The Weekend Preview: The Winners….& “The Departed”

We had such a radical time with last week’s Point Break-style weekend preview that we’re back for more.

This time, we drop science with Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” an appropriate-themed movie as the MLS season turns to Fall and teams start tumbling out off the playoff ladder and into the offseason.

Who will become the The Departed in the MLS playoff race this weekend?

Truth be told, we wanted to use another Beantown cops-and-robbers flick here, the underrated and under-appreciated Ben Affleck vehicle “The Town,” but the dialogue just doesn’t crank up the sarcasm and pithy character-count that we needed to make a preview go around. (Note: “The Town…should easily have taken down a few awards last year in an Oscar’s season when “The King’s Speech”–a solid if ultimately unspectacular movie–won Best Picture.)

Let’s stay on point. Always a challenge for the TSG crew.

This week, we go with “The Departed,” a 2006 remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film “Internal Affairs.”

“The Departed” pits Irish mob boss Frank Costello, played by Jack Nicholson, against an undercover cop who infiltrates his gang, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio). Matt Damon plays police rat Colin Sullivan–a mixed-up grab bag of swashbuckling cop bravado, blood-brother sellout, Costello order taker–with near perfect pace to complete the criminal triangle. Sullivan’s and Costigan’s search for the rat in the other unit runs parallel throughout the drama.

“The Departed” is also the third film of four that Martin Scorsese has cast one-time heart throb Leonardo DiCaprio in the leading role (1: The Gangs of New York, 2: The Aviator, 4: Shutter Island.) and is widely considered their best collaboration as Scorsese brought surrounded DiCaprio with his most talent to date in Nicholson and Damon.

Heiress to the Meg Ryan throne?

By the way, if Matt Damon were a footie player, he’d be Dirk Kuyt, a superstar that blends into the background and nails any role he’s tasked with.  Scorer, passer, defender, linker, etc.

Oh, and can’t mention “The Departed” without the object of affection, Vera Farmiga. Farmiga was on track to quietly become the Meg Ryan-girl-next-door of her her generation–only she has more talent and more ambition. Farmiga just finished directing her first movie.

On to our preview we go as MLS teams begin to depart the playoff race:

FRIDAY:

MLS:

• Match-up: The Union head southwest in a big-time showdown with the Sporting Wizards of Kansas City.

Costello: I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.

We open our preview column with an excerpt from the opening monologue of Nicholson’s Frank Costello which sets the stage for the movie in a voiceover with historic shots of the growth of the downtrodden proletariat in Boston.

Head up, Freddy boy....

Freddy Adu.

Yes the writer sheepishly and slowly writing that name, he’s the same one that penned this column too.

6 games played, 4 started, 1 goal, 351 minutes, 7 shots, 1 on goal.

Got to be honest, after the Gold Cup flair we saw, I expected Freddy to #Aduit a little more, didn’t you?

Now it’s off to a major contest (between two teams that could face each other in the first round of the playoffs) in Kansas City for Peter Nowak’s Union. It should be an upbeat and free flowing game; precisely the type of game where Adu should excel.

Big test of worth here for Adu.

With more on Adu, LeToux and the Union, we turn over this segment to the experts on all things in and around the Liberty Bell, Adam Cann from the Philly Soccer Page:

Current Real Salt Lake assistant coach CJ Brown said that when he played on the Chicago Fire with Peter Nowak, his goal was to win the ball and get it to Nowak. Over and over. One imagines Nowak expects Freddy Adu to play the same way: Demanding the ball, moving it, dictating the action. Instead, Adu has been more like Colin Sullivan, Costello’s BPD plan: Hiding in plain sight.

It ain’t easy going back to your old ‘hood. After learning to pass, move, and hold possession in Europe, Adu joins a Philadelphia team that has a predilection for the vertical direction. To see Freddy Adu in the Union offense is to see the undercover Costigan run with Costello’s gang–he goes through the motions, but his motivation and heart are completely alternative.

Against Kansas City, Adu needs to go “method.” Time to access that inner Brando and accept a few Union truisms: 1) Sebastien Le Toux is running. Usually forward. Kick it to him. 2) If Sheanon Williams passes you on the right at full speed: Kick it to him. 3) If Sheanon isn’t there, there is no width. Draw a foul or do something special. 4) You and Roger Torres play on the same team. Be assured that passing to each other has been approved at the highest levels of management. 5) Demand the ball. You haven’t done much with it yet but if you don’t do this there is really no justification for having Freddy Adu on the field.

Many expected Freddy Adu to knock Roger Torres down the pecking order. Instead, Torres has flourished since Adu’s arrival and Freddy will need to work with the young Colombian if the Union expect to survive a tough road match against a talented KC team. and talented KC team.

Big stakes for Adu Friday night in the Land of Livestrong.

———-

SATURDAY:

EPL:

The supporting actors are half the fun in "The Departed"

• Match-up: The Chelsea of the EPL drop the drawbridge and welcome the Barca of the EPL, Swansea City.

Staff Sargent Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) enters for his second scene in the movie–he’s called in at the request of Captain Ellerby (Alec Baldwin) to brief the feds on the status of the “microprocessor case” against Costello. Dignam works with Captain Olivier McQueenan (Martin Sheen) in the state deep undercover division.

Ellerby: Go f*ck yourself.
Dignam: I’m tired from f*cking your wife.
Ellerby: How is your mother?
Dignam: Good, she’s tired from f*cking my father.

Same old Chelsea powerhouse?

Perhaps the most fascinating match Saturday in the Barclays.

Folks thought I was too harsh on Chelsea as they looked a step late all day against Manchester United last Saturday.

While I think that Villa-Boas’s system is more profound than Scolari’s or Ancelotti’s….and takes some getting used to, the Chelsea midfield (and yes John Terry too) cannot hide its awful performance. They were sloppy on defensive organization, negligent in man-marking and lacking ideas in the attack on Sunday.

Part of that is Chelsea being a work-in-progress, but the other part is still lacking that #10.

Why couldn't Arteta wear Chelsea blue?

You have to wonder with the sale of Benayoun and subsequent purchase of Raul Mereiles from Liverpool if they didn’t miss this past transfer season with not making a serious bid for Mikel Arteta–a move that would have disrupted a major London-based competitor and one that would have strengthened them in the middle of the pitch.

Arteta is not a true #10 and excels when playing from deep in the midfield,  but might he just have been the perfect replacement for Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge?

Chelsea should play with a vengeance this weekend and win, but the match-up against the possession-oriented Swansea City should be of the edge-of-the-seat nature.

———-

The conclusion of Dignam’s scene….

• Match-up: Manchester City looks to crunch down on some sweet Toffees

FBI Agent Lazio: Without asking for too many details, do you have anyone in with Costello presently?
Staff Sgt. Dignam: Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe f*ck yourself.

Best part about this scene? Lazio by the way. Yeah, he’s played by Robert Wahlberg, Marky Mark’s real-life brother.

Outstanding!

One blood brother telling another brother to “go f*ck himself” on the big screen. Think they use that around the dinner table at Thanksgiving time?

Robert: “Hey Mark, mind grabbing me a beer from the kitchen?”

Mark: “Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe f*ck yourself.”

Meanwhile City is staring straight across the Manchester horizon at United at flipping them the bird as they continue to stride towards superclub status. Not a good week for United.

News earlier this week that Manchester United’s plans to raise $1B on the Singapore Exchange has hit a snag: the volatile world markets.

Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

What really shouldn’t sit well with the Old Trafford faithful is this, Manchester City’s plan to create a Dubai-sized footie factory that is at once beyond ambitious and beyond incredulous. 80-acres, $100M of development, right in Manchester.

Real traction here for the UEFA Financial Fair Play rules, no?

Oh, Manchester City will play a downtrodden Everton this weekend who haven’t bought a player in two years. Everton may put up a fight in this one, but in the long run it doesn’t look good down south for the Bluenosers.

———

Proudly...

• Match-up: The Potters hope for an angelic result at home against the Red Devils

Colin Sullivan: What Freud said about the Irish is: We’re the only people who are impervious to psychoanalysis.

—-

As the MLB season winds down, Cubbies fans have a reason to be jealous….

What did Freud say about the Stoke City Potters’ fans: They’re the only people who are impervious to 150 years of pain!

Stoke City loyalists stand up everywhere. Right now, your club–yes, your club–is 5th in the Premiership.

More so, the Potters’ pinstripes are bobbing and weaving in Europa League this year and Wednesday they went toe-to-toe with Tottenham Hotspur, emerging with a penalty kick win to move on in the Carling Cup!

So what if Sunderland gave them a beat down (4-0) last week. Life is good!

Born in 1863, the Potters after almost 150 years popped up from Championship-level obscurity last year and now appear to be at the absolute zenith of their football club.

How long will that zenith last? Why’d you have to go and do that.

Stoke City sees Wayne Rooney and crew come off that demolishing of Chelsea. I expect Stoke to be up for this game and despite their Spurs clash on Thursday put up a fight.

———-

Frenchie pulling Costigan off....

.

• Match-up: The Cannons welcome the Wanderers to Highbury, Emirates.

Mr. French: Do you know me?
Costigan: No. No.
Mr. French: Well, I’m the guy who tells you there’s guys you can hit and guys you can’t. Now, that’s not quite a guy you can’t hit, but he’s almost a guy you can’t hit. So I’m gonna make a fuckin’ ruling on this right now: you don’t fucking hit him. You understand?
Costigan: Yeah, excellent. Fine, fine. Fine.

Costello’s #2 Mr. French, played by The Proposition’s Ray Winstone, scolds Costigan for hitting a nearly-made guy as he feels him out for a possible introduction into the crew. (Note: The Proposition is #1 on the TSG fave movie list. Watch it.)

Arsene Wenger not quite a guy you can hit just yet…and for good reason.

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis on BBC on his manager this week:

“Arsene Wenger is not broken,” Gazidis told the BBC. “To see him portrayed as an idiot is damaging – not to him or the club but to the game. [Sacking him] is a route we are not going to go down.”

With more and more clubs just pouring money into scouting and looking deeper and deeper to find the talent, all of the “value buys” that Arsenal made in the 2000’s are over. Nearly every club is on to them there. If you haven’t read it, check out the manner in which Chicharito was procured by Manchester United.

In terms of retaining talent, now a thinner-pocketed Arsenal needs to contend with the heavyweights of PSG (Ligue1), Malaga (La Liga) and Manchester City (EPL) in order to keep the talent once they’ve got it.

It’s not rocket science and Wenger doesn’t deserve to be sacked….but something does need to change at Arsenal or it’s only a matter of time until the surname “Kroenke” joins the surnames of “Hicks” and “Gillette” on the hatred scale.

But hey, Wenger and folks? They’re still trying.

—-

MLS:

———-

Dignam about to go ballistic...again...

• Match-up: The New York Red Bulls look to chop up the momentum and stonewall the Timbers at home.

After a serious f*ck-up with positioning cameras during a stolen microprocessor transaction, Costello’s gang gets away scott-free because the technician of the stakeout failed to install cameras in the back of the warehouse where the deal was going down.

Dignam explodes on the technician.

Dignam: This is unbelievable. Who put the fuckin’ cameras in this place?
Police Camera Tech: Who the fuck are you?
Dignam: I’m the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy.

More Dignam for you.

As I write this Wednesday evening one hour after the Red Bulls competed participated in a home game against Real Salt Lake that they ultimately conceded 3-1, Hans Backe still has a job. It’s one hour too long.

In sports, tactics or stats–something tangible–usually can be found to explain the outcome. The intangibles–the soft facts–are often secondary are complementary to the primary hard data.

Not in this case. That the Red Bulls came out and immediately spotted Real Salt Lake is inexcusable for a team in a playoff race.

More so, it’s inexcusable for a team full of veterans.

"The other guy"

The Red Bulls were not prepared to play Wednesday night. More so, they didn’t seize the initiative….something a team fighting for their playoffs life has to do.

There’s no other solution then to fire the coach in that situation for a team like the Red Bulls. This isn’t a youthful team that surprisingly finds themselves in the race. It’s also not a has been team which is creaking to the finish.

No, this is a team that was supposed to challenged for the MLS Cup, more so the Supporters Shield.

Meanwhile the Portland Timbers “did their job” Wednesday night, sending the Earthquakes back south to California with a point to show for their trip. P-Town should have won at home, but like a baseball starter who doesn’t have his “good stuff,” the Timbers should seemed sluggish from the outset.

The point pings Rose City into the 10th and final spot as they travel cross country to face New York.

This is the last gasp for the Red Bulls. For Portland, they need to prove that they can win on the road. They’ve got a sterling 1-8-4 record in that department currently.

For the Red Bulls, they need to….this is it. This is now on the players. With Backe’s motivation and oversight clearly useless, it’s all about pride.

———-

Costigan

• Match-up: Will the Whitecaps “blow” strong against the Highlighters?

Billy Costigan: [referring to Costello] Do you want him to chop me up and feed me to the poor, huh, is that what you want?

Tense in-car scene from the movie where Costigan is breaking at being under too long–fearing for his safety–while Captain McQuennan pleads for him to stay under longer to build the case.

Sort of like Seattle skipper Sigi Scmid failing to rest Mauro Rosales last week against DC United after the result was already tabulated. #Fail.

C'mon Sigi!

We all know what happened then.

United’s Daniel Woolard played sore loser and sent this message to the Sounders–by way of Rosales:

“United are not a team that is going to take a 3-0 defeat lightly. We’re going to senselessly injury somebody because we are embarrassed.”

Rosales? He’s three to four weeks with MCL strain. [Hey, you see that bullet go whizzing passed?]

Okay, here’s some changes I think that MLS should make it’s matches to avoid injuries such as the pointless one last week.

» Spirit of the law, rather than the letter of the law: If a team is up by more than two goals in stoppage time, and the losing team commits a yellow card foul, that player is suspended for the next match. Ref’s discretion.

Will it help to avoid ? Maybe, maybe not. However, it will be another step in “attempting” to send a message that reckless challenges will be dealt with. If Brian Mullan gets 10 games earlier this year on Zakuani, shouldn’t United’s Daniel Woolard get at least one. Seems fair.

»If a player commits a foul within two minutes of having suffered a foul, it’s an automatic yellow card. Ref’s discretion.

Appending the “Ref’s discretion” is always dicey, but it’s like when you break up with girlfriend here who you really knew it wasn’t the one. The first day you miss here, but a week out? You’re pitching back beers and taking names (& numbers).

Same here, let the player cool down first.

» If a goalie follows through on a punch and connects with the head of a striker on a 50-50 ball or whatever, it’s a yellow card.

I realize this one should be controversial, but consider this. In the NHL, there is a “roughing penalty” described merely as:

Pushing and shoving after the whistle has been blown or checking an opponent with the hands in his face.

In soccer you have two players bearing down on the ball, one who may and often does lead with their head in the hopes of striking the ball the other a player who is allowed to use his hands and and “punch” through the ball.

That’s…insane. Sure most of us grew up playing that way, but a keeper–at high levels–is taught to coral a ball and avoid a second chance opportunity. Punching situations are infrequent–maybe two a game.

By creating this role, it will actually create safer play by encouraging the keeper to stay in the crease and not risk injury in full flight in a melee of players.

There’s nothing else to say about this match. Vancouver is terrible; they’ve got some work to do this offseason or it’s going to be a terrible end to the Jay DeMerit Story.

———-

Madolyn & Sargent Sullivan the beginning of a beau...a relationship.

• Match-Up: The Galaxy to Abercrombie & Fitchville USA to face the Crew

Madolyn: Here, this is my card.
Colin Sullivan: Nah, I don’t need that. I’m a detective. I’ll find you.
[elevator door begins to close; Colin reaches out]
Colin Sullivan: No, I’m just kidding, I need the card.

Keane on being active up top....

That abstract work over there on the right should be visual ice cream to Los Angeles Galaxy fans.

The Jackson Pollack of that chalkboard is Robbie Keane who has been precisely what the Galaxy have been missing all season, as charming as a puff-chested and hotshot Sargent Sullivan’s winning over Vera Farmiga’s Madolyn in the elevator to inaugurate his courtship.

Keane’s “line” last week against the Whitecaps: 19 for 24 in distribution situations, making himself available in multiple locations, the purple lines representing 14 times he on defenders (though he was less successful here with 8 turnovers).

Regardless a three-word description of Keane’s work? Active. Active. Active.

Want to know why Mike Magee is going to remain in the top-20 in the Castrol Index for the rest of the year? Keane’s your answer.

A good test on the road for Los Angeles when they face the Chad Marshall-less, but the more defensively-disciplined Crew on Saturday.

———-

SUNDAY

• Match-up: Villians huff it over to Queens Park to face the Rangers

EPL:

Ellerby: Queenan is dead. I’m your boss now.
Dignam: I don’t give a fuck, I’d rather hand in my papers first.
Ellerby: World needs plenty of bartenders – two weeks, with pay!

As Costigan’s and Sullivan’s worlds begin to unravel, Dignam wants blood for the death of his boss, Captain Oliver McQueenan who was throne off a roof by Costello’s henchmen.

Guzan The Villian? Not really. The 2nd and 3rd in the current trilogy have been thumbs down. (Courtesy The Offsides Rules)

Brad Guzan could maybe use a little Dignam zeal, no?

Guzan has been with Aston Villa since the the 2008-2009 season. Probably has a handful or double-digit Premiership starts under his belt.

Uh, nope.

Not a single one.

That’s amazing. He did trot out once for a beating against Liverpool, but that was only after first-teamer Brad Friedel got chased with a red card.

Anoter note: He did play 16 games last year for Hull on loan from Villa in the Championship.

But at some point it has to be asked, just what is Guzan’s motivation. Surely a 27-year-old keeper should be thinking about pushing his career at this point, no? Will Guzan actually weight until 35-year-old first-teamer Shay Given heads down to the pub in three or four years. That would make Guzan 31 and in the prime of a goalie’s career, but still isn’t that a long time to wait with many variables?

Unless Guzan has a fantastic Matt Cassells of dawning of age (wait, that’s not looking so good now is it?), his career will be perhaps the most perplexing one for a US national abroad since Ante Razov.

The Villians head down to Queens Park to face Joe Barton and the motley Rangers.

———-

MLS:

• Match-up: Chicago Fire meet-up with New England in the “I couldn’t of been a contender” Cup.

Frank Costello: Who let this IRA motherfucker in my bar?
[the man looks startled]
Frank Costello: [laughs] Only kidding. How’s your mother?
Man in Costello’s Bar: Oh… I’m afraid she’s on her way out.
Frank Costello: [walks away] We all are. Act accordingly.
[smiles and his straightens tie]

Can’t have a column quoting The Departed and not mention Beantown and the Kraft-kateers.

[Extends 10-foot pole]

This quote above just works on so many levels.

Goodnight to your season that never was Revs & Fire. Quick question, how are the Revs feeling about having Feilhaber on the books for $350 for two more seasons?

———-

SERIE A

• The Match-Up: A Yank in Serie A. The second match for Michael Bradley as Chievo Verona face Genoa

Billy Costigan: Frank, how many of these guys have been with you long enough to be disgruntled, huh? Think about it. You don’t pay much, you know. It’s almost a fuckin’ feudal enterprise. The question is, and this is the only question, who thinks that they can do what you do better than you?
Frank Costello: The only one that can do what I do is me. Lot of people had to die for me to be me. You wanna be me?
Billy Costigan: I probably could be you, yeah. Yeah, I know that much. But I don’t wanna be you, Frank. I don’t wanna be you
Frank Costello: Heavy lies the crown… sort of thing.

Nicholson being Nicholson in this scene with his facial expression owning the rat impersonation as Costello attempts to flush out the rat in his crew through a carefully weighted and frightening dialogue. The scene crescendos with Costigan reasoning with Costello that the responsibility of running the show–if he were the one considering to knock off Frank–is too much to carry and not worth it.

The crown is off Michael Bradley too on the national team and he’ll likely be a better player for it.

On to Serie A’s Chievo, Bradley came out firing Wednesday. Can’t really ask for a better starting debut in Serie A these days than dropping upstart darling Napoli?

Now it’s on to Genoa Sunday for the cake makers.

Junior, strong in his debut...

[Non-sequitur]

A few weeks ago on Twitter, I hypothesized that the team I’d least like to come face-to-face with in a dark alley were the Ghana Black Stars.

The volatile Kevin Prince-Boateng, the recently declared national and Arsenal hitman Eric Frimpong and buffalo soldier Michael Essien are probably not guys you want to throw down with minus a lifeline.

Then–our Michael Bradley connection here–I starting thinking, “Well, if I had to choose from a recent grouping of USMNT players to be with me in a dark alley who would they be?”

My first thought went right to Junior Bradley; he of the Eric Wynalda and referee run-ins and the “I’m ready to fight you if you even so much as insult my best friend’s uncle’s brother.”

But then I thought, well, what about diffusing the situation. Maybe young Bradley is not the right way to go.

So here’s what I came up with, a set of criteria and likely scenario of what goes down if 10 different players and I were walking in a dark alley and came across a crew ready to drop us. Our own personal “Among The Thugs.”

My criteria: They had to be able to handle themselves and handle at least one other person. They wouldn’t go running the other way. They had to use the right tact to avoid a physical altercation if possible, knowing full well that diplomacy was a difficult road to hoe.

10. Conor Casey:

Here’s what we wrote about Conor Casey earlier this year when he was our nominee for the fictional “Dema Kovalenko Most Annoying Player of the Year” award.

So I watched this one player last year against the Earthquakes nearly the entire game. I watched him trip a player when he was down, throw elbows, yell at his teammates when he was frustrated and only get motivated in small stretches. All the more baffling because, despite the stereotypes associated to him, he’s a pretty good player. His name is Conor Casey.

Likely scenario: Casey can fight dirty with the best of him, but I’ve got a niggling inkling that he might be a flight risk as well.

9. Brian McBride:

The quintessential professional. And we always will know he can take a punch.

The only worry about McBride is that he may be too much of a gentleman to engage in dark arts of the dark alley.

Likely scenario: McBride and I get a beatdown, but after enough knocks the former Fulham star comes alive and becomes the true striker that is needed.

8. Jermaine Jones

Jones looks menacing with his tats. And his German accent is sure to both freak foes out and frighten them at the same time.

Likely scenario: Just like in the 2010 Gold Cup 2011 Gold Cup, it’s going to take a number of missed punches from the German and the reception of dirty tricks to get his going. Hopefully by that time it’s not too late.

Pablo....

7. Pablo Mastroeni:

The original disruptor in the middle of the pitch. Mastroeni, long before Michael Bradley, could be considered to try and earn his first yellow of the match.

A kicker.

A scratcher.

An all-out hustler who relished the dirty work, rather than be one that was reluctantly resolved to it–ironic considering his Argentine upbringing.

Likely scenario: You’d get knocked around with the Mastroeni in the dark alley, but–if you and he could take the fight to the ground–survival chances increase dramatically.

I'm sorry...did this picture REALLY happen. Look at this picture--I know this is a tough guy segment--but look at this picture and tell me it shouldn't have been Mastoeni--not Bradley--who was the first American in Serie A after Alexi Lalas....

6. Frankie Hedjuk

The Iron Lion Zion. Hedjuk is US Soccer’s zen master and original white rastafarian all in one. Are you still prostrating, Kyle Beckerman.

He could dish a little “love” at the opponent on the pitch, but was all too happy to try and mend fences as well.

Likely scenario: Hedjuk, is he doesn’t freelance as he occassionally like to do at fullback, can likely “Hey, Bra” talk his way out of the situation.

5. Clint Dempsey

Surprised he’s this high on the list, you shouldn’t be. when Bobby Zamora got illegablly taken out in Barclays play in 2010, Dempsey was in his face. In fact, Dempsey is pretty much in anyone’s face after a rough tackle on either his person or them.

Need more? 2004, Dempsey plays two games with a broken draw. You try that without a facemask Anquan Boldin. 2006, Dempsey is suspended

Alas, Dempsey would be higher…but he has a family now.

Likely scenario: Clint jaws at the individual and instills enough caution to make the thugs back down. That’s a 50-50 shot there though.

4. Oguchi Onyewu:

Time was the Oguchi Onyewu would have been hands down on this list, but two things have changed. One a balky knee that is one buckling kick away from relegating Onyewu strictly to his fists to provide back-up.

Two, Onyewu is a more mature player these days.

Add those two developments to a God-fearing man and it’s not exactly the recipe for fisticuffs.

But who can forget….the stare?

Likely scenario: Gooch attempts to invoke the Luke 6:29, but the thugs have none of it and then he engages them lightly, holding them at bay like Fezic in the Princess Bride while allowing yours truly to dart for safety the other way.

3. Michael Bradley

It’s basically going down with Michael if he’s backing you up. No questions asked; none answered.

Likely scenario: Bradley goes absolute ballistic on everyone at the same time with flying roundhouse kicks, eye gouges and a kitchen sink of tricks that you know he practices with pops before than 20-mile run in the morning when he’s on vacation in California.

2. Eric Lichaj:

He’s been dubbed “The Big Nasty” on TSG and though he plays defense, he goes on the offensive in punishing would-be attackers that get in his way.

If anything, it’s Lichaj’s physical nature in addition to his skills that has kept him on Aston Villa’s backline radar.

Likely scenario: He’s with you to the end, but not talking his way out of it–read our interview from earlier this year, the guy’s curt and means business to say the least.

1. Jay DeMerit:

Clocking in at #1 Jay DeMerit is your perfect story of protection in a dark alley, pub, etc.

First, he’s a seasoned international and, having bartended some of way as he came up the ranks in England, probably had to diffuse quite a bit of Boddington’s-induced scuffles.

Likely scen”ario: At the first hint of trouble, DeMerit steps in and is able to win over-talk his way out of the potential hostile situation. Sort of like a Vince Vaughn buddying up to the Valley hoods in Swingers” thing.

Others considered: Carlos Bocanegra, Eddie Pope, Zack Thornton, Jimmy Conrad, Brian Ching, Ricardo Clark, Danny Califf, Bob Bradley

Didn’t cross our minds: Landon Donovan, Robbie Rogers, Sacha Kljestan, Jose Torres

—-

Okay…it may be time to wrap this thing up now…..

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54 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by EFG on 2011/09/22 at 6:40 AM

    I think the possibility of Bradley starting on Sunday is about 20:80. I’m guessing he mainly got the nod on Wednesday due to it being the club’s second match out of three over the span of a week. I’d expect Kamil Vacek back in his normal role on the right side of midfield. That being said, based on what I’ve seen, Michael Bradley has earned more minutes.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/09/22 at 6:53 AM

      I think you’re right. But a great start for a player whose stock was free-falling since the summer.

      Reply

      • Posted by EFG on 2011/09/22 at 7:18 AM

        No disagreements here on that point.

        Reply

      • Posted by Jared on 2011/09/22 at 7:44 AM

        I wasn’t that impressed by Bradley performance for Chievo on Wednesday. He got beat regularly by Zuniga (although I’m not entirely sure why he was left on his own in basically the right back position over and over again even when the right back wasn’t caught upfield) and was lucky that Zuniga would pretty much just blast away as soon as he had beaten MB.

        It was good to see him get the start. He was very active for them as well and was more effective passing the ball than he seems to be with the USMNT.

        Reply

    • Posted by tnnelson on 2011/09/22 at 9:17 AM

      I don’t agree. I can’t remember where I saw it but I read some post-match comments from his manager and they were very, very flattering. Sounded like a little league father praising his son, didn’t have a bad word to say about him

      Reply

      • Posted by Jared on 2011/09/22 at 10:01 AM

        Neither did the Villa assistant manager. I watched the whole match and he wasn’t as great as the comments from his manager. Even the commentators, Janusz Michalik and the other ESPN guy were fairly critical of his play but stated that there were bright spots.

        I’m not trying to bash MB but just want people to keep it in perspective.

        Reply

        • Posted by EFG on 2011/09/22 at 10:10 AM

          I don’t think anyone is saying he lit the field on fire. Unless I’m reading the comments wrong, the general consensus is he afforded himself fairly well and for someone who’s career was at a crossroads a month ago. He should have earned a bit more faith from his manager and after the end of his tenure in Germany, I bet the praise from Di Carlo will go a long way.

          Speaking of Janusz, I’ve rarely heard him say anything positive about anyone in Serie A…

          Reply

        • Posted by Soccernst on 2011/09/22 at 9:17 PM

          I just watched the whole match. I thought he was ok. His distribution needs to be way better to lock down a starting role with Klinsmann, too many panicky longballs or loooong backpasses to reset. Additionally he pulled centrally on offense when there was little or no width on the right from either a forward or the right back. This really congested the center part of the field and encourage the verona route one approach.

          As for espn3 commentators, I really enjoy the guy who does Bundesliga solo, and the Shaka Hislop & The Scot (not Rae or Smyth) combo that do La Liga games.

          Reply

  2. Posted by Jared on 2011/09/22 at 7:46 AM

    Guzan has to move on from Villa. He’s wasting his career being a backup. Move on to a lower league if that’s what it takes but he’s gotta get out.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Crow on 2011/09/22 at 7:49 AM

    I was all ready to come on here and post why the New York Red Bulls are the Chicago Cubs of the MLS (I’m a diehard Cubs fan by the way), and here my thunder has been stolen by a 5,000 word post which INCLUDES comparisons from The Departed, a nice Union preview, AND a comparison between Stoke…. and the Chicago Cubs!

    I still think the Red Bulls=Cubs works. Both are in big markets. Red Bulls have never won anything in nearly 20 years which is ridiculous with their payroll and DP’s, how small the league is, and how easy it is to make the playoffs. We all know its been 100+ years for the Cubs. Both teams could write a book on how to waste payroll and foster no chemistry on the team. Or make a movie called Anti-Moneyball. Hans Backe looked good at first- just like Mike Quade. Both have proven to be frauds. Both teams have a young talent that should probably leave- Juan Agudelo and Starlin Castro. Rafa Marquez=Aramis Ramirez… wait actually I think Alfonso Soriano fits better. Juan Pablo Angel= Carlos Zambrano. Oh wait he plays for the Galaxy now, or the Goats.

    Oh by the way- this from Rafa Marquez after last night. And I already thought the guy was the biggest piece of basura on Earth.

    ‘During the match, he made antagonizing gestures to the crowd and after the final whistle, he made things even worse. Behold! A lesson in how to make everyone dislike you even more than they already do. From the NY Post:

    “I think this is a team game and unfortunately there isn’t an equal level between my teammates and I,” said Marquez, who gesticulated to the crowd. “I’m not paying attention to that. I’m actually focusing on my game…I’m focusing on performing at my highest performance, at the highest level. That doesn’t mean the whole back line can perform at the same level, that’s the problem.”

    Anyway,

    Matt Damon= Dirt Kuyt. Genius.

    Anyone see CJ Sapong’s “serenade” for Hope Solo?

    Reply

  4. Posted by Crow on 2011/09/22 at 7:59 AM

    BTW- I love mixing Pop culture with sports. Keep this up.

    And TSG if you could somehow successfully incorporate the Bay Area cult classic Birdemic: Shock And Terror for a Weekend preview piece, you will have won the internet.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/09/23 at 1:37 PM

      I’ve never seen that flick — what’s it about. Probably need to do a flick that either has a lot of curse words OR is widely accepted in the public domain.

      Reply

      • Posted by crow on 2011/09/23 at 8:09 PM

        http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birdemic

        I beg you to take the time to read the wiki on Birdemic. And then do yourself a favor and watch truly the worst movie ever made. Forget the acting, plot, and special effects. I can honestly say as a hobbyist in video editing who’s trying to break into the secular field, that movies I made as a 12 year old were edited better than this “movie”. It is so bad it is good. the story of the director James Nguyen is great in how he came to make movies. A Vietnamese immigrant working as a mid level software salesman in the Bay Area.

        Even if you don’t use the movie for a column you should see it. It has some of the best one-liners due to its terrible dialogue.

        Reply

  5. Posted by Crow on 2011/09/22 at 8:58 AM

    • Posted by dth on 2011/09/22 at 10:55 AM

      Leander is a very good reporter–he doesn’t deserve the flack he gets on that front. Additionally, he’s also a fairly elegant writer. He can tell a story. If he just stuck to finding interesting stories and telling them, I’d be happy with Leander.

      That said, his analysis is poor and not well thought-out.

      Reply

      • Posted by Jared on 2011/09/22 at 11:35 AM

        He also doesn’t have very thick skin when you point out that you disagree with his analysis. Any comments disagreeing with him on those live gamecasts don’t ever get put onscreen. Even if they are in no way disrespectful.

        Reply

        • Posted by dikranovich on 2011/09/22 at 11:10 PM

          not to be disagreeable with you jared, but junior is the man and he proved it against the team who could have aquired his services. it will not be long before junior is being compared to danielle de rossi. junior is a lock on the mens team, at least if coach klinsmann wants to keep his job.

          Reply

          • Posted by Jared on 2011/09/23 at 4:03 AM

            Watch that game again. If you still think he’s the man then we were watching different games. He was average at best against a second string Napoli side.

            Reply

            • Posted by dikranovich on 2011/09/23 at 6:21 AM

              jared, to be honest with you, i cant watch it again, if i have not seen it in the first place, but forget about that for a sec. juniors team wins 1-0 against napoli, i dont know, was the game home or away? are you saying junior did not have a big part in the win? its just weird to me that the coach has praise for the player which you are dissing, in spite of the fact that chievo came away with the win. i dont know, it is just strange. i guess ill let it slide, without first hand verification. but please dont tell me italians dont know their football.

            • Posted by Jared on 2011/09/23 at 6:32 AM

              I’m not saying Italians don’t know their football. I’m saying that just because a coach says good things about a player doesn’t mean that it’s true. There are plenty of times that a coach will do that just to increase the player’s confidence especially if it’s their first start with a new club.

              It was a home game against a weakened Napoli side playing without Cavani, Hamsik and Lavezzi to start including Fedeleff playing in his first game for Napoli after moving from Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina. Fedeleff made the huge mistake that led to the Chievo goal.

              Bradley was a solid performer for them but there were times when he was beaten and gave the ball away cheaply. A typical Bradley performance recently.

              I don’t know why I’m responding to you since you’re claiming that he was the man without having watched the game. At this point I think you’re either Michael or Bob Bradley posting under a pseudonym.

            • Posted by dikranovich on 2011/09/23 at 10:37 AM

              jared, i think you explained it pretty well. junior was his typical self, he got the full 90 and his team won. it was ugly, junior gave a couple balls away, whatever. the man is a player, hands down, no two ways about it. people can sugar coat their expertise anyway they like. the coach was just trying to build his confidence, blogger please!!!!! more michael bradley for everyone. whats junior, 23, 24. maybe he has already hit his peak or plataeu.

            • Posted by Crow on 2011/09/23 at 12:04 PM

              @dikranovich I don’t understand your last comment- “more michael bradley for everyone. whats junior, 23, 24. maybe he has already hit his peak or plataeu.” Do you have mixed feelings on Bradley or are you supporting him???

              My opinion is Bradley may have hit his ceiling in the World Cup (in which he was one of the best players on the team) but he has fallen since then. His touches and decisions on the ball were much more positive during the World Cup than they have been in his more recent USMNT games. He hasn’t played regularly for a club in nearly a year, so he needs to have a regular run of form before he becomes an automatic starter.

              Also, I don’t think he fits in with JK’s system as much as Bob’s, just like players at other positions- Charlie Davies for example.

              I think the general feeling among the fan base was that Maurice Edu and especially Michael Bradley were going to develop into “world class” midfielders (remember the Arsenal and Manchester United talk), but it does not look like they will.

              It looks like if Bradley is going to want a spot on the team, he is going to need to earn that #6 role, which he might well do. I love the guy’s work rate and passion, but he still has many critical flaws in his game and it seems like he has always been decent at everything but not excellent at anything. Maybe he can settle into a certain role and niche with his new club and then for country.

          • Posted by EFG on 2011/09/23 at 7:06 AM

            Michael Bradley will never, EVER be compared to Daniele De Rossi in any sort of logical, fair and balanced comparison. That’s not a knock against Bradley but he just isn’t the same caliber player as De Rossi.

            One area that Bradley does have an advantage is that he can keep his elbows to himself.

            Reply

  6. Posted by jwrandolph on 2011/09/22 at 9:22 AM

    Agree on #1 for Demerit. This hard-earned, well-deserved recognition for Jay will surely be a stepping stone to rebuilding his career in a solid Serie A side, where his physical play would do some serious damage to hair-strikers everywhere. Are you listening Inter?! (oh wait, I said “solid” Serie A side). Pull in Demerit and lower the average age of your back-line by about two generations!

    My #2? Gooch. If Demerit is gonna succeed in Serie A he’s gonna need somebody who knows how to get up in the very tall face of Ibrahimovic. (http://watchsocceronline.blogspot.com/2010/11/gooch-fights-zlatan-ibrahimovic-in.html)

    My #3? Tim Howard, people. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qe_xMgeKCoA)

    My #4? Brad Guzan. Why? Because he’s still behind Tim Howard, because he will take your phone calls, and because he doesn’t have anything better to do.

    For once, I think you’re over-rating the resurrection of (at least for this week…) MB90. He doesn’t have the nepotism chip on his shoulder anymore. Thats gotta restore some sanity, which can be a real barrier to dark-alley success.

    Partner to avoid? Robbie Findley (come back buddy!)

    Great piece.

    Reply

  7. Posted by EFG on 2011/09/22 at 10:46 AM

    Been a while since we’ve had a Javier Pastore update: PSG travels to league leaders Montpellier with a chance to jump from 4th to 1st by the weekend’s end…with some other results going their way.

    Reply

  8. Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/09/22 at 10:54 AM

    Tim Howard # 1 hands freaking down! Are you kidding me? If nothing else his shouting would scare the shite out of anyone else and his gang would be so used to it that it wouldn’t phase them one bit)).
    Advantage- Timmy’s Crew.

    I think MB would run his mouth behind 2 or 3 other guys and happily talk his way out of a real scrap. Yep, he’s THAT guy…

    You completely lost me with the Departed and pop cultural references (but I’m old) but get my everlovin props for consistently putting forth the effort to entertain and inform like no other.

    I still think the Godfather’s 10 Principles of Soccer would be the ultimate holiday gift.
    1- “I’ll make them an offer they can’t refuse…- Roman Abramovich and the principles of contracts negotiation in the New Millenium…

    Reply

  9. Posted by dth on 2011/09/22 at 11:38 AM

    Speaking of Backe…there was a really interesting comment from the technical directors in the 24 under 24 feature major league soccer soccer is doing*:

    ” He has to get more involved in the general play of the team. I think he seems to drift in and out of the game”

    The thing is, he used to be 100% this guy! In fact, that was the reason Agudelo/Henry didn’t work together–both Henry and Agudelo wanted to get on the ball, facing goal, and either pass it or play one-two, etc. (In fact, there was a glorious sequence against FC Dallas in the middle of the year when Agudelo and Henry played successive one-twos off of each other…sadly, Agudelo dived to try and get the penalty after bursting through.). But Backe has really beaten it out of him rather than nurturing it, which is much too bad.

    * Now, the quality of 24/24 this year is another matter entirely! It is a really weird feature from a number of different perspectives (starting with, I’m not sure whether they’re ranking the best twenty-four players under twenty-four, or the best twenty-four prospects under twenty-four), but the other thing is…the technical directors are, like, completely insane at certain points.

    Reply

  10. A little baffled by your Chelsea comments, and not the one where you said they looked crap (I dealt with those earlier). While we already had the discussion on the lack of a #10, Arteta is MUCH too much of a risk to even consider for a team like Chelsea. The man is made of glass, and to be named a “perfect replacement” for Frank Lampard seems quite outlandish, as Arteta has only appeared in more than 40 games once in his career (as a youngster in 2001-2002) where Lampard hasn’t appeared in LESS than 30 games since 1996 (most of those seasons playing well over 50 matches).

    Lampard is known for his goal scoring and passing prowess, sure, but also for his ability to play week in and week out, and play effectively (up until now, but then again the man is 33). Arteta was never even CONSIDERED for this role because there is a 100% chance he will miss matches. I wouldn’t ever even WANT him at Chelsea. He’s an outstanding player, and a great purchase for Arsenal, but never would I want to see him at the Bridge.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/09/22 at 11:39 PM

      ..and you my friend :> are looking at the world through Chelsea-colored glasses.

      It was just a few years ago that Arteta was considered one of the best players in the Premiership.
      Beyond 09-10, Arteta played in 30 games at least 4 out of 5 years.

      The reason he didn’t play in more?!

      Because Everton wasn’t in European competition and Arteta was not considered for the Spanish national team.
      (and need I remind the buzz about England fans wanting Arteta for their national team)

      Arteta is four years younger, better in possession and just as deficient as the negligent Lampard in defending.

      Next you’re going to tell me that Ramires is a better playmaker than Chris Brunt.

      Reply

      • …and it was just a few years ago that Lampard was considered one of the best players in the Premiership. First off, let me say I’ve been a big fan of Arteta, so this is no knock on him.

        Chelsea were looking for a serious creativity upgrade in midfield but they missed out on Pastore, they missed out on Modric. I don’t think Arteta is much of an upgrade on Lampard right now, and that’s what matters most. In fact, the main critique of Lampard also applies to Arteta: both like to take touches and dally on the ball a little too often, slowing down play. Chelsea will target another serious upgrade over the next few transfer windows.

        For right now, Chelsea need the metronome at the base of midfield to tick over quicker. Mikel sets a high enough tempo when Lampard isn’t also on the pitch slowing things down, but with both the midfield moves the ball too slowly. If you watched Romeu distributing the ball against Fulham it’s fairly obvious who will end up playing that role in time. Lot’s of quick Makelele-like “it’s here-it’s gone” possession play but with a more expansive range of passing.

        McEachran needs to start being brought into the first team with more regularity. I really like Malouda in the left slot of the midfield three and Meireles can slot in there as well and provide a little more defensive cover when required and trickery going forward. All provide something different when Lampard and his 33-year-old legs are a little bit too static in their movement and can’t quite cover the ground they once did.

        Is Arteta really superior to AVB’s current options? I’m really not convinced.

        Reply

        • I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Tuesday here, and still feel I must respond to your playing time stats. Arteta has played more than 30 EPL games just twice (there are 38 in a season, just for quick reference). Lampard has played LESS than 30 twice since he broke into West Ham as an 18 year old. Obviously Arteta is not capable of playing that much.

          Arteta is a quality player, but nothing that Chelsea is missing. He really isn’t the creative force you are giving him credit for.

          Ramires may nay be more creative, but he’s got a helluva lot better work rate :)

          And its Chelsea-coloured glasses, come on now.

          Reply

          • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/09/23 at 1:46 PM

            How do you guys think Chelsea will do on Saturday?

            I have no idea. I think either it’s shock upset or a blowout by the Blues — can’t see it being a 2-1 Chelsea game.

            Reply

            • I can’t see shock upset, simply because Swansea has really failed to look threatening all season. It took a PK to get them their first goal of the season… in the fifth game…

              My guess is similar to yours, shock upset to me would be a 0-0 draw, I could see 2-0, but only because if we gain a 2 goal advantage by half I would expect to see some fresh faces early to prepare for Europe midweek. Also, Vorm is very very good… so some half chances that might go in against a lesser keeper will likely not.

              That said most of the big boys are rather rested, and Chelsea need a big result to convince all us supporters that we will challenge for the title, so a 4-0 result would be my guess.

        • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/09/23 at 9:29 AM

          10+ yr Chelsea supporter mostly as a Lampard fan and after rewatching the Man U game I am confused as to what posters here watched.
          I saw a midfield that looks like they just met with zero fluidity and a whole lot of question marks. And that’s without even discussing Meireles’ hair! WHAT THE….? Frank looks likes he’s cooked as an influential EPL midfielder and that’s hard for me to even say. Ramires continues to live up to my first impression of him last season as much ado about meh. He’s fast but seems to suffer from Shaun Wright-Phillips disease, a malady that involves the patient running straight forward, quickly with no apparent plan for when you arrive and zero ability to change course if plan A changes. Not the attributes of a top flight attacking Midfielder.
          Torres is just flat out painful to watch. There is so little there to even get you hopeful and then he opens his mouth. Mata looks good out but needs to be central to dictate the pace. Which just means that like England, Frank is just plain in the way.

          Reply

          • There’s a thread of comments in an earlier article where we all say that Lamps is pretty much done. He certainly can offer something as a bit performer, but not as the consistent midfield stalwart he used to be.

            Our comments here are based on the fact that Arteta is not the answer, and simply stating that our midfield will gel in time, we have the pieces, they just need to perform, what better way than against an unusually talented, but goal shy team like Swansea?

            As for Torres, don’t write him off yet, he looked much better against United (though TSG vehemently disagrees with me). I advocated a 4-3-1-2 formation where Torres has Sturridge (though he’s now injured, of course) as his partner, with Mata behind them. The Midfield three behind that can be altered repeatedly now that we have some depth, Mr. Tuesday likes Malouda on the left and Icould see that working, with Ramires or Meireles out right and Mikel and Romeu as the support.

            Reply

          • “Frank looks likes he’s cooked as an influential EPL midfielder.”

            I hate to say it but I have to agree with this. I was just trying to argue that Chelsea didn’t miss a trick with Arteta and have serviceable options in midfield sans Lampard.

            As for the rest of your pessimism, have to say that even though your criticism of him is somewhat valid, I really rate Ramires for what he is: a quick, energetic player that does a shuttling and harrying job in midfield. He’s not an attacking midfielder and he’s not supposed to be.

            I think you’re way too hard on Torres. He’s been quite promising so far this season. He gets some confidence flowing and he’ll be scoring (and missing horribly) just as often as he has earlier in his whole career. As it was in the beginning so it ever shall be.

            As for Mata, he roams all across the pitch from his starting position on the left but it doesn’t work as well unless there’s the threat of width on the left – Malouda in Lampard’s spot means he and Cole can both provide width when Mata cuts in, stretching the opponents defense. Lampard allows the defense to play narrow and too frequently ends up being a speed bump in the area where Mata is most effective.

            Reply

            • Just as an FYI,

              “He gets some confidence flowing and he’ll be scoring (and missing horribly) just as often as he has earlier in his whole career. As it was in the beginning so it ever shall be.”

              Liverpool fans were saying this for almost two years.

              I mean, maybe he will and maybe he will not, but either way…. the above statement is verbatim every argument from every Torres thread started on every Liverpool fan forum for almost two years.

            • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/09/23 at 12:25 PM

              Tues,

              But too often Ramires has the ball heading up the attack in my watching. And that usually ends up in a rabbit hole.
              My point re Torres- Torres is much to far along in his career for us to be talking about if and when his confidence comes back. That miss last week spoke volumes about how where he is as an elite player. As elegant as the first goal was it was literally erased by that awful display of nerves in front of goal.

              I agree that Arteta is 3 yrs too late for Chelsea or Arsenal for that matter. He’s visibly slow and does dawdle on the ball quite a bit. Looks like a desperation buy from a club holding on by its fingernails.
              But for Mata to be successful it’s pretty clear he needs to be central. Which points to the fact that Frank needs to retire to some British detective drama. Malouda central was tried last yr to disastrous results. He’s an independent contributor not distribution guy IMO.
              And Sturridge just doesn’t impress me as a top 4 club guy. Very talented but his soccer brain is set to “Me First” far too often for a wide MF’er.

            • Kickin,

              Sturridge is NOT a wide MF… that’s probably why he hasn’t impressed for you. What happened the one game we let him play striker? He scores an audacious goal using his skill and speed. He is a striker, but AVB wants to try and turn him into Hulk, which I can’t see happening. Also, the kid is 21, sure we haven’t brought that much youth up recently, but give the kid a chance before you write him off. Plus, did you see what he did at Bolton! Was there for 6 months and was 2nd on the team in goals.

              I’m not entirely convinced on Malouda in the middle, but Giggs learned to play centrally as his legs for the wing died out, so perhaps after some refining it will work.

              Also, Torres is 27, don’t write off his career too fast either. Sure he is not in elite player form currently, but he has plenty of time to regain it, where Lampard and Terry do not. Plus, that awful miss could have been nerves, but too have the confidence to take the keeper on 1 v. 1 and beat him does not seem to me the move to make if you are on edge… I think if anything he got too relaxed about it. Nervous strikers would have tried to hit that shot first time, without rounding the keeper.

            • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/09/23 at 1:24 PM

              I’m bouncing all over today but….

              I still think Arteta is an upgrade over Lampard. He’s worth the risk at his price–though his form was off at Everton…however that’s do to Everton’s game as well, not much room in the middle so the Toffees flush it outside more often and play the English game.

              On Torres. Yes, he looked better last week more because he was active, less because of his physical skills — which should worry many a Chelsea fan.

              The thing about Torres is that he was so dangerous in the past because he had the power, but also matched it with the speed to beat the man.

              Play a highline and crowd him and the service to him and he’ll beat you over the top. Drop off him and he makes you pay with 1-2 passes or a run in space.

              He was the best striker in the world at one point.
              Not anymore and speed after a knee injury doesn’t usually return.

              Chelsea needs Torres to be Torres, not to be Spain’s Michael Owen.


              On Ramires, I agree — I like him for what he is….so why in the world was he the 1st half conduit of the attack against Manchester United.

              It makes 0 sense…did AVB really think that the incutting Mata would get a lot of 1-on-1 opportunities by pounding THE REST OF THE MIDFIELD and the forwards in on the right. Perplexing.

            • I was basking in the vindication of my comments above – then Fernando went and did that.

      • Posted by Crow on 2011/09/23 at 12:07 PM

        Arteta was great pre-2010. Having watched many, many Everton games I think I can confidently say he is not the player he once was. I couldn’t believe Arsenal or Chelsea were interested in him. I think he was taking up room at Everton even with their shallow bench.

        Reply

  11. […] PSP writer Adam Cann was invited to offer his thoughts on Freddy Adu for the Shin Guardian’s preview of the weekend’s matches. […]

    Reply

  12. Posted by TJ on 2011/09/23 at 7:53 AM

    I love the likely scenario for Michael Bradley, and the image of him practicing his moves while he goes for his morning run is hilariously awesome.

    Reply

  13. Posted by Alex Yang on 2011/09/23 at 2:55 PM

    Hey, maybe a little off topic, but is anybody here following this NYRB/Marquez drama?? I mean, this must be what Grey’s Anatomy is for college females!… And soap operas for middle-aged ones! First, Marquez called out his own team for not being as good as he is (HAHAHAHA). Then there’s Herc Gomez calling out Marquez’s professionalism. Now, Marquez is benched for this weekend’s match vs the Timbers.

    As a USMNT lover, I’ve always hated Marquez, but all of this makes me hate him that much more.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/09/23 at 3:09 PM

      Marquez, Backe and NYRB are a mysterious confection. They were all pretty good last year. They were even better in the beginning of this year–there was a distinct period where I and many other people felt they were the class of the league. Then they all started sucking.

      Like, for example, the defense. Someone pointed out that over a forty or forty-five game sample across two seasons NYRB had one of the great MLS defensive runs ever. That seems like an impossibility now.

      What the hell happened? Some journalist is going to have to get on this (so far journalists have done the: “WOW, they’re spending money! Wow, they suck!” which is often funny but not revealing.)

      Reply

      • Posted by mbw on 2011/09/23 at 3:20 PM

        I very much agree. I was gonna say that Grant Wahl has found himself a follow-up project, but the NYRB case would seem to call for a Michael Cox rather than a Wahl.

        My hunch is that the sheer weirdness of the whole situation has to do with the number of micro-issues the team has faced: the injuries, the Rafa situation, the idiotic De Ro for Dax deal, the failure to integrate Agudelo fully, Ream’s inconsistency, the lack of chemistry, etc etc.

        Reply

        • Posted by Alex Yang on 2011/09/23 at 3:31 PM

          Okay I taking this off a comment from SBI, but a poster was talking about the general incompetence of the NYRB management. Like, firing Richie Williams after his very good run as an interim coach after Osorio was fired. Seems to sum up that Backe, or someone higher up just doesn’t understand the MLS business. The whole trading for DeRo, then trading away DeRo was ridiculous. And this Marquez buy seems like a terrible investment as well, and the fact that he’s making more money than some MLS rosters combined makes me want to puke.

          But there just seems to be a general lack of leadership and drive. As well as a very limited team. It seems like most money was spent on a championship 11 players. But everybody knows that there needs to be more than 11 quality players on a soccer team. Apparently someone didn’t get that memo.

          Reply

          • Posted by mbw on 2011/09/23 at 6:48 PM

            The firing of Williams was silly and unfair, in my opinion, but you gotta remember that the Red Bulls came out of the gate like gang busters after he’d been let go. The De Ro-Dax trade was both more significant and genuinely stupid. They had a bad goalkeeper situation, made a few moves, and created a bad midfield situation.

            Reply

            • Posted by dth on 2011/09/24 at 11:53 AM

              While I’d like to hear the real story behind the Williams thing, I have heard it was completely justified.

              It was weird: I was having a conversation with a low-level NYRB employee and the subject came up. On most stuff he was just as frustrated (and mystified) as any MLS fan, but he was very insistent that if we all knew, we’d understand the Williams firing. FWIW.

        • Posted by dth on 2011/09/23 at 4:31 PM

          See, I kind of disagree with you: I think a Grant Wahl/Michael Cox tag-team would be highly excellent. The tactical aspect is highly interesting…but the locker room stuff would be fascinating also. The stuff Alex Yang brings up is a great example; also, what about the whole goalkeeper isht show? Or the Emirates Cup? Or Brian Nielsen and Marcus Paullo, the mysterious always-injured guys who haven’t played a minute?* Or why Mehdi Ballouchy played much more than was necessary? These are the things we need to know more about that aren’t, strictly speaking, a tactics problem.

          * (While part of the NY problem was depth, it was only part–so much was self-inflicted there. Paullo and Nielsen are probably taking, what, $200k in cap space? You should be able to get two solid or more-than-solid bench players for that sum. Say, a Daniel Cruz.)

          I don’t think I’m exaggerating in that there’s a fascinating book of the crash-and-burn 2011 Red Bulls season.

          Reply

          • Posted by mbw on 2011/09/23 at 6:43 PM

            Oh, definitely. I just meant that the on-field stuff seems relatively more interesting here than in the Galaxy case. I’m struggling to fathom how one of the better teams in MLS history turned into one that probably won’t make the playoffs, with more or less the same players. (Are we really to believe that the De Ro-for-Dax swap and the loss of Rogers were wholly responsible?) But I agree that the locker room stuff would be fascinating.

            Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/09/23 at 8:33 PM

      I think everyone saw last year in the playoffs how ill-prepared Rafa Marquez was. I think I wrote something about two years ago, but seriously, how is player who won the Champion’s League with Barca…and was never a great club player…supposed to get motivated in a bright city with plenty of disposable income and no 2nd contract to play for.

      I listened to Jeff Carlisle the other day on ExtraTime Radio and he made a good point that Marquez is probably better in a holder role–he doesn’t have the physical presence to play in the back paired with Ream. I think he’s gotten frustrated and he just doesn’t give a sh….

      Reply

  14. Posted by dth on 2011/09/23 at 4:27 PM

    Jack Wilshere surgery, out for months.

    Man, it’s too bad there weren’t any cheap, excellent central midfielders available for a song over the offseason who could’ve beaten out Alex Song and/or provided depth. Isn’t that right, Arturo Vidal and Nuri Sahin?

    Reply

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