Sunday, November 15, 2009

Give Me Some Torres!

The game against Slovakia was so boring and uninspired I'm at a complete loss for words.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It's Just Not Really Soccer

Two things that have really shocked me this week were seeing, on one end, players hug after what should have been a hard fought battle for the MLS East, and on the other, the dirtiest televised game I have ever seen. At first it seems ironic that such a dirty game took place in women’s soccer, but I’m sure fans of women’s soccer aren’t surprised at all.

I’ve only watched one or two matches of women’s soccer, but I’ve seen enough to know I don’t like it. I love the passing, but I hate how their shots lack power to the extent that you think they must be shooting with the weaker foot. I once happened to stop by a Cal State Northridge women’s game and the aggression was as high as the technical ability was weak. Just not my cup of tea.

But I can’t decide which is worse: women’s soccer mixed with MMA or MLS mixed in with high school reunion.

Bill Simmons of ESPN was once interviewing Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and they discussed how the great familiarity the young players have with one another in the league impacts the tension of the game. Simmons’ point was that since so many of the basketball players have known each other since around age eleven, the games’ lose their edge.

They could be saying the same thing about MLS. At least amongst the US born players, many of the players have known each other from tournaments and youth camps that they are far more friends than foes. In most of the soccer playing world, the losing team would be inconsolable. It’s not a case of those players being immature. It’s just that if you really want something so bad, it’s just too bitter to let your dream go. In MLS that conviction just isn’t there. Kyle Beckerman hugs guys like Robbie Rogers and Frankie Hejduk and you can almost read, “Let’s go get a beer after the interviews” off of Kyle Beckerman’s lips.

Between that MLS match and the women’s soccer match, it becomes painfully obvious that soccer in the US has a long way ahead of itself.

Friday, October 30, 2009

USMNT by Musical Category

Before you know it, it will be time to start getting really excited about the World Cup. The US’s new jerseys should be coming out soon (so far the rumors sound fantastic), and we can all start dreaming of reliving that moment many of us had when the US shocked the world by beating Portugal in their first match of the 2002 World Cup.
So before you decide if you want to go ‘classic’ with a Donovan #10, show your blue collar approach to the game with a Michael Bradley #4, or just be an odd ball by getting a Timmy Howard Goalkeeper jersey, it’s important to think about what all of that really means.

What exactly does your affinity for a player represent? If we were a higher caliber team, or even a more historic team we could be talking about the style of a player. For example, if you are a Messi fan, then you are probably, by extrapolation, a fan who imagines Argentina returning to the glory years under Maradona. If you are a Germany fan and you opt to buy a Michael Ballack shirt instead of a Poldi, Özil or Schweini shirt then maybe you still believe in this idea of Fritz Walther or Lothar Matthaeus bursting through the midfield to save the day (regardless of the fact that Ballack just isn’t that type of player).

In other words, it’s time to look at the players for more than the mere flesh and bones that they are. Since they’re far from tested, and we certainly can’t call them legendary, let’s just look at what they represent if they were music artists.

Let’s face it. This had to happen sooner or later. We’ve already had Deuce’s on the fence inducing “Don’t Tread on Me”, Pablo Mastroeni playing campfire guitar in interviews, and let’s not forget Benny Feilhaber’s pantomime of a Jordin Sparks song.

A few players may have been left out for a number of different reasons. Some players (if they somehow find out about this) may demand a re-sorting. But this ain’t Hogwarts. The placing of players in their particular camps was only done after long and hard deliberation.

How does this work? A panel of experts has been looking for trends within the ranks of our favorite national team players. They have found very few. But one scruffy necked intern with a penchant for the less than wholesome did come up with the following tid-bit.

The problem with the USMNT is the hierarchy. Who’s running this show? We all know it’s not Carlos Bocanegra. So who is it then? Is it Donovan, or Tim Howard? And what would it take for Clint Dempsey to discover his inner Jack Sparrow and hijack this ugly, porous, yet bold vessel of a team and mold it into something he can actually have some fun with?

So, here’s where the factions stand… if they were musical groups.

Clint Dempsey’s Old School Hip Hop/ Reggaeton Collective
Full fledged members: Clint, Jose Francisco Torres, Eddie Johnson, Prospective members: Edgar Castillo, Jermaine Jones

The story: Look closely at the website’s videos of the national team. Not only are Clint and Paco Torres often bus mates (Don’t know for sure if they are roommates in the hotel before games.) ,but when Clint scores and Paco is on the sidelines there’s no doubt who Clint is going to celebrate his goal with. Is it a Texas thing? Maybe. Is it a misunderstood technician thing? Mos def. The Eddie Johnson part of the story is much easier to explain. They both played at Fulham, and there’s a bit of wannabe thug in both of them. It also doesn’t hurt that there’s certainly more homie than Hoss in Clint’s drawl (If he pulled a Ryan Giggs and said he was actually Black, would anyone be surprised?). At any rate, those two co-stars pave the way for the prospective members Edgar Castillo and Jermaine Jones.

Jozy Altidore’s Crunk/House Twitter Mob
Full fledged members: Jozy Altidore, Freddy Adu, Stuart Holden, Maurice Edu, Charlie Davies

The story: For most people this story came together during the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Most fans watched the games to see what Freddy Adu could do on a stage that seemed to be made for him, but Jozy Altidore ended up stealing the show. That was the beginning of Altidore’s ascension to poster boy for the future of US soccer, and a harbinger of what would become of Adu—playing Robin to Altidore’s Batman. Look at Jozy’s twitter account and you will quickly see why I through the other names in the mix.

Landon Donovan’s Boyband Revival
Full fledged members: Landon, Ching Occasional Guest: Carlos Bocanegra Former members: Demarcus Beasley, Pablo Mastroeini

The story: Even if you hated boy bands I’m sure even the hardest haters were a bit sad to see some of the groups break up. The break up of Landon Donovan’s boy band was no different. Demarcus couldn’t keep up. Pablo was started to show his age. Boca’s heart was never in it, and Kyle Beckerman, for all his hair, just couldn’t cut the mustard.

Timmy Howard’s Steel Worker’s Union
(Let’s face it. What hard working steel worker cares a wit about music? I’m not counting country.)
Full fledged members: Tim Howard, Gooch, Jay Demerit, Steve Cherundolo, Frankie Hejduk, Michael Bradley, Conor Casey; Tweener: Carlos Bocanegra

The story: This has been the house band of the US Men’s National Team for the longest. This group used to be headlined by Jeff Agoos, but Timmy has quickly taking the mantle for his own. The reason for its evergreen appeal is simple, work hard, keep your head down and you will keep getting called back.

Solo Artists:
Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, Jonathan Spector, Robbie Rogers, Kenny Cooper

Obviously Landon’s Boyband Revival is going south fast. He’s already filling out a membership card to join the Steel Worker’s Union. And he’s going to have to because Clint’s Collective and Jozy’s Crunk/House Twitter Mob are gaining new members every day. But in the end, you can’t get past the union. They were there before you came, and they will be there after you leave.

I’ll try to keep you updated if the respective agents can get things sorted out for the Christmas album which should be released just after Turkey Day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Soccer or Anti-Soccer

Freddie Ljundberg wrote a piece for soccernet this week (October 23rd, to be exact) that got me thinking. At first I thought, if this is going to be some kind of piece about how great the fans are in Qwest Field up there in Seattle I can pass. But I clicked the hyperlink, read it, and was impressed. Here is a former underwear model who is saying things that the real journalists have been skipping over ever regarding the MLS. What he said could easily be extrapolated entire world of US soccer including the men’s national team.

“[T]he big difference I see is in the buildup of the game. Sometimes in MLS, teams just play physical and hit it long and fight for the ball and then fight for the second ball -- that's a football style that is less about skill and ability.”

Then it dawned on me. We’ve been calling it boring, we’ve been calling it one dimensional; frankly, we’ve been calling US soccer a lot of things, but I finally realized that US Soccer is anti-soccer.

I’ve never spoken to a Mexican fan about this, but let’s face it… if we were Mexican fans, and we had to go up against the USA we would call them anti-footballers. Let’s just look at the evidence.

Fact one: An inordinate amount of our goals come from set pieces
Fact two: When a US defender is in trouble and he has a choice between skillfully dealing with the difficulty or booting it to the sidelines, you know it’s going into the sidelines.
Fact three: Our most skilled ball handlers, Clint “Deuce” Dempsey and Jose Francisco “Gringo” Torres look completely out of place when they are in our midfield. “Why?” you might ask. While they may be great soccer players, they are horrible anti-soccer players.

I could go on.

If you ever listen to a US coach talk about soccer, this idea of anti-soccer should hardly surprise you, it’s just never called by its proper name. You hear things like, “we want to be hard to play”. When I look back at Bob Bradley’s Grant Wahl interview (September 8, 2009), Coach Bradley comes across as a wise man, but a man so entrenched in a ‘safety first’ mindset, it’s amazing the team scores any goals at all. When asked to explain his world view of soccer, he completely deflects the question, because he just might not have one.

Upon further reading it becomes clear that Bob Bradley is an excellent man manager, and certainly a student of the game, but not exactly a master of the game. He reminds me of the soccer Dad who just seems like a really honorable person, who loves the game, and especially enjoys watching his kid enjoy the game. After a hard fought victory, the pride he takes in each successful stride the team makes is so apparent it is nearly palpable. He may not take any team to the promise land, but they will be a team—with eleven men fighting for each other. If the stars properly align it could certainly be enough to get into the second round of the World Cup and maybe even further. But it will come at the expense of being a team known for its ugliness of play, rather than for its skill or ability.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Top ten reasons why Jones is great for the USMNT

Top ten reasons why Jones is great for the USMNT

  1. He can say things like… “Hey Dicker!” and it sounds cool.
  2. He’s got more tattoos than the rest of the team combined.
  3. He says things like…”If I want to hit Van Bommel, I will hit Van Bommel. I’ve got no problem with it.” (It actually sounds a lot tougher in German.)
  4. He started as a forward, so even if he wasn’t prolific, he’s still got some finishing qualities which can come to the fore.
  5. He’s a thug. But he'll be our thug.
  6. Some people say he’s got no allegiance to the US. But those people have never been black and living in Germany. If you’re black and living in Germany it’s ASSUMED you are either African or American. That’s just the way it is. Jones was American the moment he could hold a conversation. Things are changing over there, though…. Ever so slightly.
  7. He plays for a solid team that has experience in the Champions League.
  8. He’s a leader. He was captain of Eintracht Frankfurt, and he’s widely expected to be the captain of Schalke once he gets fit.
  9. His wife is kind of hot.
  10. He’s crazy, but he’s experienced crazy. He’s now got the experience and years under his belt that he knows he doesn’t need to get red cards to assert his authority.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Tell me it aint so!

Ok. To start off with, thank you to everyone for coming. Don't know exactly what held everyone up, but I can imagine (traffic, nagging girlfriends, who knows), Secondly, I'll be the first to say I can play better. Don't know if it's the fact that I didn't warm up properly or what, but I certainly wasn't 100% in the game.

As I see it. Aguilar was not a good team, but they were a team. They all seemed to know each other- where they were running, what kind of passes to serve, who can convert on a cross, etc. We, on the other hand, for obvious reasons, lacked a bit of that.

We played differently from the last game- not quite as compact, and not quite as aggressive. Aguilar was very good at piling up their people up front. That was the secret to their first goal. Their second goal was my mistake. Although I would have loved to think my man was offside, if he was it was just by a hair. I should have had him.

What we did well. Communication I think was a bit better in this game. Using J*** as a playmaker also seemed to work out. Although far from perfect, the defense was able to use the offside trap to some positive effect. Also, morale stayed pretty strong throughout the game. I didn't see anyone hanging their head.

What I (in my humble opinion) think we can improve on: perhaps just a bit more will to win- a bit more determination. I also think that everyone can agree that the passing could be much better. But that often improves with time. It would also be great if the whole team could be there at the designated time.

This loss kind of hit me hard. I hate losing. Better said, I love winning. Think I've said enough. Oh yeah. Next game is more of a home game, as I think none of us live in the valley. I may try to bring some cold beers up to Griffith. If we win, everyone gets one. If we lose, they go home with me. Something needs to motivate us ;)
Feel free to post with your choice of beer. Majority rules. Peter

Thursday, February 8, 2007

That's soccer!

Whoever watched the US v. Mexico game must have felt a bit of remorse for those poor Mexicans. I can't remember the last time a result was so undeserved. My heart goes out to that poor Mexican team that just couldn't convert. But that is also the beautiful game.