Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ligue 1 Weekend Review

Matchday 7 saw increased scoring and fewer cards than past weeks, indicating that the French clubs are starting to get into their individual rhythms. The result of the week goes to Grenoble, who topped Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in a pressure-filled match. Some familiar names popped up as goal-scorers, and the top of the table also looks similar to those of the past few weeks.

Saturday, September 27th:

Auxerre 3-0 Le Havre - Auxerre took a little time in the first half to establish its superiority, but a yellow card to Le Havre's Noro in the 20th minute seemed to spark this match. Just minutes later, Coulibaly (27th minute) struck for Auxerre and the rout was on. Although Le Havre GK Revault made 4 outstanding saves, Auxerre took 18 shots, with 7 of them on target. Jelen struck in the 49th minute, and Kahlenberg put Le Havre out of their misery in the 85th minute.

Caen 3-0 Nantes - After losing mid-week in the Coupe de La Ligue to amateur side Creteil (think Barnsley, or Havant and Waterlooville) 7 of Nantes' starting players were benched for this match. Clearly, this tactic successfully motivated the new starters. Oops. Caen had 60% of the possession and put 10 shots on goal, and Nantes made them pay by committing 28 fouls. The carnage started early as Savidan struck in the 2nd minute. They received their second goal from Ben Khalfallah shortly afterwards (10th minute), followed by the third in the 31st minute from Nivet. Then things got chippy, as cards were given to Lemaitre (Caen; 36th minute), Faty (Nantes; 42nd minute), and Pierre (Nantes; 44th minute). The second half saw more pressure from Caen, but no more goals. The end of the match was marked by yellow cards given to Florentin (Caen) and Da Rocha (Nantes) in the 83rd minute.

Le Mans 1-1 Marseille - Despite holding 67% of the possession and taking 26 shots (with 7 on target), L'OM was only able to take 1 point of Le Mans. The scoring was opened early by Ben Arfa (7th minute), who was matched minutes later after a poor pass was picked off by Le Tallec and fed to Helstad (10th minute). Cheyrou almost scored 1 minute later to put Marseille ahead, but Le Mans GK Pele made an excellent save.

Lyon 2-1 Nancy - Lyon dominated this match, with 58% of the possession and 18 shots (5 on goal). The first half was full of excitement, as Lyon launched several waves of attack at the Nancy goal. Following a yellow card to Toulalan in the 18th minute (are you listening, Raymond?), Lyon pulled ahead in the 31st minute on some brilliant work by Benzema. Just minutes later, Fred scored (36th minute) to give Lyon a 2-0 lead. This was short-lived as Nancy made their only successful move toward goal and Berenguer slotted home a shot in the 37th minute. The remainder of the first half, as well as the majority of the second half was spent by Lyon huddling defensively and launching lazy counter-attacks. Lyon also received a scare in the 59th minute when Benzema limped off the pitch, but he appears to be okay.

Rennes 1-0 Nice - Within the first few minutes of this match, both Letizi (Nice) and Douchez (Rennes) were called upon to make excellent saves. Rennes continued the pressure, and Letizi was again called into action at the 25th and 30th minute, resulting in 2 more brilliant saves. Unfortunately, the Nice keeper was left for dead in the 51st minute when Briand headed home a perfect cross, giving Rennes the 3 points. Rennes ended a streak of 3 league matches without a win, while Nice come out of this match having not won 3 in a row.

Sochaux 1-1 Lorient - In a 1-1 draw that was unsurprisingly dull, Sochaux managed to obtain only their 3rd point of the season. The clubs were relatively even in number of shots (and shots on goal), and the match was not even livened up by bookings, as there were no cards issued to either side. Lorient got their goal in the first half from Ayew in the 38th minute, while Sochaux secured the point when Erdinc pushed the ball between GK Audard's legs in the 79th minute.

Paris Saint-Germain 0-1 Grenoble - Although PSG outshot Grenoble 13-9, with 5-1 shots on goal, Grenoble GK Wimbee was simply brilliant in this match. He had a lot of work to do, as PSG held the run of play through outstanding pressure from Hoarau and Giuly. But it was Grenoble who got the 3 points when Arkour put them ahead with a lightning strike in the 76th minute. Grenoble also saw yellow cards issued to Regragui (82nd minute), and the excellently-named Dja Djedje (45th minute).

Sunday, September 28th:

Monaco 0-2 Lille - In an extremely dull game that saw 49 total fouls, it was 51 minutes before Monaco even out a shot on goal. To make things somewhat interesting, it remains unclear who Lille's first goal is credited to. The French league website lists it as an own goal by Monaco captina Modesto in the 69th minute, but ESPN lists Cabaye as the scorer. The second goal was assisted by Cabaye, who sent a clean ball through to Obraniak, who chipped the onrushing GK Ruffier. So who cares who scored the first goal? Well, Cabaye received a yellow card in the 61st minute, and it is listed as an OG, this will be our first week without a goal-scorer receiving a yellow card. Freddy Adu came on in the 79th minute, and was ineffective.

Valenciennes 0-1 Toulouse - In a match featuring two clubs who were knocked out of the Coupe de La Ligue midweek on PKs, Valenciennes failed to account for the most obvious threat on the pitch. Gignac, who had a brace against Sochaux last week, provided the winning goal for Toulouse in the 92nd minute after the first 91 minutes had featured end-to-end action from both clubs. Toulouse was kept in the match early by 2 phenomenal saves from Carrasso on Danic and Belmadi, and they almost took the lead a little later on 2 vicious strikes from Gignac. In the end, it was his 3rd good opportunity which made the difference as he struck the ball well enough to come off the sliding Valenciennes GK Penneteau's foot and into the back of the net.

Bordeaux 1-1 Saint-Etienne - In a game that saw Bordeaux striker Cavenaghi stay extremely busy, the draw dropped his team to 7th place. Saint-Etienne took the lead in the 27th minute when Payet struck a low shot into the corner. The action swung back and forth for the next several minutes until Bordeaux was given a gift by Loic Perrin in the 45th minute. The Saint-Etienne man gathered the ball in the area, lost his footing, and then batted the ball away from the oncoming Bordeaux players with his hands. Cavenaghi stepped up and promptly lashed the spot kick against the crossbar. He atoned early in the second half on a beautiful free kick from Gourcuff, who placed the ball neatly on Cavenaghi's head. The latter almost had a brace (and the lead for Bordeaux) in the 67th minute, but his effort was headed off the line by Saint-Etienne defender Tavlaridis. Neither side could break through after that, and the match ended in the 1-1 tie.

So, at the end of Matchday 7, the top of the table looks like this: (1) Lyon, on 19 point from a 6-1-0 record and a +9 goal differential; (2) Toulouse, on 14 points from a 4-2-1 record and a +14 goal differential; (3) Marseille, on 13 points from a 3-4-0 record and a +6 goal differential; and (4) Grenoble, on 13 points from a 4-1-2 record and a +1 goal differential.

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Weekend Open Thread

In lieu of putting up two posts for your weekend footie comments, especially considering the Sunday one isn't very well-trafficked, consider this your one stop shopping point for letting everyone know just how right or wrong you were about this weekend's games.

Selected schedule and WAGs after the jump

Saturday (all times EDT, as usual)
7.45 Everton-Liverpool
9.30 Hannover 96-Bayern Munich
10.00 Aston Villa-Sutherland (USA!USA!USA!)
10.00 Fulham-West Ham
10.00 Manchester United-Bolton
10.00 Middlesbrough-West Brom
10.00 Newcastle-Blackburn
10.00 Stoke City-Chelsea Spartak London
10.00 Barnsley-Norwich
10.00 Celtic-Aberdeen
12.30 Arsenal-Hull
3.00 PSG-Grenoble
10.00 RSL-SJ Earthquakes

8.30 Portsmouth-Tottenham
9.00 Hibernian-Rangers
11.00 Wigan-Manchester City
2.30 AC Milan-Inter Milan
3.00 DC United-FC Dallas

It seems that Everton don't have WAGs. Read into that what you will. Instead, Alex Curran for all.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Backpasses: Raffi, without the banana phone

UEFA Cup gets a makeover. You still won't care very much [Eurosport]
Court ruling against West Ham versus Sheffield United has possibly opened the door for personal lawsuits from players. Oops [BBC]
Greg Joe Kinnear takes over Newcastle for five weeks [BBC]

And, finally:
Hope Rafinha enjoys that bronze medal. It's going to cost him plenty [The Offside]

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A new American in the EPL

He's the one on the left. Not so short, then.

From Sports Illustrated online
Texas businessman Ellis Short bought a significant stake in Sunderland, the English Premier League told The Associated Press on Friday.

Short is co-founder of Dallas-based private equity group Lone Star Funds. In August, he acquired more than 30 percent of the consortium that owns the club in northeast England.

I thought Friday afternoons were when you released the bad news. Maybe this is bad news over there. I don't know. What I also don't know is who, exactly, Ellis Short is. Follow after the jump to find out with me.

Geez, Short's wiki is only slightly longer than mine. Not a lot of info there. The SI article mentions that he did not buy the club outright, but instead bought into the above consortium, Drumaville, which bought Sunderland in 2006. Drumaville, to the best of my knowledge, was put together solely to buy Sunderland. Before the new purchase by Ellis, it was a group of nine people, headed by former Black Cat Niall Quinn. There has been no information released as to who sold the 30%+ of shares to Ellis.

So what about Ellis? His money seems to come from Lone Star Funds, a private equity firm based out of Dallas. According to their website, LSF has assets totaling over $13 billion. LSF work all over the world, but not always cleanly. According to the Japanese government, LSF purchased a bank, transferred funds via a shell, and failed to pay taxes on the profit. The government has had no luck in resolving the case. He has also faced problems in South Korea. In 2006, the government sought extradition for Ellis in a case that sounds a lot like the Japanese one.

Beyond that, very little is known publicly about Ellis. He is married, and according to this story, she is a wonderful woman. Ellis also owns a Scottish castle, and is therefore living my dream.

Offhand, he sounds a bit like Mike Ashley before Ashley purchased Newcastle. They both made a shedload of money off of businesses they started, but stayed out of the press for the most part. Seriously, beyond today's stories on Ellis' takeover, there is very little else about him online. Wonder if Ellis will pork up and start showing up everywhere in a Sunderland jersey?

By the way, he knows his castle is in Sutherland, and the club is Sunderland, right?

Another take on this at EPL Talk

Thanks to jjf3 for using the tipline on this one

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The Credit Market Is Freezing Up Our Posts

Sorry dear readers that we have tailed off towards the end of this week with our posting. It's just that this whole credit market fiasco has tied up our post liquidity. Once we get the weekend bailout (read: sleep and booze) and Lingering Bursitis returns from his exile things should thaw out.

We've spent the better part of the morning discussing the bailout and financial crisis. The Cliff's Notes version of the conversation seems to be, man this seems like a bad idea but the alternative seems even worse.

Feel free to add your thoughts, inane or irrelevant, about the financial crisis in the comments below.

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UF Goes to the Movies: Kicking It

A little while ago, ESPN acquired a documentary regarding the Homeless World Cup and has been showing the film (albeit at odd times/days) on its network. The piece is produced by Washinton Capitals (that's the NHL, people) owner Ted Leonsis, and is narrated by actor Colin Farrell. "Kicking It" follows the story of several homeless people as they progress to the annual tournament designed to call attention to the plight of the approximately 1 billion homeless people worldwide (representing 15% of the world population).

The film starts off discussing the idea of football as teaching discipline and a sense of community, and notes that it is played throughout the entire world. Over the course of the documentary we are then introduced to 7 individuals who are attempting to make one of the 48 national teams competing at the 2006 Homeless World Cup held in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Players:

Damien (23 years old), is a heroin addict from Dublin, Ireland who was kicked out of his home by his mother when his drug habit became too much for her to bear. Although he is once again living at home and undergoing methadone treatment for his addiction, the rampant heroin epidemic in Dublin is difficult for him to resist.

Alex (29 years old), lives in one of the largest (and most dangerous) slums of Nairobi, Kenya with over 500,000 other homeless people at the heart of the AIDS epidemic. He has a job cleaning toilets and works hard during his off-hours building a pitch by hand with numerous other volunteers in order for the team to have somewhere to practice. Soon after we meet Alex, he informs us that he would be dead if he did not have football to ease his pain. He is looking to make Kenya's first Homeless World Cup squad, as they were unable to attend the 2005 tournament held in England due to visa problems (the U.K. would not let them enter, fearing that they had nothing to return to in Kenya).

Jesus (62 years old), is one of the estimated 300,000 homeless in Spain. He currently lives in a homeless shelter in Madrid, and hasn't seen his family in over 10 years since he spent a significant amount of time in prison for bank robbery. Having spent some time in the Real Madrid youth system, Jesus' life has deteriorated to the point where he has contemplated suicide.

Craig (19 years old), attends the US trials in Charlotte, North Carolina hoping to make the US squad. Originally from Chicago, he suffered severe child abuse and no longer has any contact with his family. The coaches note that he has an anger-management problem, but they feel that he is precisely the type of individual that they should be looking to help.

Najib (23 years old), has returned to war-torn Kabul, Afghanistan after having fled to Pakistan with those members of his family who had not been killed in the war. Among the estimated 6 million homeless (mainly from various wars and tribal in-fighting) in the country, he grew up playing a sport that was outlawed by the vicious Taliban regime, who used the only stadium to hold public executions.

Simon (29 years old), is also on the Irish squad. After losing his brother to drugs, he spent some time in prison and came out to a life of homelessness.

Slava (27 years old), is originally from Shenkursk, Russia but moved to St. Petersburg in an attempt to make a better life. Unfortunately, he had nowhere to live, and therefore no proof of residency which is mandatory for a work permit. Joining the estimated 5 million homeless without registration in Russia (a subject considered too taboo to discuss), he feels that the Russian team must finish in at least 3rd place in order to call attention to their plight.

The Tournament:

Even before the tournament begins, we see how much attending the Homeless World Cup means to the players. Damien and Simon have huge smiles on their faces as the team is introduced at half-time of an Ireland-Holland match, and Najib beams as he talks about raising money for the Afghan team to purchase suits to wear to opening ceremonies. When the tournament begins with a welcome from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, many of the players are in awe that such an important man would speak to them (although quite a few had to be told who he was).

The format for the Homeless World Cup is 4-on-4, with 1 keeper and 3 outfield players on either side. A win earns 3 points, and a loss 0, with all matches requiring a winner (going immediately to PKs if necessary). Throughout the tournament, the teams' won-lost records are used to re-shuffle "divisions", with 3 main titles awarded - World Cup for the top division, Premier Cup for the 2nd division, and Edinburgh Cup for the 3rd division.

The first match that we see is USA v. Burundi, and the US coaches' fears are realized as their team loses composure earning several blue cards (equivalent to a yellow) and a red card. The US loses 6-0, and the coaches speak to the players about a lack of discipline and committing too many fouls.

We also see Kenya v. Nigeria, where the main theme is the ego of Alex. Despite being told not to take PKs by his coach, Alex takes a PK and misses with his side down 1-0. He atones for the miss by scoring the equalizer, and the game ends 2-2 forcing PKs to decide the outcome. Tied at 1-1 on PKs, Alex steps up and makes his to win the game.

Before the next round of games, we see some of the teams enjoying their time in Cape Town. The Kenyans go back to their dorm to find that they have received gifts (toiletries, food, clothes) from some Kenyans living in South Africa. The Afghan team get out and do a little bit of sight-seeing, and Najib does a little bit of flirting with Nilsa, a Paraguayan player.

Matches the next day focus mainly on Spain. In the first match, however, Ireland plays Afghanistan and the two keepers (Damien and Najib) seem to have struck up a friendship. Ireland wins a close match 5-4.

We then follow Spain in their futile attempt to win a match. They lose 9-0 to Holland, 5-1 to Mexico, 6-1 to Namibia, and 8-1 to Paraguay. Tension rises on the team as the coach tries to keep up their morale.

After a brief view of Russia beating England, we see the USA v. Australia match. Once again Craig loses his composure, earning a blue card. Unfortunately, he rips the card out of the ref's hand, earning him a red card. However, the US was up 3-1 at the time and held on to win the game. The focus then shifts to Damien, who has not taken his detox medication, and is therefore feeling unwell. The coaches notice, so they remove him from goal. Ireland loses the match 6-0, dropping them into the 3rd division.

We see the continuing drama surrounding Alex as Kenya plays Namibia. He misses a PK during the game, and his coach is furious. Despite this, however, Alex steps up when Kenya is awarded with a 2nd PK. After he misses this one as well, the coach puts him on the sideline for the rest of the game, not allowing him to participate in the deciding PKs after the match finishes 0-0. Kenya wins the match, and the coach informs Alex that he is suspended.

The next day, after following the US team as they visit an apartheid township, the documentary returns to the saga of Alex. After sitting out 1 match for his coach-imposed suspension, Alex returns to the line-up in time for Kenya to lose the next 4 matches. This drops them into the 2nd division, but they win their next 4 matches to make it all the way to the Premier Cup finals.

During the USA v. Norway match, we see Craig start to mature a bit, as he is fouled but responds by helping up his opponent. The US wins 6-2, and the coaches are very happy with the match result and Craig's behavior. The US ends the tournament having won a total of 4 matches, but perhaps the most important result is Craig's realization that he is "tired of getting mad."

The Afghan team finishes in 12th place, and Najib must say good-bye to Nilsa and return to his war-torn homeland. For them, finishing in the top 25% of all teams represents a significant step considering that they played as adolescents under the penalty of death.

The documentary ends with a focus on Ireland, Russia, and Kenya in their quests for winning championships.

The Winners:

Ireland wins its last 4 games, including a 0-0 full-time match against Uganda which they win on PKs. This puts them into the Edinburgh Cup final, which they also win (against Finland).

Kenya plays Ukraine in the Premier Cup finals, and the match ends 0-0 in full-time. In the deciding PKs, Alex misses his kick, but Kenya win 2-1.

Russia go into the World Cup finals undefeated, and they play Kazakhstan, whose only loss was to the Russians. They end the tournament undefeated, winning 1-0 in a tight match.

Overall, the documentary does an excellent job of discussing the journey to the tournament and of presenting the matches themselves. However, in the end it is easy to lose sight of the fact that these individuals are all homeless, and that the vast majority of them will return to the same difficult life they had before the Homeless World Cup. In addition, several of us here at UF saw the documentary, and we were all struck by the poor choice of dubbing all of the announcing/PA audio. Rather than use the audio from the actual tournament announcer/PA person (which, granted, may have been in Afrikaans for all we know), the film chose to provide dubbed ("fake") play-by-play commentary and PA announcing by "generic American guy." Most of us felt that it detracted from the on-screen action since it was clearly dubbed and lacked the feel of real-time audio.

If you would like more information about the Homeless World Cup, please visit their web site here.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: All the news is bad

The Sun has a breakdown of Joey Barton's community service [The Sun]
Brazilian player killed in weird setup by girlfriend [SI]
Red Star fans continue to show support for another fan who murdered a policeman [Reuters]
Berbs' dad a convicted rapist [The Sun]

Platini, on the advice of his dad, takes back his comments on Wenger [Guardian]
Vasco da Gama to fine overwight players [Reuters]
Euros confirmed for 24 teams in 2016 [Daily Mail]
Some new women's league is sprouting in England [Soccernet]

And, finally:
Rafa wants Bale. Feels the Welsh emo contingent in his team is not large enough [The Sun]

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Whudafxup with Portsmouth' s week?

Consider Portsmouth. In the last five days, Pompey have played 180 minutes of soccer. In that time, they have given up 10 goals without registering one for themselves. A 6-0 weekend loss at Manchester City had been followed by a 4-0 loss at home to Chelsea. The team is stuttering worse than a non-Fox News Palin interview.

Where does the blame lie? Can we put it on Nacho Pete and the rest (save Defoe) of the team that refuses to score? Is it because David James decided he really likes being nicknamed "Calamity"? Or is 'Arry not a good manager when unable to nick personal funds off of backroom deal with agents? Finally, is this just a bad week, or is this something that will continue? Well, it won't this weekend at least. Portsmouth play Tottenham. Three easy points there.

Your input, and/or appropriate snark, is greatly appreciated.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wednesday Backpasses: That's a lot of cheese, wine and baguettes

What I didn't get to today while fervently screaming at my computer that Rangers needed to lose to Partick Thistle (nil). It didn't happen.

Have 100 million Euros? You can buy Benzema, say Lyon [Soccer 365]
US keeper who wouldn't sign MLS contract because it was beneath him may be going to Celtic [Sky Sports]
Sony TVs hate you, the soccer fan [The Offside]

Bunyodkor, the Uzbek club who signed Rivaldo, sign more old Brazilian talent [Soccerway]
Corruption mess in Bulgaria keeps getting worse, reaching higher [Sofia Echo]

And, finally:
Wayne Rooney, not a smart man when it comes to many things, including cars [Daily Mail]

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

East Fife play their home games at Bayview Stadium in Methil, Scotland. I don't know why it's called Bayview. The view is not so much of a bay, but of an out-of-service power plant. This is the view from the stands

I guess the bay is the part you don't see. Maybe we'll find out when the power plant gets demolished in five year's time.

Anyway, back in 1995-96 East Fife, whose usual colors are black and gold, played in an away strip that is not fondly recalled. It reminds me of the Wang-sponsored Oxford United shirt, but it is uniquely crappy, not a knockoff.

My wife has this thing. She is attuned to all fashion rules, such as when you can wear white pants, open-toed shoes, or corduroy. One of the rules that I think she made up herself is the one that says "don't wear green and red, you'll look like Christmas". East Fife pay no attention to such rules.

And you know what? This shirt does not look like Christmas. The green isn't right. That isn't to say that it looks good. It doesn't, even if red and green are known as complementary colors in art theory (they are). These hues definitely do not complement each other.

A darker green would have made a difference. Kind of exactly like the green around the collar. Then, of course, it would have looked like an oddly-chosen Christmas sweater. Still, that would have been better than this washed-out mess.

What also might have worked was to reduce the amount of green in the shirt. While the stripes are not uniform in width, the number of green to red stripes should have been reversed. Then, at least, the main color would have been strong, rather than this almost-aqua.

Poor Andrew Forrester. No wonder he tried to erase his name off of the shirt.

It should also be noted that East Fife have returned to the same color green for this year's away shirt. Full marks for tradition, but on review, all points deducted for stupidity.

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Only Two Hours Of Training?

Spurs new-boy Roman Pavlyuchenko is having a tough go of it at White Hart Line right now. His two appearances since his £13.8million transfer from Russia have been less than impressive. Pavs has time to improve but that is a lot of money to spend on a striker that can't handle two hours of training. The striker puts the blame of his performance on his inability to train for two hours:

"But when there is a week's gap between games, training is serious.

"I barely survived it when I'd just arrived.

"I looked at my watch and saw that the training session had gone on for exactly two hours!

"Then another half an hour in the gym! Two and a half hours! Can you imagine that?

"I trained like never in my life before, I swear!

"The weights started to get to me, and I stopped and said to the trainer, 'I can't do this.'

"That's how they work - I'm shocked. I thought it would be a lot easier."

In my school days, we had the Tuesday/Saturday schedule and managed to get at least two hours of training in every off day except Sunday, plus we were in school from 7:30 to 2:30. It wasn't so bad.

That's not to say that our training was anything like professional training. It was probably a lot less intense, but shit, if you're a professional getting paid millions, I would think you would be able to handle two hours of training plus some weightlifting. The only other thing on your schedule is probably a mid-morning banging with some hot model and an afternoon tee-time.

Let us not forget Pavs' previous weak ass excuse for not performing well. The defenders "did not give me enough time to get to the ball properly." Maybe if he trained for two hours or more he would be able to get to the ball.

I hate to say it but I think Spurs signed a weakling. He ain't no Ivan "I must break you" Drago, that much is for sure.

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Now That We're Poo....

...I want to move the goal posts. That's the message from L.A Galaxy owner Tim Leiweke. He wants the salary cap and designated player rule dropped. Why? Because the Galaxy suck and he wants to go shopping. The man who initiated the 'designated player' rule also known as the 'Beckham' rule has seen his team win one game in 13 over the last 3 months and has decided that he needs to replace the duffers he currently employs within his cap of $2 million a year.

Of course you can't sign more than one or two over rated aging Premiership stars for that paltry sum. The MLS salary cap is the equivalent of a League One sides yearly wage bill and this is one reason why the standard of the MLS is no better than League One.

The current salary cap is a mile away from the spending of a bottom Premiership side, in fact it's far from being close to that of a Championship side. Norwich City's wage bill this season is 10 Million pounds. That's about 17.5 million Dollars or the wages of EIGHT MLS teams. For Leiweke and his Galaxy to sign some quality new blood like Beckham, Angel or Huckerby they will need to splash some serious cash. L.A's recent struggles could be down to the fact they had to ditch several half-decent players in order to obtain one of their high-priced aging imports. They have many!

Raising the cap to accommodate Leiweke is possible but only as long as teams can sustain the cost to be competitive. That $2 million cap exists for a reason and the MLS appears to be looking for a slow, steady build rather than an exciting rush to extinction seen in the days of Pele, Marsh and Canaglia!

Upping the cap ceiling will improve the standard of the play for sure. Better players will arrive from abroad, but for the love of god can M.L.S teams stop signing useless old duffers like Abel Xavier and Celestine Babayaro in order to flog t-shirts? They should be improving gradually by signing decent players in their prime from the Championship or League 1. Three or four Cameron Jerome's, Casper Gorkss or Darren Beckfords will do much more for the standard of the league than one David Beckham.


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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses: Soccernet links galore

Average age for Arsenal today: 19. Result: 6-0 win [Guardian]
MLS may stream live games for free next season [Major League Soccer Talk]
Anderson not a good judge of character [Soccernet]
Wenger and Platini try to figure out who will surrender first in tiff over replay [Soccernet]
Referee from phantom goal game back on EPL lists [Soccernet]

And, finally:
Cheryl and Ashely Cole in an open marriage. Line forms somewhere in England, boys [Daily Mail]

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Caption Competition

Here we go again, it's caption time! Leave 'em below.

The Prize? Free speech! That's right, the winner gets to guest blog here at the 'numero uno' footy site on planet Earth (I'd say the Universe but there's a good Ipswich blog based out of Uranus.)

This week's picture features Gavin Mahon of QPR and the referee (do any of them deserve name recognition?) from the match at Coventry last Saturday.

Good Luck!


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Now They Really Need A Kit Sponsor

Sheffield United has won its case before an independent tribunal against West Ham for the Tevez Affair in 2006-07 for the damages resulting from West Ham's intransgressions which may reach 30 million pounds. As you may recall, West Ham signed Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano right before the season, but violated FA rules by failing to disclose that the contract rights of the two players were held by a third party, Media Sports Investment (MSI).

Ultimately, Tevez fired West Ham out of the relegation zone on the final day against Manchester United. Tevez's winner relegated Sheffield United to the Colaship and caused them to lose out on the EPL (suck it, Barclay's) funds.

Sheffield lost its appeal to the FA seeking docking of points for West Ham's misdeed. The Hammers only suffered a fine of 5.5 million pounds to the chagrin of the Blades.

If the British court system is anything like the US court system, and it should be since we based ours on our cousins' over the pond, this will not be the final word. Endless appeals and motions will ensue, but at least Sheffield United has the upper hand at this point. West Ham better find a shirt sponsor soon so they can afford to pay this debt, either that or start selling players.

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Mike Ashley Helps Get Funds Out of Nigeria

Mike Ashley has to be the dumbest son of a bitch alive. He's trying to sell Newcastle United after the fans and Kelvin Koogan turned on him and now Ashley thinks some Nigerian consortium is going to pay his £400 million asking price.

I was pretty sure Ashley was being scammed in one of those email fishing frauds. Now, I am sure after a devious UF reader sent in the email Mr. Ashley received with the offer to purchase the club.

Date: Fri, 19 Sep 2008 08:58:18 (GMT)
From: Moses Odiaka []

Dear Mr. Mike Ashley,

My name is Mr.Moses Odiaka.I work in the credit and accounts department of Union Bank of NigeriaPlc,Lagos, Nigeria. I write you in respect of a number of our investors at Union Bank. The heavans have presented Nigeria with vast mineral and oil deposits. Many Nigerians have done well because of this and are now searching for grand investment opportunities to diversity their holdings. I approach you with their interest in Newcastle Soccer Club.

They are prepared to offer you 280 million british pound sterling for your interest in the team. To get this money we only ask that you tranfer your interest in the team to a Nigerian holding trust escrow account. Once that is done we can secure the funds for your payment and all sides will be happy with the end result.

To do this, I will need your full name and address telephone/fax number,company or residential, also your bank name and account, where the Newcastle interest will be transfer from. This is necessary for the escrow holding trust to be set up in Nigeria. Once this is complete our transaction will be all but done.

When you contact me, then we shall discuss on how the money will be delivered.I am currently in europe for a six months course,you can reach me on this number for further discussion 0031 623 866 723.Kindly send your reply to my private email address stated below or

Trusting to hear from you,

I remain Respectfully yours,

Mr Moses Odiaka. or
(0031 623 866 723)

Even my grandma doens't fall for these scams...any more.

I have to hand to the Nigerians though, they are really playing out the string on this confidence game. They are telling the Toon fans that the Geordie Messiah, Mr. Koogan, will return if they succeed in the purchase of the Tyneside club.

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Monday Was Becks Manning Day

If you needed any more proof that David Beckham would endorse anything and everything under sun, look no further.

Well, it's not exactly accurate. Deadspin was presented by Beck's, the beer not the walking billboard, but Bigus provided this nice little mock up.

Fear not loyal readers, since Lingering Bursitis is away on vacation, we are free to write about Beckham without fear of reprisal.

Yesterday marked the revealing of the 2009 Beckham calendar. Wonderful. Just what a I need Beckham 365. We should send one to LB for his birthday.

That's his Colt Magnum look.


More to be found at Kickette.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Backpasses: If we didn't give you rumors, where would you get them?

Totally unsourced, but worth a look. Juande Ramos to fall if Spurs lose to Newcastle in Carling Cup [White Hart Pain]
Sunday league player banned for life for knocking out ref. Where's the RESPECT? [The Star]
One of C. Ronaldo's ladies on the side is a hooker [With Leather]

Is Amr Zaki a surprise to you? He shouldn't be [Kornheiser's Cartel]
Dean Windass wants to be a ref. Heh heh. Windass [Daily Mail]
Wow. I thought the toilet-papered corner kicks were tough [101 Great Goals]

And, finally:
Dutch womens' team takes field in skorts and tight shirts. Blatter reportedly loves it. Since we love you, there's a video [Times of Malta]

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Yeah, But Do Those Countries Have Our Enormously Successful and Complex Financial System?

Far from grinding any axes, former Galaxy boss Ruud Gullit actually had some surprisingly complimentary things to say about the quality of soccer in MLS.

From a piece that appeared in the Daily Mail:

The football is different, and the salary cap prevents the league from attracting the very top players, but the standard is higher than people think. It's unfair to make comparisons with football in this country... I'd liken it more to the leagues in Holland, Belgium and Norway.

Watch out Aalborg.

Oh wait, I think they're Danish. Uhm, Liege.... no, don't think any MLS team could hold Liverpool scoreless for 180 minutes home and away. Oh wait, what am I saying? Stoke held Liverpool scoreless (disallowed goal notwithstanding), so clearly anyone can. Woo hoo! MLS, almost world class.

Okay, enough cheap shots. Back to Gullit. The former World Player of the Year was very honest about the limitations and mitigating circumstances affecting the quality of play on the pitch: "For a start, they play in the summer and that means it can be 90 degrees and 80 percent humidity. You just can't play high-tempo football. Certainly nothing like the Barclays Premier League, which is all about long ball and pace.

A) Ninety? Did Gullit ever coach the Galaxy at FC Dallas or the Dynamo? Ninety is unseasonably mild for Texas in the summer. B) Who the fuck is successfully playing Route 1 football and winning consistently in the EPL (Suck it, Barclays). Does Gullit even watch soccer?

He continues: "Then there's the travelling. If you're in LA and you've got a game in New York you're talking about a six-or-seven-hour flight." The salary cap, the lack of desire to schedule around international fixtures, etc. He hits all of the obvious explanations.

I kind of appreciate the compliments (even if they are slightly backhanded) of the MLS because when it's good, it's totally watchable soccer. And I'll continue to champion it as such.

But read the article more than once—and maybe read between the lines the second time through—Gullit's explanations start to sound more like scapegoating for his own lack of success. Dominic Kinnear, Sigi Schmidt, Steve Nicol, some coaches have managed to work with the limitations to field competitive teams. The Galaxy might have been a special case, given all the went on between ownership, management, and staff; but winning and doing it consistently is doable in MLS even with the heat, the travel, the cap and the calendar.

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Colaship Round-Up

That's Chris Iwelumo on the right having his bald dome shined by his mate Andy Keogh. Iwelumo scored a hat-trick for Wolves on Saturday. He was also sent off as Wolves beat Preston 3-1 at Deepdale. His goals (6) this season have fired Wolves to top of the Championship where they sit 3 points clear of Birmingham this morning.

The shock of the weekend came at St Andrews where Birmingham lost to Blackpool. Yep, read it again and it's still hard to imagine.
The only goal of the game came from Gary Taylor-Fletcher just after halftime. According to the match reviews the deficit could have been greater!
I think we will chalk that one down to an off-day!

Bristol City continued their impressive start to the season with a 4-1 thumping of Donny Rovers at Ashton Gate. Midfield maestro Michael McIndoe bagged a brace and record signing Nicky Maynard scored his second of the campaign.

Elsewhere, Coventry beat Q.P.R at the Ricoh with an Elliot Ward penalty after 15 mins and Palace lost at home to Plymouth who look as if they have turned a corner with back to back wins. A Paul Gallagher double did the damage and the defeat leaves Palace one place above the drop zone. Warnock's south Londoners have lost 3 of their last 4 games.

There were 3 goal-less games last Saturday played between Sheffield Wed and the 'Scum', Forest and Charlton and Southampton and Barnsley. Derby V Cardiff and Swansea V Barnsley both finished 1-1. In another score draw, Watford were raped by blind flag waver Nigel Bannister . You can read all about this in the post 'A Goal named Casper' here

That leaves just one result to mention. At mighty Carrow Road the super yellows beat Sheffield United 1-0. The game was in stopage time when Lee Croft surged down the right, played a neat one two with Hoolahoop before cutting inside a defender and thumping a left foot beauty into the top left. Get in Crofty!

Leaving it late...Super Lee Croft

Norwich are currently 11th. See the full table here.


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Cheap Bastards...

                                                      Egg and Spoon winner David Di Michele

West Ham took to the field last Saturday to take on Newcastle in Zola's first game in charge...A proud moment and the start of a new era. Why then did they replace bust sponsor XL's logo with a white patch featuring the players squad number. Someone at West Ham had the needle and thread out late on Friday night.  It looked as if Zola had sent his new team out to take part in a schools sports day. Surely the Spammers could afford to replace the XL shirts with some new blank ones. Or maybe they could have featured the name of a local charity or business? Either way what they did looked tat. This is a Premier League team playing on TV to people all over the World!

So who could the East Londoners put on their shirts until a new sponsor is found? Maybe Craig Bellamy's shirt could feature the local Police badge. Etherington's could advertise for the nearest bookies. Faubert's could give a shout out to the local hospital and Zola's tracksuit could whore for the local stables..Lame I know..You have better I am sure...Take it away below..


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A Goal Named Casper Update: With New Video

Bigus is our Coca-Cola Championship expert, so I hope I'm not treading on his toes with this post, but Saturday's match between Reading and Watford was a doozy. The teams fought to a 2-2 draw, but Reading did not deserve the result, as you will see in this video:

Did you see it? Nope. I didn't either nor did anybody else save for one lonely linesman and a gullible ref who believed him.

Stuart Attwell was the youngest and most promising ref in England. I say "was" because the responsibility for this costly error will fall on his shoulders. Attwell had awarded a goal kick until his linesman notified him that ball had cross the goal line. Of course it had not. In fact, it was not even between the sticks on the part of the play where the goal was awarded.

In the ensuing mayhem, Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd was sent off. I'm sure this week's Ed Hochuli will get his own sendoff, probably down to League Two with Mark Halsey or lower.

Never has there been a more appropriate for this song at Vicarage Road:

"Three blind refs,
Three blind refs,
See how they run!
See how they run!

Their whistles are stuck,
And their eyes are closed!
What they call, nobody knows!

Three blind refs,
Three blind refs..."

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ligue 1 Weekend Review

This week once again featured quite a bit of scoring, as well as more than a few yellow/red cards. The story of the weekend, however, is AS Nancy-Lorraine getting their first win of the season, coming against Valenciennes on Saturday. Join me after the jump for all of the scores and shenanigans.

Saturday, September 20:

Grenoble 0-1 Bordeaux - In a match featuring 2 teams near the top of the table (one of whom got abused by Chelsea in their Champions League match), there were more cards shown than legitimate scoring opportunities. The first half was extremely uneventful, with the only notable action being yellow cards given to Chamakh (43rd minute) and Diarra (45th minute). Grenoble got their first yellow card shortly after the start of the second half (Baning, in the 48th minute), and received another in the 68th minute (Vitakic). In between those, however, Bordeaux had two players sent off when Diarra was given a second yellow card for a deliberate handball in the 50th minute, and Wendel was given a straight red in the 53rd minute after a horrible tackle. Sensing trouble, Laurent Blanc brought on 19 year-old Jussie, who rewarded his manager with a goal in the 81st minute. Frustration set in for Grenoble, and Robin was sent off in the 90th minute with a straight red card after kicking Gourcuff in the face (which will not make Domenech happy). Jussie finished off his day by picking up a yellow card in the 1st minute of extra time to secure "Goal-scorer to get carded" honors for the week.

Le Havre 0-1 Lyon - In the most boring match of the weekend, Lyon pulled out the win after being awarded a PK in the 44th minute after Gillet took down Piquionne with a tug on the shirt. Ederson converted the gift for the only score of the match. Sidney Govou, after almost scoring in the 11th minute, received a yellow card in the 55th minute and was shown a red card in the 66th minute for a dangerous tackle.

Lille 3-2 Auxerre - This match featured end-to-end action and scoring outbursts from 2 different players. After a 2nd minute strike from De Melo gave Lille the lead, Auxerre received a brace from Quercia after the half (49th minute, 80th minute) to take the lead. Hazard responded to tie the match in the 88th minute, and De Melo secured his own brace when he poked the ball in the net after a frantic goal-mouth scramble in the 4th minute of extra time.

Lorient 1-1 Caen - After having lost 3 matches in a row, Lorient held on to a tie in order to earn a point. Safi put Lorient ahead 1-0 in the 35th minute and they dropped into an extremely defensive posture to try and hold on for the win. Unfortunately, Deroin hit a screamer into the top corner on the volley in the 85th minute to force the tie. This was followed shortly by a yellow card being awarded to Le Pen (90th minute; personally, I would immediately red card the bastard every time he stepped on the pitch).

Toulouse 2-1 Sochaux - Toulouse scored all 3 goals in this match, and Sochaux looked very listless. The winners started early, getting a brilliant goal from Gignac off a free kick. After some chippy play throughout both halves, Toulouse were awarded a PK after Didot was fouled in the box in the 61st minute. Didot stepped up and converted the spot kick for yet another brace on this score-filled Saturday. A few minutes later, Sochaux benefitted from an OG from Cetto (67th minute), but they were unable to seriously threaten for the rest of the match.

Nice 2-2 Le Mans - Nice got 2 early goals from Fae (2nd minute) and Remy (29th minute - and, confidential to ESPN, his name is Loic, not Ludovic (that would be Giuly)), and then promptly fell asleep for the rest of the match. Le Mans, on the other hand, managed to wake up for the second half, and got a gift OG from Hellebuyck (50th minute) and one that they earned from Lamah (86th minute). Other than that, the action in the second half was largely confined to the distribution of yellow cards, with 2 given to each side.

Nantes 2-0 Valenciennes - Valenciennes started the match looking like the more dangerous side, even earning a PK in the 9th minute (which Danic had blocked by Nantes GK Alonzo), but Nantes began to pressure near the 30-minute mark. After a brilliant save by Valenciennes GK Penneteau, Nantes got their first goal from Bagayoko who converted a PK in the 39th minute. Bagayoko earned his brace shortly after the second half began, slotting home a shot in the 54th minute, allowing Nantes to cruise to victory.

Sunday, September 21st:

Saint-Etienne 1-0 Paris Saint-Germain - Despite incredible pressure from Hoarau throughout the match, it was Saint-Etienne who earned the win after Dabo put them ahead in the 14th minute. After sitting out 1 game due to yellow card accumulation, PSG captain Claude Makelele was back in the line-up, and promptly picked up a yellow card in the 54th minute. This is his 5th yellow card in 5 matches played.

Nancy 0-0 Rennes - In an extremely ugly match that featured 16 fouls committed by each side, the nil-nil result was probably all that these clubs deserved. Rennes had the better run of play, with intense pressure from Briand, but it was to no avail. Symptomatic of the ugliness, Hansson was awarded a straight red card in the 84th minute for a very nasty tackle.

Marseille 0-0 Monaco - Although both teams appeared to have several legitimate chances, it was only Monaco's GK who was called into action to make saves during this match. Marseille applied pressure throughout the match, and Monaco (with Freddy Adu sitting on the bench) responded by committing 21 fouls in order to slow them down. In the end, L'OM was unable to overcome the slow pace forced by Monaco, and the match ended in a goalless draw.

So, after Matchday 6, the top of the table looks like this: (1) Olympique Lyonnais on 16 points with a 5-1-0 record and a +8 goal differential; (2) Olympique de Marseille on 12 points with a 3-3-0 record and a +6 goal differential; (3) Toulouse on 11 points with a 3-2-1 record an an even goal differential; and (4) Le Mans on 10 points with a 3-1-2 record and a +4 goal differential. Although it is still early in the season, Lyon once again look to be the class of Ligue 1.

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Weekend reading assignment

Shirt should probably read "US Treasury"

After this weekend's results, Arsenal sit at the top of the table. The Gunners beat Bolton amidst some lumbering performances from the rest of the big clubs (P.S. - SAF might need to consider buying a bigger shirt). A good sight to see, especially after yet more insane spending by pretenders over the summer transfer window. But I'm not going to get too excited until we get through the muddy pitch season full of away games to Wigan.

The Premiership, in edited form:

1. Arsenal 12 pts
2. Chelsea 11 pts
3. Liverpool 11 pts
4. Aston Villa 10 pts
5. Manchester City 9 pts (Update: Man City demolish Pompey in an scoring orgy not seen in Manchester since....last Christmas)
15. Manchester United 5 pts
20. Tottenham 2 pts

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Sunday Open Thread

Gee, I wonder what the focus will be here? Chelsea host Manchester United today at 9.00 EDT, but that's not the only match on. It's most likely the one you care about, but humor me anyway.

Schedule and gratuitous WAG photos after the jump.

All times EDT. Because I care about me, not you.

7.00 West Brom-Aston Villa
9.00 Chelsea-Manchester United
10.00 Hull City-Everton
10.00 Manchester City-Portsmouth
10.00 Tottenham-Wigan
7.00 Chester-Shrewsbury (Halsey Alert)
10.00 Rangers-Motherwell
11.00 Kilmarnock-Celtic
11.00 St Etienne-PSG
6.30 Feyenoord-Ajax (Guess the Dutch don't go churchin' on Sunday mornings)

WAG off!
In for Chelsea, Cheryl Cole

In for Manchester United, Coleen Rooney

Thanks to Kickette for the photos

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