Category Archives: Professional Soccer – Current

CONCACAF Update – Last night of WCQ

Tonight is the last round of the Hex to determine which teams from CONCACAF automatically qualify for the World Cup Finals in Brazil.  The U.S. and Costa Rica are already in, so that only leaves one more automatic spot.  Unless something dramatic happens tonight in Costa Rica, that appears to be Honduras.  Honduras currently sits three points clear of Mexico and seemingly has the easier game — they travel to Jamaica who will be trotting out a young team in preparations for the next major tournament.

Costa Rica, on the other hand, will be playing their regulars as they host Mexico.  Mexico is three points clear of Panama, who is hosting a rotated U.S. squad, but if Panama beats the U.S. badly, depending on the score of the Costa Rica – Mexico match,  anything can happen.  Here is the current table heading into the last match:

USA 9 6 1 2 12 6 19
Costa Rica 9 4 3 2 11 6 15
Honduras 9 4 2 3 11 10 14
Mexico 9 2 5 2 6 7 11
Panama 9 1 5 3 8 11 8
Jamaica 9 0 4 5 3 11 4

The most obvious result is that USA, Costa Rica, and Honduras automatically qualify while Mexico has to play in through the playoff against New Zealand.  While there are many US fans who are glad of Mexico’s struggles, I for one want to see them in Brazil.  Their difficulties in qualification do suggest that CONCACAF has gotten stronger, but it would be a shame if our historically strongest team were missing in Brazil.  That doesn’t seem to bode well for CONCACAF going forward.

The US game and the Honduras game will be aired on beIN Sport and beIN Sport Esp.  The Mexico game will be on Telemundo. All games kickoff at 8:30 pm tonight.

European WC Playoff – How UEFA Gets to 13 Teams with 9 Groups

OK…so UEFA (Europe qualifying) gets 13 teams into Brazil for the World Cup Finals.  They start with 53 teams.  They are divided into 9 groups.  The winner of each group qualifies for the finals.  So far, that is Belgium (A), Italy (B), Germany (C), Netherlands (D), Switzerland (E), Russia (F – if they hold onto their 1-0 lead at half).  The remaining groups can go either way.  At halftime, Greece looks to go in its Group G with Bosnia-Herzegovina to playoff.  England plays Poland later with Ukraine still in the running for automatic qualification.  Assuming Spain at least draws at home to Georgia, they automatically qualify. But, how are the remaining 4 places allocated?

According to the UEFA qualifying rules, the “eight best group runners up” will contest in home and away based on a draw for the remaining four spots.  Not quite sure what that means because, in Group I, France will have played one less game than all the other potential runners up.  But, based on the schedule today, my guess is as follows:

Croatia (A), no one from Group B, Sweden C, Romania edging out Turkey in D, Iceland (hopefully) in E, Portugal in F, Bosnia-Herzegovina or Greece in G, Ukraine in H, and France in I.  The rules are vague as to how the draw is conducted — do Coca Cola rankings apply?  Surely France will not play Portugal….that would be a bummer.

One thing is clear, the playoff round will be between November 15 and 19th of this year.

 http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/tournament/competition/01/44/46/23/2014fwc%5fdrawprocedures%5feurope%5fen.pdf

World Cup Qs on Today

Get your ESPN3 ready!  Lots of important Qualifiers on today.  Here is a quick rundown:

CONCACAF (our region)

US has already qualified so they will send a less experienced squad out tonight against Jamaica.  While the drama may be over for us, it is not for Mexico.  While many perceive Mexico as the strongest of the CONCACAF squads, they are in danger of not qualifying.  In the HEX (final 6 teams in CONCACAF), the top 3 qualify for the World Cup Finals in Brazil while the 4th place team goes to a playoff against Oceania (New Zealand has already qualified).  With only 2 matches left, Mexico sits in 5th place.  They host Panama tonight in a must win.  They then travel to Costa Rica for their final game on October 15. Interestingly, Costa Rica has been dominant at home in their qualifications except for a blip against, guess who, Mexico in September.  Mexico has changed their manager.  Can they change their fortune?

Team MP W D L GF GA Pts
USA 8 5 1 2 10 6 16
Costa Rica 8 4 3 1 11 5 15
Honduras 8 3 2 3 10 10 11
Panama 8 1 5 2 7 9 8
Mexico 8 1 5 2 4 6 8
Jamaica 8 0 4 4 3 9 4

Lost in this dialogue is Honduras.  Honduras qualified for the 2010 Finals in South Africa — it was the first time they had qualified in 28 years.  They are in good position to qualify again for Brazil.  Honduras has a critical match at home today against Costa Rica and then travel to Jamaica.

UEFA (Belgium Fan Club Still Here)

Group A

Yes, this is Belgium’s golden generation — but when we adopted them, they had not qualified for a major tournament (Euros or WC) since 2002.  Sometimes “golden generations” disapoint, but not so for Belgium thus far.  With only 2 matches to play, they sit 5 points clear of Croatia, who was the group favorite on inception.  Today, in a key match, they travel to Croatia.  A draw here (or win), and they are through.  A loss at Croatia would place the focus on their home match against Wales and Croatia’s away match to Scotland.  This game is on RIGHT NOW!

Group B

Italy is solid with 7 points clear of Bulgaria.  Denmark is 1 back of Bulgaria and looking for the playoff.

Group C

Germany has appeared unstoppable, but Sweden sits only 5 points behind.  And, Sweden is home for its final 2 matches, against third place Austria with 14 points and first place Germany.  But, if Germany beats Ireland today at home, they are through.  Sweden likely playing for the playoff.

Group D

The Netherlands have wrapped up their place in the finals, but there is still a battle for the playoff spot between Hungary (14), Turkey (13), and Romania (13).  None of them play each other in the final two matches and Romania looks to have the easiest ride as both Hungary and Turkey play the Netherlands.

Group E

The Swiss are only 5 points clear of Iceland and Slovenia.  They travel to Albania today and a result there would punch their ticket.  Iceland hosts Cyprus in a likely win before traveling to Norway.  Norway could get in the playoff race with two results.  The sports-mad country still has a shot.

Group F

Portugal sits 1 point behind Russia but gets the benefit of 2 home games.  This is likely the last thrust from Portugal’s “golden generation” so we all want to see them in Brazil.  They look sure for 6 points at home against Israel and Luxembourg.  Russia, on the other hand, travel for their final 2 matches.  They have the benefit of traveling to the 2 weakest teams, but they will need to get results away to keep their lead.  The runner-up will go to the playoff.

Group G

Bosnia-Herz. and Greece are tied with 19 points each.  BIH host basement dwellers Liechten.  and travel to Lithuania, while Greece host both final matches against Liechten. and Slovakia.  This one is one to watch.  One of these teams will go to the playoff.

Group H

This is the Group that have all the English in a tizzy.  England’s (16) impotence in qualification is written about daily.  After 8 matches, they have failed to separate themselves from Ukraine (15), Montenegro (15), or Poland (13).   Everyone is watching how Hodgson does in the final 2 matches, both of which are at home, against Montenegro and Poland.  Will the play a 4-3-3 and dilute Rooney’s influence (he is not a lone striker).  Or, will they still to a more conventional 4-2-2.  Lots of opinions on England.  If they blow two home matches to secure qualification, it may just be Armageddon.  I mean, English coach?  Italian coach?  We are all tired of the excuses.

Group I

Spain and France are tied (14) atop the group but Spain has a game in hand.  France hosts Finland (9) while Spain hosts Belarus and Georgia.  Spain looks like good money to secure automatic while Lex Blues will have to go through a playoff.

CONMEBOL (South America):

The question in this group is who will be forced to play their way in in a playoff versus automatic qualification.  CONMEBOL get 4.5 places (plus Brazil).  Here is the table, with a max of 6 points remaining for most teams, watch the battle for 5th place.

Team MP W D L GF GA Pts
Argentina 14 8 5 1 30 11 29
Colombia 14 8 2 4 22 9 26
Chile 14 8 0 6 24 21 24
Ecuador 14 6 4 4 18 14 22
Uruguay 14 6 4 4 22 22 22
Venezuela 15 5 4 6 13 19 19
Peru 14 4 2 8 15 22 14
Bolivia 15 2 5 8 16 29 11
Paraguay 14 3 2 9 15 28 11

20 Questions Vol. V: USMNT Player Joshua Gatt!

images-31.  Where are you from?  I was born and raised in Plymouth, Michigan. Located right in between Ann Arbor and Detroit.

2.  At what age did you start playing soccer?  How did you get introduced to soccer?  I was about 4 years old when I started playing soccer at my local YMCA. My mother put me in soccer because she said I was a “high energy child” and it was a great way for me to run around and expend some energy. At the time it wasn’t anything serious, it was just for fun.
3.  What other sports did you play?  And, if you played other sports, did you drop them at any point to concentrate only on soccer?  I was as much as an all-american boy as you can imagine. I played hockey, basketball, baseball, football; I wrestled and ran track.  But at about 14,  I gave up on almost all other sports and concentrated only on soccer. Not only because I loved it the most (by far), but it was the sport I was best at. (I ran track and wrestled in high school only so I could help stay fit for soccer.)
4.  What youth clubs did you play for?  I started my competitive soccer career at the Plymouth Kicks, our local youth travel team.  At about 13 I switched clubs to the Michigan Wolves (now named Columbus Crew Wolves I believe)) and played in the Premier League (US Youth Soccer) until the Academy league started up.  I played with the Derby County Wolves Academy team for 3 years, up until I was 18.  logo
5.  What position do you currently play?  At what age did you specialize in that position?   I am currently an outside midfielder/winger and also have played professionally as an outside right back. I started as an outside midfielder at 16 for the Wolves because I was always a striker before, but, at the time we had a lot of big name youth soccer players join our club who were also strikers (Soony Saad, Jordon Tyler, Reed Losse) so my coach asked me if I could move to outside midfield because I was the only player versatile enough to play the position. So I agreed and started my career there.
6.  Inspiration/Influence to play (who)?  I never had a soccer icon I followed. I knew of some players but never any professionals I ever watched and wanted to be like. I played because I loved it. No other motivation besides that.
7.  Favorite cleat?  Favorite cleat right now are the latest Nike Vapors. Wouldn’t wear any other shoe than that.pDSP1-14896186p275w
8.  What club do you currently play for?  I currently play and start for the 2 time defending Norwegian champions Molde FK in the first division in Norway.Unknown-1
9.  At what age did you start mixing with the USMNT program?  How did you get introduced to the USMNT program? (was it through club, ODP, Molde, manager, etc.)  At the youth system, I was never a national team player; it was only once I turned pro at 18 when I was playing in Austria in the second division that I received my first call in to the U-20 World Cup team.  That call up launched my United States career.
10.  Favorite Spongebob character?  How can you choose a favorite Spongebob character?? Everyone on that show just cracks me up!!!
11.  If you were a superhero, what would be your best 2 powers?  (fly, fire, ice, teleport, talk to animals, mad ninja skills, speed, weather, mind 

images-7reading, etc.)  Well based on how I am now, I would assume I’d have super speed and if I could choose a second it would be to heal instantly, so i’d never have to worry about injury or pain and could always be playing.

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12.  How/why did you decide to play soccer in Europe?  As a young boy I decided at about 14 I was gonna play soccer in Europe professionally. It’s all I ever wanted to do, and it’s all I ever told my parents I was going to do. I never had any other plans but to play soccer in Europe. It was my goal/dream and I achieved it the summer before my senior year of high school. Me and 20 other hopeful young American boys took a trip to Europe to trial with professional clubs in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Belgium because our coach at the time, Jon Spencer with the Orange County Blue Stars, saw potential in all of us to make it in Europe. Needless to say the trials went very well for me and I got offered contracts to sign with clubs in Germany and in Austria. I went with Austria because it was a first team contract and it meant I was going to play real first team games. Which is a huge experience for an 18-year-old american boy.
13.  As a professional footballer, on a weekly basis, how much time do you spend working out, training, playing, etc.?  (compared to, say, a 40 hour week)  I would say based on my schedule I play now, we work everyday of the week for about 5 hours total a day, so it is about a 35 hour work week.
14.  Can you compare the passion for soccer in Austria and Norway versus, say, Michigan or the States?  No, you cannot compare the passion the Europeans have for soccer with anything in the states. For them it is not a game, it’s a religion, a passion, it is what most of their lives revolve around. There is no comparison for the amount of passion Europeans have for soccer.images-4
15. In 10 years, you will be ____________?
In 10 years I will still be playing soccer, around the prime of my career, playing for the best clubs in the world and slowly working my way towards retirement.
16.  Your Wikipedia says you run the 100 meters in 11 seconds — have you always been fast?  Do you do anything to improve your speed?  I have always been very fast, with age I’ve gotten faster because I have grown taller and have gotten stronger. But unless it is natural it is impossible to improve ones’ speed, but you can improve your acceleration and I have worked on improving and have improved that significantly.
17. Can you describe the feeling of your first professional goal?  How many matches did it take to score?  My first professional goal was in Austria about 5 months into my career. I’ll always remember it. But it will hopefully be one of many goals I score throughout my life. It was an amazing thing to have happen but every goal feels as good as the first. No matter if it’s my first or 40th, it will always give me the same explosive joy it always has given me.
18.  Was it hard to move to Europe at age 19?  Has language been a problem?  It was very hard to move alone to Europe at such a young age, the language barrier did not make it any easier. Most people at my club could speak some english but living in a place where you don’t understand much of what was going on is tough, I had to learn a lot quickly and there were many days where I thought I couldn’t make it. But I toughened up and stuck it out, and it was the best decision I have ever made in my entire life.
19.  Favorite norwegian food and treat?  Salmon is the best norwegian food there is, because of how fresh it is. Treat wise well… I leave that to my mother to send me some american treats. Nothing will ever beat out homemade american cookies. haha
20. How often did you play soccer when you were 7? 8? 9? 10?…  Around that time I played almost every day, If not with a team than by myself in my backyard for hours. It wasn’t hard for me to motivate myself. I loved doing it, I wanted to play, and I had fun playing.
21.  Best FIFA player on the USMNT — where do you rank?  I haven’t spent a lot of time playing my USMNT teammates in Fifa, but when I have, I have normally won every game. I’d have to say I am at least top 5 out of all the players.
22. What advice can you give to young players who want to follow your path?  My advice to any young man who wants to follow my footsteps, dream big, believe in yourself, know what makes you special and never for a second doubt that ability, and most importantly, have fun! If you take it to seriously at a young age you will burn yourself out and start resenting the sport! Play because you want to, not because you have too, love every second you can play because whether you play for 30 years or 30 minutes, make sure its the happiest moment of your life right then and there.
You can follow Josh @JoshuaGatt
His team site:  Molde FK (good luck with the language!)
His league (Norwegian Top Division) The League Winners for this division (called the Tippeligaen) enter then UEFA Champions League in the Second Round of Qualifying (summer qualifying).  This season, Molde beat Sligo on aggregate 3-0 to advance to the Third Round.  In the first Leg of the 3rd Round, they tied Legia at 1-1 (so, they conceded an away goal).  Their next game is August 7 in Poland.  They need to at least score 1 goal.  If they advance through the 3rd Round, there is one more Round (Playoffs) before they make it into the final Group Stage for Champions League.  The Playoffs to set up the final groups are played on August 20,21 and the final leg on the 27th.  Here is a link to the playoff schedule and information for Molde FK.  Molde FK qualified for the Champions League by winning the top division in Norway.
Thanks Josh!  We will be rooting for your fast recovery and successful career!