Archive for February, 2011

Alexi On Alexi….And Serie A


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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Wednesday Action: Champ’s League & Cannons

One word: Cesc...

A gaggle of good games on the program today. Go:

• The Great Cesc Coaster….

Stoke head to the Emirates in today’s appetizer match.

Arsenal? Volatile. A premium performance against Barcelona followed up by “dropping” a draw to Leyton on some wonderment near stoppage time.

Stoke for their part are much stronger at home, but come in having failed to concede more than two goals in any match this season in the Premiership, the only team to do so.

Call this one the Army-Air Force game. Stoke will try to go over the top to Kenwynne Jones, Ricardo Fuller and company while the Wengers will look to play the ball on the ground through the midfield and carefully dissect the Trentmen’s backline.

And as always, please don’t climb on the cannons:

• Champ’s League: Finals rematch: Bayern tries to go galatic on Inter

Olic still out of action...

The visitors to the Giuseppe Meazza could really use the industry of Ivica Olic in this one…unfortunately the Croatian is still out of action.

Bayern takes to Milan today hoping avenge last year’s final loss. They may not find Jose Mourinho on the touchline but they’ll still have to handle Samuel E’to who has been–in this writer’s opinion–quietly brilliant in both league and Europe action this year. Look for him to attack the Germans down the left flank while “even quieter” Maicon–still brooding over not being relocated to Spain–attacks down the right flank.

Bayern will counter with the typical pair of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. While Ribery has been down right pedestrian this year, Mario Gomez up top is coming in in serious form and will try to throw some haymakers at Inter’s central defense.

Mourinho is a “galactico” but Inter should prevail at home.

• Triumph? Manchester to Marseille

First, let’s get some Man United info out of the way. Bebe, remember him, the United signing that Ferguson never saw in person? Yeah, he’s already rumored out of Old Trafford at the end of the year.

Cantona? Calls Fergie a genius here and says Manband Berba is “great.”

Today? Man United to the south of France to face Gignac, Remy and a Marseille team that have been ho-hum at best in Ligue 1 action.

Key match-ups?

Will Evra’s rose have a thorn in Loic Remy floating out behind his forward runs on the “port” flank?

And America’s best friend Andre Ayew attempts to boss the Redhead Devil midfield.

I’m sorry, did we mention Cantona?

Brazil 2014: “Stadium Budgets That Border On Complete Fiction”

This column is part of a continuing special report by Professor Christopher Gaffney.

Previous entries in the series: I, II

Not going off without a hitch...

While the clock is counting down to the 2014 World Cup, Brazil hurries to get the necessary infrastructure in place to host the tournament.

A recent report by the Tribunal das Contas da Uinão (TCU, Brazil’s Federal Accounting Authority) has indicated that many of Brazil’s World Cup projects are being conducted with a gross lack of transparency, a lack of concrete planning, and exploding budgets.

The main targets of the TCU report are Rio’s Maracanã  and Salvador’s Novo Fonte Nova, stadium projects which have jumped into the billions.

The report was firm in declaring that the Maracanã stadium’s contract process was completely opaque and that the budget “borders on complete fiction”.

The TCU highlighted the fact that while the Minerão stadiumproject in Belo Horizonte presented 1309 architectural drawings and the Verdão project in Cuiabá presented 702, the Maracanã presented 37. In the budget for the Maracanã, “multiple items are included multiple times, there are innumerable opportunities for inflationary costs to be written in, and items included in the engineering budget have nothing to do with engineering.”

The Maracanã

I asked SUDERJ (Sports Superintendent for Rio de Janeiro State and the owner of the Maracanã stadium project) to respond to some questions regarding the  TCU report and the Maracanã project at large.

TSG: The TCU Report points to big problems in the delivery of the Maracanã project. What are the steps taken by SUDERJ to attend to the demands of the TCU?

SUDERJ: The edital and all of the documentation were analyzed and approved by the TCU of the State of Rio de Janeiro, which audits state works. It is important to clarify that the TCU report was not sent to the state government. The state secretary of public works (EMOP) is responsible for the project, audited by the control organs of the TCE (State Auditor).

TSG: Adding together the 2005-2007 reforms and the 2010-2012 reforms, the Maracanã will cost around R$1.5 billion (US$900 million), making it one of the most expensive stadiums in the world. What were the cheaper alternatives to have the stadium attend FIFA’s demands?

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Champ’s League: Real Madrid Lyonized?

UEFA Champion’s League Tuesday….begin:

Will we get trademark Ronaldo...and precisely what is that? More blame or more game? (Photo credit: Shaun Webb)

• Real Madrid Hope To Be Lyonized in France


Your turn my man to step up.

For the past two Champion’s League seasons your team has not attained the crown and you’ve squarely placed the blame on your manager or, in the case last year, blamed your manager after guaranteeing advancement.

To date this year, Ronaldo has grabbed the goals in La Liga, but the accolades have went to Messi, Xavi and company.

This time, Ronaldo has Jose Mourinho on his touchline. Can’t make those excuses. Apologies Lyon–with Michel Bastos playing out of his mind in the competition–it’s also about the Madeiran in this series.

• FC Copenhagen hope to snuff out Chelsea at home

Dame N'Doye for Copenhagen

Is Parken Stadium the scene for Chelsea righting the ship?

Not sure where to put this next comment, but I’m surprised more hasn’t been written about how Chelsea are just desperately missing a single piece to the puzzle: a centrally attacking midfielder-forward.

They’ve got none. Anelka looks for his shot when withdrawn, Kalou is more naturally a winger and not a playmaker. Lampard prefers to trail, while Michael Essien prefers to defend.

Didier Drogba is much better deployed in the attack and prefers to run off center while Torres likes to threaten the opponent’s backline.

It has been fascinating watching teams play Chelsea for the past few months once they realize that, unless someone has a great game out of character to their skillset, they can sag off the Blues.

Copenhagen’s got some firepower in this one to challenge stalwart David Luiz and favorite villian John Terry in the form of veteran forwards Brazilian César Santin and Senegalese Dame N’Doye. If Copenhagen can provide the service, might be a tough one for the visitors.

Alejandro Bedoya To Train At Birmingham City

We applaud the move too....

Prelude to a move?

Via Soccer by Ives and the Orebro Web site, the TSG crowned Ambassador to Brazil, Alejandro Bedoya will train with Birmingham City.

City could certainly use the wingers–cough, Alexander Hleb–and Bedoya’s got the body, the crossing power and headers for the EPL….does he have a complete game.

Only a one week stint here, with Bedoya’s contract up this will help another league get a look at him before the summer.

The Weekend: Old Firms, FA Cups & More

Lots of good ones this weekend.

Couldn’t get around to our five games to watch this week, but Sunday should be a good match-up as Stu Holden and Bolton head to London to face off with Clint’s Cottagers. Gonna watch that one.

Enjoy and get the comment threads going.

Stu vs...


Op-Ed: Lament Flamini’s Style, Not Mourinho’s

And there he stood Tuesday in a Champion’s League knockout match between the elder statesmen of the San Siro and the interlopers from White Hart Lane.

Mathieu Flamini.

Celebration after castration...

Flamini, nervously (actually not all that nervously) awaiting sentencing by referee Stephane Lannoy for a reckless, dangerous, and any-other-negative-advective-you-want-to-throw-on-it tackle of Tottenham Hotspur Vedran Corluka.

Corluka, and Spurs, got a harsher sentence than the mere “caution” the Milan hatchet man was awarded: Four weeks on the shelf for the defender in the middle of an important stretch of games for the club.

Flamini? He’ll likely be available to play on Saturday when AC Milan face Chievo Verona back in Serie A.

Flamini’s two-footer is just the latest in a series of vicious tackles that happen all too frequently at the highest level of the game, leaving the offender with a short holiday respite as the lone punishment while all too often leaving the team and the victim at a serious disadvantage for matches on end and, worse, at times imperiling careers.

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