Thursday, December 18, 2014

LD Didn't Score In His Best Games

According to Landon Donovan, of all the matches he played in, the ones that stood out the most to him as signature games, or his best games, were two in particular. 

I was rereading his quotes and then I realized - he didn't score in either one. One game was even a loss.

Then again, it made sense. LD had always been about helping the team and scoring or creating assists was only part of that. Defending, holding the ball, making the smart pass, moving well into space, set plays, making the follow-up run - those are all key elements that often go unnoticed because they're not registered on any score sheet. But they're a vital part of the beautiful game.

Here's the first game LD mentioned as his best - 2002 against Germany.

2002 wasn't just notable for LD's good game - Tony Sanneh and others played their hearts out. There's a high that's only available in team games when a group effort elevates the whole and everyone is charged up to work for the end result together. The USA didn't quite pull it off, though.

Here's the other game LD mentioned - 2009 vs Spain.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sad, But Not Surprising

In the wake of the retirement of USA veteran defender DaMarcus Beasley, I immediately thought of Robbie Rogers and his sterling play at left back for the Los Angeles Galaxy. 

It's well known also in SoCal soccer circles that Rogers knows J. Klinsmann from way back. Klinsmann helped guide Rogers at various points in his career, including recommending him as a player to the coach of Leeds in England back in 2012. Rogers, for his part, returned the favor in Klinsmann's debut as coach, scoring the lone USA goal to ensure the JK era did not begin with a loss.

I'm not the only one thinking that Rogers deserves a national team look at left back, either, if the word of that other Robbie - Keane - carries any weight. 

Truth is, though, JK wasn't very encouraging of Rogers' chances to get back on the USMNT squad when it was first announced that he would return to play with the Galaxy. He said Rogers "wasn't in the picture". 

Yet with the lack of depth at left back on the national team level, Rogers should merit consideration, I thought. I was gratified to see that Soccer America seemed to think so as well, ranking Rogers as a viable possibility. But the final sentence of the blurb assessing his chances brought me back to earth with a thud. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

MLS Does It Better

To me, arguments about leagues and teams that will never or very rarely play each other are silly. Give me a heated debate over whether Real Madrid or Barcelona will win an upcoming match any day over any argument on whether the English WC squad in 1966 could beat JK's latest USA World Cup squad, or if the LA Galaxy could take on Hull City. 

There's no point. It's not going to happen. Most fans in most leagues don't care, either. 

But it's a sore point for many MLS fans that their league gets little respect from others around the world. Some have dedicated themselves to defending MLS, and they're easy targets for those who want to namecall and heap scorn on them for doing so. No one's mind is ever changed in the back and forth. 

Out of pity for their futile mission, I've decided to put together a list of ways in which MLS is indisputably superior to leagues in Europe. It's not long, I promise. 

Finding Fitness Results, Capoeira

As promised, here's my report of my capoeira experience. 

It's hard. There's a reason why MMA fighters like Connor McGregor and others crosstrain in capoeira. It combines kicks, dynamic movement and acrobatics, all to the beat of the bateria playing music while everyone sings along. For the beginner class I took, there was a lot of time spent training the basic movements and practicing to improve technique.

I liked it, even though my muscles are very sore now. I'm not very acrobatic, but I can do a cartwheel (called an ), and I kicked pretty well. Other aspects were tricky. At one point, I was trying to do a rasteira (a type of sweep) to catch the instructor's leg as directed. I struggled.

"Don't kick out like it's soccer," he suggested. "Try to control the move." 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mohamed's Twelfth Night

In college, I played the role of Viola in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and got to say these lines:

I hate ingratitude more in a man
than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness,
or any taint of vice whose strong corruption
inhabits our frail blood.

I thought of those lines again while watching Club America win their historic twelfth championship. How could Club America be so ungrateful?

Truth is, the club has treated the coach, Antonio Mohamed, who got them there very shabbily. It's quite stunning that the team would negotiate for a new coach even as Mohamed was leading the team through the playoffs in search of the title. Not surprisingly, that became the story of the championship. 

It may come back to haunt the club in more ways than just playing against Mohamed in the future. Besides Gustavo Matosas, what coach in their right mind would want to sign with a club that would do this?

Love is in the Air

Isn't this the cutest ever? 

I mean the dog, of course. 

But that's not just any mutt tweeting at me, it's Boss Leroux. The lil' chihuahua with more followers than most soccer writers (including me) reached out to assuage my concerns. 

What was I worried about? Ah, I just wanted to know Dom had the seal of approval from Boss because of this revelation about America's Soccer Power Couple. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Free Your Mind to Reality

Reading over this article taking new MLS team Orlando City to task over a tweet, I felt a familiar frustration rising up. 

Of course, in North America, women can be fans. Fans=customers and to the emerging soccer market in the USA and Canada, every customer is generally valued. 

But why should women be "just" fans? 

Why can't they be players who have their own cadre of loyal fans? 

But I've traveled enough to know that those are first-world problems in general, and that even in those scenarios, the USA is more welcoming and supportive of women in the sport than many countries in Europe, for example. 

In other places, no, women can't even just be fans. 

It doesn't mean that the battles at every level to eradicate sexism aren't worth fighting, but it's also important to realize how in some places, even a basic enjoyment of the beautiful game is limited to human beings because of their gender. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Finding Fitness

Now that Landon Donovan is retired, it won't be easy for him to stay in shape. There's no more constant running like in practice and for matches. Most soccer players do have an offseason workout set up, though. That helps them as they ease into retirement, to do whatever they usually did in the offseason when they didn't practice and play regularly. 

For some retired players, staying fit means to do freely what they liked anyway. In Frankie Hejduk's case, that was surfing.

Others take up a new athletic pursuit. David Beckham has gotten into SoulCycle. 

Thomas Dooley is a soccer tennis devotee, and he's gotten other former pros into regular matches and competition as well. 

Keeping fit is important for everyone, though, not just former athletes. I'm going to give different fitness programs a try and report here which I personally find most effective and would recommend, not just for soccer players, but anybody. 

First up is capoeira. LD's own teammate, Juninho, practices the Brazilian martial art. 

 One of the capoeiristas featured in the video here is giving a free class in Glendale at Jewel City Yoga tomorrow at noon, so I'm going to check that out.  

Can Club America Defeat Distractions?

It won't be easy. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

What Price a Coach?

I dismissed the first reports of Gustavo Matosas signing as the new coach of Club America because it didn't make sense that any team would undercut a coach in the middle of a playoff run, with just the championship match yet to go. 

But more and more, the same news kept showing up, until, though still unverified by the team officially, there was too much smoke for me to pretend there was no fire under the butt of Antonio Mohamed. 

I couldn't help shaking my head about it even as I started to believe it. Why undercut a coach who still had work to do? Why couldn't any replacement work wait? How could the Club America administration risk a championship just to get rid of a coach a few days earlier? 

The basic question is - is getting Matosas worth risking the historic 12th championship for Club America? That's what's in danger now. 

Nguyenning and Grinning Through It All

So besides being a talented, versatile midfielder, Lee Nguyen is something of an Internet troll. Or at least, that was the conclusion some came to after the New England Revolution faithful were treated to a bit of a "scare" from their star player via his Twitter account. 

The original Tweet has been deleted, which is rather odd in itself if everything is innocent and Nguyen is staying put. Here is Seth's retweet, though, which still contains all of Nguyen's original text.

One reason that Revs fans were panicking is that Nguyen has indeed been linked to possibilities abroad, namely Southampton, where he could reunite with his former PSV coach Ronald Koeman. Still, I don't know whether to take that rumor seriously when an article like this one puts up a photo clearly NOT of Nguyen.