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Nov 052013
Italia weekly 2013-14 logo

Brian Sanders navigates the multitude of Serie A results before jumping in and examining the upcoming European adventures and weekend fixtures

Click here to listen

May 072013

 3b70zzl7d Santos Laguna Awarded Special Recognition from CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb

The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) today announced the decision of President Jeffrey Webb to recognize Club Santos Laguna for its gesture of Fair Play and camaraderie, demonstrated following the Champions League Final match played last Wednesday in Monterrey.

Led by club President Alejandro Irarragorri Gutiérrez and captain Oswaldo Sanchez, the team’s entire roster formed a line of honor for the players of Club de Futbol Monterrey, and proceeded to applaud each of their rivals as they made their way to the stage to accept the winners’ medals.

“Acts like the one carried out by Santos Laguna demonstrate the best qualities of our sport; the respect for rivals even in the most difficult moments, as after a defeat in an important finals match,” said CONCACAF’s President, Jeffrey Webb. “For that reason, I’ve decided to recognize Club Santos Laguna, its players, coaches, administrators and executives for elevating the ideal of Fair Play and promoting this message of unity and respect to our region — a clear example to follow.”

The recognition will be presented to Santos Laguna at the 2013/14 CONCACAF Champions League draw to be held in Miami at a date to be announced.

Mar 062013

article 2288723 1876786F000005DC 954 634x419 Champions League 3/5/2013 Highlights

Manchester United – Real Madrid:

Manchester United – Real Madrid 1-2 All Highlights 2013 by FootballOnline24

Borussia Dortmund – Shakhtar Donetsk:

Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk (Maç Özeti) by futbl

Barcelona: Brain Dead

 Posted by on March 5, 2013 at 12:51 am  The Ball is Flat
Mar 052013

clasico 300x179 Barcelona: Brain Dead

by: Raül Pope Fargüell

A  lot has been written, and rightly so, in the last few days about the demise of FC Barcelona. Two consecutive defeats at the hands of Real Madrid and a more-than-likely Champions League exit to Milan all make for grim reading for the club formally known as the best team ever to kick a ball. It has to come, certainly, football has always found ways of defeating those who re-defined the game and although Barça’s apogee may not have passed – which may or may not be said in vain hope – it will come eventually and with that day we will always have the memories. The question though is why have this team stopped making memories?

Despite the positive spin put on defeat by the likes of Sport and El Mundo Deportivo, this team is not misfiring, it’s radically different; there’s been a metamorphosis in its DNA. It might be solved by a signing or two, it might need an overhaul, it might even be solved by a tactical innovation, it might need all of the above, but still there’s more to say.

Fàbregas being in the midfield seems to have had a nullifying effect on Iniesta, who’s been pushed further forward. Alexis Sánchez is rubbish, Pedro has gone missing and Villa warms the bench. Piqué and Puyol look unfit and Messi keeps scoring. Okay, so it’s not all bad, of course it isn’t, but in the games I’ve watched, especially notable against Sevilla, the change in the team has been no more epitomised than by the form of Xavi.

Xavi is the most important player ever to exist in Spanish football. Without him, el cerebro (the brain), there would have been no European Championships, no World Cup, no tiki-taka and the same goes for Barcelona’s success: no Champions League titles, no la Liga titles, no World Club Cup. In short, no best team in the world for club or country.

When Guardiola famously talked about getting the ball back in six seconds after losing possession, it was Xavi who gave everything to be the winner of the ball and start the attack. The team have stopped doing that, games now pass Xavi by. When Xavi gets the ball he slows the play down, not because he’s lost pace in his legs, he never had any, but his speed of thought has waned to a new slow. This is not necessarily a problem. The problem is trying to play the same way without taking Xavi out of the current equation or without changing the equation.

Plenty of players have excelled with age, like Pirlo, who keeps starring despite his years and lack of pace; he’s a constant tactical innovation. Xavi’s role could easily be tailored in a similar way, ensuring he receives the ball further up the pitch and always facing forward. Unable to dictate play, someone will have to fill his boots and this is the second alternative: why aren’t the younger players being given a chance? If Thiago is Xavi’s replacement in the long-term, surely he’s hungry to prove it? If he is Xavi’s replacement, in the traditional Xavi role, find a new role for Xavi with Thiago in the team. For the team to function, like all of us, it needs a brain.

 Barcelona: Brain Dead  Barcelona: Brain Dead  Barcelona: Brain Dead  Barcelona: Brain Dead  Barcelona: Brain Dead

Feb 182013

article 2278420 179030B9000005DC 993 634x388 I was wrong about De Gea

There, I said it.  Over the past two seasons, I have been one of the most vocal about De Gea not being good enough for Manchester United.  He has very visible weaknesses.  He struggles when a physical presence is required on crosses and set pieces, and his inability to speak English fluently greatly impairs his ability to command the back line.  These are obvious, and were clear from the first big game against Manchester City in the community shield.  The problem is, many people (myself included) never took the time to re-evaluate.  Over the last couple of months though, I’ve come around.  Not only do United have the best young keeper in the world right now, but they most likely have the best shot stopper in the world, period.

When evaluating goalkeepers, you have to also look at their supporting cast.  When you look at United, you naturally would think that De Gea is surrounded by the best players possible.  The problem with that theory is that it ignores the injuries and father time, which have wrecked havoc on United over the past two seasons.

Here are the appearances for Manchester United’s top defenders in the premier league so far this year: 26 total games played (starts)

Patrice Evra: 25 (25)
Rafael: 21 (20)
Rio Ferdinand: 20 (19)
Jonny Evans: 17 (16)
Chris Smalling: 12 (7)
Nemanja Vidic: 11 (10)
Phil Jones: 9 (5)

Nemanja Vidic has never really made it back to the every week starter, and defensive rock, that he was before his injury against Basel in the Champions League last season.  With only 11 appearances so far this season for Vidic, De Gea has been deprived of not only his best defender, but the undoubted leader of this squad.  Its clear to anyone watching that United are a much different animal when Vidic is in the lineup.  It also speaks volumes that Evra is leading the way in appearances, and starts, while he is also seen by many as a weak link in the United defense.  Far past his prime, its well known that Fergie was looking to bring in Leighton Baines as a replacement over the summer.  The one bright spot has been the play of Jonny Evans.  The player that pushed Pique out the door to blossom at Barcelona, has often been a disappointment to many United fans, but he’s been probably the most consistently good defender this season.  With Vidic working his way back to full health, Rafael maturing into a world class right back, and Rio seeming to defy time, De Gea is set up to finally have some consistency in front of him for the rest of this season.

Now, getting to the man himself, one major argument in De Gea’s favor is to simply look at the stats.  The below stats are from and show the comparison between David De Gea and Joe Hart.  Hart is widely considered to be the best keeper in the EPL, more reliable, more mature, and generally favored by the media.  Upon closer inspection though, De Gea is the clear winner.  De Gea has obviously had to work more, 68 shots compared to 44, and over double the amount of saves per game.  The one huge stat that took me by surprise was the aerial duels.  De Gea won an astonishing 83% of his aerial battles, which flies in the face of everything you’ve have heard from people like me over the past 2 years.  Clearly he doesn’t look the most confident, but its obvious that whatever he does works.

Saves: Hart – 44, de Gea – 68
Saves per game: Hart – 1.7, de Gea – 3.8
Saves to shot %: Hart – 65, de Gea – 77
Successful clearances: Hart – 26, de Gea – 24
Successful clearances per game: Hart – 1, de Gea – 1.3
Aerial duels won %: Hart – 75%, de Gea – 83%
Passing accuracy %: Hart – 60%%, de Gea – 56%
Total loss of possession: Hart – 224, de Gea – 188
Errors that lead to goals: Hart – 4, de Gea – 1

This plays into the other aspect of his game, his complete unorthodox style.  This was on display for all to see in Madrid for their Champions League match against Real Madrid.  Right off the bat, in probably his biggest game yet for United, De Gea made a save with his fingernails to dive and divert Coentrao’s wicked curling effort, that traveled through multiple players before being forced onto the post, in what was probably the save of the season. Later in the same match De Gea displayed what is quickly becoming his trademark, a glorious kick save of Coentrao’s effort. De Gea said: ”It all happened so fast, I got across and was lucky enough to save it with my feet. Overall, I am very happy with my performance. I am improving every day at Old Trafford and I am very happy.”  Which has to make every Manchester United fan very happy to hear.  De Gea has proven already that when it comes to pure shot stopping, he has very few peers … if any.

It speaks volumes that coming out of a Champions League knockout match between two of the biggest clubs in the world, where Ronaldo (arguably the world best player) faced his former team Manchester United (which he’s still in love with), the major talking point was not about any of that, but it was all about the greatness of De Gea.  Well done sir, you’ve proved a lot of us wrong and for once, I am glad to admit my mistake.

Target On: Silly Season

 Posted by on January 25, 2013 at 7:01 am  England, Italy, Real Madrid, Spain, The Ball is Flat
Jan 252013


target4 300x199 Target On: Silly Season

This week we cover the shifting landscape that is the European Winter Transfer Market. Let the Silly Season commence!

Spain: Real Madrid were always going to look for a quality sub for Iker Casillas either in this window or in the Summer, but with a hand injury that threatens to ruin his season, the club need much more than a back-up for the Spanish international. Julio Cesar of Queen? Park Rangers has a history with Mou from his time at Inter. It makes the most sense from the merengue point of view. Not sure if QPR would say the same. Barcelona are also looking for a keeper with Victor Valdes on the outs. Former team-mate Pepe Reina is keen on returning. The club have also categorically denied that they will sell part-time starter and Spain legend David Villa in this window.

Italy:  the market in Spain is depressed and has been for years. It is a seller´s market on the Iberian peninsula and there can be no greater example of the changing fortunes of the respective European Leagues than Athletic Bilbao losing a player like Fernando Llorente to Juventus.The Old Lady gets the quality target-man they needed and Athletic remove a nasty distraction that has infected their entire season. At Milan, negotiations continue for the potential signingts of want-away forwards Kaka and Mario Balotelli. Neither parent club wants to give the pair-away and cash-strapped Berlusconi wants sweet-heart deals all around, so expect no movement this window.

England: Southampton´s new manager Mauricio Pochettino has been on the job a week already already and he´s faced something that he saw few times at Espanyol: a January window where he actually bought a player or two. Inter´s midfielder Phillipe Coutinho is a possibility and the club have bid competitively but the player prefers a move to Liverpool. Either way he is an inventive player. Manchester United on the other hand have finished the signing of winger Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace. Chelsea continue to be turned down by all target (Pep Guardiola, Falcao, etc.) and Arsenal as usual will buy no one at all after dozens of false-rumors come down the pipeline.

 Target On: Silly Season  Target On: Silly Season  Target On: Silly Season  Target On: Silly Season  Target On: Silly Season

Oct 292012

Clint Dempsey, Terrance Boyd, and Herculez Gomez all found the back of the net this weekend, while other Americans competed in the first round of the Europa and Champions League.


Brad Friedel made one save in Tottenham’s 2-1 win over Southampton on Saturday. This comes after not starting for Tottenham last Thursday in the team’s 1-1 draw against NK Maribor in the first phase of the Europa League. Clint Dempsey played the full match on Saturday and scored his second goal for Tottenham since joining the team in August. Dempsey’s stoppage time goal became the game winner for Tottenham against Southampton. On Wednesday, Friedel and Dempsey take on Norwich City in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup before hosting Wigan Athletic on Saturday. The team now jumps to fourth in the league just one point over Everton.

Brad Guzan made three saves in Aston Villa’s 1-1 draw against Norwich City on Saturday. Eric Lichaj played 36 minutes for Aston Villa. Villa hovers two points above the relegation zone in the 17th spot. Villa, now just two points above the relegation zone, takes on Swindon Town in midweek League Cup action, when they take the field next. On Tuesday, the Villans play Swindon Town in a Capital One match-up before traveling to Sunderland on Saturday.

Tim Howard made two saves for Everton in their 2-2 draw against Liverpool on Sunday. The Toffees remain fifth place in the league and travel to Fulham on Saturday

Geoff Cameron played the full match in Stoke City’s scoreless draw against Sunderland on Saturday. Maurice Edu was not included on the game-day roster. The Potters drop to 13th in the league. They travel to Norwich City on Saturday.

Tim Ream played 90 minutes for Bolton Wanderers in their 2-1 loss to Middlesbrough on Saturday. Just days before Ream and Bolton played to a 2-2 draw against Wolverhampton in midweek action. Bolton remains at 18th in the league and host table-leaders Cardiff City on Saturday.

Jonathan Spector was subbed in for Birmingham City in the final minutes of the team’s 1-0 shutout over Leeds United on Saturday. The Blues host Ipswich City on Saturday.


Oguchi Onyewu came on in the final minute of Malaga’s 1-0 win over AC Milan last Wednesday. Onyewu was an unused sub in Malaga’s scoreless draw against Espanyol in league play on Saturday. Los Boquerones host Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

Carlos Bocanega went 90 minutes in Racing Santander’s 1-0 loss to Elche on Sunday. With the loss the team drops in the relegation zone in the 19th spot. Racing have gone five matches without a win. Bocanegra and Racing host AD Alcorcon on Saturday.


Steve Cherundolo was an unused sub in Hannover 96?s 3-2 loss to Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday. On Thursday, Cherundolo played the full 90 in Hannover 96?s Europa League win over Alejandro Bedoya and Helsingborgs IF on Thursday. The Cherundolo and the Reds played to a 2-1 win in first leg of their match-up against Helsingborgs. Hannover drops to tenth in the league and will host FC Augsburg on Saturday.

Jermaine Jones and Schalke 04 played to a 1-0 win over FC Nurnberg on Saturday. Timmy Chandler went 90 minutes for Nurnberg in the match. Last Wednesday, Schalke came out victorious in the first leg of their match-up with Arsenal with a 2-0 shutout Jermaine Jones and the Royal Blues take on Hoffenheim on Saturday along with Americans Fabian Johnson and Danny Williams. Chandler and Nurnberg have not had a victory in seven matches. They host VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday.

Fabian Johnson and Danny William both went 90 minutes in Hoffenheim’s 3-0 defeat to Mainz on Saturday. Williams picked up a yellow card in the match. Hoffenheim sits at 14th in the league.


A week after returning from suspension, Jozy Altidore made an assist in AZ Alkmaar’s 2-1 win over Vitesse Arnhem on Sunday. The win moves AZ to tenth in standings. Their Dutch /cup match against Sneek on Wednesday has been postponed. Altidore and AZ return to league play on Sunday when they host VVV Venlo.


On Friday, Michael Parkhurst was an unused sub in FC Nordsjaelland’s 1-0 win over Aalborg BK on Friday. Parkhurst and Nordsjaelland are third in standings one point behind second. The team travels to Sonderjyske on Saturday.

Clarence Goodson picked up a yellow card in Brondby IF’s 1-1 draw against FC Midtjylland on Sunday. Brondby is at the bottom of the table in the relegation zone. Goodson and Brondby have not had a win in 11 matches. They take on Odense BK on Sunday.


Mix Diskerud went 90 minutes in Rosenborg BK’s 2-0 defeat to Molde FK on Sunday. On Thursday, Diskerud picked up a yellow card in Rosenborg’s 2-1 loss to FC Metalist Kharkiv. The loss drops the team to second in standings. Rosenborg take on Stromsgodset on Sunday.


Alejandro Bedoya went 78 minutes in Helsingborgs IF’s 3-1 win over GAIS on Sunday. Last Thursday, Bedoya and his team were defeated 2-1 by Steve Cherundolo and Hannover 96 in the first leg of their Europa League match-up. Helsingborgs sits at fifth in the Allsvenkanliga league. The team hosts IFK on Wednesday before traveling to Gefle IF on Sunday.


Terrence Boyd scored the game-winner in Rapid Vienna’s 2-0 win over SV Salzburg on Sunday. Boyd also picked up a yellow card in the match. Boyd and Vienna were defeated 4-0 by Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday in the first round of the Europa League. The team travels to SK Sturm Graz on Saturday.


Jose Torres had an assist and picked up a yellow card in Pachuca’s 1-0 shutout over Tigres UANL on Saturday. Pachuca sits at 13th on the table. Torres and Pachuca travel to Azteca on Saturday to take on Club America.

Herculez Gomez scored a goal for Santos Laguna in the team’s 3-2 loss to Monterrey on Saturday. Gomez also scored last Wednesday in Santos’ 1-0 win over Toronto FC in the CONCACAF Champions League. Herculez’s game winner eliminated Toronto FC from the competition. With the win, Santos advance to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. Santos hosts Cruz Azul on Friday.

The British Are Back!

 Posted by on May 22, 2012 at 3:38 pm  Orlando City, USL Pro
May 222012

Orlando City earlier announced their two international friendlies that will be played in July. The lions will welcome Nottingham Forest from the N-Power Championship on July 21st and Stoke City from the Barlcays Premier League on July 28th. 

“This is the second consecutive year that we have been able to attract two top class English teams to Central Florida,” said Phil Rawlins, Orlando City President. “These games give our fans the chance to see international players like Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacios competing against their favorite players from Orlando, right here in the Citrus Bowl. This shows the drawing power of having a club like Orlando City based here in the region.” 

Nottingham Forest is one of the most historic clubs in English soccer.  Forest are one of just two English clubs to have won back-to-back European Cups (now known as the Champions League), having won in 1979 and 1980. The July 21st Match will kick off at 7:30pm. 

Following the Forest match, Orlando City will clash with partner club Stoke City on Saturday, July 28.  Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm.  The Lions were originally scheduled to play Charleston Battery on July 28 but that match has been moved to Friday, July 27, with a 7:30 kickoff as well. Stoke City is the second-oldest professional soccer team in the world, and is celebrating their 150th anniversary next season. 

Tickets start from $25.00. Call  or email  to reserve your tickets today!


 Posted by on January 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm  Uncategorized
Jan 112012

Where did the blog go? Long story short, there are a ton of “here’s a pregame – here’s a postgame” blogs out there. It was a time investment that other people, quite frankly, do better than myself. Throughout the first half of the season, I wanted to think of a way to make this blog unique from the rest, and to stand out from the horde out there.

I’ve discovered after virtually every game, I could find a handful of words to describe it. So, why shouldn’t I expand that and go through them all and make one word describe the game?

Call it the One Word Blog, but I’m going to run with it.

So, the roundup for the first half of the season.

One word: Top.

Real Madrid are on top of the La Liga standings. 14-1-2, 43 points, FIVE clear of Barcelona. (11-5-1, 38 points). Two losses – Levante on September 18 and Barcelona on December 10, the only draw with Racing Santander on September 21. Otherwise, no one has been able to stop the steamroller.

Let’s move to the Champions League. Oh wait, we’re top there too. Top of our group – 6 wins, no losses, no ties. 18 points when the 2nd and 3rd teams have 8. Round of 16 draw paired us with CSKA Moskva, which should be a great set of games. I have faith we will go on.

Some other words come to mind to help describe the season:

-Injury. Do we have anyone on the squad that isn’t injured currently or has been at some point this season? It’s been a constant force to overcome, but it’s also brought out some amazing players. Ángel di María for starters – when he’s not injured, he’s integrated himself in the team and really made himself a standout for the first season.. Oh look, another word!

-Drama. Really.. enough drama going on in the Liga right now to keep daytime television going for hours. I don’t feel like giving any more space to it.

I think the one word that sums up the rest of the year is: Consistency. Despite the injuries, despite the media, despite the silly transfer season right now – Real Madrid is on top, where they should be, and where they deserve to be. They are hitting a stride that hopefully will carry them to the end of the season and a possible treble. I can’t think of any Real Madrid fan that would be sad about that.

Maybe our livers, but not our hearts….

Hala Madrid!

 Permalink  Posted by on September 30, 2011 at 4:07 am  Uncategorized
Sep 302011

La Liga started this week out amazingly. 6-2 over Rayo Vallencano (38′, 50′, 83′ Cristiano Ronaldo, 44′ Gonzalo Higuaín, 66′ Varane, 72′ Benzema | 1′, 54′ Michu). It was by no means a cakewalk, but it was an amazing show of teamwork – and something that the team desperately needed after the previous shaky few games. Varane’s goal made him the youngest foreign player (18 years and 152 days) to score in a competitive match for Real Madrid. This game was something to get our confidence back before storming off to…

Champions League – The real story here isn’t that we were victors 3-0 (25′ Cristiano Ronaldo, 41′ Ricardo Kakà, 49′ Karim Benzema) over Ajax. There were two stories here, one on and one off the pitch.

Off the pitch – we have major players injured. Pepe, Coentrão, Carvalho and Sahin are all injured. Our defense took a major hit, and no one really knew how the game would be different. Even with all the money spent this year and the depth of the squad, that’s a lot of variables in play.

Well, let’s just say that no matter if we have the full strength on the field or every reserve in the lower ranks, Real Madrid has skill that will glorify the fans’ devotion.

This shot simply must be seen to be believed.

Play of the Year.. so far

The other story: one smiling, Bible loving, devoted family man, and someone who’s been a bit controversial in keeping around… but again, Kakà is showing us his true form and that slumps are just slumps, and he’s back again. If this turns out to be true, Real Madrid just added another monster player to their already stacked squad, and Mou has a lot more hard decisions to make.

The next game is Sunday 2 October versus Espanyol. Anything could happen in this continuing saga of As The Football Spins…