Archive for April, 2012

MLS Week 6 Predictions: Haiku?! God Bless You.

The best restaurant in Portland...that would be Screen Door.

John Nyen has moved back to Portland. Everything is slower. Especially the previews. When you ride a fixie with Toms on.

Ahhh life… wonderful, painful and sometimes quite busy. I managed to watch a fair number of games this week and even attend one.

This week, my pithy analysis will be replaced entirely by Haikus. Almost certainly, I will actually screw up the necessary 5-7-5.

THE RECORD!

I went 2 – 6 again this week, which honestly was expected. However, I took heart from looking at the win percentage and overall picks of those on the MLS website. This is a tough sport to predict.

That pushes my record to…18 – 17 with 4 exactas. Time for a comeback. Time for… revenge.

As always, all times are east coast, all music is subject to taste and all dogs go to heaven or at least a Don Bluth film. Some dogs go to the pound while others simply go out for Italian.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

3:30PM – Philadelphia v Columbus – PPL Park – Television: NBC Sports

All defensive game

Much depends on the midfield

Does Nowak get Fired?

My prediction for the game: Draw 1-1

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Nguyen Dos Santos

4:00PM – New England v D.C. United – Gillette Stadium – Television: Local Only

Rejuvenation here

New England is stout and tough

Which DC will show?

My prediction for the game: Jay Heaps really has done a good job so far molding the Revolution in his image as this dieing ember of a rivalry gets going again. New England play tough, DC tries to play at all. I tend to think this game has a high potential of New England laying an egg at home. DC 2 – 0 Revs

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4:00PM – Seattle v Colorado – CenturyLink Field – Television: Local Only

Identity flux

Rapids must find their road verve

Mullen is getting booed

My prediction for this game: Seattle is winning this one, I would think. Seattle 1 – Colorado 0

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"That's all you got?! C'mon give me your best shot!" -- Dan Kennedy

4:30PM – Toronto FC v Chivas USA – BMO Field – Television: Local Only

Chivas is a stout

team, where Toronto is not

advantage first score

My prediction for this game: Chivas is better than you realize. They are tough, coached well and could be a surprise team causing some havoc at times (when they are playing well) in the West. Meanwhile… Toronto…. er…. I’m going with the Chivas verve just running out here. Toronto to get their win at home. Toronto 3 – Chivas 2

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Balotelli On Twitter, DeMerit Sings Beiber

Why...always...because we love ya!

Worlds are colliding!

George is actually really happy!

First Mario Balotelli joins twitter today.

The, stolen from our friends at the Jay DeMerit Story documentary, Stu nabs DeMerit in the shower singing the Biebs!

How Dimitar Berbatov’s “Demise” Condemns AVB’s Departure

A dinosaur?

Nary a peep.

That’s what will happen.

As another Premiership campaign bullets down the stretch and Manchester United goes ahead by a few horse lengths, so dribbles to closure the likely Premiership career of a peculiar one, Dimitar Berbatov.

It’s almost incredulous that a player who was last year’s co-Golden Boot winner–20 in the Premiership last year to share the title with the one and only Carlos Tevez–has become such an afterthought both by his manager and by the ravenous English press. Can you name the last Golden Boot winner who was so thoroughly dismissed by the flaks in London as the Bulgarian?

Berbatov has dropped so low on Twitter vitriol and overall fanatical appeal that he’s fallen well below the “Daily Mail Line.”

(The Daily Mail line is the minimum click impact a player’s name brings in so that an English rag feels necessary to write anything–truth, conjecture, about their car, about stealing a donut–in order to drive traffic to their web site. In short, he’s been, pun intended, written off.)

The man, who perhaps is best identified on the pitch now not by the groans of failure but for his awkward shuffling trot with his fists tucked inside his jersey like he’s still warming up–will slink away from the Premiership champ and probably be known as Man United’s most expensive, and worst?, purchase ever–over $30M£ for someone who produced goals, but could not impose his pristine touches and bend a game to his will at the highest level.

But Berbatov’s exoneration of striking duties at Old Trafford signals also the graduation of the club and shows why–after all these years–Sir Alex Ferguson’s still got it as manager. It also condemns yet another Chelsea manager, Andres Villas-Boas, impaled way too early on the roasting spit that is constantly revolving at Stamford Bridge.

No longer good buddies...

When Sir Alex bought “Berba” the idea was to provide a hold-up and disbursement pairing for Wayne Rooney and others to run off of, with the Bulgarian dropping dimes at will. With Ronaldo looking to leave Manchester the following year, Berba would come in and provide someone who would command attention of the opponent’s defense. Of course, he would also be counted on to display some of the silky moves he had done previously and put some balls in the back of the net.

Yet, despite a very respectable goal haul and despite accolades heaped on him as a misunderstood genius at the highest level, Berbatov’s “game”–and his role–is one that is slowly being exterminated across European leagues for the most part with the role of distributor moving a little further back the pitch. You’re either a false nine these days (Rooney, Van Persie) or you’re a physical target man who can threaten or you’re a speedy-slasher guy. A tweener?

The broader trend in global soccer has been for teams to press up the pitch, using a bevy of mite-sized attackers to not only create chances, but to also press the opponents defense (Jurgen, Jurgen).

In the attack, forwards are required to be more active and draw defenders either opening themselves up for a pass or open space for those behind them. Look no further most recently than Pep and Barcelona slotting in 20-year-old Cuenca at “forward” in a key Champion’s League tilt against A.C. Milan last month. Cuenca may have been labeled a “forward” but he stayed wide, merely drawing out the fullback to create space–more a winger who played advanced. Whoa is the striker who stays central and with perhaps effective but little movement.

On defense in this deployment, the rationale is quite simple–and analogous to the change in NFL defenses to employ two decent cover corners and mercilessly blitz the opponent with d-lineman, the linebackers, the safety and the rest of the kitchen sink.

The best players on a team are its attackers or rather should be. They have the speed, the skill, the guile. Soccer is about scoring. If you do not score, you can never win. You can draw, but you can’t win.

If you have a great attackers–see Fernando Torres at Liverpool–it changes everything–everything–behind them. If you have a boatload, even better.

And if your attackers can be convinced and counted on to in effect be your best defenders?

Note: If you don’t believe me, see Wigan’s win over Manchester United yesterday. Manchester United went 4-6 until the 75th minute, merely trying to move the ball up the floor against the “powerhouse” Latics. Wigan were inspired and their dedication to pressing the weaker players in the back–specifically Jonny Evans–won the day.

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Prescription Portland: Some Attacking Guile Up The Spine

Necessary or evil? We'll get to that....

With Liverpool in the dumpster, John Nyen sets out to save his beloved Timbers from themselves.

If you are going to do only one thing….. you need to do it very well.

This is especially the case in soccer where the Portland Timbers have been caught doing one thing…. and not so very well.

This was originally an article about running the 3-5-2 for the Timbers.

The how, the why, the players…. and it still is to a certain extent.

The issue here is that the Timbers need better players in multiple positions and the fans can’t count specifically on this happening.

So instead, focus is put on the way in which the Timbers can attempt to fix the issue with the defense and offense utilizing solely the players at their disposal. The alternate formations are a way of trying to compensate for the lack of full backs on the team and or the lack of offense through the middle whether through turning the fullbacks into wingbacks or moving Nagbe centrally.  This new positioning is a way for them to utilize current players to still remain an attacking offense while hopefully fixing the defense.

However, before we talk about a new formation, let’s discuss a thought that I had while sitting at a bar watching LA Galaxy v Sporting Kansas City.

Cuts one way...

The Timbers, as a whole, are a less effective version of Arjen Robben.

Arjen is legendary for receiving the ball on the right wing, driving down the field and then cutting to the left to get the ball on his left foot.

Everyone knows this is coming, everyone knows that he is very left footed and that you cannot let him turn to put the ball there.

Yet, game after game after game he does the same thing over and over. He collects the ball, drives at goal, turns left, shakes his defender and shoots. Now this works for Robben, because one supremely talented player with a cannon for a left foot who has honed his craft can pull this off. From a team perspective though, all this does is allow the other coach and team to plan well in advance for your tendencies and cut them off.

These tendencies were firmly in play on Saturday as the Timbers lost to Chivas USA. They dumped the ball out to the right, time and time and time again and attempted to either hump the ball into the box on a long prayer or cut back inside.

There are a couple reasons why Portland attempts this on the right as well as the left.

However, no more reason is prevalent than the fact that the Portland Timbers are completely feckless through the middle of the field.

Move central please...

They currently lack the ability to have a player who can drive, slash or create in the middle of the pitch. They play with two central defensive midfielders and frequently try to shuttle one of the two into an attacking role, which has not worked.

Jack Jewsbury and Diego Chara play the same position. They sit back, attempt to disrupt the play coming at them, collect and distribute.

They aren’t players who attempt to get out in front of the play, link up through passing, split the defense with through balls and play between the forwards and the defensive midfield. Both of these players are attempted interceptors and pass shuttlers. The Timbers play is the perfect example of this.

When Jewsbury or Chara get the ball, they attempt to look to the wings to play to a dangerous area. They collect and distribute out to Lovel Palmer or Rodney Wallace or the Songo’o-Alhassan combination and those players push up their respective wing, who then hump the ball into the box.

The problem with this practice is that without a true attacking central midfielder, and with all the play on the wings, the opposing team can relax defensively in the middle of the field. They can then push their outside midfielders out to cover the play on the outside and can push their central midfielders to attack more through the middle of the pitch. This means that eventually the Timbers are overwhelmed in the midfield, the wings are cut off and slowly but surely get pushed its back into its own half for the Chainsaw Gang.

Chivas understood where the danger could come from the Timbers, especially in the second half.

When Darlington Nagbe received the ball in an offensive position they swarmed all over him.

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The Great Intangible Tangible: Identity


Sporting KC didn’t play particularly well Saturday against the Los Angeles Galaxy, but it was a good enough.

The victors came away with an earned 1-0 scoreline to keep perfection on the line.

Out west, San Jose played uninspired soccer for the first 45 minutes of their match against Vancouver. This despite being playing at home and despite the name of Tottenham Hotspurs’ loanee Simon Dawkins–sometimes wizardly in possession–finally scribbled in the starting eleven.

Up in Salt Lake, Colorado succumbed to Kyle Beckerman & Co.

Two strikers made their presence felt for the home side against Oscar Pareja’s second-rate center defense combination. (Drew Moor was moved to midfield for the neighborly battle.)

Two weeks ago, the United States U-23 team failed to qualify for the Olympics, deploying in  4-3-3 formation while the strength of the team appeared it could be crossing and finishing and true wing play.

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Fulham vs. Chelsea Today: Best Comp for Dempsey?

Via @icloudchris on Twitter. Dempsey's winner.

First, a great primers for this question today: (On Clint Dempsey & respect)

Part of the previous piece on Dempsey asked the question why Dempsey–beyond perhaps being American–seems not to get the same respect as others given his proclivity for scoring in multiple ways despite not being a true striker, per se.

With another Fulham vs. Chelsea match going down today (the games between the two intra-city rivals always seemed to be marked by some Dempsey drama over the past three years–over-the-shoulder shots, braces, missed penalties), TSG gets the Monday juices flowing by asking:

Deucy?

What player does Dempsey best emulate?

I used to think and still perhaps think it’s Dennis Bergamp–however if Dempsey keeps scoring for the next few years he’ll eclipse Bergkamps ratio of high-teen-goal-counts to seasons ratio — that said, the styles seem similar.

Your choice? (And we’ll make this a column with better statistical review….)

[Note*: Threw in some names just to get the voting and commentary percolating here.]

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