Archive for September, 2008

Europa League To Replace UEFA Cup

September 27, 2008

UEFA announced yesterday that next years it will rename its venerable UEFA Cup tournament the Europa Cup in an effort to boost is prestige and appeal. It will also feature a 48 team field with home and away matches plus a more concerted marketing effort, new sponsorship, and will be more widely broadcast in Europe.

UEFA boss Michael Platini stated that “These changes will improve this historic competition which is very important for UEFA and for European football, as it gives more fans, players and clubs the thrill of European club football” and added that “I am convinced the new format will give the UEFA Europa League a successful new impetus.”

Since the advent of the UEFA Champion’s League, the UEFA Cup has been seen as something akin to the NIT tournament when compared to the NCAA basketball tournament. Fans know that the best of the best play in the Champion’s League while the rest play in the UEFA Cup so this may be a tough sell. That said, there may be some hope.

Where a new Europa League could find its niche is in selling itself as featuring the best clubs from the less wealthy leagues where the level of play is good but the passion is equal to or exceeds that of the Champion’s League. In the same way some Americans prefer college football to the NFL, there are millions of Ukrainians, Danes, Germans, Belgians, Swedes, and others who take great interest in watching their own local teams during European competitions. Capitalizing on that dynamic is what the Europa League should be all about.

Monaco: Adu Ready For A League Start?

September 27, 2008

Freddy Adu finally made a start for AS Monaco, putting in a solid effort in a League Cup match against Paris Saint-Germain. Unfortunately, Monaco fell to the resurgent PSG 1-0 on a 36th minute goal by Fabrice Pancrate. Adu was replaced in the 70th by Park Ju-Young who was also unable to produce an equalizer.

Adu’s performance and good understanding with his teammates bodes well for his chances to start Sunday against Lille. Park still seems to be finding his feet on The Rock so this may be the opening Adu has been waiting for.
The question now is whether coach Ricardo Gomes is ready to pair Adu up top with the 6′ 3″ Frederic Nimani or start his two new (but smaller) players up top, Adu and Park. Since Monaco traditionally prefers to have a muscular target up front (formerly Jan Koller, now Nimani) with a speedy supporting striker, we could see an AduNimani pairing on Sunday.

Mastroeni: New Interest From Spain

September 26, 2008

As we’ve reported here before, it appears USA and Colorado Rapids midfielder Pablo Mastroeni is set for a move to Europe in January, the only question is where.

While a handful of Italian clubs (such as Cagliari, Catania, and Palermo) have been whispered to have interest, LFV friend Nick Thomas is reporting that interest is also coming from Spain’s Real Betis and Malaga. Check it out here.

Now There’s An Angle!

September 24, 2008

Our friend Gruff offers us some fresh perspective on the impact of the US financial sector crisis on a certain Premiership side. Check it out here.

Bernardo Signs 3-Year Deal With Napoli

September 24, 2008

US national youth team player Vincenzo Bernardo has just signed a 3-year professional deal with Serie A side Napoli which ties him to the club until 2011. Currently with the Napoli reserve team, the 18 year-old New Jersey native saw his fortunes rise this fall after a strong reserve friendly performance against the first team a few weeks ago.

Head coach Edy Reja was so impressed with the young Bernardo’s play in the match that he called him in to train with the first team for a week where he showed well and impressed team scouts (as well as some suitors from England and Spain). By the end of the week, Bernardo’s agent called him to inform him that the club wanted to offer him a professional contract and by last weekend, the deal was done. “Its a dream come true, I’m very thankful” remarked Bernardo after a training session today at the club’s Castel Volturno training grounds.

While Napoli already has a great deal of first team talent at forward, the club indicates Bernardo is likely to be called into first team training when Reja needs to shore up his options, including during UEFA and Coppa Italia weeks and around FIFA international match weeks when the team loses several forwards to national team duty. While they appear to have future plans for him, whether he can crack the first 18 this year remains to be seen but Bernardo is realistic: “There could be a chance at some point but I need to work hard, be patient, and see what happens. Just to be training with the first team is a good experience. ”

On training with players like Argentine internationals Ezequiel Lavezzi and German Denis, or Uruguayan international Walter Gargano, Bernardo remarked that: “It definitely raises the bar on everything you need to do since everyone is watching and you are going up against some really good players – you need to perform. They are not only good players but also great people, they are ready to help you and there is a real good feeling with them.”

When asked if he’ll be getting any future chances with the US National Youth teams, Bernardo stated: “Its always an honor to be called in represent your country. If they call, I’ll be there any time they want me.

In the meantime, Bernardo will continue to train alternately with the reserve and first teams and is looking forward to the reserve team’s first league match against Ascoli on October 11th.

Serie B: Szetela Goes Distance in Losing Effort

September 23, 2008

American Danny Szetela kept up his string of 90 minute performances for Serie B side Brescia tonight in a losing effort to Ancona 2-0. The loss left Brescia in ninth place with six points after four matches. The home side, Ancona got its first win of the year while Brescia has a chance to redeem itself against Parma at home this Saturday.

Goal Of The Year (So Far)

September 23, 2008

OK everyone, the season is still young but Fenandinho’s 36 meter free kick for Shakhtar Donetsk against FC Basel last week is my first nomination for goal of the year. In case you missed it, watch it here.

Donovan Linked To Bayern? Doubtful

September 23, 2008

This week Andrea Canales got the US faithful abuzz with a nice article on a potential Landon Donovan return to Europe. Your faithful vagabond has been sniffing about this week checking on the possibility that Landon Donovan has attracted interest from Bundesliga power Bayern Munich. So far the results indicate that people have taken Andrea’s speculation and twisted it into something it is not; a rumor. Even when quoted in her article Donovan caveats the idea with the key phrase; “…if there is interest.”

While Bayern coach Juergen Klinsmann is well aware of Donovan and his abilities, my spidey sense tells me its hard to see the club bringing him in as a 4th striker right now (unless someone gets injured). Even if Donovan came aboard, competing for playing time with Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose, and Lukas Podolski (three of Europe’s most storied attackers) seems like a bridge too far.

So, as the MLS season winds to a close and Donovan’s MLS contract comes up for renewal, expect more rumors and innuendo with the occasional fact popping out every now and then. We’ll do our best to help you tell which is which (and welcome your inputs as well).

Americans Abroad: Sunday Results

September 21, 2008

It remained a busy weekend for American players in Europe today as Carlos Bocanegra put in a good 90s minutes for Stade Rennais as they drew Nancy 0-0. Rennes is off to a slow start, currently sitting in 12th place with seven points.

Down in Spain, Jozy Altidore dressed but did not play for Villarreal in their 2-1 win over Numancia. Up in England yesterday, Clint Dempsey watched from the bench as Fulham, fell to Blackburn Rovers 1-0. With Brad Friedel between the pipes, Aston Villa won the midlands derby with West Brom 2-1. While beaten once in the 33rd minute, Friedel made several good saves to preserve the lead and the win.

In Germany, Neven Subotic and Borussia Dortmund took a beating from Bundesliga newcomer TSG Hoffenheim in a 4-1 drubbing. Subotic was beat on the 4th Hoffenheim goal by Luis Gustavo while Felipe Santana prevented a goose egg for Dortmund during injury time.

AS Monaco’s Freddy Adu is listed in the first 18 for tonight’s big match against arch rival Olympique Marseille. A win puts Monaco in the top three while a Marseille win would solidify their second place position and pull them within two points of leader Olympique Lyon. Its not clear yet if Adu will start or make a substitute appearance but the word from Monaco is that they are planning to get some offensive production from the young American tonight.

Update: Freddy Adu did not play in the lackluster 0-0 draw but given how poorly playmaker Park Chu-Young played, he may get his chance next week.

Americans In Action All Over Europe This Weekend

September 20, 2008

American Jozy Altidore was named to the squad for tonight’s match against Primera newcomer Numancia. Given that coach Manuel Pelligrini is without three starters due to injury and is just coming off a midweek Champion’s League draw with Manchester United, and Altidore’s encouraging debut last week against Deportivo, there is a good chance that Altidore will see more playing time this week.

Villarreal’s current predicament is exactly the reason Pellegrini decided not loan out Altidore at the beginning of the season. If the young American can make a positive impact in the coming weeks, it will reduce the chance that he is loaned out in January – the club’s current plan.

Playing center-left midfield of a 3-5-2 for Brescia, Danny Szetela went the distance again in a 2-1 win over Ascoli this afternoon. Meanwhile, Gabe Ferrari and Perugia are set to take on Pescara tomorrow in Lega Pro (Serie C) action. Elsewhere in Italy, Napoli reserve team player Vincenzo Bernardo picked up an injury while training with the first team and missed the last two reserve matches. Nonetheless, his performances in training with the first team has seen his stock rise, leading some locals to speculate on a future role with the senior squad.

Hannover got a spanking at BayArena as they fell to Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 on Friday night. American Sal Zizzo came on the 50th minute for Hannover with the team already down 2-0 while Steve Cherundolo did not play due to injury. Neven Subotic and Borussia Dortmund take on Bundesliga newbie Hoffenheim on Sunday. Heath Pearce went the distance for Hansa Rostock as they drew Rot-Weiss Ahlen 2-2. Ahlen’s Grover Gibson did not play due to a nagging injury.

Also in Germany, Borussia Monchengladbach dropped its second straight match, this time to Hertha Berlin 1-0. Michael Bradley made his Bundesliga debut as started and played a solid 65th minutes but was not able to convert any chances for the Foals. Bryan Arguez did not play for Hertha.

Up in France, Carlos Bocanegra and Rennes will be looking to earn a much-needed three points tonight against Nancy while word out of Monaco is that Adu may have a larger role in tomorrow’s match against arch rival Marseilles.