Sunday, March 30, 2008

MLS Watch: Shielding

Don’t watch the EPL and then the MLS

I caught some of the first MLS games of the season, here are some quick thoughts. It all comes down to each team’s new signings, good ones and terrible ones and or players they shouldn’t have let go.

I caught these games after watching the EPL, something that I wouldn’t recommend doing, since there’s no way the MLS can compete with that league and won’t and just makes the MLS games frustrating—but the MLS games still drew me in, the league does keep getting better. It just takes time.

One thing that stood out in the EPL was the way players hold on to the ball like it was gold, and no matter what the score was or at what point in the game they were trying to keep the ball. Tevez and Anderson for example, they both shielded the ball late in the game with an infectious intensity. Tevez on the sidelines holding up the ball to win a throw, and then Anderson in the corner to win a corner, both with such fight you’d think it meant much more, it was a game within a game, and they were up 4 nil. It’s kind of like king of the mountain, and not letting the other team get any glimpse of the top peak. That’s why Manchester United will win the league and a basic reason why the EPL is better than the MLS, and that’s not because of all the other obvious reason—high flying action from end to end with fans nearly on the pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo, Torres and so on.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Poland Friendly

United States 3 Poland 0

All goals from set pieces. Carlos Bocanegra got a goal off a free kick from out wide by Donovan. The ball glancing off his head and then shoulder and dribbling into the side corner. Oguchi Onyewu also scored off a corner from Donovan—battling with the Poles for positioning (all the Polish players where big and strong). And Eddie Lewis struck a nice free kick with his left foot.

It was a very casual match, not much fight from Poland despite the whistling crowd. They might have underestimated the Americans and got caught on the early set piece goals.

Sorry but Eddie Johnson hopefully just played his last game for the United States.

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Extra: Bojan Magic

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Liverpool Versus Inter Milan

Where would Atletico Madrid be if they still had Fernando Torres? Wow. They’d be quite a side, and they’re already near the top of La Liga, but if they didn’t sell him, they might not have been able to buy the players they have now. That’s another story that’s in the works, but for today, let’s recap some bits and pieces of the Champions League game that put through the fourth English side into the quarterfinals.

It’s was simply this, Fernando Torres took a pass and turned in what seemed to be the opposite direction of where he should have turned his body when he was at the top of the box, and stroke the ball home decisively with his right foot. The ball hung in the air for a second and then was in the net. 1-0 to Liverpool.

El Nino turned his back as if he was or could have laid the ball off to someone making a trailing run at the top of the box, as he turned the ball was shielded from the keeper. He could have trapped the ball with his left foot and struck it with his left. But what he did was perfect and deceptive, and surprised everyone, the turn away from the goal threw everyone off.

Inter has a few good chances early on, but Liverpool’s keeper was ready, deflected a strong shot and was cat like in holding on to a close in flick after a ball was cut back on the six yard box. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was off his game, sending at least three free kicks over the goal, wasting good chances for Inter.

Can’t wait for the next Champion League matches.

EXTRA: He's captain of the Serbian national team and the winner of the name of the game: Stankovic.

Monday, March 10, 2008

What I Saw This Weekend in Soccer

I only caught bits of pieces of football (soccer) this weekend. I did catch the entire last episode of The Wire though. I couldn’t miss it. Sad to see it end, but sometimes it’s good for a good thing to walk away at the top, a la Seinfeld. Plus, it’s time to sort of lead your own life, and not have your mood tied to the ups and downs of a fictional Baltimore city life, as moving, smart, and funny as The Wire was. I miss Bunk, Bubs, McNulty and the Avons, Marlos, Michaels, and Snoops. Now, it’s all about football, Champions League, Euro 2008, EPL, La Liga and even the MLS will start up in a few weeks.

The great joy for me is not just goals, and underdogs beating giants, or giants pulling out the win in the last seconds, it’s the shared joy of the players when their combined efforts result in a goal. The one twos and give and goes and four or five passes that lead to a goal.

I didn’t see a whole lot of that this weekend though.

I caught part of the Fulham versus Blackburn match, which turned out to not just showcase American field players, but also an American based keeper battle, Keller versus Friedel. The battle ended in a draw, 1-1, as Fulham tied the game off another Bullhard free kick in the late minutes.

Eddie Johnson struggled in this game, as though he can’t get his feet under him correctly and then doesn’t know when to go at goal or lay the ball off right away. He’ll learn quickly if he wants to stick around, and this all could be the best thing for him in terms of his growth as a player. He’s probably learned more in this short time in England as he has his whole life. It will be interesting to see where Dempsey, McBride, and Bocanegra end up when Fulham goes down. Those three are class players. Hopefully they’ll land at another EPL club.

Over in Barcelona, where you’d expect to see wonderful give and goes and sublime passing, there wasn’t enough. It was old Arsenal teammates taking on one another as Barcelona met Villarreal at the Camp Nou, with Henry facing his former French partner Robert Pires. No Messi on the pitch, as he’s out with a hamstring injury. Messi tearfully departed the pitch last week. Xavi scored again, he’s on a goal scoring tear, after an Iniesta cross from the byline from a give and go with Ronaldinho to get down the line. This goal tied the score 1-1, after a first half penalty kick for Villarreal. Villa, in third place, are a strong side, and they went ahead after a series of short, sharp passes enabling Tomasson to almost walk in. 2-1 Villarreal was the final.

Ronaldinho hit the post on a superbly struck free kick late in the game, just wasn’t to be. He was eager from the moments I saw of the match, calling to his teammates to raise their game. Wearing the captain’s arm band, I even saw Dinho slid to win the ball near the corner. Let’s hope that Barca can recover from this and still push Real Madrid for the title.

Extra: Dos Santos came on in the dying minutes, blue Nikes on his feet I think. I have more people searching the site for what type of soccer shoes he wears than most other players.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Mourinho Speaks

Not too nice but what would you expect from the Special One. If he ain't dancing down the sidelines as if he's scored, he's going to speak his mind. I think the goal that Porto scored in the Champions League, a free kick that knocked out Man U and Tim Howard was unable to save, was the start of the Jose Mourinho adventure. He's competitive and what do you think he's going to say about playing Chelsea again, but where is he going to coach next year. That's the big question. Is it Barcelona?

I hope to play them next season in the Champions League,' said the Portuguese, speaking in Valencia at the official global launch of MiCoach.

'If I play them in the Champions League, I want to go there and kill them - that's my message.'
I can't wait to hear word from the Jose Mourinho Puppet on this topic, haven't heard from him in a while, below is an old but good video.

Jose Mourinho on Setanta

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cantona Backs Man U

A legend during his time at Manchester United, Cantona has a lot of respect for Ferguson and backs this years squad as the team to win the Champions League title:

Cantona went on to explain that the Scot's thirst to consistently hit new heights was behind his longevity, insisting he remains 'the greatest'.

'He always sets new goals for his players. If he wins the Champions League this year, he will find a new target for next year.

'That is why he has been at Old Trafford for 21 years. He always finds something more after a win, that is why he is the greatest.'

Reflecting on his time under Ferguson, Cantona said: 'I will never forget anything about my time there and the way the fans treated me, and until the last minute of my life I will have this club in my heart.'
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EXTRA: It's closer to summer here in the United States, not Christmas, but this is too good not to post. Jose Mourinho wishes all a Merry Christmas.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Barcelona & Real Madrid Split Screen

Atletico Madrid 4 Barcelona 2

Real Madrid 3 Recreativo 2


Henry nearly collided into the keeper twice. He was one and one and miss trapped one ball and then miss timed another, as Messi looked on from the bench, and Deco too. Messi came on later but it was too late. Henry again has yet to shine in Barca and he’s scoring goals, it’s just that the demands are high for him.

Atletico Madrid, with the Uruguayan Forlan and the Argentine Maxi, are in fourth place in La Liga and you can see why. Barcelona went ahead after an incredible overhead kick by Ronaldinho. Guess who’s back. Well, let’s hope. But Atletico fought back and won the game 4-2. They have a lot of skillful players in Maxi, Simao, Forlan, and a youngster named Aguero.

Puyol struggled in this game and was more of a help to Atletico. He was involved in three of the goals for Atletico. One a deflection, so he’s excused on that one, but on another he lost the ball and the ball was picked up and after a few feints, nailed pasted the keeper. The scorer of both of these goals was Sergio Aguero, a young Argentine, both strong and quick, and short and squat like Maradona. Top clubs like Bayern and Liverpool where in the hunt for this player but Atletico scooped him up for a record payout for the club. And then Puyol also caused the penalty, as he fell from behind on top of Aguero who was about to shoot free and clear in front of the goal. Not a good night for the Barca lion.

Gol TV did something I hadn’t seen before; they flipped back and forth between the Real Madrid and Recreativo game and the Barcelona game. Raul went up against the keeper bravely as a cross came in and won the header, tying the game as Recreativo got an early goal off a corner. Later, Recreativo had two players sent off and Madrid one. Enter Robinho. Within minutes of his entrance into the game he scored. It was a solid strike into the near post as the ball popped back to him. On his second, he flipped the ball over the keeper after he was put through. He was all smiles after scoring both goals after a quick thumb sucking gesture in honor of his baby, but the ease to which he plays, scores, and beats defenders is unmatched right now.

Jose Antonio Reyes came on as a substitute late in the Barca game. Where has he been? He scores the goal that wins the title for Real Madrid last year and disappears. His transfer from Sevilla has in some ways I’m sure enabled the revival of Sevilla as a club, giving the club money to buy other players, but I’ve just not heard much from him of late.