Becks Not Good Enough For Rossoneri

Someone please help me understand what the world’s most overpriced player is trying to prove? Yeah, I am speaking of “Becks”, David Beckham of the MLS’s L.A. Galaxy. He took a sale to America for an unprecedented $250 million over 5 years, which was allegedly the next move in his career, it was to help foster an young, struggle league with a big name player. Pele anyone?

Recent rumors have Beckham going on loan to AC Milan. WTF? I won’t be the only one to say it, but he could not crack the starting eleven on the Rossoneri . I agree with Sir Alex Ferguson’s take, “Going to the United States does not get you the kind of football he is used to. It is not the right level of football, therefore coming back into the mainstream of the game is not a surprise.”

It is debatable that he is still worthwhile being tapped for the national team in England. He has moved on in age and his skills have diminished, so the MLS was perfect for him, since it is a lower caliber of football. As for his chance at the national team for the 2010 World Cup…I think it would be great if Capello left him off the WC team. I can’t see him playing the Italian style of football that Milan does. He definitely won’t see the reception he did in the US if and when he makes the transfer to Italy.

We Go As Roma Goes!

Okay, so the adult soccer…err…football league I am involved is not Serie A. Not even college caliber. I am sure 15-20 years ago some of these players were good college players. I have noticed a few standout midfielders and strikers the past three weeks. This week it was great to see AS Roma notch their first Serie A victory of the new campaign. Sure, they are still trailing the likes of Juve and Inter, but they will move up the table after this week.

Our outdoor team moved up this week with our first win after drawing the first week and loosing a tough game last week. Hurts when you let in only one goal, but the offense cannot muster quality shots on goal. Thankfully this is NOT the indoor team I am on and our midfielders and strikers have good touch and control and know how to find the back of the net. That was the case on Sunday, where a late second half goal was enough for us to pull out a victory.

Nine weeks remaining in the season and we are not doing too bad. From what I was told we are doing much better than the last time we were in the top flight. I guess they had no dedicated goalkeeper, which made things difficult and there was no such thing as a close loss.

What makes this league enjoyable, aside from winning, is the group of individuals involved. Many are married with kids and it turns into a family affair each Sunday for a few hours. After the game, there is beer and soft drinks, as well as food. We have a BBQ one time during the season as well.

Another two games this week, indoor action on Wednesday, which I assume will be a lose unless our field players can actually find the net and not the one that surrounds the boards of the pitch, but the one hanging in the back of the goal. I am looking more forward to the early outdoor game. Should be a great time.

Serie A Returns!

After another off season that featured Euro 2008, Italy’s Serie A returned this past weekend. I was excited to see Roma being televised on Fox Soccer channel on Sunday. Unfortunately, Sunday, 6am came, I sat down by myself, a coffee in hand and damned if it was not AC Milan versus Bologna. I was upset after seeing Roma advertised.

All was not lost, it was good to see one of the perennial four teams that should be near the top of the table all season long, AC Milan. That team is LOADED from the back line to the front line. Especially with the addition of Shevachenko and Ronaldaniho, as well as Mattheu Flamini and Zambrotta. The talent is somewhat mind boggling, but the bigger question will be can the Rossoneri play as a TEAM?

There are many great individual players from Kaka to Pato, to Sheva and Ronny, but when all are healthy (Kaka was missing) there will have to be some hard decisions made as to the starting XI and who the offense will be centered around. Pirlo has run the Milan offense in past years, it will be interesting to see what sort of command that Ronny has on the field next to Pirlo or up front.

I think AC Milan will have chemistry issues, especially if somewhat is not getting the ball or or the playing time. We have seen it before on other teams that loaded with talent (Man U, Chelsea, Real Madrid, etc). This is why I don’t think AC Milan will raise the scudetto this year.

AS Roma returns with a few off season changes including John Arne Riise, Julio Baptiste and Jeremy Menez coming in on transfer which should solidify an already strong team. Now if Totti would stay healthy for a full season, they could truly challenge Inter for the scudetto. One thing Roma has is chemistry. They have not brought in high dollar transfers, but players who will fix a role for Roma. One part of their game that still lacks is their bench depth. Many young and inexperienced players who will need to play very well when called upon.

As for the other contenders I watched both Inter Milan and Juventus, both of whom drew this past weekend 1-1 to Sampdoria and Fiorentina respectively. I was not too impressed with the performances of either. I know Inter will be very tough as they have been in past years. I don’t see this draw to start the Mourinho era a blemish on their record. New manager, new system and a few new faces and Inter will be tough to take down.

Juventus continues rising to the challenge coming out of Serie B after being relegated due to scandal. They won the ‘B’ and were promoted and played well last year. This year they return a great squad with one of the best keepers in the world in Gigi Buffon. Solid on the offensive part of the game, but their defensive might be cause for suspect.

Regardless of what allegiance you have, mine is to Roma, it will be a great Serie A season I am looking forward to the thrills and excitement of the 2008-2009 season. As for the NFL…eh, not so excited.

Community Shield

The 100th FA Community Shield was played today in the UK with Portsmouth going up defending Prem Champions Manchester United. This kicks off the new season, as there are a full slate of matches next weekend, which I am looking forward too. As for the NFL…pffft.

The game was rather uneventful, as the Red Devils were not even fielding a full team with some big names not in the lineup, like Rooney, Ronaldo, Hargreaves and others. Portsmouth, winners of the FA Cup last season look to make a run for the championship this season, or at least be in the top four. But they did not play well, outside a great game from the flamboyant, David James.

When this guy is hot, look out he is one of the best in the game. But sometimes his aggressive play style gets the best of him and those easy ones end up in the back of the net. Not today though, he kept Pompey in the game, even though they could not muster much offense.

The big name signing of Peter Crouch was rather quiet, coupled with Jermaine Defoe they did not really click in the match. Most of the offense was seen at the opposite end of the pitch, with James continuing to make save after save.

The game was 0-0 at full time, which mean a penalty shoot out. Pompey looked terrible from the spot, but I do think Van De Sar has something to do with that, as an opposing figure between the sticks. Portsmouth missed, scored and the next two were saved as Man U went on to win their 7th FA Community Shield.

Next weekend is shaping up nicely with some big games to kick off the new English Premier season with many big names on new teams. As for Serie A, they kick off the last week in August. More big signings for clubs like AC Milan, Juventus, Inter as well as my favorite, AS Roma. Football, not throwball is back!

Beckham the Magician

Why do media types let sports figures, let alone superstars talk? Because sooner or later one of them will say something really stupid. Where would the NFL be without Terrell Owens? Thankfully this is NOT the NFL, but it is the world’s highest overpaid player, playing in a very average league we are talking about here. David Beckham. You can read the story, Beckham says MLS is better than people think. It is? Since when?

Notice the title of the story again, “MLS is BETTER than people think.” Let’s look at some of the highlights from this piece. “Football is definitely changing in this country, and it is getting bigger and growing…a long-term plan to raise the profile for this game in this country. I think it has gone well so far.” Beckham’s position in the MLS…err…with the Galaxy to put butts in the seats. Nothing more. Home and away attendance is up for Galaxy games (home: 26,000, away: 27,000), guess that is a plus too. Just means more money for a league that is STILL not making a profit.

It’s one of the reasons I moved here, to be a part of growing the game,” said Beckham, who signed with the Galaxy in January 2007 after a standout career with Manchester United and Real Madrid. “Hopefully, people are seeing the changes which we are putting in. The attendance is up 20 percent and shirt sales up 780 percent. So it is going well. That’s what we need in this country.

Okay David, attendance is up, shirt sales are up, soccer in the US is changing, but how in the hell is the MLS “better than people think?” Playing in a good league, like La Liga, the EPL, Serie A for example all require players who have talent. I seriously see a lack of talent in the US. Why do the good US players go abroad? In order to improve themselves. That is one reason the US will continue to suffer poor national teams and never make it past a knock out stage in future World Cups.

Kids see international stars, names like Kaka, Ronaldo, Messi just to name a few and they do not play in the MLS. Only washed up stars who feel they still have something to provide will make a move to the suffering MLS for big money, big lights and average soccer ability as competition. It has been that way since the MLS was the NASL. Nothing will change, I suspect by 2010 the league will be on the verge of folding or reorganizing.

So David, keep duping the MLS and the fans by your half assed performances on a very poor LA Galaxy team. I don’t your influence being a determining factor in bringing talent to the US. “Of course, we do want to get it to the level of other leagues in the world, but it will take time. But it’s not that far away. There is a lot of talent in this league.” Talent will continue to be exported to the better leagues in the world and not remain home grown. Interesting statistic from World Cup 2006, all the players on the Italian national team played in Italy.

Indoor Footie

Hehe..doesn’t sound right does it? Yeah I know, many wacky Americans refer to football as soccer, so in will refer to it as indoor soccer for this news. I was called by a friend late last week about my interest to play goalkeeper in an indoor soccer league. It seems their regular keeper has left the team and they are without.

Driving to work today I was trying to recall the last time I laced up the boots and took my place between the woodwork. Honestly, I cannot remember. I fear it might have been college, while attending BYU sometime in 1990! But my memory might be failing me, it could have been as late as 1999 or 2000. I just don’t remember.

So I have committed to playing out the remainder of the season, encompassing three games. It is a co-ed league with two 23 minute periods and a 3 minute half time. Not really sure what to expect from my performance as I have done nothing but age since I last played. Nonetheless it will be enjoyable (I hope) to get back on the turf and see if I still have some skills remaining.

I already regret waking up the next morning, for fear I will be stiff and sore. Not a good combination.

EURO 2008

Euro 2008 began on Saturday with co-host, Switzerland going down to the Czech Republic, 1-0. Overall, it was an entertaining match to kick off this cup and hopefully a preview of football to come.

I was a bit upset to see it being presented on ESPN, since their commentators for World Cup 2006 were terrible. I guess that is what you get when you get American commentators covering “the world’s game.” For Euro 2008, we have three professionals in Derek Rae, Tommy Smyth and Andy Gray, years of football experience and the sort of commentator who leaves opinion out and calls the game the way it should be called.

Of course I am pulling for the Azzurri, Italia, for those not into football. They won the 2006 World Cup and outside of striker Francesco Totti retiring from national competition, they are one of squads to watch. That said, France, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain are also contenders.

Thankfully ESPN does get some props for covering EVERY game, as they did for World Cup 2006. Unfortunately we must still listen to Julie “Pouty” Foudy in studio. Why the hell is she there? Guess that is the best “personality they could come up with to cover one of the most popular world competitions. Thankfully Eric Wynalda is not there providing his bad commentary but Andy Gray proves the best insight based on his years of knowledge and experience.

Looking forward to a great cup. If you have never experienced world cup quality football, this is definitely one competition to watch. Viva Italia!

A True Championship!

One of the BEST football games I have ever seen took place today (well yesterday) in Moscow. The Champions League Final! For the first time ever it was an all English final featuring Manchester U versus Chelsea.

Just a week prior to this match, Manchester United won the Premiership straight out, as Chelsea allowed a late goal for a 1-1 draw. Manchester United would have won regardless, even with a Chelsea win because of goal differential.

Today’s game was live from Moscow on ESPN. How I missed the live broadcast of it, I don’t know. I guess I was looking for a REAL football channel to cover the action, not a wannabe football channel. Thankfully we had two of the best announcers in Martin Tyler and Andy Gray.

I was able to catch the entire game on Setanta after it had been concluded and I knew the outcome (because I had to watch a penalty shootout on Soccerway.com), but that did not make the game any less dramatic or exciting.

Overall, the teams played very offensively, just look at 27 shots Chelsea had. An unheard of number! The action was all Manchester United in the first half, with some good end to end action and beautiful header by the second best player in the world, Christiano Ronaldo. Oh the best player, Kaka, of course!

A late, “excuse me” goal by Frank Lampard evened the team, as Edwin Van Der Sar slipped coming out, cutting down the angle, as the ball took two odd ricochets off players and ended up in the net.

The game was great into the second half, as there were some great chances for both team, especially Man U. Yet with all the action and excitement, no goals could be had by either squad. This meat overtime periods.

If the only unfortunate event, Didier Drogba, lost his head for a moment and had a swipe at Nemanja Vidic on the chin, late in the 114 minute after some “controversy” on a throw in by Manchester United. As the scuffle broke out, players had to be separated and when it was all said and done, two yellows and one red were handed out.

Now this event alone did not loose the game for Chelsea. It was just a black eye on Chelsea and looks even worse in how things transpired.

The penalty shootout was exciting! No other word can describe it. Petr Cech made a great save on Ronaldo, who pussy footed up the ball and was not rewarded. That alone was enough to give Man U the finger and present the CL trophy to the Blues. But more drama was to unfold.

England and Chelsea Captain, John Terry strode up the ball, rain coming down facing Edwin Van Der Sar. It was one of those sporting moments that defines “the agony of defeat” (remember the ski jumper on Wide World of Sports?). Terry made his approach and just as he struck the ball, his planted left foot gave out, and as if in slow motion, the ball went right, off the woodwork.

At that point Chelsea was done. It was truly Manchester United’s match to give away. Ryan Giggs and Anderson both scored, while Nicolas Anelka, the newest member of Chelsea took his shot, to the left that was saved by Van Der Sar. The match was over.

Truly one of the BEST matches to be watched, all-time. I have seen some good matches, some exciting matches, some dramatic victories. But this game captured the essence of “the beautiful game.”

Sunday’s Beautiful Game

Sunday is set up to be the biggest day in Serie A (Italian football for all you Yanks) in a long time. Inter Milan and AS Roma are only separated by 1 point, after Inter has choked away an 11 point lead that seemed insurmountable back in February. Since that time a string of losses and injuries have dealt Inter a tough hand.

AS Roma has been one of the hotter teams in Serie A, but at times have lose games against clubs they should have defeated. February Juventus beat Roma 1-0, a 1-1 draw versus Cagilari and another versus Livorno has not helped the Giallorossi.

Thankfully the last two weekends Inter has not been at their best, a 2-1 lose to city rivals AC Milan at the San Siro followed by a 2-2 draw versus Siena, a game Inter should have won but World Cup winner Marco Materazzi could not convert on a penalty kick.

Both games will be televised on Fox Soccer Channel, Inter Milan will play Parma, who is fighting to stay in the Serie A, while AS Roma will travel to Catania. Parma definitely has something to play for in hopes they won’t be relegated, but need help from Roma, who should defeat Catania.

This is why Serie A and football is “the beautiful game.”

Giallorossi Live!

Looking back on this football season, it has been a season of missed opportunities for AS Roma in Serie A. Unlike last season which saw Inter run away with the scudetto title, this year has been a banner year!

Roma  has seen some excellent play while on the pitch from the starting  eleven, lead by their captain, Francesco Totti. But it has  also been the brilliant managing of Luciano Spalletti. His timely substitutions and  tactics have seen Roma sore in the club ranking, as  the best team in  Italy and arguably one of the best in Europe.

While a Serie A  title is not out of the question, Roma must get the “monkey off their  back” in Champions League play against Manchester United, the best club based on Fox Soccer’s World Club Rankings. And who is number two? AS Roma!

Last season in Champions League play, Roma was embarrassed, 7-1 during the  second leg versus Manchester United and as luck would have it, these two giants face off again this season in CL play. Roma is  definitely in form currently, albeit a slip up last week in a loss to  city rival,  Lazio, 3-2 on a last minute goal.

As it goes now a strong showing  in league play has set Roma up with an excellent chance in Champions League play and an even stronger  finish to Serie A, as their remaining  fixtures are not all that challenging. Matches against Genoa, Sampdoria  and Udinese are all top  half of of the table, but all more then  winnable, regardless of how CL  play finishes up.

Premiership to Remain Premier

There was a proposal set forth by the Barclays’s Premier League to stage league games outside of England. Many mangers of English clubs were not happy about the prospects of playing league games abroad.

The United States would have been one of the countries on the list with games played in two big market cities, New York and Los Angeles. Only one problem, which I am somewhat surprised that MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis did not recognize. Football…err…soccer for you Yanks does not sell in America.

Yeah, I am sure with expansion planned to Miami and San Jose, some would look at the MLS being on the upswing. Yet there are telltale signs all is not well. Consider that clubs have lost a combined $350 million since the league’s inception in 1994. Attendance figures are not stellar considering clubs are drawing between 11,000 and 16,000 fans on average. Yeah, I also know there are some exceptions, D.C. United, Toronto FC and the Los Angeles Galaxy (Thanks to David Beckham!).

But I can step back and take a breath because other, stronger nations in football, like Australia, Africa and Asia (Japan & Korea) have rejected the FIFA proposal.

From Gazidis, “I don’t see it as a negative for MLS, but the implications go beyond these games on their own. There are implications for the game worldwide. There are implications when matches are taken across borders in this way.” No one attends games now, what makes the MLS think with Prem clubs coming across The Pond, fans will flock to watch REAL football? Add to that, the fact clubs will raise ticket prices before of the QUALITY of football.

Now, I as a football fan (No, not NFL) would relish the chance to see a Premiership match. Honestly, it would just not be the same to see football in a country that hardly recognizes football…err…soccer as a sport in America.

Guess I will have to book my reservations for a Trans-Atlantic flight to meet Qster (Andy) at Villa Park and then off to Vicarage Road. Now tell me Yanks, do you know who plays at these stadiums? Ha, didn’t think you did. Go back to your American football.

MLS – More Lousy Soccer

OMFG! I sit down on Saturday night to watch a replay of Liverpool v. Reading and damned if the Western Conference Finals of the MLS are on, Kansas City v. Houston. Now I like Fox Soccer Channel, as they carry many quality matches from England and Italy. But watching the MLS is painful. It’s no wonder I pass every night matches are on because the quality of play is horrible!

MLS should stand for “More Lousy Soccer” not Major League Soccer because a “major” league will never survive in America. The talent pool of Americans who have skills will usually go abroad to play an international club, not at home in the USA. Oh sure, there is some attraction when big names, like Beckham, who was very overpaid to play for Los Angeles. Now enter Ruud Guillit, another big name from Europe who will head the Galaxy.

The point is, the matches cannot be seen as entertaining, I’m sorry. This is probably the same reason I pay no attention to college soccer or women’s soccer (sorry, it’s unwatchable in my opinion). Fans, I am guessing are not the most knowledgeable, I remember some of the “fans” who arrived on the red carpet at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA when Beckham made his debut versus Chelsea. Tonight, fans were throwing streamers onto the pitch. What the hell was that?

*sigh* Anyway, I will step off my soap box and be thankful I am not forced to watch this lousy game Americans call soccer. I am a football fan, I know the game, I know the plays and enjoy the clean and skillful style of play in England and in Italy. Sorry US, youth soccer might be attract large numbers of kids, but as they get older, soccer fails to capture their attention.