Saturday, May 28, 2011

90 Minutes of Excellence

With a 3 - 1 score and goals by all three forwards-- Pedro, Messi and Villa in that order-- today FC Barcelona again confimred why they are the Best Team in the World, with a dominant performance over Manchester United to win their third UEFA Champions League trophy final in six years, and their second trophy of the 2010- 2011 season.  With three Spanish League trophies to their credit in three years, and now this, football commentators are at last beginning to speak openly of FC Barcelona as the Greatest Football Team Ever.

Barca forward Pedro opened the scoring in the 27th minute with a low shot that drilled past Man U Keeper Van der Saar for the opening score, and for a moment it appeared that an early rout was in the making.  To their credit, Manchester United held their composure, leading to a sizzling curling shot by English playmaker Wayne Rooney that flew into the top left corner of the goal, equalizing the score and giving the Man U faithful hope that their side might yet prevail.  With each side having a goal, the half ended 1 - 1 and it appeared that a football match was on.

But as we have seen so many times this season, in the second half it was all Barcelona.  Playing their patented tika-taka style of ball-control football, the time of possession and shots on goal decisively shifted in favor of Barcelona.  In the 52d minute, superstar Lionel Messi, AKA 'Messi Wan Kenobi' scored his 53rd goal of the season (tying him with the obnoxious Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo for the most goals this season), giving the Blaugrana a 2 - 1 advantage... and now, the rout was on.  In the 69th minute Barca striker David Villa emulated Rooney's curling shot and sent the ball past Van de Saar into the top right corner of the net, and that was the final score, as Barca now cruised to a famous victory.

How dominant was Barca's performance?  According to ESPN, "The performance was so comfortable that Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was able to bring on regular captain Carles Puyol for the last few moments, giving the injury-hit defender the chance to play a part in a memorable triumph.

But in a gesture symbolizing Barcelona's team ethic, Puyol handed the armband over to Eric Abidal. His place on the team had been in doubt after he had surgery this season to remove a liver tumor -- and the France defender lifted the famous trophy."

And from The Telegraph in London, comes this: "Inspired by an exhilarating Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola’s team swept past Manchester United in a thrilling performance and, with their third title in the last six seasons, they earned the right to be called one of the very greatest club sides in the history of the game...

This, in 90 minutes of excellence, was the consummation of the Dutch philosophy imported to the club by Johan Cruyff two decades ago, refined by Frank Rijkaard and now perfected by Guardiola. The Barcelona manager was on this pitch when his club won their first European Cup back in 1992 but not even Cruyff’s dream team are a match for this gifted group. "

Indeed.  With 70 % of the total ball-control possession and an overwhelming advantage of shots-on-goal, what may be the most surprising fact of the night, is that Barcelona did not score even more goals.

So, my friends, a round of applause, and cheers and salutes to FC Barcelona, the ultimate Jedi Soccer team and now definitively the Greatest.  Soccer.  Team.  Ever.

May the Force be With You!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ajax Over DC United 2 - 1

On Saturday Eredivisie giants Ajax defeated our beloved DC United 2 - 1 in an international 'friendly' at RFK Stadium, the first of several intenational matches being played this year here in the United States.  Despite the loss, DC United looked fairly good against an Ajax side that played 10 of the 11 players who defeated FC Twente 3 - 1 barely a week ago.  United head coach Ben Olsen used the chance to give the whole bench a workout, and no less than 18 United players managed to get on the pitch during the course of the match.

Not surprisingly, Ajax dominated possession in the first half, with their 4-3-3 formation giving United great difficulty.  In the 10th minute Miralem Sulejmani scored for Ajax, giving them a 1 goal lead that lasted until halftime.  The second half was a different story, however, as Olson made no less than five substitutes, and the changes made a difference.  In the 58th minute Blake Brettschneider received a beautiful cross from Joseph Ngwenya which allowed United to tie the score.  For the rest of the half United held Ajax at bay, until Vurnon Anita stipped United playmaker Fred and slid the ball past reserve Keeper Steve Cronin for the deciding goal.

DC United's play in the second half was both encouraging and a validation of the talent on United's bench, and confirmed the substitution decisions of coach Olsen.  It is hard to feel encouraged about a loss but this outcome may be an exception, as Ajax is a world-caliber side and United showed up well against them, particularly in the second half.  United's next MLS match in on Sunday May 29 on the road against the Portland Timbers.

Meanwhile, in other Jedi Soccer action, our Fort Lauderdale Strikers earned a point on the road against the Atalnta Silverbacks with a 0 - 0 outcome in NASL action, and the Charleston Battery dropped to 3-4-2 in the USL-PRO League American division after a 3 - 0 loss to the Wilmington Hammerheads.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Cosmos Conundrum

If you are a fan of American soccer, then by now you have heard that the New York Cosmos, arguably the most fabulous brand in the history of American soccer, are re-booting the franchise and making noise about becoming the 20th expansion team of the MLS.  With five NASL trophies, the Cosmos to this day remain the most successful professional domestic US soccer team ever (compared with DC United's four MLS trophies).  And yet, despite all the hooplah and noise surrounding the re-launch of the Cosmos brand, the franchise has yet to secure a spot in the MLS, announce any kind of stadium plans, or hire even one player.  For all the whiz-bang marketing flash presently surrounding the 'club' (can we call them that yet?), the absence of any visible concrete progress towards actually fielding a team is curious, to say the least.

A bit of history is in order.  When the old NASL folded in 1985, the victim of its own excess (with the Cosmos leading the way in over-spending), the club's manager G. Pepe Pinton secured the rights to the team and, for many years, was the custodian of the Cosmos legacy.  Over the years Mr. Pinton refused several overtures to re-launch the franchise as an MLS side, believing that the new league would not honor the Cosmos legacy.  But that changed when the MLS began reviving some of the other old NASL teams-- such as the Sounders, Timbers, and Whitecaps-- which convinced Mr. Pinton to finally sell the franchise to Mr. Paul Kemsley, the former vice-chairman of Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League.  Mr. Kemsley has publicly stated that he intends to re-launch the franchise as an MLS team, much to the delight of American soccer fans everywhere.

The problem is, since announcing his intentions last year, there have been absolutely no concrete signs of progress towards that goal.  So far, its all been marketing.  Sure, Kemsley did bring in former Cosmos superstar Pele as the club's Honorary President, and Giorgio Chinaglia as its "International Ambassdor."  He also brought on former Manchester United Star Eric Cantona to be the new Director for Football Operations, and he signed LA Galaxy star Cobi Jones to the role of Vice-Director.  Cosmos youth camps have been established in both New York and in California, and Kemsley has purchased billboard advertising in Times Square and (oddly) launched some major marketing efforts to promote the brand in Asia.  All of this gee-whiz stuff is great... but what about the stadium?  What about actually fielding some players?  So far, the whole enterprise has been one giant marketing exercise, with no actual football in sight.

This raises legitimate questons about what Mr. Kemsley's intentions really are.  For his part, Mr. Kemsley has certainly sent mixed signals.  Yes, he has said that he wants to 'play nicely' with the MLS and its league-centric way of doing things, which is encouraging for MLS fans; but he has also said that he wants to make the Cosmos the "Number 1 soccer franchise in the world," which is exactly the kind of talk that freaks out MLS executives.  We must not forget that the MLS league-control operational model was instituted precisely to avoid the kind of financial excess that sank the old NASL, so this kind of big talk from Kemsley does not endear himself to MLS commissioner Don Garber.

For his part, Commissioner Garber has made it very clear that he wants the league's 20th expansion franchise to be in New York.  With the New York Red Bulls already competing in nearby New Jersey, the advent of another New York side would create an instant and hugely profitable New York Derby, to the benefit of the Cosmos, the Red Bulls, and the league as a whole.  So on many levels the rebirth of the Cosmos as an MLS side makes sense.

But its not a done deal yet, and there are other suitors in the hunt.  The owner of baseball's New York Mets, Mr. Fred Wilpon, is also rumored to be interested in an MLS franchise, and from the league's perspective he may be a safer bet for an expansion franchise than the big-talking, free-wheeling Kemsley.  And there are other problems too-- both Kemsley and Wilpon are rumoured to have financial problems (with their core business investments all losing money these days), which may prevent either of them from actually being able to afford the MLS expansion fee (up to $100 million by some accounts), or the cost of building a new stadium in pricey New York City.  So, despite all the hopeful news and the presence of Pele and Chinaglia and Cantona and Jones, nothing seems 'real' quite yet.

So what is Kemsley up to?  I think the signs point to him being serious about standing the club up again, but I am not sure what his end-game is.  Will it really be the MLS?  Or could it be, as some other bloggers have suggested, that he actually will end up dodging the hefty MLS expansion fee in favor of joining the newly-reborn NASL?  Financially speaking the hurdles for joining the reborn NASL are certainly much lower than for an MLS franchise, so there is some logic there.

Bu this too presents a problem, because it seems clear that Mr. Kemsley's ambition is far grander than merely standing up a Division II side, especially for this franchise.  I think that if the reborn New York Cosmos end up in the NASL, there will be a big push to jump-up the NASL to Division I status, leading to direct competition with the MLS.  This would be Very Bad News for American soccer: two rival leagues, one with a league-centric operational model, and one with an owner-centric operational model, in a nation that scarcely supports even one top-flight soccer league.  The NASL would be free to spend spend spend and that would certainly put butts in stadium bleachers; but haven't we been down this road before?  As I recall, that story did not have a happy ending.

For my part, I think the only way that a two-league situtation plays to the advantage of American soccer, would be if it led to an MLS-NASL merger and (more importantly), a promotion-and-relegation system, which almost every American soccer fan I speak to is in favor of.  The absence of a promotion-and-relegation system is one of the real weaknesses of American football.  But on the other hand... hazarding the fortunes of American football merely on the possibility of an eventual merger seems quite irresponsible, even if it potentially saves Mr. Kemsley a ton of money.  It looks like a bad bet for US soccer overall.

I think, at the end of the day, Mr. Kemsley must curb his ravenous ambition, pony up the money to play as an MLS side, build a new stadium in New York (however expensive that may be), abide by the MLS operational model, and then do his level best to milk the New York Derby for maximum profit.  As much as I am delighted to see the rebirth of the NASL-- and as much as I would like to see my beloved Fort Lauderdale Strikers as an MLS side-- the potential for disaster if the Cosmos go anywhere but the MLS, seems too great to risk.

The MLS model has succeeded where the old NASL failed.  The MLS has been in existence for 18 years now, compared with the 16 year history of the old NASL.  We live in a country where soccer has only fringe public interest, and has to compete with a great many other professional sports leagues.  Under those circumstances, any movement backwards towards an owner-centric operational model would be a BIG mistake.  This isn't Spain or Britain where football is the only big-league sport to watch.  Let's not mess with success. 

If Mr. Kemsley does this right and the Cosmos end up as an MLS side, he will be a hero and the rebirth of the most famous soccer team in American history will be a beautiful, wonderful thing.  We'll all cheer and I'll be happy to join in.  But if Mr. Kemsley's ambition and his financial limitations lead us down the path of inter-league competition, he may well earn a legacy as The Man Who Ruined American Soccer.  Let's hope he becomes a hero and not a goat.

Message to Mr. Kemsley:  Don't fuck this up, or the American soccer community will rise up in outrage and run you out of the country.  And stop playing these silly marketing games and either get on with it, or sell the franchise to someone who will.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Florida Derby Postponed, But DC United Ties Rapids

Although more than 6,400 fans had purchased tickets for Saturday's renewal of the Florida Derby, regrettably the restart of the old rivalry between the NASL Fort Lauderdale Strikers and the Tampa Bay Rowdies (or FC Tampa Bay... whatever), was postponed due to lightning and hazardous playing conditions at Lockhart Stadium.  The lightning delayed kickoff for several hours, and then the match was finally called off due to inclement weather.

Strikers President Tim Robbie issued the following statement about the cancellation:  "We are obviously disappointed that we couldn’t play tonight but we can’t control mother nature.  We’re looking forward to playing Tampa at a later date with the kind of crowd that was ready to turn out tonight. We appreciate our fans who braved the elements and we know they’ll be back for the rescheduled contest."

Let's hope so, and lets hope this cancellation does not diminish fan enthusiasm for the renewal of the old rivalry.  Based on the respectable ticket sales--which exceeded the Strikers season opener-- the reborn Florida Derby is showing every sign of becoming the premier derby of the new NASL, so the league really needs to get this show going.  Give me something to write about !

Meanwhile, in MLS news... our beloved DC United managed to post a tied score against MLS league champions Colorado Rapids.  The first half was a wet and sloppy affair in which both sides seemed listless and unmotivated.  Colorado scored first on a dead ball free kick, yet another example of United surrendering a goal on a set-piece play this season.  Fortunately, in the second half United looked like a completely different team, mounting an aggressive attack that finally paid off when Chris Pontius was pulled down at the edge of the box, resulting in the equalizer PK goal by Pontius.  United then had several more chances to score but was unable to convert, resulting in a 1 - 1 tied score.  Considering that the match was against last year's MLS Champions, I suppose this is an acceptable if uninspired outcome for United.

DC United has a friendly later this week against Dutch powerhouse Ajax, another one of my favorite sides and a clear candidate for inclusion in the stable of 'Jedi Soccer' teams that this blogsite tracks.  But with both Charlie Davies and Josh Wolff out due to injuries, this could prove to be a very difficult match for United.

Luckily, friendlies don't count in the standings.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Strikers & Battery Both Lose

Yesterday saw both the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and the Charleston Battery lose their respective Division II matches in NASL and USL-PRO League action.

Of the two losses, the defeat suffered by the Charleston Battery is the more pitiful of the two, as the Battery delivered USL-PRO expansion side FC New York its first-ever franchise victory, a 1 - 0 outcome that was secured despite that fact that the Battery outshot New York 10 shots to three.  The loss was the Charleston Battery's first loss at Blackbaud Stadium since the 2009 season.

For the Strikers, Friday's 4 - 2 loss agaisnt the Carolina Railhawks is especially bad timing, as the team prepares for the re-inauguration of the Florida Derby against cross-state rivals FC Tampa Bay, AKA 'The Team that Should Be Called The Rowdies."  The Strikers took the early lead in the eighth minute with a fine right-footed goal by Patrick Otto, but then the defense collapsed again as the Strikers surrendered three consecutive goals to give the Railhawks a 3 - 1 lead.  The Strikers' David Santamaria then scored another goal in second-half stoppage time, but Carolina added one more goal to end it, with the final line of 4 - 2.

So, needless to say, it wasn't the outcome the Strikers would have hoped for, going into today's renewal of the ancient rivalry, but if they can just beat Tampa Bay, all will be forgiven.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Barca Wins La Liga Again !

Last night FC Barcelona tied Levante 1 - 1 to secure the final point it needed to officially win the Spanish League Championship, it's third consecutive La Liga title.  Seydou Keita's first-half header goal was all that was needed to secure the tied score and the championship, surely a memorable goal in Keita's career.  With this championship, Pep Guardiola's side has now won 11 titles in three seasons, an amazing tour de force of professional football, the likes of which has never been seen in the history of the sport.

In Spain, the daily Sport newspaper summarized this achievement, saying that this was 'A title that rewards soccer in capital letters, practiced by a generation of players that continue to extend their legend with a voracious appetite,' and that Barcelona is 'a squad based on the youth system and that wagers on an attacking brand of soccer against any opponent and in any stadium.'

All true.  And so the comparisons with Johan Cruyff's 'Dream Team' of the past, now begin.  For his part, Pep Guardiola has downplayed the comparison-- perhaps in deference to the pivitol role he played on that team-- saying, 'We cannot match the Dream Team because that was a pioneering generation.  For all the titles that we win, they will always be at the top and that's the most important thing.'

But with all due respect to Sr. Guardiola, we here at Jedi Soccer beg to differ.  During his tenure as the manager of FC Barcelona, the brilliant Johan Cruyff led the club to 11 titles in seven years, and now Sr. Guardiola has matched that achievement in three years.  With all due and well-earned respect to Johan Cruyff, this current incarnation of FC Barcelona surpasses the achievements even of the famed Dream Team of FC Barcelona history, and is now the Greatest Team not only in the history of this club, but perhaps in the history of Association Football.

If Barca wins the Champions League title later this month against Manchester United, it will be Pep Guardiola's 12th championship in three seasons.  Surely that would settle the matter, beyond any reasonable argument?

But regardless of that outcome, it is now clear even to casual observers of the sport, that this current generation of FC Barcelona is now in the historical realm of the greatest sides ever to play the sport.  Their football is not just Soccer from Another Planet, it is Soccer from Outer Space.

It's Jedi Soccer!  And FC Barcelona are the Jedi Knights of Football.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Jedi Soccer Roundup

This past weekend saw all of the teams we track here at Jedi Soccer in action at one venue or another, so here is a review of the Jedi Soccer action on two continents:


Yesterday, FC Barcelona defeated local derby rival Espanyol 2 - 0 to pull within one point of capturing the Spanish league title for the third consecutive year, which would make Barca the first Spanish league side to win the title three times in a row since 1993.  Even one point from a draw on Wednesday will be enough to capture the league title for Barcelona, but if they win all three remaining matches, they will tally exactly 100 points for the season--one better than the record of 99 they set last year.  Andres Iniesta scored in the 29th minute, and Gerard Pique scored in the 48th.  Barca now travels to Valencia to hopefully wrap up their well-earned title.

STATUS: One point away from the Spanish League Championship, and one win against Manchester United for the Champions League Cup.


Meanwhile, the day before DC United played to a scoreless 0 - 0 draw against FC Dallas in front of 11,500 fans at RFK stadium in MLS action.  The good news for United is that the defense showed fine consistency during the match, keeping Dallas out of the net.  The bad news was a lack of offensive firepower, exemplified by a scoring ball in the penalty area that was uncharacteristically mishandled by Charlie Davies.  Still, United has only surrendered one goal--on a penalty kick-- in the last two games, a fine achievement after having given up four goals in each of the two matches before the Seattle game.  I'm not sure what it means when a scoreless outcome can be considered progress, but there it is.

STATUS: 3 - 4 - 2 on the season, middle-of-the-pack in the MLS Eastern Conference standings.


A similar tied outcome was achieved by the Fort Lauderdale Strikers against the NSC Minnesota Stars in the third game of their four-game NASL road trip.  Eduardo 'Chaco' Coudet scored his fourth straight penatly kick of the season in the 35th minute, when Strikers forward Martin Nunez was fouled in the box by Minnesota defenseman Jack Stewart.  The Strikers were on track to win the game, until Minnesota equalized in the 89th minute.  Although in some ways this outcome was a dissapointment after having led for most of the match, the result is acceptable considering how long the Strikers have been on the road.  Fort Lauderdale has one more road match remaining this Wednesday against the Carolina Railhawks, after which they finally return to Lockhart Stadium to face their in-state rivals FC Tampa Bay (AKA 'The Team That Should Be Called The Rowdies'), in the latest rendition of The Florida Derby.  We hate them.

STATUS: 1 - 3 - 1, six points and middle-of-the-pack standing in the NASL.


Finally, the Charleston Battery ruined the prospect of a loss-free weekend for Jedi Soccer, by losing 0 - 1 to the Rochester Rhinos in USL-PRO League action.  The Rhinos managed to finally end a six year drought of home-opener losses when Tony Donatelli's 24th minute goal stood for the entire match, despite the Battery's best efforts.  A home crowd of over 5,000 watched the victory, Rochester's smallest-ever attendance for a home opener in the 16 year history of the franchise.

STATUS: 3 - 2 - 2, eleven points and middle-of-the-pack standing in the USL-PRO American Division.

The middle-of-the-pack standing of the three American sides we follow, is quite unsatisfying because its hard to see if they are contenders or not.  Hopefully the next few matches will bring some greater clarity to the world of Jedi Soccer.

Next updates after Wednesday's matches!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

DC United Rebounds

Last night DC United produced a victory over the Seattle Sounders in MLS play at RFK stadium, in what was virtually a must-win situation for the team.  Following on the heels of three consecutive debacles against the Houston Dynamo, the New York Red Bulls, and their ignominious ouster from the US Open Cup, DC United desperately needed a win to put their young season back on track, and last night they got it. 

United opened the scoring in the 31st minute, when Andy Najar sent a beautiful ball down the line to Charlie Davies, who crossed into the box to connect with the streaking Josh Wolff, who delivered a pretty one-touch strike from seven yards past Sounders Keepere Kasey Keller to open the scoring.  Then, shortly after the re-start, the Najar-Davies-Wolff combination worked its magic again.  Once more the scoring sequence was initiated by Najar, but it was Wolff who delivered the cross this time for Charlie Davies, who collected the ball from three yards out between two defenders, punching in the second score of the night, and his sixth goal of the young MLS season.  With this goal, Davies is now officially leading scorer in the MLS, for the moment.

Seattle gamely fought back, delivering their only goal of the night just three minutes after the goal by Charlie Davies.  United defender Dejan Jakovic brought down Seattle striker Freddy Montero, leading to a Penatly Kick and a goal to bring Seattle back to a one goal deficit.  Encouraged by this goal, Seattle mounted a powerful attack which was ultimately turned away by some very fine goalkeeping by Bill Hamid, who delivered spectacular saves in the 73rd and 76th minutes.  Eventually time ran out for Seattle, allowing DC United to end its three game losing streak and pocket its first victory in about three weeks.

As an interesting postscript from this match, Elias Sports Bureau reports that the goalkeeper matchup between United's Bill Hamid and Seattle's Kasey Keller, was the first in MLS history featuring a keeper in his forties, against a keeper who is under age 21.  It is a well known fact of soccer that goalkeepers typically enjoy longer careers than other players, and Keller's long and storied career is yet more proof of this.  This match was also the first time that Keller has ever lost a match at RFK stadium, where until last night he was 8 - 0 - 2 over his career.

After the game, United striker Charlie Davies commendted on the match.  "Today I would say was our best overall team performance so far this season. It’s coming off two not so good games, so it was really important that we come out and set the tone and set the tempo. I think we set the tone, Seattle’s a great team and they showed they are capable of playing, and we had to show we are a good team – tonight we played well."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Madrid Fails, Barca Advances

Yesterday FC Barcelona advanced to the Final of the 2011 Champions League tournament in Wembley Stadium in London, with a 1 - 1 tie at Camp Nou against El Clasico rival Real Madrid.  The tie advanced Barca with a 3 - 1 goal differential against Real Madrid over two matches.  The game was also the last of four El Clasico matchups between Barca and Real Madrid, over an 18 day period.

Barca scored first in the 54th minute with a beautiful goal by Pedro off a brilliant through ball by Andres Insiesta.  Real Madrid drew even 9 minutes later when Angel Di Maria banged a shot off the post, directly to Marcelo, who coolly pushed the ball in to tie the score.  Thus the match ended and FC Barcelona goes through to the final.

Despite the fact that Real Madrid won the Copa del Rey, it is clear that Barcelona outplayed them in every match.  Here is a summary of the last four encounters:

April 16 / La Liga:                    RM 1 - FCB 1 (Santiago Bernabeu)
April 20/ Copa del Rey:            RM 1 - FCB 0 (Valencia)
April 27 / Champions League:   RM 0 - FCB 2 (Santiago Bernabeu)
May 3 / Champions League:     FCB 1 - RM 1   (Camp Nou)

Thus each team posted a 1 - 1 - 2 record over the last 18 days, with Barcelona scoring 4 goals and Real Madrid 3.  However, if we include the results of the first El Clasico this season from November 29, in which Barcelona scored five goals to none for Real Madrid, then the tally for Barcelona in El Clasico competition this season  is 2 - 1 - 2, with 9 goals for, and only three against.  As a Barcelona fan, this is a very satisfying outcome.

It is a pity that Barcelona did not also win the Copa del Rey, but Barca is now all-but-assured the Spanish League title, and they are certainly now the favorites to win the Champions League as well, which is much more prestigious than the Copa.  The Blaugrana now have just four matches left in regular season league competition, and the Champions League final awaiting them in London.

Finally, as a postscript to this 18 day saga, I note with both amusement and sadness the continued whining from the Real Madrid players and coach Jose Mourinho regarding the allegedly preferential treatment given to FC Barcelona by referees.  The public airing of such preposterous conspiracy theories is really a new low for Real Madrid and their now very-mortal looking manager.  Mourinho's controversial commnents, now echoed by cry baby Cristiano Ronaldo, are completely ridiculous on the surface. 

Which is more likely-- that there is a vast secret FIFA conspiracy to influence referees to favor Barca over Real Madrid, OR instead the Real Madrid players are really just hurt and frustrated by continually being bested by Barcelona, leading to the kind of acting-out on the pitch that has resulted in so many Red cards?

Not only is FC Barcelona a better team, they also have more class and public dignity too.  On to the Champion's League Final !!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Barca and Madrid Both Lose

The emotional and physical intensity of three El Clasico matches in barely three weeks, clearly has taken its toll on both Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, as both of Spain's finest football teams uncharacteristically lost their league matches this past weekend.  Real Madrid rested Cristiano Ronaldo and subsequently lost 3 - 2 to Zaragoza, while Barca suffered its first league defeat in seven months, losing 2 - 1 to Real Sociedad in San Sebastien.  The lone goal for Barcelona was scored by midfielder Thiago Alcantara in the first half, while the Basque's scored twice in the second half for the win.  With this defeat Barca's unbeated streak ended at 31 matches, only one short of the Spanish League record.

Because both of the league-leading teams lost their respective matches, Barcelona retains an eight point lead over Real Madrid in La Liga standings, which preserves the likelihood that Barcelona will win the Spanish League crown yet again.

After the match, Pep Guardiola admitted that three El Clasico's in 18 days had taken its toll, saying "What happened was a lesson.  Like any team we can win or lose. We were coming off a complicated situation."

Barcelona and Real Madrid lock horns for the final time this season tommorrow afternoon at Camp Nou, for the fourth meeting between these two teams in three weeks.  Barcelona enjoys a two goal lead in Champions League competition going into the match, and a win will secure their passage to the Champions League Final, probably against English side Manchester United.

Visca el Barca!