Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lightning always strikes twice

There were a lot of twos yesterday: Both the U.S. and D.C. United won, the U.S. scored two goals, D.C. United won two in a row, and unexpectedly both teams at the bottom of the East (D.C. and Philadelphia) won leaving D.C. still the worst team in the league. Only one brace though, as far I know, was DeRo's in Toronto.

U.S. 2 - Turkey 1
After a thoroughly lackluster first half and yet another defensive lapse resulting in a goal against, the U.S. men picked up a scrappy win. Dempsey and Altidore walked away with the goals, but they were not who particularly impressed.
Donovan's first touch that rounded the keeper and subsequent pass on the first goal were excellent. The second goal was quite fortunate, Dempsey basically hip-checked Donovan's awkwardly placed pass roughly into both his and his defender's path, the ball took a deflection off the defender's ankle directly into Dempsey's feet and Dempsey's low shot squeezed between the keeper's arm and body. Not impressive, but it is the type of goal that the U.S. will need to be able to convert.
Bob Bradley's choice of Robbie Findley over Brian Ching was vindicated somewhat by this game. Findley still hung on to the ball for far too long, but Findley looked like a player who could actually use his speed to create, if not convert, opportunities. His play was a couple steps above what we have seen from him at previous national level games or at Real Salt Lake this year.
Jonathan Bornstein was amazing. . .ly bad. I lost count of the number of times he was caught out of position or just burned by the man he should have been marking. Maybe he was trying to make Heath Peace feel better.
Torres, '80s Charlie Sheen hair ("Drugs? You in here for drugs?") notwithstanding, looked good. Not as great as ESPN seems to think he is, but he certainly looked lively, aggressive, and adapted his play to Route 1 soccer. Also, his free kick everything we've been promised from him short of a goal. Donovan's free kicks are excellent as well, but it's nice to have an alternative.
On the whole, the team looked only slightly less worrying than they have since qualifying.

D.C. United 3 - 2 Chivas USA
We have more points than a triangle and karma is a bitch, ain't it Chivas?
Okay, D.C. still did not look good. Najar's goal was a free-header and possibly off-sides (I have seen no replays yet), Christman was in the right place at the right time, and D.C. can hardly rely upon injury-time penalties in which the keeper is sent off. D.C. has been looking better, but that's only a comment upon how poor they looked earlier in the season, and continued their improving trend this week. If they ever manage to direct their headers on corners, they might actually be threatening.
Tino hit the post twice and his free kicked looks more like last year's and less like this year's stratospheric blasts. As a forward, Tino didn't look as lost or desperate to create as he has in the midfield.
Najar took some knocks, looked good in general, but is still quite young and over-looked some passing opportunities. I also noticed that the young man has a very deft first touch and close control, but when called to dribble forward, the ball gets away from him quite a bit and defenders were easily clearing the ball off of him.
The jury is still out on King, but I'm leaning toward adequate to mediocre.
D.C.'s central defense still looks incredibly vulnerable to speed and the actual "defending" abilities of Jordan Graye and Rodney Wallace continue to look suspect as left and right backs. That is not to say that I don't like them in their positions, but I don't believe either is a natural defender and quite frankly their defensive lapses and tendency to get forward probably puts too much pressure on the center backs (both Pena and Jakovic are incredibly talented, but don't have the pace to provide too much additional coverage).
Unfortunately, I don't think this is the beginning of a turn around - Chivas was having a bad spell anyway and there problems with D.C.'s defense are too glaring. . . that and the fact that I still doubt this team's ability to score consistently. I'll take the win and be happy this Memorial Day weekend and that's about it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Happy Winsday! DC United 3 - 2 AC Milan

That's it, DC United needs to find a way to play all their games on Wednesday since they are 3-0-0 for midweek games and 0-0-8 on the weekend. Considering I didn't think that DC had a chance, I am delighted to eat a dish of crow. There's not too much to say about this game since it was a friendly. Pontius looked good and hopefully this will give him some confidence for Saturday's league match. For the love of god, can we let Tino take the set pieces? Sure, he gets ambitious and sends a few into the upper deck, but his delivery can be excellent and, unlike Castillo, he gets the ball past the first man. Pity about Barklage; he looked promising. Hopefully, this is a fast-healing ACL injury.

As for the U.S. National team, well, I was wrong there too. Bob Bradley decided to take Robbie Findley instead of Brian Ching, took Torres and not Bedoya, and he took both Gomez and Buddle. Way to not make a tough decision on that last one, Bob. So, I wanted Torres and he is coming, but what of Ching? That honestly confuses me. Most of the speculation is that Ching is not the right man to play next to Jozy. I'm not sure I disagree, I assumed Ching was coming in as cover should Jozy get injured or need rest. Moreover, I'm unclear why Bob Bradley invited Ching to camp - Ching played well and exactly the way he would be expected to play. We are, of course, totally screwed should Jozy Altidore go down injured. Any combination of Buddle - Findley - Gomez would be a less than intimidating line up. For his part, Findley must have had a great camp because he has not looked very good for Real Salt Lake and certainly under-impressed in Amsterdam. On the whole though, only the Findley decision really worries me. I have to feel like his is a wasted spot.
You hear that Robbie? Prove me wrong (goals are most convincing).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More 'Who needs What?'

So I plan to work through as many teams as I can bring myself to analyze. Feel free to make requests if you don't see me cover your team.... and I am fighting the urge to cover DC United in this series. But we'll see.

What I think Arsenal should do is let Fabergas go, keep Almunia and keep counting on Walcott and Bendtner. However, IF I were to be objective I think there are two big things to do now. First and I'd even say more importantly is to get a new Keeper. Akinfeev, Neuer, Adler, Given/Hart. There are lots of good options and Wenger needs one of them. Almunia is a disgraceful keeper. Second and quite important as well is they need to keep Cesc. He is the one player in that team that holds them together. He is the only player of that team I would be lying if I said I wouldn't take him at Spurs. He is talented, young and a decent leader. Beyond that, Wenger needs to look to replace Gallas, because not only do I see him leaving, I think they can do better. And this is not even considering that he still has Silvestre who is rubbish. Period. And though most Arsenal fans were clamoring for Chamakh last summer, I don't think he is the be all end all answer. I still think they need to get rid of Bendtner and replace him with a big man type striker who isn't useless 90% of the time.

Aston Villa
This is a team that is hard to really assess for two reasons. They are good but something is wrong or missing and because Randy Lerner doesn't spend money. Last season, the club seemed to put together a back four that is worth something. The midfield got better and the problem seemed to be Striker. I believe that if O'Neill wants to play 4-5-1, Agbonlahor is plan A up top and Carew is his understudy. If he wants to go 4-4-2, then it's Agbonlahor and Carew. None of this Heskey nonsense. I think it would be good for them to dump heskey and get Keane from Spurs. I think he'd give the forward thinking and be a help to the development of Agbonlahor. I think in the midfield, there's no real problems other than getting Ashley Young to play rather than play-act. He dives a bit rather than taking people on when he is more than capable of beating just about anyone. If O'Neill can fix that problem, get the strikers right and keep hold of Brad Freidel and James Milner, there is no reason that they shouldn't be pushing hard for Europe again. Honestly, the team really only needs a little bit more depth.

U.S. 2 - 4 Czech Republic: Thoughts

Well, losing is never good, but it's not the end of the world. Not promising, mind you. But not the end of the world. I'm not going to recap the game, but rather list some of my thoughts and impressions.

  • I have Torres' name and Kljestan's number on my U.S. jersey, apparently. Serves me right, but it should be okay: I don't think either of them is going. Kljestan was not bad, he was just a complete non-factor. Torres, I do not think will be selected. I still rate Torres quite highly, probably higher than most people think I should, and I thought he played well tonight. If the U.S. were playing with the squad they used tonight, I would keep Torres. However, he demonstrated neither the imagination nor the ambition going forward that are going to be necessary to the U.S. counter-attack. Dempsey and Donovan will be looking for long passes into space to try to disorient opposing defenses. Torres' short passing and maintenance-of-possession were quite good, however the U.S. is not a possession team.

  • If I had to guess between Buddle and Gomez, I think that Gomez is going. However, I don't think that he has a lock. Buddle was much more involved, whereas Gomez looked much more dangerous.

  • Demerit and Feilhaber didn't even dress? I don't like that at all. Neither of them should be a lock, in my book, to go to South Africa.

  • I want Brian Ching on the squad. There, I said it. Unlike Gomez, Buddle, and EJ, Ching showed some creativity and intelligence. The other three strikers were trying to use their physicality to force opportunities, but to little avail. Brian Ching's back-heels and short passes into space really opened up the Czech defense. In addition, he did what he was supposed to do, and that was to hang on to the ball.

  • Onyewu looked hesitant and not just on the first goal. There were a couple of challenges. Not all - he went in hard often and looked like his old self at times. Hopefully, the hesitance is due to it being his first game back, not due to a mental block.

  • Beasley looked acceptable, shockingly. I don't rate him very highly, normally. But he looked acceptable as cover.

  • Heath Pearce, EJ, you'll be watching the games from your couches or, at best, the stands. Nothing personal, but you didn't have it tonight. Bornstein, you might be going because Pearce blew it.

  • Edu or Bedoya. . . that's a tough one. Neither really impressed, but both showed the speed and aggression that Bradley will probably consider an asset in the midfield. Probably Bedoya, due to his promise. Edu has had numerous opportunities, but never managed to lock himself in.

  • Holden looked quite good, especially considering he's just back from a broken ankle (Nigel De Jong can burn in a lake of sulphur for all eternity as far as I am concerned).

  • Goodson appears to have secured himself a ticket to South Africa. He's not my first choice in central defense, but he's not Bob Bradley's either. He seems more than adequate as cover.

  • No Spector tonight; I'm not sure what to make of that. Bradley has made clear in the past that he has doubts about Spector, but it's tough to see benching, let alone not taking, a player who was first team on a side in the English Prem.

  • Last but not least, Guzan is now probably last and least. He didn't make any howlers, but he certainly didn't control his box and probably didn't come out as aggressively as he should have on the 3rd and 4th goals. That's not certain because we didn't see any of Hahnemann, but Bradley saw him play during the English season, unlike Guzan. Guzan, I think, is now the U.S.'s third keeper.

Monday, May 24, 2010

England v. Mexico: A Brief Rundown

Well, just a few weeks until South Africa and about a week left to cut the England Squad down to the final 23. England took on Mexico in a warm up friendly at Wembley statdium, but their victory was not what the 3-1 scoreline would seem.

Mexico came out strong in the first half and had several decent chances and looked like they were controlling the game. It was actually worrying for the England team as Mexico looked the better team until the 17th minute when Ledley King sprayed a decent ball down the left which was slightly over hit and found by Leighton Baines before he lost it to the Mexican defender for a corner. The corner came in a and was put back in from the back post by Peter Crouch to King and the Tottenham captain put it away. From that point on, England seemed to be the better team. Mexico had a number of chances through the first half but Crouch got a lucky goal which came of his arm as it came down after being deflected high off the crossbar. Mexico again kept asking questions but couldn't score until a hobbling Guillermo Franco scored off a badly defended corner right at halftime. After the half, England came back out and Glen Johnson scored a great strike with is left foot from the top of the eighteen. From there, the Mexican fire seemed to be put out and the Mexican wave began to go around Wembley.

It was a good game for England overall, but I think there were a couple of issues. I think the England team came out at the beginning looking nervous due to the dodgy Wembley pitch which took another victim in the Championship Playoff Final on Saturday. It seemed to take Franco today as well, but hopefully he will be alright. After the initial nerves wore off, England looked fairly decent. They were inventive, played well as a team and looked the better squad. I do think that Walcott was poor once again as I think he only really had one cross which was worth anything. His pace was wasted as he doesn't seem to know how to go at people, and his vision was poor as he waited to long to notice and passed to Wayne Rooney late leaving him offside. I am not sure if Capello thinks Walcott is his starter on the right or if he is worried about Lennon getting hurt again. Hopefully he is trying to figure out who will be the backup on the right wing knowing Lennon is the man.

Joe Hart and Adam Johnson were fantastic to see tonight, and I was proud to see 5 of the 6 Tottenham players get a chance to play. I was disappointed that Michael Dawson didn't get a chance and that We didn't see Stephen Warnock and Matty Upson didn't get time either. I get the feeling Capello really is not sure who he is bringing yet.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Who needs what?

With less than a month until the World Cup, I thought I would give myself something to write about by starting a series of posts looking to what my assessments of some of the premier league teams need. I figure, going into the silly season, we're going to hear lots of crazy rumors, but the trick for us fans is the same as the club. We need to figure out what our teams need to move forward, rather than what we can get to make news. I'd love Bastien Sweinsteiger at Spurs, but midfield is the least of our worries right now. So lets start looking...

Manchester United
It's hard to say that the team who won three straight league titles before this season where they only came in second need nothing. The results they have had this season certainly tell most people that there is some room from improvement. In my opinion, I feel there are two real needs and one thing to look at over the next year or so. In the future, United need to figure out who will succeed Edwin Van Der Sar. With Ben Foster moving to Birmingham, I think Fergie has finally come to terms with the fact that he is not the best English keeper. But now, the red devils have two real areas to concern. They need a right back or a center back. One of the two would do right now in my opinion. Rio is always hurt, Vidic seems to be always threatening to leave and I don't really rate Wes Brown who has been hurt much of this season as well. I think If the problems in central defense can finally allow Rafael da Silva to come through and get his chance. In front of the defense, United need a proper central midfield general. They need a Mikel Arteta type of player to guide the game and let Nani and Valencia be creative instead of having to do so much of the thinking. Nani has been known to make stupid decisions from time to time and fans can be heard complaining about him regularly on BBC's 606. The team is still certainly good enough to stay ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham in the table, but there is that bit of room for improvement, but it needs to keep Berbatov. He may not be what fans were expecting, but if you United fans give him a chance, he'll do a job for you.

Tottenham Hotspur
Prepare for a long one here... Oh wait. No, I think the priority of this offseason is to make sure the squad that got us to the Qualifying round of the champions League stay. But, to take us forward, I feel like two signings should do it. But several peripheral players should go. The two signings Spurs need are a top class center forward and a very good centerback. We need one more spot player to cover in central defense when King can't play or we have any of our others are inevitably hurt. I have a few ideas for who it could be, but the one I would be most interested in would be Kjaer from Palermo as he is young and would be suitable to use for years. As for the center forward, only two names come to mind. Edin Dzeko or Luis Fabiano. Those are the only realistic names that I think would be a proper improvement. Going out, I think the first name on that list should be Robbie Keane. I love the guy, and he has been great to Spurs, but he is not what he was and is not what we need. I also think Jenas should go. I am one of the Spurs fans who hates him. I'll leave it there. Hopefully we can sell him to DC United because he'd be good for us here. I think we need to make sure to keep depth players like Bentley, O'Hara, Gio, and Pavs. These are very good players who are not starters in this team but can be great for us especially with the extra games this year with Champions League if we qualify. Although like every year, we'll be linked to everyone. Here's to Zlatan, Sweinsteiger, Kaka and Joe Cole coming to N17...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wherefor Not Charlie and Freddy?

There were no real "shocks" named in the U.S. 30-man squad and, as I noted in the previous post, I'm not terribly dismayed by who is on it. But why were Charlie Davies and Freddy Adu "snubbed?"

Charlie Davies is the easier of the two. Clearly, Davies is not close to being ready. He was not cleared by his club to play and Bradley and the U.S., who claim to have been monitoring him closely, apparently agreed with that decision. The progress that Davies made has been fantastic and hopefully, this is not too great a setback for the young man because his career was all set to take off. Seeing the type of drive and determination of the past seven months coupled with the skills that we already know he has, I am more prepared than ever to predict very good things in Davies' future. BS has a respect, if dislike, for him as well since he scored against Malmo FF on BS' birthday when he was present at the game.

But Sacha Kljestan and Robbie Rogers over Freddy Adu? Seriously? I am not Bob Bradley and he knows more than I do and is a better coach, but the Kljestan choice in particular irks me. I consider Adu and Kljestan in the same category, players who have been brilliant, but generally underwhelm. Of the two, I think Adu is generally a superior player. Moreover, while both have performed better this year than in the past (okay, Freddy wasn't even playing the past few years), Freddy Adu has actually been quite successful at Aris. Eddie Johnson has been more successful, but the two have combined well and, in a non-starting role, Adu has registered a couple goals and several assists. So why pick Sacha?
Well, I am guessing. But I think two factors are involved. The first is my failing. I am a soccer spectator; I am not a coach. Freddy is certainly more flashy than Kljestan. Bob Bradley has typically been unimpressed by style. I might argue this is the same reason that U.S. fans want to see more of J.F. Torres while Bob Bradley regards him as as second-stringer or a sub. Bradley would probably point out to me that the footwork, jukes, and moves often accomplish nothing and FIFA does not award style points. We are not Brazil and the USSF is not Roman Abramovich - we are not about to castigate a team for failing to "win pretty." So where I see Adu as being a superior player for his flashy abilities, Bob Bradley may value other qualities far more.
The second is Freddy's perceived attitude problem. He's not Szetela. He's not even Drogba, who you definitely want on your team but suspect can be poison in the locker room. He's like a less obnoxious (and considerably less ugly and troll-like) Carlos Tevez. Word is, Adu isn't big on training. Maybe because he was exceptionally-gifted at a young age; maybe because of the hype. Who knows, but he seems to lack the discipline to take his game to the next level. Sacha Kljestan, on the other hand, has publicly taken steps to address his off-the-field short-comings. He stepped up and asked for a leadership role at Chivas USA and has asked for more responsibilities. That is probably more what of what Bradley wants to see out of him. I would point out that the Goats are still quite poor. Moreover, while Martin Vasquez lauded Kljestan for approaching him about captaincy, I have heard considerably less praise from Vasquez about Sacha's abilities or successes as a team leader.
The last is pure speculation, but perhaps Bob Bradley is trying to light a fire under Adu for the future. After all of his hype and skill, a spot on the USMNT has been treated as damn near a birthright for Adu. Knowing that neither player would probably make the final 23, Bob Bradley may have felt that Kljestan would be better served with a vote on confidence and Adu better served to be presented with a challenge. My reasoning for the last theory is, however, even more specious than my other arguments.

This is OUR year!

Ow! Watch it, with the not-so-subtle prodding there, Mr. the Truth!

Well, the title says that "this is our year," but I'm not so confident. It just seems likely to the best year in a while. I've done a little basic math. The average age of the 27 outfield players named is 25.8, the median age is 25.6 years. The closest age to an outlier is Jozy Altidore, at twenty, two years younger than the next youngest player. Three players (Bocanegra, Cherundolo, and Ching) are 31 (or will be - you'd be shocked at how many of these players have birthdays in May). I'm not complaining about these numbers. I think that's great - we don't have any particularly young players to worry about becoming intimidated and no extremely old players to worry about tiring/resting. At least as far as general age and age distribution, we're primed to go THIS YEAR.

Looking at it in more specifics, the defense is a little older than I would like, but that's not looking too bad until the World Cup in Brazil - by then I hope new defenders have emerged because Bocanegra, DeMerit, Cherundolo and possibly Goodson all may be too old to play. I'm a little worried about the U.S. defense. Not too much may have changed since qualifying, but the Jonathans Spector and Bornstein have not impressed with their club play. That's unfair to Spector - I've liked the way he has bombed forward, but he's scored a distrubing number of own goals and been responsible for more than a few defensive lapses. Onyewu has barely begun to play after his injury and never with first team AC Milan. Demerit and Cherundolo have never inspired me with confidence, but that may be a personal issue. I would like to see Heath Pearce make the final 23, but I'm not sure it will happen.

By 2014, the U.S. will need more young strikers as well, but that's sort of been a given considering the crisis causd by Charlie Davies injuries. It's not surprising that the strikers have the widest age range spanning the full 20 - 31 years. Altidore is as much a shoe-in as anyone in this team and Ching has, though unspectacular, been consistent. The other strikers were pulled in as on-form players - Buddle and Gomez are incredibly inconsistent, but have shown the capability to score a lot of goals. Similarly, Johnson has shown a lot of promise and then disappointed - his coach at Aris seems to have some faith in him and he has played fairly well, hence the hope that he can shine in international competition. Findley. . . I can only assume is there to give the threat of a speed option. I don't expect Findley to make the final 23.

If Landon Donovan makes it to the next World Cup, he will be older than any outfield player on the team this tournament. As would Beasley. Dempsey and Ricardo Clark would be at the age peak, 31. That said, there is a lot of promising talent under age 25 in the U.S. midfield. Michael Bradley is the second youngest player on the team (22) and he has continued to show well in the Bundesliga, he could be quite a star in the making if he continues his solid improvement. Bedoya, Torres, Holden, Edu - hell, even Robbie Rogers, are all under 25. So is Sacha Kljestan. What the hell is he doing on this roster, by the way? The guy has talent, but he has failed to show anything close to it in more than 18 months (see the later post above). Kljestan and Rogers have the skills to make this team, but I don't think either of them has shown anything in the past year that I want in the final 23. Especially considering the strong midfield options that the U.S. has this year.

I expect the average age to increase when it comes down to the final 23, although the median will stay the same - Altidore and Bocanegra are unlikely to be cut. Let us all just thank our deities or Bob Bradley for not putting Frankie Hejduk on the list.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

England's World Cup Squad Announced

Today Fabio Capello announced his provisional 30 man squad which will be cut to 23 for the 2010 World Cup. The squad has a number of surprises. I think the biggest surprise is the inclusion of Jamie Carragher who retired from international football several years ago. It was pleasant surprise to see 6 Spurs players called up for the friendlies against Mexico and Japan this month. Then there are the omissions. Oh... So much to talk about and so little class time left to cover it all.

Jamie Carragher is actually a clever pick, even if a bit mad. The Liverpool man has had a rough season, but he is an experienced defender and someone who can provide cover at right back as Glen Johnson is the only RB picked. His experience will be key as players like David Beckham are injured and unavailable and players Like Rio and JT are bad influences. For England supporters, I hope Carra doesn't have to walk onto the pick in a game, but he should be a good personality for the locker room. That said, it is rumored that Capello had to beg him to come back, and there is speculation that part of his agreement promises that he makes the final squad of 23.

The 30 man squad carries the 6 Spurs starters in Dawson, King, Huddlestone, Lennon, Crouch and Defoe. The team has done well in the league this season and these 6 players have been crucial. It is fantastic to see Dawson and King in the squad because if I were asked, I would have to say the center of defense is the biggest Weakness for England right now. Rio has been injured the majority of the season and John Terry has been in poor form since his personal indiscretions were brought to light and of course brings that baggage along with him. I don't think it is likely that we will see Dawson and King play together at any point, but if called upon, I think they will do themselves proud and do great work for England. Huddlestone has been good all season and has been important in keeping the Spurs team going as he provides great passing and can make things happen with his rocket launcher right foot. Lennon is fast and has learned how to cross, and I am disappointed that Walcott is even in the 30 because as the crowd at White Hart lane will tell him, "Your just a shit Aaron Lennon." Defoe and Crouch are what they are. A poacher and a 80 foot tall hold up man with great footwork. Finally, I just want to point out how annoying it has been hearing commentators and pundits saying "I bet capello wishes Gareth Bale was English." I really doubt it. I will objectively say that Ashley Cole is a better left back and though Gareth is good, he has no place in the England Squad even if he was English.

Soon the 30 man squad will have to be cut to 23, and I think my person opinion for who should be cut from the squad will differ from Fabio Capello's. I think that Stephen Warnock, Matthew Upson, Michael Carrick ,Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips,Tom Huddlestone and Emile Heskey should be the seven sent home. Huddlestone and Heskey are players who I think can be useful, but do not fit into the team in a useful way other than filling spots. The other five, I think are simply filling spots in the 30. You don't need 3 left backs and I think Cole will play all the games and Baines is the best back up. You don't need 4 right wingers. Lennon will likely play most, but I think Adam Johnson is the second best of the bunch. Carrick doesn't do anything for me. Upson is overrated. I think more likely, Capello will send home Upson, Warnock, Huddlestone, Barry(injury), Bent, Wright-Phillips and probably Carrick.

I think a major surprise is also the ommissions from the 30. Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor are great players who deserve a chance. They also could use the experience for future World Cups as they could be in the running later. Also, Bobby Zamora should have been given a chance. The song goes, "If you're sat in row zed and the ball hits your head, that's Zamora." But this season he has played well and scored goals despite being in a worse team than Darren Bent. He has come a long way. Overall though, Capello has picked a fair 30 to start. We'll see how well he has selected June 12th against a team I'm sure we'll hear from Skippy about.

England's 30-man provisional squad for the World Cup finals:

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), David James (Portsmouth), Robert Green (West Ham).

Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Michael Dawson (Tottenham), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Ledley King (Tottenham), John Terry (Chelsea), Matthew Upson (West Ham), Stephen Warnock (Aston Villa).

Midfielders: Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham), Adam Johnson (Manchester City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), James Milner (Aston Villa), Scott Parker (West Ham), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City).

Forwards: Darren Bent (Sunderland), Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

An Exciting Week Leads to Summer Doldrums

Happy Mother's Day, Doc!

Chelsea are the English champions, good for them. Apparently, they needed to prove that they deserved it by thrashing poor Wigan 8-0. Wigan apparently wanted to prove that they are in contention for relegation next year. Tottenham proved that they deserved a spot in Europe earlier in the week by going mano-e-mano with Manchester City at Eastlands and destroying City's hopes in front of all their fans. DC United picked up their first league win on the same day and then proceeded to lose (and not score again) at Dallas on Saturday, proving that they are still poor. Perhaps they are trying to prove that the U.S. needs promotion/relegation.

So what am I supposed to do now? Sure, I've got DC, but remember the aforementioned suckitude. I still love going, but it's tough to view their play as "good football/soccer" right now. Okay, La Liga and Serie A are finishing up and they have close races for their top spot. Sorry, I'll check the results, but I am not going to be glued to the games. Same is true for the FA Cup final, mostly because I find it hard to believe that Chelsea will fail to win their first ever domestic double against the likes of Pompey. Champions' League final I'll watch, I'll try to see the Europa League final too. But after that, I guess I'll have to live off every rumor of where Jose Mourinho is headed and wait for the "excitement" of the summer transfer window.

Oh, yeah, and there's some off-season tournament taking place in Africa, but who really cares about that?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

D.C. United Wins a Game!

I have been lax in my posting. Partially because D.C. United is horrible. Posting about the games, which I should be doing, would depress me, but that's not why I didn't do it. I was completely disoriented. If this year's D.C. United is to enjoy any success, some players will really have to step up and the way the team plays the game will have to change. Which brings me to the subject of my post.

D.C. won last night! Huzzah! It sure as hell wasn't pretty. It was not the attractive D.C. United soccer about which some much has been said. Gottseidank. D.C. does not have the caliber players to play "the beautiful game." I am not sure any team in the MLS does. The MLS has gotten better, I'm not attacking the MLS or its teams. Rather, that the MLS has gotten better is what prevents attacking/possession style soccer. Defenses are better organized, midfielders are better at reading the game, and overall, the league is much quicker. Most of the forwards who are successful (I can't speak to Edson Buddle this season because I haven't seen L.A. play enough) have a great deal of speed or pounce upon loose balls, deflections, and rebounds (See, Casey, Emilio). Let's look at this another way, Kyle Beckerman was considered one of the best attacking midfielders last year. Not bashing him, but '06 Gomez, he was not. A number 10 to drive the offense, wingers with not just speed but good crossing, forwards with the capability not just to beat defenders, but also to keep the ball and pull additional defenders - these types of players are expensive and have opportunities outside the MLS. D.C. has had some great teams in the past and will in the future, but now, for the type of players needed and at an even higher level than before, it will cost an arm and a leg. These prices are well outside the salary cap range and even three Designated Players might not be enough.

Christian Gomez was a find in 2006, but if I have to predict, I think he will be the last great 10 for a while. D.C. has its traditions, but needs to give up on what doesn't work. The team is slow and lacks the technical ability (and vision and intelligent movement) for a quick passing game. We all want to see beautiful soccer, but when you have two work-horses like Alsopp and Christman who will physically pressure a defense until they crack, it's foolish to try to play like they're young Jaime Morenos.

P.S. Congrats to the Spurs; you're not my team, but you deserve it.
P.P.S. A belated congrats to Fulham - what a European run. Who'd've thought Fulham would be the English standard-bearers in Europe?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

4th is the place to be

The race for fourth place comes down to two teams and one game. Manchester City v. Tottenham Hotspur is being touted as the most important game of the season. Both teams are going into this game on good form and should present one hell of a show. The match itself is essentially worth sixty million pounds as the one to get into the Champions League will bring huge financial power to the victor. The big question left is who will end up claiming that important qualifying place in the Champions League?

Much of the British press is backing Manchester City to pip the 4th place finish from Spurs. The match is a home game for City which is a major advantage. City enter the game with four wins, a loss and a draw in their last six while Spurs come in with four wins and two losses, both teams losing to Manchester United. But are City really the favorites? Even the betting seems to favor City to win this Wednesday. But I think a number of factors are being ignored.

In City's favor is that it is uncertain whether Spurs keeper Gomes will play a factor. Gomes has been key to the victories against Arsenal and Chelsea and would have been tipped for another stellar performance against city. Additionally, Aaron Lennon may be back back, but may not start, and even if he does, there is no guarantee he will be on form.

For Spurs, The big positive is the addition of Gareth Bale. His pace is only bettered by Lennon in the Spurs squad and his ball control is nearly level with the right winger as well. Bale's true incentive is that though he is not the best defender, he adds a bit of defensive steel to the Spurs left side as he is a serviceable defender and allows Assou-Ekotto to remain more in defense. After the terror that Lennon caused in the first match, I think it is naive to ignore the return of Lennon in conjunction with Bale's inclusion on the Left. Also for Spurs, the victories over Chelsea and Arsenal, the confidence in the squad are incredibly high.

The goal keeper situations are going to be a point of interest on both sides. Manchester City are missing one of the top keepers in England in Shay Given. But in this past weekend Spurs' in form keeper Heurelho Gomes pulled up with a late groin injury. City have managed to get permission to bring Martin Fulop from Sunderland while if Gomes is unable to play this week, Harry Redknapp has already said he will not try to make an emergency signing. If Fulop is the man to win the game for City or Gomes misses the game and the keeper is at fault for a Spurs loss, there will be an uproar over the situation.

In the end, this should be an exciting game, but as a man with his Spurs shirt on, I think we'll be seeing another Spurs win. 2-0 Spurs.