Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things

September 25, 2005


by @ 2:46 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

The first minute almost gave me a heart attack. An early goal would be a disaster. Ok, not a disaster . . . I don’t want to bandy that word about lightly given the events of the last few weeks.

We’ll see this week if the absence of EJ and The Lil’ Fish is still a good luck charm for us. Well, to be realistic, luck doesn’t enter into it, I know; it’s just a turn of phrase. It has more to do with that elusive quality called chemistry. I can’t explain it, but I think it’s analogous to those stories you hear about people lifting up automobiles in emergency situations. I think the young guns of FCD have realized it’s them or no one, and they’ve lifted the car, so to speak, to get us from under one of the worst slumps in the history of the franchise.

Alex Yi sighting! After being on loan to Atlanta of the A-League all year, Alex is home and getting a start. As is Honest Abe Thompson, the Great Emancipator. Colin Clarke is trying to rest certain players for the all-important US Open Cup final on Wednesday against the dirty dirty Galaxy, but at the same time is trying not to make this game a throwaway. I like the balance he’s struck tonight. He’s fielded a team that can win, but is also keeping Wednesday in mind. Colin is getting smarter and smarter every week; in the same way as your parents get smarter and smarter as you get older and realize you were an idiot for most of your youth. Fire Clarke, indeed. Apologies are in order.

Twelve minutes in and the game is even-steven, momentum-wise. Don’t you hate it when people use the -wise suffix? I do. I did it just now only to call attention to it. It smacks of prose written by Alexander Haig, which is really NOT what I’m going for here.

I’m surprised Pat Onstad can even play soccer after the abuse he suffered at the hands of the Inferno just a week or so ago. I’m sure he’s been making daily trips to his therapist in the interim, trying to exorcise the memory of the taunting he endured in Frisco. Poor slob; he never knew what hit him.

Well, okay, Pat’s in good enough to shape to stone Abe Thompson in the 15th minute. He gave up a rebound though. We know who’s responsible for that, don’t we kids. . .

You know I’ve seen bowling lanes wider than the field at Spartan Stadium. Have you ever wondered what that little line is for, the one that is about a foot long, and is drawn between the edge of the 18 yard box and the touchline? It’s the 10 yard marker for corner kicks. Defenders can’t go past it because of the 10 yard rule. In most stadia, it’s a good five or six yards away from the edge of the box. At Spartan, it’s nearly coterminous with the box. Come on . . . get a field, people. Maybe Club America will take care of that problem when they . . . oh, sorry, Quakes fans . . . didn’t mean to bring up a sore subject.

Moving right along.

Scotty Garlick stones DeWayne DeRosario, the all-time MLS leader in “capitalized letters in the first and last names”. Scotty hasn’t had the greatest D behind him this year, but has been solid nonetheless. The Defense is coming around finally, so I don’t imagine Scotty will be giving up multiple goal games from here on in.

Man, Alex Yi is playing hard-nosed defense. It’s like a little Valakari clone out there. I mean that in the best way.

Good free kick opportunity in the 27th minute. OH! Nunez just misses. Curls it around the wall and only misses slipping inside the near post by inches. Has this kid been eating his Wheaties or what? He is the brandy-bearing St. Bernard of FC Dallas. He’s come to save us just in time.

Carey Talley just misses with the header right after the free kick. Boy, we’re putting it to the EarthQlash here at the half hour mark. Good aggressive football. Just like the old days. You know, way back in April and May.

You can see the renewed spirit of this team in the way they’re playing defense. Tough, hard defense. Defense with a purpose. Defense with intent. I likes it.

Okay, nil-nil at halftime. I’ll take that. We’re the better team from where I’m sitting. Of course, I’m sitting on my couch surrounded by empty Newcastle bottles, so my judgement may be a bit off.

But I digress.

Yeah! Way to go Mr. Geiger! DeRosario dives in the box and the baby-faced referee gives him what can only be called a contemptuous ‘play on’ call. He may look like he’s studying for his driving test, but Mr. G is one of the best young refs in MLS.

OH!!!!! Mr. Geiger comes through again with the clear PK call on Pat Onstad, who took down Honest Abe in the box. Can’t blame Pat for trying, though, because he didn’t have any other option. Nunez steps up (I LOVE that leadership!!!) and absolutely BURIES the penalty. No keeper in the world stops that shot. One-nil to the good guys.

Carey Talley puts the smackdwon on Eddie Robinson after a hard foul on Nunez. I LOVE the attitude this team is playing with. This is a completely different team than three weeks ago. It’s incredible the change they’ve undergone.

Nice job, San Jose fans; way to throw stuff on the field. I hope Club America buys your team and moves it to the Distrito Federal. Talley and Robinson both get sent off. I love it. I. LOVE. IT.

This is a new team. It’s incredible.

Oh, excrement. Alex Yi goes off on a stretcher. I can’t believe the bad luck. I hope the kid’s okay. That’s just too awful to think about. Clarence Goodson comes on.

Double excrement. San Jose levels in the 58th minute. The Quakes were so offside it wasn’t even funny. It’s okay. We’re winning this game. I just feel it.

Not that my feelings have always worked out this season. It’s funny, because in non-soccer matters, I’m a rock-solid pessimist. You know the old saying that goes “is the glass half-empty, or half full”? I’ve always believed the glass was half full, but saturated with strychnine. But when it comes to soccer, I’m a Pollyanna optimist. Go figure.

Clarence Goodson is getting all up in Brian Ching’s grill. I love it. Did I mention I love it?

Everything is in our half of the field right now, with 15 minutes to go. But if I know my team, we’re going to start taking to the Qlash and pull this thing out.

Alvarez comes off for Wagenfuhr with seven minutes to go. Colin’s playing for the tie. That’s okay with me. We’ve gotten a point on the road, at the very least. I still hold out hope for a win. But I don’t blame Colin for playing to preserve the tie. We’re in the playoffs, we’ve got a HUGE game coming up on Wednesday, and we just need to get the heck out of San Jose and get ready for the Cup Final.

Five minutes to go. I feel no anxiety. We’re back, and ready for the Cup and ready for the playoffs. I’m happy with the world.

Ooh. Gbandi and Mullan gettin’ in to it. More proof of our new attitude. Gbandi doesn’t take no Gbullshi . . . oops, this is a family column. Never mind.

Full time. A draw for the boys tonight. Only a fluky, offside goal from Brian Ching keeps us from a win.

But so what? We’re going to LaLa Land on Wednesday to win the oldest, most prestigious trophy in American soccer. YEAH!

I’ll see you Wednesday for the Cup Final. I can’t wait.

September 22, 2005


by @ 3:52 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

The fuego is back. The swagger is back. Back heels, shots at impossible angles, shoving people off the ball like they were children, nutmegs, scoring late goals instead of runnng to the corner. All that. We are bad***es again, just like in the spring.

Some days, it would have been better to stay in bed. I was having a day like that. Until 7:30. Then Kevin Hartman started having a day like that. I think it was a fair trade.

Oh how I wish I had been in Sec. 116 with the Inferno for the second half, helping bring tears to Kevin Hartman’s eyes. I’m sure the first thing that went through his mind when he gave up the own-goal was “Aw Man, I gotta go stand by the Inferno next half.”

Poor Hartman was just now beginning to live down his MLS Cup gaffe in 1999. Now this. I kinda feel bad for him. Except for the whole ‘he plays for Los Angeles’ thing. I hope he starts next Wednesday too.

That was the most beautiful half of soccer I have ever seen (this summer). All three goals could’ve been prevented, but all three were beautiful. My hope was that in the second half we’d humiliate them so badly they’d come out for the USOC final with white flags waving, metaphorically. Or maybe just concede ahead of time. I’d take that.

Word is that Brian Dunseth got 2 games and a $1000 fine for elbowing Mina on Sunday. Now Mina’s just pissed. The Galaxy have paid for Dunseth’s sins. Who’s next, please?

I’m glad Abe Thompson scored to make it 4 goals. As anyone who sat through the Wednesday Night Massacre back in ‘99 can tell you, there is no such thing as scoring too many goals on the Galaxy. Somewhere, Mark Dodd is laughing his head off tonight.

Why didn’t Landon Donavan play tonight? What?

Leave Bobby Rhine alone!

What are we to make of the fact that the absence of EJ and Ruiz seemed to make us better over the last two games? It’s like the Justice League of America becoming better crime fighters after Superman and Batman get injured. I don’t get it.

Cindy and I were watching the Revs/Crew match before the game came on. Cindy: That guy (Jonny Walker) looks OLD! Me: You would too if you played for Columbus.

What happened to Infernosaurus? Do I need to call John Walsh?

There’s nothing like a close-up shot of Steve Sampson after a 4-1 thrashing. Nothing.

That’s all folks. See you Sunday for SanJoseAmericaEarthQlash.


by @ 3:48 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

Before I begin the Stream proper, here (at no extra charge, these observations will not appear on your bill), are a few notes from the glorious mid-week road trip to the US Open Cup Semifinal match:

* Not since the British scored 22 against the French at Trafalgar has a team ever needed a win worse than the Hoops did Wednesday night. It was a gritty, if not beautiful performance. You could tell this game meant a lot to the boys, and it was appreciated.
* When the Inferno chanted “Fight, Fight, Fight For The Shirt!” it made a great echo off the far wall of the stage section of PHP.
* Yet again I played the Texas Mega Millions when we stopped for gas in Frisco; yet again, I did not win. I’m beginning to think this lottery thing is as big a scam as the “Radio Shack Magic Minute”. But just to be sure, I’ll try again next time I’m in town.
* Chicago fans travel well. They had a caravan from the Windy City in attendance, as well as a slew of Okies who, inexplicably, are Fire fanatics as well.
* Once again, Mike Segroves, my Brimstone road-trip companion these many years, was gracious and charming in defeat. He always comes to the post-game tailgate to take his ration of abuse. Good natured abuse, but abuse nonetheless. Mikey is a class act. He didn’t even mind it so much when we threw in some “OU lost to TCU” smack for good measure.
* Miss Charlie brought a huge, framed, congratulatory card for Jason Kreis in celebration of his 100th goal, and all the Inferno signed it. If Jason makes the trip to Dallas this weekend (despite being injured), it will presented to him sometime during the game. Miss Charlie, you rock.
* Gina Z made her first trip to the press box to cover this match. Check out her article on the match here. She’s getting better and better every week.

As for today, well, this is a bit of a make or break game in my view. Not in terms of standings (though we do clinch a playoff spot with a win), but in terms of confidence. If we can’t beat Real Salt Lake, at home, when they’re missing Jason Kreis, Clint Mathis, and Andy Williams, we’ve lost whatever momentum we gained Wednesday. Even though we’re missing EJ and El Pescadito ourselves, we still should roll today. Our young guns have proved again and again this year they can step up when needed. Now would be a good time to do it again.

Nunez has shown two years of growth as a player in only the last two weeks. I look for him to lead today. Mina needs to put a stamp of authority on the game as well.

Wow. No sooner did I type those words than Mina rocketed a goal from an insanely acute angle. Great run and through ball by Arturo Alvarez as well. Exxxxxcellent.

I can only imagine how hot it is out there today. They’re saying the game time temperature is 95 degrees, so I’m guessing it’s at least 100 down on the field. Then again, I’ve been to mid-day matches at the Cotton Bowl in years past and I know how brutal that can be. I also survived the 24-hour tailgate in the parking lot on Frisco Street. Let’s keep those fluids up, boys.

Once again the Inferno are in fine voice. Wish I was there.

The game has slowed down somewhat since the goal. I think both sides are realizing what the temperature is. If there is such a thing as ‘getting used’ to this kind of heat, I would think Dallas has the edge today. This is normal practice weather for the boys.

Alvarez nearly beats D.J. Countess from distance. Arturo is on top of his game today. If he and Nunez are both coming of age at the same time, the autumn will be as bright as the summer was bleak around here.

Those Sierra Mist ’side-by-side’ commercials on ESPN2 are getting a little creepy.

Brian Dunseth just rammed himself into the goalpost trying to keep Mina from knocking in a loose ball. The guy is already playing with the flu, and now he nearly lunches on the post. Some days, it doesn’t pay to get out of bed, does it, Brian?

Oh my. Scarlett just torched Bobby Rhine (speed kills, lets face it), and then blasted a ball off the post to Garlick’s left. I believe they heard that out in McKinney.

Okay, I’m not sure when I last said this, but, we’re ahead at the half! 45 more minutes, a few more goals if possible, and our long nightmare is over. We can start healing up and getting ready for the US Open Cup final in the short term, and the MLS Cup in the long term.

I hope I didn’t just put the Mojo on the whole thing….. nahhhh…….

Alvarez almost scores in the first minute of the second half. Great cut back in the box, but the shot just goes high. This is exciting, watching Arturo break out of the chrysalis right before our eyes. Exciting, and beautiful, and most of all, TIMELY.

Wags is looking good today, as he overlaps down the left side. He’s caused some trouble for RSL with his crosses. I’m telling you, when the story of this season is written, it will center not around the superstars, but around the relative unknowns who have come up big when the chips were down. Which they have been, for a while now.

I know coach Clarke has caught a fair amount of heat during “the slump”, but, let’s be fair, the way he’s developed the young talent has been nothing short of brilliant.

Mina Mina Mina Mina Mina Mina Mina!!!! 2-nil to the Super Hoops, 2-nil, to the Super Hoops, 2-nil……

Give a lot of credit to Bobby Rhine for that goal. He absolutely shrugged off a defender on the right wing, carried the ball right up the baseline (to steal a basketball term), and found Mina, inexplicably unmarked, at the six. He’ll never have an easier goal than that. We’re back baby!

Well, not so fast. Jamie Watson scores from a header off a corner kick. Not two minutes after Mina. Crap.

No problem. We’ve got more in the bag for Real today, I feel it.

Mina just took a shot to the forehead, courtesy of Brian Dunseth’s elbow. Nice, Brian, nice. Go ahead and blame the fever, but that was a cheap shot.

Rhine almost scores from about 18 yards out. Bobby believes, as I do, that the best defense is a good offense. He’s another guy that’s taken some heat this season, but I like him and I want him to stay in hoops as long as possible.

More pressure from The Z Boyz, Alvarez and Nunez. And Mina picks up a yellow for getting a little payback on Seth Trembley. Unfortunately, it was Dunseth who whacked him. Oh well . . . They kinda look alike.

More good pressure from Bobby as well. Alavarez comes of for Aaron Pitchkolan. Speaking of young kids who have stepped up when needed. Not so much since the early part of the season, but Aaron proved early on he’s ready for this level.

20 minutes to go. Slight pressure from RSL. This is the exact situation where we’e fallen short for the last two months. Jamie Watson is causing trouble again. He’s a Dallas boy, apparently. We may have to snap him up come the off season.

Salt Lake is playing with 10 men, as Tarley goes off injured, and John Ellinger has used all three of his subs. Eddie Pope was limping around a few mintues ago as well. Not good news for Real.

I don’t think RSL have a realistic shot at the playoffs, but I think this franchise can be proud of their first year. Good attendance (averaging around 18,000 . . . when’s the last time we did that?), some big wins, entertaining football. They’ve done well. Though every time I see them play, I die a little on the inside, knowing that my hometown of Edmond was just days from getting that franchise, before the investors wussed out at the last moment. Money is wasted on the rich, sometimes, isn’t it?

Mina tries to bicycle his way into a hat trick, but goes just high. That would have been unspeakably sweet.

Brandi Chastain just spoke to Jason on the sidelines. Good heavens but that guy is classy. He’s looking at about six or seven months of rehab on his knee. Every Dallas fan is rooting for him, I know.

Speaking of Brandi, she does good work on the sidelines. If ESPN insists on having a pretty face as the third member of the broadcast team (and it seems they do), at least they’ve found one that knows more soccer than about 99.9% of the population of the United States. You can tell, when she talks to players and coaches, that those guys realize they’re talking to someone who is their peer. No, not even a peer; they know they’re talking to someone who has won a World Cup. Unless she’s talking to Youri Djorkaeff, she’s talking to her inferiors.

Game! In the words of Gerald Ford, “Our long national nightmare is over”! This is the day we turned the corner and got the ship back on track (I love mixing metaphors, especially after a win). Big shouts to Mina, The Z Boyz, Bobby, and Wags. Good work by the whole team. I’m proud of the boys today.

See you this Wednesday for a USOC Preview. That’s right, the dirty dirty Galaxy at the Hut this week. Then we meet them again on the 28th to determine who gets to take the Dewar Cup home for 2005.

September 11, 2005


by @ 12:46 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer

One is tempted to do some research on the plot of land whereon sits Pizza Hut Park, to determine whether it was at one time an Indian burial ground or something. But casting aside all talk of a curse, the last couple months have not been good. I think tonight is our night to get off our summer schneid, put a few onions in the sack, and get this train back on the tracks (to mix a few metaphors right off the bat).

And, hey, Northern Ireland beat England this week, so clearly anything is possible. Colin Clarke and Steve Morrow must have been doing some strutting over that deal. Maybe some of that mojo will extend across the Atlantic and help the boys tonight.

Abe Thompson getting some love from Colin Clarke tonight. If this start works out for Abe, it could be the start of a long run for the kid. He’s just about ready to break big.

Papi’s on the field too. If that doesn’t cure the lackadaisical streak we’ve been mired in, I don’t know what will. Oscar doesn’t put up with much of that.

I wish I’d been in Vegas this weekend to get in on some over/under action on which minute Dema will receive his red card tonight. It takes money to make money, they say; this would be more like an investment than a bet.

Mark Wilson gets his first start tonight. We need him to be big for us. He’s obviously a team guy, having stayed in Dallas to train this entire season without being under contract. I like him already, if only for that.

Mr. Geiger, tonight’s referee (who, by the way, doesn’t look old enough to drive, much less ref an MLS game), just showed Ronnie some early yellow; I guess he’s trying to announce his presence with authority, or something, but come on, sir, ease up a bit.

Oh for love of Pele. Yet another early, soft goal for the opposition. Fifteenth minutes in.

Mustn’t . . . be . . . negative. Must . . . maintain . . . positive . . . outlook. Feel . . . optimism . . . fading . . ……………..

What could possibly have happened to this team to make them suddenly unable to play with the passion and skill they started the season with? Losing Mulrooney? All those away games? Having to shower in a trailer for home games? What?

No, it’s too early yet. Only a half-hour gone. Things are not dire just yet. We’re in second place in the West. We’ve had injuries and call ups and all sorts of disruptions. We have our best soccer in front of us. Si se puede, si se puede . . .

Ugh. Greg Vanney just played a short ball to no one and only a crunching tackle from Wagenfuhr on Jamil Walker saved us from a 2-0 first-half deficit. Yikes.

Five minutes left in the first half. I know a team always needs goal, so it’s a little obvious to say “we need a goal”, but, that being said. . .

We need a goal. We need a goal worse than a flower needs some rain. Worse than a mosquito needs a vein. Worse than a bicycle needs a chain. We. Need. A. Goal.

Oh! And we almost got one, too. Nice shot by Bobby Rhine. Rimando had to clock in to make that one.

Well, okay, we didn’t get a goal before halftime, but at least we showed a little spark of offense. We started off slow, but finished better. Not bad.

I’m really grasping at straws here, aren’t I? I will NOT give up on this team, however. I just won’t do it.

I am going to stick with the boys. Even if I end up like the guy in the great movie “Fever Pitch”. It’s a great scene where they’re all sitting in the fish ‘n chips shop, before Arsenal’s first home game of the season. They’re talking football:

Frank: What about the last home game of last season?
Nigel: What about it?
Frank: They were rubbish; they were ******* rubbish. They were ******* rubbish last year, and they were ******* rubbish the year before, and I don’t care if they are top of the table, they’ll be ******* rubbish this year as well. And next year. And the year after that.
Nigel: I don’t know why you come, Frank, I really don’t.
Frank: Well, you live in hope don’t you?

How that film didn’t get Oscar consideration, I’ll never know.

Free kick for us, early in the second half. Ronnie slams it into the wall. Bah. At least it probably hurt the guys in the wall. That’s something. I guess.

Ahhhhhhhhhh! I think Nunez just got as close to scoring as you possibly can get without actually doing so. Good hard shot from the left, deflected by Rimando, dribbling toward the line. Carroll cleared it off. I swear that ball was 90% over the line. Guh.

Ronnie just completely schools dirty dirty Dema with the back-heel nutmeg, so what does Dema do? Hack. Of course. Card, Mr. Geiger? Of course not. That would make too much sense. Good on Drew Moor for getting up in Psycho’s face and telling him, to paraphrase, ‘Actions have consequences, punk.”

We’ve come out of the locker room with bad intent, to be sure. It’s been all Hoops so far. I see a wee bit of fuego right now. Fuego is what we need.

Looks like the Cavalry’s coming. EJ and El Pescadito coming on with about a half-hour to go.

Mr. Geiger should have sent off Wilson just now (not our Wilson, but DC’s Wilson) for a second bookable offense, but he lacked the nerve. Truthfully, I think this young man’s one of the stronger refs in the league, but he should’ve pulled the trigger there.

OHHHHHHHHH! Another great save by Nicky Rimando robs Clarence Goodson. ROBS him. Call a cop, Clarence.

Freddy comes off for DC. He hasn’t been sharp tonight. Which is okay with me; we have enough problems.

I don’t know what Colin said at the half, but it’s working so far. Probably something along the lines of “Hey, I need this gig; quit screwin’ around you guys”.

Nemesis, thy name is Rimando. That’s a third huge save by the kid tonight. This time on Carlos Ruiz. He picked a great night to become Peter Schmeichel, didn’t he?

Twenty minutes to go. Looks like Clarence picked up a charley horse or a hip pointer.

Oh no. Oh no. I don’t believe this. I don’t believe this. That was the worst, softest goal I’ve ever seen in professional soccer. Nick Rimando wallops a goal kick, Jamil Walker picks it up, waltzes into the box unmarked, beats Garlick and gets the ball to Santino Quaranta, who doesn’t even strike it well but still rolls it in the net. I don’t believe this. I really don’t believe this. How could this happen?

We finally had the upper hand, finally had the run of the play. How could that happen?


Fifteen minutes to go. PHP sounds like a hospital ward. It looks like a pretty good sized crowd, too. Performances like this are not the way to go to sustain this kind of thing.

Now we’re just going through the motions. Except Rhine. Gomez was about to make it 3-0, but Bobby made a nice late tackle to stop him. Bobby never quits, of course, no matter what.

Well, we played roughly a half-hour of soccer tonight. Which is fine, except for the undeniable fact that soccer games are 90 minutes long. Still, it’s the first half-hour of quality soccer we’ve played since, oh, I dunno, Memorial day. So that’s something. Besides, had Rimando not been an uberkeeper tonight, we might’ve stolen a win.

Wait wait wait wait wait!!!!

Hold the phone! Stop the presses! Nunez scores a late goal and we have four minutes to make something out of this mess. Could it be I’ve begun the post mortem too quickly?

Not even Rimando could stop that strike. What a finish. Wow. He picked up the ball at the top of the midfield circle, made the run to about 23 yards out and slammed a shot into the left side upper 90. The kid picked a good time to come through in a pinch.

Four minutes stoppage time. Is it possible, or are the boys just toying with our emotions? Whatever happens, I give credit where credit is due. The team looked like they’d hung it up for the evening. It’s a sign of life, if nothing else.

One minute.

Nope. Game over. Well, I just don’t know what to think. 2-1 loss to United. Another loss. Another overall poor effort, but, for a change, with a few signs of life. Seriously, I’m worried for Colin Clarke. Someone’s going to take the heat for this, and I’m afraid it’s going to be him. I don’t like firing coaches in general, and especially not in the midst of a season. I’m thinking, though, that the prevailing American sports culture’s habit of Steinbrennerizing the organization in times of crisis may be in our future. I’m on record right now as saying I don’t want this to happen. I believe Colin can get the most out of this team. I just hope he doesn’t wait too long to do it.

Well . . . This Wednesday is the US Open Cup Semifinals at the PHP. I’m planning on being there, ready to yell my guts out for the boys. It’ll be a USOC Road Trip Edition, Lord willin’.

See you then.

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