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Let’s start it off with Part 3 of the continuing “Road to South Africa” Documentary….

This is really good stuff that takes a look at the whole process (often forgotten, overlooked, or just ignored) the US took to get to this point.  There are 6 of them total I think so keep your eyes out for the remaining 3 of them leading up to June 12th.

Injury Updates

Apparently Jozy Altidore sprained his ankle and is now in question for Saturday’s final warm-up game.

Seems to be only mild and his status for the 12th doesn’t sound jeopardized.  Would love to see him play on Saturday but let’s keep in mind what the real goal is here.  I have complete faith in Bob Bradley and co handling this appropriately.

Additionally, Carlos Bocanegra sat out yesterday’s session but was back in action today.  A good sign as going into the first game with out their captain would be tough, not to mention the gaping hole it would leave at left back.

Dempsey

Luke Cyphers from ESPN.com takes an in-depth look at Clint Dempsey and the puzzling discrepancy between his status here and in the UK.

He does seem to get a bad rap for being lazy, which is obviously not the case.  As he himself claims, he does not shy away from the spotlight and has a record of coming up with big goals.  My one issue is that when employed too wide or deep, he plays with the ball a little too much and tries to do to much.  This issue seems resolve itself when he is played closer to the goal, a key reason I think he is the best option alongside Mr. Altidore.

He is obviously a key component of this team and looks to be poised for a very strong showing; a successful tournament could see him somewhere other than Fulham come August.

Dempsey’s ability to shut out the opinion of people like me is a key attribute though and one which is invaluable wherever he plays.  Bob Bradley agrees.

“If you’re a good player, a lot is expected, whether it’s for your club or your national team,” says U.S. coach Bob Bradley. “At the end of every game, there will be all sorts of thoughts about how well you played. You have to be above all that.”

I am more and more impressed with the mental approach of this team as the tournament approaches; I believe BB deserves a lot of the credit for this strength.

Cyphers also gives a brief primer on how the international game has evolved and maybe even suffered in the past ~20 years due to the relaxation of European employment laws.

Expectations

Noah Davis from Goal.com takes a look at the expectations and progression of the US team heading into this World Cup.

Alexi Lalas’s point is one of the best of the article, big fan of the lack of bs.

“I don’t even think getting to the second round is something that we should necessarily applaud….I think it’s expected this time. I think if this team doesn’t get out of this group, American soccer fans should be disappointed, and I would consider it a failure. That’s a good situation to be in because not too long ago, people really didn’t care. Now there are much higher expectations.”

Got to agree with him as well.  If the US wants recognition as a legitimate, if not top level, soccer nation they must produce consistently.  2006 was an opportunity to do that but ultimately the team wasn’t ready and they didn’t get the bounces necessary to overcome this.  As Davis states…

In ’02, Bruce Arena’s team caught all the bounces and were hailed as conquering heroes; in ’06, they didn’t and were branded as failures. Soccer is a cruel mistress.

Soccer should actually be replaced with “Sport,” just ask Armando Galarraga, but let’s not split hairs here.  Circumstances outside of a player’s control will impact this tournament (see Ireland vs France) but a true measure of the strongest teams will be which actually create their own destiny (Nike’s whole WC ad campaign is based on this).

The pressure is now on the US to emerge as one of two teams from their group.  They no longer have the luxury of being an underdog.  To compete and succeed as one of the teams expected to advance to the final 16 is only the first step for this team.  Let’s stay focused on that though and look ahead when the time comes.

NYC

My hometown has seemingly been ready for the World Cup since the middle of May.  Bars started promoting themselves as outposts for watching the games with statements like “Watch all the World Cup Games HERE!”  We can all agree that soccer is gaining momentum in this country but no one was making plans for random World Cup games prior to June.  Things now are really picking up though…

Time Out NY has a whole “guide” to the tournament; really just a listing of bars to watch the games at.  There is this gem of an etiquette guide though.  Most of the time, these things are just cheap excuses for editorial and lessons in why American’s are ignorant about the sport.  This one is actually quite well researched and reported.  My personal favorites:

Don’t: Sneer at Americans saying “soccer” if you’re American yourself. No one likes a know-it-all.
Don’t: Sneer at Americans saying “soccer” if you’re European; you’re snooty enough already.
Do: Sneer at people who hold court about how “soccer is for wimps.” Why are you here?

and

Don’t: Call American Clint Dempsey one of the best strikers in the English Premier League.
Do: Recognize his achievement of competing regularly and successfully in the English Premier League.

Overall just a solid, tounge in cheek look at how to not look like a dumbass.

Additionally, there seems to be an explosion of pop-up viewing locations.  Sneaker companies seem to be on top of it with both Puma City (and the parties) at the South Street Seaport and Nike’s Bowery Stadium.

There is also seemingly unaffliated Play Beautiful World Cup Experience on Mulberry St.  This one is the most intriguing as they are offering a mini stadium in which to watch the games along with official gear from various suppliers, retro uniforms, a PS3 gaming station, a concession stand, and I am sure other fun stuff.  The venue is pretty small and most of the convenient game times have all “sold out.”  I am going to try to stop by at some point, even if it is just to see what they put together.

What about everyone out there?  How are you planning on watching the games? …especially considering the inopportune time most of them will be on out here…

One last note….I usually love Beano Cook b/c of his unabashed biased towards Joe Paterno and PSU football but this video makes him sound ridiculous. If you know anyone who isn’t catching “World Cup Fever” (whatever that is), make sure they know this senile man is their company.

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With a 4-0 victory over Valladolid yesterday afternoon Barcelona secured their 2nd straight, and 20th overall, La Liga title.

While it seems to pale in comparison to last years historic trophy haul, 99 pts and only 1 defeat is very impressive. Throw in the unpredictability of knockout style soccer and a run like last years would be of the utmost difficulty to duplicate (no back to back CL champions yet).  Additionally, outclassing the mass of money spent by Real Madrid last summer through a stable of home-grown talent undoubtedly gives Joan Laporta and the FCB brass a level of smug satisfaction.

One of the English language ESPN commentators yesterday stated that this years Barcelona team was probably not as good as last years due to this difference in hardware.  An interesting and valid statement but it should be noted that last years victorious haul of 87 points would have fallen 9 pts behind this year’s Real Madrid squad.  99 points is an all-time record, while the +74 goal differential was also greater than last years mark of +70.  Alas, you must win, and the 2010 version didn’t do that quite as grandly as the 2009 version.

There are too many contrasting variables to really make an accurate comparison of the two teams.  What must be noted is this Barcelona team has continued to play beautiful and consistently victorious soccer for two seasons running now.  They are edging the way into the category of great all time teams (although that is an article for someone with more historical knowledge) and you know that Sr. Guardiola will have them back and hungry for more next September.

The bitterness of losing to Inter Milan in the Champions League semi-final will surely be a motivational tool as they seek to recapture European glory which great teams are judged upon in this globalized version of the game.  The La Liga rivalry with Real Madrid is enough to keep even the most successful Blaugrana teams energized, although one can’t help but imagine Catalans salivating at the idea of Jose Mourinho being the next “Gallactico.”

As far as personnel goes, the core should remain very similar to this year.  Although, after the CL defeat it seems as if there is now a question of what to do with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.  One season at a club is hardly a fair trial period, but given his overall quality there was more expected this season.

Mixth together the news that David Villa and Catalonians seem to be pining for each other along with Bojan Krkic’s late season emergence and all of the sudden you have a very crowded attack force.  Guardiola obviously likes how the team has performed over the final month of the season and probably likes the idea of continuing in that mold.  Ibra could also use a little display that his spot on this squad is far from guaranteed.

Thierry Henry seems to be on his way out; this was probably sealed when he spent extra time on the field at the Emirates after the first leg draw in the CL quarter finals.  If you play for Barcelona, you are expected to be Barca through and through.  The speculation here is that he will be coming to NY and playing for the Red Bulls in Harrison, NJ as soon as the WC ends.

This would be a major signing for the MLS and provide evidence that David Beckham was not an anomaly but a trend-setter.  However, and I cannot stress this enough, the transfer market is ALWAYS rife with rumors.  Any player is a candidate to go to any club and you should never believe what you hear until the club makes an official announcement, and even then…make sure his work permit is in-line.

News outlets always want to be the first to break the news and then pat themselves on the back.  Honestly, don’t trust it.  ESPN.com says it? SI.com says it?  I know.  Thierry himself has already come out and said that he has not reached an agreement.

I am not saying it won’t happen, it does sound like the two parties are talking, an always necessary step.  However, please temper your expectations.  A good World Cup could see him make a more high profile move and stay in Europe for a few more seasons.  It has been rumored enough to say that his arrival here wouldn’t be a surprise, but please temper your expectations.

Finally, you cannot mention the 2009/2010 campaign with out some form of a shout out to Lionel Messi.  I slurped him some a few months ago and to avoid being redundant, I am not going much further.  The only thing that is worth calling out is his ability in front of goal; his calm demeanor is uncanny and his ability to keep opposing ‘keepers completely in the dark about what is coming has allowed him to finish the season with34 goals in La Liga, tying the cool Ronaldo for the single season mark at FCB.  The range of goals he scores is so broad and the amount of joy he brings to the game unrivaled, one can only hope that he maintains this level for as long as possible.  He really did carry Barcelona on his shoulders this year and proclaimed to the World that he is Barcelona and Barcelona is his.  It should be fascinating to see if he can carry Argentina come June.

Some thoughts from others out there on La Liga/Barcelona:

FC Barcelona’s English language Twitter feed has appropriate reaction from all appropriate parties

Phil Ball from ESPN.com reflects on La Liga in its entirety

Cyrus Malek from Goal.com on Barcelona’s 99 pointer

Videos (I will continue to post here as I find good stuff)

Other random good stuff…

A funny piece from Seth Vertelney at Goal.com about the overload of hackneyed World Cup related pieces.

Oguchi Onyewu makes a gesture that is unheard of in professional sports, even the Italians are gushing

This is a crazy goal from the Paraguayan league…

As the US progresses through their warm-up camp, I think I am going to start one post and just continuously update it when I see anything worth mentioning.  I will get back into the entirely inexact science of providing my own insight as the friendlies approach….

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With the French national team and their penchant providing consistent media fodder as the World Cup approaches the 45 day mark (tomorrow), I thought it would be a good time to pay the tournament some attention here.  It’s also a rainy Monday, and what better way to break that up then with some sweet World Cup YouTubing.

ESPN World Cup Commercials

ESPN released a new commercial late last week in order to continue building hype and excitement around the event….it does a way better job than I ever could….

Wasn’t that fun everyone? Despite the use of Bono, I can’t help but get some goosebumps from that.

There is also this one touting Martin Tyler’s joining of ESPN from a few months ago, a little more soccer centric, so it’s coolness takes on a bit of a separate tone…

America

Moving into a more locally focused video…some amateur American filmmakers have put together a multi-part documentary focused on Soccer in America, specifically the US Men’s Team and the road they have taken to get to South Africa. It is thorough in its coverage and does a great job of providing a snap shot of the passionate subculture of the wildly enthusiastic fan contingent known as Sam’s Army.

The production quality is very high for a YouTube only release (as far as I know) and definitely worth the 7 minutes.

Despite their shortcomings, this first episode will remind you that, if healthy, this team can beat anyone out there over the course of 90 minutes…anyone that is, except Brazil.

That’s it for video today but there have been some other interesting old fashioned written pieces out there over the course of the day.

Charlie Davies update

The NYTimes Jeffrey Marcus takes a look at Charlie Davies recovery progress and where his World Cup chances stand. We are only about 3 weeks away from Bob Bradley’s final 30 man camp in Princeton, NJ and if Davies can get the call to that then it must be seen as a good sign regarding his chances.

To be blunt though, there are other American strikers out there making an impact who could push him out due to lack of playing time (always considered an important Bradley factor).  Herculez Gomez and Edson Buddle have been lighting up the Mexican Clasura and MLS respectively and could push an out of shape Davies from consideration.

I do think Davies deserves a shot, at least in that camp and then leave it up to the coaching staff to evaluate him.  He has shown too much ability and understanding with Altidore to be left from consideration.  I think Bradley is as anxious as the rest of us to see how he has progressed.

Additionally, according to his Twitter feed, he has resumed full training w/the club.  Despite the club’s statement last week that he will not be ready to play again this season, this is an excellent sign as getting in full speed work puts him in better position heading into that May USMNT camp (if he gets an invite.

Freddy Adu? Unlikely

Grant Wahl had an excellent piece in the April 19th issue of SI on Freddy Adu and what has kept him from taking that next step. The sources he quotes are very insightful and cover a wide array of people who have been close to Adu’s journey.  Definitely worth a read.

That’s all for now, but I will keep posting the Road to South Africa videos from YouTube.  However, this week my focus is turning to the 2nd leg of the CL semi-finals.  Visca el barca.

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Barcelona!

Some unforeseen circumstances prevented me from watching El Classico live on Sunday afternoon but I was able to spend an unusually lovely early Monday morning catching up.

Definitely a big win for Barca to move them back to the top of La Liga, but playing at home this is a game they must take all 3 points from.

Barcelona didn’t look as sharp as their midweek encounter against Inter but I would argue that this Real Madrid team is much stronger. The inclusion of Ibrahimovic around the 50′ seemed to turn things in Barca’s favor slightly and he was able to finish their best chance of the match, further enhancing the genius of Pep. The ball from Dani Alves also must be praised, perfectly weighted and right out of Xavi’s bag; more often than you would like his crosses seem to sail but when he delivers accurately, they are so dangerous. As predicted, Ibra seems to be slightly more suited to Barca’s possession game of short, accurate passing than Eto’o was. Phil Schoen (the American GolTV announcer) noted that Barca is still adjusting to him but it seems a more natural fit in my opinion.

Carles Puyol was definitely deserving of man of the match accolades as he made at least two huge tackles in the second to prevent clear, point blank shots. Victor Valdes also made a huge save on CR9 early on in the game preventing RM from taking an early lead.

Speaking of CR9, in case anyone forgot he is as good as any footballer in the world when completely healthy. Based on last years body of work, Lionel Messi will probably win this year’s Ballon d’or but the difference between the two at this point is almost negligible and will certainly make El Classico the biggest club game on the planet for the foreseeable future.

Barcelona v Real Madrid 11/29/09 Highlights….courtesy of ESPN Deportes via Youtube

GolTV
For better or worse, while watching any soccer on GolTV you cannot help but take note of the announcing tandem of Phil Schoen and Ray Hudson. Schoen plays the part of the calm play-by-play man while Hudson gets to wax poetic about the brilliance of Lionel Messi.
It is a fascinating tandem and a year ago I would have told you that I didn’t like Schoen (rhymes with Spain) or Hudson. However, GolTV’s penchant to show such a wide variety of La Liga matches seems to have served Schoen well. He posseses a broad knowledge of both the world game and specifically the Spanish league which (I would imagine this stretches to the Brazilian and German leagues which he also must commentate on a weekly basis) allows him to provide some excellent insights into the game which enhance the viewing experience.
Ray Hudson is a character, an english language announcer who has no parallel as no other network would allow for such an animated and opinionated commentator. He is over the top but his passion for the game is constantly on display and despite consistent exaggerations (Ibra 2x the player that Eto’o is? really?!) he makes the broadcasts enjoyable and flavorful. He has also spawned a series of YouTube greatest hits videos….

Zen and the art of watching football commentated by Ray Hudson….
Links

In light of the recent UEFA investigation rooted in Germany; an excellent Q&A from the NYTimes goal blog on match fixing with the journalistic authority.

I am not sure I completely agree with all points he makes but I am always a fan of the alternative/challenging point of view; another Q&A with Simon Kuper, the author of the recently released “Soccernomics”

America!!! – FUCK YEA!

Due to injury, Clint Dempsey got moved up front for Fulham last week v Blackburn and immediately paid dividends….twice motherfuckers.

Original Video – More videos at TinyPic

Please BB, tell me you were paying attention to this! Please.

In other USMNT news, the No Short Corners blog reports that the US will be playing another friendly in the Netherlands on March 3rd. An excellent tune up for South Africa.


Also, can’t forget that Friday at Noon is the draw for next summer. A huge day in the international soccer community as it lays the blueprint for what will be 4 weeks of joy beginning on June 11, 2010.

I might try to live blog it, but a) I have to be “working and b) I am not sure anyone will pay attention. We’ll see though.

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Wednesday’s friendly between the US and Denmark so far down the list of important soccer happenings from this last week that I feel a little stupid even mentioning it. However, we love the USMNT here so I will provide a few notes.

Besides the goal which was gifted to Jeff Cunningham, there were almost 0 positives to take from this. The goal was nicely finished and while Cunningham did seem to be the most likely to score, too often he was muscled off the ball and seems too undersized to participate at that level. I think he would be useful in CONCACAF qualifying but the defensive quality is just too high at the World Cup level for him to be effective.

His partner, Jozy Altidore, seems to be out of form lately and hopefully Phil Brown keeps his faith in him at Hull and he can discover some form and more importantly some ball control over the next few months. Form can change in a flash but touch must be developed.

Spector looked lost in the back and so did Hejduk.

Seems that Castillo was brought on in a left midfield role, a pretty crowded position for the US so not sure that’s his best fit but at least he’s now an “American” for good.

Feilhaber and Bradley both looked good. Benny seems to overthink it sometimes and his teammates aren’t always on the same page but he’s always thinking positively and creatively.

And now moving on…

Henry

Everyone probably has some idea of Wednesday’s major news item; Thierry Henry’s blatant handball led directly to the winning goal in the France/Ireland playoff for one of the final UEFA WC spots.

The reaction has been massive and wide-ranging. Absurd suggestions like boycotting all of the companies who Henry endorses or asking him to compensate the FAI for the income they have lost by not qualifying seemed to be the first response. Since then, there has been time for those with a little more credibility to react and personally I think that is where we should look. A quick digest of my favorites…

The famously inflamatory Italian coach of the Irish national team, Giovanni Trappatoni, takes a very well adjust view of it.

Jack Bell of the NYTimes thinks it lends credibility to the 5 referee system currently being tested in the Europa League.

Ireland cited a previous example of FIFA granting a replay of a match between Bahrain and Uzbekistan for much less than a blatant handball.

FIFA issued a brief statement yesterday AM refusing the request and it seems that France’s disagreement with the request was the reason.

An Irish contributor to EPLTalk.com, and Arsenal fan, gives his well rounded view.

A breakdown of Arsene Wenger’s response to the whole thing, also from EPLTalk.com.

The former Ireland star, Roy Keane, believes it was karma for the FAI to be denied a replay. More humorous and personal than anything though.

Personally, I think things like this are part of the game. Is it a bit of a negative on Henry’s resume, sure, but he will be remembered for much more than this. The situation seems to unfold slowly now b/c all the replays are in slow motion but the games move so fast that its hard to believe that it was anything more than the quickest of reactions. He is obviously not proud of it and would prefer to have gone through in a more honorable way but les bleus will be there next summer and Ireland will not.

Having only 3 referees out there make the chance that they will miss something fairly likely. It is hard to blame the referee as the request for them to catch everything, especially at the speed of today’s game, is extremely heavy. Look at the NFL where there are the same amount of players on a similar sized field but 7 total referees. Video replay is very difficult in a sport that prides itself on flow and while it might be the best solution, I think the 5 referee system of the UEFA league has to be the next step. A referee behind the touch line would provide more points of view on play in the box (where most of the controversy occurs) and therefore provide a more accurate decision.

If FIFA is not going to force a replay then they would ensure 5 referees at all games next summer in South Africa or there is the chance that much bigger games will be tainted.

Some US notes…

The mens national team has fallen in the FIFA world rankings. These rankings are pretty irrelevant but it should be noted that Mexico has risen and is now considered, fairly I think, on par with the US.

There is still a chance to get tickets associated with the US Team for the World Cup in South Africa next summer. You have to join some sort of supporters club as part of some effort for US Soccer to raise money but to have another chance at team specific tickets is huge if you plan on going next summer. Definitely worth it.

Randoms

Wrote this on Saturday morning while watching Liverpool/Man City on ESPN2. Getting these games in HD is awesome.

Liverpool definitely has some problems in the back and is now gotta be focusing on just squeezing into that 4th spot and not losing the extra income that comes with Champions League qualification.

I was impressed by David N’Gog though. Filling Fernando Torres shoes is virtually impossible but he seems to be playing more relaxed now and some excellent solo play in the box directly resulted in their quick equilizer.

Alas, a chance to move into 4th was lost and they continue to battle with Man City, Tottenham, and Aston Villa for that final CL spot.

Costa Rica lost their bid to become CONCACAF’s 4th team in South Africa losing 2-1 on aggregate to Uruguay. They gave up a valuable away goal in a 1-0 loss to Uruguay but could only muster a 1-1 tie on their trip to Uruguay, not enough to move on. When combined with Jonathan Borenstein’s last gasp equalizer in DC last month, it was a crushing way to miss the tournament for the Ticos.

That’s all for now, I will probably chime in with some thoughts on El Classico next weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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This weekend set up very well for me to watch a lot of excellent soccer and in an attempt to make up for my lack of recent blogging, I figured I would share some thoughts.

BARCA
Most importantly; Tomorrow aka Monday 8/31 at 2:55 EST on ESPN here in the States, FC Barcelona begins their La Liga title defense against the Asturian side Sporting Gijon.

Gijon, whose narrow escape of relegation was considered a success, should not present much of a challenge. The onus, however, is on Barcelona to not overlook them and recover from their Friday, extra time 1-0 UEFA Supercup victory over Shaktar Donetsk. 2 quick trophies down….the fight for the next 4 is going to be a lot longer.

The defending champions will be with out Messi as he has received special exemption to join the Argentinian National team early in advance of their massive Sept 5th qualifier against Brazil. He will probably be replaced by Friday’s supersub, Pedro.

Iniesta continues to recover from last season’s muscle tear as well and will be out. The pressure on the big money man, Ibrahimovic, is growing as he looks to get on the chart with his new club after a relatively dissapointing (read: goalless) pre-season.

Anyway, if you aren’t working 9-5 at a desk set an alarm…if you’re in a cube, DVR that shit!

Also, Monday AM saw the return of my favorite English language La Liga columnist, Phil Ball.
US National Squad
Last Thursday BB and co released the 24 man roster for the upcoming WCQ; Saturday 9/5 vs El Salvador in Salt Lake City (8PM EST on ESPN Classic) and Wednesday 9/9 vs Trinidad & Tobago in Port of Spain (7PM EST on ESPN Classic).

I’ll take a further look at the games and the implications as it all approaches.

U-20 coach, Thomas Rongen, has named the 21 players he will take to Egypt in late September for the U-20 World Cup. Apparently, continuing on this summer’s theme, ESPN will broadcast all the games in some capacity so I will make an effort to give it some coverage here.

Man Utd/Arsenal
Arsenal continues to look impressive as Arsene Wenger’s faith in this oft-criticized squad seems to be paying off. On the attacking front, Andrei Arshavin seems to be as dangerous as any attacker in the league right now and has a brilliant sense of the goal.

Alas, ManU pulled out a win in a way that only they can, while Wayne Rooney continued his goal a game pace this campaign. For attacking purposes, he must stay healthy for England going into next summer.

Abou Diaby’s awful own goal will surely haunt him for many a night but this is a long season and an early season encounter at Old Trafford isn’t the worst place to give away 3 goals. His overall performance was quite positive and he must put the gaffe behind him.

Even with out Fabregas out there, Wenger’s men seem to be playing the type of football he wants and continue to be the most entertaining EPL team to watch.

In what will probably be Fabregas’s last season at the Emirates, a title challenge would be a joy to watch. The return of Theo Walcott and, eventually, Samir Nasri will make their attacking options almost alarmingly broad and exciting. Also, it’s only a matter of time before Jack Wilshire goes all Federico Macheda on us and instantly endears himself to the Gunner faithful.

After paying vague attention to the first half of the Derby della Madonnina (Inter v AC Milan) but not being at all surprised by the 4-0 final, I took off till this morning’s Everton v Wigan matchup on FSC which was followed by my first chance to catch Juventus this season.

It was good to see Everton get some deserved points this season against a Wigan side that seemed more interested in fouls than anything else (defending, attacking, maintaining possession). I am in favor of defensive soccer but when it takes on the form of constant fouling is when it becomes anti-football. Wigan paid dearly when a well called penalty was won by Jo in the 93′ and finished by Leighton Baines. Gotta shout out Timmy Howard as well, who came up with a massive kick save early in injury time to keep the game 1-1.

Juve/Roma
The final game of the weekend turned out to be the best one. Juve’s highly anticipated summer signing, the Brazilian Diego, formerly of Werder Bremen, scored his first 2 goals of the season. Both were very well created by himself, finished superbly and showed first hand why the Torino squad wasted no time in signing him after last season. He provides the creativity, playmaking, and finishing that they were missing last season.

Felipe Melo also impressed in his defensive midfield role along with the central defensive pairing of a seemingly reinvigorated Fabio Cannavaro and a much improvied Giorgio Chiellini. No doubt they are both benefiting from Ciro Ferrara’s installment at the helm last June.

Amauri and Vincenzo Iaquinta are playing with a lot of energy up front and are probably inspired by the lack of any sort of structure in the Italian National Team’s forward situation and the subsequent opportunity to win a spot with the Azzuri for next summer’s African trip.

Real Madrid Fire Sale
In an attempt to make some money before the transfer period closes, Real Madrid’s sold multiple players at a loss late last week, both who impressed immediately.

Real sold Wesley Sneijder to Inter Milan late last week for 12 Million Euros less than they bought him for only 2 years prior. He was immediately given the no. 10 shirt and slotted into the starting lineup for this weekend’s Derby. Seijder is what Mourinho was looking for this summer and should be what Inter needed to move beyond Italian dominance and make a European run. If he stays healthy, his creativity and strength in the attacking midfield role will be appreciated by the new strike force; Diego Milito and Eto’o.

Real also went and sold Arjen Robben to Bayern Munich late last week for 2 Million Euros less than they paid for him. The addition of Robben probably gives Bayern the most explosive attacking winger pair in all of Europe and it paid more immediate returns than Seijder, as the half-time substitute scored twice en route to a 3-0 victory. Both have had a history of injury issues but as their “understanding” contributed to both those goals, this signing is huge for a Bayern team who has had trouble finding their way lately.

A dissapointing Bundesliga finish last year and a Barcelona smoking could have resulted in more summer movement but they seem to have faith in their youth products (not always a bad thing). They started roughly this season as well and had trouble finding the net with Ribery not taking part till this weekend. I hope this convinces him to stay in Munich rather than join the Whites in Madrid, because this should make Munich as difficult to defend as anyone in Germany and possibly Europe (and extremely fun to watch…www.goltv.tv).
American – VIDEOS!!!

Can’t forget…the Americans.

Jozy Altidore’s first Hull City goal in the Carling Cup midweek clash against Southend United:

Charlie Davies draws the penalty which results in the only goal of Sochaux’s 1-0 win against Monaco on Saturday:

If you want the full rundown, the “official USMNT blog” has a good one.

Cup of the World Video Special
Someone’s excellent compilation of the top 50 WC goals of all time video as well…courtesy of Sacha Klejstan’s Twitter page:

Interesting choice for number 1 but I guess this compilator values the team work of the Brazilians over the individual brilliance of Maradona.

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For the few of you out there who read this on any sort of a regular basis…I apologize but the kind of work they pay me for has been taking priority. A few noteworthy soccer events involving American’s happened this weekend and I had to share.

First and foremost…congrats to Jozy Altidore on making his EPL debut for Hull City and, impressively, contributing directly to the winner. Here’s the video w/his debut at 3:15:
It’s a great, creative thought/ball from Jozy to set up the winning goal, a side of his game which is there but which Jozy can only benefit from improving further; the thought is only half the battle, the skill to execute is just as vital and more impressive.
Check out 4:50 for a near miss from Altidore as well and 5:55 for another great chance.
A great debut, all the credit in the world to Jozy and most importantly congratulations.
Looking forward to the Aston Villa v Liverpool game this afternoon on ESPN2 in the states, 3PM EST. Liverpool has had two very different showings so far while Villa lost to an impressive Wigan side to start this season after an impressive 08/09 campaign. Anfield will be a tough place for them to get points but they have the offensive firepower to find the net once or twice. Word is that Yossi Benayoun is relishing his starting role and the energy he brings for 90′ is unrivaled, ‘Pool is at their best with him on the field.

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