MLS Interlude

It is a difficult time to be playing MLS fantasy as the NY Red Bulls don't play again for two weeks. So one can't just load up on whomever is facing them. Though to be honest, that didn't really work out so well for me last week. Cummings did get an assist, but Kimura came on as a sub so he didn't earn the clean sheet points.

So what to do? Well, who's next on the crappy list above NYRB? That has to be San Jose. Last week I picked up Christian Gomez against the Quakes and he came up huge with two goals. This week it's Seattle who visit the Bay Area. Montero is back in the line up and gets the captain's armband with Donovan idle. I've also brought in Kasey Keller who has come down in price recently. San Jose are struggling and Ryan Johnson, their leading scorer, is a doubt for the match. Road team or not, I'm liking Seattle's chances in this one.

Joining Montero and Cummings up front is Ali Gerba. I've been tracking him since he signed for TFC last month. He had a good Gold Cup and scored against the Crew in his MLS debut last week. Surprisingly, he's a minimum priced player at $175K, down $75 after a debut game goal. Huh!?!? Regardless, I'm happy to finally get him in the fantasy team.

My last trade is one for this week and beyond. I'm dropping the idle Becks (insert your own 'more than usual?' joke here) - who actually came through with a helper for me last week - and adding MLS' own Ironman, Steve Ralston. He has put up points in his last two matches, and the Revolution have three (I think) games in hand on the rest of the league. They are at home to Toronto this week, which isn't a bad match-up, then host LA, before a week off and then two-games @SEA, RSL. We'll see who gets healthy for the Revs over the next few weeks, but Nicol might be a good pick up at coach if you have the trades and the cash to make it happen.

Halford ready to fill Kightly gap

Wolves’ new boy Greg Halford has vowed to make the most of Michael Kightly’s absence by gatecrashing Mick McCarthy’s Premier League starting line-up.

The £2million summer signing from Sunderland is set to replace Kightly, after the winger was ruled out for the start of the season as he makes his way back from a broken foot and hip injury.

Versatile Halford believes he can plug the gap, starting with tomorrow’s friendly at Doncaster.

The 24-year-old said: “Kightly is going to be out for the start of the season, so it gives me an opportunity and hopefully I’ll prove myself.

“I’ve been brought here as a right midfielder and I see myself playing there more often than not.

I'll save everyone the trouble... Halford is listed as a middie, not a defender, this time around.

RIP Sir Bobby

Image via Wikipedia
Football mourns loss of Sir Bobby Robson - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

There are people out there who experienced much more of Sir Bobby Robson's career up close and personal than I did so I'm not going to attempt to compete with them in describing his legacy in football or repeat someone else's first hand account of an encounter with the man and how that revealed something deeper about him and why his passing is such a significant event. If you, our readers, have such stories, please share them.

The thing that sticks out for me after reading all of the stories about Sir Bobby this morning is this: he managed Barcalona. Why does this stick out in my mind? Because it got me wondering about the state of football in England that there doesn't really seem to be anyone from the UK who might ever change jobs who would be considered for this role (or one with any of the other major continental powers).

Assuming Sir Alex will never coach another club who do you have? Moyes? Nice manager who does a great job with limited resources but he hasn't even been discussed for higher profile jobs in England let alone Spain or Italy. Certainly, we can all observe that the Premier League is a net importer of players. Based on the money available, this makes sense. That said, is the state of managers in England SO BAD that 3 of the "Big Four" are managed by men from the continent and England's only significant managerial export is Steve McLaren who has charge of a just-better-than-average Dutch side. Not exactly Barca or even Ajax. For the UK to produce no one better than Moyes over the course of a generation is just amazing. Is it testament to England being more open to the idea of bringing in foreign managers based on merit (or reputation)? Or is the managerial talent just not there?


Update: I'd like to just add this to Neal's post. Robson loved his team, and I loved his teams. As regular readers of the blog know, I'm a former Newcastle fan. I say former in that my allegiances shifted to my fantasy team rather than following or supporting any one team. I've blogged about this at the end of last season when Newcastle were going down in what I called my Magpies Lament. I think that Sir/Uncle Bobby put together a young, exciting team at Newcastle. One that hit some real highs, but as befits a young team had some real lows. He was sacked after a poor start to a season, and the club never recovered.

Farewell, Sir Bobby. I'll treasure the memories and I'll treasure this:


Why not more NUFC transfers out?

Image via Wikipedia
The Chuckles Gossip
Hull want to sign Habib Beye from Newcastle...

Among other items found in the always amusing Football365 gossip column is this note about Habib Beye being a target for Hull. Sort of makes you wonder why more of NUFC's useful pieces (insert your own joke here) haven't been the subject of more rumors. I suppose it may have to do with the fact that the club is in such a mess that no one is sure who is making the decisions but still, Transfer Rumors tend to be pretty much baseless so why not more involving Newcastle?

I'd personally think that Beye (Villa?), Bassong (who, to be fair, has appeared in the rumor mill pretty regularly with Arsenal, Spurs, and Fulham all rumors), Guthrie (Sunderland?), Geremi (Pompey), Guttierrez (Stoke or WHU?), Ryan Taylor (Everton?), and Nolan (Big Sam reunion at Rovers?) would all be useful additions to Premier League sides. They may not all be starters and some are likely overpaid for the role that they are currently best suited for. That said, it would seem that NUFC need the money and there are plenty of teams that need to improve the depth of their squads.

Just something to ponder this morning while we're waiting for some actual news. Plus, I figured I should write something about a team other than Arsenal as I warm up for the new season.

Group 1 is full; On to Group 2

Nice to see that the private groups allow up to 100 members this year rather than 50, will allow us to accommodate more people. So we got that going for us...

Here's the info on private group #2, again, please remember to join only one of them...

Group ID = 6154

Password = bloggers

Great to see so much interest despite the change of venue and all.

Cheers - Neal

Premier League Round-Up

Join me as I check in with what has been happening in and around the English Premier League over the last week.

Elano seals Gala switch
Bojinov set for Parma move
Two less bodies to choose from.

Petrov fitness a worry for Villa

Aston Villa are sweating over the fitness of their Player Of The Year Stiliyan Petrov who suffered a dislocated shoulder during the Peace Cup clash with Atlante...

The midlands club expect to find out in the next 48 hours the extent of Petrov's setback and O'Neill told Aston Villa TV: "Stiliyan dislocated his shoulder and our doctor put it back in immediately."

He added: "He is feeling a little better but we don't know just at this moment how much damage he has done. It was obviously the low point of the night.

"But we don't know the extent of the problem. We will find out over the next couple of days to see how it settles down. We just don't know. But it is a concern to us."

This could be a chance for Steve Sidwell, at a bargain 4.88, albeit with only the single game in week one.

Countdown: Sunderland
Looking at that team... I just don't know.  They certainly have the potential to be safe this season.  And there are enough clubs with less that they could be comfortably mid-table.  But they are going to have to be much more solid at the back because they won't get much defensive help from the midfield, other than Cana who will take the customary time to settle.  And up front they'll need Jones to stay healthy and gel with Campbell (or whomever ends up in that spot).  I remember reading that KJ and Cisse hardly spoke to each other and in one particular match only passed to each other twice.  Campbell has potential (and is CHEAP at 4.16) and if they can form a partnership they can take advantage of what BFAReid, KRich and Steed can create.  And everything I just wrote about Campbell, apply to Bent.  Save for the price tag, which to be honest is the best part.

Speaking of Bent, I can't believe Marcus Bent is back in the Premier League.  I don't even think he makes the Darren Huckerby All-Stars of guys who are "too good for the Championship but not good enough for the Premier League".

Finnan signs for Portsmouth
Finallly, some traffic in, rather than out, down on the south coast.  Finnan was a great pick back in the day, but Portsmouth seem a team in crisis.  Now they've replaced Liverpool and England's right back of the future with Liverpool and Ireland's right back of the past.  He still may be a good bet but a lot will hinge on his fantasy price tag.

Kightly concern for Wolves

Wolves winger Michael Kightly is unlikely to be fit for the start of the Premier League season.

Kightly is edging closer to full fitness following a serious of niggling injuries but he is not expected to be risked when the new campaign kicks off.

Kightly was Neal's double-secret pick heading into the new season, but it looks like he'll have to wait a few weeks.

And speaking of Wolves...

No say for Wolves on Milijas call-up
Milijas is my not-so-secret pick for the season and to my delight has been playing "in the hole" behind a lone striker in pre-season. Hopefully national team commitments won't derail his Premier League debut, but that remains to be seen.  Indeed, that will be something to watch for a host of players in the next week or so.

Ligament woe for Boa Morte
I can't imagine that the Feather Necklace of Death would have played that large of a role in West Ham's season with Jimenez coming in and Collison returning from injury.

Redknapp hails new boy Naughton
He played in midfield, but I can't imagine he'll do so with Lennon, Bentley (for now) and possibly Robbie Keane in front of him in the pecking order.  And with THud filling in at central defender he may even be behind Corluka at right back.  But THud's redeployment may be as much of a red herring as Naughton's.

Left-back worry for Blues boss
Not that you are looking to Birmingham's defence any way.

Valencia earns Ferguson praise after scoring on debut
Is Valencia the forgotten man of this off-season?  He's priced between the premium guys and the newbies but he averged 7.55/game last season at Wigan for God's sake.  He wasn't even taking kicks!  Surely that will only increase with regular playing time at ManU.  I think we're all looking at the newbie midfielders for the best price-to-return opportunities as there are no must-have new strikers... yet.

Arbeloa passes medical, set to join Real Madrid
Sad to see him go.  More importantly on the other side of the field is Insua's likely ascension to the starting left back role.  At least until Aurellio comes back from his latest injury - which could be two to six months, depending on whom you read - and Dossena's transfer to Napoli - which may or may not be edging closer, depending on whom you read.

Who would have guessed?

Will the "Next Vieira" actually turn out to be, well, Vieira? Hard to imagine the rumors are true or that he has too much left in the tank but if he isn't the presumed starter Arsenal could do much worse (and has) in terms of back-up holding midfielders. Also, if Song is indeed going to be the heir apparent then who better to work with him than the guy he's trying to replace (seriously, no one was out there looking for the next Flamini).

Who knows if the story is just crazy speculation or if there's something to it but it is interesting to think about.

Private Group: Beat the Bloggers 1

The first group is up. Here are the relevant bits of information...

Group ID = 5962

Password = bloggers

Please only sign up for one of the groups as there are a limited number of groups that we can attach our teams to and we'd like to accommodate everyone who wants to play.

Cheers - Neal

Rosicky suffers injury setback

Laughter is probably not really appropriate in regards to any injury news, but this did give me a chuckle.
Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky has suffered a minor injury setback after returning from 18 months on the sidelines.

After playing half the recent pre-season game against Barnet, Rosicky was substituted as a precaution by boss Arsene Wenger.

The club have confirmed that he sustained a "minor problem" in the friendly on 18th July, with the 28-year-old subsequently left out of the Gunners' last three pre-season matches.

It is not yet known if he will take a part in the Emirates Cup pre-season tournament this weekend
Of course he's suffered a setback. I'd be stunned if he were healthy or able to play consecutive games at this point. Hell, at this point I think he's better off on the sidelines. For one, it makes guessing Arsenal's lineup easier and two, maybe he can be their scapegoat (in the biblical meaning). All the injuries and bad luck for the entire side should fall on his shoulders... or groin, back, thigh, whatever.

Ferguson tips Anderson for goals

Something to think about.

Just as long as Anderson is on the field, Ferguson admitted he is one of the options for free-kicks and penalties.

"I have been thinking about this for two weeks now and I have no definite answer to it. I think it depends on what 11 players are playing in a particular game. I think we have two or three players who are natural to take responsibility," said Ferguson.

"(Patrice) Evra, (Michael) Carrick, Anderson and (Ryan) Giggs are all natural choices to take penalty kicks, but when I choose my 11 on a particular day, then I will make my mind up on that day."

Interesting that Evra made the list, but Nani didn't.

Toure Off

So, Kolo is off to Citeh to ensure his financial legacy help them meet their ambitions.  Where does that leave both clubs?

Citeh Analysis
If Citeh were just trying to improve over last season, then they'd definitely have accomplished their goal.  Toure is certainly an upgrade for them. 

If Citeh were looking for big name players who will give them the APPEARANCE of being a big club, then they accomplished that goal as well.  Toure has been an integral part of an undefeated Premier League Champion, FA Cup winning team, and Champions League finalists.  Excellent resume and not entirely past his prime.

On the down side, if you look at Citeh's goals for the season which you would have to assume include "finish in the Top 4" and "challenge for a league title and/or FA Cup" then I'm not sure this is going to help too much.  Think of it as Chelsea adding Michael Ballack - not entirely useless pick up but looks much more impressive on paper than it ever has on the pitch.

Arsenal Analysis
So, it looks like Arsene is cashing in on a bunch of spare parts to build up his war chest.  First K2 is sent packing on the theory that while he is talented, he's also a jackass and that the latter is more important than the former given the presence of RvP, Arshavin, EdS, and Bendtner.  Then Toure - who a) will be out for a while at the African Cup of Nations; b) doesn't get along with Gallas; and c) has slipped a bit over the last two seasons from exceptional to merely better-than-average - is sent packing because there's no way they were ever going to get a better return for him than what they got from Citeh.  Next appears to be Eboue who isn't a terrible squad player to have around but could probably do with a change of scenery after last year's implosion and vote of "no confidence" from the supporters.  Assuming that they get roughly £5M for Eboue (not unreasonable) then the total will be close to £50M betwee the three sales. 

If someone offered me that much money for those three guys given all of the circumstances, I'd say yes in a second with one condition and here's the rub.  That condition is that I have a plan for what to do with that money to improve myself over where I was last season WITH those guys.  That means that Wenger had better get off the mark and sign a holding midfielder and a larger central defender.  If a replacement striker finds his way to the Emirates as well then that would be just dandy as well but I could live without that buy until January if it meant focusing on the other two now.

Certainly there have been rumors linking him just about every holding midfielder in Europe and a bunch of CBs as well (most notably Haageland and Bassong) but it seems like it should be time to get something done. 

What's the impact for fantasy?
Vermaelen's value presumably goes up on the theory that he'll win the job over the returning Senderos and the yet-to-show-he's ready/able Djourou.  (This is assuming that Song is the de facto holding midfielder right now rather than partnering Gallas)

At Citeh there really isn't much of an impact other than pushing down the value of Dunne (assuming he stays), Richards, and Onuoha.  My guess is that, at least until Lescott joins, the starting defenders will be Bridge, Onuoha, Toure, and the winner of Richards/Zabaleta (should be Richards but who knows).

Here's hoping Arsene does something with the money to make this a more interesting article.

MLS Interlude

[08:29] JSpitzberg: i have NO interest in MLS anymore
That's how I started my converstation with Neal this morning.  And I really don't.  With the Premier League gearing up it's hard to keep the enthusiasm for what I call my methadone, which I use to bridge the gap between English seasons.  But that being said, and I'm sure to jinx it here, I'm well placed in the overall standings and I have a reputation to uphold.  And a trophy to win back from Neal.  So here we go again.

This week the clear pick is Colorado hosting the Red Bulls who are just DIRE on the road.  I had Connor Casey on my team but he is suspended due to accumulation so I had to make some other moves to afford Omar Cummings.  Here's hoping he can come good.  I've also added Kimura to the backline as I have more fingers on one hand than the Red Bulls have road goals.  Matt Pickens would be a great, um, pick in net too.

DCUnited travel to the West Coast to play San Jose, who are struggling.  The Earthquakes are reshaping their team in the middle of the season which isn't a good sign.  Even though I don't like picking road teams in MLS - especially not those travelling from one coast to the other - I had to pick up Christian Gomez to join Chris Pontius in the midfield.  Gomez is playing really well right now and without Santino he should hold down his spot and set piece duties.

The LA Galaxy travel too, but face a Kansas City team missing their best attacker in Arnaud and starting defenders Conrad and Watson, who was red carded last week.  So Landon Donovan not only stays in the team, but keeps the captain's armband.  And as much as I want to sell Beckham, I can't.  He's cheaper than Blanco and 1) I needed the money for Gomez and Cummings, and 2) Chicago are at Seattle and Blanco is going to have Alonso on him like a cheap suit all day.  So here's hoping Beckham feels that he has something to prove after this week's incidents.

Premier League Round-Up

Liverpool duo head home
Liverpool's injured duo Martin Skrtel and Nabil El Zhar will fly home from the Far East on Thursday to have potentially serious injuries assessed in the UK.

Both players were injured in Wednesday's 1-1 friendly draw with Thailand in Bangkok... Central defender Skrtel has a hamstring problem while midfielder El Zhar damaged a knee ligament.

Skrtel's is potentially the most serious injury and it is feared he could miss the start of the season.
Neither Agger (9.17) or Carragher (9.20) are cheap, but if they're your nailed on starters they might be worth a look. Especially Agger who loves a shot from distance!


Injury blow for Kapo
Wigan midfielder Olivier Kapo is likely to miss the start of the Barclays Premier League campaign after damaging knee ligaments on the club's pre-season tour of Austria.
Wenger expects Eduardo to figure
Arsene Wenger has eased concerns over Eduardo's fitness by confirming the Arsenal striker is in line to make his pre-season bow in Monday's match at Szombathelyi Haladas.
Bouma boost for Villa
Villa, though, are optimistic the 31-year-old could feature in their first game of the Premier League, at home to Wigan on 15th August, after he was included in a 26-man squad for pre-season fixtures in Spain.
Tottenham captain King held on assault charge
Spurs sign Blades duo
Walker going back to Blades
Spurs face early season injury crisis
Tottenham Hotspur are facing a central defensive crisis for the start of the Premier League season after confirming a trio of injuries on Thursday.

Injury-plagued Jonathan Woodgate has a groin problem and has flown to the United States for treatment, captain Ledley King has not kicked a ball in pre-season and Michael Dawson has damaged his Achilles.
Assuming King will play (He never practices with the team anyway, so why should we expect him to play in pre-season? And these legal matters never seem to impact a player's availability.) the logical move is Corluka coming inside and Hutton or new boy Naughton at right back. If it is the latter, and rumours are that Hutton is going to Everton, he could be a nice early season pick-up in defence.

Before you get carried away

Before you get carried away with Michael Owen's fast start against Asia's select, here's SAF to throw some cold water on your plans.
Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed that he plans to use Michael Owen as little as every 10 days as he confirmed he was looking to employ the striker as an impact player at Manchester United.

Owen has begun his United career as well as he could have expected, scoring twice in two games during the champions' tour of Asia, the second coming in today's 2–0 win here over a Malaysia XI. But Ferguson indicated he saw him as support to the existing strike pairing of Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov. "We can carry Michael Owen. I won't ask him to play every four days, I might ask him to play every 10 days," the manager said. "We can do it because I always rotate my squad."

Good and bad here for fantasy managers. First we've confirmed the obvious that Rooney/Berbatov is United's starting front-line. However, we've also confirmed that SAF will be rotating his strikers. I would guess we'll see a lot of Macheda and Owen coming on for Berbatov late in matches, and getting the occassional start depending on the schedule. I still think Rooney is a safe play, and likely Berbatov as well, but I do think that there will be weeks of intense frustration where they don't make the starting eleven or come off early in matches.

Caveat fantasy emptor.

Arsenal's Nasri sidelined with broken leg

Arsenal's Nasri sidelined with broken leg
Arsenal midfielder Samir Nasri will miss the start of the Premier League season after breaking his leg in training.

The France international fractured his fibula during the Gunners' pre-season camp in Austria. Club medics expect the 22-year-old to be out for between two and three months.

Rough break (ahem!) for our favorite near-palindromatic Gunner. Last year he never quite lived up to the expectations we all had for him. A French winger coming to Arsenal?!?! It was like fantasy gold! And after his game winner in the opening week against West Brom - our expectations went through the roof! But he was never consistent and drifted out of games for long stretches. He was more Rosicky than Pires. And speaking of which, it's a good thing that the Czech is making a belated return from injury.

Elsewhere, on the south coast...

Crouch rebuffs Sunderland approach - He's likely holding out for Spurs or perhaps Fulham.

Al Fahim gets green light for Portsmouth takeover
Hart handed Portsmouth job
With this out of the way, and the incoming Crouch monies, perhaps we'll see some transfers coming in to Pompey rather than just heading out the door. As it stands they're a frightening thin team but they do have a relatively mild opening week (Fulham and @Birmingham City). With 15 senior players fantasy managers will have a pretty good chance of picking the starters. And you can't say that for too many teams in the league these days.

The Sports Guy Explains it All

Q: I am a die-hard soccer fan living abroad and agree with your theory that international soccer could take off in the States. But not everyone listens to your podcasts, so could you please make the same case in one of your columns so everyone can see it? I think it's important. Thanks and cheers from the UK!
-- T.J., Leeds, England

SG: Sure. I'll do it in five short paragraphs and 500 words total. The theory goes like this ...

1. Americans enjoy watching the best (fill in any sport). We are elitists. That's why we like the Olympics, that's why we enjoy any finals, that's why we watch Wimbledon and the Masters, that's why we don't care about sports like the WNBA, MLS or arena football as anything other than a niche sport. International soccer plays into this. It's the best of the best. Hell, we even liked "The Best of the Best" even though Eric Roberts was the biggest star in it.

2. The games zoom along: no commercials, no sideline reporters, no corporate tie-ins, no four-hour games like in baseball, no "takes 20 minutes to play the last two" like in the NBA. You can sit down for a soccer game and say, "I'm going to spend the next two hours watching this and then I'm going to do something else." Like watch more TV.

3. Give credit to ESPN for committing air time in non-Cup years to elite international soccer tournaments like the UEFA Cup. I know that's how I started paying more attention. If you like sports, you cannot NOT get caught up in the level of play, the maniacal crowds, the intensity and tension and everything else. It's impossible.

4. Widescreen TVs make it easier to see the field; HD makes it easier to see faces and numbers (and the grass looks green and vibrant); and better camerawork (and also more cameras) make the games more intimate. Now you feel like the players are flopping right onto your living room rug! Just kidding, soccer fans. Seriously, settle down. Jokes.

5. International soccer never took off here for the simple reason that American sports fans had trouble following anything they couldn't attend in person and/or watch on television at their leisure. Now? We're turning into a sofa culture; since it's more expensive to go to games, many of us find it just as rewarding to stay home, save money and watch games on a nice TV. Throw in the Internet, DirecTV, fan blogs and everything else and you really can follow soccer from across the Atlantic.

That's why, over the next decade -- starting with the World Cup in 2010 -- I predict international soccer takes off to a modest degree in America during the '10s. Not to compare everything to "The Godfather," but for America, the NASL was Sonny (exciting, impetuous and ultimately self-destructive), the MLS is Fredo (weak) and international soccer is Michael (the heavy hitter who was lurking all along). That's how this plays out I think.

Football. Futbol. Soccer.

Time for another look at the rapidly (oops, MLS pun alert!) approaching week in MLS fantasy. The game week begins tonight at the Galaxy travel to NY to take on the Red Bulls. Of course this game is David Beckham's return to MLS after his very successful stint with AC Milan and the recent contrversy around Grant Wahl's Beckham book and Landon Donovan's statements therein.  Last time Becks had prime time in NYC he lived up to the hype in the Galaxy's 5-4 win over the Red Bulls, and I'm thinking that both he and Landon Donovan are sure things this week. And that's even though they're the road team in a league where things are always stacked in favor of the home team. To get them I've had to sell Mike Magee, whom I would still recommend as a fantasy option. Especially as he's cheaper than the two big stars and I think he'll keep his place. Kirovski, not so much. However, you can only have three players from a team on your fantasy team and I've got Omar "OG" Gonzalez as an ever present in the back line. OG is also interesting as his height makes him a target on set pieces. Look for the Galaxy to go to him or Buddle if they can.

Saturday we have the meat of the schedule, including Toronto FC hosting Houston (who are still struggling against injuries and call-ups); Chicago hosting San Jose (who just traded away another striker - Pablo Campos this time. What can they be working on?!?!?); the Crew without the hamstrung Guillermo Barros Schelotto (that's a good injury tip right there!) host RSL; and DCUnited host the Rapids. Finally Sunday sees struggling Chivas make the cross-country trip to play the struggling Revolution. I think that last one is a stay away match unless you're in for either team's defenders.

For me, other than the LA three discussed above, I'm brining in Casey to replace Montero whose Sounders have a friendly against Chelsea rather than a league match this weekend. (Will Montero remain in the MLS much longer if he can put on a good show against one of Europe's biggest clubs? I would guess not.)  Casey is on the road, but I'm going to gamble that DCUnited misses Jankovic, who is still at the CONCACAF Gold Cup with the Canadian national team.  GBS stays on the bench and Ryan Johnson (who else can San Jose run out at forward?) keeps that spot in the line-up.

In midfield, I fianlly sold Brad Davis who made me look silly in wanting to sell him last week - albeit happy I didn't - with an early goal. I also sold Marco Pappa (although I don't necessarily recommend that you do), but kept his Fire teammate, Chuatehamoc Blanco. In comes Dwayne DeRosario on the "scoring against his old team" corollary and Chris Pontius who was benched last week as DC United didn't have a league game.

In goal I'm again going with Stefan Frei over Pat Onstad. They are head to head this weekend and I just have to give the nod to Frei as he's on the home side.

Odd Moves?

Jeremy and I were IMing earlier today about some of the moves that seem likely to be completed in the next day or two. I'll spare you the transcript - Jeremy likes that gimmick more than I do [I sure do... and here it is] - but here are some thoughts:
  1. Fulham striker Zamora joins Hull in £5m deal - Huh? I don't object to Hull picking up Zamora for depth, he's an adequate 3rd or 4th striker for a team with aspirations of being mid-table. On the other hand, paying £5M for him seems, well, insanely high. In my opinion this shows how lazy or unable to scout outside the obvious places - those being other people's leftovers, the Championship, the SPL, and maybe some of the other Continental leagues. Steve Bruce may get some flack for non-Argentine/non-Brazilian South and Central Americans but they're certainly better value for the money if you're willing to do the work to find that talent.

  2. Sunderland confirm Crouch talks - I don't really have anything to say about Crouch one way or the other with the exception of the fact that he's definitely not a replacement for Cisse as Kenwyne Jones' partner. I assume this move would imply that KJ is on his way elsewhere - seems like a little bit of a downgrade to me but only marginally. Seems like the Black Cats would be better served letting Crouchy head to Fulham and focusing on that Darren Bent rumor.

  3. Villa try to clinch Downing deal
    Villa working on Downing capture - I actually like this one a lot more than Jeremy does. One of Villa's biggest problems last season was that the squad was too small. They now have Ashley Young, James Milner, Gabby Agbonlahor, and Downing to rotate between two wing spots and one "small" striker to partner Heskey/Carew. If Petrov fills in Barry's spot as a holding midfielder which he was doing reasonably well when asked last season then they're in pretty good shape outside of the defence. Maybe a little expensive for someone who might not be a first choice starter every week but still a good deal if they can afford it.

As threatened, here's the 'blog roundtable' we had over instant message today.

[08:49] JSpitzberg: EJ doing well for FUL in their pre-season
[08:49] JSpitzberg: set up 2 for nevland yesterday
[08:49] Neal J Thurman: wow
[08:49] Neal J Thurman: could be a nice thing for him if he can get some PT
[08:50] JSpitzberg: welcome back
[08:51] JSpitzberg: odd xfer rumours...
[08:51] JSpitzberg: zamora to hull for 5mil
[08:52] JSpitzberg: not odd, but surely overpriced
[08:52] JSpitzberg: crouch to sunderland? thought he was going to ful to replace zamora
[08:52] JSpitzberg: and downing to villa...
[08:52] JSpitzberg: who have the left wing covered, thank you very much
[09:12] Neal J Thurman: the only one that makes much sense to me is Downing - Villa's big problem is squad depth so having a mix and match of Downing, Gabby, BFAY, and Milner (plus maybe Bentley?) for two wings and the "small" striker seems reasonable
[09:13] Neal J Thurman: assuming that Kenwyne heads somewhere (maybe FUL?) if Crouchy goes to SUN
[09:13] Neal J Thurman: Zamora is too expensive at that price


[12:33] Neal J Thurman: Any chance that Downing to Villa signals that BFAY will be moving along?
[12:35] JSpitzberg: that was my first thought
[12:35] JSpitzberg: but i just don't see that
[12:35] JSpitzberg: who knows
[12:35] JSpitzberg: downing also played through the middle a little
[12:35] JSpitzberg: off a striker
[12:35] JSpitzberg: so maybe they can convert him like barry to a left-sided, central player
[12:36] Neal J Thurman: would fit his pace (err, lack of) a little better
[12:36] JSpitzberg: and if petrov has really found a role holding in mid...
[12:36] JSpitzberg: could work
[12:37] JSpitzberg: but who takes kicks? ;-)
[12:37] JSpitzberg: sure hope it's BFAY
[12:37] JSpitzberg: downing hasn't met a cross he couldn't over- or under- hit
[12:37] Neal J Thurman: lol - excellent question with the worst possible likely answer is that they get split up between Downing/BFAY/Milner/Petrov
[12:38] Neal J Thurman: but agreed on Downing not being an upgrade in that regard
[12:40] JSpitzberg: they also played downing on the right at times
[12:40] JSpitzberg: so he can cover milner
[12:40] JSpitzberg: but not sure i agree with that
[12:40] Neal J Thurman: would work in a pinch
[12:40] JSpitzberg: not sure you can look at anything boro did last season and say "hey, we should really try that"
[12:41] Neal J Thurman: they definitely need some additional cover
[12:41] JSpitzberg: 12million worth of cover
[12:41] JSpitzberg: and someone who needs to play to have a shot at 2010
[12:41] Neal J Thurman: seems to be the price of admission for a decent player these days - see Zamora for 5M
[12:41] JSpitzberg: ugh... that's unconscionable
[12:41] Neal J Thurman: it really is
[12:42] JSpitzberg: and fulham bought him for the same price
[12:42] Neal J Thurman: but in fairness, Hull paid much more than that for someone who only has one leg last January
[12:42] JSpitzberg: 4 goals later and they don't lose money on the deal?
[12:42] JSpitzberg: hull are getting desperate, me thinks
[12:42] Neal J Thurman: agreed
[12:42] JSpitzberg: we'll hear about zamora's work rate and how he helps the team
[12:43] Neal J Thurman: OR Zamora recaptures that WHU form of two seasons ago and Jummy is healthy and they're a much better team
[12:43] JSpitzberg: but i don't remember AJ or duece terrorizing anyone off zamora's work rate either
[12:43] Neal J Thurman: but probably the former
[12:43] JSpitzberg: did that form last more than a month?
[12:43] JSpitzberg: anomaly
[12:44] Neal J Thurman: probably
[13:03] JSpitzberg: melo to juve
[13:03] JSpitzberg: back to the drawing board
[13:43] Neal J Thurman: yup :-(
[13:44] Neal J Thurman: although I had a hard time getting TOO excited about him after Brazil gave up two early goals to the US :-)
[13:44] JSpitzberg: maybe they can get lucio instead
[13:44] JSpitzberg: LUCIO SMASH!
[13:44] Neal J Thurman: :-)
[14:11] Neal J Thurman: I still want them to go after Marco Senna
[14:16] JSpitzberg: old and injured
[14:16] JSpitzberg: jeremy toulalan!
[14:16] JSpitzberg: or if you want an injured player, how about poaching mammadou (sp?) diarra from real madrid?

Worlds Collide

This is just too funny. From Chad OchoCinco's Twitter stream:
  1. Damn they tall ass hell, I am 6"2 and they are towering over me, taking a picture with the legend, Jose Marino
  2. - Ibrahimovic, best player on Inter Milan
  3. - Materazzi, headed butted by Zidane in the World Cup Final
  4. Getting ready to practice with the Inter Milan soccer team.
  5. For those who like soccer, just saw Ibrahimovic and Materrazzi of Inter Milan soccer team, there at UCLA.
I can only assume he means "Jose Mourinho". If he posts the picture, I'll be sure to update.

  1. My bad on the name, Mourinho

I'm love when this stuff happens. Reminds me of when David James trained with the Miami Dolphins. Any exposure that football/soccer gets in the States is a good thing, in my opinion. But the meeting of America's top athletes with the world's best athletes bring to mind this:  I've long held the notion that we won't be a world soccer (sorry, football) power until our best athletes choose the sport over football, baseball, basketball, etc. Not even our best athletes but certainly taller and stronger ones than Landon Donovan or DeMarcus Beasley.  For now, I can just dream of Dwight Howard instead of Tim Howard in net (not really, Tim!), Brian Urlacher at center half; Larry Fitzgerald on the wing feeding crosses into LeBron James, and Troy Polamalu in the Makelele/Marcos Senna role.

Analysis: K2 to Citeh - The Morning Guvnor Gossip - Transfer Gossip - Football365 News
Arsenal are widely expected to pursue Bordeaux's Marouane Chamakh if and when Emmanuel Adebayor completes his move to Manchester City.
I have to say I don't know too much about Chamakh but here's a few thoughts on the potential move of K2 to Citeh from both sides of the equation.

Arsenal take... I guess it depends on which K2 you believe he is.  The one from two seasons ago was a game-changer and someone you would think Gooners the world over would be crying over the loss of.  More proof that Arsenal aren't a "big club" and will always lose their best players to clubs with deeper pockets and more ambition.  The guy who "showed up" last season? You'd have to be THRILLED to get £25M for him because he was mediocre when he played and a gigantic pain in the ass the entire season.  Seemed like he was already out the door so why not cash in at the earliest opportunity.  Even better that it's to a club that is likely to be so dysfunctional that he won't make much of a difference in the overall scheme of things.

Overall, if you're an Arsenal supporter you just have to hope that the money will be split between a replacement striker (Chamakh or Huntelaar or someone) and that illusive holding midfielder.  Heck, if there's another centre back on the way as well, that wouldn't be so bad.  In fact, I'd prioritize the signings as holding mid first, centre back second, and replacement "target" striker third (despite being a bit of an arrogant ass, Bendtner isn't bad and still has plenty of room to improve at his age).

Citeh take... What's going on in Manchester these days? Have the managers there developed some sort of striker-related blinders where the only players they see on the market they could possibly buy are strikers? Between United and Citeh, there has been an incredible focus up front while ignoring each squad's real need (for United the midfield and Citeh the defence).  Have they really just made RSC obsolete/second choice before he has even played his first pre-season match?  How much did they spend on him again?  Even at the height of their foolish spending earlier in the decade Chelsea didn't spend this poorly.

I know, I know they're going after John Terry too but in the wake of signing Barry, RSC and Tevez to go with Robinho, Bellamy, Caidedo, SWP, MPet, Ireland, and the rest you'd think that all focus would be on defenders - central and wide.  But hey, that's just me.

More as the transfer market progresses.

Remember when?

This has been another edition of "What we said"
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.
Read the rest.

Tevez agrees move to City

Long rumoured, announced today.
Carlos Tevez has agreed his move to Manchester City subject to a medical, the club have announced.

The 25-year-old has agreed personal terms with the club and will sign a five-year contract. He will jet out to South Africa after his medical to join his new team-mates on their pre-season tour, where he will wear the number 32 shirt.

"It is terrific news," Mark Hughes said. "Carlos is an international player of the highest class who possesses all the attributes that will help drive this club forward."
It sure will be interesting to see how Hughes makes this work. Before this announcement it seems clear that Citeh would line up with Roque Santa Cruz as a lone striker, supported by Robinho, Stephen Ireland, and Shaun Wright-Phillips. Throw in Barry and de Jong holding in front of a back four and you have the makings of a very strong side that really would fit the strengths of their players. Now you have to figure that Carlos Tevez is a starter and Citeh are lining up in a more traditional 4-4-2. However, I don't know that Robinho is a traditional left-wing or that with he and SWP on the flanks that they don't need a more defensive minded midfielder than Barry shielding the back line.

It will be very interesting to watch this grand experiment take place. I don't even think that in Chelsea's Roman pomp that there was this much insanity around any club. As a fantasy manager, however, I am sad to see what looked like a solid and regular formation be thrown back into the unknown. Or maybe it's not unknown, re-reading what I just wrote. Maybe it just doesn't strike me as as good. But for fantasy purposes, maybe it's just another reasonably priced attacking option in the light blue of Manchester City.

Richards has swine flu

Micah Richards is stranded in Cyprus after contracting swine flu while on holiday with friends.

The Manchester City defender, 21, is confined to his hotel room in Cyprus after being told he could not fly back to the UK until fully recovered.
Great. In 2005 it was Yakubu and then Lua Lua coming down with malaria. And now Richards has swine flu which will put a dent into his pre-season. I'm not sure he's a starter for Citeh any longer, but he's still one of their bigger names.

However, this is the real kicker:
"At first I thought it was a really bad chest infection, or maybe alcohol poisoning," he told The Sun.
That's just great! Just what you want from one of your players - a month before the season and he's out drinking enough that he fears he may have alcohol poisoning. I'm sure Hughes will be most pleased with this revelation.  Will someone please alert Nedum Onuoha that his starting spot is safe.

Another MLS interlude

If you'll forgive our stateside fixation on our Premier League blog, but today is decision day for those of us playing fantasy Major League Soccer. With Gold Cup in full swing, injuries and suspensions mounting and the odd schedule quirk it's a tough week to pick.

First of all you have a lot of good players on international duty. We've certainly written enough about that. Injuries and suspensions are another matter. New England is missing half its first team through injury and the Red Bulls have half of their first eleven questionable. Houston is going to be stretched really thin. Not only are they missing defenders Robinson (long-standing injury) and Barrett, and Waibel but Hainault is on international duty with Canada and their starting center backs, Geoff Cameron and Bobby Boswell, are both suspended for the road game against Seattle. They should have Clarke back in the midfield so Mulrooney can cover at fullback, but that's a bandaid. So I'm dropping Onstad and picking up Frei (TFC@SJ - not ideal but he was on the bench so it doesn't burn a trade) in net. And at forward I'm hoping Montero can continue his hot streak in front of goal. One note of caution before you pile in on Sounders, they have an exhibition match with Chelsea next week so they don't play in the league.

I've saved my trades for the midfield. I dropped my two FCDallas middies (who didn't do anything for me last week against the Red Bulls) and I've had to bench Pontius as DCUnited are off this week. Finally I sold Kandji as he's injured. That means Brad Davis keeps his place by default even though he's been a points black hole for a month or more. And in come Pappas and Blanco from Chicago. They're home against Columbus this week and home again next week to San Jose. I'm not thrilled about those two, but there are so few quality midfielders actually playing this week because of all the above reasons.

The last midfield spot goes to Mike Magee, who's always been a blog favorite even though his MLS roots are with NY/NJ. Hopefully he can keep his place in an improving Galaxy side (I'm thinking he stays at attacking mid and Landon Donovan, who is my captain again this week, goes back to forward for now) against the struggling cross-town Goats.

Finally at forward I'm dropping GBS for Ryan Johnson. I'm unsure of this move, but going for the home team as the tie-breaker. That and if Frei can't keep a clean sheet, maybe it will be RJ who gets the points. So he's the pick for a hedge.

Shock and Awe

Owen completes surprise Man Utd move
Owen completes stunning Manchester United move

and now,

Obertan shocked at United move

Why is the predominant emotion involved in Manchester United's transfer dealings shock and surprise? That certainly doesn't bode well, does it?

I think at the moment that they are doing what they can to address needs (Owen at reserve striker) and build their squad (Obertan). I don't doubt that we'll see more from them this transfer window, be it someone from Real Madrid's bench like Huntelaar or Sneijder or a Ribery "type" player (if not Ribery himself), who can come right into the first team and make an impact.

They've got the shock. Now they need the awe.

Transfer math

Uefa Cup: Robinho Scores Rocket

Looking at the headlines and trying to put 2 and 2 together to see what we get.

Allardyce looking at Vieri +
Big Sam admits Ruud defeat +
Benjani open to Pompey return
 = Benjani to Rovers

Math is fun!

Premier League Transfer Round-Up

Sports News - February 19, 2009

Zhirkov 'a Chelsea player'
Chelsea sign Russian winger Zhirkov
Zhirkov is a realy quality player, but I'm not sure I understand this signing.  Neal seems to think that there was already a deal in place and given Chelsea's Russian ties, it makes sense.  But Florent Malouda and Ashley Cole finally started clicking on the left-hand side for Chelsea and you wouldn't think it worthwhile to break that up.  The only thing I can think of is that FloMa moves infield as a second striker and Zhirkov plays out wide.  Now if he's also listed as a defender in the fantasy game... +10 for sure!

Foster inks new Man Utd deal
Now the only question is where will Ben Foster play this season on loan?  Hopefully it's a half-decent Premier League side though most teams seems to be settled at keeper.  Maybe Portsmouth tries to cash in on James and gets Foster on loan for a season until their ownership situation is settled.  And speaking of loan signings...

Jo set for Everton deal
Seems good business for all involved.  Well, if you don't count the 18million that Citeh paid to CSKA Moscow.  That looks like a bit of a waste now, doesn't it?  But clearly Hughes doesn't rate Jo, despite his good form at Everton.  On the other hand, Moyes gets to keep a player who flourished in his system (at least at Goodison Park) and hopefully will get to play him in tandem with Yakubu.  After all, Jo only looked an 18million player when partnered with Wagner Love.

Fiorentina ponder Melo swap
Felipe Melo for Emmanuel Eboue?  For most Arsenal fans, I think this falls into the category of "I'll drive him to the airport!".  But what is it with Wenger and Brazilian holding players?  First Silva, then Denilson and now Melo?   It's like going to France for the beer.  Or Italy for the hamburgers.

United favourites to bag Obertan
Obertan on brink of Man Utd move
French ace set for United
Another for the future, or with Cristiano Ronaldo gone, on for the here and now?  Tosic, Nani, Park and possibly Rooney akready give SAF options on the wing.  But none have the experience or the game-changing skills that United will need next season.  None, save for Rooney and I'm thinking that it is less and less likely that he'll be deployed through the middle.  Perhaps a front three of Rooney, Berbatov and Samuel Eto'o trying to replicate Eto'o's Barcelona from this season just past?

Martin makes Ipswich switch
Not Premier League, but with an opening like this... "Ipswich manager Roy Keane has raided former club Manchester United to sign winger Lee Martin for an undisclosed fee."... I couldn't resist an "who could have seen THAT coming?  Next thing you know he'll sign a former Ireland teamate! Sheesh!

And the big news of the week, which at this point seems so long ago:

Owen completes surprise Man Utd move
Owen completes stunning Manchester United move
Let's break it down, blog roundtable style.

[09:31] Neal J Thurman: Mikey Owen as the new Ole?
[09:31] Neal J Thurman: 3rd striker behind Roonaldo and Berbs?
[09:31] JSpitzberg: that the latest rumour?
[09:31] Neal J Thurman: y
[09:32] JSpitzberg: interesting
[09:32] JSpitzberg: still don't like it
[09:32] JSpitzberg: but interesting
[09:32] JSpitzberg: why spend all that money on him
[09:32] Neal J Thurman: apparently the odds have moved from 20/1 to 7/4 in the last day or so
[09:32] JSpitzberg: when you have a bunch of young guys you can use as impact subs?
[09:33] Neal J Thurman: not ready for big stage, etc.
[09:33] JSpitzberg: and give them the experience you can capitalize on in the future
[09:33] Neal J Thurman: same reason you don't want to have to count on Bendtner at ARS or Di Santo at CHE
[09:34] Neal J Thurman: he actually seems like the perfect solution for them - no transfer fee, probably not crazy wages, can limit his minutes and play younger guys to "keep him fresh"
[09:34] JSpitzberg: is he free?
[09:34] Neal J Thurman: y
[09:34] JSpitzberg: out of contract?
[09:34] Neal J Thurman: y
[09:35] JSpitzberg: can cover attacking mid too
[09:35] JSpitzberg: still not convinced it's money well spent
[09:35] JSpitzberg: but can't argue w/ it on football terms
[09:36] Neal J Thurman: guess it comes down to the salary he wants and the opportunity cost of that money - not sure what their options are at this point
[09:36] Neal J Thurman: save money for midfielders, i guess
[09:37] JSpitzberg: waiting for the madrid fire sale
[09:37] Neal J Thurman: bring Ruud back
[09:37] JSpitzberg: if you want someone old and past it that can give you a spark...
[09:37] JSpitzberg: why not robben?
[09:37] Neal J Thurman: why not both :
[09:37] JSpitzberg: ha
[09:37] JSpitzberg: sure

Blog Roundtable

Gilberto Silva, Felipe Melo

Your least favorite blog feature returns.  In this episode Neal and Jeremy wonder over the fallout of Real Madrid's shopping spree, wax nostalgic over MLS, and run the rule over Brazil's holding midfielders (really!).

Session Start (jspitzberg:Neal J Thurman): Wed Jul 01 13:34:38 2009
[13:34] JSpitzberg: seems to be official
[13:34] Neal J Thurman: Karim to Real?
[13:34] JSpitzberg:
[13:36] Neal J Thurman: how are they funding all of this activity?
[13:36] Neal J Thurman: they can't have sold THAT many Beckham jerseys while he was there
[13:36] JSpitzberg: "loans"
[13:36] Neal J Thurman: do the Arabs secretly own Real as well?
[13:37] JSpitzberg: basically govt bonds
[13:37] JSpitzberg: no...
[13:37] JSpitzberg: full faith and credit of the king of spain
[13:37] Neal J Thurman: I guess there's a reason that they're called "Real"
[13:38] Neal J Thurman: I wonder about your point on selling the cast-offs to Champions League competitors
[13:38] JSpitzberg: wonder how?
[13:39] Neal J Thurman: since those are the teams with the money to pay (Citeh aside) I wonder if the can afford NOT to sell to Milan/Inter/ManYoo/Ars/Che/Liv
[13:39] JSpitzberg: true...
[13:39] Neal J Thurman: Citeh can't buy all those guys (OK, I suppose they could but even they aren't that crazy)
[13:39] JSpitzberg: but i'm saying there would be a premium
[13:39] JSpitzberg: for manu
[13:39] JSpitzberg: that say a villa
[13:39] JSpitzberg: that quitely has lerner's money
[13:39] JSpitzberg: wouldn't have to pay
[13:40] Neal J Thurman: guess it depends on whether those clubs have the money to spend - Villa (and Lerner's money) have been VERY quiet thus far this summre
[13:41] JSpitzberg: makes sense
[13:41] Neal J Thurman: Spurs are talking a lot but doing nothing; Villa aren't even talking; EVE don't have any money
[13:41] JSpitzberg: TOO much real and citeh money around
[13:41] JSpitzberg: wait for that to settle
[13:41] Neal J Thurman: Sunderland probably aren't a "big" enough team to attract those names
[13:41] JSpitzberg: NO one else is doing anything
[13:41] JSpitzberg: save for the promoted sides
[13:41] Neal J Thurman: except Burnley who are signing everyone
[13:41] Neal J Thurman: and yet no one
[13:42] Neal J Thurman: and Wolves who (I think) got a good deal on Doyle
[13:42] JSpitzberg: and they're shopping at walmart, not neiman marcus
[13:42] JSpitzberg: tesco, not sainsbury
[13:42] Neal J Thurman: lol
[13:42] JSpitzberg: or something like that
[13:43] Neal J Thurman: so you figure that Villa goes to Barca, Eto'o to Citeh and then the real business starts playing out with all of the crazy money off the table?
[13:44] JSpitzberg: i'm starting to think eto'o to utd
[13:45] Neal J Thurman: could be
[13:45] Neal J Thurman: wonder if he'll take less money to go to a bigger club
[13:45] Neal J Thurman: if he's going to move to Manchester
[13:46] JSpitzberg: i can't speak for him...
[13:46] JSpitzberg: but you figure playing in the CL
[13:46] JSpitzberg: rather than the Carling Cup
[13:46] JSpitzberg: has it's attraction
[13:46] JSpitzberg: and good for him if he's willing to not take top dollar in order to play top football
[13:47] JSpitzberg: speaking of (kinda)... how interesting was it to see GSilva playing at international level?
[14:11] Neal J Thurman: yeah, GSilva was sort of invisible out there
[14:12] JSpitzberg: isn't that his thing?
[14:12] JSpitzberg: isn't he "the invisible wall"?
[14:12] JSpitzberg: but if anyone is a judge of holding players, it's got to be dunga ;-)
[14:12] Neal J Thurman: lol - but only if the "wall" part is working
[14:12] JSpitzberg: or was gsilva the best brazil had... faint praise
[14:13] Neal J Thurman: didn't they actually use two holding guys in that line-up - nelo or melo or something like that being the other?
[14:13] JSpitzberg: y
[14:13] JSpitzberg: that's dunga's system
[14:14] Neal J Thurman: wonder if Wenger was watching what two holding Ms combined with a lot of attacking talent can do
[14:14] Neal J Thurman: :-)
[14:14] JSpitzberg: sanga != maicon
[14:14] JSpitzberg: but it would be fun if they gave it a try
[14:15] Neal J Thurman: sadly, no Amaury to insert come next year
[14:15] JSpitzberg: couldn't gauruntee first team football
[14:16] Neal J Thurman: or that he'd actually be healthy for 10 consecutive days
[14:16] Neal J Thurman: (althought that hasn't led to 'sicky's release yet)
[14:16] JSpitzberg: ha
[14:16] Neal J Thurman: any mid-week MLS this week?
[14:16] JSpitzberg: don't think so
[14:16] JSpitzberg: 1 friday game
[14:16] JSpitzberg: rest 7/4 w/ fireworks
[14:16] Neal J Thurman: makes sense
[14:16] JSpitzberg: biggest attendance day, IIRC
[14:17] Neal J Thurman: something has to draw the crowds
[14:17] Neal J Thurman: means I can deal with line-up changes tomorrow :-)
[14:19] Neal J Thurman: wow, talk about optimistic - I hadn't realized that there is an American Airlines logo embedded in the MLS schedule grid (presumably to encourage people to fly to see a match)
[14:19] Neal J Thurman: I wonder if anyone has ever clicked on it
[14:19] Neal J Thurman: and actually followed through and bought a ticket
[14:29] JSpitzberg: i clicked it to see what it was about
[14:29] JSpitzberg: professional interest
[14:29] Neal J Thurman: and?
[14:30] JSpitzberg: doesn't even prepopulate a destination field
[14:30] JSpitzberg: just takes you to
[14:30] JSpitzberg: LAME
[14:30] Neal J Thurman: how useless
[14:30] JSpitzberg: btw, check the blog for gold cup/mls info
[14:30] JSpitzberg: lots of players out
[14:30] Neal J Thurman: our blog or the MLS blog?
[14:36] JSpitzberg: ours
[14:36] Neal J Thurman: nice
[14:36] JSpitzberg: ;-)
[14:36] JSpitzberg: i needed the 411 anyway
[14:36] JSpitzberg: for instance, cummings was called up by jamaica
[14:37] Neal J Thurman: grumble
[14:37] JSpitzberg: just an example of the things you might learn
[14:37] Neal J Thurman: and am learning as we speak, err, IM
[14:38] Neal J Thurman: wow, remember the days when DCU was decimated by these tournaments because they had so many good players
[14:39] Neal J Thurman: (and the days when the US roster for an Int'l tournament didn't include so many chumps)
[14:41] JSpitzberg: lol
[14:41] JSpitzberg: usa, boliva, el salvador
[14:41] JSpitzberg: didn't leave us with much
[14:42] JSpitzberg: curt onalfo getting PT
[14:44] Neal J Thurman: I'm not even sure I know who Brad Evans is (East Coast bias and all that)
[14:44] JSpitzberg: seattle middie
[14:44] JSpitzberg: i think he came over from CLB
[14:44] JSpitzberg: takes kicks ;-)
[14:45] Neal J Thurman: which would be great if MLS had a decent fantasy game :-)
[14:45] JSpitzberg: lol
[14:46] JSpitzberg: indeed
[14:46] JSpitzberg: though in a real game you'd be upset that Cummings missed a PK
[14:46] JSpitzberg: in this game...
[14:46] JSpitzberg: meh
[14:46] JSpitzberg: i'm relieved, you are pissed
[14:46] JSpitzberg: but not gutted
[14:46] Neal J Thurman: although I'm not sure I have it in me to learn about obscure wing backs from FC Dallas because they take corners from one side of the other
[14:46] JSpitzberg: lol
[14:46] JSpitzberg: fcd home to nyrb
[14:46] JSpitzberg: but cooper gone
[14:46] JSpitzberg: so why bother?
[14:47] Neal J Thurman: you mean why even bother playing the game?
[14:47] Neal J Thurman: I completely agree
[14:47] JSpitzberg: well, picking for fantasy
[14:47] JSpitzberg: but they could cancel the game for all i care
[14:47] JSpitzberg: save everyone the heat stroke
[14:47] Neal J Thurman: exactly

Kit Watch

Who knew that tangerine and yellow were the new black?

Arsenal's new keeper shirt

Newcastle United's new away strip.

Real Madrid sign United target Benzema

French First League Soccer match, Olympique Lyonnais vs Girondins Bordeaux
LYON, France (AFP) - Lyon announced on Wednesday the transfer of Karim Benzema to Real Madrid for 35 million euros in a deal which dashes Manchester United's attempts to capture the France striker.

In a statement the French club announced that the fee could rise to as much as 41 million euros depending on various bonuses attached to the deal.

Lyon, in a statement on their website, said they had accepted Benzema's decision after he had made it clear he wanted the deal to be "concluded quicker than initially envisaged".

"The club wishes Karim the greatest success with Real Madrid," the statement added.
I've said it before (too often, perhaps), but "Wow"! Real Madrid have done it again.
This is the fourth signing by Real under the new presidency of "Galacticos" president Florentino Perez, after Brazilian midfielder Kaka, Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo and Spanish defender Raul Albiol.
Do they even have a manager?  This is fantasy football of the highest order.  Huntelaar, Higuain, Raul, van Niselrooy... and now Benzema?  In front of Cristiano Ronaldo, Guti, Sneijder, van der Vaart and Kaka.  Mahamadou and Lassana Diarra and Gago are holding players that have full international credentials.  As do Ramos, Albiol, Pepe, Heinze, Metzelder and of course Casillas in defence.

Of course, this ONLY interests the blog as far as it impacts the Premier League.  First and foremost, Benzema is taken off Sir Alex Ferguson's shopping list.  Secondly, of the above named players, who will be available?  I assume that Madrid won't be likely to sell to any team that could challenge it in the Champions League unless there is Abramovich-level monies involved.  But perhaps the likes of Manchester City or Aston Villa, who haven't been shy about spending money in recent transfer windows, could snap up a world-class player that won't be making Madrid's first XI?

Premier League Transfer Round-up for Tuesday

Antonio Valencia Wigan Athletic 2008/09

Today we see the culmination of several seemingly inevitable deals.

Man Utd sign Wigan winger Valencia
This has been rumoured for months, if not years, and Cristian Ronaldo's departure only made it more likely.  Certainly not a galactico, but Valencia is a proven Premier League player.  He's also a true right winger which is something ManU hasn't had for the length of CRon's conversion into a center forward.  He'll stretch the field, put in crosses, and has the potential to make everyone around him better.

It will be interesting to see how Wigan replaces him.  They've already signed Jordi Gomez but he's a central/left-sided player and not a like for like replacement.  In fact, Wigan are overloaded on the left with Koumas, Kapo and N'Zogbia as attacking flank players for that side.  Maybe Daniel de Ridder will prove himself at this level if given a run of games on the right.  However, he's been notable for not being notable at all in the Premier League so far.  Wigan will be linked with a lot of players such as Jermaine Pennant (available on a free), and David Bentley.  I'll suggest they look to Newcastle United's Jonás Gutiérrez.  He should be available and would give them all the running they could want on that side and no little invention as well.

Burnley land Fletcher
Burnley complete Mears deal
Burnley start building their squad for the next level, and are hoping that these two fit the bill.  However, Mears certainly hasn't proven himself yet and players who starred in Scotland but couldn't make the grade in England are a dime a dozen.  Mears was at least cheap at 1/2 million.  Compared to Glen Johnson's 17million price tag and you think if Burnley get a servicable 30 games from him they'll have found a bargain.

Wolves snap up record signing Doyle
Meanwhile Wolves continues their own rebuilding effort.  Again they've chosen to pick over the bones of Championship rivals Reading and now Doyle joins goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann back in the Premier League.  I think it's a good signing.  Doyle had a great rookie season in the Premier League and like the rest of the team, a lousy sophmore season.  But experience counts, good and bad.

Blackburn sign N'Zonzi
The next, next, next Patrick Viera.  He's only 20, so perhaps one for the future.  But at 6'2", he's a typical Big Sam signing.

The question becomes, if Big Sam continues to make over Blackburn in a Bolton mold, will fantasy manager be advised never to bet on or against them?