Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Racing Santander v. Barcelona

Three goals in seven minutes from three different players. And by the 27th minute of the first half, it wouldn’t have been arrogant to consider the game over. I’m surprised that Racing Santander didn’t just turn out the lights in the stadium during half-time so that their shell-shocked supporters could split to feed their sorrows with plentiful plates of boquerones and mugs of Estrella Galacia. Surrender now before things got even worse and Barcelona really started getting their groove on.

But this is football. Teams, especially good and respectable teams like Racing, don’t give in even when they’re obviously outclassed by the flashier more powerful Barça. Still, it’s got to be rough for their fans. I don’t think anyone would have blamed them if they’d ditched their team and headed for the exits.

But this is football and supporters don’t do that. Ever. Thankfully, Óscar Serrano gave the home fans something to cheer about in the 72nd minute when he slipped the ball through defender Rafa Marquez’s feet and scored one past keeper Victor Valdes who seriously didn’t have much to do before then.

It’s been a good four weeks of La Liga and it’s difficult to imagine but Barça look even stronger than they did last season. I wasn’t sure how Ibrahimovic was going to fit into the squad—he seemed selfish and petulant to me while playing at Inter and for the Swedish national team—but his kinetic repartee with Messi, keen vision, and physical strength up front is excellent and he’s fun to watch. He’s also more dependable than either Eto’o or Henry when it comes to finishing.

I know it’s early still, but I think Barça are realistically on their way toward another brilliant season.

Racing Santander 1, Barcelona 4.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bring Me the Head of Diego Maradona

One of the great heartbreaks of my soccer-watching life was watching Argentina lose against Germany in the quarter finals of the 2006 World Cup. But I knew that with so many great players in the squad--Messi, Riquelme, Crespo, Aimar, Cambiasso, Coloccini, Tevez, Mascherano, Zanetti, Milito, Heinze, and others--that they'd arrive in South Africa ready to make things right. Unfortunately, many of the above players (Riquelme, Crespo, Aimar, Cambiasso, Coloccini) are no longer on the team for various reasons. Messi, so brilliant with Barcelona, is played as a striker instead of the gadfly forward Pep utilizes, and Tevez and Palermo (Palermo!) are disappointing to say the least.

So what's it going to take for the once-great player to step down from managing the Argentinian national squad? With the team currently in fifth place in their World Cup qualifying group and at risk of not making it into the tournament next summer, is Maradona so untouchable that he can't be fired? Is he so arrogant that he can't see that the best thing for the team, for his country, is to walk away after last night's defeat against Paraguay?

Don't answer the last question. I should know better than to ask it.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

a few thoughts on the confederations cup, part four (and the end): New Zealand and Iraq

And now we come to the two teams I saw the least of in this tournament. (It was a scheduling issue, not deliberate avoidance!)

New Zealand. You know, as a sometime-supporter of the US team and an always-supporter of the Portland Timbers, I have an inkling of what it felt like to be a New Zealand fan in this tournament. These guys' reward for winning the OFC Cup (Oceanic Football Confederation) was to be sent to South Africa, where they were pummelled by Spain (5-0), kicked for good measure by South Africa (2-0), and hung on screaming by their fingernails for their most respectable showing against Iraq (0-0). They never looked like a strong squad, and aren't terribly likely to turn up in the World Cup given the difficulties of qualifying from Oceania (the generous .5 spot for a team from the region means a 3rd place Asian team must be beaten to make it in), although they did make it in back in 1982, and stranger things have happened.

Iraq. You always want Iraq to do well because, well, it just sorta seems like the average Iraqi soccer fan has enough angst in their life these days without the footie sucking as well, you know? And their success story at the 2007 Asian Cup won everyone's hearts, unless you possessed one of Grinch-sized proportions. But the team has some strikes against it, not the least of which is their inability to play home games on their own soil. They're already out of the running for next year's World Cup, having fallen third place to Australia and Qatar in an earlier group round. And like New Zealand, they exited the Confederations Cup without having scored a single goal. Serbian manager Bora Milutinović, who actually coached the US in the 1994 World Cup, has been there less than three months. If he sticks around perhaps he'll be able to shape them up a bit for 2014.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

a few thoughts on the confederations cup, part three: Brazil and Italy

Brazil. To anyone who follows world soccer, it's not news that Brazil doesn't samba across the pitch any longer, and hasn't for a long time. These days they look like a talented team, but not one with a style that sets them significantly apart from other talented teams. But while joga bonito may have seen better days in Brazil, this is also not the leadfooted defensive-minded Brazil that shocked many of us in the 2007 Copa América. Whether or not Dunga, their coach, cared about the criticism leveled at his dull-but-successful squad at that time, he's definitely fielding a more attacking and creative team these days.

And yet Brazil doesn't rouse an ounce of passion in me--I'm an Argentina girl myself, and somehow the magic of Kaká and Robinho, Alexander Pato, Gilberto Silva and Dani Alves (when he's not at Barça) and all the rest fails to move me. Or maybe I'm just stuck in the past, missing that Ronaldo and Ronaldinho magic. (And yeah, both of those guys, past their heydays much too early, have been guilty of wholly uninspired performances on the pitch as well.)

They were champions in this tournament; they'll do well in the World Cup. But they're not invulnerable, and for a little while on Sunday it looked like the US might beat them. However, the 3-2 scoreline was a little bit of a lie; the disallowed second goal was entirely legit and the score ought to have been 4-2. Had the US won that match the result would have always been tainted with that unfortunate call.

Italy. I like several of the Italian players, I've enjoyed quite a few Serie A matches in my day, and Joe McGinniss's Miracle of Castel di Sangro, about one Terza Categoria's team improbable rise to Serie B is one of my favorite books ever. And yet watching Italy never fails to make me mad sooner or later. Maybe it's the reputation (no longer deserved) for catenaccio, or the ease with which they go to ground; then there's Daniel DeRossi's elbow-in-the-face to Brian McBride in Germany in 2006, Marco Materazzi's goading of Zidane in the final, the unpleasant association of some Italian players with fascist ideology. I don't know; I can't explain it.

I was sorry the US couldn't exact a little payback for the World Cup brawl, but I took satisfaction in Italy's departure following the group stages. Will the world champions look more formidable in a year's time? Eh, probably. But they're an older squad, and they need to inject some more youth into their ranks if they want to go all the way again in South Africa.

And speaking of young talent, I know a lot of Americans are all het up--in varying degrees of seriousness--over young Guiseppe Rossi's decision to play for Italy instead of the US. Jaysus, people. It's not as though he grew up here and obtained foreign citizenship through some long-dead great-grandparent or something. He was born in the US to immigrant parents and moved back to Italy to play for Parma when he was 13. I'm not surprised he doesn't have particularly strong ties to this country, and I don't blame him one bit for choosing a national team that's likely to get him a lot more playing time at a much higher level and is probably, at this point in his life, closer to his heart culturally.

(And yeah...if Italy faces the US again in South Africa next year, and Rossi ends up being decisive in an Italian victory, all my high-mindedness is likely to evaporate in a spittle-crazed vindictive rant about traitors and deserters. But that's football for ya. Watch this space.)

Monday, June 29, 2009

a few thoughts on the confederations cup, part two: Spain, South Africa

Spain. Spain started out cool, calm, and collected, tiki-taka-ing right on over poor New Zealand with a 5-0 blowout. Here I confess that it really never occurred to me that they wouldn't be in the final. They entered the tournament with a winning streak of more than 30 games; who was going to defeat them en route? Certainly not the US! Mea culpa. In retrospect, it's quite clear to me I was guilty of that very arrogance I despise in other fans and players: the assumption that my team possessed some sort of entitlement to victory. That'll teach me.

You might say that the Spain we saw in South Africa this month was the Spain we're more accustomed to seeing on the world stage, the Spain everyone predicted in Euro 2008: starting out strong and gorgeous, hardly seeming to break a sweat, followed by utter disintegration. Some pundits have said in the past that Spain can't win because the Spanish team, like Spain itself, is hopelessly divided by regionalisms: they are Basques, perhaps, or Catalans, before they are Spaniards. I don't know if that's true, or ever has been, but I don't think it was the case in South Africa on June 24.

I've been puzzling over what went wrong there. The short version is that the US defeated Spain because the US played superior football that day, and it's true--Xavi was slightly off throughout the game; David Villa and Fernando Torres were terrible, incapable of finishing (and the pressure Torres was placing upon himself in the third-place match as a result was unmistakeable). But beyond that--and here I'm looking for reasons, not making excuses--Iniesta, who plays so well with Xavi, was missing, still recovering from late-season injuries. And a number of the key players were Barca boys--and thus at the end of an exhausting season in which they claimed the triple.

At any rate, the pressure's off Spain now to maintain that winning streak. Here's hoping they've been reminded of their vulnerability and they'll learn from their mistakes in time to claim their first-ever World Cup victory in 2010.

South Africa. These guys were probably my happiest surprise of the tournament. Well, okay, besides the US's excellent run into the finals. I don't get to see African teams play nearly as much as I'd like, and I enjoyed watching Egypt play a lot, but I knew they were good: South Africa was spirited and much better than I expected, and along with Spain certainly provided the most thrilling five minutes of the entire tournament in the third-place playoff on Sunday. It was looking like a sure 1-0 defeat for Spain right up to the 88th minute when Daniel Guiza sank the ball home to ensure overtime. But wait! One absurd minute later, Guiza did it again! Oh, the stricken faces of the South Africa fans! Shock, despair, tears, departures in the stands. But wait--here's stoppage time and in the 93rd minute Katlego Mphela (who'd also scored the previous goal) leveled the scoreline again. I was rooting for Spain but I screamed "Oh yeah!" Apparently as the roar went up within the stadium, the fair-weather fans who were on their way out went running back in. South Africa fell anyway in the end, to Xabi Alonso's overtime goal, but this time you felt they'd had a decent chance versus the cruelty of those last-minute shockers, and while the fans looked sad again, there was less of the punched-in-the-gut air about them. I loved this team and I can't wait to watch them again next year, and I like their capable coach Joel Santana, a Brazilian ex-defender with a history of saving clubs from relegation in Brasileirão, Brazil's top league.

to be continued...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

some thoughts on the Confederations Cup, part one: Team USA

Wow! That was fun!

For those of you wondering what the heck is going on with this international-tournament-that-isn't-a-World Cup, the FIFA Confederations Cup is played every four years in the year before the World Cup, hosted by the same country that will host the following year's World Cup. Eight teams participate, generally the champions of their respective continents as well as the previous World Cup winner and the host country national team. It's a great trial run for the participating teams and for the host country. The tournament is not without controversy; it used to be held every two years, which was, as many argued, a bit much, given how many demands are made on top players as it is, and in 2005 FIFA wisely changed it to an every-four-years affair.

You'll also hear differing opinions as to its importance. My own view is that it's somewhere in the middle; I wouldn't call it a major tournament, necessarily, but neither is it a lot of meaningless friendlies as some might try to argue. It's definitely lower-key than the European Football Championships or the Copa América or--certainly--the World Cup, and for that very reason, I find it a lot of fun to watch without a lot of the angst and stress that accompany more significant championships.

So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on the teams from the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa.

USA. Now you all know how I feel about the US Men's National Team--our checkered past, my brief flights of infatuation followed by a refusal to commit, my dissatisfaction with their style of play and attitude. But--but--but! This team did what no other US team has yet managed: they won my heart. Oh, I cursed the day they (rightfully) trounced a disarrayed Spain, but seeing them transform from the ineffectual squad that limped through matches against Italy (1-3) and Brazil (0-3) into the scrappy underdogs who clawed their possibly-undeserving way out of the group stages with a rather astounding win against Egypt (3-0) and then to organized and spirited finalists--well, now, that's a narrative to fall in love with! This US team has struggled in some regional World Cup qualifiers and at the start of this tournament I commented that I thought this was a poorer side than the US fielded in either 2002 or 2006. Today, I think that the US might actually make their most respectable showing yet at next year's World Cup.

Among the things the US needs to work on now is consistency, communication (let's work on those passes!), and a lighter defensive touch. They were sent off in three out of five matches and while one or more of those calls may have been questionable, the fact remains that factions in the US are overfond of the "professional foul," that tactical maneuver which says it's okay to cheat, potentially injure an opposing player, and sacrifice yourself in the interest of stopping a goal. Sorry, I call bullshit; I consider the professional foul the most egregious of footballing sins, far worse than the handball or the dive.

Having said that, I was particularly pleased with Jonathan Spector's defending and some really skillful tackles he made. A few years ago, I was at the Marathon in Portland watching an Arsenal v. West Ham match with my fellow apm-ers Lisa and Derek. I was a neutral, rooting for West Ham for my Hammers-supporting friends' sake. At one point, I commented that Spector was making some rough tackles. Two heads swivelled; drinks in hand, my comrades both snarled at me defensively "He's doing his job!" "Right," I whispered meekly, sinking back behind my pint of Guinness.

Other observations on the US team: I'm not yet convinced by the Jozy Altidore hype and I'm waiting for him to impress me. In the early stages, when the US was playing so poorly, I really wanted Bob Bradley to put in Freddy Adu and see what he could do--not because Adu's impressed me in recent memory, but because the squads Bradley was fielding in those early matches played in so astoundingly mediocre a fashion I figured hey, might as well give ex-wunderkind Freddy another shot at it. Now this Charlie Davies, on the other hand, had some fantastic plays and I'm looking forward to seeing more of him. Tim Howard, after a shaky start (was he really the right choice for the national team keeper, I found myself asking) just got better and better and absolutely deserved his Golden Glove.

Poor Clint Dempsey, and indeed the entire team, looked absolutely devastated following their 3-2 loss against Brazil in the final. And good for that--I want a team that plays with every single ounce of courage and heart and feels broken by anything less than a win. My love of Argentina and Spain, those players and that style of beautiful passing football, will always trump my support for the US team, but this was a great week for US soccer. Bob Bradley and his squad should be very proud of themselves indeed. The US team made history; let's do it again in 2010.

To be continued...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

FA Cup: Chelsea v Everton

Well... I don't have a lot to say about this because I only caught most of the second half. But what I saw (that second Chelsea goal from Lampard was brilliant) seemed to favor Chelsea all the way. Malouda was robbed of that goal in the 79 minute too, so the scoreline should have been greater. But Chelsea is used to disappointment of late.

Not today, though. Not today.


Chelsea 2, Everton 1. And I'll have to check out the replay to see the fastest FA Cup goal ever (25 seconds!) courtesy of Everton's Louis Saha. Good stuff.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Visça Barça!

Don't have a lot to say right now. My head is still spinning. But damn, Barcelona did it right.

Congratulations to Pep and the team!

More later....

Thursday, May 07, 2009


The aftermath of the Chelsea v Barca Champions League semi-final game yesterday has been... well, nasty. I can understand why Chelsea supporter's feel crushed and I won't dig the shank in deeper. But I have to say that Drogba's and Ballack's performances after the game and the supposed "handball" incident with Eto'o respectively, as well as manager Hiddink's comments about some kind of UEFA conspiracy that prevented Chelsea from winning, were ridiculous.

We won. They lost. We didn't play up to our standards but we didn't blow it either. Great teams don't self-destruct and we didn't. We held on, we kept our composure, even after the red card against Abidal, and we pulled off a miracle. Chelsea scored that incredible goal early on, but they were never able to build upon it. It happens. So they dive, dive, dive, and then whine to the ref when the calls did not go their way. Barcelona have been accused countless times of doing the same thing. Drogba should consider himself lucky he didn't get a yellow card for diving. We won. They lost. It's over.

But a conspiracy? Please. The sense of entitlement from Chelsea, but from most of the top Premiership clubs in general, is astounding. It's difficult for me to believe that anyone would want to see another England league match disguised as the Champions League final again, but a conspiracy by UEFA to prevent Chelsea from winning their due European crown? I mean, they're entitled to win it! Suitcases of money had been exchanged beforehand cementing their victory! Roman Abramovich promised that it was a done deal! How come the ref didn't abide by the deal?

See how silly it is? Ah, cheer up Chelsea. You still have Everton to molest and take your frustrations out on.

For a more reasoned approach to yesterday's game, you can read Nic's great reflections over at FCBnews here.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

live blogging: Chelsea v. Barcelona, Champions League Semi-Final, Second Leg

Derek: Wow, is right. Thanks to everyone and anyone who stopped by for this. We've never done a livblogging thing before, so it was fun. I think we'll do it again and get better at it. Damn, it was hard! Anyway... cheers to you all.

Lynda: Wow, that was . . . that was grueling. Chelsea played a better game than they did at Camp Nou last week. It's true, I too have seen them snatch a soul-crushing stoppage time victory more than once (and was afraid of them doing it this week).

I'm looking forward to the Messi v. Ronaldo showdown in Rome.

I think I'm in shock. Over and out.

Derek: GAME OVER. With all due respect to my friends who are Chelsea supporters... I feel nothing. I've seen Chelsea kill off teams just like this in the last minute. Brutal, though. No doubt about it. All in all, I don't think Barcelona played up to their usual standards, but this is the craziness football. And no, Eto'o did not touch the ball with his hand. He was obviously turning away from the ball and the ball hit him in the upper arm (I think it was; haven't seen the replay). That's not a handball, sorry. It wasn't intentional.

I have to take a breath. My head is spinning.

Chelsea 1, Barcelona 1; 1-1 aggregate with Barcelona moving on to the final with that mean away goal.

Lynda: Iniesta in stoppage time. I think I just had a heart attack.

Derek: GOOOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lynda: 85.00 My Bojan Krkcic in for Busquets.

Derek: 80:00 Pique gets plenty of touches and movement on the ball and makes a good shot on goal. Hard to believe that this was the same team who destroyed Real Madrid on Saturday.

Lynda: 76.00 Remember what I said earlier about wanting two goals? One would be good.

Also, when I said I wanted John Terry to cry, by "John Terry" I did not mean "me."

Lynda: 71.20 Former Barca man Belletti in for Drogba.

Lynda: 68.00 The ref, Tom Henning Øvrebø, has done this before.

Derek: 66:00 This is ridiculous. I'm stunned. Red card for Abidal, who made no contact on Anelka. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. And I'm now officially in favor of instant replay.

Lynda: In fairness, I've seen Dani Alvez shot by snipers from the stands in more La Liga games than I can count.

Derek: 61:00 This is horrifying. I've never seen anything like it before. It looks like... the ball... assassinated Drogba. I guess crime really is on the rise in London.

Derek: 56:00 And Drogba dives again! Beautiful. Clean tackle by Toure.

Derek: 48:00 Pep is understandably pissed at Alves. What the hell is Dani thinking by taking that shot?

Lynda: HALF. I may spend the second half lying down in a dark room far from the TV. But in the meantime, yeah, I'm with Derek--I want to see two goals from Barcelona. Chelsea are too good at those stoppage time, dream-crushing goals for me to comfortable with a 1-1 scoreline.

Derek: HALF. Frustrating first half, no doubt about it. Eto'o, Iniesta, and Messi have been absent for large portions of the game. Hopefully Pep will get 'em focused for the second half and we can get two goals. I know all we need is one, but two is insurance against a Chelsea squad who know how to kill off an opponent at the last minute.

Derek: Stoppage. Excellent shot by Xavi... but to no avail.

Derek: 41:00 Looks like Barca is slowing it down a bit more, inching closer to goal, but still they can't connect.

Derek: 32:00 Hate to see my man Puyol seated in the stands.

Lynda: 30.00 Yellow card for Alvez. It's unsurprising, but Dani, chill out. Seriously. And now Lampard's down on his hands and knees with a split lip. Not sure what went down there.

Derek: 29:00 And Messi finally appears....

Lynda: 26.45 Tommy kept bragging about how this was going to be a "physical" game and how La Liga just isn't used to such a "physical" game because La Liga refs don't allow it and now he keeps complaining when Barca gets "physical" and Chelsea doesn't get the call....

Lynda: 22.53 Free kick for Chelsea after Alvez fouls Malouda. And it's a miss. I can't argue with the ref's decision.

This is getting nerve-wracking. Barca need to score.

Derek: 22:27 Great save by Valdez. Close though.

Lynda: 15.00 Yes, rather than watch the game, please treat us to a montage of shots of Essien's goal. There's still a game going on. Anyway, 15 minutes gone and there's my first prediction shot down--the wrong side scored! No more predictions. Come on, Barca.

Derek: 9:30 Nice goal from Essien.

Lynda: 8.50 Goal for Chelsea, Michael Essien. Valdez should've had that. Damn.

Lynda: 7.30 I can't really argue with Tommy's remark that Dani can be "a bit of a cheat and goes to the ground too easily." Heh. That Dani.

Derek: 4:30 Some really nice forward movement from Barca. Didn't see the supposed handball by Messi. I'd like to see Terry cry again too.

Lynda: 3.30 I've got nothing against John Terry, or even Chelsea for that matter, but that doesn't mean I don't want to see Terry cry again this year.

Derek: 2:25 Nice "shot" Lampard. Or was that a pass? Only he knows.

Derek: Looks like Toure is playing in Marquez's position and Pique has shifted over to Puyol's place. Watch out for Busquets... he's the unknown factor for Chelsea.

Derek: And we're on.... Visca Barca!

Lynda: To their credit, all three ESPN pre-game commentators predicted a win for Barca. 1-1 except for Shaka Hislop who thinks it'll be 1-2. I'm scared to make any scoreline predictions.

Derek: Glad that Pep has pulled Toure back into Puyol's normal position too, shifting Pique into Marquez's. Caceres has simply been too unpredictable to start.

Derek: Still pre-game. Did Tommy Smyth just say that all Chelsea had to do was win? What a genius. No wonder I can't stand to listen to these guys.

Derek: So enough of the ESPN half-informed commentators. Let's get this thing going. I hate predicting anything at this point but I agree with Lynda that Barcelona will score within the first 15 minutes. Iniesta is going to be trouble to defend again. I think it's funny that the four commentators on ESPN keep talking about Barca as untested and that they have trouble getting past the semi-finals. Does no one remember that we won just three seasons ago with many of the same players? Stupid.

Lynda: We'll be liveblogging until the end or until our heads explode from the ESPN announcers' slavish adoration of the Premiership and All Things English (question: if a loss for Barca means La Liga is a second-rate league, does a loss for Chelsea mean the same about the EPL?). Looks like Henry's out with that knee injury he sustained this weekend during El Clasico. Guardiola's made some interesting shuffles in the lineup to account for the lack of defenders--he's got Toure in Puyol's position (who's out on accumulated yellow cards). For Hiddink's part, he's added Anelka as a striker alongside Drogba.

Hang on tight. We're just minutes away from the start.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Champions League Semi-Finals Biased Live Blogging

We've never live blogged before, but Wednesday afternoon we'll be hunkered down in front of the telly trying to keep our lunch down while we live blog the Barcelona v Chelsea match.

It will be biased and we'll probably make fools of ourselves trying to keep up with all of the action. But it will be fun.

Drop on by if you're so inclined.

See y'all tomorrow!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Barcelona Pictures

Over at the FC Barcelona official site there are some absolutely fabulous pictures of supporters celebrating in the streets and welcoming back our Blaugrana heroes back to the city. Oh, to be there in person.

Check it out here.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

a few thoughts on three world cup qualifiers

I haven't seen this Spain team play since their exuberant rout through Euro 2008 and was more than a little apprehensive about how the team would fare without Luis Aragonés, who's moved on to coach Turkey's Fenerbahçe. Vicente del Boque, however, has maintained their streak of 30 undefeated matches, and they're at the top of their group. The team that took the pitch this weekend seemed a bit subdued, and the goalless first half was worrying. Gerard Pique was the surprise hero of the match, scoring his first-ever goal for the national team and the only goal of the game. Iniesta, Puyol, and Fàbregas were all injured, so that may have contributed to the relatively lackluster performance, but I'm hoping to see more fire and flair out of La Furia Roja in later matches--and this summer at the Confederations Cup.

Longtime readers of apm may recall my ambivalent feelings toward team USA, which I cannot help but likening to a boring boyfriend in tan slacks--who, on occasion, suddenly shows this astonishing burst of passion, causing me to regard him (them) in a new light. For most of the match against El Salvador on Saturday I was frankly appalled at the performance of the US team--they should not have struggled this hard against El Salvador, ranked 106 in the world (for whatever FIFA's rankings are worth: not much, plenty would tell you, but still). This wasn't boring; this was shambolic! And then, in the last fifteen minutes, that will and passion suddenly blazed and the squad managed to level the 2-0 score and pull at least a point out of the match. It's always nice to see the US play with that kind of heart, although the 75 minutes that preceeded it were unfortunate, to say the least.

There are always rumblings that the US only makes it into the World Cup because CONCACAF qualifying isn't that difficult compared to some of the other regions, and it's true that we aren't exactly facing the giants of football on the road to South Africa. And partly because of that, I always feel like the US turns up at the World Cup with unrealistic expectations of what they can do and what they're up against. It's disheartening to see this kind of performance against a team they should have defeated handily; at this rate they're not going to see much of South Africa before they're sent home after the first rounds. The US national team will never replace my beloved Spaniards and Argentinians in my affections, but I feel about them the way you do about your relatives: I can trash talk them, but I don't want to hear anybody outside of the family doing it, you know? So I always hope that at the very least they don't embarrass me in public.

Apropos of nothing, it's kind of hilarious to see the pre-game ads; there is such an emphasis on aggression. O the fear of being labeled pansies for handling the ball with your feet, not your hands!

Finally, Saudi Arabia defeated Iran at home 2-1 in a shocker; I only saw the last part of this match but Iran looked shaky and manager Ali Daie's been fired as a result. I couldn't help thinking of the film Offside and hoping women fans didn't put themselves to too much trouble sneaking in to this disappointing match. With a mere six points in five games, sitting fourth place in their group, Iran has a struggle ahead to qualify. One of the announcers for this game mentioned that Iran doesn't get many friendlies and so the squad doesn't play together as often as others; they did seem to lack cohesion. Is it too late for a new coach to come in and turn things around?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Welcome to WPS!

Women's professional soccer is back in the US, and I'm writing this as I watch the inaugural WPS match on Fox Soccer Channel. The WPS website is billing this as Abby versus Marta--that's Abby Wambach---

GOOOOOAAAALLLLL! LA Sol defender Allison Falk scores the first ever WPS goal in the sixth minute!

As I was saying, that's Abby Wambach, familiar as a forward to fans of the US Women's team, and Brazilian forward Marta Viera da Silva, who I wrote about a little bit a couple of years ago (check out the Alex Bellos article I link from that entry).

Right now seven teams make up this fledgling league: today's dueling LA Sol and the Washington Freedom (who comes up with these names?) as well as the Boston Breakers, the Chicago Red Stars, FC Gold Pride (Bay Area), Sky Blue FC (NY/NJ), and St Louis Athletica. Next year the league will expand to Philadelphia and--Atlanta!--so next year I'll be able to blog some live matches from here in the deep South. This will go some way (only some) toward mitigating the pain of being so very far from my beloved Portland Timbers.

I've blogged off and on about women's soccer and issues surrounding women in the sport, though never as consistently as I've wanted to I'll be doing my best in the coming months to write about WPS, the players, and the matches. If you didn't click my link up above, check out the new league's website here. And now I've got a match to follow.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Timbers Enter MLS In 2011


More later....

green is the color...in MLS!

This seems as momentous an occasion as I can think of to restart our footy musings on apm:

Fellow soccer blogger Zach Dundas reflects on the history of the Portland Timbers as the announcement comes that we're moving up to MLS in 2011.

I'm feeling giddy, speechless, excited, apprehensive, relieved, terrified, and really damn proud. Back on the US side of the pond but far from the Rose City, as much as ever I'm Rose City til I die!