Saturday, July 4, 2009

Open Thread: LA Galaxy v. New England Revolution

Seems there is an MLS game on right now. New England at LA. No Beckham, no Donovan. So, not that intriguing...but here's your open thread.

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Gold Cup: US v. Grenada Liveblog

Fifteen years ago today the United States played its first second round World Cup match in the modern era. The US ultimately lost to the eventual champions 1-0, no thanks to Leonardo's elbow. Today’s match in the Gold Cup against Grenada does not have the same gravitas. That does not make it any less interesting for USMNT fans because of its implications for next year.

Coming off the United States’ second place finish in the Confederations Cup (also the best ever finish in a FIFA tournament for the US), many observers are wondering whether the Confed Cup run was a fluke and the US will return to its poor pre-Confed Cup form. Prior to the miraculous 3-0 win over Egypt the US had not played a good game in since early this year and even that was only a 2-0 victory over a faltering Mexico led by SGE.

This tournament will not help determine the quality of the US as the roster is almost entirely different from the Confed Cup roster. (Qualification: The seven additional rosters spots added are made up of several players from the Confed Cup but they will likely not ever be called upon and some aren’t even in Seattle right now.) Only Charlie Davies saw any time in South Africa and seventeen of the twenty-three players have fewer than ten caps. This tournament will help the US determine which players have a shot for filling out the World Cup roster and if the team can figure out some of its depth issues.

So, this should be Freddy Adu’s World Cup audition. If he plays well he should have a shot to make the team. If he doesn’t, color me skeptical that he will be in contention next year for a roster spot. I don’t know what color skeptical is but, I’m thinking a dark blue.

Rosters when they come out...until then enjoy your Fourth of July.

US Lineup:

Perkins; Cherundolo (c), Marshall, Goodson, Pearce; Holden, Pause, Beckerman, Rogers; Davies, Adu; Subs: Parkhurst, Heaps, Cooper, Robles, Quaranta, Evans, Arnaud

Grenada Lineup:

Desmond Noel (G), Marcus Marshall (D), Anthony Modeste (D), Cassim Langainge (D), Devon Roberts (D), Shalrie Joseph (M), Ricky Charles (M), Byron Bubb (M), Dwane Leo (M), Denron Daniel (F), Marcus Julien (F)

Honduras just scored for a 1-0 lead on Haiti. This game still has at least 15 minutes left, which is only 5 minutes before the scheduled kickoff time for the US match at the same field.

What are your predictions?

I had a Grenada invasion reference in my intro originally, but thought it was a little too apparent. What's the over/under on the announcers' references to the invasion?

Haiti just saved a goal. Nice recovery after Honduras had chipped the keeper who was way off his line.

Looking at the US roster I just realized I am familiar with only about half of the US players. Needless to say, my familiarity with the Grenada roster is even less with only Shalrie Joseph having ever entered my consciousness.

Two minutes of stoppage time in this Copa Oro match.

A couple notes. First, there are rumors out there of an Eboue-Melo swap. Second, Usain Bolt is now a Blue.

1-0 victory for Honduras over Haiti. Jozy Altidore is sad.

First Grenada invasion reference I caught, although it was with a twist in that Grenada is invading the US today. Gah...this is going to be painful.

Damn...just heard the vuvuzelas. They really are everywhere. I hope it doesn't become a pandemic.

You would think Chris Sullivan could get the US names correct. You would be wrong to think that.

Wow...ten minutes between games and we're almost off. Fast turnaround.

Wait...what? The Grenadan team is known as the Spice Boys? That's good for at least one goal right?

That's fucking bullshit. Seattle is not Soccer City USA. They're a bunch of fucking bandwagon latte drinking soccer fans. They never supported the Sounders in the USL. Bastards. Sorry, I know there are some UF readers from Seattle, but that's fucking B.S. I would kick Max Bretos in the nuts if I were in the booth.

0' - Tweet. We're off. I have my beer. I have my pizza. I have my soccer. It is Fourth of July. America, fuck yeah.

2' - US knocking the ball around like they are Spain. Grenada hasn't done much, yet.

I forgot how much better soccer is in HD.

5' - Beckerman with a stupid tackle.

7' - GOALLLLL!!!!! FREDDY ADU America, Fuck Yeah.

Nice run from Rogers on the left hand side and then cut into the box and found Adu open at the top of the box. Adu slotted it home low right. Although, to be honest, that was a very slow developing play and no way Adu scores that against better competition.

Good start by Adu, though.

10' - Adu with a heat check, firing a quick shot from 20 yards out over the bar. Looked dangerous but it wasn't.

13' - Holden hits a right footed shot from 25 yards out, on the right corner of the box. It has no pace. That's one thing the US does not have--a player that can shoot rockets on goal.

15' - Bain gets Grenada's first threat with a shot fired just wide and high. I think that was only the third time Grenada has done anything in the US half.

16' - Well, Beckerman just had a long shot on goal with some pace. Immediately following, Dolo sends in a cross from the right and Rogers gets a head on it but it goes wide. Very nice cross. Then Rogers has another attempt that goes wide left. It's a little too easy right now, I worry about a good counter for an equalizer.

20' - Davies tries to take on the whole defense alone. He should have passed.

22' - Nice interplay between Rogers and Davies down the left side. Rogers threads Davies the ball with a decent shout at the goal. Then, Grenada comes back and threatens with a header that Perkins blocks. Thankfully no Grenadan players in the box to pounce on the rebound. Sullivan screws up Rogers' name. "Roggie Rogers". Jesus.

25' - Pearce fouled on the left side of the box, about five yards out. Adu lines up over it...good service but Marshall mistimes his jump and heads over. Although, it could have had more pace.

I would be wearing my USMNT jersey but it's hot and our air conditioning is broke.

30' - Nice quick turn my Davies and he stings the keeper's hands. I'm excited about seeing more of Davies on the field.

31' - GOALLLLLLL!!!! 2-0. America, Fuck Yeah!!! Stu Holden.

After a piss poor failed attempt to clear (maybe that would make it an excellent failed attempt, I don't know) Rogers collected the ball on the left and crossed into the box, where Holden outjumped the non-jumping defense to nod in.

36' - Rogers' crosses are great today (and the defense sucks) and he picks out Adu who re-directs it on goal but the keeper does well to save. How does Adu win a header in the box?

37' - Halftime adjustments for Grenada...close out on Rogers, he's killing them.

There are famous games on FSC? I had no idea.

40' - Yellow card, Marshall for Grenada. He chopped down Davies deep on the right. Adu sent the kick in and Noel gets a touch and finally knocks it out for a corner. Tough night for him. On the corner, the US heads it high.

Halftime - 2-0 Team America.

Stupid internet went down. Not much happened except a few more chances for the US. Tough to tell how well the team is playing because Grenada is dire. Davies and Rogers have looked good, along with Adu, Dolo, and Beckerman with their moments.

Alright, I'm going to get a beer. Note: I do have shorts on...I'm not lounging in my underwear. Although...

Did you know that PBR won a Gold Medal in 2006 as the best American Style Lager? I didn't either. I thought the 1893 Blue Ribbon was the only thing that beer had ever won, except for the most popular cheap college beer award handed out by the Pan Hellenic council at my university.

Miss Grenada World 2007 Vivian Burkhardt & Miss Trinidad & Tobago Universe

46' - Tweet. We're back on and no changes announced yet. That surprises me, especially with the torching Grenada's left back.

48' - For the ladies, a nice shot of Rogers ass after he was taken down on a hard tackle. So that was the half-time strategy. Foul that guy that keeps setting up the goals.

49' - Bretos thinks Cassim Langainge is the tough Grenada name. Sullivan agrees, but he also thinks Robbie Rogers is a tough one as well.

53' - Adu finds Davies in the box with a precise pass, but Davies' touch is a bit heavy letting the Grenadan defender get in. The defender appeared to have shoved Davies down but the ball was already out of the American's reach. He's not getting that call up 2-0.

57' - Rennie on for Julien. This is the second Rennie on the field. I couldn't pick either out from a lineup.

59' - Adu with some defense, swiping the ball, then laying it off for Davies whose shot was blocked by an onrushing defender. The resulting corner bounces twice in the box before it is cleared. Poor.

60' - GOALLLLLLL!!!! 3-0. America, Fuck Yeah! Robbie Rogers.

Great pass by Logan Pause frees Rogers down the right and he calmly slots it into the far corner. 1 goal, 2 assists. Nice match.

63' - Brad Evans on for the captain, Steve Cherundolo. Evans is a Seattle hero as he plays for the Sounders. Ha...Evans gets a yellow card for coming onto the pitch too early. Perkins is the new captain.

65' - Beckerman has ball skills like a Grenadan. Funny, because his hairstyle seems more suited for a Grenadan, too.

68' - GOALLLLL!!!! 4-0. America, Fuck Yeah!! Charlie Davies.

Charlie Davies receives a nice ball from Heath Pearce...I'd like to see a replay to check the offside status...and then slips it into the goal. He does some jig near the corner flag that Bradley apparently did not like because Davies is now off with Arnaud on. Michael Parkhurst on for Goodson. Didn't even know Goodson was on the field, nor do I know who he is.

72' - Adu comes within inches of scoring his second after he chips the keeper and hit the far upper 90.

I'm getting distracted looking for pictures. What's going on? Has Grenada made it back on the field yet? Oh, they already are on the field. My bad.

80' - Yellow on Adu after he trapped the ball with his left arm. A little trick that works sometimes, but not this time. Would have been a nice opportunity if Adu could have trapped it legally.

85' - Robbie Rogers rockets one over the goal off a rebound from Arnaud. Excellent chance, but nothing doing.

88' - The 'Muricans looked as good in this game as the Grenadans looked bad. Just no bite for the Spice Boys. Parking the bus didn't work and they never changed tactics.

90' - Really, is there a need to keep blowing those damn vuvuzelas? 3 minutes stoppage time.

Getting some Spanish language bleed in the audio. Interesting, and better than the current announcers.

Full Time: 4-0 to the Muricans on its birthday.

Well, that was a decent showing by the US. Davies, Rogers, Holden and Adu all looked good. Beckerman had his moments. Rogers was clearly the man of the match, scoring once and setting up the first two goals. Adu went missing towards the end of the first half, but he reasserted himself in the second half. Good for him.

Have a safe and fun holiday. Thanks for visiting.

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CONCACAF Gold Cup Semi-Preview

The CONCACAF Gold Cup began last night at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, with Canada beating Jamaica 1-0 and El Salvador dumping Costa Rica 2-1. For the the USMNT, things begin in earnest tonight, with the squad taking on Grenada at 9pm at Qwest Field (Seattle) on Fox Soccer Channel. The earlier match at that venue features Honduras squaring off against Haiti, with the latter having qualified for consecutive Gold Cups for the first time in their history.

Group A consists of: (1) Canada; (2) Costa Rica; (3) El Salvador; and (4) Jamaica. The remaining Group A matches will take place on Tuesday, July 7th at Crew Stadium (Columbus, OH) and Friday, July 10th at Florida International University Stadium in Miami.

Group B features: (1) Grenada; (2) Haiti; (3) Honduras; and (4) the United States. After today's tilts, matches will be held on Wednesday, July 8th at RFK Stadium (Washington, D.C.) and Saturday, July 11th at Gillette Stadium in Boston.

Group C contains: (1) Guadeloupe; (2) Mexico; (3) Nicaragua; and (4) Panama. The opening games will take place tomorrow at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium and will feature Panama v. Guadeloupe and Mexico v. Nicaragua. The remaining matches will be held on Thursday, July 9th at Reliant Stadium (Houston) and Sunday, July 12th at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The quarterfinals will take place on Saturday, July 18th at Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia) and Sunday, July 19th at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. The semifinals will be held on Thursday, July 23rd at Soldier Field in Chicago, while the final will be on Sunday, July 26th at Giants Stadium.

The USMNT is looking for its 3rd straight Gold Cup championship, which is held every 2 years. A victory this year, therefore, would not qualify the US for the next Confederations Cup, as that spot would go to the winner of the 2011 Gold Cup. However, the US does look to be in a very strong position to pull off this 3rd consecutive championship, as they have been provided a significant advantage by CONCACAF. Due to their participation in the Confederations Cup, the USMNT has argued (successfully) that their squad faces significant hardship in playing 2 international competitions so closely together. In addition to the original 23-man roster, CONCACAF has allowed Bob Bradely to add an additional 7 players for an overall 30-man roster.

What is strange, however, is that of the 23-man roster only Charlie Davies saw action in the Confederations Cup while the the majority of the rest of the players were not even on the roster for that competition. So what, exactly, is Bob Bradley complaining about here? Most of his 23-man roster only had MLS competition to contend with, so they are unlikely to be "worn out", or at least not any more so than players from other teams who are currently in the midst of domestic competition. Even more puzzling is that Bradley responded to this supposed concern of tiredness by adding 6 players who all did see playing time in the Confederations Cup in Bornstein, Clark, Feilhaber, Altidore, Kljestan, and Casey. Obviously, people are talking about both CONCACAF's seeming injustice and Bradley's strange roster decisions in response.

Will the extra 7 players on the roster make a difference, allowing the US to roll to a 3rd consecutive Gold Cup championship? If they do, what will the other countries in the tournament have to say about this seeming competitive advantage?

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Zidane Injured at Fireworks Show


We mentioned a little while ago that Zinedine Zidane was putting on a series of exhibition/charity matches throughout Canada against various all-star squads. Well, it seems that the event has hit a bit of a snag.

The match today at B.C. Stadium in Vancouver was supposed to be the last of 3 "Friends of Zidane" exhibitions. Unfortunately, the match has had to be postponed until next Sunday, July 12th. Why? Because the Canadians hate the French.

It seems that on Wednesday, Zidane was injured at a fireworks display in Vancouver in a celebration of Canada Day. Clearly, this was a conspiracy against the French in retaliation of the latter's former dominance of the Canadian colonies. Alright, it turns out that Zizou actually injured himself while bending down to pick up his son so that he could watch the fireworks.

Currently, the venue for the rescheduled match has yet to be secured, but the tour promoter is making every attempt to avoid having to distribute a refund. Zidane has already agreed to return to Vancouver for the July 12th exhibition, but there is no word on whether the charity dinner originally scheduled to take place after the match has also been rescheduled.

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Welcome to Bizarro World

Not pictured: Owen having to be carried off the pitch after he broke his ankle posing for the photo.

I'll admit, upon reading the late night rumors that one Michael James Owen, former England goalscorer, was being lined up for a move to Old Trafford, I was giddy.

Little Mikey Owen, former Liverpool golden boy, who'd burst onto the scene with THAT goal against Argentina in 1998, only to see his career spiral continually downwards after a move to El Bernabéu in 2004, was actually on the cusp of joining the reigning Premier League champions.

This was the man who had resurrected Liverpool back from the dead in 2001, stealing the FA Cup from the Gunner's grasps. He seemingly had the world at his feet, until the rest of his body started letting him down.

And yet, his career takes another interesting turn.

You know the recent history; marginalized at Madrid, the return to England with the Barcodes, doing his knee against Sweden in Germany and the subsequent laundry list of injuries and underwhelming performances that have followed.

Michael Owen is supposed to be washed up. Those weak little hamstrings can no longer propel him past defenders so easily like they used to. It would appear that his bones have been crystallized and are just as fragile. His game is begging for reinvention, yet he can't stay on the pitch long enough to unveil Michael Owen 2.0. For the love of God, fucking Hull City Football Clubwere flirting with signing him. Big Sam, whose gotten more than a few miles out of older, supposedly 'done' players, even took a pass on bringing him to Blackburn. Yet, here's Sir Alex Ferguson, swooping in the sign up the diminutive forward. (interesting fact: if you write about Michael Owen, you're legally required to use the word 'diminutive' in any essay over 200 words)

Manchester United have lost His Doucheness and Carlos Tevez and are replacing them with Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen. Really? As Father Time continues to stalk Giggs and Scholes, this is how SAF chooses to replace all that lost firepower? With a man who hasn't played more than 30 league matches (he's hit 31 total each of the past two years) and has only scored 30 goals over that same period of time.

This is the man United are turning to in hopes of continued glory? That must have been one hell of a brochure.

Obviously, he's passed a physical so his legs can't be utter Jello. Obviously, his deal will be structured around how often he features and produces. Obviously, United will consider an alternative option to Rooney and Berbatov.

But, still... Is this actually happening?

Sure, if Owen overcomes his own past history, stays fit and fires home a few crucial goals to help United lift more silverware, it will be one hell of a story. (and good cause for certain UFers to cry into the massive amounts of alcohol they've turned to ease the suffering -- present company included). But what are the chances that this actually happens? Does anybody REALLY think Owen is going to stay healthy and find that elusive renaissance under SAF?

Um, no.

This ends as expected. This ends poorly.

I'm sorry, Michael. "I wish... you had... more time..."

But you don't.

And I'm going to enjoy this.

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Popescu Used to Totally Check Out His Teammates

Well they gave him a number 10 shirt but nobody in Ceausescu's Romania took away his name.

Doesn't mean Gheorghe Popescu wasn't a secret agent man.

Gheorghe "Gica" Popescu, the former captain of Romania's national football team, has admitted being an informer for the country's secret police during the communist era.
Popescu was part of the Romanian squad that qualified for three straight World Cups (1990, 94, and 98). Hey, we hosted in 1994, so was he spying on us from the pitch?


Popescu was an informant for Ceausescu's government from 1986 to 1989, the year the Romanian ruler was finally tossed into the grave he had been digging himself. The Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc satellite states were pretty much casualties of history by the time we hosted the World Cup.

Popescu comes off as more of a tattle tale than any kind of cool man of mystery engaging in espionage. Ceausescu's government kept close tabs on its athletes, and was particularly interested in conversations they might have had with foreigners while abroad.

Popescu admitted that he wrote "four informative notes about teammates and other colleagues when he was playing at Universitatea Craiova." He defended his actions by saying that he only wrote good things about the teammates.

Yes, bet they totally believe you. Figures he played for Tottenham. Oh look, cheese.

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UF Quick Throw: Owen To United. No Really!

It's surprise Friday, the unthinkable is happening. Michael Owen is joining Manchester United! That's if he passes a medical. Owen is currently at United's Carrington training ground undergoing fitness tests. If Owen gets the green light and signs for the Premier League champions, then surely this could be hailed as the mother of all comebacks. Just last week Owen's desperate plea for a new club, was met with interest from Stoke and Hull. Owen is available on a free transfer after 4 injury hit years at Newcastle United, making just 79 appearances. Owen's injuries whle at Newcastle included groin, ankle, thigh, hernia, metatarsal and knee ligament tears. Time will tell if Owen can produce the kind of form he had while at Liverpool, early in his career, but United have successfully been here before. Anyone remember Teddy Sherringham?

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Thursday Backpasses: Treat it like a Friday

It seems that a lot of people with better jobs than mine have tomorrow off. As such, we will have a three day weekend. If big news comes up, we'll hit it; otherwise, we will gorging ourselves, as is the American way.

Here's something to chew on: Little Mikey Owen to Man U? [Premiership Talk]
Or should he go back to Pool? I find that highly unlikely [The Shankly Gate]
This goal is almost Ibrahimovic-like in its finishing. Shame about that [101GG]
Hmmmm. Not sure if I want. Bradley's extra call ups for the Gold Cup [SBI]

Horse-faced Ruud could be doing the reverse Benzema [Soccerway]
Gay goings on in Uganda. Ha ha. FUFA [The Independent]
Notts County trying to become "Formerly the Oldest Football League Club In The World" [Two Hundred Percent]
Final Nielsens for US-Brazil--about 4 million. [Soccer Insider]

If you love comedy dives, this is the video for you [The Offside]

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Timbers and Sounders Match Had Plenty Of Atmosphere

From Timbers v. Sounders US Open Cup
Packed house.

Despite the Portland Timbers' 2-1 loss to MLS side Seattle, last night's US Open Cup match at PGE Park in Portland was a good time. MLS executives will probably be drooling over the turnout and genuine soccer atmosphere at last night's match. The game was a sellout according to reports, although I did notice a space to fit in more people in the stands, not including the tarped off top 10 rows. (Who knows exactly why they did not open those seats up.) There was great fan support, and the match turned out to be pretty good despite Seattle not dressing some of its bigger names.

Sounders fans made the trek down to Portland to root on their team in large numbers standing outside the northeast entrance chanting quaint things like "We hate Portscum" and other things like that. Nobody ever said Seattle fans were very creative or smart.

From Timbers v. Sounders US Open Cup
Sounders fans represent.

Joining the Sounders fans were lots of people trying to buy and sell tickets. Tickets were reportedly sold out and there was actually a ticket scalping market for a US Open Cup match in Portland. Amazing. It's unclear whether the scalpers were actually making money but I did hear one guy offer $45 for two tickets which were presumably the $12 general admission tickets ($17 on the day of the game).

From Timbers v. Sounders US Open Cup

Damn scenesters playing hacky sack during the game.

Even the viewing deck of the swanky Multnomah Athletic Club (MAC) on the south side of the field was packed with non-paying spectators. (For some reason the MAC members are all allowed to watch events at PGE Park without paying for tickets, there must be some sort of deal going on.) Fans lined the street on the west to get
a free peep at the action as well.

From Timbers v. Sounders US Open Cup
Rich people watching for free.

From Timbers v. Sounders US Open Cup
Poor people watching for free.

Inside most everything was orderly and I grabbed seats in a section right above the Timbers Army (TA) behind the north goal. TA was revved up for this match singing well before the match began, even doing a little chant for Timbers owner Merritt Paulson as he walked out on the pitch. Paulson gave a little wave and clap because he knows TA really helps sell his product.

There were even distasteful signs from the TA. A "Knulla Ljungberg" banner, which a quick google tells me is roughly "eff Ljungberg." It seems the sex was a little too rough as Seattle's DP was out injured for the match. Another one, shown earlier, exhorts University of Portland alum Kasey Keller to "Do the Cobain" with a shotgun drawing to further illustrate that they didn't mean become a hugely successful musician with an icon status. (Note: I found this to be in pretty poor taste, but I'm not one who can really be a judge of taste.)

From Timbers v. Sounders US Open Cup
Is this necessary?

From Timbers v. Sounders US Open Cup

It's an orca, but I think they want it to represent a "flounder".

The now-retired Timber Jim made two appearances. One in the flesh and one in cardboard. The latter being a giant Timber Jim carboard cutout, complete with chainsaw, cutting down the Space Needle. Needless to say, that was quite good. Unfortunately, I was behind it and it looked more like some weird fetish act, but there is a good video of it here.

From Timbers v. Sounders US Open Cup
Timber Jim may get arrested for that.

From Timbers v. Sounders US Open Cup
Aaaach...They're heeeere!

After all of that, the game started. Seattle jumped on Portland with a goal in the first minute of the match after some poor marking left Roger Levesque free to head home the opener. During the goal celebration Nate Jaqua mimicked chopping Levesque down with an axe. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Portland looked rather ragged in the first half. It could not maintain possession and its backline looked like Real Madrid's against Barcelona. Seattle earned its second goal in the 27th minute as Stephen King knocked in a goal from the 18 that ricocheted off the left post and into the net. A sublime shot after the loose ball Portland could not close down.

Portland pulled one back in the 43rd minute when a loose ball was poked in by Mandjou Keita. It was nice heads up play by Portland's one decent offensive force. Keita narrowly missed a header in the eighth minute going only inches wide of Keller's post. If it had not been for Keita's goal before half, I fully expected the match to favor Seattle 4-0 or 4-1.

The second half was a much better affair as Portland started to maintain some possession, but lacked the quality in the final third. Portland's left back was dire, though. Missing markings and arguing about offside calls when he was caught ball watching. Portland had several good buildups but was never able to make the final pass or pull the trigger at the correct time.

Sigi Schmid, Seattle's manager, sensed some danger and inserted Fredy Montero, the Colombian rookie who has looked very promising this season. Montero was clearly a cut above the rest but he tried to do too much on his rather than work within the system. Lots of flash yesterday, but not much to show for it. Little did Portland fans know that the "Montero, no means no" chant could soon be directed at Nate Jaqua.

As the game went along, Seattle started with its stalling tactics. Sanna Nyassi, who previously played for Portland, flopped on the ground in the corner like a fish out of water. Nobody was around him and he just rolled around on the ground like somebody was rending his flesh. Portland's keeper, Steve Cronin, was very upset with Nyassi's histrionics. Yelling and gesticulating at him so much the ref waved him away. Then Nyassi continued to roll around to put out a non-existent fire.

Unfortunately, some fan decided to peg him with a water bottle. Deserving or not, that just cannot happen. But, it gave Cronin an excuse to run over at Nyassi, yell some more and pick up the water bottle. On his way back, Cronin gave the Timbers Army a nice smile and discrete thumbs up it appeared, but it was tough to tell. There was no debate that he was pleased that Nyassi had gotten a little comeuppance for his high school dramatic acting.

Despite the loss, TA continued to sing until the final whistle. I captured some video on my new phone, here and here. Overall, it was a successful piece of marketing for the Timbers and nice sales pitch as the team tries to convince Portland to pony up funds for a makeover for PGE Park. It had everything; a packed house, boisterous fans and enjoyable atmosphere. About the only thing more you could have asked for was a victory. That will come when the financial power is more equal.

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Nate Jaqua Will Have Significant Legal Bills In His Future

After his Seattle Sounders won its US Open Cup match against its northwest rival Portland Timbers last night Nate Jaqua was probably riding high. But, allegations of sexual assualt that have surfaced today in his hometown of Eugene, Oregon may be a real downer. A former University of Oregon female soccer player is accusing Jaqua of sexual assault in a civil suit.

The victim claims she and other teammates were at a popular Eugene hangout in 2007 with Jaqua, who was discussing with them the differences between MLS and college soccer. Jaqua, she alleges, insisted on walking her home and then he sexually assaulted her " penetrat[ing] her vagina and anus with his fingers and penis, and then ejaculated and urinated on her." The accuser is seeking $10 million in damages.

Ugh...this does not sound good.

Jaqua is the second Sounder this season to face sexual assault allegations, although these are civil and not criminal. Colombian Fredy Montero was accused of sexual assault earlier this season but those allegations never led to charges.

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Turkey will take ANYONE.

The home of washouts Milan Baros and Antipodean sick note carrier Harry Kewell has bagged another EPL reject... in Citeh striker Darius Vassell!

You read that correctly: DARIUS VASSELL. He found a club to pay him to play soccer!

Wassermann Media Group, take note! Maybe Michael Owen won't be such a hard sell after all.

And, by the looks of the video after the jump, you'd think they'd signed Kaka, a young Platini and Alfredo DiStefano, back from the dead.

Pretty awesome, right? I mean, I'll be honest... if I ever received this kind of warm welcome, I'd be pretty damn happy.

The mania was orchestrated by Ankaragucu chairman Cengiz Topel Yildrim, who wanted to sway his decision (the two sides are still in talks... nothing has been signed yet) from the get-go, and I reckon it'll do the trick: "We aim to secure a big signing as this year is our centenary. He will visit the city and our installations. Then he will make a decision. I hope we can include him in our squad."

Can he at least score with the Vassell ladies? Maybe once every 5 games...

Fingers crossed for you, Cengiz! He orchestrated a convoy of 50 buses and 250 cars(!) to follow his car from the airport to his hotel, and the whole thing looks surreal and kinda brilliant.

Here's hoping Ankaragucu gets the good news it's looking for. Darius Vassell, scorer of 52 goals in 265 games for Aston Villa and Citeh, is on his way to the Turkcell Super Lig.

Stay tuned!

Read more on "Turkey will take ANYONE."...

H1N1 1, Queen of the South 0

Poor Bob Harris.

The Queen of the South defender took a relaxing holiday to Ibiza, home of cranium-pounding techno and loose, drunk women, and ended up coming home with the Swine Flu.

At least it wasn't herpes, right? Right?

He's the second player on the team to be struck with the illness after midfielder Paul Burns, and the team isn't too concerned about a full outbreak.

Said manager Gordon Chisholm: "He caught it while on holiday with his pals in Ibiza but it's no worse than Paul Burns and he's just been told to rest and stay at home until the weekend."

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Ivan Gazidis demands caps

The Arsenal chairman demands a salary cap for the EPL, saying that "clubs have a duty to provide more stability in our business models and some form of wage restraint is one element worth looking at."

Anything to stop United spending that 80 million pounds, really.


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The Beckham Book is Imminent!

After seeing the excerpt on, as well as reading the various stories picked up on the newswires, you'd know that Grant Wahl's book on Becks is coming out in less than two weeks, and having read it, I can tell you this: get ready for some catfights in Los Angeles when the preening midfielder gets back to town.

Wahl does a wonderful job in pulling back the curtain and exposing Mr. Beckham as the selfish, conniving milquetoast I've suspected him of being for quite some time. Oh, and that the LA Galaxy is the worst-run franchise in professional sports.

We'll be interviewing Mr. Wahl next week, but in the meantime, get acquainted with the excerpt and laugh at how Landon Donovan orders lamb on his pizza, as well as his wonderfully incendiary comments this morning about Beckypants' return.

Oh, those crazy Californians.

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ESPN Has Gone Black and Is Going Back

There's a decent read over at SI about John Skipper and EPSN's planned coverage for next summer's World Cup. The good news is that ESPN is pouring a lot of resources into the coverage

"I think our ambition level is going to exceed the ambition of any broadcaster in the world relative to the amount of content we will produce," Skipper said.

The bad news is that ESPN is still saddled with its own ESPN'ness.

If we're reading this correctly, ESPN will be doing SportsCenter from South Africa. This we really don't care about, although we're generally against America sending clowns overseas, even if temporarily. But where SportsCenter originates from is about one of the least interesting things we can conceive of.

Given the option, we'd rather have game announcers on location (cough *Champions League* cough) and Stu Scott fellating Tiger Woods on camera from a broom closet in Bristol. In fact if someone at the 4-letter could go ahead and misplace any key to that closet when Scott is in said closet, there's probably an award waiting for you in Stockholm.

Additionally, reading between the lines, it seems like the Mouse might be making a run at the Olympics in the not-too-distant future. And the next World Cup is sort of a stepping-stone of a Guinea pig's dress rehearsal. There are more than subtle hints of this in the article. An Olympic maneuver is only relevant to current purposes in how it relates to the ancillary programming for the upcoming Cup.

And given that this is ESPN—and American sports journalism in general—expect the worst:

Among the features planned: John Battsek and Michael Davies, two of the producers behind Once In A Lifetime... have been dispatched to interview every living player who has scored a goal in a World Cup final... Skipper also said the network plans to "take a page out of the ABC Sports Olympic playbook [sic] and do "Up Close and Personals" on players from around the world. ESPN will do a long-form feature on at least one player from all 32 World Cup teams.
The goal-scorers interview. Not bad. The 'up close and personal' nonsense? Fuck. And. Me.

God, it was only a matter of time before someone at ESPN thought to burden the coverage with this hackneyed tripe (and just curious, but isn't that NBC's Olympic playbook?). It's the bane of all American sports reporting.

Guess we can infer that Tom Rinaldi will be on the flight to Jo'Burg. Worse, it probably means Rick Reilly will be, too.

It's the least imaginary type of programming available. And soccer viewers generally don't give a shit. Really, I don't know much about the personal lives of anybody on my favorite EPL team—save maybe that Bendtner isn't a particularly big fan of pants—and I like it that way. The game is the thing. Period.

I don't need to know who overcame an illiterate mom with Super AIDS before his brother gave up his only pair of shoes so that his undersized sibling could attend a makeshift talent camp where he was plucked from obscurity and rescued from his war-torn homeland blah bah blah.

I already know that when a country lines up to play a World Cup match, the entire nation (save for ours) and much of the rest of the world comes to a halt. Simply by tuning in I am a part of something bigger than all of us, something global. That is enough to keep me glued to even an Angola v. Paraguay match.

Am I extrapolating recklessly from a data point of one? Yes. Does that make my assessment wrong? Doubt it. This type of support programming is for housewives and little girls. It might be "necessary" (or maybe just lazily appropriate) for things like the Olympics, where many sports only get that level of exposure once every four years and viewers would otherwise have nothing to draw them to not turn off Trampoline or Rhythmic Gymnastics, but soccer is the world's most popular sport. Treat it as such.

I realize to an American audience that soccer might seem like the Olympics as its something we generally only pay attention to once every four years; but If ESPN presents soccer to people in the same way it presents Olympic Handball, then they are almost telling the audience they are trying to build, "Hey, thanks for letting us emotionally blackmail you watching the World Cup. Now go back to ignoring soccer for the next four years." Twenty-plus years of that type of Olympic packaging has conditioned the audience.

By going 'up close and personal' ESPN is not only going to irritate people who are already fans of the game, they are going to undermine their own attempts to build a larger audience as they move into airing more soccer programming (assuming they do indeed plan to start programming more soccer).

So, we'll fight the urge to issue a preemptive scream of 'ESPN GO FUCK YOURSELVES AND STOP RAPING OUR COLLECTIVE PSYCHES WITH THIS EMO PORN!' and instead politely ask anyone from Bristol who might stumble across this to seriously rethink how they want to present the World Cup.

We understand if Skipper doesn't understand how wrong he is in this approach. He is a Tottenham fan after all, so being delusional is in his nature.

You've got a year still, ESPN. Nothing is set it stone. You don't worry about sunk costs going forward. Just the margin. The Mouse can cover it.

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Ligue 1 Transfer News

Get it? It's Ligue 1! In early July! No one is paying attention.

Yesterday we "reported" that Karim Benzema had become the latest member of Galacticos v.2 so I decided to take a look at the rest of the goings-on in Ligue 1. I was going to do this last night, but "America's Got Talent" was on and I love that David Hasselhoff!

Before we start, I just want to remind everyone of how I began our Ligue 1 coverage last year. The astute reader will observe that I tipped Le Havre, Le Mans, Grenoble, and Caen as contenders for relegation. Le Havre and Caen were indeed sent down, while Le Mans finished 16th and only 3 points above the drop zone. I also predicted that Lyon, Marseille, and Bordeaux would finish in some form of the top 3. Lo and behold, the top 3 were Bordeaux, Marseille, and Lyon! The lesson here is that I am clearly a genius.

Now, on to transferpalooza! Note: For the moment I am only including the "big-name" transfers (your mileage may vary on what you consider to be a big name).

GKs on the move: For some reason, the silly season in Ligue 1 began with a flurry of GK carousel, with many of THE big names changing clubs.

Cedric Carrasso has made the move from Toulouse to Bordeaux. An excellent move for him, and Les Girondins get an upgrade over Rame/Valverde from last year. In return, Toulouse bring in Pele from Le Mans UC 72. Paris Saint-Germain lose Mickael Landreau to Lille, but they bring in former Les Bleus #1 Gregory Coupet from Atletico Madrid. Saint-Etienne, who barely avoided relegation, snatch Plante from Caen, allowing the GK to stay in Ligue 1 as his former club fight to regain their form in Ligue 2.

Don't be THAT guy: We've also seen a few players on the move that have often left our readers wondering "Who is that guy" despite the fact that they had productive Ligue 1/2 seasons.

AJ Auxerre bring in Licata from AS Monaco, presumably to be paired up top with either Niculae or Oliech. Bordeaux have brought in Obertan from FC Lorient, which tells me that they are hedging their bets against losing reported Arsenal/Fulham target Marouane Chamakh. Lyon, in addition to the massive loss of Benzema, have suffered the departure of both Keita (to Galatasaray) and Paillot (to Grenoble). Marseille have recalled a number of loans, the most promising of which is Milos Krstic, the 22 year-old midfielder from AC Ajaccio in Ligue 2. Finally, Paris Saint-Germain lifted Erdinq (11 goals, 6 assists) from Sochaux.

Wow, they moved him!?!: And now we come to the big "big names", those transfers that look to have an immediate impact on both the club they left and the club they join.

As noted (several times), the biggest Ligue 1 transfer so far is the move of Karim Benzema from Lyon to Real Madrid. However, Lyon also lose the aging, yet prolific, Juninho to El Gharrafa in...umm, Qatar? Okay then. The current rumour is that Lyon are focusing on Ruud van Nistelrooy as a replacement. Rivals Marseille also lose several significant members of their squad, with the unhappy (and apparently too mouthy) Djibril Cisse off to Panathinaikos, Zenden out of contract, and Gael Givet's loan to Blackburn made permanent. Finally, Valenciennes were unable to re-sign Jean-Claude Darcheville, the former Rangers striker who scored 4 goals in 10 matches in his brief stay, and he may sign with newly-promoted Montpellier HSC.

Who's in charge here?: This off-season has also seen several changes at the helm for clubs looking to improve upon results from last season. The coaching carousel indeed!

Newly-promoted US Boulogne CO hired Laurent Guyot, former FC Nantes player and youth academy coach, to steer them through their first-ever season in the top flight. Former Boulougne gaffer Philippe Montanier moves on to Valenciennes, affording him the opportunity to make his old club's first season in Ligue 1 a miserable one. And Valenciennes were in need of a gaffer because former manager Antoine Kombouare had been snatched up by Paris Saint-Germain after they declined to renew the contract of Paul Le Guen. AS Monaco FC have lured Guy Lacombe away from Stade Rennais as they look to finish more strongly than they did last year after a good start. Stade Rennais, for their part, bring on Frederic Antonetti, who led OGC Nice to 9th place last season. The biggest managerial move of the off-season, however, goes to Olympique de Marseille, who have brought on the legendary Didier Deschamps to replace Eric Gerets, who inexplicably left the club at the end of the season to run Al Hilal Riyad (Saudi Arabia). Oh, look who I thought L'OM would bring on to replace Gerets!

I'm a genius, I tell you!

Read more on "Ligue 1 Transfer News"...

The Menace of Los Merengues

Unfortunately, this image is all too literal

There is a dark cancer looming on football's landscape.

It grows quickly... unchecked... roaring with ferocity, reaching towards the heavens as it threatens to consume what it pleases and destroy all else that dares to lie in its path.

We've seen its ilk before, seen it stutter and ultimately perish under the crushing weight of unrealized expectations.

But, it's returned... Announcing its intentions with a vengeance; Hell-bent on righting past wrongs whilst disregarding future consequences.

And this go-round, I'm actually wary of this specter of destruction.

I'm talking, of course, about the return of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' policy.

It's the Menace of Los Merengues.

Mind you, it's not the Voltron in White I'm actually batting an eye towards, regardless of how impressive its freshly crafted resume reads. No doubt, newly re-crowned Emperor Florentino Perez (Don't worry if he writes rhymes, he writes checks) is hell-bent on European domination and is currently making it rain in hopes of hauling in Barcelona and catapulting Madrid back to the summit of global football.

With the most recent jigsaw puzzle purchase, Karim Benzema, Madrid's summer spending now totals £182m. 182 mucho grande on four players: the previously mentioned £30m French striker, £80m on His Doucheness, £59m for the God-fearing Kaka and a measly £13m for centerback Raúl Albiol, formerly of Valencia. You'd do well to wager good money on continued spending from Senor Brewster as Los Blancos' defense is still picking splinters out of their asses courtesy of a woodshed whooping from their Catalan rivals.

While I've derived a sick pleasure in watching Dr. Perezenstein build his monster, I find my feeling on the matter quite conflicted.

Let me point out that there is no love lost between myself and Madrid. Quite frankly, I harbor nothing but disdain for the club. I loathe the way they tap players up, recklessly speculating on theoretical transfers in hopes of swaying favor during their presidential elections. The last few years of failure on the Iberian Peninsula have brought a smile to my face. Especially last season, when my beloved Liverpool (to borrow a term) stomped a mudhole in their ass and walked it dry during the Champions League knock-out phase.

I've certainly not enjoyed having Perez make eyes with Xabi Alonso, threatening to come in and sweep Liverpool's best passer off his feet for a cool £30m. It's as if Real believe they are entitled to whomever they deem necessary for their cause, whenever, and refuse to take 'no' for an answer. (Real Madrid = date rapists) The fact that Real paid Manchester United their king's ransom in one lump sum is jaw-droppingly impressive. It's even raised questions among the UF Collective on how such a large debt is settled... Spectator ponders, do they wire the money? Or is it a giant check like the ones you get from Publisher's Clearinghouse?

This demonstration of sheer capitalistic force is a bit frightening, proving that everybody does indeed have their price. Yet, where does adopting this tack take us? Although they've every right to splash whatever silly cash they have at their disposal (despite not having to answer for their financial follies because of their royal backing & subsequent 'bail-out'), surely this flies in the face of what's Good For Football?

I'm torn.

Surely, for a Liverpool fan, watching C Ronaldo fuck off to Spain and weaken United in the process is a beautiful thing. Yet, Perez has armed Sir Alex Ferguson with 80 million more arrows for his quiver, truly more than any club without a crooked Russian owner could hope to have.

And after three years of SAF cooing over Karim Benzema and now flush with the kitty to woo him properly, the crusty old Scot has him snatched right from under his gin-blossomed nose. Too amusing, no? Yet, how quickly could this loss spur the wily manager to come knocking on the door of one of Liverpool's targets?

The influx of new top-tier talent surely means the End of Days for a number of current Madrid players, their Dutch contingent especially being asked to 'wrap it up'. While I'd enjoy seeing ­Sneijder, Huntelaar and van der Vaart ply their wares in England (I'd welcome any of those three at Anfield, although that's a non-starter), I'd be just as happy to see them move elsewhere so I can root for their success at the club level as I do on the international stage. (btw, fuck Arjen Robben) Yet, once again, what are the chances this wooden shoe exodus could strengthen a red rival?

So, I've come to this conclusion: Fuck Madrid. Fuck them right in their player-tapping-up, cash-burning, fantasy-team building ear. I hope their dry spell continues and their newest trophy cabinet stays as barren as Emily Dickinson. I hope Barca (FORÇA BARCELONA!) continues their Spanish dominance. I hope Madrid finds just as much success as Chelsea has enjoyed in their recent quest to conquer Europe.

Here's to hoping the Second Coming goes as poorly as the first.

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Timbers v. Sounders, US Open Cup

From Timbers v. Sounders US Open Cup

I just got home from the Portland Timbers v. Seattle Sounders Third Round match in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. It was a disappointing 2-1 loss for the hometown Timbers, but it was a great game and atmosphere. I'll try to write a bit up tomorrow and put some more photos up, but right now I'll give you the above banner at the game that was down in front of me in the Timbers Army. It's backwards but I'm sure you can figure it out.

After the jump a brief video of the Timbers Army singing/chanting in the dying moments of the game.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wednesday Backpasses: Fletcher'd?

No foul. He got a touch on the ball, see? [Pies]
Odd article about Arsenal and Robin van Persie. Cult-like shenanigans [NotW]
This guy's a better bluffer than the guy who got in the Man U team photo [Dirty Tackle]
Because they did so awesome in the Confederations Cup, CONCACAF are allowing the US to carry 30 players for the Gold Cup. Everybody gets a medal! [SBI]

Colbert had a footie segment. 'Nuff said [ONTD_FB]

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Saints Running Out Of Time.

Mismanagement, misadventure. Plain stupidity. Driving a storied football club into the ground can come about in many ways. In the case of Southampton, the troubled situation they currently find themselves in, could come to a shocking conclusion as soon as this Friday. Adminsitrator Mark Fry has confirmed that if a buyer is not found by the end of the week, the possibility of Southampton Football Club joining it's 114 years on this earth in history is a real one.

Just last week Matt Le Tissier was on TV declaring that the consortium he was fronting, the Pinacle group, was determined to take over the club. Lunch meetings with Kevein Keegan were reported on and Saints fans must have felt as if their summer was finally starting to improve. Not so. Southampton's famous hero and his mates were hinging their takeover on the Football League's 10 point deduction behind quashed. Never gonna happen.

Saints fans were also baffled by the consortiums so called 'investor'.

"Michael Fialka is a part of the group. A lot of time, effort and money has been committed and it would be silly for us not to see it through."
- Matt Le Tissier speaking last week.

The Michael Fialka refered to is a 32 year old leasing agent from Barnet, who recently moved out of his mum and dads house. Hardly sounds like the kind of guy with the means to buy a football club does it? Anyway, the consortium have backed out. So what's next for Southampton?

Well, the club is selling all of the players that they can, to make a dent in the debt. Just today Andrew Surman joined Wolves. David McGoldrick left for Nottingham Forest yesterday and keeper Kelvin Davies is on his way to West Ham. Surely Adam Llana and Marek Saganowski will be next.

The entire squad may be looking for a new team if the administrators cannot find a buyer. The situation is dire and the Pinacle groups withdrawal has left the club back at square one, racing against the clock.

As we have made very clear, we are working to a very short timeframe, but wish to reassure everybody with an interest in Southampton Football Club that we are working around the clock to try and ensure the survival of the club. - Administrator Mark Fry.

Lets hope that someone steps up and saves the club in time. For a whole town of fans to suffer over the relentless stupidity of one selfish and quite frankly crap businesman is just criminal.

Read more on "Saints Running Out Of Time."...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

I came across this link yesterday, and I must say that I like the new Bradford City shirts. Kind of like a low rent Roma, which may have influenced the signing of Benito Carbone upon their entry into the Premier League in 2000. That signing was a financial disaster, but without getting into grisly specifics, is not the worst disaster Bradford City has faced.

In 1985 Bradford City won their league for the first time in almost 60 years. On the day they were to lift the trophy in front of their home fans, a fire started underneath the dilapidated, and wooden, home stand. Many of the approximately 3000 fans who were in the stand made it to safety, but 56 did not. The main stand was fully consumed by flames within four minutes. This year's Bradford City shirt pays tribute to those lost with an embroidered black ribbon on the back.

A couple of years after the fire, Bradford City was relegated back to Division 3. This is the shirt they wore that year.

How many different stripes does one shirt need? The amber stripes on this shirt all seem to be of uniform width, but the claret ones have three different widths. It's as if Bukta, the shirt's manufacturer could not decide whether to use equal width stripes, pinstripes, or something in between. So they decided to throw all three on there and hope it worked. It didn't.

I can't really tell what's on that badge either. It looks like a boar's head. For a team that is known as The Bantams, and were previously known as the Paraders, this makes no sense. Perhaps it was secondary advertising for a certain maker of sliced meat that the team tried to slip under the radar?

As for the shirt sponsor itself, modern-day Grattan in the UK seems to be the rough equivalent of Sears or Ross in the US--a store which sells a wide range of items, but has a focus on clothing, especially women's. No wonder then that the shirt above was the last season that Grattan sponsored Bradford City. With fashion advertising like that, who would need rivals to steal business?

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Deconstructing Bradley

A few days have passed since the whole of the United States stood up collectively and pretended that they gave a monkey's right nut about the events of last Sunday. That they could tell their offside from their backside and their Bocanegra from their Bosa Nova. The country took note for all of 90 mins and then sighed before briefly trying to show interest towards the footy community. The glory chasers have gone back to fantasy baseball and normality has resumed. So, over here at UF central we have shared many, many emails dissecting the US national team's performance at the Confederations Cup. There have been some disagreements and plenty of positive love.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks for the US gaffer. First Bradley was an inept doofus and then a genius. All in the space of a week. Which is it? Why are the US national team so Jekyll and Hyde? And what needs to be done to ensure that the USMNT, along with those natty blue shell suits, has a good showing back in South Africa next summer? This Englishman has an idea. My bags are packed, don't shoot the messenger.

No depth and the man in charge.

First of all the US team lacks quality. Whoooa, Bigus, whoooooa. No, not in the starting 11, but beyond it. Depth, you ain't got any. Look at the bench and Swindon Town comes to mind. This, for me, is the root cause of the inconsistency that faces the USA. When the team picks itself, the US are capable of a good showing and performances like Egypt and Brazil (episode 2). Take away one or two key players and the whole team falls apart, the confidence disappears and the side look as if they have as much cohesion as a Suni/Shiite mixed 11.

The lack of depth is most evident in midfield and this is where the Bradley factor or lack of it is weighing heavy on the US hopes for glory. Take away Bradley Jnr or Ricardo Clark and decisions need to be made. No obvious replacements jump up from the bench and strip off. No obvious options present themselves. If the team does not pick itself, the shit and fan meet head on. This is now Bradley's 'oh fuck what do I do moment'. The moment when International mangers are required to prove their worth to their country and show a little tactical saavy. I'm not sure Bradley has any.

His substitutions during this tournament have, at times, been baffling. Not to mention his decision to start against Brazil (episode 1) with a 5 man midfield. No one knew where they were supposed to play and the result was mass confusion and a Brazil walkover.

In the previous game, versus Italy, I thought the US played very well. Even with the impressive Clark heading for an early bath after a high slide/kick on Gatusso. The result wasn't flattering but did not reflect the performance. Once down to ten men, the ability to close down players around the box headed down the tunnel right behind Ricardo Clark.

I cannot comment on Egypt as I was live blogging the Italy meltdown being played at the same time.

Spain was a great effort, even if against a tired Spain, still a great effort against the best side in the World. Bradley and Clark both featured and Bocanegra was available for the first time during the tournament, adding strength and experience to the backline, replacing the inexperienced Bornstein.

The US really needs to find some depth in midfield if Bradley is to have any success with this team, lose Bradley Jr or Ricardo Clark and old Bob mutters to himself before taking a gamble. Where will you find these players? Maybe they are around now and scouting is the key. Maybe they ain't. One thing is clear. A bench of Marvell Wynn, DaMarcus Beasley, Freddy Adu, Connor Casey and Heath Pearce just won't do it.

Decide that 'you have what you have' and that's it? Then Bradley needs to be swapped out for a manager who is capable of smart, adaptive, in-game decisions and of developing alternative tactics on the training ground that don't involve a gung ho attack leaving the break away a viable option for better teams to exploit.

All of Bradley's management experience has come in the MLS or USA under 23 team. The equivalent of appointing Brentford manager Andy Scott as England gaffer. Ok, then maybe Bristol City boss, Gary Johnson. You get the point, it's a little absurd. The world's most talented teams select their managers from the best available. Hiddink, Capello, Scolari and the like. Managers whose vast experience allows them to make adjustments to the team during a crucial game. A talent Bob Bradley will never possess unfortunately. Am I being harsh?

The players available.

I have to say, I have had to eat my words during the Confederation Cup. As a Landon Donovan critic, I was very impressed. It seems he has finally matured. The player who disappeared in games and used to show a complete lack of interest and commitment has developed into a terrier with an eye for space.

Donovan drinks from the famous 'coming of age' fountain.

Donovan is currently entering his prime at 27 years old. Often, players can develop into very good ones as they enter this stage of their career and mature in the game. Heard of Andrei Arshavin before 2008? He had been hiding in Russia for his whole career, yet once he hit his prime at 27, he attracted the attention of top teams across Europe. What about Dimitar Berbatov? He was 26 when he was plucked from German Football and made a household name. Gareth Barry? He was a good player but once he hit 27, he became a very good player.

I like the look of the US starting 11. It really could be a very good team. Dempsey is class, Onyewu and DeMerit are strong at the back and Bradley Jr will become a super player. Just pray that no one of importance gets injured ahead of the World Cup, especially in midfield. That happens and all the prayers in the world will be futile. Well...While old Bob is charge anyway.

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FIFA Releases New Rankings, World Still Confused

Bigus attempting to understand England's new ranking.

FIFA released the newest world rankings this morning, and there have been some minor changes in the top 15 teams. Considering the recent results of the Confederations Cup, it is not surprising that Brazil has vaulted into 1st place, moving up 4 spots and pushing Spain to 2nd. The former were the biggest movers within the top 10, with no one else gaining or losing more than 3 spots. However, there are some new entrants into the top 15 based on results from their past several matches.

Your new top 15 are presented here:

1 (+4) Brazil (1672 pts)
2 (-1) Spain (1590 pts)
3 (-1) Netherlands (1379 pts)
4 (0) Italy (1229 pts)
5 (-2) Germany (1207 pts)
6 (+3) Russia (1161 pts)
7 (-1) England (1135 pts)
8 (-1) Argentina (1091 pts)
9 (+1) France (1082 pts)
10 (-2) Croatia (1031 pts)
11 (+6) Greece (1001 pts)
12 (+2) USA (983 pts)
13 (+3) Switzerland (930 pts)
14 (+6) Serbia (925 pts)
15 (+9) Denmark (909 pts)

So, Greece, Serbia and Denmark all make a significant move and wind up in the top 15 based on recent performance. Brazil and the US get recognition for their achievements in the Confederations Cup, and England lose 1 position from the June rankings (but are back to where they were in May) based solely on Russia moving ahead of them.

But how exactly are these rankings calculated? Well, the rankings cover all international "A" matches over the past 4 years, with the importance of each year gradually declining (from 100%-50%-30%-20%) in reverse order (i.e. the past 12 month period is the most important), and they include the following elements:

(M) is the result of each match for Win-Draw-Loss (3 pts; 1 pt; 0 pts)
(I) is the importance of the match (1=friendly; 4=FIFA World Cup)
(T) is the strength of the opponent ( [200-FIFA ranking]/100 )
(C) is the strength of the opponent's FIFA confederation, which is based on results in the past 3 World Cups (wins per confederation per match)

So, the total points (P) accumulated is calculated as:

P = M x I x T x C x 100

If that's not enough math for the day, you can read the complete details of how the points are calculated in FIFA's handy little guide (PDF warning!).

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UF Footy Felons Top Trumps: Joey Barton

So we started this series last summer, full of excitement to do so, and proceeded to manage just one before the whole thing fell apart. Some sort of Norwichomon-esque breakdown by yours truly was mostly to blame.

But, we're back, and eager to kickstart it to help pass the offseason. Because if we don't, we might resort to murder in the 1st degree upon hearing fresh Xabi Alonso transfer conjecture.

If you've never played Top Trumps before, check out the original post and this handy link.

Once you're up to speed, hit the jump for our next character in the series. Collect 'em all and have yourselves a good old time!

JOEY BARTON, Midfield (Manchester City, Newcastle United)
When you think of miscreants in soccer, those whose tremendous ability to destroy usurps their ability to create, your mind invariably settles on Joey Barton, the midfielder who just can't keep himself out of trouble.

At only 26, there's still plenty of time for him to atone for the massive resume of transgressions and foul play, but we all know which direction he'll continue to head.

Forget the fact that when bothered, he can actually play a decent central midfield, reducing any opponent's No. 10 to a quivering pile of fear and self-doubt. It's all about what he does away from the 90 minutes on a weekend (although there are plenty of red cards to be discussed there, if we're honest).

There's the injuring of teammate Ousmane Dabo in training, an act so vicious that the FA actually stepped in to issue charges of violent conduct. There's the Citeh christmas party back in 2004, where his joviality extended to his cigar ending up in the eye of a reserve team player, resulting in permanent scarring.

Or how about the prison sentence for beating the stuffing out of a teenager outside a Liverpool McDonald's?

Or the time he assaulted a 15-year-old Everton fan during a preseason tour to Thailand?

Or his hit-and-run that left a pedestrian with a broken leg?

Essentially, Barton is a man without a nation, a hard man without a haven to protect him. Vinnie Jones could always count on the equally imbalanced charm of the entire Wimbledon squad to deflect too much negative press, while thugs from the 60s and 70s like Batista or Claudio Gentile had the fortune of playing the game in an era where a swift kick to the nuts was allowed, and in some ways quietly encouraged.

After all, if we've learned anything from the rat race mentality, it's that sometimes, you need to use foul means to level the playing field and keep the superstars in check.

Now, in the increasingly sterile modern soccer world, in which physical contact and intent have been regulated and agonized over to such a degree that an ankle tap can get you a red card if done from behind, Joey Barton is all alone, the pariah with the bad attitude and even worse timing, and it's not undeserved in the slightest.

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UF Quick Throws: Real Madrid Get Another Galactico

Several sources are reporting that Real Madrid has locked up a deal with Olympique Lyonnais for the services of Les Bleus youngster Karim Benzema. The fee is believed to be €35m (£30m) for the French striker, who has won 4 Ligue 1 titles with Lyon and been capped 24 times for the national team.

Real Madrid claim Karim Benzema victory [The Sun]
£30m Karim Benzema set to join Real Madrid [The Guardian]

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UF Market Madness: Belated Confederations Cup Edition

It's been a few days since that final on Sunday, but we thought we'd have a lttle look at the marketplace after the tournament and those players who went some way to improving their resume, along with a few who didn't do themselves any favors.

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Those who have done well to boost their resumes in the 3-4 games they played in South Africa.

Charlie Davies, USA
Finally, it looks like the US may have found a speedy, counterattacking foil for Altidore or Ching, a guy who can sprint around for 80 minutes and create space for his strike partner. While his ball control wasn't the best, Davies did step in and mature quickly throughout this tournament. His role in Donovan's goal against Brazil sums up his usefulness to this team. Time to stop dicking around with other options at #2 striker and give him a full run. I think he's ready.

Jay Demerit, USA
What a titan back there! His time in the Colaship has really steeled him, and he defended with grit, determination and aggression. It shouldn't be long until an EPL team lacking in that physical central defender comes in to nick him from Watford. I could have picked Onyewu, but every ball that Oguchi won in the air, he'd immediately give away on the ground. Much more of a liability than his batterymate Demerit, who was poised and stoic to the bitter end.

Mohamed Aboutrika, Egypt
While the African continent champs left a rather weak mark on this tournament, I was impressed by their attacking midfielder Aboutrika, whose workrate was a constant nuisance against Brazil and Italy. Loved to get wide and whip balls into the six-yard-box, loved to test the opponent's offside trap wherever possible, and wasn't afraid to take it up the middle, either. Everyone gushes over Mohamed Zidan up front, but he'd be nothing without Aboutrika.


Matthew Booth, South Africa
Sure, he's slow, white and at times uncoordinated, but who else looked upon him and thought he'd be perfect at Bolton or Wigan or West Ham Sunderland? Just the type of space-filling, hoof-capable central defender that could suit a low-EPL or Colaship team.

Luis Fabiano, Brazil
If you weren't familiar with the Sevilla striker, you certainly are now. It took him a game or two to get going, but Fabiano showed that he is due for a more high-profile club with five well-taken goals and his invention up front.

Felipe Melo, Brazil
Arsenal want him. 'Nuff said. An impressive tournament at the base of their defensive midfield alongside former Gooner Gilberto Silva, young Melo gave the backline plenty of protection and looked just as comfortable in the tackle or on the counter-attack.

Katlego Mphela, South Africa
In terms of output for minutes played, Mphela showed he could be worth a flier for any club seeking some pace and excitement up front. Plus, he showed in the 3rd place game that he's pretty good from the free-kick. Tons of pace, tons of energy, and enough of both to ask questions of any backline.

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Not even Kevin Keegan would buy this lot!

Anyone on New Zealand
Lord, were they awful. They were Torres-fodder in Game One, Bernard Parker's plaything in Game Two, and woeful in front of goal against Iraq in Game Three. I looked at this team and saw nothing worth liking.

Beasley: rubbish

DaMarcus Beasley, USA
In some ways I feel bad for the soccer-challenged left-winger/left-back, whose absence from the team immediately correlated to goals, success, and upsets. Beasley was dire in the two games he played, consistenly giving the ball away and not doing much offensively to atone for his waste.

Wael Gomaa, Egypt
Just about every goal that the Pharaohs conceded was indirectly his fault, as it was normally his marker wriggling free to thump the ball home. Weak in the air, indecisive with the ball in front of him, and generally clueless at the back. It says a lot that Egypt played with a sweeper behind their back 4, and Gomaa still sucked even with the extra cover.

Juan Manuel Mata, Spain
Didn't see much playing time, and perhaps rightly so. Reminded me of a less-talented Joe Cole for his unflinching ability to dribble into a swarm of defenders and lose possession. Not the best crosser of the ball from the left, and every time he cut inside from the wing to shoot, it ended up in the heavens. The 21-year-old from Valencia has a ways to go before he unseats someone in that starting XI. Shit, the fact that Albert Riera emerged seemingly as Spain's top dog on the left says it all! That's your fault, Juan!

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