Relegation Zone

How to avoid relegation

Mon, 4 Aug 2014 01:51:30 PDT

This year, the Premier League welcomes Leicester City, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers back into its profitable embrace. But how will they survive against the big boys? Iain Macintosh offers five helpful tips. Don't panic Contrary to popular opinion, newly promoted teams actually have a good chance of survival. Of the 15 teams that have come up in the past five years, only four have gone straight back down again. In 2011-12, all three of the new boys escaped the drop. QPR were perhaps rather fortunate...

Fear should guide U.S. vs. Portugal

Mon, 16 Jun 2014 10:56:00 PDT

The last thing you should tell a man walking on a high wire is to look down. This is not just circus talk. It could also be the most important rule to think about when watching the American World Cup campaign continue today. Think back to 2010 and the South African World Cup, which gave the United States the illusion of glory. Landon Donovan swooped in like a peregrine falcon to sweep the team into the last 16, providing U.S. Soccer with a "SportsCenter" moment and Psy-like YouTube numbers,...

Judgment day is upon us

Mon, 16 Jun 2014 10:25:15 PDT

Whatever the result, this will be a historic day in American history. There will never have been more full kit clowns at U.S. desks and cubicles across the nation. This is the day we have dreamed of over the past 17 months of qualifying, living and dying as 38 players swaggered through 16 games. Beneath the confident veneer of the red, white and (occasionally stonewashed) blue polyester we are wearing, most fans are braced, experiencing giddy mood swings between "God Bless America" to Götterdämmerung....

An interview with Carlos Alberto Parreira

Thu, 12 Jun 2014 12:09:00 PDT

Carlos Alberto Parreira is a World Cup perennial. No manager has led more nations into a tournament campaign. When Felipe Scolari reclaimed the reins of a wobbling Brazilian national team in November 2012, the 71-year old Parreira became the nation's technical director as the two men -- World Cup winners both -- were hailed as "two sides of a victorious coin." As the Brazilian national team attempt to fulfill what many of their countrymen consider to be their divine right -- winning the World Cup...

U.S. head to Brazil full of determination

Tue, 10 Jun 2014 09:21:00 PDT

The mood in Jacksonville, Florida, is different from the stressed isolation of Palo Alto, California, and the media-propelled chaos of New York City. The U.S. team appear both looser yet more intense. Arriving in Florida 14 days before their opening group-stage game, the players have a clearer sense of the squad hierarchy, yet in practice, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is noticeably ratcheting up the emotion, chastising and bellowing at his charges in training. "We do that purposely," Klinsmann told...

Deromanticising Brazil's relationship with the Selecao

Mon, 9 Jun 2014 01:17:00 PDT

The first thing I did after landing at Sao Paulo's Guarulhos International Airport for the 2013 Confederations Cup was nip into the gentleman's bathroom. I emerged positively giddy after discovering that in Brazil even the urinal cakes in public bathrooms had famous strikers' faces etched on them. Here was immediate proof of the nation besotted with football I had always heard about, one in which, after searing national team losses, suicides are rumored, government inquisitions demanded and Brazilian...

Get ready for a wild World Cup

Sat, 7 Jun 2014 11:04:10 PDT

On the flight down to the Confederations Cup last summer, I read a newspaper article in which a Brazilian government minister urged visiting fans to look beyond the Brazil of samba and soccer. Upon arriving at Sao Paulo Airport, I was bemused to encounter an enormous banner looming over the luggage carousel that proclaimed "Welcome to the land of samba, carnival and football." As I quickly learned, the message Brazilians dream of delivering to the world, and the message they ultimately deliver,...

Is Ronaldo ready for bigger U.S. spotlight?

Fri, 6 Jun 2014 06:20:00 PDT

Apologies for sounding too Kardashiany, but could Cristiano Ronaldo "Take America"? Real Madrid's capture of their Decima, buttoned by their Portuguese superstar's abs-revealing, garbage-time penalty kick, has sent his global profile to blockbuster superhero franchise level. The 29-year-old, who is recovering from knee tendinosis, is currently in the USA with his national team. The only statistic rivaling the number of clutch goals Ronaldo has netted is the dizzying array of products he has elected...

Inside: U.S. Soccer descends on New York

Tue, 3 Jun 2014 11:27:00 PDT

After the silent toil of training camp in Palo Alto comes the descent into the chaos and passion of New York City. The United States men's national team arrived under the cover of darkness with a dual agenda: one, to continue to edge toward World Cup readiness by meeting the intelligent threat posed by Turkey, and two, to blow out their national profile by engaging the national media. The latter challenge started within hours of landing. Michael Bradley, Tim Howard and Brad Guzan ventured onto...

With Donovan gone, the USMNT moves on

Thu, 29 May 2014 12:45:00 PDT

STANFORD, Calif. -- Our camera team accidentally caught Landon Donovan's last kick of a football on this U.S. men's national team. It was an innocuous back flick with his right foot as he left the training field at Stanford Stadium last Thursday afternoon. As the ball rolled back onto the field, neither cameraman nor player were aware the 30 players on the preliminary World Cup squad were minutes away from being trimmed to 23. Donovan's flick was subtle yet its repercussions have been seismic. The...

World Cup memories: Brian McBride

Sat, 17 May 2014 07:56:31 PDT

Brian McBride's soaring header put the U.S. 3-0 up on Portugal in their first match at the 2002 World Cup.ESPN FC writer Roger Bennett visited with players from past World Cups to collect their memories of playing on football's biggest stage. The following is an excerpt from Roger's conversation with retired United States striker Brian McBride who was part of the U.S. squad that made a Cinderella run to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals. McBride recalls the lead-up to the tournament and the methods used by head coach Bruce Arena to inspire the squad to reach unprecedented heights in U.S. Soccer history. "The...

World Cup memories: Mario Kempes

Sat, 17 May 2014 07:50:45 PDT

Mario Kempes scored twice in the 1978 final versus Holland to lead host country Argentina to their first ever World Cup.ESPN FC writer Roger Bennett visited with players from past World Cups to collect their memories of playing on football's biggest stage. The following is an excerpt of Roger's conversation with former Argentina great Mario Kempes who led the Albiceleste to the 1978 title in his home country. Kempes recounts the incredible atmosphere during the final versus The Netherlands and how that first World Cup title earned Argentina worldwide respect."Once we stepped outside of the locker room, we were really...

World Cup memories: Steve McManaman

Sat, 17 May 2014 07:43:09 PDT

Former England player Steve McManaman got his inspiration as a young footballer from watching Brazilian legend Zico at the 1982 World Cup.ESPN FC writer Roger Bennett visited with players from past World Cups to collect their memories of football's biggest stage. The following is an excerpt from Roger's conversation with former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester City player Steve McManaman. While his national team career never mirrored his stellar club career, the Englishman points to the great Brazil team of 1982 as the determining factor in desire to excel on the world's stage. "Being English, I don't have many good memories...

Bennett: Making 'Inside: U.S. Soccer's March to Brazil'

Tue, 13 May 2014 10:08:44 PDT

I fell in love with the United States national team the first time I saw them stroll onto the field, a vision in stonewashed denim, at the 1994 World Cup. U.S. soccer has come so far so fast since then, yet one thing has never changed. To the wider American sports-watching-audience -- the vast world beyond soccer fans -- our national team is perpetually portrayed as a largely faceless collective whose sum is greater than the individual parts. That truth struck me ahead of the 2010 World Cup, when...

Ghost of Barbosa haunts Brazil

Mon, 5 May 2014 08:34:28 PDT

Part I: “No More Ghosts to haunt us”How much are athletes hounded by the echo of history? As Brazil girds itself to host the 2014 World Cup, to what extent is the nation still stung by the memory of July 16, 1950, and the disastrous afternoon in Rio in which a stuttering Selecao lost the last tournament on home turf? I had the opportunity to ask Carlos Alberto Parreira this question, last month. Brazil’s assistant coach and 1994 world champion suggested the trauma of defeat is more of a media creation....

Liverpool's season through an Everton fan's eyes

Fri, 25 Apr 2014 12:29:31 PDT

I grew up in the dark yet magical Liverpool of the 1980s, a time when Liverpool FC won so many trophies that the team seemed to be on a permanent victory parade through the city’s streets, showing off their latest piece of silverware (watch the Super 8 footage here.) As a third-generation Everton fan in his formative years, witnessing Liverpool’s stars perpetually cruise by aboard an open-top bus was a searing sight. The players lolling casually around the cup on the front of the upper deck, a pose...

How will the 2014 World Cup impact soccer in America?

Wed, 23 Apr 2014 12:00:36 PDT

We are 50 days out from the 2014 World Cup, which promises to be a television juggernaut, a 397-hour bacchanal of programming as the best football players in the world trot around the sport's myth-soaked spiritual home of Brazil, with kick-offs grazing primetime. The perfect storm for a ratings bonanza. Last week, a controversial Reuters article cited a poll that challenged that notion, proclaiming that "two in three Americans do not plan to follow soccer's World Cup."The report has...

From spectacular to scandalous: Maradona's World Cup legacy

Tue, 22 Apr 2014 04:26:13 PDT

Part I: “A foot more like the paw of a cat”Few have used a World Cup as a platform to enthrall the planet. Fewer still have used the same tournament to self-destruct and sully their own name. No man has done both to such radical extremes as Diego Armando Maradona, the Argentine icon who, in a career of excess, utilized the World Cup as the stage for both his greatest triumph and shattering humiliation. In 1986, the strutting No. 10 delivered the most virtuoso performance a World Cup has ever...

Could Michael Bradley thrive in the Premier League?

Tue, 8 Apr 2014 12:30:52 PDT

Michael Bradley is the American Jason Statham. A bald man who kicks ass, and in doing so makes all those around him feel both safe and full of hope. In the past, his physical commitment and mental tenacity have combined to make the midfielder a virtual security blanket simmering away at the heart of the U.S. national team. Bradley was unshackled in the U.S. team's 2-2 draw with Mexico last Wednesday night, thriving in a more advanced, buccaneering role at the tip of the diamond. No sooner had...

Do two halves really make a whole?

Wed, 2 Apr 2014 01:22:09 PDT

The United States play Mexico on Wednesday night in Glendale, Ariz. (11:15 p.m. ET, ESPN and WatchESPN), in a warm-up game ahead of the World Cup in Brazil. One month ago, a predominantly Europe-based squad was selected for a friendly vs. Ukraine but this latest friendly will feature an almost-exclusively MLS-based squad. Roger Bennett spoke to former USMNT player and ESPN FC TV analyst Alexi Lalas about the difficulties of this split-squad approach. Roger Bennett: The question came to me roughly...

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