Wow, seems too long since we did a spa-spa-spanning the weekend globe.
We’ve got a full docket of MLS games…and the kickoff to the Wayne Rooney League.
Oh, and not only that, you have Carlos Bocanegra’s St Etienne taking on Charlies Davies’ Sochaux and Maurice Edu kicking off his first potential full season campaign with Rangers.
Let’s get started.
• Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City
The Hairy Redknappers defend their home turf in the early, early game Saturday morning against what we presume will be Manchester City’s “A” team as they still need to pair 35 players (kidding), 2 trainers and 5 chickens from their traveling circus.
Will this be the season of Gareth Bale? The Welsh youngster was everyone’s darling in the 2nd half of the EPL campaign last year after finally being healthy.
With the advent of the 4-2-3-1 and teams camping in their own box, a player like Bale–big enough to knock in a header in the box, fast enough to kickoff a counter and sharp enough with his foot to play in service–can be downright spooky and dominant against opponents.
Let’s see how Redknapp has his team mustered here for the first one.
• Aston Villa vs. West Ham
Brad Friedel between the pipes against for the Villains and Bob Bradley not patrolling the side lines…but this game is still interesting.
Does Young American Eric Lichaj make the 18? We say yes.
Will Carlton Cole continue to be an enigma in a West Ham shirt or will he be dealt? Does the Hammers best offensive weapon, Alessandro Diamanti, finally start this year?
Will Jonathan Spector earn the respect of new coach Avram Grant and the fans?
• Bolton vs. Fulham
Yes folks, for the first time in perhaps forever, you will see a brash and exciting Bolton team. However, can they get off against a notorious stingy Fulham defensive side under new coach Mark Hughes?
Will disgruntled Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer, upset about not being allowed to play at Emirates with Wenger’s crew, be listless or boisterous?
• Blackburn vs. Everton
Does Everton have the best English central midfield? It’s possible.
Media hoopla is abuzz with nationalizing the very Spanish Mikel Arteta who doesn’t sniff his heritage’s nattie team.
His bookend is, however, the very English and very talented Jack Rodwell who is going to put it altogether this year and begin to have the EPL opponents do as he says. (He’s also the inspiration for TSG’s EPL Fantasy name (wait, have you joined?), “Chest Rodwell).
Plus the former and the latter, Everton still boast a capable Tim Cahill and always promising Marouane Fellaini in the middle. Everton are looking pretty inside.
(Update: Can’t resist…need to throw the ‘froman clip in here)
Back to the game, does that Everton central midfield boss Blackburn’s elder midfield at home? Will Jermaine Beckford start up top with Louis Saha in a 4-4-2, or will David Moyes stick with last year’s 4-3-3 revelation?
• Sunderland vs. Birmingham
…and so begins The Year of Cameron Jerome. Mark it.
• Wigan vs. Blackpool
Hard for TSG not to root for Blackpool, especially because if any of the Premy newcomers (West Brom, Newcastle, ‘Pool) have a shot earn a victory opening weekend, it’s actually Ian Holloway’s squad on the road.
• New York Red Bull vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
What a difference a year makes? A long this time last year, new TSG readers were asking us if we could preview and report on MLS.
One year later, the most exciting game on the docket for the weekend is actually in the domestic league…and TSG is a little more qualified to offer an opinion.
First of all, I expect this to be a statement game–for L.A., and that’s dependent upon Bruce Arena waking up the troops.
The Galaxy just fumbled through a miserable stretch of their season, but what I saw was a team that looked a little tired more than anything else.
The New York Red Bull PATH train is just starting to warm up, but that’s a few big parts to try to integrate on the fly.
A few things on this one:
• Juninho meet Rafa Marquez. Rafa Marquez, Juninho. Odds that Juninho gets a gash, contusion or takes an otherwise hobbling hit in this one from the Mexican Karate Kid? 2 to 1.
• I’m a big believer in Tim Ream’s…potential. After a whole gushing of praise for the youngster earlier this year, I finally got around to seeing Ream play a few games…and I can understand why fans like him…
…but he’s not there yet. He needs to improve his angles and knowing when to attack up the pitch and when to sit back.
• Speaking of backlines, the one thing that will put L.A. at severe risk in this game is a bad spell by its defense. The Galaxy’s defense is given to horrible stretches here and there. You’re not going to want to have too many of those against Angel, Henry and friends…
…especially with what I see is as a somewhat pedestrian Donovan Ricketts. I don’t have a whole lot of history to go on, but Ricketts to me has looked a little slow for an All-Star keeper this year. Just a smidge.
• DC United vs. FC Dallas
Sorry RFK faithful, this is not the home game you want…facing a team that hasn’t lost in over 50 days and with last year’s top striker starting to get it going.
Will the news of Jamie Moreno’s pending move to hang up the boots possibly spur United on?
How aggressive is new coach Ben Olsen in this one? Does he really want to pressure high and risk a Dax or Ferreira midfield connection to a streaking Cunningham?
• Chivas USA vs. Seattle Sounders
It’s Jonathan Bornstein Commemorative Poster Night at Home Depot Center, so expect at least one goal by Seattle.
And probably another as Chivas’s net minder Dan Kennedy is now out for the season and Seattle is starting to roll.