Sunday, December 28, 2008

Finally! Dempsey's Long Awaited Breakout Performance

Your loyal vagabond is off skiing in the Alps so we'll turn this weekend's recap over to LFV friend Ives Galarcep, who has a nice piece on Clint Dempsey's breakout performance for Fulham.

Also, our Amsterdam connection Greg Seltzer goes one better and provides videos. Check them out here.

It was also a banner day for American skiers today with five Americans finishing in the top ten in the downhill at Val Gardena. Bode Miller finally got off the schneide and onto the podium this year finishing second to Austria's Michael Walchhofer.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Canadian Ace Signs For 'Gladbach

Michael Bradley's Borussia Moenchengladbach side is making some shrewd deals this winter to keep themselves afloat in the Bundesliga during the second half of the season. Canadian vet Paul Stalteri, who last played in the Bundesliga for Werder Bremen, has been signed from Tottenam Hotspur. The versatile 31 year-old can play in defense or midfield and his playing style is uniquely suited to the forceful play of the Bundesliga. He has been out on loan to Fulham this season and his deal with Gladbach will keep him at the club until 2011.

Gladbach had also expressed interest in Standard Liege's American defender Oguchi Onyewu but now it appears that they've settled for his central defense partner Dante (from Brazil). This move could make it even more difficult for the club to now sell Onyewu, unless the price is right.

Gladbach also signed Belgian keeper Logan Bailey and Czech midfielder Tomas Galasek. American fans may remember the veteran Galasek as the hard-tackling holding midfielder for the Czech Republic during their 3-0 win over the Stars and Stripes during the 2006 World Cup.

Marseille Still Eying Onyewu

Olympique Marseille coach Eric Gerets is still keen to possibly sign Stantard Liege central defender Oguchi Onyewu. According to France Football, Gerets was at Standard's recent UEFA Cup match against Sampdoria to observe Onyewu, who scored in his team's 3-0 win.

Gerets is looking for help to strengthen his team's central defense which has been a disappointment, despite the club's current fifth place standing in Ligue 1. Their defensive softness was most vividly displayed last weekend in a 3-0 loss to Nancy. During that dismal performance, the central midfield and defense did not communicate well and L'OM was overall weak in one-on-one challenges. Observers have noted that this year's edition of L'OM is strong on paper but mentally weak. The addition of Onyewu, a player Gerets referred to as "intense and strong" could be just what the team needs to challenge for one of the league's top places this season.

Any move for Onyewu would likely be tied to the fate of central defender Ronald Zubar, a player once linked to Arsenal and Olympique Lyon but who has had a disappointing season. The trick for Gerets is whether he decides he can bring the once-promising French U-21 player back into form or sell him off and go after Onyewu.

But L'OM is also interested in Onyewu's teammate Milan Jovanovich to strenghen their attack. So, talks between the two teams won't necessarily mean that Gooch is in play although a package deal is remotely possible. With a price tage estimated at 12 million euros, Jovanovich may be too pricey for Marseille so they may settle for bringing in veteran striker Henrik Larsson from Helsingborg (for an estimated 5 million euros).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Its Official: Subotic To Play For Serbia

Well, its official now that Neven Subotic has decided to play for Serbia and has informed both the US Soccer Federation and the European press. Its a shame that this rising defensive star won't suit up for the Stars and Stripes but I'm not really that bothered by it given the wave of talent we have coming forward. Our central defense is still very healthy with Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra playing some of the best soccer of their careers right now.

When I look at the quality of the US U-23 and U-20 players coming up these days, it is obvious that enough talent will be available to make up for the loss of players such as Subotic. Our Olympic team had enough quality last summer to have won the gold medal - something we couldn't always say in the past. Instead of European clubs hiring our proven vets, they are scooping up our young talent - can anyone say Altidore, Adu, Bradley, Zizzo, Szetela, Bernardo, and soon Kljestan, Wynne, and others?

I know some of you will want to blame Thomas Rongen, who reportedly rubbed Subotic the wrong way - please don't. Rongen is a respected coach because he knows the game well, trains his players hard, and calls them like he sees them. Besides, he is Dutch - a people known for their blunt honesty and disdain for doublespeak (yet another reason to love them). Does anyone really think if Rongen had given Subotic the "Barney" treatment he would be suiting up for the USA? Please!

So my fellow US soccer fans, let's wish Neven the best of luck playing for his father's homeland and not get too whiny over this development. There are still lots of hungry young players busting their tail every day for a chance to one day pull on that US jersey (and bring home some silver for a change). Let's focus on supporting them.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Kljestan in Milan - And Playing In The San Siro!

Sorry folks but it does not look like Sacha Kljestan is in Milan for talks with either of the city's two powerhouse clubs, AC and Inter. Instead, he is in Milan to play for the Ambassadors of Peace team in a charity match against the Iraqi national team. Kljestan didn't show any jet lag and was quite active in midfield during the second half, causing problems for the Iraqi defense.

The event was organized by the group Un Goal Per La Pace (A Goal For Peace) and the proceeds will go to aid the children of Iraq. AC Milan coach Carlo Anceloti's Ambassadors of Peace team ended up beating the young Iraqi side 2-1.

Now, it remains to be seen if Kljestan takes a detour out to Bergamo for a chat with Atalanta (a side which has been interested in him), or jumps on a plane and heads home for Christmas. Of course, that trip home could always make a stop elsewhere in Europe on the way back...

Beasley's Car Vandalized in Glasgow

Now this is just plain cold. It looks like he is the fourth Rangers player to have his car vandalized this way. Too bad they picked a guy who has only made a handful of appearances this year.

No wonder Da Beas' may be be interested in a move to someplace warm like Osasuna, Espanyol, or Wolfsburg (where he can see more playing time and keep his BMW in one piece).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Where Are They Now? Melchior Arnold

This is our first installment of a new series of short articles on former players and what they are doing now that their playing days are over. This time, its Melchior Arnold, an American defender/midfielder who in recent years was playing for Swiss sides Lucerne, Lugano, and later Chiasso before retiring from the game. He then went over to Korea where he was an assistant coach at Pusan before moving on to a career as a life coach and soccer consultant.

I started with Melchior because these days he is living the true vagabond lifestyle touring the world on a journey which would make Jack Kerouac look like a homebody. Right now he is somewhere on the west coast of India.


You can follow his travels here.


Is there abother former player you are curious about? Let us know and we'll hunt them down.

Sacha Kljestan Closer To A Deal In Europe?

Chivas USA's Sacha Kljestan has been on the radar of more than a few European clubs since his strong showing at last summer's Olympic Games. A few Dutch and German clubs have reported interest in the young American along with Moncao, Zenith St Petersburg, and Greek side Piraeus.

Word out of LA this weekend is that Kljestan is about to board a plane headed for Milan. What is not clear is whether he is going for talks with a nearby club, catching a connecting flight to Monaco, or playing in a charity match which could raise his profile even higher on this side of the pond.

If we recall the Courtney Rule that for every known European club interested in a player, there is at least one more quietly working a deal in the shadows, don't be surprised if Kljestan is drawing more attention south of the Alps.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sorting Out The Onyewu Transfer Rumors

It seems every few months we need to debunk a few transfer rumors about where Oguchi Onyewu could be going if Standard Liege decides to sell him in January. As we've reported before, there has always been strong interest from France (Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Marseille in particular) but little has come of this interest.

There has also been interest from nearby Borussia Moenchengladbach, which is struggling to stay up in the Bundesliga this season. If Gladbach has any chance for Onyewu, it would not be until next summer. Another nearby Bundesliga club, 1FC Cologne was also interested but whether they still have Gooch in their cross hairs remains to be seen. So, the French clubs appear to be the front runners (barring any English club which could swoop in, most likely Fulham).

Right now, Marseille's number one target for central defense is Fiorentina's Brazilian Manuel Da Costa. Gooch is also on their short list, along with Galatasaray's Servet Cetin and Atletico Minerio's Leandro Almeida. Fiorientina are keen to secure a Champion's League spot and may not be ready to let go of Da Costa, leaving Onyewu and Cetin as the most likely options.

PSG never truly solved their central defense problem after the sudden retirement of new signing Lillian Thuram due to a heart condition. Onyewu could certainly fit into the side well but given Standard's strong showing in the Jupiler League and UEFA Cup competition this year, the club will drive a hard bargain before they give up the man who has become the team's talisman.

In short? Still few facts but lots of rumors.

More Subotic Rumors

Local paper Il Mattino is reporting that SSC Napoli is close to acquiring Neven Subotic from Borussia Dortmund. The 20 year-old defender seems to be part of Napoli's plans to strengthen the squad after securing a Champions League berth during the home stretch of the season. He is expected at Castel Volturno in June where your loyal vagabond will be sure to have a word with him....if he shows up. Given the number of unfounded rumors which find their way into the local papers, I'll believe this one when the clubs make an official announcement.

And guess who may actually be coming to Napoli (and could play alongside Subotic in central defense)? None other than hometown boy Fabio Cannavaro, the 2006 World Cup MVP currently under contract with Real Madrid. Current word in Napoli is that he may show up a January transfer to play alongside little brother Paolo Cannavaro who currently plays central defense. The idea that a dream central defense of the hometown Cannavaro brothers could be spoiled by signing Subotic also tells my spidey sense that he may not be coming to town.

Fabio has made it clear he'd like to finish his career in Napoli and the sputtering Real Madrid may want to let the ageing Italian international go to make room for new talent. If Subotic actually does arrive in June, it could get crowded talent-wise in central defense. Its not clear yet how coach Edy Reja would organize the influx of talent but one thing is clear, Napoli's ambitions for the coming year are clear.

While the local papers are referring to Subotic as a "young American player," Serbian coach Radomir Antic is now saying that the defender has committed to play for the White Eagles and will make his debut in February against Cyprus. Its hard to tell if this claim is true because Subotic has yet to make an announcement himself and he has been stating for months that he won't decide on that matter until the end of the season. While it is plausible that he may have changed his mind in the midst of the Napoli deal, I remain skeptical on this one until we hear it from Neven himself.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

FINAL FOUR CATEGORY WINNERS ANNOUNCED FOR BEST OF US SOCCER AWARDS

Courtesy of US Soccer:

CHICAGO (Dec. 17, 2008) – The final four winners of the 2008 Best of U.S. Soccer Awards were announced on Wednesday on ussoccer.com, with Studio 90 presenting the fan’s choices for Best Performance: Team, Best Goal: Men, Best Goal: Women and Best Photo.

Fans can watch a special presentation of all 12 winners on ussoccer.com’s Studio 90, which has already showcased the first eight award winners, including Best Assist, Best all_access Video, Best Fan Photo, Best Soccer Specialty Store, Best Performance: Player, Best Soccer Bar and Best Soccer Blog.

Watch the Winners Now!
On Thursday, Dec. 18, U.S. Soccer will announce the winners for the 2008 Athlete of the Year Awards, which include Male, Female, Young Male and Young Female Athletes of the Year. As the oldest and most prestigious awards of their kind, U.S. Soccer’s Athlete of the Year Awards date back to 1984 for the men and 1985 for the women. As in years past, online votes for the annual award were tallied and counted for to 50 percent of the total, while the other 50 percent was compiled from members of the national media and U.S. Soccer representatives, including National Team coaches and members of the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors.

All four of the final “Best Of” Awards have China as their common thread, and the Beijing Olympics provided some of the most memorable moments of the year for the men's and women's national teams.

The award for Best Performance: Team was never going to be a contest, with the U.S. Women's National Team taking the prize for their gold medal winning effort against Brazil. The 1-0 victory in the championship match earned 52 percent of the vote, far outpacing the MNT's performances against Argentina and Poland, which finished second (21 percent) and third (8 percent) respectively.

Best Goal: Women came from the same game, with Carli Lloyd's gold medal winning strike earning the most votes from the fans. Lloyd's fizzer into the bottom corner earned 31 percent of the vote, while Lori Chalupny's shot into the top left corner against Japan earned 27 percent. In third place was Becky Edwards' rocket against Cuba during U-20 CONCACAF qualifying.

Best Photo went to “Jump for Joy,” which captured U.S. players Heather O'Reilly and Natasha Kai in mid celebration after the final whistle against Brazil. The photograph took in 31 percent of the vote, beating Triple Celebration (25 percent) and Cuba Cuatro (16 percent).

The Best Goal on the Men's side also came from China, with Sacha Kljestan's strike against the Netherlands getting 28 percent of the fan vote. Kljestan's well-taken shot finished ahead of two goals from the U.S. MNT's game against their biggest rival, Mexico. Oguchi Onyewu's powerful header and Jozy Altidore's first goal for the full national team both tied for second place with 20 percent of the vote.

Up next in the award season is the results for 2008 Athlete of the Year. The awards for Male, Female, Young Male and Young Female Athletes of the Year will be announced on ussoccer.com on Thursday, Dec. 18.

2008 Best of U.S. Soccer Results – Performance: Team, Goal: Men, Goal: Women, Photo

Best Performance: Team
1. U.S. WNT vs. Brazil – Aug. 21 52 %
2. U.S. MNT vs. Argentina – June 8 21 %
3. U.S. MNT vs. Poland – March 26 8 %

Best Goal: Women
1. Carli Lloyd vs. Brazil – Aug. 21 31 %
2. Lori Chalupny vs. Japan – Aug. 18 20 %
3. Becky Edwards vs. Cuba – June 20 14 %

Best Goal: Men
1. Sacha Kljestan vs. Netherlands – Aug. 10 28 %
2. Oguchi Onyewu vs. Mexico – Feb. 6 20 %
3. Jozy Altidore vs. Mexico – Feb. 6 20 %

Best Photo
1. Jump for Joy 31 %
2. Triple Celebration 25 %
3. Cuba Cuatro 16 %

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mark Your Calendars: USA-Mexico On February 11th

Courtesy of US Soccer:

CHICAGO (Dec. 15, 2008) — For the third consecutive time in final round qualifying for the FIFA World Cup, U.S. Soccer has selected Columbus Crew Stadium to host the home leg between the United States and Mexico. The USA’s most anticipated match of the final round will be played Wednesday, Feb. 11, with kickoff times and broadcast information to be announced at a later date. Fans will be able to follow the match live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.

The match in Columbus is the first of five qualifiers in the Final Round to be played in the United States. Ticketing details will be announced in the near future. “We are very excited about returning to Columbus,” said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley, who guided the U.S. to a 7-1-0 record through the first two rounds of FIFA World Cup qualifying. “The national team has enjoyed a great history there, and the team has always appreciated the fantastic support from the fans. We are looking forward to an incredible atmosphere as we continue the difficult task of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.”

The Columbus Crew Stadium match will be the sixth World Cup qualifier hosted by the nine-year-old venue. The U.S. has a 3-0-2 record in qualifying and an unbeaten 4-0-3 all-time record in the stadium. In the first meeting on Feb. 28, 2001 – dubbed the “Guerra Fria (‘Cold War’)” because the game-time temperature topped out at 29 degrees - goals by Josh Wolff and Earnie Stewart paced the U.S. to a 2-0 victory.

Four years later on Sept. 3, 2005, goals by Steve Ralston and DaMarcus Beasley earned the United States another 2-0 win and officially booked their place in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. “Our first priority is to give our team the best chance to be successful and achieve the goal of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, and Columbus Crew Stadium has always been a great venue for the national team," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. “We carefully considered our options, and ultimately we felt that playing in Columbus is the right fit for this match.”

The match on Feb. 11 will mark the 55th meeting between the USA and Mexico. The U.S. has dominated the series of late, collecting an 8-0-2 home record against Mexico since 2000. During that span, the USA has netted 17 goals, while the Mexicans have scored only three on American soil in this decade. Under head coach Bob Bradley, the U.S. has a 2-0-1 record against their border rivals, including a 2-1 victory in the 2007 Gold Cup final in Chicago that delivered the U.S. its second-consecutive regional championship and a place in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa, where they will play current World Champion Italy, Brazil and Egypt.

The U.S., along with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and Trinidad & Tobago, is competing in the 10-game round-robin format through Oct. 14, 2009, with the top three teams automatically advancing to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The fourth-place team will compete in a two-game playoff to be held Nov. 14/18 against the fifth-place finisher in South American qualifying.

The U.S. Men’s National Team will kick off a busy 2009 schedule when they face Sweden on Saturday, Jan. 24, at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Kickoff for the USA’s only tune-up match prior to the start of final round qualifying is set for at 5:30 p.m. PT, and the match will be broadcast live on Fox Soccer Channel and Galavision. Fans can also follow the game live via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Barcelona-Real Madrid Recap

As you can tell, we're winding down for a few weeks but we'll keep our ear to the ground for any January transfer news out there.

In the meantime, in case you missed the Barcelona-Real Madrid game this weekend, you can't do much better than to check out Rob Hughes' recap of the match.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

'Gladbach Interested in Onyewu

Add another club to the list of teams interested in Standard Liege's American defender Oguchi Onyewu. Now, Kicker is reporting that Borussia Moenchengladbach (Michael Bradley's team) is interested in acquiring Gooch.

While 'Gladbach could certainly use help on the back line, its hard to see Gooch taking a transfer to a team which appears bound for relegation to the Second Bundesliga (unless he is confident enough to think he can help them stay up).

I expect Onyewu and his agent will hold out for a deal (be it in January or June) which takes him to a team competing in the Champions League. Otherwise, as our Amsterdam buddy Greg Seltzer says, why leave Standard - a team competing for another league championship and a European trophy?

UEFA Cup: Gooch, Standard Crush Sampdoria


Standard Liege continues to punch above its weight this season, this time with a 3-0 win over Serie A side Sampdoria. With American defender Oguchi Onyewu anchoring a strong Standard defense while the Belgian side's attack put the Genoa side under pressure early and often.

Igor De Camargo opened scoring in the 23rd minute on a header past Sampdoria keeper Luca Castellazzi, who was a busy man on the tonight. Just over ten minutes later, a De Camargo corner found Onyewu outleaping the rest to head the ball home for a 2-0 lead. Shortly before halftime, a left footed blast from Milan Jovanovic sent both teams to the locker room with the home side leading a 3-0.

Sampdoria had one good scoring chance in the second half but Marius Stankevińćius' shot buzzed just above the bar. Meanwhile Jovanivic and Dieudonn√© Mbokani continued to lead attacks on Samp's goal but muffed some well set up chances. With both teams running out of steam, the match faded out like a 1970s pop record.

The win put Standard Liege into the final 32 knockout stage which starts on December 18th and 19th.

Photo courtesy of UEFA.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pescara Players, Fans In Revolt

Do you think bailouts are just for banks and automakers? Think again.

Yesterday, thirteen players of Italian Serie C (Lega Pro) side Pescara have asked the club's board to release them since they have not been paid in months. In fact, they've been paid only once since the season began as the club continues to crumble financially. If the club does not pay the players and coaching staff's wages in the next 20 days, a court proceeding will decide on whether to declare them bankrupt, or accept a local government bailout plan to infuse circa 3.2 million euros into the club to keep it afloat.

Pescara last played in Serie A back in 1993, but they were unable to keep pace with the bigger, more well run clubs and languished in Serie B and C, where they are now five points behind the leaders and with some chance of earning promotion - provided the club does not collapse.

The Abruzzo club was already on the verge of bankruptcy when in October, the club's management sold it to Swiss firm Eurocat - but the downward spiral continued. And now, local and national politics are involved since a group of Pescara fans wrote to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, warning that if their club collapses, there may be repercussions in an upcoming regional election.

Berlusconi has been supporting Giovanni Chiodi, a candidate for the presidency of the Abruzzo region for the Popolo delle Liberta (PDL). Elections will be held on December 14th, after the resignation of regional president Ottaviano Del Turco for his role in a financial scandal.

The fans' letter also suggested that Berlusconi back away from supporting Gerardo Soglia, a former club president who was elected to the parliament from Berlusconi's PDL party. The fans say Soglia is responsible for running the club into the ground, leading to the October sale and their current state of affairs. To punish Soglia, the fans want to vote against the PDL.

To make matters even more intriguing, the local bailout plan for the club is being supported by Pescara mayor Luciano D'Alfonso, a political opponent of Soglia. But even D'Alfonso may end up in hot water himself since the bailout plan will likely mean the Italian football federation will relegate the club to the fourth or fifth division.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lavezzi: Not Going Anywhere

Napoli's Argentine wunderkind Ezequiel Lavezzi is a man in demand these days. The spark he brought to newly promoted Napoli last year kept them in the upper half of the table and this year, along with fellow countryman German Denis and a host of others, has Napoli up to fourth place in Serie A.

"El Pocho" is often compared to Argentina legend (and current national coach) Diego Maradona but he has a style all his own. Lavezzi has blazing speed and technique but his uncanny abilty to change speed and direction (on or off the ball) makes him a danger to any defense. The list of defenders he has faked out of their jock strap this year alone is long and distinguished.

Almost on cue, deep pocketed Chelsea has taken a shine to the Napoli ace but last night he told the Italian press he is not interested. "I am happy at Napoli," he said. "I like the city of Naples and the team so I'll stay here - it's better than going to England." Not the kind of thing feedback Permiership clubs are used to receiving.

But now Inter president Massimo Moratti is talking about trying to pry him loose from Napoli, a club which can always use the money but one which also values pride and loyalty above all. They've been eyeing him along with Chelsea's Didier Drogba but that deal is looking less likely so their focus is now on Lavezzi. Regardless of Napoli's statements that he is not for sale, we can expect to see lots of leaks from Inter to the Gazetta Dello Sport with outlandishly high offers for Lavezzi, all in an attempt to put pressure on the Napoli board.

Given his huge impact on the team, his cult hero status in the city, and the throngs of fans who show up every night at Castel Volturno just to get a look at El Pocho, its hard to think of any offer high enough to convince the club to sell.

Donovan's Situation At Bayern Looking Up?

We've all had our questions about how Landon Donovan will fit into the scheme at Bayern Munich when his loan starts in January and the picture may be getting clearer. As it turns out, an unfortunate injury to Stuttgart striker Mario Gomez, who tore a muscle in 2-0 win over Schalke last weekend (in which he scored), may end up impacting Donovan's playing time at Bayern.

The Munich giants have had their eye on Gomez for some time and the word in town was that the club would pick him up in January and simultaneously dish off Lukas Podolski to his old club, 1FC Koeln. Now, its not clear if Gomez will be in any kind of condition for a January transfer so the Donovan loan is looking more like a prudent move and less like an experiment. Depending on Gomez' condition, Bayern (not to mention Real Madrid), may now need to wait until the summer transfer window, soon after Donovan heads back to LA.

What this means for Donovan is that he'll more likely spend his loan period in the striker rotation behind Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose (who will likely need some rest during Champions League weeks). If Gomez had entered the mix, Donovan would have quickly found himself as the number four striker in the mix, provided he continued to outshine Lukas Podolski in practice. So, if Donovan shows up ready to play, he stands a good chance of getting some meaningful playing time. We'll see.