It’s About Time!!!

Ed here:

News came in today from that Villareal are going to loan American forward Jozy Altidore to lower-division side Deportivo Xerez.

There’s nothing wrong with this from what I see. Altidore needs games not only for his development as a professional, but to stay in some sort of top form for the United States during the final round of World Cup qualifying (which begins in less than two weeks – how cool is that!).

Deportivo Xerez are also first in the Segunda Division, and have scored the second-most goals at that level with 37 in 21 games. The top three teams in that division move up to the big time for 2009-10. To me, this is a great opportunity for Altidore to not only improve his own play – but the experience of what hopefully will be significant playing time with a group of players all fighting for a serious shot at promotion should be a useful experience, as well.

How that’s going to translate into Altidore’s performances in the future with the National Team, and hopefully looking forward in the World Cup itself next year, remains to be seen. But I’m glad to see this move finally come about.

Rafa the Ridiculous Red

Ed here:

Over the past couple weeks, I’m really starting to think Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is actually a BigSoccer poster in disguise. You know, one of those crazy ones that suggest how MLS should expand to Richmond, or who posts crazy diatribes about mental confusion.

It seems fair to wonder at this point about his mental stabilities given how his January has gone. He famously launched what appeared to be an unprovoked verbal Scud missile attack on Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson on January 9, discussing everything from Ferguson’s views on fixtures to treatment of referees, etc.

Benitez did all this with his team at the top of the table of course, a fact he wanted to make sure was conveyed.

Since then, however, his side has played four times, and drawn four times. Once at Stoke, and twice at home against rivals Everton (once in the league and once in the FA Cup), then were pulled back for a 1-1 tie by Wigan this week.

In the process, Liverpool’s lead in the Premier League has disappeared, and they now actually sit third thanks to having a significantly worse goal differential than Chelsea.

There’s little time for the tailspin to continue if the club still wants to contend. Liverpool host Chelsea this Sunday at 11 a.m. eastern.

Benitez seemed to question Wigan’s tactics (which must have worked, they almost won the game) in the postgame; but you can find fault with Benitez himself for pulling captain Steven Gerrard out of that match late – especially since Liverpool were given a free kick moments later in prime Gerrard range, but even a free kick taker of Gerrard’s skill cannot score from the team seats beyond the touchline.

It’s to the point now where I really hope Benitez stays at Liverpool for the next 10 years. The last thing I want, as someone who roots for Manchester United, is for the Liverpool brass to knock Benitez to the curb and then go out and find somebody that knows what he’s doing (Mourinho, anyone?).

This Liverpool side has a good bit of talent, they have a midfield leader I can’t stand, and in a year when teams like Chelsea and Arsenal (and even United) have played at times like they have no desire at all to win the title – Liverpool should be on top.

And they were. But you get the feeling that Benitez is someone who no matter what lofty perch he might find his team in, he will do something to mess it up.

If Chelsea brush aside Liverpool on Sunday, my sense of it is you can brush aside Benitez’s boys from title contention this season.

I only wonder who Rafa will blame that on.

Rafa Benitez thinks about who he will go off on next. Arsene Wenger? Big Phil? Don Garber?

Gallardo leaves United and what DC should do next

Is it safe to call him the biggest foreign signing bust in the history of United? I think so. Well, he’s gone now. Let’s try and look forward.

First of all, I need to confirm if Gallardo’s salary does in fact come off the books. I have to assume it does, otherwise I can’t see DC’s motivation to dump him this quickly. So, operating under the assumption that DC now has a fair bit of salary space to work with and a DP slot that has re-opened, here’s my point.

The offseason has officially begun for United now. It now has lots of potential ways to go.

  • It could use some of that salary space to spread amongst multiple smaller signings.
  • It could plow that cash straight back into another DP signing.
  • It could hang on to that money until the season starts and see if they can pull a move in the summer window.
  • It could use it as part of a deal to re-acquire Christian Gomez from Colorado.
  • It could simply refuse to spend the money while telling fans that their obvious weaknesses are all part of “their plan.” Oh wait, that’s the Nats.

Here’s what I would do. Before last season, I suggested that United should use the DP on DeMarcus Beasley and give us some width for the first time since back when Ben Olsen’s ankle was unreconstructed.

This season, I have a new but similar solution. DC United needs to go out and find a way to pry Oguchi Onyewu out of Belgium. Whether it be a loan deal or a full-on signing, let’s bring the big man home.

Stick him in the middle of the defense and say you’re going to be our Tony Adams, our Bobby Moore or to put it in a more DC -centric way, our Rod Langway. You’re going to be the anchor of this franchise for as long as you want to be.As a smart, likable, African-American hometown-kid-made-good in DC, you’ll matter in this city. You’ll be minutes from home, in front of fans who adore you and you’ll have a chance to become a well-marketed, well-known star in American soccer.

It this likely? No. But it’s what I would truly like to see.

Why I am both worried, and not worried about an MLS work stoppage

BS poster and NYRB supporter Matrim55 wrote Monday with a couple nuggets from a meeting between Red Bull GM Eric Stover and the Empire Supporters Club last week. He managed to glean these two little nuggets from the meeting.

The element of the CBA discussion that most intrigues and potentially worries me is the division amongst the owners. From what I read, there appear to be two groups of owners, each with difference mindsets.

  • One group that clearly believes the way to success in this league is through raising the caliber of players in the league through a considerable raise in the salary cap and other single-entity restrictions on individual clubs
  • A second group that either doesn’t have the competitive ambition to increase spending or, less cynically, believes that only incremental increases of the single-entity “leash” will all this league to continue to exist.

How does/will this apparent division affect the negotiations? Will that second group evolve into a “hard-line” faction prepared to accept a stoppage? Will the first group drag the second group along with it into a new world of greater spending and flexibility? Is the players association smart enough to use these divisions in their favor during negotiations?

While I am happy to see a big-market GM say that the cap will be raised, I am worried about just how far the smaller-market “cheaper” owners will be prepared to do.

Who’s going to replace all these DPs?

This offseason is shaping up to be a brutal one in terms of MLS’ coterie of high-priced designated players. Let’s review:

* Beckham – almost certainly gone
* Donovan – quite likely gone
* Gallardo – desperately wants out

So, who’s going to come in and fill this void in starpower? Are teams going to shy away from using the DP after seeing United’s and the Galaxy’s struggles with it? If not, what kind of players do you think are available if an MLS team wanted to go spend its DP during the season? Are targets like Del Piero, Owen or Veron real possibilities or just agent-fodder?

More importantly than the names that are available, are there any real difference-makers available for a team willing to spend a DP on one? Remember, a DP doesn’t have to be foreign. Could an ambitious team go get Clint Dempsey if Fulham get relegated?

Anyway, these are all just questions that came to mind this morning. What do you think?

PS: And I am not just saying this to piss off Loney – but what are the Galaxy thinking trying to sign Michael Owen? He makes Gallardo look rugged, averaging only 17 club appearances-per-season since arriving at Newcastle.

Amongst last season’s top ten players in MLS scoring, not one had less than 21 appearances (Casey) and as a whole, they averaged nearly 26 (league only) appearances. There is simply no way Owen would hold up over an MLS season.

More Gomez Thoughts …

… Kind of off the cuff.

Although, I’m not sure the shirt I’m wearing has cuffs, but anyway.

Upon initially reading yesterday on Goffblog about the possibility (or “hunch” as Goff called it) that designated player and sometimes midfielder Marcelo Gallardo could be on his way to Argentina, thus opening a spot for DC United to bring back Christian Gomez from Colorado, I wasn’t thrilled about it.

It’s a bit of a dangerous slope as a DC fan (which I am) to speak out against Gomez. He played at a high level at times for the club and was a fan favorite – partially because he spent part of a game drumming with supporters (he was suspended so he couldn’t actually play). I wouldn’t slight his effort during his prior time in DC.

But I’m finding it hard to drum up support for this move – if it were to ever take place. I don’t know that bringing an aging midfielder to replace a, well, um, aging midfielder, is such a great idea. It’s one that could pay dividends through the first 2-3 months of the 2009 MLS season. But after that? What happens when Gomez, playing every game to run the attack, wears down? What happens if he gets injured? What happens if United’s attack relies on an aging Gomez and an aging Jaime Moreno? Does the club expect Luciano Emilio to return to 20-goal form?

Until the fatigue and the injuries set in, it could work really well. But then, I see it falling apart in the final 10 games of the season. What happens when, after this decline, United misses the playoffs again?

Then, you’re stuck with a midfield creator who is yet another year older; no younger player who has been groomed for that position; and perhaps, you now set the needed rebuilding effort back even further – creating the possibility of ruining your 2010 and 2011 seasons. This, in a league that’s only getting bigger by the year and as such, leaving more and more teams out of the playoff promiseland.

Look, I thought United had a good draft on first glance. They have a key piece of the puzzle secured in retaining Clyde Simms, and even the Bryan Namoff re-signing is a good move, in my humble opinion.

My concern is that signing Gomez may not only cause heartbreak and regret at the end of 2009, but slow the team moving forward such that future years are bankrupted, as well. Having a bad season is no sin. It happens to everyone. But not learning from what went wrong in that bad season such that problems repeat themselves, causing a 5-year pattern of suckness, that’s inexcusable.

We’ve seen what happens when you bring in an aging midfielder and give him the keys. Often, the car turns into a rusted out ’65 Comet, sitting on cinderblocks in the front yard. And you have to go to Argentina to fix it.

I’m hoping we don’t see a repeat in 2009.