World Club Cup: A “Minnows” Primer

Now that I’ve got the bug – and, no less crucially, the indulgence of my wife with regard to TV time – I’m going to make an honest stab at covering the 2007 FIFA World Club Cup.  The first step begins, of course, with education – specifically, getting up to date on the clubs that aren’t world-renowned (e.g. Argentina’s Boca Juniors and Italy’s AC Milan) or that I haven’t seen play three times in the last year (Mexico’s CF Pachuca).

With that in mind, I pulled together some reading on the remaining clubs competing in this year’s World Club Cup (a.k.a. FIFA’s latest money-spinning scheme/methadone fix for soccer addicts the world over.  You don’t own me!  Get out of my mind!!).  I hope it will go some distance to making any viewing more pleasurable.

Sepahan (Iran)
The profile posted on the FIFA site gives dramatic background on this Iranian club’s arrival to the World Club Cup.  Some way or another, their loss to Japan’s entrants, Urawa Red Diamonds, in the obliges them to win a play-in against Oceania’s representatives.  They also mention the fact that, Ehad Mohammed, one of Sepahan’s key forwards, is Iraqi…kinda neat.  On a related note, the Wikipedia entry on Sepahan shows nationalities for all the team’s players – and, lo and behold, there’s another Iraqi in there.  I pull for Iraqis by habit lately.  And, on another related note, I read that their domestic league has recommenced play after an 18-month layoff. Continue reading

Advertisements

Methadone Clocking: The World Club Cup! Saved from UEFA Cup Viewing!*

* I kid. I kid. I just won’t get to it this week.

It’s only when the desperation gets one poking under the cushions of soccertv.com that one truly realizes the full-time nature of the global soccer calendar. I see now that waiting won’t be at all necessary, not with the U.S. U-17s in action all weekend long; they start Thursday, in fact. And the opposition – the U-17 teams from Brazil, Turkey, and Russia – should make for some fun viewing.

But that’s not if I’m not too busy watching the World Club Cup. Yippee!! Tournaments! What better way to justify recording all kinds of soccer, hogging the TV, etc.? That one kicks off Friday with a play-in game between Iran’s Sepahan (looks like soccertv.com has a typo) and New Zealand’s Waitakere United. The games follow hot and heavy from there with Mexico’s CF Pachuca taking on Etoile Sahel from Tunisia. This one only lasts till December 16, so you might miss it if you blink. On a side note, go, our region!

Credit to Sports Illustrated for the reminder. Surely, there’s an official site out there somewhere….ah, here it is. Full schedule, teams, and so on. The only question now is how I’m going to watch the NCAA finals with this going on. What are my priorities?

So, in all seriousness, I’m going to take a crack at catching/covering most of this one. I hope it’s fun.

Houston Dynamo 2007 Review: …the Bastards.

Houston Dynamo
Record (W-L-T): 15-8-7; 43 GF, 23 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports; roster

Overview
This one is pretty uncomplicated.  Houston had a straight-up kick-ass 2007.  It’s not just that they won MLS Cup (more on this later), but how well they carried themselves through a duo of international tournaments, the CONCACAF Champions Cup and the inaugural Superliga.  There’s also the incredible 11 games without a loss that carried them through June and July, a period when they went 8-0-3 in league play.  Houston’s didn’t enjoy start-to-finish dominance – they suffered spells where they just…could…not…score – but, on the most fundamental level, Houston started 2007 where they ended it: as the best team in Major League Soccer.

Before going any further, I want to get one thing out of the way: I should hate this club.  I probably want to hate them.  And yet I can’t.  They just seem so dang nice.  Getting back to it…

As almost every MLS fan can tell you, Houston had the best defense in the league, allowing just 23 goals over 30 games.  This is precisely what made MLS Cup, and its clichéd “Tale of Two Halves,” so outright bizarre.   They obviously won in the end, but no one watching the final’s opening 45 would have considered it possible: the New England Revolution had not only dominated the midfield, they had achieved the unthinkable: they totally flummoxed Houston’s vaunted defense.  While the change after the half stopped just shy of night-and-day, the Dynamo’s winning goal revealed what makes these guys champions.  I can still see it (and here’s about how my reaction sounded live): “Whoa…who’s that?  Shit!  It’s [Brad] Davis!  Close him down!  Close him…close him…wait!  No!  Dammit…” Continue reading

Single Most Depressing Piece of News…Today.

I’ll keep this quick and short. Mainly, because I want to forget this even existed.

They auctioned off a single, solitary french fry eaten by who else: Goldenballs, himself.

The best thing is: the seller actually had to vouch for its’ authenticity. And the going rate? One New Zealand dollar.

New England Revolution 2007 Review: Taylor and Steve and Me

New England Revolution
Record (W-L-T): 14-8-8; 51 GF, 43 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports; roster

Overview
I’m going to play this one a little loosey-goosey – e.g. relying less on specific match reports, player bios, etc. – and touch on things I don’t normally do. Why? First of all, because I can; I follow the New England Revolution more closely than any other Major League Soccer (MLS) team. Second, this represents my first conscious attempt to say goodbye to a team I’ve supported..well, followed, since the late 1990s. As such, an element of the personal enters into the thing. And, to mention the most loosey-goosey aspect, the end of my era with the Revs feels to me like an end of an era for the club. To put it bluntly, I don’t think they’ll be back for a fourth straight crack at MLS Cup.

With New England, it seems useful to consider the team through my odd relationship with one of their talismanic players: Taylor Twellman. I view Twellman through the sharpest of love/hate lenses. The love part is easy: the man scores goals, something one llikes to have on one’s team generally. But the hate part looms large – arguably larger. And here it is: I find Twellman dead boring. For all his take-a-touch-and-shoot efficiency, Twellman dribbles with the grace of a horse running on pavement; his passes too often recall kicking a playground ball at a brick wall. Bottom line, he has mastered two facets of the game – eluding defenders and finishing – and, to some weird aesthetic part of my brain, such talents are too transferable to “sports” in a generic sense. In other words, the sense that Twellman is a jock first and soccer player second stands as my dominant impression of him as a player.

What I think about Twellman mirrors my impression of the team as a whole: the Revolution team in my head is efficient, athletic, and, when you get down to it, dull. I can think of few less inspiring things than a generic New England goal: ball goes down the flank, wide player crosses to Twellman, Twellman scores. The occasional switch-up aside – say a long-bomb from Jeff Larentowicz on a dead-ball or one of Pat Noonan’s weird headers – the template seems fixed. Continue reading