Tuesday, April 14, 2009


What a 2nd leg between Liverpool and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge! Chelsea advance to the semifinals of the Champions League, but not anywhere close to the manner in which was expected. Carrying a 3-1 lead back home from Anfield's 1st leg, Chelsea were just supposed to sit back and weather a dull 90 minutes and just make sure they didn't concede 3 goals. Well, concede 4 goals they did, but fortunately they scored 4 themselves, giving the match a crazy eight total goals and a ridiculous 7-5 aggregate final for two teams who usually contest 0-0 or 1-1 two-legged ties.

Expect the unexpected, I guess....

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Champions League Quarters

The away teams got a couple crucial goal-draws yesterday in Tuesday's Champions League quarterfinal first leg action, with FC Porto grabbing the huge headline of the day with two away goals at Old Trafford in a 2-2 draw, while Arsenal got a spectacular equalizer from Emmanuel Adebayor in the second half to earn Arsenal a 1-1 away draw with game Villareal.

Adebeyor's quasi-bicycle kick off a one-touch from his chest that lasered into the far corner of the Villareal net was surely the moment of the day, though the real story was in the other game, played in Manchester. Oft-invincible United, playing at home in the Champions League, where they are always invincible (save for Milan in '07 and yes, Porto in '04), surrendered a stunningly un-United early goal as a result of poor passing and clearing in their own end. Even more surprising, was that Cristiano Ronaldo set the goal up with his errant pass near midfield. Christian Gonzalez took full advantage and scored the opening stunner for the Portuguese side in the 4th minute. Porto should have stayed 1-0 up and possibly been 2-0 up at half time, but were scolded by a terrible gaffe from Bruno Alves who sent a keeper-intended back pass right into the path of Wayne Rooney, who calmly dispatched into the Porto goal for a 1-1 score. Porto were the better side in the first half, but seemed destined to relent to a much better United in the 2nd, particularly when Carlos Tevez gave the Red Devils the lead in the 83rd. Miraculously, Porto had an answer, from yet another Argentine, Maximo Gonzalez, when they were able to take advantage of a slow United rotating defense and place Gonzales unmarked at the receiving end of a nice cross right in front of Van der Saar's goal, for 2-2.

Porto now get to try and earn merely a draw at home next week, and they'll be able to boast that they've sent United out of Europe twice in five years. That feat alone would be worth its own trophy.

Liverpool-Chelsea and Barcelona-Bayern Munich promise to be intense, entertaining first legs this evening. Liverpool and Barca have to be considered the favorites, but both their opponents are fellow giants on the European stage and will have relatively good chances at going through to the semifinals as well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Mexico is in disarray. They were without three studs due to injury or suspension, and their form has been terrible under their new coach. And they haven't won in the US in 11 games (over seven years) now, and have now lost three consecutive meaningful games (i.e. World Cup qualifiers, Gold Cup, etc) on Columbus by the same 2-0 score. That said, the U.S. looked very good. They're not ready to beat Argentina, Spain, or Italy yet, but US soccer is steadily improving. The three best American national team players: Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and DaMarcus Beasley, all played great yesterday. Midfield rising stars Sasha Klejstan and Michael Bradley are going to be super (Bradley, the coaches son, scored both goals), and they have one of the best keepers in the English Premier League, Everton's Tim Howard. There's also a ton of young talent on the bench like Ricardo Clark, Jozy Altidore, Benny Feilhaber, Bobby Convey, etc.

Weaknesses? Strikers and Defenders. Bocanegra, Cherundolo, Onyewu, Hejduk, and Pearce are all acceptable, serviceable backs, but not near up to the caliber of the Italians or Germans, obviously. I think the U.S. is improving on defense, but it still glares as the big weakness that could allow a crap goal to cost them in South Africa. But I guess every country has that worry. You've just got to be rock solid at the back and Bradley's charges are not. At least they seem to know who they're going to war with for the next eighteen months, so they can only keep getting better. And they do have a world class keeper, something that wasn't there in '06.

Striker is interesting, because Bradley seems to like playing with a lone striker, usually Brian Ching or Eddie Johnson, letting Donovan, Dempsey and Beasley fill in from the wings and through the middle as complimentary attackers. I like Ching but don't love him, don't like Johnson, and wish the U.S. still had Brian McBride's heading prowess but he's retired. My answer is to play Jozy Altidore as the lone striker. This big, physical, 20 yr old kid is going to be awesome, and I think he would allow the big three to operate freely by holding the ball up and starting attacks through the wings and middle. Ultimately, the reason the U.S. is getting better and better is due to the players' (finally!) willingness to toil in the elite European leagues. There is still have some good talent who play in MLS, but the more US players we hear popping up in the EPL, Germany, Holland, Portugal (and hopefully soon, Italy and Spain), the better the prospects are of competing with the giants in a World Cup. Landon Donovan is finally out of LA and the joke that is the Galaxy, and playing for one of the world's top clubs, Bayern Munich (albeit as a sub, but still). Howard, Dempsey, Johnson, Convey, Beasley, Bocanegra, and Friedel (our other super goalie) all play in the UK, while Onyewu is in Portugal and Bradley is in Germany. This is good. The U.S. has the speed and depth and athleticism to make it to a World Cup quarterfinal or beyond (and not by shocking and sneaking up on teams like in '02, when they sat back and hit teams on counters- a strategy that met with a brutal and efficient death in '06 when the world was ready for them), but they still need to get a lot better at technical skills (ball handling). The team I saw last night looked technically the best I've seen, and the passing was crisp and imaginitive.

Nothing would be cooler than for the US to shock the world in 2010. And just making it through our group with impressive showings would almost suffice. We don't have to win the thing yet, just announce that we're here and command respect. We need to be a top 10 team globally, consistently. Not an easy task (we're #20 now), but definitely attainable. The world elites are only getting better and scarier though, too. Since I've been following soccer closely (about four years), I've gotten the feeling that the sport has grown even more popular globally, due to satellite tv coverage, internet coverage, the EPL broadcasting itself all over the world, ESPN televising Champions League games, etc. And it's definitely growing in America. All that magnified interest seems to be the result of a ridiculous amount of superstars emerging around the world, stars who are both gifted and marketable. This is where Beckham is underappreciated in my opinion...he's responsible for all this hysteria over Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Kaka, Ronaldinho, Pato, Henry, Fabregas, Torres, Gerrard, Drogba, Arshavin, Iniesta, Aguero, Rooney, etc etc etc etc etc. So basically, the world has never cared more, because soccer has never been covered with more close focus, scrutiny, and tabloid mania (same is true with our domestic sports, and the ESPN culture) than it is today, which is why the world's elite nations are only going to get harder, not easier, for the US to compete with. So, no, I don't see us winning the World Cup anytime soon, but being feared by Italy and Spain would be nice.

Argentina has no peers at this point. Messi is far better than Ronaldo and IS the best player in the world.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

We're Back!

Apologies to my loyal readers for a slight hiatus in the blog. Soccer has such a short "off-season," particularly in years when major tournaments take place in the Summer, so we had to use July as a bit of a break. But we're back, and ready to kick off the European seasons in the next few weeks, and of course we are looking especially forward to the '08/'09 EPL campaign (it is the most popoular league in the world for a reason).

We'll have a comprehensive preview of the English Premier League season prior to the Aug 16 season kickoff. We'll also take a look at the other big European leagues, the Champions League, UEFA Cup, and World Cup qualifiers. We'll also examine MLS a little more closely this year, as the league tries to continue its (albeit, small) upward swing in popularity.

So get ready for another exciting, riveting, engaging season of global football, and hopefully you'll tune in to TGF regularly and continue to post your comments and add to the discussion.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ronaldinho to AC Milan

SI.com reports that Ronaldinho will be joining AC Milan today, ending months of speculation surrounding the Brazilian megastar's future. It was clear he was departing Barcelona, and by extension, La Liga altogether, but the mystery was whether he would end up in England or Italy.

Now we have our answer, and Milan suddenly looks a lot brighter for the '08/'09 season with Alexander Hleb and Ronaldinho joining Kaka in the Rossoneri midfield.

One thing is certain: Ronaldinho will be wearing the red and black of Milan next season, and will look pretty cool in his new kit.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Reign of Spain

Congratulations to Spain!

Espana ended their 44 year interational drought by knocking off perennial finalists and juggernaut Germany, 1-0 in Vienna in front of record television audiences around the world. Fernando Torres scored the game's only goal in the 33rd minute in spectacular fashion, and Spain built from there and pressed the Germans for the remainder of the time. Germany were never in it, and Spain should really have had two or three goals, their best chance coming when Marcos Senna failed to touch in a beautiful headed cross into an open net inthe 80th.

Spain are deserving champions, and deserve to finally eliminate their reputations as international underachievers. The Spanish have long been among the more individually talented sides in the world, and it was more a matter of time than a matter of underachievement that explained their lack of big tournament results in the past four and a half decades.

Luis Aragones, often maligned and sometimes deservedly so, particularly for his racial epithets flung at the likes of Thierry Henry and others, retires from international duty in perfect fashion, earning his figurative ride off into the sunset by adeptly preparing and adroitly managing the most impressive team at the Euros.

One of the best effects this title will have on the nation of Spain will be its uniting force. Spain has long been a fractious country, whose footballing loyalties have been divided among regions at the expense of national unity and pride. No more. Everyone from Madrid to Granada, Salamanca to Sevilla, Valencia to Barcelona will revel equally in this joyous feat for Spain. One of the truly beautiful aspects of international football is its ability to glavanize entire populations, and to captivate national audiences as their own countries pursue global glory. It is a rare and difficult accomplishment, but when it happens, there is nothing better for the people.

The Beautiful Game is also the People's Game, for that reason.