For many Colorado Rapids supporters and fans of MLS in Colorado, Tottenham Hotspur is not the first team that many choose as their club they support in England. There are a whole lot of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool supporters, but Spurs are not at the top of many lists. As the MLS All-Stars are gearing up to take on Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday, I had a chance to send some questions to Dustin at Cartilage Free Captain, the Spurs blog for SB Nation, to get supporters more acquainted with Spurs and what to expect.
Here is what we chatted about:
Burgundy Wave: Tottenham Hotspur makes its first visit to Colorado next week. What should MLS fans be on the look out from the visitors?
Cartilage Free Captain: I realize that many MLS fans aren't exactly thrilled with the All-Stars' opponents. We're not Bayern, or Manchester United, or Chelsea. But Tottenham are a quality European club with a lot of tradition and talent, and with an American fan base that's growing rapidly. Spurs are likely going to treat this match as a friendly instead of a true beat-them-at-all-costs exhibition match, so you'll very likely see a mixture of established Spurs stars and youth players who are trying to make an impression on the manager for next season. The football will be a little rough around the edges, and there will be plenty of players subbed in and out over the course of the match. In short, don't expect scintillating in-form soccer on Wednesday. But it's an All-Star match, so I'd guess you wouldn't expect that anyway!
BW: Spurs have some big names on the club (Hugo Lloris, Harry Kane, Kyle Walker) but the name that many USA fans talk about is DeAndre Yedlin. What are plans for him this season?
CFC: It appears Spurs are playing the long game with Yedlin. He was a flyer for Spurs — cheap, young, athletic, and with tremendous upside, but super, super raw, especially on defense. American Spurs supporters got really frustrated last season when he didn't play despite an injury crisis at right back, but the club said several times that they were giving him time to adapt to life in London and the frantic pace of Premier League football.
But now Spurs went out and bought another right back this summer, Kieran Trippier, which means Yedlin will have to fight for his place. I think it's quite likely that when he gets back from the Gold Cup he'll go out on loan to a bottom-table EPL side for experience, and to find out if he really has what it takes to play football at this level. In this sense, the Gold Cup was really unfortunate timing for Yedlin, as he's missed out on several weeks of training with Spurs' first team, which will put him at a disadvantage compared to his competitors. We still believe in his abilities, but he needs to grab what opportunities he finds and make the most of them. It'll be tough.
BW: Chairman Daniel Levy has had a tendency to fire managers a quick clip over the last couple of years. Harry Redknapp, Andre Villas-Boas, Tim Sherwood and now Mauricio Pochettino is in charge. How long of a leash does Pochettino have or will he be in trouble if UCL is missed?
CFC: Spurs do have a reputation for grinding through managers at an unsustainable clip, but it's a little unfair. MOST Premier League clubs go through managers often. The exceptions - Arsenal, Manchester United - had or have legendary managers that they stuck with because they were awesome. There were really good reasons as to why Spurs parted with each of their past four skippers, and all of them were different, and deserved.
As for Pochettino, I think most sensible Spurs fans like him and are willing to give him lots of room to get players in that fit his system and that will adapt to his tactics. However, Spurs have a penchant to lose big to clubs in the top four, and if they continue to get hammered by clubs like Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United this season, Pochettinio will start to lose the slack he has on his rope. It'd take a catastrophic collapse for him to really be in any danger of getting fired, though.
BW: Spurs position in the table over the last five years has always seemed to be a case of close, yet so far when it comes to Champions League. What about this year will be different for them?
CFC: Probably not much. The keyword for Tottenham in the Premier League is "improvement" but it has more to do with the quality of the football on the pitch than the final standings. Now, to be fair, the ultimate goal of every season when you're a Tottenham Hotspur supporter is to finish in fourth place and nab that final Champions League slot, but unfortunately as much as Spurs is improving, the other teams are improving too. Also, the Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Chelsea, and even Liverpool all have way more money to spend than Spurs do. It's an uphill battle every year, and Spurs always start at a financial disadvantage. It's tough to sign the best players that will improve your club when you can't offer them Champions League football or comparable wages to the other big teams.
There's hope for the future, however: Spurs are breaking ground on a new stadium that will open in 2018 (and will also host NFL matches) and will hopefully put Spurs upon a more even financial footing with the big clubs. For now, though, it's looking like another season where Spurs finish fifth or sixth and get into the Europa League. Again.
BW: If you could name one player that fans should look for on Wednesday, who would that be?
CFC: Harry Kane. You might have heard of him. He's a local kid who grew up in the Tottenham academy and last season exploded onto the scene as a line-leading striker, scoring over 30 goals in all competitions despite not getting a league start until November. We at Cartilage Free Captain have been tracking his development since he was 15, and we thought he'd be good, but not THIS good. Spurs have got a genuine superstar who is home-grown and loves the club. He might not play the whole match (it's a friendly, after all), but I'd be willing to bet that he'll start against the All-Stars on Wednesday.