Some Thursday bullets: (Root canalitis is making us less than heady on a lengthy, researched column–witness yesterday’s grammar-less Liverpool post)
• We’re almost there for Clint Dempsey and Fulham to Europa Finals. A big one today at the Craven Cottage for the McBrides. A 0-0 tie last week at Hamburg essentially means winner take all on Thursday. Wouldn’t it be nice for the Deuce to go Juventus on us?
Want to learn more about how Fulham excelled this year? An excellent column here by the Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson on how former Inter Milan manager Roy Hodgson has got Fulham firing on all cylinders.
Oh…you wanted to see that Deuce strike again before today’s game:
• TSG reader Antonio made a great comment comparing yesterday Inter v. Barca thriller to the U.S. v. Spain Confederation’s Cup match. For my part, I loved the match. I’m a fan of defensive soccer–probably through my own upbringing of playing wide in the back.
Antonio, I couldn’t agree with you more on the comparison in that both Bob Bradley and Jose Mourinho took a full chapter from the same defensive manual:
Stay narrow, close down anything on the interior going to the playmakers. Give up the ball movement out of the back in exchange for the long ball down the pitch that one of your strikers can chase down. Repeat.
More from this one:
› Barcelona came out as wide as possible to start the match. Usually, just like a wide receiver running a pattern down the sideline, it’s best to take a few steps in from the sideline if you’re a winger so an errant pass beyond you can be recovered. Pedro and Ibra out wide we’re virtually standing on the line. Inter still didn’t break through the middle.
› Shaun made the following spot-on comment at the 76th minute:
76:00 – Barca like the Spanish national team only know one way to play. They keep trying that extra splitting pass when they need to run at the defenders and shoot. They cannot break Inters line this way.
While Barca eventually scored their first goal on a slip pass, in my mind they are guilty from…yes…a lack of creativity. They tried the same tactics again and again and again. They started finding at least a little bit of room against ten-man Inter when they mixed in some crosses.
What is they had mixed in some long balls, some lobs, some running-at the defenders earlier. I’m sorry, but Mourinho’s team was frankly better coached in this one.
› I am not a proponent of anti-American sentiment, but while the global soccer world trumpets Mourinho for his spot-on strategy, would the US have been given as much credit if they played such an “ugly” game.
›Is Barca’s loss Spain’s gain? Nearly every World Cup “preview” mag or pub I’ve read cites the Spainards being “worn out” by Champion’s League football, especially with the final following a little more than 3 weeks before the beginning of the World Cup.
Well now Xavi, Pique, Iniesta and company will have time to replenish. It’s the Brazilians (Lucio, Cesar, Maicon–who was knocked around) who may need to be concerned about exhaustion. And a note, here. It’s more exhaustion of the mind, not the body. It’s hard to “get up” for one “championship” after another. Maybe an interesting read here.
› Iniesta certainly could have helped in this series with his combination of attacking and lay-off or attack and snipe. But how does Thierry Henry not get any run out with his directness towards goal? Weird.
• Just read about this Jermaine Jones’ Nutella curse–never heard of it before, so a link here to the article. One position that is trending positively for the United States in advance of May Camp? Central midfield, where Maurice Edu has been integral to the Rangers SPL cup acquisition and Michael Bradley has had a series of very solid games for the Bo’Munchies.
• Conversely, and TSG reader Kevin asked about Houston man Mike Chabala in the comments a few days ago, the USMNT center back position is looking a little more squeamish these days. It should be a no-brainer that Gooch, if fit, will get some runouts for Milan.
That’s a good thing, because Jay DeMerit’s been battling a few maladies and Carlos Bocanegra has been a near full-time starter outside on the wing for Rennes. Our worry–and a very real one–with the likes of Crouch, Terry, Gerrard, Bostjan Cesar and Bougherra coming up on set pieces, who wins the headers for the United States.
• Going to throw up an “equal time” guest post on Edson Buddle’s golasography later today.