Archive for July, 2010

Post World Cup Doldrums, Where To Go?

Reader Patrick Sullivan wrote us and posed the following question (we’ll paraphrase):

Now that the World Cup is over, what does a newbie soccer fan do and how can I find some ways to root for a team that are “fun” and “hip?”

Here you go Patrick and others: a schematic for those new to the game or those fresh off the World Cup excitement who want to ratchet up the excitement level after South Africa:

1. Pick an EPL team to follow. Buy a jersey. Go to a bar.

ESPN is locked into EPL soccer for another year, at worst, on the dial on your televsion. The Premiership boasts some of the top talent in the world and its teams boast some of the best history. Just last week, TSG had a feature on Blackpool who are newly promoted the Barclays.

Pick a team to follow and purchase a jersey to cement your loyalty.

Should you be backing Birmingham and picking up a McFadden jersey?

First, though, do your research. Find a team that best evokes the spirit, flair or style of soccer that you like. Learn some of the history, star players, how the club grew to the stature of where they are now. Or think about the town the club is from, maybe it’s similar to your town.

Then buy your jersey, but be careful there too. More so than in American football, global football stars get sold all the time. Find out about how the player arrived at the club, see how long their contract goes for. If your team–gasp–gets relegated to a lower division will they have to sell the player whose name is on the back of your jersey.

Wait…I forgot to check…does my team have a chance to get relegated? (Ask those wearing Jozy Altidore Hull City jerseys to the gym these days.)

Is the player often injured–and why does this matter?

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Donovan Goes William Shatner Again

Turtle comes back with a deal for Landon instead of Vince.

Playground: Divvying Up The MLS All-Stars And Manchester United

If you’re new to TSG, a few things were fond of over here are fake drafts, hypothetical teams and playing manager.

"Okay, I'll take Berba if I have to"

A few months back, TSG suggested that the MLS All-Stars be broken up with two captains (at the time we suggested Landon and Wayne) picking teams. What a great moment it would be to see Dimitar Berbatov standing all by his lonesome and Rooney looking around with the last pick and no else to take and finally stammering under his breath to Donovan, “Okay, I’ll take ‘em….you got me there.”)

With this idea in mind, TSG writer Brain Mechanick–and expert in running hypothetical player drafts online–and friend of the site Christian, a Manchester United expert and an expert on all things Mexican football, set out to compete (You, the reader, will vote below!) by picking sides from the MLS All-Stars and Sir Alex’s Traveling Circus.

Oh and please vote, there is a little skin in the game for both of them. If Christian wins, Brian has to write a piece for the site why the hated Red Devils will win the EPL this season.

But if Brian wins, Christian has to explain why this will be the year for Mechanick’s beloved Tottenham Hotspur.

The Draft Results: (Brian in Red, Christian in Blue)

Le Toux: The first MLS attacker picked after Lando...

1. Landon Donovan

2. Paul Scholes

3. Darren Fletcher

4. Ryan Giggs

5. Nani

6. Edwin Van der Sar

7. Omar Gonzalez

8. Jonny Evans

9. Javier Hernandez

10. Sebastien Le Toux

11. Rafael

12. Kevin Alston

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Spurs Going Beyond Yankee 2000’s Blueprint

I’m finishing this piece as Portsmouth has taken the field against D.C. United Saturday wearing long-sleeve borrowed kits from their MLS competitors in searing East Coast summer heat. Going to make my point a tad easier.

Not likely...

Our first “The Business of Soccer” column in a while and sadly, for some, it’s been overrun by the Yankees-bid-for-Spurs rumor.

The Daily Mail–a newspaper in much the same way that the National Enquirer is aspiring to be CNN or a moped is considered a motorcyle–speculated earlier that the New York Yankees are interested in buying into the Premiership through club Tottenham Hotspur. Gotham tabloid, the New York Post, refuted the claim the next day.

The rumor was refreshed to conscience with a question in the Sports Guy’s mailbag on Friday. Thankfully, TSG offers more coherent analysis here on the topic.

Quite simply, the Steinbrenners buying into any Premiership team would be a boon as Steinbrenner management typically translates into using all means necessary to great a competitive and popular–financially-speaking–team.

Modric: One of the early names in Tottenham's assault on Top Four talent...

However, a look at Spurs shows a recent history where the club has departed a mid-table malaise and invested heavily in taking the team to the next level.

First, let’s take a look at the supposed offer and history.

The rumor is the Yankees have leveled a $653M USD bid for Spurs. That’s a value that represents a major premium to the current value of Tottenham but probably accurately reflects the potential upside of the next half decade.

Forbes recently valued Spurs at $372M that down from $450M USD (we’ll do all comparison in dollars in this column) in 2009. Revenue as well dipped from $228M in ’08-’09 to $186M in 2010 The bid is about 3 times revenue.

The one-year drop for Tottenham however was systemic as the global economy stripped anywhere from 10% to 20% off the value of EPL clubs over the past year. For comparison, clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea hover around $300M in revenue annually.

With Champion’s League revenue forthcoming this season, it’s safe to say that the Spurs value will return to $450M or trump that figure with more in the offing. The Yankees rumored bid would be fair value for an owner that wanted to hedge against the Spurs current trajectory.

Continue reading

Jersey Swaps: Where Kits Go To Die

For those new to TSG, part of what we try to do is be a conduit to players and coaches for your questions.

Reader “Tim” wrote in and asked us the following:

What do the players typically do with the jerseys they get from the other team after they’ve switch?  Do they wear them?  or just hang them on their wall?  Is Donovan hitting bars wearing at Torres jersey?

Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o caused a minor stir when he swapped jerseys with a Tanzania player in 2008...

Well Tim, the answers that came in Thursday might be deflating for you but first some background.

The first jersey exchange is recognized to have happened almost 80 years ago, 1931, when France beat England. The French players wanted a little momento of their momentous occasion and requested the jersey of their English counterparts. Tradition born.

Just two years ago was perhaps the most (in)famous jersey swap. In a World Cup qualifying match between Tanzania and Cameroon, international star Samuel E’to exchanged jerseys with Tanzania’s Nadir Haroub. The Tanzanian Football Federation then claimed they could not afford a new jersey and demanded Haroub provide compensation for it. After public pressure, the TFF relented.

Tim, I’m sorry to report that, despite the tradition, the two players we spoke with Thursday night have no controversy, or grand plans, for their keepsakes.

Matthew, TSG: Got a reader question for you Sean. After the match, there is sometimes the exchange of kits. What do you do with the jersey you swap for?

Sean Franklin, L.A. Galaxy:  Afraid it’s nothing exciting. I usually just  give it to the equipment manager to make sure it gets washed. Then when I get it back it goes in the drawer. That’s about it.

Matthew: So you’re not displaying it or anything?

Sean: Nah, just the drawer. I don’t wear it out or anything like that. Probably not the answer you were looking for.

Matthew: Doesn’t change our opinion of you Sean.

——

Matthew, TSG: Landon, quick feature question from a reader if you don’t mind. What do you do with the jerseys you get in the swap at the end of the game? Any favorites?

We're guessing "Ghana 2010" is not Lando's favorite...

Landon Donovan, L.A. Galaxy: Well, I have a trophy room at home and they go in there.

I don’t know if I have a favorite. You know, I’ve never really thought about it. It’s nice every once in awhile though to be able to look back and remember some of the more memorable matches I’ve been in.

Matthew, TSG: Not one favorite?

Landon: Haven’t really ever thought about it.

Matthew, TSG: You’re going to disappoint some readers in that they never get worn again. You don’t wear them out for a run? Anything?

Landon: No, and I’m not wearing them out to bars or anything either.

——–

Update:  Just got an update from Chivas USA keeper Dan Kennedy who we asked as well. (By the way, Dan Kennedy, also very generous with his time with TSG; much appreciated Mr. Kennedy.)

Dan’s answer: I have a small collection from teammates, opponents, and guys I admire, I plan on framing them at the end of my career…

Thanks Dan.

Some short weekend notes:

• Benny Feilhaber, who is rumored to be on the move from AGF Arhaus, comments on the World Cup.  Perhaps–apologies–the most bland interview ever though no fault of subject.

AGF is having a really hard time selling both Feilhaber and Jakob Poulsen as clubs know both players can be had and are thus underbidding for their services.

• Corinthians boss Mano Menezes has accepted the Brazil head coaching gig. Chilean skipper Marcelo Bielsa is rumored to re-up for 1-year with Chile.

• Got a roundabout source here who says Jay DeMerit, currently on holiday, is leaning towards coming back Stateside. Thought I would share this,though I have no direct knowledge nor have confirmed it. Sort of a “my best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors” kind of thing.

Yao was signed to Roy Keane's Ipswich Town through May....

• A name you may or may not know…much traveled (Livorno, St. Mirren, Red Bull, Ipswich Town) Devann Yao is training with West Ham. Yao, who played some American academy ball, would be an interesting candidate for new development US Youth Soccer Technical Director Claudio Reyna to use as a case study.

• Mark Hughes is now apparently on Fulham’s list. TSG has stated before that if Jol doesn’t get the job, it’s likely to be Hughes who the Cottagers pursue. Gareth Southgate remains our dark horse candidate (…and will likely remain just that).

• Carlos Captainegra made his new deal with St. Etienne official. Boca’s deal is two years with a transfer fee going the other way of 185K euros.

Are You Ready For Some Football?

Spurs on their warmup jog. Photo Credit - Allison Pasciuto

On October 31st of this year, the San Francisco 49ers will play the Denver Broncos at Wembley Stadium as part of the NFL’s global outreach football program.

Last Wednesday evening, Tottenham Hotspur landed at San Francisco airport, and Thursday morning had an open practice for fans at the Earthquakes’ training facility.

Tom Huddlestone's hiked up shorts were quite the distraction...and not in a good way. Photo Credit - Allison Pasciuto

People in the two teams’ marketing departments must have realized at some point that they could form a partnership that would be entertaining to fans from both teams. So the 49ers sent quarterback Alex Smith, offensive tackle Joe Staley and kicker Joe Nedney to the Spurs’ practice to meet some of the players, try some kicking and get a view of the “other” football practice.

I have a friend who works for the production company that does 49ers Total Access, a TV show that tends to follow all things Niners. He called me up as they knew nothing about soccer and asked me if I knew anything about “the TottenHAM Hotspur.” I said, “A little, their manager is named Harry –” “You’re hired,” said my friend.

I assumed I would be there as a liaison of sorts – pointing out certain players to the cameramen, giving them a bit of history and facts so that the interviewers would come off as knowledgeable, etc. Turns out it was just me and one cameraman – I was the interviewer AND and I had to come up with my own questions! What follows are my notes about the whole affair which lasted over two practices.

The practice itself

Keanos' still got it.

About half of Spurs’ starting eleven were not there as they were still on post-World Cup holiday. So sadly no Crouch (yes, I would have asked him to do the robot). Defoe, Gomes, King, Lennon, etc. were also absent. Still, Spurs are a talented team and many of their superstars were on show. Some bullet points:
– Luka Modrić is tiny and looks like a 10 year old schoolboy. He was also the best player on the pitch by far and his ball control is spectacular.

- Tom Huddlestone is a big boy. He also likes “hiking” his shorts up to uncomfortable levels.

- Younes Kaboul is bigger still, but he looks in shape.

- Robbie Keane really does bark and yap, and is still a very skillful player.

- Gareth Bale has simian-like features.

- Cudicini ALWAYS has a scowl on his face.

- Roman Pavlyuchenko is known as “Pav.”

- Hutton never shuts up and is really funny (if you can understand him).

- There was a definite distinction in skill between Modrić, Bale, Pav and a few others versus the rest of the squad.

The 49ers arrive

Joe Staley and Alex Smith of the 49ers get their Earthquake jersey's. Photo Credit - Allison Pasciuto

The first day Alex Smith and Joe Staley showed up midway through practice. The obvious thing one notices is how big they are, especially in relation to the Spurs players (yes, even Huddlestone). Even Joe Nedney, the kicker, was bigger than most of the soccer players.

I talked first to Joe Staley, the gregarious tackle. Both he and Alex Smith were surprisingly knowledgeable about soccer. They both not only avidly followed the USMNT, but they watched most of the other World Cup games as well, and both gave perfect descriptions of what offside meant in soccer. Most surprising to me was that they also knew all about the significance of Wembley Stadium and its importance as a national venue, and were incredibly excited to play there.

I asked Staley what he thought of the soccer practice and he mentioned that the biggest difference is that there is a lot more scrimmaging between the entire team. In football, the players tend to work on their positions more and there isn’t nearly as much running.

When posed the question whether “any of these players could make it as a NFL football player,” Joe quickly shook his head and said, “No”…until he saw Huddlestone and said, “Well, he could!”

Clive Allen.

Alex Smith was a little more serious. His views on instant replay in soccer were very well thought out, and, in my opinion, spot-on. He said that it should be in use for goals and major incidents in the penalty area, but for everything else, just let the game flow.

The US athletes were much more comfortable talking to me and the camera than the English ones were. 49er All Access wanted me to interview the English players as opposed to Modrić, Ćorluka, etc. Although polite and obliging, the soccer players answered the questions quickly and without any embellishment. They also knew nothing about American football (though a couple of them do watch it occasionally). The one exception was Clive Allen, one of the Spurs coaches.

Clive Allen is a Spurs and QPR legend who played with many teams throughout his successful career. A gifted striker, he also, as I found out, was the kicker for the London Monarchs in NFL Europe. He was fantastic to interview.

Completely engaging and very knowledgeable about both sports, he too was a big advocate for goal line technology and instant replay. He also still had the ability to kick the hell out of a football (pigskin) when Nedney challenged him to a kicking competition.

Athletes are athletes
At the end of the first practice, there was a shooting practice on the Spurs’ keepers. Staley and Alex Smith were encouraged to join in with Keane, Bale, Pav, Kranjčar, Huddlestone and a couple of others.

Joe Staley scoring off a volley. Photo Credit - Allison Pasciuto

Clive Allen would stand at the byline of the penalty box and whip in balls either in the air or on the ground for the players to either trap and shoot or one-time towards the net. Keeping in mind that the Americans hadn’t played organized soccer since they were 5, they acquitted themselves pretty well. They both trapped the ball on the chest as if they had been playing for years. Admittedly Staley’s chest is pretty huge, but their ball control was good.

Staley even scored a goal which was followed by an equally impressive goal celebration (based on the Bafana Bafana World Cup goal celebration dance). Both Bale and Modrić were incredible during this drill and slammed the ball in the back of the net with deadly precision.

After this it was the NFL players’ turns to throw American footballs with the Spurs squad. Surprisingly no one aside from their 49 year old coach (Clive Allen) could run AND catch the football. Some notes:
– Huddlestone has great hands. The boys were challenging Alex Smith to whip it at him, and though he would cower a bit, he caught every single one of them.

- Bale has an arm, a cannon even. He kicks with his left, but throws with his right.

- Jenas should never be a wide receiver.

- Whenever he has a free moment, Redknapp is ALWAYS on the phone.

- Hutton never shuts up and is really funny (I was finally beginning to understand him).

Gareth Bale - Back up QB. Photo Credit - Allison Pasciuto

During the second practice, Nedney challenged Clive Allen and the two young keepers (Cudicini didn’t seem to be in the mood) to a kicking competition with the American football. The keepers, after a couple of miss-hits, really could hammer the ball. They need to work on their aim (their shots would hook to the left), but if it doesn’t work out with Spurs, I’m sure an NFL team could pick them up.

Equally impressive was Nedney’s distance and accuracy on goal kicks, and shots on goal with a soccer ball. On penalty kicks, Nedney buried half of them in the top corner. The rest were well saved by the keepers (who were also adept spot kick takers). However, neither could hold a candle to Allen, who never missed.

At the end, both the players of the two sports left with a mutual admiration for what the other does.

All told it was an entertaining two days. I got to watch a professional Champions League-bound team practice and be put through their paces, as well talk to some NFL players who were funny, intelligent and knowledgeable.

One note to leave you with: in the interchange of trying out the different sports and positions, taking penalty kicks or passing the ball, the one area that the NFL players could not get and failed at – keeper!

Galaxy vs. Quakes Sort Of Commentary

I’m not your game review guy (we don’t have enough staff).

Move over Bornstein, TSG's got a new--well not so new--HDC fave...

So instead of tweeting, I’m just going to put some comments up here on the 1st half of the Galaxy vs. Quakes game this evening. The “B” game to the Thierry Henry Classico that went on earlier. Good opener from the former Invincible.

2nd half

• Rare mistake from Omar Gonzalez as the corner squibs through and he’s on the back of his man.

• Galaxy squandering go-ahead opportunities.

• Commenting with “Unknown Man” of UnprofessionalFoul.com that Galaxy are playing splendid two-touch soccer…and BAM! goal off 4-player 2-touch sequence.

• Buddle has gotten loose a few times this evening, but Ike Opara…and Burling are doing an admirable job of standing him up.

• Juninho has quicker feet than the roadrunner. That is all.

1st half:

• Sean Franklin–as you well know if you read this publication–is fast becoming a “do no wrong” in TSG’s eyes. Actually, Franklin has impressed with forward runs, a plethora of different ways to attack headers (that I hope to ask him about), and some nifty spacing. That said….

• Even without Berhalter, the Galaxy’s back line zonal marketing is very well schooled. No useless running…with the exception of Leonardo who one can tell is still green.

• San Jose has played the ball down their right flank as much as possible to offset Donovan. Convey after his initial goal moved to the San Jose right flank, to which the Galaxy answered by moving the pride of Manchester City–kidding–Landon Donovan over to that flank.

• Cornell Glen should really be played over the top more by San Jose. That said, he’s been offsides–egregiously a few times–and his flopping is resulting in non-calls from the refs.

• Alan Gordon is a bull in a China shop. I know a few of you labeled him an all-star. On the “strength” of tonight’s performance, he’s more a product of teams being worried about other Galaxy attackers.

More coming…

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