Total Football Café Weekly Roundup: Jermaine to Jermain Edition
Wouldn’t you know it, just as I’m putting the finishing touches on last week’s post, in which I mentioned the confusion over this Jermaine Jones-in-MLS-thing, a deal gets finalized sending Jones to play for New England Revolution. Apparently, MLS’ secret society player allocation process involved the use of the sorting hat from Hogwarts Academy to determine whether Jones would go to Chicago or New England. The whole episode is kind of strange and evidence of a still relatively young league figuring some things out on the fly as the league grows. One thing’s for certain – the league will have to relax its grip on its franchises sooner than later and grant them more autonomy in how money is spent on players.
Jurgen Klinsmann named his first U.S. roster post-World Cup 2014 for the September 3 friendly at Czech Republic. The list includes most of the regulars but plenty of newcomers as well. The newbies include keeper Cody Cropper, midfielders Emerson Hyndman and Alfredo Morales, and forwards Joe Gyau, Jordan Morris, Rubio Rubin, and Bobby Wood. I’m particularly intrigued by Hyndman (grandson of former FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman) who has started at Fulham in the Championship this season. Another interesting roster inclusion is Brek Shea, who is rumored to be heading to Southampton. Shea was a favorite Klinsmann prospect early on in the Jurgen era. Shea has struggled to find playing time at Stoke City since he moved there from FC Dallas in early 2013. I thought Shea had a ton of potential in his first couple pro seasons in Dallas. Now it seems he may have made a premature leap to Europe and perhaps would’ve matured better as a player had he stayed in MLS. Klinsmann apparently hasn’t thrown in the towel on him yet however, and it’s good to see Shea get another U.S. nod.
The Champions League groups were drawn this week. While one declares groups in the Champs League “easy” at one’s own peril, Chelsea certainly has a cushier than average group. If they can’t get past Schalke, Sporting Lisbon, and Maribor (from Slovenia’s second-largest city as it turns out – who knew?) then they don’t deserve to darken the UCL door in the first place. I like Chelsea’s Champs League chances this season. I’d love to see them knock Real Madrid off their perch in the final.
In other Chelsea news, the Fernando Torres fiasco appears to be over as he is going on loan to AC Milan. I’m pretty sure Chelsea has never had a more frustrating player since I’ve been a fan of the club. I always wanted Torres to succeed at Chelsea, but it was pretty evident from the start that the club wildly overpaid for him. My theory is he never fully regained confidence after his 2010 knee injury. Even if that’s true, however, it’s still baffling how little he resembled the Liverpool version of himself during his time at Chelsea. Enjoy these vintage Liverpool Torres goals – you won’t recognize him. For Chelsea it’s good that he’s moving on, but I do hope he goes and lights up Seria A.
Chelsea’s 6-3 win at Everton Saturday - wow. If you didn’t see the match, I’m sorry. It was awesome. Chelsea’s back line will want to spend some time reviewing the game tape, but overall it was a terrific win. Perhaps most encouragingly, Diego Costa scored twice – four goals in his first three Chelsea matches. I was really uncertain about the Costa acquisition, primarily because he was injured and ineffective in the Champions League final and a non-factor for Spain at the World Cup in Brazil. I thought it might be another case of Chelsea buying damaged goods. But so far, he has been precisely the missing striker link Chelsea needed.
FC Dallas’ 10-game unbeaten streak unfortunately ended Saturday night in Chicago. They were on the verge of snaring a point, but an 83rd minute Chicago goal ruined the plan. You knew the streak would eventually end, but I was hoping they’d ride the wave until they were on top of the Western Conference. Instead, they’ve slipped to fourth place with 42 points, one point behind Real Salt Lake and four behind LA Galaxy. Seattle is still in first place after beating Colorado to go up two points on LA. Dallas is still relatively comfortably in a playoff position (8 points ahead of fifth place Portland). With eight games remaining however, FCD cannot get too comfy. Dallas’ next match is a biggie: at RSL this Saturday.
The remarkable thing about FC Dallas this season is their resiliency with so many injuries. If you’d told me at the start of the season they’d be in fourth place at the beginning of September with midfielder Mauro Diaz missing most of the year and center back George John missing the entire year, I would not have believed it. That said, Dallas could really use a healthy roster for the home stretch.
Looks like Toronto FC fired their entire first team coaching staff yesterday, including head coach Ryan Nelsen. I’ve never really understood coach firings this late in a season – especially when your team is (somehow) still in playoff contention (they’re in a three-way tie for third place with 33 points). It’s just really weird how incompetent things seem to be at Toronto FC. Once they were one of the league’s most promising franchises, perhaps even a potential MLS “super club”. Now they’re a cautionary tale. MLSsoccer.com even has a blurb about Toronto “mulling” offers for their 2014 mega DP signing Jermain Defoe. After all that hype and cash-splashing, now they might just let him go after less than one season? Very odd.
Finally, thank you to everyone who entered the GoodReads contest to win a copy of my book Dallas ‘Til I Cry: Learning to Love Major League Soccer. The contest is now closed and the winners have been drawn. If you didn’t win this time, don’t let that prohibit you from reading the book as it is readily available in paperback and Kindle versions…