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THIS WEEK IN FOOTBALL
On a week when MLS headlines poured in from the SuperDraft, Vancouver was embarrassed, Xavi rumors swirled, and the status quo reigned in England.
– To say it’s been a trying offseason for the Vancouver Whitecaps would be an understatement. The ‘Caps fired their coach Martin Rennie, waited to hire a replacement, then closed their eyes and swung for the fences with Bob Bradley, missed, and settled on Rennie replacement Carl Robinson.
This is no knock against Robinson – who is well-regarded, but it feels like Vancouver sacked Rennie just for the sake of blaming someone after regressing in 2013. I’m not sure exactly what the ‘Caps thinking their getting from Robinson that they weren’t getting from Rennie. This team was never going to get Bradley. Coming off the Egypt job, Bradley had one shot to wriggle his way into European soccer. He wasn’t going to pass that up for a return to MLS, no matter what Vancouver through at him. Robinson wasn’t a bad choice, but he was really the only one when he was hired. It was simply naive of the Whitecaps’ front-office to go after Bradley.
Then the Camilo debacle happened. How Vancouver let things get to the point where Camilo flew down to Mexico and sign with another team while under contract with the Whitecaps is mind-blowing. Of course, Camilo’s unprofessionalism and the unprofessionalism of Quientero are certainly also to blame. But what happened here? The Whitecaps held out for over a week on Camilo, before caving. What else could they do when the player was wearing another team’s shirt and going to that team’s games?
The latest in this perpetual headache of an offseason was the Andre Lewis mini-saga, where the Whitecaps draft pick had some sort of secret deal with the New York Cosmos that no one knew about, so the natural conclusion was that Vancouver lost their guy to a minor-league team. With the rest of the Western Conference strengthening, the start of the season may not even be any sort of reprieve for the Whitecaps.
– The reports on the future of Xavi have been so wild and so varied over the past week that on one hand we have people saying he’s already signed a deal with the New York Red Bulls, while others are maintaining that the maestro and defining player of his generation will retire at Barcelona. While this deal still seems unlikely, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Mike Petke issued a coy non-denial at the MLS SuperDraft when quizzed on the possibility of acquiring Xavi, and NYRB sporting director Andy Roxburgh didn’t give anything more substantial than his coach. Look, this flurry of rumors isn’t coming from nowhere. Jason McIntyre of ESPN has reported that the Red Bulls have made an inquiry into Xavi’s availability, and it seems like Barcelona would let him leave on a free transfer if he so wished.
It will be interesting to see what Xavi’s role is the rest of the season at Barcelona. But I clearly remember Sigi Schmid giving an answer very close to Petke’s only the morning of the day all hell broke in Seattle over Clint Dempsey.
– Jozy Altidore started and played 72 minutes in Sunderland’s 2-2 draw with Southampton on Saturday, but it remains to be seen whether Altidore did enough to gain back a place in Gus Poyet’s first XI. Altidore will be at the Stadium of Light at least until the end of the season, but if Sunderland are relegated, Altidore may have no choice but to move.
If recent examples (Dempsey, Bradley) are worth anything, MLS teams are willing to pay big money for American stars. Sunderland paid north of 10 million pounds for Altidore, and will want to cut their losses, especially if they are staring Championship football in the face. I have no doubt that NYCFC is carefully eying the situation.
– The USA lost to Sao Paulo 2-1 in a closed-door friendly at Sao Paulo FC’s training ground last week. They have another friendly scheduled for the end of January, before playing South Korea at the StubHub Center on the first of February. The USA’s March match was also announced last week, Jurgen Klinsmann’s team will play in Ukraine. Ghana, meanwhile, have lined up a friendly against Columbia.
– Alan Pardew needs to demonstrate more control on the touchline. His continual spats and rage have detracted from Newcastle’s stellar season thus far. I appreciate his passion and fight, but a person in his job needs to behave with more professionalism.
– I can’t see Cardiff getting out what I think will be a very competitive relegation fight. There has been so much upheaval and controversy at the club, it feels like the good vibes from last years’ promotion and the Malky Mackay era have been treated with shock-therapy. This club was fine in the Premier League until the ticking time-bomb of Vincent Tan detonated. Now, with a new manager, average players, and a crisis in the background and the ever-lasting potential of a new crisis in the foreground, I don’t think the
Bluebirds Fire Breathing Red Dragons get out from under the remains.
– Manuel Pellegrini took the shackles off Manchester City, and they’ve hit 100 goals halfway through the season. In Turkey, Roberto Mancini must be wondering what could have been last year at the Etihad.
– It is interesting that the US would schedule a friendly in Ukraine. The country where Jurgen Klinsmann’s team will play their last friendly before the preliminary squads for the 2014 World Cup are announced is extremely unstable at the present time due to a deepening political crisis with protesters taking to the streets of Kiev and elsewhere. The USSF must be closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine, and lining up potential alternatives for the March international date if the game in Ukraine is too dangerous to play.
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.