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Those inches matter. Height, I mean height.

Those inches matter. Height, I mean height.

Incredible game today, U.S. Soccer beat Spain 2-0 in the Confederations Cup semi-final. The play wasn’t as dominating as the final score – unlike other great games like the 2007 Gold Cup final against Mexico and the 2002 World Cup game against Germany – but just as euphoric.

So why do we suddenly show up at beat Spain after getting our asses handed to us by Brazil and Italy? All the columnists are writing about how we played with confidence and aggression to make the difference, but I want to float a theory that we won for two reasons:

We’re taller than Spain and Mexico’s forwards and we can beat any warm-weather team if it’s cold when the game starts.

The height thing makes the most sense. All our players are American, which means that they watch and probably played a lot more basketball than any other country. They’re athletes and probably played many sports when they were growing up, and height is valued in hoops, so they kept getting in more games and getting more fit, while at the same time their soccer skills were excelling.

Look at the heights of Spain’s best midis and forwards. Xavi, David Villa, Mata and Ferndando Torres are 5’7″, 5’9″, 5’7″ and 6’1″. So if a defender plays tight, there’s no way – regardless of how skilled they are – that they can win a header. Gooch is 6’5″, Bocanegra is 6′, DeMerit 6’1″ and Michael Bradley is 6’2″.

The numbers against Mexico – with the exception of Marquez, who is chronically injured – are just as noticeable.

So if the States can get a goal (or two) like they did today and sit back on defense. Yes, they’ll be under threat, and odds-wise, they’ll probably surrender a goal or two, but in terms of serving the ball into the box, those few inches go a long way (and, yes, that’s what she said).

Italy and Brazil are taller teams. I don’t think that this height advantage is given enough credit, but I can’t seem to think of a better explanation for why the U.S. can beat Spain by two and lose by three to both Italy and Brazil.

The other reasoning would be that the U.S. is simply a cold-weather team. Today’s game was barely above freezing when they started play. But even the North parts of Spain – like Bilbao – are still semi-tropical. The U.S. uses their crap-weather locations as distinct home field advantages when they play teams from the Caribbean.

The U.S. often plays World Cup qualifiers in Columbus, Ohio in February against Mexico when there are snow drifts and temperatures well below freezing. So why should it come to that much of a surprise when the game-time temperature in South Africa is under forty degrees and they have a strong game against Mediterranean Spain?

I don’t want to take anything away from the United States’ performance, but it seems as though with every other sport, commentators look for outside advantages that underdogs need to exploit. Do you really think South Africa would be in the semi’s if they didn’t have the homefield advantage? They wouldn’t be in the tournament if they weren’t even hosts. They can barely qualify for the African Cup of Nations, and they’re one of like three teams not torn apart by Civil War in their country.

So if the U.S. is playing in the cold against a team that relies on a lot of 5’7″, 5’8″, 5’9″ players, don’t overlook them

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MLS Is...oh, it's soccer?

MLS Is...oh, it's soccer?

…Not being put on the TV at the bar.

…Barely trailing the Junior World Curling Championships in the ratings.

…A proving ground for future stars of the Trinidad & Tobago soccer league

…Looking too much like MLB on the TiVo again.

…Weighing the possibility of letting players carry the ball.

…I was just calling the radio station to request a song, do I have to win the tickets?

…Hoping Pele returns their call about coming out of retirement.

…Saving up to buy MLS.com from the Multiple Listing Service.

Seems like there isn’t a definitive guide on where to watch European soccer in L.A. There are plenty of pubs that will have the game on, but won’t have many fans or the sound on (Busby’s for example). But here is a starter guide for pubs that get some smart soccer fans and put the sound on. I don’t know which have covers and where the best fans are, but this is better than most places on the left coast.

Ye Olde Kings Head
116 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, at the end of the 3rd Street promenade
I really like this bar. Great feel, good beer, smart fans. Kind of strange that it’s located near one of the only tourist areas of L.A., and it gets big crowds. But if you go early and can get a good view of the TV, this is one of the best spots.

Cock ‘N Bull Pub
2947 Lincoln Blvd., border of Santa Monica and Venice
Went here for a U.S.-Mexico World Cup qualifier. Wasn’t a very big crowd, but they were good fans who wanted to get away from the more crowded spots. They had a projection screen and it was easy to watch the game. I heard they have a cover for some ESPN matches though, which is absurd if it’s true.

Fox and Hounds
11100 Ventura Blvd., Studio City
It’s up the Valley, but I’ve had a great time for the games I’ve seen up here. They give priority to football and baseball, but they have a big projection screen and good fans. Fun place to watch.

Cat and Fiddle Pub
6530 W Sunset Blvd., Hollywood
Never been here for a game, so any thoughts are appreciated. The site looks like it’s a good soccer bar (mentions you might need to reserve for the big games), so I assume it’s a good spot.


ESPN let him out for 15 minutes for this photo

ESPN let him out for 15 minutes for this photo

I love whenever there’s a big soccer match on ESPN, because the network busts out my favorite commentator and lets him talk on a nonstop firing spree for ninety minutes before they lock him away until next year.

I believe that ESPN keeps Tommy Smyth – “That’s Tommy Smyth with a ‘Y'” – in a cage in Bristol, Connecticut, where he refines his obscure accent to sound something like a cross between Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins and every Charles Dickens character.

Maybe I’m such a fan because I feel so bad for the guy. He is a genius with football history, strategy and analysis, yet whenever he gets his chance to shine on SportsCenter the question he’s always asked is, “Today’s Champions League final is monumental…” And he looks real happy, like he’ll finally get a question he can thrive with. But then it’s topped off with, “…How would you compare it to baseball?”

And Tommy Smyth – who I think might legally qualify for a passport to a Leprechaun colony – has to suck it up and lower the bar so American audiences can understand football– sorry, soccer. The guy is awesome. He refers to a goal as a bulge in the old onion bag. He has translated modern soccer to people who only understand expressions from the Irish Potato Famine.

They let him run around for ninety minutes talking about what he loves. Then the game ends and they push him back in his cage and we’ll see him again next year.

Hated being stuck in traffic in shinguards

Hated being stuck in traffic in shinguards

A couple years ago David Beckham signed up to the play for the L.A. Galaxy MLS team with the promise of making soccer matter in America, which was sort of like if Tony Blair had joined Air America radio to make that matter as well.

Two months ago, the Galaxy loaned him to an Italian premierĀ team, AC Milan, to play during the Galaxy’s off-season. Now Beckham is having a solid season and is doesn’t want to return to the U.S.

Most people think that it’s because he misses playing in a country where soccer matters, or in a big-time league or having his passes actually be received. But in my opinion, I think the entire reason lies in the city of Los Angeles, California.

I don’t think Beckham knew what he was getting himself into when he moved out here, the same way no one else does when they move from places that are designed with logic. Sure he’s playing for the “L.A.” Galaxy, but when you’ve been stuck on the 110 for two hours to travel the eight miles to get to the wasteland between Compton and Long Beach, do you really start humming California Dreaming?

My theory is that Beckham googled “Home Depot Center” before he moved out here, and saw that it was relatively close to the beaches or downtown. “Surely there’s an easy way for the limo to get between there and the lovely, clean, warm, L.A. beach where I’ll be living,” he must have thought. Not knowing thatĀ a year later, he’d be stuck fighting traffic on the PCH to get to a Malibu beach with freezing filthy water only swimmable in late-August.

And on top of that, the 405 to the 91 is murder, especially if the game is at 8p and you need to get there during the afternoon rush at 5. Plus, when you get there, no one cheering you on speaks a word of English. It’s got nothing to do with soccer or America or pride. It’s all about L.A. It’s all about traffic.

david-beckham-arsenalI was watching the Champions League the other day, this big soccer tournament in Europe, and it bothered me that the referees wore advertisements.

It shouldn’t have been too surprising because ads are posted everywhere: on players’ jerseys, on the field, along the walls, on the stadium and so on, but something really annoyed me about the refs’ “Fly Emirates” patches, an ad for Emirates Airlines.

A ref is meant to be impartial and I want that standard to continue off the field. Not only do I want the ref to make the right decision in regards to the soccer game I’m watching, but I want him to be completely unbiased in every way if he’s going to be parading around as an umpire.

Therefore, if I say to the ref, “Hey, that was a great call, and also, what’s the best airline for flying from Hamburg to Dubai?” I don’t want him to keep Lufthansa’s services a secret because he’s a pawn in Emirates’ global marketing campaign. I want him to be fair. I want him to be a ref.

coed-footballI think in some respects I’ve gotten so liberal on them that I’ve come out the other side and have found myself sharing the conservative viewpoint, just by a completely different route.

An example. I play a lot of soccer.

Wait, let me rephrase that. I run around on soccer fields a lot chasing after the ball and completely screw up whenever it’s passed to me. If that’s called playing soccer, then dammit, I’m Pele.

So I find myself playing a lot of soccer, which is fine. Thing is, I tend to date girls who enjoy playing soccer too. I’ve dated ex-college players, pickup aficionados, athletes who want to try the sport, whatever coincidence it is, it tends to apply to girls I date and the sport they enjoy.

The problem is that I’m all for equal rights, very liberal, and am all in favor for girls playing pickup with guys. But it is admittedly a little strange when it’s a very competitive all-male, usually all-Hispanic pickup game, and you’re the guy who brings along Becki or Juli or Staci or whatever Mia Hamm-wannabe you’re dating at the time.

The conservative view is that you’re definitely the asshole in this situation. It’s the men’s game. No women allowed, goodbye sweetie. But I’m finding that the extreme liberal view leads to the exact same conclusion.

At first, liberalness kicks in and you’re like, everyone’s allowed to play. Equal rights, no sexism, girls get in the game and should have the ball passed to them just as much as guys. But then you start thinking about it from the women’s rights point of view.

Now not only can women go everywhere, but women can have their own places to congregate. They have nail salons and massage parlors and America’s Next Top Model Viewing Parties and the theater, and a slew of other places where men aren’t allowed. Of course legally men are allowed inside, but socially men are banned.

So you start thinking that if it’s logically in everyone’s right to be allowed to everywhere. Then take that even further and you start assuming that it’s so acceptable that they should be allowed to have their own places too.

If women can have the nail salons and beauty parlors (are there still beauty parlors, or is that just in the movie That Thing You Do?) and men have collectively agreed to leave those places alone, then just as liberal would be for women to gather at their meetings (at beauty parlors, I assume), to agree that soccer games are men-only.

The conservative would say that sports should be kept as male-only affairs. The liberal would say that sports should be male-only, they’re just taking a very open-minded and left-wing approach to reach that conclusion.

I think this is what a Libertarian is. I should find out.

champions-league-logoI was watching the Champions League Final in New York yesterday. There were a lot of ex-pats, immigrants and vacationers watching the game, but what really got to me were the Americans who spent maybe a couple months abroad and pretended the game was life-and-death to them.

This has to be its own tier of douche baggery where overpriveledged suburban twentysomethings actually pretend like they have some vested interest past enjoyment of watching the game between soccer clubs from corners of Manchester and London as though they were from corners of Manchester or London.

Why don’t you go tear up over the loss of a Bangladeshi cricket club getting ousted from the quarter finals, Sean?

This isn’t to say that it wasn’t a great game and you can’t enjoy it as an American. It’s just that we all see the passionate Brit who takes the game too seriously. To some people soccer is more than just a game. And there’s that part of you that wishes you could care about something that much. But you can’t. Not about soccer at least. So get a life, find something else to enjoy die-hard and stop crying and watch the game.

san-jose-earthquakes-logoI was thinking about the MLS team San Jose Earthquakes and the NHL Colorado Avalanche, and it really bothered me that these mascots are things that are actually very terrifying to the local fans and residents.

I’m all in favor of having a mascot be something local, especially when it’s tied into local lore. The Baltimore Ravens (homage to Edgar Allen Poe) and New Jersey Devils (17th Century Jersey Devil mythology) are two of the best examples of this. Going local is infinitely better than something general, like the abominable Wildcats. Or, for that matter, the Abominable Wildcats.

But going local should not be something that is terrifying to the actual locals. San Jose Earthquakes have caused deaths throughout history, as have Colorado Avalanches. Come to think of it, the Chicago Fire of MLS is another poorly-named team, one which borders on mockery.

A little research turned up that the San Jose Earthquakes actually play at a stadium constructed in 1962. A stadium over fifty years old situated on one of America’s most-active fault lines? This could be the first time that a team and its attending fans are all killed by the same mascot of said team. That is, of course, unless the Tampa Bay Lightening’s ice melts just as an electrical storm forms overhead.

la_galaxy_logoI went to a Los Angeles Galaxy Major League Soccer game over the weekend, which I think has the widest spectrum of sports fandom in all sports. You get the full range on the fan hardcore spectrum in the same 20,000-seat arena. It’s the libertarianism of sports.

On one side you have die-hard soccer fans who need a local outlet. Europeans who’ve emigrated to L.A., a strong Mexican contingent that roots for their local team and South Americans combine to take the games way too seriously. Not to mention the pompous white kids like myself who wax poetic about catching soccer games overseas where the fans stand the whole game and come up with clever songs and go crazy throughout the match.

But on the other hand, you have a majority of fans who approach MLS games with the same enthusiasm as a AA-level Minor League Baseball team. After all it is American soccer, so why shouldn’t most of the fans be in attendance because the star player was that guy who starred in Bend it Like Beckham or something?

So on one side of the stadium you have riotous, swearing, singing drunk hooligans who are looking to surround and bludgeon a fan of the opposition. On the other side is the dad who just didn’t want to shell out for a Dodger game and his kids don’t know the difference.

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