Monday, March 15, 2010

Beckham; More Model Than Player

How oddly appropriate it all seems now. All the times David Beckham was derived by critics for resembling a model much more than he resembled a football player. And while, it may be argued, that many of the criticisms which befell the former English International were unjust, unmerited and simply launched from the seemingly natural instinct of the press to attack, for on reason or another, that which attracts attention.

One cannot help but feel some degree of human sympathy towards David Beckham. But it’s not the type of sympathy which you felt for a player like Zinedine Zidane who left everything on the field and after capping off a brilliant career with Real Madrid was one “cooler heads prevail” away from possibly walking off the stage with the World Cup.

Come think of it, neither is it the type of sympathy you would have felt 12 years ago in France, where a much younger David Beckham, without the weight of the history of his actions behind him, kicked an Argentine player and earned himself an expulsion. Because then David Beckham was a promising player who simply lost his temper and showed poor judgment in a strenuous circumstance. Not like that would ever happen again, right?

No, the sympathy reserved for David Beckham today seems more in tune with the sympathy one would offer that which Beckham has been compared to so much throughout his career, a model. A model that obsesses over a pageant through any given period of time, and in her zeal throws caution to the wind and brings harm upon her self. A model whose excessively strict dieting and exercise regiments leave her interned at a hospital or “somewhere” to quote Norman Bates.

It’s that feeling of “Aw, that’s terrible, and after so much hard work” only to be followed by a secondary thought of “well, we really should have seen this coming,” which most people will deny ever having and the remainder will express with perhaps excessive bravado in a defiant tone of “told ya so.”

And it’s because no matter how “fit” David Beckham may have been, or may be still, playing two years of competitive football on the heels, no pun intended, of what you may recall were three or four consecutive injuries during his initial season with Galaxy is almost a surefire dinner recipe for disaster. Unfortunately for Beckham, the alarm went off, dinner is ready.

David Beckham demanded to be allowed to play for AC Milan, and while Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena is right in saying that injuries can happen at any time, it’s impossible to deny that for a player nearing 35 years of age, such a workload can only increase the risk of injury. Beckham’s tendon wasn’t stomped, twisted, or kicked by a rival, it simply gave out.

Maybe if poor Beckham had only taken 6 or 8 weeks off during the MLS Off-Season… then again, maybe if that poor model had opted to have breakfast that morning…

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Rivalry for Some, A Revival for Others

Seven years ago the US pulled an upset which turned Mexican football on its head. In a matter of 90 minutes, talk of revenge against the Germans that knocked Mexico from France ’98 turned into talk of Mexico’s most painful World Cup elimination.

Seven years later, Javier Aguirre, the man in charge that day, gets another opportunity to face the last team he faced as head coach of the Mexican Team during his first term. For Aguirre, the Gold Cup Final is an opportunity to shake off personal demons; for the team, it’s a chance to finally turn the page on a decade-long dark chapter.

For the United States, the match is a matter of bragging rights, but perhaps little else. Between the Confederations Cup, the Riot Squad versus David Beckham, and the team’s arrival at the finals, the summer of 2009 has become the Summer of Soccer in America. With a so called “C” team, the match may not have as much weight as it does for El Tri.

Mexico, on the other hand, stands to gain more than appears on the surface. The amount of symbolism, starting with the head coach anecdote, and possible momentum is perhaps lost in the hype of the rivalry.

When the US beat Mexico in 2002, they accomplished two key things: First, they tarnished an entire generation of players. A generation which “lost their balls” that day and, after presenting the worst Mexican performance in a World Cup since 1978, a generation which Mexico has stubbornly retained.

On the other hand, the US wrote a manual that day. A handbook of sorts, a formula, which broke down and detailed the way Mexican sides approached the game, and what it took to defeat them. A recipe that the US has followed religiously since, perfecting the art of the 2-0, and which has spread throughout the region, exhibited by all teams from Costa Rica, to El Salvador, to Panama.

Aguirre on Sunday has the opportunity to continue what Hugo Sanchez began a year ago. The “B” team which Mexico presents is really more of a first team in training. A group of youngsters, whose process with El Tri began under Sanchez but was interrupted with the foolish appointment of Eriksson, and now have to resume that process with the pressure of World Cup Qualification upon their shoulders.

More importantly, unlike the previous generation among which many players had never beaten the US on American soil, this is a group of Mexican players who have never lost to the States. And should Mexico win, it will be a generation of players whose National Team careers will have begun by breaking the “curse” that has haunted Mexican football for a decade.

On the surface, the match appears to be a match between younger, less experienced sides, and for the United States it very well may be. For Mexico, however, the game represents a golden opportunity which El Tri may not see again until after South Africa 2010.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Week 17 Preview : Galaxy @ Chivas USA

To the last, I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.
– Herman Melville

Los Angeles Galaxy @ CD Chivas USA
Saturday, July 11th, 2009 – 8:00pm
The Home Depot Center

There are games played for points, there are games played for qualification, there are games played to avoid relegation and those games to win championships. Then there are games that you play for pride. There are those games played with love and hate unified as a single motivating force. Chivas hosts Galaxy (in Galaxy’s home) this Saturday in the second chapter of the 2009 Los Angeles Derby. For Chivas, an opportunity to get over the early departure from the SuperLiga and the Open Cup; for Galaxy, a chance to make it three straight and put a foot into playoff position.

Quick Hits

Los Angeles Galaxy
Points: 21
League Position: 9th (+2)
Conference Position: 5th (+1)
Form: W-L-L-W-W
Last Match: 1-0 vs. New England Revolution
Next Match: @ New York Red Bulls

Chivas USA
Points: 27
League Position: 2nd
Conference Position: 2nd
Form: D-L-W-L-L
Last Match: 1-2 vs. Columbus Crew
Next Match: @ New England Revolution

Last Meetings:
08/14/08 – Chivas USA 2-2 Los Angeles
04/11/09 – Los Angeles 0-0 Chivas USA


To talk about any game and start with “Landon Donovan is coming back from National Team duty” would be news worthy enough to prompt optimism from all involved.
To make things sweeter though, when you combine Landon’s return to Los Angeles with a match against the one team in the league that seems to get him going more than any other, it’s hard to keep from smiling at the thought.

Landon Donovan, with 9 goals against Chivas USA in all competitions, was scheduled to return to action and rejoin Galaxy in this weekend’s match against New England. Unfortunately, Landon “called in sick” for training on Friday, which forced him to miss Saturday’s game, and all things considered, created an opportune delay to have Landon’s return coincide with the Derby.

Galaxy’s Maestro comes back from the US’s improbable run in the FIFA South Africa Confederations Cup to find a side that is far more balanced than the one he left behind a month ago.

When Landon left the side, the concern was that the Mexicutioner was the sole goal man for the team. He not only scored goals, he also set them up. The problem was that it was Landon and Landon alone.

Somewhat surprisingly, life has gone on without Landon in Los Angeles. Then the mediocre king of the draw, Galaxy won three of the five games they played without number 10, improving the point per game average to 1.31 and inching dangerously close to playoff position.

With Landon in tow, Galaxy now have the opportunity to cut Chivas’ lead of 15 points at the time of his departure down to just 3 points. Simultaneously, a win would put the team on the right path toward its fourth Honda SuperClasico out of the five that have been disputed to date.


It was said at one point that Bruce Arena was putting the band back together for 2006. Cobi Jones was assistant coach, and Landon Donovan, Gregg Berhalter, Eddie Lewis, Chris Klein, and Jovan Kirovski were all on the roster. Combine that with early rumors of Beasley’s possible return to MLS and we could cue Bruce Arena’s United States National Team.

And perhaps it may be true, and perhaps there is method to Bruce Arena’s madness. The similarities, especially in playing style, to that which Bruce Arena implanted into the US Men’s National Team are too obvious not to notice.

Galaxy is now an orderly side that keeps a somewhat stoic expression through matches without particular regard to the score line. This in stark contrast to last year’s emotional, explosive, high octane Galaxy that scored tons of goals but conceded them by the bucket.

And while this particular brand of football isn’t necessarily attractive, and it is often labeled as the “anti-football” for a team that was overdue a rebuilding year since 2003, these tactics are ideal.

And yes, there will be slip-ups like there were against RSL and the Earthquakes, but overall the team seems to be marching steadily in the right direction. The level of order and discipline has become such that rivals are becoming increasingly frustrated when facing Los Angeles. So much so, even, that in each of the past two games we’ve seen bickering initiated by the rivals, and even Sanchez-esque displays from Pat Onstad and Matt Reis.

In both matches Galaxy has grabbed a goal first and forced the opposition to make their move. The only thing lacking for the team has been a speedy and lethal forward to lead the charge in counterattack (somebody like say, Landon Donovan) in search of the incredibly frustrating dos-a-cero.


Like a storyline taken directly from the desk of one Vince McMahon. A member of the villain’s group surprisingly switches allegiances and finds himself face to face with his old crew.

Alecko Eskandarian gets a chance to play for the role of the hero this weekend and wash away whatever stench of goat is left on his person. In what will be only his second match as a blonde*, Alecko will play his second Los Angeles Derby this year for as many teams.

Eskandarian was a key part of that game, as both teams, playing with 10 men, were eager to grab the three points. Alecko then caught Gregg Berhalter’s sleepy pass and made a break for goal, forcing the Galaxy defender to commit the foul and take the red card.

From that point on, Galaxy set the gears in reverse, and held Chivas USA off for the remainder of the match to hold on to the 0-0 draw during the last 10 minutes of the match.

This time, Eskandarian will play for Los Angeles and will likely be called upon, maybe even from the start if his goal-scoring debut was enough, to put his former team on their heels.

*Yes, it’s a bad reference to the wigs, get over it.


= TBD =



Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Value of Patience

It's a bit funny, though completely understandable, to see Galaxy fans pull their hair out through this season. After all, we are carrying the painful memory of three years without playoffs.

Even more comical though, are the early calls for "more of the same" from those who are already foolishly asking for Bruce Arena's head and asking that Jurgen Klinsman come in and take over the team.

And I say foolishly because the attitudes represented herein are powerfully reminiscent of those same attitudes exhibited by Federacion Mexicana de Futbol directives who, faced with a generous playoff system, have abandoned all long term planning in favor of continuous, repetitive, and obnoxiously frequent transfer-window shuffles and bi-yearly coaching changes.

However, this year's playoffs in Mexico reflected perhaps a change in that paradigm is finally on the horizon. The top teams in Mexico with the sole exception of Monterrey (who were promptly booted out in the first round of the playoffs) were all sides that had given their coaches continuity.

Pachuca had enjoyed it's most successful spell ever under Meza for three years. UNAM on the other hand had put up with struggles, hardships, and rebuilding with Ricardo "El Tuca" Ferrito who finally led them to the league title.

Toluca has had Jose Manuel De La Torre as manager since the start of the 2008-2009 cycle and have agreed to keep him on for the Fall 2009 season.

Puebla, the "I know I can, I know I can" team that fought out of relegation only to fall in the semifinals has had their manager Jose Luis "Chelis" Sanchez Sola for three years, and the other Cinderella team Ciudad Juarez have had the same manager since the start of the 2008-2009 season.

And it's spreading... Club America, the biggest offender in this regard in the past year or so with 5 managers in the past two years (Romano, Brailowsky, Luna, Diaz and Ramirez) have finally allowed Jesus Ramirez continuity despite his inability to get the team into the playoffs yet again.

The team formerly known as Tecos UAG (now Estudiantes Tecos), one of the teams who historically have been managerial revolving doors, have also allowed their head coach Miguel Herrera to continue into next season.

Mexican sides seem to have finally started learning the lesson.

And it's not that you have to obstinately hang on to a manager that isn't working out. Pachuca officials warned Meza before the season, after having failed to reach the Club World Cup Final, and having crashed out of the Copa Libertadores in qualifying, that if he did not obtain the championship, his cycle as a Tuzo would come to an end.

Meza managed to keep the Tuzos in first place through most of the season, and finished the year off in the top spot, but his inability to win the Tuzos' 6th title (losing the final to Pumas) cost him his job. (Perhaps this may seem fully illogical to some, but Pachuca's aspirations are others and Pachuca, even without Meza, will continue to be a headliner in Mexico, much to the dismay of some).

The point here is working in cycles, and in MLS that's much easier to do considering there is no relegation. A Championship team cannot be built in one year, and a clear example of that is Sigi Schmid.

When Sigi first signed with Columbus everybody expected him to turn the team around, and that he did, but in due time, and not without having finished in the basement of the Eastern Conference twice.

Bruce Arena is building the team rather quickly, quicker even than I would have imagined, but in all likelihood, Los Angeles will not be MLS Cup Champions this year. Even so, standing at the face of progress, it's absolutely barbaric and idiotic to be calling for yet another manager's head.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

MLS... Let Them Speak

John Carver resigned from TFC last week. Now we get this article talking about how Carver was upset over the league's "meddling" and how he's had "restraints" on him all along.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the straw that broke the camel's back was the fine he received for criticizing the refs after the horrible officiating from Tim Weyland (who also butchered the reffing at the Chivas USA vs. Los Angeles match a week prior to TFC's meeting with FC Dallas).

In my book, MLS needs to back up. It's no secret that refereeing in MLS is questionable from time to time, and it seems rather foolish that the league tries to impose an NFL style clamp on public criticism of officials. I don't see what possible evil can come from letting the participants say what all of us can see.

Now this policy is driving away a coach that spent a year and a half working hard at a club that really needs to start rewarding its fans with wins sooner rather than later. How many others are going to have to decided to pass on MLS before the league decides to ease up on this silly policy?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What's Going On.... With Landon Donovan?

Let me open by saying: Yes, I'm aware that Landon Donovan has been involved in all of LA's goals.

But what's going on with Landon Donovan?

He's been largely absent through long stretches of most matches so far, and unlike a "droughting" player that does everything right but can't find the net, Landon seems to be doing little right despite his scoring.

This year's Landon, 5 games in, has not been the same 20 goal / 19 assist Landon we saw last season, not even a half of that. And while, yes, Landon has been involved in all of LA's goals, the team also has only 5 goals in as many games, and 3 of those games have had 1 goal or less.

Perhaps Landon is under more pressure without Buddle and Beckham to help lift markers off of LA's #10, but something is certainly going on with Landon that has essentially turned him from constant threat and difference maker to goal poacher.

Personally, I'm a big fan of Landon Donovan and I can't wait for him to break out of this slump (which I do think he'll do sooner rather than later) but I'm also somewhat concerned about his play.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Half Court Offense

Am I the only one that thinks that a good team in modern football needs a good "half-court" offense?

Defending has become king in the sport (some of the "better" quality matches in European play are often 1-0 matches) and that's because of the way teams are able to fall back into defending.

It's no longer the back 4 with support from the midfield, we now see systems where the back four open up gaps for midfielders to step into. This essentially generates 7 man defensive units ready to counterattack.

What's kind of upsetting about this system is: It works! Especially when you've got a goal in your account, this system works. Even so, it seems that nobody has the answer and nobody has figured out the formula to break down the 7 man defensive line.

Most teams try to touch the ball from side to side, but often too slowly, and even so, with 7 men, it's kind of hard to be spread out enough to be hurt. When that doesn't work a few players will try to crack it from the outside with mixed results.

A good long distance shot seems to be the answer, especially if it's released by the keeper, deflected into play, or if it cracks one of the posts. That slowly pulls the midfielders out when they realize they need to step up to the shooter, and starts creating chaos as players scramble to reestablish their positions.

The problem(s)? Good shooters are hard enough to find, great shooters are even more rare. Coaches are also unlikely to give long-rage shooting a priority, especially when the "fundamentals" of the game continue to be so "fundamental". Moving the ball around and "creating space" is hugely important in the way the modern game is approached, but maybe that approach needs to change...

Is the game evolving so that passing + finishing are now going to take a backseat to long distance shooting?