Saturday, May 31, 2008

Friday Backpasses: Short links for short attentions spans

Antonio Cassano makes move to Sampdoria permanent. Does anyone else think he looks like Val Kilmer? [UEFA]
ESPN will announce Euro 2008 from the same closet that they use for Champions League [Awful Announcing]
England press bad mouth English FA's obvious reason for playing in Trinidad [This is London]

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Euro 2008 Team Profiles: Czech Republic

With all due respect to Precious Roy and his Spain preview, Czech Republic are going to win Euro 2008. It all comes down to one man, Special Ed himself in the goal, Petr Cech. Of course, that depends on him not getting another kick to the face, but since Stephen Hunt and Tal ben Haim aren't taking part in these championships, such an occurrence should not happen.

Czech Republic's roster:
GK: Cech (Chelsea), Blazek (Nuremburg), Zitka (Anderlecht)
Def: Grygera (Juventus), Kovac (Spartak Moscow), Jankulovski (AC Milan), Pospech (Copenhagen), Kadlec (Sparta Prague); Ujfalusi (Fiorentina), Rozenhal (Newcastle United)
MF: Polak (Anderlecht), Galasek (Nuremburg), Sionko (Copenhagen), Jarolim (Hamburg), Matejovsky (Reading), Sivok (Sparta Prague), Skacel (Southampton), Plasil (Osasuna)
FW: Fenin (Eintracht Frankfurt), Koller (Nuremburg), Vlcek (Anderlecht), Baros (Portsmouth), Sverkos (Banik Ostrava)

So, yeah. Cech in the goal. And three of four defenders playing in Italy, where they know a thing or two about choking off the offensive side of the game. I say that this is a team that advances out of Group A without much problem. They may face a fight in the sandwich Portugal game, but will easily overrun the host Swiss to start and Turkey to finish the group. I see 7 points in their future. Look for Koller to be especially effective in the first and last game of the group.

If they do avoid second place in Group A, that will probably mean that the Czechs avoid Germany in the second round. One win there and they are in the Semis. From there it's anyone's game. But especially the Czechs, since they will win Euro 2008 (I said it again in case you missed it above).

Could England beat this team? No. England are not scoring on this team. A draw might happen, but there is no win for England here.
Breakout Player? Koller will get some goals, but look for Milan Baros to re-emerge on the European stage, just in time for Portsmouth to make a UEFA Cup run.
Biggest Question Mark? The midfield is thin on star players. As long as crosses can be made and/or balls played through for Baros, the team will be alright.
Worst Player? (Way)Back-up forward Vaclav Sverkos will earn his first cap if he makes it off the bench. Don't count on it.
Can this team win Euro 2008? Yes. On defense and counterattacks.
What is the squad's pre-made excuse for not winning Euro 2008? No Pavel Nedved. Even though he is old, he could still make a difference coming on as a sub. No Rosicky either. This team is weak in the center of the field. As such, they will be reliant on goals from up front, but that should happen without problem.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: Toulon wrap up

Toulon's youth tournament wrapped up today. No more will I have to hear Max Bretos remind me of how these 21 year-olds are "just kids". That may apply to the U-17 World Cup, but not to all of these fellas working on professional contracts.

Third Place Match
Ivory Coast 2-2 Japan
Ivory Coast 4-3 on penalties

Like a Third Place match should be, this one was pretty entertaining. Ivory Coast were the early aggressors, and it paid off for them. In the 31st minute, Beko Fofana turned nicely on the top of the box and left-footed the ball home. Once again, though, it would appear that Ivory Coast does not have the best conditioned players. The Ivorians held the lead for most of the second half, but when the downpours came on 70 minutes, they let Japan back in the game. In the 72nd minute, the very-Japanese Sergio Escudero put home a Tadanari Lee cross. Japan continued to press their tiring opponent, and it paid off in the 82nd minute. Substitute Masato Morishige outleaped keeper Okoua and headed a corner kick home. Japan looked safe at that point, as Ivory Coast had pretty much given up the ghost as the pitch turned into a bog. However, in the third of four injury time minutes, a missed clearance on a scramble in front of Japan's net caromed off of Seko Cisse's knee and into the net.

Penalties followed. Japan took the early lead as Bofana put Ivory Coast's second chance over the bar. Japan never looked comfortable in their kicks, though, and gave away the advantage in the fourth round when Lee presupposed the keeper would dive. Okoua kept his feet and easily knocked out the weak effort. After Sekou Cisse put his shot home, Japan' captain, Hiroki Mizumoto, pulled his shot well wide to the left.

Italy 1-0 Chile

In a much more dour affair, played on the same water-logged pitch, Italy bullied their way past Chile. This was a tough, tense battle, with a total of six yellow cards given out, five to Italy. Pablo Osvaldo got the only goal of the match, timing his run perfectly from a Daniele Dessena pass and hooking the ball past the planted Christopher Toselli. The goal came in the 70th minute. Chile had a couple of late chances, but nothing would go in today.

The tournament's top player was Italy's Sebastian Giovinco, and the top scorer was Ivory Coast's Sekou Cisse.

Today's links:
Chelsea fire again. Henk ten Cate out [Guardian]
DC United could get half of their funding for a new stadium from the government [Washington Business Journal]
Iraq soccer team quickly un-banned from international competition [New York Times]
American very close to buying AS Roma. Hey, George Soros, we want a club, too! [New York Post]
From Gawker's Blind Item Guessing Game. Which WAG is blind to her player's shenanigans? [UK Mirror]

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Team US gets rogered in the rear by England

Alright folks, open thread time. Ian hinted at it in a comments section, so consider this the pro-active next step!

The game last night was like a David Mamet film: flashes of brilliance amid a sea of boredom. Capello confounded the world by picking the same old England team. My email to someone this morning: Capello was supposed to be the wind of change, but instead, he's just blowing David Beckham.

The idea of putting a relatively unchanged side out, with 18 kiddies on the bench who saw maybe 90 minutes between the lot of them, was ridiculous, but at least we won! Capello will have learned little from the squad's performance, aside from a few obvious home truths, but let's hope the young'uns get a chance against T&T next week.

As for the US, no Landycakes, and the inclusion of Josh Wolff was just baffling.

Video highlights are after the jump, but use the comments to wax lyrical about how crap the USMNT really was. I do rate Bradley and Dempsey, and at least Ricardo Clark had the balls to make a few strong tackles, but that was it really.

Also a fun stat of note: between the two XIs and benches named, only 5 MLS players. Both teams started 1 MLS player a piece, and the US had 3 on the bench, 2 of whom will likely leave in the summer.

Have at it, folks!

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Breaking: We were right and then some on Gretna

Back at the start of March, when the Gretna story was at its saddest, we put 2 and 2 together in a way that no one else had done yet, saying that Gretna would be in the Second Division next season, a two-tier drop. Well, it looks like we underestimated the hatred the SFL had for Gretna. It was announced in the last half-hour that Gretna have been dropped three tiers, into the Third Division for next year. As a result, Airdrie and Stranraer have both been kicked up a division each.

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Hey, Columbus fans. Fucking quit it!

This comes from We are the Postmen. I take issue with the douchenozzle writing that this is the way forward for American soccer. This is an embarrassment. Video after the jump.

See, if US fans were truly catching up to their Euro counterparts, they would be facing all-stadia bans throughout the country and put on a hooligan watchlist. Couple this with the fact that, at the same game, when New England scored their winning goal, other things started coming out of the stands. Racial epithets, batteries and bottles all aimed at the winning goal scorer, Kheli Dube.

This is the video, from the same youtube poster, of the goal and incident afterward. NSFW audio.

MLS is investigating the second incident and hopefully action will be taken against the participating parties.

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Euro 2008 Team Profiles: Germany

Boooooo hiiiiissssssss. Ze Germans. Ze clinical heartbreakers. Ze vell-organized XI with gameplans und strategies-oh alright, I'll cut the bad, borderline offensive German accent.

Germany is a country I don't much care for. I'm expected to not like them very much, you know, after those World War things, and although the new wave of German people are only irritating for how arrogantly they cut into the lines at theme parks and wake up early to put towels on the best beach chairs, there's still some lingering hatred.

Not much, but it's there.

Most of the hatred is born from jealousy [hey, I'm referencing something I wrote a while ago!], because their team is pretty fucking good. Boring at times, methodical, relentless, difficult to watch, but still pretty fucking good.

However, they roll into this tournament with a relatively new manager in Joachim Low [who took over after the '06 World Cup], and with a 12-year trophy drought. This is unannehmbar for a nation that's won 3 World Cups and 3 European Championships.

So, what are they bringing to the table? A young team with tons of efficient, effective stars. A solid track record in internationals under Low, and an air of confidence and ruthlessness not seen since the Fuhrer [really, I'm sorry for that attempt at a joke].

That's why I'm picking them for yet another third place finish.

Germany: they're kinda like Liverpool. They always finish off the pace despite the embarrassing array of talent they should be using to overwhelm anyone standing in their way.

Perhaps we could call them Thirdmany?


Jens Lehmann [Arsenal, still]
Robert Enke [Hannover 96]
Rene Adler [Bayer Leverkusen]

Marcell Jansen [Bayern Munich]
Arne Friedrich [Hertha Berlin]
Clemens Fritz [Werder Bremen]
Heiko Westermann [Schalke 04]
Philipp Lahm [Bayern Munich]
Per Mertesacker [Werder Bremen]
Christoph Metzelder [Real Madrid]

Simon Rolfs [Bayer Leverkusen]
Bastian Schweinsteiger [Bayern Munich]
Torsten Frings [Werder Bremen]
Michael Ballack (c) {Chelsea]
Piotr Trochowski [Hamburg]
Thomas Hitzlsperger [Stuttgart]
Tim Borowski [Werder Bremen]
David Odonkor [Real Betis]

Mario Gomez [Stuttgart]
Oliver Neuville [Borussia Monchengladbach]
Miroslav Klose [Bayern Munich]
Lukas Podolski [Bayern Munich]
Kevin Kuranyi [Schalke 04]

And now for the important questions:

(1) Could England beat this team?
Absolutely not. We've beaten them once in recent memory [although it was sweet... 5-1 in Munich with a Michael Owen hat-trick and a gorgeous Stevie G. goal back in 2001], but they're a cut above. They even beat us last August, 2-1, if thetre was any lingering doubt as to how crap England are against them.

(2) Can they win Euro 2008?
I believe so, although they're notorious for being strong out of the gate and fading towards the finish line. In '06 they were dominant against the likes of Ecuador and Costa Rica, but when they come up against an evenly-matched opponent like an Italy or Spain, they tend to get flustered and the confidence disappears. For me, it's all about whether Low can adapt to the adversity and battle through. They're great when they're under little pressure, but once you show some fight, they fold quite cheaply.

(3) What is their pre-made excuse for not winning Euro 2008?
Probably the lack of adequate preparation. The German domestic league isn't great competition by any means, their Euro '08 qualifying group provided little difficulty, and they're just not prepped. Their last friendly was back in March, and their last 5 games including qualifying for the tournament? A 3-0 defeat to the Czech Republic, 4-0 over Cyprus, a 0-0 with Wales (!!!), 3-0 over Austria and 4-0 over Switzerland. It's simply not enough heading into a tough competition.

(4) What is their biggest question mark?
Overcoming their mental issues. Simply put, this German team is great when the stakes are low. Throw them in the ring with Italy, and it all goes to pot. Their toughest opponent will be themselves in that respect. I doubt whether they can handle the rigors of facing the better Europeans teams.

(5) Who is their worst player?
I'll go with Jens Lehmann. He's 38, he hasn't played meaningfully for Arsenal for ages now (7 appearances this season. Seven!), and he's their first-choice option between the posts? Be afraid, people of Germany.... be very afraid.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Euro 2008 Team Profiles: France (UPDATE!)

As the resident Frenchman here at UF, I naturally took it upon myself to conduct the Euro 2008 preview for the French national team. This was mostly to avoid the barrage of jokes sure to be present had anyone else been allowed to write this preview. But also because I have an unnatural man-love for Gael Clichy.

UPDATE: After cutting down his roster on May 18th, Domenech has finally revealed the final roster for the Euro 2008 team. Look after the jump to see how many I got correct.

France enters the Euro 2008 competition 7th in the current FIFA rankings, having barely qualified for the competition by 2 points over Scotland (to whom they lost twice in qualifying - apparently we fear kilts). Les Bleus are the only national team besides Germany to have won more than one European Championship, winning in 1984 (when the competition was held in France), and again in 2000 (beating Italy in the finals in the Netherlands).

In Euro 2008 France was placed in Group C with Romania (game on 6/9), the Netherlands (game on 6/13), and Italy (game on 6/17). France drew 0-0 with the latter in qualifying, after beating them 3-1 in an earlier qualifying match.

Although he has publicly stated that he will not name his team until May 18, it is expected that coach Raymond Domenech will bring the following players to Euro 2008:

(GK) Gregory Coupet; Mickael Landreau

(DEF) Willy Sagnol; Lillian Thuram; William Gallas; Eric Abidal; Gael Clichy;
Phillipe Mexes; Patrice Evra

(MID) Patrick Vieira; Claude Makelele; Franck Ribery; Florent Malouda; Samir Nasri;
Hatem Ben Arfa; Jerome Rothen; Alou Diarra

(ST) Thierry Henry; Nicolas Anelka; Karim Benzema; Sidney Govou

UPDATE: The actual squad (my picks in bold) chosen by Domenech is:

(GK) Gregory Coupet (Lyon); Sebastien Frey (Fiorentina); Mandanda (Marseille)

(DEF) Willy Sagnol (Bayern Munich); Lillian Thuram (Barcelona); William Gallas (Arsenal); Eric Abidal (Barcelona); Patrice Evra (Manchester United);
Jean-Alain Boumsong (Lyon); Francois Clerc (Lyon); Sebastien Squillaci (Lyon)

(MID) Patrick Vieira (Inter Milan); Claude Makelele (Chelsea); Jeremy Toulalan (Lyon); Lassana Diarra (Portsmouth); Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich); Florent Malouda (Chelsea); Samir Nasri (Marseille)

(ST) Sidney Govou (Lyon); Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea); Thierry Henry (Barcelona);Karim Benzema (Lyon); Bafetimbi Gomis (Saint-Etienne)

If you're keeping score at home (and I know you are), that's 15 out of 23 correct, for a 65% accuracy rating. While I am not surprised by the exclusion of Mickael Landrau, given that PSG was on the verge of relegation this year, I am somewhat befuddled by the choices of: (1) Boumsong over Clichy (did I mention I have a man-crush on him?); (2) Diarra over either Flamini or ben Arfa; and (3) Gomis over Djibril Cisse, although Gomis was the first player since Zizou to score a brace in his international opener (against Ecuador yesterday).

And now for the important questions:

(1) Could England beat this team? Don't be ridiculous! The last 3 meetings between France and England have resulted in France 1 - England 1 (international friendly), France 2 - England 1 (Euro 2004), and France 1 - England 0 (international friendly).

(2) Can they win Euro 2008? Of course they can! Ladbrokes currently has France at 9-1 odds to win the competition.

(3) What is their pre-made excuse for not winning Euro 2008? Youth and age? This is our first international competition in over a decade without Zizou? We didn't feel like it?

(4) What is their biggest question mark? The chances of this team revolve around whether the wily veterans such as Gallas, Vieira, and Henry can merge well with the youth movement of Ribery, Ben Arfa, Nasri, and Benzema. While the youngsters have begun to make a name for themselves in their domestic league (and in Germany in the case of Ribery), Euro 2008 represents their best opportunity to date to burst onto the international scene. Nasri, in particular, needs to have a good tournament in order to avoid falling into the shadow of the other 3.

(5) Who is their worst player? What are you talking about? They are all brilliant players! Alright, it's Willy Sagnol. Although he has been a defensive stalwart in the past, his current age and lack of speed can be easily exposed against even middling international competition. Plus, he still rocks a porn-stache.

Read more on "Euro 2008 Team Profiles: France (UPDATE!)"...

Arsenal: Now With Even MORE Frenchiness!

That handsome young man to the left there, in that beautiful blue kit, is Samir Nasri, most recently of Olympique Marseille (l'OM). We (meaning me) have discussed Nasri before, noting that he is one of the rising stars of French soccer (note to US sportswriters - please make up your minds as to whether the "next Zinedine Zidane" is Nasri or Benzema. Also, fuck you for comparing any French player of Algerian descent to Zizou). Clearly, since I am a Frenchie Gooner, I am ecstatic about...

recent reports that Arsenal will soon complete the £11 million signing of Nasri . Arsene obviously felt that the loss of Flamini and Hleb in the middle was detrimental to the team (particularly given Flamini's rapport on the pitch with Fabregas), so he did what he does - replace one Frenchman with another. In 30 matches in Le Championnat, the midfielder had 6 goals, 10 assists, and 0 cards (aww, such a good boy). Personally, I believe that Nasri is a better midfielder than Hleb, and he is far more likely to be happy at Arsenal than Hleb was. Ultimately, Nasri most likely decided that in addition to the money, he would rather finish in 3rd place and 4 points out with Arsenal than finish in 3rd place and 15 points out with l'OM. Truth be told, Arsenal has a far better chance of winning the EPL (suck it, Barclays) than Marseille does of winning Le Championnat (stupid Lyon).

Below, some video of Nasri doing his thing, with a bonus French rap soundtrack.

(*update* - new video, due to stupid YouTube copyright blah, blah)

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Euro 2008 Team Profiles: Poland

In the interest of full disclosure, it must be noted that I own a Poland jersey. I have it because I am, in fact, one-half Polish by blood (and fully by unpronounceable-in-the-South surname). However, in the interest of never getting Christmas Aped because of this blog, that is all of the personal information you will get out of me.

So yeah, despite Scotland not making it in, and the Americans cruelly being left out (South America invites us to their championship), I have a tenuous rooting interest. I will pull out my too-tight jersey on a couple of occasions and hope it works better that the USA one I wore during the World Cup.

I suppose, the best place to start would be with the roster. So we'll do that. Forgive the fact that I only type the 26 characters (plus one umlauted one) that I grew up with.
GK: Boruc (Celtic), Kuszczak (Manchester United), Fabianski (Arsenal)
Def: Jop (FC Moscow), Wawrzyniak (Legia Warsaw), Golanski (Steaua Bucharest), Bak (Austria Wien), Wasilewski (Anderlecht), Zewlakov (Olympiakos), Kokoszka (Wisla Krakow)
Mid: Dudka (Wisla Krakow), Kryznowek (VFL Wolfsburg), Gargula (Belchatow), Pazdan (Gornik Zabrze), Blaszczykowski (Borussia Dortmund), Lobodzinski (Wisla Krakow), Murawski (Lech Poznan), Guerreiro (Legia Warsaw), Lewandowski (Shakhtar Donetsk)
FW: Smolarek (Racing Santander), Zurawski (Larissa), Saganowski (Southampton), Zahorski (Gornik Zabrze)

Whew. Now that my Firefox screen is filled with red squiggly lines, I will take the time to note that the two best Polish-born players are not on this squad. For those playing the home game, they would be Miroslav Klose and Lucas Podolski. Somehow, they both pulled a Owen Hargreaves and went to play for another country. Tossers all of them. As an aside, I really hope Davey O'Brien gets called up to do Euro coverage. I would love to hear him and Marcelo Balboa ruin these names.

If the Poles wanted to get revenge on those two for deciding to play for Germany, they don't have long to wait. Just like in World Cup 2006, Poland's opening group match is against the Germans. One (I) would hope that they pull off a better effort that they did last time. The other teams in the group are co-hosts Austria (win) and Croatia. That game with Croatia should determine which club joins Germany in the knockout stages.

(1) Could England beat this team? To be honest, maybe. Remember, Poland just two months ago played USA with a full-strength squad and lost 3-0 at home. But, the Poles finished top of their qualifying group over Portugal, who would rape the current England squad.
(2) Can Poland win Euro 2008? No. Getting out of the group stage will be a struggle. Winning is out of the question.
(3) What is their pre-made excuse for not winning Euro 2008? Well, of you look beyond the fact that Germany already has their top two strikers, maybe it's the fact that Boruc is a headcase in the goal.
(4) What is the biggest question mark surrounding the team? Should we have taken more than 4 forwards?
(5) Who is their worst player? When in doubt, guess. Lukasz Gargula is the home-based player who plays for the worst-finishing Pole team from last season. Otherwise I have no idea.

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We're going to Wemberly

Paycheck not big enough to make Cappello-style tax dodging worthwhile

In just over two hours time, the USA will take the field at Wembley against mighty England. A grudge match that is at least 100 years older than the invention of association football! While us Yanks may have taken the lead in all things political, economic, and cultural, those limey bastards still play a pretty mean game of footie.

Some things to consider:

Whenever English players put on the England shirt, they play like shit. Millions of trees have been felled in the service of journalists seeking an explanation, but right now its an immutable law of global football. Also, the Man U/Chelsea players are not going to be giving anything close to 100% of their efforts in this game, no matter what they say publicly.

When England came over to play the US in Chicago a few years back, it was pretty easy to tell which country funneled its best athletes into (proper) football. The English players were so much more physically gifted and technically skilled than our players, who uniformly looked like the annoying younger brother playing AYSO soccer. Our best players play for Fulham, Herenveen, and the LA Galaxy. England's best players play for Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester United. Hah, see, you guys don't have anyone playing for AC Milan either, do you?

For example, the first choice center back pairing for the US is a guy whose benching at Fulham coincided with a miracle run to stay up, and a guy who was deemed surplus to requirements at Newcastle, not exactly a bastion of clean sheets. England's first choice center back pairing, meanwhile, is Brave John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. I think they are both cunts, but I respect their talent. Outside of goalkeeper, our best players probably would struggle to scrape onto the bench.

Now, all of that said, I still hold out hope that we pull off a decent result today. Remember, one team cares about this game much more than the other (literally, like half our team is out of a club right now and desperate for some attention). England's players are looking forward to a summer of WAG weddings, awkward staged beach scenes, and Vegas buffoonery (seriously, TIET and Kickette are pretty much the only blogs with anything to write about right now). I'm clearly the only one drinking the Bob Bradley Kool Aid, though, as the rest of my blogmates uniformly picked England. So call me crazy, but I'm going with 2-1 to the Yanks, as Michael Bradley finally puts in a good game with the Nats.

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I Was Wrong **UPDATE**

I admit I reported the rumors that Jones Soda would be the new Seattle Sounders FC kit sponsor. I was wrong. So wrong. Good thing I'm not a journalist and the good folks at the Wall Street Journal are because they got it right.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft will be the Sounders new kit sponsor placing "Xbox 360 LIVE" on the front of the jersey. The Redmond, Washington based technology company is reportedly paying the MLS club $4 million a year over 4 years. Coincidentally, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is one of the owners of the new Seattle Sounders team.

UPDATE: Below is the image captured from the Sounders webpage of the new jersey. It's only a representation unfortunately.

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

In honor of Stoke City's return to the top flight, we will look at one of their fine shirts from yesteryear.

The first thing that strikes me about this shirt is the awesome coloration. That "gold" is more week-out-of-the-can yellow play-dough. Not really becoming on anyone. And what's that up by the collar? Why that's a flash of faded red. Or, if you prefer, rosey-pink. I suppose John Terry could wipe his missed-penalty tears with a hankie of that color. Yeah, it's real manly to cry over the fact you slipped. I swear I stopped doing that when I was 16 or so.

The reason I really like this shirt is because of the badge. Unlike the new, more traditional looking one they sport today (look up top), this one seems to have a pretzel on it. It's right there in the upper-left quadrant. That's awesome. I can't really tell what is in the lower right quadrant, but I'm guessing that it may be a jar of mustard, in order to keep with the theme. In fact, I'm revising my take on what color this shirt is in order to claim it is "Grey Poupon" yellow.

Finally, let's look at that sponsor. On the day we were proved wrong on the Seattle Sounders sponsor (but we wanted to believe so bad), I have to ask, what the hell is a Daniel Platt? Did some random Dan in Stoke decide he needed to be a little more awesome and sponsor the team himself? Because that would get all the chicks. Alas, it seems that Daniel Platt is a (now defunct?) supplier of building tiles based is Stoke. Boring. They could have at least used a supplier of kilns to match with their nickname, The Potters.

So, welcome back to the EPL, Stoke City. You will struggle mightily to make any kind of impact next season. If you are lucky, a 15th place finish is in your future. But I am more likely to believe that you all will need a cry rag or two to get through the season. I hear John Terry has a nice collection out, maybe you should ask him.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses: Toulon Tournament Semifinals

The Toulon Tournament moved on to the semifinals today. Chile took on Ivory Coast in the first semifinal, while Italy and Japan met in the second. A quick recap as well as backpass links after the jump.

Chile 2-1 Ivory Coast
This game started off with a bang. Ivory Coast took control of the game from the kick, but it was Chile that drew first blood. In the 5th minute, Pedro Morales took control of the ball at midfield, channeled his inner Beckham, and launched a shot that soared in over the head of keeper Christian Okuoa. Ivory Coast continued to dominate the game and received their spoils in the 40th. On a free kick from the right side, the Ivorians scored by shielding the keeper. Constant Djakpa got the final touch. However, Chile stole the game on the 60th on a swift counterattack. Fabian Orellana headed the ball home. Ivory Coast continued to put shots on goal, but Chilean keeper Christopher Toselli kept them at bay.

Italy 0-0 Japan
Italy 5-4 on PKs

Can't really say too much about this game, as I did not watch it. I did, however, see the PKs. The difference was Italian goalkeeper Davide Bassi. He saved the fourth spot kick when, diving to his left, he reached up his trailing right hand to knock out the shot. Japanese keeper Shusaka Nishikawa got burned on his fourth attempt at a save when the ball was cheekily chipped down the middle. That may have had an effect on his attempt at the game-winning kick, when Nishikawa was hesitant to move on a savable ball to his right.

So, it's Italy-Chile in the Toulon final on Thursday. The game will kick off at 1430ish EDT. It is preceded by the third-place match, Ivory Coast-Japan, at 1200 EDT.

Today's Lesson: Be a Scottish football fan, riot in England, suffer no repercussions back home [Evening Times]
Internazionale fire their coach, Mourinho rumo(u)rs begin right here [Soccernet]
Thierry Henry seriously considered moving to Manchester United in the offseason [Mirosport]
Old Italian guy says today's football has no eternal heroes. Has he not seen Titus Bramble? []
Today's Lesson #2: Don't be a dick to off-duty referees. They will refuse en masse to ever ref your team's games again [The Press and Journal]
Jack Warner, now paid off for T&T-England friendly, still wants more money. Will personally fight England getting WC in 2018 [Guardian]

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Seattle Sounders Kit Sponsor

As noted earlier, the 2009 MLS expansion team Seattle Sounders had its new kit leaked on the internet. Now it appears that the kit sponsor has also been leaked.

MLS Rumors is reporting the sponsor will be...drumroll please...Jones Soda.

MLS Rumors has an "artist's" rendering of the kit (seen to the right)with Jones Soda as the sponsor.

Now it doesn't seem like Jones Soda will wind up in the annals of horribly inappropriate team sponsors...cough, Enron, cough, Sega Dreamcast, cough...but it certainly isn't looking great for the corporation. According to a recent Seattle Times report, Jones Soda is looking at trying to go mainstream after a disasterous first attempt last year that plummeted it's stock price.

While splashing down the cash for a kit sponsor deal isn't quite spending the big bucks for a Super Bowl commercial...wait...maybe it is. It was reported that Citibank offered $10 million per year for five years to be the LA Galaxy sponsor, which ultimately went to Herbalife. Although, it has been reported Herbalife's deal was only $5 million per year over 5 years. Either way, it certainly isn't chump change to sponsor an MLS club now, but decidedly cheaper to sponsor the Seattle Sounders than the LA Galaxy, and is certaintly not a shrinking violet strategy.

[Pic from: MLS Rumors]

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Open letter to


We hope this letter finds you well. Quite frankly, though, we know that you are not. We would, at this time, like to present our collective self to help you re-right the ship that is your website. It's not that you have bad webdesign or don't cover enough of the sport we all love, it's that you hit "publish" without fact-checking. Please check below to see just one example of this.


Unprofessional Foul

This was sent to us by the wonderful Mike Georger, and as he points out, in the span of four short paragraphs, whoever wrote this made three glaring factual errors. First, Mascherano would never be considered a striker, despite that one goal he scored in 07/08. Secondly, Cavenaghi does not play for Real Madrid, but for Bordeaux He has never played in Madrid. And third, Giants Stadium is in New Jersey, not New York. New Jersey will kill you for that kind of thing.

So, Fox Soccer, the ball is in your court. Our offer stands until we take it off the table. Make all offers (be sure to include the big money we are looking for) to unprofessionalfoul [at] gmail [dot] com. We will be waiting to hear from you.

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New Sounders Kit?

Yeoman's work over at Goal Seattle in uncovering the supposed new Sounders' jersey. The Beautiful Game tipped us onto the story and managed to capture the image, below, of the new kit set to be revealed on Wednesday.

Goal Seattle's forum found the image, but the photographer requested Goal Seattle take the image down, which it politely did. The photographer hasn't contacted us, so we are under no obligation, and most of us aren't that polite either.

Not to step on 's toes, but, what do you think?
It's tough to make a judgment since the entire kit is not visible, but the Jolly Rancher green may be a bit grating on the eye. I'm also not sure whether it matches the team's colors.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday Backpasses: Toulon Days 5 & 6

The group stage of the Toulon Tournament wrapped up over the weekend, though only one game had any real significance. Inside, a really quick look at those games and the setup of the semifinals.

Group A

Netherlands 1-0 France

In the Group A game that meant absolutely nothing, Netherlands defeated France 1-0 off of Dominique Kivuvu's 53rd minute goal. France fell apart after a red card in their first game, giving up 7 goals and scoring only one after Faty's foul. Netherlands never really looked all that awesome in any of their matches, but did enough to beat France on Saturday. Tim Krul had a couple of fantastic saves to preserve the Dutch win.

Chile 2-0 Japan
Chile took the top of Group A with a strong performance against Japan. Japan produced some early chances, but Chile secured the win with a couple of second half scores. Carlos Carmona volleyed from 25 yards out in the 75th minute. He had luck on his side as the ball bounced off the post, onto keeper Kaito Yamamoto's outstretched hand, and into the net. Pedro Morales sealed the game in the 92nd minute with a simple back-post finish.

Group B

Italy 2-0 USA

The USA once again displayed its new youth offense--try to pass from the back, either clear the ball under pressure or give it away, pick the ball out of the net--against the eager Italians. Italy took full advantage of two first half giveaways to score goals from Ignazio Abate and Daniele Dessena. Quintin Westberg finally got some second half play in the net and pulled some fine saves despite looking lost on some crosses. The USA leaves pointless and hopefully embarrassed. This makeshift U-23 squad was played off the pitch be three U-21 teams.

Ivory Coast 4-0 Turkey
In the only game that meant qualification on the weekend, one player shone. Sekou Cisse, who missed a penalty in Ivory Coast's first match against Italy, had a hat trick. He was joined in the goal scoring parade by Moura-Komenan Anthony. Turkey, who did themselves no favors in getting two players sent off against Italy, had another red card early in the second half. It was already academic at that point as the short-handed team was down two first half goals.

Interestingly, the group stage had no draws, so the standings were pretty easy to figure out. Group A winner Chile will take on Ivory Coast tomorrow at 1200 EDT, while Group B winner Italy and Japan will follow at 1430 EDT.

And now, links. But first . . . the whores!

Chelsea keen on buying Torres. For $100 million [Daily Mail]
The Special One will come back to Chelsea, but only on his terms [The Sun]
Super Frankie Lampard decides it's not enough to lose his mom and the CL final. He decides to chase off his fiancée as well [Daily Mail]
Top 10 English team's websites as visited by US users. Some surprises [EPL Talk]
SGE to go to Mexico. Will lose important games 2-0 [The Press Association]
DaMarcus Beasley looks forward to England friendly, exciting new injuries [Daily Mail]
Harry Kewell to RBNY. Giants Stadium turf sure to be nice to those old joints [Herald Sun]
MLS never going back to Miami [Sun-Sentinel]

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Beckham Nets 70-Yard Goal

David Beckham scored his fourth goal of the season as LA Galaxy defeated the Kansas City Wizards 3-1. Golden Balls' goal was the third of the game and sealed the victory. He struck the ball about 10 yards inside his own half catching the Wizards' goalkeeper upfield on a corner and placed a perfectly weighted ball into the back of the net.

Beckham's goal was reminiscent of his 1996 strike against Wimbledon as a young Manchester United midfielder. Video after the jump.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Nereida Gallardo Is Healthy

Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United just completed a double, winning the Premier and Champions League. The Portuguese star is now taking aim at Euro 2008, but he's already bagged another winner, Nereida Gallardo. The Portuguese beauty (Gallardo not Ronaldo) has shown us her assets (NSFW), already and now her friends are telling us her secrets.

Before she bagged herself the premier footballer in the world, Gallardo dated Pedro Campane, a 40-year-old football agent. Campane wasn't shy telling News of the World (note: always reliable, or not) all about his time with Gallardo.

"She didn't have any hang-ups. She liked doing everything in every position. Nereida doesn't know much about football but she knows lots about men—and how to please them. Cristiano must be having a mind-blowing time."


"I was introduced to her at a party and we became more than friends straight away," he said. "She was 22, very hot, and I wasn't going to waste any time. Conquering her was very easy. She liked partying and money and I could give her both."

Ha, she was an easy lay. All he had to do was part with his money. Hmmm...perhaps she's the one doing the conquering. Gallardo is tipped to become Mrs. Ronaldo, garnering even more money for her.

[Photo: The Spoiler]

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