Association Football is in Madrid

We will be taking a few days off from regular posting as our day jobs are taking us to Madrid for a conference (I swear, its for work). We’ll be back next week and normal service will be resumed. In the meantime, did you see Liverpool yesterday? Yikes.

Is it time to blow up DC United?

dc united emilioAfter DC United’s loss to lowly San Jose at home the question has to be asked: is it time to blow up this team?

Yes DC are still in the playoff chase and they are still kicking in the Concacaf champions league, but their chances are looking slim. If DC fail to make the playoffs it would be two years in a row that they missed the cut. Despite wining the supporters shield in 2007 in his first year as coach, Tommy Soehn has to be considered on the hot seat. DC simply have not looked that good the last couple of years. They have lacked any real consistency and any real attacking venom. Much of this has to do with the aging nature of the core of their squad. DC has six core players, starters, that will be over 30 next season.
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Liverpool have changed their identity but nobody seems to notice

Glen Johnson scoring on his home debut; photo by Andy Coan

Glen Johnson scoring on his home debut; photo by Andy Coan

Rafa Benitez is a defense first, cautious manager guiding a team without enough offensive weapons to be a true powerhouse. Or so goes the conventional wisdom. And so demolitions of Hull, Stoke, and Burnley are put down to Big Four dominance against weaker teams. Three goals away at Bolton and West Ham are just what those porous defenses should give up to a top side. Eighteen consecutive games without being shutout goes unremarked upon. All this because we know Liverpool is a defensive team, right?

Well, no. It’s amazing that Liverpool have transformed their identity into the Premier League’s most prolific attack without anybody noticing. Liverpool was the league’s top scoring team last year by nine goals—13% more than any other team—and was the only club to average at least two goals a game. Their goal difference last season was a remarkable plus 50. Continue reading

Should Jamie Carragher be dropped?

Photo by Ben Sutherland

Photo by Ben Sutherland

It’s never easy for a team to handle the decline of an iconic player, whether it’s Joe Montana, Roger Clements, or Roy Keane. While Jamie Carragher certainly isn’t one of the all-time greats, he has meant as much to the Liverpool team and its fans as any of those superstars. Manager Rafa Benitez faces an enormous decision about Carragher’s spot in the starting lineup as he’s under intense pressure to finally deliver a Premier League title to Anfield but also must treat Carragher with the respect he earned in his nearly 600 appearances for the club. No easy task.

It is clear that Carragher has started the season poorly, but whether it’s the result of a simple dip in form, a terminal decline, or a slow adaptation to a new tactical approach is not clear. Whatever the cause, the debate about Carragher’s place in the team—once thought unheard of—has burst into the open this week with Paul Little writing in Football365 that the central defender should be sent to the bench.

Little argues that the never quick Carragher is poorly equipped to adapt to Liverpool’s new style of more attacking play from the fullbacks. With the wide defenders (and the rest of the team as well) pushed farther up, the central defenders must also take a more advance position to prevent huge gaps in the Liverpool lines. In Little’s view, Carragher’s apprehension about his own lack of pace causes him to sit deeper, unbalancing the defense and opening up the very space he is supposed to close off. Continue reading

Did Mexico screw Gio?

photo by vanylive

photo by vanylive

While Kartik at MLS talk is full of praise for Mexican coach Javier Aguierre and full of daggers for Bob Bradley – especially after the rout against Mexico in the final of the Gold Cup – in retrospect Aguierre’s handling of that tournament, as opposed to Bradley’s, may have put Mexico in a much worse position for the next World Cup than the U.S.

The 5-0 win in the Gold Cup final was no-doubt a great ego boost to Mexico. But they may have also paid a significant price for it. Gio’s latest injury in the Carling Cup makes it less likely that he will break through with Spurs this year. While the injury can’t be blamed on Aguierre, Gio is without a doubt in a worse situation with Spurs because of the Gold Cup.
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Debate over MLS re-branding

I tend to agree with Steve Davis passionate post against team re-branding. As a Dallas native, Steve looks at the re-branding of the Dallas Burn to FC Dallas as main example of how re-branding did nothing to expand enthusiasm in the club. Frankly, I think Burn is not a half bad name even if their logo was horrible. I take all of Steve’s points and think he is right to warn MLS clubs that think re-branding is a silver bullet. It clearly isn’t. That being said I think there a few MLS clubs that could greatly increase their appeal by being rebranded and apparently there is a team considering doing so.

1. Kansas City Wizards. Seriously, the idiot in the 1990s who thought “wizards” was a cool name and that teal was the new it color should be banned from all sporting events. I am not a big NBA fan, but I could quite easily be a fair weather fan for the DC NBA team – just as I got really excited by the Capitols run last year – except the Bullets, in the worst decision in franchise history, for some asinine reason re-branded themselves the “Wizards.” It is just an embarrassing name. I have a really hard time rooting for a team named after Harry Potter. I suppose I could get over it if I was really into the NBA, but I am not. Perhaps people in Kansas City have come to adopt having a horrible name as a source of pride. But you have to think a name that actually represented Kansas City would do more to advance the team in the long run.
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Quote of the day: Landon pimpin it

Donovan definitely comes off in interviews as kinda of a d-bag, but the anchor seems totally into LD. US soccer has definitely made an effort to reach out to the financial world – MLS commissioner has appeared frequently on CNBC and Forbes. Donovan also, along with Brian McBride rang the bell at the US stock exchange yesterday. They are endorsing the pledge made by Visa at the Clinton Global Initiative to help people with personal finance education, which Visa is tying to the world cup.

The offside rules reminds us of Wu Tang Financial

Honduran political crisis heats up in advance of US WC qualifier

Honduran demonstrators; photo by egmb

Honduran demonstrators; photo by egmb

National and international politics impact soccer far more than most Americans appreciate. Whether it’s the Soccer War (seriously, a real war) fought between Honduras and El Salvador after rioting during a 1969 World Cup qualifying match, or “more than a club” FC Barcelona serving as a proxy for Catalan nationalism and resistance against Franco-supported Real Madrid, soccer and politics are often linked. American awareness may be about to change, however, as the U.S. team is gearing up to go to Honduras for a critical World Cup qualifier in the midst of a massive political crisis that pits the anti-American elected president against the de facto government that ousted him in a summer coup.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya came to office as a conservative rancher and businessman turned politician. But over the course of his term in office Zelaya veered sharply left, embraced Hugo Chavez-style populism, and pushed constitutional changes to allow him to serve an additional term as president. Zelaya is a pretty unsavory character who has defied repeated legal orders to stop his proposed referendum on constitutional changes—a move straight out of the Chavez playbook right down to having the ballots printed in Venezuela—but nothing justifies his seizure by the military and exile. That’s a coup. Continue reading

World Cup Draw (Part I)

2006 World Cup Bracket  photo by Phu Son

2006 World Cup Bracket photo by Phu Son

Since the U.S. men’s national team is not yet officially in the World Cup, it’s understandable that most American soccer fans are focusing on the U.S. team’s two remaining qualifying games. But as important as those games are—failure to qualify, however remote the possibility, would be a disaster—other matches in Europe and South America will have significant bearing on the American’s chances of advancing deep into the tournament. We can’t know how the U.S. is going to play in nine months in South Africa, but in the next few weeks we can learn more about who they are going to play.

Getting drawn in the right group can be the key to success as the U.S. could wind up in a group with Brazil, the Netherlands, and Paraguay, or, hopefully, South Africa, Slovakia, and North Korea. It’s not just how the balls come out of the pots at the draw, but which pot you’re in and who’s in there with you. It’s a lot more open to chance than the NCAA selection process, but it’s still not random.

In a series of posts during the run-up to the last round of qualifying games, we’ll look at who’s in, who’s out, what it all means for the U.S., and why Denmark vs. Hungary might just be the most important game of the day. Continue reading

Lookback Chelsea v. Spurs

When you are playing away from home against a top side and you are ascendant you have to score. Spurs started brightly against Chelsea and created numerous chances in the opening 20 – 30 minutes but couldn’t convert. In the end Chelsea was superior and deserved the three points on the backs of great games from Drogba and Essien. But the game could have gone very differently had referee Howard Webb not been afraid to award a penalty against a top 4 side. To win this game the Spurs needed a break to go their way, and they simply couldn’t catch a break.

A few thoughts.
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