The Team Alexi Has Built: A Visual Reaction

My first attempt at capturing the spirit of this game was a sketch of me covering my eyes, an appropriate choice because that’s how I watched the the final fifteen minutes of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s season opener. But the image at left, which captures my reaction to the Colorado Rapids’ third goal and the degenerating mess that was LA, poses the question that came to me at the time: what the frank was Alexi Lalas thinking when he built this team? Max Bretos (or was it Christopher Sullivan) said enough when he wondered aloud what good it does LA to have three all-stars in the front line when they don’t have the players behind them to get the ball upfield.

Some other quotes, this time from Bretos, as he watched the game:

“Like lambs to the slaughter….”
(Just before Colin Clark’s goal, which Colorado’s fourth.)

“Like a hot knife through butter.”
(Right after Clark’s goal. And it was that bad.)

Without laboring the point, something I’ll be doing later on the Rapids Offside, I want to kick an idea out there: how is Alexi Lalas still employed? And isn’t it just a little insulting to your understanding of the game that he still is? This is just a guess, but I’m thinking if you ran the roster and some video past, oh, 85% of soccer fans they’d immediately question both the roster and the assumptions behind it. I mean, there’s taking risks (driving fast) and there’s being just plain stupid (driving fast and stumbling drunk…toward a brickwall…probably one with that big picture of Beckham in underwear).

The painful thing is, the weakness is exactly where everyone expected it – even if I’m pretty confident no one anticipated the degree of the problems. It’s important to put this in perspective: LA just had their defense mauled by the Colorado Rapids. Yes, one of the worst offensive teams from just one year ago…and one missing a bunch of starters to boot. Michael Gavin is, quite possibly, the worst left-back in MLS; Abel Xavier is starting to show his age (did you see what Colin Clark did to him? Sheesh.): but, generally, they’re disorganized, unsure of their roles, they may not be collectively competent for all I know…just a friggin’ mess.

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MLS Daily Sweeper, 3.21: Seeing to my CCC08 Duty; Beckham’s Clause

This will be quick:

– Holy crap!  Deportivo Saprissa mugs Atlante FC and steps over the battered body into the CONCACAF Champions Cup semifinals.  All right, Dynamo, don’t you get to relaxing because the Mexican team crashed out; Saprissa are recent champs after all.  Credit to My Soccer Blog for carrying my water.

WVHooligan, among others who shall go unlinked, got wind of an alleged (this is 60 Minutes reporting), very special clause in David Beckham’s contract: an option to buy an MLS club at the end of his contract.  There’s something devilish in that, but I don’t object either. He’ll still be famous then, so what’s the harm?

Have a good weekend, people.  I kicked my own ass today.

Beckham makes the 30, eyeing the 23 – England/France

England Provisional Squad vs. France (30) 

Goalkeepers (3): David James (Portsmouth), Scott Carson (Aston Villa), Chris Kirkland (Wigan).

Defenders (10): Wayne Bridge (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), David Wheater (Middlesbrough), Rio Ferdinand (Man Utd), Glen Johnson (Portsmouth), John Terry (Chelsea), Wes Brown (Man Utd), Joleon Lescott (Everton), Matthew Upson (West Ham), Jonathan Woodgate (Spurs).

Midfielders (11): Gareth Barry (Aston Villa), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Jermaine Jenas (Spurs), Owen Hargreaves (Man Utd), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Ashley Young (Aston Villa), Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Chelsea), David Bentley (Blackburn).

Strikers (6): Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa), Michael Owen (Newcastle), Wayne Rooney (Man Utd), Peter Crouch (Liverpool), Jermain Defoe (Portsmouth).

That’s 30 people for an eventual 23-player contingent taking on a pretty powerful French squad consisting of a young core that hasn’t been one to balk at experienced, veteran players like Beckham, Owen, or Terry. Saturday is the day Beckham will find out whether or not he’s part of Capello’s 23 heading to Paris next Wednesday. Beckham is searching for his 100th cap, while of the 30, Gabriel Agbonlahor and David Wheater are the only ones searching for their first. For France, you will get a glimpse of the highly coveted ‘next generation’ Samir Nasri, Hatem Ben Arfa, and Karim Benzema as well as the usuals – Thierry Henry, Franck Ribery, Lillian Thuram, and Patrick Vieira. Domenech has chosen 9 Lyon players and 10 from the EPL (39 overall). That will be shaved down by the weekend as well, so expect some changes. I’ll have a more detailed breakdown as Wednesday draws near.

And yes, it’s true a May 8th match-up of USA and England is confirmed. At new Wembley no less!

My Daughter, Beckham “Evil”…Me, Awaiting Apology…

My wife and just moved into a place with a lot more wall area than the modest apartment we had left behind. Hating the empty spaces, she started pulling posters out of this Corbis images folder that fell in our lap a while back. One area she covered early was a computer nook tucked in the middle of the upstairs; out of consideration for my interests and hobby, she set up a “Shrine to Soccer,” and included in it an older image of David Beckham that looks quite a bit like the one below.

Before you get the wrong idea, my wife, in spite of not being wild about the game, knows more about soccer than 80% of Americans – if not a few more. Her decision to use Beckham’s image came down the fact she was going with a soccer theme and he’s a soccer player. Given her druthers, there’d be a big, hot, buttered Dema Kovalenko glowering over the computer, but Dema isn’t Beckham (and on a number of levels), so Corbis doesn’t photograph him, etc. etc. Besides, Beckham is easy on the eyes and, gosh darn it, I can’t think of anyone as nice who has that much license to be an asshole. So, Beckham it was in spite of the fact the photo, much like the one showing above, isn’t his best work…looks like something out of a cut-rate version of Playgirl…though not nearly as much as this one. Continue reading

One Main, Late Thought on LA Gals v. Hong Kong Union

Yeah, I actually watched this game in the wee hours of Saturday night.  I know this is almost absurdly late to post on any game, never mind a warm-up, and many of you have already read good write-ups on the game – for instance, Soccer America’s entirely deserved praise of David Beckham’s play or the LA Offside’s notes on promising contributions from Ely Allen and Sean Franklin (I second jen’s thoughts on Franklin, especially, though Allen’s not bad).

Given my tardiness, both comparative and real, I’ll only say I enjoyed the game enough, though LA’s difficulty with making more of their edge over Hong Kong surprised me more than a little; with a defense balanced between green (rookies/youngsters) and gray (geezers), they need that offense to fire cleanly and often.

Generalities aside, one thought stuck with me since Saturday: after being fairly impressed with Alvaro Pires play, particularly against Sydney FC, his limitations stuck out like a sore thumb wrapped in ten feet of gauze on Saturday.  He runs at players well enough and he can play a decent short pass, but after that…it’s pretty bad.  He put several hundred pounds too much weight on lofted passes, through-balls, etc.  In other words, anything other than a short, possession pass and Alvaro brought too little for a pro.  The only upside I see in him over Kyle Martino?  He’s healthy.  That’s it.  I’d pass on him and, so far, LA has.  We’ll see what they do down the road.

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).

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?