Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things

May 29, 2006


by @ 11:02 am.
Filed under US National Team, World Cup

Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant writes what is, for me, the best article yet on Il Bruce. It is Bruce, seen through the eyes of long-time friend and fellow coaching genius, Geno Auriemma of the UConn women’s basketball program. Here’s a snippet:

“Imagine if a guy from Yugoslavia came over here and was at a clinic with Bobby Knight, Dean Smith, John Wooden and Red Auerbach,” Auriemma said. “And the guy from Yugoslavia comes in and goes, `Hey, you know you guys have been doing this all wrong. Let me show you how to do it.’ The way Bruce is, I think he has a great appreciation for soccer and he is a tremendous student of the game. I think he respects the heritage of the game and all that. But he actually believes when his team takes the field against Italy or Czech Republic, he’s convinced his guys we’re going to win.

Do go read the whole thing.

May 28, 2006


by @ 7:01 pm.
Filed under Media, Miscellany

The brilliant but anonymous author of the Bruce’s Belly blog has really gone upper 90 with this post: Experience and Innocence – The New American Soccer Player.

May 16, 2006


by @ 10:46 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Stream Of Consciousness

There’s no hot like Pizza Hut Park hot. “The Oven” truly is a good nickname for that place sometimes. Especially when we’re dealing with a 3:00 kickoff. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ESPN2 exposure as much as anyone, but I’m just not quite sure human beings were truly meant to be out-of-doors in this type of weather.

And it’s only May. Had it been July, people would have been bursting into flames over on the East side bleachers.

I forgot to mention it last week, but the Houston supporter’s group really are a good bunch of folks. They brought a busload to this game, and we enjoyed their company at the tailgate. For all our differences, we find enough common ground to appreciate and celebrate our similarities.

For, you see, there is one common theme, that, if all mankind would adopt it, could very well lead to peace on earth, much as it has led to a peaceful co-existence of the Inferno and the Texian Army.

I am speaking, of course, of hating the Dirty Dirty Galaxy.

There was a moment during the tailgate when both groups gathered together for a photo, wherein we raised our hands (well, fingers) in salute to our friends in the City of Angels. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. Well, maybe some dry eyes, but certainly none that weren’t bloodshot.

The game itself was kind of disappointing. We scored an early goal, which was great. I think that’s 3 in 3 games for El Pescadito, which is what we need more than the breath of life itself (and, if you saw the game, you noticed Carlos ‘accidentally’ bumping in to that punk Serioux or whatever his name is; that was a shame, wasn’t it?).

But after that, the game, well, I don’t know how to describe it. It’s kind of like, well, you know how bright and fun a big cluster of helium balloons are? The colors are bright, they’re defying gravity, they just have an air of festiveness about them, right? Well, okay, you know how after a week or so, the sheen is off the balloons, they’re about half inflated, and instead of defying gravity they sort of float listlessly, just above the ground in a depressing sort of “I give up” kind of way?

Yeah, it was like that.

You all know that I don’t pretend to be an “expert” on soccer. I love the game, and I’ve watched and played it for way more than half my life, but I don’t put on airs to be some sort of football genius, like a Bobby McMahon type of guy. Okay, that’s a given. But having said all that, I’m going to have to say something unpleasant about the way the game was coached Saturday, even though I’m loathe to criticize any soccer professionals, especially coach Clarke. So here it goes.

How on earth can you get a one goal lead on Houston and then just sit on it like it was enough? Especially when the goal came only about 20 minutes in? I don’t know much, but I do know the best way to preserve a one-goal advantage is to turn it into a two or three goal advantage. I thought I was watching the Bob Gansler-era US National Team. And if you appreciate the history of American soccer, you know this isn’t a compliment. (No disrespect to Mr. Gansler, who is a great coach, and was playing bunker-ball out of necessity, given the circumstances.)

I know it was hot, and I know we’ve had three games in a week, but, but, but, DANG that was frustrating to watch. You just knew, even as well as we’ve been playing defense, that the equalizer was coming eventually. It was so disheartening to watch it from behind the goal, in the heat, that it really felt like a loss instead of a tie when all was said and done.

I don’t understand playing for a draw. Even when we’re on the road I don’t get that whole philosophy. But at home. I don’t know. Maybe there’s a piece missing in this equation I’m not aware of. I’m assuming Colin knows more about the game and the team than I do; I’m just mystified by what I saw Saturday.

It was so depressing, Cid and I didn’t even hang around for the post-game tailgate. We just headed to the party wagon, cranked the A/C, and headed back to the land of milk and honey, north of the mighty Red River. I couldn’t even watch the game on Tivo.

Maybe I’m just getting old and cynical. I dunno. I’m getting old, that’s for sure. The heat must have had an effect on my mood and outlook. I’ll just have to put on a happy face and get ready for this Saturday. See you then. I think we’re playing the Revs. Or somebody. Whatever.

May 12, 2006


by @ 9:33 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Stream Of Consciousness

Bonus Streamage: Two Games For The Price of One!

Because of the rude intrusion of real-life responsibilities, I had to delay the writing of the FCD-Houston Stream and merge it with the FCD-Galaxy Stream. I hate real life.

(Part the First, In which our intrepid hero leaves his cave and travels to the nether reaches of the League, to a land with no zoning laws and highway overpasses stacked eight high.)

So, the Houston game was a great road trip experience. You really haven’t lived until you’ve spent four hours on a bus with the Inferno. Really. Half the group is wired on caffeine, the other half well on the way to being inebriated, watching movies about soccer and yelling ostensibly witty remarks at the screen.

Oh, wait, that was just me. Never mind.

The movie selection on the trip to Houston was  “Fever Pitch” and “A Shot At Glory”. If you haven’t yet, do try to see them, as they are two must-see films about football. The former is very funny, while the latter features Robert Duvall speaking in a Scottish brogue. How the man didn’t get an Oscar for that performance is beyond my scope of imagination. Oh, and when you see these films, see if you can’t arrange to view them with a bus full of rowdy soccer fans. It heightens the experience immeasurably. Lots of beer doesn’t hurt, either.

(A quick shout-out to Tornado Bus Lines. What a great company. Gabriel, our driver, was friendly and competent; not to mention unafraid to press the pedal down when necessary.)

Robertson Stadium is not a bad place to watch soccer at all. The section behind the goal is about 15 feet closer to the field than the corresponding section at Pizza Hut Park. Not bad at all.

I have a feeling the security staff at Robertson have been reading too many news reports about English Soccer Hooligans, however, because a more uptight group of rent-a-cops you have never seen. I think the soldiers at the Siege of Stalingrad were more laid-back and friendly than this crew. Lighten up, people; this ain’t Clockwork Orange, it’s Major League Soccer.

As for the inaugural fight for the Cannon (which, I believe, should be nicknamed “Joe”), it could have gone better, but believe me, it could have been oh-so-much worse. I swear after the first 45 minutes I was contemplating never traveling to another professional soccer ever again. Sitting a good 450 miles or so from my comfy suburban Oklahoma City home, away from my beautiful new wife for the first time since we married, and just having witnessed the worst half of Dallas professional soccer since the Thursday Night Massacre back in ‘99, I really had to begin to wonder if it was all worth it.

Colin Clarke must have sensed similar vibes gushing like a torrent from the Inferno section as he went to the locker room. He apparently reminded the boys, in no uncertain terms, that they were embarrassing themselves in front a good sized group of people who had traveled a long distance (to HOUSTON of all places) to watch them play. However he framed his remarks, and at whatever volume he might have chosen, it worked.

The boys came out in the second half, to quote from the movie Full Metal Jacket, “born again hard”. It was like a whole new team. Intense, hard, hustling soccer in the place of the previous half’s almost studied indifference.

It was a great, great half of soccer to watch. Even being 3-0 down at the half, the guys came within a hair’s breadth of making one of the great all-time MLS comebacks. It was a 4-3 loss, but a moral victory. A first half of soccer, that poorly and carelessly played, could have effectively ended the season. Instead, it proved to be a turning point. At the end of the day (okay, really it was the beginning of the next day, by the time we got back to Dallas), I was glad I’d made the trip.

Oh, and we got to watch “Dumb and Dumber” and “Tommy Boy” on the ride back.

Yeah, there’s four hours I’ll never get back.

One more thing about the Houston game before I move on to the Dirty Dirty Galaxy:

Memo to Mr. Okulaja: Next time you referee a soccer match, review the rules, and open your eyes. I mean, Abby, buddy, you know I normally love your work, but really now, how many more guys had to be offside on that first goal to get you to call it? Tighten up pal, or suffer the extreme, uncensored taunting of the Inferno from now until the proverbial cows come home. M’kay? Thanks, your pal, DJ.


(Part the Second, in which our intrepid hero ventures out on a school night, knowing full well he won’t get back until really, really late, and that he still has to make it to work in the morning.)

There’s nothing like a game with the Dirty, Dirty Galaxy to get me motivated to travel long distances and scream my throat out. Cid and I got a fairly late start, along with two daughters and a neighbor, who is like a daughter to us, all packed into the party van, along with various snacks, sodas, and sandwich fixins’ (although not, as it turned out, a loaf of bread, but that’s neither here nor there). We actually made pretty good time, avoiding traffic in both OKC and Denton, and pulling into the Hut just before Kickoff. Timing is everything.

I was horrified when I stepped through the gate at 7:25, because it looked for all the world like there was no more than about a thousand people present. But, as always happens, people filtered in throughout the first half, and it turned out to be a respectable crowd for a Wednesday night while school is still in session. The weather was absolutely perfect. Seventy degrees, slight breeze – idyllic.

This young guy Cronin, in goal for the DDG, is not a bad keeper, but isn’t quite ready for a regular starting gig. First off, his hair is shockingly in need of a bleach job. Second, it is cut in a somewhat standard, conservative fashion. Did this guy not read his contract? Second, while he possesses good fundamentals, his sense of positioning is just ever-so-slightly in need of sharpening. He was nearly chipped several times in the first half. He’s got a good future in the league if he can get the whole hair thing straight.

Lucky he’s got such a fine mentor in Kevin Hartman.

(I’ll take “phrases I never thought I’d type” for $1000, Alex)

So, apparently, Chris Gbandi shot off his mouth to the press after practice one day last week, ranting and raving about how he shouldn’t have been taken out of the lineup against the Dynomutts. So, for this game, not only is he not in the starting lineup, he’s not even dressed out as a sub. I don’t even know that he was anywhere in the Metroplex, unless he was out at Colin Clarke’s place, hanging out in the doghouse. Memo to Chris: Just because you may have a valid point, that doesn’t entitle you to express it without penalty. You’re finally playing up to potential, you’ve been great this year, and you’ll get your time if you deserve it. Dummy up and don’t rock the boat. Love and peas, your pal and staunch defender, DJ.

Great opportunistic goal by Carlos Ruiz tonight. The ball was bouncing around like a pinball and The lil’ fish gathered it up and nailed it past Cronin. It was a goal scorer’s goal, so to speak. Pure instinct and aggressiveness, combined with that ineffable quality to get the ball at opportune times and places. It can’t really be taught, it just has to be there, doesn’t it?

I don’t know who the ref was, but sir, if you’re reading (and I find that very difficult to imagine), please, sir, don’t ever, EVER show your face in the Dallas area within eyesight of Miss Gina Z. You had the gall, the temerity, to give Bobby Rhine a red card tonight. You are on Gina’s list. I’m not saying you’re in any mortal danger, or anything like that, but still and all, you seriously don’t want to meet up with Gina in some dark alley, compadre. Not that, you know, Gina hangs out in dark alleys or anything like that, but you know . . . ah forget it.

I didn’t have a good look at the foul Bobby supposedly committed, so I’ll defer judgment until I see the game on TV, but I know for a fact, a little while later I saw Ugo Ihemelu fall to the ground three steps after coming no closer than six inches to a Dallas midfielder. So, yeah, I’m suspicious. I’d love to hear from my vast readership (both of you guys) what you saw. I have my doubts. The man has never been ejected from an MLS game before. I’m willing to be corrected, but I find the whole thing very shennanigan-esque.

But on the bright side, if set up a terrific finish. Bobby got tossed in the 43rd minute, so that was a long stretch of defending. And defend they did. Well. It was really good to watch. A solid, one might even say, in football terms, heroic job of defending. Drew Moor, Clarence Goodson, and Alex Yi justified the faith that Coach Clarke has shown in them. In a big way, too. They were stellar. Tough, fast, tenacious, smart. It was a fun to watch. Dario didn’t even have that much to do, but he did what he had to do extremely well. He made a really aggressive, fearless dive into the feet of Thiago at one point near the end of the match. Despite clearly having possession, Dario suffered from two of three kicks to the ribcage from the newest Galaxy thug-of-the-month award winner.

To top the whole thing off, Richard Mulrooney made his first appearance since, oh, an eternity ago, late in the second half. He looked great, and not at all hesitant or fragile.

Oh, and the Galaxy had some kid named Donavan, who I heard was supposed to be really good, but he didn’t really do much. Rumor has it he won’t be getting another start for L.A. until sometime in early July. Poor kid. Just when he was getting some playing time.

All in all, between Saturday’s game against the Mutts, and this game against the DDG, I traveled somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,300 miles this week, just to watch FC Dallas. And, I’m going this Saturday as well. Somebody asked me if I was crazy, doing all that traveling, what with the price of gasoline and all that. My response, was, simply, “Yes, yes I am – what’s your point?”

See you Saturday for the second-ever Fight for the (Joe) Cannon, against the Houston EarthQlash1836DynamoQuakes.


by @ 9:16 am.
Filed under Miscellany

Incredibly, Roger Ebert gave a positive review to “Goal! The Dream Begins”. Here’s a Snippet:

“Goal! The Dream Begins” is not a great sports film, and I can easily contain my impatience for “Goal! 2″ and “Goal! 3″ (which should, but will not, be titled “Goal! 3: The Dreamer Awakes”). But it is good and caring work, with more human detail than we expect. Specifically, it is more about Santiago’s life as a young man than it is about who wins the big match. There’s a subtext about immigrants in America that is timely right now, and a certain sadness in his father’s conviction that some people are intended to be rich and others poor, and that the Munez family should be content and grateful to be poor. Santiago is not content, but he is driven not so much by ambition as by pure and absolute love of soccer, and that gives the movie a purity that shines through.

 Do go read the whole thing. Not only because it is a rare good review of a soccer film, but also because Roger Ebert is one of the best writers in America. When I grow up, I wanna be him.

May 3, 2006


by @ 10:14 am.
Filed under Media, Random Thoughts, The International Game, World Cup

Here’s an interesting phenomenon to keep your eyes on. Go to Google, and type “nike + metatarsal”, then do it once a week over the summer. Let’s see how the number of articles and webpages blaming Nike for Wayne Rooney’s broken foot increase in that time.

I’d like to be a fly on the wall at the offices of Nike’s law firm right now. Sweatin’ a little, are we, boys?

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