Archive for the ‘English Soccer’ Category

A soccer showcase

May 27, 2011

It may be May 27 on the calendar, but for fans of the beautiful game, it’s like New Year’s Eve.

Barcelona and Manchester United will meet at London’s Wembley Stadium tomorrow afternoon (2:45 FOX) for the Champions League final – and it’s one of the more anticipated finals in recent memory.

Many of my friends who drop by here are now rolling their eyes.

“More soccer, Randy? Geez.”

Yes, more soccer. But first, a brief Champions League primer.

The Champions League is a competition of all of the club teams in Europe (or at least the ones that finished near the top of their respective domestic league the year before). It’s a long, winding process that began with 76 teams. Those 76 got whittled down to 32 teams for what is known as the group stage.

That’s eight groups of four that play home and away matches with the top two teams in each advancing.

Then starts the knockout phase that features home and away matches with winners being chosen based on aggregate.

That’s how we got here.

If you’re still here, let me give you a reason to tune in.

Aside from the World Cup, no event is as important as this one.

And the teams might just be better than the ones you’d see wearing a country’s colors.

Barcelona’s starting 11 is littered with stars from the Spanish national team, not to mention the best player in the world, Argentina’s Lionel Messi.

They play a style that can best be described as a slow dance, passing the ball quickly and rhythmically, putting defenders out of position and tiring them out.

And no one finishes like Messi.

It’s almost poetry, when full back Dani Alves or midfielder Sergio Busquets are spoiling the fun with silly dives and play acting.

Most observers say that this team is the best of its generation – and perhaps the best ever.

But Manchester United isn’t about to stand still for a coronation in its home country.

United, like Barca, is one of the biggest clubs in the world with a rich history.

Wayne Rooney is just a notch below Messi as one of the world’s finest forwards, but the Red Devils have a long list of stars in their lineup as well.

If my guess at their lineup tomorrow is correct, the Red Devils will have nine different national teams represented (England, Holland, Wales, Brazil, Mexico, Bulgaria, France, Serbia and South Korea).

The point is that, no matter who wins, it will make for quite the spectacle.

Flip over to FOX tomorrow and check it out.

Maybe then, you’ll see what I see.

It is, after all, the beautiful game.

To see my preview of the match, click here.

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A fight to the finish

May 23, 2011

I often tell my non-soccer loving friends, of which there are many, that relegation is the best-kept secret in the world to American sports fans.

There is nothing like it.

The final day of the NFL season always features 16 games – and most years almost all of them are a complete waste of time. Division winners have clinched, home field for the playoffs has been decided and a host of teams end up simply playing out the string.

That’s because, in American sports, there’s no penalty for finishing last. In fact, teams are rewarded for it with high draft picks.

In soccer (everywhere else in the world), a last-place effort gets you a one-way ticket out of the league.

There were 10 games in England yesterday on the final day of the Barclays Premier League season. And Manchester United had the championship already sewn up, even their game with Blackpool mattered.

Seven of the 10 games were important for league survival or places in European competition next season.

Wolverhampton fell behind 3-0 at the half, and looked to be going down to the Championship (the second division of English soccer), but two second-half goals kept Wolves in the Premier League.

And that’s worth about $90 million to the club, by the way.

Hugo Rodallega won’t be buying his own drinks in Wigan for a while, as his 79th minute goal kept his side in the BPL with a 1-0 win at Stoke.

There were also losers on Sunday.

Blackpool took a 2-1 lead against the champions, but fell apart late in a 4-2 loss.

Gone.

Birmingham couldn’t nick a draw against Tottenham, a sad end to a season that featured a Carling Cup trophy for the case.

Doesn’t matter. They’re gone, too.

Both clubs will join West Ham in the Championship next season, making way for Queens Park Rangers, Norwich and the winner of the playoff final between Swansea and Reading.

With relegation, there is a penalty for futility.

Just ask the folks in Blackpool and Birmingham.

Check out the highlights here

Jozy’s first EPL goal

February 9, 2010

Jozy Altidore scored his second goal for Hull over the weekend, and it was his first in Premier League play.

Try to get over the poor video quality and cheesy background music…

Donovan gets first EPL goal

January 28, 2010

Landon Donovan seems to be adjusting to English soccer football just fine, thank you.

On Wednesday, the most decorated player in U.S. National team history scored his first goal for the Toffees in a 2-0 win over Sunderland.

Tim Cahill got the assist with a nice header that Donovan ran onto and then finished with the left foot.

It took a slight deflection, but it was goal-bound anyway.

Here’s a look:

Monday thoughts

January 11, 2010

Donovan

I continue to be amazed by the absolute snobbery with which the United States and its players are greeted on the world stage – particularly in England.But when my favorite soccer magazine, Four Four Two, posted its list of the world’s Top 100 players, my bemusement reached new heights.

Landon Donovan, easily the best field player we’ve ever produced, was nowhere to be found. Of course, being the proud defender of American soccer that I am, I fired off an e-mail in criticsm of the list.

To their credit, they printed it.

It reads as follows:

I’m a big fan of 442, but I can’t figure out why you’ve left Landon Donovan off the top 100 list of world players.

I realise that, as Americans, we are doomed to second-class citizen status on the world soccer stage, but I would still think that the best player this country has ever produced would warrant a spot on the list ahead of the likes of Ronaldo and Davide Santon.

Donovan has been capped 120 times by the U.S, netting a record 42 goals in those appearances. In addition, he has 36 assists for the national team in those caps, which is also a record.

And he’s only 27 years old.

Still, with quality keepers like Tim Howard and Brad Friedel and outfield players like Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey playing in the Premier League, it’s not a stretch to suggest that Donovan – a more decorated American player than any I just mentioned – might be one of the world’s best 100.

They took out a paragraph and changed “realize” to that unrecognizable British version, but other than that, that’s what I wrote.

And his solid effort in his Everton debut isn’t hurting his cause to be in next year’s top 100 either…

Now, if only the folks at Setanta could bother to spell his name right in the pregame lineup graphic.

The best player ever for a nation ranked in the top 12 in the world, and they spell his name “Donavan.”

Maybe that’s why they’re soon-to-be out of business.

A man called Clint

January 6, 2010

Naturally, I’m disappointed that Fulham decided to fall down 3-0 after 45 minutes at Stoke City on Tuesday, but I am proud of the effort shown in the eventual 3-2 defeat.

Not nearly as proud, however, as I am of this piece of skill from Clint Dempsey:

He also assisted on the first goal. Not bad for a second-half substitute.

Hopefully, he’ll save some of this magic for this summer in South Africa…

FA Cup fun

January 4, 2010

I watched a few FA Cup games over the weekend, and saw two very good games on Sunday.

The first was a famous win for a formerly famous club, Leeds United, over Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Jermaine Beckford, a rumored target for Newcastle in the current transfer window, scored the winner.

The other was a stirring comeback win for Arsenal, which fielded a very young side, over West Ham at Upton Park.

Eduardo scored the winner on a beautiful header. Mexican striker Carlos Vela provided the service.

Goal of the Year?

December 14, 2009

It’s not a particularly important goal, but Maynor Figueroa’s 61-yard strike for Wigan against Stoke was just plain awesome.

Didn’t see it?

Check it out:

Thursday notebook

November 19, 2009

Soccer season is officially over region-wide as Pinecrest fell to Green Hope, 2-1 last night.

I have to say, despite my concerns over penalty decisions, Pinecrest was an impressive side when I saw them recently. I’ve had players on other teams tell me how impressed they were with the Patriots as well.

Todd Abbey deserves a lot of credit for what’s he’s done with that program since the whole Larry Martin dust-up.

Shameless plug

Someone you know wrote an EPL preview for EPLTalk.com. Go check it out.

Theirry Henry and France rob Ireland

Call it another reason to dislike France or yet another brick in the wall of evidence that FIFA needs to either add officials or adopt some form of video replay, but France cheated its way into the World Cup in Paris last night.

It’s a shame, really.

All-area team

I’m accepting coaches’ nominations for the all-area team. Everyone of them should have an e-mail from me. So, if you’re a coach, send me some nominations. If you’re a player or fan, ask your coach to do it.

I had a very good response last season, and I’m hoping for more of the same.

Poll watch

September 14, 2009

The latest North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association poll is out, and Fayetteville Academy is 11th in the latest private school poll.

And here’s a look at the latest standings in the Mid South and Cape Fear Valley.

And let’s not forget the Cape Fear Independent, either.

Before we go, how about a sweet goal from Jermain Defoe: