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Archive for July, 2010

Changes to the Beautiful Game

July 16, 2010 12 comments

Every sport has their negatives & positives, their weak points & strong points, their Keanu Reeves & their Marlon Brando’s.

Obviously, soccer is not an exception. Many living on this planet, including myself, are feeling empty since the World Cup ended last Sunday. Moving forward, the competition exposed some flaws that minor tweaks could help fix. The tournament had its share of referee blunders, cheating, diving, & a host of fixable controversies that many feel tarnish the spirit of the competition & the sport itself.

In response, here is my list of changes to soccer & how these changes would improve the sport. Note: I didn’t include video replay which I think would help the game, but also believe it would slow the game down. Also, I do not think it will be implemented anytime soon.

1. Goal-line Technology – We have seen the Hawk-eye system flourish in tennis. They also have built a system for soccer which FIFA has ignored. (I know FIFA’s stance is that they want the soccer to be the same at all levels & in all nations, but this argument is a joke. I would not watch a lower level or youth match on TV, I would not buy the shirt or pay for a ticket; nor are the players making millions of whatever currency for which they are being paid.) So, soccer should adopt the Hawk-eye system, in all the top flight leagues in the world & for the World Cup’s. We can also make this a priority for each continent’s tournament (like the Euro’s or Copa America). Now, at first, we probably cannot use the Hawk-eye system for the World Cup qualifiers since some nations, for example, San Marino, may not have the capacity or finances to install the system. But in the future, the technology will become cheaper & every country can acquire this system.

2. Ref’s have to give a statement to the press after the game. – You may remember a second half goal ‘scored’ by Mo Edu in the USA v Slovenia group stage match. Well it was not awarded a goal because the ref from Mali awarded a free kick to Slovenia. For what infraction, you might ask? Unfortunately, we will never know the reason why since FIFA do not require the refs to explain their call, nor do they have a press conference after the match. In response, FIFA should make the refs give a statement after the match on what they saw on the crucial calls in the match. This will not be a Q&A style press conference, just an explanation from the officiating crew. So, what’s the purpose of this? The call won’t be changed, but maybe the ref did see something (& without the benefit of replay or slow-mo) he gave the decision the way he did. At least we will have an explanation & can understand that a ref has a different sight line than what we see on TV.

3. Players caught (or not caught) diving could be suspended after the game tape is reviewed. – This is the easiest fix to a problem that has hurt the sport’s image, especially in the USA. For example, if Cristiano Ronaldo dives in the box & the ref gives a penalty, the goal will stand. BUT, after reviewing the game tape, he could receive a suspension for his acts. Say it is in the World Cup? Then maybe a one match ban. In La Liga for Real Madrid? Maybe a three match ban. In the qualifiers? A two match ban.

In addition, if he gets punished during the match, like he gets a yellow card or the ref does not award a free kick, then maybe his suspension would be lighter. Also, if the defender were to get sent off because his counterpart dove, then his red card suspension could get wiped out. The referee who officiated the game could go back & do this, or a retired referee could handle all of these rulings.

4. Refs can ‘transfer’ to officiate in other country’s leagues. – Players from Asia, Africa & the Americas move over to Europe by the dozens to play football. So why can’t the best refs in the world transfer or move to a better league. Maybe Koman Coulibaly (he was the man behind the USA-Sloveniva blunder) is a top quality ref and he just needs experience week to week in one of the top leagues in the world. This will only help the standard of referring week to week at the club level & at the big tournaments.

5. If a player goes down injured & requires medical treatment, he will be held off of the pitch for as long as his injury stopped the game. – This rule may sound a bit confusing, but it would help deter players from stalling the game by lying around on the ground late in matches. Unfortunately, the ‘magic spray’ would then be used a lot less by the medical staff. And, he Fourth official would be in charge of enforcing this rule.

6. Get rid of the yellow card suspension rule at the World Cup – This is the most basic & easy change to make by FIFA. We want to see the best players on the pitch in the most important matches. So, why should we keep them off the pitch for a yellow card, which is sometimes a poor call from the ref in the first place. Thomas Muller was suspended for the Spain match after a bogus hand ball v Argentina in the previous round. He picked up TWO yellow cards in FIVE games. The rule does no good for the game.

7. In Extra time allow a fourth sub to come on. – Normally, extra time is slow & unexciting, with penalties always seeming imminent. Allowing an additional sub in the extra period may not liven up the game much, but one more fresh body could help open the game up a little bit. I know a game going to penalties is hated by many, but I do not have a better solution on how to end a match, without hurting the spirit of the game. Allowing a fourth substitute may be a small step tho.


Agree/Disagree?

Please post below any other changes that I may have forgotten or left out…

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23 Best of the World Cup

July 12, 2010 6 comments

Here is my 23 man squad of the best at the World Cup (I managed to sneak in another outfield player on the bench & did not get caught by FIFA, unlike North Korea’s coach)

My formation is a 4-1-2-1-2:

GK Casillas (Spain) Captain – On Friday I had the starting keeper slot up for grabs in my notes. And on Sunday Casillas grabbed it. Spain didn’t concede a goal in the knock-out rounds, though it is debatable how much Iker played a part in this. However, he stoned Arjen Robben on two break-aways & ultimately hoisted the trophy as the captain of the World Cup winning side.

RB Maicon (Brazil) – He started off the tournament tormenting the North Koreans & eventually scoried a phenomenal goal from what seemed like an impossible angle. Coach Dunga relied on him to be the lone attacking force on the right for Brazil. He did this while also tracking back to defend. Ultimately, Brazil ended up being a disappointment, but Maicon lived up to his expectations.

CB Puyol & Piqué (Spain) – This defensive combination was a no brainer. They are comfortable playing next to each other, see Barcelona, & organized a stingy Spain defense all tournament long. The most impressive part of these stalwarts is how they win the ball back for Spain & are always able to KEEP possession (take note Onyweu & Demerit). Piqué is able to spray passes across the pitch & Puyol is the warrior with the wild hair, who will be remembered for his thumping header that KO’d Germany.

LB Coentrão (Portugal) – This position had no obvious choice, but I went with Fabio. Many may question Fabio’s hair cut & hair color (actually everyone should), but nobody should question his abilities. He was the only player who was willing to venture forward & offer support to Cristiano Ronaldo. He swung a bevy crosses & provided flair for a Portugal team who were very conservative. Also, he was part of a back four who only conceded one goal in the tournament.

CM Schweinsteiger (Germany) – He played on the wing for the Germans in 2006 & was only converted to a central midfield player in the past year for his club team Bayern Munich. Bastian did exactly what he was required to do: stifle the opponents attack by breaking up passes in the middle of the field & then finding a passing outlet. He started off many of the memorable counter attack goals scored by Germany & also marshaled a young team that may be the favorites in 2014.

RM Müller (Germany) – One of the break-out stars of the tournament. Thomas won the Golden Boot by scoring 5 goals & assisting on 3 others. He was the executioner of the vaunted German counter attack.

LM Iniesta (Spain) – He cemented his place in this team by scoring the extra time winner in yesterday’s final. He also scored a great goal v Chile & made a marauding run through the Paraguayan defense to set up the winner in their quarter final. With Fernando Torres playing poorly, Iniesta picked up his slack by providing support for David Villa to form a cohesive attacking combo. (This combination will continue to be frightening this season for Barcelona). On the down side, I was disappointed by his constant complaining to referee Howard Webb & his ‘lack of balance’ that he showed in the final.

CAM Sneijder (Holland) – Although he benefitted from some deflected goals, he finished the tournament as joint top scorer on 5. Wesley was dangerous all tournament & picked up the slack left behind by his striker Robin Van Persie, who was non-existent throughout much of the tournament. In the final he was quiet, but he put Robben through for a one on one with Casillas which could have been the winning assist.

CF Forlán (Uruguay) – Diego was one of the few players who seemed to master the much controversial Jabulani ball. He won the Golden Ball for being the best player, as voted on by the journalists. He even played out of position for most tournament, dropping deeper into midfield to play the ‘#10’ role because his team needed him there. He played well consistently throughout the competition & also earns my award for “the Best Tweeter” out of all players in the World Cup.

ST David Villa (Spain) – He landed a huge transfer to Barcelona right before the tournament & I bet Valencia are kicking themselves after the display he put on. (How much would Man City have offered for him today?) He struggled in the final, but he bailed Spain out late in games to progress his country deep in the tournament. He scored one of the best goals of the tournament v Honduras weaving past 3 defenders before curling the ball into the top corner from the seat of his pants. V Chile, He added a 45 yard curler with his weaker left foot after the Chilean keeper came out to challenge a long ball. He advanced Spain  to the semis by scoring winners v Portugal & Paraguay.

The Bench:

GK Eduardo (Portugal) – He had my vote as top keeper until Iker’s performance in the finals. He stoned Spain numerous times until David Villa put one past him, which was his own rebound by the way. He only allowed one goal in the four games he played in.

CB Paulo Da Silva (Paraguay) – Paraguay were the most boring team in the World Cup. However, Da Silva led a very stingy defense which played organized under constant pressure.

LB Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Holland) – He captained Holland all tournament & scored the best goal of the World Cup in the semi-finals v Uruguay. Gio, who will retire from football, helped provide width on the left for Holland while also playing part in a surprisingly good defense.

RB Sergio Ramos (Spain) – Ramos has always been known for his attacking play (How did he not score at all in this tournament?), but his defensive work was what put him on this list.

CDM Javier Mascherano (Argentina) – He was the captain of the Argentine side many picked to lift the trophy. He anchored a midfield in which he was the only player who had any defensive responsibility.

RCM Diego Perez (Uruguay) – Mr. Perez was one of my favorite players to watch. He ran his butt off & made vicious slide tackles every game. Perez set up the first Uruguayan goal in the Thrid Place game  with a great slide tackle then outlet pass to Suarez. The announcers always wondered how he never received more cards, thus entering him into the All-Mark Van Bommel team. He also resembled one of the zombies from “I am Legend” which added to his intimidating demeanor.

CM KP Boateng (Ghana) – Boateng played exactly like he looked. (Which I guess is a compliment & why I couldn’t stand watching him). He was tatted-out & had a wicked mo-hawk. He was constantly barking at the referees, he took wild shots from 30 yards out & he somehow never got carded for ridiculous slide tackles. He also was the back bone of a young, upstart Ghana team.

CM Xavi (Spain) – He completed 599 passes in the tournament! But, the reason why he didn’t make my top 11: he didn’t make the killer passes that we are so used to seeing him make at Barcelona.

LM/CF Keisuke Honda (Japan) – He scored v Denmark on an outrageous free-kick & was often jettisoned on his own up top in a defensive Blue Samurai lineup. Honda showed off his great skill & his daring bleach blonde threads.

RM/LM Landon Donovan (United States) – Landon scored a last minute winner to beat Algeria that set off pandemonium in office buildings & local bars alike. He also tallied on a guillotine attempt of the keeper to spark a second half comeback v Slovenia. He scored 3 times in South Africa & was the best attacking player for the USA.

CAM Mesut Özil (Germany) – He was another member of the young German attack & arrived on the scene early by lighting up Australia in Germany’s opener. He reminds me of a raw Xavi & has the potential to win world player of the year in the future. He will be linked to every top European club this off season & I would be shocked if he stayed at Werder Bremen.

ST Luis Suarez (Uruguay) – Suarez made the list for my most memorable moment of the Cup; the cheating, yet genius, volley ball save in the 119 min to miraculously defeat Ghana. (And don’t tell me you wouldn’t celebrate in the tunnel after Gyan missed the subsequent penalty?) He also scored a stunning winner v South Korea in the round of 16. His value was seen in the semifinal as he was sorely missed in the loss v Holland.

Any player I left out or any changes you would make to the formation, starting XI?

What the Cavs Should Do, Following: the Decision.

July 9, 2010 3 comments

But before we address the main subject of this post, a few ramblings on the fallout…

What can I say except, all Cavs fans are gutted after last night. And, that the scale of guttedness is very wide (from those who will still support him – to those who burned his jersey – to Dan Gilbert).

On Lebron:

Good Move: Basketball Wise – We can all agree that his decision was made with winning in mind. He took less money. He will have to share the ball. He will have to share the spotlight.

Bad Move: PR Wise – This might be the worst PR move in the history of PR. His brand is devalued: not just in NE Ohio, but around the country. This entire process has made him look out of touch with reality, this is a new, changed, Lebron.

We won’t hate him for leaving, but we will hate him for how he did it. We supported Lebron for the past 7 years, by making his jersey the #2 seller in the league, by selling out the Q & by standing by him when the media said he wouldn’t be able to get the job done. And he slaps us in the face. By doing this. The hour long special was utterly cruel. If you want to leave, just come out & tell us. Also, at least LOOK or FAKE some kind of genuine emotions when talking about the hometown fans!

Bad Move: Legacy Wise – By going to Miami, Lebron can never reach the heights of greatness that Jordan & Kobe have reached. He is admitting he needs another superstar & he can’t be the undisputed alpha dog on a team that wins the title. He is telling the NBA that he can’t do it on his own.

Now to Dan Gilbert… Why? Was it worth it?

Mr. Gilbert &The Cavaliers Organization had the opportunity to come away from this on top. Sympathy towards Cleveland was coming from everywhere.  After “The Decision” was made, many tweets from sportswriters, to musicians, to random US citizens said something along the lines of, “I feel sorry for Cleveland.” Then, Gilbert, through, “The Letter” & his subsequent AP interview, threw all the sentiment away. Now, this morning, there are numerous columns & tweets chastising Gilbert for a stupid, childish move.

Now, we can understand how frustrated he feels (& maybe some stuff went down behind the scenes that hasn’t come out), & we know he spent millions in the luxury tax & did everything he could to enhance Lebron’s supporting cast in the past few years, BUT be the bigger man Dan. Instead, he stooped to Lebron’s level & the Cavs are not better off for it. (Gilbert also was partly to blame for this “situation”. He never stood up to Lebron or told him no in the past 7 years.)

For the future, this may sound a bit dramatic but, the Cavs could suffer adverse affects from Gilbert’s tyrannical tirade. Already, Kevin Durant, Ochocinco & several other athletes have said Gilbert’s move was not a smart decision (in their opinions). Free agents this year & in the future may not want to play for Gilbert after seeing this dark side of him.

The classier move would have been to release a letter to the fans saying something similar to this,

“Dear Cavs Fan’s,

The Cavaliers organization consists of more than just one player. We represent a city, a region, a state & will not let one man’s decision stand in the way of our goals. We recognize that last season ended in great disappointment, but we remain 100% committed to bringing a championship to Cleveland. We will make the necessary improvements to accomplish this goal because you, the fans, deserve a winner. We look forward to seeing you at the Q this season & GO CAVS!”

Now, to the main event. Where do the Cavs go from here?

We all know that we just lost our best player & probably, our ability to compete for a championship this season. With that being said, the Cavs have some flexibility to make roster changes & this is the strategy I would employ:

1. The goal for 2010-11 should not be to win. We only have $9 million in cap space this year & most of the 2010 free agent class have already been signed. We simply lack the cap space & trade assets to compete this year, And

The worst position to be in the NBA is a 35-42 win team (just ask the Indiana Pacers). These teams have a shot at getting the #8 seed in the playoffs, but have no chance of even advancing to the second round. Also, if they miss the playoffs, they will be at the end of the lottery where you cannot find a great player.

2. The 2011 Free Agent Class has plenty of talent. A few names for ya: Jamal Crawford, Big Baby, Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea, Caron Butler, Carmelo, JR Smith, Tayshaun Prince, Shane Battier, Yao Ming, TJ Ford, Zach Randolph, Michael Redd, David West, Mickael Pietrus, Jason Richardson, Leandro Barbosa, Tony Parker, Andrei Kirilenko. I’m not saying all these players are all in play for us next year, but we could make a run at a few of them. (Also, this list doesn’t include the restricted free agents).

3. Having a poor 2010-11 season we result in a high lottery draft pick. Let’s face it; we need some young talent on this roster. A lottery pick would help do the trick.

2. Bring over Christian Eyenga & Sausha Kaun. Eyenga was 30th pick by the Cavs in 2009 draft. He is 21 years old & is a 6ft6in wing player who played last season at DKV Joventut in Spain. He averaged 11 mins a night and put up about 4 points a game & also won the Spanish league dunk contest, which means he is athletic. Sasha Kaun is a 25 year old center who played 4 years at Kansas before moving over to CSKA Moscow in 2008. In the Euroleague (the best European basketball competition) he averaged 9.1 point on 71.3% shooting & 4.6 rebounds a game.

Additionally, The Cavs have had limited draft picks recently & are devoid of young talent. By coming to the NBA, these two European players, along with JJ Hickson, can gain valuable experience.

3. Get rid of Delonte West. I’m sure everyone has heard the rumors about Delonte’s sexcapades with Glo James last season. We also know that he was arrested for carrying multiple guns, including one in a guitar case, while riding a 3 wheel motorcycle last summer in DC. Simply put, he is not worth it. He is a decent role player, but at times he doesn’t show up. His mental state is screwy. His decision making is questionable.

His contract is favorable for the Cavs. If the Cavs cut him, he will only get $500,000 of his $4.6 million salary that is owed to him. Also, he could be a trade asset since a team can take a chance on him with low risk, or cut him & save money altogether. Cavs GM Chris Grant needs to shop him around, and if no good trades are available then we need to release him. Releasing him would give us $13 million, up from the $9 mil we have now.

4. Re-sign Big Z to a minimum deal (or at least offer him a contract). Talk about a great PR move this would be. The man whose jersey should hang in the rafters of the Q (we know Lebron’s will not). The man whom we traded(!) and he still came back(!). He loves Cleveland. We love him. He represents everything Lebron doesn’t in Cleveland. He is the most loved Lithuanian in our city. Also, Z can also help tutor the young bigs, especially if Kaun comes over, and he can be the ultimate leader & new face of our team. This would be a feel good moment after that stomach punch we received last night.

It is going to be an uphill road for GM Chris Grant & Dan Gilbert, but we know Gilbert will do everything in his power to win a championship (just read his most recent letter).

Any thoughts on what the Cavs need to do?