Sunday, July 23, 2006

RBNY-Columbus match

First of all, I want to give my sincerest apologies for my lack of regular posting over the past few weeks. Due to circumstances beyond my control (I moved and have had issues getting my cable and Internet set up and working at the new place), I've been TV-less and with very limited - I repeat, very limited - Internet access over the past few weeks. As the cruel irony of nature would have it, I picked the Columbus-RBNY match this past Wednesday to watch. RBNY 2 : 0 Columbus. Ugh. I definitely agree with J Michael that it was a very frustrating game to watch. It was like watching the USMNT back in France '98, or last month. I shudder to think of it. Columbus has got to tighten up the holes in their offense and start setting up and finishing goals. On the other hand, I was very impressed by the performance put in by RBNY. (Folks, this is a historic moment - I just praised RBNY's performance. I never thought I'd actually say that!) Henderson's goal was a classic, straight into the far back post, off of a beautiful setup by Buddle. At least it wasn't a complete waste watching the game.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Arena the new RBNY coach

Arena signs on to lead Red Bulls My favorite quote from the article is this:
Now Bruce Arena is looking for a new challenge, and there is perhaps none bigger in Major League Soccer than coach of the New York Red Bulls.
Now I don't know about you, but that seems like a jab at the team with only 3 wins so far this season. Nice.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Blogroll update

Yep, it's time for yet another blogroll update. Please welcome Inswingers to the blogroll.

Final thoughts

What on earth was Zidane thinking? Ever since watching him in '98, I've had immense respect for him as a player. From the looks of it, he was definitely provoked. But to totally lose it and headbutt your opponent, in front of billions of people, during the most-watched game on the planet, at a critical moment towards the end of the final, in front of card-happy refs? How dumb can you be? I would love for someone with expertise in lip-reading to find out what Materazzi said (thanks to du Nord for the link).

Italy won on a shootout. If you've read any of my posts over the last month, you should have a pretty good idea what I think about teams who win matches on PKs, be they the result of penalties or a tie-breaking shootout. Needless to say, I was not happy watching this match.

On a much happier note, Germany soundly beat Portugal 3-1. It was beautiful. And even though I've been rooting for Germany all Cup long, I must say that the Portuguese goal - a diving header - was beautiful. It definitely scores as one of my favorite goals of the tournament, even though it was scored against my team. Good game, and no shootouts. Beautiful.

On a positive note, I'm suprised how many Americans were familiar with what was happening in the World Cup this year. Back in '90, I was completely unaware that there was a such thing as the World Cup. From '94 to '02, the number of non-soccer fans who I had contact with and who were aware of the World Cup grew slowly every tournament. But this year? Not only did a much larger number of people know that the World Cup was going on, but many of them had a basic idea of which teams were winning and had opinions to boot (pun intended). Soccer and the World Cup really are taking off in the US, regardless of how the USMNT does.

So after catching up with the final, it occurred to me that Columbus had a game this past weekend. (Yes, I really did forget a Crew match. It's really quite sad, though the World Cup is a good enough excuse for me.) Turns out they lost. Ugh. My soccer weekend may have started out well with the Germany win, but it ended quite poorly with Zidane's stupidity, the French loss to Italy, and a Columbus loss.

I think I'm going through World Cup withdrawal. Now it's back to four years of MLS for me. And besides, I have only one more year to wait until the Women's World Cup.

Note: edited to correct links

Thursday, July 06, 2006

MLS update

I will return temporarily from my World Cup-induced partial MLS sabbatical to bring you the following updates (yeah, I know, no World Cup matches for two more days and only two matches left for me to get my World Cup fill until next summer):

1. DCU
2. FC Dallas
3. Houston
4. Chivas USA
5. New England
6. Colorado
7. Chicago
8. KC
9. Columbus
10. LA
11. NYRB
12. Real Salt Lake

Chivas USA winning games? Did I read that right? The things that happen when I stop following MLS for a few weeks!

If the Cup were to be played today, it would be between DCU and FCD. A quick glance at the stats would seem to indicate that DCU would have the upper hand. However, if the World Cup has been any indication, surprising things do happen, and I'm not as good at predictions as I would like to think.


France 1 : Portugal 0 I was cheering on France for this game, though the day job prevented me from being able to see any of it. However, now that I've had a chance to catch up on what happened, my feelings are mixed. On the one hand, I'm happy that France is in the finals; this way, I'll have someone to root for. I always watch the final anyways, regardless of who is is in, but it is so much more fun to be able to root for one (or both) of the teams. On the other hand, the only goal scored was a PK. Yes, a freaking penalty. Now I can partially rationalize this away by arguing that both teams had defenses capable of keeping the ball out of the goals for a full 90. However, as I have said before, I will never be able to fully accept the outcome of a crucial match that is decided by a PK - even if my team is the one who benefits from it. (Is it just me, or have PKs (and their accompanying dubious calls) been more ubiquitous this year?)

I spent my 4th watching the Italy 2 : Germany 0 match. Coming from someone who displays a hint of patriotism only when the USMNT or USWNT play, or to a much lesser degree, during the Olympics, this should not come as a surprise.

This match was good, even if the result was not to my liking. I was not able to accurately predict even one of the teams in the final. However, I at least accurately predicted that:
I see Germany as being a very serious contendor. I expect them to make it to the final, or if they play badly, to the third place match.
That at least came true; Germany did make it to the 3rd place match. They played very well for the first 90. So did Italy. There were close calls, the intensity was palpable, and the refs did not make any dubious calls (in my highly subjective opinion, that is). And, as My Soccer Blog so succinctly puts it,
once they [Italy] saw that the ref was not going to buy their diving, they actually played without all the acting. Who knew the Italians could play without rolling around in the pitch like dogs scratching at fleas?
The first 118 minutes were filled with intense, hard-fought, well-played soccer. And as much as I hate to admit it, those goals by Italy were good, beautiful goals. And although many people (myself included) agree that Italy advanced on the merits of some Oscar-worthy acting and bad calls by the refs, they did deserve to win this game. Their defense kept a strong German offense scoreless, even though Germany seemed to have the upper hand for most of the game. That brings me to another thing: am I the only one who misses the golden goal?

Every World Cup has its share of surprises. USA '94 had the USMNT advancing out of group play (probably other stuff too, but I was relatively new to soccer at the time and it was my first exposure to anything higher than community soccer leagues, so I don't remember much more). France '98 had Croatia placing 3rd. Korea/Japan '02 had the USMNT making it to the quarterfinals. And so on. This year's surprise comes in the form of a final between Italy and France, and a relatively early exit from an under-achieving Brazil. I never dreamed of Italy being in the finals this year. (On a side note, it kind of makes me happy that the USMNT was able to tie one of the teams in the finals.) And although I did not expect to see France in the finals, they've played well enough, and apparently their World Cup success over the past decade has been entirely dependent upon home continent advantage (France '98: champions, Korea/Japan '02: early exit). On that note, it should not come as a surprise for them to be in the finals in a bordering country.

Note: edited for typos

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Blogroll update

Yes, it is yet again time for another update. Please welcome New York Red Bulls to the blogroll. That makes me wonder: why aren't there any more Columbus blogs out there? (Stop that smirking, all you non-Crew fans!) If you know of some, feel free to post the links in the comments.

Quarterfinal musings

My Cup prediction accuracy keeps going down and down. Just the other day I predicted a Germany-England or Germany-Brazil final. However, as you may well know, neither prediction is now possible. Well, a final with Germany in it is still very likely, and after seeing France play, a final with them in it is also looking very possible. I'll be rooting for both of them in the semis.

My thoughts on the English loss are mixed. I am definitely sad to see them leave. However, at least they left after a good performance. Somehow it is easier for me to accept a team losing after they have played well, than after they have played poorly (hence my prolonged sadness over the USMNT's early exit). Now I realize that this is something that few Americans wuld understand, but it was a good game. Any game where two teams can play for a full 120 and not score one goal is a good one. Why? It means that they are two evenly matched teams. The excitement and intensity that just radiates from that kind of match is completely incomprehensible to the average American fan, yet it drives the average futbol fan. So, while I find that kind of match, played between two evenly-matched teams playing on the highest level known to the sport, intensely exciting, it is still sad that the game had to be decided by PKs. I never consider games decided by shootouts to be accurate representations of the quality of a team's play. (That may very well be due to my years as 'keeper.)

I was completely shocked when I saw that Brazil was out in the quarterfinals. Out of all the World Cups that I've watched ('94, '98, '02, and of course '06), this is the first time that I have not seen Brazil in the final. For that matter, I won't even get to see them in the 3rd place match. Do you have any idea how absolutely huge this is for me? Brazil not in the semis? Who knew?

Note: edited for typos