Wow. Weekdays suck. I started my week with a crapload of work all jammed together like the Buffalo News Sports staff trying to ride an elevator together, then followed it with a bunch of exhaustion, and now the week is almost done and I figured I'd scrap together a few thoughts to impart to you before the weekend. Why? Because fuck you that's why.
Join me. And imagine me saying that in as non-creepy was as possible.
This is as belated as we've been in a while. Maybe the dad among us shouldn't promise to edit anymore, particularly on a noght of such heavy drinking. With esteemed Deeg colleague Monsieur Boner Shorts in town, things got weird.
I won't bother recapping it, except to say this was recorded the night of Tuesday, March 26th, in the midst of Sabres, Knicks, USMNT, Clippers/Mavs and shots of whiskey. Also, the Scizz was there, so if you love the soft tones of his Franklinville accent, make sure to join in the fun with a download.
or stream below if you want, whatever. Subscribe via the itunes link below, or via RSS at www.deargodwhyussports.libsyn.com/rss ... I think?
Checking out Jeremy White's twitter feed. Considering just quitting.
What a busy week it has been at DGWU Sports! Between news of the NHL Lockout and our battles with the various personalities at WGR for refusing, as is their custom, to engage with viewpoints other than (a) their own, or (b) those of the mouthbreathers who call into WGR and make it their mission to express their vehement disdain for everything in the world, there was a LOT to discuss when we gathered Wednesday night. More shots were fired and kindling put onto the world of Buffalo sports media so that we can continue to watch it burn. Heh. Sports.
Oh, and there are those Buffalo Bills, too, which is actually where we started in segment one as we recapped the shit show that was Sunday with the Deeg. Bills @ Cardinals was by no means an enjoyable time, but recapping the fun times we had and the trainwreck of a game ended up being pretty fun/depressing/rage-inducing.
In segment two we welcomed Colin Bruckel, one of the founders of TheHosers.com
, a site we have linked to for a while and which provides stellar insight about the legal issues surrounding professional hockey and, in particular, the CBA. Colin's assessment of the current CBA negotiations was as interesting and well-presented as any I've heard, and it is an understatement to say that we were lucky to have him on. I would note, however, that since our discussion took place before the NHLPA presented its own offers to the league (and before Bettman rejected them immediately), you'll want to keep an eye on his site for more hot legal takes. Or you could continue being ignorant and just keep listening to the superficialities of sports talk radio.
Segment three brings it back to our wheelhouse of inappropriateness and ill-conceived sports takes as we talk the USMNT's win on Tuesday, the NBA's new policy restricting pre-game celebrations, Apologist's suicidal ideations following the Orioles' elimination from the playoffs, and our predictions for the Bills/Titans game this weekend. I must add that we had intended to talk more about (read: make fun of) Shawne Merriman's return to Buffalo, but had to toss that to the back burner so we'd have time to talk about the more pressing issues of gloating about our intellectual superiority over talk radio hosts. It's a burden, really. In any event, I'm hopeful that Merriman's second tenure in the 716 will give us plenty of opportunities to point and laugh.
Musical interludes this week are provided by Broken Bells, Gov't Mule & REO Speedwagon, as well as - of course - The Jambrones.
Download here and stream below, or check out our Libsyn
page or iTunes button below where you can get all of our archived podcasts and subscribe for future hot, aural takes.
7,200 feet above sea level. Six tiers of unmitigated, raucous hell. An All - Seater in name only, with barely raised benches in the style of old Football Fortresses/Deathtraps The Ibrox, Old Wembley, and Parc Des Princes. It is the only stadium to hold two World Cup Finals, professional home of Club America, and spiritual/actual home of our most hated rival, El Tri. Behold, Estadio Azteca.
"We throw piss and cerveza on your players! And batteries! Ole!"
0-23-1. That's the Yanks record in Mexico since we started to think seriously about having a footy squad Stateside in 1984. We haven't elected to do a friendly match there in almost 30 years. We've NEVER beaten them in the Azteca. IF YOU HAVEN'T FIGURED IT OUT YET WE ARE SCAREDY PANTS NANCY BOYS WHEN IT COMES TO PLAYING MEXICO IN THEIR BACKYARD. Jurgen Klinsmann, our fearless leader and participant in some of Europe's greatest Professional and National rivalries, has decided it's time to make our boys sack up and face the music at the Azteca, tournaments be damned (If the previous USMNT administration had their druthers, they would wait until the very last dying minute with a gun to their heads to play at The Azteca and ONLY if it was for a FIFA sanctioned tournament).
The World's Biggest Pussy.
Sweet jersey, bro.
Three out of every four years, this is the point in the summer where sports cease to matter for me on their usual day-to-day basis. The Mets are inevitably out of the playoff picture (check), the Sabres have underwhelmed in an offseason in which they needed to pick up the pieces from a disastrous finish to last season (check), the Bills look promising but for the fact that they're the Buffalo Fucking Bills (check), and the various European footy leagues are still a couple weeks away (check). Summer provides its own distractions of day drinking and beach visits and eye candy throughout the five boroughs (well... four, since Staten Island is, well, Staten Island). And of course there's MLS action which continues to impress, particularly with the Red Bulls (who, incidentally, I caught live Tuesday night when they played Tottenham... I'd recap that match but, let's be real, I was drinking, coming off a separate four day bender and there's not much to say than that the Spurs looked pretty good when they tried and that they showed why the MLS still has a few years/decades to catch up with the quality of top-notch European clubs).
But, one of every four years, we get the Olympics to keep us busy in late July/early August so that we don't have to feel quite so down about the Mets or the Sabres or the Bills (or whatever other shit burger squads you happen to follow) each looking like minor league organizations trying to keep pace with the big boys. I've always been a huge fan of the Summer Olympics since it plays the role of gap-filler and since it typically happens while I have a little bit more free time than usual to watch endless hours of sports I know nothing about and drink enough tallboys to convince myself that I'm actually an expert. Back in '08, I absorbed the Beijing games on the heels of taking the NY bar exam, which worked out perfectly even if my family did start to question my motive in watching back-to-back matches of women's beach volleyball. (Spoiler: it was the ass shots
, of course). This year, I have a little bit less free time, being employed and all, though I did get to check out quite a lot of it during a three day bachelor party weekend, and have kept up with the bigger goings-on since getting back to NYC Monday night.
The Barrister and The Scizz
Back with another installment of the Infinite Sadness podcast, the Scizz and I talked through a series of topics - most actually sports-related. Amazing how we can stay on topic when we're not drunk.
We discuss the Kings' Game 6 win and take jabs at their fan base and then have a lengthy discussion about the Sabres offseason as we approach free agency next month. We also discuss the NBA finals briefly, and give thanks to Guatemala for tossing the World Cup Qualifier on pay-per-view last night. Other tidbits include jokes about masturbation, Tim Connolly, our fantasy for Derek Roy's demise, and horse racing. We're classy.
Musical contributions from Jurassic 5 and Dilated Peoples.
Download and stream the cast, which runs about 30 minutes, below.
|File Size: ||29344 kb|
|File Type: || mp3|
My chosen sports have been fairly dormant, thus leaving the typical Yachtist rage to rest whilst I enjoy summer cocktails on the poop deck. Therefore I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Sunil Gulati and the rest of the crew at the U.S. Men's National Team for hiring Der Golden Bombenschutze, Jeurgen Klinsmann.
Ich Bin Ein Klinsmanner.
I have been a Bradley naysayer since the day he was hired, and a Klinsmann supporter since his name first started being bandied about by higher-ups at USMNT. Klinsmann's hiring represents a drastic and much needed change in direction for the USMNT and American football in general. This team has needed fresh new leadership since Bora Milutinovic left in 95. Instead, it was handed to trusted same-olds Steve Sampson, Bruce Arena, and Bob Bradley. The tremendous strides US Footy took from the late 80s into the mid-90s came to a screeching halt somewhere during the Arena tenure (2003, specifically) and have laid stagnant since. Before I go any further trashing the US Footy system, I'll drop this disclaimer: I am a firm believer that the USMNT can no longer look within for development. We need to bring Continental/International football wholly into the US. MLS has understood this for years, bringing in designated players and hiring international coaches. I don't know exactly what can be done, but bringing in the guy who set the framework for the Deutscheland Fussball Revolution is a pretty awesome start.
Ja! Das is gut!
The hallmark of Klinsmann's brief stays at both Bayern Munich & Germany was the total revolution of the entire program. The German National Team was the most affected by this. Klinsmann brought together the entire coaching fraternity of the Bundesliga, explained the way he wanted Germans to be taught and how they should play (some were more open to the idea than others, however), and worked to instill that at all levels of German football. Additionally, he hired those around him to be successful in areas he wasn't (i.e. gameday coaching - the hiring of Joachim Low, now the current national team coach), improved facilities, and forced the German FA to think more forwardly in terms of exercise science, preparation, and injury rehabilitation.
In the US, Klinsmann won't meet nearly the same amount of pushback as he did in the first months of his German & Bayern tenures. The MLS/NCAA & the USMNT have one of the most cooperative pro/development/national team relationships in all of world football. One of Klinsmann's previous demands is that he be given authoritative control of the program should he take the position, so I imagine he will be the de facto head of US Soccer from youth all the way up through the professional ranks since he finally relented on the 3rd try (Gulati previously tried to hire Klinsmann in secret twice but apparently was rebuffed).
Time to sack up, Lando.
SELECTION, SWEET SELECTION:If you're a fan of the USMNT, the worst part of your game day was the lineup card for the starting 11. The combination of lack of talent (left back) and lack of direction (Bradley) led to some of the dumbest lineups in history. Donovan benched until the 2nd half of a Gold Cup game? Check. Jonathan Boornstein even WEARING a Yank jersey? Check. Klinsmann, on the other hand, clearly has an eye for talent, which should lead to smart lineups on game day.
This bodes pretty well for guys like Stu Holden, Freddy Adu, and Eric Lichaj. I'll be thoroughly convinced if Klinsmann hands the Centre Back reigns to my boy Tim Ream. Watching his passing prowess in New York has convinced me he is the answer to the Onweyu loss, and he would fit well into Klinsmann's philosophy, leading me to my next point...PHILOSOPHY:If you're sick and tired of Bob Bradley's hackneyed version of "Catenaccio", you'll be happy to read this article written by him after the 2010 World Cup thrashing of England by Germany.
Of course, whenever anyone hears the words "Attacking Football", expectations immediately skyrocket to Barca Football, laser passes, and Klose hat tricks. Klinsmann won't have nearly that kind of talent on his hands, but as we take longer strides towards success in the states, instilling an attacking philosophy in the ranks will be deeply beneficial. I for one am excited to see the boys learn how to actually run off the ball (anyone else tired of Landycakes' passes skidding towards the touchline because nobody is there to smash them home?).
I know this guy is pumped!
I'm pumped for this hire. It's a step in the right direction, and perfectly timed as World Cup 2014 Cycle starts now. First game is against Mexico, and although it's a friendly....it's fucking Mexico. Let's see what Der Panzerkapten can do vs El Tri.
*disclaimer: this post was hastily written due to a combination of immense writer's block, excitement over Bob Bradley's firing, and a vicous world-ending hangover. Please excuse my choppy prose and unsubstantiated arguments.
(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
Ah yes, the Beautiful Game. See, Scizz? Soccer is awesome!
With the Gold Cup just around the corner, FC Buffalo's season now underway, the Women's World Cup on the horizon later this month - and the Mets struggling to even be watchable - soccer will be getting some pretty consistent coverage over the next couple months. The Yachtsman - previously the sole promoter of the Beautiful Game here on DGWU Sports - has been without internet access for about a week now, so after a big weekend of Buffalo and National Team games, I'll take this opportunity to recap the action. And, with the US Men's National Team opening Gold Cup play Tuesday vs. Canada, while I'm at Citi Field enjoying a live friendly between Greece and Ecuador, make sure to check back later this week for recaps of those games as well.
Spain 4, USA 0: Warm-up Game or Not, Americans Embarass Themselves in Front of a Record Crowd at Gillette Stadium
For my first footy roundup, this game was slated to be the main attraction - actually the only game I'd be able to watch, what with a pretty busy schedule and the 400 odd miles between my apartment and All-High Stadium in Buffalo. Now I just feel depressed spending this much time thinking about it. DEAR LORD I HATE YOU FERNANDO TORRES. I HOPE YOU CATCH THE PLAGUE.
There, I feel marginally better.
Despite the fact that the USMNT took a victory away the last time these two teams played, we all knew this Spanish squad would be tough to beat again, particularly as they're still riding high from their World Cup win last summer. I also know that the US team had a recent string of, well, shitty results. Sure, they drew against Argentina, but they also drew against Chile and lost to Paraguay. Not bad teams - in fact, Chile has cracked the top 10 in the world rankings in the past year - but still disappointing given the high that US fans were on coming off of last year's group win in South Africa. In essence, I wasn't expecting too much on Saturday, but was at least hoping for something watchable.
Unfortunately, the match brought the team's recent record into sharper focus, as Spain exposed the US side's many flaws - on both ends - and embarrassed the team and its record-setting crowd of supporters in Foxboro with a lopsided 4-0 beatdown. Hell, I'm used to seeing my team go to Gillette Stadium with optimism for an upset and lay a turd, but even this was shocking. Four - nil is bad, and it could have easily been much, much worse.
In case you missed it, well, you're lucky. I'll give you the Spanish language version of the highlights so we don't have to listen to John Harkes try to convince us that they did it better in his day.
Now, I know they were playing with reserves in a lot of positions - trying to avoid injury before the "games that matter" begin this week, as well as missing a few key guys due to injuries - but, honestly, those reserves are still part of a group that represents THE BEST PLAYERS WE HAVE IN THIS COUNTRY. They're still professionals, and they should still be good enough to, I don't know, mark players in the box and make sure Spanish strikers don't get uncontested looks from 11 yards out. Tim Howard, as good as he is, was laid out to dry all afternoon, and his frustration showed. And, the reserves issue doesn't begin to explain or excuse the continued absence of any legitimate strikers on this team. Simply put, until the US team gets a striker who can shoot the ball without hesitation and with the touch of a pure scorer, we better get used to these mixed results in international play. This is where the US team has failed in recent years, and - even though a goal or two wouldn't have helped on Saturday - the lack of a pure scorer playing the forward position was one of the glaring holes against Spain. I can't count how many times someone got a decent through ball - actually, I can count...it wasn't that many...maybe two - only to have the player hesitate, look to pass, or just look clueless. Here's an idea: SHOOT THE BALL. Maybe it goes in, maybe it goes wide, but until the US players start believing that that they have the talent to finish, we'll be dealing with a lot of games like this.
This US Team is a string of disappointments, frankly, and unless they can muster up the pride to make a run at winning the Gold Cup, it may be time to show Bob Bradley the door and bring in some international coaching talent to shake this squad up. At a certain point, with the national development of the game, and the instances where we've seen the US play some decent, competitive football against the best in the world, games like Saturday's just aren't acceptable.
That said, they can bounce back with a great result tomorrow night against Canada and prove me wrong. Just do it, Yanks.
FC Buffalo 2, Pocono Snow 0; FC Buffalo 1, Erie Douch...er.... Admirals 2: The Blitzers Split their Home Games and Remain In the Keystone Conference Hunt
Needless to say, I didn't watch either of these games, but the interwebs did keep me in the loop. Salvaging my Saturday night after the USMNT debacle were our dear FC Buffalo Blitzers, who got a solid win against the Pocono Snow. I'll refrain from any cocaine-related jokes (after all, I never did like it when people said I went to "Snow-Bart and William Sniff Colleges"), and just say that it seemed like the team really hit their stride with Saturday evening's match. A clean sheet is always a team effort, and it was encoruaging to hear that the team got one for their first home win. Incidentally, spirits surrounging this game were also brightened today when I saw a Pocono player's twitter love for FC Buffalo's team and fans.
@Paddybhoy14, you are an Irish gentleman. Remind me to buy you a shot when DGWU visits E. Stroudburg in a few weeks.
The good vibes surrounding the Pocono match were decidedly NOT repeated in the Sunday matinee against Erie - a 2-1 loss. Reports of the game via Nick Mendola
, FC Buffalo co-owner and President, made it clear that the Admirals were doing their best Greg Louganis impersonations throughout the afternoon, thus securing themselves with a 1st half PK and an ultimate victory. Despite that, it was certainly nice to see Nick hold on to the concept of quality football over the stereotypes that so often define this under-appreciated sport in America.
As if Erie's asinine on-field antics weren't bad enough, in response to a FB post on FC Buffalo's page last night, a few players from the Erie team went trolling, accomplishing little apart from (1) making themselves look like asses, and (2) ensuring that members of The Situation Room
will be making the trip down I-90 for the revenge match later this summer. In particular, Danny Muidd and Biran Fitzgerald, I'm looking at you two DBs:
Good work guys. You've now guaranteed a shit storm of heckling down in PA.
My sources - aka some tweeps who actually get to go to games (my jealousy runs deep, friends) - have informed me that there was some sort of spat regarding the goalkeeper - Dan Mudd - talking some shit about USA, and some Blitzer supporter putting him in his place. So our dear pal Danny took it upon himself to fight back with some semi-coherent points - including a mischaracterization of FC Buffalo's length of existence - and then was backed up by his teammate Mr. Fitzgerald. Whatever. They won, so their points necessarily carry weight, even if they are showing themselves to be morons incapable of using google for some basic info.
Speaking of Google, it tells me that Dan Mudd
is actually an awful human being who steered Fannie Mae into $2.2 billion in losses over a three monin 2008. Wait, not the same "Dan Mudd?" Says who? I can't verify that online, so I'm going to assume google is telling me the truth. THANKS A LOT DANNY, YOU LOVER OF SANTORUM (the substance, nor the Senator...). Enjoy your fucking government bailout and your win. The real Americans from Buffalo will make sure to pack their whoopin' sticks when they travel down to your pathetic excuse of a Great Lakes town. As for me, I'll make sure to spread the word about you and your classlessness, ensuring that the five people who read this blog taunt you with every breath they take.
Even Erie's own "The Wonders" are embarassed by Danny and his America-hating ways.
I LOVE YOU HOPE
USA 1, Mexico 0: The USWNT steals a late winner in their send off before the 2011 Women's World Cup
Having already gone through enough analysis with little to no respect for the fact that I didn't watch the games I'm talking about, I'll keep my comments about the USWNT's game versus rivals Mexico on Sunday brief. While the Men's team was a sure underdog on Saturday, the Women's team was the exact opposite. Heading into stoppage time in the second frame, still knotted at zeros, the result was looking just as much of an embarassment as the Spain result the day before. The ladies, playing their final game on home soil before heading abroad for the World Cup later this month in Germany - where they hope to regain the Cup after two cycles of 3rd place finishes and German champions - looked less than stellar, well, until this happened.
Hey, USMNT - take some GODDAMN NOTES. Say all you want about the fact that they're women - sexist jerks - but that was a world-class strike. They keep doing that, and we could all be in for a treat when the matches in Germany get under way.
So there you have it, friends. A full weekend of football, with a healthy mix of success and failure to keep us fans interested, but not hopeful; to keep us watching, but never forgetful of the motto - Dear God, Why Us?
Check back later this week for reports and pictures from Citi Field's hosting of Ecuador and Greece, as well as thoughts on the USMNT as they open Gold Cup play against Canada.
Follow me on Twitter @theycallmedubs
And the Dear God, Why Us? Crew @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!'