Jan 30, 2013, 7:06 PM EST
Over the past two seasons it may have seemed like the myriad of Clasicos transcended the soccer world, today’s predictably cagey first 90 minutes of Real Madrid and Barcelona’s two-legged Copa del Rey semifinal destroyed truly detached itself from the context of the season. A Real Madrid team that trails Barcelona by 15 points in league and was without their goalkeeping captain and their two best center backs managed to go toe-to-toe with a Blaugrana side that’s only tasted defeat twice this season. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear today’s 1-1 result was from last year, when Real Madrid was taking Spain from their rivals.
But since these clubs are never out of the news, you already knew how much Real Madrid has struggled. And you probably know that their locker room is in turmoil (which Iker Casillas’s journalist girlfriend confirmed to Mexican television yesterday). And you probably know there’s almost no way José Mourinho will be back at the Bernabeu and Crisitiano Ronaldo’s holding off on signing a contract extension with the club.
Yet there we were near 3:50 p.m. Eastern time, tied 0-0 at halftime of a match that we’ve repeatedly seen some version of over the last two years. Real Madrid was frantically and physically pressing through the midfield, disrupting Xavi Hernández whenever the Barcelona quarterback would drop for the ball. Play goes wide, comes back in as it approaches the final third, and Barcelona can rarely craft a ball to beat the Real back line. Barça ends up dominating possession, but with swift counterattacks that eschew prudence for speed, Real’s able to create as many chances.
Come full-time at the Bernabeu, the story had finished playing out. Barcelona held 61 percent of the game’s possession, but they’d only put one more shot toward goal (9-8). Their early second half goal from Cesc Fábregas (made possible when a defender was dragged uncommonly deep behind the line, keeping Fábrages onside in the right of the box) was equalized late by 19-year-old Raphael Varane, the French prospect playing because of the absences of Pepé and Sergio Ramos.
Though Real was at home and may have wanted to build a first leg lead, they know a result on the road is within their powers. They got a result in Barcelona last October. Barça may convince themselves they have a leg up on their rivals, but given the familiarity these sides have with each other and their respective grounds, it’s more likely nothing’s changed but the clock. Instead of 180 minutes to decide one Cup finalist, the rivals are down to 90.
And just was today’s game predictably transcended the teams’ extra-Clasico form, you can expect Feb. 26th’s meeting to be the same game we’ve come to expect, fear, and revere. Can Barcelona handle Real Madrid’s pressure? Will El Real convert the breaks they receive? Will either side make the debilitating mistake that might define this two-legged Clasico? Who’s going to get red carded?
Real Madrid has stumbled all year, but for one day, they were back to being one of the two best clubs in the world. Expect the same next month.
Dec 17, 2013, 11:02 PM EST
Rounding up the smaller bits of news and other happenings around Major League Soccer:
Dec 17, 2013, 10:14 PM EST
Today’s news moves us one painful step closer to an awful, perhaps inevitable, destination:
Dec 17, 2013, 9:10 PM EST
And what a smart move that is from the current LA Galaxy assistant:
Dec 17, 2013, 8:28 PM EST
At this point, the big surprise would be if Clint Dempsey did not go on loan in January.
Dec 17, 2013, 7:43 PM EST
There are retreads, and then there are retreads who scored over 100 goals for your club. Can Hoddle be Spurs’ Dalglish?
Dec 17, 2013, 7:02 PM EST
Hard to tell if there’s any real progress here, but there was a bit of news today:
Dec 17, 2013, 6:15 PM EST
Fabio Borini eliminates his former club, while an Edin Dzeko double lifts the Citizens at Leicester.
Dec 17, 2013, 5:52 PM EST
In an interview with KingFut.com, the former U.S. national team manager demonstrates why he remains one of the true gentlemen of the U.S. Soccer community:
Dec 17, 2013, 5:12 PM EST
The big 4-0 comes just 10 days after his club raised the MLS Cup trophy:
Dec 17, 2013, 4:40 PM EST
Although he evolved into a problem in Seattle, Eddie Johnson could be a solution for United.
Bayern Munich has easy time in 3-0 win over Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande at FIFA Club World Cup
Dec 17, 2013, 4:27 PM EST
If Bayern Munich wants to remind everyone it has the best team in the world, the Bavarian giants are certainly going about it the right way.
Dec 17, 2013, 3:54 PM EST
High, high praise from the Everton manager for his U.S. international starter in goal:
Dec 17, 2013, 3:22 PM EST
Never mind Jimmy Nielsen’s retirement; the champs appear to be set in goal once again:
Dec 17, 2013, 3:21 PM EST
A dramatic year for the U.S. international vaulted him to the top of Google’s list.
Dec 17, 2013, 2:30 PM EST
Upon hearing of Gjoka’s legal predicament, Ronaldo penned a letter to the Miami prosecutor asking that the charges be dropped.
Dec 17, 2013, 1:41 PM EST
Fortunate for the club, the scan results indicate that Deulofeu could return in time for the trip to West Brom on January 20th.
Dec 17, 2013, 12:58 PM EST
“Tim should get the job permanently and work alongside Les Ferdinand,” Harry Redknapp said.
Dec 17, 2013, 12:05 PM EST
“If we’re being honest, he’s still got a long way to go,” said Freedman.
Dec 17, 2013, 11:24 AM EST
The charge means Wilshere will likely miss a few matches, which could include next Monday’s clash with Chelsea.
Dec 17, 2013, 10:38 AM EST
“I’ve been in Manchester for long periods of time and I’ve never heard of Manchester City,” Tyson said.
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- Stuart Holden returns to Bolton but still has a long way to go 2
- Jack Wilshere retrospectively charged for flipping the bird 1
- Cardiff City Unraveling: Malky Mackay told he won’t get a penny 2
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- U.S. national team discussion: The Alejandro Bedoya conundrum (18)
- Shouldn’t Peter Vermes be in the future U.S. national team coaching discussions? (17)
- NYCFC’s new stadium could be neighbor to Yankee Stadium (12)
- Tottenham is using blood spinning treatment on its players, and nobody seems to know if it’s doping (12)
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- Spain Thinking of US Camp Before World Cup
- Don't count out Chile in WC Group B
- Kicking it Off with a Final
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- Klinsmann Shouldn't Have Been Re-signed Before WC
- You Can't Beat German Sachlichkeit
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