Archive for February, 2012

Fabio Capello Resigns As England Skipper

Wasn’t it always going to end this way? Ironically.

Enough!

With Fabio Capello’s rumored brush-up with John Terry–again John Terry!–at World Cup 2010 in mind here at TSG, Capello resigned his England post today, taking umbrage with the English FA for usurping his power and “de-captaining” John Terry last week.

It seems an easy out for all parties.

England (players, fans, the FA) was never quite comfortable with Capello calling the shots and Capello was never quite comfortable with challenging the players and the FA.

By “forcing” a resignation through a power play move like this, the FA has Capello resign (they probably lose less money in severance that way) and they use the move as both galvanizing and level setting for Euros 2012.

Now the question is, who takes over?

TSG back Gareth Southgate as a dark horse candidate.

Other candidates mentioned: Alan Pardew (the flavor du jour, but for good reason), Stuart Pearce (obviously), ‘Arry Rednapp (don’t see it) among others.

Jose Mourinho? Not happening.

 

Hypothetically, Why Didn’t Dempsey & Donovan Become The Stockton & Malone Of The USMNT?

John Nyen spurs a more interesting relationship between Donovan and Dempsey than “foil.”

….or did they?

10 goals in the Barclay’s Premier League and 16 in all competitions: Clint Dempsey

5 assists in 7 games in the Barclay’s Premier League: Landon Donovan

No animosity (photo credit: MLSSoccer.com)

Somehow the scribes write about a rivalry, contrived though it may be.

With Donovan in the BPL temporarily, the recent clash between Fulham and Everton was the first time Donovan had played against Dempsey since the Galaxy played the New England Revolution in 2006 (at which time the Revolution dominated the Galaxy…my how times have changed).

This time, Donovan’s team came out ahead with the winning goal assisted by Landon. However, the rivalry (as a matter of player against player) is really a non-starter for most fans of the US team. There is no animosity between the players any more than there seems to be a passionate friendship. They are simply colleagues, and national team players who are both typically the lightening rod for whatever team they don the uniform.

However, in light of the recent success of the two, a friend asked me…

Dempsey, a high-flier for the US....

“Can your next Shin Guardian article be about why Landon to Clint never became the Stockton to Malone of our national team based on the way Deuce is scoring & Donovan is dropping dimes right now?”

This raised the question…

“Are Donovan and Dempsey good together?”

If the answer to that question is yes, than how good? What metric can be employed to analyze the data? I should note that this article is about perception, and the question of what fans see for the national team versus what the players do for their clubs.

Clint Dempsey has scored 24 goals for the USMNT squad since scoring his first goal in a 2- 1 loss to England in May of 2005.

Meanwhile, Landon has been steadily chugging along since his October 25th, 2000 debut against Mexico where he had his first assist and first goal. (Worth noting in the goal totals and games played between the two that Landon made his USA senior team debut five years before Dempsey even though Landon is just one year older).

The 24 goals scored by Dempsey have come in 23 games (*this is not total number of games Clint has played, just the total number he has scored in) with only one multiple goal game ( the 8 – 0 demolition of Barbados where he scored two). Of those 23 games played that Dempsey scored, Clint and Landon played together 20 times, although in the infamous Gold Cup game against Cuba in 2005, Donovan didn’t come into the game until late in the second half after Dempsey had already scored to tie the game at 1-1.

So out of these 20 games played together, in which Clint Dempsey scored, Landon had a hand in nine of his goals, or roughly 45% of the time Dempsey scores… Donovan is involved.

Now the qualification for assists here differs from your natural “Donovan passed to Dempsey and he scored” routine that FIFA would use to assign them. I’ve re-watched every single one of the nine incidents that I think Donovan assisted directly and indirectly to view exactly what happened.

Here is the review:

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Atta’Girl Maura Gladys: Taking A Bite Of The Big Apple

TSG congratulates the Marta of women’s writing (our very own) Maura Gladys on taking a role at MLS in NY.

US Women’s Soccer & Where The Narrative Should Lie….

Neil Blackmon turns last week’s narrative from the failed WPS to the USWNT

Quite a past week for women’s soccer in this country.

The morning after one of the most dominating qualifying performances, for any international tournament, in the history of the sport, the already-on-life-support WPS cancels the 2012 season.

The final decision on the 2012 season was made by the WPS governing board, but not really.

Dan Borislow’s civil lawsuit seeking an injunction against the WPS for its (Borislow’s words) “threatened action to immediately terminate his Florida franchise at the conclusion of the 2011 season” was both the impetuts and the death knell.

From a legal perspective, the costs of that litigation to this point alone were steep for a league already in financial dire straits—but the prospect of continued litigation pushed things over the top, according to league officials. As such, while the US Women’s National Team was putting on a clinic of hurricane-like dominance in Canada, one that began to answer many of the post-World Cup Final “Questions” about the sustainability of USWNT dominance; the WPS, facing more hearings in court, was quietly meeting to drop the hammer on the WPS 2012 campaign.

Without being too legally technical—the ruling by a Florida judge appears to follow the letter of the law: the manner in which the WPS took action against Borislow was, in fact, not compliant with its own bylaws and mediation procedures.

Borislow was (is), by all accounts a dreadful owner.

If you saw the understaffed and ill-equipped training facilities his MagicJack side trained on in Palm Beach County, or the stadium they played in–as I’ve  witnessed–you could understand why.

But it was more than that.

The WPS sets floor requirements for operations by each of its franchises within the league bylaws. According to league officials and the respondent complaint in the civil lawsuit, Borislow’s club was not up to floor requirements in several areas: player treatment (training, medical bills and media access), payroll deadlines, facility guidelines and owner-team communication.

This is all dreadful stuff—especially given Borislow’s background in horse racing— it appears he treated his franchise, and his players, like they were race animals. Then again, given his lengthy disputes with the IRS—this isn’t necessarily someone who has a reputation for playing by the rules or respecting institutions.

The problem for the WPS was its response to these concerns.

Contractually, it was a violation of its mandated mediation guidelines to take or even feign preemptive legal action to terminate the franchise. Mediation must come first, and in failing to address these concerns according to its own bylaws, the league violated its contractual obligations to Borislow. The problem, of course, is the costs of the litigation that ensued because of the WPS breach forced the governing body’s hand—so while in the view of an outside observer it would appear Borislow committed the wrong and should be the villain in the story—the WPS was forced to cancel the 2012 season in order to keep fighting in court.

The players become victims of the league’s trust as well. The league is tentatively scheduled to begin play again in 2013—but no one paying attention should be holding their breath. We’ve heard for well over a decade now that a women’s professional league would finally latch on, have continuous operations and succeed.  It simply hasn’t happened.

U-20 members in 2008...last week, the talk should have been about the maturation of these two (Leroux, Morgan)

What’s worse? The collapse of the league has overshadowed a more worthwhile discussion–one on the performance of this Olympic Qualifying version of the USWNT and what that dominating performance says about the state of the women’s game in this country. This isn’t to say the success of a professional league stateside and the state of the women’s game in American aren’t connected—to suggest that would be naïve.

It is that the success of the women’s national team has and should, in the near future, continue to occur regardless of whether a professional league is ultimately successful.

The state, and culture, of the women’s game in America is strong, professional league or no—and views to the contrary are placing too many eggs in one basket. In fact, I’d argue they are making a causal link between US Women’s National team success and pro league success that simply shouldn’t exist: it should never be, and is unfair to make it be, the burden of the women on the USWNT to “save” the professional league in this country.

WPS or no—is the state of women’s soccer in America still strong? In my view, that discussion brings us back to the central questions that lingered after the American loss to Japan in Frankfurt last summer. In the aftermath of that loss, there were a number of critics who suggested that the US Women’s National team, and the US Women’s program in general, had a great deal of work to do if they were to retain their place among the world’s elite. These folks made (and make) a couple of central arguments.

First, they suggest that the American “style” of play is too reliant on athleticism and physicality to maintain its competitive excellence. Other countries play more technical, attractive football and eventually their infrastructure will catch up. Second, they suggest that without a sustainable professional league stateside, the Americans can’t slow the closing of the gap.

Granted, it was just a qualifying tournament—but thirty eight goals to zero later, it is safe to say the rumors of the death of US Women’s soccer have been greatly exaggerated. And its apple pie American fitting that an old Mark Twain one liner best sums up the state of at the very least, the national team, after completing what was perhaps the most dominant qualifying performance for an international tournament in the history of their sport.

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The Weekend: Your Live Commentary

The Super Bowl weekend gets off to a flying start with….Wigan vs. Everton.

Enjoy the rest of the matches….especially the Serie A ones:

Rodallega is still at Wigan and Timmy'll have to make a few saves on him early Saturday...

Serie A: Oh How We’ve Missed You!

Editor’s Note: This piece filed last week by Eric Giardini. The editors at TSG idiotically missed it floating in inbox ether…

Pirlo, the LL Cool J of Serie A...Reader's choice: "Don't Call It Comeback" or "Doing it and doing it and doing it...well."

If there is any weekend to pick-up your Serie A match watching, this is the one.

Four reasons:

Roma (vs.)

Inter

Milan (vs.)

Napoli

If it had been Lazio vs. Juventus or Juventues vs. Udinese–one set of pinstripers in first, another in third, didn’t see that coming–then it would have been the six of the top seven in action versus one another.

Need a primer for the weekend? Let’s review.

More like thumbs down...for Udinese...

Last week’s matches saw the Italian league reach its halfway point. That is, for all clubs but Roma and Catania which have 25 minutes remaining in their match from January 14 when it was called in the 65th minute due to a flooded, unplayable field. After 19 rounds, the “Winter Champion” is Juventus who holds a slim one-point lead over defending champions AC Milan at the top of the table. While not a direct indicator of who will lift the trophy in May, each of the past seven leaders at the midway point has gone on to win the league.

However, this season’s race isn’t just about the two most successful clubs in Italy battling down to the wire. Surprising Udinese sits in the final Champions League spot – only three points back from Juventus. Udinese, whose manager Francesco Guidolin’s stated goal prior to the season was to avoid relegation after losing key man Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona, has the Fruili-based club in position to qualify for the Champions League for the second consecutive year. This is in large part due to the prolific goal scoring of Antonio Di Natale. Di Natale is in prime position to not only win his third straight Capocannoniere for being the league’s leading scorer, but he must surely be in the back of Azzurri manager Ceseare Prandelli’s mind for EURO 2012.

Coaching carousel

The coaching carousel that occurs every season in Italy is as inevitable as the changing of the seasons. This season has been no different in that 9 of 20 clubs in Serie A have under gone a coaching change. Expect a few more before the season’s over.

  • Inter- Gian Piero Gasperini: Out; Claudio Ranieri: In
  • Bologna- Pierpaolo Bisoli: Out; Stefano Pioli: In
  • Cesena- Marco Giampaolo: Out; Daniele Arrigoni: In
  • Fiorentina- Siniša Mihajlović: Out; Delio Rossi: In
  • Cagliari- Massimo Ficcadenti: Out; Davide Ballardini: In
  • Lecce- Eusebio Di Francesco: Out; Serse Cosmi: In
  • Palermo- Devis Mangia: Out; Bortolo Mutti: In
  • Genoa- Alberto Malesani: Out; Pasquale Marino: In
  • Parma- Franco Colomba: Out; Roberto Donadoni: In

Surprises, Positive and Negative

There have been two big surprises in the first half of the season, with two clubs in particular shining through the first 19 matches. As mentioned earlier, Udinese has been punching a bit above their weight in their current third place standing. A big reason for their success has been their unbeaten record at home (9-1-0), joining table-toppers Juventus as the only club to remain unbeaten at home.

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