Portuguese Football Podcast Episode 1

So, I did a thing.

I’ve always loved Portuguese football, and I’ve been wanting to make a podcast for a while, so I figured why not mix the two.

I begin the pod with a slight introduction of who I am and why you should listen to me babble about Portuguese football.

The topic which gets the most attention in the pod is the situation surrounding FC Porto’s vacant manager position, why Nuno Espirito Santo got sacked after a season and who is best positioned to replace him.

We then move on to talk about the final of the Taça de Portugal, how Raul Jimenez somehow always manages to score when it matters and a reaction to the squad called up by Fernando Santos for the Confederations Cup.

Idea for the podcast came from the Spanish Football Podcast, hosted by the brilliant Sid Lowe of the Guardian and Phil Kitromilidis of Real Madrid TV. Catch their pod on iTunes and support them over at patreon.com/tsfp.

The inspiration for the intro comes from the Big Soccer Head Podcast, which uses a similar style of radio calls on important goals. Special thanks to Eric Krakaur, who hosts the BigSoccerHead pod and taught me a lot about being a soccer journalist. Listening to his pod has inspired me to make my own and I will certainly be picking his brain in the future. Go listen to the pod on iTunes.

Finally, the cover art of both the first episode of the pod and of this post was taken from ForaDeJogo, a brilliant blog on Portuguese football. Find them at foradejogo08.blogspot.com and on Twitter @ForaDeJogo.

Any feedback is welcome. My eternal thanks to anyone who listens to this.

Follow @briannnnf on Twitter for hot takes, poor attempts at humor and for the occasional pick-me-up. Email him at brianfilipefonseca@gmail.com with questions, concerns, story ideas or compliments.


FC Porto’s Management Situation Explained

When Nuno Espirito Santo took the podium at the Estádio do Dragão a year ago, he promised to bring his former club back to the glory days he witnessed from the bench as its backup goalkeeper.

In five seasons stretched over two spells in the mid-2000’s, Espirito Santo was a part of four Portuguese League championship teams with FC Porto, winning two separate doubles in 2002-04 and 2007-09.

He retired from football as a Dragon in 2010, taking two years away from football before returning to begin his managerial career in 2012.

The first three and a half seasons of his career on the touchlines were of mixed success. For as much praise he received in Portugal — putting Rio Ave in pole position to reach the Europa League for the first time in its history, as well as the finals of the Taça de Portugal and the Taça da Liga, in his second season with the club — he received equal criticism as a manager of Valencia in neighboring Spain, a club of much larger dimensions and demands.

An initial season in which he led Los Ché to a fourth place finish in La Liga in his first season was quickly forgotten after starting his second season with five wins, four draws and three losses in the first 12 matches. The final nail in the coffin was a 1-0 loss to Sevilla, a direct rival for European football, which left the club in 9th place, far from the European qualification spots the supporters consider the minimum.

Nuno resigned from the club, remaining out of management for seven months until Pinto da Costa gave his agent Jorge Mendes the call, leading him to stand at a podium on the pitch in which he saw almost nothing but success for five seasons.

“I guarantee sincerely to Portista nation, to the fans of Porto, that with work, with union, we will achieve what we all strive for — to win,” he said, standing alongside longtime club president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa, on June 1, 2016.

No one could blame him for his confidence at the time.

Less than a year later, a day after his first season at the helm came to an end, so to did his time at the club. Few could blame Pinto da Costa for his confidence in pulling the trigger on Espirito Santo’s sacking, either.

Espirito Santo’s squad showed little life throughout the league season, often dropping points with uninspiring performances where it couldn’t find solutions in front of goal. Though the Dragons lost only one match prior to an inconsequential season-ending 3-1 loss to relegation surviving Moreirense, they suffered an incredible 10 draws in the campaign.

In a three-year drought without winning a league title, Porto was unable to take advantage of rivals SL Benfica’s constant slip-ups throughout the campaign.

The most glaring example came when Benfica drew away at Pacos de Ferreira a week before the final clássico of the season. With a chance to overtake the Eagles and enter the Estádio da Luz at the top of the table, the Dragons suffered the same fate away at Vitória de Setúbal with a 1-1 draw.

It left everything on the table the next weekend in Lisbon, Porto needing a win to put itself in position to end Benfica’s three-year reign over the league.

Instead, Espirito Santo’s squad was dominated by their opponents, returning home feeling lucky with the point they earned in another 1-1 draw. But it wouldn’t be enough as Benfica rallied off five wins and a draw in its next six matches to clinch the title, leaving Porto trophyless for a fourth season.

A day following its loss to Moreirense on the final matchday of the season, the club would be without a manager as well.

As with any other major coaching search, many names have emerged as potential replacements in the week since the sacking, some picking up and losing steam all in the matter of days, the rumors swirling as they usually do among the Portuguese press.

The few strange names brought up by rogue publications aside, a consistent list of six possibilities have been named by most of, if not all the major sports news sources in the country.

Let’s go through them:



A tumultuous second season at the helm of his boyhood club further turned the Sporting CP manager’s honeymoon into a nightmare.

After dropping a late 7 point lead to city rivals Benfica in the final two months of the season last year, the Lions had a historically disappointing season in 2016-17. Out of the title race in every sense but mathematically by Christmas, Sporting also underperformed in the Champions League (4th in group stage), Taça de Portugal (out in quarter-finals) and Taça da Liga (out in group stage).

This led to turmoil between Jesus and club president Bruno de Carvalho. Soon rumors swirled of Jesus wanting to leave the club, opening the possibility of him completing his tour of Portugal’s Três Grandes and ending up at Porto, something Pinto da Costa has made no secret of desiring since Jesus was thriving at Benfica.

But the misunderstandings were quickly cleared up; Jesus has said he’s staying in Lisbon for his third season.

More rumors emerged this week of Jesus departure, only this time to Paris Saint-Germain. Whether or not those are true, it is safe to say that Jesus will likely not be training a team in blue and white in Portugal next season.



The man who turned Estoril from a club on the brink of administration in the Segunda Liga to one competing in the Europa League two consecutive seasons, who gave Sporting its first trophy in six seasons when he led them to a Taca de Portugal title in his only season in Alvalade, who broke an Olympiacos club record for consecutive league wins, taking 17 straight matches en route to winning the Greek League in his only season in Piraeus, nearly pulled off a similarly strong achievement in England on the fourth stop of his managerial career.

In charge of replacing Mike Phelan to dig Hull City out of a hole at the bottom of the table, three points from safety in the relegation zone when he arrived, Silva took Hull on a streak of seven matches without losing at home, winning six and drawing one. His luck wasn’t as strong away, however, as the Tigers lost seven and drew two in nine matches.

In the end, Hull City was relegated, but not before Silva’s name was thrown into the rumor mill, both in his native Portugal and in England. It was reported that Silva had agreed to terms with Porto a day following Nuno’s sacking by zerozero.pt, which was shortly refuted a day later by the English press. His destination was then changed to Crystal Palace the same day that manager “Big” Sam Alardyce announce his retirement from football. Now, it appears he’s destined for Watford.

Who knows what tomorrow’s rumor will be. But if Porto is competing with clubs from the English Premier League, the Dragons are in a big disadvantage financially. The only real advantages Porto has over English clubs are that 1) he can return to managing in his home country and 2) it gives him a chance to get back at Sporting and its president Bruno de Carvalho, who sacked him for controversial reasons. Among reasons for Silva’s sacking detailed in a 400-page report was the fact he did not wear an official club suit to a cup match, which the English press called “absurd.”

 Even then, Marco Silva to Porto seems highly unlikely.



Like Nuno Espirito Santo, Sergio Conceição saw success during two spells at FC Porto — the difference being he spent less time but saw more time on the pitch. Conceição had 67 appearances with the blue and whites, scoring nine goals and winning the Portuguese Liga every season of his stay along with a Taça de Portugal and Supertaça in three seasons between 1996-98 and in 2004.

Conceição has experience in Portuguese football, having managed SC Braga and Vitória de Guimarães, the two clubs closest to competing with the Big Three of Benfica, Porto and Sporting, as well as Olhanense and Académica, two teams which have since been relegated to the Segunda Liga.

It was in his native land that he grew the reputation of a players’ manager, one who defends his players regardless of the circumstances. For as much as his press conference outbursts showed this, there was no better example than what he did upon leading Braga to the final of the Taça de Portugal in 2013.

Conceição made a promise to his players before the match — if they could overcome Rio Ave in the second leg of the semi-final tie, he’d make the 24-mile journey back to Braga from Vila do Conde on foot.

When they put in their half of the deal, Conceicao obliged.


It was in another European country, however, that Conceição achieved the most success of his managerial career thus far.

Tasked with replacing René Girard at the helm of Nantes FC in France and fixing the mess he made — the club was in 19th place midway through the season — Conceição took the squad to new depths. His energy revitalized his side, winning 11 of his 22 matches and dropping just seven — two of which to Ligue 1 champions AS Monaco and runners-up PSG — bringing the western French club up to a 7th place finish.

The strong performance earned him a renewed vote of confidence from quick-triggered president Waldemar Kita, as well as a renewed contract until 2020.

Therein lies the problem for Porto.

Conceição seems content in France, like he’s found a new home he doesn’t want to leave so soon.

“Very happy for this marvelous city, its fans and the ambitious project of FC Nantes,” Conceição tweeted the day his contract was extended to 2020. “Three more years!”

Unless the pull of leading his former club is too strong to resist, the move seems as unlikely as the first two.



As his name swirled among the others on this list throughout the Portuguese press during the past week, Pedro Martins was too occupied to pay attention — he had a match to prepare for.

With the league season over, Martins’ Guimarães has one last match in its season, heading to historic Jamor to take on four-time Portuguese Liga champions Benfica this Sunday.

The meeting is a repeat of the final of four years ago, with current Benfica manager Rui Vitoria standing on the opposite touchline managing Vitória de Guimarães to a shocking victory over the Eagles.

If Martins is able to repeat his opponent’s achievement Sunday, it would solidify his bid of leading the club he represented in his playing career to its best ever single season.

While they fell a spot short of their highest ever placement in the league, Os Conquistadors broke a club record for points in a season (62) during league play, finishing fourth behind the Três Grandes. Adding a second Taça de Portugal to the record would put Pedro Martins on the level of Vitoria in the history of the club in just his first season.

Guimarães is the latest stop in which Martins has shown his competence as a manager in his home country.

In his last job prior to arriving at his current club, the former defensive midfielder led Rio Ave to its first ever appearance in european football, bringing the club to the group stages of the Europa League in his first season. Before that, he did the same with Madeira side Maritimo, leading it to the same stage of the same competition for the first time in its history in the 2012-13 season.

The biggest question surrounding Martins is whether his success with mid-table clubs can translate to a Grande. The list of those who failed to make the transition — Paulo Fonseca, Paulo Sérgio, Domingos Paciência to name a few — is long.

Perhaps a more pertinent question, however, is whether Martins wants to leave Guimarães in the first place.

Nearing the end of his contract in June, Martins has yet to receive a renewal, but he expressed his desire and expectation to remain at the club earlier in May.

Given all he’s done in his year, it would be a strange decision for him not to receive an offer for a contract extension from the club, regardless of the result in Jamor.

But this is Portuguese football we’re talking about here — where corruption has run rampant for decades, where what happens off the pitch matters more than what happens on it, where the media often serves as propaganda machines for the clubs rather than to inform the public, where money speaks loudly.

So, while all signs point towards Martins remaining in black and white next season, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him in a Porto training kit a couple of months from now.



A two-time Champions League winner during his playing career with Juventus and Borussia Dortmund, Paulo Sousa was no stranger to success when he entered management.

So it was no surprise that he was able to bounce back from a rough start in the profession in England with Queens Park Rangers, Swansea City and Leicester City to find success abroad, winning league titles in Hungary (Videoton), Israel (Maccabi Tel Aviv) and Switzerland (FC Basel), all in consecutive years.

The nomad made the first multi-season stop of his managerial career in Italy, arriving in Fiorentina in 2015 and maintaining his position following an impressive debut season in which he led the league for multiple weeks before finishing in a respectable fifth place.

The late-season skid his club suffered turned out to be a sign of things to come rather than an anomaly, however, and Sousa’s time in Florence seems to be coming to an end.

With his contract set to expire in June, the Portuguese manager is likely to be on the way out after a disappointing second season in which he missed out on european football, guaranteed to finish below sixth place as Serie A enters its final matchday this Sunday.

This leaves the door open to his arrival at FC Porto, the only one of the Três Grandes he didn’t suit up for as a player.

Of the names consistently mentioned, his is the best balance of realistic and quality. If I were a betting man, I’d place my money on Sousa standing on the touchline of the Dragão come September.


Luis Castro_manchete.jpg

A late edition to the list, Castro’s name emerges after he left his post at Rio Ave through mutual consent two days after Espirito Santo suffered the same fate in Porto.

The connection was instant to the hottest open job in the country was instant — and it makes sense why.

Prior to managing the side from Vila do Conde, Castro spent 10 years managing in the youth ranks at Porto, leading the B side to a title in the Segunda Liga in 2015-16 and even serving as the main squad’s interim manager in 2014 after the club sacked manager Paulo Fonseca.

But it seems Castro’s destiny is back in his roots before reaching Porto — Trás-os-Montes.

It had been reported that Castro had been in discussions with Chaves, a club from his home region, for the final month of his time with Rio Ave. Daily Portuguese sports paper A Bola first reported the talks on May 1, three weeks before the final matchday. A week later, MaisFutebol reported talks were “going well,” as Castro’s contract with Rio Ave ticked closer to its expiration on June 30.

The Portuguese press continued to run stories backing the original story of Castro heading to Chaves, so barring a sudden change of heart, the former FC Porto caretaker won’t be coming back to become its full-time manager.

Follow @briannnnf on Twitter for hot takes, poor attempts at humor and for the occasional pick-me-up. Email him at brianfilipefonseca@gmail.com with questions, concerns, story ideas or compliments.














Corey Sanders Returns to Rutgers for Junior Season, Gives Knights Big Boost in 2017-18

The best player on the Rutgers basketball team is returning to Piscataway for a third year.

Guard Corey Sanders announced he will be returning to school for his junior season for the Scarlet Knights Tuesday night, less than 24 hours before the deadline to declare for the 2017 NBA draft.

The move was expected by most, but a last-second workout with the Sacramento Kings on Monday put the Lakeland, Florida, native’s decision in the air.

Sanders told reporters he was “really leaning towards coming out” for the NBA Draft following the workout, citing the fact he’d have more time to develop his game in the NBA as opposed to at Rutgers, where he’d have to balance schoolwork with practice time.

“Since I’ve been out here (in California) working, I just feel like I’ve gotten a lot better,” he said. “I think it’ll help me develop more playing in the NBA than going back to school because you don’t get as much one-on-one time with basketball as you would want to. So I’m just all about developing and getting better.”

Later that night on Instagram Live, though, Sanders conceded that he has some unfinished business in New Jersey after a commenter had told him as much, citing his proximity to the 1,000 point mark (146) and the program’s top-10 in steals (46 away) and assists (37).

Among the things he’s looking to improve in order to reach the next level are his basketball I.Q., his shooting and his leadership qualities, he said.

“I feel like I got everything, but I can work on everything — I.Q., shooting, being vocal and just being a leader on and off the court,” he said, when asked his biggest challenges to transitioning to the NBA. “Those are all things I have to work on. … I just want to come out and show that I can play, just run a team, be a point guard and play defense, and do the little things the team needs.”

He’ll return to a team which has changed significantly from the one he left at the end of April.

The Knights are without four players from last year to transfer (Nigel Johnson  to Virginia, Jonathan Laurent to UMass and Ibrahima Diallo, who is still looking for as school) and graduation (C.J. Gettys). Coming in are two two-star guards (high schooler Geo Baker and JUCO player Souf Mensah), a wing (sit-out transfer Peter Kiss from Quinnipiac) and a big (high schooler Myles Johnson).

The depth chart as it stands continues with similar issues as last season — a lack of shooting on the perimeter, of quality depth both inside and especially on the wing, of players who can score the ball. If Sanders had not returned, the Knights would have their hopes of having an offense rest on the shoulder of Baker and Mensah, heavy burdens for them to carry as they adapt to Big Ten basketball.

But Sanders is back and will lead the team through what is shaping up to be another soft non-conference schedule on paper.

The Knights reportedly have 6 non-conference matchups set for the season at the moment, with Seton Hall, Fordham, Hartford, NJIT, Stony Brook and Fairleigh Dickinson all scheduled to head to the RAC next Winter.

It was reported Wednesday that Rutgers would also participate in a round-robin non-conference gauntlet against East Carolina, Cleveland State, Coppin State and Central Connecticut, bumping that number to 10.


Rutgers will be the team from its conference to not participate in this season’s Gavitt Games, a crossover between the Big Ten and Big East which pits teams from each conference against each other. The Knights played away from the RAC in each of their first two appearances in the competition, dropping a dramatic game in Queens in 2015 before defeating DePaul in Chicago last season.

With such a young team entering head coach Steve Pikiell’s second year on the Banks, the ease of the non-conference schedule should help the team build confidence heading into another season of Big Ten basketball.

The current roster — Sanders (junior), Mike Williams (senior), Geo Baker (freshman) and Souf Mensah (junior) in the backcourt, Issa Thiam, Eugene Omoruyi and Matt Bullock (sophomores) on the wings and Deshawn Freeman (fifth-year senior), Shaq Doorson (junior), Candido Sa (senior) and Myles Johnson (freshman) on the inside — isn’t built to perform much better than the one which went 15-18 overall and 3-15 in the Big Ten last year.

With the return of Sanders, however, the team went from likely having to scrape by the non-conference schedule and having numerous difficulties in Big Ten play to actually having a chance to compete in games.

With 2017-18 being seen by many as a down year before a potential break-out season in 2018-19 — given that Pikiell and his staff continue the momentum on the recruiting trail they’ve accumulated in their first season and Sanders returns for his senior year — being able to stay in games is about as good as can be expected from the Knights.

Follow @briannnnf on Twitter for hot takes, poor attempts at humor and for the occasional pick-me-up. Email him at brianfilipefonseca@gmail.com with questions, concerns, story ideas or compliments.






A Look Back at Sporting CP’s Season to Forget

(Before I begin, quick shoutout to KingBryan, whose videos I linked copiously throughout this blog. He makes great compilations for Sporting CP players. Give him a follow on Twitter @KingBryanR20 and subscribe to him on YouTube.)

Sunday marked the end of another season of the greatest sport on Earth all across Europe, the final matchday of club football for all major leagues not named Serie A. The moment was bittersweet for most, the climax of the season where leagues were won, Champions League spots were earned and relegation was avoided at the 11th hour being counterbalanced by the dread of having to wait another four months for the season to be in full swing again.

That dread, though, affects supporters of some clubs more than others.

A majority of supporters of Sporting Clube de Portugal will be relieved that the nightmare 2016-17 season has finally come to an end.

There’s no sugarcoating it, no escaping the blatant reality — the Lions underperformed massively this season.

Coming off one of its greatest seasons of the new millennium, one spoiled by a monumental collapse in which it lost a 9 point lead in first place to eternal rivals Benfica, the Lions took a step back rather than a step forward.

Jorge Jesus, then a first-year manager at his boyhood club attempting to break a 11 year championship drought in Alvalade, saw the confidence from the supporters who lauded him for the brilliant football his team was playing drop significantly upon watching Benfica celebrate a third straight title.

(Watch this, and this, and this. When the team was playing at its best, they were genuinely brilliant to watch. Suffocated teams in recovering the ball and in attacking, gorgeous combination play across the pitch, held its own defensively. Without a doubt the best football I’ve seen Sporting play and perhaps the best since the days of Mario Jardel, João Pinto, Sá Pinto, Niculae.

Rewatching those clips, I have no doubt in my mind — that team deserved to win the title. Easily the best side in the league, that group of players was special. What a shame.)

His second year was a chance at redemption, but instead his squad fell on its face in an ugly campaign.

The football was nowhere near as great as it had been a year prior, the drama outside the pitch was heating up thanks to the club’s outspoken president Bruno de Carvalho (whose persona, personality and impact on Sporting which earned him the title of “Donald Trump of Football” deserves an entire post in his own right), performances in the Champions League were embarrassing, quite frankly, and the title was nothing more than a pipe dream midway through the campaign.

Now, while most of the blame will fall on his shoulders, this wasn’t entirely Jesus’ fault — he was tasked with replacing the irreplaceable João Mario in midfield and his warrior striker Islam Slimani, both sold in the summer.

Bas Dost, a striker signed from the Bundesliga’s VFL Wolfsburg for a club record 10 million Euros, filled in nicely for Slimani, scoring 34 goals in 31 games. The Dutchman’s output was the fifth largest in Portuguese league history, the best goalscoring season in the country since Mario Jardel’s European leading 42 goal season for the Lions in 2001-02 — coincidentally the last season in which Sporting won the title.

Dost came three goals short of winning the same award, with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (who?) leading the continent with 37, but the greatness of his campaign can’t be overstated.

The same can’t be said for many of his teammates, with none of his fellow summer signings having a positive season and many of those who had been at the club the season prior seeing a drastic drop in form.

  • Bryan Ruiz was a shadow of the suave star he was in his first season at Alvalade, never recovering from missing that sitter in the Lisbon Derby against Benfica, a goal which would’ve won the championship for Sporting.
  • Jefferson, a left-back once praised for his ability to storm forward and add depth on the wings, his venemous crosses finding Slimani’s head in the penalty area many a times, couldn’t whip in a quality ball to save his life.
  • Ruben Semedo, a once promising center back, was a traffic cone, losing his spot in the starting 11 midway through the campaign as he was increasingly at fault for his club’s shortcomings on the backline.
  • William Carvalho, a player I pegged to be the best defensive midfielder in the world when I saw him play in his first season with Sporting, felt disconnected at times, rarely putting in a shift that reminded me of the imposing figure he’s expected to be in midfield.

To be clear, I think Carvalho continues to be one of the best in his position in the world, as he showed at the European Championships with Portugal last summer.

He’s intimidating as a defender, swallowing opposing players dribbling at him, stealing the ball with the ease of a seasoned pick-pocketer, while calm and collected on the ball, spraying it across the pitch to open play and find the teammate in the best position to advance play.

But he often wasn’t that man this season, a disappointing end to his career as his Lion considering he’s all but guaranteed to be sold for a solid return in the summer.

I don’t believe Carvalho is the only one on his way out of Lisbon this offseason, either, but we’ll get to that another day.

Before looking into what is coming this summer, lets go through the failures of the past offseason.

There was some bad luck — Lukas Spalvis, the original substitute for Slimani who had scored 18 goals in 30 games in Denmark the year prior, tore his ACL in his second pre-season game with the club, recovered in time for the second half of the season only to suffer a muscle injury two weeks later that ruled him out for the rest of the season.

But those who stayed didn’t fare much better.

  • Alan Ruiz, a second striker/No. 10 coming in to play behind Spalvis/Bas Dost, didn’t live up to the level of expectations put upon him until midway through his first season, far too late to save Sporting from the hole he helped dig it into.
  • Joel Campbell and Lazar Markovic, two big name loans from Premier League clubs, were complete flops, often thrown in as last ditch saviors and finding little success in that role.
  • Elias, a once-club record signing who flopped in his first stay in Portugal, was resigned again, a dumb decision made evident by the fact he was sold back to Brazil for the same price he came for four months later.

The rest of the bunch — Andre, Luc Castaignos, Marcelo Meli, Douglas — were simply horrendous signings which are indefensible.

It all culminated in a flop of a season, another dud in 15 year streak of them. A stretch of three draws and a defeat in five matches in the early season was the main speed bump on the road the Lions tripped on, causing them to fall behind rivals Benfica and Porto, deficits it they were never able to recover.

The most outlandish of the results was the one that transpired in Guimaraes against Vitoria SC. Sporting dominated one of the league’s best sides in the first half, building up a 3-0 lead that appeared insurmountable. But the home side didn’t give in, clawing their way back into the match minute by minute. As Guimaraes grew into the game, taking control and creating increasingly more chances with, Sporting shrank, getting run back into its own area and defending its lead.

The result was one of the greatest comebacks in Primeira Liga history, an embarrassing 3-3 draw for Sporting that signalled the beginning of the end of the Lions’ attack of the title.


From there, it was the type of matches that have doomed Sporting throughout the past decade and a half.

It was the 1-1 draw at home against Tondela — which escaped relegation on the final matchday in thrilling fashion after winning 5 of its last 6 matches.


It was the 0-0 deadlock at the Choupana against Nacional, by far the worst team in the league which finished in dead-last with just 21 points in 24 games.


It was the 2-2 draws at home to Chaves and in Madeira against Maritimo, those grinding matches against clubs who put 11 players past the ball and dare you to throw everything you have to put the ball in the back of the net.

Those are the matches clubs need to sweat out to become champions, games Benfica has routinely come out of on the right side throughout its current four-year dynasty and ones Porto scoffed at during its 5-year reign over the league in the mid-2000’s.

These vitorias a campeao as they call it in Portugal have escaped everyone from Paulo Bento to Leonardo Jardim to Marco Silva all the way until Jorge Jesus — the lack of garra, of fight, of desire is an institutional one, a curse seemingly looming over the players, the manager, the supporters.

So while it is vital that the club invest smartly in the summer, making the right sales and the right purchases for the right price to fill in the many gaps in depth, unless Sporting buys MSN from Barcelona, the biggest need are players who can resolve those situations.

Slimani was that for Sporting last season, carrying his side to victory so many times, but even his contributions weren’t enough to avoid one of, if not the worst choke in the history of Portuguese football.

Adrien Silva, the box-to-box midfielder who is the engine of the team both on the pitch and in spirit, is all but gone in the summer — he went as far as to give an exclusive interview to O Jogo saying he was off to Leicester City before returning to Sporting — leaving another hole in leadership.

If Bas Dost doesn’t grow into that clutch player role that Slimani, Liedson and Mario Jardel have been in the past for Sporting, or if the club can’t replace the seemingly irreplaceable presence of its current captain, it’s likely that a year from now, Sportinguista’s will be saying the same thing they are saying now and have been saying for the past 15 years — next year will be the year.

Follow @briannnnf on Twitter for hot takes, poor attempts at humor and for the occasional pick-me-up. Email him at brianfilipefonseca@gmail.com with questions, concerns, story ideas or compliments.

Michael Bradley Made Me Write This

Okay, that headline was kind of, sort of, clickbait.

Okay, it was totally clickbait. But it’s 2017 — this is how Big J Journo’s like myself make a living. I need clicks — my family may feed me and put a roof over my head, but they can’t quite boost my ego the way racking up page views does — and if I don’t deceive you to contribute to the cause, I haven’t done my job.

If you’re here for Michael Bradley, you’ll have to scroll down a bit. But if you wanna read how I was inspired to do this like the reasonable reader you are, check out the backstory below.

If you do, I can guarantee you’ll end up thinking the same thing I did when I wrote it; “meh, that wasn’t terrible but I could’ve used my time more productively.”

I’ve been meaning to make myself a blog for a while, well over a year at this point. Two days ago, I finally pulled trigger and now here we are.

I was going to write my first piece about myself — who I am, what I’ve done so far in my career as a sports journalist, where I’ve went and where I want to go, all that jazz — but I’ll have to save that for another day. That’s because today I witnessed something so great, I had to devote my first blog to it.


The final semester of my junior year in college (!!!) ended a week or so ago, the time between then and now filled with me sitting at my desk at home consuming an unholy amount of movies, music and TV shows I hadn’t been able to catch while at school.

But even bats need to see the sun every once in a while (or do they? I don’t know, I’m a journalism major), so when I saw that the New York Red Bulls, who play 10 minutes away from my house, were hosting the best team in the Eastern Conference on a Friday night, I was intrigued. When I saw tickets were selling for 6 dollars, I too was sold.

I completely forgot about the entire world there was outside the doors of my home to explore, and folks, I experienced a healthy amount of life en route to and inside Red Bull Arena.

Most of those things, however, didn’t light a fire inside me that could only be extinguished by putting it into a hot take and throwing it on my freshly made blog.

It wasn’t the change in scenery on Felipe’s freshly shaved head, a buzzcut that convinced me the Red Bulls signed a new defensive midfielder when I wasn’t paying attention.



It wasn’t the Law of Rasheed Wallace playing out before my very eyes, with Luis Robles diving to his left to save a Jozy Altidore penalty that shouldn’t have been called. Altidore, an American playing at a club in his country’s hat, had bulldozed his defender seconds earlier, a foul which wasn’t called because, from what I can tell up on the third deck, Altidore had said “soorey!” shortly after knocking him over.

From that same seat, I was able to read Robles’ lips as he jumped to his feet to celebrate saving his team from losing to a Giovinco-less Toronto team which would’ve won by 3 goals had the best player in the league not suffered a quad injury.

With his arms spread as wide as the gap in talent between Giovinco and every single one of his teammates, Robles appeared to have belted out “BALL. DON’T. LIE.”

And finally, it wasn’t obnoxious lady behind me sitting down with her three friends, screaming things that, quite frankly, didn’t make much sense.

Here’s a couple of examples.

Let’s set the scene; it’s the start of the second half and the Red Bulls are creating more pressure in attack than they did in the entirety of the first half. Sasha Kljestan — who was invisible for most of the first half until he served in the ball that allowed Alex Muyl to set up Bradley Wright-Phillips goal — gets the ball at the top of the box with some space to shoot. Only there is one problem; he’s on his right foot. No offense to Sasha, but considering his abilities with his weak foot, I think I’d have an equal chance of scoring in the same position.

But the fan behind me wouldn’t have it.

“Shoot the fucking ball!” she shreaked, hoping the louder she proclaimed the advice, the faster it would travel down to the pitch, into his ear, through his body and into his leg. And while it may have bruised my right ear drum, it didn’t carry quick enough as Kljestan, who had a less-than-stellar performance on the night, pushed the ball back onto his left and effectively killed the attack.

“God damn it,” was uttered in response, more in frustration than in support.

Half-an-hour and many, many loose passes all over the pitch later, a kerfuffel (shout-out Steph Curry) breaks out in the Red Bull penalty area. The ball goes in past Luis Robles, completing Toronto’s comeback and triggering a reaction from the seemingly always intense goalkeeper — I wouldn’t be shocked if the stare he gives his defenders inspired Cyclops’ laser. He pushed Victor Vazquez, who embellished Robles’ power with some Spanish gamesmanship.

Our friend didn’t take that kindly.

“Get up, you fucking pussy!” she screamed at Vazquez, who eventually followed her orders. The referee, surely hearing the wrath in her voice, disallowed the goal for offside and, Vazquez be damned, issued Robles a yellow card for his actions, a light punishment for something that usually warrants a red card and expulsion from the match.

“Good,” our friend proclaimed, explaining her rationale shortly thereafter. “This is MEN’S soccer, so they better act like it.”

She sure told them.


No, it was none of the above that had me rushing to get home to write down these thoughts, the ones running laps around my mind as I listened to the same song over and over to keep the words inside my head. 

I was inspired to write this because I witnessed a performance so great on that pitch, one that I know few people noticed and even fewer will point out, I couldn’t let it go to waste.

Essentially, it all boils down to this – Michael Bradley was in-fucking-credible tonight (excuse my sounding like the lady from earlier, but not including the middle word would do Bradley’s performance an injustice that would make the Manitowoc County Sherriff’s Department go “sheesh, that’s a bit too much, don’tcha think?” (Free my man Brendan Dassey).

From the moment the USMNT captain first touched the ball, I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I don’t think he’s ever lost possession or made a bad pass in his career. WhoScored.com agreed with my assessment of his performance to an extent, awarding him a team-high 7.0 rating. Had they not made an error in saying he was dispossessed once on the night, it would’ve been even higher.

It’s cliché of me to say, but it felt like time slowed when he had the ball at his feet, as if he was playing at a different pace than everyone else. It truly felt like it was Michael Bradley putting on a showcase for 21 other players, 4 referees and thousands of others sitting in the stands, likely ignorant to his brilliance.

His touches were softer than the voicemail Drake left in Marvin’s Room, as thoughtful as a personalized gift to a spouse on a random Tuesday in July. His passes were weighted perfectly like a wrestler on the final day of a cut; the short ones on the ground traveling like the world’s most efficient Über ride, the longer ones lofting through the air, their trajectory from his foot to that of his teammates resembling the build-up and drop of your favorite EDM song.

Bradley is so good, Felipe shaved off his curly Brazilian locks hoping some of the magic of the baldness would rub off on him.

Bradley played so well, Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch went up to him after the game to talk all about it. They had their backs to me as they spoke, but based on the facts I wrote above, I imagine Marsch was asking the midfielder to sign some permission slips for his players to practice on Monday after Bradley had made them his sons.

Michael Bradley was immaculate enough that I declared him as a top 5 player I’ve seen in person within the first 21 minutes of the match.

For the record, I’ve seen the G.O.A.T (Cristiano Ronaldo), the clutchest player in the sport’s history (Éderzito), the best British striker of them all (Shane Long), a living saint (Rui Patricio) the most heavily tattooed player in the history of the game (Raul Meireles), the Martin Luther King Jr. of football (William Carvalho) (Quick aside just to clarify; this is a comparison my father has been making for years based on his calm demeanor and the mustache. He’s not the only one. I’ll admit to being skeptical at first, but consider this — have you ever seen both men in the same room?), among many other talented footballers. 

Michael Bradley was perfect onFriday night at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey — or at least good enough to get me to pop my blogging cherry on a beautiful Friday night in my first week of summer vacation.

Follow @briannnnf on Twitter for hot takes, poor attempts at humor and for the occasional pick-me-up.


Who Am I? What is This?


I am a soon-to-be 21-year old from Northern New Jersey who spends most of his time watching, discussing and thinking about sports. I started bringing those thoughts onto paper and print two and a half years ago, starting my journey as a sports journalist for the student newspaper at Rutgers University, where I’ll be entering my senior year (!!!) in the upcoming fall.

I started this blog partly because it was something I’ve always wanted to do and admittedly should’ve done sooner.

There was always an excuse — I was too busy with school, or I didn’t have anything to write about in the dog days of summer, or no one wanted to read my blog.

But I finally pulled the trigger, mostly because I had no excuses remaining considering the absurd amount of free time I have at my disposal. This is (hopefully) my last summer before entering the “real world” (whatever that is), so I had to take advantage of my last opportunity to run my own blog free of responsibilities.

I’ll be writing about New York/New Jersey area soccer for ProstAmerika.com over the summer as I did a year ago, covering the New York Red Bulls, New York City FC and Sky Blue FC, but I needed an outlet for my own writing, somewhere to put some personal opinion.

After spending two years as a beat writer for Rutgers sports at the Daily Targum, a job where I tried my best to remain objective in my writing, I felt I needed a place to put my own thoughts.

As for the content of this blog, I’ll be writing a lot on Sporting CP, my favorite football club and something that was the biggest, most important thing in my life for most of it, quite a bit. I’d spend hours as a kid reading articles about the club, watching video after video of old highlights and analysis. I learned to read Portuguese faster from reading those articles than I did in going to Portuguese school for 9 years. With one of the most crucial summers in recent club history coming up, I’ll have plenty to write about.

I’ll sprinkle in some pop culture writing as well. I’ve always been the guy who never got the movie references in conversation. My most commonly said phrase is probably “oh, I never watched that.” So I’ve made it a goal this summer to watch either a movie or at least three episodes of a show a day, catching up on the many things I missed throughout the past school year and my early childhood.

I plan on including some multimedia content as well — a weekly podcast on the Portuguese Liga as a whole, as well as some fun video projects — and I’m open to writing stories that come up out of the blue.

Above all, I’m trying to make the best of the time I have to myself this summer and be productive, getting comfortable with writing and improve on my craft on the daily.

I hope you’ll stick around for the ride. Stay tuned.

— Brian Fonseca

You can find my Rutgers athletics coverage here and my New York soccer coverage here. I can be contacted via Twitter @briannnnf (my DM’s are open, feel free to slide) and email at brianfilipefonseca@gmail.com.