With the Go-Go-USA lovefest starting to fade into the rearview mirror, we’ve reached the one time of year tough for soccer fans—the dog days of July. It’s always tougher to deal with the dog days after the excitement of a major international tournament, and nearly impossible after a World Cup. A week removed from the World Cup Final, soccer junkies from Atlanta to Australia are stuck, for the moment, in soccer Siberia. Essentially soccer’s dog days of July are similar in misery to the sporting month they reference—baseball’s “dog days of summer”, which are the brutal just past 100 games but not close to September stretch of the schedule played in the big leagues in late July and August, featuring frequently poorly played and error-prone games where the goal is to avoid injury and as a team try not to lose the division before you win it in September. In soccer, it is a time most the high-level European leagues use for training and preparation for the coming grind, but it also features poorly-played, error-prone lifeless affairs like the “match” we saw today (or hopefully for some of you didn’t see) between Tottenham Hotspur and the San Jose Earthquakes in the scorching Santa Clara heat. If lifeless isn’t enough—you can have error-prone and devastatingly poor, such as the display the New York Red Bulls put on tonight in front of newly inked designated player Thierry Henry. Even after playing for a hopeless, shameful and embarrassing France this June, Henry had to be terrified watching his “team” tonight.
There’s one bright spot to the fan’s journey through Soccer’s Sahara, however, and it isn’t the obvious fact that high-level football is just around the corner. No sir— it is the absolutely maddening comedy that is the summer transfer window. With no games to speak of, usually reliable soccer outlets crank up the rumor mill to Perez Hilton fever pitch, with no respect for journalistic credibility and integrity. Indeed, it gets so ridiculous at times you wonder if that paragon of journalistic credibility, Bleacher Report, would blush. Seriously, if you want attention for your website—just type a two sentence post “Diego Forlan to Chelsea. Multiple sources close to those close to the entourage of Forlan,” and you’ll probably end up on the first page of Google.
Given the Go-Go-USA summer that was certainly (and happily, I’d add) endeared many to the U.S. Men’s National Team, interest in the whereabouts and movement of our Yanks at home and abroad is at fever pitch. No question this higher level of attention, excitement and scrutiny is a great thing for the sport at home and for the American players, but it also requires a fan to have a general understanding of how these things work. To help you out as you try to wrap your head around a rumor mill and summer transfer season that beckons the great Bad Religion record Stranger than Fiction—we here at The Yanks Are Coming proudly present our “Transfer Window Rumor Survival Guide.” To make it more interesting, we’ll dash through the first wave of USMNT transfer rumors using our guide. The critical rule—call it The Yanks Are Coming transfer theorem, is in bold below:
Most of all, the name of the publication matters most. Second, whether or not the move makes soccer-sense can bolster the claim of a publication/source fighting a credibility crisis. Finally, beware the Ful-America trap…
The first tell-tale sign that a rumor is probably fantastical is always going to be the name of the publication. With all due respect to the spot-on National Enquirer, Tiger Woods sensationalist rumor turned reality happens only once a blue moon. As such, you need to establish a mental list assigning reliability to each publication. Here’s the one we’ve kicked around for a few summers.
“They Are Who We Thought They Were”, or Papers/Sources you can trust:
Actual Team Websites, Sky Sports, Fox Soccer Channel, Soccer by Ives, ESPN Soccernet, beat writers for the actual clubs (for example- Chris Flanagan at the Lancashire Telegraph, writing about Sunderland). You can probably rely on these folks almost all the time. Once they get a hold of a rumor, there is likely a great deal of merit to it and they probably have quotes in their article or (most important if they don’t) have access to sources/the player directly or his representation that make the rumor legitimate.
US Rumors Currently Falling Into This Category: Clint Dempsey and Donovan (not leaving), Jozy Altidore with a host of suitors. Remember in the context of Donovan, however, that outside of the Don Garber-Landon Donovan saga—and even there be careful because as Jason Davis reminded us this weekend Donovan hasn’t said anything and while you can be mad at Garber—we don’t know what offers are/were on the table and anything beyond what we know (he’s not for sale, Garber quote) is speculative. The Dempsey rumor is a bit more reliable, as it comes from SKY SPORTS and has been reiterated on Soccernet. It started with a paper close to the club, and from a soccer perspective it makes a great deal of sense. As far as Altidore is concerned, it is from MLS Soccer’s website, which is reliable, and it notes that several clubs scouted Altidore at the World Cup in person, including Turkish Champions Bursaspor, champions league sides Ajax and Celtic, Espanyol, and Napoli. The latest stories also quote Lyle Yorks, who is Jozy’s agent, and it suggests that many of the deals are “loan deals”, which mean Villareal still fancy Altidore but believe he needs more polish to avoid being an American Emile Heskey.
“Practice! You guys are talkin’ about practice!! Not a game. Not a game. Practice,” or, Papers/Sources that should raise an eyebrow:
The Daily Mail, Mirror Football, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Goal.Com, The Daily Post. These folks aren’t always talking about a game. Sometimes they get a whiff of something and just run with it. They aren’t the National Enquirer either, but you need to understand that sometimes the speculation is not quite as rooted in reality. It is with these publications you employ the following two-prong test:
- Does the club have a history with the US Men’s National Team?
- What does their budget look like? Is it small-to-mid-size?
If the answer is yes to both questions, you’ll likely find that the rumor is LESS LIKELY to be accurate. The first part is the “Ful-America Trap.” Most publications feel a bit better about publishing sensationalist things when they can point to history and say— “Hey, Brian McBride played for Fulham and so did Boca, etc, etc—so clearly the interest in Altidore is more than rumor.” This is where you need to divorce the reason you think that sounds compelling from the reality—that it is baseless until there is tangible evidence/reason to believe it. If you follow this test—you’re also more likely to familiarize yourself with whether the move makes sense from a soccer standpoint, which is the critical question when a rumor truly is fifty/fifty. If it does—there’s a better chance the rumor has merit.
US Rumors Currently Falling Into this Category: Michael Bradley to Blackpool—would have been a lateral move from Borussia Munchengladbach anyway (so it makes no soccer sense) and Bradley not leaving a club at the mid-bottom of Germany to play for a side that will fight relegation. Disproven at this point too. Granted—they’ve no real history with American players either, so this one is disqualified for the second part of the two-prong test, coupled with the source—The Daily Mail, who I think at times at least simply sends a writer blindfolded into a room with posters of each EPL club on the wall, says the name of a player and tells him to point. “Voila!! Kaka to Chelsea.” It is important to apply credibility tests to anything associated with MB 90 this summer after his immense World Cup. Also, Jay DeMerit to an EPL first-tier side, mainly because this falls into the “teams with history of American players” category—and I doubt Watford loses their captain. DaMarcus Beasley to Blackpool—again—slightly out of context with the two-prong test, but it is from The Telegraph, who essentially summarizes wild rumors. It does make more soccer-sense for DMB and Blackpool though—Beasley has EPL experience, is out-of-work for the time being and could provide a pacy option to a team that will struggle to generate offense.
Brett Favre is throwing footballs to high school receivers in Hattiesburg again. Obviously he’s coming back, especially because he had two eggs this morning before the workout, instead of one, OR, Papers/Sources that Make Bleacher Report Seem like a Paragon of Virtue:
Bleacher Report, The Sun, Football Transfer Rumors
More or less, the rumors you read from these sources will make you excited, especially if you are a fan of a team. I love reading “Diego Forlan to Everton” with my morning coffee. I also like the BMW 7 Series. I know that I am not getting a 7 Series tomorrow, and I know that Diego Forlan is not playing for Everton next year. That little short story ought to tell you all you need to know about rumors you read that sound outrageous but get your heart going. Let’s try one, just to make sure you are prepared.
“Luis Suarez to Tottenham Hotspur.”
In all likelihood, as Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy said so eloquently, “That’s not true!!”
US Rumors Currently in this Category: Oguchi Onyewu loan rumors that have a specific destination fall into this category until Milan say something about it publicly. By all accounts, Onyewu is well-liked and respected at AC Milan, and they’ll want to see if their big summer splash last year can help them before they ship him elsewhere.
That’s about it. Follow these simple rules and you’ll weather the crazy, stranger than fiction dog days of July world that is summer transfer season. Weathering more performances like what we saw tonight from the New York Red Bulls, however, is something we can’t help you with. Enjoy the Robbie Keane-Henry pregame handshake next week though–I know I will!!