Archive for April, 2011

Champion’s League Live: Barca vs. Real Madrid

Will Jose handcuffs his troops at home or will he press like he did in the Copa Del Rey?


Barca: Víctor Valdés; Daniel Alves, Mascherano, Piqué, Puyol -Busquets, Xavi, Keita – Pedro, Messi, David Villa

Ronaldo starts-up top; Pepe again in the holding role. Albiol called on for Carvahlo.

Madrid line-up: Casillas – Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Raul Albiol, Marcelo – Diarra, Xabi Alonso, Pepe – Özil, Cristiano Ronaldo, di Maria

The Bernbeau will bare witness today to a revitalized Real Madrid side that is seething with confidence off a Copa Dely Rey win (trophy be damned) and weekend lambasting of Valencia.

Barcelona has continued their strong pace as well, only stumbling thus far in the trophy hunt to Madrid in the Copa.

All eyes today on Jose Mourinho despite Pep Guardiola’s theatrics. Sounds cliche, but Barca will play their game. They try to dictate the game tempo and play to every team they play. They believe they are the best.

Mourinho realized this strength and decided to park the bus so to speak in the first major showdown of his tenure. Bad idea. He put five across the back betting the Barca couldn’t find their way through on the floor and they’d have to come over the top. Didn’t work. Not only didn’t work, completely didn’t work. 5-0 Barca need I remind Real Madrid fans.

Will Pepe be called on to boss the midfield again?

Fast forward to April and the Copa Del Rey and Mourinho’s got a new strategy and dare I say it’s quite similar to the one that Bob Bradley deployed to thwart Argentina. Mourinho took his defender Pepe and put him in the midfield and elected to press the passing lanes, slowing Barca’s attack before it got to Messi and friendly.

With Ricardo Carvalho and Sami Khedira (expected to be replaced by Lassana Diara) out, can Mourinho afford to push Pepe up the pitch?

What will we see tomorrow with Barca seeking at least one crucial away goal? If you remember last year, Mourinho got offensive against a Barca team that had bused it’s way to the San Siro with the soot of a volcano still thick in the air. Result 3-1.

This year? About an hour or so flight from Barcelona to Madrid. No volcano.

What to look at today? Just how offensive is Jose Mourinho at home.

Rimando & Alvarez: Your Real Salt Lake CCL Primer

TSG’s Jay Bell gets on the horn with RSL’s key men

Last weekend I got a chance to speak with a couple of Real Salt Lake players about their CONCACAF Champions League final against Monterrey. I was able to speak with Arturo Alvarez (AA) for the second time in just over a month and I was also able to chat with RSL’s head man between the pipes, Nick Rimando (NR).

Time dictated that I was not able to present the interviews in their entirety, but what you see here is the bulk of their answers from my conversations with them. Both guys opened up about the first leg, the substitutions, the atmosphere, the second leg, Jason Kreis and having the support of MLS clubs, players and fans behind them:

Arturo Alvarez...First leg match in Mexico

AA: “I think we approached that match just like any other match.”

“We went in there with the mentality to get the win, get a result and I think we’re really happy with it at 2-2.”

Familiarity with the underdog role

NR: “We seem to do well when he have that underdog role. I think if we keep doing well in these competitions and in the league, we’re not going to have that role anymore. We’re okay with having it. We’re okay with going into games with not so much pressure on us and just going out there and showing these other teams and the rest of the world that we can play with the best teams and we can get results when we need to.”

AA: “I think Monterrey probably came into this series as the favorite to win this tournament or at least win these championship games. We’ll take the underdog title and we’ll make the most of it. We know the kind of team that we are. We never gave up.”

On Monterrey’s early substitutions

AA: “I was surprised that the moves were made really early. It happenedjust right after they scored. We didn’t really know what to think about it. We did learn I guess, that they were injured though.”

“At first, I really didn’t know what to think.”

DeNigris, golazo!

AA: “Those two players for them are key players for their team. De Nigris scored the goal, but I think whenever you’re in the final, this Monterrey team will have an important player brought in.”

NR: “You could take it as a disrepect sort of thing or they think that they had it in the bag. But reading the paper later, they were both injured and are going to be out for several weeks. You can’t really blame the coach unless that’s not the truth.

Whenever you sub early like that, two of their offensive players. I also thought it kind of took away from their game a little bit. They score a goal, you kind of get a rhythm going and you get a fire going in you. I think that is kind of the opposite that happened there. You get a hold of the game, you have some opportunities, but again, its the coach’s decision.

If someone is hurt on our team and he needs to come out, I’m sure Jason will do the same thing.”

Inevitable rationalization that the substitutions saved RSL

AA: “I don’t think the two early substitutions affected the game in any way. I think they kept possession. At that moment we just worried about ourselves and just made sure that we were playing our game.”

NR: “For me, I look at it as an opportunity to capitalize on taking out two players and for them not to get into a rhythm. And that is how we took it as a team. We really didn’t stop think about ‘they’re taking them out, this is disrespectful.’ We just carried on playing and that’s what we did. We played our game and fortunately for us it came at the right time. They took those players out and we started to keep the ball a little bit, play the ball around, got our opportunities and ended up scoring.

If it helps us, sure, I hope they do it again so it helps us. Any way we can get some help and any way that we can get some goals and to take the rhythm away from the opposing team, I’m okay with that.”

Line of reasoning that RSL is lucky to face a Monterrey squad without key players in the second leg.

Rimando, triumphant...

NR: “We’ve proven that we can play without players who are out with red cards or injuries. We’re going to see who’s, I guess, deeper. We’re playing without Beckerman. We’re playing without two players as well. We’re going to have some players that are going to come in and show how deep we are. If you are a good club and you want to go to that next level, you’re not just going to do it with 11 players. We know that. Monterrey is still a good team without those two players.

They’ve proven to be a good team. We’re not taking them lightly and I am sure that they’re not going to take us lightly.”

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Michael Bradley To Be Re-Upped At Villa? No So Fast…

A report out today by Tim Abraham in Birmingham, link forthcoming, saying that US international Michael Bradley might still factor in Gerard Houllier’s Aston Villa plans for next year despite the lack his lack of playing time to date.

That kit may still be worn yet in 2011!

Villa assistant boss Gary McAllister, presiding over the team in as Houllier recovers from a heart condition, with the following quote, ““Michael has done enough on the training ground to suggest there might be something come the end of the season because he has an honest, hard-working guy as well as a good player,” said McAllister.

“It’s true that it has been hard to play him at a time when we have had senior experienced players available in the situation we have been in.”

“And that is purely all that has held him back, nothing else, because his attitude has been top draw.”

“He is a fantastic professional for such a young guy – he is captain of his country don’t forget and he is a top player.”

Now, before you run about or tweet about, there is a conflict here.

If Bradley was as an excellent a player as is being stated here, then why isn’t he playing. Surely if Villa were to need Bradley’s services it would be now–as he was procured for–in the middle of a relegation battle.

That conflict, as we spoke about it our previous Bradley pieces (here and here) is Nigel Reo Coker. What’s the easiest way to rattle an agent who is playing chicken with his player’s forthcoming work postal code in 2011-2012? Why that would be floating a story that his understudy is about to be signed off loan from Germany for the next year’s campaign.

Stay tuned.

Will Real Salt Lake Enlarge Its Club Profile Tonight?

7-0-3 without Kyle Beckerman

37 straight games undefeated at home.

Can RSL pull off the big one this evening.

Video: US Soccer Updates On Stu Holden

Oh man, CPM machine, that brings me back.

The US Soccer video crew needs to drop the background drama-music though.

Still would like specifics on the injury.

Champion’s League Live: Man United vs. Schalke

Champion's League: Manchester United vs. Schalke 04

Update: Floodgates open, 2-0 Manchester United and Schalke has been broken at home. What a wild Champion’s League year as Schalke themselves are coming off destroying the champs, Inter Milan at home in the last stage.

Halftime: 0-0. Gave up the commentary, but basically it’s just Manuel Neuer and a firing squad of Man United players teeing off. 11 shots, seven of them on goal.

Neuer has been nothing short of fabulous, but–and maybe it’s a German stereotype–best of all he’s been unflinching and thus keeping his defenders in it (for what they’re worth).

6:25: Fabulous tactical battle here as both teams poking and prodding, but making sure there read end doesn’t get hung out.

6:25: Best series there from Schalke as Edu finds Farfan, but skids it wide. Patience a virtue.

2:50: The weight of Giggs’ passes is unparalleled. Continually marvelous. Great ball to Hernandez there, though nothing comes of it.

2:50: Schalke giving entirely too much space in their defensive third. United will punish them if that continues.

Update: Under way shortly here. Can Schalke switch the attack fast enough to open the flanks. Will Raul be dangerous enough to make the midfield collapse and aid in that effort?

I wonder what brats they serve at Veltins-Arena.

Update: Valencia over Nani, Fabio over O’Shea. MUFC: Van der Sar; Fabio Ferdinand Vidic Evra; Valencia Carrick Giggs Park; Rooney; Hernandez.

Fabio over O’Shea is surprising (or is really Rafael in disguise).

Update: The vet Sarpei over Escudero. Schalke: Neuer, Sarpei, Raul, Edu Buamjohann, Papadopolous, Farfan, Jurado, Metzelder, Uchida, Matip


It’s go time again in Europe.

The undercard today to the premier Spanish match-up tomorrow.

Astuto for Schalke....

I don’t expect many surprises today out of either United or Schalke.

For United, Sir Alex will employ Ji Sung Park on one side effectively nullifying Schalke’s advancement through wing and overlapping defender player on that flank. I think that’ll be United left flank where Park and Evra will patrol and attempt to quash Schalke’s attack through the creative Jefferson Farfan and the speedy backer (who is getting a lot of pub today) Atsuto Uchida. On the right flank, the Red Devils will attempt to advance more with either Valencia (likely) or Nani continually busting into the corner backed up by Michael Carrick who can swing a pass and the industrious John O’Shea.

Elsewhere I think you’ll see Rooney in the roving false nine role with Chicharito making strategic runs ahead of him. Nothing new there.

For Schalke (and I’ve only seen a handful of their games this year. They’ll try to get both Astuto open on the right playing off Farfan and on the left through Sergio Escudero whose youth United will try and take advantage of.

But amazingly, it’s Raul again for the Germans as his ability to find the ball, hold it and pick out passes in the midfield will be vital to United’s defense collapsing inward and giving those flankers space.

On to the game….

Tuesday: Champion’s League, Dale Murphy, More…

We’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming here shortly at TSG.

Dale Murphy...

• Kyle Beckerman, out for Wednesday Concacaf Champion’s League.

According to RSL GM Garth Laerway, “In the 37-game unbeaten streak at home we’ve played 10 times without Kyle Beckerman. We’re 7-0-3. So 10 out of 10 times when we’ve been in this position, needing the result we need we’ve succeeded.”

Take a step back. Yes, that’s a tribute to a few things. First, Jason Kreis and his system. Second, the outstanding centerback pairing behind him.

But consider this. Kyle Beckerman–the Dale Murphy of MLS–arguably not quite good enough for Bob Bradley’s USMNT A team. Beckerman, the lone holding midfielder for RSL.

The stat speaks to the power of playing with possession. Limiting chances for the other team when a key central piece of cover is missing.

By the way, loved that Real Salt Lake wore their Club America unis in Monterrey. That was too funny.

• Rumors abound that Jersey kid Giuseppi Rossi is wanted at the Camp Nou. Got to be honest. That’s be a near perfect pick-up for Barca with Rossi able to play up top on the inside or or outside. Yes, I’d like to see it happen.

Next level soon....

• A wonderful piece penned by Tim Ream in the New York Times blog. Ream talks about his mentoring by Mexican international and Barca alum Rafa Marquez. Take this season for it Ream and then apply it as you go to Europe to challenge. Same with you Juan Agudelo. Take the year and then go challenge yourself.

Yesterday, in the commentary, discussion on Liverpool’s up-and-coming backline bookends in Jim Flanagan and Jackie Robinson. They’re 18- and 19-years-old respectfully.

• Mentioned on Twitter yesterday. A “good” goal (1:48) by US national Chris Rolfe over the weekend up in Danishland, but why does the US soccer media feel the need to fawn over each time a US striker scores a goal abroad. Shouldn’t the US players be good enough to do that.

The disposition to “See Striker A score” and “anoint the return of said Striker A” to the national team needs to be curbed. Consistency is what should matter on the value meter. Ironically, or not, Rolfe’s goal game against the 2nd worst Danish league defense against a keeper that FC Nordsjælland was trying to replace at the beginning of the year. Yes, the curmudgeon in us is back.

• Business of soccer:

Last year we gave our MLS Player of the Week award to Lyle Yorks for his ability to hypnotize MLS into lining Benny Feilhaber’s pockets with no other suitors in sight.

This week, we will bestow the award early to Sporting KC’s Kyle Rogers who kicked of a Teal Bunbury, Juan Agudelo twitter follower-52-card-pick-up contest.

In case you didn’t know Kyle’s Sporting KC team plays at New York this weekend. So another case of a smaller team using bigger team’s marketing dollars to get their name out. Nice job Kyle.

• Die Meister! Die Besten! Les grandesequipes! The champions!

From Japan...with speed...

And then there were four…..UEFA Champion’s League back in action today with Manchester United taking on Schalke 04.

Key match-up in this one? Schalke’s right flank versus United’ left. Jefferson Farfan with an overlapping Atsuto Uchida (the first Japanese footballer to play for a team that reached the semi-finals of the Champion’s League) versus Nani and Patrice Evra.

Other than that, look out for two of the best false nines in the business, Wayne Rooney and Raul trying to wreak havoc on the other team’s defense.

(Oh, and we love reposting just how Javier Hernandez got smuggled into the EPL. Good read if you haven’t read it on TSG before.

• Stoke City versus Wolverhampton in the Barclays on Tuesday. Or two teams that love the foul the crap out of others.


More coming…