Category Archives: MLS 2012 season

Red, White & Blues Roundup

Thoughts on last week’s big matches for U.S., Chelsea, and FC Dallas

There is a reason this blog has been mute this week, even as my three main teams were in action.  And it’s not a pleasant reason.  I’m calling out Time Warner Cable as the worst TV/internet provider in these United States!  My cable went out first.  It was gone for a week, forcing me to watch the Chelsea/Newcastle match at my non-soccer-fan in-laws house.  But thank goodness they have Fox Soccer!  And their big screen isn’t too shabby either.  My Time Warner internet “service” was also out during the cable outage.  Services were restored for a week, then this past Monday Time Warner decided they hadn’t quite scared me away as a customer so they knocked out my internet for another week.  They finally showed up to repair it Friday night.

Then yesterday, just to kick me while I’m down, Time Warner inexplicably pulled the plug on Fox Soccer Channel in the 67th minute of the Chelsea/QPR match!  The horror!  I think that was actually worst than not having cable at all because I didn’t have time to crash my in-laws for the game.  Of course, Time Warner finally restored Fox Soccer a couple hours later, but the damage to my fanhood had already been done.  Time Warner, you are a truly terrible service!  I will be dropping them as my cable/internet provider as soon as possible!

Now back to this week’s soccer action…

First, it was a great, relieving win for the U.S. over Jamaica Tuesday night.  The U.S. looked encouraging in the first half, rattling the post three times.  I started to get that uneasy feeling you get when your team is dominating but can’t quite find the net.  But Hercules Gomez finally created some breathing room with his amazing free kick in the second half.  The U.S. should’ve had more, and they allowed some nerve-wracking moments during the final ten minutes, but the three points were secured and hope is thankfully alive again for World Cup qualification.

“Herculez! Herculez!”

The Chelsea/QPR game was a scrappy one – at least the 67 minutes of it Time Warner allowed me to see.  It ended up a scoreless draw, so at least Chelsea retains first place in the league this week.  It wasn’t a great offensive Blues performance.  Torres was back to his thumb-twiddling ways up top.  Ramires was much weaker than usual.  Hazard continues to be pretty great though.  If his teammates learn to link up with him, Chelsea will generate a lot of goals this season.

Hazardous to defenses (I know, I know. I had to do it just this once.).

On the home front, I was at FC Dallas Stadium last night for the next-to-last FCD home game of the season.  It was a must-win match for FCD against Vancouver Whitecaps if Dallas has any hope of making the playoffs.  The play was extremely physical, the refereeing atrocious, and Dallas’ strike force woefully lacking in urgency (Blas Perez and Brek Shea looked downright lethargic).  The score remained 0-0 until the 96th minute when Julian De Guzman rocketed in one of the shots of the season.  Just minutes earlier I had lamented in my mind that De Guzman had done nothing of note since his arrival in Dallas a few months ago.  I’ve repented of that lament.  The crowd exploded after De Guzman’s amazing goal and it was probably the most exciting MLS match moment I’ve ever experienced in person.

The U.S. men and FC Dallas are off for a while, but Chelsea has a big week ahead with Juventus on Tuesday in Champions League action and Stoke visiting on Saturday.  Good times!

What was your favorite soccer moment this week?

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Post-All Star Game Thoughts

MLS All-Stars beat Chelsea 3-2

They’re still in preseason.  They’re still in preseason.  They’re still in preseason.  That’s what I’ve had to keep telling myself about Chelsea since the loss last night to the MLS All-Stars in Philadelphia.  Actually, it wasn’t a poor Chelsea performance.  And the All-Stars weren’t particularly starry.  It was a decent game with a decent number of scoring chances for both teams.  Still, I’d rather Chelsea have won.

Michael Essien was on fire last night.  He looked like the pre-2011-injury Essien (which is a good thing).  Perhaps he is just now fully recovered from the knee injury that wrecked half of last season for him.  Or, perhaps he was just a man on a mission to show Di Matteo that he can still take care of business in midfield.  Regardless, he looked great and made a tremendous case for himself.  His was aggressive and fast on defense.  His passes were back to their old accuracy.  It was great to see.

For all the talk about Chelsea’s supposed youth revolution this summer, look who scored the Blues’ goals last night – Terry and Lampard.  These guys just keep on ticking.  I don’t know how many more seasons they’ve got left in them, but as long as they keep contributing like this, it’s hard to think about replacing them.

New Blues Marko Marin and Eden Hazard didn’t quite click with the team last night.  Marin held onto the ball a little too long in the box on several occasions when a quicker shot or pass might’ve been the better option.  Unfortunately, Hazard simply didn’t get many opportunities to show his stuff when he came on in the second half.

Lukaku’s effort was decent.  I’d like to see him pull the trigger on shots more often.  He could be a little more selfish with the ball in front of goal.  And we still haven’t gotten a good look at his heading ability.  But overall he had a better game than he did against PSG.

One of the trickiest aspects of Di Matteo’s job this summer will be figuring out what the best combination of players is, particularly in midfield.  That job is even harder with some key guys like Mata and Sturridge currently busy at the Olympics.  I thought the first half offensive group (Lampard, Essien, Benayoun, Ramires, Marin, Lukaku) significantly outperformed the second half group (Mikel, Meireles, Hazard, Piazon, Malouda, De Bruyne).

Last night’s loss was disappointing because you want to see your team dominate in preseason.  But it’s not that big a deal.  There is a still lot of preseason yet to go.  The team is already in Miami for their final U.S. Tour stop where they’ll play A.C. Milan on Saturday.

Your thoughts on Chelsea’s performance last night?

All Star Blues

Chelsea takes on MLS All-Stars tonight

I’m looking forward to Chelsea’s big clash against the MLS All-Stars tonight.  Should be a pretty close game.  Sounds like Di Matteo may let several players go the full 90.  Doesn’t look like Torres will play tonight at all though.  You can hear some of Di Matteo’s and Lampard’s comments about the match and MLS’ development here.

Philadelphia’s PPL Park, site of tonight’s Chelsea v. MLS All-Stars match.

The big player news of the day involves… whom else?  Oscar the Brazilian Wonder Kid of course!  Chelsea has officially confirmed the 18-year-old’s signing.  Increasingly, this is shaping up to be a torch-passing season for Chelsea between the veteran Blues and the brand new youngsters.  Chelsea haven’t played it safe with their signings this summer.  The moves have definitely been made with an eye toward the long-term future.

One of Chelsea’s brand new youngsters, Kevin De Bruyne, may be headed on loan to Bundesliga club Werder Bremen for this season.  De Bruyne showed a lot of life in Chelsea’s first preseason game against the Sounders, though he was less visible in the PSG game.  With so many midfielders to choose from, sending De Bruyne on loan may be the first of many tough personnel decisions Di Matteo has to make over the next few weeks.

Good to see Chelsea has gotten into the spirit of Philadelphia with some Rocky-style training ahead of the big game tonight.  Don’t forget to watch the Blues versus MLS All-Stars on ESPN2!

Who do you hope to see play for Chelsea tonight?

Yo, Fernando!

Torres joins Chelsea teammates in Philadelphia

Fernando Torres returned from his post-Euro 2012 vacay yesterday, getting back to work with Chelsea as they prepare for the MLS All-Star game tomorrow night.  MLS.com has video coverage of Chelsea’s training yesterday and here’s a brief video update from the team’s training today.  Torres is not expected to play until Saturday’s match in Miami against AC Milan.

Today Chelsea officially announced that they’ve signed Eden Hazard’s younger brother Thorgan.  If things work out for these young Blues brothers, we could be making Hazardous puns for years to come.

Oscar the Brazilian Wonder Kid must have an amazing agent because Oscar has somehow managed to be in the headlines for nearly two weeks in a row.  Signs continue to point toward this deal happening, perhaps as early as Friday.

How excited is Philadelphia about hosting the Chelsea v. MLS All-Stars match tomorrow night?  Judging by the Philadelphia Inquirer Sports home page, less-than-thrilled.  Though the game’s a little over 24 hours away, there’s not a single item about it on the home page!

What do you think of the Thorgan Hazard signing?

City of Brotherly Blues

Chelsea head to Philadelphia for MLS All-Star Game

Chelsea tied Paris St. Germain 1-1 in last night’s match at Yankee Stadium.  It was a ho-hum game for the most part – not bad by any means, just a little stuck in lower gear.  PSG was definitely a step up competition-wise from the Sounders game.  Some better finishing might’ve garnered Chelsea the victory, but it was still a good battle back to tie the game.  Today the team travels by train to Philadelphia for Wednesday’s clash with MLS All-Stars.

I still like the promise displayed by Hazard and Marin in last night’s game.  They could make a big impact for Chelsea this season.  I was less impressed with Lukaku and De Bruyne last night than against Seattle.  Hutchinson also looked a little shaky on defense and too hasty with several passes.  I wish McEachran had seen more of the ball when he came on in the second half.  I also wish Malouda would regain his former sharpness in the final third.  He had one of Chelsea’s best scoring opps of the match but smacked it directly at PSG’s keeper.

But these are small criticisms considering it’s preseason with lots of player rotation.  And considering there are so many young players on this tour.  Speaking of – how ‘bout 18-year-old Brazilian Lucas Piazon’s second half goal?  Ramires (also Brazilian!) slipped Piazon the sweet pass that led to the goal.  Earlier in the game I complained aloud about this whippersnapper Piazon who seems to have a penchant for trying to dribble around defenders instead of passing.  Equalizing goals have a penchant for shutting me up.  Piazon’s probably too young to earn a spot with Chelsea this season, but perhaps we glimpsed a bright future Blue last night.

Today’s Oscar the Brazilian Wonder Kid update swings back in the direction of him actually joining Chelsea.  What that means is, nobody really knows for sure.

There are a couple items today about expensive German club players that Chelsea has tried to get – Andre Schurrle of Bayer Leverkusen and Robert Lewandowski of Borussia Dortmund.  That’s the downside of being one of the world’s moneybags clubs, everyone tries to fleece you.

There’s also much chat today about Frank Lampard’s potential MLS future.  I think it’s a non-story.  The guy is committed to Chelsea to the end of his contract.  Sounds like he answered reporters honestly after last night’s game because his future beyond this season really is up to Chelsea.  They may decide not to renew, but I think that would be the only scenario that would send Lamps to MLS.  By the way, if that does happen, FC Dallas wants you Frank!*

*I have no authority to speak on behalf of FC Dallas.  But I’m inviting you to join the club anyway!

Your thoughts on the Chelsea/PSG match last night?

CFC to NYC

Chelsea wraps up Seattle leg of U.S. tour

 

Chelsea had one more training session this morning in Seattle before hopping a plane bound for New York City.  The club faces their former manager Carlo Ancelotti and his current team Paris St. Germain in another preseason friendly Sunday.  It will be the first ever soccer match to be played at the new Yankee Stadium.

While the team trains and tours in the U.S., the deal making for new players continues in London.  Here is the latest rumor rundown:

Coach Di Matteo confirmed the club is in talks to get Victor Moses from Wigan.  Apparently Wigan wants several more buckets of cash than Chelsea has offered so far.  I can take or leave this deal.  Chelsea certainly shouldn’t overpay for him.  A better striker option would be checking to see if Newcastle’s Demba Ba or Papiss Cisse have any brothers in Senegal.

Thorgan Hazard may become a Chelsea player within a day or two, but nothing official from Chelsea yet.  If the deal goes through, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him fairly quickly loaned to another Premier League club given he’s only 19-years-old and Chelsea has a very packed roster right now.

Chelsea may be after Marseille’s 22-year-old Spanish right-back Cesar Azpilicueta.  Chelsea could use some back line bolstering, so this deal could be interesting.  I bet there’s going to be a whole lotta soccer wheeling and dealing going on with all these under-23 national teams in London for the Olympics!

Check out this New York Times story exploring why some of America’s most famous baseball stadiums are hosting big international soccer club matches this summer.  Wondering how a soccer pitch is going to work in Yankee Stadium?  Check out the diagram below and these photos of the pitch being prepared.

Apparently starring in a classic soccer comedy like Kicking & Screaming (I’m not being sarcastic – I actually think that movie’s hilarious) affords you lifetime access to Chelsea FC.  Check out Blues fan Will Ferrell and comedian Zach Galifianakis chillin’ with Chelsea (and with the European Cup) in Seattle yesterday.

I particularly like the random autographed St. Louis Rams helmet Will and Zach apparently gave Chelsea.  I have no idea why it was a Rams helmet, but it’s pretty vintage Will Ferrell.  Good times!

Thoughts on the potential Moses, Thorgan Hazard, or Azpilicueta deals?

Off to a Good Start

Chelsea defeats Seattle Sounders 4-2

Chelsea beat Seattle last night in the Blues’ first preseason match.  With six total goals, it was an entertaining game for fans, though oddly all six came in the first half.

For me, the best thing about the match was seeing Chelsea’s new signings for the first time.  Marko Marin and Eden Hazard were the most impressive (and each scored a goal).  It was encouraging to see their speed in transition, and accuracy in passing and shooting on goal.

I was also pleased to see Romelu Lukaku get two goals in a lone striker position.  The poor guy will probably be saddled with Drogba comparisons all season, but the strength on the ball he demonstrated, particularly on his first goal, couldn’t help but remind us of good ol’ Didier.  Lukaku has tons of potential – he’s still only nineteen!  I hope we get to see his aerial prowess tested this preseason.  With his height, he could be a great target.  I’d also like to see him be able to possess the ball in the box area long enough to dish it off or create space for himself to shoot.  Last night wasn’t a fantastic performance from Lukaku.  Aside from his two goals, he wasn’t involved very much.  But he definitely showed enough to make me hope Chelsea doesn’t loan him out this season.

In the second half, we also got a good first look at Kevin De Bruyne.  Like Marin and Hazard in the first half, De Bruyne showed a lot of speed and energy.  I liked his eagerness to shoot, though he wasn’t as accurate as Marin was from similar areas of the field.  De Bruyne will really have to prove himself this preseason since Chelsea has so much talent at midfield.  He might be a good striker off the bench as well, but with Mata, Torres, Sturridge, and Lukaku available, it won’t be easy to get starts.  I liked De Bruyne’s effort last night, it will just be interesting to see if there’s room for him in the first team.

Of course, it was fun to see Lampard and Essien mixing it up with the new guys in the second half.  I really hope Essien makes a full return to his regular starting role.  I still think he has a lot to contribute.

My favorite thing about Chelsea’s play last night was their fast transitions through the middle third of the pitch.  I complained a lot last season about their slow transitions and build-up play.  If they can hone the kind of transitions we saw last night, they will be a lot more dangerous (and fun to watch) next season!

What did you think of Chelsea’s play against Seattle?

Back in Action

Chelsea takes on Seattle Sounders FC tonight

Chelsea returns to the pitch tonight for a preseason friendly in their first match since winning the Champions League in May.  Although several players will be missing due to post-Euro 2012 vacation and/or impending Olympics duty, it will be fun to see the Blues knocking around the leather again.  It’s also a great opportunity to see some of the club’s youngsters play.

Speaking of youngsters, Oscar the Brazilian Wonder Kid (as I’ve decided to call him for now) supposedly passed his physical with the club, but Di Matteo still won’t confirm or deny any deal.

Florent Malouda will be joining Chelsea in the U.S. in a day or two, but it may be a short visit.  Rumor is he may be headed to a South American team.  I’ve always liked Malouda, but the time is probably right to let him go.  His play has deteriorated since Chelsea’s 2009/10 EPL title-winning season.  He didn’t contribute much with France at the Euros this summer either.  He will be missed, but the club probably needs to free up his roster spot.

Chelsea’s mega-deal of the summer so far has been the signing of Eden Hazard.  Now it sounds like they may be interested in Eden’s 19-year-old younger brother Thorgan.  If that were to happen, Thorgan would instantly inherit the title of awesomest name on the team.  Thorgan currently plays for Lens in France’s Ligue 2.  I know nothing about him except that he’s a midfielder and that anyone with “Thor” in his first name is bound to be a cool dude.

Chelsea’s ongoing attempt to purchase every Brazilian soccer player on the planet has apparently hit a snag as Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk rejected their bid for Willian.  I don’t know much about Willian either, but he does have his own website, aptly named “willianwebsite.com”.

Former Chelsea manager-turned-Avenger Andre Villas Boas wants to foil Chelsea’s quest for Brazilian domination by trying to capture Hulk for Tottenham.  For much of the summer Chelsea has been rumored to be nabbing Hulk.  If AVB is successful in making Hulk a Hotspur, Thorgan can breathe easy that his awesomest name title is safe.

“What we need is more Brazilians!”

By the way, since the Brazilian Olympic soccer team is now in London, Chelsea might as well just bid for the entire team.  Perhaps they could save money by buying Brazilians in bulk.

Here is some footage of Chelsea’s training session at CenturyLink Field yesterday evening.  Kudos to Sounders FC for their Chelsea coverage this week, and kudos to Sounders fans for making their club one of the best supported in MLS.  The Sounders and their fans deserve to get friendlies like tonight’s against Chelsea!

Thoughts on these latest deal rumors?  Feel free to share below…

Blues in the News

Rounding up the day’s miscellaneous Chelsea info

The Blues are still working hard in Seattle ahead of tomorrow night’s preseason friendly against the Sounders.  If you’re a Chelsea fan living in the Seattle vicinity you’d be crazy not to attend the team’s open-to-the-public training session at CenturyLink Field tonight at 6:00.  It’s free of charge!

Player news and rumors today include the possibility of Fulham acquiring Romelu Lukaku on loan for the season.  I would frown on that move.  After much hype surrounding his signing last season, Chelsea didn’t give the 19-year-old much of a shot.  Though he’s below Torres and Sturridge on the depth chart, I’d like to see what he could do.  Let’s face it, we still don’t know which Torres will show up this season, so the club could potentially use a tall, strong, hungry striker like Lukaku.

Another 19-year-old, Josh McEachran, is supposedly meeting with Di Matteo this week to discuss his role (or potential lack of a role) in the lineup this season.  McEachran is a tricky case because he has tons of potential (his passing and positioning abilities are fantastic) but he’s still green, and it’s hard to see him getting many minutes in Chelsea’s currently stacked midfield.  You don’t want to let a guy like that slip away, but how do you incorporate him enough to keep him content while he continues maturing?  Loaning him out for another season may be the best option to keep him in the fold while getting him the top-level match experience he needs.

Several news outlets are reporting the deal for Oscar the Brazilian wonder kid has been finalized.  Still no official word from Chelsea FC though.

On the rumor front, rumblings have resumed that Chelsea are after Napoli’s striker Edinson Cavani.  Could be an interesting move.  He certainly terrorized Chelsea’s defense in the Champions League last season.  If this deal happens however, my bet is Lukaku will have to pack his bags for Craven Cottage.

Finally, Frank Lampard was a guest on Dan Patrick’s radio show today.  It was a fun interview covering an array of topics from Beckham’s Olympic snub to Wayne Rooney’s hair plugs.  You can listen to the whole segment here

What should Chelsea do with Lukaku and McEachran?  Does Chelsea need Cavani?

Training Blues

Chelsea begins training in Seattle

Chelsea transplanted their preseason training across the Atlantic yesterday with morning and evening sessions at the Seattle Seahawks practice facilities.  The Sounders FC website captured some great footage of the sessions, along with an interview with club ambassador Graeme Le Saux.

In other Chelsea news today, the UK’s Daily Mail claims Chelsea is nearing a deal to acquire Brazilian midfielder Oscar from Brazilian club Internacional.  Not sure what to think about that possibility as I haven’t had the opportunity to see Oscar in action.  However, I’m a little surprised Chelsea hasn’t focused on beefing up the defense this summer as they’re pretty stacked in midfield at the moment.

Any thoughts on the potential Oscar signing?