Archive for August, 2010

Snuffleupagus Scores For Schalke

Schalke 04, who won’t sneak up on anybody this season, but should challenge for top of the table, fell to Hannover this morning.

• Steve Cherundolo went 90+ for the victors

• Raul went 90+ for Shalke

• Jermaine Jones started, got lifted in the 90th, but also deposited a sweet strike.

(Apologies, the good one has been taken down)

Bits Of Info Make USSF Its Own Worst Enemy

A report emerged late Friday evening that Sunil Gulati had met recently with Juergen Klinnsman about the U.S. coaching role.

Gulati: The silence is becoming condescending...

If you’ve been following along with US Soccer for the past five years–or TSG for the past year–that should come as no surprise.

Our only comments on this right now are, “USSF, stop shooting yourself in the foot.”

The veil of secrecy that you have shrouded over the U.S. coaching situation creates confusion, leading to increased rumor mongering and conjecture, and ultimately frustration within your fan base.

Take a look at the results of the poll to the right, over 1000 voters on this site don’t even think that the coaching role is the number one issue.

No one is saying you need to make decision now–or rather TSG is not saying you need to make a decision–just communicate with the public on what the roadmap is or on what to expect.

The last time the collective “we” heard from Sunil Gulati, Steven Strasburg was pitching gems and Rafa Marquez was a nasty rumor.

USSF, your secrecy coupled with the trickle of information creeping out (Is it really a piece of news that Gulati and Bradley were meeting this Thursday as oppose to Wednesday) frustrates your fan base, is an affront to the dedicated and smart fans that back the team, and, most importantly, gives of an aire of “holier than thou” which clearly has not been earned in any right.

And for perspective, since World Cup 2010, here are some other notable occurrences:

• Brazil let go and hired a national team coach

• Argentina has removed their national team coach, the iconic Diego Maradona, instituted and defined the caretaker in Sergio Batista, and have discussed a few candidates in the public eye: Alejandro Sabella and Miguel Russo.

• England, England for crissakes, after a regrettable World Cup campaign re-upped Fabio Capello for at least two more years.

• Germany extended coach Jogi Low through 2012.

• Mexico’s Javier Aguirre stepped down from the team’s lead role. Mexico named Efrain Flores the temporary man, stating in no uncertain terms that Flores will coach the two upcoming friendlies and then the federation will look for permanent candidate.

Don’t you think that US fans deserve a two-paragraph statement so were not privy to leaks or bits and bytes of facts, and conjecture, from ESPN and SI? Is the meeting with Klinsmann really news?

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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