About (One of) the Author(s)

As noted earlier, I thought I’d throw out an introductory post to kind of set the tone for what I hope to do in the future for this space. I’ll begin with a little about me:

– I have no real credentials of which to speak. The highest official playing level I ever “achieved” was junior varsity on a fairly weak high school team (Pullman, Washington’s first-ever high school soccer team, for the record). The highlight of that experience was probably the own-goal I scored in what may or may not have been a tournament final of some sort; I celebrated the occasion by bowing to the home crowd…and how they cheered…

– I find players more interesting for what they do than who they are. I feel a little guilt about this, but don’t think I should. I mean, I’m sure they’re fine, interesting human beings – or, rather, I doubt a cross-section of soccer players is any more or less personable and witty than the population as a whole – but it’s not like I’m paying to see them give spoken word performances, right? I’ve got other professionals for that…

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Lyon starts confidently, Marseille with a whimper

New coach Alain Perrin has got to be happy with the 2-0 shutout win over Auxerre, a top half contender. The victory bodes well for the club as it seemed they had lost more quality than they had brought in, but new signings: Fabio Grosso (nice to see a high-profile Italian over in France), Kader Keita (from Lille), Their losses, which now loom a little less, could still prove costly as it’s hard to replace an Eric Abidal (to Barcelona), Gerard Houllier, Florent Malouda (to Chelsea), Gregory Coupet (to injury, out 4 months, and Tiago (to Juventus).

Olympique Lyonnais

Milan Baros and young’un Karim Benzema put away their chances as Lyon seemingly breezed through their first match on the busy road towards a 7th consecutive title.

Main competitors Marseille found it much more difficult, despite significantly strengthening their squad, tying 0-0 against a scraptastic, Ligue One newcomers Strasbourg . The loss of tireless midfielder Franck Ribery to Bayern Munich proved obvious and a bit discerning as even the ‘next Zidane’ Samir Nasri couldn’t help the Marseille cause. New signings Karim Ziani and former Red Bolo Zenden couldn’t help break the deadlock, but made their competitive debuts.

Paris St-Germain and Monaco both tied their opening matches as well. PSG 0-0 against Sochaux and Monaco 1-1 against a tough Frederic Piquoinne-less Saint Etienne side.

CHI’s Ligue One Man of the Week: Johan Audel who had a hat-trick in his new squad, Valenciennes’ first match of the season versus Toulouse. Score ended up 3-1 as Valenciennes, newcomers last season, look to make their Ligue One status permanent. A good signing for the club, the 24-year old Audel should provide the offensive support necessary for Steve Savidan (who graced the top of the scoring charts last season) and to keep this team ready to produce week in and week out.

Johan Audel

Why Beckham’s Future May Be In Jeopardy

I’m a bit upset that my first post on CHI is about Goldenballs himself, but I was just pondering something while I was working out at the gym this morning, and figuered I would share it with everyone.

During my second soccer game as a Frosh in High School, I stepped in a ‘gopher hole’ near the touchline and twisted my ankle something fierce. I stayed in the game, and didn’t take my boot off, as thats when the swelling gets intense. However, after the game, the damage was evident. Black and blue all over, and with pain unbearable, I went to the doctor.

He took X-rays and said that it was ‘just a sprain’ and to stay off it for a while. A while to me, was about 6 hours, and I went back to practicing that same day. It still hurt, but I figuered it would be okay, and the pain would go away. This was not the case, and I managed to make it to the end of the season, barely walking. I took the next few months off, and it was fine. All was right with the world…

But here is the funny thing about ankles. Even when they are okay, and they are just ‘sprained’, they never are totally ‘okay’. I played the next 4 games my Soph year, until I rolled it again. And again..and again. Eventually, it spread to both legs, and my ankles looked like they had baseballs permanently attached to the sides, thats how much they were swollen.

It eventually took me 6 years until I had surgery to remove the bone chips that had been broken off my ankle bone from all the times I rolled it. I also had the ligaments repaired during the same procedure. I went to PT 3 times a week, and stopped playing ALL sports for 6 months, which to me was the equivalent of the worst torture you could endure.

It took me until my 5th game the first season back to roll my ankles again, and it was back to square one.

I took MORE time off, and made it to the 8th game this season until a sprain and another bout with PT and I’m 23, considerably younger than the 32 year old Beckham.

And I am not in the minority here.  I met a lot of footballers who had ankle problems like mine that were exacerbated over the years.

Now, you might be saying, who the hell cares? Well, the problem is that ankles are a bitch to rehab. They do all the cutting, stabilizing, and flexing during soccer. If Beckham’s injury is at all severe, they are doing the right thing to keep him out until he is absolutely ready. Sure, he could just strap on a brace and take the field, making sure he doesn’t tweak it for that game. But the brace will absolutely hinder his ability to shoot and cross the ball to his liking, which is why I ditched the braces for myself. I have tried ALL the braces out there and NONE of them do not hinder your ability to shoot the ball with the laces of your boot.

I’m fully aware if Beckham makes it through this year and comes out okay, he will do all he can this off-season to rehab it. He will strenghten his ankle, do stabilizing exercises, be put in the baths, be hooked up to machines to send electric pulses through it. (yeah, I’ve been through it all) He will feel fine and be match fit again.

But what happens next year if he tweaks it again? If he goes into a ball and gets stepped on and it rolls? He will be even more cautious not to come back too soon, and will be out again. After an injury, you are always more prone to doing the same thing again, and if I am any indication as to what can happen, the next time could very well be worse. And the next time after that… When people tear their ACL, the ACL is actually 100 times stronger than your normal ACL. But unfortunately, ankles don’t work that way.

Let’s face it, Goldenballs is here to make an impact on the face of soccer in America, but he is not going to do it with a bum wheel, whether you, ESPN, or Alexi Lalas want him to.

He will come back when he is ready, and judging by how long this is taking, I’m betting that it won’t be any time too soon.

And for his sake..I hope he doesn’t suffer the same fate I did.

Loss of Baines a Crushing Blow to the Latics’ Survival Chances?

wigan_800x600_lbaines_548074.jpg

 Leighton Baines – the longtime cornerstone of Wigan’s back four – has moved onto to the greener pastures of . The close call of last year’s relegation battle seemed to have spark the young fullback’s ambition to stay in the Premiership. The money helped too, as Wigan will receive $10 million for his services and Baines’ weekly salary improves as well. Baines, however, was a full-out Wigan product and – as many Latics supporters are hoping – the money received for selling him better go to good use.

“I’ve had six fantastic years here and it was a really tough decision to leave that behind because this is the club who have given me the opportunity to make it in the game” (from Wigan’s website)

Everton has gained a massive talent on the wings, to add to the likes of Phil Neville and Nuno Valente. The Toffees, however, could be far from done their spending as both Australian Tim Cahill (month or two) and English youngster James Vaughan (til November) are out for significant periods of time. The addition of Baines should allow Neville to venture into the midfield with Arteta pushing into the middle.

LAG v. TFC: Quality Advertising…

Here’s the $64 dollar question from Week 18: why was Toronto FC v. LA Galaxy televised on ESPN2?

(And, no, that’s not a typo: this is MLS; we don’t do $64,000.)

On one level, I can almost hear the calculations that ESPN’s honchos applied to this: well, David Beckham might play and, even if he doesn’t, the fans in Toronto put on an all right show, right? Hell with it; pull the trigger.

Then, however, it becomes more and more apparent as the week passes that Becks won’t play, but instead will show up looking sharp, but uninvolved, in his Hugo Boss. And, at that point, the writing is, or should have been, on the wall: ESPN would air a game featuring two of the worst teams in the league with an extended plea for understanding and obsessive observation of Beckham serving as a backdrop. Sad as the effort of seeking glimmerings of (fevered) impatience in Beckham’s facial expressions might have been, the lowlight of the evening surely came with LA GM Alexi Lalas’ appearance in the booth. The half-defensive conversation that occasioned almost got me thinking ESPN went ahead with the broadcast solely to air a statement of commiseration with fans itching to see Beckham.

The game went on behind all this, of course. The crowd in Toronto did their bit, yelling, whooping, even booing, but it could never be enough. The end-result came to watching 20,000+ passionate fans futilely encourage a clearly mediocre product. TFC looked all at once dominant and predictable, which is to say energetically ineffectual, while LA’s players just ambled around the park as if they pulled on Galaxy colors for the first time in their lives. All in all, nothing of note happened, so…y’know, a great advertisement for the game, it wasn’t.

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A Tantalizing Taste of Single-Table

I’m not a believer that Major League Soccer (MLS) will ever go single-table, never mind adopt the promotion/relegation model – and that’s even as I count myself a fan of both.

That said, I just loved the tantalizing glimpse of what could be when ESPN showed the standings single-table style during the Toronto FC v. Los Angeles Galaxy broadcast. Actually, they simply lopped off the two leading teams of each conference and showed teams 5-13 along with their place and the points so far compiled. The layout, so neat and tidy, showed clearly the six point gap that separates the Chicago Fire from the eighth-overall Columbus Crew. No less apparent was how far teams like LA and Real Salt Lake have to go, something one doesn’t fully appreciate by looking at the standings in their current, MLSnet.com incarnation.

So, for those little moments, I got to day-dreaming about a single-table league one with (all right, all right) the top eight teams making the post-season, no exceptions and no questions asked. A little tiny bit of hope was born in those moments…which will likely be strangled in its crib over the next 12 or so years.

Is this a call for single-table? Not really. What can I say? I’m easy and I’ll watch just about anything. It would be nice, though, to watch something tweaked a little smarter…

MLS: The Week (18) That Was

Ah, my first post in the new digs…

I’ll explain myself in a post later today, but want to start with the goods – specifically, a grand, vague post on the just-completed Week 18 in Major League Soccer (MLS), one that encompasses and attempts to make sense of all the action. Those familiar with my previous work know by now that I’m a stickler for disclosure, which, in this case, requires a frank admission that I can’t say I watched a single game from first kick-to-whistle. Instead, I watched big chunks of two games and all of one; and each of those suffered frequent interruptions. I’ll acknowledge this in the text by noting “hiccups” brought on by family/chores with a “_____”, while the several mental omissions associated with watching a game after coming home from a party will be denoted with “$#*)@.”

One more thing: there’s some kind of science of first impressions, something about the fixity of initial impressions and their resistance to contrary information; I tend to bang out these week overviews in that spirit, writing about the games based on either first-hand observation and opinion or simple gut reactions to the scores and highlights. OK, that’s it, I think. Just thought I’d be open with everyone…
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