Category Archives: Serie A

All about Serie A….Do not expect much here…

Carlo Ancelotti – Will Chelsea become Champions again?

Chelsea FC v Seattle Sounders FC

After a somewhat disappointing finish to the Premier League season, only picking up the FA Cup, Chelsea were on the hunt for a manager yet again.  Having sacked Avram Grant before the previous season for Portugal’s national team boss Luiz Felipe Scolari had not worked out so well for owner Roman Abramovich.  Replacing Scolari took too long in the eyes of most, and I have to say I am one of those, but bringing in Russia’s national team manager Guus Hiddink to finish the season as caretaker manager was a stroke of genius.  Hiddink righted the ship and got Chelsea playing football that the fans wanted to see.  This play would see Chelsea make the FA Cup final, securing a win against Everton for the trophy, but unfortunately bowing out of the Champions League a round early this year in defeat to future champions Barcelona.  Though the level of play had risen considerably since his arrival, Hiddink declined Abramovich’s offer to make the position permanent, instead staying on full time with the Russian National Team.  And the search began.

The list for manager candidates to take over at Chelsea could not be a long one, taking into consideration the ability to deal with superstar players and their egos, and the expectations of the owner and fans.  So, knowing Hiddink was not going to return it was time to get to work.  This summer would not be one of waiting around on another national team manager as last summer was for the Blues, announcing June 1, 2009 that now ex AC Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti would be in charge at Stamford Bridge.  Ancelotti had resigned from Milan less than 24 hours before the announcement was made, after Milan’s final game of the season that saw them defeat Fiorentina 2-0.  Would Ancelotti be the man for the job at the Bridge?  He has a history with star players and difficult managers, making him look like the perfect candidate to come into Chelsea.

Ancelotti has a long history in the game, stretching back to his playing days with Parma in 1976.  He also saw time with Milan and Roma during his playing days, and earned 26 caps for the Italian National Team, participating in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups.  Ancelotti would start back at the bottom when his management career landed him with Serie B side Reggiana in 1995, earning the club promotion would be his only accomplishment with the team before leaving for a bigger job the following season.  Ancelotti would leave Reggiana to take over at Parma until 1999 and then stepped up to Juventus for another two seasons.  After bringing Juventus back up to the top, Milan would bring him in to help improve upon their side that had been struggling.

In Italy, Ancelotti is proven.  He has won every major award you can win in Italy and even managed a few European titles as well.  He is one of a small number of people to have won the European Championship both as a player and a manager, the newest to the list being Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola.  So it is time to branch out and leave Italian football behind.  Ancelotti will be Chelsea’s third Italian manager and fifth manager in the last 2 years time, but he will be looking to lead the team to glory in England and in Europe.  If you want titles you must bring in a man who knows how to win them.

Will Ancelotti be able to translate his success in Italy to success in England’s top league?  Only time will tell but judging by the teams preseason this year the future for Chelsea looks promising.  Ancelotti will have a job on his hands this season at the helm, but good coaching is good coaching, and I think he is starting out on the right foot for the London based club.  They might not win the League this season or become European Champions, but the outlook for a chance at these trophies looks promising.

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Filed under Champions League, Chelsea, EPL, Serie A, Uncategorized

A Week in – Oguchi Onyewu’s progress with European Giants AC Milan

AC Milan v Chelsea FC

So with a week in the squad and a little more than 100+ minutes played, how does new American CB Oguchi Onyewu stack up at AC Milan? Not well if you talk to many supporters across the World Wide Web and abroad. I have heard things about his pace, his lack of skill, and even his touch on the ball. I will tell you this. Gooch is a Centerback and not a Fullback or Midfielder, so his touch on the ball and his pace are not something he is known for. And for those who say he lacks skill on defense, go back and watch him over his career, and most recently in the Confederations Cup before you make yourself look more ridiculous than you already do.
Gooch is a strong defender who has had two foul ups since stepping on the field with AC Milan, but does that all of a sudden make him horrible and unable to defend? I think not. The club he has joined in Milan has many other things to worry about aside from their defense. They are lacking up top with the young Brazilian Pato and aging Inzaghi as their main attacking threats, and after selling Kaka they are going to be dependant on Ronaldinho, who may or may not regain his status as a world great in the near future. The team is aging in Milan and it is looking like it might take some time for them to euthanize the side for the future, but one defender is not much to worry about going forward.
Gooch started with a blunder, allowing a forward from Club America behind him to put home a goal in a scoreless match, but it was not an easy finish and Gooch straightened up and finished the match out strong for Milan. In his second match with the side he came on some time into the second half, replacing the veteran Nesta again, and played strong in a losing effort against a Chelsea side that looks to be in good form already going into the season. Then the most recent match for Gooch, the unofficial Milan Derby, one which saw the sides face off on American soil. The early goal scored by Diego Milito was partially Gooch’s fault for not closing down closer to the forward, but having already dealt with one cutback, who can blame him for staying back and expecting another for a better angle on goal. Milito fired a rocket from a tight angle and I put more blame on Milan keeper Kalac for not covering his near post than I do on Gooch for not closing down, the inside post is not something you give up and Kalac left a gaping hole there for the forward to put one past him. The rest of the match for Gooch went off well and he made many great clearances from the back and looked fine in my opinion.
Bottom line is Gooch has had a rough start to his Milan career. This is the biggest club he or any other American has played for, aside from Tim Howard at Manchester United. He will get his bearings with his new side, and defending against some of the best in the world is not something he is new at. He has played with the USMNT for years now against some of the top players in the world. In the last year alone he has faced the players from England, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil. In these matches the U.S. defense did get beat from time to time, but what other side in the world doesn’t, even with some of the world’s best in defense. Gooch is new at the club, working out the language, and getting used to new teammates and coaching. His time at Milan will not be short in my opinion, and I hope none of you have written him off either. He will benefit from his time at Milan and the only thing I can see beyond the experience paying off for his own career is that of which he will bring into the USMNT squad in the future. So do not write the big man off yet, let him have some time to find his feet and I think you will be just as surprised at his play as you were about his signing. Good things will come, so do not write him off quite yet, this is the kind of thing we as American soccer supporters have been asking for is it not? An American abroad who can make it at a big club is no longer a fairy tale but reality instead.

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Filed under International Football, Serie A, Uncategorized, USMNT

Do not worry Gooch, it is only preseason – USMNT defender Oguchi Onyewu makes his debut for AC Milan in the World Football Classic

While the story of the night was Club America’s defeat of Italian giants AC Milan by a score line of 2-1 in the World Football Challenge, the bigger story was that of American International Oguchi Onyewu’s debut for the Italian side after having been signed from his previous side Standard Leige of Belgium.  Having joined the team only 2 days before the match, Onyewu was on the bench to start the match that would be the first for the Italian side in the tournament.  Having already defeated Inter Milan in the tournament, America players had to be riding high and primed for another upset, one they would realize in regulation this time.

Onyewu, wearing #14, was welcomed to the pitch at the start of the second half to a resounding ovation from the American fans in attendance as he replaced Milan veteran Alessandro Nesta.  Before his arrival on the pitch, ESPN showed an interview with Milan coach Leonardo, in which he praised the American player for the size and strength Onyewu would add to his squad.  This interview was followed by a second half Onyewu would hope to forget soon enough.

Early into the second half Onyewu got caught flat footed, allowing America forward Enrique Esqueda to get in behind him on a ball over the top, that would lead to the opening goal being put past Milan’s keeper into the top of the net.  After this announcer Alexi Lalas, stated that this should calm Gooch’s nerves a bit and get him going.  It did, and Gooch played a solid match until the final whistle sounded, at which time Milan found themselves defeated 2-1.  A disappointing start to his Milan career as Onyewu put it in a post match interview, but one he will relish as his arrival on to the big stage in world football.

Is this a good move for American soccer?  I think so.  Gooch is a big strong defender as his new coach Leonardo put it and one that could do well for the Rossoneri going into the future, with a current backline of aging stars.  Starting out the second half had to have stars in Gooch’s eyes, but it must be something wonderful to look back on, when he can say he made his debut for one of the largest clubs in the world on American soil.  And the big American defender need not feel too bad as veteran defender, Gianluca Zambrotta, also had his own preseason mishap by allowing America forward, Daniel Marquez, in for the winning goal in a defensive blunder of his own.  So keep your chin up Gooch, it is only preseason, and we know you will do better as you become accustomed to your new surroundings.

Some have questioned whether or not Gooch is even good enough to play for a side such as Milan.  To this I say watch and see.  Milan stated that they did not just pick up Gooch based off of his Confederations Cup performance, in which he was the U.S. Mens rock at the back, but that they had been following his progress for awhile.  He is not the quickest defender, but what big league better to go to when you lack a little in pace than the Serie A?  The players are older for the most part, and most by that age have lost a step or two over the years.  He will be strong in the back for Milan and receive plenty of playing time with the aging backline already in place and multiple competitions the club is involved in throughout the season.  This should help grow him into an even better player for the USMNT as well, getting the tutelage of one of the best coaching groups in the world of football.  And if that does not work out Onyewu could always fill in as a forward for Milan as he did in the dying minutes of the match.  Leonardo had asked Gooch, the largest player on the field, to move forward as a target man for the forwards to play off of.  This job was done quite nicely as Gooch set up the young Zigoni multiple times in the dying minutes, only to see said chances miss the mark.  The season will get better Gooch and we will be following you from here in America, you can be assured of that.

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Filed under International Football, Serie A, Uncategorized, USMNT

My weekend soccer fix – In Review

The weekend started out busy and finished with an astounding round of boos for one of the world’s greats.  The action started off in Pennsylvania where the Quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold cup were taking place.

The first match of the day saw the boys from Canada taking on a Honduras side that I am sure many of us would love to see out of the tournament.  Honduras being one of the stronger sides in the tournament had a weak start to the match with the Canadians holding much of the possession.  The Canadians failed at every turn however to put the ball in the net of the Honduras side.  With Hondurans falling all over the field the referee finally caved in the 36th minute, giving a penalty against the Canadians on a botched bicycle in the box by the Honduran forward.  Following this Walter Martinez, who in my opinion should have already received many yellows in this tournament for dives, stepped up and put the penalty past the Canadian keeper to give the Hondurans a 1-0 lead with less than
ten minutes to go in the first half.

The second half was much of the same with Canada holding much of the possession but unable to score the equalizer to take them into extra time.

Little did I know, this was just the beginning of a horrible weekend for referees around the U.S.  Canada got hosed in their attempt to take one of their weaker sides through to the semis, but they played well throughout the tournament earning some respect from the rest of the region and showing promise for the future.  I will look forward to seeing the Canadians in years to come as many of the players on the pitch were from their youngercore of players who will only improve over time.

The U.S. men were next up in Philidelphia to try and book their way to the Semis against a pesky Panamanian side.  With what most people have been calling the USMNT’s C or even D team this could turn out to be a tough battle.  After a poor performance by Luis Robles in goal during the match with Haiti, we welcomed Troy Perkins back between the posts.  Playing in Norway has brought Perkins’ game to a new level earning him the number 2 role behind Howard for now in my opinion, with Guzan riding the pine at Aston Villa.

After sending Bornstein and Cherundolo back to their clubs we were left with the questionable backline of Heath Pearce, Jimmy Conrad, Chad Marshall, and Jay Heaps.  Aside from Heaps the other 3 are fairly solid players, none of which from what I have seen, will end up in the first XI though.

The midfield mix was setup in the normal Bob fashion, Logan Pause and Kyle Beckerman filling the space holding midfielders (like we do not have enough of those already) and Stuart Holden and Robbie Rogers filling the space on the wings.  Pause held up much better in this match than in the last, but Beckerman as per usual in this tournament held the midfield intact.  The boys on the wings who had been having a successful tournament looked like they were lost at times in this match, showing their youth a bit during their stints of inactivity.

And for yet another USMNT match, Brian Ching held down his place up front accompanied by Davy Arnaud, who started strong and put in the work but never quite found the game, but one ball, against the Panamanians.

After a start in which both teams traded possession, an attempt by U.S. veteran and captain Jimmy Conrad turned brutal, earning him quite a concussion and a busted up lip in the process.  After Conrad was helped off the pitch by a few of the Panamanian players, in a show of great sportsmanship, play resumed earning Panama a corner in short time.  Before the corner was taken Clarence Goodson made his appearance replacing Conrad, and as most coaches hate to sub before a set piece, this was no different and a prime example.  The corner not cleared by the U.S. found the foot of Blas Perez, and in the dying minutes of the first half of play (45th minute) Panama opened the scoring. Neither side looked like taking over in the first half or composed for that matter, but the goal was against the run of play to that point.

The second half started with a bang.  Whatever Bob had said in the locker room stuck with the players, and 3 minutes into the second half Davy Arnaud took a ball down right outside the 6 yard box and slotted it back to Kyle Beckerman who slammed the shot into the upper 90, out of the reach of the Panama keeper.

While coming out on fire to start though the U.S. cooled down just as quickly, giving Panama time to regroup instead of staying on the attack.  The back and forth would last the rest of regulation time taking the teams into two periods of overtime play.  Kenny Cooper came in late in the match for Davy Arnaud to try and put a spark in the offense and Robbie Rogers was taken off to be replaced by Brad Evans, who has been playing in defense but plays midfield for his club team Seattle Sounders FC.

Extra time started off much the same with both sides trading possession and not producing anything resembling an attempt at scoring.  Now not mentioning it before, I will say this now, the officiating in this match was awful!  Over and over again Brian Ching and others were taken out by the defenders of Panama only to be told to get up and play on, but finally in the 103rd minute when Kenny Cooper was speared/ninja kicked, was a yellow card produced and a penalty awarded.  As an FC Dallas supporter I like Cooper.  However, as a USMNT supporter I cannot see him getting a place in the regular squad any time soon.  There were some worried when Cooper stepped up to take his own penalty, but I was confident as I have seen him slot many penalties home and know he is good for them.  However, he did have me worried as he stepped up and put it past the keeper but off the inside of the post to put the U.S. up 2-1 going into the second half of extra time.

As the second overtime session started I knew there were 15 minutes for Panama to draw even, taking us yet again to penalties, not unlike a previous meeting between the two sides.  This would not be the case though as neither side looked impressive, and neither side scored either.  This match was a tough one for the U.S. and the matches are not going to get any easier as the semifinal place that was booked happens to be against a scrappy Honduras side, who we have had problems with as of late.  So, while enjoying seeing the boys get through another match, I am not getting my hopes up that this weak U.S. side can outmatch Honduras after sending the players responsible for our group win back to their clubs.

Now while I did not watch the matches on Sunday in Texas, it looks as though the Mexicans and Costa Ricans took care of their opponents handily.  Mexico getting past Haiti 4-0 and Costa Rica taking care of the tournament Dark Horse Guadeloupe 5-1.  This will be an interesting semifinal round in which neither match looks to be an easy one, I cannot wait.

I only watched 3 other matches on the weekend since FSC played its weekend match earlier in the week, upon Master Beckham’s return to the MLS in a match in which Beckham was unproductive as the Galaxy blew past the struggling Red Bulls 3-0.  The other matches I checked out were all International Club friendlies, with Seattle Sounders FC taking on Chelsea, LA Galaxy taking on AC Milan (Interesting), and Club America taking on Inter Milan in the opening match of the World Footbal Joke/Challenge.  So there is not much I can really critique from these matches as the European sides are in preseason form and not playing at full speed yet, but I will give you what I can from the matches.

Seattle Sounders FC v Chelsea drew a huge crowd rivaling that of a match in Europe.  There was a sea of green to see the new expansion side of the MLS take on the European giants and I have to say they did not disappoint.  Now Chelsea being in preseason form started out slow but controlled the ball and passed with relative ease when they had possession.  Seattle on the other hand, try as they might, showed why the MLs is MLS and why European football is still boss.  The Sounders who have been the surprise side of the season by starting out better than any other expansion team has in MLs history just could not score.  In mid season form Seattle came out strong showing their attacking prowess, but as we know MLS is not EPL and it showed.

Seattle allowed Chelsea to navigate the field with ease, and while looking dangerous on attack and competitive they could not score. This came as no surprise though to those who are in the know about MLS, as it is no secret the finishing is weak across the league.  Nineteen year old Daniel Sturridge, new signing from Manchester City, started off the scoring for Chelsea in the 12th minute after receiving a pass at the top of the box from Florent Malouda and putting it past Kasey Keller to take the 1-0 lead.

The play for much of the remained of the first half went back and forth until the 35th minute when Nicolas Anelka slid a pass through the middle of the box to an oncoming Frannk Lampard who chipped the ball past Keller with ease, taking Chelsea into the half up 2-0.

The second half saw the Sounders hold Chelsea scoreless with the help of a few key stops by defender Zach Scott who took the ball off the line not once but twice to keep the English side off the board.  So while Chelsea earned the win, and who did not think they would, Seattle in my opinion represented the MLS well and gave the English side a game they might not have expected.

Aside from the overall skill level of the players, Chelsea look to be
having a good start to the preseason with Ancelotti fitting in nicely as new manager of Chelsea.  Should be interesting to see how the match shapes up when they face former boss Jose “The special One” Mourinho in the World Football Classic, I will keep my fingers crossed for a tough match anyways as both sides will want to win this one.

Now the next match kicked off an excuse for Americans to see some top flight teams from around the globe and promoters to make some cash off of said teams.  It was Jose “The Special One” Mourinho’s first appearance on American soil with his Inter Milan side, taking on the Mexican giants Club America in one of the worst officiated games I have witnessed to date.  While America are not a bad side and Inter
were playing at a liesurely preseason pace and should have still been able to walk off the pitch in the end with 3 points.  We Americans decided though that MLS referees should officiate these matches though, and needless to say, it made a difference.  America looked dangerous on the counter and much of the first half was back and forth, with neither side opening up the scoring.

In the second half Inter opened the tournament with a goal in the 51st minute from a set piece when Silva put a header into the ground and off the America keeper into the net.  Ten minutes later Cordoba equalized for America beating the Inter number 3 keeper Belec, who had no chance.  The rest of the match was controlled by the refs, seeing a player from each side sent off and neither side taking control of the match.  Ending regulation 1-1 America thought they had slid by with a point as players began to exchange shirts and shake hands, but no, that was not the end as both sides would find out.

Draws in this tournament did not go to extra time, but instead, penalties.  So after some confusion both sides lined up to settle the match from the penalty spot.  Both sides were doing well beating the opposing keeper until the ancient Inter midfielder, Patrick Viera,
stepped up and skied his shot over the bar giving America the advantage.  All was looking well for America until Inter’s keeper Belec blocked the fifth penalty from America extending the penalty shootout, but no again, the line judge has decided Belec stepped forward and we are going to take another shot.  And this is how America got out with 2 points for the penalty win as their player stepped back up and put his next shot into the top of the net beating Belec and winning on penalties 5-4.

As newcomers to the side Thiago Mota looked good, setting up many opportunities for the front men of Inter.  And his former and current teammate Diego Milito looked lost in my opinion, still coming to grips at his new club.  Watching Milito play with Zlatan Ibrahimovic though made Milito disappear as they are too much of the same type of player.  This would make me as a supporter and or coach hope that the deal for Barcelona frontman Samuel Eto’o goes through soon as I do not see an Ibra/Milito partnership shaping up well for either of them over the course of a season. And now as I sit and watch Inter’s next matchup in the tournament with Chelsea, it does not seem to be going much better.

Last off, the return of Master Beckham to the Galaxy fans in a friendly acquired during his extended loan stay at AC Milan this winter.  The match ended 2-2, making the Galaxy look better than they are with a draw and introducing AC Milan into a new life without Kaka.  Now, no matter what kind of reception Beckham thought he would receive upon returning to the HDC, I do not think he expected what he got.

The stadium was filled with signs from supporters telling Beckham exactly what they thought of him, and they did not disappoint as every time he touched the ball in the first half he was met by a resounding Boooo from the fans, at which point he would launch a ball to the front man in an attempt to catch the defense asleep and steal a goal.  Beckham then met one of his former supporters on the way to the locker room at the end of the first half, calling the fan to come out of the stands, to which the fan obliged before being snagged by security.

Said fan is rumored to have received a 10 year ban from Galaxy matches, but upon watching the replays I will be interested to see what happens to Mr. Beckham.  Does Don Garber have the bottle to fine the superstar or even suspend him (he would like that), I do not think so.  MLS thinks Beckham is a god, and while I will admit compared to the other players in the MLS he is a quality player, but above the law, I do not think so.  He should be punished just like any other player would be had he done the same thing, but the advertising dollars are too important.

I mean Brian Ching, who was not even in attendance at his match, was fined over a Twitter post that called the ref a cheat for missing a call (that he missed big time).  And he was not even in attendance and made no more of a statement than you or I would in the same circumstance.  But in the MLS Beckham is beyond laws and will get by with what he wants yet again.  I happen to agree with the Galaxy fans on this one though, as the team was not doing too bad without Beckham.  I am not a Galaxy supporter as you will come to know and anything that will weaken their side helps my FC Dallas side.  So, Mr. Beckham go back to Europe!  As one fan so nicely put it, “We were here before 23 and we will be here after!”

The guy does not want to be here obviously so let him go and start running the league the way you should so our league is not full of prima donna superstars who are just here for a paycheck.  The play might be worse, but atleast the players will give it their all to earn their pay and our respect as a member of our clubs.

So, while I enjoyed the many games this weekend, I was……

  • Disappointed in the officiating
  • Worried for the future of Inter Milan and The Special One’s chances of a Scudetto repeat
  • Happy to see the MLs compete with European sides (yes, even in preseason)
  • Unhappy about the joke of a tournament in the World Football Classic
  • And happy the USMNT made it through another round

Also looking forward to

  • Gold Cup Semis
  • Oguchi Onyewu’s AC Milan appearance
  • FC Dallas getting on track

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