2005/06 Soccer Thread
Yes, so there's only like three of us here that really enjoy the sport, but i've been spending so much time really trying to learn the game recently, that you'll have to excuse me from time to time from posting something in here.
First and foremost, the U.S. National Team (the men, mind you) won their third Gold Cup this summer, beating Panama on Penalty Kicks. For those of you who don't know, the Gold Cup is competition for national teams in CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football). The win bumped the U.S. National team up to 6th in the FIFA World Rankings, which is, of course, ludicrous, but FIFA's insane to begin with so there's no surprise there.
More than anything, the win helps underline the good crop of talent we've got this generation. Oguchi Oneywu has turned out to be a good defender, and Santino Quaranta seems to be thinking about maybe living up to his potential, which would be good. However, it's a bit surprising that the Landon Donovan in Europe experiment has failed the way it has. The man only seems to be competent in the MLS, or internationally. Which is sad.
Speaking of the MLS, if you haven't watched because you didn't like the soccer they played (not because you didn't like the sport whatsoever), give it a try now. In the 10 years they've been going, the play has seen a marked improvement. It's not Serie A yet, but they're not half bad.
NOTE: If you check out the US Soccer Federation webpage, they've got some interesting Podcast interviews with Eddie Lewis, Bobbey Convey (Currently playing for Reading in England) and more.
As for Europe itself, my focus has generally been on England (easiest to follow) and the ongoing saga there has hit real levels of silliness.
First off, there's the continuing turmoil over the whole Glazer-situation. While I think it's undoubtable that a significant amount of good old America-hate plays into this, the debts that Glazer has incurred taking on this team (apparently to the tune of $1.1 Billion, with another $157M in interest) are shocking, at best. European Soccer hasn't been a money-making venture for a lot of teams (see the sordid sad stories of Borussia Dortmund or Parma) so one really does begin to wonder if Glazer is really into Manchester United only for the advertising brand, and whether he'll kill the club. Given that the man's never even been to Old Trafford, i'm left a bit perplexed.
Chelsea, as they have been in the Abramovic Era, are rich. They were easily the best in England last year, and are shaping up to be the elite again this year, bringing back estranged stiker Hernan Crespo, who shined for Italian outfit AC Milan last year, and snatching Asier Del Horno from Bilbao in Spain. They also grabbed Shaun-Wright Phillips from Manchester City, adding to their glut of midfield riches.
But all the tabloids are going agog over the on-off-on-off saga of Chelsea trying to buy Michael Essien. The Ghanan was a star for Lyon last year, driving them to a surrpising Quarter-Finals finish in the Champions League last year. They already lost their star coach (Paul Le Guen) and losing their star player would kill the team. Of course, signing Gerard Houllier as your coach will do that too.
"What about Italy?", some of you are surely saying. Well fret not, the unique brand of silliness and corruption that is the Serie A is still there. This year's scandal? The country's oldest club, Genoa, has been demoted to Serie C for Match-Fixing. Really, really dumb match-fixing. ESPN Soccernet has a good article detailing the whole idiotic situation.
I think I can better show the situation in Spain recently by using a bit of Baseball. The biggest team there (or anywhere, for that matter), Real Madrid, has spent the past few years with a "Zidanes y Pavons" policy that does not border on idiocy, but breaks right through the wall and charges into f*cktarded. The Yankees have taken this same policy, although without the "Pavons" part, suffice to say, both teams love buying big-name players for way too much money, and then wondering why they're not winning. Both teams also have a chairman who blusters and huff-bluffs whenever the team loses, although, I assure you, it's much funnier in Spain.
Long story short, Madrid bought English striker Michael Owen last year from Liverpool. They then rarely used Owen, although whenever he popped up off the bench, he generally scored. But, he isn't one of the favored few in Madrid, so the team went out and grabbed Robinho, a young Brazilian striker labled the "next Pele", like every single Brazilian striker with a lick of skill. This has placed Michael Owen on the outs at Madrid, probably headed back to England, rumor is, to Manchester or Newcastle.
Michael Owen's leaving Liverpool is probably a grand example of Bill Simmons' Ewing Theory in effect. Before leaving, Owen was the team talisman, the man the team revolved around. He leaves, all of a sudden they win the Champions Cup. Perhaps if Steven Gerrard had opted to leave for Chelsea, Liverpool might've won everything they competed in this year.
As the season goes on i'll keep this updated with links to good articles and stories, and my own opinions.