I've been bad in my quest for an MLS Team so far this season, but with the Premier League out of the way, I've got to pick up the pace and get someone eliminated off of my final four before the end of the season. Just a reminder: FC Dallas, Sporting KC, Toronto FC and Minnesota United. Minnesota has probably been the biggest surprise of the season after a less than auspicious debut to their first season in the MLS. I'm excited to get into this season more than I have and keep this quest rolling.
Woof! NEC Nijmegen is battling it out to stay alive in the relegation playoffs- I'm still running down the rabbit hole to see if they're good to go but the only Wikipedia page I found on the Nacompetitie was in Dutch and while I've dabbled in Dutch via Duolingo, it's not quite that good yet.
So: I think they're safe. But even if they're not, they're off to a good start- winning both legs against Dutch Second Division team FC Emmen. But here's the rest of their season from March 16th (our last edition of Sportsyball) to date:
L to Utretcht
L to Vitesse
L to Groningen
L to Ajax
L to Twente
L to Exelsior
W to AZ Alkmaar
L to Heerenveen
W to FC Emmen (Dutch Playoffs, Game 1)
W to FC Emmen (Dutch Playoffs, Game 2)
As you can see, it's rough stuff. Hopefully they can survive another season and at the top and get a little more done. Love me some Dutch football, but it would be nice to see some more teams in the mix up at the top other than Feynoord and Ajax you know. Just sayin!
Not sure what League I'm going to pick for next season- but stay tuned in a few months for the big announcement! (Don't worry: I'll keep half an eye on NEC next season, just for old time's sake.)
The Travails of The Gunners
It's not quite done yet- there's still the FA Cup Final to contend with next Sunday against Chelsea. A Chelsea that is fresh off of winning the Premier League and looking to add to it's collection of silverware awaits Arsenal. Arsenal certainly seemed to be up for it against Everton last Sunday- despite needing some help from 'Boro to make the Top 4 and secure a place in the Champions League- help which, unsurprisingly, they didn't get. So- it's the Europea League next year- whatever that is, and a chance to spoil Chelsea's party and win the FA Cup next Sunday.
Will Arsene Wenger still be manager next season? No idea. Will Sanchez, Ozil and half a dozen other key pieces still be here? No idea. The Arsenal fandom that I wander in and out of seems to be pointing increasingly at Stan Kroenke as part of the problem and I'm starting to think that's right. Arsenal doesn't need a change in manager- they need a change in ownership. Owners like Roman Abramovitch and Sheikh Mansour are spending big bucks for silverware. I feel like the Glazers and the Fenway Sports Group wanted to buy the brands of both Manchester United and Liverpool FC- but I also think they know that the success of their brands is tied to winning silverware. I think Kroenke just wanted Arsenal for the brand. Every move or lack thereof these past couple of seasons seems aimed at waiting for the stars to align just right to Arsenal's title to drop into their laps. And maybe that'll work- goodness knows as an Iowa fan, that frustration is very familiar indeed. But if you have the money, in a league as tough as the Premier League, then you need to go out and take your silverware. Not wait for it to come to you.
We'll see what the Gunners can come up with in the offseason. They looked good against Everton- but I'm not sure how they'll do against Chelsea. (And their propensity for doing boneheaded stupid shit after scoring a goal remains high. That redcard and the handball? SO FRUSTRATING.) I'll say this for them though: the peaked at almost the right time. Had they picked up the pace a little bit in January instead of February or March, then they might have secured that place in the Top 4- but a strong finish is a good finish.
Bring on next season: Come On You Gunners!