Monthly Archives: September 2010

US roster announced for October friendlies

US manager Bob Bradley

Bob Bradley announced the roster for the October friendlies against Poland and Colombia. The big-ish surprise is that Landon Donovan was left off the roster. I am completely okay with that because Donovan has earned a break. His spot is secure. What Bradley should be doing is looking at new talent. Youngsters need a chance to break through onto the national team if the US is to have any hope at next year’s Gold Cup and the World Cup Qualifying campaign. Hopefully US Soccer made that clear to Bradley when it decided to retain him for another 4 years.

Here’s the roster:

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan, Tim Howard

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Eric Lichaj, Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Parkhurst, Heath Pearce, Jonathan Spector

Midfielders: Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, Jermaine Jones, Brek Shea

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson

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United target De Gea?

Sir Alex Ferguson

Apparently, Sir Alex Ferguson is targeting Atlético Madrid keeper David De Gea as the long-term replacement for Edwin van der Sar. He could do worse, of course. He could have Manuel Almunia.

There are snags in the plan (or whatever this is; gossip and/or speculation are probably the best words): the first is that De Gea will reportedly cost around £12 million and it’s unclear exactly how much money Sir Alex has to spend. The second is that the man (boy?) himself said that he’s going to remain at Atlético. The second is mere window-dressing. It’s the first that matters.

The gossip brings about questions regarding United’s current transfer policy, in that the club doesn’t seem to have one. There are obvious weaknesses: central defense, central midfield, and wings in addition to back-up keeper. There were plenty of targets over the summer – Mesut Özil would have been an excellent (and cheap) addition – but Sir Alex didn’t pull the trigger. Perhaps he couldn’t because his hands were tied, financially speaking. I doubt that, because he scrounged up £7 million or so to spend on Portuguese striker Bebé in addition to the £20-odd million spend on Javier Hernández and Chris Smalling. I daresay he could have spent £16 million on Özil.

Which brings us back to the start: what’s the plan? Is Sir Alex being obstinate, like Arsène Wenger? Wenger continues to think that he doesn’t need a keeper, which is foolish. Similarly, Sir Alex has unending faith in Rio Ferdinand, Owen Hargreaves, Michael Carrick, Nani, Anderson, et al. Except that all of them are either perma-crocked or not up to the task of playing at the highest levels (although Nani has shown flashes of brilliance, I think he should be off-loaded ASAP; someone will pay based on his potential). Sir Alex used to be ruthless. He used to get rid of players as they proved they were unworthy. I realize that it’s hard, but sometimes you need to admit you were wrong.

United need to add players because, sooner or later, it’s lack of skill and depth will come back to haunt them.

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Filed under La Liga, Premiership

Ujfalusi gets 2 matches for Messi tackle

Atlético Madrid defender Tomás Ujfalusi has been suspended for two matches for his clumsy tackle on Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

To be sure, it was a terrible tackle. Ujfalusi claims it wasn’t his intention to come in so hard, but the video evidence clearly shows that he stepped on Messi’s ankle. Yeah, both players were moving at high speed, but Ujfalusi’s job is to tackle the opponent. If he wanted to, he could have done it cleaner. Instead, he sent a message. Or tried to.

Here’s the video:

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MLS goes to a 34-game schedule

Don Garber, MLS Commish

When Vancouver and Portland join the league next year, Major League Soccer will go to a 34-game schedule. Each team will play all other teams other twice.

Now, since we’re on the topic of change, it’s time for MLS to ditch the conferences and, if all goes well, the playoffs. There’s no good reason not to go to a single-table league at this point (and that won’t change when the league expands to 20 teams in the near future).

Of course, the league also needs to expand the rosters and make it easier for teams to compete in the CONCACAF Champions League and the completely inane Superliga (which needs to be ditched, but that’s another post).

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TFC cleans house

Mo Johnston, former Director of Soccer (CP/Chris Young)

The final nail in the coffin was a loss to the league’s worst team. It’s not really a surprise that Toronto FC lost to DC United, but the way it lost. United outclassed a team it had no business beating.

High expectations and low results were the hallmarks of Director of Soccer Mo Johnston’s 4-year stint at TFC. Given all the resources TFC provided – especially money and a rabid fan-base – Johnston could not build a winner. Perhaps the reason is as simple as his inability to make a plan and stick with it. He traded players days after acquiring them. He cut players left and right. On the other hand, Nick Garcia is inexplicably still employed. I’m flummoxed.

Preki came to Toronto with a reputation for making lemonade out of lemons. He got a hard-working Chivas USA team to the playoffs multiple times using hard work rather than star power. But he had to go, for a couple of reasons. First, there are reports that his tough guy act had worn thin. Second, and more important, he was Johnston’s pick. Whoever the new Director of Soccer is, he’ll want to bring in his own coach.

Until then, Nick Dasovic gets the thankless task of trying to reorganize the team. I wish him well, but I can’t see how he’ll be around next season. Whoever the new Director of Soccer is needs to develop a plan, stick with it, and clean house. TFC fans deserve a good team.

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Bob Bradley re-hired by US Soccer

US manager Bob Bradley

Like water running down a hill, the US Soccer Federation took the easy way out when it re-hired Bob Bradley for a second World Cup campaign. The better choice would have been to let him go – and pursue other opportunities, perhaps at Aston Villa or Fulham – and move forward with a different manager and, perhaps, a different philosophy. But it didn’t, perhaps because it is, in fact, afraid of change.

The US performance in South Africa was decent, but below expectations. It should have advanced past Ghana and into the quarter-finals, because that was an eminently winnable game. Although Bradley’s teams have reputations for preparation and fitness, in reality, only one of those is true.

Bradley needs to shoulder the blame for his tactical errors. The most recent is, of course, starting Ricardo Clark instead of Maurice Edu or, really, anyone else. His substitution patterns were unreadable (which, to a degree, is fine) but he clearly didn’t trust some players. Similarly, he plays his favorites too much and is too reluctant to make changes, either in personnel or in tactics. In short, he and the USSF are made for each other: overly cautious and unwilling to rock the boat.

I think this is a mistake, and I’ll likely be proven right. The USSF should have made a bolder choice.

UPDATE, 22 SEPTEMBER 2010: Grant Wahl at SI reports that Jürgen Klinsmann had all but agreed to become the new US coach. The unspoken reason that the deal didn’t get done was because of power. Apparently, Klinsmann wanted too much for the USSF’s liking.

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Transfer round-up

Rafael van der Vaart

In which I publish a list of notable transfers, in no particular order:

Rafael van der Vaart to Tottenham: For a measly £8 million, Spurs added an excellent player in Rafael van der Vaart. He’ll give the offense a bit of class and a lot of punch. I never understand why he didn’t feature prominently at Real Madrid, not do I understand why he doesn’t play more for the Dutch national team. And I don’t understand why Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t all over this move, especially at only £8 million. Their loss is Tottenham’s gain.

Robinho to AC Milan: For €18 million, AC Milan added a supremely talented striker and malcontent. He’s one of those guys who needs constant attention, which must be exhausting, to be honest. However, I think he’ll provide a good return on the money because he’s motivated and he’s wanted at Milan.

Asamoah Gyan to Sunderland: Ambitious Sunderland added World Cup hero Gyan in a bid to give the offense a boost. I, for one, think it will work out just swimmingly.

Javier Mascherano to Barcelona: A terrible move for both club and player. Mascherano doesn’t fit Barcelona’s system at all. This is a vanity signing, pure and simple. And it’s destined for failure.

Raul Meireles to Liverpool: A good move for Liverpool because Meireles is a gifted player (despite his comically bad tattoos). I think he’ll work out fine.

Mario Balotelli to Manchester City: And City add another player. And overpay for the privilege, too. Of course, that’s been the story of the last couple of years. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

Ramires to Chelsea: A good move by Chelsea. And cheap-ish, too.

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