Monday, August 31, 2009

Serie A Match Day 2 - Diego and Inter Shine while there is Only One Draw

This past weekend proved to be a big one for Diego and Inter, as Match Day 2 of the Serie A 2009-2010 season is in the books.

Earlier this year, before the big Kaka and Ronaldo transfers, Juventus managed to lure Diego away from Werder Bremen, and that move paid of big time this weekend as the young Brazilian's brace gave Juventus a 3-1 victory over a struggling Roma. Diego's countryman Melo picked up the third and final goal for Juventus. Having dropped their first two matches of the season, Roma is once again having a rough start and according to Roma fans have already started gathering outside of Roma's training grounds at Trigoria demanding the firing of Spalletti. Of course, the issue at Roma is money and it is unlikely that Roma can afford to fire Spalletti and hire a new coach. The problem for Roma these past few seasons has been a leaky defense, and so far, it appears that the money has not been there to seal those leaks.

Meanwhile at the San Siro in Milano, the Derby della Madonnina took place on Saturday, and although Inter struggled against Bari last weekend, they came out strong and picked apart Milan in a 4-0 victory that saw goals from Thiago Motta, Milito, Maicon, and Stankovic. Meanwhile, Mad Dog Gattuso was awarded a red card in the 40th minute.

Elsewhere in Italy, it was a 0-0 draw between Bari and Bologna, which was the only draw of the weekend. Fiorentina managed to hold back Palermo for a 1-0 victory, Napoli picked up its first victory of the season beating Livorno 3-1, Genoa traveled to Bergamo and managed a 1-0 victory over Atalanta, Siena also managed an away victory beating Cagliari 3-1, Parma picks up a crucial 3 points in a 2-1 victory over Catania, Lazio keeps its good form in a 2-1 victory at Chievo Verona, and Sampdoria manages a 3-1 victory over Udinese.

Match Day 3 takes place on Sunday September 13th as the league breaks for World Cup Qualifiers. A couple matches to pay attention to that weekend include the return of Juventus to the Stadio Olimpico where they face Lazio and Roma's visit to the Tuscan side of Siena as they search for their first points of the season. Another match that could figure into who goes to Europe next year is Genoa hosting Napoli.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Racism Continues to Blemish the Beautiful Game

Earlier today, Maurice Edu, an American who plays his club football for Rangers, sent out the following message over his Twitter account:

Its sad n embarassing that people follow me so they can write racist comments...smh...its '09 people, let's grow up n mature a lil bit

It is sad and embarrassing, and it's also very ignorant and pathetic. Sadly, racist chants, jeers, and noises such as monkey noises have been spewed forth from the terraces and stands at football matches in Europe and other parts of the world for way too long. In 2006, FIFA was finally moved to start its "Say No to Racism" marketing campaign, but it still seems too early to tell if that marketing campaign has had any impact.

In this modern era of social media when some players are now more accessible then ever, at least in the digital communication sense, it's disappointing, but not that surprising, that some ignorant morons are using the technology to send their hate directly to players like Edu. Edu, being a gentleman, hasn't divulged the Twitter names of these people, cause if he had, I'd publish them here.

While we cannot specifically call out the idiots that have harassed Edu, those of us who love the Beautiful Game and attend matches on a regular basis can call out and humiliate anyone who makes a racist chant or jeer in our presence. Do not be afraid to publicly shame such people - after all, they are obviously not afraid to act like an idiot in public.

Last season after a Dynamo - DC United match, a fan yelled racist insults at United goalkeeper Louis Crayton. Houston fans in the area pointed the offender out to security and he was duly taken away and banned from attending Dynamo matches. In the days following the incident, one poster on Big Soccer stated that while not condoning what was said, other fans should not have pointed the offender out to the authorities. This "no snitching" attitude is just as bad as the racism and echoes the stupid mentality of Firms and Ultras in Europe, especially in Italy where opposing Ultras will team up to fight the police.

Trust me, you are not a snitch for calling out racism, you're a good human being.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Serie A Split from Serie B is Official, plus a Serie A Week 1 Round Up

At the end of last season news filtered out of Italy the Serie A was following the lead of the English Premier League by voting to split away from Serie B. This move was officially approved today and Serie A will now operate as its own separate entity, no longer having to share revenue with Serie B.

The 2009/2010 Season of Serie A got underway on Saturday when Bologna hosted Fiorentina in a 1-1 draw. Later that evening, Milan, which has struggled in the preseason, picked up its first Serie A victory for new coach Leonardo in a 2-1 win over Siena. Pato, who started the match, picked up a brace for Milan.

On Sunday, Jose Mourinho's Inter hosted the newly promoted Bari, which, to the dismay of Inter fans, put up an unexpectedly strong fight against the reigning Scudetto champions. Recently acquired Samuel Eto'o picked up the first goal of the match by converting a penalty kick in the 56th minute, but Bari's Vitaly Kutuzov found the equalizer in the 74th minute when he shot the ball into the bottom right corner of the net. Prior to the Bari goal, Eto'o had a great opportunity to pick up a second goal in the 67th minute, but his shot just barely missed when it went left of the post.

In Torino on Sunday, Juventus, my choice to win the Scudetto this season, managed to pick up a 1-0 victory over Chievo Verona, a squad that hovered close near the drop zone all last season. In Genoa, two clubs hoping to finish in the top four this season battled it out in a 3-2 affair, giving Genoa the victory over a Roma side hoping for a better start to this season then last season. The Eternal City's other club, Lazio, had a better day then Roma by getting a 1-0 victory over visiting Atalanta. Lazio's goal came from Tommaso Rocchi, who scored the game winner in Lazio's upset of Inter in the SuperCoppa earlier this month.

An American derby of sorts occurred down in Sicily as Palermo managed a 2-1 victory over Napoli thanks to a Fabrizio Miccoli penalty kick in the 75th minute. This match featured two coaches who spent time playing in MLS: Walter Zenga and Roberto Donadoni. Sunday was Zenga's first match as coach of Palermo while Donadoni took over the reigns at Napoli after getting fired from the national position. Zenga, who has coached the New England Revolution and Catania, among other teams, has shown interesting but as to yet unfulfilled promise as a coach. While this victory suggests Zenga might have found the right fit at Palermo, it should not be forgotten that in his first match as coach of Catania in April of 2008, Catania defeated Napoli 3-0.

Elsewhere in Serie A, Udinese and Parma settled on a 2-2 draw, newly promoted Livorno held Cagliari to a 0-0 draw, and Sampdoria managed a nice 2-1 away victory against Catania.

Next weekend features two big matches in Italy with the Milan Derby on Saturday and Roma hosting Juventus on Sunday.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Debut of Serie A 2009-2010

This weekend marks the start of the 2009-2010 Serie A season, and with most of the Serie A transfer news being about high profile departures to La Liga, it appears that this season will once again highlight the existence of a certain parity that is hard to find in most major European leagues. I've already gone on the record elsewhere, but let me make it clear here, I expect Juventus to win the Scudetto this season. It won't be easy for Juve, Inter is still strong and teams like Genoa and Napoli seem on the cusp of making a big push in the table. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if newly promoted sides like Parma, Bari, and Livorno will survive the season. If the deal to sell Bari to an American businessman goes through, it'll be interesting to see what they do in the January transfer window.

I give Juventus the edge in the Scudetto since I believe Inter's main focus will the Champions League. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if Leonardo can keep AC Milan in the top four this season.

Finally, now that Serie A has split from the rest of Italian football in a manner similar to the EPL break-away, it will be interesting to see if there is an influx of money into the Serie A clubs and how that impacts the January transfer window.

Here's some matches to look for this weekend:

Siena v. Milan (Can Siena survive the season or end up relegated? Milan has had a rough preseason, so a strong start is important.)

Palermo v. Napoli (A battle between two teams looking for European spots. This will be the debut of Zenga at Palermo.)

Genoa v. Roma (These two clubs missed out on top four finishes last season, and both will want to break into the top four this season.)

For those in the US, Fox Soccer Channel will air the following Serie A matches (all times CDT):

11:00 am - Bologna v. Fiorentina
1:30 pm - Siena v. AC Milan

12:00 pm - Inter v. Bari

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Is Landin Joining the Houston Dynamo?

It's no secret that the Houston Dynamo have been patiently scouting Mexican soccer players and have had their eyes on one player in particular, Luis Angel Landin. After making a failed attempt to acquire Landin from Monarca Morelia this past winter, it appears that persistance has paid off and the Dynamo are on the verge of acquiring the 26 year old striker who has been on loan to Cruz Azul.

According to MedioTiempo, Cruz Azul has made medical information concerning Landin available to MLS and Landin traveled to Houston on Tuesday. Local Spanish language media has reported Landin sightings in Houston today.

Sources have indicated that Landin will be joining the Dynamo and that the MLS club will make its official announcement later this week. At this time, it is unclear as to whether Landin will come to Houston on a loan or a full transfer.

Once the signing becomes official and the details are released, look for a more detailed commentary about this signing at the MLS Talk site.

Special thanks to Brian Balboa from 1560 The Game - KGOW - for his work on this issue.

Tonight, the Dynamo start their 2009/10 CONCACAF Champions League campaign when they host Metapan at Robertson Stadium. The match starts at 7:00 pm local time.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's Good to Be Charlie Davies

This summer, U.S. National made the move from Hammarby IF of Sweden's Allsvenskan to FC Sochaux-Montbeliard in France's Ligue 1 after have a breakout performance with the U.S. National Team at this past Summer's Confederations Cup in South Africa. Davies made his debut for his new club today and what a debut it was.

After going down 2 goals to Bordeaux in the first half, including an own goal, Sochaux decided to field the young American striker for the full second half. The decision paid off for Sochaux, to a degree, as Davies picked up his first goal in France in the 61st minute. Davies picked up the brace when he scored a left footed goal in stoppage time. Unfortunately, Bordeaux had already picked up its third goal in the 80th minute thanks to a Maroune Chamakh header.

Davies, the only American to score in Wednesday's Qualifier at the Azteca in Mexico City, has proven he has the ability to score in France and contribute to his team, which beat AJ Auxerre 1-0 last weekend. It will be interesting to see if Davies makes the start next weekend against Montpellier or if he plays the role of super sub. Either way, if Davies form continues in France, that's a good sign for fans of the US National Team.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ryan Cochrane Returning to Houston

This morning Steven Goff broke the news that Houston Dynamo Defender, Julius James, was traded to DC United for a draft pick. James was initially picked up by the Dynamo in last Fall's trade that sent midfielder Dwayne DeRosario to Toronto. James has good raw talent, but seems to have had trouble adjusting into the Dynamo defense. While Houston Coach Dominic Kinnear did not say anything bad about James at Sunday's press conference following Houston's 3-2 victory over the Chicago Fire, body langauge and tone suggested Kinnear was not happy with James' progress.

Not known for keeping draft picks, it appears that the Houston Dynamo have traded that pick to San Jose Earthquakes for Ryan Cochrane. Cochrane, a former Dynamo who was acquired by San Jose in the 2007 Expansion Draft, has indicated on his Facebook page that he is headed to Salt Lake City. The Houston Dynamo are currently traveling to Salt Lake City where they play Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening. A friend commenting on Cochrane's status wished him success in Houston and told him to give them hell in Houston.

Cochrane originally joined MLS in 2004, playing for the San Jose Earthquakes, which was moved to Houston, Texas prior to the 2006 MLS season. A member of the Dynamo squads that won the MLS Cup in 2006 and 2007, it was clear in 2007 that Cochrane was interested in returning to the Bay Area so it was no surprise that he was selected by the Expansion San Jose Earthquakes in the Expansion Draft. For whatever reason now, it appears one former Dynamo is returning to Houston.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Rocchi Leads Lazio to 2-1 Shocker Over Inter Milan in the SuperCoppa

For the first time since 2000, S.S. Lazio has lifted the Italian SuperCoppa after a shocking 2-1 victory over Inter Milan at the Bird's Nest in Beijing, China. Like the Community Shield in England, the SuperCoppa kicks off the Serie A season by pitting the winner of the Scudetto and the winner of the Copa Italia in an exhibition match. In light of the 2010 World Cup finals set to begin in South Africa next June, Italy moved the SuperCoppa up a week so that it fell on the same weekend as the Community Shield.

Coming into today's match, most pundits expected Inter Milan, who beat Roma on penalty kicks in last year's SuperCoppa, to beat a Lazio side that has struggled to get a sniff of the top of the table in recent seasons. Despite dominating the match, Inter was unable to stop two Lazio goals that occurred in the span of 3 minutes in the second half.

Francelino Matuzalem, who had a nice shot on goal early in the match, managed to get the ball into the net when Julio Cesar clearance bounced off of Matuzalem's face in the 63rd minute. Three minutes later a cross from Matuzalem to the chest of Lazio Captain Tommaso Rocchi, who had beaten the offside trap, knocked a nice shot past Cezar, giving the Biancelesti the winning goal.

Inter's newly acquired Samuel Eto'o picked up Inter's only goal in the 78th minute.

The question now is whether today's SuperCoppa will have any effect on how either of these sides approach the 2009-2010 Serie A season which begins next weekend. Inter is looking to defend the Scudetto and make more headway in the Champions League, while Lazio is looking to finish, at the very least, in an Europa League spot.

On the weekend of August 22nd Inter will host newly promoted Bari, while Lazio hosts the always difficult Atalanta.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pachuca Setting the Tone Early in the Primera Division de Mexico's 2009/2010 Apertura

Thanks to the 2010 World Cup finals, the Primera Division de Mexico's Apertura has started a little early this year, and Pachuca is off to strong start. Despite winning the league during the 2008/2009 Clausura, Pachuca lost to Pumas, 3-2, in the finals. To date, Pachuca is the only team in Mexico's top flight to have played two games, and they've won both of them. They beat Tecos UAG, 3-2, in their season opener and beat the newly promoted Queretaro, 3-1, last night.

Looks like Pachuca is on course to maintain its spot as one of the top teams in Mexico. Meanwhile, Pumas has lost its only match of the early season. Looks like Mexico's top flight league will provide more great football this fall, football that US Soccer fans should pay attention to.

Additionally, Pachuca beat Guatemala's Deportivo Jalapa 3-0 in the first leg of CONCACAF Champions League qualifying, all but setting up a rematch with MLS's Houston Dynamo in the Group Stage.

Mourinho being Mourinho

Say what you will about Jose, but you gotta love his press conferences: