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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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.

Who’s Staying Up?: Relegation Battle down to the Wire

Three in the Red: Bolton, Fulham, Derby

Derby County 

It’s clear. We don’t need to discuss Derby, but it’s safe to say Paul Jewell’s January acquisitions have done little to help the prospects of a club that should have paid more attention to trying to get the most of Robert Earnshaw – who has all but vanished – and the highly coveted Giles Barnes. All that’s left with the Rams is to see whether or not they can escape the shame of holding the record for fewest points ever by an EPL squad. Sunderland sits with that record at 15 points. Derby needs 6 points out of their last 7 and a game vs. Fulham at home this Saturday could be the first three points towards their homestretch.

On we go…Fulham.

The Cottagers sit in a position they undoubtedly put themselves in. Many times this year they carried a lead into the final 15 minutes of a match only to be overtaken. Roy Hodgson has done little to turn around a team and many have said, Hodgson needs the full year to do so. The schedule is working against him though…nevermind the opponents. The Cottagers might have games against Derby and Reading coming up, but one troubling fact remains. They are away. And this is a Fulham team that hasn’t won away all year. If it was based on the personnel alone, Fulham certainly have the tools as long as they can service Brian McBride, EJ, and Dempsey properly, but when 4 of your last 7 are away that’s big. Remaining fixtures: @ Derby County, vs. Sunderland, @ Reading, vs. Liverpool, @ Manchester City, vs. Birmingham City, @ Portsmouth

Bolton

I don’t care what Gary Megson has said or wants to say. Not having Nicolas Anelka in the homestretch destroys them. Not having Jussi Jaskaleinen in the midst of a relegation battle destroys them. The Wanderers’ only saving grace is Kevin Nolan, who continues to organize Bolton’s midfield well enough to grab points here and there. Truth is, though, that Bolton’s recent tie with Manchester City at home was their first point in almost two months. Their final games see Arsenal coming to Reebok Stadium and a visit to Chelsea, Tottenham, and Aston Villa. That doesn’t paint a pretty picture, and – in all honesty – it’s about time sparkplug El-Hadji Diouf is brought down to Earth. Bolton is on their way down. Remaining Fixtures: vs. Arsenal, @ Aston Villa, vs. West Ham United, @ Middlesbrough, @ Tottenham, vs. Sunderland, @ Chelsea.

Who will stay up…

Newcastle

Kevin Keegan is still cleaning up Big Sam Allardyce’s mess and, understandably, it’s hard to believe one has to do so when you have players like Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins, and Mark Viduka at your forefront. And that’s precisely why the Magpies will stay up…Keegan has decided to put all three of these boys on the field. With Barton and Butt in the midfield and these three on the forward line – even working at subpar rates – Keegan’s troupe can climb their way out of the darkness. Newcastle’s 2-0 win over Fulham this past Saturday was a testament to that. Owen had countless chances, Martins created chances, and Viduka dutifully took the ones he was  given. Keegan has opted to play himself out of relegation through offense and it will work. Plus, who doesn’t love a manager that wears his heart on his sleeve game in and game out. Newcastle sits 6 points clear of Bolton – the third relegation spot. Their remaining schedule includes – @ Tottenham, vs. Reading, @ Portsmouth, vs. Sunderland, @ West Ham, vs. Chelsea, @ Everton.

Reading

Anytime that bounces back from 9 consecutive defeats to start the new year gets my nod to resist relegation. The Royals weren’t just losing games, they were losing close games. The ones where you fight until the bitter end. Reading’s talent level and tenacity on the playing field set them up for that kind of disappointment in defeat, but sheer joy when the result goes in their favor. Their nine losses – 5 came in dramatic fashion, one goal thrillers, while others came at the hands Villa [twice], Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham. The Royals have been found out…they’re not being underestimated like last season. All clubs are firmly aware this year of the rapid development of Dave Kitson, Shane Long, and Stephen Hunt. No one has questioned the form of Marcus Hahnemann, who along with Tim Howard and Brad Friedel, looks poised to grab at least a top-three in GK of the Year tallies. Reading has won two out of three as of late, losing out only to Liverpool, but I wouldn’t peg them to slide any further into the abyss. Fixtures remaining: vs. Blackburn,  @ Newcastle, vs. Fulham, @ Arsenal, @ Wigan, vs. Tottenham, @ Derby County.

Birmingham

March 1st’s 4-1 drubbing of Tottenham could have been the three points that wind up keeping Birmingham from the bottom three. Hell, before that they took points from Arsenal and Newcastle. If there’s a clear loser when it comes to remaining schedule, the Blues have got to be it. Alex McLeish has done well to instill a hard-nosed approach to every game in his squad and that approach has helped them so far, but will it withstand meetings with Manchester City, Everton, Blackburn, Villa, and Liverpool? Yep. And believe it or not, if they had Fulham’s schedule remaining – the Blues would be on their way down. Fixtures Remaining: vs. Manchester City, @ Wigan, vs. Everton, @ Aston Villa, vs. Liverpool, @ Fulham, vs. Blackburn

Two teams primed to go down, but will escape…

Wigan Athletic

Five points separate the Latics with Bolton and who is worse off? Bolton. Wigan was able to grab a 1-0 win over . If there was a team next in line behind Fulham and Bolton to go down, it’s the Latics. But Wigan hasn’t been pisspoor as of late. Yes, they were routed by Blackburn even when they had a man advantage for half the game, but they squeezed points from Arsenal and beat West Ham and Derby. More than most of these relegation battlers can claim. Their schedule doesn’t help much with 5 games against top-half club. Wigan has also made it their habit to start slow and end strong, which will not fly against the likes of Pompey, Chelsea, and ManYoo. Both Emile Heskey and Marcus Bent have returned to the line-up which could provide the jumpstart needed to slip just above the relegation zone. Verdict: Up, but barely. Remaining Schedule: @ Portsmouth, vs. Birmingham, @ Chelsea, vs. Tottenham, vs. Reading, @ Aston Villa, vs. Manchester United

Sunderland

It’s Roy Keane people. He’ll fight managers on the sideline and kids in the stands to stay up. The Black Cats started admirably and have faded in the homestretch. Kenwyne Jones has been figured out and Keane’s talent pool has all but dried up. Still Keane has shown a knack for putting in the right people at the right time and Michael Chopra’s entrance this past weekend secured a 1-0 upset win over Aston Villa, a vital three points to have. This is not the 2005/2006 Sunderland team. The difference – a battling Keane personality, a will to win in the last 15 minutes of tough matches, and a discipline that sticks against the big competition. Verdict: the Cats will remain and an infusion of talent in the offseason will make them mid-table runners next year. Remaining Fixtures: vs. West Ham United, @ Fulham, vs. Manchester City, @ Newcastle, vs. Middlesbrough, @ Bolton, vs. Arsenal

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Big Fulham supporter, but if the mentality shown against Newcastle prevails – the Cottagers are going down. Bolton and Derby are locks with seven games to go, but Fulham has the chance if they play the way they did against Everton. Hodgson also has to let Dempsey play. Jimmy Bullard was the only real threat vs. Newcastle, I agree, but it was as if Hodgson set him up that way. He might have a long shot, but Dempsey will be able to open up McBride and Eddie Johnson with outlet passes, instead of passes to their feet with a defender in tow.

Final Verdict: the same three we got now, Fulham, Bolton, and Derby.

What do you think?