Friday, October 29, 2010

Long Family Recap: September/October

October is almost over and temperatures have begun to drop here in Michigan.

These have been a busy couple of months. September saw Larry go back to school. He is in first grade and is taking a year off of the Chinese Immersion program. After school he goes to Y Care and loves it. He has several friends in the group, and we have to drag him away every afternoon.

September also saw us do a Photo Scavenger Hunt in our neighborhood, which went well; Austin put together the GLCC Soccer Game; my parents visit at the end of the month; Austin’s 30+ soccer team win the year end tournament; go to the Edoff Birthday party extravaganza for their three kids.

October was busy as well. Erin went to a couple of conference for work and is really enjoying her job. Larry had several fundraisers going and he did a great job selling popcorn, cookie dough and other items for Cub Scouts and school.

We had a big day on the 23rd. In the morning, we did the Cub Scouts did the Healthy Hike (about 1.7 miles) from Potter Park to Impression 5 Science Center where the scouts got to do several chemistry experiments. After that we had a Pumpkin Decorating event in our neighborhood, which was a rousing success, if a bit messy.

Austin has started contributing to a soccer blog. His La Liga Lowdown posts can be found at on Wednesdays.

This weekend is Halloween and the site and costume are yet to be determined.

The Holidays are coming up. We plan to head over to Kalamazoo/Paw Paw/Mattawan for Thanksgiving and down to Alabama for Christmas.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

La Liga Lowdown - Round 8

Saturday featured three of the top four in action, with Sunday showcasing two of the challengers, Villareal and Atletico Madrid. At the end of the round, Real still lead the table on 20 points, a point ahead of Barcelona and Villareal, with Valencia slipping three points behind after a second consecutive defeat. Espanyol and Sevilla are hanging in there with 15 and 14 points respectively.

At the bottom, Racing’s pathetic display at the Bernabeu saw them fall into the relegation zone with Depor and Zaragoza.

Saturday’s Games

Real Zaragoza 0 - 2 Barcelona

FCB kicked of Round 8 week with a win at La Romareda to maintain their 100% away record, with two goals from Messi sealing the game.

Los Blanquillos troubled the visitors with a couple of first half chances, one with Braulio having only Valdes to beat, but they were undone by horrendous defending. First letting Villa set up Messi just before the break and then not clearing their lines, from which Messi lashed one in to confirm the victory.

There was unseemly incident in the match, with Alves getting Zaragoza midfielder Leonardo Ponzio sent off. Barcelona Football Blog states the case against the cheater:


Real Madrid 6 - 1 Racing Santander

After a full day with the kid, I sat down with a big Red Stripe and watched the replay of Real Madrid v Racing Santander. I had seen FCB take Racing apart on the opening day of the season, so I wanted to see if A) they had improved and B) if the Real machine was still churning out the goals.

Answers: A) no; B) yes.

When the feed started I was pleased that there was no Joe Tolleson and Shep Messing—awful and uninformative—but I was stuck with Tommy Onion Bags. (According to Tommy, Pepe is the least clashable player on Real Madrid. What?) Can’t win them all. Then I saw Racing’s away kit. . Ugh. Has to be a candidate for the Good, the Bad, the WTF. What is up with the collar and those accent marks? And what is SLAM?

Another Ugh was the Racing possession. How can you expect to compete when you give away possession constantly? They were punished within 10 minutes by Higuain and CR7 added a second a second just minutes later. He then added a third while ESPN Ocho was showing replays of Di Maria’s bicycle attempt. It took Racing 38’ to actually threaten the Madrid goal.

The second half was more of the same. Real knocking the ball around and exposing an unorganized Racing team who were playing a high line against a superior opponent. CR7 added two more before Ozil finally got on the score sheet to make it 6-0. Rosenberg finally did something positive by getting in the way of Diop’s shot and deflecting it into the Madrid goal.

Sergio Canales came on as a substitute against his former team and didn’t do too much. Hard to see how he is going to break into this team. Back to Racing in January?

That is now 18 goals in 4 matches in all competitions. Granted three of those matches were against relegation fodder, but they are definitely in the mood. In November we will get a better gauge of this team: (H) to Atletico, (A) to Gijon, (H) to Bilbao, and (A) to FCB.

Valencia 1 - 2 Mallorca

Valencia, after their great start to this campaign, were stunned/screwed by Mallorca. A

PK was given against the home side in the first five minutes. The infraction? Not sure. Castro converted the gift to put Los Bermellones on top. Later in the half, he was the first to react on a rebounded shot to put the visitors up 2-0 after half an hour. The Mestalla was stunned but were thrown a life line minutes later when Vicente went down just inside the box. Soldado made no mistake and it was 2-1 to the visitors at halftime. The score remained that way at the final whistle and Valencia falls to fourth place.


Sunday’s games

Almeria 1 - 1 Hercules

Espanyol 2 - 1 Levante

Getafe 3 - 0 Sporting Gijon

Osasuna 3 - 0 Málaga

Sevilla FC 4 - 3 Athletic Bilbao

The Match of the Week Award has to go to Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao. Bilbao
had a couple of early chances in the first half with Los Rojiblancos responding in kind. Luis Fabiano broke the deadlock on 35' and Sevilla pressed on after that. A suspect PK was converted by Kanoute and then Luis Fabiano scored a sublime goal on the hour. The game should have been done and dusted, right? Well . . . no. Llorente scored with 15 minutes to go and moments later the Basques were awarded a dodgy PK of their own (noting a theme?), which Llorente scored after Palop made the initial save. Then all hell broke lose. Sevilla were awarded a PK for, what looked like, nothing. Kanoute knocked it in surely dealing the final blow. Bilbao then scored a third in stoppage
time to lose 4-3 after giving yet another great effort. They may not be the greatest team but they surely have the biggest heart in all of La Liga.

Must watch highlights:

Villarreal 2 - 0 Atlético Madrid

Sunday afternoon I watched the battle of the pretenders, as Villareal hosted Atletico Madrid. Los Colchoneros got off to a quick start but were unable to test Diego Lopez. Ten minutes into the match, the Atletico backline did not step up to Nilmar who laid it off for Cani and it was 1-0 to the Yellow Submarine. Nilmar gave Atletico fits throughout the match.

Early in the second half, Rossi scored a great individual goal, keeping the ball away from three Atletico defenders inside the box before beating De Gea at the near post. After that Atletico never really got back into the match, despite the introduction of Forlan, who started brightly but faded. Here’s a question: What happened to Kun Aguero? Anyone? Anyone?

For long periods of the match, I felt like I was watching an MLS game. Lots of misplaced passes, lots of needless fouls and a general inability to create an attack. The only difference was moments from superb players like Nilmar, Rossi, Reyes and Simao. Based on this performance, neither team is going to push the leaders.

Jozy Alert: Unused sub, and only played a handful of minutes in Thursday’s Europa League game.

I don’t see how he gets into this team. Villareal play with two holding mids and let the four attackers go at players and quickly combine with one another. Nilmar and Rossi each have 5 goals now, and are technically far superior to Altidore. The only way I can see him playing is as an impact sub, option B, hoof it up to him player. He should really move on.

Monday’s game:

Real Sociedad 3 - 0 Deportivo La Coruna

Get the fork ready for Super Depor because they are done. Only one goal from open play this season.

I know you’re supposed to take them one game at a time, but you already have to look ahead to El Classico. Villareal might hang around for a while (ie Christmas) but the title is going to be decided by the results of the games between the big two in Spain.

Having said that, the dynamics of the game have changed. In 08/09, Real just tried to kick Barcelona around because of their inferior tactical and technical ability. Last year, Los Merengues improved with CR7 and Alonso and were able to keep Barca at bay and even have a go at them. This year, Real may have finally gotten it right, adding Carvalho, Khedira, and Ozil. FCB will continue to have the ball, but Mou doesn’t care (see Inter v FCB 2010). Messi and Co. will still have to break down Carvalho and Pepe and with Villa in shaky form, I’m not sure they can. Alonso and Khedira in the middle are a great shield for the defenders and a great platform for launching the counterattacks of Ozil, CR 7, etc, which Pique and Puyol have struggled with this term. Whatever the team and tactics, I don’t see Real laying down and getting run over like the 2 previous seasons.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Taking One for the Team

So while you were working and I probably should have been, I was checking out games around Europe.

Real Madrid 2 AC Milan 0

This match was a test of the “new” Madrid, the one that’s fun, but organized, stylish, yet disciplined and full of goals versus the aging Milan team that has decided to quasi-Galactico themselves (Ibra and Robinho for starters).

I got pulled into meeting at work and missed most of the match, but fortunately I was able to see the goals. The wall for CR7’s free kick was shameful. Ibra was a kitty kat and moved, which allowed the ball through and gave the keeper no chance. Almost immediately after CR7 got down the left side and set up Ozil whose shot was deflected in. 2 goals in 2 minutes set Real on their way.

When I came back, AC Milan still looked abject going forward, with the Ibra/Dinho/Pato line not putting fear into anyone. The only positive moment I saw was a Pirlo free kick denied by St. Iker. And this team is in second place in Serie A?

Real Madrid are all but in the next round with 9 points, but the knockout phase is where the Special One will have to earn his money. AC Milan are now in a tie with Ajax on four points and will need some sort of result in a couple of weeks at home versus Los Merengues.

I was in real conflict about Wednesday games. Here were my choices:

FCB v Copenhagen

FCB is a team I follow closely, but I figured they would wipe the floor with the Danes.

Rangers v Valencia

Valencia is a Spanish team (La Liga Lowdown plug), and I wanted to how they responded to their defeat to FCB, but I feared it would be a dour match.

United v Bursaspor

I wanted to watch United after the whole Rooney soap opera of the last few days.

Inter v Spurs

This match promised to be exciting with Spurs shaky defensively in their first real test in the CL.

I ended up watching the Barcelona game. Minutes before the match, I checked the starting lineup and saw this midfield—Maxwell, Mascherano, Busquets. I immediately placed a bet on the under (3.5). Barca has not won a game that Masch has started and Maxwell was terrible in this role last season.

The match kicked off with the usual FCB pressure and Villa had a chance hit the crossbar. I’m not sure what happened between that and Messi’s goal on 19 minutes because Twitter was going absolutely nuts re: the Inter/Spurs game. I was tempted to switch over for entertainment value but stayed on task.

The second half started and Copenhagen stayed compact and hit the break with numbers. If Santin wasn’t such a worthless piece of crap they have even scored. Example #1: in the first half, Santin stopped on a 1 v 1 because he thought he was offside. #2 N’Doye hit a thunderous shot off the cross bar and Santin, with the goal at his mercy, headed the ball wide. He was finally subbed with 15 minutes to go.

As happened in the Rubin Kazan game, a Barca turnover allowed their opponents to try score from midfield. Pinto was able to backpedal and tip it over. From there Barcelona closed out the game, with a couple of half chances and Messi finally added the second late in regulation.

FCB maintain their 100% record but were below their usual high standards and Copenhagen, who dropped their first points of the group stage, really made them work for the three points and sit in second. Since Pana and Rubin played out a scoreless draw, if the Danes can get a draw at home they will have a real chance at progressing to the knockout stage.

After the Barca game, I watched highlights of the Rangers game.

Rangers 1 Valencia 1


In a game reminiscent of Scotland/Spain, Rangers hit Los Che on the counter and really should have had several goals in the first half. The breakthrough came on Edu’s header, for which he got punched in the face. He had another chance which crashed off the post and Miller put it out, almost for a throw-in. While Caesar played well, Kenny Miller was guilty of squandering several chances.

Early in the second half, Edu had a well placed header; unfortunately it was into his own net. That led to a period in which Valencia was in the ascendancy. Rangers slowly came back into in the end and Steven Davis had a chance to score but Caesar was equal to it.

Even though Rangers got the draw, they are in a tough spot. Of the three games remaining, only one is at home, against United. They still have to travel to Valencia and Bursa. Can’t see them winning one of those games outright, and they will need to because Valencia has Bursaspor at home, which should be 3 pts for the Spainards and may tip the balance for second.

Red Bull Salzburg 1 Juventus 1


I affectionately called this match the Energy Drinks versus the Old Lady, and the Energy Drinks came out flying. They were all over the Bianconeri and tested Manninger several times. Juve looked lost without Krasic out wide and Aquilani in the middle. Red Bull were rewarded with a goal thru Dusan Svento when he cut in from the left and scored a brilliant goal.

The new Nedved came on at halftime and immediately scored. Juve couldn’t push on and were lucky to get a point. Amauri and Momo were terrible as usual, giving the ball away needlessly and contributing very little. Juve as a whole looked flat and were missing the edge shown in the games against City, Inter and Lecce.

Three draws in three games puts the pressure on the Old Lady. They really need to win the return fixture against Red Bull because I don’t see them beating City or getting three points in Poland.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

La Liga Lowdown - Round 7

Round 7 of the Primera Division saw Real Madrid go top of the table after Valencia suffered their first defeat at the hands of FCB. Villareal had a chance to go top for the first time in their history, but failed for the seventh consecutive time after drawing with Hercules in the Monday fixture.

So Real is on top with 17 points, and Villareal, FCB and Valencia all have 16 points.

At the bottom, Osasuna, Depor and Zaragoza are keeping spots warm for a couple of Segunda Division squads.

Saturday’s Games

Atlético Madrid 2 - 0 Getafe

Atletico Madrid continued their good start to the league season with a home win versus Getafe. Forlan was on the bench and Aguero did not make the squad, but Simao scored off the goalkeeper on a free kick to get things going. Then Diego Costa converted after good build up play to make it 2-0.

Barcelona 2 - 1 Valencia

So I missed the big match between FCB and Valencia. How, as La Liga correspondent, could you do this? I was earning precious points with the Mrs. that will pay off in the future. I’ll leave it at that.

The first thing I did when I got home was read the match reports and watch the highlights. Pep gambled on Xavi’s fitness, and he was handsomely rewarded. After FCB was dominated in the first half and down 1-0, Xavi set up Iniesta and Puyol and their goals turned around the deficit and handed Valencia their first defeat in league and European play this year.

Valencia were a tough opponent and were able to out-Barcelona Barcelona in the first half. But Xavi’s influence and the fatigue of high pressure took its toll. Still Valencia showed that they may be able to hang in the title chase for a while (and not finish in third, 28 points behind).

Couple of notes:

Villa, who could have had 2 or 3 goals, could not get one past Caesar. His form has not been stellar, and Barca will need more from him to win trophies this season.

Pablo, who was terrible for Spain against Scotland (see comments at, scored the opening goal for Valencia and should have made it 2-0 but was denied by Valdes.

Extended highlights:

Málaga 1 - 4 Real Madrid

After Barca’s game ended, Real took the field and dispatched Malaga with 2 goals each from CR7 and Higuain.

From the highlights, Real dominated the first half, hitting the woodwork twice and converting twice, once from Ronaldo to Higuain and then Oezil to Ronaldo. They continued their dominance in the second half as Oezil won a PK, which Ronaldo converted. A Malaga consolation goal was answered by Higuain who dispatched a layoff from Ronaldo.

After watching this match and the Depor match from two weeks ago, I fear for AC Milan in midweek. (Which of course means that Real will crash back down to Earth.)

Sunday’s Games

Deportivo La Coruña 0 - 0 Osasuna

I cannot believe I did not bet this game. This was by far the easiest over/under game on the board the entire season.

As for the match, I have no comment. It would have taken a large sum of money to do any research on this game.

Levante 2 - 1 Real Sociedad

Levante had the run of play in the first half but were relegated to long range shots that didn’t really test the Sociedad GK.

Things changed at the hour mark as a Levante corner kick was thumped in by Asier Del Horno (remember him Chelsea fans?). This was followed by a breakaway, which was converted by Caicedo. Sociedad grabbed one back with 10 minutes to go but there was to be no equalizer.

Mallorca 0 - 1 Espanyol

Mallorca could not build on their result against FCB before the Interlull and were undone by a first half PK from Luis Garcia. Despite having a man advantage for 65 minutes, Mallorca lacked the shape and intensity that have seen them get a draw at home against Real Madrid and a draw away at the Nou Camp. The result sees Espanyol climb to sixth place.

Racing Santander 1 - 0 Almeria

In a lively match with chances at both ends, only one goal was scored, a wonderful strike by Pedro Munitis, who I didn’t realize was still playing.

Goalkeeper of the week has to go to Diego Alves, who kept Racing from racing away with the match with several acrobatic and well positioned saves.

This match also featured a donkey of the week nominee in Markus Rosenberg. After having a decent run of it at Werder Bremen, he was atrocious in front of goal, missing from headers, square balls and bombs just inside the 18. Yikes. Outside Mid, thoughts? What am I missing?

Athletic Bilbao 2 - 1 Real Zaragoza

In an attempt to broaden my La Liga horizons, I watched the reply of this match Sunday afternoon. I had seen Bilbao a couple of weeks ago against FC Barcelona in a match where their work rate kept the Blaugrana at bay for about an hour before fatigue and a red card undid them. I had not seen Zaragoza this season but had read several articles on their problems to the start of the season, so I wanted to see with my own eyes what kind of quality they had.

Let’s just say this was a match between an average team and a team in complete disarray.

The ESPN crew, which was Joe Tolleson and Shep Messing, started the broadcast with a stat that most of the goals that Zaragoza have given up have been in the first 30 minutes. What happens? The Lions of Bilbao jumped out to 2-0 lead within 25 minutes, thanks to a sweet opening goal from Iraola after a poor clearance and another goal for Llorente, who transferred his fine form for country to his club team.

After this, Zaragoza, who started poorly, fought back a little, but they had poor team shape and committed lots of fouls, with very little edge in their attack.

The second half was very choppy as Bilbao could not deliver the real knockout blow and Zaragoza were left to chase the game with a couple of long range shots and several crunching fouls. They were able to grab a late consolation goal but the result was pretty flattering to them.

Couple of player notes:

Llorente had a strong match. Constantly tested the Zaragoza back line and forced the goalkeeper into a couple of tough saves. As a target player, he is in sterling form and the rumors continue to swirl about a possible transfer to Real or Barcelona.

Toquero for Bilbao really got involved on the right hand side, providing several decent crosses. He switched to the left side for the last 10 minutes or so of the half but was not as effective and not really a factor at all in the second half. He was subbed with 20 minutes to go.

Susaeta, the #14 for Bilbao, was quite impressive. Nifty footwork and set up the second goal.

Ibai Gomez, a 20 yr old attacking player making his debut for Bilbao, only lasted three minutes after sustaining a serious injury. Here is an update from

Pinter was a big fat hack for Zaragoza and deserved to be sent off early in the second half.

No player really stood out for Zaragoza from an attacking perspective.


Finally, I know NY Kid has a weekly acronym that I can’t quite work out, so I’m going to go with something a little more direct. Dive of the week: Braulio for Zaragoza. He was not even touched and acted as if his leg was broken. I’m still trying to find a highlight package with the incident. Just trust me.

Sporting Gijon 2 - 0 Sevilla FC

Sevilla took a step backwards after great week before the international break. Gijon struck early on Sangoy’s well placed header. Sevilla responded and Alfaro had two decent chances to equalize.

Gijon scored early in the second half on a delicate flick by Diego Castro Gimenez. From there they closed out the win and picked up three big points, which took them from the relegation zone to mid-table.

Monday’s Game

Hercules 2-2 Villarreal

A match filled with 4 goals and three red cards that I could not watch to job requirements. About 25 minutes in, Hercules went up through Valdez but were pegged back quickly by Capdevila. Then it gets interesting. Trezeguet pokes one in with 5 minutes to go in the half. Shortly after, he got 2 quick yellows (one can only assume for industrial language) and was off just before halftime.

Villareal comes out with the man advantage but doesn’t score until the hour mark through Valero. With about ten minutes to go, Villareal gets two men sent off in 2 minutes and finished with nine men playing against the ten of Hercules.

The match finished in a draw and another chance goes begging for the Yellow Submarine to sit atop La Liga.


Jozy Watch: on the bench and was an unused substitute. Based on previous matches, he will probably start and get significant minutes in Thursday’s Europa League match.

Here are a couple of other items I came across on the interweb.

Eduardo Alvarez shares his thought on the end of the Raul era at Real Madrid:

Also, in getting ready for the weekend’s action, I came across this post from

Seems strange to be me somehow.

Ta Ta.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

La Liga Lowdown - Scotland v Spain Euro 2012 Qualifier

In a game that that promised to be dour, entertainment and effort ruled supreme in a fantastic game at Hampden Park.

The spectre of a tartan covered bus parked in front of the Scottish goal loomed large before this match and a Spanish team without Xavi and Torres looked like they would have a hard time picking the locks.

The game started out a feverish pace as any Spanish turnover was instantly countered by the Scots at breakneck speed. While Spain went close a couple of times, Kenny Miller and Co. were causing problems of their own at the other end. The last 15 to 20 minutes of the half saw Spain grab the game and call GK McGregor into action several times. An iffy PK at the end of the first half, barely converted by Villa, gave La Furia Roja a 1-0 lead.

The second half saw Spain continue their dominance and they were rewarded with a second goal after 10 minutes from Iniesta after Cazola’s shot rebounded off McManus. Clearly Spain took their foot of the proverbial gas and Scotland equalized on a diving header from Naismith just 3 minutes later. Looks like Sergio Ramos was a little lazy getting back and Pique couldn’t slide over.

The crowd raised the noise level again and Scotland took the game to the World Champions. They were rewarded when Pique scored an own goal after some good work from Morrison. At this point, the supporters were urging on their team to get at least a draw, but enter Lllorente. Relegated to the bench, he came on and almost immediately scored from a Capdevila cross. (All week rumors of a possible transfer to the big two have been swirling. Why Madrid would go away from Higuain is beyond me. All he does is score. Now FCB is a different proposition and he may actually provide the Plan B that Ibra couldn’t.) With that, the game was sealed. A second yellow to Whitaker with a minute to go in normal time condemned the Scots to defeat. They didn’t necessarily deserve a draw but maybe should have gotten something for their efforts.

A couple of notes on the Spanish players:

Silva was active but his crossing was poor, and he didn’t get a touch when he was open in front of goal. He had another half chance that was scuffed early in the second half. He made way for Lllorente with about 15 minutes to go.

Villa got lots of touches and played centrally, flanked by Silva and Cazorla. Overhit several shots and was offsides quite often (shocker!).

Defense got exposed early especially as Ramos was an extra midfielder. Pique and Puyol were just too physical for the straight up counter, but they were undone when Scotland got some possession in the final third. Pique was unlucky on the OG.

Pablo Hernandez, who had a great game against United in the Champions League, was absolute pants in his 20 minutes or so. Those doing the SWP play by play in the UF Bootroom could have basically inserted Hernandez’s name for the same effect. He had several misplaced passes and looked out of sorts. He did not bring value at all.

Busquets had a poor game. Several turnovers, followed by crunching tackles, followed by whining. He has regressed since the World Cup for club and country.

Special props to Scottish GK McGregor. He made several great saves and did what he could in goal against the onslaught. And he almost saved the PK.

Now here’s my question going forward: Does Spain need Torres? I say no. There is a front line of Villa, Pedro and Lllorente, with Cazorla and Silva for depth and changes of pace. If Krkic if ever gets his act together, he could be an impact sub. I suppose they could bring Torres and use him as a sub if he doesn’t cause a distraction. He was abject in the World Cup, devoid of confidence and team awareness. It may be that his time has already passed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thoughts on US v Poland Friendly

I admit it. I wasn’t going to watch the US/Poland friendly. Why? Number of reasons. I had used up my “me” time to watch UM/MSU so getting back out to the bar to watch the game was only a slim possibility. Also, FSU/Miami was on at the same time, so while I could double dip, the huge college football game was going to outweigh the minor international friendly, which leads to the final reason. Friendlies are usually drab affairs wherein those trying to impress either shine or completely fill their pants; teams try something which will work spectacularly (US v Austria in 1998 with the 3-6-1 formation) or fail miserably (any of France’s friendlies in 2010). I usually stay away from friendlies both from a viewing perspective and a betting perspective.

Then Saturday night rolled around. I was stuck at home and Larry was watching a movie with a friend. While checking my twitter feed and came across the US lineup, which included Jermaine Jones and Stuart Holden. I had heard a lot of hype re: Jones and wanted to see what all the hubbub was about, so I opened up ESPN3 and watched the entire game.

Based on one game, the Jones hype was warranted. He has a range of passing that has been lacking in the midfield. He has several cutting balls forward, including the one that set up Jozy for the opening goal. He was a little suspect defensively but definitely a welcome addition. Holden got hosed by DeJong (shocker!) last March and it was good to see him back and in the starting lineup. Thought he worked hard and had a couple of good moments, with runs that created space and passes that got everyone involved. He disappeared when he went to the second striker and looks like he’ll do better drifting outside in rather than holding the middle.

Overall the game was highly entertaining match with lots of intensity and incident, and I’m glad that I took the time to watch it. This friendly was not friendly at all, with several crunching tackles from both sides. The play was very open and there were chances at both ends. It was nice to see the US get off to a strong, energetic start, which was a big shortcoming of their World Cup campaign. Too bad they forgot to work on clearing the danger as both Polish goals came from poor clearances and turnovers.

Bradley stayed with the starters for most of the match and only brought in Bedoya for Feilhaber for the last 30 minutes. Felt that Bedoya was invisible after his first couple of touches right after coming on. I’m not familiar with him, so not sure what this means.

And no, I’m not ignoring the goal line scramble at the end. It was a madhouse, no way the AR could make the call and the ref had several bodies in the way. These things happen.

Some final thoughts on each line of the US team . . .

GK: Howard made several good saves, claimed several crosses and had decent distribution. Can he do more to command his box and get players to clear the danger sooner in and around the penalty area?

Defenders: Poor clearances by defenders and midfielders led to both goals and there were still the type of breakdowns that cost them in South Africa. Edu was shaky at the beginning but got a little better. They really need him in MF. Give Goodson a chance for crying out loud. Is Bocanegra the longtime answer? (No so let’s start solving the problem now.)

Midfield: Jones was quite good but made the turnover that led to 2nd goal. Bradley was below his usually high standards with several loose passes. Holden drifted in and out and Feilhaber was anonymous. Dempsey dropping wide left made a positive difference

Forwards: Jozy was ok but really should have had a 2nd or 3rd goal for himself. Based on this performance you wonder if this is why Villareal is not playing him or if he needs more than Europa Leage action. Liked the switching of 2nd striker to change things up but still need foil to Altidore.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Spanish in Europe

I am now posting at about La Liga, with my La Liga Lowdown posts coming out Tuesday or Wednesday.

Here are some thoughts about the performances of the Spanish teams currently in Europe.

I took one for the team and watched all 3 Champions League games involving La Liga teams:

Auxerre 0 Real Madrid 1

Real were all over Auxerre in the first half but slowly the French team, who finished third last year, came into match and had a few chances in between shots of varying quality from Real.

Lass and Marcelo were the biggest attacking threats for Real for the first sixty minutes. Marcelo up the left wing and Lass everywhere. CR7 disappeared for long stretches. Xabi Alonso had a fantastic game pulling the strings. The game screamed for Ozil and he came on early in the 2nd half. Didn’t make the impact that I thought he would, instead it was the other sub Di Maria who came in and converted a half chance to secure the 3 points.

Defensively Real look solid and were really only opened up once but Iker was there to save the day. Speical mention for Pepe, who had a great game. Auxerre should definitely be able to push Ajax for 3rd and maybe a runner up spot if Milan slip.

Real are all but in the knockout phase where the expectations will be ratcheted up big time.

Rubin Kazan 1 Barcelona 1

Rubin stunned the defending European champs last season and put them on the brink of elimination at one point. Well guess what? Déjà vu all over again. After Pedro hit the cross bar early, Rubin converted a PK after half an hour and then parked the Russian bus. FCB struggled to develop plan B (shocker) and looked like short of ideas. Messi came on at the hour mark, Iniesta won a PK, and Villa converted. The last thirty minutes were better, with, wait for it, Obafemi Martins coming and creating all sorts of havoc, even having a chance to win the match outright.

Pep made a couple of changes in the squad, with Masch playing the Busquets role. He looked better but was eventually subbed out to make way for Messi. His transition has been slow and I’m hoping he pays off in the second half of the season.

Barcelona have Copenhagen home and away and should progress with no problem.

Valencia 0 Man Utd 1 (Should have been watching the Spurs game instead.)

The Red Devils came to Spain with no Rooney, no Valencia, no Giggs and no Scholes. The first half was dreadful to watch, with the exception of Pablo from Valencia. He started brightly and played in several good balls. For the most part the packed midfields cancelled each other out and Soldado missed a gift chance that could have opened up the game.

Valencia eventually threw on a second striker in Aduirz and that gave a little more impetus to the attack. Their gamble did not pay off with a goal but they did create several dangerous chances and they were punished by Chicarito, a late United sub, who scored the only goal.

Valencia were very organized and may rue losing two points. A draw would have put them in pole position, especially with Rangers winning. United would only have had two points after two matches. I don’t see how Rangers will break Valencia down and figure Valencia should get four points over the next two matches, which will reduce the pressure on their trip to Old Trafford.

For the Europa League, work got in the way and I was only able to watch highlights and read match reports.

Atletico Madrid 1 Bayer Leverkusen 1

Atletico came back from a goal down to draw with Bayer Leverkusen. Reyes had a chance to win it but missed the diving header. The holders in this competition only have 1 point after two matches and have it all to do.

Note for FIFA and fantasy players: buy Atletico GK De Gea NOW!!

Villareal 2 Club Brugge 1

Jozy got the start and played 85 minutes for Villareal. Looks like the Yellow Submarine controlled most of the match and the twitterverse was abuzz as Jozy missed a couple of chances.

Villareal have 3 points and are 1 point behind PAOK Salonika, who they play next round.

Young Boys 2 Getafe 0

Young Boys (insert joke here) defeated Getafe with goals due to shambolic defending. According to the stats the game was pretty balanced, but based on the highlights I watched, Getafe didn’t do much.

Getafe and Young Boys are now tied on 3 points and behind group leaders Stuttgart who have 6 points. Getafe play Stuttgart next and will need at least a draw.

Dortmund 0 Sevilla 1

Sevilla travelled to Dortmund and won with a goal in first half stoppage time. Dortmund’s Schmelzer got a second yellow early in the second half but Dortmund hit the post and had another chance saved off the line. This was a big result as Sevilla try to kickstart their season.

Sevilla are back in the group, only 3 points behind PSG. If they take maximum points against last placed Karpaty Lviv, they will have a real chance at progressing.