Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Soccer stuff: UEFA Champions League: Chelsea vs. Barcelona. The two most expensive rosters in the world hooked up today at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge Park. Chelsea really outshined Barca, and emerged with a well-deserved 1-0 win. The Blues got excellent goalkeeping from emergency starter Henrique Hilario, called upon because the team's top two goalies, Petr Cech and Carlo Cudicini, suffered bad injuries this weekend, against Reading, in E.P.L. play. Cech, considered to be the world's top goalie, will miss the rest of the season, and possibly the next. He suffered a depressed skull fracture, when he took a knee to the head in the first minute of the game against Reading. Cudicini went down in the final minute of the same game, suffering a concussion when the back of his head hit the turf. So, the third-choice, Portuguese keeper was called upon to make the start against the great Ronaldinho and his mates from Barcelona. Hilario stopped several good attempts, including a well-driven free kick in the second half.

The real stories, though, were the strong play of Didier Drogba and the continuing struggles of Andriy Shevchenko. Drogba scored the game's only goal in the first minute of the second half, on a great piece of skill. He took a pass at the top of the box, and beat a double-team with a back-heel dribble and then turned and blasted the ball into the corner of the net, while teammate Michael Ballack twisted to stay out of Drogba's way. Shevchenko, the highest-paid player in the world, has tallied only once for Chelsea, and he couldn't buy a goal today. He missed a chance early, when Drogba's centering ball passed behind him and the ball was cleared by Raffy Marquez before Shevchcenko could recover and shoot. In the second half, Shevy missed a good chance, when he put the ball over the charging keeper and the goal. Finally, Shevy sat unmarked waiting for a pass from Michael Essien during a three-on-two break, but the pass never came as Essien held the ball and squandered the golden opportunity. Still, Chelsea got the win and now holds the advantage in the home-away match.

US Soccer stuff: There's a brief profile in the New York Times on Chivas USA's Jonathan Bornstein, the unlikely, but almost certain winner of M.L.S.'s Rookie-of-the-Year award. The Fisch Fry has already reported on this rising young talent, and he is a great choice for the award. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that Alecko Eskandarian is a likely starter in this weekend's playoff game for D.C. United. United has missed his hustle and attacking style. Perhaps his return to the lineup can shake United out of its doldrums. .

Finally, the Yanks Abroad website has a story on Washington, D.C.-area native Oguchi Onyewu. Gooch was expected to transfer to an English side after the World Cup, but he is back with his Belgian squad, Standard Liege. Yanks Abroad speculates that the January break in Europe may result in a number of Americans moving to or around Europe, including Gooch. One player, expected to make the move to Europe is U.S. Soccer Player of the Year, Clint Dempsey. The piece on Onyewu notes that the U.S. could benefit from a European coach with a European base for ex-pat Yanks to get time playing together. That's not a bad point, but the U.S. is really losing time right now, because there is no national team coach. With no coach, there are no international games scheduled for the national side, while other countries are already playing friendlies and tournament matches. The U.S.S.F. must do something soon to remedy the situation, even if it's just naming an interim coach.

Next up: Baseball - A glorious celebration or a post-mortem for the Mets? Game on!

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