jump to navigation

Neymar signs for… Oregon State University? May 31, 2013

Posted by michaeltomlinson in Brazilian soccer, MLS, Spanish soccer.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

The Brazilian starlet was all but destined to be Barcelona’s next great South American star. Instead, Neymar has decided to take his talent South beac… Err Corvallis, Oregon! As pictured below the 21-year-old striker has closely monitored the progression of Portland Timbers GREAT Ryan Johnson and has decided to take on 4 years of eligibility, just like former OSU stand-out, Johnson. This of course makes a lot of sense due to a recent independent study which I just made up that says  U.S. soccer players have a 74% chance to be more successful in the pro ranks if they opt for the college route. A couple more interesting statistics, Neymar is now 69% more likely to puke immediately following a beer bong attempt gone wrong, but is also 93% less likely to contract gonorrhea after a transexual orgy… We all have our vices.

Advertisements

Is winning with proactive soccer a bigger accomplishment than winning by counterattacking? December 10, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Chilean soccer, Spanish soccer, Tactics.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

I got to thinking about this after reading the final paragraphs of Nicholas Rosano’s excellent article about Universidad de Chile and its coach Jorge Sampaoli on SB Nation.

(Counter-attacking) has proven the recipe for teams outside of Argentina and Brazil to compete for the big boys in South America’s premier competition, but Sampaoli’s team seem intent on trying something different.

If Universidad de Chile can take down the big sides in Argentina and Brazil in both the Copa Sudamericana and Copa Libertadores while playing (proactive soccer), it will be a fantastic accomplishment.

I suppose it is; I certainly accepted it automatically on reading that, but then I got to struggling for a reason.

Attacking soccer is harder to pull off. It mostly centers around ball possession, and when you think about it, ball possession requires not only skill and tremendous teamwork, but also morale. You need to have confidence in your own ability and the ability of the teammate you’re passing to in order to play possession football successfully. So a coach needs to:

  1. Excavate players who are technically proficient enough to keep control of the ball
  2. Create an environment in which those players are familiar enough with their teammates’ movement to anticipate where they should pass the ball on the field.
  3. Devise a system that allows those players to exploit their talents.
  4. Inspire those players to belief in not only themselves, but also their teammates and the system they’re playing.
  5. Do this better than his opponent.

This is enough to make you wonder why people do it at all, but the answer is easy: proactive football played well enough is more effective. It also might explain why Barcelona is so successful: players who have grown up together or in the same system will more readily anticipate their teammates’ movement, and the shared experience will make it easier to motivate them. That very upbringing also emphasizes technique. When you throw in a coach who also has the same background, you’ve got far readier ground for a world-beating side. At almost any other club, you’d need to start pretty much where Barcelona was at the beginning of the 1990s to get where Barcelona is today.

EURO 2012 Preview #1: Holland. Dutch team not ridiculous enough. Here’s my suggestion. November 14, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Dutch soccer, Euro 2012.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

These are some things I don’t really care about in a Holland team: Winning games, tradition, picking the best players in every position, consistency, sanity.

These are some things I like in a Holland team: As many ridiculous players as possible, complete arrogance, losing the run of themselves, Clarence Seedorf, hopefully a complete meltdown or two.

This is how Bert van Maarvijk should line up if he wants my support at Euro 2012.

(more…)

Who is Isaac Cuenca? October 20, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Champions League, Scottish soccer.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

In Barcelona’s routine victory over Viktoria Plzen Wednesday, Pep Guardiola put on a player called Isaac Cuenca. I’ve never heard of him. Evidently, he spend last season on loan at Sabadell in the third division and has only played three times for Barcelona B, let alone the first team.

It’s silly to judge players based upon their Youtube clips, but I can kind of see why Cuenca went out on loan. In the video, it’s evident that Cuenca is extremely fast and an excellent dribbler, but he rarely tries to pass the ball in the video and I don’t remember seeing any of the passes he did attempt connect.

There’s definitely something promising about him (his technique is on show in this clip and his passing seems more useful too; you’d have to say he must be quite highly regarded indeed to be on the field with what is otherwise the Barcelona first team).

(The second clip was uploaded by, seemingly, Cuenca’s girlfriend who is, seemingly, Marc Bartra’s sister. I’m debating whether that’s interesting.)

Three thoughts on Sporting Gijon v. Barcelona October 2, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Spanish soccer.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

1. Could Alberto Botia become the next Cesc Fabregas (in transfer terms)? — Like Fabregas and Gerard Pique, the Gijon center-back left Barcelona very young, although on otherwise very different circumstances. Botia looked good against Barcelona, and indeed whenever I’ve seen him, he’s looked like the real deal. Considering that Barcelona only has two oft-injured senior center backs in its squad, it doesn’t seem inconceivable that Botia return.

2. Was that a 3-3-4? It appeared that Barcelona used Adriano, Lionel Messi, Pedro and David Villa in forward roles, although you might argue that Pedro was actually playing Cesc Fabregas’ do-whatever-you-want role. The game did not suggest that, whatever the formation, it was tremendously effective — Pedro is, after all, a very different player from Fabregas. It’s also interesting that Adriano is now part of the attacking rotation.

3. Is Dani Alves the boy that cried wolf? In the second half, David Barral punched Barcelona’s Brazilian right back across the face in midair. It was emblematic of Sporting’s especially violent approach to dealing with Barcelona — they seemed particularly keen to give an extra kick to players who were already going down. This violence seemed to target specifically Alves and Sergio Busquets, men who have a reputation for exaggeration. When the referee deemed disinclined to take Alves reaction to Barral’s fist seriously, that made sense: Alves and Busquets fake injury all the time, so you can probably get away with more violence against them.

Three things that went through my mind during Barcelona v. Atletico Madrid September 24, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Spanish soccer.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

The man's psychic stress is palpable

1. Barcelona is ominously confident.

As the Barcelona team becomes a whirring instrument of bloodless atomization, much of the emotional resonance is sucked out of the actual football. Goals are no longer an emotional release for Barcelona’s players. There’s neither the catharsis of joy one gets from surprising himself by scoring a goal nor the catharsis of relief one gets from scoring a goal to loosen the pressure of expectation. Instead, their faces in the post-goal scenes seem to say, “Look what you’ve gone and done, you scamp.” They score, then they laugh it off.

2. Pep Guardiola’s on his last season, isn’t he?

Guardiola, on the other hand, does not look like he’s having a good time. The pressure must be crushing and the rewards minimal. Last year’s Barcelona team would already probably have been remembered as the greatest of all time if Guardiola had walked away at the end of it. If he wins the European Cup this year, there really will be nothing left for him to prove at Barcelona and no dispute about who is the best team of all time. You can tell it weighs on him. He’s essentially a nice, introspective guy. Jose Mourinho has identified making him miserable as his quickest route to a meaningful trophy. After being pretty much flawless for the last three years, he’s probably beginning to wonder what it even means to win things in soccer anyway. He looks miserable. He needs a break.

3. Dani Alves might have a future as a center-back.

It’s fairly common for players to start out as attacking fullbacks, then move inside as they age. Paolo Maldini and Ruud Krol are the most famous examples, while Carles Puyol was viewed primarily as a fullback in the early part of his career (Billy Costacurta, on the other hand, only appears to have started playing right-back in his forties, or maybe I’m showing my age). Alves has a reputation for being poor defensively and positionally though. I think that’s undeserved; Alves isn’t bad defensively, he just does less defending than most defenders. I think he’s very good at it when he does. Sid Lowe pointed out on the Guardian’s Football Weekly Extra this week that one of the big things Barcelona misses without Gerard Pique is a player who starts moves from the back. Alves is an excellent passer, even more so at center back because he doesn’t have to run 80 yards before receiving the ball, so putting him back there seems like an ingenious solution to this temporary problem at least.

Quick Barcelona-Atletico lineup thoughts September 24, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Uncategorized.
Tags: ,
add a comment

It’s strange that Arda Turan isn’t an automatic choice for Atletico. When I’ve seen him, he’s been very good. I have the suspicion Dani Alves might be playing at center-back (or on the right of a back three, which I realize is not the same). Either that or Xavi’s the deepest midfielder. It seems like there will either be a Diego v. Alves matchup or a Diego v. Xavi matchup, which makes a Barcelona fan nervous, although it also means the Barcelona player in the matchup will have time on the ball. If Tiago’s playing on the left, it’s probably to keep Alves quiet.
There’s formation confusion for both teams. Is Barcelona’s 4-3-3 (Valdes; Alves, Mascherano, Sergio, Abidal; Thiago, Xavi, Cesc; Pedro, Messi, Villa) or 3-4-3 (Valdes; Alves, Mascherano, Abidal; Xavi, Sergio, Thiago; Cesc; Pedro, Mess, Villa)? Is Atletico’s 4-2-3-1 (Courtois; Perea, Miranda, Godin, Lopez; Gabi, Suarez; Reyes, Diego, Tiago; Falcao) or 4-3-3?

Valdes could definitely play 820 times for Barcelona August 29, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Spanish soccer.
Tags: ,
add a comment

 

He could be doing this for a while.

 

At one point during Barcelona’s 5-0 victory over Villarreal today, ESPN commentator Adrian Healy, observing how little the victors’ keeper Victor Valdes touches the ball in your average game, joked, “If he has many more halves like this, he could make 410 more appearances.”

That’s how many he has at the moment, a record-setting number for a Barcelona keeper, and at first the idea of 820 appearances for the blaugrana sounded absurd, but then I remembered Valdes is only 29 years old. Valdes made his debut at age 20 against Atletico Madrid in 2002. He made fewer than 20 appearances that season, so he’s been first choice for eight years.

Edwin van der Sar just retired at 40. It’s not that rare for goalkeepers, after all, and at the rate he’s going, Valdes could double his tally by age 37. Definitely realistic, also pretty unbelievable.

Barcelona vs Villareal: First half thoughts August 29, 2011

Posted by michaeltomlinson in European soccer, Spanish soccer.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment
Senna

This is Marcos Senna, he should be on the pitch

 

  • Barcelona Looks good in a strange version of the 3-4-3. Abidal is all over the place every time I watch him I’m more and more convinced he is as important to the defensive cohesion as anyone else.
  • Thiago Scored his first La Liga goal despite the fact he is playing a less offensive form of a RWB. His greatest attribute may be what he showed on that goal, running down the center of the field and firing outside the box. Unfortunately at RWB that probably won’t happen too often
  • Cesc Scored, of course he did.
  • Christian Zapata looks like a good signing, though he hasn’t made any spectacular defensive saves, his pace and technique look spot on. Udinese could be really hurting this year.
  • Second half is about to start, look to see Rossi press the issue a bit more, I think he is still a bit upset he isn’t playing on the other side of things in this one
  • Well before I could post this, make that all 3 newcomers on the score sheet, Alexis makes it 3-0

The Barcelona the bad and the Timbers. August 28, 2011

Posted by michaeltomlinson in European soccer, MLS, Spanish soccer, U.S. soccer.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment
KCoop

Where Cooper spends most of his time

I absolutely loathe the New York Yankees. My disdain towards Ben Roethlisberger outside of his noted deviant tendencies is aided by the team’s unmatched NFL success of 6 Superbowls. For no apparent reason I agree with Just For Men Gel in more ways than one, I”m just under the impression that Emmitt Smith IS trash. And then there is my beloved Barcelona, fighters of Castilian oppression, proprietors of the beautiful game, and undoubted soccer behemoth. They are arguably at the pinnacle of their existence with a team that hears whispers of “the greatest of all time.” Quite the opposite feeling I generally have for front runners. To be honest I have only been a fan since they were some level of, (better than every team in La liga, save the possibility of Real Madrid). But then again in modern Spanish football this is all a forgone conclusion. Unless of course Malaga signs a few, eight or nine more crafty foreigners, Italians maybe?

What goes hand in hand with supporting a winner is defending that fanhood. In this instance, I can’t argue. I liked Barcelona because they were good. It wasn’t as though I was force-fed soccer when my sports-fandom was in its infancy. For some reason our aluminum foil covered bunny ears which controlled my Television well into middle school weren’t able to pick up fox soccer channel. And while my childhood friends were always down to play a pick up game of almost anything, soccer was NEVER a choice. We’d set up recycle bins as goals and scrounge up hockey sticks before they’d let me bring a soccer ball into the mix. Having your 6 closest friends all play football and at the same time dismiss soccer as sport leads to a weird level of self hate. Despite the fact it was obviously the sport I excelled at most, I put the least amount of work into the craft. Soccer was September to the end of November and that was that.

Ultimately I owe my allegiance towards Barcelona to two people, Ronaldihno and Alex Tomchak. One was a little bit more vital to the success of the team, the other, at least twice as Polish. So its a crap shoot to say who is REALLY more important. I must say it is a fairly easy job to support a team with as much recent success as the Blaugrana have seen. But winning titles and cups lose there luster when the notion of surprise has been whittled into theories on we could blow this one, rather than the jubilance of triumph. There is a difference between feeling exhausted after your side wins a well fought game, and feeling relieved. And when I start feeling relieved watching the best team on earth rip teams apart on the pitch of Camp Nou, I remember a day from now Rodney Wallace is sure to disappoint with three drastically errant crosses.

It isn’t that the Portland Timbers (or Rodney Wallace) are that bad, I mean everyone in the MLS is a professional by the dictionary’s standard. They just do things a bit differently, IE: struggle to connect the midfield to anything, whether that be from the defense forward or the Front line, back. Which is unfortunate for a team which arguably has its 3 best players (Nagbe, Chara and Jewsbury)  in the midfield. Even when the Timbers win they are lucky to see 40 percent of the possession. But god damn it they try, and no one tries harder than Adidas’ MLS headman Kenny Cooper. Which may ultimately be the reason why I hate him, also because he isn’t good at soccer. I could go on for an eternity about the frustration and toil my home town team puts me through, but alas, I like it. Right now they are fighting it out for the most American of playoff spots, the Tenth seed, yes out of 18  teams. The MLS is certainly a different brand of soccer and the Timbers quite frankly aren’t nearly ready to compete for a championship, which is somewhat refreshing.