Monthly Archives: November 2010
Arsenal v Wigan Athletic: The Gunners helped erase their two-match losing streak with an occasionally impressive win over Aston Villa, in which they dominated for long periods, but still conceded twice and seemed nervy for most of the second half. Manager Arsene Wenger seems to more intent on getting something out of the Carling Cup this year, so don’t expect to see a starting 11 of youth players like cup teams of years past. Robin Van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner and Theo Walcott all figure to get some playing time, though Arsenal will still be without Cesc Fabregas or Abou Diaby. For Wigan, their hope is just to soak up Arsenal pressure and pull of a shock win, though they’ll have to do it without Hugo Rodallega, serving a three-match suspension, or Tom Cleverly, who is ineligible to play cup matches as part of his loan agreement. Manager Roberto Martinez did say he hoped to make Wigan the “Arsenal of the North,” and we wish him luck with that, though he might be doing it in the Championship next year.
Form guide: Arsenal, 3-0-2, 10 goals scored, 8 goals conceded; Wigan, 1-1-3, 4 gs, 8 gc
Prediction: Arsenal 3, Wigan 0
West Ham v. Manchester United: This match pits the bottom of the table against the top of the table. West Ham have been pretty terrible this season, but managed to get a stay of execution for manager Avram Grant in their most recent match with a win over Wigan. Grant will probably rest some players and make improving their Premiership play the priority. Injuries to midfielders may force Grant to start US defender Jonathan Spector in midfield for the first time in his career. Manchester United has yet to suffer a defeat this season, but have been perhaps the least convincing Red Devils squad in recent memory. It remains to be seen whether their 7-1 demolition of Blackburn at the weekend is a reflection of newfound dominance or how terrible Blackburn is. Dimitar Berbatov might be rested or on the bench after scoring five goals against Rovers, giving Javier Hernandez another chance to shine in front of goal. Edwin Van Der Sar will also probably be rested.
Form guide: West Ham, 1-3-1, 7 goals scored, 8 conceded; Manchester United, 3-2-0, 12 gs, 3 gc
Prediction: West Ham 1, Manchester United 2
Birmingham v Aston Villa. Birmingham is hoping that Wednesday’s Carling Cup match will be a chance to end the recent string of dominance by Villa in this derby, having not won a match between the two since 2005. They have particularly struggled in cup matches against the Villans, having never scored in five matches played. City fans will think this year is a particularly good chance to end the string against a Villa team that is below them in the Premiership table and is facing an injury crisis with the likes of Jonathan Hogg drafted into the first team for matches this season. Alexandr Hleb will miss the match through injury, so former Villa midfielder Craig Gardner, City’s top scorer this season, will likely replace him in midfield. City Manager Alex McLeish said he would field a stronger side than in previous Carling Cup rounds. For last season’s finalists Villa, striker Gabriel Agbonlahor will likely return after missing the loss to Arsenal at the weekend. Manager Gerard Houllier is hoping that Villa’s strike force – which has only scored three goals in total this season in league play, will start scoring. Young winger Marc Albrighton is still missing after having his appendix taken out.
Form guide: Birmingham, 1-3-1, 6 goals scored, 6 goals conceded; Aston Villa, 1-2-2, 8 gs, 11 gc
Prediction: Birmingham 1, Aston Villa 0
Ipswich Town v. West Brom. Ipswich, the lone Championship team still in the Carling Cup, and manager Roy Keane will be forced to field an under-strength side for the cup game in the wake of their recent struggles in Championship play, where they have lost eight of their last 12 matches. Keane will be without the services of the team’s four loan signees and is dealing with injury problems. For West Brom, who ended a poor run of three losses in four matches with an impressive 4-1 win against Everton, Youssef Mulumbu will be missing through suspension, which probably means Somen Tchoyi, who has scored three goals in his last five matches, will probably step in again in midfield.
Form guide: Ipswich Town, 1-0-4, 4 goals scored, 11 conceded; West Brom, 1-1-3, 6 gs, 9 gc
Prediction: Ipswich Town 0, West Brom 2
Monday’s El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid was interesting, not for the football on display, of which there was one clear victor, but rather because it allowed us to see the rare glimpse of a Jose Mourinho-coached team get utterly battered by their opponents. It was the worst loss ever by a Mourinho-coached team – the previous worst being a 3-0 loss to I think, Middlesbrough (go figure, right?). While this match certainly wasn’t a title-decider – Only 13 games in, Barcelona is leading by just two points, but Madrid fans and players have to be concerned by the way their team capitulated, particularly on defense, where they played as if they’d never seen, nor heard, about Barcelona’s style of play. In the end, Barcelona ended up with 67 percent possession, outshot Madrid 15-5, and probably could’ve scored more than five goals.
Some stats: In six matches against Barcelona, Cristiano Ronaldo has yet to score. Xavi Hernandez completed 110 passes before being subbed, most in La Liga this season. For some perspective, Stoke City completed 195 passes as an entire team against Manchester City. Real Madrid gave up five goals after conceding six total in their previous 12 matches in La Liga.
Scorers: Xavi (10), Pedro (18), Villa (55, 58), Jeffren (90+)
Valdes, GK – 6: Didn’t have anything to do, but never looked like he would give up a goal
Puyol, D – 7: Typically rugged and uncompromising performance.
Pique, D – 6.5: Didn’t even notice him out there, but it didn’t matter.
Abidal, LB – 7: A good attacking display; also kept di Maria quiet on the right.
Alves, RB – 6.5
Busquets, DMF – 7: I know it seems weird to give relatively low scores in such a defeat, but Madrid were so ineffective I can’t say much about his play.
Iniesta, MF – 8.5: Typically great with passing. Along with Xavi, dominated the Madrid midfield.
Xavi, MF – 9: Scored a great goal, passed excellently. Typically world class.
Pedro, RW – 8: Scored second goal. Has been in good form lately, with six goals and an assist in his last six matches, all competitions.
Villa, LW – 8.5: Set up Pedro’s goal, then scored a brace in three minutes after the break.
Messi, F – 8.5: Assisted on both of Villa’s goal. Typical excellent passing and movement.
Bojan, SUB – 7: Nearly scored twice after coming on.
Keita, SUB – NR
Jeffren, SUB – NR
Casillas, GK – 6: Has looked suspect lately, fumbling Villa’s pass for Pedro’s goal and letting Villa nutmeg him for the fourth goal.
Carvalho, D – 5.5: Yellow-carded for a handball, and probably lucky not to get a card for elbowing Messi earlier.
Pepe, D – 5: Seemed more eager to fight and argue than actually play defense.
Marcelo, LB – 4.5: Has been one of Madrid’s best players this year, but continually misplaced passes and was left for dead a couple times by Pedro.
Ramos, RB – 3: Might have been too caught up in the emotion of the game, making several mistakes in defense, then getting sent off for an idiotic foul and an even more idiotic slap at Puyol late in the game.
Xabi Alonso, MF – 4: A bystander as Xavi and Iniesta dictated the play in midfield.
Khedira, MF – 4.5: See Xabi Alonso’s description.
Ozil, AMF – 3.5: Utterly and completely missing in this match. Far below his abilities as a player. Withdrawn at half-time.
Ronaldo, LW – 5: Occasionally looked dangerous, then just petulant as the outcome of the match was decided early.
di Maria, RW – 5.5: Didn’t have the best match, but deserves credit for at least trying in the second half, more than you could say for many Real Madrid players.
Benzema, F – 5: Didn’t have a chance to have any effect on the game.
Diarra, SUB – 5
Arbeloa, SUB – 5
Editor’s note: In this blog, we will attempt to shine a little bit of light onto the murky waters of Major League Soccer’s designated player/allocation money rules, which seem to only make sense to MLS execs, if even them. If anyone sees some inconsistencies in this report, feel free to chime in.
Whenever a new team joins Major League Soccer, the league has the team conduct an expansion draft, where the team can choose from players left ‘unprotected’ by their clubs. Each team is allowed to protect 11 players, while everyone else on the roster who isn’t a Generation Adidas player (essentially a youth player) will be available to be chosen in the draft. After each player is picked, the team they are picked from is allowed to protect one additional player. This year, since there were two teams drafting, it left teams with, in theory, a harder job of hanging onto their prized assets. Anyway, after the draft was conducted, a flurry of activity ensued, with both Vancouver and Portland trading players for draft picks in January’s “SuperDraft” (I apologize for the random capitalization, but blame the MLS), other players, or in some cases, allocation money.
Which is the point of this article.
Before I delve into it further, it should be noted that there has been some criticism for not being more forthcoming when it comes to allocation – i.e.: where it comes from, who gets it, why they get it, how much they get, etc… Some have suggested that teams in bigger markets get a larger share of the pie than your Salt Lakes and Kansas Citys of the world. Is this true? Only the Galaxy, Red Bulls and teams of those ilk and the MLS know. We won’t engage in that speculation.
So here is our best stab at how allocation money works: Allocation money is money given to clubs in basically three main circumstances: When the team has performed poorly (A typical American sports way of trying to level the playing field for fans), when players leave teams to play in another league, or when an expansion team joins the league. This money is then used to acquire new players, or, in theory, to help “buy down” the cost of adding new players to the team, primarily through the designated player rule, which I’ll attempt to explain right now. Current MLS rules allow each team to have two “designated players” – that is, two players whose salary exceeds current the current MLS salary cap of $2.55 million – while only charging the team a relatively negligible amount of $335,000, which is paid by the league. This enables teams to sign two players for more than the amount of $335,000 (i.e. David Beckham, who makes $5,500,000 a season) and then pay the remainder of their salary without it adding up against the cap. In addition, teams can pay a luxury tax of $250,000 to add a third. As far as I can understand, teams are no longer allowed to trade their designated player slots for money.
The thing that is confusing about this is, since the league makes no effort to explain the amount of allocation money or how they deem teams are worth of it, it’s impossible to judge how it’s awarded or how much is awarded for certain things. Allocation money could then be very effective in allowing teams to add multiple designated players, while then having most of the cap hits taken away by using their allocation money to cover the purchases, at least partially. This would then allow them to use more money to build their roster without exceeding the salary cap. So, at least in theory, if a team has a lot of allocation money, which no one knows if they do or not, since the league isn’t open about this sort of thing, they could use most of their designated player cap money to pay for the salaries of other professionals who might not be quite DP quality (or name, in some cases) but will help make the team stronger. Meanwhile, a team with less allocation money would have to spend more money against the cap if they wanted to bring in a designated player, thus making the rest of the team weaker, in theory. (Thanks to our friends at Major League Soccer Talk for helping sort this out for us, by the way).
In the case of this year’s expansion draft, the Timbers traded their first pick, Dax McCarty, to DC United along with allocation money in exchange for defender Rodney Wallace and a 4th round pick in the SuperDraft. They then traded 4th pick Anthony Wallace back to the team they drafted him from, Colorado, in exchange for allocation money, and then they sent midfielder Arturo Alvarez (their 10th pick) to Real Salt Lake for a second round pick. They also received an international player slot from the Galaxy, allowing them to now have nine foreign players on their roster, instead of the usual eight, in exchange for allocation money.
As far as the Whitecaps go, they traded forward O’Brian White to Seattle for allocation money, and fellow expansion picks Alan Gordon and Alejandro Moreno were both traded as well, for a foreign player slot and allocation money, respectively.
Where does this leave the two new teams? Well, no one really knows. Portland picked up seven new players in the draft, and Vancouver picked up six. You can probably expect a lot more activity in the days leading up to the draft, as well as more talk about allocation money.
Share your thoughts below.
The purpose of this site is to give fans of the beautiful game in the United States – and elsewhere to talk about, share, learn and reflect on the sport nearest and dearest to their hearts, football, er … soccer … err … well, you get the point.
A lot of coverage of the sport either focuses on England (Will the national team finally win something? Is Chelsea the best team in world football?) will generally ignoring, or in some case, being openly critical, of the sport in other countries. Though it’s true that the sport isn’t as developed in the United States as it is in some countries, the men’s national team and Major League Soccer have taken giant steps in raising their level to one certainly competitive and comparable with other teams in leagues across the world. So we at Only Love Soccer would like to give soccer fans and pundits in the US the opportunity to talk about the game and teams they love, without a healthy dash of “But the English do it better” in coverage of the sport.
That doesn’t mean we’ll only talk about American soccer. We also love English football, Argentinian football, Chinese football, Portuguese football – you name it. We aim to talk about the differing leagues and players with an unbiased and open attitude, because let’s be honest, there is a great range of exciting players, styles and teams all across the world, and that should be celebrated.
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See you on the pitch,