THIS WEEK IN FOOTBALL
On a week when Moyes tasted his first success at United, Salah completed his feel-good rise, Falcao got a visit from the President, and the MLS preseason got underway.
– Information has filtered out of the opening days of MLS training camps across the country over the weekend, and some of the headlines are: Shalrie Joseph is not part of Seattle’s 2014 plans. Joseph is getting old, but he’s still very much a serviceable MLS player. It will be interesting to see where he lands. Iran international Steven Beitashour could be on the move from San Jose to Vancouver. The Whitecaps looked around the league for a right-back, and had their sights set at one point on Kansas City’s Chance Myers until that potential deal fell apart. The ‘Quakes have now dealt both their starting fullbacks from last season.
– Speaking of Myers, he, along with four others, was sent home form Jurgen Klinsmann’s traveling USA camp. Michael Harrington, the man SKC ditched Meyers for, was retained. the US play South Korea in front of a sellout crowd on February 1st at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. It’s one of two friendlies scheduled before the World Cup roster is announced in early June.
– The sale of Juan Mata to Manchester United is a huge boost for David Moyes – and it makes you wonder how Jose Mourinho had no use for the player at Chelsea. In his heartfelt farewell letter to Chelsea fans, Mata described a complicated “six months” as playing a large role in his departure. Six months takes us back to the start of the season, and the feeling that Mata was never given a chance under Mourinho.
Chelsea are on an ominously good run of form right now, but even so, they aren’t winning easily or flashily. Goals are still hard to come by, Samuel Eto’o’s shocking hat-trick against Mata’s new team notwithstanding. Behind just David Silva, it’s Mata who has created the most chances in the Premier League over the last two and a half seasons, and Mata has hardly played in 2013-2014. Eden Hazard and Oscar may be better goal-scorers, but Mata was Chelsea’s best creative player. If anyone could have gotten Chelsea’s floundering strike-force going, it was him.
I understand that Mourinho didn’t like Mata’s defensive work-rate and presence tracking back, but Mata seemed willing to mold his play to Mourinho’s wishes all the way through 2013. It was only when he was hooked just after halftime against Southampton on New Year’s Day that Mata hit the wall. He has a World Cup to make. Chelsea’s biggest title rival, Manchester City, still have David Silva and a plenty healthy strike-force. By never using Mata and now selling him, I’m not so sure that Chelsea hasn’t cut off its nose.
– I worry for the FA Cup. It’s already been surpassed for drama by the League Cup. Man. United – Sunderland last Wednesday wasn’t pretty, but it sure was exciting down the stretch in extra time and then in a mind-blowing penalty shootout. Meanwhile, the FA Cup is stuck in the muck of replays and mundane, half-speed games. It just feels like time has past by a competition that was once considered ageless.
– I’d expect Manchester United to buy one more expensive midfielder/forward, and then throw the kitchen sink at the rest of the season. Defense is a liability for United, and the best way to mask a bad defense is to not play any defense. With Juan Mata and a healthy Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie up top, I’d expect United to play very attacking football for the rest of the season, until the back-line can be overhauled this summer. I doubt Vidic, Ferdinand, Rafael, and possibly Patrice Evra, among less-used players will be at Old Trafford beyond this season. The caliber of their replacements will depend whether United make the Champions League for 2014-15.
– When Radamel Falcao was seemingly ruled out of the World Cup Finals after a horror knee injury in a French Cup game for Monaco, Colombia mourned. When his successful surgery gave him a “50-50 shot” to make the World Cup according to his doctor, Colombia rejoiced. Falcao, Colombia’s star forward and best player has a race against the clock, but its likely that manager Jose Peckerman would take Falcao to the tournament even if he’s not fully fit and possibly have him play in the second or third games if he’s not fit from the get-go. Didier Drogba played in a similar scenario in 2010 for the Ivory Coast.
The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, made a stop on his way back from an economic conference in Switzerland to visit Falcao at his his bedside after the surgery.To all those who say that this is the last World Cup that will truly matter and those who say that the World Cup stopped mattering long ago, you could not be more wrong. This is why.
– Speaking of injuries, Bryan Oviedo of Everton and Costa Rica suffered a gruesome double leg fracture against Stevenage that will almost surely rule him out of the World Cup as well. We’ve entered that time when with each injury, an entire nation holds its breath.
This Week In Football is a weekly piece that runs every Monday on Soccerlens, focusing on news, opinion and features from US, British, and International football.