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Monday, January 31, 2011

Good news for all soccer fans in the U.S.: ESPN is showing all Euro 2012 & 2016 matches

With another snowstorm bearing down on us, it's not hard to dream of sunny summer days filled with soccer.

What am I talking about? Well the news broke today that the ESPN family of networks has secured the rights to Euro 2012 & Euro 2016 and they're showing every single game.

If you need a moment alone, I understand. I am also excited.

"Euro is a perfect counterbalance to World Cup, so strategically it makes sense for us," Scott Guglielmino, ESPN's senior vice president for programming, said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "The passion involved in national team play at the highest level is something that's incredibly powerful, unlike anything else."

ESPN purchased U.S. broadcast and Internet rights in all languages. The network televised the 2008 Euros and has U.S. English-language rights to its sixth consecutive World Cup in 2014.

Plans include broadcasting Euro matches on ESPN, ESPN2,, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio and ESPN Mobile.

"With interest in football growing significantly in America, ESPN will no doubt provide great visibility for UEFA's national team competitions through their promotional and programming capacity," Guy-Laurent Epstein, marketing director of UEFA Events, said in a statement.

The 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine will have 31 games and runs from June 8 to July 1. The field expands from 16 to 24 teams for the 2016 tournament in France, which will have 51 matches.

ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 -- all owned by The Walt Disney Co. -- averaged a 2.1 rating and 3.26 million viewers for last year's World Cup. The rating was up 31 percent from a 1.6 four years ago.

In 2008, seven Euro matches on ESPN averaged 1.1 million viewers and 17 on ESPN2 averaged 673,000. The 2008 final was the first televised by a U.S. network and received a 2.3 rating and 3.76 million viewers on ABC. The Spanish-language broadcast was seen by 647,000 viewers on ESPN Deportes.

England, a popular team in the U.S., failed to qualify for the 2008 Euros and likely would help increase 2012 ratings if it makes the 16-nation field.

"It's an enormous brand and it would clearly drive some more usage," Guglielmino said.

Last year's World Cup taught ESPN the value of Internet and mobile distribution for soccer, primarily because of games that are during weekday afternoons U.S. time.

"The notion of TV everywhere, really utilizing digital media extensively," Guglielmino said.

ESPN also said it had obtained U.S. rights to numerous Euro qualifiers, including home games of Spain, Germany, France and the Netherlands, as well as games involving England, Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Portugal.

"That's going to help us tell the story earlier on," Guglielmino said.

As part of the deal, and ESPN Deportes will televise the 2013 UEFA Women's Championship and the 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 UEFA under-21 championships.

The only slight kernel of bad news is that ESPN couldn't buy the rights to this summer's COPA America tournament (which the U.S. will compete in).

Guglielmino said ESPN had withdrawn its offer for English-language U.S. rights to this summer's Copa America after Traffic Sports, the company that owns them, sold American Internet rights separately. Univision holds U.S. Spanish-language rights.

"It's really unfortunate," Guglielmino said. "That's one we would have loved to add."

Brush off your high school Spanish skills and prepare to watch it with the wonderfully overstated Univision team of bozo announcers. Copa America will take place from June 5-26. With any luck the snow will have just melted off the ground by then and we can all enjoy some quality soccer.

Will this be Jozy's big break through, finally?

I'm not going to patronize the guy since we love him so but I feel like a broken record when I say redundantly: is this when Jozy Altidore will finally become the star we know he can be?

That's a long-winded way to introduce something which I feel like I wrote word for word (save for a few key details last time) recently. After languishing on the bench in Spain with Villareal, Altidore has been loaned once again, to Bursapor in Turkey.

Before we all do a double take and say Bursapor (scratches head), I'm here to tell you they're no joke. They're the reigning Turkish league champions and believe it or not, they play a good brand of soccer over there.

Altidore said Monday on his Twitter account that he is being loaned to Bursaspor for six months, a move confirmed by his agent, James Grant Sports.

Altidore has appeared as a substitute in two league matches this season for Villarreal, which loaned Jefferson Montero to Levante on the last day of the January transfer window.

Altidore's only goals for the Yellow Submarine this season were both against Poli Ejido in the fourth round of the Spanish Copa del Rey.

Jozy is still young and with limitless potential but I don't want to see him become the next Freddy Adu, who is too depressing to blog about at this point. I'm saying all Altidore needs is some consistent playing and then let's see where he's at.

U.S. men's national team vs. Egypt friendly canceled (for obvious reasons)

If you've turned on the news lately, opened a newspaper or logged onto the Internet, odds are you've noticed Egypt is a complete mess right now.

With that in mind, the U.S. men's national team has made the correct decision to cancel its friendly vs. Egypt scheduled for next Wednesday in Cairo.

All politics aside, it's too bad that the U.S. won't get to play a top-class opponent, on its home turf no less, but soccer is a global game and this terrible situation in Egypt illustrates it.

The game against the Egyptian national team had been announced Dec. 13. In the last week, street protests aiming for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak have caused disruption in Cairo and Alexandria.

"We were excited about the opportunity to play against Egypt, but due to the current situation all parties agreed it was best to cancel the match,'' U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said Monday. "We appreciate the efforts of the Egyptian Football Association and the U.S. State Department as we worked through this situation.''

The U.S. State Department has recommended American citizens avoid travel to Egypt "due to ongoing political and social unrest.'' On Sunday, the State Department authorized the voluntary departure of dependents and non emergency employees, saying "U.S. citizens currently in Egypt should consider leaving as soon as they can safely do so.''

The U.S., ranked 18th in the world, had planned to fly a top roster to the game, including Americans based with European clubs, to face 10th-ranked Egypt. The two nations met in the first round of the 2009 Confederations Cup, with the U.S. winning 3-0.

The next game for the U.S. team will be March 26 against Argentina at East Rutherford, N.J. The Americans play Paraguay three days later at Nashville, Tenn.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Say goodbye to Adam Johnson, for three months

Manchester City has earned its spot (currently third in the EPL) and they look destined for a Top-4 finish barring a collapse. However, the news today that midfielder Adam Johnson is out for three months doesn't help their cause.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has confirmed that winger Adam Johnson has been ruled out for three months with ankle ligament damage.

Johnson sustained the injury in an accident in training on Thursday and City initially ruled him out of Saturday's FA Cup tie against Notts County.

However, following the 1-1 draw against the League One side, Mancini revealed the bad news for City supporters.

"We have lost Adam Johnson for three months,'' Mancini said. "This will be a very big problem because he is an important player.

"The injury is like the one Aleksandar Kolarov had earlier this season. We do not have another player like Adam.''

The news means it is very unlikely that Shaun Wright-Phillips will be allowed to leave City prior to the close of the transfer window on Monday night, despite suggestions he will hand in a transfer request.

"I can understand his position," Mancini said. "We haven't had any offers for Wright-Phillips at this moment but it is difficult for Shaun to join another team now. We still have another 24 hours, so anything can happen but it probably affects it."

Mancini also ruled out a bid for wantaway Liverpool striker Fernando Torres and confirmed skipper Carlos Tevez had missed out with a back injury rather than merely being rested, as it was thought.

He usually comes off the bench but with three goals, three assists and 28 shots in 22 games, Johnson has quickly become one of the most trusted reserves on the world's most expensive club team.

Alert the bimbos: Robbie Keane headed to West Ham, possibly for 4.5 years

If there's one secret weapon to avoiding relegation in the English Premier League, it has to be signing a heavy-drinking, mercurial and possibly over-the-hill striker.

At least that's the wacky formula dreamed up by West Ham today as they agreed to sign Robbie Keane away from Tottenham. Keane signed a 4.5 year deal with the Hammers but that's contingent on them not being relegated.

West Ham will pay a fee of £5 million for Keane, providing the Premier League's bottom club survive the drop.

The 30-year-old has agreed a two-and a half year contract guaranteed plus an option in the club's favour to take up for a further two years. West Ham are showing enormous faith in the striker, who could be at his last club in the top flight in English football if he sees out the total years on the deal.

In addition, the Hammers have agreed to pay Spurs a £1 million loan fee for the rest of the season, and the deal has gone through just as ESPNsoccernet has been predicting throughout the transfer window after a £4 million move to Birmingham collapsed.

Finally, the Hammers will pick up Keane's £65,000-a-week wages, which makes it a huge investment in the Republic of Ireland international - but well worth it if they stay up. A West Ham insider confirmed: "The deal becomes permanent only if the club stay up."

West Ham have made four signings, and they now have 27 players and would like to sell or loan out two on the final day of the transfer window.

Manager Avram Grant said: "He (Keane) is not just a good player, he is a good character that we need in the next 14 games.''

West Ham co-owner David Gold told BBC Sport: "We're delighted to sign a world-class striker. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy drives a hard bargain but we've got our man.''

Keane told his new club's official website: ''I am ready to help West Ham stay in the Premier League, which is the most important thing for this club. I am really pleased to have signed and now I just can't wait to start training and playing football.

"I feel as fit as I ever have done in my life and I feel I have plenty left to offer at the highest level for at least the next four or five years. I want to help anywhere I can help the football club, whether that is in training, in the dressing room or on the pitch on a matchday. We have some good players here and I am sure we can stay up.

"When I went on loan to Celtic I scored 17 goals in 19 games and if I can do even half as well as I did there, then I'll be happy.''

He could make his debut in Wednesday's match at Blackpool.

Clearly, Keane is not the answer but West Ham is hoping that he can catch lightning in a bottle (no pun intended) and help them gain some points. It won't take long to figure out if this abrupt marriage will work or flame out.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Other transfer news

So many things going on as far as the transfer window is concerned since it ends this Monday.

Fulham captain Danny Murphy has signed a deal that will keep him at Craven Cottage through the summer of 2012.

"I'm delighted to have signed a contract extension this morning," Murphy told the club's official website. "As a Club we've achieved great things during my time at Fulham so far, not least our highest ever League finish and reaching the Europa League Final, and it is a great source of pride for me, as club captain, to have played a role in some truly historic moments for Fulham Football Club.

"We've made great progress as a club, on and off the pitch over the past few years, and with the chairman's continued support, I believe we've got many more great years ahead of us.

"On Sunday we've got a massive game against Spurs in the FA Cup and as a team we will give our all tomorrow afternoon to earn a place in the fifth round. I'm sure it's going to be a great atmosphere at the Cottage and hopefully we can continue our impressive start to 2011."

Murphy joined Fulham from Tottenham in the summer of 2007 and has made 119 Premier League appearances for the club.

Manchester City goalkeeper Shay Given wants to drop down to the Championship in order to play more often and regain his form.

The Ireland 'keeper saw Roberto Mancini opt to make Joe Hart his No. 1 at Eastlands and he has cut a frustrated figure through the autumn and winter. He has made few comments about his future but, after Mancini said last week that he was reluctant to let Given leave as it may leave him short should Hart pick up an injury, he has now signalled his determination to move on.

Given is prepared to drop down the divisions and is hopeful a recall clause may persuade City to let him head out on loan.

"I just want to play football," Given is quoted as saying in the Irish Times. "I do not want to go for an entire season without playing, which is how it's looking if I don't get games.

"I am prepared to go to a Championship club immediately to get some games and to be on a 24-hour call-back to Manchester City. That would benefit me, by getting me match-sharp, and City, who would have an experienced, match-sharp goalkeeper to come in if Joe got injured. I'd hope it would also benefit the club I'd be at. There are a couple interested."

Chelsea is ready to offer a record $40 million pounds for Fernando Torres.

It is understood that having failed with offers of £28 million and £32 million, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is ready to sanction a bid of £35 million plus the £5 million-rated Daniel Sturridge in order to bring Torres to Stamford Bridge.

That offer would represent a British transfer record, but it remains to be seen whether it would be enough to convince Liverpool to sell the striker, who has scored 65 goals in 102 Premier League games for the club since his move from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2007.

Torres has made his own perspective clear having shocked the club's fans by submitting a written transfer request on Friday. Liverpool subsequently announced that the request had been denied as manager Kenny Dalglish is determined to retain the services of the Spain international.

However, it is understood that Torres is desperate to play Champions League football - a scenario that looks deeply unlikely at Liverpool for next season, even if the club are on the brink of signing Ajax forward Luis Suarez for £22.8 million.

Chelsea have left it late in the transfer window to secure Torres but hope to sign the striker prior to the deadline closing on Monday night at 2300 GMT.

The Blues are also considering whether to increase their offer for Benfica defender David Luiz to £25 million after seeing talks collapse with the Portuguese club on Friday.

It is understood Abramovich has been advised to complete the two transfers in January, rather than the summer, in order to make it easier for Chelsea to comply with UEFA's incoming Financial Fair Play regulations.

A source told ESPNsoccernet: "The snag over Luiz for example has been quite small, but Abramovich has been told that he must spend now because if he wants to keep within the new rules, it will be more difficult in the summer.

"January is not normally the time when the big clubs recruit in this way, but it is an exception because of what is coming up in the summer."

Manchester United is interested in Ajax goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

A dependable presence in South Africa last summer for the World Cup finalists, the Ajax goalkeeper is highly rated across the continent. And now United coach Rene Meulensteen has confirmed the 28-year-old - who only has a year left on his current deal with the Eredivisie club - has attracted Sir Alex Ferguson's interest.

"Stekelenburg is indeed the 'keeper who is at the top of our wanted list," Meulensteen said. "We naturally talk a lot among ourselves about who should replace Van der Sar. Alex Ferguson has spoken about Stekelenburg with Edwin and that does not seem strange to me at all."

United's goalkeeping coach Eric Steele acknowledged earlier in the week that the club had three targets in mind who could potentially succeed Van der Sar, who will retire at the end of the current campaign, with assistant manager Mike Phelan suggesting on Thursday that Sporting Lisbon's Rui Patricio is also someone of interest to the Old Trafford hierarchy.

"He's a young keeper with enormous potential - we've known Rui Patricio for a long time and we've also played against him a few times," Phelan said of the 22-year-old. "The only thing I can confirm is that we haven't made any offer."

Tottenham won't sell Gareth Bale according to head coach Harry Redknapp

Bale is one of the most talked about players in Europe, having twice this season tormented European champions Inter Milan in the Champions League. His form in the Premier League has been of a consistently high standard and his wicked left foot has seen him become the subject of widespread transfer speculation.

It was claimed this week that Inter were readying a summer bid believed to be in the region of £40 million, although this was swiftly played down by the Serie A giants. The chatter has not been missed by Redknapp and he has once again made it clear that Tottenham have no intention of selling a player they bought for £5 million from Southampton in 2007.

"We won't be selling Gareth Bale in the summer, it's up to the chairman but I'd be very surprised if we were interested in selling him at any price," Redknapp said. "You have special players in your team and if we're going to be a top team you've got to keep your top players, you can't be selling Gareth Bale.

"You've got three or four players who can make a difference and he's one of those players. And, if you lose him, you can't replace him. Where are you going to replace him? You go and get one from here, one from there, another one.

"When he gets the ball something happens, he can do something that no one else can do. We can't afford to lose him."

Redknapp has revealed that midfielder Tom Huddlestone has suffered a setback in his bid to return from the ankle injury that has sidelined him since September.

"Tom's had a setback and it seems he's going to be longer than we expected," Redknapp said. "His ankle is sore. He tried to do a bit of running and is still a long way away.

"We will have to look at his situation with regard to the 25-man squad. I am hoping he'll be okay as he is important to us and is a fantastic player."

Spurs fail to get Nolan Carroll.

Tottenham Hotspur have failed with a reported offer of £25 million for Newcastle United striker Andy Carroll.

Harry Redknapp has been linked with a move for the England international, 22, for much of January and it is understood that Spurs firmed up their interest with a formal offer.

However, Newcastle rejected the bid, reported to be in the region of £25 million, and have instructed Tottenham they do not want to lose Carroll before the transfer window closes.

The striker, who travelled to Sweden on Friday to address a troublesome thigh injury, has scored 11 goals for the club this season.

Carroll's impressive form for the Magpies saw him win his first international cap in the game between England and France in November.

Spurs want Scott Parker from West Ham.

West Ham have rejected a last-ditch bid by Spurs to snatch Scott Parker in exchange for Robbie Keane. The Hammers are still hoping to sign Keane, although negotiations are now sure to run until the final day of the transfer window on Monday.

ESPNsoccernet has been told that the Keane deal with Spurs will be concluded over the weekend and the deal signed on Monday morning.

But West Ham were forced to tell Spurs "no" for the third time regarding Parker, as Harry Redknapp has twice before tried to capture the midfielder. Redknapp was desperate to bring in his long-term target and offered £8 million plus the £6 million-rated Keane, but again West Ham turned them down, even though Spurs might have also thrown in Jamie O'Hara as part of the package.

West Ham want to take Keane on loan, paying a £1 million fee, with a view to a permanent deal on the condition that the Hammers stay in the Premier League at the end of the season. Spurs want a £6 million fee even if they go down, and that issue is the final piece of negotiations.

West Ham United chairman David Gold confirmed the move to sign Keane before the close of the transfer window, having also signed striker Demba Ba from Hoffenheim.

"Robbie Keane is a player we greatly admire. He is clearly available and quality players rarely are," Gold said. "We see him as a potential acquisition. We are looking at all players that are available from top-quality clubs.

"David Sullivan (West Ham's co-chairman) was up until the early hours of the morning still pursuing targets that we have. It will probably go right to the wire. We like to think we don't leave a stone unturned. Our people will go the extra mile to do whatever it takes to try to bring in players that otherwise you wouldn't get if you didn't pursue."

West Ham have also rejected moves by promotion-seeking Cardiff to bring Wales defender Danny Gabbidon home. Cardiff boss Dave Jones wanted the 37-times capped player - who spent five years with the Bluebirds. Cardiff offered £250,000 but it was instantly turned down.

Sunderland have indicated they would offer £3.5 million for Frederic Piquionne, which was also immediately rejected by West Ham. The offer arrived via an agent but was dismissed out of hand by the Hammers.

Sunderland secures loan of Sulley Muntari.

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has finally made a transfer breakthrough when he secured Inter Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari on loan for the rest of the season.

The 26-year-old Ghana international, who left Portsmouth for Inter in a ¬16 million move in July 2008, will join compatriots John Mensah and Asamoah Gyan at the Stadium of Light.

Bruce said: "Sulley is a fabulous acquisition for the club. When the opportunity arises to bring in a player of his ability - even in the short term you have to take it, and I'm delighted that we have been able to.

"His adaptability is a great asset. He did extremely well at Portsmouth so he knows the Barclays Premier League well and you have to be some player to move to Inter Milan for the fee that he did. He's a great addition."

Michael Bradley loaned to Aston Villa

Rumors have been swirling for the last week that U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley (son of head coach Bob Bradley) was going to be loaned from his German side Borussia Monchengladbach to Turkey's Gastalray.

I found that possibility kind of puzzling, though his German team is struggling and he recently lost a starting spot, it seemed like a lateral move at best. Well not anymore. Today it came out that Bradley will be loaned to Aston Villa until this summer.

The move ends weeks of speculation that Bradley, who has a year-and-a-half left on his Gladbach contract, might join Sunderland. But Sunderland's sale of forward Darren Bent to Aston Villa has put them in need of a striker, and apparently cooled their interest in Bradley.

The loan to Aston Villa will end in the summer, leaving Bradley with a year on his current Gladbach contract at the start of the summer transfer market.

The loan also gives Bradley, who impressed while with United States at the 2010 World Cup, a new lease of life. Gladbach are mired in the Bundesliga relegation zone, and though Bradley has played solidly all season, with three goals and three assists in 19 games, he was benched recently as coach Michael Frontzeck looked in vain for a line-up that could produce results.

At Villa, the American midfielder joins a team that has shown renewed vigour since acquiring Bent.

Since being drafted as a 16-year-old in 2004 by the MetroStars of MLS and coached by his father, current national team coach Bob Bradley, the younger Bradley spent two years in New Jersey before being sent to Heerenveen in the Eredivisie. Bradley scored 21 goals for the Dutch club in 2007-08 - a record for an American at a top-division European club.

That led to a transfer to to Monchengladbach in the summer of 2008, where he has held down a starting position for the better part of his stay. At Aston Villa, Bradley joins fellow Americans Brad Friedel and Eric Lichaj.

Bradley is one of my favorite current players on the U.S. national team (see my jersey) so I'm psyched that I get to see him much more competing in the EPL. It's pretty much perfect situation since I think he can play there right away.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Done deal

Liverpool, in my opinion, have made the swoop signing of the new year agreeing to a transfer fee of 26 million euros for star Ajax striker Luis Suarez.

You will remember Suarez as one of the villains of last summer's World Cup when he handled a ball off the line to save a goal against Ghana in the quarterfinals in the dying seconds of the game. Asamoah Gyan then missed the ensuing penalty kick and Uruguay went on to win the game knocking out the continent of Africa's last team. In my opinion it was a brilliant play and I would have done the same thing if I were in his boots, but many harbored ill feelings claiming it was unsporting.

Regardless Suarez is a player of real class and a massive signing for the Reds, who have struggled this season and last to hang with the big boys in England. He scored over 50 goals last season in Holland and at age 24 is just now rounding into his prime.

The question becomes can Liverpool hold onto its other prized front man Fernando Torres. Chelsea have been hot on the trail for the Spaniard for the better part of a year now and nearly swooped in to sign him last summer.

It is believed this week they made two offers for him starting at 28 million pounds and then a little over 30 mill pounds. However, Torres' value well exceeds either one of those bids despite his struggles at the tail end of last season with fitness and form that plagued him into the World Cup and through the first half of the Premier League season.

I would imagine Liverpool would not accept anything less than 40 million pounds for Torres, who now looks to be turning things around since Kenny Daglish took over as manager for Roy Hodgson.

The main problem is there are now rumors Torres is set to hand in his papers to ask to be sold to Chelsea, which would be a massive blow. As of the present time they are still just rumors and there may not be enough time to make such a major deal with the transfer deadline coming up on Monday, but this weekend should be interesting.

I for one would love to see what Suarez and Torres could produce on the pitch together. Suarez and Diego Forlan were amazing together in the World Cup for Uruguay, and Torres has played alongside David Villa for much of his international career, which says to me both of these guys can handle playing alongside a partner up top even though having two strikers is sort of a fad that is going out of fashion these days. But should Torres be sold to Liverpool, he and Didier Drogba would also form a tasty tandem, so regardless this will be very interesting to see how it turns out. Stay tuned for more...

More Chelsea Rumors

Chelsea like Manchester City are always a club that are in on a lot of rumors because of the big pockets of Russian owner and billionaire Roman Abramovich. Unlike City, who aspire to become what Chelsea have developed, the Blues are already in the Champions League and are consistently one of the top four teams in Europe and because they are in London are a more desired destination for players looking to move to England.

One of Chelsea's biggest targets however, now appears off the books. For quite some time the Blues have been chasing Brazilian David Luiz, who plays for Benfica -- a team I saw play the Revolution last spring.

Luiz is the real deal, a big 6-2 ferocious and skilled central defender, someone that could make a big difference for Chelsea, who have struggled on defense since John Terry's outing of the affair last year.

As I mentioned at the start of the Premier League season too, Chelsea are a club that is aging fast with most of their players staring at the wrong side of 30 or fast approaching that dreaded age in football where player's skill drastically start to disappear. I think it's fair to say I hit that nail on the head as the Blues have struggled for form this year and reside in fourth place struggling to remain in the top-4 with Tottenham hot in pursuit just three points behind. This is a club that won the league last year and really seem to have slipped.

Regardless Luiz at age 23 would've been a major buy and the right kind of buy as he would be entering his prime for the foreseeable future, but Benfica have rebuffed the Blues advances. The last offer stood at just over 21 million pounds, but Luiz is valued at 25 million. Both organizations put on their websites today that negotiations for the transfer fee had reached an impasse possibly with just 1 million pounds separating the two teams, but unless Chelsea come up with a higher bid they might miss out on any major reinforcements before the summer.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stop me if you've heard this before: Oguchi Onyewu is hurt

I'm not picking on the guy since he's hurt (again) but is it fair to ask if American defender Oguchi Onyewu will ever do anything for a European club team?

His latest injury happened today with his new club FC Twente (Netherlands). Onyewu hurt his back in his third appearance for the team, in their Dutch Cup quarterfinal vs. PSV Eindhoven.

I've never been an Onyewu fan, I feel like he's been overhyped from Day 1 and a project that hasn't seemed to progress. I have nothing against the guy and as always, we want to see American players pushing themselves to play at the highest level possible but when will he stop getting so many chances? I think it's a fair question at this point.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Adebayor loaned to Real Madrid

The big transfer news in England and Spain the last few days has been Emmanuel Adebayor shifting from Manchester City to Real Madrid.

Adebayor, 26, is in the Spanish capital to complete a move for the rest of the season and after undertaking tests on the Togo striker, Real's chief of medical services Carlos Diez said he was impressed with Jose Mourinho's latest signing.

Diez told Real's official website: "He is a physical marvel. He is in very good physical condition and will be able to immediately be incorporated into the team.''

Real will sign Adebayor on loan with an option to buy him in the summer, though the former Arsenal frontman has been signed chiefly as a temporary replacement for injured striker Gonzalo Higuain.

He was initially a massive hit at City following his £25 million move north from the Gunners 18 months ago, scoring in his first four games, but his star faded after Roberto Mancini replaced Mark Hughes as manager.

A change in scenery often turns things around and this could be the case with Adebayor. He's got the talent, now he just needs the results with Cristiano Ronaldo and his new Real Madrid teammates. Then he'll get paid and everyone will be happy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The most interesting month of the year: January comings and goings

The January transfer market is alway the most active month of the season because of the January transfer market that affects all the major leagues in Europe. It's a chance for some of the big clubs to add reinforcements, the mid-tier clubs to make their moves, and for some of the smaller clubs to do their best Kansas City Royal impressions ie sell off all assets for the highest bidder.

Here's a look at some of the bigger moves to date starting with our U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones.

Jones, who previously played in the Bundesliga with Schalke - a team in the Champions League - had been on the outs with his club for most of the year and took a loan move to go play with Blackburn in the EPL for 6 months, something I anticipate could become a full-time move over the summer. Jones was banished to the reserve squad for Schalke in November, and it's unlikely inmy opinion he would return. Oh and Blackburn made another nice signing that of Roque Santa Cruz, the big Paraguayan forward whom the U.S. could see in March, coming over from Manchester City where he was not getting any time with that team's all-star caliber team.

I think the two biggest moves I've seen thus far are that of Edin Dzeko coming over to Manchester City for the small price of 27 million euros from Wolfsburg and Everton's Steven Pienaar trading his Merseyside blue for Tottenham white. Harry Redknapp swooped into buy the South African captain for the small price of 3 million pounds, a bargain basement discount thanks to the fact Pienaar's contract is up and he was set to move. Both players are impact caliber players, guys that should make a difference. Dzeko, a Bosnian and Herzegovina international, is maybe the world's best forward that no one knows about and could catapult Man City over the top. Pienaar can play anywhere in the midfield, and it was a great coup for the Hotspurs who struck before London rivals Chelsea could seal the deal.

In one of the more strange moves I have seen this January, Sunderland sold of prized forward Darren Bent for 24 million pounds to Aston Villa, an incredible amount considering Bent has been at best a fringe English national team forward over his career.

What makes this deal even more ridiculous to me is that Villa in the past couple of years had a terrific team, but decided to sell off two of their best players in Garreth Barry and James Milner to Manchester City, which is why Martin O'Neil - one of the best managers in England - resigned from the club in August. Villa have been suffering this season and currently reside just one place about of the relegations zone tied on points with relegation zone team Wigan and must've felt they needed to make a major splash to ensure they stay in the EPL next season. It would be quite an embarrassment if Villa had dropped down to the Championship -- the second division of England -- especially considering Villa had been a fringe Champions League team over the past 2-3 years.

Sunderland on the other hand have been one of the first season surprises rising as high as fifth in the table to date currently residing in sixth place, and despite being in position to be in Europe next year must have felt that Villa's asking price was just too much to pass up on for a player that as I mentioned probably is worth only half that value. However, Sunderland manager Steve Bruce unleashed a bit of a tirade blaming the player for leaving afterward and was not too happy about the transfer.

Liverpool have been active in the transfer market agreeing to sell Dutch international Ryan Babel to the Bundesliga side Hoffenheim for a fee of 7 million euros. Babel never lived up to his promise and at best was a super-sub for the Reds. Hoffenheim represent another excellent opportunity for Babel to rebuild his career, remember he is still just 24-years-old.

The Reds are also seeking the services of Uruguayan and Ajax forward Luis Suarez, a player that burst onto the international scene with his fantastic performance at the World Cup last summer. A year ago Suarez scored 50 goals to help Ajax back to the Champions League. Now at 23 he is ready to make his move to a big club and Liverpool appear to be the club of his liking with all its Spanish speaking players. Suarez told Ajax boss Frank De Boer he wants to move and so I imagine the deal will get done. If Fernando Torres can regain his top form, something that has been lacking all of 2010 after his dreadful performance for Spain in the World Cup that has lasted into the first half of the EPL season, Suarez and Torres could represent a dream pairing for the Reds.

Lastly, not in transfer news but in injury news, Arsenal continue to miss last year's top buy Thomas Vermaelen, who has missed the entire season to date with some form of Achilles injury. The defender underwent an operation on the troublesome leg that will keep him out another six weeks at least. His absence has significantly hurt Arsenal's depth in the heart of the defense and he would be more than a welcome addition if he could return, but as a Gunner fan I'm not counting my chickens before they hatch that he will be back. After such a lengthy time off there most likely will come a point where they shut him down for the year as not to risk permanent damage.

As for replacements it appears my home boy Arsene Wenger is struggling in the search as one of my dream replacements German international star Per Mertesacker recently turned down the opportunity to make the switch to the north London side.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Back in action

In case you missed it last week the U.S. booked a couple of pretty tasty friendlies for late March starting with Argentina in the armpit of American, The New Meadowlands Stadium, then out to Nashville for a little song and dance with Paraguay.

The MNT will first play the albiceleste on March 26th then take on Paraguay three days later. Slate and I are already considering heading down to catch the game in Jersey, however, I may run into a bit of a problem because I'll be leaving to get more qualified with my soccer background heading to Florida to earn my B coaching license.

Regardless, it'll be interesting to see what type of squad Bob Bradley calls in, he typically loves to call in some guys that are on the verge of earning pt at the top level, but I'm sure we'll see a couple of the top guns. I can't remember if the U.S. plays in the Gold Cup this year or what major tournament they play in over the summer, but this should be the first step in the road forward post-World Cup.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Higuain out four months following back surgery

Argentine striker and Real Madrid star Gonzalo Higuain is expected to miss four months of action after back surgery for a hernia.

The 23-year-old Argentina international flew to Chicago in the United States to resolve a problem that has kept him off the playing fields since the beginning of December.

"The operation went very well," Doctor Richard G.Fessler said. "The recovery period is four months but to be get back to 100 percent after any operation takes a year.
"Higuain will stay in Chicago for a week for his back to be monitored. He will be able to walk immediately, stretch in a week, and to start to run in two or three.
"He will train in two months but he will not play for three or four months."

That news will be a blow to Real, who had hoped to have him back within two months, as it leaves them with one recognised centre forward in Karim Benzema moving into the crunch time of the season.

The French international has struggled to shine in Higuain's absence and even though Kaka has just returned to action after five months out following knee surgery, and Cristiano Ronaldo is in fine form, Real may decide to dip into the transfer market.
Jose Mourinho's side are still alive in three competitions, two points behind leaders Barcelona in La Liga, in the quarter-finals of the King's Cup and they resume in the Champions League last 16 against Olympique Lyon next month.

This is a tough break for Real Madrid and it also reminds me to tell you (not that you need the help if you're reading this) to watch Barcelona whenever you get the chance. I've just started to remember to watch their games on GOL TV (with Ray Hudson!) and they are magical. They are truly the best club team in the world at the moment and Messi is still on his own planet.

Here's a story that everyone can enjoy

There are few certainties in life but you can always and I mean always count on Craig Bellamy to do something stupid and get caught in the process.

The latest saga of his never-ending off the pitch escapades was your run of the mill assault charge.

Police say Wales striker Craig Bellamy has been arrested on suspicion of assaulting two men in a late-night incident last week.

South Wales Police say the 31-year-old Bellamy, who is currently on loan at Cardiff from Manchester City, was released on bail on Wednesday after speaking with officers.
The alleged attack took place in Cardiff's city center in the early hours of Sunday and left the two men with facial injuries.

Bellamy dropped into English football's second tier when he signed for Cardiff - the city of his birth - in August last year. He has also played for Liverpool, Celtic, Newcastle and Blackburn.

The fact that Bellamy keeps getting a million second chances can tell you something about his talent and also the fact that he'll never change or grow up. When you sign this joker, you have to know he'll pop off sooner rather than later and that's what I have always admired about him. Anyone who can do as many stupid things as him and still be gainfully employed (and not behind bars) deserves some type of award. We pour out this lager for you Craig and look forward to your next mess.

Apologize for the lack of posts

Our apologies for the lack of posts recently. With our jobs taking up much of our time and real life stuff to deal with, we haven't been posting at all lately.

With a day off from work and snow limiting my options of things to do, I thought I'd whip through some things we haven't touched on.

To sum up the important stuff we missed lately: Messi won men's player of the year (again), Marta won women's player of the year, Jose Mourinho was coach of the year, David Beckham is training with Tottenham, Ronaldinho has gone home to Flamengo (a Brazilian club), Oguchi Onyewu is with Dutch league champion Twente (on loan from AC Milan) and Edson Buddle is going to Ingolstadt (a second-tier German team).

Finally, Liverpool (Roy Hodgson out, Kenny Dalglish in) and Inter Milan (Rafael Benitez out, Leonardo in) got rid of their head coaches and hired new ones.