Archive for October, 2009

Arsenal buzzes Toppledham & a Happy Birthday

bendtner

Let's hope Bendtner is not shelved

Arsenal has just wrapped up a 3-0 North London derby after finding the back of the net twice within a minute of halftime. Had Emirates not scored the double there, you could have envisioned a pretty entertaining 2nd half.

Cesc Fabregas added the 2nd before halftime. The Spaniard took the ball in the middle of the pitch and commenced a

toure_brothers

Other soccer bros.: Yaya & Kolo

dazzling run through the Rednapper’s defense finishing with a low liner past Hotspur’s Gomez. It will be on highlight shows for a few weeks if you missed it.

One little addendum for USMNT fans here, Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner limped off about halfway through the 1st half with what looked like a groin injury. It would be a shame if the Yanks’ defense didn’t get tested by him come November 18th.

And one administrative note, please wish TSG brother Mark a very happy birthday today. Though he moves like he’s in his 60′s, he only recently crossed the chasm to his early 30′s.

Happy Birthday Mark.

In Good Hands With Guzan

Most have probably heard of Brad Guzan’s heroics in goal earlier this week for Villa versus Sunderland in the Carling Cup, but have you seen it?

The back-up to Tim Howard for the USMNT stopped 4 PKs (1 in regular time, 3 in a shootout) and had a couple more highlight reel saves.

To quote Aston Villa Skipper Martin O’Neill, “He was immense.”

If only the USMNT could trade some of that GK depth…

 

(via No Short Corners)

 

Dynamo v. Sounders Review: Good Players, OK Play

TSG is officially 1 for 1 on MLS playoffs observations. It’s all downhill from here for us. Yikes.

Seattle vs. Houston can best best characterized as good individual efforts with team efforts lacking a bit.

Here’s some random comments that you will probably take us to task for (note, if you’re an avid MLS fan, you might find the commentary Clarks doing what he does bestrudimentary or please feel free to elaborate on things):

• The game was like a continual ping pong rally with the ball moving from counter attack to counter attack. I found it surprising that the Sounders playing at home didn’t try to really build their offense. They did–I surmise–a few times through Ljundberg but what I remember about the Swede when playing on that dynamite Arsenal midfield line is that he was an interior slasher, not a guy you really relied on for a lot of linkage.

Is he the best Seattle has in that vain?

• TSG liked the movement of Nate Jaqua on the field. The 6’3” central midfielder–playing as a bit of top of the offensive third target man–seemed to have a good sense of how to attack the Dynamo defense from his positioning on runs to his pass selection. He also did a good job of sealing off defenders for the most part and opening the pass he wanted. Haven’t really watched the guy before, but very impressive.

• Following up on the first point, I saw a lot of good moving in pairs and triples, but not a lot of good recognition of team. Many times, a switch field run or pass was not made that would have opened up some offense.

• Was, overall, disappointing in the finishing.

• If I had to use one word to describe the collective play over the last 20 minutes, I would say “immature.” Both teams either started resorting to chippiness or played the foul or apparent foul instead of the play. As a fan, I was disappointed in this.

• Impressed by the touches of Freddie Montero, but his game needs overall seasoning.

• Not impressed with Ricardo Clark. I would think that the midfield man–though I guess he was carrying a knock?–would have a better feel for his teammates at the club level. I didn’t see that. With Clark, I see a collection of skills, not a complete player. Having said that, Clark’s ability to track a man do and his on-man defense is more than solid.

• While it is clear that USMNTer Stuie “The Iceman” Holden is one of the best players on the field, I thought he really needed to take control of the game this evening. He darted into available positions on offense–and maybe this is the Dynamo’s offense–but I wanted to see a man of his skills dictate the play more.

• I liked the play of Patrick Ianni–I believe he called upon at the last minute for Marshall, correct?

In general, I saw a decent game of American soccer, but was longing for a lot better team play and recognition. I didn’t see any concerted effort to attack a weakness or dictate tempo by either team. Maybe that’s because good defense is favored by both teams.

Please weight in as TSG is a MLS playoff newbie.

Have a good one.

Oh, and lest I don’t mention it, as a player and fan, I have a contrarian view on the Onstad-Montero scrap. I don’t know many veteran goalies that actively look to challenge an outfield player unless there was a transgression. Montero embellished the bump as well. Onstad is more guilty of poor judgment rather than anything else.

EPL & More: Saturday is the Day for Rain

You’ve got Birmingham v. Manchester City on Sunday and that’s it.

Meanwhile Saturday, your day to stay in, brings us a full docket of very interesting games.

Here we go….

EPL

"Hey Jozy, get a move on, TSG is running out of action shots."

• All eyes will be on Turf Moor as Hull City travel to Burnely’s home pitch in an important away game for the crisis-bound side.  As the chronology goes, Phil Brown gets vote of confidence on Tuesday of this week from Hull City chairman Paul Duffen. Wednesday reports surface that Coach Call Center is on the outs and has left the park (only to be refuted) and Thursday the same chairman who backed Brown is removed.

Seems only days until Brown is gone.  While it’s sometimes hard to can a coach after a win, I wouldn’t put it past Hull City in this case. That being said a loss to Burnley, does that nearly assures an exit for the Hull City manager?

An important away game for Hull as much as an important homestand for Burnley. Come end of the campaign, this game could be looked back on as a key match in determining relegation.

TSG is just looking for Jozy to make the 18 here.

• Clock set for the early game here with wobbly Tottenham caravanning to Emirates to take on the Gunners on ESPN 2.  If there were no college football, this game might be a ratings bonanza.

Lack of finishing last week caught up with Tottenham in their loss to Stoke City and they’re really going to want to right the ship this week. Arsenal, who let in two unanswered to draw with West Ham seven days past, righted their own ship against Liverpool (thanks for the correction Dan) in the Carling Cup but Old Man Wenger is looking for a lot more effort and maturity out of his squad. Tottenham will have a tough and most likley insurmountable task away as they travel without Jermain Defoe, Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon.

Is it me or is this Vita Mannone-Manuel Almunia situation eerily reminiscent of when Almunia supplanted Lehmann in net two years back. The

almunia

Will Mannone render Almunia down for the count?

numbers are a bit staggering for Mannone over Almunia in the EPL:

Mannone:  5 games, 19 saves, 5 goals conceded

Almunia: 4 games, 9 saves, 8 goals conceded

Any chance the 32-year-old Spaniard heads elsewhere? Is the 21-year-old Mannone too precocious?

And speaking of Lennon, in other news, somehow TheShinGuardian.com came up in a search this past week for “What’s Aaron Lennon’s shoe size?”

For the one person who found our publication that way, TSG lobbed in a question on your behalf here and we’ll post the answer if and when we get it.

• While the Daily Mirror may not be the best source of English football information, they are at least on target when they stretch the truth. Possible news this week that Man U will swoop for the Davids of Valencia, Silva and Villa.

silva

Silva: Desperately needed at Trafford

Silva, as we’ve mentioned before, would bring much needed talent and stability to the midfield. Paul Scholes could focus on retiring, Michael Carrick on getting his career back on track and Ryan Giggs would only need to flash his fading brilliance occasionally.

Villa, a top 10 global striker, and quite possibly top 5, would be, in our opinion, an excellent pairing with the industrious Rooney up the pitch. Dimitar Berbatov could then concentrate on a move to City, consuming some Red Bull to get his energy level up, or backing up Andriy Shevchenko at Dynamo Kyiv.

If Man U don’t make some serious renovation to their Trafford squad this January, you can starting believing the buzz that the selling of Cristiano was much more financially motivated than anything else. (Manchester United has a staggering 1.8B in debt on the books….WOW!)

Man U are home against relegation material Blackburn in the late game. Whoa is Blackburn.

• Bolton vs. Chelsea Saturday after Chelsea overwhelmed the Wanderers in the Carling Cup, 4-0 this week. Maybe Ancelloti and Megson can just meet beforehand and agree upon a 1-0 Chelsea win and we can be done with this?

• If you’re an Everton fan, then you now know just how huge the loss of Joleon Lescott, compounded by the loss of Phil Neville was and is. While castigators will certainly fault Tim Howard for not being Plasticman or something, just a peek at the goals scored against Timmy show a shockingly disorganized

PLASTICMAN

About the only answer in goal for the Toffees beyond Big T

defense.  For a fan and columnist alike, it’s truly perplexing just how bad the backline is because Hietinga, Distin, Hibbert are at least individually decent players in the back. Alas Moyes has tried everything (Heitinga in central defense as Yobo goes one ice) to try and plug the holes….in the dam.

Everton always start slow, but you can pretty much kiss a top 5 finish goodbye at this point. As for the defense, let’s get Chad Marshall in there to get some experience in front of Timmy before the World Cup–it would invaluable–not plausible, but invaluable.

Everton hope to the hear cheers, not jeers at home when they face Aston Villa Saturday. After some commentary in our USMNT injury piece, TSG is going to be going full 411 on Villa reserve and American up-and-comer Eric Lichaj going forward.

Our first report: Lichaj not likely to be in the 18.

(Note thanks to TSG contributor “Tuesday,” I’m all over learning about this Lichaj fellow. Here is a little nugget from a game review Monday that is sure to whet your USMNT appetite: “And two minutes later a cross by impressive American left-back Lichaj beat Nicholson at the far post and Cian Hughton headed over.” (Courtesy South Devon News.)  A few “keywords or key terms” here: “left-back,” “a cross,” “impressive American.” Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.)

• More Americans on the pitch as the Dempseys take on Liverpool at home–another Torres test for a top flight defense and the Spectors travel to Sunderland.

MLS

Pleasantly enjoyable was the Real Salt Lake Royals v. Colorado Offseasons last Saturday. This Saturday boasts the playoffs and RSL taking on Columbus. If I can watch the game I’ll be looking at, in no particular order:  Robbie Findley for a second game in a row which….will….parlay…into Chad Marshall in central defense for the Abercrombies–is he all better?  Also catching my eye will be the play of  Robbie Rogers, Eddie Gaven and Frankie Excitement. Anyone else TSG should pay attention to?

gaven_us

Does Gaven deserve another USMNT look?

• If we get time on Sunday, we’ll be transfixed on two players: Chris Rolfe and Omar Gonzalez — alas they won’t be going head-to-head.

• Feel free to comment on what TSG is missing on the MLS as we get up to speed on the league. I can’t promise yet we’ll do the deep dive next year, but of the games we’ve watched intently, it’s been entertaining. Gosh, I sound so elitist. In other news, my $999 Sony Vaio is missing an “h” in case you see a lot of misspellings — okay we balanced out that elitist comment.

Other

• With this–perhaps–admission via Twitter in response to in-game commentary that he lost his spot in the 18 due to too much partying, we are hereby temporarily changing the nickname of Mr. Adu. For the time being, you are “The Subdued Freddy Adu”– you will reclaim “The Renewed” when you get back into the starting 11 and follow-up on your Twitter promises of dedication. C’mon Freddy, we’ve got your back. Make us believe.

And by the way, if I find you playing Fifa late night with JZA again, I’m going to fly Pablo Mastroeni over there to red card you off the pitch. Get my drift.

Freddy’s club Belensenses takes on FC Porto on Friday evening at 4pm EST. If you haven’t seen Porto play yet, you should tune in for at least a minute or so just to see their striker, the incredible Hulk. Actually, we’re not kidding the 23-year-old, 5-11,170 lbs., Brazilian Givanildo Vieira de Souza is officially known as the Hulk. He is the spitting image of David Banner’s alter ego and is apparently prone to temper tantrums as well.  Take a look at his skill below.

(Warning! Warning! Only turn the sound on in the video below if you’re tuning in from Hvar or Ibiza at 4am in the morning with a sweat-stained shirt and a Fruitopia in hand…where was I going with this again?)

• And TSG wishes a bon voyage to the original rasta Henrik Larsson who bid a tearful goodbye Thursday night in Sweden to close his career at the age of 38. Larsson, a one time captain of the Swedish national team, was a consumate pro and fan favorite along stops at Celtic, Barcelona and Man United. He’s best known for his Celtic days and take a look here at his first return to Celtic Park sporting a Barcelona jersey. $20 says Brett Favre’s return this week in Green Bay doesn’t come close.

On that note, enjoy the weekend.

Will Injuries Challenge Coach USA’s Plan?

The USMNT friendlies are just over two weeks away….and once against TSG is already super stoked…and thinking about them.

chad m

How's the knee Big Guy?

Going into the matches against Slovakia and Denmark (and concurrently the Netherlands match in March next year) Bob Bradley will have a modicum of line-up questions to answer brought on by injuries to the first line, many questions that the  fanbase is already all too familiar with, like:

♦ Where do I integrate Clint Dempsey back into the team now that he’s fit?

♦ Who is Charlie Davies’ starting eleven replacement? Is that where I slot the Deuce back in?

♦ I’ve got Jay DeMerit still living in a dark room and Gooch hobbling, who am I slotting in next to Boca? Do I take Chad Marshall away Warzycha with the MLS championship coming the next week–is Marshall even fit enough? Do I bring over Conrad who’s golfing? Clarence, Danny and Parkhurst are all in the area, should they be in the 18?

While all of these are very fitting questions for where the USMNT is right now; these are most likely not the questions that Coach B wanted to be asking this late before the World Cup next August.

More important for Coach Bradley than the question of “Who fills the void in central defense for the next 6 months or longer?” is the puzzle of “When will I have my top 11 together so I can start building chemistry and movement?”

A retracing of the lead up to World Cup 2006 cements just how critical that 2nd question is.

The US played a cream puff schedule of friendlies for the most part before the tourney with Coach Bruce Arena trying out multiple line-up permutations (after doing some digging I didn’t see one line-up where all eleven players were precisely the same as another…can you believe that?) in advance of heading to Germany.

The results?

• An embarrassing group stage exit with no wins in three games that we all remember all too well.

• A 4-5-1 line-up that showed zero ability to attack outside of 1-on-1 play because players weren’t familiar with one another.

• A whole the size of Nebraska in the midfield when John O’Brien couldn’t go after the first game loss to the Czechs

Do you know how many friendlies that Claudio Reyna played with O’Brien or back-up Pablo Mastroeni? Two. Just two out of 11. Can you believe that?

Reyna: "What?! What?! Me and Red only played one friendly together before this mess."

Those results many believe were in part the outgrowth of Arena using the USMNT international friendlies to figure out his best players at each position, not the best line-up of players as a whole and giving them time to mesh.

Coach Bradley–fans should be thankful–didn’t want to make that mistake. His very static and conservative line-up selections (while sometimes frustrating) and his mantra of “playing people who are fit and playing for their club team” speak to a recognition of the challenges of lack of familiarity.

Alas the recent injuries force him into the very predicament that was to be avoided.

Further, in the case of the central defense, what does Coach B do when Jay DeMerit and–presumably after a lengthier hiatus–Oguchi Onyewu come back? Does he try to slot them in and recapture the chemistry or does he go–as he did through qualifying–with those who are playing?

The return of players, nearly as much as their injuries, is sure to be disruptive.

Not the types of decisions that Bradley wanted to be making at this juncture. So, while TSG is not prone to issuing proclamations, consider these challenge when you’re evaluating the US performances leading up to and into the World Cup.

Oh and by the way, if you’re so inclined take a look at all the different central defender permutations that were going on in the lead-up to Cup 2006–you’d be amazed.

Shaun Omniscient? Dreaded Vote of Confidence

Update: It looks like Matthew is temporarily more omniscient than Shaun. A statement on Hull City’s official web site states Phil Brown is still the Tigers manager. USA 1, Switzerland (Shaun) 0. Thanks Patrick as well for the link in the comments.

—–

It looks like Shaun (our TSG game commentary aficionado) was right and I was categorically wrong….

phil_b

Phil Brown...in better times

ESPN Soccernet with Harry Harris is reporting that Phil Brown has quote “left the club” and departed the stadium today. Shaun pointed out yesterday that the “dreaded vote of confidence” issued by Hull chairman Paul Duffen was certain to expel Brown from the Tigers.

Since I’ve tracked Hull since their promotion last year when they blasted onto the scene and we’re a top 5 team through October (anyone else remember Geovanni’s stunning goal past Almunia at the Emirates?) I’m going to be updating this piece today. I just find it tough that the manager than led them up the ranks since 2007 and staved off elimination last year would be out so quickly.

Let’s not pontificate yet if this has happened or what happens with JZA.

And The Envelope Please…Adding To The HOF

Should TSG hand-out Blue Sweatpants to each inductee into the TSG Comment HOF?

TSG is pleased to announce the induction of the following reader comments into the TSG Comment Hall of Fame.

To the Jimmy Conrad Wing for funny and creative commentary go the following:

To the Bill Jeffrey Wing for astute technical commentary go the following:

The readers and commentors help make TSG what it is. Matthew and I say, “thank you” and keep those comments coming.

With each successive round of inductions in to the HOF, the bar is raised for future inductees. Specifically, funny comments will need to be of the laugh-out-loud variety (and creative missives and “conversations” will have to be exceptional to receive consideration). Technical analysis will have to be unique and thorough. And, importantly, all will have to be passionate.

Congratulations to the new inductees!

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