Julian Valentin’s Column: Monday September 8th, 2008

Welcome!  Let’s go…

Looking Back & Looking Ahead

We took a trip up to New England last weekend to play the Revs.  We’ve been on a slide lately and it was a big game for us, not only to get a good result but to raise the quality of our game going into the last part of the season.  We need points.  There was a huge crowd and a great atmosphere for the match.

We had a very good first half.  We were moving the ball well, making the Revs run, getting in behind them, and creating chances.  We were also defending quite well – getting numbers around the ball, making honest recovery runs, and making things hard for New England.  Even with our good play, we gave up the first goal of the match when Khano Smith served a ball into the box that found Taylor Twellman’s head.  Sort of against the run of play but it was a good, brave play by Twellman to put his team up – brought back memories for myself as Cronin gave him a gash on his cheek.  Both actually suffered injuries on the play as Cronin hurt his hand as well.  We responded shortly after with a brilliant strike from Landon.  Pete served a ball over the top, right into Landon’s stride.  Landon caught Matt Reis on his back foot and drilled the ball into the back of the net with his left foot.  Great goal.  We carried our momentum into the locker room with the score knotted at 1-1.

We continued to roll out of the locker room, playing the same way and getting on the board again with another excellent goal from Landon.  New face Eddie Lewis served a perfect through-ball which put LD into the box for a classic finish.  Eddie was been a great addition to the team so far.  Not only is he a great player with lots of experience at the highest level but he is also a great guy off the field – a real team guy.  Anyways, we started to fade a bit after this.  We started to lose the midfield battle a bit and absorbed more pressure from New England.  We did a good job of defending, fighting to win our battles and make plays, but they were able to find the scoreboard once again when Shalrie Joseph tucked a ball away in the 71st minute.

The match ended in a 2-2 tie.  If we weren’t on a long winless streak we would be very happy with the result.  We tied a very good team on the road, in a tough environment, and played well for the majority of the match.  Saying that, we know that we need points and we’re disappointed that we weren’t able to take all 3.

I know that every team is saying this, but in this league, it’s all about stringing together some wins and getting hot at the right time.  One win puts us right back into the race and a string of a few wins will put us right into playoff contention.  I can only imagine how frustrating it is for our fans but these ties will be very valuable at the end of the year.

Salt Lake comes to town this weekend and it will be another huge game.  They’re a good team who is ahead of us in the Western Conference table.  They have struggled on the road this year, though, and we’re hoping to take all the points, even with our international call-ups.

This Week

This week has been another good week of training.  I think it’s clear how much the team has improved and the team mentality has changed in the short time that our new coaches have been here.  We’ve taken a back to the basics approach, focus on the details approach, and change our mentality approach.  With all that, training has been tough – working on tactics, possession play, attacking patterns, weight lifting, video review and preparation, and everything else.  We’re doing everything possible to put ourselves in a good position to win on Saturday.

Off the pitch, this week has been uneventful.

I’ve gotten back into one of my favorite pastimes – a computer game called Football Manager.  I used to play this game in college all the time and it’s extremely addicting, fun, and a great way to pass time.

The game is pretty self-explanatory: you are the manager of a soccer team.  You control all of the player transfers, set and change all of the team tactics, give players individual tactical instructions, give pregame and postgame talks, loan players, interact with the media, set up all training sessions, and absolutely everything else that a real manager does.  The game is extremely deep and detailed.  When it comes to game time, you don’t play, just like a real manager – you only watch the match and change all of the tactics and substitutions.  This game is great and I’m sure you can see how it’s so addicting.

Because of the high expectations for this season and subsequent disappointment in real life, I decided to start with Tottenham.  In my first year, kept most of the existing squad in tact but added winger Thomas Hitzlesperger from Stuttgart, centerback Tomas Ujfaulsi from Fiorentina, and (signing of the year for my squad) Sanli Tuncay from Fenerbache.  (I’m playing the 2007 version, not the newest one).  At the beginning of the year, the Tottenham board expected me to finish mid-table but Billy English (my manager alias in the game) managed a 2nd place finish in the Premiership behind Chelsea.  Along with that, I won the Carling Cup, the FA Cup, and the UEFA Cup.  Three trophies!  Needless to say, the board and all the fans are thrilled with Billy English and I’m making Tottenham one of the best clubs in the world.

Now I’m in year 2 with big expectations.  With a lot more games and playing in Champions League, I knew that I had to strengthen my squad and add some more depth to rotate players and cover for injuries so I asked the board for more money and went on a shopping spree.  I got rid of a few players from the previous year and also bought outside backs Alexy Berezutskiy and Emanuel Pogatetez from CSKA Moscow and Middlesborough respectively, young Brazilian Eduardo Ratinho from Corinthinas, Anthony Vanden Borre from Anderlecht, and I broke the bank to buy Giuseppe Rossi for $14 million from Manchester United.  Things have worked out so far.  I’m already through to the knockout rounds of the Champions League, advanced in FA and Carling Cups, but I’m struggling a bit in the Premiership.  I’m mid-table as I try to rest some of my players and I’ve drawn a bunch of matches.  It’s still only November so I’m good.  I’ll make sure to keep you up to date with Billy English and his Tottenham squad.

Around the World

Could Manchester City be the next Chelsea?

The Citizens think so.  And under the vision of Sulaiman al-Fahim and the Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment, Man City fans hope to usurp cross town rivals United and compete on a continental level.  The recent takeover was imminent in lieu the personal problems of former owner Thaksin Shinawatra and I’m sure that he gladly accepted the $360 million buy out.  While that seems like a lot of money (and it is!) it’s only chump-change for the UAE company that’s worth $550 billion.  That’s billion, with a B.  The new ownership group has also expressed great commitment and enthusiasm to bring top players to the club in order to win trophies as demonstrated with the purchase of Robinho, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Zabaleta, and Vincent Kompany.  The grand total of those four players is somewhere around £72 million and you can almost double that for American dollars.  It’s also safe to assume that this type of spending will become a regular thing.

This ridiculous buyout and rampant spending is nothing new in the football world, though.  All you have to do is look south to London for the best example of how financial investment creates success in the game.  Chelsea was a good club that usually fought for a top 5 finish but hardly an international football superpower.  It wasn’t until Roman Abramovich decided to splash some of his billions in buying it that the Blues blew up, so to speak.  From there, he went on and bought an excellent manager, went on spending spree after spending spree and, well, the rest is history.  Now the club is one of the richest in the world and one of the most successful every year.  City hopes to follow this same model.  In fact, al-Fahim said “I’m the new Abramovic.”

City definitely still has a way’s to go in order to be included with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Man U, AC Milan, Liverpool, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, and Chelsea but who’s to say they can’t do it.  It will be interesting to track this story over the next few years and see if City fans can finally win some permanent leverage and bragging rights over the hated Red Devils.

Who ever said money can’t buy happiness?

Q & A

Make sure to send them to Julian@americansoccerreader.com.

Take care and I’ll catch you later!


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