Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Real Madrid - Sloppy But Effective

Real Madrid just finished off the UEFA Cup and European Supercup champs FC Zenit St. Petersburg, 2-1. An own goal by Zenit and a 35th-minute goal by Ruud van Nistelrooy proved to be the difference. Now, with half of the Champions League teams through 2 games, Real Madrid is the only one that has a 100% result (or as they say it in America, they've won both their games). Man U, Villareal and Arsenal were also winners today, which was very important for all of them to bounce back from their draws in the first set of round-robin matches.

Real Madrid has looked inconsistent at times so far this season in all competitions. This was based on a slew of injuries to many of their defenders, the sale of out-of-favor Robinho, and the loss of Wesley Sneijder to a knee injury. However, the acquisition of Rafael Van der Vaart has been a great one, as he has really worked his way into the rotation. Ruud and Raul are both playing excellent, and Guti has been great as well. One player that has proven to live up to the hype is Ruben de la Red, a player that has spent a long time in the Real Madrid system. He was on loan last season, but at the end of the season, right before Euro '08, Real Madrid brought him back to make regular first-team appearances, and he hasn't disappointed.

What has disappointed is the erratic play of the back line and (Saint) Iker Casillas. Casillas, in my mind, is the best goalkeeper in the world without question, but he hasn't played like it so far. He has been human the first month or so. He has, however, locked down during the big competitions like the Champions League, but he also needs help. Injuries to the back line has yielded a lot of turnover from match to match. The 4 players that start one game may not even be available the next. That has led to a lot of miscommunication and not enough rhythm from the defenders. What has to happen is for those players to heal and get better so that they can recapture the flow that has eluded them thus far. On offense, the impending return of Sneijder will really help their options on set pieces and with balls from the wings into the 18-yard box. He will also get the #10 shirt that opened up when Robinho left, and in my mind, he is worth the #10.

Real Madrid is still a point out of first in the La Liga table (Villareal holds the top spot), so they are still doing well. Once the rest of the injured team members come back into fitness, look out. The youngsters have received playing time with the veterans, and once everyone's back, I think the team will really start to gel, and the consistency that is Los Blancos will return.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Look Out For Man City

Man City is going to be ridiculous this season. Mark it down. The up-front pairing of Brazilians Robinho and Jo has worked thus far, and I think we're seeing a team that can finish in the Top 4 in the Premiership if they continue on their ways. A 6-0 drubbing of Portsmouth doesn't hurt.

Robinho's one of my favorite players in the world, and I was sorry to see him leave Real Madrid. However, he really has landed in a great situation at Man City, with a new owner that has made a statement by paying 32.5 million pounds for Robinho and will not stop there. Add Shawn Wright-Phillips to the mix, and you got some great talent on a team that couldn't get it done last year with Sven Goren-Ericksson managing.

I think that this is only the start for the team in The Eastlands. The Big 4 (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United) really need to look behind their shoulder...the sky blue and white are coming for them...and I think they're on the verge of starting the shakeup of the annual domination of the Big 4, and they will also inspire other teams to do the same.

Monday, September 15, 2008

UEFA Champions League Is Back!

Tomorrow, the group stage for the UEFA Champions League, probably the greatest international soccer competition outside the World Cup and the European Championships, takes flight, with 8 matches tomorrow and 8 on Wednesday. There are a lot of intriguing matchups tomorrow, including Olympic Marseille hosting Liverpool, Barcelona-Sporting Lisbon, and PSV Eindhoven-Atletico Madrid. On Wednesday, the big one will likely be Man U-Villareal, with Porto-Fenerbache and Juventus-Zenit also being pretty good matchups.

Taking a look at the groups, there are some seriously stacked groups. Looking at Real Madrid, my favorite team in the world, they have to get past a group filled with Zenit, last year's UEFA Cup champion, and Juventus. Inter Milan has to battle with Werder Bremen and Panthiakos. Barcelona, in my mind, may be shocked out of this Champions League with FC Basel and Sporting Lisbon in their group. Celtic, Man U and Villareal will have to battle it out for the top 2 spots in their group. However, in my opinion, the group of death is Group D, with Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, PSV Eindhoven and Marseille.

The key to the group stage for the giants in the field is to start off with the 3 points. You don't want to give the other teams in your group confidence with you drawing or even losing the first game. This has plagued Real in the past, as they have sometimes lost big in their first match and have had to play catch-up the rest of the group stage to barely make it to the knockout stage. Winning the first match takes a lot of pressure off your squad. You can rest some players and get your rotations between Champions League, the domestic league and the domestic cup competitions set. You don't have to overplay your heavy hitters and you can focus on bringing up some of your younger talent to get them some burn in games against international competition. Finally, as in the case of Real and other teams, those heavy hitters who are gone to injury can heal while you have full faith and confidence in the rest of the squad to make do while they're out.

It is indeed great to have Champions League football back in the fold once again. I think tomorrow, ESPN2 is showing Bordeaux-Chelsea at 2:30 and Sporting Lisbon-Barcelona will air at 5:30 (tape delay) on ESPN Classic. Wednesday gives us Bate Borisov-Real Madrid at 5:30 (tape delay) on ESPN Classic and another live game at 2:30 on ESPN2. However, if you want to catch any of the other games online, there are a few websites that stream the games. I would recommend Channel Surfing for your streaming needs. Happy hunting, and HalaMadrid!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

U.S. Thumps T&T, 3-0-0 in Group Play

The U.S. Men's National Team moved to 3-0-0 in the World Cup Qualifying Group Stage with a 3-0 victory against Trinidad & Tobago last Wednesday night in Chicago. Michael Bradley, Clint "Deuce" Dempsey and Brian Ching notched goals as the U.S. recorded its 5th straight World Cup Qualifier shutout (and 6th straight shutout overall). In the process, they outclassed an obviously overmatched T&T team as they now stand way ahead in 1st place of their group with 9 points, with return legs against Cuba (in DC), Guatemala (in Denver) and T&T (in T&T).

What struck me about this game was the performance of a couple of players. One, DaMarcus Beasley is back. His pace was excellent, and he was really aggressive in creating scoring opportunities, culminating in an assist on Dempsey's goal. He was also very capable in working with the other younger players and getting them in the flow of the offense. I'm glad to seem him back to form, and I hope he can continue to work hard and continue to flow with the offense. We definitely need him.

Tim Howard was awesome as usual. At this point, I think he's one of the Top 5 keepers in the entire world. Yes, I said it, the world. The other keepers on that list: Iker Casillas (Spain), Edwin van der Sar (Netherlands), Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), and maybe Dida (Brazil). Let's face it, Tim Howard is playing incredible right now, and he's the man at Everton as well. Honestly, outside of Iker Casillas, there's no one I would have more trust in placing in net than Tim Howard.

Speaking of incredible play, how about Dempsey? 4 goals in 4 games, including the game winner at Cuba. I just hope that he can translate his success on the world stage to doing well at Fulham, because he has the chance there to really dominate and lead that team back into the middle of the EPL pack. He is one of my favorite players on the U.S. team, and as high as his confidence is right now, I hope that he can use his time in the EPL to really develop into a go-to offensive option, whether it be as a striker or as a right attack mid like he's been playing.

Michael Bradley did much better against T&T than the form he has shown over the past few months. Maybe he's burnt out, but what I think he should be doing is focusing on playing well for Borussia Mönchengladbach, his new team.

Finally, as the U.S. seek to all but clinch the group stage in a game next month against Cuba (which I will be attending), I would like to see Bob Bradley bring in some of the younger players to get their feet wet against some quality international competition. Players like Freddy Adu (Monaco), Jozy Altidore (Villareal) and Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas) should be brought in to work their incredible pace into the pool of talent we have on the Men's National Team. These players are our future, but they could very well be worked in now so that come 2010, our roster options will be that much greater. Word Life.

Full Up, My Friends

First off, greetings! I’m glad to welcome you to the newest source for analysis and news of the game called soccer, football or fĂștbol.

A lot of the coverage will surround my favorite teams, which are as follows: Real Madrid, USA, Spain, and DC United (I follow them living here in the DC area). Among the leagues, I follow the EPL, La Liga and MLS. However, I do keep my eyes glued to news about soccer from around the world, from transfer news to domestic league cups to Champions League to World Cup qualifiers to Americans playing internationally.

Life in 1-1-8 is a tribute to the greatest formation in soccer, the 1-1-8, because sometimes in life you just gotta have 8 forwards. Being aggressive is the key, and my analysis of current soccer news will be just that. In true Word Life fashion, I keep it real but I keep it fair. If some knowledge needs to be dropped, I will do it. But, I hope that this can become a place that I will post regular analysis on what’s going on in the soccer world. So, welcome, but please make sure you knock the dirt off your cleats before you come in. Word Life.