Archive for March, 2010

Real Madrid versus Atletico Madrid

Real Madrid fans welcoming their crosstown rivals

The last time Atletico won a local derby against their city rivals was back in 1999. They’re a successful club with a glorious past but will always remain in the shadow of their bigger and richer neighbor.

I ended up getting my tickets from an online agency not unlike stubhub but the prices were a lot cheaper. I found them through the Real Madrid site so figured that this was as official as I was going to get. I paid 186 euros for two tickets (there were no two seats together but my friend was a row behind me and 2 seats over) that were located in the northwest corner, perpendicular to the goal line about half way up. Decent seats and a decent price considering it had been sold out for a long time (at least I was happy with it).

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TSG Man on the Scene: Battle at the Bernabéu

Shaun made it into today’s gigantenormous Real Madrid- Atletico Madrid clash at the Bernabéu. Los Blancos came away with a 3-2 win courtesy of TSG Euro-music man Gonzalo Higuain with the game winner.

Hopefully we’ll get a column soon for Shaun; for now, a picture that makes a statement. (Attendance: 84,000)

Amazing....

Wrap: MLS Observations of a Novice, More…

We’ve got a roundtable coming up this week on MLS, but I thought I would kick it off myself today with some observations that I have from opening weekend in MLS.

A chilly but fun night at Kezar...

To qualify, I’ve only been to a few MLS games and probably only outright watched a few more before I started writing this publication. Probably the best experience I had at a game was when the Dynamo played the Earthquake in an exhibition game at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district on, even by SF standards, a cold and foggy night. MLS, you put a team at Kezar permanently and I won’t miss a home game. Scout’s honor.

Actually went with the Die Hipster Brewing guys to that one, and I do remember Brian Ching looking so thoroughly disinterested in playing that night that he got a second yellow early and walked right off the field into the warm locker-room.

That said, and perhaps this will be interesting for you guys or not, I thought I would offer some of my two cents, so you can correct me below or back-up my contentions:

• The MLS doesn’t need another “Beckham”

Beckham looked on at HDC Saturday, another "Beckham" isn't needed...

If you look at the amount of quality soccermen from overseas playing or thinking of playing in MLS–according to reports–you can really see an influx of players who played outside of North America start to gain a little steam post Beckham experiment.

Whether you see Beckham’s MLS time as a success or failure for the product or business, you can’t dispute that the England national certainly added legitimacy with his pedigree of Manchester United and Real Madrid.

After Beckham (January 2007) arrived then did an assortment of others Jaun Pablo Angel (Aston Villa, August 2007), Freddie Ljudberg (West Ham (year hiatus) October 2008), Ryan Smith (Crystal Palace, 2010). Add to this sampling of players, rumors of Thierry Henry and Raul among others..

MLS doesn’t need another “David Beckham,” a press-driving player, it needs to continue to get quality players from overseas that want to play in the United States before they exit their prime. Think of this way, while Beckham lifted numbers, what player can match Beckham’s magnitude with the casual fan to attract fans (hint: not Henry or Raul), maybe a Messi, Rooney or Ronaldo and that’s about it and none of them are obviously coming.

• There is a noticeable increase in production value and advertising in 2010.

Production-wise:

With apologies to this comment by Johnny F, opening saw quite a bit more camera angles in the two games we watched (SJE/RSL and LAG/NER) this weekend. (Johnny we have not heard back yet on our email to FSC on the camera issue.)

Lots of camera angles and lots of attempts by FSC to pick out contributing parts of the game (like Gooch and David Beckham sharing a luxury box at HDC).

Further two of TSG’s suggestions for ESPN for soccer coverage, we’re picked up by Fox (admittedly with lower production value than we had hoped): A Landon Donovan cribs feature (it couldn’t have been drier) and a “telestrator” which featured the two broadcasters moving around checkers on magnetic board. Splurge for the full telestrator Fox!

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Fired Up: Cue the USMNT Redemption Tour

75 days until the Yanks try and tame Three Lions.

Voting for the Don’t Tread Challenge is coming soon….last chance this week to get your entry in!

180 (as I write this) days and counting.

Rayo Vallecano versus Celta Vigo

View of Madrid from the top of Estadio Teresa Rivero

Hello all from sunny Spain. Actually it isn’t very sunny and pretty damn cold, but I’m here on a short holiday so figured lets try and catch a few games for some real live commentary. I’m in Madrid and tomorrow is the big one, Real Madrid versus Atletico Madrid. It’s being played at the Bernabeu so it should be an amazing affair. Am told tickets are going to be hard to come by, but I’m going to swing by the stadium tomorrow morning and see what i can get – if not, maybe the scalpers can help me out.

I didn’t want put all my eggs in one basket so I decided to check out a Segunda Division game with one of Madrid’s many other teams, Rayo Vallecano. They’re a typical yo yo team that bounces back and forth from the Primera Division to the Segunda. They were hosting Celta Vigo, who up until the 06-07 season were top half of the table finishers in the top league in Spain, perennially qualifying for the UEFA cup and even getting to the last 16 of the Champions League in 2004. The hosts are currently 17th and Celta Vigo are mid table.

Who needs a ticket when you live next to the stadium

I took the excellent Metro from where I was staying in central Madrid and got off at Portazgo which put me directly in front of the stadium. The first thing you notice is that it’s smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Obviously easy to get to by metro or bus, it must be REALLY easy to be a fan and just go to a game anytime you want. Stadiums in the US tend to be a bit of a hike to get to (or not over shadowed by apartments and houses) and apart from some such as Wrigley or Fenway aren’t really part of local neighborhoods.

Emerging from the underground, I heard the fans in full voice. Due to a mix up with day light savings time and a couple of bottles of honey rum the previous evening, I was running a little late. As I was purchasing my ticket, I heard a roar from the crowd. A goal had been scored…bah I missed it…and double bah cause it was Celta Vigo who scored. I got to my seat, or at least where I thought my seat was (the ticket was impossible to decipher) and immediately took in the atmosphere. Its a cozy stadium, seating  about 15,000 with splendid views of Madrid, but I wasn’t there to admire the scenery. I was curious to see what the level of play in Spain’s second tier was like, how it might compare to MLS and whether or not this is a destination for potential US players to try and apply their trade (sorry Matt ;) ).

The level of play was decent. The final score was 2-1 to Celta Vigo. Players controlled the ball well and made good passes. Hard tackles and even soft tackles were met with entertainingly theatrical dives and the immediate clutching of body parts, but for the most part the ref just waved play on. The Rayo Vallecano goal was a thing of beauty. Their winger scampered down side, beating the defenders for pace and sent a picture perfect pass to an on rushing forward who slotted the ball into the bottom the corner of the net. Soon after that they won a penalty through the same speedy winger but it was well saved by the Celta Vigo keeper.

Celta’s second goal was gifted to them by an atrocious clearance/piss poor decision by the Rayo keeper. The fans simultaneously lifted their hands in horror and then disgust as the Rayo keeper flubbed a clearance right at the Celta Vigo striker, who calmly struck the ball around a helpless keeper. High comedy

The Ultras cheering on their team or hurling insults at the opposing fans...hard to tell

What made the game great were the fans. The Rayo “Ultras” positioned behind the goal were in constant voice, singing and chanting and getting the rest of the stadium involved. Drums were beating and heckles and worse were launched at the Celta Vigo supporters, who were perched in the top left of the stadium. Even though the traveling supporters had the last laugh, the Rayo Vallecano fans never quietened, even as we left the ground. At one point the Ultras would point toward one side of the pitch and start a chant to which we responded back. They then pointed to other side and they in turn did the same thing. This went on for 10 minutes. This outside of college bball and football does not exist in US sports. It’s a shame and fodder for another article, but I must admit I’m glad that the Sounders and other MLS teams have fans who are bringing this sort of atmosphere into their own grounds. Its what makes home field advantage such a big deal in soccer. Its an added 12th man and impossible to ignore for opposing teams. Many a better away team has lost a game due to the relentless noise/abuse directed at them and cheering for the home team. I really hope to see tomorrow’s derby. It will be intense!

Rayo lining up to take a free kick

This game had more quality then an MLS game. These players have played at the highest level in Spain at some point in their careers and if not yet, soon will be. That said, I think this would be a perfect place for up and coming US players to get their feet wet, learn from some seasoned veterans and really get to work on their ball skills and over all game understanding. Sure some of these current Segunda Division players maybe over the hill and some might not make it back to the grand stage a few miles down the road, but they all controlled the ball well, all had a good first touch and all knew how to tackle. Off course, every player wants to make it at the big club but so many get lost on the bench or in the reserves. There is no beating first team football, no matter what the level.

All it takes is one or two players to come over and make a difference. So instead of languishing on a bench or in the reserves in the Premiership, try it out in the Segunda Division in Spain. It might not be glamorous and you might not get on ESPN, but you will be playing and learning and people (other managers, national team coaches etc…) will see you.

As for the overall experience. I do hope that MLS continues to adopt the atmosphere and excitement that I saw in the game today. I went to the game with a good friend who is a casual soccer fan at best. After wards he said “Eff it, lets get tickets for tomorrows game no matter what the cost”. Sounds like a good idea to me.

RSL Fans In The Wild & Sat Review

Thanks for everyone contributing and educating on MLS in the comments.

I think TSG will try to bring on a writer who knows more about MLS here until I can both learn and feel passionate about the league. A lot of good commentary on what to watch. Thank you.

Came out of the ocean this morning after surfing and lo’ and behold, a number of Real Salt Lake fans down from Utah for the game.

So we snapped this pic.

All the way from Salt Lake to Ocean Beach, SF....

Going to have catch up on what I missed this morning, including:

• Aston Villa giving up at the Bridge, 7-0….and that team wants to play Champion’s League ball?!

• Going to watch the reply of Hull City beating Fulham, don’t worry about commenting I’ve already read the box score.

• Turns out Arsenal couldn’t get out of Birmingham with a win, per our preview, that would have been impressive.

• Inter losing away at Roma…can you say looking ahead to CSKA?  No doubt.

• Jonathan Spector back to leftback. Zola needs to go; that back line for West Ham needs continuity not rotation.

The Weekend: Altidore vs. Dempsey

Best I could do...

Not done with the weekend preview…but I thought I would get it out there to start the discussion….more coming.

FSC Schedule here.  ESPN schedule here.

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More spanning, no cheesy globe this time (unless I can find a good one….and I took my best shot).

Yes, we apologize to those heckling in email:

“When are you going to talk about MLS?” and my favorite, “You’re not talking about MLS at all right now because you’re afraid that your boy Borny is going to look horrendous in the opener.”

Love getting heckled.

Wow!

Well folks, we’re not going to talk about a lot of MLS…yet, but a big thank you to the TSG community for getting me interested in MLS. Last night after the Syracuse Orangemen succumbed, I was flipping back and forth between the Sounders-Union opener and March Madness and found myself watching a lot more of the Sounders game–and christening David Myrie of the Union the next Maldini or something.

You see why I need to ease my way into MLS. That said, very good entertainment last evening.

Onto the weekend:

League One – England

Leyton Orient vs. Brentford

A huge inter-London game of the week.

Our feature game of the week. 8am PST, Saturday March 27th AM. Gonna be huge…

Actually, the big news here?  Leyton’s got a new fullback, he goes by the name of Eric Lichaj just loaned by mothership Aston Villa.

Brentford only thing I know about them is they have that Polish goalie on loan from Arsenal.

We actually asked USSF about Eric Lichaj last week and they reminded that he was a guest in Chicago last year. Okay USSF…and?

Some pub for the pride of Downers Grove, Illinois

EPL

Arsenal up to St. Andrews to face Birmingham

Arsenal is hanging around the top of the table there…legitimate shot at the top? You bet.

They’re in form, but it will be a big statement to go up to Birmingham and come away with a win, not a draw. Birmingham, the promoted darlings, are downright feisty at home. Watch this game if you can, great mix of splendid possession and passing (Arsenal) vs.a squad that thrives on teamwork (Birmingham).

Will Arsenal rest any of their eleven in favor of the big Barca showdown Wednesday?

Joe Hart, please step up. Robert Green, shaky. David James, really shaky.

Anyone else starting to see this face on Ancelotti?

Chelsea defends The Bridge versus Friedel’s Villians

Saturday, ESPN Classic, 7:55AM PST

Chelsea look to right the ship against a squad that customarily heads south down the stretch. Aston Villa are doing that once again this year.

Do you believe in Martin O’Neill more or Carlo Ancelotti?

Does it say something that the Blues have had little success and optimism at coach since The Special One graced the pitch? I think it does. A lot of ego, a lot of entrenched veterans at Chelsea. Scolari, Grant and maybe Ancelotti run out of town the past few years. I say–as rumors abounded this week–shake it up. Time for some new blood.

Oh and a quick note here on the viewing, that’s a better time slot for ESPN here for an EPL game, but they have it on Classic. Interesting….

Altidore vs. Dempsey (Hull City welcomes Fulham to KC Stadium)

Saturday, FSC, 3PM PST (Delay)

I can’t believe there isn’t a YouTube compilation on Altidore vs. Dempsey…really?

Reports have Altidore all set fitness-wise for this one.

Ponder this for a second, one might argue that the two best attackers in this game are American. Bobby Zamora is battling a stomach bug and might miss this one; though Stephen Hunt might take issue with that statement.

Both teams need this one, but Hull City surely more as they dropped a big one at Portsmouth (I didn’t mean for that to be a pun…but looks like it is). Fulham though have not won in the Premiership in over a month.

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