We dream of football and the world is full of dreams

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dempsey's Redemption

He's back. Sort of. After months on the Fulham bench, [Furman's own] Clint Dempsey has won his place back in the starting lineup. He has scored 4 goals this season. Not bad for an attacking midfielder/forward in the EPL. Dempsey steadily made his way back to the starting lineup amidst an interesting season for Fulham, already in the top 10, and slowly and inexorably making its way out of the relegation ghost that looms in the background for at least 14 teams in the EPL every season (big 4 don't count and Everton and Aston Villa). Why all the fuss? Well, as can be seen from places like SBI and Goal.com, a lot of die-hard American soccer fans care about their wonderboy (myself included). Sure, he's not Altidore in a flashy team like Villareal or Edu and Beasley at Rangers. Dempsey is a lot more like what Americans should be in Europe. He, along with Michael Bradley, Onyewu, Bocanegra, Cherundolo are in mid-table teams without the big stars and where players with true talent can shine. I'm not saying our boys don't belong with the big fellas but we have to realize that the American market is nowhere near as deep as Argentina and Brazil's. I bet that most teams in the world have at least one or two of these nationalities (that's another blog entry). Back to the point... Mid-table teams like Fulham can also be very visible windows for our players so that the big teams can realize their potential without shelving them except for one or two games per season. Dempsey's last two goals came against mighty Chelsea to tie it up 2-2.
I know there's a lot of room for discussion but to me Dempsey is, at the moment, the most complete player in the national team pool. He can attack, dribble, pass, defend, and celebrate. His touches are nothing short of brilliant these days. Best part is we have him for at least two more World Cup rounds. I caught a glimpse of him this October when the US beat Cuba 6-1 in a qualifier and I immediately noticed his pace, awareness, and workmanship. I wish he had scored on that day but I bet I'll get to see it sometime in the future.
Dempsey hails from Nocogdoches, Texas close to my home state of Louisiana. After playing for Furman from 2001-2003 (17 goals in 61 games) he went 8th overall in the MLS draft of 2004, picked by the New England Revolution (11 goals in 62 games). In 2007, Dempsey moved to England to play for Fulham FC of the Barclay's Premier League. Back then Brian McBride and Bocanegra still played for the Cottagers. His only score in his initial season with Fulham came against Liverpool in May of the same year, earning the club 3 points and saved from relegation. The 07-08 season saw Dempsey score 6 goals and was the club's second leading scorer. This season he already has 4 goals in 15 games (not all starting). Internationally, he has scored for the US on 13 occasions, once at WorldCup 2006 against Ghana and last scored in September of this year at Chicago in a game against Trinidad and Tobago.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


It seemed a dream not too long ago.... an Ecuador club playing for the ultimate crown in world football. And yet if we throw aside the veil of football normalcy we come across a sight seldom seen, none at all predicted, and yet very much a reality. Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito, also known as "Liga" will face off against Manchester United in FIFA's Club World Cup.This contest, to some, is little less than a nuisance for European giants like Barcelona, AC Milan and Manchester United and commentators such as the lively Tommy Smyth caution about the Reds performance in the EPL when they've been thrust into this competition. True, the EPL will not see a respite this coming holiday season as leagues in Spain and Germany, not to mention the whole of Latin America are but at its heart the Club Championship still designates the world champion in terms of club competitions. I find it shortsighted to regard the Uefa Champions League as the ultimate club trophy. Does it give you the right to be named world champs? No, it doesn't. In the Americas you also have an older and much more traditional competition in the Copa Libertadores. Concacaf has its own competition as well, as do CAF (Africa), AFC (Asia), and OFC (Oceania). I agree that it is a bit convoluted to bring all these champions to a short two-week torunament in which the South Americans and Europeans get a bye on the first round while skipping out on countless teams swelling with tradition and tallent. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what the World Cup is about. Clubs are important, yes. Everyone has a favorite and emotions run high nonetheless. Pele once said that the future of football would be the clubs and not the countries and that we should concentrate on clubs. Seems odd coming from the man that made the "verdeamarela" so synonimous with soccer worldwide.
But back to the point. Liga beat Pachuca (Mexico champs, Concacaf) by the score of 2-0 in the semifinals in a game that Pachuca deserved better luck in (as well as more help from the ref). Manso's goal in the starting minutes was probably offsides but Luis Bolanos' free kick was a golazo worthy of Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho and Hristo Stoichkov. Bauza's trick with the double wall (Liga players shielded the ball from the Pachuca players before the kick) was a stroke of genius. Excellent defense and some none-calls finished off a wonderful night (morning, thanks to DVR). Liga's cinderella story continues all the way up to facing probably the best team in the world... Manchester United. United beat Gamba Osaka of Japan (AFC champions) by the score of 5-3 today. Liga has seen the likes of San Lorenzo, Boca Juniors, Fluminense, Estudiantes this past year but Rooney, Van der Saar, C. Ronaldo, Giggs, Vidic, Tevez, Ferdinand, Berbatov, Scholes, Andersson, Nani and Co. are another level still. This club final is probably the most (technically) lop-sided match the tournament has seen yet. Previously it had mainly been Conmebol giants like Boca Juniors that faced off against teams like AC Milan. And yet surprises still abound. In 2006 it was modest Internacional de Porto Alegre (Brazil) that beat the FC Barcelona of Ronaldinho, Deco and Eto'o. Anything can happen. That's sports. That's soccer. That's futbol.
Game will be on Fox Soccer Channel at 5:30AM Sunday

Monday, December 15, 2008

No Football? No problem!!!

Fantasy, that is. After seasons among the top places in gridiron football fantasy leagues and a few titles, I finally crashed out of the playoff race. So my season was cut short by a month. Or was it? Thanks to my newly acquired virtual soccerbuds (Ives, Goff, BigSoccer, MLSRumors), and actually and more importantly Ives Galarcep of ESPN's Soccernet, I'm able to continue my fantasy play. This time, of course, it's the footy variety and more specifically the EPL (English Premier League). The website is on the official EPL websited at fantasy.premierleague.com and you get 11 starters plus 4 subs. Ives' league has hundreds of players (teams) so a different format is in use as far as points awarded, teams and players. There is a salary cap allowed (100 million pounds) per team and you're allowed to buy any 15 players that fall inside your cap. Points are awarded based on shutouts, goals scored, assists, plus other miscellaneous bonus points. Unfortunately, I did not learn my lesson from fantasy play in that you do not go with your heart and this cost me dearly since I had Felipe Caicedo (Ecuador), Clint Dempsey (USA) in my initial team. Dempsey is playing more these days but was watching from the bench during the first couple of months of the EPL. Caicedo never made it to the first team this season and is probably going to leave the club. So I had to make several changes in my lineup as I learned the game and this cost me points. In this fantasy game you're allowed 1 transfer per week and I had to use 3. That cost me 20 points. I might be in the top 10 if this had not happened. Still, I made up considerable ground in October, going from 250something to the top 30. Lately I had a couple of not-so-good weeks with little help from my strikers. I've made several changes, including adding van Persie, Defoe, Arbeloa, Laursen. I've stuck with Valencia (Ecuador, Wigan), Lampard, Terry, Van der Sar, Agbonlahor, Denilson. Some of my better fantasy pickups are the Marney-Geovanni tandem. Geovanni, specifically, is a good fantasy started as he tears it up with the impressive recently-promoted Hull City. The bench also has Tim Howrd (USA, Everton) for good measure. You are allowed any number of formations as long as you have 3 defnders, 3 midfielders and 1 striker as minimum. My current team has a 3-4-3 line-up with Van der Sar at goal, D: Arbeloa, Laursen, Terry; M: Denilson, Geovanni, Lampard, Valencia; F: Defoe, Agbonlahor, Van Persie. I'm in 49th place after this past weekend. We still got another 5 months worth of football here and I may yet win it all (I heard Ives has prizes). So.... no gridiron? no problem.... Football/soccer rules!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Soccerbud: Max Bretos

Yeaes! Kinda sounds like the waiter/manager guy from the Simpsons [if you're a true fan of the series]. And yet that is Max Bretos' claim to fame besides his Bretos moments on FSC (Fox Soccer Channel). The guy definitely has to be the most MLS-enthusiastic color commentator if not just plain MLS fan. More so than Rob Stone (ESPN). The man is so excited by the American game that it gets me more into the matches than I would be otherwise. Just today I watched a "season recap" of the Columbus Crew's run for the trophy. I must admit that it was nice to hear his commentary during the short but entertaining 22 minutes of the program with each goal and game in the Crew's winning season. MAx works on MLS broadcasts, Argentina League play, Italian Serie A, Concachampions, as well as other assorted international games. Max is also a professional wrestling broadcaster, and although I may not be a fan of the "sport" I can definitely see him fitting in. The most memorable "Yeaeessssssssssssssss!" by Bretos had to be during the 2007 Concacaf Gold Cup in which Benny Feilhaber scored on a beautiful volley against Mexico, propelling the USA to the championship and a spot in this year's Fifa Confederations Cup to be held in South Africa next summer. So, keep it up, bud... I enjoy the MLS that much more thanks to you.

Monday, December 8, 2008

What happened to Kaviedes?

Arguably one of the most notable soccer players in Ecuador's history, Jaime Ivan "El Nine" Kaviedes has always been on the controversial side of the game, both on and off the pitch. While no Dennis Rodman or Ray Lewis or Diego Maradona, Kaviedes has had his share of interesting moments. He is by far, however,
my favorite Ecuador player.

First, a bit of history for those not familiar with the star:
Born on October 24 1977. He has appeared internationally for Ecuador on 53 occasions, scoring 16 times (most recently against Peru in 2007 in an inspired 5-1 win for the 2010 qualifiers). One of his goals came against Uruguay in 2001 sealing a 1-1 draw with a beautiful header that sent Ecuador to its first appearance in a World Cup at KoreaJapan 2002. Of note is also his partnership with Agustin Delgado during the 2002 campaign but being relegated to the bench thereafter with the development of Carlos Tenorio, Felipe Caicedo and Christian Benitez. Kaviedes is also well known for his antics at the 2006 World Cup in which he wore the number 10 jersey and came on as a supersub in every game. He scored against Costa Rica in what surely must have been one of his dreams. After the goal, he slipped out a yellow Spider-Man mask in reference to and memory of striker Otilino Tenorio (died in a car crash in 2005).

Kaviedes started his career with my favorite club, Emelec, in 1998 scoring 43 goals in the process and earning him an international award. I was witness to two goals scored against arch-rival Barcelona SC of Guayaquil at the Capwell stadium. His prolific goal-scoring led him to Italian Serie A side Perugia. He scored 4 goals with them and was transfered the following year to Celta de Vigo of Spain. Six games with that team were not convincing enough so he was sent to Mexican side Puebla, scoring 5 goals in 17 games. Next came stints at Valladolid (Spain), FC Porto (Portugal), and an eventual return to Ecuador to play for Barcelona SC. There he rekindled his scoring and led Bracelona to the quarter finals of the 2004 Libertadores. Along the way he also played for Deportivo Quito, briefly for Crystal Palace (Barclay's Premier League), Argentinos Jrs, Bracelona again, then El Nacional of Quito in another inspired season (15 goals). His last club was LDU Quito for the present year. A tumultuous relationship with the LDUQ owners and stakeholders meant a permanent absence from any sort of soccer action.
So what's happened to him? Along the way, he was continuously pursued by Ecuador media as their prodigy son and questioned for his methods, absences, extravagances, and personal life. He admitted to suffering from depression on more than one occasion, featuring in Revista Estadio magazine's cover story "Mi Verdad" [My Truth]. I too am partially on the blamers side since my comments were referred to on Ecuador's "Tiro Libre" sports show when I had emailed a note saying the man was being immature (can't quite remember why but I think it had to do with his lack of discipline towards his institution). Clearly the man is guilty of certain things (family problems and neglect, unexplained absences from team practices are some of the allegations against him) but the rest is purely personal. This only adds to his certain mystique and continues to fascinate people such as myself. The man has overflowing talent but is frustrated by his personality, which he lets get the better of him at times. Ultimately, however, his days as a star may be waning. Moves to Lebanon or English League One teams will allow him some playing time but, sadly, not to a return to the national team. I hope to get to see him in action again some day soon. I hope, as many other fans do, that he returns to Emelec to finish his career there and maybe have the team succeed internationally like it hasn't done since the late 90s. Cheers to you, Nine. I hope you're doing well.