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MIB is driven by a belief that Soccer is America’s Sport of the Future. As it has been since 1972.

Hail! GFOP

1. This weekend, we are treated to a repeat of the slate of games from Premier League opening day. A reminder, if we needed one, of how innocent the world seemed just last August.

It is fitting then, that the marquee game sees Liverpool, one of the few organizations whose 2017 has been worse than PricewaterhouseCoopers, host fellow embattled foe, Arsenal [Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN]. A team whose manager, Arsene Wenger, this week gave himself the nickname, “specialist in masochism.”  

It is football’s equivalent of the entire oeuvres of Todd Solondz and Charlie Kaufman battling to prove which is more filled with self loathing and crippling anxiety. News that Jordan Henderson has been ruled out of Klopp’s team means their midfield will be as impregnable as the Starship Enterprise with shields down. Yet despite losses to Swansea, Hull, and Leicester, Liverpool’s form against the Big Six has been peerless. The only thing we can say with surety is -- the  game will emotionally be like watching football played in the Upside Down. Back in August, Liverpool clung on for a twitchy 4-3 win at the Emirates. Brace yourself for an NBA score.  

On the other side of town, an emboldened Everton travel to the London version of themselves, Tottenham Hotspur [Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN]. Two footballing Scrappy-Doos battling to fulfill their aspirations and close the gap on the Scoobys that have overshadowed them. News that Harry Kane is doubtful will make Spurs fans’ whimpers of fear almost as loud as Vincent Janssen’s. An interesting Everton statistic: Under “Ronaldo” Koeman, when they outrun their opponents, they do not lose.

2. Mighty MLS starts its 22nd season tonight. And this promises to be the league’s most quality-driven ever. A glut of young South and Central American Designated Players have arrived in their prime, able to compete on the field rather than off it, as in the days of yore, when a phalanx of aging legends were coaxed to our shores in search of one last payday.  We welcome two new teams: Atlanta and their astonishing army of 30,000 season ticket holders, and the more unknown quantity that is Minnesota. Most importantly, I believe the culture surrounding the league is changing. From its inception, MLS has been too easily goaded by its critics' barbs, and forced to obsess about what it is not, rather than celebrate all it has accomplished. That sense of early self-loathing has burned off. May this be the year in which we enter a new era of an MLS filled with self-love and self-confidence. We wish all of the clubs and the players Godspeed.

Side note: We hosted Adidas’ Dr. Jersey, Mike Walker, in the Panic Room to talk about his loving, hand-crafted design of all 24 new MLS kits (one apiece for existing teams, two for the newboys). We produced THIS video looking at all the jerseys, as well as one for each team. Look to your club’s social media for those, or check OUR WEBSITE, where we’ll post them as soon as they go live.

3. You might wonder why church bells are peeling in towns and villages across our nation. You might guess it is in anticipation of MLS's new season, but you would be wrong. It is actually in honor of Michael Davies’ birthday. Yes. My partner in pod and life, Davo, Dabo, Mickey, Positive, shares his birthday with Zico and Jessica Biel. That gent is the smartest, funniest, most thoughtful, quick-minded man I know. When you drink your first pint of white wine tonight, waft it in his general direction, and join me in wishing him a year of health, happiness, creativity and productive leg days.  

4. I made a film about Tottenham Hotspur [WATCH HERE] and how the club, poised to finish a new stadium, and enter a groundbreaking partnership with the NFL, is about to transform its “Nearly” Culture. I loved making this show, and am grateful for your feedback. My favorite bit was provided by GFOP @StrangemAlps who sent me THIS 1950s treasure from the BBC Archive exploring how English garbage used to make, “Lovely processed steam-sterilised Tottenham Pudding.”  

5. A song that is guaranteed to lift your spirits “Look at what the Light did Now” by Flo Morrissey And Matthew E. White, the Diego Costa and Eden Hazard of covers. Also, Vampire Weekend drummer and GFOP, Chris Tomson, is on tour behind his first debut album, Youngish American. He deserves your support, despite being a massive Spurs fan. HERE is his tour schedule. See him.

6. I loved these two things: The motivational messages the Swedish Women are wearing on the back of their national team football jerseys, and THIS ARTICLE sent to me by GFOP @AndrewSHigh (and dozens of others) about a Japanese Bald Men’s Club whose motto is, “To brighten the world with our Shiny Heads.” Andrew suggests MiB cover their Annual Bald Men’s Olympics next year. Bigger than the Olympics.

7. I am headed to the She Believes Cup on Saturday night at Red Bull Arena to watch the USWNT take on England with my daughter. The game kicks off at 5 p.m. ET on FOX. And I could not be more thrilled that England’s (and Arsenal’s) Alex Scott will join us Monday on a special episode of The Men in Blazers Show at 5:30 p.m. ET after West Ham vs. Chelsea on NBCSN. It will be special because this show might actually air in its entirety at its scheduled time. We hope. #BlazerGate

To Tweed,
Ranch @rogbennett

On behalf of
MiB: @meninblazers
“Positive” Dabo: @embassydavies
Producer JW: @JonoWilly
Producer Lexi: @lexitan
 


I. Sacha Kljestan on NYRB, MLS, USMNT and Several Non-Acronym-Related Items

Speaking with Sacha Kljestan, two things are clear: He came to New York to win trophies. He loves a Cuban sandwich. Wednesday, just two days before the beginning of MLS season No. 22, which New York Red Bulls open Sunday at newboys Atlanta United FC [7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1], the league’s 2016 assists leader, MVP finalist and newly minted NYRB captain joined us via phone. We asked the man with best stache since Magnum what qualifies as success in New York/New Jersey this season, what it would feel like to play in his first World Cup at age 32, and his favorite New York City restaurant. Please note, the conversation has been truncated for the sake of our own suboptimal-ness.
 
                     

MiB: You have taken over the NYRB armband from the newly departed Dax McCarty. There are loads of different types of captains. Shouters. Screamers. Leaders by example. What kind of captain is Sacha Kljestan?
 
SK: My whole career, I’ve been a lead by example guy. Our manager, Jesse Marsch, has tried to get me to speak up more the last few years. He says that when I talk, people listen. I’ve never been the type to yell at or get after guys. Although getting older, I’ve become more comfortable doing that when the moment needs it. I think sometimes guys need to be yelled at. Other times they need an arm around them and a pat on the back. I’m trying to find that balance.
 
MiB: What’s a Sacha pre-game speech like? What will you say to the team ahead of the season opener in ATL this weekend?

SK: I don’t plan the speeches. I portray whatever I feel in that moment to the group. This weekend, we expect a ton of people at the game and they’re going to be fired up for their city’s first MLS match. It’s going to be a tough atmosphere. I’ll probably just let the guys know that we’ve been here before, and it’s important to start the season on the right foot.

MiB: You’ve finished top of the Eastern Conference in both of your seasons with NYRB, winning the Supporters Shield in 2015, but you’ve yet to taste MLS Cup glory. In your mind, what qualifies as success for NYRB this season?

SK: To win one trophy this year. At least. I definitely think that’s an accomplishable goal. We could win trophies and not win MLS Cup and that would still be considered a successful season, I think. But, ultimately, the big goal is MLS Cup.

MiB: You have NYC/NJ ties going back to your days playing college soccer at Seton Hall. How special would it be to bring NYRB its first MLS Cup?

SK: It’s something that I’ve thought about a lot. It was a major contributing factor for me signing with NYRB. I want to be a champion here. Join a club that had never won an MLS Cup and try to be the first to do it. I said this early on when I spoke to Jesse. I could’ve stayed at Anderlecht the rest of my career, but winning a 34th, 35th, 36th title for them wouldn’t have meant as much to me as winning the first one here. So that’s a big challenge for me. It’s been two years now and we have not accomplished that goal. The pressure starts to mount,  but I’m very excited about the opportunity to lift the MLS Cup for New York Red Bulls.

MiB: Last fall, you re-entered the USMNT fold after two and a half years in international football’s wilderness. How did you experience that footballing re-birth from an emotional point of view?

SK: I’d come to a point where I’d accepted that my national team career was probably over. I never thought that I might get to play in my first World Cup at 32. You appreciate things more once you have them and they’re taken away. I realized how important the National Team was and how much it meant to me. I missed out on World Cups in 2010 and 2014, so going to a World Cup would be a pretty amazing part of this ride I’ve been on for the last 11 years. It’d be a great accomplishment, and I’d be very proud.

MiB: Final and most important question: What is your favorite restaurant in New York/New Jersey, and what are you ordering?

SK: A little Cuban cafe in the City, Cafe Habana. It’s been a staple of mine for 12 years. Since I was at Seton Hall. I get the Cuban sandwich and a side of plantains. That’s my go-to meal.

Watch Sacha and the Red Bulls open their 2017 MLS Campaign at Bobby Dodd Stadium in ATL. Game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.


II. MiB’s Favorite Bookstores

Rog: You know a good bookstore the second you walk into it. The owner understands they are not just selling widgets, and instead celebrating a creative cacophony of ideas. As a result, being in a really good bookstore feels incredibly nourishing. The opposite of going to a Barnes and Noble where they feel desperate to sell everything -- gift cards, games, tchotchkes -- anything but books.  

One of my big regrets in life is that I never opened a bookstore. There are three I love and go to as often as life allows:

1. Powells, Portland, Oregon. Heaven.
2. Kramerbooks and Afterwords, Washington, DC. which used to cram volumes into every cranny, but which I understand is undergoing a turbulent time under a new owner.
3. Book Culture, NYC, Columbus Street location. A weekend delight with the greatest taste filter.

Davo: (South Congress Books, Austin, Texas) I love this book store for many reasons. First I go there with my daughter, so it’s a family connection. My daughter, I love everything about her. She likes books a bit too much. That’s my only negative. Second, it’s the perfect size. It’s a little bit bigger than you think it’s going to be when you go in there. It’s not overwhelming. And, finally, it’s just the hand-selling of books and the way they present them. They really know books there. They can talk about all their books. You actually get a feeling that they’ve read all of the books in their bookstore. They also sell art by local art teachers or professors in Austin. Really beautiful, beautiful place.

Producer JW: (The Strand, NYC): When I moved to NYC, I spent the first two months sleeping on my younger sister’s one-bedroom apartment floor. In an attempt to make myself invisible, I spent any down time I had exploring New York City, nipping into bars, coffee shops and stores of every stripe. I ducked into The Strand late on a Saturday afternoon in August to escape the heat. I was immediately awestruck by the store’s sheer volume (“eighteen miles of books”) of tomes. But as I weaved my way through the stacks, I noticed not just the selection, but the store’s style. Books crammed onto shelves or tossed onto tables in a way that makes them look like they would in someone's living room, not a manufactured, pre-planned, homogenous display. Think Tony Pulis vs. Jose Mourinho. The Strand is not a secret. Not some off-the-beat amazing find on my part. It has its own Wiki Page, for the love of David Silva. But its cavernous stacks and slightly bent edges made it a welcoming second home when I first moved here. I’ll always love it.   

Producer Lexi: (Bouwerie Iconic Magazine, NYC) I’m an unusual magazine collector. I have an enormous collection, with publications spanning from Paris to Poland and Tokyo to Turkey. It makes moving apartments pretty terrible, when the bulk of your possessions are hundreds of pounds of magazines. (My apartment I hope looks less like an episode of hoarders and more like the beauty that is Questlove’s vinyl room) Anyways, I’ve been going to Bouwerie Iconic since it opened in 2013 and have refused to live more than a mile away since its outset. Simply, they just have everything; and their archive is incredible. I know if I want a 2012 French Vogue with a Daria Werbowy cover or a 2010 NYMag with Jon Stewart, they not only have it but they can find it and ring me up in seconds. Don’t even get me started about their bag quality and packing etiquette. There is nothing worse than walking home in the rain with 20 pounds of magazines (quite the workout) to find out that all your treasures are bent and busted. And the stickers peel off like a dream. This place is basically heaven… and the skyscraper stacks are never dusty!


III. A GFOP in Search of Yearbook Quotes

GFOP Sara Shoushtari Writes: I write to you in desperation. I am a high school senior in San Diego. I began following the Premier League about a year ago, and similar to the Tennessee State Senator [EDITOR’S NOTE: Steve Dickerson, District 20], while I do not completely understand everything about the Premier League, I find your pod, and show, equal parts fascinating, funny, and informative. So, I ask you for your help. I must submit a senior quote for the yearbook and would like to honor my new and growing interest for English soccer. Are there any good taglines, quotes, or general sayings that you recommend? Your advice, though likely suboptimal, is greatly appreciated. From the city with only crap teams (and in need of MLS).

MiB Writes: GFOPs, send us your suggestions HERE or using the hashtag #MiBYearbookQuote and we will pass them on to Sara. A patch and inclusion in the next issue of The Raven for our three favorites.


IV. Content That’s Almost Optimal

Not because of us. Never because of us. But we produced a Pod and a video this week, the subjects of which are such amazing men, they succeeded in making us palatable.

The first is a Pod Special with Juan Mata [LISTEN HERE]. Juan Skyped us from his home in Northern England to talk about Jose Mourinho, life in Manchester, pie and how he retains his childhood love of the game.
 

The second is a video on Viv Anderson [WATCH HERE], the first black player to start for the English National Team. Sadly, that didn’t happen until 1978. Viv is a personal hero of ours who has paved the way for so many of today’s Premier League stars. #Courage.


V. GFOP Drinks in Seattle

T-minus 13 days until we sully the home of the defending MLS Cup Champs a sold out (they’re coming for Jordan Morris’ dad, not us) show at Seattle’s The Showbox. GFOPs, even if you do not have a ticket to the show, we want to raise a glass to Ichiro with you afterwards. Stay tuned to our social media for more on that. We are also looking for recommendations for places to eat, visit, etc. while in your gorgeous city. Please send them HERE.


VI. #PatchAtThePark

This week’s edition of #PatchAtThePark features submissions from our favorite pregame meal spot in Ohio, a chess tournament in the Swamps of Jersey, a WPSL match in warmer pastures, and the return of Clint Dempsey in Chucktown.

But our favorite comes from GFOP David Rappaport who was on-hand for Burnley vs. Chelsea in Dave Fishwick’s backyard. We assume the Pie vs. Bovril inclusion was a metaphor of some sort.
 


VII. "Plumb our Annals”

Our entire pod archive is available HERE. If you prefer the Cliffs Notes version, check out "Men in Blazers. Unbuttoned: Now That's What I Call Sub-Optimal,” Vol. I (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play) and Vol. II - The Best of 2014 (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play). The albums are the least objectionable of our football "analysis," Ravens and interviews.

 

Please forward this to your football curious friends. Let's see if we can bring them over to the dark side. The Ian Darke Side.
 

“We should be careful / Of each other, we should be kind / While there is still time.”

Philip Larkin


Podcast

Ranch and Dabo discuss the ageless Zlatan’s EFL Cuppity Cup Cup winner for Manchester United, break down Chelsea’s victory over newly scrappy Swansea, and say emotional farewells to Clatts and Claudio. LISTEN HERE.

Good Reads


> As MLS Culture Evolves, Teams Change Course With DP Investments. Brian Straus for Sports Illustrated. READ HERE.

> You Can Tell an F.A. Cup Champion by Its Corner Flags. Or Not. Jack Williams for The New York Times. READ HERE.

> Russia’s Hooligan Army. Alex Stockley von Statzer for The BBC. WATCH HERE.

> Stan Smith Knows You Think He’s Just a Sneaker. Lauren Schwartzberg for New York Magazine. READ HERE.

> Barcelona Open-Mouthed, Not Broken-Hearted, at Luis Enrique’s Imminent Exit. Sid Lowe for the Guardian. READ HERE.
About

Michael Davies and Roger Bennett believe that soccer is America’s Sport of the Future. As it has been since 1972. Visit MeninBlazers.com, “Like” us on Facebook, follow the show on Twitter and Instagram, or email us at MeninBlazers@gmail.com.
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