Feb 19, 2011

The Special One Channel's Freddie Mercury and Queen

And Mr. Alex's half-time team talk in the Manchester Derby.

Special 1 strikes again.

Feb 17, 2011

Sick Skills from a Goalkeeper

Tip of the hat to the boys at The Bumpy Pitch for this point to this absolutely sick demonstration of skills from UNC Asheville's Keeper.  If he can handle the a cross as well as he does his ball tricks--he has a future.

Those final two tricks are absolutely wicked.

Feb 14, 2011

Jozy Altidore Gets Busy

Here is the highlight reels form Jozy Altidore's first game with Bursaspor.  Jozy was key in the lead up to his team's lone goal in the 1-1 draw.  Check out Jozy's nifty spin move at about 0:45 of the video.

Feb 13, 2011

Soccer: Bob Bradley should build the U.S. team around Clint Dempsey - ESPN

Soccer: Bob Bradley should build the U.S. team around Clint Dempsey - ESPN

Feb 11, 2011

D.C. United planning to acquire Charlie Davies, but financial issues remain unresolved

D.C. United planning to acquire Charlie Davies, but financial issues remain unresolved. A deal will probably be reached. Davies could be a DP for United, since United is carrying only one DP--Branko Boskovic.

Check out my soccer blog at Nutmegs and Stepovers

Why Soccer is More "American" Than American Football

I came across this post from my other blog Going to the Mat, that is talking about soccer.  It is a bit older and not for a soccer audience, but it is an argument to make about the beautiful game.

Mike Flynn, writing at Big Government.com started talking about Rush Limbaugh's aborted attempt to become a part owner of the St. Louis Rams NFL team. I think Rush got railroaded by political correctness. While you may not like some of the things that Rush says, you cannot with a straight face claim he is not a savvy businessman. But I digress from my point.

Flynn actually pointed something out--American football is decidedly un-American in execution:
Rush took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to address the mau-mauing that scuttled his NFL dreams. Personally, I’m a little mystified why Rush would want to own part of a football team. Oversized, preening and pampered athletes set in strictly defined roles and running elaborately orchestrated “plays” designed by a full bureaucracy of coaches seems, frankly, I dunno…unAmerican. Quite unlike the other football, where there are no plays, few coaches and wide latitude for individual initiative and improvisation. (How did we get stuck with the collectivist top-down heavy sport?) But, to each his own.(emphasis added)
I hadn't really thought of American football in quite that way. I had always decried its lack of fluidity and thinking. Only on a broken play do we see any hint of improvisation and usually it results in a loss or not much of a gain.

But American football is decidedly socialistic in its set up. The plays are controlled not by the players but by the centralized bureaucracy of a whole plethora of coaches. Now, American football teams have 19 coaches.  A starting offense and starting defense in football consists of 22 players--not counting special teams, a punter and a place kicker.

By contrast, Manchester United, one of the biggest football (soccer) clubs in the world has 10 coaches and that includes their director of their youth academy and conditioning coaches.

But it is the rigidity of American football that is so Un-American. Everything is as centrally planned as the former Soviet Union's economy.  American football teams will often script as many as their first 20 or 30 or even more plays before the teams even take the field. The coaches make most of the decisions and the most important decisions even during the game. In fact, while much is made of the role of the quarterback, how many quarterbacks have the knowledge, skill and freedom to call plays from the line of scrimmage (I can think of just two or three who are fully entrusted with that ability) and how many times a game is that freedom exercised.

Soccer on the other hand has very little chance for a coach to do very much during a game.  He may alter tactical formations or direct tactical changes, but he or she has to rely on the players to implement them.  A soccer coach on the professional level cannot make wholesale line-up changes or change to a defensive formation.  A soccer coach has to rely on the intelligence, skill and knowledge of his players.  The soccer player, aside from a few discrete opportunities per game, has to completely improvise each play and has to expect his teammates to anticipate and work with him.  The 11 players on a soccer team have jobs and roles to play, but have to be willing and able to adapt, unlike American football players who are incredibly specialized.  

Thus, despite chuckleheads like Jim Rome berating soccer as "Un-American" it may in fact be the most "American" sport around.  Soccer epitomizes individual and group work ethic.  The beautiful game cherishes individual creative effort and a team environment. Not that I will be able to convince people like Rome and the other sports punditry in this country of this point of view, but there you go. 

Soccer is more American than American football.

Feb 8, 2011

Charlie Davies and Ben Olsen Talk to Media

United posted a video of Ben Olsen and Charlie Davies talking to the media about his trial with the Black & Red.

The big take away--D.C. United are still talking like this is a trial. Olsen's comment was essentially credit to Charlie Davies for coming to try out, most guys wouldn't do that.

The video has glimpses of Charlie in training games. He is moving well but hard to judge whether or not he has that speed he once had.

The trial ends at the end of the week, so we will see what happens, but I suspect that Charlie is going to be looking for a place to rent next week in the DC area.

Dc United'S Joseph Ngwenya

DC United has a short video interview of Joseph Ngwenya, who had a pretty good day yesterday, bagging a hat trick in 28 minutes against the Candaian U-20 national team.

OK, I know, it was a bunch of kids (seriously kids) who are more the age of Perry Kitchen and Andy Najar than professionals in the prime of their career.

Check out my soccer blog at Nutmegs and Stepovers

Feb 7, 2011

Real Salt Lake Gets Hardcore in Training

A New Look At Training – TheOriginalWinger.com

Feb 2, 2011

High Risk-High Reward for Davies, MLS and DC United

The news that Charlie Davies was coming to the United States for a week long evaluation/trial with DC United was met with hope and excitment by this DC United Fan. There are other Black & Red Supporters who are less than thrilled, wondering if Davies has resolved his off-field problems. Goal.com's Kyle McCarthy, has a pretty good piece on the complications that DC United, MLS and Davies face in the potential deal. McCarthy sees a little more grey skies in the deal, but realistic grey, but this potential move is a high risk/high reward situation for Davies, DC United and Ben Olsen, and MLS.

Mostly Upside for Davies
It is not nearly as complicated for Davies. A number of people wonder about the wisdom of Davies coming to DC considering that RFK is about 4 miles (as the crow flies) from where his fatal car crash took place. While some people might flinch at the idea, I think Davies is playing this one pretty smart. Coming to DC United and playing well will allow him to put the ghosts of that night behind him. I don't think he will ever forget the impact it has had on his life and career (who would be able to), but confronting the problem head on shows a maturity about the incident that should be lauded.

That is not to say that he won't carry some risk. Failure at trial will pretty much end his thus far rising European career and he will have to suffer the ignominy of stepping down in stature and possible end his hopes of a national team career for the next year or so. It will also likely mean that he will, at best, be playing for the Sochaux reserves for the next six months as the European transfer window is closed, making a move now more difficult. He will also face some pretty intense media/fan scrutiny. But I believe that Davies is ready for that and has surely considered his options well.

The biggest risk for Davies is that if DC United, with their well-known striking woes, takes a pass on Davies the question becomes will any MLS side take a chance on him. I could see some teams willing to do so--Columbus for example.

But the reward is significant.  As for his playing and potentially resurgent national team career, a move to a "summer league" is all but necessary. Davies will not be getting playing time for Sochaux's first team anytime soon. With the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer and World Cup qualifying beginning next year, playing for an MLS side, and playing well, will get Davies back on Bob Bradley's radar screen. Given that MLSers comprised 50% of the strike force for the U.S. World Cup squad, Bradley clearly does not consider MLS strikers to be inferior. But also, playing regularly for an MLS side will be the best step to getting back in good graces with his primary employer, Sochaux or a Europoean side willing to pay Sochaux a modest transfer fee. While there is little risk for Davies, other than the media/fan cauldron, there is much reward possible for Davies. His desire to get back to the national team will ensure that he takes this chance well.

MLS' Risks are Structural
For everyone howling (and I hear you guys up in New England), DC United is tops in the allocation order for returning national team players so United has the right of first refusal. But the primary risk for MLS is that this potential loan move may break the rules that MLS has established for itself. Typically, MLS takes loans only with a potential for a buyout at the end of the loan. I don't know if Davies wants that or Sochaux for that matter. If Davies performs, Sochaux will want him back next January. The details of the loan move seem to indicate that there is no potential buyout clause, although almost certainly from a business standpoint that would be possible. The problem with that is that as a normal rule, MLS doesn't pay transfer fees or doesn't pay significant transfer fees and I believe Davies' Sochaux contract runs until 2013, which means if MLS wants Davies to stay, they will have to pay a more significant transfer fee.

While the paying of a transfer fee would be something new, it is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. MLS has visions of being a top league and that can't happen if MLS remains absolutely unwilling to bring world class players in on anything other than a free transfer. The possible change in policy clearly impacts the league's economic structure and Don Garber and the owners would have to be very careful and very, very judicious about setting the precedent and controlling the number of times a transfer fee is paid and the size of the transfer fee.

McCarthy does point out another problem. Davies wages are probably higher than the maximum non-DP salary in the league of $335,000 per year. Unless Sochaux is picking up part of the bill or Davies is taking a pay cut, MLS owners have got to be feeling a little worried about the precedent. I suspect that if Davies is truly committed to the idea, he might take the pay cut for a year. It is not like he is hurting on a $335,000 salary. By the way, I think DC United's salary cap can accommodate Davies max non-DP salary.

But at the same time, a successful Davies loan spell might entice a number of young American players who have suffered either career stagnation and/or long-term injury to return to the MLS, get some quality playing time and help revive their careers. From a league marketing perspective that is not a bad thing, having someone of Davies stature in the hearts and minds of American fans, if not as a player right now, can't help but get bodies in the buildings, if for nothing else but a chance to see the old Charlie work some magic.

DC United and Ben Olsen
Olsen and the United front office are in the midst of rebuilding the DC United squad. Olsen, Dave Kasper and Kevin Payne haven't called it that (at least not publicly) but that is what is happening. The signing of Jospeh Ngwenya and Josh Wolff, two veteran MLS strikers, should find DC United 15 to 20 goals, but not much more than that. A healthy Davies is a legitimate 15 goal striker if he works out. That is the risk for United. But Davies fits in with what Olsen & Co. have been building, a striker corps with some speed, unlike last year with Jaime Moreno's aging legs, Danny Allsop and Adam Christman--three strikers not know for any kind of pace.

Olsen is going to get something of a pass from the fans this year, given his history with the club, but too many risks like Davies that don't pan out is not going to help him any with the front office. Kasper and Payne must already be under scrutiny, as their off-season dealing this year has been much smarter than past years. But the attention that will come with a Davies signing might be truly intense, both from MLS who will want success, but also from the Black & Red faithful. The risk is that if Davies comes to United, and plays well in the early season, United could see Davies on national team duty during the Gold Cup, in the heart of the season. So United bring in a risky striker, get rewarded with Davies renaissance only to see him gone in the summer doldrums for National Team duty. That could be hard to swallow from a fan perspective.

So if United bring Davies on, he almost has to start or be the first off the bench given the financial investment, and that bears some potential resentment from other United players. United can't bring Davies in on that salary number and then have him riding the pine or playing with the reserves. Wolff might be professional enough to understand, but I could imagine Chris Pontius, Ngwenya or Andy Najar not seeing the situation is such a light. So there is the possibility of dressing room a club like United doesn't need this year. Four years out of the playoffs and there is pressure to make the post-season. Dressing room dissension is not going to help in that campaign and will test a young coach like Olsen.

But the potential reward for United is big. A return to the exciting soccer that electrified United fans previously, with goals being scored and a dynamic attack. The Barra Brava, Screaming Eagles and the casual fan would make the crumbling RFK the difficult place to play it used to be. After years of declining attendance, United could see its attendance numbers climb back up into the 20,000 per game range, making the demand for a stadium that much stronger. DC United would be back on the track that won them so many trophies so many years ago.

Yes, Davies to DC United is exciting news, but the deal is a high-risk, high-reward arrangement for all parties. Yet, despite the risk, I think if all parties are realistic about the potential to crash and burn, go into the deal with realistic expectations, then all could benefit. Ultimately though, the people who most benefit are MLS fans, who have a chance to see, week in and week out, a player who electrified us and is displaying a courage that few athletes could muster. In itself, that kind of drama is what we hope for in the beautiful game.

Feb 1, 2011

Report: D.C. United Could Sign USA International Charlie Davies On Year-Long Loan

According to Goal.com, D.C. United could sign USA international Charlie Davies on a year-long loan from French Ligue 1 side Sochaux. As a DC United and CD9 fan, oh yeah that would be great. I might even buy a season ticket package if this happens.

If Charlie Davies can get to DC United soon, gets playing time and gets some goals he could play himself onto the Gold Cup Roster. Yeah, that would be great.