116street Soccer

Footballing from a lesser authority...

Location: New York, New York

Saturday, January 20, 2007

What's Beef?

Why is everybody so unhappy these days? After listening to Bruce Arena go the full 90 bitching and moaning about Bob Bradley's interim status (as if Bradley's the first guy to ever be hired on an interim basis), I couldn't help but take a moment to reflect on just how many soccer personalities are beefing these days. Let's start in Madrid, where Fabio Capello has decided to kick-start the blame game in response to Real's disappointing season. The reason Madrid is faltering, evidently, is because two players who never play are holding the club back. Capello's indiscretion in calling out Ronaldo and Beckham at every opportunity is not only tiresome, but it has also enabled club president Ramon Calderon to feel entitled to do the same. Real Madrid is a club with fragile egos, however, meaning the discord must continue. This weekend, it was the players' turn to swipe back at management with no less of a company man than Raul firing back at the Bernabeu hierarchy's unprofessionalism (poll for my fellow USA fans: who'd you rather have: Sensitive Sunil or Ramon Calderon?).
Now that we're all so happy to see Real back to mid-season form (at least off the pitch), we must turn our attention to the Galacticos North at Stamford Bridge, where Jose Mourinho seems quite unhappy with his Chelsea superiors. While we here on 116th Street can't really say we're surprised about this development, we never would have guessed Oguchi Onyewu would be so prominently involved in the breakup. Who knew so much beef had so many U.S. implications? We must truly be living in a new century.
While we're on the topic of anger, the Beckham saga and American defenders, what is Peter Vagenas mad about exactly? This fool really said, "On the one hand you would say more power to him but on the other hand you think why can't I be earning that?" Why can't you be earning that, Peter? Maybe, just maybe it's because you are an unspectacular MLS defender. Perhaps it is due to the fact that you, sir, are not David Beckham. I mainly suspect, however, that you cannot earn $250 million because your last name is Vagenas, which, no matter how you may pronounce it, is likely the most un-marketable, squirm-enducing name I have ever encountered. Not even Danny Shittu would trade places with you.
Notes from USA-Denmark: Fun game this evening, nice to see the USA boys back in action. Jonathan Bornstein has a very bright future. Landon Donovan has no reason to appear intimidated by Denmark's B squad. Chris Albright, I hope that flu passes soon (why did he even play? It was a friendly!). Overall, it was a very inconsistent performance from the USA Men, which was to be expected after such a long layoff. Mastroeni is one of our favorites, but a guy with his experience needs to play with a lot more discipline. Where will this team get its veteran leadership from?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Crossing the Border

For those of you desperately searching for a dope rhyme to step to, have no fear, I have returned; what did I miss? Very special thanks to my guest bloggers, who helped keep the site going during an insanely hectic period here on 116th Street...

You know, with some of the dollar figures we have been reading about lately, it can be easy to miss a $1 million prize laying around for the taking. Yet, as MLS basks in the glow of the Beckham signing (of which I will only say that since the league is only footing $2 million over five years for him, announcing a "$250 million deal" could potentially leave them with some serious egg on their faces), an announcement of possibly greater long-term significance slid right under the radar. Yesterday's unveiling of the SuperLiga, an eight-team tournament pitting the best of Major League Soccer against that of the Mexican First Division, may not be the first attempt at creating a Champions League-style tournament in North America, but in terms of organization and (more importantly) marketing dollars, it stands the best chance of making an imprint in the U.S. sporting scene.
The SuperLiga brings to the table what the CONCACAF Champions Cup fails to deliver; a sexy, uncomplicated name, a simple format, and a primetime Univision audience. What it fails to deliver is a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup, but the greater financial muscle behind this tournament may change that situation in future years as well. It also formally establishes a club version of the blood fued USA and Mexico fans have shared internationally over the years, raising the stakes in a way that the CCC could never achieve. The $1 million prize seems largely cosmetic, but makes for a good selling point as the potential for soccer in the U.S. television market continues to be explored.
What this tournament (along with the Beckham signing, shirt-sponsorship deals, etc.) means to me is that MLS is staking a bolder path than that of the national team program, which is good for the league but probably bad for the Nats. While the USSF has dissapointingly chosen to play things safe (no need to revisit any of that), MLS seems perfectly willing to throw ideas at the wall to see what sticks. There have been so many reasons to question whether or not soccer will ever work in this country, but I have to say that I am pleased with the league's willingness to take risks now that they have a solid base of stability. While the SuperLiga isn't perfect, it is a good idea that could have enormous ramifications if carried out properly; isn't that all we're really asking for?