Archive for April, 2011

Sounders Win Away, But Story Is Zakuani

I’d like to take the Brian Mullan tackle on Steve Zakuani in an unpopular direction.

Zakuani downed....

Friday night in Colorado, the Sounders made a 1-0 win stand-up in the face of what was some heartfelt agony at losing their teammate Steve Zakuani on an unfortunate tackle in the early minutes.

A confluence of circumstances, and some may say a frustration tackle by veteran Brian Mullan, led to Steve Zakuani’s career being put in peril. Breaks to both the tibia and fibia. Mullan slid in aggressively as Zakuani planted on his right foot. All that could heard as the pop of breaking bones.

You have to feel for Zakuani, like Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo before him, a finesse and pace-based player whose career may be forever changed by the tackle (let’s hope not.)

On Mullan’s side, a moment of lack of judgement–there is no defending the reckless challenge–will now forever stain a professional career that has earned him five MLS Cups. His mark–no pun intended–on the game will be forever tarnished by the tackle. A crude badge of dishonor.

I said I was going to take the commentary on the tackle in another direction. I had a friend growing up, Keith Ball, who he and I battled unmercilessly on the baseball diamond. On the field, Keith was an enormous talent who played hard and played to win. Off the field, perhaps the nicest guy in the room. On field, pardon, but a dickhead, win at all costs sort of fellow.

But he’s that player, like a Brian Mullan, who added that toughness necessary–in any league by any team–as an integral ingredient to a side.

I don’t condone what Brian Mullan did–and debate will see-saw on his character and “the dirtiness” of the play for the next few days–but I do know it’s the game and that moment, “the moment” is consuming, leading players to both great exaltation and other times, like tonight, sheer anguish.

That same power that willed a Landon Donovan shot into the back of the net against Algeria worked in reverse this evening.

It’s the nature of the game. It’s unavoidable. It’s how it goes.

Unfortunately, Steve Zakuani was on the receiving end. Hopefully, he will make a speedy recovery and exhibit the same speed, and more, that made him a dangerous player with the ball and tonight’s horror moment will be but a bottoming footnote in a highlight reel career.

Gotham Bulls Over United: Henry Drops Brace…

…and Juan Agudelo does his “not Eddie Johnson” routine with a solid technical goal.

United ran into a buzz saw this evening and a team that is starting to play the type of ball that Hans Backe envisioned. That said, it’s a radically different feel for the team and Thierry Henry is active and interested.

String together a few games and the “next Beckham” moniker will drop from the Frenchman’s trading card.

As for United, outed a little bit with inexperience, DCU couldn’t protect the backline by clogging the midfield. Tough one.

Better Iberian Celebration: Messi Or Ramos?

You….make the call.

Lionel Messi with one too many calimochos after Barca won the Champion’s League two years ago…..

or…..

……or Sergio Ramos dropping the Copa Del Rey and the celebration bus doing a drive-over.

And…

MLS Player Of The Week: Lyle Yorks

Update: According to this MLSSoccer.com report, the Feilhaber move came about in 72 hours. Wow. And, combine that with today’s learnings that Feilhaber’s salary this year is a single digit percentage premium ($375,000 to $374,000)  to his Aarhus salary and just a small raise (and only one added year) to $450,000 next year tells me the following:

Aarhus–likely–wasn’t re-upping at the same or comparable rate next year and no suitor was coming forward in the summer with a better deal.

Again, sure Feilhaber maybe wanted to play Stateside–I’m not sure I believe that since the exposure to European clubs diminishes–it still looks like MLS was negotiating against itself.

Once again, well done Mr. Yorks.

——

Give it up for Lyle Yorks as Benny Feilhaber should be doing right now.

Player Of The Week

Here’s what we know of the recent Americans abroad.

That Benny Feilhaber was out of contract at the end of this year.

That his team AGF Aarhus tried–multiple GM reports–to move him during the initial part of this season.

Being a World Cup veteran does not guarantee you a spot in Europe. Jay DeMerit elected to play out his final year at Watford in hopes that he could parlay his World Cup appearance into another enviable contract somewhere in Europe. Didn’t happen.

Edson Buddle took his World Cup resume and is now a part-time starter in Germany….for a Bundesliga II outfit trying desperately to avoid relegation to the third division.

World Cup occasional starter Jonathan Bornstein, now an occasional starter with Tigres in the Primera, likewise for World Cup roster cut Sacha Kljestan in Belgium with Anderlecht though his playing time is spotty.

Jozy Altidore? Seeking playing time after a somewhat impressive World Cup has found himself with a lateral move at best to the Turkish Superliga.

Benny...is back!

So that leads us to Benny Feilhaber.

US nationals are infinitely more marketable on the home shore and with Feilhaber out of contract at the end of the season, his agent, Yorks, did a smart thing by proactively moving Benny to MLS. Maybe it was Benny’s decision, who knows. One thing I do know is the I’m sure Yorks witnessed the DeMerit situation and thought, “I’m not losing the leverage for my player in the summer.”

Smart move. Could an MLS club had Benny for less in a few months? That would seem possible.

Moving about Europe is still a chore for an American player and one who is represented by an American agent. Don’t get me wrong, as far as I know, Yorks is one of the best in the business, but remember “Americans Abroad” in Europe–in abundance–is somewhat new as are the agent ties to various teams. Yorks’ agency has been around for ten years. By comparison, controversial player agent Paul Stretford (agent to Wayne Rooney) has been brokering players since 1987.

They, Americans abroad, represent an opportunity for teams (American fan dollars and media exposure), but there are also the limitations of homegrown rules and passports and there is the back-scratching for Euro agents that control even bigger players; agents that are more entrenched.

Feilhaber will do well in MLS. He’s a US national, a talented offender and a good looking guy to have on a campaign poster to boot. And it’s in MLS where that first quality–being a US national–holds the most value.

Real Salt Lake Scratches For Solid Result

Good teams find the way.

Real Salt Lake with not one, but two critical away goals to level the match both times as the visitors on the road in Monterrey played like it was already crowned the champion. Impressive.

Great performances all around, but Nick Rimando….aggressive…on the road?! Tops.

CONCACAF Champion’s League: A Calm Or A Real Salt Lake Storm?

Quick name an American team  that plays possession-oriented ball, has won a Cup, features domestic and foreign internationals and is a goal or two away from heading to the World Fifa World Club Cup.

Mo reasons with Morales

Amazing that the last question is one that can be considered for an MLS team, isn’t it?

Real Salt Lake takes the field south of the border this evening in hopes of making history; that is making their opponent Monterrey history or at least escaping tonight with a sufficient and manageable result for the home leg.

It’s nothing short of an astounding position in and one that has galvanized unified support for MLS, the league ahead of club rivalries. I dare say–for many reasons–that a Chelsea fan likely doesn’t root for Manchester United this year if the Red Devils make the UEFA Champion’s League Final.

The showing by Real Salt Lake has already been impressive and no doubt saved the club a few marketing and talent development dollars as teams below the Tropic of Cancer have witnessed its quality. Plus, for a team with an exquisite home record, I doubt RSL will feel an away disadvantage around MLS opponent stadiums upon the tourney’s conclusion.

Enjoy the match.

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