Sunday, March 13, 2011

2011 Pre-Season Worries

What Me Worry?

DC's season is about to begin and, like last year, I thought I would make a list of things that are losing me sleep at night and giving me ulcers.
  • A bunch of young players who have never played together play like a bunch of young players who have never played together.
  • Charlie Davies isn't fully recovered and won't fully recover.
  • This might be United's last season in DC.
  • Players like Morsink, Ngwenya, and Brettschneider who have been on-form in pre-season lose that form.
  • Bumblebees.
  • The "competition at every position" unsettles some players.
  • Bill Hamid is athletically gifted, but unable to make himself into a keeper.
  • Coach Olsen equates "heart" with "talent" because he had both, but not all his players do.
  • I run out of money and miss a lot of games this season.
  • Losing at the beginning of the season becomes a habit again.
  • Pontius' form last year was a reflection of his abilities and not his injuries.
  • I can't find a way out of my dead-end job.
  • Injuries, particularly in defense.
  • Najar stagnates or succumbs to the pressure and regresses.
  • Unknown unknowns.
  • Key rookies can't hack it in the big leagues.
  • The new general admission policy in the Nest turns it into Barra-lite.
  • Speaking at my brother's wedding.
  • Losing players for the Gold Cup.
  • Simms and Morsink just aren't good enough anymore for MLS.
  • Where did this red spot come from? Is it cancerous?
That's all I've got for now. I haven't looked back to see how valid my concerns were last year. I know some were way off (Wallace and Pontius being too good to stay in MLS) and some were unfortunately prescient (Moreno good enough to play, but not good enough to be useful). We'll see how it goes this year.

The Season Begins

We Win Pre-Season

DC won the Carolina Cup Challenge! We dominate pre-season!
That's not entirely fair; DC wins lots of games that don't matter, not just pre-season. Before any observers get too excited about United's undefeated pre-season, they should realize that DC was undefeated in pre-season last year and DC's competition this year were colleges and some of the worst teams in MLS last year (Chivas USA, Chicago, and Toronto). It's great for team morale to get those W's, but that's not what is really important. Nevertheless, I think DC did have a fair successful pre-season.


Last year, during the pre-season, all of DC's goals came from Jaime Moreno. Alright, maybe not all. But he was the only one to score in the Carolina Cup Challenge and that turned out to be a harbinger for the season - no one scored. This year, Ngwenya, Pontius, Davies, Brettschneider, and others have put the ball into the net. This is a very good thing. Also, Brettschneider looked quite competent during the pre-season and that looks good for DC's long term plans.


DC looks to have a lot of good options in defense. The sole weak spot appears to be left back where the choices are Marc Burch or Woolard. Kitchen has looked quite good. I haven't seen much of Brasesco, but those who have have been quite pleased. Jakovic looks to have tossed off much of last season's lethargy. Jayner doesn't look too bad, although I think he is spending too much time on the ball. Ethan White and Chris Korb have also looked very decent as cover at the very least. Although, DC's defensive frailties last year were not particularly apparent in last year's pre-season, they rapidly became so during the season.


Coach Olsen has instituted competition for every spot on the field. Which is great in theory, but I also think that he has been fortunate to have the talent to do so. The strikers that DC acquired in the off-season have all shown fairly well, quite well in the case of Brettschneider. DC is loaded in the midfield, particularly on the wings with Najar, Quaranta, Pontius, Boskovic, Junior, and Fred all competing for playing time. That said, Dax McCarty seems to have a lock on the central "midfield engine" spot. Although Boskovic played in the position last season, Olsen has stated that he intends to play Boskovic on the outside. King is a central midfielder, but doesn't really appear to hold a candle to McCarty. Fred has also played in the creative central midfield role and may give McCarty some competition, although how much remains to be seen. The central midfield spot does appear to be up for grabs with Morsink playing well and challenging the ever-reliable Simms for the position.

What to Expect When You're Expecting

This line-up looks much stronger than last year, but what to expect from this season remains to be seen. It also raises the question of what to expect from the season opener against Columbus. I'm not certain - DC is a completely redone team. It is also a very young team. I believe it completely plausible that the first half of the season will be extremely rough for United and that they will drop points that they probably should not while the team learns to play with one another and gel and while some of the rookies and younger players gain confidence and experience. Columbus is not the team that they have been in years past. A number of the reliable players as well as their playermaker, Schelotto, have left in the off-season. In fact, they looked relatively weak against Real Salt Lake in the CONCACAF Champions' League games earlier in this pre-season. Under other circumstances, I would say that if DC is going to have a successful season, three points against Columbus at home should be expected. However, I have to allow some slack for all the new faces. Instead, if the first game is to be a harbinger of the season (and there are plenty of reasons for it not to be), I think the focus has to be on the creativity and the extent to which the players are on the same page. The extent to which DC appears to play coherently as a team may indicate whether DC fans will have to grind their teeth through July and hope for a strong finish and the following year or whether DC will be competitive for the whole season and really bounce back from last year's disastrous season.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Honestly, I'm Not Trying to Be A Downer

Please don't misunderstand. The Charlie Davies signing is exciting. Where previously I had reconciled myself to not seeing a number of the D.C. United games, I am now trying to figure out how to wrangle the funds together to see them all. That said, Charlie Davies is not the answer.

What is "Leg?"

If "Charlie Davies is not the answer," then I should probably define the question. The problem is that D.C. United is rebuilding. The D.C. attack has suffered for the past three years as Jaime aged, Gomez left and aged, and Emilio. . . I don't know, discovered a love of hot dogs? Although D.C. is a young team, it has no returning strikers from last season. They have no homegrown or young strikers that are on-going projects that will yield returns in seasons to come. In every other position, D.C. has young and promising players and/or "project players" learning the in background, but D.C.'s projected starting strikers are has-beens, never-weres, and Charlie Davies (a might-be). McCarty and Najar are promising goal threats, but they both have historically played out of the midfield. A potent midfield offense is probably essential, but also insufficient.

Davies Could Be Big, Big, Big, Big Bugs

Yes, that's a They Might Be Giants reference up there; you can judge me, it's fine. Davies might be the real deal; he could be a giant in this league. The problem, as I see it, is if he is good, he's not going to want to stick around - he's had his foot into the European game and will want to return. If European teams don't want Davies, it will probably because he has not recovered from his injuries and is not the player that he was. It is possible that there may be a happy medium in which he is a decent-enough MLS striker, but isn't good enough for a European club. More likely, he will either be too good to stay or not good enough to do the same. So, the team should probably assume that he is not going to be around for the 2012 season and D.C. is back to be looking for a reliable scoring option at forward again.

Stanky Icing

I am not saying that D.C. should not have signed Davies. Not signing him would have been a mistake. But D.C. needs options behind him to rise through the ranks and try to fill his shoes in the next season. D.C. needs a striker to learn from Davies and to learn the trade while Davies shoulders the majority of the goal-scoring burden. Davies himself would be perfect if D.C. were still looking to advance in the CCL. Because he is most likely a one-year deal, Davies is a perk, a crowd pleaser, icing on D.C.'s rebuilt cake.

New Faces?

It may be that United will pick up another striker to fill the role I have described, but I see that as increasingly unlikely. Fear not, however, as there are pre-existing options. Rookie draft pick Blake Brettschneider is getting a look from Olsen and the staff. He scored a couple of times in the most recent pre-season game, but predicting future performance from pre-season games is something akin to Santeria. Nevertheless, he is a potential option. Also, D.C. has two young and promising players in Pontius and Najar who have, at times, played as forwards. While both have spent considerable time playing on the wings, D.C. has a relative surplus of talent on the wings and just signed another winger in Fred. To me, this indicates that one, if not both, of them will be considered a striker and spend most of their time on the pitch as a forward. If I am correct, then I my guess is that it will be at least Pontius. Whether a new signing or a young existing player, Wolff, Ngwenya, and Davies should not be accepted by the Black-and-Red faithful as D.C.'s primary strikers this year or D.C. is going to be back to square-one when it comes to scoring in 2012.

*An Aside - I am watching this Olimpique Marseille - Manchester United Champions' League game and I have to say - OM's third/Champions' League kits last year were absolutely bad ass. I know that the teams want their supporters to buy new merchandise every year (see: D.C. United's third jersey), but they really should have kept last year's jersey.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

D.C. United Preseason

Is There Such A Thing As A "Loud" Offseason?

So, D.C. United was horrible last year. If you missed that, then there is no real reason for you to be reading my posts. Not that there is otherwise. Anyway, DC United has not been quiet in the off-season, beginning with signing Ben Olsen as permanent head coach (a process that was handled poorly and was slightly embarrassing). I'm tempted to list all the changes because there are so many, but I want to talk/write about some of them. Let's jump in, shall we?


United shed a number of players. Underperforming and highly-paid strikers, Pablo Hernandez and Danny Allsopp are gone. Not highly-paid, but still underperforming striker Adam Christman was sent packing as well. Jaime Moreno was rather ignominiously forced into retirement, a move that angered a number of the D.C. United faithful, particularly in the way it was handled. Maybe - he's looking for another team that will have him for one more season. At any rate, he is not on the team roster. So, of D.C.'s strikers from last year, none remain. Not surprising for a team that had record-breakingly bad offense.
Much of the midfield remained intact. Rodney Wallace (who wants to be a defender) was involved in a trade to Portland and Carlos Valera was waived. Neither was a large part of the team last year (Wallace was injured and Valera joined with much of the season elapsed). Boskovic, Najar, Tino, Pontius, Simms, King, Morsink, Shanosky are all still with the team.
In defense, Pena (yes, he played for D.C. United last year) is no longer with the team. Recently, Julius James was waived which surprised many who felt that he was D.C.'s best defender for the later part of the season (and was far cheaper than Dejan Jakovic, his partner in central defense).
Troy Perkins was sent to Portland. Although many expected Perkins' season to improve from his previous one, his massive salary was moved off D.C. United's books in exchange for another 'keeper.
To all of these players, I wish the best. They were part of a poor team that may have made everyone look worse than they were. I suspect all of them will have greater success elsewhere.

It's Either Cold or Hot, often Humid, the Infrastructure Is A Bad Joke, Traffic Is A Nightmare, and Housing Prices Are Ridiculous

"Welcome to D.C." to a number of players (for expectations, see the section heading above). Having no strikers at all, D.C. picked out two forwards in the "re-entry drafts" - Joseph Ngwenya and Josh Wolff. Neither of these strikers are jaw-dropping acquisitions. Wolff has been and probably will continue to be dangerous, but he is past his prime. Ngwenya was never able to convert his athletic prowess in goals - here's hoping he has a renaissance season, but I wouldn't bet on it.
The big acquisition in the attack (and overall) has been U.S. national team striker and Sochaux man, Charlie Davies. Long story short, the night before the final 2010 World Cup qualifier, Davies was involved in a horrific traffic accident in D.C. One of the other passengers lost her life and Davies was horribly injured. Horribly. The sort of injuries that most of us would use to stay on disability payments for a half-dozen years. Davies, however, is possessed of mutant healing powers and was mobile in time for the World Cup (although not fully fit by all estimates except his own). He feels that he was not being giving the opportunity to regain his starting spot at Sochaux and has come to D.C. to prove to the world (and Bob Bradley) that he is the blazingly fast and ruthless striker that he was before his injuries. He is a risky acquisition - he is possibly fragile or may not have and never will fully recover from his injuries. Ben Olsen took a long hard look and has decided he is worth risk. If Davies is fit and performs, he can almost single-handedly end D.C.'s scoring drought.
The midfield has had two big signings - the first being Perry Kitchen, who probably will not be playing in the midfield, but as a central defender. Nevertheless, he played as a defensive mid last year and I'm including him as a midfielder for now. Olsen and his counterparts in the DC brain-trust considered him to be the best overall player in the college draft and thought he would be picked before their number three pick. He wasn't and now D.C. has him.
The bigger signing, no offense to Mr. Kitchen, has been that of Dax McCarty. McCarty was involved in a trade for Rodney Wallace. McCarty is only slightly older than Wallace and was part of FC Dallas' drive to the MLS Cup last year. He recently captained the U.S. national team (it was a B/B- team of young players being examined by Bob Bradley) in a friendly. He also scored a sick bicycle-kick goal in U.S. team training camp which was captured on film and has D.C. fans salivating into their beer cups (don't look for bicycle kick goals from McCarty during the season; it is his creativity, youth, and skill that has us drooling).
D.C. also recently added Fred to the roster - not an exciting addition and one that has had a far-from-unified fan response. Personally, I don't have a big problem with it - he was overpaid when he was here last, but I assume that has been corrected and I do think he is an MLS-quality winger, lack of scoring notwithstanding.
D.C. has not made any dramatic moves in defense. A Uruguayan defender, Rodrigo Brasesco, lauded by those who follow South American football more closely than I do, has been added and is expected to easily earn a starting position. As I mentioned earlier, it appears that Kitchen will be competing for a spot in central defense as well. D.C. also acquired Chris Korb in the draft, but he is expected mainly to provide cover. Similarly, Daniel Woolard was added to the roster, but is not a projected starter. Home-grown defender Ethan White was also added to the roster; he too does not figure into the starting eleven picture at this point and is projected to be a reserve.
In goal, D.C. made two acquisitions while actually only attempting to make one. United acquired Steve Cronin from Portland in exchange for Troy Perkins. It seemed a reasonable trade as Perkins had been disappointing and D.C. had been attempt to acquire Cronin before Perkins became available. Unfortunately, Cronin has broken his wrist in pre-season and with Bill Hamid still recovering from shoulder surgery (he'll be back soon, but the first few games are questionable), the Black-and-Red were considering putting me in goal after my showing in our indoor league last year. Fortunately (unfortunately for me), D.C. had acquired recently-retired Pat Onstad, not as a keeper, but as a goalkeeping coach. He has agreed to come out of retirement for an unspecified period, I assume simply to kill my dreams of ever sharing the field at RFK with my heroes.

So Much for Closure

In conclusion, there is far too much left to write for this to be concluded properly and I hope to write more. Of course, since I haven't written since before Christmas, more frequent posting may be unlikely. Nevertheless, I have plenty of thoughts, comments, and concerns before the season really starts going. I have left off a couple of the other United acquisitions and releases, aiming mostly to hot the big ones. In terms of D.C.'s adding and dropping of players, I have to think that D.C. has done a pretty good job. There remains of the question of who will stick the ball in the net if Davies isn't 100%, but Olsen and company have added some exciting players and D.C.'s suddenly young team looks to have improved upon last season.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


So. This is something I have been looking to write about, but i have held back because I don't feel like I have all the facts and I don't think anyone really does, but I have very strong opinions on the matter. Now let me start by being very clear that I am not from England, and I have no direct ties to Tottenham other than being a fan of the club for several years now. I have no family from the area and I certainly don't live there.

The Olympic Stadium debacle that has been brewing in England has been a very controversial issue over the past few months. Tottenham, West Ham and Leyton Orient are trying to get this stadium for use to play football in. I will state my opinion here, and I believe that the only club that I think has true rights to the stadium is Leyton Orient, and I get the impression that they don't really want it either, but simply want to make sure that Spurs and West Ham don't get it. I do not want my team to move from N17 to Newham. I am with Tottenham MP David Lammy in that I believe it would be wrong for Spurs to keep the name Tottenham if the leave the area. With this in mind, I am seriously opposed to Tottenham taking the stadium.

From a the angle of Tottenham, I think it would be a mistake on several points. First, I think it would put significant pressure on West Ham and Orient and would seriously put Leyton Orient's survival as a club at risk. This is wrong in itself. It also breaks rules of the Premier League and Football League. Daniel Levy has said Spurs will be leaving N17 no matter what. Why? What is keeping us from completing the Northumberland Development Project that has been developing for several years now? This is a point that has yet to be answered and really needs to be. The club does so much for a very downtrodden area and would most likely destroy that area by leaving.

From a fan standpoint, I think the move is unthinkable. First, one of Spurs major gripes against Arsenal is that they moved to our area of London and think they are something more than a South London club, and we do hold that against them. We would be no better, and as a club who tries to take the moral high ground and claim we are a better club, we would be just as bad if we moved. I also believe that White Hart Lane holds a great deal of history and it would be terrible to leave it all behind. The beauty of the NDP was that it would keep us at our home where we have been for a century. The other big thing is that the NDP would help to make N17 a much nicer place to be and would hopefully help to bring new transport links to an area which is somewhat isolated in a city with the best subway system on earth(when they aren't closing stations to repair everything).

I am a big supporter of the We are N17 group as it is doing things in a nonviolent and very rational and reasonable manner. The club has been ignoring the fans so far and I want more answers. Most Spurs and Hammers fans want nothing to do with the Olympic Stadium and I am in that group. So here it is. Say no to Stratford. We are N17.

We Are N17Visit and sign the petition

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tangerine dreams

I feel awful that I so drastically underestimated Blackpool when I relegated them at the start of the season. The tangerines have not only been one of the most suprising teams, they have also been the most exciting. Ian Holloway has put together an amazing team with spirit to burn. They also shockingly play lovely, attacking football.

There have been a number of complaints that the Barclay's Premier League is not a quality league, but I think it is. With teams like Blackpool, West Brom, Spurs, and Chelsea, we are getting to witness the game as it should be played. The beautiful game exists somewhere other than Barcelona. I think the sad part is that teams like Manchester City can be at the top of the table when they can be seen playing such ugly and negative football. The same can be said of Manchester United as well. Since they haven't played particularly well as most would expect, they seem to play a bit negatively. I personally hope that one of the positive teams will win the league this year, and I hate to admit it, but I'd prefer Arsenal to Man City or Man United if those were my only choices.

I think another really positive sign that football is going in the right direction is that teams like Bolton, Wigan and Newcastle who are usually considered physical team, are all playing football to differing levels of success. But to see these teams trying to play the beautiful game as it was intended is a bright point. And it is good to see that there is only one player in those three teams that I really believe is a thug and a bit negative. Tiote for Newcastle is a walking red card and I was discussing him with someone and argued that I think he is a blight on what is a very positive side in Newcastle. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, but even Joey Barton is doing well, when he's not punching his fellow professionals.

But back to the team that brought me to post today, Blackpool. With the transfer window open, it is a breath of fresh air to hear Holloway making sure that his squad stays together when he said that it was ridiculous to see the teams below Blackpool trying to buy his players. He's right. Why should Charlie Adam go to a team that might actually go down when his team is fighting for a top ten finish. It would be nice to see more players and managers have enough spirit to stick with their team and not simply chase money. Pride and glory will always be worth that bit more.

Go on you Tangerines! Just please be nice to my Spurs.... :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

End of Year : Vol. 3 - Team of the Year

I want to give a huge thank you to anyone who reads here. I like writing about football, and I make a big effort to write something that is factually accurate and fun to read. I really believe that football is fun because it is a great game, but also because it is so easy to talk to people around the world about it. Sadly in a country like the US, it isn't as easy, so I write here or drone on and on to my co-writer and get some of this stuff out of my head. I try to be a bit original, and different rather than focusing on the same old stuff you can read at ESPN and Sky Sports. With that in mind, I am going to be a bit conventional and I want to give some individual dap to some of the best on the planet and name my team of the year.


Subs:Hart, Van Der Vaart, Iniesta, Dzeko, Donovan, Schweinsteiger, Ibrahimovic

Valdes-I think he's the better keeper than Casillas. Call me crazy, but I think he is so important to the Barca team when they struggle to score, he always keeps them in it.
Lahm-German captain, and one of the great right backs in the game. Funny that he used to prefer to play left back. None the less, I think he is a great leader and a great defender.
Pique and Puyol-This is a pairing to end all pairings. When you watch Barca play, it is amazing the understanding they have and to see the shape of the defense when Abidal or Alves go tearing down their side is fantastic. Great defenders, and Pique can score with his feet. And I haven't even mentioned how important they are to the Spanish national team.
Baines-Yes. I mean Leighton Baines. He has been in great form this season, and he is one of the few proper left backs who can defend and come forward. He should have been in South Africa. Perhaps even instead of Ashley Cole.
Messi-Best player on the planet. He will also be one of the all time greats when he finishes his career in about a decade or decade in a half.
Xavi-I'd be stupid to forget this man and you could argue that Iniesta could be here instead, but I think Xavi is the focal point of the offense for club and country and he is the best at what he does.
Sneijder-Scary coming forward and a great presence in any midfield. Made sucha difference to the treble winning side Inter, and to his national team, willing them to the final.
Bale-Breakout player of the year. He is the reason I became a Spurs fan several year ago. Now that he is the player he has become, I am so proud to have seen him then. He is fast, tricky, and is the reason Tottenham has gone where they have.
Villa-He was the force that kept Valencia as high in La Liga as they were. He has been a big part in the national team since Euro 2008. He has been fantastic With Barca.
Gyan-The feel good player of the year. He was they key to Ghana going as far as they did without Essien. Now he is tearing up the premier League and gets the credit he deserves.
Mourinho-It's the Special one. And he keeps building that reputation every year.
Hart-Should have been the England number 1 in June. Deservedly, he is now. Was amazing at Birmingham City, and is doing the same for Manchester City now.
Van Der Vaart-Has been great for the national team, but now gets to show his ability at Club level. He has helped to will Spurs to victories and will be a big part as they go forward.
Iniesta-How can I say anything about this guy that hasn't been said. Crucial for club and country and scored the winning goal in the World Cup final.
Dzeko-Amazing player who is getting the respect he deserves. Hopefully he will get the chance to do it at the top level since Wolfsburg is falling off a bit.
Donovan-Spiritual leader of the US team. Deserves so much more, but he has been trapped by MLS.
Schweinsteiger-2nd best passer of the ball only to Xavi. He is one of my favorite players on the planet. His loyalty is amazing.
Ibrahimovic-He has brought AC Milan back to life. That is an amazing feat. Coming back to the national team has also been good for him and the team. He may be a bit of a nutter, but he's a spellbinding player.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

End of Year : Vol. 2 - The EPL and CL

if you've been reading here for a while, you'll know I love to give my opinion, and I make predictions with little worry about how often I'll be wrong. My collaborator here can attest to this. Here's a look back at my views on the EPL and CL.

The Barclay's Premier League
here's what I said before...
20.West Brom

Top 6:
1.Man United
4.Man City

As for the relegation battle, I was really wrong. I still think Wolves will survive and Blackburn will probably go down, but I didn't think West Ham and Wigan would be quite as bad, not to mention Fulham. I think in the end, it'll be
20.West Ham

As for the top 6, I think I am still pretty well on... But admittedly, shortly after the season started, I began telling my co-conspirator that Liverpool wouldn't finish the season in the top 10. As things go on, I think I was definitely on to something there. I still don't think they will be in the top 10 at the end of the season. I actually will keep my top 5 in tact. United still haven't lost, and the Chelsea slide won't last forever. It will take major loses to see Manchester United slide out of first at the end. I think Man City's loss on Monday does make me wonder whether they won't miss out for a second straight year, but at this point, I think I'll stick to my top five.

Champions League
So, looking over my predictions, I got 12 of 16 teams correct. Sadly, only 7 in the correct place in their group. I was reasonably confident Spurs would make it but I never really believed we would win the group. I was right that Arsenal would scrape through, but who thought it would be in second? I knew Bayern and Roma would get through as well as Chelsea and Marseille and United were always going to win their group. I will say this, I am proud to have gotten 12 of 16 right. That's better than I usually do. I took punts on Partizan, Ajax, Bursaspor and Rubin and was wrong. But now we look forward to the knockout stages. Here's how I think it will go...

Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk
Tough one to call in my opinion. This will come down to how Roma handle themselves in Donetsk. I think Shakhtar will pull through this one narrowly.
AC Milan v Tottenham
Tough one for me to call. All my thoughts say that Spurs go through. We have pace, youth, creativity and a will to prove everyone wrong. Milan has experience, and are top of Serie A. I think Spurs move on to the next round though.
Valencia v Schalke
This is going to be a fun tie to watch in my opinion. Schalke has been turning it on in the CL and struggling in the Bundesliga. Valencia are a very good team and I think they will go on as they should have a few players back from injury.
Inter Milan v Bayern Munich
This is the easiest to call. Bayern will get their revenge for May. Inter are awful and just sacked Benitez, and I don't see them turning it around.
Lyon v Real Madrid
This should be a Madrid romp, but Lyon did get the better of them last year. Lyon are a very good team and can handle themselves in defense. I think this will be the most interesting and I think Madrid will finally break the 6 year streak of going out in the first round of the knockouts.
Arsenal v Barcelona
Barca... This will be the most fun to watch as Barca are the best team on the planet right now. Arsenal will not have a chance.
Marseille v Manchester United
I think this will be the upset fixture. I think Marseille will beat United. It will be cagey, but I think Marseille were the worst match up for United as they are good defensively and very good attacking.
Copenhagen v Chelsea
Is this even a possibility? No, Chelsea will make their way to the next round.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

End of Year : Vol. 1 - FIFA

I'm back. This will begin a series of end of year posts.

Today, I want to talk about FIFA. FIFA has been one of the big stories in the ending this year. I think it has become even more clear that FIFA is one of the most corrupt organizations on the planet. The English media made light of the scandalous actions of many of the FIFA executive committee members over the past two decades.

First, I want to discuss the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World cups to Russia and Qatar respectively. At first, I thought Russia was an awful choice. I wanted England because I knew that I would probably be able to go, and hopefully I'd already be living there and since I missed my chance when the Cup was held in the US in 1994 I really want the chance to go again. After some thought, I think Russia is a brilliant choice. I think the Russian FA will need to work diligently to fight racism and the government will have to work to make it a more hospitable locale for visiting fans, but it certainly can work. But with that said, I think the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar is absolutely ridiculous.

The 2022 bid was one that many people, including myself, was a lock to be either the US or Australia. I think there are so many problems with the bid and the actual possibility of running this event there. As for the bid, it seems that it was bought. I can't prove that, but there seemed to be a lot of funny business happening. The most damning point about the bid was that Qatar was the only country to get a negative technical bid. Even with 12 years to work on it, it is crazy to think that everything wrong in the technical bid could be addressed.

As for the post bid silliness, they want to hold the cup in January. Where was that in the bid book? I understand why, but we should have been made aware of that beforehand. I thought they were going to have air conditioned stadiums. Realistically, I could write all day about what is wrong with the Cup being awarded to Qatar now. Maybe in a few years time, I would change my tune, but now, no. Let me just quickly run through my issues with this(or at least the problems I can think of now). Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. Not a problem for me, but this is a tournament which is supposed to be inclusive. Israel would have to be given special permission to get into the country if they qualify. And believe me. I hope like hell that they do. Alcohol is not allowed in Qatar, and they are going to have to make special amendments to the law to allow it during the World Cup. Women are still second class citizens in the Muslim world. Enough said there. The temperature is 50 degrees centigrade in the summer. This is dangerous not only to the players, but to fans traveling between games to and from their hotels and now they want to move a summer tournament to the winter. Doesn't tradition mean anything? The Cup would be held essentially in one city. Now they want to allow other countries to host some games. Where was that in the bid book? And how can we be sure that neighboring countries would be accepting of the changes that need to be made to run this in their country? The whole modular stadiums thing. It just screams safety hazard to me. I mean, I love and own Ikea furniture, but it is not the most sturdy stuff ever. I would hate to see 60,000 people piled on the contents of an Ikea. Doha has only like one stadium. It just seems silly. There's more, but I'm tired of complaining about this already.

Jack Warner. Seriously, he is one of the most corrupt and abhorrent human beings on the face of the planet. He is a liar, a cheat, and simply a bad person. He was caught selling world cup tickets. I mean, how ridiculous is that? My big worry is that he could get the FIFA presidency if Blatter is ousted. With the people who are in Warner's pockets, as well as those who don't dare oppose him now, imagine him with more power. He could ruin the game with his sin bins or something.

Blatter. I know you want to work on your legacy, but at least be honest about it then. You essentially let several countries(US, England, Spain, Korea, Japan, etc.) was millions of dollars preparing their bids which they had absolutely no chance of winning. You should be ashamed. With the economy in the state it is in everywhere, especially in Spain right now, this was just wrong to give false hope and waste finances. Hopefully we will see the back of you in six months.

Finally, I honestly believe we will see the back of Blatter soon in one way or another. I think that if Blatter remains in May, you will likely see a breakup of FIFA. This is going to be not only through the media and the Football associations, but through governmental action. The blase nature of FIFA which basically believes it is above the law will not stand much longer. FIFA has stepped in to block governments and hold back the game in parts of the world where the government should be at the forefront. This will not last much longer. I'll put my money on that.

More to come over the next couple of days. And with some luck, we'll see the first musings of our newest writer if I can coax him up to the keyboard.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

World Cup Fail

Set Honesty Aside When Dealing with FIFA

Anyone who pays any attention to the wheelings and dealings of FIFA is well aware that it is a cesspool of politics, corruption, and petty would-be dictators. Sure, CONCACAF is worse and even the USSF has had plenty of low moments, but FIFA is ridiculous. Only Sepp Blatter, Jack Warner, and the rest know just how much money they've managed to slide into their bank accounts throughout the bidding process. That said, I'm not certain that FIFA made the wrong choices when selecting the World Cup bids. The U.S. had a good bid, a safe bid that was guaranteed to make FIFA plenty of money with plenty of ready-to-go good venues, a relatively fan-friendly atmosphere, and good logistics. But there was simply no "wow"-factor. Perhaps bringing the World Cup to the U.S. would have helped solidify and accelerate the growth of soccer as a professional sport in one of the, if not the, most important markets in the world. But that is not FIFA's job - that is the USSF's job and MLS' job. Moreover, they are doing a fairly good job of it. MLS is expanding into new markets, DC United is about the closest to a team being "on the rocks" and that is not for lack of fans; ratings for the World Cup were quite good and traveling European teams continue to draw large crowds.

Let's Talk about Russia, That's Less Painful

The English bid, it could be said, was comparable to the U.S. bid. Safe and steady and an eventuality, really. That may piss off Jack Warner, but England is pretty much all set to hold a World Cup. The stadiums are there, the fans are there, and the logistics have been tested regularly by virtue of the EPL and their four slots into the Champions' League. The World Cup will come to England. However, that's partially the problem. There's nothing new or exciting. Many of the traveling fans will have already been to England. The World Cup isn't going to spur much new growth, it will create no new stunning stadiums and new signs of development.
Russia is regaining its strength, influence, and its wealth. Yes, it is ridiculously corrupt. Yes, it has invaded one of its neighbors recently. Yes, the press is under-pressure (unlike, say, England). But the World Cup will be bigger for Russia than it will be for England. The English love football, but for Russia and the Russians this will fit into the narrative of their re-emergence from the dark times of the 1980s and 90s. Russia will spend more money wastefully to make the World Cup a bigger event than England could - not by virtue of wealth but by virtue of an autocratic government combined with a populace that currently wants to show the world that they are back and need to be considered again.
Similarly, I will not complain in the slightest if China is awarded the World Cup in 2026. China, for all its problems, is an amazing country that is amassing wealth and influence. It will put on a hell of a show for the World Cup, FIFA and the rest of us know it (did you see the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics?).

Iran Will Not Attack the 2022 World Cup Final, Even If It Is the U.S. v. Israel

First of all, stop with the racist and Islamophobic garbage. Right. Now. It's goddamn embarrassing. Will Qatar have to be on alert for crazies? Sure. But keep in mind that Qatar's security forces have less compunction about repressing their own populace than a Western democracy and they will be less fettered by civil liberties when it comes their investigations and detentions. Qatar houses plenty of U.S. military personnel and there aren't car bombs going off every day in Doha.

Arrive by Water Taxi!

There are plenty of questions about the Qatar bid, but they have 12 years to plan and virtually unlimited money to throw at the issue. Because that is what Qatar has promised for the World Cup - an over-funded spectacle. Have you seen the stadiums? Yes, a stadium whose outer-skin appears to be made of plasma televisions is tremendously wasteful - but damn, if it won't create a memorable image. Qatar, like many of it's neighbors, is trying to build itself up as a tourist destination. The accommodations will be top notch. If anything, that should be the greatest fear. A friend in Doha tells me that she either stays in for the night or spends a tremendous amount of money because there are no available cheap options for non-natives and prices will be even higher around the World Cup. Nevertheless, outdoor, but cooled, drinking areas may sound weird and forced, but it also sounds like it could be a fairly impressive feat of engineering, much like the stadiums. FIFA will get to show off amazing visuals, beginning but not ending with the new architecture. It is a new an exciting locale for traveling fans in a country that will do everything that it can to show off for the visitors. Some fans may show some trepidation when it comes to traveling to the Middle East, but the same was said about Africa.

If You're Expecting Failure, Expect Disappointment

Both Russia and Qatar will have amazing World Cups. The countries may not have the most profitable World Cup. Those countries might be better served to spend their money elsewhere, but that is not FIFA's concern. My largest complaint is that FIFA has granted the World Cup to Qatar, one of the countries that refused to play against Israel and forced FIFA to move Israel into UEFA. FIFA slaps down any country whose government interferes with their domestic federation (supposedly), but has missed the opportunity to law down the law that any member nation must at least tacitly accept any other nation that FIFA has accepted into its membership. That annoys me. Sure, now that they have the World Cup, Qatar has said that it will accept the Israeli team, should they qualify, but FIFA had the opportunity to push Qatar for something more permanent. Israel-Palestine is not FIFA's responsibility, but they like to throw their weight around, bully governments, and to enforce their laws, but have chosen not to do so this time.
The U.S. put in a decent bid that may have been successful against Japan or Korea and maybe even Australia, but Qatar was always going to be a tough bid to beat. England probably had a better chance against its UEFA rivals, but could promise nothing other than success and profit and, from the other bids, FIFA can do better. If FIFA ever runs into financial difficulty, it will knocking down the door of the U.S. and England, but until that happens, the Anglos need to find a new way to pitch their countries that make them more appealing. Yes, FIFA is corrupt and the most corrupt countries won their bids, but it is not as outlandish as it sounds.