Thursday, June 30, 2011

WWC - Germany - Nigeria, Running Blog

It's the two-time and defending champions versus the scrappy and speedy Nigerian squad.

Anthems. Nigeria looks focused. Germany looks German. The captains fist pump at the center circle with the referees. Howie Mandel, germaphobe who is a big proponent of the fist pump, would be proud.

2 - Germany in Nigeria's box early on - Laudehr nearly puts it in.
4 - Nigeria's athleticism on show there, with a steal and a break, but the final pass is a bit short.
6 - Nigeria are probably encouraged by the team which only beat them by a goal (France) getting such a good result versus Canada.
8 - Nigeria lose the ball a lot in the midfield, but their defenders are good at takeaways. Prinz, just now had the ball stolen off her foot.
10 - Ohale with a shot from downtown off to the boondocks, that was so off-target.
12 -
Kulig with a shot from downtown, on target, forcing Precious Dede to make the save.
14 - Garefrekes gets a great crossfield pass that frees her from the Nigerian defense, but falls down when she cuts too hard on the grass. Fail.
17 - The ball runs safely in to Dede - Nigeria holding Germany off - even if they're not creating much on their own yet.
20 - What's interesting is how as supportive as the crowds in Germany are for their squad, their opponents haven't been intimidated. Nigeria certainly aren't cowed. If anything, they seem excited and joyful in their play. Pressure makes them.
22 - Chikwelu in the box, but puts her cross too close to Angerer, who collects it well.
24 - Bartusiak saves an Orji break by putting the ball out for a corner.
25 - Crowd is quieter now. Nigeria set up for the corner. Bresonik clears it for Germany.
27 - Dede grabs a wayward cross.
28 - Germany, shockingly, look tired.
30 Behringer is injured and Nigeria comes close on a freekick while Germany is a man down, but Angerer handles the danger.
31 - Nigeria get another corner, but the header attempt goes wide. Popp is now on - Behringer is done.
33 - Germany's coach Sylvia Neid looks elegantly grumpy at the match thus far. Nigeria has played Germany even, and the scoreline is an honest reflection.
35 - Da Mbabi kicks Nkowcha, wasn't malicious, but it nailed her knee and now she's on the sideline.
38 - Peter is now down. They're dropping like flies out there. Peter also got hit on the knee.
40 - Both injured players are back now, in time for a Germany freekick.
41 - Dede catches the ball.
43 - Nigeria still fighting hard, stymieing the German attack.
44 - Nigeria have a freekick. Brezonik clears it.
45 - Popp in the box, but she's caught by a Nigerian defender on the tackle and goes down hard

Halftime - Good points by Viola Oderbrecht on the desk that the Germans needs to stop complaining about Nigeria's physicality and get aggressive themselves, make their goals happen, instead of being surprised by how well Nigeria is playing. Very true.

46 - Nigeria already has a corner, and Germany are screaming at each other setting up to defend it. Not looking harmonious.
48 - Prinz gets knocked down, gets up very painfully.
49 - The freekick is cleared by Nigeria, and they also shut down a follow attack.
50 Popp gets cleaned out MMA-style, by Ohale. Finally a yellow shown.
52 - Prinz is coming out for Inka Grings. Not a good day for her.
53 - Nigeria deny two corners, and now, face a freekick from Da Mbabi.
54 - GOAL! Germany break through. Behringer flicked it on, Popp took the first shot, which was blocked - then Laudehr banged in the rebound before Dede could react. 1-0 Germany.
56 - Nigeria seem understandably deflated.
58 - Nkwocha shoots from outside - wide.
60 - Now it's Nigeria's turn to be the team whose players pick themselves up from collisions and tackles last. They've been bouncing back up first until the goal.
63 - Nigeria freekick into Germany box is whistled dead for a foul on Angerer.
63 - Good German buildup fizzles out with an off-target shot by
66 - Nigeria spell of possession broken up by Germany.
67 - Popp from distance. Dede has no problems with it.
69 - Nigeria's hard effort is beginning to show in their weariness, and sloppy passes.
72 - Or not. Mbachu in the box, fights for a shot, but gets whistled for a foul.
74 - Kulig gets a yellow for a late kick.
76 - Angerer catches a high ball, but Nigeria's players try to pressure her anyway, risking a yellow, but the referee makes no call.
79 - Nigeria still attacking the Germany goal, but the Germans are defending stoutly.
80 - Kulig from distance. High.
81 - Nigeria give up a corner kick on a bad backpass. They clear, but Grings is fouled as Nigeria try to counterattack.
85 - Nigeria throwing everything they can forward.
87 - Bajramaj coming in for Da Mbabi.
90 - The chippiness of this match continues to the end.
90+ Freekick for Nigeria leads to a corner kick. Angerer punches the ball clear, then gets fouled, but there's no call.
Popp suffers a blow to the head on a breakaway and there are murderous boos for the referee.
Final whistle! The battle royal is over. Germany and France advance.

Women's World Cup, Canada - France, Running Blog

Christine Sinclair is wearing an awesome face mask, but if it gets loose, it could be hard for her to do those quick turn and shoots.
Players are in the tunnel. The mask does look pretty snug on Sinclair. The camera is finding a lot of Canadian fans in the stands, as compared to the previous game versus Germany.
France's players are the underdogs here, though the teams are ranked close together.
"Oh, Canada, we stand on guard for thee!"
Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillons!

1 - Oops, ESPN graphic was wrong - McLeod is still in goal for Canada.
2 - Bompastor is tricky player, in contrast to Canada's more direct attack.
5 -Sloppy France handball gives Canada a freekick chance, but desperate defending denies Sinclair on the attack that follows kick.
6 - On the other end, McLeod comes out for a France break.
8 - France trying to go over the top of the defense, but they're much shorter than the Canadian backline.
11 - It may be a weird sentiment, but I don't think Canada plays as well in their white unis as they do in their red ones.
15 - Matheson blows a chance in the box, taking an extra touch after reaching the ball, instead of just firing. Ruthless, Matheson, you have to be ruthless.
16 - Like Abily there, kicking on Schmidt while on the ground. Ruthless, though not very sporting.
19 - France is holding strong against Canada - who look frustrated.
22 - McLeod out of her box again to kill a France attack.
24 - GOAL! Thiney! Necib stole a ball and got it to Bompastor, I think, whose shot bounced up to a ready Thiney, whose header popped over McLeod as she came out. 1-0 France.
26 - McLeod might have done better to hold her line and try to stop the shot.
27 - Two losses and Canada is likely eliminated.
29 - Delie creating worlds of trouble for Canada's defense.
31 - Necib with a quality outside shot that forced McLeod into a great save.
32 - The ensuing corner leads to another. Canada's players are clearly shocked that they're in their own end so much. They finally clear it.
34 - Fantastic build-up play from France, but Delie just misses on the header.
36 - Chapman's freekick easily cleared - Canada just isn't threatening France right now.
37 - Seriously, this game is Exhibit A for how Morace's on the ground approach for Canada may not be as effective as Pellurud's direct approach was.
49 - Because so far, France is much better on the ground than Canada.
50 - Matheson with Canada's first shot of the match. It's wide.
40 - Sinclair from distance, misses even worse.
42 - France back near Canada's goal. They earn a corner.
43 - Canada escape that threat, but they look baffled by France, still.
44- Necib almost has an Olympic goal, bending it from the corner kick, but McLeod barely punches it out.
45 - France look closer to scoring a second than Canada does to equalize.

Halftime: The problem with some teams with a big star player like Sinclair is that they take their cue from that one star so entirely, that they don't regroup well when that star is hobbled for any reason. Canada should have another plan of attack besides Sinclair.
That said, Canada could just be really tired. They toiled mightily versus Germany. France had an easier start, though Nigeria is a lively team.
Pia talking openly about here lineup options again - Lory Lindsey might come in for Boxx or Carli Lloyd. It could be that Boxx needs a rest.
46 - Teams are back on the field - let's see if Canada can regroup.
47 - Thiney holds the ball well against one of Canda's best players, Schmidt.
48 - Sinclair clatters into the goalkeeper Sapowicz
49 - Delie in the box again, but she can't catch up to a long pass.
50 - Canada with a long shot. Wide. They're rushing everything, not building up play.
51 - Necib in the box, but a Canada defender takes the ball away.
52 - Sapowicz gets Matheson sliding into her face in the box, which gets Matheson a yellow. Sapowicz is tough, most goalkeepers would have cleared that ball with their feet, instead of risking their face by diving in there.
54 - Delie in the box with a driving shot, but right at McLeod.
57 - Kyle with a poor shot ruins a good Canada buildup.
59 - Sinclair charges into the box, but for some strange reason, doesn't shoot and ends up passing to no one.
60 - GOAL! Thiney again! A bad clearance out of the box, provoked by a pesky Delie, falls to Thiney, who cracks a shot that ricochets in to the goal off the right post. No chance for McLeod. 2-0 France.
64 - Canada look far more defeated than they ever did versus Germany.
65 - Ugh, Feligno beats her defender into the box, then straights slips on the ball itself, and balls down before she can shoot.
66 - GOAL! Abily heads in a great ball from a France corner. Goodnight, Canada. Nice knowing you. 3-0 France
67 - Feligno in the box again, gets ball to Sinclair, who shoots, and misses. Nothing going right for Canada now.
68 - Sinclair in the box again, but France's swarming defense won't let her shoot. The pass to Feligno gets cut off.
73 - Canada can't buy a final pass to save their lives.
75 - Freekick for Canada is ruined by an offside.
77 - Canada look clueless. France is playing a blinder of a match.
79 - Hero Thiney is out, perhaps to rest her up for that third game versus Germany. Bolleau comes in.
80 - OUCH! Bompastor cleared a ball off Sinclair's face mask. She goes down, takes off the mask, and bleeds on the field. That's got to hurt.
83 - GOAL! I'll bet this hurts worse. Necid with a perfect pass over the defense for the speedy Thomis, who takes a touch past McLeod, then rolls the ball into goal. 4-0 France.
85 - - France look more likely to score a 5th than Canada looks to get a consolation.
87 - Tancredi in the box, Bompastor prevents the shot.
88 - Corner bounces dangerously in the box, but France clear.
89 - DeCicco with great insight on how France has been "the better team". Uh, 4-0, ya think?
90 - Les Bluettes have dominated, no doubt about it. Canadians, should Morace stay on?

Final whistle sounds! Boy, was that a beat down for the 2015 hosts. Allez France.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Eddie, the unknown pioneer

I find it interesting that not even Eddie Hawkins was really aware, for a while, of his status as the first American-born black man on the USMNT.

Hawkins beat Dave Cayemitte there by only minutes. Of course, others were nationalized into the team first - notably Haitian Joe Gaetjens, who scored against England in 1950 at the World Cup.

Go ahead and read the piece - it's nice to find out how Hawkins is trying to help the next generation of players.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Those Guys Have All The Fun - Soccer Edition, V

The next to final mention of soccer in the ESPN history book is on page 715, courtesy of writer/personality Bill Simmons.

Now, I can appreciate that Simmons is a new fan to the sport of soccer, but honestly, nothing makes me roll my eyes more than a) Those who act as if Americans, not English, invented the word "soccer" for the game b) Those who act as if the sport needs to change to appeal to Americans.

Anyway, the mention in the book is when Simmons makes a statement about something he said on a podcast done with SNL personality Seth Myers (who is a crush of mine, and not just because
he's a trooper for soccer charity matches).

We were talking about soccer and I was talking about how they call exhibition games "friendlies" in soccer, and I had made some sort of joke like, 'Note to soccer: if you want people to think you're a little less gay, don't call exhibition games "friendlies."'

I didn't hear the podcast, but if Myers laughed at a joke this lame from Simmons, I've lost respect for him.
(Meanwhile, soccer rolled over, scratched itself, read the memo from Simmons and responded thusly, "Note to Simmons: if you want people to think you're actually funny, stick to Karate Kid jokes instead of stuff about how the oldest game in town has to change to please you or other newbie American soccer fans.")

Turns out this soccer mention in the book isn't really about the beautiful game, but rather, ESPN censorship. Not of the lameness of the Simmons joke, sadly.

The final coverage of soccer in the ESPN tome is where Landon Donovan finally makes a statement. Depressingly, it's on page 719, because yes, that Simmons anecdote actually serves as the lead-in to the tale of ESPN's 2010 World Cup coverage.
Before we hear from Donovan, there's some fun stats on the impressive World Cup viewing numbers and a bit from Ian Darke, the English commentator for some of the USA's World Cup games, about how he was asked by ESPN to do the World Cup because he was an EPL announcer. Donovan took the view that ESPN helped promote the USA team, and he was grateful for that.

ESPN has the ability to market and push things just because of their resources, but the passion and the creativity really struck me.

Still, the YouTube video Donovan mentioned as being the memorable result of his goal against Algeria, that was an organic, original moment, and, no disrespect to Darke intended, the emotions of the USA fans in those clips contrasted vividly against his own as a self-described "neutral". We'll never know if the whole thing would have hit another level of emotion if the call had been made by an announcer who personally cared about the USA advancing. Oh, wait, we do - here's Andres Cantor on the call. It's in Spanish, but the feeling transcends language.

So that's it for all the soccer in the book. I'm frankly surprised, given that Donovan gets three paragraphs in the entire 762 pages, that he made the cover.

Anatomy Of A Technological Meltdown, Gold Cup Style

On Saturday, I was all ready to go. The Rose Bowl, site of the Gold Cup final, would host 90,000-plus fans and I'd be there to give as much of a full account as possible. With A.C. blogging away even before we got to the stadium, I was also set on providing my own inside info, complete with pictures and descriptions.

And then my phone died.

Well, my phone didn't die but it may as well have. I got a new phone recently, the iPhone 4, and this was the first real test for it. Would it be able to handle the pressures of covering a big game? Okay, well, maybe the only pressure would be coming from my fingertips but still I needed it to do what I asked and it was not up for the challenge.

The phone itself was, and is, okay. But the SIM card was a different story.

Just before 4 p.m., I was up in the press box and the stadium was empty. Inside it anyway. Looked like this.

At 4:30, CONCACAF head Chuck Blazer would give a press conference so I scurried down there at about 4:15. Fans were already being let inside the gates.

As I made my way down to the tunnel towards the press conference room, I saw a team bus approaching the stadium. Although there were lots of cheers for the bus initially, it turned out to be the "away" team's bus. Yeah, the road team that was the United States. When others also realized this, the cheers turned to boos, whistles and small chants of "Me-xi-co" from above.

I recognized assistant coach Jesse Marsch sitting up near the front. I had a clear view of him and others through the window so I stopped to see if I could snap some pictures of the players. At this point, my phone was working fine, thank you very much.

I got two pictures of players.

Once that was over, it was nearing 4:30 so I made my way into the press conference. I had to make sure I didn't step in anything as there was plenty of crud flowing from this man's mouth.

At this point, my phone was in and out. This isn't new to me. In the bowels of Home Depot Center, I don't get coverage. At all. Once I go downstairs, it's like going into a cave. If you have Verizon, you're fine but if you don't - and I don't - then your phone is useless there. At the Rose Bowl, I figured I'd have problems.

I was getting some random messages though but mostly I wasn't able to update much. Wasn't worried.

The presser took a while and I stayed until the end. Afterward, most of my colleagues made their way back to the press box, probably to work on their Blazer stories or perhaps to dig into the chow - food was supposed to have been served at 5 and it was already about 5:10. Instead, I figured I'd try to get as close to the field as possible. There were security personnel at the end of the tunnel, where the cement gave way to grass, but nothing until then. I got as close as I could.

I tried to respond to some text messages. It was taking an extraordinarily long time to send. This was odd. I wasn't in a bunker anymore but rather had a clear view of the sky. Oh well. I figured I'd Tweet some pictures once I got back to the press box, where I had full reception.

Now, just over the tunnel that led to the field were these guys (and gals):

Enthusiasm emanated from this hearty band of supporters. But not everyone was thrilled with them. Where the American Outlaws sat was seemingly not a great place to be. They were pinned into a corner, surrounded by green and black Mexico shirts. I feared for them, especially with these sorts of tough guys within reach of them.

Tough guys... ha. These guys are clowns, hiding behind the force that was the massive pro-Mexico crowd. They had it easy because unlike the American Outlaws, they weren't sitting targets. They could throw something in the AOs and then disappear into the crowd and nobody would know any different. And worse, the people around them may look innocent enough and maybe they're not throwing things or flipping off the American fans but they simply look the other way when that happens.

My stomach was unsettled because I knew the American supporters had no chance. I'd experienced something similar in 1998 at the Gold Cup final at the LA Coliseum, and hoped that those sorts of things were ancient history.

After hearing more taunts from the tough guys in the crowd, I saw some U.S. players begin to emerge. However, at this point my phone said there was something wrong with my SIM card. It was an odd message. I took one final picture.

On my way out, the rest of the U.S. team started coming down towards the field. I saw Jonathan Bornstein and gave him a fist-tap. Landon Donovan was the last player out there and I tried to give him some words of encouragement but he was hyper-focused and probably didn't even hear me.

Back upstairs I went, but I still had the "No SIM" message on my phone. Something was wrong. I'd had a BlackBerry for, I dunno, five years maybe, maybe more, and I was very familiar with it and knew what to do when that phone (or rather those phones) wouldn't cooperate - the old battery pull. This time, though, was different. I was clueless.

In stumbling around the phone, I figured out how to turn it off for the first time. I turned it off, turned it back on but still saw the "No SIM" message. I was angry now. Kickoff was approaching, I had all these great pictures that I knew would have been well-received by my Twitter followers, but had no means to get them out.

(Now, I could have gotten onto the WiFi feed but at this point my head wasn't thinking clearly)

The teams came out onto the field and here I was, all but ready to toss my brand-new suddenly useless iPhone out the window. I longed for my BlackBerry.

I shut the phone off. It was the only thing I could do. I still needed the damn phone, to record the post-game press conferences and player reactions, and the battery was draining quickly. I tried a few times during the game to see if the SIM card magically re-appeared but it didn't. Early in the second half, I resigned myself to the fact that the phone was a piece of crap and I would simply be wasting my time trying to get it to work.

I'd hoped for different things of course, had hoped to have taken plenty of pictures during and after the game, but the SIM card disaster threw me off my game. I had stories to write and I was unable to concentrate on them. I couldn't even call my editors at The Press-Enterprise to check in and all that good stuff. I resorted to e-mails and several went unanswered.

Ultimately, I was able to record interviews and pressers with my phone. It hadn't let me down completely. I didn't get any post-game pictures but at that point I just needed my phone to respond in a better way than it had before the match.

In way, like Mexico, my phone made a comeback that night.

The next day, I took my phone back to where I got it and the salesman was able to replace the SIM card, which had died for some unknown reason. My phone was, and is, working just fine.

My only hope is that it's up for the challenge every night for every game in whatever stadium I happen to be at. Otherwise, there could be an iPhone flying out of my hand at some point in 2011.

Women's World Cup USA - North Korea

Predictions? Give them in the comments. This has been a low-scoring World Cup so far - 2-0 USA is my guess, and I think I'm being generous with the scoreline. To the USA, that is.

Lineups: USA - Solo; Le Peilbet, Buehler, Rampone, Krieger; Cheney, Boxx, Lloyd, O'Reilly; Rodriguez, Wambach

North Korea - Hong; Jong, Ri Un Hyang, Ho, Song; Ri Ye Gyong, Jo, Jon, Kim; Yun, Ra

I like Rapinoe's skill on the ball, but Cheney offers more of a finishing threat, so I'd guess Sundhage's move is to try to put more scoring punch into the lineup.

Team USA seemed to do wonderfully when Sundhage first arrived, and winning the Olympics got her an extended contract. However, she's hit a bit of a Bradley downturn, where her style of attack seems a bit dated and predictable - or maybe it's some the current players, the last of an aging generation hanging on for a final shot at glory, making it look that way. What I see of the American ladies right now is tough physical play, but it's too obvious what they're going to do whenever they have the ball and they are rarely surprising and creative.

Tobin Heath's play is one notable exception, but she's only one player, and not even a starter.

Ha! The start of this match cuts off blathering Drew Rosenhaus trying to convince the world Owens is just fine after an ACL injury. Sure.

Funny, again, to see Hope and Abby the central focus for the USA promos, considering what happened last World Cup. Oh well, I guess it's all water under the proverbial bridge.

Despite the focus on Wambach, I look for Krieger to make an impact, partly because I'd like that to be an argument for more USA players to go abroad. I don't want all the USA players to leave the U.S., but more should try leagues abroad.
Holtzman had Pia's thoughts on the Cheney pick, yep, it's partly the offensive angle.
I think Solo is cagey about the info about her right arm having trouble on high balls for a reason. Watch her opponents aim high a whole bunch and miss. Seriously, it's hard to keep a shot low as it is. Most misses are high.
Scurry quite gracious about looking back on the Solo comments. DiCicco, not so much. I wish he'd just be honest that Greg Ryan was wrong, which was really all that Hope was saying, for the thousandth time, people.
Hey, that was Clint Dempsey's Modelo Especial commercial. I'm crushed. I was hoping he's speak some Spanish.
The USA look happy and excited in the tunnel, but as has been pointed out, they've lost a number of their matches leading up to this game.
Anthems. North Korea does look really young. But some of these players were the same ones who upset the USA U20 team (which included Cheney) in that World Cup a few years ago.
1 - Cheney tries to reach Wambach in the box, but Abby can't quite get there. The Wombat has lost a step.
3 - Lloyd gets pushed off the ball surprisingly easily there, but the USA recover.
5 - Kreiger with a good cross-kill starts O'Reilly on the counter, but her pass to Rodriguez is cleared.
7 - O'Reilly fails to catch up to a Krieger pass, and that ends the latest USA attack.
9 - Buehler misses badly trying to touch down a long Korean pass and it's dodgy for the USA for a bit before the ball is out for a goal kick.
11 - It's early, but Cheney is justifying Pia's pick so far. She's creating chances and just fired from outside.
13 - The USA are failing in the third pass. Passes one and two are fine, but the third is continually dodgy and North Korea tends to break up the play on that one.
14 - North Korea with a deep throw, but a foul in the box benefits the Americans.
15 - Cheney pass right into a defender kills USA chance.
17 - The USA are knocking on the door of getting the final pass right. From there, it's getting the finishing right. Baby steps, folks.
19 - Heather Mitts is a fine player, but is there any need to mention that she's on the bench, unless it's to keep her male fans hopeful of a sighting or game time to come?
20 - Cheney sets up for the game's first corner. The USA do what looks like an I formation in the box, then break apart as the ball is kicked. Not sure it helped a lot, the NK side eventually clears the ball.
22 - Lloyd muffs a good shot and then recovers to send a pitiful one on goal. Easily saved.
24 - Lloyd leaps for a ball and cartwheels down to land on her head. Ouch. Looked painful.
25 - Hwa shoots high, so maybe Solo's plan is already working.
27 - The USA is almost too eager, trying to take balls down high, instead of letting them drop, charging into the box instead of waiting for help, and taking too many hopeful shots from distance instead of looking for the pass.
29 - Solo looks good in purple - her old Washington colors. She's going to need to be sharp, as USA defense just looked really shaky there, finally managing to desperately clear a good NK cross.
31 - Krieger, O'Reilly & Boxx working hard to make something happen.
32 - They get a corner, but Cheney puts it too low.
34 - Cheney hammers a shot on goal, but it's right at the keeper.
35 - SAVE! Solo's defense cracks again, but she makes the near post punch.
36 - Game is more back and forth than many might have suspected. Lloyd fires a rather tame shot, easily saved. Didn't get any mustard on it.
38 - Jong Sun beats Lepiebet again, getting into the box and puts the ball past Solo, across the front of the goal, but no teammate is able to poke it home. USA escapes.
40 - Rodriguez in the box, but the NK defense is tighter than the USA, and they shut her down.
42 - Ra Un Sim shoots for the corner of Solo's goal, while she misses, it's not by too much.
43 - USA defenders let Solo down again, but she makes the tough close save and gets ball out for break - Rodriguez great work to get down the field and into the box, pass to Wambach is there, but unfortunately, happened right when Wambach was cutting to change direction and she sprawls awkwardly trying to reach ball. Misses it.
45 - Why does Wambach chase balls she has no chance of getting? She's a veteran, she should know what she can reach and not waste energy.
45+ - Last chance on a freekick for the USA, and it's a metaphor as the ball misses everyone but reaches the goalkeeper, who keeps calm for the catch.
Halftime - The USA have to step it up. North Korea's teenagers are tough, fast, and skilled.
47 - Cheney looking to make something happen for the USA - but yet another shot is right at Myong Hui.
49 - USA with a freekick - Kreiger lines it up. It's put back out and Boxx eventually fires off a shot. High and wide.
50 - Nice cross from O'Reilly leads to Cheney shot, but it's saved.
51 - Wambach in the box. Fires way high in her rush to get shot off before defenders block it.
53 - Lepeilbet with a crappy pass. Where's Cox?
55 - GOAL! Lloyd with a great long pass to Wambach, who does well to take a look around, and sends a cross to goal - Cheney heads it in to the corner. Nicely done.
57 - Gyong fires from distance, gets solo diving, but misses high.
58 - Scrambling, sloppy defense from the Americans, gives NK another chance. Yikes.
60 - Lepeilbet with another pass that makes life difficult for her teammate.
62 - Cheney lines up a freekick. Gets a corner out of it. Sets up for that. Boxx can't reach it, falls down.
66 - Ouch! Wambach heads a creat Lepeilbet cross on goal, but the keeper and the crossbar combine to deny her. Looked like a sure thing.
68 - Lloyed with another great long pass to Wambach, but Wombat's cross is poor and kills the USA chance.
70 - Speedster Rodriguez nearly catches up to a Solo goalkick in the box, but not quite.
71 - Crappy corner from Cheney.
73 - Wambach to A-Rod, who manages to check back for the ball and fire a shot that earns a save and a corner.
74 - Cheney takes the corner short with LePeilbet and the two make a hash of it.
75 - Alex Morgan in for A-Rod. Cheney and LP combine better now to earn a corner.
76 - It bounces around, and Kreiger puts it back in the mixer - and it falls to Buehler, who quickly fires it into the corner. GOAL! 2-0 USA. Check prediction above, folks.
79 - Rapino in for O'Reilly. I don't think the bright blonde hair suits her. She should try red. Go bright ginger, Megan!
82 - Wombot whiffs at the corner ball as it bounces in the box. Kreiger connects, but it's way wide.
85 - Rapinoe has good ball skill, but not quite the push forward Cheney provides.
86 - Morgan fires at goal, good turn, crappy shot.
87 - Solo saves as the USA defense gets a little lazy.
89 - Wambach jumps for the ball, doesn't really get it, but cleans out her defender.
90 - GOAL! Rapinoe - oh, its dissallowed because Rapinoe kicked it out of the goalkeeper's hand, though it wasn't really in the goalkeeper's control at all.
90+ Corner chance for North Korea, but the shot is off target.

Fulltime! The USA with a neat little win get their World Cup campaign off on the right foot.

Random Observations - WWC Sweden - Colombia

I think the Swedish team needs to bring back the team-wide braided pigtails they sported to a third-place finish in 2003. They need the mojo.

They're scoreless against Columbia through the first half hour.

30 - Rincon tries a free kick from way outside. Hmm. Colombia is scrappy, but they look exhausted already in the heat. There's sixty minutes to go still.

More breakfast of champions today - puff pastry with sriracha sauce. Almost as much of an eyeopener as coffee, which I can't seem to find this morning.

35 - This match could indeed be the transfer of power game - where South America starts to emerge and the Nordic countries recede in the women's game.

36 - Lotta Schelin needs to work on her first touch - it's as bad as Ibrahimovic's right now.

39 - Columbia with a daring dribble run, but less confident in getting a shot off on goal.

43 - Yikes. Sandra Sepulveda bobbled the ball in the box there - nearly gave it up for a goal.

45 - Colombia trying to hang on as Sweden make a final push.

Halftime - Colombia make it - the frustrated body language of the Swedish players shows they're surprised by the new world order of the women's soccer scene - South America is no longer a chump.

Briana Scurry commenting on Hope Solo on the halftime show? Bob Ley sneaks in a snarky bit about how Solo speaks her mind, but otherwise, the 2007 incident with Scurry isn't mentioned. The blog was all over the scandal back then, though, if you care to search through the archives. Lots of reader feedback. Looking back, do any of you feel differently now that the time has passed?

oh wow. We're getting a history lesson on the firebombing of Dresden. Is this appropriate in a short segment of a halftime show? It wasn't badly done, but it's a rather important subject crammed into a short period, and doesn't even touch on Dresden's main controversy - was the city the victim of an ammunition dump by Allies who already knew the war was won?

55 - Back to the game and it's more of the same. Sweden coming close with chances, Colombia barely escaping, but hanging on to the clean sheet so far.

56 - Landstrom misses from in close. She screams in frustration.

57 - GOAL! Schelin feels Landstrom on a mini-break and Landstrom pokes it home. 1-0 Sweden.

72 - Colombia look more than exhausted - a bit destroyed, as they give up a dangerous freekick, but Sweden hits the wall on the chance.

Fulltime - Colombia didn't embarrass themselves, but Sweden got their win.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Down The River

I'm fascinated by River Plate's situation.

In case you haven't heard, River Plate was relegated. One of the world's most renowned clubs and one of the most respected names in Argentina and South America, anywhere really, has been sent down to the second division after losing to Belgrano by a 3-1 aggregate in a relegation playoff in Argentina.

The supporters there were not very pleased, as the relegation touched off riots outside River's stadium. Supporters even tossed objects onto the field, forcing players to seek refuge far away from the stands lest the hinchas lob things on them.

Some of the scenes...

Now, I can't think of many other situations when a giant like River Plate was relegated. Juventus spent time in Serie B recently but that was due to scandal. Newcastle United was relegated, but they don't quite have the history of River Plate.

Anyway, it's a lesson for all clubs around the world that permanency in the top flight is not necessarily a given.

Gloom and Doom for the U.S.?

Entering the Gold Cup, the United States wasn't the team to beat. That moniker fell on Mexico, whether they embraced it or not. Following Mexico's 4-2 victory over the U.S. in Saturday's final, not only is Mexico clearly the team to beat in CONCACAF, but the United States should be very concerned about the near future

That the U.S. lost to Mexico shouldn't be surprising - Mexico is loaded after all. But Mexico and the rest of the tournament exposed some things about the U.S. that should send if not fear certainly some concern over the next couple of years.

* Defensive Problems: The U.S. has a shoddy defense. That's nothing new; they allowed early goals in three of their four World Cup games last summer. But the problems are glaring in defense. Oguchi Onyewu never became the stud center back many thought he would. The team's best defenders are Steve Cherundolo, whose loss was catastrophic against Mexico, and Carlos Bocanegra. 'Dolo is still going strong but does have some injury concerns while Bocanegra is sometimes on the left, sometimes in the middle.

In other words, there's little consistency. Bradley has relied on Clarence Goodson, Eric Lichaj, Jonathan Bornstein and Tim Ream in the Gold Cup as well as in other recent matches. He's also brought in Timothy Chandler and of course Jay DeMerit. Is this group strong enough to carry the team forward?

* Punchless: The U.S. had three forwards on their roster for the Gold Cup - Jozy Altidore, Chris Wondolowski and Juan Agudelo. Altidore is perhaps the most frustrating player on the squad as he is supposed to be a reliable scorer by now but is not. Wondo and Agudelo just don't have the experience to help the team in high-pressure situations like the Gold Cup final. Each though has a future, Agudelo of course with the brighter one.

Are there really only three forwards worthy of playing for the U.S. at a major tournament? Hopefully not. Charlie Davies is the x factor; if he can return to health - and maybe cut down on the dives - then he can be useful, maybe becomes a regular. Bradley has brought in Herculez Gomez and Teal Bunbury as well. (I'm trying not to get into players I think would really help the U.S. team, saving that for another post).

Can Bradley find the answer among that group? I have my doubts about that, really do. If Davies is healthy and on form, then that's a huge boost for the team but this patchwork method that got the team through the Gold Cup won't cut it in qualifying.

* Home Struggles: Let's forget the loss to Mexico for now (way easier said than done). The U.S. lost to Panama, were hardly dominant against Panama and were lackadaisical against Guadeloupe. That's not the mark of an automatic World Cup team. These were all home games, of course.

Let's say this was the Hexagonal: Canada, Panama, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Mexico and the U.S. For their five home games, the U.S. would have gotten nine points. And if you want to count the victory over Panama instead of the loss that's 12. Would this U.S. team win in...

Canada? A draw, maybe a win.
Panama? No.
Guadeloupe? This one would be very tricky.
Jamaica? A loss at the Office.
Mexico? Come on.

So how many points is that on the road? I'll give you a win in Canada and draws at Guadeloupe and Panama. Five points. That's a total of 17 if you count the win over Panama at home, or 14 if you count the loss. Honduras and Costa Rica tied for third place with 16 in the 2009 Hexagonal, with Honduras going through on tiebreaker.

Guess what? Honduras and Costa Rica will likely be there in 2013. So take out, say Canada and Guadeloupe (since they can't compete in the Hex anyway) and replace them with Honduras and Costa Rica.

World Cup qualifying doesn't seem so automatic now, does it?

* Pluses: I don't want to paint a total gloomy picture. The U.S. does have some strong players after all. Freddy Adu resurfaced and thrust himself into the picture, and the midfield is still quite strong. Also, Tim Howard is still the best 'keeper in CONCACAF and will still be the best 'keeper in CONCACAF in 2013. And you could probably write a long post highlighting these things that might help restore someone's faith in the team.

But there are some serious questions with this U.S. team, issues that can't be overlooked.

Women's World Cup - England v Mexico

Grant Wahl mentioned in the Gold Cup final that the El Tri male players no longer salute across their chest while the anthem plays. Not so the women - they still do it.

England have their superstar, Kelly Smith, but what makes them good is now it's not just the Kelly show, ala Jordan and the Jordanaires. Now there are other quality players on the team.

Kickoff! It kills me that Santiago is in goal. That's amazing. She's only 16. She could be New Zealand goalkeeper Bondin's (who is 38) daughter, and she's doing the same job.

4 - Marigol is in the box! The England defense swarms to smother the chance, but it was a threat.

6 - Santiago with the ball on her foot after an England cross goes long.

7 - Smith with a shot! Wide.

9 - Remember, Mexico has had teenage female phenoms before. Remember Veronica Charlyn Corral? She's on the bench for this game.

11 - Scary moment for Mexico in the box there, but they eventually clear the ball.

16 - Of course Americans should pull for the Mexico women. Half of their team are also Americans.

19 - Kelly Smith with come good defending to kill a Mexico attack, but it's well done by El Tri that England's best player is confined to showing off her defensive skills.

20 - Santiago is busy collecting balls into the box, but they're not real shots - passes instead that defenders are busy shielding the England players from reaching.

21 - Carney's outside shot is wide.

22 - GOAL! England! Farah Williams! Off a set piece corner, she outjumps Rangel to get the ball into the goal. 1-0 England.

23 - Yankey from distance forces Santiago to punch clear.

27 - Santiago with a diving save on Williams and her driving outside shot. Nicely done, kid.

31 - Santi screams at her wall to get them properly situated, but England miss so badly it doesn't matter.

32 - GOAL! Freaking A! Monica Ocampo nails a shot from way outside, but with bend and pace! Crap, that was scary good. Goal of the tournament so far. Sorry, Sinclair.

34 - Aluko tries from outside, a low shot, but it's wide.

37 - Garza uncorks from outside, but she's off-target.

41 - Wow. What a waste. Marigol chases down a long pass and gets it in England's corner, then sends a lousy cross way too far that kills the play entirely.

42 - Garza is also wasteful, a free kick right to Bardsley.

Halftime! Good game so far. England can't expect Mexico to fold - after the El Tri women beat the USA, they won't be inclined to fold against the Lionesses.

49 - Marigol cracks a freekick that barely goes wide.

53 - Bardsley is out of her box in a race for the ball with Marigol, but it's moot - Mari was offside.

54 - Yankey with a gorgeous cross sets up Aluko, who suddenly gets clumsy in the box and misses entirely. She was on the doorstep, but never connected with the ball.

59 - Aluko with another chance, but the ball is weak and Santi gobbles it up.

65 - Aluko again muffs an opportunity.

67 - Kelly Smith in the box, puts her cross right into a defender, missing the chance to connect with a teammate. She could have taken a second to be creative and fake the defender out, but that didn't happen.

70 - Stop it, Markgraff. The crowd wave didn't start in Mexico. It started in the USA and was done in years before the rest of the world became more aware of it during Mexico's World Cup. It's called the Mexican wave in Europe for that reason, not because it started in Mexico. It didn't.

72 - E. White comes in for Carney.

75 - Yankey's looping cross from distance is easy for Santi to catch.

77 - Juana Lopez comes in for Marigol, who has cramped up.

79 - Santi with a big save on Yankey in traffic.

81 - Mexico with some nice possession play as England look ever more frustrated and desperate.

83 - Yankey whips the ball into the box, but her timing is off - Smith isn't there yet.

85 - Ouch. Garza is off for Teresa Noyola. I'm happy for her, but it's a little sad to see. Noyola came up through the USA youth ranks, from u14 to U20. I covered many of her games. She used to wear the 21 jersey in honor of Landon Donovan, her idol. Last year, she used family heritage to switch to Mexico's team, since she had never been called up for the USA senior squad, which I find a bit sad.

87 - Yet it's another Mexican-American who provides a crucial moment just now - Garciamendez fouls E. White. Kelly Smith cracks it on goal - just too high.

89 - Mexico earns a free kick of its own on the other end in a dangerous position. Ocampo gets even closer than Smith, but still sends the ball too high.

90 + - Noyola on the ball, takes a shot, bangs it into an England defender. She then fights to earn Mexico a corner. That's the fiesty and skilled player I remember. The corner leads to a shot from Mayor, but White's sacrifice (put her face in the way), may have saved a goal.

Fulltime. Excellent result for Mexico. England may be struggling playing as favorites.

When Beas was the business against El Tri

Luis and I were reminiscing about players who were especially effective versus Mexico, and DaMarcus Beasley was in the discussion, though he hasn't featured for the USA of late.

This piece updates what he's doing now.

Those rampaging runs up the wing Beasley used to make? Not really the style of any of the Americans coming up now.

Women's World Cup - Japan v New Zealand

Time for kickoff!

2 - I'm ready for the match with the breakfast of champions, real whipped cream and strawberries on a chocolate brownie - Breakfast at Germany, the AC version.

3 - Corner for Japan, nothing comes of it.

4 - Nearly a corner straight into the goal from New Zealand there.

6 - GOAL! Through ball from Ohno reaches Nagasato who chips the goalkeeper. Sweet. Japan 1-0

8 - Nearly another goal for Japan there, but NZ recover.

12 - GOAL! New Zealand fight back - ball goes over the top to Percival, and Amber Hearn makes a far post run to head the ball in. 1-1

14 - Shocking marking on that goal.

16 - Fun facts at the WWC - Japan is only the second-shortest team at the Women's World Cup. The shortest? Mexico.

17 - Save from New Zealand's Bindon.

18 - Sakaguchi off the post! Japan goes close there, but Bindon saves Sawa's following shot.

22 - Japan looking nervous - overshooting a lot of their passes. When they're on, they're great to watch, with tricky quick passes.

25 - Japan's corner - is served well, but Binden corrals the ball before a shot is taken.

28 - Bindon gets NZ out of trouble again. She and Riley are easily the busiest players on their squad.

29 - Then Bindon bobbles one - but Sawa can't take advantage.

30 - Japan is actually looking decent on corners so far. They're mixing up the strategy, not going short every time.

35 - New Zealand is bypassing the midfield with their long passes.

38 - Japan still threatening on their corner chances, but close doesn't count.

42 - New Zealand with a corner chance of their own - Kaihori claims it in her box.

45 - Bowen clips a player as Japan breaks on the counter - Yellow card.

Halftime - Even draw would be considered a poor result for Japan. Goes to show that parity in the women's game is growing.

47 - Japan closes in on the NZ goal, then is offside.

49 - Freekick for Japan - Miyama to take. She used to play in LA, nice technical player who tended to get nervous shooting at the goal. Her kick is fine, but Bowen punches it clear.

54 - New Zealand look more lively, Japan dead in the heat. The announcers keep referencing how Barcelona's style is echoed by Japan. That's a terrible comparison when Japan are creating so little.

55 - Ohno coming off, Iwabuchi coming in. Now they're comparing her to Messi. Please, just stop.

57 Which is not to say that I don't believe Iwabuchi is an amazingly talented player, by the way. On her first touch, her pass gets cut off. Like Whitehill points out, Iwabuchi had players open on the other side.

59 - The pressure of being "the next Mia Hamm", which Whitehill mentions for USA players, is more realistic than being like Messi.

61 - Wilkinson in for Gregorius.

63 - Japan's player seem afraid of making a mistake. They're tentative.

64 - Corner for New Zealand - foul call on Wilkinson for pushing the keeper kills it.

68 -GOAL! Iwabuchi is fouled just outside the box. Miyama, who has had a quiet game so far, nails the freekick with perfect bend past Bindon. 2-1 Japan leads.

74 - Now it's New Zealand who seem out of ideas.

77 - High kick from Hearn kills an NZ attack.

83 - Great builup by Japan ends in a tame Iwabuchi shot that was easy for Bindon.

88 - Just when I was going to type that Japan is playing boring, but effective keepaway, Iwabuchi gets cheeky and tried to chip Bindon. Not too shabby.

90 - Miyama's sloppy foul gives NZ a good freekick chance, but Hearn is no Miyama. Misses the target on the freekick. Too high.

Fulltime! Like Germany yesterday, Japan didn't get the extra goal differential they wanted, but they got the most important thing - the win.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

MLS - Fire versus Red Bulls

Wow, in HD one can really see the sun damage on John Harkes's face. Need more make-up, John.

I love Toyota Park by the way. Great stadium. Nice views everywhere, and the brickwork is sweet.

Bretos, A. Lalas and Twellman discussing the USA loss. Twellman has an excellent point about the youth of the USA team not matching Mexico's talent with young players. Duh. I could have said that back in 2005, when Mexico won the U17 World Cup.

1 - Dane Richards on an early run. Fire snuff it out.

3 - What a joke. Commentators talking about how the Fire miss Brian McBride. McBride was fine, but who the Fire really miss is Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Blanco made the team go.

5 - I nominate Eric Wynalda for the Fire coaching vacancy, by the way.

6 - Does anyone else hate Henry's beard as much as I do? I hate it like I hated Ronaldo's horrible 2002 haircut. Ugh.

7 - Richards helps the Bulls get a corner. It's taken well, but no one from NY is able to connect.

12 - Commentators snark slightly on Charlie Davies' goal total. Also, notice how all the studio hosts believe Bradley is staying in charge of the USA team. .

14 Cuesta gets a yellow for tackle on Joel Lindpere. DeRosario takes a crappy freekick.

15 - Oduro gets in deep, Keel cuts off his cross.

17 - Barouch misses from the top of the box for the Fire. Too high.

19 Fire getting more of the ball than New York, who don't look like the top team in the East at present. I know, technically, the Union are tops in the East, too.

21 - Johnson with a nice save on Richards. Gives up the corner, but the Fire eventually clear.

23 - Can anyone in the booth give Harkes a crippling blow to his voicebox? Twellman or Lalas would have better insight. Harkes is the master of the painfully obvious. Plus, he's not funny. At all.

24 - FAIL - FAIL! The All-Spanish commentary on the Gold Cup trophy ceremony is a fallacy. There was English spoken. Howard was wrong, just as wrong as he was four times in the USA v Mexico game. The MLS announcers should make the truth clear. Be honest, Harkes. I know it's hard.

26 - Johnson with another nice save, this one low.

27 - Fire on the counter, but Oduro blows it with a lame pass and promptly chastises himself like a four-year old, pounding his fists on the grass of the field.

30 - Blah, blah, the announcers have forgotten about the game going on in front of them and are wondering on -air if John Rooney will room with his brother. Please.

31 - Those concerned about the match, I'm here for you. Red Bulls passing the ball aimlessly in their half of the field.

32 - Barouch with a header to the corner - missed it, but not by much. Kid's got talent.

34 - Richards with a great wing run and a wasted cross right to Johnson. If Richards could ever learn to cross, he'd be a beast. He'd be in Europe, not MLS. But right now, every cross is a roll of the die. So he's in MLS.

37 - Stone doesn't want to claim credit for coining "Bouna-time"? Can't blame him.

38 - Cuesta, already on a yellow, is tempting fate by getting another foul.

39 - Now the announcers are telling the story of Mike Magee playing the majority of the Galaxy match as a goalkeeper. Highlights or it didn't happen.

40 - GOAL! Cuesta with a horrible clearance - right into Lindpere, who catches up to the ball and hits a nice angle to the corner. Not only does Cuesta gift Lindpere the ball, but in shock, he doesn't close down in time, allowing the shot. 1-0 Red Bulls.

42 - Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, but Lindpere is also persistent and opportunistic. Good qualities in MLS, where shaky moments happen.

45 - Fire pout their way to halftime. You can always tell a young team - they act like more possession and chances should count for something in soccer. It's all about the finishing and the scoreboard, boys.

Halftime - Lalas thinks Bob's USA coaching is fine. Twellman finds more criticism with the move for Bornstein after Cherundolo's injury. Then they segue, really awkwardly, to the Women's World Cup.

Considering he let four goals in last night - the AllState commercials with Tim Howard are really annoying. I want to yell at the screen, "Forget about being cool! Watch for Barrera! You should have had that shot!"

Hm, Hope Solo goes from being ostracized in 2007 to being the main feature in the ESPN halftime report. Meanwhile, where is former USA women's coach Greg Ryan?

46 - Announcers discuss whether Henry is disinterested in this match. It's the beard, I think. It makes him look like he's given up on life and caring about anything.

49 -
Bogus call. Nyarko wasn't faking, he just stepped on the NY player's leg. Of course he went down. He lost his footing.

53 - The Fire go close with a freekick.

55 - De Rosario tries to defy the law of physics and put a shot on goal from an impossible angle.

57 - GOAL! Pappa is the Pappa! Marco with an outside shot beats Coundoul. Coundoul misjudged the pace of the ball and didn't so much punch as barely nudged the ball, and it continued on its merry path to the back of the net. 1-1 All square.

58 - Bouna Time! for a bad flub, that is.

60 - Hi to all the folks who got here because Dodger writer Dylan Hernandez got bored at the airport and mentioned my blog on his Twitter. How 'bout them Dodgers this year? Who hates McCourt like I hate Henry's beard?

64 - Magee needs to make a triumphant return to the Red Bulls as their new goalkeeper.

66 - Pappa is injured. This is not good for the Fire.

68 - Pappa's fine now. Just overshot a cross.

69 - Pappa test Coundoul with a shot, but Bouna has this one. The Red Bulls look tired. This game is ripe for the Fire.

70 - Corben Bone is on for Baggio Husidic. Mendes, a Red Bull lifer, goes to ground trying to make something happen in the box. Nothing doing.

72 - Keel is clearly trying to make Henry feel better about that horrible beard by sporting really bad hair and an atrocious headband.

75 - Ballouchy, Henry and Lindpere work together to earn a corner and Keel gets a free header. The bad hair probably contributed to his bad miss.

77 - The Fire supporters still sounding energetic. If the players look tired - well, have you ever played in Chicago in the summer? Brutal. Life-sapping humidity.

78 - Teemu Tainio with a yellow card foul on Pappa.

80 - Hans Backe has fallen asleep. Or at least, that's the best reason I can come up with for New York not having a single sub yet.

81 - Nice save by Coundoul. Now he's down on the ground though. He didn't land well from that dive.

83 - Meanwhile, Chicago has just made its third sub. Pappa comes out, probably because he played Gold Cup and is still fatigued.

85 - Bouna Time - aka craziness - in the box as he clears the ball off a Fire player, but it doesn't result in a goal.

87 - Fire pressing late for the win, but one can't tell as the announcers gab about random Gold Cup and points in the table.

88 - Chaves is a mini-Pappa, but nowhere near as effective. You need to believe, Diego!

90+ Fire closing in as time runs down.

Mike Jones makes his MLS debut for New York. Oduro tries to be the hero, ignores Chaves and goes over the bar.

Fulltime - It's a draw. Tired match from both sides. Not MLS at its best by far. Plus, we never got Magee in goal highlights. I feel cheated.

Women's World Cup - Germany - Canada

I slept in, because I was at the Gold Cup final, so I've already missed the host country's opening goal.

It was a header, though, by Kristen Garefrekes in the 10th minute. Germany leads, 1-0

19 - Matheson with an outside try at the equalizer. Deflected for a corner, which is cleared.

24 - Back and forth stuff - Canada fighting to equalize, Germany countering hard.

25 - Germany corner is cleared by Canada.

27 - I think new fans watching the Women's World Cup may be startled by the fact that Canada is a solid contender versus Germany. They're a good team. The quality in the women's game doesn't follow the men's rankings in many cases.

29 - McLeod collects a long-range shot.

30 - Matheson has another crack from distance. Over the bar.

31 - Garefrekes is offside. Her hairstyle is actually hard to pull off - a parted in the middle ponytail. Mine won't stay down that way. Most players are sporting ponytails pulled straight back. That's easier to manage.

33 - Sinclair is tackles. She's definitely being targeted by Germany. They're not letting her breathe.

35 - Canada in deep, but Germany counter quickly. Canada goes back and Angerer smothers a shot.

36 - Think the USA had a hostile crowd in the Gold Cup final? Not compared to Canada in Germany's opener as the host country in the Women's World Cup. Even the announcer's are saying they can't spot a single Canada fan. C'mon, there's got to be a maple leaf flying in the stadium somewhere.

39 - Sinclair nearly pulls off a precise through ball to Tancredi. Germany counter and McLeod is out for the save in traffic.

40 - Outside shot by Behringer over the Canada goal.

41 - Canada takes a short corner. Germany clear it anyway.

43 - GOAL! The offside trap is totally sprung by Okinyino D Mbabi - Canada steps wrong, a perfect pass comes it and the run is fantastic. Mbabi finishes coolley past McLeod. 2-0, Germany leads.

45 - Canada are more stunned than they were after the first goal. They really had the better of play for a bit. Didn't make it pay off, though.

Halftime - Canada need to regroup. As Mexico has shown, one can come back from 2-0 down, but it's a bit of a mental killer to give up the second goal right before the half.

46 - Kelly Parker is in, so is Gayle to replace Nault and Kyle.

52 - Goalmouth scramble, but Canada finally clear the ball.

53 - Foudy is right - Darke is wrong. Mbabi fell down in the box, but it wasn't a dive. She tripped over her own feet.

54 - Foudy is wrong that women don't dive, however. Marta is good at it. To be fair, she also gets hacked a lot without getting the call.

56 - Alexandra Popp is in for Prinz. I think I remember her with the U16 Germany team. I feel old. Popp, might now, too, as she falls hard on her back after a tackle and gets up holding her lower back like a senior citizen.

60 - Canada's players have lost their spark. Germany firmly in control now.

67 - Wow. Garefrekes misses an open goal stunner. Over the goal with the net gaping before here. Shocker.

70 - Germany still pressing. Fatima Bajramaj - very popular player, comes in for Germany.

72 - Germany fans celebrating - with all the emotion in the huge stadium, Canada might count itself lucky to end up only with a two goal loss.

74 - Canada having a lot of trouble with possession.

77 - Off the bar! Laudehr from outside. Germany sizzling in this match. They should be up by more.

79 - Grings tries to make that happen, but McLeod makes the save.

80 - Timko in for Tancredi.

81 - Laudehr with a late tackle on Sinclair, who sets up for the free kick. and SCORES! GOAL! CANADA! 2-1. An awesome, efficient free kick, with just the needed amount of bend and power. The stadium is stunned.

83 - Sinclair is such a warrior. Game on, because Germany let Canada escape too often before.

85 - Kulig cracks one from outside. The fans are still in shock. The stadium isn't rollicking the way it was before.

87 - Canada nearly pulls off a tricky short corner for the equalizer.

89 - Germany's composure is returning a bit. They're on the attack now.

90 - Sinclair gets fouled, but this freekick is far out. Germany gets a counter, but when Laudehr finally takes a shot, it's way over again.

90+ Angerer collects the ball from a corner.

Fulltime! Germany holds on, but it's not quite the triumphant victory march it previously looked to be. Canada scrapped to keep it close.

Those Guys Have All The Fun - Soccer Edition, Part IV

The next mention of soccer in the book on ESPN's history is another indirect reference on page 440, in one of the short narrative prose paragraphs sprinkled intermittently in the book.

ESPN and the Disney Channel together increased Disney's revenues by $427 million, primarily because of subscriber growth at ESPN and increases in ad revenues, thanks to the 1998 soccer World Cup.

Love the way the word "soccer" prefaces World Cup, as if there's any other World Cup that really matters. What's also funny is that there's nothing more on soccer until page 581-3, and then there's a reference to the 2002 World Cup, but only in hindsight. Basically, pages 581-2 detail John Skipper's rise to the top position at ESPN after Mark Shapiro left to earn millions elsewhere. Skipper immediately moved to obtain rights to the 2010 World Cup tournament and nabbed it from under NBC's nose. The reason for his heated pursuit wasn't merely professional - Skipper had personally fallen for the sport, explaining why on page 583.

I started spending a lot of time watching it, including watching the World Cup in 2002, and loved the spectacle of it.

That's as close as the book gets to mentioning that the USA team had a stellar 2002 tournament, advancing to the quarterfinals with a 2-0 win over Mexico and battling mighty Germany to the final minute in a 1-0 loss that might have turned out differently without Oliver Kahn in goal and an uncalled handball on Torsten Frings. That was the furthest USA advance in the World Cup in 80 years, but other than in Skipper's oblique mention of that being the year he really got into the sport, and that being the impetus for fighting hard for future rights when he became ESPN's leader 2005, it's not even covered.

Timmy and Pat

I was trying to figure out why Tim Howard sincerely believed that the Gold Cup post-game ceremony had been conducted entirely in Spanish, and why so many English-speaking reporters didn't remember that the master of ceremonies of the trophy presentation, Fernando Fiore, had in fact spoken both Spanish and English throughout.

Here's my take. The reporters in the pressbox were busy writing up stories, and the ones who spoke English were no doubt mostly focused on Team USA's collapse of allowing four unanswered goals. They weren't inclined to listen carefully to a noisy, echoing announcer.
Howard, for his part, had personally suffered those four goals. He was probably emotional and not thinking clearly. He may have heard Fiore's thick Spanish accent and nothing else, even words in English.

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I lived near the Beverly/Vermont subway station (Yes, LA has a subway, albeit a small one). Pat, an Irish-American girl from Chicago who lived in my apartment complex, was always nervous about walking around the neighborhood, partly because she stood out with her blonde hair and green eyes. She'd wait to run errands with someone she knew. One day, we were walking to the subway station together, with plans to visit a jazz club in Hollywood. A Hispanic man whistled at us from across the street. We ignored him and kept moving. He yelled derisively at us as we continued down the sidewalk, and Pat clutched at my arm.

"Oh Andrea," she said, knowing I spoke Spanish. "Is he following us? What did he say?"

I stared at her. "Pat, he said, 'Go to hell, stupid lesbians.' He said it in English. You didn't hear him? It was pretty loud and clear."

She had heard, but not really. Her nervousness canceled out listening carefully. The man's accented English had registered with her as 'Spanish' and she honestly thought he was speaking in that language, not English at all.

Howard might have preferred someone with a more typical American accent, perhaps, to present the postgame ceremony alongside Fiore, but that didn't happen. But neither did his assertion that the entire event took place in Spanish. Fiore spoke partly in English, but Howard apparently wasn't listening carefully enough to notice.

Other Reactions

After spotting him in the pressbox, I was curious about what LA Times writer Bill Plaschke would write about - given that he hasn't shown much interest or knowledge about soccer in the past. Here's his take.

Kevin Baxter wrote on the match itself, but his piece didn't contain his joke about Chuck Blazer's resemblance to Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers films.

Simon Evans focused on a rather negative comment by Tim Howard (which seemed to confirm that I was right in my guess that Howard was really rattled by the Mexico fans. Weak.)

Martin Rogers is on Bob Bradley USA coaching deathwatch.

Grant Wahl (and others) refuted Howard's accusation of Fernando Fiore speaking only Spanish on his Twitter. Grant, who sat next to me in the pressbox, also had a reaction piece to the game.

Luis was on assignment for the Press Enterprise.

Reaction on SI

I was writing for Sports Illustrated's website today - a piece focused on Mexico. Check it out and let me know your thoughts on El Tri's performance.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Live! From the Rose Bowl

3:10 p.m. Well, ok, we're not actually at the Rose Bowl yet. Luis and I decided to be environmental and carpool to the game and at this moment, we're stuck in the traffic leading to the stadium parking lots. People are walking past us at a steady clip, going faster than the molasses pace of the crowded cars.

Also, we haven't seen one USA fan yet. It's been pure El Tri flags and jerseys on the people and waving from the cars.

3:12 - A USA flag! Yay for the folks in the gold Toyota Camry.

4:10 - Finally safe in the press box. Fans starting to get to their seats at well. Kickoff is in a couple of hours. There's no water in the pressbox, though. Nothing until 5pm, they say.

5: 15 - Just got back from the Chuck Blazer press conference - the big scoop is that he's not running for CONCACAF president in the next election. Other than that, he wouldn't talk FIFA stuff. Mainly he said this Gold Cup has been a big success.

5: 20 - So Bradley ends up being the coach with the surprises - Adu starts! Chepo de la Torre goes with the same lineup he's had since the suspensions.

Full starting lineup - USA: Howard, Bocanegra, Bradley, Dolo, Dempsey, Donovan, Jones, Lichaj, Adu, Goodson, Bedoya

Mexico - Salcido, Marquez, Torrado, Barrera, Castro, Dos Santos, Talavera, Hernandez, Moreno, Juarez, Guardado

Actually, now that the teams have jogged onto the field, I'd have to say that the USA support isn't bad. A solid 20 percent, and a vocal minority here at the Rose Bowl.

5:45 Mexico isn't doing much in their warmup - not that that means anything. They're basically jogging a bit and tapping the ball back and forth. Clearly, they don't want to expend any extra energy.

5:55 - Nice little PSA on the importance of signing up for the bone marrow registry to help kids like little Jonah, who jogged onto the field. Get registered, folks! I'm registered, though I've never been called upon to donate.

5:56 - The Gold Cup trophy is out on the field now. It's very modern looking, a little soulless, some might say.

5:58 - 10-man USA team holds on versus New Zealand in the U17 World Cup. The 0-0 result advances them out of the group round, but they'll be playing one of the tougher teams.

6:00 Anthems. The crowd is pretty respectful of both.

It's really a mixed group at the Rose Bowl, right below the pressbox, there's a couple at the game together. He's wearing the latest USA Donovan jersey. She's in a Chicharito green El Tri jersey. They're sharing a beer.

1 - Kickoff! Looks like Donovan is up top. Not sure I like that. Donovan can finish fine, but of late, he's been more effective as the feeder. But I'd bet that's not what Mexico expected.

2 - Guardado feeds Chicha in the box, but Lil Pea can't quite get on it. USA escape.

4 - Goal kick for the USA as another Mexico attack fails on the final pass. Not looking good for the Americans so far.

5 - Corner kick for Mexico. It's cleared.

6 - Mexico counter - Chicha gets knocked down but Dos Santos picks the ball up and attacks the goal. His outside shot doesn't miss by much.

8 - 'Dolo and Adu work together nicely to get a corner. Adu takes it, and Bradley heads the ball into the goal. GOAL! USA!

9 - It was really nice interplay between Adu and Dolo, outnumbered against defenders, but using some quality ball control to keep the ball until Dolo bounced it off a defender for the corner. Adu took the corner well, and Bradley had perfect near-post position for the flick into the goal.

12 - Dolo is out - injury of some kind. J. Bornstein comes in - and Chicha gets a header, but it was over the goal.

14 - Dempsey hacks at Marquez, gets his leg. Chicha in the box again, misses wide.

15 - Barrera takes a crack after Guardado sets him up - Howard saves.

17 - Mexico corner kick - cleared.

20 - Cherundolo has a left ankle sprain.

21 - Mexico is really hammering at the USA goal. I'm reminded of the last USA-Mexico qualifier at Azteca. The USA got the early lead there, but ultimately, that fired Mexico up and they came back to win the game.

23 - - Adu with a nice solo run, but he eventually gets cut off.

23 - GOAL! Landon Donovan. Freddy to Dempsey to Donovan. Dempsey returns the favor from the Panama match.

25 - The Mexico fans in the crowd are getting a bit grumpy. The USA fans? In ecstasy.

26 - Freddy has a go! Misses wide.

28 - Salcido is off - Torres Nilo comes on. Guess the Honduras game took more out of Salxido than many imagined.

29 - Suddenly the stadium roars! GOAL! Barrera!

30 - Just like that, Mexico is back in striking distance. Game on.

31 - It was Chicha with the assist to Barrera. This game is a cracker.

33 - Donovan gets a yellow for tripping Rafa Marquez from behind.

36 - GOAL! Mexico ties it, or does the USA also give it away at the same time? Succession of errors, really. Donovan and Jones collide in midfield, letting a long pass get down to Dos Santos, who crossed it in and when Lichaj tried to clear the ball fell to Guardado, who tucked it into an empty goal because Howard had come out for the earlier shot. 2-2

38 - Adu down for a bit. Back up.

42 - Now Marquez is down. Still not up. He's carted off the field.

43 - Crowd working together - USA and Mexico fans alike, to do the wave. There it goes, around the stadium three times now.

44 - Reynoso is in now for Marquez. Guardado has the armband, which Marquez previously had.

45 - Mexico working the ball around. They get a counter and Gio is out ahead of the Merican defense, with Guardado running near post. Gio shoots past an onrushing Tim Howard, misses far post, and Guardado is mad Gio didn't pass it to him instead.

45+ Goodson saves a Mexico counter by leaping high to clear the pass that was much more accurate than the American attack's long passes tend to be.

Well, so much for Dos a Cero, but on the other hand, Mexico has only a single sub left, and they've burned a lot of energy fighting back to equalize. It's a cliche, but it's still anyone's game at this point.

Teams are back on the field for the second half. I'll probably be writing less, though, because have to start working on my article for

47 - Bedoya is lively to beat his defender, but his cross is way off.

48 - Dos Santos waltzes the ball into the box against five USA defenders, nearly walks the ball into the goal.

49 - I think Howard might be unnerved by the "Puto" chants. he doesn't seem his solid self.

50 - Not a minute after I type that, GOAL! MEXICO! Barrera finishes past a diving Howard. 3-1

51 - Correction to earlier post - Mexico has a sub left.

54 - Guardado had the assist to Barrera, by the way. He's really the key to making things happen for Mexico.

57 - Adu fights for the ball, gets a freekick deep in USA territory, though.

58 - Now Freddy gets a much better freekick chance. He and Donovan stand over it - and it's a nice free kick by Adu- not Beckham caliber, too soft, but Talavera has to make the save.

60 - The USA builds up nicely and Dempsey off the CROSSBAR!

62 - Attendance is announced at 93,420. Years later, people will ask, "Where you there?" This game is that good. Best Gold Cup final ever? Could be.

63 - Jones leads out a USA counter, then Freddy muffs it with a weird backpass and Jones has to chase Dos Santos all the way back to the USA goal.

67 - Scuffle on the field - Jones apparently took a swing at Chicha, but the ref missed it. Gio then fouled a USA player hard, and then the freekick nearly went in for the USA.

68 - Mexico are pissed at Jones. It might have been perfect timing for the tiring squad. Anger gives them new energy.

73 - The El Tri players are now shoving Jones every chance they get.

75 - Final sub for Mexico - Zavala - so no chance for De Nigris today. Barrera is off. Chepo is looking to close up shop.

76 - GOAL! Mexico - A still pissed Chicha fights for the ball in the corner, forcing Bocanegra and Bornstein to take him on and Bornstein finally pokes the ball away, right to Dos Santos, who attacks into the corner of the box, Howard, rushing out, can't get the ball away, and Dos Santos isn't closed down by the defense, and kicks a delicate chip into the corner. 4-2. Mexico leads with breathing room.

77 - Oh, it was Eric Lichaj on the post who couldn't jump high enough. Not his fault, the finish from Dos Santos was perfect - and he's gotten a lot of grief for his lack of finishing.

84 - Dempsey from distance is not even a little close.

87 - Yellow for Dempsey, who is steaming. 4 unanswered goals by the opposition will do that do ya.

Fulltime! Mexico wins the 2011 Gold Cup! What a great final. Well, USA fans, what do you think? Does Bob Bradley need to go?

Gold Cup Final Is Finally Here

Gold Cup final day today. A sold-out Rose Bowl will be sight of the latest US-Mexico encounter.

Don't think any of us are surprised we're here as the two best teams have reached the final - the paths were paved towards such a meeting.

Anyway, now that the match is here I can focus on the game and, well, it's tough to see the U.S. winning. Mexico has been playing strong during this tournament while the U.S. hasn't. Based on form, Mexico has the advantage.

But we've seen the U.S. respond to similar situations against Mexico, and American players are always confident in their abilities to beat Mexico.

Now, this will also be the first Gold Cup final in Southern California since 2002. Used to be that all the finals were out here as the Coliseum played host to the Gold Cup finals in 1991, 1996, 1998 and 2000, with the Rose Bowl hosting the 2002 final. Since then, it's been in Mexico City, New York (twice) and Chicago. And this will also be the first US-Mexico game in Southern California since October 2000, when Landon Donovan debuted with a goal in a 2-0 US victory.

Anyway, don't really have a whole lot of insight at this late hour but we'll be sure and bring you a lot of coverage during and after the match right here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mexico - Honduras Running Blog

This is for the spot in the Gold Cup final - the USA is there courtesy of their 1-0 victory over Panama earlier today.

3 - Already Chicharito has threatened the Hondo goal. Not wasting any time, that one.

4 - Guardado is a beast, and his outside shot just now doesn't miss by much. Props to my fave El Tri player.

7 - Efrain Juarez saves a Honduras run from getting dangerous with a timely tackle.

9 - Pablo Barrera steals the ball, but then can't decide what to do in the box and muffs the attacking chance.

12 - Guardado is creating a ton of chances, but Hector Moreno's header is wide.

14 - Honestly, both Honduras and Mexico look like they could beat the USA right now. El Tri is lively in the attack, Honduras tough on defense.

16 - Guardado gets cleaned out on a tackle by Bernardez. Wow, he got hit hard.

18 - Barrera with another shot - this one from outside. Wide.

20 - Mexico players are testy after the tackle Guardado and tackling hard in return.

22 - Gio Dos Santos looks like he drew a corner, but Honduras escape after some sloppy defending in the back.

25 - Foul on Honduras, who is having a lot of trouble creating - and then suddenly a shot from Hondo. Wide, but at least a bit of a threat there. Slightly.

28 - Clash of heads. Ouch.

32 - Chicha threatens - but it comes to nothing.

34 - Portillo goes down - Mexico playing rough as well. Free kick to Honduras - way too low and El Tri takes off with it.

35 - Guardado down for a bit, but back up. Mejia's corner for Hondo comes to nothing.

37 - Hondo threatens. Guardado, meanwhile, is still limping. Replay shows the tackle twisted his ankle underneath. Ref missed it.

39 - Portillo takes Barrera down from behind. Ref does pull a card on this one.

41 - Over 80% of people texting in to answer the poll believe Mexico will make the Gold Cup final.

42 - Guardado and Chicharito combine in the box, but a collision with a defender isn't ruled a PK.

45 - Mexico pushing hard for a goal, Guardado in the box again, but his cross his cut off. Honduras trying to hang on until the half ends.

The strategy for Honduras may be to load up the first half with tough defenders, and then let on some skill players, ie, Ramon Nunez, in the second half. Bermudez is limping now.

50 - Free kick to Mexico in a dangerous spot - but Marquez kicks the ball too hard. Less power, more precision needed.

52 - Honduras with a little run of possession. Not much, but enough to provoke Juarez to lunge for a ball and get a yellow for cleating Portillo's leg as both went for a ball in the air.

54 - Guardado is out. Probably saving him from getting hurt more before the final. Question is, can Mexico reach the final without him. He's done most of the creating. On the other hand, he's gotten knocked around so much he's subdued of late.

55 - Honduras corner caught by Talavera.

57 - Torres Nilo is in for Salcido - and then a dangerous El Tri attack dies due to offside.

58 - Replay is inconclusive.

60- Hendry Thomas then promptly earns an offside call for Honduras. No replay needed, it was clear.

61 - Ramoncito is in for Honduras. Portillo is out. Let's see what the little prince can do.

63 - Not bad, he sends a pass through that frees a player - oh, no. Offside.

65 - Dos Santos dancing with the ball finally penetrates, but his pass into the box was too far for his teammates to reach.

66 - Valladares has to save a rebound from one of his own defenders - was nearly a perfect pass to an El Tri attacker.

68 - Barrera shoots from distance - Valladares punch save sends the ball shooting straight up - it hits the crossbar on the way down. Corner. Honduras escapes. The El Tri crowd is hyped, cheering their team on.

69 - Bengston gets a corner for Honduras. Nunez to take it. It shoots over everyone - no one far post to take a crack at it. Waste.

70 - Bengston's night is over. Costly comes in for him. He could really trouble El Tri.

72 - Now the announcers are mentioning extra time. Mexico is closing in on the time the USA scored their own hard-earned goal versus Panama. Yet it's pretty certain that Honduras is a better team than Panama. Sabillon earns a yellow.

73 - Free kick taken by Barrera, Chicha gets on to it, but his header goes awry. Wide right.

74 - Another yellow card for Honduras. Late tackle by Garcia.

75 - "Si Se puede!" The Mexican fans urge their team on.

77 - Honduras on the attack and Mejia gets a corner. Poor. It wasn't Nunez taking it this time, though.

78 - Costly goes down in the box - but no PK. He's pissed.

81 - MLS gets a mention in relation to Nunez. Hugo Sanchez chimes in, mentioning his time with the club.

83 - The worry with extra time seems to be that Mexico's players will be tired versus the USA. It doesn't seem as if El Tri is really worried about losing this game, more that they're mad they haven't won it already.

85 - Roger Espinoza of Sporting Kansas City threads a pass into the box for Costly - who is offside.

86 - It's about five minutes away from extra time.

88 - On a counter, Dos Santos has a clean break on the goalkeeper and HE SHOOTS IT WIDE!

89 - Chance of the game, and it's gone now. That's one to remember if Mexico has trouble putting this game away in extra time.

90 - Espinoza with an attack he started takes a shot at Talavares - who is forced into a save. Well done by both.

90+ The corner is dangerous and Espinoza gets another attack going, which ends with Talavera getting bumped hard - yellow card to Honduran attacker. Talavera rolls around for a bit, but seems fine.

Extra Time: Mexico still has to be favored, but Espinoza and Nunez both looked lively for Honduras at the end. Could switch the script with the right play.

92 - Mexico wants to put the game away in the first minute of extra time, attacking hard.

94 - Corner for Mexico - GOAL! Aldo de Nigris puts it away. He got up very well for the excellent service. He celebrates with a flying side kick into the corner flag. He gets a yellow.

96 - Honduras is on the attack. El Tri have to defend their lead.

98 - Then again, with Hondo committed to the attack, Mexico is getting more counter chances.

99 - Corner for Mexico. Chicha puts it in! GOAL!

100 - Ok, did he use his arm? Looked like it on the replay. Anyway, ref didn't see it, and Mexico has some breathing room now.

103 - With the cushion, Mexico don't have to run as hard for the rest of extra time, and can thus minimize the effort expended compared to the USA's game ending in regulation. Fatigue will be a lot less of a factor.

105 - Seriously, El Tri are looking inspired in the attack. Not sure if that's a good idea, as more attacks burn up more energy. Fun to see, though.

Second Extra Time Period

107 - Espinoza is pissed and gets a yellow card.

The rest of the match played out rather tepidly. It's over now. The big final is set. USA - Mexico.