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…

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

Revs Shopp Noonan; Irk Twellman?

So, The Boston Globe reports this morning that the New England Revolution declined to pick up the option on forward Pat Noonan’s contract, a move I have a couple reactions to. Chief among them, are you trying to push me away, Mr. Kraft? I know I’m headed toward the door, but this, getting rid of my favorite Rev…well, that’s just cold, even gratuitously so. Look at me when I’m talking to you, dammit!

But my reaction isn’t all that important to either the Krafts, or, obvioulsy, New England’s chances. You know whose reaction does count? Taylor Twellman’s. And, from what I hear, he’s a grumpy boy these days, what with Major League Soccer (MLS) and/or the Revolution front office standing in the way of a move abroad. And there are two troublesome factors at work in the Revs’ decision to let Noonan go. First, from what I gather, he and Twellman are close – possibly even very close.  Between the contract issue and some other stuff I don’t believe in mentioning (oh, but I’ll allude to it, won’t I?), let’s just say Twellman is going through some shit and probably likes having a close friend around. Second, and this is more speculative, the Revs are giving Noonan his shot at going abroad – aka, pouring salt and rubbing alcohol into Twellman’s semi-forced confinement in Boston. Continue reading

New Forward Tandem for the Yanquis?

Beat to the punch on this one…the only reason to read this post is the subtly different take.

A bit of U.S. Men’s National Team (Yanquis) news comes out of The Boston Globe’s report on Preston North End’s pursuit of New England Revolution striker Taylor Twellman (and I’ll get back to this*).  Here’s that:

“In yesterday’s training session, Twellman was paired with New York’s Jozy Altidore at striker during a full-field scrimmage.”

OK, that’s it.  Discuss.  Sounds good?  Bad?  Are the players too similar (ha!)?  My take: I’ve heard worse ideas by far.  Given our current options at forward, I say let ‘er rip – and give it a few games,  yeah?

Another interesting tidbit from the same article, one that gets to “my kind of players”:

“[Pat] Noonan looked sharp during the training session, pairing with Jeremiah White (AGF Aarhus) at forward.  ‘Pat is a unique player, there is a cleverness in his game,’ Bradley said. ‘It’s a matter of him staying healthy.'”

Here’s a not-so-dirty secret: I have always preferred Noonan to Twellman, even as I can’t argue with a straight face that he does more for New England.  But there’s a kind of weird savvy to Noonan’s game that, as Bradley points out, separates him from the herd.  Who knows?  Maybe that’s what makes his groin/other body parts go all funny.  Still, best of luck to him with his health.  Further, assuming his health holds together, I wouldn’t mind giving Noonan a long look with the Yanquis.  Bring the weird, Pat, lead us to glory.

* OK, the Twellman thing.  First of all, New England would be nuts to let him go; there’s nothing else to make of 101 goals in 177 games.  Coming at it from the other direction, assuming he really wants to go, I wouldn’t hold a Dempsey-esque tantrum against Twellman; one gets the impression that’s what it will take sometimes.  The bigger picture is that the man is in a deadly rut with this team; Twellman has done his part in the last two MLS Cups only to see things fall apart behind him.  As such, I’d recommend a change of  scenery, acknowledging all the while that this is not the thinking of a Revolution fan.

EPL Daily 1.9: Yanks transfer news hits the other side of the pond…

BRAD GUZAN: Brad Guzan’s transfer speculaton hit SkySports for the first time adding credibility from both sides of the pond to his potential suitors. Celtic is the most recently named party interested in the shotstopper, while we have all heard the rumors involving Arsenal. Some other suitors include Liverpool, Auxerre, and Greek champions Olympiakos. In terms of playing time, Guzan’s best bet would be at Auxerre where 26-year old Olivier Sorin mans the net. They have Lyon-product Remy Riou as back-up, but neither have impressed much as Auxerre has sputtered to 15th place. Liverpool and Arsenal would be a grooming back-up role, as would Celtic. The difference with the Hoops, however, is that Polish goalkeeper Artur Boruc has recently signed a new deal with a reported “get-out” clause in which if a suitor comes along and gives the right price (number set in the contract), Boruc would move on. Guzan could go in, learn under the wing of Boruc, and wait for his exit someday soon. Olympiakos could be an ideal place as well as age is what will wipe out the two top goalkeepers there now – Antonios Nikopolidis (36) and Tomislav Butina (33). The real question is: if Guzan leaves, what happens at Chivas?

TWELLMAN: Though Preston North End isn’t the EPL, a Twellman bid is something every American fan wants to hear about. PNE would be a fantastic place for Twellman to restart his European career, but the bid was already rebuffed according to Mike Burns. SkySports caught wind of it and placed the transfer fee at $1.5 million.

JOHNSON: Soccer365 has gotten us all confused now. What is different at Derby County (other than a record MLS transfer fee) now that Eddie Johnson would even consider a move to Derby? All things considered, a lot has happened since this article (1/4/2008) was published. Manager Paul Jewell brought in Argentinian striker Emmanuel Villa for $4 million making it unlikely for EJ’s destination to be Derby. There are others interested out there though……..

MOMO SISSOKO: Ever since Javier Mascherano came to Anfield, the big defensive midfielder from Mali hasn’t had the best of times. Raw talent left unused, however, never goes unnoticed as many of the top European clubs watched Momo has he grew not unhappy, but underappreciated, with the Reds. The problem with Liverpool is Mascherano is a question mark in his own right with his contract status pending, so expect Benitez to beg for Sissoko to stick around a little bit longer. Unhappy though? Enter Juventus…

CARLING CUP: Chelsea 2, Everton 1

Everton went down 1-0 early to a Shaun Wright-Phillips 26th minute finish, but all hopes were revived when Jon Obi Mikel unleashed a ridiculous studs-up tackle on Phil Neville which had him sent to the showers. Chelsea was left to survive 40 minutes a man down. Kind of funny isn’t it? – Chelsea fights to keep Mikel around for at least one more game heading into the African Nations Cup and the Nigerian gets himself sent off, offering no help at all. The Blues paid for it as Yakubu fired home a shot, upper-90 after a scrum in the penalty box with about 15 minutes to go. Then it happened…a goofy cross in injury time left Shaun Wright-Phillips unevenly matched in an aerial battle against the big Joleon Lescott. SWP jumped in full-force forcing Lescott in cringe, close his eyes, and head the ball into his own net. A 1-0 win will do it back at Goodison Park, but Everton will be without their rock in the back, Joseph Yobo. Chelsea will be hurting as well, but in terms of depth, one can never bet against the Blues.

Today’s Carling Cup Semifinal – Arsenal v. Tottenham (expect a young Arsenal squad to take the pitch against the Spurs)

New England Revolution 2007 Review: Taylor and Steve and Me

New England Revolution
Record (W-L-T): 14-8-8; 51 GF, 43 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports; roster

Overview
I’m going to play this one a little loosey-goosey – e.g. relying less on specific match reports, player bios, etc. – and touch on things I don’t normally do. Why? First of all, because I can; I follow the New England Revolution more closely than any other Major League Soccer (MLS) team. Second, this represents my first conscious attempt to say goodbye to a team I’ve supported..well, followed, since the late 1990s. As such, an element of the personal enters into the thing. And, to mention the most loosey-goosey aspect, the end of my era with the Revs feels to me like an end of an era for the club. To put it bluntly, I don’t think they’ll be back for a fourth straight crack at MLS Cup.

With New England, it seems useful to consider the team through my odd relationship with one of their talismanic players: Taylor Twellman. I view Twellman through the sharpest of love/hate lenses. The love part is easy: the man scores goals, something one llikes to have on one’s team generally. But the hate part looms large – arguably larger. And here it is: I find Twellman dead boring. For all his take-a-touch-and-shoot efficiency, Twellman dribbles with the grace of a horse running on pavement; his passes too often recall kicking a playground ball at a brick wall. Bottom line, he has mastered two facets of the game – eluding defenders and finishing – and, to some weird aesthetic part of my brain, such talents are too transferable to “sports” in a generic sense. In other words, the sense that Twellman is a jock first and soccer player second stands as my dominant impression of him as a player.

What I think about Twellman mirrors my impression of the team as a whole: the Revolution team in my head is efficient, athletic, and, when you get down to it, dull. I can think of few less inspiring things than a generic New England goal: ball goes down the flank, wide player crosses to Twellman, Twellman scores. The occasional switch-up aside – say a long-bomb from Jeff Larentowicz on a dead-ball or one of Pat Noonan’s weird headers – the template seems fixed. Continue reading