World Club Cup: The Day Before* the Brawl

* Or is it? I don’t pay enough attention to how the International Date Line works, so maybe the opening game already happened already, at least in terms of the date. Probably not, though…moving on…

Kick-off for the World Club Cup play-in, which pits Iran’s Sepahan against Waitakere United’s (part-timers) from New Zealand comes in, oh, 13 hours (full TV schedule; a more detailed layout appears on soccertv.com). With the tournament so close, I’m working on getting psyched up for the thing, but I’m finding myself reliant on official sources – e.g. FIFA.com’s official site – in order to do so.  They certainly try by frequent uses of the adjectives like “ultimate” and “prestigious” for describing the trophy…here I thought the whole thing was just one more straw laid gently on players’ backs by FIFA and the clubs, all done with the apparent goal of breaking them without anyone noticing…

Knowing that official sites are ever-willing to stroke their product, I thought I’d poke around for some kind of buzz in non-official outlets. Sadly, a search of Google news – using “2007 FIFA World Club Cup” as the search words – hit only a few items and most of those coming from FIFA.com. Now that I’ve got a viewing schedule nailed down, I fully intend to do my bit to provide independent content, but FIFA.com looks like the well-spring for any pre-tourney hype (he writes without checking club sites).

Grousing about corporatist media outlets out of the way, I can say that the news section of FIFA.com’s site at least has plenty of content. That’s where I learned that all the World Club Cup tournaments operating under the present format have crowned Brazilian clubs as champions (Corinthians (2000), Sao Paulo (2005) and Internacional (2006)). That will change, if nothing else, thanks to the absence of Brazilian clubs in the 2007 tournament. Obviously, Argentina’s Boca Juniors and Italy’s AC Milan enter the lists as favorites, but we can imagine a different outcome…can’t we? Then again, Milan’s stars – guys like Kaka and Clarence Seedorf (shit…how old is that dude?) – wax eloquent in pre-game interviews about their “burning desire” to lift the World Club Cup (to which my first response as the interviewer would be, “No shit? C’mon, the tape recorder is off…now, tell me: you feel like well-compensated chattel don’t you?”

As a side-note, I should mention that Kaka seems equally up for the 2009 Confederations Cup…and guess who will be in attendance at that one? (HINT: Bob Bradley coaches this “mystery” team.) Continue reading

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Why One Must Watch Soccer Games and Closely

I happened across a quote today that sums up pretty nicely, to my eyes anyway, what makes soccer such an involving spectator sport.  It’s one of those things you wish you could show to all the soccer-bashers out there, to show them what makes this sport seem not so much unique as intense.  That’s significant because, of all aspects of the game, you get the feeling that the intensity of the game translates last to non-soccer people – e.g.,  it’s the thing they get last about the game.  Anyway, here’s the quote (it came out of this article, which happens to be about the U-Mass’ run toward the NCAA College Cup):

“‘I remember looking up at the clock, and I think there were 24 minutes left and it was still 0-0,’ [U-Mass coach Sam] Koch said. ‘Yes, we had the advantage on shots [21-9], we had the advantage on possession, but the game could quickly change. One breakaway and you could be down 1-0, no matter what you’ve been doing. The closer we got to the end of the game with a 0-0 score, the more anxiety I was feeling.'”

Even if “intensity” might not capture the concept perfectly, what “Coch” Koch describes does.  I know that a soccer-bashers, like, say, a cop writing you a speeding ticket, respond poorly to reasoned argument.  But the “nothing happens” sentiment bespeaks a kind of ignorance about the game.  Something is always happening.  And that “something” can prove pivotal in a flash.

And here’s another theory: the minute someone gets this, they become a fan.  Or at least a quiet by-stander.

Chivas USA 2007 Review: Stalking Horses…with a Limp

Chivas USA
Record (W-L-T): 15-7-8; 46 GF, 28 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports; roster (whoa…updated already)

Overview
It can’t possibly be so simple, can it?  Surely, the reasons for Chivas USA’s first-round exit from the playoffs don’t begin and end with the absence of starting forwards Maykel Galindo and Ante Razov.  There has to be something else.  Right?

The truth is, I don’t really know.  On some unconscious level, Chivas USA has taken over the role that the Kansas City Wizards had held previously – e.g. they’re the team I’m most likely to forget.  The funny thing about that is the impression that I’m not alone.  For those unfamiliar with the regular season practices of this space, I compiled something called Collective Power Rankings, which amounted to averaging all the independently compiled power rankings I could find and averaging the numbers.  Somewhere way back – further back than the oldest collective rankings I could find (well, that used Chivas USA as a tag) – I, along with everyone except Sideline Views’ Luis Bueno, suddenly noticed a couple things about Chivas USA.

First, they had a stellar record at home.  More significantly, however, they had an unbelievable defensive record at home: by the time the All-Star break rolled around, Chivas had surrendered just two goals at home on the season (OK, this gets a little silly because when they play the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center – e.g. their home ground – Chivas counts as the home team only half the time).  No less significantly, a weird, early-August layoff from league play had them slowly gaining games in hand over their Western Conference rivals; and all of them – except the Houston Dynamo, who were tearing shit up around the same time – were stumbling. Continue reading