Archive for August, 2011

Faith No More In The North London Maxim: “Arsene Knows?”

Neil Blackmon waxes on what may be the end of the Arsene Era dawning.

For Wenger, a Champion's League moment--finally--that didn't disappoint.

One of the things that makes sport so compelling is that while, in the end, sporting events are contrived events whose results have little effect on the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of our lives–we often see within sport little reflections of the day-to-day life lessons as well as the over-arching lessons of…history.

Today’s Champions League playoff for the group stages victory at Udinese aside, one can’t help but sense that we are witnessing precisely such a sport-as-microcosm-of-life sequence of events right now with long-tenured, absolutely-revered Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

In fact, today’s victory seemed all the more appropriate in the “sport as reflection of life” vein, because as summer hours give way autumn nightime,  a resolute, determined and outplayed-for-large-swaths Arsenal side determined to not let the embers of past glories be extinguished, survived.

Alas, any objective viewer must sense that the group stages will hold only disappointment be but a brief interlude to the general decay and narrative of Emirates empire collapse occurring in North London.

What’s more–even the believers are forlorned now, sensing the decline and hoping against hope for one moment of magic, one surefire indicator that the heartstrings inside of them are right to suggest it is not yet time to turn out the lights.

The Arsenal faithful are a beatdown bunch these days, searching for positivity when the possibility of silverware always seemed well within their grasp.

It is fitting that Arsene Wenger stands among those seemingly incapable of grasping the dire nature of the situation—or, if incapable is the wrong word, at least reluctant to concede the gravity and extent of the problems. His empire is slipping away.

As one notable publication wrote, he and his most loyal fighters resemble, only half-ironically, the futile but noble captured fighters of the French resistance, seemingly oblivious or at the very least impervious to the looming and increasing-in-number swarm of interrogators at their doorstep.

Old strengths have become weaknesses, so the interrogators seem to suggest, and having now turned against the man who so many of them previously obliged with blind faith, the formerly accepted calls for “caution” and “patience”, the confident “I have a plan” reassurances–  fall flat, landing somewhere due south of reassuring.

If it wasn’t the play of the red-and-white today, it was the camera captures of the manager and a particular image of sweat stained attire that seemed to suggest that playing it cool was out of the questions any longer.

The builder...

There is simply faith no more in the old North London maxim, “Arsene knows.”

Why? Well, the answer as compelling as the question.

The answer again lies in the annals of history.

Examples of era-ending decline are legion and one common thread among these examples is that hindsight often guides us to fail to read the warning signs.

One indicator of era-decline that rings nearly universal in history books is the notion that overstretch is devastating to empire.

Overstretch affects an empire both economically and in the field of battle or conflict, often inflicting wounds with great overlap.

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The Impending George John Transfer: Good For MLS?

[Trying something new here with this piece below, not sure it works. Let us know.]

John, headed that-a-way... (you may have to adjust your computer for the pointing to work)

FC Dallas prized centerback George John will soon be playing (red) Rover in Lancashire under the ownership of Blackburn FC of the English Premier League. John is reported to be negotiating the personal terms of the deal, while MLS has already agreed to a transfer fee for the Greek-American in the neighborhood of $1.5-$2M.

As John nears the transfer, it re-ignites the debate about whether MLS stars leaving to compete at a higher level and at a higher pay grade is a positive or negative for MLS. To be clear, the question is about the league, not the player.

It is hard to argue that it’s not better for players to seek out the better competition and better salaries of playing abroad.

The question spurred a furious 140-character debate on Monday amongst a wide spectrum of fellow TSG followers, including Centerline Soccer’s Robert Jonas, SportingKC’s Kyle Rogers and ESPN’s Leander Schaerlaeckens.

Below is the transcript.

Wait, who's replacing me at Elwood?

However before that, the case stated by TSG was this:

@shinguardian: Could be PR bonanza on George John for #MLS. If he replaces or improves upon coveted Phil Jones (now at United), positive marketing abroad.

In fact, if your MLS you have to be downright giddy about where you are as a league. A new TV deal in place, at worst stabilizing attendance, a financial structure that keeps teams at least close to the black while overseas teams struggle with a high cost of product (players). And one more thing on that attendance….less people are going to live entertainment today no matter what stats you read.

More tickets may be sold, but those going, well, that number has dwindled. The new MLS stadia are, in our opinion, the right capacity for a sport that is growing. Make them bigger and ticket scarcity and “feel of the game” certainly suffer–obviously MLS learned that lesson a decade ago.

But what has to be regarded–though not by all per the Twitter rat-a-tat-tat below–is that player movement abroad is really quite a boon. With the broadest stroke, MLS gets to essentially now make cash back on a player and bring it in from leagues where many of the teams are struggling to remain competitive within their cap structures. The exchange rate helps as well (though that’s likely factored into the transfer fee.)

Beyond the financial impact, a player moving overseas–especially a league like the Barclays–further validates the positive trajectory of MLS while presenting the league as a viable option for those seeking to grow their game.

It’s not wonder that overseas homegrown rules have started pushing up like daisies.

The discussion below and add your thoughts:

@shinguardian: Could be PR bonanza on George John for #MLS. If he replaces or improves upon coveted Phil Jones (now at United), positive marketing abroad.

@LeanderESPN: @shinguardian Yes, but another kick in the nads in terms of playing quality for MLS. Yours is a glass-half-full interpretation!

@shinguardian: Fair point, however no disputing EPL > MLS at present RT @LeanderESPN Yes, but another kick in the nads in terms of playing quality for MLS.

@LeanderESPN:@shinguardian Of course. No argument there. But growth comes through better players. Not best talent leaving. Another bummer for league.

@shinguardian Again fair, but consider this…if MLS was *just* pulling from US talent pool, it would be worlds behind where it is now.

@robertjonas: The transfer of promising #MLS talent is a step in the right direction. Feeder league today, power league later.

@LeanderESPN: Disagree completely. Every big prospect leaving is another MLS great that will never be. Thats how you stay stagnant.

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Bocanegra, Bedoya, Edu All Will Head To Camp

The US Ambassador to Brazil...back in camp! (photo credit: Matt Mathai)

We really don’t have a great forum for bulletins here at TSG.

Anywho, according to the Glasgow Rangers official site and in an interview with Jurgen Klinsmann, Carlos Bocanegra, Alejandro Bedoya and Maurice Edu will all be selected for the US roster for the upcoming friendlies against Costa Rica and Belgium in September.

Klinsmann also adds that, “about 2/3 of the US roster is playing in Europe.”

No surprise there.

(Once the roster comes out, we’ll disappear this post.)



The Prem: On Those Who Would Be Blackpool

TSG welcomes back Women’s World Cup stalwart Maura Gladys with a report on the Barclay’s minnows at the direction of Neil Blackmon.

Big Impact: The Norwich City Canary

Big Impact: The Norwich City Canary

They’re full of spirit, courage and pluck. They’re punching above their weight, a trio of little fish in a big pond. They’re Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City and Swansea City, the three debutantes in this season’s English Premier League.

It seems like that’s always the tag attached to the teams that emerge from the Championship at the start of the Premiere League season. They show courage and spirit when they run up against the big dogs, and then, at the end of the season, they struggle to stay up, we say they were just overwhelmed by clubs with more cash and talent. While that stereotype is often true, there’s more to the minnows than just pluck, spirit and hard luck and long days at the bottom on the table. So far, each squad has shown, not only the requisite doses of pluck, but actual ability, and while it’s not likely that all three will avoid relegation, they have intriguing stories and styles to make their time in the EPL an interesting ride.


Nowhere were the ups and downs of the Premier League more evident than with Queens Park Rangers. At the end of last Saturday’s 4-0 drubbing by Bolton, which included an own goal, a red card and an injury to a newly signed star, the team was in the midst of an ownership crisis. It looked like it was going to be a long season at Loftus Road.

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Ali Krieger: On Rising Again In Germany

Ali Krieger - USWNT right back present and future.

Ali Krieger made the leap into the main stream after coolly slotting home the 5th and decisive penalty  in the infamous quarterfinal against Brazil. Having played most of her professional career in Germany (she is back with FFC Frankfurt), she might have gone under the casual fans radar, but as a rock at right back, Krieger has been a mainstay on the USWNT for the past year.

A super sharp, confident, intelligent woman on and off the field, Ali Krieger was gracious enough to take time from her well deserved break to talk to us at TSG.

Here’s an excerpt of our conversation.

TSG: You were one of 4 players to play every single minute this past World Cup and you’ve been played 25 or so games with the USWNT, do you feel that you have cemented a place on the team for the upcoming Olympics?

Ali Krieger: Yeah lets hope so. I think if I can stay fit and healthy, I don’t see a reason to keep me of the roster, but playing wise you never know what could happen, so I don’t want to say that my spot is “cemented”, even though some of the players tell me that. I don’t want to get complacent, so I need to continue working hard and playing at my best and hopefully that will continue to allow me to play in the right back position.

TSG: I imagine the World Cup was a different experience for you then the other girls. How was coming back to Germany? Was it like coming home?

AK: It was amazing and so comfortable. I was so happy once we landed that I had a big smile on my face and I felt like I was back home. I was made to feel so welcomed by the fans. I was excited to be back in football country and it was all an amazing feeling.

Krieger with some of her FFC Frankfurt teammates

TSG: Your last name in German means “Warrior “and you appropriately plied your tough swashbuckling style in Europe and are one of the only USWNT players to do so. Can you tell us about your experience with FFC Frankfurt?

AK: It was a stepping stone that helped get to where I am today and I will always be grateful and loyal to the club. In 3 and a half years, they have prepared me to be able to play in the past World Cup by making me a better person and player.

My perspective on life has changed since living there as I had to learn a new language and culture. It was such a cool experience that I will never forget and hopefully one day, maybe in the near future continue to be a part off.

TSG: Would you recommend playing in Europe to any of the younger or even veteran USWNT players?

AK: I tell them everyday that it’s amazing and every time they ask me how it is or if I recommend it I say “of course”. Look at how much I’ve changed as a player and how much more comfortable I’ve gotten on the ball. My technical and tactical abilities have grown from being in Germany, which to me is the “football country”. In Europe in general, it’s the number one sport and I think everyone should  have that experience and to be a part of it. It’s been unreal for me and I know everyone would enjoy it as well.

TSG: For the most part, it’s the desire for most male players to play on a Champions league team. Is the women’s Champions League held in a similar high regard?

AK: Of course. The Champions League is right under World Cup in terms of a tournament that everyone wants to play in and be part off, and is the highest level of club football. I think the most important part about playing with a club team is that you get to train day in and day out. You can’t treat the national team like a club team cause that’s not why it’s there and what it’s about. I think everyone should have the experience playing with a club and playing in important games every weekend. This year there is the Champions League, the DFB cup (German domestic cup), and Bundesliga all together.  That is a lot of highly competitive games that one has to compete in week in and week out, and that experience can only make one a better player.

Krieger's farewell game with FFC Frankfurt. Will she go back?

TSG: Where would you say is the prominent or prestigious league that most women want to play in? Is it the WPS or is it in Europe?

AK: Well I’m going to be a little biased, but the German league could be the top league as off right now. Unfortunately the German national team lost in the quarters so it might be hard for them to lay claim as the best league.  I think Sweden, England and Germany all have very good leagues, and then you have Lyon who just won the Champions League this past year. I’m not all together familiar with the rest of the French club teams, but I know that Lyon is a very good team with a great training atmosphere that seems indicative of the rest of the league.

TSG: One hears stories that a lot of the South American Soccer federations are not very supportive of their women’s teams. Do you feel that there is an increase in support in the US and in Europe?

AK: It’s getting better as you can see in the increased number of teams in the World Cup qualifiers as well as teams like Columbia at the World Cup. I think it’s growing, but it will take time. Countries aren’t immediately going to all of a sudden put money toward their women’s football teams. Look at Brazil who barely get any support and they are one of the best teams in the world, though they will be hosting the Olympics in 2016 so they will probably put in some money toward the women’s national team, but unfortunately I don’t think they will ever get the same support as the men’s teams.

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Debate: Klinsmann’s Depth Chart: Ready For Camping?

Note: We’ve learned that Klinsmann alluded to a single roster in his post-Mexico press conference. Apologies that we missed that.

USA vs. Costa Rica and USA vs. Belgium, right around the corner. Rosters are out sometime later this week.

Something Klinsmann was once very familiar with....

And folks we’ve settled on it.

With Bob Bradley potentially walking like an Egyptian, there were many suggestions made–some technological and many humorous–about what replaced our “Bradley’s Clipboard.”

Enter Jurgen Klinsmann and cue, “The Depth Chart.”

Simple, to the point, and with more than just a casual nod to the diving that the Kaiser used to do on a few stops around Milan and London in his playing days.

In short, effective, a tad cheeky and subliminal. Perfect.

Now, to the roster.

We admit, the new boss threw some real surprises for the Mexico friendly in August, his first of course–specifically Michael Orozco and Edgar Castillo. (Note: For fans to judge Castillo–whether he ultimately proves to be a national team player–on one game is pathetic. Two days of camp, new teammates….anywho.)

This time, about the only thing that can be guaranteed is that there will be more new faces to get a run out. Expect even more surprises.

We’ll take a shot here at who’s being called in for this one and please make the necessary corrections in the comments section below.

Please take the following with a MASSIVE DISCLAIMER. There is obviously no track record for Klinsmann’s suggestions.

It would be more appropriate to debate the merit of each player–rather than will they be called. The only leanings we had were towards a very split roster due to all the travel and geo-specific (as in players nearby) rosters for each friendly.

(A – All, CR – Costa Rica, B – Belgium)


CR: Nick Rimando, Sean Johnson

B: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Samir Badr (I’m only adding him because of this fantastically awful video.)



You mean, you're coming, you're really, really, really coming! Woo-hoo!

A: Tim Chandler

CR: Omar Gonzalez, George John,  Michael Orozco, Heath Pearce, Sean Franklin, Edgar Castillo, Geoff Cameron

B: Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra, Eric Lichaj, Zak Whitbread



A: Brek Shea, Kyle Beckerman

CR: Jose Torres, Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Brad Davis, Robbie Rogers, Brad Evans, Luis Gil, Freddy Adu

B: Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Sacha Kljestan, Mix Diskerud, Josh Gatt, Alejandro Bedoya



A: Juan Agudelo

CR: Justin Braun, CJ Sapong

B: Jozy Altidore, Edson Buddle


Michael Bradley: Needs a club desperately.

Tim Ream: Off form?

The skinny:

CAPS Lock: A great visual this time on just how savvy Klinsmann will be. George John–as risk to play for Greece–should be called in. Ditto for Mix Diskerud who has been called into Norway camp.

Bavaria: Will Klinsmann elect to bring in any waffling German-Americans like Fabian Johnson who commented this weekend that we would consider the United States.

Bradentowners: Any youngsters getting the call? Perhaps Josh Gatt. What about short-term reaches like a Joseph Gyau or Jonathan Brooks?

Bobby Convey: Oh man, came so close to putting him on. Even money on Convey right now.

Report: Emmanuel Adebayor, From Man City To Spurs

No longer a Citizen of Manchester...

For the second year in a row, take a bow Daniel Levy and Tottenham Hotspur.

Last year, it was procuring Rafael Van Der Vaart at a dirt cheap price when he was no longer needed at Real Madrid.

This year?

Emanuel Adebayor, precisely the striker that the Spurs needs (if he’s motivated) up top is near completion on a one year loan from Oasis FC.

Shrewd, Levy, shrewd.

Details at the Telegraph


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