Archive for December, 2010

2010 Lasting Moment: Corner Flag Pile-On

Go! Go! USA! Oh....it's incredible!

My two fondest soccer memories of the past two years occurred at the same bar oddly enough. I typically like to take in games at my evil lair or with a small group of friends so I can make annotations.

However 2009 took me to Danny Coyles bar to watch, with great collective revelry, the United States officially qualify for the World Cup against Honduras. It was a special moment in that I was able to provide an account, at 3am West Coast time, for those of you who couldn’t see it.

The 2010 image occurred in the same locale and in fact in the same precise seat at Danny Coyles.

USA vs. Algeria.

This the Timmy-to-Landon-to-Jozy-to-Clint-to-Landon-to-corner-flag conduction that led to the ultimate fan eruption. I was with my good friend Chris Riedy and our mood was hopeful–for most of the game–until maybe three minutes to go.

It’s that time in a game where you know a team has one or maybe two good chances left and you start resigning–and preparing–for that eventual final letdown whistle. More for me, after what had been a promising effort from the Yanks to date I could envision the coming pessimism that arrives with getting sent out in the group stage of the World Cup.

On the heels of 2006, this would have been extremely tough for diehard fans and those that just recently got invested to swallow.

Didn’t happen as we know.

Landon swept his foot and Chris and I–despite what the screen was displaying–double checked not for a linesman (how could Landon be offsides), but to ensure that the ball, in fact, was actually nestled comfortably in the mesh, in-between the pipes.

Yup, happened.

We didn’t know what to do. We hugged, we teared–didn’t cry–at the magnitude of the event. Guinness went everywhere, fans ran straight in the path of the cars in the street outside Danny Coyles at whatever-time-AM it was as US players went airborne and crashed in celebration at the corner flag. The ultimate pile-on.

They did it the old-fashioned way....they earned it...

Confusion interlaced with celebration en masse. And then realization.

“Okay, who can I talk to! Who can I text!” I’ll put words in you, the reader’s mouth, “We all just wanted to share.”

And we did.

With fans across the nation and world….thanks to bombarding YouTubers.

And then word and feedback from the team as they shared a moment of positivity–how often do you firmly recollect those?–that will live forever.

In the history of civilization, sports teams are the glue of a community. Something that binds two people who perhaps have little more than geography in common.

The US goal against Algeria? A massive bucket of binding cement that will transcend generations.

Good night 2010.

Report: Brad Guzan To Hull City

Look, I'm about to get playing time...

Another American to be a Tiger?

Sky Sports–we trust them, not the Daily Mail–says US and Aston Villa keeper to Hull City is just about a done deal. Guzan will be the 2nd USMNTer on Hull City in two years; Jozy Altidore toiled up top for the orange and black last year.

Guzan will also be the 2nd American born player, Boaz Myhill was the other, who has kept the wickets for Hull City in two years. Myhill re-joined the Premiership with a $1.5M move to West Brom upon Hull’s relegation.

The move is a step in the right direction for playing time for Guzan–he’ll immediately become the number #1 as Vita Mannone, on loan from Arsenal, was just recalled to the Emirates mothership. That said I can’t help but wonder if Guzan needs to get out from under the Aston Villa wet blanket instead of a loan.

US fans and Guzan will take what they can get. Oh, and expect Villa to make a move for a keeper in January now because it can’t be graying Brad Friedel or bust if they want to skirt the relegation hammer.

A Gonzalo Higuain tribute to the Hull City Tigers after the break…

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‘Because The Yanks Are Coming Awards

Whose in line for an award?

Our friends over at The Yanks Are Coming did such a good job coming up with annual awards that we wanted to….steal them and make them our own. Maybe a little….we just wanted a ballot…and we got one.

Here’s how the TSG corporate ballot looks:

Oh and go vote right here for the same awards

———-

1. JEFF AGOOS/CLINT MATHIS AWARD (Best Hairstyle)

Pia

I'm going to level with you...the only reason I put the photo at the top of this post is so that this one wasn't the first one people would see....

» Apologies to both Oguchi Onyewu and Heath Pearce, who both decided to make a statement with the hair styles on their face Heath Pearce with a Magnum P.I. stache and Oguchi Onyewu with the Kimbo Slice.

This award goes to USWNT coach Pia Sundhage who’s got so much audacity–and rightfully so–as the women’s team leader that she sports the faux hawk with a semi-smile.

2. FREE FREDDY DARKO ADU MARINOVICH AWARD (Biggest Bust/Most Disappointing US Soccer Player)

» Sacha Kljestan–you knew this was coming. Perhaps the most skilled, from-the-run-of-play, vertical attacker on the States. (Landon dangerous on the counter, Deuce better at hold-up juking).

You wouldn’t know it though

The man had an MLS commercial and some bravado after a relatively ho-hum goal against El Salvador. Currently he’s a cog at Anderlecht. It’s getting on in his career too.

3. BRIAN CHING AWARD (Hardest Working Man ((or woman)) in US Soccer)

» Like father, like son. Only the father takes this one.

While you may not agree with his formations or line-ups, there is no question that Bob Bradley‘s tireless in preparation. From calling Herculez to the touchline to sub in the England game (to prepare him for following games) to having a novice team ready to go with the correct motivation “fun” in South Africa in November, Bradley’s prepared.

Eagle Scout-prepared through hard work.

4. JON LEVY LIGHTNING CUP AWARD (US Soccer Player Most Likely to Induce Alcohol Driven Rage/Joy/Anger in the Same 90 Minutes)

» Jozy, Jozy, Jozy….it’s like watching your kid finally being able to pick up things with their hands…only to find that they now know how to throw and break things too.

5. TONY ROMO AWARD (Most Overrated American Soccer Player– this is NOT necessarily the most disappointing– just the most overrated)

» Sorry buddy, you’re a good player and all, just WAY OVERHYPED amongst die hards. Jose Torres, a good reliever and good sub, not a starter against Slovenia and likely will have a challenge making the 18 going forward.

6. CLAUDIO REYNA TECHNICAL TROPHY (Most Improved American Soccer Player)

» This was a tough one for me to cast my vote on. It’s often hard to cast this vote unless the player is in MLS as you have to watch their maturation game in and game out to get enough observations.

That said, we won’t duck it. Eddie Gaven? Not quite. Alejandro Bedoya? He’s yet to seize a game by the throat.

Is it really Michael Bradley? No I just don’t feel that answer.

Herculez Gomez? Now we’re getting very close…but I think that was more a manner of being healthy and a position switch.

Your answer here is Clarence Goodson. He may not be the starter come 2014–and likely won’t be–but he went from Gold Cup 4th stringer to World Cup roster in the past year (and probably should have started a game in South Africa too)

Easiest answer...

 

7. TONY MEOLA RYAN MILLER MEMORIAL TROPHY (Best American Goalkeeper)

» Duh. Brad Friedel has tired, Guzan’s looks tantalizing, but hasn’t been given the chance behind Friedel.

Honorable mention to Robbie Findley, who keeps the ball out of the net….just it’s the wrong one. That comment was a lay-up.

8. PAUL CALIGIURI AWARD (Best Goal Scored By An American Soccer Player, for club or country)

» Wow, since the topic here is “Best” goal scored, I’m ruling out the Algeria goal. Since I make up my own rules here at TSG, I’m going with a tie between Clint Dempsey’s technically flawless strike in the Europa Cup run against Juventus and Landon Donovan’s cleaning-the-gutter face buzzer against Slovenia.

Okay, I feel better now.

9. THE AMERICAN MARADONA AWARD (Best US Player Under the Age of 23)

» Hey The Yanks Are Coming people, can’t you give us a list of these players so I don’t have to age check. C’mon guys!

Okay, I’ll pile the hype on. Eric Lichaj‘s end-of-year portfolio  is the best Yanks flank minder since Tony Sanneh put in yoeman work at the 2002 World Cup.

Jozy Altidore is at a top La Liga spot and already has “World Cup Starter” affixed to his resume.

Two I’ve left out might merit consideration down the road: Juan Agudelo (he will be a star), Mix Diskerrud (should be a star and play wide for the Yanks).

However, because you made it 23 and not 22, there is no question that everyone’s favorite player from New Jersey, Giuseppi Rossi is, currently, the American Maradona.

Update: Misread the question. I’ll go with Lichaj, except when he plays Manchester City.

10. DEREK ZOOLANDER AWARD (Most Really, Really, Really Good Looking US Soccer Player)

» Um, okay, where do I go with this one. Should I go body part by body part.

I’ll cop out and take the USWNT as a whole…we all know there are some real lookers over there.

11. THE BRIAN McBRIDE MEMORIAL TROPHY (Most Outstanding American Soccer Player of the Year).

» Supremely tough decision here. Cutting to the chase, Clint Dempsey helped lead his team to the Europa Cup final AND was neck-and-neck with Landon Donovan for the best performance in South Africa.

In the final game of that World Cup, Dempsey rose to the occasion, earning the penalty that allowed Landon to knock home the temporarily-tying goal against Ghana.

If Dempsey is my winner, Donovan is right there next to him.

Thursday: Nilmar Goes Knife, Gervinho, More

Go:

Jozy, promotion by default on his La Liga submarine....

• Happy New Year, sort of

Villarreal striker Nilmar…bad news. Kid is out up to 8 weeks with meniscus damage in his knee.

This should open up playing time for Jozy here in January at El Madrigal for the American.

Rumors may be swirling that someone like Carlos Vela will bridge the Nilmar shelf time, but Villarreal are hurting financially. Can’t see a purchase and only a short-term Landon Donovan-type loan makes sense.

More tests for Holden

Coming off a fine performance against Chelsea, Stu Holden heads to Anfield this weekend to face a wounded Reds side.

Can’t help but remark, again, how Stu looked a little Scholes-y at the Bridge yesterday, albeit it with better closing down on tackles (Essien’s goal-scoring play excepted) and making better forward runs.

I said in May of this year that I could see Holden blowing up at Bolton this year and him being the apple of a big club (like Manchester United) next year. I think that timetable is aggressive, but I think the roadmap is sound.

…oh and who else didn’t like frisky Stuie shouldering Frank Lampard to the ground even after the ref whistled for offsides on the Chelsea man…outstanding…

_____________________________________________________________

Commentary follow-up on Holden:

Apologies, perhaps a little ornery today.

"Deal with it!"

TSG trumpets Holden quite a bit. Do we feel a tad of “claim” to him, yeah sure we were beating the Holden drum a year and a half ago. So be it.

On referencing players, we’ve referenced Beckham for Holden’s free kicks and crosses (as has the Bolton faithful mind you) and now Scholes. It’s easier for an audience to grasp references to great players. If I told you that Holden has a little Gaizka Mendieta in him most on this publication probably wouldn’t have a frame of reference.

Do I think Holden is as good as those two…of course not.

On the comparisons to Scholes, first way ahead on the Dax McCarty reference. No brainer. Easy one for Scholes later in his career.

In regards to Holden, it’s myopic to think just because he’s not a spitting image of Scholes that he doesn’t offer the same effect.

Holden may not sit in the hole as much as Scholes, but he has a good feel as to when to push the action, when to switch fields and when to keep it and send it for a restart to the backline–that recognition is something that Scholes is and was very good at.

Next, a knack for a big play. I don’t know how many times just a few years ago someone would tell me the scoreline of a hard fought game for United and it would be 1-0 and 2-1. I’d ask the game winner, hear the Ginger Ninja’s name and think, “Scholes, of course.”

Holden seems to be getting close to those plays. Nailing the game winner at Blackburn and yesterday losing his mark to force a save from Peter Cech on a header.

Playing passing lanes, Holden has proved very adroit at, an area where Scholes excelled.

When I say I can see Holden fitting in nicely at United it’s because he seems like if he were to go to a top 3 or 4 club, United would be the best fit. Not Chelsea, Arsenal or Tottenchester City or who’s ever now up there.

Okay I feel better now…apologies for the outburst

• Gervinho inbound?

Lille-ver-Pool bound?

I’m a Gervinho fan, so that’s why this little blurb makes TSG.

Multiple reports this evening have Liverpool hot-and-heavy to land Lille striker-forward Gervinho at the tidy sum of about £11M. Note, Gervinho’s wikipedia page says the deal is done at $12.5M Euros on a four-year contract…take that with a lump of salt obviously.

Perspective for USMNT fans? If that deal does through and on the heels of Yossi Benayoun, 30-years-old and Ramires, 23, to Chelsea for £5M and £16M as well as Dembele to Fulham at £5.5M or Asamoah Gyan to Sunderland at £13.25m….I have a hard time putting Landon Donovan’s current value at more than than £8M (or currently $US 12.5M) on a Premiership move at max.

As for the move by Liverpool who looked very Leeds circa early 2000s on Wednesday, Gervinho would be an ideal player for their system given him flexibility. He could used on the flank oppositive Dirk Kuyt with Fernando Torres manning the middle or he could be used in a two-striker system with El Nino or even as a withdrawn forward. Gervinho would give Liverpool that complementary sniper that they’ve missed since the days of 5-Iron Bellamy and missed on with the acquisitions of Ryan Babel and the inconsistency and eventual sale off the aforementioned Benayoun.

The Battle For El Pichichi: Messi v. Ronaldo

This is a guest post by La Liga expert Donald Wine II. He is the author of the blog “Life In 1-1-8,” which can be found here.

For the ages....

Better than Bird vs. Magic?

If you haven’t been watching La Liga football this season, you are missing probably the greatest battle soccer has seen in years.

I’m not talking about the disastrous El Clásico from the eyes of my beloved Real Madrid against Barcelona.  No, I’m talking about the battle for El Pichichi (top goal scorer).  The race between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the top goal scorer in La Liga has reached absurd levels, with both on pace to shatter every single season goal scoring league record that exists.

While players like David Villa, Gonzalo Higuaín, Roberto Soldado, Fernando Llorente, Sergio Agüero, and Luis Fabiano have scored plenty of goals for their squads the past couple seasons, Messi and Ronaldo have found themselves once again in a two-horse race for El Pichich.

Last year, Higuaín actually squeaked by Ronaldo for the #2 spot with 27 goals to Ronaldo’s 26, but Messi overtook all by tying the record for most goals scored in a La Liga season, 34, set by the original Ronaldo  for Barca back in 1996-1997.

This year, Higuaín was keeping pace with CR7 and Messi until he suffered a back injury that will keep him out of the lineup until February at the earliest.  The rest of the pack just hasn’t been able to keep up with the pizzazz, the panache of Ronaldo and Messi.

This season’s El Clásico is just three weeks away on October 10th 2011. It will be televised in the States on ESPN Deportes with coverage beginning at 10:30 AM PT.

In the past 2 years, while Messi has steadily risen from great player to otherworldly status, he arguably saved his best season performance for last season, when CR7 entered La Liga.

Tough choice, but I give myself the edge....

Ronaldo, already viewed as an otherworldly player that is on everyone’s short list of best in the world, looked to stake his claim as La Liga’s top player, and despite an ankle injury that kept him out several matches last season and limited him in several others, has really adapted well to the Spanish game.

Anyone can tell that the competition suits both of them, as each goal they score seems to have an “anything you can do, I can do better” air about it.  When Messi gets 2 goals in one game, Ronaldo seems to come up with 2 goals.  When Ronaldo gets a hat trick, Messi answers with one of his own.  With 17 goals apiece through only 16 matches, they are greatly outpacing Messi’s run last year to 34 goals.  As every week goes by and the goal totals of the two grow, you can’t help but realize that at this point, it’s not a matter of if, but when the single-season record will fall…and by which player’s lethal strike.

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Wednesday: DeRo, Stu, Bielsa, More

Go:

Stu Holden: Tackling with abandon in 2010....

• Wanderlust in EPL Land

Bolton Stu Holden takes to Stamford Bridge today as the Owen Coyle’s surprising crew has a big one against the Blues. Nicolas Anelka is due back for Chelsea.

Elsewhere, Wigan will lose at home to a rejuvenated Arsenal and Liverpool will eek out a boring home win against Wolves.

• DeRosario & The Art of War

The oft-quoted Sun Tzu book tells us all we need to know about the DeWayne DeRosario sneaking out the window of his Toronto FC home for a secret rendezvous with the training pitch of Celtic. If you’re not familiar with the latest on the situation, you can check it out here.

No, the quote is not “All war is based upon deception.”

The following is spot-on: “Every battle is won before it is fought.”

DeRo: Cheque-ing out Celtic...

First, how did Toronto FC not see this coming. The much publicized check-writing goal celebration in season should have been the final, not first, inclination that a malcontent DeWayne DeRosario was starting–perhaps rightly or wrongly–to put his own well-being and future before the team.

Now this week, DeRosario goes to Celtic. Is that surprising? Be clear on this notion: The whole TFC-DeRo mess began long before this Celtic training row.

The point? Toronto FC should have addressed its star player predicament long before even that negative goal celebration. They had two actions they could take: (1) Work with the player to understand his concerns and try to reach an amicable outcome, that likely would have lea to a Celtic training approval or (2) Accept the player is disgruntled and keep tabs on him as well as look at possibilities for movement…that would have possibly led to a Celtic training approval.

They did neither. Poor move Toronto FC. A reap-what-you-sow sort of thing. And don’t blame it’s

• No Dotted Line Yet

An MLS Soccer report seems to corroborate what a friend (a player actually) told TSG late Sunday: Benny Feilhaber has serious interest from Cruz Azul…and it would appear a few other clubs.

My bet is that Feilhaber–who is currently on holiday in California–heads south to Bornstein country and a solid payday.

Honda: BARGAIN!

• You Should Get a Honda, Now a VW

Via BBC, Man City’s long-standing love affair with Edin Dzeko is about to be satisfied. Baffling why no one is prying away CSKA’s Honda. Honda would real nice right now anywhere in that Manchester United midfield-forward area or really anywhere else.

• Just Chillin’

Resigned WC 2010 head coach Marcelo Bielsa makes nice with Chile’s FA and will butt heads with Bob Bradley in Home Depot Land in January as interim steward of Chile.

Christmas on Tuesday: EPL Docket

Nearly forgot about the Premiership match-ups midweek today. All about to go down.


As good as he is, this is not a face you want to put on program guides

 

Villa v. Tevezchester City

Nothing like sending a message of cluelessness to your egregiously overpriced team like making Carlos Tevez the captain last week after he flip-flopped on a homesickness claim to remain at City.

That said, what does the fact that Tevez is so invaluable to the team say about your wild spending on other players over the past more than two years. Where have you gone Joleon Lescott, Roque Santa Cruz and Emmanuel Adebayor? Buyer beware should these names come across your transfer sheet in January.

Meanwhile Americans will be hoping for an encore performance from Eric Lichaj? After containing Gareth Bale this past weekend though, Lichaj gets the start against promising England youngster Adam Johnson. Another audition.

Omar Cummings arrives shortly.

The Boredom Bowl: Stoke City vs. Fulham

Precisely what this game would be for US fans if it didn’t include Clint Dempsey.

Fulham are fighting relegation. Surprised?

Stoke City…okay forget it, next.

"I'm running a bomb route, then I'm going to post you up and you're going to be worried."

Spurs v. Newcastle

Now this will be a good match-up. This one previews like an NFL match-up.

Tottenham Hotspur are doing a good job of spreading the field and incising the opponent with checkdowns (Alan Huttons crosses), fly routes (Gareth Bale barreling down the left) and screen passes (scatback Rafael Van Der Vaart finding defensive holes you didn’t know your team had.)

Newcastle’s defense batters you all day long and then it’s “hike it up to Andy Carroll from a Joey Barton bomb or pray for rain.” Did you know all of Carroll’s goals have been assisted by Barton. You hear that ‘Arry?

West Brom vs. The Remnants of the Artist Formerly Known as Big Sam

Chris Brunt, most underrated player in the Premiership. Bears repeating.

Onward as the left winger is not in the line-up today due to a knock. (Can’t do a proper preview here…I’ve got like 4 West Brom games on DVR…for some reason I really like watching that team.)

Birmingham vs. Manchester United

The Blues are notoriously stingy up at St. Andrews. This will be a good game. I can’t say it will be pretty to watch, but it’ll be a close one.

Alex McLeish’s crew–after having their Everton game postponed–are also well rested coming into this one. It’s got the making of, potentially, Manchester United’s first loss of the season.

Birmingham however will need to something, anything out of striker Cameron Jerome– the biggest disappointment of the EPL season thus far–to keep Manchester United’s defense honest.

 

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