Archive for the ‘EPL’ Category

American Fullback in Brum: Eric Lichaj

Eric Lichaj...

If only we had asked the right question at the beginning of the interview. That question: “Eric, are you a fan of interviews?”

Because, the conclusion of our conversation with Aston Villa defender Eric Lichaj went something like this, “Anything we missed Eric? Any questions we should have asked?”

Eric’s reply?

“Nothing really. I don’t really do a lot of interviews. I’m not a big fan of them.”

Lichaj’s roommate with the 88’s at the Bradentown Academy in Florida where the Aston Villa rightback spent time in his teens, Preston Zimmerman, confirmed it with us, “You might as well consider the interview a success if you were able to get anything out of him at all…haha.”

So that explains Eric’s direct, curbed, but still accommodating responses.

TSG spoke with Eric via a speakerphone in the media office at Villa the day after last week’s Sunderland game and after an early morning workout at “The Barn,” the name of the Villa training complex.

We meandered through a whole host of questions with Eric during the exchange, trying at multiple points to crowbar out just a little more detail.

Eric, for his part, seemed slightly bemused by the interview and called it himself at the end when he said, “Look, I’m just a regular guy.”

In fact that’s the just impression we got in speaking with him. A regular, fuss-less, quietly confident guy, who is solely focused on moving forward in a very black-and-white way…see goal, attain goal.

For American fans, Lichaj’s no-nonsence demanor seems like a perfect component to Bob Bradley’s squad. All the better for the American fullback in Birmingham who looks to have a leg up on the rightback role in Rio De Janiero in a little less than four years.

Now, we launch into our Eric Lichaj conversation. And a huge thanks to the media team at Aston Villa for working us in.

TSG: Bit of a tough stretch for Villa here, what’s the mood around the team?

Eric: Well, it lifted a little when we got a good result against Chelsea. But yesterday, we lost 1-nil versus Sunderland.

Our hopes are still high though and we think we’re going to start getting some points.

TSG: You recently began starting…what was it like getting out there with the first unit for the first time against West Brom?

Eric: I had already played a couple of games with the League Cup so it wasn’t anything big. I just looked at as I have to do my job because we were in a bad spot [Luke Young out injured].

TSG: Is it easier subbing in for you or easier when you’re with the starting team?

Eric: Pretty sure every player would say it’s easier starting than coming on as a sub.

Because you come on in the 2nd half you have to get used to the pace of the game pretty quickly. You have to warm-up on the sideline and that’s not really a proper-warm.

Lichaj: Rarely Baled out...

TSG: Now you knew we were going to ask you about going up against Gareth Bale. You did a more than admirable job in defense of him. How’d you prepare for Bale and that game?

Eric: I didn’t really prepare any specific way. Before the game I had some of the guys who played against him before give me advice. Obviously Carlos [Cuellar] was covering me whenever I slipped up and that was good.

It was good to shut him down and I did a decent job, but we still lost the game. So not really that sweet I guess.

TSG: Right. What was some of the advice you received about defending Bale?

Eric: The guys were just telling me about how quick he is. I always ask what for what foot they use and what moves he does where.

Also some stuff on “when he does this, he likes to go down the line.”

I think I handled it pretty well.

Bailing out Balotelli and then some against City...

TSG: Agreed. However, the follow-up game against Manchester City was more challenging.

You played a different type of winger going up against Silva, Johnson and even against the striker Balotelli a few times. Was that difficult?

Eric: I really wasn’t use to playing a full game. Two games in a few days on short rest was tough. I’m not using that as an excuse though; I just had a bad game.

TSG: How do you rebound from a game like that. Do you go talk to the coach? Do you prepare any differently?

Eric: Oh no. It’s just keep working hard and putting it behind me. Everyone makes mistakes.

I made a mistake in the beginning of the game. I just have to keep working hard and keep doing what I do.

TSG: Do you prepare differently for each type of forward you encounter during the season?

Eric: I don’t prepare any differently. Usually I find out which is their dominant foot, how quick they are and whether they like to cut inside or not.

Just little things like that and I take it from there.

TSG: What were your goals heading into this year and how’s the progress in attaining them? Are they within your reach?

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Sunday: Galaxy Making News, More

Let’s catch us both up on some happenings from the past two days:

• Anyone got a pretzel?

Brat-City!

Multiple reports have Edson Buddle en route to Germany to sign a deal with Bundesliga 2 side FC Ingolstadt. Quite an American contingent has recently traipsed through the Bavarian side.

Former Revolution defender Amaechi Igwe is currently at the club while Freddy Adu recently trained there. (Sure seems to this writer that the Adu trial just helped grease up the Buddle move as they share the same agent.)

Buddle will get a chance to save the relegation-teetering squad from dropping, pick up some dollars in the process and maybe catch a few eyes. Will be interesting to see the deal terms and length on this one as here was a Galaxy spokesperson comment on December 16th of last year:

“Bruce Arena expects to sign Edson Buddle to a new contract to be with team in 2011.” So this could be a short-term, keep the team up thing with Buddle returning in the summer? Just our one cent here.

Galaxy must find some redundancy up top beyond signing Juan Pablo Angel if they are going to make their Cup chase happen in earnest this year.

And, this sort of sets the value on US strikers. Robbie Findley to Nottingham Forest, the second division in England while his World Cup striker counterpart goes to the second division in the Bundesliga.

• Becks spurned

Sky Sports reporting that insurance issues put the kibosh on a David Beckham loan to Tottenham Hotspur.

Nevertheless everyone’s favorite England midfielder is expected to train with the club for a month.

This is better news for the Galaxy I guess.

• ‘Pool – United

Ken Daglish takes over the reins from Roy Hodgson for Liverpool when they play in just about half an hour here at Old Trafford.

Wednesday Factors: Lilly, Bedoya, More..

Seems like a lot of news for a new year, no?

Lilly ran away from defenders and everyone in the stats department...

• Bigger than MJ….seriously

Kristine Lilly has just announced her retirement from the US Women’s National Team this morning after 6,435,943 caps.

Kidding, after 392…that’s just amazing and in fact more than any other player, man or women, in FIFA history.

We caught up with Kristine earlier this year. Interview is here.

• The Ambassador to Brazil now in Sweden

A few moments ago, Ale Bedoya tweeted that he was on his way back to Orebro Sweden.

Bedoya responds that his club wanted him back for preseason. He’s due back in camp on January 15th.

Preston Zimmerman, one hell of a European story...

• Running the Mainz maze

MLS Soccer caught up with our good friend Preston Zimmerman, who after moving to the midfield, is now suiting up at righback on occasion. You get a little bit of insight into German football–and the value of Jozy Altidore–when Zimmerman comments in the exchange that he was moved because Mainze like their strikers to have bigger frames than his.

You can read more on Preston here.

If you are new to our publication and haven’t read about Preston’s amazing experiences the past two years, you can begin here.

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A Murky Outlook for American Keepers At Villa

This is the second guest column by Preston Petri

Gerard Houllier, contemplating changes in front of the mesh at Villa Park...while higher-ups likely contemplate his...

Recently, Aston Villa of the Barclays Premier League have followed in the footsteps of the old Fullhamerica teams by integrating former and current USMNT players into their first team fold. There’s been a lot of talk and praise for the young American defender Eric Lichaj, who has recently been thrown into his first ever two Premier League starts. Its exciting for most USMNT fans to see a young prospect in a right back position which desperately needs a future in Bob Bradley’s side, however one of the most debated positions at Aston Villa, also happens to encompass a couple of Yanks.

Brad Friedel and Brad Guzan, or Big Brad and Little Brad, as they are referred to in the Villa circles, have been the top two goalkeepers at the club for over two seasons, with each of them putting in some impressive as well and forgettable performances. However with Villa in such a terrible run of form as of late, every position, including the goalkeeper has been put under scrutiny by fans and critics alike.

Whereas American fans could always count on an American being between the sticks when they turned on a Villa match on the tube, it appears those days (along with at least one of the Brad’s) may be numbered.

For weeks some fans have been calling for Friedel’s number one jersey to be passed to his fellow Yank understudy in Guzan, but for every fan calling for Friedel’s head, there is another just waiting to go on about how inexperienced Guzan is. It has become quite the debate on Villa fan sites, and now with the January transfer window opening and rumors and speculation flowing about, the debate has expanded.

Complicating matters further is Brad Guzan’s one-month loan to Hull City of the Championship for just a single month’s time—perhaps a lease with the option to buy–and a buzzing undercurrent that much maligned Villa skipper Gerard Houllier is poised to secure a keeper in the January window.

The netminder that has been most consistently linked to a relocation package with to Aston Villa is Rangers keeper Alan McGregor. McGregor, who of course is a teammate with USMNT midfielder Maurice Edu, has been impressive in recent seasons and quite naturally is getting looks at by English clubs. It certainly isn’t a debate that can be settled in a day, or an article for that matter, however let’s take a look at all three options. (assuming McGregor is a realistic transfer target for Gerard Houllier and Aston Villa)

Friedel, looking over his shoulder for oncoming keepers on Trinity Road?

Brad Friedel

Big Brad has been an ever present in the Aston Villa lineup ever since he and Guzan arrived there in the summer of 2008. In Brad’s first Premier League campaign with Villa, he was arguably their player of the season, starting all 38 of their matches, collecting 13 clean sheets and making 124 saves, while Guzan rode the pine with the occasional start in a non league match. The next season (2009/2010) Big Brad continued his impressive displays by again starting all 38 Premier League matches and making 126 saves while raising his clean sheet tally to 15. Guzan again rode the pine in every league match, and featured only in cup matches. You could perhaps make an argument that the Villa defense that season, which ranked second behind Chelsea for the majority of the year, helped make Brad look better, however defensive organization starts with the goalkeeper, and Friedel is one of the best.

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It Appears Sylvie Is The Most Talented Van Der Vaart…But This Video Doesn’t Prove It

Thank goodness, John Terry isn't your teammate Rafael...

Wait…hold on….

Okay, Miss TSG is not around the corner.

Let it be said right here that Rafael Van Der Vaart is the sidekick to his beautiful wife Sylvie.

Sylvie, a model by trade, at 32 has a few pretty notable “accomplishments” affixed to her kit:

• First, being number one on nearly every WAG list on the Internet. Look it up, I dare you to find more than two instances where she’s not at the top of the list.

• Two…and seriously….beating breast cancer by stomaching a grueling chemotherapy treatment….and then having the courage–as model nonetheless–to go out in public with a shaved head and a wig.

• Coming back to be a hair model for L’Oreal…

• And finally having somehow figuring into the best computer-aided sure to go viral video on the new year.

Christmas on Tuesday: EPL Docket

Nearly forgot about the Premiership match-ups midweek today. All about to go down.


As good as he is, this is not a face you want to put on program guides

 

Villa v. Tevezchester City

Nothing like sending a message of cluelessness to your egregiously overpriced team like making Carlos Tevez the captain last week after he flip-flopped on a homesickness claim to remain at City.

That said, what does the fact that Tevez is so invaluable to the team say about your wild spending on other players over the past more than two years. Where have you gone Joleon Lescott, Roque Santa Cruz and Emmanuel Adebayor? Buyer beware should these names come across your transfer sheet in January.

Meanwhile Americans will be hoping for an encore performance from Eric Lichaj? After containing Gareth Bale this past weekend though, Lichaj gets the start against promising England youngster Adam Johnson. Another audition.

Omar Cummings arrives shortly.

The Boredom Bowl: Stoke City vs. Fulham

Precisely what this game would be for US fans if it didn’t include Clint Dempsey.

Fulham are fighting relegation. Surprised?

Stoke City…okay forget it, next.

"I'm running a bomb route, then I'm going to post you up and you're going to be worried."

Spurs v. Newcastle

Now this will be a good match-up. This one previews like an NFL match-up.

Tottenham Hotspur are doing a good job of spreading the field and incising the opponent with checkdowns (Alan Huttons crosses), fly routes (Gareth Bale barreling down the left) and screen passes (scatback Rafael Van Der Vaart finding defensive holes you didn’t know your team had.)

Newcastle’s defense batters you all day long and then it’s “hike it up to Andy Carroll from a Joey Barton bomb or pray for rain.” Did you know all of Carroll’s goals have been assisted by Barton. You hear that ‘Arry?

West Brom vs. The Remnants of the Artist Formerly Known as Big Sam

Chris Brunt, most underrated player in the Premiership. Bears repeating.

Onward as the left winger is not in the line-up today due to a knock. (Can’t do a proper preview here…I’ve got like 4 West Brom games on DVR…for some reason I really like watching that team.)

Birmingham vs. Manchester United

The Blues are notoriously stingy up at St. Andrews. This will be a good game. I can’t say it will be pretty to watch, but it’ll be a close one.

Alex McLeish’s crew–after having their Everton game postponed–are also well rested coming into this one. It’s got the making of, potentially, Manchester United’s first loss of the season.

Birmingham however will need to something, anything out of striker Cameron Jerome– the biggest disappointment of the EPL season thus far–to keep Manchester United’s defense honest.

 

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