Football Station

Turn Around Time

The first half of the EPL Season has almost come to a close in what is one of the tightest tables we have seen in years.  Manchester United sit top and deservedly so after going undefeated in all competitions (scratch the Carling Cup defeat to West Ham).  Neighbors City hold the coveted 4th place spot with Tottenham snapping at their heels and riding a high after topping their Champions League group and beating would-be Top 4 contenders Liverpool in a lively game in London.

There has been no shortage of stories coming from England this season, and it’s our job here at Football Station to bring you the best, brightest and horrible.

Owen Coyle and Bolton Wanderers

The Scotsman came from a sinking Burnley ship to manage the Wanderers in what has become the managerial success story of the season so far.  What was once a hard nosed defense-first Northwestern outfit has become a slick passing and clinical side

Cocky, seductive and just plain sultry. Coyle's proved part genius this season in the EPL this season.

under the guidance of Coyle.  The Wanderers sit 6th currently, and one has to wonder: just how long can they keep this up?  Boasting a win over Tottenham, a hard fought draw against United and having a win at Everton snatched from their grasp with a last gasp goal from Jermaine Beckford, Coyle’s boys have maintained that defensive resolve while learning to press as a unit into the attacking half. Keys to their success are: American Stuart Holden and South Korean Lee Chung-Yong and Bolton’s record signing Johan Elmander putting in more than his fair share of goals up top.  Other than their monthly opener at Eastlands and closer at Chelsea, Bolton’s games in December are all winnable and could easily maintain a 6th or 7th spot going into the New Year.

Liverpool’s Stop-Start Season

Just what the hell is going on in the Northwest this year?  The humiliating defeats to Manchester City, Everton and Blackpool highlight a Liverpool season that hasn’t had a heap of good news coming its way.  With the exit door blaring, Roy Hodgson’s

Skeptical Roy

ill-advised outbursts seem to be making him more friends than enemies.  Benitez hits out at Roy, Roy hits back, Benitez hits back again, Roy apologizes.  Roy criticizes Glen Johnson’s form, Glen Johnson responds, Roy apologizes.  Roy says he is disappointed his Daniel Pacheco, now he says he has a bright future at the club.  Is he manic?  He’s like a 5 year old version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a speech impediment.  The January transfer window will either be his saving grace or nail in the coffin, so he had better make it count.  But with names like Keisuke Honda (reportedly a bid has been tabled) and Eden Hazard (more of a rumour) being linked, he just might have a little genius inside that huge coat.  They do have a run of fixtures coming up that most would fancy and don’t face too stiff of competition until the 5th of Februrary when they travel to Stamford Bridge (if you don’t count Everton and Stoke).  If Roy plays his cards right (e.g. playing Pacheco and more youngsters and not playing Poulsen) he could find himself knocking on 4th place’s door.  Oh, also Tom Hicks and George Gillette are taking LFC back to court. Awesome.

Zero to Hero

£30m has never looked so good.  Dimitar Berbatov is firing in goals like it’s his job.  Finally. Because it is his job.  And he used

Andytar Berbacia

to suck at his job.  That said, the Bulgarian ace has been in a rich vein of form with the Red Devils and is currently sitting Top Scorer of the Premier League with 11 goals. And with Blackpool next on the fixture list at Old Trafford, the Andy Garcia body double’s odds of scoring are looking pretty decent.  The Seasiders have allowed 18 away goals this season (2nd in the EPL).

Shape of Things to Come

While it may be fruitless to try and lay down a prediction for the second half of the season, I may as well try.  Chelsea have Tottenham coming up, United have Arsenal, then Chelsea have United, then Arsenal have Chelsea…as you can see, there will be much movement within the top 5 or 6 in coming months.  Nothing will be set in stone until May 22nd rolls around.  However, with the look of things, United and Chelsea are still looking favorites for the title.  Arsenal have a fantastic squad, as do Spurs and City, but shortcomings in each squad will prove decisive in their respective bids for the crown.  Arsenal have proven time and again that they can’t last the full season and often drop results come the tail end of the season.  Manchester City are going through issues within the squad and with the manager (shocking) and that will eventually provide their fall from the Top 4.  Tottenham have a legitimate shot at going for 3rd or even 2nd should results go their way.  They have a solid squad, a good looking schedule and are playing football that wins games.  The only blotch on their otherwise shiny squad is the injury to Rafael Van der Vaart.  The Dutchman has been instrumental this year in providing goals and scoring them himself, and it will be interesting to see how the Londoners cope without the big man.

Prediction – The Top 4 won’t have the same occupants this year as it did last year.  Manchester City should rest in 4th but may even snag 3rd spot from under Arsenal’s noses if they don’t clean up their act in the latter half of the season.  Who says money can’t buy happiness?  It will be a slug fest for top spot and the May 7th game where United host Chelsea could well decide the title.  Tottenham and Liverpool will find themselves in 5th and 6th place, respectively after a fruitful transfer window for the latter pays dividends.


United States v. Turkey

The United States Men’s National Team got a big time send off in Philadelphia as 50,000+ fans cheered the Yanks on to a great victory over a Turkish side not devoid of talent.  Guus Hiddink, Turkish manager to-be, watched as the Turks gave up a lead to lose 2-1 at Lincoln Field.

The United States lined up in a somewhat interesting fashion with Benny Feilhaber on the left wing, Landon Donovan on the right, and Clint Dempsey playing the floating striker role behind Jozy Altidore.  Within seconds, Dempsey combined with Donovan to play a cross into the Turkish area, but it was some of the only attacking for the States all half, as the Turks pressed hard against the US back line that many were asking questions about.  Captain Carlos Bocanegra filled in at left back, Johnathon Spector at right back, while Jay DeMerit and Clarence Goodson were paired in the center.

With the States pushing forward in numbers, the Turks were happy to counter attack with blistering pace through Arda Turan and

The tricky winger proved a handful for the United States back line.

the veteran Tuncay Sanli.  Sanli cut open the US back line on more than one occasion, and it looked to be a long afternoon for the Yanks, especially after Arda Turan broke down the left and slotted past Tim Howard to give his side the lead.

Jozy Altidore provided the lone high point of the first half, as he craftily slipped through three defenders and laid the ball across the face of goal only to have Dempsey fail to connect with it.

The second half brought significant changes as Bob Bradley used 4/6 of his changes allowed. Feilhaber (who was mediocre in the first half) was replaced by the relative unknown at the international level Robbie Findley, Onyewu came on for Goodson, Cherundolo for Spector, and importantly Jose Torres replaced Ricardo Clark.

“Night and day,” was how Bradley described the two halves.  Anybody who watched would be compelled to agree.  Robbie Findley’s work rate was immediately evident as he chased down every ball and made it clear he wants to make his mark in South Africa.  Torres became a key player in the United States game as he pulled the strings on several occasions in attack.

Within a few minutes of the first half, Michael Bradley had a near open goal but his shot was blocked but a towering Servet Cetin.  From then on, the Yanks pressed hard into the final third.  WIth that pressure, the Turks were happy to counterattack and nearly capitalized on more than one occasion.  However, In the 59th minute, Robbie Findley played a lovely chip over the back line to Landon Donovan who danced around the Turkish keeper to set up Jozy Altidore for a tap in and a great goal.

After the goal, the fans at Lincoln Field began to find their voice and encourage their men on forward.  Dempsey came close, hitting the outside of the post after a fantastic run and cutback from Michael Bradley.  Torres hit the same post with a whipped in freekick minutes later.

If you're a United States Soccer fan and don't like Clint Dempsey...that's just absurd.

Finally, in the 75th minute, Steve Cherundolo threw in to Donovan who picked out Dempsey on the left side of the Turkish 18 yard box.  The ball bounced off Dempsey’s hip and into this path, where he kept his composure and slotted under the onrushing Demirel.

After the second goal, the Americans played with a sense of ease that the Turks simply could not cope with in the second half.  What was the difference?

One can’t help but feel that the problem with using Ricardo Clark with Michael Bradley in the center of midfield, is that Clark is the same type of player as Bradley…but worse.  They both are players who can break down an attack and start one of their own.  What helped was replacing him with a playmaker like Torres, who was able to move the ball around much more and was more mobile than Clark.  Torres and Edu should be contending for a starting spot alongside Bradley.

Robbie Findley was a refreshing sight for American fans as his work rate and pace somewhat resembles fallen star Charlie Davies.  Findley’s pace got the better of him a few times and he probably should have gotten a cross in, but instead he ran the ball out to the goal line for a Turkish goal kick.  He’s still young though, and will find that awareness in time.

If you had asked before the game, who would you rather see at left back: Jonathon Spector or Steve Cherundolo, most would probably opt for Spector.  The young right back plays Premier League soccer for West Ham and would seem a more competent pick.  However, Cherundolo quickly proved adept as he stifled winger Arda Turan, who had previously given Spector a serious problem.

Some glaring issues would be Bornstein, Clark and Spector.  Bornstein literally looked like a high schooler and got turned over more times than you could count on one hand.  In no way, shape or form does anybody feel comfortable with him on the pitch.  Clark isn’t a bad player, Bradley is just much better and it is superfluous to have them both on the field.  Spector may just need time to adjust, however, like Bornstein, he struggled significantly with Turan and only triumphed when aided by DeMerit or another player tracking back.

All-in-All, it’s great that the Yanks are carrying a win (albeit a meaningless one) to South Africa.

Projected Line-up for Australia





World’s Poorest Country Gets Robbed…of a Win.
July 11, 2009, 11:06 PM
Filed under: International | Tags: , , , , ,

Stuart Holden scored in the second minute of second-half stoppage time to earn the United States a 2-2 draw with Haiti and send it to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup as the winner of Group B.

Holden’s equalizer extended the Americans’ unbeaten streak against home against CONCACAF opponents to 56 after Haiti jeopardized the string by scoring twice in the first four minutes of the second half. The result maintained the Americans’ unbeaten record in Gold Cup group play (23-2-0) and ensured a date with the third-placed team from Group A or C in the next round.

The Houston Dynamo maestro gave the United States a priceless, not to mention stunning, equalizer deep into stoppage time.

The Houston Dynamo maestro gave the United States a stunning equalizer deep into stoppage time.

“When you begin the tournament, the goal is to win your group and advance,” United States head coach Bob Bradley said. “The first thing that we said after the game is that we’ve accomplished that goal.”

Davy Arnaud opened the scoring for the United States, which started four players making their international debut, after six minutes. Holden split the Haitian defense with and incisive pass. Arnaud rushed onto the feed and tucked his left-footed effort to the side of onrushing goalkeeper Jean Dominique Zephirin.

“We scored an early goal, but it came so early that we hadn’t found a rhythm in the game yet,” Bradley said. “After that, we were still trying to find that rhythm. They were able to make some plays and cause some trouble.”

Holden nearly doubled the lead after 25 minutes when he was given time and space to fire from 30 yards. The long-distance drive rattled the underside of the crossbar, but did not bounce over the line.

Haiti threatened several times in the first half. Fabrice Noel cut inside and challenged U.S. goalkeeper Luis Robles, one of the debutantes, with a high drive. Robles parried it over his own head and had to rush back to push the effort away from his own goal line.

Moments after Jimmy Conrad put a header over the bar from a Holden corner kick, Robles made up for his earlier error by denying Sirin Vaniel from close range to ensure the U.S. would enter the halftime break with the advantage.

The lead didn’t last as Haiti scored twice within the first four minutes of the second half to seize control.

“We understood what I said (about what we had studied of the U.S.) at halftime and played a very spectacular second half, in my consideration,” Haiti coach Jairo Rios said.

Leonel Saint Preaux outmuscled U.S. left back Jay Heaps on the right wing before sending his cross to the far post. Robles was unable to get a touch and Virin nodded home at the far post to bring Haiti level.

Robles and Heaps were at the center of Haiti’s second goal four minutes later. Heaps cleared a pass along the end line into the center of the park as Robles rushed out tardily to do the same. Chery collected the clearance and lashed home spectacularly into the upper left corner from 25 yards.

Suddenly faced with the peril of not going through at the top of its group, the United States started to press in search of the equalizer. U.S. coach Bob Bradley inserted Charlie Davies, Kyle Beckerman and Brian Ching to spur the offense.

Holden headed a Colin Clark cross wide, while substitute Charlie Davies scuffed a chance under heavy pressure from Pierre Richard Bruny.

It looked like the U.S. would have to wait for the result in the nightcap between Honduras and Grenada to find out its final spot in the group until Holden scored in stoppage time to grab a point.

“It really hurts because it was one minute before the end of the match,” Rios said.

Analysis:  Again, for the United States, we can draw positives from the match, and, at the same time, looking at what went wrong and how to improve for the next round of the the Gold Cup.

The Good:  Stuart Holden not only netted a great equalizer, but he player superbly well all game.  On six minutes his pass cut open the Haitian defense (along with a great run from Arnaud), and from then on, he looked the most composed of the United States “C” team – if you will.  I saw the starting eleven today and wasn’t that pleased.  I’m sure Bradley felt compelled to rest some of his players for later on, but I wanted to see at least one or two names out there.

The Bad:  Jay Heaps.  He was getting beat by his man so regularly he may as well have not been there.  Not to mention, he seemed to have played a small part in causing the Haitian’s second goal (also unreal).  Where it looked like Robles was coming for the ball and calling for it (I’m not actually sure he was calling.  I wasn’t there) but Heaps played the ball to “safety” which coincidentally was the feet of Mones Chery for put the ball in an empty net from 25 yards out.  But hey, even if Robles was in goal and ready for the shot…he wasn’t going anywhere near that ball.

The Ugly:  The result.  We tied Haiti.  I felt like Bradley could have made some stronger lineup decisions.  But rather, he fielded a fairly untested and unexperieced group of players – four of which were uncapped.  I’m all for trying out new and young players, but typically I would think to field at least a few key names in the spine like Adu or Feilhaber (Feilhaber who now seems like he is benched until something goes wrong and he’s brought in to rectify the situation).

I can’t be overly critical.  We finished top of our group, rested our key players and pulled a draw out of a game that was a minute from close and us crashing out of the Gold Cup (something that would absolutely bring Bradley’s credibility as a coach into the spotlight).  Nevertheless, we’re through and into the knockout round.