Archive for August, 2010

Your 2010-11 La Liga Driver’s Manual

This is a guest bible by Donald Wine.

Note: Thank you for your patience, Donald. Hectic day here at TSG.

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Meet America’s Best Hope In La Liga…kidding…

Meet America's Best Hope in La Liga...kidding!

Okay, time to click “bookmark.”

Consider the prose below to be your driver’s manual to La Liga 2010-11.

Each and every team concisely summarized by Donald, guiding you through want to expect in Spain’s top league this year.

Hint: Not all Guiseppe and Jozy.

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The 2010-11 La Liga Season Preview

On Saturday, the dawn of a new season in La Liga begins, and 20 teams from around the World Cup champion nation of Spain will begin their quest for the La Liga title.  Well, to most people, it’s a 2 team race between perennial powers Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.  However, the rest of the teams in Spain’s top flight will be doing their best to interrupt Barca and Real’s 2-man tango for the crown.

While the English Premier League is widely regarded as the most popular league in the world and the league with the most talent, La Liga is very close behind them in popularity and can definitely give them a run for their money in terms of talent.  While Madrid and Barca carry the most obvious examples, teams like Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Villareal and Mallorca can also hang with the best teams in the world.  However, many people don’t know much about the rest of the gang of the league that produced all but one player of the 2010 World Cup champions.  So, here’s your in-depth preview of the 2010-11 La Liga teams.

Team: Unión Deportivo Almería

Nickname(s): Almería

Stadium (Capacity): Estadio del Mediterráneo (Capacity 22,000)

Location: Almería, Andalusia

Manager: Juan Manuel Lillo

Captain: Jose Ortiz

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: (W-D-L): 13th (10-12-16, 42 points)

Outlook:  Almeria, a smaller team with a mid-table finish last season, packs a lot of fight and is never a slouch on matchday.  Newcomer Michael Jakobsen will be called upon to anchor the defense as captain José Ortiz will help provide the firepower that Almería need to try to make a run at a Top 10 finish this season.

Team: Athletic Club (Bilbao)

Nickname(s): Athletic Bilbao, Los Leones, Bilbao

Stadium (Capacity): San Mamés (39,750)

Location: Bilbao, Biscay, País Vasco (Basque Country)

Manager: Joaquín Caparrós

Captain: Pablo Orbaiz

2009/10 Trophies: N/A

2009/10 Result: (W-D-L, points): 8th (15-9-14, 54 points)

Outlook: Athletic Bilbao, a team with a lot of history and the pride of Basque Country, has long been a successful team despite only fielding players native to their autonomous region.  Spanish international Fernando Llorente will be the man up front as Los Leones seek to return to European football by improving on last year’s 8th place finish.

Team: Club Atlético de Madrid, S.A.D.

Nickname(s): Los Rojiblancos, Los Colchoneros, Los Indios, El Atleti

Stadium (Capacity): Vicente Calderón Stadium (54,851)

Location:  Madrid

Manager: Quique Sánchez Flores

Captain: Antonio López

2009/10 Trophies: UEFA Europa League Champions, Copa del Rey Runner-up

2009/10 Result: 9th (13-8-17, 47 points)

Outlook: Long regarded as the “other team” of Madrid to crosstown rivals Real Madrid, Atleti had a disappointing season in La Liga, finishing 9th.  However, despite their finish, they were Copa del Rey runners-up and won the Europa League back in May, beating Fulham in the final.  They will use that momentum, coupled with the successful World Cup runs of Diego Forlán and Sergio Agüero as well as the rise in form of Jose Antonio Reyes to make another run in Europe and finally begin their attack on the top 5 teams in Spain.

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The Shin Guardian Trades Again…

Hypothetical trades are our bag baby here at TSG. Just consider us the Soccer Trade Machine that ESPN never built. Um, not really.

A few months ago we gave you a post on a little fun–completely hypothetical–wheeling and dealing in a transfer fantasy land.

Here’s our latest salvo. Crazy? Yes:

Leyva: Switch that kit son, the US developed you.

• USSF trades a national team friendly to FC Dallas that is *free for season ticket holders.

Dallas commits to work 17-year-old wunderkind midfielder Bryan Leyva to commit his national team career, Paco Torres-style, to the Yanks.

How about we get Dallas some more fans? The product that team is putting on the field is a good “team.” And what I mean by that is where Los Angeles slaps you in the face with an over-abundance of talent, Dallas has talent, but the bit parts complement that talent even better. 1+1=3…

…only no one is watching the games.

In exchange for adding a USSF friendly carrot to the season ticket offer, the Hoops attempt to convince Mexican Bryan Leyva to commit to USSF, looking ahead to 2018.

Of course, the fans still need to show up.

• Fulham sends Eddie Johnson to the Kansas City Wizards for Sunil Chhetri. Kansas City has option to recall or buy back Sunil Chhetri if Eddie Johnson claims an American bias in Kansas City and doesn’t get playing time.

Chhetri: Not affixing a bust label just yet...

Somewhat unfair to really consider Sunil Chhetri a bust in Kansas City. Number one, Kansas City didn’t know precisely what they were getting, and number two, it’s less than a full year for Chhetri.

And number three, Chhetri’s salary is in the low six-figures, not seven figures. A good risk, and the jury is still out.

Here’s the plan though.

Grown Ass Man and conspirast Eddie Johnson goes back to the club where he once scored goals in abundance. Chhetri goes to Fulham where the Cottagers can loan him out for a few years until he is ready.

Plus, because of the demographic percentages, an Indian national in England is actually bigger than in the States.

Fulham rids itself of EJ’s salary and gets something in return for the American striker a year earlier than the expiration of his deal after 2011.

At the very least, Kei Kamara will start to value his chances, no?

(Can you believe now that MLS made $6M on Johnson’s transfer originally? Wow.)

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PSA: A Little Support For Ben’s Endeavor

Beat this!

Update: 08/27

Update: From Ben, “I am definitely going on that world tour and see Central and South America with O’l Nellie.
Life is short someone once told me…smile.”

Ben responds to your comments below as well. Please drop a line if you haven’t.

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A few months we introduced you to Ben Oude Kamphuis, perhaps the biggest Netherlands fan outside of Holland (and maybe inside too.)

San Francisco resident and Dutch national Ben Oude Kamphuis with "Ol Nellie"

Ben’s easily mistaken for Hulk Hogan so much so that commenting as such is almost cliche.

He’s also the constructor behind Nellie (pictured), perhaps the best fan vehicle I have ever seen. I’d put that up against anything in parade.

The reason I write today is that Ben is considering taking a more than year journey from San Francisco, California to Brazil for World Cup 2014 and using Nellie to get him there.

This is no small or casual undertaking for Ben; his leadership is highly valued in San Francisco.

He’s a Jefferson Award winner who runs Project Insight, an organic farming program where deaf and blind senior citizens help him grow the harvest.

Take a moment today, if you would, to write Ben a support note–that’s all I’m asking at this time–if you like as I’ll be sending him a link to this story.

I sure would like to see and hear about his trip to World Cup 2014 and he deserves it.

(Video about Ben.)

The Ignored Youth Movement In MLS

Guest columnist Jay Bell gives up the video editing machine for some word processing.

Geovanni: "San Jose rang...how could I not go?"

MLS recently closed out a glorious transfer window with Geovanni signing with the San Jose Earthquakes.  Geovanni was the latest player brought into MLS under the “Designated Player” rule allowing teams to sign players for more than the maximum salary without costing more than the max. Certain teams were aggressive in using the rule even before its limitations were expanded upon earlier this year. With each team now able to have up to 3 “DPs,” the league was able to bring in Geovanni, Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, Omar Bravo, Branko Boskovic, Mista, Blaise Nkufo, Alvaro Fernandez, Nery Castillo, and keep Freddie Ljungberg.

With the exceptions of Castillo and Fernandez, all of those new DP’s are 30 years or older. With each new signing of an “aging veteran,” some complain about signing these 30+ internationals. That just ignores the fact that the league’s leading scorer will be 30 next season, the second highest scorer is almost 35, the 5th highest scorer is 32, and the driving engine for the Columbus Crew is still 37-year-old Schelotto.

MLS has historically looked to older attacking players.

The irrepressible Valderrama

Piotr Nowak began playing for the eventual MLS Cup Champions Chicago Fire at 33, Preki was 32, and Carlos Valderrama was 34.  Those three players were named to MLS’s historical “All-Time Best XI” in 2005 after ten years of play. Some other examples include Hristo Stoichkov (34), John Spencer (30), Lothar Matthäus (39), and Youri Djorkaeff (37). Even though the league had always done this, the sentiment of it being a “retirement league” grew with the “Beckham Rule” in 2007. Some fans only look at this rule as a way to sign 30-something stars who had faded in Europe. They claim that MLS should stop signing these “over the hill” players looking to wind down their careers (other than guys with knee problems, who is retiring at 32 anyway?) and focus on developing players. Except, that is what the league is doing.

The 2010 official Generation Adidas class was the largest group yet and was as big as the biggest Project-40 classes. Generation Adidas is much more lucrative now though.  Danny Mwanga and his predecessor, Steve Zakuani, each signed the most expensive GA contracts up to that point in time. Who knows what kind of money may be waiting for the likes of Dominick Sarle and Emerson Hyndman. Other than the 2008 dud, the last two GA classes have been full of MLS-ready players at younger ages. Teams have been able to identify players who are ready sooner because of better scouting. The trend looks to continue in the future as the college ranks and national youth teams continue to develop players.

The way Generation Adidas works is that a team has to want a non-college senior for the league to try to sign them to a GA contract. The expansion of the league means that there will be more GA signings. There will be more front offices and more scouts to be interested in more players in the growing talent pool. The league percentage may stay the same, but signing more and more of these young players is only good for MLS. MLS also signed Omar Salgado to a GA contract. He’s already going to be headlining a strong 2011 class.

Michael Stephens...

The improved scouting of MLS has shown in the SuperDraft also. Even when Generation Adidas brings a talented player into the league, teams have to find the right fit for them. Even on the best team in the league, Bruce Arena has been giving plenty of playing time to a candidate for the Galaxy’s third consecutive Rookie of the Year, Michael Stephens. Some of 2010 seniors include Zack Schilawski, Zach Lloyd, and the ever-popular Tim Ream. As NCAA Soccer and the SuperDraft continue to grow, teams are devoting more resources to scouting these youth ranks.

Most important is MLS’s emphasis on development academies and the signing of “homegrown” players. Chicago has an annual budget of $500,000 for their academy. On top of the standard 24 roster spots for each team there are now 2 additional spots for players that teams developed in their own academy. Even though the academy program is still in its infancy, the league has already seen results. The Galaxy led the way by signing the Tristan Bowen at the end of 2008. 2010 has been the year for extended results though.

Chicago and Colorado both recently signed their first homegrown players. FC Dallas signed three more to add to their original homegrown player, Brian Leyva.

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Transfer Talk: DMB Rumors, Man City Makes It

It’s a good thing TSG is here.

Tuesday’s “proposed movement”:

The Beas...about to order a Dunkel in time for Octoberfest?

• While some soccer outlets are reporting a DaMarcus Beasley to Hannover rumor, the reality is that DMB is one of at least two players in consideration to join the Bundesliga side. It’s not Beasley-or-bust. Thanks Sky Sports.

• What will Liverpool do now that they have $16M from Alberto Aquilani…and perhaps even more from a Javier Mascherano deal?

(Update from TSG Reader John: This is a free loan (WTF) with an option to buy at the end for 13mil pounds…thanks, our apologies.)

One report has ‘Pool looking at Mahamadou Diarra…funny we mentioned that might be the case on Friday. Diarra is better option–pending price–than Scott Parker. That might get some of you excited…or distraught.

• Jonathan Spector’s West Ham is looking to add a striker before the close of the transfer window. It’s a shame that Zola is not in charge anymore because Carlton Cole owes his career to the man. Had Zola been there we would have found a way to start up Altidore-to-West Ham rumors.

That said, Inter’s Victor Obinna seems the odds-on favorite to swing the Hammers.

• Congratulations are in order for Manchester City this morning.

Last year, with outrageous bids or rumored bids for Kaka and Robinho, Manchester City was part kid-in-a-candy-store and part laughing-stock. Well today, according to his agent, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Barca’s major transfer last season, states he wants to play for one of three team: AC Milan, Real Madrid, or Manchester City.

While the placement of Manchester City is probably to drive up price or to earn his client a major upgrade on his existing deal, Manchester City mentioned as a favored destination point with Madrid and Milan…well that sort of press is priceless.

Christmas Morning For The Dynamo

They’ve got a new stadium coming.

They’ve got a dearth of talent.

Revised: One big, happy, future Dynamo Stadium...if they get their DP

They’ve got a huge, diverse fan base that earned that stadium.

Tim Leiweke, part of the Dynamo ownership group, commented today that Houston Dynamo should bring in a significant player. Wait, not strong enough, check out the direct quote:

“From a business standpoint, the only thing I’ve asked Chris and Dom to do is don’t dip your toe in the water.

If you are going, go big. I don’t believe in halfway, and there is a commitment amongst all our partners to make it a significant player that moves the needle from a business standpoint, fan standpoint, as well as on the pitch.”

Wow, it’s now up to coach Dom Kinnear and COO Chris Canetti to deliver.

Big Tim: Voted Fast Company's Most Creative Man in Sports, 2009

If you’re looking for a potential Houston DP, given Leiweke’s comments, your candidate has the following complexion:

• They can pull both American fans and Mexican fans into that shiny new stadium.

• They fit a team need for Houston (primarily attack).

• They should be attacking if possible either way–those players tend to fetch more fan buzz and interest.

• You’re thinking about a salary (to the player) of about $2M-$4M.

Five Plausibilities (not ready to call them Possibilities)

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Lichaj: Loving His First Start, Doused With Popcorn

Eric Lichaj had some comments following his debut against Rapid Vienna last week.

Lichaj gets his game going at Villa...

Here’s our scouting report on Lichaj’s game.

His comments:

He said: “It was a really good atmosphere in Austria.

“All the Vienna fans were jumping up and down – they were actually throwing popcorn at me at one point and I think they were throwing beer at Brad Guzan.

“But it was a good atmosphere to play in for my first competitive game for Villa.

“I didn’t get chance to sample any of the popcorn after the game! It was too bad we couldn’t hold on for the win but it was a good, solid draw.”

See more at the official Villa site.

—–Elsewhere:

Benny Feilhaber comments to Danish papers Monday that there are no current offers for his services.

Jay DeMerit to Swindon rumors dampened by Swindon assistant manager, Peter Shirtliff:

“I haven’t got a clue on those – it’s nothing I’ve heard about. We are continuing to see what we can do and would like to get a couple in, but it is proving a bit difficult.”

• San Francisco’s SErik Benjaminsen signs with Stabæk of Norway, the same club as vaunted US prospect Mix Diskerud.

• TSG mentioned on Twitter that hurdling up the depth charts at LB for the Yanks is no other than….Bobby Convey.

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