European Club Football: its all Foreplay

European leagues are just underway and all the excitement is buzzing over upcoming season. Majority of the top players in the world play in Europe, so the excitement is justifiable. Top players along with intense rivals really do make for a good time.

I believe that Americans in general take it too far. People get all excited and act like its the greatest thing in the world. To me European football is all foreplay and the MLS is like making sweet love to a fine women. No matter how good foreplay is it always leaves you wanting to take that next step. 

Its a very specific process that is very simple and most likely happens to other people. Wake up early watch a few European games, sometimes you experiment try new leagues and new teams. Sometimes you find a good game and you will watch that team again, sometimes it is unsatisfying. Just like foreplay it leaves you wanting more. After a day of watching European, I am ready for the Union, I am ready to lose myself and allow the passion to flow. 

Sometimes you just get foreplay and that is okay. Sometimes the MLS is not on and that is okay. But no matter what happens it always reverts back to the Union/ MLS. On the days the MLS is not on and I find myself watching European football I think dang wish I had MLS to watch. I have no complaints on the days when MLS is on and European football is not. 

I view the MLS like I view my women; seductive, mysterious and risky. The MLS has a seductive aspect to it because of the lingering stigma that its just not a good league. Still many Americans bad mouth it. Support the MLS is like a white guy sleeping with an African American women in the 70′s. It was accepted in some places but generally frowned upon. Its mysterious because most of the players, teams and the league itself are not rich in history. The league is still evolving and nobody knows whats happening next. 

 

Should the Union Bench McInerney?

The Answer is yes, the Union should bench McInerney for a game or two. The kid could use a mental day off to collect himself and humble him a bit. Jack McInerney is currently the leading scorer for the Union and has had a phenomenal season so far scoring 10 goals. Unfortunately he has not scored in 10 games and is really letting this goal drought get to him. The All-star striker is not playing well.

It would be in the best interest of both the striker and the club to bench the player for a game or two maybe give him a role off the bench. Give the guy a break, he is struggling on the pitch. The next game is against DC United who are currently in the league by a long shot. The Union should rest Jack and start Hoppenot or move Le Toux up top and start another midfielder. Use Jack as a sub so he can come in and contribute and maybe break his funk. Coming in as a sub might be easier for Jack to make an imprint on the game sense a flow has already been established. Let Jack come in and run against tired legs and see if that helps him break his scoring funk.

We all know that Jack is very immature and has childish tendencies on the field. He gets upset easily and checks himself out of the game. It is annoying and frustrating for fans who see him give up on a play. He has gotten trigger shy and is not shooting as often as he was. Jack is not taking his chances and when he misses he gets very frustrated and puts his head down. He needs to really change that. We want to see the hustle back and some energy. We also want to see him pass and move more make some dangerous runs into the box.

Jack was never a person to take a defender one on one and beat them or take a shot from 20 out and put it on frame. When Jack was scoring goals he was doing it with speed, precision, and being in the right place at the right time. Now it seems with each passing game, his positioning and touch are diminishing. He is hardly upfront and center, he has been drifting wide and hanging back. His touch is off, he used to be able to settle and shoot, now it looks like he has trouble keeping control of the ball.

Union find late winner

The Philadelphia Union took on the Vancouver Whitecaps last night in Canada. The Union improved their road form by adding another notch to the Win column. Philly were able to just escape this game with a 1-o victory against one of the better teams in the west. Philly may not have played the best game but good teams find ways to win when they are not playing well. That is just what the Union did. With Vancouver’s defense closing down on Jack McInerney and no Conor Casey, the Union needed to look to other sources for goals. Hoppenot was able to claim his second goal on the season and provide the dagger in the Whitecaps.

This game will not be remembered as a classic, it was far from it. The Union put on a rather poor performance but still found a way to beat one of the west’s best teams. Vancouver found themselves down a man in the 8th minute when Juan Davidson got a red card for headbutting Keon Deaniel. Even though the Union were up a man they still were not able to capitalize right away. Vancouver found themselves on the attack and creating more scoring opportunities. The game started to level out after half time when the Union began to dominate possession by 60% to 40%. They were dominating possession but not the tempo and they were not creating many scoring opportunities.  Aaron Wheeler came on late in the game in the 82 minute for Jack McInenery. 3 minutes later Hoppenot and Wheeler combined for a beautiful give and go that lead to Hoppenot blasting the ball into the back of the net. Hoppenot has been having a disappointing season and has not been putting away his chances. His goal tonight may be just what he needed to boost his confidence and get him scoring more consistently.

This game could be build as the anti-Union game. When up a man the Union normally play strong and create many scoring opportunities but end up make several mistakes that lead to a loss or tie. The Union normally let in a late goal when the game is on the line. Not this time!! The Union did not play their normal attacking style they were lackluster all together. They did not create chance after chance but they did hold possession. They took their opportunity and they scored the all important goal. This is huge going forward, the Union are now in 4th place in the East but they are 1 pt behind second place. Chicago and DC United are the Union’s next two opponents and both games are at home. If the Union walk away with 6 points they will certainly seem themselves climbing up the ladder.

The Union needed a game like this, it speaks volumes about the club. This team is resilient they only have 6 losses but they do have 7 ties. They found a way to win when they were not playing well. Jack Mac has been in a funk of late and has not been scoring goals and the Union did not have Conor Casey because of suspension. So the Union’s biggest offensive threats were non factors and the Union still found a way to win. If the Union can get consistent offense from players not Casey and McInerney  then they will keep seeing themselves in the win column.

If I were Rob Vartunghian

Rob Vartughian has been picked to lead the Union in the absence of manager, John Hackowrth. The Union’s manager was ejected after last weeks game against Chivas USA. Apparently Hack complained about a handball in the box and ended up getting a 1 game suspension. Now lets get to Rob, he is gifted a golden opportunity and we will explore how he should handle it. 

If I was Rob Vartunghian I would pounce all over this opportunity as my one chance to move up the ladder and maybe even get a few head coaching interviews out of this. At least put myself on the radar of some NASL teams. This is Rob’s moment in the Sun and he needs to take full advantage.

Most likely Hackworth went over starting lineups and subs to make and when. Throughout the week they have been planning and going over different scenarios. Rob should throw away all the notes and forget everything Hackworth talked about over the week. Throw everything out the window and approach this game with your gut.  

Here is the starting lineup that Rob should go with if he wants to make an impact on this club. Oka/Williams-Okugo-Parke-Fabinho/Carrol-LeToux-Marfan-Torres/Casey-Mcinerney. You have to stir the pot and make changes if you want some recognition. If this lineup works and the Union get a win then Rob is a hero. If Rob takes a risk and wins then he will be seen as an intelligent man with a coaching mind. 

In short if I am Rob then tonight I am putting on my best suite. I am going to not play it safe I am going to make the right career move and risk everything. God Speed Rob. 

Union v Timbers

This Saturday the Philadelphia Union take on the Portland Timbers at PPL park. The Timbers are a strong road team they have only lost 1 game on the road this season and have proven to be one of the tops road teams in MLS. The Timbers are currently sitting in second place in the west with 33 points which puts them tied for second best record in MLS. The Union are holding down the fourth playoff spot in the east with 30 points. Every game has dramatic implications for the playoffs with east being so close, that if the Union were to drop a few games they could see them self on the outside looking in.

The Union are coming off one of the craziest games of the year with their 3-1 win against Chivas USA. The game was played during torrential downpour that made the conditions unbearable and took most of the skill out of the game. The Union were able to press and capitalize on their opportunities and score 3 consecutive goals. During the Chuvas USA game  we saw a first at PPL, we saw an indirect free kick in the box. Indirect free kick in the box is one of soccer’s rarest calls it basically only happens on a goalie handball. A goalie handball is when a defensive player passes the ball back to the goalie and he picks it up instead of kicking it out.

Now back to the match up against the Timbers. The Union are going to have their hands full with this one. Portland has a strong midfield and a dangerous offense. They are a fast and skilled team that has a lot of resilience. The Union are going to need to control the ball and the tempo. They can not afford to have Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valerie on the ball. If Portland is on the ball they will create and they will eventually convert. Philly need someone other then Le Toux to step up, and it looks like that person must be Marfan.

This game is going to be a track meet and action packed. The Union are going to need to slow the game down a bit to lower tempo and control possession. This game is going to be highly entertaining and very interesting. The top three timbers players to watch are Ryan Johnson, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeria and Donovan Rickets. Nagbe and Valeria make the offense go with speed and skill. Donovan Rickets is having an amazing season in net and showing why he is one of the better goalies all time in this league.

Won-don’t: 5 Reasons Wondolowski Doesn’t Deserve A World Cup Spot

I am a Chris Wondolowski Hater. I got frustrated seeing Wondolowski’s name on the preliminary Gold Cup roster and hoped like hell that he would not make the 23, and then he did and I hoped he would never see the field. Of course now that he has “proved himself on the international stage” everyone loves Wondolowski. I’m here to through some cold water on all of that.

1 He’s Old

Wondolowski will be 31 by the time World Cup 2014 starts. He’s as old as Landon, Onyewu and Beasley. He’s as old as Herculez Gomez. Yes, some of these players are still core parts of the team but, unlike Wondolowski, they’ve been here before.  They are all at similar points in their career arcs. Wondo’s age is catching up with him. He hasn’t put up nearly the goal numbers for San Jose that he’s been putting up over the past few years.  Wondo is fading and whereas these players have already shown great moments in the USA jersey and have proved they have the potential and savvy to do it again…

2 This Was Wondo’s Moment Of USMNT Glory

Before last week, this was what Wondolowski was most known for in the USMNT jersey. He had never scored a goal. Klinsmann hadn’t seen fit to give him very much time. This Gold Cup was his last chance to prove he had anything. That Gold Cup was at the same level as this one. It was a B tournament and he couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities shown to him.

3. Belize, Cuba and Guatemala

I head someone argue that since Wondolowski had seven goals in three games he had outplayed Jozy Altidore who had “only” four goals in four games, and therefore deserved not only to make the roster, but to start for the A team. Jozy scored against Germany, Jamaica, Panama, and Honduras which included players playing at the highest level in North America, South America and Europe.  Belize, Cuba and Guatemala fielded amateur players at the worst and players from their own National leagues at the best. When people argue that Wondo doesn’t cut it against international opponents it’s about the skill level not about the jersey. These teams are lower than MLS quality. Everyone should score against these teams.

4. Only Four Strikers

In 2006 and 2010 the US sent four strikers to the World Cup. This is more or less standard for World Cup rosters around the world. Jozy is a core part of the team and a lock to take up one of those spots. Gomez is only a half step behind him. Eddie Johnson is a much more versatile player, who has already seen what a World Cup looks like. He’s not a lock, but Johnson has been playing better for both the National team and in MLS all year.  So there is essentially one spot left for a striker.

Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan have both played the second striker position under Klinsmann. Dempsey has generally been listed as a midfielder on Jurgen’s rosters, but he has consistently played second striker. Donovan was consistently listed as a forward for Klinsmann’s teams before his sabbatical.  There is still one spot open for a striker but if Landon is listed as a striker there probably isn’t a spot for Wondo and even if Donovan isn’t…

5. He Is Old

If given the choice between a player who has never been to a World Cup and is too old to be around next cycle, or a young player who has never had a chance at a World Cup and is a potential part of the next few World Cup teams, who would you rather have on the end of your bench? Wondo isn’t much better than Juan Agudelo, Terrence Boyd, Mike Magee. If these four players, and any other strikers to come out of the woodwork over the next year, (maybe McInerney, Luis Gil, Omar Salgado, etc.) are competing for one spot would you really pick Wondo over all of them?

 

Wondo has earned minutes and I believe that he gets his start against Costa Rica tonight, but he won’t be able to keep up this rate of scoring against the competition in the elimination stages of the Gold Cup. If he continues scoring regularly, he will likely have locked up the Golden Ball before we even get close to the final and will have earned an opportunity on a World Cup Qualifying roster, but a Qualifying roster is far from a World Cup roster. Wondolowski is probably on a better track than he was a week ago, but he really hasn’t proved anything yet. Goals against minor league teams don’t earn you a spot in Brazil. Wondo will get his shot, and I still expect it to be a waste of time, but what he has done so far doesn’t in anyway deserve anything.

If MLS had a skills competition….

 

Every time another league has their All-Star game, I get to thinking about how the MLS could make the All-Star game better. As I watch the MLB home run derby I wonder how cool it would be if the MLS had a skills competition. 

A skills competition could have multiple rounds with different skills, such as juggling, trick shots and free kicks. It would put some flair into the game and could be great publicity for some players who do not get a ton of attention. Also the highlights could guarantee some Sports Center action which in return could generate some good publicity for the league. Who knows maybe bring in a fan or two who wouldn’t normally watch the MLS.

We all like to see creativity and flair on display. We all know that players enjoy trying new and different skills and using creativity. We know this because if you go early to PPL on any given game day in the warm-ups players are displaying creative juggling skills. Throw on some bright lights, celebrity judges* and some music and we got ourselves a great show. Suggestions for the judges; big name European player, retired foreign player (IE Pele), American sports athlete (Kobe, Chad Johnson) and a retired american player.

The contestants would be

1. Graham Zusi: The American it kid as of right now. With his great skill and talent and dashing good looks he is sure to be the front runner.

2. Robbie Kean: This competition needs a big name and Kean is it. I dont see Donovan doing it. Still would be fun tho to see the Irishman show off.

3. Claudio Bieler: His skill, vision and creativity makes him a must for this competition.

2.Diego Valeri: He has been a joy to watch all season long. He has the stuff that would bring a crowd to their feet. 

1. Camilo: The Brazilian has amazing control and creativity. It would be just plain awesome to see him in a situation where he could do what ever he wanted. 

We want to see this happen. We want to be entertained. Watching this field of players compete in a skills competition would be far more interesting then watching the home run derby. 

Gold Cup 2013 Prep

Gold Cup Trophy

Gold Cup Trophy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

This year’s Gold Cup is a secondary tournament to the World Cup Qualifying Hexagonal for the United States, but 11 other countries have made their way to the USA for the summer. These nations and their teams are looking for success and making this tournament may even be a significant level of success for a few of them. The tournament’s format has stayed the same as past years. Twelve teams, including three from North America, four from the Carribean and five from Central America, have made their way here.

 

These twelve teams have been split into three groups. Group A includes Mexico, Panama, Canada and Martinique. Group B includes Honduras, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti. Group C includes the United Staes, Costa Rica, Belize and Cuba. Two teams will automatically qualify for the round of eight from each group. The top two third place qualifiers from all groups will be placed into the round of eight as well. The tournament then proceeds as a single elimination leading up to the final in Chicago’s Soldier field on July 28th. The only significant change to this years tournament is that the winner will compete in a one game play-off with the winner of the 2015 Gold Cup to be CONCACAF’s representative at the 2017 Confederations Cup. This is intended to give the tournament more weight despite being played in a summer which also includes World Cup Qualifiying.

 

Canada, Mexico and the United States are again automatic qualifiers for this tournament based on past performances and lack of competition in the North American region. Every Gold Cup in the past has been won by a North American team and second string USA and Mexico teams are the favorites to win the tournament as usual. Canada is the only North American team which has already been eliminated from World Cup contention and will have a very different outlook than the other North American squads.

 

The four Carribean teams, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti and Martinique qualified through the 2010 Carribean Cup in Antigua and Barbuda. Cuba won this tournament by defeating Jamaica 1-0 with a goal “from way downtown” in the 113th minute of the final. Haiti and Martinique also qulified based on performance at this tournament. Also of note, in July’s FIFA rankings Haiti was placed at 69, with no other Carribean nation until Cuba at 82. Cuba. Haiti recently tied an Italian team and held Spain to a one point victory as both teams prepared for the Confederations Cup. All four Carribean teams have been eliminated from the World Cup.

 

The Central American Region sends Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize and Panama after each team qualified through this years Copa Centroamericana. Belize gave a historic result in this tournament, reaching the semifinals and qualifying for their first Gold Cup while Costa Rica defeated Honduras 1-0. Honduras and Costa Rica, along with Panama are both still in contention for spots in the 2014 World Cup. Costa Rica has sent the core of the World Cup Qualifying team excepting Bryan Ruiz and a few others, while Hondura has left their starters at home and sent a team of players from the Honduran league along with Andy Najar and a few MLS players.

 

Half Baked Transfer Idea Number 2: Kaka to the Union

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We are assuming that somewhere Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite aka Kaka was watching Brazil’s Confederations Cup victory over Spain. Sometime during that celebration Kaka caught a glimpse in the mirror and the stars aligned  He had is moment of realization that nothing will ever be the same for him. Kaka has finally realized that both  Brazil and Madrid’s future is brighter without him. The ultra religious man says a prayer and the only answers to his prayers is the Philadelphia Union. Madrid have been looking to move him for some time, no club wants to pay the price but the 31 year old is not getting any younger.

Ricky was suppose to be on this Brazil team,he was suppose to be one of the greats. He had such an amazing career with AC Milian do to injuries and adequate rest time Kaka never got back to form. In a blockbuster transfer deal he sought him self going to Real Madrid. During his time at Madrid he was able to contribute in limited spots. He had trouble cracking the starting 11 and  will even see less minutes in the following season with Madrid on the verge of singing a number of young talented midfielders.

Ricardo kaka would be the gem of the MLS if the Union were able to sign him. He would be the most talented and the biggest name in the MLS. A special buzz similar to that of Beckham and Henry would be created with the addition of Kaka. His flair, and imagination in the midfield would prove to be an invaluable asset for the Union. His free kicks and service to McInerney and Casey would make the Union’s attack downright lethal and explosive.

The biggest argument is weather or not would Ricky be a “Hack type of player” and the answer of that is a YES! A hardworking, experienced player with a deep routed faith, just screams Hackworth. kaka is not a defensive liability, he is creative, hardworking and would provide a huge size increase in the midfield. He would fit right in with Le Toux, Carrol and I guess Cruz. Kaka brings versatility to the lineup also, he can play outside and as an attacking midfielder. Ideally Ricky would play as a CAM and forcing Farfan outwide. and moving Cruz to the bench but we all know that will never happen. Hackworth loves Cruz too much :)

This is how it would go down if the Kaka would join the Union.

1. Signed to a DP contract and becomes the highest paid player in Union history. He does the media circus and appears on ESPN and Philly Sports Talk. The Sons of  Ben break out a clever Tifo. Kaka on the pitch is no let down, he lives up to the name. Due to a Danny Cruz injury and the fact that the Union have already locked up first place in the East Hackworth plays Kleberson, Marfan and Kaka at the same time. The Union win that game. The Union win MLS Cup and are competitive for years to come.

2. Kaka  signs with the Union for a groundbreaking DP contract. 75% of the City have trouble pronouncing his name and laugh because Kaka means poop in some languages. Kaka has a rough adjustment the first season and has a poor showing. He takes the route of Ronaldo and gains weight. Kaka becomes a frequenter of Fogo De Choa and eats alot. After some criticism and hours spent in prayer Kaka starts losing weight. He comes out and has a solid second season.

3.  Union sign Kaka, he wears number 22 and becomes the best player in Union history to wear number 22. He lives up to the hype and becomes one of the more productive players. One solid season with the Union and he is on the first plane to the French League. He leaves for a more lucrative deal and the Union cash out.

Tell me what you think, would you welcome Kaka to the Union?

Fabinho could be the new Lopez…Oh joy

 

 

The Philadelphia Union announced yesterday the signing of Brazilian defender Fabio Alves, more commonly known as Fabinho. The Union sign the defender from Sydney FC, in Australia’s A-League. Fabinho played 18 matches for the Sky Blues last season majority of his appearances were starts at left back. Fabio Alves announced on his personal twitter account late Thursday night that he is happy to be apart of the Union organization. He also had a Facebook post and checked in at the Union’s stadium. Once word caught wind to the fans, the post were mysteriously deleted. It has been rumored that Fabinho has been training with the Union but now all mystery and rumors are clear and he is a member of the Philadelphia Union.

The Union have been thin at left back since trading away Gabriel Farfan to Chivas USA. When the Union traded away Farfan they gave the spot solely to second year man Raymon Gaddis and zero depth. Philly will now have depth at left back but will the new singing solve the problems and be an upgrade? Let’s take a look at the Union’s current left back situation and then Fabinho.

Raymon Gaddis, the current starting left back for the Union has been average at best this season. He has been beaten easily, and has been a liability to the Union. Ray has used his speed to make up for his lack of ability and skill. When he gets beat he often has the speed to catch up and get beat again. Going into the transfer window it was clear the Union need to upgrade at LB.  To think that Fabinho is the man to take the place of Gaddis is a bit of a stretch. This looks to be a rather poor signing.

The reasons why this is a poor signing are as followed. Fabinho is a 28 year old player who will not be getting any better. He is coming from a Sydney FC who plays league ball in the A-league, this league is below the MLS. That does not mean you can not scout stars from the A-league but Fabio Alves was not a star. He may have adaptation problems, the physicality and speed of the MLS. Many players fail to make the adaptation to the league. Another reason why this signing is a poor signing is that the Union are using an international spot on him. It seems a waste of an international spot that could be used to lure a potential star or DP.

On a personal note, I have watched a number of Sydney FC games this season. Sydney FC signed Alessandro Del Piero, who is one of Italy’s all time great goal scorers and one of my personal favorite players.  After watching the highlights from games I watched of Sydney FC I noticed nothing spectacular defensively. Fabio Alves did not stand out in the games he played. It is hard to see what Hackworth sees in him. Looking up A-League fan forums, Fabinho has been ranked as average at best and some people were even calling him the worse defender in the league.

All this info points to one thing, the Union have found the new Porfirio Lopez. If you can’t remember Lopez could have been the Union’s worse defender in the club’s short history. He was signed to become the starting left back and it blew up in the Union’s face. He was unable to make plays, mark defenders, and clear the ball. It was a comedy of errors watching Lopez play. With all the information I gathered about Alves it looks like he may be the next Lopez.

Fabinho will be eligible to play for the Union starting the 12th against Chivas USA. If Fabinho turns out to be better then advertised I will personally apologize.

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