Archive for December, 2011

The Weekend: Les Grossman, More Landon, Tim McDreamy & More

Let’s get right to it:

Back at it in Candyland...

• Everton welcomes Norwich City to it’s Really Goodison

The Premiership world was shocked when Everton announced that American Landon Donovan will come on loan to the Land of Toffee starting January 4th.

Okay, not shocked actually at all–except for the fact that Everton actually got a quality player to help them in a battle with Father Relegation, even if only for two months.

This is a much different team that Landon joins in his second loan stint in Liverpool.

No Steven Pienaar, no Yakubu, no Mikel Arteta and an attack that largely relies on the aerial abilities of Tim Cahill and Marouane Fellaini or the rambling runs of Leighton Baines.

Donovan will play a critical role for the Toffees on the right flank, typically.

Everton–because of probably the best LB in England right now, Leighton Baines, and a largely weak link named Tony hibbert at RB–have predominantly come down the left side when on attack this year. Check the passing charts below from a game two weeks ago against Stoke City at home–note manager David Moyes is much more likely to go for the win at home and bunker or counter for the draw on the road.

Leftback Baines in a loss against Stoke City

Baines (aforementioned) had just as many pass attempts on the left as RM Seamus Coleman (pictured here) AND RB Tony hibbert (not pictured) -- couldn't figure out how to bundle the two right siders on the chart...

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The charts? Twice the action down the left side of the pitch and more from the leftback role even more than the right midfielder Seamus Coleman. Donovan will likely compete with Coleman and Leon Osman–who typically facilitates runs for Baines–for two of three outside mid/forward roles.

Moyes has also had no proficient striker at his disposal and twice this season went with a team of six midfielders ahead of the back four. Luis Saha has again been inconsistent and Jermaine Beckford is non-existent. The Toffees have no one to threaten the backline of the opponent. The highline for the Toffees is not a gorgeous park to enjoy in New York City, but a nightmare stretch of land for them.

That’s where Donovan will help as well.

With the foreword-playing Fellaini and Cahill more so often checking back to the ball, Donovan can keep the opponents backline honest threaten an overlapping run when the forwards go back looking to link up with the midfielders.

Hard to say if Donovan will have success this time with the personnel that will be surrounding him, but he will certainly help the cause.

• The Cottage is Craven some goals and Bolton may just be the tonic.

Okay, help me understand this.

The Doctor of defensive distribution, Tim McdREAMy is a very solid player already–only 24, young for a CB and he obviously has great handles on the ball. However, he’s also a mess in terms of his defensive fundamentals, makes an error a game and at last glimpse his confidence was a wreck.

Yet, Owen Coyle and others in the Prem rave about making a purchase for him. Is his defensive game really ready for the Premiership? Would he just waste time on the bench now or be cast to the reserves?

Just what would be the price on his head by the New York Red Bulls for a sale? Shouldn’t Bolton be looking for someone who could offer some more immediate help or are they really going to maybe move Mr. Overrated Gary Cahill in the January window and need some cover? And Ream’s the man?!

It’s just all so very perplexing. (Don’t get me wrong–Ream should get out of Harrison and there’s oodles of potential still there.) Seems a lot of lavishing on him..at this moment. And why would you heap the praise if you want to make a purchase?

Fulham come off their Europa League ouster. The Cottage hasn’t been the steely fortress that it typically has been for them. They need to make a statement.

3-1 Londoners.

BTW, carrying on Europa in Fulham’s stead, Wisla Krakow. Genuine feel good for their fans. Courtesy TSG contributor John Nyen with the video find:

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• Newcastle vs. Swansea City

Another “Boy I am happy to see you affair here.”

Newcastle may not be sure if they’re going to have Ceick Tiote in the line-up, but that should matter little. Swansea is absolutely dreadful away from home and they haven’t won at St. James Park since 1980.

If the game starts getting out of hand early, just play the following drinking game: Anytime Jonas (35-leader), Scott Sinclair (31) or Nathan Dyer (29) flop (get fouled), take a shot/drink/sip. Three of the biggest hit-the-turfmeisters involved in this one. For comparison, Luiz Suarez (33 fouls suffered) and David Silva (17). You get the point.

• Will Manchester City be good Citizens at home and resist the Arsenal

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Isn’t it time for Manchester City to play the same hardball with Mario Balotelli and his agent that they did with Carlos Tevez–who’s probably bowling or something in Buenos Aires right now.

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The Messi Cam at El Clasico

Interesting slo-mo replay of El Clasico earlier this week. Now, a camera focused solely on Lionel Messi.

Thought it interesting enough to post.

 

Landon Donovan Loan Everton: Music To Toffee Fans Ears

The news just broke.

Liverpool here I come!

Landon Donovan going on loan to Everton this winter. Precisely what the Toffees need–and frankly probably all they could afford. Everton are not awash in cash. They’re certainly not awash in goals.

The LA Galaxy announced on Thursday that Donovan will venture over to Everton on a two-month loan kicking off on on Jan. 1 2012.

Donovan today: “The opportunity to return to Everton and play for such a well-respected club and a manager that I hold in such high regard was something that was simply too good to pass up.”

Make no mistake here. With the Toffees hurting in the bank account, Donovan won’t be breaking that bank with his compensation here. In short, he wanted the move. This should also put to rest the notion that Donovan was battling an injury during the 2011 MLS season as a reason for his statistical lack of production.

And there, of course, some ancillary benefits for TSG folks and American fans:

5. Salacious rumors are sure to abound with the untimely–and ultimately inaccurate–news during the World Cup that Donovan might have fathered a child on his last trip over there.

4. Sensationalized UK online publications are sure to start identifying Galaxy teammates as potential loan or transfer targets.

3. You can actually watch Everton EPL games now and not cringe…unless Tony hibbert is on the ball of course

2. Fellaini’s afro will be re-introduced into American society.

1. January 11th and March 10th: Foreman vs. Ali. Whoops! Friedel vs. Donovan. Spurs vs. Toffees. Tasty…cakes!

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Okay, you asked for it:

Oreo Prose: The Maturation Of Zarek Valentin

Former LA Galaxy player, NCAA Champion & brother Julian Valentin writing for TSG
You can follow Julian on Twitter here

January 13, 2011.

Sponsored by Men's Warehouse...twice...

Zarek and I certainly didn’t plan it that day, but we ended up wearing the same black suit–the buy one, get one half off special from Men’s Warehouse.  I’d had mine for a year or so and he got his back from the tailor just in time to look good on draft day.

Our older brother Zach he was there too, sporting the same gray slacks that he wore in 2008 when I was drafted by the LA Galaxy.

For Zach, it was a familiar scene at the Baltimore Convention Center as he nursed a flask of Pepto-Bismol to take the edge off his nausea. True story.

The wait was kind, and with the fourth pick in the 2011 MLS Superdraft, Chivas USA selected my brother: Zarek Valentin…defender…University of Akron.

Zarek stood up, hugged us, strutted onto the stage in his Chivas scarf and hat, shook hands and said “cheese” with Commissioner Don Garber and flawlessly delivered all of the standard lines to those in attendance.

Yawn.

The real Zarek Valentin–in most any other settings–would have delivered a stand-up comedy routine and perhaps entertained the crowd with Dance #8.  But again, it was draft day, not an appropriate setting to workshop new material.

Zarek’s podcasts are out there on ussoccer.com and his video journal from the recent Generation Adidas trip to Amsterdam will make you laugh, scratch your head and wonder what’s going on in that melon of his.

The Twitter Zarek–his handle is @DubbZV, for some reason — is exactly who the real kid is: random, funny, quirky, a little bit off-the-wall but oddly profound and insightful. The adoration for Oreos—which is frequently tweeted material—is no act.  In fact, it’s a time-honored tradition, a snack that we enjoyed all throughout our childhood and still do to this day.

During halftime of late-night Serie A reruns on FSC–studying good defending–we’d head into the kitchen for cookies and milk.  Oreos and milk.

I’m looking forward to that when we’re home for Christmas.

Even with the goofy side of his personality, Z is a highly regarded player who has developed an edge.  If this were baseball–that’s what I do for work these days–he’d be a four-and-a-half tool player, a guy who made a solid first impression during his first campaign in the Majors.

Am I biased?  Of course.  But I call it like I see it.

Zarek played all along the Goats backline in his rookie year, demonstrating the vision, poise, technical ability and smart defending that turned heads at the amateur level.  As he continues to improve his concentration over 90 minutes and adjust to the speed of play in MLS, the best is still to come.  I may be his brother, but I like to think I have a keen eye for ability too.

A stellar opening campaign from the Akron man...

It’s a funny business, though, and just about a month ago, an inexperienced–to say it as politely as possible–Chivas USA front office pulled a major head-scratcher–to say it as politely as possible–by failing to protect him in the Expansion Draft.  MLS legend and Montreal Impact head coach Jesse Marsh was quick to call, and made Z the second pick in the Expansion Draft a couple days later, snapping up a player with Best XI potential…for free.

Am I biased?  Of course.  But I call it like I see it.

Consider this: Zarek (2,114) logged the fifth-most minutes for Chivas in 2011, behind Nick LaBrocca (3,058), Dan Kennedy (2,880), Heath Pearce (2,581) and Ante Jazic (2,468).

In fact, with his cumulative minutes played in 2011, Zarek became one of two rookies to graduate from Generation Adidas program; former Zips teammate and D.C. United man Perry Kitchen (2,726 minutes) was the other to eclipse the 2,000-minute mark and forfeit GA protection in said Expansion Draft.

Minutes certainly aren’t everything in this game, but they can be a strong indication of many things.  You won’t play if you don’t have it, something important to add to the team.  For reference, I played 54 minutes with the Galaxy first team in two years.  Case and point.

It was a surprising move for Zarek, from white sand to foreign soil, but an opportunity that he’s very excited about.  With a young and experienced coaching staff to work under and an impressive vision for the club, Z quickly realized the excitement surrounding the Impact.  He learned about the tradition of the club and @DubbZV began to bond with Montreal fans through talk of Oreo cookies and broken French.

Maybe one of them will find his wallet somewhere in Amsterdam too.

Montreal is a beautiful city with great history and culture.  Moreover, it’s a special city for us, and fond memories of his first visit to Montreal made Z even more excited.

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Europa League Wednesday: Fulham vs. Odense

A big one in Europa League today for Americans to watch.

No, not Tottenham.

Wisla Krakow is nipping at the Cottagers heals. A win for Krakow and loss for Fulham rules Damien Duff’s dudes out of Europa.

While American media will be all over Dempsey playing at home after eating at the Swansea gaffe-ateria, Nigerian Peter Utaka is a proficient “B movie” European striker with 99 goals in 246 club matches in his career. MLS comp for Utaka–a rich man’s Dominic Oduro–only Utaka nails the sitters.

Utaka below–gotta love the backing from Will Smith:

Camp Cupcake: Please RVSP This Week

As Camp Junior Mint (U-23) gets underway in Florida this week, Jurgen Klinsmann should be shortly submitting his roster for who gets an Evite to the annual Camp Cupcake in Carson, CA.

This will of course be Klinsmann’s first time selecting for the camp that normally sees predominant enrollment of fringe US and Nordic domestic league players.

What have we learned thus far fromt Klinsmann’s selections into previous camps is: (1) Jurgen has his favorites just like former coach Bob Bradley did and has his reaches, just like Bradley–so expect a few projects in camp as well as a few head-scatchers (2) Klinsmann favors possession, attacking oriented players at the expense of typically defensive stoppers–perhaps with the thinking that he can mold good athletes/attackers into better defenders, (3) much like any manager Klinsmann prefers to give youth more and more of a chance as you move up from the back. For that reason, vets Herculez Gomez and Chris Rolfe seemly won’t get call again in this one. (Gomez for his part will be at work for Santos Laguna)

What will be interesting here is to see if Klinsmann sticks with what US coaches before him did and makes this a novice camp with one or two veterans or if he makes it more of a “working camp” for the senior team.

Expecting the former and here’s a clearly discounted forecast of what else transpires in advance:

Goalie:

Good to have around in camp: Nick Rimando

Locks: Bill Hamid

Probable: Sean Johnson, Nick Rimando

Bubble: NA

The skinny: This seems pretty set. Hamid has already been tabbed the back-up to Howard–a somewhat interesting call given that he hasn’t featured for the States senior side yet. he should however get the most reps with the “first team” in Carson. Sean Johnson–fresh of U-23 time as well as Everton training–is likely nipping at Hamid’s heals.

And then Nick Rimando–veteran presence in camp; Klinsmann favorite. Note, should Brad Guzan start impressing you’ll see him right back in there fighting for a spot.

Defense:

Locks: Zach Loyd, Tim Ream, Heath Pearce

Probables: George John, Geoff Cameron, Michael Parkhurst

Bubble: Omar Gonzalez, Chance Myers, AJ De La Garza, Corey Ashe

The skinny: Locks for Klinsmann this camp in the back appear to be Zach Loyd, Tim Ream and Heath Pearce. All have been called in previously under the German in 2011. In regards to Pearce, he’s got the necessary speed and handles; he’s also the ability to shift out wide left if necessary.

After those locks, the centerback pecking order is chaotic; essentially four guys fighting for maybe one? two spots?

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