12 April 2006

Meaningless friendlies and (meaningless?) awards

First of all, here are my pictures from US/Jamaica. The game was a lot of fun, and the atmosphere was better than I expected it to be; we were right next to the US "ultras." (Don't know what you'd call them for the USMNT, so I'm just going with that.) Overall, it seemed like a meaningless friendly -- neither team was really going full-out for the win, so for most of the game, the US seemed content with a draw. Even with that, though, the US really should've won. I don't know how they're planning to handle Ghana or Italy when they can't kill off Jamaica. I don't want to get too deep into the analysis, but two things would really help them.

1. Everyone needs to be a little more selfish. There were several times when a US player would be bearing straight down on goal with a clear shot. What would he do? Pass it out wide. Every single time, it seemed, and then they'd shoot across the face of goal, or over the bar, or something. I understand wanting to help out your teammates, but sometimes you have to take the shot yourself.

2. If you're going to go for the near post corners, boys? It helps to have someone at the near post. Just a suggestion.


In other news, the PFA player of the year nominations came out today. Not surprisingly, I think Steven Gerrard should get it, but I think there are good arguments for most of the other candidates. It all really does come down to how you define success. Since all the nominees are from the Big Four teams, they're obviously not looking at success as staying up when everyone thought you were screwed (exhibit A: Plucky Little Wigan).

If success is continuing undeserved dominance, then someone from Chelski should win it, and I'd be least unhappy with Joe Cole getting it, since he has shown a lot of improvement, while John Terry and Frank Lampard have both gone off form somewhat. Chelsea's still winning everything, but a lot of the shine's gone off their success, and they're catching a lot of flack for their ugly play and diving tendencies. Terry, who scores a lot for a defender, has been solid, but not spectacular. I can name several other defenders who do just as well as him. (Also, he won last year, and I don't like repeats.) Lampard's lost the plot recently, and I'm not the only one who's noticed. Does anyone remember the last time he scored from open play? Cole's been good, but inconsistent; he's finally answered the left midfielder problem for England, though, and I have to like him a little bit for that.

If success is just individually having a good season, it's Rooney. I don't like that, though, especially since he's been a bit of a punk. He's apparently the favorite to win, and it'd be really hard to argue that he hasn't had an outstanding season. United have managed to turn their season around, and they're finally making a serious challenge to Chelsea for the title. I actually wouldn't mind him getting this, but I'd prefer that he get the Young Player award.

If success is getting furthest in the CL, then yeah, it should be Henry. He's top scorer right now, so it'd be hard to say he didn't deserve it on that basis. Somehow, though, I feel like he hasn't had that great of a season. Probably because it's been overshadowed to a large extent by 1) his will-he-stay-or-will-he-go drama, and 2) the rise of the young Arsenal players, especially Fabregas. Additionally, I am petty and don't want him to win it three times in four years. That's not really a reason, but even taking that out, I don't think he's the best thing about Arsenal this season by a long shot.

But if you define success as team improvement, then Steven should clearly get it. All Liverpool have really lacked this season is striking. They're worlds better than they were this time last season, what with being solidly in third, and maybe in position to challenge for second. Just compare that to last season, when they were hanging on to fifth and almost forty points behind Chelsea. There's no way a lot of that isn't down to Steven. Even though the rest of the team has stepped up a lot (and Rafa's bought well in some key areas), I still think Steven's absolutely essential to Liverpool. He's almost certain to get 20 goals this season, which is just ridiculous for a midfielder, and he can play almost anywhere on the pitch and completely controls midfield. He keeps growing into the captain role, and barring the odd moments of insanity, he's a lot more solid both as a player and a leader than last season. Liverpool seem to really be gelling under Rafa, and Steven's clearly a key part of that. I can imagine Man U without Rooney, Chelsea without Cole, or Arsenal without Henry. I can't imagine Liverpool without Steven. (Also, Footie Girl just reminded me of the little matter of the Champions League. Fifth time's the charm, boys.)

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