Monday, August 17, 2009

Swine Flu

The LA Times reported that Landon Donovan has tested positive for swine flu.

Feel better soon!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Man United Season Opener

Glory, glory Man United!

Was it the most impressive match? Not really, but we haven't had the best track record of season openers for the past few years. United beat Fulham 5-1 in the 06/07 season they drew with Newscastle and Reading in 07/08 and 08/09. While teams like Chelski have a track record of winning their openers ( I'm think its something like the past eight seasons ) recently United have started out slower. We were in the relegation zone at the beginning of last season!

Did we get the three points from it? Yes - and I'm content with that at the moment.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

2009-2010 Predictions

Well - since its been a subject of debate among my friends I want to record my season predictions for the Premier League.

1. Manchester United
2. Chelsea
3. Aston Villa
4. Arsenal
5. Liverpool
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6. Manchester City
7. Tottenham Hotspur
8. Everton
9. Fulham
10. West Ham United
11. Wigan Athletic
12. Sunderland
13. Blackburn Rovers
14. Bolton Wanderers
15. Birmingham City
16. Burnley
17. Portsmouth
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18. Wolverhampton Wanderers #
19. Hull City
20. Stoke City

# As happy as I've been that WOLVES are back in the PL - mainly because I love saying WOLVES! - I think they'll be headed back to the Championship.

Although some people are saying that this is Chelsea's year I have to stick with my boys at Man United. I think we have just as much to prove as Chelski - we can do it without Ronnie. We have more talent than we had last year and we need to show it. Chelsea will be a tough opponent though and I'm looking forward to the next match against them.

Liverpool will probably struggle at first with the loss of Alonso but I think they'll pull themselves together by mid-season and Arsenal will find a way to do well in the first half and fall spectacularly to bits in the second. Everton will probably be consistent.

Just missing out on the top five? As for Man City - well, Man City will do decently because they've so much talent but they're too fractured to pose a real threat to any of the big teams.

What about another title race we might be wondering about? I say Barcelona takes La Liga. Sorry Real Madrid - you can't buy the league.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Community Shield

Well - we went to penalties again.

Today's match was really more intense than I'd thought it might be - shame on me - but despite the United loss I can't at all be ashamed of their performance. ( I am also proclaiming it a joint victory since Chelski managed to win something for a change and United managed to not have MO7 get injured and be out for the season like some naysayers predicted. But I digress ... )

1st Half -

I think I did a decent job of predicting the starting 11. I left out Park and Berba for Valencia and Owen but I wasn't surprised to see Nani on the pitch. I've said all summer that if he wasn't sent out of Old Trafford he'd really have to prove his worth this season and would definitely be given the chance to do it. He had a brilliant goal about 9' into the half - a shot that Petr Cech definitely should have been able to stop. ( I've missed seeing his victory flips! Well done. )

Nani also had a harmless corner around 26' that Cech caught in the air and a corner played short that failed to garner much steam. He had a nice run on goal around 36' but the angle was too tight for a solid shot and it seemed to go into the netting. ( With CR7 gone is this Nani's chance to shine? CR7 had a slow start at United and Nani definitely has. Forget the press for Valencia for a minute and think maybe Nani is the answer to the Ronnie Problem at United. Maybe we just needed to let Nani be Nani - without Ronnie! But its far too early to have any real thoughts like that. Again - I digress. )

Nani worked quite well in the first half with Patrice Evra along the side.

Rooney looked good. Chelsea weren't able to predict where he would show up. Its the kind of performance from him I expected for today.

Chelski's "Super Frank" was really ineffective in the first half. Fletch managed to shut him down pretty well. Fletch had a good match as well. I think he was undervalued for years and in the past one or two seasons has really started to get the notice he deserves. He simply goes in and does his job - and does a damn good job at it.

Park had a nice little run at 25'.
Free kick from Lampard at 27' that went right into the wall.
Maluda missed an opportunity at the United goal - he just took the shot on the wrong side of his foot. It was a good effort.
Foster had two slip ups around the half hour mark in terms of waiting too long to clear the ball. It was pure nerves and was really sloppy.
Ashley Cole's booing from English fans continued.
Anelka narrowly shot wide around 40' after getting past Fletch. It was lucky that he missed because Foster wouldn't have stopped it.
Etc, etc.

2nd Half -

Whatever Ancelotti said to Chelski during halftime certainly worked because they dominated the half.

Cole put a stop to Rooney at 50' after a nice pass from Park - almost to immediately head a ball back to Cech at 51' to stop an attack from Berba. Cech looked incensed at Cole for sending it back to him like that - although I think Cole made the right defensive call. ( Cech was angry and squabbling with his teammates for most of the match. )

About 6 minutes in came the equalizer from Carvalho in the 52'. Foster had no shot of stopping it. It was a mild disaster in the box. I highly doubt it would have happened with Vidic and VDS on the pitch but - what can you do. It visibly shook Foster - I almost wished to see Kuszczak in for him after that. I knew he'd be too consumed by nerves to be able to do much of anything for the rest of the match, let alone survive PKs. I was proved wrong at 56' though - he brilliantly saved a cannon of a shot on goal.

Around 58' I started anxiously awaiting subs. ( I - like many - believe the natural state of the football fan is pure panic. )

Of course Nani took a bad fall around 60' after a fair tackle. He seemed to have a shoulder problem and I really hope its not too bad. I'd hate to see him out for a month because of it after his stellar performance today. He was replaced by Valencia. Valencia did alright but didn't have much opportunity to really make an impression on me.

Shortly after the United sub we saw Ballack in for Mikel.

United had completely lost their pace and I was happy to see Owen warming up at 65'. United needed to establish a rhythm to their game quickly.

And then came the chaos. Lampard scored in the 71' but after Evra had been fouled and was staying down. The ref had stopped play for Ballack a few minutes early after he went down - no foul committed - and really should have stopped play. I was livid. I saw red. I screamed. I felt it was a ridiculous double standard. Should United have continued play since there was no whistle? Yes. Should Foster have made the save? Yes. But the ref should have stopped play. It was a bad call but there was nothing to be done. Another chapter in Evra's book of bad history with Chelsea.

Luckily for United - Wayne Rooney was on the pitch. He equalized in stoppage time with a wonderful, clear shot on goal after a pass from Giggsy, who was subbed in after the Lampard goal along with Owen, Scholes, F. da Silva. It was a great goal from him and a good way to unofficially start the season.

As happy as I was that we had equalized - United had shown they wouldn't be kept down - I realized that there was no way to avoid PKs and that they would probably serve to further break the confidence of Ben Foster. He'd had an atrocious match and I'd almost - perhaps more than almost - wished Ferige had used Kuszczak. It only takes a few well placed matches for a player to catch a case of the Yips.

PKs
Chelsea made four in a row from Lampard, Ballack, Drogba and Kalou. It wasn't surprising given Foster's performance and I expected it. Giggsy and Evra both had weak, straight shots on goal that were easily stopped. Carrick got his through but it didn't have a chance of changing the tides.

So - as I said yesterday - this match really doesn't mean anything in the long run of things. I don't see Chelsea winning the league. Neither team had a terrible performance and each clearly dominated a half. United showed that they can operate against an English club without CR7 - and Carlos Tevez. Am I worried? Not really.

This was no blow out. We saw some new things from old faces ( Nani ) and great performances from solid players ( Rooney and Fletch ). We saw a squad with an attack based on teamwork. We didn't win but I wouldn't call it a real loss by any means.

We'll see what happens with the season opener.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Community Shield Preview

I think I much prefer calling tomorrow's match the Charity Shield rather than the Community Shield. I think its pure charity to give us this first match - after we've all been starving for football for a lot of the summer. Tomorrow is a day I've been waiting for since May. Its the Community Shield and the official start to the Premier League season and my boys are playing.

Man United v Chelsea. Who do I think will win? A silly question.

I'm calling a 1-0 to United. Whether or not the first goal will be early in or made by a sub late in the second half - I really can't say.

When VDS broke his finger I remember telling a friend, "We'll be fine on Sunday. Even if Foster isn't up to par or they put Kuszczak in - the Chelsea attack has to get through Rio and Vidic." Of course the universe saw it to take Nemanja Vidic out of commission for the next two weeks with a calf problem. Luckily for the club those are the real only injuries that we're worrying about right now. There are problems with Gary Neville and Wes Brown ( groin and thigh issues, respectably ) but its nothing I'm too concerned with. I mean - as much as I love Neville its not as though we haven't done without him. I'm far more concerned with when Vidic is back.

Despite having some injury problems I'm sure that Man United can bring it home for the third successive year. Remember that we started last season without Rooney and Ronnie and managed to do win the league.

I think United will do well enough scoring on Petr Cech. Michael Owen - or MO7 - was just left off the England national squad for the friendly against Holland next week. I think that might serve as sufficient motivation to see the back of the net. He did really well on tour this summer and I hope he can bring that back and maintain it in league play. I also think Rooney will really want to start the season off with a bang with his new post-Ronnie freedom. I'm guessing that Federico Macheda will probably sub in around 60 min in.

We'll also finally get to see Valencia and Obertan play with the rest of the squad after being left out of the Asia Tour - while Chelsea fans ( and well - me as well ) got to see their new signings in America. I'm really excited for Valencia. I'll give Valencia a start and Obertan a late substitution.

I wouldn't be surprised with a 4-4-2 at the start with a back line of Rio, Evra, O'Shea, and Evans - a midfield of Carrick, Fletch, Nani or Giggsy, and Valencia- and Rooney and Owen up front. Foster in goal. Tosic at some point. Anderson as well?

And what about Chelski? Ancelotti will most likely start with a 4-4-2 formation as well. I expect to see Drogba and Anelka start - both players that I'm thoroughly unimpressed with - along with new signings Sturrage and Zhirkov. ( If you've read EPL Talk this week - and you should have - you'll see that apparently Drogba is the new villain in the league since Ronnie's left - as if he could replace Ronnie in anything. PS - Read EPL Talk. )

While I'm excited for it - remember - it's really more of an exhibition match than anything. It's a nice way to start a season but I really won't put any stock into it as a predictor.

Here's to hoping we don't go to penalties. Again.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

VDS and Carlos Tevez

Well its official - VDS is out for the next eight weeks with a broken finger from the Bayern Munich match.

I for one am really upset for him. Its his last season and what does he miss? His last Community Shield - against Chelski of all clubs. His last season opener. His last ... first match against Arsenal. Its just sad to me.

It is a good chance to see how Foster holds up. If he does well he'll be cementing his place as the new number one for next season. We might even see if Kuszczak can do anything useful. Probably not - but I think his usefulness will be cemented as well. I think we should definitely sign a new keeper over next summer but that this is just the test Foster needs to really shine.

We'll see what happens Sunday.

Also - lets discuss Tevez. It seems that after acting like an ass all summer - whining about treatment under Fergie and how he never got to start - he's gone and fallen on his and won't be starting in a match right away. He slipped in the shower and aggravated a heel problem. City is saying he might be fit for the season opener but since he hasn't been able to train I sincerely doubt he'll see too much time on the pitch his first match as a City man. Not that I'm particularly bothered.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Land

Its very odd for me to go into a match as a neutral. I generally watch Premier League matches where I am either rooting for United or rooting for the club that will help United maintain it's place - the lesser of the two evils. Its the same in the Champions League. You can say you're a neutral when you watch perhaps say - Everton v Spurs - but somewhere in the back of your mind you're always wondering how the match will affect you and yours.

Last night I went to see Chelsea play AC Milan in Baltimore. I made the trip down with two friends of mine who happen to be fanatical Chelsea fans. So I think it was rather obvious what I did - especially since I wanted a ride home. I rooted for Chelsea.



Since I wasn't allowed to wear any of my United gear ( jerseys, shirts, hats, buttons, etc ) without upsetting my friends I decided to borrow a white away jersey and go dressed as a Chelski supporter. I think it also allowed me to see things from a different view - and allowed me to see the fans in a different view. They cheered in my direction and waved their team on to victory.

I learned that Chelsea fans aren't so different from me. They care. They scream. They clap. They're somewhat informed. I'm sure if you cut them they bleed, and so on and so forth.

I had a good seat. A very nice seat. Section 102. Row 11. Seat 10. I had a great view and the team warmed up directly in front of me.





My thoughts on the actual match itself? The announcer was awful and I was embarrassed that those player introductions were being broadcast. Drogba's goal surprised me but was well taken. Zirkov really impressed me - he has good chemistry with the club and knows how to finish. I think he was a good investment. His game winning goal was the best of the match in my opinion and he deserved his "Man of the Match." I thought the Chelski defense did a shoddy job though. Their clearance was poor and AC Milan could have had more goal scoring opportunities had they been able to capitalize on it. Chelsea also needed to work on crosses - especially Anelka. I know it's only pre-season but its a problem I thought they had all of last season. It doesn't bother me all that much but its something Ancelotti should fix. Ronaldinho still had some class moves but I was as impressed as I'd have been three years ago.




My favorite moment was when Gooch came on as a substitute. The crowd exploded into chants of U-S-A, U-S-A. It was a touching moment and it made me proud. There were also cries of "Gooch" whenever he touched the ball. I truly wish him the best of luck in Milan.

I also saw some Chelsea players I forgot still existed. Pizarro anyone? I even saw Sheva - complete with new surfer guy hair. I saw him warming up and tried to convince my friend that yes, it was Sheva. No one around me recognized him with his long hair. I always feel badly for Sheva. Not because I think he's exceptionally talented but because he genuinely wants to play at Chelsea and it is unfortunate that he is the only person with that opinion.

Do I think Chelsea will win the League next year? I wouldn't count on it. Champions League - no. FA Cup? I'm sure they've a good shot but I'd obviously rather it go to Old Trafford.

I wasn't thrilled with the fact that few of the fans knew any Chelsea chants. I knew more than most people - one. I learned it about an hour beforehand. I can name scads of United chants so why don't they know theirs? You can't blame it on not going to matches and learning them. You can't blame it on distance from your club. I'm not sure what this says about Chelski fans - or American fans - or AC Milan fans since they didn't seem to have any either. The size of the crowd showed that we care about the game but I found the behavior of a lot of the people there very - uninformed? Some had vuvuzelas - previous blogs have made my opinion on those pieces of garbage - er, South African culture - quite clear. People sat around and didn't know what to do. Chelsea fans around me asked my friend and me who was on the pitch - do you not know the players' numbers for your own club? Can you not recognize their faces? I think that being a fan requires some degree of research into your club and its history - I'm sorry if people disagree.

I have to say one thing about the city though. Baltimore was great. The light rail was great. They let fans on for free - both headed towards the match and leaving the stadium afterward. It made for a cramped and hot ride but at least it was relatively short. Baltimore did a good job accommodating fans of all sorts - all signs read in multiple languages.



I had a good time. I certainly don't appreciate Chelski anymore. Or AC Milan. I have a little more respect for the fans who put in a good showing - Baltimore bled blue yesterday. I'll never make the sacrifice of donning a non-United jersey again but I was a good sport and saw a decent match.

Hey Man United - your new sponsor is American. Come over?