McBride and Fulham’s away win too little too late?

Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey started for the Cottagers as they trounced a sad looking Reading squad. Steve Coppell’s side forgot how to attack – and you know that happened when Andre Bikey is the only one that can find a shot on net. Kasey Keller manned the nets as Roy Hodgson shattered his “only play 2 Americans at-a-time” mold. McBride’s work ethic paid off today finding chance after chance on net. Dempsey patrolled the midfield taking attention with him from Reading defenders and leaving Jimmy Bullard free to fire his long shot or two. Overall, a great day – but many wonder, is it too little, too late?? The Cottagers face a tough remaining schedule, as do Reading, and it looks likely that both (6 Americans) could be on their way down to the Championship. Bolton and Birmingham, however, are struggling down the stretch as well and if points can be taken in the last 4 games, there’s a shot. Either way, Roy Hodgson should not stay.

It was Keller and Hahnemann in net- two goalkeepers from the Pacific Northwest and apparently on the Seattle Sounders radar come 2009. Hahnemann looks the more likely decision and you could see why today. A 2-0 win for Fulham was modest, thanks to Hahnemann who got his hand to a number of chances that should have been clear goals. The Cottagers hit the post FOUR times – one being the most acrobatic volley I’ve ever seen out of the 35-year old McBride.  David Healy worked hard today, but it was sub Erik Nevland who took advantage of his chances – finishing a run down the right side in the 91st minute. Carlos Bocanegra came in for Dempsey with about 20 minutes to go and shut his marks down. Therefore, the Americans played well – but where in the world is Bobby Convey? He makes a big fuss about dooming Fulham to relegation, how it doesn’t really matter that there are other Americans on the team, and then he can’t make the damn bench…

Oh. Right. Why focus on the relegation battle? No real reason…except that it was Fulham’s first AWAY win in 34 – I repeat 34 – away games. That’s almost two full years of NOT winning away from home. Why the sudden change? The burst of energy, desire to win? Did Hodgson just say to go out and play…cause they didn’t look like Hodgson tactics today.

But once again, too little too late? They are now 4 points from safety, 4 games left, 2 away, and Liverpool’s looming. You do the math.

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Bitter, Bulleted Rants: The Rented Mules Edition

Having an awful day, just awful. Can’t go into the details, but it has all made me very grumpy. So, reacting more than usual as I read soccer news today, here are some thoughts, which will include a good deal of profanity, disrespect to various entities and individuals.

EPL: You Are Not Men; You Are Sporting Widgets
I heard over the weekend that the English Premier League has plans to play “special” games in venues around the world. Thanks for bringing the game to the fans, guys! Super! Oh, you’ll make shitloads of money out of the idea? But that couldn’t be the motivation, not with all that joy to spread (about as dignified in the grand scheme as a hooker spreading her legs). I think the best part comes with how the suits channel the spirit of Thomas Friedman-style hucksterism to dress up the simple, ancient art of making money:

“‘We can’t escape the fact that globalization of sport is with us,’ Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said. ‘This is a response to that globalization. … By design we have become a global phenomenon. We cannot go on manifesting that phenomenon as a broadcast proposition only.'”

Oh, Mr. Scudamore! You are the victim! Damn, damn globalization!

For the other side, USSoccerplayers.com’s J Hutcherson did a fair job of making the “for the fans” pitch and, he’s right on a lot of it, especially about laughing off talk of maintaining the “purity” of sport. I’d just like to think that, at some fucking point, fans would collectively say, “enough.” Enough squeezing every last cent out of fans, enough running the players for all their worth and a little more, enough tacked-on tournaments. I can ‘t believe anyone but the owners want current trends to continue; their interest isn’t that complicated, after all.  Before long and we’ll all be supporting teams called the [Insert City here] Rented Mules. Continue reading

EPL Daily 9.17: Heskey and Silvestre back to square one; three of the Big Four suffers; Jol vs. Defoe

A fractured metarsal will keep Emile Heskey from his international resurgence (whether it’s a postponement or eventual involuntary retirement, who knows). It will also keep Wigan guessing as to whether or not they can stay up this year. Heskey will be out up to 6 weeks and will most likely miss the England’s qualifiers next month against Russia and Estonia in October. The former Liverpool striker also joins an odd list of those stricken with metatarsal injuries over the recent  years – Stevie Gerrard, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney (a billion times), David Beckham, etc. Even youngster Giles Barnes –  a huge prospect from Derby County – has missed the start of the EPL season due to a metatarsal injury. Heskey will bounce back, he always does but the same might not be true for French international and Man Utd defender Mickael Silvestre. The bald Frenchman suffered cruciate ligament damage against Everton on Saturday and now Fergie has to rely on young defenders Jonny Evans and Gerard Pique to plug the holes on the left as John O’Shea is out and, as we all know, Gabriel Heinze left in a huff. That’s the end of the season for Silvestre, therefore expect a move for a left back come January. But who?

A host of other EPL stars will be missing their mid-week group stage Champions League clashes. Manchester United – which takes on Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday – will miss Owen Hargreaves, Mickael Silvestre, Park-Ji Sung, John O’Shea, and Darren Fletcher. Chelsea is missing its’ best (as Jose Mourinho has already spouted about) on Tuesday against Rosenborg (Norwegian Champions) – Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack, Claudio Pizarro, Wayne Bridge, and Ricardo Carvalho. Liverpool will be ailing as well against Porto on Tuesday as Xabi Alonso will most likely miss alongside Momo Sissoko and Jon Arne Riise. That’s a lot of talent on the sideline (maybe now Gerrard will keep his starting spot instead of being foolishly rotated). Who lost out the most in this one?

Maybe I only digest what the media reports, but it really looks as if Martin Jol has to go. The team – pegged to be a top-four contender this year – are back to their underperforming selves again and Jol is still firmly at the helm. This pushed me overboard as apparently it was overheard that Jol told out-of-favor Jermain Defoe that ‘he would never be sold to a top-four club’ and ‘would rot in the reserves’. Someone fill me in – is Defoe a diva or is Jol a psycho?

A forgettable Saturday: Fulham loses another lead but Dempsey scores; Arsenal crashes Man City’s party

clintdempseye.jpg
Chelsea 1, Portsmouth 0

Frank Lampard played to spoiler in Portsmouth’s bid to upend the giants. With their win they now sit pretty at the top – only dropping 2 points in their first 4 games. Lampard had connected for the English national team against Germany earlier this week and his good form has continued during the transition between both levels. The play didn’t favor a Chelsea win most the game, as Pompey fought hard away from home and created a bunch of chances. Sulley Muntari returned from suspension and wreaked havoc in the middle – distributing well.

Arsenal 1, Manchester City 0

Cesc Fabregas cleaned up Robin van Persie’s mess and dispatched Citeh as neither team played particularly well. The game looked certain to end in a bore draw as every pass seemed to be a touch off, each run a step off. That is until Micah Richards – who had a great game regardless – took Hleb down in the box. Van Persie was stoned by young Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmiechel. The Light Blues were truly missing Rolando Bianchi. Manuel Almunia took over in goal for the afflicted Jans Lehmann, who is currently fighting a bad case of butterfingers.

Aston Villa 2, Fulham 1

Fulham’s woes continue despite Clint Dempsey’s first goal of the season in the 6th minute. Villa responded right after half-time but the true kick in the nuts was delivered by Shaun Maloney – a somewhat flop after coming into the Villa squad last year – who struck in the last minute. I certainly hope American-friendly doesn’t become synonomous with relegation.

Bolton 3, Reading 0

A thorough out-classing of the Blues – Nicolas Anelka, veteran Gary Speed, and new Norwegian signing Daniel Braaten provided the firepower. Despite the lopsided scoreline, Marcus Hahnemann had a decent game and Bobby Convey came in to service the last 30 minutes. Reading looked flat-footed all game and barely mounted a formidable attack all match.

Liverpool 2, Sunderland 0

The Reds’ fantastic away form continues as Ukrainian Andrei Voronin is outshining his injured compatriot Andrei Shevchenko by way of actually finishing goals. Big young’un Mohamed Sissoko struck for the first and welcomed himself into the new season. Liverpool thoroughly outplayed Roy Keane’s boys, but the goals didn’t flow – either way, the Reds will like their start to the season.

Birmingham 2, Derby 1

No Feilhaber but Eddie Lewis did his best to fend off the Blues in the battle of the newly promoted. The former Leeds winger assisted Matthew Oakley’s game-equalizing goal. His efforts were futile though as Cameron Jerome had different ideas. His brace in his first start of the season was enough to get the Blues a home win.

West Ham United 1, Wigan Athletic 1

No Jonathan Spector as Lee Bowyer and Paul Scharner scored several minutes apart late in the game to keep this match-up from being a deadlocked draw. It was Lee Bowyer’s first goal in 75 years, while Wigan’s Scharner acrobatically put his in the net.

Everton 1, Blackburn 1

Another American goalkeeper duel. Both Howard and Friedel turned in great performances but it was the Rovers who struck first through the efforts of Roque Santa Cruz. Scotsman James McFadden struck with about 10 minutes to go ruining a slight Blackburn advantage in regards to quality of play. The Toffees couldn’t be happier that the addition of Yakubu and Manuel Fernandes into the starting line-up is inching nearer. Both are sorting out contract/work permit problems.

EPL: Tottenham rebounds while Man United sputters…

Tottenham 4, Derby County 0

Benny Feilhaber watched Derby get slaughtered but a formerly dormant Steed Malbranque who struck for a brace. Darren Bent opened his account with the Hotspurs as they tried to send a message to the rest of the league. Still looks to be a long year if they can’t perform against the big squads. Billy Davies hopes the signing of Eddie Lewis can spark something, anything…

Reading 1, Everton 0

Marcus Hahnemann won the duel of the American keepers as the feisty Stephen Hunt scored right before half-time in what was a purely defensive match-up. Both Hahnemann and Howard fared well but it was the former Rapid that got the win and propelled Reading into the midtable region. Bobby Convey return for 11 minutes of action!

Other Saturday Scores:

Wigan 3, Sunderland 0

Welcome to the Premiership Roy Keane: where you can beat Tottenham one week and lose significantly to Wigan the next. Two penalties allowed that to happen.

Middlesbrough 2, Fulham 1

The result was indicative of the kind of day Fulham was having. My favorite American player to date – Brian McBride – suffered a dislocated kneecap when he crumpled to the ground only 5 minutes after his opening goal. Wish you the best Brian – but it looks to be 5-6 months out. Hamuer Bouazza – about 10 minutes – later dislocated his shoulder and the former Watford starlet could miss several months. M’boro then proceeded to score two and win the game. Silver lining is that Clint Dempsey should see significant time now that Bouazza is injured.

Portsmouth 3, Bolton 1

Pompey won on account of Bolton having a terrible game – but credit new signing from France John Utaka who bobbed and weaved and put a great goal away early in the game. Kanu also struck for his first. Bolton could go down this year.

West Ham 1, Birmingham 0

Mark Noble put away a somewhat controversial penalty, but WHU outlasted City and got the three points.

Newcastle 0, Aston Villa 0

A bore draw. Ashley Young impressed on the left side however and Michael Owen grabbed some vital minutes for himself. Mostly it was just Villa finding different ways to shut down Viduka and Martins who looked like they could be dangerous, but were never really given the chance.

Sunday scores

Manchester City 1, Manchester United 0

The momentum Citeh is gathering is scaring the shit out of everybody. Former Barca man Geovanni has scored his second of the year and put Man Utd in the biggest hole they’ve been in a long time. What will it take for Man U to recover? Losing Ronaldo and Rooney certainly don’t help – should they let the young’uns run rampant?

Blackburn 1, Arsenal 1

Jens Lehmann gifted the Rovers a tie with the Gunners when flailed helplessly at a late David Dunn strike. Between this and the fiasco that was David Healy’s goal the other day against Fulham, the German should almost be axed. Blackburn survived the last 10 minute onslaught without central defender and former DC United player Ryan Nelsen, who was sent off. Brad Friedel, as always, played consistently well. Eduardo da Silva made his debut for the Gunners.

Chelsea 1, Liverpool 1

The ref has been sacked after this game and rightfully so as Chelsea’s PK gift (which Lampard converted) was one that provoked talk of ‘fixes’. All in all, it was just a terrible call but Fernando Torres goal early in the game was brilliant, even though the defending by Ben-Haim was extremely suspect.

Complete Updated Standings.

EPL: Sven and Big Sam start with 3; Man Utd falters

Another slew of games this Tuesday and Wednesday as the Premiership starts with a bang. This past weekend’s slate however was chock full of entertaining matches – most of which I didn’t get to see. Some things that did stick out however:

 Derby 2, Portsmouth 2: Not many expected this I am sure but freshly promoted teams generally fight like hell for the first several games then sputter when it comes to the long-haul of the Premiership season. The Rams took the lead in this one thanks to a Matthew Oakley strike. Pompey fought back to take the lead 2-1 and it looked as of Derby was down and out. Former Blackburn Rover Andy Todd made it 2-2 in the waning moments to secure a point. If they can tie Portsmouth with a squad  that boss Billy Davies is vocally unhappy with – what can they do once strengthened? (is it too early to regret my decision of predicting a 5th place finish for Portsmouth?)

Sunderland 1, Tottenham 0: Spurs faithful have got to be incensed with this one, but looking back on it – why did I ever bet against Roy Keane in his Premiership managerial debut; Chopra doubters were treated to a nice serving of ‘I told you so’ as the former Newcastle dud provided the only goal in the 90th minute

Chelsea 3, Birmingham 2: the Blues struck first early with Mikael Forssell staking a claim for a starting spot but new Chelsea acquisition made his argument by striking less than 2 minutes later; the rest of the game was back and forth as fellow new Chelsea signing Florent Malouda also put his name on the scoresheet; Johan Djourou – plucked from Arsenal’s talent pool – worked all 90 minutes for Birmingham in the back; Michael Essien provided the game winner in the 50th minute and extended Chelsea’s home unbeaten streak; Drogba quelled Chelsea supporter fears with a solid 30 minute run-out

Arsenal 2, Fulham 1: David Healy pounced on a particularly embarassing screw up by Jens Lehmann; search it on YouTube – not quite Paul Robinson-ish but still borderline pathetic; the Gunners fought back for him though as two late goals – a PK from Van Persie and Aleksander Hleb – put Arsenal clear; McBride started up front and Bocanegra in the back, both played all 90 minutes while Clint Dempsey came on for new signing Hamuer Bouazza in the beginning of the second half and worked a serviceable half; Gunner fans have got to be excited about the play of Bakary Sagna and Emmanuel Eboue down the right wing

Reading 0, Manchester United 0: another giant held with unfortunate consequences for Alex Ferguson and all Red Devil fans; Wayne Rooney broke his foot and will be out 2 months at least; they do have Carlos Tevez to look forward to but Rooney looked primed to have a phenomenal year and his absence will make things a bit harder for that Red Devil offense to produce consistently; Reading played the last 20 minutes a man down after Dave Kitson’s ejection and proved pesky (though never threatening); Nicky Shorey was the best man on the field for the Royals and Giggsy for the Red Devils

Other results:

Liverpool 2, Aston Villa 1 – The Reds’ new signings start slow but Gerrard’s goal of the week give them the win

Manchester City 2, West Ham 0 – Spector plays all 90 minutes but can’t stop Sven’s new signings – Geovanni and Bianchi from finding  the net, while their newly crafted back line preserves the shutout and 3 away points

Newcastle 3, Bolton 1 – Sam Allardyce beats his former team as the Magpie offense is driven by the brace of Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins

Blackburn 2, Middlesbrough 1 – Brad Friedel worked well in a goal as usual while the young Derbyshire and new signing Roque Santa Cruz provide the goal scoring power to beat the Boro

Everton 2, Wigan Athletic 1 – Tim Howard held his own in net for the Toffees as they fought their way to a win at home thanks to a Leon Osman and young’un Victor Anichebe strike

EPL: Who you pickin’ for the weekend?

West Ham United vs. Manchester City
10am EST, FSC

Both teams spent a crapload and look to reap the benefits. Overall, the new Citeh boys have looked quite effective so far – with plenty of secret weapons in tow. Martin Petrov, Gelson Fernandes, and Geovanni have shown promise but Rolando Bianchi is easily the star of the bunch. Valeri Bojinov, Vedran Corluka, and Javi Garrido could . The Hammers haven’t brought in anything particularly foreign to the Premiership – Scott Parker, Marlon Harewood, etc. My guess is that this year’s big breakout will be a Hammer – former Watford man – Ashley Young.

Prediction: Man City 2, WHU 1 – Bianchi and want-away Samaras grab the goals. West Ham’s Young grabs the consolation goal.

Aston Villa vs. Liverpool
12pm EST, FSC

After watching the first test for Sven Goran Eriksson’s shopping spree, you should watch the same of Rafa Benitez’s. Quite possibly the best contest of the day, it will be interesting to see Torres and Kuyt against the unchanged Villa backline. Villa is still pissed they missed out on Craig Gordon – especially to recently promoted Sunderland – and as Sorensen won’t be ready to go, you’ll see Stuart Taylor in goal. The Reds could potentially take advantage. Along with Ashley Young above, Gabrial Agbonlahor looks to avoid a sophomore slump after a great 12-goal breakout season.

Prediction: Liverpool 2-1, Agbonlahor grabs the first but Torres and Gerrard respond furtively

Derby vs. Portsmouth
2:30om EST, FSC

As Benny Feilhaber has clearance, will he be in a Derby County kit ready to contribute come Saturday? Most likely not, but we’ll see. He should see significant time right away, especially since boss Billy Davies has said that the Rams are less than 75% of his required ‘quality rate’. It should be a troublesome first couple games (i.e. season) for Derby and the first match-up will see Dave Nugent and John Utaka trying to establish themselves immediately in the Premiership. I fully expect them to do so. A reinvigorated Sol Campbell – on the national team radar yet again – will lead a Pompey backline, even without an injured Linvoy Primus.

Prediction: Portsmouth 1-0…the goals don’t come in droves for either team, but Pompey grabs the only one that matters…Kanu does what he’s got to do.

Sunday, August 12th

Arsenal vs. Fulham
7:00am EST, FSC

Fulham always seems to get the results against the big teams – often falling to the fellow strugglers. Brian McBride has been named outright captain of the Cottager squad and, as it stands, all three Americans could make the start against Arsenal. The Gunners will start their post-Henry era and it could go either way. With William Gallas and Kolo Toure in the back, I’d say at least you have a defense to count on. The thought of Hamuer Bouazza and Clint Dempsey on the same field together makes me a happy man.

Prediction: Fulham 2-1, Diomansy Kamara and McBride shoot Fulham ahead.

Reading vs. Manchester United
11am EST, FSC

At not one point this pre-season did the Red Devils look vulnerable…(except against Italian teams). Rooney and Ronaldo look to be ready to go – while Giggs doesn’t look a step older. For Reading the absence of Leroy Lita is crucial (out with an injury from ‘stretching in bed’), as Kevin Doyle and Dave Kitson will most likely be swallowed up by the size and tackling of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. The saving grace could be the return of Bobby Convey, who has not completely regained form but has certainly look presentable in his first preseason games back – scoring 2 goals.

Prediction: 2-0, Man Utd – Rooney and Ronaldo strike.

Other games (not televised in the US)…

Tottenham vs. Sunderland
Everton vs. Wigan
Middlesbrough vs. Blackburn
Bolton vs. Newcastle
Chelsea vs. Birmingham City

What match-ups you looking forward to the most?