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The Barcelona the bad and the Timbers. August 28, 2011

Posted by michaeltomlinson in European soccer, MLS, Spanish soccer, U.S. soccer.
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KCoop

Where Cooper spends most of his time

I absolutely loathe the New York Yankees. My disdain towards Ben Roethlisberger outside of his noted deviant tendencies is aided by the team’s unmatched NFL success of 6 Superbowls. For no apparent reason I agree with Just For Men Gel in more ways than one, I”m just under the impression that Emmitt Smith IS trash. And then there is my beloved Barcelona, fighters of Castilian oppression, proprietors of the beautiful game, and undoubted soccer behemoth. They are arguably at the pinnacle of their existence with a team that hears whispers of “the greatest of all time.” Quite the opposite feeling I generally have for front runners. To be honest I have only been a fan since they were some level of, (better than every team in La liga, save the possibility of Real Madrid). But then again in modern Spanish football this is all a forgone conclusion. Unless of course Malaga signs a few, eight or nine more crafty foreigners, Italians maybe?

What goes hand in hand with supporting a winner is defending that fanhood. In this instance, I can’t argue. I liked Barcelona because they were good. It wasn’t as though I was force-fed soccer when my sports-fandom was in its infancy. For some reason our aluminum foil covered bunny ears which controlled my Television well into middle school weren’t able to pick up fox soccer channel. And while my childhood friends were always down to play a pick up game of almost anything, soccer was NEVER a choice. We’d set up recycle bins as goals and scrounge up hockey sticks before they’d let me bring a soccer ball into the mix. Having your 6 closest friends all play football and at the same time dismiss soccer as sport leads to a weird level of self hate. Despite the fact it was obviously the sport I excelled at most, I put the least amount of work into the craft. Soccer was September to the end of November and that was that.

Ultimately I owe my allegiance towards Barcelona to two people, Ronaldihno and Alex Tomchak. One was a little bit more vital to the success of the team, the other, at least twice as Polish. So its a crap shoot to say who is REALLY more important. I must say it is a fairly easy job to support a team with as much recent success as the Blaugrana have seen. But winning titles and cups lose there luster when the notion of surprise has been whittled into theories on we could blow this one, rather than the jubilance of triumph. There is a difference between feeling exhausted after your side wins a well fought game, and feeling relieved. And when I start feeling relieved watching the best team on earth rip teams apart on the pitch of Camp Nou, I remember a day from now Rodney Wallace is sure to disappoint with three drastically errant crosses.

It isn’t that the Portland Timbers (or Rodney Wallace) are that bad, I mean everyone in the MLS is a professional by the dictionary’s standard. They just do things a bit differently, IE: struggle to connect the midfield to anything, whether that be from the defense forward or the Front line, back. Which is unfortunate for a team which arguably has its 3 best players (Nagbe, Chara and Jewsbury)  in the midfield. Even when the Timbers win they are lucky to see 40 percent of the possession. But god damn it they try, and no one tries harder than Adidas’ MLS headman Kenny Cooper. Which may ultimately be the reason why I hate him, also because he isn’t good at soccer. I could go on for an eternity about the frustration and toil my home town team puts me through, but alas, I like it. Right now they are fighting it out for the most American of playoff spots, the Tenth seed, yes out of 18  teams. The MLS is certainly a different brand of soccer and the Timbers quite frankly aren’t nearly ready to compete for a championship, which is somewhat refreshing.

Could Franco di Santo finally become the man Mike always thought he could be? August 28, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Argentine soccer, English soccer.
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A couple of years ago Mike saw Franco Di Santo play a preseason friendly for Chelsea and told me the Argentine forward was the next big thing. Di Santo subsequently scored two goals in three seasons.

On Saturday, though, Di Santo scored both goals as his Wigan team beat QPR 2-0. I didn’t see the game, but the Match of the Day highlights showed a forward with a very delicate touch who can lead the line as well as combine with teammates. Of course, those were also his third and fourth goals in four seasons in English soccer, so Di Santo has a ton to prove.

His first, though, was an excellent half volley to cap off an intricate move Di Santo himself started. The kind of confidence he seemed to subsequently display suggested he might finally be waking from his torpor. Could Mike have been right all along?

Another Argentine who looked very good on Match of the Day was Blackburn’s Mauro Formica, and not just because he is the spitting image of Kaka. Some of the through balls he played were beautiful and he looked to have both the touch every true midfield orchestrator needs and the drive that is essential to English soccer. We’ll see how this one develops.

That's really a picture of Kaka, though, isn't it?

A thoughtful summary of Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal August 28, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer.
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Manchester United is bigger than this

Note: It is difficult to maintain a sense of proportion when dealing with a scoreline such as Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal, so I say why bother? This is a match write-up unashamed of lacking a sense of proportion. Deal with it.

So profound was Manchester United’s victory today that, if you were now to embark upon the creation any history of the human race, it would begin with today’s 8 a.m. (Pacific time) kickoff and end with the final whistle. The entirety of the human race would be composed of 15 be men: Manchester United’s starters, its coach and its three substitutes. The only country in existence would be the United Kingdom. Spain, Senegal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Mexico, South Korea: these would be irrelevant myths the race created to explain the origin of its gladiators, so irrelevant they did not even constitute footnotes. So too any part of Manchester outside the white lines of the Old Trafford pitch, not to say the rest of England, Europe, the ocean, the sky except as a place to which the ball momentarily ventured.

The universe trembled with each of Manchester United’s goals. The entire thing reverberated with the vibrations of Sir Alex Ferguson’s genius, and was indeed calibrated to the rotations of that genius. God had not just one son but sixteen, each one equally a miracle.

Indeed, the creation of that history would be inadequate as an action. Suicide is the only act of supplication that approaches sufficiency as a tribute to Manchester United’s greatness, not just on this day but forever.

Because indeed, any setback in the history of Manchester United is an irrelevance. Today’s victory was so pure as to render everything that came before it in relief. The deaths in the Munich air disaster? Irrelevant compared to this moment. The privations of depression and the post-World War II era? Can’t all have been bad because they led up to this moment. Everything, everything that has ever happened is good because the universe could produce this.

This is Arsenal

And as for Arsenal, they are sub-existential. They might as well have never existed. Indeed, I am yet to see proof that Arsenal did exist. I don’t believe it. I think Tomas Rosicky is an illusion of the shoddiest kind, Carl Jenkinson is a myth invented to scare small children, Laurent Koscielny is a theoretical proposition advanced by schizophrenics.

The phrase “Robin van Persie” just bubbled into my mind and I am not sure why because I cannot connect it to any concrete concept. I assume it must never have happened, that I imagined imagining it; that you, the reader, cannot even read it because it does not exist. I haven’t typed it because I haven’t thought it. Everything that name touches becomes tainted with the stain of questionability. If this computer is connected to the idea that the words “Robin van Persie” may have been written and therefore thought, is it possible that this computer exists? I think not.

There is a certainty, which is that, if Arsene Wenger existed, he would be the most incompetent, maybe even basely so, human being in history. He would be a villain, if he existed, the torturer of the hardworking masses who would support, if they existed, the club he would coach, if he existed, if indeed that club did exist. He would torture Gary Cahill by being connected with transfer interest in him. Pity Gary Cahill; pity him for my mere invention of the possibility of Wenger.

It is a comfort that Arsene Wenger does not exist. It is not possible that someone so incompetent could exist. I am sorry for bringing it up.

David De Gea

Some thoughts on David De Gea:

  • David De Gea is Satan
  • David De Gea is God.

Man Utd v. Arsenal halftime thoughts. August 28, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer.
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  • Danny Welbeck: It was really poignant to see him pull up with that injury. He’s done so well for Manchester United; you love to see homegrown youngsters doing well, and his freshness and excitement more than compensated, for me the viewer, for losing the positivity of Chicharito Hernandez.
  • Anderson and Tom Cleverley: They are an exhilarating central midfield combination. They both know so many tricks for making and finding space in the midfield, and both also have the discipline to appreciate their role in the side, which is to keep in position and get the ball to the front four. They both hit excellent long passes to the forwards from their own half as well.
  • Carl Jenkinson: has been widely praised, but a couple of his qualities are hurting Arsenal. He keeps getting dragged inside by Ashley Young, who’s doing a very good Santi Cazorla impersonation, hence Theo Walcott’s remonstrations. He created a lot of space for Patrice Evra by letting Young take him inside. He also gets in Walcott’s way offensively and his crossing is not quite useful enough.
  • Daniel De Gea: Is still learning. It’s foolish to write him off as early as some people have. A 20-year-old goalkeeper makes mistakes. He is not going to replace Edwin van der Sar instantly. But his distribution is excellent and he has shown he is capable of making great saves as well as mistakes. There’s nothing wrong with him except that he is young. If things don’t work out for him, it’s Sir Alex Ferguson’s fault for thinking a 20-year-old who speaks little English could replace a 40-year-old who was the leader of his defense.
  • Maybe I’m late to the party, but when Robin van Persie missed, I found myself thinking this might not be Arsenal’s season.
  • And maybe I’m late to this party, but the defensive header leading to Young’s goal seemed to me to suggest there might be something to the theory that you don’t just stick young and inexperienced playersinto the starting lineup.
  • David Pleat is not a good pundit. He seems categorically opposed to the idea of a high defensive line, and at one point seemed to question the concept of wide forwards.
  • Robin van Persie: was a poor choice for captain. He is the first to disappear when the going gets tough and often lets his head drop.
  • Tomas Rosicky: is a mixed bag. He often moves aimlessly in midfield, in many ways the arch-perpetrator of the sins of which Arsenal are accused (over-elaboration, being lightweight, passing for passing’s sake, which is inexcusable as the furthest forward man in midfield). However, when his brain is fully operational, he can control a game. Nevertheless, a club like Arsenal ought to be able to find a playmaker not as prone to becoming a passenger.

You would have to be an idiot to think Luis Suarez is fat. August 27, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer.
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Yeah, a real piggy

Sports Illustrated’s Peter Berlin wrote this in a recent blog post. (emphasis mine)

Kenny Dalglish left his best payer, Luis Suarez, on the field for 20 more minutes. Perhaps Dalglish wanted Suarez to get the goal he deserved and continue his record of scoring in every game this season. Perhaps Dalglish was simply being stubborn, having been asked during the week whether he would rest Suarez. In any case, he allowed us more time to consider the surprising question: Is Suarez fat?

I’ll field this one, Peter. No.

No.

Luis Suarez is not fat. People who are fat do not look like this without their shirts on. For future reference, you can generally tell if someone is fat by checking to see  if there is body fat visible on his figure. Defined abdominal muscles are generally a good indicator that somebody is not fat.

What I mean to say is, you could have looked.

Furthermore, Peter Berlin, considering that you look like this, you may not be entitled to cast the first stone in a debate over people’s weight.

It should not be overlooked either that sending the message that an ultra-fit athlete who happens not to have had a break in a couple of years is overweight probably doesn’t do a heck of a lot of good for people who are also not overweight but insecure about their body images. It’s always kind of sickening when professional footballers (Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney, for instance) are called fat.

Furthermore, when soccer players actually do manage to become fat, it’s usually for reasons that are actually really sad; for instance, Ronaldo’s thyroid problem.

Note that I did call Michael Johnson “chubby” earlier today. I was wrong. I apologize. I hope Peter Berlin does too.

Am I falling in love with German soccer? August 27, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in German soccer.
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Is this the future?

I just had an almost religious experience, my first German league game in three or four years. It may have been a scoreless draw, but there was something uniquely compelling about Bayer Leverkusen v. Borussia Dortmund. I’m used to the rancor and staleness of English soccer or the foregone conclusions of Spanish soccer, but this was different. There is something positive about German soccer that goes beyond the field, an atmospheric feelgood factor.

It could have been that this was an exciting game between two very aggressive teams. Dortmund is, on that evidence, certainly one of the top four teams in the world. Leverkusen also has a lot of zip and promise about it, and Andre Schuerrle is especially exciting.

I think I may be converted. I had so much fun watching that game and I want more … although it wouldn’t surprise me if Augsburg v. Kaiserslautern, for example, was a good deal less exciting.

Bayer Leverkusen v. Borussia Dortmund halftime thoughts August 27, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in German soccer.
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  • Michal Kadlec is having a decent game against Mario Goetze, but his yellow card was a reminder that defenders are only really allowed one mistake.
  • Sometimes, it seems, Mats Hummels tries too many Hollywood passes.
  • I haven’t watched a German soccer game in years and this is the first time I’ve seen this Borussia Dortmund team. I’m floored by their quality. In particular I am impressed with Ilkay Gundogan, Goetze, Hummels and Neven Subotic.
  • Stefan Kiessling would be perfect for the Premiership.
  • The game’s restarting, so I’m going to return to it.

Insights on the fleeting nature of substance, brought to you by Guardian sports subeditors August 27, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer.
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Here is the front-page summary of the Guardian’s match report on Wolves’ 0-0 draw away to Aston Villa, from the newspaper’s website:

Aston Villa and Wolves play out a goalless draw at Villa Park that leaves the visitors temporarily top of the Premier League

Some thoughts:

  • Whoa, pretty disdainful, huh?
  • I guess, in the sense that everything in the temporal world is fleeting, as well as the sense that there is a new table and a new round of games every season, everyone who gets to the top of the Premier League table is only there “temporarily.”
  • Last season, Manchester United was only on top temporarily, even if the Red Devils did happen to be there at the end of the season.
  • Someday the Earth will cease to exist, someday the light of human knowledge will be extinguished, someday the universe will end, not with a bang but with a whimper, probably, one must ask whether there will be anyone on top of the Premier League then. That’s a very zen way to look at things. Thank you for that enlightening insight, Guardian copy editors.
  • Indeed, we are forced to ask ourselves, what if the world ends this evening, i.e. before the two Manchester clubs — the only ones capable of overhauling Wolves on points this weekend — have a chance to play tricky fixtures against the two North London clubs on Sunday and Wolves top the last Premier League table in the universe?
  • Or indeed, what if the universe doesn’t end but the Manchester clubs lose or draw? Then, wouldn’t the caprices of the universe dictate that Wolves retain the fleeting bagatelle that is the top position in the Premier League for an entire week?

Wolves season to go down in flames. August 27, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer.
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Let’s be honest with ourselves: Wolverhampton Wanderers will not be top of the league at the end of the English season.

Wolves is my favorite English team (my uncle lived in two English towns and I figured following Maidenhead United wouldn’t be much fun for an American*), so I’m very heartened by the league table as of this minute, which Wolves tops with seven points.

Let’s be serious, though, it will all come tumbling down. Soon Karl Henry will decide to murder someone on the field, probably Joey Barton — not, you understand, because he means anything by it; that’s just his game. Some people don’t think you need to carry a butterfly knife in your shinguard, but that’s just their opinion. You never know when kidnappers from Southeast Asia will descend suddenly upon you in the middle of a Premier League match**. Magistrates, who never seem to understand that some people just have it coming, will then get involved. Richard Stearman will probably be arrested for no reason.

You heard it here first.

* Although I’m inclined to think the cock-eyed looks you’d get for saying you supported Weston-super-Mare would probably be worth it.

** Rumor has it this is what happened to Michael Johnson while he was at Manchester City, but the club was too proud to admit it and tried to get away with pretending some chubby lad they found on the street who was also named Michael Johnson (it is a common name) was their young midfield colossus. Fortunately, Sven Goran Eriksson forgot this had happened when he signed Johnson this summer. The real Michael Johnson is rumored to be working in Thaksin Shinawatra’s cell phone mines (they do exist. shut up) for slave wages.

Joey Barton is gone, and we’re back! August 26, 2011

Posted by michaeltomlinson in English soccer, European soccer, Hair.
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Nothing celebrates this momentous occasion like the blockbuster departure of Joey Barton and whatever is on his face to newcomer QPR. His stint at Newcastle coupled with a real casual 77 days in jail for assault over the last four years if not remarkable are certainly memorable. Surely he will be missed by his plausible 3 friends and multiple Toony factions of stray dogs. But this is less about him and more about us, the blog, the important stuff. We’re back. and just in time do declare Wolverhampton the league champion, really there is no use playing the rest of the season. The Ashley Youngless Villa might as well curl up in a ball of despair before they allow Kevin Doyle to personally impregnate all of their closest relatives with a sleight of hand and modern day moxy. Don’t ask me how this works, this is a third party description from a higher power, his name is GOD, heard of him?