The Big Tease

Of course, the drop-down menu on the previous page where you are to pick your "favorite team" IS NOT BEING POPULATED. So you CAN NOT sign up yet! Bastards.

But on the plus side, the boss is out of town this week, so if Yahoo! do get their act together there should be a lot of time to spend on this. :-)

More From Yanks Abroad

You have another chance to laugh at my picture :-)


Random Saturday Thoughts...

After seeing parts of Arsenal vs. Ajax and most of the MLS All-Star Game...

1) Either MLS has progressed a ton or Fulham is in some real trouble this season - maybe both. You can talk all you want about lack of fitness and passion in the preseason but 4-1 isn't good no matter who you are.

2) Can we all agree that Landon Donovan is an attacking midfielder and not a striker.

3) Alexander Hleb looks like he might be the real deal for Arsenal - it'll be an interesting battle between he and Davids to see who is the most influential new midfielder in London this season - Shaun Wright-Phillips will have a hard time participating in this battle from the bench.

Finally, I'll leave you with a question...

Is it possible that the reason that Wenger stayed in the bidding for Baptista so long (when it seemed clear that he wasn't leaving Spain) was to worry Real into moving on him this season instead of next? Why you ask? With Ronaldo, Raul, Robinho, and Baptiste on the roster of a Brazilian coach, Michael Owen definitely loses value. If Wenger's real target was Owen he might just have lowered the price. Not saying it's true, just something to think about.

From the Press Box...

Looking live at FedEx Field from the Press Box, the catered press box with cute DC United press assistants wandering to and fro. as Chelsea and United warm up below. I'm not sure which part of that sentence is hardest to believe. Who would have guessed that what is clearly a self-indulgent blog could lead to actual press credentials. Probably the same people that were either optimistic enough or visionary enough to believe that after only 10 years of existence DC United might be able to stand toe-to-toe with one of the giants of European football...and look credible...without putting the entire team behind the ball. Anyway, since it happened, here are some random notes from the experience, Starting XI style...

1) food. no booze but free food is a nice nice start especially since Rob said that RFK hasn't offered that in the half.

2) surreal watching warm-ups from the press box even more so when the immortal Rob Stone wanders by.

3) start talking to the guy next to me who is covering the event for Reuters - turns out his regular beat is covering the Securities and Exchange Commission but he's subbing for this match. He seems to have a rudimentary grasp of the game but its clearly not his thing. I educated him on soccer and he got me up to speed on how to get some consulting business at the SEC - not sure how I found what I'm sure was the only other MBA in the crowd of reporters - go figure.

4) announcing the starting line-ups, it's really hard not to clap as the players are introduced but no one else is - I guess it wouldn't be considered professional.

5) 11th minute, Jaime fakes Tiago out of his shorts and gets a clear shot on Cech - really hard not to applaud - we're actually taking the play to Chelsea. Much different than the first 15 minutes of the Real/LA game.

6) Cech gives up a rebound on Jaime's shot Josh Gros flubs the attempt - where's Robert Pires when you need him?

7) 30th minute, Boswell thunders home Gomez's cross for a well-deserved goal. The crowd goes wild, the press box loses any sense of professionalism and goes wild with the crowd - wow, we're up 1-0 on Chelsea.

8) 36th minute, SWP crosses to Duffman, WOW what a volley - ladies and gentlemen, we've just seen the difference between MLS and the EPL. Talent, talent, talent. Chelsea has looked mediocre for 35 minutes and with a couple touches, they're even.

9) 40th minute, hot blond press assistant from DC United comes by and says that Don Garber - MLS Commish - will be available for questions at halftime. Could be interesting since DC United was sold today, expansion is a hot topic and San Jose looks likely to be moved very soon, why not. Got to ask him a question about how to go about closing the "quality of play" gap between MLS and the big leagues of Europe. His answer was somewhat vague but more on that in my Yanks Abroad column soon (and yes, I now have an official editorial role with YA, upcoming column about who we should include on our World Cup roster next year - if you have any thoughts, let me know). Back to Garber - apparently, United sold for "a record price" which means at least $26 million and they are bullish on the ability of the new owners (real estate developers and Kevin Payne) to get a new stadium built in Anacostia (to quote Gordon Gecko - "I have mixed feelings, its like Sir Larry Wildman going over a my new Maserati" Anacostia? I'm having a bit of trouble seeing the soccer mom crowd getting behind taking the kids and the Denali into the hood).

10) Second Half, here come the stars of the Chelsea offense, gulp. Lamps, Robben, and the Hernanator. And we answer with Freddie. Freddie does better than expected showing that his U20 performance might have been an anomoly. Robben then shows Freddie what he needs to aspire to - great interaction with Crespo for the final goal.

11) On to the interviews...Nowak goes first and says he's proud of his boys and unleashes the following fantastic quote when asked about the disparity in payroll between United and Chelsea "Money has never played football". Fantastic. On comes is he tan...and BITTER, he calls his team from the first half "...the bad team..." not good news for Joe Cole, Duffman, SWP (who was sort of owned by Wilson other than his assist), Jirosik (who just stunk), and friends. Better than that, I got to ask a question of Jose, asking him where he would place DC United in English football (e.g., Premiership, Championship, Second Division) - he didn't answer specifically (didn't think he would) but he came out with "They are tactically very well organized but the players cannot be very talented…” Vintage Jose.

12) A bonus to the starting XI. On to the "mixing area" where players essentially walked a red carpet on their way to the buses and reporters could ask them to stop and comment. I got to talk to John Terry who praised United's "workrate" and "organization" and said that he enjoyed his experience - he was carrying a Redskins helmet at the time and looked like he'd be at home playing American football. Sturdy dude. Joe Cole has apparently never seen a TV camera he didn't like - he was on the line early and there late. Arjen Robben, quiet and not as frail looking in person as you might think. Talked to Brian Boswell who was still stunned from the combination of scoring against Chelsea and taking a boot to the head in the 2nd half - nice guy. Talked briefly to Lampard, but he was clearly ready to go. Talked with Freddie Adu for a couple minutes, he is as poised with the media as everyone says and seems genuinely happy to talk with anyone who wants to talk - he was definitely fired up after the experience. He clearly can't wait to get to the EPL. Finally, I attempted to get in a word with Crespo and was nearly crushed by the Spanish-speaking press who went wild the second he appeared out of the locker room.

Amazing experience, can't wait to do it again. Seeing Chelsea was nice and all but the next step in this Forrest Gump-like media experience will be to find a way to get a press pass to Highbury :-)

Wait for it...wait for it... too late!

in response to Mr. Neal's comments about my not-so-beloved NUFC (how does he have time to dwell on this when his attention should have been focused on last night's capitol clash?):

NUFC's biggest problem is that they are a collection of players, not a team. That'll kill you every time. Robson was building a team of good, young, mostly-English players. However, that's deadly for a manager as you are putting together a team for your successor in most cases. And in this case his successor (and most likely the chairman) quickly wanted another set of toys. So out go Viana, Woodgate (to be fair, a good bit of business), Ambrose, and Robert. In comes Emre, Parker, Boumsoung, Babayaro, and many players to be named soon.

What is left, or what has remained through all this turnover? Shearer and Given. I have nothing bad to say about Given. He's made the best of a bad situation and has kept NUFC in more games than they have had a right to be in. And to be fair to Shearer, he is one of the greats and has done wonders for his hometown club. But you have to think that his status as untouchable (is it a coincidence that Ruud and Robson were fired days after leaving him on the bench?) and his influence in the dressing room has led to instability around the club. A player version of SAF's will-he or won't-he retire.

So caught between the desire to plan for the future and the need to win now, where is NUFC?

Given in net. End of story there.

In the back, they are a mess. Carr hasn't looked the same player that came from Tot. Maybe the injuries have taken their toll, but he seems to have become a mediocre attacking fullback and a terrible defending one. Ditto for Babayaro, leaving NUFC vulnerable on both flanks. Just ask Deportivo who terrorized NUFC by cutting inside from wide areas.

In the center they have one potentially great player in Boumsoung who has hopefully settled into the EPL after 1/2 a season and a full build up to this one. To partner him they have the injured and woefully inconsistent Bramble and a host of interchangeable utility men (Taylor, Ramage, Elliot).

They are deep in the midfield, but inexperienced and inconsistent. Viana, Milner, N'Zogbia, Faye, Parker, Emre, Butt, Bowyer and Dyer. Some dont' want to play for NUFC (Viana and Bowyer), some only want to play in certain positions (Bowyer and Dyer). Some are past their prime (Butt) and others haven't reached theirs (N'Zogbia, Milner, Faye). But a starting lineup of (from l-r) Milner, Emre, Parker and Bowyer should give them plenty of bite and creativity in the middle of the park. It will just depend on how quickly they gel and whether or not they can put their egos aside and play for the shirt -- unlikely under Souness who seems to feed and fire egos as a management tactic.

Finally at striker, NUFC is in dire shape. Shearer is still good, but limited in what he can give and how often. Ameobi is too raw, Chopra too unproven. And that's it. With the departure of Lua Lua and Bellamy, who will be Shearer's foil? Who takes advantage of what Shearer can do holding up the ball and moving it around?

My quess... Dyer. Look for him to be moved up into a supporting striker role. He's played there in the past and has never delivered the goals necessary, but I don't see another answer barring more success in the transfer market than they've had so far. And please don't ask me about their choice of targets. Oy!

This is a long way of saying that while I don't disagree with what Neal wrote, I am very pessimistic that anything will get sorted out. They will probably struggle to be mid-table with some streches of good games but other runs of terrible results. Until they sort out there mess behind the scenes... who runs the team now and in the near future, Souness, Shearer, or Shepherd?... they will just be spinning their wheels.

Wait for it...wait for it...

I think I understand why all of Europe goes on vacation for the month of August. If they stay home, they're left reading the results of sports reporters and columnists stretching to their very limits to find something interesting to write about...and failing miserably. Aside from the one legitimately interesting transfer story (Davids to Spurs), the rumor that got the most ink yesterday involved Phil Neville and the absurd notion that SAF might get 3 million in return for him. Didn't Newcastle learn their lesson with Nicky Butt (who, while still not very good, is better than Phil)?

In honor of my buddy Jeremy's doomed plight as a Newcastle fan, here are some thoughts on what they could/should do to start the rebuilding...

The Anelka speculation was amusing for all of us (who wouldn't enjoy a season of Souey and L'Enfant Terrible) but between the approximately 7 million they offered for him and the 3 million they reportedly offered for the Neviller, it would seem they have about 10 million to spend. So here's how they should do it...

1) Shearer, The Next Generation - it will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with this space that recommendation #1 is to head to Norwich and buy Dean Ashton - Norwich spent 3 million and might want a premium but depending on Norwich's situation, they might be able to get him for less. Presume an expenditure of 3 million (and a LOT more value than Phil Neville). Maybe not the next Alan Shearer but a reasonable approximation and he even has the right hairline.

2) Buy American - Wouldn't the Holland-based combination of DMB and Cory Gibbs fit the bill nicely. A young, athletic central defender and a left wing to replace the mercurial Lauren Robert seem like exactly what the doctor ordered. Beasley doesn't have the same shooting or crossing ability that Robert had, but he can take on defenders and get the ball into dangerous positions and score the occasional goal as well. I have to think that the two together wouldn't cost more than 5 million.

3) Scouting and Development - In a world where Chelsea seems to have first choice of players and then the Real Madrids, AC Milans, Manchester Uniteds, and Arsenals of the world have second choice, Newcastle is fooling themselves if they think they are a "big club". Either they can resign themselves to being a slightly more famous version of [pick one between Charlton, Birmingham, Villa, Man City, or Fulham] or they can start to sink some serious money in to scouting and development of youth players. In a world where known commodities are priced out of your reach, your only options are to a) find them elsewhere before they're "known" - the Arsene Wenger and/or Frank Arnesen model; or b) train them yourself - until recently, the Sir Alex Furgeson model. Without a serious investment in one or both of these avenues Newcastle are pretty much doomed.

Even with these investments, Newcastle would probably be too thin to compete for even a place in the UEFA Cup next year - especially since Shearer is likely to miss about half their games - but they might be able to avoid another bottom half finish and start the process of rebuilding. Not selling talented young players like Darren Ambrose might be a good step to take as well. Can't wait to see what he does for Charlton this year.

Of Two Minds...

It's hard to say whether we should be happy to win the Gold Cup with less-than-ideal or disturbed that we didn't put together a single dominating performance against an unusually easy set of opponents. Of course, it's always good to win a major tournament so that should be the baseline. However, regardless of what you think about the most recent FIFA rankings, we are certainly much better than the rogues gallary of opponents we actually faced in this tournament. Since we managed to avoid Mexico and Columbia, it's hard to give this win too much weight. Here's how the final game breaks down...

So Close - I can't fault the team for not creating chances. There were a ton of great crosses that all seemed to be about a foot from being perfect. Clint Dempsey continued to put himself in great positions. Jimmy Conrad missed a sitter on the doorstep that showed why he's a defender. There were a number of open shots on goal where the team couldn't muster the proper velocity, placement or both. Just not our day in terms of finishing.

Frankie - This is the second time in this tournament I've heard someone utter the stunning phrase "I wish Chris Albright were available". For a crowd of people who lived through the Albright-as-striker era/mistake in DC and have the bitterness to prove it, these comments were a testament to how far he's come as a defender and how badly Frankie Hedjuk played on the right of the defense. As the US defense threatened to break down in the second half and extra time, the opportunities all seemed to come from the right side and Hedjuk never seemed to be anywhere near the play. Clint Dempsey made it back from his striker spot to break up a play around the 6 yard box and Hedjuk wasn't even close on that one. Get healthy soon Steve.

Keller - Was there any doubt that Keller would stop that first PK? The look he had on his face as the Panamanian taker stepped up was boardering on distain. I know the Panamanian keeper was named to the all-tournament team over Keller and he made a few excellent saves but if you were choosing teams there's no way you'd take anyone in CONCACAF over Keller in net right now.

The Winner - Nice to see one of the new guys have a chance to take the winning PK. Even nicer to see Brad Davis convert. It was a just reward for his performance as a sub in the final. After he came in to the match he supplied a number of dangerous crosses and narrowly missed a bold attempt on net.

USA! USA! USA! It's official: USA better than England

USA up to sixth in the world rankings, above jolly olde England. Of course, the rankings are brought to you by Coca-Cola. Doesn't get more suspiciously pro-American than that (unless the link was to a Rober Novak column). I believe England still tops the Arthur Treacher rankings.

Scandal Rocks Fantasy EPL World

Sources revealed earlier today that up and coming soccer writer / journalist Neal Thurman was soundly pummelled by an uneducated soccer hating ugly American in his fantasy epl league.

Subsequently, Mr. Thurman (who is currently in seclusion and unavailable for comment) has had his press privileges revoked and his website staff privileges terminated as well.

Bertie Bigglesman, the FA minister for fantasy football issued a short, terse statement, "This is wholly unacceptable, that such a clearly unqualified charlaton was able to provide advice and commentary on soccer to an unsuspecting public is shambolic, a controvershamocracy. This is the biggest scandal to rock the ministry since infamous West Brom / Southhampton mid-week fixture scandal."

As we go to press, Mr. Thurman's future remains in doubt, potential options include running a fantasy curling blog or a career in food services.

Now it all makes sense.

No wonder I struggled in Fantasy EPL this year. I was looking to these websites for advice. Web sites that would publish Neal Thurman. I'm absolutely shattered by the revelation. Who can you trust these days?

Good or Bad?

Hard to tell whether the result of yesterday's Gold Cup Quarter Final match between the US and Jamaica was the result of the US team playing particularly well or the Reggae Boyz putting in a sub-par effort. Either way, the results were the same - it wasn't even as close as the 3-1 scoreline.

First, the argument for the fact that we played well...

The Beezer - Two goals, an assist and a few more chances to boot. You can't ask for much more than that. You have to hope he can stay healthy and add a few more pounds before Germany 2006.

Renaissance Continued - John O'Brien continued his reemergence as a meaningful part of the USMNT picture. The US had a great deal of room to operate in the midfield and O'Brien was the beneficiary on a number of occasions. The offense flowed nicely through he and Beasley. The move he made to draw the penalty at the end of the game was a fantastic move and it would have been nice to see the team allow O'Brien take the spot kick (and yes, I was on record as saying that before Landon missed it). Let's hope he has turned a new leaf and his stay at Den Haag is marked by consistent health and maturity.

King Keller - Kasey wasn't tested much on the day but he made two SPECTACULAR plays. Of course, any time a keeper saves a penalty you have to be impressed (even when it's as poorly taken as that one). The second play, though, was even more remarkable - on a potentially dangerous cross that was driven hard across the box, not only did Keller break up the cross but his one hand looked like a vacuum cleaner as it stopped the ball dead and controlled it. A rebound could have been disasterous and Kasey made sure there would be none.

But, maybe the Jamaicans did us a favor and didn't show up...

Disappearing Acts - Despite the offensive outburst, neither of these guys had a fantastic game. Donovan had some moments of excellence and this certainly wasn't his worst game ever but the more we see him in the more traditional striker role, the more he looks like he's a great offensive midfielder. He seems to be more productive when he picks up the ball within 10 yards of the center circle and initiates the offense. Presumably, when Eddie Johnson and Brian McBride are involved, Donovan will be moved to that spot. As for Ralston, he just didn't have a great game. His left-footed attempt on goal showed why he's generally limited to the right wing and the rest of his performance made us all wonder why he was starting there. Absent were the precision crosses that he has been delivering at least sporadically during the Gold Cup.

The Defense? - They didn't have a lot to do but on the rare occasions where the Jamaicans mustered some offense, the defense, especially Vanney on the left didn't exactly instill confidence that he'd be up to the challenge if he were chasing Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham or whichever Brazilian ends up prowling the right wing next summer.

The good news is that we can beat a decent team easily even when we don't have our entire first team and the team on the field doesn't bring its "A" game. The bad news is that we haven't seen that "A" game in this tournament yet and it's now 4 games old.

Long Distance Wandering

Welcome Jared Borgetti to the ranks of new Premiership strikers. With today's announcement that Borgetti has joined Bolton, North America has continued its invasion of European football. Borgetti might not be the favorite to start going into training camp but based on his performances in World Cup qualifying and the Confederations Cup, he's the best man for the job. If you're thinking about early season fantasy value selections - if he starts, he's a good bet.

More from the real press...

Sadly for Rob, there's no picture for him to laugh at this time...

So much fun...

The rumor mill has Newcastle talking to Nicky Anelka about partnering Alan Shearer next year. I'm rolling on the floor with laughter at the thought of Souey and L'enfant Terrible attempting to co-exist. We can only hope this happens.

Transition Begins...

The first tremor came during the FA Cup Final when a theoretically fit Sol Campbell was left out of the squad for youngster Philippe Senderos. This was quickly followed by the revelation, early in the close season, that Arsenal wasn't sure if it wanted to retain Dennis Bergkamp for the upcoming season. In selling Patrick Vieira to Juve, Arsenal have now taken the same step that their rivals at Old Trafford took when they sold David Beckham. They have identified a player who, while still in possession of a high level of skill, is past his peak and likely to lose transfer value with each passing year. It is a difficult decision - one year too early and you look terrible for misjudging the decline of a great player, one year too late and you can't get much in return.

First, as an Arsenal fan, I'd like to say that the Patrick Vieira era was a stunning success bringing not only honors but some of the most aesthetically pleasing club football that I have had the privilege to see. In an era where Roy Keane was was intimidating the Premiership with skill, physical play and occasionally malice, Vieira was the one central midfielder both willing and able to stand up to the big bully and give his team the will to fight back. If trophies are the measure, then Keane certainly got the better of Vieira over their respective careers but Vieira and all Gunners can take pride in accomplishing a great deal. Throw in Vieira's accomplishments on the international stage, and you could easily make a case for him alongside Keane and Zidane as the most decorated central midfielder of his era.

Now, the big question becomes, where does Arsenal go from here? I appreciate the need to sell off assets while they still have some value but the only way that makes any sense is if there is a replacement ready. In the case of Bergkamp, van Persie is clearly being groomed to replace his countryman and has showed great promise. In the case of Sol Campbell, Senderos has clearly be tabbed as the central defender of the future and maybe the present as well. The succession plan for Vieira is much less clear. There are rumors that Arsenal are still in the transfer market for either Jermaine Jenas of Newcastle or Mahamadou Diarra of Lyon both of whom have the twin virtues of being young and fairly accomplished. Based on the current squad, Gunners everywhere had better hope that one of these rumors goes from speculation to reality soon because the current picture, while not terrible, doesn't give us much hope of catching up with Chelsea.

Silva - he has been an excellent anchor when he's been healthy but his inability to stay healthy last season has to leave fans wondering if it was a one-off injury or the beginning of a trend. Even at his best (and most healthy) he only brings defense and distribution from the back to the wings, he is rarely a force in attack. An excellent partner for Vieira but not really a substitute for him.

Flamini - based on what I've seen of him so far, he is an excellent squad player who, with a couple years of experience, could develop into a regular - if unspectacular - Premiership starter but unless Wenger knows something that we don't (always a possibility) he's not the guy to fill Vieira's shoes on a regular basis.

Cesc - I'm certain that everyone around Highbury sees Cesc as the long term answer as a creative force in the center of the midfield however his performances in the second half of the season and at the U20 tournament in Holland have shown that he's certainly not ready to dominate at the highest level everytime he steps on the pitch. He may just have been in need of a rest after his first full season, but that would leave me with a lot of questions about what might happen if Arsenal are in contention for honors in England and/or Europe at the end of the coming season.

Hleb - no doubt Wenger has scouted Hleb and based on his ability to uncover talent in the past he should be given the benefit of the doubt however expecting him to replace Vieira from day one is, in my mind, overly optimistic.

Edu - if we were going to sell Vieira, why did we let him go? Seems like he would have been excellent cover and a known quantity for the transition.

After seeing rumors that he might be available for the right price, the one possibility that would give me hope is that Arsenal turn some of the money that they've been dangling for Robinho plus the take from the sale of Vieira and purchase Michael Ballack. On top of all of his offensive skills, he brings the type of grit necessary to balance the finesse of Henry, Pires and Reyes. I doubt there's much of a chance of this happening, but it would make the race for honors much more interesting this season if it did.

Flowers in the Addicks

too much to say about charlton to leave in the comments to neal's post:
  • i would expect ambrose to play out on the right, with murphy and holland in the middle and jerome thomas on the left. Rommey can cover on either flank if he can't earn a starting spot in front of those 2 english youngsters.

  • smertin will be quality cover for holland who, while incredibly consistent in his time with charlton and ipswich, is getting up in years. smertin can also cover at fullback (as he did for Russia in Euro2004) and is probably a direct upgrade over Kishishev in the squad.

  • as for spector, i would expect that he will find himself behind fortune, perry, and sorondo in the middle of the park and the hermannator on the left. So i'm not as convinced about this loan. Don't see how he gets much more playing time from Charlton than he would from ManU. but maybe he gets into reserve and cup matches that he wouldn't up north? and charlton do need a deputy left back with the departure of konchesky to the Mets West Ham.

  • bent, jeffers, bartlett, euell, lisbie, johansson. not an abundance of quality there. charlton's forwards seem to score in bunches. albeit bunches spread out very thinly over the course of a season. maybe bent is the answer. maybe a more dynamic midfield makes a difference for the strikers and/or takes the burden off their shoulders.

regardless, curbishley seems to be building a decent squad and if nothing else, the increased numbers should help them avoid their annual 2nd half slide from european contention to mid-table obscurity.

Too lazy to cut and paste...

Check out the picture of the author :-)


Think Liverpool is happy they held on to L'il Steven. If there was any rancor among the home fans, I think the hat trick will probably molify them.

Toys for the Addicks?

I have to admit, I'm intrigued with the moves that Charlton have made so far in the close season. For me, they spent the last few seasons as one of those anonymous middle-of-the-table teams with no stars and no reason to be excited except the occasional run of good form in the first half of the season. There has been no reason for real, sustained excitement about the squad on the part of anyone but the most loyal, drank-all-of-management's-Kool Aid supporter. This season seems to be a little bit different.

1) Getting Bent - I have to admit that I haven't seen Darren Bent play but the reports on him are promising and one of the biggest problems Charlton have had over the last few years is the lack of a meaningful threat up top that commands the attention of multiple defenders and opens up spaces for the rest of the offense. If Bent can be that guy, then not only is the squad strengthened at striker but Danny Murphey and the rest of the midfielders will be better as well. Could he be the guy that allows Frannie Jeffers the space to do whatever it is he's supposed to be capable of? OK, lets not expect miracles but the potential of 15 goals would be a nice change of pace for a team that hasn't had such a threat in a while.

2) Looming Spector - I love the addition of Jon Spector to the back line. Whether he is playing in the middle of defense or on the left he seems to be a good prospect who will only grow with an extended chance to play in the Premiership. Pair him with Luke Young and you have the core of an up-and-coming defense that can stand the presence of older guys like Hreidarsson who can play the role of specialists on the defense. If Inter Milan loan target Gonzolo Sorondo is added to the mix, the defense would add another young player with potential to grow with first team action.

3) Ambrose-ia - Under-publicized and never given much of a chance in the Newcastle squad, I'm very excited about the notion of him having a better chance of first team football every week. That he'll have an experienced mentor in Danny Murphy can only help him. I expect some solid play from Ambrose this season and three or four goals that contend for goal of the week out of a total of between 7 and 10 if he stays healthy and gets into more than 30 matches.

4) Smertin - Couldn't come up with a clever title for this item but the addition of another quality midfielder who captains his country and has now won a Premiership title can only help Charlton when they get to the second half of the season, lose two games in a row and worry that they're heading for yet another collapse. He's not going to win any beauty contests, but the threesome of Smertin, Murphy and Ambrose gives Charlton quality cover for the center of their midfield.

5) Umm - what about the wings? Dennis Rommedahl was supposed to be the answer to the first issue but he couldn't win a consistent spot in the line-up and looked like a poor man's Gronk - which is not a good thing.

6) Umm, Part Deux - Lee Bowyer??? Why bring a cancer into the middle of a team that a) doesn't have an obvious leader along the lines of a Roy Keane or Patrick Vieira who will keep troublemakers in line; b) seems to perform as more than the sum of its parts - at least at the beginning of each season, not something that you picture Mssr. Bowyer contributing to. If you were going to bring in a cancer from Newcastle, it should have been Robert who at least fills an obvious need.

If all of the acquisitions turn out as planned, Charlton seem to be in position to challenge for 5th or 6th place and a spot in next year's UEFA Cup. Among the competition, Boro have upgraded as have Liverpool but Everton haven't done enough to fortify their squad and all three of those squads will face additional scheduling pressures based on their participation in Europe this year. Tottenham and Aston Villa seem to be Charlton's likely competition for a rise into Europe based on their additions, Bolton have been treading water in the off-season and ManCiteh have probably regressed so far. But really, we should appreciate anything that adds some spice to the battle at the middle of the table. It was a miserable thing to watch this past season.


First of all, let's just agree that the first half of USA vs. Canada never happened. If it had happened, I would have to admit that I wasted 45 minutes of a nice Saturday on another 45 minutes of completely uninspired soccer from the USMNT. I would also wonder where the boys went out in Seattle last night - but since it didn't happen, I guess it doesn't matter.

Strange - to watch a USA vs. Canada match entirely in Spanish. No English, no French, not an "ay" to be found anywhere - just wall-to-wall Spanish.

Arena - One wonders what he said at halftime - from the opening moments of the 2nd half, there was an offensive explosion appropriate to the difference in talent between the two sides.

Cheeky - Noonan's attempted chip early in the second half is the perfect metaphor for the current state of US Soccer. We've progressed to the point where our players are capable of and willing to attempt some shots and passes with a little continental or South American flair - we just don't convert them. We will challenge for a World Cup when we convert. Donovan's attempted volley later in the half was another example. Bergkamp or Henry or Ronaldinho would have converted either nine times out of ten.

Rust - you could see it starting to melt away from John O'Brien as the game progressed. The ball he was attempting to put in for Noonan that ended up as the first goal for the US was going to be a bad one but it seemed to give him some added confindence that he translated into better play including an excellent shot from distance that was headed for the bottom corner but for a well-positioned defender. For someone who has had more than his share of bad luck, the own goal was a welcome bit of good luck. The thought of Donovan, Beasley and a healthy O'Brien in attacking positions around Eddie Johnson is enough to make you a little giddy about our prospects. Maybe it's not Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Adriano.

Mmmmm - Julie Foudy sighting on an ESPN USWNT promo during the DC United/KC game.

Donovan - Not his best game ever but the goal at the end was nicely worked and underscored the excellent chemistry he and Beasley share. You would have preferred to see Noonan get the score after all his efforts (although the missed header was criminal and the cross from Ralston deserves a mention - it was a nice one).

Defense - much more solid than against Cuba but they let down a bit as the game went on. I'm still not sold on Jimmy Conrad as a MNT defender - even against a mediocre side like Canada. Keller wasn't called on frequently but was his usual excellent self when there was a need.

So far, the verdict is that it's nice to see that even a team with a number of second or third choice players we can sleepwalk through regional minnows - what will be nicer is to see us pick it up when the competition gets better.

Bring on Costa Rica and then on to the knockout stages...

For Neal...

... and all you other red-blooded males out there.

make with the clicky.


Flattering to Deceive

If you woke up this morning and just saw the scoreline, it was probably about what you expected - the US trouncing yet another regional minnow. If you saw the game, you were horrified. First of all, you were stunned by the inclusion of Santino Quaranta in the starting line-up and then fascinated by the fact that he was playing primarily as a wing midfielder rather than in the striker role that he has been unable to prosper in at DC United. I have to say I was also stunned by the decision to start John O'Brien on the bench - wasn't this tournament very much about seeing where he is and getting him back into shape for qualifiers and ultimately 2006? Finally, I was disheartened by our play in the middle of the park. When they still had 11 men, the Cubans stormed through the center of our midfield seemingly at will and until Donovan came into the game, we seemed incapable of moving forward on the ground in the middle - we were trying to bomb the ball long to little effect (Conor Casey, I know Brian McBride, I worked with Brian McBride - OK, I didn't but you see where this is going - and Conor Casey, you're no Brian McBride), trying to sneak it up the wing which was fine until the wingers tried to move it back toward the middle where we had no idea what to do with it. The times when we actually tried to attack through the middle actually made me embarrassed that these guys were wearing the Red, White and Blue - just not worthy of the 10th ranked team in the world even if this was a second or third choice team for us.

Other notes:
1) DMB had a productive game in spurts but was invisible for long stretches and I'm still not sure where he was supposed to be playing, the interchangable positions strategy seems to work with him and Donovan in the game but I'm not sure the combination of Chris Armas, Ben Olsen and Clint Dempsey are ready for it.

2) Don't Armas and Dempsey play the same position? Why were they both on the field to start the game?

3) Can we PLEASE retire Tony Sannah? In his prime, he was an excellent player for club and country but why wouldn't we give some experience to someone with potential rather than someone who at 35 years old is definitly NOT going to be a meaningful part of a successful World Cup run in 2006? Marvell Wynne? John Wilson? Jon Spector? I'm tempted to say the same about Ben Olson but at least he's 6 years younger and theoretically in his athletic prime (if he can stay healthy).

4) I was excited for Brad Davis' debut for the MNT but the results were a bit up and down. He had flashes of useful play and put a great ball in to Beasley that led to Dempsey's first half goal. I can't help but think that he'd have been a lot better if our central midfield had been remotely dangerous and drawn more of the defense into the middle. As it was, the Cubans spent most of the game not worrying about the middle and were able to focus on stopping Davis and Quaranta.

5) Donovan - the subject of much criticism but he's been great since he came back from Germany. He completely changed the game when he entered. Still waiting for him to have a chance to shine against tougher competition again - hopefully, the knockout stages of the tournament will provide some more interesting tests.

6) How is South Africa in this tournament? I can't imagine they're here to sell extra tickets - if we were going to invite an African team, couldn't we have invited Nigeria or Senegal or someone worth seeing?

Addicks To Talk With Ambrose

Addicks To Talk With Ambrose

the dismantling of good, young midfield continues apace.


Rumor central

  • Figo set for Liverpool move

  • seemingly not a rumor - Bellamy to Blackburn. Replaces Dickov as a lone striker?

  • NUFC counts the Bellamy chickens ($$) and offers it to Inter for Emre

  • Crespo back to Chelsea...

  • ... so Carlton Cole can be loaned out again, this time to Pompey.

more as we learn it... or make it up.

Arsenal Rumors...

Is it time to cut some of the old guard loose? This mornings rumors have Juve coming to London to discuss Patrick Vieira and/or Robert Pires moving to Turin. The back end of a fantastic run of success is always an interesting time for a club. Get rid of your veteran stars too early and the fans wonder if you have any idea what you're doing - get rid of them too late and they have no value left on the transfer market. Of course, letting players of this calibre move on also requires that the team have replacements lined up.

Vieira - assuming that Arsenal doesn't have an immediate replacement in mind, it would appear that there is no obvious replacement on hand. Flamini, at this point in his career, is a good back-up but based on last year's performance is no more than a squad player at this point. Fabregas is in a similar place - he shows excellent potential but he definitely wore down as the season progressed and the level of intensity picked up. Throw in the loss of Edu to Valencia and it seems that Vieira should stay at least one more year.

Pires - quite the opposite situation here. Arsenal seem blessed with riches on the left wing. Jose Reyes is adept on the left and needs to find his place in the starting XI. Alexander Hleb is a highly paid wing midfielder and needs some playing time as well. Throw in Clichey and Quincey who are both on the rise and could use more playing time and the runway seems to be in place to allow Arsenal to cash in on Pires before he loses all of his value (think SAF is wishing he'd done the same thing with Scholes?)

Neither move seems necessary but for an organization that is more focused on sustaining success over the long term than it is on sentimentality, the Pires move is the right one.

Wither Everton...

So, let me get this straight...Everton sold Wayne Rooney and Thomas Gravessen and will be receiving a mint from their participation in the Champion's League this coming season and what exactly have they gotten for all that money?

James Beattie? OK, he was a bit expensive and he might not suck once he gets healthy but he seems unlikely to keep them in the Champion's League beyond this season by himself.

Some Danish defender? Might be an excellent acquisition, but at 4 million, he's clearly not the guy who is going to singlehandedly take them to the promised land.

Mikel Arteta? Not so fast my friend. He came in and played well at the end of the season and apparently they can't agree to terms with him. Is he asking for Gerrard money?

Does this leave everyone else out there wanting more? If I were an Everton fan, I'd be outraged. My understanding is that Barcalona isn't that interested in Javier Saviola, he seems like someone who could make a difference for Everton as they prepare for the Champion's League. Ditto Andy van der Meyde who seems to be on the outs with Inter Milan and not attracting the attention of the clubs most likely to drive up the price (Real, Barca, ManYoo, Arsenal, Chelsea, Milan or Juve). I'm sure there are more out there, Mr. Bellamy anyone? but regardless of the names, Everton clearly need to add both quality and depth as they increase the number and quality of their fixtures in the coming season.

I want my FSC

What a horrible weekend for soccer. Just 2 MLS games (DC/CLB & LA/NE)... and they SUCKED! Thank god for TIVO as I was able to watch both games in a combined hour and 1/2.

The Gold Cup can't start soon enough!

Boro signing faces ban until January

Boro signing faces ban until January

So Boro sign a guy who is banned until 2006 (and whose excuse for a tackle that broke someone's leg in 2 places is that "it wasn't from behind")...

...Liverpool are signing a winger with a knee injury...

... and WBA are looking at Chris Kirkland!

What an exciting summer of transfers this is turning out to be. Don't these teams want players who CAN PLAY FOR THEM?

Though to be fair, the Boro guy sounds like the PERFECT understudy to Franck "Don't call me Frank" Quedrueue.