Villa Skate by Again

December 31, 2008

gab

Continuing their exceptional run of good form and fortune, Aston Villa escaped the KC Stadium with a 1-0 victory over stunned Hull City. The game’s only goal came when Hull’s Kamil Zayatte knocked in an own-goal in the 88th minute. While the own-goal was the official scoring, Zayaette ‘saved’ what probably would have been a Gabriel Agbonlahor goal on a cross from Ashley Young. This is the third straight match where Villa got a goal in the final moments to either draw or win and second in which it was an own-goal that did the trick. There was some confusion at the end of the match as it appeared the referee was going to give Hull a penalty in the waning moments after an apparent handball by Young. But he changed his mind and called the match with replays afterwards confirming his change of heart as accurate. The three points earn a three point cushion over Arsenal for Aston Villa who are now tied on points with Man United (though trailing in differential). Hull fall now to eighth place after having spent most of the season in fifth, sixth or seventh.


An Ax to Grind

December 30, 2008

Since the start of the year, six coaches have been fired in the NFL. Last season, Brian Billick (Bal) and Cam Cameron (Mia) were fired when it was all said and done. Add this year’s casualties: Mike Nolan (SF), Scott Linehan (StL), Lane Kiffin (Oak), Rod Marinelli (Det), Romeo Crennell (Cle) and Eric Mangini (NYJ) make eight teams out of thirty-two to fire their coach in the past two years, fully 1/4.

I know it’s much easier to get rid of coaches than it is players, though in the NFL players are often cut or dismissed if they’re no longer wanted, but a one quarter turnover in two years is just terrible. Baltimore and Miami can be commended for the changes they made as they went from bad seasons a year ago to the playoffs this year. But usually that doesn’t happen. Look at San Francisco, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Oakland; all teams that are really bad year in, year out. Will a coaching change make a big difference? It certainly can, but it’s just as likely, if not more, that the team will take a long time to adjust to the new coach and his system, assistants and expectations.

Sometimes coaches really aren’t a good fit with a certain set of players, or owner, or city. But these guys getting fired aren’t exactly those kinds of cases. Sure, they’ve been bad, but so have plenty of other coaches. What about Herm Edwards, Wade Phillips, Andy Reid or Jim Zorn? They’ve all had pretty lousy seasons but they’re not going anywhere. Or what about Dick Jauron or John Gruden? They both fell completely off the map but they’re not getting fired (yet). It’s a strange business, coaching in the NFL. The expectations are so high no matter where you go but only a few coaches ever truly succeed on a consistent basis. Is it really worth it to change coaches every few years, shuffling between guys who just aren’t very good in the hopes that one day you’ll land a Bill Walsh or Bill Cowher?


United Win Again

December 29, 2008

berbatov

Dimitar Berbatov scored in the 69th minute to send Manchester United to yet another Premier League victory, 1-0 over Middlesbrough. The three points earned at Old Trafford keep United three points ahead of fourth place (for now) Arsenal, despite being two matches behind on the schedule. Boro find themselves stuck in seventeenth place, just out of relegation on differential.

Aston Villa play at Hull City tomorrow and have a chance to catch United on 38 points.


2008 Year in Review

December 29, 2008

ad3I know it’s kind of lame to do this as everyone else on earth is doing the same thing. But since we started this blog within this calendar year, I thought it’d be cool to just see how far things have come from the first filings on The AD Hall 1.0. So here’s a kind of exhaustive list of some of our better posts and milestones:

Billy Packer’s Last Game – April 8

Questioning ‘Outs’ – April 25

Reaction to My Trip to Germany – May 29

Sam Wyche: Pickens County Council District 3 – June 11

Euro 2008’s Heidi Game – June 25

MLS Reconstruction: Our Most Hated Post – July 22

Josh Childress: The First WordPress Post – July 23

Usain Bolt Breaks the 100m World Record – August 20

Reggie Love, Barack Obama’s Body Man – August 22

Allianz and the Nazi Double Standard – September 23

The Best Review of the Worst Sports Book – October 2

Texas Tech-Texas: One for the Ages – November 2

Introduction of The Procrastinator – November 8

A Few Words About Rodney Rogers – December 5

The New-Look Procrastinator Comes Out – December 19


I Think This Says It All

December 28, 2008

brett

Please Brett, just retire.


Dempsey Denies Chelsea

December 28, 2008

clint

With a header on ninety minutes, Clint Dempsey drew Fulham even with Chelsea at Craven Cottage for a 2-2 draw. Dempsey also scored in the 10th minute to give Fulham an early lead. Two Frank Lampard goals saw the Blues take a 2-1 lead into the final minute. Despite the impressive draw, Fulham sink to ninth place while Chelsea fail to keep pace with Liverpool but do remain solidly in second position.

At St. James’ Park, Newcastle crashed down to earth with a catastrophic 5-1 loss to front-running Liverpool. A Steven Gerrard brace and goals from Sami Hyypia, Ryan Babel and Xabi Alonso saw the Reds extend their slight lead atop the table. Toon are now in fourteenth place.

Embattled Arsenal defender William Gallas scored in the 81st minute to break a stalemate and earn the Gunners an important victory over Portsmouth at the Emirates Stadium. The win pushes Pompey back into twelfth place and vaults Arsenal, at least until Aston Villa next play, into fourth place.

Mikel Arteta scored twice and Dan Gosling sealed the deal for Everton in a 3-0 win at Goodison Park against Sunderland. The Toffees distance themselves a bit from their competition for sixth place and now sit just three points from fifth. Sunderland continue to struggle to find their earlier form and now rest fifteenth.

West Ham United did itself a world of good when Carlton Cole and Diego Tristan scored in the second half to defeat ten-man Stoke City, 2-1. The crowd at Upton Park saw the home side fall behind early behind Abdoulaye Faye’s fifth minute goal for the visitors. But Cole’s 51st minute goal and Ricardo Fuller’s 53rd minute red card put the advantage back with the Hammers. Tristan scored on 87 minutes to give West Ham tenth place on the table. Stoke remain in the relegation zone though only by differential.

Amr Zaki converted yet another penalty to see Wigan Athletic to victory at the Reebok. Bolton failed again to make up ground in the second tier of clubs. Instead, Wigan jumped up from the doldrums of the Premier League and now find themselves alone in seventh place, at least for now.

At Ewood Park, Manchester City staged a dramatic comeback to draw 2-2 with lowly Blackburn. Daniel Sturridge scored in the 88th minute and Robinho tallied a goal in the 90th to bring City back from the dead. Benni McCarthy scored just before half-time to give Rovers a lead and Jason Roberts scored what appeared to be the decisive goal in the 84th minute for a 2-0 home lead. City, one of the worst clubs away, escape relegation for now and reach thirteenth place while Blackburn remain in nineteenth, now only ahead of West Brom on differential.

Finally, in one of the sorrier displays of this campaign, Spurs allowed two late goals at The Hawthorns to give last place West Bromich Albion only its fifth victory of the season. Roman Bednar and Craig Beattie each scored in the final seven minutes of the match to see Albion earn three points but still remain in last place. That situation is very familiar to Spurs, who encountered such a stretch earlier this year. Now, Tottenham are just out of relegation on differential and in sixteenth place.


Premiership Predictions – Week 20

December 27, 2008

epl

Interesting week in the Premier League as the clubs played their annual Boxing Day matches yesterday and will play again across Sunday, Monday and Tuesday for Round 20. Liverpool and Chelsea still lead on the table and Man United and Aston Villa keep finding ways to pull points out and stay close to the lead. This round finds Liverpool, Chelsea and Villa all with away matches and while Chelsea and Arsenal will play at home.

Sunday:
Liverpool @ Newcastle – Liverpool
Portsmouth @ Arsenal – Pompey
Sunderland @ Everton – Everton
Stoke City @ West Ham – West Ham
Wigan @ Bolton – Wigan
Chelsea @ Fulham – Chelsea
Tottenham @ West Brom – West Brom
Man City @ Blackburn – Blackburn

Monday:
Middlesbrough @ Man United – United

Tuesday:
Aston Villa @ Hull City – Villa

Results thus far:

Week 1 – 19 points
Week 2 – 16 points
Week 3 – 12 points
Week 4 – 13 points
Week 5 – 13 points
Week 6 – 27 points
Week 7 – 14 points
Week 8 – 22 points
Week 9 – 18 points
Week 10 – 19 points
Week 11 – 11 points
Week 12 – 10 points
Week 13 – 16 points
Week 14 – 13 points
Week 15 – 9 points
Week 16 – 18 points
Week 17 – 11 points
Week 18 – 14 points
Week 19 – 15 points


Boxing Day Results

December 26, 2008

cahillToday’s Boxing Day matches had some interesting implications for the season as it nears the end of the 2008 portion. Hull City, in sixth place for many weeks, has now been supplanted by Everton. Man United continue to find ways to win and are well situated despite having played two fewer matches than most other clubs. And Man City have shown themselves to be the ultimate up-and-down club this year. But for specifics, here’s what happened today:

After Stoke City were reduced to ten men on Andy Wilkinson’s second yellow in the 72nd minute, Man United‘s Carlos Tevez found the back of the net in the 83rd minute to push United to yet another close victory. The tough loss at the Britannia Stadium keeps lowly Stoke in the relegation zone on twenty points, sitting behind Tottenham and Middlesbrough on differential.

At Stamford Bridge, Didier Drogba scored in the 3rd minute and Frank Lampard bookended the first half with a 45th minute goal to send Chelsea to a 2-0 home victory over last place West Bromich Albion. Albion remain on just fifteen points and in dead last. The Blues keep up with Liverpool and remain in second place with 41 points.

Tottenham and Fulham played to a nil-nil draw at White Hart Lane. The draw killed Fulham’s chances of catching and passing on differential Hull City for seventh place so they remain in eighth. Spurs could have jumped to twelfth but the single point condemns them to only a differential lead out of relegation and sixteenth position.

Out at Fratton Park, Nadir Belhadj opened the scoring for Portsmouth in the 8th minute for an early home lead. West Ham United scored in the 20th minute to draw even and then poured in three goals in sixteen minutes in the second half to win 4-1. Craig Bellamy’s late brace and a Carlton Cole goal gave the Hammers the rout despite the even match through the hour. Pompey miss a chance for eighth place and stay in eleventh while West Ham escape relegation for thirteenth place.

Riera opened scoring for Liverpool at Anfield Road in the 26th minute and Robbie Keane knocked in a double in five minutes (the 53rd and 58th minutes) to crush Bolton 3-0. The three points keep the Reds out in front on the table and just a point ahead of Chelsea. Bolton sit in the middle of the table in tenth place.

At the City of Manchester Stadium, Man City destroyed Hull City 5-1. Felipe Salvador Caicedo earned a brace by the 27th minute and Robinho added a double himself within the next nine minutes for a 4-0 lead before half-time. Craig Fagan did finally score for Hull in the 80th minute but City returned fire with Stephen Ireland’s 82nd minute goal for the final tally. City, one of the best clubs at home scrape out of relegation into fifteenth place. Hull finally slip from their perch in sixth down to seventh.

Tim Cahill’s 50th minute goal earned Everton an important away victory and a clear view of European qualification just ahead of them. Winning 1-0 at the Riverside against Middlesbrough, Everton are now alone in sixth place, several points below Arsenal and Aston Villa. Boro sink to just differential out of relegation in seventeenth position.

Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers played to a nil-nil draw at the Stadium of Light. Rovers remain solidly in relegation on just seventeen points while the Black Cats inch away into fourteenth place.

Amr Zaki’s penalty following Sebastien Bassong’s red card in the 72nd minute gave Wigan a 2-0 lead over Newcastle, enough to survive and earn three points. Danny Guthrie did connect from the spot for Toon on 88 minutes after Chris Kirkland’s penalty but it was not enough to overcome Wigan at the JJB Stadium. Wigan’s victory sends them all the way to ninth place while Newcastle are denied that exact spot and remain in twelfth place.

Finally, a furious rally by Aston Villa saw Arsenal’s 2-0 lead evaporate into a 2-2 draw in the game’s final twenty-five minutes and earn a single point for each club. Denilson and Vassiriki Abou Diaby scored within nine minutes (40th and 49th) to give the visiting Gunners a solid two-goal lead. But Gareth Barry’s 65th minute penalty and┬áZatyiah Knight’s 90th minute equalizer saw Villa keep its three point lead over Arsenal in the standings and tie Man United on points (though not differential). Vill stay in fourth place and Arsenal remain in fifth, now a full three points clear of Everton.


LA Gripe

December 26, 2008

Yesterday the Lakers ended the Celtics’ 19-game winning streak on Christmas Day at Staples Center. Big win for the Lakers and I guess a small measure of revenge for the NBA Finals loss back in June. But what kills me is that the Lakers continue to wear those awful white uniforms. Yesterday was a perfect opportunity to see a good, clean uni-match up between Boston’s classic green and LA’s classic yellow. Boston did their part and wore their very classy green and white looks. They could’ve worn the terrible green with black disasters they have but it was a nice treat to see the regular set. But the Lakers blew it and wore the dopey whites. I know all teams go through different phases with their uniforms and colors but this should’ve been a showcase of the two most classic clubs with the most classic unis.

Anyway, the good news is that the Celtics finally lost and we can now finally stop hearing so much about how they’re going to challenge the ’95-’96 Bulls‘ record of 72-10. Those Bulls were 42-3 at the All-Star break, probably the most amazing basketball statistic outside of Wilt Chamberlain‘s averaging of 50 points per game.


NFL Picks – Week 17

December 26, 2008

nfl

This week marks the end of the regular season in this 2008 season. There are no Saturday or Monday games this week, just a Sunday jammed with sixteen games. There are still a few playoff spots that are available so the Cowboys-Eagles game, the Patriots-Bills, Jets-Dolphins, Giants-Vikings, Jaguars-Ravens, Raiders-Buccaneers and Chargers-Broncos are all paramount to the team’s involved. Additionally, the Lions can be the first team in league history to go 0-16 if they can’t pull off a win at Lambeau Field. Others have gone 0-14 or less in previous scheduling systems but since moving to sixteen games, the worst anyone has done is 1-15 (Patriots, Panthers, Dolphins, Colts a few times, etc.). With all that in mind, here we go:

Kansas City @ Cincinnati – Bengals
Oakland @ Tampa – Buccaneers
Cleveland @ Pittsburgh – Steelers
New England @ Buffalo – Patriots
St. Louis @ Atlanta – Falcons
Chicago @ Houston – Texans
Tennessee @ Indianapolis – Colts
New York @ Minnesota – Vikings
Carolina @ New Orleans – Panthers
Detroit @ Green Bay – Packers
Seattle @ Arizona – Seahawks
Dallas @ Philadelphia – Eagles
Miami @ New York – Jets
Washington @ San Francisco – 49ers
Jacksonville @ Baltimore – Ravens
Denver @ San Diego – Broncos

Results thus far:
Week 1 – 12
Week 2 – 7
Week 3 – 10
Week 4 – 6
Week 5 – 8
Week 6 – 9
Week 7 – 10
Week 8 – 6
Week 9 – 11
Week 10 – 8
Week 11 – 8
Week 12 – 10
Week 13 – 9
Week 14 – 10
Week 15 – 9
Week 16 – 9


Premiership Predictions – Week 19

December 26, 2008

epl

Though it is Christmas week, I haven’t forgotten about picking the matches in today’s unique, all-Friday edition of the Premier League. The biggest game of the day will be at Villa Park as Arsenal and Aston Villa square off for prime position behind the leaders near the top of the table.

Man United @ Stoke City – United
West Brom @ Chelsea – Chelsea
Fulham @ Tottenham – Tottenham
West Ham United @ Portsmouth – Pompey
Bolton @ Liverpool – Liverpool
Hull City @ Man City – City
Everton @ Middlesbrough – Boro
Blackburn @ Sunderland – Sunderland
Newcastle @ Wigan – Newcastle
Arsenal @ Aston Villa – Villa

Results thus far:

Week 1 – 19 points
Week 2 – 16 points
Week 3 – 12 points
Week 4 – 13 points
Week 5 – 13 points
Week 6 – 27 points
Week 7 – 14 points
Week 8 – 22 points
Week 9 – 18 points
Week 10 – 19 points
Week 11 – 11 points
Week 12 – 10 points
Week 13 – 16 points
Week 14 – 13 points
Week 15 – 9 points
Week 16 – 18 points
Week 17 – 11 points
Week 18 – 14 points


Total Reversal for the Yankees

December 24, 2008

ccajI try not to comment about the New York Yankees but the events of the past few weeks have made it all but impossible to stand idly by. Yesterday the Yanks signed Mark Teixeria to an 8-year $180 million contract to play first base in the Bronx. That is on top of $80 given to pitcher A.J. Burnett and $160 million to pitcher CC Sabathia. All told the Yankees have handed out $424 million on those three players alone. Granted, they’re all really good and mostly young but this is completely the opposite direction we were led to believe the club was headed, starting last year.

In the winter meetings last year and through the 2007/2008 winter, Brian Cashman, Yankees GM repeated time and again how the Yankees were going to be building from the ground up instead of signing aging stars for big money contracts. With pitchers Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes as the standard bearers, the Yankees were supposed to be using their farm system to develop young talent and save the club valuable cash. As part of that process, the Yanks refused to trade either Kennedy or Hughes (or both) to the Twins to acquire Johann Santana. Ultimately Santana signed with the cross-town Mets and Cashman was lauded, at least temporarily, for sticking to his guns.

Then 2008 happened and Kennedy and Hughes were either injured or awful (or both) and Santana was amazing for the Mets. I don’t know if that was the straw, as they say, but now the Yankees have returned to their old spending ways. What’s even more interesting is that they may not be done. It’s possible that they could also sign Manny Ramirez to a large contract (though they’d probably only do it on a one-year basis) and add even more power to the lineup.

As currently constituted, the Yankees employ the four highest paid players in the entire league. A-Rod, Teixeira, Sabathia and Derek Jeter. With money off the books this year from Jason Giambi, Carl Pavano and Mike Mussina, the Yanks certainly had money with which to work. But this has been really outlandish. We’ll have to see if adding all these high-priced players really makes a difference or if the Red Sox and Rays will again finish ahead of the Yankees in the AL East in 2009.


Poinsettia Bowl Preview

December 23, 2008

Tonight at 8 (in the east) Boise State and Texas Christian will square off in what is clearly the best non-BCS bowl game this year. Boise comes in with a 12-0 record having been skipped over by Utah and Ohio State for a BCS game. TCU is 10-2 with losses only coming against Utah and Oklahoma, certainly two worthy opponents.

Amazingly, these two teams are each ranked at least 11th in the polls but are playing this game on December 23. But their worthiness for better bowls aside, this should be a great game. Boise will be out to prove that they did in fact deserve to play in the BCS and gets a chance to showcase its skills away from the blue field up in Idaho. That is the best thing for Boise because no one can say that they weren’t willing to play a quality opponent on a neutral field. TCU barely lost to Utah and will be out to prove that they are a program on the rise and deserve to be mentioned with the Utahs and Boises of the world.

I would love to speak with conviction about one team or the other’s chances but really I don’t know who is going to win. I’m speculatively picking Boise in Trey’s bowl pick ’em but I have no solid reasoning for that. I just hope that people will tune in, as I will, to see two teams who don’t get on tv very often. It’s a great chance for Boise and TCU to be on national, prime time tv and put on a good show. And with the game being in San Diego, there is little chance of bad weather having an effect on the outcome of the game.


LaRon Landry Saves Jim Zorn’s Job

December 23, 2008

landry

With the spectacular last-play defense on Reggie Brown, LaRon Landry’s game-saving tackle against the Eagles has officially saved the job of Redskins’ coach Jim Zorn. While it wasn’t certain that if the ‘Skins had lost at home to Philadelphia that Zorn would’ve been fired, the rumblings would’ve been non-stop had that been the case. Instead, Washington won 10-3 and can now finish 9-7 with a win at San Francisco this weekend.

The Redskins had lost three in a row and five of six in November and December before pulling out the big win against the Eagles. That effectively shut Philly out of the playoffs as well though Washington also cannot qualify, regardless of what happens this week. Zorn was hailed as a possible coach of the year candidate after the Redskins started out 6-2 but after sputtering down the stretch, word was spreading that owner Daniel Snyder would fire the first year head coach. Instead, Zorn will remain at the helm and perhaps the Redskins will have something nice to build on if they can beat San Francisco and have two consecutive winning seasons for the first time since the 1996 and 1997 seasons (’97 included the infamous tie in which Gus Frerotte banged his head against the wall).

I think it’s wise for Washington to retain Zorn for at least another year (and hopefully longer). The Redskins have had so many different coaches between Norv Turner, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs, Al Saunders and now Zorn that the players are simply learning new systems almost every single year. Give the guys a year or two in one system and see how it works out. It looks like that’s what the Redskins are going to try and hopefully it’ll be the right move.


Chelsea Blow it Again

December 22, 2008

terryWith another chance to retake the lead in the Premiership, Chelsea have wasted another opportunity in a nil-nil draw at Goodison Park. Everton managed to keep the Blues scoreless while failing to score themselves despite a man advantage for the final fifty-five minutes. John Terry was sent off with a straight red in the 35th minute, reducing Chelsea to ten men. The point does inch the Toffees ever closer to Hull City and within eyesight of European qualification. Chelsea will remain in second position, a point behind Liverpool and just four points clear of surging Aston Villa.