Monday, May 31, 2010

Inter Milan Coach Sets High Standard

ANTONIO CALANNI / Associated Press Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho, of Portugal, is mobbed by press as he leaves a bar in Milan, Italy, on Wednesday Mourinho is regarded as perhaps the top coach in soccer.

Evansville Courier Press, May 30, 2010

When Jose Mourinho arrived at his first news conference as the manager of Chelsea FC years ago, he described himself as "the Special One."

After his Inter Milan team beat Bayern Munich the UEFA Champions League final, Mourinho firmly placed himself on the Mount Rushmore of great coaches in sport today, proving that he is in fact "special."

He has won league titles in three different nations — Portugal (Porto FC), England (Chelsea FC) and Italy (Inter Milan) — and is one of only three men to have won Champions League titles with two different clubs.

His bravado and arrogance make him hard to root for at times, but if you can look past his ego, he provides lessons in coaching and management that any leader can draw from.

There are coaches who have a very rigid system of play, which requires players to change their own styles to fit the mold. The adage was that the only person who was able to hold Michael Jordan to under 20 points was Dean Smith, his coach at North Carolina.

A unique trait of a leader who understands the art of coaching is to create a system that highlights the strengths of key personnel and create an environment where players can flourish. What makes Mourinho a great tactician is that he assesses the squad and outlines a formation and style of play that suits the players at his disposal.

At both Porto and Chelsea, Mourinho had flexible alignments that allowed his team to morph into either a dynamic attacking unit or stingy defensive unit, depending on the opposition. Mourinho tended to play a 4-3-3 system with width and pace in the attack in both of those settings, and dropped back into a 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 when looking to close the door on his opposition.

When Mourinho arrived in England from Porto, he was labeled as a "4-4-2 coach" playing 4 defenders, 4 midfielders and 2 forwards who sat back and defended. That was dismissed when his Chelsea team had taken the English Premier League title while playing a different alignment and leading the EPL in goals scored.

Inter Milan had taken different shapes as well, and morphed into a midfield that allowed playmaker Wesley Sneidjer the room to create scoring chances. Milan had used four players in a midfield diamond, as well as a 3-man alignment in both a 4-3-3 and 4-5-1. The myth of "sitting back and defending" was dispelled as Milan scored more goals than any other side in Serie A, averaging just under two a game.

Mourinho is regarded as one of the most organized coaches in the modern game. He prides himself in knowing every detail about his opposition, and preparing his players for every option that opponents present in attack, defense and set pieces. Mourinho's teams seem to know more about the opposition than they know about themselves.

European football expert Graham Hunter says: "He is completely calculated, very scientific and very deliberate about everything he does. He is utterly thorough in his analysis, preparation and thinking ahead of a game."

Mourinho's teams are always very fit, and he is one of the foremost figures in the modern game when it comes to soccer-specific fitness. Rather than having a lot of sessions designed specifically to conditioning, he understands how to manipulate variables in a training session that allow his team to get fitness accomplished in functional training.

Mourinho is the ultimate believer in earning the right to play soccer — if his players do the work to win the ball on defense, they will earn the opportunity to play creatively in attack.

Because of his attention to detail in his preparations, coupled with his tremendous man-management and communication skills, Mourinho's players are always willing to go the extra mile for him.

You don't have to be a fan of Inter Milan to appreciate the aspects of what makes Jose Mourinho special.

USA 2 - Turkey 1

Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey scored in the second half to give the USA a 2-1 win Saturday in its friendly against Turkey in Philadelphia. Below is what Paul Kennedy of Soccer America had liked and didn't like from the team's World Cup tune-up.

We liked ... -- Halftime subs Robbie Findley and Jose Francisco Torres, who played very well. Findley had his best game for the USA and helped set up the first goal. Torres was excellent in midfield.

-- The finishing of Dempsey, who took a half-chance and scored the winning goal. It's same kind of efficiency Dempsey showed last summer at the Confederations Cup.

-- How the game gave the USA a chance to deal with two situations -- it came from behind to take the lead and held it.

We didn't like ...

-- The lack of spark the USA showed in the first half when it failed to take the game to the Turks. Surprising, given the pro-U.S. crowd of more than 55,000 encouraging the Americans on.

-- Its continued propensity to give away easy goals and its failure to shut the Turks down after it took the lead. Poor defending contributed to all five goals in the send-off series.

-- How after both sat out Tuesday's game against the Czech Republic, Ricardo Clark and Benny Feilhaber lacked bite in midfield. They both came off at the half.

Mourinho's fame transcends the game

He started out as a PE teacher and has become one of the most famous football managers. Rafsanjan Abbey Tatya writes about the man who is more famous than football players.

In football today, there is Jose Mourinho and then there is everybody else. The pouting Portuguese has lit up the world of football with his attitude and coaching skills, and has become one of the few managers whose fame has transcended the game.

This year alone, Mourinho – coaching Inter Milan - proved to be football’s hottest property by rising above the richest clubs (talk of Chelsea and Barcelona); outshining hugely successful clubs (talk of Bayern Munich) and outdoing the best players around (think Lionel Messi) to win the UEFA Champions League.

Even on a night where Messi could score 10 goals, Mourinho would somehow beat him to the cover pages – he is simply the best thing to have happened to football in recent times. He knows it, which is why in a press conference upon joining Chelsea in 2004, Mourinho said, “Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one,” which resulted in the media dubbing him “The Special One.” His egocentricity is elephantine and his tendency to say exactly what he thought won him more enemies than friends in the beginning but today, very many people love him for not only his managerial skills but what he says too.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Princeton still special to Bradley

Anthony Coleman of The Times of Trenton Sports News writes of Princeton University's prodigal son returning home.

Bob Bradley is approaching the task at hand as if he was back at Princeton University and playing for an Ivy League title.

Well, the former Princeton men's soccer head coach was, in fact, back at his alma mater yesterday; however, he has his sights set on a much more grand prize.

Bradley has been back in town since Sunday as the U.S. Men's National Team -- the squad he now manages -- holds training camp in preparation for next month's FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The team is training at Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium through tomorrow. The sessions, however, are closed to the public.

"Of course the levels are completely different," said Bradley, comparing going for an Ivy League title and a World Cup. "Whenever you work with a team, the starting point is to try to build a good team, find a way for that team to grow, learn how to compete, learn how to raise the level and try to win something.

"The process of doing that is the same at all levels. The players certainly are going to be more talented the higher the level is, but the process of team building and the work that goes into it -- the inside details like communication, leadership -- so much of that is all the same."

Bradley played at Princeton from 1976-80. During his senior year where he led the team in scoring, the Tigers advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Afterward, he coached two seasons at Ohio University before accepting the position at Old Nassau.

"(Coaching the national team) wasn't in my mind at that time," Bradley, 52, who is married with three children, said. "I was thrilled to have the chance to come back to Princeton. Bob Myslik was the athletic director. I was still quite young as a coach, and Bob, he saw something and gave me that opportunity.

"I was at Princeton for 12 years, and when I think back to the teams we had, to the players that came through the program, to the fact that all my kids were born in Princeton and ran around the field...when you coach in college, one of the greatest things is the fact that, as busy as you are, kids can still be part of this. So I don't think there could have been a better place to be at that time."

The lessons learned at Princeton -- as well as the ones picked up during his four stops on the Major League Soccer circuit -- are something Bradley hopes to draw from when the United States opens World Cup play against England June 11.

"As a coach, you draw on all of your experiences," he said. "The moments along the way where you are challenged to manage a group, when you are challenged when you need to be the one to set the tone and show leadership, those experiences are what get you to a certain point.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The US World Cup Roster - Who's In...Who's Out

Bob Bradley has spent the past four years evaluating the U.S. national team talent pool, traveling to Europe to meet with players and see them play, checking out Major League Soccer games and selecting squads for big-time tournaments as well as your average friendly.

Still, when he said this week that he will cut his provisional roster from 30 to the FIFA-required 23 for the World Cup after just one exhibition game, Tuesday night against the Czech Republic in East Hartford, Conn., it came as a bit of a shock.

“It’s like anything else,” Bradley said during a news conference at Princeton University, where
the team is in pre-World Cup training.

“You have a plan in your head. But then you have to be able to adjust at some point, but the idea would be that by the time we get to Philadelphia (for the send-off game against Turkey May 29) we have made our decisions and we have our 23.”

So who's in and who's out for the US team in South Africa - there is a provisional roster of 30 players in Princeton, NJ, so there are 7 players in camp who won't travel to South Africa.

GOALKEEPERS - Each team heading to South Africa figures to take 3 goalkeepers with them, so figure on each of the goalkeepers in camp to make the final roster. Tim Howard is arguably the US team's best player - his level of experience with Everton and the English Premier League, coupled with his performance in last summer's FIFA Confederations Cup, rates him among the best goalkeepers in the world. Brad Guzan (Aston Villa) and Marcus Hahnemann (Wolves) both have experience in the English Premier League as well, and provide the US with the deepest position in their team. WHO'S IN: Howard, Guzan, Hahnemann

DEFENSE - The backbone of the US team's success in South Africa last summer, injuries to Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit had tested the US backline over the past year. Both central defenders are in camp and given a full bill of health, so figure both of them to be in the US team. Carlos Bocanegra is the team's captain, and figures to play next to Onyewu at either left back or in the center of defense. Jonathan Spector had a good season for West Ham United this past 2009-10 English Premier League season, and between he and Steve Cherundolo, figure to play at right back. Those 5 defenders figure to make the final roster - leaving Jonathan Bornstein, Clarence Goodson, Chad Marshall and Heath Pearce to fight it out for remaining spots at the back. I think they will take another left-sided player in the event that Bocanegra moves inside, and another center back for cover. WHO'S IN: Onyewu, Bocanegra, DeMerit, Spector, Cherundolo, Bornstein, Goodson

CENTRAL MIDFIELD - Michael Bradley is a write-in for the US in midfield, and is the heart and engine of the team. He is a true box-to-box midfielder, and is the closest thing they have to a playmaker. Ricardo Clark had been a standout in qualifying and in South Africa this past summer, but injuries have plagued him over the past year. Maurice Edu had been a bright spot in the US team picture prior to injuries suffered while playing for Glasgow Rangers opened the door for Clark last summer. Figure that Clark and Edu will fight it out to play next to Bradley. Jose Torres is another central player in the mix, and could make the final roster as he is a very different type player to the other three. Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan have both played centrally and wide over the past two years for the US, and their versatility probably means that at least one of them will make the final roster. WHO'S IN: Bradley, Clark, Edu, Feilhaber, Torres

FLANK PLAYERS - Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey have been standouts in the English Premier League over the past year, and proved to be the team's chief attacking threats in South Africa last summer. Each can also play up front, and with Charlie Davies' injury, could be called into action on the front line. Stuart Holden had factored into a more prominent role in the US team prior to an injury suffered while playing for Bolton Wanderers in the English Premier League, and after recovering to full health, figures to be a solid wide option if Dempsey or Donovan are moved up front. DaMarcus Beasley, Alejandro Bedoya, Feilhaber, Kljestan and Robbie Rogers all will be vying for spots on the flanks. Beasley's inclusion has been controversial to some, but with the lack of another experienced left-sided player, I think he will probably make the final group. WHO'S IN: Donovan, Dempsey, Holden, Beasley

STRIKERS - Jozy Altidore had a disappointing finish to the English Premier League season for Hull City, but has been the US team's top target player throughout qualifying. The loss of Davies changes the dynamic of the US attack, and as Bradley looks to replace him, will lean on the likes of Edson Buddle, Brian Ching, Dempsey, Donovan, Robbie Findley, Herculez Gomez and Eddie Johnson as candidates. Findley hasn't looked the part in recent appearances. Buddle (MLS), Johnson (Greece) and Gomez (Mexico) are all in form, and could merit inclusion. WHO'S IN: Altidore, Ching, Buddle, Johnson

So who does that leave out - Marshall and Pearce appear to be surplus to requirement in the back; Kljestan is versatile and a Bradley favorite, but might be squeezed out due to other versatile midfielders (Holden, Feilhaber); I really like Rogers, but hasn't played consistent enough to stake a claim; Bedoya is a little unproven, and both he and Rogers should figure in the US team in the future; Findley and Gomez are the odd men out of the attacking players.

So what do you think? Send in your comments, and check in and see who Bradley selects in his final 23-man roster.

Is the Champions League bigger than the World Cup?

Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho says the Champions League is a bigger competition than the World Cup.

His team play Bayern Munich in the final at Madrid's Bernabeu Stadium on Saturday, and the celebrated Portuguese coach is clear about the game's status.

"This game is the most important in the world," said 47-year-old Mourinho.

"It is even bigger than the World Cup because the teams in it are at a higher level than national teams, who can't buy the best players."

The Day Every Manager Dreads

It is always hard when you have one of your top players leave your team. It is like any other relationship, and it is natural for a manager to take it personal.

Harry Redknapp is a guest columnist for the Sun, and writes about how he sympathises with the potential of Arsene Wenger and Arsenal losing Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona.

IT'S the knock on the door every manager dreads.
And I should know - I've been on the receiving end of it before now.

That's why I had every sympathy with Arsene Wenger when Cesc Fabregas broke the news every Arsenal fan had been fearing, by announcing he wanted to leave.

OK, it was slightly different with me, when I was West Ham boss and we sold Rio Ferdinand, but the principle is the same - you're losing a bloody good player.

But if Arsene spends that money wisely - and I'm sure he will - then he could bring in two or three who make the difference.

Let's be honest, it's a dream move for Fabregas and, as much as Arsene would love to keep him, once a player's made up his mind it is very, very difficult to stop.

We couldn't manage it with Rio at West Ham, even though we didn't want to sell and he didn't want to go!

Extra linesman experiment to be extended

ZURICH, May 18 (Reuters) - Soccer’s rule-making body has decided to extend for another two years an experiment involving two extra linesman behind the goals to help the referee.

The experiment was staged this year in the Europa League and all national and continental federations will be allowed to repeat it on a voluntary basis, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said after a meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

“We will send a circular to the 208 member associations and six confederations asking them if they implement this within a competition,” said Valcke.

“It has been extremely interesting, the results have been more favourable than negative,” IFAB member Jonathan Ford told reporters.

World Cup is a family affair for the Bradley's

Kelly Whiteside of USA Today writes of the relationship between Bob and Michael Bradley-

For Bradley, training at Princeton University is just as ideal. After all, this is where he learned to play the game, where his father, Bob, coached the Tigers from 1984 to 1995. "I have a lot of memories, watching practices, chasing after balls," says Michael, now 22. "It's still considered home."

Being the coach's son then certainly didn't have the same significance as it does today. The father is now the national team coach, and the son is a fixture at center midfield. Though they are very close, publicly they would prefer to talk about anything other than their relationship.

Is navigating the situation tricky?

Michael: "He's the coach, he's my dad. I'm a player, I'm his son. There's not much else to it."

At this stage, any suggestion of nepotism seems absurd since Michael, who plays in the German Bundesliga, has more than earned a spot in the starting lineup. Still, both are guarded.

"They're fairly similar," midfielder Landon Donovan says with wry understatement. "I think we all realize as we get older that for better or for worse we're a lot more like our parents. They see the game the same way, certainly their intensity and how much they care. Their passion is very evident."

IFAB Amends Penalty Kick Rule

As of Tuesday, May 18th, the rules for penalty kicks have been amended by the International Football Association Board. In a meeting at FIFA headquarters, the IFAB changed the wording of Law 14 to read:

"Feinting in the run-up to take a penalty kick to confuse opponents is permitted, however feinting to kick the ball once the player has completed his run-up is now considered an infringement of Law 14 and an act of unsporting behaviour for which the player must be cautioned."

The "no feinting" provision will apply starting in June 1st, meaning it will be part of the rules for the 2010 World Cup.

Sir Alex on the US chances

Soccer America reports on Sir Alex Ferguson's take on the United States' chances in South Africa-

In New York to promote Manchester United's summer tour of North America, United manager Alex Ferguson gave a neutral's assessment of the USA-England World Cup match -- as neutral an assessment one can get from a Scotsman ...

Ferguson said the USA will face a very difficult time in the June 12 opener in Rustenburg.

“It’s a hard game to start with because England are very, very motivated under [Fabio] Capello," he said. "Capello is a really outstanding coach.”

Ferguson is nonetheless high on the USA, which after opening against England faces Slovenia and Algeria.

“If they can survive after that," he added, "they stand a very, very good chance of qualifying. In fact, I think they will qualify.”

Ferguson likes U.S. attackers Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, who both played in the Premier League this past season.

Mourinho - special...or not...

Jose Mourinho is widely regarded as the best manager in the world, and is the self-proclaimed 'special one'.

His reputation preceeds him, both as a keen tactician and for his relationship with the media.

Gabriele Marcotti of the Times writes both as a prosecutor and defense in the debate about whether Mourinho is the special one...or not...

You can expect to hear a lot about Jose Mourinho over the next few weeks. Playing in the Champions' League final and possibly moving to the world's biggest football club will do that. Plus, of course, there is nobody - and I mean nobody - in the game who has such a talent for putting his point across and turning the media into some kind of megaphone (for better or worse, sometimes it backfires).

There are many who think Mourinho is the greatest manager in the world, perhaps the greatest in history. There are some who think he's been largely the beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time and that he simply has sold himself better than most. Is the truth at either extreme? Or is it somewhere in between? You be the judge.

You don't like the way he plays? First off, it's not defensive, it's balanced. And, in fact, this year, it's balanced offensively. How many sides in Europe play three strikers (Eto'o, Milito and Pandev) plus a guy like Wesley Sneijder? Not many. Is it dull? Well, he's paid to win, not to entertain. And winning is certainly entertaining if you're a fan of whatever club he's managing. Were you not entertained by the masterclass at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea? How about when he demolished Barcelona? He does what needs to be done and, when he needs to do so, he raises his game. That's the mark of a great manager.

Unlike you, I would argue that his time at Inter actually showed intelligence and courage. It took intelligence not to throw the baby out with the bathwater but instead take what worked from his predecessor's side - namely, Ibrahimovic - and make it work for him. (By the way, how well is Ibra doing without Mourinho? Exactly my point). And it took courage to try something new and then admit your mistakes and change. Rather than critciizing him for his ill-fated winger experiment with Mancini and Quaresma, you ought to be lauding him for having the guts to try something different, recognizing it didn't work and then coming up with something new that did work. The last time an Inter manager reached the final of the Champions League was in 1972. That was before any of these Inter players were even born, even Javier Zanetti, who is seemingly a hundred years old. Inter used to be the biggest basket case in world football. Now they're taken seriously. That's what he has brought to this club. Belief.

Maybe he's not a tactical revolutionary, but the simple fact of the matter is that it's not just about giving instructions, it's about getting your players to execute. And when Mourinho speaks, people listen. Don't take my word. Talk to the guys he's managed. Except for Shevchenko and, maybe, Adrian Mutu, they all love him. Why? Because he's a leader of men, because he connects with people in ways others don't. Even the volatile teenage mind of Mario Balotelli, albeit after much struggling, eventually fell and gave in to Mourinho. Balotelli was a model citizen in Inter's last two matches, despite his earlier tantrums. Why? Because Mourinho eventually got through to him.

And it's not just the players, it's the fans. What, you don't think that Chelsea supporters, Double or no Double, wouldn't giftwrap Ancelotti and courier him back to Italy if it meant the return of Mourinho? It's the same story at Inter. The fans adore him. The man has had seven full seasons as a manager. In that time, he has won 16 trophies and, by next Saturday night, it could be 17. At 47, he could become the youngest manager ever to win his second Champions League. And, I might add, he has not lost a home league game since 2002.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gooch extends contract...will play for free

United States National Team defender Oguchi Onyewu has added a season to his contract at AC Milan, but in a unique gesture, Gooch has offered to play without compensation in 2012-13. Onyewu will be with Milan through the 2012-13 Serie A season.

"This is an exemplary gesture that deserves our sincere congratulations," the club said in a statement. Onyewu had one Serie A appearance with Milan before his injury in the final World Cup Qualifier in October. He is currently with the National Team in World Cup camp.

Brooks Peck reports on the unique gesture by Onyewu to play for free at AC Milan.

When I talked to Landon Donovan in April and he described U.S. national team and AC Milan defender Oguchi Onyewu as a big teddy bear with a "soft heart" and someone who is intense on the pitch "but off the field he's pretty relaxed," some may have taken the focused scowl that's usually on his face to mean otherwise. But today Landon is proven right in a way as Gooch, who hasn't played a match since rupturing his patellar tendon in a World Cup qualifier last October, has asked to extend his contract with AC Milan by a year for no pay.

Says an official statement from the club:

MILAN - USA international Oguchi Onyewu, who is coming off a season of rehabilitation following a long injury which has forced him to stay off the pitch for the whole season, but is now ready to face the World Cup with his national team, made a very significant gesture from a human and professional point of view today. Assisted by his lawyer, Jean Louis Dupont, Onyewu asked for, and received, a one-year contract extension from Milan, from 30 June 2012 to 30 June 2013. During this extra year, Oguchi Onyewu, by his choice, much appreciated by the Rossoneri club, has asked not to receive any kind of salary. This is an exemplary gesture which deserves sincere congratulations.

Before getting injured, Gooch had yet to make his Serie A debut for Milan (although he did appear in a Champions League match). So this decision was probably as much of a way to prove his commitment to the club without being able to show it on the pitch and convince them to keep him around as it was an "exemplary gesture."

Even still, it's obviously rare to see a professional at a top club -- one used to handing players unspeakable sums of money -- offer to work for free, but it shows his foresight. He knows he's got a good opportunity by the neck and he's doing anything he can to keep a firm hold of it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Jose Mourinho - interview

Jose Mourinho is the best football coach on the planet.

Inter Milan's Serie A championship is his sixth league title as a manager. He will have finished top of the table in every full season he has led a club — bar the 2006-07 Chelsea campaign in which Roman Abramovich forced Andriy Shevchenko upon him while refusing to sign a badly needed centre-back.

Starting with his first Portuguese title campaign at FC Porto in 2002-03, Mourinho’s teams have not lost a home league fixture for seven complete seasons. Defeat Bayern Munich at the Bernabeu in Saturday’s Champions League final and the 47-year-old will become the youngest man to collect two European Cups as a manager.

Duncan Castles of the Times interviews 'the Special One'.

That Mourinho, unlike Ancelotti or previous Inter managers, has a Champions League final as well as a title race to occupy him has much to do with his overhaul of the squad last summer. Unimpressed by his performances in the big games, he moved Zlatan Ibrahimovic on to Barça in return for €49m and Samuel Eto’o. With some of that cash he took Wesley Sneijder from Real Madrid and Lucio from Bayern. Diego Milito and Thiago Motta were bought from Genoa, and Goran Pandev acquired at the end of a contract dispute.

Simultaneously, Mourinho released a group of thirtysomethings he considered either incapable of or unwilling to adhere to training methods radically different from the Serie A norm. Out went the likes of Adriano and with them went an array of problems.

Mourinho developed a default formation that placed three strikers in a fluid semi-circle around the visionary Sneijder. With a game left to play Inter have scored more Serie A goals than any of the division’s past 10 champions. But the stereotype of negativity still rankles.

“It’s so unfair if somebody thinks that Inter is a defensive team,” he says, harking back to the Champions League. “We played a very difficult group phase very well. After that we beat Chelsea twice, and I don’t remember a team to play like we did at Stamford Bridge. I don’t remember. We play against Barcelona at home, go 1-0 down, then we destroy them and we beat them 3-1. And because of a special game, which is a game to send a team into the final, playing with 10 men, and winning 3-1, people say we are defensive. I think we did it in a fantastic way.

Ribery to miss Champions League Final

Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery will miss the Champions League final after the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected his appeal against a ban.

The 27-year-old France playmaker turned to Cas after Uefa imposed a three-match suspension following his red card for a tackle on Lyon's Lisandro Lopez.

Uefa had already dismissed an appeal and on Monday Cas upheld the decision.

Saturday's final clash against Inter Milan in Madrid will be the second match of Ribery's European ban.

Cas said it would reveal the reasons for its decision "in a few days" but the court's secretary general, Matthieu Reeb, said that judges were reluctant to interfere in refereeing judgements.

"Cas, in accordance with regular practice, was very prudent in ruling on circumstances on the field of play," he explained, adding it was a "borderline case".

Before going to Cas, Bayern had appealed to Uefa in the hope European football's governing body would cut the ban to one game.

That would have allowed Ribery to play in the final as he had already sat out the second leg of the semi-final against Lyon, following his sending off in the first leg.

The Cas decision means Ribery will also miss the first European match of the 2010-11 season.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Champions League Finalists Chase Treble

When Inter Milan and Bayern Munich face off next weekend in the UEFA Champions League final, both clubs will be chasing history.

Both clubs completed the 'double' this season by winning their respective league cups and wrapping up their domestic league titles this past weekend, and the winner of the Champions League title will match the 1999 Manchester United team by winning the unprecedented 'treble'.

Inter Milan stayed on course for the Treble after wrapping up a fifth consecutive Serie A title on the final day of the Italian season.

Jose Mourinho's side protected their two-point lead over second-place Roma after a 1-0 away win at Siena. While Roma won 2-0 away at Chievo, Inter secured their victory thanks to Diego Milito's second-half goal.

Earlier this month Inter beat Roma to win the Italian Cup.

Inter's achievement of winning five scudettos in a row equals the record set by Juventus in the 1930s but one of Inter's championships could yet be struck off.

"The motivation of this squad has been to put all our force into every match of this championship. In the end the best team has won," 36-year-old captain Javier Zanetti told Sky TV.

Bayern Munich stayed on course for the Treble after winning the German Cup with a crushing 4-0 victory over holders Werder Bremen in Berlin.

Arjen Robben's first-half penalty put Bayern ahead, with goals from Ivica Olic, Franck Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger completing the rout.

It was Bayern's 15th Cup victory and their eighth domestic Double.

Ancelotti delighted with Chelsea Double

Carlo Ancelotti hailed a "great season" for Chelsea after the club sealed a Premier League and FA Cup Double after a 1-0 win over Portsmouth at Wembley.

Didier Drogba's free-kick proved enough in the FA Cup final, although Petr Cech will also get the plaudits for his penalty save from Kevin Prince Boateng.

"It was a great day and a great season," said the Chelsea manager.

"The strength is in the organisation of the club. Everybody worked hard to do their best this season."

The Italian believed that Cech's spot-kick save in the 56th minute was a crucial turning point in the match.

"It was the key moment," he said. "It would have been very difficult if Portsmouth scored."

Cech regarded his save from Boateng as "lucky".

"I knew what the choices were and from the body language when he ran towards me I chose that side - but I was lucky to get there," he added.

Ancelotti, who joined Chelsea last summer, has now won the Community Shield, league title and FA Cup.

Asked whether he was now looking to add the Champions League he said: "We will try. This year we wanted to win also the Champions League but we have to be happy for the Premier League and the FA Cup."

Blanc to lead France after World Cup

BBC Sports reported that former French international and World Cup winner Laurent Blanc will quit as Bordeaux coach and replace Raymond Domenech as manager of France after this summer's World Cup.

The 44-year-old former Manchester United defender guided Bordeaux to the 2009 League and Cup Double but his side ended this season without a trophy.

The French federation is expected to officially confirm Blanc as Domenech's successor on Thursday.

Blanc was part of the France team that won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.

Bordeaux said in a statement: "Girondins Bordeaux have been informed by Laurent Blanc that he wanted to answer favourably to the French federation (FFF)'s solicitation to become the France coach.

"Girondins Bordeaux expect to hear from the FFF on the question of the compensation linked to the release of their coach."

After success as a manager with Bordeaux in 2009, his side finished sixth in the league this season and were knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage by fellow French side Lyon.

Domenech has long bore the brunt of fans' frustrations following a disappointing Euro 2008 campaign where France picked up only one point and finished bottom of their group.

But the Frenchman said he had not been told whether he would be replaced by Blanc after the World Cup in South Africa.

"I'm not the one who decides on this," said Domenech.

"Blanc proved he was able to be in charge at club level. But coaching a national team is a different job.

"He will have to be ready immediately because the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign starts in September."

France start their World Cup campaign against Uruguay on 11 June.

Parents, coaches can make experience better

From the Evansville Courier Press, May 16, 2010

We're in the height of spring and summer youth soccer. Between Indiana State Cup championship preliminary matches, tournaments, and league games in travel and rec leagues, it is hard to drive by a park and not see a little league soccer game going on.

Here's what I've observed watching players, coaches and parents:

— The lost art of the cross: With flank play so important, I have been surprised at the lack of quality of crosses and wide service at the youth level. Be it at the little league level or high school aged players, coaches need to stress that players pick out a target when they attempt to pass the ball into the box from wide spaces. Whether it be passed on the ground or crossing through the air, players can't be allowed to just kick the ball into the box (or out of bounds) without method.

— Feedback from coaches during the game: It's surprising how distracting coaches are to their own players. Any feedback during the game that prompts a player to turn away from either the ball or field of play is more of a hindrance than help. Keep your feedback to 5 seconds or less, and don't distract your players during the run of play.

— Feedback from coaches at halftime: It is one thing to list what items went wrong during the first half, but the art of coaching is identifying the problem and offering a solution.

— Distracting parents: While parents sometimes take their own child's performance personally, this is less about a parent's own ego and more about their child's enjoyment. Any parent who thinks their child needs them to shout instructions during the game is kidding themselves. Leave the coaching to the person on the bench, and don't distract your child while they are playing. I was surprised how many times I heard a parent shout the wrong instructions at their child.

— Critical parents: I was amazed at how much criticism I heard parents direct at their own child, teammates or coach. All that does is make everyone around you uncomfortable, starting with your own child. The reality is that you are watching little league soccer, and spectators need to have realistic expectations. Little league soccer is not high school soccer; high school soccer is not college soccer; college soccer is not professional soccer. Find out what your child's coach expects and that should give you a realistic idea of how they are performing. In most cases, the critical parent has never played the game themselves, and don't understand the real demands. The parent who yells at their child for not running fast or hard enough probably couldn't complete that act themselves.

—Expectations from coaches: I was surprised at how infrequently coaches were encouraging players to keep possession of the ball. One of the hardest things to teach is how to share the ball. I always try to stress to young players that you should never just kick the ball without method — if you have the ball at your feet, you should either be dribbling, passing or shooting. Coaches need to be more conscious of teaching players to value keeping possession. If you don't expect and demand these items, players won't place value on it themselves.

It's a great time of year for youth soccer that can be enhanced by players, coaches and parents who understand their roles

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chelsea Takes Nothing For Grant-ed

If Chelsea is to win the double by defeating Portsmouth today in the FA Cup Final, it will have to ward off complacency. There is potential of a 'hangover effect' after winning the English Premier League only a week ago, as well as a letdown in playing a Portsmouth side that finished last in the EPL and has been relegated.

The prospects of facing former manager Avram Grant should aid in fighting complacency, as the players who were in the team during Grant's tenure all appear to have respect for him.

Grant steered Chelsea to the final of the Champions League in 2008 after replacing axed Jose Mourinho as caretaker manager in September 2007.

The Chelsea squad still has immense respect for the job Grant did during his time in the hot-seat at Stamford Bridge and that's why they know there is no room for complacency in the FA Cup final at Wembley today.

"The challenge is very exciting because we have never done the double and this is the chance to make history for the club," said Didier Drogba.

"But we know how motivated they will be and we know Avram very well. He knows how to motivate and get the best out of players.

"It's going to be a difficult final and we have to prepare well. The job he's done wasn't easy and I think if they hadn't had the points taken off they would still be in the Premier League and to get to the final is a great achievement.

"There is still pressure on their shoulders because they want to win. It is the last chance for them to make a big impact."

"It was as though he felt I should be grateful and not ask for anything. The pretext for this was I had been brought in from Bolton."

Despite recent comments from Anelka, it appears that the critics who dismissed Grant's achievements during his brief time in charge at Chelsea are realising there is a bit more to the wily Israeli. Grant is bemused by all the plaudits heading his way.

When he guided Chelsea to the first and only Champions League final in their history, all the credit went to his predecessor Jose Mourinho.

Grant said: "In my life I am used to the fact that it takes people a while to understand what is really happening.

"It is human nature to take good things for granted once they have become used to success.

"At the end of my time at Chelsea they asked me if I thought I deserved a bonus.

"So I told them the story of the man who went to the dentist in huge pain with his teeth.

"This dentist fixes the problem and then gives the man his bill.

"The man screams 'how much!' and the dentist replies 'half as much as you were prepared to pay me when you first needed me'.

"When I took over at Chelsea the club was in a very bad situation and not playing good football.

"But we started winning again and very quickly everyone got used to it and started to take that for granted again.

Needless to say, it should be quite the family reunion at Wembley today.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Beckham to provide American insight

David Beckham has been the international poster boy of Major League Soccer, and where he might not be physically able to compete in the World Cup this summer, he has the potential to play a role in the United States' match versus England next month.

After spending three years trying to raise the profile of soccer in the United States, Martin Rogers of Yahoo Sports writes of how David Beckham will now try to plot the World Cup downfall of his adopted homeland.

Beckham, the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder, has been ruled out of playing in the tournament this summer after tearing his Achilles tendon on March 14. However, England head coach Fabio Capello is determined to recruit Beckham for a coaching and advisory role to provide knowledge of the American players.

"There are a number of reasons why Fabio has said he wants David,” a source close to the England camp told Yahoo! Sports. “There is David’s experience – he has played in three World Cups. There is the respect the other players have for him.

“And, importantly, he has a good picture of many of the American players, the American style of play, their tactics, strengths and weaknesses.”

Beckham’s advisory role, which could be agreed and finalized over the next two weeks, would add another intriguing twist to his relationship with LA Galaxy teammate Landon Donovan.

A year ago, the pair was at odds following Donovan’s critical comments of his teammate in a book about Beckham’s stint in MLS. The two resolved their differences and helped the Galaxy reach last year’s MLS Cup final.

It is not uncommon for coaching staffs to employ scouts that have keen knowledge of football in the countries of their opposition, and Beckham would certainly be a likely choice to provide insight into Donovan and the US team.

If he does accept a role in this capacity, I would love to see the reception Beckham receives when he returns to the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles....

Internationals get ready to depart MLS teams

The last day of play before teams lose players to their national teams for World Cup training camps features mostly interconference games. Only Eastern foes Kansas City and Chicago stay on their side of the divide; by the end of the week, will Western teams have padded their 15-6-6 edge, or will the East have cut into that difference?

The thorny issue of whether players called to World Cup duty will take it easy in their final club games will bear close watching, and whether those not picked with jack it up a notch or three. Ridge Mahoney of Soccer America looks at how internationals fare this week prior to departing for the World Cup.

Robbie Findley didn’t hold back; he tested keeper Pat Onstad in the second minute with a rising blast and connected on a header a minute later as RSL pounded Houston, 3-1, Thursday night. Also to be scrutinized are those players not summoned; but with RSL captain Kyle Beckerman it was hard to tell if disappointment added anything to a typically fierce performance.

No doubt TFC will have its hands full with the
Landon Donovan-Edson Buddle farewell game against the Galaxy at Home Depot Center, and might D.C. United feel the lash of rejected Conor Casey’s fury as well? Just what floundering D.C. needs, right? A raging bull at RFK.

In Columbus,
Jonathan Bornstein and Sacha Kljestan of Chivas USA go toes-to-toes with Robbie Rogers and Chad Marshall of the Crew, yet could his rejection spur Frankie Hejduk to an especially furious performance? Heath Pearce has to get through a game on turf in Philadelphia as FC Dallas goes for a third win in a row; Pearce’s poised play has been a subtle yet key element for FCD, which has lost only once in seven games.

Kansas City, which hasn’t won in the last three games, takes on Chicago in
Roger Espinoza’s last MLS match before he joins up with Honduras.