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Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things


August 20, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: LA GALAXY v FC DALLAS


by @ 10:16 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Stream Of Consciousness

So, after the X-Games were finished ruining the grass at the Home Depot Center, with the crazy kids and their skateboards, and the long hair and rock-n-roll music and all, the Galaxy, naturally, re-laid the sod. This makes sense. But, inexplicably, they cut a good 10 yards off the width of the field. Oh, I say it’s inexplicable, but that won’t keep me from coming up with a few wild, unfounded speculations. This is journalism, of a sort, after all. And really what typifies modern journalism better than wild, unfounded speculations?

My guess is this: Frank Yallop, and Landon Donavan are, as we all know, former Earthquakes. Spartan Stadium in San Jose, as you no doubt remember, had about as much width as Nicole Richie’s hips. The EarthQlashQuakes were great at capitalizing on that narrow field and making it mesh with their style of play. Ergo, one can surmise that Frank and Landon set up a power lunch with Alexi Lalas and somehow convinced him to make the HDC as narrow as they could manage without making themselves look stupid. Quod Erat Demonstrandum, as the mathematicians would say.

I don’t know how that little piece of strategy will work out for the Gals, but they sured failed in keeping from looking stupid. Why would you possibly make such a big beautiful field resemble a high school gridball field? It’s like putting a restrictor plate on your Corvette so it won’t go so darn fast.

I noticed that David Wagenfuhr is starting in the midfield. I don’t generally pore over the lineup possibilities and dissect the minor changes Colin Clarke might make from match to match. If I want to know about that stuff, I just read Buzz’s practice reports. He’s all over that stuff like a fly on a sticky bun. But, that said, even I noticed that this was a fairly significant difference in the average lineup. Ronnie O’Brien is on the bench, for whatever reason. I don’t second-guess, either. Personally, I like seeing Wags get a start. He had a really good first half, too, nearly picking up an assist when he hit a nice first-time cross that Carlos Ruiz nearly, but, oh-so-nearly bicycled past Kevin Hartman.

I’m not sure what in the world happened on LA’s first goal. It looked like a combination of poor communication between Greg Vanney and Dario Sala, along with a really opportunistic, hustling play by some kid named Donovan. Either way it was not a particularly pretty piece of work by the good guys.

The second goal LA scored, just before the half, was just a thumping good goal by Santino Quaranta from about 25 yards out. Maybe Dario was cheating up a bit, expecting a through ball, but I don’t know if would have saved that shot under any circumstance, short of hanging on the crossbar on his nearside. Which would be kinda odd, you have to admit.

Speaking of Quaranta, he absolutely epitomizes that infrequent but undeniable phenomena wherein an underachiever gets a new lease on life merely by changing teams. The kid has always shown talent, but he was floundering in DC by anyone’s standards. Now he’s scoring big goals and endearing himself to Dan Loney. I’m happy for the kid; apart from the whole, you know, scoring on us thing.

Somehow, Kenny Cooper got a yellow card for diving. Did Brian Hall confuse Cooper and Ruiz? Did we somehow slip into Bizzaro Universe due to some odd space/time anomaly? Did Cid slip some acid into my Diet Coke? Did I really just see that? What an outrageous call; Hall should be fined by the league. That’s just crazy. Not that I’m against showing the cheese to divers; I’m all for that. Really and truly, it should happen a lot more often in this league. But maybe we could go ahead and wait until somebody really, you know, Brian, dives next time before we make that call. M’kay?

Two goals down at halftime. Normally I’d just give it up and watch reruns of Law and Order on USA (because let’s face it, that’s all they show anymore). But this season, a two goal deficit is child’s play; a teaser; an opportunity for growth, as Tony Robbins might say. Ever since we came back and beat Chick-ago back in July from two goals down, we’ve been a different team. I feel fairly confident we’re going to make a game of this in the second half.

(I know, I know . . . I just jinxed the whole thing, probably . . . so sue me for trying to be an optimist).

Kevin Hartman (who used to be the lead singer for Blondie, as I’m sure you knew) just robbed Drew Moor, snuffing a header after a great cross by Richard Mulrooney. We’re not playing poorly by any means; we’re just two goals down. I hate when that happens.

Josh Gardner comes in for Quaranta and Dominic Oduro comes in for Wags. I like Oduro. I see him being a big part of the team for years to come, unless he gets sold to Norway or something.

Gardner, on the other hand, I don’t know at all. He does have, as Cid would say, “an unfortunate haircut”. That’s the worst Mohawk I’ve ever seen. I say this as a man who is currently riding a 41-year bad-hair-day streak. Josh needs help. Maybe he’s joining a fraternity or something. That might explain it.

Drew Moor almost scores again. Almost. He skied it from around the penalty spot. I’m not criticizing, folks, just reporting. I know this game is a lot harder than it looks. In fact, It amazes me how many people on websites like Matchnight or BigSoccer freely use words like “suck” when referring to really talented players.

Here’s a little advice from your ol’ Uncle Dave: If you’ve never played professionally, you have no business saying anyone in MLS “sucks”. You, on the other hand, probably do actually suck at soccer, at least in comparison to the least talented player you’ve ever seen play professionally. I know I do.

If you’re a professional, current or former, or if you’re a great talent who was somehow tragically overlooked by short-sighted scouts and managers over the years, then feel free to say “suck” with impunity. Knock yourself out.

Everybody else shut up.

Welllll, we’re about 15 minutes from full-time, and though we’re attacking and getting chances, we’re still two goals down. That sound you hear is the optimistic outlook draining from my consciousness. Of course, losing hope in a game like this only makes it that much sweeter when the boys come back and win.

If they do.

But I digress.

Nunez just misses from just in front of the goal; Ante Jazic makes a really good defensive move to deflect the ball away from goal.

Our boy Dario puts the stone-cold diss on Alan Gordon and Quavas Kirk. A great double save on two point blank shots. Shaka Hislop must have been thinking he was close to getting his chance after watching the first half, but I don’t know . . . that was some classic Sala right there. I love that guy.

Well, okay, another loss in LA. We haven’t won against the Dirty Dirty Galaxy, in Los Angeles, in six years. We’ve never won at all against them at the HDC. I won’t go so far as to say the Galaxy are our Daddy, but they’re at least, like, our Stepdaddy, or perhaps a really close Uncle.

For now anyway.

Kevin Hartman moves up to #2 on the MLS All-Time Shutout List with 60.

Hooray for him.

See you next weekend for FC Gandalf. Unless the Wednesday US Open Cup match against Houston is televised.

Like that’ll happen.

August 5, 2006

MLS 1 – CHELSEA 0


by @ 9:24 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer, The International Game

I think the thing that impressed me most about this win was that the MLS All-Stars clearly belonged on the same field with Chelsea. I’ve seen big upsets before, the biggest being the US victory over Brazil where Kasey Keller became the stuff of Romario’s nightmares. But it was still clear, even in that match, that the US team was not in the same class as Brazil.

That was not the case today. Even though Chelsea were not at match fitness, and have about a month to go before they’re ready for the Premiership (which begins in two weeks), they should have had the upper hand, upset or no.

They didn’t. They were beaten by a team of their peers. Maybe some of the younger guys felt a bit intmidated by mighty Chelski, but DeRo wasn’t; Jaime Moreno wasn’t; Ronnie O’Brien wasn’t, even young Freddy Adu wasn’t. Heck, Troy Perkins wasn’t intimidated by Chelsea, and he’ll earn this year what Frank Lampard earns just for getting out of bed on Monday.

Let’s not overestimate the importance of this win, but let’s not forget it either. It’s one of the millions of tiny turning points that MLS and American Soccer are going to go through before they end up being seen as equals on the international scene.

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FC DALLAS v COLORADO RAPIDS


by @ 1:46 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Stream Of Consciousness

It was 11:30 when we pulled the party wagon out of the driveway and hit the road on a beauti . . .

Crap. I forgot the tickets.

It was Noon when we pulled the party wagon out of the driveway and hit the road on a beautiful Oklahoma summer day. It hadn’t begun to get burning hot just yet, but clearly it was going to be a toaster. A 6:00 pm kickoff would be late enough to avoid the heat in most places on earth, but in Dallas, the heat would just be waking up and getting the sleep out of its eyes. We made sure the 55 gallon drum of sunblock was packed right next to the ice chest.

We made it to the tailgatge just in time to take part in the sacred “drink your favorite beverage from the Brimstone Cup” ceremony. It’s not a complicated ceremony, but neither is it for the weak of stomach. There’s no telling what people are going to put into that thing, and the mixture of different types of alcohol could conceivably cause some type of explosive chemical reaction. But no one was injured, thankfully, and only a few shirts were permanently stained (the cup isn’t really made for drinking from; one has to accept the fact that one is destined to wear a certain amount of beverage as part of the ritual.

Quick quiz question: Who scored the first goal for FCD on the day?

That’s right. Our boy Bobby Rhine.

Ha!

Ramon Nunez scored two goals on the day. Two. Goals. Can you imagine how valuable a red-hot Ramon will be to this team down the stretch? Especially with, like, eight starters injured, or whatever the number stands at today? Ramon was playing with joy and confidence; that spells trouble for all opponents.

Drew Moor turned his ankle and had to come off the field. He’s fine, but poor Gina had to be roused out of her dead faint with smelling salts.

I want to give a kind word to Joe Cannon, who is as good a sport as you’ll find in the league. He accepted the Inferno’s abuse with grace and good humor, and even got a measure of revenge by faking a post-game jersey toss. Nicely played, Joe. Of course, we’d have burned your shirt on the spot had you thrown it, but still, nicely played.

Then there’s Kyle Beckerman, who, after scoring in the first half, ran past the Inferno pointing to his crotch. Does that mean you were a “little” excited about yoru goal? In any case, Kyle, nobody wants to see that. And what’s up with your hair? Do you only wash it after you score a goal in this league? That would be, let’s see . . . seven times in the last six years? That explains the dreds, I suppose. Take a lesson from Joe, okay kid?

So Bobby opens up the scoring, Ramon gets a brace, and Kenny Cooper adds the knife-twist in extra time, continuing his run after the other 21 players stopped for an offside call that wasn’t coming, and chipping poor Joe Cannon to make it 4-1.

Nice.

We stuck around for the first half of Everton v Club America, then went back to tailgating. Apparently CA won the match in a completely extraneous and unnecessary penalty-kick shootout. Yay team.

I managed to snag an official FC Dallas full metal lunchbox, even though I’m clearly not under 12 years of age. And if you think I’m not taking that bad boy to work every day, you are sorely mistaken.

Post tailgate, we had a lovely IHOP meal with DanaDiegoRedD. I had the Muchaca, not just because it’s delicious and nutritious, but mostly because I just like saying MUCHACA! in crowded restaurants, really loudly.

Special DJ and Cid thanks to Mr. and Mrs TexasArsenal, who let us crash at their place after the festivities. Bailey wanted to dognap Ferris, but Ferris knows a good thing when he sees it, and had no desire to leave. We’d have spoiled the little guy, sure, but not like Nick and Jennifer do.

Sorry for the abbreviated and late Streamage this week, but that’s how it goes in the big city sometimes.

I had actually planned on making this a doubleheader, 2-for-the-price-of-1 Streamage, throwing in the US Open Cup game for good measure, but . . . well, let’s just say that the $4.99 I paid to some outfit in South Carolina for the WebCast could have been better spent on, say, anything!

See you for the next game, August 12th, against FC Jimmy Walker.

August 2, 2006

OPEN CUP FEVER . . . CATCH IT!


by @ 5:28 pm.
Filed under US Open Cup

The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup heats up this week, with mucho matches, including a compelling match between my very own FC Dallas and USL upstarts, Charleston Battery. Not much by way of televised matches, but the Battery offer a one-off PPV webcast for only five bucks. Check it out at charlestonbattery.com

It’s actually a little humiliating for the FC Dallas franchise that a 2nd division team is outdoing them in Cup coverage.

If you’re not hip to the whole Open Cup concept, there’s a good overview at Wikipedia, and a really good thread over at BigSoccer about favorite USOC memories (the original post was written by one of the great men in American Soccer, Peter Wilt).

It bugs me every year that this great old tournament doesn’t get the coverage it deserves. But things are slowly but surely getting better. Fox Soccer Channel has signed on to show the final, and press coverage is growing. My hope is that in my lifetime it will be an important American sporting event on par with the U.S. Open (tennis and golf versions).

Get on board, and bug your local team and your local media outlets to get on board as well.

THE DEVIL WEARS ADIDAS


by @ 11:01 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer

A little snippet from today’s New York Times:

In another development, the Red Bulls are expected to announce the signing of midfielder Dema Kovalenko today.

If you don’t know the name, just know that in his career, Dema Kovalenko ended the career of Brandon Pollard by breaking his leg with a dirty tackle, and nearly did the same to Ronnie O’Brien. If the man wasn’t a professional athlete, he’d no doubt be in jail somewhere. He’s a psycho of the first order. He loses control of his better self on the field, and is a danger to those around him.

I never had any reason to hate the New York MLS franchise, under either of there names, but this move makes it official. I have no choice but to hate any team that is willing to employ this freak. He’s a menace, and a thug, and he should’ve been banned years ago.

I’m not sure what Bruce Arena was thinking with this move, but my great respect for the man has gone down a couple notches, to be sure.

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