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



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



Dimitar Berbatov's 2008-2009 season:

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

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


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.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Does It Matter Where You Play It?

A recent FIFA ruling might be making waves soon. Waves that coincide with the looming 2010 World Cup, in which players will be allowed to use their dual citizenship to pick and choose which nation they represent.

Right now the FIFA Confederations Cup is taking place in South Africa. This competition takes place a year before the World Cup in the country chosen to hold the larger competition. It has eight countries in the tournament; seven countries have won FIFA worldwide or regional tournaments in the past three years and the eighth is the World Cup host country. The current countries involved are South Africa, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Egypt, Iraq, New Zealand, and the US.

The problem came into my life with the US v Italy match that happened yesterday. I was watching the match as a neutral, since I am very much not a fan of Italy and I openly admit that I do not really root for the US national squad. The last time I did was 2006. We all know how that ended. ( I think they have as much chance to win a real tournament as the Jamaican bobsled team did - CONCACAF Cup, congrats US you beat Canada ) I want them to do well and I wish we had the same tradition as Europe, but we don't. Maybe one day I'll be okay with us nationally, and people will understand that Americans know what they're talking about and understand the game, and I'll hear it called soccer and not cringe - the last one probably won't ever happen, but these are just my issues and they're neither here nor there. Anyway, yesterday wasn't that bad though for the US nationals. I really respected their effort. The US was a man down and a goal up, thanks to a harsh call and PK taken by Landon Donovan ( who really is the Ryan Giggs or the John Terry of the squad - he's the heart and soul of it ). Tim Howard made some brilliant saves throughout the match and they handled themselves very well for being a ten man squad for over half the match. Italy then put in Giuseppe Rossi
( 22 year old deep lying striker ), who scored the first and third of Italy's three goals.

A lot of the people I know were irritated by this. They think Rossi should be playing for the US since he was born and raised in this country. They saw it as betrayal. Rossi has dual citizenship with the US and Italy and specifically chose to go and play for Italy internationally. He was born in New Jersey ( a few people I go to school with know Rossi and say that he's a legitimately nice guy ) but has Italian parents, played for the Italian youth squad at 13, and scored four goals for Italy at the 2008 Olympics. He also said that despite his dreams of Italy that he might play for the US if they included him in the 2006 squad - when he was nineteen.

I don't have a problem with this. I think he was smart and was within the FIFA laws in playing for Italy. Besides being a part of the Italian culture and dreaming of playing for Italy, it was the smart player's choice. He plays overseas ( he used to play for United and is currently with Villarreal ) and will have the most opportunity to play and grow on the Italian national team. He'll be playing with legends, who happen to be the reigning World Cup Champions. If I had the choice, I'd do the same thing. As for giving hope to playing in the US - he was a kid when he said that. I don't hold it against him.

I guess though that with players like Rossi the US team would be forced to play on a higher level and thereby keeping future players from going to other countries if they can. They - and people like myself - aren't thinking about the best long term situation for our country. Maybe I'm part of the problem with my European leagues and caring more about the English national team's qualifying matches than the US's. I think I'll root for the US in this Confederation Cup and see what happens this time. But I'd also like to point out that of the 23 men on the US national squad, only five actually play their club football in the US. Five play in England and three play in Germany. The people who criticize Rossi don't argue that the US squad should play in the MLS; they should be loyal to making the American league emerge as a world leader. These fans want their national players to get experience and grow in European leagues - and play with better squads. This is all that Rossi is doing.

He's not the only one. The New York Times have a story today ( by Jack Bell ) about a German international who has dual citizenship with the US and actually WANTS to leave his German squad and be allowed to play for America. Although this story has less passion for the player's second and adopted country than Giuseppe Rossi - it's still a smart decision made by the player.

Jermaine Jones ( 27 year old midfielder ) was born to an American father and German mother and has played for the German national squad for the past year, with three caps at friendlies. He plays his club matches in the Bundesliga for FC Schalke 04. The German national team has recently started players who could have played, through dual citizenship, for Brazil or Turkey. They instead chose Germany.

So why - you have to ask yourself - would someone leave one of the top three national teams in the world to play for the squad currently ranked fourteenth? The NY Times article tries to explain:

Jones said that his outspoken nature, multiple tattoos and perhaps his mixed heritage had not made him all that popular in Germany.
“I’m a player, when you see me, I have tattoos and in Germany the people maybe don’t like that stuff,” he said. “When I want to say something, then I say it. In Germany, it is all about the team, and now there are more players who say nothing. Maybe this is the problem with me. I thought I maybe would have a chance with the national team of Germany. But for me, now this is over.”

So it seems like
Jones thinks that he could be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. But you know what - he'd get the chance to play and show what he can do. He's twenty-seven, its not like he's the young kid waiting for a chance to start for Germany. As for being a midfielder - he's no Bastian Schweinsteiger. He's even had controversy in Germany after responding to a question about gay footballers in the German legue by saying "hopefully not." I really don't have a high opinion of him - but Jones just wants to play and the US might let him have that chance. And he has the citizenship to do it. I think it is a smart choice for him.

But how does FIFA fit in? Until now Jones would not meet the requirements to switch national squads. The Times does a good job explaining:

At its recent congress in the Bahamas, FIFA, the sport’s world governing body, changed its eligibility rules for senior internationals. Now, playing at the youth international level (under-17 and under-21) does not preclude a player from petitioning FIFA for a one-time change, providing that the player had dual citizenship when he initially participated. FIFA also did away with a rule that limited switching national teams to players 21 and younger. According to an e-mail message Monday from the American federation spokesman Neil Buethe, the lifting of the age restriction is effective Oct. 1.

Jones wasn't eligible before because he was too old to meet the twenty-one year old limit for switching national teams. There are many players in many countries that choose to play for their adopted homelands. This new ruling will help other to make the change.

I have to admit, that even though I'm not fond of the Italian national team, after Rossi scored his first yesterday - I was almost rooting for them. After he made that goal I wanted to see them win. I wanted his being on the pitch to have turned the tide for the Italian side. I don't think of it as supporting Italy but supporting players playing good football and making smart choices about where to play it.

Remember tomorrow is Spain v Iraq in the morning at 10AM
( Viva Espana - this is the only time I can openly support Fernando Torres since I'm a United fan ) and South Africa v New Zealand in the afternoon at 2:30PM.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Just For Some Variety

The Ronaldo transfer is still all anyone can talk about. They speculate on how this affects everything. Well - I've done that. I'm kind of ready for things to actually happen and don't want to have another discussion on how this makes me feel.

So this isn't about transfers. This is about jerseys.

There are tons of different Manchester United jerseys for the 2009-2010 season that have been 'leaked' into the media. Most of the are really hideous, in my opinion. Here are some of them:

http://www.football-shirts.co.uk/fans/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/2009manchesterunitedhome.jpg http://footballtribe.com/football/catalog/images/Man_utd_away_2010.jpg

Defnitely throw back jerseys. They resemble pictures I've seen from back when Manchester United was known as "Newton Heath," pre-1950.

But more than that I'm not a fan of collared jerseys. They make me think of every football clip I've seen of the 1970's. Also notice the lace up neck on the white away jersey which definitely hearkens back to the Busby days. I can see how these jerseys might have been nice to wear this past season to commemorate the Busby boys and Munich - for a specific match - but for a whole season I think they're far too gimmicky. After these pics ( which often showcased the name 'Saudi Telecom' instead of AIG ) came this one:

Not so bad, but still a step back from the sleekness of the current kit and more like the kits from the 2006-2007 season. Next came these promotional pictures, which probably are the closest to the new jerseys if not the actual new kits themselves:


These are a step up from the previous speculatory pictures I've seen. I still don't like them as much as the current kits - but it could be worse. They're actually kind of cool.

We're not the only club to get some - interesting - new jersey's. Chelsea is getting a futuristic new jersey, which sort of resembles the kits from 2007-2008 ( they were much better than the 2008-2009 jerseys ) and Arsenal are moving from red to a midnight blue kit:
http://comeonyoublues.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/frankienewkit.jpgTheo WAlcott: Arsenal 2009/2010 Away Kit / Jersey

I'm hoping for some solid news tomorrow.
I also hope that the fixture lists do come out on Tuesday.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

He Played on the Left, He Played on the Right

I remember watching an old war movie once and a song from it. I really don't know why it sprang to my mind this morning but it begins:

Wish me luck, as you wave me goodbye.
Cheerio, here I go, on my way.

Maybe it has something to do with Ronnie.

There isn't much else I can think of right now. There probably isn't much a solid United fan can think of at the moment, provided they're awake to think about it. I awoke shortly after 7AM this morning to hear my TV ( God Bless BBC America ) inform me that Ronaldo had been sold to Real Madrid for £80 million ( $130 million ) sometime after the time I went to bed last night. I think my subconscious heard "Manchester United" and made my body wake up for it. I really wouldn't be surprised at this point.

So. The most important thing to focus on now is how this is good for United. I've been mentioning it on this blog for the past few days. I think we all could have seen it coming and at this point shouldn't be too heartbroken. I also really do think it is the best thing for the club. Sir Alex doesn't deal with ego. Manchester United is a club of teamwork and no player should be more important to the club. He shipped out Becks and he's done the same to Ronaldo. David Maddock at the Mirror wrote:

Too many times this season he stood with hands on hips, disapproving of events unfolding around him. Too many times there were gestures at team-mates, and sulky celebrations. Ferguson eventually admonished him in public for his behaviour, and that was the beginning of the end.

With Ronaldo leaving and Tevez most likely signing with City this gives us
at least £80 million to throw around. Unless Ronnie's exit ( Fun Fact: Sir Alex originally signed Ronnie for £12 million ) makes way for Tevez to stay. No matter what - it'll be hard to replace him. Ronnie is a vital part in the United attack. I don't think I can put it better than Goal.com's Mike Maguire:

Others may even go as far as to suggest that the Red Devils will be better off without ‘CR7’. He’s greedy, arrogant, deceitful, conniving and overall far too soap-star-looking to play for Salford’s greatest establishment, they’ll say; as big-headed as he is brilliant, and just another example of Fergie’s no-tolerance policy towards those who believe they are untouchable.
So, with money to blow and their right flank a superstar short, it’s simply a matter of replacing Ronaldo, isn’t it? Just as the Madeira-born magician made the Stretford End faithful forget David Beckham, surely the man who inherits the No. 7 jersey will do the same?
Unfortunately for the Premier League champs, it ain’t that simple.

The thing is, the Ronaldo of the last three years has been something else. On a bad day, he’ll win you a game; on a good day, he’ll do so in such a manner that will leave his opponents considering retirement at half-time. He’ll beat men with pace, humiliate entire defences with his skill, and murder teams with his unholy knack for finding the net.

We can't buy another Ronnie in terms of skill but I think we can buy players that help the teamwork on the pitch as a whole. I think that Rooney will be better without having to sacrifice his attacks for Ronaldo. I think new players might mesh into attacks and not take the ball so much for themselves.

Who are our options? As I've said before, I think that we should sign Alberto Valencia and Karim Benzema. We've wanted Benzema for over a year; I'll be shocked if we don't sign him. Valencia really wants to make the move to United and now we have the funds to better make it happen. United is also apparently considering signing Real Madrid's Arjen Robben ( the Dutch left wing ). The Evening Telegraph reports that Sporting Lisbon are interested in re-signing Nani ( who has underperformed at Old Trafford this past season) maybe on loan or through an exchange for Joao Mourinho
( attacking midfielder ). I believe there is some chance of signing Franck Ribery ( whom I think will either greatly flourish or fail miserably at Old Trafford ). I also hear Zoran Tosic ( Serbian winger ) is hoping to impress the boss at the U-21 Championships and maybe get moved up to the first team for the start of next season.

I always say that Fergie knows best. The team has played better and will be better again. They survived losing Becks. They survived Cantona. They survived Van Nistelrooy and Keane. United is bigger than the sum of it's parts.

Despite all of this, I'd like to end by saying that I do not like Real Madrid. I know they're not the best in the world; they're not the best in Spain. I don't think Spain is the premiere league in the world. I like a quote I read today from Andy Gray on the topic of Real Madrid's recent star collecting and whether or not it would help the club win silverware next year ( they didn't win any this year ):

"You can buy Kaka, you can buy Ronaldo, but you can't stop letting goals in."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Making Sense of the Circular Star Collecting

So. I suppose the inspiration behind today's update should be fairly obvious.


The whole transfer season is like running in circles. Every major transfer has a tendency to affect all of the others.

So Real Madrid brought over Kaka for £62 million ( which is $94 million ) topping the list for the most expensive transfer in professional history, eclipsing when they brought over Zidane from Juventus back in 2001. Remember that Man City wanted Kaka back in December and he wasn't having it and then jumped at the change of going to Spain.

Well the ink is barely dry on Kaka's contract and Perez is coming out and saying that Ronnie will be next. Ronaldo, by the way, is not in the best shape right now. After Portual's win against Albania earlier in the week he was complaing of pain and might have to have an operation for a hernia. United has him on rest now to see if surgery will be necessary - but he could end up missing pre-season training.

If United do unload the greatest player in the world they will have the funds to bring over multiple players they've been looking for. They'll want a new winger after all - maybe two since Nani doesn't seem to have a secure spot at the club anymore. So what could a Ronnie transfer bring to United? Also, what could money saved by letting Carlos Tevez go to Man City be put to?

Antonio Valencia. He is a winger that United openly inquired about. He wants to come to Old Trafford and has been outspoken about it. United is only valuing him at around £16 million but Wigan wants more.

A new keeper? VDS is beloved but won't play for many more seasons. United is ( finally! ) sending off Kusczak on loan or to another club permanently and while Foster isn't shabby we need more than that. I've heard that Diego Lopez might fit in at United - and he's 27, a full ten years less than VDS.

Karim Benzema. He is a striker for Lyon. He has a different style than Tevez ( who has a similar style to Wayne Rooney, who is always safe at United ) and United had been looking at him last year until they signed Berba ( I'd have rather they signed Benzema than Berba ). Benzema would cost around £25 million.

Barca had also wanted Benzema - but he'd be in the way of Eto'o right? Unless they made him a substitute or shifted around Eto'o. Or sold him to City, who has interest. But if City gets Tevez they won't need Eto'o. This is where it gets complicated. By letting Tevez go to City they can make it a lot easier for them to get Benzema.

Speaking of Barcelona - I read today something interesting about a player possibly leaving on bad terms. The Goal.com headline reads "Under-Appreciated Yaya Toure Could Leave Barcelona - Agent." Basically it seems like Toure is paid less and represented less than other players by the club ( especially during the Treble winning season they just had). Here's some of the article:

"Barca have not complied with the gentleman's agreement that we reached," Seluk told Sport. "Joan Laporta says that Valdes is the best goalkeeper in the world, the same about Messi, with Xavi, with Iniesta ... but with Toure, never anything,
"If he is not good enough to play in this team then that will be that.
"He has spent two seasons earning a minimum salary. He earns less than many of the first-team regulars and less even than some of those that hardly play at all.
"We have put our faith in the word of the club, but they have not respected it...
"Therefore, I think Toure deserves more recognition on the part of Barca."
Manchester City have been linked with a move for Toure, and Seluk insists that Arsenal will not be able to afford to buy the player.
"There are many teams interested in Toure," he added.
"He will not go to Arsenal because he has better offers and nor will he go to Germany, but his future could be in Italy or in England."

Well, well. Who's in the hunt for a good midfielder?

Maybe Chelsea. They can't seem to keep a manager, but they certainly have the funds for some solid transfers this summer? Ballack just signed a one year extension with the Blues. David Villa has been linked with both Chelsea and Real Madrid this week - although I thought he was happy at Valencia. We'll have to wait and see on that one but right now The Sun reads:

Reports suggest Chelsea are ready with a 38-million-pound cash offer for the star - while Real are hoping to lure him from Valencia with a 24-million offer plus striker Alvaro Negredo. Villa has already turned down a big money move to Manchester City and is expected to sign for Real due to family issues.

And to mention the German league and Ribery - Real Madrid wants him. I see him in England or Italy before Spain.

Also, this isnt about star collecting but I have to mention this. Have you heard? Mike Ashley is selling Newcastle. Online. He's asking for £100 million. And whats going to happen with Alan Shearer? Gone, I'd guess. Unless they get a legitimate buyer, I don't know, within the next three to four weeks that actually knows anything about the game I'd say there's no chance of them making it back to the Premier League in a year. Other clubs in the Championship that are for sell are nowhere near £100 million. £25-30, tops. I know you were relegated but come on - have some class.

Monday, June 8, 2009

He Comes From Serbia, He Stays in Manchester

The most common chant about Vidic ( to the tune of Volare ) is as follows:

Nemanja ohhh, Nemanja ohhh,
He comes from Serbia,
He'll f*ckin murder ya!

Of course, whenever its sung by drunken fans it always sounds like he'll "fookin" be murdering people which I always get a kick of. Although I doubt he's that scary off the pitch; in interviews he always seems like as nice guy. He and Rio are just perfect together like Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister were, starting almost twenty years ago.

I love Nemanja Vidic. I think he's brilliant. I think he's only going to get better. I think he's probably one of the most intimidating people in football today, definitely the most intimidating player at United. ( Although I wouldn't want to see Rooney barrelling down the field against me )

It seems like most people, including the managers at Barcelona, Real Madrid, and AC Milan agree with me.

There have been a lot of rumors this past week about the clubs trying to get Vidic to leave United over the summer. The headlines read things like "Real Madrid Target Manchester United Defender Vidic - Reports - The Spanish club are looking to strengthen their back line next season..." "AC Milan and Barcelona chase Manchester United's £25m Vidic," and "Manchester United face interest in Nemanja Vidic from Barcelona and AC Milan- Manchester United are set to receive unwanted attention from AC Milan and Barcelona as the two European clubs try to lure Nemanja Vidic away from Old Trafford this summer."

All of the clubs decided to jump on it it seems not just because he's one of the best defenders in the world but because there were reports that his wife wasn't happy in England.

It was great today to wake up and read that Vidic isn't even considering these offers. There was an immediate response from his agent, Paolo Fabbri, saying:

“Nemanja Vidic will stay in Manchester,” Paolo Fabbri told Setanta Sports. “I don’t think we will have any surprises in the short term. We are not planning to move.
“This week, on Monday and Tuesday, we were at Manchester United to speak with David Gill, for other reasons, but we also spoke about Vidic.
“Vidic is supposed to stay there. A move is not possible unless some Arab makes a crazy offer!
"But in a normal situation, Nemanja will stay there.
“Barcelona and many other teams can be interested in Vidic - that is another story. Three or four Italian teams would be pleased to have the player.
“But he is under contract. His deal has been already extended until 2012.”

Players honoring their contract and staying at their club is something I really respect. I mean, I think that unless the player is truly miserable where they are and it affects their game that there is no reason to get out of your contract early. Sometimes the club lets you go because you're not being used and could be better off somewhere else ( So long Kuszack...I doubt I'll miss you ) but I'm always shocked when other people are shocked that clubs fight for their players. When they sign a new contract in the winter and try to get out of his in the summer...come on.

Nemanja Vidic was voted Fan's Player of the Year and the Players' Player of the Year this past season. I'm really not surprised. I think he seems like a genuinely good guy. Here's some Vidic telling why he loves football.

Also in the news: United v Real Madrid to sign Antonio Valencia. We'll see how that one goes.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Wood and Catgut, Paper and Ink

I once read a really good quote about footballers and their fans.

"To say that these men paid their shillings to watch twenty-two hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink."

I think that sort of feeling and faith in the game is good to remember. Especially during transfer months. You're going to read a lot of underhanded things that clubs and managers are supposedly doing and about players that only seem to follow the money.

Some of the things you'll read today might reinforce that idea:

Multiple headlines today cover Liverpool's belief that they can buy their way to the top of the league. "We Can Spend More Than Manchester United, Insist Liverpool -The Reds have at least £20 million to splash this summer and are willing to spend big, claims a report in a Sunday newspaper." "We can outspend United, claim Liverpool." I thought it was interesting that although the articles all mention that Chelsea could outspend them all...the headlines all focused on United.

I think something I read today annoyed me more than anything I've seen for awhile. "Manchester United Are Raping Brazilian Football." This was a quote from Brazilian legend Carlos Alberto. So...raping? Really? Basically he says that European leagues, but the Premier League and Manchester United in specific, are poaching young Brazilian players and this is a giant detriment to the top league in Brazil. I'll agree, there are a few players from Brazil at United - Anderson and Fabio and Rafael da Silva. But three players currently on the first team hardly strikes me as anything excessive. Four if you count Rodrigo Possebon. There are also three Italian, two Portuguese, two Scottish, two Irish ( along with three from Northern Ireland ), two Serbian, and players from the Netherlands, Bulgaria, France, Germany, South Korea...and scads of young players from England. Most of the young players are from England. The article continues to say:

Reports also claim that the Red Devils have an agreement with 17-year-old defender Dodo, who is expected to arrive in Manchester early next year.
However, according to the News of the World, Alberto has insisted that United should not be allowed to take his country’s best players at such a young age.
“It is disgraceful United are allowed to rape Brazilian football,” he explained.
“The big teams have the money and can take our best players. It is a big problem in Brazil.
“The clubs cannot keep hold of them, if they are good young players, because they can make much more money in other countries.
"They should change the law so, at least until the age of 20 or 21, the best players are playing in Brazil and get some experience before moving to Europe.”

I agree that Brazilian football is having some issues. It is losing young players. The clubs can't maintain control of the players they invest in. I don't think one club is the problem though. The players go where the best and most competitive football is, and right now that is in England. I don't think that FIFA should have the right to force players into their national leagues until a certain age. While that will definitely help struggling and underdeveloped leagues it will stop the best football from being played. You wouldn't see Rooney set up an amazing shot for Ronaldo. You wouldn't see Rio and Vidic on the back line. Maybe that's an exaggeration...but you wouldn't have Macheda playing with Ronaldo and Rooney, or playing against Torres.

A lot of whats going on right now is talk a lot, hype a lot, and wait. We're waiting to see what happens with Tevez. Waiting on Kaka. Waiting on Ribery. Waiting...on Ronaldo? There are a lot of big players this year that might be moving around. Even Barca, Real Madrid, and AC Milan are trying to get the attention of Nemanja Vidic, who seems happy at United and has a contract until 2012.

I think its good to remember the magic happens when the 90 minutes are on the clock. I think in the end that's more important than anything behind the scenes. Maybe they are hirelings kicking a ball - but you won't make me believe it.