From the master

Neal and I are both big fans of The Sports Guy, Bill Simmons. He pioneered the online running diary which I blatantly stole for my USA/Spain 'contemporaneous' blog. And lo and behold, he's taken the idea to the Twitter where he live tweeted(?) the USA/Brazil final.
OK, soccer - after 4 decades of talk, here's your chance to finally make a legitimate dent in the USA. We're all watching.
11:01 AM Jun 28th from web
So tense. Hey, name me one reason why the NBA shouldn't move to the yellow/red card system starting next season. You can't.
12:13 PM Jun 28th from web
Third great save of the half by Tim Howard! He's sooooooo getting laid by Lindsay Lohan when he gets back to the States.
1:01 PM Jun 28th from web
I don't care if we're going to lose - Brazil got to play 20 vs. 11 in the second half. (Pause.) Wait, the sides were even?
1:18 PM Jun 28th from web
And so much more...

MLS Players on Gold Cup Rosters

Donovan Ricketts


  • Kevin Harmse (Chivas USA - just traded from Toronto FC)
  • Andrew Hainault (Houston)
  • Dejan Jakovic (DC United)
  • Will Johnson (Real Salt Lake)
  • Ali Gerba (Toronto)
** Dwayne De Rosario and Adrian Serioux - opted to stay behind with Toronto FC.

Costa Rica

  • Gonzalo Segares (Chicago Fire)


  • Shalrie Joseph (New England, injured)


  • Donovan Ricketts (LA Galaxy)
  • Tyrone Marshall (Seattle)
  • Andy Williams (Real Salt Lake, out as his wife is ill)
  • Omar Cummings (Colorado)
  • Dane Richards (NY Red Bull)
  • Shavar Thomas (Chivas USA, pending CONCACAF approval to replace Williams and King)

United States

See this earlier post on the USA's Gold Cup roster.
  • Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City)
  • Jay Heaps (New England)
  • Chad Marshall (Columbus)
  • Davy Arnaud (Kansas City)
  • Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake)
  • Colin Clark (Colorado)
  • Sam Cronin (Toronto)
  • Brad Evans (Seattle)
  • Stuart Holden (Houston)
  • Logan Pause (Chicago)
  • Robbie Rogers (Columbus)
  • Brian Ching (Houston)
  • Kenny Cooper (Dallas)
  • Santino Quaranta (DC United)

Blackburn swoop for Jacobsen

Football - Sunderland v Everton Barclays Premier League
Blackburn have signed experienced Danish defender Lars Jacobsen on a two-year deal.

Jacobsen, 29, spent last season at Everton but made only four starts for the FA Cup finalists.

He becomes Blackburn's third signing of the summer following the arrivals of midfielder Elrio van Heerden and left-back Gael Givet.

Jacobsen will fill the gap let by the departures of right-backs Andre Ooijer and on-loan Danny Simpson.
This could turn out to be a good signing for fantasy managers on two fronts. One, if Jacobsen is a cheap option at the back he may well be value for money. With Jacobsen, Nelsen, Samba and Givet, Allardyce could have a very solid backline put together.

Two, if the above back four means that Stephen Warnock is allowed to push into midfield - maybe to replace Tugay as a deep-lying playmaker - well, all the better. Remember the success that Allardyce had building a side around Jay Jay Okocha? What if Warnock is that player for him going forward?

Premier League Transfer Round-up for Friday

Football - Reading v Birmingham City Coca

Givet signs for Blackburn - Not terribly exciting. He was a reasonable pick up late last season when he was dirt cheap and Rovers had some favorable match-ups. But because of that, his price jumped. And remember, Rovers kept maybe two or three clean sheets all season.

Coyle hoping Mears chooses Burnley - Mears could be a nice buy at defender. He had a reasonable time at Marsielle. However, I'm not sold on him or Burnley 100% - though I'm willing to be convinced.

Sears completes Palace move
Derbyshire completes Greek move
Two young strikers who will not be options next season. In the case of Sears' loan, it makes you think about Ashton's health and Jimenez's expected position.

Johnson joins Birmingham
Ecuador's Espinoza joins Birmingham City
City's Hart in Birmingham loan move
Birmingham have now signed three center backs to replace Ridgewell (broken leg), Taylor (age and having already been found-out at the Premier League level) and Jaidi (released). I'm guessing one of Dann or Johnson will partner Espinoza, a much more experienced (though not in England) defender. With Hart between the sticks it will be interesting to see if McLeish revamps the fullback spots too. With Carr and Queudrue the incumbents, that's some age and relegation-struggle experience. They do have Parnaby and Murphy, though the latter is injured, so there's youthful options. But it seems like Birmingham are going for the complete overhaul.

And with all this attention focused on the back-line, I still wonder what Birmingham will do for an attack. McFadden will likely get the right-side of midfield and he's their only Premier League quality striker. Phillips was tossed overboard by West Brom last season, Jerome has all the makings of a great Championship striker, and is Fahey really going to be the answer? They must have high hopes for Christian Benitez. Maybe there are enough options to mix-and-match through to January. Of course it remains to be seen.

US goes with backups for Gold Cup

Real Salt Lake v New York Red Bulls

Looks like there are more MLS players being picked than were announced in the preliminary roster. Via Yahoo! Sports:

Goalkeepers: Jon Busch (Chicago Fire), Troy Perkins (IK Start, Norway), Luis Robles (Kaiserslautern, Germany)

Defenders: Steve Cherundolo (Hannover, Germany), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City), Clarence Goodson (IK Start, Norway), Jay Heaps (New England), Chad Marshall (Columbus), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaellands, Denmark), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock, Germany)

Midfielders: Davy Arnaud (Kansas City), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Colin Clark (Colorado), Sam Cronin (Toronto), Brad Evans (Seattle), Stuart Holden (Houston), Logan Pause (Chicago), Robbie Rogers (Columbus)

Forwards: Freddy Adu (AS Monaco), Brian Ching (Houston), Kenny Cooper (Dallas), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF, Sweden), Santino Quaranta (D.C.)

However, "goalkeeper Jon Busch will remain with the Chicago Fire unless needed due to suspension or injury."

Elsewhere, Canada will be taking...

4- D- André Hainault | USA / Houston Dynamo
9- F- Ali Gerba | CAN / Toronto FC
10- M/F- Willi Johnson | USA / Real Salt Lake
14- D- Dejan Jakovic | USA / DC United
19- D/M- Kevin Harmse | CAN / Toronto FC

... but oddly, not DeRosario.

Jamaica will probably take Marshall (Seattle) and Richards (NYRB). Mexico may take Blanco, etc. We'll certainly blog as the rosters are announced.

USA 2 - Spain 0

Clint Dempsey

A live... well, contemporaneous, blogging of USA-Spain Confederations Cup semi-final.


lineups - Riera? where's Silva or Iniesta? Cesc with the start. Neal will be happy.

US has Bocanegra back, and playing on the left. A more solid defender than bornstein. but good on the US for going 4-4-2 and not packing the midfield or backline

early chance for riera to cross, villa there but onwyewu clears. uh oh.

(BTW, I know how it ends but not how it happens. Dad with a big mouth.)

push on villa, but Howard with a punch right back up the middle. uh oh.

altidore earns a corner. lando to take... good one but no one there

nice pass out of the bck by gooch but casillas clears. donovan throwing himself around and earns a yc. uh oh.

and ESPN just runs the final score across the scroll. GOD DAMN THEM how stupid is that?

US seems to have identified their forward speed against Spain's backline as an advantage. we'll see if it pays off.

great bike from Davies! but jozy should have shot first time.

another good cross that davies gets a head to. NICE work. US working hard and.... Dempsey close from the top of the key! Great spell of pressure from the US. Spain not holding the ball in teh face of US pressure.

9 minutes in and this is like ManU/Barca. Almost feel like Spain will score now and turn the match. Cesc tries from distance, but that's not the magic moment. Clark needs to close down quicker.

Torres! Oh... Spain so dangerous but the didn't really have an angle - on replay. Still nice cross. Again Villa. How much do Valencia want for him? Might be worth it.

Spain passing better and getting the ball into the box. NOthing yet but they're sticking to plan A so far.

Lot of space b/w spain's midfield and defence. alonso the holding player and he's a playmaker not a water carrier. could be the space for the US to work.

torres in ACRES of space. great save by howard though torres was called - incorrectly - offsides. someone missed an assignment there!

riera a black hole for spain. was he really their best option for that spot?

shoot jozy! Shoot!

nice tackle by clarke at the top of the box. and he hasn't been sent off yet.

lando shoots from distance... again lots of space in front of the spanish defence.

pinball in the box from spain. anything can happen, but they aren't as sharp as expected for whatever reason.

28 mins - jozy turns his defender he's free! he must... iker gets a hand on it but it's a goal!!!!!!! USA 1 - Spain 0.

defender went for the ball off a deflection - capdevilla i think - but has to go the wrong way around jozy and gives him a straight run at goal. Lucky bounce but terrible defensive decision.

spector crosses wildly. oy!

ramos with a rainbow cross that lands right on villa's boot. no pot of gold though as the US clears.

villa again after riera's shot comes off torres but he balloons his shot! phew. layoff for the US.

i'm at my dad's place and have officially fallen in love with HD. just saying.

Spain getting away with seemingly clear free kicks. but dempsey called for the same thing. double standard?

US defending well. Hope I don't jinx something that happened 10 hours ago.

Altidore mugged by Capdevilla. Booked, but has Jozy's credit cards now.

Resulting free kick and Demps has a free header and manages to head it away from Bocanegra and the goal. D'oh!!!!

SO pretty when spain moves the ball around but with the final pass Cesc bangs the ball off Torres' heel. Not a good night so far for Spain's Scouse contingent.

Alonso chops down Jozy. 0-3 for Liverpool so far.

Sloppy free kick from Spain. Don't see that often. But they get the ball back and ram it right down the US and almost score. That's why they're so good. Ramos has the ball bounce off both his feet as he was escorted down by DeMerit, but no call. Couldn't have argued a PK there. Demerit has an armlock on him.

Can the US keep the lead through to halftime?

US doing a good job denying Xavi and Cesc the ball.

Torres shoots! Near post save from Howard. Leaning out, but kick save and a beaut! Great burst of speed and a nice cut back move from Torres.


No halftime show from ESPN in this replay. Why not after ALREADY ANNOUNCING THE FINAL SCORE!?!??!?

Lando abuses Capdevilla again. Corner. Up and over from Dempsey. Karate kicked for his troubles too.

Howard clears Torres' cross. Then saves from Villa! Nice strike w/ the outside of his left boot. Guzan would have flapped at that first cross, I guarantee it!

Onyewu dribbles into trouble on the flank... but Demerit and Howard clear up against Villa through the middle. Uh oh.

Torres doesn't get the 2 in a 1-2, but the US under the cosh now as the ball isn't leaving their half. Another shot from distance and another Spain corner... nothing, but again the ball doesn't leave the US half and another corner. A bouncing shot from Villa a that Howard holds. But here comes Spain again. Demps whacked by Alonso again and the US gets a breather.

Davies onside from Lando... but over hits the cross

Xavi goes down in the box... no call. What the hell happened there? Great pass from Cesc and Lando leveled Xavi who was in on Howard.

Clarke carries the ball all the way to Spain's box to show how lousy his passing can be. Thanks.

Villa shoots again. Howard saves. How much for Villa again?

Jozy earns a corner with some nice footwork... Lando to take... nothing.

Alonso a step slow in anticipating Xavi's pass and the US break. Throw... Pique intercepts and brings it up... back to Howard now... Xavi spreads it to Ramos for ANOTHER corner.

Villa shoots wide from distance. US can't hold the ball at the moment.

Hour mark... time for changes?

Pique breaks again... Kolo Toure-like. He LOVES carrying the ball upfield. He'll get burned one day.

Riera hesitates and Demerit blocks his shot. Villa on it and it's 1-1.

Big shot... howard deflects the ball JUST wide of danger. Then another save with his fists.

Davies can't beat Puyol when he had options in the box.

Demerit and Spector JUST deny Torres. Again the US can't hold on ... Ramos' shot blocked! Nice work by Clarke who hasn't been sent off yet.

THo wasting time after a BRUTAL five minute spell. Where's Cobi Jones? No one carried the ball into the corner like he did in his prime. Or long past it for that matter.

68 mins - Cazorla for Cesc for width. Feilhaber for Davies for composure.

Torres can't bring down a long cross. Not his night.

Clarke saves a bad Bocanegra throw... Demps away... US possession around the Spain box... comes to nothing.

Good cross from Riera. Demerit snuffs out Torres run. Goal kick. Not Torres' night.

73 min - What a sequence! Bradley wins the ball... Feilhaber feeds lando who crosses... mix up in the defence and the ball falls to Dempsey who made a smart far-post run and it's 2-0!!! USA!! USA!! Great work by all involved. A beautifully worked goal.

Lando's cross hits off Pique ( i think) and wrong foots Ramos who can only kill the ball, not clear it. Demps on hand to finish. US made their luck there.

Jozy milking a foul. Jozy was offsides on the goal. Lucky it didn't run to him.

Ricardo Clarke still on the pitch. For better or worse.

Torres surprised as a cross lands at his feet. Not his night.

Villa hits it from the free kick... Howard holds again.

Shot from distance. Howard saves. Lather, repeat.

10 minutes left...

US holding the ball well. Nice change... Jozy offsides as they move it forward. Close call.

US living dangerously with the ball in and around their box... but what's new tonight? Spain could have a hatful but just don't look right tonight. Just a beat off.

(I can't believe i just typed that.)

Gooch clears this time. Another corner... Spain with 3 chances that time before the US clears for another corner... Now Lando on the break... but gives it right back. Sigh.

Casey (on for Jozy) could have taken it to the Cobi corner but is offsides. Here comes Spain again...

Red card! Bradley not Clarke. Hard challenge, but didn't look malicious. No studs showing... no trailing leg. Well, maybe maybe studs up on the replay but no need for a red card. US will miss Bradley if they advance.

Puyol gets the ball stuck under him. Anyone else - save for Riera - and Spain score there.

Gooch clears again. FIFA could have saved money and only played this match on one side of the field. Well, except for those two goals.

3 minutes added.

Good covering from Feilhaber. 2 minutes left.

Shaq to Cleveland. Too little, too late. Whooops, reading the crawl again. Almost bored with Spain's attacking now. It's constant but it's not very inventive. Just crossing for Torres and the US can deal with that. No Villa for a while... wait, there he is... goal kick. Looked like a corner.



Torres and Gooch trade jerseys. Torres doesn't look happy. I'm guessing that one doesn't get hung up in the rec room at Casa Torres any time soon.

What a night for US soccer. What a turn around from the team we saw against Spain and Italy. See you Sunday for the finals! The US will miss Bradley, but hey... this is ALL gravy for us! Delicious, delicious gravy.

Premier League Transfer Round-up for Tuesday

Football - Manchester City v Wigan Athletic Barclays Premier League
Hart won't be hanging around Citeh much longer.

Hart set to depart after Taylor arrival
Not that you'll rate Taylor, or see him on the pitch for Citeh (God willing if you're a Citeh fan), but this means that Hart is free to go on loan with Birmingham the likely destination. Certainly a good move for the Blues but probably not an answer for fantasy managers. We saw how fragile Hart could be behind a porous defence, and well, Birmingham will likely be the very definition.


Sturridge set for Chelsea switch
There is haggling about the size of the fee, but it seems that Chelsea are moving to freshen up their squad. I wouldn't be surprised to see Sturridge get a few starts next season as injuries and other priorities (Champions League, for instance) crop up. At best he'll be this year's Bentdner in the "part time striker on a big club" role. At worst he'll be loaned out and we just won't worry about him again.


Jimenez to join Hammers
Every article is calling Jimenez a striker or a forward, but seemingly (yeah, I just Googled him) though he's a versatile attacker he is predominantly a right-sided middie. He's been injured and out of favor at Inter this season, but he has a 1-in-3 goals per game history in Serie A and could be a nice piece for Zola. He could also be a nice piece for fantasy managers. He'll be cheap enough, coming in at the 'new player/transfer from outside the Premier League' price but it remains to be seen if he's listed properly as a middie and not as a striker. Until that's decided, he's not getting +10 designation.

Santa Cruz seals City move

Sports News - February 01, 2009

Roque Santa Cruz has completed his £17million move to Manchester City.

The Paraguayan passed a medical with the Eastlands outfit on Monday afternoon and has now signed a deal to link up once more with Mark Hughes, his former manager at Blackburn.

Hughes has never made any secret of his desire to have Santa Cruz at City and having assured themselves the knee injury that kept the South American out at the end of last season has fully cleared up, the Blues have completed the signing of the striker.

Santa Cruz becomes Hughes' second major signing of the summer, following the arrival of Gareth Barry from Aston Villa last month.

So again the inevitable finally happens and like the CRon saga, RSC had been a target for over a year.  Now Hughes' Citeh side starts to take shape.  Certainly you can see the following team in a 4-5-1 formation:
Given, Zabaleta, two from Kompany/Dunne/Richards/new center back, Bridge, Barry, de Jong, Ireland, SWP, Robinho, RSC
Actually, not a bad lineup.  Hughes' task is going to be to get this group to play together week in and week out.  That and probably moving players on who don't fit Hughes' plan or who won't accept a bench role - Bellamy, Petrov and Hart particularly.

For fantasy purposes, hopefully RSC's shameful quitting on Rovers will have ruined his value and he can be had next season on the cheap.

Do you believe in miracles?

Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley

Okay, it's not quite the "Miracle on Ice" but after the first two rounds of Confederation Cup matches, the idea that the USA could advance to the semi-finals seemed laughable. In Group B, Brazil was leveling everyone in their path; Italy was grinding out wins as only Italy can; and Egypt were the surprise package and dark horse pick. The USA were out-of-sorts and down-and-out.

But what a difference a day makes. Brazil steamrolls Italy 3-0, and the USA surprises Egypt by the same scoreline. And just like that, the USA advances to play Spain in the semi-final of a major (kinda) tournament. What a crazy old game.

Tevez could not join Liverpool

Premier League: Manchester United Champions 2009

So Tevez is set to finally leave Manchester United. Evidently ManU brought some of the CRon monies to him, but he and (more likely or) his agent said, 'no thank you'.

This Joorabchian is some piece of work, isn't he? Not content with the chance to say no to Utd, he's taken the opportunity to rub salt in their wounds.

"He has a lot of respect and a lot of love for the fans of Man United and I think he would rule Liverpool out as being the biggest competitor.

"City and Chelsea probably would be the two clubs that are on the table.

That's either incredibly tone deaf, incredibly stupid, or probably most likely, incredibly spiteful. So Liverpool is too big a rival, but the cross-town team... that's okay. Clearly their motivation is not respect for United fans. Or Citeh fans for that matter. What does it say about the blue half of Manchester if, for all their "ambition", they aren't even considered a rival to United? This is about the cash - full stop. And to pretend otherwise is insulting. Especially when each time you open your mouth, Mr. Joorabchian, you prove the point. I wish Tevez good luck, and I'll be happy to pick him in fantasy team if he's starting in a Premier League side next season. But his actions have left a bad taste in my mouth.

And before leaving this point, why would he go to Citeh? One would think that they already have the small striker spot on their side covered with Bellamy and Robinho. Or if, as Neal has suggested offline, they are going to play a front three with SWP and Robinho flanking a target striker - most likely Roque Santa Cruz - then there's just no spot for him on the team. I guess if he's happy to take Citeh's petro-euros and sit on the bench it will just prove my point. But it will be sad.

Preliminary U.S. roster for Gold Cup announced

MLS: MAR 21 Crew at Dynamo

Via Soccernet:

Preliminary roster

GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan, Marcus Hahnemann, Luis Robles, Troy Perkins,

DEFENDERS: Jonathan Bornstein, Dan Califf, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson, Eric Lichaj, Chad Marshall, Michael Orozco, Heath Pearce, Michael Parkhurst, Marvell Wynne,

MIDFIELDERS: Freddy Adu, Davy Arnaud, Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber, Eddie Gaven, Stuart Holden, Pablo Mastroeni, Robbie Rogers, John Thorrington, Jose Francisco Torres,

FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore, Conor Casey, Kenny Cooper, Charlie Davies, Jeremiah White.


Nice to see Bradley giving youth (and MLS talent) a chance. We should have a much better chance in these games than against the likes of Italy, Brazil, and yes even Egypt. The US Nation team needs a confidence boost, and some hungry players looking to make an impact in a winnable tournament could go a long way towards turning around our slide.

The USA plays matches on July 4, 8 and 11. If they advance to the finals, they could be playing through July 26. So adjust your MLS fantasy rosters accordingly.

Vermaelen completes Arsenal deal

Sports News - November 27, 2008

Ajax defender Thomas Vermaelen has completed his move to Arsenal.

The Belgium international has joined the Gunners on a long-term contract for an undisclosed fee.

Let's check Neal's shopping list:
  • tall center back
  • ball-winning middie
  • center forward (if K2 leaves)
One down, two to go. He's not Sagna two years ago or Bosingwa last season - a starting, attacking fullback on a top side - but he could very well be +10 material.

Update (and warning, this devolves into a lot of rambling Arsenal-related speculation):

[10:28] Neal J Thurman: guess the question is whether verm is "tall"
[10:28] Neal J Thurman: rumor has him at about 5'11" or 6'
[10:28] JSpitzberg: ha
[10:29] Neal J Thurman: not exactly giant
[10:39] JSpitzberg: 1.8 meters
[10:39] Neal J Thurman: which is about 6' right?
[10:39] JSpitzberg: 1.8 meters = 5.90551181 feet
[10:39] Neal J Thurman: = Gallas or Toure
[10:39] JSpitzberg: shit... i'm taller than he is
[10:40] Neal J Thurman: like I said - not exactly Haageland
[10:40] Neal J Thurman: or whatever his name is
[10:40] JSpitzberg: back to the drawing board
[10:40] Neal J Thurman: my guess is that one of Gallas/Toure will be on his way and there is still another CB on the way in (Bassong or Haag)
[10:41] JSpitzberg: or both out?
[10:41] JSpitzberg: gallas inj & old
[10:41] JSpitzberg: toure aging and to be sold?
[10:41] Neal J Thurman: or the plan is to move Song to CB fulltime with the Verm
[10:42] JSpitzberg: at this point don't you need song in midfield?
[10:42] Neal J Thurman: yup
[10:42] JSpitzberg: then all you need is a striker
[10:42] JSpitzberg: (if k2 leaves)
[10:43] Neal J Thurman: unless you're ready to promote Bendtner and partner him with Arsh/RvP/EdS or play mix and match with those four for the season
[10:43] JSpitzberg: 9 goals in limited time
[10:43] Neal J Thurman: not like Wenger has a Redknapp-like history of forcing the Big-Small thing up top
[10:44] JSpitzberg: or if he wants Cesc to push into the "hole"
[10:44] JSpitzberg: nasri/cesc/arsh behind a big?
[10:44] Neal J Thurman: could be
[10:45] JSpitzberg: 3 from nasri/cesc/arsh/rvp
[10:45] JSpitzberg: denilson/song behind them
[10:45] Neal J Thurman: regardless, he seems to be flexible based on personnel as opposed to having to fit players to a specific system
[10:46] JSpitzberg: i always thought he was very wedded to the 4-4-2
[10:46] JSpitzberg: only just this season he experimented w/ the 4-5-1
[10:46] JSpitzberg: or 4-4-1-1
[10:47] Neal J Thurman: I suppose it has always (until recently) been a notional 4-4-2 but how that manifests itself has changed greatly over the years
[10:47] JSpitzberg: diaby/denilson not exactly viera/petit
[10:47] Neal J Thurman: Henry/Bergy were positioned much differently than K2/RvP
[10:48] JSpitzberg: is that b/c wenger wants them different
[10:48] JSpitzberg: or they're just inferior players trying to match that system?
[10:48] Neal J Thurman: Cesc not the box-to-box guy that Vieira was - he doesn't come back nearly as far and pushes up further than Vieira did
[10:49] JSpitzberg: i miss freddy cutting infield and getting on to a bergy (who had drifted out and back) pass to slam home a goal
[10:49] JSpitzberg: he was still making those runs on wednesday...
[10:49] JSpitzberg: but more often than not he didn't get the ball
[10:49] Neal J Thurman: alas, no Bergy
[10:49] Neal J Thurman: ditto Henry/Pires interchanges
[10:50] Neal J Thurman: that seems to be the current issue at Arsenal, it's really one big ecosystem that has to work together (aside from the occasional individual effort) - the Invincibles team had at least those two distinct ecosystems plus a lot of individuals who could do it on their own
[10:51] Neal J Thurman: if someone took away Bergy-to-Freddie that opened up TH14-to-Pires on the opposite diagonal - teams had to pick their poison
[10:52] JSpitzberg: i guess that's why arsh is/was so important
[10:52] JSpitzberg: as the opposition would focus on Cesc
[10:52] Neal J Thurman: yeah - Cesc-to-K2 seems to be one potential eco-system; the question remains as to whether some combo of Arsh/RvP/Theo/Nasri can create another one
[10:53] Neal J Thurman: certainly Cesc, RvP, and Arsh are good enough to occasionally produce some individual brilliance and K2 was that guy two seasons ago but not so much last year
[10:54] JSpitzberg: not at all
[10:54] JSpitzberg: he wasn't the K2.6 of "old"
[10:54] Neal J Thurman: no
[10:57] Neal J Thurman: I suppose a lot will depend on how Theo and Nasri continue to adapt/g

Martinez Makes Gomez His First Wigan Signing

Football - Barnsley v Swansea City Coca
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has made his first signing as a Premier League boss after completing a deal to bring in midfielder Jordi Gomez from Espanyol.

The 24-year-old playmaker is well known to Martinez, who took him to Swansea on a year-long loan last season.

Gomez scored 14 goals for the Swans in the Coca-Cola Championship and Martinez has wasted no time in bringing the player back to Britain.
Be still my beating heart! Another left-footed attacking middie coming to a small-market team near you. I'm just giddy.

Chelsea match Liverpool's £17.5m bid for Johnson

Sports - December 16, 2007
Portsmouth executive chairman Peter Storrie has confirmed Chelsea have matched Liverpool's £17.5m bid for England defender Glen Johnson.

Pompey accepted a bid from Liverpool earlier this week and the 24-year-old looked set to seal a move to Anfield. However, Storrie has confirmed the Fratton Park club have also now agreed terms with Chelsea - Johnson's former club.

First of all, that's a lot of money. Especially for a right back. What really gets me is that these two clubs have settled, established internationals at that position. Liverpool have Arbeloa as their first choice and their defensive record has been excellent with him in the lineup. I guess they suffered when he was out or injured, most notably playing Martin Skrtel there. But Carragher has played wide before, though he may be too old (or too cranky and unwilling) to do it now. But they also bought Philipp Degen last year and presumably he won't be injured forever. Though maybe he will.

It seems that Liverpool's interest in this deal is financial in nature. Pompey owe them 7million pounds still for Peter Crouch and then they're hoping to get 8 from Real Madrid for Arbeloa. So they get Johnson, a more attacking option than Arbeloa for 2-3million. That's reasonable, but does seem a bit of deck chair shuffling.

Even odder is Chelsea's interest. For a club that claims to want to balance it's books, this much money for a full-back should be ridiculous on it's face. But to consider that they have not one or two, but three options at that position - Bosingwa, a full international in his prime; Ivanovic, who proved to be good cover in both central and wide roles; and Mancienne - an up-and-coming star (read GJohn, four years ago) - it just makes less and less sense.


Asian zone group B 2010 World Cup qualifying soccer match
Six footballers playing for Iran's national team, including the captain, have appeared in a World Cup qualifier in Seoul, South Korea, wearing armbands in green - the colour used by Mr Mousavi in his election campaign. Our correspondent says this was an incredible thing for them to do with the match shown live on Iranian television.
In other transfer news:
  • Hahnemann joins Wolves A good signing. He's prone to do some stupid things from time to time, but a great shot stopper and with that vital Premier League experience.
  • Kelly joins Fulham It doesn't bode well that he couldn't get a game at Stoke last season, but this is a good squad-building move for Fulham. Nothing more, however.
  • Coyle ready for tough start Burnley's opening month fixtures are @Stoke, Manchester United, Everton, @Chelsea, @Liverpool. Ouch, baby. Very ouch.

Best and Worst of 2009: Chelsea

Football - Chelsea v Everton FA Cup Final

Best Moment: Chelsea 0 - 0 Hull. Not their finest moment? Perhaps. But it was Big Phil's last stand... last straw, whatever... and it was his firing after this match, and Hiddink's subsequent hire, that turned Chelsea's season around. Under Scolari, Chelsea were an under-achieving side composed of pampered stars. Is it notable that the Hull match was Quaresma's only start for them? Under Hiddink they became a team whose best players were put out in an organized fashion. They became a force again, kept from a title challenge in the Premier League only by their earlier failures and from the Champions League final by some um, unique refereeing and a stunning winner.

Best Transfer: Does Hiddink count? If it has to be a player it would be Bosingwa. He gave Chelsea balance and especially earlier in the season he was a great attacking outlet. At 26, he's in his prime and that's not something you can say about a lot of the Chelsea players. Especially...

Worst Transfer: Deco. He was going to be Scolari's midfield general, pulling the strings and dictating the play. In the end he was just Scolari's pet, keeping his place in the side due to his manager's loyalty rather than his form. That being said...

Best Start: Deco's free kick goal in week 2 promised so much. But poor form and then injury (age related in both instances?) saw him fade away into irrelevance. Rumors are that he's wanted by Inter, and perhaps he will thrive in the slower pace of Serie A. Honorable mention would have to go to Nic Anelka who raced out to a league-leading twelve goals before Drogba returned from injury -- is it just me or are all of these things related? -- and Scolari benched him claiming that the two couldn't play together.

Best Finish: Anelka again. After being restored to the starting line-up he got back to scoring goals and finished the season as the Premier League's leading scorer. Honorable mention goes to Florent Malouda whose smart running, and some great finishing, finally began showing why he was one of the most exciting attacking talents in Ligue 1 when Chelsea signed him.

Biggest Disappointment (injury): Joe Cole and Michael Essien. Chelsea sure could have used Cole's guile on either wing, if only as an option off the bench. And when Essien came back to Chelsea he quickly showed how essential he was to their game.

Biggest Disappointment (non-injury): Has to be Deco again, but it could also be Ballack. Both were big signings meant to take Chelsea's midfield to a world class level and both have failed to make an impact at the club. Honorable mention could go to Petr Cech who just hasn't been the same keeper since, well... his injury. Okay so maybe it's the wrong category, but he's no longer the world's best and sometimes flirts with not even being a safe pair of hands.

Biggest Achilles Heel: Their squad is older and not as deep as their rivals at the top of the Premier League and across Europe. They will need a smarter transfer policy going forward as they can't compete with the likes of Real Madrid, or unbelievably, Manchester City in transfer fees anymore and nor are they as attractive a destination as Barca or Milan. While their first eleven can be as good as any, they may need more rest and possibly more motivation. A deeper, younger squad could provide both.

Wolves sign star midfielder

Sports News - October 12, 2008

Wolves have made Serbia midfielder Nenad Milijas their first signing of the summer as they prepare for life in the Premier League.

Milijas has signed a four-year contract at Molineux, subject to a work permit, after completing a move from Red Star Belgrade for an undisclosed fee.

"We're really thrilled to have started our summer recruitment with Nenad Milijas," said Wolves chief executive Jez Moxey.

The 26-year-old, who stands 6ft 2in tall, was the player of the year in the Serbian league last season.

Left-footed, dead-ball specialist, and scored 1 in 2 for Red Star Belgrade last season. As the song goes, "Heaven... I'm in heaven!" Cheap middie signed to a promoted side. You can cross that off my shopping list for next fantasy season.

United accept world record Ronaldo bid

Football - Manchester United v Aston Villa Barclays Premier League
"Manchester United have received a world-record, unconditional offer of 80 million pounds for Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid," the club said.

"At Cristiano's request - who has again expressed his desire to leave - and after discussion with the player's representatives, United have agreed to give Real Madrid permission to talk to the player.
Well, well, well...

First fantasy Premier League had the David Beckham era. He was the player you had to have in your side, no matter what the cost. In fact we still jokingly try to convince our friends to "sell Beckham" when it comes to the "do I hold the best guy in the league even though he's eating up 25% of my salary cap?" question. Then came the TH14 era, which by the time Henry left for Barcelona the Premier League had entered the CRon era.

And now, that is over. Sacrificed for a new galactico era in Madrid. It is going to be FASCINATING to watch Madrid this season. How do Kaka and CRon get along. What happens to the Dutch contingent - Robben, Sjneider, and van der Vaart? They would be welcome in any team. In fact, if I were Milan or ManU I would look to get one of these guys in trade.

And Manchester United... does this pave the way for Tevez to join permanently? Will this further cement Rooney's place on the wing? Or does the money prise Ribery from Bayern? Or - just because I love him - Gourcuff from Bordeaux? Or a holding player like Toulalan or ex of Madrid, Mahamadou Diarra?

There are so many ways these stories can go. We talk about dominos falling in the transfer market. With Madrid making these two signings and in the process shaking up three of the world's biggest clubs... and with Ancelotti going from Milan to Chelsea, dragging another big name into the cauldron... well, it's going to be a REALLY fun summer.

The king is dead, long live the king.

Welcome to the StevieG Era of fantasy Premier League football.

Bradley names roster for Confederations Cup

Injured forward Brian Ching was left off the U.S. roster for the Confederations Cup in South Africa along with defender Frankie Hejduk.
And how this further affects your MLS roster:
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Tim Howard (Everton, England), Luis Robles (Kaiserslautern, Germany)

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes, France), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Danny Califf (Midtjylland, Denmark), Jay DeMerit (Watford, England), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard Liege, Belgium), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock, Germany), Jonathan Spector (West Ham, England), Marvell Wynne (Toronto)

Midfielders: Freddy Adu (AS Monaco), DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Michael Bradley (Borussia Moenchengladbach, Germany), Ricardo Clark (Houston), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus, Denmark), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Jose Francisco Torres (Pachuca, Mexico)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Xerez, Spain), Conor Casey (Colorado), Charlie Davies (Hammarby, Sweden), Clint Dempsey (Fulham, England), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles)

Amen Corner

But here we are now, and it's high time to see this assumption of perpetual ascendancy for what it is: wishful thinking. Me? I've seen enough. I see no reason to believe that the national team has improved even a smidgen since 2006. ...You could even argue that things have regressed a bit.
Yes, yes, yes!! Steve Davis has nailed this one! A must read for USSoccer fans.

Corluka eyes bid for Srna

UEFA Cup match: Shakhtar Ukraine 2-0 CSKA Russia
Tottenham Hotspur defender Vedran Corluka 'would not be surprised' if manager Harry Redknapp bid for Darijo Srna.

Shakhtar Donetsk wing-back Srna was linked with Spurs under Juande Ramos' stewardship but a move failed to materialise.

Fresh reports, however, have suggested the North London club could move for the Croatian - and his compatriot, Corluka, feels a deal could be in the offing.
Sure it's idle speculation, but this would be a +10 signing for sure! A right winger who is frequently listed as a defender and who takes all his side's kicks. Where do I sign up?

Best and Worst of 2009: Liverpool

Best Moment: In March Liverpool thrashed Real Madrid in the Champions League and Sunderland, Manchester United and Aston Villa in the Premier League scoring fifteen and conceding a solitary goal. It was breath-taking stuff and such a shock after watching Benitez become more controlling and more defensive over the course of his reign. But at some point he decided that his team could - and needed to - take the shackles off and they responded. Boy, did they ever!

Best Transfer: Not selling Xabi Alonso to Juventus was like a transfer. His partnership with Mascherano in Liverpool's engine room was the platform on which Gerrard, Torres, Kuyt, etc, ran. The pair won balls in midfield and turned that into attack with a single pass. It was fast and deadly, and was a key to Liverpool's late season success.

Worst Transfer: On the flip side, there's a book waiting to be written about the Robbie Keane transfer. And how someone decided that Dossenna was a nine million pound player is beyond me. He had some good moments, even scoring a few goals in a purple patch mid-season. But that was as a substitute on the left-wing. He was simply a defender who couldn't defend. And with Aurelio and Insua at the back and Riera and Benayoun on the wing it certainly doesn't seem like money well spent on a third choice player at either position.

Biggest Disappointment (injury): Sometimes the obvious ones are true. Torres and Gerrard played a third of the season together. And while Phillipe Degen never did make an appearance this season, it's the loss of Liverpool's big names that that pose a real "what if".

Biggest Disappointment (non-injury): Any striker not named Torres. N'Gog. Babel. Keane. Full of potential, and they did get their chances this season. But do any of them compare favorably to Carlos Tevez as on option off the bench or in case of injuries? Or even Niklas Bendtner? A little more depth at striker and perhaps some of those disastrous draws against the league's smaller teams could have yielded three points instead of one.

Best Start: By default I'm going to give this to Albert Riera. He looked like he cared (which he never seemed to do at Manchester City) and gave Liverpool balance on the left flank. He wasn't spectacular by any means but he did have some flashes of skill. However he faded down the stretch and lost his starting place to Benayoun.

Best Finish: Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt were real keys for Liverpool in the season's run-in. Seemingly given more freedom in Benitez's attacking regime they flourished and each began scoring regularly. Gerrard also had an amazing run in this new system but it was these two nominal wingers that really showed some unexpected class.

Biggest Achilles Heel: Any striker not named Torres (see above) and the notion that Benitez was too controlling and too risk averse to let his team play to their true potential over the course of the season. They ended so strongly, and while that gives hope for next season it does make one wonder how he got it so wrong for so long.

Best and Worst of 2009: Arsenal

Greetings from India everyone. Why, you ask, am I in India during the hottest part of their year? Surprise, the answer ISN'T that I'm something of an idiot . Now, I'm not ruling out the possibility that I am in fact something of an idiot but I'm here for work so at least in THIS instance, that's not the reason. So, what am I going to write about after the better part of 48 hours with very little sleep while commuting? The answer as you may have guessed from the title is the recap of Arsenal's 2008-2009 season. What went well and what went poorly - we'll leave what comes next for a bit later in the summer - what you're expecting us to write about CRon-to-Real & Barry-to-Liverpool rumors ALL summer?

OK, away we go...

Best Moment - This wasn't a season that featured many great moments to be honest. There were the typical fluid/spectacular goals. There were the returns of EdS and Cesc from long injuries and the brief run of extremely strong play that coincided with Cesc/K2 returning to the line-up late in the season. All that said, the unquestioned high point of the season for me was Arshavin's first kick for the club. Why this moment? The obvious reason is that he's an excellent player and has the potential to be a difference maker with both his passing and his scoring. The symbolic reason is that I and all Arsenal supporters hope this is evidence that Wenger understands that in order to make a serious challenge for the title he needs to buy some top shelf established players rather than continuing to buy kids. Even if the hoped-for symbolism turns out to be not-so-symbolic, I'm thinking this is still the high-point.

Best Transfer - See above. Not even close for second place really.

Biggest Disappointment (injury) - Wow, where do you start on this one with so many to choose from? Seriously, the obvious answer is Cesc's injury. He makes the team go and without him in the middle the attack just seemed lost far too often. That said, injuries to K2 and RvP compounded the problem. Finally, the reliance on Rosicky recovering as the excuse not to sign Arshavin last summer (if that's really the reason) may be the biggest injury-related disappointment of all. My guess is that the state of finances at the Emirates are worse than we are being told so I doubt Rosicky's return was anything but a red herring to avoid having to say that "we just don't have the cash right this minute". If Wenger believed that 'sicky is a substitute for Arshavin even when healthy then, well, I guess he hasn't watched Sicky play anything other than Czech Republic matches.

Biggest Disappointment (non-injury) - I'm sort of torn here between Kolo Toure (a player I really like) and guys like Abou Diaby and Denilson on this one. The argument against Abou Diaby and Denilson is pretty obvious, neither of them live up to the standards of Cesc, Pires, Ljungberg, Vieira, and the rest of the recent luminaries in midfield from the Wenger era. That said, I'm giving them both a little slack because I think that Wenger has done a poor job of managing both players. Neither player really seems to have a position and both are sort of thrown into just about any midfield role at a moment's notice. If you're Ryan Giggs or Stephen Gerrard and you're both talented enough and senior enough to make different positions your own then maybe this can work but for two guys who haven't really established themselves as first team starters, this has to make life incredibly difficult. Heck, even Wayne Rooney seems to be suffering from being lined-up all over the pitch.

That brings us to Toure who seems to have either gotten old or just lost it pretty quickly. Maybe he just doesn't mesh well with Gallas or maybe there wasn't sufficient support from the midfield but more often than not when bad things happened for Arsenal this season, it seemed like Toure was the victim.

Best Start - Most of the remarkable starts happened well into the season. For me the best "start" was the joint return of Cesc/K2 with what seemed like 10 hook-ups for goals in 3 matches (ok, I think it was either 4 in 2 or 5 in 3). Still, it gave supporters a glance of what could have been had we not been mixing and matching pieces for the middle part of the season.

Best Finish - Hmm, can't say that too much positive happened down the stretch between the beating by ManYoo in the Champions League, the draw to them in the League, and the losses to Chelsea in the FA Cup Semi and in the league. That said, Bendtner ended May with 3 goals bringing his total in the league to 9 which isn't so bad given that he only started 17 matches in the league. Throw in 2 goals in 3 matches in the FA Cup, 2 in 2 in the Carling Cup, and 1 in 4 in the Champions League and you'd have to say that despite his less-than-ideal personality, he's had a reasonably strong season for a 21 year old.

Biggest Achilles Heel - Hmm, do you go with having players who are too-frequently injured? The inability to cope with set pieces? Or the misfiring in front of goal that sabotaged the season in January? I'm going off the board and suggesting that the biggest Achilles Heel is Wenger's inability to copy his "buy young and really talented" philosophy on the defending side of the ball. Really, it seems that every year we buy a bunch of forwards, wingers, and attacking midfielders who are 16, 17, and 18 years old. Sure it will take some time for them to mature and some will make it (Cesc) and some will just become assets (Bentley, Pennant, Larsson, etc.). That said, other than Djourou and Senderos, Wenger doesn't seem to spend much time finding potential stars for the defence. Obviously it would be great to have the cash to go out and buy a great defender in his prime but if that isn't the case and the philosophy is to buy young and hope these guys BECOME great defenders in their prime in a couple of years, shouldn't the philosophy be consistent for attackers and defenders? (OK, Clichy, Sagna, Gibbs, and even Eboue fit the mold so I guess I'm really talking about central defenders - is it possible that Wenger just isn't any good at evaluating talent at the position?).

I hope you enjoyed that - we'll be back later in the summer with more on what Arsenal needs to be doing to make themselves relevant again...

Great Moments in Commentary

Football - Wigan Athletic v Manchester United Barclays Premier League

The headline reads, "England must cope without Carrick". 

Dear lord!  How will they EVER cope without him?  Against those European powers, Kazakhstan and Andorra, no less.  Why there will be an empty place at the end of the bench where he would have been sitting.

That being said, it's nice to see blog-favorite James Milner getting some recognition with his call up as Carrick's replacement.

Best and Worst of 2009: Manchester United

SOCCER: MAY 16 Barclays Premier League - Manchester United v Arsenal

Best moment:  For a title winning side, there were very few moments that truly sparkle in memory.  Berbatov had a few amazing touches where he pulled a ball out of the sky and created a goal.  CRon's Champions League goals were stunning.  But for sheer drama and improbability there was nothing that compared to Federico Macheda's match-winning goal against Aston Villa.  It isn't over-stating it to say that it saved their season after loses to Liverpool and, improbably, Fulham.  And to have come from a teenage striker on his debut... it couldn't have been written any better.

Best Transfer:  I think we're going to have to give SAF the benefit of the doubt on this one.  Zoran Tosic, depending on the slant of the story you are reading, is either one for the future or an established Serbian international.  Maybe he really is both.  And with Giggs likely to be an increasingly bit part player (and a winger in memory only), Nani failing to impress, and CRon's future seemingly at center-forward, Tosic will be needed on the left wing.  It is interesting, however, that when ManU played the kids in the FA Cup semi-final and then on the final day of the season, Tosic wasn't involved.  So this could become the worst transfer.  Only time will tell.

Biggest disappointment (injury):  He wasn't missed much during the season, but much ink was spilt over Owen Hargreaves after ManU couldn't get the ball off Barca's midfield in the Champions League Final.

Biggest disappointment (non-injury):  While the end of the season seemed to be all about the will-he-won't-he, Tevez's season really didn't live up to the hype.  Never able to play regularly, his knack for scoring important goals which not deserting him, wasn't as pronounced this season.  And even worse, when he was called upon to start, and should have been a fantasy sure-thing, he never came through.

Biggest disappointment (non-injury):  part two of this award would have to go to the other disappearing striker, Dimitar Berbatov.  He wasn't even a starter at the season's end with CRon prefered at center forward.  30 million is a lot to spend on a back up and with Macheda and Wellbeck joining CRon (and seemingly not Rooney) in vying for one or maybe two forward spots it does make one wonder how SAF will square this particular circle.

Best start:  Darren Fletcher.  With CRon on the sidelines for the opening of the season, ManU stumbled into four points from their first two matches thanks to goals from Fletcher.  It was never going to last - either their struggles or his goal scoring - but at the time it was vital.

Best finish:  It was stop/start for much of the season, but when it counted CRon showed that he was a player for the big stage.

Worst tackler: Paul Scholes. 

Biggest Achilles heel:  Vidic has been exposed against strikers with pace.  Now, granted Torres is no ordinary player but look what happened to Senderos. Drogba single-handedly ruined his career.