Archive for the ‘ Old Futbol Buffet ’ Category

Old Futbol Buffet–Burnt to a Crisp

Saturday was filled with soccer. And fellowship and a couple of adult beverages and a nice sunburn on my face and arms. My day kicked off with twitter blowing up due to Mane’s record setting hat trick. Thanks to the wonder of the interwebs, I was able to watch all three goals and move on with my life.

I headed to Silverbacks Park for the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves game against Chattanooga FC. I am the Operations Manager for the team and am excited for this opportunity and for the season ahead. The squad is filled with youth and experience and their first competitive 90 minutes showed glimpses of what is to come.

game day

(Pic courtesy of Chattanooga FC)

Granted I didn’t get to see the whole match due to my duties, but here were my impressions of the visitors’ 1-0 victory. Chattanooga is good. Solid defensively and blessed with a wonderful winger in Jose Ferraz. This was their third game as they had a league match and US Open Cup game under their belts, and their cohesiveness was noticeable. Fatigue looked to be setting in during the first half on a hot afternoon, and I thought the Reserves would be able to take advantage of this. However Chattanooga came out strong in the second half, and it was a balanced affair with chances for both teams. Late in the match Ferraz got free on the right wing and fired in a cross.  The initial save was made by Xavier Audergon but Chrispin Ochieng fired in the rebound.

game shot

(Pic courtesy of 10Soccer.com)

The Reserves changed to more of an attacking 4-3-3 in the second and lack a #9 right now, but Milthon Duarte did some nice things up top and on the left side of midfield. The team travels to Knoxville next weekend.

tailgate jax armada

(Pic courtesy of Laraina Michelle Photography)

After the match I head to the Terminus Legion tailgate. With members of SoccerFest and DragonGoal in attendance, there was a lot going on. Right before the match members of Jacksonville Armada Supporters Group Section 904 came down for a beverage and I was able to talk to several of them about the new team.

w17276_jacksonville-armada-fc-replica-jersey_nvy_detail

First of all, I love their jerseys. They wore an all-white strip in the match against the Silverbacks but the club’s home strip is predominantly navy blue with a wide white band across the chest. Their club badge is attractive as well with a two tone background behind an artistically designed anchor.

jax badge

In speaking with the fans on site, they can’t believe how well the team is doing.  The side attacks and is fun to watch. I was curious about the team’s future and asked if their ownership group has a plan. Yes, ownership’s goal is MLS, which led to a conversation about a recent post on my blog.

Game time approached and both supporters groups got their marches ready. I stayed behind to help tear down the tailgate and missed the first goal from Hans Denissen. I ended up watching most of the game from the parking lot, cleaning up, chatting, and rehydrating myself and my son, who was with me the whole day. All in all a great day.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the Silverbacks game, so let me know in the comments below.

Old Futbol Buffet–Dare to be Massive

As part of my MLS stadium tour, I visited Crew Stadium in Columbus to see their game against the Houston Dynamo.  I had been to a Crew game over ten years earlier as the American team had hosted Newcastle United.  To be honest can’t remember any of the players from the game and I’m too lazy at this point to do any research.

My trips to Portland and Seattle last year were very intense, with lots of planning and participation, but my trip to Columbus was much more relaxed.  I took my son and, along with my sister and her family, everyone piled in the van and off we went, arriving just moments before the game as opposed to hours prior for pre-game revelry.  Whereas I sat with the supporters groups in Portland and Seattle, our group—three adults and five kids—sat in the upper stand at midfield away from the Crew Union in the Nordecke.  (Thank God I brought my BIGGBY seat cushion.  I don’t have much padding back there.)  The crowds in the Pacific Northwest were packed, filled with noise and energy, but there was a sparse crowd at this  game, maybe a third full.  There were probably as many as Le Rouge supporters at a DCFC game as there were Crew supporters for the match.

My high vantage point and lack of fan distraction allowed me to watch and analyze the game.  For the hosts, there was very little punch in attack, as they remained behind the ball and stayed compact.  Ricardo Clark, former US National Team player was called into duty as a center back due to international call ups, and the defenders around him had to put in several last ditch tackles as the hosts piled on the pressure led by Higuain, Oduro, Meram and Arrieta.

The visitors were handicapped by injury as two players had to be subbed off before halftime (Brunner due to head injury and Moffat suffered from cramp), but the Dynamo managed to grab a goal against the run of the play in the first half.  The Crew took the game to visitors to start for much of the second half yet could not score.  Combination of a lack of finishing and the final ball kept the hosts from turning the game around.  With about 20 minutes to go, Barson, on his debut, earned a penalty which Higuain dispatched.  Another goal was not in the cards and the intermittent rain towards the end put a further damper on the game. The 1-1 draw provided some entertainment but little of soccer value.  Lots of needless turnovers and late challenges and wayward shots between two mid table MLS teams.

crew pk

We were able to leave the area in a matter of minutes, which was due to the small crowd and waiting for a while after the game deciding whether to get player autographs or not.  We passed on waiting for over an hour for the players to emerge.  At least Larry and Noah got a picture with Cool Cat, and to be fair, the kids has a great time, with the boys putting on scarves and imitating the chants of the Crew Union.

larry crew

cool cat

For the Crew, a couple of thoughts.  Higuain intrigued me.  Clearly has some quality but didn’t always deliver despite all of his gesturing.  As captain I can understand a little of that but it seemed a little over the top.  Oduro has tons of pace but little else.  Meram showed some flashes and it will be interesting to see how he develops.

Wrapping up, Sean Wheelock tried to clarify comments made a while ago on the World Football Phone In, calling out Euro Snobs like me not following the game in America. You can watch European football but don’t forget our domestic game—go to matches, watch games on TV, read about MLS news.  I do the first, don’t do the second (but sounds like little Larry is getting Crew fever), and don’t have time for the third, maybe an occasional pod.  I’ll keep checking in the league from time to time as the league heads for their twentieth anniversary but don’t plan to make it my prime source for footy experiences.

Old Futbol Buffet–Every Day is Like Sunday

Title of this post is not my favorite Morrissey song (much prefer Glamorous Glue) but does the trick for this post.

Saturday was blocked off with stuff to do.  Worked around the house, made an appearance at the gym, and went to the circus with the family.  Sunday was for watching footy as I watched three and a half matches (United/Liverpool, Arsenal/City, second half of Atleti/Zaragoza, and FCB/Malaga), all with goals and varying amounts of quality and drama.  Spent the morning at Buffalo Wild Wings with Mid-Michigan United and we had a great turnout.  Probably 20-25 at its peak, but with Arsenal down a man and two goals, the place cleared out pretty quick.  Then I headed over to the Claddagh for some La Liga action as Barcelona continued their amazing run finishing the first half of the season with 18 wins, 1 draw and 0 losses.

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Manchester United 2  Liverpool 1

A tense beginning to the match but eventually MUFC put some passes together with Evra finding RvP just outside the six yard box to fire home on 19 minutes.  From there Liverpool offered very little but the Red Devils could not find the second.  Young’s injury, the results of another heavy touch, will cause Sir Alex problems over the coming weeks but could open the door for Nani.

Tangent: Let me just say I was wrong.  When the signing of RvP was announced this summer, I was like that’s great but who’s going to give him the ball from the center of midfield and who is going to defend when the Dutchman eventually loses it?  Turns out Sir Alex has fashioned a team that simply outscores their opponent.  Maybe he will address the other areas this summer but for the time being it looks like United have one hand back on the Premier League trophy and will provide a stern test for Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Credit to Rodgers for the second half set up and substitutions.  Sturridge’s introduction provided a partner for Suarez and the new man created plenty of chances.  Borini’s entrance was questioned by me but that front three caused the United rearguard all sorts of problems.  Add to that more energy and drive from the visitors and the game grew as a contest.

Could argue that a draw would have been the fair result as the hosts lost the plot in the second stanza. Sturridge wasted a couple of decent chances and Suarez could never quite free himself to create the decisive moment. Thought Wisdom has a decent match defensively, but his one scoring opportunity went horribly wrong.  As for United, Kagawa didn’t make much impact on the left, while Welbeck worked hard but squandered several goal scoring opportunities.  Felt that Carrick was particularly poor, with several passes put teammates in tough positions and leading to turnovers.

Cannot let my game notes go by with mentioning the appearance of Darth Mou/Emperor Palpatine at the proceedings.  Looking extraordinarily evil in his hooded jacket, perhaps he really has gone to the dark side as he tries to build his legacy at Real Madrid.

Bit colder than Madrid, Jose? Mourinho seemed to be struggling to reacclimatise during the first half

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Arsenal 0  Manchester City 2

The second game of the game had to be painful for the each team’s fans.  The Gunners got a man sent off early, managed to raise their game to compensate and then completely fell asleep to give up the first goal, a blast from Milner.  From there it was damage control and very little of the slick passing and movement was evident.  Every ball predictable and wasted, and a second goal from Dzeko put the game to bed.

For City, they should have scored more in this match.  Too many chances went begging and felt the blue side lacked energy for most of the match.  Kompany’s sending off (harsh in my opinion) leveled the game in terms of numbers but Arsenal were second best.

Really not much to say about this match, other than the appearance of Balotelli, reprising Wesley Snipes’ role from Demolition Man.  This guy can’t help himself can he?

Mario Balotelli

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Articles

Last week the Ballon D’Or was handed out and Gabriele Marcotti examined some of the quirks of the voting for ESPN FC, noting that not all countries voted, there are various criteria for voters, and not all voters watch the same amount of footy.  He acknowledged that the award is not scientific but felt that the Argentinian “deserved to be saluted.”

Jonathan Wilson called the individual awards such as the Ballon D’Or “insidious” at SI.com and wants readers to remember that soccer is a team game.  He does not deny Messi’s greatness but states

It is part of Messi’s greatness that he so regularly chooses the action with the lowest tariff of difficulty to complete any given task. He is capable of the flashy and technically complex, but if something simple will suffice he does that. He can be jaw-droppingly brilliant but is essentially efficient. Paradoxically, it’s because he is so undemonstrative, such a team player, that he is such a great individual.

Wilson was also on Off the Ball last week making his case and I agree with him in that the results in leagues and cups are what matters.

In the wake of poor seasons from Sporting and AEK Athens in Portugal and Greece respectively, UEFA.com profiled big names that have been relegated in the past—Atletico Madrid, Manchester United, AC Milan and Marseille.  I remember when Sampdoria went down just after challenging for the European Cup in 1992.  Recently Leeds United have fallen on hard times, going from domestic and continental challenger to plummeting down the divisions, currently playing in the Championship.

Returning to Marcotti, he suggested in the Wall Street Journal that a Jorge Mendes United team might be a future possibility, with the super agent representing Mourinho and a stable of top talent—CR7, Falcao, Pepe and di Maria.  Soccer works differently than most American sports, so Mendes’ influence is unusual and with Real Madrid, there is an alarming amount of power.

Old Futbol Buffet–Vacation from my Vacation

Manchester United Mid-season Thoughts

Let’s face it.  United are lucky this season and one of two things is going to happen—they will ride their luck to regain their title and maybe win the FA cup (no way they win the CL) or the luck abandons them and they crash, ending the season trophyless again.

I watched all four matches of the holiday program, during which they earned 10 out of a possible 12 points.  Quick thoughts: Swansea they could have won but for some poor finishing; against Newcastle the Reds were fortunate to win; on a different day points could have been dropped against WBA; away at Wigan the Red Devils were the better side but the goals scored were somewhat fortunate.

A strong rugged forward is causing United problems.  Vidic has yet to return to form, so this type of player will be dangerous against the Reds.   As for the rest of the defense, I’m not sold on Rio/Evans at the highest level and Evra is just a mistake to happen.  Rafael has been a nice addition, giving pace and drive down the right hand channel but I fear for him against CR7 in the Champions League.

The midfield is another weak link.  Currently Sir Alex is using three players to man the outside positions—Giggs, Valencia and Young.  Giggs will suffice against lesser teams and Young always gives a good effort despite the lack of end product.  Valencia is the one that is troubling.  Lack of wide service has been an issue and will need to be improved on as the season progresses.  Surely Nani has been frozen out, so United might have to move Kagawa back outside to provide depth at the position.  Cleverly and Carrick seem to be central midfield pairing for now, with Scholes providing relief.  Down the stretch this will be a big ask and will probably cost United both cups.

Up top, the Red Devils have a wealth of option. Barring injury or a colossal loss of form, the attacking group will score goals.  Hernandez’s movement has been excellent; RvP has been economical in his chances; Welbeck provides a change of pace; and then there is Rooney.  If he could get hot, then the league is surely coming back to the red side of Manchester.

As for the cups, I think Real Madrid’s pace and movement will undo United in the Champions League.  Los Blancos midfield will tip the scales in this match, along with the club’s desire to win their tenth European Cup and Mourinho’s quest to add to his legacy.  The Reds will probably score but don’t think they will score enough to progress.  And I can’t see United winning the FA Cup because eventually they are going to run into a team that scores first and stays in front.  The late late show will be undone in a cup competition which will prevent another domestic double for Sir Alex.

I’m interested to see if City can close the gap between now and the end of the season.  The opportunity will be there as United will drop points during the second half of the season.  Do the Citizens have a run in them or will they just fade away, conceding the title and content to keep the chasing pack at bay?

(Note: I missed the FA Cup match away to West Ham.  Looks like I missed quite the match.  United’s first goal was a team goal of the highest order while RvP’s equalizer was exactly what I spoke of in terms of economy of effort.  Trouble is, there will be added fixture to an already congested calendar.)

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Articles, podcasts and videos

The Men in Blazers recapped a hectic holiday period and examined the teams at the top in their last podcast offering.  Davo figures what we will know a lot by the end of the month as the top teams face critical fixtures.  Definitely worth a listen instead of watching dire FA Cup matches.  (Oops, looks like I posted a little too late for that comment.)

In the wake of Theo’s performance against Newcastle, Gabriele Marcotti used the Arsenal player as the template for the modern player.  Long gone are the days of one player, one club, and now every contract signed starts the clock for the next step—renegotiation with two years remaining and sale of the player to recoup, minimize or profit the club.  Arsenal and Theo couldn’t come to an agreement and now the leverage has shifted to the young attacker and the Gunners may lose yet another rising star (see Nasri, Song, Fabregas), only this time they may get nothing in return.

As for things in the colonies, Grant Wahl interviewed MLS Commissioner Don Garber in light of FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s comments on soccer in the US.  One comment from Blatter was particularly strange: The league should have been recognized by the American society.  It’s been 18 years, it should have been done now, he said. But they are still struggling.  To be fair, the installation of soccer as the #1 sport in a country is a struggle where, as Garber rightly points out, We have sports in the U.S. that are as powerful here as football is in Europe or South America, and we have at least four that have been around for over 100 years. And all have had the benefit of building a fan base over many generations.

Garber and Wahl make several strong points for the status of US Soccer:

  • 19 teams (growth after a period of contraction)
  • 13 teams playing in soccer specific stadiums (as opposed to tarped off American football stadiums)
  • Relationships with local governments
  • Strong corporate support
  • In 2012 MLS did set its all-time average attendance record of 18,807, making it the seventh-highest attended league in the world.

Grant Wahl expanded on his Garber interview on the latest SI Soccer Roundtable.   He said the commissioner gave a very measured response to comments made by Blatter regarding the leagues in America and China. Wahl went as far as to call the FIFA chief a complete buffoon before moving to pushing the issue of why USSF supports Blatter in the first place.

Brandon Chiarmonte looked at the differences between a fan and a supporter in sports culture, focusing  on how American supporters have absorbed bits from all over the world to create die hard, fan driven groups across this country.  This short post does a great job isolating the differences and the importance of the supporter in the fabric of the game.

Along those lines, Pure Detroit wrote a piece on Detroit City Football Club, reviewing an amazing inaugural season and efforts being made for the upcoming campaign. Vive La Rouge!!

Moving on to kits, Football Fashion posted the Top 10 Selling Jerseys from World Soccer Shop:

1. FC Barcelona 2012/13 Nike home jersey

2. Manchester United 2012/13 Nike home jersey

3. Chelsea FC 2012/13 adidas home jersey

4. Spain 2011/13 adidas home jersey

5. Germany 2011/13 adidas home jersey

6. Real Madrid 2012/13 adidas home jersey

7. USA 2012/13 Nike home jersey

8. Italy 2011/12 PUMA home jersey

9. Mexico 2011/12 adidas home jersey

10. Liverpool FC 2012/13 Warrior home jersey

Surprised that Chelsea was so far in front of Liverpool, but the people at adidas have to be happy.  Five teams in the top 10.

Another Top 10 was the top 10 goals of 2012 from Fox Soccer.  Aguero’s goal was well taken and was monumental in terms of history but not sure it was the#1 goal of year.  While amazing, Cisse’s was quite lucky.  Have to say HBA’s was definitely up there.

Continuing with the year end stuff, A Football Report released their best of football writing of 2012, broken into the following categories: Most Compelling, Most Creative, Best Research, and Best Storytelling.  The list is overwhelming and I’m not sure when I’ll find time to go through it, but I clicked on Brian Phillips’ Soccer’s Heavy Boredom, which tries to describe to the non soccer watching person why crazy nutters all over the world stare at 22 guys running around some grass with very little results.

Finally, with a little extra free time due to some holiday vacation time, I found this top 25 Champions League Goals compilation from 2008 to 2012.  Sit back and enjoy.

Old Futbol Buffet–Red Dawn

Manchester United 4  Newcastle United 3

Due to Winter Storm Euclid, I was able to watch Manchester United v Newcastle United in a highly entertaining match even though neither team played that well.  The confrontation produced seven goals and a dramatic ending.

From the not learning from previous mistakes department, Sir Alex started Giggs and Scholes.  I need to check the stats but that pairing usually results in dropped points, and for most of the match that looked to be the case again.  Carrick played well but struggled to control the game in the middle and Newcastle punished on of his giveaways as Ba’s shot went through Evans’ legs and de Gea teed it up for Perch to slam home.  United then responded but didn’t really threaten Krul’s net.

However a poorly defended free kick by Newcastle resulted in a United equalizer.  Newcastle maintained their composure and scored a controversial goal as a Simpson’s shot came in which Evans turned into his own goal trying do ward off Ba.  The goal was given, then not given, then given. Just before the interval Marveaux rattled the crossbar with a free kick which would have put Sir Alex’s men in deep trouble.

The second half was worse in technical terms with sloppy passing and movement preventing the Reds from putting the Magpies under pressure.  Evra’s equalizer was a little fortunate and Krul who had great performances last season against United should have done better.  Cisse punished United’s lax marking off a throw in as Obertan cruised down the left hand channel and squared for the striker who banged it home for the visitor’s third lead.

RvP squared the match again and Chicharito sealed the points after several missed opportunities.  United were fluid going forward but wasted far too many chances against Newcastle and Swansea.  The pessimistic part of me believes that the luck and the late goals will dry up, and if the Reds don’t tighten up defensively, another trophyless season awaits, as they will be exposed against better opposition both at home and abroad.

Manchester United 2  West Bromwich Albion 0

Sir Alex made several changes to the team, brining in Kagawa behind Welbeck, with Cleverley supporting Carrick.  Young’s hard cross was turned into the net by a WBA defender and from there United took control of the match without finding the second goal.  The Reds had several good chances on the half hour mark but desperate defending preventing another goal.  WBA enjoyed a brief spell just before halftime thanks to a series of set pieces.

There was a little more balance to start the second stanza but WBA still had a lot of men behind the ball.  The introduction of Lukaku changed the match in my opinion as his strength and energy upset the United rearguard.  My guess is that Clarke saved him for the second half to go against a tiring defense.  After all the possession, RvP finally put the game to bed with a lovely finish to seal the points.

Couple of player notes:

  • Welbeck was serviceable, with a decent workrate and interplay but he is still not top class.
  • Cleverly was iffy, providing energy but several turnovers and a lack of ideas around the 18.
  • Smalling keep things steady at the back, staying to his task but not providing the offensive oomph of Rafael.

Daniele of Red Rants watched a changed United team overcome a heavy pitch and determined opponent to secure three points and go into 2013 top of the table.  Kagawa’s return gives Sir Alex more options, especially with Rooney’s injury and Daniele feels that Valencia may need a rest.  But who would replace him?  Not the best game and much less drama than the Newcastle match, but the result is what matters.

Matthew Evans shared his thoughts on WBA’s performance for ESPN FC.  Despite several injuries, the Baggies regrouped in the second half and Matthew saw a better effort from debutant Thorne and some good play from Lukaku.

Midseason thoughts

United are seven points clear but the deficit is far from convincing.  The Red Devils have plenty going forward, especially with everyone fit but the attack can be stymied and will be shut down against organized and fit sides.  With the defense leaking goals, I can see narrow defeats in the spring that could cost them the title.  City continue to lurk and may lose the title only because their manager is substandard, but without a European distraction, there is every chance that the Citizens will close the gap.  Chelsea are an outside bet as Rafa has secured the defense.  If they can find the goals, they could mount a serious charge.

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Articles and Podcasts

Anto had Italian commentator Owen Neilson on the Beyond the Pitch pod to discuss the Serie A at the Winter Break.  I have not been following the league at all this season, so I took the opportunity to catch up.  Owen and Anto acknowledged that Juventus are champions.  The Old Lady has a significant lead at the break, and the chasing pack are not strong or consistent enough to catch the Bianconeri.  As for Anto’s beloved Milan, they broke down the problems at with the Rossoneri, including the Brazilian clear out and the possible burnout of Stephan El Shaarawy.  Fiorentina and Roma are doing great things this season, while Palermo is struggling at the bottom.

Another league that has gotten away from me is the Bundesliga.  Raphael Honingstein provided a year in review of the German league for SI.com, focusing on the rise of Borussia Dortmund, who won a league and cup double and progressed from the Group of Death in the Champions League.  He also praised Marco Reus as player of the year and SC Freiburg for a fantastic year of results.  Raphael concluded with a look at the German National Team and their “traumatic” defeat at the hands of Italy at Euro 2012.

Michael Cox (aka Zonal Marking) jotted down his 10 moments from 2012 for ESPN FC.  What a year.  Chelsea winning the Champions League (reading Michael’s comments I was reminded of Robben’s missed penalty in extra time—aargh!!); Spain’s wonderful performance in the Euro 2012 Final against Italy; CR7’s crushing goal at the Nou Camp that secured the league for Real Madrid; and Zambia winning the Africa Cup of Nations. I admit that I didn’t watch a single minute of the tournament, but I knew about the story.  The death of Zambian National Team actually made it in to SI way back in the 90’s, and I can still remember reading the article and trying to imagine the pain of losing an entire generation of players.  20 years later the promise was fulfilled and what a moment for the players and the country.

On the latest episode of The Big Question podcast, Aaron discussed the future of college soccer with Travis Clark of Top Drawer Soccer.  Both agreed that there is no one answer for how the college game fits into the puzzle of American Soccer.  I think Travis summed it up best, saying that “There are different paths for different players”.

I follow college soccer even less than MLS and went to my first college game in years last fall to support MichiganState and the Red Cedar Rowdies.  Didn’t see much in terms of next level talent, but there were two UConn players that I could see having a chance. The elite players in America need to be Europe. That has been my stance for several years.  To be the best, you need to play with the best.  Having said all that, the college game is another road to the professional game for the next tier or two of player.  The MLS has to draw from somewhere, but financial considerations and conference realignment may have something to say about the collegiate game in the near future.

Old Futbol Buffet–Opportunity Missed

Swansea City 1  Manchester United 1

Sunday morning provided an entertaining match with the home fans in full voice.  Swansea played an excellent match, putting United under pressure, but one of the visitors’ few attacks resulted in a goal after set piece.  Evra headed in RvP’s corner but Britton maybe should have done better on the post.

From there United had a brief spell of pressure before Swansea took over.  Their play—composed, dynamic and incisive—eventually generated a goal as Evra switched off (and the defense in general) and de Guzman’s shot was saved by de Gea but Michu tapped home.  A second goal from the hosts seemed on the cards but never materialized, and United was able to get back into the match briefly before halftime. 

The second half saw United take control, and a trait of the Reds this season has been economy of finishing, but Sunday was just had a bad day at the office as they didn’t take advantage of several half chances in the opening 15 minutes with Rooney particularly wasteful.  In addition to poor finishing, a fine defensive performance from Vorm, the Swansea backline and a couple of crossbars prevented the Sir Alex’s team from taking all three points.

In terms of teams and players, Swansea were fun to watch.  Routledge and de Guzman did well and Michu gave a focal point to attack, especially the first half. The put in an a great effort, but disappointed that Michu moved to midfield and Luke Moore up top as Laudrup went for more 4-1-4-1 to conserve energy and blunt United coming forward.  United was led by Carrick, who stroked the ball nicely and was decent shield for the back line.  Young was marginally better, and Giggs did well when he come on.  Maybe his introduction sooner could have unlocked the Swans.  Hernandez was poor. Several loose passes and a misreading of RvP’s pass kept him from making a genuine impact.  A real issued for the visitors was the lack of service from right hand channel, with neither Young, Jones nor Valencia providing the killer ball.

Final comment:  there should have been more goals in the match but draw was fair result.

Daniele of Red Rants saw United concede points against a spirited Swansea team.  He identified several things I picked up during the game, namely Young’s current contribution to the team:

The former Villa man seems to have made the left flank spot his own over the last couple of weeks, and repaid Fergie’s trust with a lot of hard work and some very intelligent runs across the box, but he still seems to be lacking the cutting edge necessary to provide the final ball.

In the end, the Reds created the chances but not the second goal which would have secured the points

Doron and Nik commented on the match as well for Stretford-End, noting that while Vidic was a welcome return, he is clearly rusty.  They also praised another fine performance from Carrick and the brief appearance of Giggs before moving on to criticize Valencia’s recent efforts and Rooney’s shift in this match.  They felt United were a little unlucky to not win the match and now the focus is on Newcastle United on Wednesday.

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Podcasts and an Article

Last week on Off the Ball, there was a great two for one pod, looking back at EPL history, both recently and over the years.  Last Tuesday, Eoin and Ken replayed Martin Tyler’s broadcast to Aguero’s dramatic goal that sealed the title for Manchester City at the end of 2012 season.  Martin spoke about his preparation into the match and how broadcasters never know where the story will take them.  This was followed by Philippe Auclair’s appearance to talk about his upcoming Thierry Henry biography.  Auclair revealed some insights into the nature of the talented French forward, including the drive provided by his father.  If it’s even half as good as the Cantona book, it will be worth the read.

Finally Roger Bennett examined the current situation at Liverpool for ESPNFC.  Most people believe that Brendan Rogers is on shaky ground, with Reds in 12th heading into the weekend and failing to make Anfield a fortress.  He spoke with former legends Steve Nicol and Steve McManaman, who identified a lack of goals and a lack of criticism as some of the manager’s failing thus far.  The next chapter will be the January transfer and whether Rodgers gets money to spend, and if he does, how wisely he spends it.

Andy Mitten sat down with fan legend Pete Boyle at Bishop Blaize on a recent United We Stand podcast.  Boyle has a unique role in pregame festivities as he starts the songs and then leads the short march to Old Trafford.  Recently he was able to have a short chat with Eric Cantona and even got the former legend to stop by the pub for a couple of minutes.  Great insight into fan culture that is hard to get/comprehend here in the States.

Former NY Cosmos goalkeeper Shep Messing was on Beyond the Pitch pod to discuss the heyday of the NASL, his playing career and the NY Red Bulls.  My only knowledge of the player was from the Once in a Lifetime documentary so it was interesting to hear stories about Pele and Munich and playing in New York.  As for the current NY franchise, Shep preached a message of stability and suggested bringing in Bob Bradley to steady the ship.  Fascinating conversation and well worth the listen.

Old Futbol Buffet–The Reds Go Marching On

A busy week at work and at home, kept me from getting my usual reading and podcast listening done.  And due to my son’s floor hockey this tournament, my EPL viewing was KO’ed.  So not much on offer this week, but I was able to follow games on twitter and read as United overturned Sunderland; Liverpool dominate yet fall to Aston Vila; and QPR finally win a league match.

Daniele of Red Rants saw United win comfortably, and, with a little more composure in front of goal, the margin could have been more.  Cleverley’s goal was sick.  Amazing technique.  Daniele was struck by how the control of the game was conceded with the introductions of Scholes and Giggs.  Can’t be surprised.  With the game in hand, I imagine Sir Alex gave some of the lads a rest.  On another note, Young set up two of the goals today. Maybe he’s not worthless after all.

James Martin looked at the slow disappearance of Nani from Manchester United for the ESPN FC blog.  The Portuguese winger, according to reports, had one foot on a plane to Zenit in the summer before a U-turn in, and seems to be on his way out of Old Trafford either during the winter transfer window or next summer.  His relatively poor end product, especially recently, has seen Sir Alex turn to Valenica and Young, even though both of those players have issues (injuries and form).  Watching some of the goals embedded in the post, you are reminded of his stunning strikes from range, but those days seem long gone, with memories of unlucky fans in the upper decks getting struck with his wayward strikes, constant turnovers, and lack of crosses in the forefront.  Hopefully United get something for him and bring in a viable replacement.

Finally, looking through old posts at the Stretford End, I found Darren Richman’s account of his trip to the Manchester Derby.  Worried, confident, and anxious in the build up, his reaction in the second half was just like mine:

When City scored a minute later despite De Gea’s best efforts, I could only see it ending one way. ‘We’ll lose this now’ I cheerily informed my neighbours. When it went to 2-2, I wasn’t even upset, simply resigned to the worst. I started repeating ‘A draw’s still a good result’ in my head like a mantra. And out loud I think because I’m sure the bloke next to me said, ‘you’d have taken it beforehand.’

Make sure you read all the way end to get a surreal finish to his day.  Great stuff.

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In my elation last week after the dramatic Manchester Derby, I totally forgot to post this little tidbit:

Twitter was abuzz about the photos of AC Milan’s new physio.  Chelsea have upped the ante with Eva Carneiro.  Injuries to Chelsea players have been doubled in value with her introduction.  Back to AC Milan, at this point it seems as if it was a PR stunt with no more details disclosed, including her name.  But trust me, the SoccerNomad I Team is all over this.

Old Futbol Buffet–Shin of Samir

This match was all about momentum.  Sir Alex set out United with a clear game plan, building on the success at StamfordBridge.  Defend, counter, score, repeat.  To be fair, Rooney’s first was a scuffed shot, but the second was the result of Nastasic being out to lunch as the Reds drove forward.  And just like the match against the Blues, even at 2-0 up the game was only heading one way.  Minutes away from halftime, I was praying for the whistle, and when Barry’s shot fizzed wide just before the interval, I thought United might be able to hold on.

In the second half, the game changed in an instant.  The Red Devils went from a virtually unassailable 3-0 lead to a white knuckle 2-1 advantage.  The pendulum had swung to the hosts and everything favored City.  They had the athletes, the speed and the momentum.  And United had Ashley Young and a lack of soccer IQ.

Now I don’t want to get off a rant here but . . .

What a woeful performance from Young.  Turnover after turnover after turnover; constantly going to ground; lack of defensive cover for Evra.  But the worst was that in the final minutes of the game, he switched flanks, latched on to a long ball and just had to not give it up.  What does he do?  Gives it up.  He must go at the end of the season.  United need to rebuild their flanks, as Valencia is the only consistent performer and he is perpetually injured.

Moving on . . .

United didn’t know how to close out the match.  Ahead for the first time in ages, not having to outwork, outfight, outscore their opponents, they lacked the composure to finish the game off.  The Reds couldn’t take advantage of City being stretched and were lucky to escape with the three points.

Look at City’s goals.  They got in behind the United defense as Evra fell asleep and then Tevez showed amazing poise to layoff for Yaya after a mad scramble.  On the corner, Young was watching Zabaleta as he smashed in a shot through Jones’ legs (through the legs was another theme of the match).

Side note: Mancini will get some gas for not starting Tevez but in this instance I support the Italian manager.  Aguero and Balotelli were causing problems and could have caused more had Balotelli decided to give more than maybe 50%.  City had a lot of possession but weren’t too dangerous, but what this pairing did was set up the substitution of Tevez, especially after Evans went out.  Mancini brought on the energetic Tevez and was close to turning the match around until the dramatic winner.  It could be asked would the result been different with Tevez from the off.  Maybe.  But if City were down 2-0 and Mancini had brought on Balotelli, then based on his performance, the Citizen would have not even got back into the game.

Did United deserve to win?  Conflicted.  Draw probably would have been the fair result, maybe even a City win.  Looking back at the season thus far: a gift at Liverpool, a steal at Chelsea, and a taut encounter at City with a fortunate deflection.  Is this the steel of champions or the luck of paper tiger?  In the season of the weird, we won’t know until May.

Doubt if I will read a fairer report of the game than Suffering Bruin’s post on Bitter and Blue.  He acknowledged that Young’s goal should have stood; he castigated the fan who threw the coin at Rio; he also acknowledged that if Tevez had started and Kompany was on the field , things might have gone differently; finally he wanted viewers to appreciate the fact that Tevez could have gone down when Evra was pressuring him, but did not.

Over at Red Rants, Daniele compared RvP’s impact to that of Cantona, as the Dutchman saved United (again) after a hard fought performance at the Eithad.  He correctly pointed out that Sir Alex played with more purpose (read: attack) than last spring’s away fixture, which saw United pack the midfield, slump to defeat and eventually concede the title.  Reading the report I was reminded that Young set up the first goal so have to give him so credit but still ready to drive him away from Manchester.

Finally Zonal Marking saw United sit back and counter and the Reds executed the approach to full effect.  Likening the game to the Chelsea match a couple of weeks ago, Rooney would drop into the midfield so that the center mids wouldn’t be overloaded.  Once winning the ball, the Red Devils were very direct, which caused the two goals.  Tevez’s introduction changed the game as the center backs chased Tevez and Aguero around with Carrick and Cleverly being passed around, letting the Citizens run at United, never a good thing.  In the end, poor set piece defending created by the substitutions created a frantic ending, with United securing the points.

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Following the Manchester Derby, Mid Michigan United held a FIFA 13 Tournament, a combination of fun, one year birthday of the group, and a fundraiser for Ele’s Place.  I had never played the game on the Xbox or the Playstation so didn’t rate my chances.  Playing as Manchester United, I held my own against my opponent, who used Valencia.  My lack of offense and defensive organization was eventually punished as I lost 1-0 to eventual champion Cody, a 20 year old college student at MSU.  He won the tournament in the final against a seven year old.  Yes seven.  All of the 30 somethings fell to the wayside and the younger generations triumphed, but a great time for a great cause.

Finally, after watching the Barcelona match, I played an indoor game.  Down 5-2 at half, we roared back to win 8-6.  I chipped in with a goal but that was about it.  I am really surprised that my off season workout of drinking beer and watching soccer is not paying dividends.  Ugh.  Time to get back at it.

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Articles and Pods

Due to a #FF from Scott the Red, I found this post at Man Utd Tactics about the changing personnel and formations from the first Premier League winning side until now.  Sir Alex won his first title using a 4-4-2 with wingers and high/low forwards.  From there he moved to a narrow 4-2-3-1 culminating in the 2002/03 Premier League winning side.  Since then he has moved oscillated between the 4-4-2 and 4-3-2-1 win depending on Rooney’s position (and fitness and mindset) and the central midfield pairings available.  This season Sir Alex has even tried a 4-3-3, which makes sense since he has so many attacking players.  Of course this only works with Welbeck and Hernandez in advanced positions.  They simply cannot play on the wings due to a lack of technical ability and defensive cover.  Seems as if the gaffer is adding this formation to his repertoire for games in which United are favored.  Long term, he needs to find a center midfield general and shore up the center of the defense.  As the author states:

The history of United’s changing tactical approach since Keane left the club can be summed up as an attempt to overcome the loss of Roy Keane with an interlude where the tactical approach was completely changed to exploit the brilliance of Ronaldo.

Future success will be determined by strengthened the middle.  If this continues to go unaddressed, no number of world class strikers will be able to save the Red Devils.

Last week marked one year since the death of Brazilian star Socrates.  Fellow MMMSL Over 30 competitor tweeted out his post from last year in remembrance.  To be honest, my only knowledge of the player is from occasional references from Tim Vickery on World Football Phone In, but Peter’s post and video from YouTube were a nice introduction to the player.

A week after the trial balloon of a 64 team Champions League was floated, Gabriele Marcotti laid out a revision of the current system.  Basically the two best first place teams would move on right to the quarterfinals, while he proposed a play-in system for the four best third place teams against four worst second placed teams.  My first instinct is no.  Seems very NFL-ish to me.  European soccer is foreign to Americans because of its straightforward nature.  Normal numbers (16, 8, 4, 2), home and away, move on.  (Away goals is a little confusing.)  Plus why should third placed teams have any second chances?  They already drop into the Europa League. (I’m assuming Gabriele’s plan would eliminate that option).  Anyway, keep it as it is.  Yes there are dead rubbers on Matchday 6, but that there was also the drama of Celtic and Chelsea.

Chris Bevan profiled American Oguchi Onyewu for the BBC.  Currently on loan from Sporting, he has landed on a Malaga team defying expectations after a summer of confusion and uncertainty.  Winners of their Champions League Group and currently fifth in La Liga, Los Boquerones have generated excitement both home and abroad.  Gooch has made six appearances for Malaga thus far.  At 30, there is some question whether he is part of Klinsmann’s plans for World Cup Qualification.  His strong, physical presence will be needed, but is fully healthy?  That’s my question.

Speaking of UEFA, word came down that the association plans to hold the 2020 European Championships all over Europe.  Debates regarding the format both make compelling cases: a single or joint venture incorporates visiting fans and the hosts while the new arrangement will allow countries in general and selected cities in particular a chance to participate in this great competition.  I’m open minded at this point.  Strike that.  I don’t really care because with the expansion to 24 teams from 16, it doesn’t really matter at this point.  This is a money grab as most things are.  So UEFA, do what you’re going to do.

Finally, A recent podcast I’ve found is The Big Questions, hosted by Aaron Stollar.  Part of the North American Soccer Network, Aaron looks at issues beyond who won, who lost and news of the day.  On Episode 10, he had Alexi Lalas and Leander Schaerlaeckens on to speculate about what the game of soccer will look like in 50 years.  They examined the fight between international football and club soccer; the speed of the game; the future of US soccer and the possibility of robots.

Exploring the next 20,30, 50 years of American soccer, a possible North American league was discussed.  Hate this.  Travel is the biggest consideration.  Could you imagine Seattle away to Mexico City (2800+ miles)?  The panel also touched on the changing demographics in this country and how that will affect the USMNT.  Finally, time was spent on the structure of MLS, with promotion and relegation not really a possibility due to the financial investment of the owners. Great insights and opinions.  Definitely worth the listen.

Old Futbol Buffet–Long Live the King

Eric Cantona signed 20 years ago for Manchester United.  I wasn’t even following football at the time, so my first real memory of him was the 1994 FA Cup Final against Chelsea, with my favorite recollection of the Frenchman being the 1996 FA Cup Final goal struck in the dying moments against Liverpool.  Watching the match on replay at my parents, I screamed in ecstasy as the ball found its way into the back of the net.  Props to Anton Alfy for putting a video of all 82 goals that Cantona scored for Manchester United.  Well worth 15 minutes of your time.  Viva Le Roi!!

Robert Meakin led the tribute to Cantona on last week’s Manchester United Redcast.  After breaking down the win over QPR, he looked at possible winger replacements as Nani will surely be off in January and Young has struggled to find form.  Cantona’s impact on the club was discussed before moving on Fergie and how long he has at the club and who could replace him?  (Pep and Mourinho were mentioned.)

Speaking of Fergie, Roger Bennett posted on ESPN FC regarding the recent Harvard Business School report on Sir Alex, noting that the secrets to his success are building a foundation, maintaining control, evolving with the times, and evaluating talent.  Would love to get a copy of that.

As for the current United team, a crazy first half saw seven goals in 34 minutes, as the Red Devils went into half time up 4-3.  That ended up being the final score in a game that was full of incident.  Due to supporting my kid’s school, I was working in a concession stand and missed the brouhaha.

Daniele at Red Rants watched another sloppy performance from the United rearguard, and only a strong and swift response from the team earned the Reds the three points.  As he pointed out in his post game notes:

Sure they score goals for fun and they’ve mastered the old club tradition of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat – United have fallen behind 14 times in 22 games this season – but thinking that the “you score four, we score five” approach could possibly lead to a title, is at best naive and at worst downright deluded.

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MLS Cup Final

After watching a couple of La Liga games, I was able to see the second half of the MLS Cup.  The Galaxy took the game to the Dynamo, with Gonzalez equalizing and then LA taking the lead after Clark handled in the box.  Donovan converted and eventually the breakaways paid off as Hall tried to haul down Keane, who kept his feet but the referee pointed to the spot again.  The Irishman scored the spot kick this time to give the Galaxy a 3-1 win and second MLS Cup win in a row.

A couple of thoughts:

  • Ricardo Clark is awful.
  • Not sure if Lalas shaving his mustache at halftime is the grossest or awesomest thing ever.
  • Houston’s jerseys looked like they were claimed from a Goodwill sale.  I thought sublimation was left back in the 90’s.  SB Nation’s Dynamo page posted the particulars on the shirt.  (Rays and energy. Seriously?)
  • Mad props to Donovan for dedicating his goal to a Make A Wish family.  No way I would have even thought of that in the aftermath of a Cup victory.
  • The MLS ball reeked of bargain bin quality.
  • Tally is not a name.  It’s a hunting cry.

The panel on the SI Soccer Roundtable (11/29) discussed the chapter that is ending with Beckham’s farewell and the future of the league as a whole.  Really brought the last five years of the league into the focus.

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Articles and Podcasts

Bira Brasil was Beyond the Pitch in the aftermath of Mano Menezes being axed as Brazil boss.  Bira handicapped the challengers and thought that Tite and Ramalho would be chosen ahead of former coach and World Cup Winner Luiz Felipe Scolari.  In the end Big Phil was chosen.  Can he regroup the team ahead of a home World Cup?  Watch this space.

Tim Vickery was on the Off the Ball last Wednesday to discuss the dismissal as well, blaming politics for the departure of Menezes.  Brazil is at a crossroads, having to choose between reclaiming their heritage or continuing with the current over physical, counter attacking approach.  With the reappointment of Scolari the latter has been chosen, and his task will be build another “family” and lead the Seleção to glory on home soil.

News of an expanded 64 team Champions League hit the interwebs last week leading to the usual moaning and groaning from fans and media.  I think Iain Macintosh’s post on ESPN FC was spot on, identifying the old adage—follow the money.  The loss of the European Cup, UEFA Cup and Cup Winners Cup has brought the game to the point where undoing the last 20 years is impossible.  The fact that this year’s Champions League Group Stages have been interesting just masks the fact that usually they aren’t and that 16 groups of four teams will be super tedious.  If only the group winner progressed, there might be some value, but inevitably the current 16 team knockout will morph into the 32 team knockout, which will start earlier and earlier into each new year, packing the fixture list even more.  This is a horrible idea and will hopefully kill the golden goose, so that real reform can happen.  Doubt it.

Staying with Europe, Christoph recounted German football during the 1970’s on his blog, An Old International.  He recapped the bribery scandal early in the decade, which affected the image of the emerging league but also allowed the country to move forward.  This release led to unprecedented success for clubs and the national team.  Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach dominated the league, winning eight of the 10 domestic titles, and also conquered Europe with Die Roten winning three European Cups and BMG winning two UEFA Cups.  Plus the Nationalmannschaft won the 1972 European Championship and then claimed the 1974 World Cup before losing out to Czechoslovakia in the 1976 European Championship Final.  Great read and thanks to Peter Alegi for the link.

Finally, Matt Reece, a fellow member of Mid Michigan United shared this amazing freestyling video on my Facebook timeline.  After watching it, a couple of things struck me.  1. Mind blowing skills, but it does sort of come across as someone with too much free time.  2.  I only take my clothes off for the ladies and never in public.  3.  What the Michael Jackson song???  Anyway give it watch and see if you can even do one thing that guy did.

Old Futbol Buffet–No Tip for the Spanish Waiter

Manchester United 3  QPR 1

I missed the Manchester United game against QPR on Saturday morning.  I wasn’t too chuffed as I figured United would cruise against the worst team in the league this season. I checked the score at halftime, which was 0-0, and got a little worried, but when I saw the full time score of 3-1, I assumed that the Red Devils had shown their quality and picked up the three points.  Looks like I was wrong.

Dan asked the question—Will the real Manchester United please show up?—for Red Rants, as United put in an awful first half and a dynamic ten minutes during the second half to win the match against QPR.  Fletcher’s return and goal were a welcome sight but the Red Devils continue to slog through the season.  Maybe they are saving everything for yet another push in the second half of the season.

Scott saw a mixed performance by United and gave his reactions on the Republik of Mancunia, with Anderson helping to turn the tide when he came on in the second half and the back five playing pretty well.  He wonders about Ashley Young’s future as his current contributions are lacking.  He also commented on using Chicharito as an impact sub, which I totally agree with, and both Scott and Dan from Red Rants wonder why the hell is Sir Alex playing Welbeck on the wing?

One final note.  I said last year after the City game (you know the 6-1 thrashing at the hands of the noisy neighbors) that Evans would never play for United again.  I admit I got that one wrong.  This season has helped keep the backline together as he and Rio play week in and week out while injuries in the defense mount.

John Gidman was on a recent United We Stand pod to reflect on his playing career, including his time at Manchester United from 1981-1986.  Great interview by Andy Mitten discussing the drinking culture, which is a time long gone in the history of English football, replaced with strength training, personalized menus and world class training and facilities.

I also listened to Andy’s audio diary from the Galatasaray game.  Great on the ground commentary, with quick interviews with fans and former players.  He also gave a brief history on United’s trips to Turkey, including his deportation in 1993.  The atmosphere at the match sounded overwhelming, but it seemed as if the away supporters had a great time.  Definitely give it a listen.

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Chelsea 0  Manchester City 0

This match fell on a holiday weekend so the Mid Michigan United group didn’t plan anything, but after our wonderful (read: drunken and obnoxious) outing on Wednesday for the Champions League game between Manchester City and Real Madrid, we decided to get together for this game.

What a waste.  If I wanted to throw away another two hours, I would have watched Avengers again like I did Saturday night.  For all of the talent on display, this was a game about bravery, or lack thereof.  Clearly neither manager wanted to lose this match and give up any more ground to each other or Manchester United.  Rafa wanted to get off to a positive start by getting at least a point on the board and he accomplished that.  Maybe the fans will eventually get onside but Robbie is still on the brain.  Many fans were holding small Rafa Out signs and other banners praised RdM.  Unfortunately for the audience, neither team was particularly sharp in front of goal, with Torres spurning a couple of good chances and City creating from wide positions but always heading at Peter Cech.

Since the game was not that enthralling, everyone turned to their phones to check other scores, catch up on the witty banter on twitter, and do anything to keep from gouging out their eyeballs.  One of the topics that came up was the revelation about Kolo Toure’s alleged affair.  Not only was he cheating on the mother of his children, before and after their marriage, he didn’t even use his real name, instead assuming the character of Francois, the African used car salesman.  The details in the Mirror story are hilarious and incredible fodder for ESPN’s next dramatic series—Playmakers EPL Edition.

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David Beckham

Grant Wahl put David Beckham’s impact on MLS in perspective, as the former England international will likely move on from the league after the MLS Cup Final.  His arrival led to immediate and high profile headlines but his first couple of seasons had a stop/start rhythm, plus the occasional fan in the stands interaction.  The last couple of years I have read that he has been a model professional for the league and could end up with back to back Cup titles.  (Note, if you haven’t read Wahl’s book The Beckham Experiment, pick up a copy.)

Here were my original thoughts about Beckham coming to America:

David Beckham is coming to America. Still amazed at how his talks with Real Madrid broke down in 72 hours. Why is he coming here?  John Brewin from Soccernet explains.

So how is this for Becks?  He has something that will defy age—ball striking ability. No one in the US has ever seen anything like this. Sure Joe Midfielder might score a great free kick or switch the point of attack, but can he do it consistently and with pinpoint accuracy? I doubt it. Becks can. It’s amazing. Yes, Becks is “slow”, but that can be compensated for. When I watch MLS, you can easily counteract the speed of the 19-23 kids by using a footballing brain. Possess, see the field, pick your moments.  Not run at 100 mph and hack everything in your path.  Becks can do all of that.  LA needs a team of solid defenders, a combative defensive mid to carry the water for Becks, and two hard working outside mids.  Forwards? Can you stand in front of the goal and let the ball bounce off of you? Yes. Then you can play. Becks is then free a la Zidane to just do whatever. Think Valderrama with TampaBay. Not the fastest guy ever yet he was effective because he was technically gifted and footballing smart.

What does this mean for US soccer. It’s a decent pick up. He will put fannies in the seats, temporarily, until the novelty wears off. That’s fine. Is Becks going to anchor the future of US soccer? I hope not. No one player can do that. This is the first salvo fired by the MLS. Yes, you—30 something decent European based player—can play here in the US. $250M is a ridiculous number to start at. When the next fading European superstar asks where’s my money, I’m not sure what the answer is going to be. If the MLS continues in this fashion, they will go the way of the NASL. So we’ll pay you an outrageous amount of money if you can play and sell tickets. The second part is key. We’ll give you money if you can make money. If you can’t, you’ll have to wait until you’re past 35 or not get the major cheese. Simple equation. You dig? The MLS has to continue this strategy, I just don’t know where they’re going to the money.

Despite my mancrush on the former England captain, I never went to watch him play.  Outside of his first appearance against Chelsea in the summer of 2007 and the occasional snippet here or there, I didn’t even watch him play.  His arrival didn’t change my MLS viewing habits.  Robbie Keane didn’t. Rafa Marquez didn’t.  Thierry Henry didn’t.  What would change my viewing schedule?  More time in my life.  Short of that, better quality on the field.

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Podcast

Daniel Taylor was on the Beyond the Pitch pod to discuss both Manchester teams as they battle for the Premier League title.  Mancini’s future was examined as the Italian manager struggles to live up to high expectations, especially in Europe.  Daniel and Anto also touched on the England National Team as qualification for World Cup 2014 heats up.