Friday, September 01, 2006

Are Medicals A Sham?

Transfers and Medicals

As many of you know, yesterday was the last day for the summer transfer window. Clubs were busy buying and selling players before the midnight deadline for filing the change in player rights. One of the deals that could my eye was Middlesbrough (Boro) buying Robert Huth from Chelsea. Boro paid Chelsea £6 million for Huth. Normally this would catch my attention for 2 reasons. The first is that seems a bit steep for a 21 year old defender who has yet to show he can make it in the prem day in, day out. The other is that Middlebrough are my dark horse candidate for relegation this year. They have a new manager, have lost some key players, and up until now did nothing in the transfer market.

What really got me thinking about this one was that, well, Middlebrough nearly bough Robert Huth earlier this summer. They were ready to spend £5 million on him in June. They backed out after claiming that Huth failed a medical.

Let me go over this one more time. In June Boro ended a deal to buy Robert Huth for £5 million becasue he failed his medical. At the end of August Middlesbrough (Boro) bought Robert Huth for £6 million and he was healthy enough. In both cases it was the same club, same club owners, same manager.

Why is this? There could be several reasons in this case. But this hasn't been an isolated case. Rumor has it that Boro bought Viduka knowing he had developed a niggling hip injury. And it's not just Middlesbrough either. It's involved other clubs and players both in England and on the continent. There are many fans and pundits that have come to be cynical about players passing the medical for a transfer. They view it as one last chance for the buying club to change their mind. Can you blame them? Huth isn't healthy enough for Boro in June but in August he is and at that for 20% more. How else do you explain these things?

Links for a couple of the articles on Robert Huth's move from Chelsea to Middlesbrough are below.

August : Huth Sale Final

June : No deal

June : Doubts Over Deal

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Transfers and Playoffs

Big Transfers In Europe It's the 31st and soccer clubs in Europe are scrambing to wrap up their transfers before the window closes at midnight tonight. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, unlike sports in America teams in Europe rarely if ever trade players. Instead of trades, they buy the rights to a player.

West Ham West Ham United have completed the signings of Argentina duo Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano from Corinthians for undisclosed fees.

Spurs Tottenham Hotspur have picked up Mido, Chimboda and Malbranque.

Portsmouth FC The Fantasy PL blog mentions Pompey's latest deal to sign Andy Cole and Niko Kranjcar. The moves don't suprise me. Ever since stumbling into Alexandre Gaydamak's money they've had a policy of buying quantity, not quality. Kanu's had a hot start but so far that looks more like dumb luck on Arry's part than vision. DaMarcus Beasley The best news of the day for American fans is the announcement that PSV Eindhoven has let DaMarcus Beasley join Manchester City on loan. The young man's head has been elsewhere the last year and his game has suffered. Hopefully this move will give him a change and scenary and start playing as well as he was 2 years ago.

MLS Playoffs

Back in America the season for it's top level league, the MLS, is winding down. And while winning the Supporters Shield with the best regular season record means something, it doesn't get the kind of attention that the playoffs do. Today seemed like a good day to take a look at the remaining games in the Western Conference. FCD and Houston both look to be relatively certain of making the playoffs. Although Houston's only up a few points. Maybe in a couple weeks things won't look so good for them.

The Colorado Rapids and Los Angeles-based Chivas USA have 8 games remaining. Real Salt Lake and the Los Angeles Galaxy have 7 games remaining. At this point a coin flip would likely be just as accurate at predicting who makes it and who doesn't. The popular choices right now between the other 4 (assuming Houston and FC Dallas make it) would be LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake. But after seeing them play last night, neither of those teams looked like they were interested in winning the game let alone making the play-offs. If I had to bet a 6-pack of Bells Two Hearted Ale right now, it would be on Chivas USA and the Colorado Rapids.

Below are the teams with their remaining games. Their form for their 5 most recent games is in parenthesis.

Colorado Rapids (1-3-1) 8 Games left : @ RSL (3-2-0) @KC (2-1-2) Fire (3-1-1) @ Galaxy (3-2-0) @ Chivas (2-0-3) @ New England (1-2-2) NYRB (1-1-3) @ Houston (1-3-1)

Chivas USA (2-0-3) 8 Games left : DC (0-2-3) FCD (2-3-0) @FCD (2-3-0) @Houston (1-3-1) Colorado (1-3-1) @Galaxy (3-2-0) @KC (2-1-2) RSL (3-2-0)

LA Galaxy (3-2-0) 7 Games left : KC (2-1-2) Houston (1-3-1) Colorado (1-3-1) @Fire (3-1-1) Chivas (2-0-3) @ FCD (2-3-0) FCD (2-3-0)

Real Salt Lake (3-2-0) 7 Games left : Rapids (1-3-1) @ DC (0-2-3) FC Dallas (2-3-0) @ FC Dallas (2-3-0) @ KC (2-1-2) Houston (1-3-1) @ Chivas (2-0-3)

And props to George Tanner at the Rocky Mountain News for pointing out my recent entry on MLS coaches that may be let go.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Colorado Rapids

All About the Colorado Rapids

Today seeme dlike a good day to talk a bit about one club, the Colorado Rapids. As you probably know, they play in Major League Soccer. Like most sports teams in America, they have a mascot, Rapids Man. And now Rapids Man has his own web site and blog. He very well may be the only mascot in the league with one.

He's got an interview with the best goalkeeper in the league, Joe Cannon :

Fabrice Nöel

On a more serious note, George Tanner has a nice article on Fabrice Nöel at his blog. For those who don't know who Fabrice is, he's one of the most promising players to come of Haiti. He joined the Colorado Rapids in the middle of 2005. He's a young man with a lot of responsibility on his shoulders as his parents and remaining living siblings have yet to be allowed into the US. I say remaining siblings because 2 of his brothers were murdered because he wouldn't transfer to a different club in Haiti. Even if you're not a Rapids fan or soccer fan, it's hard not to cheer for Fabrice Nöel.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

MLS Coach Watch

It's that time of the year again in the MLS. Everyone is talking about the playoffs, who's going to be coach of the year, who's going to be MVP, et al. What's missing is the speculation over what coaches and players are likely to be given their walking papers before the 2007 season begins. Here on the ones on my list. What coaches do you think are close to getting the boot?

John Ellinger Overall : 13-33-10 2006 : 8-11-5 2005 : 5-22-5

The first year of Real Salt Lake's existence and the first for Ellinger as a head coach was a disaster. Not only did the team only win 5 of 32 games, not only did they lose 5-1 to their expansion rivals Chivas USA, but they didn't get a single win in their last 12 games of the season. Only a fluke goal against San Jose allowed them to tie their 2nd to last match of the year and avoid losing 12 in a row to complete the season. His 2nd season in charge didn't start any better with RSL going 0-5-1 in it's first 6 despite having the 5th highest payroll in the league. And just when it looked like he may have turned things around with 4 league wins in a row, they incurred their worst defeat in team history as NY Red Bulls beat them 6-0. His team still has a chance to make the playoffs. Surely anything short of that will result in Ellinger losing his job.

Dave Sarachan Overall : 46-41-28 2006 : 8-8-7 2005 : 15-13-4 2004 : 8-13-9 2003 : 15-7-8

Dave had a pretty good start to his career in the MLS. The set backs he faced in 04, like losing Bocenegra and Beasley, didn't stop people from question how much 03 was just leftovers from Bradley's time in charge. The Fire had bland year last year. They did show some glimmers of hope that Sarachan was building something special for 2006. But even when accounting for the long road trip they took to start the year, the 2006 Fire have again been an average team. I'm not sure with the new stadium's lack of sell outs in it's first year Guppy can afford to bring back Strachan for what would seem to be another so-so year.

Steve Nicol Overall : 54-46-27 2006 : 7-7-10 2005 : 17-7-8 2004 : 8-13-9 2003 : 12-9-9 2002 : 10-10-1

The Revolution's management didn't have confidence in Fernando Clavijo as New England's head coach. But as management seems to do, they do nothing in the off-season only to act early in the next. Making it difficult for the new coach to mold the team as they'd like until the next summer. Nicol did a good job of salvaging New England's season going 10-10-1 and getting them to the MLS Cup Final. He did the same last year, winning the eastern conference to boot. So it may seem odd to be talking about Nicol loosing his job. But he's been there for 5 years now. And at the very time he looked like he had built a championship team, they go 7 weeks without a win and are in 3rd place in the East. Even though Nicol has done a good job, the front office very well may decide he's taken the team as far as he can.

Colin Clarke Overall : 37-35-19 2006 : 12-8-3 2005 : 13-10-9 2004 : 10-14-6 2003 : 2-3-1

I don't think it will happen but we've seen more confusing moves in the league before. Despite a recent losing streak, FC Dallas (FCD) is still in first place in the West. They've been progressing each year they've been in charge. He took one of the single worst teams EVER in the MLS and within just over a season turned them into a team capable of challenging for the MLS Cup. Yet some folks seem to think there's a chance FCD will let him go if he doesn't win the MLS Cup this year.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

US Open Cup

The blog On The Pitch talks about way of improving the US Open Cup. You can read them by clicking here.

The US Open Cup is the second oldest tournament after England's FA Cup. It has a wonderful tradition that most all soccer fans in the US would like to see given more attention. It would be wonderful if teams celebrated winning it much like they celebrate winning the MLS Cup in November.

But can anything really be done for it to gain more attention? Would giving bigger pay outs give teams more incentives to play bigger stars in the games? Wouldn't that lessen the chances of the minnows beating the giants? Afterall, that's one of the features of the US Open Cup people celebrate. A lot of people were happy to see amatuer team FC Roma beat Chivas USA (pro team in the MLS). So I'm not sure that would help the tournament grow. But else could be done? Would more marketing do it? Afterall we just saw an insane amount of marketing for Snakes on the Plane and, well, it's done well but only in terms of the audiendce it was aimed at, teenage boys. Wouldn't more marketing for USOC just result in it getting more attention from soccer fans, people who are already giving it some attention as it stands now?

What would you do to improve the US Open Cup?