England win, EPL goes even more foreign?

ENG vs. SWI: England got by a mediocre Switzerland side led by teenager (and now cap-tied, thankfully) Eron Derdiyok. The Three Lions’ 2-1 win over the Swiss featured old David James and a “there’s only one David Beckham” chant, the return of Jermaine Jenas and Matthew Upson, and a final reflection of Capello amounting to “we need lots of work”. Only several on the field showed any sort of urgency – the two Coles (Joe and Ashley), Steven Gerrard fought to get things moving in the midfield, and Shaun Wright-Phillips came on and ultimately provided the winner. Wayne Rooney was shut-down by Senderos until he found enough time to provide Gerrard with space to hit SW-P for the winner. There was little flash and pizazz showcased by the English and if any were expecting that, they clearly forget that Fabio Capello is at the helm now. This is the same guy that was axed from Real Madrid after not playing Madrid’s fluid, attacking style (still winning La Liga no less, and clearly there were more factors than just tactics). Either way, England is going to have a whole spring and summer to improve as they make their charge towards World Cup 2010 without a European Championship to play for.

FOREIGN GAMES?: The 2011-2012 EPL season looks to be one to remember if the Premier League goes through with an outlined plan they have set up a press conference to announce today. There is expected to be an addition of 1 extra game for each of the 20 squads, in a foreign destination. This is to take advantage of the growing worldwide interest of the EPL. Ultimately, on and even under the surface, this just looks like another way for EPL to make more cash…and I don’t think they’ll even deny that. The EPL has a home and away structure right now – why add an odd game in there against an opponent picked out of a hat, in a location they could play a friendly at and STILL make the same amount of money (apparently, the ‘Big Four’ would be kept from playing each other. That’s acknowledging the fact that it’s only a four horse race all year and the parity in the EPL is for shit). The report referenced a successful NFL match-up between the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins held at Wembley Stadium – but what they didn’t mention was the fact that it was WORKED into the existing schedule structure. The NFL didn’t add a game to make things work. Listen, would it be cool to see Manchester United take on Reading in New York City? Sure…hell, it would be heaven for some. But to add another game to do it? Let me know what you think…

Here are the pros.

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Guest Post: Euro 2008’s Underwhelming Co-Hosts

A fellow blogger, a fella who runs a site called Starting Eleven, contacted me about doing a post-hosting swap. That sounded like “Post Toasties” to me and who doesn’t like those? So I said, yeah, what the the hey?

He’ll be posting my item shortly – and I’ll link to that when it’s up. As for this space, his item is below, a tidy commentary on the competitive quandary of allowing two nations to co-host major soccer tournaments. I liked it plenty and hope all y’all like it as well. And, if you like it, pop over to Starting Eleven and enjoy; he’ll be churning out the content for you.

On with the show:

Soccer’s principal governing bodies, FIFA and UEFA, have fallen in love with the notion of co-hosts for their major championships. Blame UEFA because it was first with Belgium and the Netherlands hosting the 2000 Euro, but it didn’t take long for copycat FIFA to fall in line with the 2002 World Cup taking place in Japan and South Korea.

While it may be a noble gesture to allow two countries to experience big tournaments simultaneously, exposing both to more media attention and the opportunity for massive amounts of revenue, fans are left with a soul-less event. We’re left to suffer with an inferior tournament because of FIFA’s and UEFA’s transparent motives and decision to reward mediocrity.

Look no further than next summer’s Euro; Austria and Switzerland will co-host and also earned automatic qualification for the tournament. Under normal circumstances, neither nation would get in without paying for tickets. Austria has made one previous Euro, Switzerland three. Neither has ever finished in the top four, nor has either made it out of the initial group stage of the finals.

Yet there they’ll be next summer, occupying two spots normally reserved for deserving teams. And therein lies the problem with the concept of co-hosts. If 16, 24 or 32 teams are good enough to qualify for a tournament, and two of the spots are reserved for hosts with no business being in the competition, how does UEFA or FIFA look at Nos. 17, 25 or 33 with a straight face and tell them they don’t belong.

If UEFA’s logic, for example, is spreading the wealth and the experience of hosting the tournament, fair enough. But once the host nations are excused after three games, that’s really out the door. Right now, England, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Belgium, Norway and exciting Israel are ranked higher than both Austria and Switzerland, and any of them would have a better showing than Austria or Switzerland, yet they’re on the outside looking in because of the decision to have co-hosts.

Sadly, this is a concept that isn’t going away any time soon. Poland and Ukraine are on tap to host the 2012 Euro, and Portugal and Spain are expected to make a bid for the 2018 World Cup [why? Portugal hosted a great Euro on its own in 2004.]

It’s time for FIFA and UEFA to find the courage to turn away these bids. If a country doesn’t have the infrastructure to host the game’s biggest tournaments, than it just doesn’t deserve them. It is doubtful fans would complain about somewhat permanent host nations for the Euro, in a rotation between say, England, Italy, France, Portugal, Spain and Germany. Same goes for the World Cup: Any of those European nations, along with the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Japan, China and perhaps Australia.

To quote a funny guy: “Two of shit, is still shit.”

Switzerland 0-1 U.S.: Seen Through Others’ Eyes

Due to the necessity of negotiating for TV time in a one-TV household, I passed on the U.S. v. Switzerland in exchange for tonight’s LA Galaxy v. Red Bull game. Helping with my decision to forgo negotiations on this occasion was a personal belief that this game didn’t mean all that much. One, it was Switzerland, and, two, the need to win in Europe seemed the chief talking point going in, a detail about which I’m not particularly bothered. I mean if we’re obsessed winning in Europe, let’s just schedule friendlies against San Marino or Liechtenstein and let the good vibes come…whoops, let’s scratch that last one and make it Iceland

Given the trade-off, I had to make do with match reports – and, as always, the Web provided.

The relative quality of the game hung around as a major talking point and the very first item I read, an Associated Press feed ESPN picked up (yesterday afternoon), mentioned a lot of booing; such things make me think I didn’t miss all that much. It could be that our men’s team (hereafter, the Yanquis) offended the typically low-key Swiss, but, Soccer Source’s Mr. Baker, who reads German (hmm…part of a fifth column? get a tap on this cat), revealed that the Swiss team inspired much of the disgust.

The Yanqui media, while generally agreeing our team barely deserved the loving tap on their collective butts, found some welcome details to highlight. Jeff Carlisle, writing for ESPN, seemed most impressed with the defense, including the gaffe-plagued Oguchi Onyewu; elsewhere, Goal.com credited Freddy Adu for brightening a dreary, rainy affair. My Soccer Blog’s Mike H offered a vague echo of that, noting that the Yanqui adoption of a “sense of the unexpected” allowed the eventual break-through. Even the occasionally grumpy Ives Galarcep generally praised the effort, singling out Adu and Clint Dempsey on the plus side and Taylor Twellman on the negative. Topping the “happy talk” category, however, was USSoccerplayas.com – though that might have resulted from the decision to post the report from U.S. Soccer Communications…

Seeing as we won, the minus side of the ledger doesn’t show much. I’ve already mentioned Twellman, who few people seem eager to see in Yanqui blue (or white, or red, or exploding, denim stars) again. Fullback Files’ report of bulleted excellence doesn’t so much go negative as it ponders the kind of player the U.S. produces: “thuggish defenders” and “two-way central midfielders,” with the implication being that said production has its limitations. No, I think the sternest report came from American Soccer Daily, who, upon reviewing the evidence, opined that “neither side particularly deserved to win.” And yet, we did.

So, what did all y’all think? As noted above, all I know about this one came from what others’ told me. And, the best thing I read/saw all day was the snapshot of the team “frolicking” in the pool. There’s just this great “summer house in Greece” feel to the image. Thanks for that goes to The Beautiful Game.

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.

Daily Sweeper (DS), 10.10: US Roster Talk; MLS to PDX (Still?); SEVERE TV Issues; Best Dang DP

I’m going with an acronym for this feature: DS. That way I have more room for witticisms in the title…

– My colleague Breton already tackled the heavy lifting and thinking regarding the just-named U.S. roster for next Wednesday’s friendly against Switzerland. Read his stuff, of course – he thought about it more, after all – but I stand by the comments I made to close his post, particularly that these out-o’-the-ass lineups make these friendlies worth watching; real shockers like Robbie Findley and Maurice Edu only add intrigue…

…and then along comes USSoccerplayer.com’s Ian Plenderleith to take a big ol’ poop on my fun by pointing out that a few of these players owe a debt to circumstance for their call-ups (thanks a lot, friend). Looking elsewhere, Goal.com’s Ben Brackett seems wary of fielding such a green lineup given his opinion that the U.S. Men need to start winning on European soil. Eh, maybe. I’m not to worried about that, nor am I much concerned about building team chemistry for World Cup qualifying. Sure, we’ll have to get to latter one of these days, but with qualifying not starting till some time later than early 2008, I figure we have time to experiment. As for the European soil thing, it’ll come.

– It looks like the possibility of Major League Soccer (MLS) coming to Portland remains live. Better still, some relevant parties seems interested in placing the team in PGE Park and moving the Portland Beavers (baseball) to another facility. This would be a good thing. No, a great thing. The only piece to the conversation I think they’re missing is what happens with Portland State University’s football team? Then again, since they’re not mentioning it, maybe it’s not the issue I think it is. Anyway, great to hear that Portland’s still in the hunt. Continue reading