Monday, March 28, 2011

USA-Argentina: Goal.com Player Ratings Debacle

Dear Goal.com,

I caught you in a fib. You may think you fooled everyone, but you haven't fooled me!

On Sunday morning, I woke up and noticed how horrible Goal.com's rating of the USMNT was after their draw with Argentina. Aside from Tim Howard, USA's starting 11 did not have one player rated over a 6.0. Rule of thumb - a team that draws Argentina should have at least one player rated over a 6.0. They're Argentina! They've got Messi, Di Maria, Zanetti, Burdisso, etc... How can a team not lose to Argentina and have all 4.5 - 5.5 ratings? Frankly, it's not possible.

I guess the editors of Goal.com realized this, in hindsight. Today, as I sat down to re-rate my countrymen after their massive draw, I noticed Goal.com changed their initial ratings to shed a more positive light on the USMNT. Let's review: first Goal.com puts up ratings indicating they did not watch the game at all. Then, they correct their ratings and pretend nothing happend. Professional? Hardly. Exhibits A and B, below, will show you what I mean:

USA vs. Argentina: Player Ratings - First Edition

USA vs. Argentina: Player Ratings - Second Edition

Good for Goal.com for realizing they were terribly wrong and posting more deserved ratings for the USMNT. But unfortunately, they even screwed that up! For some reason Jermaine Jones was rated higher than Maurice Edu, when he was yanked at half for having a dreadful time handling the Argentine midfield (which also means he did not have "a few moments of danger late on"). Jozy Altidore was not "deservedly replaced," he played the full 90. Lastly, substitutes were not rated, which is a big deal in this case because Juan Agudelo, the 18-year old who came on for Jones at half, scored the leveler. So, they went from terribly wrong to a little less terribly wrong. COME ON GOAL.COM!

This is a huge problem! Journalists should not pump out news without thinking. Goal.com did not think before publishing these player ratings, twice. I find this truly pathetic and unprofessional. Moreover, I find it hard to trust a source that is riddled with mistakes.

Sensible Soccer's helpful suggestion to Goal.com when rating players:
1) Open eyes
2) Watch game
3) Think
4) Write
5) Publish
6) Don't re-think, re-write, and re-publish (get it right the first time)

Simple enough, right?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

USA vs. Argentina: Are You Ready?

This Saturday, March 26th, the United States will host Argentina at New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. In case you have been living in a cave for the month of March, the Argentina starting 11 will include Lionel Messi and a host of other stars in a much anticipated rematch with the US of A. Some content to digest:

The battle of '08
In June 2008, the United States squared off with the then number one ranked team in the world, Argentina. The South Americans, who were gearing up for a summer of qualifiers, threw their best at the USMNT. In front of thousands of fans mostly regaled in light blue (I was there - us Americans were outnumbered) Messi skipped around the old Meadowlands and did everything but score, as the US defense held strong. Surprisingly, the Americans almost emerged the victors, striking the bar late on in the game. The crowd was electric and so were the skys, as lightning and thunder tensed the atmosphere as the tie came to a 0-0 end. Playing out a draw against a world number one is a triumph for a side like the USA.

This time around
It's been over two years and a lot has changed. The USA has grown as a soccer nation, with many bigger names in the team now located in Europe; the Argentines have grown brighter, younger talent and Lionel Messi is two Ballon d'Ors older.

On Saturday, both squads will be loaded with players of quality, as European leagues have taken the weekend off to allow for Euro 2012 Qualifiers. We will see:

Lionel Messi
Two-time World Player of the Year, La Liga winner, Champions League winner, European Golden Boot winner and the list goes on and on and on and on. The fact that this player is stepping foot in New Jersey (AGAIN) is incredible. We must soak him in.

Landon Donovan
The World Cup hero and top American goal-scorer is back with his mates in the red, white, and blue and eager to impress the large crowd this game will draw. Hopefully we'll see Lando sliding towards the corner flag after a heroic injury-time winner in this match.
Real American
Javier Pastore
One of the hottest properties in world soccer at the moment, the youngster from Serie A side Palermo will likely feature and dazzle the crowd with his fleet-footedness and flair for goal. Truly a player to watch.

Clint Dempsey
With an astonishing 10 goals in Premier League play to-date, Deuce can certainly be considered one of the country's most accomplished player.

Angel Di Maria
The wizardly Madrid man has been turning heads at the Bernabeu this season and will look to do the same on Saturday.

Michael Bradley
USA needs Bradley to bring his tenacity and gleaming bald head in hopes of canceling out Esteban Cambiasso's shined up skull in the middle of the park.

Javier Zanetti
The ageless treble winner will run the flanks with the zest and zeal of a young Steve Cherundolo.

What to expect
Speaking as a fan of the USMNT, I am not expecting the mammoth performance we saw in 2008. Sanity dismisses the notion of shutting Lionel Messi down twice in a row. I can only hope we make our presence known and fight hard.

Speaking as a fan Roma, I am pumped to see the Wild Man Nicolas Burdisso once again.

One last thing:
video
Support the USMNT - be a real American.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

MLS Rules - Gives US Soccer Hope

Hello friends,

Ahead of the United States' friendly against superpower Argentina (which I am attending), the MLS emphatically commenced this week, giving major hope to the future of US Soccer:

Charlie Davies nets 2 in his MLS debut

CD9 entered the fray in the 52nd minute of DC United's encounter with the Columbus Crew and immediately made an impact. Aside from his penalty, it was great to see him score the sort of opportune goal that made him famous amongst US supporters prior to his accident.

18 year old Juan Agudelo scores his first MLS goal

Juan Agudelo piqued the interest of USMNT supporters after scoring in his senior-team debut last November. Last night, he fortified beliefs that he may be a force to reckon with in years to come by dispatching of the Seattle Sounders with a well taken goal - his first in the MLS. Did I mention he is under the tutelage of Thierry Henry?

Exciting things to come from the MLS and US Soccer! Stay tuned for a comprehensive review (with amazing pictures and possibly patriotic videos) of next weekend's USMNT friendly versus Lionel Messi and co.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MLS Begins Tonight - My Pledge

The 16th MLS season kicks off tonight with the Seattle Sounders hosting the LA Galaxy. Surprisingly, Landon Donovan still had time to send me an email urging me to watch the game. That guy is amazing!


A new MLS season is upon us, Americanisti. My friend Landon Donovan and I would like you to pledge to watch tonight's game with a buddy. Pledge your time tonight and win an MLS t-shirt! That said, I would personally like to pledge more MLS viewing and blog posting. Usually I am intrigued by our league for a fleeting moment, then hone back in on European football. But this year, since I have faithful readers to keep me in check, I pledge to watch more MLS and post about the league regularly. Call me out if I'm not doing this, friends.

Now, here are a few reasons you should be excited about the new MLS Season:

Rival expansion teams have joined the league, creating derbies unknown to the MLS. The Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps, regional rivals amongst one another and the Seattle Sounders, will play their inaugural MLS seasons this year! I, for one, am pumped to see these Cascadia Cup participants do battle. For more rivalries, check out this link.

JP Dellacamera has left his post at ESPN. This double-edged sword announcement was welcome news for MLS viewers. The positive: Adrian Healy will take over for the blathering Dellacamera at ESPN. The negative: Dellacamera has moved to FSC. Burn!

Thierry Henry is "so New York" this season. He takes the train to the stadium, he trounces around the Village buying new threads, he eats at the trendiest spots...

Oh no, he's too New York!
USMNT legend Kasey Keller will hang up his gloves and boots at the end of the season. It will be emotional for all, especially me. "I love you Kasey," is what I repeatedly screamed in 2006 when I got to see Keller's Borussia Mönchengladbach square off against Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena. Even though he turned around a few times in fright, he knew my feelings were true. Lets all cheer for this hero and hope he goes out on top!

The MLS playoffs have been expanded, giving teams like the Kansas City Wizards (I mean Sporting Kansas City) a chance to vie for the cup. This hotly contested move by the league will allow for 10 out of the 18 MLS teams to be in the playoffs...simple mathematics tell us that's over half the league. Why can't the league winner be the team who tops the table? There could be cup playoffs on top of that, right? Get a clue MLS.

We could be in for some serious summer signings after the European season ends. Tremendous rumors including players like Nicolas Anelka and Miroslav Klose have emerged and could come to a head in places like New York and LA.

Enjoy the beginning of the season MLS fans! I'll be watching!

Monday, March 14, 2011

No Totti No Party

Highlights of yesterday's Derby della Capitale, in case you missed it:



Simply heroic.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Video Re-Posts: 3/11/11

1. What Bundesliga leaders do to kill time on bus trips:

Fake?


2. Gareth Bale's decimation of Inter Milan - animated:



3. Referee Peter Walton issues an invisible yellow:



4. Daniele De Rossi elbows intentionally, once again:

Come on, DDR. You're better than that.


5. An absolute stunner of a goal, rivaling Wayne Rooney's:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Barcelona Were Always Going Win - Refuted

In the news today is your typical after-the-fact journalism on Barcelona's narrow Round of 16 win over Arsenal. Most sources I've read have completely discounted the closeness of this tie. Even though they carried 74% possession, had 20 shots, and generally dominated the game, the clash hung in the balance until the final whistle. Despite the red card and failing to register a shot, a fine piece of finishing from Nicklas Bendtner would have turned the tie around near the death. Barcelona were not always going to win; they ended up winning.

Last year's semifinal between Barcelona and Inter Milan played out in a similar manner. Going into the second leg at Camp Nou, Barca, after losing 3-1 at San Siro, commanded 86% of the possession, and held ten-man Inter to 1 shot. They ended up winning the game 1-0, but lost the tie on aggregate. Inter's superb defensive effort was lauded after the game, and rightfully so. But, had Bojan's disallowed goal in the final moments been allowed, would we have seen a similar description of that tie? Probably.

Sportscasters love to side with Barcelona's luscious style of play. They are fluid, clinical, and outplay most sides, even when they lose. If Arsenal had notched the crucial goal, they would have been through to the quarterfinals. I am shocked at all the negative light being shed on the Gunner's play since they were actually close to winning. Sure they were outplayed, but they remained in the hunt until the referee looked at his watch one last time. The coverage of Barcelona's dominating play is exhaustive and overshadowed a tie which could have gone either way.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Can Italy Avoid Complete European Failure?

With all Italian teams out of the Europa League, hope rests on AC Milan, Inter Milan, and AS Roma to restore some sense of dignity for Italian sport by remaining in the Champions League. Can Italy avoid complete European failure this year? Possibly. In the long run? No.

Italian teams in Europe: all but down and out
Unfortunately, each remaining Italian squad in the Champions League goes into the vital second leg after losing at home. The likeliness of second leg turnarounds:

Inter Milan are most likely to overturn their 0-1 loss to Bayern Munich. They are on a rich run of form and were undone by Munich after spoiling many good chances to go ahead. Conversely, Munich are playing dreadfully in the Bundesliga. Of late, they were outclassed by the Steve Cherundolo lead Hannover 96 and ousted from the DFB-Pokal Cup, leading to assertions that Dutch Coach Louis van Gaal will be replaced this summer. 

AC Milan have a decent chance of overturning their 0-1 loss to Tottenham. The squad was highly boosted on the weekend after defeating rivals Juventus. Aside from that, it's hard to count out a side with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the starting 11. The Spurs are set to welcome back Gareth Bale from injury, who I am sure hopes to shread whatever right back stands in his way.

AS Roma are least likely to overturn their 2-3 loss to Shakhtar. The Giallorossi will have to win at the Donbass, a ground where Shakhtar is nearly undefeated in Europe. On top of that, a 2-goal win will be Roma's best chance to take the tie. It seems more likely that the Ukrainian powerhouse will waltz into the quarterfinals.

If you thought the present state of Italian representation in Europe was bad, the future does not look very good either. It was made official last week that the Serie A will lose it's 4th Champions League spot to the Bundesliga beginning in the 2012 - 2013 season. It was only a matter of time before this happened, given such poor performance in Europe.

A message to the Serie A: you've failed your fans

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Re-Posts

1. Interested in Qatar's philanthropic approach leading up to the World Cup in 2022? You probably haven't thought of it, but since it's my day job, I have! I was delighted to see an article detailing the positive impact Qatar aims to make:
Qatar 2022 — A New Philanthropic Business Approach to be Applauded

2 . Siena's anticipated below ground stadium has won the prestigious 2011 Architectural Review Future Projects award. Check out Dirty Tackle's article:
Siena's New Stadium Will Be Below Ground Level


3. Vinnie Jones, former football hard-man turned Hollywood star, gives a stirring halftime talk to his Hollywood All-stars. His motivational approach: fear.


4. Andrei Arshavin's ridiculous Q&A. My favorite back and forth:
"From Evgesha4511Hello Andrey Arshavin! I LOVE YOU VERY MUCH. YOU ARE THE BEST FOOTBALL PLAYER. CAN YOU BE MY PEN-FRIEND?
AA: No"
Arshavin's Official Website - Q&A

5. For you fellow Giallorossi fans, a great post by Eric Giardini and the Shin Guardian crew detailing the merits of a proposed American takeover of AS Roma:
Beyond The EPL: An American At Roma

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reports From Italy...

...should never be trusted.

News broke from Italy yesterday claiming AS Roma defender Philippe Mexes will join AC Milan this summer. Based on prior Italian "reporting," this story, along with a myriad of other rumors emerging from the boot, should be discarded. Reports from the Italian media are more often than not misleading and inaccurate.

As a fan of the Serie A, I have come to learn what a common motto during rumor-fueled reports should be: "I'll believe it when I see it." News sources in Italy tend to magnify and inflate miniscule rumors, often skewing the truth by exploiting half-truths. Obviously, this rings true for most sporting media - speculation is an act we must expect - but the Italian media seems to turn every story that comes along on its head. I've lost count of the times I've seen an official report from an Italian news source turnout to be, in hindsight, the unlikeliest of rumors.

Why the willingness on the part of the Italian media to report any and every rumor? It could be because of a few factors:

The fans in Italy are very demanding. Having spent time in the capital at Olimpico many a Sunday, I can tell you first-hand that Italian fans are among the most passionate and fickle in the world. On any given match-day, the faithful are berating the ownership of the team for poor results or a lack of financial backing. The next they are pridefully tearing up when their captain hustles into the defensive third to make a tackle. Italians are very reactionary by nature, which leads to coarse actions day in and day out.

Though the media is a separate entity from the sport, they are one with their audience. Italian news sources know what fans want to see and know how to fan the flames of profit. Rumors attract readers, readers attract money, and in a football nation as wild about the sport as Italy, topsy-turvy fans are attracted to tasty rumors. Thus, the entertainment ensues...I mean reporting.

Stadio Olimpico - Roma

























Coinciding with the above notion, the overall atmosphere around the sport should be held liable for erroneous journalism. In case you have not noticed, the mood surrounding Italian football is extremely negative. Stadiums are in horrible condition and seats rarely fill to capacity. Violence, unrest, and even racism often occur on or around match-day. And typically, the good play of one team is overshadowed by the bad play of the opposition. This overall negativity in the atmosphere of calcio is a media dream. Rumors are exploitable when conditions are depressed. It seems like fans have an easier time feeding on rumors when they are so hungry for any sort of news they might react to - both positive or negative.

Another likely reason for the influx of inflated rumors is the state of the league. The Serie A is definitely on the decline. A league that once fielded legends like Maradona, Roberto Baggio, and Ronaldo is now a rare destination for the sport's biggest stars. Talented youth from around the world are being drawn to top teams in top leagues, like Barcelona in La Liga or Manchester United in the English Premier League. Italy's own youth are being stolen by foreign leagues because of this depreciation.

When a company performs badly, investment in it stops. But when a league falters, the media does not give up. The decline of the Serie A has resulted in news sources grasping for any stories they can find, as opposed to more legitimate stories found in a league on the ups. Thus, diminutive rumors or stories are spotlighted for the sake of spotlighting and publishing a daily paper.

These might seem like gross overtones in relation to a news report about Mexes joing Milan, but in reality, everything surrounding Italian soccer is toned differently from other world leagues. Each aspect - the fans, clubs, owners, and media - all spin a web of mystery. Things often are not as they seem, especially in the media. I urge you to reconsider legitimacy of the source when you hear a report from Italy about your favorite player transferring to Juventus or Inter (the typical rumor-mills). The report is most likely not true.

I'll leave you with an image of someone that I feel, through actions and attitudes, epitomizes the problems surrounding the Italian football community. Coincidentally, this picture makes me cringe every time I see it:

Luciano Moggi - the man behind the Calciopoli Scandal
Please stay tuned for more about the state of the Serie A. And check out today's piece of unbelievable news from the Italian media: Mourinho linked with Roma - Corriere dello Sport.