Spain’s triumph in Poland and Ukraine may come to be seen as the zenith of the age of the pass. For a long time football was about dribbling, then it became increasingly about pace or physical strength; now, thanks to law changes that have made tackling more difficult and less brutal and have increased the effective playing area by all but eliminating the offside trap, football is about passing. Although Chelsea’s success in the Champions League shows that exceptions still occur, and that the dogged and the disciplined and the hyper-motivated can still prosper under certain conditions, at the highest level the majority of games are won by the team that best controls the ball.
- Strikers are out of fashion
In that, of course, he sounds very like an old-fashioned target-man; it is just that his hold-up play was not done after battling for high balls pumped from the back but from short low passes played from midfield.
- Passing and pressing dominates at the top table
Marcelo Bielsa’s extreme version of the style at Athletic Bilbao yielded some stunning football in March and April – their two wins over Manchester United featured some of the most thrilling attacking you will ever see – before fatigue set in. It was a similar story for Gerard Martino, who played under Bielsa at Newell’s Old Boys, as his Newell’s side faltered on the run-in to the Argentinian Torneo Inicial. Other more moderate disciples, though, continued to prosper. Most notable is probably Jorge Sampaoli, who has been appointed to the Chile national job after two years of sustained success at Universidad de Chile.
Thoughts? Agreements and disagreements? I would agree on points 1 and 3, at least in theory (ie., every MLS team plus the US Nats have announced that goal…I’m not sure how successful most teams anywhere have been). Strikers being out of fashion seems more closely intertwined to the Spain/Barcelona axis that currently dominates everything in soccer.
I just realized that after two weeks of crazy work, family visits and no internet, I had forgot to post photos of my Manchester trip like I had promised. First off, here is a little rundown of the trip.
A friend and myself headed to Manchester the week after the Manchester derby (the second to last week of the season) for a couple games and a stadium tour. We arrived Wednesday morning and the town was still buzzing pretty good from Manchester City’s win over United. For the most part, the vibe seemed to be that City were going to be champions unless they stumbled at Newcastle the upcoming weekend.
We ended up taking the train to Bolton that Wednesday and had some pre-game beers at a bar called Scott’s, which was right next to the stadium before seeing Bolton take on Tottenham. The beginning of the game was great as Fabrice Muamba made his return to Reebok Stadium and got a standing ovation from both the Bolton and Tottenham supporters. As for the game, Luka Modric scored a great goal right in front of us. Things looked promising for Bolton as Nigel Reo-Coker tied things up early in the second half and Bolton took control of the game. Or so we thought as Tottenham were able to spring to counter attack goals and pull out the 4-1 victory. Bolton’s fans looked pretty dejected after the game as relegation became closer.
Thursday was a pretty relaxed day as we explored the Manchester City Centre and even took in a show at a comedy club that night.
Friday brought us a little walk to Etihad Stadium for a stadium tour. I have now done a few of these tours over the last couple years and our tour guide, who I can’t remember his name, was one of the nicest guys and very informative. I don’t know why, probably because the club is now throwing money around like the Yankees or Red Sox, but I had this thought that I would be annoyed with Manchester City fans. I don’t know if I just met the nicest ones of the bunch, but after this trip, I actually had a new appreciation for their fans as it seemed like everyone I talked to was humble despite their recent success. Although this could all change in a few years after some more trophies and more money being thrown around on players. But after they won the title, I was happy for our tour guide as he was still expecting the worst to happen with two games remaining.
On Saturday, we decided to head out to Oldham to check out some League One action. It was also a chance to see Frank Simek and Carlisle United battle for a promotion playoff spot. It is always nice to see the smaller stadiums and fans. OT reader/commenter Trent tipped me off that Carlisle United’s fans were supposed to be good and they traveled well, with some dressed up in various costumes (i.e. banana suits, Superman, Batman, etc). But Oldham Athletic walked away with the 2-1 victory. As a Fulham fan, it was funny to see Shefki Kuqi out there, although Oldham’s fans had a love/hate relationship with him. He led their team in goals this season, but they groaned a lot when he did/did not do things. I was also impressed with Oumare Tounkara. He is a young French forward for Oldham who was on loan from Sunderland. He came off the bench and scored what turned out to be the game winner.
But Sunday was the main reason for the trip. It was a chance to Manchester United at Old Trafford. An iconic team at an iconic stadium. We showed up early and took in the sights around the stadium. A lot of street vendors selling shirts and scarfs and the whole game had a much bigger feel to it than the atmosphere around Reebok Stadium. We ended up waiting in line at the Trafford Bar for 20 minutes or so before being crammed inside with 200-300 others in a space that probably has a fire code of 150. It was fun to watch the first half of the Manchester City-Newcastle game as they cheered on for Newcastle. They really don’t have sports bars in England (or at least Manchester), so it was the 200-300 people crammed together, trying to watch the game on one of two 19-inch TVs. And one of the TVs was semi-broken (a fourth of the screen was cracked).
We then made our way to the stadium, before a walk through the Munich Tunnel (which was pretty cool), and watched the second half of that game underneath the stands in the concourse as everyone was eerily quiet until City scored their second goal. After that, everyone sort of muttered then went on to their seats, bathrooms or the concession lines. As for the United-Swansea City game, it was basically one-way traffic, but the United fans were sort of quiet and depressed after the City result. The guy sitting behind me kept saying things like “we should be up 6-0 now” and “great, we only need eight or nine more” after United finally scored. I also have to give credit to Swansea City’s fans. They were loud and singing the whole game. You could tell they were happy to still be alive in the league and it was their first trip to Old Trafford since the early 1980s.
United went on to win 2-0, but it didn’t look like it was going to be enough to catch City. We had dinner with some mutual friends after the game, who were giant Manchester United fans, and they were also basically conceding the title to City. But it was a fun trip and I got to see a lot of great games and see some cool stadiums. And check out some photos after the jump.
Thanks to Brian Straus, I now know about the @Pothunting twitter feed. It is for a company that make some old school soccer-themed shirts, but they use twitter to post a lot of old school photos and newspaper clippings from the 1920s and such like this team shot before a 1925 USMNT friendly against Canada.
Apparently the man in the front row and center is Archie Stark. Stark played in only two games for the US, while scoring four goals in this 6-1 win over Canada (the four goals is tied for the most in a single game in USMNT history). He was born in Scotland, but moved to the US when he was 13 (cap him now!) and received an invitation to the 1930 World Cup, but declined the invitation for business reasons (it was a different time).
I remember reading about Stark in a book (the name is slipping me…..I know Howie knows what I am talking about), but he set all kinds of American Soccer League records for scoring back in his day, including 232 goals in 205 games for the Bethlehem Steel.
But back to the topic of the photo. Check out those jerseys. They were rocking the deep v-neck way before it became popular. I also love the US Soccer badge from those days. And it pretty crazy to have the year and opponent on the front of the jersey.
So thank you Pothunting for tweeting these photos.
As Matt noted earlier, former USA defender Gregg Berhalter was named manager of Hammarby IF, a Swedish Superettan (2nd division) club, today. Berhalter, who retired following the 2011 MLS season, served as a player-coach with the Los Angeles Galaxy this past season. It’s worth mentioning that Anschultz Entertainment Group (AEG), the owner of the Galaxy, owns 49% of Hammarby (Swedish league rules require majority ownership by fans), and former teammate Chris Klein, who sits on the board, recommended Berhalter.
To some degree, Berhalter’s AEG connection make this less of an external hire. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it has some historic connotations. The list of Americans to coach in Europe is rather short.
It is perhaps fitting, given the fact that a German currently serves as manager of a national team with several German-Americans, that Germany would see some coaching success for Yanks. Brent Goulet, spent a few seasons (2004-08) managing SV Elversberg, a semiprofessional club playing in the Regionalliga Süd (then the third division, now the fourth division). Goulet is the lone American to serve as a permanent coach for a European club.
Joe Enochs was the most recent to garner headlines. The California native, who spent fifteen years playing with Osnabrück as they bounced back and forth between the second and third divisions, was named caretaker manager of his former club for a brief spell last spring. Having previously been coaching the club’s U-23 side, he was retained as an assistant despite their relegation to the 3. Liga last spring.
Another American, current Clemson assistant coach John Murphy (formerly an assistant with the Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew, and New England Revolution of MLS and not to be confused with the composer) held the position of manager for a two-month stint in 2009. Alas, that that stint coincided with the club dropping from the Scottish First Division (second tier) to Third Division (fourth tier) as a result of liquidation hearings. Not a particularly ideal time to become the first American to coach in Great Britain.
There have also been a few Americans to coach international sides abroad. Fernando Clavijo, Uruguayan-born but a World Cup veteran for the USA, coached Haiti in between MLS stints at New England and Colorado. Steve “3-6-1″ Sampson spent a spell managing Costa Rica, although he was fired during qualifying for Germany 2006. Afshin Ghotbi, an Iranian native before living in the US for twenty-odd years, unsuccessfully tried to rescue his native Iran’s 2010 World Cup hopes before later resigning following a quarterfinal loss in January’s Asian Cup. Ian Mork had a four-game run in 2008 with another CONCACAF minnow, Belize. Most recently, Thomas Rongen, Dutch-born but an American resident for most of his life, guided American Samoa to a near-miracle in OFC World Cup qualifying (although that is not technically “abroad”). Of these, Ghotbi’s is most impressive although he is an Iranian native. Sampson’s is also notable. However, no American has had sustained success coaching abroad.
Which brings us to why this is a big deal. Hammarby has their own financial issues, but it is a relatively big and proud club by Swedish standards. They have won the Allsvenskan in the last decade, and just two years ago they sold a young striker to a Ligue 1 club. As recently as 2007-08, they were competing in the qualifying rounds for the UEFA Cup (now Europa League). Gregg Berhalter will become the first American to be permanent.
Berhalter joins another American in making 2011 a breakthrough year for American coaches. Bob Bradley’s hiring at Egypt following his dismissal after the Gold Cup needs no introduction; with his appointment of the African power, Bradley became the first American-born manager of a national team outside CONCACAF. Bradley faces his own unique challenges in taking over the Pharoahs, and much like Berhalter, he will likely be followed more closely due to his pioneer status.
There is an entiregenerationof American stars with respected European club experience. Americans have played in mostly every top league in Europe in recent years. Could we finally be seeing a breakthrough in the coaching ranks, until now the last frontier?
The MLS Generation Adidas tour has started up and they played their first game of the trip, a 4-2 loss to Ajax’s reserves. The MLS goal scorers were Dilly Duka and Corey Hertzog. Here are the highlights.
Steve Goff of the Washington Post reported the roster last week, but MLS has officially announced it today. They’ve also announced the coaching staff and schedule. Peter Vermes, the head coach of Sporting Kansas City (and someone who briefly played in the Netherlands) will lead the squad. (For those who don’t remember, Schellas Hyndman of FC Dallas was in charge last year.) They will play three matches:
Dec. 8: Generation adidas vs. Ajax Reserves
Dec. 13: Generation adidas vs. FC Volendam (Eerste Divisie)
Dec. 14: Generation adidas vs. Almere City FC (Eerste Divisie)
Vermes actually played for Voldendam (they were in the Eredivsie at the time).
While Macmath, Okugo, and Salgado will join the squad despite having training stints in Europe, I imagine training opportunities led to the exclusion of some other names like Perry Kitchen, Sean Johnson, Juan Agudelo, and Brek Shea.
The MLS will be spending another roster of young players over to Europe to play in a couple friendlies and train on foreign soil this offseason. Mr. Soccer Insider Steven Goff worked his journalistic magic and acquired the roster for this trip.
GK: Zac MacMath (Philadelphia Union), David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes).
MF: Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia), Tony Tchani (Columbus Crew), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Matt Kassel (New York Red Bulls), Jeremy Hall* (FC Dallas), Zach Pfeffer* (Philadelphia), Dilly Duka (Columbus).
F: Omar Salgado (Vancouver Whitecaps), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia), Corey Hertzog (New York), Will Bruin (Houston), Danny Mwanga (Philadelphia).
*At last check, Hall and Pfeffer were tentative.
All the other details of the trip should be announced soon. Last year, the team headed to Spain and played three games against some reserve squads of La Liga teams like Aletico Madrid (remember the crazy Brek Shea to Aletico to play CB rumors from last year since he filled in at CB for one game?).
I also hope MLSsoccer.com does their daily video diaries of the trip with different players each day like last year as I found those to be interesting and entertaining.
A few months after a release in the United States that saw it gather Oscar buzz for Brad Pitt, Moneyballhad its UK release this weekend. (If you didn’t catch the movie here, shame on you as it was excellent.) In recognition of that, BBC Radio 5 has a lengthy program discussing the impact of Moneyball on English sports, with particular emphasis given to soccer. (If you’re listening to it and feel overwhelmed by its 72-minute run time, the discussion for soccer is most interesting starting around 30:00.)
As you likely know by now, we here at OT like statistics and numbers. The way that Moneyball (and by that we generally mean statistical analysis in sports) would work in soccer is somewhat difficult to determine. Baseball with a long history of numbers (a baseball box score, published in newspapers for decades, is far more informative than its counterpart for any other sport), and much of the statistical analysis is rather straightforward. (What Oakland was doing, for example, wasn’t exactly turning their scouting over to Baseball Prospectus; one major change was their decision to focus more on on-base percentage, an undervalued asset, instead of batting average.) Soccer relies more on contributions of private companies such as Opta and ProZone; their data tends to stay within clubs, and such terms as “chances created” and “duels won” don’t quite flow off the tongue in the manner that “OPS” does.
It is interesting that the few stats commonly seen in soccer (assists, possession, saves, the brutal “points’ thankfully phased out by MLS but still used in the college game) are to varying degrees rather flawed. It’s also interesting that analysis in soccer at this point is rather tailored at the clubs’ specific needs, likely an outcome both of the fact that it hasn’t been open-sourced like baseball’s was but also because the difficulty of quantifying events in a sport like soccer when compared to baseball.
For those who do listen, there is some interesting discussion regarding the San Jose Earthquakes as well as Watford when Jay Demerit was there. I’ll also add a link to a Simon Kuper piece with the author (Michael Lewis) and primary subject (Billy Beane) of Moneyball. (It’s also worth recalling that Kuper wrote the closest thing soccer has to a response book.)
Thanks to one of the filmmakers, Ranko Tutulugdzija, I was able to sit down and watch a rough draft version of Rise and Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story this past weekend. I linked to the trailer a couple weeks ago, but Ranko (a former college teammate of Jay DeMerit’s), Zachary Salsman and Nick Lewis have created a documentary on Jay DeMerit’s career path.
For those few people out of the loop on DeMerit’s career path, he basically took the instruction manual on how to become a captain for an English Premier League club for American players from Wisconsin, threw it out and somehow ended up at the end despite skipping a couple steps, having a few extras screws leftover and using some duct tape.
While there has been an influx of sports documentaries as of late (as a fan of documentaries, thank you ESPN for your 30 For 30 series), there are only a few good soccer ones. And no, I am not talking about Victory.
The movie I watched was not a finished product (it was missing some interviews and some game footage), but was still fun and interesting to a person that already knew most of DeMerit’s story, plus I learned a few things along the way.
One of the best qualities about the film was the access that the guys had to Jay and other influential people in his life. There is commentary from Jay, his parents, his high school/college coaches, friends, his “family” over in England, his managers at his various “pub” teams, his managers at Watford, Bob Bradley and a few USMNT teammates just to name a few people.
I hate when you watch a documentary where they have tons of interviews, yet are missing a key person from the story. With the recent ESPN Fab Five doc, I know he had his reasons why, but that film was missing something without commentary from Chris Webber. It just didn’t seem right not to hear from him. But you won’t have this problem with Rise and Shine.
There are also tons of pictures and other videos of Jay playing throughout his career, including some personal videos from the 2010 World Cup. It is fun to see some of the behind the scenes stuff like the USMNT celebrating in the locker room after the win over Algeria.
At the end of the day, we (Americans) love us a good story about how hard work and sweat can get you far in life if you keep at it and these guys did a good job of capturing this story and putting it on film. This movie should appeal to all kinds of people, including non-soccer fans, and I can’t wait to see the final product.
I know I am not great with words or expressing my thoughts clearly (anyone who reads this site on a regular basis is already shaking their head up and down), but here is a good story on the film from The Guardian.
I know when I posted the trailer a couple weeks ago, the guys were lacking the licensing rights (if I remember correctly, FIFA charges a lot of loot even if you only show game footage for like 10 seconds) to take it to theatre or DVD. So for now, you will only find this film in festival showings (I think they recently had a showing in Vancouver). But if you can help out or know anyone that could possibly help these guys expand this documentary to a final product that could be shown in theatres across the US, contact them at email@example.com. It would be cool to see this come out to the masses somehow.
For those that missed the trailer the first time, here you go: