Archive for April, 2012

Barca vs. Chelsea Primer: Has Javier Really Been A Great Masch for Barcelona?

Barcelona is tired.

The genius of Messi has been a little more challenging lately....

It’s not hard to see that. When a team gets tired, they slow off the ball.

Barcelona, more so then any other elite team, thrives with off-ball movement. It’s necessary for neutrons in their attack.

No movement.

No attack.

And you can tell they’re not moving appropriately lately as evidenced by their talisman Lionel Messi laying into the team on the pitch lately.

The Spanish machine–and it should be considered a machine more than any German squad of recent note–is still whirring, but it’s not purring at “spot the checkered flag, seize the checker flag levels” right now.

Throughout the third trimester of this season, Barcelona has slowly began relying more and more Messi attacking defenses like Michael Jordan did in his earlier years. A basic, “I’m going to draw a quadruple-team and I might try and finish or I’ll hopefully pass it to an open guy that knocks down the bucket.” Watch any highlight show on Fox Soccer, ESPN, Sky and they all show the same thing.

“Messi receives on the right hash. Messi dribble centrally. Four defenders converge. [Messi lays off or Messi beats them and just misses.]“

Oh, it works, just not always against the big boys with Chelsea last week playing the role of the Detroit Pistons.

As Messi has been relied on and relied on, the constant funneling of the ball through Messi is taking its toll. Messi’s passing accuracy per match has dipped since January.

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Report: Vasco Accused of Slave-Like Football Training

To be sure, this story is one that is not without precedent.

From the AP….

Brazilian club Vasco da Gama has been ordered by a juvenile justice judge to immediately suspend activities at its youth training facilities because an investigation found teenage footballers were living in “slave-like” conditions.

Judge Ivone Ferreira Caetana issued the ruling on Wednesday in response to charges by state prosecutors who have been looking into conditions at the club’s main youth facilities in Sao Januario since 2009.

It was only in February, after a 14-year-old boy died while trying out in Itaguai, a more remote training centre, that investigators even learned of the existence of that facility, which housed dozens of boys aged from 13 to 17.

TSG Brazilian resident, expert, professor Chris Gaffney on the alleged debacle.

The Weekend: Live Commentary

And we begin….

Oh look, Drogba's falling again..

MLS Predictions: Will Sporting KC Use The Timbers To BBQ?

John Nyen proves again it’s not who you know, it’s what you don’t

Encino Man heads' to Nyen's Den this weekend: Burnside

You are sitting at home, watching a movie and that soft talking part comes on the television.

The male or female speaker gently whispers into your ear the dulcet tones of any inane speech, but that soft tone and pattern gives your brain the jollies. You feel a chill run up and down parts of your extremities usually in your brain and spine, and it feels like your cerebral lobes are percolating slowly. This is currently called ASMR or autonomous sensory meridian response, a function not fully understood or really even fully named. ASMR is just the common parlance (as The Dude would say) of its time.

Well, this week has some subtle tones, games that are whispering ever delicately into your ear and making the spine tingle just a hitch. Revenge games, historical games, streak games and slobberknockers. And these games are on your television, fully available, fully local as the season starts to spin up into fourth gear.

Let’s get the unpleasantness out of the way.

I went 4-5 last week, a marked improvement over the 2-6 drubbing the week before. That takes the record to…

22 – 22

I’m right at the .500 mark and the season now begins in earnest.

As always, All times are east coast, Shea Salinas is out for 8 weeks and Rafa Marquez is out for 3, and be careful with the rainwater and grain alcohol this weekend… they want to steal your precious bodily fluids!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

3:30PM – Toronto FC v Chicago – BMO Field – Television: NBCSN

Pappa needs to play Big Daddy this weekend...

Toronto is really just awful this year, having somehow managed to spit the bit in every MLS game so far this year. Compare that resume to the sparkling CONCACAF Champions League play and you have a discrepancy of a team. With some defensive reinforcements making their comeback soon, Toronto should see an up-tick in their form.

Meanwhile, lightening struck Chicago couldn’t help the weather conditions as they played to a conditions shortened draw against Houston.

Toronto need to find the spark that they had early season in order to start playing up the field without turning the ball over. They need to control their possession through the middle of the field on their counter attacks. The key here for me will be the ability of Toronto to pass to themselves and space rather than Chicago. Meanwhile, Grazini and Pappa need a bit of the same in the midfield for Chicago. They need to have the ability to hold up play, get others into the game and not turn the second half into a midfield track meet. While Chicago probably have the upper hand with Dominic Oduro, Toronto have plenty of guile and pace with Plata. BTW: Did you know that Toronto has a goal differential of -8?

I’ve been predicting this for awhile, but I am going back to it again….

My prediction: Toronto breaks the slide and gets the win. 3-2

Last Game for Toronto: L 0-1

Last Game for Chicago T 1-1

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"TSG, I'm sick of this running Chad Marshall gag."

7:30PM – Columbus v Houston – Crew Stadium – Television: Local Only

Columbus is a bit of a dual-personality team. It makes them exceptionally difficult to predict (at times). Meanwhile, Houston are exactly what we expect of them. They are tough, play good defense, utilize hold up play, they try to lay off from the strikers to the midfield and get others into the attack, and close to the 18 yard box they are going for free kicks. Will Bruin finally scored (although with a whiff of weird keeper play), which should give the Dynamo a boost from the forward position. There is going to be quite a bit of play through the midfield on this one with Columbus dumping their long passes out to the wing into space and Houston trying to get their long passes up to Bruin and Ching up top.

Theoretically, if form follows function, Columbus should win this game going L-W-W-L-L in their last 5. Also, Columbus were pretty hard done by the Union up in Philadelphia as they outplayed them for long stretches of the game.

No problem Chuck...

My Prediction: I think Columbus won’t be able to control Houston like they did at times against Philly, however they will have some attempts on goal. The question is if they have the players to convert said chances. I tend to think that the road warriors, Houston, will grab a win here, as I think the moving parts are better drilled than Columbus currently. Houston 1-0

Last game for Columbus: L 1-0

Last game for Houston: T 1-1

9:00PM – Colorado v Los Angeles – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – Television: Local Only

Colorado gave a game performance and still ended up on the wrong side of the stick against SLC. Meanwhile, LA relied on a second half comeback against a team that gives away second half comebacks like a new Start Up IPO gives away stock.

The thing with LA, is that I am still not entirely sold on their performance. They relied on good play, but also some extremely boneheaded defensive lapses by Portland to get back in the game. Their first half was listless again, and relying on Beckham golazos (one that should have been blocked by the “lets cover one guy with two people” LB/CB of the Timbers) is not a formula for success.

I think Colorado has the ability here to pressure LA where it hurts, up the spine. They can hit them in the midfield enough to push back the attack from LA and if the CB’s of LA are occupied it may be Colorado who scores first.

My Prediction: I am going with the home team here. Colorado to win 2-1.

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Live: Barça vs. Chelsea

Line-ups are in. Torres to the pine; Drogba up top. No Pique for Barca.

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Alves and Barca "victorious" in 2009

Yes, today has Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich. Is there a doubt that Mourinho still has the chops to get the Munich into the Champion’s League Final? Not really.

Tomorrow is the main event. Chelsea vs. Barcelona and Dani Alves had this to say in the Guardian about the 2009 semi-final second leg–a 1-1 draw at the death–that saw Barca through to face United in Rome.

“Chelsea did not reach the final because of fear. The team that has got a man more, is playing at home and winning should have attacked us more. But of course, if you don’t have that [attacking] concept of football that Barcelona have, you stay back and you get knocked out. You have to go forward. Stay back: losers. Go forward: winners. I think Chelsea lacked the courage to take a step forward and attack us. They paid for it.”

More from Alves here.

In that match, there were dubious foul calls on both sides with Chelsea dropping to 10 men and Didier Drogba looking to go fisticuffs with the refs at the exit. TSG of course will remember that match for the wonder strike from Michael Essien in what sadly seems as the pinnacle of the Ghanian’s career that thereafter robbed by knee injuries and surgeries.

The Weekend: Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC & More

And now onto MLS.

The big one: Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City.

The years have been kind...

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