FOOTBALLS ARE ROUND!

Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things


August 1, 2007

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: SUPERLIGA MATCHDAY 3


by @ 10:32 pm.
Filed under FC Dallas, Stream Of Consciousness

I don’t even know where to begin with this game.

I’m not 100% sure there actually was a game.

I think it very well could have been a hallucination, dream, LSD flashback, or perhaps some sort of alternate universe cause by Wesley doing experiments in the Holodeck.

But whatever it was, it wasn’t a regular soccer game.

I actually would have been at the game, except for some lady who called my office last Friday, wanting to make an appointment for legal consultation. In a moment of pure unthinking stupidity, I told her 2:00 Tuesday would be fine, not remembering I was planning to be halfway to Frisco by then. Even more stupidly, I didn’t get her phone number to reschedule. So I’m waiting around the office Tuesday, wishing I was on the way to the game, and guess what?

She doesn’t show up.

At the time, I was perturbed. Now, I think it may have been for the best. It was tough enough watching that mess on television; I’m not sure I would have survived seeing it in person. My only real regret is that I didn’t get to hold up my “POSH WANTS ME” sign.

The game started at 7:00, but I didn’t start watching until about 8:00 (Hey, Cindy likes the Reba show, what can I say?).

Uncharacteristically (because I’m normally a Black Belt in Tivo) I goofed up and started watching in the middle of the first half instead of the beginning, so I did what any grown man would do in that situation: I shielded my eyes, I started yelling “Lalalalalalalala I Can’t Hear the Game Lalalalalalal” While Cindy rewound it to the beginning.

My youngest daughter, not hip to the whole protocol involved in pre-recorded games (she’s just a wee lass, and not yet wise to the ways of the world), chimes in and says, “The score is zero to four”. I give her a brief lecture on how we never, EVER tell Daddy the score of a game that’s been Tivo’d, but I laugh it off, because I know, as surely as I know anything, that the score can’t be 4-zip in the middle of the first half.

Yeah.

After watching about 15 minutes, it occurs to me that Youngest Daughter may have been right, so, in a panic, I start to fast forward. This is where the whole thing gets kinda Alfred Hitchcock-y. Two goals . . . three . . . .FOUR? Four @#$%&$ goals in 20 minutes? How can this possibly be?

Says the lovely Cid: “I saw the score too, but I didn’t want to upset you . . .”

As I feel reality, objectivity, and the very fabric of the space-time continuum start to melt around me, I see Arturo Alvarez Pull one back right before halftime.

“Okay”, I say to myself, “We pulled back three against United, we can pull back four against these losers.”

The rest of the game is really a blur, with only a few things sticking in my conscousness.

The first thing that I remember is that no matter how bad the referees were for the first two Superliga games, those two clowns, combined, can’t be worse than Kevin Stott. Unless he takes to calling games blindfolded and hopping on one leg, he’ll never have a worse game than this one.

But, given that we gave up six goals, one can hardly, in good conscience, blame Kevin for the loss.

The second thing I remember is that Landon Donovan had the gall to make a throat-slashing gesture at the crowd. First of all, it’s classless and pathetic. Second of all, most of the people there paid to see a guy on HIS TEAM. Idiot.

He may as well go play for Mexico if he’s going to be act like that. Though I doubt they’d have him.

Landon is now #1 on the all time MLS punk list, having overtaken Kyle Beckerman and Hunter Freeman in one fell swoop. I can’t even imagine rooting for Landon when he wears the Red, White, and Blue anymore. Even Cobi Jones got my love when he put on the colors, as much as I enjoyed hating him in league games.

I also seem to recall that Joe Cannon, sometime over the course of the evening, grew to be about eight feet tall and somehow gained the ability to move faster than the speed of light. It seems counterintuitive to say this about a guy who gave up 5 goals, but, I swear by Lev Yashin’s ghost the man was incredible. Unbelievable. He made saves that were absolutely not possible to make. I mean if you did the math, the equation wouldn’t come out even. If they made a movie of his performance, it would be under “Fiction” at Blockbusters.

He’s a god amongst men, that Joe Cannon. Or at least a demiurge.

And that, I think leads me to the conclusion of this strange, strange evening, which is just as screwed up and nonsensical as everything else that happened: Despite spotting the Galaxy a four-goal lead, despite getting robbed by Kevin Stott, despite that punk Donovan being so frustratingly good, despite ALL that . . .

If Joe Cannon wasn’t some sort of superhuman mutant magic uber-keeper, we would have won that game.

That’s almost too much for me to contemplate, while simultaneously holding on to my increasingly tenuous grasp on reality.

So I’ll see you Saturday, for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Rapids.

(Oh yeah, Mom, I was just kidding in the third paragraph, I never did LSD. And Wesly hasn’t been allowed in the Holodeck in several hundred Parsecs).

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 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.

June 11, 2007

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FCD v Galaxy


by @ 1:04 am.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness

Let me just start by saying how much I despise Chase Bank. I mean, if a guy needs cash for a road trip, should it take AN HOUR to determine that the ATM, which had a software crash in the middle of his transaction, was never, EVER going to give him his card back, much less the cash needed for said road trip? Should it take two separate calls to customer service to determine that not a single solitary person in the entire organization knows anything about the software that runs those damn machines?

I mean, it’s a multi-billion dollar financial empire. They can’t get Automated Teller Machines right?

Naturally, by the time that whole fiasco was finished, it was well past the time we could get from Edmond to Frisco in time for the first half, so we had to scrub the trip. According to my wife, I’m not a patient man in the best of circumstances, so you can imagine how utterly annoyed I was by this whole deal.

Really and truly though, the second I saw the machine re-booting and noticed a Microsoft logo, I should have given up immediately and just hit the road. But nooooo, I had to have a modicum of faith in the competence of huge corporations, and wait.

Stoopid.

Okay, so what were we supposed to be talking about here today?

Oh yeah. The game.

Thank God we beat the dirty dirty Galaxy in this one; I really don’t know, the way my week had been going up to that point, if a loss wouldn’t have just driven me completely over the edge of sanity.

Not to mention the thanks I give that the game was on Direct Kick. Had it been one of those HD Net exclusives, well, see preceding paragraph.

So I guess this was Steve Morrow’s “Here’s your chance to shine” lineup, wherein guys who usually come off the bench get to start. That’s good coaching, in my view. You rest some guys, you give other guys a chance to impress. You have to have the locker room to do this kind of thing, of course. If you don’t, you get guys bitching and pouting and your team chemistry goes down the porcelain throne. But Steve is in control of this team, and the boys are behind him. Good things can happen when you have that.

Toja. What can you even say about Toja? He was like two or three players worth of good on the night. What can you say? Except he’s so good someone’s going to snap him up and take him to the Continent before too long. We can only hope he finds a girlfriend in Dallas who doesn’t want to leave Texas. It may be our only hope of keeping him around. Love is a funny ol’ thing, and can cause a man to do crazy things.

I guess.

Speaking of Mr. T, he scores from a crazy insane acute angle for the first goal. He’s over the end line at a full run and somehow manages to square up on the ball and left foot it past Joe Cannon. If you tried to graph that shot on paper, the math wouldn’t work. Who makes goals like that? Who? I mean, really – how many guys you’ve ever seen play soccer could have pulled that off?

Dominic Oduro is another one. What a joy to watch. He was making the LA midfield look silly at times. And often he gets loose on a breakaway but then has to stop because no one is as fast as he is. Not a bad problem to have. The minute his first touch and passing are as good as the rest of his game (and they’re not awful now, mind you), he’ll be gone too.

As for the PK that Dominic earned, well, it was kind of tough on Ty Harden for that to be a penalty. I mean, he did foul Dom, and Dom did make the most of the foul, theatricality-wise. But let’s be fair, Dominic was never going to catch up to that ball before it went out.

But on the other hand, if Dom was never going to get to that one, why bother fouling him? So, hey, tough luck kid, welcome to the bigs.

That was a nice little goal L.A. Managed to pull back right before the half. A beautiful touch by Kyle Martino finds an inexplicably unmarked Cobi Jones. Cobi’s shot gets past Dario, but Chris Gbandi makes an incredible back-heel save off the line. Sadly, it rolls right to some guy (Finley I think) who taps it in. Ah well.

Once again, The Inferno looked big and sounded great. The Toja chants were great, as was the “Cannnnon…..Cannnnon” bit they started up as the game wound down. Joe C usually takes the Inferno’s abuse pretty well, but he seemed to have exhausted his supply of good humor for most of the evening. Probably wondering why he had to leave Colorado just when they were getting good.

Here’s another reason why I love Steve Morrow: He’s ahead 2-1, there’s 25 minutes left, and he tells Kenny Cooper to get warmed up. Not Bobby Rhine, a defender, but Coop, a goal scorer. I love that. Why is it so difficult to understand the best way to protect a one-goal lead is to make it a two-goal lead? I can’t even begin to tell you how long the fans of this team have been waiting for this kind of strategery.

Even Drew Moor got into the act. Not content with shutting down what’s left of the Galaxy’s offense, He sneaks up on a free kick and makes a sweet diving header to put the game out of reach late. Tyrone Marshall, shockingly, was too busy tugging on Kenny’s shirt to defend the free kick. Idiot.

And what does Marshall do for an encore? A couple minutes later, [KIDS, TURN YOUR HEADS AND DON'T READ THE REST OF THIS SENTENCE] the son-of-a-bitch goes after Kenny with his studs up, and breaks his leg. Snaps his tibia. What goes through the mind of a person to make him do something like that? Sure he got a straight red for his trouble, but that’s hardly enough. Kenny is out for two months, minimum. There was no rationality behind that tackle.

If Don Garber and Joe Machnik want to continue to be taken seriously, not just by the American fanbase, but internationally, then they have to come down hard on this nonsense. Six games isn’t too much for a broken leg, if it’s just enough for a fake knockout.

Besides, let’s face it, when David Beckham gets here, Don and Joe will be suspending guys for not getting out of his way fast enough, never mind trying to cripple him. Let’s hope they’re not going to wait until sometime in July or August to start cracking down on thugs like Marshall.

By the way, you just gotta love assistant coach Marco Feruzzi. As soon as Marshall had done the dirty deed, Marco went after him and had to be restrained by the Assistant Referee. He got sent off, but in my book, the man deserves a raise. I like that the fire this team has extends to the coaching staff as well as the players. I also like that El Capitan Ruiz (away on Gold Cup duty with Guatemala) called the team before Kenny’s X-Rays were even dry to check on his condition. That’s a Captain.

That’s all I got. Between Chase Bank and Tyrone Marshall, I’m so put out I can hardly see straight. See you next week, Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

June 5, 2007

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: Houston Road Trip Edition


by @ 11:02 pm.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness

Speaking strictly in terms of climate, if Hell has a foyer, it must be Houston. Seriously.

Please, understand, this is by no means a reflection on the people of Houston, whom I find to be uniformly pleasant (with the exception of the Nimrods of El Batallon, whose problem is not being Houstonian, it is being rank morons stuck in the worst kind of perpetual adolescence).

For example, in Houston, the police and security folks are wonderful; cheerful and professional. As opposed to say, the cranky nitwits who make up the security staffs of Kansas City and Chicago.

And the Dynamo fans (apart from the previously-mentioned morons) are gracious and friendly. Even when they razz us, they go it with cheerful good nature. You gotta like that. I mean in Europe, if one team’s supporters were foolish enough to go anywhere near an opposing team’s supporter group tailgate, there would be a full scale riot. Here, we meet new people, share food, drinks and laughs, and take big group photos.

But goodness, people, how do you live with that humidity? Getting off the bus at Robertson Stadium was like having a hot wet wool blanket thrown over my head. I’d rather attend a game in La Paz – at least if I couldn’t breath, it would 20 degrees cooler.

I guess the humidity is useful in its own way. For example, had I actually burst into flames from the heat, the super-saturated air would have put it out immediately, especially combined with the totally and completely unreasonable amount of sweat my body was generating in a frantic attempt to, like, not DIE.

Anyway.

Oh, and I don’t want to blow my own horn or anything (lie), but I have to be the best fan in the history of this franchise – I got up at 5:00 am, on the road by 6:00, arrive in Big D by 9:30, several hours on the bus to Houston, all for a two hour game. Then back to Dallas on the bus and drive back to OKC; home at 3:30 am.

Oh, and all this was in spite of the fact I had my first day at the new job just a few hours after getting home. Do I rock, or what?

Not that the bus ride was a burden or anything. Being confined in a small space with The Inferno and a dozen or so full-to-bursting coolers full of icy malt beverages isn’t the worst way to spend a few hours on the road. Somebody even brought a bunch of tiny servings of Jello. Wasn’t that sweet? Mine kinda tasted funny though. One even had a little worm in it. Wonder how that got there . . .

All in all, it was a perfect day.

Or would have been, had we had skipped the game completely and just kept drinking.

Oh, the game.

What can I say? We scored first on a really nicely constructed goal by Abe Thompson, assisted by Kenny and Dax. Very pretty. We looked in control. Then in the second half it kinda all went bad. Dynamo players started slipping through cracks in the defense like cockroaches squeezing through your baseboards.

Except cockroaches are way more charming.

And cockroaches never would have been dumb enough to leave San Jose for Houston.

And cockroaches look better in orange.

And cockroaches . . .

eh, that’s all I got.

So all the sudden, in the time it takes to get a five-dollar Diet Coke, we’re down 2-1. How does that happen?

And what’s more, I didn’t see either second-half goal. The first one, I was at the concession stand trying desperately to rehydrate myself before fainting and permanent blindness set in, and on the second one, I was busy screaming witty insults at Pat Onstad. For example, stuff like “Hey, Pat, socialized medicine is a really bad idea!” and “Hey, Pat, who’s the chick on your money?”

Yeah, I like to save my ‘A’ material for the Dynamo.

Speaking of Brother Onstad, he really should get at least a three game suspension for his foul on Arturo Alvarez. Three yards outside the penalty area and not even pretending to go for the ball, he went studs up straight to AA’s lower leg. He missed for the most part, thank goodness, but it was still pretty cynical. Not cool, Pat, not cool.

Sure, he got a straight red, but that hardly does justice, not only for the blatant larceny, but for the whole “I’d rather break a guy’s legs than give up a goal” vibe the play had. For pity sakes, man, you’re Canadian – shoulder check him into the boards or something, but not that.

On the upside, Michael Kennedy can say he got at least one call right on the day on the season. Good on you, Michael.

Oh! This Saturday is the first time the Galaxy will visit PHP this year. I can’t wait. I’m so excited to see David Beckham I can hardly sta . . .

What?

Really?

Crap. The kids are going to be so disappointed. I’ve had them practicing anti-British slurs all week and everything. I guess I’ll just tell them Beckham is the speedy little balding guy playing up front. They’ll never know the difference.

Anyway, that’s all for this week. See you post-Galaxy beatdown for some more Streamy goodness.

May 20, 2007

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FCD v RSL


by @ 11:00 pm.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness

May 21, 2007

You know what I hate? I hate when one logs onto the MLS Live on one’s ‘puter, then before one can even get five minutes into the game, one sees the the score of the very game one is watching scroll across the bottom of one’s screen.

Whose idea was this? Did it not occur to anyone at MLS that when one uses this service, it’s probably because one couldn’t catch it live, and that perhaps one doesn’t want to see the score? I mean, wouldn’t that be an elementary assumption to make? Oh sure, there’s a little button to turn off the scrolling scoreboard, but one doesn’t notice this until after one has already seen the score, does one?

And when I say “one”, of course, I mean “DJ”.

So yeah, I’m annoyed.

Of course, I need to own my part of the blame here. I should have been at the game myself, as a season ticket holder and loyal Inferno member. But I was fortunate enough to have been invited to play in the inaugural Tom Danaher Memorial Poker Tournament, and I simply couldn’t miss it. Not that any of you know who Tom Danaher was, but take my word for the fact that he was a wonderful human being and a heck of a poker player, and that it was very important for me to get together with a group of great friends and honor his memory.

And, I won 30 bucks.

Don’t laugh – you can almost get half-a-tank of gas with that kind of money.

So, here I am, watching the game at 2:00 am Monday morning on a computer screen, instead of getting the sleep I so dearly need in order to look and feel my best at work in a few hours.

But I’m a trooper, what can I say?

Just for the record, it is now twice in one week I’ve seen JC Toja use his right foot. He just banged a beautiful cross using the formerly unheard from appendage, after also using it to score a goal against Chicago on Thursday. So no more Daniel-Day Lewis jokes, okay?

Wait, is it Daniel-Day Lewis, or Daniel Day-Lewis? I can never remember. I hope he’s not reading this – how embarrassing would that be?

Though to be quite frank, I feel fairly confident he’s not, in fact, reading this. For that matter I’m not terribly confident anyone is reading this. It’s sort of a “tree falling in the forest” paradox, but in a literary-internetty kind of context.

You can tell I’m tired if I’m using ‘internetty’ as an adjective.

So what’s the story with this lineup? Cooper and Nunez out – Alvarez and Oduro in? Not that I mind, terribly (especially since I just watched Arturo score a Goal of the Week candidate to make the score 1-0), but what the thinking was behind the changes, I can’t help but wonder. I suppose it’s combination of resting some tired legs and giving a starting shot to a couple guys who have been loyal and hardworking off-the-bench performers.

Whatever the reason, AA is certainly making the most of it; that goal was a beauty. He  scorched two defenders, breezed into the penalty area, and drilled a left footer past Nick Rimando.

Never hurts to make the coach look like a genius, either.

Speaking of coaches, wow, this guy for Real Salt Lake looks uncannily like Jason Kreis . . .

What?

Really?

Why am I always the last to hear about these things?

Gosh, if only there was some sort of international system of interconnected computers one could access in one’s home, to read about these things as they happen.

That would be cool. I’m going to write Al Gore.

Anyway, enough of my pie-in-the-sky dreaming; back to reality.

Hey, I know people complain about this all the time, but let me just say -  if there’s one thing I can’t stand in this world it’s seeing those unsightly lacrosse lines on a perfectly good soccer field. It’s an outrage. I’m going to go post on BigSoccer about this as soon as the game is over.

Freddy Adu just got a yellow card, I believe for back-talking to the referee. He’s become such a little potty-mouth since moving to Utah. You know how rowdy and incorrigible those Mormons are – I suppose it could be rubbing off. Or I guess it could also be all that free Xango he’s chugging in the locker room.

Don’t kid yourself, that Xango will make you crazy.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Oh no, not by a longshot.

First it’s the Xango, then it’s nutrients from Herbalife, and before you know it you’re snorting Avon scented talcum powder and annoying all your friends with invitations to “parties” where you try to get them addicted too. It’s an ugly irreversible downward spiral, and the only way to stop is to never start. We may have to have an intervention for young Freddy if this keeps up.

Where was I?

The Inferno really sound good today. Kudos to you all for a great effort.

Whatever a kudo is. Sounds like some sort of exotic Asian animal you can only get from a smuggler

Oh come awwwwn! Alex Yi just got called for a foul in the box. That was kinda soft, from where I’m sitting (200 miles away, looking at a tiny low-resolution computer video feed, several hours after the fact).

In any case, Freddy nails the PK to tie the score.

Nunez and Cooper have come in for Dax McCarty and Dominic Oduro. Dominic was unlucky not to have scored just before he was subbed out. He ran right down the gut of the RSL defense, beating four defenders, only to have Rimando make a pretty good save on his shot.

Carlos Ruiz just got a yellow card, which means he’ll be sitting out the next game.    We’re going to have a lot of these ‘accumulation’ suspensions coming in the next month or so – we actually lead the league in fouls committed at this point in the season. Which is actually okay with me. We’re playing a tougher brand of soccer this year. Not dirty, just tough. Maybe it’s the South American influence. Or maybe Steve just told the boys to get more yellow cards this year. Either way, I like it. I don’t want a team of Dema-like thugs, but I don’t want the boys to be soft either. They’re striking a good balance to this point.

Dario just beat Chris Klein with a beautiful sliding kick save from about 15 yards off his line. Bet Chris didn’t see that one coming. It was especially slick, since 99% of the keepers in the world probably would have committed a foul there and given up a PK.

Chris Klein, by the way, has been around forever in this league, and he’s still gettin’ it done. He’s never been a fancy finesse player, but more of a grind-it-out, hard-nosed kind of guy who, every once in a while, pulls some really sublime soccer out of the hat. Reminds me of Chris Armas in that way.

Abe Thompson comes in for Arturo Alvarez. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Arturo play any better than he did today.

OHHHHHHHHHHH DIPSY SELELOWANE WHAT A GOAL BY CHRIS GBANDI!

Great googlymoogly – what a strike that was. Left side of the field, 20 yards out, left footed ROCKET to the upper right corner. Are you kidding me?

I am stupefied.

You know what else? I’m now actually glad I didn’t go to the game today, because I would have fainted dead away from the excitement of seeing that in person. I would have passed out, and cracked my skull on the railing of section 116, and poor Chris Gbandi would have been responsible for my untimely demise, simply by scoring the best goal of his life.

So, as you see, everything works out in the end.

OH! Kenny Cooper just rang the crossbar like a church bell. He did the same thing at Chicago Thursday. They can still hear that one in Bridgeview, and this one was about the same.

Game!

Man what a good win. Three in a row, and we’re looked better each time. Steve Morrow has to be an early candidate for coach of the year if they boys keep up this level of play.

It’s also the 3rd straight victory by a score of 2-1. Which is not a complaint – it’s just fine with me – I’ll not be complaining about any score of any win at any time.

All can say it we must be butter, because we’re on a roll.

See you next week for Club Deportivo Goats USA.

March 20, 2007

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: SATURN CUP EDITION


by @ 8:39 pm.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness

Wow, only a 30 minute drive to see an FC Dallas match! This must be what it’s like to live in Plano.

John Crain Field at the OU Soccer complex is a really nice soccer facility. Small, but not the least bit shabby, like, say, the hole they played the Saturn Cup at last year. I don’t get to Norman much, despite living so close, but since I couldn’t possibly care less about OU athletics, there’s no call for me to make the trip. Unless I get a sudden urge to play slots or something, in which case, just try to keep me away.

The kid who did the player introductions may have started a new tradition for the Inferno when he introduced Shaka Hislop as “shuKAH HE-slop”. The rest of the evening whenever he touched the ball we couldn’t help but scream “ShuKAH!” in a very high-pitched, macaw-like manner. It never got old, even after the 10 millionth time.

The kid also pronounced Chicago’s coach as Dave suh-RACK-in; don’t think I’m EVER going to get sick of screaming that at Brimstone matches.

The Inferno was strategically placed directly behind the Chicago bench, so that not one gratuitous insult or razor-sharp taunt was misplaced. I imagine a lot of those guys will have serious emotional scarring from the experience. My personal favorite of the night: When Caleb Carr subbed on, somebody yelled “Girl goals count double!”

Come on . . . that’s not bad for pre-season.

I went over at halftime to give a fair amount of grief to Oklahoma’s only Fire fan, Mike Segroves. Many of you know and love Mike from his fine work on BigSoccer, so it won’t surprise you to learn that while I was giving him grief, his cellphone rang, and it was Miss Charlie Helms calling all the way from Dallas to give the man grief as well.

Because we’re all about the love, that’s why.

So the first half was interesting in that we witnessed somewhat of a “lightbulb” moment for the boys. For 20 minutes they played extremely tentative soccer. Not pretty at all. Then, as they say, the lightbulb came on, and all the sudden, they remembered how to play. It was a different game after that. A good game, and an entertaining game; in the second half, as a matter of fact, not unlike an indoor game (volume of goals-wise).

I’ll leave the blow-by-blow descriptions to actual journalists (like Gina), but I will take a moment to attempt to do justice to Dominic Oduro’s winner in the 83rd minute.

Did you ever see the Roadrunner cartoons? You know when the Coyote is chasing him, keeping up with him stride-for-stride, just about to catch him, and then the Roadrunner goes “beepbeep” and leaves him in the dust?

Yeah, it was like that.

Dominic picked up the ball on his own side of the field, right at the circle, and blew by his two defenders with a burst of speed not seen in Norman since the days of Joe Washington. I half-expected to hear Keith Jackson saying “Whoa Nelly, look at that man fly . . .”

It gave one hope.

Now, I’d be remiss as a journalist (if I was a journalist, that is) if I didn’t address Shaka’s night. He had a bad night. His heart and mind were in the game, but his legs took the night off. He’s hurting. You can see it plainly in the way he moves, and in his just-not-quite-quick-enough reaction time on shots. I don’t know if he’s carrying an injury, or if it’s just that no-good S.O.B. Father Time wailin’ on the man’s knees. But he’s not at his best right now.

Which is fine. It’s pre-season. He’ll either get up to speed or not. He’s a professional, and a man; he knows what he has to do. What I didn’t care for was the vitriol spewed his way by my beloved fellow Infernites.

He’s our guy – support him.

The only time it is ever acceptable to go negative on your own players is if they’re not giving it their very best effort.

It sure as hell isn’t going to help his game to hear his own fans ragging on him, is it? And don’t tell me that shouldn’t matter, because you know it does. Our support makes them play better sometimes, doesn’t it? Well what do you think our negativity does?

‘Nuff said? Okay – I don’t want to have to have this conversation again. Now go to your room and think about what you’ve done . . .

Anyway, it was one of the great FC Dallas experiences I’ve had, even for a pre-season game. A good sized Inferno contingent, a killer tailgate, some kids from OU who adopted us (or vice-versa, I’m not sure) for the evening, and a victory over the Fahr.

And, Cid swiped the “FC Dallas Locker Room” sign, with the help of Bobby Rhine.

Don’t get much better than that, kids.

Opening Day draweth nigh. See you then.

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.

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

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.

July 18, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS ROAD TRIP EDITION: FIRE v FCD


by @ 7:57 pm.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness

Elwood: It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.

Jake: Hit it.

It doesn’t sound as cool, but the party wagon was loaded down with diet soft drinks and sandwich fixins, it was 11:00 at night, and it was 770 miles to Chicago when we lit out of Edmond town the Friday before the first ever Brimstone match at Bridgeview Stadium. The lovely Cid an I had Mr. and Mrs. Segroves with us along for the ride. Great people, apart from the whole “Fire fan” thing they unfortunately have going on, and undeniably excellent traveling companions. I’m a night owl, so I took the first driving shift.

The Interstate Highway system is really a marvel of modern engineering and planning, if you think about it. Especially for a government project. We were traveling halfway across the country, yet the directions still went something like “get on I-44, then get on I-55, then get off at Bridgeview”. Good roads, minimal construction, reasonable speed limits (except in Illinois, where it’s still 65 for some reason), and a well-stocked truck stop every few miles. And even with gas at $3.00 a gallon, you can afford a drive of that distance without having to take out a second mortgage. I love this country.

The surprising thing, to me, about Illinois is that outside the urban areas it looks just like Oklahoma, albeit about two shades darker green (apparently Illinois is blessed with a phenomenon called “regular rainfall”, which I have heard of, but have never experienced in all my years of okiedom). Really though, rolling farm country, small trees, the occasional cow pasture – it wasn’t like being in another state until you hit the City.

We stopped in Bloomington to get a hotel room for pre-game freshening up and post-game sleep. Bloomington, as I’m sure I don’t need to remind you, was the hometown of that great American, Dr. Henry Blake (Lt. Col., U.S.A., deceased). If we’d had more time, we would have searched around for the Henry Blake Birthplace Home, which must surely be some sort of museum/shrine/giftshop complex, I’m thinking. Maybe next time.

The Bloomington Wal-mart is way better than ours in Edmond, for some reason. Cid and Mrs. S were outraged and disgusted by the relative cheesiness of our hometown WallyWorld in comparison to this midwestern shrine of low-low-price-itude. Mike and I were greatly amused by the selection of half-price World Cup themed throw rugs. The one with the Italy logo was notable in that it threw itself on the ground automatically, but wouldn’t stop rolling around until you squirted some water on it.

We actually got to the Comfort Inn Bloomington way too early for check-in time, but a few minutes of sitting in the lobby, directly across from the front desk, staring at the clerk with cold, sleep-deprived eyes and taking turns using the lobby bathroom for inordinate amounts of personal hygiene work soon had the young man in charge scrambling about for a few rooms that had already been serviced by the crack housekeeping staff. Score one for passive aggressive behavior.

We all showered up (not together, you dirty-minded so and so’s), put on some official MLS licensed replica jerseys, and hit the road for the final two hour push to the mecca of American heartland soccer, Toyota Park. We stopped briefly just before reaching Bridgeview to grab some beer for the tailgate. This being a real City, they had a real selection of beer, so I picked out a six pack of a beer with a name that I still can’t pronounce, on the theory that if it is made anywhere in Europe, it must be better than Bud Light.

When we parked (FIFTEEN BUCKS FOR PARKING!? I HOPE YOU GUYS TURN A PROFIT THIS YEAR AT THAT PRICE!), it was time for the Walkers and The Segroves to part ways, temporarily becoming blood enemies not unlike the Hatfields and McCoys, but only for the duration of the game. It took us a while to find the small but hoppin’ Inferno tailgate, which had merged with a tailgate hosted by friends and family of Dario Sala, whose American wife hails from Chicago. (You guys were awesome, by the way. Thanks for making us feel so welcome; it really made the trip even better than we expected). It was already blazing hot by this time, and the parking lot was fulfilling its role in earthly physics by reflecting and magnifying the heat to a degree that was almost unseemly. But so what – we had beer.

Oh, and at this point, let me say something that needs to be said. This whole “Windy City” thing is a huge crock of nonsense. It was about 140 degrees the whole time we were in Chicago and I swear I didn’t feel anything even resembling a breeze the entire time. What gives with you people? Did you give the Lake Effect the weekend off or something? I could have stayed in Oklahoma if I wanted to see small animals bursting into flames, okay?

But I digress.

Game time. The Fire Front Office staff had stuck us in a far corner of the stadium, in the very last spot to get any shade from the expensive and stylish roof they tacked on the stadium (if you’re scoring at home, we got shade in our section just as second-half injury time started. Thanks for that, guys; thanks a load). But apart from that quibble, they weren’t bad seats and there are no bad views in the stadium anyway, so we were pretty happy. Our contingent was small, but enthusiastic and loud. The surrounding Fire fans tried to compete with us, by cleverly yelling “sucks!” after our songs and chants, but that didn’t even last until kickoff. Amateurs.

The match itself started out slow, which is understandable given the heat, which, if I haven’t made myself clear heretofore, was excessive. Which is not to say sluggish; both teams came out ready to play. Hard tackles and attacking soccer were the order of the day. After a while the players forgot it was hot enough to bake cupcakes on the field and starting going at each other hammer and tongs. I’m not sure where the expression “hammer and tongs” comes from, and I’m not completely sure what a tong even is, but I can assure you, that’s the way they were going after each other, regardless. David Wagenfuhr got pole-axed by Logan Pause (Ed note: Justin Mapp, not Pause) and had to be carried off on a stretcher. It wasn’t a dirty play, just a bad collision, but you could see that David was hurt. He was holding his head and flopping around in a manner that could never be mistaken for play-acting. The man took a shot, and it looked bad. We heard later is was a concussion, which didn’t surprise anyone watching.

When Ramon Núñez ripped a long shot past Zach Thornton about 10 minutes into the match, I swear I thought it must have been the heat playing games with my vision, not unlike a man seeing a false oasis in the desert. But no, it was true. We were up 1-0 on the Fire, on the road. I started hoping it would get about 30 degrees hotter so the players would just congregate in the shady part of the field and play keepy-uppy the rest of the match. I could have lived with that. Instead, they kind of went back and forth until halftime, went and had some orange slices, then proceeded to come out and play one of the most amazing second-halves I’ve ever seen in all my days.

Ten minutes in, Andy Herron goes ballistic and scores two goals in three minutes. I mean, come on, where did that come from. The first was one of those painfully close beat-the-offside-trap runs that left him alone with Dario, who came off his line quickly only to have Herron nutmeg him to tie the game. It was cruel, putting it between the man’s legs like that, in front of his hometown peeps. Still, what was he going to do? Even Dario Sala can’t guard the near post, far post, and five-hole all at the same time. Some time you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you, right?

Okay, so it was tied up. We weren’t really discouraged. You couldn’t expect to keep a one-goal lead forever against the Fire at home, let’s face facts. There was still plenty of time left, and we weren’t showing signs of exactly fading away or anything. But when the second goal by Herron happened right on the heels of the first, and the Section 8 folks started really getting fired up and loud, I think even the most optimistic of us in the corner section began to get a little discouraged.

It’s not as if we’re a great come-from-behind type of team. That’s being kind about it. At that point, I’m more than a little ashamed to say, I would have wagered everything I owned, and everything I would ever hope to own, on FC Dallas not coming back to win that game. I know. That’s wrong, and I freely admit my lack of faith. But I’ve seen a lot of games since 1996, and that’s just what I’ve been led to expect. Forgive me, boys, for not believing in you.

But, in fairness to my terrible, pessimistic nature, I have never, EVER seen them come alive the way they did after they went down 2-1 on Saturday. Keep in mind, this was a team that had no Carlos Ruiz, no Roberto Mina, no Ronnie O’Brien. Wags had already been taken off on a stretcher, and Dominic Oduro went off the same way not long after the second Herron goal. To say we’ve been decimated by injuries is to be too conservative with the language. Yet the amount of guts and fire I saw from FC Dallas in the final half-hour of that match had nothing to do with the state of the roster, or the temperature on the field, or even the score on the jumbotron. It was about professionalism, courage, and a flatout refusal to lose. It gives me chills just thinking about it.

The tying goal was scored thanks to two defenders who take, in my opinion, way, way, WAY too much crap from the FC Dallas internet-based peanut gallery. Chris Gbandi beat his marker like an Inferno drum, got to the endline and made a nice cross to the middle of the eighteen, and my man Bobby Rhine first absolutely thumped it first-time with his left foot. Just like that, 2-2.

Now look, I’ve said this before, and now I’m going to say it again: you people need to quit disrespecting Bobby Rhine. Bobby is the heart and soul of this squad. He has swallowed his pride and gone from a lifelong forward to a new defender, for the good of the team. It hasn’t been an easy transition, and he’s made mistakes along the way; so what? When you screw up on your job, you don’t have it televised, do you? So shut up, already. Further, he has NEVER complained, never whined, and never done anything less than bring everything he’s got to give every single game. He never quits, never dogs it, never mails it in. He’s got more class in his little finger than most teams have on their entire roster. Not only that, he’s the best friend the Inferno have ever had in a player. He never forgets to come by and greet us personally, and Saturday, he actually jumped the barrier to give us some love after his goal, which was something we appreciate more than he can probably even imagine. Especially when it was hot as hell out there and it would have felt a thousand times better just to walk back to his position, preferably in the shady strip of the field.

So, once and for all, I’m telling you all: get off the man’s back and show a little appreciation now and then.

Okay, where was I?

Oh yeah. Bobby scored to tie the game. I remember when John O’Brien scored the first goal against Portugal in the 2002 World Cup, I was so excited and yelled so loud that the blood rushed to my head and I very nearly passed out from the excitement. That’s exactly how I reacted to Bobby’s goal Saturday. Did you ever see one of those videos of when the Blue Angels take a reporter up in their F/18 fighters and start doing high speed turns? The reporter invariably goes unconscious for a few seconds, eyes rolling to the back of their head, tongue hanging out, then waking right back up wondering what happened.

It was kind of like that. But better.

Then when Kenny Cooper headed in the winner, I seriously began to think I was having a dream and that I was going to wake up and find it wasn’t real. It was way too good to be true, but for once, it was actually true. Kenny almost decided to jump the barrier and give the Inferno some love, Bobby-style, but I think he saw the crazed, heat-delirious look in our collective eyes, decided he was too young to be smothered to death at a soccer game and thought better of it. He stopped just short of our section and, perhaps wisely, celebrated from where he was. He’s a great kid, though. He came by after the game and signed autographs and let several Infernites jump down from our section to take pictures with him. Very nice young man; very gracious and kind, even though he was nearly dehydrated and clearly bone-tired. He played his guts out; it was Homeric. The whole game was Homeric. It was impetuous. It was a game for the ages.

The last fifteen minutes, trying to hold on to the lead, were agonizing. As if the game wasn’t perfect enough, the boys even tried, for a while, to protect the lead by scoring a 4th goal. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. But inevitably, the Fire absolutely poured on the pressure for last 10 or so minutes, and we were forced to defend, desperately at times, while they tried to even the score. Great stuff. I hope there were a ton people watching on ESPN2 who had never seen a professional soccer game before. Because you just know those people will be back for more. It was just that kind of game.

I have to give a shout-out (as the young people say) to the group of Chicago natives who root for FC Dallas who joined with the Inferno for the latter part of the second half. They were great fun and added to our enjoyment of the match immensely. We know have our first out-of-town Inferno Chapter, I suppose. Cool.

Well, it was a broken and beaten Mike Segroves I finally found thirty minutes after the final whistle, sitting on a cooler in the Fire tailgate section. Sunburned, depressed, slightly inebriated, and in no mood to put up with verbal abuse from me for the 770 mile trip back to Oklahoma.

Not that that stopped me, mind you.

We hung out with the Fire folks for a while, who were incredibly gracious and friendly, even after having their team rip out their collective guts and stomp them flat that afternoon. I met lots of BigSoccer people in person for the first time, too, which is always one of my favorite things about going to MLS matches. GLU, CityIce, Redchick, Jay, PackMan, and my long lost brotherfromanothermother, Ross from St. Paul. Not to mention Mr. and Mrs GeordieNation, who took us back to their beautiful home after the tailgate for great food, cold drinks, and that rarest of all phenomena, fascinating, amusing, and apt conversation. You just couldn’t even ask for a better day, ever.

Oh yeah, and we get to keep the Brimstone Cup. Again.

So, was it worth driving 24 hours total for a two hour soccer match and a few more hours of visiting with friends?

Do you even have to ask me that question?

See you next week for Real Salt Rochester.

(For photos of this grand excursion, go to http://picasaweb.google.com/djwalker/ChicagoRoadTrip)

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 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.

April 30, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: DC UNITED v FC DALLAS


by @ 11:38 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Stream Of Consciousness

This is a different kind of lineup. Yi and Moor get starts, El Pescadito is on the bench. Hmmmm…. Dave Johnson, on the Comcast SportsNet broadcast, says that Ruiz missed a practice or something. I hope we’re not starting this nonsense again. And I really hope Hooters Restaurant isn’t involved in this benching, either.

I’m a little surprised that Aaron Pitchkolan didn’t get rewarded with a start this week.

Nice goal by Ben Olsen in the 17th minute. I hate to be negative, but Ramon Nunez seemed, uh, shall we say, oh, less than diligent in his defensive duties on that play. He really laid off Josh Gros, who dropped it back to Olsen for the shot. Am I being over critical? Somebody chime in on this.

See, I don’t like to criticize these guys very much. I’ve played soccer since I was 17, and I know a little about the game, but on the other hand, I’m not good. At all. On their worst days, all these players as far above my level as an eagle is above a penguin. I don’t watch the game thinking “oh, that guy sucks”. I just don’t do it. So when I do notice something a little negative, I hesitate to even mention it. But that looked bad, even to me.

But I freely admit that I could be wrong.

Dave Johnson and John Harkes are so much better than Rob Stone and Eric Wynalda. For all my reticence when it comes to criticizing players, I have no such compunction when it comes to broadcasters. I truly think I could do a better job than about half the guys who call soccer games in this country. I’ve never done any television at all, but I still feel confident saying that. In fact, I’ve never made a secret of the fact that when I grow up, I want to be Kenn Tomasch.

Indeed, I have felt strongly for many years that it would be best for Seamus Malin and Bob Ley to be forced to call every single national soccer telecast in the United States. I know that violates the 13th amendment, which I normally hold sacrosanct, but so be it. When I’m elected dictator, that will probably be my first act.

Well, second act. My first act will be to send the Delta Force to rescue that precious little Katie Holmes from the diabolical clutches of the evil Scientologists.

But I digress.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Ronnie O’Brien! He just scored the goal we’ve all been waiting for him to score this season. An absolute BOMB from about 30 yards out. Wow. That was nasty. Giving that man time and space to shoot anywhere within 40 yards is, by definition, bad defense.

The goal celebration was sublime, too. The boys all got together, linked arms over shoulders, and did a Barra Brava/Screaming Eagle jump-up-and-down dance. Right in front of the Screaming Eagles/Barra Brava section, no less. Nice.

I’d like to know which of them came up with that.

Roberto Mina is an entirely different player this year. More speed, more hustle, more danger.

Whatever you might think of Colin Clarke (and personally, I’m a fan) you have to admit then when his time is up in Dallas, he’ll be remembered for at least two things: the way he’s developed the young guys, and the way he’s found quality players from foreign countries.

Greg Vanney will be glad to see the last of Freddy Adu tonight.

I think Kenny Cooper takes pleasure out of drilling free kicks into the wall. It certainly is entertaining. You have to think that’s an unpleasant experience, standing 10 yards from the kid, knowing he’s not thinking of going around you, but through you.

Josh Gros has a goal disallowed for offside. It was a good call, but bad luck for Gros. Sala either made a great save on Boswell’s initial header, or had his gbacon saved by the post. I’m going to go with outstanding save.

Mark Geiger is a really talented referee. Twice he’s made incredibly prescient advantage calls, then gone back and called the initial foul when the advantage didn’t pan out. He looks like he should be going to his high school prom, or taking his driver’s license test, but he’s reall very good. And I say this even though both of those excellent calls went against FCD

Oh Wow. Sala just made a second incredible save. Going to his left, he stretched his body to its very limit and parried a quality free kick by Christian Gomez. That was one of the best saves I have ever seen in my entire life.

Oh! And now a third! He robs Eskandarian on a breakaway and still has the presence of mind to twist his body around so the ball doesn’t go outside the penalty area. Dario is en fuego tonight.

Freddy Adu has produced some moves tonight that will no doubt end up on either an MLS highlight reel or a Nike commerical.

Sala AGAIN off his line smartly to rob Alecko Eskandarian. MVP of this match, without a doubt. Jeff Cassar is nearly back to 100% health, but I don’t know if he’s going to get back into the first team just yet.

Ugh. Mr. Gieger just about made me want to take back all the nice things I said about him. He calls a really soft foul on Alex Yi, who wasn’t doing much more than breathing on Jaime Moreno. He was, to be fair, a little closer to the actual incident than I was. But only by about 1,000 miles.

Clarence Goodson gets out of the doghouse and into the lineup with 15 minutes left. Also coming in the game is my choice for the next President of the United States, Aaron Pitchkolan. Yi and Cooper go off.

Ten minutes left. This game doesn’t have the feel of a 1-1 draw about it. Right now DC has the run of play. I love this type of game, even though it makes my stomach churn.

Carlos Ruiz in for Mina with six minutes remaining. Bwahahahahahaha!

Another thing I’ve noticed about Mr. Geiger is that he is not afraid to show the cheese. I’m not sure the yellow card count isn’t in double digits at this point.

Three minutes of extra time. Or as I like to call it these days, Aaron time.

Well, no last second heroics this week. That’s okay; we need to save some of those for later in the season when we might really need them. It’s about as fair a draw as you’re going to see. Very entertaining game by the two best teams in MLS this year so far. The boys need to chip in and buy Dario a present, because he was big tonight. That second half was about as good as it gets in the nets.

See you next week for the very first Lone Star Derby against the Houston DynoMutts.

April 28, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FCD v KANSAS CITY


by @ 9:19 am.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness

Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first), but Kenny Cooper reminds me a little bit of Freddy Adu.

Lemme ’splain. He’s great when he’s taking on people and winning balls and doing all that crazy skill stuff that you and I will never be able to do. But he is lacking, right now, in his passing game. Just like Freddy’s first year, except Kenny is better off the ball than Freddy was. Way better.

Keep in mind I’m not complaining at all. I’m really only mentioning it because it is so rare that I actually have a real soccer insight in this column that I just had to share.

He’s got a lot more hustle and maturity than Freddy did his first year. But that could have something to do with the seven-year age gap, I suppose. That wasn’t really an insight, it was more of an observation. That, I do all the time.

Okay, where were we?

Hey, another quick goal this week.

Great. You know what that means.

(must . . . not . . . be . . . negative . . .)

Cid and I couldn’t make the trip this weekend, unfortunately. I have this part-time gig teaching at one of those online Universities, and it requires me to be home on Sundays sometimes. I like teaching online. You don’t have to leave the house, and you don’t have to actually interact personally with any other human beings. If I could teach my 6th grade English classes online, I’d have the best life in the whole universe. I’d even quit complaining about the pay.

No I wouldn’t. For a teacher to not complain about pay would violate strict union regulations and lead to the revocation of one’s teaching license.

Coop’s goal was all about tenacity, hustle and opportunism. That was an “I learned the game from Alex Ferguson” goal.

Chris Gbandi is showing why he was a first round draft pick. He is playing calm, tough defense. He just muscled his guy off a beautiful cross from Eddie Johnson. A year ago, when he wasn’t really full speed, he gives up that goal. This is such good news for all of us. Good on Colin Clarke for being so patient with the kid. This may be the first season he’s had at full health since he became a pro.

Speaking of EJ, he’s a daddy! That’s a great thing. I’m happy for the GAM. He said in an interview with Steve Davis that he’s done a lot of growing up since the daughter was born. I wonder if Brian Haynes is the Godfather.

Wait. Dario Sala is 21 years old? I love the guy, but he looks like he’s about 40.

Looks like Clarence Goodson is paying the price for having Bill Buckner luck last week. Drew Moor gets the start.

Miss Zippilli, call your office.

He seems to be doing okay; except when he tries to keep pace with Eddie Johnson. But then, he’s not alone in MLS in that regard.

Bah! I think I might have jinxed Chris Gbandi. He just got a straight red for bringing down Davy Arnaud just outside the penalty area. He got beat on a nice through ball by, uh, someone, I couldn’t tell who. Arnaud got a step on him and Chris kinda gave him the ol’ Rugby tackle. I think he lost that step by looking back at the Assistant Referee, wanting an offside call. Ah well. Kansas City blew the resulting free kick, so it may work out. There’s a good 20 minutes left. Time to hunker down and play some Bob Gansler soccer against Bob Gansler.

Mina, Mina, Mina, MINA! The guy makes a beauty of a run, about 50-60 yards, has Ruiz on his right, but ends up scuffing a shot that went so far wide it was almost a throw in.

Alex Yi sighting! He comes in for Pescadito with 17 minutes left.

No matter what else happens, I’ve had the privilege of listening to Rob Stone and Marcelo Balboa working together in the broadcast booth. It would be a greater privilege if I had some assurance it was the last time I’d ever have to hear them working together in the broadcast booth.

Pitchkolan in for Coop. A giant subbing for a giant. Sounds fair.

Willo off for Nunez.

Six minutes left. You know, a year or so ago, I’d be here watching this game alone, sweating this last minute stuff, probably drinking myself miserable. Now, I’ve got Cid next to me, we’re laughing and joking and, well, sweating this last minute stuff. But it’s different somehow. And I don’t just mean the part about not drinking myself miserable. I know there’s a word for this, but I can’t quite pull it out of my brain. . . . . Oh yeah, happy, that’s the word.

Ouch. Ramon Nunez just drilled a free kick off Kerry Zavagnin’s melon. They did the replay with the audio turned up; you know that sound your car makes when you run over a box turtle? Yeah, it kinda sounded like that. Kerry got up pretty quick and shook it off, but he may or may not remember the last three or four minutes of this match, come tomorrow.

Sala cracks me up. He picks up a rolling ball just ahead of Josh Wolff, nobody even touches him, but just for fun, he does a little dive and lays on the ground a few seconds. I love this guy.

Five minutes stoppage time? Was there a power outage, or a tornado, or a presidential address somewhere in this half and I didn’t hear about it?

OH, SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP! OH, LONG FRIGGIN’ STREAM OF OUTRAGEOUS PROFANITY!

KC ties the game in injury time. The good Lord knows I try not to use profanity in this column, but it is –

OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! PITCHKOLANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN SCORESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! OH DIPSY SELELOWANE!! GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL! MAGIC! BEAUTY! GOAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GANO’ FCD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You Have Got To Be Kidding Me! Aaron takes the ball at the midway circle, starts to run, gets knocked off the ball by Eddie, who leaves it for someone else to collect. Pitch keeps running on to it, steals it from Burciaga, beats the last defender, then RIPS a shot from the edge of the area. He absolutely shredded that ball and left poor Bo Oshoniyi flapping in the air.

That is absolute utter magic. I just don’t know what to say. Not since Zarco Rodriguez ran the length of the field and scored with seconds to go in a playoff game, back in the old “clock counts down” days, has this team pulled one off like that. I am walking on air.

See you kids next week for DC ADUnited.

April 17, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: COLORADO v FCD


by @ 5:10 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Stream Of Consciousness

The last time we saw an FCD/Colorado game at the estadio Mile High, well, it was a dismal affair. We all drove 10+ hours to see a nil-nil draw. Not the exciting kind, either. The boring kind. See, that’s what the non-soccer fan doesn’t understand: a 0-0 tie can be a great display of soccer. Provided of course, that neither team is playing for a 0-0 tie. That night, neither team wanted to win; they both just wanted to get the heck out of Denver. 
 
So did we after that one.
 
Plus, we all know what happened in the second leg of that series (which, of course, we’re not talking about, so, well, never mind).
 
On to tonight.
 
Greg Vanney scored a goal!
 
Those are words that have never been typed on this website before (I point this out merely for historical purposes).
 
It was, as they say in soccer columns, a right cracker of a goal. Left-footed, 30 yards out off the free kick. Joe Cannon looked like a statue of Lev Yashin (again for historical purposes, I point out to you that this is the one and only time in the history of the universe that Joe Cannon and Lev Yashin will be compared to each other). And this was in the fifth minute or so. Being the glass-half-empty kind of guy I am, the only thing I find scarier than giving up an early goal is taking an early lead; we almost never hold on to them. Really, I should never even watch these games, except for the last minute or so, just to see the score. There’s no way I can be happy during the game. If we’re ahead, I worry about holding the lead, if we’re behind, I worry about not making a comeback. If we’re tied, of course, I do both. 
 
It’s sad, I know.
 
But then, a bit before halftime, Roberto Mina scores. It is an astounding goal. Astounding. He picks up the ball at the halfway line, almost to the touchline, and he just starts dribbling. Three defenders hover around him like he’s got some sort of force-field thing going on. They get close, but not too close, giving him about five yards of room in all directions. He just keeps dribbling, looking up once in a while. He winds up to shoot, thinks better and dribbles along some more, now nearly to corner of the 18 yard box. You can almost see the little cartoon-panel-thought-balloon above his head saying “Okay, why not?”? And then he just RIPS the shot. So Joe Cannon, of course, assumes it’s a cross and starts to his right. When he realizes it’s a shot, he starts to reverse direction. If you’ve ever played goalkeeper, you know that doing this only makes you look like you never started moving in the first place. Joe, who was actually in position at this near post, ends up getting beat to the near post, without ever moving his feet. 
 
It was beautiful.
 
So now, we’re up 2-0 at halftime, and I’m thinking, hey, they got nothin’; we’re home and dry.
 
I’m such an idiot sometimes.
 
Because lo and behold, all the sudden it’s like somebody called timeout, and everybody went and got a drink of, well, whatever the opposite of an energy drink is. Red Bull Valium Drink, or something. We become sluggish for some reason. Colorado, on the other hand, started playing a little. Pressure, possession, all that stuff. But still, it wasn’t a big deal. We were handling it. Our defense is so much better this year than last. We were handling it, I tell you.
 
And then, for some reason, a black cloud descended from the sky and settled squarely over the head of young Clarence Goodson. 
 
Up until the black cloud appeared, Clarence was playing great. Great. He and Vanney had the middle sewed up tighter than a pair of Brooke Shields’s Calvin Kleins (a little 80’s reference for all you 40-somethings). They were well-nigh impenetrable (which, coincidentally, was true of Brooke back in the 80’s as well).
 
But I digress.
 
All of a sudden, Clarence traps a ball in the penalty area with his left hand. Now, if you’ve ever played soccer unskillfully, as I have, you’ve no doubt experienced the phenomena of seeing your hand rise to stop the ball without your brain’s consent. Something in your American-born soul sees a ball passing by you and you simply out of pure-bred instinct reach out and touch it with your hand. Then when your teammates look at you with the look of disgust that only a soccer player can muster, all you can do is shrug and say “I don’t know”.
 
Yeah, that’s what Clarence did. Which in a way was nice, in the same way you kinda deep down like it when Tiger hits a ball in the water; you figure, hey, I can do that! And you feel better about your own severely limited skills.
 
Fine, though. No biggie. Dario guesses wrong on the PK, and it’s 2-1. It happens. Whatareyagonnado?
 
Then (and really I can only explain this bad luck by assuming that Clarence desecrated an ancient Indian burial ground recently, or something to that effect) a few minutes later, the poor kid makes an own-goal while trying to clear out a cross. It was like one of those old Pebbles and Bam-Bam cartoons, featuring Bad Luck Schleprock. They boy just couldn’t catch a break.
 
Okay, well, we’ve scored two of the best goals of the season, then given up two of the worst, in the span of one game. It’s rotten, dumb luck, and that’s all there is to it.
 
At the end of the day, it’s a point on the road, right? Good result; could have been better, but a road draw is a road draw.
 
Now, here’s the question: How rattled is the Kid going to be by this horrendous black-cloud-Schleprock-bad-dream-wake-up-in-a-cold-sweat type of game? Hopefully, he’ll just shake it off, and, in a decade or so, will be able to look back at it and laugh. For that matter, he may be able to laugh it off in November, if we lift the cup the way I suspect we will. Regardless, Clarence is playing really well, and here’s to hoping he’ll just shake this night off and forget all about it.
 
And grow his hair back.
 
See you all next weekend for the Kansas City Lizards.

April 12, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FCD V RSL


by @ 10:13 am.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Media, Stream Of Consciousness

With the lovely Cid failing to pass a late fitness test, middle daughter Bay came off the bench and accompanied me down to the Metroplex for the game. The Lovely Cid is listed as “probable” for the next home game in two weeks against Kansas City. 

Bay is a great traveling companion. She’s bright, funny, and only once-in-a-while breaks into whiny shrillness (I hope she’s not reading this). The poor girl already suffers for having me not only as a step-dad, but also as her 6th grade English teacher, so she possesses a great deal of patience as well. Her main reason for going to the game with me was, of course, to get away from her siblings, but when I told her we’d be hanging with The Inferno, and that she’d be required to stand and make lots of noise for 90 minutes, that’s when she was really sold on the idea.

Of course, no sooner did we get there than she latched on to Gina, Hannah, and all the girls of The Posse Assembled. It was as if she was embarrased to be seen with me . . . but no, that couldn’t be it. Could it?

You couldn’t possibly have wanted a more beautiful evening for soccer, by the way. Ideal.

The crowd was kind of thin, again. But as it turns out, every profssional sports team in Dallas was at home that night. Mavericks, Rangers, Stars, and even the AA farm team in Frisco. I’m surprised the Cowboys didn’t have an impromptou scrimmage as well. Oh, and added to all that was the NASCAR race. I’m surprised and gratified there was anybody there at all, frankly.

We fell behind again in the first half, which usually spells doom for us. But, after last week’s rare come-from-behind victory, I wasn’t all that worried. Hmmm . . . being a goal down, but not being worried . . . it felt strange, foreign. Otherworldly, one might say.

I could get used to it.

As for the goal itself, well, it was a deflected free kick by Chris Klein. I heard people say they couldn’t tell whether or not it deflected, but believe me, it was most surely a deflection. I mean, it had to have been; projectiles just don’t magically change direction like that for no reason.

Well, okay, in Dallas they sometimes do. At least that’s what the Warren Commission said.

But I digress.

We equalized before halftime, Cooper from Ruiz. Two assists in two weeks for Carlos. He said he’d get 20 goals this year, but if he keeps dishing up these beautiful assists like he’s done so far, I’d be happy with 20 of those. Wouldn’t you?

By the way, in case you’re not hip to this fact yet, Kenny Cooper is a monster. The man is just flat out good. He’s going to own this league. They’re going to have to call it Major League Cooper.

At the beginning of the second half, somebody in the inferno lit a smoke bomb. Not just any ol’ smoke bomb, but, like, the mother of all smoke bombs. This thing was on steroids. Bay was standing not five feet from me and I couldn’t see her. This, by the way, was not an aspect of the game she particularly enjoyed. We were walking back to the tailgate after the game and she says “Ahh, I can still taste that thing!” Me, I was jusssst outside the reach of the smoke, so I thought it was great. Heh.

The great Scotty Garlick took an immense amount of abuse from the Inferno, by the way. I loves the Scotty, so I didn’t really take part. Most of the things the Inferno chanted, well, I’m not absolutely sure they can be repeated in a family column such as this one. He took it like a champ, however.

Memo to Mr. Garlick: I love ya, man, but you just GOT to lose the mustache, okay? You look like an extra from “Viva Zapata”.

Willo got his first goal in hoops to give us the win late in the second half. Sweet.

Gee I think that just about wraps everything up for this we . . . Oh, OH, OHHHH! One more thing!

Quick Quiz: Who made the game winning assist against Chicago, AND made a game-saving clearance off the line in extra time against RSL? Hmmm? Give up?

BOBBY FREAKIN’ RHINE, THAT’S WHO!!

Now, is everybody sitting down? Good.

I want you all to stand up, raise your right hand, and repeat after me: “Without Bobby Rhine, We Would NOT BE UNDEFEATED; Bobby Rhine is a great asset to our team”. I’ll just wait here for everyone to go ahead and do that.

 
Okay, some of you aren’t doing it . . . I’m waiting.

 

 

 

DO IT! DO IT NOW!

Thank you.

There. Don’t we all feel better?

(Was that okay, Gina?)

Back at the post-game tailgate, El Jefe (which, as we know, is Spanish for “The Jefe”), hooked up the mini-dish so we could all enjoy rooting against both teams in the Galaxy v Fire matchup. If only there was a way each of them could have ended up with a loss, it would have been the perfect evening.

A few hearty souls ventured to the Frisco IHOP after all was said and done for a late-night repast. The manager there was very accomodating. He gave us over an hour to visit with each other while we waited for our food.

A big thank you to Harlan, Mama Lisa, and Alan for giving Bay and I a place to crash. I had originally planned to make Bay drive us back home to Oklahoma that night, but then she rightly pointed out to me that she’s only 11, and probably unable to reach the pedals anyway. Which was a really good point. Like any good leader, I re-assessed the situation and we went with another option.

See you folks next week for the away game against the John Denver All-Stars.

April 3, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FC DALLAS v CHICAGO FIRE


by @ 10:14 pm.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness

You know, I’ve been following this Dallas team since 1996, and every other off-season has been just awful. No MLS, no money, no life. Alone, depressed, wondering sometimes why I even bother keepin’ on with the keepin’ on. Some of you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, you’re lucky.

But this offseason was the best ever. I got married. Right out of the blue, God sends me this wonderful perfect woman. Did I have this coming? Did I deserve this greatest of all boons? No. Oh, hell no. No I did not. But I’ll take it. You know the old saying: “Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then”. Yep, I’ll take it.

And so, since I’m undergoing a new beginning, so to speak, I had resolved to do the same thing with the boys. It will be, I says to myself, a new FC Dallas beginning.

See, the end of last season was ugly. The memory of those Colorado punks running past the Inferno giving us the ol’ Italian two-armed salute . . . well, it was just really hard to take. But so what. It’s a new life, a new season, and I am determined to forget all that nonsense as being nothing more than a bad dream from which I’ve managed to shake my self awake.

Mind you this resolve nearly went straight down the flusher in the 11th minute when Chris Rolfe absolutely abused our entire defense and set up what has to be the worst goal FCD have ever given up. I don’t even want to go into detail, beacause it was so ugly that it might scare any small children who may be reading. And besides, since I’m doing the whole “new beginning” thing, there’s no reason I can’t extend it a dozen minutes or so and just forget it completely.

So, let’s start again, shall we?

Did you know it’s exactly 208.5 miles from my house to the green parking lot at Pizza Hut Park? Yep, that’s right, DJ learned how to use the trip odometer today.

The hottest I’ve ever been in my life, and the coldest I’ve ever been in my life, have both been times I’ve tailgated at PHP. So imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to find perfect soccer-watching weather at the Hut today. Perfect. High 70s, slightly overcast, a little humid, but with a nice breeze. Are you kidding me? It’s like dying and going to soccer heaven. Good day for soccer, good day to be alive.

The lovely Cid and I rolled in about 2:00, just in time to enjoy a cold 16 oz Champagne of Beers ™ and head to section 116. And if all that wasn’t enough, I got to fulfill a lifelong dream today. I got my own official Inferno snare drum. Manck brought an extra, and it was just sittin’ there in the parking lot, begging me to pick it up and beat the hell out of it for 90 minutes. How could I say no? Having my own drum…. could this day GET any better?

Let’s give Chicago, much though we despise them (in a fun-loving, soccer kinda way) their due credit. First of all, the kids from Section 8 really travel well. They had a huge group down in the corner, in full effect with flags, banners and loud voices. They’re a great supporters group; a credit to MLS. Second, the Fire themselves deserve credit for coming out and being ready to play from the opening whistle. You could see that our boys were a little . . . oh, I don’t know . . . not timid, but not quite loaded for bear either. Okay, let me say it this way: the first 30 minutes were played like the first round of a boxing match. Too much feeling out, not enough punching.

Not the Fire. Noooooo, They seemed to have no nerves at all. Chris Rolfe, especially, was problematic right away. He had a shot at a World Cup spot earlier in the year, and didn’t quite get to the level he needed. But at the rate he’s going, I think he’s got to be an early favorite to make the team in 2010.

After looking like a side that was still chasing after the Saturn Challenge Cup for 30 minutes, we pulled a tying goal back in the 31st. It was a goal that gives me great hope for the season. Our guy Carlos picks up the ball near the center circle and just starts running with it, about 40 yards, drawing four defenders to him like dung draws flies. Once he gets in the penalty area he flicks over a perfectly weighted pass to Arturo Alvarez. Arturo just nails it left-footed at a crazy angle to beat Zach Thornton far post. Nobody, but nobody from Chicago, not the players, coaches or fans in the stands, was watching Arturo until the moment Carlos played the ball to him. It was beautiful.

Now, I have to admit, when we go down 2-1 in the second half (freakin’ Rolfe again . . .), I start to lose faith. I’ve been following this team for too long and I’ve seen to many games slip away in that same precise manner. I can’t really be blamed for not forseeing a 3-2 comeback victory. I’m sorry, mea culpa, my bad, but I didn’t see it happening. A tie, maybe, which would have been like a win to me, but a come-from-a-goal-down win? This day . . . I just want to freeze-dry it and pack it away, so I can pull it out someday and experience it all over again.

Along about minute 60, you could almost see the needle hit “E” for the Fire. We seemed to be in much better condition and momentum became our little buddy for the rest of the match. Being in Section 116 with the Inferno (DRUMMING!), I didn’t see the Mina goal or the Cooper goal as well as I might have wished. Know what? I don’t care. I saw enough to know it was time to scream my lungs out and breathe in some confetti. Man if felt good. We hadn’t had that kind of result at Uncle Lamar’s House just yet. It really feels like home now.

On the drive home, Cid and I drove straight into a huge-mongous line of thunderstorms. But we saw very little of the heavy rain, and for about an hour we saw one of God’s great floorshows, an Oklahoma springtime lightning-fest. It was spectacular.

Best.
Day.
Ever.

See you next week for Real Salt Lake.

December 5, 2004

Stream Of Consciousness: FA Cup Special Edition


by @ 1:41 pm.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness

Stream of Consciousness: Hinckley United v Brentford – FA Cup 2nd Round

Apart from an FC Dallas match, or a USA World Cup match, there is no better soccer to my way of thinking than an FA Cup match featuring a huge underdog. Take Hinckley for instance. Tiny town, non-League club (Conference North, to be precise, which doesn’t even have a parallel in American sports, I don’t think, unless your town has a semi-pro American-style football team), small ground, rabid supporters, and a chance at glory and riches, and maybe even a match with Manchester United. You can’t get much better than that.

If Hinckley make it to the 3rd round, the fortunes of the club change dramatically. A huge influx of money, primarily, plus incalculable benefits from publicity and national exposure in England. This means they can buy more players, pay for their nearly-completed new stadium (the current ground, Middlefield Lane, known as “The Chicken Shed”, can barely be called a stadium at all; balls that go out of touch often leave the property entirely). The added money increases the possibility of promotion to the regular Conference, still semi-pro, which would be the equivalent of Rookie-League or somewhere beneath “A” baseball in this country. Then of course, they shoot for the big jump, to League Football. First to League 2, and, if the soccer gods smile on them, to League 1 or even the the Coca-Cola League, or, dare we say it, the Premiership in a decade or two. All because of one match on one raw December day.

Personnel-wise, we’re talking a collection of older guys who may have spent time with big clubs in their youth, young guys who want to make it big, but probably won’t, and pure lovers of the game who just want to keep playing, at any level, as long as their bodies will allow. Most of them have regular jobs; no team in Conference North has funds to pay more than one or two full-timers.

Brentford, on the other hand, are in League 1, only two levels below the Premier League. These are mostly professionals, albeit not the high-salaried type. They too are a collection of journeymen and prospects, much like Hinckley, but with better hopes for the future, more money, and a true professional atmosphere. The FA Cup is important, but not supremely important in their lives. Some of the players may even see the whole idea of traveling from west London out to the boondocks for a 2nd round FA Cup match as beneath them. They may see it as an unwelcome interruption to their regular schedules, and as a risk of injury that will sideline or even end their careers. But, as professionals, they have pride, and the last thing they want is to be humiliated by a team that doesn’t even have League status.

The field is muddy, the weather dry but overcast and cold, and the crowd, though small, is extremely vocal. The regulars who sit behind the Hinckley bench chat amiably with the manager, who chats right back, and probably knows them by name. Hinckley come out playing very well, defending fiercely and getting two excellent chances in the first half. One was a header which had to be cleared of the line by a defender, and the other was parried by the keeper in a goalmouth scramble.

These types of matches happen every year for some fortunate small-town club. For a non-league club like Hinckley, the road begins way back in August, with innumerable qualifying matches that have to be won merely to get into the 1st round draw. This means less time spent training and healing, more time off from “real” jobs, and less energy for conference matches, which can’t neglected too much, lest the team be relegated even further down the English Football food chain. They currently stand mid-table in Conference North, but have several games in hand, and aren’t by any means out of the hunt for a promotion playoff spot.

No goals at halftime. This in itself is a victory for Hinckley. The problem becomes one of stamina in the second half, where Brentford’s professional training will begin to tell. Hinckley will be relying on guts, pride, and home-field advantage.

The average Hinckley home attendance of roughly 500 supporters has quintupled for this match, and, probably for the first time in the club’s history, some were even turned away. Every fan is within a few feet of the field, and there’s even a small contingent of Brentford fans down in one corner.

Brentford have the better of the early second-half action, but Hinckley aren’t backing off even a bit. Really, though, a draw would be a good result for Hinckley, because it would mean a replay at Brentford and more money in the bank. But a home win and a trip to the 3rd round would be magical, and I suspect playing for a draw wasn’t even discussed in the locker room.

Horrible break for Hinckley in the 54th minute. A questionable handball call gives Brentford a penalty kick. John Salako, who at one time played for England, and has been to a World Cup, lines up to take the shot.

HA! He misses to the right! Hits it with his left foot and sends it two feet wide! You’ve never heard 2,000 people make so much noise in your entire life. It sounded like 20,000, easily. Incredible.

Paul Barnes, 37 years old and who spent years in League football, nearly scores twice for Hinckley in the span of a minute. First on an outside-of-the-foot flick from six yards out; deflected narrowly wide, and then on a volley from a flicked-on header from no more than six feet out, barely pushed aside by the shin of the Brentford keeper.

The sun is starting to peak out at the Chicken Shed. Maybe it’s a good omen for the home team.

One certainly doesn’t get the sense that Hinckley are outclassed in this match. The play has been even, and indeed Hinckley have clearly had the more dangerous chances. Right now they’re really pressing Brentford, nearly scoring an olimpico from John Byrnes’s corner. Byrnes, who was once an Irish U-21 international, celebrated his 27th birthday yesterday. This could be the best birthday present ever.

I also don’t get the sense that fitness is an issue for Hinckley, either. With three minutes to go, they haven’t lost much pace at all. This is a team that trains at night, mind you, with the majority of the players having put in a full day’s work as plumbers, medical supply salesman, and the like. Whether it’s actual fitness, or just adrenaline, they’ve acquitted themselves nicely.

Stoppage time, and a corner for Brentford. Tommy Whittle, the 22 year old keeper, looks like a pro, coming off his line and skying to collect the ball about eight yards out.

Full time, and a scoreless draw for Hinckley. They’ll travel to London for the replay in a week or so. I hope it’s on Fox Sports World. I’m checking the Tivo listings as soon as I’m finished typing; you know it’ll be on my to-do list if it’s on.

I may actually like these kinds of games better than FC Dallas or USA matches, because I can watch with pure joy, without the stomach-churning and fear-of-doom type of feelings that invariably accompany them. This is pure unadulterated soccer goodness in all its glory.

I love this game, though, wherever it’s played.

See you next time.

November 15, 2004

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: MLS CUP SPECIAL EDITION


by @ 3:44 pm.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness

If not for the Sauron-like presence of Dema Kovalenko, I’d be rooting unreservedly for United today. As it is, I can only muster the hope that DC will win while Dema finds himself shamed by an early red-card. Which, for that whack-job, is always a distinct possibility.

JP Dellacamera opined that the presence of Adidas uniforms on both teams was part of the 10 year deal with MLS. I’m pretty sure, however, that both teams were already wearing Adidas before the MLS signed the deal with them. Unless of course he meant that the presence of both teams at MLS Cup was fixed beforehand as part of the terms of the agreement. In which case, he probably wasn’t supposed to mention that, do you think?

Kansas City’s Jose Burciaga fires a GOLAZO from about 25 yards out to open the scoring! Good time to score your first of the year, kid. Wow.

As far as the game itself goes, however, this could be disaster. Given Bunker Bob Gansler’s reputation, this could be the last time we see more than one KC player leave their own side of the field for the next 83 minutes. Perhaps the deal with Adidas stipulates that you have to actually try to score goals, even when leading. Now that would be progress for the league.

One of my favorite all time goalkeepers is playing for Kansas City. No, not Tony Meola. Bo Ohsoniyi used to be the #1 for Columbus in the early years of the league, then he fell out of favor and played A-league for a few years, then became Meola’s understudy a few years ago. A terrific player who couldn’t quite find a starting gig for a while, he’s been stellar since Meola picked up an injury a few months ago. I saw him at the Cotton Bowl against the Burn in 1996, and I swear he threw a soccer ball further than most keepers can punt one. At least 60 yards. It was stunning. I’m glad to see him getting some time in the spotlight.

The crowd at the Home Depot Center is pretty good, but I’m a bit dismayed to see it isn’t a sellout. Both teams seem to have a lot of supporters out in force, however, and that’s good sign, given the distances to be traveled.

Alecko Eskandarian just absolutely torched Nick Garcia with a top-of-the-eighteen-turn-dribble-shoot move to make the score 1-1. Esky’s Dad, Andranik Eskandarian, used to do the same thing in the Meadowlands years ago for the Cosmos. I think Hank Williams Jr. wrote a song about that once upon a time; something about family traditions?

And, as I type those words, Eskandarian picks off Jimmy Conrad’s rather unfortunate clearance and beats Bo again. 2-1, United. He probably got away with a handball on the steal, but hey, that’s football, isn’t it? For a team that used rock-solid defense to get to this game, the Wizards have given up two utterly avoidable goals.

Holy Schnikes. 3-1 DCU in the 26th minute! Own goal by Alex Zotinca. Had he not knocked it in, Eskandarian would’ve surely had the hat-trick, as he was sitting on the doorstep.

I’d say the game was effectively over, but the Wizards don’t have an ounce of quit in them; they’ve made some stunning comebacks this year to get to this point. It’s going to be an interesting game, especially if DC take their collective foot off the gas. Not that it’s likely Peter Nowak will allow that to happen, even if the score reaches 6-1.

It’s 35 minutes in, and I’m not sure Josh Wolff has had a touch on the ball. I wasn’t aware he was even on the field. That’s a disaster for KC.

3-1 at the half. Looks bad for Kansas City. Maybe Preki will make a surprise appearance and save the day. Otherwise, things look pretty grim.

I think I’ll be skipping the halftime festivities. I’ve never even heard of the band that’s supposed to be performing, but even if I had, will anything be able to top Christina Aguilera’s All-Star game performance of a few years back? I think not.

Simutenkov comes in for Khari Stephenson for the second half. Why he wasn’t in the starting lineup, I can’t say. I don’t follow KC closely enough to know anything about his recent form, but I know that he’s been one of their most prolific scorers over the long haul. Greg Andrulis must’ve called Bob Gansler and made the suggestion (apologies to Lee Smith, Dr. Chuck and all my other Crew-fan friends for that gratuitous piling on. It’s a sickness, and I’m going to meetings).

What a break for Kansas City. Somebody saved a shot by Conrad off the line by swatting it away with their hand, and it definitely wasn’t Nick Rimando. I thought initially the ref was going to miss the call, but the linesman made sure he didn’t. Wolff’s first touch turns out to be the PK, which he calmly puts past Rimando. 3-2, and we got us a ballgame.

But wait . . . someone is getting a red card for that handball . . . who could it be?

[cue five minutes of explosive maniacal laughter, which, if typed out, would come out something like “BWAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!” for 10 straight pages]

Buh-bye, Dema Kovalenko. Buh. Bye.

Hit the road. take a shower. Make like Elvis and leave the building. Oh, and by the way, congratulations on being the first player in the HISTORY OF THE LEAGUE TO BE SENT OFF IN THE MLS CUP FINAL, YOU PSYCHOHACKAZOIDFREAKBOY!

Somewhere, Ronnie O’Brien is cracking open a Guinness and toasting your departure. And rightly so.

Schadenfreude, thy name is Dema.

Back to the game (reluctantly; I could go on about this all day).

Eskandarian goes to the sideline injured. Freddy Adu enters the game. It was only the blossoming of Eskandarian as a top level goal scorer that kept Adu from being a starter in his rookie season. He’d have been the only starter in the history of MLS who had to have his Mom drive him to the games.

If you’ve followed MLS this season, you’ll appreciate how hugely ironic it is that the final quarter-hour of this game is consisting of Kansas City attacking with everything they have, while DC bunkers in, desperately trying not to give up the tying goal. I love this game.

And to be sure, Kansas City really did pour it on. Chances galore, but nothing but could get past the density laden DC’s back four, errr, six, no, 10. I can’t tell you how many times this season KC has pulled off a comeback just like this right at the death. Usually it’s Jack Jewsbury or Davy Arnaud scoring deep into injury time. I don’t think it’s in the cards today though.

Well, hold the phone, there are SIX minutes of injury time. That’s gotta be a record. Peter Nowak’s teeth must be grinding themselves into dust.

No, that’s it. DC United win their 4th MLS CUP, 3-2 over Kansas City.

Unbelievable, really. Did anyone, even the most dedicated DC supporter, seriously predict this at the beginning of the season? I think we all knew Peter Nowak would win with DC eventually, but this is just nuts. Congrats to all you maniacs who go to RFK every home game and make the place shake. You are without a doubt the most loyal fans in MLS, and you deserve this.

Quite a game. Hard, clean play, good goals, controversy on some of the calls/no calls, and Dema got tossed. What more could you ask for in a final, other than FC Dallas being in it?

Speaking of which, MLS Cup ’06 is being played at the new Frisco Stadium, or as we like to call it, Uncle Lamar’s House of Whoopass. I am SO THERE.

It’s been quite a season. See you in the Spring.

September 6, 2004

Stream of Consciousness


by @ 9:59 am.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness

Stream of Consciousness: Colorado v Dallas

Brought to you, as always, by Buzz and the good folks at 3rd Degree

Stream of Consciousness


by @ 9:56 am.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness

Stream of Consciousness: The Road Trip Edition

August 8, 2004

Stream of Consciousness


by @ 1:51 pm.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness

My latest Stream of Consciousness match report, at 3rd Degree.

November 23, 2003

Steam Of Consciousness MLS Cup Report


by @ 4:49 pm.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness

Ronnie Ekelund with a sweet knuckling free kick from 22 yards in the 5th minute. 1-0 early for San Jose. Not what I expected at all.

Agoos helping out offensively, winning balls and making good passes.

Razov with a good free kick from 30 yards in the 9th. Onstad dives right and covers the low shot.

Fire uncharacteristically unable to hold in their own end. A little nervous, perhaps? That’s what led to first goal.

11th minute, great through ball to Beasley on the left side. Beasley charges toward goal and lays ball off. Robinson breaks up the pass. Announcers saying B should have shot. What do they know? I think I’ve said this before, but I would pay a premium for a game feed that had crowd noise but no commentary. These guys think they’re on radio, they talk so much. Less is more, guys. Listen to Martin Tyler sometime and learn.

Razov goes down in the 16th minute, gets up whining to the ref, waving his imaginary red card in the air. Anybody doing that should get carded themselves. Have some class. Dayak only gets a yellow, and Razov shows up Brian Hall, waving his arm and yelling right in front of him. Nice, Ante, very nice.

ABC just flashed a graphic telling us that this is Agoos’ 6th MLS Cup. Wow. I know the guy has taken a lot of heat from National Team followers, but you gotta admit he’s had an impressive career. Won a national title at UVA, and was a four-time All-American. Four MLS Cup wins. Played in two World Cups. Pretty good resumé, don’t you think? Not the fastest guy to ever play defense, but good anticipation, the ability to win and distribute balls out of the back, and a very dangerous left foot.

One of Pat Onstad’s first games in MLS featured an embarrassing howler that had people asking whether he was really a first team professional goalkeeper. I remember thinking at the time that mistake was not representative of his skills. The rest of the season proved this to be true. The Fire will have to be a little sharper in their finishing than they have in the first half to get past him.

The second San Jose goal looked like a prototypical Chicago goal. Beautiful through pass from Jamil Walker, followed by a precise finish from Landon Donavan. Jamil Walker has been on fire during the playoffs. He’s raised his game at just the right time. 2-0 San Jose at the half?

Brian Hall calling a great match. He understands the advantage rule and passive offside. Class of the league’s officials. He worked the World Cup and acquitted himself quite well.

Chicago comes right back and scores in the 49th minute. Almost a carbon copy of SJ’s first (Chicago-esque) goal.

No matter, not 30 seconds after the ensuing kickoff, Mulrooney chases down a long ball on the right side, collects it in the box and drills a shot past Thornton and beats him to the far post! What a game. San Jose are indomitable. The Team of Destiny, the Boys of Autumn, The Cardiac Quakes. Take your pick.

If Chicago can make a game of this and not lose their heads, the last forty minutes will be even better than the SJ/LA Conference Final.

Eric Roner making a game of it for Chicago. Unfortunately he plays for San Jose, and heads in an own goal in the 53rd minute. Unreal.

Poor Eric Roner. Three minutes after giving up the own goal, he fouls Rookie-of-the Year Damani Ralph in the box and gives Chicago the tying penalty kick.

OR NOT! Onstad, the MLS Goalkeeper-of-the-Year, stuffs Razov, diving to his right. If you submitted this game as a movie script, you’d be laughed out of Hollywood. Too many cliches!

Razov just missing in the 58th. What a shot. Inches away from making me think I’m dreaming this game instead of watching it.

Jamil Walker goes off with a hamstring injury with 30 minutes left. DeWayne DeRosario, his replacement, has been here before. He hit the overtime winner in the 2001 Cup Final against the Galaxy. He’s had a sore hamstring as well, but I’m betting he’ll find a way to run hard for the last half-hour.

Dangerous free kick in the 69th minute. Williams kicks it into the wall, gets his rebound, and nearly wins a penalty kick. Brian Hall was right on it though.

Lagos out for Ian Russell in the 70th . Lagos is a great player, especially in the clutch, but he is getting older, and probably the decision to go with fresh legs is a wise one.

At the same time, Mapp in for Andy Williams for the Fire. I don’t get that at all.

71st minute Donavan gets his second. DeRosario with the cross from the right side directly to Landon’s foot. Chicago hadn’t given up a goal in the playoffs thus far. Nobody, but nobody, would have thought they’d give up 4 in the final. Then again, nobody would have thought the Quakes would score five unanswered goals against the Galaxy to get here in the first place.

Oh MAN! Damani Ralph puts a perfect ball across the box and Razov misses a sitter. The only thing you can say about that is that it is uncharacteristic. He’s missed a PK and a three footer today. This has been the most unlikely soccer game I’ve ever seen.

It’s 4-2 with six minutes left. I’d save it is all over but the shouting, but that would be ignoring everything that’s happened so far. I’ll actually be shocked if the Fire DON’T tie it up, the way this day has been going.

It’s over. San Jose win their second MLS Cup 4-2 over Chicago. I predicted the outcome, but never dreamed I’d see a game like this. Great googly-moogly.

Man I love this game.

July 23, 2003

Stream of Consciousness: Gold Cup Semis


by @ 11:33 pm.
Filed under Stream Of Consciousness, The International Game

Gold Cup Semifinal . . . ARRRRRGGHHHHHH

Well, I was right. At least until the 88th minute. Once again our boys snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Yeesh.

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS MATCH REPORT™ :

U.S Lineup:
Keller, Hejduk, Bocanegra, Gibbs, Convey, Stewart (Beasly 83), Mastroeni, Reyna (Mulrooney 71), Lewis, Donavan, McBride (Mathis 30)

Brazil Lineup:
A bunch of guys with only one name.

I liked our lineup, although I expected Ralston would have earned himself another start.

The U.S. had the better part of the play for the first 20 minutes. We looked dangerous, but never tested the keeper. Good ball movement, but not quite the crossing we needed to be a threat.

Then Brazil started realizing they weren’t going to beat us by dancing with the ball. They started stringing passes together and had two very serious chances. First was a nicely slotted ball through the right side, brick walled by Keller. The second chance was a well taken shot from the top of the box, which was handily turned aside by the right post.

I was right in my assessment that the US would come out playing physical defense. Not dirty by any means, but good clean hard tackling. It was great to see. Even greater to see was the referee, Mr. Bartres of Guatemala, handing out an early yellow card to Brazil for diving. Despite my clearly partisan joy at seeing the card handed out, I’d like to say (with objectivity as pure as the driven snow) that such a call is good for the game no matter who gets busted for it.

The Brazilian momentum lasted about 20 minutes, with quite a few good chances(coughcough KELLER! coughcough) and about 65% of the possession. Generally the defense did a creditable job shutting down most of Brazil’s attacks, if not preventing them in the first place.

McBride took an elbow in the 27th minute and Bruce Arena immediately pulled him in favor of Clint Mathis. Brian had quite the mouse under his left eye. Not the first time we’ve seen that, of course. I imagine Brian had no intention of coming out and would have willingly played through it if given the chance.

Pablo Mastroeni picked up a yellow for a blatant foul that reminded me of Pat Fischer of the 1970’s Washington Redskins (that is to say, a desperate shoulder-grabbing takedown from behind).

The U.S. attack picked up a little steam in the last five minutes of the half, but still no shots on goal.

All in all, 0-0 was a fair score at the halftime whistle.

Kasey once again was put to the test early in the second half. Bocanegra was tight on his man but still gave up a scorching near-post shot that KK just managed to deflect wide. Brazil owned the first 15 minutes or so, and all we could do was defend for a while. The way we were packing it in defensively you’d have thought we had a one goal lead.

Mastroeni again fouled his man from behind after getting beaten in his own end, and was lucky not to see red.

The aggressive defense from the first half disappeared early in the second; we seemed happy to mark space for a while and just let Kasey pull our fat out of the fire (again and again). Keller is huge against Brazil for some reason. He is pure nemesis. When this man is 60 years old he’ll probably still be getting caps whenever the U.S. and Brazil get together.

Bocanegra, I’ve noticed, is the best tackler in the penalty area we’ve had since Alexi Lalas was a regular.

Brazil put the ball in the net in the 60th minute after some extremely lax defending on a free kick, but the play was (fortunately and probably incorrectly) judged offside.

Finally and utterly against the run of play, Reyna played a free kick from the right side of the field, about 40 yards out. Of all people, Carlos Bocanegra found some ups and headed the ball down and in. 1-0 for the good guys in the 63rd!

I’ll have to look it up, but I’m pretty sure that is Boca’s first international goal. By the bye, have you checked out the columns he’s been writing on ussoccer.com? He’s been keeping a journal at both the Confederations Cup and the Gold Cup. Very entertaining stuff. The kid can write, who knew?

More intense pressure from Brazil. Good clearing header by Convey to save a goal. A bit of the defensive tenacity started to return for the United States. Earnie Stewart in particular. I wish Earnie was about 10 years younger. I think the next world cup will be his last, and I hate that.

Mulrooney in for Reyna in the 71st. I don’t understand this, unless Claudio took a knock or is still not quite fit after coming back from knee surgery. I don’t think Mulrooney has seen a cap in quite some time. Must be a University of Virginia thing (oh wait, he went to Creighton . . . hmm).

Our two best defensive players (Keller and the right post) combined to rob Kaka in the 73rd.

Gibbs was unlucky to give up a free kick from 25 yards out in the 76th (Mr. Bartres can’t see all the dives, after all) that was hit way high by Baptista.

Finally a little pressure by the U.S. in the 78th. Frankie did well on the right wing and was fouled rather hard by Carlos Alberto (no, not THAT Carlos Alberto), but the free kick was wasted.

DeMarcus Beasley in for Stewart with about 7 minutes remaining. I thought we’d see him tonight. Short of being hit by a bus, I don’t see him missing many important games for his country in the foreseeable future. Earnie nearly went out in style, cracking a shot from 35 yards just before going off. It went wide, but not by too much.

Bocanegra got a cheap yellow on a really good tackle in the 85th minute. Why not, he’s done everything else tonight! He’s the man of the match without much argument.

Frankie with a great defensive play with three minutes left to keep Brazil frustrated. Ewtherton had a sitter with Kasey out of position until Frankie saved the day.

No matter. For about the millionth time since I’ve been following this team, the inevitable last minute goal was given up. A beautiful through pass found Ewerthton, who beat Gibbs and got off a good shot. Keller, of course made a tremendous save, but couldn’t prevent a rebound which Kaka slotted in easily from six yards out.

I wish I had a buck for every time this has happened since I’ve been following my National team (since 1989, in case you’re wondering). The heartbreak of watching the United States play soccer comes often but not early. They always wait until the 90th minute to break your heart.

Extra time was just a blur to me. I can’t really describe it because I was busy biting my nails down to an obscenely short length. I saw the handball by Gibbs. I don’t blame him in the least. Who among us wouldn’t have done the same thing? I held out brief hope that Kasey would attain an even more godlike status by once again breaking the heart of an entire nation. But I kinda knew we’d blown it.

It’s like being a Cubs fan. You know what’s going to happen, but you still love them, and you know every once in while they’ll produce some magic that will keep you coming back again and again and again and again (e.g., Caliguri against Trinidad & Tobago in 1989, The 1998 Gold Cup semifinals win against Brazil, WC 2002 against Portugal and Korea).

But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when they let one like this slip away.

This one hurt.

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