What a time it is to be alive! In this Brave New World in which the Premier League boasts an American Manager. Bob Bradley’s appointment as Swansea City’s sixth manager within the last four and a half years was a great day for American soccer fans and the American bald community in equal measure. (The overlap of which is pretty much our audience.)
first Bob Bradley interview is like a Waking Dream. Proof that tenacity and staying true to your biggest life goal can be rewarded. After stoically moving through football’s fringes — Egypt, Stabaek, Le Havre — the kind of Odyssey Homer would appreciate, Bob has shattered the glass ceiling he believed was keeping American managerial talent out of the big leagues. His real challenge starts now. Only goal difference is keeping the impotent Swans out of the relegation Moon Door. As Americans, we are intimately familiar with Bob and the thoroughness that is his hallmark, but to the local Welsh support, he is “Bob Bradley Who?” And Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton and Spurs loom as four of Bob’s first seven opponents. Irrespective, Swansea are now “America’s Team” and Oct. 15 cannot come quick enough. Bob Bradley against Arsene Wenger at the Emirates.
We must wait for Bob’s debut because we are in the doldrums of an International Break. As GFOP @everydaydude
Tweeted to us, “I need an International Break from International Breaks.” I share that sentiment. Especially because the U.S. have elected to prepare for the Nov. 11 Hex showdown against Mexico with two confidence building games. A historic visit to Cuba — the first international friendly between the sides since 1947 [TODAY at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN2
], and a Yom Kippur run out against Murray Hewitt’s New Zealand [Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
]. One player we will watch with interest is Sunderland’s Lynden Gooch, who has received his first national team call up. The notion of him taking the field with Christian Pulisic and Jordan Morris is like falling through a hole in time and glimpsing the future. I will head down to DC for the day on Monday with Producers JW and Lexi to spend some time with the United States team, so send any questions you might have.
A highlight of this week was Jack Harrison’s visit to Men In Blazers World Headquarters. The NYCFC 19-year-old wonder boy is a fantastic gent with a remarkable story — his mother yanking him from the Manchester United academy, aged 13, so he could gain the safety net of an education in the United States. His career journey is almost the opposite of Christian Pulisic’s, whose parents dispatched him to Germany at 15. Both players made bold decisions. Both have big futures. Look for the Jack Harrison Pod Special next Wednesday.
The International Break has cryogenically frozen The Men in Blazers Show. No show this Monday. But we thaw in time for our next live show, Monday, Oct. 17 at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, following Liverpool vs. Manchester United.
USA USA USA,
On behalf of
“Positive” Davo: @embassydavies
Producer JW: @JonoWilly
Producer Lexi: @tannneal
I. A NWSL Final Preview With Ali Krieger and Lynn Williams
We rely on this weekend’s NWSL Final to be the torch that guides us through the darkness of the International Break. The game [5 p.m. Sunday ET on FS1] at BBVA Stadium in Houston sees the Washington Spirit take on the Western New York Flash with both teams in search of their first NWSL title.
Lead by World Cup Champion, D.C. hometown hero and GFOP Ali Krieger, the Spirit have come a long way since finishing the 2013 inaugural NWSL season dead last, winning just three of 22 games. From Marcy to Madison Square, as Jay Z says. Krieger and the Spirit defense will be tasked with stopping 23-year-old 2016 NWSL MVP and Golden Boot Winner Lynn Williams. The Fresno, Calif.-native notched a brace in the Flash’s 4 - 3 semifinal extra time win in front of 20,000 screaming fans in Portland.
In this issue of The Raven, we spoke with both Ali and Lynn about Sunday’s match. We start with Lynn, with whom we spoke via phone Tuesday. At the time, she had yet to receive her first USWNT call up. We asked about her goals with the national team and her answer was simply remarkable. Unfortunately, Jill Ellis did not take the distribution of the Men in Blazers newsletter into account when she named Williams to her first USWNT roster Thursday ahead of a pair of games against Switzerland later this month. While it's now dated, we decided to leave Williams answer about the USWNT in the below interview because it aptly illustrates her amazing approach to football.
That semifinal, though. A 4 - 3, holy crap, end-to-end affair against the NWSL Shield winners at a packed Providence Park. You score not once, but twice in EXTRA TIME to fell a Thorns side loaded with established internationals. When the final whistle blew, what was going through your head?
It was definitely the game of all games. I keep joking, saying it was a spectator's dream and a player's nightmare. But, truthfully, as a player, you live for those games. You go to Portland and they have 20,000 fans. They're not rooting for us, but seeing how much support the NWSL has, and being given the opportunity to play before a crowd like that, you go in, give it your all, and hope for the best.
It was a hard-fought battle. We put everything on the line. It was physical. Bodies were worn down. When that final whistle blew, I almost dropped to my knees and put my hands in the air, but I thought that was a bit too dramatic. In that final moment, I thought, ‘Thank goodness.’ It's so amazing see all of our hard work and grit come together. Knowing that I went to battle with some of my best friends and teammates out there, it was just such a surreal feeling.
You are a direct, in your face, offensive team. ESPN’s Graham Hays quoted your coach Paul Riley
as saying, “Even if I told them to park the bus, they wouldn’t park the bus. They’d just ignore me.” How do you describe your team’s style of play?
Since day one, Paul has instilled a belief in the team that, “Yes, we are young, but we're talented.” And I think the youth on our side makes us a little crazy, but also a little unpredictable. I don't think we have it in us to sit and back and just park the bus. We want to go and go and go. We're just a fast-paced team. We like the speed of the game. We don't really have an off speed. I think that started at the beginning of the season when Paul said, "We're going to pressure, and we're going to pressure hard as a team." Now, when you ask us to sit back, we're like, “We don't know how to do that.” It's not wired in our brain anymore.
You scored 11 goals this season to earn the Golden Boot. Regardless of what happens Sunday, you’ve left an indelible mark on the season and the playoffs. You are an established USA U-23 star. Have you heard from Jill Ellis yet about your amazing season?
: I haven't talked to Jill Ellis yet. One of my dreams is to be on the national team, and play for my country. Last year, I injured my knee and had to watch as, not just the people I idolize, but some of my close friends got called up. And, I think if you focus on that, you start to eat yourself alive. But when I was hurt, I tried to regroup and think about what I love doing. I love playing soccer. I really hope to play for the national team someday. It’s my dream. But it’s not the end-all be-all. I have to focus on Sunday and winning a NWSL championship and go from there.
Ahhh (Rog Pod sigh)... now to Washington Spirit captain Ali Krieger, one of three players (we see you Tori Huster and Diana Matheson) who has been a member of the Spirit for each of its four NWSL seasons.
You’ve been on the Spirit since the inaugural season. Talk about how far the team has come, what’s allowed for that change, and what it all means to you as someone who’s been there from the jump.
It’s been a wild ride. The three of us [Ali, Tori, and Diana] who have been here during that time joked before we played the semifinal, “Do you remember that first year?” I thought I wanted to quit soccer because it was so bad. The struggle was real. So it’s amazing to see the reward now, sitting in the final, preparing for the championship. I'm extremely happy. I'm so proud of the team. And it’s such a deserving group of women who have dug really deep this year and come out on top. I feel like we're sitting in first class and we’re motivated not to go back.
You are proper Washington, DC, hailing from nearby Woodbridge, Va. The region’s football culture is embedded in your soul. What would it mean to you to bring a championship to the region?
It would be one of the best moments of my career, right behind winning a World Cup and a Champion’s League Final. I've always wanted to win a championship in the professional league in the U.S., especially for my hometown team. These are the moments why we play professional football, and why I love to play in DC. I dreamt about bringing a championship to the city when I was growing up and watching the Freedom play in the WUSA. I remember watching Steffi Jones, Abby Wambach, and Mia Hamm, these powerful inspiring women, bring the trophy home in 2003. And that was such a great moment for the city and for young girls growing up in this area. It’s what I've always wanted for this club.
Your team is a collective in every sense of the word. Every player who started the season on the team’s roster has started at least seven of the 20 regular season games this year. You’ve had 11 goal scorers. What kind of advantage does this give you in a final?
We share the ball. We trust each other. We really understand what it is to be a team. We try and go out there and make each other look good and put each other in great situations to be successful. We're not anywhere near individualistic. We are a team. We fight for each other and support each other. If we make a mistake, we make that mistake together. And we all take responsibility for that. If we succeed, we succeed together. We’ve always said that if we take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.
If you’re in the Houston area, or fancy a last minute road trip, a few tickets to the NWSL Final still remain. They are available HERE. The game airs on television Sunday at 5 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.
II. The Men In Blazers Universal Pie Guide. Channel Your Inner Big Sam.
When we say Pie, You say Map. Pie. Map. Pie. Map. Earlier this week, we asked you to help us create an easy-to-use resource, so that no matter where we are in the world, we’ll be able to source a GFOP-approved pie. The response was immediate and remarkable. People from coast-to-coast and across the UK sent us their favorite pie proprietor. We’ve started adding them to The Men in Blazers Universal Pie Guide
(patent pending). We want this to be an ongoing, living, breathing project. So anytime you have a recommendation, whether it’s a new, under-the-radar discovery, or an old pie standby, send us a Raven
. And you can always submit your pie reviews via social, using the hashtag #MiBPieGuide
III. Announcing Our Season Long Togga Fantasy Football Prize
We are 7/38th’s of the way through our Togga MiB Fantasy League. And today, in this very newsletter, we announce the season-long grand prize given to the GFOP who ends this Premier League campaign with the high score. Drumroll please… In addition to bragging rights, we will invite said winner to phone into the Pod for an interview with Rog and Davo. The interview will run in the regular weekly podcast, etching the GFOP's name into the annals of suboptimal, and preventing them from ever passing any sort of background check.
In addition to the grand prize, we give a special MiB fantasy patch
to each weekly winner. To join our league, just download the Togga app on your phone [CLICK HERE
], select your Perfect XI, and you’ll be all set for next week’s game.
IV. MIB Podcast Now on Spotify Mobile
Bad news. The Men in Blazers podcast is now on Spotify Mobile. We’re sorry World, but it seems the powers-that-be will not rest until our crap is inescapable. If, for whatever reason, you decide to seek us out on the app, we’re under the “Podcasts & Videos” section. Or listen HERE
This week’s edition of #PatchAtThePark
features submissions from one of our youngest GFOPs
, a big win for team Israel
in World Baseball Classic qualifying action, and an inspiring story of overcoming public transit issues
to make the second half of an NYCFC match.
But our favorite comes from GFOP Adam Driscoll, who was on hand for Team USA’s Ryder Cup victory last week.
VI. Going Deeper Inside the Boomin’ Business of Wings
In our latest attempt to get in touch with the establishment serving the “Finest Cantonese Cuisine” in Manchester, we decided emails were too impersonal. Instead we picked up the telephone. We called… we waited… and… #NewPhoneWhoDis
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
, 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.
You can access all MiB-related content (videos, pods and articles) by visiting www.nbcsports.com/mib
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.”