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Ashton and West Ham Show Flashes of What Can Be

blanco-becks.jpgBlanco and Beckham from Last night’s MLS All Star game from BMO Field in Toronto was an outstanding show for fans of the beautiful game in the United States. One of only two MLS matches all season carried by both ESPN/ABC and Spanish language Telefutura, viewers like myself disgusted with ESPN’s presentation and story telling opted to change to channels. Irrespective of what channel the match was viewed on, one thing was perfectly clear: West Ham United’s attack exposed the weakness of defending in Major League Soccer, and showed what can be for the Hammers in the upcoming Premier League season.It’s no small irony that all four starting defenders for the MLS side were American, while all five starting midfielders who quite frankly dominated the match and the run of play were not Americans. This demonstrated a growing trend in Major League Soccer where clubs fill up their foreign player slots with attacking players while leaving Americans, generally less costly to fill out the squad as reserves or on the back line. What West Ham United did last night was show how poorly American defenders understand football. In addition, this all star match was the third consecutive year a British side, despite losing the match, held an American without a goal. In other words every goal scored at the MLS All Star match the past three years be it for MLS or its opposition has been scored by a non-American. So perhaps, the Premier League is not the league on the planet most dependent on foreign players for its success.I attended the All Star game two years ago when the MLS All Stars defeated Chelsea. In that match, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard both coming off frustrating World Cup campaigns and less than a week away from the Community Shield match against Liverpool did not challenge the MLS defenders the way Carlton Cole and Dean Ashton did last night. This was the first case of above average EPL players who were motivated going up against MLS defenders in a match that had more atmosphere than your average pre season friendly.Ashton in particular was outstanding. As noted earlier the MLS side controlled the flow of play thanks to having two world class players, David Beckham and Cuauhtemoc Blanco in a midfield with MLS standouts Shalrie Joseph, Juan Toja and Christian Gomez. Knowing that the MLS was going to control the match and wanting a result, Alan Curbishley had his team play an aggressive and effective counter attacking game, depending on some outstanding long balls from Callum Davenport and Luis Boa Morte when he entered the match against a high MLS line to succeed. In this game plan, Hayden Mullins and Matthew Etherington also played a key role.Alan Curbishley is a good manager. We’ve seen this with Charlton and at times with West Ham. Almost two years ago on this website I stated that Alan Pardew had been hard done by the new West Ham management and that his sacking was unjustified. Now I see the error in that view. While Pardew was able to get the Hammers back to the Premier League and a good finish in the 2005-2006 EPL season, he isn’t the type of manager with the vision or understanding of English Football that Alan Curbishley posses.Last night we saw exactly how the Hammers will try and play against similar sides in the EPL who posses a strong midfield but are prone to leaking goals. Those sides, no offense to anyone include Liverpool and Arsenal. Curbishley has a healthy Dean Ashton which is good news for not only the Hammers but for England as well as Carlton Cole, a player Chelsea perhaps never should have given up on. In addition, West Ham played a better match against a better MLS All Star team than any previous British side had played against weaker MLS All Star teams. As noted above Chelsea lost to a weakened MLS All Star team that was missing five of the ” MLS starting XI” two years ago due to injuries and other issues. Additionally, Celtic and Fulham have both been run off the pitch early in the match in recent MLS All Star games that did not include Beckham or Blanco. All in all West Ham’s performance was credit to the club and perhaps a sign of a side that can contend for a European place this year.

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  1. Lonnie

    July 26, 2008 at 2:48 pm


    While I think Curbishley is an OK manager, I’m not sure how much “better” he has been than Pardew. Pardew guided the team to 9th and then had to go through the signing of players he was clearly not comfortable with as well as the takeover drama that disrupted the club.

    Curbishley came in and while “saving” them from possible relegation (it’s debatable how much of an effect he had) he guided them to 10th last season. Big improvement ! 🙂

  2. AtlantaPompey

    July 25, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Atlanta is a crappy sports town, I’ll grant you that one. However, when the teams are well run, this city will support them, especially if the tickets are reasonable. With deep pockets and a soccer only stadium, I think it could do well here. Nobody follows the Silverbacks because they work really hard at maintaining the lowest possible profile in this town. Arthur Blank has never kept a low profile in his life. Think of him as Jerry Jones, Jr. or the proud owner of the George Steinbrenner starter kit. Regardless of what you think of those two, at least their teams traditionally do well.

    Florida does have two or three places that could support a team, but haven’t in the past. My wish for Atlanta is purely selfish, not based on any knowledge of our chances.

  3. Kartik

    July 25, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    A funny piece that’s linked, I did enjoy it and the DeRo hair, but for the record Clarence Goodson was exposed in the expansion draft he was so worthless to Dallas, and the fact that he signed in a European first division after being one of I believe only 36 unprotected senior squad members for the expansion draft league wide actually is a strong statement about MLS.

  4. Dan

    July 25, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    I thought the game was a bit of a joke. There are some good point in this blog entry

  5. bryan in san francisco

    July 25, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Uhhh…. who won? You didn’t mention the score once.

  6. Kartik

    July 25, 2008 at 9:53 am

    RE: Cooper

    Norway is generally considered an inferior or at best an equal league to MLS. In the past MLS has “dumped” players that weren’t going to be resigned in that league including Pat Noonan and Will John.

    However, Rosenborg is a different case entirely. They are in the Champions League every single year and even drew with Chelsea last year in the Special One’s last match. So it’s not MLS losing a player to Norway as much as Rosenborg.

    Besides, MLS has shown if a player is American they are more than eager to sell him in his prime, so they can buy more over the hill or very young foreign players. I don’t like it (largely because I seem to be one of the few people left who care about the international game more than the club game) but it is a legitimate way of doing business, and MLS is making more money than ever thanks to it. But expect MLS to continue to be more and more foreign and to see more Americans in Europe and Mexico as time goes on. The reality is sort of the opposite of the PL. American players are undervalued in MLS, so they can make more money in Europe or Mexico, but players from Europe and Mexico sometimes get over valued by MLS and thus come here. This situation is continuing to evolve and is worth monitoring.

    Oh and if MLS goes to Atlanta over a return to Miami, the league is officially nuts. Atlanta is the worst pro sports town in the country and does anyone really follow the Silverbacks now? Plus, don’t they have turf at that stadium.

    I’m partisan in this debate but if Atlanta gets a team before we get the team back that was stolen from us, I and many other people are going to be pretty unhappy.

  7. AtlantaPompey

    July 25, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Entertaining match, really enjoyed watching Blanco, especially the back-heel pass to Gomez for the first MLS goal.

    What does it say about the league when one of the starters(Kenny Cooper) is interviewed right after he’s subbed out about his possible move to…


    (Quick, name a team in Norway. Any team. Come on, can’t you name one?)

    If you had asked me before the match, I would have said that was a step down in quality of league. Apparently, I would have been wrong.

    They also announced two more expansion teams in 2011. I’m not sure that’s a good idea unless the ownership groups have really deep pockets. So what two cities get them? Montreal already has a stadium, easily expandable to MLS standards, a built in crowd, and a good organization, much like Seattle.

    I personally would love to see the league back in the South, and specifically come to Atlanta. Arthur Blank, Falcons owner and co-founder of Home Depot, has stated he wants and team and has already scouted land for a Soccer-Specific-Stadium. Deep pockets, 9th largest city in the country, large Hispanic population. Makes sense to me.

    Two days until the first match against ManU. I renewed my subscription to PFCTv yesterday. I’m ready.


  8. Sam (West Ham fam)

    July 25, 2008 at 9:07 am

    Yer i enjoyed that game last night, really thought the MLS team played some good football, great to see faubert back and playing well, Carlton Cole did well and LBM was o.k also, maybe if we get behind those two this season instead of boo we can see the best of them.

  9. Dan (West Ham Fan)

    July 25, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Patrick, that Book is good. Even watching and following the lasts few seasons closely you learn some things.

    Finally, a well thought article about our Hammers. Instead of casting them off as “cheats” or “boring”, someone that knows their stuff.

    Thank you for writing this.

  10. eplnfl

    July 25, 2008 at 7:49 am

    Well, is the tag line here MLS wins, but no thanks to the Yanks. Kartik, you maybe getting at something else here, at least I hope you are, but I see no need to describe the game as a strong international midfield wins the game for the MLS.I won’t expound on that now.

    What I will say is that the MLS should be happy that they put out a completely enjoyable All Star event and managed to have a good game also. A rare thing for All Star games.

    BTW, a Chicago guy like myself is especially happy with Blanco being MVP and the news this morning that Brian McBride is on his way to The Fire.

  11. essex boy

    July 25, 2008 at 7:49 am

    nice article. I like the way you put that about chelsea lost to a weakened mls team a few years backa nd we did better than any other british side so far against a strong mls side. I agree totally witht he comments about curbs, i think he will bring glory back to west ham, i really do. Us westham fans just have to be patient.

  12. patrick

    July 25, 2008 at 7:24 am

    Anyone with even a passing interest in West Ham should read this book… Explains alot about not only WHU but the state of English football

    Explains alot about Pardew, and the Hammers in general over the past few seasons

  13. Mr Moon

    July 25, 2008 at 7:16 am

    It was a good game but I was disappointed to see Curbishley rested 5 0r 6 first team regulars. No Bellamy, Ljundberg, Upson, McCartney, Gabbidon, Dyer, etc.

    I thought Faubert showed real class and Parker was imense (as usual), and I thought Kyle Read looked lively alongside ‘Snake”.

    Unfortunately, we weren’t fit enough as it’s our pre-season but at least the side escaped any re-occering injuries.

  14. Richy

    July 25, 2008 at 5:57 am

    Good comments Kartik
    you are right the MLS midfield was outstanding last night
    I hope West Ham have good season as they are my team and play football the right way, hope Robert Green gets payrise too

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