The global game had some standout performances, singular and collective accomplishments and great on-pitch highlights this past fortnight.
Atlanta United has created a soccer revolution in the USA. The second year MLS team and now Cup Champion, Atlanta United, has just shown the rest of the league how to build a winning team and club, develop a supportive city, and lay the foundations for longevity. Read Grant Wahl’s excellent Sports Illustrated article on attending the final in Atlanta to feel the revolution through his eyes. Then, read ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle on the post-match celebrations.
The US Men’s National Team finally has a coach. Tellingly, the press conference for the announcement was met with as many questions about the USSF process for his selection than about the coach himself.
CONMEBOL’s Copa Libertadores
Copa Libertadores Champions River Plate, and runners-up Boca Juniors, put their off-field antics behind them and provided us with a killer final to the South American version of the UEFA Champions League, albeit at Madrid’s Bernabeu Stadium.
The dual disgrace of the videotaped vandalism of Boca Juniors’ bus as it arrived at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires, wherein players and staff were injured, followed by the inept handling of the fracas by FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, and CONMEBOL president, Alejandro Dominquez, was just plain cringe-worthy.
Ironically it is River Plate that looks the best side of the FIFA Club World Cup representatives, given the recent poor showings by Real Madrid.
UEFA’s Champions League
The 2018-19 edition of the UEFA Champions League is working itself toward what seems an unavoidable continental-shake-up knock-out round. Everyone’s favorites progressed, but at different levels of form and thus potential contention for the cup.
In the seeded or side of the table Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona, PSG, Porto, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Juventus will face one of the following: Atletico Madrid, Tottenham Hostpur, Liverpool, Schalke, Ajax, Lyon, Roma or Manchester United. The national representation stands at England-4, Germany-3, Spain-3, France-2, Italy-2, Portugal-1, and Netherlands-1.
Going by form alone, Barcelona and PSG seem the top two favorite teams, followed by Manchester City, Juventus, and Bayern Munich, to round off the top five. It will be fun to watch if the likes of Arjen Robben and Franc Ribery close out their playing careers, or Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Luka Modric, Crisitano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi try to lay claim to the spotlight, while Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp, Diego Simeone, Mauricio Pochettino, and Thomas Tuchel duke it out for top coach bragging rights.
All that said, it will be the classics fans will be looking for in the latter stages, such as a potential Spanish Clasico, or a Manchester derby, or rematches like a PSG/Roma-Barca or a Juventus-Real Madrid with Ronnie in the other uniform. Any way you slice it this will be a Champions competition to remember.