Archive for the ‘Americans Abroad’ Category

Sometimes You Have To Splash

The final two days of the January transfer portal.

Big player; big transfer

Ah, the excitement. A horse race mentality and the media calls it as such.

This dude goes that way; that winger goes this way and everyone’s rumored on their way to Turkey. Only Jozy Altidore actually went there. Down the stretch they come!

Exciting stuff.

And Monday morning, led off with a Chris Farley-sized cannonball right off the diving deck.

Andy Carroll, Anfield bound. $£35M floated down the Tyneside to Newcastle.

….and the incredulous cries began.

Former US striker and ESPN commentator Taylor Twellman called it a joke of a signing.

Grant Wahl…”Are English players really this overvalued?”

However, take a step back and look at where Liverpool was just a few months ago, steaming towards mediocrity and bankruptcy. Agony for fans of a proud club that was Champion’s League victors less than a decade ago.

It’s hard to reclaim your mojo once the bankers come calling. Just ask Leeds United. It’s even harder to reclaim that mojo when both the bankers come and the players want to go.

That’s the predicament that Liverpool was left in just a few months ago.

January, though, sees the hallowed club with a solid Luis Suarez purchase and the headline-grabbing Andy Carroll procurement.

Not bad for a franchise just surmounting the distracting change of ownership debacle and a parlaying a coach who was outside of his depth–a helmsman who employed a “be afraid to be out of position” mindset and whose record away from home was atrocious.

That’s not even half the story.

That coach had replaced another manager who straight-up claimed that management wasn’t supporting him. (Don’t worry that same manager just got jettisoned with the same claims at Inter Milan).

Their current manager? A living club legend, but he hasn’t managed in more than ten years. You could probably say he hasn’t physically built up a lot of player relationships.

More? Sure.

Over the past two years, the team has seen key and popular midfielders from Spain and Argentina with messy departures and just today another Spaniard bound for London. Not a stretch to say high-class Spaniards are probably not keen on wearing the red of Liverpool.

His days as a star coming to a close...

Their talisman, age 30 years…old, and consistently battling injuries. He’s surely crested the best years of his career.

Their best defender, if you will, is 33-year-old and now has the speed of a steamroller…stuck in neutral. He’s also been out…for awhile.

The team’s number one signing last year was terrific…but only against one team, Burnley. He’s now back in Serie A.

Let me pause and ask a question here: “Is this a team that most players are jumping to join?”

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The Weekend: Commentary…Here

The mancrush is reaching unhealthy heights...

A rocky start to our 2011 “smattering of predictions” piece.

Our lay-up, Michael Bradley to the Premiership, just fizzled as Junior is Istanbul not Constantinople or Sunderland bound. (Update: Um, “just happened” … TSG looking a little better on the prediction.)

Yet, a rebound as TSG claimed that “Two Javier’s would join the world’s elite.”

Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez looked the part with yet another spectacular off-ball run and score this week against Blackpool.

While Javier number two–Pastore that is–didn’t net, but troubled Parma all day Tuesday as Palermo ousted Parma from the Coppa Italia.

The weekend sees surging Palermo head to the San Siro to take on Inter Milan in a skirmish of top sides in Serie A.

Here are few other games to look out for:

• Pachuca v. Cruz Azul

Heavyweights battle in a top Primera match-up. Eyes on Herc Gomez who banged in two last time he faced Azul.

• Bursaspor v. Galatasaray

A good chance–if you adthe it–to watch Junior’s new club in action. A critical battle as Gala takes on penultimate (check out that word selection John) side in the table.

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U-Turn: Michael Bradley Loaned to Aston Villa

Junior: "I just went the other way....."

In a silly season, that just got sillier:

ESPN reporting–and uncle Jeff Bradley at ESPN offering congratulations–that Michael Bradley has been loaned through the end of the year to Aston Villa.

Bradley could slot in immediately in the central midfield I surmise. But then again, Gerard Houllier loves to stockpile midfielders and he just brought in Jamie Makoun.

Shocking….

We’ve reached to our contact at Aston Villa to see if we can get any word on this and whether we can get Junior for 10 minutes if it in fact goes through.

(Lesson learned on yesterday’s report–apologies to the TSG audience.)

Jumping The Pond? It’s Really All About The Euro

This piece authored by frequent TSG writer Jay Bell

MLS fans have grown accustomed to losing their favorite players to Europe.

Buddle: All about the bundle....of cash?

A lot of them who are also US Soccer fans actually want the best American players to leave MLS for the benefit of the US Men’s National Team by gaining game reps at the world’s highest level leagues.

US fans love to see when Landon Donovan and Stuart Holden step right in and play with the world’s elite players.

It gives them a sense of pride to see former MLSers like Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Brad Friedel, Tim Howard, and Ryan Nelsen doing well.

It is when MLS players go to lesser European leagues when US fans are disappointed to lose them. Clint Dempsey to Fulham? Good. Jozy Altidore to Villarreal? Awesome. Edson Buddle to Ingolstadt? Not so much.

Money was apparently a big part of the deal. Buddle was reportedly being offered a sizable pay increase by MLS. Reports say that Ingolstadt’s offer was twice the size of MLS’s biggest offer.

It is hard to begrudge a guy for jumping the pond for a big raise. This is where it is tough for MLS to compete with the rest of Europe even outside of the top leagues. Until MLS is able to compete more financially, American fans will continue to see their favorite players go to the Danish Superliga, Norwegian Tippeligaen, 2.Bundesliga and the nPower Championship to tuck away more coin.

Another common belief for players jumping from MLS to the lower leagues in Europe is that the belief that there is a greater chance to be discovered by scouts from the bigger leagues in Europe.

It is believed that players signed with lower leagues in Europe with the intentions of working their way up the ladder. So when fans see Buddle sign for Ingolstadt, he’s not just signing for a relegation fighter in the 2.Bundesliga. He is signing for the next team or two he plays for on his European journey. In theory, for most, each club and league they transfer to will be better than the last.

Is exposure a viable benefit?

MLS has a high profile internationally, at least when it comes to scouting. European teams continue to find top players from Major League Soccer. The English Premier League has long been a popular transfer destination for top MLS players. Former MLSers have played for the entire spectrum of EPL teams; from Manchester United to teams that were relegated. If they are not snatched up by teams in England or Germany, then near-top teams in other leagues want them.

MLS players have signed for Villarreal, Benfica, Anderlecht, Rangers, Feyenoord, PSV Eindhoven, and more. These types of clubs, along with the EPL and Bundesliga, are where players are trying to get to when they leave MLS. How many of them actually do it?

Bradley...waves made at Heerenveen

Michael Bradley is the most successful example. He signed as a teenager with a Dutch team that is usually fighting for a spot in Europe and jumped to the Bundesliga.

Bradley’s next move will likely be to a better club in England, with Sunderland the popular rumor lately. Stern John played for multiple teams in England and made it to the EPL with Sunderland. Clarence Goodson also moved up from IK Start in Norway to Bondby IF.in Denmark. And . . . who else? For a myriad of reasons, MLS players very rarely move up the ladder in Europe whether it is because of injuries, financial reasons, personal reasons, or even just a simple lack of quality. Here is a small list of players who signed outside of the top clubs or leagues in Europe and stayed at or below the same level:

Wade Barrett

Nat Borchers

Adin Brown

Danny Califf

Joe Cannon

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Silly Season Redress: Junior, Pienaar, More…

Lots missed in a Monday where TSG wasn’t at the internet terminal:

• Junior to cross Black Cats’ path?

Junior, moving with ball against Colombia...will he be moving without it soon?

A Fox Soccer reported suggested Michael Bradley could be the cat’s meow at Sunderland FC in the Barclays.

Been an interesting week for Michael Bradley’s name in the press. Last week, before an odd weekend benching (was a move near then or is it something else?), there was some second hand reporting with these comments, paraphrasing Bo Munchen manager Michael Frontzeck:

If he goes, we don’t have a chance to stay up’. He won’t even listen (to offers)

Next Bradley on the bench–with a slew of new faces coming in for Bo’Munchen.

And now yesterday reports of a Bradley move to Sunderland to play for track suit man Steve Bruce.

As we “predicted” a few weeks ago, a Bradley move is likely, especially if Bo’Munchen get relegated. They’ve got Bradley signed through 2012–making him a lame duck if they stay up next week or prohibitive if they go down.

Bradley has consistently stated his desire to play for a top club and, while the Bundesliga is a burgeoning league, Bradley will still get better exposure playing in the EPL.

As for Sunderland, I think it would be a good move for both. Sunderland’s lunch pail, direct football style caters to Bradley’s strengths. Had this exchange with Jonathan Wilson, the noted footie analyst and huge Sunderland fan, last evening on Twitter:

TSG: Thoughts on viability of a Bradley transfer? You’re the man to ask….

JW: In the pub on Sunday I was moaning about the middle of midfield and how SAFC needed a more complete player, esp when Catts (Lee Cattermole) is unavailable. Was struggling to come up with viable target, but Bradley seems ideal. If moving 4-5-1, though, maybe need creator.

TSG: Have not seen him play-is Henderson (Sunderland super prospect, CM Jordan Henderson) too green or headed elsewhere..MB (Michael Bradley) would fit, I think, with Cats current set-up, agreed on the 4-5-1 though.

JW: Henderson is v(ery) promising, but still young and maybe leaving. He and (Keiron) Richardson in the middle of 4-4-2 lacks bite/presence

TSG: Cats will need attack in middie if MB (Bradley) arrives, still horribly sprays the ball. Aggressive tackler, best on O when trailing play.

JW: Five in midfield would liberate Hendo, though, and/or allow one of the slow old men – Steed and Bolo – to create centrally.

So if you followed that conversation, there you have it. The short. Bradley fits in the current system. I don’t necessary seem him thriving if Sunderland go to a 4-5-1.

• Jermaine Jones’s move to Blackburn: “I’s” and “T’s” crossed

Good move here for Blackburn and Jones who was in the Schalke doghouse. Better still if Jones gets to pair with Steve N’Zonzi….the closest thing there is a to Michael Bradley clone.

• Stevie P on his way out, chooses Spurs

Bye…bye…

Word is that Steven Pienaar is joining Tottenham Hotspur despite having an offer from Chelsea. Interesting to say the least. I’ve never been of the opinion that “Steven Pienaar is top team quality.” While he can break down many, he holds the ball too much for my liking if he’s going to be the centerpiece of that offense.

At Spurs, not sure where Pienaar will play. It’s no secret that Spurs need depth if they are going to regularly compete for the championship, it’s just where does Pienaar fit in. He’s not going to play on the right flank, advancing with Rafael Van Der Vaart on that side. I think he’s too small to command the middle of the field. I could see the left and letting Gareth Bale overlap, but what does that formation look like?

Maybe Spurs are committed to losing Bale or Lennon this summer, so they are buying ahead of the loss. Seems plausible.

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The Weekend: Your American Top Five

The TSG Sis is in from the middle of Nowheresville, Africa…so hiatus till Tuesday.

Your top 5 games for Americans to watch this weekend:

5. Saturday: Villarreal vs. Osasuna

The skinny: Yanks’ fans always tune in to see if Jozy Altidore will play for the Yellow submarine, however Jersey-born

Rossi, ahead of most Americans abroad....

Giuseppe Rossi is finally starting to realize the superstar potential that had Manchester United securing his services just a few years ago. Rossi has 17 goals in 25 club competitions on the year. That is, in short, astounding.

Ossasuna is hovercrafting over the relegation line, but they haven’t lost in their last four trips to El Madrigal. That said “the little red ones” as their known will be missing some firepower up top and sport an aging line-up….meaning you just might see Altidore in this one as well.

4. Sunday: Eintracht vs. Hannover

The skinny: Steve Cherundolo’s 96 crew are in 4th. Ricardo Clark’s Frankfurters 7th.

Frankfurt seemed to be putting it together before the Bundesliga’s winter break becoming the first team to down Borussia Dortmund, they’ll face a Hannover squad that is rolling and the surprise of the league.

Update: With injuries across the Franfurters’ backline, Ricardo Clark is set to start at centerback. Move over, Mo Edu.

3. Sunday: Sunderland vs. Newcastle

The skinny: If you’re a fan of watching intently when the US plays on the road in Guatemala and Mexico, this game’s for you. The vitriol in this derby, specifically, is unmatched across the Isle.

Newcastle come in without superfresh striker Andy Carroll who was so instrumental in a 5-1 submerging of Sunderland in the Tyneside last time. This time though the game is in Lee Cattermole’s Stadium of Light den.

2. Sunday: Liverpool vs. Everton

The skinny: The Reds are reeling and Toffee fans can feel it. What better way for Everton, high in the minds of Americans through the names of Tim Howard and Landon Donovan recently, to gouge the knife deeper than to walk into Anfield and walk out with a fan.

With Kenny Dalglish at the helm, Liverpool players will have a consistent visual reminder of what they’re playing for.

1. Sunday: Spurs vs. Man United

The skinny: With the undercurrent of a potential David Beckham sighting here….Manchester United goes on the road to defend their unbeaten streak against Tottenham who are playing the most offensive football in the Premiership.

While Gareth Bale’s name will be invoked frequently in this one, I expect Rafael Van Der Vaart to make a bigger impact nestled just aft of the Manchester United backline. If the Spurs strikers can actually step up in this one, United will be threatened.

And speaking of strikers, just a few months ago fans and media were lamenting the “Wayne Rooney and done” forward line of the Red Devils.

Now? Rooney sits in the background and through Berbatov and Chicharito (and Macheda, now on loan) the Fergusons have strength in numbers up top. If only United could find a spy youngster to marshal the ball up to them. Still waiting Anderson.

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Honorable mention: Saturday: Birmingham v. Aston Villa and…..

Saturday: Napoli vs. Fiorentina

The skinny: While Villarreal have impressed on the attack this year, Napoli has been perhaps the most explosive offense when on.

Uruguyan Edson Cavani is the a top the goalscorer’s table in Serie A and he’ll need to be on with offensive ringleader Marek Hamsik sidelined by suspension.

For the visitors, check out 19-year-old, and one-time Manchester United target, Adem Ljajić. The Serbian national has shown flashes in his first season in Serie A, but you’ll be hearing his name a lot more in the 2nd half of the campaign.

Napoli is 2nd in the table, Fiorentina 10th…should be a good one.

No American player tie-in here, thus it makes only honorable mention.

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And always fun to revisit that guy who was brushing his teeth at the Chelsea game last year (not sure why I thought of this):

Herculez Gomez: “You Never Know Where Life’s Going To Take You….So Make The Most Of It”

Herculez Gomez for Pachuca...

I had the hardest time coming up with angle for our in-depth conversation with Herculez Gomez below and then I chuckled. In the interview, Herculez and I “debate” what player his game is most like. I suggesting Salomon Kalou–and that’s not really a great one. He suggesting….that he really can’t come up with a comparison.

But as much as Herculez Gomez is perhaps unorthodox in how he’s risen in his career–to striker at one of the top teams in the Mexican Primera–and how he arose to consideration for World Cup 2010 (and eventually to a starting spot in the most critical group game for the States)…..

And as much as you can’t define his game or perhaps how, or why, he’s had success……

There’s a single theme that I found resonating, strongly and supremely, through Herculez Gomez’s answers.

He’s an All-American….brimming with the American can-do spirit.

And then that analogy of unorthodoxy works all the better considering Herculez Gomez is a Mexican-American, who grew up a fan of MLS–considering Cobi Jones one of his favorites nonetheless–and has reached the pinnacle of American soccer…without ever, in his words, being the best on his club team.

Ladies and gentlemen, the All-American:

TSG COMMENTARY: JUNE 12th, 2010

TSG: So first question I’ve wanted to ask you for a while and I apologize, but it’s a World Cup question.

What was that moment like when Bob Bradley called you to the touchline in the England game. You hadn’t played much for the US until then and here you are. There are only a few moments left and Bob Bradley calls you to the touchline. While it was wasting time, we also commented at the time that it was a bold move by Bob Bradley to make sure you were ready when called on, whether for this game or next.

Take us through that moment.

Herc: I think Bob was just trying to waste time. But in my head, I’m thinking, if I can get on the field last minute, maybe there’s a chance.

Maybe, who knows what happens. I think it was Bob trying to kill some time. Throw in a sub.

I was still eager to get on the field, but it was bittersweet. It was awesome that we got a great result against England.

I definitely would’ve loved to touch the pitch though. It was one of those “Oh, jeez, almost” moments.

TSG: Do you think he was getting you ready for the next game where you came in earlier in the 2nd half against Slovenia? A sort of “Be ready when I call you” thing?

Cue....Team Celebration FC!

Herc: It definitely showed me that Bob had faith in me and that he was willing to throw me in. He could’ve chosen anybody, but he gave me the opportunity.

Bob throughout the tournament gave me the confidence and that is something every player needs–a coach’s confidence.

I remember then when I came in against Slovenia, I was buzzing. I was lively. I made a run.

I cleared some space for Michael and for Jozy and he nodded the ball down to Michael. And Michael had a great finish.

That was a ridiculous game to be part of. The way we came back and battled and how much character our team showed.

It’s good to feel that in the those moments your coach has faith in you.

TSG: One of the things that the fan in me loved about that moment….I loved that Michael Bradley when he went to celebrate was yelling at and beckoning for the whole bench to come join him at the corner flag.

So many times you see goal scorers celebrate themselves, but for US fans I think that was just a great moment after the goal to see the team celebrate.

Herc: You know, we’re a different team than most. We’re a very hard-working team.

People here in Mexico ask me what it’s like [to be part of the USMNT].

We were a machine. There’s no one bigger than the team. Everybody does their part. Everybody pulls for another.

You know, we were down there [in South Africa] for a month and when you’re seeing each other everyday, getting to know each other, it builds a bond.

And now you’re fighting for your country at the biggest sporting event in the world….it’s not just one person scoring a goal, it’s the whole team gaining something.

That’s the way we saw it.

TSG: Has that experience changed your perspective at all on soccer? Changed your preparation or anything else?

Herc: Absolutely. I think it’s the greatest thing about playing soccer, playing on a national team.

You get to learn something new. Everything’s so intense at the international level. You learn what it takes to play at that level. The dedication. The work. Everything you have to put in. The sacrifice.

Spending that time going to the World Cup, seeing how certain players prepare themselves. Seeing how the competition reacts to certain things, how they lift themselves up.

Seeing how your teammates do that for you.

Those things go a long way and you don’t necessarily see them at the club level.

Intimidating, but loved

TSG: Is it indicative of Bob Bradley, that is, the US’s team profile, if you will, or is it just the American ethos? I would say it’s a little bit of both, but you tell me.

Herc: I do think it’s a little bit of both. I think you see Bob’s personality in our team. We pick and choose our moments.

We’re an all or nothing team. We definitely leave it on the field….and that’s Bob in a nutshell.

Bob’s an intense guy. If you ever meet Bob, your first impression of him is that he’s a very intimidating.

He may not want to come across that way. But that’s just Bob. That’s the way he is and that’s why we love him.

He’s our manager and he’s a no bullshit type of guy.

TSG: Let me follow-up on that intensity theme. I didn’t watch much of your play until May of 2010 and I might have had my doubts….[pause]

But one thing that impressed me the most about your game is your hustle on the field is just amazing. It’s not like you’re just burning energy on the field to burn energy. You still have economy of motion, but you’re constantly in motion.

I watched you in that Czech game specifically and you were always looking for a spot to be open or making a move to open up someone else.

How did you develop that ability and mentality?

Herc: I think it’s adaptation really. And this is being very sincere here.

I was never an ODP [Olympic Development Program] player. I was never best in state.

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