A workable solution: What Tottenham’s choice of Sherwood implies about Villas-Boas’s shortcomings

Leave a comment

Though I was a bit skeptical of how Tim Sherwood was going about his campaign, there was always one quality in his favor as he sought the Tottenham job. As he showed on Sunday when passing over Etienne Capoue, selecting Nabil Bentaleb to replace Mousa Dembélé in midfield, the man who has signed on to manager Spurs for the next 18 months knows more about the club’s players than anybody  who’d been linked with the job. Who else would have know an 19-year-old French midfielder with no previous Premier League experience was capable of stepping into Dembélé’s shoes?

[MORE: Tottenham officially appoints Tim Sherwood manager]

“I’ve known [Tottenham] from the grassroots right up to the first team,” Sherwood said on Monday, having had the interim tag shed from his job description. “[I’ve] worked at every level of the football club and played here, so I know it better than most.

“Hopefully that will stand me in good stead taking this club forward.”

It’s an interesting proposition, the idea that Sherwood’s familiarity with the club will be important moving forward. The notion’s certainly an intuitive one, and unless he starts playing favorites (perhaps proving partial to players he’s developed an affinity for in the youth ranks), it’s difficult to see where familiarity will steer him wrong.

source: AP
André Villas-Boas carried a reputation of being prideful to White Hart Lane from Stamford Bridge, with speculation that had carried over into internal club dynamics coloring his Dec. 16 dismissal. (Photo: AP)

But what familiarity does Sherwood have with Erik Lamela? Does he have some special insight on Christian Eriksen, Roberto Soldado and Vlad Chiriches that André Villas-Boas lacks? And what does his time as technical coordinator at Spurs bring to bear on incorporation Capoue, Paulinho, and Nacer Chadli?

If Villas-Boas’s biggest undoing was his inability to mold a squad from Tottenham’s disparate parts, Sherwood’s familiarity with Spurs’ organizational dynamics is unlikely to prove better suited. But perhaps, in handing Sherwood an 18-month deal, Daniel Levy is tipping his hand. Maybe the biggest issue with “AVB” wasn’t the results on the field? Perhaps it was that combined with some deficiency in organizational acumen, and that won’t be a problem under Sherwood.

We’ve heard about this before with Villas-Boas – his pride and inability to work well with others being a potential failing. To this point, those faults remain speculative, ones that don’t become concrete with Sherwood’s hiring. Yet if you look at what Sherwood brings to the job — what he has that AVB does not — it’s not experience. It’s not youth, ideas, managerial achievement, or prestige. Given Villas-Boas had been at the club long enough to become intimately familiar with all its inner-workings, the distinct quality Sherwood seems to bring is an ability to mesh with the rest of Tottenham’s management team.

Beyond Villas-Boas, there are a number of candidates who’d bring a more accomplished managerial than Sherwood’s to White Hart Lane, and if the next six months are rocky ones, somebody like Borussia Möchengladbach’s Lucien Favre will surely be approached. (Or, if you buy into the speculation in the Netherlands, Louis Van Gaal may already have a handshake deal.) But in the interim, Daniel Levy’s apparently made a move for stability, and while that may not help Sherwood unlock the talents of Erik Lamela, it could ensure he stays on the same page as the rest of the organization.

Giovinco strikes twice to lift Toronto FC to Canadian Championship (video)

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

Sebastian Giovinco scored twice including in stoppage time as Toronto FC overcame Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla’s fantastic strike to win 2-1 in the second leg of the Canadian Championship at BMO Field on Tuesday.

TFC held the advantage after a 1-1 first leg in Montreal. The Reds advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Tabla, who just turned 18 in March, is an Ivorian-born Canadian youth international who now has four senior goals for the Impact.

Montreal veteran Patrice Bernier saw red in the 89th minute, putting the Impact’s chances behind the 8-ball.

[ MORE: USMNT Gold Cup questions ]

Toronto FC entered the match with a road goal advantage, which was undone in the quick flash of a left-foot, as Tabla dug a ball from underneath him and past a flying Clint Irwin to make it 2-1 on aggregate.

The goal was a double whammy for Toronto, which went to the break knowing it would need to score twice (or win in penalty kicks) to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Yet TFC came back after a horrendous pass from Montreal, as Michael Bradley pinged a gorgeous diagonal ball to Sebastian Giovinco. The Atomic Ant recovered from a tough opening touch to bury his chance. 1-1.

And, oh yeah, watch this man work for his second…

Who is Kenny Saief, and other USMNT Gold Cup personnel questions

Photo by Stephen Pond - The FA/The FA via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kenny Saief is an 23-year-old American left-sided player with UEFA Champions League experience.

So why do we know so little about the Miami-born man?

The answer is pretty straight-forward: Saief’s entire career has been under-the-radar. After coming up through a series of Israeli teams, he moved to KAA Gent in Belgium. None of those matches, even adding in his representing the full Israel national team twice, got a ton of play on American soil.

[ MORE: Saul scores stunner for Spain U-21s ]

So when Saief filed his one-time switch to represent the United States, paving the way for a USMNT call-up for this summer’s Gold Cup, even those of us who’d followed his career from afar had put a limited amount of actual observation on match footage.

So here’s the long-and-short:

  • Saief turns 24 in December.
  • He moved to Gent from Israeli second tier side Ramat haSharon in 2014.
  • Played a total of 35 minutes in friendlies versus Serbia and Croatia.
  • Saief has 20 total appearances between the Europa and Champions Leagues.
  • Posted a UCL assist versus Wolfsburg in the 2015-16 Round of 16.
  • Had goal, 2 assists in UEL this season, played 180 mins vs. Spurs.
  • Has 15 goals, 9 assists in 107 apps for Gent.

Saief should get an opportunity to make an impact for Bruce Arena’s USMNT, perhaps as soon as Saturday’s friendly against Ghana in East Hartford.

Who else stands a chance to gain the most from this tournament?

Joe Corona — The 26-year-old made his thirst-inducing name in American soccer circles by scoring a pair of goals in the 2013 Gold Cup, but has just 17 caps to his name. His call-up over veterans like Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan either shows how high he’s risen or how far those veterans have fallen.

Cristian Roldan — Seattle’s hard-nosed midfielder was playing college ball at Washington just three years ago, and it’s not crazy to think strong performances could boost him onto the radar of bigger clubs abroad (let alone make him a mainstay along Kellyn Acosta with the USMNT).

Dom Dwyer — If Roldan’s rise is surprising, Dwyer’s really is astounding. It’s easy to forget that the Sporting KC star forward was playing junior college soccer in 2010 before spending one season of Division I soccer with South Florida. Now he has 57 MLS goals and a look at becoming the clinical finisher the American side has wanted for some time.

Justin Morrow and Eric Lichaj — The 29- and 28-year-old fullbacks would love to prove their mettle is as good if not better than Jorge Villafana, the current front-runner to start at left back should the Yanks complete their revitalized run to the World Cup. Lichaj, a Nottingham Forest veteran, is also adept at right back.

This isn’t to say that Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe won’t benefit from strong tournaments, but the names above have either been rescued from soccer’s scrap heap or at least Jurgen Klinsmann’s prison.

PODCAST: Bob Bradley talks MLS past, USMNT

Jonathan Daniel /Allsport
Leave a comment

Scott Nicholls and Otis Earle welcomed Bob Bradley to their “Beyond The Pitch” podcast to discuss his time coaching the Chicago Fire, the Fire’s current squad, how MLS has evolved, the new generation of players coming into the USMNT and more.

Perhaps most interesting is Bradley talking about previous losses with stinging emotion that sounds like they happened yesterday, including the 2000 MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Latest Men In Blazers pod ]

Since being fired from Swansea City after less than 100 days, Bradley has been linked with the Norway national team gig as well as a return to Los Angeles. Keep up with the U.S. coach here, and check out the podcast here:

U.S. Open Cup preview: Which underdog has best odds?

Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Every dog has its day, and the three lower-tier clubs remaining in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are hoping for a second.

Miami FC, Sacramento Republic, and FC Cincinnati enjoyed wins over Major League Soccer sides in the fourth round, and now get further MLS tests in this week’s fifth round.

[ MORE: Lampard linked with manager opening ]

Once FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids tangle on Tuesday, attention turns to the underdogs on Wednesday. Who has the best chance to advance?

  1. Miami FC vs. Atlanta United — Playing an MLS expansion side at Riccardo Silva Stadium will give Miami a bit of confidence, and this is also a side with some good experience in pressure spots. Whether it’s manager Alessandro Nesta or MLS vets Michel, Gabriel Farfan, and Michael Lahoud, MFC won’t shy away. Upset chance: Solid.
  2. FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire — The visitors are having a heck of a season in MLS and don’t have a group which will be worried by a huge crowd, but there’s no debating that 25,000-plus in Southern Ohio give FCC more than a puncher’s chance. Upset chance: Improbable, but possible
  3. LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic — If LA puts something close to its best side out there, Sacramento will struggle to stop its attack.  Upset chance: Long shot.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, New England hosts DC United, Philadelphia visits the Red Bulls, Seattle is off to San Jose, and Houston hosts Sporting KC.