Casual American soccer fans who are turning on their TVs this week, expecting their favorite EPL teams in action, going over to FourFiveTwo to check the Daydrinker’s Five and see what pundits’ phrases-of-choice might be in play … might just be asking themselves “What happened?” upon seeing Brighton & Hove Albion and Oldham facing more familiar foes.
It’s the Fourth Round of the FA Cup, which means that the Fox Soccer punditry’s getting a little more, um, wistful than usual. Example: Warren Barton’s reminiscing about enjoying tea and jam scones courting his wife-to-be on a lovely seaside holiday in Brighton (wish I was making that up, but it just happened), alongside Wynalda predictably siding with Hazard in the ballboy incident and highlights of today’s early City-Stoke tilt, which was your typical 0-0 game until the last few minutes, when Balding Defender sent Everyone’s Favorite Team through.
It’s sort-of-meaningful soccer this weekend — but it’s most meaningful for the teams making the finals and the teams that get bounced by inferior competition along the way.
Though the story of Round 4 might well have happened last night, with Millwall expanding upon the sheer suckitude that has been Aston Villa’s season, here’s a roundup of potential embarrassments among the Fourth Round matchups:
Brighton and Hove Albion vs. Arsenal: This year, of course, the Gunners are one of two EPL teams to get Bradforded in the Capital One Cup, and given their standings in the league and their Round of 16 matchup against Bayern Invincible, the FA Cup is their best shot at glory this year. Brighton and Hove Albion’s still in position to play their way into EPL promotion for next season, but they ARE called the Seagulls, which makes them a not-so-menacing opponent. Also, not mentioned by the giddily-reminiscent-about-Brighton Warren Barton: A sex scandal that is shaping up to be the Championship League’s feel-bad story of the year.
Brentford vs. Chelsea: Brentford is a League One side nicknamed “The Bees,” playing the defending FA Cup champions. Surely, everyone will have moved on from Hazard vs. Ballboy by tomorrow, right? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.
Oldham vs. Liverpool: This one is potentially hilarious for several reasons — Oldham is in League One (but barely — they’re dangerously close to the League Two drop zone right now), their badge features an owl, and Liverpool losing is always funny. (Especially since Liverpool made the FA Cup finals last year in order to set up the opening of Being: Liverpool in hilarious, schadenfreude fashion).
QPR vs. Milton Keynes Dons: Another League One vs. EPL (but just barely) matchup, MK Dons already has achieved one of the most awesome moments of the season, this cheeky game-winning goal vs. bitter rivals AFC Wimbledon. For QPR, winning only serves as a temporary distraction to looming relegation; losing here would compound their pain.
Reading vs. Sheffield: It’s another distraction from relegation match featuring a top League One side. This year, Reading’s playing a lot like a top League One side.
Everton vs. Bolton: Bolton’s toward the bottom of the Championship League this year, after a rough EPL campaign last year. Surely, Everton can handle this challenge, yes? (Even though Bolton’s just equalized?)
Wigan vs. Macclesfield: Macclesfield is in 10th place in Conference National, one rung below League Two (where they stayed for 15 years prior to their relegation this past April). This puts them just above Cockfosters FC and their awesome, table-heavy club website. Anxious to see Martinez’s master plan in action vs. them.
(Update: We didn’t even include Luton vs. Norwich in the original post, and the Hatters (the HATTERS, yo) pulled it off and made it to the 5th round from a slightly better spot in its league than Macclesfield. Two things to note: When you pull up the Luton site, you get an annoying ad for Jimmy’s World Grill, which looks like British Chili’s. Also, this logo. Could anything be more twee? Anyhow — good on you, Hatters!)