For Swansea City, this summer represents a strange period for the club.
Whereas last year was all about the excitement of the unknown, with a debut season in the Premier League to look forward to with no hint of expectation placed upon a team which everybody expected to be relegation fodder, all of a sudden the dynamics have changed.
With Brendan Rodgers, the man who led the club into previously uncharted territory, jumping ship to take over at Liverpool, Michael Laudrup, the legendary Denmark international, has been recruited to help the club avoid the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’ that has afflicted so many newly-promoted clubs who averted an immediate return to the Championship.
It will be a tough task, as Laudrup is no doubt finding out right now. As the former Brondby coach gets to know his new charges, the 19 other Premier League sides will know a great deal more about the Swansea players than they did this time last year and the post-Rodgers era is going to be a fascinating one, with the bottom half of the Premier League looking as open as it has for some time.
Laudrup will be pleased that it is all quiet on the transfer front for Swansea as he tries to keep hold of the nucleus of the squad that did so well in finishing 11th last year (although midfielder Joe Allen’s reunion with Rodgers at Anfield seems inevitable) and it means that a settled Swans outfit has been put through their paces on their American tour, which comes to an end when they face San Jose Earthquakes in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
With a win and a loss to their name so far, Swansea are the 29/20 favourites to sign off their Stateside trip with a victory, whereas San Jose are the narrow 31/20 outsiders and the draw is priced at 9/4.
I tend to agree with Laudrup when he says that the match will represent “the most difficult game of the tour”. San Jose are top of the Western Conference of the MLS, two points ahead of Real Salt Lake and a commanding ten points clear of third, and they have been in great form all season.
Coached by former Ipswich Town defender Frank Yallop, the Earthquakes are the top scorers in American football with 45 goals and their form at home has been excellent.
Yallop’s side have posted a 7-3-1 record at the Buck Shaw Stadium and having struck 12 goals in the last four home fixtures, have the firepower (which includes 17-goal striker Chris Wondolowski) to trouble the Welsh side and I like the 31/20 the Earthquake emerge victorious.
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Swansea were beaten 2-1 by Colorado Rapids last week and laboured to a 1-0 win over the very mediocre Ventura County Fusion at the weekend and I fear their US tour could end on a sour note.
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