Category Archives: 12/13 Season
Brek Shea will be missed in Dallas
Brek Shea has been the face of FC Dallas the past two seasons, but now he plays for Stoke City. I’m glad for Shea. It’s always good to see American players get a shot in the perceived top league in the world. But since I just bought an FC Dallas season ticket a few weeks ago, this is not welcome news.
I first saw Shea play in person in 2010, the season he made his first professional start and really came into his own for FC Dallas. He almost immediately caught my eye as a special player. It wasn’t just the flashy shock of ultra blonde hair. He hustled his tail off and wasn’t afraid to run with the ball at opponents. He had height, strength, speed, and all-important feistiness. He could scoot around the edges and get passes across the box or get shots off when other players would have lost possession. He spent that 2010 season under the radar and I shared FC Dallas fans’ pride of recognizing potential that the wider world hadn’t fully noticed yet. I even called my younger brother and soccer confidant Dan to tell him about this Brek Shea and how he could be on the national team someday.
Shea and FC Dallas made it to their first and only MLS Cup Final in 2010 where they lost to Colorado. By the start of 2011, the cat was out of the bag with Shea and opponents started marking him tightly. It was a tougher season for him (and FC Dallas), yet he was still a standout and a finalist for the league’s MVP. Buzz began building about him. In the offseason, he got to train for a few weeks at Arsenal. FC Dallas wisely signed him on through 2015. By the start of last season, the media spotlight on Shea was blinding. Even in Dallas he was becoming a household name (okay, still mostly just among us soccer nerds). US National Team Coach Jurgen Klinsmann jumped on board the Brek train too, granting Shea several consecutive caps.
Then the 2012 MLS season got under way and Shea fizzled on field. A turf toe injury sidelined him for several weeks. I actually observed him up close as he was nearing recovery from that injury when he participated in a demonstration drill run by FC Dallas Head Coach Schellas Hyndman at Hyndman’s annual clinic for local coaches. I was impressed and surprised that Shea turned up for the demo – something he certainly wasn’t obligated to do on such a hot May afternoon. The demo was a mix of academy players and FC Dallas reserve players, but Shea played as hard as if he were trying to earn a starting spot. Afterwards he affably hung around to chat with coaches and pose for photos. He certainly didn’t appear too overwhelmed by stardom that day.
Shea continued struggling with injuries throughout 2012, but even when he was in the lineup he couldn’t recover his near-MVP form from 2011. Fans grumbled impatiently. Brek and Hyndman got into a spat on NBC when Hyndman benched him late during a contentious match at San Jose. Shea the wonder boy suddenly seemed mentally and physically drained.
Now it looks like the business side of soccer has reared its necessary and sometimes ugly head with Dallas apparently eager to cash in on Stoke City’s interest in the 22-year-old Shea. Shea was a rare rising star for Dallas, a real potential franchise player. I had a feeling it would just be a matter of time before a bigger club snatched him up – Dallas is too small a club to retain stars for very long. The only real surprise is why now? Shea had such a dismal 2012 MLS season that I was confident he would be in Dallas at least through 2013. I was really looking forward to this being a comeback season for Brek.
I should have been suspicious when Zach Loyd began featuring a bit more than Shea in FC Dallas’ promotional efforts toward the end of last season. Considering that and the rift between Hyndman and Shea, the writing has likely been on the wall for several months. I wish Dallas would splash the Stoke cash they get for Shea on a replacement star, someone for season ticket holders like myself to get jazzed about. But I won’t hold my breath.
It’s a catch-22 for American soccer fans when deals like this come along. On one hand, you want to see U.S. players get opportunities in the world’s top league – it’s great for their development, enhances our national team, and improves American soccer’s reputation. On the other hand it highlights where MLS falls in the pecking order of the world’s soccer leagues. It seems difficult enough (particularly in a market like Dallas) to get fans to support MLS teams that actually have an American star or two, much less when those stars get shipped to more prestigious European leagues.
I wish Shea all the best at Stoke City. This FC Dallas fan will definitely miss him.
Your thoughts on Shea’s transfer to Stoke City?
The January transfer window is open and Chelsea changes are afoot
Chelsea’s post-Club World Cup recovery was going great with a League Cup victory against Leeds, followed by three successive EPL wins over Aston Villa, Norwich, and Everton. Plenty for fans to be enthused about over the Christmas holiday. All that came to a frustratingly screeching halt Wednesday with the 1-0 home loss to QPR – who just happen to be the worst team in the league. Simply unbelievable. The slim hope of catching up to Manchester United by season’s end has all but vanished now. It will be a dogfight just to qualify for the Champions League.
The QPR loss confirms that Chelsea is not an elite team right now. There are currently only two elite teams in the EPL and they’re both located in Manchester. The Manchesters repeatedly demonstrate their knack for winning games they should win, as well as clawing their way back into games when they’re not performing at their best. They always seem to find additional goals, even when they’re letting goals in themselves. Chelsea has not shown the same ability this season.
A team’s fortunes don’t rest entirely on one player of course, but Man U does have the remarkably reliable Robin Van Persie at striker, and Man City has the similarly prolific Edin Dzeko. Chelsea has Fernando Torres. Yeah. I know Torres has scored much more this season, but would anyone really put him in the same league as Van Persie and Dzeko right now? Well, Chelsea may be about to get a lift in that department…
Today Chelsea made it official that Demba Ba is joining the club from Newcastle. Now that the remote possibility of Didier Drogba joining the team on loan from China seems to have vanished, the arrival of Senegalese striker Ba is great news for Chelsea fans. If his Newcastle stint is any indication, he will be a physical handful in the box for opponents – something Chelsea has desperately missed since Drogba’s departure. For all the deft, speedy skill of Hazard, Mata, and Oscar, they are small guys who frequently get muscled off the ball, so having Ba’s strength and nose for goal will be a welcome addition to the offensive mix.
The only things tempering my enthusiasm over Ba are his past knee-injury struggles and the fact that he’s 27-years-old. I’m not saying 27 is old, I just wish Chelsea would find an elite under-the-radar striker at the beginning of his career rather than splashing mid-season cash for perhaps final-third-of-their-career guys. I thought they had done that with young Lukaku last season, but they let him languish on the bench before loaning him to West Brom for this season. Still, getting Ba was much more economical than the rumored move for Atletico Madrid’s Falcao. Overall, I’m quite glad Ba is a Blue. Having lived in Senegal for five years as a youngster, I always root for Senegalese players. Hopefully Ba will accelerate his scoring prowess for Chelsea over the next few seasons.
On the flip side of the January transfer window fun, new arrivals usually mean departures as well. Daniel Sturridge moved to Liverpool this week. I like Sturridge and think he has a lot of potential that was never fully explored at Chelsea. He deserved a lot more playing time this season in place of the bland Torres. I wish him the best at LFC.
The other big name in Blues news this week is one of my favorite Chelsea players (isn’t he everyone’s?): Frank Lampard. It seems unthinkable that Chelsea would even consider letting this legend go and yet that seems to be what’s happening. Lampard’s contract is up at the end of this season and Chelsea doesn’t seem eager to re-sign him. I don’t understand this. Lampard is beloved by fans, a leader on the field, and still produces goals at the highest level. Just look at Scholes and Giggs at Man U – guys older than Lampard who still contribute. Lamps has a few more seasons in him and Chelsea should allow him to end his career as a Blue. He has certainly earned it.
What do you think of Chelsea’s transfer window action so far?
It’s been quite a month for the Blues
My how much can change at the ol’ Chelsea Football Club in such a short amount of time! You go a month without blogging about the Blues and look what happens. Benitez becomes the new coach… Fans repeatedly boo Benitez… Chelsea gets bounced from the Champs League… Chelsea gets bounced from the Club World Cup… Torres struggles at striker… wait, that last one’s no different from any other of the nearly 24 months since Fernando became a Chelsean. Anyways, very eventful weeks since I last updated this blog.
My soccer-coaching season is in full swing and life has been hectic, so that’s my excuse for the silence on all the upheaval at CFC – that, and the fact that I’m still disappointed by the Di Matteo canning. The coaching carousel at Chelsea has become so absurd that you really just have to throw up your “whatever!” hands. I guess if you buy a pro soccer club with your bazillions, you can do whatever you want with your club, even firing beloved managers.
Getting rid of Di Matteo was dumb, and Chelsea fans’ negative reaction to Benitez’s arrival has been humorous, but in the spirit of Christmas, it’s probably time to get o’er it, stop badgering Benitez, and get back to cheering on the Blue boys. After all, they’ve got Europa League to play for, and Capital One Cup! Yes, I’m being sarcastic, but it’s just because I’m so disappointed that Chelsea’s out of the Champs League. I haven’t even checked this week’s draw for the knockout round because it’s just not the same without the Blues. The day Chelsea got eliminated (thanks to Shakhtar’s sudden, complete soccer ineptitude – at home no less!), a package actually arrived at my house containing Kings of Europe, the Chelsea Champs League-winning commemorative hardcover book I’d ordered for my birthday. I was left thumbing through the pages with the hollow knowledge that Chelsea are the first Champs League champs in history not to make the knockout round the following season. The book is terrific by the way and would make a great last-minute Christmas gift for that special Chelsea fan in your life. But it’s kind of a sad gift now, what with all the full-color pics of Di Matteo and Drogba celebrating with the big-eared trophy. Sniff, sniff. There are even some shots of Michael Essien. I miss those guys. In today’s soccer world, it sure doesn’t take long to seriously alter a team’s identity!
On the plus side, Chelsea is still a good team. The new guys are doing well: Hazard, Oscar, Moses. Lamps is back from injury. And who knows, maybe the lack of Champs League travel and distraction will help Chelsea claw their way back into Premier League title contention. Here’s hoping anyway.
Merry Christmas to all and thanks for reading this year!
Thoughts on Chelsea’s busy month? Feel free to share below…
Chelsea continues their boneheaded ways with managers…
I woke up this morning contemplating Chelsea’s recent awfulness and what, if anything, original could be said about it. That led me to thoughts about Roberto Di Matteo, that maybe I’d write a little something in his defense since I was slightly surprised to hear commentators emphasizing how under fire he is after Chelsea’s poor Premier League form and Champions League struggles. These were my pre-morning coffee thoughts, but then I flip on the ol’ internet machine and the first thing I see are the Di Matteo’s-been-fired headlines. What? Seriously? What?
I’m actually shocked by the news that Di Matteo’s been given the boot. I shouldn’t be of course, given Chelsea’s managerial revolving door the past few years, but I’m still kind of shocked.
Chelsea’s current performance problems are player-related and not Di Matteo’s fault. The timing of this firing is very poor. Who are they going to get to replace him at this point in the season? Is another “caretaker” really a better idea than just sticking with Di Matteo for the rest of the season? I don’t think so. Managers have to do the best they can with the players they’re given. Di Matteo has done that. It’s not his fault that Torres can’t score, or even hold onto the ball for more than 0.5 seconds (and Chelsea’s woes aren’t solely Torres’ fault either – I can’t remember the last time the defense had a shutout).
By firing Di Matteo, Chelsea are seriously impeding their long-term progress and unnecessarily complicating this season’s quest for success. A team’s fortune can change pretty quickly – if Chelsea had given Di Matteo just one more week, Chelsea could potentially beat Premier League leader Manchester City this Sunday, and qualify for the Champions League knockout stage with a win next week. It’s hard to imagine them canning Roberto in those circumstances. Alas, we’ll never know. At some point Chelsea is going to have to learn real patience with managers or the club will be in a perpetual state of rebuilding.
What do you think of Di Matteo’s firing?
A Special Invitation from Chelsea* to Drogba…
How’s life in China? How’s the food? The weather? How’s your Chinese coming along? Hope all is well.
Here’s the deal, Didier, we miss you at Stamford Bridge. We really need you to come back. Like this week. I know we parted ways on great terms, with you having just won the Champions League for us and all. If you were going to leave the club, it was the perfect time to do so. We were all very understanding, but let’s face it, our Champions League-winning high clouded our judgment. Now that we’ve had time to ponder… we think we made a big mistake.
Did you see our draw today against a very beatable Liverpool? Their striker Suarez saved the day for them again – a lot like you used to for Chelsea. We need a big time lethal striker again. That’s where you come in. We’ve got some great new guys this season we think you’ll really dig – guys like Hazard and Oscar. They’ve been creating great ball movement with Mata, but the problem is they need a real strongman in the box to feed the ball to. No one wreaks havoc in the box like you do. We really miss your ability to hold the ball and invent crazy-angled shots out of nothing. In case you’re wondering about Torres, well, we’re not exactly sure what to do about that yet. But it probably involves selling him for as much cash as possible come January. Look, Fernando’s a great guy and we wish him well, but he’s no Drogba.
Now we know you left Chelsea primarily because Shanghai-whatchamacallit offered you a bazillion dollars. Very understandable. We didn’t think we could match their bazillions. But this week we found out we actually made a profit for the first time in something like a decade (thanks to the Champions League riches you helped us get), so, since we’re not used to operating in the black anyway, we thought we’d just give you all that excess profit if you come back.
By the way, in case it’s not all about money, you saw where Chelsea fans recently voted you one of the greatest Blues players in club history, right? That’s pretty sweet. The fans would welcome you back in a heartbeat. Just sayin’. We know you have a soft spot for Chelsea in that lion heart of yours, so we want to remind you that John Terry got knocked out of the Liverpool match today with a potentially season-ending injury, Lampard is still out with a calf thing, and we loaned Michael Essien to Real Madrid for reasons we’re still not entirely sure about (okay, we brought that last one on ourselves, but we’re just pointing out the dearth of Blues vets currently on hand).
Just in case you feel a little weird about the idea of coming back to Chelsea so soon after leaving, it’s not unprecedented. Paul Scholes returned to Man U after retiring for a while last season. Thierry Henry even went back to Arsenal on loan earlier this year. It’s obviously not our first choice, but we’d settle for you returning to Chelsea on loan whenever the Chinese league’s over (sorry, we’re not sure when their season ends – until you went there we didn’t even know China had a pro league). Whatever it takes, Didier, that’s what we’re saying.
Admit it, you miss the Premier League. The high-pressure matches. The packed, historic stadiums. Cup finals. Champions League nights around Europe. Eccentric gazillionaire Russian owners. Causing Sir Alex heartburn. Democracy.
We don’t want to pressure you too much, but we have slipped from first to third in the table within a couple weeks, so we kind of need an answer ASAP. Only you can help prevent one of the Manchesters winning the league again. Chelsea’s fate is in your hands. Okay, that may be overstating it a bit, but come on man you’re playing in China for goodness sakes! No one watches Chinese soccer!
Come home, Didier, come home. You know you want to. We can have a jet there in a matter of hours.
Chelsea Football Club
P.S. Say hello to Anelka for us.
*Unfortunately this letter does not represent an actual invitation from Chelsea Football Club to Didier Drogba.
Chelsea topples Tottenham 4–2
So far this season I’ve enjoyed Chelsea’s undefeated run and top place in the table with fingers crossed behind my back. Things have gone very well of course, but there have been a few shaky moments and based on the past two roller coaster seasons, I’ve kind of been waiting for the other shoe to drop for Chelsea, you know, like a multi-match losing streak and a late-season fight for the last Champions League spot.
After yesterday’s defeat of Tottenham at White Hart Lane however, I’m starting to believe. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions – it is still very early in the season, and if nothing else Chelsea still has four Manchester (United and City) showdowns to contend with (those four matches alone could determine the title). But Chelsea hasn’t looked this poised and confident since the last time they won the Premier League in 2009/2010. They’re constantly a scoring threat and the defense, while still occasionally leaky is playing quite cohesively. Cole and Ivanovic are even supplying regular attacking options down the wings.
Chelsea showed positive mental toughness in not only recovering from the second half Tottenham onslaught that put the Spurs up 2–1, but recovering with authority by scoring three second half goals. I still miss Drogba in attack – he would add strength, aerial threat, and finishing power to a physically small offense. To my surprise though, the Blues are getting the job done without him (and in spite of a still so-so Torres).
The new recruits, particularly Hazard and Oscar, are already clicking with the team. I didn’t expect results this good so early in the season. These new guys are still gelling with the team, so imagine where they could be in a few months as long as everyone stays healthy!
Chelsea is fun to watch again…
Any thoughts on the Blues’ win at Tottenham? Feel free to share below!
Chelsea’s draw with Juventus and win over Stoke
It wasn’t an altogether happy week to be a Chelsea fan. I guess it sounds ungrateful to gripe about a Champions League draw (against Juventus last Wednesday) and Premier League win (over Stoke yesterday) – particularly if you’re, say, a Liverpool fan – but there are some frustrating aspects to the Blues’ recent performances that have made for some nerve-wracking matches.
Let’s start with that mid-week Champions League season opener against Juventus at Stamford Bridge. Plenty to be excited about in the first half thanks to new Blue Oscar’s two sweet, long-range goals. Plenty to be frustrated about too though, thanks to Chelsea’s ongoing inability to protect a lead.
For all of Chelsea’s intricate passing prowess – and they’ve certainly improved in that area this season – they’ve had far too many giveaways the past few matches. Mikel got a lot of heat for his careless turnover pass that led to Juventus’ equalizing goal, but Ramires has had an alarming number of errant passes recently. As a side note, Mikel’s error was extra painful after watching former Chelsea favorite Michael Essien excel in Real Madrid’s big Champions League win over Manchester City Tuesday. It underscored my feeling that Essien was unfairly (and unwisely) pushed out the door in favor of Mikel. I like Mikel, but I still think Essien is a more complete and reliable midfielder.
Chelsea squandered a great opportunity to beat Juventus and now faces a slightly more uphill Champions League climb than should’ve been necessary.
Against Stoke yesterday, we saw more of the same shiny Chelsea possession that fails to create many actual scoring chances. Hazard continues to provide tremendous spark and creativity, and Oscar continues to show potential. Mata, Hazard, Oscar, and Ramires constantly buzzed around the box, and constantly got knocked off the ball or fouled. These are small guys. Fast guys, but small guys. Chelsea lacks attacking muscle. Chelsea desperately needs a striker like, well, I hate to say it but, like Drogba – someone who can hold the ball in the box, create something out of nothing, or dish it off for another shooter. Torres is not that guy. I’m completely frustrated with Torres. Victor Moses provided much more energy when he entered the game in the 61st minute (though I don’t understand why he replaced Hazard). Moses should start over Torres immediately.
It was fitting that Ashley Cole got Chelsea’s only goal yesterday. He continues to be a bit of an unsung hero for Chelsea, a defensive stalwart whose hustle and drive never seem to waiver.
It’s great to see Chelsea atop the league of course, but they’re barely squeaking by right now. To maintain their position (and control their Champions League destiny) they need more consistency on defense and need to convert their offensive passing creativity into goals.
Your thoughts on Chelsea’s Champions League opener and/or victory over Stoke?