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
--------------
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
--------------
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?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Big Match

So tomorrow is a pretty big day. I'll be road tripping to Baltimore to see Chelsea play AC Milan.

I'll be rooting for Chelsea - which is something strange and slightly hard for me to do - but I think I'll root for an English side over AC Milan.

Expect an update when I return on Saturday!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Pre-Season

I put a lot of faith into the pre-season. Its the first look at the new signings - and this season we really need to evaluate our new signings and our young players who are sure to see much more of the pitch this season. Its time to see their fitness.

I'm currently watching United play the Malaysia all star side on MUTV ( where - for some reason that is beyond me - they're showing Ronnie highlights during the halftime break ) and I'm in a good state of mind after the first half of this match and their previous Asia match.

Fabio and Tosic both did well - causing problems for the Malaysia attack and creating great chances for the United strikers.

If you want to look at the strikers - its nice to see Michael Owen playing the way he is. He's scored twice - almost three times - in the past seventy minutes on the pitch. And if you've picked up an English paper or checked your RSS feed this week you'll have seen Owen's personal proclamations of his fitness:

"I feel like I did eight years ago."

It wasn't just Michael Owen - or as I will now call him "MO7" - who saw quality in the new #7. SAF publicly applauded Owen's goal and performance after the first pre-season match. I'm not at the stage where I want to call him the answer to all of United's post-CR7 problems - but I don't think I ever will. But I think he'll have a good season if only he can maintain his fitness. If he continues to produce in this pre-season that might produce a good show of faith from United supporters in his fitness.

SAF has also spoken about Macheda. I think he's young but incredibly talented. If you put him in - he will make chances. He will finish well. He will see the back of the net. I think Rooney, Owen, and Macheda will really be able to get results in this season. And he's already scored in the pre-season. If he keeps getting starts and scoring goals it will be great for his confidence and he should go into the season on the right foot.

Rooney had a nice goal during the first Asia match. SAF was happy with his performance, stating:

''You are seeing maturity from him now, which is what you expect from all young players,'' said Ferguson. ''I don't believe he needs to look at anything but himself because we know there is a lot of improvement to come from him yet. Wayne is not the finished article by any means.''

Rooney just came into today's match - the crowd really went wild. He almost had a goal in his first minute on the pitch. Now it's common knowledge that I have a special place in my heart for Wayne Rooney. I really hope that this proves to be his season. I think getting out of the shadow - and ego - of CR7 is the best thing for his career.

I really need to see more from Berbatov. I've never been too impressed with him.

I also think we'll see a lot more in terms of Fletcher this season. He greatly improved in the last campaign and I think he will continue to do so. I think Carrick and Nani will also have decent seasons. Nani just needs to be put on the pitch - but if he doesn't have a better time of it this season I wouldn't expect to see him around in 2011.

We've seen a bit of Foster in goal so far - something we'll be seeing a lot more of this season as he prepares to replace VDS as the number one. Unfortunately I bet we'll see Kuszczak in the second half of this match. Kuszczak - or as I refer to him "The Pole" - is still technically in the running to replace VDS but I hope that SAF realizes that he just isn't going to cut it for the club. Not in the long run. Maybe he'd do well at Blackburn or Sunderland. Maybe he'd be a solid first choice there. But I just don't see the quality that's needed to be the number one at a top club. I'd been hoping United would send him off on loan to do damage somewhere else. No such luck.

On a slightly related note I have to say that I'm really fond of the all white keeper's strip.

The older crowd is looking well - and its just as important for them to prove their fitness. Giggsy has created some good opportunities today and looks to me in better form than when they ended last season. Neville is seeing some action but I'm not counting too much on his fitness.

I'm eager to see the Asia tour continue. Safely. I was upset about what happened in Jakarta and am grateful none of the players were hurt. Lets keep it that way.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Be Careful

Groupie sex could leave six Premier League players with HIV.

I really don't want to imagine who it could be.

Classy.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Obertan

Ah. Well we've known about it for days but its finally official.

Gabriel Obertan is Man United's third major signing of the summer. The twenty year old French winger has been signed to a four year contract for a fee of £8 million.

From what I understand- Obertan can play on the left, can play on the right. Sound familiar? I should think so.

Of course SAF has told the press that the club has been following Obertan for a while time, the timing was never right before, the lad has great promise - all of the things Fergie usually says about his squad. And Obertan has made the obvious statements about how happy he is to be at Old Trafford :

"I am very happy to join Manchester United...This is a big opportunity for me to play at such a great club. I am very excited to be here and I look forward to proving what I can do."


So what is going to make him different from any old signing? What makes him different than Antonio Valencia, who was touted as the Ronnie Replacement? I'm not entirely sure.

He only has three goals from his French club in over fifty caps. I've tried to find clips of Obertan from Bordeaux or the French U-21 squad but all I seem to find are the same clips set to different music.



I feel as though I'm more impressed with Valencia, who already has experience in the Premier League.



Obertan and Valencia are both young - something Fergie likes. They will be able to be molded into the kind of players. They'll also have Nani to bring into the mix. I feel like Nani, Valencia, and Obertan might work well on the pitch in covering the wings.

I think that like other United signings that Obertan is a wait-and-see.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Lets Discuss Michael Owen

At the end of the season I never imagined that I'd see Michael Owen playing at Old Trafford but since that seems to be the case I suppose we should figure out what that means.

It comes off one of two ways. It's either another stroke of genius by Sir Alex or a completely desperate move of signing a star on the decline after the young, rising star Benzema - oh he went somewhere else. The name is on the tip of my tongue. But lets not focus on that.

I don't think its desperate. I think if this came two or three weeks from now I'd call it desperation from United. There's still time to blow that £80 million. Michael Owen we're getting for free.

Ah - the glory of the free transfer. Owen became a free agent on 30 June and has since been openly trying to find a new home. He's been a bit of a media joke, so why is SAF taking the risk? Why is this actually ( well - possibly ) a genius signing by United?

One. He has experience and skill. Owen scored 26 goals out of 60 starts in the past two seasons for both Newcastle and the English side. He scored 118 goals for Liverpool from 1996-2004, 13 for Real Madrid in the 2004-2005 season. He also has 40 goals in his 89 caps for England. He knows how to score and is a rather decent finisher. If he has chemistry with the United midfield I can see him having a lot of chances to get promising shots on goal.

Two. It costs nothing to take this risk and find out. Because it is a risk. Luckily there is no transfer fee. The club will pay him his wages like any other player and be able to put a chunk of the Ronnie money elsewhere. Sure - his fitness has been questionable. Its been months since hes seen the back of the net. He has an injury. If the United medical staff think his knee problem is too bad then he won't be signed. But we're nothing if not a deep bench. I constantly say that Macheda needs more starts and he will develop into a world class striker. Owen wouldn't be in every match. He doesn't have to be ( think Giggsy people - not that Owen is a Giggs ). It may the most ideal of situations but he has two big reasons to get fit and they are reason number -

Three. Motivation. Motivation for two things. The World Cup is right around the corner and he still has a shot to make it back on the pitch for England. He's very passionate about it and such a return to the English side isn't unheard of ( think Becks - not that Owen is a David Beckham ). He is also motivated to restore his pride, his image to the fans. He has been written off and belittled by the British media. Owen is eager to prove that his time isn't over. Michael Owen is the desperate party here.

I think I have to feel this way. I have to think that Fergie sees something in him. There has to be a spark left to his story. I don't like to believe that Sir Alex makes mistakes. I know that he does - I can name some for you now. But I have a lot of faith in him. His decisions may not be the word of God but I'd like to think he has the ear of someone important up there. ( As if some higher being - if that's what you believe in - has the free time to be a fan and has chosen to support my club )

http://bettingexpertblog.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/michael-owen-newcastle-fc.jpg

This story has redemption written all over it and that might be reason enough for Fergie.

I really hope he's not crap all season.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I've Red Carded Real Madrid - Lets Talk About A Liverpool Mob Connection

I've decided to ban all talk of Real Madrid from my blog for the next three days as punishment to the club for spending such a ridiculous amount of money, taking many top players off of the summer transfer market, and generally getting on my nerves. I can't help but read about them everywhere else - I might as well make a safe zone somewhere.

At the end of the three days I'll probably want to cover any new acquisitions they've made and how that affects signings for the Premier League but I just don't want to read any more about them today.

Instead I'm going to talk about a story I found yesterday at the Telegraph's Web site.

Do you know Nikolay Mihailov? Don't feel bad if you don't. He's a reserve keeper at Liverpool and has been on loan to the Dutch club FC Twente since 2007. But there is reason to suspect that he might be Liverpool's new Number Two with the departure of Itandje.

Well - Mihailov is Bulgarian had been dating Bulgarian Playmate and model Nikoleta Lozanova. Had is the important word in that sentence. The model is now linked to Georgi 'The Head' Stoilov. 'The Head' just happens to be a mob godfather in Bulgaria.

Here is where it gets interesting. Mihailov compared his former girlfriend to his recent. He basically said that the current WAG was a much newer, shinier model. The Telegraph reads:

Mihailov allegedly joked to local media that if his new girlfriend was a Ferrari, Nikoleta must be a broken down Trabant from the old East Germany.

Mihailov actually does have a Ferrari.

Footballers don't seem to have the best luck with these cars - remember Ronnie crashed his back in January near the Manchester airport.

Milhailov's car now has lovely damage caused by an acid attack which has been attributed to the mob boss. It's about £17,000 in damages to be more specific.

So where is he now?

Mihailov is now reportedly in hiding while club bosses decide whether he should remain in Bulgaria or return to Anfield.


You really can't make that up.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

When Will The Shopping Spree Stop?

It has just been announced that former Lyon striker Karim Benzema has been signed by Real Madrid for a fee in the region of £30 million today.

Sky Sports
is the first place I've found the story - which should add more to come in the story in the hours to come.

Benzema has been a United target for the past year. I wonder why United hadn't made a bid for the player sooner this summer - reports have said for weeks that Lyon hadn't received a single offer from Manchester. Did they wait too long?

I know that Florentino Perez wants to have the era of the
galacticos at the Bernabéu - but I'm going to repost the Andy Gray quote I used with the Ronnie singing.

"You can buy Kaka, you can buy Ronaldo, [ and now you can buy Benzema ] but you can't stop letting goals in."

Thumbs Up Colbert

Last night on Comedy Central's wildly popular show The Colbert Report host Stephen Colbert did a segment called "Is It Time To Care About Soccer?" Even though - yes - some of it was in jest, it was great coverage.

The video from the show's Web site wouldn't embed for some reason so here is the link: Soccer

And I do agree - football does have great scarves.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

United's Comings and Goings - And a Rant Against Carlos Tevez

Today has been a day of news for United.

First of all - beloved keeper Edwin van der Sar has announced that this will be his last season at the club. He's thirty-eight and wants to go out on a good note, leaving after maintaining his number one spot at the club.

This will mean that we'll probably see a lot more of Ben Foster this season as he gets ready to step up as United's new number one in the 2010-2011 season.

Also today - it's complete! United have signed Antonio Valencia from Wigan!

Sky Sports is estimating that United may have spent in the area of £18 million for the twenty-three year old winger. Valencia says :

"Playing in front of 76,000 fans alongside players like Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs will be an amazing experience. I can't wait to get started.''

Now - we all know this - he's no CR7. He won't make all of the goals and have all of the fancy footwork of Ronaldo but at the same time he'll probably be a better team player. He'll probably send more crosses Rooney's way to help him score. Send crosses Berba's way. He doesn't need to be the star. He won't put his hands on his hips and throw hissy fits. And most importantly - he desperately wants to be there. I doubt he'll become the biggest star of the club but I think he'll fit in well and get the job done.

He also might be sending crosses in the way of Karim Benzema - who is basically signed to United at this point according to Lyon teammate Miralem Pjanic. The quote at Sky Sports is:

"Benzema is nearly gone to Old Trafford."

I'm fine with that. I wanted him last summer. I wanted him instead of Berba. I think he'll do well at Old Trafford.

Carlos Tevez - who has left United - took a shot at SAF earlier today, claiming the boss made a big mistake by not putting him in the final in Roma. I would have liked to have seen him started but at this point I just think - that wasn't a classy move Carlos. I know the situation was hard. I think he could have started more. And yes - Sir Alex Ferguson does not take well to players' egos. And yes - you can't argue against Sir Alex Ferguson. But when it came down to it - Carlos didn't have the performance to warrant the starting spot in every match. If he wants to blame SAF and his ego - guess what, Sir Alex has earned his. He's earned the right to have all of the power he does. He makes good choices. As for not winning against Barca - you can't win them all. And it wasn't the lack of attacking forwards that caused the Barca debacle - try the midfield. I'd have started Darren Fletcher over Tevez in that match seven days of the week.

Tevez is losing the support of the United fans that loved him. He sounds arrogant and petulant. Instead of loudly lamenting his inability to command a spot in the starting 11 - he should be focusing on his new club. Does he think that he's really that important? Does he think he'll always start at Man City? Man City is already knee deep in strikers. Eight to be exact. In ESPN's Editor's Blog John Brewin writes:

Tevez will never be a Denis Law, forgiven for a crime against United while in a City shirt. For all his supposed connection with the Stretford End, they are now unlikely to greet him like a long lost brother.

The very words.

When I read what Carlos was saying today I just wanted to pull a little puppet Jose Mourinho from Special 1 TV and say, "Shut up Tevez."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bravo Wazza

Wayne Rooney has been a favorite of mine since he came to United - but I've often wished that he was able to come off the wings and share in the glory instead of setting up Ronnie to score.

Now that Ronnie and Tevez are out of Old Trafford, Wazza is coming out and saying that he's ready to step up for the club. Check it out at Sky Sports. Rooney said:

Cristiano and Carlos scored a lot of goals for us last season and the season before, but I would like to think I'm capable of filling that gap.


I think now that attacks won't revolve around CR7 - he'll definitely be able to.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

U - S - A

If you live in the states and watched the Confederations Cup Final today I think that there are three things that you could possibly be feeling. Since I had to rush off to work after it ended I had time to think about how it made me and some of my friends I spoke to during the match feel.

One. You don't really feel anything. You didn't expect anything from the US players and therefore got exactly what you anticipated. You might be slightly impressed - but probably put money on Brazil.

Two. You're heartbroken. You thought they had it. You thought you were about to see the definitive change in American national competition and at the final whistle you shed a tear, if not two or three.

Three. You still have that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with winning those moral victories that fans love - but when players would rather win the match than simply win respect. You think that this is a good step and a great learning experience for the team to take into qualifiers.

I'm definitely in the third category. This tournament - lets not get into the argument of whether its a real tournament - made me sit up and take notice of my country's team. I'd been disenchanted with them since Germany and really couldn't care less. Like with whatever club you choose to follow - you can never really divorce your team or your country, but you can practice selective viewing. I ended up watching the US mainly because of the caliber of teams they were playing.

So, I'll admit - I jumped onto the bandwagon in terms of supporting them. They surprised me and I suddenly realized how much I legitimately cared. I felt an odd surge of patriotism and wanted them to show that we know our stuff here. Its something I'll feel when I follow their qualifying. I might even buy a t-shirt.

I think that Bradley ( Sr. ) made the right choice starting Benny Feilhaber in place of the suspended Bradley ( Jr. ) instead of someone like Sacha Kljestan. The US came out in the first half exactly how the needed to. Dempsey scored in the 10' after a well placed cross from Jonathan Spector and the deserving, heart and soul of the American squad Landon Donovan scored in the 27'. Up until then they had been so in control and made all of the right moves.

I think they were more defensive than on the attack after the second goal. Sure - they had chances with a free kick in the 37' but they started playing too many players behind the ball. This would have been more worrying if Brazil had been playing like Brazil we'd seen for the rest of the tournament. Tim Howard stopped anything headed his way and the Brazil attack was shut down.

They looked solid and Brazil seemed well down - but we should have remembered even being down that Brazil is rarely out.

I'll admit that I got a little giddy during the halftime. I thought - Wow. Could the actually pull this off? If theres one thing I believe - especially during finals - is that you cannot go into it cocky. You can't become cocky with a goal. The last time I went into a match the slightest bit cocky was the Man United v Barca final. We know how that went. During halftime I was reminded of the Moscow final between United and Chelsea. I was never cocky, never giddy, always terrified, barely breathed - and I prayed before every penalty kick in the end. Please Lord, help van der Sar stop this ball. And it occured to me that I never felt that sheer terror today that usually comes to me with finals. I think its because I already saw it as a win - but we'll get to that.

Whatever Bradley said during the break - the US came back a different squad. They put themselves in a tough spot by giving up that first goal so quickly. Barely a moment into the second half is not the time to let a team of Brazil's caliber score. At 60' Brazil could have had an equalizer from a shot from Kaka. Maybe should have had an equalizer. Personally - I don't think Howard stopped it. I think he was entirely in the goal. But the ref saw something else and the ref is God on the pitch. I'll never agree with letting video replay into football no matter what the commentators on ESPN say. By denying that goal it just made Brazil more desperate so it was really only a matter of time before they did equalize. And if you let them score two - they'll be able to score three. They equalized at 74' through Fabio and won at 85' from a goal from the Brazilian captian Lucio.

The US looked tired. Dempsey seemed entirely blocked off my Brazil and was almost invisible for the end of the match. Jozy Altidore didn't make that much of an effect. Carlos Bocanegra looked like he should have been played in the middle in my opinion. Howard was amazing but there was only so much he could do on his own and he made some truly brilliant saves. You can't blame him for any of Brazil's goals.

I blame a lot of this on Bradley. I think he fouled up with the subs. I think he should have made them sooner so they could have had an effect - like Brazil did. I also think he made poor choices with the subs he used. I don't think Casey should have stepped foot on the pitch. Kljestan was completely ineffective and shouldn't have been brought on either. I honestly would have given Adu a shot. Maybe put in Torres. The US needs to have a deeper bench if they expect to utilize subs the way that teams like Brazil, Spain, and Germany will next year.

In the end I think the US did an admirable job. They gave Brazil a good fight. Its heartbreaking that they had it won and then gave it away - but that's the nature of the beast. The overall better team did win. Yes, the US won the "moral victory." Their FIFA ranking should improve and they've definitely gained more fans. I've appreciated Tim Howard since his United days and was happy for his Golden Glove award. I have an entirely new repect for Landon Donovan. I really admire him. I thought Dempsey, Spector, and Onyewu have been class all this time.

Ronaldo - the famous Brazilian striker - has a famous quote about loss. He said "We lost because we didn't win." The US just didn't win. Bittersweet as it is, that's it. But that doesn't take away all that they did just by making it that far.

And besides - its a known fact that the winners of the Confederation Cup have never won the World Cup the next year.

The Blame Game

Check out this Sky Sports article on Scolari and why he thinks he was sacked from Chelsea.

He says:
The real owners of football at the moment are the players. The coach, in most European clubs, has no strength to contradict them.

Tell that to SAF.

Salvaging Pride or a Moral Victory?

The third place match for the FIFA Confederations Cup was incredibly boring - until the last half hour.

All of the goals were scored by the subs and three goals were scored in the last five minutes.

South Africa had taken the lead in the 72' with a goal from Mphela, after his previous shot had been knocked out of goal.

Spain looked tired for most of the match- like they weren't really in it anymore and were already on summer holiday in their heads. After their undefeated streak had been ended by the US, they'd seemed a little broken down. They didn't play like the Spain we're all used to. They weren't strong at the back and couldn't finish in the front.

Guiza scored in the 88' and 89'. The second goal was the fluke of the two. It looked like he was trying to cross the ball when it just floated back, hit the post, and went into the back of the net. There was no way for Khune to clear it. You couldn't convince me that he was taking a legitimate shot on goal - it was a cross turned lucky. But it was what Spain needed to save themselves from the further embarassment of a fourth place finish.

There was an understandable exodus of South African fans from the stadium. Which was a shame really since the Bafana Bafana equalized four minutes later.

Riera commited a foul - sloppily jumping onto van Heerden's back for a free-kick and Mphela barrels a shot straight into the upper 90 of the net in 90' + 3. Casillas didn't have a shot. It was really just a solid strike.

What should have been a clean third place match goes into extra time - where it seems like either Mphela or Guiza could get a well deserved hat trick along with the bronze.

The first fifteen were uneventful but dominated by the home team. Mphela had some shots. One was decent with a good save from Casillas and one was offside.

Xabi Alonso score right at the start of the second fifteen ( 107' ) which I hoped was the end of it. This kind of a match really shouldn't have to go to PKs. Parker went down in the area - took a dive - but didn't get the pentalty he wanted, which may really have helped South Africa.

Spain kept the score and won the bronze 3 - 2 .

It says a hell of a lot though for the Bafana Bafana. This whole Cup was been a really interesting preview of what might be for the 2010 World Cup - vuvuzelas and all. And so what if they didn't see Bronze. I still think South Africa got their moral victory.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Rossi Return to Manchester?

This year has been good to Giuseppe Rossi.

Giuseppe Rossi of Italy celebrates during the FIFA Confederations Cup match between USA and Italy at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on June 15, 2009 in Pretoria, South Africa.
He made world wide news in the Confederations Cup.

Sure - Italy was knocked out in group stages - but Rossi managed to score to important goals against the US, which were added to his goal against Northern Ireland back in June. The fact that he scored them against the country he was born in just made the media storm grow. Especially here in the states.

He scored 12 goals in La Liga and 3 in the Champions League this past season at Villarreal after being sold by SAF and Manchester United.

Oh - and he was also the leading goalscorer at the 2008 Olympics.

After all of the attention he's been getting this summer its obvious that the transfer rumors have started up, especially since Rossi is currently in talks with Villareal to extend his contract.

You have to remember that when United sold Rossi - after two straight seasons of loaning him to other clubs - they included a clause that allows them first shot at the striker should he decide to leave Villarreal.

After seeing the departures of CR7 and Carlos Tevez over the summer the time may be right for Rossi to return to Old Trafford and join the first squad.

So how much would it be worth for the New Jersey native to leave La Liga?

In March Goal.com quoted his agent:

"[A bid of] €20 million was rejected last summer by Villarreal," his representative, Frederico Pastorello, told Gr Parlamento.
"He has a recession clause in his contract worth €40 million and therefore his value is closer to €40 million than €20."


But - in June his agent was quoted as saying in reference to Rossi moving back to Italy:

"Rossi is worth between €25-28 million for his age and for the things he has done so far," the agent told GR Parlamento."

On Thursday Goal.com reported that Villareal might be demanding a €15 million transfer fee from United if they wanted to invoke their rumored "buy back clause."

Because of the deep bench at Old Trafford we know that Rossi never had the opportunity to shine. Now he has had time to mature and refine his skill and while he is still growing and learning how to make goal scoring opportunities - he certainly knows how to finish.

Rossi may not move at all. Often transfer rumors never materialize, but I think that he is a smart player and makes good choices about where to play his football.

I think its smart to answer the door when United comes calling.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Weezer & The USMN ... Tevez Too

Rivers Cuomo - front man of Weezer. Apparently he's a fan of the beautiful game and wrote a song for the USMN after their amazing run in the Confederations Cup.



I think that's pretty interesting and not what I expected to find today.

Anyway - on to Carlos Tevez.

http://ronanok.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/carlos-tevez-ball.jpg Sky Sports is quoting him as saying that he knew his career at Old Trafford was over as soon as SAF signed Berba last year. He says:

"I am not sure where I am going to play, but I know for sure that it will not be at Manchester (United)," Tevez told TyC Sports.
"I did not feel supported after they signed Berbatov, because I was the man for the job he was bought to do.
"Ferguson told me not to be worried about Berbatov's arrival, but I did not like it when he started to put me on the bench often. I gave my life for the Manchester United shirt."

Alright. I mean - I believe that Carlos Tevez really wanted to make a home for himself at Manchester United. He was a fan favorite and could always be counted on to turn the tide in a match, which did make him a great second half substitute. While he might blame Berba - who I think is basically the Shevchenko of United given how glad I am we signed him- I blame Rooney. My beloved Wayne Rooney. I think that Wayne Rooney is what really hurt Tevez.

As much as I tend to disagree with ESPN soccer commentators - I think it was Tommy Smyth the other day who made a comparison between the US's Casey and how he tends to just jog around and not seem that useful and strikers like Rooney and Tevez who always go for every opportunity and never stop. I think Rooney and Tevez play the same type of aggressive football and while you have a Wayne Rooney, you won't always need to put in the Carlos Tevez. Their football is too similar.

But since Tevez is blaming Berba lets look at that. Lets check the stats- which were found at Blog United:

In the 2007-2008 season - PRE Berba:
39 (9)
31 (3)
6 (6)
2 (0)

3,473 minutes
2,675 minutes
651 minutes
147 minutes

19
14
4
1

27

In the 2008-2009 season POST Berba:

34 (16)
18 (11)
4 (4)
3 (0)
5 (1)
4 (0)

3,352 minutes
1,858 minutes
392 minutes
300 minutes
510 minutes
292 minutes

15
5
2
2
6

21

dimitar_berbatov13
Dimitar Berbatov's 2008-2009 season:

36 (6)
29 (2)
5 (3)
2 (1)

3,239 minutes
2,538 minutes
491 minutes
210 minutes

14
9
4
1

29 (81%)

What's changed since Berba? Tevez did have a better season before Berba's signing - but about an equal season when they were both there. In both seasons Rooney had a better performance. Berba has a differently style than Rooney and Tevez and therefore adds some difference when a Rooney can't get it done in a match. Also Berbatov works better with Wayne Rooney and fit into the United tactical strategy with Ronaldo there.

Maybe Tevez is right and bringing in Berba was the beginning of the end, but I say that he was on loan, learned some, played some great football, but never could replace Wayne Rooney.

Nor should he.

Angry Cesc and Thierry in MLS?

This morning as I checked my RSS feeds I had to wonder - what is going on?

First of all lets talk about Cesc Fabregas. Apparently he's been reported in the Spanish press as saying that he's sick of the "impotence" at Arsenal and is considering making a move to La Liga. Nothing against the Spanish press except - well I don't always believe what I read in it. They're quoting the skipper as saying:

"The absence of titles at Arsenal is what angers me the most. Cristiano said he's leaving Manchester United because he had nothing else to win. For me right now it is the exact opposite, seeing the impotence. This year we wanted it, we were giving everything - but we couldn't reach the level that everyone expected of Arsenal. When you win, you're well. But when you don't, everyone is in a bad mood. For four years now, we've needed a title to regain our belief in ourselves."

Other quotes say how his family would support a move to a club like Real Madrid, prompting more transfer rumors. Except - he's trying pretty hard to deny all of this now that he's off duty with the Spanish national team at the Confederations Cup. His quote from yesterday - the 25th - has been printed as:

"It appears that every time I have spoken to the Spanish media recently, my words have bounced back to England, leaving question marks about my future," Fabregas said. "So, for anyone who is unclear or may have misunderstood what my position is, let me make myself absolutely crystal clear. I am wholeheartedly committed to Arsenal and my future lies with this great club.
"It is a fact that we have not won a trophy for four years and yes, I am angry about that, but that anger stems from the deep, deep desire I have to win things with Arsenal," he said. "I care about this club and believe in this team."
"I am proud to captain this team and proud to wear the shirt," Fabregas said. "The spirit in this squad is fantastic and we have the ability and mentality to compete on all fronts for silverware."

I highly doubt that Arsenal will win major silverware for another season or two but I respect Fabregas and I think he'll stick around.

Next - theres an interesting quote from Thierry Henry floating around.

Thierry Henry

He might be pulling a Becks in 2011 and heading stateside to end his career. Lucas Brown at Sky Sports writes:

Speaking at a promotional event in New York, the 31-year-old explained that he would consider joining the New York Red Bulls.
"Could I play for New York Red Bulls at some point? It could be possible in 2011," he is quoted as saying by Sport.
"One never knows, but the truth is that it is an option that could be likely.
"I want to stay with Barcelona for two more seasons and then I will leave."

Well. I've never been the biggest fan of Henry. Not when he was at Arsenal and not at Barca. I think he'll have a hard season this year, now playing with Messi, Eto'o, Kaka, and Ronaldo. I can easily see him coming to MLS in a few years. I'd rather we get younger, talented European players but - I'm not opposed to the idea. Although I don't think anyone can claim that Henry will have as big of a media circus as Becks did in 2007, I think Henry is less likely to go right back to Europe on loan like Becks did.

I wonder what Swells would have thought.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rest In Peace Steven Wells

While I'd planned on giving my two cents worth on the US win yesterday - did anyone else check the ESPN picture right after with the caption "Jozy and the Giant Killers" - something else has been brought to my attention, that I think is a bit more pressing to me.

I have a favorite quote about football in the US. It's one of the few that I use if I ever attempt to stand up for the American league and - usually - the national team. Its a quote from an interview with Steven Wells. He says:

Does the respect of the rest of the world matter? Only if you let it. I think the rest of the soccer world sees Americans playing soccer the same way they regard Japanese rock music. It’s not that they’re any good at it; it’s the fact that they’re doing it at all that’s amazing.



Stephen Wells died of cancer yesterday.

He was forty nine.

Swells ( a brilliant nickname ) came from England but lived in Philadelphia until his death from lymphatic cancer. He wrote about a variety of subjects from music and pop culture ( which he was perhaps best known for ) to -most relevant to this blog - football. He used football to explain other political and cultural events. He wrote at length about football and the US - with the soccer debate, MLS, the US at war, and hooliganism.

Steven Wells always had the stones to say what he wanted to say.

I've decided not to ramble on about what an inspiration he is to me, or say that he made me want to go to college for journalism, or anything else like that. I was just going to go through some interesting football articles of his from the Guardian, post some selections from them, and let his work speak for itself. I had all of the clips - but I decided just to post one my favorite articles.

Links to this article and others will be at the bottom of the post. The last link isn't football related - but is his last published article.


15 June 2007-

Americans are soccer-savvy ... and that scares little Englanders

David Beckham is going to the LA Galaxy. Hurrah. Let's all laugh at American soccer. Again.

Modern Englishmen are in two minds about Americans playing proper football. Some think it only right the poor benighted heathens be gifted the game historian Eric Hobsbawn rightly described as an artform. But others fear it'll make Americans more like us and therefore much more difficult to despise.

I am firmly in the former camp. Public toilets, atheism, publicly funded radio and association football - these are all things of which no society can have too much. Witness the fact that soccer-playing America is massively liberal, loving, caring, socially conscious and nice. While soccer-hating America consists of increasingly isolated gangs of Bush-supporting, bible-bashing, gun-crazed, dungaree wearing, banjo-playing, quasi-fascist chicken-lovers and their twelve fingered, pin-headed, cyclopic, drooling monster children.

Alas, Englishmen who live in desperate fear of an American soccer planet are legion. As the recent spate of stories about US businessmen buying British clubs and Goldenballs relocating to LA proved, there's no shortage of stuck up limey soccer snobs who still think it's frightfully funny the ghastly Yanks play the round ball game at all.

Like most prejudices, this hatred disguises fear. Recently a leading English soccer journalist told me he "really hopes football fails in America". Others are less blatant but they make their loathing plain through sarcasm, satire and snidery.

You know whom I'm talking about. Reader, I am about to piss on my chips. I will not only bite the hand that feeds me, I will take the arm off at the shoulder. For no one has mocked American soccer more consistently or with more vigour than the sneering, primly moustached, stiff-lipped cads of the Guardian Unlimited Sports desk.

It's always been thus. In the 1970s, when the star-studded New York Cosmos were filling stadiums during the first American soccer revolution, Roy of the Rovers found himself playing Stateside for the Pine City Pirates. Roy was appalled by the shallowness, ballyhoo and sheer incompetence of American soccer. "I thought I was going to learn something by coming to the States!" he moaned. "I didn't dream I'd have to teach them how to play the game!"

And who could forget the 2002 World Cup and Gary Linker reading from a typically and hilariously stoopid Yank match report: "Wolff procrastinates over a sideline handpass and is ref-charged for clock abuse" and "he top-bodies the sphere into the score-bag, and Mexico have a double-negative stat!"

Oh those pig-ignorant cack-gobbed Yank wankers! How we laughed. What more confirmation could we possibly need that these gibbering, thumb-fingered mouth-breathers will never understand the beautiful game?

Of course, it turned out Gaz was reading a marvellous Guardian Unlimited spoof. Hell, I laughed. And so did Lawrence Dallaglio when he repeated the quotes the next night on a different TV show. And so did the studio audience. Which is when the penny dropped. This isn't just how Brits think Americans perceive soccer - this is how Brits need to think Americans perceive soccer. And that, actually, is a little bit sad.

During that same World Cup, before the US v Germany game, a British TV crew stopped folks in Time Square and asked them (oh hilarity!) if they even knew a game was taking place (lol!!!!!! rotflmao!!!!!!!!!!). Unfortunately almost everyone said yes. One dude in a soccer shirt even invited the reporter to watch the game with him. "We thought there was apathy," muttered a deeply disappointed Gabby Logan back in the studio.

The rest you know. The "USA!" chants at Manchester United games. The MU Rowdies gags in the Fiver, The Guardian Unlimited design-a-new-hilariously-Americanized-MUFC-crest competition that was then ripped off by The Sun so the whole nation could join in the yanks-don't-get-football yukfest.

Then Bex signed for the LA Galaxy-and the whole sad circus started all over again.

Trouble is, the joke tells us nothing about America or American football (or "soccer" as those crazy, propeller beanie-wearing goofballs call it!!!!!!!!!!!!). And it tells us everything about us.

We - a substantial chunk of us, anyway - are desperately scared that association football will succeed in America. That the USA will become a footballing power. That the yanks will develop a version of the beautiful game as irresistible as jazz, rock'n'roll or the amazing American language (and unless you've checked the English/American phrase books handed out to GIs in 1942, you probably have no idea how much American you speak, limey).

Why are we scared? Because as a nation we have a desperate need to feel superior to the vibrant barbarian culture that's replaced us as top global ass-kicker.

Face it, feeling superior to Americans is about all we've got left. But the list of things we actually do better than the Yanks is slim and getting slimmer. Did you know that the bastards even brew decent beer these days?

So what have we got left to be smug about? Wensleydale cheese, Ricky Gervais, Theakston Old Peculier and Helen Mirren. And, oh yeah, football.

Sorry, the Yanks get it. Not all of them. Not even most of them. But enough of them. Even if Bex bombs. Even if the MLS collapses, American soccer isn't going away.

It's time for a new joke.

Americans are soccer-savvy ... and that scares little Englanders

Does Europe really have a bigger hooligan problem than America?

Soccer: the Barack Obama of sports

How football can explain the US elections

Never mind respect - we should be treating our referees like gods

Ultra-parochial America shows of its sporting ignorance

The truth the soccerphobes refuse to face

Have we gone soft on football's fascists?

Steven Wells Says Goodbye

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Come to Jesus Meeting with the USMN

I've never liked the USMN. I've said they're an embarrassment. I've said they couldn't stand up to major teams.

I was wrong.

Today wasn't a lucky win. They really blew my mind today.

Normally I'd analyze this match to death but I'm really just in shock and happy - so I'll save that for tomorrow perhaps.



Congrats to the US Men's National team!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

So This is What 11 US Players Look Like - A Real Time Response From No Hope to An Advancing American Squad

Even though I'm currently watching Italy v Brazil ( and briefly considering US v Egypt somewhere in the back of my brain - ESPN just interrupted the match to show a clip of the US actually scoring a rather scrappy goal ) I'm going to discuss some things that have been happening outside of the Confederations Cup and World Cup qualifiers along with the tournament today.

Funny news update - have you heard about Kahn? Apparently Oliver Kahn ( who earlier this month has blasted his former Bayern Munich for appointing Jurgen Klinsmann and told them to sell Ribery ) will be hosting a reality show in China. Its called "Never Give Up!" and attempts to find talent as goalkeepers, with ten contestants aged seventeen to twenty-four. The show - as I will now call Project China's Next Top Professional Keeper - has two female contestants and runs for ten episodes. I think Oliver Kahn is brilliant on the pitch but I'm not sure if the admiration extends to the television reality show.

Carlos Tevez has finally officially announced that he's leaving United. No one is surprised but I think its about time the announcement was made. I don't really care if he goes to City - at least its not Real Madrid - but I'd rather he stayed away from Chelski and Liverpool. He's the least dangerous to United at City and it would prove interesting in derby matches. It opens up the door to finally sign Benzema from Lyon, who had been initially reluctant to sign over the £30 million striker.

As I go back and forth typing and watching - Brazil went up 3-0. They scored two goals in as many minutes. It is stunning. I expected Brazil to win but Italy looks well trounced as halftime begins. Charlie Davies scored ( 21' ) for the US - which goes into the half with a 1-0 lead. Oddly enough, the US needed a big win for Brazil and a win against Egypt for them to have a snowball's shot at advancing. Right now it looks like Brazil and Egypt will be advancing but I guess you never know in football.

Here's a good example. Yesterday New Zealand - despite the worst performance in the tournament so far - managed to do something that they had never done. New Zealand managed to maintain a 0-0 tie with Iraq, winning their first point ever in a FIFA tournament. It's been touted as a football milestone for the country - which makes me feel much better about the US's national performance. Perspective.

Speaking of US football - Major League Soccer has gotten some unwanted advice from FIFA President Blatter. In between ranting against the use of video replays -which I agree with - he basically said that the MLS has to change and adopt the same season schedule followed in Europe if it ever wants to be taken seriously. Right now the US has a March to November schedule instead of the August to May season. Blatter has quoted in a variety of papers:

"There is one big problem there and they know, the organizers know, that as long as you don't have your own stadia in the MLS, you have to use stadia from another sport, which is American football," Blatter said. "With the season played from March to October, you are not in the so-called good international season.
"The result is that you will not attract star players from Europe to play for only six or seven months, with the exceptional case of Beckham - but this is another case."
“This is not the right solution for M.L.S. They have to adapt themselves to the international calendar. If they do that, they can have success. I spoke several times and I spoke on this 10 years ago when I was still secretary general and nothing has changed in the USA. But in the world of football, something has changed."

While some of the MLS clubs have their own stadiums the majority do still play in NFL football venues. In the Canadian Press the head of the MLS was quoted, giving his opinions of the American season:

MLS commissioner Don Garber agrees with Blatter in theory. By next season, 12 of the 16 teams will control their own venues, all but D.C. United, Houston, Kansas City and San Jose.
"We regularly evaluate all aspects of our competition, including the timing and format of our season," Garber said in a statement. "Because of the extreme winter weather in many of our markets in the U.S. and Canada, a switch to the international calendar would pose many challenges for MLS and its fans. I am convinced that the time will come when we do adapt to the international calendar. I just don't believe that time is in the foreseeable future."

I think both men have points. Major League Soccer cannot currently compete against the NFL. But - they'll never be able to unless they have more international support and players. The MLS seems to be stuck in this viscious cycle and I think that until they make bolder moves - like adapting to a more normal season - nothing will change. Even Beckham - the one big star of the league - managed to get back to Europe for a season. Look at the first squad for the US men's national squad. All but five play their club football in Europe. It shouldn't happen right now. It might destroy the league. But someday it has to happen, right?

More importantly than the season - can we please get rid of the two conferences? Conferences are something Americans are very fond of but for a sport with the level of support as "American soccer" it's just silly. I don't see the rationale for it. The fact that we have to have playoffs make the season shorter by about eight to ten matches. The club with the most points in the country should win the league. It should be that simple. Since MLS is adding teams in the next couple of seasons - I understand that we can't change the season but we should get rid of conferences. I'd also like to see teams relegated, which doesn't happen in the states. I think relegation is brilliant. It allows for good teams to move up in the world, and makes other teams improve and earn their spot.

I switched to watching the other match - to see my country play after all. The US has moved up 3-0 against Egypt. Brazil dominated Italy 3-0. Its shocking - the US will be advancing from group stage. Italy and Egypt will be left behind. The US found ways to score today. Davies, Bradley, and Dempsey all saw the back of the net. Donovan continued to lead the squad with his heart and drive. We had double the shots on goal as Egypt. The world was watching the "bigger" match and the US stood up and said to take notice. I'm shocked. I'm thrilled. And while I know this would be a giant step for the US - remember - they'll be playing Spain. No matter what it will be good experience for the US to play a team like Spain. While I know that Spain is the number one team in the world and we'll probably lose - I'd written my country off despite saying I'd support them this time but now all I can think is -

OH MY GOD! The US advances!

I always say the US has less change than a Jamaican bobsled team. Well, some people say they know they can't believe - US we have a football team?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I Hate The Vuvuzela Horn - And My Updates During the USA v Brazil Match and Egypt v Italy

From start to finish of every match at the Confederations Cup you hear them.

The Vuvuzela horn.

Blaring without a stop. Randomly getting louder depending on the camera angle. Sounding like a flock of rapid ducks while at the same time reminiscent of buzzing bees. They're driving me up the wall and this morning, as I was checking the news before the early match, all of my hope for a quieter World Cup was dashed. Lucas Brown at Goal.com reports:

The FIFA president was asked whether he felt that they should be stopped from being blown in stadiums due to the incredible noise created - and he defended their use.
While agreeing to look into television companies' concerns, Blatter explained that as vuvuzelas are part of African culture he saw no reason why they would be banned.
“It is African culture, we are in Africa and we have to allow them to practice their culture as much as they want to," he told reports.

I'm all for respecting the culture of the host nation and I think hosting the tournament will be a really great thing for the people of South Africa - I just wish their expression of their culture through sound was a little - quieter?

Speaking of South Africa - has anyone else noticed the empty seats? It looks like the Olympics over there. I'm almost sure that this is not a sign of things to come at the World Cup but it is a little disappointing. Apparently most of the seats were bought by big corporations for giveaways. I understand that we're in a worldwide recession but these empty seats are really disconcerting since this is the stage for the biggest football event in the world. We've heard that central parking and bus rides make it easier for South African fans to get to the different stadiums - but are the prices too high? Today in the New York Times football blog ( which you should check out sometime ) Jere Longman writes:

The half-empty stadiums reflect several factors: Soccer is the favorite sport among blacks in South Africa, but even the lowest-priced tickets, at $10, are beyond the reach of many people here. AFP reported that nearly half the population here lives on two dollars per day.
Among whites, rugby and cricket are more popular than soccer. Whites have not tended to support the South African soccer league, although they have come in larger numbers to see touring club teams such as Manchester United and Barcelona.

Joseph Blatter wants the extra tickets to go to school age children, which is nice - they probably wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise - and will get the seats filled.

So. US v Brazil. I woke up bright and early to cheer on my country, as I previously said I would try to do this time around. ( I also frantically prayed that the match wouldn't be too big of a disaster and embarrassment ) I hoped Tim Howard would have a good day - especially since he's the player I know the most and was the most invested in, given his past history at Old Trafford and now seeing him play with Everton. What they needed were players who knew their jobs and wouldn't wander about and they definitely needed a winger. They needed Beasley to show he was fit as well - he's only played ten times this year. Just because he has experience, I don't think he's what the US needed right now to beat Brazil. They needed men to step up in general due to injuries on the squad.

ESPN commentators mentioned US player Mauricio Edu. I'd like to know who that is - there's a Maurice Edu. I'd mention other mistakes - like how they said Torres played for United, Casillas was not the Spain captain, and the Zidane headbutted Zambrotta - but that would be an entirely different update.

The US gave Brazil a corner and two free kicks within the first six minutes - they scored on the second set piece ( Felipe Melo 7' ). I don't think there was a foul that warranted the free kick but the ref thought he saw it - that's the nature of the game. By twelve minutes there were three more set pieces. Four of the five goals Brazil scored against Egypt last match were on set pieces. It was exactly the kind of start that the US did not want. Then Robinho scored
( 20' ) after a mistake by Beasley. Off of our own corner kick - what a feat. I think that something like that - on a world level - is just unacceptable. After the goal I called a final score of 3-1 with Brazil ahead.

I didn't think it was a problem of getting possession. The US aren't making opportunities for themselves. They're not slowing down to look for an opening but are trying to make fast passes, which is leading to unnecessary turnovers. I think if Dempsey played a little more forward that might have helped develop a rhythm but as it is nothing is happening in terms of players coming together to take any legitimate shots on goal. Donovan needed players to be there to help in attacks in the Brazilian half and they just weren't there. Most passes seem to be incomplete - and there is the talent on the US sqaud to finish things off. I don't think the long game they're playing is working out for them this tournament.

As soon as the second half started, I was happy to see Casey in for Beasley. Within two minutes we saw the best shot the US had in the match so far, and multiple shots on goal in the first five. It was like watching a completely different team - Casey was doing well ( he later proved useless and didn't put any pressure on Brazil ) and Bradley and Spector looked more in control. But then - it happened again. Kljestan was sent off after a late tackle on Ramires - who was stretchered off. It was a late and reckless challenge. Really US midfield? Two matches in a row? The ESPN commentators kept saying how it could have been a yellow but I think the ref called a solid red. I think he called a fair match - no ref will ever call an absolutely perfect match, nor should we expect them to. Brazil went up to 3 soon after ( Maicon 62' ). I never expected the US to beat Brazil but its always disappointing when your country is completely outclassed. The US almost scored in the 83rd minute ( Feilheber ) - and Donovan had a good free kick to Casey that went off the woodwork - but Brazil easily won the match.

There's not much else to say on the subject, so I won't. Unless Italy lost to Egypt and the US has a blowout match against Egypt ( a three point clear winner ) its safe to say that we're out - and rightfully so. But wait -

Italy really disappointed- luckily for US and Egypt supporters. I wanted Egypt to win but was predicting a 1-1 draw. I think Egypt is better than they showed against Brazil. Egypt went up with a gorgeous header in the end of the first half ( Homos 40' ). They've had less shots but their shots are far more accurate, and their keeper ( El Hadary ) is doing a brilliant job keeping a clean sheet against solid shots from Rossi and Iaquinta. Egypt had the start of a good run at 60' until Italy put a stop to it right outside of the box. Possession was about equal throughout and it was a generally clean match; I was surprised that there wasn't a card until 58' and that it went against Egypt ( Eid ). El Hadary had another great save at 74' and kept a shot over the line from Iaquinta - I doubted he'd be letting anything through for the rest of the match. I was really impressed with Egypt's passing and control - in the same way I was impressed by Iraq - and think its exactly what the US needed this morning. El Hadary was well beat at 86' by a shot from the right from Iaquinta but luckily the woodwork saved it and sent it off to Egypt defenders. Gomaa had a sloppy handball in 89' but equally sloppy was Pirlo's free kick. At this stage in the game he should have delivered. At a corner kick in stoppage time, everything went mad for a minute. Two yellow cards to Egyptian players - including the keeer - and even Buffon went to the edge of the area to assist in a moment reminiscent of Kasey Keller ( US keeper ) against Ghana in the last World Cup. What a victory for Egypt! And they thoroughly deserved it.

An interesting tech note to end this post on! If you're a Chelsea fan, you know that there have been Chelsea cameras advertised on the club's site for some time. Well, they just signed a deal at Old Trafford that allows United to do the same thing! I found a short piece on Fox Soccer.com that says:

The five-year deal with aigo will see the firm promote United co-branded products such as cameras and mobile phones.
As part of the agreement aigo will become the title sponsor of United's game in Hangzhou, China, during the club's Asia Tour this July.

United chief executive David Gill said: "This deal is a further demonstration of the global appeal of Manchester United."


Brilliant. Something else I'll wish to emblazon with the United crest. I do need a new camera - wait. This day is ending with the US having a technical shot at advancement? What a sport football, what a sport.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Spain v Iraq, 2010 Fixture List, and My Personal Rant Against the Commentators

So. There's a lot to talk about today. Next season's fixture list came out and the Spain v Iraq match didn't go quite the way I - and many people - thought it would.

Before I get to that I have to rant for a moment. I hate when ESPN allows American commentators to ruin matches. I have to champion ESPN for taking football seriously. They show the World Cups, Euros, and Condfederations Cup, but they also show weekly Champions League matches and even MLS games. They make a big deal about the champions league. They're already advertising for the 2010 World Cup. They partner with ABC to allow more coverage of large tournaments. I pray to intern at ESPN; it would be my dream come true. What they're doing for the sport in the US is wonderful, just by giving it a shot - but sometimes I can't listen to some of these commentators. I'd rather pay or watch matches online - suffering poor quality and delays - just to get the British commentators. ESPN sometimes gets it right - I love Andy Gray. I can listen to Adrian Healey quite well. Even Tommy Smyth.

What I heard today just annoyed me. It wasn't quite as irritating as EPSN repeatedly calling Manchester United "Man U" the day of the final in Roma- but it was still there. They repeatedly said how Giuseppe Rossi was a midfielder. He's a second striker. A deep lying forward. He's not a midfielder. At one point they said Fernando Torres played for United. He plays for Liverpool. They mispronounced and Americanized David Villa's name every chance they got. At one point I could have swore that they confused Cristiano Ronaldo ( the famous Portuguese winger ) with Ronaldo ( the famous Brazilian ). Iraq did not play Paraguay in the 2004 Olympics, they played Italy and lost. They did not know the Casillas is the Spanish captain. The whole American style with football matches sometimes confuses me. I know they're trying to make it more a football game or baseball - accessible to Americans who don't know the sport and are learning. By comparing to other sports they are helping new fans understand the importance of certain aspects of play. While I want a half hour to one post game analysis - I understand that in America that wouldn't get ratings. It does continue to get better ( the Euro commentary was better than in the 2006 World Cup ). I understand that they cannot just cater to the die hard fans and they're trying to get new fans but in many ways it can detract from a good match. But since I wish that America would take the sport seriously and be interested - I'll keep listening and be grateful that I'm able to turn on my TV and see a match.

Anyway. Iraq was stunning today. Spain underperformed. I called a 1-0 Spain victory ( come on, they haven't lost since 2006 ), but Iraq really surprised me and I'm sad that they've already been eliminated for the World Cup. Their defense really did well and everyone knew exactly what their job was. Spain had 21 shots but only managed to get one in. If Iraq had started their star player or had more of an attack upfront there might have been more of a chance for a 1-1 ( they had a couple of shots but couldn't capitalize at all ) but the fact that they didn't allow Spain multiple goals really helps them in the group, especially since New Zealand was destroyed by La Roja. If their next match goes well, they could advance on goal differential with South Africa.

For most of the match I thought David Villa looked out of place. I thought he seemed as useful as Ronnie during the Champions League final - not very. He had five chances that he should have capitalized on, but he got his header which matters most in the end. Torres didn't have much to do, but after his last match no one is accusing him of being disappointing ( as they did during Euro ). I always enjoy watching the Spanish nationals ( especially Torres on a good day and Sergio Ramos - I'd love seeing him and Rooney battle it out again soon ) but we all expected them to win the group so I'm waiting for their bigger matches to come. They should cruise through their next match, resting their bigger players and letting the younger ones get some experience and a cap for the national squad.

Moving on from this summer - THE 2009/2010 PREMIER LEAGUE FIXTURE LIST IS OUT!

It has some intense copyright rules, so here is the link to the site: Barclays 2009-2010 Fixtures
I'm pretty excited about our big matches. We have a good opener and closing match. We play Arsenal pretty early, but they have to play United, Chelsea, and Liverpool within a ten day frame - I'm not envious of them.

There's a lot to look forward to now!

Also, it is officially one month and one week until I travel to Baltimore to see Chelsea v AC Milan!

Remember to catch this afternoon's match ( I might update this post later to include it ), US v Brazil tomorrow on ESPN at 9:30AM, and Italy v Egypt tomorrow at 2:25PM.