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.
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.