FOOTBALLS ARE ROUND!

Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things


September 27, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FCD V RSL


by @ 9:05 am.
Filed under Uncategorized

 

Frankly, I was starting to get worried. So many of my road trips to Pizza Hut Park this year have ended as losses, the word “jinx” was starting to creep out of my subconscious and into the frontal lobe with alarming regularity.
 
I mean, I’m not superstitious or anything, but when that many losses coincide with that many road trips, one starts to move away from superstition and enter the murky world of statistical certainty.
 
Fortunately, I failed statistics in college, and I wouldn’t know statistical certainty if it bit me on the big toe. Thus, I felt it was safe to hit the road Saturday and head down to the Friscoplex for the night’s meeting with ReAL SaLT LaKE, or however they spell that deal.
 
Sadly, the lovely Cid could not accompany me, so I was rolling’ solo in the Camry, with a few bucks in my pocket, a tank full of $2.00 gas, and some specially prepared personal mix CD’s crankin’ from the stereo (”personal mix” in this case meaning “nothing recorded after 1990″).
 
I know that sounds like a recipe for trouble, but I was bound to be on my best behavior. Partly because I fear the lovely Cid, partly because my friends in the Inferno, I believe, are secretly plotting to add a “no Cid, no game” provision to my membership. I don’t totally disagree with that, by the way. I hate not having her with me.
 
The game itself was full of Goalkeepery goodness. First, we had our old friend Scott Garlick netminding for Salt Lake. Great guy, one who served us well for lots of years. I point that out to underline my (minority) opinion that the man categorically did NOT deserve the pounding he took from the Inferno.
 
Joe Cannon? Yes.
 
Kevin Hartman? Oh yeah.
 
Zach Thornton? Sure.
 
But not Scotty. He’s our guy. He’s one of us. I could not, for instance, take part in any of the uglier chants that were being flung his way, like, say, “Dal-las Re-ject.” That was uncalled for. As were some of the things said about the man’s ancestry. Now, okay, I did chant “mussssssssstache…..musssssssstache….” because let’s face it, that’s funny. But I can’t abide being ugly to the man. He’s a good’un and deserves better from us.
 
And then, on our side, we had the PHP debut of Shaka Hislop. Our very own T & T World Cup hero. He had a sharp game, even if RSL didn’t give him much to do apart from gather up some stray through-balls, and track down the occasional long cross.
 
The one goal he conceded was actually a pretty fine finish from Jeff Cunningham, from a breakaway. No shame in that – it was quality work from the man. 
 
There was a brief discussion among the Inferno about taking up a collection for Mr. C so he could afford a good barber when he got home to Utah. He was having what my wife would refer to as an “unfortunate hair episode.” But then someone pointed out that was probably just how the young people do their hair these days, and so the subject was dropped. Plus nobody wanted to spend their beer money. But I digress.
 
So as if Garlick v Hislop wasn’t enough, along about halfway through the first half, there was a buzz, a stir, a commotion, a “brouhaha” if you will, just a few rows above me. I turned around to see what it was about, and what do I see?
 
Himself.
 
The man. El León. Dario Sala.
 
Hangin’ with the Inferno.
 
Does it get any better than that? Say what you will about the status of soccer as a second-tier sport in this country, and how it will never have the following it has around the world, but let me ask you something. When’s the last time you think something similar happened in an NFL stadium, not to mention MLB or the NBA?
 
Let me step out on a limb here and guess. I’m gonna go ahead and say it was, oh, about NEVER ago.
 
(Granted, you occasionally see a player in the stands at a Pistons game, but that’s a different story altogether.)
 
Yet there he was, along with his wife Margot, laughing, visiting, and generally feeling at home, as if among friends (which they were). Though I’m not sure how much of the game Dario saw, being as he was unwilling to say “no” to any of the young kids who wanted to meet him and get an autograph (okay, let’s don’t lie, there were also the middle aged geeks like me who wanted pictures, too).
 
Not only that, but in a totally original (and, I’m willing to wager, unprecedented) move, Dario actually asked all of us for our autographs. He was wearing an Inferno t-shirt, and insisted that each member present sign it for him.
 
Class. The man is pure class. He is Plato’s ideal, and Joseph Campbell’s archetype, of class.
 
Margot, too. She actually chatted with Cid on the cell phone for five good minutes. Then she handed the phone to Dario, who razzed her about missing the game.
 
Additionally, Dario is quite the raconteur. Listening to him tell us the first-hand story of the now legendary “don’t even look at me” game against Tigres in the Rio Grande Cup was priceless. It was like having Willie Mays describe the catch he made to rob Vic Wertz in the ‘56 series. Incredible.
 
As for the game (oh yeah, the game!), well, it was pretty well sewn up by the 15th minute. Two quick goals and the Lakers never really threatened. Even after Cunningham pulled one back in the second half, there was never really any danger they were going to go ballistic and rob us like they did last weekend.
 
The first goal came from Vanney, who hit a beautiful left footed cross from the right touchline. It curled to within a yard of the far post where Carlos Ruiz headed it straight down and beat Scotty to the near post. I don’t think Carlos scores with his head very much, so it was nice to witness.
 
The second goal, I’m sure, will be a Goal of the Year candidate; if it isn’t, they should just stop having such thing as a GOTY. Kenny Cooper, streaking down the left side (in the soccer sense, not the fad-from-the-70s sense) gets to the 18, stops on a dime, looks up, then chips a long, curling shot to the far post. Scott Garlick (along with everyone else at Pizza Hut Park) just watched it, expecting it to go way high and wide. Then the ball just dropped like a dead duck and fell under the cross bar.
 
It was impetuous. Homeric. Not one in ten players even thinks to try that shot, much less make it. Poor Scott had this empty, disbelieving look on his face, like, say if you went to start your car in the morning only to see a small, flaming meteor come down from the heavens and smash it to smithereens. Not his night.
 
After all that, it was on to the official Inferno after-party. Unfortunately, I cannot go into detail about this particular soirée, for I have had to invoke the “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” rule for very good (if not immediately obvious) reasons. Sorry.
 
Anyway, see you next weekend for Columbus Motley Crew.

September 21, 2006

NOW I’VE HEARD EVERYTHING


by @ 9:34 am.
Filed under Media, Miscellany

So, I watched “Once In A Lifetime” last night. You know, the movie about the New York Cosmos that was in all the theaters this summer and did such boffo box office that a sequel about the Tampa Bay Rowdies is in the works?

Yeah, that one.

It was a hugely entertaining move, provided you were born sometime in the cusp of the Baby Boom and Generation X, are an American, and are an incurable soccerphile.

All of which, of course, I am.

I don’t mean to give a review of the movie, other than to say I liked it, but I just wanted to point out one scene, which, I feel fairly certain, must contain the single most absurd thing ever uttered by a human being since the dawn of civilization.

Giorgio Chinaglia is being interviewed. While a prolific goal scorer in his day, both in Italy and the NASL, Giorgio was a bit of a headcase, and comes off as somewhat the pompous ass in this film. Which is okay, apparently, with Giorgio. Fine. I can respect that. He’s brash, arrogant, opinionated and cocky. But he could score goals, so, that’s acceptable to most people.

However.

There is a passage in the film where he discusses Pele. The fact that Giorgio Chinaglia even got to sit in the same locker room as Pele, much less play on the same field as the man, should be enough for him. Really. Giorgio was good, but Pele is Pele. But Chinaglia is so full of himself, even 30 years later, to have the unfettered gall to say the following: “Off the field . . . a lovable man. On the field though, yeah, I had some problems with him.”

Let’s be crystal clear here, kids. Giorgio Chinaglia, on film, preserved for posterity, is denigrating Pele’s skills as a soccer player. He goes on later to imply that Pele’s fault was that he played too close to the center of the field, where Giorgio wanted to be, and that had he played a little wider, they both would have scored more goals.

As the young people say these days:

Oh. My. God.

Chinaglia criticizes Pele. How can one even respond to such a thing? Well, let me try.

First off, clearly this film was mis-named. Instead of “Once In A Lifetime”, a better title would have been “Giorgio Chinaglia Is A Friggin’ Nutcase”.

Let us, if we can, explore some historical parallels to such an outrageous statement, to clarify the outrageousness a bit more.

The guy who invented the paper clip says of Thomas Edison, “Oh yeah, a lovely guy, but as an inventor, just a bit unoriginal.”

Lewis says of Clark: “He’s a sweetheart, but as an explorer, you know, not intrepid enough for me.”

Judas says of John: “Don’t get me wrong, terrific apostle, but I thought he lacked a bit in the loyalty department.”

Mark McGwire says of Hank Aaron: “Tremendous guy. Had trouble with the curve, though.”

Idi Amin says of Pol Pot: “Fun at parties, but jeez, the guy had a temper”.

Do you see what I’m getting at here, people?

It was invaluable for me to have seen this film. I can now measure all future ridiculous statements by what I will now call “The Chinaglia Index.” I have the boys at NASA crunching the numbers as we speak, to calibrate the index precisely, but suffice it to say, it will take an absurdity of epic proportions to score more than, say 1.2 Chinaglias.

Your normal internet message board poster might on average rate, say, .4 Chinaglias, because they aren’t really expected to know what they’re talking about, while, say, a candidate for president who criticizes his opponents veracity, while himself being a mighty sleazeball, might get as high 1.5 Chinaglias.

I can’t even imagine what kind of statement might get two Chinaglias.

One shivers at the very thought.

September 14, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FCD v CHIVAS USA


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

It is in no man’s power to have whatever he wants; but he has it in his power not to wish for what he hasn’t got, and cheerfully make the most of the things that come his way.

– Seneca the Younger

Good ol’ Seneca was one of the great Stoic philosophers. He was a tutor to the Emperor Nero, and, in Nero’s younger days, a steadying influence. Later of course, Nero went mad and sentenced poor Seneca to death. Death by suicide, at that; he was forced to drink poison. So, like most of the Stoics, he had a good sense of how suffering is a normal part of life, to be accepted. Not sought out, mind you, but accepted as a normal circumstance, brought about by either fortune or providence (neither of which you can really argue with). He was one of the great men of his day.

He was, apparently, also an FC Dallas fan.

Because let’s face it, one’s team is like one’s family – you just have to accept them as they are and hope for the best from them, right?

Seneca’s words kind of sum up this mid-week match with Chivas. If I could have anything I want, I would have chosen, first off, to have Thursday off work, so that the six-hour round trip wouldn’t seem as onerous. Second, I’d have gotten on the road earlier, so to have enjoyed a little more time visiting with the Infernites over at Poppy’s in Frisco Square (highly recommended in DJ’s Guide To Great Frisco Restaurants).

But most of all, I’d have had the boys reel off about three or four goals and sweep Chivas under the rug like so much schmutz on the kitchen floor.

But none of these things happened, so I am left to “cheerfully make the most of the things that come . . . [my] way”.

Is that such a bad thing? No.

Lil’ John and I met up with Daniel in Norman and headed south in plenty of time to make kickoff. John and Daniel talked about college football for way too much of the trip, in my opinion, of course. But, truth be told, listening to John talk about college football is pretty entertaining. It’s exactly how I imagine Lee Corso’s parents must have gone through when he was growing up. Seriously, the boy is ready for a gig in sports radio right now, and he’s only 10.

Of course, the only team he’ll talk about is Notre Dame; all other teams get a dismissive snort and a recounting of their latest failures. Daniel, of course, is a die hard Sooners fan, so he enjoyed the repartee/verbal combat. It was like riding to the game in the break room at ESPN, to be honest.

Anyway.

The weather was absolutely ideal for soccer. Cool and getting cooler as the night went on. So much so that I finally got to wear my long sleeve hoops jersey; opportunities like that don’t come up very often during soccer season in Big D, and I loves that jersey (sometimes the simple pleasures are the only real pleasures, aren’t they?).

As for the game itself, well, it was a strange one. Chivas’s one and only goal came on, from what I could tell, was their one and only shot on goal for the evening. Really. Dario Salas biggest threat wasn’t Ante Razov, it was ennui. I hate it when that happens. They had nothing going offensively all night, and end up winning 1-0.

I thought the boys played stellarly (is that a word?) in the midfield, and solidly on defense (the lone, freakish, goal notwithstanding). But it seemed anytime they got within 20 yards of the Chivas goal they started to sputter and wheeze like a Ford Pinto with sugar in the tank. Clearly Colin Clarke’s strategy was to get the ball to the wing (preferably the right wing) and pepper Brad Guzan with dangerous crosses all night. But for the “dangerous” part, the boys did just that.

Cross after cross, but none very threatening. Dominic Oduro came on late and jump started the attack in a big way. He had a dangerous opportunity within seconds of  entering the game. That lead to a flurry of attack, and the one really good shot of the night – a header actually, by Carlos Ruiz. People, believe me when I say that ball should have gone in. 10 yards out, struck solidly, moving to Guzan’s right. It should’ve been 1-all.

Nope. Brad Guzan’s parents didn’t raise him to be a thief, but the boy sure robbed Carlos on that one. If that’s not the save of the year thus far, I don’t know what is. If you didn’t get to see the game, see if you can find the clip on MLSnet.com. It was unreal how good that save was. I think Guzan has spot on the National Team goalkeeping depth chart in his future; in this keeper-rich country that’s high praise.

So, yeah, we lost one-nil, and I have to work in the morning. But on a beautiful night, in a free country, among family and great friends, I think I can cheerfully accept that result. I’m not much a stoic, but in this case, I’ll take Seneca’s advice and just decide to be happy.

See you next week for FC Tabernacle Choir.

September 13, 2006

GOING . . . GOING . . .


by @ 11:55 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer

 . . . yeah, he’s gone.

Clint Dempsey making it very clear he’ll not be re-signing with MLS when he deal expires the end of next season. So, you can go ahead and put your money down now: the over/under on Deuce’s departure for Europe is January 2007.

The transfer windows are closed, and the Revs would have a fit anyway, should the league sell him just as the playoffs are getting here. Clint will take his 80k for this season, try to make as big a splash as possible, and wait for the offers. MLS knows they have to get rid of him soon, becuase once he’s out of contract, they get bupkus in transfer fees when he leaves.

Personally, I think the league was right to reject the offers that came from Europe over the summer. No one thinks the kid is only worth $1,000,000 in the open market. Not the clubs in Europe, not MLS, and certainly not the young man his own self.

He needs to lead New England deep into the playoffs, and make some highlight-reel goals between now and then to maximize his price. If he does, I’d be shocked if he was sold for less than $5,000,000.

MEMO TO MY WIFE: DO NOT READ THIS ARTICLE


by @ 11:37 am.
Filed under The International Game

Can we all try to avoid the Christmas rush and start hating Chelsea now?

They have all the money in the world, they get every player they want, they’ve won the Premier League twice running, but, somehow, everybody is against them.

What am I on about? Just “The Special One”, complaining about the dark conspiratorial forces at UEFA trying to cheat him out of his rightful place as 06-07 Champion:

Jose Mourinho has hinted that Chelsea were being targeted by European football’s governing body UEFA after they earned four yellow cards in their 2-0 Champions League victory over Werder Bremen.

Mourinho said he was at a loss to explain why so many of his players find their way into the referee’s notebook when they play in Europe. John Terry, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Didier Drogba were booked against Werder in Tuesday night’s Champions League opener, and the key quartet are now one booking away from a ban.

The Chelsea boss suspects UEFA have a hidden agenda against him but chose his words carefully as he checked the statistics from the first round of matches. Mourinho said: “I don’t want to speak about this, because I spoke lots over the last three years. But the reality, when you look, is Barcelona have no yellow cards, Bayern Munich one yellow card, Liverpool no yellow cards, Valencia one yellow card, Roma one yellow card, Chelsea four yellow cards.”

Valencia actually had two players booked – Edu and Roberto Ayala – and Mourinho overlooked the fact that Inter Milan had four booked away to Sporting Lisbon.

 

Oh, puh-leeze. It’s like Steinbrenner wanting the Yankees to get four strikes or something. Is the man mad? Or is he just preparing the excuses beforehand, knowing he still may not have what it takes to win in Athens this May?

On the other hand, maybe he’s just trying to make trouble and have a little fun, while providing geeks like me fodder for blog posts.

In which case, sir, I salute you.

But I doubt it.

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