2007: A Look Back on the Domestic (e.g. U.S.) Scene

The long-promised look back at 2007 in U.S. soccer unfolds below. The talking points – 15 in all (what? you wanted a Top 10? I’m nothing like that disciplined; see, I slipped to 17) – come in, at best, half-random order; put another way, I ranked these things a certain way, but it has as much to do with themes intelligible only to me, as opposed to significance. They also came to me after only 15 minutes (or so) thought, so odds are I missed a thing or two; feel free to add any omissions in the comments.

Right. Here goes…

1. David Beckham. May as well start with the elephant in the room (propped up handsomely next to his wife with the weird tits). Beckham garnered (OK, sucked up) enough attention to transcend even the rule that bears his name – that will come in a separate section – which is perhaps why his arrival sits on our collective stoop like some kind of wet turd the neighborhood kids were too lazy to set on fire. He came, we obsessed, he went down injured, and, with an exception here or there, his team did better without him on the field. Sure, he made the Los Angeles Galaxy, and Major League Soccer (MLS) as a whole, a chunk of change, but the whiff of an injured, conceivably over-the-hill player that attached to him also revived the Ghosts of the NASL. Better luck next year, Tiger (with stuffed shorts).

2 . MLS Overview: My belief that, in 2007, MLS actually felt “Major League” for the first time in its existence doesn’t strike me as a lonely one. It’s not so much that the league has arrived in terms of media exposure, money, etc., and it’s not as if problems don’t exist (refereeing, gridlines, playoff format, small rosters, payment structure, the Colorado Rapids, etc.) than things seem to be headed in the right direction, complete with a “Big Mo” tailwind. On-field play looks better than ever, stadiums are popping up at a steady clip, the scouting system looks more established, and we have yet to see what kind of talent the league’s nascent youth academies will turn out. Hell, the league could even be making more money than ever…not that we’d ever know that given how firmly they hold shut the books. So, yeah, good trends, people. Let’s keep ’em up. Continue reading

Advertisements

EPL Weekend: Boca scores, United falls, Arsenal pushes forward

Saturday, December 29th, 2007 

Tottenham 6, Reading 4

You almost HAVE to start out with this one as weird results such as this one don’t come around to often in the EPL. Dimitar Berbatov had 4 of the 6 Spurs’ goals and reiterated after the game that he was poised to leave come the New Year because he still thought Tottenham (even with the new coach) had no chance at trophies. His four put him at 8 for the year and right into the thick of the scoring leaderboard. It was Reading, however, that went up 2-1 with almost a half to go but then all went to hell. There were 7 goals in the last 40 minutes. Robbie Keane was kept quiet on the day despite a PK chance that was snuffed by Marcus Hahnemann. Dave Kitson scored two for the Royals pushing his total to 8 as well, but it was still Reading’s 2nd lopsided drubbing of the campaign (remember that 7-4 loss to Portsmouth). Not a good habit to get into…Khalifa Cisse and Ivar Ingimarsson scored the first two goals for Reading, while Tottenham got a rocket from Steed Malbranque and a PK miss follow-up from Jermain Defoe to go with Berbatov’s 4 goal performance.  

West Ham 2, Manchester United 1

The hiccup that no one expected would happen, especially with the recent form of Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo showed up to play yet again, scoring in the 14th minute to put the Devils up 1-0 and things seemed dandy. It was the Hammers that took control though, creating more chances, and giving Tomasz Kusczak some trouble in goal. They didn’t break through Rio and Vidic until the 77th minute when guess who? ANTON Ferdinand (Rio’s brother and West Ham’s central defender) headed one home. Matthew Upson then provided the winner aerially about 5 minutes later, bringing ManYoo crashing back down to Earth. What’s worse is it was Cristiano Ronaldo who could have effectively put the game away in the 68th with a Jonathan Spector PK gift, but he missed wide right proving he’s not a soccer God yet.

Fulham 1, Birmingham 1

The Cottagers looked like the home team and both Americans – Bocanegra and Dempsey had good days. Boca found the net early on with a near post run as he nodded it past the sprawling Maik Taylor putting Fulham up 1-0 and making new boss Roy Hodgson jump a bit for joy in the stands. They pressed forward again and again, but it was Sebastian Larsson’s Omozusi-deflected (poor kid yet again) long range blast that tied the game up. Dempsey really did look effective, but nothing of worrisome proportions to Taylor in net. Fulham will have to gear up for a tough second half of the season and expect some personnel changes to prepare for that…Michael Parkhurst anyone?

Chelsea 2, Newcastle 1

The Magpies falter yet again. Salomon Kalou’s 87th minute put-away amongst offside controversy put the death grip on Sam Allardyce’s job status. Either way, Newcastle managed only 2 shots on net, 1 of which hit its target. Michael Essien put away the first goal of the day in a penalty box-scrum, but ultimately he had one of his more forgetful performances of the season. Nicky Butt equalized on a well-executed counter attack that saw him start the play and end it, but after that, Newcastle went limp. Nothing to report except that Chelsea’s class took over and Allardyce was relegated to admitting defeat.

Arsenal 4, Everton 1

Tim Howard looked particularly helpless in goal but it certainly wasn’t as if received any real help from his back four. Eduardo – Arsenal’s Croatian Brazilian – picked apart Lescott and Yobo repeatedly for two goals cancelling out Tim Cahill’s opener at 19 minutes. Adebayor added his 11th of the year and Tomas Rosicky hit for a near-post screamer to add insult to injury. There were two sent off in this fixture and for about ten minutes, Everton had the upper hand as Nicklas Bendtner was ejected for a childish tackle. Mikel Arteta – a great deal older – threw a brutal looking elbow on Fabregas minutes later and was given his marching orders as well. A 4-1 win puts Wenger’s boys on top by two points and proved me stupid as only a couple days ago I had announced Everton’s “arrival”. Oh well.

Middlesbrough 1, Portsmouth 0

Southgate’s Boro grabbed a shock away win against an impotent Portsmouth squad. It was Pompey that provided most of the attacking flair but they were repeatedly tempered by a Woodgate-led back four. Pompey manager turned felon Harry Redknapp cited fatigue as the biggest factor in the loss, but whether it was fatigue-induced or not, the finishing was pretty much piss-poor. Why the Kranjcar/Muntari set-up was given a rest, with the African Nations Cup coming up and Muntari leaving, is beyond me…

Aston Villa 2, Wigan 1

Another hard fought Aston Villa win. Two late goals from Curtis Davies and Gabriel Agbonlahor sealed the deal at Wigan, ruining Titus Bramble’s first-ever goal celebration with the Latics. All-in-all, the game produced few real attacking efforts and if it came down to a defensive stand-off, I would bet my life on the Villans. The man of the day was Curtis Davies though as he looked like a guy worth keeping, something Martin O’Neill has been waiting for all season. Wigan still sits in the relegation zone with Liverpool looming and not making matters any easier.

Sunderland 3, Bolton 1

Roy Keane’s boys continued Bolton’s downward spiral, putting a three-spot on the lowly Wanderers. Former Man Utd winger Kieran Richardson hit first in the 13th with hot prospect Kenwyne Jones following suit twenty minutes later. It was a finishing clinic as there weren’t many chances in this one, nor were there expected to be many. El-Hadji Diouf tried to take matters in his own hands, pulling one back before half-time but the Black Cats held strong. Darryl Murphy provided the icing on the cake in injury time, but the real question after this result was: is Nicolas Anelka moving on?? Without Anelka, I can only see relegation for the Wanderers unless someone learns how to spend money over at Reebok Stadium. Sunderland aren’t in a great way either and sit – along with Bolton – right above the relegation zone.  

Sunday, December 30th 

Blackburn 2, Derby 1

Roque Santa Cruz scored his third goal in 2 games and this one ensured at least a point with lowly Derby County. The Paraguayan striker now has 10 on the year and is rapidly closing in on Cristiano Ronaldo at the top. It was David Bentley however, who also has had a great past couple games, that provided the gamewinner and the heroics for the Rovers. Matt Oakley opened the scoring for the Rams as they converted on their first real offensive drive but fizzled after that. The Rovers poured on shot after shot (a whopping 18 on goal), but the true turning point was Steve Howard’s botched penalty attempt. Brad Friedel guessed the right direction and kept Derby’s lead at only one. Then Santa Cruz and Bentley took over.

Liverpool 0, Manchester City 0

An exciting deadlock to say the least. Big men of the day were Man City’s Vedran Corluka and Irish veteran Richard Dunne. Not that Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher had a bad day or anything, but it was pretty quiet on Pepe Reina’s side of the field. Sven’s Citeh fought off a rather tame barrage and centre-back Dunne probably blocked at least 5 of those attempts himself and kept Torres at bay. Carragher on the other hand kept Elano quiet, snuffing any chance Man City had to move up in the standings. Dunne took the cake for best performance of the day with his acrobatic clearance off the line after a nifty Joe Hart save almost trickled into Man City’s goal.

Phil O’Donnell dies in Scottish Premier Match

35 year old Motherwell midfielder Phil O’Donnell died after collapsing on the field during Motherwell’s victory against Dundee United.

Ian from the Offside has more on the story here.

It’s tragic that another player has fallen on the field.    In September, Sevilla’s Antonio Puerta died after collapsing on the field, regaining conciousness, then collapsing again in the locker room.  It is a scary thought that players can have conditions causing their death even though they are in such good shape.  Unfortunately much of the time, the fact that a player is in such good shape clouds the ability for doctors to find any flaws in their health.

I know everyone at CHI mourns the loss of Phil O’Donnell and gives condolences to his family and teammates.

Catalunya vs Euskal Herria–When Language, Culture and Football mix in Spain

Spanish football is never short of passion. Real Madrid-Barcelona ‘clasicos’ divide families and towns in two when these teams meet twice a year in the Spanish La Liga. The Sevilla-Betis derby literally divides the city of Sevilla in two just like the Barcelona-Espanyol and Levante-Valencia matches. The passion felt in these matches is something like I’ve never seen.

This passion is also carried over into what is a ‘strange’ part of Spanish football. That is, the battle of the autonomous regions. On Saturday, the Spanish autonomous regions of Catalunya and ‘Euskal Herria’ (which literally means Country of the Basques’ in Basque) will take to the field in a game that is garnering quite the attention in Spain and will pack the San Mames in Bilbao. I bet you are asking: Why is this game so much more than a game? To do that, we will need to go further into the history of Spain itself.

Continue reading

The Eleven Best of 2007

With 2007 coming to a close, French paper L’Equipe has put together their annual 11 best players of the year.

The eleven players selected this year are:

Buffon

Dani Alves–Vidic–Gallas–Evra

Kaka–Cesc Fabergas–Gerrard–C. Ronaldo

Drogba–Van Nistelrooy

League Breakdown:

Premiership-7 players

La Liga-2 players

Serie A-2 players

Who do you think got left out?  Didn’t deserve to be in there?

Simply based on the orgies, Cristiano Ronaldo is my player of the year.

La Liga Para Todos Dec 28-Muppets, Ronaldinho leaving and Transfer window

–Any article that begins with ‘Juan Soler is a Muppet‘ really gets my attention. The Valencia Offside does a great job of tracking all of the Che’s moves. With most of their legendary players getting the gate as of late, apparently some are not getting the pink slip, but rather will simply be left out of the lineup.

He held a news conference today at the Mestalla to explain to the world that David Albelda, Santiago Cañizares and Miguel Angulo aren’t sacked, they’re just riding the bench for now.

Uggh … this guy is the leader of the ship? We’re going down faster than the Titanic …

I have to agree with Cesar. When you have a player like Cañizares who has been at La Mesailla since 1998 and has been a driving force in the success of Valencia, you can’t just sit him on the bench. Just cut the strings and say goodbye. Valencia should give him the proper sending off that he deserves.

Continue reading

Sevilla FC Supporters Club–Information Here and I’m Being Interviewed on Spanish Radio

The Asociación Sevillista Puerta de America (aka Sevilla FC Peña (or Penya))  is now up and running.  If ANYONE is interested, please shoot me an email at rjknapp19 at gmail [dot] com and I’ll email you back info and attach you to the mailing list.  Here is what’s new with us so far.

  • We’ve been approved for not-for-profit status meaning that we can be recognized now in the United States and have all of our ducks in a row so to say.
  • We are now collecting yearly dues, which are only $25 for the year.  This will allow us to get the website up and running (which I am currently designing at the moment) and also allow us to pay our dues so we can be a fully recognized ‘penya’.
  • The higher-ups at Sevilla FC are excited that we have formed a penya in the US and we are attempting to set up a videoconference with Jose Maria del Nido (president of Sevilla FC) to recognize our official opening and founding of the penya.
  • The Penya will be centered in NYC, but will have members throughout the US (e.g. Me, since I live in Buffalo NY, but we have a few strong members here so we will try to do our best in the B-lo).

On a personal note for me.  I’m being interviewed by Jesus Alvaredo, who runs a show on Sevilla FC radio called ‘Sevillistas por el mundo’ (Sevilla fans throughout the world) which follows all sorts of Sevilla fans who are spread out all over the globe.  He found my Sevilla site on ‘The Offside’ and contacted me about doing an interview about the blog and what it’s like being a Sevillista in America.  The date is still TBD, but it should be around the 11th of January.

I’m excited about this opportunity and can’t believe I’ll be interviewed by the club I religiously support.  When I figure out the date and time I’ll let everyone know.