FOOTBALLS ARE ROUND!

Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things


July 29, 2005

UNDERAPPRECIATED QUALITY


by @ 4:15 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer

In case you didn’t know, one of the best soccer reads of any week during the MLS season is THE ALL AMERICAN XI, a collaborative effort among an elite group of BigSoccer posters to pick the best homegrown footballers of the week. It’s witty, informative and good fodder for chit-chat around the water cooler. Or, it would be, if any workplace in this country had more than one soccer fan in it.

But I digress.

Check out this week’s edition here, and then become a regular. It’s worth your time.

July 24, 2005

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: REAL SALT LAKE v FC DALLAS


by @ 2:40 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

The greatest team in the world is back on the field after a disappointing loss last week. But let’s not talk about that, shall we?

Besides, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Ah, it’s just Real Salt Lake, c’mon, it’s like a training session, no sweat”. Yeah, well, tell it to the Revs, who got knocked off by an even worse expansion team Friday night in LA.

There are no easy games in this league. Ever.

Still no EJ, which is fine. As I said last week, you don’t want to mess around with a goobered up big toe. You just don’t. I know it sounds sissified to not play because your toe hurts, but unless you’ve had that specific injury, you just don’t understand.

Vanney is still gone on Gold Cup duty, but that ends tomorrow. Hopefully with a win for the U.S. of A.

Boy that is one ugly field at Rice-Eccles stadium. I’m not being critical mind you, as I understand it’s temporary, But it is, unfortunately, reminiscent of Giants Stadium in the old days. You can’t be much more insulting toward a soccer surface than that. Well, you can if you say it’s reminiscent of Owen Field at the University of Oklahoma in the old days, but not many people would relate to that. That field . . . oh my. You could see

concrete through some of the fraying seams of that monstrosity. The word threadbare springs to mind as well. It must have been like playing football in a parking lot.

But I digress.

Did I mention Vanney is gone? Well let me reiterate that observation by pointing out that RSL’s first goal (in the 2nd minute, mind you) was finished by Seth Trembly while standing RIGHT SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF THE EIGHTEEN. The same spot, not coincidentally, where Taylor Twellman scored two goals last week. Mormons 1 – 0 Gentiles.

In the immortal words of Keith Olbermann: GUH!

Not for another 10 minutes do we see a shot from the good guys. Ruiz with a weak left footer. Is it possible that Colin Clarke has allowed his team to come out flat and overconfident? Is it possible the boys are showing such disrespect to former teammates DJ Countess, Dante Washington, and Jason Kreis as to take Real lightly? Inconceivable!

Gbandi gets Gbooked in the 25th. And that is, sadly, the most interesting thing that has happened in this game for about 23 minutes.

Boy did I just jinx the team. Jordan Cila scores a Dempsey off a quickly taken free kick by Andy Williams. Smart play by Andy. Dumb defense by us. We were caught completely unawares; no one was paying attention to Cila making his run and the defenders near Williams had their backs to him, assuming he was going to wait for 10 yards before he took the free.

And you know what happens when you assume, right? You make an ass out of Uma Thurman.

Wow I have never seen Scott Garlick so animated. And by animated I mean, of course, royally pissed off. That was a Schmeichel-esque curseout he just laid on the boys. Rightly so, unfortunately.

Well, kids, you know it ain’t your night when Cletus scores from 40 yards out. What a disaster. Real is up 3-0 and there are still 15 minutes left in the first half.

Cocktail, anyone? Don’t mind if I do, thanks.

Clint almost does it again in the 37th. Only a desperate, scrambling save by Scotty saves us from further humiliation.

Halftime cannot come soon enough. I hope Colin Clarke’s Irish is up enough to get the fuego back in this team. They look whipped. Physically and mentally. Not good.

Okay. Halftime. Have some oranges, drink some Gatorade™, visit the lil’ soccer

players room, and then get out there and GET ON WITH IT!

We need a little Liverpool Champions League mojo for the second half.

Okay, here we go. Second half is on. Though I must be frank here and say I can barely stand to watch. If only Tivo could transcend the limitations of space and time and allow me to fast forward to the end of the match, even though I’m watching it live. I’m a bit disappointed that it can’t. What am I paying five bucks extra for each month, if not the ability to flout the immutable laws of the universe?

Ripoff.

Ten minutes in to the second half, and I must say we do NOT look likely to score, much less score three or four. They just showed a shot of Clarke and Morrow on the sidelines. Both of them have a confused expression on their faces. They look like they’re watching a Fellini film.

DJ Countess tips the ball over the net in the 62nd minute, but lands hard on the plastic. He’s really shaken up, but he’s going to keep playing. I know some Dallas fans have their issues with him, but I’ve always liked him. He’s a good keeper, a good kid, and I wish him the best.

With the exception of the next 28 minutes, mind you.

I’m reminded at this point (70th minute) of a Ramones song. I don’t know that they were thinking of soccer, and I’ve taken liberties with the lyrics, but I keep hearing in my head the following chorus: Twenty twenty twenty twenty minutes to

go-ooo, I wanna be sedated . . .

78th minute. Countess makes a nice kick save to deny Clarence Goodson a goal. Then, to add insult to injury, he pushes Clarence to the ground like a playground bully. I think Goody took an extra stab at the ball that wound up connecting with DJ’s ribcage. Ah, these young people today . . .

There are ten minutes left, and we’re keeping the ball in RSL’s half of the field, but still, it looks grim. If we should happen to pull off a tie or a win, I vow here and now that I will never, EVER write another negative word in this column about FC Dallas. I will become the Scott McClellan, nay, the Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf of soccer journalism.

But I don’t see it happening.

Nope. That’s it. What an awful two weeks for FC Dallas.

The upside, if there is one, is that during the four or so games where there was no television coverage, and I didn’t get the chance to write any Stream of Consciousness columns, I didn’t have any reason to drink. The last two weeks, as it turns out, have given me AMPLE opportunity to tie one on. Which I have. I am, as they say, feeling no pain at this moment.

Which is nice.

But, apart from that, the last two games have been nightmarish, in a purely non-real-life, soccer-esque context. But, you know what? We’ll all be okay. This is a good team, and we’re good fans, so, says I, let RSL have the joy of a victory (okay, not just a victory, but a full-fledged butt-whuppin’) of the best team in Major League Soccer. That’s cool. It’s a long season. Uncle Lamar’s House is opening in a few weeks, EJ is almost ready to play; life is good, my people. It is not yet time to panic.

Believe me, when it is time to panic, I, your faithful DJ, will be the first to let you know.

See you Wednesday for the Metrostars.

July 17, 2005

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: NEW ENGLAND v FC DALLAS


by @ 6:37 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

Finally . . . FINALLY! 

Finally, the best team in MLS gets a televised game, after about a month of being neglected. I don’t get that at all, but since I’ve already ranted and raved about it in this space earlier in the season, I will, for now, forbear.

Besides, tonight is a night of joy! I’m back in the mix, doing what I do best: watching the boys and making smart-alecky comments. We all have our gifts that we must share with mankind. Mine just happens to be this. My luck, it’s a non-remunerative gift. But who am I to argue with the great soccer Muse?

So the night of joy almost turns quickly in to a nightmare, as Taylor Twellman beats the back four and Scott Garlick in the second minute of the match. Fortunately, he wasn’t able to beat the assistant referee, who called a very close offside. Gulp.

Oh GOOOOOOOOL! Arturo Alvarez runs on to a beautiful through ball by Roberto Mina. Alvarez shoots into Matt Reis’s chest, but gets his own rebound and rolls it in.

1-0 to the Good Guys in the sixth minute. Though to be honest, it was against the run of play, as the Revs came out pressing while we came out merely absorbing. Good for us though. The earlier we get on the board the better of we are this season, it seems to me.

We’re still without EJ, but it’s good to see el Pescadito back on the field. We may, if all goes well, see EJ in time for the opening of Pizza Hut Park on August 6th. We haven’t done badly at all without him, but we can only get better with him. I know exactly how nasty and nagging that sort of toe injury is, so I’d rather wait until he’s at 100%, seeing as we’ve discovered just how deep the team is this year.

Wow. Mina just dribbled through four guys and came within a Jay Heaps toe-poke of being one on one with Reis. I hadn’t seen that part of Mina’s game before now. Pretty slick.

I wonder if Colin Clarke and his staff have seen something in the films, because now it seems everyone’s having a go at the New England back four. Pitchkolan, Gbandi, Mina, Alvarez, all of them trying to dribble penetrate against numbers. Fun to watch, I must say.

I sincerely hope I’m not puttin’ the mojo on him, but Chris Gbandi is playing very well tonight. Good man-marking, getting up to attack; very nice stuff from the UConn Kid.

The name is Gbandi . . . Chris Gbandi.

And, once again, if for no other reason than to prove that all is right in the universe, and events are unfolding as they should, Simo Valakari gets a yellow card.

Speaking of Simo, I think it is good and just that he’s going to be an All-Star. Apart from the big name goal-scorers who are known by even casual MLS fans, there are certain players who toil in unsung roles that to the knowledgeable observer are clearly just as important in the grand scheme of things. Simo Valakari epitomizes that kind of player.

Bah. New England ties the score in the 44th minute. If you’ve ever wondered “Gee, would it be okay to leave Taylor Twellman unmarked on the six yard line, even for a few seconds?” Well, here is your answer . . . NO!

Noonan and Twellman. You’ve GOT to watch those St. Louis boys, ya know?

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

DIPSY SELELOWANEEEEEEEEEEE!

We get an immediate answer from the Hoops. Beautiful, lovely, sublime work by Mina and O’Brien. Mina receives from Ronnie, holds on the 18, waits for Ronnie to make the run, pops it cleanly to him, in stride, and then Ronnie just uses Reis, faking, getting by and left footing it in the net at a severe angle.

That there is some professional football, my dears. And if it’s not the Goal Of The Week, they should stop giving it out.

Mina is playing with such ease and confidence it’s hard to believe he’s only 20 years old.

And that will take us to the half, with the score 2-1 to the Club.

Keep in mind that this is very likely a preview of MLS Cup ’05. Except the venue, of course, and we all know where that is this year.

Eight minutes in to the second half, Mina gets robbed by Matt Reis. A low hard header catches Matt going the wrong way, but he still manages to get a foot on the ball to keep it out. For those of you who may have wondered “Reis? All Star?” Uh, yeah. Matt Reis is the real deal, no doubt. He’s not flashy, but he’s as solid a keeper as you could want in this league.

The Little Fish has been quiet tonight. He’s been away at the Gold Cup, so he may be a bit tired. He’s not out of form, though, at least you wouldn’t think. All he did in the Gold Cup was put the hat trick on Jamaica. In a loss, unfortunately. Or maybe fortunately, for us, anyway. Had Guatemala advanced, he’d still be gone.

22 minutes left and New England are putting their foot on the gas here. We’re back to absorbing pressure like we did early in the game. Twellman gets loose in the box, but skies his shot over Garlick’s head.

Pitchkolan gets a shot off from Alvarez’s nice cross, but Reis is there. Alvarez is doing yeoman work running up and down the left side. Good stuff.

Alavarez, as if to make me look bad and make me out a liar, proceeds to miss a sitter with 15 to go. Good work by Ronnie and Ruiz to get him the ball close in, but the shot goes right in to Reis’s gut.

The momentum is switching back, and we’re knocking the ball around very nicely right now. Ruiz gets a shot, I believe his first of the night, but again Reis is there. Carlos didn’t get as much on that as he wanted, but still got Reis to give up a rebound.

Mina and Alvarez have both been subbed out, so we’re going to try to defend for the final few minutes. This is okay, because we’ve been defending well, and the Revs look a little flat late on.

Almost an equalizer with three minutes left. The very tall Khano Smith gets a free header off of Cancela’s corner and just misses. Hurry clock, hurry.

Oh, Drew! Drew Moore most certainly should have scored. He was right in front with Reis out of position and he skied it two stories high.

Oh, come on. Less than a minute to go and the Revs are level. A sloppy, sloppy goal. My man Gbandi completely blows a back-header right in to the path of Twellman, who chips over Garlick, gets saved off the line, but Dempsey heads in the rebound. Bah. BAH!

Not that a draw against the Revolution is a bad result this year, but we had this one in the bag.

Three minutes stoppage. I wish Mina and Alvarez could come back in.

Oh! Gbandi almost redeems himself with a hard shot from the 18, but hits it ten rows up.

No.

No, no, no, no, no, no, NO!

Again, Twellman is unmarked on the six yard line, and AGAIN he scores. We’ve lost it. We were a goal up with a minute to go, and we’ve lost it.

Final whistle. A perplexing, unbelievable 3-2 loss.

Must. Remain. Calm.

Still. In. First.

Must. Not. Panic.

This is too much like last year to dwell on. So I won’t.

Suffice to say, until the 89th minute this was one of our best games of the season. Good defense, despite the mistake on the first New England goal. Good offense, though we could have finished better, in retrospect. But how, how HOW does this game not end up as a win?

Ugh.

And I was so excited to be back in the saddle, column-writing-wise.

Okay, shake it off, kids, we’re still okay. It’s a bump in the road, a minor inconvenience, and a freak of nature. Not to worry.

See you next week for Real Salt Lake.

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