MLS Week 3: Black Eyes and Big Ideas

(NOTE: Because the week got off the a god-awful start – and because I further handicapped this young week by drowning it in beer – I have to forgo posting the feature I advertised this morning, “MLS Week #___: Let the Record Show.”  I’ll get this stuff down shortly…promise.  I lieu of that one, I’ll be posting a feature I attempted to start last week, but that I feel much, much better about this week.  That’s below.)

Welcome to my kinda/sorta counter-point to my colleague Breton’s 10 Bright Spots posts: Black Eyes and Big Ideas.  I’ll start with a rundown of all the personal and general disasters from the games from the previous weekend.  After those, I’ll touch on the striking trends that come to me – e.g. the Big Ideas lurking out there.

As always, feel free to add your own black eyes and big ideas in the comments.  And do bear with me: this feature, along with the others, will improve once I get used to the new rhythms of my week.

BLACK EYES
Greg Vanney…
LA’s loss to Toronto FC (TFC) raised plenty of issues, but the one man who drew plenty of notice in the loss was Greg Vanney.  Involved and, tragically, burned on all three TFC goals, I can’t imagine he’s forwarding video from this week’s loss to friends and relatives. Continue reading

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Bob: Commence the Experiment

A couple people are posting the U.S. roster that was called in to play Mexico this Wednesday – and at least one person is playing “the roster game” (and having a couple bites at as he does it). On the other side of the affair, Sideline Views’ Luis Bueno listed Mexico’s traveling party and added some analysis for good measure. Much like Luis, I think the Mexican roster looks pretty solid – as in, a whole lot like an A-Team…or maybe that’s just what I think when I recognize many of the names on a Mexican roster.

So, to kill some time on a slow Sunday (the Super what now?), I thought I’d take some time on the question of who should we play against this bunch. Given my present state of, um, underwhelmedness regarding the significance of the result itself, I’m still advocating on-field experimentation. And, in the event we do lose, we can adopt the Mexican tactic of blaming the loss on such externals.

So, below, I’ll trot out the starting XI I’d like to Bradley trot out on Wednesday…and I do so knowing this is not the line-up we’ll see. Before naming names, I should confess I tend to favor 4-4-2’s for perhaps the dumbest reason: I’ve played as a defender in my share of 3-5-2’s and I just hate how exposed I feel back there…absolutely prejudiced me against that formation. What can I say? I view myself as a midfielder…in spite of the few seconds I’ve received on that opinion from the various coaches I’ve had.

Enough preliminaries…here it is: Continue reading

Trades: No Go for Guzano! Can Twellman Find Relief?! Polish Rumors!

Taking them briefly and in turn:

– Still-Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan’s move to Aston Villa died this morning at the hands of a work permit denial (hat-tip, for me anyway, My Soccer Blog). That sucks for Guzano, to be sure, but at least Chivas USA has a goalkeeper, right? (As their roster shows, they are a little thin at that position.)

– Speaking of My Soccer Blog – and not parenthetically this time – Mike H turns another take on the New England Revolution’s now-annual tradition of blocking a move for one of their players. As we all know, this is Taylor Twellman we’re talking about and Mike covers the familiar dynamics of his situation – and well. But he also pulls the future into (back?) the discussion with this passage:

“Add that to the additional chances he will have with the national team and next year the offer might be a bit too much for the Revs to ignore.”

The question turns on the part in bold: how many chances will Twelllman get with the national team? Hasn’t he had enough by now? How many more chances would you give him? In other words, if his prospects turn on his national team future, should he call it a day and plan for eminence grise status with the Revs.

(UPDATE: Further reading: Blue Blooded Journo offers a smart, near-term alternative scenario for Twellman’s future….even if it sounds too generous for the Kraft Kabal.)

– Finally, Luis Arroyave (who, I just learned from reading his bio, started with FHM! Fascinating!) mentions that the Chicago Fire have entered the “footsie stage” of trying to bring Tomacz Frankowski to the team. This sounds a ways off, but I imagine the Fire would like help at forward a little quicker than Patrick Nyarko’s learning curve (unless, of course, that goes sensationally well).

Bonus Material: Two today.

Jesus Held Hostage!  OK, it’s just a statue.  The payoff comes when the newscaster reads the ransom note.

– A really, really frickin’ stupid exercise device…almost has to be a spoof…

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?

EPL Daily 1.29: Woody with Spurs, Sissoko, Baros, Guzan, coming down to the wire

JONATHAN WOODGATE: The former Real Madrid central defender has been stuck in the mediocrity of Middlesbrough. After a transfer bidding war between Newcastle and Tottenham, the Spurs have come out on top – addressing a big issue within their line-up. Michael Dawson can’t be trusted and who knows when Ledley King is ever going to be fully fit again. Only Pascal Chimbonda can say he’s doing anything worthwhile. Woodgate went to Real Madrid as a young 24 year old, but with one major problem, huge injury issues. He solidified himself as a first team central defender but then the injuries hit, limiting him to 9 games over 3 seasons. Tottenham apparently picked Woody up for $16 million, but guess what? – a hamstring injury should keep him from joining their starting line-up for another 2-3 weeks. The Hotspur also look to finish up a deal for Scottish international and Rangers fullback Alan Hutton soon. The figure seems to be around $18 million. Clearly, Juande Ramos is addressing their major weaknesses and not afraid to spend the cash for true talent…less so potential.

MO SISSOKO: The Mali international got his wish and hell of a wish come true at that. 22-year old Sissoko was pissed at not getting the chances he deserved at Anfield and wanted more playing time. Can’t really blame the kid as he was asked to wait behind the likes of Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano, and Xabi Alonso. His time looks to increase two-fold at Juve with an aging Pavel Nedved, Cristiano Zanetti, and inexperienced Antonio Nocerino leading the way. Juventus’ midfield has provided only 7 of the 46 goals scored this year. Sissoko is generally considered a defensive midfielder but don’t count out the possibility of him getting a little more free reign at the Delle Alpi. The proceeds from Sissoko’s transfer looks to be the money Liverpool needs to pay for a permanent capture of Javier Mascherano.

MILAN BAROS: …………..is back!! The underperforming former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker has returned to the EPL from French juggernauts Olympique Lyonnais and this time with his scoring touch, hopefully, intact. This one flew under the radar as Baros will be moving on loan. His reasoning? What else but lack of playing time. Milan – if you scored more and bitched less, you’d be starting in Lyon. Regardless, he will get the playing time needed at Pompey under Redknapp cause they’re dealing with Kanu and Utaka gone at the AFC and David Nugent just picking up an injury. We’ll give him props for at least a year over at Stade de Gerland.

BRAD GUZAN: No need to recap this. You all read it on Soccer by ives.

RUMORS: Barcelona’s Eidur Gudjohnsen back to the EPL, this time with Bolton (still need that Anelka replacement); Afonso Alves to Middlesbrough is still in the works, getting closer apparently; Joleon Lescott to either Manchester United or Arsenal

OTHER COMPLETED MOVES: Dennis Wise (head coach at Leeds United) to Newcastle in the position of Executive Director (whatever that means); Aston Villa’s Olof Mellberg to Juventus (Bosman ruling, Summer 2008); Manchester City’s Giorgios Samaras to Celtic on loan; Racing Lens’ Jimmy Kebe to Reading

Player Movements, Some Obstructed, Some Rumored; Memo to Foreign Coaches re: Houston

Time to check around the league, to make sure the movement has generally been normal and regular.

– May as well start with the problem: the blockage keeping Taylor Twellman from leaving the New England Revolution for England’s Preston North End. And, here I was, all set to bang out a “Free Taylor” post, only to discover that someone else – namely, Longshoe over at Who Ate All the Cupcakes – beat me to it. To his further credit, he even laid out a more thorough argument than I would have. But, to add to the excellent point that the time to rebuild in New England is now, here’s something else: I’d argue that Major League Soccer (MLS) has maxed out Twellman’s marketing potential; worse, barring some changes to the Revs make up – and none seem upcoming – the odds for Twellman doing something eye-catching (e.g. win MLS Cup) any time soon don’t look so hot. Given that, all the Revs (and, to whatever extent, MLS) are doing now is pissing off Twellman and giving future talents reasons against signing a long-term contract with New England.

Right. The rest of these are rumors and trades-in-progress to varying degrees. I’ll start with those filed under “outgoing” and conclude with “incoming”…which is where the real stretches lurk. Continue reading

U.S. 2-0 Sweden: Our Depth Beat Their Depth

There was a lot to like about this game. Seriously. Fox Soccer Channel commentator Christopher Sullivan griped at the end about a certain lack of artistry, but anyone who tuned in saw a good, fairly even, pretty up-tempo game. And, better still, the U.S. Men’s National Team (Yanquis) flat won; they gave away fewer chances and played the better game. This is Sweden, mind, not elite, but definitely “real Europe,” even if it wasn’t their first team. That doesn’t matter because that wasn’t our first team either. Sweden’s first team might beat our first team 6 or 7 times out of 10, but the gap is closing – at least that’s what I pick up from watching our B-Team out-play, even out-think, the Swedes B-Team.

The Yanquis did well enough that it’s hard to find sincere fault with anyone’s game – though it’s not like I’m not going to try below. As for the Swedes, well, they settled for average; at times, I thought the game looked like a circa-1996 Sweden v. USA, but with the roles reversed. I can recall one tactically inspired move from Sweden, an overlapping cross-field run that totally isolated Ramiro Corrales on the U.S. left. But one move by the U.S. best illustrates the differences in inventiveness: Pat Noonan broke in on the left, dished to Landon Donovan and continued his run; Donovan holds for a bit, then pokes the ball into Noonan, who taps a lay-off that nearly resulted in a shot; it was all fast, short passes, the Americans trying to pick their way through Sweden rather than hoofing toward space and crossing. No, neither move ended with a goal – in fact, both U.S. goals came off something perilously close to slop – but the Swedes never matched the savvy and understanding on display in the U.S. move. Hell, we almost played “street-ball” right there.

In any case, I’ve got the notes to blab, blab, blab. But I’ll spare all y’all from that and bang out some player ratings – e.g. the refuge of a blogger who can’t figure out a structure for his talking points. Enjoy. Continue reading