Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Searching for meaning in pre-season results
by Paul Gardner, August 2nd, 2009 11:36PM
Subscribe to SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

So I'm following all the pre-season scores that are coming in from these various little tournaments and exhibition games that the European clubs are playing. Well, you have to, don't you?

They're supposed to give us an idea about the upcoming season, to let us know who's going to be brilliant and who's going to be a washout.

I wonder. I have learned that Juventus, an average team last year, and a team that has spent little money in the off season, is now -- by virtue of its win over Real Madrid, better than the Spanish team, which has spent phenomenal amounts of cash as it attempts to revive the famous Galacticos days. That rather unreal result was eclipsed a day later when Juventus went and lost to Aston Villa. A result that would seem to make the English side noticeably better than Real Madrid.

And how many fans believe that?  Not many, I should think. After Juventus had beaten Real Madrid, the Italian sports paper Gazzetta dello Sport immediately started talking about Juventus as a major power, one of the four best teams in Europe. It conducted a flash poll of its readers to see if they agreed, only to find that a whopping 73 per cent rejected the notion. But again, that seemingly conclusive vote is suspect - after all, Gazzetta is published in Milan, home of the two great rivals of the Turin-based Juventus

Nor can there be many fans who think that Chelsea will flop in the Premier League because it had to fight back from 2-0 down against second-tier Reading. Bayern Munich's win over Manchester United cannot be held to indicate any German superiority over Alex Ferguson's team. From the United side of that result comes exactly that comforting thought -- these are early days, the team, now without its astonishing superstar Cristiano Ronaldo -- is still shaking down, yet to find its true form. Well, yes. Up to a point. Because I don't see why such reasoning shouldn't also apply to Bayern Munich. And the reasoning always implies that the "true" form will be an improvement on whatever we've just seen.

These are, after all, "just" pre-season scorelines. Among the coaches, no one seems too excited or too worried by what's happening. This is particularly true of losing coaches, who are quick to point out that their players are not yet fully fit (I shall again point out that the same excuse must surely apply with equal force to the team that has just beaten them), and who go on to make the loss sound more like a victory because of the lessons that have been learned.

You could hear that angle clearly set out by Bruce Arena after his Galaxy had lost to Barcelona, 2-1. The loss was therapeutic, that was Arena's theme, because it showed his players the reality of the "speed of play" of Barcelona's players: "Any time you have the opportunity to play Barcelona, it has to be a positive experience."

No doubt. But just what does that experience do to make the Galaxy better? There are, after all, no teams in MLS that come close to playing the quick-thinking, slick-passing game that Barca practice.

All of Arena's players would have seen plenty of Barcelona on television before meeting them on the field. They must have known exactly what to expect, and they could hardly have been amazed to discover that they are not yet ready for that level of soccer.

I say "yet" - but this current Galaxy team will probably never be ready. It simply isn't good enough. It's not as though the Galaxy will be playing Barca again any time soon; its regular opposition fare for the rest of the season will be MLS clubs. Shall we suddenly see a new Galaxy, playing so much quicker, looking like Barca, sweeping all before it?

No, we shall not. The post-Barca Galaxy will look exactly like the pre-Barca Galaxy. As for Barca, what did they get out of the game? For them, this was a pre-season event, so young players were on view, and at no time during the game did the team on the field resemble the full team that Barca can be expected to field in La Liga.

I can now safely, and justifiably, use that word I was tempted to use right at the start. Unreal. (The unreality is exacerbated by the fact that three of the "upsets" mentioned above came via penalty kick shoot outs). These summer games not only tell us next to nothing about the upcoming season, they are quite likely to be downright misleading. But only within an increasingly restricted area. Take that Aston Villa win over Juventus. The Gazzetta readers are right, Juventus is not a top four club; but it has the potential and the history and the tradition and so on that tell you that it's going to return to that status. But Aston Villa? Does anyone envisage them becoming a world power any time soon?

In short, the pre-season results can say what they like, but we already know that the successful clubs will be the rich, big-spenders, and there's a only a select handful of them.

For the most down-to-earth, real comment on these unreal games, Barca coach Pep Guardiola's words after the Galaxy game carry conviction: "Nobody got injured and everybody got some playing time." And that's about it.



0 comments
  1. Austin Gomez
    commented on: August 3, 2009 at 10:10 a.m.
    As usual, Paul, RIGHT ON! / LEFT OFF! Spero quod semper valeas! tuus amicus, AUSTIN
  1. Alvaro Bettucchi
    commented on: August 3, 2009 at 11:57 a.m.
    We are all looking forward to the Barcelona vs Guadalajara game in San Francisco. It is not important who wins, but to see the skill and level of play that could be achieved someday, by the MSL. I would like to see a comment from Mr. Gardner, on the status of the American Newspapers, that have yet to trully support the sport. When they do, it's all about, how the sport will never catch on in this country. The Barcelona/L.A. games, no comment, nor score results, no attendance result, by the the San Francisco Cronicle. The up-coming game with Barcelona, nothing is mentioned on the local papers. It seems they, the "American Press" do not wish Soccer to lift it's head in the American sports world.
  1. David Sirias
    commented on: August 3, 2009 at 2:53 p.m.
    C'mon Paul. I usually like your cynicism. But none needed her, and no need to search for meaning.... It's just some euro teams getting some stress free work in and some cash to boot; MLS teams trying to shine before some eyeballs not normally looking at them; and USA fans excited to see some Euro stars up close. It's a win win. One day I hope MLS establishes a formal relationship with 3 or 4 of the big Euro leagues so that every MLS team gets a double header home game in July or August, with the headline game being two Euro powers going at each other. I think we see enough the Mexican teams already......

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner
Will fear of goalscoring affect MLS Cup 2016?     
Back in the 1970s I recall watching a soccer panel on English TV. They were discussing ...
The Klinsmann Interlude (Part 3): Damage Repair -- Bruce Arena returns: Tab Ramos waits     
Bruce Arena never had any doubts about his own ability to move smoothly and successfully from ...
The Klinsmann Interlude (Part 2): Total Failure to Acknowledge Latino Presence    
For decades now, a very special and specific conundrum has been making its presence felt in ...
The Klinsmann Interlude (Part 1): A Sorry Experience for American Soccer     
Sunil Gulati has done the difficult thing, fired his buddy Jurgen Klinsmann -- someone he had ...
The Howard Years -- Remembering Keith Aqui (1945-2016)    
There comes a reminder -- a sad reminder, alas -- from the 1970s. The death of ...
Playoff refereeing: A tricky business    
Playoff time always brings with it much discussion of playoff soccer. Which is held to be, ...
Carlos Alberto: One of Soccer's Greatest (1944-2016)    
Carlos Alberto, one of the sport's true greats, dead at 72. Unexpected, almost unbelievable. For me, ...
The Mauro Diaz tragedy: MLS at fault    
So we've seen the last of Mauro Diaz for this season. He will not be part ...
Another over-hyped game turns into an unwatchable 0-0 bore-draw    
You will have been aware of the recent game between Liverpool and Manchester United. Won't you ...
The Maturing of Wayne Rooney    
Wayne Rooney's career is coming to a close. Which seems ridiculous, given that my memory informs ...
>> SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner Archives