I've moved the blog to http://roundfootballs.davewalker.org, so please update your bookmarks, blogrolls, RSS aggregators, and notes on the fridge.
FOOTBALLS ARE ROUND!
Soccer: The Most Important of Life's Unimportant Things
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
I HATE THE OFFSEASON
I haven't posted since NOVEMBER!
Ugh. Let's see what's going on:
- Despite the fact the stupid Groundhog saw his shadow (or didn't - I always forget which is good and which is bad), MLS training camps have started. That and Easter are the true signs of hope that winter is finally over.
- Another good thing: I'm getting married next Wednesday (15 February), and the honeymoon coincides with the USA-Guatemala game in Frisco. My new bride and I will be standing, singing, and yelling with Sam's Army on Sunday. The rest of the weekend, well, that's none of your business, is it?
- My bride-to-be has gone from being indifferent to soccer a mere year ago, to being a FC Dallas season-ticket holder and a Chelsea Fan. She really likes the American Express commercial with Jose Mourinho. I mean, she really likes it. In fact, she likes it just a little bit too much. The other day we were at the grocery store and I asked her "If Jose pulled up right now, would you leave me standing here in the parking lot?" To which she replied, "No honey, we'd give you a ride home first". Hmm...
- Speaking of Chelsea, I hear they're knocking on young Freddy Adu's door. Freddy, I have three words for you, my friend: Shawn Wright Phillips. One of the most exciting players in England, and he gets about as much playing time for Chelsea as I do.
- I've been watching a lot of FSC and Setanta's coverage of the League Cup from England, and as a result I've jumped on the Doncaster Rovers bandwagon. They got knocked out, barely, by Arsenal, but until then their run was phenomenal. And, they wear red and white hoops, like my other favorite team.
- It looks like Eddie Johnson is going to be gone from Dallas before long. The re-signing of Carlos Ruiz makes the salary cap situation untenable for Michael Hitchcock, so somebody's gotta go. The addition of Kenny Cooper doesn't help either. On the upside, at least Carlos won't be gone for the World Cup. Get the full scoop from Buzz over at 3rd Degree
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Stream of Consciousness: FCD v Colorado - Conf. Semis, 2nd Leg
I just don't even know where to begin. I could just barely bring myself to write this column. There are words that describe this defeat. "Crushing", for instance, seems to work nicely. "Nightmare" springs to mind as well.
The Cid and I, along with her son John, made the trip down for the game. It's John's first professional soccer match, though he himself, at age nine, is already a goal scorer in his YMCA league. He was fired up about hanging with the Inferno, so as you can see, he's a really bright boy, as well as talented.
I'm always nervous before these big games, but in my heart of hearts I just knew we were going to win this game. The Rapids just don't have anything on us. But, on the other hand, I've followed both the USA and Dallas for a long time now, so I was prepared for anything.
Well, almost anything. I wasn't really prepared for this. How could I be?
I wasn't even worried when Colorado scored late in the first half. It was a typical loose goal, given up by our talented but undeniably diaphanous defense. Jeff Cunningham stood unmarked six yards away from goal and headed in a well taken cross. A good goal, but still not a cause for worry. A rare lapse in my normally pessimistic outlook, I'll concede, and a lapse that probably will never happen again.
It seemed, at the time, that I was dead on correct, however, because the second half was all FCD. Especially when Nkong was sent off and we started ripping through the Colorado defense, it seemed a matter of time.
And then, Carlos Ruiz. Carlos came alive.
Carlos scored two goals out of nothing. Nothing. He single handedly kept us in the game. He was sublime, he was perfect. He was en fuego. He was superhuman. He tied the game in regulation with a goal that had no business being scored. He did nothing short of will that ball into the goal. Then he gave us the lead in the first extra period from a header he hit with three guys draped all over him. It was beauty itself.
And then . . .
After he conjured those two goals like a magician makes a coin appear in your ear, he was brought down in the box; you just knew - well, I just knew, we were in. We were there. We were going to the Conference finals. And then, he hit the post.
Yeah. He hit the post on the penalty kick.
He hit the post so hard it would still be ringing if the PHP crew handn't dismantled the goals within minutes of the end of the match. He hit the post so hard seismographs all across central Texas lit up like pinball machines, and will have to be recalibrated on Monday. He hit the post so hard little chips of white paint were lodged in Joe Cannon's beady little eyes.
You can't blame him for it. It's just the nature of the game. Roberto Baggio missed a penalty that cost Italy the World Cup in '94; that doesn't mean he's not one of the all-time greats. It just happens sometimes. As Robert Duvall said at the end of A Shot At Glory after Allie McCoist missed a pk to lose the Scottish Cup: "That's football son".
Carlos, who had scored two goals when there were no goals to be had, stood on the penalty spot with a look on his face not unlike the look you see on people who have just experienced a successful airbag deployment on a highway. Kinda stunned, kinda incoherent, kinda other-worldly, as if they aren't really sure if they're in real life or a dream.
We finally got a call from Terry Vaughan, and didn't convert. That's like getting a call from the Governor right before they throw the switch on the electric chair, then confessing to another crime.
But like I said, that's the nature of the game. That's the nature of the cruel, cruel game of soccer.
All the rest of it - the Kotchau goal that never should have happened, the posts that got hit, the unconscious goalkeeping of Joe Cannon, the miss by Mina - it's all like a blur now. One second we were in it, and the next some no-name scrub from the Colorado bench is running past the Inferno, giving us the two-armed Italian salute. How does that happen?
A group of about a dozen of us just sat in section 116 for about 30 minutes. Just soaking in the misery. We gave a yell to Simo, who clapped for us from midfield. The rest of the players, except for the great Bobby Rhine, just headed for the lockers. You can't fault them for that; they'd just been gutshot and needed first aid.
But I'm telling you here and now (and I've said it before), Bobby Rhine exudes classiness from every pore. After everyone else had gone, he walked, slowly, all the way to our end, climbed over the advertising signs, shook everyone's hand, and thanked each of us personally for coming and supporting the team. I wish I could describe the look of pain on his face. It was somewhere between "my dog just died" and "I just got kicked really hard in the crotch". He was inconsolable, but still took the time to give some love to the folks who screamed their guts out for him that night.
It's even more cruel for the fact that Bobby had his best game of the season. He and Chris Gbandi, two guys who have taken a lot of heat this season, were incredible. Bobby set up the first goal, and G-man set up the second. They both nearly scored in extras; had Chris hit the bicycle kick that just missed, he'd be a legend forever. He missed by not more than a foot.
Did I mention how cruel a game it is, this soccer?
Anyway, there's more I could cover, but you get the point. I'm surprised I made it this far.
And I guess that's it for the Stream of Consciousness for this season. Thanks to all the folks who read The Stream regularly, and especially those of you who take the time to tell me how much you enjoy it. Thanks again to Buzz for giving me the opportunity to take up space on his ever-brilliant 3rd Degree. Thanks to the boys for making it a season to remember, for both good and bad. Win lose or draw, you just can't help but love them, ya know?
See you next season.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: SAN JOSE v FCD 9/24/05
The first minute almost gave me a heart attack. An early goal would be a disaster. Ok, not a disaster . . . I don't want to bandy that word about lightly given the events of the last few weeks.
We'll see this week if the absence of EJ and The Lil' Fish is still a good luck charm for us. Well, to be realistic, luck doesn't enter into it, I know; it's just a turn of phrase. It has more to do with that elusive quality called chemistry. I can't explain it, but I think it's analogous to those stories you hear about people lifting up automobiles in emergency situations. I think the young guns of FCD have realized it's them or no one, and they've lifted the car, so to speak, to get us from under one of the worst slumps in the history of the franchise.
Alex Yi sighting! After being on loan to Atlanta of the A-League all year, Alex is home and getting a start. As is Honest Abe Thompson, the Great Emancipator. Colin Clarke is trying to rest certain players for the all-important US Open Cup final on Wednesday against the dirty dirty Galaxy, but at the same time is trying not to make this game a throwaway. I like the balance he's struck tonight. He's fielded a team that can win, but is also keeping Wednesday in mind. Colin is getting smarter and smarter every week; in the same way as your parents get smarter and smarter as you get older and realize you were an idiot for most of your youth. Fire Clarke, indeed. Apologies are in order.
Twelve minutes in and the game is even-steven, momentum-wise. Don't you hate it when people use the -wise suffix? I do. I did it just now only to call attention to it. It smacks of prose written by Alexander Haig, which is really NOT what I'm going for here.
I'm surprised Pat Onstad can even play soccer after the abuse he suffered at the hands of the Inferno just a week or so ago. I'm sure he's been making daily trips to his therapist in the interim, trying to exorcise the memory of the taunting he endured in Frisco. Poor slob; he never knew what hit him.
Well, okay, Pat's in good enough to shape to stone Abe Thompson in the 15th minute. He gave up a rebound though. We know who's responsible for that, don't we kids. . .
You know I've seen bowling lanes wider than the field at Spartan Stadium. Have you ever wondered what that little line is for, the one that is about a foot long, and is drawn between the edge of the 18 yard box and the touchline? It's the 10 yard marker for corner kicks. Defenders can't go past it because of the 10 yard rule. In most stadia, it's a good five or six yards away from the edge of the box. At Spartan, it's nearly coterminous with the box. Come on . . . get a field, people. Maybe Club America will take care of that problem when they . . . oh, sorry, Quakes fans . . . didn't mean to bring up a sore subject.
Moving right along.
Scotty Garlick stones DeWayne DeRosario, the all-time MLS leader in "capitalized letters in the first and last names". Scotty hasn't had the greatest D behind him this year, but has been solid nonetheless. The Defense is coming around finally, so I don't imagine Scotty will be giving up multiple goal games from here on in.
Man, Alex Yi is playing hard-nosed defense. It's like a little Valakari clone out there. I mean that in the best way.
Good free kick opportunity in the 27th minute. OH! Nunez just misses. Curls it around the wall and only misses slipping inside the near post by inches. Has this kid been eating his Wheaties or what? He is the brandy-bearing St. Bernard of FC Dallas. He's come to save us just in time.
Carey Talley just misses with the header right after the free kick. Boy, we're putting it to the EarthQlash here at the half hour mark. Good aggressive football. Just like the old days. You know, way back in April and May.
You can see the renewed spirit of this team in the way they're playing defense. Tough, hard defense. Defense with a purpose. Defense with intent. I likes it.
Okay, nil-nil at halftime. I'll take that. We're the better team from where I'm sitting. Of course, I'm sitting on my couch surrounded by empty Newcastle bottles, so my judgement may be a bit off.
But I digress.
Yeah! Way to go Mr. Geiger! DeRosario dives in the box and the baby-faced referee gives him what can only be called a contemptuous 'play on' call. He may look like he's studying for his driving test, but Mr. G is one of the best young refs in MLS.
OH!!!!! Mr. Geiger comes through again with the clear PK call on Pat Onstad, who took down Honest Abe in the box. Can't blame Pat for trying, though, because he didn't have any other option. Nunez steps up (I LOVE that leadership!!!) and absolutely BURIES the penalty. No keeper in the world stops that shot. One-nil to the good guys.
Carey Talley puts the smackdwon on Eddie Robinson after a hard foul on Nunez. I LOVE the attitude this team is playing with. This is a completely different team than three weeks ago. It's incredible the change they've undergone.
Nice job, San Jose fans; way to throw stuff on the field. I hope Club America buys your team and moves it to the Distrito Federal. Talley and Robinson both get sent off. I love it. I. LOVE. IT.
This is a new team. It's incredible.
Oh, excrement. Alex Yi goes off on a stretcher. I can't believe the bad luck. I hope the kid's okay. That's just too awful to think about. Clarence Goodson comes on.
Double excrement. San Jose levels in the 58th minute. The Quakes were so offside it wasn't even funny. It's okay. We're winning this game. I just feel it.
Not that my feelings have always worked out this season. It's funny, because in non-soccer matters, I'm a rock-solid pessimist. You know the old saying that goes "is the glass half-empty, or half full"? I've always believed the glass was half full, but saturated with strychnine. But when it comes to soccer, I'm a Pollyanna optimist. Go figure.
Clarence Goodson is getting all up in Brian Ching's grill. I love it. Did I mention I love it?
Everything is in our half of the field right now, with 15 minutes to go. But if I know my team, we're going to start taking to the Qlash and pull this thing out.
Alvarez comes off for Wagenfuhr with seven minutes to go. Colin's playing for the tie. That's okay with me. We've gotten a point on the road, at the very least. I still hold out hope for a win. But I don't blame Colin for playing to preserve the tie. We're in the playoffs, we've got a HUGE game coming up on Wednesday, and we just need to get the heck out of San Jose and get ready for the Cup Final.
Five minutes to go. I feel no anxiety. We're back, and ready for the Cup and ready for the playoffs. I'm happy with the world.
Ooh. Gbandi and Mullan gettin' in to it. More proof of our new attitude. Gbandi doesn't take no Gbullshi . . . oops, this is a family column. Never mind.
Full time. A draw for the boys tonight. Only a fluky, offside goal from Brian Ching keeps us from a win.
But so what? We're going to LaLa Land on Wednesday to win the oldest, most prestigious trophy in American soccer. YEAH!
I'll see you Wednesday for the Cup Final. I can't wait.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FCD v GALAXY SEPTMEBER 21 2005
The fuego is back. The swagger is back. Back heels, shots at impossible angles, shoving people off the ball like they were children, nutmegs, scoring late goals instead of runnng to the corner. All that. We are bad***es again, just like in the spring.
Some days, it would have been better to stay in bed. I was having a day like that. Until 7:30. Then Kevin Hartman started having a day like that. I think it was a fair trade.
Oh how I wish I had been in Sec. 116 with the Inferno for the second half, helping bring tears to Kevin Hartman's eyes. I'm sure the first thing that went through his mind when he gave up the own-goal was "Aw Man, I gotta go stand by the Inferno next half."
Poor Hartman was just now beginning to live down his MLS Cup gaffe in 1999. Now this. I kinda feel bad for him. Except for the whole 'he plays for Los Angeles' thing. I hope he starts next Wednesday too.
That was the most beautiful half of soccer I have ever seen (this summer). All three goals could've been prevented, but all three were beautiful. My hope was that in the second half we'd humiliate them so badly they'd come out for the USOC final with white flags waving, metaphorically. Or maybe just concede ahead of time. I'd take that.
Word is that Brian Dunseth got 2 games and a $1000 fine for elbowing Mina on Sunday. Now Mina's just pissed. The Galaxy have paid for Dunseth's sins. Who's next, please?
I'm glad Abe Thompson scored to make it 4 goals. As anyone who sat through the Wednesday Night Massacre back in '99 can tell you, there is no such thing as scoring too many goals on the Galaxy. Somewhere, Mark Dodd is laughing his head off tonight.
Why didn't Landon Donavan play tonight? What?
Leave Bobby Rhine alone!
What are we to make of the fact that the absence of EJ and Ruiz seemed to make us better over the last two games? It's like the Justice League of America becoming better crime fighters after Superman and Batman get injured. I don't get it.
Cindy and I were watching the Revs/Crew match before the game came on. Cindy: That guy (Jonny Walker) looks OLD! Me: You would too if you played for Columbus.
What happened to Infernosaurus? Do I need to call John Walsh?
There's nothing like a close-up shot of Steve Sampson after a 4-1 thrashing. Nothing.
That's all folks. See you Sunday for SanJoseAmericaEarthQlash.
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FCD v RSL SEPTMEBER 16 2005
Before I begin the Stream proper, here (at no extra charge, these observations will not appear on your bill), are a few notes from the glorious mid-week road trip to the US Open Cup Semifinal match:
* Not since the British scored 22 against the French at Trafalgar has a team ever needed a win worse than the Hoops did Wednesday night. It was a gritty, if not beautiful performance. You could tell this game meant a lot to the boys, and it was appreciated.
* When the Inferno chanted "Fight, Fight, Fight For The Shirt!" it made a great echo off the far wall of the stage section of PHP.
* Yet again I played the Texas Mega Millions when we stopped for gas in Frisco; yet again, I did not win. I'm beginning to think this lottery thing is as big a scam as the "Radio Shack Magic Minute". But just to be sure, I'll try again next time I'm in town.
* Chicago fans travel well. They had a caravan from the Windy City in attendance, as well as a slew of Okies who, inexplicably, are Fire fanatics as well.
* Once again, Mike Segroves, my Brimstone road-trip companion these many years, was gracious and charming in defeat. He always comes to the post-game tailgate to take his ration of abuse. Good natured abuse, but abuse nonetheless. Mikey is a class act. He didn't even mind it so much when we threw in some "OU lost to TCU" smack for good measure.
* Miss Charlie brought a huge, framed, congratulatory card for Jason Kreis in celebration of his 100th goal, and all the Inferno signed it. If Jason makes the trip to Dallas this weekend (despite being injured), it will presented to him sometime during the game. Miss Charlie, you rock.
* Gina Z made her first trip to the press box to cover this match. Check out her article on the match here. She's getting better and better every week.
As for today, well, this is a bit of a make or break game in my view. Not in terms of standings (though we do clinch a playoff spot with a win), but in terms of confidence. If we can't beat Real Salt Lake, at home, when they're missing Jason Kreis, Clint Mathis, and Andy Williams, we've lost whatever momentum we gained Wednesday. Even though we're missing EJ and El Pescadito ourselves, we still should roll today. Our young guns have proved again and again this year they can step up when needed. Now would be a good time to do it again.
Nunez has shown two years of growth as a player in only the last two weeks. I look for him to lead today. Mina needs to put a stamp of authority on the game as well.
Wow. No sooner did I type those words than Mina rocketed a goal from an insanely acute angle. Great run and through ball by Arturo Alvarez as well. Exxxxxcellent.
I can only imagine how hot it is out there today. They're saying the game time temperature is 95 degrees, so I'm guessing it's at least 100 down on the field. Then again, I've been to mid-day matches at the Cotton Bowl in years past and I know how brutal that can be. I also survived the 24-hour tailgate in the parking lot on Frisco Street. Let's keep those fluids up, boys.
Once again the Inferno are in fine voice. Wish I was there.
The game has slowed down somewhat since the goal. I think both sides are realizing what the temperature is. If there is such a thing as 'getting used' to this kind of heat, I would think Dallas has the edge today. This is normal practice weather for the boys.
Alvarez nearly beats D.J. Countess from distance. Arturo is on top of his game today. If he and Nunez are both coming of age at the same time, the autumn will be as bright as the summer was bleak around here.
Those Sierra Mist 'side-by-side' commercials on ESPN2 are getting a little creepy.
Brian Dunseth just rammed himself into the goalpost trying to keep Mina from knocking in a loose ball. The guy is already playing with the flu, and now he nearly lunches on the post. Some days, it doesn't pay to get out of bed, does it, Brian?
Oh my. Scarlett just torched Bobby Rhine (speed kills, lets face it), and then blasted a ball off the post to Garlick's left. I believe they heard that out in McKinney.
Okay, I'm not sure when I last said this, but, we're ahead at the half! 45 more minutes, a few more goals if possible, and our long nightmare is over. We can start healing up and getting ready for the US Open Cup final in the short term, and the MLS Cup in the long term.
I hope I didn't just put the Mojo on the whole thing..... nahhhh.......
Alvarez almost scores in the first minute of the second half. Great cut back in the box, but the shot just goes high. This is exciting, watching Arturo break out of the chrysalis right before our eyes. Exciting, and beautiful, and most of all, TIMELY.
Wags is looking good today, as he overlaps down the left side. He's caused some trouble for RSL with his crosses. I'm telling you, when the story of this season is written, it will center not around the superstars, but around the relative unknowns who have come up big when the chips were down. Which they have been, for a while now.
I know coach Clarke has caught a fair amount of heat during "the slump", but, let's be fair, the way he's developed the young talent has been nothing short of brilliant.
Mina Mina Mina Mina Mina Mina Mina!!!! 2-nil to the Super Hoops, 2-nil, to the Super Hoops, 2-nil......
Give a lot of credit to Bobby Rhine for that goal. He absolutely shrugged off a defender on the right wing, carried the ball right up the baseline (to steal a basketball term), and found Mina, inexplicably unmarked, at the six. He'll never have an easier goal than that. We're back baby!
Well, not so fast. Jamie Watson scores from a header off a corner kick. Not two minutes after Mina. Crap.
No problem. We've got more in the bag for Real today, I feel it.
Mina just took a shot to the forehead, courtesy of Brian Dunseth's elbow. Nice, Brian, nice. Go ahead and blame the fever, but that was a cheap shot.
Rhine almost scores from about 18 yards out. Bobby believes, as I do, that the best defense is a good offense. He's another guy that's taken some heat this season, but I like him and I want him to stay in hoops as long as possible.
More pressure from The Z Boyz, Alvarez and Nunez. And Mina picks up a yellow for getting a little payback on Seth Trembley. Unfortunately, it was Dunseth who whacked him. Oh well . . . They kinda look alike.
More good pressure from Bobby as well. Alavarez comes of for Aaron Pitchkolan. Speaking of young kids who have stepped up when needed. Not so much since the early part of the season, but Aaron proved early on he's ready for this level.
20 minutes to go. Slight pressure from RSL. This is the exact situation where we'e fallen short for the last two months. Jamie Watson is causing trouble again. He's a Dallas boy, apparently. We may have to snap him up come the off season.
Salt Lake is playing with 10 men, as Tarley goes off injured, and John Ellinger has used all three of his subs. Eddie Pope was limping around a few mintues ago as well. Not good news for Real.
I don't think RSL have a realistic shot at the playoffs, but I think this franchise can be proud of their first year. Good attendance (averaging around 18,000 . . . when's the last time we did that?), some big wins, entertaining football. They've done well. Though every time I see them play, I die a little on the inside, knowing that my hometown of Edmond was just days from getting that franchise, before the investors wussed out at the last moment. Money is wasted on the rich, sometimes, isn't it?
Mina tries to bicycle his way into a hat trick, but goes just high. That would have been unspeakably sweet.
Brandi Chastain just spoke to Jason on the sidelines. Good heavens but that guy is classy. He's looking at about six or seven months of rehab on his knee. Every Dallas fan is rooting for him, I know.
Speaking of Brandi, she does good work on the sidelines. If ESPN insists on having a pretty face as the third member of the broadcast team (and it seems they do), at least they've found one that knows more soccer than about 99.9% of the population of the United States. You can tell, when she talks to players and coaches, that those guys realize they're talking to someone who is their peer. No, not even a peer; they know they're talking to someone who has won a World Cup. Unless she's talking to Youri Djorkaeff, she's talking to her inferiors.
Game! In the words of Gerald Ford, "Our long national nightmare is over"! This is the day we turned the corner and got the ship back on track (I love mixing metaphors, especially after a win). Big shouts to Mina, The Z Boyz, Bobby, and Wags. Good work by the whole team. I'm proud of the boys today.
See you this Wednesday for a USOC Preview. That's right, the dirty dirty Galaxy at the Hut this week. Then we meet them again on the 28th to determine who gets to take the Dewar Cup home for 2005.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FCD v DC UNITED 9/10/05
One is tempted to do some research on the plot of land whereon sits Pizza Hut Park, to determine whether it was at one time an Indian burial ground or something. But casting aside all talk of a curse, the last couple months have not been good. I think tonight is our night to get off our summer schneid, put a few onions in the sack, and get this train back on the tracks (to mix a few metaphors right off the bat).
And, hey, Northern Ireland beat England this week, so clearly anything is possible. Colin Clarke and Steve Morrow must have been doing some strutting over that deal. Maybe some of that mojo will extend across the Atlantic and help the boys tonight.
Abe Thompson getting some love from Colin Clarke tonight. If this start works out for Abe, it could be the start of a long run for the kid. He's just about ready to break big.
Papi's on the field too. If that doesn't cure the lackadaisical streak we've been mired in, I don't know what will. Oscar doesn't put up with much of that.
I wish I'd been in Vegas this weekend to get in on some over/under action on which minute Dema will receive his red card tonight. It takes money to make money, they say; this would be more like an investment than a bet.
Mark Wilson gets his first start tonight. We need him to be big for us. He's obviously a team guy, having stayed in Dallas to train this entire season without being under contract. I like him already, if only for that.
Mr. Geiger, tonight's referee (who, by the way, doesn't look old enough to drive, much less ref an MLS game), just showed Ronnie some early yellow; I guess he's trying to announce his presence with authority, or something, but come on, sir, ease up a bit.
Oh for love of Pele. Yet another early, soft goal for the opposition. Fifteenth minutes in.
Mustn't . . . be . . . negative. Must . . . maintain . . . positive . . . outlook. Feel . . . optimism . . . fading . . .................
What could possibly have happened to this team to make them suddenly unable to play with the passion and skill they started the season with? Losing Mulrooney? All those away games? Having to shower in a trailer for home games? What?
No, it's too early yet. Only a half-hour gone. Things are not dire just yet. We're in second place in the West. We've had injuries and call ups and all sorts of disruptions. We have our best soccer in front of us. Si se puede, si se puede . . .
Ugh. Greg Vanney just played a short ball to no one and only a crunching tackle from Wagenfuhr on Jamil Walker saved us from a 2-0 first-half deficit. Yikes.
Five minutes left in the first half. I know a team always needs goal, so it's a little obvious to say "we need a goal", but, that being said. . .
We need a goal. We need a goal worse than a flower needs some rain. Worse than a mosquito needs a vein. Worse than a bicycle needs a chain. We. Need. A. Goal.
Oh! And we almost got one, too. Nice shot by Bobby Rhine. Rimando had to clock in to make that one.
Well, okay, we didn't get a goal before halftime, but at least we showed a little spark of offense. We started off slow, but finished better. Not bad.
I'm really grasping at straws here, aren't I? I will NOT give up on this team, however. I just won't do it.
I am going to stick with the boys. Even if I end up like the guy in the great movie "Fever Pitch". It's a great scene where they're all sitting in the fish 'n chips shop, before Arsenal's first home game of the season. They're talking football:
Frank: What about the last home game of last season?
Nigel: What about it?
Frank: They were rubbish; they were ******* rubbish. They were ******* rubbish last year, and they were ******* rubbish the year before, and I don't care if they are top of the table, they'll be ******* rubbish this year as well. And next year. And the year after that.
Nigel: I don't know why you come, Frank, I really don't.
Frank: Well, you live in hope don't you?
How that film didn't get Oscar consideration, I'll never know.
Free kick for us, early in the second half. Ronnie slams it into the wall. Bah. At least it probably hurt the guys in the wall. That's something. I guess.
Ahhhhhhhhhh! I think Nunez just got as close to scoring as you possibly can get without actually doing so. Good hard shot from the left, deflected by Rimando, dribbling toward the line. Carroll cleared it off. I swear that ball was 90% over the line. Guh.
Ronnie just completely schools dirty dirty Dema with the back-heel nutmeg, so what does Dema do? Hack. Of course. Card, Mr. Geiger? Of course not. That would make too much sense. Good on Drew Moor for getting up in Psycho's face and telling him, to paraphrase, 'Actions have consequences, punk."
We've come out of the locker room with bad intent, to be sure. It's been all Hoops so far. I see a wee bit of fuego right now. Fuego is what we need.
Looks like the Cavalry's coming. EJ and El Pescadito coming on with about a half-hour to go.
Mr. Geiger should have sent off Wilson just now (not our Wilson, but DC's Wilson) for a second bookable offense, but he lacked the nerve. Truthfully, I think this young man's one of the stronger refs in the league, but he should've pulled the trigger there.
OHHHHHHHHH! Another great save by Nicky Rimando robs Clarence Goodson. ROBS him. Call a cop, Clarence.
Freddy comes off for DC. He hasn't been sharp tonight. Which is okay with me; we have enough problems.
I don't know what Colin said at the half, but it's working so far. Probably something along the lines of "Hey, I need this gig; quit screwin' around you guys".
Nemesis, thy name is Rimando. That's a third huge save by the kid tonight. This time on Carlos Ruiz. He picked a great night to become Peter Schmeichel, didn't he?
Twenty minutes to go. Looks like Clarence picked up a charley horse or a hip pointer.
Oh no. Oh no. I don't believe this. I don't believe this. That was the worst, softest goal I've ever seen in professional soccer. Nick Rimando wallops a goal kick, Jamil Walker picks it up, waltzes into the box unmarked, beats Garlick and gets the ball to Santino Quaranta, who doesn't even strike it well but still rolls it in the net. I don't believe this. I really don't believe this. How could this happen?
We finally had the upper hand, finally had the run of the play. How could that happen?
Fifteen minutes to go. PHP sounds like a hospital ward. It looks like a pretty good sized crowd, too. Performances like this are not the way to go to sustain this kind of thing.
Now we're just going through the motions. Except Rhine. Gomez was about to make it 3-0, but Bobby made a nice late tackle to stop him. Bobby never quits, of course, no matter what.
Well, we played roughly a half-hour of soccer tonight. Which is fine, except for the undeniable fact that soccer games are 90 minutes long. Still, it's the first half-hour of quality soccer we've played since, oh, I dunno, Memorial day. So that's something. Besides, had Rimando not been an uberkeeper tonight, we might've stolen a win.
Wait wait wait wait wait!!!!
Hold the phone! Stop the presses! Nunez scores a late goal and we have four minutes to make something out of this mess. Could it be I've begun the post mortem too quickly?
Not even Rimando could stop that strike. What a finish. Wow. He picked up the ball at the top of the midfield circle, made the run to about 23 yards out and slammed a shot into the left side upper 90. The kid picked a good time to come through in a pinch.
Four minutes stoppage time. Is it possible, or are the boys just toying with our emotions? Whatever happens, I give credit where credit is due. The team looked like they'd hung it up for the evening. It's a sign of life, if nothing else.
Nope. Game over. Well, I just don't know what to think. 2-1 loss to United. Another loss. Another overall poor effort, but, for a change, with a few signs of life. Seriously, I'm worried for Colin Clarke. Someone's going to take the heat for this, and I'm afraid it's going to be him. I don't like firing coaches in general, and especially not in the midst of a season. I'm thinking, though, that the prevailing American sports culture's habit of Steinbrennerizing the organization in times of crisis may be in our future. I'm on record right now as saying I don't want this to happen. I believe Colin can get the most out of this team. I just hope he doesn't wait too long to do it.
Well . . . This Wednesday is the US Open Cup Semifinals at the PHP. I'm planning on being there, ready to yell my guts out for the boys. It'll be a USOC Road Trip Edition, Lord willin'.
See you then.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: COLUMBUS V FC DALLAS
Like you, I was transfixed by the compelling battle between Roger Federer and some guy named Robby Ginepri on ESPN2 this afternoon. Not since Tony Trabert beat Ken Rosewall back in '55 at the US Open have I seen such a display of tennis. Such was the intoxicating specter of this clash of titans that I nearly forgot that the kickoff of the Dallas-Columbus match was being delayed.
Anyway, I can't remember the last time we needed a win so badly to get us back on track. Well, okay, the entire last season does come to mind. But I digress.
The boys are wearing the hoops even though they're on the road. Drew Moor gets another start, Mina gets a start, and a still toe-sore EJ starts on the bench. I think we'll see him before it's all over, however.
Crew stadium has all the atmosphere of a well-attended Sunday League game. I don't mean that kindly. This franchise is hurting, in my view. Coaching changes, inconsistent play, sparse crowds. They need help. I hope they don't get it today, from us. They have some talent, and I think Robert Warzycha will be a good professional coach, kind of a poor man's Peter Nowak. The Crew will be okay, but probably not for a year or two.
20 minutes in, and this game has all the intensity of an off-season training session. Kevin Stott just blew the whistle to clear the field due to lightning. A storm may be more exciting than the game. This is the second week in a row that a lightning storm has delayed a Columbus Crew match. If you believe in signs from above, what does this mean? Personally I'm reminded of Badluck Schleprock, the cartoon character who was followed by a dark cloud wherever he went. But that's just me. I'm sure a "glass half full" Crew fan could find a positive spin here, maybe a lightning reference to represent the power and energy of a Crew resurgence in the second half of a season.
But I doubt it.
Hmm.... so, read any good books lately?
How about those Yankees, huh?
Sure has been hot, lately, hasn't it?
Okay, I'm out of small talk. I'm going to take a break until the weather cooperates. Please take this break in the Stream to go to the fridge and grab the cold beverage of your choice.
Huh? Oh, we're back. Hi.
Last week when the Crew and Metrostars had a weather delay, Columbus came out after the break and gave up two goals, blowing a 1-0 lead. Here's hoping.
All frivolity aside, I have to hand it to MLS, the staff at Giants Stadium (last week) and Crew Stadium (this week), as well as the referees in both games. You don't want to screw around with lightning, and the correct call was made on both occasions to get the players off the field. Especially at Crew Stadium, where, unless I'm sorely mistaken (and really, what are the chances of that?), the stands are comprised entirely of metal benches. Very intelligent and professional game day management. Kudos all around.
The Crew have come out of the break with a little spring in their step, presumably having learned their lesson last week. Hopefully it's a bit cooler now too; that should help both sides pick up the pace a bit. A little intensity wouldn't kill this match, no matter which side it comes from.
Still mostly all Crew as we head to the half. Szetela ripped a shot that just barely missed the left corner. That would've been a pretty nice first professional goal. Even the fans in Columbus are showing more energy. Maybe it doesn't rain all that much in C-town or something, but it sure has had a reborative effect all around.
Extra points to me for using the word 'reborative' correctly in a sentence.
Jolley just tried to score Maradona-esque "mano de Dios" goal. All he did in the end was kick Jonny Walker in the solarplexus. I don't think there really is such a body part as a 'solarplexus', but I like the way it sounds. Gives the piece an old-school wrasslin' column kind of feel.
Whether that's a good thing or not, I leave to you the reader.
Ruiz is bitten by the offside bug again, this time calling back a goal. I love el Pescadito, but the man's never been offside in his life, if you ask him.
By the way, for those of you new to FC Dallas, "el Pescadito" is Spanish for "The Pescadito". We're all about educating the masses.
Halftime. No score. A draw today would be like a loss, in my opinion. Though it goes against my longstanding tradition of rank pessimism, I'm predicting a big second half for the boys today, and a win by two goals, whether it be 2-0 or 11-9. Which would be cool, you have to admit.
Huh. During ESPN2's halftime piece on Eddie Johnson, they showed a clip from the opening night at Pizza Hut Park, and all of the sudden I saw myself drumming with The Inferno. That was kinda freaky. I'm sure my Mother would be so proud. If my Mother ever watched soccer. Which she doesn't.
Two observations from seeing myself on television. First, whoever said the camera adds five pounds was off by a factor of two. Or perhaps three. Second, hoops aren't really the perfect fashion choice for those of us who are, uh, shall we say, particularly well-fed. Time to head back to the gym, big guy.
But that's neither here nor there. Game on for the second half.
No intensity from us coming out of the gate, here.
You know, the word that described FC Dallas at the beginning of the season was 'dangerous'. We were hot, intense, always a threat to score, and not likely to be taken advantage of. Lately, not so much. So far today, the weather has been more dangerous than FC Dallas. Something is missing lately, and I think it's that ineffable quality I like to call fuego. Fire. We lack fire. It happens to all teams now and then I suppose, but it's getting critical at this point. It's distressing, and I don't really understand it.
Anybody? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?
EJ comes in for Aaron Pitchkolan in the 66th minute. We need some magic. Some Dipsy Selelowane, if you will. If we can't get it from EJ, it's just not coming, is it?
Slight signs of life. EJ brings it up the middle, gets it to Ronnie on the left, who rifles a shot that is nicely saved by Jonny Walker. If Walker was getting paid by the hour, he'd have just now clocked in.
Arturo Alvarez in for Mina with 12 minutes left.
Columbus goal in the 81st. Clarence Goodson gets schooled in the left corner by the wily old Chris Henderson. Henderson brings it up the baseline like John Starks at The Garden and jams it across the goalmouth to Cornell Glen, who backheels it nicely off Chris Gbandi's shin and in the net. One-nil.
Criminy. This is ugly. This is uglier than a great big plate full of chicken-fried ugly smothered in ugly sauce with a side order of ugly with ugly pie for dessert.
And Eddie Johnson is clearly limping, just to rob the afternoon of anything even remotely encouraging whatsoever.
Two great saves by Jonny Walker in injury time. Of course. What'd you expect today?
Full time. The wheels have officially come off for the boys.
I got nothing.
See you next week for Los Goats Del Norte at the Hut.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FC DALLAS v METROSTARS
PART I: BEER, SOCCER, AND VISITS FROM UNCLE LAMAR
So, I hit the road at 4:40 Friday afternoon in my tan '05 Chevy Cavalier rental ('cause that's how DJ rolls), heading to Big D for the 24-hour tailgate leading up to the opening of Pizza Hut Park and what should have been a jackslapping of the Metrostars (but we'll get to that later).
After taking a solid hour to get clear of Norman (about 30 minutes longer than it should take on a non-OU football day), I put that baby in cruise control, put The Clash in the CD, and started eating up the pavement in a way that only a rented Cavalier can (did I mention it was tan? Sweeeeeeeeeeeet).
Never having been to Frisco, things could have gotten tricky once I left I-35 and ventured into unknown territory, especially since I asked for directions on the BigSoccer FCD forum and got no less than five different versions of how to get there. But I have to tell you, when I turned right on to the Dallas Parkway, and saw the distinctive lights blazing in the distance, I knew I was home. It was not unlike the scene in "Field of Dreams" where Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones see the lights of the field in the distance as they returned to Iowa with the young Archie Graham. Except at this point in my life I identify much more with the Timothy Busfield, cranky brother-in-law character. Which is sad.
The Tailgaters were in full swing, smack dab in the middle of what will be one of the swanky, high priced "Blue" parking lots, but which that night resembled nothing so much as a construction site. Which, oddly enough, seeing the stadium was within 24 hours of opening, it was. I had apparently missed a visit from Ronnie O' Brien just moments before, which was a drag, but I was handed a Newcastle Brown Ale by Mudpoet (Great American and Prince Among Men) at the same time I received that news, so it was a wash, disappointment wise.
Both Greg Elliott and Lamar Hunt would also stop by that evening and the next day, for no other reason than to check up on us and see if we were doing okay out there in the wilderness. I mean, one is a billionaire, and the other is a sports executive with about a thousand-and-one tasks on his plate and pressure by the boatload on his back, and they took time to come by and visit. I can't tell you how much more my love the team grows when I am constantly reminded that it run by people who are not just competent, but also genuinely wonderful human beings.
Speaking of wonderful human beings, the Inferno, as a group, qualify for this distinction. Someone came up with the idea last week that the tailgate would be a great opportunity to raise funds for a worthy charity; Within just days, it was a done deal. That's the kind of people we're dealing with here. Fun loving, fanatic about The Hoops, and with a collective heart as big as all Texas. Infernites, I love you folks.
The evening rolled on. Animals were cooked and consumed, grain-based alcoholic beverages were drunk. Speaking of drunk, so were most of us. Along about 1:30 in the morning someone had a brilliant idea. What that idea was, I don't know. But I do know that at about the same time someone else got the idea that we should all go find a field and go play soccer. Thus the first game in the history of MLDMS (major league drunken midnight soccer) was played. It was a singularly un-aesthetic affair, which was fine, because there was an announced attendance of zero. I'm still trying to decide whether it's a tragedy or a blessing that no one was there to record the game on videotape for posterity. I'm leaning towards the latter, the more I think about it.
Have you ever seen about a dozen inebriated, unskilled, out-of-shape adults play soccer in the middle of the night? No? Well you haven't lived until you do, and don't claim otherwise, because you'd be wrong.
My team, which had no name, was playing, in the words of Parrish, "What can only be described as a 1-1-4-1 formation, with only one defensive strategy, which was to leave Kevin Lindstrom unmarked". The other team, which had no name, was playing a swarming, attacking minded style that would have been reminiscent of the Dutch "Total Football" concept of the 70's, if the Dutch had played with middle-aged drunken fat guys with limited skills.
The girls of the Inferno Posse Assembled played with heart and tenacity, being neither drunk nor out-of shape, and a young man named J. R., being 13 years old, ran circles around everyone in attendance. I played goalkeeper for a while, the skills of my youth long having deserted me, and only grit and determination on my side. I made a handful of good (dare I say great?) saves, but unfortunately gave up two hands full of really soft goals. At one point, out of breath and on the verge passing out, I instructed my main man Parrish to give the following statement to the press, should I croak right there on the field: "DJ left this world exactly the way he would have wanted to - drunk, playing soccer, and having given up only a half-dozen goals in a thirty minute game". Fortunately, a eulogy was not in order.
The final score of the match, unfortunately, has been lost in the mists of history. I'm pretty sure my team won though.
We returned to base camp, celebrated with a few drinks, and by about 4:00 am, most of the crew was asleep, dreaming sweet soccer dreams, not unlike good little children on the night before Christmas.
Coming up in Part II: Hot Hot Heat, Red Plastic Hats, And A Game For The Ages.
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FC DALLAS v METROSTARS (Part II)
PART II: HOT HOT HEAT, RED PLASTIC HATS, AND A GAME FOR THE AGES
Around 4:00 am I had plunked down my sleeping bag on what was probably the only patch of non-soccer-field vegetation within a mile radius of PHP, and was hunkered down nicely, sleeping like the proverbial log. All the sudden, around 8:00 in the morning, I have this awful nightmare. I dreamt there was a mad Scot running around the tailgate site, draped in a huge blanket bearing the crest of Liverpool FC, singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" at the top of his lungs.
I opened my eyes, blinked away the glare of the early morning sun, and found that my nightmare was no nightmare at all, but was actually Jonno. He was, in fact, running around in his Liverpool blanket, singing. It was without a doubt one of the most surreal moments of my entire life. You know how when you're sleeping in a place that is not your home, it will sometimes take you a few moments to figure out where you are? Imagine that happening, and then realizing that not only are you not at home, you're actually in a sleeping bag, in a parking lot, being serenaded by a man in a kilt. It was like some kind of bizarre soccer Woodstock moment.
So now I'm awake, but, having played soccer the night before, out-of-shape and without having warmed up or stretched, actually standing up presented a bit of a challenge. Everything hurt. Every. Thing. Hurt. I felt like someone had taken a hammer to me during the night. Thank the good Lord that within moments of getting vertical, Gordon handed me a cup of coffee and some other angel handed me four ibuprofen. I sat down, sipped the coffee, let the ibuprofeny goodness wash into my system, and enjoyed the morning breeze.
It may well have been one of the finest moments of my life. Pure tranquility. Surrounded by friends, beautiful weather, the smell of bacon in the air . . . does it get much better than that?
And then, my friends, it started to get hot.
Do you remember in the film "Biloxi Blues" when Eugene first gets off the train in Mississippi? "It's hot. It's Africa Hot. Tarzan couldn't take this kind of hot". Yeah, it was like that. And this unrelenting, wicked, oppressive, damnable, ferocious, kick-you-in-the-teeth hot frickin' HOT became the story of most of the rest of the day. Had I not discovered a Del's Lemonade stand on Main Street in Frisco, I don't believe I'd have made it.
I don't want to belabor the point, but, damn it was hot out there. All day, under the shady canopies, waiting for breezes to grace us for 10 or 20 seconds every 45 minutes or so. Trying to stay hydrated, going to your car to sit in the AC for a while, having to use the bathroom but dreading the oven-like porta potties.
It was great.
And, what's more, I'd do it again at the drop of a hat, but not without some industrial strength fans and a large contingent of those water-mist dealies that you see at the state fair.
About 5:00, like a tribe of soccer-loving Bedouins, we pulled up stakes and moved the whole Tailgate about 100 yards north (or maybe south, I get mixed up), closer to the stadium, to what will be the regular Inferno Tailgate site from now on. I guess they needed the parking spaces, or something, but at any rate, it was a feat of logistical improvisation not seen since the Evacuation of Saigon in '75.
Once the new Tailgate site was set up, the rest of the tailgaters started arriving. By this I mean the normal kind of tailgater: sensible folk, who actually had spent the night before in comfortable beds, and who had spent the day indoors, in air conditioning.
Sissies, essentially, is what I'm saying.
At this point, more animals were consumed, more liquids were quaffed, and special guests started flowing through the tent city. Valerie Simmons, whose amazing and brave struggle with cancer was the inspiration for the fundraising aspect of the weekend, arrived with her beautiful family. She was received like the hero she is, and the love present had an actual palpable presence. You could feel it as plainly as you could feel the wind picking up from the north, sending much welcomed cool air through the canopies.
Or maybe the wind was picking up from the south. I get mixed up.
Players Jeff Cassar and Bobby Rhine came by; classy gentlemen both. They seemed genuinely gratified at the support. Good people make good organizations. The players on this team exemplify that idea.
Around 6:00, a good hour and a half before kickoff, I couldn't stand it anymore and decided to head into the stadium. I just had to see it. I had to soak it all in, walk around, smell the smells, hear the noises, everything.
Walking in the North Gate (or south gate, I get mixed up), the first thing one saw was that the Hunt Sports Group has a sense of humor. The first 7500 fans through the doors were given red hard hats, with the PHP logo and the words "Pardon Our Dust" on the side. That was great. I'll treasure mine always.
And then, walking around for the first time, I can only sum up what I saw with one word: Perfect. It was perfect. I know technically it wasn't perfect, because it was only 95% finished, but that's not what I saw. I saw perfection. A stunning, beautiful, living monument to the game I love in the country I love.
It's perfect. In "Field of Dreams", when Shoeless Joe asks Ray Kinsella "Hey, is this heaven?" and Ray replies, "No, it's Iowa", Shoeless Joe looks around at the field and says "Funny, seems like heaven". It was that kind of moment for me. I've a feeling I'm not alone, either.
Walking around concourse with TexasArsenal, we schmoozed with the hoi-polloi (Mr. Hunt, Mr. Garber, all the biggies), were interviewed by the Frisco Community TV channel (Which neither of us get, even though TA actually lives in Frisco). Oh yeah, and I got yet another Del's Lemonade. It's nectar of the gods, I'm telling you.
Oh, and had I known that the restrooms in the stadium were going to be air-conditioned to about 60 degrees, I might have snuck in and tailgated there all day. It speaks to the severity of a Texas Summer that the most comfortable place I had found all day was the mens room at Pizza Hut Park.
One of the Inferno Drummers didn't feel like drumming, so I got my shot at the big time, drumming during the whole game. Well, most of the game; my tired 40 year old body started to wear out by the start of the second half, and I deferred to one of the younger drummers and just watched and yelled until the final whistle. I've always wanted to be a drummer. I'm not even sure if I kept time or not, but it was a blast.
It is a little melancholy, in retrospect, to realize how much I'm missing by not being a regular in the Inferno. I can't tell you how much I wish I was. I need to start checking on jobs in Dallas. I have no life whatsoever here in Oklahoma . . . it may be time to make a move.
Oh yeah, the match . . . it's almost an afterthought in the telling of this crazy weekend. The match started off like a dream. Good possession, confident play, two incredible finishes by El Pescadito. The second goal was a GOTY candidate if I ever saw one. He was about six yards out, right in front of goal; Ronnie fires in the low, hard cross. Carlos lets it slide between his legs and then pops it with the back of his right heel as it goes by. Tony Meola never saw it coming. It was beautiful.
What was just as beautiful, however, was that even though the goal took place on the opposite side of the stadium from the Inferno, we were able to see it, in replay, absolutely vividly on the two HUGE jumbotrons on the far side. I'm stunned by that technology. There we were, more than 100 yards away, and the replay on the screen was as clear as the television in your living room. It was incredible. The replay was shown after play had already re-started, and to hear the crowd appreciate the goal for a second time was fantastic. The roar was almost as loud as that from the actual goal itself.
And, speaking of noise, it was beautiful as well. I've never, ever heard a Dallas crowd that loud. Not only was the attendance (16,750) twice the normal number, the acoustics of the small stadium, in contrast to the cavernous Cotton Bowl, magnified the voices splendidly. What an atmosphere. When I got home Sunday morning, even though I was exhausted, I turned on the Tivo replay of the game, mostly just to hear what the crowd noise was like on TV. When the inferno was singing . . . it was almost (dare I say it?) . . . European. Words cannot express what it's like to hear that from an American crowd. It's like a dream.
Soccer-wise, the second half was a flaming disappointment. We had a lot of chances to score, but Tony Meola, I must grudgingly admit, kept the MetroStars in the game, and Youri Djorkaeff got a brace to give those Yankee carpetbaggin' swine a 2-2 draw in the end. Djorkaeff is class. I wish he played for us. Ronnie and Youri together in the midfield, along with Simo? I gotta write a letter to Santa Claus (and start being good, I suppose), because that's what I'd like for Christmas. I don't care if he is 58 years old, the man can play!
Truly, though, even a draw couldn't dampen the high spirits of the evening. Oddly enough. all four goals were scored on the far end of the field from us. I was just dying for an FC Dallas goal on our end, and having one of the boys do a "Lambeau Leap" into the Inferno. Ah, well, there's time enough for that in the future. Which, as they say, is bright.
I'm sure there's more I meant to mention, but, I'm telling you, it's Tuesday morning as I write this, and I'm just now feeling like I've recovered from the weekend. And Texgator is one impatient son-of-a-gun, and I'd hate to incur his wrath further by delaying the posting of this epic epistle. So that, as they say, is that. What a weekend, what a stadium, what a supporters group, what a team.
One last thing: thanks to all the Inferno folks, who always make me feel welcome and like one of the family whenever I venture south to the promised land. You are a great, great group of people, and I love you all. I'd start going through names, but then I'd forget someone and blah blah blah. But you know who you are.
That's all for this week. See you Saturday for the Revs.
Friday, July 29, 2005
In case you didn't know, one of the best soccer reads of any week during the MLS season is THE ALL AMERICAN XI, a collaborative effort among an elite group of BigSoccer posters to pick the best homegrown footballers of the week. It's witty, informative and good fodder for chit-chat around the water cooler. Or, it would be, if any workplace in this country had more than one soccer fan in it.
But I digress.
Check out this week's edition here, and then become a regular. It's worth your time.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: REAL SALT LAKE v FC DALLAS
The greatest team in the world is back on the field after a disappointing loss last week. But let's not talk about that, shall we?
Besides, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Ah, it's just
There are no easy games in this league. Ever.
Still no EJ, which is fine. As I said last week, you don't want to mess around with a goobered up big toe. You just don't. I know it sounds sissified to not play because your toe hurts, but unless you've had that specific injury, you just don't understand.
Vanney is still gone on Gold Cup duty, but that ends tomorrow. Hopefully with a win for the U.S. of A.
Boy that is one ugly field at Rice-Eccles stadium. I'm not being critical mind you, as I understand it's temporary, But it is, unfortunately, reminiscent of Giants Stadium in the old days. You can't be much more insulting toward a soccer surface than that. Well, you can if you say it's reminiscent of Owen Field at the
concrete through some of the fraying seams of that monstrosity. The word threadbare springs to mind as well. It must have been like playing football in a parking lot.
But I digress.
Did I mention Vanney is gone? Well let me reiterate that observation by pointing out that RSL's first goal (in the 2nd minute, mind you) was finished by Seth Trembly while standing RIGHT SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF THE EIGHTEEN. The same spot, not coincidentally, where Taylor Twellman scored two goals last week. Mormons 1 - 0 Gentiles.
In the immortal words of Keith Olbermann: GUH!
Not for another 10 minutes do we see a shot from the good guys. Ruiz with a weak left footer. Is it possible that Colin Clarke has allowed his team to come out flat and overconfident? Is it possible the boys are showing such disrespect to former teammates DJ Countess, Dante Washington, and Jason Kreis as to take Real lightly? Inconceivable!
Gbandi gets Gbooked in the 25th. And that is, sadly, the most interesting thing that has happened in this game for about 23 minutes.
Boy did I just jinx the team. Jordan Cila scores a Dempsey off a quickly taken free kick by Andy Williams. Smart play by Andy. Dumb defense by us. We were caught completely unawares; no one was paying attention to Cila making his run and the defenders near Williams had their backs to him, assuming he was going to wait for 10 yards before he took the free.
And you know what happens when you assume, right? You make an ass out of Uma Thurman.
Wow I have never seen Scott Garlick so animated. And by animated I mean, of course, royally pissed off. That was a Schmeichel-esque curseout he just laid on the boys. Rightly so, unfortunately.
Well, kids, you know it ain't your night when Cletus scores from 40 yards out. What a disaster. Real is up 3-0 and there are still 15 minutes left in the first half.
Cocktail, anyone? Don't mind if I do, thanks.
Clint almost does it again in the 37th. Only a desperate, scrambling save by Scotty saves us from further humiliation.
Halftime cannot come soon enough. I hope Colin Clarke's Irish is up enough to get the fuego back in this team. They look whipped. Physically and mentally. Not good.
Okay. Halftime. Have some oranges, drink some Gatorade™, visit the lil' soccer
players room, and then get out there and GET ON WITH IT!
We need a little Liverpool Champions League mojo for the second half.
Okay, here we go. Second half is on. Though I must be frank here and say I can barely stand to watch. If only Tivo could transcend the limitations of space and time and allow me to fast forward to the end of the match, even though I'm watching it live. I'm a bit disappointed that it can't. What am I paying five bucks extra for each month, if not the ability to flout the immutable laws of the universe?
Ten minutes in to the second half, and I must say we do NOT look likely to score, much less score three or four. They just showed a shot of Clarke and Morrow on the sidelines. Both of them have a confused expression on their faces. They look like they're watching a Fellini film.
DJ Countess tips the ball over the net in the 62nd minute, but lands hard on the plastic. He's really shaken up, but he's going to keep playing. I know some
With the exception of the next 28 minutes, mind you.
I'm reminded at this point (70th minute) of a Ramones song. I don't know that they were thinking of soccer, and I've taken liberties with the lyrics, but I keep hearing in my head the following chorus: Twenty twenty twenty twenty minutes to
go-ooo, I wanna be sedated . . .
78th minute. Countess makes a nice kick save to deny Clarence Goodson a goal. Then, to add insult to injury, he pushes Clarence to the ground like a playground bully. I think Goody took an extra stab at the ball that wound up connecting with DJ's ribcage. Ah, these young people today . . .
There are ten minutes left, and we're keeping the ball in RSL's half of the field, but still, it looks grim. If we should happen to pull off a tie or a win, I vow here and now that I will never, EVER write another negative word in this column about FC Dallas. I will become the Scott McClellan, nay, the Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf of soccer journalism.
But I don't see it happening.
Nope. That's it. What an awful two weeks for FC Dallas.
The upside, if there is one, is that during the four or so games where there was no television coverage, and I didn't get the chance to write any Stream of Consciousness columns, I didn't have any reason to drink. The last two weeks, as it turns out, have given me AMPLE opportunity to tie one on. Which I have. I am, as they say, feeling no pain at this moment.
Which is nice.
But, apart from that, the last two games have been nightmarish, in a purely non-real-life, soccer-esque context. But, you know what? We'll all be okay. This is a good team, and we're good fans, so, says I, let RSL have the joy of a victory (okay, not just a victory, but a full-fledged butt-whuppin') of the best team in Major League Soccer. That's cool. It's a long season. Uncle Lamar's House is opening in a few weeks, EJ is almost ready to play; life is good, my people. It is not yet time to panic.
Believe me, when it is time to panic, I, your faithful DJ, will be the first to let you know.
See you Wednesday for the Metrostars.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: NEW ENGLAND v FC DALLAS
Finally, the best team in MLS gets a televised game, after about a month of being neglected. I don’t get that at all, but since I’ve already ranted and raved about it in this space earlier in the season, I will, for now, forbear.
Besides, tonight is a night of joy! I’m back in the mix, doing what I do best: watching the boys and making smart-alecky comments. We all have our gifts that we must share with mankind. Mine just happens to be this. My luck, it’s a non-remunerative gift. But who am I to argue with the great soccer Muse?
So the night of joy almost turns quickly in to a nightmare, as Taylor Twellman beats the back four and Scott Garlick in the second minute of the match. Fortunately, he wasn’t able to beat the assistant referee, who called a very close offside. Gulp.
Oh GOOOOOOOOL! Arturo Alvarez runs on to a beautiful through ball by Roberto Mina. Alvarez shoots into Matt Reis’s chest, but gets his own rebound and rolls it in.
1-0 to the Good Guys in the sixth minute. Though to be honest, it was against the run of play, as the Revs came out pressing while we came out merely absorbing. Good for us though. The earlier we get on the board the better of we are this season, it seems to me.
We’re still without EJ, but it’s good to see el Pescadito back on the field. We may, if all goes well, see EJ in time for the opening of Pizza Hut Park on August 6th. We haven’t done badly at all without him, but we can only get better with him. I know exactly how nasty and nagging that sort of toe injury is, so I’d rather wait until he’s at 100%, seeing as we’ve discovered just how deep the team is this year.
Wow. Mina just dribbled through four guys and came within a Jay Heaps toe-poke of being one on one with Reis. I hadn’t seen that part of Mina’s game before now. Pretty slick.
I wonder if Colin Clarke and his staff have seen something in the films, because now it seems everyone’s having a go at the New England back four. Pitchkolan, Gbandi, Mina, Alvarez, all of them trying to dribble penetrate against numbers. Fun to watch, I must say.
I sincerely hope I’m not puttin’ the mojo on him, but Chris Gbandi is playing very well tonight. Good man-marking, getting up to attack; very nice stuff from the UConn Kid.
The name is Gbandi . . . Chris Gbandi.
And, once again, if for no other reason than to prove that all is right in the universe, and events are unfolding as they should, Simo Valakari gets a yellow card.
Speaking of Simo, I think it is good and just that he’s going to be an All-Star. Apart from the big name goal-scorers who are known by even casual MLS fans, there are certain players who toil in unsung roles that to the knowledgeable observer are clearly just as important in the grand scheme of things. Simo Valakari epitomizes that kind of player.
Bah. New England ties the score in the 44th minute. If you’ve ever wondered “Gee, would it be okay to leave Taylor Twellman unmarked on the six yard line, even for a few seconds?” Well, here is your answer . . . NO!
Noonan and Twellman. You’ve GOT to watch those St. Louis boys, ya know?
We get an immediate answer from the Hoops. Beautiful, lovely, sublime work by Mina and O’Brien. Mina receives from Ronnie, holds on the 18, waits for Ronnie to make the run, pops it cleanly to him, in stride, and then Ronnie just uses Reis, faking, getting by and left footing it in the net at a severe angle.
That there is some professional football, my dears. And if it’s not the Goal Of The Week, they should stop giving it out.
Mina is playing with such ease and confidence it’s hard to believe he’s only 20 years old.
And that will take us to the half, with the score 2-1 to the Club.
Keep in mind that this is very likely a preview of MLS Cup ’05. Except the venue, of course, and we all know where that is this year.
Eight minutes in to the second half, Mina gets robbed by Matt Reis. A low hard header catches Matt going the wrong way, but he still manages to get a foot on the ball to keep it out. For those of you who may have wondered “Reis? All Star?” Uh, yeah. Matt Reis is the real deal, no doubt. He’s not flashy, but he’s as solid a keeper as you could want in this league.
The Little Fish has been quiet tonight. He’s been away at the Gold Cup, so he may be a bit tired. He’s not out of form, though, at least you wouldn’t think. All he did in the Gold Cup was put the hat trick on Jamaica. In a loss, unfortunately. Or maybe fortunately, for us, anyway. Had Guatemala advanced, he’d still be gone.
22 minutes left and New England are putting their foot on the gas here. We’re back to absorbing pressure like we did early in the game. Twellman gets loose in the box, but skies his shot over Garlick’s head.
Pitchkolan gets a shot off from Alvarez’s nice cross, but Reis is there. Alvarez is doing yeoman work running up and down the left side. Good stuff.
Alavarez, as if to make me look bad and make me out a liar, proceeds to miss a sitter with 15 to go. Good work by Ronnie and Ruiz to get him the ball close in, but the shot goes right in to Reis’s gut.
The momentum is switching back, and we’re knocking the ball around very nicely right now. Ruiz gets a shot, I believe his first of the night, but again Reis is there. Carlos didn’t get as much on that as he wanted, but still got Reis to give up a rebound.
Mina and Alvarez have both been subbed out, so we’re going to try to defend for the final few minutes. This is okay, because we’ve been defending well, and the Revs look a little flat late on.
Almost an equalizer with three minutes left. The very tall Khano Smith gets a free header off of Cancela’s corner and just misses. Hurry clock, hurry.
Oh, Drew! Drew Moore most certainly should have scored. He was right in front with Reis out of position and he skied it two stories high.
Oh, come on. Less than a minute to go and the Revs are level. A sloppy, sloppy goal. My man Gbandi completely blows a back-header right in to the path of Twellman, who chips over Garlick, gets saved off the line, but Dempsey heads in the rebound. Bah. BAH!
Not that a draw against the Revolution is a bad result this year, but we had this one in the bag.
Three minutes stoppage. I wish Mina and Alvarez could come back in.
Oh! Gbandi almost redeems himself with a hard shot from the 18, but hits it ten rows up.
No, no, no, no, no, no, NO!
Again, Twellman is unmarked on the six yard line, and AGAIN he scores. We’ve lost it. We were a goal up with a minute to go, and we’ve lost it.
Final whistle. A perplexing, unbelievable 3-2 loss.
Must. Remain. Calm.
Still. In. First.
Must. Not. Panic.
This is too much like last year to dwell on. So I won’t.
Suffice to say, until the 89th minute this was one of our best games of the season. Good defense, despite the mistake on the first New England goal. Good offense, though we could have finished better, in retrospect. But how, how HOW does this game not end up as a win?
And I was so excited to be back in the saddle, column-writing-wise.
Okay, shake it off, kids, we’re still okay. It’s a bump in the road, a minor inconvenience, and a freak of nature. Not to worry.
See you next week for Real Salt Lake.
Monday, June 20, 2005
MLS NOTES: WEEK 12
• The midweek matchups were entertaining and surprising. The DC v Chicago game was a seven goal barn burner (the entertaining part), while Colorado defeated Los Angeles 1-nil (yes, that would be the surprising part).
• The two least likely scorers in the Chicago v KC game were Jim Curtin and Preki, and they both scored. Jim Curtin, well, because he’s Jim Curtin (no disrespect to Jim, who is a fine professional, but he’s not the guy you want spearheading your attack), and Preki, because he’s 73 years old and destroyed his leg just over a year ago. Preki is awesome. Okay, he’s not really 73, but he’s older than me, for pity’s sake, and he’s still got it.
• I thought the PK call in the first half of the Metros v Crew game was bogus. Cornell Glen went down like a late 90s dotcom stock. You could actually see him drag his left foot across Zach Wells’ body rather than try to play his own (poorly played) ball.
• But having said that, why not let him take the penalty kick he himself ‘earned’? Chris Henderson didn’t even come close. I don’t get either part of that whole transaction.
• I’ll just go ahead now and eat crow for my criticism of the Wolyniec-for-Razov trade. Razov scored twice for the Metros, and Woly set up the second Columbus goal. I can’t always be right, okay?
• The Metros/Crew game gets at least a 6 on the newbie scale. Good energy, loud crowd, three goals in the first half. Pretty entertaining stuff. A few points deducted for artificial turf; I don’t know if that’s fair, but hey, it’s my scale, and I hate plastic grass.
• How can the match between the top two teams in the Western Conference NOT BE TELEVISED? That’s insane. I cut MLS a lot of slack, I know they can’t do everything, but come awwwn. If you’re going to be Major League, you can’t allow this kind of thing to happen. Can you imagine the NFL allowing this? I understand the vagaries of local television contracts and scheduling and all that, but still.
• So, anyway, I hear that FC Dallas beat LA Galaxy 1-nil. At least that’s the word on the street. I have no, you know, visual PROOF or anything. If true, it’s a famous victory, considering FCD are without Carlos Ruiz and Eddie Johnson. Nobody at the start of the season, not the most starry-eyed optimist, would have guessed how deep the Dallas bench is. The recent run of form would be impressive enough at full strength, but given the facts, it is stupendous.
• The league-leading Revs had nothing for DC United. It took a span of about two minutes for the Champs to put two goals on New England, and that was that. Well, the Revs are good, but they ain’t Arsenal, I guess. Just as well; if those guys had gone undefeated, surely the end of Western Civilization couldn’t have been too long in following.
• Kelly Gray is making the most of his move out west to San Jose. He had a very well taken goal early in the San Jose v Real Salt Lake match. I mean really well taken. He got the good through ball, dribbled into the box and calmly beat DJ Countess far post. It always amazes me what a change of scenery can do for a guy’s career.
• All three SJ goals in the first half were well taken. Chung and Barrett scoring in addition to Gray. Barrett played a ball to the wing while about 40 yards from goal, then sprinted to the box just in time to personally finish the resulting corss. Very smart, very hustling goal by Barrett.
• Speaking of the reborative effects of a change of scenery, how about Jeff Cunningham and his hat trick? There must be something about getting out of Columbus that frees these guys from some sort of enchantment-like torpor, kind of like when the White Witch put Narnia in a permanent state of winter. Obscure literary references aside, Jeff is scoring again, and boy can’t the Rapids use that?
• Let’s be honest though, shall we? Cunningham’s flop in the penalty box was absolutely shameful. Terry Vaughan will be kicking himself when he watches the tape.
• Memo to Christian Miles: unless he himself has told you differently, why don’t you just go ahead and pronounce Cunningham as ‘cunning-ham’ rather than ‘cunningum’, okay? In fact, even if he did tell you to say it like that, he was teasing you, just to see if you’d actually pronounce it like that on TV. In the future, if you are going to say 'Cunningham’, go ahead and think Richie from “Happy Days”.
Monday, June 13, 2005
MLS NOTES: WEEK 11
· In my view the most exciting thing about the Columbus/Colorado match was the news from Waldo and Stoner that Conor Casey may be coming to MLS. He’d be a good fit for his hometown Rapids, and apparently the manager at his German club, Mainz, is threatening to cut him if he plays in the Gold Cup for the USMNT. Welcome home, I say.
· Columbus won the game on a PK, off of a verrrrrry questionable call. Looked like an all-ball makeup-call to moi. Mario Rodriguez, who ‘suffered’ the foul, caused trouble all day for the Rapids defense, it must said, so it wasn’t completely unfair or unexpected for the Crew to score.
· Whenever the Crew did something good, the crowd could muster no more noise than you might hear from a polite PGA gallery when some guy who’s way out of the lead finishes the 18th hole. Sad.
· In another game in which the crowd sounded less like a soccer crowd and more like an enthusiastic Little League crowd, the Wizards and the Revs faced off at cavernous Arrowhead Stadium. A KC own-goal was the highlight of the first half, apart from watching Nick Garcia and Diego Gutierrez foul and get fouled.
· Perhaps I’ll start a new rating scale called the Newbie Factor. Occasionally I’ll rate games based on the likelihood that a first time soccer watcher would ever watch again. Quality of play and crowd atmosphere will enter into the equation. The first half of the game gets a 3 on the Newbie Factor scale of 1-10.
· The second half started off fast, almost a six. But then the Revs scored the second goal and it got boring very quickly.
· Oh, and the Crew/Rapids match gets a four. It almost got a five, and had the Raps managed to score at the end of injury time, it may well have done so.
· Clint Mathis looked old and tired for RSL against the Galaxy. Has he been hurt, or sick lately? He’s not all that old at 28. What’s the story?
· Landon picked up right where he left off before going off with the Nats. There’s no way you can say it wasn’t a good move coming back to America. He needs minutes to stay sharp for the World Cup, and he wasn’t going to get them in Germany. Case closed on that one.
· Yet another #99 in the league, with Ante Razov taking that number with the Metrostars. Ugh. This ain’t the NFL, kids, and Ante ain’t Mark Gastineau. Enough already.
· Zach Wells earned his pay against DC, and there’s no two ways about it. He wasn’t getting a great deal of help defensively either. Even Shep Messing, who was no slouch between the pipes in his day, was impressed.
· Speaking of which, here’s a memo for all you Metros fans. You’re missing a great drinking game opportunity with Shep. Every time he says Wowwwww”, take a shot. You’ll be feeling no pain by halftime.
· You underage Metros fans, however . . . just say no, all right? Underage drinking is bad, m’kay?
· I was going to give props to the Metros fans for sounding so loud and enthusiastic on the MSG broadcast, but it turns out the sound was really coming from the DC fans behind the right-side-of-the-screen goal. Wow. Much props, again, to the Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles.
· Chicago’s Samuel Caballero does a Steve Lyon impersonation and drops trou on the sidelines during the game with FC Dallas. He suffered a wardrobe malfunction of some sort and had to change shorts on the fly. So to speak. Michael Powell, call your office.
· Carlos Ruiz came down on another player’s foot and twisted his ankle so badly that I couldn’t bring myself to watch the replay. His foot was pointing at an angle God never intended feet to point to. My ankle actually started hurting.
· So, Thomas Rongen is already in the booth calling Chivas games? I mean, if it wasn’t him, it was one of those Thomas Rongen impersonators, like you might see in Vegas.
· I was very happy to see young Brad Guzan back in goal for Chivas. Hans Westerhof knows goalkeeping, if nothing else. He played terrifically, as well (Brad, not Hans). The only goal he gave up was on a breakaway. The kid’s going to be huge in this league. Or maybe some other league.
· Shame nobody saw the game live, though. No, I don’t mean on television, I mean at the Home Depot Center. Was this one of those FIFA-mandated play-behind-closed-doors games, or what?
· Do you think it irks Mr. Vergara that for all the talent he brought from Mexico, it’s good old Easy Ezra Hendrickson that scored the tying goal? Just a thought.
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: CHICAGO v FC DALLAS
The Football Club are wearing the silver road kits, and Brian Haynes is in the booth with Brad Sham. Both these things are pretty cool, in my book. Dave Dir, Brad's usual partner, is in Holland helping Sigi Schmid with the U20 National Team, who got off to a grand start, beating Argentina 1-0 in their first match.
The folks in Section 8 sound great, giving the match a very European feel. Loud chanting, drumming; very nice. I hope they get quieted down without delay, but I still like to hear it at any MLS match. All partisanship aside, this is a wonderful group of fans.
This is the last scheduled Brimstone match this season, although if things work out, we conceivably could meet the Fire again in both the US Open Cup, and, dare I say it, the MLS Cup. Either or both would be fine with me. So even with a win today, we couldn't quite say the Cup was decided.
Five minutes haven't gone by and Scott Garlick has already made a terrific save off the header by . . . someone. That was not by any means a garden variety save. Diving to the left, getting a hand on the ball, and getting enough on it to keep it from Ivan Guerrero, who was standing on the doorstep.
Ronnie just tried to to chip Zach Thornton from about 40 yards, and did. Only the left goalpost kept him from a GOTY candidate. Or, I should say, another GOTY candidate.
Owwwwwwwwww! Carlos Ruiz, who already had a sore ankle, just came down on Gonzalo Segares' foot and twisted his right ankle horribly. It made me cringe just watching it. If you've ever had one of those really severe ankle sprains (and I've had a few), you know how bad that is.
Even if he comes back in the game, that had to hurt terribly. I couldn't even watch the replay; I literally turned my head away from the screen. Suffice to say he came down so that his foot pointed on an angle that God never intended.
He's not coming back. Abe Thompson comes on for El Pescadito.
Well . . . hasn't this been an eventful first 10 minutes? Excuse me while I go to the fridge for an adult beverage . . .
Okay, I'm back. I have a lot of confidence in Abe Thompson, and for that matter in every player on the bench, but this still isn't good. When the story of this season is written, it may well revolve around the strength of Colin Clarke's bench.
Roberto Mina gets a yellow card for shoving Justin Mapp to the ground. Mapp should get a yellow for bad acting.
Well . . . now they're saying Mapp did indeed get the yellow card.
Heh heh heh.
Bobby Rhine is sporting the GBFHAC this week (Great Big Frankie Hejduk Arm Cast, for you kids not in the know). Frankie's been wearing his so long I'm starting to think he's just decided it's cool having a blunt instrument attached to his arm.
Nate Jaqua scores at the 20 minute mark. He manages to head in a looping, deflected ball from Justin Mapp, even though he was surrounded by both Gbandi and Gvanney. There really wasn't much Scotty could do; he also sees his road shutout streak come to an end, adding insult to injury.
The redoubtable Brad Sham tells us the Fire are 6-1 this season when scoring first.
Chicago's Samuel Caballero does a Steve Lyon impersonation and drops trou on the sidelines. He suffered a wardrobe malfunction of some sort and had to change shorts on the fly. So to speak.
Michael Powell, call your office.
Simo Valakari gets a yellow card for dropping Segares. This is not a cause for alarm, but rather a sign that the universe is unfolding as it should.
Brian Haynes is dong a great job as an analyst, by the way. Stellar.
There are thunderstorms in the area around the Steam Of Consciousness world headquarters here in central Oklahoma, and I'm experiencing, once again, one of the few drawbacks of Satellite TV. The picture is going in and out. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
I can't complain too much, because I live in a truly wonderful time of televised soccer. Even with weather related interruptions, it is miraculous, really, when you consider the advances in technology in our lifetime, as well as the history of soccer in this country. What the folks did during the days of the Land Run without DirecTV and air-conditioning, I'll never know.
Go ahead, click the link, learn some history; this is a full-service column and we like to educate as well as entertain and inform.
But I digress.
Aaron Pitchkolan takes a shot at chipping Thornton. It doesn't work, but I like the awareness he showed in taking it. I'm a bit concerned that chipping the keeper is about all the offense we've mustered in the first half, but I'm not yet worried.
Vanney almost scores on a corner, but his header drops to his own feet and he can't pop it in from that angle.
We're a playing a bit more on our heels than I'm used to seeing in the last few weeks. But then again, the Fire are on a good run of form lately. They hung five goals on Chivas last week. Jaqua had a hat trick; this being one of the few times that particular combination of words has ever been written in the history of the internet, I'm sure.
I'll be happy to get to halftime only a goal down. We need some coaching magic from Coach Colin to get us on track. In other years, being a goal behind, at the half, on the road, would cause me great consternation and trepidation. This season is different however. We're in this. I shan't say we've got them right where we want them, but we're in this thing, no doubt.
Ronnie gets a yellow card for a foul, but Jesse Marsch gets no card for retaliating. Mr. Jones, the referee, is calling only his second MLS match. The kid's gotta learn sometime, I suppose, but that was a bit of a dodgy call.
So it is indeed 1-0 at the half, in favor of the Fire. No sweat. It's the way a half of soccer goes sometimes. I'm sure Coach will have some words of wisdom at the half (high-volume though they be), and we'll come out swinging after the break.
I hate to see Carlos injured though. He's been so good lately.
I can't tell you how much my respect for this man has increased since he came to Dallas. Not just because I'm an insufferable homer, either (though I clearly am).
He's grown as a player; he's become more of a leader and less of a diver. It's been great to watch. When he goes to ground this season, he does so because he's earned it with a hard foul, and he doesn't make a meal of it.
I loves that Little Fish (as always, in a very manly, soccer-specific manner).
I just watched the replay of Ronnie's off-the-post chip of Thornton. Zach's body language showed total and complete surprise. It was entertaining to see. Moreover, the ball came fairly close to rebounding off his body and into the goal. That would have been oh-so-good to see. I like Zach Thornton, mind you, but he is with the Fire, after all.
Game on for the second half. The very creditable box of California Merlot (sorry Miles) is kicking in. It is soothing my nerves and making me feel like the guy in the old UB40 song (red red wine you make me feel so fine, you keep me rockin' all of the time).
Life, for all its problems, is good when you can sit around in a free country, drinking wine, watching futbol on the satellite, tapping away on the laptop, and rooting for your favorite team.
Again, though, I digress.
Thompson gets an early chance, and just misses by inches. Good job by Thornton making himself big(ger).
I love the way Brian Haynes continually rags the Fire players for staying on the ground a bit too long when they've been (ostensibly) fouled. I like Dave Dir, but Haynes is really quite enjoyable in the on-air analyst role. He's also an exceptional assistant coach, so I doubt he'll be changing jobs anytime soon. Speaking of which, if you missed the recent Sports Illustrated article on Eddie Johnson, go check it out. It speaks very highly of both Eddie and Brian.
Abe Thompson pressures Thornton on a back-pass and very nearly causes Zach to give up the goods. I'm liking Abe more and more every minute.
Whoa. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than to be good. In the 68th minute, Rhine gets beat around the corner by Mapp, who gets the ball to Chris Rolfe, who taps it in for a goal. Nearly. But in an incredibly good call by Assistant Referee, the whistle blows; the ball just barely got over the end line as Mapp made the pass; the score remains the same.
Give that man a raise, MLS.
The picture is breaking up again, as the thunderstorms get worse here in God's own country. Either that or I've had too much wine.
Nope, it's definitely not the wine. To be sure, I went to the front door; it's raining and thundering to beat the band. It's clearly the satellite.
Now I've lost the feed completely.
Well, this is unprecedented. I can't watch the end of the match.
Let us go to MLSnet.com and hope to get the video there.
This, of course, is a very tricky proposition, because one must click on the link, avoid seeing the headlines (by very cleverly covering most of the screen with the right hand), and find one's way to the 'sights and sounds' link.
Then one must find the link for the appropriate match, click it, and hope the completed game is online. This will take both patience, and a willingness to ignore the reality of the space/time continuum as one watches the remainder of the game, ex post facto.
I don't think that will be too much of a challenge, however, as I am a Tivo user, and was probably a bit behind the live action anyway, what with replays, and trips to the refrigerator, and such.
But still, I can't bear the thought of watching the rest of the game while already knowing the result. It's like . . . like . . . well, I can't think of what it's like, but it's terribly unsatisfying.
Not to mention the fact that such a thing is clearly against the whole "Steam Of Consciousness" ethos.
Well, let's see what we can get . . .
As it turns out, nothing. I couldn't catch the end of the match on either video or audio, try as I might.
I learn from MLSnet.com (good for results, but not for aforementioned video or audio), that we lost 2-nil. The second goal coming from Lubos Whoeverimov.
Well, you can't win EVERY game on a road trip, now, can you?
I'm far too tired to wait for the video to show up on MLSnet.com, and I'm far too unworried about this result to fret about it.
Besides, I have bigger worries on my horizon, as I must report at 8:00 am tomorrow morning for jury duty.
I should get some sleep. I mean, the last time this happened, I ended up on a TWO MONTH LONG murder trial. I can't begin to tell you how awful that was.
Although, with the mood I'm in right this second, I doubt any lawyer would accept me, prosecution or defense, as I plan on going into the courtroom feigning insanity; drooling, chewing on my fingers, and chanting "Chicago rules, Chicago rules, guilty, guilty, guilty, die, die, die !"
What attorney worth their salt wouldn't dismiss me for insanity right then and there?
See you next week for the Dirty Dirty Galaxy game; unless I'm sequestered, that is.