Friday, December 21, 2007

Free For All Friday

99 Days to Go

As of Today, we are exactly 99 days away from the kick-off to MLS Season XIII. That is all...


MLS introduced a number of changes this week, including increasing the number of foreigners in the league, and allowing foreign spots to be tradeable. This would enable some teams, if they so wished, to stock up on foreign spots and field a full starting 11 of foreigners.

I fear that this is a move that appeals more to the business side rather than the football side. I'm also fearful that it will inch MLS closer to a 'retirement league.'

The optimistic fan sees this as an opportunity to bring in more talented South Americans like Erpen, or Emilio who are not so close to their expiration dates. The business man sees this as an opportunity to push for a salary cap increase and field a full 11 of Buffon, Terry, Cannavaro, Marquez, Pirlo, Ronaldinho, C. Ronaldo, Messi, Kaka, Ronaldo, and Schevchenko type players... of course, 6-8 years from now. Generally speaking, they're not going to invest their money in bringing in a Joe Schmoe from Europe or South America who will bring talent and skill to their team. They're going to go after the seat fillers.

The only way I can see the potential in increasing the number of internationals, is that if it becomes a temporary solution, and with every significant increase in the salary cap, the number of internationals is reduced by one. Ideally, I'd like to see a max of 5 I-spots per team [non-tradeable]. I predict the opposite though. Increase in salary cap, and an increase in the total international spots available, and yes, they'll be tradeable.

The Saga of Nery in England

An interview last night from Televisa Deportes showed a Nery Castillo reluctant to talk about the money he put from his own pocket in order to ensure his loan deal with Manchester City. I expect Nery to have a vote of confidence from his coach which shall do him well in the EPL. Nery is now the third Mexican forward to be playing in a top European league. Carlos Vela [Osasuna] and Giovanni Dos Santos [Barcelona] are the other two.

Transfer Season has a very complete transfer table in Mexican football so far this offseason.

The most attractive moves are Richard Nuñez from Cruz Azul to Club America, Jaime Lozano from Tigres UANL to Cruz Azul, Walter Gaitan from Tigres UANL to Cruz Azul, Fernando Arce from Morelia to Santos Laguna, Gaston Fernandez from San Lorenzo to Tigres UANL, and Hector Moreno's departure from UNAm to join Alkmaar Zaanstreek (AZ) in Holland.

Also noteworthy is the way that the two teams fighting to avoid relegation, Puebla and Veracruz have stacked up their rosters. Puebla has brought in Melvin Brown, Nicolas Olivera, Felipe Ayala, Javier Campora and Gilberto Mora. Veracruz on the other hand has signed Rodrigo Ruiz, Ariel Gonzlez, Santiago Raymonda, Claudio Patricio Graf, Rafael Medina, Alejandro Corona, Raul Salinas, and Salustino Candia.

I expect Tecos UAG to get pulled into this fight though, Cesar Luis Menotti and all.

You Want Respect? We'll Give You Respect

Let it not be said that CONMEBOL ever jumps without a parachute.

CONMEBOl confirmed this week that they are willing to comply with FMF's requests, and starting in 2009 Mexican clubs will be treated no longer as guests, but as full participants in CONMEBOL club competitions.

Not surprisingly, that same day a story was published in which representatives of Banco Santander, new title sponsors of the Copa 'Santander' Libertadores explained the importance of Mexican participation for them. The representative interviewed stopped just shy of saying that should Mexican teams withdraw their participation from the competition, they would reconsider their sponsorship of the competition.

Sadly, as is always the case in COMEBOL. Somebody is going to have to pay for the broken plates, and it seems it will be Club America. The team that began the movement to get better treatment for FMF teams in CONMEBOL is likely going to be penalized. CONMEBOL has announced that they are considering sanctions against Club America for their refusal to receive their silver medals in the Sudamericana final, and for "aggressive declarations that damage CONMEBOL's image... from a country that participates in South American competitions as guests."

Something Special

Again, I plan on having something special for you soon. Watch this space.

That's all for this edition of Free For All Friday. Hope you enjoy your weekend and have very happy holidays. Until next time...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Free For All Friday

We Demand Equality

As I reported last week, Club America and the FMF met regarding their treatment in CONMEBOL tournaments. FMF was very clear in its position: They want to receive equal treatment in CONMEBOL tournaments. FMF wishes to be treated as a participant rather than an invitee which would most significantly enable Mexican sides to host return legs, among other things. It remains to be seen how CONMEBOL will take this request from Mexican sides. FEMEXFUT did threaten to "reconsider" their participation in this tournament if these conditions are not met. We'll have to see what CONMEBOL says to this...

A Mexican in Manchester!!!

But it's not Guillermo Ochoa, and it's not Manchester United. After a 6 month spell at Shakhtar Donetsk, Mexican striker Nery Castillo is on the move to Manchester City. This is part of a 1 year loan to the EPL side. Nery wanted to go to Eastlands back in August, but his falling out with Olympiakos staff screwed him over. Hopefully Castillo will get more playing time, and he'll be one of four Mexican strikers playing in Europe along with Giovanni Dos Santos, Carlos Vela and...

There's Only Juan Carlos Cacho

The Tuzos' big front tooth has apparently received offers from a Bundesliga side yet unnamed. Along with the offer for JCC, there's also speculation about another offer for midfield motor Jaime Correa. Both of these players have played key roles for Hugo Sanchez, especially in the Copa America. Cacho replaced Omar Bravo in the attack, and with Pavel Pardo apparently falling out of favor with Hugo, Jaime Correa took over the midfield.

Colorado and Kansas City Want Jared

Borgetti is out of contract at Cruz Azul and looking at his offers. The all-time leading scorer for El Tri is apparently hoping to stay in Mexico, but has begun talking to MLS about offers from Colorado and Kansas City. I don't see how things would work out in KC with him and Eddie Johnson up front, but I can definitely see this working out for Colorado if they get him and Cooke on the same page. Borgetti made himself famous with header goals off of crosses from "El Pony" Ruiz at Santos. That relationship with an assist-man is something he's never gotten back.

Ahi Se Veron

With a very touching story about his 'change of heart' Juan Sebastian Veron has officially said "Thanks, but no thanks" to a deal linking him to DC United. Veron said the offer was tempting, and he would advise others to take it in his place, but that his happiness at Estudiantes was more important to him.

Something Special

Wow, I really hate the offseason. Not much to talk about. Well, at least not until the transfer season... then we'll be cooking.
For the time being, I plan on having 'something special' for this blog soon... I'll keep you updated.


That's all for this edition of Free For All Friday. Hope you enjoy your weekend. Until next time...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

An Assessment of the Damages

Pachuca's loss to Etoile Sportive du Sahel [a name that will never be erased from the minds of Tuzo fans] yesterday was perhaps the biggest disappointment to Mexican football to date. Maybe it was because for the most part Pachuca was Mexico's loveable winner. Maybe it was because for about a year, the team looked almost unbeatable, and was unbeaten at home. For a long time, Pachuca looked like the "superclub" of Mexican football. ::shudders::

But perhaps Pachuca believed the hype. It concerned me that once the year finished last spring, the club did not bring in any players, and made no major additions. The only move was Landin's departure to Morelia in exchange for Marquez Lugo and Gabriel Rey, but neither of those has proven to be good enough to replace Landin.

The Tuzos need to look to make some changes [drop Manzur, Rey and Marquez] and bring in some players that want the leading roles, not just support players. There are rumors regarding the possible return of Richard Nuñez, and the addition of Miguel Sabah as a strike partner for Juan Carlos Cacho.

We'll have to wait and see.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Just A Matter of Time

As a close follower of both MLS and FMF, I've had a certain curiosity about how long it'll be until Mexican sides start shopping in the United States when the transfer season opens. Mexico certainly has the purchasing power, as FMF is the highest paid non-European league.

While checking the rumor sheets on a number of sites, forums, and other places of questionable credibility but often very accurate in predictions, I ran into a few surprises. Listed as "rumored" transfers were the following players:

Atlas - Eddie Johnson
Puebla - Carlos Pavon
Puebla - Luciano Emilio
Tigres - Ante Razov

According to the questionable sources listed above, these are all current MLS players who are catching attention of certain Mexican sides. The past season there were some very mild internet rumors [probably originated in the 3 meetings between the two sides] regarding Brian Ching, Dwayne de Rosario and CF Pachuca. The culminating point for these rumors was a mention on national television [TV Azteca] during a CF Pachuca game, where the commentators stated that these two players could very easily earn their living playing for any Mexican outfit.

American players have participated for Mexican sides before. Wynalda and Balboa played for Club Leon before MLS resurfaced, and in '95 Dominic Kinnear played for the "team of the decade" Necaxa. However, since MLS began, I don't think there has been a single American player [not of dual citizenship] playing for a First Division Mexican time.

With all these rumors starting to float, and greater exposure to the American game [both by virtue of better TV coverage of MLS, and through CONCACAF tournaments] it seems like just a matter of time before you start seeing certain MLS players, and specifically American players suiting up for Club America, CF Pachuca, Tigres UANL or other Mexican sides.

Free For All Friday

Club America Wants Out

As I suggested earlier, Club America has announced that they will call together a series of meetings with FMF and other teams to tell their side of the story. Their aim is to organize a league wide boycott of all CONMEBOL competitions. President Guillermo Cañedo stated that they are "no longer willing to pay for the right to play."

Ochoa: One the World's Best

With declarations like that of Diego Armando Maradona who qualified Mexican Club America keeper Guillermo Ochoa as "one of the world's best," nominations to awards that support such claims, and rumors surfacing about Memo's impending transfer to some of the world's elite clubs, it seems inevitable that the 4th year keeper of only 22 years of age will be leaving the eagle's nest.

With Club America's watery line up, all eyes are now pointing at superb Argentine keeper Federico Vilar of Atlante.

Boring, boring Pumas...

Vilar played in what could possibly be his second to last game. The first leg of the Mexican league finals kicked off last night to a "thrilling" 0-0.

If I had to choose a hyphenated, 12 letter description for UNAM, it would have to be "anti-football." The side has a notoriety for being very savvy in stopping play to their advantage and frustrating the opposition with small fouls, and dirty tactics. Atlante was wise to this and decided to take the same approach to the game, which in turn made the game even more boring than your average UNAM game. The return leg is on Sunday in Cancun, Quintana Roo.

CF Pachuca in the Land of the Rising Sun

The only club side in the world to have ever lifted an international title in a foreign confederation is getting ready to take a shot at club history. The Tuzos begin their quest in Japan on Saturday night at 9:45pm against Etoile Sportive du Sahel.

The Mexicans and Tunisians will compete to advance to the semifinals against Argentine powerhouse Boca Jrs. on Tuesday/Wednesday.

The side from the beautiful windy faced off in a preparation match yesterday against United Chiba of the local J-league and fell 4-2. Despite the score, the best news for the Tuzos was keeper Miguel Calero's participation. Calero had been kept out of the Sudamericana and the Mexican league after suffering a thrombosis just a few weeks after the SuperLiga finals.

MLS Season XIII Week One Announced

The highlight of the newly announced MLS first week for the upcoming 13th season will certainly be the Saturday rematch between MLS Cup 2007 Finalists Houston Dynamo and the Revs.

Here's the rest of the games for that first weekend:

03/29 - New England vs. Houston
03/29 - Columbus vs. Toronto
03/29 - Salt Lake vs. Chicago
03/29 - Kansas City vs. DC United
03/29 - Colorado vs. Los Angeles
03/30 - FC Dallas vs. Chivas USA
03/?? - San Jose vs. New York

The Return of the California Clasico

The other game that was announced was the kickoff to Week 2 of Season XIII. The game schedule for April 3rd will feature the return of one of the California Clasico.

Galaxy will host the San Jose Earthquakes on the ESPN Thursday Night Prime Time game. And as if that weren't enough, add a tint of blood as the aftershocks come with former coach Frank Yallop who will get his first shot at retribution against Galaxy and all the injustices he claimed.


That's all for this inagural edition of Free For All Friday. Hope you enjoy your weekend. Until next time...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Time To Say Good-Bye?

Tonight Club America "fell" in the final of the Copa Sudamericana to Argentine side Arsenal by a margin of 0 goals in their 4-4 aggregate "defeat" thanks to the away goal rule.

Those Blessed Refs

If at first it may have seemed to be sour grapes on the part of Mexican sides, it's become a troubling coincidence that in the final stages of CONMEBOL competitions where Mexican sides are involved, refs have a coincidental habit of erring in favor of the South Americans.

Forgotten cards of both colors, swallowed whistles, and uneven calls seem to the the day's special whenever a Mexican side is involved.

The first leg of the final, and tonight were no exceptions. Two missed red cards in the first leg, a goal from Arsenal that comes after an Arsenal player clearly handles the ball, and a number of questionable "soft" calls throughout the game helped Arsenal come out with a 3-2 lead from Estadio Azteca.

In tonight's match up, Salvador Cabañas is fouled in the box, clear as day and the ref swallows the whistle and forgets his red card. That's two goals, one in favor and one against, that were influenced by the referee's inability or unwillingness to see infractions.

Defense? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Defense

Much like some said that Pete Vagenas finally passed the ball too far back in the SuperLiga final between LA Galaxy and CF Pachuca, it can be said that America's defense finally messed up too much.

Club America practically played with a backline of 4: Ochoa, and the 3 posts. The 'defenders' on the field did nothing that actually resembled defending.

For years, Club America has neglected reinforcing a weakened backline, whose last major upgrade came in 2001 when Castro and both Ricardo and Oscar Rojas debuted for America under Manuel Lapuente. Davino, however, has been with the club for 10 years... 9 too many if you ask me.

Time to Say Good-Bye?

Club America President Guillermo Cañedo Jr. posed an interesting question after tonight's game. He suggested that the time will come when FMF will have to decide if Mexican sides really want to continue having to pay on the field for being allowed to participate.

With the growth in competitive level of MLS sides, the establishment of the SuperLiga, and the time consuming CONCACAF Champions League, maybe FMF should say good-bye to South America.

The South American fans have never made it a secret that they are not happy with Mexican presence, and neither have the referees.

I don't know who stands to lose more.

Mexican sides who lose the 'prestige' of these competitions, and the experience of facing "quality" sides.

Or CONMEBOL who would lose strong competitors [reverting to Argentine-Brazilian domination] and additionally all the additional sponsorship money that Mexican sides bring in.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Omar "Small Pond" Bravo

Chivas' version of Real Madrid's Raul doesn't seem to pack the same punch when it comes to the games that really matter.

Despite being one of the most consistent Mexican scorers today, and having captured the scorers' title last season, Bravo seems to come up short when the games require him to bulk up.

In all the playoffs he's participated in, Bravo has a miserable lone goal, and his most memorable moment perhaps came last Wednesday. During a run in the box, the Atlante defender stretched out his hand attempting to push Bravo, but failed to make contact. That was no obstacle though, as Bravo made the best of it and flopped like a fish out of water to earn his team a PK. (Despite the 1-0 lead in the first leg, Chivas was unable to advance to the finals, and Bravo was again a no-show.)

Same goes for the Mexican National Team, where Bravo has been inefficient and unsuccessful.