Monday, January 22, 2007

Over the weekend Soccer Stuff: 1/22/2007

US U-20 team destroy Panama 5-0; Qualify for U-20 World Cup

The US U-20 team routed host Panama 5-0, behind two Freddy Adu goals to win their CONCACAF qualifying group and qualify for the U-20 World Cup that will be held in Canada. In the first match of the day, Haiti upset Guatemala 2-0. The U-20 World Cup runs pretty much at the same time as the Copa America, so don’t expect to see Freddy, Michael Bradley or Jose Altidore suiting up for the senior squad in Venezuela.

Both Chelsea and Manchester United both lose.

The EPL title race might have become a much closer horse race. Chelsea fell 2-0 to Liverpool on Saturday as Chelsea’s aura of invincibility is fading every week. So with a chance to extend their six point lead to nine, Manchester United lost total focus in the last 10 minutes of their match with Arsenal and lost 2-1 off of a Thierry Henry header.

I see two very different results from these two matches. Chelsea is pretty much in a free fall. They dropped six points over Christmas, then routed Wigan 4-0 last week, then failed to show up against Liverpool. Unless Michael Ballack, Andriy Shevchenko or Michael Essien step it up and start a turn around for Chelsea, they are not going to repeat as EPL Champions. I specifically mention these three as they are the ones who are providing the least amount of help on the squad. Once John Terry returns, or Chelsea buy a replacement central defender (Onyewu rumors surfaced last week) they might be able to shore up the backline, but they are going to have to get more out of Ballack and Shevchenko.

Manchester United, on the other hand, I think just lost sight of the end of the match. As I was watching this one yesterday, both clubs seemed to matching each other stride for stride. I was expecting a 0-0 draw. Once Rooney’s header went in, I was now expecting a 1-0 win for United. I was expecting this because besides that goal, neither club was really able to mount any really dangerous and consistent attacks. In the last 15 minutes, that changed. I think the entire atmosphere at Emirates Stadium changed. United stopped pressing the Arsenal forwards and their midfielders. Arsenal kept running at the United players, and the United defenders were sort of just going through the motions. Hell, the announcers were already giving United the three points and talking about how Chelsea was now nine points back. Arsenal never stopped running and United were going at half speed. I don’t particularly like Arsenal, but they gained some respect from me as they didn’t give up.

Hopefully this match serves as a catalyst for United to re-center its Chi and remain focused on the tasks at hand. They still only have a six point lead over Chelsea. Chelsea only has a five point lead over Liverpool and a six point lead over Arsenal. This is anyone’s race now. They also have the UEFA Champions League to start preparing for in the next month, as well as their FA Cup 4th round match at home to Portsmouth. All three of these title’s are in reach, they just need to stay focused.

South American leagues returning to action, as do Mexico.

Argentina started their pre-season tournament, as River Plate knocked off Boca Juniors 2-0. I DVR’d this match off of Fox Soccer Channel, so I have some good football to watch this week. Sao Paulo knocked off Ituano 1-0 in the first round of the Brazilian Paulista championship. Chivas de Guadalajara drew 1-1 with Toluca in the first weekend of the Mexican Clausura championship. Club America routed San Luis 4-1 in the first weekend as well.


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