Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Unhappy Players May Leave

Listening to tonight's "From The Pitch" with Marcelo Balboa, a rare piece of honesty from a professional soccer player. Maybe not so surprising given that the honesty was from Bouna Coundoul, a man known for said virtue. Clearly unhappy at the Rapids' sacking of his goalkeeper coach, he called for a petition to get him back. Otherwise, he may just end up coaching Bouna for the Senegal national team. The point is that Bouna didn't know anything about the sacking until his agent called him. Not all players have to know what is going on all the time but you would think he may have been consulted. Message to the organization: Please don't make your best players unhappy. Now he has received the call-up for the national team, it may not be long before Bouna starts getting tempting offers from abroad.
Another piece of honesty: this was the first time I listened to the show. It was excellent even though I could barely get reception and ended up listening on the web. Good range of topics (relegation in the MLS? foreign players in the EPL, player ratings for games etc.), just need more fans calling in. Former Rapid Nat Borchers talked about his experiences in Norway and was candid about England not qualifying for Euro 2008. The players froze, he said, under the relentless pressure of the media. I still think the coach was largely to blame but he does have a point. Just how can players like Gerrard and Lampard play so badly when they dominate for their clubs? Don't really agree with Borchers suggesting Croatia may actually win next year, however. We just made them look very good because we were so inept.

Player of the Day:
Abdulkader Keita. An inspired second half substitute for Olympique Lyonnais who was instrumental in ensuring his team got a draw against the mighty Barcelona today in the Champions' League. 2-1 down with not much time left, his pacy runs and determination eventually led to a clumsy challenge from the Barca defense in the box and Lyon equalized from the penalty spot. He also scored a hat trick for the Ivory Coast this month. Not bad, he and Drogba together.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

World Cup Qualifying and Language Gaffes

Drawing Croatia a few days too late
So, the draw has been made for the various qualifying groups for the 2010 World Cup to be played in South Africa. Obviously, my first thought is England and who they will face. The predictable focus is on the fact that they will have to play Croatia again having so recently been humbled by them in the European Championship qualifying group. Slaven Bilic makes all the right noises about how he respects England but I should think he is really rubbing his hands with glee about facing the Three Lions again. He knows he can beat them now and there will be no fear. Hopefully he will be managing West Ham or another Premier League team by the time the games come around anyway. Honestly, it looks a group that England should have no fear of but it is a long old slog qualifying in Europe and trips to Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan on top of the visit to Zagreb will not be easy. We might beat Andorra though.

On the US side, frankly the way qualifying works is a little complex to say the least. If anybody cares to decipher it, here is the link to the FIFA site. I am sure they will qualify, however, unlike England.

Couple of other mentions which could affect the Rapids. Senegal, who will hopefully have Mr. Coundoul as their first choice keeper, are drawn against Gambia, Algeria and Liberia. Nigeria, the birthplace of defender Ugo Ihemelu, will be up against Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea and, somewhat bizarrely, hosts South Africa who are ensured qualification no matter how they fare in the qualifiers. Apparently, the African qualifying groups will also be used as qualifiers for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.

Hero of the Week:
Funnily enough, none of the England team but this guy Tony Henry who played a very important role in the game celebrations. Singing the Croatian national anthem, he managed to make a little slip of the tongue which meant that instead of signing about how lovely the mountains are, he opted instead for suggesting a certain part of his anatomy was rather mountainous. Apparently, the Croatian players immediately relaxed and subsequently humbled England. He is also being adopted in Croatia as a national hero for his contribution to the team's victory, similar to the England midfield really. More details below.


Saturday, November 24, 2007


Intro and home thoughts from abroad:
Welcome soccer (football) fans. This blog may be primarily targeted at supporters of the currently not so mighty Colorado Rapids and for those following "O Jogo Bonito" in the Rocky Mountain region but all those interested in soccer stateside and elsewhere are more than welcome to chime in.
As the great Johan Cruyff famously said: "Football is a game you play with your brain." This blog will therefore strive never to be a rant but approach burning soccer-related issues using said organ. This is already proving hard to do given England's dismal exit from European Championship qualifying this week. When Steven Gerrard scores screamers like he did earlier today for Liverpool and Frank Lampard causes havoc in every Premier League defense, the inevitable chorus of "Why can't they do that for England?" is sung the length and breadth. The truth is that England has not had a decent manager for a long time. Eriksson was well past his sell-by date by the time we got to the World Cup last year and McClaren should never have been appointed. Out of his depth at Middlesborough, how could he even think about doing the national team job? I hear the cries of what do people outside of English football know about management but every fan in England would pretty much say the same thing and the fans matter. Did you notice today how every England player playing for Chelsea was booed by the Derby fans? 'Nuff said. Anyway, therapeutic rant over.

The Rapids:
It was a poor season overall, every honest person would admit. But there were many bright spots, not least the splendid surroundings. Dick's Sporting Goods Park truly is a wonder and just perfect for an MLS team. I invite all those English fans out there kneejerkingly dismissive of all things US soccer to come to Colorado and see how a stadium complex should be set up. Now, we just need a team to fit it. More specifically, we need someone to put the thing in the back of the onion bag. We have a fantastic goalkeeper who is adored by all the fans (Best of luck in the Africa Cup of Nations, Bouna), a strong defense, the beating heart of the team in US national player Pablo Mastroeni, the never-say-die attitudes of Conor Casey, the silky skills of Terry Cooke and Colin Clark, the solidity of Jovan Kirovski, the excitement of Herculez Gomez, much-missed for much of the season through injury. All we need is someone who can score on a regular basis, a Taylor Twellman type who can notch closer to 20 goals a season. No offense to Jovan but six goals, most of them penalty kicks, cannot be the team's leading scorer. From what I see, it is clear the ownership realizes this so it is with not too bated breath that we wait for announcements in that area.
That's it for now. I truly do welcome constructive thoughts/criticisms. Please check back soon for further posts.