USL Championship: T&T Players Showing Out In USL Opening Day; Cato and Williams Contribute in Energy FC Debut

The first week of the newly branded USL Championship saw several Trinidadian footballers in new places, and making immediate impacts in their new homes.

OKC Energy FC

Mekeil Williams during Energy FC training camp via @EnergyFC

OKC Energy FC started off the USL Championship season strong against new outfit, El Paso Locomotive FC with a 3-1 victory.

Mekeil Williams contributed to the win with great defense on the right touchline and an assist to Deshorn Brown, a long ball from his own half to the striker for the first goal of the game:

He also had another long pass to forward Owayne Gordon but Gordon couldn’t find the net:

Finally, former North Carolina FC player Cordell Cato produced the dagger in the 81st minute after receiving a fantastic ball from midfielder Kyle Hyland, sealing the first win of the season for the Energy:

Energy FC will play against this Saturday against the Las Vegas Lights.


Memphis 901 FC

Defender Tristan Hodge, formerly of W Connection and Forward Duane Muckette from Central FC featured in the franchise’s first XI in their inaugural start to the USL season against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Leston Paul came off the bench in the 68th minute.

First XI in Memphis 901 Franchise History via @Memphis901FC

Duane Muckette didn’t get a lot of opportunities in the box but he was still active throughout the match, being in high pressure situations, looking to advance the ball forward and even got a couple crosses into the box for a goal chances.

Tristan Hodge looked a little shaky in his debut. Errand passes out the back and giving up possession at moments but he defended pretty well. Just needs to be smarter with the ball and pick out better passes.

Leston Paul was subbed on in the 68th but just couldn’t find his groove in the game

Tristan Hodge during Memphis 901 Media Day via @Memphis901FC

Hodge, Muckette and Paul are set to be regulars in the team this season. Hodge and Paul also featured in the team’s unveiling of the home jerseys:

Memphis 901 FC look to get their first win this week as they play at home against Loudon United FC on Saturday.


Indy Eleven

Neveal Hackshaw (#15) holding off Albert Dikwa via @IndyEleven

Defender Neveal Hackshaw was the bright spot in the Indy Eleven’s 2-1 loss against St. Louis FC with a headed goal in the 61st minute, the first goal of the game:

IndyEleven.com’s Drew Kamaski had nothing but nice things to say about the man out of La Horquetta:

“Indy Eleven defender Neveal Hackshaw opened his scoring account with the Boys in Blue on Saturday when the Trinidadian international tucked away a header off a corner kick from Kenney Walker. Hackshaw did more than impact the score line during Saturday’s fixture. He had arguably the best performance on the field.
In addition to scoring, the 23-year old completed 86 percent of his 72 passes during the course of the 90 minutes. In addition to displaying his vision, Hackshaw also put on a defensive show. The center back racked up four clearances, three interceptions, and one tackle. Anticipate the stout defensemen to continue to gather appearances in Rennie’s back line as a versatile center back.”

Drew Kamaski, IndyEleven.com

The Indy Eleven will meet the Charlotte Independence in North Carolina on Friday.


Sacramento Republic FC

Shannon Gomez during training camp (via @SacRepublicFC)

Sacramento Republic’s Shannon Gomez had himself a decent outing against the Real Monarchs on his opening day. Through 77 minutes he was displaying effort and discipline on the right touchline, winning the 50-50 balls and playing the ball forward in transition.

Shannon Gomez (#2) with the start against Real Monarchs SLC (via @SacRepublicFC)

I did a twitter thread highlighting some things I liked while watching the stream. You can check it out on the link below. TL;DR Gomez had him a great defensive game, giving maximum effort going forward and tracking back in transition. He was winning 50-50 balls and almost never made a bad pass, keeping possession and helping to build the attack from the back.

Going forward he has to get better putting a good ball in the box when he’s in the attacking third. If he does that, he’ll be a great two-way player.

Sacramento looking for three points this week as they go into Colorado to play the Colorado Springs Switchbacks.


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The Kepa Controversy with Kyron De Silva

I want to speak on the Kepa vs Sarri debacle that took place in the Carabo Cup Final on Sunday, but felt like I needed a diehard fan’s perspective on it. Enter Kyron De Silva.

Kyron De Silva:

The Carabao Cup final took place on Sunday. Manchester City triumphed over Chelsea on penalty kicks. The spotlight was on Chelsea as two weeks prior they were murked 6-0 by the reigning Premier League Champions. Blues fans had no idea what to expect from their team. Was Sarri going to pick the same XI and play the same way? Were the players actually going to show some interest and ambition?

Ok so we know how the game went. Chelsea were brilliant defensively and neither team was able to break the deadlock after 120 minutes.

In the final minutes of extra time, the board goes up signalling the substitution of Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga (who had gone down twice with cramps) for back up keeper Willy Caballero but that’s where it all went sideways. Instead of taking a slow walk off the pitch to kill time before the imminent penalty shootout, Kepa began flailing his arms in the air and gesturing towards to touchline, refusing to come off the pitch.

I’m not going to go into further detail on the incident itself, however as a Chelsea fan, a lot of things bothered me about it.

Kepa Arrizabalaga

My first thoughts were “What madness is this?” and “Who do you think you are?” (Using slightly more blue language) To have the audacity to tell his manager “no” in the manner which he did is absolutely disgraceful. Kepa did apologise and claims that there was a “misunderstanding.” between him and Sarri.  

He claimed that the sub was being made because Sarri believed that he was injured but he was not, Sarri also came out and stated that this was the truth, although I’m not sure I believe them. For argument’s sake, I’m willing to give Kepa the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say that there was a misunderstanding. All he had to do was run over to Sarri and explain himself and then let Sarri make the decision for himself but by staying in his box and waving his arms all over the place he effectively took the decision away from the manager.

Some fans theorized that he just wanted to be the hero for his side in his first Cup final appearance for the Blues but I’m not exactly sure how disrespecting your manager and undermining his authority in front of Wembley stadium and an international viewership could help you be a hero for your team. Kepa is a young talented goalkeeper with just about 6.5 years left on his Chelsea contract. I can almost guarantee that he’ll have more chances in future to be the hero (unless we turn into Arsenal or something) so he could’ve let this one go.

Kepa during the Carabao Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on February 24, 2019 in London, England.

I don’t think Kepa will get dropped for any extensive period of time due to the position he plays. If it were any other position where the gap between 1st choice and backup is smaller, I think it would be a different case. It would be very interesting to see if he plays in Chelsea’s next match though. I do think if we were playing a so-called smaller team he would be out of the squad for sure but the fact that Spurs are our next opponents, there’s a huge chance that he’ll start that game.

David Luiz & César Azpilicueta 

I would kill to know what David Luiz said to Kepa. The Brazilian, obviously aware that cameras would be on them, covered his mouth while talking to Kepa so while it was easy to read Gianfranco Zola lips when he was screaming “Come off Kepa” from the touchline, we have no idea what Luiz told the guy. One can only hope he was trying to get him to come off.

The Captain on the day and vice captain of the team, César Azpilicueta where were you bro? This was a situation where a captain should step in and firstly, encourage Kepa to leave the field, or at least act as the mediator between manager and player.

Maurizio Sarri

I firmly believe that Sarri shouldn’t have backed down. He should’ve made sure the substitution happened. He was a penalty shootout away from winning the first major trophy of his career. If Caballero went on and saved 2-3 penalties and Chelsea won, not only he would have won his first major trophy but he would have been credited for a brilliant tactical decision at a crucial moment in the game. (Remember when United fans called Louis Van Gaal a tactical genius for that sub in the 3rd place playoff at the 2014 World Cup? Good times, good times)

Unlike Kepa though, I’m not sure I could say that he’ll have many more chances to win things at Chelsea.


Yannick Quintal

(Get it. We made a subst- nevermind)

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that outside of the Basque Country, I knew of Kepa before he went mainstream.

It was in 2013 and I was playing Atletic Bilbao in Career mode (I like to develop sides and take over leagues instead of starting big). So I’m going through the squad and there he is: Kepa Arrizabalaga, fresh out of the academy a spry and ambitious 19 year old rated 66 with potential to reach 77. We would go on to make the likes of Ronaldo and Messi bend to our Bilbaoish wills.

Fast forward to 2018, he’s now become Chelsea’s goalkeeper of the future, and also the World’s Most Expensive Goalkeeper priced at $71.6 million. Since then, it hasn’t been pretty for the Blue Flag. Sarri’s lost the change room, players don’t like him, Hazard to Madrid, all that noise.

Now in all fairness he’s not having a horrible first season. 26 starts in his debut season in the Premier League, 11 clean sheets and 55 saves altogether. However, 13 of the 29 goals he’s conceded this season have occurred since 2019 started, including a shock 4 goals against Bournemouth and bludgeoning 6 goals against Manchester City.

Enter the Carabo Cup

Kyron set the scene for us already so let’s go straight to the moment.

Now I saw the substitution as both the fact that Kepa was cramping up and Sarri saw him unfit for the shootout and a tactical sub as as well.

Rüdiger looking on as Kepa stretches his calf.

Now if you’re going to stay on the field with cramping legs, that’s going to affect two things: your reaction time and your ability to dive. You generate that power from your legs to dive for the top or bottom corners of the goal. If even there’s a mental thought that, “Mmmmm my legs were cramped I better be careful,” stuff like this is going to happen to a GK in a penalty shootout:

Now let’s look at this from a tactical standpoint. Remember I said Kepa allowed 13 goals in a 5 game span? Sarri probably had that in the back of his mind as well. Maybe he figured he couldn’t handle that spotlight yet and give it to a more seasoned keeper. Also this stat:

Now who was that seasoned GK? None other than Willy Caballero who JUST so happened that his previous club happens to be MANCHESTER CITY where he called home for 3 seasons. He’s been around the likes of Sterling and Agüero. He’s trained with them for 3 seasons. Whether Sarri knew this or not, it would’ve or could’ve improved Chelsea’s chances of winning that shootout (or he concedes all of them ’cause football be like that sometimes).

“Kepa pls”

But if you’re Kepa, and you CHOOSE to usurp the manager’s decision, you better save every penalty that comes your way and not make Sarri look smaller and helpless than you and the other Chelsea players made him look for most of the season.

If you’re feeling indifferent about Sarri’s decision, at least walk over to him on the touchline and make a case for you staying out there instead of publicly waving him off. It is unacceptable from him and Sarri as a manager shouldn’t roll over and let him get his way in front of the thousands of spectators watching at Wembly and the millions watching at home. He should be dropped for the Tottenham game and maybe longer than that even.

Sarri and Gianfranco Zola during the Carabao Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on February 24, 2019 in London, England via TeamTalk

And Sarri come on man, show some authority! Sure the players probably lost all respect for you but at the end of the day, you’re their manager, their head coach. You still have to show that you still are in charge and you make the decisions of who’s out there on the pitch. In a moment of power you showed weakness. You just can’t allow that to happen.

A Look Back At Joevin Jones In The 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs

 

 

Joevin Jones and the Seattle Sounders are back in the MLS Cup Playoffs and are looking to defend their title starting this Sunday against the Vancouver Whitecaps

Last postseason, Jones was a pivotal cog in the Seattle Sounders squad that saw him provide 3 assists on their way to the MLS Cup final. He also put away a spot kick in the penalty shootout that would help solidify their place as MLS Champions.

Going into this season, Joevin once again proved that he was one of the best right backs in MLS. Along with his defensive duties, he piled up 11 assists this season along with a goal. The 11 assists rank him as the only defender in the top 20 assist leaders.

After this season, Jones will be heading to Germany to play for German second division club Darmstadt.

Let’s look back on his key moments in last year’s MLS Playoffs and we wish the best for him in Germany in January.

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Things To Look Out For In The 2017-18 NBA Regular Season

The preseason is finally over so now we can finally say, “Welcome back NBA!”  The season officially kicks off tonight and it expects to continue its momentum from the exciting and unpredictable offseason that was. The migration of talent to the West, the Fallout-like dystopia that is the Eastern Conference, the youth movement going on in different teams, old faces in new places and the foregone conclusion that the Warriors are going to win the NBA Championship. Cover Image

There are a lot of things to look forward to this season, so lets look at the main highlight points for this new NBA season

 

THE DOGFIGHT OUT WEST

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SO. MUCH. STAR-POWER!!

I’m so glad that the commissioner made the All-Star game into a pick your team format because I’ll be hard pressed to choose an All-Star team from this conference. This offseason, the Western Conference, excluding the Warriors whose main offseason transactions were re-signing Steph Curry to a max deal and retaining Kevin Durant, were in an arms race in order to either compete against the Warriors (Spurs, Rockets, Thunder), jostle for position and try to breakthrough into the playoffs, such as the Timberwolves and the Nuggets.

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So many things I wanna ask: How many games the Warriors gonna win? How will CP3 and the Beard co-exist in Houston? How will  Westbrook, PG and Melo ration the ball and how far can they go? Can Kawhi possibly be the MVP this year and how good the Spurs will be without making any major additions? We’ll get to the rest of the West in a bit, but know that the Western Conference will develop into an all-out war, especially coming down the line for the playoffs.

 

 

THE OTHER CONFERENCE

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Harsh headline? Yeah.

Let’s face it. The migration of talent from the East to the West has left the Eastern Conferences in a shambolic and confused state. While the usual suspects will be fighting for the top 4 spots, the rest of the East will be fighting it out for the remaining spots. Chances are that the East may have a whole different look come playoff time. I have the Celtics winning in the East (*Chris Rock voice*: YEAH I SAID IT!) over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Wizards and Raptors will be the Wizards and Raptors, and I believe Giannis and the Bucks take the next step. Heck, we’re looking at an Eastern Conference that could see the Sixers could fight for a sixth seed (if nobody breaks a bone)! The East is the weaker conference but it will still have its own exciting battles down the stretch in terms of playoff placement.

OLD FACES IN NEW PLACES

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Old Faces in New Places!

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This offseason saw a lot of shock moves and crazy trades which could possibly turn the Association upside down.

Clear winners of the offseason went to Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder, managing to steal Paul George away from the Lakers, Cavs and the Celtics and orchestrating a trade that freed Carmelo Anthony from the Knicks. Imagine that: They turned Domantas Sabonis, Victor Oladipo, Doug McDermott, Enes Kanter and a Chicago 2nd Round pick into this:

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For Sam Presti to lure two big name guys away from destinations such as Cleveland, Boston and Houston, how could you not be impressed by that?

2nd place goes to the Celtics who finally dipped into their assets to make the shocking Kyrie Irving trade who requested out of Cleveland, sending Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets 2018 1st Round Pick. Add to that, winning the Gordon Hayward sweepstakes and now the Celtics look like they (at least in my eyes) could be the team that faces the Warriors in the Finals.

Jae Crowder is expected to be a starter in Cleveland with Isaiah Thomas, who won’t see the court until January with a hip injury. Now LeBron’s stuck with a potential injured reserve list with him, Derrick Rose in his place and Dwayne Wade starting on the team.

Chris Paul orchestrated a trade out of Houston with Beverly, Lou Williams and a host of others to the Clippers, joining Danilo Gallinari who was also traded there from Denver. With “rookie” Miloš Teodosić coming over from Serbia with his amazing court vision and affinity for being unable to throw a simple chest pass, the Clippers team won’t lack in the entertainment department.

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Speaking of Denver, they replaced the Rooster with Paul Millsap who ended his tenure with the Atlanta Hawks. Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague are now  Timberwolves and Rajon Rondo is a Pelican. Zach Randolph and Vince Carter are now with the Kings, Brook Lopez is a Laker. Jonathon Simmons is a Magic (*sniffles*), Rudy Gay’s a Spur and a partridge in a pear tree.

 

The Rookies and Youth Movements Across The League

 

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This year we’ll see one of the most talented rookie classes in Association history. #1 Overall Pick Markelle Fultz, and Ben Simmons who was injured last season will look to help to push The Process in Philadelphia to a playoff spot.

Lakers have Lonzo Ball running the point, and along with Simmons will be a contender for Rookie of the Year. Be on the lookout for Kyle Kuzma as well, who’s shown flashes of promise in the preseason.

Jayson Tatum’s in Boston and is part of a young talented 2nd unit, that also contains highly touted international prospect Guerschon Yabusele and 2nd round pick Semi Ojeyle

Dennis Smith Jr.’s will be jumping out of the American Airlines Arena all season.

Sacramento has a good mix of experienced players and young talent with rookies De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles and Frank Mason III.

The youth movement in Phoenix continues with Josh Jackson being added to a team that already contains talented players like Devon Booker, Tyler Ulis, Derrick Jones Jr. and Marquese Chriss.

D’Angelo Russell who was part of the trade that sent Brook Lopez to L.A., looks to be the main guy on a Nets team that finished last in their conference and looking to climb up the rankings.

We already talked about Miloš Teodosić and the Clippers and then there’s the rebuild in Chicago with Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine and rookie Lauri Markkannen coming over from Minnesota to play alongside Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine.

WHO WILL BE THIS SEASON’S MVP?

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As always the MVP debate will he hot and heavy throughout the year. LeBron will always be a contender, especially with the team that he has to play with this year. Either Curry or Durant can dominate a game by themselves.

Can Russell Westbrook go for back to back MVPs? He won’t have a season like the Triple-Double show he had last season because he has help this year but he’ll be as tenacious as ever.

Last year’s runner-up James Harden will look to once again prove that he is deserving of getting that award.

Kawhi Leonard was a finalist last year. Can he become more productive to finally earn an MVP award?

One dark horse pick I have: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Last year he led his team in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks, becoming the 5th player in NBA history to achieve this feat. Maybe he can push the Bucks to a high seed and shock the NBA in winning the award.

The season kicks off tonight with the Rockets and Warriors and the more intriguing game, Celtics and Cavaliers with Kyrie and LeBron going against each other for the first time since 2014-15 season. So Merry Opening Night everyone! Let’s enjoy what promises to be an exciting NBA season!

 

From Expansion Team To Playoff Contender: Atlanta United F.C. Is For Real

When I first started watching Major League Soccer, my initial reason was to cover the Trinidad and Tobago players that were playing in the different teams, such as last year’s MLS champion Joevin Jones in Seattle, Cordell Cato with the Earthquakes, Kevin Molino in his new team in Minnesota, and Kenwyne Jones in the expansion team, Atlanta United.

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Jones and the Sounders have had an up and down season with some spectacular come-from-behind finishes, the Loons in Minnesota have been getting better by the game and Molino has proven to be one of the main guys there, Cato, while haven’t seeing the field much, he’s been decent off the bench, and Kenwyne, who, for Atlanta, has not been able to make a significant impact, due to injury and Atlanta simply having better options at the front.

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But of all the teams listed, Atlanta United to me, since the season started, have not looked like an expansion team at all. From the jump, the Five Stripes have been in my eyes,one of the most exciting teams in the MLS, and since moving into the new Mercedes-Benz Arena, they’ve looked nearly unstoppable. After starting the season with a loss against the New York Red Bulls at home, they went to a winter wonderland up in Minnesota, field almost blanketed in snow, Atlanta ran rampant against their fellow expansion team Minnesota United. Atlanta looked like a well established MLS club, putting 6 goals on Molino’s team. From then on, only Toronto FC have scored more goals this season than Atlanta United (Toronto: 67, Atlanta: 63).

 

The team starts with former Barcelona manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino, known for his fast-paced, high-pressed, counter-attacking brand of football. His main guy is Venezuelan Josef Martinez, the loanee from Torino, who will now play for Atlanta United for the forseeable future, who fits the system set by Tata. In 16 games played, he’s scored 17 goals, including 8 goals in 5 matches since Atlanta United started playing in the new stadium.

 

Even when he went down during the middle of the season with a Hamstring Injury, Tata still had other attacking options such as the creative Paraguayan, Miguel Almiron, the speedy Argentine wingers Argentine Héctor “Tito” Villalba and loanee Yamil Asad, who scored Atlanta United’s  inaugural goal against the Red Bulls. Add to that a steady midfield options such as Julian Gressel, Carlos Carmona, defenders like Anton Walkes, Michael Parkhurst and Greg Garza, and Brad Guzan who splits time with Tim Howard as the goalkeeper on USMNT, it’s a stacked roster that has taken Atlanta United on the brink of the MLS post-season in their first season.
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One more thing that has impressed me with the franchise it’s the huge fan support that Atlanta United has garnered leading up and during their inaugural season. Owner Arthur Blank, who also owns the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL, had a vision of soccer in the south and made it a reality. Team President Darren Eales did a great job with front office decisions. Tata Martino compiled the roster and the players delivered. The fanbase one one of the biggest and most loyal in the league already, so much that even the local rappers and DJs have been seen sporting the Five Stripes.
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The football culture is something to behold down in Atlanta, Georgia and if the team keeps the momentum up this season, we could have a dark horse for the MLS Cup in December.