FOOTBALLS ARE ROUND!

Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things


April 30, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: DC UNITED v FC DALLAS


by @ 11:38 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Stream Of Consciousness

This is a different kind of lineup. Yi and Moor get starts, El Pescadito is on the bench. Hmmmm…. Dave Johnson, on the Comcast SportsNet broadcast, says that Ruiz missed a practice or something. I hope we’re not starting this nonsense again. And I really hope Hooters Restaurant isn’t involved in this benching, either.

I’m a little surprised that Aaron Pitchkolan didn’t get rewarded with a start this week.

Nice goal by Ben Olsen in the 17th minute. I hate to be negative, but Ramon Nunez seemed, uh, shall we say, oh, less than diligent in his defensive duties on that play. He really laid off Josh Gros, who dropped it back to Olsen for the shot. Am I being over critical? Somebody chime in on this.

See, I don’t like to criticize these guys very much. I’ve played soccer since I was 17, and I know a little about the game, but on the other hand, I’m not good. At all. On their worst days, all these players as far above my level as an eagle is above a penguin. I don’t watch the game thinking “oh, that guy sucks”. I just don’t do it. So when I do notice something a little negative, I hesitate to even mention it. But that looked bad, even to me.

But I freely admit that I could be wrong.

Dave Johnson and John Harkes are so much better than Rob Stone and Eric Wynalda. For all my reticence when it comes to criticizing players, I have no such compunction when it comes to broadcasters. I truly think I could do a better job than about half the guys who call soccer games in this country. I’ve never done any television at all, but I still feel confident saying that. In fact, I’ve never made a secret of the fact that when I grow up, I want to be Kenn Tomasch.

Indeed, I have felt strongly for many years that it would be best for Seamus Malin and Bob Ley to be forced to call every single national soccer telecast in the United States. I know that violates the 13th amendment, which I normally hold sacrosanct, but so be it. When I’m elected dictator, that will probably be my first act.

Well, second act. My first act will be to send the Delta Force to rescue that precious little Katie Holmes from the diabolical clutches of the evil Scientologists.

But I digress.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Ronnie O’Brien! He just scored the goal we’ve all been waiting for him to score this season. An absolute BOMB from about 30 yards out. Wow. That was nasty. Giving that man time and space to shoot anywhere within 40 yards is, by definition, bad defense.

The goal celebration was sublime, too. The boys all got together, linked arms over shoulders, and did a Barra Brava/Screaming Eagle jump-up-and-down dance. Right in front of the Screaming Eagles/Barra Brava section, no less. Nice.

I’d like to know which of them came up with that.

Roberto Mina is an entirely different player this year. More speed, more hustle, more danger.

Whatever you might think of Colin Clarke (and personally, I’m a fan) you have to admit then when his time is up in Dallas, he’ll be remembered for at least two things: the way he’s developed the young guys, and the way he’s found quality players from foreign countries.

Greg Vanney will be glad to see the last of Freddy Adu tonight.

I think Kenny Cooper takes pleasure out of drilling free kicks into the wall. It certainly is entertaining. You have to think that’s an unpleasant experience, standing 10 yards from the kid, knowing he’s not thinking of going around you, but through you.

Josh Gros has a goal disallowed for offside. It was a good call, but bad luck for Gros. Sala either made a great save on Boswell’s initial header, or had his gbacon saved by the post. I’m going to go with outstanding save.

Mark Geiger is a really talented referee. Twice he’s made incredibly prescient advantage calls, then gone back and called the initial foul when the advantage didn’t pan out. He looks like he should be going to his high school prom, or taking his driver’s license test, but he’s reall very good. And I say this even though both of those excellent calls went against FCD

Oh Wow. Sala just made a second incredible save. Going to his left, he stretched his body to its very limit and parried a quality free kick by Christian Gomez. That was one of the best saves I have ever seen in my entire life.

Oh! And now a third! He robs Eskandarian on a breakaway and still has the presence of mind to twist his body around so the ball doesn’t go outside the penalty area. Dario is en fuego tonight.

Freddy Adu has produced some moves tonight that will no doubt end up on either an MLS highlight reel or a Nike commerical.

Sala AGAIN off his line smartly to rob Alecko Eskandarian. MVP of this match, without a doubt. Jeff Cassar is nearly back to 100% health, but I don’t know if he’s going to get back into the first team just yet.

Ugh. Mr. Gieger just about made me want to take back all the nice things I said about him. He calls a really soft foul on Alex Yi, who wasn’t doing much more than breathing on Jaime Moreno. He was, to be fair, a little closer to the actual incident than I was. But only by about 1,000 miles.

Clarence Goodson gets out of the doghouse and into the lineup with 15 minutes left. Also coming in the game is my choice for the next President of the United States, Aaron Pitchkolan. Yi and Cooper go off.

Ten minutes left. This game doesn’t have the feel of a 1-1 draw about it. Right now DC has the run of play. I love this type of game, even though it makes my stomach churn.

Carlos Ruiz in for Mina with six minutes remaining. Bwahahahahahaha!

Another thing I’ve noticed about Mr. Geiger is that he is not afraid to show the cheese. I’m not sure the yellow card count isn’t in double digits at this point.

Three minutes of extra time. Or as I like to call it these days, Aaron time.

Well, no last second heroics this week. That’s okay; we need to save some of those for later in the season when we might really need them. It’s about as fair a draw as you’re going to see. Very entertaining game by the two best teams in MLS this year so far. The boys need to chip in and buy Dario a present, because he was big tonight. That second half was about as good as it gets in the nets.

See you next week for the very first Lone Star Derby against the Houston DynoMutts.

April 28, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FCD v KANSAS CITY


by @ 9:19 am.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness

Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first), but Kenny Cooper reminds me a little bit of Freddy Adu.

Lemme ’splain. He’s great when he’s taking on people and winning balls and doing all that crazy skill stuff that you and I will never be able to do. But he is lacking, right now, in his passing game. Just like Freddy’s first year, except Kenny is better off the ball than Freddy was. Way better.

Keep in mind I’m not complaining at all. I’m really only mentioning it because it is so rare that I actually have a real soccer insight in this column that I just had to share.

He’s got a lot more hustle and maturity than Freddy did his first year. But that could have something to do with the seven-year age gap, I suppose. That wasn’t really an insight, it was more of an observation. That, I do all the time.

Okay, where were we?

Hey, another quick goal this week.

Great. You know what that means.

(must . . . not . . . be . . . negative . . .)

Cid and I couldn’t make the trip this weekend, unfortunately. I have this part-time gig teaching at one of those online Universities, and it requires me to be home on Sundays sometimes. I like teaching online. You don’t have to leave the house, and you don’t have to actually interact personally with any other human beings. If I could teach my 6th grade English classes online, I’d have the best life in the whole universe. I’d even quit complaining about the pay.

No I wouldn’t. For a teacher to not complain about pay would violate strict union regulations and lead to the revocation of one’s teaching license.

Coop’s goal was all about tenacity, hustle and opportunism. That was an “I learned the game from Alex Ferguson” goal.

Chris Gbandi is showing why he was a first round draft pick. He is playing calm, tough defense. He just muscled his guy off a beautiful cross from Eddie Johnson. A year ago, when he wasn’t really full speed, he gives up that goal. This is such good news for all of us. Good on Colin Clarke for being so patient with the kid. This may be the first season he’s had at full health since he became a pro.

Speaking of EJ, he’s a daddy! That’s a great thing. I’m happy for the GAM. He said in an interview with Steve Davis that he’s done a lot of growing up since the daughter was born. I wonder if Brian Haynes is the Godfather.

Wait. Dario Sala is 21 years old? I love the guy, but he looks like he’s about 40.

Looks like Clarence Goodson is paying the price for having Bill Buckner luck last week. Drew Moor gets the start.

Miss Zippilli, call your office.

He seems to be doing okay; except when he tries to keep pace with Eddie Johnson. But then, he’s not alone in MLS in that regard.

Bah! I think I might have jinxed Chris Gbandi. He just got a straight red for bringing down Davy Arnaud just outside the penalty area. He got beat on a nice through ball by, uh, someone, I couldn’t tell who. Arnaud got a step on him and Chris kinda gave him the ol’ Rugby tackle. I think he lost that step by looking back at the Assistant Referee, wanting an offside call. Ah well. Kansas City blew the resulting free kick, so it may work out. There’s a good 20 minutes left. Time to hunker down and play some Bob Gansler soccer against Bob Gansler.

Mina, Mina, Mina, MINA! The guy makes a beauty of a run, about 50-60 yards, has Ruiz on his right, but ends up scuffing a shot that went so far wide it was almost a throw in.

Alex Yi sighting! He comes in for Pescadito with 17 minutes left.

No matter what else happens, I’ve had the privilege of listening to Rob Stone and Marcelo Balboa working together in the broadcast booth. It would be a greater privilege if I had some assurance it was the last time I’d ever have to hear them working together in the broadcast booth.

Pitchkolan in for Coop. A giant subbing for a giant. Sounds fair.

Willo off for Nunez.

Six minutes left. You know, a year or so ago, I’d be here watching this game alone, sweating this last minute stuff, probably drinking myself miserable. Now, I’ve got Cid next to me, we’re laughing and joking and, well, sweating this last minute stuff. But it’s different somehow. And I don’t just mean the part about not drinking myself miserable. I know there’s a word for this, but I can’t quite pull it out of my brain. . . . . Oh yeah, happy, that’s the word.

Ouch. Ramon Nunez just drilled a free kick off Kerry Zavagnin’s melon. They did the replay with the audio turned up; you know that sound your car makes when you run over a box turtle? Yeah, it kinda sounded like that. Kerry got up pretty quick and shook it off, but he may or may not remember the last three or four minutes of this match, come tomorrow.

Sala cracks me up. He picks up a rolling ball just ahead of Josh Wolff, nobody even touches him, but just for fun, he does a little dive and lays on the ground a few seconds. I love this guy.

Five minutes stoppage time? Was there a power outage, or a tornado, or a presidential address somewhere in this half and I didn’t hear about it?

OH, SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP! OH, LONG FRIGGIN’ STREAM OF OUTRAGEOUS PROFANITY!

KC ties the game in injury time. The good Lord knows I try not to use profanity in this column, but it is –

OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! PITCHKOLANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN SCORESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! OH DIPSY SELELOWANE!! GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL! MAGIC! BEAUTY! GOAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GANO’ FCD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You Have Got To Be Kidding Me! Aaron takes the ball at the midway circle, starts to run, gets knocked off the ball by Eddie, who leaves it for someone else to collect. Pitch keeps running on to it, steals it from Burciaga, beats the last defender, then RIPS a shot from the edge of the area. He absolutely shredded that ball and left poor Bo Oshoniyi flapping in the air.

That is absolute utter magic. I just don’t know what to say. Not since Zarco Rodriguez ran the length of the field and scored with seconds to go in a playoff game, back in the old “clock counts down” days, has this team pulled one off like that. I am walking on air.

See you kids next week for DC ADUnited.

April 17, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: COLORADO v FCD


by @ 5:10 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Stream Of Consciousness

The last time we saw an FCD/Colorado game at the estadio Mile High, well, it was a dismal affair. We all drove 10+ hours to see a nil-nil draw. Not the exciting kind, either. The boring kind. See, that’s what the non-soccer fan doesn’t understand: a 0-0 tie can be a great display of soccer. Provided of course, that neither team is playing for a 0-0 tie. That night, neither team wanted to win; they both just wanted to get the heck out of Denver. 
 
So did we after that one.
 
Plus, we all know what happened in the second leg of that series (which, of course, we’re not talking about, so, well, never mind).
 
On to tonight.
 
Greg Vanney scored a goal!
 
Those are words that have never been typed on this website before (I point this out merely for historical purposes).
 
It was, as they say in soccer columns, a right cracker of a goal. Left-footed, 30 yards out off the free kick. Joe Cannon looked like a statue of Lev Yashin (again for historical purposes, I point out to you that this is the one and only time in the history of the universe that Joe Cannon and Lev Yashin will be compared to each other). And this was in the fifth minute or so. Being the glass-half-empty kind of guy I am, the only thing I find scarier than giving up an early goal is taking an early lead; we almost never hold on to them. Really, I should never even watch these games, except for the last minute or so, just to see the score. There’s no way I can be happy during the game. If we’re ahead, I worry about holding the lead, if we’re behind, I worry about not making a comeback. If we’re tied, of course, I do both. 
 
It’s sad, I know.
 
But then, a bit before halftime, Roberto Mina scores. It is an astounding goal. Astounding. He picks up the ball at the halfway line, almost to the touchline, and he just starts dribbling. Three defenders hover around him like he’s got some sort of force-field thing going on. They get close, but not too close, giving him about five yards of room in all directions. He just keeps dribbling, looking up once in a while. He winds up to shoot, thinks better and dribbles along some more, now nearly to corner of the 18 yard box. You can almost see the little cartoon-panel-thought-balloon above his head saying “Okay, why not?”? And then he just RIPS the shot. So Joe Cannon, of course, assumes it’s a cross and starts to his right. When he realizes it’s a shot, he starts to reverse direction. If you’ve ever played goalkeeper, you know that doing this only makes you look like you never started moving in the first place. Joe, who was actually in position at this near post, ends up getting beat to the near post, without ever moving his feet. 
 
It was beautiful.
 
So now, we’re up 2-0 at halftime, and I’m thinking, hey, they got nothin’; we’re home and dry.
 
I’m such an idiot sometimes.
 
Because lo and behold, all the sudden it’s like somebody called timeout, and everybody went and got a drink of, well, whatever the opposite of an energy drink is. Red Bull Valium Drink, or something. We become sluggish for some reason. Colorado, on the other hand, started playing a little. Pressure, possession, all that stuff. But still, it wasn’t a big deal. We were handling it. Our defense is so much better this year than last. We were handling it, I tell you.
 
And then, for some reason, a black cloud descended from the sky and settled squarely over the head of young Clarence Goodson. 
 
Up until the black cloud appeared, Clarence was playing great. Great. He and Vanney had the middle sewed up tighter than a pair of Brooke Shields’s Calvin Kleins (a little 80’s reference for all you 40-somethings). They were well-nigh impenetrable (which, coincidentally, was true of Brooke back in the 80’s as well).
 
But I digress.
 
All of a sudden, Clarence traps a ball in the penalty area with his left hand. Now, if you’ve ever played soccer unskillfully, as I have, you’ve no doubt experienced the phenomena of seeing your hand rise to stop the ball without your brain’s consent. Something in your American-born soul sees a ball passing by you and you simply out of pure-bred instinct reach out and touch it with your hand. Then when your teammates look at you with the look of disgust that only a soccer player can muster, all you can do is shrug and say “I don’t know”.
 
Yeah, that’s what Clarence did. Which in a way was nice, in the same way you kinda deep down like it when Tiger hits a ball in the water; you figure, hey, I can do that! And you feel better about your own severely limited skills.
 
Fine, though. No biggie. Dario guesses wrong on the PK, and it’s 2-1. It happens. Whatareyagonnado?
 
Then (and really I can only explain this bad luck by assuming that Clarence desecrated an ancient Indian burial ground recently, or something to that effect) a few minutes later, the poor kid makes an own-goal while trying to clear out a cross. It was like one of those old Pebbles and Bam-Bam cartoons, featuring Bad Luck Schleprock. They boy just couldn’t catch a break.
 
Okay, well, we’ve scored two of the best goals of the season, then given up two of the worst, in the span of one game. It’s rotten, dumb luck, and that’s all there is to it.
 
At the end of the day, it’s a point on the road, right? Good result; could have been better, but a road draw is a road draw.
 
Now, here’s the question: How rattled is the Kid going to be by this horrendous black-cloud-Schleprock-bad-dream-wake-up-in-a-cold-sweat type of game? Hopefully, he’ll just shake it off, and, in a decade or so, will be able to look back at it and laugh. For that matter, he may be able to laugh it off in November, if we lift the cup the way I suspect we will. Regardless, Clarence is playing really well, and here’s to hoping he’ll just shake this night off and forget all about it.
 
And grow his hair back.
 
See you all next weekend for the Kansas City Lizards.

April 15, 2006

RHYMES WITH GORTY


by @ 9:43 am.
Filed under Miscellany

Things I did good for Cid’s Birthday:

Things I did bad for Cid’s Birthday:

April 14, 2006

GREATEST PUB TEAM EVER


by @ 2:09 pm.
Filed under Media, The International Game

If you don’t know anything about the history of English soccer for the last 40 years or so, this won’t mean much to you, but, if you do, stop what you’re doing and go watch this brilliant commercial for Carlsberg beer.

If you’re in the former category, just know that having a Sunday league referee give Jack Charlton a yellow card, after having to ask him his name, is like Hank Aaron getting tossed out of a slow-pitch church league game. And having Stuart Pearce, one of the fiercest defenders ever to play, get a call from his mum in the dressing room would be like, oh, Atilla the Hun getting grounded for not cleaning his room.

THE REAL KAISER


by @ 1:29 pm.
Filed under The International Game, US National Team, World Cup

Sure, they call Beckenbauer “The Kaiser”, but, does he live in a castle?

No, I don’t think so.

Now, you take a great like Kasey Keller, he lives in a castle.

Plus, Kaiser alliterates so well with Kasey Keller. I hereby declare Kasey’s new nickname to be “The Kaiser”.

Help spread it around.

April 12, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FCD V RSL


by @ 10:13 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Media, Stream Of Consciousness

With the lovely Cid failing to pass a late fitness test, middle daughter Bay came off the bench and accompanied me down to the Metroplex for the game. The Lovely Cid is listed as “probable” for the next home game in two weeks against Kansas City. 

Bay is a great traveling companion. She’s bright, funny, and only once-in-a-while breaks into whiny shrillness (I hope she’s not reading this). The poor girl already suffers for having me not only as a step-dad, but also as her 6th grade English teacher, so she possesses a great deal of patience as well. Her main reason for going to the game with me was, of course, to get away from her siblings, but when I told her we’d be hanging with The Inferno, and that she’d be required to stand and make lots of noise for 90 minutes, that’s when she was really sold on the idea.

Of course, no sooner did we get there than she latched on to Gina, Hannah, and all the girls of The Posse Assembled. It was as if she was embarrased to be seen with me . . . but no, that couldn’t be it. Could it?

You couldn’t possibly have wanted a more beautiful evening for soccer, by the way. Ideal.

The crowd was kind of thin, again. But as it turns out, every profssional sports team in Dallas was at home that night. Mavericks, Rangers, Stars, and even the AA farm team in Frisco. I’m surprised the Cowboys didn’t have an impromptou scrimmage as well. Oh, and added to all that was the NASCAR race. I’m surprised and gratified there was anybody there at all, frankly.

We fell behind again in the first half, which usually spells doom for us. But, after last week’s rare come-from-behind victory, I wasn’t all that worried. Hmmm . . . being a goal down, but not being worried . . . it felt strange, foreign. Otherworldly, one might say.

I could get used to it.

As for the goal itself, well, it was a deflected free kick by Chris Klein. I heard people say they couldn’t tell whether or not it deflected, but believe me, it was most surely a deflection. I mean, it had to have been; projectiles just don’t magically change direction like that for no reason.

Well, okay, in Dallas they sometimes do. At least that’s what the Warren Commission said.

But I digress.

We equalized before halftime, Cooper from Ruiz. Two assists in two weeks for Carlos. He said he’d get 20 goals this year, but if he keeps dishing up these beautiful assists like he’s done so far, I’d be happy with 20 of those. Wouldn’t you?

By the way, in case you’re not hip to this fact yet, Kenny Cooper is a monster. The man is just flat out good. He’s going to own this league. They’re going to have to call it Major League Cooper.

At the beginning of the second half, somebody in the inferno lit a smoke bomb. Not just any ol’ smoke bomb, but, like, the mother of all smoke bombs. This thing was on steroids. Bay was standing not five feet from me and I couldn’t see her. This, by the way, was not an aspect of the game she particularly enjoyed. We were walking back to the tailgate after the game and she says “Ahh, I can still taste that thing!” Me, I was jusssst outside the reach of the smoke, so I thought it was great. Heh.

The great Scotty Garlick took an immense amount of abuse from the Inferno, by the way. I loves the Scotty, so I didn’t really take part. Most of the things the Inferno chanted, well, I’m not absolutely sure they can be repeated in a family column such as this one. He took it like a champ, however.

Memo to Mr. Garlick: I love ya, man, but you just GOT to lose the mustache, okay? You look like an extra from “Viva Zapata”.

Willo got his first goal in hoops to give us the win late in the second half. Sweet.

Gee I think that just about wraps everything up for this we . . . Oh, OH, OHHHH! One more thing!

Quick Quiz: Who made the game winning assist against Chicago, AND made a game-saving clearance off the line in extra time against RSL? Hmmm? Give up?

BOBBY FREAKIN’ RHINE, THAT’S WHO!!

Now, is everybody sitting down? Good.

I want you all to stand up, raise your right hand, and repeat after me: “Without Bobby Rhine, We Would NOT BE UNDEFEATED; Bobby Rhine is a great asset to our team”. I’ll just wait here for everyone to go ahead and do that.

 
Okay, some of you aren’t doing it . . . I’m waiting.

 

 

 

DO IT! DO IT NOW!

Thank you.

There. Don’t we all feel better?

(Was that okay, Gina?)

Back at the post-game tailgate, El Jefe (which, as we know, is Spanish for “The Jefe”), hooked up the mini-dish so we could all enjoy rooting against both teams in the Galaxy v Fire matchup. If only there was a way each of them could have ended up with a loss, it would have been the perfect evening.

A few hearty souls ventured to the Frisco IHOP after all was said and done for a late-night repast. The manager there was very accomodating. He gave us over an hour to visit with each other while we waited for our food.

A big thank you to Harlan, Mama Lisa, and Alan for giving Bay and I a place to crash. I had originally planned to make Bay drive us back home to Oklahoma that night, but then she rightly pointed out to me that she’s only 11, and probably unable to reach the pedals anyway. Which was a really good point. Like any good leader, I re-assessed the situation and we went with another option.

See you folks next week for the away game against the John Denver All-Stars.

April 5, 2006

IF YOU DON’T GO READ THIS, YOU HATE AMERICA


by @ 4:37 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

Last year I mentioned how much I enjoyed the weekly All-American XI column (AAXI to all the cool kids) that appeared weekly on BigSoccer. Now the concept has spread to its own website: aaxi.blogsome.com.

The new incarnation features a great collection of amateur soccer writers from around the country (take some time to visit each contributor’s own blog; terrific reading there). Of course, they started scraping the bottom of the barrel to get a representative fan from each MLS team, so, as it turns out, Yours Truly has been invited to be a contributor as well.

When I say “amateur” soccer writers, of course, I don’t mean “amateurish”. I mean a group of really talented, entertaining writers who make their living in other ways, but write about soccer out of pure love. You know, amateurism in the Olympic sense.  Well, before the Soviet bloc made a mockery of the concept and the American free enterprise system wiped it out completely.

But I digress.

If you love MLS, but lack the obsessive personality traits necessary to watch each and every game of the season, let the kids at AAXI keep you up-to-date on what’s going on.

And then straighten out your life’s priorities and get with the program, you pathetic loser.

What?

April 3, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FC DALLAS v CHICAGO FIRE


by @ 10:14 pm.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness

You know, I’ve been following this Dallas team since 1996, and every other off-season has been just awful. No MLS, no money, no life. Alone, depressed, wondering sometimes why I even bother keepin’ on with the keepin’ on. Some of you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, you’re lucky.

But this offseason was the best ever. I got married. Right out of the blue, God sends me this wonderful perfect woman. Did I have this coming? Did I deserve this greatest of all boons? No. Oh, hell no. No I did not. But I’ll take it. You know the old saying: “Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then”. Yep, I’ll take it.

And so, since I’m undergoing a new beginning, so to speak, I had resolved to do the same thing with the boys. It will be, I says to myself, a new FC Dallas beginning.

See, the end of last season was ugly. The memory of those Colorado punks running past the Inferno giving us the ol’ Italian two-armed salute . . . well, it was just really hard to take. But so what. It’s a new life, a new season, and I am determined to forget all that nonsense as being nothing more than a bad dream from which I’ve managed to shake my self awake.

Mind you this resolve nearly went straight down the flusher in the 11th minute when Chris Rolfe absolutely abused our entire defense and set up what has to be the worst goal FCD have ever given up. I don’t even want to go into detail, beacause it was so ugly that it might scare any small children who may be reading. And besides, since I’m doing the whole “new beginning” thing, there’s no reason I can’t extend it a dozen minutes or so and just forget it completely.

So, let’s start again, shall we?

Did you know it’s exactly 208.5 miles from my house to the green parking lot at Pizza Hut Park? Yep, that’s right, DJ learned how to use the trip odometer today.

The hottest I’ve ever been in my life, and the coldest I’ve ever been in my life, have both been times I’ve tailgated at PHP. So imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to find perfect soccer-watching weather at the Hut today. Perfect. High 70s, slightly overcast, a little humid, but with a nice breeze. Are you kidding me? It’s like dying and going to soccer heaven. Good day for soccer, good day to be alive.

The lovely Cid and I rolled in about 2:00, just in time to enjoy a cold 16 oz Champagne of Beers ™ and head to section 116. And if all that wasn’t enough, I got to fulfill a lifelong dream today. I got my own official Inferno snare drum. Manck brought an extra, and it was just sittin’ there in the parking lot, begging me to pick it up and beat the hell out of it for 90 minutes. How could I say no? Having my own drum…. could this day GET any better?

Let’s give Chicago, much though we despise them (in a fun-loving, soccer kinda way) their due credit. First of all, the kids from Section 8 really travel well. They had a huge group down in the corner, in full effect with flags, banners and loud voices. They’re a great supporters group; a credit to MLS. Second, the Fire themselves deserve credit for coming out and being ready to play from the opening whistle. You could see that our boys were a little . . . oh, I don’t know . . . not timid, but not quite loaded for bear either. Okay, let me say it this way: the first 30 minutes were played like the first round of a boxing match. Too much feeling out, not enough punching.

Not the Fire. Noooooo, They seemed to have no nerves at all. Chris Rolfe, especially, was problematic right away. He had a shot at a World Cup spot earlier in the year, and didn’t quite get to the level he needed. But at the rate he’s going, I think he’s got to be an early favorite to make the team in 2010.

After looking like a side that was still chasing after the Saturn Challenge Cup for 30 minutes, we pulled a tying goal back in the 31st. It was a goal that gives me great hope for the season. Our guy Carlos picks up the ball near the center circle and just starts running with it, about 40 yards, drawing four defenders to him like dung draws flies. Once he gets in the penalty area he flicks over a perfectly weighted pass to Arturo Alvarez. Arturo just nails it left-footed at a crazy angle to beat Zach Thornton far post. Nobody, but nobody from Chicago, not the players, coaches or fans in the stands, was watching Arturo until the moment Carlos played the ball to him. It was beautiful.

Now, I have to admit, when we go down 2-1 in the second half (freakin’ Rolfe again . . .), I start to lose faith. I’ve been following this team for too long and I’ve seen to many games slip away in that same precise manner. I can’t really be blamed for not forseeing a 3-2 comeback victory. I’m sorry, mea culpa, my bad, but I didn’t see it happening. A tie, maybe, which would have been like a win to me, but a come-from-a-goal-down win? This day . . . I just want to freeze-dry it and pack it away, so I can pull it out someday and experience it all over again.

Along about minute 60, you could almost see the needle hit “E” for the Fire. We seemed to be in much better condition and momentum became our little buddy for the rest of the match. Being in Section 116 with the Inferno (DRUMMING!), I didn’t see the Mina goal or the Cooper goal as well as I might have wished. Know what? I don’t care. I saw enough to know it was time to scream my lungs out and breathe in some confetti. Man if felt good. We hadn’t had that kind of result at Uncle Lamar’s House just yet. It really feels like home now.

On the drive home, Cid and I drove straight into a huge-mongous line of thunderstorms. But we saw very little of the heavy rain, and for about an hour we saw one of God’s great floorshows, an Oklahoma springtime lightning-fest. It was spectacular.

Best.
Day.
Ever.

See you next week for Real Salt Lake.

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