The GoalChatter Radio Show hosted by Aleks V.
This week's show:
- EPL manager sackings, feat. AVB
- UCL/UEL knockout stage draws
- RPL transfer window update
It's odd to see more than half of the season played before the winter break, but that's only one bit of the strange character the championship has taken on this year. From a failing Anzhi to a rising Dynamo and slippery Zenit, nobody could have predicted the surprises that came with the 2013-14 Russian Premier League.
Amkar, the Unlikely Stunners
One of the best defensive sides, Amkar are also the only team that has not lost a single game at home thus far. The Red-and-Blacks were one of the dark horses that gave Zenit a run for their money with a 1:1 draw, with defender Thomas Phibel opening the score, and Zenit striker Danny putting in the equalizer in the first half after a poor clearance by Semyonov. They may not have made too many chances themselves, but Amkar held off the St Petersburg side for the entire 2nd half. Keeper Narubin fended off Luciano Spalletti's goal-hungry team, causing moments of frustration for Hulk and Kerzhakov. The Perm side have also beaten Spartak, Dynamo and Kuban.
Best Away Team - Lokomotiv Moscow
The Railroaders have the best away record. They're 7-2-2 and have scored the second-most goals as visitors (22). With last season's 9th place finish and a lack in managerial stability since 2005, it was hard to picture Lokomotiv as a serious title contender. That all changed when Leonid Kuchuk took to the managerial helm. The former Kuban manager extended his 12-match unbeaten streak to two more games with the Railroaders before they fell 1:2 to CSKA in the Moscow derby. They also seemed to have trouble against Spalletti's side. Kuchuk's men more than made up for their faults, however, by beating Spartak, as well as getting two wins each against Dynamo and Kuchuk's former side, Kuban. Lokomotiv are currently tied with league-toppers Zenit and will be looking to extend their 3-game unbeaten run next year.
The Enigmatic Rostov
|Hulk vies for the ball in Rostov's 2:0 win against Zenit. Photo: RFPL|
Despite being second to last in the league table, Ural have shown they've got some pretty skilled players, like defender Chisamba Lungu. They're held back by having gone through too many changes in too short a time span. They've changed managers 5 times in the past 2 years, while 16 players left the club in the last transfer window. Along with Anzhi, Ural are the only team to not have won a single home game. They've also conceded the most goals at home (25) of any team, and, along with Volga, have conceded the most goals overall (37 in 19 games). With the impending onslaught from teams in the top and middle of the table, getting out of the relegation zone is highly unlikely.
Despite retaining their status as the best defensive side in the PL, Rubin seemed to have forgotten about the other half of the equation. With 24 points after 19 games, they're in a 4-way tie with Krylya, Kuban and Rostov. Their challenge: balancing their Europa League efforts (they were unbeaten in the group stage) with the domestic championship.
Predicted end-of-season finish: 9th
If anything, the first half of the season showcased both the strong and weak points of the Army Men. They can be creative without a striker, incorporating the midfield and defensive players, but that strategy is by no means a universal solution against any opponent. You can get a slew of set pieces against a defensive side, but an attacking team that forces the Army Men to leave behind too much space by pushing the whole team forward wreaks havoc. With Vagner Love in China and Doumbia's difficulty in recovering from last season's injury, Leonid Slutsky's side will continue to lose points and any hope in a top 4 finish if not for some shopping in the winter transfer window.
Predicted finish: 4th
3rd from last in the relegation zone, Terek failed to follow up their amazing run last season (they ended in 8th, the best result in the club's history). Things began to go downhill after manager Stanislav Cherchesov left to Amkar Perm, currently 7th in the league compared with 14th-place Terek. The difference is quite noticeable: along with Anzhi, Terek are the only other side that have not won a single away game this season. With so much more competition this time around, it's highly unlikely they'll make it higher than 10th.
|Dynamo players celebrate their goal against Zenit. Photo: RFPL|
Predicted finish: 4th or 5th
The only team to have not won a single game (0-8-11), it's almost impossible to fathom that this team finished 3rd last season. With more than half the team gone after the last transfer window and two managerial changes, Anzhi are starting from scratch in mid-season. Eventually, the management decided that fifth time's a charm and invited former Krylya manager Gadzhi Gadzhiev to take over from Rene Muelensteen. The familiar route may be just what Anzhi need to step it up next season, but they'll have to duke it out in the relegation playoffs first.
Zenit St Petersburg
|Hulk leads Zenit past CSKA. Photo: RFPL|
The red-and-whites finished 4th last season, and are currently title contenders thanks to Valeri Karpin. Away games against the bigger sides, however, seem to be Spartak's achilles heel. Of the few games they've lost so far this season, their biggest was the 4:2 defeat away against Zenit (ironically, Karpin's men beat Spalletti's with the same score in the 16th round). They've had a similar issue against CSKA, whom they beat 3:0 and later lost 1:0 against. The only two teams Karpin's men haven't beaten or drawn against? Amkar and Lokomotiv.
The better of the Kransodar sides, FC Krasnodar have shown considerable progress under new manager Oleg Kononov. Despite a good record at home, they did manage to get a 0:1 win against Rubin at Kazan. A solid mid-table team, they left for the winter break on a high note, beating CSKA 1:0 at home.
Tom Tomsk was one of the teams that looked promising after the last transfer window, having acquired 19 new players, mostly from other RPL sides. Unfortunately, the club failed to extend the contract of then-manager Sergei Perednya, who led the team to 2nd place and promotion to the Premier League just one season after their 15th-place finish in the First Division. So far, Tomsk have lost 12 out of 19 games, the most of any team this season.
One of the other interesting mid-table teams, Volga caused quite a few problems for Dynamo in the opening game of the season, leading 0:2 for 25 minutes away at Arena Khimki and having to deal with a draw. Unfortunately, the rest of the season was a series of defeats and small victories against their less-savvy opponents. They lost their last two games before the break, one of which was a devastating 6:1 defeat at Spartak. Volga will need to step it up in 2014 to avoid the relegation spots. The transfer window provides a perfect opportunity to strengthen both the defense and the attack.
Krylya Sovetov Samara
Along with Rubin, Krylya are the ultimate mid-table team, having drawn the most games (9 out of 19) since the season began. Having survived last season's relegation playoffs for another shot at the PL, the ever-unstable Krylya now find themselves in a 3-way tie with Kuban and Rostov, but are unlikely to finish above either side.
Kuban Krasnodar are a formidable side in the attack, and they made it known in their draws against Zenit and Spartak. They have goalkeeper and team captain Belenov to thank for much of their success as well. Kuban will likely remain near the middle of the table at the end of the season.
Predicted end-of-season table:
The GoalChatter Radio Show hosted by Aleks V.
This week's show:
- MLS Cup: final thoughts on SKC vs RSL
- UCL and UEL roundup
- RPL 2013 analysis
- Games of the Week
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|New York loves futbol. Photo: Aleks V Arts|
Where does one find a chunk of land in New York City large enough to build a soccer stadium on? The owners of New York City Football Club are asking the same question. As the twentieth addition to Major League Soccer, NYCFC has tremendous commercial potential. Imagine an MLS team in the largest American city, where the number of soccer fans skyrocketed after Italy's victory in the 2006 World Cup and continues to grow as more TV channels broadcast soccer games.
Speculation on NYCFC's future home has left fans across the city divided in support of their boroughs. No matter what other locations are introduced, however, Yankee Stadium is the best option to host NYCFC.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. voiced his support for bringing soccer to his borough. Ironically, he backed the building of a new arena while pointing to the success of soccer games at Yankee Stadium. Why waste millions when the solution is staring you right in the face?
The attendance for baseball at Yankee Stadium was dramatically low this past spring, averaging below 40,000 fans per game. Ticket sales are the primary source of revenue for the Yankees, bringing in almost twice the amount of money as the sales of broadcasting rights. NYCFC would rectify the Yankees’ revenue woes. No one would have to resort to lowering ticket prices either!
For now, Yankee Stadium is only being considered as a temporary home for the team. Yet there are many advantages of keeping soccer there that are being overlooked.
Yankee Stadium is incredibly accessible. Numerous subway lines can transport the average New Yorker to the arena from anywhere in the city, thanks to the many transfers available along the way at stations like Atlantic Avenue.
|Fans gather for a Soccer Series game. Photo: Aleks V Arts|
The success of the Soccer Series games at Yankee Stadium underscores the point further. Each game pitted Europe's biggest teams, like Real Madrid and AC Milan, against each other. With 40-45,000 fans attending each game, the stadium picked up enormous revenue not just from ticket sales, but also from the sales of food, drinks and team merchandise. If soccer games that are held only twice a year at the arena can sell out, why shouldn’t a team play here year round? Skeptics may point to the fact that Real Madrid and AC Milan are world-famous teams with ready-made fan bases. They're forgetting that NYCFC's majority owners are Manchester City, one of the biggest (and wealthiest) franchises in soccer. Besides, as a new team, NYCFC will need to be advertised and build a following no matter where it’s playing.
What’s more, old-time soccer enthusiasts will be swept off their feet with nostalgia, recalling the days that Yankee Stadium hosted the New York Cosmos in the 1970's. There's nothing more marketable than a blast from the city's past.
Still, the folks behind NYCFC seem more interested in building an all-new, soccer-specific arena in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens. The park already holds Citi Field, home to the New York Mets, as well as the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which hosts the US Open tennis tournament. Avid soccer fans in Queens were thrilled at the possibility of no longer having to travel to New Jersey to watch New York's only MLS team, the Red Bulls, and to have a local team of their own, but what about the rest of us? It's easy to drive there, but not everyone owns a car.
Besides, baseball and tennis enthusiasts attending games in Corona Park are unlikely to jump on the MLS bandwagon. Spending time and money into coaxing fans of other sports to “convert” to soccer is almost as laughable as trying to get Miley Cyrus fans to attend Metallica shows.
Both the past and present of Yankee Stadium, as well as the current popularity of soccer in the city show that fans will hand over their cash as soon as they get the chance. So NYCFC owners, quit stalling. Time is of the essence. Get out your thinking caps - preferably those with the Yankees logo - and show us all that two sports can benefit by pursuing a common goal: the happiness of the investors and the fans.
The GoalChatter Radio Show hosted by Aleks V with co-host Gustavo.
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- FIFA World Cup 2014 Draw
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