Friday, September 28, 2007

Marta's Goal and KeeperGate

Marta scored an amazing goal against the US, a very sad ending to a tough defeat. Now, all the talk is about the decision of the American coach, Greg Ryan, to place Briana Scurry in goal over Hope Solo. Scurry, who played previously against Brazil this year and won, and is renowned for her quickness and shot stopping, didn't play that many games overall the past few years. A few of the women's games past stars weigh in with their thoughts and insight:

Foudy: "There are so many talented players out there, and you wonder, 'Is this program building? Is it growing? Is that the best soccer we can produce? Is this the direction we want to go in?' I don't think it is."

Chastain: "People say this is a step back, but I think Greg Ryan has put us three steps back – all the way to the starting gate," said Chastain, the 1999 World Cup hero who watched Thursday's loss from her home in Northern California. "He lacks the ability to communicate and is not in tune with his players, and he's obviously not a tactician or he wouldn't have made the decisions he did.

More Foudy
: "You see some of the sub patterns, and you say, 'What the hell?' " Foudy said. "You take out one of your fastest players (Heather O'Reilly) and put in a marking back (Tina Ellertson) to man-mark (Brazil star striker) Marta? If you're going to make the bold move of changing the keepers but then go ultra-conservative when you're down 2-0, as if you're in a bunker mentality, what are you doing?"

More Chastain: "To be fair to Greg, the goalkeeper change didn't really bother me, because I know Bri and trust her so much in that context," she said. "The thing I didn't like about it was the timing, how he sprang it on the girls, and how it had to have affected their mood. When I saw the Brazilian players walking off the bus at the stadium (on television) dancing and high-fiving and smiling, and our players were all tensed up, I knew this would be a tough deal."
From Yahoo Sports...

Others weigh in, from ESPN

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Roma Versus Fiorentina - Giuly Factor

I usually don't watch a lot of the Italian league. Fox soccer channel just doesn't show too much and I've been sucked into the EPL the last ten years or so. But I caught Roma versus Fiorentina the other day. And, what with Roma set to face Manchester United in the champions League, it was good to see them and sets the stage for a great match. Roma beat Man u in Italy and then were scorched in Manchester, 7 goals notched against them I believe.

Roma is tied with Inter Milan at the top of the table, with stars like Giuly, Mancini, Pizarro, Cicinho, and so on, no wonder they're at the top. And Totti of course, but he didn't play against Fiorentina. I was more intrigued as the game wore on. The pace was comparable to the EPL, and the skill level a bit above, Mancini beautifully chipped the keeper after a Giuly dummy, and then Aquilani dummied for Giuly who struck home for Roma again. But Roma gave away a penalty late otherwise they would have been on top alone.

Giuly, maybe he's the x-factor this year in the Champions League, like Larsson the last few years, first helping Barca win the Champions League and then Manchester United in the early rounds. What a great pickup he was for Roma. Can't wait for the game next week.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Barcelona Versus Sevilla

Barca 2 Sevilla 1

No Ronaldinho tonight, not sure why exactly he was left out. Perhaps they were just resting him, but then I’ve heard he was benched since his form wasn’t as sharp—seems ridiculous.

Sevilla were dressed in a new pink strip and Barca in their traditional set. A full crowd roaring Messi’s name as he imitated Ronaldinho’s hang loose trademark after each of his goals. Henry hit the post once, setup Messi once, and glided along a few times as if he was in England.

At first I was almost going to write about how Henry isn’t going to fit in with this side. They are too good and play the play too sharp and quickly for him, doesn’t that seem ridiculous to write. But in the first half there were three or four moments where Iniesta or Deco played the ball in to Henry, who was always posting up, and were looking to play the ball back to Henry but he wasn’t ready and miss controlled the return ball.

Then, there were a few times where Henry was in on a clean header but missed connecting to the ball. But jump to the second half and a new Henry appeared. He’s always best when he gets the ball on the wing, and he can go at players and serve balls in. He did just that, lasering a ball into the feet of Messi, whose first touch put the ball up in the air, but he was able to nail the ball on the volley.

Later, there was a quick one two with Henry and Deco and then Dos Santos, where Henry first timed the ball in a lovely manner right into the path of maybe Deco or Messi without breaking stride. It was a quintessential Ronaldinho, Deco, Etto, Xavi, Messi—the Barcelona collective type moment, where they seem to know where one another are all the time and delivery the extra one touch pass that almost seems too much but works. I can’t wait to see more of Barcelona and Ronaldinho and Henry and Dos Santos and so on. Great stuff to come.

UPDATE:

After both Messi goals the Argentine paid a very public tribute to Ronaldinho by holding 10 fingers aloft for the "injured" Barcelona No 10. Ronaldinho was not in the stand alongside the other injured men, Samuel Eto'o and Carles Puyol, to see the show of solidarity.

Barcelona claim he was having treatment on the calf strain that had kept him out of the game – an injury that 70 per cent of fans, responding to a poll organised by the Barcelona paper Sport, believe not to exist.

It seems being accused of breaking a 48-hour pre-match curfew before the Osasuna match 10 days ago, being substituted twice in his last two appearances and being whistled by some home fans in the midweek Champions League game against Lyons, were the real reasons behind the Brazilian's decision to rule himself out of the Seville game.
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Friday, September 21, 2007

Billions at stake for a piece of Premier League

From the Sports Economist - some great quotes on the big money involved in the English Premier League:

Henry Winter interviews Richard Scudamore, the Chief of the English Premier League. Here are some choice quotes:

On revenue streams: "International TV rights were 10 per cent of our income, and are now 28 per cent of our income. We could be at 50 per cent of our income in three years' time [with international rights touching £1billion]."

On battles over rights to information: "We have a class action against Google and YouTube in the US. They have no appetite for taking down clips. If every clip of every goal is available on YouTube, what appetite will Virgin Media have for buying them?"

On the influx of foreign ownership: Scudamore rejects the suggestion that the Glazers, Lerners, Abramovichs and Shinawatras are here solely for the money. "They could get better returns making other investment decisions. It brings them a credibility, a profile, a reputation, whether in their home country or this one, which you can't get with other investment. Any financial aspirations they may have only work if they deliver success. Their interests are aligned to the fans. You don't buy a Rolls-Royce and try to turn it into a Ford Fiesta."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ronaldo Header Lifts Man U

Great header by Ronaldo and Manchester United take the first Champions League game. Anytime Man U plays a team the younger players of the opposing team must be thinking in the back of their minds--how do I impress Fergie and get picked up by them.

That said, Man U never faces a team who's not ready or up for the game. But at the same time, once Man U gets that first goal, teams have a tendency to wilt rather quickly. That was the case with Sporting. Where Cristino Ronaldo scored against his old club and looked like he avoided a big celebration. Instead, holding his hands together in praise to the crowd--a show of respect. When he was pulled from the game, the crowd also gave him a warm applause.

Cristiano Ronaldo returned in red to haunt former club Sporting Lisbon and ensure Manchester United made a winning start to their latest Champions League quest with a 1-0 victory.

Ronaldo spent seven years wearing Sporting green before he left for Old Trafford in 2003 with a £12.2million price tag and became a megastar.


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Monday, September 17, 2007

Rainn Wilson & Kanye West on the Emmy Awards

Not soccer related, well in some was, Rainn is doing an ad for Nike, but pretty damn funny. Best part of the show and James Gandolfini got robbed.

Who's Going to Top Chastain's Strip

What with the Women's World Cup now in full swing, thought it would be timely to post about an article that I came across. It's about Chastain's shirt removal after she scored and the US won the World Cup. Turns out, Nike was already developing a sports bra for women soccer players. Then, Brandi rips off her shirt and Nike sped up production. Didn't hurt either that Brandi ended up on the cover of SI without her shirt--did have the bra on, it's not Playboy. Her strip is interesting in terms of the economics of soccer and it's a girl taking of her shirt--even though I wish it was Mia doing the shirt taking off. Sure, it's not the 'bro' or the 'mansear' but the sports bra--but a critical piece of clothing for women's soccer players no doubt. You try running...

Today, there's an English women's soccer player who takes off one of her shoes after she scores a goal. What player is going to top that or Chastain, and rip of another part of their clothing? I doubt it will be one of the North Korean players but I'm guessing it will happen. I remember when the FIFA president said women's soccer players should wear shorter shorts--I think they are now, thanks to Nike.

If you caught any of the Emmy's last night hopefully you saw the best part, Rainn Wilson singing a Kanye West song - Stronger, well he's also taking of his clothes for Nike and Women's Soccer. To clarify, that's Rainn Wilson from the Office doing the disrobing for Nike and not Kanye.

But here's the Chastain article:

But whether spontaneous ebullience or planned product placement, the star's move has exposed, in addition to her rippling abs, a whole set of issues related to female athletes and body image and earning power. And it has brought instant attention to a piece of clothing that is humble and practical – not a traditional bra of shine and lace and cleavage, but a sturdy compression garment. The sports bra is the cloth symbol of Title IX's success. Last year, $230‚million worth of them were sold, up from $205‚million the year before.

Only about a dozen female athletes in the United States have significant endorsement contracts, and they range from only $75,000 to $350,000 – a pittance compared with male athletes' earnings – says Bob Williams, president of Burns Sports, a Chicago marketing firm that matches advertisers with athletes. Chastain's agent, John Courtright, said last night he expects to usher her to the top tier of those athletes.
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He mentioned WNBA players and soccer teammater Mia Hamm, whose Nike shoe contract and Gatorade work help bring her an estimated $1 million in off-field income and said, "I would like to get her to that level."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Euro 88 - The Final: Holland vs USSR

The other Ruud, Ruud Gulit that is, and not the amazing Ruud Van Nistelrooy of Real Madrid. Don't forget this amazing Dutch team as we move into more and more Euro 2008 qualifiers - with the likes of Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Ronald Koeman - all coaches now for some of the best clubs. Take a look at the volley by Van Basten.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

LA Firm Buys Chicago Fire

There is money to be made in soccer, and more and more investors want to get on board. The new owners of the Fire have produced movies and have interests in other sports and entertainment properties. Terms of the deal were not disclosed:

AEG, a unit of Denver-based Anschutz Co., will continue to have interests in two other MLS teams, the Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo, and Hammarby Football Club in Sweden. The company, recently sold the operating rights to DC United for a league-record $33 million.

Hauptman said he bought the team because of the growing popularity of soccer worldwide and the enthusiasm of Chicago sports fans.

"Who in their right minds wouldn't want to own a sports team in Chicago?" Hauptman said. "It's the global game. We're interested in seeing it grow further in the U.S. and in Chicago."
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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Women's Soccer League to Start in 2009

What great news that must be for all women's soccer players but especially for the women competing in the World Cup in China. It gives the players more of an incentive to play well and earn a contract with a pro team in the US. What will the players earn?

The investors decided to wait to start the new venture until after this month's Women's World Cup in China and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

''We did not want to impact the various national teams between these two events and we did not want our league to take the focus away from these two great events for our players or our fans,'' said Michael Stoller, managing partner for Boston Women's Soccer, the ownership group of the Boston Breakers.

The seven ownership groups are: AEG L.A. Women's Soccer; Boston Women's Soccer; Chicago Professional Women's Soccer; Hendricks Investment Holdings (Washington); St. Louis United Soccer; Sky Blue Women's Soccer (New Jersey/New York); and Sting Soccer Group (Dallas).

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Soccer Finance - Transfer Spending in England

I'm always interested in how the money flows. It usually cuts to the chase and avoids politics or any other let's say drama. If you read the business section you'll better understand the world than if you read the front page. Newspapers have to sell papers and a lot of the time the news can get mixed up with trying to create controversy. Sure, it happens online as well, and I might do it from time to time, it's the way things work--but I do hope I pull together and write interesting articles not touched on by other sites. But anyway, the money flowed into the EPL because of TV deals and thus the transfer market shot up:

Despite winning the Premier League last season, Manchester United were the biggest spenders during 2007, shelling out £51million on players.

They were closely followed by Liverpool (£50million), while Tottenham spent £40million in their quest for Champions League qualification and newly-promoted Sunderland spent £35million.

Twelve clubs spent more than £20million on players, up from three in 2006.

Overseas clubs did well out of English sides, receiving £250million for players which accounts for half of all spending by Premier League teams.

Real Madrid were 2007's biggest spenders in Europe, with an outlay of around £80million, while Thierry Henry's transfer from Arsenal to Barcelona pushed the Catalan team's spending up to around the £50million mark.

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