Archive for November, 2011

Eastbound & Up: MLS Men That Could Thrive In Serie A

Eric Giardini takes a look at where some MLS players might fit in Serie A

Beckham, no surprise, leads the list...

With the end of the MLS playoffs and the beginning of the January transfer window upon us sooner than we realize, this seems as good a time as any to put together a list of current MLS players I think could play, and even flourish, with a move to Serie A. The summer window saw the move of ex-MLSer Michael Bradley and, while I don’t foresee any others following him in the winter, most of the fun of this time of year is prognosticating and making crazy claims in the event that one sticks.

The question was posed to me who I thought could play in Serie A and to be honest I never really had thought about it before. So I thought and thought (and thought) and these are some of the names I came up with. Please keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list as my knowledge of MLS and its players is embarrassingly low – especially in comparison to others who write for TSG, both proper and in the comments.

I’ve divided players according to groups: The Shoo-ins (no brainers), The Potentials (could very well work), and The Wild Cards (have no idea but it’s fun to toss around in your head). For each player there will be a team and a brief description on why it could work.

The Shoo-ins

David Beckham, LA Galaxy to Inter Milan

Even the most ardent Beckham naysayer has to admit that he’s having far and away his best season in America. Bruce Arena seems to have finally found Beckham’s role in the side by giving Beckham the freedom to patrol the midfield basically as he pleases while a second center midfielder (usually in Juninho) provides defensive cover. His 13 assists show that his ability to distribute is still there – especially given the forwards, aside from Landon Donovan, he’s had to work with.

Inter are having a disastrous year. They’re currently languishing near the bottom of Serie A and are already on their second manager. Shockingly, Claudio Ranieri can’t seem figure out the combination in his lineup that will unlock the potential of the squad and continues to live up to his “Tinkerman” nickname. Inter are lacking that player in the midfield that can play distributor alongside Wesley Sneijder. Where Sneijder is able to work the field much in the same manner as a point guard in basketball, Beckham, even in his advanced age, can still hit the pinpoint 40 yard cross field pass which would bring a different wrinkle to the Inter attack. Additionally, by bringing Beckham to the black and blue half of Milan, he brings buzz back to the club. Nobody is discussing Inter in any sort of positive light these days and this move at least gets the club back into the world soccer conversation. Finally, Beckham is comfortable in the Milan. He had a relatively successful time at AC Milan before a freak Achilles injury in March 2010 ended the rest of his loan spell.

Del Piero...westbound...

TRADE: Thierry Henry, NY Red Bulls to Juventus in exchange for Alessandro Del Piero

Fun fact: Thierry Henry already played for the Turin club early in his career and it can best be labeled as a bit of a failure. Playing largely out of position on the wing, he only managed to score 3 goals in 16 appearances before moving to North London. The rest, as they say, is history. Now could be the perfect time for a second-go-round in Italy for Henry. His game has matured over the past 11 years and his best position on the field is more clearly defined now than it was in 1999. It also gives Henry one last chance to capture silverware in the only league that he has played in that he has yet to claim.

In October, Juventus went public and said that it would not be bringing back the face of the club, Alessandro Del Piero, next year when his contract expires. Club president Andrea Agnelli basically said the only reason they gave Del Piero a one-year contract last summer was purely ceremonial as they moved into the new Juventus Stadium. Even at 36, Del Piero still has life in those legs. With the Red Bulls having trouble selling tickets, why not bring one of the most beloved, if not the most, Italian players of this generation to New York/New Jersey. It is almost too perfect.

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Vote: David Beckham, Staying In The City of Angels?

David Beckham, trophy in hand as well as contract conclusion.

What does Beckham do? Take our poll below.

Sweet victory...or sweet escape...

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MLS Cup Final Live: Galaxy Victorious With 1-0 Win

The Galaxy finish of a classic MLS season by hoisting the trophy Sunday night at HDC.

The Dynamo’s defense was valiant, but in the end got tested one too many times by the quality attackers of the Galaxy.

(Still unsure that goal was going in unless Tally Hall nudge it…)

US Ladies Embrace Future in Closing Sweden Draw

USWNT almost atoned for it's group stage blemish on Saturday..

TSG’s Maura Gladys brings us home on the USWNT in 2011. Thanks for hard work, Maura.

If she didn’t prove it with her two goals and one in the 2011 World Cup, Alex Morgan proved last night that she deserves a spot in USWNT the starting lineup. Adding immediate spark and speed to a previously stagnant offense, Morgan came close to scoring several times, and set up the United States only goal of the night in a 1-1 tie against Sweden. This girl is not the future of U.S. Soccer. She is now.

Embracing the future...

Morgan was inserted into the game in the 74th minute, with the U.S. trailing 1-0. Up to that point, the squad had created several good chances, including a Shannon Boxx ringer off the crossbar, a few pushed wide by Amy Rodriguez and a header from Abby Wambach. But up to that point, the U.S. offense had been largely inconsistent and choppy, and their flow was getting broken up just as they were reaching the top of the penalty box, thanks to Sweden’s stout defense and disciplined back four.

But the minute Morgan’s feet hit the pitch, instant offense. First, Lauren Cheney sprung her with a precise ball behind the defense that Morgan ran on to and sent perfectly curving past the Swedish goalkeeper, only to be shut down by the pesky inside of the post.

Then in the 80th minute, the U.S. scored it’s only goal of the night, largely thanks to Morgan. Heather O’Reilly sent a ball over the defense to Morgan who yet again found herself behind the defense. Morgan collected the ball and fired it right at Hamamrstrom who deflected the tough shot right to the feet of a waiting Tobin Heath who struck it into an open goal.

Morgan found her way behind the defense several more times, fed by Lauren Cheney and O’Reilly, with Heath always running up with her, ready to crash or collect a loose ball.

Morgan’s spark had an affect on her teammates as well, especially Tobin Heath, who had seemed nervous and jittery up to that point, and Cheney who had a knack for finding Morgan through the back four.

You get the distinct feeling that had the youngsters been given more time, they almost assuredly could have netted a game-winner. Which goes back to a question we have been asking since this summer’s World Cup. Why isn’t Alex Morgan being used more effectively? As she continues to prove her worth that question is turning more from out-loud speculation to a pointed and spirited call in support of Morgan. Yes, she provides a lift coming off the bench, especially if the team is tied or trailing (which it seems to always be these days). But why let it get to that point when Morgan could score in the first half, giving the U.S. a comfortable lead and no need for a spark? All I want, all I yearn for, is to see Alex Morgan play more than fifteen minutes, preferably with Abby Wambach.

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Saturday: Live Commentary: One Will Stand

Club ball back in full effect.

Manchester City and Newcastle both look for the beatdown versus each other to remain unbeaten.

Tiote & Toure will battle in the middle for the right to remain on top...

USWNT Preview: Sweden…For Closure

Welcome back, Maura Gladys

For a little more than three weeks, the possibilities seemed endless for the U.S. Women’s National Team. On Oct. 27, Pia Sundhage named the 30 players headed into a two-week training camp in Arizona, to prepare for their upcoming match against Sweden. Peppered with a mix of 2011 World Cup vets and promising newcomers, including Whitney Engen, Brittany Bock, Ingrid Wells and Sydney Leroux the camp had the potential to produce a dynamic and lethal new-look squad ready to shed their World Cup identity and move towards Olympic qualifiers in January.

Carli Lloyd for the USWNT...

But the excitement for those possibilities died down this afternoon when Sundhage announced the 18 players named to the roster for today’s game. The squad features 18 of the 21 players from this summer’s World Cup squad, minus Hope Solo (who didn’t attend training camp due to her prior commitments with Dancing With the Stars), Megan Rapinoe (minor MCL sprain) and Kelley O’Hara.

Disappointing, to say the least.

So a game that was supposed to mark the official launching point of the team’s Olympic campaign still has a strong taste of World Cup 2011.

Today’s game could have provided the perfect opportunity for the team to move out of the shadow of their World Cup identity, by continuing to implement a new 4-2-3-1 lineup and testing out new, exciting talent against a strong, challenging team like Sweden.

Now, the next time Sundhage rolls out a lineup, qualification for the Olympics will be on the line, and there will be no room for experimentation.

The lineup doesn’t provide much room for speculation or imagination and unless something drastic happens, the same, already-tired narrative will play out, foreseeably, through Olympic qualifiers.

The frustration with Lloyd and Boxx in the midfield will continue and the defense will remain just strong enough to hold off their opponent, but hardly dominant.

The two bright spots that could come out of this game? The further development of the 4-2-3-1 and the continuation of the rise of Tobin Heath.

Sundhage unveiled the 4-2-3-1 formation during the two-game Celebration Series against Canada in September, to mixed results. However, it allowed several players, including Lauren Cheney, Carli Lloyd and Amy Rodriguez to thrive. A good performance within the system could solidify A-Rod and Lloyd’s place in the starting lineup come January.

One of the hallmarks of the system, the dependence on outside defenders to push up the flanks and attack will be tested greatly against a team like Sweden that likes to play balls over the top and quickly counterattack. It’s a tall, but achievable order for right back Ali Krieger and left backs Becky Sauerbrunn and Amy LePeilbet.

The most exciting thing to watch for today will be the play of Tobin Heath. Heath impressed against Canada, and is poised to assert herself as the heir to the U.S. midfield, especially within the 4-2-3-1. She has pinpoint accuracy, slick ball skills, and a playmaking eye, all of which shone through against Canada. Heath will have a tougher test against Sweden, who will no doubt try to push the lanky UNC grad off the ball frequently. But with targets like the versatile Lauren Cheney, the industrious Heather O’Reilly and the mercurial Abby Wambach, Heath should be able to use this game to convince Pia to hand over the keys to the U.S. midfield and let her coast.

Sundhage will be allowed to use six subs during the game, meaning all players will see time on the field. Maybe this means Alex Morgan will get a little more than a run-around this time, however Sundhage has yet to detour from any of her previous moves. So, it’s not likely.

 

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