Middlesbrough midfielder Barry Robson won't join the Vancouver Whitecaps until this summer, but his future coach, teammates, and fans must be salivating.
For the second match in a row, the Scot -- who recently returned from a longterm injury -- put in a dominating performance in a 3-1 win away to Portsmouth. He opened the scoring from the penalty spot, and his freekick set up Boro's second.
Boro are now level on points with Blackpool for 4th place in the English Championship, with a game in hand. That means they're definitely in the hunt for promotion to the EPL.
If Robson is on similar form when he joins the Whitecaps, who already boast some impressive firepower -- have you seen them in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic? -- he could be the integral midfield piece to drive them into the playoffs.
Hell, at this rate, he might be the driving force to help them finish atop the Western Conference, as my colleague Simon Borg thinks they will. I laughed him off when he first said it. I'm only semi-chuckling now.
There are some days when I wish I weren't one of the hosts of ExtraTime Radio. Usually, it's when Simon Borg -- bless his big heart -- starts making absurd declarations like, say, Clint Dempsey should sit on the bench for the USMNT.
But there are other days when, for whatever reason, I miss the show and I really, really wish I could've been there.
Yesterday's episode is one such day. I would've given anything to be there when Sporting KC's Aurelien Collin started giving Simon fashion advice. "Suspenders!" It's the only time I've ever heard Simon ask for advice. Magnifique!
Then, New York Red Bulls manager Hans Backe drops this whopper: He wants to win the US Open Cup. Considering how he shrugged off the USOC last year, that's pretty amazing.
If you haven't heard it, check it out here.
Most people would agree that Italians Arrigo Sacchi and Marcelo Lippi are two of the best managers. Ever. Between them, after all, they have six Serie A Scudetti, three Champions League/European Cup titles, and one World Cup.
At the club level, they saw the majority of their success at AC Milan (Sacchi) and Juventus (Lippi).
Ahead of this past weekend's Milan-Juve top-of-the-table clash, La Gazzetta dello Sport (the pink paper) brought the two tacticians in and had them imagine how the match would go using Subbuteo, the classic table soccer game. Check it out:
This, of course, got us thinking: Which two MLS coaches would we like to see sitting across from each other like chess grandmasters, discussing tactics, formations, predictions, and players' strengths and weaknesses, and then leaning forward to move a little painted figurine to demonstrate?"
It would be cool to see the LA Galaxy's Bruce Arena and the Seattle Sounders' Sigi Schmid square off. They are two of the most solid strategists MLS has ever seen.
Or how about hearing the Houston Dynamo's Dominic Kinnear explain the intricacies of his tried-and-true 4-4-2 and how it stacks up against, say, the Ajax-inspired 4-3-3 employed by Toronto FC's Aron Winter.
Or a Rookie Rumble: New England's Jay Heaps vs. Montreal's Jesse Marsch?
Tell us what matchup you would want to see, and we'll look into making it happen. No joke.
This is a big year for Brek Shea and the rest of the young Olympic hopefuls. So it makes sense that they are fighting tooth and nail to show coach Caleb Porter that they belong in the squad.
Shea probably doesn't have to go so hard as to get a red card in a friendly against his own club team, though. At least he snagged a goal to make up for it. Check out the highlights:
The images of freezing players in Wednesday's Zenit St. Petersburg-Benfica Champions League match would make anyone shiver.
It should also give even the biggest "European-calendar" zealot some pause. For one thing, the temperature was 14 degrees Fahrenheit at kick off. For another, the field at Petrovsky Stadium was a disaster.
Maybe it all gave the Russians a home-field advantage. After all, they pulled off a 3-2 win, thanks to two goals from Roman Shirakov.
But even the Zenit hero himself came out and complained. “Should we play in such freezing cold? I don’t think so,” Shirakov said after the match. “The ball feels like a rock. You could easily break a leg.”
Break a leg? Not good.
The reality is, a game like this is not fun for anyone -- not for the coaches, not for the players, and certainly not for the fans. The conditions aren't that far off from those in, say, Toronto or New England on any given Saturday night in February. Though there would probably be more snow.
So, the question is: Would you really want to go watch games in 17-degree weather? And you, MLS player, would you want to play on that field and kick a "rock"?
Yeah, didn't think so. Neither would I.
The Philadelphia Union -- in particular, manager Peter Nowak -- have taken a few hits this offseason. Understandly so, considering some of the messy player transactions, such as the sudden flight of goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon and the bizarre Sebastien Le Toux situation. I'm still not clear whether Le Toux was forced to go to Bolton or if he just failed and tried to pass the buck. Either way, he's with Vancouver now.
This all comes on the heels of a late overseas training stint for Danny Mwanga, Kyle Nakazawa's trade to LA, Veljko Paunovic's retirement, and the loss of Justin Mapp in the expansion draft. Plus, don't forget the explanations given by Nowak about Carlos Ruiz's transfer to Mexico.
But there has to be a method to the madness, right? Nowak seems sure. He tweeted this out on Monday in response to a fan's question:
“@Doug_Cutaiar: "I don't need details. Can you just assure me you guys know what you're doing with these moves this off season?” Yes.
— Peter Nowak (@Peter_Nowak) February 14, 2012
That response -- "Yes" -- is so perfect. So simple. So Nowakian.
Lest any of the second-guessers forget, Nowak and the Union are still on the correct trajectory for a club born just two years ago. That is, in Year 2, they improved over Year 1, and even made the playoffs.
So despite the departures and the confusing aftermaths, at some point, everyone needs to have a little faith and give Nowak the benefit of the doubt. After all, he's succeeded everywhere he's been. And so far, he's succeeding in Philly.
Guilty pleasure or not, I watch a lot of Law & Order. My addiction to the show even extends across the pond to the UK version.
This week, I learned that I'm not the only one afflicted with L&O fever. Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish appears to be quite a fan, too.
After the club's 0-0 draw with Tottenham on Monday, he was asked to respond to criticism of his controversial striker, Luis Suarez, from a pair of Manchester United stars, Gary Neville and Wayne Rooney. Neville called Suarez "lucky" not to see red for side-volleying Spurs midfielder Scott Parker, and Rooney took to Twitter to give his opinion.
If ref sees that kick from suarez and books him for it it should be red
— Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) February 6, 2012
Dalglish, ever the gentleman, decided it was best to hold his tongue. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he must have had an image of an angry Mariska Hargitay, because here's what he told the media:
"If Gary Neville or Wayne were standing there and asked me the question, I could answer them. But I don't think you can speak for them. I think I'll just plead the fifth amendment."
Sorry, King Kenny, there is no fifth amendment in the UK. There are no amendments at all, in fact. There is a right to silence, stretching back to the Judges' Rules set down in 1912 and later adjusted by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, but the Fifth Amendment is a purely American thing. It's an integral part of the United States Constitution, which protects people from governmental abuse, including self-incrimination: "No person ... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself."
One can only imagine that Dalglish is pleading the 5th because he agrees with the accusers and he doesn't want to slam his own player. Jack McCoy would appreciate the irony of it all, I'm sure.
On Thursday's edition of ExtraTime Radio, we all got into a discussion about the best songs by Thin Lizzy, the 1970s rock band led by the incomparable Phil Lynott. (Look 'em up, kids.)
We bandied about "The Boys Are Back in Town," "Cowboy Song," "Jailbreak," and my personal favorite, "Fighting My Way Back." Suffice to say, it was a rocking show, one that I'm sure Houston Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear -- a diehard Thin Lizzy fan -- would appreciate.
In the aftermath, an @ExtraTimeRadio fan on Twitter sent this tweet:
@Gaetjens Glad you guys brought up "Cowboy Song," but "Emerald" is Thin Lizzy's captain and midfield engine.
— Jason (@chestrockwell14) February 3, 2012
That, naturally, set off a back and forth about Thin Lizzy songs and where they would play on the field. Naturally.
So here's the Thin Lizzy Starting XI, according to me and @chestrockwell14.
I'm sure there are plenty of music snobs (don't we all fall into that category, really?) that have a beef or two with this. Fine. What musical Starting XI would you come up with?
Trying to predict how an expansion team will fare based on preseason is like trying to predict how a rock show will go based on the soundcheck. Everything changes when people show up and the lights are on.
But the early indications are that the Montreal Impact have the look of something special. Our man in Guadalajara, Tom Marshall, who saw the Impact a couple of times this past week, was duly impressed.
Very impressed with @ImpactMontreal after watching 3 preseason games in GDL. Will be a hard team to beat next year in MLS.Big, tall side too
— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) January 27, 2012
It's been well documented that the LA Galaxy won last year's MLS Cup with three designated players in their midst. They were the first DPs to ever lift the trophy.
Sporting KC owner Robb Heineman doesn't care. At least not right now.
He tweeted out on Wednesday that Sporting weren't going to ink any DPs during this transfer window.
Unless something dramatic happens in the next two days, we will not be announcing a DP in this window.#SportingKC
— Robb Heineman (@RobbHeineman) January 25, 2012
Say what you will about the value of DPs -- and I, for one, think they are very valuable -- but I'm with Heineman here. Fans often clamor for a DP, as if a high-profile, high-priced player is the magician who can conjure up a trophy like Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin "growing" fruit on his Marvelous Orange Tree. But it must be the right fit.
I enjoyed watching Omar Bravo last year, but only because he fit into Peter Vermes's ego-less setup. For several reasons, Bravo is gone now. But the roster still has no ego, plenty of depth, experience, size, and speed, and three of the most exciting young attackers in the US national team fold in Zusi, Bunbury, and Sapong. And it only got stronger with the addition of Bobby Convey.
No need to unbalance any of that with a big name unless you're sure he fits. Obviously, Heineman and Vermes weren't sure about anyone at this time.