EPL Daily 3.21: Ronaldo better than Best?, Defoe left home

BIG FIXTURES: Saturday – Tottenham vs. Portsmouth, Fulham vs. Newcastle (relegation clash), Reading vs. Birmingham (relegation clash), Sunday – Chelsea vs. Arsenal, Liverpool vs. Manchester United

DEFOE: Portsmouth’s Jermain Defoe was ruled ineligible to play in Saturday’s Pompey vs. Defoe’s former team Tottenham clash. The reason for this? In order to get the transfer done before the January transfer window closed – Pompey had to rush a loan deal through before they eventually followed it up with a permanent deal AFTER the window had closed. The rules stipulate that if a player is loaned, he cannot play against his former team unless put specifically in a clause within the contract (this is regardless of the fact it was eventually made permanent). Needless to say, Harry Redknapp is livid and even says that Tottenham was expecting Defoe to play. Kinda nitpicky for the English FA is you ask me, but then again – rules are rules.

TOTTENHAM: Speaking of the Hotspur, Juande Ramos is predicting a “spectacle” on Saturday in their match vs. Portsmouth this Saturday. If this Saturday’s match will be a spectacle, what the hell was Wednesday’s crazy 4-4 draw with Chelsea??? In that game, Robbie Keane grabbed the late equalizer, while 7 different people hit for goals. In no particular order they were Joe Cole (2), Drogba, Woodgate, Keane, Huddlestone, Berbatov, and Michael Essien.

DERBY: Despite fighting to keep from grabbing the worst record ever in EPL play, Derby County’s investors – American Andy Appleby – are still extremely happy with their investment. Good things are afloat for the soon-to-be-Championship team. The Rams need 6 more points in 8 games to beat Sunderland’s 15-point record set in 2005/2006. What Appleby really should be doing is forcing Paul Jewell to play out-of-form Benny Feilhaber.

CRISTIANO RONALDO: Tony Paskin over at the Daily Express UK asks if Ronaldo is in fact better than the late Georgie Best? Best held the 40-year old scoring record that Ronaldo just surpassed after scoring both goals in a 2-0 beating of relegation battlers Bolton. I’d be interested to hear your take – ESPECIALLY if you had the chance to watch Georgie Best play.

With that said – who is better – Best or Ronaldo?

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U-23s: Adu’s Second, an Artist’s Rendering

Here’s a little sketch I made of Freddy Adu’s second goal for the U.S. u-23s…and, yes, that’s Sacha Kljestan in the foreground celebrating with the big ol’ thumbs-up…and do note Canada’s Josh Wagenaar’s complete paralysis.

Anyway, I’ll be posting these throughout the year as a substitute for photos. In spite of making Adu’s jersey look like the Canadians…and Wagenaar’s somewhat stubby legs…um, there’s the absence of the crowd…um…I think that’s it…I find the likeness uncanny. Especially Klejstan. Yeah, he looks a little heavy, but you know what they say about the camera adding 20 lbs.

The Crew Attack: Columbus’ Hopes and Options

With the Columbus Crew’s defense preview out of the way, it’s time to turn to the Crew’s offense. Before going any farther, let me just acknowledge one thing: offense and defense don’t separate perfectly in soccer; anyone who has seen Frankie Hejduk blaze down the right side to fire in crosses (of whatever quality) knows this. That said, the discussion below focuses on players for whom offense is the primary responsibility.

Before looking forward, however, let me take a second (or a paragraph) to look back – though, given 2007, I don’t expect Crew fans to feel enthusiasm for joining me. Until the arrival of Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the Crew struggled with scoring – and things didn’t so much turn around as improve thereafter. The 2007 Crew would never be mistaken for an offensive power. Most observers point to the absence of a quality forward and, for what it’s worth, I agree with most people. The Crew tried to address this problem in the off-season, but they have so far failed to find their man (thanks for the freakin’ memories, Maciej Zurawski).

Even if they missed out on a high(er)-profile acquisition, the Crew has done some restocking with players on trial like Nigeria’s Emanuel Ekpo and Brazilian Guilherme So; neither player has formally signed with the club, but both were in the works last I read with Ekpo being the closer. There’s also Nicolas Hernandez’s arrival to consider with the question of whether this is “Nico Mark’06” or Nico Mark’07” preceding him. Talk of a couple forwards shipping to Columbus from the Honduran league (Brazilian Jocimar Nascimento and…some other dude) means more reinforcements may yet show.

However all those pan out, what we can all count on is the return of some players, plus signs of promising development for them. The Crew appears as ready as they’re going to get for the 2008 season. The question is whether it’s enough. Continue reading

US vs. Canada [Periodic Updates], Winner On to Beijing

RECAP: A 3-0 win and as you can see, the internet wasn’t quite working throughout. I eventually gave up trying to get updates through and drank beers instead. Freddy Adu hit for a brace – going full circle with two brutal set piece goals – and Sacha Kljestan hit home with the third. Like I said below, the US came out organized and ready to play today. There were few glaring weaknesses that Canada could even exploit. Both Orozco and Spector really rendered Will Johnson and Ricketts useless. Marvell Wynne fulfilled Nowak’s wishes with his play on the right side, but that was mainly because he didn’t do too much out of the ordinary. All four midfielders from inside to out did exactly what they needed to in order to create space for Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore. Overall, a great win – and it was clear that we were the stronger team and worthy of the Olympic bid.

PREGAME: Honduras prevails with Sideshow Bob making the crucial stop.

PREGAME: Lineup below. Penalties between Honduras and Guatemala which means a definite delay for the game. Honduras will win this – mainly because their goalkeeper Hernandez looks like Sideshow Bob. You can’t beat that.

Can’t LiveBlog – internet is too unreliable right now. So when I can – I’ll be updating you with big news during the game.

PREGAME: Both Guatemala and Honduras are in extra time and getting ready for penalties. This probably means that the US/Canada game will be delayed a bit.

PREGAME: So Marvell Wynne gets the nod over Kamani Hill at right fullback. Spector in the middle is not surprising at all even though he spends more of his time at fullback for West Ham. He’ll be able to organize in Bocanegra fashion while Orozco patrols and acts a bit less defensively. It’s nice to see Maurice Edu back in the middle, but last time we saw McCarty and Edu in the middle – things were a bit shaky. Expect that to to change.

PREGAME: U.S. Lineup!

———————Seitz———————

Wynne——Spector——Orozco——-Sturgis

————–Edu(c)—–McCarty————-

Kljestan—————Adu————–Holden

————- ——-Altidore——————–

PREGAME: Lineup to come…what do you think the keys to the game will be?? Zizzo, Gaven, Kljestan, or Holden on the wings? Edu, Orozco, or Spector in the middle?? Altidore up top?