FOOTBALLS ARE ROUND!

Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things


April 24, 2005

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FC DALLAS v Real Salt Lake


by @ 8:33 am.
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So the first time Carlos Ruiz went to ground tonight, in the 3rd minute, he got right up. He’s learning about America, the man is.

After that blatant foul, Richard Mulrooney beat our old friend D.J. Countess like a drum on the resulting fee kick. We’re getting off to fast starts at the venerable Cotton Bowl this season. It was a beautiful curling free kick from about 20 yards out; over the wall and just inside the left post. 1-0 for the good guys before the fourth minute is gone. Schweet.

RSL have one of my favorite players, Rusty Pierce. He’s a good tough defender, but I like him simply because he’s from UNCG, where I spent a couple of my junior years. I had about five junior years, but that’s a whole different story. When I was there, The G owned Division III soccer; they were a dynasty. Now they’ve moved up to Division I and have made the NCAA Tournament now and then, but aren’t yet the dominant force they once were.

It pains my heart every time they show a shot of the Inferno; I SHOULD BE THERE WITH THEM! Oh how I wish I had the means to make more home games. The drums sound great and you can hear the singing loud and clear. Travis is wearing the Horn Hat again, I see. I’m hoping he came up with a different method of attaching said horns this week. The last time, well, it wasn’t pretty folks, let me just leave it at that.

Dipsy Selolwane.

I didn’t have a comment; I just really like typing and saying “Dipsy Selolwane”. In fact, I may start using his name as an interjection . . . as in DIPSY SELOLWANE what a goal!!

Clint Mathis should have scored on that volley. Jason Kreis set him up nicely, having made a nice run down the right. I hope Jason got a standing ovation when he was introduced.

OH! 23rd minute: Ruiz just beat Countess, but not the far post, and Talley got to the rebound before D.J., but he was able to make the save.

Marlon Rojas just got Ronnie O’Briened in the box, but our favorite Irishman shot just high with his left foot. Hey I just made up a new adjective for “burned” . . . maybe it’ll catch on. Let’s all try to fit that into a casual conversation this week, shall we?

Eddie Johnson just missed a header from about 10 yards out in the 34th. That’s okay, though; you guys just keep letting him run around unmarked like that . . . I’m begging you .

DIPSY SELOLWANE what a goal! Just as I finished typing the last paragraph, Marlon Rojas got O’Briened again, but this time by Eddie, who nailed the left-footed shot past Countess. 2-0 to the Good Guys, 35th minute.

Halftime.

Rusty Pierce opens the second half by dropping Eddie in the box, but no call was forthcoming. Eddie was down for a few seconds, and you could hear the collective sound of every person in the house sucking wind in fear. Of course it wasn’t many people sucking wind, because it doesn’t look like more than 6,000 in the seats tonight.

Which is depressing.

Jason just forced Scott Garlick into his first real save of the night. And it was a beauty, because Jason hit it well; low and hard across the face of the goal. Scott got low and put a hand on it to keep it out.

Dallas came right back on the counter and Eddie rocketed a shot off the crossbar. I believe D.J. heard the ringing of the crossbar before he even reacted to the shot. The move Eddie put on Rojas . . . well, no one should have to be subjected to that. It just ain’t fair. Poor Marlon may be contemplating his employment alternatives after tonight’s game. It’s been just that bad for the kid.

Simo just got a yellow card, proving beyond all doubt that the Universe is unfolding as it should. It’s really not even an official game until Valakari’s been cautioned, is it?

Rusty Pierce fouls Carlos Ruiz in the box. No, really. He did. Carlos didn’t even have to think about diving. Not that he would ever do anything like that, of course. D.J. had no chance on the PK, and our heroes are now up 3-0.

If it’s not apparent by now, let me just state for the record that RSL have some real defensive issues. The foul that led to the penalty came about only because the great Eddie Pope got truly and goodly scorched by Ruiz, who made a beeline for the box, where Pierce was able to catch up to him, but not tackle him cleanly. ReAL are going to have to score bunches of goals the rest of the season if they’re going to offset this tendency. Bunches.

Eddie Pope and Eddie Johnson got their feet tangled at the top of the RSL penalty area, and they both went down. The referee, Mr. Grajeda, called a foul, and, shockingly, showed Pope a straight red card. For the life of me I don’t think he had that coming. It was barely even a foul. I think there’s an outside chance he may have got tossed for something he said to the ref after the whistle blew, but if so, it must have been something really naughty. Otherwise, I just don’t get it.

Eddie got up after a few minutes on the ground, and he was able to walk off on his own. Still, too scary for me.

On the ensuing free kick, D.J. Countess made one of the best saves of his young life. Ronnie O drilled a shot through the wall, D.J. didn’t even see it until the last second, and he made a gorgeous diving reaction save to his left. The rap on Countess has been that he makes the spectacular look easy, but the easy look difficult. He certainly did the former just then.

Eddie comes back on the field. Everybody can breathe again. At this point, with 10 minutes to go, I’d be happy with the boys being home and dry. After watching Eddie go down like that, my blood lust for a 4th goal has abated somewhat.

Having said that, however, I have to say it’s starting to look like shooting practice on the RSL side of the field. I love, LOVE the fact that Colin Clarke doesn’t have the boys take their foot off the gas in games like this. I think it was Anson Dorrance who once said the greatest respect you can show your opponent is to score as many goals as you can against them.

That’s the game. FCD 3-0 Real Salt Lake. Our boys have 10 points out of 12 possible and lead the West.

Pinch me.

See you next week, kids.

MLS NOTES: WEEK 4


by @ 8:28 am.
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April 21, 2005

NEW BLOGS


by @ 11:42 am.
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Ramblings of a Soccer Junky, by Eric.

Du Nord: News for Futbol Fans, by Mig

We like ‘em, we read ‘em, we links ‘em. The staff of Footballs are Round (which is to say, me) says check ‘em out.

April 18, 2005

MLS NOTES: WEEK 3


by @ 11:16 am.
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STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: CHIVAS V FC DALLAS


by @ 11:05 am.
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STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: Chivas v FC Dallas

This is some serious old school Stream of Consciousness this week. I’m without a computer tonight, as I’ve lent out my laptop to a friend for a business trip (his laptop, I kid you not, was eaten by his dog). So I’m writing with pen and legal pad, and will have to either go to Kinko’s or find a loaner to word process this thing and then send it on to Buzz.

I feel soooo 1990.

The secondary challenge, of course, will be reading my own handwriting in order to transcribe. You would think a public school teacher would have legible handwriting; you’d be wrong though, if you thought that. My own fifth grade teacher once told me she couldn’t tell the difference between the six weeks I had to write left handed due to a football injury, and my regular penmanship. She was blunt, but she had a point. Just for the record, Mrs. Moran, you were a mean teacher and I never liked you.

So anyway.

Bobby Rhine at right forward? I didn’t see this coming, as he’s been groomed for a defensive spot since pre-season, up to and including last week’s training. I don’t mind, however, he’s fast, gives good service, and can shoot. I’ve always been a Bobby fan; good on him. I hope he scores.

I kinda like the grey road unis. Very understated. Classy. Simpler is better when it comes to soccer uniforms. Any of you who remember the first year of MLS know exactly what I’m saying here. Those uniforms were hideous. They scared small children. The surplus replicas from those days have been sold to prisons to be worn in solitary confinement by the worst offenders, as punishment. Cruel and unusual? You betcha.

Carlos Ruiz is taking heaps of verbal abuse from the Chivas crowd at the Home Depot Center. Cretins. WHY CAN’T THEY LEAVE THAT POOR MAN ALONE?

Ronnie, Ruiz and Eddie are really starting to develop an understanding, a rhythm; they’re not firing on all cylinders yet, but you can tell it’s coming along nicely, especially compared to opening night at the Cotton Bowl (which, by the way, wasn’t all that bad in the first place).

Every time Christian Miles mentions Ronnie O’Brien’s name, he affects an Irish accent. Christian, buddy, it’s just not working. Stop it. I know the temptation to is overwhelming, and if I was in your place, I’m sure I’d be tempted too. But you sound like a drunken Welshman with a speech impediment. Just say no.

David Wagenfuhr is doing pretty solid work as an overlapping defender. He’s gotten some good crosses in, and is causing Chivas some trouble. Reminds me of Paul Broome (which I mean as a compliment). I loved watching Broome streak down the left side and attack. I don’t think he’s getting much PT in Los Angeles. I’m don’t know why.

Guzan isn’t a bad goalkeeper for Chivas. He’s pretty confident for a rookie, especially one who left school after his sophomore year. Dallas are peppering in crosses like crazy and he seems to have command of the area. What they’re going to do when Zuniga gets healthy, I don’t know.

This is a pretty thin crowd, by the way. Loud, but thin. Where are the masses of Mexican- Americans? I’m guessing they’re at home, watching on the tube in their Club America shirts, hoping Chivas get their heads handed to them by El Pescadito. But that’s just a guess.

Chivas have a great slogan by the way: “Adios Soccer, El Futbol Esta Aqui”. Sweet.

It looked for all the world like the first half had no goals in it. But Ronnie O just scored a goal that cannot be described in English. So let me just say:

GOL – LAZ – O

Golazo, golazo, gollllllllllllllllllaaaaaaaaaaaazoooooooooooooooo.

Left side of the goal, at least 35 yards out, Ronnie lets loose; a gorgeous curling shot that hits a perfect upper 90 to Guzan’s right. No chance. No keeper in the world gets that shot. Sublime. 99% of the players on the face of the earth have no business even taking that shot. This guy is a special player; I can’t even describe how lucky we are to have him around.

Of course, what happens three minutes later? Chivas tie the game (insert naughty words of your own choosing). Actually a very nice header by Thiago. I didn’t see who got beat, but whoever it was mistimed their jump just by a fraction of a second, which was enough to let it get to Thiago, or Thiba, or whatever he has on the back of his shirt this week. Pick a name and go with it, man.

The second half has been mostly midfield possession play, with the good guys getting the best of it. I’d go into more detail, but man, I’m hurtin’. This writing with pen and paper is for the bridsu. No wait, for the BIRDS. Man I gotta take some remedial penmanship. This is embrqddinbg embarrassing.

HAND CRAMP!!

Okay, all better. Beer: is there anything it can’t do?

Oh my. The shameless homers calling the game for the LA station just had the gall, the TEMERITY, to accuse my man Ruiz of taking a dive in the 85th minute. Carlos Ruiz, taking a dive? Have these slandering scoundrels no shame? I may very well have to write a strongly worded letter about th . . .

Oh . . . hold the phone. Replay coming up.

Well, um, now that I’ve seen it in slow-mo, perhaps Mr. Ruiz did go to ground just a tiny bit easier than was strictly necessitated by the laws of physics. But he WAS fouled. Let’s make no mistake there. What are ya gonna do, though? The kid’s a showman, I tell ya, a showman; he’s giving the people their money’s worth.

Yeah. That’s it.

Anyway, he was in fact fouled, by Ryan Suarez, who, after fouling him, proceeded to get absolutely clocked by Guzan who was coming out to cut the angle. Ryan isn’t moving, and he’s face down on the turf. This is kinda scary.

CR converts the PK, and the good guys are ahead, but I’ll be able to take more joy in it when I hear something about Suarez (note: I learned later he regained consciousness shortly being after taken off the field and was taken to the hospital for observation).

Eddie adds one more goal in injury time, and all the sudden FC Dallas has seven points out nine possible in the first three games, and are leading the West. This is pretty much a dream start. But, having said that, let me add just three words:

Knock.

On.

Wood.

However, for now, my friends, let’s enjoy the party while the music’s still playing; know what I mean?

See you next week.

April 10, 2005

I DON’T HEART HEARTS


by @ 9:33 pm.
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You know, sometimes I ponder “Hmm, which soccer team do I hate most, in all the world?”

Sometimes it’s ManU, because they’re like the Yankees, and I hate the Yankees.

Sometimes it’s Chicago, because, well, I’m a Dallas Fan.

Other times, I really hate the Galaxy. No elaboration needed.

Then again, whenever we play Mexico, they seem like a pretty good pick.

The question has now been settled for all times.

MLS NOTES: WEEK 2


by @ 9:19 pm.
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I didn’t get to see every game, of course, because, ahem, Dallas/Colorado and DC/Chicago WERE NOT TELEVISED!!

What’s up with that, I don’t know. But I know I don’t like it.

Anyway, here are the, somewhat abbreviated, first notes for the 10th MLS Season.

April 6, 2005

MLS PREVIEW


by @ 8:27 am.
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[Editor's note: okay, I know this is a bit late, so sue me. At least it was written in time, and published on time (on 3rd Degree), I just forgot to post it here.]

DJ’s FIRST ANNUAL MLS PRE-MIERE PRE-SEASON PRE-VIEW

Fasten your seatbelts, we’re about to take a whirlwind tour of the ’05 MLS season, team by team.

Now friends, a lesser man might organize a column like this with some boring traditional method, such as “by division” or, “east to west” or some such nonsense. Not I. No, in my little world, teams are organized in order of how much I despise them.

The first few, of course, I despise greatly. Not on a personal, moral, or spiritual level (for the most part), but rather in a wholesome friendly soccer way, which any fan can appreciate. Yet for all that, despise them I do.

The next few after that, I don’t despise at all. Some of these teams, I have actually developed a certain fondness for. The newbies, naturally, I haven’t had the chance to despise yet, so time will tell.

And naturally, we’ll wrap it all up with my beloved Dallas Bur . . . uh, FC Dallas, who’s timeless red and bla . . . uh, blue and red uniforms are the stuff of dreams.

Dreams of making the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, but dreams nonetheless.

Ready? Okay then, as Samuel L. Jackson said in Jurassic Park: “Hold on to your butts”.

CHICAGO FIRE

This team, of course, I despise very much. Even more so than the dirty dirty Galaxy (see infra). I gladly give them due respect as a Championship team, and I give them credit for shipping that odious little punk Dema to United. Fine. But still and all, I despise this team greatly. Mostly because their fan base (WAFNE*) is made up of Cretins and cluetards. Really. Going to BigSoccer and reading the Fire forum is like grading papers in a remedial reading class. Not only are the thoughts insipid, they’re incomprehensible as well. (note to Fire fans: Get Segroves to explain the big words to you).

Then, of course, there is the fact that in all of MLS, there is no finer rivalry than a Brimstone Cup match. We loves to play Chicago. We loves it. Especially over the last few years when we’ve owned them like Warren Buffet owns the stock market. And while I am genetically unable to not hate Chicago, I hate them less in years when Dallas owns The Cup, simply because the hatred becomes mixed with pity for the wailing and gnashing of teeth the Section 8 types go through.

And by pity, of course, I mean glee.

And before you start sending me nasty emails, Fire fans, remember, I kid because I love.

ON THE FIELD: Chicago has Zach Thornton back in goal, a healthy Chris Armas, and a couple of new guys who are supposed to be scorers. So, as per usual, they’ll be trouble for every team in the league. They’ll lose the Brimstone series, of course, but they’ll be good.

PREDICTION: What am I, Kreskin over here? You want predictions, read the horoscopes.

*WAFNE – with a few notable exceptions. You guys know who you are.

LOS ANGELES GALAXY

Oh, thou dirty dirty Galaxy. Oh, how love to hate thee. Manifold are the ways that I hate thee. I despise thee, hate thee and likest thou not. Thou hast nothing likeable in thee, and in thee is nothing to love. Thy mother lovest thee not, and thy dog, yay thy faithful hound doth not care for thee as well.

Sorry.

Okay, so here’s a team that is a perennial semi-finalist who fires the best coach this country has ever produced, save one. That right there is enough to despise them. But oh, there’s soooo much more.

For instance: two words – El Pescadito. The whiniest, nastiest, floppingest pretty-boy to ever wear white soccer shoes. He’s a disgrace. An utter disgrace. Carlos Ruiz makes Amado Guevara look like Franz Beckenbauer. He dives, he cries, he plays dirty, and he pouts. He acts like a petulant child who needs nothing more in this world than a smack.

On the other hand, he scores. A lot. Really, somebody should sit him down and talk with him about the flopping. You don’t need that, young man. You’re better than that. Do you hear me? YOU’RE BETTER THAN THAT!

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Just prior to press time, I found out that Carlos Ruiz has signed for FC Dallas. Let me take this opportunity to Welcome Mr. Ruiz to Dallas, and to state without equivocation that I believe El Pescadito to be one of the finest gentlemen in the game, and that his class and leadership are most welcome. He’s first rate, that kid, and I don’t care what anyone says . . . or for that matter, what I may have, misguidedly, said in the past. And for the record, yes, it’s true, I have no shame. We now return you to your regularly scheduled column.]

Here’s another thing: Cobi.

Cobi, Cobi, Cobi. When you wear the Red, White and Blue, I love ya, kid. I LOVE you. But for Pete’s sake, Cobi, do you step into a phone booth and become Wussyman before the MLS season? I’ve never seen anything like it. Shut up, man . . . SHUT UP. Play the game while you still can, and have some dignity for crying out loud! You’re a legend in this country, son, don’t . . . just don’t . . . BE like that.

You broke my heart, Cobi, You BROKE MY HEART!

Finally, and I hate to even dredge this up, there’s the Thursday Night Massacre. June 4th, 1998. The Cotton Bowl in Dallas Texas. Dirty dirty Galaxy 8, Dallas Burn, 1.

Yep. That’s right. 8-1. Ocho a uno. E-I-G-H-T goals. Poor Mark Dodd, one of the great keepers in league history and a class act through and through, was beaten like a rented mule.

I was there that night, and the pain lives on to this day. It was nightmarish. Not in the real-life nightmare sense, like when a loved one dies, or a divorce happens, but in the “I know this doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of life but oh my it hurts” sense. It was as if a 90 minute game stretched on infinitely, like a bad science fiction short story. It was brutal.

Whenever I pray the Lord’s prayer, I’m always very sincere when I get to the part about the good Lord forgiving our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. I think it’s a good policy. You know, forgive and forget, nobody’s perfect, ‘the quality of mercy is not strain’d’ and all that. But for the sake of my eternal soul, I hope it doesn’t apply to soccer teams, because I will never, EVER get over that game, and I’ll never forgive the Galaxy. You dirty, dirty, DIRTY Galaxy.

ON THE FIELD: Cobi is going to be 48 years old on his next birthday, Kevin Hartman can’t do everything, and no one is sure which Landon Donavan will show up. They need help. Hope that draft thing worked out okay for them.

PREDICTION: Okay, fine, you can’t have a preview without predictions, so here goes: Steve Sampson will play a 2-7-1 and lose every game except for the Chivas derby.

Happy now?

KANSAS CITY WIZARDS

Actually, I don’t really despise this team. I mean, they’re not even in the Western Conference anymore, so the building rivalry with FCD is pretty much squashed. We had some real barnburners against those boys; never a dull match up.

And really, even if they were still division rivals, how can you despise them? Let’s look at a few personalities connected with the Wizards, and you tell me how on earth anyone could hate this team.

First, Preki. Preki is great. He’s magic. He’s awesome. You can’t not like Preki. Sure, his right foot is merely decorative, but who cares, when he can do anything he wants with any defender in the league with only the left? And he’s been that way . . . well, forever, it seems like. I mean, I don’t wanna say Preki is old, but back when he was a kid in Yugoslavia, he played on the U-17 national team with Marshall Tito, okay? Still, if Bruce Arena gets in any kind of injury trouble during this round of qualifying, you know who he’s calling, right?

Second, Bob Gansler. All he ever did was take the U.S. to their first World Cup in 50 YEARS with what basically amounted to a college all-star team. So you can’t despise him, unless of course you’re Trinidadian, in which case, okay, I see your point.

Last, but certainly not least, there’s Mr. Lamar Hunt. Without Mr. Hunt, there IS NO MLS. Got it? Don’t you EVER disrespect Mr. Hunt! If it were not for him, we’d all be listening to ham radios, desperately searching for rebroadcasts of English second division games to feed our soccer habits. Besides, I met him once, and, as billionaires go, he’s a pretty good guy. Humble, friendly, not at all Trump-like in any way.

But you know who I do despise?

Let me put it this way. The Census Bureau tells us that there are roughly 1.8 million people in the Kansas City Metropolitan Statistical Area. This means that I despise 1,796,000 people in Kansas City. All except for the hardy 4,000 or so that come to every Wizards game, regardless of day, time, or weather. The rest of you nitwits have one of the best teams in North America just minutes from where you live, and they are DYING because you folks don’t go NEARLY often enough to see them. You people infuriate me. Your team is going to end up in San Antonio, of all places, just because you don’t appreciate what you have. Idjits.

ON THE FIELD: Young Sealy from Wake Forest (and Trinidad & Tobago’s National Team) may help replace the departed Simutenkov. Meola’s out, so it’s Bo’s show now; can the perennial backup get the job done? I think so. Preki may or may not be back, and will probably be a sub if anything (but what a sub!). Sasha Victorine is a great pickup from Los Angeles. Garcia re-signed, and, thankfully, Kerry Zavagnin is home, now that Coventry City and Sunderland have decided unwisely to take a pass. If Davy Arnaud can follow up last year’s success, all the pieces are in place for another run on the MLS Cup. Success, ironically, may be KC’s biggest problem, however. They have a very thin roster, and if they do well in the US Open Cup as well as the Concacaf Champion’s Cup [EDITOR’S NOTE: Uh….never mind….], they’ll be hard pressed to stay healthy and fit all they way into autumn.

PREDICTION: Preki plays one more year, then becomes the next junior US Senator from Missouri.

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES

I’m pretty neutral about San Jose, so they only appear in this position because they’re in the Western Conference.

First off, the most important event for the Quakes this pre-season was not the first training session, not winning the Carolina Challenge Cup, and not acquiring Danny Califf (though that ain’t bad, I must say). No, it was the “Meet Your Teammates” dinner they had prior to the opening of camp. FIFTEEN new faces on the roster. This is the only team in history that’s had to wear “Hello, My Name Is . . .” stickers during practice.

Oh, and, I guess we should discuss the Landon deal. Talk about a royal screwing. The wunderkind comes back, and heads down the road to L.A.? Why doesn’t MLS just dissolve the franchise, if that’s all they think of them? I’m expecting a third name change announcement any day now. I just don’t think “San Jose Redheaded Stepchildren” has much cache, ya know?

But there are bright points. A good veteran core of Mastroeni, Mullan, and the aforementioned Califf gives them a solid foundation, and with any luck Brian Ching will continue on the rampage he started last season. No matter how you slice it, though, this is a rebuilding season. This is unfortunate, because rebuilding seasons don’t usually portend great attendance, which is what this team needs more than anything in this world.

PREDICTION: I hate to say it, but the playoffs don’t look likely for the EarthQlash this year. Sorry kids. But if you want to improve, ignore the score lines and get your butts in the seats. It’s your only hope.

COLORADO RAPIDS

Though I consider them historically the most boring franchise in the league by far, I’ve always had a soft spot for Colorado. They appeal to my innate American underdog-loving side, and they’ve had on their roster two of my all-time favorites, Mark Chung and Carlos Valderrama.

Chung is one of the most underrated players this league has. I’ve always wanted him to get more National Team time, but I think those days are past him. No matter, he’s class. Control, passing, a massive left foot, great attitude. He’s got it all. I’ll watch a Rapids game just to see how he does.

And el Pibe. Ahhhh, el Pibe. I don’t claim anything crazy like “he’s the greatest ever”, but, of all the players I’ve seen regularly in my time watching soccer, he is without a doubt the cream of the crop. He’s the soccer player I wish I could have been. I mean, there’s just something about watching a guy who can control a soccer ball as if it’s on a string, can see the whole field (really, 360 degree vision . . . it’s incredible), and always, ALWAYS was a threat to make a pass that would lead to a goal with every touch. To watch him is to see what God intended when he created midfielders.

Okay, fine, he wasn’t the most, uh, energetic player in the history of the game, and he wasn’t a threat to score very often, and, sure, defense wasn’t always the first thing on his mind. But I don’t care. Pibe is truth, and that’s that.

ON THE FIELD: “But Dave”, I hear you cry, “maybe you could talk about this season a bit?”

Fact is, I have no idea what to expect from Colorado this year. The one big pickup (that I’m familiar with) is Jeff Cunningham. Apart from that, they’ve brought in a ton of overseas talent that I have no clue about. What I do know is that their returning players include Joe Cannon in goal, which would make any coach sleep better at night, Pablo Mastroeni, who is great, but will miss some games for international duty, and my guy Mark Chung. Also, Jean-Philippe Peguero is still around, and I’ve been impressed with his quality the few times I’ve seen him.

So this is really, to me, the question mark team in the West. I’ve read some reports that call them a lock for the playoffs, but I’d be willing to say that, too, if I saw not one but TWO expansion teams in the mix.

PREDICTION: Colorado will win some games, and then at other times, they will lose. Now and then they’ll draw. Take that to the bank. I’ve never been surer of a prediction in my entire life. I’d stake the life of a casual acquaintance on it.

COLUMBUS CREW

I have nothing but unfettered indifference toward the Crew. I wish them well, but don’t really have any passion for them positive or negative. I’m more concerned that they make money by filling up their awesome SSS than I am with their success or failure. The Crew are good for American Soccer. They are in a smaller market, not a soccer hotbed, with the first real Pro Soccer stadium in the country. If soccer does well in C-town, it can do well anywhere in this country, if managed correctly. So instead of reading the scoring summaries and lineups of Crew match reports, I generally just go straight to the attendance. It’s a fairly accurate barometer of how the League is doing.

ON THE FIELD: Greg Andrulis survived repeated calls for his head last season by putting together an impressive late season run. I don’t see that they’ve done a great deal to help themselves in the off-season (Unless the Guatemalan international Mario Rodriguez pulls a Pescadito and becomes the league’s next star), but any team with Razov and Buddle up front should be able to score some goals.

My view is that Kyle Martino has to step up and have the kind of year everyone knows he’s capable of, if the Crew want to go to the next level. They’ve got two of the better keepers in the league in Jon Busch and Matt Jordan, and Robin Fraser, though not too far from getting his AARP card, still has the mind and experience to anchor a defense.

Oh, and Andrulis gets my vote of confidence for bringing Dante Washington back into the league. He’s class, and if he catches fire, watch out. He’s not the young pup he was back in his Dallas Burn days, but with his back to the goal, getting good service, he’s deadlier than anthrax. I said all last season someone should pick him up, and the Crew did. Good on them.

PREDICTION: The Crew will be semifinalists, and with a few breaks, could, I say could, finally see some hardware. A US Open Cup is definitely in their reach as well. This is by far the most adventurous prediction I’ve ever made. Mock me if you will, but mark my words.

DC UNITED

Though I love DC United, I can’t really ever root for them again until they unload Voldemortalenko. I’m sorry, but as a lover of FC Dallas, I simply cannot forgive him for breaking Ronnie O’Brien’s leg. Oh sure, in a spiritual, Christian sense, I forgive, sure. But on a soccer level (and soccer is, after all the most important of life’s unimportant things), I am morally constrained to consider him a thug, a punk, and a blight on the game.

But I digress.

I think hiring Peter Nowak was a stroke of brilliance for this franchise. First off, he’s the perfect coach to help Freddy Adu reach his full potential. Second off, he’s got the fuego. That fire in the belly that cannot help but rub off on his players. Third, he’s a winner, and won’t settle for less than winning. Had he been raised in this country, he’d probably be an NFL coach. He’s got the attitude.

I mean, did anyone, anyone at all, think this was a championship team last spring? Nope. Not even the Screaming Eagles and Barra Brava (the finest fans in this league, bar none) seriously thought they’d be spending a weekend in Los Angeles at the end of the campaign. It was an unbelievable achievement.

Okay, so what about this year?

Well, at first glance, it seems to be by and large the same squad that lifted the cup. And here’s the scary part: Freddy was not a big-impact player last year, yet they won it all. This year, he’s got a year of experience and knowledge behind him, and he doesn’t have the intense media scrutiny to distract him. He can only be better.

I think the big question mark is Steve Guppy. An entirely respectable veteran of the English Premier League, on paper he looks like a valuable acquisition. But if you’ve followed MLS since the early days, you know that the League’s history is littered with unsuccessful “big name” foreigners. Need I even make a list? No, you know the story. If you’re new to the league, don’t sweat if, you didn’t miss anything.

I’m skeptical, I’ll admit. If DC United lack anything, it is definitely not leadership and experience. So why Steve Guppy? He’s 36 years old, was never really a dominating player in England, though admittedly he was good in his day. Why? To draw out the British-expatriate soccer community in the Capitol area? I don’t get it, frankly. I hope I’m wrong, and that he does a great job. I just hope they didn’t break the bank to bring him over.

PREDICTION: Alecko Eskandarian will continue to dominate, Freddy will get up to speed, and everyone in the league will HATE playing at RFK. At least semifinalists, and, not impossibly, repeat champions. Oh, and Dema gets arrested for assault and battery at some point in the season.

METROSTARS

I refuse to call them the NY/NJ Metrostars. They are the Metrostars. Like the Cosmos were just the Cosmos. It has cache. As George Costanza would say “it’s got cache out the ying-yang, baby!”

This is a team that should always be great, but never is. Oh, they’re good, I guess. Even in their worst years, they have their moments, but they’re the Bart Simpson “Born Underachiever” poster boys for MLS. It has always been said MLS needs a great New York team to be a success. Obviously this has turned out to be not true, but hang it all, I sure would like to see it, because it could only make the League better.

So, what do they have going for them this year? Well, look, they’ve got John Wolyniec, Eddie Gaven, and Amado Guevara, who can all score goals. This is good.

Past that? Gee I don’t know. Jonny Walker is a quality goalkeeper, which is fortunate, because the defense looks shaky. Jeff Agoos, while a legend in American Soccer (rightfully so, too), is surely collecting Social Security by now. His experience and knowledge are going to be almost all that back line has going for it. Sure, Jeff Parke had a good year last year, and he’s going to be pretty strong, I just think that’s not enough. They’re going to give up a lot of goals I fear.

Though it gives me a creepy sense of déjà vu, let us discuss the signing of Youri Djorkaeff.

Youri Djorkaeff, in his prime, was a wonderful, talented player. He’s won a World Cup, he’s played in the best leagues in the world. He has, throughout his career, epitomized grace and class. But, come on, really, do we need this? See my previous comments on Steve Guppy, but add about 50 more pounds of skepticism. Believe me, no one would like to see an in-form Djorkaeff rip up MLS more than I. Honestly, though, I’d bet against it.

PREDICTION: This team will play its guts out every game, will have great attendance, will pull a few upsets, and will be as entertaining to watch as any team in the League. But they will not make it to the playoffs. I hate to say that, but there it is.

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

Listen to this lineup (okay, I know you’re reading, but listen metaphorically, okay, smarty-pants?).

Twellman
Ralston
Noonan
Dempsey

How can a team built around this foundation NOT do well? I don’t care who they picked up over the off-season, I don’t care who they drafted. These four should lead this team to the MLS Cup. Period.

But I’m not convinced it’s going to happen. As with most leagues, in most sports, it’s going to come down to defense, and there’s the big question. Llamosa, Heaps, Avery John, and Franchino. That doesn’t look too bad, does it?

But it wasn’t enough last year. I hope it is this year, because I really want this team to win the East. Like the Metros winning, it can only help the league. Plus, I just want to watch as much of Twellman, Dempsey, Noonan, and Ralston as humanly possible.

PREDICTION: I’m going to guarantee they make the League semifinals, but further than that I will not go.

REAL SALT LAKE

Okay, I’ll admit it. I like the name.

You see, dear friends, I have a problem. I’m one of those soccer fans that likes to refer to the sport as “football”. I like to say “boots”, “pitch”, and “kit”. I think the home team should be listed first in the newspaper, I’d give my right arm for a promotion/relegation system, and named my MFLS team “Edmond Town United”.

I am, in short, an unreconstructed Europoseur. I’m going to meetings, trying to get some help, but there it is.

Now that we have that unpleasantness out of the way, let me just say that this team is to soccer columnists what the Dan Quayle years were to late-night talk show hosts. I mean, just off the top of my head:

What’s the over/under on Mathis leaving town when he learns what a “dry county” is?

Will the supporters group’s website be called “The Missionary Position”?

Do Utah soccer hooligans get buzzed on Jolt and go around jaywalking before the matches?

That’s without even trying.

But enough comedy jokes. What about the team?

How the heck should I know? They’ve got Jason Kreis, they’ve got Cletus, they’ve got DJ Countess in the goal; a guy named Mike Lookingland, who, I’m pretty sure, was in the original cast of “The Brady Bunch”, and a guy named Dipsy.

I don’t know that they’ll win a single game, but I KNOW it’s going to be fun to watch.

Oh yeah, some kid named Pope. I hear he’s good too.

PREDICTION: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir will sing the Anthem on opening day, and several of the kids will also land roster spots.

CHIVAS USA

For pure unadulterated train-wreck goodness, this is your team. I mean, they’ve had more border crossing problems than the Arizona State Police. We have no idea who will be starting for this team this weekend, do we? No, we don’t. You know why? BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW EITHER.

PREDICTION: Ramon Ramirez’s nanny will be voted team MVP.

FC DALLAS

Eddie and The Fish.

Say it with me:

Eddie and The Fish.

Uh-huh. Yeah. Okay say it one more time:

EDDIE AND THE FISH!

I’ve gone from outright soccer despair at the end of last season, to cautious optimism early in the spring, to obnoxious, blustering optimism since, oh say, day before yesterday.

Yes, yes, I know. Some of you are going to point out that earlier, in this very column, referred to Carlos Ruiz as “The whiniest, nastiest, floppingest pretty-boy to ever wear white soccer shoes.”

Fine. Like you’ve never changed YOUR mind? Hey, John Kerry changed his mind more times than Stewie changes his diaper, and he was almost PRESIDENT, pal!

I was a bit, um, hasty in my description of Mr. Ruiz. Not only that, but in the finest tradition of our country, I now take it all back and expect to be fully forgiven and for no one to ever bring it up again (see Clinton, William).

My mouth is watering. Eddie and the Fish up front, Ronnie in the midfield, Vanney in the back, and GassarLick in goal. Me and Dustin Christmann and the drum section from the Inferno could fill out that line up and at least make the playoffs.

Oh, and, uh, does anyone know where the MLS Cup Final is this year?

I’ll tell you where. It’s at Uncle Lamar’s House of Whoopass™, in FriscoFreakin’ Texas, that’s where.

As Buzz Carrick has been known to say: COME TAKE IT.

And to the good people in the Galaxy front office: “So long, and thanks for all the fish”.

PREDICTION: Brimstone Cup first, then the Dewar Trophy, then the Rothenberg Trophy. The Treble my friends. The Treble. You heard it here first.

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS DALLAS v CHICAGO (BRIMSTONE I)


by @ 5:54 am.
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STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS – ROAD TRIP EDITION – DALLAS v CHICAGO 4.2.2005

I arrived at the Sooner Fashion Mall in lovely Norman, Oklahoma at 3:30 pm to park my aging pickup truck and rendezvous with my great friend and infamous Chicago Fire fan, Mike Segroves. A better road trip companion you will never find. We headed south on I-35, hoping to make it to the Cotton Bowl in time for some tailgating with the Inferno prior to kickoff.

We pulled in to the venerable old stadium’s parking lot right at 6:30, having spent more time in traffic inside the Dallas city limits than we had between the Red River and that same boundary. Gee I love the big city. The good Infernites greeted us heartily, gave Mike the required amount of pre-game abuse for wearing his Fire jersey, and forced some beer on us. Roundabout 7:00 we make our way to the stadium in time to watch a bit of the warm-ups and get settled for kickoff. I make my way to the souvenir stand, do some mental calculations, decide that if necessary I can live another 3 weeks til payday on PB&J sandwiches and tuna fish, and plunk down the cash for a beautiful new FC Dallas hoop jersey. Eventually I plan to put the name “Trotman” and the number 20 on the back. I miss Mickey.

I go down to the Inferno section and get ready to yell. Chants of “Pes-ca-di-to” are already ringing from the stands. I understand this new guy, Ruiz, used to play for Los Angeles, and has a reputation as a great sportsman and a class act. I think that’s terrific. We need those kinds of players here in Dallas. I also hear he scored a few goals last year. Even better.

Ahem.

Anyway, the game starts. Not being ones to keep their fans in suspense, the boys take less than three minutes to show us their new look. Ronnie streaks down the left, side foots a looping ball to Ruiz, who flicks it with his head to an onrushing Richard Mulrooney, who SLAMS the ball past the newly reacquired Zach Thornton.

Just like that. 1-nil. The Cotton Bowl crowd, all penned in on one side of the stadium, for some reason, goes berserk. What a start. It was like a bad TV script, if that’s not a redundancy.

But, for the rest of the half, the Bulls take their collective foot of the gas, and Chicago controls the pace and possession right up to the whistle. Nate Jacqua has a couple of decent chances, but Scott Garlick is already in mid-season form, and has no trouble keeping the lead intact.

It was a bit disorienting watching us run out to quick lead and then basically get schooled the rest of the half, but a one-goal lead is a one-goal lead. I’m happy. The defense looked solid, the midfield looked good when attacking, but had trouble winning and keeping the ball, and the forwards looked like they hadn’t spent much time together (which is excusable, since Ruiz just got to Dallas, oh, roughly, two days before the game).

Not ones to let go of a good thing, the boys decide to come out after halftime and score immediately again. I could get used to this. Vanney gets a nice ball from Ronnie (I think . . . maybe Simo), takes it to the left side of the area, makes a great cross to Eddie Johnson, who heads the ball at a seemingly impossible angle to catch Thornton flatfooted. Boom. 2-nil. Less than two minutes have passed in the second half. Delirium. Joy. Volume. What a great night.

I catch Greg Elliott’s eye as he walks past the Inferno and give him a look as if to say “Wow, what have you done here? This is great!” He just gives me a grin and points to his watch, wisely cautioning that there’s a lot of football left to play. He turns out to be as prophetic as he usually is. This ain’t Greg’s first Rodeo, kids. He knows what’s what.

After this, play is pretty back and forth. We’re on the end of the field where the back line is this half, so I get plenty of time to watch Phillip Salyer. He’s not a very big guy, I find out, and probably not the fastest guy on the team. But I find out two things about him: first, he’s as tenacious as a hungry bulldog. All hustle, not afraid to play physical. Second, while all his clearances didn’t always hit the mark that night, the one time I saw him push the ball up the field, he looked a little like Paul Broome, which, to me, can only be a good thing. He took on some defenders and made a nice pass, then got back into position. I love that kind of defender. I think Phillip will take a lot of heat this year; indeed I read a lot of complaints about him on the boards Sunday. But I’m pretty happy with him. Clarence Goodson and Greg Vanney are good together in the middle. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of Wagenfuhr.

Chicago’s Leonard Griffin was sent off in the 51st minute for a second stupidly hard tackle. This is just about the only thing Mr. Valenzuela got right all evening. It was as if he and I were seeing two different matches. I don’t normally complain about refereeing (really. . . what are you looking at me like that for?), but I thought Mr. V was awful. I imagine I’m not alone in this assessment.

When Chicago finally pulled one back (always listen to Mr. Elliott), I swear I thought it was offside, but I’m willing to stand corrected by anyone with an alternate opinion. Either way, Chicago showed spirit and deserved a goal for all their hard attacking work. Never a hint of giving up in them.

Speaking of spirit, kudos to the contingent of Fire fans who drove from Chicago (!) and camped out in the corner of the field nearest the Fire bench. They had great banners, loud voices, and didn’t even cause a fuss when three jacknut FCD fans decided to stand about three rows behind them and abuse them with nasty comments about people of Polish ancestry. The guys from Section 8 were a credit to the Fire. Well done, gents.

Anyway, we finally made it to full time and enjoyed the first season-opening victory in about three years. I’m excited about the new players, the new uniforms (great!) and the upcoming new stadium. This is going to be a good year for Dallas fans. It sure was a great beginning, anyway.

The evening ended with further tailgating back at “the grassy knoll” in the Cotton Bowl parking lot. Many beers were drunk, Mr. Segroves graciously took further abuse about the game result, and MudPoet finally got the red ballcap with the bull-horns unglued from his scalp (Rags, I’m waiting for the photos). I love those Inferno folks.

Especially Sarah, who I’m pretty sure I proposed to, even though we had just met.

See you next week.

NEW SOCCER BLOG


by @ 5:02 am.
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Brand-spanking-new to cyberspace, We Call It Soccer is high quallity soccer bloggage. It gets the much coveted (?) Footballs Are Round blogroll spot.

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