Your Colossal Early-2011 Backpost Roundup

 

Yeah, we’ve missed a few stories as the New Year has gotten off the ground. Today, we catch up (again) with links, clips, and roughly 1,200 words on the biggest BP talking points of the past seven or eight days.

Ready, set, go:

• The Beckham-to-Tottenham arrangement turned out to be a training stint only, and it has not—as yet, anyway—transformed into a loan deal.

• Remember this guy? He was red-carded for that heroin smuggling charge last year and now faces a 51- to 63-month suspension.

• The fallout continued to rain down from FIFA’s dubious decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, as Mohammed Bin Hamman, Qatar’s representative on the FIFA executive committee, bit the hand that feeds (or that Qatar fed?), criticizing Sepp Blatter’s regime while also rejecting proposals to move the tournament to January to escape Qatar’s unhealthy summer heat.

“I believe Qatar can stand alone and organize the competition by itself,” said Bin Hamman, “and I’m really not very impressed by these opinions to distribute the game over the Gulf or change the time from July to January.”

That was interesting, but then Bin Hamman went on to add, in a moment of irony so dense it caused the head of everyone within earshot to explode:

“I think we [FIFA] need to be more open to the people, more transparent. A lot of things could be done. Maybe the actual administration can do that, they have to commit themselves to doing that. The structure is not helpful or useful for our world.”

Can mere words adequately do the above justice? We’re not even going to try.

Edson Buddle left MLS for Bundesliga 2 side Ingolstadt, and these guys were not happy about it. We can hardly blame them; the German side, which is in second-to-last place in the German second-flight—in other words, on the brink of dropping to the third division—reportedly offered Buddle twice his MLS salary.

So long, Edson. Here’s another look at his half-brilliant, half-fluky goal vs Seattle in last year’s playoffs:

• Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry embarked on an offsesaon training stint with his old club, Arsenal, while his countryman defender Didier Domi signed a deal with the New England Revolution. Domi, 32, has played for PSG, Newcastle, Leeds, and Espanyol.

• In other Red Bulls news, the club confirmed the long-anticipated signings of Norwegian midfielder Jan Gunnar Solli, and speedy, feisty English forward Luke Rodgers. More intriguingly, to us anyway, New York also acquired 20-year-old Brazilian winger Marcos Paullo, formerly of Atletico Paranaense, the same club for which reigning MLS MVP David Ferreira used to play.

For video of the young Paullo, um, not scoring, click here (he does look skillful though).

New York is also in talks with homegrown product Matt Kassel, a midfielder who played at Maryland, about an MLS contract.

• Chivas USA striker Justin Braun and FC Dallas defender Ugo Ihemelu were released from Bob Bradley’s January US national team camp. Both players were struggling with injuries. The MLS-heavy US roster will meet Chile on Jan 22 at the Home Depot Center (TeleFutura, 10 p.m. EST).

DC United signed 24-year-old Uruguayan defender Rodrigo Brasesco, on loan from Uruguyan first-division side Racing Club.

• Promising 18-year-old Toronto FC academy product Nicholas Lindsay will miss the entire 2011 season with a knee injury.

• Following weeks of speculation that he would join the expansion side, former MLS and occasional U.S. national team striker Kenny Cooper officially signed with the Portland Timbers. Portland fans are excited about the prospect of Cooper and No. 2 draft pick Darlington Nagbe paired up top for their team.

• US defender Maurice (or “Morris,” as they call him in Scotland) Edu returned from a two-month injury layoff and did this for Rangers against SPL foes Hamilton:

Said Rangers boss Walter Smith as the team approached a busy patch of the schedule, trailing SPL leaders Celtic by five points: “We’ve got a lot of games coming up and Maurice Edu needs some game time.”

• The MLS SuperDraft and Supplemental Draft both concluded within the past seven days, giving us, among other players, a Mr. Irrelevant and a Mr. Utterly [?] Irrelevant, namely William and Mary’s Alan Koger—a striker picked last in the SuperDraft (by New England)—and South Florida defender Javed Mohammed, selected with the final choice of the Supplemental Draft, by Colorado.

Kidding aside, the MLS version of Mr. Irrelevant does not always live up to his name—see Parke, Jeff, class of 2004, the starting centerback for Seattle Sounders FC six years later.

Late-round Supplemental Draft picks are not always doomed to obscurity, either. The 2005 edition featured two final-round picks you may recognize: Jeff Larentowicz and Chris Wondolowski—both currently in training camp with the US national team.

• The Chicago Fire added two Designated Players last season, Swedish midfielder Freddie Ljungberg and Mexican attacker Nery Castillo—and both are gone now. Ljungberg signed with Glasgow Celtic a few weeks ago, and today, Chicago confirmed that Castillo will go on a five-month loan to Greek club Aris.

• There was an Oguchi Onyewu sighting yesterday—on the field, in a competitive game, that is. After months of bench warming at AC Milan, the hulking US center-back was loaned to Dutch league defending champs FC Twente on Jan 11. Yesterday Gooch debuted—at left back—in a 5-0 rout of Heracles Almelo. Great to hear that Gooch is back in action after 20 months out of club ball, but … not so sure about that new position.

• Other Americans on the move or reportedly on the move included midfielder Jermaine Jones, who left Schalke 04 to join EPL side Blackburn on loan, striker Robbie Findley, who signed with Nottingham Forest, and Borussia Moenchengladbach midfielder Michael Bradley, who was rumored to be the target of a transfer bid from Sunderland.

• Last, but definitely not least, you have to like the way the re-born New York Cosmos are conducting business so far.

They hope to become MLS’s 20th team, in 2013, and they’ve already established youth academies on both coasts of the United States, headed up by former MLS stars Ted Chronopoulos and Giovanni Savarese. These training centers have already started to bear fruit, placing players in the US U-17 residency program and with the US U-15s.

On Jan 10, the Cosmos hired former US national team midfielder Cobi Jones as assistant director of soccer, and yesterday they unveiled former Manchester United icon Eric Cantona as director of soccer.

Given Cantona’s track record, this last move may be more of a publicity splash than an actual executive addition, but it’s certainly interesting. As were Cantona’s quotes after his hiring was announced. We’re not sure if there was a translation problem, or what, but … well, take a look:

“The Cosmos are very strong, beautifully made, with a great past. It’s kind of a mix between football and art.”

Then again, that’s probably just the quote we should expect from Cantona, who flashed midfield brilliance, Gallic impetuousness, and a popped collar during his years at Manchester United.

The latter two are on display here:

All right folks, that’s it for this round. If we missed something here, we either covered it elsewhere on the site—or we’re just going to have to live with missing it. But feel free to let us know of any big omissions in the comments. Onward.

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Yanks In England, Week 10: Tracking Back

It was a busy week. Let’s dive right in:

Clint Dempsey started, played 90 minutes, and scored two goals in Fulham’s 2-0 win over Wigan on Saturday. Both goals were excellent, and the first one was set up by Carlos Salcido of Mexico. CONCACAF in the house!

Highlights below, in stylish black-and-white video shot by Martin Scorsese and scored by Quincy Jones:

Dempsey’s performance prompted ex-Liverpool star Jamie Redknapp to call the Texan the “best American to have played over here.”

Do you agree? The MLS website conducted a poll, and Kasey Keller is currently in the lead, by a wide margin.

We say if you counted outfield players only—since American keepers have owned the Premier League for decades now, as the Yorkshireman would no doubt agree—Dempsey might just be your winner.

Brian McBride and Landon Donovan would give him a run for the money, but Donovan’s sample size is too small, and Dempsey is still in his prime with a few years left to surpass McBride’s accomplishments, if he hasn’t already.

Fulham’s other Yank, Eddie Johnson did not dress for the Wigan game.

Stuart Holden started and went the full 90 in Bolton’s 1-0 loss to Liverpool at the Reebok on Sunday. He narrowly missed tucking in a cross at the back post in the second half.

Brad Friedel started, played 120 minutes and made six saves in Aston Villa’s 2-1 extra-time win over Burnley in the fourth round of the Carling Cup this past Wednesday. He also went the distance in Villa’s 0-0 derby draw with Birmingham City on Saturday.

Brad Guzan dressed for both Villa games but did not play.

Eric Lichaj started and played 120 minutes in the 2-1 win over Burnley, and dressed but did not play against Birmingham City.

Tim Howard started, played 90 minutes and picked up his fourth shutout of the year in Everton’s 1-0 win over Stoke City on Saturday—without making a single save.

Marcus Hahnemann dressed but did not play in Wolves’ 3-2 loss to Manchester United in the Carling Cup last Tuesday. He returned to the starting lineup for league play on Saturday, when Wolverhampton upset Manchester City 2-1. He made one save in that one.

Jonathan Spector, poor Jonathan Spector, appears to have fallen down a hole at West Ham. He did not dress for the Hammers’ 3-1 win over Stoke City in the Carling Cup fourth round on Wednesday, and was also in his civvies for West Ham’s tough 1-0 loss to Arsenal in league play on Saturday.

That was the eighth straight league game he’s missed. Can a brother get a loan deal?

You-blow-one-slow-roller-in-a-World-Cup-and-that’s-all-anyone-remembers keeper Robert Green, by the way, had an unbelievable game against Arsenal, standing on his head to keep the Gunners at bay until Alex Song’s stomach-punch winner in the 87th minute. Fabio Capello was in the crowd, too.

At the top of the table, Chelsea got a late header from Branislav Ivanovic to down feisty Blackburn 2-1, and Manchester United blanked Tottenham 2-0 after a controversial, farcical late goal by Nani.

The remaining two games of the week saw Blackpool down nine-man West Brom, 2-1, yesterday, and Newcastle crush Sunderland 5-1 in the Northeast (Tyneside? Tyne-Wear?) Derby on Sunday. Kevin Nolan scored three for the winners.

In other Yanks Abroad news, midfielders Maurice Edu and Sacha Kljestan both found the net for their clubs this past weekend.

Edu scored on an 18-yard volley in Rangers’ 1-1 draw with Inverness on Saturday.

Kljestan opened the scoring for Anderlecht in the Belgian side’s 2-1 win over Racing Genk on Sunday.

Finally, Jozy Altidore, after scoring in the Copa del Rey in midweek, made his first league appearance for Villareal in some time, playing 19 minutes in the Yellow Submarine’s 1-1 tie with Sporting Gijon on Sunday

Edu’s Goal: the Zapruder Screen Grab

This is the “back-and-to-the-left” moment of the U.S.-Slovenia game, which should have sent the Yanks to the top of Group C (for Crazy):

Check it out, courtesy of Soccer By Ives commenter “Zac”:

Zac has circled only four Americans being grappled by Slovene defenders, but there are actually five, if you notice Jay DeMerit being shoulder-tackled on the far side of the shot. Michael Bradley, in the lower right corner, is being wrapped up WWE-style.

And what about Maurice Edu, the goal-scorer and the player, apparently, who was whistled for the foul? He’s number 19 in the center of the shot, bursting through to score—as a Slovenian player attempts to foul him.

Koman Coulibaly’s name goes down next to Hugh Dallas’s on the growing list of  refs who have jobbed the U.S. at the World Cup.

But, onward and upward—after England’s surprising (and surprisingly listless) 0-0 draw with Algeria, the U.S. controls its destiny: beat the Algerians next Wednesday and advance.

Tracking Back: Weekend Review

A nasty stomach flu overran the Backpost compound on Sunday, flattening everything in its path and shutting down HQ for more than 24 hours. So let’s play catch-up:

Here is the most exciting moment from the first 40 minutes of the loaded encounter between John Terry‘s Chelsea and Wayne Bridge‘s Manchester City:

Oh, snap! But the game that followed was surprisingly dull for almost the entire first half, only coming to life in the 42nd minute when Frank Lampard made a run behind the City backline, took a pass from Joe Cole, and clanged one in off the far post.

Chelsea fans may have thought they were on their way, but just two minutes later Carlos Tevez got on the end of a booming clearance by Bridge (yes), and outmaneuvered Terry (that’s right) before beating Chelsea’s backup keeper Henrique Hilario (Petr Cech is hurt) with the slowest of slow rollers to the far post.

With the game properly heated up, all hell broke loose in the second half. Six minutes in, the pugnacious Craig Bellamy picked up the ball just inside his own half and launched a 60-meter run at Chelsea defender John Obi Mikel before beating Hilario (fairly easily) to the far post.

In the 76th minute Juliano Belletti brushed Gareth Barry in the box, the City midfielder went down, and the ref pointed to the spot, then went to his book for Belletti: straight red for fouling as the last man back.

City probably wouldn’t have protested too loudly if no call had been made—so slight was the contact—but the ref didn’t hesitate, and Tevez buried the spot kick for a 3-1 lead.

Now emotions started to flare, as Tevez got in Terry’s face after the two scuffled on the Chelsea endline. Bellamy joined in, and City fans probably loved it, even if they might’ve preferred the beefy Micah Richards or the 6-4 Vincent Kompany for the job, rather than the two smallest players on their roster.

After Michael Ballack was sent off for a reckless scissoring tackle on Tevez, reducing Chelsea to nine men, Bellamy finished off a City counter-attack, turning in a pass from Shaun Wright-Phillips to make it 4-1. Lampard’s 90th-minute penalty served only to window-dress the scoreline for the Blues.

With Arsenal’s 3-1 win at Stoke City—in which rising Gunners star Aaron Ramsey had his tibia and fibula broken by a horrific challenge from Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross—the top of the table has tightened back into three-horse race. Chelsea leads with 61 points, but Manchester United (60) and Arsenal (58) are very much alive with ten games to play.

Following the Chelsea game, Bellamy was asked about Terry, and offered up the following:

“I know what J.T.’s like and nothing surprises me about it, so I’m not going to comment on that guy. I think everyone in football knows what he’s like.”

Ha. That was a neat trick: Sandwiching, “I’m not going to comment on that guy,” in between withering comments on that guy.

If U.S. players are looking for bulletin-board material on Terry ahead of their June 12 World Cup meeting with England, they can comb through this litany of off-field incidents involving the former England captain, and zero in on his alleged taunting of American tourists at Heathrow airport on Sept 12, 2001.

One of the U.S. players who could be squaring off against Terry in that game, winger Stuart Holden, made his Premiership debut on Saturday, starting and going the distance as Bolton defeated Yank keeper Marcus Hahnemman and Wolverhampton 1-0 to climb out of the drop zone. Holden played well, and challenged Hahnemann—who also had a good game, making six saves—on two occasions. Wolves hit the post twice in this one.

In Saturday’s other games, financially troubled last-place side Portsmouth had a ray of sunshine punch through the gloom in the form of a 2-1 road win over Burnley, and Birmingham gritted out a 1-0 win over Wigan to reach the 40-point mark for the season, all but ensuring survival in the Premiership—something Burnley (23 points, 19th place) and Wigan (25, 16th) will have to fight for during their final 11 games.

Two Yanks took the field on Sunday, and one of them, Everton’s Landon Donovan, would like to have his performance to do over: After coming on as a second-half substitute, LD missed a sitter at the far post with 12 minutes remaining that would have lifted the Toffees into a 2-2 tie with Tottenham. They lost 2-1.

Sunday’s other American in action was Aston Villa keeper Brad Friedel, who got the nod over countryman Brad Guzan as the Villans faced Manchester United in the Carling Cup final at Wembley. Friedel made eight saves, but could not prevent United’s rally from a 1-0 deficit to a 2-1 victory. The winner came, in the 74 th minute, from—no surprise here—Wayne Rooney.

Clint Dempsey, who is nearing a return from his knee injury, watched as his Fulham teammates played to a scoreless draw with Sunderland, while at Anfield, Liverpool downed Blackburn 2-1 to keep pace with Tottenham and Manchester City for the fourth—and final Champions League—spot in the table. Fernando Torres notched the winner in his first start since Jan 13.

Up in Glasgow, U.S. midfielder Maurice Edu was the man of the hour for Rangers, scoring in the dying moments to give his team a 1-0 win over archrival Celtic. The victory puts Rangers 10 points clear of Celtic, with a game in hand, at the top of the SPL table. Edu’s countryman DaMarcus Beasley dressed but did not play. 

Here is Edu’s goal:

Blog, Interrupted

As we said in the last post, we were in transit the past couple of weeks. We had hoped to have more Internet access during our travels, but for reasons far too boring to go into, we didn’t.

Still, the holidays were great. Hope yours were too.

So Happy New Year—and let’s get back to the footie.

Rather than try to play catch-up on all the stuff we missed, we’ll just rank the Top 5 Developments, for good and ill, that occurred in our absence.

5. “He’s a penalty God that kid!”

Jan. 2, 2010: Brad Guzan stopped a David Dunn penalty in the third round of the FA Cup, helping Aston Villa to a 3-1 win over Blackburn. Below is a video of the save—though we use that term very loosely to describe this footage, which was shot from the opposite end of the stadium, with an out-of-focus cellphone camera, and by a possibly drunk punter. But we include it for the audio, as you can hear the Villa faithful sing Guzan’s praises, and recount his amazing five-penalty-save performance against Sunderland in the Carling Cup on October 27.

That’s right, Guzan stopped five Sunderland PKs in a single game earlier this season, one to preserve a 0-0 tie in regulation, and four in the shootout.

For the best available shaky-cell phone footage of that one, look no further:

4. Spector, Altidore in tarpit of relegation at midseason.

Altidore has yet to find the net for Hull in 15 league appearances.

Despite a 2-0 win over last-place Portsmouth on Boxing Day*, Jonathan Spector’s West Ham is tied for second-to-last in the Prem with 18 points. And Spector didn’t even play in the win over Pompey. He did get off the bench for the Hammers’ 2-0 loss to Spurs on Dec 28, but only because of an injury to left back Herita Ilunga.

Altidore has seen a decent amount of playing time—he drew a penalty, the second he’s drawn this season, in Hull City’s 3-1 loss to Manchester United on Dec 27—but he has yet to score a goal in 15 league appearances for the Tigers. After a 2-2 draw with Bolton on Dec 29, Hull has three losses and three ties in its last six Premier League games. The Tigers stand tied with West Ham and Bolton in second-to-last place with 18 points. They were also trounced 4-1 by Wigan in the F.A. Cup on Jan 2. Next up for them in the Prem? Chelsea, on Jan 9. Yikes.

*What’s Boxing Day, you ask, Yank reader? Apparently, no one really knows. But they celebrate it every year in the UK. (Festivus, there’s hope for you yet.)

Next stop, Greece? Reports have Adu joining EJ at Aris.

3. Freddy and Eddie in Greece?

On New Year’s Eve came confirmation that Fulham had loaned out-of-favor U.S. striker Eddie Johnson to Aris FC of the Greek League, and today, Ives Galarcep reports (via Greek website Gazzetta; check out the Google translation of the article for unintentional comedy) that Freddy Adu will be joining EJ at the club, which is currently in fifth place in the Greek league. Can the two Prodigal Sons of U.S. Soccer rejuvenate their careers in Greece? Stay tuned.

2. Maurice Edu returns, features in Old Firm derby.

 Edu played in a Rangers reserve match on Dec 21, saw 16 minutes of action against Hibernian on the 27th, and then, yesterday, logged 77 minutes in one of the biggest rivalries on the planet, Celtic vs Rangers. The game ended in a 1-1 tie. Edu’s appearance was his first big-time PT since last spring, and puts him on track to rejoin the national-team picture. On the other hand, Edu’s teammate DaMarcus Beasley is battling a thigh injury and has not played since Dec 19.

1. Lockout looming for MLS?

Major League Soccer’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expired at the end of the year, and negotiations for a new one are not proceeding smoothly, according to reports. Two weeks ago Seattle Sounders keeper and U.S. Soccer legend Kasey Keller posted the following on his blog, saying a lockout was likely, on Feb. 1:

“This isn’t a negotiation for a bunch of players wanting 8 million a year instead of 7 million a year….We would like a moderate rise in the salary cap, but the major points for the players are: guaranteed contracts, free agency, and the right to negotiate with other MLS teams. These are some of the basic rights the players in all the other leagues around the world have that we have to sign away. With the huge strides MLS has made since the last CBA this seems very reasonable.”

Indeed the players’ modest demands do seem reasonable, and yet, MLS is not like other leagues around the world. While it has made strides, the league is not yet turning a profit, according to this 2008 report from Forbes, and its reluctance to back off, even slightly, from its fiscally conservative policies is understandable.

Clearly, some bold leadership is in order to resolve this standoff, because a work stoppage would be a very tough blow for the young league to absorb.

Other notable stories: Stuart Holden offered a tryout with Burnley. A tryout? Really, Burnley? We still think Holden should stay in MLS. Chris Rolfe to join Danish club Aalborg. Robbie Rogers reportedly drawing interest from Dutch club FC Twente.

Scot-Free?

DMB needs PT.

U.S. winger DaMarcus Beasley told the Glasgow Evening Times that he’s looking to bolt Rangers during the January transfer window, saying he needs playing time to have a shot at making the Nats’ World Cup roster.

Beasley has made just two appearances, both as a substitute, in the last month for Walter Smith’s squad. He told the paper: “My options are open. It might be a move back to Holland or maybe Spain. But it needs to be the right situation, where I get a chance to play and stake my claim to U.S. coach Bob Bradley about getting back on the national team and playing at the World Cup next summer.”

Beasley did help create goals for Rangers in both of his two recent cameos, so he’s healthy, and appears to be hungry. His drastic loss of form during this past summer’s Confederations Cup (that failed-trap gaffe in the first game against Brazil was pure AYSO) led many to write him off, and to forget just how dangerous a player Beasley has been for the U.S. If he gets his wish, and playing time, there’s no reason he couldn’t round back into form. He’s only 27, and in our view, an in-form Beasley is definitely a player the U.S. wants available in Rustenberg next summer.

So what are his World Cup roster chances? We’d put them at 35%.

Related: Beasley’s American-midfielder teammate at Rangers, Maurice Edu, returned to training 10 days ago after nearly six month on the shelf with a knee injury. He had clawed his way into a regular spot on the first team during his second year in Glasgow, only to be hit by the injury hit at the end of last season. If he rounds back into form, he’s almost a lock to be on Bradley’s roster next summer, not only because he brings quality on both sides of the ball, but also because he can shift from central midfield to centerback if need be, and that versatility may come in handy. His World Cup roster chances? We say 55%, with a good chance of rising.

[UPDATE: What a difference a day, and a start, make—Beasley has done an apparent 180,telling The Daily Telegraph that he wants to stay at Rangers.]

Edu is nearing fitness after missing six months with a knee injury.