Spor Toto Super League standings

Monday, January 31, 2011

Jozy Altidore & Freddy Adu Will Head to Turkey on Loan Deals.

With the transfer window closing, many transfers and loans have been made to strengthen teams. In Turkey, teams have scrambled to strengthen their rosters in the four weeks of the winter transfer window. Two loan moves have particularly piqued the interest of American soccer fans. Before these loan moves, Brad Freidel was the only American soccer player that had played in Turkey, playing for Galatasaray for the 1995-96 season. In this transfer window, two more Americans will make their way to Turkey, but playing for two clubs in completely different positions. Freddy Adu will play for Rizespor in the Bank Asya 1st division, and Jozy Altidore was loaned out to defending champions Bursaspor in the Spor Toto Super League.

It's rare to see American players to come to Turkey. Other than Freidel and the two players now mentioned, no other American soccer player have made their way over to Turkey in order to ply their trade. It is interesting to see Adu and Altidore get loaned out to Turkey to continue their careers. Turkey can be a placed where upcoming players can try to get noticed or where veterans can have an Indian summer for their careers. A recent example of the latter is Ricardo Quaresma of Beşiktaş. Quaresma has become really popular with Beşiktaş fans, but he has shown glimpses of the potential he had earlier in his career, where he was considered more technically gifted than Cristiano Ronaldo. Whether Altidore or Adu can continue or resurrect their careers will depend on whether they can get playing time.

Freddy Adu is a curious case. Once considered the savior of American soccer at the ripe age of 14, he has had problems in his career ever since leaving DC United. Spells in such countries as Portugal and Greece has not worked out for him well, although he showed glimpses of his talent during his career. Adu now heads on loan to Rizespor, in the northeast of Turkey near the Black Sea. Rizespor is currently second in the Bank Asya 1st division after this week's matches. This seems like a step down for Adu. Then again, considering he has never lived up to the tremendous hype that was placed on him, this may actually be beneficial for him. He won't have a huge spotlight on him, considering Rizespor is in the second tier of the Turkish soccer pyramid. Rize is certainly not Istanbul, so outside distractions shouldn't be a problem for Adu as it may be if he was loaned out to an Istanbul based team. Should he contribute to a promotion to the Super League for Rizespor, he might be able to be signed on a permanent transfer and play in a league where his profile will be raised and other clubs, whether in continental Europe or Major League Soccer, can pay attention to his progress. Adu will have to work hard to get his profile raised. Another stop in his ever evolving career, Adu may have taken a step down. However, sometimes it is best to try out a club that isn't as well known so that Adu can work on his game and eventually get transferred to a better club.

Jozy Altidore, on the other hand, is going to a major club in Turkey. Confirming through his Twitter account, Altidore will play on loan for the rest of the season, and ply his trade for the defending Turkish Super League champions. He will be the first American to play for the club. Heath Pearce, currently of FC Dallas, would have been the first. But when he had signed for Bursaspor before the beginning of the 2009-10 season, the signing had occurred after the transfer deadline had passed. There had been interest from Bursaspor manager Ertugrul Saglam a few months ago, with Saglam even admitting that he had an interest in acquiring Altidore's services. Altidore isn't going to a major Istanbul club, but Bursaspor is now a club with ambition. With their league championship last season, Bursaspor is now looking to repeat as champions, and be known as the fifth biggest team in Turkey. But Altidore's move to Turkey raises a particular question that many American soccer fans have pondered.

That question is whether Altidore will get playing time while at Bursaspor. Bursaspor recently acquired Kenny Miller from Rangers, and is paying him about 50,000 quid per week. For a club like Bursaspor, that salary is steep, so Miller will almost have to start every match for the rest of the season. Also, Altidore will have to compete for the starting forward spot with not only Miller, but with Turgay Bahadir and Sercan Yildirim as well. Considering the foreigner cap the Turkish Football Federation implements, with a club can have up to six foreigners on the pitch at one time, Altidore will not be starting every game. It seems that Altidore is going from a situation where he was riding the bench for Villareal, to riding the bench for Bursaspor. Altidore is going to have to work hard in order to crack the starting lineup. He might be best suited at this point coming off the bench should Bursaspor be behind in a match, or to seal a win. He won't be starting right away, but if anybody can figure out a way to incorporate Altidore within Bursaspor, it will be manager Ertugrul Saglam. Saglam will have to make due with a wide variety of forwards. Altidore may be going into a situation where he will ride the bench again. But unlike at Villareal, Altidore will have a better chance at getting playing time at Bursaspor. Playing time will be crucial for Altidore's development, and benefit the United States national team should he get that playing time at Bursaspor.

These two loan moves are interesting moves due to the fact that it is extremely rare for American soccer players to play in Turkey. Both will have the opportunity to get time playing on the field, which can only benefit them and the United States national soccer team. But they will have to work for their playing time. Playing in Turkey may revitalize both of the careers of Altidore and for Adu. The question is, will they be able to play, and if so, can they be able to have consistent playing time?

Friday, January 28, 2011

On Kenny Miller & Bursaspor

This past week, Scottish player Kenny Miller recently joined with defending champions of the Turkish Super League, Bursaspor. With Miller set to receive about 50,000 quid per week, this has to rank as one of the priciest transfers in Bursaspor's history. Bursaspor have had to take out sponsorships in order to afford Miller's salary. But the real question will be how Miller will fare in Turkey. There hasn't been much success stories in terms of Scottish players going to a country outside of the British Isles. Perhaps the question to be asked is why is he headed to Turkey, even if it is for the money?

Bursaspor may have been champions last season. But for the money that Miller is going to be paid, it seems that the salary is steep for a club that has only risen to the top in the last year or so. The salaray may be an issue in the future, as Gençlerbirliği player Michael Stewart quickly found out. Stewart had not been paid by his club for a good few weeks, and has recently appealed for the cancellation of the contract due to unpaid wages. While Bursaspor certainly has more money than the Ankara based club, the salary is still a question mark. Miller may have a good goal scoring prowess while in the Scottish Premier League, but he'll have to adapt to a physical league in Turkey.

The league has been known to be a very physical league at times. Players do complain about the physicality from time to time, or players not used to harsh tackles. Miller will be a target for defenders who will look to snuff out any Bursaspor attack going through Miller.

The fans of Bursaspor have been very warm in its reception of Miller. While Miller looked to be very dour when he had arrived in Istanbul, which could be attested to the fact that there were many reporters in his face looking for an interview or some sort of comment. After arriving in Bursa, he was greeted by thousands of Bursaspor fans and seemed to be more upbeat. The fans will love him if he keeps up the scoring rate he had at Rangers, but Bursaspor will have to adjust their attack with adding him to the squad. The atmosphere he will experience at Bursa can rival any of the big 3 Istanbul clubs. But whether Bursaspor fans will regard him warmly in the future will have to depend on how he performs on the field.

Miller recently made his debut for Bursaspor in a 0-0 draw against Konyaspor. Coming on in the 65th minute, he attempted to get into space for Bursaspor's attack. However, in the end he didn't feature much. To be fair, this was his first appearance for Bursaspor. The real impact of Miller's signing with Bursaspor will come in the bigger games, with opponents such as Galatasaray, Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, and Trabzonspor to name a few. Should Miller help his club to beat these clubs, Bursaspor fans will surely regard him as a great addition to the club.

Perhaps Miller's greatest adjustment will have to be to the country and city itself. Bursa is better known as a destination for skiers and winter sports aficionados. It may not have the flair of Istanbul, but it is the fourth largest city in Turkey. Compared to Istanbul, there isn't much in terms of nightlife. However, Miller's job will have to be a footballer first. Players going out for a drink at a bar or such isn't tolerated as much in Turkey as say Great Britain, as long as he doesn't drink too much. Also, heading into a majority Muslim country can affect some players who haven't seen a Muslim country. Bursa is one of the more liberal cities in Turkey so he shouldn't have a problem adapting there.

All in all, the move seems like it may work out. Should Miller adjust his game to adjust to the physical Turkish style, he should be able to score goals like he did at Rangers. Considering the amount being paid for Miller, Bursaspor fans are not going to be expecting less.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Five Questions to Ask for the 2nd Half of the Season

With the second half of the Turkish Super League season on the horizon, there are many questions to ask. After a first half of the season featuring Anatolian teams leading the way for much of the season, it seems likely that the league title will stay outside of Istanbul for a second consecutive season. That hasn't happened since 1977, when Trabzonspor repeated as champions. So with that there are five questions to ask before the second half of the Turkish Super League begins.

1) Will the league title stay in Anatolia?

One of the stories during the first half of the Turkish Super League season was the performances of the Anatolian teams, particularly Trabzonspor, Bursaspor, and Kayserispor. Except for a freak loss to Manisaspor at home, Trabzonspor has been the class of the league. Trabzonspor has given up the least amount of goals so far with ten, and scored the most so far with forty. Manager Senol Gunes has created a squad that has come a long way since he initially took over at the beginning of 2010. The team may have suffered a heartbreaking loss in Europe to Liverpool, but Trabzonspor has not only been the class of the league, they have a healthy five point gap between themselves and Bursaspor at the top of the table. Defending champions Bursaspor have proven that they are not a fluke this season, as they had a string of eight consecutive weeks at the top of the table, only to be overtaken by Trabzonspor. Ertugrul Saglam's squad may have suffered a disappointing Champions League run, but that should be taken as a learning experience. They have been quiet during the winter transfer window. However, as the only team within reasonable striking distance of Trabzonspor at the top of the table, Bursaspor is able to overtake Trabzonspor should the leaders stumble. Bursaspor currently has 37 points, five points out of first place. Kayserispor has stumbled a bit at the end of the first half. A few injuries to some key players such as Franco Cangele and Marcelo Zayaleta have cost Kayserispor points as the first half of the season wound down. However, manager Shota Arveladze has done well even with the injuries and has Kayserispor within one point of overtaking Fenerbahçe for third place. This is an impressive job considering that this is Arveladze's first managerial job of any kind. With players recovering, it would not be surprising for Kayserispor to aim even higher. Considering that the big 3 Istanbul clubs have stumbled this season, an Anatolian champion is very likely.

2) Considering they have been in the transfer headlines, how will Beşiktaş do?

Beşiktaş have stolen the transfer headlines again. With the transfers of Hugo Almeida from Werder Bremen, Simao Sabrosa from Atletico Madrid, and the loan of Manuel Fernandes, there seems to be a Portuguese revolution occurring at Beşiktaş. With these moves, and considering Ricardo Quaresma and Guti are already on the club, Beşiktaş has retooled for what seems like a run at the Turkish league title and a deep run in the Europa League knockout rounds. Even with these transfers, team chemistry is the big question here. The three new players will have to get acclimated quickly because of tremendous expectations from the Beşiktaş fans, especially from the Çarşi supporters group. They will also have to get used to manager Bernd Schuster's system, and get used to their new teammates. In order to make room for them, Beşiktaş will have to release a few foreigners or send them out on loan. Beşiktaş is currently in fifth place with 28 points, 14 points out of first place. So it seems that the best that Beşiktaş can do is possibly get the second Champions League spot. However, a few bad results for the teams above them currently, and Beşiktaş could be right back in the championship mix. Unlike the other teams though, Beşiktaş will also have the Europa League knockout rounds to contend with. Should they make a deep run, fatigue could also be a factor not only in Europe, but domestically as well. It's very likely that Beşiktaş will not win the league title this year, but they can be considered a favorite for the league title next year.

3) How will Galatasaray recover from a disastrous first half of the season?

If someone asked a Galatasaray fan, before the season started, where they would be when the winter break came around, they'd most likely say either leading or within striking distance of the leader in the table. Ninth place at this point would have been unthinkable, but that is exactly where Galatasaray is at the moment. After getting off to their worst start in nearly twenty years, sacking previous manager Frank Rijkaard before the Fenerbahçe derby, and bringing in Gheorghe Hagi as the new manager, winning a league title this season for Galatasaray is near impossible. Add to the fact that the Zveijdan Misimovic transfer has been nothing short of a total disaster. Injuries have also taken their toll on Galatasaray as well, considering team captain Arda Turan's lengthy absence due to injury. Galatasaray will be opening up a brand new stadium and their fans are very antsy as to the team's performance in the previous seventeen weeks. They will expect Galatasaray to come right out of the gate and win, nothing else will suffice. They have made some moves during the transfer window, most notably bringing in Fenerbahçe outcast Colin Kazim-Richards and Juan Culio from CFR Cluj. But considering that the first half of the season was a disaster, Galatasaray will need to have a lot of results to go their way in order for them to even get near the European spots in the table.

4) Is Fenerbahçe going to contend for the league title?

Fenerbahçe is probably the only team out of the Istanbul big 3 that can consider their first half of the season to be somewhat successful. While third place and a nine point gap between them and the top might not look like a success, considering the comparative performances of their inner Istanbul rivals, Fenerbahçe looks in better shape. Manager Aykut Kocaman has done well considering that Fenerbahçe has the toughest start to the season, playing Kayserispor, Trabzonspor, and Beşiktaş within the first five weeks. The start to the second half of the season will be extremely rough for Fenerbahçe. They have an away match to Antalyaspor to start off, host both Trabzonspor and Kayerispor in weeks 19 and 21 respectively, and have to travel to Inonu stadium to play Beşiktaş in week 22. Manisaspor is sandwiched between the Trabzonspor and Kayserispor matches, and Manisaspor is not a club to be taken lightly. So the first five weeks of the second half for Fenerbahçe is possibly the toughest schedule in the league. Fenerbahçe recently lost to TFF 2nd division (third tier) outfit Yeni Malatyaspor in the Turkish Cup group stages, thereby eliminating them from the competition entirely. However, with one less competition to worry about, Fenerbahçe can concentrate on climbing the ladder and potentially contend for the league title. Fenerbahçe has been quiet on the transfer front, not making any transfers to bolster their roster. Either Aykut Kocaman knows something that Fenerbahçe fans don't, or the second half of the season will be a long one for Fenerbahçe fans.

5) Who will win the Turkish Super League championship?

The question everyone wants answered. The only reasonable answer to this question is to find out by watching. A lot of interesting stories will develop in the second half of the season. This may be another year where the championship will be raised by a club outside of Istanbul. Or the championship will return to Istanbul after a freak occurrence in the Turkish football landscape. Regardless, it should be a second half to watch.