Heidbrink’s Hitters World Cup Awards

article-2689740-1F3F521A00000578-398_634x435Yes I know Germany was victorious and James Rodriguez scored the most goals, but there are many other awards that should have been handed out at the conclusion of this incredible World Cup:

 1. Best Defender, Javier Mascherano.

It was a shame that Javier Mascherano did not win any sort of award, his play certainly merited it. Mascherano’s World Cup campaign was incredible. The stout defender’s willingness to risk life and limb on each challenge, most noticeably against Robben in the semi-final, was the primary reason Argentina found themselves and their wildly drunk caravanning fans in the final.

2. Best Thing to Come out of England since Harry Potter, Daniel Sturridge.

Sturridge proved that he belongs at the very highest level of football. The striker was easily the most dangerous player for England in all three games, well, except for Leighton Banes if “dangerous” is evaluated negatively. Btw, I still think it is hilarious to say that England only played three games… Anyhow, Sturridge’s awareness of the goal and newfound maturity to see his teammates (a skill that forsook him at Chelsea) was on display during the group stages. England, if they are smart, should make him the focal point of what could be a very potent offense just in time for the Euros.

3. Best Goal, Jermaine Jones versus Portugal.

Best goal lists are easy to make, but for me, the greatest goals have the biggest impact on a team, a tournament, or a season. Call me a homer but Jermaine Jones goal was great, if not life-changing, for a variety reasons. First, it changed the course of the US World Cup Campaign, only James Rodriguez’s wunderstrike can stake such a claim, but even that goal was coming as Colombia dominated for long stretches against a Suarez-less Uruguay. Jones’s goal capped off the United States’ best period of play in the entire cup and gave the team belief they could progress to the next round. Second, the goalie didn’t even move! Rui Patricio’s feet appeared bolted to the ground such was the magnitude of Jones’ shot. Finally, the goal validated Jermaine Jones’s career as a US player. A touch hyperbolic? Maybe, but it is easy to forget how maligned Jones was as a central midfielder for the US. For me, Jones was our most important player at this World Cup as his effort pulsed through the rest of the team at the most crucial times. Here it is again, ahhhhhh goosbumps!

http://futbol.univision.com/video/474231/2014-06-22/fifa-copa-mundial/videos/jugadas/goooolll-jermaine-jones-mete-el

4. Best Tackle, Manual Neuer against Gonzalo Higuain.

Not only was this not a foul on either player, this was easily the best tackle I have seen in years. The final was full of physicality, which is a good thing. Goalies have the right to defend their box come hell or high water and forwards should be leery of challenges made in and around the penalty area. Association Football is strongly against the double penalty for last -man fouls and penalty kicks awarded on the same challenge, so kudos to a keeper like Neuer who makes unsuspecting passengers pay a price for lingering too long. For more Neuer time, watch this,

5. Best Coach, Herrera.

Let’s move on.

6. Biggest Money Maker, Deandre Yedlin and Men in Blazers.

First let’s start with Yedlin. Other than the conception of my first child, never has a short performance cost so much money. Yedlin’s marauding runs down the right flank against Belgium could have been just that, but the young dynamo finished his 75 -yard scampers with quality service delivered into the Belgium penalty area. Oh, did I mention he shut down Europe’s next best thing, Eden Hazard? Yedlin was a revelation, do you still want Brad Evans as your right back folks? Yedlin has been linked to Roma and Liverpool, whether either pans out remains to be seen. Not in doubt is that his next paycheck will exceed his current. The Men in Blazers were well-known to many hard-core US supporters prior to Brazil, but ESPN’s full embrace of the two gifted commentators brought them to another level. Whether the duo will be able to maintain their shtick as more executives line up to pay them will be a challenge, but one they will likely overcome.

 7. Best City to Watch a US Game, Chicago and Kansas City.

These Midwest towns appeared to attract the largest watch parties, could they serve as capable hosts to a large US men’s fixture next qualifying campaign? Let’s hope. To be a footballing nation we should not have to every game in Seattle.

 8. Best TV Coverage, ESPN.

This is more of a lifetime achievement award than anything else. ESPN’s coverage was masterful. It just goes to show you what that network can do when they buy in completely. Fox and BeIN have some big shoes to fill. Let’s hope they do not try to reinvent the wheel on their respective coverage of the 2018 World Cup and 2016 Super Copa America.

9. Best Game, USA v. Belgium.

Imagine how good this game would have been had Wando finished? Actually, it would have been a crap game just like the Ghana game but who cares!!!!!!!!!

10. Best Goal Celebration, Miguel Herrara.

This was a tough one, my heart says John Brooks. The look of astonishment over what he just achieved will live on in the pantheon of great World Cup moments, but Miguel Herrera is the master. I cannot stand the Mexican national team. Their tactics are questionable and their players disgrace themselves when the team struggles, e.g. Cobi Jones 2006. But after witnessing one Herrera celebration I wanted another, and another and another. After the second Mexico game I almost found myself rooting for Mexico, all because I wanted to see the little man commence another drunken-like tackle celebration Chris Farley style.

Why the World Cup Worked and What We Need To Do About It.

So why did this particular World Cup galvanize America? How is it that we seemingly put to rest the long-standing question of whether soccer has arrived in the US? The early excitement of the tournament and the incredible displays of attacking soccer coupled with several stunning finishes certainly helped. The success of the U.S. in the early games also generated widespread interest for the casual American fan. However, unlike any other sport, a soccer match tells a story. Sometimes the story can be incredibly boring, 0-0 affairs like Dutch/Argentina semifinal reveal this sad fact. Other games produce horror books that we can’t put down, e.g. Brazil v. Germany.Some games are gut wrenching dramas that leave us wanting more as was the case in Manaus where we watched the pulsating draw between Portugal and the United States. Soccer always plays itself out like this, but to experience the incredible highs and lows in a story you have to invest yourself from the very start.

Through ESPN’s incredible coverage, the entire nation bought into the World Cup from the very beginning. Will the momentum continue? Will more Americans watch the EPL or MLS for that matter? yes, it is undeniable. It won’t be sea change, but the numbers and the economics indicate that our nation is moving that way (more to come on that later). Finally, a nation’s soccer team, unlike any other sport I know, takes on the collective zeitgeist of a country. The Italians play it best, but only do it when they have to. The Americans will fight you to the death, regardless of the odds. The Brazilians will play with emotion whether it benefits them or not. It is no coincidence that Americans are falling for soccer, we love reality shows and soccer is easily the best running sports reality show on television.

Jermaine-Jones-celebrates-scoring-for-USMNT-against-Portugal

Now that the country has bought in, US Soccer must figure out how our players can access the top leagues in the world. It is no secret that Americans own several of the top clubs in Europe: Roma, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal (partial ownership), and Aston Villa to name a few. It is incumbent on these American owners to bring American players on the roster. Failure to do so misses the chance to build the sport here in the US and achieve a significant return on investment. For instance, how rich of a commodity is Tim Howard now? Won’t Everton make a small fortune marketing Howard based on his World Cup performance? I would bet so.

Not only are Americans good enough, they are also grossly undervalued in the world market. Much like World War I and II, it will take an army of Americans to fly overseas and prove their worth to Europeans. On a much less skillful and more personal level, whenever I play pick up overseas I am usually picked last as soon as they figure out I am American. It might have something to do with how crap I am, but more than likely my global playing partners are biased and think I will suck. Let’s just hope that after Timmy’s performance they won’t stick me in goal next time. I can think of no better way to put our nation’s finest footballers in the best leagues than by infiltrating the economic ranks of the best teams and force feeding Americana on the English, Spanish and Italians- consider this the new Marshall Plan for American Soccer.

How Chelsea Can Win the League, and Why They Probably Won’t. (Part 2)

Ye Old Chelsea

Although this pains me to say, I have to admire what Sir Alex is doing in Manchester this year. The youth movement, for better or worse, is a shift that must be made by a big club every 5-7 years.  Or, if you are Arsenal, every 2 years. Over the last few seasons Chelsea has tried to fight this philosophy with a Botox strategy – buying a few younger players to make the club look young on the surface but deep down the wrinkles are there, trust me.  Not only has Sir Alex committed to moving towards a younger squad, he is actually playing them, and I am not just talking about the Carling Cup fixtures.  Sure his hand was forced a few times due to injuries, but more often then not we have seen a young upstart in the starting 11 for United in a key fixture with a healthy Giggs or a Nani on the bench.  Such strategy is the proper way to groom your younger talent.  Conversely, I cannot remember a big game in the last three years where Chelsea gave a start to a younger player.  Don’t get me wrong, in their older age, the likes of Drogba, Anelka, and Terry are still pacey and powerful, but father time will win, and when he does I am not convinced that Chelsea will be ready for it.

Injury Bug

The number one contributing factor in a team’s success in the premier league is the health of their stars.  In this department Chelsea has been more than lucky.  Sure Essien has had his issues – so has Peter Cech, Ricky C (of Madrid fame) among others, but in last year’s campaign Chelsea remained relatively healthy in key positions.  Lampard’s Ripken-like run has been remarkable. John Terry and Didier Drogba’s have also maintained their healthy form throughout the grueling league and cup campaigns, whereas their northern competitors have had no such luck.  Last year United was forced put an ailing team on Rooney’s saddle, that is anyone that was left to play. Liverpool also played long stretches without Number 9 and several key defensive players, Skirtel and Agger among them. This left Jaime Carragher to unsuccessfully defend the kop, poor Pepe. Then there is the Arsenal, who consistently prove that they are just too fragile for this league, nothing more to it than that.  Call me a pessimist, but I am afraid to say that Chelsea’s luck in the injury department is surely to run out this year.  As a result, this will force Chelsea to play unproven quantities, which brings me to my next point.
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How Chelsea Can Win the League, and Why They Probably Won’t. (Part 1)

Very excited to be asked by the lads to submit a guest post, let’s hope they will let me hang around a bit. As you can guess, I am true blue all the way through, however, this year’s campaign will be a tricky one for the west London boys. The following is a preview of the Blues upcoming season. I will start with the good.

The Reasons Why We Will See JT and Tubbylotti on the Winner’s Stand Come May:

The Essien factor

The Bison is back! There is no doubt that Michael Essien is a world class player, but the Ghanaian has only played in roughly 50 games for the Blues since 2007 due to ailing knees. When on the pitch he has produced several magical efforts including key FA Cup and Champions League performances, but can Chelsea really count on Essien for an entire season? The smart money says, no. Two major knee surgeries will do that to you. But when fit, Essien is just damn intimidating, see any Essien performance against Cesc Fabregas in the last 4 years. If Essien puts in a full season at Stamford Bridge Chelsea fans have every reason to think that his pace and incredible tackling will dominate any midfield-set that Chelsea will face.
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