Take That, USL!
After a couple of disappointing outings in Charleston, United managed to get a positive result against the hometown Battery, downing the hosts 2-0 in United's final pre-season encounter. All eyes now turn to this coming Sunday, when the Black and Red travel to La-La land to face Kapitan Kissypants and the Beckham-less Gals.
Though injury concerns will raise questions as to who starts the match against LA, another consideration will be what formation Tommy decides to run out. After suffering a match and a half of sub-par play in a 4-4-2, the switch to 3-5-2 resulted in a strong second half against TFC and a victory over the Battery. Might we see more of the same in LA?
Different Strokes for Different Folks?
Brent Latham has an interesting piece over on Yanks Abroad about the role of MLS in US youth player development. His conclusion is to allow clubs more freedom when it comes to roster limits. The salary cap would remain in place, but clubs would have the option, for example, of signing five promising youngsters to decent ($40k) contracts, rather than a single veteran at $200k without having to worry about a 24-player limit. This would give clubs a choice of roster strategies. Do they bring in, and develop, a raft of kids hoping for a gem, or do they pursue the proven contributors?
Despite his use of "the MLS" and the presence of some guy named "Luciano Emiliano" in his column, I'm on board with this idea. In fact, you could take his baseball "wide net and minor leagues" analogy a step further by expanding the use of season-long loans for guys who might not get significant MLS minutes and/or partnership/feeder agreements between MLS and USL clubs. Won't somebody think of the children?
Not So Fast, You Devils!
Liverpool's shocker at Old Trafford raises all manner of questions. Are Manchester United going to run away with the Prem after all? Might Rafa's Reds reel them in? Given his stated mission of taking Liverpool down a peg or six, just how much of bloodbath is Ferguson going to leave in the locker room and on the training pitch this week? Was it all Rooney's fault?
With a game in hand and a four point lead, United are still relatively comfortable, but questions will hover around confidence and momentum. Liverpool will take great heart from the victory, but their problem this season hasn't been against their "big four" rivals, it's been the lack of cutting edge against the lesser sides in the Prem. And if any team have the resiliency to bounce back undeterred, it's United. What may be of significance is the performance of Vidic, normally so steady in defense for United. Can he regain his form to ensure the march for five (or six, or however many trophies are on offer) stays alive?
(God, I hope not!)
The Week Ahead
I thought I'd add this addendum to the Back-Pass wherein we look at what's coming up this week on FBF. Perhaps we'll call it the "Through-Ball"? Or maybe the "Dagger-Ball," in deference to Ray. Whatever the case, here's a bit of a roadmap for the week ahead.
- We'll kick off the week with a consultation of my Mighty Prognostication Engine to see how things might shake out in MLS this year.
- Later in the week, I'll take a stab at figuring out how I want to do United match previews this year as we look ahead to the game against the Gals.
- And throughout, I'll be making minor tweaks to the design of the site. So I ask your pardon in advance for any unsightly browser wounds I may inflict.