Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why Capello is Right Not to Pick Beckham

And why McClaren was wrong to drop him after the World Cup. Fabio Capello, the new coach of the English national team, has not selected David Beckham for the upcoming friendly against Switzerland. Golden Balls therefore misses the chance to gain his hundredth cap for England, missing out on joining a select band of players to have done so. They said Capello was tough and this decision shows just how strong-minded he is. It is absolutely the right thing to do. Beckham has not played a competitive game since November. He is, no doubt, retaining his extraordinary fitness by working out with Arsenal but he cannot be match fit. Capello has promised Beckham he will continue to fit into his plans once he gets some games under his belt in the MLS season. What a contrast with McClaren, the previous coach. McClaren, in a pattern he would go on to consistently display, dropped Becks after the World Cup because the media needed a scapegoat for England's poor performance. Beckham was actually one of the better England players in that tournament and did not deserve such treatment. It's great to have Capello at the helm even if it's a couple of years too late.
I also really like his appointment of Stuart Pearce as assistant. Pearce will continue to concentrate on the U-21 team but will also be involved in the senior games. That should shut the Little Englanders up for a while. Pearce has the talent and the desire to be a national team coach and his involvement should be warmly welcomed.

Bouna Makes Competitive Debut for Senegal

Bouna Coundoul, the favorite son of the Colorado Rapids, is currently warming up in deepest Ghana and about to play for Senegal in his first ever competitive match for his national team. Just as I have discussed in recent posts, the chances were there that he may get a go. Veteran goalkeeper, Tony Sylva, made mistakes in the previous game against Angola and the coach quit this week, leaving the possibility open that Coundoul would get a game. At least we know now where he is on the pecking order as it was never really clear to outsiders whether he was the back-up to Sylva or the back-up to the back-up. Go Bouna! Do your best, mate, and you could be the number one going forward. Senegal play South Africa today with actually little hope of both sides qualifying for the next stages in the Africa Cup of Nations.

UPDATE: Bouna did let in one goal but apparently had no marking to help him in the defense. He also, according to the BBC, pulled off a "remarkable save" later in the game. Interestingly, former number one choice, Sylva, was found in a Ghana nightclub yesterday. When will they ever learn? Senegal drew with South Africa 1-1, meaning both teams fail to progress to the next round.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Senegal Coach Quits as Teranga Lions Falter

Senegal coach, Henri Kasperczak, has quit the team with immediate effect, throwing the team's stumbling progress in the Africa Cup of Nations into even more confusion. A disappointing draw in the opener against Tunisia, having apparently dominated the game, followed by the 3-1 loss to Angola at the weekend did it for the former Polish international. Senegal now have to beat South Africa handily in the next game Thursday to stand any chance but a draw between Angola and Tunisia will make their result irrelevant. It will be interesting to see what kind of team the new coach, Lamine Ndiaye, puts out. Will our favorite son, Bouna Coundoul, get the nod after a faltering display by veteran Tony Sylva in the Angola game? Then again, with all to play for, this may not be the time to drop your veteran goalkeeper. Apparently, 15 of the 20 Premier League teams have scouts at the tournament. So, if Bouna does get his chance, who knows where he will end up next season? Here's the link to the Kasperczak story on the BBC.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Senegal Crash to Defeat - Bouna to Play Next Game?

Senegal look in danger of not qualifying for the next round of the Africa Cup of Nations after crashing to Angola 3-1. The only silver lining on the cloud is that Senegal veteran keeper, Tony Sylva, had an apparent nightmare, gifting a goal to Manchester United-bound Manoucho. Not great news for team confidence if the coach feels compelled to drop him but it could at least give our favorite son, Colorado Rapids' Bouna Coundoul, a chance in goal. Still not sure what the pecking order is between him and his rival as they battle for the number 2 spot but he may have a chance. The Senegal group is not exactly going to plan as Tunisia look likely to beat South Africa. They are 3-0 up at the time of writing. I think it goes to show that all these teams are improving and that some of the more established African names (Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa) are facing new challenges from up and coming teams. This can only be good for soccer globally.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Senegal Draw Opener - Bouna Doesn't Play!

Senegal managed a 2-2 draw with Tunisia in their opening game in the Africa Cup of Nations today. As expected, Colorado Rapids' favorite son Bouna Coundoul did not get a game. He was on the bench but so were all the other squad members who didn't make the starting XI. Should we read anything into the fact that his rival for the no.2 goalkeeping spot was listed ahead of him on the bench? Who knows? The fact is that Bouna is unlikely to get much playing time given the veteran Tony Sylva is still the first choice. However, the experience will be a fantastic one for him. The only problem is that, if he does get some playing time and any European scouts can be bothered to watch him, he may not be at DSG Park next season. For the record, the Teranga Lions apparently dominated the game but failed to capitalize on such dominance and allowed the Tunisians back into the game with an 83rd minute equalizer. South Africa salvaged a 1-1 draw with Angola in today's other game.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Elephants Triumph Over Super Eagles

In a match seen as a battle between two of the strongest teams in the Africa Cup of Nations, the Ivory Coast has beaten Nigeria 1-0 thanks to a second half goal from Chelsea's Salomon Kalou. The competition will be held over the next three weeks in Ghana and features many players active in Europe. Indeed, today's big game was a veritable who's who of English Premiership players as Kalou was joined by his Stamford Bridge teammate Didier Drogba as well as Arsenal's Kolo Toure and others. The Super Eagles had Kanu of Portsmouth and Newcastle's Obafemi Martins playing. I would recommend following the BBC's World Service coverage at or on National Public Radio (NPR) in the US. In other games today, Morocco thrashed Namibia 5-1 while Mali play Benin later. Hosts Ghana beat Guinea in the tournament opener yesterday with a last minute goal from Portsmouth's Sulley Muntari to win 2-1. Remember also Rapids fans that Colorado's own Bouna Coundoul will be in the Senegal squad for their opener Wednesday against Tunisia.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Great Player, Good Coach, Bad Thought Processes

A collection of quotes from Newcastle coach Kevin Keegan that should make you all chuckle. He may wear his heart on his sleeve but where does he keep his brain?

"They compare Steve McManaman to Steve Heighway and he's nothing like him, but I can see why - it's because he's a bit different."
"Despite his white boots, he has real pace... "
"You can't do better than go away from home and get a draw... "
"He can't speak Turkey, but you can tell he's delighted. "
"There'll be no siestas in Madrid tonight. "
"...using his strength. And that is his strength, his strength. "
"Gary always weighed up his options, especially when he had no choice. "
"I'm not disappointed - just disappointed. "
"The tide is very much in our court now. "
"Chile have three options - they could win or they could lose. "
"That would have been a goal if it wasn't saved. "
"I came to Nantes two years ago and it's much the same today, except that it's totally different. "
"A tremendous strike which hit the defender full on the arm - and it nearly came off."
"The good news for Nigeria is that they're two-nil down very early in the game."
"The substitute is about to come on - he's a player who was left out of the starting line-up today."
"That decision, for me, was almost certainly definitely wrong. "
"I know what is around the corner - I just don't know where the corner is.
"But the onus is on us to perform and we must control the bandwagon. "
"Hungary is very similar to Bulgaria. I know they're different countries... "
"In some ways, cramp is worse than having a broken leg. "
"The 33 or 34-year-olds will be 36 or 37 by the time the next World Cup comes around, if they're not careful. "
"England have the best fans in the world and Scotland's fans are second-to-none. "
"I'd love to be a mole on the wall in the Liverpool dressing room at half-time. "
"It could be far worse for me if it was easy for me. "
"Discipline is not only very important, it's crucial. "
"Argentina won't be at Euro 2000 because they're from South America. "
"They're the second best team in the world, and there's no higher praise than that."
"You don't get two chances at this level, or at any other level for that matter."
"You're not just getting international football, you're getting world football."
"Kanu, a guy with a heart as big as he is."
"The Germans only have one player under 22, and he's 23."
"For some it's the ultimate job, for the others it's the last job."
"He'll also be very dangerous from set-pieces. That means he'll be a threat from free-kicks and corners in the final third of the field."
"Danny Tiatto is not going to make a mistake on purpose."
"I'll never play at Wembley again, unless I play at Wembley again."
"You need 88 points for the title and we've got 61 at present with 16 games to go, but if you set targets you limit yourself."
"We deserved to win this game after hammering them 0-0 in the first half."
"He's got a heart as big as his size, which isn't big, but his heart's bigger than that."
"As far as I'm concerned, Danny Tiatto doesn't exist."
"One team with destiny already decided..."
"Maine Road was a great football stadium but as time moved on it stayed where it is...."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Messiah Returns to Newcastle and it's not Shearer

Kevin Keegan, as he so rightly corrected an ignorant television reporter, is back at St. James' Park for the third time. Having starred as a player and then snatching defeat from the jaws of victory as a coach when they blew a 12-point lead in the championship, Keegan has returned to his beloved Newcastle. There are doubts about the appointment, kneejerk ones maybe. It does look a bit hasty given the new owners could not get first choice Harry Redknapp. I did mention in a previous post that Newcastle needed someone with a bit more objectivity than the fan favorite Alan Shearer but one major thing that counts in Keegan's favor is that he is very much at home on Tyneside. He left in acrimonious circumstances before at a time when his relationship with the previous chairman had broken down but this club is where his heart is and Keegan is someone who wears that organ on his sleeve. He will at least live and breathe his experience with the Toon Army and they will love him for that. I hope it works, I seriously do, despite the nagging doubts that persist this was all done without a long-term view on the part of the owners.

Burciaga to Rapids But Where Are The Strikers?

Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo called the From The Pitch radio show Tuesday night and intimated a trade with Kansas was imminent and so it proved. Jose Burciaga Jr. will suit up in the maroon and blue at DSG Park come March 29. This all seems fine and dandy. An attack-minded defender who can create and score goals and who is a consistent veteran of seven seasons and still only 26 years old. What concerns me slightly is speculation the Rapids may be looking to sign another defender currently playing abroad. A mighty fine article from our friends at The Black Panther speculates on who it could be (see link below). If it turns out to be true though, shouldn't we be focusing on more attacking options? We need to strengthen our attacking midfield and certainly our striker options. Unless someone is leaving. The defense has proved itself pretty sound and will be strengthened by Burciaga but our main problem of not scoring goals is still far from resolved.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Two and Two Make Five, Maybe

Maybe not. A crazy thought came into my head over the weekend. Reading just how annoyed, to put it mildly, Taylor Twellman is at New England blocking his transfer to Preston North End in England, I began to think of how the pint-sized striker could make his way westwards and, yes, start March 29 against Beckham in the chilly confines of Dick's Sporting Goods Park in the maroon of the mighty Rapids. Once you've picked yourselves up off the floor and wiped the tears from your eyes, consider this. The Rapids, who need a goalscorer more than practically anybody else in the MLS, trade the disappointing Hernandez who is on about $200,000 from my understanding. Coupled with the transfer of club captain Mastroeni, a rumor that has been circulating for some time now, the Rocky Mountain organization could even afford to make the move. Twellman is desperate to go to Europe, so desperate he wanted to go to Preston who are not exactly setting the Championship alight this season. And maybe New England or the MLS won't let him out of his contract at New England, I don't know. Maybe the Rapids right now is not an attractive option for him. There are many things that bet against such an ambitious move. However, it's not complete fantasy, is it? Please weigh in.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Allardyce Out of Toon; Shearer Plays Down Link

Do you want the good news or the bad news? OK, bad news first. Sam Allardyce becomes the latest in a long line of managerial casualties at the once mighty Newcastle United. Bad news for him and for the stability of the club but kind of inevitable given the team's abject performances in recent months. Recently tipped to be the next England coach and now down on his uppers but he will bounce back, no question. The good news? Alan Shearer is reportedly extremely unlikely to be the next Newcastle leader. Nothing against Shearer who has been a magnificent player for his hometown club and for England but he ain't right for the position. A lot of fans might want him but he is too closely tied to the club to do the right job for the team. There needs to be a more objective leader in place. Plus he has no previous managerial experience. The only concern? Mourinho ruled himself out of the England job only to have an extensive interview process before eventually turning it down. In other words, Shearer may be saying he doesn't want the job but the reality may be different. For the sake of Newcastle fans, let's hope Klinsmann and Jol are getting their resumes together.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Bouna Named to Senegal Squad

He did it. Rapids goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul has been named in the final 23-man squad for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana. This news more than makes up for the fact there are no current Rapids players in the recently announced US national squad. And, unlike EPL teams, Bouna will go with the full support of the Rapids given that the tournament is not happening in the middle of the MLS season. They may start to worry, though, if the Senegal keeper puts in some good performances and gets noticed by European clubs willing to spend a bit of cash. To be honest, the Rapids star is not likely to get much playing time given that veteran Tony Sylva will continue to be the number one. But who knows with injuries or loss of form? Congratulations to the fan favorite. I look forward to expansive coverage of this momentous event on the local news tonight. Here's a link to the BBC story.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Renaissance Man

Maybe finally dumping the long-suffering girlfriend and having all that time off worked but it is hard to believe how many lives Sven Goran Eriksson has. When England were predictably dumped out of the World Cup by Portugal and the "urbane Swede" finally resigned, many thought his coaching life was over. A brilliant coach in Italy but his game was up at the helm of the England national team at least two years before he eventually walked the plank. Silly affairs and too much money. And then he turns up at Manchester City and has performed a minor miracle. The blue side of Manchester is playing attractive football and has the talent and depth in the squad to maintain it. Granted today they only beat Newcastle, whose fans are suffering even more than Derby's, but it was a polished performance topped by the tactical genius of two substitutes combining to score the nail in the coffin goal. He just comes up smelling roses time after time. How does a man who is even more banal than Beckham in interviews do it? I don't know but I wish I had some of it bottled.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

No Rapids, Yes Cry

The US national team roster was announced yesterday for upcoming friendlies and there are no Rapids players on it. OK, it's a bit like saying "Huge Aircrash, no Americans on board" in that the fact there are no Colorado-based players is not the main point but it does raise a question mark over Pablo Mastroeni's future with the national team. Maybe he is injured, I don't know, but, coupled with the persistent rumor that the Rapids may sell him, this makes for unsettling times for the club captain. With Herculez Gomez presumably not considered because of his serious knee injury last season, it leaves Kyle Beckerman as the only Colorado link with the national team. His call-up makes the mid-season sale to Real Salt Lake even more sad to the hundreds of fans who still wear his shirt at DSG. Want to follow a national team with a Rapids player in it? Follow Bouna Coundoul with the Senegal team in Ghana later this month in the Africa Cup of Nations. Let's really hope he makes the final squad which will be announced January 10. The US national team will play a friendly against Sweden January 19 in California.