31 July 2006

19 days till the season starts!

And, y'all, I am so very ready. Not that I don't love the transfer window, but it's hard to get that excited about Man U buying Carrick or Chelsea spending a ton on building Abramovich's fantasy team. We got rid of Cisse and Morientes, and got a couple of good wingers for, you know, less than 18 million pounds. Get us another striker, and I'm happy.

This was pretty awesome, though. I mean, I wouldn't want to see Reina playing in midfield every time, and I'll be happy when the full side starts playing again. But, man. I thought playing Steven as a left-back was odd. Sometimes I love my team. (Where "sometimes" is defined as "pretty much all of the time.")

And speaking of my teams, things my other team needs to do to not suck anymore. I pretty much agree with all of it -- the biggest priorities are getting the midfield figured out, getting a new captain, and getting together a solid backup plan for the next time the Owen/Rooney partnership is unavailable. Which will be pretty much all of the qualification, if Owen takes as long getting over this ACL tear as he did the metatarsal. And with Rooney out for the first two games, they need to figure it out fast. I'm a big supporter of Peter Crouch; he didn't have the greatest World Cup, but he was still England's most prolific striker. Actually, I think pairing him and Walcott up front could work really well. Crouch isn't great as a lone striker, but working with someone smaller, with better pace, could really work well, I think. Maybe not Walcott, since he has yet to play in the Premiership, but I think Defoe or one of the others could be a good choice here.

As far as the midfield, I think you have to go with J. Cole-Hargreaves-Gerrard-Lennon. Beckham's been good, but you have to start preparing for his retirement. Hargreaves had a couple of really good games in Germany, Cole was solid (if you can cure him of trying to cut in all the time), and come on. Is it really even a contest between Gerrard and Lampard these days? I'd like for them to be able to work together, but it's just not happening. You have to at least experiment with them separate. God, England. At least the defense is relatively solid these days. Though I'd bench Rio on the basis of his hair alone.

One more thing -- Steven for captain, dude. Like it's even a contest. I don't see John Terry singlehandedly winning the FA Cup anytime soon, do you?

25 July 2006

And yet more preseason randomness

1. Liverpool is the best team in the Premiership. Nice to have my suspicions confirmed. (Also, Chelsea's place in the table might be the best thing I've seen all day. That's how it should be, kids.)

2. All the Serie A cheaters get their sentences reduced. That is some bullshit. Sorry, but an eight-point deduction, for trying to fix games? Like, and they get to be back in the Champions League next season? Oh no. I don't care that they were the least culpable of the four dirty teams. Eight points is less than three games lost -- that's all they get for destroying the integrity of the league and calling the last two seasons into question? And even worse than that is that Lazio and Fiorentina get to play in Serie A next season. It's completely ridiculous -- I guess money and prestige still talk. The last thing these clubs need is to have their sentences reduced. Fixing matches, no matter how it's done, is the worst thing that a team can do. As far as I'm concerned, bust them all down to Serie B, and Juve, who were really behind all of it, to Serie C. Ban them all from Europe. That's the only way to stop things like this.

3. Amateur team to play the LA Galaxy in the US Open Cup. This is like a non-conference team beating Liverpool and going on to meet, say, Man City. The Galaxy aren't the best MLS team by a long shot, but it's still worth celebrating that they got this far. I gotta say, I'm cheering for the minnows. Let's go, Dallas!

23 July 2006

Is it really a friendly if you lose?

I swear, he and Steven take it in turns to be linked with Real. As long as it doesn't really happen, the rumors are probably a good thing. I mean, better than being linked with, like, Boro or something, isn't it? However. He better not really go.

Um, isn't the point of a preseason tour to win? Someone forgot to give Man U that memo. If you think this is gloating because they lost, well, you're exactly right. Come on, it's Man U. This is a Liverpool blog. I can't be highminded all the time.

20 July 2006

When does the season start again?

New fans are so cute. Even when they're nationally known sports columnists. He ended up picking the wrong team, but that's okay. It's still cute -- reading that kind of reminds me of where I was four years ago, having really just gotten into soccer and trying to figure out a lot of things. (I remember being really confused when the media would refer to clubs by the name of their stadium. I knew who Arsenal were, but Highbury? No clue.) This may be the first time anyone has called Bill Simmons "cute," but I'm standing by it. I love seeing new people get into the sport.

In other news, trash-talking is now just as bad as a headbutt. So, Materazzi didn't say anything racist. Then why is he getting a fine? Trying to get a rise out of your opponents is a part of every single sport. As long as it's not racist, I don't think it should be punished. Materazzi wanted to make Zidane less effective. Zidane took the bait. Punishing Materazzi for this is really setting a precedent that FIFA are probably going to regret. Why are we trying to make soccer into a garden party?

The season starts in less than a month. Thank God.

11 July 2006

World Cup withdrawal means YouTube trolling.

Why doesn't England do stuff like this? Also, I'm a little disturbed by the bizarre affection I have for Gattuso these days.

Thanks to Footie Girl for the link!

07 July 2006

Forza Italia!

Yes, I'm supporting Italy in the final. Yes, pictures like this are the only reason why.

In defense of CONCACAF

This is a little cynical even for me. I don't think he's wrong, exactly, but still. If there's no hope, why even bother? You're not playing for pride at that point. I'll fully agree that the US were wretched in two of their games, and Costa Rica didn't really show up, either. But Mexico had a great game against Argentina, and T&T did better than anyone expected them to. Yes, they only got a draw, but come on. They played well (and more entertainingly than England), and only losing 2-0 is pretty respectable. Everyone expected them to crash and burn, but they fought, and I have a total thing for the plucky little underdogs.

Not that CONCACAF should be thrilled with this Cup. But it's not as awful as he says. I think getting more players in Europe will make a difference -- the non-European teams that performed best, like Ghana and Argentina, had a lot of players overseas. I don't think it'll be instantaneous, but it'll do more for the development of the international team than playing in a bush league like MLS will. I also think playing in more international competitions will help. I don't think CONCACAF should merge with the South American conference; it's just not at that level yet. But one of the best things they could do is improve the level of the teams they play against -- they've been invited to Copa America several times, and that's got all of the South American teams. It's a good step between the useless friendlies and being in the same conference. (Also, seriously, step up the level of the friendly competition. Playing Morocco and Jamaica's not doing you any favors.)

So, it'll be hard, and it'll take a while. But I don't think you can say a CONCACAF team will never win it all. The next Cup's in South Africa. Out of Europe, all bets are off.

02 July 2006

You play for 120 minutes, and then Portugal win on penalties

(With apologies to Gary Lineker for this post's title.)

I guess I can't avoid the quarterfinal forever, can I? At least they had a good game before they went out. I mean, obviously the finishing left something to be desired -- there was none of it. The defense was shaky, and they still haven't figured out what to do with the midfield. As far as I'm concerned, that should be Steve McClaren's first job as manager, not deciding who the new captain should be. (Because, come on. That's easy. Steven.)

I don't want to blame Rooney, or even Ronaldo, or the penalty takers. England had a good game. It could have been better in a lot of ways, like Rooney not letting himself be baited. England should have killed the game off several times, but they didn't, and the penalty curse kicked in. Portugal came out and played like they always do. They whined and dove and cried and complained, and it seems to work for them. It's a crappy way to play, not that they seem to care. But it makes them look bad, it makes the game look bad, and I don't like it. I don't like it when England does it, I don't like it when other teams do it, and I really hope it doesn't pay off for them in the next round.

As an England fan, I never thought I'd say this, but allez les Bleus!

Podolski? Really?

Dear Germany: you can have her.