EPL Daily 3.28: Hislop has a blog? and it’s all drama.

March is closing out and so does a crazy month of soccer, but all that’s really grabbed the headlines is drama. But before we get to the drama, take a look at former FC Dallas keeper Shaka Hislop’s new blog with the Guardian.

Hislop calls the Houston Dynamo the favorites for the upcoming 2008 MLS Season. I love it. He writes well, he analyzes well, and people will read him. He actually barely talks about the Dynamo, but focuses mainly on his former team Dallas and Beckham’s Boys.

Now on the neverending drama:

GILLETT and HICKS: George Gillett is still trying to figure out how to get rid of his Liverpool share without selling it off to his partner Hicks. The American’s rant paints Hicks as a crazy man who is impossible to work with. Could be. Plus, Gillett has already found another outlet in the Saputo Family and the Montreal Impact. Man, would that be awesome. Saint Louis and Montreal for the next two teams?

TIM CAHILL: I feel like this headline pops up once every 6 months and it really is a shame. Cahill is easily one of the best midfielders in the EPL when fit and to see him struggle mightily with injuries not only hurts Everton, Everton supporters, but the general spectatorship. The guy has all the tools to help lead Everton into the Big Four. To prepare for the future, David Moyes has already been forced into lining up replacements like Lyon’s Kim Kallstrom.

MASCHERANO: Javy Masch’s bitching and moaning got him a $200,000 fine of 2 weeks’ wages for his outburst last weekend against Manchester United. On top of that, he’s got to serve an initial one-match ban which could be increased once revisited by the FA. For many, this all seems unwarranted…but it just goes to show they weren’t kidding when they said they’d give out bookings like mad if you continually bitch to the ref.

ROY HODGSON: According to various sources, striker David Healy will not play the rest of the season for Fulham and be released from his contract at the start of the transfer window. He can hit for his country, but has done nothing for his club. Jari Litmanen is in the same boat as he has yet to don the Cottagers jersey. Apparently, Hodgson hit out at the Finnish legend saying, “he has not played one game in a Fulham shirt but he has played two matches for Finland”. I ask again, is Hodgson the right guy for the job in Fulhamerica?

DROGBA: Chelsea’s saving grace and brace scorer in last weekend’s win over Arsenal is yapping quite a bit. He has apparently told teammates he’s headed to Inter in the offseason. Add this to Ronaldinho’s possible move away from Barca and you got yourself a fun-filled summer coming up.

2008 MLS Pre-Season Power Rankings: Science!

I’ll begin by apologizing for the constant need to explain my posts and myself. Sorry.

Welcome to the first, and first-ever, Major League Soccer (MLS) pre-season power rankings I have ever compiled. In the past, too few teams playing meaningful games equaled too many unknowns, so I didn’t see the point. I don’t really now….good times, aside. Oh, how we’ll laugh when we look back. That confessed, I’m going to embrace this form wholeheartedly and dress it in the available trappings of science.

I’ll begin with methods, a problem I never resolved during 2007 (mainly because I caught the issue too late in the game). By judging teams on different criteria at different points in the season, I tarnished the results. I started, if memory serves, by ranking MLS clubs based on form – e.g. a broad-brush impression of which team would beat which on the Saturday ahead. By the end of the season, however, I altered the formula to address something that seemed more important: the teams I believed would make the playoffs took the top 8 spots and I placed the teams I thought would go deeper in the post-season nearer the top, regardless of form. I move that the last organizing principle be branded as stupid and relegated to the Hole of Non- and Never-Existence.

With that in mind, the methods employed in the season ahead will adhere closely and permanently to those that first guided me – that is, I expect the team above to beat the team below 6 games out of 10 at a minimum; a brief explanation of my thinking will follow each team listed and each post will close with a discussion of trends and points of interest – assuming any come to me. With consistent methods in place, sound results, analysis, and conclusions should follow – if only logically…and internal logic at that. And – voilà! – we have science…of a sort.

And, later today, I’m going to up the science a little more by roping in all the pre-season power rankings I have seen so far in order to revive the Collective Power Rankings from last season. But, after the jump, I’ll lay out how I see all 14 MLS teams entering this deeply fascinating 2008 season. It promises to be a wild one, (but, c’mon, we all know deep down it’s going to peter out into a dogfight involving the usual suspects…I mean, how many people are rating Red Bull New York…pssh). Continue reading

MLS 2008 Western Conference Preview: Contenders, Dark Horses, Filler, and C.H.U.D.s

Having already unloaded all my caveats in yesterday’s Eastern Conference Preview, there’s nothing to do here, but get to it. For your convenience, here are the resources borrowed and applied in creating what comes below: WVHooligan’s most current list of off-season player movement and Climbing the Ladder’s best guess at starting elevens for Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Western Conference sides. The same labels will apply as well: Contender, Dark Horse, Filler, and C.H.U.D. For your convenience, here’s a copy/paste on the meaning of the terms from yesterday:

“The first two are pretty obvious – e.g. ‘Contender’ attaches to a team with a clear shot at the title, while ‘Dark Horse’ flags a team with the talent and depth to steal the title, but only provided good form and luck through ‘08. For ‘Filler’ teams, the playoffs are within reach, but the title…well, it ain’t gonna happen. Finally, ‘C.H.U.D.s’ – aka, ‘Cannabalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers’: these are the teams that will suffer through a season in the confines of MLS’s cellars, only coming out from time to time to feast on the flesh of the living.”

So, let’s get to it…teams are listed in descending order from Contender to C.H.U.D. Continue reading

MLS Results and Moves: A Soft-Lens Impressions

Having been “underground” when Major League Soccer (MLS) Roster Compliance Day came and went (and, to celebrate, I threw out tons of crap, just like the teams I like!), motivation to soberly analyze all those rosters isn’t coming; besides, fans and fan sites have probably did all this to near-death earlier in the week. Moreover, not knowing much about the players coming in, I’m not really equipped to do a hard-data write-up. As such, a looser approach feels more appropriate – or, as I put it in the title, a soft-lens impression, which I’ll form based on what I recall of each team’s results (I’ll provide links when I have ’em) and the moves each team has made so far. I’ll be using Soccer America’s round-up of off-season moves for this last bit.

And away we go…

Continue reading

Pre-Season Match Reports: Too Many for One Clever Title

I just drank some African liquor…that came in a cellophane bag…so don’t expect much…

Truth to tell, I feel like I’m posting early – e.g. before the weight of the commentary and direct observations provides something for us to think about besides what team beat another and by how many. So…I’ll update what comes below as I see them over the course of tomorrow….which is today…assuming you live on the East Coast.

Here’s how this is going to work. MLSnet.com had their unpaid interns turn in the usual one-stop round-up, which caught the majority of this weekend’s games. So, if you see an item below that bears only a headline, that’s all I’ve got on it…and that means you should stop by the “one-stop” link earlier in this paragraph for all the information available at time of typing. Well, at least where all the sites I visit are concerned. As for the rest, if I have links and commentary therefrom to pass on, I will do so. And, as noted above, I’ll add to those stripped-down score-lines where future postings/commentary allows for it.

Here goes, in the order MLSnet.com’s piece listed the games. The ones they didn’t list will follow. Continue reading

Off-Season Progress Report: Mime’s A-Wastin’

For good or ill, here’s the plan for this and future editions of the Off-Season Progress Report. Every Friday, I’ll list all the player moves, trials, and rumors (with a snowball’s chance in Hell of coming together…and some that don’t) that appeared on my screen over the previous week. This feature will continue until – I believe – March 3, when Major League Soccer’s (MLS) teams must have their rosters down to 28 players, as required by league rules.

One category, the trialists, is a little more complicated than the others. To begin, I’m assuming that anyone drafted between the SuperDraft and supplemental draft – all identified here – is, effectively, on trial. I imagine some draftees have gone home already, but ignore them until the final cut comes along…and I may not acknowledge it then (too much to know, frankly). As for all other trialists, I can only name those whose names I’ve seen and I’m confident I’ll miss a couple players per team….all while blaming your team for failing to get out the good word. Given the gap, however, I welcome any and all additions to the record; drop ‘em in the comments field or send to me an email (jeffbull71[at]yahoo.com).

OK, that’s that. All the movement I saw (or cared about) appears after the jump. Current rosters for all teams are embedded under each team’s name. Continue reading

MLS Off-Season Progress Report…Well, Most of One…

Thought I’d take some time today to update the latest off-season player movement around Major League Soccer (MLS). I’ll cover every MLS team down below, talking about which players the club has signed – as recorded on their respective rosters – but will only cover changes that have happened since my first off-season progress report. That said, 1) I’m away from my usual post and the notes I keep there, which means 2) I’m missing some details on some rumors, players trials, that sort of thing.

Getting back to that first off-season report, when I typed up each team’s list of incoming players, I divided them into players coming in by transfer and those “acquired” via the Super- and Supplemental Drafts. The approach for this update will look a little different. Judging from what I’m seeing on the rosters and a player movement round-up run on Soccer America on February 5, teams have signed some, though nothing like all, of their draftees. To account for that, drafted players whose names appear in their team’s official site roster PLUS any player a given team brought in via transfer will be listed as Signed. I’m assuming players in this category to be part of the team at this point.

The other two categories I’ll use are Trialist/Wish-List and Out. The first category includes players named in various sources as being associated with a given team, whether through an invite to camp or by rumor; in the cases where the names are either obscure or low-profile (no offense), I might just provide a link to the source. And the “Out” category is what it is: players who have left the team since the first off-season progress report.

As implied above, there will be holes in this. I’m operating from memory on a few calls. Further, some teams simply enjoy better coverage – among them, teams like the Kansas City Wizards (thanks to Hillcrest Road) and FC Dallas (thanks to FC Dallas Updates); those blogs cover everything down to their players’ stool samples. Other teams (think Colorado) are just hard to find because the front office in question just seems to hate their teams’ fans. But I’m mentioning my blindspots mainly by way of welcoming corrections in the comments. If I missed something, let me know and I’ll get the new information in the main post as soon as I can. If you don’t want to use the comments, don’t be shy about emailing information to me (jeffbull71[at]yahoo.com).

Good god, that’s a lot of preamble. A final thing or two and I’ll get to the goods. One, each team’s current roster is embedded in their name. Two, of course I’ll comment on where I think each team is…that’s just a given. No grades, though. Not this time.

Here goes (fixed it!): Continue reading