Archive for August, 2011

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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DP’ing: MLS Signs Eddie Johnson

EJ juggled himself through Europe, now back to the States.

Eddie Johnson, back to MLS.

MLS VP Todd Durbin on a conference call earlier announced that Johnson will head back to the US domestic league and go through the normal allocation order to be assigned to a team.

Johnson returns after a foray overseas that saw him yo-yo in and out of Fulham’s reserve squad and some time in the 18, with jaunts to the Championship–most recently Preston North End–and to Aris with Freddy Adu.

Chivas USA–who traded for Juan Pablo Angel yesterday–are up first in the allocation. Should they pass it would then go Houston Dynamo, Toronto FC, Chicago Fire, and Sporting KC.

Where does EJ go? Who should he go to?

Our two cents: Let’s hope this isn’t an unfair contract for a player that couldn’t secure work overseas.

Caveating The Whole “No Foreign Coach Has Won A World Cup” Thing

Foreigh coach? So what.... (Photo credit: Matt Mathai)

Data collaborators on this piece include: Jacob Chambliss, Gregorio, Robert Jonas, Luke Sandblom, Matthew Acconciamessa, Calvin Paquette, Garrett Tozier, Jonathan Stein

Please support: The Others May Live Foundation, The NorthStar Soccer Club

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As you’ve heard countless times at The Shin Guardian, one of our favorite expressions is, “You can’t look at an observation in isolation, you need to look at the whole body of work.”

A heady and applicable statement when evaluating two-goal Conor Casey games in San Pedro Sula, Robbie Findley at Nottingham Forest, and Edgar Castillo at leftback last week.

Happel: Going where no foreign coach has went since....

A sister expression to the aforementioned might as well be, “Blanket statements are fun for media distribution, but the underlying story doesn’t always match.”

A great example here may be, “Michael Bradley has won playing time every club he’s went to.” Of course, that generalization came to abrupt end with Michael Bradley’s abbreviated tenure at Aston Villa.

Previously Bradley had been with a mere three clubs (a small number of observations), the defunct MLS MetroStars (where his father was the coach), Heerenveen (where he started), and Borussia Mönchengladbach
where he again started.

Bradley’s tenure with Aston Villa came to end after failing to win a single starting role in league competition.

But does that tell the story? Bradley from eye witness accounts was considered a step slow for the Prem (true or untrue), but was the Junior Bradley the victim of a numbers game, a new manager, a casualty of the homegrown rule or did ‘Gladbach
ask for too much for Bradley? Should Bradley be considered a C – C+ player now because he earned a starting spot at three out of now four pitstops?

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Selected Images: USA vs. Mexico; Klinsmann Debuts

For those new to TSG, Matt Mathai is a our resident photographer.

His story and affiliation with US Soccer and MLS is deep; you can check it out here.

Matt’s nickname–”Hansel Adams”–around the TSG Hall is one part Zoolander (Hansel…so hot) and two parts, well, Ansel Adams. Take a look–again–at Mathai f-stopping his way through last Wednesday USA vs. Mexico match-up in Philadelphia.

Update: If you’re on Twitter and like Matt’s work, do a solid and RT this: http://twitter.com/#!/shinguardian/status/103493511625719809

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