Archive for December, 2009

World’s Best 20?

Not even good enough to be considered a bridesmaid

So I was putzing around ESPN’s main site and came about this little fun widget thingy.

First, the fact that this was accessible from ESPN’s homepage shows how far soccer has come. It’s often mentioned on Sportscenter and there is usually a highlight or two in every show…and somewhat frequently a great goal or play from the champions league, premiership and or MLS is shown in the top ten.

There was nothing remotely close to this 4 years ago (yes, Soccernet was popular but was treated more like the red haired bastard step child of the Worldwide leader…the Roger Clinton to Bill Clinton as it were). I excitedly filled out my rankings, ignoring the fact that Ballack and Henry were mentioned in the world’s top 20, and where as my bottom 3 and top 3 were fairly consistent with the ESPN sports nation poll, the middle varied drastically. For example, I had both Xavi and Iniesta ranked very high as I believe what they do is bed-wettingly-exciting and Eto’o ranked close to last which seemed the opposite of most people. I personally think the Barcelona creative engine are in the top 6.

Now…2 questions for all of you…First: Who is noticeably absent from this list? I would suggest that Ballack, Henry, Eto’o have no business being there (4 years ago. yes) but I see why they are, as they are who the general public might recognize.

There is also no goalkeeper or defender on this list (Maicon is a defender like Roberto Carlos or Dani Alves are defenders!) which I guess means they cannot be considered an MVP (Cannavaro anyone?). Iker Cassilas deserves to be on this list, if not for the fact that he has been one of the top 3 goalkeepers for over a decade but for this incredible save. Others that should certainly be on this list are Ibra and Aguero amongst others but who else? Your thoughts?

Second…does your ranking list compare to Sportsnations’…aside from Messi, Ronaldo and Kaka in the top three, the only other one I got compared to others was Stevie G at 9.

So have fun with it…remember that ESPN are probably catering to the new somewhat informed fan not the hardcore one, but it does bring up an interesting argument about what is considered an MVP in soccer.

Time and time again, Claude Makelele was considered the MVP by his teammates of every team he played for, but he was about as exciting as…as…as…a very boring thing. He never scored goals, he rarely passed the decisive pass BUT no team won without him. For country he was equally important. He made everyone around him better, did all the dirty things such as make hard tackles, hold up play for the forwards to get there, make the pass that set up the attacking play etc…but never even cracked the ten for FIFA footballer of the year (guess here).

Is a January move to the Premiership in the cards?

And while we’re on the subject of winning players….the same goes for Jay DeMerit at Watford. He was often in the top three voting for  player of the year for Watford and his no nonsense, tough, smart defending was instrumental in Watford getting promoted (he scored the first goal in the playoff final too) and if it wasn’t for their lack of goals they would have stayed up in the EPL.

I hope he gets another chance this transfer window to play in the Premiership. I see him as a poor man’s Jamie Carragher (I say poor man’s only because he hasn’t proved himself at the very top like Carra) and he is what many teams like Everton, Man City, Hull etc. need right now. I would love to have him at Liverpool except that Benitez would never play him even though he is the type of player that Benitez covets.

His only downside is that he’s slow but many great defenders are not blessed with any speed..Terry, Maldini, Blanc to name a few statues. Personally, I think he’s better than Gooch as he doesn’t make many mistakes (I think Carragher vesus Rio Ferdinand is a good comparison between DeMerit and Oneywu) and will be key to the US’s progress in the WC.

So thank you ESPN for trying. You’re getting there. Everyone loves the MVP talk but like in all sports, the real MVPs often get unnoticed.

Somber Update: Davies Driver Consumed Alcohol

Charlie Davies

The Washington Post has the unfortunate story this morning.

The driver in Charlie Davies’ vehicle had consumed alcohol prior to the fateful trip that killed one and put the USMNT striker on a long road to recovery. A look at a GPS unit while driving, according to reports, contributed to the crash.

Again, more here.

Rumors, Playing Time & An Elf That Can Cross It

There is a good chance we’re getting the USMNT Jan camp roster announcement tomorrow I would surmise.

A few pre-Friday weekend bullets for you:

• Jack Rodwell goes off with an injury for Everton yesterday. Ayegbeni Yakubu headed to the African Cup. Oh yeah, Landon Donovan is going to get run…real soon.

No automatic joy ahead at West Ham for Specs this January....

• Speaking of Everton, iron man Tim Howard given the day off Thursday (thankfully) in the Europa League, now ready to take on red-red-hot Birmingham Saturday in the Premiership.

• Jay DeMerit playing for more than country pride in South Africa. With DeMerit out of contract at the end of the season and his club Watford headed to administration, there’s a great shot that DeMerit will have a new club at the end of the year. Audition time!

• Jerome Rothen, who we mentioned in our Stuie article this week, apparently leaving the Rangers according to many sources. Rothen plays on the wing….hmm….Stu, you made that decision yet? Door’s open…

• USMNT now officially to face the Netherlands in Stonerville in March; it’s confirmed. The news went around everywhere this week….I thought we confirmed this game a long time ago, no….nope? did we space….damn I’ve got the munchies….if you’re headed to Holland though, three tips for you: 1) Rent a bike. 2) Try the fries 3) Check out the graffiti…some of the absolute best in the world and 4) Coffee shop does not mean coffee shop.

• The American Outlaws Seattle chapter found a story yesterday that suggests a US friendly against Tunisia in May. We’re passing it along. In our mind it was either Morocco, who the US lost to in Nashville right before the ’06 World Cup, or Tunisia to prepare for the Algerians, so this sounds plausible.

• More on how the African Cup impacts USMNT player fortunes in club ball next month:

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Do We Have Some More Insight on Clint?

Not sure how I missed this.

According to the Daily Mirror this past Monday (a 5 out of 10 on the quality newspaper scale), Fulham manager Roy Hodgson and USMNT cap Bob Bradley are working together to ensure that Clint remains fresh and fit for both Fulham and the States.

Dempsey....getting warn out....

Say what?! This is like a scene out of bizarro Seinfeld–usually all you hear about are clubs and countries fighting like kids in the schoolyard over player usage. Arsenal wants reparations for Robin Van Persie. Harry Rednapp expresses exasperation at Fabio Capello calling up injured players. Even Hodgson himself is in a row with Ghana over the use of John Paintsil this December.

The record speaks for itself, it’s never cordial….except as it would appear here.

A few months ago, TSG did a piece on Clint invoking the velvety tone of Marvin Gaye. The theme of our tune? Asking Clint, “What’s Going On?”

Do we have our answer now? Is Clint merely burnt out from over usage?

Players like David Beckham, Robinho, etc are known for not having a full tank to go a full 90….is Demps any different….should he be treated different?

Doesn’t sound like Clint’s getting burned out from this, very reputable, blog evaluating his EPL campaign thus far. (Note, the Brian McBride Award here as well.)

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TSG Exec Plan: World Cup Coverage Schematic

Prodded on by some reader comments yesterday, TSG wanted to run our proposed World Cup coverage planning by our esteemed community. Pretty simple stuff and obviously skip to the soccer columns right now if you like….

Here you go: The completely non-top secret schematic to World Cup coverage….highly, uh, confidential.

A simple diagram below: Basically an inverse pyramid whereby the quality and quantity is obviously focused on the USMNT.

As you move down the pyramid the depth and quantity of the coverage reduces. The circle just represents writing on whatever the author feels like. Whereas coverage within the pyramid has to be somewhat structurally similar–previews should follow a similar format from one group to the next–the circle denotes just writing whatever the heck you feel like.

Thoughts? Other features you like? Some other ideas as well:

• A sidebar that has links on a game by game basis so readers can comment as the game is in action.

• Features on jerseys, kits, and country soccer histories.

• Guest commentary from our readers or other selected writers….

TSG (Confidential)...completely not confidential mind you....

Questioned: Jeremiah White & Player Review

The “buzz” was palpable at TSG headquarters over the past month….about a rather obscure US player named Jeremiah White who I doubt many have seen play more than 90 minutes since his college days.

Raise your hand if this is the first time you've seen Jeremiah White "in action" since university

For background, Jeremiah White attended Wake Forest college as Coach Jay Vidovich was just getting that program up to the level of super power that it is now. If you’ve read TSG before, you know we’re a fan of Vidovich’s coaching.

After graduating, White headed to Europe to make his name and has since bounced around leagues in Serbia, Greece, France and most recently Denmark. White currently shares a locker room with USMNTer Benny Feilhaber at Aarhus, but shares less pitch time having been relegated this season to a sporadic sub role.

With fans, and quite arguably the USMNT, in need of more attacking options, calls for White–both to factor during the Denmark friendly this past November 18th and in January’s annual national team cam–have, by this writer’s account, gotten audibly loud enough to pay attention to you. TSG thought it rather bizarre that a  player of White’s relatively average resume would command such attention and our first thought in stepping back was, “What are we missing?”

Further, other impassioned prose around the web-o-sphere, have been downright stern in their calls for Jeremiah White, suggesting that lack of inclusion in the November friendly series was even a bush league move.

After our Camp Cupcake piece, earlier this week, two more commenters either asked about White or recommended him for roster inclusion. TSG hasn’t seen him…we were definitely missing something.

So we approached sources within USSF with a simple question: Is Jeremiah White still in the player pool? Yes or no.

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