FOOTBALLS ARE ROUND!

Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things


June 25, 2008

New Home


by @ 9:54 am.
Filed under Miscellany, Uncategorized

I’m moving the World Headquarters of Footballs Are Round over to BigSoccer.com for new posts, but I’m leaving the Archives here, because they were too heavy to pack in the U-Haul.

July 29, 2007

KICKIN’ IT OLD SCHOOL


by @ 5:21 pm.
Filed under Miscellany

I am a huge fan of the “FA Archives” show on Fox Soccer Channel. They show matches from 20 to 30 years ago, and it’s worth it just from a cultural wayback machine point of view. Seeing the stadium signage for 3M Diskettes and Sperry Computers, for example.

And the haircuts – oh my word the haircuts. Everything from wildly unkempt 70’s hair to the Union-mandated soccer mullets of the 80’s. It’s priceless.

Oh, and let’s talk uniforms. To call them ‘form-fitting’ would be understatement; Cindy likes that part, especially. One thing I really appreciate is the old-school goalkeeper look. You wear the team shorts, and a plain green long-sleeve jersey. The way it should be.

Finally, it’s a gas watching, say, the 1985 FA Cup final, and recognizing at least 1/3 of the players who are now coaching either in the Premiership, Championship, or National level. Peter Reid, I wouldn’t have recognized, but there was no mistaking Gordon Strachan or Mark Hughes.

This show is so going on my Tivo ‘record series’ list.

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 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?

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.

June 7, 2006

I CRACK ME UP


by @ 7:47 am.
Filed under Media, Miscellany

Those foolish, foolish lads over at The All American XI let me write the header this week.

So, in honor of the upcoming World Cup, I made up a list of the All American Celebrity XI.

As you can imagine, it took quite a while to come up with a full complement. Really, I had to stretch the definition of “fan” a time or two, as well, but did not (boy scout’s honor) lower myself to the level of just making things up.

You may find a few surprises, and you’ll pick up some really excellent trivia to wow your friends and co-workers with, as they ask you all about this crazy “world cup soccer thingy” going on this summer. Because, if you’re reading this, let’s face it, you are the only one who knows anything at all about soccer in your immediate circle.

Or, you could be my mom, I suppose, and reading just out of blind loyalty.

(Hi, Mom!)

June 1, 2006

CROUCH-BOT


by @ 7:56 pm.
Filed under Miscellany, The International Game, World Cup

I’ve liked Peter Crouch since the first time I saw him for Southampton. It’s such an incongruous sight to see this gangly 6′7″ man playing such skilled soccer; you can’t not like him.

Then I saw him so this the other day, after scoring for England in a pre-WC friendly against . . . somebody.

So now, I like the guy even more.

Best. Celebration. Ever.

If you’re a fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, you’ll have to agree that when they make the movie version of The Silver Chair, Peter is a shoo-in for the role of Puddleglum the Marshwiggle.

ROCHESTER’S NEW STADIUM


by @ 3:03 pm.
Filed under Miscellany, Pictures

PaeTec Park

In the small but growing world of internet soccer punditry, there are any number of columns written each week about “signs that soccer is catching on in the USA”. These are usually of the “P-Diddy was seen wearing an Arsenal jersey” variety, or the “Pele wants to make a comeback and play for Red Bulls” type.

So, who am I to not take part?

But, look here, I’m right about this. The Rochester Raging Rhinos of the 2nd-tier United Soccer League First Division are opening PaeTec Park, a brand-new, beautiful, 14,000 seater stadium this weekend. Not only that, the Atlanta Silverbacks of the same league are opening a 3,000 seater on the same day.

If you want to talk about the health of the game in this country, then you have to talk money. People in both cities were willing to plunk down some serious coin to build these stadiums, and they didn’t do it for their health. They expect a return.

PaeTec Park has a pice tag of $35,000,000 (according to Wikipedia, which, as we know, is never wrong), the cost being split between the club and local government. The Silverbacks’ new stadium is part of an existing soccer complex with mutltiple fields and dozens of leagues for youth and adults. Eventually the stadium will seat 15,000, and has a $20,000,000 price tag. That’s an investment that means something.

So, yeah, soccer is catching on in this country. If you need proof, and you’re in the area, check out a Rhinos or a Silverbacks game sometime soon.

May 28, 2006

BELLY BRILLIANCE


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

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

May 12, 2006

EBERT LA GUSTA


by @ 9:16 am.
Filed under Miscellany

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

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

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

April 15, 2006

RHYMES WITH GORTY


by @ 9:43 am.
Filed under Miscellany

Things I did good for Cid’s Birthday:

Things I did bad for Cid’s Birthday:

March 20, 2006

SPORTSMANSHIP LIVES, AT LEAST IN ITALY


by @ 5:41 pm.
Filed under Miscellany, The International Game

(Channel4.com) Daniele De Rossi’s ‘confession’ has earned praise from the Roma Coach and his teammates, who also give an update on Francesco Totti’s recovery process.

De Rossi had knocked the ball into the net for the Giallorossi’s second goal, but confessed to the referee that he had done so with his hand and asked for the goal to be disallowed.

Simone Perrotta had opened the scoring and also praised his teammate for his honesty in this situation.

“Daniele was absolutely right and we need to start from these gestures if we are to improve football,” said the midfielder.

I’m afraid that Mr. De Rossi’s honorable acts would get him flayed in the American media. I can just see Kornhiser and Wilbon mocking him, calling him a loser and using the incident to reinforce the pathetic stereotypes about soccer in this country.

But you know what? They’d be wrong.

Mr. De Rossi’s act was noble, mature, courageous (given the temperament of Italian soccer fans), and sportsmanlike. If there’s anything lacking in modern professional sports, it’s, well, all those things.

I hope this simple act will shine like a beacon in the hearts and minds of Italian children, and will act as a small seed of change in the culture of sport.

(Top of the cap to another great and honorable soul, Bruce of Du Nord)

February 13, 2006

CHELSEA


by @ 2:02 pm.
Filed under Miscellany

I’m marrying a Chelsea fan.

And not only that, it’s my fault she’s a Chelsea fan.

See, a year ago, she didn’t even care about soccer. All she cared about was Notre Dame football. But then we started hanging out. A lot. You know, like people who are going to end up married do. Part of that involved watching lots of English soccer on Saturdays and Sundays. She would watch it with me, initially, because she’s just a good natured woman and wanted to show interest in something that I am, to put it mildly, interested in.

Well, then, after a few months, she started getting into it. And one fateful Saturday, while we were watching Chelsea thrash someone on Fox Soccer Channel, she noticed two things. One, that Arjen Robben is really, really good. Two, that Jose Mourinho is a suave, debonair, Euro-slick lookin’ sonovagun.

She was hooked. She was a Chelsea fan. Not just a Chelsea fan, but, like, a rabid, obnoxious, hates-every-other-team-in-England Chelsea fan. As if this wasn’t bad enough, she has started making these little “ooh” and “ahh” sounds whenever she watches that stupid American Express commercial (you know, the one where the great Mourinho utters those immortal words of soccer wisdom: “zhu hef to bloke th’ keeper, an zhu haf to beleef you can score”).

Not that this makes me love her any less. Rather, it’s all very cute and endearing. The only catch is that I despise Chelsea, and because of certain fundamental personality flaws that are deeply ingrained in my psyche, I am all but completely unable to keep my mouth shut about the fact that I despise Chelsea.

I mean, I can’t even point out that Arjen Robben looked like a diving little Dutch sissy-boy the other day when Jose Reina pushed him down (with no more effort than it takes to shoo a fly) without her getting extrememely emotional and irrational.

It really is great fun.

Anyway, we’re getting married in two days, and I’m really looking forward to a lifetime of arguments about whether Roman Abramovich is the George Steinbrenner of Russia, and lots of fun stuff like that.

November 15, 2004

Football Notes


by @ 3:50 pm.
Filed under Miscellany

October 18, 2004

Bye Bye, Burn


by @ 1:07 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Miscellany

Well, here’s the last Stream of Consciousness of the Burn Era, over at 3rd Degree, as usual. The boys played hard, but couldn’t find a winner against the Earthquakes. C’est la futbol.

Of course, that loss not only marked the end of the season, but the end of the Burn; they’re now officially FC Dallas. I’m a little sad about the end of the Burn. Not as sad as Mutiny or Fusion fans were when their teams ended, because, of course, we’re merely metamorphosing, not ceasing to exist. Still, despite the exciting things coming up next year, the idea of no more Burn forever is a bit sad.

In the long run, though, I know it’s all for the best. Two things are happening in Dallas that I’ve wanted since the inception of the league. First, we’re getting our own stadium. No explanation needed here, I don’t think. It’s an unqualified good for both the team and the league. The second thing, though, is that the league is starting to shed the hideous PR mistakes that plagued the league’s founding.

Yes, the name change is what I’m talking about. For all my melancholy about the Burn, I must face facts and acknowledge that it was always a hideously dumb name for a soccer team. Not only that, but of the original 10 teams, 8 of them shared that fate. Mutiny? Fusion? Galaxy? Clash? Metrostars? Crew? Wiz? Burn?. I mean, don’t even get me started on the Wiz/Burn headlines we had to suffer.

The only really okay name was DC United. Or at very least it wasn’t make-me-cringe awful. New England Revolution is actually a stupid name, too, but it did have at least some connection with New England. The Metrostars were almost known as Empire Soccer Club, which would have been excellent. But nooooooo, they had to be the Metrostars, with the anthropomorphic taxicab logo. Yeesh.

Whoever came up with those names, I hope, is no longer employed in professional soccer. What I actually hope is that he’s no longer employed in professional soccer and that he was horsewhipped before he was fired. And the same fate should befall whoever came up with those original uniform designs.

But I digress.

There were several other stupid things about the original league that have been abandoned, like clocks that count up and shootouts. And things that were originally necessary, but that we’d like to see phased out, like single-entity ownership. It’s all a part of the natural selection process of the pro game in America.

This natural progression, plus the new Adidas deal, are all reasons to be confident that this is indeed a long-term league, and that someday the demise of the Burn will just be an interesting anecdote for me to tell my Grandkids as we head for Frisco to see yet another FC Dallas victory.

March 16, 2004

I’m Just Not Sure


by @ 12:00 am.
Filed under Miscellany, The International Game

I just watched about 10 solid minutes of goal highlights from Argentina.

I’m not sure if Argentina has the finest finishers on the face of the earth, or the worst goalkeepers on the face of the earth.

Thoughts?

February 21, 2004

John Charles, R.I.P.


by @ 9:25 pm.
Filed under Media, Miscellany, The International Game, Uncategorized

From The Sunday Express (UK). Notice especially the last line. An amazing life, and amazing legacy.

Sporting, political and personal tributes from across the world have flooded in for former Welsh football legend John Charles who has died, aged 72.

During his career, Charles played for Wales, Italian giants Juventus, Leeds United, Cardiff City and Roma and was known as “the Gentle Giant”.

Earlier this month, part of Charles’ right foot was amputated in Milan due to gangrene caused by circulation problems, a month after he underwent heart surgery.

Last weekend, he was flown to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield. He died there at 4.30am, this Saturday morning.

Wales’ first minister Rhodri Morgan led the tributes to the “world legend” and said: “We have lost one of the greatest Welshmen of the 20th century.”

The 6ft 2ins, 13 stone legend had iconic status among Italians where he was “almost regarded as a saint” for his powerful, professional and above all gentle manner, never having been booked or sent off throughout his career.

January 8, 2004

I Ain’t Right


by @ 11:40 pm.
Filed under Miscellany, The International Game

Here’s how bad my soccer sickness is.

I was reading the Associated Press article about Carlos Bocanegra, ex-Chicago Fire defender, signing with Fulham of the Premier League, and within seconds of reading this paragraph:

He would become the sixth American player to play in England’s top division, joining U.S. captain Claudio Reyna, Brad Friedel, Tim Howard, Kasey Keller and Jovan Kirovski.

I had mentally corrected them, knowing, as all of us should, that John Harkes and Cobi Jones have also played in either the Premiership or its predecessor, the 1st Division.

Two things struck me about this knowledge.

First, not one in a million, by conservative estimate, know this information here in the U.S. of A.

Second, it does me absolutely no good on any practical level to have this information on immediate recall.

I’m a little conflicted by this knowledge. There’s a mix of perverse pride in knowing this level of esoterica, along with the distinct feeling this puts me way out in front for the geek of the month award. Oh, did I mention my other hobby is chess? Yeah, that plaque will look good on my wall.

December 20, 2003

Best Footballer Name Ever


by @ 1:39 pm.
Filed under Miscellany

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink

Vennegoor of Hesselink . . . the guy needs two shirts for that name.

December 19, 2003

I Hate The Offseason!


by @ 1:03 am.
Filed under Miscellany

I do. Fortunately, it’s only the offseason here in the U.S. of A. So one can still catch lots of good games on Fox Sports World. Still, I don’t really have a rooting interest in any international teams, so the thrill of seeing your favorite team do well is lost.

Well, on the other hand, I root for the Dallas Burn, so that thrill has mostly been gone since last April.

But I digress.

But, truth be told, I actually do have a favorite English team now. Accrington Stanley. “Who?”, I hear you cry. Well, Accy were one of the oldest clubs in England when they were forced by financial losses to disband in 1962. Six years later, the town rallied and revived the side. Since then, they’ve been slowly climbing up the non-league ranks of English football, killing the occasional giant in the FA cup, and building up their stadium and fanbase simultaneously.

I just happened to catch them on TV the other day when beat 2nd Division Bournemouth in the 3rd round of the Cup (thank you very much, FSW). After I saw how scrappy and energetic and skilled they were for a non-league side, I decided, like any good American would, that I would root for the underdog. The game was a perfect example of the phenomenon that all soccer fans are familiar with, the exciting 0-0 draw. Non-fans find it hard to believe such a thing is possible, but some of the best games I’ve ever seen have been low scoring affairs. Anyway, since it was a cup tie, a result had to be attained, so after two extra time periods and then penalties, Accrington advanced, and I got a new favorite team.

In other news, My beloved Burn have had good things happening of late.

Groundbreaking for the new stadium in Frisco is imminent, for one thing. Can’t wait for that to become a reality. Also, in a stunningly fan-friendly move, Hunt Sports Group decided to move the team back to the Cotton Bowl for next season! Southlake High School’s Dragon Stadium was universally despised, and people stayed away in droves this last season. The Cotton Bowl has the most beautiful field in the league, in my opinion, and the move will be popular with players as well as fans. Not a few injuries from this season were blamed on the crappy Field Turf surface at Southlake. Let’s not even discuss the aesthetic deficiencies of the place, or the Un-American ban on beer sales.

I think the club saved some money by playing in Southlake last year, but they also lost a ton of goodwill from the longsuffering Burn ticket buyers. It was a class move to admit the mistake and head back home.

I like the choice of Colin Clarke as coach. He did a creditable job in the few games he had as caretaker coach last year, and deserved a shot. Also, the pickup of Scott Garlick for a 2nd round draft choice was a steal. Garlick is a solid professional and will be more than adequate while starter D.J. Countess is away on Olympic Team duty next summer.

I know I’m going to lose all my regular readers if I don’t post more, so be patient, and I’ll try to be more regular.

(I’m kidding about that, of course. I have no regular readers!)

July 6, 2003

Bunker Hill and the Siege of Stalingrad


by @ 3:53 am.
Filed under Miscellany

For the life of me, I will never ever understand why a team would get a one goal lead and then immediately fall back into a defensive shell and spend the rest of the game protecting the lead.

Why? Why would one do that? What purpose does this serve, if not that of giving away a perfectly good lead? If I was given to cliche, at this point I would invoke the old favorite: “Ya gotta dance with the one that brung ya.” Fortunately for all involved, I am categorically not given to employing cliche, so I will elaborate further.

If you had the offensive skill to actually score a goal, why not go with that flow and try to actually try to score, stay with me here, another goal. You did it once, you can do it again. If the other team scores, oh well, go get another goal. It won’t always work out that way, but it will work out more often than keeping 11 guys on your side of the field. And when it doesn’t work, it sure will be fun trying, and, just as important, fun to watch. It will be fun for all involved, except maybe the coach. But he’s paid to be constantly unhappy anyway, so what they heck?

As a wise man (I believe it was Mel, the cook on “Alice”) once opined: “The best defense is a good offense.”

But I digress. Here is a brief list of things that are wrong with the “Bunker” theory of football:

1. It rarely works.

2. If it does work, it causes no end of stress, both physical and psychological, for the supporters.

3. Either way, it is UN-ENTERTAINING!

4. It encourages pinheaded sports pundits who insist that soccer is boring.

5. Most importantly, the whole idea is just plain wrong on principle. It’s just plain wrongheaded. Soccer is about attacking, creating, scoring and entertaining. Anyone who advocates such a style of play is the Anti-Pele.

Granted, there are times when you have to bunker in, as when the other team throws everything plus the kitchen sink at you, tactically speaking. But in that case, bunkering in is merely a temporary necessity, a defensive contingency. That’s ok. It’s when sitting on the lead and re-enacting the Siege of Leningrad becomes a philosophy of football that I begin to have a problem with it.

Further, if you find yourself with a team that has no ability to attack effectively, but you have one or two really fast players who were born to counterattack, then such a strategy may be your only real option (see: U.S. National Team, the Bora Years). Fine. But most of the games I see this happening in are between clubs that could very well play attractive, attacking soccer, but choose not to.

I’ve been pondering for years what kind of soccer will eventuall be known as the “American Style”. I think it will end up being characterized by fast, flashy, attacking soccer, a solid midfield general who can distribute effectively, minimal defensive solidity, and spectacular goalkeeping. I wouldn’t mind that at all. But I really don’t want to the American game to be known for 89 minutes of defense interrupted by the occasional goal. I really don’t.

Not that scoring is the sine qua non of a good soccer match. As long as both teams are trying to attack, and shots are taken, only to be denied by good goalkeeping and an occasional ringer off the woodwork, a 0-0 match can be one of the most exciting things in sports (see: Mexico v USA, World Cup qualifying, November 2, 1997).

But having said all that, my original thesis stands: bunkering in as a way of life is boring and has no place in the game.

July 4, 2003

Kindergarten


by @ 5:40 pm.
Filed under Miscellany

From the “Things that give soccer a bad name department” comes this nonsense from the Metros v Earthquakes match on 2 July:

Amado Guevara, Honduran forward and part-time dramatist (see this link for an example), is taking a throw-in in front of the Earthquakes bench. For reasons that one can only speculate upon, Ramiro Corrales,who used to play for the Metros before coming to the Earthquakes, leans forward from his seat on the bench and pulls Guevara’s shirt, keeping him from taking the throw-in. He then swipes at Guevara with a towel.

What in wide wide world of sports is that about? This is ostensibly a professional game, and Corrales is acting like it’s Saturday afternoon in the beer-league at the local park.

But that wasn’t all. It gets better, or worse, as it were. Guevara, reacting to getting touched by Corrales’ towel (touched, mind you, not popped , like you wind up a towel and pop someone hard and make it hurt), puts his hands to his face and falls to the ground as if he’d been shot by an elephant rifle. The compulsory bench clearing scuffle ensues, with all the macho posturing, pushing and finger pointing that such an activity requires under union rules. Corrales is given a red card for interfering with the game, Guevara for taking a repulsive dive. Guevara will probably receive a hefty fine from the Screen Actors Guild as well.

All of this is a shame. And even more so because the game itself was so utterly compelling on its own. The final score was 4-4, with goals in stoppage time from both teams, one to take the lead by Clint Mathis, and one to tie the game by Landon Donavan. The sandbox nonsense was not necessary to make this game entertaining.

Whenever I discuss soccer with my Dad (not a fan, he), he always mentions the fact that soccer players are sissies because they roll and writhe and act like they’re dying every time they get touched during the run of play. I counter with the idea that this is not an aspect of the American game, and that if he gave the sport a fair chance, he’d find it at least as entertaining as American Football, which is slow and boring by comparison.

If he’d have seen this game, he could have rightly said that we’re both right about soccer. Unfortunately.

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