Shipped from abroad, Euro 2012: Looking forward from Group D, after Day 4

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Group D “Power” Rankings

1. France – Les Bleus were drawn by England, but they still look like the group’s best team going forward. Opening match naivete from some inexperienced attackers saw France play Monday’s game out without any urgency. Then again, it was the first match of the tournament. Did they really need urgency?

2. England – One goal (not from open play), a few scares caused by Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck’s speed, and that’s about it going forward. We like to think that’s a symptom of their approach – the Three Lions’ reverence for France. What if it’s not? What if it’s a symptom of their limitations? Or (scarier), what if it’s just a function of their coach’s professional philosophies? If that’s the case, this ranking’s too high.

3. Ukraine – An inspired performance from Andriy Shevchenko vaults them to the top of Group D but not our ratings. Part of that is their competition’s performance, part of that is our doubt that Shevchenko can replicate his production. Of course, the may not need Shevchenko. Somebody else might step up. The problem with Ukraine is identifying who.

4. Sweden – It’s a very disappointing result, as Sweden would have wanted to get three from the team that felt the weakest in the group. Still, based on what we saw today, it’s not so far fetched to see them qualifying. Thankfully, they’re only one point out of second place.

Crystal Ball – What Needs to Happen Next Round

Group D resumes play on Friday:

Ukraine vs. France

Ukraine’s success against Sweden came from exploiting the flanks. It’s an approach that may serve them well against France (or at least force more of a defensive effort from Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri). Don’t expect Anatoliy Tymoshchuk to have as easy a night, though. If Laurent Blanc attacks in the same way he did against England, Tymoshchuk will have to shut down Samir Nasri.

France may have Yann M’Vila back, but the defensive midfielder’s greatest contribution won’t be ball winning. His presence at the base of midfield in the attacking phase should free up Florent Malouda and Yoann Cabaye, who won’t have to drop back to pick up the ball so often.

Sweden vs. England

The approach England used versus France should work against Sweden, but with the Swedes less dominant on the ball, England will get more time outside their own third. It remains to be seen how they handle those chances. If pre-tournament friendlies are any indication, Ashley Young should be their most dangerous player, especially if he’s allowed to get at central defenders Olof Mellberg and Andreas Granqvist.

Sweden would be best served reversing one of the changes that made for Ukraine. Erik Hamrén got aggressive against Ukraine, putting another goal scorer (Ola Toivonen) in the starting XI and moving a wide midfielder (Rasmus Elm) to the middle. The decision forced a holder (Anders Svensson) to the bench. It didn’t work, and against England, Sweden will want Svensson at the base of midfield so Kim Kallstrom’s heavy left foot can run onto opportunities Zlatan Ibrahimovic lays back from a packed England defense.

Where, exactly, Zlatan’s allowed to play is another issue. England’s central midfield played so deep that Ibrahimovic may have to operate from wide or 25 yards to to get the kind of possession he needs in that system. Still Sweden’s biggest goal scoring threat, Hamrén will have to decide what’s more important: Having him on the ball, or having him in position to score. Against England, Ibra may not be able to walk the line.

PST’s Euro 2012 “More Powerful” Rankings

1. Germany (–)
2. Spain (–)
3. Italy (-)
4. Russia (-)
5. France (-) – The result wasn’t ideal, but France showed enough to maintain their spot amongst the tournament’s second-tier favorites.
6. Croatia (-)
7. Denmark (-)
8. England (NR) – They offered just enough of a threat going forward to inch their way onto this list.

… and PST’s Player of the Tournament Wunderlist

1. Alan Dzagoev, Russia
2. Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine
3. Mario Mandzukic, Croatia
4. Andrei Arshavin, Russia
5. Andres Iniesta, Spain
6. Daniele de Rossi, Italy
7. Andrea Pirlo, Italy
8. Simon Poulsen, Poland
9. Roman Shirokov, Russia
10. Dimitrios Salpingidis, Greece
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

MLS Power Rankings — Week 3: Gap developing at the top

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We’re just three weeks in, and while there’s still obviously gobs of time for teams to right the ship, we are also seeing who’s for real at the top of the table, and while the table doesn’t always show it, we’re starting to learn more and more about each team that picks up the points.

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Atlanta continues to win, still yet to lose in MLS play three matches into its inaugural season, and Portland bounced back to prove they’re still in control. At about the 7-8 mark there looks to be a clear gap developing. Can anyone buck the trend moving forward? Your updated power rankings:


TEAM RANKING (Last Wk)

 

22 (19)

21 (22)

20 (21)

DC United: Six goals conceded, none scored in their last two. Not much else needs to be said.

Minnesota United: Their very first MLS point was an important one, holding on down a man. Still a very long way to go.

New England Revolution: More of the same for New England who admittedly had a tall task against FC Dallas but couldn’t hold on.

19 (20) Columbus Crew: Could this week be the one that starts the climb? Six shots on target out of seven total, that’s efficient. Still need a result against a better team to back it up.
18 (18) Real Salt Lake: No Glad, No Plata, down a man, still almost pulled it out. Still, the defending was poor at times a man down and Beckerman knows better. Need to start picking up points.
17 (16) Philadelphia Union: 14 shots, just two on target. That’s the type of day it was in Orlando. Just a point from three is worrying.
16 (12) Chicago Fire: Ouch. It’s hard to take much of anything from a big loss to a smoking hot team playing 79 minutes with 10 men. Still…that one will hurt.
15 (17) Montreal Impact: They held firm against a good NYCFC attack, and actually did the coming back for once.
14 (14) Vancouver Whitecaps: In a vacuum, no shame in losing to Tigres or Toronto, but now they’ve got a bit of poor form with the Galaxy coming to town and then the CCL second leg. Will want to avoid a string of bad results.
13 (15) LA Galaxy: All road wins are good wins. That said, beating a weakened RSL by a goal after playing a man down the entire second half is not exactly convincing. They were second best until Beckerman went off and managed just 4 shots on target.
12 (13)
Sporting Kansas City: Have conceded just one goal. They have a plan, and it’s working so far. Just need to figure it out on the other end.
11 (5) Colorado Rapids: Give the Loons credit, but a draw against 10-man Minnesota is not a good look. The defending has been poor.
10 (7) San Jose Earthquakes: Bit tough to figure out this San Jose team early on, but with Godoy held in check, they were outshot 15-5 by KC.
9 (6) Houston Dynamo: Caught Portland at a bad time. This is still a good team, but maybe with some soul-searching to do after a big loss.
9 (10)
Orlando City: An extra week of rest helped Orlando and Cyle Larin did Cyle Larin things. Six possible points, six taken. Still need to prove themselves on the road after last season.
7 (9) Seattle Sounders: Just like Portland, Seattle got back to what it does best, and that involved Dempsey and Morris scoring. The attack looked dangerous
6 (4) New York City FC: Montreal hacked NYCFC to death and it worked. They’re still a good team, but will have to figure out how to win ugly too.
5 (8) Toronto FC: A very solid bounce-back win without Giovinco, who will be back after the break. The rough start appears to be more of a blip.
4 (3) New York Red Bulls: The ugly wins finally came back to haunt them. Hard to take much from a cross-country road trip, but they fell short in a tough test.
3 (11) Atlanta United: You betcha. This team’s for real. Well, they certainly appear to be with Josef Martinez on fire, but now he’s injured. Now what?
2 (2) FC Dallas: A win over New England continued FC Dallas’s hot start. It’s mind-boggling how little attention Max Urruti gets.
1 (1) Portland Timbers: That’s more like it. The scary Portland attack bounced back by putting four goals past 2-0-0 Houston.

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez injured on international duty

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Atlanta United is sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings three weeks into its inaugural Major League Soccer season, and the bite appears to be every bit as fearsome as the bark for the newcomers.

Now, the club must contend with its first bit of truly scary news.

In-form striker Josef Martinez was injured on international duty with Venezuela and is heading back to the United States for evaluation. The report says he tweaked his left thigh, and after the match head coach Rafael Dudamel said he would release Martinez back to Atlanta, saying, “I do not think it’s good for Josef to travel. This muscle tightness can take 10 days of recovery.”

Martinez was subbed off of Venezuela’s match with Peru in the 59th minute, replaced by Yangel Herrera and walking off under his own power. Venezuela drew the match 2-2, blowing a 2-goal halftime lead and leaving them bottom of the table, 14 points back of the intercontinental playoff spot.

Obviously that 10-day recovery is more ideal than any other long-term prognosis, but it would still see him miss a road visit to Seattle next Friday. The 23-year-old has a whopping five games in his first three MLS games with Atlanta and has been a force. Brandon Vazquez and Bryan Rochez are the two options currently on Atlanta’s roster to replace the Venezuelan in the lineup.

Martinez was signed on loan from Serie A side Torino, but the move was made permanent last week.

Kevin de Bruyne questionable for injury-laden Belgium

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Belgium, already without superstar Eden Hazard for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Greece, will now be without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who picked up an injury in training on Friday and will miss both the match against Greece and the subsequent friendly against Russia three days later…maybe.

The Belgian National Team official Twitter account sent out a quote from manager Roberto Martinez that confirmed De Bruyne would miss the pair of matches, but the tweet was quickly deleted.

Instead, this one was pushed out in its place, correcting his availability and also updating the type of injury:

Should De Bruyne miss out, it means Belgium would likely rely heavily on Dries Mertens and Kevin Mirallas for the playmaking duties, with midfielder Radja Nainggolan potentially taking on a more attacking role as well.

Belgium and Martinez also confirmed that right-back Thomas Meunier will miss out after failing to recover from an ankle injury, while Marouane Fellaini‘s status is unknown after he was held out of Thursday’s training session.

The injury also leaves De Bruyne’s status for Manchester City up in the air, with a pair of massive games in London in quick succession after the injury break. City visits Arsenal next Sunday, followed by a hop over to Stanford Bridge on Wednesday.

Landon Donovan retires again, this time for good

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After coming out of retirement last fall to join the LA Galaxy for one more shot at an MLS Cup, Landon Donovan has once again called time on his career, saying he’s certain he will not play again.

With a number of other ventures on his plate, the USMNT all-time leading scorer is looking forward to spending his time elsewhere.

“Yeah, I’m done,” Donovan said. “I’m done. No more playing for me. I have not [gone public with it yet]. But that is definitely the case.”

Donovan scored one goal in nine games for the LA Galaxy in his comeback bid, with the club ravaged by injuries and still gunning for the Cup. However, after the season was over with a loss to Colorado in the Conference Semifinals, the Galaxy confirmed it was nothing more than a short-term stopgap.

“With Landon, when he came back, it was always going to be a short-term thing,”team president Chris Klein said to the L.A. Times in December. “He’s enjoying what he’s doing and we see we’re comfortable in the direction that we’re headed.”

In January, reports claimed Real Salt Lake had offered Donovan a Designated Player contract, but it appears he’s turned it down, and will now have time to concentrate on his other ventures. Off the field, Donovan is an analyst on Fox’s soccer coverage, is on the advisory committee for the Los Angeles 2024 Olympics bid, and has joined the ownership group attempting to bring an expansion MLS team to San Diego.