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Friday, July 27, 2007

Some promising signs from Stateside...

In brief, a few bits of news that have warmed TDH's proverbial cockles in the past couple of days:
Sal Zizzo, who showed fantastic skills in the Under-20 World Cup, will play for Hannover 96 of the Bundesliga in the fall.

The MLS teams won two and drew two in the first round of the new North American Superliga.

DJ Countess is Tigre's new goalkeeper for its first season in the Primera Liga de Argentina in 27 years.

Carlos Bocanegra is Fulham's captain this season.
Plus one item that didn't really surprise TDH:
Freddy Adu couldn't settle terms with Benfica, even though MLS had agreed to sell him for $2 million.
TDH bets that the $2 million is a lot less than MLS thought they'd receive a few years ago. Suck it up. Even Wayne Rooney was overhyped. The key is for Freddy to turn into a solid player, eventually in Europe, so he can play his best in 2010. MLS hasn't hurt him so far, especially as his body has matured, but soon it'll be time to move.

And finally, one item that puzzled TDH:
Eddie Johnson turned down a chance to sign with Derby County.
What are you waiting for, Eddie? Are you afraid you'll come down with a case of Donovan's Disease, also known as Palermo Syndrome, if you move to Europe?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


The Wicked Witch is dead! TDH has just seen this precious, golden sentence on Soccernet:

"Freddy Shepherd has given up his post as chairman of Newcastle with immediate effect."

And by golly, did any of you read this pearl dropped a few days ago by Big Ham, loyal readers?

"It is the most important thing for me to strengthen the squad we have at the moment, and particularly the defensive area."

Could things be turning around? TDH abides by the old Greek adage:

"Deeds not words"

So we shall wait and see....

Thursday, July 19, 2007

TDH live in Lilongwe, and more!

After a few football-less days, TDH went live in Lilongwe, Malawi, along with the eponymous Mara and a new adherent whom we'll call Menguinha. The occasion: an Argentine-style barbecue followed by the final of the Copa America. Suffice it to say that The American Geordie enjoyed the choripanes, asado de tira and lomo more than the match. But Menguinha was jumping around and blurting out Brazilian cheers while making fun of the Portuguese commentators' accents. Well, at least one of us enjoyed it.

The footballing highlight came the next day, unexpectedly, upon TDH's return to Johannesburg airport. By coincidence, the baggage from the Lilongwe flight was supposed to show up on the same belt as the baggage from Dubai. Standing right in front of TDH was a tall, olive-skinned man wearing a very tight T-shirt and pants along with some Gucci suede tennis shoes. He was blocking TDH's view of the conveyor, actually. And as TDH struggled to get a glimpse of the suitcases, the man's immigration card flashed into view along with his passport: Ali Daei, Iran.

There was no doubt - it was the holder of the world record for goals in men's international matches. TDH began shaking with excitement and then asked the legendary striker if he was on his way to Cape Town for the "90 Minutes for Mandela" match. Indeed he was, as a member of Pele's team. He graciously signed a card from TDH's wallet, and then TDH helpfully informed him that his baggage had been switched to another belt. What a thrill!

By the way, you can read the FIFA summary and the complete match report (see righthand side of the page) here. Daei apparently set up a goal for some guy named Ruud Gullit - anyone remember him?

Monday, July 09, 2007


Well, TDH used to think there were certain types of players who simply would never arrive on Tyneside. Not just the sexy football types, but the mercurial pretty boys who seemed to find their perfect home in, ahem, Spain. And now it seems as though one of them is coming our way, hopefully not for too much cash.

Who would protect Deco against the ravages of Blackburn, Bolton and company? Joey Barton? Stranger things could happen. But TDH worries more that Deco is a luxury player, not so much a playmaker as a play-adder, a frilly version of Paul Scholes. Tell TDH otherwise, please.

It wouldn't be so bad to have Viduka, Owen, Duff, Deco, Barton, Dyer, Babayaro, Rozenhal, Taylor, Ramage, Given starting a match. But the obvious lack of quality is still at the back. Why are we buying yet another midfielder (to add to Emre, Solano, etc) when we clearly need another defender?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Project 2010 is still alive!

As TDH outlined below, at least ten of US Soccer's top players didn't make the trip to Venezuela for the Copa America. And as TDH was suffering through the squad's inglorious performance, it dawned on TDH that this was not even the "B" team. No, even more American stars were streaking across the artificial turf a few thousand miles north, at the Under-20 World Cup in Canada. To make matters worse, the resulting "C" team in Venezuela became a "D" team in the final match against Colombia, as all the bench players got their shot in the spotlight. TDH almost didn't complain when the national anthem was cut short, undoubtedly by some overzealous Chavista.

So it was with no small anticipation that TDH settled down to watch the Under-20 squad, led by the fiercely talented and no-longer-so-undersized Freddy Adu (he grew! it rhymes!), squaring up to Brazil in Montreal. Adu wasn't the team's only bonafide star, as striker Jozy Altidore - a 17-year-old monolith of almost Onyewu-like proportions - has been scoring at an 0.42 per 90 minutes rate in New York. But boy, could this entire team play!

Showing no intimidation at all, they pinged the ball around the pitch with ease, maintaining possession with superior speed and strength. And not only that, they had touch! and finish! and even a couple of kids who could bend it like Beckham!

TDH's favorite part was a stretch in the 56th through 58th minutes where the United States maintained absolutely continuous control, creating three excellent chances barely saved by Cassio. As Adu - a true enganche if ever the US had one - dribbled into the area to create the last chance, one of the Argentine commentators exclaimed, "Adu, Adu, Adu! Parece Brasileno!" and later "A mi me parecio que nacio en Ipanema!" Special mention must also go to keeper Chris Seitz (who really is Onyewu's size) for hanging onto almost every stop - except the Brazilian goal - and generally playing about a million times better than Kasey Keller did this week.

The US was lucky in the second half with some poor Brazilian finishing (and vice-versa, on a couple of occasions), but the US received no help at all from the referee. One Brazilian ought to have been sent off with a second yellow card for a cynical snip of Adu's ankle on the edge of the box, and another one should have received a card for retaliation, again on Adu. In the 90th minute, after several obviously bad calls, a commentator even predicted that the referee would add six or seven minutes of extra time! There were four, despite no injuries and few substitutions. TDH will take it as a mark of grudging respect for a team on the rise.

That's right, Project 2010 - the strategy that was supposed to bring the World Cup trophy to the US by that year - is still alive! With Adu rapidly fulfilling his enormous potential at the 10 spot (down here they say "enganche" for the playmaker), it really could happen. Incredible.

Here are the highlights. Pay special attention at 6:46 into the reel....