Columbus & Colorado: Two Founding Teams on the Skids

OK, I think I’ve settled on my two teams for 2008 as well as a proper theme to unite them…beyond the fact they both hail from places that start with the letter “C”.

The teams will be the Columbus Crew and the Colorado Rapids. While this will mostly involve watching them at every chance I get once the season starts*, I’ll also pay more attention to both teams’ 2008 draft, their signings, etc. For now, though, there’s no time like the present to start reading up.

MLSnet.com’s Columbus Crew Season Review
MLSnet’com’s 5 Big Questions for Columbus
MLSnet.com’s Colorado Rapids Season Review
MLSnet.com’s 5 Big Questions for Colorado

As for the theme, it’s two-fold: part one is a coach’s death-watch for both Colorado’s “10 Lives” Fernando Clavijo and Sigi “He Ate the Damn Pie Store” Schmid; OK, and where Clavijo is concerned, I have to admit to a modest longing for justice.  Part two comes with seeing which of these MLS originals will re-join respectable post-season company at the end of 2008 – a notion that assumes one of them will.  I know I’d put my money on Columbus today, but things could change abruptly if, say, Colorado drafts well and dumps “10 Lives” Fernando early – or, against all that is holy, he actually does a good job with the team in ’08 – while Columbus holds onto Schmid through August and loses Guillermo Barros Schelotto by June or July.

Anyway, the basic story is to see which team can avoid getting overtaken by the several recent and incoming expansion teams for the (thankfully) ever-dwindling supply of post-season spots. For what it’s worth, I think this story takes on a kind of urgency amid talk of Major League Soccer (MLS) expanding to 18 teams by 2010; if these teams keep falling behind one has to wonder how they’ll catch up.

One final note: I’m pretty stocked up on resources for the Colorado Rapids (Rocky Mountain News, FC Rocky and hard-copy; The Denver Post; Class IV; Black Panther, etc.) and I do all right with the Columbus Crew (Columbus Dispatch; Hunt Park Insider; some Columbus-area weekly, etc.), but I’d be obliged to anyone who can pass on further resources (and, please, don’t make me go to BigSoccer…so much bullshit to wade through…).

(* All of this is 100% contingent on MLSnet.com again offering MLSlive.tv. Failing that, this whole “two-team” project will fail and I’ll just watch and comment on whatever MLS deems fit for national broadcast.)

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CONCACAF Qualifying: C’mon, People, Worry With Me!

I don’t like this particular line of thinking from Greg Lalas’ look ahead to the U.S. Men’s National Team’s (aka, Yanquis) 2008:

“All of that [ed. – “what’s ‘that’ you’re asking? Well, read his article and find out.”] will pay massive dividends come ’09, when the U.S. heads to South Africa for the Confederations Cup and World Cup 2010 qualifying opponents are not pinpricks on the map. Clichés exist for a reason. Because they’re true. Sophomore slumps also exist for a reason. Because you’re preparing for what comes next.”

Well, yeah. But what if “what comes next” never comes because you didn’t sweat the necessary stuff that comes before it?

The whole tone of that article, along with the idea that we’re entering something of a “nothing” year with 2008, irks me a little. The list of probable 2008 opposition on our way to the 2010 World Cup does have a kind of “who’s that?” feel. We start in June with either Barbados or Dominica, whichever of them makes it past their upcoming home-and-home ties in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament’s first round (are these things being televised, by the way; if not, why not? I’m seeing a shitstack of “FA Cup Films” out of Fox Soccer Channel and, no, I don’t stick around to watch them). Sure, we should beat either team, and handily, but…well, what if? I know two things about this: 1) my world would, personally, end; 2) am I alone in detecting some shaky moments in our defense, specifically our central defense? And what happens when we go down a freak goal at home and need to score – as we did against Guatemala in last year’s Gold Cup – and we just….can’t….do….it? Shit…I lost a few more hairs just thinking about it.

Speaking of Guatemala, they’re one of our likely opponents in the round-robin semifinal Hexagonal that will round out our qualifying schedule for 2008, them along with Trinidad & Tobago and Cuba (you can piece together pretty easily from this page). Going by the tentative Yanquis’ schedule Du Nord slapped on the ol’ left-hand sidebar, we’ll be five games into the six required to wrap up the penultimate Hexagonal by the end of this year – and this is a time when Lalas recommends we “afford some of the players some necessary rest?” Now, this could just be the anxiety talking, but am I alone in thinking all three of those teams are entirely capable of forcing ties with the U.S. team? We know Guatemala is a pain in the ass, that the Cubans get up for games against the Yanquis like no one else (half of them, no doubt, by way of putting on a pre-defection audition), and Trinidad had it’s moments in the 2006 World Cup (does Tobago get pissed when people leave them out?). For all that the odds favor the Yanquis, accidents happen…sometimes several of them in a row.

The point is, the Canadians look like they’re approaching qualifying with due and healthy anxiety (and, provided they play in 2008 like they played this summer, they can definitely survive a group comprised of (again, this is likely) Mexico, Jamaica, and Honduras; and, for the record, I’m glad that’s the Canadians’ group and not ours. So count me happy we’re not in that (highly comparative) Group of Death, but I don’t like so much as the possibility that Lalas’ positively sanguine mood lurks in more hearts than his. We’re the better team – and by far; I have absolutely no doubt of that – but this is about guaranteeing success, as opposed to expecting it.

I mean, how painful would it be to fly to the Confederations’ Cup in 2009 with no South Africa 2010 to follow?

You Hear about EJ, that New Tech Stock?

Parties, concerned and those with only a professional interest, are referring to Eddie “EJ” Johnson as all but gone from Major League Soccer (MLS) as well as Kansas City metro area. WVHooligan even speaks of a transfer fee that will “put…to shame” the money England’s Fulham FC paid to hire Clint Dempsey – and, coincidentally, Fulham is one of the clubs in the hunt (there’s plenty of general transfer talk behind that WVHooligan link, so do check that out).

The specific figure WVHooligan cites is $6-7 million. That’s not a lot for a quality striker in the European game, but it could be more than too much for a player like Johnson.

Consider the current state of the conventional wisdom on the man: a fairly generous interpretation would dub him “streaky,” but his numbers across seven MLS seasons could just as easily be read as him having only two good years out of seven; if there’s such a thing as a “big-occasion player” EJ ‘s play at club and country level puts him closer to antonym than synonym; while it’s true that he scored 15 goals in his most recent, “renaissance” season, six of those came in two games, which leaves 9 goals spread across the remaining 28 games; his total haul across those seven years is 41 goals in league play. And that, my friends, is in MLS – not the EPL where Johnson will, presumably, have less time to think/react and against better players.

The issue goes deeper than numbers, however. The most persistent mental images I can conjure of Johnson playing are: 1) of him struggling to get the ball up to his speed as he bolts toward goal with defenders closing on him; 2) of him receiving the ball on the flank, where he either a) gets the ball picked clean when he pushes it too far in front of him, or, b) him dropping the ball back to the midfielder/defender coming up the wing; 3) of him checking back and mis-hitting a fairly simple possession pass. These are not the habits, decisions, and tools of even a 10-goal-a-year forward. Even if EJ draws something closer to Dempsey’s fee ($4 million), that’s not such a swell return.

So, no, I’m not high on EJ’s chances abroad. Still, best of luck to him – assuming he goes – and the team who signs him. He’s got more athletic ability than most will ever know and he seems to know what he wants to do out there. Maybe he’s just a project and will respond to the right kind of training/education. Nothing would make me happier than a productive, happy EJ who reaches his potential; any national team fan would be crazy to want anything else. But, given the past seven years of watching him play, the idea that some English (or Portuguese) team is about to get saddled with the soccer-playing equivalent of stock options from a late 1990s internet start-up seems a bit closer to reality.

The Only Time I Will Do This (well maybe)

This is one of the rare times I won’t post about football on here. The other acceptable times are:

If the Bills make the playoffs
If the Sabres make the playoffs this year (God I hope so)
Since this is a football blog what better place than to post about football!

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AMERICAN football that is! The only thing that gets me more fired up than a Sevilla game is OHIO STATE FOOTBALL!

If you don’t like it, then start your own blog, or just skip down to Breton’s last post (except that whole Liverpool v Luton thing thats just a LIE! They just wanted to play another game at Anfield this season) I’ll be back to normal football posting tomorrow.

People looking to post witty comments about their other schools, I’ve already pre-recorded responses.

Michigan-way to go 0-4 to us with Henne at the helm. You also lost to Appalacian State. Enough said.

Florida-Great game last season, but what bowl are you in this year? Oh yeah, you played Michigan in the Capital One Bowl. Well done.

LSU-I really don’t care, we’ll talk when the game ends.

Anyone who comments about our easy schedule-We only lost one game, it doesn’t matter. It’s not our fault the Big Ten was weak this year. We have to play in-conference games, so quit whining.

Anyone else? BOOOOOOOOOO YOU!

Buckeye Battle Cry (Ohio State’s Fight Song)

Script Ohio (one of the best college traditions out there)

Hang On Sloopy (played after the 3rd Quarter and randomly throughout the game when needed)

GO BUCKS!

EPL Daily 1.7: EPL Clubs Fall, Alves to Citeh?, Drogba to AC Milan?, and more…

SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON: Calls for David Beckham’s 100th cap. And apparently Sven is now after another Brazilian. This time it is Heereveen’s goalscorer Afonso Alves who reported could cost around $30 million. Alves would be a good candidate to replace and improve upon the wantaway Italian Rolando Bianchi as Alves hit for 35 goals in 321 appearances last year with Michael Bradley’s Eredivisie squad.

BEN TOZER: Newcastle won the race for the 17 year old Swindon Town defender. Tozer is nowhere near the class of a Gareth Bale but has shown remarkable promise as of late, finding a first-team spot with League One squad Swindon.

DIDER DROGBA: Could be on his way out of Stamford Bridge – recently being linked to a switch for AC Milan and possible reunion with Jose Mourinho.

MANCHESTER UNITED: The Red Devils are expected to trump Arsenal in their claims of being the richest squad in the EPL. ManYoo is set to announce a whopping $490 million turnover. This might actually do something to quell the anti-Glazer sentiment that has ‘glazed’ United’s faithful. Here’s more.

FA CUP: A host of 3rd Round games saw 6 Premiership bite the dust with another 8 being to held to replays. Major losses – Everton (everytime I talk them up, they come crashing down), Blackburn, Bolton, and Birmingham. Big replay: Luton vs. Liverpool. Dempsey’s Fulham vs. Bristol Rovers. Replays will take place on January 15th and 16th, 2008. Your fourth round match-ups look like this if you’re curious. Click below for quick match recaps…

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