Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy for Rogers, Sad for Sam and Others

I'm happy for Robbie Rogers. 

I know I can never fully realize what he went through, hiding his true self for years and years, fearing a lack of acceptance in the profession he loved, but it seems like it would be an enormous relief to finally be true to who you really are. 

That big step of coming out for Rogers came along with his withdrawal from professional soccer, but he eventually returned to the game, playing for the LA Galaxy. Now he plays professionally, has his own book, business and boyfriend. His life seems pretty good. Rogers, who in my experience has always been quietly polite, deserves it. 

Rogers remains the only openly gay pro team sports player actually still playing. 

I believe that's at least partly cultural. In many minority communities, homosexuality is a big stigma. It makes me sad to think that there are likely gay athletes in Hispanic, African-American and Asian communities playing team sports, not just soccer, who are probably terrified of the reaction from family and friends if they ever found out. These players can take some courage from Rogers, no doubt, but they probably also think, "He's different. He doesn't know what it's like where I come from." 

Not many athletes have the luxury to be prepared to walk away like Rogers. Many count on their careers to provide a livelihood for their families. Anything that would interfere with marketability is avoided. Many fear the negative consequences.

Rogers himself believed more athletes would come out after his announcement. The fact that it didn't happen indicates their fear is real. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Robbie Rogers - on the Past, on Today

The Today Show is covering the 3m price for the Cowardly Lion costume. Then the YouTube video of the eagle flying into the stadium - Now Robbie!

Maria Shriver introduces him as a "star" of the Galaxy. Eh, ok. I'd say the stars are LD, Keane, OGonzo, maybe Penedo. Robbie could make it into the unsung heroes ranks of the Galaxy with Juninho, Sarvas, de la Garza.

Fan favorite? Well, Robbie's getting there. Mike Magee was a fan favorite. Rogers had to overcome their affection for Magee and dislike of the trade. His early injuries didn't help. 

That's probably small potatoes to coming out of the closet. Rogers speaks on his family support and how he had to endure general slurs from coaches and teammates who used anything homosexual as a code for "wimpy" or "weak". Yeah, for many years, that's been typical jock-speak. Often female slurs are used the same way - "You kick like a girl!"

Clips of interviews are shown at the Galaxy's home stadium, Stub Hub. A.J. de la Garza and Brian Rowe vouch for Robbie's skills from a locker room interview. 

The Today segment closes with a photo of Robbie from his Palos Verdes school days, mention his new book and new contract with the Galaxy. They don't mention his new TV show, though. Probably because it's on a competing network. 

"Soccer Cup playoffs" - argh, Maria. MLS Cup playoffs. Oh well. To her slight credit, Shriver stumbled there like she wasn't quite sure it was right. It wasn't, but all is forgiven, Maria. Pretty nice piece on RR. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Assessments - Everyone Has 'Em

I've been writing the Liga MX Best XI all Apertura long . Can I just say that few things make me feel more like a hack than the type of articles that are popular in sports now. 
Edgar Castillo, who now plays for Atlas

I blame Letterman and his Top Ten list. Or fantasy football. Either way, listicles are the popcorn of the Internet sports world. 

I mean, obviously, there's something valid in writing about which players did well over the weekend of games. But soccer isn't as quantifiable as other stats based sports, so there's quite a bit of conjecture and speculation on my part as I subjectively try to decide who makes the Best XI cut. 

There also isn't enough time for me to watch every Liga MX game, but I do try to catch the highlights. So I hope my judgments are fair. 

Just for fun, here's another writer's take on NY's Mike Petke's coaching. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mike, LD and Awards of the Year

Landon Donovan has an interesting relationship with Latino fans, especially Mexican fans, who alternately love hating him and yet respect his play and his ability to speak to them in their language. 

But even so, it's interesting to see Donovan get nominated for a Univision award. If he wins and is at the ceremony, I'm sure he'll give a nice speech in Spanish. Just remember, LD, "deservo" is not a word in Spanish. 

One of the awards, I noticed, is best Tweet by an athlete. Can I just say, I have no idea how Mike Magee wasn't nominated for this stunner that called out both JK and his son and supported his former teammate, LD, after Donovan set the MLS record. It was subversive and devastatingly clever, like a phaser blast of truth. 

Most of all, it revealed Mike's courage. During his MVP year, quite a few advocated a USMNT callup for the MLS player. He basically willingly torpedoes that option in defense of his friend. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

El Tri Ends 2014 With a Whimper

After all the excitement over the prodigal son return of Vela, Mexico suffered a loss to Belarus. 

It wasn't all bad. Raul Jimenez scored, but the defense really let the side down

It was really cold, though. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Kill the Ghost. Let It Die So LD Can Live in Peace

I have a soft spot for this blog, but Twitter is where it's at with all the cool social media kids these days. Communication in short bursts has both benefits and drawbacks, as I found out in a recent dust-up over the medium. 

I like Phil, he's a great guy, but this tweet drives me crazy. Landon is not a What If. 

A What If is the sad song of a career cut short before it ever got a chance to flourish, due to injury or some other tragic occurrence. People shake their heads, remembering the youthful talent that never reached maturity. Len Bias is a What If. Or this guy. Or Steve Snow, if you need US Soccer-specific examples. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mexico, Beautiful and Beloved

Or, in Spanish, Mexico, lindo y querido! 

But more importantly, how about that Carlos Candle! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Canales and Moyes, Together!

I have actually met David Moyes before. Well, not in terms of having exchanged names, but we have sideline-watched the same practices a few times and he once nodded a greeting at me. 
Here's Moyes at USMNT practice

But more importantly, Moyes is bouncing back from the haunted-by-Fergie mess that was Manchester United by boldly going where few foreign coaches have gone before - Spain. It may not be as exotic as Bob Bradley in Egypt, but La Liga isn't a common route for English speakers, either. The Scott has pluck and guts and tactical knowledge as well. 

Plus, Moyes will be coaching my blonde cousin, Sergio Canales. 

Seriously, though, I do have roots in Basque country. My father's grandfather, so the story goes, was Basque. 
Already speaks Spanish!

It won't be easy for Moyesey, though. When I was in San Sebastian, I was a bit floored by all the Euskara in use. The menus in some places didn't have translations into Spanish. I can understand quite a bit of Catalan and Portuguese, so when I hear those languages, I can generally follow a simple conversation, but the Basque language is an isolate one, so I can't draw on the Latin roots of Spanish at all to help me. 

If Moyes needs help with his Spanish, though, or if he wants a handy, skilled player who picks up new languages well, I do know one that might be available for a new adventure. Moyes has counted on him before, too.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Coming Into the MLS Fold

NYCFC is coming along as the second team in New York, and with all the blue, it's looking very Chelseaish to go along with NY Red Bulls and their Manchester red vibe. 

Other than LA, which I guess won't count any more for a year or so, this now creates the first intra-city derby in MLS. 

As all MLS teams do, NYCFC partners up with adidas for jersey and logo stuff, which is going on sale soon, apparently. 

Round-up of LA Noche

Last night, 

Just to appease TT fans, here's a pic of him back in the day - at a FIFA EA event, no less! 
Who in this picture is #2 to LD and what for?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

#1 v #2

It's not the playoffs yet in Liga MX, but one of the almost-final games of regular season action featured Club America versus Toluca, who are top two in the standings in Mexico. 

LA v Real Salt Lake - MLS Playoffs Running Blog

It's a scoreless draw coming in from the first leg, so it's all to play for here in LA. 

And they kick off!

3 - So far, just the mist that indicates it might be LD's last game has stood out. 
4 - Ishizaki gets clipped, isn't happy. 
5 - Gyasi Zardes goes wide on an attempt. Nerves showing a bit there. 
7 - Juninho from outside. Nothing doing. 
10 - RSL attack to Plata gets cut off, but Real starting to look more comfortable. 
11- Last game - WHATEVER! LD with the header finish to put Galaxy into the lead. 
14 - With the away goal in play, Galaxy need to consolidate this lead. 
15 - Which is something they didn't do versus Seattle here in Stub Hub not too long ago. 
16 - A nice chip cross by AJ de la Garza set up LD's goal, by the way. It was a fine one-touch volley. The entire build-up was good team play. 
17 - Robbie K's chip from distance goes too high. 
19 - It went out, but I like the hustle of Sarvas chasing that ball down. The little things matter in the playoffs. 
20 - Keane! He puts it in and that lead consolidation I mentioned? Done.  Pinpoint pass from LD. 
23 - It's hard to tell if RSL are discouraged or if the Galaxy are just steamrolling right now. Probably a bit of both. 
24 - ESPN Deportes spends some time explaining that Keane wasn't offside, even though it looked a bit like he was. 
26 - LD on the run at goal - shoots high, almost as high as that 2009 penalty shootout. This was presumably less painful. 
30 - That mask looks hot and painful. 
32 - Juninho earns a foul, so a Galaxy freekick - who to take? Ooh, a trick play that nearly led to a Omar header on goal. Not quite, though. 
34 - LD nearly sets up Sarvas for another goal - but last defender blocks shot. 
36 - Leonardo gets injured, is carted off the field. 
37 - He is replaced by Tommy Meyer and his mustache. This Movember thing is really a thing, folks. 
38 - Ishi leads the break, but LD's pass, can't quite make it to Keane and the attack dies. 

Here are some recent Jaime Penedo quotes I got that are a bit relevant tonight. 

I don’t ever want to want to feel relaxed. There’s a saying in Panama, “He who feels relaxed, loses.” I believe it. Here, the competition is tough, we have a tough coach - a winning coach. So that pushes you every day in training. I’m happy working with the defenders - they’re doing well, we’re practicing well together. I’m happy with them, but I’m not relaxed.

We’ve had injuries, and now we won’t have Omar, but there are also players who have been working hard all throughout the year, Meyer, Leo, and they hope to do well when given the opportunity.

42 - Right on cue, announcers praise Penedo's calm play. Then Keane nearly sets up a Zardes goal.
43 - Gyasi again nearly puts in another goal, but Nick Rimando saves well.

Halftime - The Galaxy came to play. RSL thinking about starting to do that in the second half.

47 - Keane should have done better on a shot there.
51 - Keane on the attack again, gets a corner opportunity. Waters himself off with a bottle as Ishi goes to take the corner.
52 - Corner eventually leads to a Juninho angled shot, but Nicky R is all over it.
53 - Landon with a good run and cross to Keane, who promptly hoofs it way over the goal.
55 - LD with another goal! This time he was selfish and took the run and the shot by himself. Nicely done. 3-0. Keane was the provider, almost as if to say sorry for the earlier miss.
58 - Penedo with a monster save. Keeping all the goals for his team so far.
60 - Penedo's effort show Galaxy aren't going to sleep on this lead like they did versus Seattle.
63- Marcelo Sarvas makes the run and gets rewarded! 4-0 Galaxy. Stomping RSL in the house of Stub.
65 - RSL on the attack, but Penedo is still on parry duty.
67 - Beckerman and Findley on the attack, but to no avail as the final line of the Galaxy pokes ball away.
70 - Galaxy counter has Keane, Zardes and LD on the run, but LD pulls up, preferring to kill a bit of time with possession.
71 - LD again! Keane with the chip pass, LD volleys it into the corner past Rimando. 5-0 Galaxy.
75- Come at me, bro. Tell me again that LD didn't deserve to go to the World Cup.
79 - Keane shoots high. He might have had a hat trick as well. But with the shooting high and all. His assist boots are on, though.
82 - LD gets a yellow for arguing with the referee. Alan Gordon comes on. LD might regret that yellow in the next round.
84 - Keane on the run, tries to pass to Gordo, but defense cuts that off.
87 - Gordo working the mustache look, too.
88 - Zardes hoofs long for Gordo, who helps Ishi get a corner out of it. Out of that, Gordo pings the ball off the post. Close to yet another goal.
90 - RSL still fighting for some goal of honor. But Galaxy counter quickly. The shot goes wide and the referee ends the suffering of the Salt Lakers.

Final thoughts - Galaxy dominant with a capital Donovan. 5-0 was a victory of massive proportions. Seattle probably up next, but Dallas may surprise. Night, all.

Friday, November 7, 2014

You're Having A LAFC!

LA is getting a new soccer team - LAFC. But this won't be the first time Nomar and Mia have been in charge of a soccer squad. 

Posting the pics from their charity soccer matches reminds me of what an important cause bone marrow and organ donation really is. 

Perhaps that can become a key component of the new club, like it has in Brazil for Recife. Every time I see this video, I think of the lives that can be saved and I get a little misty. Soccer fandom is great, but when it matters in terms of real life or death, that's just incredible. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Quote Dump

Last batch of those recent LD quotes: 

One match for the national team that you consider a signature match?

Signature match? I’d probably pick two. One was against Germany in the ‘02 World Cup. I think I played well, except for not scoring. And two, I think would be the ‘09 semifinal against Spain. I think that was probably one of the best games I’ve played from beginning to end. The Algeria game - I mean, I didn’t the whole game - I mean, that moment, yeah.

Was that moment the apex though?

It’s hard to say not. Obviously, my first game was, too.

If you had known that you wouldn’t make the World Cup team, would you have still come back this year?

Yeah. I wanted to play another year. I wanted to see how it went. I was in a good place, mentally, physically. Obviously, the World Cup played into that, but I wanted to be back here. This was a year I wanted to play for sure.

How motivating has the snub been?

To be honest, it hasn’t at all. I know that’s hard to believe. I’m glad, in a lot of ways. As crazy as this sounds, some of the worst things in my life have turned out to be some of the best things. I had an opportunity to grow a lot this year and I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if I had gone to the World Cup and played in the World Cup. I’ve grown a lot from it and I think it’s probably shown in the way I’ve played.

How have you grown?

When life is easy and things go your way, you don’t learn a whole lot. But when things don’t go your way, it can be a good learning experience.

Do you know what position you’re playing for your last game?

I have no idea.

It’s kind of a crazy schedule, an international and ending the regular season.

Going into these last few weeks, a lot is being asked of me, and normally I would say no to at least some of it, but I understand that it’s important to a lot of people, me included. It’s a little tiring at times to do a lot of things, but the objective is get everything finished -well, to enjoy it, too- and then be able to focus on the playoffs.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

We Are Not Champions, Not Yet

Club America, Club America. . .  Follow their exploits here, by the way. 

What's a bit tricky for the squad is that they've got to finish out two weeks of the regular season with nothing to win other than what they already have - the leadership of Liga MX. They also could very well lose that. And even though that would be humiliating, it ultimately wouldn't matter because the team is already in the playoffs. Then again, it could matter a lot, because they will likely face the same teams in the liguilla. 

But no one said winning that lucky 12th championship was easy. 

Food, Glorious Food! Maybe Mexican Food.

More leftover LD quotes 

If there was a chance, that maybe they’d schedule a game against Mexico in January, would you consider returning?

I’d probably be at least 20 pounds heavier, so I don’t think they’d want me.

From celebrating the championship - by eating everything you see?

I’m going to eat everything I see regardless.
What’s the first couple of menu items?

It’s not necessarily menu items, it’s more about eating them as often as I want. Now, it’s maybe once a week. Then, it’ll be a few more times a week.

Monday, November 3, 2014

LD on Mexico

Landon Donovan 
(leftover quotes from when I spoke to him before his final international game)

Assuming you don’t score against Ecuador, goals against Mexico will bookend your international career. 

Yeah, that's a good story.

Could you speak on that - and also, were you watching when Mexico was on the brink of elimination from the World Cup last year? What were you thinking at that time?

One of my first internationals with the under-17s was against Mexico, so obviously, they’ve been a big part of my career, ups and downs. What I’ve learned is that they’ve helped us so much. Even though there’s been some animosity and negativity around it, without them, soccer here doesn’t grow the same way. 
While a lot of people were probably excited at the prospect of them not making the World Cup, I was not rooting for that. I wanted them to be there. It’s important that they’re there. It’s important that they represent this region, because they’re a good team and they show it every time they play in the World Cup. I’ve had some rough times in games against them throughout my career, but in the end, when I look back, I have so much respect for everything that’s been a part of the rivalry.

Was the biggest down against them when they eliminated the US from the Olympics, or a Gold Cup final?

The biggest down on the field was probably that Olympic qualifying 4-0 loss, yes. Off the field, just dealing with stupid comments that I wish I hadn’t said when I was younger. That kind of stuff brought me a lot of grief from people. I’ve learned from that. But there’s been a lot of very exciting games and we need that rivalry. We need that to continue and I think that’s good for everybody.