Archive for the ‘Serie A’ Category

Alexi On Alexi….And Serie A

Lalas....

Editor’s Note: We’ve had a few pieces lately that involved , specifically, Alexi Lalas and his time overseas in Serie A with Padova.

This piece by Eric Beard which acknowledges Alexi’s time at Padova and the focus in training. And this piece, Eric Giardini, which discusses the challenges for Americans playing in Serie A.

Thus we decided to reach out to the now-ESPN analyst and get his perspective on playing abroad. The following by….Alexi Lalas, with questions by Eric Giardini:

Mint condition...

TSG: You joined Padova in 1994 during the height of Catenaccio that the great Milan teams of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s were using so successfully to win 3 European titles and 5 Scudettos. What was it like playing this defensive style of soccer and how did it differ from your duties with the USMNT?

Alexi Lalas: The defensive tactics of Italian soccer are well documented. And if you’re a club like Padova, who’s simply looking to stay up in Serie A, your reliance on defense is only amplified.

We were not going to be possessing the ball or dictating play against most teams. So we basically played in a 5-3-2. The player in the middle of the back 5 would often fall back like a sweeper and provide additional safety and another layer of cover. The outside backs only pushed forward on the counter.

But from the first day I arrived we trained on our defensive team shape, it was as important as stretching.

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Even Rome Got Built Faster Than This…

This is a guest post by our newly crowned Serie A expert Eric Giardini.

And thus concludes another transfer window with the tally of Americans newly introduced to Serie A clubs again…zero….

Thumbs up for....Frankfurt...not Livorno...

Over the past few decades, the number of Americans playing overseas in Europe has grown substantially.

The development of MLS and the opportunity for homegrown players to expand their game, coupled with recent individual performances in international tournaments, have brought more attention to American players than ever before.

Americans can now be seen in four of the biggest European leagues:  Tim Howard, Stuart Holden, Clint Dempsey, and now Michael Bradley in England; Steve Cherundolo and Ricardo Clarkin Germany; Jozy Altidore in Spain; and Carlos Bocanegra in France – and these are just a few.

Additionally, Americans have made impacts in “smaller” European leagues – namely Maurice Edu becoming something of a cult hero in Glasgow with Rangers and DeMarcus Beasley having enjoyed great success in the Netherlands with PSV.

This doesn’t include the numerous Americans playing in Scandinavia or the lower leagues across Europe. With the growing success of Americans abroad, the question remains why has there not been the same success in Serie A? Although there have been Americans linked to Italian clubs, most recently Landon Donovan and Ricardo to a newly-promoted Livorno side in 2009, these rumors do not come to fruition. With Americans enjoying success around much of the European continent, what is it about Italy that makes it so difficult for Americans to break through?

In short, I think it comes down to a combination of culture and the tactical nature of Serie A.

The Italian culture differs a great deal from the rest of Europe, to which Americans are more easily able to relate.  You may say, “Well, France and Spain are just as different from America as Italy is and Americans play there.”  You have a point, BUT we are exposed to the cultures and languages of Spain and France from a young age.  Growing up, many of us were told we had to choose between learning French or Spanish (or maybe German) in school, but how many of you had the option to take Italian?  It just isn’t something in the mainstream American consciousness – despite what MTV and New Jersey stereotypes lead us to believe.  This leads to a difficulty adapting to life in Italy off the pitch.

Second, the tactics used in Serie A differ a great deal from other leagues in Europe and from the style of play that the USMNT has adopted under Bob Bradley.  This leads to a steep learning curve for Americans relative to the other leagues.

Lalas...

Alexi Lalas was the first American to play in Serie A in the modern era when he joined Padova in 1994 on the back of a strong World Cup performance here in the United States. What should have been the beginning of an American influx to the league never materialized. Since Alexi first brought that perfect head of hair to the league, only four other Americans have made stops in Italy. Four. Giuseppe Rossi (yes, I’m counting him, let’s all collectively move past it), Vincenzo Bernardo, Gabriel Ferrari, and, most recently, Oguchi Onyweu.

Notice anything similar about three of these four names?  Rossi, Bernardo, and Ferrari all have at least one Italian parent, Italian citizenship, and were firmly entrenched in the Italian culture before embarking on their pro career abroad. The learning curve and having to adapt to Italy was not there. These players were already familiar with the language, food, and customs that would take others time to become accustomed.

Could he navigate Serie A?

Not to pick on anyone, but Clint Dempsey from Nacogdoches, Texas, for instance, I feel would have a more difficult time adapting to Italy based on these factors. England, on the other hand, was a perfect fit for him. Clarence Seedorf, when asked last summer about the lack of Americans in Italy, responded that other European nations provide a certain level of comfort to Americans, specifically in terms of language.

It should be noted that this is not solely limited to Americans in Italy. If you look at the other leagues around Europe, there are very few Italians abroad so the culture shock appears to go both ways.

Of the four Americans mentioned above, none are currently in Italy. Rossi is excelling at Villarreal after beginning in Parma. Bernardo, a member of the U-20 USMNT, was with Napoli but is now at a “third division Austrian club” after his contract with Serie D’s Nola Calcio was terminated due to financial difficulties at the club. Ferrari, another U-20 USMNT (but unclear if still a member of the program), played with Sampdoria but his last known whereabouts is with FC Wohlen (where he was recently dismissed) in Switzerland (another country with Italian being a dominant language). Onyewu, as we all know, is on loan to FC Twente from AC Milan.

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Totti: Ingloriously Slipping To Obscurity At Roma?

Bundled on the bench...are the good times now over for Totti and Roma?

Editor’s note: I’m pleased to kick off our Serie A coverage–I’ll use that word lightly  for no–with a kick *ss piece from guest columnist Eric Giardini.

This week the great Roma star Francesco Totti came out with a simple three-word, but monumentally deflating, statement for every Roma fan after being introduced with but four minutes left in a 2-1 loss at Sampdoria.

“I am sad.”

Giardini explains the tragic weight behind those words:

Closing time?

NO TOTTI, NO PARTY?

The accolades speak for themselves:  one Scudetto, two Coppa Italias, two Suppercoppa Italianas (think England’s Community Shield), one FIFA World Cup, as well as countless individual awards.  He is Roma’s all-time leader in appearances and goals – 590 and 251, respectively (and counting).  He has spurned offers from other clubs repeatedly to stay with the club he supported as a boy and made his debut for at the age of 16.  This, as well as his jabs at Lazio – from famously celebrating a goal by revealing an undershirt reading “Vi ho purgato ancora” (“I’ve purged you guys again”) to his thumbs down gesture after defeating Lazio last season, signifying that Lazio will be relegated (which didn’t happen and now Lazio sits in 2nd at time of writing…karma) have endeared him to Romanisti worldwide.  Very few players have meant more to a club and its supporters than he does.  He is Francesco Totti and he IS Roma.

Totti has long been one of my favorite players.

His ability is without question (as countless YouTube videos with questionable music pairings can attest to).  It is not just his class on the pitch that I enjoy watching, it is his brash style of play that accompanies it.  Whether it is him chipping in a penalty or kicking a player in frustration, he plays with an honesty and emotion that is rare to see.  While most consider his style “too flashy” or him being too much of “hothead”, Italians, and more specifically Romans, will tell you that it is part of being Roman.  My grandfather from the outskirts of Rome can certainly attest to this (and my friends will also tell you that I exhibit this as well).

For years, my weekend routine has consisted of the following:  setting my alarm at 8:45 every Sunday, putting on some coffee, putting one of my Roma jerseys on (with a new Totti one on the way), and watching Roma play while keeping my voice down to not wake my roommates.  I tell you this because what I’m about to tell you shakes the very core of my beliefs as a Roma supporter.  What I propose is Francesco Totti no longer be the first name in the Starting XI and that his minutes be reduced for the good of his career and the long-term good of Roma.

The Presider...

Under Claudio Ranieri, he is no longer an automatic presence in the Starting XI, nor should he be.  Times have changed and this is no longer 2001, the year of Roma’s last Scudetto, and Totti, while remaining an integral part of the squad, should begin to see his minutes reduced.  The days of Totti needing to play 90 minutes every match are behind Roma and behind him.  Injuries are finally catching up to him and Roma now has the depth up top to allow the goalscoring load to be spread between a few players and not solely on Totti.

At the age of 34, Totti’s legs have seen many matches and don’t have the pace they once did.  The footwork, back heels, and perfectly weighed through balls are not as successful as they once were.  The body always goes before the mind, and while it seems Totti believes he can still play at the same level he was able to, it just isn’t happening this season.  While a new contract at €9m per season is a lot to leave sitting on the bench (along with Adriano’s €5m but that’s another story), I think it would be in Roma’s best interest that he sees more time there.

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The Robin to Messi’s Batman…

….or the Batman to Messi’s Robin…hmm….

Update: Javier Pastore with the first hat trick of the Serie A season as Palermo downed Catania Sunday 3-1.

Bold prediction here. Very bold by TSG standards….

“Javier Pastore will be in the running for Ballon D’or winner in 2014 AND win the best player of World Cup 2014.”

Take your bets now.

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From October 3rd, 2010:

A little lighter fare for a Sunday.

I play soccer Sunday mornings with a few guys from both Argentina and Uruguay.

This morning we chatted a little bit about Maradona, Messi and Tevez, but the name that came up most was Javy Pastore.

The sentiment among all the Argentinians there–for what it’s worth one of them used to play lower level club ball in Argentina–is that the 21-year-old attacking midfielder/winger who currently plays for Serie A Palermo from Argentina is about to explode for club and country. According to one friend, “In 2014, everyone at home thinks the team will be led by Messi and Pastore.”

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The Gooch Watch: Onyewu Fights For Spot

Gooch on US duty last month...

I’m working on an interview and on some weekend stuff, but I thought I would flip this one out there courtesy of TSG contributor Connor Walsh and the AP:

Update: According to James Horncastle at the Guardian, “Early reports suggest Onyewu got up and grabbed Ibra by the throat” at which point the fight ensued.

The practice players tried to intervene, but practice was then suspended by Milan manager Max Allegri.

—–

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Oguchi Onyewu got in a little scuffle at the Milanello training complex as AC Milan prepares to play Bari this Sunday.

The pair had to be separated by team-mate. Apparently, Onyewu was at the backend of a hard tackle by Ibrahimovic.

Hey, at least we know Gooch is still training with Milan.

And apparently Pep Guardiola approves as well and sent Onyewu a thank you.

Champions league Semi Final – Inter Milan versus Barcelona

Is this not one of the better Champ’s League seasons in awhile? 3-1 Inter today as Mourinho gameplanned both Messi and Xavi right out of the gam.

Power finally came back on, entire neighbourhood was out and couldn’t get anywhere in time to watch what seemed like a great game…BAH

Team 5 foot 7 celebrating. Will we see some of this today?

Well its been 10 minutes and I still don’t have power. Luckily this screen is up so I can write some thoughts. Inter were playing really well for being a goal down and the equalizer was inevitable. Barcelona are very much like the Spanish national side in that they are exquisite in their attacking but their defense (Casillas aside) is nothing to write home about.

They also only know one way to win and its by doing it pretty. Example – against the US they needed to grind it out or try something against the 11 men back defense they came up against, but they kept trying to thread the killer pass instead of drawing the defenders out by shooting from afar. In the end they were very susceptible to the counter attack which the US made them pay for. Don’t get me wrong, Barcelona are the best club in the world at the moment and their attacking quality is second to none, but they can be stopped as Mourinho and Inter Milan are proving. Now just wait for the power to come back on and Barcelona are 5-1 up! This is getting ridiculous! its been 15 minutes!

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