Thursday, March 26, 2015

If You're Happy, Then You Know It

Is it possible to rate happiness? If so, how much does that factor into a team sport like soccer?

We've seen disgruntled teams implode in tournaments, and we've also seen teams where everyone was smiling, looking like they're having a great time, genuinely friendly with each other, do very well in games. 

But is happiness measurable as a factor to winning?

What about personal preference? Would a player prefer to be part of a team that was a happy one? 

The truth is, most players will say that they want to play for the best team they can, regardless of the camaraderie among teammates. They'll take sullen silences and diva attitudes in return for winning. 

Then again, losing a lot probably doesn't improve a team's attitude or ambiance. The US have only won 2 of their last 11 games. 

William Yarbrough and Ventura Alvarado are eligible for both the USA and Mexico. 

Mexico seems to be having more fun under Piojo. If that matters to the duo, it could play a factor in any final decision, should Mexico ever come calling for their services. 

If you could choose, which would you pick and why?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Matosas Offers His Resignation

Whoo, hooo! Fall on one's sword in a great show of sacrifice - or is it really? 

So do others. 

Anyway, never fear, Matosas fans, he's not going anywhere yet. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

F.C. Fashion Choice - FC Dallas.

Yep, the FC Dallas logo is now apparently all the rage abroad in England. 

But, as I have noted before, FC Dallas has a way of getting into the hands of the most stylish kids. 

Gwen Stefani with kids, check out Kingston's FC Dallas kit

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Who Mexico Didn't Call

They didn't call Billy boy. 

Anyway, I'm not sure anyone even calls William Yarbrough "Billy", but I couldn't help myself. The Mexican-born goalkeeper of American parents has accepted a call-up from the one and only Jurgen Klinsmann, so he's apparently going to throw his lot in with the USA instead of Mexico. 

Club Leon had a nice little throwback to their history of USMNT players. 

But is Klinsmann really serious about Yarbrough? He's made some picks before that just seemed off-hand and not about building a strong senior squad. 

Then again, Yarbrough is probably smart to seize the opportunity. Miguel Herrera wasn't encouraging on El Tri prospects for Yarbrough. 

A friendly match doesn't cap tie Yarbrough, of course. But he would have to file an official FIFA switch to Mexico if he's already suited up for the USA, even in a friendly. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Finding Fitness - Pilates

So, yeah, if Rossi can use Pilates for rehab, I should probably give it a try in my finding fitness series. 

My local Pilates spot is Eagle Rock Pilates, although when I look up the site, they apparently call their place Pilates Eagle Rock.   This gives me the same vague embarrassment/stubborness I sometimes get whenever I pronounce a player's name wrong in an interview, but still prefer my version. (Yeah, it's your name, but have you thought about changing?)

I once took a Pilates class at my local gym and thought that was pretty cake, but it turns out, that was at best what is known as a 'mat Pilates' session. The more intense versions follow closely the teachings of Joseph Pilates and make use of specific Pilates equipment like the Reformer. (Cue my reflex reaction to get Snow's Informer ditty stuck in my head for the rest of the day.)
Me on Reformer - As if!

Pilates focuses a lot on slow controlled movements that seem simple at first, but really give muscles a workout. I'm trembling by the time I have to repeat most any movement. The core muscles especially get exhausted. Just try Rossi's sideplank circle walk - it's not easy.

Fitness: 8/10 It's an amazing way to strengthen muscles and build body control, but I felt it was missing a cardio element. 

Fun: 6/10 Pilates is cool way of getting in touch with what one's body is capable of and the exercises are almost like a body experiment - this looks easy, but damn, it's not! - and a good instructor really makes each session an educational experience. Lose-yourself-in-the-moment fun, though? Not so much. 

Sociability: 4/10 For private sessions, the only socialization is with the Pilates trainer. Group sessions are still quite small, and everyone seems serious about the exercises, so there's not much interaction or conversation.

Convenience: 7/10 Pilates is very popular in California, and there are studios all over the South Bay for retiring and rehabbing soccer players. 

Cost: 3/10 Private sessions are more expensive, of course, but even group sessions are pretty pricey. 

Pilates is an excellent workout, especially ideal for athletes who need precise body control, like dancers and soccer players, but it's not a terribly entertaining exercise. I'll probably do it some, like I try to eat some vegetables because I know they're good for me and I should, but not because I wouldn't rather have something else. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Best of the Bunch

Here's the Liga MX Best XI - IMHO, and yes, I put in Joe Corona, but I'm not being American-partial. 

Tijuana are top of the league right now. 

It's deserved. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Herculean Effort at Understanding

It's probably the headline of this piece quoting Herculez Gomez on yet-uncapped Mexican-American Ventura Alvarado that threw me off a bit. 

Herc, who played in the 2010 World Cup with the USA, is as red-white-and-true-blue as they come, encouraging other young Mexican-Americans like Paul Arriola to cast their lot with the USA. But I remember years ago asking a young, as-yet-uncapped Herc about his chances with Mexico - and yes, he was open to that possibility. Mexico never came calling, but the USA did. Thus, I was surprised that he would judge Ventura (a bit harshly, I thought) for doing something similar - saying he was undecided as to his final choice, but open at this point to both countries. 

I tweeted that opinion and then went on to do something else. While I was gone, Herc responded in a couple of tweets. But on my phone, this was the first one that popped up. 
While I thought it was odd that Herc would tell me, "Get offended," I figured it was short for "I can't control if people get offended," or something. 

Now I was confused. I scrolled down and saw that the first Tweet I responded to was actually the second part of another one. 

So Herc was explaining that there was more to the quote in the article and he was actually cautioning Ventura about possibly offending fans, not really blasting him at all. Now it was my turn to try to explain. 

Herc was pretty forgiving about it all. 

  Ultimately, Ventura Alvarado will have to make his choice - like Herc and Omar Gonzalez, Joe Corona and many others to come. Honestly, I think part of the fun of the rivalry involving the USA and Mexico is watching what happens with those choices. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

What Is Heard May Be in Your Heart

I still don't really know what Davy Arnaud said. I wasn't there and the video isn't totally clear. If Rolfe was indeed spit on, (as Chris Pontius himself attests) Arnaud may have been issuing a warning. 

What I do know is this - what we perceive is partly the result of what we've gone through in the past. Our filter is a lot of what we see. 

Here's the first tweet I got last night. 

The next day, I figured that somebody had to have more info, so I asked about it. 
So I retweeted.

A DC United player verified one aspect of the debate.  

Meanwhile, I was fielding criticism of my own.  

Others still weren't sure what was said.  

The video got made into a Vine.  

I started to wonder if the racism could be in the eye of the beholder.  

Others still aren't sure. The truth is still out there.  

Meanwhile, here's the story on the game I did watch and write on.  

** Update - I got a call from DC United's communications director about my tweets. Apparently the team is looking through video to try to prove the spitting incident by an Alajuela player. Multiple DC players verified to him that it did happen, even if the cameras missed it. He was concerned that my tweeting was putting Arnaud in an unfairly bad light and wanted to remind me to reach out to the team if I have questions like this one in the future. 

Honestly, I would have contacted the team if I had gone into this as a story, doing research, but I don't cover MLS as a regular beat any more. Instead, I was reaching out on Twitter to MLS reporters in general, wondering if any followed up on the controversy. I don't regret that, because it opened up some interesting perspectives and I think all the people involved were in general fair about it. Still, it reminded me that as a reporter, even idle questions about stuff on Twitter has ramifications. People will treat what I tweet differently than just a random account, even if it's not directly connected to anything I'm reporting. I guess my point is that sometimes even my limited influence has some effect. I have to stay aware of that.

Finally, though, it's still DC United's version of events being told here in regards to the video. I was contacted by another reporter who is reaching out to Alajuelense. If I get an update on that end, I'll include it here as well.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dear MLS Rookie

Dear MLS Rookie,

Congratulations! You haven't started your first season under the shadow of a strike! The Players' Union and the MLS owners came to a new collective bargaining agreement and avoided a work stoppage. 

There's even more good news. The minimum yearly league salary is now $60,000. If you're a Generation Adidas player, you're probably already making more than that, but if you're not, it's a decent salary. 

Don't be stupid with that money, though. Get a budget going and track where what you've earned goes. Roommates are still a good idea, too, because young players can collaborate on carpools, off-season training sessions and even food expenses. 

You're young, but an athlete's body is never invincible. Injuries are part of the game. Have a back-up plan in mind, just in case your soccer dream doesn't work out. Dream a new dream.Take care of yourself by eating well, too. Don't just inhale burgers because they're cheap. Every team has a resident health guru, whether it's the trainer who can bench more than any player, or a teammate like Jimmy Conrad used to be, always going on about superfoods and never cramping up, even in extra time. Listen and learn. Take in what you can handle and be open to new ideas like yoga, kale and kombucha. 

Even if you don't personally feel that way yet, there is life outside of soccer. Skype or call your family when you have downtime. They'll help you maintain perspective when you're struggling in practice and stuck on the bench. Also realize that some of life's most difficult injuries never show as bruises or broken bones. If you feel you need counseling, don't suck it up or try to be macho about it. Get help. 

When you can, try to give help, too. You may be a rookie, but there are developmental players hanging around the team now who look up to even you. An encouraging word or respectful treatment from you would mean the world to them. Those little kids hanging around at the end of practice? They may not know your name yet, but they see you in that jersey and get excited by a wave or a smile. Do the community charity events your team plans. Appreciate team staff and that will be remembered. Some players get traded a lot, but are always thought of fondly by all their teams because they're such good guys. Others are only remembered by, "Good riddance." 

Have a thought for the game reporters, too. True, they may be trying to get quotes from the team stars right now, but at some point, you'll get the chance to say something. Make it thoughtful, personal and honest. They'll come back for more quotes. You're making more money than many of them do now at this point, so even if what you say gets taken out of context now and then, is it worth getting heated over? Pick your battles. 

Most everyone, reporters, coaches, fans, etc, involved with the game loves it, just like you hopefully do. But unlike them, you get to play - maybe not as a starter, but yes, you get to play pro soccer for a living. That's awesome. Enjoy it.