Know Your Enemy: Stoke City FC
So Saturday's opponent, Stoke City FC, is hardly an enemy as we welcome the English Premier League club to town for what should be a fun and exciting international friendly, but for the sake of branding we'll keep the "Know Your Enemy" theme as we look a little closer into the club from the northwest of England.
About Stoke City FC
Known as "The Potters," Stoke City was one of the founding members of the English Football League. Founded in 1863, Stoke City is incredibly just 18 years younger than the state of Texas and older than 15 U.S. states. Stoke City was relegated from the top flight of English soccer in 1985 and in 1990 dropped to the third division. In 2006, Tony Pulis was appointed manager and he led Stoke City into the English Premier League for the first time clinching promotion on the final day of the 2007-2008 season. Their greatest recent accomplishment was making it to the 2011 FA Cup Final, their first and only time in the prestigious game.
Welcome Mark Hughes to Stoke-on-Trent
Without a doubt, the biggest talking point heading into the 2013-2014 English Premier League season for Stoke City is the appointment of new manager Mark Hughes. Long-time manager Tony Pulis, who was at the helm for nine of the last ten seasons in Stoke, was sacked after a 13th-place finish with Chairman Peter Coates opting for Hughes. The former Manchester United legend comes to Stoke, his fourth club in six seasons, after rocky spells with QPR, Fulham and Manchester City. While he's played for some of the biggest clubs in the world, Hughes made his managerial name at Blackburn Rovers where he led the club to three consecutive top ten finishes.
Who to watch?
Of course, the name most familiar to FC Dallas fans is winger Brek Shea who joined the Potters from FCD in late January, but due to the Gold Cup Final, Shea will be on national team duty with the United States squad. However, Stoke still boasts a squad full of internationals headlined by Peter Crouch, Asmir Begovic, Wilson Palacios and Ryan Shawcross.
Crouch will provide plenty of punch up front possibly paired with T&T international Kenwyne Jones while Shawcross and United States International Geoff Cameron will hold it down in the back. Look out for Holland international left back Erik Pieters, the lone major signing of the offseason so far for Stoke and backup goalkeeper Jack Butland who is touted as the England #1 of the future.
After Saturday's game, Stoke rounds out their week in the United States with a game at Philadelphia Union on Tuesday before friendlies back in Europe against Wrexham and Genoa. Mark Hughes and Stoke open the 2013-2014 English Premier League season on Saturday, August 17 at Anfield against Liverpool.