Archive for December, 2010

Your Holiday Weekend Commentary Here

Softies?

Liverpool v Fulham, Arsenal v Stoke, Wigan v Aston Villa and Newcastle v Birmingham all cancelled. Sunday’s battle between Chelsea and Manchester United is cancelled already as well.

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Hot Dog Defense!: Ricardo Clark goes 90 minutes for for Eintracht Frankfurt in the midfield as they upset Borussia Dortmund…1-0. Good stuff.

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Well at least one Phanatic was still stoked at the Emirates this morning. Arsenal v. Stoke City, of course, called off by flurries.

With Lee, I think our rotation is much better than yours....

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We’ll be back in the New Year with proper weekend previews. For now, a place for your weekend commentary and just some highlights.

#23 has picked up the pace this year...

• The Clint Dempsey Invitational

….or is it? The Deuce flies the cottage on Saturday to take on former boss man Roy Hodgson and the Reds at Anfield. The Home Grown Rule was unkind to the Liverpool faithful this past August, wasn’t it? A splashy acquisition of the overpriced Joe Cole over the peaking Clint Dempsey was very poor in retrospect.

Kind of unfortunate that the owners are now from New England now too huh?

• Bolton Still Seeing The Light

Look I’m fine with Stu Holden getting overexposure on ESPN and Fox Soccer. As long as there is the recognition that: a) TSG’s been trumpeting him since way before the Haiti game okay, a) we don’t have to hear every two seconds that “his mum” is in the stands and b) his success isn’t something that is made out to be extraordinary; kid always had the talent.

The Boltons Wandererererer over to the Stadium of Light to take on Bruce’s Black Cats.

Oh and get this, Bolton’s headline-grabbing beautiful football they’re playing this year? There in the bottom three teams in terms of passing percentage! So it really is a lot more about the smash-and-grab jobs Holden and Muamba are authoring in the middle of the pitch.

• Will the Red Devils Make John Terryfied?

Some pundits just don’t learn. A little reflection on our pre-September EPL predictions, shows none of the TSG experts, myself included, picked Manchester United to pick up the Barclays silverware on the year. When will we learn? And we all know the Red Devils never peak until the turn of the year too….

Manchester United head to the ‘Bridge Sunday with a good chance to finally pick one up against their rivals on the road…but it’s not going to happen. Prediction? Chelsea 2, Manchester United 1 as Frank Lampard’s mere presence juventates the home side.

• Hey…Houllier!

The Villians head to the DW to take on Wigan.

Does this all just go back to the Theirry Henry handball?

Time for the Villians to climb out of the Barclays cellar, however this week Villa’s Stephen Ireland has gone public with his demands to get out of Villa Park. This follows on the heals of Ireland’s Irish nattie teammate Richard Dunne having a publicized dust-up with the French manager last week.

Did Henry just wreck French-Irish relations for decades to come?

Want some insight on Wigan’s season? Click this link here, open the “soundboard”, goes seven columns over, 13 rows down and click the button. Yes Wigan, in the words of Arnold, “You lack discipline!”

It’s not the dreadful pitch at the DW Stadium. It’s Roberto Martinez’s inability to maintain a “disciplined” effort from the club. As we’ve said, Martinez, great commentator during the World Cup, but an inability to comprehend that his best laid managerial plans need to account for his team’s talent. Dare I say that Martinez would be a much better manager, a la Phil Jackson, commandeering and managing the egos of high-talent team?

No idea who takes this one and I’ve also made an absolute mess of this match preview… carry on…forget this happened.

Serie A

• Milan vs. Roma

Update: Roma with a  (near) shock 1-0 win)


The Milan Scudetto train is chugging forward nicely on the back of Oguchi Onyewu sparring parnter Zlatan Ibrahimovic and this week we learned that the Rossoneri might get richer by adding warchild Cassano into the fray. (Note: Cassano may be “the” only player that is a locker room cancer that TSG would still take on their team).

If Cassano signs for Milan, listen to the Ronaldinho-to-HDC rumors to get a few decibels louder.

Roma don’t shake their league slumber in this match-up by the way.

La Liga

• The Yellow Sub Looks To Sink Mallorca

Villarreal rebounded from last weekend’s lost to a nine-man Getafe side with a 2-1 win in the Europa Cup over Club Brugge this week that saw Giuseppi Rossi bag a brace. Now, they’ll look to head into the turn of the year break with a win against a resilient Mallorca squad that hasn’t seen the expected impact from this year’s transfer prize Canadian Jonathan De Guzman (just one goal), but has gotten a huge effort from Pierre Webo who the club tried to move in August.

More…

And Then There Were Eight: Champion’s League Pairings

Just drawn this morning.

Didn't think I'd still be wearing this shirt for our match-up, did you?

AS Roma vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

AC Milan vs. Tottenham

Valencia vs. Schalke

Inter Milan vs. Bayern Munich

Lyon vs. Real Madrid

Arsenal vs. Barcelona

Marseille vs. Manchester United

Chelsea vs. FC Copenhagen

More shortly…

• And in the Europa Cup draw, Jozy, Rossi and Villarreal get Napoli…that might be the biggest match-up drawn on the day…not really…but still, one to watch.

• More Europa: Maurice Edu and Rangers draw Sporting KC, I mean Lisbon. Another good match-up! Meanwhile Sacha’s Secret and Anderlecht take on the villainous Luis Saurez and Ajax. Going to be a lot of soccer watching going on at TSG Central…which I guess happens anyway.

• The Cesc Fabregas Bowl: As anti-climatic as the Arselona match-up was last year, it portends to be more so this year if the Wengers don’t solve their interior defense problems. Villa and Messi go Shred Ex and deliver big time in that home-and-away unless Vermaelen is fit as Arsene provides cover.

Will Villa and Messi be delivering for ShredEx against the Emirates? (Courtesy to the surf crew at Sloat, Ocean Beach, SF, CA)

• An invigorated Schalke side will dispatch of Valencia.

• Manchester United always get rolling after the new year and in Marseille they have a very beatable opponent. I can’t do a review of Marseille any more justice than link to our good friends at Ligue1Talk who have a stunning analysis of why net crasher extraordinaire Andre-Pierre Gignac has fallen off the goal scoring map for the Dodgers.

• Mr. Alexandre Pato….or party boy we should call him….want to earn your place again in the conversation of up-and-coming Brazilians. Get off the (night)club circuit, get in shape, get motivated and pin Gareth Bale back when your Milan plays Tottenham. You’re the best counter weapon…only you’ve been laughing your career up this year…and dropped out of our favor.

Some other morning notes:

• Lamp Shading To the Eleven: Word out of Fish N Chips Land is that Frank Lampard is going to make the starting 11 for Chelsea’s critical clash with Sir Alex United this weekend.

• If He Dies…He Dies: Um, no reason for that lead-in here….just popped into my head, but…AC Milan Manager Massimiliano Allegri on Ronaldinho Friday: “I believe he’ll stay.”

• The Daily Fail: Either the Daily Mail or someone else this morning will pick up on the erroneous rumor of Chicarito wanted at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu as a replacement for Higuain. Um, don’t think so.

Back with more in a bit. Cheery holidays.

Trial Run: Name That Stadium

We’re going to get some contests going here in the New Year with The Shin Guardian.

Let’s kick it off today with a trial run to get the mechanics down. Simple submit the name of the stadium/arena/pitch below and which club plays there.

No prizes today (sorry we need to look into the legal again) but in the future get your Googilator ready.

NUMBER 1

Name it!

NUMBER 2

This one harder?

Have A Jose, Jose Christmas

(A little non-soccer Christmasy good stuff after the break if you dare)

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Thursday: Los Angeles Galaxicos, Buddle, Davies, More…

Thursday:

• Los Angeles Galaxicos?

Sweet Bayer Leverkusen.....I'm coming home!

But can they get there?

The MLS Re-Entry Draft, Phase II, went down Wednesday and the Los Angeles Galaxy came away with Juan Pablo Angel and Luke Sassano who they then parlayed into the Iron Lion, Frankie “The Haircut” Hedjuk.

After bumper-carring through 2010 with former greybeard USMNTers Gregg Berhalter, Jovan Kirovski and Chris Klein in varying roles, Bruce Arena and his national team friends are back to try it again with Hedjuk and Juan Pablo Angel, both of whom crested the peak of their careers years ago and are choo-chooing down the other side. Bad moves.

There is no more clearer statement made yesterday by the Galaxy than “Win now!” and there is no coach that will be under the tractor beam of the microscope than Bruce Arena.

In fact, you could argue that now that Arena has assembled a team–Arena convinced Juan Pablo Angel to come to New York in 2007 and Frankie Hedjuk was key cog in Arena’s 2006 World Cup (disaster)–that only he would. Arena won’t have to get buy-in for “his way” and there shouldn’t be any chemistry issues, but a look back at 2009 shows three hot button issues that Arena will have to confront….and that he failed to in 2009.

First, depth.

The Galaxy came out smoking to start the 2010 campaign. They were a pleasure to watch, but then Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle were called to World Cup duty and a chain reaction of events exposed the fraility behind LA’s best 11. With Donovan and Buddle gone, young UCLA stalwart Michael Stephens was keyed on by opponents and slammed–hard–into the rookie wall. To his interior, Juninho with Stephens faltering and Donovan absent had little room to work his linking magic and that only contributed to his inconsistency–inconsistency not to be unexpected from a 21-year-old player.

On the backline, the chain reaction continued as Gregg Berhalter went down and Omar Gonzalez had communication issues with Bruce Arena’s first choice replacement Leonardo. With more pressure on keeper Donovan Ricketts both through the backline and now with an offense unable to possess the ball as much, the elder keeper was exposed for being more ho-hum than awe inspiring, displaying a shocking lack of organization and clear slowing of his reaction time.

Result: A midseason swooning and inability to regain peak form.

Hand in hand with the first point, goes lack of adaptability and development. Let’s start with the latter.

In the beginning of the year last year, when the Galaxy were torpedoing opponents I mentioned that Arena had the luxury at that point of bringing along players like Cazumba, Tristan Bowen and Juninho. Arena, whether through lack of accompanying veteran guidance or one-game-at-a-time focus, did nothing of the sort.

As the the season wore on, Arena–in an eerie similarity to yesterday’s moves–went back to his tested veterans as the exclusive adjustment to right a mediocre vessel. Gone was Tristan Bowen–though admitedly injured frequently–from playing time. Cazumba? A late game defense replacment often at best.

Kirovski couldn't turn back the clock in 2010...

In game–are you ready for this–Jovan Kirovski to play both midfield and forward. (Perhaps nowhere more than forward last year the Galaxy lacked depth–actually…certainly.)

In came Eddie Lewis to “fly” down the left flank.

Seattle series nonwithstanding Arena’s “veteran” moves often imploded on him rather than resulting in inspired play.

The Galaxy flailed. For a game that TSG was at in San Jose in August, a visibily and audibly frustrated side hollered at one another as passes led to turnovers….as offensive space for the Galaxy disintegrated…as teams recognized they could could outrace and-or outmuscle the Galaxy and that Arena would not make sufficient adjustments.

Which leads us to point three. Steel.

A late game loss at home to the Red Bulls saw a an overmatched Dema Kovalenko (clearly showing the season’s wear-and-tear) and Juninho can dominated by an average-at-best Rafael Marquez and youngster Tony Tchani.

The Galaxy severely lack steel in the midfield. A Jeff Larentowitz-type would be godsend, even a Dax McCarty a bonus. Though players of that ilk are likely unattainable now.

In 2011 when a team is owning the midfield, who will the Galaxy turn to as their defensive stopper? And further who can they get now with their current gaggle of players’ compensation is already abutting the salary the cap?

Perhaps Leonardo will get another run out with Omar Gonzalez and we’ll see AJ De La Garza as a central midfield defender (that’s probably Arena’s best current roster option). Will Frankie Hedjuk play an extremely deep lying midfielder-defender like were seeing Johnny Heiteinga play to such success with Everton in the EPL these days?

But these are Arena’s issues to confront in 2011 where–and we haven’t even talked about the potential of a Ronaldhino, the lack of a speed player up top, a potential Buddle move, or a potential Landon Donovan loan (Arena’s comments to the contrary yesterday nonwithstanding)–he’ll have a lot more to accomplish than he even did yesterday.

Here’s your early checklist for a 2011 MLS Cup raising experience Big Bruce and Los Angeles: (1) Develop depth or find it cheaply somewhere, (2) Get some steel in the midfield (3) be more experimental in the beginning of the season so you can adapt later on.

• Buddle

Update 12/16 12PM PST: Galaxy spokesperson says Bruce Arena expects to sign Edson Buddle to a new contract to be with team in 2011. (Not a complete denial of anything).

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As we actually reported yesterday, the Los Angeles Galaxy confirmed that Edson Buddle was “in Birmingham” until “around the 22nd or so” of December.

When prompted by the question of whether it was training or a trial, TSG got a “no confirmation on whether it’s just training or a trial.” In media speak, that’s a non-denial of a trial in our mind. Why? Because if it was a training the team would look to make that public to ease fan issues (for peace of mind, perhaps season tickets). (In stark contrast, SportingKC laughed at the “mountain of the molehill” that was create with the Teal Bunbury-Stoke news and told us outright that Bunbury was “training” with Stoke City.)

So in our mind, Buddle’s on trial and the work permit thing will be figured out.

Cameron Jerome...making Edson Buddle to Birmingham more of a possibility with each miss....

Perhaps that “trial” factored into the Juan Pablo Angel move yesterday. Either way, it would appear that the New Rochelle native is one player that the Galaxy can ill-afford to lose unless they have a Plan B already set in motion. As we mentioned during the Galaxy’s final game against the Union last year, Arena overused Buddle that game and down the stretch often sending him to battle two and even three players on the opponent’s defense for over the top ball.

You’re not going to find an easy replacement for the ability to combine that “targetness” with Buddle’s scoring prowess.

On Birmingham’s side of the ball, a Buddle move makes a ton of sense in our mind. Big man Cameron Jerome has disappointed this year, with only three goals on multiple chances (we’ve witnessed) and Serb Nikola Zigic is rumored to the apple of many a big club’s eye in the January window.

Edson Buddle price-tag in our mind? Somewhere between $2-4M.

Another addendum here to silly season…for now.

Update: A 2nd-hand BBC Report makes a trial seem to be the correct label as well.

• CD90%

Charlie Davies out today pleading for a chance to get on the pitch against Bordeaux this weekend.

I like that striker’s squawk. I really do. I like the bravado. I like the sense that they are the most important person on the pitch and they gain attention because it just heaps the pressure on them even more and the good ones like that even more.

But at this point our good friend Charlie, you’ve got to let your actions speak louder than words. Everyone’s still behind you–boneheaded speeding ticket move and all–we’re looking for an “I told you motherf*ckers” not a “Watch what I’m about to….”

Keep pushing though.

• And Now For Gooch?

TSG mancrushed Pastore re-ups–big time with Palermo through 2015 with a major $60M buyout escalation clause. Who’s the bidder? Barca? Real Madrid? in about a year?

Sadly enough, I’d love to see him and–gulp–Chelsea is he’s allowed the lattitude to control the flow of play. Can’t see that happening at Barca (Messi) or Real Madrid (Ronaldo)

Can miss a chance to showcase Pastore. Thanks to Eric Giardini on Twitter for the info.

And thank you VidRiver on YouTube…the Gonzalo Higuain Euro Music Train just dropped us off in Javier Pastore Hair Band Land! (Is that a Cat Stevens riff in the background…wow this video is just TOO AWESOME!)

Wait…wait…did someone just say….

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Cupcakes? Check. Who’s Camping In January?

Camp cupcake invites are supposedly out…tomorrow. We know one guy already gearing up to cascade past the San Fernando Valley into LAX.

Who's cupcaking in January?

Also, we’ll be making the short hop on Virgin down from SFO to take in a practice at some point and talk to the guys. We’ll be at the Chile game as well.

Here’s a revised look–our best stab–at whose name makes tomorrow’s announcement tomorrow:

GOALIES: Kevin Hartman, Nick Rimando, Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid

The skinny: No change from our list below. Sean Johnson was solid over in Europe for Generation Adidas. We still think Bradley takes a look under the hood of Hamid.

Also in contention: Will Hesmer, Matt Pickens.

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DEFENDERS: Kevin Alston, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, Chad Marshall, Heath Pearce*, Marvell Wynne, Tim Ream, Sean Franklin, Michael Parkhurst

The skinny: Removed Ike Opara who didn’t have a stellar Generation Adidas campaign we’re told. Gale Agbossoumounde is supposed to head out on loan to Sweden I believe.

Don’t see a call-in for Nat Borchers–just can’t see him cracking the central defense. Jay DeMerit…could be call-in.

AJ De La Garza just misses out from our original list and Bobby Convey…flat out, no idea?

I remember watching Jeff Cunningham last year at January camp and with his age and demeanor he really looked like an interloper. I just don’t see Convey going to a Jan Camp…maybe if he continues his form a friendly camp next year.

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Cameron will be there, Bornstein's gone fi$hing in Monterey, Mex...

TWEENERS: Geoff Cameron, Brek Shea

The skinny: Because we can, we introduce a new position here. The Tweener today….only temporary. The following two guys could play pretty much anywhere, but striker and goalie and your guess is as good as mine.

We learned that Geoff Cameron is on the radar of some teams overseas for his size and ability to play across the backline. Coach Bradley played him primarily at right mid last year in camp. Brek Shea just got lauded by Atletico Madrid…for his central defense play.

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MIDFIELDERS: Alejandro Bedoya, Benny Feilhaber, Eddie Gaven, Jeff Larentowicz, Dax McCarty, Robbie Rogers, Mikkel Diskerud, Collen Warner

The skinny: Dropped Tristan Bowen as he now deals with a transfer crosstown and I just don’t see. Free Benny Feilhaber plays the midfield quarterback again for Bradley. Remember, Feilhaber attended nearby Northwood High School in Irvine…only makes sense to get him in there.

And even money says the pairing in central midfield against Chile is Feilhaber and Larentowicz. Just smells right there.

Logan Pause may, just may slip in there as Coach Sweats needs a little steel in the middle.

Possible sleeper: Dilly Duka.

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FORWARDS: Justin Braun, Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, Chris Wondolowski

The skinny: We drop Jack Mac from Philly…though he may slip in and toss in Chris Wondolowski in his place. I’d like to see Jack Mac get a spot though. Edson Buddle may get the call as well, but I kind of feel that with Bradley not playing him when he was in amazing form for the World Cup, he’s not going to select him in a little lower value January camp.

From December 6th, 2010:

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