comin at ya, sucka emcees
With the Deeg fully ensconced in the game of American Throw, Catch & Run Ball, and with fatherly duties perhaps keeping me away from my obviously more important duties here at the Deeg, it would be easy to coast a little bit with my contributions. Yet, if last Saturday night's "live" blog and the subsequent opportunities to watch a little more soccer than usual while on a slice of paternity leave, it's that I fucking love this sport. Sure, the NFL is tons of capitalist fun, but good Christ - there is little in the world that compares to watching the uninterrupted action of a game of soccer played at the highest levels of the sport.
So, for those of you who share that love or who like what I write enough to suffer through posts about one of your least favorite sports, I'll be trying to re-settle into a niche here at the Deeg while everyone else is talking about CJ "Blue Jesus" Spiller and the Bills' two lines of monster football players who remind us all (a little bit too much, probably) of what went down in Orchard Park about 20 years ago. (Not that this will keep me from chiming in on the Bills, since it is game day...)
The format for these forays into footy, if you give a shit, will be a breakdown of the handful of games that I got a chance to watch or follow closely over the course of the last week, followed by a sprinkle of quick thoughts about the squads that matter to me, whether it be Liverpool, the Red Bulls, (mostly because I love Michael Bradley) Roma or the US Senior National Teams. With the kiddo and my waning attention span, your guess is as good as mine as to how long I keep at this with any frequency. Finger crossing, as with all things, is encouraged.
Click "Read More" to, you guessed it! -- READ MORE.
(The Scizz has brought it to my attention that not enough people are downloading CrapTastiCast #10. While I'm sure this is somehow related to the fact that I was not there for the recording - as I was in the midst of a booze-fueled wedding weekend in the Hudson River Valley and, then, northern Jerz - I would nevertheless greatly appreciate it if you all could take a moment to download & listen here. Scizz is having a coronary over this, and we really need him to survive through the summer so we can get in on his rad NASCAR plans up at The Glen. So, do me a solid and check it out. ~ B.)
Now on to the post...
The BarristerI confess that I have always loved Clint Dempsey. A lot of USMNT fans give him a hard time for being kind of a dick, for being aloof at times, for seeming like he could give a shit
that the team isn't dominating the world like we all want, and even expect them to at this point. Yet, where many see an arrogant player, I see one of the few hopes for US success. A player who plays with a flare rarely seen clad in red, white and blue on the pitch.
As I look forward to tomorrow's semifinal - a game in which the US looks to exact revenge for a tough 2-1 defeat against Panama in the group stage [Ed Note: Thanks to Dan for pointing out my error with the previous game's score in the comments. My apologies. Just the kind of shoddy reporting you can all look forward to from The Barrister.].
- my thoughts are on Clint, a player upon whom I peg much of my hope for the team's success in the Gold Cup and leadup to the next World Cup. As I often do when trying to focus my theme for a post, I drew inspiration from the web today - this time it was a Deadspin post from the weekend. I haven't read Deadspin since their stellar coverage of the Brett Favre A-cock-alypse, so was happy to find an analysis of Dempsey that I happen to agree with: "What a paradox we have in Clint Dempsey. His composure provides results. Those results give him confidence. That confidence makes him appear casual. And in the end, the biggest criticism we can muster is that Dempsey makes the game look easy, all the while his teammates make soccer look so hard."
Seriously, check out that post if you need to understand why Dempsey is our key to success in the men's game. The Yachtsman and I have often griped about the state of the American game - downhill soccer that lacks flare and creativity, driven only by the singular desire to progress the ball forward, even where the situation demands patience and thoughtfulness in a player's touch. Indeed, America's success - such as it is - has been the result of jamming the ball down the opponent's throat. Look at last year's World Cup goals: Donovan's winner to take us into the knockout stage? Scored off a rebound as the team streaked down the field like a team coached by Gordan Bombay. Or even Donovan's first goal in the Slovenia game
. Great shot, sure, but a great example of shoving it down the other team's throat with as much will and force as you can muster. And don't even get me started on the garbage luck we had to count on to get the equalizer against England.
I bring these examples up not to denigrate the US team, but only to point out that, to their credit, the team has willed themselves to victory. But, when you take away that will to win - or when you at least recognize that the team's desire and heart can be easily matched in the passion of international play - we're left with a team that is worlds behind in terms of skill and natural talent. And, this is where a guy like Dempsey can change things - especially when he combines those traditional elements of the USMNT - the gritty determination of a perennial underdog - with the natural talent and skill of a kid who learned the game growing up in Nacogdoches, TX, outside of the traditional US youth soccer system, and with the influence of the Mexican game that had luckily worked its way into the community.
And for tomorrow's game, as the US looks to get one back from the Panama team that so thoroughly embarassed them a couple weekends ago, the US team needs a few things to change. I must say that it's been bizarre to watch an international tournament in which the team is favored to win it all, and maybe its that position - the lack of underdog status - that has had the team looking so befuddled over the past four games. Maybe they need to pack themselves into a corner to succeed, to kick it into that next gear where a nation's soccer hopes can be fulfilled. Either way, for this tournament to be what fans had dreamed it would be, the US not only has to win, but has to do so while showing itself to be the skilled and talented squad people keep saying it is.
Time is running out for the US team under Bob Bradley's leadership. Last summer's success, which I enjoyed and cheered on, was sort of illusory in retrospect. As I say above, it was based on good old American willpower, and that alone cannot be the only thing that surges a team to football glory. As a fan, I don't need a championship team - Dear God, we all know that's true - but I do need one I can believe in. And, as good as the international competition is worldwide, that NEEDS to include a hope for success at some point in the future. The recent success of American players in Europe - Dempsey, for one, but also Jay Demerit and even Freddy Adu - has indicated that there might be hope we're getting somewhere. Yet, the realist in me knows that it also has to show up on the pitch, and after the shellacking Panama put on the US team last time around, the only choice now is revenge...with a healthy portion of skill and flare. Anything less will be a failure in the short-term, and an indication that the US's long-term plan of international progress may be off-course.
Yes, as the title of this post suggests, the US team needs to play with a chip on its shoulder and show itself to be more than a one-trick pony. The team needs to work with a cockiness in their skill, exemplified by Clint Dempsey, along with the grit we've always expected out of the Yanks. Our national future of success with the Beautiful Game depends on such strides in tournaments like these - tournaments we're expected to win, where the only surprise should be whether we can get it done while showing the world that we're still getting better and that someday soon we'll be competing against the best of the best.
Freely admitting that this post was more style over substance, lacking in analysis as I rush off to do a triple-header of depositions this morning, it figures that I'd resort to some video imagery to take us out. Thus, I give you Panama...with puppets. America - FUCK YEAH!
Follow me on twitter @theycallmedubs, or the whole crew at @DGWUSports
A demonstration of American strength in an ever-shifting geopolitical landscape.
For those of you who understand and appreciate the beautiful game, this post is for you. For those of you who still lack the mental fortitude to understand and appreciate the sport of the world, quietly drown yourselves in a toilet. Cheers.
Growing up between the U.S. & France, the contrasts of my upbringing were always glaringly displayed on the pitch. Stateside, I never really had an issue hanging with the guys I played soccer with, be it organized or pick-up. Some guys were bigger and faster, others were a bit more technically proficient, but overall we were basically on the same level.
The Apologist, Age 12, Buffalo Bisons Delaware Park Soccer League. Humorist. Video Game Enthusiast. Goalkeeper.
However, each summer, when soccer season was REALLY heating up, my mother would "drag" me to France to spend at least 1-2 months with my family over there to make sure I understood our heritage, spoke the language, and generally had a worldly perspective of life outside the confines of the Elmwood Village (the bad village, not the gentrified Spot Coffee Land you've all come to know and love. I'm talking about "hey man what muthafuckin TIME is it" turns into "gimme yo fucking BIKE" within 3 seconds Elmwood Village. Ahh, the early 90s.)
Vive la Difference.
Until I set foot on the dusty park pitches of Europe, I had NO clue what soccer was. I thought I understood what we were doing in Delaware Park, but apparently I had no idea. I saw kids 5-6 years younger than me doing tricks with their feet that I still cannot hope to do today, and I haven't seen them on an American pick-up field yet. Football was in their blood, and it showed. Literally every kid, boy or girl, plays over there. If you're good, you get picked up as young as 9 or 10 to play for an Academy, which then shepherds you through your education until you're good enough to play at an elite level. Here, you're lucky if the farthest you go is a partial college scholarship. There, you're groomed from grammar school into adulthood to play for club & country.
Laugh it up, but these LFC Academy players could probably run through the NCAA Men's Tournament.
With the gross disparity between American Soccer and European (& World) Football, I always rooted for the US Men's National Team with a grain of salt. The 2002 World Cup was spectacular, but I genuinely thought we were lucky to get as far as we did. I thought the 2006 Cup disaster was more the norm. Coming into the 2010 World Cup, I thought we would be outclassed by the bigger, stronger sides we drew in Group play.
If you don't get at least a little bit emotional watching the video above, you have the heart of a serial killer. Congratulations. You're Charles Manson.
But then something weird happened. We started to win. Yeah, we didn't make the semis. The game we lost to Ghana could have gone either way. We beat England. Landon Donovan provided the single greatest moment in USMNT history. For not winning the whole thing, that was the best tournament I've ever watched aside from the 1999 Tournament of Lord Stanley. It changed my entire perception of American footy, from the amount of people who lived and died with every passing minute to the increased interest in MLS after the tournament. I have actual conversations with Americans about soccer now, something I never thought would happen. However, the Buffalonian in me felt that couldn't last. I figured we were like England: the last half decade produced the best crop of players the US has ever had, and we may never be as good as a national squad ever again. I felt like that until last night.
Last night, while Europe played qualifiers for Euro 2012, the rest of the world played International Friendlies. The U.S. faced Argentina, a side blessed with the likes of Cambiasso, Zanetti, Mascherano, Di Maria, Sergio Aguero, and of course, Lio Messi (if you don't know who he is just stop reading this post and go to YouTube, stupid). The last time Sam's Army faced the Albicelestes, we drew 0-0. However, Argentina's dominant performance in the World Cup coupled with the sheer existence of Lionel Messi gave me little hope against our MLS-laden squad. The first half was basically the Argentinian strikeforce VS Tim Howard. Another questionable starting lineup by Bob Bradley had Jermaine Jones, a holding midfielder, starting instead of an attacker. I understand the approach to go defensive, but against Argentina, the only hope you have is to score as many as they do....followed by heavy finger crossing.
'I got this fellas.'
The second half was in keeping with what we've come to expect of the USMNT. Bradley put in Juan Agudelo, the first product of the USMNT Development program to put on a Senior Shirt, and he delivered with a tap in from an impossible angle. For the entire second half, the US looked like it could hang and maybe even beat the Argentinians....that's pretty damn remarkable if you ask me. Oguchi Onweyu and Michael Bradley basically beat the shit out Messi for 30 minutes, and the rest of the team quietly forced the Argentines to play wide, eliminating their ability to shoot dart passes into the center of the American defense. The game ended in a draw, and as much as ties piss the shit out of Americans, I turned the TV off with a feeling of victory. We drew the second best team in the world with a squad of players with only two full time EPL starters (at mid-table clubs, no less). The Argentinians were filled with guys who are the focus or at least key players at top European Clubs: Messi (Barca), Di Maria (Madrid), Zanetti (Inter), Cambiasso (Inter), Aguero (Atletico), Pastore (Palermo), Banega (Valencia), and Milito (Barca). Four Argentinian starters could conceivably play in the Champions League Final this year, and we drew them. With a squad of younger USMNT players. If that doesn't give you hope for the future of US Soccer, then you must be a Bills fan.
Deuce says 'GET THE FUCK UP!'