The Jacksonville Jaguars hosted their annual Back to Football luncheon on Thursday. On Saturday the team welcomes what the rest of the world calls football to its stadium EverBank Field with a friendly between D.C. United and former English Premier League side Fulham FC.
There is a connection between the Jaguars and Fulham. Shad Khan owns both teams and is using Saturday’s game to unveil stadium renovations including new video boards and cabanas next to a pool for fans to take a dip. After United and Fulham play there will be a concert by country star Carrie Underwood.
In short they are planning a big bash in Jacksonville, but for the soccer teams it is serious business. For the Black and Red it is an opportunity to get playing time for players who will be needed as the schedule intensifies with not only league games, but play in the CONCACAF Champions League.
“The game actually comes at a pretty good time for us,” said head coach Ben Olsen. “It would be easier if it was at home, but the game is being handled in a first class manner and it is a big deal down here.”
For Fulham this trip to Florida is no vacation. The Cottagers, as the team is known because its home stadium is Craven Cottage on the banks of the river Thames, are trying to get ready for a season that begins on August 9. It is an important campaign. Fulham was relegated from the Premier League to the Championship division.
- Fulham will be motivated. It’s not just because Fulham might want to impress its owner of Carrie Underwood, but the team also needs to set a tone for the season. Think about how Manchester United, who also had a disappointing run in 2013/2014, opened its American tour with a 7-0 win over the LA Galaxy. There is pressure on Fulham. The English Championship is a hard division to earn promotion out of and there is lots of money at stake. In the Premier League even with a near bottom finish Fulham earned 107 million dollars from television. In the Championship an average club only receives a little over 4 million dollars from television. With the goal of bouncing back to the Premier League Fulham spent 11 million dollars to sign Ross McCormack from Leeds United and pried Thomas Eisfeld away from Arsenal. McCormack racked up 53 goals in 144 appearances with Leeds and will be looked on to lead the attack. Eisfeld is a young German midfielder who was developed by Borussia Dortmund and had success playing for Arsenals Under-21 team. It is not clear who will play for Fulham on Saturday
- United’s depth will be tested. The game is an opportunity for United players who have struggled to carve out playing time. For example Jared Jeffrey clearly has the quality and has contributed in flashes, but has been limited to only five appearances as a substitute. Michael Seaton has scored seven goals in 22 appearances for the Richmond Kickers this season, but has yet to appear for United. Kyle Porter has scored four goals in five appearances for the Kickers, but has only appeared three times off the bench this season for United. Last year Porter played in 27 games including 18 as a starter.