Old Futbol Buffet–Paris $aint-£ermain kicks off

So it was a Saturday in early August and my desire for footy, not satisfied by pre-season friendlies and testimonials, took hold of me. I checked the match program for the day to see what was on offer. PSG (4th last season) versus Lorient (11th) from Ligue 1 jumped out at me due to PSG splashing the cash this summer, so off to the bar I went.

I usually avoid French football. Nothing against them, but for the dozen or so games I’ve watched, start to finish, over the last two or three seasons, I can count the total number of goals on one hand and have fingers left over. But I wanted to see the new look PSG and see what their Qatari money had bought them.

Here’s a list of their 2011 summer signings:

Malian midfielder Mohamed Sissoko from Juventus for a fee of €7m (not fit)  YEAH!!! Juve finally got rid of him
Italian goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu from Palermo for a fee of €3.5m (played)
Midfielder Blaise Matuidi from Saint-Etienne for a fee of €10m (played)
Midfielder Jeremy Menez from Roma for a fee of €8m (played)  Imagine if Dr. House and Clint Dempsey had a kid.
Serbian defender Milan Bisevac from Valenciennes for a fee of €3.5m (played)
Forward Kevin Gameiro from Lorient for a fee of €11m (played)
Goalkeeper Nicolas Douchez on a free transfer from Rennes (injured)

Plus Javier Pastore from Palermo, which was finalized over the weekend.

In doing a little research for the game, Lorient was busy too this summer, adding . . .

Argentinean defender Lucas Mareque on a free transfer from Independiente
Forward Jeremie Aliadiere on a free transfer (substitue)  remember him, EPL fans?
Forward Tristan Do on a free transfer from Strasbourg
Midfielder Kevin Monnet-Paquet from Lens for a fee of €3m (played)
Malian midfielder Adama Toure on a free transfer from Paris St. Germain
Midfielder Julien Quercia on a free transfer from Auxerre (played)
Midfielder Mathieu Coutadeur from Monaco for a fee of €2m (played)
Portuguese defender Pedrinho on a free transfer from Coimbra (played)
Goalkeeper Florent Chaigneau on a free transfer from Le Poire sur Vie

The match kicked off to a fast and frenetic start with both teams in high gear on a slippery surface. The first half was end to end stuff with Lorient having a little better of the play, and they were rewarded in the 28th minute. PSG captain Sakho, who had a terrible first half (and game to be honest), committed an unnecessary foul in the right hand channel outside the box. Jouffre whipped in a cross and the PSG rearguard fell asleep, allowing Quercia—who was very active in the opening period, causing a lot of problems—to score. Nene had a chance to equalize but put his chip over the bar. The first half petered out with the visitors on top.

PSG took the game to Lorient right from the second half whistle. However their energy and intensity produced very little in the final third, with poor crossing and the attackers not in sync. Striker Gameiro did very little against the club he left this summer. Lorient actually had a chance to double their lead when Mvuemba hit the crossbar. With 15 minutes to go, the hosts squared the ball across the net but no one was home. Quercia was a total nonfactor in the second half, barely touching the ball and was finally subbed with 13 minutes to go. PSG continued to huff and puff, but the final whistle blew and the PSQatar era started with a loss.

If I’m the PSG coaching staff, I’m working on three things: set pieces (service rarely beat the first defender), getting the attackers on the same page, and finding a replacement for Sakho. The team from the capital have Olympiacos Volou FC in the Europa League playoff round between upcoming fixtures against Rennes and Valenciennes

After the French game I flipped over to the second half of FC Barcelona against Club America at Cowboy Stadium. I had read on my twitter feed that the Blaugrana had started with a strong lineup (basically all the starters except Messi) and that Villa had scored. When I tuned in, the first thing I saw was that Glenn Davis was doing the game and I’m glad the TV at the bar was on mute. Really dislike him as a commentator. Xavi went out at halftime and Barca were below their usual high standards, knocking the ball around but sloppily and had very little of the flow we are accustomed to seeing. Thiago had a ridiculous back pass that almost led to Club America scoring and then Valdez had to do a karate kick to save Barcelona moments later.

I was not being entertained so I left with 20 minutes to go, and I read later that Keita sealed the game. I know these games are just friendlies, but based on them (playing well but getting beaten by United; getting thrashed by Chivas; really not playing well against Club America) I am getting a little worried about the Super Cup and the start of the season.

As for Sunday, I might try to catch a replay of the Community Shield but I’m not going to lose sleep if don’t. The transfer rumors continue to swirl, particularly around Fabregas, Sneijder, Tevez and Adebayor, plus Lukaku is moving to Chelsea. But the most important thing of the weekend is that competitive football is being played.

MatchDay Memory–What I Did This Summer

Eric Abidal lifted the Champions League trophy at Wembley and the 2010-2011 club season was over. This could have led to two months of aching and emptiness and hunger for football. For some, it may have. For me, I kept myself busy doing a number of things, some of them soccer related, but when I saw the Premier League schedule posted, I admit I did start jonesin’ for some footy.

In the last couple of weeks I have been trying to keep track of all signings and rumors, focusing on teams and leagues that interested me. Tough job. Don’t know how people do it. So here are my selected thoughts as of 8/4/11, which will probably change as soon as I hit PUBLISH. I didn’t cover everything and I know that I missed some items, but here we go.

Manchester United came out firing, picking up Phil Jones from Blackburn, Ashley Young from Aston Villa, and de Gea from Atletico Madrid. Then they shipped O’Shea and Brown off to the reserve team otherwise known as Sunderland. Liverpool was busy as well, signing Jordan Henderson, Doni as cover at goalkeeper, Charlie Adam and Stuart Downing. @JamesT from the Unprofessional Foul blog broke down the Reds midfield thusly: http://bit.ly/qvw5rA. Chelsea has been eerily silent, as AVB figures out his next steps as the new manager. Arsenal look a shambles. Signing only Gervinho, losing Clichy and Denilson (addition by subtraction) and maybe even Bendtner, their summer has been dominated by Nasri and Fabregas and whether they will stay or go. City has been busy, off loading Jo, Given and Boateng and bringing in Clichy and Savic. What they will do with Adebayor and Tevez remains to be seen. Finally, there is Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs finally said goodbye to Woodgate and O’Hara and added Friedel, Coulibaly and Ceballos. They may still lose Modric but really need to strengthen in all areas if they want to get back into Europe (read Champions League) and compete for the title.

In Italy, Inter continue to retool in the post-Mourinho era. Rumors flew around all summer that Sneijder was on his way out. They brought in Ricky Alvarez amongst some fanfare, but that was about it. AC Milan offloaded Pirlo and brought in Taiwo and Mexes as they move forward with a more dynamic team to win at home and abroad. Roma is in the midst of a new direction, led by Luis Enrique. Gone are Doni, Riise and Mexes and in are Stekelenburg, Heinze, Lamela, Krkic, Cicinho and Jose Angel (who I don’t know anything about). What the end product will be is anyone’s guess but they are definitely reshaping the team of Spalletti and Ranieri. One of the biggest rumors going around is Pastore moving from Palermo to PSG. That would be quite the signing, spurning offers from bigger clubs, including Chelsea.

As for the black and whites of Juventus, The Future Mark II, is underway. They will start with a new manager—Del Neri out, Conte in—possibly a new formation depending on which reports you read, and a load of new signings—Vucinic, Lichstenier, Pirlo, Vidal, Pazienza, and Ziegler—for a second summer running, plus finalizing the purchases of Matri, Quagliarella, Motta, and Pepe. This off season also saw a massive clearing out: Melo, Aquallini, Sissoko, Salihamidzic and Tiago. Amauri is still on the books and needs a new home. Please help. The result of all this activity—either back towards to the top of Serie A or an unsettling plateau (7th two seasons running) or a plummet down the table—will be the focus of the fans as they grade the top brass of the club.

For me, the biggest story in the Spanish off season was Malaga. An infusion of money from Qatar has led the club to be on one of the top spenders this closed season. After bringing in Julio Baptista, Ignacio Camacho, Sergio Asenjo, Enzo Maresca and Martin Demichelis, in the winter, they eventually turned things around and finished 11th. Now they’ve added Joaquín, Sergio Sánchez, Toulalan, Mathijsen, Monreal, van Nistelrooy, and Cazorla in an attempt to buy their way up the table. According to La Liga Weekly, Pelligrini will try to use these old hands to steady the ship and qualify for Europe until the youth products are ready and additional signings are made. I think they will finish in the Champions League spots and really put pressure on Valencia, Villarreal, and Sevilla.

I’m very worried about the Yellow Submarine. Gone are Carzola and Capdevila and Cicinho, with only Zapata from Udinese of note coming in. (Obligatory Jozy Update: transferred to Dutch side AZ Alkmaar). Looks like they will hold on to Rossi for at least one more season, so they should at least be among the goals. And what to say about Atletico Madrid? Aguero has gone to City and de Gea to United and Ujfalusi to Galatasaray, with Simao leaving last winter, and the club has brought in Tiago, Gabi, Adrian Lopez, Silvio, Thibaut Courtois, Julio Alves, names that don’t set the world alight. One of two things will happen with this squad: they will respond, possibly with a renewed Forlan, and finally achieve some of their promise or they will continue their descent down the table. I actually think they may be relegation candidates. Then there is Valencia, who will be in the Champions League again but for how long? Archie from http://elcentrocampista.com sums up the ins and outs of the squad: http://bit.ly/pgR9ws . Maybe this will be Canales’ big chance to shine.

As for the big two, FCB continue to chase Fabregas and I’m not sure why. At first I was all for it but after seeing the war of words and then seeing Thiago light it up in the preseason and the signing of Alexis Sanchez, I’m not so sure. One worrying thing is the club selling a lot of B team players. Some were sold with buyback clauses, but still. A lot of the Blaugrana’s success has some through La Maisa and it seems as if they are moving away from that. The Evil Empire continues to put together a squad to topple the team of our generation. With the addition of Varane, Sahin, Jose Callejon, Hamit Altintop and Fábio Coentrão and another year of the Special One, I think this is entirely possible. I predict Real Madrid will win the league as injuries, the number of fixtures and constant pressure catch up to Barcelona.

I tried to watch Copa America, I really did, but failed miserably. A couple of issues: 1) About half the group games were on Telefutura, a channel that is almost impossible to find. I went to four bars to find the opening match of Argentina/Bolivia and was unsuccessful. 2) Early games were relatively drab, which didn’t excite me to make the extra effort to watch the ones I could. 3) My Over 30 team was involved in a soccer tournament and game conflicts led me to miss several matches. From the podcasts I listened to and reports I read, the Quarter Finals were gripping. Honestly once the big two were out, I really gave up. The final was in direct conflict with the State Cup final I played in, and when we lost, I really wasn’t in the mood to watch the Copa America Final on delay. I vow to try harder in 2013 or 2015 or whenever the next one is.

Even though I don’t watch MLS, which I explained earlier this summer—http://bit.ly/ppnqsL—I planned a trip to the Pacific Northwest to watch MLS games in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, in an attempt to jumpstart my interest in the league. Between money and timing, I wasn’t able to execute it this summer but plan on making it a top priority in 2012.

From a media perspective, I read Soccer in Summer and Shadow. If you have not read this book, get it today. A series of short essays on the game, its fans and its history. There are some amazing insights into the beautiful game, as it evolves from a hobby brought by the English to a global sport with political underpinnings that captivates the world. I also watched the history of Manchester United for the umpteenth time. Every time I watch the Fergie Era, I go back to the days when I first started following the game, to those amazing days of when United finally broke the league hoodoo and went on a run domestically and on the continent that may not be seen again. Finally, I picked up Once in a Lifetime—http://imdb.to/o4Rq1B—and watched that again. What a story with so many great characters—Steve Ross, Chinaglia, Pele, Clive Toye, Beckenbauer, Messing. For a short window of time, soccer was popular in the US. I’ll be honest, the only thing I actually remember was the name Chicago Sting. Don’t know why. The couple takeaways from this viewing were the fact that the Cosmos really were ahead of their time in assembling talent from all over the world; say what you want about Maradona, Best, Zidane, and Messi, Pele is truly a global icon; MLS did their homework and have built a stable league that will never conquer the American market but will continue to flourish.

Strip Club—Best (and Worst) of the Rest Dollar Date

It’s a less than a month until the new soccer season kicks off. I was going to do a semi-comprehensive review of upcoming kits for the 2011-12 season but @footballfashion has already done most of the heavy lifting and I’m lazy, so I strongly encourage you to visit their site (they cover a lot of ground) and get ready for some eye candy and horror shows for this campaign.

http://footballfashion.org/wordpress/

Also, @avoidingthedrop did a winners and losers post for this year:

http://bit.ly/qHmlw

It’s a nice smattering of kits, with an emphasis on the EPL. Follow the comment thread for comments from the readership.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have posted the kits for teams that I try to follow.  This week, here are some odds and ends from the rest of Europe.  I ignore North and South America because they are almost always ugly, despite getting really hot chicks to present them.

Getafe:  http://bit.ly/neBGzM

The future Getafe Team Dubai has the healthy shirt sponsor of the king of all burgers, which has pushed this club perilously close to the worst team in football.  At least their kits look cool.  NOT!!  The blue home away is solid but the away and third strips are shockingly bad.  They took kit of the Yellow Submarine and ran 100,000 Volts of electricity through it.  As for the third kit, pink and grey?  Really?

AC Milan:  http://www.acmilanstoreusa.com/

The current champions of Italy have a beautiful range of kits for the 11-12 season.  Their home strip goes with the narrow trademark strips and adds white bands at the ends of the sleeves.  Find player pics.  Looks great.  Their away and third kits are simple and classy.  Even as a Juventino, I might have to splurge on one of those.

Lyon European kit

Pink has struck again, although I’m not sure what color this is.  Darker than Palermo but not as bright as Juventus.  Plus there so many things going on that the shirt is just terrible.  Hopefully Lyon’s campaign goes better than the shirt designing process.

Napoli Away and Third: http://bit.ly/o6tZ3R via football fashion

Napoli’s offerings for the upcoming season don’t take too many chances.  The navy away kits is down the middle, although the sponsors detract from the visual.  The yellow third kit doesn’t over do the yellow and with dark shorts doesn’t make the player look completely idiotic.

Arsenal Away

I’ll be honest, at first I hated this shirt, but  it’s starting to grow on me.  Would have preferred an all navy blue version of this kit, but they didn’t ask me.

Chelsea Away

Blurgh.  After the complete horror shows of the last couple of seasons, this doesn’t seem so bad in comparison.  But what are those squares?  I guess they had to do something to get you to buy basically a retread of their away kit from 08-09. Well done.

Everton GK

Either someone photo-shopped TIMMAY!! into pics with this kit on or this is for real.  A jersey designed for the 3 US fans that are huge hunters and soccer fans, I can’t imagine this is going to be match legal.  Waiting for the first own goal out of Everton defense because they couldn’t see their goalkeeper.

England GK

A link for this came across my twitter feed so I dutifully clicked.  I almost threw up on my computer.  I have checked and rechecked to make sure this is legitimate.  According to Umbro.com (http://bit.ly/qtqt6D) it is.  Just when you think the England kit can’t get any worse, Umbro go and completely redeem themselves.  David James could probably wear this and get away with it.  Joe Hart, get ready to turn in your man card.

Strip Club—Manchester United FC Dollar Date

It’s a less than a month until the new soccer season kicks off. I was going to do a semi-comprehensive review of upcoming kits for the 2011-12 season but @footballfashion has already done most of the heavy lifting and I’m lazy, so I strongly encourage you to visit their site (they cover a lot of ground) and get ready for some eye candy and horror shows for this campaign.

http://footballfashion.org/wordpress/

Also, @avoidingthedrop did a winners and losers post for this year:

http://bit.ly/qHmlw

It’s a nice smattering of kits, with an emphasis on the EPL. Follow the comment thread for comments from the readership.

Instead, I will focus on the clubs I follow and some of the items that have caught my eye as I have browsed the interweb.

Manchester United

Entire range for this season: http://bit.ly/pyxzRi via manutd.com

Home:

Thought last year’s home kit was solid in its simplicity, with this year’s model staying on the same path.  Basically the collar has been changed and the white stripe removed from the shoulder and sleeves.  Not sure on the collar.  If it is similar to the Black away kit of 2003-2005, then this one will be a pass because the collar constantly shifts and never feels or looks right.

Away:

I thought last year’s away strip was bad.  One word for this one–ugh!!  Every four years or so, the royal blue kit makes an appearance and the last two have been fantastic.  This one, however, leaves a lot to be desired.  The horizontal stripes, while looking like the shirt has been run over with toddler Tonka trucks, are distracting, taking away from the visual appeal of the royal blue.  Nike has struck out with this one.

MatchDay Memory–22 Old Men Running Around in Funny Shorts

Pete Davies’ book, Twenty-Two Foreigners in Funny Shorts: The Intelligent Fan’s Guide to Soccer and World Cup ’94, is an enlightening journey through soccer’s history.  He blends tales of lower league English football with comments on European leagues at the time (early 90’s) as well as summaries of World Cups leading up to USA ’94.

I borrowed the title to talk about the Over 30 Men’s team in play on.  Our team name is CCFC, which means or has meant several different things over the years. As I understand it, the original name was Coma Construction Football Club, with one of the founding members getting a sponsorship through said company.  When he left, it morphed into Capital City Football Club as we are located in Lansing, MI.  But the one name that all of our opponents agree on is Cheaters Cheaters Fuckin Cheaters, due to decisions, circumstances and incidents from seasons gone by, which we wear as a badge of honor as we collect trophy after trophy.

After several years of league dominance, we decided to try a new competition, the Gerhard Mengel State Cup, which is a traditional cup tournament, usually with teams from the Metro Detroit area.  We had played some of the teams a couple of years ago in the now defunct Tournament of Champions, which we won in 2006.  The draw was released and we went to Redford and played Metro Rangers.  When we pulled up to the field, there were no nets or corner flags; then we went out to warm up and the pitch was hard as a rock, covered with grass (read straw), and even at 10:30 AM it was already 80+ degrees.  Add to all of this no subs, and we knew we were in for a long morning.  We came out strong and got on top, leading at halftime 3-1, but our opponents scored right after the second half kickoff and with a slender lead, we continued to look for the fourth goal, which finally came and we were able to relax.

The semi-final pitted up against a familiar opponents–Drita SC.  Several years ago in a tightly contested match, heated words were exchanged and matters nearly came to blows.  The following year, Drita actually got in a fight at the tournament, which we observed from an adjoining field.  Looking at the team, they should be a walkover: old, carrying extra weight, not particularly athletic.  But try getting the ball off of them.  An early goal from one of our new players settled our nerves, but we couldn’t find the second as the momentum switched to the visitors.  They continued to knock on the door but we kept it shut, finally winning a penalty that knocked the stuffing out them, and then we added a third to complete the victory.

In the final we met Carpathia Kickers, a sports club in Detroit, MI.  The venue was Ultimate Soccer Arena, a complex with two full field indoor fields and a third smaller field, complete with bar, restaurant, and stadium seating.  We had a full roster (18) but were missing a couple of key players.  The match kicked off with the Kickers knocking it around very comfortably, causing us to chase for most of the opening 15 minutes.  This period resulted in two quick goals for them, which put us behind for the first time in almost a year.  Finally we settled down and created a few half chances but went into half time with a lot of work to do.  As soon as the referee started the second period we were all over them, putting pressure on the ball, possessing a little better and taking control of the game.  Try as we might we couldn’t score and were actually closer to letting in the third instead of scoring our first.  Our opponent’s keeper, who looked mid-50’s, made several great saves before we finally scored with about 15 minutes to go.  We continued to pile on the pressure, especially from set pieces, but the equalizer was not to be.  With only seconds remaining, we had a corner kick and threw everyone in the box, including our goalkeeper.  The ball was cleared by the Kickers right down the middle and their player walked the ball almost 75 yards into the net, killing off the game at 3-1.

Gutted, we were awarded a Finalist (not Runner-Up) trophy and medals for each player.  The better team had won but we gave a tremendous effort to get back in the match.  Now it’s back to league play where we hope to win the league and post season tournament.  Doesn’t matter how young or old you get, winning is still great and losing still sucks.

Strip Club—Juventus FC Dollar Date

It’s a less than a month until the new soccer season kicks off.  I was going to do a semi-comprehensive review of upcoming kits for the 2011-12 season but @footballfashion has already done most of the heavy lifting and I’m lazy, so I strongly encourage you to visit their site (they cover a lot of ground) and get ready for some eye candy and horror shows for this campaign.

http://footballfashion.org/wordpress/

Also, @avoidingthedrop did a winners and losers post for this year:

http://bit.ly/qHmlwj

It’s a nice smattering of kits, with an emphasis on the EPL.  Follow the comment thread for comments from the readership.

Instead, I will focus on the clubs I follow and some of the items that have caught my eye as I have browsed the interweb.

Juventus

Entire range for this season: http://bit.ly/oiBJTM via @serieaweekly

The home kit is right down the middle, with the standard black and white stripes and simple rounded collar.  Although there is some consternation on the interweb about the haziness of the trademark stripes, I prefer these to last year’s frayed edges.

The away kit is bold in color and design and is a mixed bag for me.  Pink is back in the rotation for the first time since 2003-04 and the 1997 keeper’s kit.  I’m not really a pink kind of guy but love the star.  Give me this in a royal blue and it is a must have.

Kick off is only three weeks away.

Working on the blog and plan to launch sometime before 2011-12 season.

Bundesliga campaign starts August 5.

Eredivisie season starts August 5.

Ligue 1 starts August 6.

EPL season starts August 13.

Spanish Super Cup: August 14 (Madrid) and 17 (Barcelona).

La Liga season starts August 21.

Serie A starts ???