Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chelsea has had an astonishing return to form during the past two weeks, with wins over Newcastle, Valencia, and now Manchester City.  The three consecutive wins has seen them go through to the Champions League knockout stages at the top of their group and seen their return to the third position in the English Premier League table. 

The early stages of yesterday’s 2-1 victory over Manchester City did not go as Chelsea had planned. It took less than two minutes for Manchester City to find the net. Mario Balotelli was played in on goal after a fantastic dribbling display and even better pass from Sergio Aguero.  After the Italian striker found himself in on goal he successfully eluded keeper Peter Cech and Branislav Ivanovic to slot home the game’s opening goal.

The disaster start for Chelsea continued throughout the opening fifteen minutes of the match, with City dominating in attack while Chelsea looked unable to string together more than a couple passes.  City’s attack continued during this opening period, aided by some errant Chelsea passing, but ultimately proved fruitless.

As the game closed in on the half hour mark, Chelsea looked to have regained their senses and was now attacking with regularity.  Didier Drogba tried several shots from distance, but was unable to find the mark and Ramires’ surging runs came more frequently.  Just after the half hour mark the game changed when Daniel Sturridge found some space on the right side, dribbled into the box, broke down City’s Gael Clichy with some dazzling footwork, and delivered a bullet cross to Raul Meireles who hammered it home for the equalizer. 

That goal changed the game as Chelsea immediately began dropping deeper to contain the Man City attack that can be overwhelming at times.  City was struggling to cope with Chelsea as the first half drew to a close.

The second half began with Gael Clichy receiving a yellow card for holding back Daniel Sturridge who again found himself space on the right side.  Mata’s role in the game increased in the early stages of the second half as well and Chelsea was beginning to find more space during their attack.  It would take just thirteen minutes for these attacks to pay dividends when Gael Clichy earned his second yellow card for a lazy challenge on Ramires.

The next ten minutes saw Chelsea squander several opportunities to test the Manchester City backline.  Roberto Mancini elected to sub off Sergio Aguero for defender Kolo Toure.  Chelsea elected to use one of their substitutions to bring on Frank Lampard for goal scorer Raul Meireles.  Andre Villas-Boas urged his players to attack and his team responded. 

In the 82nd minute, Daniel Sturridge again found space, cut inside from the right and fired a shot that struck the raised arm of Joleon Lescott.   The referee blew the whistle and pointed to the penalty spot. Frank Lampard stepped up to the penalty spot and after a short discussion with Juan Mata blasted the ball down the center past the diving Joe Hart to give Chelsea the 2-1 lead.   He rushed over to celebrate with the raucous Chelsea crowd that was delighted to see their hero deliver the go ahead goal.

The last few minutes of the match proved to be a frustrating affair for Manchester City as Chelsea was content to maintain possession and let the clock run down.  After some trickery from Didier Drogba, the final whistle blew and Chelsea held their ground for a victory at Stamford Bridge.  The defeat was the first of the season for Manchester City who still hold the top spot in the Premier League. 

Chelsea’s return to form comes at the expense of some of its prized possessions.  Andre Villas-Boas seems to have found a starting formation and squad the work after an early season full of experimenting.  That formation includes new signings Raul Meireles and Oriel Romeu starring in the midfield, but this comes at the expense of seasoned Chelsea veterans like the beloved Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel.  Ramires has really found a role similar to the injured Michael Essien, with surging runs forward that are essential to Chelsea’s attack. 

While much has been made of AVB leaving both Alex and Nicolas Anelka (and Anelka’s transfer to Shanghai) out of senior squad training, even more questions are being asked of Frank Lampard’s role in AVB’s squad.  Lampard has played well in recent matches, but has expressed his displeasure at being substituted and does not appear to enjoy the role of being a substitute.  Today Lampard said that he is willing to see out the remaining 18 months on his contract and fight for a place in the starting XI. 

With Sturridge, Mata, and Drogba up front, Chelsea has a new found flair in their attack.  Spectacular play from Mata has allowed Didier Drogba to regain his form that had dipped early in the season.  Sturridge has played very well for Chelsea on the right side, earning himself a goal in the Newcastle match while having his hand in the two scored against City.  As a result of this preferred selection, Fernando Torres, Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou have also found themselves in roles similar to Lampard.  It will be interesting to see if Villas-Boas’ commitment to injecting the side with young players will continue as the season progresses or if he will decide to stick with the golden generation that has brought Chelsea its past glory.

Highlights here:

JT and Super Frank get the background for their loving embrace.

Posted on Tuesday, December 13, 2011 by Lex

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Monday, December 5, 2011

The term “Renaissance Man” is heard less and less in today’s world where specialization is favored, but it was the perfect term to describe Brazilian football legend Socrates.  The man’s expertise transcended the football pitch, where his technical abilities were on display, it was his voice and actions that found their way into Brazil’s hearts.

After beginning his career at Botafogo SP while completing his medical studies, he was transferred to Corinthians where he spent the majority of his career.  He boasted an impressive scoring rate with the club having 172 goals in 297 appearances and also led the team to Sao Paolo state titles in 1979, 1982, and 1983.

As the captain of the 1982 World Cup Selecao, Socrates was not the most gifted player, but it was his leadership, technical ability, and imagination that helped the squad become regarded as one of the best to ever play the beautiful game.  Despite their loss in the second round to eventual winners Italy, Socrates’ squad played some of the most dynamic and exciting football the world has ever seen.

Socrates’ most important contributions to his club and country came away from the football pitch.  Along with full-back Wladimir and with the consent of the Corinthians team president, Socrates organized the Corinthians’ Democracy.  The ideological movement came during a time when the ruling military dictatorship’s philosophy of “Brazil - Love it Or Leave” was coming into question.  The Corinthians’ Democracy allowed squad players to vote on the management of the club by a simple raise of the hand.  The experiment proved to be successful with team members eventually overturning the practice of concentracão, where players were sequestered for the days leading up to matches.

The most famous decision made by the Corinthians’ Democracy was when Corinthians players decided to print “Vote on the 15th” on the back of their jerseys to encourage Brazilians to vote in the 1982 elections.  This marked the first multi-party democratic elections since the 1964 military coup.  The Corinthians’ Democracy marked the first attempt at management through player votes, and the successful experiment has not been repeated since.  Socrates continued his part through speaking with crowds at pro-democracy rallies, and engaging the Brazilian public through his writing and appearances, speaking not only about football, but politics and the economy as well.

After Corinthians, Socrates went on to have stints with Fiorentina, Flamengo, Santos, and finished his career retiring as a Botafogo SP player.  During his early career he finished his medical studies and when he retired became a practicing doctor in the town of Ribierao Preto.  His ongoing dialogue with the Brazilian people continued until the very end, just last month he came out against Brazil hosting the World Cup, as he viewed it as “a private product that is using public resources.”

For all his gifts and talents, Socrates was still a flawed man.  A notable heavy drinker and smoker, his eventual demise can be attributed to two vices that Socrates himself appeared to be at terms with.  One of Socrates’ most famous quotes “They don’t want me to drink, smoke, or think, well, I drink, smoke, and think.”  Socrates’ style, cool nature, and back heel trickery continue to inspire footballers and fans alike.  The news of his death brought tributes from dignitaries such as Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, footballers Rivaldo, Ronaldo, and Zico, and even NBA star Steve Nash.  The praise he has received comes from people as diverse and multi-talented as the man they are praising, showing the true influence that Socrates has had.

The happy ending to this sad story, Socrates’ beloved Corinthians faced off against local rivals Palmeiras in a game that could clinch the Brazilian League for Corinthians.  The two sides played a tenacious 90 minutes, complete with a late match brawl, with both sides receiving red cards.  Corinthians was able to hold out for a 0-0 draw that allowed them to clinch the Campeonato Brasiliero Serie A title. 

Socrates was a man that was incredibly talented, a hero for democracy, and one of the greatest people associated with the beautiful game.  The midfield magician who took a stand for democracy will continue to remind future generations that “Being sensible isn’t always the best thing.”

Rest in Peace Dr. Socrates Brasiliero Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliviera 

Posted on Monday, December 05, 2011 by Lex

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

After enduring harsh criticism after the United States failed to score against France and suffered its fourth loss during his reign, Jurgen Klinsmann decided to make some tactical changes.  Rather than playing the 4-1-3-1-1 that he has preferred over the opening matches of his tenure, Klinsmann elected to play a second striker to support Jozy Altidore and results were immediately seen.  In his first starting CAP for the United States, midfielder Fabian Johnson’s first minute shot set the tone for the USA and the positive attacking performance continued through the first half.

After Johnson’s opening effort on goal, the USA was immediately forced onto the back foot due to an excellent counter-attack from Slovenia and left-back Timmy Chandler playing Slovenian striker Zlatan Ljubijankic onside.  Carlos Bocanegra shepherded the ball out for a corner and the crisis was averted.  Open play resumed with the USA pressuring Slovenia up the field with their attackers and playing a high defensive line.  Klinsmann’s decision to increase the pressure was rewarded in the 9th minute when Clint Dempsey forced a turnover just outside the Slovenian penalty area, and Edson Buddle fired a 25 yard shot into the goal off the left post.

The good fortune did not immediately continue for the United States, as Slovenia settled into the game they enjoyed their share of opportunities on goal. Slovenia was rewarded for their efforts when Ljubijankic caught defender Clarence Goodson out of position and played a through ball to Tim Matavz who equalized.  This 26th minute equalizer came after Slovenia was repeatedly caught offside by Klinsmann’s high defensive line.

Attempts were missed by both sides as the game approached the 40th minute when Slovenia conceded a corner to the USA.  On the ensuing corner, Michael Bradley launched a perfectly placed corner to the head of Clint Dempsey, who broke free of his defender and put the USA on top once again.  This was a return to the well-executed set pieces that American soccer fans have come to enjoy from their national team. 

Fabian Johnson’s impact on the USMNT squad was immediately felt in this match and continued throughout his time on the field. In the 42nd minute, Johnson received a pass on the edge of the penalty area and made a turn in on goal before being hacked down by Slovenian defender Miso Brecko.  The referee pointed to the penalty spot and Jozy Altidore stepped up to take the kick and smashed it into the back of the net.  The 43th minute penalty gave the United States a 3-1 lead heading into the halftime break.

Unfortunately for American soccer fans, the second half was not the comfortable affair some had envisioned.  Slovenia began the half after making two substitutions and immediately began to take the game to the Americans.  Tim Matavz began the second half with a magnificent solo run through the United States defense before having his shot blocked by a sliding Carlos Bocanegra.  This continued throughout the second half as the United States defense looked disorganized and were frequently scrambling to clear the ball from danger. 

Slovenia was extremely unlucky not to score in the 60th minute when a headed corner went off the crossbar and several shots were blocked by Tim Howard and defenders before the ball could be cleared to the wing.  
The danger was not over though as the ball was played back in which forced Tim Howard to punch.  The ball again bounced back to Slovenia and found Tim Matavz who turned and struck a shot off of Howard’s left post.  The ball was again not cleared well enough to keep Slovenia from attacking again. This time when Matavz was given the opportunity he did not miss, firing a shot low and hard past Tim Howard and into the goal. 

The game then slowed down considerably, with the United States controlling more possession, but that did not save them from a scare in the closing minutes of the game when a free kick was conceded within shooting distance from Tim Howard’s goal. However, the attempt was wasted and the United States survived the second half barrage from Slovenia to escape from the Petrol Arena with a victory.

Overall the USA looked like a more lively side with two attackers up front. It gave them more attacking options and the team responded very well after Slovenia equalized their early goal.  Timmy Chandler looked dangerous making attacking runs, but was caught out of position defensively several times, which is something that can be expected from a young defender.  Michael Bradley was very effective in his return to the USMNT squad; he completed the most passes for the United States and made his presence felt throughout the match. 

Kyle Beckerman brings his extremely high work rate into the US squad, but continues to offer little else to it.  For a player that Klinsmann has identified as important to the squad, his continued foibles may end up being a detriment to the squad as a whole.  Clarence Goodson’s performances continue to fall short of what has to be expected from an American center back. His errors have caused the United States to concede in consecutive matches, and these errors cannot be accepted from a 29 year old center back.

Klinsmann’s tactical change to a 4-4-2 saw an immediate reward for their positive play with the victory.  By giving the strikers orders to pressure the defense at all times, it takes advantage of the USA’s superior fitness levels and gives opponents less time to consider their attacking moves.  Improvements must be made in the back four, as they are lacking a definitive choice for a center-back to join Carlos Bocanegra. Timmy Chandler’s errors will be corrected as he improves with experience, but the squad really looked like it was missing Oguchi Onyewu at times.  American fans came into this international break looking for a victory in Europe and got one, hopefully Klinsmann can keep the team moving in this positive direction.

Posted on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 by Lex

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Monday, October 31, 2011

What began as a dream start for Chelsea after an early goal from Frank Lampard ended in a nightmarish finish for the Blues as Arsenal was able to earn a much needed emphatic away win at Stamford Bridge.  The Arsenal victory was led by their captain Robin van Persie, who continued his spectacular form with a hat trick on Saturday earning Arsenal their first Premier League away win since April of last season.

Lampard’s 14th minute goal was equalized by Arsenal 22 minutes later when Robin van Persie slotted home a pass from Gervinho after Aaron Ramsey found the Ivoirian with a ball that threaded the needle between Chelsea’s defense.  However, the first half would end with the Blues on top.  After squandering several quality chances including a Daniel Sturridge half volley that just ran wide and having a goal disallowed for an offside call, John Terry found himself on the end of a Frank Lampard corner and buried the ball in the corner of the net.  The high spirits for Terry and Chelsea would not last.

The second half opened with Chelsea leading, but Arsenal played with an intensity and fire that they had been lacking for much of the season thus far.  Arsenal forced a save from Peter Cech just a few seconds into the half and continued the pressure for several minutes before Gervinho found a streaking Andre Santos, who then beat Peter Cech to equalize for Arsenal.  Just after the restart Arsenal were on the receiving end of a break from the referee after their keeper Wojciech Szczesny avoided a red card after a foul just outside the penalty area on Ashley Cole.  He received a yellow card instead and made a very nice save on the ensuing free kick from Frank Lampard.

Just a few minutes later Arsenal saw themselves ahead after a superb individual effort from Theo Walcott.  Walcott lost his footing while running between four Chelsea defenders, but quickly regained it and dribbled through and beat Peter Cech on the near post.  Chelsea was forced to make changes after the goal that included the introduction of Romelu Lukaku, Raul Meireles, and Florent Malouda.  The game continued to be a tight affair until Chelsea found an equalizer in the 80th minute off of a brilliant strike from Juan Mata that found the back of the net.  In the celebration Mata urged his Chelsea teammates back to their own half to search for a winning goal in the match’s remaining ten minutes.

That breakthrough goal would come, but it certainly was not what Mata and Chelsea had in mind.  An errant back pass and slip from John Terry was all Robin van Persie needed to find himself clear in on Peter Cech and after skinning the Chelsea keeper made the score 4-3 in favor of Arsenal.  With 85 minutes gone in the match it looked as if Arsenal would surely be the winners as a result of this late goal which could be considered shambolic for both Malouda and Terry. 

After Arsenal took the lead, Chelsea threw men forward in an effort to find a late equalizer.  After having several half chances at a goal, Arsenal broke out from their own end with numbers.  The ball was eventually at the feet of van Persie who finished off his spectacular performance by beating Cech on his near post again, giving Arsenal the final score line of 5-3. Maybe Arsene Wenger does know what he's doing after all.

RVP gets the background for decimating Chelsea with his hat trick.

Levante has been one of the best stories in the football world with their improbable run of performances.  Sadly their winning streak came to an end this weekend, I’ll leave that summary to a much better writer Sid Lowe whose article can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2011/oct/31/la-liga-levante-finally-dethroned

Posted on Monday, October 31, 2011 by Lex

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Monday, October 24, 2011

When the final whistle blew on Sunday afternoon at Old Trafford, Manchester City had left no doubt they were the best team in the city.  It was an occasion for City fans to celebrate as they earned their largest victory over their rivals in their clubs history and handed United manager Sir Alex Fergueson the biggest defeat of his legendary career.  The 6-1 victory lifts Manchester City 5 points clear in the English Premier League after Chelsea fell 1-0 to Q.P.R.

From the match’s opening moments, David Silva just looked a touch above his opposition on the pitch.  It began in the 14th minute when he dribbled his way into the thick of the Manchester United defense and five United defenders could not dispossess the Spaniard.  His presence was felt everywhere on the pitch, his dribbling was fantastic, and his passing was truly a joy to behold.  Silva’s genius was even seen in his inaction when he left James Milner’s pass untouched for Mario Balotelli who fired it past David De Gea for the game’s opening goal.  After scoring, Balotelli lifted his shirt to reveal a t-shirt saying “Why Always Me?” referring to the Italian’s crazy weekend that saw his house with severe fire damage after an accident involving fireworks in one of his bathrooms.

As the first half continued, both sides enjoyed half chances, with the best chance being spoiled by United defender Johnny Evans as he missed an open chance from a Wayne Rooney pass.  The teams went into the locker rooms at halftime, with City up 1-0 and looking strong.

The game would change just a few minutes after the halftime break, with Johnny Evans making a disastrous mistake, by dragging down Mario Balotelli after the Italian striker found his way in on goal.  Evans was shown the red card for the professional foul and as the Northern Irishman trotted off the pitch, so too did United’s hopes for victory.   

Silva had his hand in City’s next goal with some spectacular dribbling before moving the ball to James Milner who fired a cross to Mario Balotelli who buried the chance in the back of the net.  The onslaught continued for City when they earned another goal nine minutes later, with Sergio Aguero capping off another spectacular run of play from City with his 9th goal of the season to tie Wayne Rooney atop the scoring table.

Darren Fletcher was the lone goal scorer for Manchester United after a nice little one-two with Chicharito before a nice first touch finish that found the upper corner over an outstretched Joe Hart.  The goal would serve as no consolation for Manchester United, as the worst was yet to come for them.

Just before stoppage time, Rio Ferdinand conceded a corner kick off a misplaced back pass to De Gea, and United was made to pay for their mistakes again. This time Edin Dzeko found a goal after the ball was flicked on by a Gareth Barry header and Joleon Lescott kept the ball from going out of bounds.  Then in the 91st minute, David Silva found his way onto the score sheet after an excellent break by Manchester City with an excellent slotted shot past De Gea.  Edin Dzeko squandered another late chance for City before earning his second goal of the day thanks do a surgical pass from David Silva that dissected the United defense and made the final score 6-1 in favor of Manchester City.

This weekend has left City standing at the top of the table, five points clear of Manchester United and now enjoying a considerable advantage in goal differential.  Big things were expected of the club traditionally considered second best in Manchester, but few could see them being so good this soon.  Now boasting one of the league’s top goal scorers with Sergio Aguero, along with who many consider to be the top player so far with David Silva, Manchester City has to be considered one of the top clubs in the world and are definitely the team to beat in the English Premier League.

Roberto Mancini's smiling visage gets the background for orchestrating such a perfect dismantling of Manchester United. Tune in tomorrow to hear about Lionel Messi's struggles against Sevilla.

Posted on Monday, October 24, 2011 by Lex

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

As soon as the mohawked Raul Meireles unleashed a right footed shot past Genk’s keeper Laszlo Koteles, it marked the beginning of a great game for Chelsea and a long night for Koteles.  The 25 yard strike was just the tip of the spear as the Chelsea attack scored 5 goals in their victory Wednesday night against Racing Genk.  This victory is yet another in a fantastic run of form that has included victories over Bolton, Everton, and Swansea.

Undoubtedly the highlights of the night were the two goals from Fernando Torres.  This marked the Spaniard’s first brace since pulling on a Chelsea jersey, and it was to the delight of owner Roman Abramovich and the Stamford Bridge faithful alike.  Torres’ first goal came in the 11th minute off a nicely placed ball from Frank Lampard that played Torres between two Genk defenders; Fernando was then able to slot home the finish with a calm right footed strike.  His second came sixteen minutes later when Raul Meireles crossed the ball as Torres was streaking in front of the goal. Torres met the cross with a perfectly placed header that beat Kotleles on the far side of his goal. 

The rout continued fifteen minutes later when Branislav Ivanovic rose above the crowd in the box to head home the set piece from Florent Malouda.  With four goals scored in the first half, Chelsea looked comfortable to sit back and enjoy possession, but after several chances early on in the second half Chelsea finally found their mark in the 72nd minute.  Salomon Kalou fired home the rebound after Fernando Torres had his hat-trick bound shot denied by Koteles. 

Despite not coming against the biggest opponent, Chelsea’s recent string of dominating victories shows they are becoming comfortable with the squad that has been built around them.  The transition from the defensive minded tactics dating back to Jose Mourinho to the current flowing attack favored by Andre Villas-Boas seems to be complete, with Juan Mata popping up all around the pitch making his impact felt.  Frank Lampard’s play has improved significantly from the beginning of the season and his recent run of games is the perfect example of Villas Boas’ system taking shape.

With this weekend’s Manchester derby and Chelsea taking on Queen’s Park Rangers, they could find themselves sitting in second place within striking distance of table toppers Manchester City.  For a team that was largely considered third best in the three team race for the Premier League title, they are now showing that they may be title contenders themselves.  If Villas-Boas is able to help Torres recapture the form that made him worthy of the £50 million outlay then Chelsea will likely find themselves with a lot to play for as the season continues.

Posted on Thursday, October 20, 2011 by Lex

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The international break ended with a mixed bag of emotions for American fans, who saw their new manager Jurgen Klinsmann win his first match Saturday as USMNT manager, but just three days later it saw Klinsmann’s squad fall again, this time to Ecuador.  This latest loss brings Klinsmann’s record to 1-3-1 as USMNT manager.

The match Saturday night against Honduras was a rather even affair between the two sides. While the Americans enjoyed a few chances in the opening minutes of the match, Honduras had the first real opportunity of the game when Jerry Bengston found himself clear in on Tim Howard.  Howard was forced to make a low save and the ball was played out, but the defensive lapse showed the squad’s lack of cohesion.  The USMNT quickly regained control of the match and it was Clint Dempsey’s well placed left footed strike that gave them the 1-0 lead that would hold up for the remainder of the game thanks to some very nice saves from Howard and a shambolic miss from Brek Shea.

Tuesday night’s match against Ecuador began in a similar fashion, with Klinsmann selecting an identical squad, with the exception of Oguchi Onyewu starting at center back in place of Michael Orozco Fiscal.  Timmy Chandler was given the arduous task of marking Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia, and performed the task admirably, with Valencia being ineffective for long stretches.  The first half of the match saw the United States display some of the early game promise that is becoming a trademark of the Klinsmann era, however like most Klinsmann era games thus far they were unable to take advantage of their scoring opportunities.

As the game went on, Ecuador became comfortable settling three midfielders in front of the four defenders and with 7 behind the ball, the US had trouble coping with the overwhelming defense.  Clint Dempsey became lost in the swarm of defenders while others took their shooting opportunities from distance, yet were unsuccessful. 

After halftime the United States had changed to a 4-4-2 formation rather than the 4-1-3-1-1 they had been playing after making a number of substitutions.  Klinsmann appears to be using these friendly matches to experiment with different formations and tactics, but so far they don’t seem to be working.  The halftime changes had little positive impact on the Americans and their best opportunity to score came from an outside shot by Demarcus Beasley that was directly at keeper Maximo Banguera. 

With their leading playmaker Valencia being contained on the right side by Timmy Chandler the Ecuador attack focused on the left side of the pitch where Steve Cherundolo was repeatedly exploited for his lack of pace.  Ecuador’s goal came off a quick throw in on the left side which was crossed into Jamie Ayovi who was able to beat Tim Ream to the ball and head home the game’s only goal.  This positioning mistake by Ream was just another to be added to the list since he has joined the USMNT as a squad member.

So as the United States suffered yet another defeat, these first five matches should serve as a bit of a wakeup call to American fans.  While Ecuador may not be a team to be trifled with having made two of the last three World Cups, the USMNT is not seeing the results that fans have come to expect of him.  With no competitive matches until World Cup qualifying begins in June, Klinsmann still has some time to find his preferred tactics, but what those tactics are going to be remains a question. 

One common thread between the friendlies is that the USMNT looks to attack from the opening whistle, which has yielded a number of scoring chances early in matches, but as opposition adapts and begins to absorb the attack, the US has looked unable to cope.  The American attack under Klinsmann pushes higher up the field than under Bradley, but it leaves them vulnerable to counterattacks and has only seen the US score two goals in total. 

The midfield in the last two matches was anchored by Kyle Beckerman who covered ground well, but his passing left a lot to be desired, the same can be said for Maurice Edu who had a poor first half performance yesterday.  Beckerman anchoring the midfield makes sense if America would be playing in a major competition this coming summer, but the Real Salt Lake captain will be 32 when the USMNT travels to Brazil in 2014.

This stretch of friendlies seems like it should be the perfect opportunity for Klinsmann to give playing time to the younger squad members in hopes that they can come together as a unit.  As much of a treat it is for MLS fans to see Kyle Beckerman or former LA Galaxy striker Edson Buddle take the field for the USA, in the long run it doesn’t serve much of a purpose as both are not likely to feature in upcoming major competitions. 

Something that has become increasingly apparent under Jurgen Klinsmann is that he is dealing with a major obstacle that no other nation is dealing with.  American collegiate soccer is that obstacle and it is likely the leading factor contributing to the long-term underachievement of the USMNT.  While the rest of the world’s 18-23 year old footballers are playing professionally, American players compete in leagues that are largely poorly coached, poorly attended, and players are compensated only with a college scholarship.  While US Soccer does its best to find the most talented youth players and train them accordingly, this gap in development clearly shows why the USA can boast the world’s leading youth soccer programs, but fall far behind when it comes to the senior squad’s success.  Hopefully Jurgen will be able to create new ways for some of the 18 million youth player to break through.  

Posted on Wednesday, October 12, 2011 by Lex

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

United States Men’s National Team manager Jurgen Klinsmann has announced his squad for this week’s upcoming friendlies against Honduras and Ecuador and has recalled center back Oguchi Onyewu to the squad after he had been left out of Klinsmann’s previous selections.  Other new arrivals in the squad are Nick Rimando, goalkeeper for Real Salt Lake, and Danny Williams, the German-born Hoffenheim midfielder who just acquired his American passport this past Friday.

These three new additions to Klinsmann’s squad are joined by regulars Jozy Altidore, Steve Cherundolo, Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, and Michael Bradley.  Landon Donovan was also called up to the squad, but his lingering quad strain has forced Klinsmann to call up striker Edson Buddle as his replacement.  These regulars are still looking for their first win under Klinsmann, who in his first three matches earned two draws and a loss to Belgium in three friendlies.

Juan Agudelo, Brek Shea, Timmy Chandler, and Teal Bunbury are all included in the squad, giving it the look towards the future that Klinsmann has spoken about since entering as manager.  Bunbury is currently on a good run of form, scoring 3 goals in his last 4 matches for Kansas City.  Timmy Chandler has been a constant presence for FC Nuremburg, who currently sit mid-table in the Bundesliga.  Agudelo and Shea have both struggled for their respective MLS clubs as of late and will hopefully be rejuvenated by the return to the USMNT setup.

This week Klinsmann also won another battle for a dual-nationality player, with Hoffenheim midfielder Fabian Johnson’s switch from the German youth system to the USMNT being approved by FIFA.  Johnson had 20 caps at the U-19 – U-21 levels for Germany, but chose to play for the United States. Despite approval being granted by FIFA, Johnson will not feature in this week’s matches due to being sidelined with a neck injury.

The main story from this squad announcement is Onyewu’s return to the squad.  After Klinsmann seemed to use his first few matches to search for depth and improved ball playing from the back, he has returned to Bob Bradley’s choice at center back.  Onyewu is a decent defender overall, he uses his body well, but his lack of speed and acceleration leave him out of position at times against quicker strikers.  He also struggles in contributing anything to build up play and his passing play from the back does not seem likely to improve. 

After difficult spells with AC Milan and FC Twente, Gooch made his way to Sporting Lisbon this season and has enjoyed a good run so far and even earned a goal.  You can hardly blame Onyewu for the move to Milan, despite it stalling his career, but hopefully he will be able to continue his career revitalization with the USMNT this week.  Also looking to rebuild his career is Demarcus Beasley, who recently moved to Mexican side Puebla after an unsuccessful spell at Hannover. 

Also included in the squad is Kyle Beckerman, who is enjoying a good season with Real Salt Lake.  Beckerman was involved in an incident last week where he leveled Daniel Paladini with a vicious, dreadlocked, headbutt. 

Overall, American fans can be happy with the side selected.  The squad will lack some star power without the presence of Landon Donovan, but this squad should be more than enough to get wins from Honduras and Ecuador.  If they do not, then it may be time for fans to panic.

Posted on Tuesday, October 04, 2011 by Lex

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Last night in Munich, Bayern Munchen defeated Manchester City 2-0 thanks to two goals from Mario Gomez; however the result was not the most memorable part of this match.  Carlos Tevez managed to steal the spotlight without ever taking the pitch Tuesday evening.  The Argentine striker appeared to refuse his manager when called upon to enter the game with a half hour to go.  Today, Tevez claims that it was a miscommunication, but the message Roberto Mancini sent after the match was clear enough saying that Carlos Tevez will never play again for Manchester City.

Carlos Tevez is a player who has always been regarded as supremely talented, yet consistently surrounded by controversy.  Controversy seems to hang over him like a personal black cloud, whether it is in regards to his third party ownership when entering the Premier League with West Ham, or his 2007 transfer saga to Manchester United.  His personal behavior in the past has been as tumultuous as his contract status, with tanturms with West Ham and his continued expression of displeasure with both Manchester clubs. 

Despite all of his petulance and various contract squabbles, he undeniably remains one of the most brilliant strikers in the world.  He has scored key goals in numerous campaigns including a goal that kept West Ham in the Premier League, five goals in Manchester United’s successful 2007-08 Champions League campaign, and even scored the first penalty in their Champions League final win over Chelsea.  Last season, he replaced Kolo Toure as captain of Manchester City when the defender was given a lengthy suspension, and lifted the club to their first ever Champions League qualification.

Tevez’ unhappiness seems to be overwhelming at times though, refusing to return to the pitch during half time of a match last season, only returning after manager Roberto Mancini begged for his return.  His relationship for Mancini has grown even more sour over the course of the summer.  Tevez requested a transfer this summer, after saying his family had grown unhappy with life in Manchester and that he “would not even return there on vacation.” Tevez journeyed to Argentina to play in the Copa America, but upon his return to Manchester City was severely overweight due to depressive bouts of binge eating.  Tevez was convinced to return to the club after Manchester City signed his Argentina teammate Sergio Aguero, but even that has not been enough to keep him content. 

His latest refusal to enter the pitch has taken Tevez’ continued transfer requests to another level, with both sides appearing eager to end their relationship.  Everybody from Robbie Savage to Graeme Souness is calling Tevez a disgrace to football.  His relationship with his clubs and managers is reminiscent of American football players Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.  His displays of skill, strength, and scoring leave nobody questioning his quality as a footballer, but his continued actions off the pitch have many questioning whether Tevez is done with football in the Premier League.

For me, Tevez has been one of my favorite players to watch for years now.  I am constantly drawn to players that are labeled as “divas”, players that want all the playing time and always want the ball, and no footballer currently fits that label more.  He left Manchester United in favor of Manchester City where he has been given ample playing time, a contract in excess of £200,000 per week, and even the captaincy.  There isn’t much more that Manchester City can give him, so maybe it is time that the clubs parted ways, but a league without Carlos Tevez is not one that I would like to see. Hopefully someday Carlos can find somewhere he belongs, like Chelsea.     

Posted on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 by Lex

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Manchester City won a relatively boring 2-0 match against Everton this weekend. Mario Balotelli earned his first goal of the season, and the Citizens have drawn level with Manchester United at the top of the league.  Their squad is sure to be bolstered by the return of defender Kolo Toure, banned six months for a failed drug test.  As City find themselves in the battle to escape from their dangerous Champions League group, they will be thankful for the added depth.  So far they have managed to stay towards the bottom half of the injury table, only missing Nigel de Jong, who is still out with an ankle injury.  Their match today against Bayern Munich should be one worth watching. 

Arsenal managed to climb a few places in the Premier League table with a 3-0 win against Bolton this weekend, but as their fans sang “We are staying up” their injury problems increased.  Theo Walcott, Gervinho, and Laurent Koscielny have all been ruled out of their Champions League match this week against Olypiakos, but surely the Gunners have the quality to get by the Greek champions.  These injuries can be added to the list that includes Jack Wilshere, who is not expected to return until February after undergoing ankle surgery. It doesn’t look like it is going to get any easier for Arsenal.

Newcastle continued their improbable start by beating Blackburn 3-1 on Saturday, lead by a hat-trick from Demba Ba.  They will do well to continue this run of form with difficult matches coming up away to Wolves and home against Tottenham.  With talented strikers like Ba and Leon Best, along with solid performances from Cheik Tiote, and finally some competent management for Newcastle from Alan Pardew, the Magpies may just end up challenging for a Europa League spot towards the end of the season.

Liverpool got by Wolves with a 2-1 victory, but left a lot to be desired from their fans.  Despite their lackluster performance, their squad will surely be uplifted by the return of captain Steven Gerrard.  Gerrard, had appeared in last week’s Carling Cup match and saw a substitute appearance at Anfield over the weekend and will surely be ready to go for the upcoming Merseyside Derby this weekend against Everton.  They will however miss defender Daniel Agger who will be sidelined for four weeks with a fractured rib.

Manchester United find themselves at the top of two tables this week, the Premier League table and the injury table.  Wayne Rooney is now expected to miss several weeks after being omitted from Saturday’s squad due to a hamstring injury.  He will be joined in the stands by several others including fellow striker Javier Hernandez who has been unable to finish his two previous matches due to injury.  While Basel probably will not prove to be too difficult for United the road ahead may be rough without Wayne Rooney.

La Liga Update

Since there are only two teams that matter in Spain we’ll start with Real Madrid, who go into their midweek battle against Ajax fresh off a 6-2 drubbing of Rayo Vallecano.  Cristiano Ronaldo earned himself a hat-trick in the match, but the best goal has to go to Raphael Varane, who scored a ridiculous goal by flying backheel.  The six goal performance came after struggling to a scoreless draw midweek against Racing Santander. 

Barcelona recovered from their midweek struggles against Valencia to crush Athletico Madrid 5-0.  Led by a goal from David Villa and a hat-trick from Lionel Messi, they travel to Belarus this week to take on BATE Borisov.  So far this season Barcelona has been on an outrageous run of goal scoring with their current goal differential already at 18.  Currently Barcelona sit in second place, but based on their form I wouldn’t expect it to be long before they claim the top spot.

Plenty of Champions League matches today and tomorrow to keep us all entertained. Look for an update later in the week.  

Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 by Lex

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Chelsea came into Saturday’s match looking to rebound after last week’s away loss to league leaders Manchester United, while Swansea were looking to increase their winning streak to two after earning their first Premier League win with a brilliant performance against West Brom.  The Welsh club has performed above expectations so far this season, with several spectacular performances coming from their goalkeeper Michel Vorm.  They would need another good performance from Vorm if they expected to get a result on Saturday.

For the first twenty-five minutes Chelsea enjoyed the majority of possession and had a few opportunities on goal.  The breakthrough came in the 29th minute when Fernando Torres chested down a lofted ball from Juan Mata, turned, and fired it into the far corner of the goal.  It was a nice effort and a strike reminiscent of the Spanish striker’s time in Liverpool.  This goal marked the second scored in two matches, bringing his total goals for Chelsea to three.  Their good run continued seven minutes later when Fernando Torres played Ashley Cole through, then began a run down the left side and found a streaking Ramires with a pass that was coolly finished by the Brazilian midfielder. 

This run of good form for Fernando Torres was not meant to last as three minutes after having his hand in creating the second goal; Torres went in for a two footed challenge against Mark Gower and was promptly shown a straight red card by referee Mike Dean.  Going into the half, Chelsea looked to be in command of the match, despite being a man down.

The second half continued like the first, with Chelsea comfortable in possession and having several opportunities.  One would not find the net until the 76th minute when Ramires found his way through again thanks to a perfectly weighted pass by Jose Bosingwa.  The Brazilian found the net again and the day was sure to be blue from that point on.  Swansea did manage a goal for their troubles, as Ashley Williams found himself unmarked on the far post off a set piece from Mark Gower. 

The day ended on a high note for the Blues as Didier Drogba returned in a substitute appearance after suffering a concussion and damaged eardrum a few weeks ago. He even earned himself a goal in this appearance, turning and firing into the corner of the net after receiving a pass from Florent Malouda.  The final score line Chelsea 4, Swansea 1.


Posted on Monday, September 26, 2011 by Lex

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Manchester United vs. Stoke City

The match began with the crowd making their presence felt through booming songs and cheers, but the match immediately began in favor of United.  Wayne Rooney was missing his first appearance of the season, but early in the match Javier Hernandez looked to make up for Rooney’s absence by finding himself in on goal just three minutes into the match.  Jonathan Woodgate came in from behind and appeared to lean on Chicharito before getting a foot to the ball, before it was smothered by Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic.  Despite Sir Alex Fergueson’s pleas for a penalty, none was given and the match continued, while Hernandez could not, and was substituted minutes later.

Both sides enjoyed half chances for the next twenty or so minutes before a breakthrough came, but nobody was surprised by the source.  In the 27th minute, Nani began his run through the Stoke defense beating a defender off the dribble before playing a one-two with Darren Fletcher left Nani to cut in and finish.  The goal was reminiscent of the one the Portuguese national scored a week ago, and it was the breakthrough that United needed if they were going to walk away from the Britannia with a result.  Stoke’s chances increased as the first half went on, with Rory Delap narrowly missing wide and an on target effort by Jonathan Walters pushed around the post by David De Gea.  The first half would end with United clinging to their 1-0 lead. 

Stoke City came out from half-time looking determined to get points from this match and it did not take long for them to get the goal they needed.  After a corner was conceded by United, Peter Crouch rose above the rest to get his head to a Matthew Etherington, and bury it in the back of the net.  It was his first goal since arriving at the Britannia on deadline day, and the Stoke fans were delighted with his contribution.  Just three minutes later, Crouch found himself in scoring position again when Rio Ferdinand misplayed a cross and it fell to Crouch.  The beanpole striker controlled it nicely before shooting, but the shot was deflected over the bar by De Gea. 

The opportunities continued from Stoke, with Marc Wilson crushing a free kick from outside the box right at De Gea, who deflected the ball clear again.  United were not without opportunities of their own, with an Ashley Young shot blocked by Begovic, but immediately after a Patrice Evra blast appeared to hit Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross in the hand, but once again United’s shouts for a penalty were denied.  Both team enjoyed late opportunities, but neither was able to score and while Manchester United remain undefeated, their 100% record came to an end.

Posted on Monday, September 26, 2011 by Lex

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Football is a democratizing game; it is played in every country by millions of people.  These people may not have freedom of speech, expression, or the right to vote, but they still play the game that they love.  Many people around the world are also not afforded the first world luxuries that we take for granted such as electricity and clean water.  sOccket is a new project that will try to bring some of those first world luxuries to young footballers around the world.

The concept of sOccket involves a football that can harness the kinetic energy from normal play and store it to power small electrical appliances like an LED light, water sterilization system, or a fan.  To do this, the ball captures the kinetic energy as the ball rolls by using a permanent magnet DC generator.  Current versions of the ball can yield 3 hours of power for and LED light for only 30 minutes of play.  sOccket can also help curb the use of fuel sources such as kerosene or gasoline generators, which both can be harmful to the environment and the user.  In resource poor areas of the globe this “undeflateable” soccer ball can bring the beautiful game, clean water, and electricity to children around the globe.

This project has been brought to the world through an organization named Uncharted Play.  Uncharted Play was founded by two Harvard undergraduate students Jessica O. Matthews and Julia C. Silverman.  They came up with the idea for sOccket while working on a group project, and it has since become the foundation and flagship movement for their zero-profit organization. 

So far the project has attracted the attention of Spanish national team members David Villa, Sergio Ramos, and Pepe Reina as well as their manager Vicente del Bosque.  They have joined Spanish recording artist Huecco in their endorsement of the project, and hopefully over time you will too.  Currently, special edition sOccket balls are being auctioned off on their website: www.sOccket.com where you can go to find more information on their invention and their vision.

It isn’t often that I can say this, but this project is entirely in line with my world view and will have my lasting support.  Empowering children while bringing them clean energy and the beautiful game, what’s not to love. 

Posted on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 by Lex

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Monday, September 19, 2011

As the final whistle blew on Sunday afternoon at Old Trafford, Manchester United had taken sole possession of first place.  In a marquee matchup between the first and third place teams, Manchester United thoroughly dominated Chelsea, who was made to pay for their wasteful finishing and sloppy defending.  In his first clash with Sir Alex Fergueson, Andre Villas-Boas walked away from the pitch disappointed in a team that could have made a statement as title challengers.

Manchester United played well early in the game, but were the beneficiaries of two close decisions from referee Phil Dowd and his linesmen.  The first came in the 8th minute when Chris Smalling broke in and headed home a goal from Ashley Young’s set piece, a fine goal despite Smalling appearing to be a half yard offside at the time of service.  The goal remained and Manchester United found themselves off to a dream start.  Their good fortunes continued as Fernando Torres found his way in on goal thanks to an errant pass by Anderson, but when it came to the finish he pushed the ball wide.  A few minutes later, Chelsea found themselves with another chance thanks to nice setup by Juan Mata and Fernando Torres slotted the ball across the goal to Ramires whose first time finish was stopped by an outstretched David De Gea.  In an attempt to recreate Wayne Rooney’s iconic bicycle kick goal, Fernando Torres could not find the mark.

The match’s next breakthrough happened in the 37th minute, when Jonny Evans’ long ball found Nani who appeared to be returning from offside position.  After taking control, Nani calmly dribbled through two Chelsea defenders before delivering a thundering strike past Petr Cech into the back of the net from just outside the box.  From that moment forward it looked to be United’s day, as Nani celebrated with somersaults.  Chelsea’s misfortunes continued, when just before halftime John Terry’s clearance bounced off of Nani, right to the feet of Wayne Rooney, who calmly finished to give Manchester United a 3-0 first half lead.

With all to do in the second half, Andre Villas-Boas brought on Nicolas Anelka at halftime for the largely ineffective Frank Lampard.  This substitution had an immediate impact on the game, when Anelka found Fernando Torres with a perfectly placed through ball that the Spaniard was able to chip home for his first goal of the season. 

A few minutes later, Juan Mata saw his effort push around the post by David De Gea, the ensuing run of play from the corner saw United break out in counter attack and after Nani’s deflected shot hit the bar, he was dragged down in the box by Jose Bosingwa and a penalty was awarded.  Wayne Rooney stepped up to take the penalty, but the execution was reminiscent of John Terry’s effort in Moscow during the Champions League final, and the score remained 3-1. 

Later, Torres weaved his way through United defenders to deliver a shot that was stopped by De Gea, the ball bounced back to Torres who struck a volley, but the ball sailed over the goal to looks of disappointment from manager and players alike.  Manchester United was never short of scoring chances Sunday afternoon and Wayne Rooney was on the receiving end of a cross from Ashley Young, his flicked finish hit the post and as Chicharito went for the finish, Ashley Cole met him with a lunging, tackle that earned him a yellow card.  Chicharito would have to go off as a result of the tackle which led to post-match complaints from Sir Alex Fergueson.

Chelsea was still fighting to get back in the game when Ramires found Fernando Torres with a beautiful through ball that left the Spaniard with only De Gea to beat.  After deftly rounding the keeper, Fernando Torres went for the finish, but ended up with one of the most shocking misses of the season as the ball ended up with the fans behind De Gea’s goal.  Torres fell to his knees clutching the turf after the miss, shocked that he had been unable to finish, while the jeers of Old Trafford’s faithful washed over the pitch. 

In the dying embers of the match, Wayne Rooney broke through the Chelsea defense with Dimitar Berbatov to his right.  After passing to a wide open Berbatov, with only the wide open goal ahead, last year’s top goalscorer’s weak finish was cleared off the line by Ashley Cole who had hustled back to prevent the goal.  

The match ended a few moments later, and United garnered sole possession of first place.  Manchester United’s early season could seemingly not get any better, winning their first five matches by a combined total of 17 goals.  Chelsea remain in third place, three points behind Manchester City (who drew against Fulham), and five points behind Manchester United.

Nani gets the background today for his wondergoal.

Posted on Monday, September 19, 2011 by Lex

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The opening round of Champions League group stage matches kicked off on Tuesday to sold out stadia and fans watching from all over the world.  There were plenty of goals to be scored and some surprising results to go along with the pageantry and fanfare that we have come to love from the Champions League.

Barcelona vs. AC Milan

It did not take any time for AC Milan to make their presence felt Tuesday night, as Alexandre Pato struck just 25 seconds after the opening whistle at the Camp Nou.  Pato managed to play himself through the Barcelona defense and clear in on goal with a perfectly timed and placed ball, then coolly finish past Victor Valdes.  It was only to be the beginning of a fantastic match between two sides seeking to stake their claims on the top spot of Group H. 

After conceding the initial goal, Barcelona settled into possession and began to do their work to dismantle the Milan defense.  Their efforts appeared to be working, forcing saves from Christian Abbiati from set pieces and open play alike.  In the 36th minute the magic came for Barcelona again from the feet of Lionel Messi who wove his way through Milan’s defenders before delivering a pass to Pedro who finished pasted the sliding Abbiati.

Their dominance continued into the second half, when in the 50th minute David Villa sent a masterfully placed free kick into the back of the net, that only Ray Hudson is capable of accurately describing.  Barcelona enjoyed 75% of the possession for the game and managed to outshoot their opponents by 16, but as the final whistle approached Milan was able to strike again.   From a Clarence Seedorf corner, Thiago Silva rose above Sergio Busquets and headed the equalizer past Valdes.  Despite being dominated in possession, AC Milan was able to secure a draw in their away match in Barcelona. 

Full match highlights are below, but also check out the video following the link.  The Youtube video shows Italian football personality and Milan supporter Tiziano Crudeli’s reactions to the match’s goals, and they are truly something that must be seen.  The man is an absolute character, whose enthusiasm and passion cannot be questioned. 

Chelsea vs. Bayer Leverkusen

Michael Ballack’s return to Stamford Bridge likely made the former German captain wish he was still there, as it saw Ballack’s Leverkusen fall to Chelsea after a hard fought game.  Both sides enjoyed chances throughout the first half with saves being forced and each side having a goal disallowed.  Fernando Torres looked lively and was a more creative player than Chelsea fans have grown used to seeing over the past 9 months.  Daniel Sturridge continued his good form from the weekend and nearly scored on several occasions.

The breakthrough would not come until after halftime when in the 67th minute, David Luiz began a marauding run up the left side.  After laying the ball off to Ashley Cole, he found himself space, where he was met with a return pass from Fernando Torres, which David Luiz fired into the back of the net.  Torres and Chelsea continued their dominant play for the final 20 minutes, and were able to create another goal thanks again to Torres.  Torres rounded Leverkusen defenders and found Juan Mata lurking near the penalty spot, who slotted it home.  The goal is Mata’s second in three appearances so far for the club.

Arsenal vs. Borussia Dortmund

Arsenal’s early season troubles continued on Tuesday during their away day to Dortmund.  They looked like they would be able to hold on to the 1-0 lead, but an Ivan Perisic wondergoal allowed Borussia Dortmund to walk away from the match with a point.  Mikel Arteta excelled in midfield for Arsenal, creating several scoring opportunities for his new club.  The game’s opening goal came in the 42rth minute when Theo Walcott played a through ball in for Robin Van Persie who put it past Roman Weidenfeller.

As the game went on, the Borussians enjoyed more possession and scoring opportunities.  Their scoring chances became increasingly frequent during the game’s closing minutes as Arsenal scrambled to defend the onslaught.  They were finally caught when a free kick was headed clear by Arsenal only to have it fall to the left foot of Ivan Perisic, who volleyed a screamer just inside the right post.  It was a goal and result that the home side deserved as they dominated possession and scoring chances.

Porto vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

The match played in Estadio do Dragao might be one that Shakhtar would soon like to forget as it not only saw their side fall after leading, but have two players receive red cards in the process.  Porto’s first opportunity came in the 10th minute after James Rodriguez was taken down in the box, and the referee pointed to the penalty spot.  Hulk stepped up to take the penalty, but hit the left post and was left wanting.  Shakhtar would respond just two minutes later when Luiz Adriano took advantage of a fumbled ball by Porto 
keeper Helton and scored.

The game would be drawn level just under the half hour mark, when Hulk made amends for his penalty miss by crushing a left footed free kick from 35 yards into the net.  A few minutes later Hulk earned shouts for another penalty, but the cries went unanswered.  5 minutes before halftime Shakhtar defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy was sent off for a two footed lunge on Joao Moutinho.  Six minutes after halftime Porto would strike again when James Rodriguez dismantled the left side of the Shakhtar defense before laying a perfect ball onto Kleber for the finish.  Before the game would finish Shakhtar vice-captain Dmytro Chygrynskiy was sent off for his second bookable offense of the match.

Hulk’s screamer along with the others can be seen here: http://www.101greatgoals.com/videodisplay/porto-shakhtar-donetsk-15404187/

The Other Matches:

Marseille traveled to Olympiakos and got a 1-0 victory for their troubles: http://www.101greatgoals.com/videodisplay/olympiakos-marseille-15404417/

APOEL proved that they were no pushovers and came back from a goal down to win 2-1 against Zenit St. 

Viktoria Plzen and BATE Borisov played to a 1-1 draw: http://www.101greatgoals.com/videodisplay/plzen-bate-15404216/

Genk and Valencia played to a scoreless draw:

MLS Goal Worth Watching
Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder David Chiumiento creates this spectacular goal out of almost nothing:

That’s all for today, I’ll recap today’s matches tomorrow. Tiziano Crudeli gets the background today, because he is epic. 

Posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 by Lex

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