Friday, January 31, 2014

He apologized, so maybe just a yellow!

Describe this for me...

I think he'd be lucky to escape some jail time!

MLS build-up - goal to remember from 2013

The MLS gets back under way on March 8 - will be sharing a few highlights from last season in our build up to the 2014 season.

Monday night football - Good or Bad? Discuss...

It's hard to argue that Manchester City v Chelsea is the game of the weekend. Well, you could argue that it's not actually at the weekend.

We have to wait until Monday night for the clash, which won't decide the title, but could give one team a huge psychological advantage - especially if Chelsea manage to win.

But should these games be delayed until the Monday so that everyone can watch them on TV? It's great for the neutral after a boring day at work, and even better for those in the US who get to break up the work day for 90 minutes, but fans going to the game can't be happy.

The atmosphere at night games is usually really good, but travelling to Manchester from London on a Monday probably means taking a day off work, getting home at 2am on the Tuesday, feeling rough after a few beers on the train back. And it's all fine if you've won, or seen a great game. But then there's Sunderland v West Ham getting moved to a Monday night. That's a monster journey to watch an average game - Sunderland fans rarely even fill half the stadium on a Saturday afternoon.

But realistically, the Premier League is a TV league now. The execs don't care about the fans who go to the games, just the ones who are on the sofa, or in a bar. Ticket prices are ridiculous, match day times are constantly shifting and soon enough we'll be having time-outs for adverts.

Yes, the best games are becoming easier to watch for everyone, but the league needs to remember the actual match-day experience. Because a game with no fans in attendance is a real possibility one day - and once the atmosphere goes, so does the Premier League.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

South America's top competition kicks off tonight

Quietly and under the radar, the 55th edition of the Copa Libertadores kicks off tonight as 38 clubs fight to raise the continent's top trophy and succeed Brazil's Atletico Mineiro as champions. The competition is as pure as it gets but the glitz and glamour of Europe's Champions League is notably not as comparable in Libertadores. But trying convincing the press and the participating teams' fervent supporters that the Copa is not as relevant.

The preliminary phase, which involves 12 teams paired up for a home-and-away series, will begin tonight (6pm ET) in Bolivia as Oriente Petrolero hosts one of South America's traditional giants in Uruguay's Nacional, which should have been favorites to move on. Petrolero's fans, on the other hand, have reason to be ignited with confidence instead: some of Nacional's first-team regulars will be unable to partake in the competition as they were banned by Uruguay's civil court after a massive brawl in a friendly derby last week against rivals Penarol.

The Bolivians, which are already a couple of rounds into their domestic season, just hired 39-year-old Uruguayan Tabare Silva as their manager, and who better to tactically figure out countrymen than he. Look for Bolivian veteran centerback Ronaldo Raldes to guide his side as he returns to his country after a decade abroad.

In Mexico (8:15pm ET), Morelia welcomes Colombia's Independiente Santa Fe. The Mexicans named a new manager last night after kicking out their previous one via Twitter last week. Morelia has a tight schedule over the next week, with the two-legged Copa series and a league match against reigning Mexican champs Leon this weekend. Will they survive? The Mexicans have a nice quartet of South Americans in their books, including Ecuador national-team winger Jefferson Montero who will face off against his compatriot Edison Mendez.

Mendez is part of a major overhaul in Sante Fe, who made it all the way to the Copa semifinals last year. Fans are also happy that striker Jonathan Copete is back in Colombia after seven years abroad along with veteran Wilder Medina. 

Keep checking back for more updates and reviews for Copa Libertadores news.



Monday, January 27, 2014

Does anyone love Ronaldo more than his Real Madrid teammates ?

It seems Alvaro Arbeloa seems to be pretty interested in grabbing a piece of Cristiano. Saying that, both Luka Modric and Karim Benzema weren't slow to bend down in front of him!

Can't blame them, he's the King of the World and Greatest of All-Time - according to the most recent Ballon D'Or, which tells the complete history of the game in one trophy.

The transfer window - time for a change?

David Moyes has added Juan Mata, Chelsea have Mohamed Salah, Newcastle may lose Yohan Cabaye - and all in January when teams are desperate to improve, to challenge for trophies or simply to stay in the top division.

Why can teams only strengthen in January or the summer? Imagine someone in your job said that you can only move jobs at certain periods in the year? It won't wash - especially if you were being frozen out of doing what you wanted to and were forced to sit there and watch other people do it.

It seems to contradict everything that the Bosman ruling established. Free movement when contracts expire, chances to move on, no restriction on trade. This was put in place in 1995, but 20 years on, the transfer window seems to make less sense than ever.

Yes, clubs can get better prices for their players in the window, but you're also held to ransom for someone you don't really want, but may desperately need.

Managers don't get to keep their jobs until January, club physios, GMs, tea boys etc. aren't promised that they will be employed until the New Year and then shipped out because they're not deemed necessary anymore.

I can understand that clubs don't want to deal with agents, fees, unhappy players and speculation all year round, but they should be able to stand up and say no, or yes, whenever they want.

There has to be a better way. Because once January passes, it's back to emergency loans and picking up free agents.

MLS offseason excites fans as training camp opens

World Cup year, top league signings making headlines

The 2013-2014 offseason in Major Leage Soccer was no ordinary trip for football fans that usually kick back and wait out the longest break in between campaigns for any domestic league in the world. In fact, we'd have to point out that this was--and continues to be--one of the more exciting offseasons in league history.

As preseason training kicked off this past weekend, supporters furiously are trying to keep up with any latest signings or rumors of potential signings before the domestic championship kicks off in early March. Next year, the league welcomes two more teams to its format--New York City FC and Orlando SC.

So ahead of what should be a pivotal year before the expansion teams join the fray, we take a look at some of the top signings and trades that will make for an electric season for MLS this year in the midst of the World Cup in Brazil.

* Toronto FC's double-capture of England international Jermain Defoe and U.S. national-team stalwart Michael Bradley set a precedent not only to other sides but to the league in itself and marks an important chapter in the book of U.S. soccer. The signings represent a new era whereby MLS is announcing to the world that it will seek some of the better players it's strived to obtain earlier in its history, whether that means paying out a larger transfer fee or splashing cash in a hefty contract. Despite a dropoff in attendance, supporters of the Reds are some of the more loyal in the league and BMO Field should be rocking come March.

* While Philadelphia Union's acquisition of U.S. international Maurice Edu hasn't been made official yet, the signing would represent yet another coup for the league if Edu can reignite his form that gave him 45 appearances in the national team kit. The Union is looking to build a foundation in its midfield as Edu is only 27 and the team is already on the hunt for others to upgrade its unit and complement Edu. Philadelphia looks like a good bet to get back into the playoffs and keep PPL Park loud and boisterous.

* Eddie Johnson has had a roller coaster ride in his stint with Seattle Sounders but after the Washington side grabbed Kenny Cooper, EJ's days were numbered. DC United now hope his goal-scoring threats can help United climb out of a disastrous 2013 season in which they finished dead last. 

* Before a car crash that claimed the life of a friend and caused major injuries to him, Charlie Davies had a successful season in France and was riding high. After slowly recuperating, he is now back on the pitch and seeks to seize on the opportunity bestowed on him with New England Revolution, who made his loan from last year into a permanent deal.

* Seven years ago, legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto put MLS on the map in Argentina and his Columbus Crew jersey was seen at Boca Juniors games. Today, Argentine players look at MLS as a viable option as current Crew forward Federico Higuain--brother of Napoli's Gonzalo--noted to a publication in his home country. Case in point, Portland Timbers. The fanatical support, the beauty of the city and its surroundings and the professionalism displayed in training and overall regime have given its four Argentines currently on its roster a new love for the game in the U.S. The Oregon side have brought in Gaston Fernandez from Estudiantes and Norberto Paparatto from Tigre.

Of course, we still have the silly season upon us where players like Xavi, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole continue to be linked with the league. But unlike its early days, MLS is now in a position to capture these and other players, who it seems more and more are looking at America's top flight as a serious competition.

-Tio Pelotas

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Is Rooney key to Chelsea selling Mata to United?

It doesn't make any sense to me to sell your best player from last season to a rival, especially if that rival is struggling for creative players.

So why would Chelsea sell Juan Mata to Manchester United? They don't need the money, they don't want to help United improve and although Mata wants to get into the Spain squad for the World Cup, Chelsea don't care about that.

All I can think is that United are giving Chelsea first refusal on Wayne Rooney. I can't see Rooney staying at Old Trafford if they don't make the Champions League - and there would be lots of teams interested in the fat, bald man (although he may have just had his hair done again).

He'd be a great fit at Chelsea, and Jose Mourinho is a long-time admirer. I think Mourinho would love to take Wayne back to Old Trafford as his player too - he's just that type of vengeful villain we all love to hate, but actually quite like.

Selling Mata won't have any impact on Chelsea, and they can always buy him back if he start to be really good again (as they did with Nemanja Matic). But if United are even contemplating putting Rooney on the table as bait, then they can only lose from here. If Rooney goes, so will RvP, then they'll be in a world of trouble - or realistically, they'll just become another average club like Liverpool have been for the last 20 years.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How long will we stay interested if the gap continues to grow?

City smashed West Ham 9-0 over two legs in the League Cup, and it's not just West Ham who have been put to the sword this year.

I could slaughter Allardyce and his team as they were woeful (and have been most of the season), but the real issue is the strength of Manchester City, and to some extent, Chelsea, Manchester United and even Blackburn before them.

Winning isn't easy. It's much easier when you can buy everyone as your owner is so rich that he just doesn't care about money. I presume it's like playing a football manager game on the easy mode. If Aguero, Negredo, Kompany etc, can't beat a team including Matt Taylor, Roger Johnson and Carlton Cole, then they don't deserve their 200k+ a week.

West Ham have loads of free transfers, average players and maybe 3 'stars'. Even those aren't top level stars, if they were, then one of the bigger teams would have signed them already - even just to be a sub, as it means no one else can have them.

Financial Fair Play is a nice concept, but if teams can pay fines to avoid it, then they will. There's no way FIFA or UEFA are stopping Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea or Man City playing in the top tournaments because they don't balance the books. They just won't. And if they do, the big teams will set up their own competitions.

And it begs they question 'How long will we keep watching?' if there is no real competition.

The fact everyone is losing their mind over Manchester United being average is amazing. Fans of West Ham, Stoke, Newcastle etc, would love to be as average as Manchester United are this year. Not every team can be owned by a multi-billionaire, but those that are will continue to win everything. Youth teams are almost pointless as the bigger clubs will just poach the players when they want them.

It may just be a bitter rant, and new owners do emerge which allows the power to shift a bit, but it's not much fun to watch anymore. Beating a team in your division 9-0 over two legs isn't just dominance, it's an unfair fight. There may be the occasional upset, but are we just watching year after year for the chance of an upset?

A level playing field isn't possible anymore, and it takes some of the fun out of being a fan - and this post isn't about being a sore loser. I'm sure City fans love winning, but I bet some of them miss the days when they actually thought they may be made to work for it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Before or after impact? Either way he's lost

It's not a great picture of the Spanish lad anyway, but he's safe in the knowledge that the boot to the head isn't going to make him uglier!

Straight red? And that could be blood or a card, up to the ref to decide.

The Ballon d'Or - does it matter?

Congrats to Ronaldo on winning the Ballon d'Or, but does it really matter?

How do you define who is the best player in the world? And isn't this the stuff that we all enjoy discussing in the bar, before a game, or usually when you're bored at work.

Ronaldo, Messi, Ribery, Rory Delap, Micheal Bradley - it all depends who you ask. Although I doubt anyone has ever answered Ribery!

Individual awards are never definitive as it's a team game, but Ronaldo deserves to be praised as one of the best of his generation. He's taken the game to a new level, and comparing him to Messi and (to some extent) Zlatan is always a fun discussion.

It's not a video game, you can like all the best players in the world - the trophy will cement Cristiano's place with the greats, but he didn't need an award for that.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Geezer of the day: MLS vet Jason Kreis

The NYCFC boss will be introduced Friday morning

Ahead of a presser tomorrow morning before the New York contingent of footy journos to introduce him as the city's new team's manager, we pay tribute to one of the most underrated attacking midfielders in MLS history.

Kreis formerly played with the then-Dallas Burn as well as Real Salt Lake where he eventually became coach to guide that side to lift several trophies, including MLS Cup in 2009.

But after six years with the Utah squad and following its MLS Cup final loss to Sporting Kansas City last month, Kreis now moves on to the next chapter in his life as well as the league's.

New York City FC, being backed by Manchester City and the New York Yankees, will begin play in 2015 at a venue still to be determined as MLS continues to expand. It made sense that the quiet and polite but steel-charactered Kreis take the reins at a club that is looking to make a big splash worldwide.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Just tap it in...tap, tap, tap

You've done the hard work, but who wants to just tap it in. Either stop it, bend down and head it in, or blast it as hard as you can.

Seems the latter wasn't his best option!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Win the Cup or stay in the League?

Would you rather your team stayed in the Premier League every year or won a trophy?

It's a tough decision due to the money generated from the Premier League's TV contract, but finishing 6th to 15th every year isn't a very exciting way to follow your club. There are only certain teams who can win the League, and apart from Arsenal (and to some degree Manchester United), they are owned by people who pump money into the club with no expectation of return.

Teams like Stoke, West Ham, Swansea and Everton can't compete. Yes, Everton are having a great year, but their best players are on loan. They can't sustain a challenge over a few years, unless they make the Champions League for at least three consecutive years. And there haven't been any that have been able to do that. Spurs made it one year, Everton were fourth once and even Liverpool have struggled to keep up now they don't have consistent money from UEFA.

So why not go for the Cups? Wigan won the FA Cup last year, West Ham and Sunderland are in the League Cup semi this week - it's the best chance to win something. I've been a fan almost 35 years and have never seen my team win anything (promotion and Intertoto don't count). I'd love to see a win at Wembley and be able to say "I was there."

Who are you going to tell that you were there when your team finished 8th in 2015? No one cares. Yeah you can remember a great win against the eventual champions or when they avoided relegation on the last day, but memories are built around great players and the success they had.

Or average players are remembered for moments. Ben Watson isn't a household name now, but Wigan fans will remember his FA Cup winner forever, despite them being relegated the same season.

So I can't understand why owners and managers don't go for it. Aston Villa fans are not happy that Paul Lambert didn't - and so it's another trophy-less season for them. The best they can hope for is 10th (maybe) - and that's not success.

Not everyone can be owned by a billionaire who treats football clubs like video games - and those that aren't should really target the Cups - you know it makes sense.

The Moyes Dilemma - Ferguson's Last Act?

Is is all David Moyes' fault?

Should he be sacked after half a season?

No, and no.

David Moyes has taken Manchester United to the semi-final of the League Cup and qualified from the group in the Champions League - but that's not enough. I'm sure the fans wouldn't have cared that much that they went out of the FA Cup last season because it wasn't a high priority, but Manchester United fans must now be realists - they can't compete for the League title or the Champions League with the players they have.

Alex Ferguson got every last drop out of Giggs, Vidic, Ferdinand and Scholes. He was somewhat lucky that Man City had a huge hangover after they won the league the previous year. Chelsea and Arsenal were a mess and Ferguson exploited that. But he also knew when to get out. You don't win as much as he did without foresight.

And what can Moyes do with the squad he has? Rooney, van Persie and Carrick have been injured; Fellaini was a poor panic buy; and the average talents of Young, Valencia, Nani and Cleverly can no longer be masked by Rooney and and van Persie. The fact that 18 year old Adnan Januzaj is being hailed as the savior is a sign that times are tough.

Januzaj can play. Welbeck is in good form. De gea is one of the top 3 keepers in the league. But who else is there that would get in the Chelsea or Man City team? They would get in the Villa, Swansea, West Brom or maybe Everton teams, but Evans isn't great, Evra looks past it and the Brazilian twins haven't really fulfilled their potential.

Moyes was never going to turn down Ferguson's invitation to succeed him, but should it have been Ferguson's choice? No. Moyes had done well at Everton, but never really brought through top class players or challenged for honors. Finishing 5th with Baines, Fellaini, Howard etc. was a good achievement, but Manchester United needed a complete overhaul, and Moyes didn't really have a history of that.

He shouldn't have replaced all of Ferguson's staff, not straight away anyway. He needed the help of Micky Phelan and Rene Meulensteen. They may have undermined him a little, but they could have helped with identifying the weaknesses and potential transfer targets to replace them. Buying Fellaini at the last minute won't solve the lack of creativity - nor will running Januzaj into the ground in his first full season.

But sacking Moyes now accomplishes nothing. The players are not quite up to it any more. He needs time to shape a squad, not just the first team. A few signings in the summer (not panic January signings) will help, but until then, Moyes should concentrate on trying to win the League Cup and finishing 4th. That would be a very successful season with what he has to work with.

If he loses Rooney and van Persie in the summer, then he's really going to struggle (and United will for years to come), but although the job looks too big for him right now, there aren't many people that could have done much with what Ferguson left them. I'm sure it was unintentional, but Ferguson's last act has managed to make him look an even better manger than he was - and he's probably the best ever anyway.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

That 'working after the holidays' feeling

Don't worry, Geezer is still alive.

Just tired. Hungover. But really just lazy.

I'm usually in blue and white, but feeling like the guy in red right now...