Archive for August, 2011

The Weekend: Live Commentary Here

And folks, we’re back in full swing.

West Brom, only headed up with Peter O....

A full slate of….

…wait. A pesky players strike in La Liga. Probably best giving the bruhaha–again–between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Don’t know about you guys, but I kind of feel like this is one of those “Ow! Quit It” things.

A whole host of excellent fair still this weekend including:

» Saturday: EPL: Chelsea vs. West Brom: Peter Odemwingie re-inking shows Fernando Torres that it’s never too late to have a career revival and get paid. Blues fans are, uh, waiting on that revival Nando.

» Friday: Primera: Tecos vs. Pachuca: We almost need a fake prizefight poster for this one with Herculez Gomez on one side and The New Jose Torres (welcome back buddy) going for Pachuca.

» Saturday: EPL:  Sunderland vs. Newcastle: Enough with the Joey Barton baloney, this is the biggest and fiercest derby out there….to the Old Firm that is.

» Saturday: EPL: Arsenal vs Liverpool: Both teams somewhat flush with cash here in the short term, Liverpool spent like Real Madrid on acid in 2011 while the Emirates are seemingly smoking the profits behind closed doors.

» Saturday: EPL: Swansea vs. Wigan: The media-dubbed “Swanselona” look to bring their ticky-tac up to the Prem against a team not named Man City with a Spaniard carrying a semi-automatic. Don’t put a ton of stock in this one, it’s not going to be on Wigan’s awful pitch.

» Saturday: MLS: New England vs. New York: Not exactly the Red Sox-Yankees here. The battle for midtable mediocrity….in Thierry Henry’s team. If you told me at the beginning of the year that the Red Bulls would: sign Teemu Taino, keep Tim Ream and Rafa Marquez relatively healthy and have Henry golden-booting it and that they would suck at this time of year, I would tell you to go to ThinkTaylor.org. (Great work by Twellman on ThinkTaylor.org by the way.)

LA fans are just fine with Keane's baggage....

» Saturday: MLS: Los Angeles vs. San Jose: The Robbie Keane debuted for the Galaxy. You know who benefits? Everyone, but especially Mike Magee, the guy will get even more chances on a platter but once again he’ll help out the opponents keeper.

» Saturday: MLS: Portland Perlazas vs. Vancouver Whitecaps: Solid move there by the Timbers today in getting creative Eric Alexander into the fold. With the dazzling Perlaza surrounded by Nagbe, Zizzo and now Alexander for Timbers that’s good for the future.

Oh and Hasli won’t stand out with those tattoos in Portland. He’s easily out tattooed probably by 80% of the fans.

» Sunday: Ligue1:  PSG vs. Valenciennes: Pastore, that is all.

» Sunday: EPL: Bolton vs. Manchester City: No way Aguero goes for more than 3 in this one. Actually, Bolton vs. Manchester City (both fast starters last year) headline the top of the table with identical goal difference. This one is an early test for just who Manchester City. Will the Citizens be pumped up at the Reebok?

» Sunday: EPL: Manchester United vs. Tottenham Spurs: We’ll eventually get to this one on Monday, but….DeGea or Gomes…odds on who has a complete meltdown first this year?

(There are plenty more…you guys write them in the commentary and I’ll add them up here.)

(Poll coming)

Bo’Munchen: Michael Bradley Out To Pasture, Favre’s Foals Look To Gallop

Chris McClintick returns–(Are you getting college credit for these features yet, Chris?)–to TSG with a feature on Borussia Mönchengladbach (or as we affectionately call them around here “Bo’Munchen) minus one Michael Bradley.

Favre's Foals....

Taking charge of a bottom-of-the table team during the second half of a season is a daunting task when the single expectation and only possible positive outcome is survival.  Unfazed by this ominous challenge, Lucien Favre accepted Borussia Mönchengladbach’s head coach position on February 14th last season, inheriting a squad with only 16 points in 22 matches, and quickly transforming the mentality, and philosophy that ultimately led Gladbach to safety.

The nickname, “Die Fohlen” (The Foals), harking back to Gladbach’s young, prolific, and trophy-laden sides of the 70’s, couldn’t be more relevant with Lucien Favre at the helm.  Throughout his career, Favre has been known for his introduction and development of young players.  While coaching in the Swiss Superliga, the top tier of his home-nation, Favre was responsible for the exposure of youth players such as Steve Von Bergen, Almen Abdi, and Gökhan Inler at FC Zurich who eventually broke into the Swiss national squad.  Using this young blood, as well as his dynamic, attacking, and organized system of play, Favre led Zurich to two consecutive titles in 2006 and 2007, the former being the first for the club in 25 years.

Although the current Gladbach squad hasn’t entirely lived up to their thriving predecessors of the 70’s, the former Hertha Berlin skipper’s trust in youth has not only spurred what papers in Mönchengladbach dubbed “The Great Escape”, but also a continuation of their impressive form in the first two weeks of their 2011-12 Bundesliga campaign: a 1-0 upset of Bayern in the Allianz Arena, and a 1-1 draw against the resurgent Stuttgart.

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Aiden McGeady: Will He Ascend To Robbie Keane’s Throne For Ireland?

Will the baton ever be passed from Robbie Keane to Aiden McGeady?

Editor’s Note: It was an odd, intermixing week for American and British Isle footie.  Midweek, the historic club Glasgow Rangers of the beleaguered Scottish Premiere League made successful for two Americans, Alejandro Bedoya and Carlos Bocanegra. A play for stateside revenue as much for competition.

Today–after news leaked out a week ago–the venerable Robbie Keane–Mr. Ireland–official is unveiled as Bruce Arena’s newest weapon up top for the Los Angeles Galaxy.

In a fascinating way, one player–for Ireland–ties those two moves together.

Aiden McGeady. McGeady is the heady and dangerous Ireland attacker who many think will one day usurp Robbie Keane’s role on the national team. Continually, McGeady, prior to a move to the nether reaches of Russia, cut his teeth in the SPL and per the player himself fled to avoid the fishbowl effect of playing under the Old Firm microscope.

And now we welcome Irish writer RONAN QUINN with his first examination on TSG. 

Aiden McGeady, Ireland’s Finest?

McGeady for Celtic....

It is fast approaching a year since Aiden McGeady left Celtic, and the frenzy that surrounds the Old Firm in Glasgow, for the Russian capital. In that time, he has secured a definite starting berth in Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland team on the left side of the field, while impressing Russian fans and European suitors alike playing on the right wing. Is he finally becoming the player Ireland had hoped for and fulfilling his massive potential?

And firstly, why all the fuss?

Well, his natural talent has been obvious to any Scottish Premier League observer since he emerged onto the scene with a debut goal against Hearts. Other European fans may have witnessed his Champions League debut against AC Milan which caught the eye more notably, coming against illustrious names like Costacurta, Maldini and Nesta. Not bad at eighteen years of age.

It was no surprise then, that following the sale of Shaun Maloney, he became a main contributor for Celtic in the following seasons. The team won three consecutive league titles, while McGeady’s individual flourish earned him both Scottish player of the Year and Young Player of the Year in the same season. McGeady was also impressing on a bigger scale with massive performances against Benfica and AC Milan in the Champions League. He recorded incredible stats in 2007-2008 scoring 8 goals and making 24 assists. Lionel Messi himself even took time to praise McGeady stating, “Aiden McGeady is a fast and skilful winger and someone I rate highly. He’d be successful anywhere in Europe.”

As the greatest deity of modern football rightly points out, McGeady is fast and skilful. He has more tricks and treats than Halloween, is good with either foot and is not a bad finisher by any means. Add to that his incredible balance and you have a very talented player.

Despite all of this, McGeady still had his fair share of critics. And there are valid criticisms to be made. Questions have always been raised about McGeady’s defensive qualities, or lack thereof. At times for Celtic he showed no interest in tracking back with an opposition player at all, and was rarely seen on the defensive end. One could argue that it is not his job to defend and he could be afforded creative license, but the fact is that, in every team he has played in he has been asked to work defensively, and it is a perceived lack of effort prohibiting him.

Trapattoni: Two-way or no way.

This brings us nicely onto Trapattoni, and McGeady’s performances for the Irish national team. Most of you familiar with Trapattoni will know he requests two-way footballers in every position, and he demands his team be solid first and foremost. This lead the Italian to drop McGeady from the line-up at the end of the World Cup Qualifying Campaign for the ridiculous Stephen Hunt, whose work ethic was preferred as it far exceeds normal human capabilities. Clearly something to be improved upon for McGeady.

Another flaw that can be found in McGeady’s game is his decision making. This may seem like an outrageous statement given the player’s statistics, but it is something that can still be seen in his play. Often times he delays passes, passes up goal-scoring opportunities and fails to deliver a final cross, much more so for Ireland than at club level.  He also has a tendency to drift out of the game at times when Ireland could use some relief work from his flank.

Compare this to the talismanic goal-scoring of Robbie Keane for example, who always seems to deliver for his country, and McGeady has a way to go.

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Video: Groovin’

A bit of a sequel to yesterday’s video–Messi, old school Ronaldo–but please again support The Beautiful Game.

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More promoters of social change and the Beautiful Game courtesy TSG community member Chris Singer:

» Grassroots Soccer
About: Vision a world mobilized by soccer to create an AIDS free generation. Have had over 420,000 youth graduate from their HIV-prevention programs. Mostly works in Africa (South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia) but has global efforts as well.

» HavServe: Haiti Soccer for Development (Youth Soccer Program)
About: The importance of soccer in the Haitian society and the game’s status as the country’s “favorite national pastime” make soccer and physical education programs effective tools for combatting Haiti’s development challenges such as extreme poverty, conflict, HIV/AIDS, and for helping achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

» Play Soccer
About: A unique sports-oriented program that empowers youth to lead change in some of the world’s most-underserved communities. Projects in Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Senegal, Zambia, Malawi as well as Appalachia in the United States.

La Liga: Álvaro Negredo, The Non-Hipster Choice

David Farris with his TSG debut.

Alvaro Negreda....listen up!

The Third Wheel.

Mal tercio.

To the casual outsider, La Liga exists as a fierce and epic battle between two clubs: Real Madrid and Barcelona. As if El Classico weren’t enough to keep people’s attention, last year’s race between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to the top of the scoring list was spectacular. Part of what made this race so magical was that it was a microcosm of the athletic, the religious, and the political battle between the historically advantaged Real Madrid (represented by the impossibly good looking Ronaldo) and the precise, genius futbol of Barcelona (represented by little Messi).

And if you heard or read anything about soccer last season, you probably recognize that whole first paragraph as some recycled version of someone else’s story. Yes, it’s exciting to watch two captains of industry go at it week in and week out and then to have the crazy finish they did between the league and non-league stretch they played last Spring. Yes, YouTube is littered with videos like the one linked above showing goal after mind-blowing goal that you can watch until blood is shooting from your eyes to your laptop, phone, iPad, etc.

But for me and probably a few of you, watching that battle was a bit like playing FIFA on its Amateur setting. There is definitely something cathartic about putting together a dream team and watching it steam roll the landscape. And while historic campaigns like the 2010-11 are great PR directed toward the outer fringes of the La Liga and general futbol fan base, it just doesn’t do it for me anymore.

Maybe it’s all of those years of playing video games on the wrong difficulty level just to build confidence that I can carry into the outside world. Maybe it’s my nearly obsessive proclivity toward avoiding the bandwagon, the popular, or the otherwise widely known and appreciated. But if La Liga is going to hold my attention this season I’ll need some kind of alt-choice – something to make my hipster soccer friends jealous.

The Aguero Show has now departed....

For the last few seasons that choice has been easy – Sergio Agüero. He’s talented at a level that could only be scientifically described as “bonkers”, has a tattoo written in a language invented by Tolkien, and is married to Diego Maradona’s daughter.

Agüero was the obvious choice to crown as the Third Wheel of the Spanish League. He scored 20 goals last season – second only to Ronaldo and Messi – and had essentially set up camp in every soccer writer’s transfer headlines all season long. Even with all of that press he was still flying just under the radar of most soccer fans because he played on a team that rarely, if ever, is shown on ESPN or The Deuce.

And then it happened. The siren’s song of petrodollars could only be held off for so long. At the end of July, Kun Agüero was tapped to be the next in what will probably be a long line of stars to watch from the sidelines of the City of Manchester (errrrr Etihad) Stadium as other, more star-y stars run around the pitch–hey folks, let’s be honest, that was Swansea and that could still happen.

The alt-dream was over. A million hipster hearts were broken and my knock-off Atlético Madrid shirt was declared ‘totaled’ and sold for scrap parts. The dream had died.

But of course, he wasn’t the only player in La Liga to score 20 goals last season. There was in actuality, a fourth wheel that worked quietly and efficiently to crash the talent party in La Liga last year.

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The Beautiful Game: It’s Not Really About “On” The Pitch

The Beautiful Game series explores how soccer makes a difference around the globe.

Been a very emotional week here at TSG and we are tardy in following up on our The Beautiful Game series.

Good news this month….the super touching Freddy Fund is about to break ground on their field–that story…is…amazing.

A phenomenal video below done to support youth soccer by Nick Butler, an 18 year old who attends West Hills Community College in Lemoore, CA.

Below that, a list of fine charities. Click around, donate, “like” their Facebook pages.

They are all truly…transformative.

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Please support these heroes:

» Street Soccer USA

Right Now: The Homeless World Cup starts Sunday in Paris (Definitely need to follow this.)

About: Ending homelessness through sports

Social: Twitter, Facebook, More.

Story on TSG.

» (Boston) URGENT: The 24-Hour Barefoot Soccer Fundraiser

Date: August 19, 2011.

About: Help to fight AIDS in Africa.

» Little Feet in conjunction with the American Outlaws

About: Delivering soccer balls and hope all around the globe.

Story on TSG.

» Soccer Without Borders

About: Using soccer as a vehicle for change in the lives of marginalized youth.

Social: Twitter, Facebook

» Soccer For The Cure

About: Support to cure breast cancer

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TSG encourages you to add your charity, ANY charity in the comment section below. Thank you.

Oh and these guys are going to a great job with the true Beautiful Game.

You Know FIFA? Duh. UEFA? Check. What About The ECA?

Editor’s note: This is the first piece for The Shin Guardian from Joshua Wells. Joshua is an attorney and was editor of his law review. He’ll be broadly looking at the administrative side of soccer from legality through business practices.

Ever seen this logo before?

Welcome to TSG Josh!

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If you go to UEFA.com and make a few clicks of the mouse, eventually you’ll find a link with the title “Stakeholders.”

On the right hand side of the page is a column with the title “Supporting Documentation.”  The first document in the list is one with the benign title of “Memorandum of Understanding Between UEFA and ECA.”  This is a document that most football fans have never even heard of, but it could be the most important document in world football.

Any football fan knows what UEFA is, but you might not know what the ECA is.  Formed upon the dissolution of the G-14 in January 2008, the European Club Association (ECA) is an association of 197 European football clubs, with at least one club from each of the 53 European football associations.  The purpose of the ECA is ostensibly to represent the interests of all European clubs in the football halls of power.  Truth be told, the ECA represents nine members, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Bayern Munich, while paying small tribute to the idea that the little guys matter.

The Memorandum of Understanding was entered into between the ECA and UEFA on January 21, 2008.  Without it, it could be said that there would be no Champions League, Europa League, European Championships, or World Cup.  Among other things, the Memorandum of Understanding provides that members of the ECA will honor the international schedule set by FIFA, will release their players to play in international fixtures, and will participate in the Champions and Europa Leagues.  The Memorandum of Understanding will expire on July 31, 2014, and there is a very real chance that it will not be renewed, throwing the world of football into chaos.

FIFA’s last round of World Cup site selections and the presidential election were so steeped in corruption, ineptitude, and hubris that support among the public for FIFA is at an all time low.  In years past, the ECA could not expect for the public to sit quietly and abide a decision to abandon FIFA and UEFA.  Now, the average football fan is begging for anybody to stick it to FIFA, even if it means the end of international football as we know it.

The former player...now chairman...

ECA Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has been quick to take advantage of Blatter’s ineptitude and Michel Platini’s unwillingness to speak out against FIFA’s corruption.  On July 27, 2011, Rummenigge was quoted as saying, “Sepp Blatter is saying [that he's cleaning up shop] but the fact that no one believes him tells you everything you need to know. I’m not optimistic because they believe the system is working perfectly as it is. It’s a money machine, World Cup after World Cup, and, for them, that’s more important than serious and clean governance.

“It is a nice game but is decided by people who are corrupt. I am not ready to accept the system as it is and I am not alone. I am asking for transparency, balance and democracy in governing bodies like FIFA and UEFA. I don’t accept any longer that we [should be] guided by people who are not serious and clean. Now is the moment to intervene, because knowing something is wrong is an obligation to change.”

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