Join Us Saturday at 11th St. Bar – Win a Liverpool jersey!

carlsberg_firsttouchlogoJoin us on Saturday at the home of LFCNY for the big Merseyside derby at 12:30pm.
We’ll be giving out prizes every time a goal is scored. First goal scored wins a Liverpool home jersey.

Refreshing pints of Carlsberg will be on discount throughout the game.

Sat Feb 7th Everton v Liverpool 12:30pm
11th St. Bar - 11th St & Ave A

If there’s a goal scored in your ‘lucky minute’ – you WIN! 

gamecard

 

 

Old In-Firm?

stefanjohansen

Stefan Johansen , Celtic’s highly-rated Norwegian international

As Celtic and Rangers prepare to renew hostilities during a Scottish League Cup semi-final this Sunday at Hampden Park, pundits and punters alike seem far more focused on the history of the fixture, rather than the present — debating even whether the derby still merits the name “Old Firm.”

A group of Celtic supporters caused quite a stir this week when they purchased a full-page ad in The Scottish Sunday Herald, claiming that the Old Firm rivalry ended with Rangers’ liquidation in 2012 and that Sunday’s match will mark the first between the Hoops “and the club that currently play at Ibrox, having been established in 2012.” Several observers, meanwhile, have pointed out that both teams head into the game lacking a certain luster, given that neither feature household names in their respective starting XIs.

“It’s evident to see the fixture doesn’t have the same players now,” former Celtic first-team player and coach Alan Thompson told Mail Online. “It doesn’t take an expert to see that. It’s a shame. People [in England] would struggle to name many players at Celtic and Rangers now.”

The two sides haven’t met since the so-called “Shame Game” in 2011, when former Hoops boss Neil Lennon and former Sky Blues manager Ally McCoist nearly came to blows after the final whistle. Rangers went into administration that spring and were forced to re-form as a new club the following season, starting in Scotland’s Third Division. Until this week, the two sides have avoided each other in domestic Cup tournaments since and, star power or not, many around the game believe the fixture has been missed.

“The profile this game will achieve over Europe, and even the world, will be massive and it gets that profile focused on Scottish football again, which we’re struggling to achieve at European level at present,” former Rangers manager Walter Smith told The Scottish Express. For the record, Aberdeen and Dundee United will face off in the other League Cup semi-final on Saturday.

In truth, the Scottish game may have benefitted from the Rangers re-boot in the short-term, enabling clubs such as Motherwell and St. Johnstone to get a taste of European football, albeit at the Europa League level. However, over the long haul, the sport has missed the attention drawn by the Old Firm, as well as the television revenue. A return to normalcy, with Rangers in the top flight, has to be on the New Year’s resolution list of the Scottish FA, if only so that the Premiership can once again have a title sponsor (a la the Barclay’s Premier League south of the border).

The Hoops are favored to win the match on Sunday, as they head into the game atop the Premiership table. Lennon offered his successor, Ronny Deila, some unsolicited advice when he told Herald Scotland last week that, “My advice to Ronny would be to win the game…” Easier said than done, as emotions will be running high both on and off the pitch.

Both clubs have had to deal with outside “distractions” in this week. Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths was arrested just prior to his team’s 1-0 win at Ross County on Saturday, reportedly over an incident in an Edinburgh pub last year. Rangers, meanwhile, received a cash infusion, thanks to a controversial £10 million loan from Sport Direct’s Mike Ashley. However, the Scottish FA has charged Sky Blues goalkeeper Steve Simonsen with gambling on 55 domestic matches over the past two seasons, 37 this term alone.

Reports indicate Simonsen has not bet on matches involving Rangers. He’d be wise to continue to show similar restraint, and not just for FA disciplinary reasons. Call it whatever you want, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to Celtic v. Rangers.

At The End Of The Draft

leostolz

Leo Stolz. Drafted by the NY Red Bulls

By Pat Glodkowski

The MLS Draft has concluded and this year’s round of eligible youth players have all been selected. So what happens next? 

The players will sign a contract that essentially bounds them to the team that has selected them. Afterwards, the team signs up the player and puts him on the roster. However, there are some cases where despite being picked, the player will not have had an outstanding MLS contract and is free to do as he chooses – this point marks that the draft selection is not necessarily binding.

This characteristic is one of the many confusing aspects of the overblown MLS system. It seems that league-wide, there are complaints about a lack of transparency, where “card out of the hat” sort of decisions are law. A common criticism is that this system stifles MLS’s potential of becoming one of the best leagues in the world.

It may also be the reason why some are coming out against the college system all together as a means to have players transition from university teams to professional ones. The draft is riddled with issues that make players hesitant to become involved. They have to go through some hassle especially with relocation, that makes moving through the draft system more tedious than they had previously imagined.

I had the pleasure of attending the draft once again this year in Philadelphia. The format seems simple enough. Every team has their own table, and usually the banquet room is organized alphabetically as teams and their representatives are put in the spotlight.  This year’s draft was televised, which was good in the sense that the draft has been gaining more prominence through TV exposure, and also good because you can actually hear what the fans have been chanting about MLS Commissioner Don Garber at these events all along.

Ideally the system will undergo a review after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement between players and the league passes. Perhaps this will open the door to further review the draft system as well as attempt to improve the bridge between college and professional soccer.

Barca Bounce Back

2015-01-28_ATLETICO-BARCELONA_35.v1422484101By Cesar Benoit

Cristiano Ronaldo is a supremely talented player. He’s the reigning Ballon d’Or winner, won last year’s Champions League and has numerous league titles adorning his trophy cabinet. 

He’s made his ‘boyhood dream’ of playing for Real Madrid come true and gone on to have an impressive career full of accolades and justly deserved riches.

But he sure can be a petulant child.

Case in point: Saturday’s match against lowly Cordoba. The Andalucians controlled much of the play against the European champs, taking the lead thanks to a dubious penalty, and then frustrating Los Galaticos the rest of the game. Carlo Ancelotti’s crew looked nervous at the back on most counters, Sami Khedira offered little in midfield and Ronaldo looked off.

The World Player of the Year was chaotic and off the pace but that doesn’t excuse his attitude late in the game. First he whacked Jose Crespo, then he took a double-shot at Edimar. Of course he was sent off. But not before reacting to jeering from Cordoba fans by showing off the “World Club champions” badge on his jersey. Classy as always.

Having leveled via Karim Benzema, Madrid grabbed three points after Fede Cartabia handled the ball on Gareth Bale’s free kick. Bale converted from the spot and that was that.

But what’s Ronaldo’s deal?

Is he tired? Is he angry that his five-year relationship to super model Irina Shayk ended?

He managed zero shots on target and zero chances created during his 83 minutes and, after an amazing run of goals through the first few months of the season, he’s only scored in three of his last eight games. He admitted after the recent Copa del Rey defeat to Atletico Madrid that fitness is an issue at the moment, while denying that he’s dealing with a left knee issue.

Ronaldo turns 30 in February, and until then he’ll have to suffer a two-game ban for his Cordoba actions. This might not be such a bad thing. He needs a rest, physical as well as mental, right now.

Over in Catalunya, how’s Barcelona doing? Remember all that ‘crisis’ talk of a few weeks ago?

They destroyed Elche 6-0 on the weekend and knocked Atletico Madrid out of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday. They have won their last seven games in all competitions. The defense is playing well. The forwards are scoring. The midfield is controlling matches. No one’s calling for coach Luis Enrique’s head anymore. Lionel Messi isn’t off to Chelsea and they’re back in the hunt for the league title.

What a crisis, guys!

Barca’s just fine, lying in second place, a mere point off Madrid’s pace although the capital club have a game in hand.

And if you’re in the States, even better news: Barcelona will embark on a preseason tour of the United States and Mexico this summer, the club announced on Monday.

Have to fill the coffers before the transfer ban, eh?

The match of the week was Valencia vs. Sevilla on Sunday, billed as a Champions League qualification six-pointer. Sevilla travelled to Mestalla having taken 16 points from their last 18 games, while the new-look Valencia have been excellent at home this season.

Given the team’s recent history of close battles, this was always going to be a tight, emotional affair. There’s an extra edge to this match, as it was Sevilla who knocked Valencia out of the Europa League late, late in the semi-finaI last season.

It was a chippy match. 38 fouls, 55 tackles and 11 yellow cards over the 90 minutes, but Valencia were deserving 3-1 winners, with coach Nuno again getting things tactically spot-on. Sevilla dominated possession at times, but were regularly torn apart on the break.

Let’s not pass over the accomplishments of Valencia ‘keeper Diego Alves, who saved another penalty Sunday. He’s faced 39 penalties since his arrival in Spain, saving 18, with one going wide and one hitting the crossbar. He’s saved 44.11% of the penalties he’s faced. Amazing.

Valencia now have a two-point lead in the race for fourth. Fifth-placed Sevilla have a game in hand, and Villarreal have won seven and drawn three of their last 10 La Liga games, but the three points on Sunday put Los Che in pole position.

Cosmos Extend Mads Stokkelien Contract

nycosmos_logoThe New York Cosmos announced today that the team has signed forward Mads Stokkelien to a contract extension for the 2015 season. 

“I’m excited to return to the Cosmos,” Stokkelien said. “The club has made some strong additions in the offseason and I’m looking forward to getting back to work and meeting some of the new players.”

Stokkelien signed with the Cosmos in January 2014. The 24-year-old Norwegian striker posted team-high totals in goals (8) and assists (4) during the Cosmos’ 2014 North American Soccer League season. He appeared in every league match and scored twice during the club’s run through the 2014 U.S. Open Cup.

“Last season was Mads’ first season in the U.S. so he had to adapt to a new league,” said Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese. “However, he showed continued improvement throughout the season and was a key part of our attack, so we’re delighted to have him back.”

Before signing in New York, Stokkelien played for Norwegian side Stabæk. In 2013 he tallied 22 goals in 33 appearances, helping Stabæk achieve promotion to Norway’s first division, Tippeligaen. He made his Tippeligaen debut with IK Start in 2008, where he played alongside Cosmos defender Hunter Freeman for two seasons.

The team also announced that it did not reach agreement on a new contract with Hans Denissen. The Dutch forward registered three assists in 12 league appearances in 2014, but will not be returning in 2015.

Life After Petke

esclogoTim Hall’s View From 101

Now that the dust has settled, somewhat, in New York Red Bulls land, now that people have screamed themselves hoarse, cried themselves dry, and spent themselves broke to voice their frustrations at the powers that be, both in their panic rooms in Harrison and in their ivory towers in Austria, now that most of the rostered players have begun the hard preseason work in Florida, perhaps now we can discuss what this team will look like when it actually takes the field.

Nerves are still very raw after the firing of beloved head coach Mike Petke. People have called for heads to roll and seen none. The focuses of those most angry have turned from the white heat of rage to the cold focus of calculation. Much more will be said and done about these things. Ultimately, however, a team will take the field, regardless of the thoughts of those in the stands or watching on television. Many may take umbrage with the name of the team or the shirt sponsor, currently one in the same, but in a linear sense, it is still the same team you have been supporting all along. You are, in the end, only rooting for laundry, regardless of how garish and gauche you believe that laundry to be.

The theme during last year’s offseason was stability. No sense in radically reshaping a team that had just won the league. Entering this offseason, the sense was largely the same, despite the tickle in the back of most people’s brains that Thierry Henry would depart at the end of 2014. Losing Henry would be a blow, but a good core had been built around him, and a few shrewd moves could place this team right back in contention.

Instead, the new management regime has decided to bind stability up with twine and set it near the curb to be taken away. Losing the veteran presence of Henry has led them to pull out that old reliable chestnut of sports “we want to get younger.” Oh, but don’t we all.

Luis Robles remains the stalwart in net, while goalkeeper-in-waiting Ryan Meara has been sent across the Hudson River on a one year loan. Not a bad move, getting the young man some playing time. Besides, there is a goalkeeper-in-waiting-in-waiting on the roster in the form of young Santiago Castano, who many people rate very highly for the future. “Many people” unfortunately don’t include the Red Bulls front office, who made a move to bring in former Chicago goalkeeper Kyle Reynish. For all the work Meara got last year as the backup (five appearances), and in a league where pool goalkeepers are kept on file should anyone need one, and in a country where just about the one position we reliably produce is goalkeepers, this seems like an overall waste of resources.

Defense has been a particular bugaboo for this team, one made much worse with the departure of central defenseman Jamison Olave, who, aside from being a reliable rock and leader, was among the last people you’d want to encounter in a Medellin barfight. Again, this would seem like a situation where youth could be served, with American youth international Matt Miazga sliding in and beginning his bright future as a full-time professional. Surely, there would be growing pains, but that is part and parcel of building for the future. Instead, sporting director Ali Curtis and company signed three centerbacks, including the returning, handsome, but rarely used Damien Perrinelle. One can imagine MLS forwards are licking their chops at the thought of charging down the pipe at the formidable tandem of Armando and Ronald Zubar. On the flanks, young Chris Duvall impressed in limited showings, but will need to find the fitness to stand an entire MLS season, while Costa Rican Roy Miller remains like a cockroach after a nuclear blast. Miller will miss time with the upcoming Gold Cup, which would allow young upstart Ambroise Oyongo to sub in, but, well, we’ll get to that.

One masterstroke by the Red Bulls has been acquiring all of the midfielders in the world to prevent anyone else having any. However, Eric Alexander set the franchise record for most appearances in one calendar year last season as part of a defensive midfield pairing with Dax McCarty that spurred the Red Bulls on to great heights, and that sort of stability won’t be tolerated in these parts, so he and the aforementioned Oyongo were shipped to Montreal for attacking midfielder Felipe Martins. Also acquired in that deal was the number one spot in the allocation order which, to simplify, would likely mean the first crack at signing Sacha Kljestan to round out the 0-10-0 formation. Australian star and 2013 team MVP Tim Cahill fell so far out of favor in 2014 he bounced, and now the rumor mill suggests he won’t be returning for the new campaign once his Asian Cup run concludes. Cahill responded to the rumors by posting a dozen more pictures on Instagram of his days at Everton.

RBNY allegedly made the steal of the SuperDraft in nabbing Leo Stolz, a player theoretically ready to start from day one. Unfortunately, with a player of Stolz’s caliber, the two best case scenarios are that he is all he is cracked up to be and jets off to Europe in three years, or he isn’t all that and he becomes an MLS regular. The hype machine is a cruel, cruel mistress.

Having last year’s Golden Boot winner inked to a new big money contract would appear to indicate that at least the forward position is a go, but one look at the roster indicates that Bradley Wright-Phillips is going to be very lonely at the top of the formation. Currently, the team’s website lists three forwards on the roster: BWP, Peguy Luyindula – who has found himself at home as an attacking midfielder because eleven midfielders simply isn’t enough – and Irelyn Maloney. Maloney will likely have equal trouble finishing crosses as finishing vegetables, as she is a five-year old girl. Yes, as of the opening of training camp, the first option off the bench should the Red Bulls need a goal is a kindergartener, however experts do give her high marks for a decent left foot, knowing all the words to the Frozen soundtrack, and being taller than Connor Lade.

The simplest and easiest path for the new regime to win back any good grace from the fanbase was to construct a team that appeared, at least on paper, to be a contender, and then use that team to go out and win some games at the very outset of the season to cauterize the wound. While parity across Major League Soccer is still readily evident, this doesn’t even appear to be an average MLS team. If firing Mike Petke was bad, how much worse could it get if this team is bad? If there is already a revolt on two months out, what would it be two months in and sitting last?

Milan Teams Continue To Struggle In Serie A

serieA300By Michael Ottolenghi

It was a weekend of meltdowns, sexual rivalries and shock results. And all of those involved the Milan teams, who continued their disastrous season by both losing last weekend – Milan going down 3-1 away to Lazio, while Inter suffered a shock 1-0 loss at home to Torino.  

Both games featured the more exuberant side of football in Italy. In Rome, former Roma defender Philippe Mexes, who is now a Milan player, collected the 16th red card of his non-illustrious career. So far, so unremarkable, but Mexes saw red in spectacular fashion, grabbing Lazio captain Stefano Mauri by the neck and continuing to fight even after he had been sent off.

On a lighter note, Torino’s Maxi Lopez highlighted his feelings towards Inter’s Mauro Icardi, who is married to Lopez’s former wife and flaunts his relationship excessively on Twitter, by making an obscene gesture towards the Inter fans at the end of the game.

So far so bad then for the Milan teams.  But on the field events have been less amusing and Milan’s game against bottom of the league Parma this Sunday already has the feel of a make or break tie for Milan’s chances of qualifying for Europe, let alone for the survival of manager Filippo Inzaghi (assuming he is not sacked beforehand).

Milan’s problems are well known and we have recounted them at length in these pages this season. But Parma come to the game with their own much more serious issues, most notably the near-certainty of relegation. Because after finishing sixth and qualifying for the Europa League last season, Parma have descended into financial and footballing chaos.

Off the field, their Europa League spot was taken from them due to unpaid taxes.  This led owner Tommaso Ghiradi to step away from the club, which he eventually sold to an Albanian consortium last month. The Parma players have reportedly not been paid since August, with Antonio Cassano, their start player, attempting to sue the club for his back pay last week.  That situation came to a head after the club’s 2-1 home defeat to second bottom Cesena, with the club agreeing to release Cassano.

Cassano’s departure (or possible retirement) is just the latest stage of the dismantling of last year’s squad.  With Jonathan Biabiany injured, and Amauri, Ezequiel Schelotto, Marco Parolo and now Gabriel Paletta having left for paying jobs, manager Roberto Donadoni has been unable to avoid consecutive catastrophes. His team have just 9 points from 20 games, and are 10 points from safety.

Donadoni is probably still in a job only because the club cannot afford to fire him and pay a replacement. So Parma may enter Sunday’s game in even worse psychological shape than Milan.

Away from the game of the basket cases in Milan, the main action in Serie A this weekend will again be in the race for third place.  Napoli are currently in third spot with a two point lead over both Lazio and Sampdoria, and it seems like Rafael Benitez’s side may, finally, be gaining a little momentum this season.  With the exception of their 3-1 home defeat to Juventus in early January, Napoli have won all their league games since mid-December.  Gonzalo Higuain has rediscovered his best form and is now the second highest scorer in Serie A with 12 goals.  The trip to Chievo to face Verona is not without danger, though, as Napoli have traditionally struggled both against Chievo and with consistency.

The other key games will feature new signings real and imagined, as Torino host Sampdoria, and Lazio travel to Cesena. Sampdoria have just signed Samuel Eto’o from Everton and Colombian striker Luis Muriel from Udinese, in a bid to make a real push for third place, and both could see some action this weekend. Lazio, meanwhile, saw their own star striker Filip Djordjevic pick up a season-ending injury in the win against Milan, so their fans have been dreaming of a major signing (or even of the arrival of Mario Balotelli).

Same Old Firm

Old, Old Firm. Rangers and Celtic fans at Celtic Park

Old, Old Firm. Rangers and Celtic fans at Celtic Park

By Billy Williamson

A group of Celtic fans took out a full-page ad in the Scottish press last Sunday to claim, essentially, that this weekend’s Old Firm game is not an Old Firm game: it’s Celtic’s first game against a new club called Rangers. 

They’re wrong. 

Their argument – rehashed-a-million-times-but-still-wrong – is that when the company that ran Rangers was liquidated in 2012, Scotland’s most successful club ceased to exist.

They’re wrong.

This isn’t just my opinion. The SFA, the SPFL, UEFA, the European Clubs Association, the BBC, STV, Sky, and the Advertising Standards Authority all say they’re wrong.

So their argument is legally wrong. But it’s also wrong because of what football is, and because of what a football club is.

Many people in charge of clubs in this football-began-in-1993 era of Sky Sports would have you think that a football club is a few pieces of paper and a balance sheet. A legal fiction. A ‘business’, if you will.

But a football club is a lot more than words and numbers.

A football club is the son and the father and the grandfather owning season tickets next to each other, year after year.

A football club is friends you’ve made in far-off places: in Bruges, or Dortmund, or even in Aberdeen.

A football club is the time you listened to a game on the BBC World Service in a park in Dakar, or watched via a dodgy streaming service in a hotel in Mumbai, or sat in a random expat boozer in Bangkok while the bartender found the the right channel.

It’s a black-and-white photo of a player from the 50s, and meeting an old guy who watched him play and who tells you “he was some player, son.”

It’s the history, it’s the tradition, it’s the memories. It’s the people.

People like my pal Stewart that I hadn’t seen in ten years but who I spent six hours with in a bar in Midtown recently, recalling tales of Bruges, and Dortmund, and Aberdeen. People like my pals Monty and Malky and Scott and Daz, who text me from the other side of the planet to dissect the latest batch of Edmiston Drive malarkey. People like Greig and Ian and wee Ally who get up in the early morning to join me watching rubbish football in a cold Manhattan bar.

That’s what a club is. It’s walking down Edmiston Drive, or Easter Road, or Gorgie Road, or the Gallowgate, joining the other fans to form that scene that Lowry painted. It’s seeing the glow of your team’s floodlights while hearing the anticipation of the crowd already inside your team’s ground.

What it’s not is a piece of paper.

Fiorentina beat Rangers in the 1961 Cup-Winners Cup Final and they’re the same club Rangers beat in the UEFA Cup semi-final in 2008, despite La Viola having gone through liquidation in between.

Liverpool played AFC Wimbledon in the FA Cup this season, and although the lawyers might consider MK Dons the team that won the FA Cup in 1988, we all know different: AFC Wimbledon are the heirs to the Krazy Gang. Vinnie Jones agrees too, because he donated his FA Cup medal to the fans of the “new” club.

Coventry City won the FA Cup the year before Wimbledon, and they were liquidated, but they’re still the 1987 FA Cup Winners and they’re still playing today.

So on Sunday when Rangers play Celtic, for better or for worse, it will be the same Old Firm.

And if you don’t agree, then to you a club is just a piece of paper and a bank account. And you share your opinion with the hedge funds, and the oligarchs, and the sovereign wealth funds, and the owner of Sports Direct.

And they might have enough money not to care, but they’re still wrong.

Modern Midlands Men Questions

keano1. Who is the former St Mirren and Chelsea defender who was appointed manager of West Bromwich Albion in June 2012?

2. Wolverhampton Wanderers were promoted back into the top flight in 2009 as Champions. Which Luton-born future Irish international was voted player of the season having played in 45 of their 46 league games.

3. In 2006, the majority shareholding in Aston Villa was purchased by which American?

4. Who was the Dublin-born captain of Birmingham City when they beat Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final?

5. In July 2008, West Bromwich Albion sold which England U21 player to Aston Villa for a club record fee of 8.5 million pounds?

ANSWERS

Modern Midlands Men Answers

keano1. Who is the former St Mirren and Chelsea defender who was appointed manager of West Bromwich Albion in June 2012?

Steve Clarke

2. Wolverhampton Wanderers were promoted back into the top flight in 2009 as Champions. Which Luton-born future Irish international was voted player of the season having played in 45 of their 46 league games.

Kevin Foley

3. In 2006, the majority shareholding in Aston Villa was purchased by which American?

Randy Lerner

4. Who was the Dublin-born captain of Birmingham City when they beat Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final?

Stephen Carr

5. In July 2008, West Bromwich Albion sold which England U21 player to Aston Villa for a club record fee of 8.5 million pounds?

Curtis Davies

NY Cosmos To Play Regular Season Game In Coney Island

cosmosad

Club will make its Brooklyn debut on May 2 versus the Ottawa Fury

The New York Cosmos announced today that the club will play a regular season game in 2015 at Coney Island’s MCU Park. As part of its Spring Season schedule in the North American Soccer League (NASL), the Cosmos will face the Ottawa Fury on Saturday, May 2 at MCU Park. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. ET.

“2015 marks Raúl’s debut season with our club,” Cosmos Chief Operating Officer Erik Stover said. “So we’re delighted to have the opportunity to play our first-ever game in Brooklyn and to continue to connect with fans and the soccer community in New York City.”

MCU Park is the centerpiece of historic Coney Island. It’s a multi-purpose venue that is not only the home of Brooklyn Cyclones championship baseball, but also a landmark in the Brooklyn community. Located just steps from Coney Island’s famed boardwalk, MCU Park seats approximately 7,500 fans and hosts a variety of events and entertainment each year.

“MCU Park is excited to host the New York Cosmos, a club that has been instrumental in the development and popularity of soccer in the United States” said Steve Cohen, Vice President of the Brooklyn Cyclones. “Bringing professional soccer to Coney Island is another step in proving that the borough of Brooklyn is one of the best and most diverse sports markets in the country.”

Tickets for the NY Cosmos Brooklyn match are available now via season ticket, multi-game mini and flex plans viawww.nycosmos.com/tickets or 855-71-COSMOS.

 

For more information on the game such as stadium information, please visit www.nycosmos.com/brooklynmatch.

Cosmos Ramp Up Preparations For New Season

CrossIslandCrewBy Cesar Trelles

With more than two months until opening day, the North American Soccer League is in the midst of hibernation. But don’t tell the New York Cosmos front office. They have been operating on all cylinders since last week.

On Thursday the Cosmos made an appearance at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) convention in Philadelphia where coincidently, Major League Soccer was holding its annual draft day. Of course the Cosmos do not participate in the MLS draft but that did not keep them from making headlines while at the NSCAA convention. For starters the Cosmos had a Q&A session with the former legend Pele and their current one Raul. The Q&A was open to a select crowd on a first come first served basis and was sold out according to club officials. Also during the convention they announced that they will have a reserve team called “Cosmos B” that will participate in National Premier Soccer League (NPSL).

“The creation of New York Cosmos B to play in the NPSL provides us with the flexibility and a structured development path for our reserve players to flourish”, said Cosmos COO Erik Stover. “We see it as a training ground that will not only help develop younger players vying for more first-team action but also help integrate and accelerate the progress of our academy players”.

The Cosmos expect their B team to start play in 2015 and will be slated to play in the league’s Northeast Region’s North Atlantic Conference. While the MLS draft was adding individual players to their teams, the Cosmos essentially added an entire team to their storied club.

Later that same day, the Cosmos announced that they had obtained midfielder Leo Fernandes on loan from the Philadelphia Union. Fernandes, who is a Long Island native from North Babylon is 23 years old and scored two goals last season in his first professional season with the Union.

“He’s been training with a lot of our players throughout the offseason and we expect him to fit right in as a good attacking option for us”, said head coach Giovanni Savarese of his recently signed player.

The club also announced last week that they have added two more Sponsorship partners. Buffalo Wild Wings has joined on as the club’s official restaurant partner while Corner Bakery café becomes the official caterer. The two new sponsors join Emirates Air, Nike, Samuel Adams and the American Cancer Society as corporate sponsors of the Cosmos.

Even on Martin Luther King day the Cosmos still managed to make headlines by announcing that they had obtained midfielder Walter Restrepo from the 2014 NASL champions the San Antonio Scorpions. Restrepo was an integral part of the Scorpions in 2014 scoring three goals and assisting on four goals in 25 games. His efforts were good enough to earn him a spot on the NASL Best XI team for 2014. At only 26 years, Restrepo adds another solid NASL veteran at midfield who still has several years of quality playing time ahead of him. Being from Colombia, he will also serve to attract the many Colombian soccer fans in New York City and Long Island.

Following all that excitement, the Cosmos announced two pre-season friendlies for April. The first will take them to Hong Kong where the Cosmos will take on South China Football Club as part of Hong Kong’s 2015 Lunar New Year Cup On Thursday February 19th. South China Football Club is part of Hong Kong’s premier league.

Prior to the trip to the far East, the team will travel to El Salvador to take on Club Deportivo Footbalistas Asociados Santanecos (more practically known as FAS). Cosmos forward Andres Flores is from El Salvador and has served as the captain of the Salvadorean national team.

And if all of this activity wasn’t enough for one week, as of the writing of this article there are reports that the Cosmos are very interested in the services of La Liga veteran and current Everton player Samuel Eto.

“As a club, we are interested in a player of that level, for his quality, his determination and his great will to win” said head coach Giovanni Savarese. “He’s a player who, if there were any possibility of getting him, we would be interested in taking”

Let’s not forget the Cosmos have already of course signed Raul. They also signed Andres Flores to a permanent deal and they obtained MLS veteran midfield Adam Moffat already this off season. All of this and there is still over two months remaining in the offseason.

For all the moves that the Cosmos have made this off-season they will still have to prove themselves come April. While their off season has seemed to a success to date, just because you win the off-season doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to win the real season.

 

Cross Island Crew Tidbits:.

 

• Supporters Scarves are available Cross Island Crew Supporters Scarves are available for sale for $20. For information email crossislandcrew@gmail.com or visit www.crossislandcrew.com

• A small group of Cosmos supporters have launched a website dedicated to New York Cosmos news as well as news regarding the Cosmos Supporters collectively known as the Five Points. Make sure to visit their site at www.thefivepointspress.com. You can also follow them on twitter @fivepointspress

 

Ginola Tonic

bowlerBy Bill Thomas

Barack Obama might well have been busying himself with his penultimate State of the Union address this week, but in the world of football, politics has also taken centre stage, surrounding the future of FIFA once more.

David Ginola, French international winger of the past, has put forward his name as a challenger to Sepp Blatter and is currently off on a publicity junket to try and drum up the support he needs, both in terms of finance and football associations, to take Blatter on in this year’s vote.

The first battle that Ginola will face is establishing his credibility. Having been largely out of the game since his playing days ended, having shown neither interest nor aptitude for administration and now being backed by a publicity hungry betting firm, he does not have the finest credentials.

That said, his early musings have been very interesting. Showing a typically Gallic penchant for the concepts of “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité”, Ginola’s platform calls for democracy, transparency and equality and you can’t help but agree with those principles, albeit that at this early stage, he’s a little sketchy on the details.

Nonetheless, it is a platform that will likely strike a chord or two with the “normal fan” that Ginola clearly sees as his natural constituency. He is standing very much against the “business as usual” platform of Blatter, one that also taints other challengers given that they are looked upon very much as business suits, operators, administrators, people from that hermetically sealed world where the deals are done and where football operates as a secondary consideration, a long, long way behind money.

So here is one of Ginola’s bombshell ideas – FIFA might like to start paying some tax. Extraordinary as it may seem, for all the huge amounts of money they rake off all over the world, not least in cash strapped Brazil last summer, so sophisticated are FIFA’s tax arrangements that they hand none of it back in tax.

Sure, like any organisation, they would want to minimise their obligations on that score, but then they aren’t like any other organisation are they? They are supposed to be above the stricture of mere business. As the organising body of a game, one that contributes to the health and well being of billions, football and FIFA exist beneath a moral imperative, a requirement to do the right thing. How can they have their World Cup in Brazil and not pay any tax there from the fortunes that were generated?

The call for equality extends elsewhere, including into the women’s game. To try to shine greater light on that, Ginola has come up with the eminently sensible suggestion that the women’s World Cup should be played immediately after the men’s version, in the same nation, using the same stadia.

On the face of it, it’s a brilliant idea. With all the media already in place for the men’s beanfeast, there’s every chance they can remain in situ to cover the women’s World Cup too. Indeed, you could even give it a real kick start in those final 10 days of the men’s tournament when they are those long, miserable days stretching out without football. Play some of the women’s early group games in those slots and there’ll be plenty of fans going cold turkey who will lap it up. Good thinking from the Frenchman.

In the end it is unlikely that Ginola will win the campaign, but if he could at least get on the ballot, something very interesting might just be around the corner. For Ginola could be the insurgency candidate, the one that tilts the debate, the one who chimes in with the thoughts of grass root support.

He might be the one that requires the other candidates to take the world beyond their cloistered offices seriously. He could be the Ralph Nader or Ross Perot type figure, someone who can shake the tree sufficiently for a few of the establishment to fall out, bang their heads and start thinking afresh.

He might not win, but at least his candidacy is going to liven things up for a few weeks.

In Scotland, The Premiership Title Race Is Not Academic(al)

dundee

Dundee United’s Gary Mackay-Steven (left) has signed a pre contract agreement with Celtic.

By Brian P. Dunleavy

Celtic manager Ronny Deila told the press in Scotland his side’s home loss to Hamilton Academical in October “cut deep in [his] heart.”

So he has to be pleased that the Hoops responded with a 2-0 victory in the return fixture at New Douglas Park on Saturday. Still, things are far from perfect in Paradise. Three stalwarts — Dutch central defender Virgil Van Dyke, striker Anthony Stokes and play-making midfielder (and reigning Scotland Player of the Year) Kris Commons — are rumored to be leaving in the current transfer window (the latter to join former Celtic boss Neil Lennon at Bolton), without any (confirmed) new signings as replacements in the near term. Dundee United midfielder Gary Mackay-Steven has been signed to a pre-contract agreement, and as of now will join in the summer. His United teammate Stuart Armstrong is reportedly on the Hoops’ radar, as is Manchester United’s Darren Fletcher but, at press time, no deals have been finalized.

Deila needs reinforcements, what with a busy February fixture list and a Premiership race that remains very much in doubt. Aberdeen leads a charge of challengers that, based on point differential anyway, includes Dundee United, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and the aforementioned Accies. The Dons have already achieved the distinction of being the first non-Old Firm club to top Scotland’s top flight this late in the season since Hearts in 1992, and Hamilton are the biggest surprise. In their first year back in the Prem, they are firmly in the top six, in spite of a recent downturn in form since the departure of player/manager Alex Neil (to Norwich City). That former Celtic legend John Hartson has put his hat in the ring to replace Neil cannot be good news to Deila; no one would blame the Norwegian for looking over his shoulder should “Big John” succeed at Hamilton, and get valuable management experience, especially while the Hoops continue to produce middling results.

Disappointing Motherwell may be on the road to recovery with this week’s signing of former Scotland international Stephen Pearson and the appointment of Ian Baraclough as manager. Baraclough last coached Ireland’s Sligo Rovers; he replaces Stuart McCall, who resigned in November.

Most of the drama in the Scottish Championship, meanwhile, is being staged off the pitch, with Hearts distancing itself from the rest of the field and almost assured of promotion to the Prem after the season. They strengthened their squad this week with the loan signing of Genero Zeffuik.

Rangers, the closest challenger (13 points adrift), remains in a state of flux in the boardroom and in the manager’s chair, and its showing on the pitch. Ally McCoist was placed on “gardening leave” just before Christmas (after tendering his resignation), and interim gaffer Kenny McDowall resigned on Monday (although he will continue in the post until a successor is named). Legendary Sky Blues boss Walter Smith has ruled out a return, meaning Italian pitbull—and former RFC player—Gennaro Gattuso is the biggest name on the candidate list. Still, they should be helped by the addition of former Hearts defender Ryan McGowan, who is expected to join the fold before the January window closes.

Hibernian sit third, and are closing in on Rangers, after a slow start under first-year manager (and former Celt) Alan Stubbs. New signing Franck Dja Djedje is expected to add goals to the squad, which hung five on Cowdenbeath during last weekend’s action.

A return to Old Firm normalcy has to be on the list of New Year’s resolutions for the Scotland FA, as Glasgow derby matches mean increased TV revenue and, likely, a new title sponsor for the top flight; however, with Rangers’ promotion at season’s end far from a sure thing, all of the country’s clubs, Celtic included, are likely playing the current transfer window conservatively. One wonders if Deila will find these necessary budget cuts cut even deeper than home losses.

Juventus Open 5 Point Lead

serieA_172x121By Michael Ottolenghi

Is this the fuga giusta or “right escape” for Juventus at the top of Serie A?

With Roma drawing 1-1 against Palermo, Juventus’ emphatic 4-0 win against Verona saw them open up a 5 point lead at the top of the table.  With Roma faltering a little lately, Juve will hope that this time the gap is just too much for Rudi Garcia’s team to make up.

But the two horse race that is the battle for the scudetto is not news. Juve have won 3 consecutive titles and Roma have been their main rivals for a season and a half. No team seems likely to challenge that duopoly, and unless Roma do actually threaten to win their first league title since 2001, the top of the Serie A table will not be the best place for excitement in the second half of the season.

And as this week is the exact midpoint of the 2014/2015 season in Serie A, it is not too soon to highlight some of the key trends so far, unrelated to the two top teams.

New strikers. Serie A has seen the emergence of young strikers that have the big European teams on alert.  The three standouts, based both on the impact they have made and the number of goals they have scored, are Paulo Dybala, Manolo Gabbiadini and Mauro Icardi.

Dybala is perhaps the least well known, but also the most coveted of the three, with Manchester United and PSG reportedly following his progress. He arrived at Palermo straight from the Argentinian second division as a promising teenager, but failed to make much of an impact in his first two seasons in Sicily.  But when Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini did his usual trick last summer of selling the strikers that has scored the goals to get the club promoted back into Serie A, Dybala had to step up and he responded in spectacular fashion. Visibly stronger, he has scored 10 goals, including some that have become youtube sensations.

Fellow Argentinean Icardi also has ten goals, and has equally benefitted from being the main recognised striker for Inter, due in part to the injury to Rodrigo Palacio.

Icardi has become an old fashioned centre-forward, bullying his way to balls in the penalty area and holding up play to benefit his team. He is not the fastest, but at only 21 he already has a healthy dose of experience behind him, which explains the interest from both Chelsea and Atletico Madrid.

Gabbiadini has seven goals to his name, all scored when he played for Sampdoria, helping his club overachieve this season (see below). His success earned him a move to Napoli, and it remains to be seen whether he can earn a shirt in a packed forward department there, let alone replicate his early season form.

Mixed signals. The flipside of the interest in Serie A’s strikers from Europe’s big clubs is the signal it sends about Serie A, which risks becoming a supermarket for the Premier League and La Liga, much like the Portuguese or Dutch leagues. That has as much to do with economics as football, but the bad governance of the Italian game is also to blame.  The signals do not all point in the same direction, though, with a few stars in their prime moving to Serie A (Xherdan Shaqiri is the most recent example) and a number of clubs moving towards building their own stadiums. The jury is still out then, but the real test will be whether Dybala, Icardi and Gabbiadini are still in Italy this time next year.

A tale of two cities. We have touched on this already in these pages, but it is too important a change not to mention.  Both the decline of Milan and the rise of Genoa have been spectacular.  Milan and Inter are currently 8th and 9th in the table, with neither having qualified for the Champions League this year for the first time since 2001-2002. By contrast, Sampdoria are third and Genoa are seventh after a difficult run of games. But the Genoa sides have played with a dynamism, hunger and tactical discipline the Milanese teams have long forgotten.  Can it continue in the second half of the season?