Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Not your typical soccer knockout

How did you get injured?

I took my teammates arse to the face.

Ok, moving on....

The Battle for New York begins tonight

With the Red Bulls technically a New Jersey-based team, the battle for New York’s soccer bragging rights may be decided at St. John’s Belson Stadium tonight when the Brooklyn Italians take on the NY Cosmos in the third round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. 

The tournament is the oldest ongoing national soccer competition in the U.S., and offers amateur teams the chance to test themselves against MLS stars. Founded in 1949, Brooklyn currently sits atop the Northeast region of the National Premier Soccer League, regarded as the fourth tier of American soccer. 

And while the Cosmos no longer have anyone with the star power of legendary striker and now Honorary President Pele, they do include Marcos Senna, part of the Spain team that won the European Championships in 2008.  

The winner may not own the rights for too long though, they will face defending MLS Supporters’ Shield winners the Red Bulls in the next round. But being Kings of New York doesn’t even matter that much in the Open Cup - no team from the 5 boroughs (or Jersey) have reached the final since the Metrostars in 2003, and the last NY team to win it was the Rochester Rhinos in 1999.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pirlo brilliant on free kicks, not so much on drinking

Andrea Pirlo, trashed, slurring and passing out --- a true legend

How do you celebrate winning your country's league, you ask? Stumble on the top of a bus, barely able to stand and throw some of the bubbly at your adoring fans. Rinse, repeat, pass the f*(k out inside the bus for all to see!

Batigol still has it at 45

Argentine legend scores a cracker and celebrates with Santa Claus

Gabriel Batistuta scores on a 30-yard goal in an annual charity match in Italy and is immediately mobbed by grumpy old men.

-Tio Pelotas

Monday, May 19, 2014

Moyes, Van Gaal... Clayton Blackmore?

Van Gaal 

There is no substance to this article at all, just wanted to share some pics from the late 1970s and early 80s that show that any average midfielder can go on to manage Manchester United.

There's hope for Clayton Blackmore yet - especially as these pics suggest he could be their secret lovechild anyway!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Bolivar makes history in Libertadores

No Brazilian teams in Copa semis for the first time in 20+ years

The samba beats have gone quiet for now.

For the first time in 23 years, not one representative from Brazil is in the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores, representing the darkest hour for Brazilian sides since the 2011 edition when four of their teams were ousted in the quarterfinals. It's also a humiliating experience as the World Cup kicks off there in just under a month.

Brazilian teams have lifted the Libertadores trophy for the past four straight years.

This year, there will be a new champion as Bolivia's Bolivar, Argentina's San Lorenzo, Paraguay's Nacional and Uruguay's Defensor Sporting each have not taken home the continent's most coveted silverware.

The focus, however, has to be on the Bolivian side managed by Spain's Xabier Azkargorta, who led the Bolivian national team to the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. The Bolivians have never achieved the levels of success as their other South American cousins on the international side--both country and club--but have boasted several semifinals appearances back in the 1980s with Bolivar, Wilstermann and Blooming. 

The Bolivians played intelligent on the counter at home in their second-leg 1-0 win but also have the skies of La Paz to thank for and also to Lanus defender Carlos Izuierdoz for punching his way out of a fracas in the penalty area that earned him a straight red.

They're two matches away from the final and three from giving Bolivia a bit of glory. They may also have already scored tickets to the World Cup final at the famed Maracana stadium too---Bolivar's president and Miami MLS investor Marcel Claure offered them this bonus if they made it to the semis!

-Tio Pelotas

Will Atletico Madrid end up with nothing?

Atletico Madrid go to the Camp Nou tomorrow with the hope of becoming the first Spanish team other than Real Madrid or Barcelona to win La Liga since 2003-04. Atletico themselves haven't won it since 1995-96.

They only need to avoid defeat.

But should they lose, they will then travel to Lisbon the following Saturday to play city rivals Real Madrid in the Champions League final. Lose that one too and they could end up with nothing to show for their fantastic season.

Diego Costa has been the first player in ages to get close to Ronaldo and Mess's haul of goals. Koke has provided more assists than anyone bar Angel Di Maria, and Thibaut Courtois has been so good in goal that he's either going to be the starter for Chelsea or Barcelona next year.

But is this their last chance for a while to win something? Diego Simeone is a coach in demand, Costa seems set to leave along with Courtois, whose loan expires.

Unfortunately, teams who have unexpected success seem to have their best players taken from them before they get the chance to build and threaten the long-term domination of the big boys. No doubt Sevilla will have some of their player cherry-picked after their Europa League success, while Southampton seem set to lose Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw after a great Premier League campaign.

I hope Atletico win La Liga or the Champions League (or both). It's nice to see a great group of players mix it with the big spenders. And while players like Costa and Courtois may find more success in their careers, Atletico fans may not get another chance to win something for another 20 years.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Who wouldn't want to sh*t on Steve Bruce?

Many people say he looks like his face has been hit by a shovel, and that even though it's happened before, people would like to do it again.

Am I being harsh on Steve Bruce?

He's not a looker, but we won't hold that against him. How could we when his own club even promotes the idea of taking a dump on him?!

Yes, Hull City - King Tigers of Yorkshire - are selling a Steve Bruce toilet seat ahead of their FA Cup Final with Arsenal on Saturday. Here is the evidence...

So you can't actually shit on him, but you could piss on him. Seems a little strange to say the least, and not sure I'd want to compare my johnson to his nose!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Joey Cole, always believe in your soul..

You've got the power to know, you're indestructible, always believe in, that you are Gold...

Ok, enough Spandau Ballet.

Joe Cole has left West Ham again, but seeing as it's World Cup season, why not watch his goal v Sweden in the 2006 tournament.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Oops, Man City fans should be embarrassed

First of all, congratulations to Manchester City.

Second point, get some fans with a little class. You're really going to put up a banner with Britney Spears song title on it? You should be deducted points for being bell-ends.

There are plenty of fans that sing songs by rather dubious artists - and various incarnations of Winter Wonderland, Guantanemera, Can't Take My Eyes Off of You etc., but i don't recall any fans bringing professionally made signs to a ground promoting their knowledge of a teen pop star who later became famous for flashing her bald parts - head and tails if you know what I mean.

I don't mind seeing kids cry when their team get relegated, or grown men jumping up and down when they win the league, but seeing a 60 year-old slide on his knees and kiss the pitch after beating West Ham 2-0 at home is a little over the top.

Congrats again to the City players, but if you win it again next year, tell your fans to act like they've been there before. Or Hit Me Baby One More Time and out me out of my misery of watching you celebrate.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Secretly hoping he got smashed in the face!

Don't jump, don't jump. He can't get it up and down from there.

Next time people shout that at you in the wall, just remember that it's easier than lying on the floor!

Maybe someone should hang upside-down from the crossbar next time!

Liverpool hope resting on Andy Carroll

Believe it or not, Andy Carroll actually played 44 games for Liverpool after his 35 million pound move, scoring just 6 goals. But his biggest game for them actually comes this weekend as West Ham travel to Manchester City.

The Reds need West Ham to win, and it could be the big Geordie's chance to prove that he was good enough for a top 4 team, just the timing was all wrong.

It wasn't Carroll's fault that Kenny Dalglish wanted to spend the money on him, and I'm sure Newcastle just threw that number out to see what Liverpool's starting point was.

But what are the chances of West Ham actually getting a result at the Etihad? They have conceded 12 goals in 3 games against City this year, have nothing to play for (apart from trying to finish 12th), can't keep the ball, and are facing a team that has scored 100 league goals this year.City have won 16 of their 8 league games at home, losing only to Chelsea, and West Ham have only won 4 and scored 15 goals away from home all season.

QPR almost beat City two years ago on the final day, but they know how to win the league now, are in great form and know that one goal will probably be enough to win it.

Liverpool have to hope that West Ham can keep it tight, reach half-time at 0-0 and then nick one with 15 or less to go - and maybe it's time for Andy Carroll to show Liverpool what he was really worth.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Belarus not going to Brazil but already won with this

Lithuanian-based striker would have made Zlatan proud

Dzimtry Koub scored a late equalizer for his Trakai side against Lithuania league leaders Zalgiris and took to the stands to commemorate the goal. 

Who is the biggest absentee from the World Cup this summer?

No Robinho, Kaka or Ronaldinho in the Brazil squad for this summer's showpiece - not a huge surprise, but all 3 will be missed, although they are no longer at the peak of their powers.

Who else will be missed this summer?

The easy answer is Zlatan, but we'll exclude him as Sweden didn't qualify.

Any thoughts? The early answer is Francesco Totti, although I'm still holding out hope that he makes the Italian squad.

I think I may be a bit obsessed!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Diego shows you (again) why he's the best ever

Most of these challenges would be straight red cards now, some offenders would be facing prison time.

Unbelievable talent.

If the goal at the 3 minute mark is in a proper game, then it's got to be one of the best ever.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Where did it go wrong for Chelsea?

Chelsea can only win the league if Liverpool and Manchester City lose both of their last two games and the Blues win their final game - not going to happen, and it caps a miserable few weeks for Jose Mourinho's men.

But who is to blame? It's hard to look past Mourinho - especially as his mind games (which used to rile everyone) have turned on him and seem to be in his head now.

Jose doesn't seem to know his best team, what tactics to play or how to manage his young stars. Mourinho never used to turn on his own players - and his players always backed him to the hilt. But Eden Hazard speaking out on Chelsea's negative tactics would never have happened in Mourinho's first spell at Chelsea, or his time at Inter Milan.

He's always been good at getting everyone on board, and he usually does it by picking on one of his team's stars or someone who thought they were immune from criticism, as he did with Juan Mata this year.

Chelsea will no doubt strengthen over the summer, and this will be the real test of the Special One (a term I am loathed to use). They need two strikers - Torres, Eto'o and Ba will have to go. Maybe not all of them, but at least 2. If it's Romelu Lukaku, Diego Costa, Edinson Cavani or Didier Drogba (he will be back at Stamford Bridge) who comes in, they need to know exactly where they stand. There can't be a sham like this season. It's hard to watch Fernando Torres so low on confidence - he's a shell of the player he was. And for once, Mourinho hasn't backed his own players.

They also need to strengthen in midfield. Lampard isn't the same player and Nemanja Matic has to become the focal point of the team. Sure, sell David Luiz and get someone more disciplined in, but then Oscar, Hazard, Schurrle and Willian need to produce more. Ramires is a box-to-box guy, but there's not a great deal of quality there. Also, John Terry, Ashley Cole and Petr Cech have to accept smaller, or non-existent, roles too. They are past their best. There, I said it. Jose needs to build again, although those three will be very hard to replace.

For once, I think Mourinho's team lacked identity this season, and reverted to negative tactics to grind out results. It's not that different from what Rafa Benitez was doing - and Jose won't want to carry on like that.

It's almost like Jose didn't want to win anything this year, read into that what you will.


Friday, April 25, 2014

RSL only unbeaten team left, Sounders back home

Earthquakes, Chivas USA look for points, Impact visit Philly

Seven rounds gone and Real Salt Lake remains the sole undefeated side, just three points out of the Western Conference summit along with Seattle as FC Dallas enjoys the top overall record early on in the campaign.

Colorado, Vancouver and L.A. Galaxy aren't far off but a negative streak could complicate matters.

In the East, the familiarity of a tightening top-half sets in as Kansas City, Columbus and New York all sit in comfortable settings for now but Toronto, D.C. United, New England and Philadelphia give chase and have the capacities to do so.

Here are some games to look out for:

Colorado at Seattle, 4pm Sat. -- April has been kind to the Sounders as they accumulated seven points this month, all on the road (Portland, Dallas & Chivas USA). Now they come home for a three-match homestand in front of one of the best crowds in the world. But the Rapids also possess the visitors mystique as they took six points at Vancouver and Toronto and have also produced a backline that's produced three shutouts so far.

Philadelphia at Montreal, 4pm Sat. -- Montreal sits in the cellar of the East and need points fast to calm supporters and not let the season slip out of their hands. Panic? Not yet. They now move back home to intimate Saputo Stadium where fans are right on top of the action, compared with the massive Olympic stadium. Philly knows about intensity from the crowd as Union games are packed with rabid fans, as a team in Philly should be. This will be the first match that the two opposing forwards--Jack McInerney and Andrew Wenger--play each other since the sides swapped them in a trade last month.

Chivas USA at San Jose, 10:30pm Sat. -- Injuries plague the Goonies' firepower as Chris Wondolowski is isolated up top with target man Alan Gordon being questionable and Steven Lenhart out for another week or so. Other depth players are out through suspension and injuries as well, making it difficult for the Earthquakes to get their first win. And along comes the Goats, whose striker Erick Torres has more goals than San Jose altogether this year. 

Other matches:

Dallas at D.C. United -- Won't be huge, but Ben Olsen's side can make a statement if it takes three points against a talented Dallas team.

New York at Columbus -- Although the Crew is winless this month, their three wins in March has helped settle nerves, just as Michael Parkhurst has settled down the backline.

Kansas City at New England -- The Revs face a sturdy test when they host the attack-minded defending champions. New England have not allowed a goal at home this year. And they've welcome back Shalrie Joseph.
Vancouver at Salt Lake -- Veteran goalkeeper has a chance to equal the league's shutout record at 112, currently held by the now-retired Kevin Hartman.

Portland at Houston -- The Dynamo got spanked in Red Bull Arena this week; the Timbers are winless. Will be a nervy start to the match.

-Tio Pelotas

Would Liverpool take a point?

It's not their style right now, but Liverpool should be content to take the draw at home to Chelsea on Sunday. They will beat Newcastle at home on the last day, and although away to Crystal Palace is tougher than many would have expected, you'd have to think Liverpool should win there too.

Not that Brendan Rodgers should play for the draw. Do that and they'll lose - players just don't know how to play for a draw from the start of a game. If it's 1-1 with 10 minutes left, fine, shut up shop. But Liverpool are top and are playing fantastic football - they need to stick with what they know best.

Plus, if Jose Mourinho plays a weaker team, you have to get after them. Mark Schwarzer is 41, he can only dive so many times before he breaks a hip!

Then there's the other end of the spectrum. Sunderland at home to Cardiff. The visitors may take a point, but Sunderland need all three. Games are running out and while it's hard to see Norwich or Aston Villa getting many more points, they do already have points on the board.

No one can win the League this weekend, and no on can go down, but don't take your eyes of the games this weekend - unless you were going to watch Stoke v Tottenham. It will probably end up 5-4, but no one will care.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Is there a favorite in the Champions League?

Real Madrid are 1-0 up, but there are few of us who think Bayern won't score at least once in the second leg.

Chelsea are very hard to watch, but Jose Mourinho knows how to win the Champions League, and he got exactly what he wanted from the first leg.

So are the teams that were away from home in a better position than the Madrid clubs? Or is it all still very even?

Real surprised Bayern with their counterattacking approach in the first leg, but with Ronaldo at 50% and Bale sick, maybe Ancelotti did the right thing. They soaked up the pressure really well and Bayern didn't have many great chances. Gotze has one and Muller another, but they were late on once Real had to reshuffle after Pepe's injury. Cristiano had a great chance to make it 2-0, and I feel they may rue that miss. Bayern won't be as blunt again in attack at home, and one goal there could bring three. They may have to score 3 though as Bayern's defense was brutally exposed by the pace of Ronaldo, Bale and Di Maria - and you have to think they'll try and exploit that again.

It's hard to discuss the Atletico Madrid v Chelsea game without wanting to fall asleep. Chelsea played 6 at the back for most of the game and limited Atletico to deep crosses to the back post where Terry and Cahill bossed Diego Costa. Chelsea offered nothing going forward, and may as well not have played Fernando Torres up front. He gets a lot of criticism, but was so isolated he must have wondered if Jose was just hanging him out to dry. But having kept the clean sheet away, the impetus will be on Chelsea to attack at home. I don't think they will unless Eden Hazard plays. Atletico are very dangerous on the counter, but Mourinho's set-up showed that they don't have that many ideas if you get lots of men behind the ball. Expect more of the same with one goal settling the tie.

So to answer my own question, no there isn't a favorite. I predict the overall winner coming from the Real Madrid/Bayern Munich tie, but I can't even pick a winner of either semi-final.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Marquez sent off for Mr. Miyagi-inspired kick

Mexican captain gets straight red as Leon bows out of Libertadores

Rafael Marquez immediately apologized on his official Twitter account for the above recklessness against Bolivian international Juan Carlos Arce following its match in the Round of 16 stage of the Copa Libertadores.

With about 15 minutes left and the match leveled at 1-1, the Mexican captain made it difficult for his Club Leon side as he was directly sent off for the challenge. The former New York Red Bulls defender did not even protest the decision as he walked off the pitch.

The 3-3 aggregate allowed Bolivar to advance onto the quarterfinals, only the fourth time the Bolivian side has done so in its history but Leon had plenty of chances and kept up with the South Americans in the skies of La Paz.

-Tio Pelotas

Red Bulls need to be pushovers

No revenge, only 3 points needed, as RBNY hosts Houston tonight

Mike Petke humbly took the blame for the Red Bulls' early form that saw them winless through six matches before its 2-1 win at Red Bull Arena last Wednesday over the Philadelphia Union. But surely his players are having none of that.

You sensed the grittiness and hard work that Thierry Henry & Co. displayed in their first victory last week as players walked off the pitch, with Henry limping and Tim Cahill huffing and puffing more so than usual. However, there was relief as the increasingly-versatile Eric Alexander produced an intelligent and quiet yet effective display on the field.

Now the Houston Dynamo roll into town--a team that New York has had success against during the regular season here in nearby Harrison, N.J. and in Texas. The Dynamo have problems of their own, starting out slow once again and scrambling to get back on track much like the Red Bulls are. On the other hand, this is a script that supporters have seen from Houston. Even Henry knows it as he watched the Dynamo's goalless draw in Philadelphia, a game that he feels Houston should have put away.

It doesn't matter that the Dynamo stole a 2-1 win in the second leg of last year's playoff series at Red Bull Arena that eliminated New York, stinging the team and supporters alike. Right now what matters is a win at home for Petke and his side, a result that could kickstart a positive streak in this year's campaign. The playoff loss as well as its Supporters Shield is in the past; their main focus is turning around early-season woes.

That will take focus, commitment and maybe some bullying. New York will be missing some pieces tonight but have the depth to control proceedings, especially against a demoralized Dynamo side that have lost three in a row before its goalless draw in Philly. Houston will be missing a key piece in defense that the Red Bulls can look to exploit.

It's still early in the season but the sole game in MLS tonight will be watched by many. A win by either would catapult them higher up in the Eastern Conference table. 

-Tio Pelotas

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Intriguing match set to kick off in La Paz

Bolivar hosts Mexico's Leon in Round of 16, second-leg match

Cant' recall the last time two Bolivian clubs have advanced past the group stage in Copa Libertadores but here they are with a chance to continue their paths onto the quarterfinals.

Bolivar and The Strongest, two rivals that are close to making some history and give Bolivian football some much-needed signs of optimism, are in favorable positions and have looked decent in the initial phases. Bolivar had the much tougher group and, more impressively, topped the table, while The Strongest relied on its home-match streak to advance.

Tonight, Bolivar hosts Mexico's Leon, captained by Rafael Marquez. The first leg in Mexico ended in a 2-2 draw but Leon can't be discounted. They eliminated Brazil's Flamengo at the famed Maracana on the last day of group play.

Also taken into consideration is the fact that the Bolivians have not lost since its initial match in Ecuador to Emelec 2-1.

Plus, these sides met in the group stage; Leon snatched a point in La Paz and Bolivar stole a win in Mexico.

It's an intriguing match and it's too bad not many know about it. But Geezer will keep you posted.

-Tio Pelotas

Who should Manchester United turn to?

So David Moyes didn't even make it a full season, but was allowed to spend huge sums on Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini. More than anything, he seemed a little out of his depth - but it was going to be an impossible job to follow Fergie (unless another Class of '92 magically appeared).

But he's gone, and the only discussion now is who will replace him.

Ryan Giggs has the interim job, and has all his coaching badges. He wouldn't be a terrible choice, but I always feel that it's better not to coach players you have played with - at least in the last couple of seasons. They still have a relationship with you as a player, and you want them to ultimately to respect you as the boss.

Pep Guardiola is an option, but only if he wins everything with Bayern and feels he has nothing to prove there. There is talk that the establishment at the German club don't like his style of play, but I don't see him taking on a project like Manchester United.

The argument still stands that any manager will have to rebuild at Old Trafford. And here's why I don't think bringing in an older coach like Louis van Gaal makes sense.

United need to find a new identity, one that doesn't include Ferguson, Scholes, Giggs etc. The success they enjoyed over the last 20 years was based on the emergence of those youth team players - and let's be honest, it's highly unlikely to happen again in the next 25 years.

Hence, it's a longer term project. Chelsea and Manchester City are the big boys in England now - Liverpool may join them, but United and Arsenal face a battle to get back to the top.

Perhaps that was the thinking with Moyes - but he just didn't handle the transition well at all. Changing manager every season or two won't bring success, but they still need a manger and squad that will be able to compete at the top every year.

I doubt they could poach another Everton manager, but Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers are the type of young, progressive coaches United should go for.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ajax lit up by minnows in Dutch Cup final

PEC Zwolle lift first trophy in first final in 37 years

It was over in a little over a half hour when Dutch giants Ajax spectacularly were down 4-1 on its way to a 5-1 defeat.

But the images that will be remembered is former Manchester United netminder Edwin van der Sar pleading with his Amsterdam side's supporters to stop the fireworks as Ajax endured the goalfest. Play had to be delayed, officials debated whether to stop the match and the rest of the stadium's fans were shellshocked at the proceedings on the field.

In the end, it was the minnows that won by a heavy scoreline to lift its first major honor in the club's history. This is what football is all about.

-Tio Pelotas

Manchester United need to rebuild - with or without Moyes

Twitter is buzzing about Manchester United sacking David Moyes in the very near future, maybe even today.

Does it make sense? There are 4 games left and nothing to play for, so it makes even less sense than when we debated this in January.

Manchester United need a complete overhaul - whether David Moyes gets to do that, or someone else does, there's no denying it needs to be done.

Moyes may have been out of his depth this season, but look at who he is working with. People can say these are the same players that won the league last season, but they're not. They are older, less motivated and less talented than last year.

There is no Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs knows he's done, and Namanja Vidic and Patrice Evra are on their way out of the club.  Then there's Robin van Persie - he got 30 goals last year, but has only started 22 games this season. Wayne Rooney has been injured, while Juan Mata and Marouane Fellani aren't short term solutions, and haven't really adapted at all yet.

Don't get me wrong, David Moyes has to shoulder some of the blame. He seems tactically naive, unable to motivate the players and has had some bad luck along the way. But he needs a chance to shape his own team. He would have to get rid of Ashley Young, Nani, (maybe) Tom Cleverly and Javier Hernandez (along with Rio, Vidic and Evra). And even if Moyes doesn't get the opportunity to do that, whoever comes in will have to.

Fergie's Manchester United are no more - complete change is needed. There's really no denying it needs to be done.

Sacking Moyes now makes no sense - but the big decision is whether to let him or someone new try and rebuild a squad that hasn't been motivated all season, and probably have no European football at all to look forward to.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Barcelona need to evolve, not completely change

Barcelona take on Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final today, and it's a coin toss over who wins the trophy. But win or lose, it's probably about time for some changes at the Catalan club. It's time for them to tweak their style, but perhaps with new players rather than a complete ideology overhaul.

The success of the Pep Guardiola era seems a long time ago. They are out of the Champions League, sit 4 points behind Atletico Madrid with 5 games left in La Liga and are still reeling from the Neymar tax scandel and 14 month transfer ban on players under 18.

But let's ignore the off the field issues and look at the team, and where they need to improve if they are going to challenge teams like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich for domestic and European honors.

Victor Valdes is done. It's a sad end to a great career with Barca, but there has always been a feeling that they could have improved in that area. Valdes is a very good 'keeper, but he's not in the top 5 in the world - he's barely in the top 5 Spanish goalies with Casillas, De Gea and Reina all arguably ahead of him. Who do they need? Maybe Thibaut Courtais from Atletico, but his parent club Chelsea are unlikely to let that happen. Or David De Gea from Manchester United - that could happen with United out of next year's Champions League.

Carlos Puyol is also retiring, and Javier Mascherano is just not a center-back.  Marc Bantra is decent, but not the man to help Gerard Pique lead that back 4 yet. Vincent Kompany is the man, but Manchester City won't sell him. Maybe Mats Hummels from Borussia Dortmund would make sense, but they probably need two defenders unless they can convert Sergio Busquets into a defender. Jordi Alba is quality, but Dani Alves is pushing on a little, so a full-back is needed too.

In midfield, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Busquets are all top players, but maybe a box-to-box type guy with a little more dynamism is needed - they probably don't regret selling Yaya Toure, but they'd love to have him back.

Barca need to cash in on players like Alex Song and Alexis Sanchez in order to strengthen in other areas. They produce a load of top quality youngsters, but players like Cristian Tello and Gerard Deulofeu need to establish themselves in the first team soon, or risk becoming bench players.

Tello has slipped down the pecking order after Neymar's arrival
I'm not going to mention Lionel Messi or Neymar. The team will be built around those two for the next 5 years - and they could beat most teams (especially in La Liga) on their own. But Barca do need to build again or risk falling behind. Maybe another striker like Roberto Soldado would give them another option up front - and Spurs would probably let him go after a miserable first season in England.

Barca need to change. The tika taka style is not dead, it just needs to evolve in order for them to compete for every trophy (which they expect to do) - maybe with a new coach, but definitely with 3-4 new additions.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Palace, You Really Got Me Now, You Got Me So I Don’t Know What I’m Doing

Geography should dictate sports allegiances. Unless you’re from Alaska or your dad is playing professionally somewhere out of town, I’ve always believed the team near your house is the team you root for and you never, ever stray. Exclamation point.

But as my infatuation for the non-American football grew last year, I faced a quandary. As much as I adhere to the strict guidelines of geography, and as entertaining as this thing called Major League Soccer can be, the product on the pitch isn't good enough to sustain me. Tim Cahill can score four seconds into a game and it won't matter: My heart won't ever be into the New York Red Bulls.

Once NBC locked up its lavish TV contract to ping top-flight English football to U.S. televisions and computers, my quandary became simpler and didn’t involve geography: Which Premier League team would I pick?

Manchester United was immediately eliminated, because when you root for the New York Yankees, you can't root for another New York Yankees. I quickly tossed out other favorites like Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and especially Tottenham, as I didn't want to be the rookie at the bar denying the charges of bandwagon jumping when I still couldn't identify an offside without a slow-motion replay.

Then it came to me that the purest entry into Premier League fandom was to pick one of the three promoted teams. Eventually I settled on a team with a long absence from the top flight and a history of financial insolvency, one that needed a dramatic injury time penalty to secure the third promotion spot from the Championship last year - Crystal Palace. I realized most people didn't give them much of a chance to stay up, but that would be the fun of it, right?

Then the season started, and the losses piled up, and it became quickly evident that a team with zero goal-scoring problems in the lower league had the tendency to score zero goals in the higher one. It didn't help that their most prolific scorer from the prior campaign was still out injured, and their second most prolific was wallowing on the Man U bench. I’d invite friends out to bars to watch early, and the games would be over early.

Through the losing, I worried my allegiance would fade. I wasn't born rooting for these guys. I wasn't sure they'd pass the same litmus test that my beloved but flawed New York Knicks passed the time I saw them play basketball against the now-local Brooklyn Nets. It never even crossed my mind that I’d desert the Knicks.

With Palace, it did cross my mind. I did think of leaving. Would I stay with them if they got relegated and their games weren’t on TV anymore? The early losing led to a managerial change, and while they picked up a few wins, they stayed in the drop zone and subconsciously, I gave them until the New Year to keep me.

But deeper in my subconscious, I found myself getting to know the players: I wondered why they’d always pick the speedy Cameron Jerome as striker, even though he was the clumsiest finisher I've seen in the entire league. Why weren't they playing young and talented Dwight Gayle more often? Was defender Joel Ward really happy with his sudden move to midfield? Did Glenn Murray just Tweet that he’s coming back from his knee injury soon??!! I was starting to care about this team from South London like they played right around the corner.

On Boxing Day, Gayle curled in an injury-time beauty from just outside the box to break a 0-0 tie at Aston Villa, and I screamed in joy. A poor quality game had, to me, become the most thrilling and beautiful match in the history of sport(s). Something was happening. I wasn’t going to relegate them for New Year’s.

Out of the drop zone but close enough where it was still a real possibility, Palace took the pitch at Selhurst Park three Saturdays ago to play Chelsea. In my wildest fantasy, the Eagles would somehow coax a draw out of the first-place team, en route to barely surviving relegation.

But early in the second half of a 0-0 game, Chelsea captain John Terry headed the ball into his own goal while trying to head it out of harm’s way. My phone lit up with texts. “Palace leads,” said one. “Holy shit,” said another. I watched on my phone as the final seconds of injury time ticked off and Selhurst Park lost its shit. I had chills. This was my team doing this. My boys.

Two weeks ago, Palace played its most thorough game of the year, winning 3-0 away at Cardiff and getting to 34 points for the season. Another win this weekend over Villa took them just three points shy of the magical 40-point barrier that usually marks staying up, but things look good. 

Palace has me by the balls and I’d follow them to the Championship and, God forbid, I’d follow them to League One if I had to. All I know is that it's far more exciting than watching this year's Knicks - and you get to drink at 10am!

- Joe Checkler
Follow him at @JoeCheckler

Saturday, April 12, 2014

'Sup with Grown Ass Man?

EJ can do himself a favor with crack performance vs RBNY 

The great thing about Eddie Johnson is his Don't F*ck with Me demeanor. Those things don't get taught on the pitch.

But through the first several matches of the 2014 campaign, not only are DC United supporters getting worried, his performance has U.S. fans biting their nails ahead of Jurgen Klinsmann's decision to nail down his final squad for Brazil come June.

It's easy to question his work rate from the couch but EJ is probably as frustrated as us. Probably even more so. It's a World Cup year. He just signed for United for a hefty contract that he felt was deserved back in Seattle with the Sounders. Grown Ass Man knows he's a target by a growing sophisticated fan base that's calling for maturity and professionalism.

EJ just turned 30. His time is winding down with the national team. How does he want to be remembered?

Saturday's clasico against the New York Red Bulls will serve as the perfect opportunity to leave any doubts back in the hallways of RFK Stadium (along with the raccoons, rats and Lord knows what else!). His wrongfully-called offside goal in the recent friendly against Mexico gave fans ammunition--mostly hope--for optimism about EJ and recollections of his feats with the national team years earlier.

But Johnson is his only enemy at the moment. Will he seize the last remaining opportunities presented to him by taking all of his experience from a young hot shot to a growing player to what is now a veteran presence for a side that's slowly leaving behind its dynasty memories? EJ has a chance to do something big, starting with Saturday's match that United supporters circle on their calenders annually.

-Tio Pelotas

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bella free kick

Andrea Pirlo marks another perfect beauty, leaves GK motionless

Today's free kick by the Italian legend in the quarterfinal tie between Juventus and Lyon in the Europa League almost makes us forget about the intensity of yesterday's Champions League games involving Atletico Madrid-Barcelona and Bayern Munich-Manchester United. Such class.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

It wasn't just Jose who got a little excited!

Fair play to Chelsea, and especially Jose Mourinho.

He threw on extra strikers and put PSG under pressure, proving that more teams should go for it earlier in the game. Jose put Demba Ba on with 25 mins plus stoppage time to go, and then Fernando Torres with 10 left. PSG should have won the tie when Cavani was through on goal, but at that point Chelsea were making all the running.

Mourinho is now 8-0 in Champions League semi-finals, and Chelsea are in the competition's last 4 for the 7th time in the last 11 years.

Tell that to David Speedie, John Bumstead and Kerry Dixon.

Maybe they'll get as excited as the players did last night!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

English Football Didn’t Start in 1992

History is a good thing, but it's just that, history

Manchester City haven't always been as fashionable as they are now.

Hi. My names's Ash.
"Hi Ash!"
And, um...
"It's okay, we're all friends here, take your time."

Thanks. I'm, um, a football supporter and I, uh... [clears throat] I don't... I don't support a team in the Premier League.

A hush descends on the room, there are a few quizzical looks, a couple of sad nods and shakes of the head and even one quiet but audible gasp.

Yes, friends, this is what it often feels like to support a "lower" league team. You are an aberration. You're fooling yourself, You must have a Prem team, you simply must! How do you even live?!

It's hard not to hate football almost as much as I love it because of precisely this kind of fandom.

Like Sloan once sang, "It's not the band I hate, it's their fans."

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to watch all kinds of football. I'd be lying if I didn't say I appreciate and often enjoy a hard fought game in the top tier or the You-don't-have-to-be-Champions League. But it's the superiority complex of many fans, the attitude that my opinion cannot count because I don't support a 'proper' team. Because I don't deck myself out in every possible combination of club clothing at any given moment. Because the team I support had the temerity to have their heyday before the Premier League juggernaut really got going. (Often conveniently ignoring the fact that that applies to their team too). Because I happen to think that, in comparison to truly world class players, objectively, your star player and man-crush isn't that good and it's not because the national team manager is "playing them out of position." Because it can't possibly be that without the absurdly talented (and equally absurdly expensive) foreign import there to make your hero look good, he frequently fails on the biggest stage. Because at some point, the World Cup - the biggest stage - became overshadowed by club football.

And because I've never stopped supporting the team I grew up following; from dizzying never-again-attainable-heights and mind-numbing, soul-scarring lows. Instead, presumably, of keeping half an eye on them and hitching my wagon to the latest crop of fancy-dan, stepover merchants. Convincing myself that the Man Citys and Uniteds of this world are and have always been 'our' rivals, instead of the Countys and Albions.

The thing is, rightly or wrongly, I think your opinions are just as suspect for precisely the same reasons.
As I've mentioned, football did not start in 1992. Many clubs had success before this time, some of that number have had some since.

But the lopsided way some fans harp on about history is often perplexing. It's no good glorying in the exploits of Wolves or Forest or Leeds. The majority of their success came pre-Premier League and they're not a part of it now. An important distinction from, say, Liverpool who've had some success since the League's foundation but who would have seen winning the Football League Cup as the least of their achievements 25-30 years ago.

I'm not usually one for anecdotal evidence, but bear with me just this once. I was lucky enough to live in Nottingham in 1979/80. Most of the kids I went to school with followed Liverpool. You'd think it impossible that a club with so much history and success, not to mention  unbridled enthusiasm from the media would have fans that genuinely feel they are somehow underdogs and that the football establishment is out to get them but, they're out there, I've met some of them. Like I said, it's very hard not to hate football sometimes. Having history is often a good thing but it's just that, history. For all the success and trophies, it can often be a millstone around supporters necks. They struggle to reconcile with the mediocrity (or worse) of the present and so the club can never realign itself to the new football reality and be as good as they remember it.
That reality for the vast majority of clubs is either find a very rich owner with no desire to make money from the club but still happy to throw vast sums at it or be content with mid-table obscurity and the occasional tilt at a domestic trophy.

Success or failure can often be relative but year-in, year-out, fans of "unfashionable" clubs get bombarded with hyperbole about how terrible it was that a 'big' club missed out on Europe. It's hardly comparable with relegation or administration but you'd think they were cakewalks compared to missing out on all that
m̶o̶n̶e̶y quality football.

And the 'big' club moniker is bandied around in ever more perplexing ways. There's no solid definition. Amount of fans? Trophies? Richest owners? Man City have three stars on their crest because it looks more 'continental', not because of European success. Forget Wolves or Leeds or even Forest being considered big clubs, the new football hierarchy would exclude old giants like Ajax and Celtic.

I think a lot of the blame, if that's the right word, can be partially attributed to the creation of the Premier League and most to the media. Now armchair fans across the globe are not only treated to seeing their team every time they play but are also bombarded with facts and figures and hyperbole that strains credulity and makes a run-of-the-mill wet Wednesday night mid-table clash seem like the World Cup Final. It's no wonder there's no sense of proportion. And then we all get to do it again next week.

I can genuinely remember a time when fans would get behind any English club that got into Europe. Not hardcore support or changing allegiances but just hoping for a good show from one of our own. The football landscape has changed so irrevocably that i find myself actively wishing for some 'home' clubs to be knocked out just to get their fans and the media to shut up for a bit.

It's because of this constant coverage, the belief that certain teams are untouchable or the evergreen 'to good to go down' (tell that to Rangers, Pompey, Leeds, Charlton, etc.) that nothing matters as much, that history is only relevant when it's your club, that records only count post-1992 or since the creation if the Champions League, that spending incredible amounts of money on fair-to-middling players is somehow acceptable, that getting into the top four is an achievement on par with winning... anything at all.

It's because of these things that I'll watch top flight football but I'm sometimes glad the team I follow isn't a part of it.

"But the skill, the showmanship, you don't see that in the lower leagues."
You mean showboating? [clears throat]

"Well I bet you don't see goals as good."
I'll take that bet.

"It can't be exciting with nothing to play for."
Wrong and wrong.

-Ash Hawthorne

(Ash is a guest writer for the Geezer; he is the author of the Miserable Batsteward blog and you can follow him @VieuxPoissons.)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Change at the top is good for everyone

Everton smashed Arsenal this weekend, and it was refreshing to see. Not because I want to see Arsenal suffer, but because the league can get stale if the same teams dominate every year.

It's the same reason it's great to see Manchester United struggle. It's about time their fans saw an average team, a manager who is struggling to pick his best side, and (most likely) a year without a trophy.

If you support anyone but United or Arsenal, you can probably remember a time when your team was rubbish, and sneaking a 1-0 away win against a team in the bottom 3 was a great result. Arsenal, Manchester United (and the more recent versions - Manchester City and Chelsea) have expected to beat teams like West Brom, Stoke, West Ham and Aston Villa for years. There were surprise results for those teams against the big boys, but they were becoming few and far between.

And there's where it can get boring and repetitive.

If you can predict the top 2 ever year, it's not a great spectacle. If you have 5 or 6 teams competing for the Champions League places, then you engage so many more fans.

City and Chelsea have a lot of money to make sure they are up at the top, but Liverpool and Everton have really crashed the party this year, and many think that Tottenham should have done the same.

It's great for the health of the game in England. United and Arsenal will come again, but eating some humble pie for a season or three will help them refresh their approach. They may not be able to attract the big stars without Champions League football, but that poses new questions and the search for solutions.

Football is an ever-evolving game and we need a shake-up every now and then. Relegation and promotion between the leagues helps, but the teams at the very top need to be reminded that their won't dominate forever - and fans of smaller, less-successful teams will enjoy every minute of seeing the Uniteds and Arsenals of this world struggle.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Is Jack Wilshere's career over?

Of course it's not, but he may he's lucky to have had a son called Archie and a daughter named Delilah by age 22, because he's unlikely to have more after this tackle!

*and on second look it seems it may have caught him in the thigh, but who knows, some people have all the luck!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Who will join Real in the last 4 of the Champions League?

Real Madrid are 99% in the semi-finals after their 3-0 win in the first-leg against Borussia Dortmund, but who will join them in the last 4?

It's a sign of the times that Manchester United's draw at home against Bayern Munich is seen as 'valiant' and 'brave'. Yes, they are playing the best team in Europe who are also the defending champions, but you're in the last 8 of Europe's top competition for a reason. Geezer predicts United won't make the last 4 as they are celebrating a draw at Old Trafford. You have been there before, act like it. United won the Premier League last year - they seem to have forgotten that.

Conceding in the last minute to make it 3-1 makes Chelsea's task a lot harder, but they may make it due to Zlatan's hamstring injury. Jose Mourinho's teams are fantastic at home, but they will have to go for it early and may be helped that PSG don't look great at the back. Neither do Chelsea though, and Lucus Moura's pace will cause John Terry and Gary Cahill a lot of problems. Petr Cech has too many mistakes in him these days too, so Chelsea will probably have to score at least 3 because PSG will get one at Stamford Bridge. Jose will say something about being a 3-legged chihuahua too, and there's only so much of that one can take.

Barcelona v Atletico Madrid is very tough to call. Barcelona have the experience and Lionel Messi, but they have no defenders. With Pique out, Puyol out and Victor Valdes injured too, they will need to score at least twice, as I can't see them keeping Atletico out and, hence, advancing on away goals. Barca thrive on pressure though, so don't be surprised if they boss Atletico at the Vincente Calderon.

So it's Real, Bayern, PSG and Atletico for me. Or Chelsea and Barcelona. Put your house on it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Geezer of the Day - Carlos Bocanegra

Football Geezer remembers Boca as int'l career seems to have ended

One name that's slipped under the radar as a key MLS signing over the past year was former national-team captain Carlos Bocanegra to Chivas USA.

The southern California native has been a key man in the U.S. backline for more than a decade, most notably when the Americans bested Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup semifinals.

'Boca' started out with Chicago Fire before being picked up by Fulham. He went on with Rennes, St. Etienne, Rangers and Racing Santander before coming home to ink with the Goats.

Although Wednesday's U.S.-Mexico friendly will be made up of league players on both sides, Bocanegra was left out of the tilt by Jurgen Klinsmann, who's apparently decided that Father Time has caught up with Bocanegra.

The two-time MLS Defender of the Year doesn't sound bitter or frustrated that he isn't being given a chance to formally close out his international career--at 110 caps--but instead gives thanks when interviewed and is grateful he's been blessed with a career that's spanned all over the world.

-Tio Pelotas

Monday, March 31, 2014

Liverpool are going to win the league...

Stop fighting me on this, Liverpool fans. Stop analyzing. Let some stat jockey apply the science at a later date. Let the computer-generated player-rating algobots fight over who should have won the league. Liverpool might never win that argument, but who cares? Liverpool are going to win the league, even if they shouldn't.

Yes, the silken flanked Man City Galacticos should have left us in the dust long ago. Thank you for the lager-spittle heavy lecture on that point, Captain Analysis. Yes, Eden Hazard and Oscar should be dancing a Pasodoble on Steven Gerrard's career grave right around now. Brilliant, Professor Zanussi. I never said Liverpool were the favorites. I just said we were going to win.

I'm not going to draw specious parallels to the lopsided odds ahead of the battle of Stalingrad here, other than to say that Luis Suarez, on current form, could probably have beaten both sides in that conflict -- at the same time. I'm not making one of those reverse-psychology arguments, saying we're the underdogs so therefore we have less pressure, making us some kind of Gladwellian favourites. There are no underdogs at this point in the season. Giantkillers win the FA Cup. Giants win the league.

This is the Internet, where everybody turns into a persnickety debate judge. So I need some "evidence" to back up my "argument" or it will be "invalid." (I'd like to see some of these Internet hard men go down the local in Toxteth and start blithering about Steven Gerrard's pass-completion rate...I'm sure they would learn a new appreciation for a "strong argument.")

OK, let me lay this out on an airplane streamer. I believe Liverpool are going to win the league because...this is what winning the league feels like.

Don't forget, I am a veteran of the 1989 - 90 campaign. And I'm not talking about checking in with a couple of minute-by-minute game reports between texts here. I'm talking about sitting down in front of the telly and watching games all the way through, several times over the course of that campaign. I'm talking about 90 minutes of sheer hell. I'm talking about pulling out the middle pages of Shoot magazine with  my bare hands, and singlehandedly pinning a poster of the 1988 - 89 league champion team on the wall. I would have to check with my mum, but I may have even nicked myself with a Shoot staple during that operation.  As I said, I am a veteran so I know what winning the league feels like. It doesn't feel like you think it feels when you're watching Manchester United do it. From a distance, it looks like all you have to do is sit there, and watch your team score a lot against a wide range of opposition. And wince occasionally when Rooney misses a sitter. That's not the way it feels. This is the way it feels.

It's watching your whole team wobbling like someone who has just been put on a bicycle for the first time against Sunderland at home, looking like they're going to throw the whole season away until, somehow, they cling on for a 2-1 victory. It's teams like Crystal Palace popping up out of the basement to dance all over one of the favourites the day they looked like they'd run away with it. It's basket cases like Arsenal pulling themselves together to break the other favourite's stride. It's your brain turning into a little calculator that runs through every permutation of every game, and every game in hand, and then throws them all out when some crazy result comes in that wasn't even in your wildest scenario. It's people who probably would have been bit-player nobodies in another setting, people like Jordan Henderson or Craig Johnston or Ray Houghton, suddenly dribbling like cherubs and hammering in goals like Thor.

You probably think when Liverpool ran out on the last day of the 1985 to 86 season to take on then-lowly Chelsea that all the fans half-expected Kenny Dalglish to top off his first year as player manager by scoring the only goal. Rather, the assumption was that Chelsea would beat us 10-0, and that Everton would take the title from under our noses. You are convinced your team will throw it all always think some other team could or would or should knock them off the top. This is what it feels like: it feels like shit until the final whistle in the final game. And then you start worrying about next season.

Teams have personalities. If the premiership run-in were a match on the local green, Man City would be the new kid with the shiny white boots, blowing everybody away with the way he juggles the ball on his heels during the warmup, and then fluffing a simple pass as soon as the game kicks off. Chelsea would be the lad who has reportedly had trials with "the pros," scores a couple of peaches early on, then throws a tantrum when he's dispossessed by a five-year old girl, and never regains his composure. Liverpool is the lad whose runners have almost eroded away because he hasn't left the green all summer, the lad who scores goals as naturally as fish swim.

Liverpool are going to win the league.

-Rob Curran

Loyalty finally taking a back seat in U.S. soccer?

U.S. fans have long debated credentials of Martin Vasquez

Martin Vasquez was let go as manager of Chivas USA following a disastrous campaign in 2010 for allegedly refusing to demote an assistant. Obviously, the Goats' record was enough to justify his firing and should have been enough to warrant that change but local reports that claimed his loyalty cost him his job raised a few eyebrows.

That sense of allegiance has gripped U.S. soccer for years. As supporters of the game here have grown more sophisticated, so too have their demanding voices, particularly in the Jurgen Klinsmann era.

When Vasquez was plucked from a healthy number of candidates to be Klinsy's assistant manager, debates ensued, most notably at his experience. But by all accounts, it appears that Klinsmann was moved by Vasquez's reading of the game, of his connections to Mexican soccer and his overall demeanor. But was that enough to warrant a position with the German as he made the move to Bayern Munich for 2008-2009?

Vasquez himself admitted he was surprised by the move, according to an interview he provided to ESPN last year, initially believing Klinsmann would take on an MLS role, given the German's residency in southern California. He even said he asked Klinsmann if he was sure about hiring him.

The charismatic German would have none of it. He wanted Vasquez as part of his staff because he didn't want anyone there that's "done it already" and mostly was attracted to Vasquez's hunger and ambitious need for learning the game at a new level.

That's what has bothered some U.S. fans for years. Vasquez, for all his quiet but hard-working personality has shown, wasn't the tactical wingman that was needed in this new era of American soccer. Klinsmann was courted for years by U.S. soccer but some noted that it was his name and experience that was more in line with their desire than his actual resume on the field. Sure, he previously managed the German side on home soil to what any other country would deem a success--a semifinal appearance at the 2006 World Cup--as well as his stint with Bayern Munich.

But Klinsy has been seen more as a charmer, a go-getter and motivator. Philipp Lahm ripped him and Vasquez in his biography, astonishingly claiming players were left scrambling to address tactical moves prior to some matches while Klinsmann's staff only focused on fitness and nutrition.

The same accusations were regurgitated in a Sporting News article a year ago that quoted some U.S. national team players anonymously, and all of whom worried about Klinsmann's training methods. But the articulate and smiling Klinsmann brushed those claims off, indicating that it was part of the changes the program was undergoing. The U.S. went on to qualify for Brazil at the top of the table.

Supporters now have to digest a major move with only a few months to go before the tournament in Brazil. Whether or not these moves were made in advance of Brazil or for the longer-term (Klinsmann inked an extension with U.S. soccer) is up for debate at the moment. Loyalty has taken a back seat and the fans are watching and waiting to pounce, if need be.

-Tio Pelotas

Slick U.S. soccer announces coaching changes on Sunday afternoon

Martin Vasquez reassigned, Tab Ramos tapped to staff

Legend Berti Vogts named as special advisor

Tab Ramos, who was serving as under-20 manager for the U.S. national team, was promoted to Jurgen Klinsmann's staff with the senior national team, while longtime Klinsy protogee was reassigned within the federation pyramid, the U.S. Soccer federation announced late Sunday afternoon.

Also appointed as special advisor to Klinsmann's staff was the legendary Berti Vogts, who will be tasked with developing training plans and scouting. Vogts managed Klinsmann when the Germans lifted the European championship in 1996.

It's a massive move with only a few months ahead of the World Cup--and also a puzzling one--as the news made minor tremors within the U.S. soccer scene since the announcement took place on a Sunday with a full slate of matches stretching from South America to Mexico and MLS.

Any other country would have exploded with speculations, harsh commentaries and confusion but the U.S. soccer journalism bubble should and will have more in-depth analysis as the news is assimilated.

-Tio Pelotas

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Are West Ham fans right to boo their own team?

Sam Allardyce was confused that West Ham fans booed despite a 2-1 win over Hull City that should mean the Hammers stay in the Premier League another year, but should he be that surprised that the fans vented their anger?

No. (That's the simple answer).

And here's why...

Yes, fans pay a lot of money to see the game and want to be entertained. No one really wants to be entertained if their team still loses, but we're willing to accept this every now and then. But ultimately they want to see passion, effort and progress.

West Ham fans have seen none of that this year. Allardyce blamed injuries and suspensions at the start of the season, and to some extent he was proved right when he won Manager of the Month for February after 4 straight wins. But even in those 4 wins, West Ham have played some terrible football all season and really look like they have no idea how to break a team down.

Banging long balls to Andy Carroll or Carlton Cole and hoping Kevin Nolan gets the scraps isn't what West Ham fans want to see - and no it's nothing to do with the Academy, Bobby Moore and winning the World Cup - it's not what any fan wants to see. A full back smashing the ball upfield to a target man is an option if you're trying to mix it up, but it shouldn't be the first option.

West Ham have wingers who can't beat a man and get to the byline, which means they just lump balls into the box when they get a chance hoping for a second chance opportunity. James Collins, James Tomkins and Winston Reid can defend, they just have no idea what to do with the ball when they get it, hence more long straight balls.

And this is why fans boo the team, and especially Allardyce. He recruits players that can only really play this way. He hasn't improved the team he set up to get back into the Premier League. When Ravel Morrison looked like he may provide some spark of creativity, he was shipped off to QPR. Youth team players have no chance under Allardyce as he seems to just bothered about staying up, not improving.

And I think that's why he gets booed. No one wants to just stay up playing the way Allardyce wants West Ham (and Bolton and Newcastle before that) to play.

They want to see exciting players, good football and passion. None of these were evident last night (or any night for the last few seasons) as they struggled to beat 10-man Hull, who frankly deserved all 3 points.

Yes, West Ham should be in the Premier League next year, but unless Big Sam can convince the owners he is making progress they may have a new manager.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

NYC FC: How You Like Them Yaya Toures

A missed chance to be United?

My father likes to joke that he’s cousins with Manchester City Football Club owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan. 

Those who know anything about Arabic know that a) his first name is Mansour and our last name is Mansoor, which would preclude any real relation; and b) Mansour/Mansoor is like the Smith of the Arab world, it’s an incredibly common name that spans nearly every region in the Middle East and North Africa.

Despite a lack of filial or any other genealogical connection, my father still roots for the Citizens despite my howls of protest as a die-hard Arsenal supporter. 

“Did you see Yaya Toure’s penalty? So calm and professional. Why can’t Arsenal sign players like that?” he’ll ask, not with any malice. He just likes watching me rend my Invincibles-era scarf. 

So it’s with mixed emotions that I find myself looking forward to Sheikh Mansour’s newest venture, NYC FC, modeled in part on their Premier League cousins, MCFC. There are only two problems: I hate the name and I hate orange piping in the badge. 

It’s the former that contributor Tio Pelotas took issue with when I suggested the name should be NYC United. He protested that it’d be trolling MCFC supporters, who hate no one and nothing more than the damned United, the Red Devils, ManYoo, etc. But I contended that the name NYC United would fit better for a couple of reasons. 

First, they’re the team of the five boroughs of New York City, uniting the disparate fan bases and natural enemies among the citizens of different parts of the city. Yes, we’re one big, happy city, but we generally sneer at each other based on where we live and where we’re from. There’s like a cascade of snobbery, with Manhattanites looking down on those in the outer boroughs; the Brooklyn hipsters insisting on how much cooler they are than the sold-out, soulless “city” people and the passé denizens from Queens; the natural, baseball-born rivals between Queens and the Bronx; and generally no one really cares about Staten Island anyway.

But a city united behind one sports team, that’d be novel, not seen since the city as a whole loved the Knicks in the early 1990s, a fleeting time when we could all call one team ours. Now with the Brooklyn Nets, that’ll never happen again. 

But NYC FC name just lacks that sense of togetherness. It can’t really convey that they’re the only real soccer team (sorry New York/Jersey Red Bulls/Metrostars or whoever you are now) that represents us. 

And they’ll already say united on their shirts. If the main sponsor is Etihad Airlines, like the Citizens, NYC FC’s shirts will be emblazoned with the word Etihad, which means united in Arabic. Citizens fans will just have to accept that their cousins are from the same family but have a different last name. Even if it reminds them of their main rivals.

And who the hell likes their family anyway? As the old Arab proverb goes, unity means many people working together as if they are all one person.

As for the orange piping? It reminds me of the Mets and Knicks. Who wants to emulate those two franchises? Since the Yankees own a stake in the team, I’m surprised they didn’t push for pinstripes. Now that would have made a statement.

Oh, and my father won’t be supporting NYC FC. My parents live in Orlando and are looking forward to their adopted hometown Orlando City joining the MLS in 2015.

I can’t wait until NYC FC raids their ranks and I get to ask my father how he likes them Yaya Toures. 

- Adam Manzor