MLS Fangirl

Comments from a fangirl's eye-view on Major League Soccer, the American slice of the world's greatest sport.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Less taste, more filling

I was sort of kidding when I speculated last week about ex-USMNT coach Bruce Arena moving over to Red Bull New York! Yet here it is just five days after his USMNT dismissal: Arena is now the New York's main squeeze.

But it makes a lot of sense -- RBNY just lost its second coach of the season so it had an opening, and I get the sense of a grand rebuilding plan in place, despite the rather yicky season record of more draws than just about anyone but not a whole lot of wins. I'm also guessing that the makers of that PixieStix-flavored fizzy brew are throwing a lot of cash into their team and into MLS with an aim to bring it up and take it out into the great wide futbol-lovin' world. All the rumours about various Euro-stars who will be running out their years toward retirement in the Big Apple are probably going to be turning to truth in the next few years. Now all we have to do is wait. So congrats, Il Bruce, and welcome to New York. And throw back a few Jaegers and RBs on me.

Looking forward to the All-Star game? I sure as heck am, especially since it's packed with Red-and-Black goodness. Seven of my beloved DC United guys will go up against EPL hard-hitters Chelsea on Aug. 5 -- my man Alecko Eskandarian, Freddy Adu, Brian Boswell, GK extraordinare Troy Perkins, Jaime Moreno and my fantasy team gol-scorer Christian Gomez join up with the rest of the crew that includes USMNT members Landon Donovan, Pablo Mastroeni, Brian Ching, Jimmy Conrad, Eddie Pope and Chris Albright.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Arrivederci, Il Bruce

I'll take "News that's not really surprising to anyone who's been paying attention for $300," Alex. The answer: "A poor performance by the US Men's National Team led to his dismissal as head coach."

Yes, yes, we all know by know that Il Bruce's been sacked. You can find more about it here or here or here or here or even here and every place where good futbol is served up daily. There's much much speculation going on about who will fill his cleats, such as the newly freed-up Jurgen Klinsmann of Germany-by-way-of-California, but as I'm attempting to wean myself from the onslaught of World Cupness that has plagued this blog for the past five weeks, I'm going to head a different direction. Let's wonder, shall we, about where ol'Arena might be drawing his next paycheck. I do recall some months back that there was some speculation that Arena might be leaving as head honcho of the national team anyway, regardless of performance, and that he might return to coach in MLS. It seems like there's been a lot of coaching musical chairs this season, between New York and LA and such, so would it be out of the frame of possibility for Arena to end up back in the Majors? Shall I add him to the "I hear (insert name of renowned world futbol star approaching retirement here) is going to play for RBNY soon" rumour mill? And if he did come back to MLS, would he be welcomed?

Well, whatever happens, thanks for taking the team up a notch, Coach Arena, and good luck to you in whatever you do.

Man, it's been so long since I've been able to dedicate myself to the joy that is an MLS match that I'm going to dispense with the picks for this week, other than the sure-fire thing that DC will triumph over the Crew.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

From the wires

I know I said I was getting back to MLS now that the World Cup has past, but since the whole damn world decided to take an interest in soccer thanks to the Head-Butt Heard Around the World I can't let it go quite yet. Zidane finally came out and gave the world a little hint at what happened between him and Marco Materazzi and it wasn't something racist, it wasn't something that rhymes with terrorwhist, so all you emptyheaded PC reactionaries who've never watched a gawddamn game of fútbol until you saw the incident replayed on SportsCenter, shut the hell up before I card you. It seems to be exactly what I thought it was when I saw it happen, essentially along the lines of "I woke up with your mom this morning, tell her that her coffee sucks." Quite honestly I would have preferred something along the lines of Materazzi asking Zizou, "Care for a shag after the game?" but oh well, that's that. I think it'd be utterly stupid for FIFA to take back Zidane's Golden Ball award, because the only thing that really separates the head-butt from any other stupid example of testosteroniness is that one-sixth of the world saw it. This is fútbol, it's a contact sport, and sometimes there's a little more uncalled-for contact than is necessary. It's part of the game. Go ahead, fine him if you have to, but fine Materazzi, too, for being a pottymouth, because he definately deserves it. Zizou's being as good as he can about the whole thing, and I admire him for admitting that he'd done something wrong, taking the consequences and saying that in hindsight he'd still do it again and take the consequences that come with it. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do and take what comes. Taking away the Golden Ball shouldn't be part of it. So let that drop.

So let's move on to rankings: reports today that the new FIFA rankings are out. Brazil is still at the top, and world champs Italy are behind them. The US fell to 16, which quite honestly is a little closer to where I think we should have been ranked all along. But here's what puzzles me: Mexico, who started out 4th, has dropped to 18. Mexico who at least won one game and garnered more than one gol and at least moved on to the Round of 16, got plopped behind the US. Which makes no frikkin sense to me at all.

OK, so finally back to MLS. And hey, the All-Star whoopin' is coming up in a few weeks. DC United Coach Peter Nowak, who's doing coaching duties for this go-round in Chicago, released his First XI, and they include five guys from the USMNT -- Donovan, Conrad, Pope, Dempsey and Albright, three of them who actually put their feet on the German pitch! My policy on voting for the All-Star game was pretty simple -- if you went to Germany, you got your slice of the limelight for the summer, so you don't get my vote. But oh well, I've also been silly enough to continue voting for my beloved Frankie Hejduk, and I've heard he's not coming back until next season. The other six are Shalrie Joseph, Dewayne DeRosario, Ante Razov and my beautiful DC United boys Christian Gomez, Jaime Moreno and Tory Perkins, who's been rockin' the net this season. I never ever thought I'd come to love someone more than I loved Nick Rimando. More names Monday.

NY goalkeeper Tony "the Tank" Meola is out of play for a few weeks to nurse a foot infection. Ouch. And it makes me wonder if anyone's really going to notice. But hey, speaking of NY and Zidane all in one blog, what's this I hear about Zidane maybe coming to play for Red Bull NY? And what is it that I hear about nearly every Europe from legend coming to play for NY? Because they kinda sorta suck this seaason, so why, if you're going to while away your retirement years in the MLS, would you want to go play there? Money? Yeah, it's all rumour, but it makes me wonder.

But the best of the best -- AP has a story about DC's 12-game winning streak that's pretty well gone unnoticed thanks to Mundial drama, and I'm just saying, congrats to my favorite Black-and-Red-clad players. They're doing a good job of stomping last season into the dirt and grounding it out like a finished cigarette. I also saw a Freddy Adu milk add on the back of this week's Ultimate Fantastic Four, so there's all sorts of DC goodness out in the world at the moment.

Games on Friday this week! Back to basics ...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Return to MLS

This futbol blog's been relatively silent during the month that celebrated the biggest futbol fest in the world, the World Cup. And that was partly due to the World Cup itself. Between working full time, going to school every day and watching as much futbol as time and cable channels would allow, there simply was no time left over to throw out my thoughts on this beautiful tournament, even once the matches dwindled to a couple a week after the first round ended.

I watched so much futbol that by week 3 I was almost thoroughly sick of futbol. But how wonderful it is to get to that point, of having TOO MUCH futbol to watch. This isn't a problem I normally have, and now that the World Cup has ended, I'm back to at least one chosen MLS match a week -- if the streaming on doesn't poop out like it's been doing lately -- and whatever matches I can scrounge up time to watch outside of that. Back to scouring the MLS rosters to fill out my fantasy teams, and back to feeding my Frankie Hejduk obsession. So even as I go through withdrawl, it'll be kinda nice to get back to simplicity that is MLS again.

But before I do that, here's my two pffenigs worth on the World Cup:

My beloved USMNT -- and yes, they're still my beloved US Men's National Team. OK, so they didn't do nearly as well as the know-nothing pundits and the FIFA rankings expected, but those of us who have been really watching these guys since the qualification period began weren't surprised. Yes, they can play on a world level, just not consistently. Once they figure that out -- and they will -- then they won't need a Nike sales pitch to do their bragging for them. I'm satisfied that they had one beautiful game against world champs Italia. I walked around for half a year fretting over the USMNT's performance in the World Cup, believing that a disastrous run would kill the development of futbol in the US. It's only now, after the World Cup is over, that I realize what a foolish idea that is. Soccer and an appreciation of soccer is growing in the US, and it's only a matter of time before it racks up enough love to become a marketable sport. All that's really keeping it down are stupid sportswriters like Frank DeFord, old guys who grew up equating futbol with communism and limp-wristed pantywaists. Sooner or later, they'll shut up and the generation of sportswriters behind them that grew up playing soccer will start writing about it fairly and freely, giving futbol the attention that it's due. From watching the World Cup, it was clear that the only thing keeping the US from playing consistenly at the world level is the lack of soccer culture in the US, and that's coming. Just give it time.

MLS -- yes, there is an MLS side to the World Cup. After the US shambled out of Germany, I heard people complaining that the team's poor performance was due to the many MLS players on the squad. But how dumb is that? Last time I looked, the bulk of the players on the pitch every game were based in Europe, and the one gol we garnered for ourselves was by New England's own Clint Dempsey. People should be on their knees thanking the sporting gods that we have a major league training ground from which we can pick a pool of players. MLS creates US soccer. Stop knocking it. Love it, support it and watch it grow.

Bruce Arena -- I can't say that I'm a fan of using the media as a tool for bitching out your players, and if Il Bruce uses public shame to chastize his players, then I'm not such a fan anymore. I've only known US soccer while he's been at the helm, and while I wouldn't be opposed to seeing how he bounces back from the team's performance, I also wouldn't be upset if the US ushered in a new era of soccer sans Arena.

Thrill of victory, agony of defeats, and draws ain't bad either -- I can honestly say that two of the best games of the whole tournament was Trinadad & Tobago vs. Sweden and US vs. Italia. There's just something wonderful about watching an underdog rally against odds to match itself to a team that's supposed to be superior.

The love -- Yeah, it sounds cheesy in a whole high school diversity training montage sort of way, but it really does my heart good to see players from all cultures and all countries being buddies on the pitch, what with the helping each other up after fouls, the hugs, the guy-pats on the butt. I rarely see that in other sports, and this is one of the reasons why I love this sport so much. It makes up for thugish ugliness such as Wayne Rooney's groin stomp and Zinedine Zindane's headbutt.

New favorite players -- I utterly fell in love with Portugal's Ricardo. I love it how the commentators kept saying that "he guessed right on that penalty." Idiot guys, if he's guessing right, then he's not guessing. That was some sheer expertise on the PKs, and it makes me wish I could watch Portuguese soccer. Also, Abbondanzieri, Sorin, Messi, Crespo, Saviola and the rest of the Argentinian squad. They were awesome throughout and I really expected them to go farther than they did. They were a pleasure to watch, for many many reasons.

Things I hated -- Curse you Dan O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa, you guys ruined almost every game I watched. Remember when I begged Marcelo to speak up more? I take it back. Stop with the hindsight "he should have done this/that/whatever" comments, because that's not helping. And Alexi Lalas, what a media whore, even showing up on Colbert to teach US non-soccer lovers how to ridicule our opponents. Who's bright idea was it to put his ass on the TV? There's a reason why so many people in the US watched the Cup on Univision, and it's called ESPN's staff.

All in all, it was a wonderful month, and like all good things it's come to an end. Watch this space as I get back to my MLS goodness.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

That's fútbol ...

What my husband said, upon seeing Zinedine Zidane head-butt Materazzi: "I would have expected him to throw a punch, but that's soccer for you, no hands."