Thursday, July 22, 2010

Henry to NY

So Thierry Henry is coming to America -- incredible. I wonder how he will adapt.

I was thrilled when he moved to Barcelona -- I thought the move was a smart one for both player and club. Henry at the time was 29 years old and had done pretty much all one could have done with Arsenal in London. He topped the Arsenal all-time goal scoring charts. Helped them win the league twice, going undefeated in one season. He nearly won the Champions League with them, only to lose to...Barcelona... in the final.

While he led that Arsenal team with arrogance and at times petulance, he also did so with tremendous style and flair. Henry made a significant contribution to the Barcelona teams that won the last two league titles -- but it was hard for him to shine in a team with so many amazing players. Perhaps that is a credit to him -- he proved that he could adapt and contribute to a team effort after playing the role of superstar for so long at Arsenal.

Among the many different types of players in the game -- the industrious worker-bee types, the hard-men tacklers, the playmakers -- players like Henry, Ibrahimovic, Zidane, Larsson, Maicon, Luis Fabiano, Kaka are a class above. The have a certain coolness, a confidence and grace that distinguishes them from the rest -- good though they may be.

Michael Jordan had that grace; many say Lebron James has that grace now. You could argue that Tiger Woods is of the same ilk, though his crass life choices have tarnished his reputation.

I think Henry will find it rough going in the MLS. Hopefully he can avoid the tackles from the graceless cloggers that abound in our league here.

The run out in New York will be a new adventure for him. Welcome to America, Henry - and good luck to you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

El Clasico!


The 2010 La Liga schedule came out today, July 20. By chance, the Clasico falls on a date when Leo, the Missus and I will be in Barcelona.


Since I learned of this, I have been fervently contacting Barcelona family members in hopes of lining up tickets. They are not even on sale yet to my knowledge.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Viva Espanha!

Full disclosure -- my wife's family is Catalan; I'm a Barca fan. This, however, is not an all Barca or all Spain blog.

Having had a few days to reflect on the match, my opinion remains the same -- the best team won. It was not a pretty match, but I can't say I expected it to be. Spain playing in its first ever final, versus a Dutch side that isn't nearly as classy as previous incarnations.

Both teams looked nervous at that start, Spain especially. Ramos was ever eager to receive the ball, but got rid of it immediately afterwords. Xavi must have had adrenaline coursing through his veins -- he was not his typical calm, thoughtful self.

Much has been said about the ref, Howard Webb. I though he did a decent job in a very tough game. Both teams made rough fouls - Webb did his best to keep the game moving.

Highlights: Incredible finish at the death by Barca forward/midfielder Andres Iniesta. Incredible performance from Iker Casillas, the Madrid goalkeeper. Robben running at Casillas in a couple of one on one situations caused the heart to flutter -- thankfully Casillas was up to the challenge on one play; Puyol, of course, managed to bump Robben off the ball for the other. Robben wanted a foul but, as others have pointed out, perhaps that non-call was retribution for the Van Bommel or DeJong fouls earlier in the game.

I think the greatest joy for me however, was seeing Barca and Madrid players look genuinely happy playing together. It be foolish to say that they put history behind them completely, but it does seem like they've made some sort of peace with it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Final: Spain v. Holland

Hooray! Spain v. Holland in the final is a dream match-up this year. Great that neither of the two finalists have ever won it before, and that that is the case on a continent where the Cup has never been played before.

Brazil, though dear to my heart, has won it five times previously and will win it again in four years at home; Germany has won the cup several times already; France were unworthy, egocentric blowhards; Italy weren't good enough; England were, as always, an entertaining diversion. Uruguay were inspirational, but are happily eliminated. Holland is truly one of the best teams around. Spain is incredible.

In their last game, you could see that the key Dutch players had seemingly resolved whatever differences existed, and were playing to their potential. Van Bommel has really become a commanding presence in the center of the pitch. On their day, there is no stopping the Robben/Schneider/Van Persie combination.

Many are picking Spain to win this Cup. I hope they do -- my missus is half-Catalan; my favorite team is Barcelona; many on the Spanish national team are Barca players. But I want them to win mostly because I admire the way they play -- the way they hold possession and steadily build their attacks though a combination of passing moves and individual technique. I like that there is dynamism in the team -- they are tough in defense, thoughtful in midfield, quick on the wings and skillful in attack. There is also great cohesion in the team. When the attacking-midfielders and forwards are having difficulty breaking through the opposition defense, a defensive midfielder or full-back will move forward to provide another option. In defense, the forwards will drop back to recover possession. Also, everyone in the team defends -- a Barca tactic of late that has translated well to the national side.

Will Kuyt and Van Bommel control the game? Or will it be once again the Xavi and Villa show? My hope is for the latter, but will be entertained in any case by this historic game.

Happy watching!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I don’t know if there is any stopping this German team. Confidence must be soaring. Who will come in for Mueller? It hardly matters I think. Loew and co have outsmarted opponents regardless of the cast (wasn’t everyone thinking they’d be rubbish w/o Ballack?!). It will be an interesting match – del Bosque is no tactical schmuck.

Spain has weaknesses, I think; the holding midfield players (Busquets and Alonso) are more creative than they are defensive. In any given German counter-attack - and they have been so effective in counter-attacks this tournament - expect one or both to be lazily retreating when they should be sprinting. Our captain courageous, Puyol, is wonderfully dedicated to the cause but is also slow and in generally not as good as his German counterparts. Del Bosque took him off in the last match, though; I wonder if he may start someone else for the next game.

Does Germany have a weakness?

Will Holland will beat Uruguay? Perhaps so without Suarez, but I’m not convinced it’s already been decided. Holland in their last game looked a bit uncoordinated. Individuals (Schneider, Robben, V. Persie) did remarkable things, but there didn’t seem to be much cohesion in the team. As much as I like Holland, I am hoping Uruguay makes it to the final (against Spain ;-)

Happy watching indeed!