All posts by Nathaniel Gibbs

Orlando City Vs Houston Dynamo Preview

MLS Match Preview 

 

kaka

 

Houston Dynamo VS. Orlando City FC

Time: 6PM CT

Place: BBVA Compass Stadium

 

Week 2 in Major League Soccer kicks off on Thursday with Orlando facing its first road test.

Historically Houston has been a tough place to earn 3 points, but before the summer heat sets on Houston, Orlando will have their sight set on a win.

 

Houston started their season off with a surprise win over Columbus. Still, the goal was well deserved; a clinical finish from Giles Barnes, after a beautiful, penetrating run down the right-wing from Kofi Sarkodie. Houston absorbed multiple attacks from Columbus, and found themselves defending the majority of the game.

barnes goal

 

The brightest spot on the field that night was dynamo keeper Tyler Deric, who had 6 saves and caught 7 crosses as well. Houston was outshot 8-18, and Deric had to lay out to save a couple.

This isnt the first time a relatively unknown has had a breakout preformance in goal, but he certainly will need to maintain his form while this dynamo defense learns to protect the net more.

 

In attack, when the dynamo did get a chance, they seemed to attack with purpose, and ultimately walked away with a quality 3 points because of it.

 

For Orlando, this Houston match may almost feel like an afterthought after months of buildup for the inaugural match against New York City FC last week. Orlando was able to save the draw, after a deflected Kaka free kick rolled into the net. The most viewed match of the weekend, with the highest attendance, the energy was electric, and Orlando seemed to come out guns blazing.

 

By halftime, with the score 0-0, Orlando had to have felt disappointed, They dominated nearly every aspect of the game, and NYCFC looked lifeless. It only took a 15 minute span of good soccer from NYCFC to take the lead after a Mix Diskerud wonderstrike. Until the dying embers of the match, it looked like a devastating result for Orlando, that feeling was even stronger once Aurelian Collin received a red card for an unnecessary challenge on David Villa. Until fortune favored the deflection, and Kaka was able to celebrate with 60,000 strong.

 

 

This weekend, don’t expect houston to change too much. Columbus may have presented a larger offensive threat than Orlando did, so we may see Houston come out with a similar game plan to last weekend, and try to exploit an Orlando defense that will be without Collin.

Houston should look the same offensively. Giles Barnes will be looking to add to his tally and will be slotted alongside Will Bruin. With Ricardo Clark and Brad Davis highlighting the Dynamo midfield, they won’t be looking to sit back all game, look for attacks forward, down the wing, and dangerous set pieces from the hosts.

 

Orlando will undoubtedly try and take it to Houston as the away side. The area we will see some shuffling is at center back. With Collin out, look for Sean St. Ledger to take his place. This will be an important player to watch, as he may end up slotting in next to Collin when he returns. Brek Shea will continue flying up the left side, and will surely be looking to take on Sarkodie in what will be an interesting wing battle on the same side of the field. Whoever can shut down the other defensively will have an upper hand on the outside.

 

There still are questions as to where Orlando Cities goals are really going to come from. Obviously, with someone like Kaka spearheading the attack, he will be the primary focus for Houston’s defense. Carlos Rivas may be a little more raw than Orlando fans would have hoped. The pacey forward was able to run at NYCFCs back line, but was caught offsides 5 times, and wasn’t able to land a shot on target. Expect Bryan Rochez to get more time in this game, as either a starter or coming on a bit earlier as a sub. If Orlando is going to produce goals this match, the most likely culprits will be Kaka and Kevin Molino, who both had a great showing .

 

 

Prediction:

With Houston taking 3 points they may not have gotten if they didn’t catch Columbus at the beginning of the season, they may be content to try and sit back again, and counter a team that may pile on the pressure. Look for Orlando to be as aggressive if not more than they were against NYCFC, and to try different build up play going forward. This time, they won’t be as unlucky. I see Orlando taking it to Houston at home.

 

Final Score


2-0 Orlando City

Daily Athlete on the Rise: Miralem Pjanic

pjanic pic

The position in football that always seems to be oozing with young and upcoming talent is central midfield. Miralem Pjanic may be leading the bunch. Pjanic, a Bosnia and Herzegovina international, is getting ready to suit up for his fourth season at A.S. Roma.

Miralem Pjanic was brought up through the youth program of FC Metz, a french side, and found himself playing for the defending champions, Olympique Lyonnias, in 2008. He even represented this club the following year in the Champions League semi-final. He was an electrifying prospect even then, boasting a wonderful repertoire of passes, and one of the best players with the ball at his feet.

In 2011, Pjanic found himself at A.S. Roma, and his ability really started to show. He became a much more versatile defender, playing many positions through the midfield for the Italian side. His reputation has grown to that of an elite player in Serie A. Roma took notice, and signed him through 2018 this offseason. Look for Miralem Pjanic to rise to the top of Serie A this season. We may even be talking a move to a premier club in europe when all is said and done.

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Daily Athlete on the Rise: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Physical Monsters still exist! And Milwaukee Buck’s forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of them. Nicknamed the ‘Greek Freak’ he’s currently preparing to embarrass people in his second NBA season.

Antetokounmpo was taken 15th overall in the 2013 draft by the Bucks. The Greek Freak didn’t see much of the court last season, but began to pick up playing time toward the end of the year. Expect to see his minutes per game rise from 24.6 to well into the 30’s. Why use one of our famous daily spotlights on a second year player who is yet to put up impressive numbers in the NBA?

Lets start with his athleticism. In the combine, Giannis recorded a 44-inch vertical. And that’s at 6’9” with a 7’3” wingspan! But thats just the beginning. He started his NBA career just under 6’9”… stay with me… Now, as he is preparing for his sophomore season, he is measuring out at 6’11” flat, with his  wingspan spreading to 7’4”! Revised draft big boards suggest that with those measurements, the Greek Freak would have been a unanimous 1st overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft. What makes this all even more impressive is Giannis Antetokoumnpo is only 19 years old. That’s right, this monster can’t even enjoy a beer yet.

Stats are great, but how does this translate into performance? Kevin Durant found out the hard way.

antetokounmpo block

This one of the most impressive blocks of the entire season. Take a closer look; note where Antetokounmpo’s hand is when the block is made compared to the rim. People aren’t supposed to be able to do that! His hand is a clean 6-8 inches above the rim.

During this years summer league in Las Vegas, Antetokounmpo really impressed. Over a span of four games, he averaged 17 PPG and nearly 6 RPG. He displayed his refined jumper, which granted him success from the mid range, and from behind the arch, while still showcasing his dangerous driving ability. His quickness was hard for even smaller forwards and guards to contain.

With the size of a true NBA 4 or 5, the handling skills of a point guard, and the scoring ability of a wing, he may be the most versatile player in the NBA. Bucks coach Jason Kidd has already told the media of his plans to use Giannis at Point Guard, a position he played in Greece.

Everyone in the world of basketball, maybe the world of sports, should keep their eye on Antetokoumnpo this upcoming season. With more minutes coming his way, and more positions on the court, the sky is the limit for Antetokounmpo.

Just enjoy this kid’s ability one more time.

giannis

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The World Cup Finals Preview

After nearly a month, we are down to two teams in Brazil. This Sunday, The Germans and The Argentines will play for the ultimate national pride, a chance to lift the World Cup high above their heads. For the Germans this will be their 8th trip to the final, looking to win the world cup for the 4th time. For Argentina, they will be trying for a 3rd time World Cup crown.

germany

 

THE SIDES:

The Germans made it here with one of the most stunning games in World Cup history. No team has scored more goals in a semi-final, or won by as many. Brazil had never lost to an opponent by six goals. They embarrassed the hosts in front of their vast crowd. With such a dominating performance The Germans are the resounding favorites in this game. History, however, would suggest something different. In the past nine meetings between a European and South American nation in the final, the South American side walked away victorious seven times. Germany also have a losing record in finals appearances, making it to seven but only to came away with three trophies.

Keys to the Game for Germany: 

The Germans will look to dominate in the midfield. Javier Mascherano has had a wonderful tournament in the middle of midfield for the Argentinians, but he is going to be on his own defending some of the most dangerous players in the world. In his vicinity, he will be defending Khedria, Kroos, and Thomas Mueller. The strength of Khedria, the brilliant positioning of Toni Kroos, and the creativity of Thomas Mueller may be too much for one man to handle. Stopping Messi will be another task for this side. Look for Germany to pressure Messi high up the pitch and to force the ball away from him.

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Argentina have had a quiet, but successful World Cup thus far. They performed well against their group stage opponents and were often helped by a moment of brilliance from Messi.

Lionel Messi is playing a role that not many others have. He has successfully brought his team to the final. Argentina haven’t made many mistakes, and Messi has provided them with enough of a spark to just outplay their opponents. Simply put, if Argentina lift the trophy, Messi’s performance will go down as one of the World Cup’s best. Argentines have had to deal with heartbreak handed to them by this German side for the past two World Cups. In 2006 & 2010, Germany beat Argentina in the quarterfinals. Miroslav Klose, who scored three goals in those two games, will be starting in his final game for the Germans on Sunday.

Keys to the Game for Argentina:

Germany no doubt looked invincible against an uninspired Brazilian side in the semi-finals, but Argentina are surely planning a strategy to combat The Germans. Look for Argentina to attack down the right flank, at left-back Benedikt Howedes. He is a right-footed center back playing out of position. Argentina always have been particularly good at picking at players on the pitch. If Howedes can’t handle the pressure coming his way, Argentina may find success down the right flank.

It’s gonna be one heck of a game!

World Cup Semi Finals Preview

semi final bracket

Brazil

World Rank #3

Brazil have had a challenging trip to the semi-finals. They knocked off two way talent Chile, with the likes of Vidal, Sanchez. And a brilliant Columbia team lead by rising star James Rodriquez. Besides a few moments in the group stages, Brazil have appeared unorganized, and lacking conviction. Still this team has more technical ability than any of the remaining squads, and with the pride of a nation on its back, they will be hard to beat.

Key Player: David Luiz

Neymar’s injury did more than take out Brazils biggest offensive threat, it hurt the passion and heart of this team. The pressure on Neymar, before his premature exit, must fall onto someone else’s shoulders. David Luiz is the man that will be called upon to carry this team. A charismatic, center back with an infinite amount of energy, Luiz will need two quality games if this team wants to lift the world cup on home soil.

Will win if: Play a more fluid game

There is a fear of losing that brazil has played with since exiting the group stage. They play a conservative game, and let their opponent do too much going forward. Brazil must spread the field more, and attack early and often. If brazil can play with the confidence that they are the best team on the field, they might just be.

Germany

World Rank #2

Germany have stumbled their way into the semi finals, for the fourth straight world cup. Prior to a lackluster and dull 1-0 win against France, where the side looked uninspired, they struggled against Algeria in the round of 16, taking the full 120 minutes to do away with the north african side. The german side is packed with talent, and the core of this team play with each other at the club level for Bayern Munich. To many, this squad has been favored up to this point.

Key Player: Thomas Mueller

The world cup brings out the best in certain players. One of those players is Bayern Munich’s attacking midfielder, Thomas Mueller. Mueller has 9 world cup goals in 11 matches, and provides a spark when this German team seem to be dragging themselves along. And with Ozil out of form and Schweinsteiger struggling for fitness, the pressure is on Mueller to provide goals for this german side in their final games of this world cup.

Will win if: They can figure out how to maximize the talent on the pitch.

Germany have the deepest squad in this world cup. So deep that you have to question what the best team available really is. Lahm is playing out of position as a holding mid, and there is no sure fire attacking option. Once this squad is comfortable together, they will be nearly unbeatable on the world stage. The question is, will that be figured out in the coming days?

Netherlands

World Rank #15

The Dutch seemed to shock everyone by absolutely thrashing defending champions, Spain, in their world cup opener, and they continued to impress through the group stage, proving critics wrong who said they wouldn’t be able to get out of their group. But it took a savvy and controversial call to see the Dutch through to the quarterfinals, where they looked horrible against Costa Rica at times. It is safe to say the dutch have cooled off considerably since the first game over 2 weeks ago.

Key Player Arjen Robben

The player of the tournament for the Netherlands by far has been Arjen Robben. He is playing with more confidence than anyone at this world cup. Robben can terrorize a defense. He has both the speed to spread a defense out and the dribbling ability to cause it to cluster and leave his teammates open. Until he runs into a superior defense, he will be able to capitalize on this movement five or six times per game. To be sure, though, the other remaining teams all have world class defenses that will be able to cut down Robben’s runs to the outside, as well as prevent him from dribbling in and out of the box.

Will Win if: Robert Van Persie and Huntelaar can produce goals. RVP still has not scored a goal for the Dutch outside of the group stage. If these next defenses they face successfully shut down Robben, it will be up to the two dutch poachers to score goals. This is a team that will need to out gun its remaining opponents to come out on top.

Argentina

World Rank #5

Argentina has lost in the quarterfinals each of the past 2 world cups. But this team is different. They have finally broken through to the semifinals with a fairly impressive victory against Belgium. This team boasts one of, if not the, best defense in this world cup, but they struggle to score goals. Aguero’s absence has been noticeable, as Argentina have struggled to win convincingly in the knockout stages. One has to wonder how Argentina will be able to keep up with an offense good enough to break them down and score goals.

Key Player: Lionel Messi

Arguably the best player of the tournament, Messi has truly carried this team to the semifinals. Even when Messi isn’t adding to the goal total, he is drawing the attention of everyone on the field, earning fouls and maintaining possession. He is a threat to any team in the world and can change the game at any moment.

Will Win if: The unit can produce goals.

Messi can not win the world cup on his own, but Argentina certainly has the talent to win it themselves. Higuain has to step up and show that he can score big goals, like he did in the quarter finals vs Belgium.