Ten questions that will be answered in 2015.
1. Will Warrior hire someone that can actually design a decent Liverpool kit? Or will we be left with the Ugly Christmas Sweater jokes.
2. Which Premier League club will hire a manager that has won 27 of 118 top flight matches? That is Neil Warnock's record with Notts County, Sheffield United, QPR, and Crystal Palace when managing in the top level of English football.
3. Will Tim Ream finally get a run of games with the USMNT? Jurgen Klinsmann shouts from his perch that he wants his players to go to Europe and fight for playing time to improve themselves as players. Tim Ream has done exactly that, named Bolton Player of the Year last season, but still he has yet to get a legitimate chance during Klinsmann's reign with the national team.
4. Who will be the next German-American to make the USMNT? And Gedion Zelalem doesn't count, he developed in America.
5. Will DeAndre Yedlin play in a Premier game? The 21 year old is off to London, but will he find success like Geoff Cameron or return to MLS with his head between his legs like Brek Shea.
6. Will NWSL make it to unchartered waters aka year 4? This spring, NWSL will it begin it's third year as the top professional women's league in America, which is also as far as WUSA & WPS were able to make it. 2015 also adds a few other wrinkles to NWSL - a new, yet to be named, commissioner and the Women's World Cup. National team players will be missing games due to training and WC, but it's possible the buzz of a positive World Cup could help the league.
7. Will the United States win the Women's World Cup? The United States recently lost to Brazil and played to a 1-1 tie with China, and immediately Americans are talking about the fear of other countries "closing the gap". If the United States hasn't won the World Cup since 1999, aren't we the ones that need to close the gap?
8. Will Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales all advance to EURO 2016? With the EURO 2016 expanding to 24 teams, it's quite possible all four counties could be in France. Northern Ireland and Wales are both second in their respective groups, while Ireland and Scotland are fighting it out in the same group along with Germany and Poland. Now if only those four could advance and England didn't. That would be the best story of 2015!
9. Did Juan Agudelo join the Witness Protection Program? Maybe he's become a holistic healer like Ricky Williams.
10. Which American player will have a breakout year in MLS and force his way into the USMNT picture? Plenty of young talented players in MLS, but will any of them find the consistency needed to take their game to the national team level.
1. Which USMNT player is Jurgen Klinsmann shopping around more to clubs during the international break - Jozy Altidore or Jordan Morris?
2. The NCAA Division I Women's Soccer tournament starts tomorrow and the Huskies are well represented with Connecticut, Northeastern, and Washington all making the Big Dance. Which school received their nickname first?
3. Speaking of nicknames, the NCAA committee missed out on a great opportunity for headlines by not having the Buffalo Bulls playing the Colorado Buffaloes.
4. Roy Keane makes the headlines for the wrong reasons. Some things never change.
5. Down to the final four in MLS Playoffs, with the LA Galaxy playing the Seattle Sounders while New England Revolution will play against the New York Red Bulls in two-legged conference finals. Sticking with my pre-playoff pick of Galaxy vs Revolution in MLS Final.
6. Zlatan. Costa. James. RVP. Cahill. None of them deserve to win the Puskas Award - FIFA Goal of the Year. Instead vote for Stephanie Roche of Ireland.
7. Is there a better story in American soccer right now than Lee Nguyen? Washed out at PSV after only making two apperances in two seasons, his only option to find games was in the Vietnamese League. He then returns to America and is picked up by the Vancouver Whitecaps, only to be waived in his first preseason with the club. Three years later, he is called into USMNT camp after scoring 18 goals for the New England Revolution, the most of any midfielder in the league.
8. In five seasons in Major League Soccer, Thierry Henry has yet to play one match on field-turf. On Saturday November 29th, the Red Bulls captain will have a major decision to make.
9. Have you played on a co-ed soccer team? Then you'll enjoy this, "Travis and Stephanie, I've been waiting all season for your off-field romance to produce some midfield chemistry. If your combination play so far is anything to go by, perhaps you should be asking yourselves where this relationship is really headed."
10. Washington was first named the Huskies in 1923, followed by Northeastern in 1927 and the Connecticut Huskies in 1934.
11. The New York Cosmos didn't just sign the Raul that was playing for Real Madrid. No, they signed the Raul that is 37 years old and stopped playing in La Liga in 2010. Couldn't his salary be better used for signing young American players that badly need professional minutes instead of not making it onto a game-day roster in MLS?
12. Landon Donvoan is still one of the top three players in MLS today. Can someone remind me again why Jurgen didn't take him to Brazil? Oh, and Robbie Keane aint too shabby either.
13. Ireland (with the two best Scottish footballers playing for the Boys in Green) will take three points in Celtic Park against Scotland tonight.
14. The USMNT heads to Dublin on Tuesday evening to take on Ireland in the last friendly of the year. The craic will be mighty.
1. If Steven Gerrard swapped a shirt with Pepe at half-time, would anyone care?
2. Speaking of Balotelli, I don’t think he was at fault for any of the three goals that were scored by Real Madrid against Liverpool. In this instance, it seems Brendan Rodgers and the media are doing a good job of using Super Mario as a scapegoat instead of discussing the real issues facing LFC.
3. Rankings and polls, quite possibly the most useless things in American soccer today. Unless the person doing the ranking has seen every single player and team play multiple times, which in youth soccer (and college soccer) in a country the size of America is impossible to do, the rankings have no value.
4. It’s been a poor year for the Timbers this year, but their owner, Merritt Paulson, hasn’t really helped the cause. I think Merritt needs to realize that fans have a right to ask questions when a team is struggling.
5. Aren’t there enough soccer specific stadiums in this country that US Soccer could stop having games played at stadiums with football lines on the field? Recent friendly matches held at college football stadiums would have looked a lot better at Red Bull Arena or Sporting Park.
6. As Jurgen Klinsmann continues to mock American soccer, the former head coach of the USMNT, Bob Bradley, continues to enhance the reputation of American soccer.
7. The 2014 MLS Cup final will be a rematch of the 2002 Final – New England Revolution v LA Galaxy. 12 years later, Jay Heaps, might finally get his chance for a bit of revenge.
8. Through three games of World Cup Qualifying, the USWNT, have looked far from a team capable of winning the 2015 World Cup. It will be interesting to see the lineup in the first match in Canada, will it really be Abby Wambach as the #10?
9. Liverpool FC - was it worth selling Luis Suarez?
10. In the excitement around Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States advancing in the 2014 World Cup, it seems some people have forgotten their history. Bob Bradley led the team to a first-place finish in their group in 2010, while Bruce Arena led the 2002 team to the quarterfinals. Coaches should be judged on results, not on what they say to the media.
1. The World Cup kicked off yesterday and Brazil earned the three points, but if they want to lift the trophy in July, Big Phil needs to stop screaming on the sidelines and, instead, insert Ramires into the starting lineup.
2. The World Cup gives players coming off a poor club season the opportunity for instant redemption. The fates of three countries – United States, Mexico, and Belgium – will be heavily influenced by three players that struggled this past season in the Premier League. Jozy Altidore, Chicharito, and Marouane Fellani have a great opportunity to improve their stock, but will the past nine months be too much of a burden on their minds?
3. Speaking of the United States, in the Fall of 2010 was there a better American player than Stuart Holden? At the time he was 25 years old, dominating the midfield for Bolton in the Premier League, and to many, was seen as the present and future star of the National Team. A little over three years later and Holden’s career has been continually sidetracked by injuries, but what could have been? The thought of a US midfield with Holden in it (and Jermaine Jones on the bench) makes me smile.
4. On Monday the United States should play a 4-2-3-1 against Ghana - Howard; Beasley, Besler, Cameron, Johnson; Beckerman, Bradley; Zusi, Dempsey, Bedoya; Altidore. But Klinsmann won’t budge on his endearment for Jones, so plug him in next to Beckerman, slide Bradley up, and push Dempsey out to the flank for Zusi and that will be the lineup.
5. In the 60th minute of a World Cup when you need a goal, it would be great to bring on a player with five World Cup goals to his name.............or sub on an 18-year old that is playing in the German 4th division.
6. In 2011 I was worried if I was un-American because I enjoyed watching Mexico play so much and thought they were a team that could make the semifinals in Brazil. A few years later the country had to thank Graham Zusi for just squeaking into a playoff with New Zealand for a chance to qualify. Mexico took care of business against the Kiwis, and I, for one, am hoping they find their groove again as they were one of the best nations to watch just a few short years ago.
7. Who will win the World Cup? Pick from Brazil, Argentina, Spain, and Germany. Who will surprise? Pick from Ivory Coast, Belgium, Chile and Bosnia and Hersegovina.
8. After both advancing from the same group four years ago, the United States and England, are both doubtful to even make it to the Round of 16 four years later. If either were to get a result in their first game (US v Ghana and England v Italy), it would go a long way to silence their critics by marching on in Brazil.
9. The England team Roy Hodgson picked is one of the few I have agreed with in recent memory of a major tournament. He chose players based on their form in England this season and not on their past reputation. The next question is, will he be willing to do the same with his starting lineup? A starting 11 that includes Barkley, Sterling, and Sturridge would provide pace, creativity, and goal scoring - three traits that are often missing for the Three Lions.
10. As my buddy Andrew McConville wrote, "Think about the words...THE WORLD CUP...What moments appear?" With that said, here are two of my favorite moments: The first one I enjoyed in an Irish bar in Liverpool, while the second I was lucky enough to see it live in Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
11. Two non-World Cup thoughts: Arsenal fans please don’t complain about Cesc Febregas joining Chelsea. The Gunners had first option to buy the Spainiard, but your fearless leader, Arsene Wenger, chose not to. Secondly, another English player’s career falters after a move to a big club. Do you emember David Bentley playing for Blackburn with his looks and a right foot often compared to Beckham. After a big move to Tottenham in 2008, his playing time decreased, and six years later at the age of 29 he retired. In recent years Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell, and Stewart Downing were all tipped to be in the England squad in Brazil, but after similar moves to large clubs, they have rarely been heard from since.
1. On Saturday the red side of Merseyside will be cheering for Everton, but will the Goodison Park faithful be hoping the Toffees lose?
2. At the end of the 2012 season, many people would have predicted Scott Sinclair to be in the England squad headed to Brazil in 2014. Following a successful season with Swansea City, Sinclair made the move to a big club - Manchester City - and has rarely been heard from again. Note to English players at smaller clubs: the grass isn't always greener - the pay might be better, but playing time should be more important.
3. One of the issues facing the USMNT leading up to the World Cup seems to have been resolved: Clint Dempsey has moved past his 7-month slump and is scoring goals regularly for the Sounders. But honestly, who is going to be the starting back four against Ghana?
4. Through eight MLS games, Porter Ball, I mean the Portland Timbers are winless, but yet barely a peep from the US media questioning Mr. Caleb Porter. If it was Sigi that was winless in Seattle, his name would be smeared through the media and most likely out of a job. Why the special treatment for Coach Porter?
5. On May 11, what could be worse for a Manchester United fan: their noisy neighbor hosting the Premier League trophy or Liverpool returning to their perch?
6. Agree with Will Parchman, it's time to put the MLS All-Star game to bed.
7. Could Lewis Baker be the first attacking player from the Chelsea academy to finally make a name for himself in the first team? Probably not, but he will always have this goal to remember.
8. That preseason prediction of Seattle Reign winning NWSL this year is off to a good start, but wonder if the lack of subbing could come back to hurt the club - injuries and team chemistry?
9. Dempsey is getting the deserved attention, but Gonzalo Pineda, could be the final piece of the puzzle for the Sounders to win MLS. Pineda provides the perfect compliment next to Osvaldo Alonso. His vision, passing, and ability to influence the tempo, make the Sounders a much better and more creative team in the midfield. But, where does Brad Evans play now?
10. The Tim Ream to Brazil campaign continues. Any other American in Europe named Player of the Year for their club? Make it happen, Jurgen.
11. It's May and Liverpool has a chance to be crowned Premier League Champions. Thank you, Brendan Rodgers and company.
1. With a goal that ends after a 36-pass buildup, Roy Keane should be watching the League of Ireland instead of wasting his time watching the Championship in England.
2. With all the trouble that United States have had with their back line, it's time that Jurgen Klinsmann gives Tim Ream a hard look and invites him into the May camp. He has 36 league starts for Bolton this season playing at center-back and left-back, and is one of the few US defenders that is generally regarded as a great passer of the ball. The phantom of the opera mask is an added defensive weapon, too.
3. Here's hoping that the hat-trick Clint Dempsey scored this past weekend against Portland will change his mood on the field. His moaning, exasperated looks, and overall antics have grown tiresome.
4. Managers on the rise: Rodgers & Martinez. Mangers on the decline: Moyes & Wenger. Which one of these four will not be coaching at their current club in August?
5. Manager that should have never been given a job: Tim Sherwood. For all his struggles with tactics, a modern manager must be able to handle supporters and the media. Sherwood is failing with both.
6. Vinnie Jones lives. Will Aron Johannsson be reaching out to Gazza for advice?
7. With the NWSL season starting this weekend, my pick to win the league - Seattle Reign. They have more offensive weapons than a few of the clubs in the league have combined. Everyone knows Megan Rapinoe and Sydney Leroux, but add in new players to the league - Kim Little, Beverly Gobel, and Nahomi Kawasumi - and #LetItReign might actually trend on twitter this season.
8. Norwich City, a team I watched in Portland this past summer and thought were destined for relegation, is five points clear of the drop, but still fired Chris Hughton this past weekend. Their final five matches are against Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal. The Canaries will have a major say in not only their own relegation battle, but also the Premier League title and Champions League spots. Hopefully Neil Adams fares better than the last manager given a job this season without any first-team managerial experience.
9. Michael Bradley has more than proven he is the best player in CONCACAF, but the problem now becomes who else on the United States team would make the best 11 in the region?
10. Welcome back to the Premier League, Leicester City. In the decade since they last played a Premier League match, the Foxes have been through 17 managers. How many will they go through next season?
11. Met Tom Sermanni several times and he was always open and easy to talk to. As a person, not sure their could be a nicer national team coach. He was tinkering with different lineups frequently, but he had given a lot more players an opportunity to play for the national team than Pia ever had - isn't that what you do in the years leading up to a World Cup? Do the senior players on the national team have that much power?
12. Liverpool vs Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday. The stakes couldn't get any bigger.
1. Clint Dempsey might have been better served taking a Dononvan-like sabbatical after the Sounders season ended. Or maybe that was his thinking when he went on loan to Fulham as no one has seen him play a match since February 4th. The Dempsey of 2012 needs to return to the field soon or his place in the starting lineup for the USMNT will be in jeopardy.
2. Did the US media and supporters all see enough during Julian Green’s TWO minutes of action in a Champions League match in November to believe he needs to be on the plane to Brazil? That’s correct, Green has played all of 120 seconds of first-team soccer. But sure, he’s been raised in Germany and on the books at Bayern so he deserves to make it over seasoned veterans like Herculez Gomez, Chris Wondolowski, Mike Magee, Juan Agudelo and Terrance Boyd.
3. In last year's Champions League, no English teams advanced to quarterfinals, and after Manchester City and Arsenal lost at home last week the trend could continue for a second straight year. Ironically the club with the best chance to advance is the one currently in sixth place in the Premier League.
4. The Director of Sport at a Bundesliga club played college soccer at Northeastern University. Your move, BU!
5. Which club is currently on the hottest streak in the Premier League? Here's a hint - it's the team that the Special One accused of "playing football from the 19th century" - West Ham United, winners of four in a row, but still only 7 points away from the drop zone.
6. Honestly, doesn't seeing Jon Flanagan in the lineup for Liverpool give us all hope in life? He's skinny, not athletic, goofy looking, wears #38, yet he starts for one of the best teams in England.
7. Thank you, Major League Soccer. Someone finally woke up in their NYC offices and realized it was time to end the reign of Chivas USA. A great decision, but ironically at time when the team has a solid coach in place with a roster that might actually win some games for once.
8. The Euro draw was held today and besides the tricky tie with Gibraltar, Ireland should be favorites to advance to EURO 2016...thankfully for the green and white, the European Championship has expanded to 24 teams. And people make fun of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying.
9. With his new contract Wayne Rooney can now afford to make all bald men in England extinct.
10. It might have taken Bobby Clark 27 seasons to win his first national championship as a college soccer coach, but it took even longer for one of his own records to be broken in the Scottish League. This past weekend, Celtic goalkeeper, Fraser Forster, broke Clark's 43 year old record of consecutive minutes without conceding a goal. Clark, an Aberdeen legend set the record of 1,155 minutes in the 1970-71 season, which at the time was also the British record, which he held until some Dutch goalkeeper named van der Sar broke it in 2009.
11. Four points separates the top four teams at the top of the table. Seven points separates 10th place from a relegation position. Eleven matches to go. Enjoy the ride, it's not always this exciting in the Premier League.
12. Back to the Green topic…if Julian was as great as some Americans are believing he is…do you really believe the German Federation would even let him flirt with the United States?
13. D.C. United, Chicago Fire, Kansas City Wizards/Sporting KC, San Jose Earthquakes, Los Angeles Galaxy, Houston Dynamo, Columbus Crew, Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids. Will there be a new champion in Major League Soccer this season? Predictions from supporters of MLS coming soon.
1. This graphic sums up my thoughts on the United States World Cup draw pretty well.
2. Tony Pulis and Crystal Palace could be the perfect marriage. In his 21-year career as a manager, Pulis has never been relegated. Two wins in a row for the Selhurst Park boys and if he keeps this group up, he deserves all the praise in the world, no matter the style of play.
3. Instead of watching a Premier League match on Saturday, spend that 90 minutes watching Keane v Vieira: Best of Enemies. The Premier League could use two personalities and hard-midfielders like those two again.
4. David Moyes and Manchester United are suffering, but they did finish first in their Champions League group, and their next four Premier League matches are against Aston Villa, West Ham, Hull, and Norwich. Twelve points and all would be better heading into the New Year.
5. Sam Mewis has one more national championship than LeMew.
6. Yesterday the Houston Dash was announced as the first expansion franchise in NWSL. Great for the league to be adding a team instead of having teams fold. Now the countdown to what happens first - Alex Morgan announced as Dash's first player or Servando Carrasco is traded to the Portland Timbers.
7. Overheard at the University of Washington Men's Soccer Elite 8 match, a conversation by two young boys - "One day Messi will move to a smaller league like MLS, just like Beckham did."
8. In a friendly earlier this week, the United States U17 boys team defeated England 5-1. It will only be a matter of time before American youth soccer coaches are heading across the Atlantic Ocean by the thousands to coach youth football and English clubs change their names from FC to SC.
9. With Jason Kreis being announced as the first coach for New York City FC, let's hope in 2015 the Gotham City Derby has the two coaches showing similar passion from their playing days.
10. But honestly, in regards to the USMNT draw for the World Cup, as a fan, if you're going to spend all that money to go to Brazil, you might as well see them play against great teams. The draw provides that. For Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff, a large portion of the next six months should only be focused on Ghana. Gain three points against the Black Stars and it puts the red, white, and blue in a great position.
11. The University of Washington flip thrower, aka Michael Harris, and his team, take a lot of crap from soccer media, but for anyone that saw his performance against New Mexico, his critics should be silenced. He was the best player on the field for the Huskies, and that had nothing to do with the distance of his throw-in.
12. Congratulations to Sporting KC on winning MLS Cup. Been quite a remarkable turn of fortune for the club since rebranding and building a soccer specific stadium.
13. Lee Hendrie plays for Basford United. Say What?
14. Fairytale of New York on repeat this entire month, "I could have been someone, Well so could anyone."
1. The Merseyside derby was end to end action, but even with all that substance, five of the six goals in the match came off of restarts. With statistics like that, maybe it's time to quit with all the possession at youth soccer practices around America, and instead work on restarts. When it comes to soccer, we do follow the lead of the English, don't we?
2. Either Artur Boruc needs to attend a few more Coerver clinics or someone needs to remind him that he's a goalkeeper and not the #10 for Southampton.
3. Looks like Eddie Johnson is the fall guy for the Sounders problems at the end of the season. Which MLS club will show him the money? If the rumors of Toronto FC are true and they are willing to pay Jermaine Defoe over $6 million a year, if I'm Johnson, I'm asking my agent to make a call north of the border.
4. Credit to NWSL, some of the clubs have done a better job of staying relevant in the offseason than they did during the month of July. Keep the trades coming.
5. Forget all the hoopla about O'Neill and Keane, I'm more excited about Ireland's future because of James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman. Those two boys can play, just wish it wasn't for the blue side of Liverpool.
6. If Lindsey Horan hadn't chosen to turn professional and join PSG at 18 years old, she would be a sophomore at UNC suiting up to play UCLA this weekend in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. If she had gone the college route, would she have earned two caps with the full national team in 2013? Would she have been named the Young Female Athlete of the Year by US Soccer?
7. Even my buddies, Fitzy and Flabbs, would have finished this chance.
8. Much has been made of the Cascadia clubs improving the brand of Major League Soccer, but the emergence of Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake has made an even larger imprint on the success of the league. Both clubs have built soccer specific stadiums filled with passionate fans and deserve the spotlight the next week.
9. With all the talk of flip throws and long throws in college soccer this season, does Tony Pulis get the blame or the credit for this phenomenon? Or do we blame Fox Soccer for showing too many Stoke City games over the years?
10. Ross Barkley dives - English media goes silent. A non-Englishman (insert Luis Suarez) dives - English media goes on and on about how that type of play is ruining THEIR game.
11. Ronaldo for the Ballon d'Or. And that's just based on what he did over two legs against Sweden. Different level.
12. Sporting KC to win MLS Cup. Think home field along with Zusi and Feilhaber, will be too much for Real Salt Lake to overcome.
13. The World Cup draw takes place on Friday December 6th. Here's hoping the United States avoids Spain and Germany from Europe, Brazil and Argentina from South America, and Ghana from Africa. Everything else is fair game.
14. In college soccer you're either recruiting or coaching during Thanksgiving. One of these years, I hope I'm coaching.
Faherty is currently the Assistant Women's Soccer Coach at the University of Washington. He passionately supports four clubs, but is always following the game at many different levels.