Trades: No Go for Guzano! Can Twellman Find Relief?! Polish Rumors!

Taking them briefly and in turn:

– Still-Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan’s move to Aston Villa died this morning at the hands of a work permit denial (hat-tip, for me anyway, My Soccer Blog). That sucks for Guzano, to be sure, but at least Chivas USA has a goalkeeper, right? (As their roster shows, they are a little thin at that position.)

– Speaking of My Soccer Blog – and not parenthetically this time – Mike H turns another take on the New England Revolution’s now-annual tradition of blocking a move for one of their players. As we all know, this is Taylor Twellman we’re talking about and Mike covers the familiar dynamics of his situation – and well. But he also pulls the future into (back?) the discussion with this passage:

“Add that to the additional chances he will have with the national team and next year the offer might be a bit too much for the Revs to ignore.”

The question turns on the part in bold: how many chances will Twelllman get with the national team? Hasn’t he had enough by now? How many more chances would you give him? In other words, if his prospects turn on his national team future, should he call it a day and plan for eminence grise status with the Revs.

(UPDATE: Further reading: Blue Blooded Journo offers a smart, near-term alternative scenario for Twellman’s future….even if it sounds too generous for the Kraft Kabal.)

– Finally, Luis Arroyave (who, I just learned from reading his bio, started with FHM! Fascinating!) mentions that the Chicago Fire have entered the “footsie stage” of trying to bring Tomacz Frankowski to the team. This sounds a ways off, but I imagine the Fire would like help at forward a little quicker than Patrick Nyarko’s learning curve (unless, of course, that goes sensationally well).

Bonus Material: Two today.

Jesus Held Hostage!  OK, it’s just a statue.  The payoff comes when the newscaster reads the ransom note.

– A really, really frickin’ stupid exercise device…almost has to be a spoof…

Crew TSII: More Tufts of Grass to Trip Over in Zurawski Chase & More

Soccer America’s Ridge Mahoney turned his pre-season maneuver series to the Columbus Crew this morning. While the piece focused on Guillermo Barros Schelotto – who seems both a wily one and happy to be in Columbus – some of what happened with the Argentine legend impacts the Crew’s surprisingly tricky pursuit of Celtic FC’s Polish forward, Maciej Zurawski.

Beyond discussing how the Crew plan to play Schelotto in their offensive scheme for 2008, Mahoney’s piece mentions that the team bumped his pay – quite probably by way of thanking him for 2007 and sweetening him on staying in Ohio (or bribing him to do so; interpretations can be tricky). The key details:

“Columbus doesn’t seem willing to pay DP prices for Zurawski, and with some allocation money being paid to Schelotto, might not have the funds necessary to buy out Zurawski’s contract and offer him an acceptable salary….Celtic had slapped a transfer price of $1 million on him and he’s also attracted offers from Germany, but after tomorrow those doors will close, so it may behoove the Crew to sit tight.” Continue reading

Editorial Business: “TSII” Posts for Rapids, Crew

With the calendar turning from January to February tomorrow – which, if you adopt a really broad definition of time, puts the kickoff to the 2008 Major League Soccer (MLS) season just one month away – now seems the time to organize myself for what’s ahead. And this all needs to fit within the scheme I chose for the year – e.g. following, and that verb is crucial, the Columbus Crew and the Colorado Rapids.

To refresh some memories, and to introduce the concept to anyone new, I’ve adopted the Crew and Rapids for 2008. The unifying theme in this little study is to observe these two clubs – both MLS originals that, for some time now, have seemed weak at best, marginally competent at worst – as they try to get back to winning ways. A couple details about each club make for significant sub-plots, which lends subtle complexity to stories that seem similar on the surface. To give an example, one gets the feeling the Crew would sack Sigi Schmid if results in 2008 don’t come early while, based on the past year, one really wonders how many puppies Rapids Coach Fernando Clavijo would have to kill before losing his job.

The central effort in following those teams will be the most straightforward: watching their games, as many as I can; and when I can’t see the games – as I suspect will happen in preseason in particular – I’ll have to read match reports (lord help me). But this post is intended to introduce and explain the secondary piece in this project: “This Shit Is Important” Reports, or TSII Reports.

I have a small number of sites I visit for news on both clubs (may as well plug them: Covering the Crew; Soccer by Ives (which, for some reason, does well with Crew news); FC Rocky; The Colorado Rapids Offside (when it’s operating); Black Panther: A Soccer Blog; Rapids Class VI; and View from the Couch. I’ll use those to keep current on team news, but I won’t pass on everything I read – which is where the TSII distinction comes in.

As I follow these teams, I’m mainly interested in things that effect on-field performance – e.g. the fitness and well-being of the players, what the teams are doing tactically, their respective forms, how they stack up against their conferences, etc. But things like what’s going on with each clubs’ supporters’ groups; front office personnel movement; player interviews or their happy accomplishments (e.g. Bouna Coundoul getting the nod for Senegal): I’ll generally ignore that….well, to the point where I can report open fan revolts against – oh, I don’t know – Fernando Clavijo, which has the potential to unsettle the on-field dynamics. In other words, the first category falls under the TSII label, at least in my view, while the second piece does not.

So, if you’re popping by for Crew and/or Rapids news, look for the “Crew TSII” or “Rapids TSII” labels. As for match reports, they’ll be pretty obvious – e.g. “Crew 0-0 Red Bull New York: Another Fucking Draw?” After that, regular service will continue. Hope this works for everyone…and me. And you’ll be seeing the first edition of one of these – a report on the Crew as it happens – pretty soon.

US v. Mexico: Of Jugglers, Knights..and amending earlier statements

As the hype builds around next Wednesday’s U.S./Mexico friendly (that’s February 6 on ESPN2), the underlying frustrations that produced the over-bold statement of a couple days ago comes into clearer focus. And, mea culpa, the wrong verb came to me in that one: it’s not so much that I “hope” the U.S. loses as I’m finding little value in playing what amounts to the same game – and one with less importance than most recent editions.

How to explain…what tortured analogy to employ? Ah! Think of a juggler. Imagine that, after getting the basic art down – e.g. juggling three balls of equal size and weight – she improves to where she can juggle, say, wet cats without picking up a scratch. A cool trick, yes, but imagine she then masters this act, finds a venue she likes working, a place that pays well enough without demanding anything more of her, and…that’s it. She keeps doing the same act, one everyone has seen an ever-growing number of times; even the cats would find a comfort zone after a while.

This is what yet another U.S./Mexico friendly feels like. A couple pieces out today try to breath some life into this latest edition by connecting this to past games: Soccer America’s Mike Woitalla talks about the power of wins over Mexico for establishing the reputations of past (and current) U.S. coaches; elsewhere, Jeff Bradley inverts his First XI into a “Last XI” by recapping the recent, lopsided history of the series. Both pieces come up short on sustaining the hype, at least for me. Last year’s win over Mexico established U.S. coach Bob Bradley coaching bona fides; pulled a little outside his thesis, Woitalla calls this the last serious test before upcoming World Cup qualifying. But, by listing the many games we’ve won, as well as the several on-field permutations U.S. coaches fielded to earn them, Bradley’s piece provides an inadvertent answer to that theory.

That we need a win on Wednesday to keep the Mexicans squirming under our “inferior soccer” and, therefore, our psychological thumb, doesn’t really compute. The fact that the U.S. can beat Mexico has been established…well, almost. And both authors, without making it central, point to what really should come next: Continue reading

Shock Deadline Moves: Benjani, Guzan’s Work Permit status

Benjani to Manchester City (very close at least)! Portsmouth’s best forward move has made Harry Redknapp’s life a living hell now, unless he’s got transfers lined up today. Benjani’s exit, Utaka and Kanu at the ANC, and Dave Nugent out with an injury leaves Portsmouth rather thin at the forward line. Milan Baros has arrived and Jermain Defoe is apparently VERY close to a $26 million move from Tottenham.

Alan Hutton finally completed his move to Tottenham, giving the Spurs a viable right back option and possibly spelling Pascal Chimbonda’s end at White Hart Lane. He can definitely move to the center, but if there’s one person it spells the end for…it’s Canadian Paul Stalteri. Walter Smith is going to like the $16 million that came from this transfer…wonder what he’ll do with it.
Apparently, Brad Guzan’s move to Aston Villa is on the verge of collapsing. The initial reuqest for a work permit has been denied – a subsequent appeal will tell the tale.
Afonso Alves has secured a work permit to play for Middlesbrough. Deal should be completed very soon. With Alves and Tuncay up front, Boro’s front line finally rivals their past pairing of Mark Viduka and Yakubu. Inter starlet Goran Slavkovski might be on his way to Boro which further improves their striker situation. Now what about that defense?

Fulham have signed not one, but THREE strikers in January. Finnish legend Jari Litmanen just arrived and at the age of 36, the former Liverpool, Ajax, Barcelona striker will vie for a starting role with Eddie Johnson and FC Groningen’s Erik Nevland. Does this mean Dempsey will move back to his true position?

Manucho, the Angolan and Manchester United striker who has been making waves at the ANC, is set to move on loan to Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos. He looks to have a very bright future at Old Trafford but will have to wait his turn.

Last but not least, David Beckham – no not transfer news – has to wait for his chance at an 100th cap as Fabio Capello is afraid that celebrity friendlies don’t constitute being “fit”. Hasn’t Capello learned his lesson about leaving Beckham on the sidelines??? No worries as Capello’s roster picks have some people thinking he’s completely insane. Emile Heskey, Curtis Davies (7 total EPL appearances this year, maybe 8), and Michael Owen (who has looked like shit recently), Peter Crouch in. Who deserved the call-up?

The CBA: Can MLS Wait Until…um…Till…um…Then?

…is it 2009 that Major League Soccer (MLS) keeps saying they’ll re-work the collective bargaining agreement with the MLS Players’ Union? 2010? Does it matter? It’s like Jon from the DC United Offside said in his post about DC-draftee Andrew Jacobson bypassing MLS to sign with France’s Lorient:

“Eddie Pope, take notice. Raise the salary floor or this league will get older, and worse.”

It’s not all on Eddie, of course. The idea that the league needs to stop shopping for answers up its own ass is becoming apparent to plenty of people. One almost has to wonder if Frank Dell’Appa got wind of Jacobson’s hop to France ahead of writing his piece for ESPN on MLS accidentally becoming an export league. Dell’Appa’s article mainly explores how MLS’s comparatively low salary cap inherently disadvantages it against the rest of the world – with an apt emphasis on the Taylor Twellman situation – but he ends with the list of solid, young-ish MLS pros who punched tickets to Europe during the current offseason:

“If Chris Gbandi is transfered from FC Dallas to Haugesund in Norway, as expected, this week, he will be the 10th MLS player to move to Europe this month, following Bryan Arguez (Hertha Berlin), Andy Dorman (St. Mirren), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Nate Jaqua (SC Rheindorf Altach), Clint Mathis (Ergotelis FC), Joseph Ngwenya (SK Austria Karnten), Pat Noonan (Aalesund FK), Troy Perkins (Valerenga) and Johnson. Of those players, only Johnson produced a significant transfer fee, and Dorman, Goodson, Jaqua, Mathis, Ngwenya and Noonan departed on free transfers.” Continue reading

The Nut of the Crew’s Striker Search

The Columbus Dispatch’s Shawn Mithcell takes the Columbus Crew’s quest for Maciej Zurawski to the “real” newspaper today, providing impressive detail on where things stand. The apparent pivot point in this deal shows in the following:

“How much Celtic is asking for the transfer and how much Zurawski is asking to be paid has not been made public, although it is estimated that both figures would be between $250,000 and $1 million.”

“McCullers would not divulge any dollar amounts related to the deal, including how much ownership was willing to spend. He said only that Hunt Sports Group was treating the situation in a ‘prudent’ fashion.”

And, it bears noting, Mitchell quotes Columbus coach Sigi Schmid as being “not as optimistic” about the deal as he was a couple days back.

That little slug of information prompts a couple related questions? First, is Zurawski worth as much as $1 million to the Crew? (Or is it $2 million? With all due respect to both Mitchell and the editorial staff at the Dispatch, the language on the money involved isn’t as clear as it could be; would “both” mean the combined figures for the transfer fee and Zurawski’s salary amount to $1 million, or does that mean each of them would total between $250K and $1 million? This isn’t a slam – I’m sure I post baffling language five times a day – but it is a significant distinction.) Second (after the long digression), should the Crew just suck it up and take the chance?

With the “other designated player options” cited by McCullers duly noted, I’d pull the trigger – assuming a $1 million total; push it to $2 million and the other options take on a fresh, new shine. Simply put, the Crew needs strikers. And, if they’re convinced Zurawski is good for it, they should just sign the man.

(UPDATE: For what it’s worth, MLS Rumors is charging Sigi with coyness…albeit very indirectly.  By that I mean, they’re reporting the Zurawski signing as a done deal.  We shall see…we shall see…).