Posts Tagged ‘ Dear Mr Levy ’

Old Futbol Buffet–Spuds Smashed

This weekend was hit and miss in terms of footy.  Saw some La Liga action on Saturday but missed the North London Derby and United’s shock defeat at Norwich.  Did manage to catch the second half of the Juventus game though and was 0 for Sunday due to working the concession stand at the MSU basketball game and then having church.

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Arsenal 5  Tottenham Hotspur 2

I wanted to see the game but due to the 745am EST kickoff and life intervening, I missed it.  I woke up and checked the score: 3-1 to the Gunners.  Scrolling through the updates, Adebayor scored the opening goal and then got sent off 18 minutes in.  Several people tweeted that it was the striker’s best performance for Arsenal and that the Gunners should have evened things up by putting on Andre Santos.

The Arseblogger was content to ignore the tactics of the game and focus on the result.  The former Arsenal striker was the focal point, both of the blog post and the match.  As for the Gunners themselves, Cazorla and Wilshere were picked out for praise and Giroud was amongst the goals again.  5-2.  That is all.

For a Spurs perspective, I read Spooky’s latest post at Dear Mr Levy.  The fragility of Tottenham Hotspur—caused by missing players, the chopping and changing of the defense and the mismanagement of the transfer window—was exposed as the Gunners took Spurs apart.  Spooky was happy that AVB went for it even with ten me but the crucial period before halftime meant there was only going to be one result.

Zonal Marking examined the game noting that AVB surprisingly went with a 4-4-2 that used power and pace going forward and a high line defensively.  The Portuguese manager stuck with the approach, moving to one forward but his team tired, conceding the game just before the interval.  He switched to a 3-4-1-1 in the second half, but after the initial pressure wore off, the Gunners picked off the visitors.  Special mention was given to Walcott, not only for his goal but for his play on the right hand side, combining with Giroud and allowing Sagna to overlap.

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Juventus 0  Lazio 0

I watched the Old Lady for the first time this season, catching the second half on Saturday.  A couple of things: loved the all black kit.  The numbers and names are sharp and really pop off the back of the kit.  Loved the 3-5-2 formation.  Wingbacks getting involved.  Center of the pitch under control. Juve dominated the proceedings, although they did seem susceptible to the counter.  Despite their energy and chances, the ball would not go in, and that led to two dropped points.  @agiamba tweeted after the match that it was a good performance but the goalie made three great saves.  Agree to a certain extent.  They were in control but poor crossing and some poor finishing kept this game from being won.  The bianconeri have bounced back from defeat and still lead the league by four points over Inter.

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Finally, what a weekend for MSU soccer, both varsity and club.  The Men’s team travelled to South Bend on Sunday after defeating ClevelandState on Thursday.  The Spartans fell 3-0 but finished the season strong, winning the BIG 10 Tournament Championship.  As for the club teams, tweets came across my timeline late Saturday night that both the Men’s and Women’s club teams won their respective National Championships.  Amazing accomplishment.  Congratulations to Scott, Dan and all the players.  Make sure to read Dan’s recaps of the women’s games.

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Articles and Pods

Gabriele Marcotti joined Anto on the Beyond the Pitch to discuss current storylines in Serie A, including Juventus’ European challenge, the success of new Inter manager Stramaccioni, the problems at AC Milan, and De Rossi’s future at Roma.  Highly informative as usual.

Jonathan Wilson profiled Shakhtar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu for SI.com.  Very interesting backstory as he moved from the pitch to player manager to challenging Steaua’s dominance in the 80’s.  Now he has the Ukrainian champs on the cusp of the round of 16 of the Champions League and poised to make a run in the competition.  Although Lucescu favors youth, he has a veteran backline that may make the difference this time around.

Finally Steve Rushin wrote on entertaining piece for SI.com contemplating the question: What if life was more like soccer?  The possibility of extra time, brandishing red cards, “diving”, and moving your focus on to the next challenge are all possibilities.  Have to say my favorite part was this:

After all, the single greatest existential quandary that humans face in life also bedevils soccer: Once you leave the game, you are not allowed to return.

Old Futbol Buffet–Super Sunday

I spent the last nice fall day of 2012 sitting on a barstool.  Forget fresh air. Back to back EPL games followed by the Big 10 Championship game, fueled by beer and wings.  Wouldn’t have it any other way.  None of the games were high on quality, but the fellowship was top notch, full of banter and awkwardness.

The morning started with Manchester City hosting Tottenham Hotspur.   I should have stayed in bed.  Same storyline—City’s opponents score early, City eventually wake up, Lamppost for the win.  (I called it as soon as he came on.)  I still don’t know if City are playing with three or four at the back but whatever the system, they look disjointed.  (Zonal Marking saw a back four morph into a back three with the introduction of Maicon.)  I rarely see fluidity in their play yet props for overwhelming an opponent and securing three points.  As for Spurs, imagine if they had a little more soccer IQ.  They are a glorified high school team, full of athletes and effort, but have almost nothing in terms of gamesmanship, like how to close out a match or turn things around when plan A isn’t working.  Lennon needs to go.  His lack of a finished product is holding this team back.  If you can’t cross, can’t score and only sometimes come back defensively, then you’re just another Nani.  As people noted several times throughout the game, I didn’t even know Dempsey was out there.  It was his turn to wear the invisibility cloak and, with two out and out wingers, he rarely saw the ball.  On the positive side, Adebayor was a real presence up top and nearly got Zabaleta sent off.  (Spooky at Dear Mr Levy gave a comprehensive breakdown of the past, present and future of the club.  Well worth the read.)

One thing that did bother me was Mancini’s slump pout in the first half.   Really?  You are going to be a big baby when you have a ridiculous amount of talent at your disposal and you can’t figure out how to win?  What do the pre-Mourhino Inter and the current City have in common?  Struggled to win the league despite a vastly superior team and were underwhelming in Europe.  And the same manager.

Another side note.  The commentators mentioned that Huddlestone was growing out his hair for a charity, in effect not cutting it until he scores.  So. . . you’re a rare scoring (eight goals in 210 career club appearances) central midfield player who has a hard time getting a consistent run of games (less than a dozen appearances for the club in the last two seasons).  Nice gesture, but you might want to rethink the terms of your contribution.

Next up was Chelsea against Liverpool.  If I had written the storyline before the game, you would not have believed me.  Blue Racist scores.  Red Racist takes out Blue Racist.  Red Racist equalizes.  The Reds came out in a 3-5-2 with Carragher anchoring the middle.  I’m pretty sure he was supposed to be put out to pasture a while ago.  As someone tweeted at halftime, LFC had 63% of the possession and were not even in the match.  (Chris at Famous CFC bemoaned the missed chances that should have killed off the game.)  Maybe a little more even in the second half as Liverpool outworked Chelsea and confused them by lacking any coherent shape.  (Ed at the Liverpool Offside blog saw Rogers tweak his first half lineup to generate a little more offensive punch.)  Johnson and Enrique were all over the place, with Sterling moving side to side.  And Suso just found the ball and promptly turned it back over.  The Blues in the last week have drawn with Swansea, eked out a win against Shaktar and shared points with Liverpool.  Is another November tailspin upon us?

Finally, Michigan State and Michigan battled for the BIG 10 Men’s Soccer Championship.  The conditions in Evanston were comical, with 35 mph winds causing any ball moving left to right on the TV screen to hang in the air and any free kick needing a place holder to keep it from rolling.  MSU used the wind to their advantage in the first half, pinning back the Wolverines and getting a screamer from Adam Montague.  The tide predictably turned in the second half, but the Wolverines weren’t too dangerous.  As time ticked down, UM threw more and more forward and were lucky to not be caught on the break.  Eventually a throw in was flicked on twice and T.J. Roehn scored on a lovely touch past MSU goalkeeper Zach Bennett.  At the end of regulation I had to go, so I missed Sean Doherty’s blast in minutes in to OT that won the tournament title (all goals here) for the Spartans and qualified them for the NCAA Tournament.  Congrats to Damon, Kylie and the squad.

Not a day high on sexy futbol but through the roof in the terms good natured chitchat, zingers and interesting talking points.  Besides the post election break down, time was given to racism in sports, upcoming hot yoga classes, how long Brad Friedel will actually play, the baldness trend in US goalkeeping, Cedrick’s Hope Solo interview, and how to wear a scarf like Roberto Mancini.  But nothing could top I’shawna’s declaration that she would happily be a baby mama for a professional athlete.  Direct quote: I got bills to pay.  So Raheem Sterling, if Liverpool comes to the US next summer for their pre-season tour . . .  (Note:  I’shawna wants it be clear that she will be the baby mama for Micah Richards.  This needed to be clarified.)

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Articles

I mentioned Nani earlier, and Mark Payne commented on his long term future at Manchester United for ESPN FC.  Diminishing returns and stalled contract talks could see the Portuguese winger at a new club in January or next summer, with Juventus a possibility.  I have never really liked him, constantly claiming that he is another CR7 . . . without the goals.  Doesn’t play defense, dives, takes ridiculous shots and turns the ball over a lot.  I am personally willing to drive him to the airport and hope that day comes soon.

Speaking of the Red Devils, Scott the Red saw United come back for the eighth time this season.  Smalling and Young had disappointing first halves, but Chicharito saved the day and De Gea made his presence felt.  Now if they could just stop leaking goals.

Received a little US soccer history over the weekend.  Found the article Homeless at 100 from David Wangerin for Howler Magazine via the Original Winger, which gave a quick overview of the associations that existed shortly before the American Amateur Football Association established itself in 1913.  The title of the article comes from the fact that the US Soccer Hall of Fame exhibits and materials are being stored at a warehouse for the time being, a sad commentary on the sport’s history in this country.  Hopefully one day it will find a permanent home so that everything—great players, accomplishments, keepsakes and the Association’s dirty laundry—can have a home.

Old Futbol Buffet–Footy Free

This weekend, I did not watch a single game.  You’re welcome.  Why? You ask.  By me not watching I created an environment of drama and goals.  Chelsea on 4-2 at White Hart Lane; United won 4-2 against Stoke; City grabbed three points at the death against WBA; Barcelona won 5-4 at the Riazor; and Valencia stole the match late at home against Athletic Bilbao.

Spooky at Dear Mr Levy saw Spurs’ start slow in part due to the absence of Dembele and Bale, rebound with a higher tempo second half but in the end capitulate due to defensive lapses.  Watching the highlights, what was Walker doing in the second half?  Not tracking, not marking, not shielding the ball out of play.  Spooky addressed and asked for patience towards the young player.  As MOTD stated, Spurs asked questions (at least for a little bit) and the Blues responded.

James Martin of ESPN FC summarized an open game in which he felt that Chelsea stepped it up.  See above.  Walker went missing and gave Chelsea plenty of room to operate.  James mentioned Gallas’ struggles as well as his clearances led to two of the visitor’s goals.  In the Blues won three more points as they look to cement their claim as title contenders.

Danny at Bitter and Blue saw the Champions (still have a hard time writing/saying that) grab all three points at the Hawthorns.  Despite Milner being sent off in the first half, City took the game to WBA and were eventually rewarded.  Stat Attack from Danny:

Eight of City’s 17 goals this season have been scored in the final five minutes, with five of these netted in the final five minutes. Nine of Dzeko’s last 11 goals have been to earn a draw or get the win.

This last statement led to Danny wrapping up the post.  Is Dzeko a super sub or what?  Have to say that watching the run in to last season and the early part of this season, he fits the bill.  After Aguero, Tevez, Silva and Balotelli run defenders ragged, he steps in and seals the deal.  The storyline will be whether he remains happy with that role.

Musa Okwonga of the Manchester United Blog for ESPN FC looked at the attacking triangle of Welbeck, van Persie and Rooney for Manchester United.  The three of them combined for all four goals, showing a cohesion that could put the Reds back in to the title chase.  Unfortunately the defense still needs shoring up and may ultimately prove the deciding factor come May.

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Articles and Pods

During the international break, I skimmed the internet, visiting sites previously unknown or ignored in my routine.  I came upon a post on Bleacher Report about players that United might get rid of in January and possible replacements moving forward.  Out: Nani, Josh King (striker I don’t know too much about), Bebe (forgot he was even on the team), Macheda, and Robbie Brady (a possible left back option going forward but if he wants to stay in contention for Ireland, he needs to be playing).  Who to bring in?  Hangeland to rebuild the center of the defense and Strootman to strengthen the center of midfield.  Yes to all of the above.

Occasionally I’ll check out the Pitch Invasion podcast.  Episode 8 looked back at the found of the Chicago Fire, with Peter Wilt, the founding General Manager of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club recounting the forming of the club, including the badge, the name (original name was going to be Chicago Rhythm?), the kit and development of the supporter culture.  I remember going to early games at Soldier Field, actually cheering against the home team so that I could support DC United.  Good times.

The USMNT has moved on to the next round of qualifying after a tougher than expected semi-final round.  A lot has been written and said in the last week regarding Klinsmann’s time in charge, just over 14 months.  I listened to two podcasts that examined his time thus far: Beyond the Pitch and Men in Blazers.  Both pods touched on the fact that a massive sea change has not occurred under the German and that is big ideas have not become concrete actions.  Alexi Lalas was on Men in Blazers to discuss this as a former player and current pundit, which made for an interesting conversation.

Finally, Grant Wahl looked at the emergence of beIN Sport in theUS and Europe for SI.com.  The network has the US rights to several leagues—Italian, French and Spanish—plus it has picked up USMNT away games, which previously were impossible to find.  From a US viewing perspective, the channel has essentially combined GolTV and Fox Soccer Plus, with the real losers being the German Bundesliga (still on GolTV, which has been dropped by DirecTV per Wahl’s article) and the English Championship (Bueller, Bueller).

But another loser may be the American soccer consumer.  BeIN has all of these leagues but only one feed.  (Sorry, that’s not fair.  They have the Spanish feed but guess what?  Americans would like to watch games with English commentary.)  My question is this: How do you show everything?  A recent example was the massive one time convergence of rivalry games that occurred two weeks ago: El Clasico, the Milan Derby and PSG v Marseille.  Here’s what beIN chose to do in their infinite wisdom: viewers only got to see the second half of the Milan Derby live as it was shoehorned in between El Clasico and the French game.  What?  That will be the norm as important games in Italy and Spain are typically shown in late afternoon Eastern time.  With no online platform, you can only see the live games that they show.  The rest are shown on delay, and in the internet age, they should be able to do better.

Every time they make a decision between leagues, they piss off people.  A couple of weeks ago, the Juve/Roma game (typically a big rivalry game, especially more so this year with Zeman in charge of the Romans) was not broadcast live.   The Juventini were PISSED and with good reason.  This is a big game and fans were not able to see it live, having to go into media blackout if they wanted to watch it without knowing the result.  Where will the channel put their focus as they to strike a balance between all of the leagues?

So far we’ve got a terrible name, poor distribution and only one screen for three important European leagues.  Can’t fix the first one without MAJOR re-branding.  I pray every day for a better name.  Distribution will be fixed over time.  I can’t believe that they won’t be in more homes by next summer.  Comcast will come around and so will AT&T.  As for the third, that’s where it gets tricky.  If they don’t add an online option to provide customized viewing and then we are at their mercy as I see it.  Maybe I want to watch Getafe v Osasuna or Genoa v Catania or Le Havre v Sochaux.  And I can’t because it conflicts with another match in another league.  And there is no option beyond illegal internet feeds.  That doesn’t seem right.

On top of all of this, is their pursuit of the EPL.  If they get that, everything I have mentioned will be negatively affected at a rate of 10, while causing the probable collapse of FSC.  While I don’t really like the channel (studio shows, graphics, choice of live Champions League games), you can’t argue with the access they provide to the game—constant repeats, online options, two channels. If they go away then beIN has a virtual stranglehold on the American soccer viewer.  I’m not really in favor of that.  Not only do I find that wrong on a very basic level, but basically I’m swapping Rob Stone for that annoying skinny blond that is constantly on in between games doing her best deer in the headlights routine.