Monthly Archives: August 2011

Blues Best Brom (Barely)

Chelsea’s victory over West Bromwich more a relief than anything else…

Whew!  The photo of Andre Villas-Boas on the Chelsea website speaks volumes – epitomizing the relief and pent-up release of Chelsea fans during last Saturday’s match at Stamford Bridge.  Malouda’s winning goal came a little too late for comfort.

Midway through the first half, a nightmare scenario flashed through my mind involving a loss to West Brom, followed by a freak loss to Norwich City – one draw and two losses in his first three games getting AVB fired, etc.  Fortunately, Chelsea didn’t quit, and kept plugging away until the ball found the net twice in the second half.  Maybe AVB will get to stick around awhile after all.

Chelsea wasn’t terrible of course, but there is cause for concern.  The counter-attack was too slow.  Corners were unusually ineffective.  I don’t know why Drogba & Torres can’t play simultaneously.  It’s like it’s already an unwritten Chelsea law that they can never share the pitch, but they’ve barely been granted opportunity to develop any rapport.

After Saturday’s match I was feeling pretty shaky about the season, but reading Pat Nevin’s column on the Chelsea site earlier this week was reassuring.  Pat’s right – it’s way too early to worry.  Still, here’s hoping the Norwich match has fewer white-knuckle moments.  I could really use a five or six to zero walloping (by Chelsea of course!).

What was your take on the Chelsea/West Brom match?  Concerns?  Positives?

Advertisements

Opening Weekend Blues

It’s hard not to be disappointed by Chelsea’s 1 – 1 draw at Stoke

Logically, we shouldn’t worry about a draw on opening day.  It doesn’t mean all that much with so many fixtures ahead.  There are sure to be more disappointing draws and even losses this season.  But it’s hard for fans to keep that perspective.  It’s hard because you’ve waited all summer with such anticipation and buildup.  And then the first game finally arrives – Chelsea looking all shiny in their snazzy blues, AVB looking all svelte and sixties-ish with his black Chelsea-badged suit and skinny tie.  And then the team plays mostly like the team we suffered with last year.  You know, the one that perpetually schools teams in possession and scoring ops, but can’t find the back of the net.

Drawing against Stoke City is not the end of the world of course.  It’s just that after such a positive preseason I was hoping for a real opening game statement.  Something that would suck the wind out of the Man U/Man City sails.  Instead, Chelsea’s already two points back in the title race.  Here’s hoping we get our big statement win against West Brom on Saturday… and that the Manchesters lose of course.

Was the Stoke game cause for concern for Chelsea?

USA v. Mexico

Wednesday’s “friendly” ended in 1 – 1 draw

The U.S./Mexico match in Philadelphia Wednesday night was noteworthy only because it was Jurgen Klinsmann’s first match as the U.S. men’s national team coach.  Otherwise, it was a fairly sloppy game with lively patches few and far between.  Here are my match notes:

-The US starting lineup was unexciting.  Buddle over Brek Shea or Freddy Adu?   I know Adu’s not necessarily a forward, but still.  Buddle?  I thought we’d see Klinsmann begin to reinvent the wheel, even in his first game, by naming a bigger ratio of newbies to veterans.  Instead, the starting eleven was a pretty familiar bunch.

-17th min:  Fluke Mexican goal, which ricocheted off a green-shirt via corner kick.

-Interesting, old school move by Klinsmann to remove names from the back of the US jerseys.  It sends the signal that the team is rebooting.  Some seem to think it’s an unnecessarily junior league thing to do.  I kind of like it.

-The US was very drab in the first half, creating next to nothing.  Zero shots!

-It was weird to see Jose Torres out there (for the US) because I’d almost forgotten about him!  I thought he was pretty swell in World Cup 2010 so it was good to see him back.  He had a quiet first half, but showed some promise in the second.

-At halftime, ESPN’s Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman were rightfully upset by the lack of American creativity in the first half.  I agree with the frequently grumpy-seeming Lalas that there is far too much emphasis on the US somehow needing more Latin players to improve.  At a recent FC Dallas game, I even overheard a dude ask his buddy whether or not he thought the booming Hispanic population in the US would mean we’ll win the World Cup soon.  Degree of latin-ness has nothing to do with it.  I’m pretty certain soccer skill has not been detected in the genetic code in any part of the world yet.

-57th min:  Solid header by Bocanegra off a corner.  Mexican GK had to make a great diving save.  Should’ve been the equalizer!

-Overall, I expected to see a lot more US hustle since everyone is auditioning for Klinsmann.

-60th min:  Brek Shea replaced Jermaine Jones.  Juan Agudelo replaced Buddle.  The US tempo almost immediately spiked.

-61st min:  Youthful waste of a shot by Agudelo.  Sorry, but I don’t see what all the excitement over Agudelo is about.  He did make some decent passes before the night was over though.

-73rd min:  Shea slid the ball through the box from the left side to Robbie Rogers (?!) who tapped it in!  Game tied 1 – 1.

-Donovan finally woke up for the last 15 minutes.  Not sure what took so long, but his late surge was a reminder that he’s still got skill to spare.  Perhaps he’ll be unleashed to play with more freedom under Klinsmann.

-Robbie Rogers was a surprise.  I’ve never been too impressed with him, but he demonstrated potential during his short stint.

-I was most excited to see Brek Shea get some quality time.  He made the most of his trial.  What I like so much about Shea is his hustle.  He always works hard.  I think we’ll be seeing him in Brazil in three years.

-It was a good first result for the US under Klinsmann.  No one was expecting much since he’s only been on the job a couple weeks.  Still, we got to see some new faces, and we didn’t lose, so overall, a positive night.  It is refreshing and fun to see Klinsmann on the sideline.  He will be good for US soccer.

What did you think of Klinsmann’s lineup choices?  Feel free to share your thoughts below…

Renewed Blues

Chelsea’s preseason ends on a high note

Chelsea won their last preseason match, defeating Glasgow Rangers 3 – 1 on Saturday.  The victory capped an undefeated preseason and confirmed that Blues fans have reason to be very positive about the upcoming season, which is now one week away.

Chelsea is flying under the radar to start the new season, which is a great place to be.  While all the attention has been on the Manchesters and Arsenal’s will-they-or-won’t-they-lose-their-superstars soap opera, Chelsea has quietly gone about their business in a methodical, un-glitzy fashion.  Aside from the summer-long Modric question, even Chelsea’s transfer dealings have been pretty quiet.  The deals that have been made are smart – the most recent being Oriol Romeu and (just Saturday) Romelu Lukaku.  Unfortunately, Yury Zhirkov is departing the team, presumably to make room for these new signings, however, if you had to lose someone, Zhirkov is a smart choice.  Not that he isn’t a top-quality player; he just never quite became the regular starter (partially due to injury) that might have been expected when he came to Chelsea two years ago.

The addition of Romeu and Lukaku – both still teenagers – is exciting, particularly when considered alongside the other Chelsea youth that was on fine display throughout

the preseason.  You can really see the future Chelsea squad taking shape, and yet, the veteran favorites are still in great form.  This blend of youth and experience will make for an exciting season.

Speaking of exciting, Daniel Sturridge scored two goals Saturday against Rangers.  He has surely earned a starting forward spot with his preseason fireworks.  Problem is, he was red-carded during the final game of last season (while on loan with Bolton) and is therefore suspended for the first three matches of this season.  Tough break for Sturridge – and Chelsea.  The other forwards might want to use the first few games to make a case for themselves because Sturridge’s case is currently the most convincing.

What do you think of Romeu and Lukaku – smart acquisitions or wasted transfer opportunity?

Modric Money

Why Chelsea should forget about signing Modric

Chelsea will be in the race to win the Premier League this season whether they sign Luka Modric or not.  I like Modric.  He would strengthen any team he’s a part of, including Chelsea.  But Chelsea is good enough right now without him.  “Good enough?” some might say, don’t you want to be better than good enough?  Not when acquiring him might cost some £30 million or more.  It’s just not worth it.  Save the money and reassess in January.  There might be a more pressing personnel need at the season’s mid-point.

Chelsea currently has multiple midfield options.  I understand the risk involved in whether or not Michael Essien will be able to get back to his former playing self at all, let alone be back before this season’s over.  But Chelsea has more than enough to get by at midfield this season.  In fact, they’ll have at least a couple of very talented midfielders on the bench every week.  They don’t need to further complicate the rotation with Modric (at least not at the price Tottenham wants).

Teams need time to develop chemistry.  Chelsea just returned from a long Asian chemistry-building trip.  If the Aston Villa game is any indication, Chelsea is really starting to solidify.  Trying to suddenly incorporate a new star in an already crowded lineup just a few days before the season begins isn’t ideal.  Not impossible, just not ideal.  Just ask Fernando Torres.

What do you think – should Chelsea continue pursuing Modric?

My Evening in “The Oven”

Watching FC Dallas roast Chivas USA 1 – 0

I was at The Oven, a.k.a. Pizza Hut Park, last night so I can verify that it was indeed too hot for soccer.  Or any other outdoor activity.  I’m pretty sure I could’ve baked a pizza just by setting one in the empty seat beside me.  Apparently, last night’s 102 degree temps set a record high for a match at PHP, though having lived in DFW ten years now, I’m surprised the record is “only” 102.  Oh, and did I mention this was an evening match (kickoff was 6:00 PM)?  It was so hot, the game was even stopped around the 40-minute mark for a water break.  I’ve never seen that in a pro soccer game before.  They should’ve had a Slip & Slide on the sideline for the players.

I think the Europeans have it right – soccer in the fall/winter/spring and take the summer off.  I’ve always preferred watching and playing soccer in the cold.  Of course, I understand why MLS has to schedule the bulk of the season away from American football, which dominates the sports landscape here from September to January.  But it sure would be nice to have to wear a coat to PHP for a change!

As for the game, the teams looked understandably sapped from the opening whistle.  Even so, Dallas was clearly the faster, more aggressive side.  Poor Chivas USA fans – their team was absolutely dreadful.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a professional team pass and dribble the ball out of bounds so frequently.  Dallas looked worst than I’ve seen them since the beginning of the season (probably the result of the heat and their packed July schedule).  And yet for the most part they dominated Chivas.

Dallas missed the midfield presence and distribution of captain Daniel Hernandez who was being rested.  Forwards Ruben Luna and (later) Maykel Galindo frustrated fans with their hesitance, off-target shots, and poor possession in front of the Chivas goal.    Brek Shea had a relatively quiet game, though he was refreshingly willing to run the ball into space (unlike several of his offensive teammates).  Fortunately, Marvin Chavez ripped a 26th minute shot that ricocheted off Chivas defender Heath Pearce to give FCD the game’s only goal.

The best thing about Dallas was goalkeeper Kevin Hartman and his often unsung back four:  Ugo Ihemelu, Zach Loyd, George John, and Jair Benitez.  The defense recorded their 12th shutout of the season, which leads MLS.  The Dallas D isn’t flashy, brash, or dirty.  They simply play fundamental defense as an airtight unit.  I don’t mean to downplay Hartman’s saves – there have certainly been plenty – but he has perhaps the league’s best fullbacks in front of him.

It was fun to see Ihemelu and John enjoying their jobs as well.  During a pause in the action late in the game, Ihemelu playfully offered to squirt the head of the linesman with a water bottle.  Unfortunately, the linesman declined.  A moment later, George John amused the crowd by nodding his agreement and giving thumbs up to one fan’s loud admonishment for John to shoot from midfield since no one else was getting anything on-goal.

Considering the extreme heat, a surprisingly decent crowd of 10,000 made it to the match.  Not bad for FCD at the end of July.  But later at home I watched highlights of Toronto at Portland and saw the Timbers’ rocking, jam-packed JELD-WEN Field.  Wow!  Going to FCD games would be a completely different experience if we had sellouts every game.  I’m jealous of the Northwestern teams.  I’m glad for them and for the league.  But I’m jealous.  It seems no one can put their finger on why FCD doesn’t draw more fans.  I hear people around me ask the question every time I go to a game.  The club has a fiercely loyal following – it’s just a small fiercely loyal following.  Soccer fans in the Dallas area are missing out if they’re not tuned in to the current FCD squad, which may very well be the best team in franchise history.

Does FC Dallas have the best defense in MLS?