Archive for January, 2011

Follow-ups: Carroll, Adu, Edu, Junior, More

Monday bullets & weekend follow-ups:

Andy Carroll to Liverpool: £35m puts the target striker in Anfield. I absolutely love this move for Liverpool. Homegrown player, sure to be in the national team picture, young target striker who still can knock it in. Great move for the Reds today.

Lots of transfer hubbub sure to come down the pike today: Luis, Torres, and more…

Gauranteed never to wear a Benfica kit again...

• Freddy Adu, according to Washington Post reporter Steve Goff, now testing out his wheels at Turkish 2nd division side Rizespor. Adu will be the only American, or European for that matter, on the team. Good job by Adu’s agent finding him something to get some playing time within the confines of his contract.

TSG looking good on our 2011 predictions right now, scoring on Bradley to the EPL and now Adu not to MLS  (yet).

Not sure why fans are pushing to have Adu “come home” to MLS. It’s not clear that we would develop in the States either–I don’t see any Championship side in England (or Germany for that matter) signing him up.

Continually at home, he wouldn’t be anonymous which is probably exactly what he needs to improve his game right now.

• USA vs. Egypt now might move to a new venue. Reached earlier in the week, a US spokesman said, “they were monitoring the situation, but had no plans to change venue yet.”

The US roster is supposed to be on this Wednesday. A location in Eastern Europe, like Vienna, would make sense, be convenient and earn a few dollars.

Michael Bradley to Villa reaching formalities stage.

• Maurice Edu with yet another left-footed lash…this time against Motherwell. You’re showing us something here, Mo. Jermaine Jones, predominantly lefty. Mo Edu, striking with his left. Doesn’t anyone want to just try a runout at leftback?

• Ireland’s truest Robbie Keane heads to West Ham on loan. An aside, does anyone miss Zola at West Ham more than Carlton Cole? Twenty-two (22) goals in 73 games with Zola at the helm. In the 82 games bookending Zola’s reign? Fourteen (14).

• Cheer the Americans at Anfield. Having locked up Luis Suarez, a report from the Guardian says Henry & Co. are now after Ashley Young and Charlie Adam. The days of Roy Hodgson seem oh-so-long ago.

• From Hall of Fame reporter (yes, t’is true) Frank Dell’Apa: Yura Movsisyan heads eastward to FC Krasnodar. The former RSL super sub coming up the ranks.

USA v. Chile Revisited: Selected Images

Once again, TSG photog extraordinaire Matt Mathai (@mathaim) does extraordinary work capturing in stills USMNT action.

HDC is a little tough on the lighting and Matt’s great work speaks to his ability.

Interspersed amongst the photos are some quotes from players in the mixed zone and some observations that just didn’t fit in any piece anywhere.

Enjoy.

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The Weekend: Commentary…Here

The mancrush is reaching unhealthy heights...

A rocky start to our 2011 “smattering of predictions” piece.

Our lay-up, Michael Bradley to the Premiership, just fizzled as Junior is Istanbul not Constantinople or Sunderland bound. (Update: Um, “just happened” … TSG looking a little better on the prediction.)

Yet, a rebound as TSG claimed that “Two Javier’s would join the world’s elite.”

Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez looked the part with yet another spectacular off-ball run and score this week against Blackpool.

While Javier number two–Pastore that is–didn’t net, but troubled Parma all day Tuesday as Palermo ousted Parma from the Coppa Italia.

The weekend sees surging Palermo head to the San Siro to take on Inter Milan in a skirmish of top sides in Serie A.

Here are few other games to look out for:

• Pachuca v. Cruz Azul

Heavyweights battle in a top Primera match-up. Eyes on Herc Gomez who banged in two last time he faced Azul.

• Bursaspor v. Galatasaray

A good chance–if you adthe it–to watch Junior’s new club in action. A critical battle as Gala takes on penultimate (check out that word selection John) side in the table.

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U-Turn: Michael Bradley Loaned to Aston Villa

Junior: "I just went the other way....."

In a silly season, that just got sillier:

ESPN reporting–and uncle Jeff Bradley at ESPN offering congratulations–that Michael Bradley has been loaned through the end of the year to Aston Villa.

Bradley could slot in immediately in the central midfield I surmise. But then again, Gerard Houllier loves to stockpile midfielders and he just brought in Jamie Makoun.

Shocking….

We’ve reached to our contact at Aston Villa to see if we can get any word on this and whether we can get Junior for 10 minutes if it in fact goes through.

(Lesson learned on yesterday’s report–apologies to the TSG audience.)

TSG: Where Erred

An apology to the TSG community on our “editoring” around Michael Bradley’s loan move.

In August of 2010, TSG commented on Jozy Altidore heading to Besitikas. It was off a media report, that said the deal was finalized. Of course, as we know, didn’t happen.

So, at TSG, we went over August and took a look at which media reports and tweets, primarily for American sources, twitter feeds and publications –but also using this site Football Transfer League–were most accurate versus their frequency.

We thought we painted a good enough of picture of when to put something up, but yesterday taught us to be a little more careful.

So our apologies to the TSG community. We probably would have made yesterday’s report a little “smaller” real estate-wise on the site and not had a follow-up in retrospect. While we weren’t wrong yesterday, we issued the story as a “Report”…I’m not sure we conveyed enough to the audience how closer to rumor (vs. truth) on the bar that it was.

Going forward, we’ll do full pieces with little consideration to timeliness. Unless you tell us otherwise.

TFIY: How I Became A Madridista

Real Madrid is my religion. This....my church.

Well, we’re back today with our fourth installment of The Fan In You, a series where a fan offers their perspective on how they came to root for the team they love. This week’s piece brought to you by our La Liga correspondent Donald Wine II.

When I was a kid, every fall I would play soccer in the youth leagues around my birthplace in Michigan.

I was good…really good.

I remember when I was 8, I scored 30 of my team’s 32 goals that season (my younger brother tallied the other two).

I wasn’t the next Pelé, but maybe I could have got a scholarship if I had stuck with it and not found my love for track.  But to me, soccer was a fun sport to play, and sports are always more fun to play when you’re good at it.

About that time is when I discovered that there was a world of soccer outside the United States.  My brother and I would get home from school in time to watch Champions League matches.  It was there I got to see some of the best teams in the world: Manchester United, Leeds United, Arsenal, Inter, AC Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid.  I would watch with awe at how these professionals played the game with such ease and with such precision.  In the end, I fell in love with Madrid.

Some people get roped into following a particular team because of their history, because they have family from there or they grew up there.  For others, their affinity for a particular player is what makes them follow a team.

Despite Real Madrid’s glamorous history and star-studded lineup and their vault full of silverware, it was indeed a player that convinced me to start following Los Blancos.  Don’t get me wrong, the constant winning is awesome.  Being able to see so many of their matches because of their perennial lineup of galactic superstars is a great thing, and of course that helped me further my love of all things Real.

My Hierro

Yet, it was the player that got me hooked to Los Blancos that will surprise you: Fernando Hierro.  Even though I played striker as a kid, it was a defender/defensive midfielder that got me really following Real Madrid.

I loved Hierro’s game, how he would control the back line but would still have an ability to press forward and put the ball in the net.  Hierro was one of the main reasons I would try to find more Madrid games on TV until a young striker emerged in the Real lineup that went by one name:  Raúl.  The Golden Boy, the King of Madrid, Raúl became my favorite player in the world along with Hierro.  His ability to score goals with either foot, in every single way imaginable, made him a god among the legions of Madrid fans around the world, myself included.  My two favorite players in the world, on the same team?  It was screaming “Halamadrid” for life after that.

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Fans In The Forefront As USSF Kicks Off 2011

After a summer World Cup that saw the United States kick, claw, scratch, sidefoot and ultimately submit, focus for US Soccer migrated ever so briefly from it’s players to the front office so to speak.

The populace...

With a new four-year preparatory cycle virtually beginning instantaneously, the denouement of an on-field campaign wrecked by Asamoah Gyan saw Sunil Gulati and US Soccer navigate, or meander if you prefer, through three events that didn’t necessarily have the desired outcomes: the rehiring, or hiring, of a men’s national team coach, drastic CONCACAF qualifying changes and a massive and aspirational attempt to bring the World Cup back to US soil.

No rest for the weary and a daunting task for the organization–on those last two–in a minefield named “FiFA” where randomness and favors appear to trump logic and merit at nearly every turn.

Fast forward to January 22nd, 2011 and US fans retroactively bore witness to the apparent sequel to Jurgen Klinsmann I, the US–outside of its control–coughing up it’s quadrennial trip to Azteca and Qatar, who sits three page turns in in the FiFA rankings, awarded the 2022 World Cup–the one that many in the English-speakering media thought was a few days in Zurich away from being earmarked for the States.

It’s a dizzying and frustrating sequence of events for US Soccer and the fed is getting back on message and looking to drive the sport forward–in the void of a World Cup bid win–by galvanizing both the casual and hardcore supporter.

The first step here in 2011 was the organziation of what is expected to be many intimate “Fan Forums” in and around US games.

The first forum occurred Saturday night at HDC prior to the Chile match and TSG was privledged enough to be the lone media scribe allowed to join up with a group of approximately 30 fans that would pepper USSF President Sunil Gulati with their questions and concerns.

Having arrived a full two hours before kick-off, the fan group was quickly led through the metal detectors and then escorted through the stadium guantlet to a downstairs media room.

There were a few refreshments lining the right wall, but no one bothered.

Gulati entered stage right, to hearty applause, after a short introduction by press officer Michael Kammarman and the session began.

What followed was a refreshingly candid Gulati–I believe I am qualified to make that statement because I interviewed him after the game and I certainly received more “media-tailored” responses to my queries–taking one fan question after the next and tackling them head on, engaging the inquirer often in his replies. Only one question was, sort of, ducked.

As an event, it was simple, but seemed to achieve its purpose as fans were either satisfied with Gulati’s response or posed follow-ups if they were still left wondering.

Having attended a few fan forums at various intersections of my life, I can easily say that the fans in attendance were also extremely well-prepared for the conversation.

Not only did their questions show the knowledge you would expect of a group that probably hits refresh on USSoccer.com, Twitter and BigSoccer.com all day long, but they were phrased in the right context to drive the answer they wanted. Aware of the stature of the speaker at the front, but more aware of their individual temporal importance to that speaker. Suddenly, I got a little self-conscious.

Gulati, for the most part, obliged.

With no ESPN ice cream mic crowding him and less dissemination of information expected post-event, less amplification allowed for less rhetoric and more direct responses.

Fans were welcome to share what they learned after the proceedings, but not during them.

Saturday's speaker of the house...

The wide-ranging see-saw media session lasted about an hour with the USSF preside engaging the audience with a Socratic method of Q&A. I can only imagine that Gulati behaves similarly in his Columbia classroom.

Some tidbits of information that emerged from Gulati in no particular order. Since TSG participated as an observer in the forum, we did not ask questions.

• The US vs. Argentina friendly up in everyone’s favorite soccer hotbed, Seattle, was torpedoed because of “distance issues” as the lead factor.

It was implied, but not stated by Gulati that Argentina felt the Land of Pearl Jam and Sockeye salmon was just too far for its players to travel for the international friendly date.

Despite the Argentinian negotiations, U.S. Soccer still does consider Seattle and other West Coast locations as great venues for potential matches in the future. But it’s clear to this writer that there are trickier logistical challenges because of the volume of players in Europe across potential opponent nations.

• “We liked the old system. That wasn’t what was on offer.”

Gulati’s sentiments on the changes to CONCACAF qualifying that will likely ruin, if not at least adversely impact, the USA vs. Mexico rivalry. Gulati shared that influence in the decision making was not like the World Bank, where big powers rule, but more like the United Nations where ever voting nation no matter small counted equally.

• No US friendly will be played again “in the next year” on the West Coast and, in what was more of a tongue-in-cheek remark, Gulati kidded that the US will “never play a Latin American country in a qualifier [out west].”

• However, there is a chance of a US – Mexico friendly on the West Coast “sometime in the next year.” The US considered a home-and-away series with Mexico this year, but thought–with a possibly meeting in the Gold Cup–it would not be in the best interest of team development.

• Exposure-wise, the number one priority for USSF right now is “our relationship with our media partners.”

• On the World Cup bid process, Gulati [due to the World Cup bid process in 2010] “thinks you’ll see some changes” in the future selection process.

A questioner then suggested that the US boycott FiFA which earned a well-tailored response from the US Soccer spokesman:

“I saw in the ground rules today that you could ask any question, not that I have to answer it though. [laughs] It’s in our collective interest that I don’t answer that one.”

• In the single exchange the seemed to get Gulati’s blood percolating, a fan led with a somewhat rambling question about a foreign coach ever potentially being the US Men’s Team coach, suggesting someone like Jose Mourinho who would be “given control of everything?”

Gulati, shooting back: “What’s “everything.” I don’t know what “everything” means. I don’t understand.”

The questioner continued: “Like Mourinho has at Real Madrid or had at Chelsea.”

Gulati, “Is that what you think? There’s another guy there that writes the checks. Guaranteed he didn’t have full control at Inter. If you’re an owner, you have full control. Without getting into specifics, let’s see what full control means.”

“Want to decide on the full schedule? Sure, I’ll give you full control. Oh, but we have a contract that this many games for television and you have to play this many games in the United States.”

“Ok, full control. ‘This player is suspended.’ No, in the United States, there is a grievance procedure that we have to observe. And I can give you another hundred.”

“I’m not referring to any specifics. There is no full control. Not with the US,  not at Real Madrid, not at Inter and certainly not at Chelsea. Chelsea has had six coaches in the past six years, right?”

“It’s never full control unless you’re the one writing the checks.”

Photo credit: The Villager newspaper...

“And I don’t own any teams. I don’t have anywhere near full control of my son’s under-13 team.”

“I refereed one game and I had one kid swearing at me the whole game. It was my kid.”

It was the one question that Gulati clearly bristled at (but recovered) and no doubt the press officers on hand will have a word with him on it. Following up on the exchange, Sunil Gulati, or Dan Flynn, for that matter have zero control in who Bob Bradley selects to bring into camp or other similar team moves.

That said–and without be an apologist–it was great to see Gulati, unencumbered by the press, get a little agitated, a little passionate.

• There will be a third kit for Gold Cup this summer as confirmed by Gulati hollering back to his marketing team in the back of the room for confirmation. It will be a red jersey.

All told, I thought the event was an excellent business move for USSF, seeking to engage–not placate–a sampling size of constituents so as to improve the message and direction going forward.

TSG was able to catch up for an exclusive interview with Gulati–one we had been seeking for some time–after the match that evening. You’ll see that on TSG sometime next week.

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