FOOTBALLS ARE ROUND!

Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things


July 29, 2007

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: SUPERLIGA MATCHDAY 2


by @ 8:17 pm.
Filed under FC Dallas, Major League Soccer, Stream Of Consciousness

First off, I think it’s very brave of Pachuca’s keeper to be playing so soon after Chemo.

What?

Clarence Goodson nearly scores in the second minute off of a wicked header. Calero makes a good save and doesn’t even muss up his doo-rag.

The lovely Cid chimes in with “Oh, look, it’s a halloween team”. This totally negates any smart comments I was going to make about Pachuca’s horrid orange and black uniforms. I know when I’ve been bested.

Dario is back in the lineup, and Bobby Rhine is in for Drew Moor, who forgot the whole “It’s the second guy that always gets tossed” rule, and got himself bounced from the Chivas match. I sincerely hope Dario isn’t rushing himself back too soon. With the way RayJ played the other night, he doesn’t need to take chances. On the other hand, our guy Dario is a gamer of the highest degree, so I don’t really expect he’d be willing to play it safe.

Which is one of the reasons we all love him so dearly.

TeleFutura is showing the Inferno a lot on tonight’s broadcast. Which is only proper.

Once again we’re holding our own, if not playing much better than, a top team of the MFL. Richardinho is dangerous at every turn. He’s another player we’re going to have to struggle to hold on to after a season or two. And the kid is only 19. What an upside, if we could keep Toja and Lil’ Ricky. I’d hate to have to get used to being perpetual contenders, but I could probably swing it.

Unfreakinbelievable save by Dario in the 38th minute. Just a little bit of fingertip on a hard shot gets it to hit the post and ricochet across the face of the goal. Fortunately no one from Pachuca was poaching, because it would have been a tap-in from there.

Really poor attendance tonight. Horribly poor. Of course, the Superliga games, inexplicably, are not a part of the season ticket package, and the advertising for the matches hasn’t been what you would call “saturation marketing” either. But, this is the first SuperLiga, so you can’t expect miracles.

Did you know the first Super Bowl wasn’t a sellout either? It’s true. You could look it up.

Clarence gets absolutely ROBBED of a goal right at the stroke of 45:00, by a bush league offside call. He hit his second great header of the evening, beat Calero clean, but couldn’t beat the Assistant Referee. Apparently the $1,000,000.00 prize prevented the organizers from budgeting for professional officiating.

I’ll bet they used professional refs in Super Bowl I.

This is really getting out of hand. Clarence Goodson gets a yellow card for a push on the man he is marking just outside the area, while the offensive player, who blatantly reached out and played the ball with his arm, gets a free kick for his trouble. I’ve seen some really questionable officiating in the years I’ve been watching MLS (which is to say, all of them), but this is really starting to top all of that. It’s surrealist bad. It’s like having Hieronymus Bosch call a game with Dali and Max Ernst running the sides.

Apart from horrendous calls, though, there’s not been much to write about in this half. At least with Chivas in town you can bitch about what obnoxious thugs they are. Pachuca just play good hard-nosed football. Which is good for the game, but the kiss of death for a hack writer trying to find stuff to be smart-assed about.

I may have to start bagging on Chivas again, just to fill out the column.

On the other hand, that’s kind of like picking on the kids who ride the short bus. Except the kids on the short bus aren’t reprehensible punks.

Dominic Oduro in for Ricardinho with 20 minutes to go. This will liven things up. I wish I had Hi-Def, so I could see the look on the Pachuca defenders faces when they see the fastest cat they ever saw rush past them in a blur.

But I don’t have Hi-Def. Annnnnd probably won’t for the foreseeable future.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A handy little cross by Bobby from the right side gets to Oduro and Calero at the same time. Oduro either gets a toe on it, or gets in Calero’s way and causes him to spill it. In any event the ball rolls through to El Capitan Ruiz, who pops the ball in from five yards out. Two goals in two games for the Lil’ Fish. Our boy is back.

That’s not good: Dario is down on the turf holding his left knee. The official word was that he had strained his MCL and had some swelling, and I think he got it knocked in a collision with a Pachuca player right after the restart. Of course, Dario, since the knee is still attached to the leg, keeps on playing. ‘Cuz he’s tough like that.

Clarence just took a forearm to the face courtesy of a Pachuca attacker during a corner kick scrum. It looked bad, but since none of our guys got all up in the man’s grill, it must have been incidental.

Come Awn! PK against the good guys. Looks like Adrian Serioux clipped the heels of his mark. It was de minimis contact, but the player from Pachuca, being from Mexico, instinctively fell to the ground like he’d been lightnng struck. It has to be something they teach in the schools down there, like in kindergarten. Either that or it’s genetic. Or maybe they have a secret laboratory where they genetically mutate guys to fall down like that. Something.

Good save by Dario in extra time preserves the draw. Birdman nearly scores twice before the final whistle but his finishing isn’t quite sharp enough to get there.

Another disappointing, poorly officiated draw. Great. We’re just going to have to put the wood to the dirty dirty Galaxy next Tuesday so we can advance to the next round. Which will be fun to see anyway.

I hear Los Angeles have some new English guy who’s supposed to be pretty good. And apparently his wife used to be in Bananarama or something like that. Of course, there’s been no media coverage, so it’s hard to get details.

It might have been The Bangles, now that I think of it.

Anyway, see you Tuesday.

July 25, 2007

OTHER GOOD STUFF


by @ 11:21 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer

Right up there next to Dan Loney’s MLS Power Rankings (He’s ranked them by elevation above sea level, most college guys, oldest goalkeepers, and, my favorite, alphabetical order), the other really great regular list on the internets of soccer is “The Freezer” over at the DCenters blog. Its ‘official’ title is the US Soccer Fragility Index Ratings; the more fragile an entity is, the deeper in the freezer they go (“Dante only had 9 Circles of Hell, We Have 13″).

I was especially gratified to see ESPN deep in the list for the horrendous job they did of over hyping the second coming
the whole David Beckham deal, especially on the broadcast of the Chelsea Friendly. My poor wife is so disgusted by all this nonsense, it’s actually turned her into a Landon Donavan fan out of sympahty. That’s pretty extreme; if you knew Cid, you’d understand.

July 24, 2007

STREAM OF COSCIOUSNESS: SUPERLIGA EDITION


by @ 10:41 pm.
Filed under FC Dallas, Major League Soccer, Stream Of Consciousness

Holy crap! Ray Burse, Jr, startin’ in goal!

I don’t say that out of concern, just surprise.

I’ve seen Ray play, and I know the young man gots serious game. I just found out today Darío goobered up his knee, and that Shaka was having back spasms, but I was under the impression that one or the other would play.

What a huge day for Ray. I wonder if he woke up knowing he was getting his first professional start, or what. I’d have liked to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation. I’m happy for him; he’s worked hard and been patient. He’s ready. I knew that the first time I saw him play against Kansas City in the prestigious Saturn Cup in 2006.

Lil’ Ricky is in the lineup too. Why in the world would our government take so long to give Richardinho a visa? Do diminutive teenage Brazilian forwards present some sort of national security risk I’m not aware of?

Oh! Carlos Ruiz just misses scoring from 50 yards out. Ernesto Michel did well to parry it away. That would have been the goal of the year, no competition. As is typical of soccer broadcasts in the United States the director, instead of following the ball, cut to a close shot of Carlos. This added absolutely nothing to the quality of the viewing experience, and in addition, completely missed what was without a doubt the most compelling moment of the match up to that point.

I don’t go around thinking I can do other people’s jobs better than they can. Normally. I mean, I don’t go to the dentist and think, “damn, I coulda done that extraction way better!” When I fly on an airline, rarely do you hear me say “You call that a landing . . . ?” No, I stick to what I know in life (mostly being a smartass and arguing about stuff). But I’m telling you here and now I could do a better job directing and announcing soccer matches than the vast majority of those currently employed in the field. And I have no idea how to direct a television program. Still, give me 45 minutes and some sort of manual, buddy, I’m there.

Really.

Freakin’ Ray Burse has already made two huge saves. HUGE. I have nothing but confidence in this guy. He’s got the talent to be a long-term pro, and he’s under the tutelage of both Darío and Shaka, two guys who know what’s what.

Whenever I see Ray before of after a game, I usually say something along the lines of “Your time is coming Ray, be patient”. And that’s the rock solid truth. Of course, Ray probably thinks I’m some middle-aged loser with a man crush, but I like to think he is encouraged by my pearls of wisdom. Though, to be fair, Ray and I are MySpace friends, which, in the internet age, makes us nearly family, or at least bestest friends forever.

Which, let’s face it, is one of the really creepy aspects of the internet age.

The Chivas keeper just tried to act like Ricardinho gave him on a faceful of boot on a breakaway. Of course, he did no such thing, there was barely any contact, if there was actually any contact. Oh, okay, Michel got up with a tiny bit of a bloody nose. But I’m sure that’s just the blow.

(Kidding. I kid. I’m a kidder)

Of course, one of the Chivasites responded by knocking the kid down a few minutes later with a shoulder. That guy, whatever his name is, should thank his patron saint that Simo Valakari isn’t around anymore. He’d have learned the Finnish word for “deep thigh bruise” in short order.

Again, a player for Chivas falls like he’s been shot by a sniper after a no contact at all, or at best, minimal contact. Do these guys have no pride at all?

Oh, and Richetti gets a yellow out of that? This is like Bizzaro soccer.

Arturo just misses from 20 yards out. We’re taking it to these punks. This is the best I’ve seen us play all year. You know the difference? Confidence. We’re playing with confidence. Swagger almost. It’s nice to see.

For example, both times Chivas players have gone down like sissies, four or five others will gather around our guy and start talking smack (though, in my imagination, they’re saying things like “I’ll scratch your eyes out sister!“) When this happens, El Capitán Ruiz justs steps up and stands there between them, staring them down and making it clear who’s in charge.

Ray is playing like he’s been a starting professional goalkeeper for years. There’s nothing whatsoever, either in his posture or in his play, that belies nervousness.

Serioux made a mistake at midfield and gave Salazar a breakaway, but I’ll be doggone if Clarence Goodson didn’t chase that mug down and negate the chance. He’s a baaaaad man.

No score at halftime, and I think we had the better of the overall play, though Chivas clearly had the most dangerous chances (not counting Ruiz’s long bomb).

I already knew Ray was a really good shot stopper, but I had no idea he was so aggressive coming off his line. Twice he’s come way out to cut off potential breakaways. It takes speed, commitment and sound judgment to play that way. He’s got all that.

Another great save off of a point blank header. Part of me doesn’t want it to become common knowledge how good this kid is. I want him to be the goalkeeper of future, not a high-priced transfer target, ya know?

Gooooooooooooooal! Dipsy Selelowane what a goooooooooooal! Arturo Alvarez!

That, my friends, was a goal-scorers goal. AA gets the ball around the top of the box, and instead of trapping, looking, and shooting, he lets the ball run as he glances up, and when he sees the keeper in no man’s land he deftly flicks the ball with the outside of his left foot. Just ever so slightly out of the keepers reach and into the net. Arturo has made huge strides this year in both skill and professionalism. He could end up making it very difficult for Steve Morrow not to make him a lock starter.

ANOTHER great save by Ray Burse, this time on a low headed ball – one of the hardest shots to stop.

Annnnnd, we just got robbed. Olvera scores after clearly, and I mean crystal clearly, handling the ball to get it at his feet. Every single soul in Pizza Hut Park, no, every single soul in Collin County, saw Olvera touch the ball with his hand, except, ironically, Mr. Quesada of Costa Rica. Nice.

Admittedly, it was a terrific goal. But you know what? If we’re going to go ahead and stipulate that it’s okay to use your hands to set up your shot, you could get my out-of-shape pugdy behind out there to drill one into the upper corner too. This ain’t Gaelic football, people.

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! Reynoso throws a blatant elbow to Drew Moors face, and gets . . . wait for it . . . nothing. Drew, however, gets tossed out of the game when Reynoso falls like a baby harp seal after Drew gets up and touches him. Mind you, Reynoso’s elbow happened during the run of play, directly in front of the Assistant Referee and wasn’t seen. Drew’s contribution happened 30 yards away from the ball, and got a straight red card.

I’ll grant you, Drew screwed up on this one; you just can’t give these cabrons an opportunity to take a dive like that. But that hardly excuses this kind of Sunday-league reffing.

Bobby comes in to shore up the defense, but we’re still pressing for the winner. That’s a good compromise for Steve to make. He’s not one to play for a draw at home, even a man down. Which is why I’m so glad he’s the coach.

Final whistle. Somebody call a cop.

This will have to go down as the biggest screwjob since Shawn Michaels pinned Bret the Hitman in Montreal, back in ‘97. I was scanning the crowd there at the end to see if Vince McMahon was around.

I’m planning on road-tripping to the next Interliga match, against the Galaxy next Tuesday. If you’re watching on TV, I’ll be the guy in the Inferno section holding the sign that says “POSH WANTS ME”.

Until then, my friends.

July 17, 2007

WHAT?


by @ 5:20 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Uncategorized

So the MLS All-Stars are playing the Boston Celtics?

I gotta start paying attention.

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June 12, 2007

BECKHAM RULES MEMO


by @ 12:21 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer

From: D. Garber

To: All players

RE: Mr. Beckham

As you know, Mr. Beckham will be playing in Major Leauge Soccer sometime this summer, for an unspecified number of games, if he is free. Having a player of this stature is an honor and privilege for all of us, and is something we should not take lightly. We will all have to act responsibly to ensure that Mr. Beckham’s time in the League is pleasant, safe, and successful.

In that spirit, I am announcing several new rules, to be observed in any game involving Mr. Beckham, and, in the event of breach of said rules, the corresponding, non-appealable, immediate, and irreversible suspensions:

Failing to yield to Mr. Beckham on a 50-50 ball: 1 game

Recklessly blocking a Mr. Beckham free kick or cross: 2 games.

Giving Mr. Beckham a dirty look: 2 games.

Speaking to Mr. Beckham without having been spoken to first: 3 games.

Being fouled by Mr. Beckham: 1 game.

Failing to say “thank you” after being fouled by Mr. Beckham: 2 games.

Making any disparaging remarks about Her Highness the Queen during the run of play: 1 game.

“Nutmegging” Mr. Beckham: 5 games

Referring to Mrs. Beckham as “Baby”, “Scary”, “Sporty”, “Ginger” or “Morrisey” during the run of play: 5 games.

Making fun of Mr. Beckham’s haircut during the run of play: 10 games.

Goalkeepers Only:

Handling any ball last touched by Mr. Beckham: Immediate expulsion from Major League Soccer.

Galaxy Players Only:

Implying, stating, or in any way, either publicly, privately, or in one’s personal thoughts advancing the opinion that Mr. Beckham’s play is either not up to standards, or is lacking in some aspect: 10 Games.

Implyng, stating, or in any way communicating to Mr. Beckham during the run of play that he should be coming back to play defense: 10 games.

Gentlemen, I’m sure you’ll all agree that these rules are fair, and that they are promulgated in the best interests of American Soccer. I know if we all enthusiastically embrace Mr. Beckham and these minute changes in the rules necessitated by his presence, we will all, in the end, be better off.

DG/jm

enclosure: illustrated version of rules, for posting in all MLS locker rooms

May 9, 2007

COULDN’T HAVE SAID IT BETTER MYSELF . . .


by @ 3:34 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

Every time Dema Kovalenko takes the field, soccer dies a little.

– Dan Loney

April 12, 2007

MY WIFE . . . NOT A BECKHAM FAN


by @ 9:12 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

“Making all this fuss about one British guy is such a disservice to the league. It’s like saying to all the other players, ‘You’re no good‘. It’s stupid . . .  plus, he’s married to a woman named ‘Posh’ . . . what is that?”

– The Lovely Cid, 4/12/2006

 

April 8, 2007

WHY DARIO IS GREATNESS . . .


by @ 12:48 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

Quote from an article in Al Día by Gabriel Cabarrouy:

“Sometimes you don’t need the best talent to play, just your best friends,” goalkeeper Darío Sala said. “It’s the great groups that win championships, not the great teams.”

April 7, 2007

OPENING DAY TOP TEN


by @ 11:28 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer

Top 10 Reasons I Love Opening Day

10. Don’t have to watch that sub-par English and Italian crap exclusively anymore.

9.  Cindy stops lusting after Jose Mourinho and starts lusting after Sigi Schmidt

8.  I can finally debut the interpretive dance I choreographed to go along with the new MLS Anthem.

7.  If this is Opening Day, then Home Opening day is only three weeks off!

6.  Withdrawal symptoms for hearing the dulcet tones of Hopkins & Bretos will finally go away

5.  Trade obsession for Deal-No Deal for obsession with MFLS

4.  I’ve joined a pool to guess how many minutes it takes Wynalda to make a Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium joke

3.  Can’t get enough of the balanced and thoughtful commentary on BigSoccer Rivalries Forum

2.  Buzz will quit calling me in the middle of the night asking me ‘Dude, how long until opening day?’

And, the number one reason I love Opening Day (drumroll, Anton!):

1.  A guy can only write so many Stream of Consciousness: Snow Shoveling Edition columns

HAPPY OPENING DAY EVERYONE!

March 24, 2007

THE GHOST OF CHARLES PONZI


by @ 4:39 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

Go read Dan Loney’s excellent two-part series about what a joke it is to have Herbalife as an MLS shirt sponsor. Not only is it a direct competitor to the main business of Chivas USA’s owner, it’s also a multi-level marketing scam.

Not only that, it’s not even the first one in the league. Apparently RSL’s sponsor, XanGo, is the same type of deal.

This can only mean one thing:

February 23, 2007

FISH GOTTA SWIM . . .


by @ 8:45 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

Carlos Ruiz is upbeat, positive, in shape, and thriving in training camp under the watchful eye of Steve Morrow.

All that is enough to make my heart soar like a hawk, but check out this quote on MLSnet.com:

We have a long season ahead of us with the Lamar Hunt (U.S. Open) Cup, which we want to win in his memory . . .

That positively gives me chills. Don’t be surprised to see el Pescadito wearing the captain’s armband this year. Simo is no longer with the team, and SM will be looking for someone with fire and enthusiasm to wear it. My guess is Carlos, or perhaps that other fine Latin American player Ricardo Mulrooney, or (and this is my choice) my main man Darío Sala.

January 27, 2007

QUOTE OF THE DAY


by @ 2:33 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

“If you are looking to add one of the best players to ever wear the US national team jersey, . . . [Claudio] Reyna is your man. Or, you could have phoned up Harry Keough in St. Louis.

– Dan Loney (America’s finest soccer writer), on the Red Bulls newest signing.

December 15, 2006

LAMAR HUNT – R.I.P.


by @ 10:17 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Miscellany

Someone once said “The test of a person’s character is how they treat the people they don’t need”. By this measurement, Lamar Hunt was and is a saint.

Mr. Hunt was a billionaire. He really need hardly anyone. Yet anyone who was ever in his presence will tell you the same thing: he was the very definition of graciousness, friendliness, and kindness.

A quick story to illustrate why we, as FC Dallas fans, loved the man, and will grieve mightily at his passing:

Last year at the opening of Pizza Hut Park, the Inferno supporter’s group hosted a 24-hour tailgate and charity fund raiser. We got started that Friday night – good weather, good friends, and the now-legendary drunkenmidnightsoccer. Food was cooked, beers were consumed, and a good time was being had by all. But who drops by around 10:00 or so?

Himself. He came out personally, to greet us and thank us for coming. The man had just bought us a brand-spankin’ new stadium to watch our favorite team in, and he came out to thank us for coming to tailgate.

But it gets better. Sometime late that night, the construction company’s security people (Pizza Hut Park wasn’t quite finished yet) started hassling us and trying to run us off. Stadium security and the Frisco PD were consulted, and it was a big pain in the neck, as everything had been arranged in advance with the FC Dallas front office. At some point, one of the myriad of walkie-talkies present (all those guys always have a walkie-talkie, don’t they?) started squawking, and someone answered it and was told, in so many words, that Mr. Hunt said this was okay, and that we were his guests. End of hassle. That’s all it took. Not that he didn’t have anything better to do, but Mr. Hunt made it clear we were his guests.

That Saturday was the hottest day in the history of mankind, and if you’ve ever spent a hot day in Texas, sitting around a parking lot under a tent awning, well, then you and only you can imagine how miserably, oppressively, horribly hot it was.

But during that long day, not once, but twice, Mr. Hunt came out to greet us, check on us, and make sure we had everything we needed. It was opening day of his brand new stadium, mind you – it’s not like he didn’t have enough on his agenda to keep him busy that day – but he thought about us, and, instead of having one of his “people” come out and check on us, which would have been more than thoughtful (I’m not completely sure a man like Mr. Hunt even has “people”), he came himself.

That’s just one of many examples of why we love him. I feel sure that many other people, more eloquently than I have done, will add their tributes to Mr. Hunt, and I look forward to reading them all.

There is a shortage of great men in this world, and we just lost one of them. My sincere respect and condolences go out to Mr. Hunt’s family, and I pray for the repose of his soul.

November 17, 2006

AMBIGUITY SONG


by @ 4:02 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

Not a single FC Dallas player was selected by Toronto in today’s expansion draft.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.

November 5, 2006

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY


by @ 9:29 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Miscellany, The Good The Bad and the Ugly, The International Game

The Good: Congrats to the New England Revolution for getting to MLS Cup for the 3rd time in their history. The last two times they’ve lost to LA Galaxy 1-0. Well, no Galaxy this time, so perhaps this is the year. I’m hoping if they win Mr. Kraft will spring for a new stadium and get them out of Foxboro forever. I had considered selling my tickets to the game when Dallas got knocked out, but I think I’ll go. Let’s face it, it’ll proabably be the last time we’ll see Clint Dempsey in an MLS uniform. And, I like the Revs better than any other team in the East, and seeing them win would assuage (a little) the pain of not seeing my own team there.

The Bad: The Rapids were unmasked for the overachieving, prima donna pretenders that they are. Enjoy your winter.

The Ugly: What is the story with this?

Ugliest Soccerball Ever

The English Premier League is actually using this as their winter “high visibility” ball. Did they lose a bet to someone at Nike?

October 12, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FCD v GALAXY


by @ 12:39 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Stream Of Consciousness

scha·den·freu·de (shäd’n-froi’də)

n. Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. [German : Schaden, damage (from Middle High German schade, from Old High German scado) + Freude, joy (from Middle High German vreude, from Old High German frewida, from frô, happy).]

 

Can it even get any better than beating the dirty dirty Galaxy on a beautiful late-summer evening at Pizza Hut Park?

 

Only if beating the dirty dirty Galaxy on a beautiful late-summer evening at Pizza Hut Park also serves to knock them out of the playoffs. For the first time. Ever.

 

(Memo to Mr. Loney: Sorry, I know it’s childish and petty to draw joy from the misfortunes of others)

 

So anyway, my traveling companion for this road trip was my youngest daughter Hannah, who, I think, enjoys the spectacle of a soccer game more than the soccer. Hanging out with the Inferno, a group whose sole purpose making noise and yelling insults makes her face light up like Christmas morn.

 

She’s a good girl that way.

 

We made record time on the trip south, if only because every single soul in both Oklahoma and Texas was indoors watching the other football game of the day, law-enforcement officials included, apparently. Being a transplanted Okie, and being married to one of those few but precious Okies who doesn’t worship the University of Oklahoma, I was emotionally unattached to the results of the OU/Texas game. I do enjoy the whole “wailing and gnashing of teeth” aspect to the aftermath, however, no matter which side loses. For Cid and me, every Red River Shootout is a win-win proposition.

Kind of like if the Galaxy and Fire had somehow both lost the Open Cup Final a few weeks ago. But I digress.

 

Speaking of the Inferno, they were in fine voice to be sure, with a good number of first timers hanging out and adding to the atmosphere. And by ‘atmosphere’, I mean of course, screaming horrible things about Kevin Hartman’s ancestors.

 

It was a great crowd overall, as a matter of fact. Nearly 20,000, though it’s hard to tell at PHP how many are actually in attendance, because the sight lines are so good people go to the concessions all through the match, knowing they’ll still be able to see the game. It’s great for the fans, but doesn’t look as impressive on television. I’m okay with that, though.

 

Shaka Hislop was in goal for the still injured Dario Sala. Dario, in case you hadn’t heard, made his radio commentator debut for the Spanish-language radio broadcast of the game. I think the broadcast is archived on MLSnet.com, so I may have to shell out the $4.95 just to listen to the man’s work. He dropped by the post-game tailgate to say hello to everyone, and when asked, he seemed a shade embarrassed by the whole radio thing. have a feeling he did well though. He knows the game and the players inside out, of course, and he’s also a natural born storyteller.

 

Okay, I just convinced myself to spend the five bucks. I know just enough Spanish so that I’m sure to be entertained. And besides, you know, it’s history.

 

Shaka had a good game, only giving up one goal, which to be fair, resulted in one of the finest long passes I’ve ever seen. Chris Albright hit the ball, thirty yards if it was an inch, right to Landon’s foot, 10 yards from goal. The shot itself wasn’t powerful, but did have the advantage of deflecting off Bobby Rhine’s foot, wrong-footing Shaka. Apart from that, he wasn’t seriously challenged, much like the RSL game the other week. He’s probably the only goalkeeper in the nation who’s more afraid of Columbus than Los Angeles. Funny game, innit?

 

Our goals were beautiful. The first was a killer free kick from Richard Mulrooney, pinpoint accuracy right to the head of Carlos, who headed across Hartman’s body to the far post. Lovely goal, and right in front of the Inferno, to boot.

 

The second was beautiful for two reasons. First was the goal itself, made by Ronnie O’Brien’s cross to a neat little volley from Kenny Cooper. Sublime.

 

Even better though was Hartman’s reaction, which I caught early Sunday morning via the miracle of Tivo. Kevin freaked. The boy just freaked. It was a screaming, red-faced, spittle-flying freakout. One couldn’t hear what he was screaming of course, but if my lip-reading serves me well, he seemed to be saying:

 

“FUN! FUN! FUUUUUN! WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU GUYS? THAT WAS FUUUUNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!”

 

Or something to that effect.

 

After that it was all over but Katie shouting while she barred the door.

 

After the game, the players unfurled a big banner reading “Thank You FC Dallas Fans”, which I thought was a nice touch. Bobby Rhine, the first player in MLS history to have his own Posse, came over to the Inferno, which he never fails to do on big occasions like this, to say thanks, chat, and sign interminable autographs with good humor and grace. Hannah was shy, so she made me ask him to sign her shirt. But she wasn’t too shy to say the cutest and most sincere “Thank You!” I’ve ever heard her say. Such a little thing meant so much to her. It was one of those Hallmark moments, that, if it had happened on a commercial, would’ve made me nauseous. But in real-life, it was pretty cool.

 

I can’t say it enough times, but Bobby Rhine is the platonic ideal of a classy athlete. I’ve found that FC Dallas as a whole is made up of class individuals, but Bobby is at the top of the class.

 

One young fan actually asked him if he’d give up his boots as a souvenir. Bobby answered, in all sincerity, that he couldn’t, because the boots he was wearing were undefeated, and as we all know, you gotta respect a streak. That was a great answer and it made me like him even more; the thing is, though, that if those boots hadn’t been on a roll, I’ve no doubt he’d have taken them off right then and there and let the kid have them. He’s good people.

 

Man, what a good night.

 

See you next week for the regular season finale against . . . oh, look, it’s against the Galaxy! I guess they’ll be taking the game really seriously, trying to get tuned up for the playoffs . . . . . oh wait . . . .

 

(snicker, snicker, snort, chortle . . . )

 

 

See you then.

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.

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

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.

July 9, 2006

BAD STRANGENESS ABOUNDS


by @ 1:23 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer

So, it being roughly mid-season, I thought I’d point out a few oddities I’ve noticed in MLS this year:

* Chivas is good, while the Galaxy are bad. I don’t know how odd it really is, but I like saying it.

* The Best Ghanaian in the league might end up being Dominic Oduro, not Freddy Adu.

* As it turns out, Red Bull doesn’t really give you wings.

* Between June 9th and July 9th, Ante Razov scored more in MLS than the entire US National Team did in the World Cup.

* Even people who know nothing about soccer know about the “Beckham to MLS” rumors.

* If the World Cup showed anything, it’s that MLS referees aren’t so bad after all.

* My wife’s crush on Jose Mourinho doesn’t extend to wanting to drive 12 hours to Chicago to get a glimpse at him. VICTORY IS MINE!

July 8, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: 4th OF JULY ROADTRIP EDITION (FCD v DCU)


by @ 1:01 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Stream Of Consciousness

At one point I was wondering if the game would even happen; lightning and soccer don’t really mix, you know? Not that the weather was unwelcome, since the clouds and rain kept the temperature from hitting the low 150s, as I had been expecting for an Independence Day matchup in Texas. If you’ve never experienced a Texas summer day, let me just stay in the spirit of massive understatement, that it’s hot.Last year at Pizza Hut Park, I saw a pigeon spontaneously combust while trying to snag some popcorn from the sidewalk. It was hot. I saw a squirrel trying to unscrew the cap on a fire hydrant. Yeah, it was that hot. The Baptists were wearing shorts and contemplating allowing mixed bathing at public swimming pools. I’m tellin’ ya, it was hot.

El Jefe brought the satellite dish, so the Inferno tailgate was transfixed by the World Cup semifinal when Cid and the kids and I finally arrived at about 3:30. Apparently, even with the elimination of the United States, FIFA decided to go ahead and finish the tournament. Odd, huh? The semifinals looked like an old episode of “Battle of the Network Stars”, if it had featured fading colonial-era superpowers instead of fading Hollywood celebs as contestants. Somehow Italy scored twice late in extra time to avoid going to penalties with Germany. Shrewd move that, and one that apparently many teams hadn’t thought of in this tournament.

It’s nice for the Italian players to get to the finals, since it appears the bulk of them will be either in prison or Serie C this time next year. I’m sure most of them would prefer prison.

The Germans, on the other hand, have got to start lobbying for a new regulation requiring all matches to be decided on PKs if there is to be any hope of them winning again. I’d also like to thank the German FA for training our next US National Team coach, SoCal’s own Jurgen Klinsmann. Maybe we could just swap straight up and send Bruce to manage Germany. It’d be the best deal for the Germans since we sent them Hasselhoff. Bruce can’t sing, and no one wants him taking off his shirt, but he got the USA to the quarterfinals in 2002; that puts him up their with Nietzsche in the hall of ubermenschen. The Germans would dig him, I’m sure.

So, oh yeah, the game. Well, I hardly know what to say about the game. We won in every aspect except the score. I’m sure, if asked, that DC would go ahead and keep the victory and live with the ignominy of having lost all the other fine points of the game. I’d swap them, I know that.

We had most of the possession, three times the shots, midfield dominance, and a home crowd. What we didn’t have was any finishing. Nineteen shots. No finishing. It was strange to watch. One brief counterattack by DC, in which there were more missed tackles than the last scene of “The Longest Yard”, and all the sudden we were a goal down. Not a hint of discouragement, not a hint of quit, not a hint of letting up. Just . . . no goals. It was very strange, as I said.

The Inferno, after three straight losses, are getting a little testy. Instead of yelling encouraging stuff like “Come on guys, let’s go, you can do it!”, there was more of a “Hey! Get your head out of your ***!” kind of feel to the whole thing. The natives are getting restless here in downtown Frisco. Last years inglorious summer swoon was blamed (rightly, I think) on Richard Mulrooney’s unfortunate knee injury. If we keep losing as the temperature gets hotter in July and August, I fear Coach Clarke is going to take the fall. I heard a few vocal calls for his early release from contract from the crowd, but I really don’t think we’re there yet.

Be careful what you ask for, you Colin-haters . . . the only available coach out there right now is Steve Sampson. And he, of course, is tainted by the stench of the dirty dirty Galaxy AND the 1998 World Cup.

You know, the more I think about it, I’m pretty sure Alexi Lalas took the Galaxy GM gig SOLELY for the opportunity to fire Sampson. I’m predicting he’ll go back to his career in music now that he’s accomplished that. Or back to Red Bull, so he can fire and hire the poor guy again.

Maybe Eric Wynalda is interested in getting into coaching. Or Marcelo Balboa. Hey, Dave O’Brien seems to know a lot about the game. We could get him!

To give you an idea, though, of how nothing could go right for us in this game, even the legendary Inferno smoke-bomb trick didn’t go right. The weather was so odd that there was absolutely no wind whatsoever at field level. So the smoke, instead of wafting over to the field and frightening Troy Perkins into a screaming anxiety fit, just hung right where it started and nearly choked the Inferno drumline to death.

Some days it just don’t pay to get outta bed, you know?

But I digress.

After the game, we headed back to the Dr. Pepper Pavilion for more tailgating, some satellite MLS action, and, ostensibly, fireworks. Most of us skipped the free concert, for fear that the combination of Everlife (a girl band sponsored by the Disney Channel) and Kool & The Gang would cause some sort of matter/antimatter event that would subsume the entire universe in a cataclysmic explosion of apocalyptic proportions.

But it didn’t.

The fireworks were scheduled to start at 9:30, but apparently Kool & The Gang brought their A-game, and must have played about 10 encores. As a result it was nearly 10:30 before the pyrotechnics started; the oddball stillness of the atmospheric conditions that I previously mentioned still prevailed, and the lack of wind actually caused the latter part of the fireworks show to be partially obscured by its own smoke, causing a surreal grand-finale that ended up looked oddly like the last scene of “Full Metal Jacket”.

Really, did we need that many encores from Kool? I mean, you played “Celebrate”, you played “Jungle Boogie” . . . get off the stage! People gotta work the next day, okay guys? Sheesh.

One thing I had never experienced before was post-game traffic at PHP. Usually, hanging with the Inferno means you stay a few hours after the parking lots have long since emptied. Tuesday, though, we left after the fireworks and had the pleasure of taking a good solid 30 minutes to get from the Green Parking Lot to El Dorado Street.

That’s 6/10ths of a mile, if you’re keeping score at home. Yeah.

Anyway, since there’s no better way to celebrate the birth of the United States than by going to a soccer match, I have to say it was, despite the disappointing loss, a pretty good day. Friends, food, adult beverages, the beautiful game, 70’s retro funk, and fireworks . . . does life get any sweeter than that?

I don’t think so.

See you kids Saturday for the MetroRedBullStars.

June 15, 2006

QUOTE OF THE DAY


by @ 3:20 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

Brialliant, brilliant, BRILLIANT quote from FC Dallas boss Colin Clarke (as reported by the pretty-brilliant-his-own-self Buzz Carrick at 3rd Degree):

. . . I consider the supporters shield to be a lot more important this year. More important, I think, in a lot of ways, than the MLS Cup. It proves you were better the whole way and not that you won a 4 game knockout cup. Plus this year you get into the Champions Cup. Of course we know that MLS is set up for the MLS Cup.”

If more managers and GMs thought this way, the regular season would be ten times more exciting than it is. I know it has to do, partially, with the size of the league, but let’s face it, if 2/3 of the league make the playoffs, the regular season loses something. There’s no way around that. But if the Supporter’s Shield becomes just as important as the Rothenberg Trophy, well, then you have something to write home about.

Further, if things were as they should be, and more Coaches and GMs realized how important the US Open Cup is, you’d have three major titles up for grabs in one season. It is incalculable how much more interesting American soccer would be, if this were the case.

OH, YEAH . . .


by @ 12:45 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Pictures

Toyota Park

I’ve been so distracted by the World Cup that I’ve neglected Major League Soccer this week. Turns out this was a mistake, because I missed what may have been the best game of the year so far.

The Chicago Fire, FINALLY getting a home game with the opening of the brand-spankin-new Toyota Park, were up 3-1 over the Revs when the clock reached 90 minutes. The Revs then proceed to score two goals in injury time to pull a draw out of their collective backsides.

Talking about raining on someone’s parade, huh? Beautiful new stadium, two goal lead, time nearly up . . . disaster.

I love those Revs.

Go watch the highlights on MLSNET.com, and share the schadenfreude, won’t you?

June 7, 2006

FROM BAD TO WORSE


by @ 2:28 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

If, like all right thinking people, you hate the dirty dirty LA Galaxy*, you were saddened a little the other day when you heard Steve Sampson had been sacked. Because, let’s be honest, despite winning the Rothenberg Trophy last year, S.S. wasn’t taking this team anywhere but dumpsville. As long as Steve was around, the beast was dying, if not already dead.

I mean, come on, they didn’t score a goal the entire month of May. That’s nearly six hours of soccer, without scoring. That’s the time it takes me to drive to Frisco and back for an FC Dallas match – no goals.

Life was so good, and stoopid Alexi Lalas had to ruin everything.

Now, to heap hurt upon hurt, ‘Lexi’s gone and hired Frank Yallop. Now there’s nothing the dirty dirty Galaxy can do but improve.

Man, talk about harshin’ my mellow.

*with the exception of Dan Loney, of course, who somehow manages to be a Galaxy fan and a genius

June 5, 2006

DREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FCD v Columbus Crew


by @ 2:45 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Stream Of Consciousness

Sorry, I couldn’t write a Stream of Consciousness for the Columbus game. I’m embarrased to admit this, but, I fell asleep Saturday evening. I know. I’m a big time soccer writer, and I should be above that kind of amateur mistake. But that’s life.

It’s funny though, that night, I had a dream.

It was scary and horrible. Too horrible to be real life, but so lifelike, that only it’s ridiculously unlikely content convinced me it was only a nightmare.

At the beginning of it…….

a guy who looked liked Greg Vanney, but who was obviously not, because he was bald, hit a beautiful free kick, only to see it bounce off the crossbar. I knew I was in for a really bad dream. I tried to wake myself up, but my screams had no breath behind them, and I fell further and further into the realm of Morpheus.

(Nice imagery, huh?).

Later, another bald man, but this time for the other team, a team that seemed to be made up of sad-sacks and cast-offs, hit a similarly beautiful free kick. This free kick also went off the crossbar, but some player with no face and no name kicked it into the goal, as my hero Sala, as if he was trying to run in waist high water, could only grasp at the shot.

I began to sweat. I began to tremble.

Later, someone who looked a lot like Richie Kotchau (but surely it couldn’t have been; he’s been out of the league for years, hasn’t he?) traveled back in time, to 1986, and possessed the body of Diego Maradona. Then he time-traveled back to the present, went to Pizza Hut Park, and proceeded to beat, like, six different guys on a 40 yard run to score against FC Dallas.

In my dream, I began to scream “Sala, SALAAAAAAAAAAAA, STOP HIM………………”

But again, no voice would come out of my petrified lungs. It was all too unreal. It was all too surreal. It couldn’t possibly be happening.

And then, almost to the end, A man who looked like a little fish took the ball, and even though closely marked, scored a goal from absolutely nowhere, from absolutely nothing. But yet it was too late, for in my dream, the game ended immediately after, and FC Dallas had lost.

Okay, that last part, I didn’t have much trouble believing.

It was awful though. I’ve made an appointment with a neurological psychiatrist to get some help. I feel pretty sure that anymore nightmares like this and my already tenuous grip on reality will come crumbling down around my head.

So did anybody actually see the game? How did it go?

May 16, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FCD v EARTHDYNACLASH1836QUAKESAMO


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

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: TWOFER EDITION


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.

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