116street Soccer

Footballing from a lesser authority...

Location: New York, New York

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Retirement Home Returns

First Denilson, now Claudio Lopez. Yeesh. Any chance we'll see some DP money spent on Gabriel Batistuta before all is said and done?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

United's To Lose?

Let's seriously hope that Eduardo da Silva plays again. It is always disheartening to see a promising career threatened by the actions of a clumsy hack who tries to combat a skilled opponent by taking liberties with the limits of fouling strategy. In the meantime, Martin Taylor may have just gifted Manchester United the Premiership title. Arsenal was already down to three strikers before the Eduardo horror show, and will now have to adjust its tactics considerably, at least until Robin van Persie returns from injury. Emmanuel Adebayor and Nicklas Bendtner aren't exactly complementary strikers, which means that we might actually see Theo Walcott getting time up front (something Arsene Wenger has been trying to delay for most of the season). United overwhelmed Newcastle today, and if they can keep up that sort of form (they haven't been consistent for a solid month, so that's a pretty big if) they should be able to overtake an increasingly makeshift Arsenal team.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Isn't Jonah Freedman A Man U Fan?

Then he should know that United lost just a week and a half ago. From his World Soccer Rankings for this week:

By our own logic, we can't deny Sir Alex Ferguson's boys anything -- they haven't been on the wrong side of a score sheet since the New Year, unbeaten in 10 straight. Carlos Tévez made sure of that Wednesday, netting a last-gasp goal at Lyon to keep United alive in three competitions at once, even if it is slipping behind Arsenal again in league play.

Umm... United is slipping behind Arsenal in league play because they were "on the wrong side of a score sheet" just a week and a half ago! Remember? Munich Air Disaster Memorial? Throwback kits? Man City? Anyone? Bueller?

Update: SI has amended the paragraph to say "-- other than their loss to Man. City, they haven't been on the wrong side of a score sheet in the New Year, unbeaten in 10 straight." A little better, except that losing at home to your cross-city rival does not constitute a 10-game unbeaten streak. Oh well, nobody is perfect, I guess.

Matchday Madness

As much as we here on 116th Street enjoy a Barnsley upset over Liverpool, the Champions League is the undoubted source of our football happiness. The FA Cup might be useful for exciting upsets and the occasional knockout spectacular (not to mention those incredibly useful lessons in English geography), but there is nothing like seeing the masterful play and contrasting styles on display in the premier football competition in the world. The return of the knockout rounds is probably our favorite time of the soccer year (it seems no small coincidence that it usually occurs right around the time we start noticing that daytime is getting longer again), and the intrigue and magical moments fuel our hunger for the game. Is it any wonder that some terrific storylines have already emerged?

Since when did the fans and players at Inter become such sore losers? One title after 16 seasons (and no, I'm not counting that "championship" they were awarded in '06 by virtue of finishing third but not cheating; it wasn't earned), and now their fans are confronting the team at the airport for losing at Anfield? Gratitude fades quickly, I see. Speaking of fickle behavior, how about Zlatan Ibrahimovic publicly blaming Marco Materazzi for the loss? For a squad that has now lost twice all season, they certainly seem to be surrounded by acrimony. Meanwhile, Liverpool continue their astounding run of European form, causing me to wonder whether they should consider having two managers - Rafael Benitez for Champions League matches and someone else for the Premiership games? When it comes to continental football, Rafa is a certifiable genius; how come he can't seem to figure out the English game? I suppose this all just proves the old adage about football - "one day you can lose to Barnsley, the next you can beat Inter."

Which would you rather be, allergic or impotent? That was the choice presented as Arsenal squared off with Milan. Arsenal, the paradigm of zippy geometric fury (and yes, that was really fun to write), created opportunity after opportunity, only to come out shooting blanks at the end. It is to their credit that after being shellacked by Manchester United over the weekend, they attacked with spirit against the defending European champions. Nevertheless, as the legendary Ronaldo once said, "Dude, the ball is supposed to hit the net not the bar, ok?"
Of course, had the legendary Ronaldo not blown out his knee recently, Milan might not have played as if going near the Arsenal goal would result in severe rash. The AC came out in a 4-3-2-1 formation that basically led to Alexandre Pato running around fruitlessly, often chasing the ball away from the direction of Jens Lehmann. I expected the Rossoneri to eventually mount an attack in search of that all-important away goal, but maybe they really were allergic to the Arsenal onion bag (hey, stranger things have happened, after all).

How electric was the crowd at Parkhead? They nearly willed Celtic to victory against Barcelona, were it not for, well, those annoyingly brilliant Barca players. Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Barry Robson certainly did their part, putting the Hoops up 1-0 and 2-1, respectively. Barcelona's skill can be overwhelming, however, and did you see what Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry did to them? Scintillating...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Quick Hits from 116th Street

Good luck to the Premiership in trying to nail down that "39th fixture": when Asian and Oceanic clubs attempt to keep you out of their stadiums (and your dirty paws out of their revenue), when that Everton-Middlesbrough fixture isn't selling so well in Toronto, and when your entire fan base is pissed off at you for selling them out, you'll wish you had simply scheduled a couple of friendlies in New York and LA featuring the Big Four (oh wait, they can already do that themselves; what do they need you for, Richard Scudamore?). Sure, Arsenal and Manchester United could sell out anywhere; but what about Derby County and Newcastle? The reason it worked for the NFL is that American football is played in very few places abroad; soccer is everywhere and is built mostly upon local allegiances. The Premiership plan seems doomed to fail.

Speaking of failure, Manchester United picking up 1 point in its last two Premiership matches has to really infuriate the Reds, seeing as how Arsenal keeps on picking up results without having played their best for a little while now. This should have been United's chance to make a move to the top, with their already-superior squad depth getting a boost by having little to no one away on African Nations duty. Instead, Arsenal keeps fielding threadbare lineups, moving players out of position and still winning. 5 points clear and with Kolo Toure and Robin Van Persie soon to return, Arsenal has to be feeling pretty confident at the moment.

I have officially had it with FIFA 08: if you catch me playing this god-forsaken game one more time, feel free to smack me upside my head. The players don't make intelligent runs, they just watch the ball go by, switching to a defender causes him to stop running, it's damn near impossible to tackle and there's this bug where I will occasionally try to make a pass and the ball goes entirely in the opposite direction. When does PES 2008 come out in the US?

Hooray, we are even closer to MLS expansion in Philly! Hooray, the USA will play England! Hooray, it looks like we've got Spain and Argentina lined up as well (hooray for potentially going 0-for-3?)! Let's keep playing as many top-20 teams as we can...