Sunday, July 18, 2010

Another Post About Thierry Henry, the NY Red Bulls and the Question of Designated Players

New York Red Bulls and MLS newboy, Thierry Henry was in attendance Saturday evening in Columbus, Ohio to watch a Columbus Crew shy on confidence rediscover its stride against his new team. The two-time defending Supporters Shield holders picked apart an uninspired Red Bulls in front a less than enthralled Henry. All while questions of just how far the Red Bulls will go with the former Arsenal, Barcelona and French national team striker were thrown around with unrestrained anticipation and glee by NY sports pundits and followers of MLS alike.

Nothing can match the unmitigated frenzy of David Beckham's move to MLS in 2007, but Henry's move - while long-rumored - is drumming up some starstruck reactions and questions about the whole idea of designated players. Is Henry's move a signal of increased respect for MLS? If so, will it mean more high profile signings?

These may be the wrong questions.

Are designated players even a good idea for the league as a whole? Beckham hasn't been able to win an MLS cup with LA and the Galaxy hit the ground running this season without him. On the other hand, Guillermo Barros Schelotto has elevated the Crew to two and a half successful seasons. And while each team is allowed 3 designated players, the league has signed just 11.

But let's face it, Henry came to MLS because he loves New York City. Beckham came over for, among other reasons, the celebrity saturated landscape of L.A. So what happens to the league when the coasts are filled with DP's and the center gets overlooked? Would Ronaldhino really want to go play in Kansas City, or Ryan Giggs in Colorado?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

World Cup Predictions, US TV Schedule: Germany vs. Spain Semifinal

This is a semifinal worthy of a final, worthy of legend. Spain look the perfect team on paper, but the Germans look the perfect team on the pitch. The Spanish have enjoyed an obscenely large percentage of possession during their games, poking and prodding at defenses with composure, but ultimately producing few goals. The Germans, on the other hand, have sliced and diced nearly every team they've met, scoring 4 goals against Australia, England and Argentina.

Ms. FootyNut makes an appearance again for this final round of semifinal predictions.

Ms. FootyNut: Spain was the only prediction I've gotten right in this round. And I still think they don't have the muster to make it all the way to the final. They should have had an easier time beating Paraguay. Germany are young, fast and attacking machines! If they don't win by 3 goals I'll be disappointed.

FootyNut: This is going to be epic. But I'm sticking to my original bracket of a Netherlands vs. Germany final. The Germans are brimming with confidence and can back that confidence up with goals. Spain, on the other hand, have been stubborn in their tactical approach and unwilling to change their system even when it looks like they'll bounce out of the tournament because of it. Instead, the Spanish have relied on luck and David Villa to lift them through at the necessary moments. The Germans will slice and dice the Spanish defense and bounce into the finals.

vs. Spain
Wednesday, July 7
2:30pm EDT, ESPN

Monday, July 5, 2010

World Cup Predictions, US TV Schedule: Netherlands vs. Uruguay Semifinal

And then, there were four. Tomorrow's semifinal between Uruguay and the Netherlands is a tough one to call. The Dutch are riding the momentum from knocking Brazil out of the tournament while Uruguay is in their first semifinal since 1954 and looking to fight their way into the final. Welcome Ms. FootyNut for the predictions.

Ms FootyNut: My how I've been failing at this predictions game. This is going to be tough! The Netherlands had an epic win against Brazil. After their game against Ghana, Uruguay just highlight how ruthless they are. I say Netherlands just because they've never won a World Cup and they deserve to.

The Netherlands recent win over Brazil is as big as motivators come. If the Dutch can't channel a result like that to push themselves into a final against Spain or Germany, then nothing will. Count on Kuyt, Roben and Sneijder to counter Forlan's prolific performance. The Dutch may have some continuing issues with the center of their defense, but I see Uruguay's run ending here and the Netherlands progressing to the final.

Uruguay vs. Netherlands
Tuesday, July 6
2:30pm EDT, ESPN

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Top 3 Hot, Cold and Bargain World Cup Players for the Summer Transfer Window

When the World Cup comes to an end next week, the soccer world will focus on the transfer window in Europe. Traditionally headlining and breakout stars alike have used their performances in the World Cup to peak the interest of other clubs and gain leverage in transfer negotiations.

Here are three quick lists of players I think have improved their reputation, have lost a bit off their transfer fee, and who have positioned themselves as great bargains in terms of skill and price.


Carlos Tevez
As I mentioned in my Argentina-Germany quaterfinals prediction, Tevez is the engine of the Argentine team. His energy and bulldoggish never-say-die aggression has put him at the center of every team he's been on. Add to that his ability to score spectacular goals like his second one against Mexico and the fact that (love him or hate him, and I HATE him) he deserves Champions League Soccer, he might just become a transfer target.

Mesut Ozil
Germany has look clinically threatening and specatcularly dangerous when going forward during the World Cup. And at the heart of the German's success has been the 21 year old attacking midfielder, Mesut Ozil. And with Ozil and his agent have both indicated that he is open to moving to either England or Spain, a summer move away from Werder Bremen seems inevitable.

Wesley Sneijder
All the pre-World Cup buzz about the Dutch camp surrounded the fitness of in-form winger Arjen Robben. However, once the matches got underway, it was 26 year-old attacking midfielder Wesley Sneijder who delivered the goods - including the two goals that lifted the Dutch past tournament favorites Brazil. With the impending shake-up of Sneijder's club, Internazionale following Jose Mourinho's departure, Snijder may be looking for a move and will have no problem finding suitors.


Alexis Sanchez
Sanchez relished in flamboyant displays against weaker teams and all but nonexistent when it mattered most (see Spain and Brazil). He may make a move away from Italian side Udinese this summer, but it won't be on the grounds of his World Cup performance.

David James
With his domestic club Portsmouth suffering a painful relegation to England's second tier league, the 39 year-old English goalkeeper may have been looking to prolong his career with a summer move. His indecisive performance against Germany, however, put an end to such hopes. Retirement now seems likely.

Fernando Torres
El Nino's skills are undisputed, but his performance at this World Cup has left something to be desired. If Torres makes a move away from the hemorrhaging train wreck that is Liverpool this summer, it will more than likely be to follow his former coach and mentor, Rafa Benitez to his new club.


Keisuke Honda
Many people, including myself, expected nothing of Japan's soccer team in this World Cup. However, the Blue Samurai pushed into the quaterfinals at the expense of Denmark and Cameroon. Leading the charge for Japan was the midfield stylings of 24 year-old Keisuke Honda. He can shoot, he can open up a defense with a penetrating pass and he can calmly slot home a penalty kick. Honda would be a great bargain buy for a big name team looking to shore up depth in the midfield.

Michael Bradley
Bradley has already been identified as a rising star in U.S. soccer, but his performances at the World Cup - including a crucial tying goal against Slovenia - have solidified his status as an integral midfield workhorse. And at only 22 years of age, his prospects will only improve. If Bradley makes any move away from Borussia Mönchengladbach this summer, you can bet his performances for the U.S. men's national team at the World Cup will be a factor.

Winston Reid
New Zealand was another surprise in the early group stages of the World Cup. After going down one goal in their opener against Slovakia, defender Winston Reid scored a fantastic stoppage time goal to give the All Whites their first ever point in a World Cup competition. The Kiwis went on to put on defensive showcases against Italy and Paraguay, at the surprise of the World. The experience Reid gained during the tournament will make him an ideal target for mid-level clubs looking for a bargain this summer.

Friday, July 2, 2010

World Cup US TV Schedule Quarterfinals: July 3


v Germany
10:00am EDT, ABC

v Spain
2:30pm EDT, ABC

Ms FootyNut: End of World Cup Means Loss of Interest For Average Fans

It seems like the topic of the week is whether or not this 2010 FIFA World Cup had any lasting effect on US soccer's fan base.

IMHO I agree with Mr FootyNut's post that it may grab a converted fan or two, but I don't think it will reach a critical mass of any sort. I speak from experience in this as I was enamored with the World Cup while "my teams" (USA and England) were still in it. But as soon as they were eliminated I found myself dramatically less interested in the game. I'm sorry, Mr. FootyNut, but I have no desire to watch MLS or EPL games (unless I'm in the stadium).

In fairness, I have no desire to watch any other sport - unless it's a major competition...and most of the times not then either. Basicallym yes, I will only watch sports on television during the Olympics and now, World Cup. So, for a few weeks, every few years. But unlike even those who are annually dedicated to the Final Four, the Superbowl etc, my interest in sports in general do not go that far.

I think Americans who actually like watching sports on television, and who also watched this year's USMNT (US Mutant Ninja Turtles!!) may have a higher conversion rate. However, I don't get the impression that the t.v. networks (sports based or otherwise) are going to help fuel the Slightly Interested into becoming Super Fans. I think part of it boils down to accessibility to the game. If you show it, they might watch. If you don't...well, you get it. I would guess that someone with a friend (or partner) who is obsessed with footy is more likely to convert because they have a leader.

I also think fans of other sports are annoyed by blatant dives and become bored by what can be considered low-scoring games. Teams like Germany and Argentina have had higher scoring games recently and - on paper at least - that could be seen as more exciting. But during the group stages, the teams were more concerned with not losing than they were with winning so they settled for draws more often than in the later stages.

I'll conclude by saying that it will take time for me to become a Super Fan all year 'round, not just quadrennially. I think that will be true of most lay people who watched this World Cup.

In case you missed it, Ms FootyNut is guest blogging here to give a layperson's view of soccer and the World Cup.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

World Cup Quaterfinals Preditions, Featuring Ms. FootyNut

Well, ladies and gentlemen, only 8 of 205 teams remain. Half of them are from South America (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay), while the three more are European powerhouses in Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. The remaining team, Ghana, carries the hopes of Africa on its shoulders.

Once again, please welcome Ms. FootyNut to help out with this round of predictions. Without further ado, let's get started!

Uruguay v Ghana

Ms. FootyNut: I'm going to stick with my bracket and say Uruguay for the win. Ghana are tough, don't get me wrong, but there's something about this lot of South American teams. They're just winners.

FootyNut: Funny thing: My bracket didn't reflect my predictions. And since my predictions for the Uruguay-South Korea game were correct, I'm going to claim that it was my bracket that was a mistake. Now that we've sorted that out, I'm going to agree with the Missus on this one, Uruguay has the composure and class to fend off the Guardians of Africa's dreams.

Netherlands v Brazil

MF: Brazil hands down. I just have this feeling that they're going all the way...much to the chagrin of everyone...except Brazilians.

FN: This is my biggest risk of the entire tournament. Truth be told, I think I am more than half willing Brazil to lose this one. However, after seeing the Dutch's consistent and dynamic attack, I think they might be able to pull this off. However, if Brazil wins, only a date with Germany or Argentina in the finals will see them lose. But on a perfect day for the Orange Tide of the Netherlands, they will go through.

Argentina v Germany

MF: Germany is a young and forceful team! But I think they're "too nice" much like this year's USMNT. Argentina are ruthless imho. Plus, I want them to battle it out in the final with Brazil.

FN: This is a tough one to call. Argentina has been solid. Tevez is the heart while Messi is the brain. But Germany has been inspired going forward, and that inspiration has been enough to compensate for a less than seamless defense. In the end, though, I feel this is Germany's year for another appearance in the final.

Paraguay v Spain

MF: Paraguay's game vs Japan was painful. I don't see them advancing. Spain for me here.

FN: Yeah. The missus has this one absolutely correct. Paraguay is starving for goals. And as I've said before, Spain my stumble before the end, but it won't be against Paraguay.

Don't forget to catch the matches tomorrow and this weekend on TV at home or in your local soccer pub!