Archive for January, 2011

MLS: Follow Arsene Wenger…or Don Garber?

Editor’s note: Our next piece is by Eric Beard of a A Football Report…one of my favorite cerebral soccer reads. I choose not to run it late last week because I thought it would get lost in the draft “horserace” media coverage.

Eric, a member of the Emory University team is currently on location in Barcelona…studying the game as well as slithering his way into a club situation. Good luck Eric. Read more about Eric below the piece.

What about the Wenger way?

“You build the player like a house. The basis is the technique that happens before 12. If the player can play, the next floor is the physique at 14-15. Then it the tactical ability – how to use your technique and physique in the game. The last part, the roof, is the mental side. If you have no roof, it rains in your house. How competitive are you? How motivated to do well every day? That is the final step. I believe that hunger is something you get at 18 and remains relatively stable during your life. That is decided between 18 and 20. And that decides careers.”- Arsene Wenger

Careers in Major League Soccer tend to begin at around 21 or 22 years old thanks to the brilliantly American-sounding “SuperDraft”, which took place last Thursday in Baltimore.

Instead of the European and South American philosophy that spends years grooming talents under a certain skill set from a young age to create a cohesive unit that thinks as one, in MLS the best talents available to the clubs are picked off one at a time and after one day a team is reborn.

So who’s right: Mr. Wenger or MLS Commissioner Don Garber?

Lalas takes on Valenciano sporting a hall of fame ugly kit!

Alexi Lalas and Cobi Jones were both born in 1970 and their playing days began far before Major League Soccer came to fruition. Both players went through the college set-up before their respective careers kicked off after the 1994 World Cup, but one similarity remains: they both began their professional club careers abroad.

In 1992, when Lalas finished his time at Rutgers and had just competed in the summer Olympics, the defender with flowing ginger locks was able to get a trial with Arsenal and eventually played for the Reserve team. In 1994, Cobi Jones also went to the Premier League to ply his trade with Coventry City, featuring mostly as a substitute. Lalas never made the first team with Arsenal, but his experience gained with the Gooners helped make him a better player and perform to his potential in the World Cup. This showing led to a move to then-Serie A side Padova. Let’s not forget that in the early 90’s Serie A was the best league in the world with the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Juan Sorin, Didier Deschamps, Dennis Bergkamp, Jean-Pierre Papin, and the list goes on. Lalas is the first to admit that the focus the Italians placed on the defined details in the game during training was something he had never been exposed to before.

Of course, in 1996 Major League Soccer began and a plethora of American talent abroad, including Alexi and Cobi, returned home for its inaugural season.

The teams in the league had no history aside from the experience of their players in other competitions.

In 1996, with no real structure compared with the vast reserve leagues and youth academies clubs with century-long histories in other continents, a draft made sense in MLS. There were no academies in place, so what was more logical than equally distributing the best young talent as it comes?

But now, 15 years later, nearly every single MLS team has an academy, though they are of little use thanks to the ease of picking up the best established talent at the university level. Does this method make sense for individual clubs? Certainly.

Revs man Steve Nicol...

It’s so easy! Steve Nicol, Liverpool legend and manager of the New England Revolution, has been notorious for picking players from the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference), especially Wake Forest. And he’s done well in the league creating solid MLS-caliber players year-in, year-out.

The precise problem, which Nicol’s mindset exemplifies, is that clubs like the Revolution are doing enough to get by rather in comparison to the other teams rather than developing a true style of play and consistent club philosophy.

When Nicol chose a player like (now MLS Cup-winning) Jeff Larentowicz in the 4th Round of the draft, he did so to fill a specific role rather than to set the league on fire. Andy Dorman and Clint Dempsey had been speculating moves abroad for quite some time, so Steve needed a reliable player to fill in when they left.

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Laurel & Hardy, Sort Of, At USMNT Camp

Heckyll & Jeckyll?

A Day In the Life Of Brek and Dax…well done US Soccer.

Touché Tabloids: Fabregas One Ups Via Twitter

Cesc Fabregas is a great follow on Twitter. Earlier this year, I was going to put out a piece regarding how athletes Twitter personalities give us a sense of who they are and help explain the projection of them on the field.

Some of my favorites on Twitter? Fabregas (though I only understand half his tweets), Jay DeMerit, Rio Ferdinand and Nick Rimando (who just seems downright genuine.)

For Fabregas his Twitter profile was: “Obviously mature, seems like a natural born leader.”

So it was funny yesterday when a “report” came out yesterday that quoted teammate Denilson as saying that Fabregas was not a leader.

Here was Cesc’s Twitter reply…classic:

Classic...

Vintage: Cantona Named “Director of Soccer”

Update: Now confirmed via NY Cosmos press release…

Yes, it is–apparently–true.

Your newest made-public appointee in the New York Cosmos braintrust is Stu Holden’s favorite player growing up….Eric Cantona, given the oh-so-appropriate title of “Director of Soccer.”

Preview: USMNT In HDC, Just Chile-Axing?

If a US game is played at HDC in January, and no major US broadcaster carries it, does it exist?

Does Bunbury get a nod up top in this one?

Poor joke.

The USMNT takes on Chile this Saturday in Carson at 7pm PST and if you have the internet, a good connection and the right cable provider, you can watch it.

If you comprehend Spanish, you might want to check out the broadcast on Telefutura.

TSG didn’t get down to January camp this year unfortunately (we’ll be there for the game) so hard for us to do a proper TSG-in-depth preview.

In fact, with just 9,500 attending thus far–and you can bet a fair non US-favoring contingent–we’ll call this a “Preview Lite”

Last year in a World Cup year, Bob Bradley went with an extremely awkward line-up to start this one that included twin mighty mites, Robbie Findley and a blasé Jeff Cunningham running over each other up top.

They were backed by a midfield that saw Kyle Beckerman sitting in the holding role and Sacha Kljestan–at right outside mid for the affair–bumping into Benny Feilhaber twice on the interior as it appeared Coach Sweats mantra was to push Marvell Wynne up the right wing frequently. Conor Casey was clocked at a high speed of 2 miles per hour in the 2nd half.

On the other side of the ball, Jimmy Conrad earned an early red, Wynne was an adventure on the right and everyone’s favorite Jonathan Bornstein battened down the hatches after Conrad’s card, moving to central defense and captaining the backline.

This year? Who knows….

Here are some things TSG will look for…. followed by a potential line-up afterward that is sure to be off.

• Obviously, what’s the formation? Fresh off a trip to South Africa that saw the US play well in a 4-2-3-1 to start, the US then scored in their customary 4-4-2. Does Coach Sweats dare go 4-3-3 with a bunch of youngsters that have hardly played that?

Will Bob put this Mix Disk in heavy rotation?

• Perhaps the most watched player will be Mikkel Diskerud. The lengthy attack-minded mid played wide right in South Africa. Does he move centrally now in what I am about to call the, gulp, Eddie Gaven (lite) role?

• Will we see Bob Bradley stick with his strategy making one side his speedy attack side (think: Cherundolo-Landon-Findley) and the other side his tucked in off-ball side?

• Where does Chris Wondolowski play? If you watched Wondo light it up in the 2nd half for San Jose last year, he was best in a reserved forward role, wandering  and playing without a true defensive up-top responsibility. Will he play off a speedy guy? Agudelo. Or a post-up guy? Teal Bunbury.

• If we see that 4-2-3-1, what veterans get the start as the two holders? Dax and Larentowicz? Dax and Cronin? Cronin and Larentowitz? (You can bet on McCarty being there and playing the quarterback role Feilhaber did last year.)

• Do we get some speed on the right again and is that Wynne or Sean Franklin?

• Conversely on the left, does anyone rise up and make themselves effectively a contender for 1st or 2nd on the 2014 depth chart?

• Will Bob Bradley continue to “go big”…putting Shea, Diskerrud and Bedoya across a 3-man midfield gives Coach Sweats a six-footing middie attack line.

11 At the Whistle

G: Nick Rimando

DEF: Anthony Wallace, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, Marvell Wynne

CDM: Sam Cronin, Dax McCarty

MID: Brek Shea, Mix Diskerud, Alejandro Bedoya

STR: Teal Bunbury

Silly Season Redress: Junior, Pienaar, More…

Lots missed in a Monday where TSG wasn’t at the internet terminal:

• Junior to cross Black Cats’ path?

Junior, moving with ball against Colombia...will he be moving without it soon?

A Fox Soccer reported suggested Michael Bradley could be the cat’s meow at Sunderland FC in the Barclays.

Been an interesting week for Michael Bradley’s name in the press. Last week, before an odd weekend benching (was a move near then or is it something else?), there was some second hand reporting with these comments, paraphrasing Bo Munchen manager Michael Frontzeck:

If he goes, we don’t have a chance to stay up’. He won’t even listen (to offers)

Next Bradley on the bench–with a slew of new faces coming in for Bo’Munchen.

And now yesterday reports of a Bradley move to Sunderland to play for track suit man Steve Bruce.

As we “predicted” a few weeks ago, a Bradley move is likely, especially if Bo’Munchen get relegated. They’ve got Bradley signed through 2012–making him a lame duck if they stay up next week or prohibitive if they go down.

Bradley has consistently stated his desire to play for a top club and, while the Bundesliga is a burgeoning league, Bradley will still get better exposure playing in the EPL.

As for Sunderland, I think it would be a good move for both. Sunderland’s lunch pail, direct football style caters to Bradley’s strengths. Had this exchange with Jonathan Wilson, the noted footie analyst and huge Sunderland fan, last evening on Twitter:

TSG: Thoughts on viability of a Bradley transfer? You’re the man to ask….

JW: In the pub on Sunday I was moaning about the middle of midfield and how SAFC needed a more complete player, esp when Catts (Lee Cattermole) is unavailable. Was struggling to come up with viable target, but Bradley seems ideal. If moving 4-5-1, though, maybe need creator.

TSG: Have not seen him play-is Henderson (Sunderland super prospect, CM Jordan Henderson) too green or headed elsewhere..MB (Michael Bradley) would fit, I think, with Cats current set-up, agreed on the 4-5-1 though.

JW: Henderson is v(ery) promising, but still young and maybe leaving. He and (Keiron) Richardson in the middle of 4-4-2 lacks bite/presence

TSG: Cats will need attack in middie if MB (Bradley) arrives, still horribly sprays the ball. Aggressive tackler, best on O when trailing play.

JW: Five in midfield would liberate Hendo, though, and/or allow one of the slow old men – Steed and Bolo – to create centrally.

So if you followed that conversation, there you have it. The short. Bradley fits in the current system. I don’t necessary seem him thriving if Sunderland go to a 4-5-1.

• Jermaine Jones’s move to Blackburn: “I’s” and “T’s” crossed

Good move here for Blackburn and Jones who was in the Schalke doghouse. Better still if Jones gets to pair with Steve N’Zonzi….the closest thing there is a to Michael Bradley clone.

• Stevie P on his way out, chooses Spurs

Bye…bye…

Word is that Steven Pienaar is joining Tottenham Hotspur despite having an offer from Chelsea. Interesting to say the least. I’ve never been of the opinion that “Steven Pienaar is top team quality.” While he can break down many, he holds the ball too much for my liking if he’s going to be the centerpiece of that offense.

At Spurs, not sure where Pienaar will play. It’s no secret that Spurs need depth if they are going to regularly compete for the championship, it’s just where does Pienaar fit in. He’s not going to play on the right flank, advancing with Rafael Van Der Vaart on that side. I think he’s too small to command the middle of the field. I could see the left and letting Gareth Bale overlap, but what does that formation look like?

Maybe Spurs are committed to losing Bale or Lennon this summer, so they are buying ahead of the loss. Seems plausible.

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