Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Transfer Deadline Day

Another exciting day of last-minute transfers has come to a conclusion. And this year's deadline day was one of the biggest to date. A total of $758,931,320 have been spent in the premier league on transfers. Economic depression? I think not.

To wrap up today's big deals I would have to write a 45 page summary of today's transactions. So, instead of that I will provide my faithful readers with a list of links. Allowing them to pick and choose the one's that seem the most interesting.

You're welcome.

Crouch completes Stoke switch

Ferdinand makes QPR move

Wright-Phillips makes QPR move

Wenger grabs Benayoun and Arteta

Arsenal sign Santos and Mertesacker

Craig Bellamy joins Liverpool

Tottenham captures Hammers ace Parker

Owen Hargreaves signs with Man City

Meireles set to play at Stamford Bridge

For more transfer stories head over to Sky Sports or Fox Soccer

What was the biggest transfer for you? Which club had the best deadline day? Tell me in the comment section below.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Brek Shea Game

It happened to us again. Yes folks, Sporting Kc lost ANOTHER game in stoppage time at the hands of FC Dallas. To make matters worse Sporting Kc set a team record for red cards in a season after Teal Bunbury was sent off in the 76th minute for yet another questionable decision by a referee. To be honest we should have won that game, regardless of the red card. We simply gave up in the last 5 minutes.

The game got off to a rough start and it was clear that FC Dallas came out with the intent to win, contrary to popular belief. In the first 20 minutes FC Dallas were biting at the necks of the Sporting Kc defenders and it nearly paid off. But in the 22 minute the ever-threatening Kamara pounced on a mistake by a Dallas defender, Kamara then streaked towards goal and fired in a rocket to the bottom left corner. The rest of the half was back and forth and neither side could keep a great deal of possession.

The second KC goal was scored in the 68th minute when a free kick from Besler was flicked on by a Dallas defender right to the feet of Teal Bunbury who fired a shot well off target, but luckily for Sporting Kc Omar Bravo was there for an easy tap in. Not long later FC Dallas scored their first goal of the night, a Daniel Hernandez free kick well outside the 18 yard box curled itself into the back of Sporting's net. As mentioned above Teal Bunbury was sent off in the 76th minute when he clearly clipped heals with Benitez and unfortunately for Teal he was already on a second yellow. The ref reached into his pocket and sent the young striker off. 

Sporting Kc were left with nothing else to do but bunker down for the next 15 minutes. As Dallas peppered Sporting's net with shots. Seemingly out of nowhere Brek Shea found himself on the left-hand side with the ball at his feet, something that no team in MLS wants to see. Then Brek Shea did what Brek Shea does and played in a tremendous ball to the back post for Maicon Santos to head into Sporting's net in the 88th minute. Then in the 91st minute Shea found himself in an identical position and served in a great ball for Warshaw who headed it into Sporting's net. Right in front of the Cauldron. 

A devastating loss for Sporting Kc in a game that promised so much. It was quite simply an opportunity to jump farther ahead in the Eastern Conference. Not to mention favorable results for Sporting had occurred earlier that night. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Scouting Report On FC Dallas (Home 2011)

Following Saturday night's game against Sporting, FC Dallas will have played 4 games in 10 days. Almost a game every other day. This congested-schedule for FC Dallas will play right into Sporting Kc's hand, as SKC welcome FC Dallas to LSP for what is supposed to be one of the most sold-out games of the 2011 season. The reverse-fixture earlier this season was a 4-1 win in SKC's favor. Having played Toronto FC in the CCL on Thursday morning, FC Dallas will have tired legs and tired minds long before the 7:30 pm kick-off at LSP.

Most Dangerous Player
Brek Shea. Whether he will play or not for the Hoops is undecided. Seeing as he has an international call-up for the USMNT along with Sporting Kc striker Teal Bunbury. If Shea does dress he will easily be the most dangerous player for Dallas. He has simply been sensational this season and has a serious case for MVP of the season.

Weakest Link
The whole team. I only say this because FC Dallas will be very tired coming into this match after their many away games. It will be very difficult for Dallas to keep up pace with KC, especially in the final 30 minutes. Look for Sporting Kc to run at them all night.

Football Style
Like stated above FC Dallas will be extremely fatigued coming into this match. Which will lead to a non-aggressive type of football. Which also means no counter-attacking plays and I wouldn't be surprised if Dallas held a few men back on the set-pieces.

Key Match Up
Brek Shea vs. Sporting Kc Defense. The sensation that is Brek Shea will do everything in his power to try and win this game for FC Dallas. Sporting Kc's defense has been solid as of late but Shea is a lot more different than Andy Najar. Should Sporting hold back Shea I see no reason why we can't get an easy 3 points in front of the Sporting Blue faithful.

Sporting Kc - 3(Bravo, Sapong x 2) 
FC Dallas - 0

Monday, August 22, 2011

Who Is Graham Zusi?

Following a wonderful campaign thus far, midfielder Graham Zusi has been tossed into the MLS limelight. His powerful strikes from distance and his sensational work ethic has put him into the hearts of almost all Sporting Kc fans. And why wouldn't he? The 25 year old has been nothing short of a revelation this year. Following the likes of Matt Besler and Chance Myers, who even 2 years ago wouldn't be in contention for a starting spot. But now all three players have seen serious minutes this year in the blue shirt. But let's put the spotlight back on Zusi, who is this young man? He's appeared to seemingly climb out of the depths of the Sporting Kc "good-for-nothings" and into the "good-for-everythings".

Let's take a deeper look.

After having a stellar season at the University of Maryland Zusi was drafted 23rd overall in the 2009 SuperDraft. Which of course was also the year when Matt Besler and Yura Movsisyan were drafted. After playing 540 minutes for KC, (compared to Arnaud's 2,342 minutes), Graham Zusi has so far played 1,606 minutes this season. Tripling his minutes played in the previous season. Also, Graham has scored 5 goals and has assisted 4, most notably against FC Dallas and Portland Timbers. Following his good form, Zusi received the Player of the Month award for June, and a Player of the Week award this previous week.

Why He's So Good
In the 2010-11 season the transfers of Jack Jewsbury and Santiago Hirsig opened up a hole in the center of Sporting Kc's CM depth. Zusi saw his chance and has since never looked back. (It's worth noting Arnaud and Jeferson have been injured in this time-frame.)

Zusi's success is in his passing and quick-thinking. Two things that are essential for any CM/CAM on any team. But by far the most dangerous weapon in his Arsenal is his long range shot. When Zusi gets on the ball you can feel the whole stadium get excited, purely because they now what his 5'9 stature can unleash.

The Road Ahead
So what does Zusi need to do to keep up this amazing form? Stay ahead of Jeferson in the pecking order in terms of CAM. That's it. Everything else he already has. And it's worth saying that at 25 he probably won't develop much more as a player. The skills he has right now probably won't get any better. But on this team, and in this league, he's a god.

Zeus, the god of thunder.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Scouting Report On DC United (Home 2011)

DC At A Glance
The former Eastern Conference giant DC United currently sit in 6th place of the Eastern Conference with 31 points, only 2 points behind Sporting KC. DC United come into LSP having only lost once in their past five games. Former Kansas City man Josh Wolff may very well be starting against his previous club, after a good performance on Thursday against the Chicago Fire, scoring against his boyhood club in the 73 minute.

Most Dangerous Player
Dwayne De Rosario. The man has been a sensation for DC United since having a rough start to the season following trades that saw him transferred to 2 different clubs before finding a permanent home in the United camp. Since coming over "De Ro" has scored 6 goals in 6 matches. With his creativeness on the ball and his vast knowledge of the league watch for most of DC's attacking play to move through the Canadian.

Weakest Link
Goalkeeper. Bill Hamid has been a decent keeper for DC this season but unfortunately for United he tweaked his hamstring in their 1-1 draw at Toyota Park. The keeper job will most likely fall to 28 year old Steve Cronin, who has let in 4 goals in about 120 minutes of play.

Football Style
As discussed on the podcast DC United have a lot of attacking minded players. Charlie Davies, Josh Wolff, Dwayne De Rosario, Quaranta, Pontius, and Najar to name a few. They will most likely play a counter-attacking type of football due to Sporting's recent thrashing of Portland.

Key Match Up
De Rosario vs. Espinoza. It will be Espinoza's job of keeping De Rosario at bay. Both players have an intense passion for the game and it's a match-up made in heaven. Watching them battle all night long will truly be a treat. 

Sporting Kc - 2 (Kamara, Sapong)
DC United - 2 (De Rosario, Pontius)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Jimmy Nielsen Gets Bruised, Keeps SKC in Play-Off Contention

One of the most exciting and head-turning games ever to grace LSP rocketed into the main-stream media due to an odd off the field incident. Two fans threw an Omar Bravo bobble-head at Jimmy Nielsen while other fans across the stadium were going ballistic after a Graham Zusi long-distance shot soared into the Portland goal from 25 yards out. Setting the goal-scoring a-blaze.

Not long later in the 40th minute Zusi scored another goal. This time it was from yet another Matt Besler throw in. As the ball was floated in CJ Sapong flicked a header to the backpost that found Bunbury who took a strike. The ball slipped through and was set on the line perfectly for Zusi to tap it in. Which he did. Giving Sporting Kc the 2-0 lead heading into half.

Sporting Kc always looked the better side against a weakened Portland side, who played a game just 2 or 3 days earlier. And Sporting Kc continued their dominance by pulling ahead in the 72 minute when the birthday boy Soony Saad scored a fluke goal after a defenders clearance ricocheted off his foot, scooping it up over Perkins and into the net. 3-0 to Sporting Kc.

But then it was Portland's turn to score, and score they did. After some decent build-up play that included passes from former Wizard Jack Jewsbury, Portland's Bright Dike slid one past the bruised Jimmy Nielsen, rolling helplessly just out of the reach of the great Dane's paws.

Now Sporting Kc find themselves with a healthy advantage at 3rd in the Eastern Conference currently one point away from 2nd place Philly.

Man of the Match: Graham Zusi. His rocket from distance and his deft touch from 2 yards out secured Sporting Kc a deserved win. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Scouting Report On Portland Timbers (Home 2011)

Here at The Front Men I've decided to add a new segment to shift away from the generic match-preview that a lot of bloggers out there do. I call it "Scouting Report". It's basically a lighter run down of the opposing team and where their weakest link is on the field and what kind of football they play, etc. I'll still have score predictions though. 

Scouting Report

Portland Timbers are currently 1-7-3 on the road heading into the Wednesday night clash at LSP. The newest MLS expansion side has seen a decent string of performances in the past couple of weeks and could give Sporting Kc a real run for their money. 

Most Dangerous Player
Jack Jewsbury. The former Kansas City man has been the best player in a Portland shirt the entire season and has netted 7 times and assisted 6 times for the Timbers. 

Weakest Link
Forward line. The front two pairing of Cooper and Perlaza has only scored 9 goals this season. One of the worst forward lines in the league. 

Football Style
Using their traditional 4-4-2 Portland like to use the pace they have on the wings to cause havoc up and down the sides of the pitch. If Sporting Kc have a hope at defending Portland's style of play they will need their fullbacks to be on their game. Which they have been as of late.

Key Match-Up
Portland's Strikers vs. Sporting's Center Backs
Sporting Kc's center backs have been on somewhat of a hiatus in the past weeks with Collin and Cyrus falling to injury. Leaving Cesar and Besler as the two starters ahead of Shavar Thomas. While Portland's strike-force has been dull. Something will have to give for either side.

Sporting - 2 (Kamara x2)
Portland - 0
The travel-weary Portland will find it tough to beat a rested Sporting Kc side in the blazing August heat. Don't think for a moment that Sporting will let last week's defeat get to their head. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Nick Cardenas Interview

I recently had the wonderful opportunity of conducting an interview with center back Nick Cardenas who is currently on trial with Sporting Kc. Some of you may remember Nick from the 2010 season when he was brought in as a draft pick. I really like the guy and I had a couple of questions to ask him about what he's been doing since we last heard of him up in KC. He had this to say:

The Interview

TFM: So you played your college ball at SDSU, what was your favorite moment there? 

NC: My favorite moment? I actually had a lot of good memories but one had to be my very first year at school. That year I got my very first taste of the NCAA tournament and I was lucky enough to get it at UCSB, one of the best atmospheres in college. Just an unreal atmosphere and great game. Unfortunately we lost and they went on to win the tournament.

TFM: What was your major?

NC: It's weird I first went to school to be in Graphic Design, but I had my troubles freshman year and couple that with it taking up a ton of time so I had to switch it. So I left there majoring in Social Science and an emphasis in History.

TFM: After you're college experience you were selected in the Super-Draft by the then Kansas City Wizards, what was it like to be in your first  pro-soccer environment? 

NC: It was exciting and to be honest a lil nerve wracking. I went in realizing that all my hard work had sort of paid off but knew i still had some work and some convincing to do. Unfortunately I let my nerves get the best of me and it didn't work out for me at the time.

TFM: Like you said, things didn't work out with the Wizards, did you have any other offers from MLS teams?

NC: I actually had a run with my hometown Rapids team. They knew about me since I was a "homegrown" player at the time so they brought me in to training with them just to let me train. I think it was more of a generosity kind of thing just so they could see me play because they already had about 4 CB's on their roster. 

TFM: After your spell in the MLS you found a home in Puerto Rico with USL Pro team Sevilla FC Puerto Rico right? What was that like?

NC: Yes that is where I ended up at. In all honesty it wasnt my first choice but its probably a good thing I went there. While there i was able to correct some of the things in my game that were lacking a bit such as my technique. I was able to start and play in 20 + some odd games giving me the playing time and experience I needed. I had a good time while there and the country as a whole is a beautiful place. Very different from everything i was used to. I was able to catch up on my spanish and check out a new country.

TFM: How long were you with Sevilla FC Puerto Rico?

NC: I was with Sevilla FCPR for about 5 or 6 months

TFM: Did you win any titles with them?

NC: We were actually unfortunate not to win the PRSL league championship. We were the number one team all season and made it to the final but came up short at the end in a PK shootout.

TFM: In your eyes how does the USL Pro differ from MLS?

NC: In all honesty it doesn't differ much. The speed of the game is probably the biggest difference. Everyone is able to play a bit at that level its just a matter of how fast the game goes and how fast you can make decisions and adjust.

TFM: How do the fans compare?

NC: Fan support is still big. There may not be as many fans but that doesnt stop them from being very supportive fan bases. 

TFM: Now you're back in KC, who was instrumental in bringing you back up here?

NC: I have to give a lot of credit to my agent Eddie Rock. He has done some good things for me this year and getting me another run in over here is one of them. I couldnt be more thankful. 

TFM: How has the trial process been?

NC: Its gone very well I have to say. I'm getting pretty used to these sort of things now a days haha, but I feel good about how everything is going here for me. The guys have been welcoming and I am still friends with some of the guys from last year so it makes the process go a lot smoother and a lot more relaxing.

TFM: Sporting Kc have had some depth problems at center back lately and you are also a center back, do you think that gives you a better chance at getting onto the team?

NC: Yes I knew that Collin had gone down earlier in the year and then Monday playing along Cyrus I saw him go down. You never want to see anybody get hurt but if the team is lacking in that department I want to and am sure I can come in and help out. Thats the goal anyways right?

TFM: Haha yes, so If KC doesn't work out do you still have a place back in PR?

NC: Actually no, my season over in PR ended which is why I had the break to come out to KC and have another run with them. It may have been perfect timing with all the injuries and such but who knows. I'm just going out there, having fun, and trying to impress. 

TFM: You're a very big guy, 6'5 I believe. Do you feel as if that gives you an advantage over other center backs?

NC: I actually do think it gives an advantage. I mean that's usually the very first thing people say when they see me is how big I am. I think it gives me an advantage in ariel contests, especially against other big forwards. I feel I am able to go up and win the ball over anybody. It is actually something I pride myself upon.

TFM: What do you think are your best soccer abilities?

NC: Well like I said my size is definitely one and ariel contests are one of my strong suits. I have the ability to defend our box and attack the other box. I like to joke that it's the only reason im ever in a game and it's to win air balls. Set pieces are a strong suit of mine.

TFM: You're obviously not just a professional soccer player, what do you like to do outside of soccer?

NC: Well growing up in CO, I loved to go out and snowboard but I dont really take that risk much anymore. However I have gained very much a California attitude and I love going to the beach. I do love to go camping in the summer though. I love listening to music and finding new music. Sleeping and eating are other big hobbies of mine

TFM: How much of an influence does Twitter have for pro soccer players like yourself? 

NC: Influence? I'm not sure, but I will say its always entertaining when you see what people like Kei are doing. Its always a nice time waster when you aren't doing anything.  

TFM: Do you ever sit down and play a game of EA Sports Fifa? 

NC: Oh of course I do. Although I have been on the bandwagon of COD a lot more, I still get on the sticks and play a bit.

TFM: One last question, what is your FIFA nationality?

NC: FIFA nationality would be American, but I am also Spanish and Swedish.

As you can tell Nick is a great guy, I appreciate your time Nick! Good luck on the rest of the trial process. 

The Final Push

11 more games. That's all that Sporting Kc have to go before the regular season is over. With the majority of those games being at home Sporting Kc will be eager to earn most of the 33 points that are still up for grab in the remaining games of the season. However that's not to say that this final stretch will be easy. In fact 6 out of the next 11 games are against teams that are above Sporting in terms of points in MLS.

If the season were to end today Sporting Kc would be in the final play-off spot. With everything that's happened in this eventful season I think Sporting would be fairly happy with that. But to be floating in and out of that final play-off spot for the rest of the season  would be very dramatic and i'm fairly certain most fans would have a heart attack.

At the beginning of the season the owners and investors goal was to not be left out of the play-offs for the 3rd year in a row. To obtain that goal Sporting Kc have to do 3 things. Find the right center back pairing, win at home, and improve depth. I'll explain a little bit more about what I mean....

Find The Right Center Back Pairing
Center back pairings have been a problem for KC dating back to the 2010 season when Pablo Escobar and Aaron Hohlbein "graced" Community America Ballpark. And at the beginning of the 2011 season it seemed as if this would yet again plague KC's season. But then after a couple weeks of tinkering Peter Vermes found the perfect pair of center backs. Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler. They compliment(ed) each other so very well and you can easily say they were the reason for Sporting's turn-around. But then Collin fell to injury and won't see the field until late September. Following in Collin's footsteps, newly acquired CB Daneil Cyrus also fell to injury and will miss the rest of the 2011 season. Leaving Sporting with only 3 real center backs, Matt Besler, Julio Cesar, and Shavar Thomas. In that order. If Vermes and co. can figure out which of them can play best together while Collin is recovering then Sporting Kc will have checked off step one of securing a play-off spot.

Win At Home
It's long been said that home advantage in soccer can give the home-side the upper hand. And Sporting Kc have certainly proved that this season. Losing only once at home this season to MLS opposition. And should KC get into the play-offs they will have to continue winning at LSP. What happens on the road happens on the road, plus, 8 of Sporting's next 11 games will be played at home. If they can win most of their next games at home then Sporting Kc will have checked off step two of securing a play-off spot.

Increase Depth
For a team like Sporting Kc and pretty much any other team in MLS their are three ways to increase depth in a squad. The first and easiest step is to simply sign a new player from abroad or from another team. Maybe that means getting someone on loan or trading a player for some draft-picks. The second way to increase roster depth is to sign a player from the youth-system. They don't count against the salary cap, you can mold them into the player you want them to be, and they don't necessarily need to be starting right off the bat. The third way is to teach players how to play new and different positions. Teach them some tactical awareness so they can become the jack-knife that was Jack Jewsbury who could pretty much play anywhere in the midfield. For Sporting Kc the easiest and most do-able ways to increase depth would be to sign a player from the youth squad or teach a player a new position. The next 11 games will be tough on the player's bodies and depth will be very important. If Sporting Kc can increase their depth they will have checked off the 3rd and final step of securing a play-off spot.

If Sporting Kc can follow these 3 steps I can personally guarantee you we will be playing play-off soccer come October and November. Should Sporting fail to complete these 3 simple steps then they could see yet another year without play-offs.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sporting Kc's Center Back Depth Falls Dramatically

The news came in yesterday that Sporting KC center back Daniel Cyrus will miss the rest of the 2011 season with a fractured foot. The Trinidad & Tobago international hadn't really gotten a solidified spot at center back but seeing as Aurelien Collin had been injured with a fractured back it looked as if Cyrus would get his chance to step into the starting XI. Obviously he didn't get that chance and Sporting Kc now have a serious problem with depth at CB. Cesar can play their but he's been a useful CDM since Rocastle and Arnaud went down with injuries. (Both of which have now made a full recovery and are again training with the team.) We've also seen Espinoza unconvincingly step in to play there as an emergency center back but it seems as if Peter Vermes and co. want to do everything in their power to keep Shavar Thomas from starting. Who has gone from no-good reserve CB to a possible starter in about a month.

Thank the Lord that this injury crisis at center back happened during a transfer window hence giving Sporting Kc the opportunity to get a center back into the squad. But I certainly don't expect them to get another Collin. What will probably end up happening is SKC will find a decent American MLS player on loan to provide cover while Collin recovers.

So right now the preferred center back pairing would have to be Cesar and Besler right? And then Thomas would of course be on the bench. But then who would play in reserve games?

I wanna here your guys' thoughts on this. Tell me in the comment section below.