Archive | December, 2011

Top Moments of 2011

31 Dec

Happy New Year one and all!  2011 has been quite the year and here are my favorite moments:

1. Abby Wambach’s game-winner against Brazil – This goal was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.  Playing a man down and a goal down in stoppage time of extra time, Megan Rapinoe picked out Wambach with a pinpoint cross and Wambach’s header sent the game to penalties, which the U.S. dominated.  Not going to lie, definitely made me cry – on par with Landon’s Donovan’s late winner against Algeria in 2010.  Amazing moment.

2. Hodgson out, Dalglish in at Liverpool – After reigning over one of the worst starts for the Reds in a long time, Roy Hodgson was finally shown the door in January 2011.  His replacement?  None other than the legendary Kenny Dalglish.  The team was revitalized under Dalglish, showing the passion and desire that was missing the rest of the season and moving up the table to finish seventh.  Dalglish was given a three year contract in May.  New ownership, combined with the return of Dalglish changed the outlook for fans all over.

3. Japan’s Women’s World Cup victory – Even though it came at the expense of the U.S., it was impossible not to feel good for Japan.  Homare Sawa equalized for Japan late in stoppage time and the team went on to win the penalty shootout.  It was the first World Cup title for Japan, which was  (and still is) battling with the aftermath of the horrific earthquake and tsunami.  The victory was about more than just soccer.

4. Barcelona’s triumph – Barcelona showed why it truly is the best team on the planet, winning the Champions League title in convincing fashion over an outclassed Manchester United.  Barcelona also claimed the La Liga title and recently the Club World Cup title as well.  The team was (and is) mesmerizing to watch, especially player of the year Lionel Messi and midfield maestros Xavi and Iniesta.

5. City thrashes United – I don’t think it’s any secret that I am not the biggest fan of Manchester United.  Manchester City totally embarrassed the defending champs, 6-1, in mid October, much to the surprise of all but the most delusional of fans.  It was quite the win for City, a warning shot that they are to be taken seriously in the league race.  And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like to see United get knocked off its high horse every once in a while?  To top it off, United (along with City) was eliminated from Champions League play in early December.

What are your top moments from this year?

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Champions League group stage ends on completely crazy note

7 Dec

Well, who can say they saw today’s results coming?  Two results clearly stand out: 1) Manchester United getting knocked out of Champions League with a 2-1 loss to Basel.  Really?  2) Lyon somehow turning around a NINE goal difference to edge Ajax for second in group D.

Major props to Basel on the upset of United.  A late goal from Alexander Frei sealed second place for Basel and knocked United out in the group stage for the first time since 2005-06.  And that, Alex Ferguson, is why you don’t take the group stage for granted.

Meanwhile, in group D, Lyon scored six second half goals to seal an improbable 7-1 win over Zagreb.  Meanwhile, Ajax lost a 2-0 decision to Real Madrid, and with those results combined, it meant that Lyon, not Ajax, heads to the round of 16.  Holy crap, how mad does Ajax have to be?  For Zagreb to ship seven goals at home?  Absurb.  Props to Lyon for making something out of what seemed to be a near impossible situation, but it does seem a little bit sketchy since I think the futsal team I play on could have played better defense.

Only two English teams advanced to the round of 16.  Man City defeated Bayern 2-0, but a Napoli win with the same scoreline sent the Italian through to the next round.  Who would’ve thought that Chelsea and Arsenal would be the lone Premier League teams remaining?  Ridic.

While I’m on the subject, I don’t really understand why people would root for all the Premier League teams to do well.  Ok, sure, the league looks better, but really?  Who cares?  You’re telling me that as a United fan, you want Arsenal to succeed? I don’t think so.  I just can’t get behind the idea of rooting for a team that I would hate in every other circumstance.

Round of 16 teams: Bayern Munich (GER), Napoli (ITA), Inter (ITA), CSKA (RUS), Benfica (POR), Basel (SUI), Real (ESP), Lyon (FRA), Chelsea (ENG), Leverkusen (GER), Arsenal (ENG), Marseille (FRA), APOEL (CYP), Zenit (RUS), Barcelona (ESP) and Milan (ITA).

Really early, completely premature and totally unnecessary final prediction: Barcelona vs. Milan

Wasted chances prove costly in loss to Fulham

6 Dec

Clint Dempsey scored his 37th Premier League goal to lead Fulham to a 1-0 win over 10-man Liverpool on Monday, Dec. 5.  LFC’s Jay Spearing was harshly sent off with about 20 minutes remaining.  Anyways, onto thoughts and observations from the game…

  • The Reds are struggling mightily to put the ball in the back of the net on a regular basis.  Granted, the framework isn’t helping the cause, but too many chances are being missed.  Liverpool easily could have had the lead before Spearing’s red card, which leads me to…
  • Ah, yes, the red card.  Spearing clearly got the ball first, but caught Dembele on the follow-through.  Very harsh for a red card as Spearing was just going hard to get the ball.  I thought the ref had done a good job up until this call, which obviously changed the game dramatically.
  • I am not sold on Andy Carroll at all.  I realize that a strike partnership isn’t born overnight, but Carroll looks lost out there.  He looks like he doesn’t know what to do or where to go whenever Suarez has the ball.  You could see it early on when Suarez played a through ball and Carroll was rooted to the spot.  Additionally, he is not finding enough ways to get into dangerous spaces on a regular basis.  He had a couple decent looks tonight, but after his shot right at Schwarzer, he disappeared.
  • The Reds definitely missed Lucas out there today. Dempsey and Dembele had way too much time on the edge of the area to get off good shots. That’s the kind of defensive lapses that will come back to bite you in the ass.  As a whole, Fulham had too much time to operate in the midfield.  I realize it will take some time to adjust to playing without Lucas, but who will step into that role?  They need someone in that defensive mid role to be successful.
  • I have to give props to Clint Dempsey for his goal today.  He’s now the all-time leading American scorer in the Premier League with 37 goals, surpassing Brian McBride.
  • Inconsistency is killing this team.  Coming off very solid performances against Chelsea and Man City, this was Liverpool’s game to lose.  The team has struggled to play consistently well all year and needs to learn to keep the pressure up (and for the love of all that holy, score goals) for every single game.

Liverpool win, but lose Lucas for the season

2 Dec

Liverpool advanced to the Carling Cup semifinals with a 2-0 win over Chelsea Tuesday, but lost Lucas to injury in the process. It was a good win for the Reds, who looked the dominant side for much of the second half (I didn’t get to see the first).  Chelsea’s defense is struggling mightily at the moment and will likely be their downfall (or AVB’s downfall if they don’t get stuff together).

Things finally seemed to be clicking into place for Liverpool – confidence was high after solid results against Chelsea, Man City and Chelsea again and the squad finally looked comfortable with each other out there.  Then Lucas got hurt, tearing his ACL and putting him on the sidelines for the rest of the year.  It’s a big blow for the Reds since Lucas has been having an excellent season and been a constant among an ever-tweaked midfield lineup.

I will admit that I haven’t always been the biggest Lucas fan.  His proclivity for committing stupid fouls in dangerous positions and general clumsiness caused me to exclaim ‘F**kin’ Lucas!’ so often that I still call him that.  His game has improved quite dramatically over the last couple seasons and he has turned into one of Liverpool’s most consistent players, the unsung workhorse in the middle, if you will.

While the Reds certainly have no shortage of midfielders on the roster, do they have one that can play that defensive mid role like Lucas did?  They’ve already recalled Jonjo Shelvey from his Blackpool loan and Jay Spearing is another young option as well.  I think the next couple games could be a bit of a struggle as the team looks to replace a key cog and Dalglish is forced to tinker with the lineup once again.

Euro 2012 Groups Announced

2 Dec

The groups for Euro 2012 were announced by UEFA today in a typically pompous and totally unnecessary ceremony. My main question is why is the draw being held so far in advance?  Euro doesn’t kick off until June 8, over six months from now.  However, now that I have thought about it for a hot sec, it makes sense logistically as teams (and fans) have to make travel arrangements to the appropriate cities and teams have a chance to scout opponents to the max.  If there’s another reason I’m missing, let me know.

As usual, there is one group that seems like it should be way tougher than the rest and for this tournament, it’s group B featuring Germany, Portugal, Holland and Denmark.  Yikes, bet those coaches are happy people.

Group A: Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic

Group B: Germany, Portugal, Denmark, Netherlands

Group C: Spain, Italy, Ireland, Croatia

Group D: England, Ukraine, France, Sweden