MLS HAS CONFIRMED.

READ HERE. To be held tomorrow at 2:00pm, Turbine Hall, The Wharf at Rivertown, Chester, PA, 19103.

Just please don’t call the team Philadelphia Independence.

Please?

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Crew TSII: Welcome, Niko (Can We Bundle in Lou Reed?)

In a move that puts my two worlds in dangerously close contact, it appears the Columbus Crew picked up M/F Nicolas “Nico” Hernandez from the Colorado Rapids.  Defender Tim Ward and a third round pick in the ’09 supplemental draft go the other way.

Weird deal.  This is good and bad for the Crew…or, actually, good and/or bad.  Or something like that.

Here’s what I’m thinking: If they landed the Nico Mark ’06, the Crew picked up a good, flexible option at forward and midfield.  If they landed Nico Mark ’07, they added another Eddie Gaven – e.g. an inconsistent player ever on the verge of breaking any game wide open…only to fail to do so.  Sometimes comically.  Speaking personally, though, I’ve always kind of liked Nico, so, for me, this works – at least if until, or if, he stinks up the joint.  To address the downside, what’s this say about the players the Crew have on trial?  Are Emanuel Ekpo and Guilherme So that underwhelming?  Or is Nico coming on board just more depth?  The roster tells me the Crew have room (I’m counting 23 players, 22 with Ward gone).

As for losing Ward (who cares about the pick?), it’s not quite a bad thing.  Ward seems a fair imitation of an up-and-comer.  At the same time, the Crew have some other options in defense, even some other up-and-comers (at least from what I’ve read) in Ryan Junge and Jed Zayner.

All told, I have to say I like this one trade for the Crew.  It’s worth the gamble at the very lest.

GREAT OUTDOORS
I love this: some guy posted a bunch of Garfield comics, but with only Garfield’s owner, Jon Arbuckle, in the story.  The result is surprisingly funny…provided you take a little pleasure in the man’s apparent suffering.  My favorite (so far) is the fourth one: “This is not my lucky hat!”

The Offside Podcast-Episode 12

Episode 12 of The Offside Podcast is now out.  Ian, Anne, Daryl and myself talk about the Carling Cup and that bastard Juande Ramos winning some hardware, Gazza’s epic breakdown, my wish for a season long ban on Martin Taylor, and I bring everyone up to speed on the La Liga title race.

Click here to get your copy, or just subscribe to it on ITunes or however else you get your pods.

EPL Daily 2.27: Real Salt Lake finds themselves a doctor, don’t mess with the Spurs and Ledley King, Thaksin facing the music

KENNY DEUCHAR: Not many of you have probably heard of the 6’3″ Scotsman (and it took me a while to remember the name), but he could be Real Salt Lake’s younger version of Toronto FC’s Danny Dichio without the fiery rep. Deuchar is most well known for being the key man in Gretna’s rise from the depths to mediocrity. The “Good Doctor” was responsible for an unparalleled feat in Scottish football history – 41 goals in 41 games, 6 hat-tricks in a season, and he lived up to his stats by treating RSL GM Garth Lagerwey to a two-goal performance in a losing cause against Glasgow Rangers. Gretna hasn’t been able to pay their striker due to financial troubles and that led to Deuchar’s disenchantment with the club but loan spells with Northampton Town and St. Johnstone proved only marginally fulfilling. With RSL he’ll get his pay day (gasp!). Deuchar adds a target man, power and depth to a pacy, skillful set of forwards – Robbie Findley,  Fabian Espindola, and Yura Movsisyan. Oh, and the ‘Good Doctor’ bit? One of the perks of his signing with Real Salt Lake was that he would be able to practice (yep, he’s a practising physician) in a nearby medical clinic.

THAKSIN SHINAWATRA: The ex-Thai Prime Minister and Manchester City owner is set to return to Thailand tomorrow to face the corruption charges still outstanding. Shinawatra has been in some sort of a mid-life crisis – leaving the country for almost a year and a half, buying one of the most storied English football clubs, playing with it, and now realizing these corruption charges aren’t just going to go away.

Other tidbits:

George Gillett and Tom Hicks are reportedly close to selling Liverpool (almost a year after when they first bought the club) to the Dubai International Capital group. Both Gillett and Hicks continue to deny any intention to sell.

Sniffing the Touchline has all the photos of Tottenham’s post-Carling Cup Victory bash. Always knew Ledley King was a belligerent and crazy S.O.B. The best of it all is the fact that Juande Ramos gave his approval, allowing the guys to unwind after watching their team transform this year from disastrous to beyond passable.

David Beckham admits he isn’t ready to play for Fabio Capello’s national squad and is willing to wait. In better news, however, Fox Soccer Channel is rumored to have bought the English language broadcast rights to the LA Galaxy’s Asian Tour (3 games in South Korea, Hong Kong, and China).

MLS Philly: Owner’s Party says Thursday is Confirmed.

“If you go to the Wharf in Chester, at 2:00pm, on Thursday, it won’t be a waste of your time”. Philly MLS CEO Nick Sakiewicz

Much more was said, including talk about a possible women’s team, but the guest of honor was former Red Bull New York head Nick Sakiewicz and a couple members of the ownership group. Sons of Ben President Bryan James greeted almost over 200 members of Sons of Ben and their guests at Dark Horse Tavern with open arms and open ears. There were chants, finger foods, and one packed room.  Would of been worse if any more of the 1500 members of Sons of Ben and 2,700+ potential season ticket buyers showed up…

It’s really pretty amazing what these guys have done in the past year and if there was one thing that went out the window tonight, it was any doubt about the future success of a Philadelphia franchise. One thing the NJ native Nick Sakiewicz promised though, was championships. Thaaaaaaaaat I can wait for…

Pictures to come as I should be there Thursday at Rivertown for the “possible” unveiling.

Reply with questions/comments below…what are you most excited about? Worried about the success of the franchise?

La Liga: Athletic Bilbao-Homegrown Footballers at Their Finest

From a foreigner’s perspective, Spain is truly an interesting county. For those of you that don’t remember my previous post on Spanish Football and Basque Nationalism Spain has a ‘central’ culture, but most Spainards feel more of a cultural tie to the region where they are from. Ask someone from Barcelona where they are from and they will tell you they are Spanish simply because you don’t know where Catalonia is or what the Catalan language sounds like. But, ask them again where they are ‘really’ from and they will tell you they are Catalan. The same goes for the Basques who live in the north. Many Basques consider themselves to be ‘Basque’ and not ‘Spanish’.

Spain has a very long, historical tradition of ‘home-growing’ their footballers and bringing them up through the ranks. I mentioned this policy briefly in the Athletic Bilbao season preview, but it is really something that I would like to shine a bit of light on for everyone to see.

Cantera is a Spanish word meaning ‘quarry’, but more importantly for us, it refers to Spanish youth sides, or the process of the bringing a player up through the youth ranks. No where else is the cantera policy more prevalent then in Athletic Bilbao, and no where else is a side more homegrown than in the Basque capital.

Athletic Bilbao have a simple ‘policy’ when summed up says ‘If you aren’t basque, you don’t play for us.’ The actual saying used is

Con cantera y afición, no hace falta importación.
With home-grown support and a fan base, you don’t need foreigners’,

This policy is more of a ‘practice’ than a ‘law’ per se, since there is nothing written in stone on this subject. However, most Athletic fans feel this policy gives them identity, something minorities in Spain love to express and feel.

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