Methadone Report: From the Mexican Primera to the EPL

I tasted a little off-season methadone over the weekend and, in spite of pulling the equivalent of walking in at the middle of a movie, enjoyed it well enough.  It wasn’t all sunshine, however, as I’ll explain below, but it’s going to work…I just know it.  And while I’m watching ’em, I may as well comment on ’em…at least a little and as the spirit moves me.

Moving on…

Toluca 1-1 UNAM Pumas

I got a kick out of this one, even if I didn’t know while I was watching it that it was the second leg.  And, having watched it, I can empathize a little better with Mexican fans as the losses to the U.S. national team pile up.  UNAM played prettier and had the better of play and possession, but Toluca stayed in it by 1) knocking them around and 2) playing a wickedly efficient counter-attack.  If I’m reading ESPN’s overall results thingy right that didn’t help Toluca: looks like UNAM will go to the semis…which I hope to catch (where and when I can).

Fulham 2-2 Blackburn Rovers

This game had a wonderful, “feels like old times” fvibe for this former EPL fan.  Apart from finally seeing Clint Dempsey playing in a Fulham jersey, I discovered that Danny Murphy, a sentimental favorite of mine, now plays with him; Simon Davies, of Tottenham back when I was watching, showed up as well and I like him all right.  In fact, I’m thinking it will be fun to see where a lot of the players I once knew so well ended up.  Then there was the game…

The first half was friggin’ awful: a tomb-like atmosphere, sloppy, whack-a-mole play with an all-guts-no-brains style, etc.  The state of things left me stewing at the memory of every pitying lecture I’ve ever endured from Brits about crappy American soccer and the absence of atmosphere at MLS grounds (and these have been horrifyingly condescending at times; then again, they don’t hold a candle to the several “educational” chats from Anglophiles trying to enlighten me as to what “real football” looks like).  That first half was as bad as anything I’ve seen on the field and off in MLS over the past five years.  Fortunately, the second half turned around all right – even as I doubled time between the game and Iron Chef America – both in terms of play and atmosphere.  It wasn’t the greatest game ever played, but it was fast and frenetic like the EPL can be and, therefore, pretty fun in the end.  Oh, and Dempsey looked pretty decent, if a little familiarly lazy (I still like Deuce’s style)…shame I can’t say the same thing about Murphy, who was largely anonymous and useless when he wasn’t.

Arsenal 2-0 Wigan Athletic

This one crystallized everything I dislike about the EPL.  The gap between these teams is large enough that they don’t even occupy the same reality.  Y’know, it’s like what’s the fucking point?  (Yeah, yeah, the big guys have to win these games to win the league, blah, blah, blah; I say cut the Prem to 10 teams and stop stealing fans’ money.)  Even if Wigan held them off for over 80, Arsenal had them by the short ones regardless.  Just completely lacking in suspense and, to be blunt about it, double-plus unfun.

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Los Angeles Galaxy 2007 Review: The Cubic Zirconia of MLS

I hope everyone had a good Turkey Day and watched lots of futbol Americano (it’s what God wants you to do on Thanksgiving…trust me). It’s good to be back.

Los Angeles Galaxy
Record (W-L-T): 9-14-7; 38 GF, 48 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports

Overview

The simple presence of the David Beckham Singularity means only the rankest of Major League Soccer (MLS) neophytes doesn’t know the sorry tale of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s 2007. Once everyone, the Galaxy players included, digested the fact that league officials had abused LA’s schedule to the point of cruelty, winning the early games seemed important to the team’s success. When that didn’t pan out – to the tune of going 1-3-3 through April and May – “panic” items of all sorts were punched, pulled, yanked, prayed to, etc. Out went names from the familiar – Tyrone Marshall, Shavar Thomas, and Nate “Damned Lucky” Jaqua – to the promising and obscure – Robbie Findley and Nate Sturgis – and in came a stable of familiar, perhaps underwhelming names like Edson Buddle, Chris Klein, Kelly Gray, and Carlos Pavon. They picked up a more impressive name/trade with Portuguese defender Abel Xavier, but he stands as a near-exception in a season of head-scratching trades.

The upshot of all that horse-trading – based, for the record, on the assumption that these were players of “character” up to handling Life with Beckham – was a 3-5-4 record in league play heading into the All-Star break and a long layoff from league play. Then came Beckham…and that’s when things really started sucking.

The yo-yo tale of Beckham’s pair of injuries, the fans burned by semi-coercive ticket packages built around seeing Beckham, and, most significantly, the distraction of too many friendlies, too many games (league plus Superliga, etc.) – all these familiar talking points – coincided with/caused a downright horrifying August and September, when the Galaxy set a standard for incompetence that had many viewing them as the worst team in MLS. It seemed LA GM’ Alexi Lalas’ “gem” was a cubic zirconia. Continue reading

Real Men of Genius Contest–Soccer Style

Sitting at work yesterday, I realized that the award for Best Radio Commercials ever goes to Bud Light’s ‘Real Men of Genius‘ (formerly Real American Heroes).

Every break in the Buffalo Bills game, they would play one and I would start laughing uncontrollably. Simply put, Best. Commercials. Ever. Go here if you want to hear about 70 of them.

After listening to them all day, I thought to myself, ‘This HAS to be done for things that exist in soccer’. How great would it be to have the ‘Today, we salute you Mr. Medic That Can’t Pick Up The Stretcher’ or ‘Mr. Token David Beckham Jersey Wearer’

So I pose the challenge to you readers to come up with the greatest ‘Real Men of Genius’ commercials that relate to the beautiful game. Here is the Mr. Boneless Buffalo Wing Inventor’ written down so you get an idea.

Bud Lite Presents…Real Men of Genius

Real Men of Genius

Today, we salute you Mr. Boneless Buffalo Wing Inventor

Mr. Boneless Buffalo Wing Inventor

How do you improve upon a meat that is breaded, buttered, double fried and dipped in blue cheese dressing? Remove the only part that doesn’t contain fat.

Don’t need no stinkin’ bone

Gone now is the race to eat the drumsticks first, leaving the wings for the other poor suckers

Hands off my drummies

Is it leg? Is it wing? Is it rear end? Now, every chunk is identical as it is indistinguishable

I hope I’m not eating rear end

So crack open an ice cold Bud Lite Boneless Wing Mastermind-

Because we don’t have a bone to pick with you.

Real Men of Genius

So the entries should sound something like that. You can’t forget the guy in the background (italics above) that chimes in with the token saying in the middle.

I’m thinking of going with ‘Mr. ‘America Fuck Yeah’ Soccer Hater’, ‘Mr. Constantly Bad Mouthing Soccer Guy’ ‘Mr. Way Too Intense Sunday Side Defender’ or ‘Mr. Illegal Chinese-Feed Soccer Match Watcher’

The best ones will win something. Yes, something from me. So now you have no reason to say ‘I have nothing to do today’. Even just simply propose a ‘Mr. so and so’ and someone will take it from there.

Now go out and write me a winner.

updated

(ben is today’s Lion Genius for the Houston Dynamo ‘Real Men of Genius’) 

Premature World Cup Predictions: UEFA

So the UEFA Groups are set. Group of death…sorta…Group A? An England – Croatia rematch! Israel’s chances looking decent. It looks to be a long road for all.

The top teams from each of 9 groups qualify outright, while the 8 best runner-ups compete in a playoff to determine the final four spots. That’s 13 spots overall available for Europe.

Now let’s go group-by-group.

GROUP A

Portugal
Sweden
Denmark
Hungary
Albania
Malta

Portugal, Sweden, Denmark look to fight for the automatic out of this group and this could arguably be the “Group of Death”, except I think Portugal is going to come away with the spot on this one while Sweden, Denmark, and possibly even an on-form Hungary fight for two. Expect Sweden though to take second and qualify for the play-offs.

GROUP B

Greece
Israel
Switzerland
Moldova
Latvia
Luxembourg

Either way, we’re going to see a team we haven’t seen in the World Cup a while here. The Euro 2004 champs – Greece – have looked decent as of late, but they haven’t matched the form of Israel who is my pick to take this group. A little bold as they haven’t appeared since 1970 – but crazier things have happened and I look forward to watching both Ben Sahar and Toto Tamuz take bigger roles on front line. If Israel even slips in the slightest – Greece will take the number one, but I’d peg them for two and a trip to the playoffs.

GROUP C

Czech Republic
Poland
Northern Ireland
Slovakia
Slovenia
San Marino

There’s only one walk-over in this group as Czech Republic faces some tough depth of competition. They’ll still come out far and away on top and I see Poland grabbing second, but it is hard to dismiss Northern Ireland’s renaissance. Their hopes – however – depend solely on the continued productivity of David Healy who has looks to need a finishing clinic based on his most recent EPL performances. As one of the three spoilers – along with Slovenia and Slovakia – any of them can upset Czech Republic and Poland so expect a couple surprises here and there.

GROUP D

Germany
Russia
Finland
Wales
Azerbaijan
Liechtenstein

Somewhat clear cut for me. Germany and Russia have proven they’re for real. Yes, Russia hiccupped in form, losing to Israel with a Euro 2008 qualification in their sights but if Guus Hiddink is still in charge, you can expect an even more consistent Russian squad to contend for a trip to South Africa. Unfortunately, the Germans are in the way and I just don’t see anyone impeding them…

GROUP E

Spain
Turkey
Belgium
Bosnia
Armenia
Estonia

Spain and Turkey look to be the favorites and as always, I’d expect Spain to punch an automatic ticket based a phenomenal squad of players, decent depth, and real veteran leadership – but once in South Africa, expect that Spanish underperformance again. Will we be seeing the youthful exuberance of Bojan Krkic and possibly De la Red? Probably not if David Villa is firing on all cylinders. La Roja have lost only once to Turkey in 8 match-ups but the Turks seem to always surprise people, especially if the team has at their disposal the young Nuri Sahin, and veterans Nihat and Emre. Belgium can contend, but there’s no Marc Overmars to captain that team to consistency. Your best bet at a spoiler comes in the form of Bosnia who has been slowly gaining respect from their opponents throughout the Euro qualifiers. Spain on top, Turkey second. By the way, is FIFA expecting us to believe that Armenia/Turkey match-up wasn’t intentional?!?!

GROUP F

Croatia
England
Ukraine
Belarus
Kazakhstan
Andorra

For the English, the ditch couldn’t get any deeper – or so they thought. Three Eastern European teams does not bode well for the Lions. Will Lampard, Gerrard, Terry, and Rooney let them miss a second major competition though? I can’t see it happening, but that certainly doesn’t mean it won’t. Croatia’s new generation of Luka Modric and Eduardo da Silva has already left an indelible scar on English football. This will either be a dominant performance from England or they will scrap their way through leaving it to chance on the final day. England will rebound with – gulp – renewed vigor while Croatia will outperform Ukraine for second. Believe it or not, a key (one of many) to England’s success seems to be the inclusion of David Beckham and that all depends on England’s pick of gaffer.

GROUP G

France
Romania
Serbia
Lithuania
Austria
Faroe Islands

Serbia underperformed this past year and I would expect them to come back strong, but France will prove to strong for either. The French will take first, while Serbia and Romania will battle for second. Romania is on the rise as could be seen by their recent performance in the Euro qualifiers, while Serbia – after their split with Montenegro – has been struggling but I wouldn’t exactly say they were on their way down. Plus, I could never bet again a healthy Nemanja Vidic captained back-line. Serbia goes second.

GROUP H

Italy
Bulgaria
Ireland
Cyprus
Georgia
Montenegro

Ireland is really going to like their chances in this group but it will really depend on their performances against the lesser – but equally dangerous – sides of Cyprus, Georgia, and Montenegro. Italy will run away with it, while Ireland and Bulgaria duke it out for second. Only Italy out of this group as both the Irish and Bulgarians will get swallowed up in any sort of playoff.

GROUP I

Netherlands
Scotland
Norway
Macedonia
Iceland

The group of five is deep. Holland has a little leeway to give in terms of form and what not, but Scotland and Norway will be ready to pounce on any inconsistencies with the Dutch. Scotland will beat Norway, finish second and join the playoffs. Norway only finished a point out of Euro qualification and could benefit from possible underestimation as their string of results went largely unnoticed. This is all in contrast to the run of Scotland who scared both France and Italy before bowing out gracefully in the homestretch.

RECAP

Automatics (9): Portugal, Israel, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Italy, England, France, Netherlands

Playoffs (8): Scotland, Serbia, Turkey, Greece, Sweden, Poland, Russia, Croatia

Final Spots (4): Turkey, Sweden, Russia, Croatia

What are your thoughts? Any match-ups your looking forward to? Players that are going to make their mark?