline unthinkable.  Yet with half the double round robin complete, they trail Liverpool by three as well as being a point behind Napoli.

Napoli – Italy’s Serie A runners-up – aren’t quite as good on paper, but not far behind.   If they can hold serve at home and get a win, that puts PSG in a bad way.

PSG has been scoring like crazy, will try to push the pace.  Napoli’s been relying on defense so far, so ball control midfield should determine who can control the pace.    (3:00 PM, TNT)

RESULT:   1-1

Image result for NBA on tnt crewNoob’s starting a petition to have the Charles & Co. do the Champions League!

Might be “turrible”, but so what.

B.  Pachuca vs. CF America – Liga MX Femenil

Three matches to go in the Apertura (first half-season).   These are Group One (of Two) #1 and #B.   Top four from each make the Liguilla (postseason tournament).  These two are already in, but Pachuca can pretty much wrap up the #1 seed with a win today.   They already have a three-point lead.

Both teams are very balanced, should maintain the top two seeds no matter how things go today.  #3 Toluca scores a ton but gives up too many to likely be a threat.

RESULT:   Pachuca   3-2

  1. Tigres UANL vs. Guadalajara – Liga MX Femenil

This is also a #1-#B matchup, but maybe not quite as dramatic.  UNAL lead the Guad Squad by seven.  A win would wrap up the top spot.

This is a bad matchup for the visitors.   They’re a touch better on defense, but can’t score compared to other top Group Two clubs.

RESULT:   Tigres   2-1