Liverpool risk wasting the greatness of Torres

The best striker in the world needs help; Photo by Matt JamFernando Torres’ winner on Sunday against Manchester United rescued Liverpool’s season from the brink of disintegration. True, Liverpool were far better than a remarkably tame Man U (more on that later this week), but their superiority had not translated into many clear goal scoring chances and a stalemate beckoned. That is, until Torres lit up the Kop with a breathtaking turn of pace and finish. He is a genuine superstar and I would say clearly the best striker in the world. Even though he is just entering his prime at age 25, seasons like the one Torres is putting together don’t come along very often and if Liverpool doesn’t bring in more attacking options in January, Benitez and co will have wasted the greatness in their midst.

Fernando Torres is now the best striker in the world. Ronaldo and Messi, while remarkable players, are not out and out strikers. Who else is there, really? Thiery Henry is on the wane. Samuel Eto’o is great but not the best. Zlatan Ibrahimavic is very good and has the potential to get better, but he’s still not in the same conversation as Torres. Didier Drogba is a fantastic player, when he is interested, but inconsistency has plagued his career even when he is at his best. Wayne Rooney doesn’t score enough goals. I could go on, but it’s not necessary: Torres is the best. Continue reading

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The Beckham Playoffs

photo by shady sp

photo by shady sp

There are a lot of great story lines going into the MLS playoffs – will Seattle be the first expansion team to win, will Columbus repeat, can Real Salt Lake cause a stir – all of these are great stories, but another story will dominate: David Beckham.

MLS has finally got David Beckham right where they want him: in the playoffs. It only took three years, but despite all the talk of the Beckham move being a failure, he is now in a position to prove his worth to the league. What began as a nightmare this year with a public feud between Donovan and Beckham can now turn into a fairy tale.

The Galaxy have been on a tear as of late and were able to win the Western conference and they have to be one of the favorites to win it all. They do have a tough road however. First, against arch-rival Chivas and then either Houston or Seattle in the semifinals. The league and ESPN are praying the Galaxy make it through to the finals. Beckham in the finals at a packed Qwest Field is what the league was dreaming about when they signed him and they are probably praying for a Galaxy-Chicago final ie (Beckham vs. Blanco final). A Galaxy run would also allow ESPN to go Beckham-crazy in their promotional efforts. ESPN has both Galaxy playoff games in the first round so expect a bigger than usual promotional effort, which would only increase the further they go. All of this would be good for the league and should draw greater interest to what should be an exciting playoffs. But this all begs the question: will Beckham prove his worth on the field, as well as off?

MLS playoff craziness

mls playoffs
Wow – what an end to the season. Heartbreaking late goals, a heart-warming and sentimental annihilation in New York and a once lowly franchise making the playoffs for the first time in their glistening stadium. Here are the highlights:

Red Bulls show some pride and spirit in their last game at Giants stadium by annihilating Toronto 5-0 and dumping them from the playoffs. This must be a hard one to swallow for our Maple Leaf friends north of the border, especially in light of another expansion franchise making the playoffs in its first year. Toronto looked sure to make the playoffs against lowly New York, now they are looking at another long offseason. In the collective bargaining talks this summer, expect the Toronto ownership to push hard for expanding the salary cap. They surely want to splash more cash to turn this team into a contender.

New England takes care of business and makes the playoffs for the eighth straight year. The Revs looked to be in the worst shape going into the weekend, playing at Columbus. But they got a late goal and knocked Colorado out of the playoffs. If the Revs didn’t play a million miles outside of the city, this would be one elite franchise. Steve Nicol just finds a way to make this team tick, despite all the injuries and departures. Shalrie Joseph may not win the MVP, but he is probably more important to his team than any other player on the planet.
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Jozy, you can’t be serious

photo by: Scott Dungan

photo by: Scott Dungan

I looked in horror to see that Jozy had not even made the bench. I was about to write a post saying how flippin crazy Phil Brown must be, when I found the reason Jozy didn’t make the bench: he was late to the game. And Phil Brown is not – repeat not – a happy camper.

This is from the Sky Sports story:

Brown called the United States international’s behaviour ‘unacceptable’ and acknowledged Altidore would be hit in the pocket.

He said: “It’s going to cost him a lot of money, unfortunately.

“That for me is information that stays in house. The reason he wasn’t on the bench was our business.

“Jozy was on the bench until 2.10 when I decided to change it.

“It’s unacceptable behaviour, full stop.

“You prepare all week for a match day, mentally and physically. To ask a player to arrive an hour and a half before a game is not too much to ask is it?”

Not good Jozy – he is definitely going to have to work hard to get him out of the dog house. The big fear is that the fans begin to turn on him a bit. After that first game he has yet to set the team a light – but to be fair to him, most of his appearances have been off the bench and Hull are just flat out bad.

Lessons from the Wembley excersize

wembley3
The U.S. team will of course probably never develop – nor should it – a single Wembley-like venue for its national team games. We are simply too big a country to play in one single location and it makes sense to rotate games around the country to increase exposure. The US team also already has a designated home base in the Home Depot center in LA. But in thinking in depth about an American Wembley a few other lessons came out it:

1. The US should play more in the Rust Belt. We picked Pittsburgh #1 and had Detroit at #4, but other similar cities like Cleveland, Cincinnati, Milwaukee would make just as much sense, as would USL cities like Minneapolis and Buffalo/Rochester. All of these cities should strongly be considered for future friendlies and qualifiers. These cities have low Hispanic populations, big stadiums, and would give us the same sort of home field advantage as Columbus. It would also expand the game in an important sports region and hopefully playing in “blue collar” towns would help shed soccer’s elitist image.
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McBride: Fulham’s Next Manager?

mcbride

Following the injury to Charlie Davies, there are growing cries for Bob Bradley to attempt to bring back Brian McBride to the national team (see this Matchfit post and Alexi Lalas said it last night on ESPN). I think this would not only be a mistake, but I highly doubt McBride would even entertain it.

In his post game comments last night after the Fire game, McBride refused to commit to even playing next year. He certainly could, but I think it is very far fetched to think a man who is uncertain whether he wants to play five months from now is the answer for our national team. I love McBride, but he is 37 – he would turn 38 at the World Cup – and that is just way too old, especially when there are some pretty decent options to replace Davies and partner with Altidore (even if you don’t like Kenny Cooper).

What I think is more likely than McBride starting in the next World Cup, is a move back to England next summer. Not as a player but as a manager.
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Gooch out at least six months – could miss World Cup

Its all gone Pete Tong for USMNT: Gooch out 6 months; Photo by Flickion

Its all gone Pete Tong for USMNT: Gooch out 6 months; Photo by Aflickion

And the injury news just keeps getting worse for the US Mens National Team, as a revised and significantly longer layoff of at least six months is now predicted for Oguchi Onyewu. The news was buried in the bottom of the release from the US Soccer Federation announcing a successful operation to repair Onyewu’s ruptured patella tendon. That definitely puts him in jeopardy of missing the World Cup, but if he can get on the training ground a month before the tournament, you have to include him in the sqaud. 

The timeline for his return, should everything go according to plan, would be mid to late April. That means it is extremely unlikely that he would get any game time with Milan to get himself back to full fitness, let alone shake off the rust, before the end of the Italian league season in early May. The only action Onyewu would get before the World Cup begins on June 11 would be in any late friendlies or scrimmages before the team makes camp in South Africa. Continue reading