Archive for February, 2011

The Weekend: Old Firms, FA Cups & More

Lots of good ones this weekend.

Couldn’t get around to our five games to watch this week, but Sunday should be a good match-up as Stu Holden and Bolton head to London to face off with Clint’s Cottagers. Gonna watch that one.

Enjoy and get the comment threads going.

Stu vs...


Op-Ed: Lament Flamini’s Style, Not Mourinho’s

And there he stood Tuesday in a Champion’s League knockout match between the elder statesmen of the San Siro and the interlopers from White Hart Lane.

Mathieu Flamini.

Celebration after castration...

Flamini, nervously (actually not all that nervously) awaiting sentencing by referee Stephane Lannoy for a reckless, dangerous, and any-other-negative-advective-you-want-to-throw-on-it tackle of Tottenham Hotspur Vedran Corluka.

Corluka, and Spurs, got a harsher sentence than the mere “caution” the Milan hatchet man was awarded: Four weeks on the shelf for the defender in the middle of an important stretch of games for the club.

Flamini? He’ll likely be available to play on Saturday when AC Milan face Chievo Verona back in Serie A.

Flamini’s two-footer is just the latest in a series of vicious tackles that happen all too frequently at the highest level of the game, leaving the offender with a short holiday respite as the lone punishment while all too often leaving the team and the victim at a serious disadvantage for matches on end and, worse, at times imperiling careers.

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MLS: All Is Not Peachy in the Southeast…

This is the 1st guest post by TSG community member Jacob Chambliss. Well done.

As promising as the latest MLS expansion teams seem, their inception does little to dull my own apathy regarding the league’s newest franchises (Disclaimer: I do love Jay DeMerit).

Pick me!

This lack of excitement has nothing to do with my stance on soccer—I love the sport. Nor does it have anything to do with my Eurosoccer snobbery—I firmly believe that MLS is a growing league in more ways than one, and its future looks very promising. My problem with these expansions has to do with where my couch is located…in Atlanta, Georgia. There are no MLS teams anywhere near the Southeastern United States (or the South, as I refer to the geographical region in this post), and this saddens my heart.

Put simply, the reasons for MLS backing of teams in my region can’t overcome the cons. Any talk of expanding the league into the South seems ludicrous when measured against the inevitable revival of the NY Cosmos, for example. This certainly seems to be the stance of the MLS execs; in recent online forums with both Miami and Atlanta soccer fans, the resounding message is that expansion priority will go to establish another New York team.

Dan Courtemanche...

This comes despite the fact that MLS has at least one eye on setting up shop in the South. According to Dan Courtemanche, Executive Vice President of Communication for the MLS, expanding to the Southern region has long been one of Don Garber’s goals. When asked why this hasn’t happened yet, Courtemanche’s response was quite revealing.

While some would argue that soccer in the South can’t flourish because of the dominance of college football and Title IX—which basically restricts SEC schools from having men’s soccer teams—this does not at all seem to factor into Garber’s thinking.

Such a position ignores the soccer culture that exists in the South (did anyone see how packed the Georgia Dome was for the Mexico friendly last week?), and loses sight of the real issue behind potential MLS expansion teams. The problem isn’t so much college football here as it is with college football. That is, aspiring expansion teams into this region face an uphill battle procuring the proper facilities for their athletes.

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Kyle Martino: Controlling The Urge To Surge

Kyle Martino is a top broadcast analyst for Fox Soccer, a former MLS Rookie of the Year and has been capped multiple times for the US of A.

Juan Agudelo for the United States............ (Photo: Credit: Matt Mathai)

Coming off the Chile-USA friendly, with national teams trialing fresh-faced youngsters for upcoming tournaments, it seems that now is a good time to talk about the crucial metamorphosis of a young talent becoming a professional success.

There isn’t a current professional soccer player who, if asked, couldn’t immediately produce at least a handful of examples of players who were “The Man” when they were younger but currently reside in the “Where Are They Now” category.

I’m not talking about the youth ranks, when that freak kid who was bigger and faster dominated the game because he was born at the beginning of the year and had sick athletes for parents. I’m talking about those teenagers on the cusp of breaking starting lineups in the pros, or landing themselves on National Team rosters.

These are the players who made their pond grow in to an ocean as they climbed the ladder from High School, to College to Pros, but still were able to maintain their “Big Fish” status.

When I was growing up, young talented soccer players in America had a metric called the Olympic Development Program to help them improve as players and measure their progress along the way. Although considered very political–mostly by players that never made the teams–this was a very good way for coaches to identify talent, as well as light the path to the ultimate goal: Putting on a U.S. jersey and representing their country.

Putting yourself on the proverbial map....

The first stage of the program was at the State level, continuing through to a Regional level (dividing the country in to 4 regions), and culminating at the National level, with a Youth U.S. team.

Since we don’t have storied youth academies as they do overseas, like Ajax and Barcelona who pump out world-class players year after year, “ODP” was America’s answer to how we would identify and develop our next stars.

To compare, Ajax gave Holland players like Wesley Sneijder, Bergkamp, and Van Basten, and Region IV gave the U.S. Landon Donovan, Eddie Lewis and Carlos Bocanegra.

This multi-tiered system was the filtration process that would take millions of youth players in at the State level, and eventually end up with 20 or so standing at the end. I could write a War And Peace-sized novel on how desperately fanatical I was about playing for my country; the hours of practice and obsession with the game that actually lead me to force my parents to send me to Bollitieri (now IMG) in high school so I could continue to get better.

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Champ’s League: Arselona Live!

Yes, there is another game today.

After yesterday’s Boot Country theatrics and the quibbles that seem to be following Roma, I’m highly inclined to only take in the score of that game. Probably a mistake but…the headliner:

Yes, it's probably time for us to get subjected to yet another Xavi passing chart...

• Cesc It Ain’t So: Will
Arsenal Hold The Line at Home against Barca?

Wonderful that this rematch is happening from last year. Better yet with different actors in it.

With less than a collective fifteen observations of both teams this year, I’m not going to go out with a prediction.

Here are just some thoughts.

I don’t think–even with the swap of Villa for Zlatan–that Arsenal can afford to sit deep in this one. Their defensive organization is simply not good enough–this is an Arsenal team that has consistently conceded against lower level Premiership sides as well as Championship sides.

That said, the addition of a nimble Johan Djourou–well-respected at this publication–and 25-year-old Laurent Koscielny give Arsenal an agile interior. Their relative youth suggests that the pair could either have a howler or not grasp the moment and be difference makers–watch how this duo comes out.

Secondly, and I’ll probably eat my words shortly here, if I’m Arsene Wenger, I use the same deployment of Theo Walcott as I did last year–after the half as a sub when Pep and company can only make adjustments in-stream.

Walcott is not a 90-minute player and adding him in early takes away the known threat that must be accounted for later–when Maxwell and company are slowed. I’d stow him on the bench for the start.

Finally, if I’m Arsenal, I’d bang on the right rear guard of Barca–use Van Persie off-center and bring Nasri–if fit. Force Busquets to drop to help out and hopefully open up space for Cesc in the middle.

All of this, of course, easier said then done.

For the interlopers, it will likely be business as usual. Press up the pitch, bring Dani Alves up the right flank using Busquets as cover (hence the Arsenal comment above) and then, of course, Xavi pulling the strings.

Champ’s League….soon.

Official: Charlie Davies DC United Bound For 2011

Announcement this morning that Sochaux striker Charlie Davies has made the cut with DC United and will be loaned to the East Coast franchise for the 2011 season.


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