Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We Want a More Viable Peace Partner In Charge of the USMNT

Four More Years!

Well, B.B. has solidified his hold on the U.S. men's national team. Frankly, I didn't even know he was involved, but I think at some point, we need to have a U.S. citizen running the U.S. program. Plus, he's going to be awfully busy running Israel for the foreseeable future and those up-coming peace negotiations are going to be so time consuming that I just don't know that he'll have enough time to dedicate to our blossoming program. Also, I wasn't a fan of his book, Fighting Terrorism - I thought it was largely political posturing.

What? "Who am . . . ? " Well, Benjamin Netanyahu, of course. You know, "B.B." Who did you think I . . .

Oh. Ooooooh. "Bob Bradley," you say. Well, at least he and Landon Donovan can commiserate about their inability to get a job in England.

Great. Israeli political jokes in a soccer blog. Honestly, why didn't I just go with the more obvious 1984 references? Because I respect your intelligence and worldliness, that's why.

Ow! My Toe!

Do we really think that Bob Bradley is even possibly the biggest stumbling block in front of the the U.S. soccer program? Honestly, I think talent and pedigree are still the greatest impediments. Yes, that is a stumbling block/stubbed toe reference in the section header. This is why I shouldn't be allowed to blog in the morning.

Did anyone read the news about Bob's contract extension and honestly think, "Well, that's it: we're not taking the World Cup home in Brazil"? If so, I salute your optimism and faith in the players to think that he's the one holding them back, but I think you should probably be locked up.

Bob Bradley has plenty of detractors, but it's tough to argue that he hasn't been pretty good for this program. The U.S. program has reached new heights under his leadership, he is complimented by many other coaches - including the Swiss coach who credited Bradley with showing the world how to beat Spain, and the players all seem to like and respect Bradley. Bradley's critics tend to argue that Bradley has had a lot of luck: England was weak this year, as was our group; the U.S. victory over Spain was due to poor Spanish play; Mexico had a bad qualifying run. Maybe, but as the list gets longer it really seems like the team is making their luck. I would also argue that Bradley has helped soccer in the U.S. as a whole; with a team of moderately talented players, he has made them competitive against some of the top sides in the world. That may help "sell" soccer: Few Americans are really looking for the opportunity to see their country thrashed by Brazil, but plenty of sports fans love an underdog story - especially an underdog who makes victory look possible. Lots of fans and pundits like to criticize some of his decisions (I know I do) ranging from tactics to player selection, but in the end, I think his results this far have been pretty good.

The Emmanuel Goldstein Perspective

There's your Orwell joke. Happy? I do view Bob Bradley's contract extension as a missed opportunity for both the USSF and for Bradley himself. Bob Bradley is still reasonably young and, frankly, he is still quite inexperienced. He's coached in the U.S. and . . . that's it. That's great for his familiarity with the U.S. game and players, but if he is going to move on as a coach, he's going to need at least passing knowledge how the game is played, and coached, in the other parts of the world.
As for the USMNT, Bradley has done an excellent job making the U.S. competitive with teams better than the U.S., but has floundered when faced with teams that were weaker or more even with the U.S. team. The vibrant and often-lethal counter-attacking culture that Bradley has instilled in the U.S. team is not effective when opponents are content to draw at zero or refuse to commit too many players forward, fearing the U.S. attack. A new coach brings in fresh ideas and can perhaps teach a team that consistently defeats Mexico to dominate games the way that Mexico does. Such tactics are going to become more necessary as the U.S. talent pool is expanding at what appears to be nearly a geometric-rate. The U.S. isn't going to start thrashing the likes of Argentina or Germany any time soon, but more teams are going to start playing conservatively against the U.S. and that will weaken Bradley's tactics. All that aside, at some point, simply having a fresh perspective is necessary to advance the quality of the team.

Don't Blame Fabio Capello

The coach matters. Somewhat. Let's not exaggerate the impact of these guys though. Fabio Capello simply did not affect the English national team enough to make them play that poorly. The managers get to coach their players a couple of weeks per year. Yes, there can be poor substitutions and poor line-ups, but let us not forget that arguing that different player selection would have been better is counter-factual and should be viewed with healthy skepticism. Ultimately, a coach can be a multiplier at the end of the equation, but the quality of the players and their ability to play together is far more important than the coach, his substitutions, and tactical predispositions. Right now, the rising level of quality in the U.S. player pool is more important than the coach. Re-hiring Bradley is not an aggressive move, but it is a relatively stable one. While the U.S. is still trying to get it's soccer program organized and capable of fully harnessing advantageous demographic shifts and the rise of a domestic division-1 soccer league, a little stability in some part of the program isn't the worst idea. Really, it's a bigger shame that Bradley couldn't find a better job somewhere else.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Blame Game

Holy Crap, We Suck

D.C. United has had an abysmal season, no two ways about that. The coach has been sacked and United stalwart Ben Olsen placed in charge. While criticism of Onalfo may be justified, the fact reamins that United simply is not a good team. Benny Olsen recently celebrated his first win as coach, but the new team is hardly tearing up the league and the recent victory was hardly dominant or attractive.

I was inclined to think that firing Onalfo and promoting Olsen was a savvy move by United's front office. They "did something" about DCU's horrible record and perhaps sought to silence some of the criticism by promoting Ben Olsen. Olsen is in his first year of coaching, he's too green as a coach and everyone knows it, plus the love for Benny is such that if he didn't win a game the rest of the season, there were going to be no calls to put him up on a cross. Plus, there is the hope that Olsen will put a fire into the team that the players seemed to lack this year. However, upon reflection, the FO may have signed their own pink slips.

Players v. Front Office

Curt Onalfo may have been fired too soon. Not just in the sense that I don't really think he had a chance to craft his team, but also politically. The season was a wash already, certainly. However, there are still plenty of games left to lose to enrage the fans that still meander into RFK and Molly Malone's to watch the games. Without the coach to serve as a lightning rod, the fans will direct their anger at either the players or the front office and, at least on BigSoccer.com, the decision has been made to focus on the front office (truth be told, it's not a new decision; there were "Fire Payne and Kasper" threads right along with the "Fire Onalfo" threads). I question whether that is fair.

Slumps: the Case against the Players

Santino Quaranta and Chris Pontius are slumping terribly. Neither has looked particularly dangerous and both are giving away position far too often. Similarly, before his injury, Rodney Wallace was similarly playing poorly. Granted, he was in a different position, but he claimed that he prefers to play left back. Not slumping, but unexpected was injury-forced retirement of veteran defender and leader, Bryan Namoff. That's four of eleven starters from last year and they were some of the brightest spots of last year - the only other I can think of was Dejan Jakovic, who has been steady (injuries not withstanding). I accept as a given that MLS rosters lack the depth that four starters playing poorly is a pretty serious impediment, one cannot fault the front office for re-signing those players nor their lack of quality this year. There are other players I could point out as well, Simms hasn't had a terrible season, but he has not looked as good as he once did.

The trade for Perkins is more debatable. I was not one of those who said DC gave up too much to get Perkins back. They gave up a lot, certainly, and at the time I didn't understand why the team was so desperate to replace Wicks. I was unaware of Wicks' off-the-field problems and thought his moments of madness would fade as he matured as a player. Nevertheless, Perkins had been MLS goalkeeper of the year, he played well in Norway, and, at the time, was believed to be competing for the third spot goalkeeper spot on the U.S. national team. He seemed the solution to DCU's goalkeeping problems that had plagued the team since Perkins left for Europe. Perkins has been disappointing, however, and has been forced to battle with young academy star, Bill Hamid. I argue, however, that this must be seen as a slump. Giving up so much to Philadelphia was certainly a gamble, but looking at it, it was a relatively safe gamble that has gone freakishly bad; the FO could not have seen it coming.

So Many Shutouts, So Many Seasons: the Case against the Front Office

DC United's offense was in trouble last season and the fans all knew it. Statistically, this seemed untrue: the front office pointed to the relatively highly high ranking that DC held in the league in terms of goals scored. But Emilio was a microcosm of the problem - huge scoring droughts punctuated by multiple goal games kept him high on the scorers' sheet, but was unreflective of how many times he killed the attack. DC seemed unable to score when the games were close - consider all of DC's ties last year. Moreover, with Emilio on his way out and Moreno another year older, DC had no MLS-calibre strikers to look to for goals. The FO's answers were Danny Allsopp and MLS journeyman Adam Christman. Like so many of the acquisitions from the front office, both have been unsuccessful. This is symptom of the larger problem.

The front office hasn't found good offensive players since Emilio and Fred in 2007 and both those players had their best years in 2007. Bringing Gomez back to DC was unimaginative at best - he never regained his top form, but was never the worst player of the field. Franco Niell was a huge bust. Emilio was resigned as a designated player after his first few games of the 2008 season in which he was overweight and played with lackluster effort. Gallardo was a fantastic player, but just wrong for the team - a second year may have been better, but that was not to be. The flying Gonzalo brothers didn't turn out well. Then there was the famous Dyachenko fiasco, exposing him on the expansion draft and then trading a first round draft pick to get him back. An inefficient move for a good player, but Dyachenko never produced. Will Boskovic get better? Don't know, he's been called up for the Montenegrin national team which is probably a good sign, but thus far he hasn't really earned the designated player money that he is making.

But there have been good acquisitions as well. Jakovic stands out. Hernandez looks good, although whether he ever produces remains to be seen. Stephen King looks like a solid investment in the future. I don't know about Zayner; the Crew fans seemed upset that we had snagged him.


That DC is the worst team in the league this year is not necessarily the front office's fault. The player slumps have driven this team into the cellar. However, there is hardly evidence that this team would be top class even with the slumping players performing better. This has gone on for too many years to look at the players. The front office has been unable to acquire the quality of new players to make this team competitive. There have been some fairly huge gaffes and a stunning display of arrogance when questioned about those decisions. On top of all those things, DC United may not exist for much longer, without a stadium. That cannot be placed completely on the front office, but ultimately, it is their responsibility. A tough job to be certain, but it is their job and they have failed to do it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Champions League is upon us...

Oh to be the fan of a team in the Champions League. I am among an elite group of fans who support a club in the UEFA Champions league. And as my Spurs are the new boys, I don't really know how to be, but believe me, if I have learned anything from the Arsenal, Chelsea and United fans, I will be smug at some point. So it was an exciting day for football, as we now know the 32 teams in the group stage of this year's competition and how they are distributed. So here are the groups and how I see them working out at this point.

Group A
Inter Milan
Werder Bremen
Tottenham Hotspur
FC Twente

This is a solid group. Title holders, German top team, English top team, and Dutch champions. It may sound like a silly prediction, but I think this group will come down to how Benitez manages Inter Milan. If he keeps things the same and doesn't tinker too much, which he has been known to do, then they should walk the group. But if he does tinker and things get off kilter, then Inter could struggle through this group as I think any one of these teams could win the group and any could manage second. If I'm honest, I would also say that Werder will be the x-factor. If they can pull the defense together, then they can be a real threat, but if they keep up with their porous defense, then they will struggle worse then spurs through a game on astroturf. In the end, I think it will be Inter to win the group, and Spurs to sneak out in the second spot.

Group B
Hapoel Tel-Aviv

I feel like this is a tougher group to call after first place. Lyon should walk this group especially after Lyon signed Yoaan Gourcuff this week. After my favorites, I think it is between Benfica and Schalke. I think I see it more likely that Schalke will be the ones to follow Lyon. With their addition of Raul to a very decent squad, I think they are going to be able to make it. And though I don't see them doing anything really, I am really pulling for Hapoel Tel-Aviv after the treatment they got in their qualifier against Red Bull Salzburg.

Group C
Manchester United

This is one of two or three really compelling draws for the group stage. Manchester United should be first, but that assumes their form improves and Rooney gets going. Valencia is a decent team, but lost their two best players, so they could well struggle. Rangers are a good team, but after their struggles last year, and the poor quality of the league, I could see them falling again. Finally, Bursaspor are a real wild card. No one really wants to go play there as it will often be an ugly and hostile atmosphere, but that also assumes they can match the quality of the other teams and take advantage of their home matches. In my eyes, I think the best shot to go through would be Rangers, but I think Bursaspor will push through in second.

Group D
FC Copenhagen
Rubin Kazan

I think this is an easier group to call, but not the ones you may think. Barcelona will get first easily, but who else. I think Rubin Kazan will be second. After having experience against both Inter and Barca last year, including a draw at the Nou Camp, I think they can do better this year. Copenhagen and Panathinaikos are good clubs, but I don't think they will pull it off.

Group E
Bayern Munich
AS Roma
CFR Cluj

This is the rare straight forward group. I have no problems picking Bayern and Roma to go through in that order. Both teams are very good and will make short of the unfortunate Basel and Cluj. Congrats on getting this far, but this is the end of the line for those two.

Group F
Spartak Moscow

This is a group that I plan to try to watch the games for. Marsaille, Moscow and Zilina are good teams and I was impressed by Zilina in their qualifier. Chelsea will win this group and when asked, I have already tipped Chelsea and Barca to get to the final. The question here is who is second. I honestly think Marsaille should do it. They are a very good team and as champions they have proved they can win when it counts. I think they will probably make the knockout stage but that may be it for them.

Group G
AC Milan
Real Madrid

I think this will be the trick group. History says Milan and Madrid go though, but I don't think that is true here. I don't think Milan are as good of a team as they think they are. They are aged, and not as skilled as they have been historically. I believe Madrid will get their knockout spot, where they will get knocked out as usual. But I see Ajax making it into the second spot over Milan.

Group H
Shakhtar Donetsk
Partizan Belgrade

Finally... I think we all know Arsenal will scrape through. But the final three are harder to call. All three have earned their spot here. But who makes it? I think I'd pick Partizan Belgrade. Shakhtar is a great team as is Braga, but despite the amazing win over Sevilla, I think these two will fall off and Partizan will make it. Partizan are a good attacking team and did well to beat Anderlecht to their spot and I could see them making that roll keep going.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

This Weekend in England : Gameweek 2 edition

I was thinking of doing my own game week best eleven feature, but I think I will simply do a best of the week and worst of instead. Lets start with the poor side of the weekend.

The Good

This weekend was full of goals and included three 6-0 results. I have a few players in mind but there will be an omission that many would not agree with. In my opinion, there were a couple of standout players. First was Gareth Bale. Two goals, yes. But his pace and ball skills gave such terror to the Stoke defense. And if you haven't seen the two goals, they were so different in that the first was comically hit off his face and the second was one of the most amazing goals I have ever seen. Honorable mention goes to Aaron Lennon as his passes into the goals were good which is fantastic to see since he has not been as scary for opponents as he was last season. Next for me is Didier Drogba. I can hear the cries about Kalou and Anelka, but since Drogba probably could have scored four or five of the six himself, but he selflessly made the killer passes in this match. His goal scoring threat made this so easy for him, but it was a masterclass in striker passing. A little noticed player is Seb Larsson from Birmingham City. He was all over the pitch and was providing some great passes. He is a talented player but I feel like he gets into his own head sometimes and he doesn't look as good in matches many times. But this weekend he looked great. Finally I want to mention the four goalies who stopped penalties this weekend. Jaaskelainen, Foster, Stockdale, and Harper. I just love seeing goalie make penalty saves since more often than not, they don't stop them. Honorable mention of the weekend was the young referee Michael Oliver who i thought was quite good and was strong, which is a major problem with some refs these days.

The Bad

I will start with the entire back four of Blackpool. It was a really poor display and it simply set out to give up six. Or atleast it really seemed like it. Next is the Backline of Wigan. They were disgraceful. I can't say much more there either. John Carew was not good and his penalty was worse this morning. Lastly I want to quickly rant against John Terry. He was por this weekend and I was really angry about his retribution fouls and his horrible posturing in the Chelsea v. Wigan game. He is a reprehensible human being, but I think he is almost as bad on the field. He has no pace, a short temper, and doesn't tackle particularly well. He is literally treading on his reputation from the past years where he was quite good but he is going down hill since the last season.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Boy, those Young Boys are dangerous

Well, my planned posts were ruined by the horrid 28 minute display at the beginning of yesterdays Champions League qualifying playoff between Tottenham and Young Boys. The most obvious things from the game were that Spurs simply underestimated their opponents and the Astroturf pitch had a number of players playing very cautiously to avoid injuries. I applaud Michael Dawson for refusing to simply blame the pitch for the team's poor performance. But what can be done to prevent the disappointment from happening again on Wednesday next week?

I think the first thing is that Ledley King must play in the second leg. Neither Bassong or Dawson were particularly bad, but his experience and calming influence was definitely missed yesterday. Secondly, I think Harry Redknapp must not look to play cautiously. We are a team who needs to come out firing, not play cautiously. We do get burned playing this way from time to time, but we would never have had a chance against Chelsea and Arsenal last season if we didn't. Finally, the player need to step up and use this as a wake up call. Every squad member knows how important this tie is. When they walk out onto the pitch at the Lane, the crowd will give them one last reminder, but it is up to the players to make it happen. Come on you Spurs.

Hopeful lineup:
Lennon-Huddlestone-Modric(if fit)-Dos Santos

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fantasy Football!

The collaborators of this blog play ESPN's EPL Fantasy Soccer. Obviously, we're not sponsored because not many people (if any) read this blog, so I'm not trying to sell anyone on this particular brand. I just thought I should clarify incase someone reading this plays a different version. Having spent way too much time on my team this year (as opposed to last year when I threw a team together a month into the season), I figure it's worth a post.

I am not as well versed in the Premiership as my partner. My only hope against him is that he over-thinks it or half-asses it. And injuries; a few key injuries could set him back. My point is, this is the strategy of someone who watches the EPL, reads the new stories, but reads very little analysis and does even less of his own. The strategies I'm going to talk about are what shaped my team as I began to remove and add players to fit into the salary cap.

Throw away players - With his knowledge, the owner of this blog may take extremely cheap players that he thinks are likely to play actually play and earn him a few points when they play. I was never going to bother with the research for that. I picked some of the main players that I wanted on the team and then picked a few "throw away" players for my subs. In most cases, I hope that these players actually don't play. Defenders are the cheapest players, but if I pick a Blackpool defender who starts, I may well earn -6 points every time Ashley Cole has a day off. I also picked Danny Shittu, because I have a puerile sense of humor.

Youth - Unlike MLS fantasy, I would run out of money very quickly if I took too many top players, but too many cheap players and my score would be negative. So, this year I decided to go a little lower with my mid-priced players. I selected young players who I think show promise and may earn starting spots this year. The Jacks Wilshere and Rodwell are in my midfield as well as Gareth Bale. I had Chico Hernandez, although I dropped him deciding that I don't want two Manchester United forwards (Rooney was too consistent last year to pass up). Of course, if these guys rarely start, their value is going to decrease and it may take a massive realignment of my team to start earning points.

Defense - I spent a lot on starting defenders, Vermaelen and the like. While I almost never captain any of the defenders, last year my defense formed a solid base and gave me consistent points even when I captained a striker who phoned it in that week. I still have Freidel in my net and Richard Dunne, although I worry about Villa without O'Neill. That's why I have Joe Hart as my back-up keeper. If I were to make one recommendation, he is it. Hart may earn the starting spot at Manchester City, but costs only 3.5 million.

Anyway, this strategy will probably last two or three weeks into the season and then I'll start fiddling. After all, I dropped Fabergas and Drogba because they won't play in the opening weeks, but I'll probably want at least one of them eventually. Oh well, even the best battle plan never survives first contact with the enemy.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Premier League in a nutshell

This upcoming Saturday marks the beginning of the 2010/2011 season of the Barclay's Premier League in England. As you would probably imagine, I'm beside myself with excitement. I think I'll simply Summarize my thoughts on each club and give my predictions. I know it will ruin all the mystery of the season, but it'll be worth the read...

Simply said, as I am a Spurs fan, I hope they get relegated. As a person with a brain in the real world, I know just like everyone else they will atleast be in the top six. I honestly think this will be an interesting season for the Arsene Wenger Project. Will Cesc be up to snuff or will his head have been turned too far by Barca? Cesc will be himself probably, but will the changes in the back line be sufficient? Their weakness is the back five. They still, as of today, have Almunia. Gallas is gone and someone who's name I can't pronounce has been signed. I think this weakness could prove their downfall, and if I am completely honest, I see them in fourth place or right around it.

Aston Villa
What horrible timing for O'Neill to leave. I think the first game will tell the story of this season for them. We'll find out just how important Martin O'Neill was and if the players are good enough to step up and do it for the club and it's fans. They won't be relegated, but I am worried for them.

Birmingham City
I am really not sure about them this year. Based on the past season, they should do well. They have some very good players and a very good manager. My question lies with the overall squad. Cameron Jerome did well, but can he do it again, and where is the back up he needs. Larsson is good but will he keep his head on straight all season and keep his place in the team. I love him, but he is a little bit of a headcase with a short fuse. Who will be their goalkeeper? Hart won't be back and I think they owed about five or six places to his play for them. I am concerned that they could end up in the lower end of the table if only for Joe Hart not being there.

This is another team I don't have positive vibes from. They are a mish mash team managed by a mediocre manager who plays horrible football, which is a shame since they actually have some good players. I honestly haven't seen anything to make me think they will be anywhere near the top half of the table.

This team is the feel good story of the year, who is turning into a nightmare. They have been unable to secure the services of two important players from the promotion campaign and have made little noise in the transfer market to prepare for the season. This is even before we talk about the problems with Bloomfield Road which have lead to them having to change their opening match to an away fixture. I really want them to do well and I want to see Ian Holloway on Match of the day, but I am really concerned for them.

Bolton Wanderers
This is a team on the up. Europa League places? I doubt it. But Owen Coyle has made them a better squad. Chong Yong Lee is an exciting player, but Elmander is still a question mark. As long as they keep hold of Cahill and Jaaskelainen, I think they will stay stingy at the back and have a chance to do well.

I hate to say it, but you would imagine losing Deco, Ballack and Belletti would be like adding by subtraction. But losing Joe Cole as well hurts. I like Benayoun, but he is not the be all and end all solution. If it weren't for Essien being back, I would say they would slide a bit, but this is a team that will still occupy a top two spot.

One word. Injuries. If they can avoid them for a while, this will be a solid top half team all season long, but if they can't they may be doomed to suffer midtable mediocrity. I think they can fight for a Europa Leage Spot, but that's about it. great team to watch, but not a top four team yet.

Was it all Hodgson? That is the question for their Season. Good team, but was the manager the one who pushed them to the Europa League final? I suspect yes. Mark Hughes will keep them in midtable. I doubt the cottagers can expect much more. They just need to hold on to Shwarzer and Hangeland and they should be fine

This is the wild card this season. Just like with Fulham, can Roy Hodgeson make a difference? I suspect yes. but is this team too far down the hole? This is a team who should be in the top four and on paper should be in the battle for the title. Do I see this happening? No. I think they will likely be in the top 6six, but not the top four.

Manchester City
What can you say for this team. My word... Trainwreck... I feel like this is the proper term to describe this club. Mark Hughes was getting some cohesion in the side last year and it was derailed by Mancini. The ridiculous spending is a problem as well. It brings in players with big egos, on too much money, who are not going to gel right away. It also shafts core players such as Bellamy and Ireland who look like they will leave. I think this team will be around fourth, but I am not convinced they'll get it.

Manchester United
Top two. enough said. Okay, I'll give you a bit more. I hope Javi Hernandez gets a lot of starts with Wayne Rooney, I think they will be fantastic together and will make this team really make it hard not to get the title. Other than that, I think the stability in the squad, is nothing but help to them and hopefully Cleverly, Gibson and the Da Silva twins will get first team time this year so they can prove themselves and develop.

Newcastle United
I hate to say it but this is a team who will right near the bottom. They are only improved from their last season in the Prem by the fact that they are not shackled by the big money players who were there like Michael Owen. I think they will stay up, but it is going to be an ugly year for the St. James Park faithful.

Stoke City
This is a team that will be midtable. Other than that, I don't have much to say about them. Kenwynne Jones will be a great addition but I don't know that he will bring them up a level.

This is a team I am on the fence about. They showed some class last season and looked a new contender to the European spots, but the loss of Jones makes me wonder which direction they will really be going in.

Tottenham Hotspur
I will keep this brief. I am concerned. I don't see us anywhere near the bottom three spots, but there has been nothing to make me truely think that four competitons won't be a problem by Christmas time. I think if the team manages to avoid injury we can compete on all fronts, but it also means the players have to step it up. Will they? The hell if I know.

West Bromwich Albion
Two words. Going down. The problem is that is what they plan for. They don't really try to come up and stay up. They are trying to be a yoyo team. I hate that the club doesn't seem to have the ambition to stay in the top division.

West Ham United
This club is a strange one. They are a talented side with a number of good players, but it seems like they live off the 66 World Cup win. The team needs to work hard and Avram Grant could be the one to get them back into the top half of the table. I'd hate to see them go down.

Wigan Athletic
Bipolar. I hopw Roberto Martinez fixes some of these problems and gets some consistancy out of these players because they are a good team.

Wolverhampton Wanderers
I hate to say it, but this is another team I am concerned for. There is obviously talent in the squad, but they are a bit of a whipping boy.hopefully they stay up so I can have a bit of banter with my cousin who is a Wolves fan, but Mick McCarthy looks to be holding them back.

20.West Brom

Top 6:
1.Man United
4.Man City

Well, that was embarrassing

Thank god, the US Men's National Team played; I have something to talk about other than D.C. United (and my inconsistent punctuation in this blog). I was really getting sick of having to write about a team being completely outclassed, toyed with, and ultimately embarrassed by their opposition. I was sick of writing about a team that can't find the back of the net with both hands and a map. I was sick of writing about a team that got fewer than five shots on frame. I was sick of writing about big defensive lapses and the inability to play the ball through the midfield. So, alright, Brazil - US; here's the recap:

Dammit. I think I covered most of the generalities in the above paragraph, so let's get down to the nitty gritty.

Donovan and Bradley played a level above the rest of their team, I think. They really lived up to their reputation as world class players. Good for them. Donovan disappeared for a little while and Bradley wasn't perfect, but they both looked like they belonged out there and inspired confidence when they had the ball.

Guzan looked good. He made some good saves and he was in a shooting gallery much of the match (I have more appreciation for that after my 5-a-side experience). Howard wasn't at fault for the goals. He played well, but didn't ever have the opportunity to come up huge like Guzan.

Bedoya and Gonzalez were far from perfect, but neither looked particularly outclassed or lost. Of the two, I think that Bedoya was shakier. He wasn't really impressive, but I liked his hunger.

Strikers continue to be a nightmare for the U.S. Altidore looked better than Buddle, Findley, and Gomez, but he looked stronger and more able to impose his physicality in the World Cup. He didn't come off as particularly dangerous on Tuesday night. Gomez and Findley both had flashes of good, in fact, I didn't mind Gomez out there at all (was he on the wing?). Buddle was totally outclassed and completely ineffective, but that may have been because he was cast as the lone striker. Donovan is great going forward, but he tracks back way too much to effectively pair with a single striker. That was a poor decision by Bob Bradley.

Kljestan needs to calm the hell down and not see the field until he does. Feilhaber, I don't want to see start again. Subbing one for the other makes me weep a little.

Boca was fine, but was hardly a rock in central defense. I just don't think Bornstein has it for this level. He had some good moments late in the game, most of them going forward, but his defending was below par and the Brazilians noticed very quickly. Spector, on the other hand, seems to have regressed somewhat. His defending wasn't atrocious, but he never got his rhythm going forward - a role in which he was stronger for Hammers in the Prem and for the U.S. in the Confederations' Cup.

So what to make of this? It was an embarrassment. Okay, no Dempsey or Gooch. Torres wasn't available either, though I don't know if I can say the US was "missing" a guy who usually can't crack the starting eleven (although, adding a possession-oriented central mid might have helped. Brazil maintained a lot of pressure on the midfielders and Torres maintaining possession could have helped. . . if he could maintain possession). Still no Davies, but we're all holding out hope. Moreover, 2 - 0 isn't the worst score ever, but it could have and probably should have been considerably worse. Considering the Brazilians brought a very young squad, this serves as a reminder that the U.S. is a much better team, but is still lacking anything remotely resembling depth and has significant weakness in the starting squad.

But did you think that we were going to beat Brazil?

P.S. After posting this, I realized the Edu was on the field as well. That I forgot entirely more-or-less sums up my opinion of his play.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Spurs are on their way to Switzerland!

So we finally know who the fourth place team from England will be meeting to qualify for the Champions League group stages. Tottenham Hotspur will face Young Boys in the qualifying playoff and us Spurs fans are quite happy. Not only was the general opinion that Young Boys were the weakest team in the draw, I was quick to point out that it will be a less taxing journey travel wise. We managed to avoid having to travel all the way to the Ukraine and managed to avoid tough teams like Werder Bremen and Sampdoria. So what does this mean for the start of our season? It means that we can focus hard on Man City in our first league match and we should be able to handle them again as they are not gelling yet. If we can win that game, it sets up a great confidence to take to Bern to take on the Young Boys, and sets up well if we can do well in both games to go into the second match against Stoke City who has been a bit of a bogey team for us. Then we could enter the second leg at home in good nick then get Wigan after. So, I think it safe to say, we couldn't ask for a much better set of fixtures, only leaving us to do our business and win games.

What chance do we have to get through to the CL draw? And where should we be in the beginning of the Premier League season?

Ideally, we should make it to the group stage. Young Boys are a good team. These things are true, but with a fit first team and a good bit of depth, we should be able to do the business as we did against Benfica in a friendly. I feel like it would be a crushing result if we lose, but I don't think the Swiss team will turn us over despite beating Fenerbache.

As for the beginning of the league campaign, I would be surprised and disappointed if we can't say at the end of September that we won six game out of Six. Man City, Stoke, Wigan, West Brom, Wolves and West Ham are games which are very winnable games. If we can't manage atleast sixteen points in those fixtures we may be looking at a tough season. We need to hit the ground running this season to protect our position in the Champions League which we need.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't expect amazing things from this club this season, but I do qualify that with the reminder that we are often an unlucky team who can shoot ourselves in the foot regularly. However, the year ends in one and we could also see Spurs win the Treble. Who knows? But, Come on you Spurs!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Adios, Onalfo.

Everything looks dismal for DC United.
Bottom of the table with only three wins isn't bad enough. More and more, it looks like DC United will become CSKA Baltimore or Maryland Wednesday or perhaps the DC-MD-NoVA Wanderers; there has been zero progress on a local stadium, while the Maryland Stadium Authority looks increasingly like it will come back positive on a new stadium near or in Baltimore. The sole ray of sunshine has been DC's 7-0-0 non-league record, including a (thus far) semi-final run in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Of course, if Seattle progresses as well as DC, I think it's pretty clear that the final will not be at RFK this year. Either way, DC looks a lot like the Pompey team that it just beat and that's not just because Portsmouth were wearing DC's jerseys.

So amidst all this murk and gloom was the clamor that "something must be done!"
After all, we signed a Montenegrin few outside of central Europe had heard of as our DP, while Seattle and New York just added guys who played for their national team in the World Cup. Chicago grabbed a promising, if temperamental and mouthy, Mexican and combined him with a big-name, if temperamental and worthless, Swede. Now, finally something has been done: Curt Onalfo was fired this morning; Ben Olsen has now been thrust into command.

Was this fair to Onalfo?
Not in the least. He was brought in late, after several key roster decisions had been made. His defense has been decimated by injuries, including the seeming career-ending injury to Bryan Namoff, the defensive captain. The loss of the services of Olsen, Gomez, and Emilio (degraded as they may have been) ripped the heart out of the DC offense and it has been unable to recover. Of the "big" signings that were made, Castillo is now gone and Allsopp spent most of his time on the bench. Onalfo inherited a disaster and was asked to heal this roadkill of a team while it was being dragged by a tractor-trailer. Moreover, the transfer window isn't even closed and the new signings haven't had a chance to make an impact.

Is this the worst decision ever made?
Hardly; Operation Barbarossa, the Great Leap Forward and the Native Americans trusting us to keep our word top the list of the "worst decisions ever made." This isn't that bad of a decision. Onalfo's team has been dreadful - it may not have been good when he got it, but we're worse than expansion Philadelphia now. Onalfo, given time, may have been able to build a competitive team, but there was certainly no sign of that. By firing Onalfo now, it sends a message to the players that their slate is now clean, for better or worse, and they need to start playing for their spots and contracts next year. Hopefully, DC will not dally in finding a new head coach (and hopefully, no one is stupid enough to give Olsen the position permanently, yet) and he (it's a sexist industry, sorry ladies) can start to shape DC into what he wants it to be and can actually see what he needs for next season.

Adios, Onalfo.
Despite being thrown under the bus and being clearly upset about it, Onalfo's reaction has been restrained and fairly classy, up to this point. I wish him luck in his future endeavors and believe that he deserves and will get another chance.

Bob Bradley?
I'm inclined to say "dream on," but who knows? For DC, I don't think it would be a bad decision. Bob Bradley tends not to coach teams with the attacking flair and style with which DC United has been associated. Not working right now though? DC's style. I am also aware that Bradley is known as "Cheatin' Bob" around these parts for his use of the former "fourth substitute" rule in the playoffs against us. I, however, say that this team and its fans need to stop living in the past. Yes, I'd like to see attractive attacking football too, but the first task is to collect the jetsam currently wearing the Red-and-Black and form them into a team. Then maybe we could ask Bob to make it prettier. I'm sorry Bob Bradley didn't obey the spirit of rules in the past, but DC United desperately needs some new thinking and Bradley might not be a bad place to start.
That said, Bradley is going to be expensive and I'm not sure DC would shell out the money for him, given the team and it's "horrible hemorrhaging of all things monetary."