Wednesday, August 29, 2007

10 Bright Spots of Week 21: Galindo finds form, Blanco retains form, and Denilson signs a form

1. Cuauhtemac Blanco – the elder statesman has really started strong for the Chicago Fire and had his hand in both goals of the Fire’s revenge 2-0 shutout of the Wizards; he also had an assist in the early week matchup against KC that saw them yield 3 goals (two after going a man down); I think we’ll see Chicago grab that last spot thanks mainly to this guy

2. Maykel Galindo – back near the top and MLS player of the week; Galindo scored two goals to sink the hapless Galaxy as we learned most importantly that David Beckham is – in fact – human; Galindo’s constant presence on the field makes us wonder when we might see Lester More in action?

3. FC Dallas Front Office – Denilson has had a career of ups and downs so far, but how can you not be happy with the FCD FO for this move; a World Cup winner (no matter his small involvement in it) and at one point someone thought enough of him to break the bank; is that was the Hoops are doing though? I think you’re gonna find that this works – especially in there with Toja, Ricchetti, and Ricardinho up top – say goodbye to Adrian Serioux though as it looks like he’s the odd SI out.

4. Jaime Moreno – the Bolivian got his scoring record in the only fashion he knows how this year – a PK; yes, he’s lost his step but we all saw that goal he had for Bolivia in the Copa America; he’s still MLS caliber but unfortunately he’s competing with some of the top firepower in the league on D.C.; either way he’s got the record of 109

5. Fred – his play in both wins over New York and Toronto was phenomenal; even more so, it has been great to watch him wrestle with new aspects of the game and the adaptation to American soccer which has clearly been a long process; I think Fred is here and it’s safe to say the former Melbourne Victory stud might have made the Trio a Foursome.

6. Francisco Mendoza – Panchito has gradually been playing better and better all season and his role (1 g, 1 a) in the shutout of the Galaxy only keynotes his recent resurgence in form; it was his first goal in a SuperClasico as well

7. Jose Burciaga, Jr. – you know, I love to hate this guy mainly for some vicious tackles, lack of sportsmanship, and a general sense of finding himself into every damn scoresheet as an attacking fullback; he makes mistakes quite frequently but he often makes up for them – Burciaga found himself involved in the all three of the KCW goals against Chicago early on the week, but was overrun in the return leg 2-0 loss

8. Real Salt Lake defense – a valiant (in this since the word valiant is coupled with a hint of pity) attempt to shut down the reeling Chivas USA offense; unfortunately, they failed but the quality of the back four seems to improve with every match; can we celebrate about 3 goals in the last 3 games? No, probably not – but when you’re RSL you have to be positive about something and I don’t know whether or not I can be about the trio of Argentinians just brought in

9. Carlos Mendes – Jozy Altidore scored early and Twellman grabbed one back, but it looked as if the Red Bulls could, in fact, score again; Mendes had the ball on the left side and decided to backpass to Conway in order to ‘swing the field’; the ball was well hit but nothing out of the ordinary really – Conway must have been surveying the field or something because once Mendes’ pass reached him, he was still looking up; Conway dove to try and stop it but no luck, the ball was past him and the Revs were gifted a 2-1 win; Mendes’ gets the 9th spot due to his consistent play all season that never warrants him any sort of attention, note to Red Bulls: never pass back to Waterreus OR Conway.

10. Marc Burch – you play him, D.C. seems to win; you don’t, they lose; it could just be a matter of coincidence but the truth is, Burch has provided a sense of consistency in the back that D.C. has been longing for this year; he played a major part in man-marking the Altidore/Angel partnership in their win against NY; he was also there in their shutout of Toronto away

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

R.I.P. Antonio Puerta


Three days after his first collapse on the field of the Getafe vs. Sevilla match - the 22-year old Spanish winger passed away. He was due to become a father in less than 2 months. This is beyond tragic and to watch the whole thing unfold on television is unreal. I had never been so speechless and emotional during a match than when I saw Puerta go down. To watch him go off, walking sort of on his own, gave you that sense of closure that everything was okay. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

Check CHI as I am sure Ryan - our La Liga guy and a Sevilla hopeful - will comment on this and pay his condolences.

Unbelievable. Rest in peace, Antonio...

Monday, August 27, 2007

CHI's and Because I Think...'s NCAA Men's Soccer Preview 2007

At Center Holds It...that's why I've been so quiet lately!

Correct me as it is my first researching and covering NCAA D1. Let me know what you think. 10 Bright Spots of Week 21 will be up tomorrow.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

YANKS ABROAD: Beasley strikes again.

Rangers 2, Kilmarnock 1

Beasley broke the deadlock in the 51st minute and Jean-Claude Darcheville hit for the game-winner as Rangers continued their unbeaten streak and classy play.

ESPN Soccernet Match Report

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jose Antonio Camacho returns to Benfica.

Camacho is most well known for his links to Real Madrid as a player (a whopping 414 appearances at the Bernabeu) and a coach (from 2004-5). The Spaniard has also been capped over 80 times for the Spanish national team and coach the team from 1998 up to the 2002 World Cup. No one will question his experience as the new man at Benfica, but they will see the fact that he has never spent more than 3 seasons - in a managerial position - at one club (unless you count the Spanish national team). Former teams include Sevilla, Rayo Vallecano, Espanyol, and wait-a-second Benfica?! His stint with his new but old team lasted from 2002-2004 where he failed to win the Portuguese SuperLeague but did lift the Portuguese Cup trophy. He left because a certain blast from the past came a-callin' - that being Real Madrid.

As for the sacked Fernando Ramos - he had his chance last season and unless Benfica started off this new season with a flawless several game win streak, his departure was imminent. Camacho has admitted he has the foundation of players needed to make a great squad even greater, but he has asked for some time to get his ideas in place.

We will see in the coming week how this will effect Freddy Adu and - in my opinion - it is for all the better as Camacho is known for his knack to nurture youth superstars while also spending the first decade of his coaching career in the youth ranks of Real Madrid.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

10 Brights Spots of Week 21: Angel, Altidore, Beckham, Pavon - where do I even start?

How do you even quantify the performances put in during the NY/LA game? That was a damn good weekend of soccer...hopefully I'll get a Premiership recap up on Center Holds It later today...

1. Juan Pablo Angel - if you watched Angel on Saturday you could see he was much more than goals; after various Galaxy attempts to break apart the Red Bull defense through restarts and scrappy midfield possession, Angel came back to counter their strategy; then in order to keep things flowing the Colombian pushed back into the midfield to dictate the pace and flow of the Red Bull offense; it was was extremely fitting that he got that no-angle game-winning goal in the waning moments as he was my man of the match

2. Jozy Altidore - I could have coupled these two at the top in order to put some more names on this list, but Altidore has scored 4 goals in the previous 2 games and he now sits with 7 goals (even after missing several due to the U-20 WC); Angel loves this kid, so does Beckham, and the talks of Jozy to Chelsea or Man Utd or anywhere have heated up; he could leave, he could stay for the time being but Jozy showed at the press conference that he has been appreciative of what the MLS has given him and knows that the Angel, Reyna, Mathis influence is good.....for now. (I will have quotes later tonight from the press conference)

3. David Beckham - his play against New York was passive as he let his artistic feet do the talking; this was all to preserve himself for the long haul and understandably so, but we clearly got a glimpse of 100% Beckham when he was taken out nastily by Dave Van den Bergh; Beckham sprung up and pointed a nasty finger at Dave VDB and then wrestled away from Joe Vide when he tried to calm Becks down

4. Carlos Pavon - after his performance in the Gold Cup many were expecting the Honduran to translate his success there into the MLS right away; but no, it's been somewhat of a waiting game and his strike in the SuperLiga win over D.C. United was the catalyst; him and Beckham seemed to be together on some kind of other level as they struck for both goals that put Los Angeles up 2-1 real early in Saturday's match

5. Jovan Kirovski - Kirovski's 2 goals was almost made three when he hit the post late in the game, but it was nice to see the former Bundesliga boy to strike yet again especially when Nico Hernandez has been quiet all season and Herc Gomez is taking a scoring vacation it seems; regardless, Kirovski put the chances away to demoralize the normally strong New England defense - soccer bloggers/journalists everywhere were asking, "Wha happen'd?"

6. Cuautehomac Blanco - Chicago loves the controversial veteran already and he applauds them with a beautiful cross breed between a rocket and a chip in to the top right corner of Nick Rimando's net; probably the goal of the week and the nonchalance with which he did it was even more impressive; let's not forget that Blanco was the one that delivered the corner kick that found Paolo Wanchope for his first goal in a Fire uniform - Blanco and Wanchope are doing what Beckham wants to (but then again, compare the opponents)

7. Luciano Emilio - Emilio gets bumped out of the top five by the other fantastic striker performances this past weekend, but Emilio's performance is no different - as he takes his opportunities and puts them away (unless it's the SuperLiga). His league leading 14 goals leads me to believe that he has replaced Twellman as the most opportunistic and best positioned striker in the league

8. Clint Mathis - he likes those big games and Cletus even gave us some funny sound-bytes after the game Beckham-centric press conference; his play was certainly somewhat indicative of his love for New York City and what he plans to do with this team this; Mathis is also making many people forget that Claudio Reyna is on the bench and injured yet again; his goal was vital in keeping Red Bull alive after a double salvo for Los Angeles near the end of the first half of that 5-4 thriller

9. Colin Clark - As nice as it was to see Maykel Galindo get back on his scoring horse against TFC, it was even nicer to see Colin Clark have the best game of his season. The Colorado native has really come on strong and looks poised to solidify a long-time starting position in the line-up; the young Clark should be joined by Joe Vide but there were too many crazy offensive performances to fit the two in here

10. US Nats - Donovan, Twellman, and Ching all had productive weekends, Donovan kept pulling the Galaxy back into the game versus the Red Bulls and for some reason he wasn't involved in the press conference afterwards, while Twellman and Ching provided the respective game-winning goals for their teams in 1-0 shutouts; their goals capped a great weekend of soccer in America - what you think?????

Hat-Trick Watch: Berhalter comes close, but Kanoute and Huntelaar put on a clinic

My birthday saw Gregg Berhalter come ever so close to his first career hat-trick from a defensive position. He got the brace though in a 3-1 1860 Munich win over Kaiserslautern.
Here are the hat-trick heroes...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sevilla 5, Real Madrid 3

Spanish SuperCup

Sevilla outlasted Madrid in a shootout that tried to overshadow the recent RBNY/Los Angeles 5-4 shootout. Frederic Kanoute showed that despite his recently signed new contract, he is not planning on slowing down his scoring pace. Good thing for Sevilla because all the pieces are in place for them to have yet another great year. It was Kanoute's hat-trick and Renato's brace that sunk Madrid.

Ajax 8, De Graafschap 1
Dutch Eredivisie

Now that is an ass-whooping and Klaas Jan-Huntelaar had everything to do with it. The Manchester United transfer target struck for four goals - grabbing his third and fourth goals in injury time. If Huntelaar can produce half of that - every game - Ajax could be lifting the Eredivisie trophy once again after a brief, but extremely frustrating, hiatus.

Spartak Moscow 4, Kuban Krasnodar 0
Russian Vischaya

Roman Pavlyuchenko scored the first three goals to embarrass Ante Jazic's former squad in a sound 4-0 shutout. Roman - a striker used sparingly at the international level - has scored over 50 goals in 100 or so appearances for Spartak.

Dynamo Kiev 7, Karpaty 3
Ukrainian Premier Division

Ismael Bangoura scored a hat-trick to solidify Dynamo's lead over a tough Karpaty squad who struck first, but faded thereafter. The 22-year old Guinean recently left French Ligue One squad and youth hotbed Le Havre for Kiev in a $7.5 million deal and has already impressed.

Cruzeiro 4, Fluminense 2
Brazilian Campeonato

Alecsandro - although a decent striker - is most known for his brother-in-law Deco. The 26-year old Brazilian striker is making quite the name for himself though after he hit for three against a normally defensively sound Fluminense.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Live Blog of LA Galaxy/NY Red Bulls game

Over at Center Holds It.

Join me in what promises to be a damn-good evening. Be back with more stuff once I get situated in New York.

Hat-Trick Watch

A lack of hat-tricks today. DaMarcus Beasley's Glasgow Rangers destroyed Falkirk 7-2 and there were two braces by Jean-Claude Darcheville and new signing Daniel Cousin, but NO hat-tricks. The Brazilian U-17s crushed the New Zealand U-17s 7-0 in the start of the U-17 World Championship in South Korea. But no hat-trick. The ONLY hat-trick scored today - in fact - was scored by an American! (This is barring the results yet to be determined in MLS tonight).

Haugesund 6, NIL-Trysil 1
Norwegian Cup

Last year's USL scoring champ Cam Weaver struck for three in Haugesund's thorough scoring lesson for lower league squad NIL-Trysil. The 24-year old has had minimal time for his relatively new squad, but not much to show for it. I think they'll know this former Seattle Sounder's name from now on.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hat-trick Watch: A pointless feature involving the recording of hat-tricks internationally...

AUGUST 17, 2007

FCD Vaduz 5, Servette 1
Swiss Super League

Odirlei de Souza Gaspar (that's a long one...) had three in a thorough domination of the once powerful Swiss Servette squad. All three came in the last 40 minutes of the gamem, effectively putting the game out of reach. The Brazilian is enjoying his first season with Leichtensteiner club in a Swiss league.

RKC Waalwijk 6, Cambuur 3
Eerstedivisie (Dutch Second Division)

The shootout was highlighted by Kevin Vink's hat-trick - 2 straight, 1 penalty - which helped RKC get a three-point start to their quest to re-promotion after last year's failure. A season-long reserve last season, Vink has clearly made a case for a first-team place this season.

Zwolle 3, Eindhoven 3
Eerstedivisie (Dutch Second Division)

Italian-Belgian Fabio Caracciolo struck for three to ensure at least a point . The striker hit first, but Zwolle then proceeded to pour on three unanswered goals to put Eindhoven in quite a hole. Caracciolo was apparently ready to dig them out.

If I missed any today...let me know.

Heerenveen kick off their Eredivisie campaign with a Bradley start...

Michael Bradley is in the process of opening the season with the Frisians against a tough Willem II squad (remember Earnie Stewart?). It could be Bradley's year to shine as injury as put out central midfielder Andre Hansson and Paul Bosvelt's retirement. New striker Gerald Sibon will look to make an immediate impact as well - as goal glutton Afonso Alves still sits after returning to training camp late. There are expectations that Alves will leave before the deadline - and after scoring 34 goals in 31 matches last year - the pressure is going to be on the once-before Frisian Sibon to produce.

The ambition at Heerenveen is surprisingly low, however, coming off last year's 5th place finish. According to ESPN Soccernet, Heerenveen officials are saying that the Dutch big four (Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord, and AZ) have way too much money for the Frisians to even compete and that a more realistic finish this year would be 7th place. Could be reverse psychology.

Heerenveen's Starting Line-UP vs. Willem II

Not Down and Out: Colorado 3, New England 0

I really find myself baffled by this score-line. Is it competitive parity? Or just a by-product of the scrappiness and occasionally ugly play that Major League Soccer presents sometimes? Regardless, the Revolution were soundly beaten by a Colorado squad that out-shot, out-hustled, and thouroughly out-played the fading New Englanders.

Jovan Kirovski put away both his best chances and nearly added a third when he hit the post late in the game. Colin Clark was solid and is quietly becoming a Beckerman-like injection for the Rapids, who just can't seem to figure themselves out. The Rapids didn't escape without a scare though as Dan Gargan was carted off in just the 23rd minute. Fortunately, they had secured the signing of former US nat Tony Sanneh right before the game giving Gargan a fitting replacement. All this was done without the services of recent signing and former Mexican international Daniel Osorno. Either way, that is a 2 game win streak for the Rapids against the two top teams in the league. Are they decisive or flukes. Goalscorer Jovan Kirovski seems to think otherwise:
“The team played really well from the first minute. Tonight was a great night
for us. We are not afraid of anybody. The last two games we have played the best
teams in the league, and we’ve beat them both. We need to win the next game, we
are still out of the hunt a little bit and we need the three points at home.”

Do you Rapids fans feel that this is just delaying Fernando Clavijo's inevitable sacking? Or does it make you want to give him another chance?

MLSnet.com's game recap

Top Drawer Soccer's game recap

USL-2 Playoffs Set: Richmond - Charlotte and Harrisburg - Cleveland

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Charlotte Eagles @ Richmond Kickers – 7:00 pm ET

The Kickers have become a USL-2 powerhouse mainly due to the quality injection of talent often produced by their PDL squad the Richmond Kickers Future. The Eagles - the New England Revolution of the USL-2 - look to make it 2 out of 4 as their last Championship win came in 2005 sandwiched between 2 losses in the final - 2004 and 2006. To get to the final they have to dethrone the defending champs and make sure that Jacob Coggins is productive as he was in the regular season.
Prediction: Richmond 2, Charlotte 1 - the Kicker defense is too strong for Coggins and the Eagles two-man attack (Dusty Swinehart); whereas the Kickers counter through the efficiency of Mike Burke and former DC draft pick and Hoya Ricky Schramm.

Harrisburg City Islanders @ Cleveland City Stars – 7:00 pm ET

The Islanders beat the South Jersey Barons and D.C. United to push themselves far in the US Open Cup. They then used that confidence to secure themselves a semi-final spot in USL-2 as they take on expansion squad Cleveland. The Stars are no Real Salt Lake, however, as they their expansion year saw them post a 10-1-9 record. Yep, that's one loss.
Prediction: Cleveland 1, Harrisburg 0 - Adam Moffat and Nigel Codrington help dismantle a somewhat inconsistent Islander squad led by the tough Mo Odour and former SJ Baron Brian Devlin.

Here are USL Soccer's PREVIEWS.

FINAL will be played Saturday, August 25th at a location determined by a bid process.

England's Roster vs. Germany

I'm back with still no idea as to where to take this blog as I can function in the same capacity over at Center Holds It.

Alas, I can't let this die.

England Squad for Wednesday, August 22 vs. Germany:

GKs (3): Paul Robinson (Tottenham), David James (Portsmouth), Scott Carson (Liverpool, on loan at Aston Villa)

Defenders (9): Micah Richards (Manchester City), Wes Brown (Manchester United), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), John Terry (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Sol Campbell (Portsmouth), Steven Taylor (Newcastle), Phil Neville (Everton), Nicky Shorey (Reading)

Midfielders (10): David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Chelsea), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Gareth Barry (Aston Villa), Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough), Kieron Dyer (West Ham), Owen Hargreaves (Manchester United)

Forwards (6): Alan Smith (Newcastle), Michael Owen (Newcastle), Peter Crouch (Liverpool), Darren Bent (Tottenham), Andy Johnson (Everton), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham).

Clearly, Steve McLaren doesn't expect to have 25 lined up come next Wednesday but he named this squad expecting some to drop-out due to health issues, club issues, etc. For example, Gerrard might pull out due to a broken toe. Already - even with this just being an international friendly (against Germany no less) - there is some controversy a-brewin'. Beckham wants to do the trans-atlantic marathon ( funny that Landon Donovan wants to do the same thing) and play in both his country and club's games, a day apart respectively. Blackburn big mouth David Bentley was snubbed by McLaren for snubbing the U-21 call-up he got a while back. Scott Carson - 3rd choice for the Lions - wants his damn first cap already. Other surprises - Nicky Shorey from Reading could get his second cap (hopefully he plays over 'Cashley' Cole) and Steven Taylor (only decent defender for the Magpies last season) for Newcastle looks for his first. David James and Sol Campbell - a Portsmouth duo - were recalled for the first time in a long time. And Kieron Dyer and Alan Smith - both who recently completed moves to different clubs - are part of the roster. The English backline has also taken a big hit recently with the international retirement of 29-year old Jamie Carragher as well as the broken foot of Wayne Rooney.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

10 Bright Spots of Week 20: Altidore's brace, Goodson's gamewinner

1. Jozy Altidore: he's got to be here as his play drew applaud from both Bruce Arena and Mo Johnston, who felt his wrath; he also handled himself well after being pelted with beer-filled plastic bottles and other things by the traveling Toronto FC supporters; or should this actually go to the Giants Stadium security guards? regardless, as this Jozy-Juan partnership progresses I am assuming we can expect a bunch of goals and possibly some consistency for a recovering Red Bull squad

2. Clarence Goodson: his goal was the gamewinner in FC Dallas' thrill ride victory over Columbus, 3-2 and it was the peak of a recent spell of great form for the center back; even better, the goal came in injury time while the Hoops were a man down thanks to Marcelo Saragosa's 81st minute ejection; between Goodson and Moor - Dallas has made me swallow my bad comments about the back four and hopefully they continue to do so

3. Juan Pablo Angel: yep, he's back on the list as his scoring streak started over at square one; Angel grabbed the first goal for the Red Bulls' in their 3-0 shutout victory over Toronto FC and although he isn't back to where he was earlier in the year, he was being picked out nicely by the New York fullbacks and saw a lot of the ball showing yet again why he's this league's most potent scoring threat

4. Taylor Twellman: the old 1860 Munich product really has carved himself a niche in Boston and has learned how to demoralize a team in one fell swoop; Twellman provided the only goal needed in the 55th minute to keep the Galaxy searching for those elusive points in their quest to reach the MLS playoffs with a hobbled David Beckham in tow

5. Luciano Emilio: 4 out of 5 of the top five are goalscorers and their presence at the top shows consistency; Emilio is exactly that and with his goal to sink Beckham and the Galaxy in front of 47,000 at RFK Stadium, he now leads the league in goals scored; he also has beat out Twellman this year for best positioning as the Brazilian seems to always be in the right place at the right time; the craziest thing is that if he would correct his inability to finish the sitters, he could have 16 or 17 by now

6. Colorado Rapids fans: not in as dire straits as the Real Salt Lake faithful, but the Rapids have been playing arguably the worst soccer of any MLS team as of late; after a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Seattle, the Rapids were gifted a 1-0 win over one of the hottest teams in the league, Houston (who has now lost two tough ones in a row); a win is a win, even though it was Dwayne DeRosario who scored the goal for Colorado

7. Dax McCarty: many people are hit or miss with this young talent as well as with his performance as super-sub in the U-20 World Cup; his recent MLS form cannot be argued with though as the midfielder helped Dallas overcome Charleston in the Open Cup and leads the team in assists with 6; add his presence to the rediscovered ability of Arturo Alvarez, the resurgence of the defense, and you got yourself a tough team in Dallas

8. Chris Leitch: why was this guy ever cut? Leitch - a couple years ago - played massive minutes for the Red Bulls but he was eventually waived, picked up by Columbus, and now back to Leitch after the New York defense went thin; Leitch has been decent in his first two appearances for the Red Bulls and Arena is nothing but happy with him

9. Kenny Stamatopoulos: the Reds' most recent goalkeeper makes it on for sheer effort, despite conceding three goals to a high-octane Red Bulls' offense; he faced 21 shots - 11 on goal - and kept it at 3-0.

10. Mo Johnston: for dealing with 8 starters out and being an all-around class character; I had the privilege of speaking with him and his reputation precedes him; plus - anyone that jokes about Tyrone Marshall as a striker can make my list

Starting Line-ups: RBNY vs. Toronto FC

I'm back from vacation - but conveniently I forgot the power cord. I will try and conserve power to finish the game but if I go away without explanation, you'll understand why.

Couple notes: Dema Kovalenko's injuries sustained in the car crash have kept him out of the 18, but Sinisa seems to be healthy enough to play. Mike Magee's name has found his way in to the 18 for the first time in a long time as he has spent the last year or so recovering from a ACL injury. For Toronto, Mo Johnston is missing Danny Dichio, Marvell Wynne, Ronnie O'Brien, Andrew Boyens, Jeff Cunningham and Greg Sutton. Wow.

Hopefully, 16 days will have cured the Red Bulls illnesses.

New York Red Bulls

GK: Jon Conway ()

Defenders: Hunter Freeman (), Jeff Parke (), Seth Stammler (), Chris Leitch ()

Midfielders: Dane Richards (), Claudio Reyna (), Dave van den Bergh (), Joe Vide ()

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (), Juan Pablo Angel ()

Unused Subs: Danny Cepero, Kevin Goldthwaite, Carlos Mendes, Clint Mathis, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Mike Magee, John Wolyniec

Toronto FC

GK: Kenny Stamatopoulos ()

Defenders: Adam Braz (), Tyrone Marshall (), Marco Reda ()

Midfielders: Andy Welsh (), Jim Brennan (), Chris Pozniak (), Todd Dunivant ()

Forwards: Collin Samuel (), Andrea Lombardo ()

Unused Subs: Sam Reynolds, Nana Attakora-Gyan, Andrew Boyens, Gabe Gala, Joey Melo

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Will be back to live blog RBNY vs. Toronto FC

This Sunday at 5:00pm.

Until then - I'm on vacation and will most likely post sparingly. Enjoy the first weekend of the EPL, etc!

Here's my weekend preview.

Now we know the true boss of Alex Ferguson...

...and that he doesn't like tumbling.
Manchester United's new signing Nani will have some explaining to do to manager Sir Alex Ferguson after performing his trademark celebratory somersault following a stunning goal in the 3-0 win against Glentoran on Wednesday. Ferguson, who missed the friendly and another against Dunfermline because his wife forced him to help with a house move, had banned the winger from such a performance because of injury fears. (Daily Mirror)

Tell me - why would Nani do it again when Fergie said not to?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

CHI's and Because I Think...'s English Premiership 2007-08 Season Preview: Teams 1-10

1. Manchester United (1)

manchester_united_fc.png

Man Yoo has strengthened their squad significantly over the summer and has begun to trim off the excess fat - in the form of Kieran Richardson to Sunderland, Alan Smith to Newcastle, and striker Guiseppe Rossi heading to Villareal - as they try and make room for their new acquisitions. With Nani and Anderson coming in, the young talent looks to learn from the best in Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes with the hope to one day inherit their everyday spots. The price was steep, but an injection of renewed competition and youth into the line-up is probably the best thing Sir Alex could do for them. For an added veteran presence, Ferguson picked Owen Hargreaves out of Munich and the England international should fit easily into center of the field with Carrick, Scholes, and Darren Fletcher. A solid back-up for keeper Edwin Van der Sar in Tomasz Kuszczak arrived on a permanent basis. Their efficient off-season, however, has been tarnished by two pending disturbances, the Gabriel Heinze saga that still pushes on and the Carlos Tevez transfer, who for all intensive purposes IS a Red Devil but it’s just a matter of when he arrives and for how much. If the Heinze to Liverpool issue doesn’t escalate and the Tevez legal issues don’t infiltrate the locker room, we could see a repeat Championship year out of this squad.
Because I Think’s Player to Watch: Cristiano Ronaldo, last season was nothing short of phenomenal. No Champions League glory, though, and it will be interesting to see if Ronaldo can follow up last season with another of respectful proportions. He’s got added support this year so look for the snazzy playmaker to take more chances.

Predicted Line-up
GK: Edwin Van der Sar
LB: Patrice Evra
CB: Nemanja Vidic
CB: Rio Ferdinand
RB: Gary Neville
LM: Ryan Giggs
CM: Michael Carrick or Paul Scholes
CM: Owen Hargreaves
RM: Cristiano Ronaldo
ST: Louis Saha (it is most likely Ronaldo will be up here, with Anderson at RM)
ST: Wayne Rooney

2. Chelsea (2)

Chelsea

Undoubtedly, based on the strength of their line-up, the Blues should win this year’s Premiership title. Unfortunately, it comes down to…..what do you call it…..chemistry. Chelsea’s morale drops at the hint of failure and this year could be no different. Mourinho has good faith in new striker Claudio Pizarro, who has impressed in recent preseason matches. The Portuguese skipper has also added Tal Ben-Haim from Bolton to bolster the backline, especially since Khalid Bhoulahrouz has been sent on loan to Sevilla. If Andrei Shevchenko can improve ever so mildly on his “botched” freshman season (it really wasn’t THAT bad, it just wasn’t 40 goals in 35 matches good), Chelsea can win it all. John Terry has signed on for good at a hefty price while Frank Lampard announced his intentions to do the same. A framework has been set and the roster turnover is lighter this year with the other acquisitions keeping tame monetarily, including Reading project, Steve Sidwell and former Lyon wing midfielder Florent Malouda. Malouda should influence this team more than oft-injured and speculated-to-leave winger Arjen Robben. Didier Drogba will need to have help this year on the scoring end - if he receives it, we could see Chelsea lifting the Premiership title among other things. To do that, tremendous progress will need to come from the young’uns Jon Obi Mikel and Solomon Kalou. Injuries to Frankie Lampard, Didier Drogba, and John Terry have hindered squad progress, but their showing against a stronger ‘on-paper’ Manchester United should have them somewhat hopeful. Before this weekend, I wouldn’t expect any more signings…but once the first games pass and Mourinho can assess the squad in competitive fashion - we could see one or two more faces. Their failed bid to sign Franck Ribery earlier in the summer could prove key to Chelsea’s fate this season as his tenacity and ‘balls-to-the-wall’ nature is really something they could have used.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Florent Malouda, we saw his skill and technical prowess in the Community Shield but he has been known to be fragile in his Lyon days and fragility is not something that Jose Mourinho can endure right now. He needs to start investing in some hard-nosed, durable players.

Predicted Line-up
GK: Petr Cech
LB: Ashley Cole
CB: John Terry
CB: Ricardo Carvalho
RB: Tal Ben-Haim
LM: Florent Malouda
CM: Michael Essien
CM: Frank Lampard (if injured for the beginning of the season, Jon Obi Mikel)
RM: Joe Cole or Shaun Wright-Phillips
ST: Andrei Shevchenko
ST: Didier Drogba

3. Liverpool (3)

Liverpool

The Hicks and Gillett era began with a bang with stadium plans, roster turnover, and BIG, expensive transfer targets. Key players shown the exit were Robbie Fowler, the volatile Craig Bellamy, Jerzy Dudek, Bolo Zenden, attacking midfielder Luis Garcia, and striker Florent Sinama-Pongolle. Rafa Benitez did his homework, though, and picked up what he thought necessary to rescue this Reds franchise from Premiership title purgatory. The biggest of the bunch was Fernando ‘el Nino’ Torres, who had a up-and-down year for Atletico last year, but looks to use his new surroundings to reinvigorate his young career. Yossi Benayoun was brought in to serve as that Ribery-type figure mentioned above, as he has served as the lifesaver many times before with West Ham United. Ukrainian Andrei Voronin will share time with the fearsome foursome of Peter Crouch, Torres, and Dirk Kuyt, while Dutch youngster Ryan Babel will mostly serve his time on the left wing considering that depth at the striker position. Babel was snapped up from Ajax, while Voronin joined in a pre-arranged transfer from Bayer Leverkusen. A host of youngsters have been scouted by Rafa and signed up to join the pool of future stars he’s already got brewing. The list including promising young’uns from Hungary (Andreas Simon and Kristian Nemeth) , Brazil (Lucas Leiva), Argentina (Sebastian Leto), Spain (Miki Roque), Bulgaria (Nikolay Mihaylov), and finally a little domestic flavor, Ryan Crowther. Add that to current Reds young’uns Paul Anderson, who could see some time on the wing this year, and Argentine Emiliano Insua and you’ve got some scary looking future prospects. Javier Mascherano could be the difference maker this year as his productivity was somewhat mired by lack of playing time at West Ham and legal issues involving his transfer to both West Ham and then to Liverpool. Look for him to be a big force this year though. Unfortunately, despite the expenditures - and Liverpool’s normal lack of consistency involving form - I don’t think they’ll be cracking that top two, but I would certainly like to see it happen.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Alvaro Arbeloa, if Steve Finnan falters (although his form near the end of last season proved otherwise) expect this Spaniard to fill in; not quite a ‘Riise of the right side’ but Arbeloa is certainly capable of moving forward, overlapping, and adding an offensive pop every once in a while

Predicted Line-up
GK: Pepe Reina
LB: Jon Arne Riise
CB: Daniel Agger
CB: Jamie Carragher
RB: Steve Finnan
LM: Harry Kewell
CM: Xabi Alonso
CM: Steven Gerrard
RM: Javier Mascherano
ST: Dirk Kuijt
ST: Fernando Torres

4. Tottenham (5)

Tottenham

The Hotspur come into this season with even higher expectations than the last. With Dimitar Berbatov now a proven Premiership goalscorer and Robbie Keane still producing, you would think the offense would be the last on their most-wanted list. Not the case, as Tottenham splashed over $30 million for the prolific Charlton Athletic striker Darren Bent while also holding onto the immensely talented but currently underused English international Jermain Defoe. Defoe was linked to Man Utd for a while, but as of late, the talk has faded. Between Liverpool and the Hotspur you would have to reference child-labor laws as both have deemed themselves in need of significant youth talent. The Spurs sprung for young German starlet Kevin Prince-Boateng from , Southampton wunderkid Gareth Bale, a permanent deal for Lens midfielder Adel Taarabt, Leeds young’un Danny Rose, and Lille native defender Dorian Dervite. The French connection continues, as well, with a more-established French bruiser in the form of AJ Auxerre’s Younes Kaboul. All are 21 years old or younger. You add this to the already burgeoning youth crop of Tom Huddlestone and speedster Aaron Lennon, the team looks poised to make its’ biggest fuss a couple years down the road from now. Stalwarts Ledley King and Wigan recruit turned White Hart Lane success Pascal Chimbonda would like this youth to transition to wins though and with a bolstered defense, this could be the year to make a push for the top three.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Gareth Bale, no one is sure as to how much the Southampton jewel is going to play. A left back by trade, the opening is their but Martin Jol might not want to season the youngster so soon. Ricardo Rocha could fill in their or Paul Stalteri (which might be why they’re hanging on to the Canadian).

Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)

GK: Paul Robinson
LB: Gareth Bale or Ricardo Rocha
CB: Younes Kaboul (as Ledley King is out injured for the start of the season)
CB: Michael Dawson
RB: Pascal Chimbonda
LM: Aaron Lennon (who might be out injured, if so expect Wayne Routledge)
CM: Didier Zokora
CM: Jermaine Jenas
RM: Steed Malbranque
ST: Dimitar Berbatov
ST: Darren Bent or Robbie Keane (from the looks of pre-season, Bent)

5. Portsmouth (9)

Pompey

Portsmouth helped themselves to yet another summer shopping spree, one when mixed with the parts already in place could potentially form a squad - on paper - that could compete with the upper echelons of the English Premiership. Sulley Muntari comes in from Udinese and looks to quarterback that midfield with the likes of Pedro Mendes. Preston North End’s goal-hound Dave Nugent finally got his Premiership wish and will join up with Stade Rennes’ recruit John Utaka, and already proven goal-scorer Lomano Lua-Lua. Last year’s sympathy signing of former Man Utd stud Andy Cole was quickly nixed, firmly shutting down any milestone chances Cole has (I think 200 goals was what he was looking for). Charlton defender Herman Hreidarsson joins back up with a Premiership outfit and looks to firmly challenge for best Icelandic defender in the league (extreme competition from Reading). With Muntari, Mendes, and Kranjcar in the middle the midfield is their strong suit. The productivity of the striker crew is what this squad’s league position hinges on. Overall, their strengths are spread out and the weaknesses not particularly glaring. A solid team, if you will. We’ll see if it holds up but a hot start is most likely what is needed to put Pompey in the part of the standings I have them in.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Niko Kranjcar, had a great first season in the English Premiership, supplying most of the creativity seen on the field for Pompey. That, and his rocket shots. The Croatian ’son of the coach’ will make an even bigger splash this year as he now is accustomed to the physicality of the brutish Premiership defenders.

Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)
GK: David James
LB: Lauren
CB: Sol Campbell
CB: Sylvain Distin
RB: Herman Hreidarsson
LM: Sean Davis
CM: Pedro Mendes (could move out to the left, once Kranjcar comes back from injury)
CM: Sulley Muntari
RM: Gary O’Neil
ST: Dave Nugent
ST: Nwankwo Kanu

6. Arsenal (4)

Arsenal

Emmanuel Adebayor seems certain that the post-Henry years will yield the same attacking style football and the same appeal that they had even before he left. Clearly, as I have the Gunners at 6th, I am a bit of a skeptic. Or maybe not, maybe they’ll play that attractive sort of football but that certainly doesn’t guarantee results. Eduardo da Silva, the Brazilian-Croat, has been brought in to effectively replace Thierry Henry, knowing full well he’s irreplaceable (to the left, to the left). Emmanuel Eboue will most likely shift up to right midfield as preseason results have established. In the back, Bakari Sagna has been brought in from Auxerre to help counter the loss of French influence that left with Henry. He will shore up the defense consisting of trusty William Gallas and Kolo Toure with wildcard Clichy. Fellow Frenchman Armand Traore is one year closer to that left-back position. The 17-year old is slowly growing into his body, but his veteran mentality is already there. If Gael Clichy falters a bit, you could see Traore get a look. Other youngsters on the right track to the Gunner first team include Brazilian Denilson, Dane Nicklas Bendtner, and Spaniard Fran Merida. Theo Walcott will also figure more into the first-team this year as a youthful Arsenal squad looks to take on the world. It’s cliche but not enough veteran presence and ‘lead-by-example’-ness to push them above 6th. And I could be very wrong here, but 6th might even be a stretch.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Kolo Toure will have to man that back four and push maturity quickly or else Arsenal’s defense will continue to be streaky. Gallas and Toure were fantastic last year but it was the inconsistencies of Senderos and Hoyte that hurt them. We’ll see Bakari Sagna can do.

Predicted Line-up
GK: Jens Lehmann
LB: Gael Clichy
CB: William Gallas
CB: Kolo Toure
RB: Bakary Sagna
LM: Tomas Rosicky
CM: Gilberto Silva or Alexander Hleb
CM: Cesc Fabregas
RM: Emmanuel Eboue
ST: Robin Van Persie
ST: Emmanuel Adebayor (if injured, which is possible, then Eduardo da Silva)

7. Aston Villa (11)

Aston Villa

Villa’s chance to upgrade their keeping took a large hit when Sunderland pulled a fast one and grabbed promising Scottish goalkeeper Craig Gordon from the Premiership constants. With Dane Thomas Sorensen out with injury, it will be up to Stuart Taylor to start the year. Also lagging is the arrival of defensive recruits as nothing has been done in that department. With Olof Mellberg exit-to-the-MLS rumors abound, the only other specifically defensive option is Mark Delaney. I am confident Martin O’Neill will not allow this to go on for much longer and defensive upgrades should be expected fairly soon, if not before the end of next week. Nigel Reo-Coker was gifted to Villa from West Ham as he had grown tired of the front office and on-field antics at Upton Park, Marlon Harewood followed. The introduction of them helps an already consistent Villa squad, but with a lack of depth and. These fears are countered by the continued head-turning play of both Gareth Barry and Gabriel Agbonlahor. Regardless, any sort of injuries and O’Neill will be shopping for replacements in a hurry. Big target man John Carew should help alleviate any scoring issues that may arise. Seventh place could be a bit generous for the Villans, but I am banking on the scouting prowess of O’Neill and prompt nature of his selections.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Ashley Young, who endured half a year with Watford last season, was somewhat quiet in the waning moments of last season but he is tipped to shine this year. Remembering back to the Bouazza/Young moments in a Watford uniform, I could not agree more.

Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)

GK: Stuart Taylor (as Sorensen is out with injury)
LB: Wilfried Bouma
CB: Martin Laursen
CB: Gary Cahill
RB: Olof Mellberg
LM: Ashley Young
CM: Stilian Petrov
CM: Gareth Barry
RM: Nigel Reo-Coker
ST: John Carew
ST: Gareth Agbonlahor

8. Newcastle (13)

Newcastle

We all know the Magpies are in for another injury-riddled year. Just because big Sammie Allardyce is there now, doesn’t mean everybody is magically in pristine condition. One thing, though, that Allardyce seemed to actually think of was depth. Even if a couple fall, there are plenty of serviceable replacements waiting in the wings. The former Bolton boss has already brought in David Rozehnal from PSG, Alan Smith from Man Utd, Mark Viduka on free from Middlesbrough, Michael Owen back from injury and seemingly healthy, and trusty Mr. Versatility Geremi from Chelsea. More recently was the addition of fullback Jose Enrique from Villareal for a cool $12.5 million and Brazilian Cacapa, who was a rock in back for Lyon, taking part in the past 6 consecutive Championships. The injury bug has already claimed starting goalkeeper Shay Given and bad boy Joey Barton while Kieron Dyer and Charles N’Zogbia don’t like the newfangled competition for starting spots. Both could be on their way to out West Ham and Fulham respectively. If the bug isn’t contagious and the throngs of talent mesh well - you could see a finish higher than the projected 8th. If not - I’d say 8th was pretty conservative.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Mark Viduka, he adds a whole different dimension to the Magpies’ offense. Especially with pacy, skilled Obafemi Martins up there with him. Viduka is a source of consistency and despite his age, which is getting up there, if you can ration time between him and Owen. Don’t forget that Albert Luque could still catch fire, which based on potential, could be up there with scariest strike contingent (but Luque will most likely head out on loan, with Getafe a possible destination).

Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)

GK: Shay Given
LB: Jose Enrique (recent signing from Villareal)
CB: Steven Taylor
CB: David Rozehnal
RB: Cacapa
LM: Charles N’Zogbia
CM: Nicky Butt or James Milner (until Barton gets back)
CM: Alan Smith (could Sammie bring back Smith’s Man Utd midfield role?)
RM: Geremi
ST: Mark Viduka
ST: Obafemi Martins

9. Manchester City (14)

Man City

The transfer hoopla is somewhat ridiculous now - but it’s nice to see the financial injection into teams other than the big four. Kind of like Portsmouth’s shopping spree last year, Sven Goran-Eriksson has a little more pull than Harry Redknapp which has proven to be a significant difference. Ready for the laundry list of newcomers: Rolando Bianchi from Reggina, young Bulgarian striker Valeri Bojinov, Brazilian midfield workhorse Elano, Serbian wonderkid Vedran Corluka, former Barcelona man Geovanni, star of Swiss league Gelson Fernandes, and last but not least, Real Sociedad defender Javi Garrido. Australian and Serie A standout Mark Bresciano could be on his way as well after Eriksson gets rid of his ‘extras’ Ousmane Dabo, Danny Mills, and Paul Dickov. Nevermind the pricetag as it seems the Thai ex-prime minister can handle it - who cares if he’s got crimes against humanity charges outstanding. New faces will create a new kind of Manchester derby and damn am I looking forward to it. As with all the other transfer overhauls - kind of like West Ham last year - you never know what the final product is going to be. If Citeh’s new boys can learn how to play like a team, Europe is in their sights. I think they’ll start slow and heat up near the end of the season but, ultimately, the Light Blues will miss Europe.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Stephen Ireland, if the 18-year old can continue his development unabated - and learn from these veterans coming in - we could see an English senior international by season’s end.

Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)
GK: Andreas Isaksson
LB: Javi Garrido
CB: Vedran Corluka
CB: Nedum Onuoha
RB: Micah Richards
LM: Stephen Ireland
CM: Martin Petrov
CM: Dietmar Hamann
RM: Elano
ST: Rolando Bianchi
ST: Valeri Bojinov or Emile Mpenza

10. Blackburn (10)

Blackburn

A Rover squad searching for consistency should only need to do so on the defensive end this season as the introduction of Bayern Munich outcast Roque Santa Cruz to a Blackburn uniform has mouths salivating at the prospect of a Santa Cruz/Benni McCarthy pairing up front (unfortunately, some news that he might be on his way out has been circulating). Double that with the depth of promising youngster Matt Derbyshire, new signing Maceo Rigters, and Jason Roberts and you have yourself a good set of strikers. I would be very afraid of that. Rising star David Bentley - an Arsenal youth product - looks to again make his name known to English national team scouts and I would certainly expect him to do so. With former D.C. favorite Ryan Nelsen signed on for a couple more years and Dutch international Andre Ooijer in good preseason form, the defense looks serviceable but if the Rovers are to push for a spot in Europe, they’re going to have to bolster - especially with the amount of new, high-powered offensive recruits coming in league-wide this offseason. Expect dead middle.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Gamst and Bentley, their service to Santa Cruz and McCarthy determines the strength of the potentially potent offense. Gamst - a Norwegian international - and the feisty Bentley - who got his first call up recently - could certainly do the job needed of them. All while chipping a goal or two from time to time.

Predicted Line-up
GK: Brad Friedel
LB: Stephen Warnock
CB: Ryan Nelsen
CB: Christopher Samba
RB: Andre Ooijer
LM: Morten Gamst Pedersen
CM: Brett Emerton or Robbie Savage
CM: Tugay
RM: David Bentley
ST: Roque Santa Cruz
ST: Benni McCarthy

Beasley overcomes monkey chants, rough play, and continues Champions League charm


DaMarcus scored the lone goal in a 1-0 away leg win over FK Zeta, which puts Rangers through on a 3-0 aggregate. They will now play the winner of Red Star Belgrade and Tallinn (Estonia).

The Rangers website reveals that apparently a section of the Zeta faithful were directing monkey chants towards Beasley and Jean-Claude Darcheville. DMB is now calling for a UEFA probe on the matter - and he means business. How bad ass is it to score in the midst of that crap being thrown at you, it being your first start for the club, and you have a reputation for scoring goals in Champions League games?

"I heard the chants from the crowd. It happened to me a few years ago when PSV played Red Star in Belgrade and I can't believe that racist abuse is still in football.

"People can come to a match and boo and jeer but the racist thing just has to get out of football.

"We tried to take action against Red Star in that previous game. Guus Hiddink and me were involved but nothing really came of it.

"It sickens to hear these chants but when you are on the pitch you have to try to blank it out. It degrades the game for everyone.

"I will discuss the situation with Rangers because I feel strongly about it and we will decide if we should file a complaint."

Beasley's strike was in the 81st minute and effectively destroyed the Montenegrin hopes. All I can say is - keep at it Run DMB.

The Red Bulls find a home, Feilhaber to Derby County?

Here at Center Holds It.

Danny Szetela to AS ROMA!

Milling around Ives Galarcep's neck of the blogosphere woods, you are always guaranteed to get a little piece of juicy news. This morning was no different.Found this article, Italy in Szetela's Future for North Jersey Herald News. It basically stipulates that the U-20 World Cup star and Clifton, NJ native has reached a pre-contractual agreement with Serie A powers AS Roma after his MLS contract with the Columbus Crew runs out on December 31st, 2007. The Serie A - great - but is Roma going to guarantee him any playing time whatsoever? He will most likely be loaned out to a Siena, Ascoli, Parma or Palermo (all who were in to snap him up in the first place).

Szetela joins fellow NY/NJ native, Gabe Ferrari in the Serie A - Ferrari plies his trade for Sampdoria. Furthermore, he joins both Sal Zizzo and Freddy Adu in 'going European' as Zizzo is at Hannover 96 in the Bundesliga now and Adu went to Benfica of the Portuguese SuperLiga.
The IMG product also had interest from other world leagues - Everton, Galatasaray, Rangers, and FC Sion all had submitted transfer inquiries to the MLS front office. When it all boils down - you really can't frown upon this move and his reinvigorated performances with US U-20s made it happen. It's just a shame that Columbus couldn't have reaped the benefits in his 4-year stay in Columbus. The deal should be finalized in the next week or two and, as always, things can go awry.

Who's next from that U-20 squad to go? Chris Seitz? Tony Beltran? Ofori Sarkodie? etc.

US OPEN CUP: Can the MLS teams survive?

Since I am getting NO help as to what the real focus of this blog should be - especially with the new one in play - here is the upcoming US Open Cup clashes. Any suggestions are welcome...I'm leaning towards just focusing on the MLS here, and world leagues at Center Holds It. Or just scouting the new talent of the world. Or disbanding the site altogether...anybody?


Tuesday, August 7th

Richmond Kickers (USL-2) at Carolina RailHawks (USL-1)
SAS Soccer Park; Cary, NC - 7:30 p.m.

FC Dallas (MLS) at Charleston Battery (USL-1)
Blackbaud Stadium; Charleston, SC - 7:30 p.m.

Colorado Rapids (MLS) at Seattle Sounders (USL-1)
Qwest Field; Seattle, WA - 10 p.m.

Wednesday, August 8th

Harrisburg City Islanders (USL-2) at New England Revolution (MLS)
Gillette Stadium; Foxborough, MA - 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

After 5 months, help arrives. New collaboration at Center Holds It.

As of tomorrow, August 6th, I will be collaborating with the writers of It's a Simple Game and Let's Go Buffalo at a new site call CENTER HOLDS IT. I look to most likely continue posting here - on more specific terms (transfer rumors, young talent, any suggestions??) but if I can't seem to do both (with the day job looming too), I will move shop to there - moving everything with me (and hence, making the soccer blogosphere just a little bit smaller for the better).

Us three are looking forward to covering the universe of World Soccer. There will still be "Bright Spots of the Week", "New Generation", "Team of the Weeks"....as of right now, I just don't know on which site I am going to put it. The next couple weeks will tell - so bookmark both websites and help us get started!!

CENTER HOLDS IT

Community Shield: Chelsea vs. Manchester United starting lineups

Chelsea v Man Utd

Teams
ChelseaMan Utd
1 Petr Cech (G)(G) Edwin Van der Sar 1
22 Tal Ben Haim (D)(D) Wes Brown 6
6 Ricardo Carvalho (D)(D) Patrice Evra 3
3 Ashley Cole (D)(D) Rio Ferdinand 5
2 Glen Johnson (D)(D) John O'Shea 22
10 Joe Cole (M)(D) Mikael Silvestre 27
5 Michael Essien (M)(D) Nemanja Vidic 15
8 Frank Lampard (M)(M) Michael Carrick 16
15 Florent Malouda (M)(M) Ryan Giggs 11
12 John Mikel (M)(M) Cristiano Ronaldo 7
24 Shaun Wright-Phillips (M)(S) Wayne Rooney 10

Ferguson had said that he was going to shelter the young'uns for the first couple games and use them sparingly. He held true to that as both Anderson and Nani are out of the line-up. It looks a 5-3-1, but it will most likely operate as a 4-4-2 as both Patrice Evra and Wes Brown will push forward on the right and left sides at times. It looks like Frank Lampard's hurt toe was immensely exaggerated as he will be starting in this match-up. Other surprise is NO John Terry, instead Glen Johnson who last year spent his time with Portsmouth. Florent Malouda will look to have an immediate impact in hopes of solidifying a starting spot. John Mikel will help Lampard man the middle as Michael Ballack is out with injury.

More interesting than the line-ups are the substitutes for each team (Chelsea's on the left, Man Utd's on the right):

Substitutes

23 Carlo Cudicini (G)(G) Tomasz Kuszczak 29
40 Henrique Hilario (G)(D) Phillip Bardsley 26
39 Harry Worley (D)(D) Gerard Pique 19
19 Lassana Diarra (M)(M) Chris Eagles 33
9 Steve Sidwell (M)(M) Darren Fletcher 24
14 Claudio Pizarro (S)(M) Lee Martin 30
17 Scott Sinclair (S)(M) Luis Nani 17

No Anderson for Man Utd which means he must be nursing a little bit of a knock. Chris Eagles seems to always be on the bench up until the start of the season, when they eventually concede that there is nothing better to do than send him out on loan. Some young'uns for the Red Devils - Gerard Pique (a first-team defender in a year's time or so) and Lee Martin (solid attacking mid). Philip Bardsley is the Glen Johnson of Manchester United - having spent time on loan much of the past two years. For Chelsea - Claudio Pizarro - who is probably itching to get in this game, will sit first. Same with Sidwell. The young'uns to watch for Chelsea, though, are Scott Sinclair who has already shown a lot of promise and Harry Worley. I do find it funny that Jose Mourinho has thrown two more goalkeepers on the bench as it seems a little excessive - but then I remember last year's Chelsea/Reading clash and the injuries to Cech and Cudicini which led to John Terry being thrown in goal.

Happy watching.

It'd Be Much More Funny if it was on his ass.

Compliments of BBC Sport's Rumor Central and The Sun.

Aston Villa's American owner Randy Lerner is so committed to Villa he has a tattoo of the club's crest on his ankle. (The Sun)




Saturday, August 4, 2007

PDL Semifinals set to play tonight.

Sat, August 4, 2007

PO 7:30 pm Brooklyn Knights at Michigan Bucks Lake Orion High School

PO 9:05 pm Fresno Fuego at Laredo Heat UISD - Student Activity Center

The Michigan Bucks have found their way to the final four yet again, as the Brooklyn Knights upset their way to the semis - beating previously unbeaten Hampton Roads Piranhas and the Cape Cod Crusaders. Certainly, the cinderella of the play-offs. Whether it's Fresno or Laredo that goes through, both teams are dangerous.

I'm guessing the Bucks will take the cake.

Because I Think...'s English Premiership Preview: Projected Finish ,Teams 11-15

11. West Ham United (15)


With the Carlos Tevez transfer saga now firmly behind them, the Hammers need to turn their sights inwards to make sure they keep the locker-room cancer that is Craig Bellamy from spreading his disease. If he plays by the front office's rules, it could be a good year for Bellamy. If not, expect one and done - just like Liverpool. New faces include Arsenal midfielder Freddie Ljungberg who was cast aside after a year chock full of injury. Scott Parker joins from Newcastle where he enjoyed possibly the most successful unsuccessful anyone could. The most important new face, however, is Dean Ashton who returns from a season-long injury and looks to make his presence known immediately. Rumors are swirling about who will next step foot in at Upton Park and they include Eidur Gudjohnsen who is itching to move back to the Prem as well as Kieron Dyer, whose offer was scrapped today. Without Tevez - believe it or not - I think this team will jell. With Ashton and Bellamy in front and Bobby Zamora in tow, you should see scoring production but another quality defender could help. Expect middle of the road for last year's underperformer of the season.
Because I Think...'s Player to Watch: Freddie Ljungberg, as many are wondering does he have the gas in his tank to, along with Scott Parker, lead this team to something other than a relegation battle. If Ljungberg is healthy and on point, you could see a Hammer turn-around with the possibility of European competition looming.

Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)
GK: Robert Green
LB: Jonathan Spector (Julian Faubert might have started if he wasn't sidelined)
CB: Anton Ferdinand
CB: Matthew Upson
RB: Lucas Neill
LM: Luis Boa Morte
CM: Scott Parker
CM: Lee Bowyer
RM: Freddie Ljungberg
ST: Dean Ashton (back from injury)
ST: Craig Bellamy

12. Everton (6)


I would have put them higher up, but injury always hits this squad. No changes in injury luck this year as Tim Cahill has just been ruled out for the start of the season. If the physios do their job and luck is on David Moyes' side and Mikel Arteta can cover for an injured Cahill, Everton could possibly repeat last year's ambitious 6th place, European competition run. If Andy Johnson stays healthy though, there won't much to keep the Toffees from decent offensive production. The rest of the striker corps is young and untested, especially since James Beattie was bought by Sheffield United. It consists of Victor Anichebe and James Vaughan, who could be injured for the start of the season. Expect Anichebe to do well as his time increases, but unless they make more purchases for depth reasons, I can't really see Everton making much of a splash this year. Joseph Yobo and Joleon Lescott certainly hope to make that last statement false as their defensive work alone last year attracted a lot of attention from Premiership sides and clubs abroad with deep-pockets. Tim Howard will hope that Phil Jagielka's acquisition from Sheffield United will provide cover on the flanks, as the former Blade is capable of playing pretty much every position on the field - including goalkeeper.
Because I Think...'s Player to Watch: Andy Johnson, the team's performance hinges on Johnson's health because when he is on the field, you can expect a goal or two. It's been that way since his first Premiership run-in with Crystal Palace. Truth is, AJ is pretty young and, if his body doesn't fail him, we could have competition for Drogba at the top of the scoring charts.

Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)
GK: Tim Howard
LB: Phil Neville
CB: Joseph Yobo
CB: Joleon Lescott
RB: Phil Jagielka
LM: Manuel Fernandes
CM: Tim Cahill (with the injury expect Lee Carsley)
CM: Leon Osman
RM: Mikel Arteta
ST: Andrew Johnson
ST: Victor Anichebe (if James Beattie goes like he's rumored to)

13. Fulham (16)


The three Americans are, believe it or not, the key to this team's fate this year. If Clint Dempsey progresses and becomes the kind of attacking creative force that Lawrie Sanchez wants, if Brian McBride, defying age, keeps finding the net, and if Carlos Bocanegra keeps providing defensive and offensive support - this team could sit higher than 13th. Papa Bouba Diop will be healthy and that is a huge returning piece for the Cottager midfield. The biggest question mark is Lawrie Sanchez's new signings as they are numerous and many can't seem to see where they'll fit in. Paul Konchesky from Charlton, Adrian Leijer from the A-League's Melbourne Victory, Chris Baird from Southampton, Lee Cook from the Queens Park Rangers, and David Healy from Leeds United are just some of the 'can they convert to Premiership soccer form' captures or will they revert to Championship side soccer? On top of that, quite possibly, before this weekend is up, you could be seeing Watford's young'un Hamuer Bouazza and Reading's Korean winger Seol Ki-Hyeon in a Fulham uniform. The key though is depth and if the signings prove to be effective, the Cottagers won't be European competition contenders but they will revel in the fact that they won't need to fight, tooth and nail, for survival.
Because I Think...'s Play to Watch: Moritz Volz, the German right-back has been coming of age at Craven Cottage and, still young, he looks to keep the push of progress going forward as his eye is on a German call-up at some point.

Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)
GK: Antti Niemi
LB: Carlos Bocanegra (could potentially play in a defensive midfielder's role)
CB: Zatyiah Knight
CB: Paul Konchesky
RB: Moritz Volz
LM: Stephen Davis
CM: Papa Bouba Diop
CM: Simon Davies or Alexei Smertin
RM: Clint Dempsey (until Jimmy Bullard comes back from injury or another signing announced)
ST: Brian McBride
ST: Diomansy Kamara

14. Birmingham City (-)


It's either young, talented 21-year old Colin Doyle or 35-year old veteran Maik Taylor in goal for the Blues as they try and keep the momentum going. Why are they staying up? To be honest, most of it is just a hunch. You're going to find that striker Garry O'Connor, rescued from the Russian tundra (not really tundra...but Russia yes), will prove to be a quality striker within the Premiership. He could potentially start over the much more seasoned and former Coventry City targetman Gary McSheffrey, who's a hard worker through and through. All in all, their best money has been spent in the back with Franck Queudrue coming from Fulham, Liam Ridgewell from Aston Villa, and Stuart Parnaby from Middlesbrough. All three were fringe players that got little opportunity at their former clubs, but could greatly influence the outcome of each close game that the Blues play. Two stars in the making highlight the line-up, both former Arsenal young'uns (seems like everyone is). They are Sebastian Larsson and Fabrice Muamba, who should transition his effect from Championship quality to Premiership quality rather smoothly. Look for Birmingham to be the Reading of last season.
Because I Think...'s Player to Watch: Fabrice Muamba, will also look to make sure that the money that Birmingham spent for him does not go to waste. He has been a standout at every level and will look to make that so in the Premiership. He's got a keen eye for the flow of a match as well as creativity, which is something - except for maybe Aaron Lennon - that the English youth squads lack.

Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)
GK: Colin Doyle
LB: Franck Queudrue (new signing from Fulham)
CB: Liam Ridgewell (new signing from Aston Villa)
CB: Stuart Parnaby
RB: Stephen Kelly
LM: Fabrice Muamba
CM: Olivier Kapo
CM: Sebastian Larsson
RM: Mehdi Nafti
ST: Cameron Jerome
ST: Gary McSheffrey

15. Reading (8)


The Royals had an extremely successful first Premiership campaign, but is a sophomore slump on the way? I think if they finish mid-table this year, then that's a respectable follow-up to last year's surprise season. Things that help: Bobby Convey is back from injury and slowly regaining form with limited time in the preseason friendlies. Leroy Lita had a fantastic showing at the Euro U-21 Championship and has turned some heads recently. New signing Khalifa Cisse has been backed for good things as he comes over from the Portuguese SuperLiga. Andre Bikey, the strong and aggressive center back, returns on a permanent basis. Shane Long, Kevin Doyle and Dave Kitson all played above their supposed potentials last year and, if producing, could make Steve Coppell's job a bit easier. The negatives though: Steve Sidwell has moved on to Chelsea - a surprising destination but certainly not the fact that he is moving on. He felt his talent was too big for the club. Marcus Hahnemann for now is injured and could miss the beginning of the season. The Royal talent pool is thin and finances are certainly hard to come by. Most importantly, though, when on the field last year - Reading's most influential player was Korean Soel Ki-Hyoen who has been ostracized to the point of fresh transfer bids rolling in for the hard-working wing midfielder (a possible move to Fulham). If injuries don't hit the club, a mid-table finish will be sufficient - but if the wheels even threaten to come off the wagon, relegation is a possibility. A recent Nantes recruit, Emerse Fae could be a vital part of that midfield as James Harper and Shane Long would most likely not cut it.
Because I Think...'s Player to Watch: Bobby Convey, if he can stay healthy and he gets a chance to overthrow Shane Long on the left the Philadelphia native can help shock the Royals' offense into prolific action.

Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)
GK: Marcus Hahnemann
LB: Nicky Shorey
CB: Michael Duberry
CB: Ibrahima Sonko
RB: Andre Bikey
LM: Seol Ki-Hyeon
CM: James Harper
CM: Emerse Fae (new $5 million signing from Nantes)
RM: Khalifa Cisse
ST: Kevin Doyle
ST: Leroy Lita

Glasgow Rangers 3, Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0: DMB gets chances, finishing not there.


Beasley still seemed like the hardest worker on the field - but the award for most productive certainly goes to Barry Ferguson. The Scottish captain had a Beckham like falling out with Rangers and former coach Paul Le Guen a while back. When loyalty was tested, Ferguson's was firmly with Rangers while the club had to choose between the benched star or the conflicted coach. The benched star won over and now Walter Smith has this team firing on all cylinders with a trustworthy captain to boot. Ferguson hit for a brace, while Spaniard Nacho 'Libre' Novo struck for the other. Bad news to the effect that striker Kris Boyd could be out for a while after he left with a knock in the 64th minute.

It was a firm display of quality soccer away from home and, maybe, just maybe...the 2-0 win over Chelsea had a little something to do with it. Regardless, it's gonna be one hell of a race between Celtic and Rangers this year.

Match Report from rangers.co.uk


Once Beasley starts putting those chances away - he had two breakaways but one time he was pushed wide and the other he mis-hit into the keeper's hands. The goals and assists will come.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Welcome to Man Yoo Mr. Tevez. Alan Smith to Newcastle.

Just in time for the Community Shield clash vs. Chelsea.

Glad that was actually resolved quickly. The price? $4 million. Wonder how much MSI got.

As Alex Ferguson continues to siphon off the leftovers, Man U keeps looking more and more dangerous. Alan Smith follows Guiseppe Rossi out the door as the former Leeds striker heads to St. James Park on a five-year deal.

The USA U-17s try to succeed where the U-20s "failed"

Starting on August 18th, the Under-17s will take on Group E in Korea - a much weaker group than the U-20s faced - consisting of Tajikistan, Tunisia, and Belgium. Goal: out-perform the 1999 team's placing of fourth led by DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey and Landon Donovan. John Hackworth's boys will take on Tajikistan first on August 20th.

Some potential stars pepper this squad as well with midfielder/striker Alex Nimo leading the list. He scored 3 in the 5 CONCACAF qualifying matches and has drawn comparisons - with his Liberian heritage - to the great George Weah. Perhaps a tad stronger, actually, with the physical attributes of Jozy Altidore who, go figure!, is 17 as well. All but two are IMG Residency program players with Ofori Sarkodie's little brother Kofi leading the back line, Zac Macmath in goal, and Gregory Garza the glue that'll hold it all together.

U.S. U-17 Roster:

GOALKEEPERS: Josh Lambo (Middleton, Wis.), Zac MacMath (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Larry Jackson (East Palo Alto, Calif.)

DEFENDERS: Sheanon Williams (Boston, Mass.), Mykell Bates (Roseville, Calif.), Tommy Meyer (St. Louis, Mo.), Chris Klute (Grand Prairie, Texas), Kofi Sarkodie (Huber Heights, Ohio), Brandon Zimmerman (Pasco, Wash.)

MIDFIELDERS: Daniel Wenzel (Federal Way, Wash.), Jared Jeffrey (Dallas, Texas), Kirk Urso (Lombard, Ill.), Dane Shea (College Station, Texas), Gregory Garza (Grapevine, Texas), Brendan King (Naperville, Ill.), Alex Nimo (Portland, Ore.)

FORWARDS: Ellis McLoughlin (Seattle, Wash.), Bryan Dominguez (Atlanta, Ga.), Abdusalam Ibrahim (FC Dallas.), Billy Schuler (Allentown, N.J.), Daniel Cruz (Glendale, Ariz.)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Revs in Pole Position thanks to Noonan and Cristman.

New England 2, Kansas City 0
Gillette Stadium

The game wasn't a domination by the Revs - but they converted on the chances they did get. Pat Noonan, who is on one hell of a run of form, and rookie Adam Cristman made sure of that. With the win, the sole possession of first in the Eastern Conference belongs to New England. The crowd looked deceivingly big on TV, but clearly it was a trick of the camera as MLSNET says only 12,000 or so were there.

Match Report from MLSNET.com


NER: Noonan (5), Cristman (4)
KCW: NONE

Man City, Eriksson, and Shinawatra are NOT messing around: Elano, Corluka, and Garrido in now.

$16 million bought Brazilian Copa America standout Elano who will fill the hole and more left behind by convicted felon Joey Barton. This guy in the Premiership scares me - look for him to be all over the place. He's also a physical Brazilian, not something you see every day. He will adapt and perform well...

$16 million (merely reported, not confirmed) has allowed the welcoming of highly rated Croatian defender Vedran Corluka from Dinamo Zagreb. A work permit struggle awaits, but the 21-year old is confident it will go through.

$15 million secured the services of Viktor Krum look-a-like (yes, that was a Harry Potter reference) Valeri Bojinov. His speed and youth up front should help keep the veterans Rolando Bianchi, Bernardo Corradi, Giorgios Samaras, and Emile Mpenza firing on all cylinders with competitive bliss. I'd be surprised if Darius Vassell wasn't immediately shown the door.

$3 million confirmed Real Sociedad's Javi Garrido's transfer as the Swede and his Thai sugar daddy show they are committing to Man City's future and as they key in on the improvement of the defense, that Citeh's future is richer with Micah Richards firmly entrenched there.

$9 million was all that was needed to shore up the veteran presence at the City of Manchester Stadium. Bulgarian Martin Petrov from Atletico Madrid is the guy Eriksson chose to be the glue of this whole new roster the Swede seems to be bringing in.

Geovanni and Gelson Fernandes have also arrived. Geovanni on a free transfer, a firm grab if he's got a history with Barcelona (albeit a shaky one). Gelson is a face for the future coming in from Sion in Switzerland (a possible destination for US starlet Danny Szetela). Won't see him feature that much this year.

Total rounded up with Gelson and Geovanni's transfer fees included:

$60 million in about a week.

Best thing is: more faces are expected.

There is a Beckham Poser running around Los Angeles

This is funny stuff on Comcast Sports. Read here. I specifically like this blurb...

He failed to show as promised at 10:30 a.m., and then called back to say he'd be coming at 2:30 p.m. That's when skeptical county staff put him on the phone with the Sheriff's Department. Officials wanted to suss out whether he was the real-deal Becks; if so, the department wanted to ensure that the proper security measures were in place.
"It rattled him and he hung up," says Hammond. "I haven't heard from him since."

I don't understand...what WAS the guy trying to do? Coordinate some charity efforts, then run away with the money? I guess we'll never know. I love that the cops won't go any farther with the investigation as the imposter didn't seem to do it for 'personal gain'.

My guess was that it was Landon Donovan. Because he's jealous and wanted to do this:


Thanks to Emma for the tip!