UEFA Champions League: A Quarterfinal Do-or-Die

The fate of three EPL squads will be decided, with at least one going through to the next round.

Chelsea vs. Fenerbahce (aggregate 1-2)

Fenerbahce is confident they can survive in England and move on to the semi-finals. With clutch players like Deivid and Alex, coach and former Brazilian star Zico has assembled himself a team full of Turkish work ethic, determination and Brazilian poise and vision. The blend often clashes, however, as it has in the domestic league since their 2-1 win over Chelsea in the first leg. They have still managed to get their results and now await the return of former Real Madrid fullback Roberto Carlos to help solidify the backline. Avram Grant is still positive in both race for the EPL and UCL Championship. I can’t see the Blues being forced out of this one. It’s going to take another out-of-their-mind game to survive an offensive onslaught at Stamford Bridge.

Prediction: 3-1 (Chelsea 3-2 on aggregate)

Liverpool vs. Arsenal (1-1 on aggregate)

One thing is for sure. This will not be a goal-less game. Between the two talismans – Gerrard and Fabregas – you have 11 goals in this competition alone. But if you’re talking momentum, Liverpool has the nod…not by much, though. In-house rumblings of discontent have managed to surface, while Arsenal has had to deal with a pretty sad run of form as of late. Liverpool has their 12th man at Anfield, while Arsenal has a playing style that lends itself to these kind of tense deciders. The difference will be with how Rafa Benitez decides to handle Arsenal’s torrid offense…will he sit back and build a fortress and try and steal a goal on the counter? Or will he let Gerrard, Torres, and Babel fight Arsenal fire with Liverpool’s own potent attack?

Prediction: 1-1 (aggregate 2-2, Liverpool wins 5-4 on penalties) 


DS, 10.16: US v. Swiss, Rosters and Previews; Onstad: Am I Crazy?; Ives Eyes Some Scalps

– Tomorrow’s friendly against Switzerland sucks up ever more copy and ether as we get closer to it. Among the highlights: Jeff Carlisle’s preview for ESPN, because it contains good stuff on the Swiss…of whom I’m more or less ignorant; USSoccerplayers.com answers the inevitable “Who’s that now?” about four new faces on the U.S. roster; and Ives Galarcep unrolled his regular post on who Bob Bradley should start…so, check out the (updated) roster and see what you think. Speaking for myself, I don’t care who we start so long as we field an experimental line-up; the obvious adjunct to that is that I don’t care so much if we lose either. I just want to sound our depth a little bit; we’ve got two years to mold a roster – and before you point out that World Cup qualifying starts well before then, let me me just say, dude, it’s CONCACAF and there are 3 1/2 spots up for grabs…we’ll make it.

– After posting an angry rant against all things Pat Onstad this morning, I’m beginning to wonder whether I’m the only one who saw what I saw. So, what did I see? Pat Onstad watching Yura Movsisyan out of one corner of his eye while RSL players cleared the area; when Movsisyan got close, Onstad stopped, stood in his way, and then collapsed when the Armenian shoved him; that’s when Onstad bolted up, eyed the ref, then flailed his arms wildly as two Houston players barged into Movsisyan. In other words, that’s all Onstad in my book. But here are excerpts on the incident from two Salt Lake City papers:

(Deseret News) “Two minutes later RSL was reduced to 10 men as well when Yura Movsisyan was sent off for apparently trying to take a swing at Houston keeper Pat Onstad.”

(Salt Lake Tribune) But Beckerman couldn’t convert the ensuing free kick – Houston’s Richard Mulrooney cleared it from the left post – and moments later, RSL’s Yura Movsisyan appeared to throw a punch at Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad after a scramble in front of the goal. At some point amid the pushing and shoving that ensued, Onstad was knocked to the ground, and an infuriated Movsisyan had to be restrained by his teammates.”

Now, I’ll grant that Movsisyan had to be restrained, but he was probably incensed about getting attacked by Houston players after Onstad played him as the chump. Well, I’ll have to review the video later today when I have a machine that groks MLSnet.com’s feed.

Whoops. One more thing: the pre-game ceremony for Jason Kreis and Eddie Pope was a really nice touch. Both men seem the decent sort to me and I wish ’em both the best.

– Getting back to Mr. Galarcep, he’s doing a little reputation busting over on Soccer by Ives, posing two career-defining questions in one day: 1) is Denilson a bust? 2) should Sigi Schmid keep his job? Answers:

1) Yes. The Brazilian suffers horrible from comparison to young American Arturo Alvarez, so, yeah, do the math and swap their salaries.

2) How long has Schmid been in Columbus? Two years. OK. While this is by no means an easy call, I’m with Ives: let Schmid stick around. I think they’re a better team to watch than in 2006 and expect more in 2007, now that I’ve decided to be a Crew fan…we’ll see how long that lasts.

MLS Week 28 Collective Rankings: Theories to Be Tested

There’s so much good, good stuff and so many angles to size in the data put out by the Semi-Detached Pundit Collective (SDPC) this week that I hardly know where to begin.  May as well start with the easy stuff: it’s an eleven-pundit pool thanks to Ryan Hunt making the deadline and the discovery that Goal.com’s weekly wraps end with power rankings (c’mon, people, I can’t find all this on my own).

Moving to the good, good stuff, I think the pundit pool has finally reached decent consensus on where each of the 13 teams belong; allowing for the exception of Houston and New England, each Major League Soccer (MLS) team was assigned the rank they hold in the standings by the most pundits.  To wrap all that up, DC remains undisputed #1, but no less significantly, Chivas stands as undisputed #2.  After that, you’ve got Houston virtually tied with New England, which proceeds to a middle passage that begins with Chicago before meandering past the twin make-weight, playoff-bound mediocrities known as Red Bull and FC Dallas; from there, we rubber-neck past the LA/KC tangle for last-playoff-place honors before running into the tight tangle of half-starved urchins – Colorado, Columbus, and RSL – with faces pressed hungrily and hopelessly against the playoff glass.  And, left out skulking in the cold sits Toronto FC at lonely #13.

But still another angle presents itself.  Anyone who compiles rankings makes a claim or claims of greater or lesser eccentricity, an outlier of a vote as to how a given team will stack up against another.  Each of the 11 pundits in this week’s pool took one of these wild stabs (well…more or less wild) and that’s what I’m going to look at after the rankings: each pundit’s “pet” theories and whether they will hold up against the cold, clear evidence of Week 28’s results.  Call these The Eleven Theories to Be Proved, each of which will face trial by soccer in one of this weekend’s tilts.  (NOTE: The individual authors may not see their text as I see it; just let it be known I’m parsing each author’s numbers without their input or guidance.)

If that doesn’t make sense, here’s to hoping it will below.  I’m a bit smitten by the numbers today.  As for the mechanics, the usual stuff applies: in parentheses after the current week’s ranking and average, you’ll see the most common ranking for each team (e.g. three #1 votes, which will show below as “#1 X 3”) and the previous week’s ranking and average.

Here are the participants for Week 27’s pool:

Center Holds It (Me)
MLS Underground/American Soccer Daily
My Soccer Blog
Sports Illustrated (Ryan Hunt)
Goal.com (Kyle McCarthy)
Fox Soccer (Keith Costigan)
ESPN (another collective)
Fullback Files
Tim (the Enchanter) & Fire_Juve10

And…drumroll, please….here are the collective rankings, comments to follow: Continue reading