Wednesday, September 26, 2007

You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby*

Now, this has to be taken as a positive sign for MLS! I'm speaking of the appearance of Morrissey at the "Superclasico" between Chivas USA and the LA Galaxy a few weeks back. The best part of the story: despite the common Manchester ties that both he and Becks claim, Morrissey was evidently pulling for Chivas USA! Typical Morrissey-- ever the contrarian. Read all about it here. (Side query: will Chivas become the favorite side of asexuals around the globe? Clue: their low attendance suggests yes.) In keeping with the post's title, what must Becks do to earn Morrissey's fan allegiance? Enter your own Smiths's song-title-referenced answer here: ___________________.

In other news, before you start thinking that American winger Bobby Convey is heading "Nowhere Fast" (bit of a Smiths stretch there. My apologies), looks like his manager at Reading (Balompie Blog's favorite economic historian and EPL manager Steve Coppell) is going to try and work him back into the lineup in some capacity. Maybe, even as a right winger? That, dear reader, is news for anyone who has witnessed Bobby's complete lack of a right foot. Or has he been deceiving us? Does he really have a good right foot that he just ignores? (Maybe he's not "Half a Person" like some of us thought? Ugh. Sorry again.) Either way, should be interesting to watch. And good to see him fighting so hard for a spot. As Coppell rightly points out, Stephen Hunt has been a beast for Reading ever since Bobby went down last year, so pretty hard to sit him in order to give Convey his old slot back.
Yet, last night in Carling Cup action between Reading and Liverpool, Bobby made his case for inclusion in the regular starting 11 in some form, scoring one goal on a great volley from outside the box, and almost grabbing another. Reading succumbed 4-2 (Fernando Torres notched a hat trick), but the highlights I watched suggested a supremely entertaining match. Is Bobby on his way back? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Is pride, the never-failing vice of fools.

I viewed the Chelsea – ManU match last night, the first for Chelsea after the mid-week overthrow of Jose Mourinho. Before more comment on the management chaos, a few notes on the game:

1) Though perhaps difficult to accurately gauge given the early send off of Mikel, Chelsea seemed a little rudderless. This could also be partly due to the absence of Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, I suppose, but, nevertheless, the side seemed off.

2) Re the Mikel send-off, in slow-motion, a yellow would have been appropriate; however, viewed at normal speed, the tackle looked pretty rough. I still say a bad decision. And, moreover, that bad decision led to a worse one in the second half. I’m referring to the terrible tackle by Joe Cole on Ronaldo in the 73rd minute. That should have been a straight-up red in my book. No doubt the result of pent-up frustration—Chelsea, after all, had little choice in this match but to bunker down and hope for a counter-attack goal, but, still, it was pretty nasty. I’m sure it drew only a yellow due to the earlier sending off.

3) Ashley Cole needs a good butt-kicking. What a whiny pansy. Thought for a minute that Rooney might administer that much-needed butt-kicking after Cole went down in a heap from a phantom foul by Rooney in the 2nd half. It’s one thing to draw a call through some timely dramatic embellishment. But Cole then sits on the turf crying to the ref while flailing his arms. And he did it repeatedly. Ugh. I would’ve carded Cole, not Rooney.

4) The penalty awarded to Saha’s was another terrible call. I would’ve carded Louis.

5) ManU controlled the match, were not seriously threatened, but they are not exactly clicking offensively. I guess it doesn’t matter too much when you have Vidic in the back playing so well. Same for Wes Brown—impressive showings.

6) Michael Carrick was clearly my man of the match. Great vision and superb passing all game long. A masterful performance.

7) Avram Grant: long-lost member of the Adam’s Family? I have no doubt that his appearance terrifies little children.

Enough with the game. Now, I must pass along this must read from the Observer. A revealing article that makes me feel bad for (1) Jose Mourinho, and (2) Chelsea fans. If accurate, getting out of there was a wise move by Jose. Talk about being under-appreciated and micro-managed. Way too many egos in the front-office, and, rather stupefyingly, no faith in Mourinho. And that vignette about Abramovich lecturing Essien on how to play the midfield? Ludicrous. Abramovich might be worse than Jerry Jones; he might be... Daniel Snyder.

And, has anyone else noticed that Mourinho seemed to be right about John Terry? England fans should be a little worried about their national team captain possibly being immune to criticism. Maybe it could have been handled better by Jose, but I don’t recall Mourinho complaining to the press about Terry’s play. It seemed like it was a private concern that was just leaked.

Contrast life at Chelsea with the all-is-hunky-dory situation over at Arsenal: stable management situation where management trusts the manager’s decisions (which, btw, are repeatedly vindicated).

And recall the comments of Steve Coppell highlighted here a few weeks back:

"We’re coming to an age of the new owners, the new breed, who are not going to buy a club and say: ‘I bought it for £200 million, you look after it’. They’re all going to be: ‘I want to put my pound of flesh in there’.
“I’m old school, I suppose, but I want someone to say to me: ‘I made my fortune in electronics, you know about football. I’ll look after the business, you take care of the football, and we’ll both get on with it’. That’s my environment to work in.”
It is why Coppell signed a two-year contract extension last season instead of his usual 12-month deal. “I know the chairman is not going to s*** on me,” he said. “If I do the job crap, I get the sack, I understand that. But, on a whim, he isn’t going to come in one day and say: ‘I didn’t like what you said in the papers, you’re gone’.”

And, Coppell got tiny Reading to the EPL, and, despite early struggles, here’s betting they stay there at the end of this year.

(And what if Tottenham’s management left Martin Jol alone for a while?)

The lesson is clear: owners have to work hard to find a manager that they trust. But then, to find success, they need to actually trust them to build and run the club. And if you’re not satisfied with the product, can the manager at the end of the season and find a new one. But this degree of mid-season meddling will just never work.

Slurpo-san, what says ye about the match and the club--from whatever part of the southeastern U.S. you are currently in?

One last coaching note. Timely Juergen Klinsmann appearance in the papers. I still say he ends up with the LA Galaxy.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What's with all the Sandhill Crane mating rituals?

Haven’t viewed the EPL wrap-up show, or finished watching all of the taped games, but I have viewed the Derby County-Arsenal match and the Fulham-Man City game. A few thoughts:

I got to see Feilhaber play about 40 minutes in Derby County’s Saturday “clash” with Arsenal. Derby didn’t put up much of a fight and meekly succumbed to the Gunners by a final score of 5-0.

Benny didn’t do much, and looked every bit as out-paced and out-classed as the rest of his Derby compadres. I don’t know if it is fair to expect anything else at this point. He’s hasn’t had enough time to get in sync with the team and it showed. He seemed pretty aimless at first (it actually reminded me of Landon Donovan's sleepwalking performance with Bayer Leverkusen in the Champion’s League against Liverpool in, when was it, 2005? Egad, I shudder from the flashbacks!). Also, on Cesc Fabregas’s rocket-shot goal (Arsenal’s 4th of the day), it looked like Benny was playing some pretty soft defense. All should know that Cesc is scoring form distance of late, so maybe not a terrible idea to try and get in front of him as he prepared to tee up for another go. Benny looked ultra casual and barely lifted his leg in defense as Cesc took aim. Sigh.


Fulham has been playing in some entertaining games lately. This week 3-3 draw with Man City was a roller coaster of a match, and, frankly, Fulham looked pretty dangerous throughout. Dempsey came back down to earth a bit with this performance, but it was still a hard-working effort. And on Fulham’s first, he was poised to claim the cross for himself if teammate Simon Davies had somehow missed it. At the least, he did not do anything that should warrant his removal from the starting 11. As a bonus, he got this biographical sketch in the Times.

Deuce also demonstrated his competitive fire, at one point going forehead to forehead with Man City (and England national team) defender Micah Richards. Richards took issue with a Dempsey elbow that landed mid-chest during a leap for a header. Deuce didn’t back down from Micah’s protestations and that wonderfully-strange, macho-man-dance you see with increasing frequency in football ensued. You know, the one where the two players lean on each other’s foreheads while bickering back and forth, sometimes slowly circling while yelling. It’s not entirely different from the mating ritual of the sandhill crane, sketched above. (American viewers witnessed a variation of this ritual when Jesse Marsch of Chivas USA “danced” with David Beckham a month or so back after Marsch kicked Becks in the wrist.) But good to see a USMNT standing his ground. Heck, maybe one day we’ll even get a friendly with England.

Back in the saddle again...

I wish I could say that I'm back for good, but its only a matter of time before my travels take me to more of America's least favorite backwater towns (this means you Jax, Mayport, Opelika, etc...)

in the meantime, I'm working on something tasty for your consumption and hope to pull it all together soon. until then, I remain your humble Slurpo-san

Friday, September 21, 2007

Manly sports photos!

Two photos to share before a great weekend of footy:

First, a pic of Alecko Eskandarian saying hello to one of his former teammates at DC United last week. I guess they were pretty close as that right hand seems to be up to the knuckles.

Second, thanks to Slurpo-san for forwarding this gem (below) from the Charleston Southern University vs. Citadel football game a few weeks back. A good picture of a brutal friendly-fire incident. But it is textbook "helmut on balls" tackling.

On that note, enjoy the weekend, and be sure to catch Jose Mourinho-less Chelsea as they take on ManU. Should be a real ball ringer.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Un Problema de Egos (el hombre especial se ha ido)

As all two or three (depending on the day) of Balompie Blog's readers are no doubt aware, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has either been fired or has quit. It's one of those surprising-even-though-it-shouldn't-be-surprising stories. I think the shock comes from the timing. Conventional wisdom would suggest that several weeks into the season (and after the start of the Champion's League) is not the ideal time to make a managerial change. Yet, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is a different sort, to say the least. Looks like he'll pursue his pal Guus Hiddink to replace Jose, while former Israel coach Avram Grant will temporarily take the helm. Whither Jose? Well, with Portugal manager Luiz Felipe Scolari banned for the remainder of Euro 2008 qualifying, looks like the answer will be to Portugal.

But, a strange affair all around. Betraying my sports allegiances, this ugly breakup brings to mind two American sports owners that resemble Abramovich and his personality conflict with his manager: (1) Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, particularly when Jimmie Johnson left after a clash of egos; and, (2) Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, particularly when Don Nelson decided to leave the team, largely due to personality clashes with the owner.

From the fans's perspective, is it better to have a deep-pocketed, yet hands-on manager, or one who stays in the background? The NFL's Dallas Cowboys have been mediocre at best post-Johnson (save for the year following Johnson's departure), and part of that has to be due to the constant meddling of the owner. And a decade on, he still hasn't learned his lesson: Note that Jones, after a week 1 victory over the NY Giants this year, decided to award the game ball to his new coach. Ever heard of owners deciding who gets awarded game balls? Mark Cuban has flirted with dooming his team, but has, to date, easily been a net positive influence on the Mavericks franchise. Recall that the Mavs were plumb awful prior to his arrival. Plus, he has had the good sense to retain and listen to his president of basketball operations, Donnie Nelson, Jr., an immensely sensible move that has certainly proven to be wise.

Given Abramovich's propensity for roster tampering, he strikes me as the Jerry Jones sort, which bodes poorly for Chelsea fans. They could recover and take the league title this year, but I suspect they won't. They've lost their identity after all. And while, with their talent, they might be able to quickly find a new one, or succeed even without one, I think the transition hiccup will put them too far behind. We'll see though...

--Break Break--

Another excellent MLS matchup for ESPN's "MLS Primetime [Editor's note: primetime for West Coast only] Thursday." This week, FC Dallas vs. the Chicago Fire, Fire! I'll get my first look live at both Blanco and Denilson, which is reason enough to watch. But, also, FC Dallas is generally entertaining, if defensively suspect. Now, let's just hope that the WNBA finishes on time and we get to watch the entire game.

Finally, good, if not especially insightful, Dempsey article from here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Jozy Altidore takes flight

Count Balompie Blog among the fans of NY Red Bull striker (and part-time NYTimes blogger) Jozy Altidore. The kid is as likeable as he is talented. In support, I recommend the Soccernet article on him out today. Good stuff. Tidbit I didn't know: Jozy's already 6'1" and is projected by doctors to hit 6'3". Oy.
And, okay, I'll try my best to be patient on his development, as, it seems from his blog, Jozy himself urges. But, gee willikers and gosh almighty, I sure hope he pans out. I do think that one more year in MLS with Angel and Arena would be beneficial for him. If he tears up the league next year, think of that transfer fee to MLS. Heck, it would give Becks more time to be awed (and to urge his mates at ManU or his chum Arsene Wenger to take a closer look).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Benny and Betis

First, Balompie Blog favorites Real Betis are celebrating 100 years of insanity! To kick off the festivities, David Meca, the world's best long distance swimmer and a huge Betis fan, swam 100km up the Guadalquivir River in a green and white striped wetsuit, finishing the 24-hour swim in downtown Sevilla. Beeeetis! Read about that and other zany goings-on here.

Also, Benny Feilhaber finally made his debut for Derby County last night in a surprise 1-0 victory over Newcastle. He only played the last 10 minutes, but the Derby County fan forums were nevertheless pleased with his lively showing. I didn't catch the match as it was shown on Setanta, which I do not have. Alas.

I was out of town this weekend, and have yet to watch all the games I made sure to record. So, perhaps more throughout the week.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


So, I was watching Euro 2008 qualifying last night, and, specifically, one of the all-time classic footy matchups, Netherlands vs Albania. All kidding aside, Albania took the game to the Dutch, and had, perhaps, the better of the opportunities. The Dutch controlled possession (with quick and accurate passing that would have had Jester drooling), but were having problems breaking down the compacted Albanian defense.

The score was deadlocked at zero as the game went into stoppage time. Enter Ruud with a stunning goal that you really need to view about twenty times in slow motion to appreciate.
I admit I’m a Ruud fan. I thought his exit from ManU two seasons ago unfortunate, and I’m sure the club’s fans feel the same so far this year (watching their games, you gotta think Ruud would have 3-4 goals already and they’d be sitting atop the table). He’s the ultimate poacher, which the goal yesterday firmly proves.

In stoppage time, Urby Emanuelson did very well to get free to send in a cross from the left. Ruud, spinning to his right, took it out of the air, volleying it at an impossible angle (no kidding, maybe the entry point of the goal was 270º from where his front was when he took the shot) back to the far corner. To get that absurd angle, he had to change the momentum of his body (which, recall, was going to his right) back to his left upon striking the ball. So, after the volley with his left foot, he spins back to the left. Goal. I don’t know if you’ll see a finer use of body control to score a goal. I’ll look for a clip of it later today (probably not up yet), but I encourage viewing it.

The Albanian fans were understandably stunned, and responded with much class: watch for a swift response from FIFA for the large and loud firecracker that exploded about a foot from the head of Dutch defender Mario Melchiot, who promptly crumpled to the ground. Good on the ref for calling the game immediately, despite there being a few minutes left of the announced injury time. Nuts.

UPDATE! Haven't viewed it yet, but this might be a good clip of the goal.

(break break)

Should be a good one tonight in the MLS, with the Galaxy and Chivas USA once again squaring off. It’s MLS Primetime too, which here means 11pm EST. Ah well, at least it’s primetime on the west coast.

Let’s hope ESPN doesn’t make the same “MLS—Minor League Soccer” mistake they made at the last “Superclasico” between these two teams. No, I’m not referring to having a WNBA game go to triple overtime and run way into the MLS coverage, though that too will hopefully be avoided. And no, I’m not referring to having one of the most-high-scoring college football games I can remember also run way long and into the MLS coverage as happened last week before the DC United-Chivas match, though THAT TOO will hopefully be avoided. (Anyone sensing a trend?) No, I hope ESPN will fix, when showing the game’s score during the halftime sports news rundown, the erroneous graphics of the teams that are playing. At the last “Superclasico,” when running down other sports scores in the studio at halftime, they had the MLS game’s score featured prominently on the screen. Only, rather than the Galaxy playing Chivas, as they actually were, the graphic had the Chicago Fire emblem rather than the Chivas emblem going up against the Galaxy. “CHI-cago” – “CHI-vas”—Okay, I can see how the mistake was made, but, still, kind of sad. (Sigh.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

How about a nice round of applause for the nats!

Another excellent sports weekend—the type that, if you’re not careful, can lead one to cease all contact with the world outside one’s living room. Good college football weekend with both Notre Dame and Michigan losing again. But, most enjoyably, what a surprisingly lively friendly between the US and Brazil!

My viewing was occasionally disrupted by my having to check on the beef daube simmering on the stove, so I think I will have to rewatch the game this week to double-check my impressions. Nevertheless, my (initial) impressions, in no particular order:

1. I loved the aggressive play of the US, and, really, why not in a friendly?

2. Looked to me like Gooch left his man wide open for Brazil’s second goal right after the half. If so, add that to the own goal, and not a good day for Onyewu. I’ll have to go back and review that goal, but sure seemed like Gooch had the responsibility for marking Lucio.

3. Those blunders aside, I think the back line played well. Pearce got stronger as the game wore on, and Boca and Cherundolo were superb. (Also not sure about the foul by Bocanegra that led to Ronaldinho’s set-piece goal—I’ll see if that is clearer upon a reviewing.) I like Spector, but it was nice having a natural left-back in the game.

4. Was it just me, or was the television production poor, even by usual ESPN standards? I don’t believe the announcers ever told us who Convey came in for; it took me a few minutes to deduce that Benny was the guy subbed out. Also, no replay of the iffy foul that led to Brazil’s third goal?! And little replay of the Wolff non-call?! Not a banner day for the ESPN crew.

5. Speaking of Wolff, I think his start tells us that Bradley has no allusions about Eddie Johnson’s potential on the national stage. I think EJ is worthy of a sub role, but was glad to see that he didn’t get another start to demonstrate his timidness. Was Wolff the right answer? No, but why not give him a shot. He did almost draw a penalty. (Aside: I think Bob will groom Jozy over the next year or two. Why? Quoth the coach: "If you look at the box score last week, he wasn't in the 18," said Bradley, alluding to a leg injury that has sidelined Altidore. "In so many of these situations, form, injury, schedule -- all these things get factored in."Certainly we're excited about what we see as a young player in the league. He has done well for himself. I think we've shown this year that we are constantly looking for the right moment to bring young guys into the national team." )

6. Leaving aside Bradley’s horrendously stupid tackle that led to the penalty, the starting midfield held their own better than I was expecting. Donovan and Beasley were great on the wings and looked like veteran leaders. They also made some great covering runs on D. Bradley was solid (save for that bone-headed tackle), and, considering his fitness, I thought Benny played okay. It was an auspicious showing all around.

7. Frankly, Bobby Convey looked bad in his sub role. Maybe it’s just rust, but his vision and decision-making were just not good. I think after this, he should have to re-earn his selection spot through his Reading play.

8. If you can't say anything about the ref that's nice, best not to talk at all, that' s my advice.

All for now. More after my reviewing! In the meantime, thoughts, ideas, rants or ravings?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Match Report: FC Dallas v Toronto FC

FC Dallas defeated Toronto 2-0 in front of an announced crowd of 15,000 on a muggy but mild Saturday night in Frisco, TX, thereby avenging a 4-0 loss to Toronto in their last meeting. Both Dallas goals came on penalty kicks after fouls on forwards Abe Thompson and Denilson, who both would otherwise have had one-on-one chances against the TFC keeper. The Brazilian newcomer converted the first kick for his first goal with Dallas, and Thompson returned the favor with the second goal.

All eyes of course were on Denilson at the start of the match; though he got significant time in their last match he was making his first start for Dallas. Playing in an attacking midfield position behind Thompson and fellow Brazilian Richardinho, he did not disappoint, showing excellent creativity in his passing as well as some dazzling ball-control ability.

Dallas played a very aggressive style in what appeared to be a 4-3-1-2 formation, though Alvarez at right-mid scarcely paid any attention to his defensive responsibilities. Dallas put consistent pressure on Toronto but will need more fine-tuning to adjust to injuries (starter Kenny Cooper is out with a broken leg), departures (offensive midfielder & prima donna Ramon Nunez was recently traded to Chivas), and two new players (the Brazilians). Carlos Ruiz, who had the night off, will likely be paired with Richardinho at forward, with Denilson in support. The offensive emphasis results in some exciting soccer and is perhaps the best way to compensate for a defense which was burned for 4 goals in FCD’s previous MLS game (vs DC United) and whose left side is a serious liability. It will need some attention for possible upgrades in the off-season.

On this night, Dallas’s best central defender, Clarence Goodson (having an all-star season), was out to recover from a concussion. Replacing him was Aaron Pitchkolan, who has played well of late but is vulnerable to speedy forwards. Alex Yi, the other starting center back on the season opener, is not yet fully recovered from a knee injury. In that spot was Adrian Serioux, a mid-season acquisition brought in with some fanfare to shore up the center of the defense and who has played, to the eyes of this observer anyway, like hell. Yes, that’s putting it harshly. Serioux may still be less than fully healthy (he had knee sugery before the season) and the dude gets absolutely amazing distance on his throw-ins. On the left side, hard-working but unfleet-of-foot David Wagenfuhr replaced the usual starter, Chris Gbandi, who was benched for his recent dreadful play, especially in the DC United game. On the right Dallas has a very solid player in Drew Moor, who is capable of making very fine crosses into the box when he comes forward on the attack.

Toronto had at least 3 good chances but did not show good finishing ability. Two of these opportunities resulted from hair-raising giveaways by Serioux & Wagenfuhr that set up quick counter-attacks, and a third came on a lofted through-ball to a forward who got behind Serioux for a 1-on-1 chance vs. Sala.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Send him to Derby County!

Rumors swirling that Becks is looking to be loaned out this winter to an EPL team.
Well..., okay, but Posh stays.

USA v. Brazil (Sah-ker v. Joga Bonito)

With the game two days away, I thought I'd offer my pre-game two cents.

First, watch the game Sunday on ESPN2 at 4pm EST/3pm CST!

Second, good video of the team eating at Fogo de Chão.

Third, my thoughts on the game:
  • Will we once again come out in our new 4-6-0 formation, featuring 6 midfielders? Almost. I think Eddie will start.
  • Look for the midfield to tire early, especially Benny if he gets the starting nod.
  • I think Dempsey will have a decent game. I'm just feeling this...
  • Hope Tim Howard hydrates properly ahead of the match.

Okay, my guess at the starting 11 (note: not my preferred lineup): 4-4-2:







That's how I think we'll come out. Preferred lineup ideas: I'd rather see the defence shaken up a bit. I'm a DeMerit fan, and would pair him with Boca (though really wish Conrad were here). I also would like to see Pearce get a shot to see what he can do on the left.

I am no EJ fan, but don't think we have much choice with these lineup options. Dempsey has been playing well at forward of late, so keep him there on this roster void of good forward options.

I also don't think we have much choice in the midfield. Need Donovan and Beasley in there (though Landon could swap with Deuce--not a good idea IMO since Clint is showing good form there) to have any chance. But either way, this Brazil lineup will eat up Bradley and Benny. And there are no other good options on the bench. I wish Ricardo Clark had been called in. Or a Ben Olsen. With Pablo out, there is no bite or composer. We'll get dominated here.

So, I don't know where we get our goal from. Brazil 2-0, despite Howard heroics.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Prime Time!! (for the West Coast only)

Two items of note to pass along this morning:

First, MLS Primetime is back tonight with what promises to be a very entertaining match between Chivas USA and DC United. Both teams are playing well at the moment, and both play an attractive style. The game is in CA, so will be aired a little late – 10:30 EST, after the two college football games on tap for tonight. The NFL also kicks off this evening, so lots of competition for MLS, and the ratings should reflect that. But, really, I’d recommend this game to someone trying to get an idea of what the league is all about. (Now watch them go lay an egg!) Cuban refugee Maykel Galindo (watch for future discussion about whether the US MNT can claim him) has been superb for Chivas, and could put on a show with his strike-partner Ante Razov. Same can be said for DC’s similar tandem of Jaime Moreno and
Luciano Emilio. I, for one (and hopefully not the only one), will be watching.

Second, say what you want about David Beckham, but it’s hard not to like the guy. Adding support to that idea was a very nice article on Sunday in the Observer Sport Monthly (sister paper of the Guardian). The writer, Tom Watt (ghost-writer for Becks’s autobiography) has some nice things to say about the quality of the play in the MLS. He watched (with Beckham) LA beat Pachuca in the earlier rounds of the Super Liga. Too bad he didn’t see the Super Liga final. Becks on MLS: “The standard is nowhere near as low as people have been saying it is. For a start, you have to be incredibly fit and physically strong to play here: America's a country, after all, that produces some of the best athletes in the world.”

But the best part of the article is Beckham discussing his experiences at the Dallas Cup while a youth player for Essex. Worth the read, and see if you don’t like this guy a little more after reading it. If you don’t, well, I’ll buy you a beer and we can discuss.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Who is the man and why should you care?

Thought I’d post two things I read over at Soccernet.

1) Great article by Kristian Dyer about the meager developmental player contracts offered by MLS. I think the base pay in MLS needs to be raised, and that goes double for the developmental players, as depth is clearly lacking throughout the league. The problem, of course, is how to fund those pay increases. I don’t have enough knowledge of league finances to intelligently discuss the issue, but results like that discussed in Dyer’s article (where a collegiate star, in this case, former SMU-standout Jay Needham, pictured above, signs with the USL rather than the MLS as a developmental player) cannot be a good sign for the league. Plus, I think the DC United veteran who approved of Needham’s decision to turn down the developmental player contract has to be Ben Olsen. Any other guesses?

2) Interesting comments from Alex Ferguson about Beckham’s efforts to sell soccer in America. Humorously, he offers this about managing Beckham: “He was never a problem until he got married. He was a fantastic young lad. Getting married into that entertainment scene was a difficult thing -- from that moment his life was never going to be the same.”
All together: “Love and marriage, love and marriage, it’s an institute Alex’ll disparage…”
But, of pertinence to this post, note his comments about growing soccer in the U.S. To quote at length:
“In European soccer, and especially in British soccer, you can travel easily,'' Ferguson said. "If you are in Boston and need to go to Los Angeles, it's a six-hour flight. Supporters don't travel, so you are missing that rivalry between fans.
"To make it substantial you would have to go regional, but there's not enough teams to have four strong leagues.''
Ferguson said Major League Soccer is undermined by young American players leaving for European leagues early in their careers.
"What you have got in the States is that a lot of kids are playing football in the States and there is nowhere to go,'' he said. "The best American players go to Europe very early, like Brad Friedel [at Blackburn], [Brian] McBride and [Clint] Dempsey at Fulham. That situation doesn't help the American game.''

I think there is something to that distance thing, but several counters:
(1) NBA is kind of the same way, yet still works as a league (though admittedly without the fan rivalries of which he speaks)
(2) College Football manages to establish classic fan rivalries (granted most are in fact regional, but there are some exceptions)
(3) NFL: NFC East. No problem there with fan rivalries.
(4) Gotta start somewhere. Plus, there are some nascent regional rivalries in MLS.

Deuce loose in Chicago

The U.S. men's national team continues training in Chicago in preparation for this weekend's showdown with Brazil (dubbed the "Clash of the Champions" by USSF. Um, yeah. There's a scarf I'd want).

To get an idea of how the team occupies its time, I recommend the blog that U.S. Soccer keeps up during the training camps. We learn, for example, that Landon will be throwing out the first pitch at tonight's Cubs game and will spend some time in the booth with the ESPN announcers. Jon Milller will unfortunately not be in the booth--he used to do NASL games so is familiar with the sport. Wonder what Orel Hershiser will talk to Landon about. Let's hope he offers some tips on focus and mental strength.

Also, check out the article about Clint Dempsey in today's Chicago Tribune. He's got a good story, and hopefully he'll continue to take advantage of the playing time he is currently getting at Fulham. Thankfully, we also learn that he has no intentions of trying to make it as a legitimate rapper (despite his past dabblings).

Finally, it seems Benny Feilhaber's exclusion from the Derby County roster for last weekend's slaughter against Liverpool was due to a slight ankle injury he's carrying, which is supposedly improving. Said his gaffer:
“Benny had to report with the USA squad and a decision will be made from there. Playing against Brazil is a big game for anybody - he only wants to play so he can swap a shirt!”

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Adios Amigos!

The international friendly scheduled for October 14 between the U.S. and Catalonia has been cancelled, reports Yanks Abroad.

The cited reason: a scheduling conflict with the Spanish national team's Euro 2008 qualifier against Denmark on the 13th and a friendly the following Wednesday against Finland. This, despite the Catalan Federation's committment not to call-up any Spanish national team players. Sounds like some internal Spanish politics to me. Wonder what the media reaction is like in Barcelona? Could this be the straw that breaks the camel's back and will there be outright civil war in Espana?

Yeah, a little bit of hyperbole there. But my favorite part: "When questioned as to the timing of the vote, six weeks from the scheduled kickoff, Carretero explained it first had to be discussed by the federation directors who had not met since July due to the Spanish vacation schedule."

I can vouch that the timing is by no means unusual for Spain. You can't expect any action in August. Six weeks 'til kickoff actually strikes me as rather ahead of schedule! So, we suddenly have an open date. Who should we try to plug the gap with?

Weekend Wrap

A busy football weekend, for both the American and world variety. So, data dump to follow:

Odds and Ends:
1. To wrap up the Danny Szetela story, he decided to sign with...Racing Santander. Ah yes! The obvious choice! Seriously, I don't think anyone saw this coming, but not at all a bad decision. He should get playing time in a top league. Plus, life in Santander will be sweet; that's a beautiful part of Spain. Balompie Blog readers will now be assigned to the mullet watch. How long until Danny grows one?

2. Bob Bradley announced his roster for the upcoming friendly against Brazil (this coming Sunday--more match info later in the week). Looks like Eddie Johnson is back. Sigh. Also, am I the only one who greeted the Davy Arnaud inclusion with a "What the...?" I mean, really, who got selected? Most strange. I'm all for a fellow Texan getting a call-up, bit does Davy Arnaud really deserve a selection over Jozy Altidore? Really? Maybe Jozy's still dealing with injury--I'll have to investigate.

3. Note in the roster that Bornstein was finally dropped! Hip-hip! But wait: is this merely a case of Bradley being kind to MLS managers and letting Chivas have its star defender as the playoff positioning continues?

4. Freddy Adu did not dress for this weekend's game. Not a good sign. It's almost as if Benfica went out and hired Peter Novak as its new manager.

1. In a 3-3 draw with Tottenham, Demsey looked solid up top for Fulham and bagged his 2nd goal in as many starts. The guy looks like he's settling in the EPL. He was sharp on the ball and (I thought) about the most dangerous Fulham player on the pitch. Of course, Spurs should have run them out of the grounds in the first half.... No Keller in this one. Regrettable, because he might have actually been able to help. 1st Spurs goal was a real stinker.

2. The strange dealings over at Derby County continue! First, they get absolutely destroyed by Liverpool, 6-0. Second, no Eddie Lewis, which is surprising since he looked good in his one start for the club. Third, no Benny Feilhaber! What?! Scotto confused. My only plausible explanation: Manager Billy Davies knew his team would be publicly emasculated, so decided to spare his new-to-the-EPL midfielder from the debacle. If not that, then I give up! But, gee, Derby sure looks to have a firm grip on the bottom of the table.

3. Whaddup with Reading? After a trouncing last week at the hands of Bolton, this week they got shallacked 3-0 by West Ham. Hahnemann didn't look too good in this one, IMO, but, frankly, neither did the team. I'm a little worried about Reading. They seem to be in a little bit of disaray. Perhaps now that the transfer window has closed (and Nickey Shorey is secure) they will settle down and start playing.

1. This weekend, I watched KC and Houston battle to a 1-1 tie. Not a bad match. I always enjoy watching Houston play. EJ got the goal for KC, which probably helped ensure his selection to the national team against Brazil. It was a fine goal: he made the run he should have made and finished a fine cross. But it wsa nothing spectacular. I thought the Houston goal much better.

2. I really can't stand watching poor NY Red Bulls play on an artificial field with football markings. Notch this story for the "MLS--Minor League Soccer" series.

3. Denilson IS FC Dallas's own Beckham. He arrives, and, voila, they get abused by DC United! (4-0!) I did NOT see that one coming. And, man, DC has really come on of late. Will they be the team to watch in the playoffs?

All for now...