Monday, January 04, 2010

Winterstop

Most people would find being a supporter of Canadian soccer in the country's dusty prairies to be a lonely pursuit. Not lonely enough for me. My solitary obsession is following Holland's Eredivisie as closely as is possible, under the circumstances.

Such devotion is draining, which is why I'm always grateful for a break. The current pause is the league's winter holiday, which is given the German-style conjoined name of winterstop. I'll leave the translation to the Einsteins who read this blog.

Eredivisie teams have until the end of the month to step back and refocus for the second half of the season. No better time, then, to take stock of the action from the first half of the year.


AZ's title defense as an illustration of Murphy's Law

In summer of this past year, AZ supporters were on cloud nine. The team had broken PSV's recent streak of dominating the league, had qualified directly for the Champions' League group stage, and looked likely to continue to compete for top prizes in Holland.

Then things started to happen:
  • Louis van Gaal, the man to lead the team to its 2008-09 successes, jumped ship to Bayern Munich.
  • Projected Eredivisie scoring champ, Mounir el Hamdaoui, missed months due to injury and has not since recovered the goal-a-game form with which he began the season.
  • Dirk Scheringa, DSB bank and team owner, went bust.
  • AZ crashed out of Champions League and failed even to qualify for Europa League due mainly to a pair of inglorious results against Belgian side Standard Liege.
  • Coach Ronald Koeman, the man responsible in 2004-05 for my then-inability to find room in my heart for Ajax, despite game tickets and team merchandise being foisted my way by eager Amsterdammers, worked his unmagic with this AZ team, and as a result was fired in December. The team is now being managed by Dick Advocaat, who is keeping up his side gig running the Belgian national team setup.
Since AZ is the side that I nominally support, the first half of the Eredivisie season has been one to forget.

Still, I'm hopeful. With no Europa or domestic cup (another shameful exit) to worry about, the team can afford to be singleminded in its efforts to climb the Eredivisie table. Midsummer transfer rumours involving el Hamdaoui moving to Spain are now laughable due to his precipitous drop in form; if he regains it, AZ will have a formidable striking weapon.


Eredivisie table as you've never seen it before

Here it is:


FC Twente are topping the table. The Enschede side hasn't won the league in the professional era, but for the time being they are well positioned in a two-way race with PSV Eindhoven.

Of interest to CONCACAF observers is that FC Twente rise up the table has been powered largely by Costa Rican forward Brian Ruiz. In fact, the top two goal scorers in the league are from this side of the Atlantic, though the leader hails from considerably further south.


Luis Suarez' goal scoring numbers are even more impressive when you consider his exploits in the Europa and Dutch Cups (8 in 8 matches). While rumours of a Suarez move out of Holland are inevitable, the biggest goal scoring name to depart has been VVV's Keisuke Honda.


Used Honda bought in Russia bad news for Lord Bob


If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll recall that I occasionally update the standings of a contest for the closer observers of this league among you. And here's how it stands:

TEAM PTS PLAYER GOALS
J
AZ 28 Mounir el Hamdaoui (AZ) 7
Ajax 38 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 18


TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 116
Headhunting Canuck
AZ 28 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 18
PSV 45 Balazs Dzsudzsak (PSV) 8


TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 125
Pompey Canuck
PSV 45 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 18
Ajax 38 Jon Dahl Tomasson (Feyenoord) 5


TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 129
Lord Bob
Ajax 38 Keisuke Honda (VVV) 6
FC Utrecht 30 Mounir el Hamdaoui (AZ) 7


TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 94

With Honda gone, LB will be counting on a big second half from el Hamdaoui. I'm in the same boat. This boat is likely headed for an iceberg.


My predictions of things that matter:
  • Luis Suarez won't be transferred and will finish the year with 29 Eredivisie goals.
  • AZ will gradually get untracked and finish in 5th.
  • Twente will backslide a little, and the boeren from Eindhoven, PSV, will be champs.


Oh yeah, Happy New Year to the readers of this blog.

3 comments:

Lord Bob said...

I'm also relying on Luis Suarez and every starter for Ajax blowing two knee ligaments.

Lord Bob said...

Every starter for PSV, rather. I want Ajax to stay healthy, other than Suarez, whose replacement I'm sure would score at an incredible pace.

Maroussia said...

It will be great to watch Bayern Munich, i have bought tickets from
http://ticketfront.com/event/Bayern_Munich-tickets looking forward to it.