Bill’s European Club Top 10 October ’18

(Note: Will try to keep my Liverpool FC bias to a minimum…)

  1. Juventus: With Dybala back in the side and some tough Serie A competition to keep them on their toes, can’t see anyone else on top.
  2. (tie)
    1. Liverpool: One loss, by a late goal away to another Top 10 side, otherwise undefeated in meaningful competition. Including an away win, an away draw, and a home draw against three of the other English Top Six.
    2. Manchester City: A bad loss in Europe, two draws in the EPL, while missing Kevin De Bruyne. Beat Arsenal away to open the season.
  3. Dortmund: Even with Pulisic injured and Goetze barely featuring, the Yellow and Black are top of Germany.
  4. Barcelona: A bad week made not so bad by a Messi masterclass against Tottenham. Still the team to beat in Spain and a threat to anyone in Europe.
  5. Chelsea: Sarri has made a difference, fast, though some results (West Ham, PAOK Salonika, Newcastle) are well below expectations.
  6. Atletico Madrid: Bit of a rough start to the season but clamped down on Real Madrid away. We’ll see if the rough patch is over when they meet Dortund on 24 October.
  7. Napoli: Beat Liverpool but lost two domestically and have been exposed at the back.
  8. Arsenal: Weak start but have won everything since and Unai Emery putting Lacazette and Aubameyang together up top may be the key change.
  9. Inter Milan: After a tough few seasons, Inter are making themselves heard again.
  10. Bayern Munich: Played very poorly last weekend in losing to Borussia Monchengladbach, a game I watched in shock. While the six-time defending Bundesliga champs currently sit sixth domestically they have too much talent to not be at or near the top by Christmas. Either first year manager Nico Kovac gets it done or someone will come in to do it (Zidane? Wenger?)

Real Madrid are struggling, #11 spot would be a toss-up between them and Tottenham.

Luis Suarez Walks Alone

Continuing to diss the loyal fans who supported him through the eight game suspension for being a racist and 10 games for being a carnivore in public, Luis Suarez continues his public campaign for Real Madrid to come in for him. But so far the Spaniards are apparently not willing to match Liverpool’s required fee.

And new boss Carlo Ancelloti may have a different EPL star in mind though as rumor has Los Blancos lining up a record transfer fee for the player who beat Suarez out for Player of the Year, Gareth Bale. How much? Let’s say £85 million, £5 million more than the team paid for Ronaldo.

But even with Bale on board will Ronaldo stay? So far he hasn’t signed a contract extension and so a handful of billionaire-backed clubs are preparing bids with lots of zeros at the end. Man City, PSG, Chelsea all seem interested.

Perhaps most intriguingly there’s Monaco. The team, owned by a Russian rival of Chelsea’s Abramovich, has already spent £120 million or so on three players but adding CR7 would surely be enough to take them from Ligue 2 to Champions League in one season, and not having to play in European competition this season would make him fresher for the World Cup next summer.

If he leaves Madrid, with Higuan also out the door, Bale would need someone more than Karim Benzima to partner with and then Suarez, even at £40-50 million, looks much better.

Hard to see the terrific LFC fans, supportive as we’ve been the past two seasons, getting past the poor-mouthing of Luis Suarez the last few weeks.

LFC Midfield Getting Crowded

The full list, 14 as of this moment:

Raul Meireles
Steven Gerrard
Joe Cole
Milan Jovanovic
Rodriguez Maxi
Dirk Kuyt
Leiva Lucas
Jay Spearing
Christian Poulsen
Jonjo Shelvey
Albert Acquilani
Charlie Adam
Jordan Henderson
Stewart Downing

Jovanovic, Poulsen, Acquilani and Cole are likely to be sold or loaned, Maxi is on the bubble and if I had to guess if any of those five stay Shelvey or Spearing will be loaned. That brings us down to nine or ten.

Which seems like a lot when you consider that when healthy every one except Spearing/Shelvey will expect to start and the Reds play a 4-4-2, not a 0-10-0.

Even if a player or two will always be missing through injury, suspension or the like but discounting that who are the four starters?

Gerrard still has to be the first name.

Lucas I think earned the defensive midfield spot as the team”s most dependable player last season.

Dirk Kuyt is the most important creator of goals the last few years and my favorite Red, starts on the right.

Downing probably offers the best supply from the left. That’s four.

Adams deputizes for Lucas. One intriguing idea floated a week or two back is to play Charlie as a central defender alongside Skrtel; Adams himself said that might be his best position.

Henderson can spell Dirk as he works his way into a starting position, especially if Downing gives consistent width from the left.

Mereilles seems the big loser in the three signings and if a deal can’t be made for Acquilani he might have to go instead.

The transfer window has six weeks left. Let’s see what Kenny, Comolli and John Henry get up to!

The USMNT and the Gold Cup

From a SportsFilter discussion of Bill Barnwell’s Grantland article:

In general, I agree with the article though winning this Gold Cup would have been useful as entry ticket for the next Confederations Cup. If Bradley’s strategy had gotten us the trophy I could accept the roster choices.

As it did not there are definitely questions. For instance, why not play three young defenders plus Boca or Cherundolo for a bit of maturity? Putting those two as the first choice fullbacks meant a complete lack of pace out wide since our so-called wingers were constantly cutting inside; 4-6-0 was more like 4-3-3-0 with no one except Adu consistently getting wider than the 18 yard box.

Edu has consistently not gotten the playing time I think he’s earned from Bradley despite his club form. Jones hasn’t shown me the ability to do the offensive business required from his position, so I’m just not getting the decision.

I think the author doesn’t take injuries sufficiently into account though. With healthy Stuart Holden, Charlie Davies, Tim Chandler, and Jozy not going out so early the team would have been much younger and pacier. Add in Edu over Jones and I honestly think that team would’ve steamrolled the Gold Cup.

My Future Web Invoice

Reading MC Seigler’s Netflix Original Content Is Much More Than A Strategy Shift — It Could Shift An Industry I thought again about cutting the cord. Our household is a very heavy consumer of cable content: soccer on Fox Soccer Channel, Gol TV and ESPN, movies and series on HBO, Showtime and Starz, original cable series on SyFy (though much less so than I would have expected if you asked 30 years ago!), USA, FX, AMC and A&E plus the normal fare from the fivefour main over the air networks.

Accordingly we pay Comcast a pretty hefty fee, adding on broadband internet to the above. North of $200 a month to be honest.

What if we could just buy the broadband from Comcast and get the sports and entertainment content online, per Siegler’s post? That would mean paying the higher internet fee–somehow Comcast gets away with charging about $15 a month more if you don’t take both cable and internet.

I made a list, and am probably missing a couple of things, but even so we’d save a chunk of money:











Showtime/Movie Channel
Fox Networks


includes FSC, FSD
Disney Nets


includes ESPN
NBC Nets


includes Versus, USA, SyFy
CBS Nets


includes Comedy Central, MTV+


Starz, Encore


Wonder how soon I’ll really be able to do this. Networks, can you feel me?

FIFA: Consider the open source model

In this World Cup, as in past tournaments, referees have made numerous, game-changing poor decisions on goals and possible goals. Tevez scoring from offside against Mexico, Dempsey ruled offside against Algeria, Lampard’s tying goal against Germany not being over the line are just three examples from this time around.

Just as in the past calls have come in again for technical assistance to be adopted and just as in the past FIFA are saying no. FIFA decided in March that technical solutions will disrupt the flow of play or cost too much to be deployed at all levels of competition and using them only at the national team and professional competitions will rupture the universality of play. After the round of 16, with the disallowed English goal, the possibility of using two goal line assistant referees, as trialled in this past season’s Europa League, was allowed as a future change.

Let’s separate technical assistance into two options: instant replay and sensors. Instant replay has not worked well in the NFL but somewhat better in the NHL. Regardless of the quality of the decisions in both leagues the decisions simply take too long but since the broadcasts can go to commercials, which would otherwise require TV timeouts, there’s some relief. I agree with FIFA leadership, though, that with currently available systems instant replay would be too disruptive to play in soccer.

Sensors are another story and I think FIFA are missing an opportunity here. I’m sure the cost of the recent systems with which they did experiments are quite high but their mistake was going to the big sports equipment makers for the solutions. Instead, FIFA should open an X Prize-like competition to spur development of inexpensive, open source hardware and software.

The software, especially, should be open source, not only to get a lower price tag but also to ensure against tampering and other malicious interference. One has only to look at the recent troubles with electronic voting software for a good comparable.

Additionally, the software system can be strengthened by running a master copy server and requiring a fresh copy be downloaded to the game server just prior to kickoff. The download can be validated by a one time key or biometrics.

Given the near universal appeal of soccer even among geeks I think this prize competition would be enormously popular and in fact drive improvement in sensor software and results processing for many uses beyond sport as well.

So Sepp, what do you say?

Welcome Roy Hodgson

Liverpool FC today announced that Roy Hodgson has joined the club from Fulham as the new manager and I’m pleased at his selection. He famously rescued the London squad from the brink of relegation and took them to the Europa League finals just weeks ago. Amusingly while our former manager took the Inter Milan job, our new boy is a former Inter Milan manager.

Hodgson’s first job is to settle three of our top stars before they bolt. Rumors abound that Chelsea, Man City, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan are all willing to pay big money for one or more of Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Javier Macherano and that Masch at least is interested in going. If the Reds are to get back to the top four this coming season we cannot really afford to lose even one of them. Fabio Aurelio has already been shown the door and though not a great fullback he did add needed depth to the squad, while Chelsea will be taking Yossi Benayoun after the transfer window opens.

Roy is quite a contrast from Rafa, temperamentally and tactically. Though strong in his self-belief I’ve rarely seen or read of Hodgson showing strong negative emotions publicly while Rafa has no problem letting off steam. Working with, let’s face it, a good but less talented squad, Hodgson matched his lineup and match planning to the opponent while Rafa (when players were healthy) adhered to his own rotation system and on the road at least almost always set out a 4-5-1 defense-oriented formation.

Hodgson has also been good at getting value for money in player purchases. His former club will likely turn large profits selling on Brede Hangelund, Mark Schwarzer and Bobby Zamora this summer, to give three recent exemplars.

If our three stars stay and stay healthy, as all missed big chunks of the ’09-10 season, and the net talent inflow exceeds the outflow I think the prospects are bright. Hello Roy, shows us what you can do!

And then they were done

Real sports fans are never satisfied or happy when the team they support goes home without winning the competition. The heart wants what the heart wants, no matter what the head may say–you may not expect to win but that’s a different thing altogether.

So I’ve mixed emotions after Saturday’s round of 16 loss to Ghana. Four years ago we left Germany after the group stage with one point, a serious disappointment after nearly reaching the semi-finals in 2002. Winning our group for the first time in 80 years was great and after the Algeria win my hopes were raised for a deep run as in last Summer’s Confederations Cup. Ghana seemed beatable and if we did that, well, the Uruguay-South Korea winner was a decent possibility.

All that was dashed in six minutes after kickoff. Ricardo Clark gave up the ball inside the USA half and there went another early hole to dig out of, which he complimented with a useless, well-earned yellow next time he was on defense. If Bob Bradley made one obvious mistake in South Africa it was starting Clark in this match; Alexei Lalas (I think) said in the pre-game that Bradley must have seen something in the last practice we don’t know about because his first stage play didn’t earn him the spot. Maurice Edu, who came on for Clark after 30 minutes anyway, should have started.

Anyway, back to the opening topic. We won our group, got a result against England and overall had a stronger tournament than several perennial powers*. Landon Donovan was outstanding and Michael Bradley had, statistically, one of the best group stage performances of any player and both should make big money transfers after the tournament. We suffered (for the third straight Cup) from several astoundingly bad referee calls. We weren’t 100% healthy, with the fire power of Charlie Davies and Brian Ching missing out.

All good things or reasonable explanations for why it isn’t us playing Uruguay later this week.

Yet I’m still not satisfied since we could’ve and should’ve done better. There were no terrible decisions by the referee Saturday, except he might have more aggressively policed the time wasting. Ghana earned their goals and we couldn’t break through for the winner after Landon’s PK evened the line. It may have been his first significant mistake of the tourney but Bob Bradley put Clark out in place of Edu. Frankly I would’ve been okay with Clark if Bennie Feilhaber also started and Robbie Findlay sat.

In the post-match press conference a reporter asked Bradley if he thought he’d be at the helm in Brazil in four years. The answer was the usual ‘not my decision’ mishmash, of course, but that some people think seriously that Bradley’s six years are enough surprised this fan. I would not replace him. Bob has delivered a lot, certainly done a better job than his predecessor Bruce Arena, and has worked well to bring along younger players. The team’s average age is just under 27 (26.8) and when you consider that Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundulo, Jay Demerit and Marcus Hahnemann are well over 30 (Howard, actually is still considered young for a keeper) the future looks bright. Bradley is barely 50 years old himself.

* France were a bad Jerry Lewis joke. Italy lacked the creativity in attack and finishing up top that brought them the 2006 trophy. England were mostly a collection of stars, quite surprising after running through their qualification group. Denmark, Switzerland, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Japan are not perennial powers but expected at least by many to do better than USA.

My Tournament Grading

Jonathan Bornstein played above expectations for the second straight match after Oguchi Onyewu missed out apparently due to injury (at least according to Ives, as I’ve yet to see any official explanation) and Carlos Bocanegra had to shift into central defense.

Other than JB the American defense was just not good enough in the last match. Tim Howard should have stopped at least one of the two goals, if not both, and (Clark’s giveaway aside) Bocanegra and Demerit were inadequate on both. Steve Cherundulo was very good going forward and very good at clogging up his side of the width the first three games but couldn’t deliver what was needed Saturday.

Landon and Michael Bradley were our two best players and both scored very nice goals. Clint Dempsey was pretty good but perhaps the constant fouls on him and the long Europa League run with Fulham took too much as he didn’t show enough energy in the loss. Ricardo Clark was a disappointment, I was a big fan of his when he played for the Earthquakes and Dynamo in MLS. Feilhaber and Edu should always have been playing instead of him. Jose Torres was given minutes and the coach was right to not give him more.

Jozy Altidore–our youngest player, remember–showed he learned a lot about being the target man at Hull, poor as his results with that club may have been, and I think a Premier League team will buy his contract next month. Hercule Gomez was good but whether it was lack of service or opportunities didn’t live up to his supersub reputation. Other people seem more impressed by Findlay than me and Buddle never got stuck in, though plenty of people expected him to start against Ghana instead of Findlay and they may have been right.

Bottom line: Just getting out of group next time around in Brazil won’t be good enough, the Yanks will need to make a deep run. The four American games got about the highest TV ratings for men’s World Cup matches in US history and the buzz was nearly as loud as the vuvuzuelas so you know expectations will be piling on. Experience will be there since Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies, Michael Bradley, Stuart Holden and Jose Torres will be getting into their prime playing years, Landon and Dempsey will probably still have more than enough gas in the tank and Tim Howard will have four more years of top club experience, not to mention half a dozen young players who didn’t make this squad.

I’ll be watching. Only winning the big ugly golden trophy will make me happy.

ps – Can you imagine the pressure on the Brazilian players playing at home?!?!

Vuvuzelaistic! World Cup 2010, Group Stage round 1

Getting this out of the way: the refs I’ve seen for the most part have been good, with the exception of Jorge Larionda*, and between the improved filtering and familiarity just pushing it into the background the South African horns are no longer irritating me much. ESPN and their commentators are so far so good with again one notable exception. Alexei Lalas was a great player, a bad club executive and a terrible TV host; ESPN should cut their losses and drop him.

USA-England was a good start for us. If you could toss out the first five minutes of settling in, we’d have won the game 1-0. Too bad FIFA won’t do that. Silver lining: the 3 Lions goal did come from Liverpool’s Stevie G on a nice pass from former Red Emile Heskey. Not sure how Robert Green is preferred to David James, but that’s Fabio Capello for you. Now we need to make Slovenia eat their player’s words and get the win Friday.

Germany romped over the Aussies. Tim Cahill’s red was a massive mistake but I doubt his continued presence would have substantially altered the result. Podolski reversed his club form and was the German’s second best player after captain Phillip Lahm; both players created width that Australia couldn’t handle.

Spain 0-1 Switzerland, upset of the round! I watched this game and though La Furia Roja were too predictable, too repetitive and were almost Arsenal-like in passing over shooting. As one comment I saw said, if Pedro was preferred over Cesc Fabregas as a sub why would Fabregas want to join Barcelona. The goal was on a counter, Casillas couldn’t handle the one on one and Puyol was so far upfield he couldn’t get back into the six yard box to help.

I didn’t see Brazil-North Korea but Zonal Marking has two good recaps. Why Brazil’s breakthrough was always going to come from Maicon especially shows how come the Samba Kings will almost certainly be on the field come July 11.

South Korea were value for money and tomorrow’s early match against Argentina, who were not, should be a cage match. Japan squeezed past Cameron in a mild upset. Netherlands were pretty much always winning anyway but got a helping hand from a Danish own goal; Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt put in their second.

France were a joke on Friday though Uruguay’s romp today against South Africa show I may have underestimated the South American side’s quality. Portugal and Ivory Coast were in on the joke together in a very disappointing match.

The second and third round of games should be more aggressive, if the Uruguay-South Africa affair was predictive.

More games, nummy nummy!

On the ownership of Liverpool FC

A recent SpoFi discussion on Tom Hicks and George Gillette’s quality as owners of the team brought this response from me:

Liverpool finished second in the Premiership last season, despite a horrendous number of draws (if three of them had been wins we’d have won the league), and made the Champions League semi-finals. This season has been less successful but we might still win the Europa League as consolation prize.

Under Hicks and Gillette we’ve bought Fernando Torres. Last Summer, okay we sold Xabi Alonso but with Real Madrid calling there was little chance of him not going. Meanwhile Benitez was given plenty to spend and paid millions of quid for Glen Johnson–good buy but injured much of the term–and Alberto Aquilani, a complete waste of well over $40M. Thankfully Lucas, a youngster Benitez has groomed filled in reasonably well considering its his first season as a regular starter.

Speaking of injuries, other than Dirk Kuyt and Pepe Reina almost all the team’s important players have missed meaningful chunks of the season due to them.

I agree that Hicks and Gillette should probably not have taken on quite so much debt BUT if the economy had not gone so deep in the toilet the last two years I’m pretty sure this would be a non-issue for us, Man U and probably even Portsmouth.

EPL starts tomorrow and the fantasy league is on!

As usual SportsFilter is having its own league, plus I put my team in Ives Galarcep’s SBI league and Michael Romero’s Liverpool fans league.

The players I’m launching with are
Goal: Mark Schwarzer/Fullham
Defense: Bret Hangeland/Fullham, Ryan Shawcross/Stoke City, Maynor Figueroa/Wigan
Midfield: Steven Gerrard (Captain)/Liverpool, Frank Lampard/Chelsea, Dirk Kuyt/Liverpool, Jon Obi Mikel/Chelsea
Forwards: Jozy Altidore/Hull, Fernando Torres/Liverpool, Bobby Zamora/Fullham
Subs: Tomas Sorenson/Stoke City, Phil Neville/Everton, Kamil Zayatte/Hull, Michael Turner/Hull
Note that the fantasy rules limit selections to three players per club, one must select two keepers, five defenders, five midfielders and three strikers, and at least three defenders must be played.
Last year I dropped a few slots to 10th in the SpoFi league, mostly due to not having Cristiano Ronaldo as my captain when most others did but as he’s on holiday in Spain this should be less of a problem.
I’m hopeful of recovering my ‘Champions League’ position of two seasons ago as Stevie, El Nino and Dirk bring goals and gold to Anfield!

Guiseppi Rossi and being American

Ives Galarcep had a good post today, Hating Giuseppe Rossi, that made me think a bit about this American-born emerging soccer star who scored twice against the US team yesterday at the Confederations Cup. Rossi was born and raised in New Jersey but due to FIFA regulations is allowed to play for Italy since both his parents were born there.

On the one hand I’m sad that a player of his quality, who could easily be part of a new generation that might have lifted our national team quality to where we’d be serious challengers for World Cups, decided to play for a nation that is the reigning World Cup holder and has no shortage of top flight players. Neven Subotic, a defender, seems to fall into this bucket as well.
Soccer fans from other countries criticize our team and say we’ll never really measure up, but if our potential world class stars play for Italy or Serbia how can we?
I have no issue with Americans playing club ball in Europe or Mexico. Heck, this only makes them better when they line up in red, white and blue. And honestly, MLS is years away from the financial state that will allow them to be competitive with those clubs. Having Dempsey, Gooch, Altidore and so forth playing MLS ball doesn’t seem likely to put all that many more fannies in seats for now.
The other issue I have with Rossi’s choice is tied in with how I feel about California ballots and other printed literature coming in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and other languages and having to listen to business phone lines tell me to press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish over and over.
I have no problem with legal immigration in America, in fact I think our country has benefitted enormously from it. But if someone comes here because the opportunity is so much better than where he or she was born and especially if that opportunity becomes reality, than these people should be Americans.
Not just legally but culturally. Celebrate your heritage–I am after all president of the Jewish High Tech Community–but learn English, be part of the whole community and not just your local ex-country’s and when it comes to sports root for the frakking US team. If your family is from Italy and the Italian team is playing Brazil root for Italy but if its Italy v. US, root for the USA.
And if your kid starts showing serious soccer skills, raise him to believe that his highest (sports) destiny is to wear our colors! Not the colors of the country that you left behind for a better life.

Reds win for a treble!

Going for their second cup championship of the week, the score was Liverpool 5, Alaves 4 as an own goal from the Portuguese’s side goalkeeper late in overtime brought Liverpool the UEFA Cup only three days after winning the English FA championship over Arsenal. The team won the Worthington Cup earlier this spring for the unprecedented treble. In late August, they’ll face either Bayern Munich or Valencia in Monaco for the Super Cup. Finally, after a slow start in the current Premiership season, they look good for third place and an automatic bid to next season’s Champion’s League.

A Tale of Two Hockey Teams

When the season started, only Colorado and St. Louis were better than the San Jose Sharks, who are guaranteed their first over .500 season in franchise history, while defending Stanley Cup holders New Jersey couldn’t get out of the mud. In the last two months, though, the Devils made a run at the all time win streak mark and the Sharks have been in a massive, 1-9-2-2, rut. The Sharks may fall out of the playoffs altogether unless they can get it together tonight against Los Angeles, while the Devils look strong to repeat as champs.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

The Big Dance just started, with Kentucky vs. Holy Cross late in the first half on the tube. I may be making an easy pick here, but I think the winner comes down to Duke or Stanford. Stanford beat Duke in the Bay Area back in December but having seen a little of Duke the last few weeks (including their awesome win over North Carolina in the ACC Final without Carlos Boozer), I think it’s too early to pick between them.

Update: Kentucky won by four.