Sunday, September 23, 2007

Timbers and Jose and women in soccer

Lots happening in the football world this week and too little time here at apm headquarters to do it all justice, but quickly:

Of course, no news is bigger than this afternoon's semi-final showdown, Portland Timbers against the Atlanta Silverbacks in the race to the USL First Division Championship. Five p.m., PGE Park, also televised on Fox Soccer Channel, get there early and make noise until you can't. The boys tied Atlanta 1-1 in the first leg on Friday, which suddenly makes me think the USL needs the away goals rule...not because it would put the Timbers ahead of the Silverbacks (although that would be one advantage, obviously) but because it would make all the playoffs more exciting: it seems a bit weird to have traveled all that way only to produce what might as well be a 0-0 scoreline for all the difference it makes to the playoffs. Oh well; I also think US soccer needs to abandon playoffs altogether, which basically gives the regular season all the importance of a series of practices, and introduce relegation and promotion, and I would also like a puppy and a pony and to see pigs fly past my window, so, yeah. Moving on to the real world...

I am as aghast at the rest of the footballing world at the soap opera unfolding at Stamford Bridge. I'm not even going to attempt to link up to any of the gazillions of articles covering this; I'm sure you can find your own way to the main Guardian football page and beyond. (Okay: here's one.) I'm no Chelsea fan and have made no secret of how much Jose Mourinho can irritate I certainly never imagined a chain of events that would actually not only make me feel sorry for Chelsea fans, but for Mourinho himself. Anyone who drags out that tired old chestnut about Chelsea's success being due not to Mourinho's coaching skills but to Roman Abramovich's pocketbook doesn't know what he's talking about: you need look no further than the struggles of Real Madrid's superstar Galactico lineup (uh, before last season, that is) to see proof that tons of money and talent do not an unbeatable squad make. Mourinho was obviously a fantastic coach and as annoying as he could be, I loved to hate him: I am going to miss his crazy press conferences, his passive-aggressive pronouncements, his disagreeable, disdainful manner of answering questions as though he could barely bring himself to respond to the press, who were all so very far beneath him. As for Abramovich, I can't fathom how he became a billionaire if he has made insane business decisions like this in the past. My prediction: Mourinho, who's been treated disgracefully, can take his time looking for a new job if the reports are true that his contract through 2010 was bought out, and will certainly land on his feet, while Chelsea plummets in the standings, the Big Four that some swore up and down (ridiculously, I always thought) was as unchanging as the constellations is no more, and the English Premiership table gets really, really interesting this season.

Finally, I haven't been able to write about the Women's World Cup in China as I'd hoped, but the US women defeated England and move on to semifinals, while my fellow apm-er Derek predicts another victory for Germany, having viewed their middle-of-the-night (our time) beatdown of the tough North Koreans. I am really pleased that the Guardian, after initially not really seeming to realize that the tournament was even happening, is doing a lot of coverage of women's soccer, and David James in particular gives me more reasons to love him by writing multiple pieces on the tournament in China.

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