Daily Sweeper, 08.22: Trouble for TFC; DP for FCD

– Looks like Toronto FC will lose Ronnie O’Brien and Jeff Cunningham for the rest of the season. If this doesn’t effectively end their participation for the 2007 season, I don’t know what will short of the earth opening up during practice. As one might assume, the locals aren’t too thrilled about this.

– Was I alone in thinking that soccer-specific stadiums were supposed to solve MLS’s scheduling problems? What the hell are students doing studying on a Wednesday anyway? The best happy hours happened mid-week where I (sort of) attended college. Anyway, limiting the seating for the Superliga final (pitting the LA Galaxy against Mexico’s CF Pachuca…wait…do you hear the bleating of sheep being led to the slaughter?) not only makes that sound less “super, it sounds so goddam amateur hour.

– Thanks to The Offside Rules for feeding my cravings for rumor: could Denilson still wind up with FC Dallas? Do the locals even want him? Oh, and you may also notice talk of Shaka Hislop’s retirement in TOR’s link.

– Regular readers of du Nord know that Bruce McGuire, who runs the site, reads an incredible amount of crap about soccer on a daily basis. Turns out he can write a bit as well, as readers of the vacationing Luis Arroyave’s Red Card blog now know. Filling in as guest blogger McGuire builds a damn good MLS All-Star team (scroll down…there’s a lot to get past) and also forwards some provocative playoff picks…once he gets past the gimmes (e.g. I love his second-choice selections…bold, spicy, plausible). My only gripe: he didn’t plug Center Holds It. We need love too!

– Speaking of du Nord, he got a gallery of baby/toddler/youth photos of famous players. Most of these guys are genetic misfits in that they’re preternaturally good-looking (and that’s on top of possessing mad skillz…the bastards), but, thankfully, a few holdouts did their unintentional bit to make us slobs out here feel better. The ones that jumped out at me: Thierry Henry looks like a Mon-chi-chi (sp?), but in a good way; Andrea Pirlo has that haunted look often seen in bully-fodder; but first prize goes to Zinedine Zidane who, as a youth, looks like he stared fires…maybe that head-butt wasn’t so surprising….

Wednesday’s MLS Games: Preview Policy Under Review

Crikey.  There’s something about tonight’s two games – annoyed as I am they came so soon – that has me wanting to review my policy against posting previews…which I’m currently violating, of course.  I’m nearly certain I’ll catch one of the two games and find the mini-mental battle as to which to watch refreshing as a crisp light beer on a humid summer swelter.  Maybe it’s the all-Eastern Conference angle, what’s going on with the teams…whatever it is, it’s a good thing.  Some quick thoughts:

Red Bull New York v. DC United (official preview)

With Josh Gros looking like the only significant, surprise injury (and, assuming this site’s stuff is accurate, Gros really needs to consider retiring), both teams should hit this game at close to full strength.  If you go to that link, you’ll see some trepidation in at least one DC fan, something I get, but can’t say I expect.  That could either be a function of me rating DC so highly over the past couple weeks, or my persistent low opinion of Red Bull.  But there’s something in me that says DC will remember its pedigree and win.

But that’s the beauty of the anxiety in the DC camp: if Red Bull wins, the Eastern Conference standings go nuts all over again.  Ah, the drama!  And, to be clear, I’m pulling for Red Bull – and Clint Mathis, in particular.  It’s the under-achiever in me, I guess.  But I’m guessing a lot of MLS fans are watching this result, and not all of them fans of either team.

Kansas City Wizards v. Chicago Fire (official preview)

And, yet, this game contains even better story-lines.  What to make of the Chicago revival?  Is it a revival?  I only know a lot of people seem to be buying into it, myself included.  A three-game unbeaten streak looks and sounds great – especially against the backdrop of the Fire’s early season – but, look at who those four results came against: a bloodied Toronto FC, Real Salt Lake, and the Columbus Crew; two of those teams suck (no offense) while the other is fading.

And that brings the discussion to KC.  The only full-time Wizards site I know sees a draw, which would feel a lot like a let-down for the home team (that’d be KC).  Chicago, on the other hand, could probably get away with calling that a success…but only till they host the Wizards this weekend. I don’t know what’s going to happen here, but strongly suspect it’ll be educational no matter how the score reads after 90 minutes.

Whatever happens, I think Chicago is the story here.  In the first game, I’m thinking it’s more about Red Bull.

Sweden 1-0 U.S. – Grudgingly Acknowledged

For the record, the U.S. Men’s team (Yanquis) lost to Sweden today…and….well, so what?

On one level, the general silence on this seems refreshing; that goes double with regard to “what-it-all-means” freak-outs.  What does this mean?  Not a lot.  We lost to a decent European team in Europe; that’s not new.  And had we won, even in a blowout, that wouldn’t have meant a lot either.  Put it this way: if the people that tuned into this game witnessed some kind of turning point in U.S. soccer history, would they know it?  England coming out of its shell to play the Magic Magyars this ain’t.

By posting previews this morning, I incurred the obligation of recording the results for posterity – at least that’s what my stupid brain is telling me.  So, here’s the best item I saw today: USSoccerplayers.com’s running commentary.  Even there, the problems they’re describing – problems with scoring, possession, building the attack, etc. – shouldn’t be news to the kind of person who found this site.  Something else they (whoops…Ian Plenderleith and J Hutcherson) touch on – finding the next generation of reliable defenders – strikes me as the biggest dilemma for the National Team program.  Or, put another way, that strikes me as not just the most immediate dilemma, but the one Bob Bradley or anyone else has a chance in hell of solving in the near-term; the stuff with scoring, tactics, etc. – that’s just part of the learning curve.

We’ll get there.  At least I think we will.  But I also doubt a friendly will serve as the occasion for telling us we made it.

Get yer U.S. v. Sweden Previews, he-ah!*

(*That’s supposed to be a phonetic representation of the peanut-guy at a baseball game shouting “here.” Yeah, I know, great choice of images.)

While I’m a little perversely proud of my decision to pass on the United States’ Men’s (Yanquis) game against Sweden, thereby missing my first U.S. friendly since God-knows-when, I’ll post as many previews for the game as I can find up to the 11:30 a.m. (PST) kick-off.

Luis Bueno – A heavy Bob Bradley/Yanquis struggles playing in Europe angle

Ives Galarcep – Another edition of Ives’ roster game

Jeff Carlisle – Does his own roster prediction schtick

Goal.com – Tactics, line-ups, players to watch, etc.

I’ll post more if I find ’em.

Convinced that Seattle is Next in Line

Yes – I’m a huge hopeful when it comes to Philadelphia getting the next MLS expansion team but I certainly don’t see pieces like this in the Philadelphia Inquirer or the Courier Post.

For those of us that didn’t have the privilege of experiencing the NASL years – Steve Kelley gives us a small taste. He does it without going uber-nostalgic on us and telling us that the MLS is a superficial version of the NASL, blah blah blah. Instead, he is an optimist and stern supporter for the MLS in Seattle – a counter-voice to the negative nancies out there who believe soccer to be doomed in the States. Here’s a bit from it…and there are more out there who share the sentiment…

Still, Seattle remains a soccer town. There is a healthy part of the sports community that is hungry for quality soccer.

Last year’s friendly between Real Madrid and D.C. United sold out — 68,000 tickets in two weeks. Summer exhibition games featuring Manchester United, Chelsea and Celtic have been guaranteed big box office.

The latest incarnation of the Sounders, playing in the United Soccer League, is expected to draw as many as 10,000 for its U.S. Open Cup match Sept. 4 against Dallas, the best team in Major League Soccer.

The game is growing in this country. The United States is producing more and better players. The U.S. team that won this summer’s Gold Cup might have been the best and brightest ever.

Newspaper columnists, bloggers – let us see more of this. Can we get more views of what the NASL was like on this site???? Please let us young kids know. What do you think of it compared to the MLS? Can you even compare the two?

La Liga Preview—Mallorca, Deportivo

For the past few weeks I have combed the paella and sangria filled landscape that is Spain to come up with a definitive La Liga preview. For the most part, La Liga coverage in English is a bit difficult to find, so I have had to do lots of digging to figure out what is going on with the teams that have ascended into La Liga from the Segunda Division last season. However, there is no shortage of talk about La Liga in Spanish, thus I do a good deal of time trolling the Spanish dailies and team forums to get all the goods. It was so much easier when I lived there.

In all of the previews, I’ll give you the team, stadium, nicknames, who’s out, who’s in and what is going on. I don’t give starting 11’s because I’m shockingly bad at that.

Today we have Real Mallorca and Deportivo de la Coruña 

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Real Mallorca (12th in La Liga in 2006)

Stadium: ONI Estadi

Nickname: Barralets, Ensaimada Mecánica

Interesting Fact: Mallorca is actually in the Baleric Islands, the only La Liga team to not be located on the Spanish Mainland.

In: Valero (Castilla), Lux (River), Webo (Osasuna) , Molinero (Atlético de Madrid) ,David Navarro (Valencia) , Güiza (Getafe) ,Gonzalo Castro (Nacional de Montevideo)

Out: Prats, Tristán (Livorno), Maxi López (Barcelona), Jankovic (Palermo), Jordi López (Racing) , Delibasic (Real Sociedad)

What an interesting summer it’s been

Real Mallorca have had an interesting pre-season, finishing 5-0-3 for the summer. This includes two games won 10-1 and 10-0 respectively, but more importantly, a 3-0 win over Bayern Munich. Yeah, that was a Bayern Munich team playing mostly second-stringers, but it is still the team most people pick for total world domination this season, so it should go as some sort of credit to Mallorca. Manager Gregorio Manzano is attempting to improve upon his 12th place finish last season.

A mix of veterans and young blood

Mallorca will rely on a healthy mix of both veteran and young players to succeed in La Liga this season. Dani Güiza, who arrived from Getafe during the off season, has adapted well to his new Mallorican side, scoring 2 goals in a draw with Gronigen on 13 August and scoring one in the aforementioned match with Bayern Munich. Güiza scored 20 goals in 60 games for Getafe and looks to be the leading scorer for the Bermellones. Gonzalo Castro comes over from Uruguay to the Spanish league this season. He will be looking to score some goals for his side, but is also a tough player that will do whatever it takes for his side to get the win. German Luz comes to Mallorca via River Plate in Argentina and should play a solid role in backup for Moyá, who is an ode to the ‘cantera’ system that Real Mallorca has in place. Webo scored 4 goals this pre-season, more than he scored the entire last season at Osasuna.

Veteran Sergio Ballesteros is the oldest player on the squad at 32 years of age, but he is a staunch central defender who is always working hard. He said in an interview with as.com that he sees his team as being ‘very competitive’ and that ‘there is a good union and a good mix between veteran and new players, with good vibrations’

What they will look like

The pre-season for Mallorca has left the team well set for the start of La Liga that is this weekend. The back four should consist of Héctor, Ballesteros, Nunes and Fernando Navarro, while the midfield will see Jonás Gutiérrez, Varela, Castro, Tuni, and possibly Arango Ibagaza and Borja Valero will be the front runners for the central midfielders, while Güiza and Webó will be the strike force upfront.

Survey Says

Mallorca have made a great addition in Güiza and Webó, who will seem to solve the scoring drought that has plaged Mallorca in recent years. They have two world class keepers and a solid back four. Look for the Mallorican side to jump up a few spots this season as long as the men up front can finish and do their job.

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Deportivo de la Coruña (13th in La Liga in 2006)

Stadium: Estadio Municipal de Riazor

Nicknames: Los Turcos (Spanish)/Os Turcos (Galician), Blanquiazules (Spanish)/Branquiazuis (Galician), SuperDepor

Interesting Fact: Deportivo fans fly Turkish flags because rival fans, especially those from Vigo, call Deportivo supporters “Turcos” to insult them. But the Riazor Blues section have taken this name with pride and therefore show Turkish flags during matches.

In: Pablo Amo (Recreativo), Rubén Castro (Gimnàstic), Xisco (Vecindario), Antonio Tomás (Racing), Momo (Racing), Guardado (Atlas), Manu (Sporting de Gijón), Lafita (Zaragoza), Aythami (Las Palmas), Filipe (Rentistas), Jairo (Sporting de Gijón)

Out: Capdevila (Villarreal), Duscher (Racing), Juanma (Tenerife) Arizmendi (Valencia) Estoyanoff (Valladolid) Andrade (Juventus) Joaquín Caparrós (entrenador)

  What a fall from grace

If you rewind the clock back to 1999-2000, you would see that Deportivo was not only sucessful, but sucessful enough to win La Liga.  Yes, it wasn’t Real Madrid nor Barcelona who won La Liga that season.  It was the Turcos from La Coruña who brought victory to Depor and it’s loyal fan base.

Now, bring it back to the present and here we are 7 years later.  Depor is in a state of transition, sitting in 13th place after last season, and on the brink of either moving back up the table to glory or to see a complete fall from grace and be relegated from La Liga.  They have not made the Champions League since 2003-2004 and have finished no higher than 8th place since then.

Putting all your eggs in one  two baskets

Depor looks to two men to help change what is happening in the Riazor. After ousting Joaquín Caparros from his duities as head coach, Depor looks to Miguel Ángel Lotina to take over the reins and guide this team to victory from the sidelines.

The second person is Andrés Guardado a newcomer to the squad from Atlas, who has already taken over a leadership role after only one month with his new club.  The Mexican left winger was quoted as saying that there is ‘A lot of optimism in Depor and that I hope we get off on the right foot on Sunday (the first day of La Liga)’  Some are touting Guardado to be the next big thing in La Liga, but that will have to wait to be seen after the first few weeks of action.

A new Depor

Lotina likes to keep things strong in the back four, with Manuel Pablo heading the back four and Guarado coming into control the midfield and the rest of the pitch with his presence.  Lotina will  bring a new style of play to the Riazor as he will have a solid back line, a pacy midfield that can deliver passes when necessary, and forwards that can finish when they are given the opportunity.  Juan Rodriguez and De Guzman will be the main Central Defensive Midfielders, while Riki looks to be getting the nod upfront after scoring  5 goals last season.

However, Lotina is still in search of a Left Center wing and a true goal scoring forward.  These two pieces to his puzzle are crucial for success in Depor and to bring back a winning team to La Coruña.

Survey Says

Until Depor can find a true goal scorer that can generate 20 goals a year, they will not have enough firepower to catapoult them to their former glory.  Don’t look for Depor to climb more than a few spots this season, unless they can sign Soldado or another forward who is looking to start over at a new club.