Bradley Breaks Through

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.3.2016

Bob Bradley has done it. He became the first American to be named manager of a Premier League club. Bradley takes over Swansea City which is based in Wales but plays in the Premier League. It is another step in Bradley’s trailblazing career.

Bob BradleyBradley has found success in just about everyone of his coaching stops. He lead MLS’ Chicago Fire to an MLS Cup and US Open Cup title in their first season in the league and his first managerial job at the professional level. He later went on to coach the US Men’s national team and take them to the final of the Confederations Cup in 2009 and to the knockout stages of the World Cup2010.

He famously coached the Egyptian national team through a turbulent time (the Arab Spring) but failed to qualify for the World Cup. After that he made stops in Norway and France’s second division before scoring his historic new job.

As you can see, Bradley is absurdly qualified and has been considered for jobs in Premier League before. Most, including Bradley, would point to the inherent bias against American managers for being passed over for those earlier positions. Swansea City does have American owners but it turns out that chairman Huw Jenkins made the final call to hire the New Jersey native.

Bradley has to improve Swansea City fast and it won’t help that he will be under the every watching eye of the UK press. But he’s been there before so this should be nothing new to the trailblazing American.

Advertisements

The New Bidder When It Comes To Talent

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Wayne RooneyPortland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson made some waves earlier this week in an interview in The Mirror saying “I think he would be a great signing for MLS – 100 per cent MLS would be attractive for him.” That ‘he’ is Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney. Paulson and MLS’s competition, China.

As we all now, China has been a rising force economically for the last 15 years or so. Over the last several years they have started making waves with their signings in the Chinese Super League. Drogba, Anelka, Hulk, and Robinho are some of the big names that have made the move to China (if only briefly).

With growing wealth comes investments overseas. The Guardian recently did a piece on the new Chinese owners breaking into the English football. It also means that there is money to spend. It sounds eerily familiar to the early days of MLS in a lot of ways with the signing of big names if for nothing else but the publicity and ticket sales but with the long range goal of building a competitive league.

Rooney BicycleRooney is a bit of a different animal. There is a lot of top level soccer left in him. While China may be able to offer an overly exuberant amount of money but MLS isn’t exactly sitting on it’s hands when it comes to spending money. Plus several of Rooney’s former England teammates have made successful moves to MLS (Beckham, Gerrard, Cole).

MLS is over the big name signing for the sake of doing it. Now it’s about how that player fits into what the team is already doing or what they want to do on the pitch. China may not have learned that lesson as of yet which could give MLS a key advantage over China when it comes to luring a player like Rooney.

Bottom line, could Rooney make his way to MLS? Absolutely but it will not be an easy decision to leave Manchester United no matter how much money someone like Paulson may throw at him. It’s also clear that MLS and other leagues have a new bidder at the table when it comes to top flight talent and that is China.

Hope Less?

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Hope Solo. Where do we begin? Solo’s latest exploits were comments she made after losing to Sweden in the quarterfinals of the Olympics. She said, “We played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today. I strongly, firmly believe that.” It may not seem like much but it was enough to land her a six month suspension from US Soccer.

It appears that Solo’s comments were enough to break US Soccer’s back. Let’s be honest, it wasn’t these comment’s specifically but the culmination of all of Solo’s incidents. The domestic violence case, the DUI of her husband that resulted in a 30 day suspension, and the countless moments that made her a lightning rod for controversy.

She is also quite possibly the best female goalkeeper in history. Over 200 caps, over 100 shutouts, and 152 wins. Her on the field heroics kept her critics at bay but it appears that those days have come to an end.

Vice Sports brought up an interesting perspective on Solo’s suspension, they called it hypocritical and sexist.  That part is up for debate but the fact remains that Solo is one of the most recognizable figures in women’s soccer, the best keeper in the world and now suspended for six months.

Is this the end? Time will tell. But ironically, her talent’s may keep hope alive that she will take the field for the US National Team again.

New Faces In New Places

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


The Premier League kicked off today with a bang. The surprise champions of last season, Leicester City, lost their opening game to a team, Hull City, that wasn’t even in the Premier League last season. Leicester City’s odds of repeating are not even the biggest story of this new season, which new manager will be successful is the biggest question out there.

mourinhoOut of the five major clubs (Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea) all but one have a manager who didn’t start last season on the bench (Arsenal). Jose Mourinho takes over Manchester United while cross town rivals City have arguably the best manager in the world in Pep Guardiola.

Mourinho’s hire wasn’t without controversy. Manchester United essentially ran previous manager Luis Van Gaal out of town despite an FA Cup trophy because they were allegedly in talks with Mourinho since he parted ways with Chelsea.

Despite Mourinho’s success (2 Champions League cups and 3 Premier League titles just to name a few) some Manchester United supporters were not happy with his hire not the least of which is former United great Eric Cantona.

Regardless, Mourinho, Guardiola, Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea’s Antonio Conte were not with their current clubs when they started the 2015/2016 season. So in a very short amount of time they have to instill their philosophy and win hardware. Not an easy task no matter how much money your being paid.

The Sunday: Hooks & History

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


The KO

So Saul “Canelo” Alvarez knocked Amir Khan out cold on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Finally a boxing match with an actual finish!

 

Big Fly

NY Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon is 42 years old (and that could be debatable). He hit his first ever home run on Saturday night in San Diego. Yes, it is as amazing as it sounds and it nearly broke twitter.

Not to be outdone, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh homered off a tee. Then dropped the bat and dabbed.

 

The Hook

An nothing may have been more impressive than Sporting KC’s Brad Davis’ goal against his former club last weekend.

 

FIRED UP

How fired up does Diego Simone of Atletico Madrid get during a Champions League match? So much so that he hit his assistant.

 

They Did It

Leicester City did it. They won the Premier League title when Tottenham drew with Chelsea on Monday. The best City had ever finished with second back in 1929. The biggest winners? The people who put money down on City to win the Premier League Title at 5,000-1 odds.

 

The Youngster

Speaking of history, the Arizona Coyotes made it this week by hiring the youngest GM in major sports history. John Chayka is just 26 years old and he is now in charge of leading the Coyotes to the promised land. So yes, this officially makes the Coyotes the NHL’s version of the Oakland A’s.

What To Watch: Fri. 3/4 – Sun. 3/6

All times are Pacific.

Friday March 4th

NY Rangers at Washington Capitals – 4pm NHLN: One of the best scoring teams in the league (Caps) go against one of the best defensive teams in the league (Rangers).

LillardPortland Trail Blazers at Toronto Raptors – 4:30pm NBA League Pass: Portland is coming on strong led by Damian Lillard but Toronto on a Friday night is very tough place to play.

 

Saturday March 5th

Tottenham vs Arsenal – 4:45am NBCSN: Great rivalry and it means a lot to who plays European soccer next year.

Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund – 9am FX: Last minute addition by FOX. Now people can watch probably the best matchup of the Bundesliga this season. Oh, Bayern has stumbled as of late too.

Nashville Predators at Colorado Avalanche – 12pm NHL.TV: These two are in a battle for the two wild card slots in the Western Conference.

Anaheim Ducks at LA Kings – 1pm NHL.TV: These two are neck and neck in the Pacific division…oh and they hate each other.

Iowa State at Kansas – 1pm ESPN: Kansas already has the Big 12 sown up but this one is all about seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

UNC at Duke – 3pm ESPN: Heck the last one they played came down to the last shot. This one should too.

Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins – 4pm NHLN: These two could meet in the first round of the playoffs as it stands right now.

Louisville at Virginia – 5:30pm ESPN: The Cards aren’t going to the NCAA Tournament due to a self imposed suspension so they are looking to trip up UVA on their way to a high seed.

UFC 196 – 7pm PPV: Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz and Holly Holm vs Miesha Tate. Good fights made even better by the fact none of these people really like each other.

 

Atlanta Hawks at LA Clippers – 7:30pm NBA League Pass: Forget for a second that both these teams are very, very good and think about Steve Ballmer dunking.

 

Sunday March 6th

Kobalt 400 – 12:30pm FOX: NASCAR heads to Las Vegas which is always a fun race to watch.

Timbers MLS CupPortland Timbers vs Columbus Crew -1:30pm ESPN: First game of the year and it is a rematch of 2015 MLS Cup. You can only imagine how much the Crew want to return the favor to the Timbers. Expect them to come out hard and fast and try to snag an early goal.

Maryland at Indiana – 1:30pm CBS: Indiana has a share of the Big Ten title and look to wrap up the whole enchilada.

NY Islanders at NY Rangers – 2pm NHL.TV: These two are within striking distance of each other and a win here could have dramatic consequences come playoff time.

Sporting KC vs Seattle Sounders – 4pm FS1:  Two of the better teams in MLS over the last few years and both have gone through some serious player overhauls. We’ll see what happens.

LA Galaxy vs DC United – 7pm UNIMAS: The Galaxy have some big superstars like Keene, Gerrard and Cole. But DC United is has some outstanding talent as well.

St Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild – 5pm NBCSN: The Wild are fighting tooth and nail for a playoff spot and the Blues have struggled a little lately. They need to turn it around to keep their spot.

MLS 2016

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


The MLS season is upon us and while there are a lot questions to be asked and answered this season one thing is for sure, MLS is much improved.

From the players coming to the league,to those that decided to stay, to the stories that MLS now tells. It gets better every single year.

Instead of a “preview” of the 2016 season I think it is better to just watch this well produced piece by the league. It shows what kind of an impact the league has on communities across this country.

What To Watch: Fri. 2/26 – Sun. 2/28

All times are Pacific.

Friday February 26th

Minnesota Wild at Washington Capitals – 4pm NHL.TV: The Caps are the top team in the NHL and the Wild are fighting for a playoff spot. And what is a Friday night without Ovi?

Charlotte Hornets at Indiana Pacers – 4pm NBA League Pass: This one will go a long way in determining if and where the Hornets are in the playoff picture.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors – 4:30pm NBA League Pass: LeBron and company head north to take on DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors.

 

Saturday February 27th

Oklahoma at Texas – 11am CBS: When isn’t an OU vs Texas game fun?

Louisville at Miami – 11am ESPN3: Somehow a major ACC and top 15 match up made it’s way to ESPN3. Strange.

Arizona at Utah – 11am ESPN: The Wildcats are coming off a tough loss in Colorado and now have to face the Utes. Tall order.

St. Louis Blues at Nashville Predators – Noon NHL.TV: Divisional battle between two teams looking to improve their playoff position.

NY Rangers at Dallas Stars – 1pm NHLN: Inter-conference battle that features one team that is second in the NHL in goals per game (Dallas) and one that is 12th in goals against (NY).

Maryland at Purdue – 1pm ESPN: Big matchup in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers loss by 11 in Maryland a few weeks ago but things should be different and Mackey Arena will be rocking.

UFC Fight Night – 1pm UFC Fight Pass: Anderson Silva vs Michael Bisping live from London. Too bad this fight didn’t happen three or four years ago.

UNC at Virginia – 3:30pm ESPN: The Tar Heels head north to Charlottesville to take on UVA in a top 10 matchup and massive NCAA Tournament implications.

Detroit Red Wings at Colorado Avalanche – 5pm NBC: It’s not the most ideal conditions for an outdoor game, in fact it should be a balmy 60 degrees when the puck drops. Probably not what the NHL was hoping for when they scheduled this one.

DurantGolden State Warriors at Oklahoma City Thunder – 5:30 ABC: The Splash Brothers invade the house that Durant and Westbrook built. Rumors are swirling that Durant will join the Warriors in the off season but it’s a long time between now and then. This is going to be a stellar game.

 

Sunday February 28th

Manchester United vs Arsenal – 6am NBCSN: So Man U isn’t the team they once were…this is still a helluva soccer game.

Washington Capitals at Chicago Blackhawks – 9:30am: Dude….what an awesome game for a Sunday…or any day for that matter.

Iowa at Ohio State – 1pm CBS: Come for the basketball and stay to see why Iowa is going to make a lot of noise in the tournament.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins – 3pm NBCSN: These two are neck and neck in the Atlantic division.

Paul George DunkPortland Trailblazers at Indiana Pacers – 3pm NBA League Pass: Portland is a long way from home but a Damian Lillard vs Paul George matchup is too good to pass up.

 

 

LA Kings at Anaheim Ducks – 6pm NBCSN: The Ducks have really turned it around and are only two points back of the Kings for the top spot in the Pacific.

What To Watch: Fri. 2/19 – Sun. 2/21

All times are Pacific.

Friday February 19th

Miami Heat at Atlanta Hawks – 5pm NBA League Pass: The top two teams in the Southeast go head to head in the ATL.

Toronto Raptors at Chicago Bulls – 5pm NBA League Pass: Bulls have been hurting as of late and the Raptors have been on a roll. Can the Bulls turn it around in the house that Jordan built?

Paul George DunkIndiana Pacers at Oklahoma City Thunder – 5pm ESPN: Inter-conference matchup with Paul George vs Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant which is basically part of the starting lineup for Team USA in the Olympics this summer.

 

Saturday February 20th

Duke at Louisville – 9am ESPN: It’s still strange to think that of this is as a conference game but it is. Duke is coming off a huge win at UNC this past week but they are a depleted bunch and this might be too much for Coach K and his Blue Devils.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins – 9:30am NHL.TV: These two are currently locked into the last two playoff spots in the Eastern conference.

Miami at UNC – 10am CBS: Huge matchup in the ACC. Carolina has to put the pieces back together after their crushing loss to Duke this past week. The Hurricanes are very, very good and could give the Tar Heels their second loss in a row at home.

Oklahoma at West Virginia – 1pm ESPN: Top 10 matchup with massive implications for tournament seeding and for the Big 12 title. Remember, the Mountaineers beat Kansas earlier this year at home.

LA Kings at Nashville Predators – 5pm NHL.TV: The Kings are atop of the Pacific division but they have some teams hot on their tail. Meanwhile the Predators are at the end of just a nasty swing of games against top teams.

Boston Bruins at Dallas Stars – 5pm NHLN: East meets West in a game of two teams headed for the playoffs.

Purdue at Indiana – 5:30pm ESPN: Purdue may be ranked higher but it’s Indiana that is tied for first in the Big Ten. It’s an in-state matchup with a whole lot riding on it.

Klay ThompsonGolden State Warriors at LA Clippers – 5:30pm ABC: Dub City vs Lob City from LA. Oh and they are first and second in the Pacific division. Seriously, is there something else you needed to do on a Saturday night?

 

 

Sunday February 21st

Chelsea vs Manchester City – 8am FS2: It’s an FA Cup weekend in England and this is one of the better match-ups.

Daytona 500Daytona 500 – 10am FOX: It’s that time of year again. Time for 200 laps and 500 miles of hard nosed racin. Buckle up and see if  Joey Logano can make it two in row. Boogity Boogity Boogity Let’s Go Racin Boys!

Chicago Blackhawks at Minnesota Wild – 12:30pm NBC: The division rivals head outside as part of the Coors Light Stadium Series. It won’t be snowing…or below freezing but it should be fun none the less.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Oklahoma City Thunder – 12:30pm ABC: These are two of the best teams in the league with the firepower to win it all.

Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks – 4pm NHL.TV: The Ducks are on fire right now and the Flames are looking to claw their way into playoff contention.

Detroit Red Wings at NY Rangers – 4pm NBCSN: You just can’t help but watch a game featuring two of the NHL’s Original 6.

Zidane To The Rescue

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


 

ZidaneThe football (soccer) great Zinedine Zidane has swooped in to “rescue” Real Madrid. A club that is a mere four points behind La Liga leading Athletico Madrid….in January. Four points in Real Madrid’s view is unacceptable.

Zidane is a legend in the soccer community. While most novices of the sport will only remember him for his red card in the 2006 World Cup Final where he famously head butted Marco Materazzi.

Zidane was a heck of a player at Madrid and elsewhere and has been managing Madrid’s reserve side, Real Madrid Castilla, for a couple of years. This in the eyes of the powers that be is enough to manage the biggest club in the world.

His hiring isn’t so much a surprise as is the firing of Rafa Benitez. Benitez managed Liverpool to two Champions League Finals (winning the trophy in 2004) and found success at Valencia, Napoli, Chelsea and Real Madrid. He was 17-5-3 in all competitions since taking over at Madrid but that wasn’t good enough. Apparently a 4-0 loss to arch rival Barcelona and a supposed riff with superstar striker Cristiano Ronaldo is enough to be sacked nowadays.

Don’t worry about Benitez. He walks away with a cool £7million (about $10.2million US) for his trouble. And Madrid can afford to pay. Real Madrid is the richest club in the world. They are estimated a $3.26 billion according to Forbes.

A lot of questions now arise for the 43 year old Zidane. He has played but never coached at this level before and it’s a very big stage to cut your teeth at.

Only time will tell if this is the right decision. Like other sports organizations (college and professional) it is becoming clear that the days of “building” are gone and it’s a “win now or else” mentality around the globe.  And don’t just win, but win by a wide margin.