And like that, he was gone. The Jurgen Klinsmann-U.S. Soccer era came to a sudden end Monday afternoon. U.S. Soccer could suspend its perhaps naive belief that the national team could accelerate its transformation into a Global Football Big Dog. What it could not tolerate was the prospect of failing to qualify for a World Cup -- the optics of which would do grievous harm to the sport’s profile in the United States.
Like a Westworld host living out their life on a repeated loop, Bruce Arena replaced Klinsmann at the helm of the USMNT. American soccer’s Beric Dondarrion
, he has been chosen to mitigate risk. Football's equivalent of a wizened tugboat captain who grew up navigating the treacherous hidden rocks and lethal current of a remote back water inlet, Bruce Arena is intimately familiar with the weird world of CONCACAF qualifying. I have no doubt he will lead the U.S. team into Russia 2018. Once there, he will relish the opportunity to prove his coaching acumen, sharpened over the past decade in MLS, can compete favorably against his more vaunted European and South American peers on the world’s stage.
Klinsmann was also U.S. Soccer’s Technical Director, and his replacement in that position concerns me more. It has far greater ramifications, as it will shape the future of the American game for decades. Our nation cries out for a true strategy -- a well resourced plan -- which takes this country of 330 million, packed with a diverse, deep and raw talent pool, and actualizes its potential. Everyone who cares about the future of the game in America should be asking who will be charged with creating it, and the process by which they are selected.
In lesser news, the Premier League rolls on this Thanksgiving Weekend. The pick of the games pits Top of the Table Chelsea against Undefeated Yet Out of the Champions League’s Tottenham Hotspur. Mauricio Pochettino will throw every Harry he can onto the field whilst wondering what the official collective noun for Harrys actually is (Gaggle of Harrys? Horde of Harrys? Rabble of Harrys?). Antonio Conte will emote theatrically on the sideline, confident that his team have not leaked a goal in six games, whilst scoring 17. Spoiler Alert Chelsea will concede yet still win. A less obvious, but equally as momentous clash will occur when Swansea host Crystal Palace, and Bob Bradley becomes the first Premier League manager since 1621 to celebrate Thanksgiving. We wish Bob and his entire family, as well as yours, all the best over the Holiday. A time at which we are more grateful than ever to you, dear GFOP, for your support, ideas, and insights about football and life, which we never take for granted.
On behalf of:
“Positive” Davo: @embassydavies
Producer JW: @JonoWilly
Producer Lexi: @tannneal
P.S. We spoke with GFOP Kyle Martino, who received his first USMNT call up under Bruce Arena, and he told us: “Bruce is one of the best ‘man-managers’ I know. He has a gift for knowing what motivates someone and pushing the right buttons. His experience and expertise make him the safest pair of hands for the delicate situation U.S. Soccer find themselves in. I know it was a long time ago, but 2002 is still the high-water mark.”
I. The Other Pilgrims from Plymouth
The Pilgrims’ decision to leave England in 1620. Man was that short-sighted. If they hung around another 396 years, they would’ve seen their hometown football team smashing it in League Two. Plymouth Argyle FC, nicknamed The Pilgrims, proudly don the Mayflower on their crest and have a three point lead atop English Football’s fourth tier 18/46’s (9/23s) into the season.
The club’s partial owner, GFOP Simon Hallett, has witnessed The Pilgrims’ remarkable run from here in the New World. As you may recall, Hallett, an English-born, Bucks County, Penn.-based corporate investment officer, purchased part of his childhood club after listening to MiB Pod Specials with current and former English football chairmen, namely Barry Hearn. Hallett joined us in May, shortly after investing in the club to talk about the decision. [Listen to our Pod with him HERE
]. On this, Thanksgiving eve, we wanted to again catch up with the Pilgrims’ part-owner to see if he's Living the Dream.
Simon's view from Plymouth's Directors' Box after PAFC defeated Portsmouth to make last year's League Two Playoff at Wembley.
MiB: Your investment in Plymouth is no longer purely emotional. How has that changed the way you watch?
Hallett: I’m so much more engaged now. My emotional attachment, which was strong as a fan, is nothing compared to what it is now that I’m invested. I’m so tense during games. We can’t get a live TV stream, so I listen by taking my computer into the kitchen, where I pace nervously. It’s absolutely appalling.
MiB: Give us a sense of some of your weekly duties at the football club. Is it more work than you thought it would be?
Hallett: I’ve been much more involved than I anticipated. I thought I’d be a passive owner, but I guess I don’t have the capacity to be passive. So my relationship with James Brent, the chairman and majority owner, has been extraordinarily good. We have a cycle of formal board meetings every couple of months and then informal board meetings between them. We’ve made a lot of progress with the club. We’ve bought back our stadium from the Plymouth City Council, which puts us in a position to start to make some investments in the club infrastructure, which are really needed.
Thinking about the club is a separate issue entirely. I’m a football fan, so I think about it a lot. I want to say I keep it to an hour a day, but it’s got to be more than that because I’ve been playing as Argyle on Football Manager 2017. I turned it on the other day and even though it’s only been out for a few weeks, it said I’ve spent 40 hours on it. I’d like to think that’s a software glitch.
MiB: The transfer window is coming. You have a gaggle of in form players. How much does that scare you?
It scares me a little bit. We’ve got one guy who’s clearly a standout League Two performer, Graham Carey
. He’s out of contract at the end of the year. He’s already said he doesn’t want to extend his contract when we offered earlier this year. I don’t know what’s going to happen if we get some crazy bid for him. The finances in League One and League Two are tight. To give a five, four, or even a two-year contract to a player is very risky. If you get it wrong, that’s a whole player that you can’t afford next year. So you’ve basically got to get it right, or stick to short-term contracts.
MiB: How thick-skinned do you have to be to have a stake in a football club? Have you faced additional scrutiny because you’re based in the U.S.?
Hallett: I try not to pay too much attention to the negative comments on social media and remind myself that the vast majority of the fans like what we’re doing. But it does get a little over the top at times. One of my fellow directors was called a “pig-face ****.” This is a club that was nearly bankrupted out of existence because of some overambitious plans by the previous ownership. So I can completely understand why some fans are suspicious, but we’ve been setting things right for half a decade now. It’s a reminder that we need to be as open with fans as possible and ensure they know what’s going on.
As far as my living in America, there’s been very little extra scrutiny, to my surprise. There have been one or two tiny little comments, but I think people find it rather amusing. And when you’re on social media, people don’t know where you’re sitting, so I think people have forgotten I’m partly a Yank.
Simon (right) and his brother enjoying one of the benefits of ownership: TUNNEL.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Simon Hallett. As if the club’s name and the Mayflower-infused crest were not enough, Simon tells us that Plymouth hope to lure the USWNT to play a game at Home Park as part of the 2020 Mayflower celebrations
. Stay tuned to this space for more on that.
II. Men in Blazers Taste Beers. Guinness Beers.
Family. Football. Every one of Tony Hibbo’s 264 Everton appearances. And, of course, Guinness
. These are things for which we are thankful every year. This year, the GFOPs at Guinness have bestowed upon us three additional reasons to give thanks: Rye Pale Ale, Antwerpen Stout and limited-edition tortoise (not turtle
) cans. Rog and Davo got learned on the finer points of all three delicacies by Guinness Brewery Ambassador Eoghain Clavin, who stopped by the Panic Room recently. Watch the video HERE
III. Picking a Fantasy Football Goalkeeper with Togga's John Wallin
We're 12/38th's of the way through our seminal TOGGA
fantasy football season, and it's safe to say we know even less than we thought we did when this whole thing started. One position that has induced an inordinate number of fantasy Sad Naps: goalkeeper. Looking at you, negative-five-points-in-Week-10 Peter Cech. In an effort to stop throwing Hugo Lloris-shaped darts at the wall on Saturday mornings, we turn to GFOP and Togga's Head of Content John Wallin
John Writes: No position on the pitch is afforded less respect in fantasy Premier League than goalkeeper. But this season there are three regular starters who average more than eight point per match (ppm). That's a better return than Yohan Cabaye (7.90), Wayne Rooney (7.82) or Jamie Vardy (7.08).
Leading the pack is Tom Heaton. The Clarets No. 1 has amassed 113 points (9.42 ppm). What is the secret formula behind his success? It's as simple as saves.
Heaton has already posted 63 saves this season. That's 16 more than second-best Jordan Pickford (81.50 pts; 8.15 ppm; 47 saves) of Sunderland. Need proof that saves translate to success: In nine of 12 Perfect XI selections, the keeper posted at least five saves.
As for clean sheets, they're simply not that important. Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois has seven clean sheets from 12 matches, including a staggering six straight entering Saturday. But in his most recent six outings he's recorded just 10 total saves - with 18 for the season - and sits fourth in overall points among goalkeepers behind Heaton (three clean sheets), Pickford (one clean sheet) and West Brom's Ben Foster (three clean sheets).
What's the play this weekend? How about Swansea City's Lukasz Fabianski at home against Crystal Palace? Palace's 52 shots on target this season (just four fewer than Arsenal), combined with Swansea's 57 shots on target allowed, mean Fabianski will have the chance to make plenty of saves. Even if the Swans can't muster a clean sheet, Labianski should be good for a handful of fantasy points. Given Swansea are winless in 11 straight games, he is unlikely to be heavily selected, making him a differential play to boot. If Fabianski is too risky for you, Heaton (vs. Man City) and Pickford (at Liverpool) are sure to get ample save chances while Foster (at Hull City) is a great play for the clean sheet. But if the Tigers sneak a late one and ruin your clean sheet aspirations, don't say you weren't warned.
A reminder that MiB's Togga league is a weekly game with a new winner every round of Premier League matches. If you haven't signed up, you can do so by downloading the app HERE. No league code required.
IV. America Scores #3For30 Giving Challenge
America SCORES is a magic organization that combines two of MiB’s greatest passions: poetry and football. The after-school nonprofit works with students at more than 175 public and charter schools across the United States. It is responsible for young students like Jalen, who stopped by the Panic Room last year to talk about his poetry [Watch HERE
]. As part of Giving Tuesday (Nov. 29), the NY chapter is promoting its #3for30 Juggle Challenge. Here’s how it works: post a video of yourself doing as many keepie uppies as possible on social media. Then tag three friends, asking them to do the same. The hope is that every participant will donate $30 to America SCORES New York. That’s enough to cover one child’s supplies for the entire year. More information on how to donate can be found HERE
But our favorite comes from GFOP Adam Pollio
, who was on hand for West Virginia’s takedown of UCLA in the Women’s College Soccer Round of 16, and our first taste of winter football.
VI. "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
, Google Play
) and Vol. II - The Best of 2014 (iTunes
, Google Play
). The albums are the least objectionable of our football "analysis," Ravens and interviews.
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.”