Sunday, April 25, 2010


In the fickle world of football where managers are dumped at a moments notice and where players leave a team when they please, it was a great moment when Scott Parker scored for West Ham and ran away from his teammates to hug his manager. Gianfranco Zola has been under so much pressure over the past few months that he has been rumored to have already agreed to leave at the end of the season in two weeks. I am not a West Ham fan, but it is so hard to root against such a fine gentleman in the beautiful game. It is amazing the loyalty that has been displayed by both the players and Zola himself has been admirable. Zola has done nothing but back his players rather than blame them for some rather poor performances this season. But I have heard great interviews where West Ham players have pledged their support to their managers.

It is great to hear that many fans want Zola to stay now that it looks like West Ham will remain in the Premier League. It is an amazing contrast to the hordes of Arsenal and Liverpool fans calling for the heads of Wenger and Benitez. In the case of Rafa Benitiez, it is not particularly surprising considering how far Liverpool have fallen, but even I think the Gooners are insane to think Wenger should go. I do agree that his stubborn attitude has cost them over the past few years, but who else can you get that will better? I think that Arsenal have another year or two(or a bit more) before they pull themselves together and get some silverware, but to get rid of the one good piece in that club would be ridiculous.

Even at Tottenham, a number of our fans are calling for the head or 'ol 'Arry. I have argued that he can't go, and considering it looks as we may make the coveted fourth spot, it would be silly as well.

I think the coaching merry-go-round will be very interesting this summer. I think Benitez, Mancini, and Allardyce could likely be gone. But we come to the problem of who can replace them? Mark Hughes is one of the few properly good managers out there available.

What happened to loyalty?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Union Busting

So the writers of this blog are headed to Philadelphia in hopes that DC United will make like the Pinkerton Detective Agency and bust up the Union. In case you missed it, Vice-President Joe Biden will also be in attendance and let's face it, that's "a big f---ing deal." Anyway, it seems to appropriate to post something in case events go pear-shaped and we don't make it back.

I didn't bother recapping DC United's performance against New England and, to be fair, my frustrated post about Kansas City wasn't fair or even particularly accurate. So I'm off to a great start.

New England Revolution Half-Assed Recap - DC looked quite a bit better against New England than they did against KC, but that is not saying much. They managed to actually hold the ball in the midfield a bit more and drive forward with numbers. The defense was far better organized. Although Pena lacks speed, as one expects from a 37 year old forward, DC seemed largely able to cope. Hopefully, as the defense recovers from its injuries, the back four can play a larger role in starting the attack.
Therein lies the elephant in the room - DC lacked any sort of creativity in final third. Well, it's the MLS; games can be won without a dynamic offense. Unfortunately, DC played like they had one and once again failed to score. No one was willing to pull the trigger from any sort of distance. They didn't crash the box in hopes of fortunate header or deflection when service came in from the wings. There was plenty of movement around the top of the 18 and passing was adequate, but only laterally - runs were lacking and balls slotted through lacked quality.
Castillo, for me, has not lived up to the hype. Tino has the speed and aggression to be an attacking midfielder, but not the vision or creativity. He's going to have to step up - the man has plenty of drive, but he's going to have to make a conscious effort to play smarter. Pontius needs to finish - he's shown the most effectiveness and creativity in the offense, but if the ball doesn't end up in the net, it's all for naught. Julius James was the goat of this game for ball-watching on the first goal. He's still got some credibility in my book for that goal he scored last year in KC, but having made two gaffes that cost goals in two games, he's burning through it quickly.

Philadelphia Union Preview - Hopefully, no one is underestimating Piotr Nowak. Maybe he's not Sigi, I'm not in the position to say, and maybe his team lacks the quality in depth that Seattle had/has, but the Union did not look bad playing against Seattle. Now, that was one-off but Philadelphia had a bye last week, as did most of the league, so it is all DC has to go on (and all I have to go on as well). I expect mid-field battles. I was shocked to see Philadelphia control the midfield so often against Seattle who have one of the best midfields in the league. Granted, the physical style of the Union's play may have neutralized Ljundberg's playmaking, red card not withstanding. DC's tendency to play through the midfield is likely to cause more than a few violent challenges. This will also be DC's first opportunity to play against Fred and to see if he is as ineffective as we argued he was. He may not be.
It's tough to predict DC's line-up. There are a number of injuries and semi-recoveries. Najar did not travel with the team. It will be interesting to see if Allsopp starts. With a deficient attack, many fans have complained that we have not seen much of him. Even Onalfo has explained why, a shake-up seem appropriate. Moreover, Pontius is carrying a knock. If Pontius starts tomorrow, I'm going to begin to question Allsopp's fitness. That last thing DC needs is another striker that cannot go 90 minutes. It's also possible that McTavish will play. We didn't see much of McTavish last year and what we did see wasn't particularly good. I think the young man wanted to be like Benny a little too much. If he calms down a bit, his bit of speed and tackling are huge assets to this relatively slow team. Last year, however, he didn't play very intelligently, gave up many fouls in bad locations, gave the ball away a lot, and was caught out of position more than a couple times. I actually might not mind seeing Boyzz as a striker. His finishing historically has been poor, but his seeming-desperation to get into the box and put shots on goal may shake up the stagnant offense and lead to some scoring from rebounds.
DC should win this game. They have shown some promise. But they will have to put the ball on frame more than once or twice and it probably won't be pretty.

P.S. The strict Philadelphia regulations on flares, smoke bombs, and fireworks are actually not due to Joe Biden's attendance - the truth is Danny Califf's hair is high combustible.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

End of Season Predictions

With the end of the European seasons coming up, I thought I would look at how I see things going. I want to take a quick look at the English Premier league, the FA Cup, and the Champions league.

First, The Champions League. Having watched three of the four first leg quarterfinal games, I think I have an idea of how it will all play out. The teams I think will progress are Bayern Munich, Lyon, Inter Milan, and Barcelona. This means that the semi-finals will be Lyon v. Bayern and Inter v. Barcelona. These should both be exciting ties, but in the end I see a final of Bayern Munich and Barcelona. Needless to say, at this point I am having a real difficult time seeing anyone but Barcelona raise the cup for the second consecutive year. I would like to see Lyon make it to the final, but I don't see them beating the holders either.

In the EPL, I used the BBC Sport predictor to find out how I see this season ending. I'll look at the race for the title, the relegation battle and the battle for fourth. First, in the relegation battle, it seems that Portsmouth have no way out. The only team in the bottom four I see getting any points in the last games is Hull, which will pick them out of the drop zone and will leave West Ham, Portsmouth, and Burnley to go down.

In the title race, It will be tight. I see both Chelsea and United finishing with 87 points and Arsenal finishing with 83. I think this one will come down to goal difference. I think the goal difference will likely favor Chelsea as they have Bolton and Wigan left, both of which can let goals flow like a river. Manchester United have some fixtures against teams who like to park the bus and I don't think they will be able to grab enough goals against them.

In the Race for fourth, I think the game which will decide it will be the penultimate game between Spurs and Manchester City. I honestly believe Spurs can win that game and will take the fourth spot with 71 points, but if Man City can pull that game out, they get 69 and Spurs miss out by a point. As I see it however, Spurs get 4th, Liverpool in 5th, Villa in 6th and City finishing in 7th.

Finally, in the FA cup, I see the final to be a repeat of the 2008 Carling Cup. Spurs will meet Chelsea at Wembley in May. And though many of the Spurs players have come out and said we can get fourth and the FA Cup, I don't see it working out. I think Chelsea will lift the cup for the second straight year.