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Mosconi Cup - An American Fan's Viewpoint

Posted 11-10-2011 at 10:58 PM by AzHousePro

I wrote this for Snookered magazine, but they already had a Mosconi Cup feature and they decided not to use it. Didn't want it to go to waste. It was written before the Charlie Williams captaincy announcement...

After many months of fans and players stressing over their respective points lists, the names of the players who will represent their home countries have been announced for the 2011 Mosconi Cup. As a fan of the game, I thought I would give you an American fan's perspective on the two teams.

First off, the good guys - Team USA.

Good to see Johnny, Shane and Rodney back on the team. They will form a nice core of players for this year's team.

It seems like Johnny is always on the Mosconi Cup team, and that is a good thing. He has been there before and the pressure will not get to him. He also does a nice job of being a cheerleader for his teammates when they are struggling a little bit. With the absence of Dennis Hatch this year, the team is going to need someone to help boost the moods of the team when Europe wins a couple matches in a row.

Another player who will hopefully help fill Hatch's shoes as a motivator will be Rodney Morris. Another player who has played under the Mosconi Cup lights numerous times and will not be affected by the pressure. Morris is one of those players who seems to relish the bright lights and I have no concerns about the team's chances with him at the table. I also think that his game translates well to Mosconi Cup. He breaks the game down to it's easiest form and usually doesn't complicate things in his play at the table. That will make it easier on the less experienced players when teamed with him.

The last true veteran on Team USA is Shane Van Boening. If we could somehow convince Matchroom to play the Mosconi Cup in 3 day races to 100, I would be willing to bet my house on Shane winning it all. But I don't think that would translate well on TV. Instead we have short races and Shane has shown that he is beatable in short races when every mistake is magnified. Home field advantage should help Shane though, as Vegas probably feels like his second home.

While Shawn Putnam has been here before, it has been over five years away for him. European fans might think that Shawn is our weakest link, but I don't think that way at all. Shawn has elevated his game to another level this year and I think he can compete with any of the players on Team Europe. He also seems to have the ability to shut his emotions off at the table and that is a very powerful ability in the Mosconi Cup pressure cooker.

The last player for Team USA was actually the first player who qualified; Mike Dechaine. If this event were being played back in June or July, I would feel a lot better about Mike in this one. He had a great first half of the year, but has seemed to lack focus in events later in the year. I honestly think that Mike will be very important to Team USA's chances this year. If he can bring his "A game" and keep his emotions under control - something he has proven to be much better at this year - then I think Team USA can win this thing. On the other hand, if the pressure of the event gets to Mike, then Team USA could be in real trouble. In the past, Team Europe has shown themselves ready to get under a player's skin (Daryl Peach, meet Earl Strickland), and Mike needs to be ready for this sort of thing.

Now for the bad guys; Team Europe. First off, please understand that I am writing this more as a fan than a reporter. I want to see Team USA win. Therefore, the members of Team Europe are the bad guys. I will go back to being fans of theirs next year.

As an American fan, the biggest thing I see on Team Europe is the name that is not there; Mika Immonen. Even though Mika has struggled this year, I am happy to not see his name on the list. Even a struggling Mika is scary to cheer against and I feel much better about America's chances without him at the table.

On the other hand, instead of Mika we have the hottest player on the planet over the last month, Darren Appleton. Darren has just finished a month that saw him win a second undefeated US Open and then back that up with a win at the Challenge of Champions. I am not sure I would like Team USA's chances with Mosconi in his prime against Appleton right now. Even when you thought he had made a mistake or seemed to be in a tough spot last year, he found a way to get out of it and finish off the rack. Appleton is a very dangerous man at this event.

Joining him will be his English teammate, Chris Melling. Melling has had his fair share of success in Vegas, but I wonder if the pressure of the Mosconi Cup lights might get to him. Of course, I felt the same way about Karl Boyes last year and look how that ended up. Melling was one of the players who made the team largely based on his play on the Euro Tour this year. While I have nothing against the Euro Tour, I wonder how the finals of a Euro Tour stop compares to the Mosconi Cup.

Remember how happy I was that Mika was not playing this year? That happiness is kind of lessened when I consider this next player on Team Europe; Ralf Souquet. Ralf is like Johnny in that he is always playing at Mosconi Cup; and he always plays well. Actually, he plays better than just "well". Ralf lives for this sort of event. The pressure will not phase him one bit and he can bring his "A game" on demand. While he struggled a little with his health earlier in the year, that is obviously behind him and that makes for a very dangerous player.

Niels Feijen is back on the team this year, and he is another elite level player for Team USA to deal with. I know that Niels has had some distractions this year with the new baby and a small accident earlier in the year, but he looked to be playing just fine at the end of the US Open. Any player that beats Ralf at the US Open is someone you don't want to face at Mosconi Cup. I am thinking about starting up a fund to try to pay for Niels' new baby to come to Vegas for Mosconi Cup and hope that the midnight feeding schedule will get the better of Niels.

Finally, we have Nick Van Den Berg on Team Europe. Nick is a very emotional player and I believe that how he plays early in the event will have a lot to do with his performance for the entire event. A couple wins under his belt early will lead to tough times for Team USA. On the other hand, if Team USA can keep him in the chair and make him question his confidence, they will have a better chance.

Let's not forget team Europe's captain Johan Ruijsink. Both Niels and Nick are very comfortable working with Johan, and I think the rest of the team has the respect for him that is needed to make him a major asset to the team.

As of this time, Team USA's captain has not been announced. If Matchroom goes with tradition and chooses Nick Varner, then I think he will be an equally valuable addition to the Team. Nick has been there many times before and will know how to manage the team to perform at their best.

So, what do I expect this year? Well, if the past is any indication, we will see another great event. No lead will be safe as daily momentum seems to be more important than momentum from day to day. I certainly would not want to put any money on this event, because I think it could go either way. But if I had to make a prediction, I would say Team USA 11-9. At least, I hope so.
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  1. Old Comment
    Well-written article. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed the read!
    Posted 11-11-2011 at 03:34 AM by JAM JAM is offline

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