Archive for September, 2010

NY vs. LA: Well That Got Out Of Hand

Just finished watching the New York Red Bulls play their game and and overwhelm a Galaxy squad that had a poor game plan.

Juninho...and his buddy Kovalenko were manhandled in the middle, but they didn't have a good plan either...

It was that simple as the New Ark Red Bulls handled the home side, 2-0, at Home Depot Center this evening.

Looking for the key to this game, it’s just as simple.

In central midfield Juninho and Dema Kovalenko (who has an absolutely atrocious game) played just a nudge above the Galaxy’s duckling central defensive pairing, failing to come out and challenge the Red Bulls’ central midfield attackers.

Conversely Tony Tchiani and Rafa Marquez were omnipresent–as we predicted in our preview–forcefully meeting each of their opponent’s counterpart central midfield attacker and shutting down passing lanes.

Admittedly the latter task of disrupting the Galaxy’s passes was made easier by an extremely stagnant Galaxy midfield.

If you didn’t know any better you would’ve guessed that the Home Depot Center locals were fatigued by multiple games in multiple days. Wasn’t the case though.

LA Coach Bruce Arena certainly should shoulder the bulk of the blame, maybe not for his player selection, but because he failed to counsel his team on how to move against the Red Bull defense and worse he failed to adjust when the stagnation issue was apparent in the early going and never overcome.

The result of the Galaxy defensively playing well behind the ball and the Red Bulls challenging each possession was evident as soon as the ball changed hands.

Upon a turnover, the Galaxy players were know well behind the play and the Red Bulls were allowed to organize and set-up shop on defense.

Conversely, upon a turnover, the Red Bull attackers–already up on their men–could break and create scoring opportunities.

Coach Ba-Ba-Booey needs to look in the mirror before looking at his team....

It wasn’t until nearly the 80th minute that Bruce Arena finally made a minor adjustment, sending David  Beckham to play more in the interior, attempting to create some possession and flow. By that point, it was too little too late.

Some things that the Galaxy could have done better to create flow is send an extra forward-attacker (Jovan Kirovski) back centrally to receive balls, help link play and draw out the central defense.

Instead, Arena and L.A. puzzlingly had Kirovski make runs to the wing where he lacked the speed to create and frequently was overmatched by Carlos Mendes or Tim Ream.

Landon Donovan is also capable of moving the ball under duress, but this is the type of game that a Donovan in the interior sometimes disappears in…as he did tonight.

It’s funny, I’ve seen a number of folks in the media lately suggest the Galaxy probably don’t need David Beckham.

Au contraire.

David Beckham may be the only player–if he can find better short-range range passing touch that failed him this evening–who can capably create opportunities under pressure in the middle of the field. Juninho needs more space and Mike Stephens (who frequently came back and helped move the ball in the early going) seems to have hit the rookie wall.

Mind you, Beckham centrally was just such a move last year by Bruce Arena that helped ignite the Galaxy’s last season play and championship game run.

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More:

Luis Boa Morte

Luis Boa Morte: Dane Richards' doppelganger

• Is Dane Richard Luis Boa Morte re-incarnate? It’s always painful to watch a player that possesses the physical goods to be dominant, but lacks the feel for the game.

• New York fans, is Joel Lindpere really that good. If you’d asked me a player that would make a difference by moving off the ball offensively and tracking back defensively in this one, I would have said Donovan. That man was Lindpere tonight.

• Mehdi Ballouchy is a player. I didn’t get a chance to see enough of him in Colorado. Ballouchy possesses a wide breadth of  offensive skills and has the enviable ability to drift in possession with the ball while effortlessly holding off defenders.

Seems like in the early going, the Red Bulls got the better of that deal.

• Can someone tell me precisely how Donovan Ricketts is an all-star? I’ve watched probably 10 Galaxy games this year and see the same pattern with Ricketts: He makes one or two tremendous saves, but he reacts like he just pounded three pale ales before the game (slow) and is absolutely horrendous at marshalling his backline.

Leonardo may have been guilty on the first goal, but a good keeper is shouting at his novice defenders well before that play developers.

• A difficult task tonight for Todd Dunivant, but he performed admirably in letting Dane Richards threaten but typically author a give away instead of an opportunity.

Toffees: A Fine But Typical Mess

 

Blues is right....

 

Everton are swooning…big time.

In fact, the Goodison crew is getting such poor results that they even have manager David Moyes worried, as evidenced by his going public that he expected to start the year better.

Early season struggles for Everton are nothing new under David Moyes whose teams routinely come out of the gate like a stud with a nail in it’s hoof.

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Last night, I had a chance to discuss Everton’s plight on the Followtonians podcast with Eric Howell and Peter McPartland, an excellent group of guys.

You can listen to the podcast here and I’ll offer some background below.

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This year is really no different. The Toffees have given up only seven goals on the campaign, better than all but six other Premiership squads. One problem, they’ve only deposited four in their account and the offensive problems are continually systemic of an early season Moyes-managed team.

Everton have struggled to create offense through a lack of width on the pitch, too many ‘tweeners on the team, and some poor tactics.

Quick, name the best wide player on Everton? Is it really Leighton Baines? Quite possibly.

 

The re-introduction of Arteta hasn't been a boon yet....

 

The Toffees are loaded up the middle with the likes of Cahill, Fellaini, Rodwell and Arteta. One problem, opponents know this and hunker down in the center lane of the pitch….and Everton just kowtows to them because their key wingers (Pienaar, Osman, Bilyaletdinov) love to take the play more centrally–what they would call in the NFL “between the hashmarks.”

Not only do the wide players find more congestion when they drive inside with the ball, but they also create less space for their talented interior players to play.

Further, none of this is helped by a striker ensemble that looks lost (Jermaine Beckford), disinterested (the mercurial Luis Saha) and either pouty-or-pudgy (Yakubu) in the opening frame of the season and are failing to create space vertically.

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For The Youngsters: Vinnie Jones

Jones as "Bullet-Tooth Tony" in Guy Ritchie's Snatch...

For some of you who read TSG, you probably only know Vinnie Jones as a gangster in Guy Richie flicks like “Lock, Stock…” and “Snatch.” He’ll soon also be appearing in the much anticipated “The Irishman” about a thug working in Cleveland in the ’70s.

Before that, Jones ate nails for breakfast as a midfielder for Leeds, Chelsea, and Sheffield United among others. He also featured for the Welsh national team nine times.

But Jones is best known for his “tough guy” act on the field (that he then parlayed into his tough guy acting career).

For those of you new to Jones, the picture below is an infamous one when VJ played for Wimbledon United and sought to intimidate Newcastle opponent Paul Gascoigne by grabbing his jewel basket.

Below that Jones featured in the notorious ’90s documentary, “Soccer’s Hard Men.”

Vinnie Jones

Jones in stereo…

An addition from Shaun…

Concluding Our EPL Roundtable

A huge thank you to the participants of our EPL Jumble.

We finish up our EPL Jumble with: What’s something you didn’t expect OR what’s something we should expect as the year progresses?

Big changes at Villa

Eric, AFR: Signing Gerard Houllier was a massive coup for Aston Villa.

However, the Frenchman likes to form his own “football family,” so don’t be surprised to see the English style of play that Martin O’Neill worked so hard to create replaced.

At Liverpool, Houllier masterfully balanced bringing in talent while also developing Liverpool youth like Gerrard and Owen. Villa have promsing youth in Lichaj, Bannan, and Chris Albrighton, and should continue to be a Europa League-caliber presence.

Corey, CoS: Unexpected? It’s a tie between Berbatov’s Renaissance, Alex Song’s hair, and Chelsea’s goal differential.

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Klinsmann & Gulati Should Stop Dancing

While Jurgen Klinsmann was busy giving interviews on Sunday, I was home arranging the diapers underneath the changing table in our nursery.

Enough...

That’s an appropriate juxtaposition as Klinsmann’s antics in the fallout of his inability–apparently– to reach an accord to be the next coach of the US Men’s Soccer team border on infantile.

Per my comments a few weeks ago, it was always “the process” to coach selection even more so than the candidates, that irked me after the World Cup. To this writer, revelations now–allegedly–about how the selection, negotiations, and confirmations went down are no surprise given the lead-up.

In simpleton’s language (See Dick Run.)

Gulati: Silence will have to be broken...

“Gulati says U.S. underperformed at World Cup” followed by “Gulati names Bob Bradley to second term without qualification.” is the mother of all non-sequiturs. Fans and media have every right to question.

Those questions are still outstanding, but let’s move forward with two more:

(1) How is it that Jurgen Klinsmann has only held two coaching roles since his official retirement in 1998 from the game. One that he walked away from and another that he was shoved away from?

Why is the United States job so special to Klinsmann? Is it merely for the lifestyle…a shorter amount of games and ability to “scout” all over the world. Here’s a question? If Klinsmann wants to coach Americans so bad, why not take a run at an MLS team to showcase his wares?

Something seems fishy here and Klinsmann’s continued comments this week smack of an immature child who couldn’t get what we wanted and he’s going to let everyone know about it.

Mark this statement: Unless some “promise” was made to Klinsmann by USSF about the US Coaching role post-World Cup 2010 and then reneged on, the comments are merely unprofessional and that’s it.

(2) Continually, why go on record here after failing–apparently–to reach an agreement with US Soccer. What good does it do?

Many writers suggest that Klinsmann is being allowed to “control the message.”

Here’s the thing: Who cares?

Why would US Soccer respond to Klinsmann at this point (and frankly only continue to tarnish and undermine Bob Bradley is his next turn?) What could would it do from a brand and media awareness standpoint? Nothing. Zero.

How precisely does Gulati “control the message” at this point if he is even invoking Klinsmann’s name?

And how do fans desire for a coach that comes off as more immature than my one-week old?

The reality is that Klinsmann and USSF didn’t reach agreement–that much is known and that this should be the end for Gulati’s and Klinsmann’s continued infatuation affair.

The damage from going public–and undermining the next coach–is irreparable. The issues of “Jurgen Klinsmann” and “the US Soccer coaching selection process” are mutually exclusive. The latter should be dropped while the former should still be investigated.

There are two things that fans should want from US Soccer just as soon as Sunil Gulati returns to the country. One, “Jurgen Klinsmann will no longer be a candidate for a US Soccer coaching role” and two, some, even if murky or gray, transparency, “Here’s how we went about the process….”

Adding commentary from TSG reader Ben here as it is succinct:

I think the entire USSF structure should be criticized. For now let’s just focus on the hiring process for a second.

It was totally botched. Looks like we agree on that. As far as I know, it was between BB and Klinsmann and that in itself is a little pathetic, no? There are only two people in the world capable of coaching this team? No wayyyy! No, these were the two candidates that USSF could see themselves working with (in the end, obviously, they could only work with/control one).

So my problem with USSF is deeper. As a fan – as an American! – my focus and wish is to become one of the best soccer countries in the world. Is that theirs? How does BB push that forward? He comes from the same system as everyone else. He promotes a conservative and measured approach not only to tactics (oy) but to youth policy. He happens to be a great guy in person, but he IS the status quo. All that’s very safe and suburban and good for Gulati and the fans who are too scared to try something new, who are pumped when we squeak through a piss group and lose in the round of 16 – but it doesn’t satisfy me at all. I’m not content, really, I’m sort of pissed!

- Ben

Jumble: How Will The Wengers Fare?

With injuries, what's the target for the Gunners?

The question: What do you make of the Arsenal situation? How will they cope with all the injuries?

Shaun: Arsenal will regret not pursuing a top notch keeper in the off season, but Wenger is top class and will have Arsenal challenging in all games. Sadly they will drop points until the likes of Vermaelen are back in the starting 11.

Eric, AFR: Arsene Wenger, to me, tries to emulate Platonist ideology using football as a means of sustenance. Arsenal’s philosophy is perfection or nothing. In reality this is impossible throughout a season when you have to encounter the likes of Michael Essien and Titus Bramble.

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