Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thoughts on the new MLS CBA

Lets start this off by saying, just about any agreement was going to be better than a player strike. The league has made nowhere near the impact on the hearts and minds of the average American soccer fan, much less, the average American sports fan to be able to survive a strike. Of course, I wanted to see the MLS finally take the steps to ensuring the longevity of the league by finally valuing their players. Raising the salary cap, and addressing the abysmally low ($34,000) league minimum salary were obvious priorities.

One can find all of the details of the CBA here. And below I've outlined my opinion on several of the key points:

1. Salary cap increases to $2.55M in 2010 (2.315 in 2009), and will increase by 5% each year through 2014.
Lets face it, the MLS isn't a major league yet, and won't be able to offer an impressive salary cap until it can draw the advertising and media monies other sports have. That being said, I think the MLS could have gone higher, perhaps up to $2.75M.

2. Increased player benefits including: raising league minimum salary to $40,000, 401K contributions, health care, appearance fees, better travel coverage, bonuses for winning, bonuses for participating in exhibitions.
A $6,000 increase in the league's minimum salary isn't overtly generous, but when all the benefits are taken into account I feel that the increase was mostly sufficient. And the standout here for me is player incentives for winning. Hopefully this will incentivize teams to put their best product onto the field day in-day out. And the MLS will now cover player's health insurance?? Smells like a SOCIALISM..

3. Possible establishment of a reserve division.
This could be great for talent cultivation, but remember its in the "committee" stage. My opinion: don't hold your breath.

4. Guaranteed contracts for players that are at least 24 years old and have 3 years of MLS service.
I think the goal here is to keep players in the MLS and prevent talent from migrating to other leagues. There could be more in the CBA to keep our players here, but this is a step in the right direction.

All in all, I think this is a win for the players. Lets be honest, the majority of the owners in the MLS aren't turning a profit. I commend the owners for making the concessions (yes, they are modest) to keep the players from striking, a blow that the league may not have survived.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dempsey is Back Baby!

Clint "Deuce" Dempsey capped a remarkable 4-1 Fulham victory over Juventus with a beautiful goal. The perfectly placed chip shot pushed aggregate of the Europa league series with Juventus to 5-4 in favor of the Cottagers. Not many people would have expected Fulham to advance, especially after losing 3-1 in Italy last week. This was a nice way for Demsey to be welcomed back into the team after a lengthy recovery from a knee injury. Enjoy the goal below.

Monday, March 8, 2010

FA Cup: Fulham and Tottenham Draw

A 6th round FA Cup match-up saw Fulham and Tottenham play a relatively evenly matched fixture this evening. For Spurs, the twin towers of Pavlyuchenko and Crouch couldn't break the deadlock and apparently Harry Houidini didn't deem this match important enough to let Defoe see any time on the pitch until the 82nd minute (even though he has scored in all previous rounds of the Cup). Bobby Zamora put in a solid effort, holding the ball up well, but couldn't convert any chances. Fulham could have definitely used a creative, active and accurate player like the injured Dempsey to add to their attack. After this 0-0 tie, each team will get another shot to make it to the next round with the all-London replay at White Hart Lane.

Whatever the outcome, for me this season has been a pleasure as Fulham has cemented themselves as a quality/mid-table Premiership team, gone far into the FA Cup and played will in the Europa League (Juventus is up next, ouch). It would be nice to see Hodgson pick up a more dynamic center midfielder to control the game and some durable, quality support to run up front with Zamora.

On a side note, Gareth Bale: Man or Ape? You be the judge...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Thoughts on USA vs Netherlands

De jong is a piece of crap for laying down that dirt-McGirt tackle on Holden, a-la last weekend’s Aaron Ramsey leg breaker. It’s a friendly for Christ’s sake.

DMB getting the nod to be subbed on for the injured Holden. Looks like he needs to stock up on some Monster Milk as I think he weighs about a buck-thirty soaking wet.

Robbie Findley is not the answer.

Bornstein brain fart + Sneijder selling the penalty = 1-0 lead for the Dutch.

I don’t know much about Man City’s De Jong, but I have zero respect for him. First that tackle on Holden in a game with absolutely zero consequence and then a comical flop when Beasley didn’t even touch him. It’s stuff like that that ruins games and gives the sport a bad name.

Who is Alejandro Bedoya?? Got his second cap coming in for the invisible Robbie Findley. Almost drew a penalty too.

I hope, for their own sake, that the Dutch pick up their game before South Africa. I was not really impressed with their play. Cheap PK and a deflection for their goals.

With that being said, the Dutch have a really deep roster. For every big name they subbed out, another world class player came in.

Tim Howard is a beast. USA has had some of the best goalkeepers in the past 15 years, no doubt. Keller, Friedel and now Howard. Guzan is a stud too. At least we have one position locked down for a while…

Bocanegra showed his experience and calmly headed in the only USA goal.

USA picked up its play and pressured the Dutch in the last 10-15 minutes with Goodson and Altidore both having good scoring opportunities. It will be interesting when Onyewu, Clark, Dempsey, Feilheber and maybe even Charlie Davies are healthy.

99 days till the big dance….Bring it on South Africa!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

New Threads

Sick nasty. I'm digging the new USA kit. Bring on South Africa!

Michael Ballack Sucks

I just finished watching the highlights from some of today's EPL games and saw that Man City beat Chelsea 4-2. This makes me happy. First of all it tightens up the race at the top and prevents the Blues from going 4 points clear. It also just so happens that I can't stand half of the players on Chelsea's squad. Didier Drogba: diver. Ashley Cole: hack with a hot temper. John Terry: a guy who sleeps with a teammate's wife, real classy. And now we come to the biggest piece of crap of them all, Michael Ballack. To be honest, I don't know why I dislike the German so much, but when I saw that he got a red card for a dirty tackle on Tevez, I was delighted.

Maybe it is the fact that he is always throwing crappy tackles on opponents. Maybe it is the fact that he plays for Chelsea, the NY Yankees of soccer. Maybe it is the fact that he is perpetually screaming and crying to the officials about missed calls. I can't put my finger on it, but it's official: Michael Ballack sucks.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fulham Wins 2-1

A crucial mid table fixture saw Fulham versus Birmingham today. The score line ended up 2-1 in favor of the Cottagers, but they were actually were responsible for all three goals. While I love to see defenders attacking the goal for crosses coming in from the wings, Chris Baird's goal is not what I had in mind. A really strange, unmarked header straight back at the Fulham goal saw Birmingham take the 1-nil lead on the own goal. Damien Duff equalized with a stunning left footed rocket to see the match level at one a piece. And then, better late than never with Bobby Zamora banging home a free kick in the 90th minute to give Fulham 3 points.

This win put Fulham even on points with Birmingham City and only one point behind red hot Everton. I really hope Fulham can keep getting results here. It would also be lovely for Dempsey to make a recovery and get some quality minutes prior to South Africa in June. Enjoy the goals below (all 3 of Fulham's).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mistakes Cost Arsenal

First a cross from a Porto winger is pushed into the net by Fabianski. Then this bonehead play. It definitely looks like Campbell touched the ball back and then stupidly, Fabianski picks it up. If at all possible, I don't think he will be seeing anymore time between the posts this season.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Champions League is Back

Champions League action kicked off again today with two pretty big matches being shown on TV. Manchester United was able to take care of business at the San Siro with a 3-2 win over AC Milan. Wayne Rooney had a brace for the Red Devils with two nicely placed headers. Below you can see Clarence Seedorf's cheeky consolation goal for the home side.

In the other big game, Lyon was able to beat the new "Galacticos" of Real Madrid. The final score was 1-0 thanks to a beautiful strike from Makoun. Let's see if Madrid can rebound when the tie returns to Madrid.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yanks Transferring Abroad

Here is a quick rundown of which Americans have made moves in the January transfer window:

1. Stuart Holden to Bolton Wanderers (EPL)

2. Freddy Adu on loan to Aris FC (Greece)

3. Eddie Johnson on loan to Aris FC (Greece)

Both Adu and Johnson have their European careers on life support with this move to Greece. Johnson saw little to no time while at Fulham and on loan to Cardiff. Adu bounced around from Benfica to Monaco to Belenenses and now Aris. Lets see if these guys can get their act together or we might see them in MLS sooner rather than later.

4. Ricardo Clark on loan to Eintracht Frankfurt (Bundesliga)

5. Landon Donovan on loan to Everton (EPL)

Donovan scored his first EPL goal the other day against Sunderland. This move seems to be panning out better than his time spent in Germany.

6. Bryan Arguez to Estoril FC (Portugal 2nd division)

A promising young talent that went from DC United to Hertha Berlin only to have some disciplinary problems. He will try for a fresh start with the 2nd division Portugese club.

7. Kenny Cooper to ????

The striker seems to be disgruntled with his situation in Germany and could find himself a new home. He is hoping to secure playing time in the run up to this summer's World Cup.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Things I'm Looking Forward to in MLS

1. The opening of Red Bull Arena. This has been a long time in the making and finally NYRB doesn't have to play in the cavernous Meadowlands. They will get to play their home fixtures in a top notch facility that will be the envy of the league. Now if DC could just get their act together and get a stadium built...(not in NoVa or Baltimore either)

2. Philadelphia Union. It will be nice to have some new blood here on the east coast. From the looks of the moves the management has been making, the team seems to be set up to succeed. Can Peter Nowak replicate the success that was seen in expansion Seattle last season. Let's hope so. The potential of the DC/NY/Philly rivalries is pretty enticing too.

3. The absence of Landon Donovan. He is scheduled to come back to the Galaxy by the start of the MLS campaign, but one of the best things that could happen for US soccer would be if he can make his stay in England permanent. Landon is one of the top talents in MLS and he can only progress by challenging himself in a higher level league such as the EPL. He seems to be performing well for Everton and hopefully he can make a good impression. Good luck Landon and I hope you don't come back to LA (for the benefit of the national team).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

USMNT Injury Report

US Men's National Team fans can breath a collective sigh of relief: both Clint Dempsey and Oguchi Onyewu released favorable injury reports this week.

Today Fulham indicated that Dempsey, who limped off the field during Fulham's 2-0 loss to Blackburn last weekend, indicated that his injury wouldn't require surgery. That news is extremely positive after Roy Hodgson had indicated earlier in the week that they suspected him to have severely injured his posterior crucial ligament.

And Onyewu, who injured his knee last October, is making good progress and is on the road to recovery. In a hilariously titled interview with MLS Insider (On the Couch with Onyewu), Gooch mentioned that he has already started running and that his rehab is proceeding ahead of schedule. He said he is poised to make a comeback in the near future and he hinted that he should be fine in time for South Africa.

While this is surely good news, lets all take a moment to pray to Allah/Buddha/and James Cameron that both of these guys are back to form by the World Cup. We could probably use their help against little ole' England.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

David Bently, A Bust?

Guest Post by Rob Gordon

As a Tottenham supporter for many years, I have seen my share of flops at the club. From Rebrov and Postiga to Hossam Ghaly, the previous decade was littered with players that arrived to the club with high expectations only to deliver performances that were far below the hype. There is one player on the current Spurs side that most supporters have already labeled a flop, and there is no debate that he has not played to the 15 million pound transfer fee we paid for him back in July 2008. David Bentley looked the part during his time at Blackburn, but the move to the Lane has sent his career into a tailspin. I think the DUI most recently just about sums up his time so far. I take a different look into the transfer however, and feel the 15 million pounds has actually partially paid itself back in a different sort of matter. And in a round about way, I wouldn’t consider the transfer a total bust in the eyes of a supporter.

While Bentley hasn’t played to the high expectations, but his arrival did light a spark under Aaron Lennon. Lennon’s form faded towards the end of the 2007-2008 season and many were worried he wouldn’t be the same after the Euro 2008 snub. The purchase of Bentley was another sign that the young lightning-quick winger might have lost the confidence that made him so dangerous. Fast forward to the 3-0 drubbing of Manchester City where he terrorized Sylvinho, and what you are seeing is a player brimming with confidence and a much improved final ball. What changed? You could possibly point to Redknapp’s appointment as manager or a better supporting cast. I think it has to do with one thing, Bentley’s arrival.

In horse-racing, the great ones have a competitive fire that drives them on when they go neck and neck with another horse. It is that intangible quality that makes them winners. Rather than shrink at the sight of an opponent, they rise to the occasion and raise their performance. In a sense, Bentley was the horse brought in to challenge Lennon on the right wing. It would have been easy for Lennon to give up or feel disheartened. Instead he fought to keep his place in the team and has found the form of his life. I say that Bentley’s threat brought out the best in Lennon. Now, Lennon has raised his value at least 15 million pounds. While Tottenham will no doubt lose money on Bentley when he is finally sold, I think we have ended up with arguably the most dangerous right winger in the game. A winger, I hope, that does not see the pitch on June 12th against the United States.

Obviously I am not in the locker room or even in England for that matter. This is merely a theory and an effort to take the positives from the Bentley Experiment. No matter what his form has been attributed to, his resurgence has been a major reason why Spurs are in the top 4 race. Now that the injury bug has hit him, let’s hope he comes back as strong as he left and that Spurs can continue the momentum.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Premier League Boxing Day Roundup

While December 26th is simply known as the day after Christmas in the USA, in the UK and various other countries they call it Boxing Day. With the holiday comes a full slate of English Premier League matches, most of which I'll have watched while parking my ass on the couch all day. (Thanks FSC) Here are the results from the day:

Fulham 0 - 0 Tottenham
Fulham missed several good opportunities including a clanger off the crossbar from my man Clint Dempsey in this all London draw. (sorry Dilbs)

Birmingham 0 - 0 Chelsea

West Ham 0 - 0 Portsmouth

Everton 1 - 1 Sunderland
The Toffees save a point when they could have used 3 in their fight to move up the table. A clinical finish by Darren Bent and a 85th min equalizer from Fellaini rounded out the scoring

Burnley 1 - 1 Bolton

Manchester City 2 - 0 Stoke City

Wigan 1 - 1 Blackburn

Liverpool 2 - 0 Wolves

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

NFL Kicker Dave Akers Practices with the US Men's National Team

Aside from the announcement of who will be participating in the January training sessions, there isn't a lot going on with US National soccer right now. In order to tide everyone over here is a stellar video showing David Akers of the Philadelphia Eagles practicing with the Men's National Team. Its a few months old, but definitely entertaining.

Akers spends the afternoon swapping trade secrets with both Santino Quaranta and Stuart Holden. The video is pretty great, not only does it show Quaranta and Holden nailing 50 yard field goals, but it shows Akers ripping some set pieces on frame with Quaranta in goal. Akers says he hasn't played soccer in over 17 years, but this dude knows a thing or two about kicking a ball.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!!

European Team of the Decade

The problem with picking a "Best Team" is that the stars get all the credit. There is never any room for players that stand out for the balance and the support they provide. What would Cantona have been without Keane, Henry without Ljungberg, or Raul without Xabi and Iniesta? Okay those last two are stars in their own rights. But the point remains: its a lot harder to create a team that will play well together than it is to create a flashy team with the best individual talent.

The BBC's Phil Minshull recent European Team of the Decade lacks said balance. Phil's midfield from left to right plays: Figo, Zidane, Beckham. Ironically, this "best" lineup was a reality in 2004. Beckham joined Figo and Zidane in Madrid and Makelele left the same year. There was no balance to the team and the initial success of Los Galacticos waned (it took 3 years for Madrid to win another trophy). And on defense Phil has Carvalho playing next to Philp Lahm. Both are great players by any standards, but a team that represents Europe's best without fielding Maldini or Ashely Cole seems incomplete.

That being said, SOTB will be compiling a few "best team" lists (we can't resist the urge to manage from our armchairs too) to round out both the year and the decade. Leave your comments below on who should or shouldn't be included.

January Transfer Window Action

Its that time of year again folks: when speculation is king and hearsay is always reported. The January European Transfer Window provides teams with the opportunity to prepare for the second half of the season. And it also seems to provide everyone else with the opportunity to guess/judge what exactly is going through our favorite manager's heads. Here at SOTB we are no better, but we can help you through this year's window. Here are the latest:

And if you are looking to get a grasp on what else to expect from this winter's transfers here is a great roundup.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Profile: Ryan Giggs

A Ryan Giggs figurine circa 1995 from
a trip to England with my youth soccer team.

While Manchester United have dropped 2 of their last 3 matches, they still sit near the top of the table. This is a familiar position for the Red Devils over the last 20 years, and someone who has been there almost that entire time is Ryan Giggs. With his recent signing of a one year contract extension, the 36 year old will be suiting up for his 19th season with Man Utd's first team next year. I thought I would take this space to highlight some of what has made Giggs one of the most respected professional footballers ever in the English Premier League.

He has been with Man Utd since the inception of the Premier League and in that time he has appeared in over 550 league matches and scored 105 goals. He has terrorized the left side of the pitch and scored some of the greatest goals ever seen. Here is my favorite from 1999 in the FA Cup semifinal against Arsenal. He scored in the 109th minute to give United the lead and help them win the cup during their historic "Treble" season (FA Cup, Premiership Title, Champions League).

Ryan Giggs Vs Arsenal - Click here for another funny movie.

Giggs has continued to score goals and produce for United, even into the latter stages of his career. Now he has been able to provide a strong sense of leadership on a team that still competes in the highest echelon of world football. The only thing that English football fans could dislike about him is the fact that he did not play for their national team (he is Welsh). Here's a compilation of some of Giggs' greatest moments on the pitch.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wonder Strikes

Maynor Figueroa had a hell of a goal this past weekend. He quickly played a restart from midfield and caught Stoke City's keeper out of position with a perfectly weighted shot, helping Wigan to a 2-2 tie. We have seen similar goals from different leagues around the world, including two notable goals from David Beckham (a beauty of a 60 yarder with Man Utd a while back and one with the Galaxy last season). Below is a compilation of some other long range strikes that are truly world class. The video starts off with one of my favorite goals of all time by the Brazilian left back, Roberto Carlos, against the dirty French.