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Archive for the ‘England’ Category

Rants and raves (but mostly rants) about following a 2nd division team.

So the cup run is over. With a 4-2 loss at home to Aston Villa on Sunday morning, the Royals were finally eliminated in the FA Cup. And obviously, it would have been a dream to make it to the semi-finals and play at Wembley. But there are still so many positives that can come out of the impressive run all the way to the quarter-finals.

Going into the 4th round draw against Liverpool, Reading was in the bottom 3 of the Championship, unable to win consistently, especially at home. But a 1-1 draw that forced a replay at Anfield was the spark the boys needed apparently. From there, the Royals defeated Liverpool, Burnley and West Brom in the cup. They only lost once in 7 February games and managed to pull themselves out of the relegation zone in the Championship. And the loss to Villa on the weekend was the first home loss of 2010. (more…)

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If you’re a USA fan who isn’t up on the Oranje, Manchester City, or the Hamburgers before that, you might have wondered “who was that objectionable oaf who broke poor Stu’s leg?”, and later on “who is that cowardly s%!$head who blatantly dove for a free kick while under pressure in his own half?” That, my friends was Nigel De Jong, who along with cementing his role as the Netherlands’ midfield enforcer has thrust himself into the upper echelons of the new generation of dirty players. While diving is no strange thing in the Dutch side (see Robben, Arjen and Sneijder, Wesley), De Jong’s nasty play for club and country has added a new dimension to Holland’s game. “Total football” indeed.

Inspired by De Jong’s brilliant display of anti-football, I began to think, who are some of the bigger dirt-merchants in today’s game? Here goes..

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Sure, in the lead-up to matches charged with a side-show backdrop, there’s always going to be the reflexive rhetoric about professionalism, such as what Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti recently spilled ahead of his side’s match against Manchester City on Saturday(7:45 a.m. EST).  Perhaps the aftermath of John Terry’s purported shagging of the mother of Wayne Bridge’s child will stay clear of the pitch, even with Bridge’s recent refusal to join the England side in South Africa, with the words “untenable” and “potentially divisive” in his announcement being particularly telling. (more…)

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A True Fan

The reaction is always the same – “of course you are” or “figures” or “aren’t all Yanks?”. It’s not easy being an American Red Devil. Well, some would argue it’s too easy.

Manchester United are arguably the world’s largest soccer team, and, inarguably the de facto European team for American fans. They have won eighteen domestic league titles and three European Cups. They have been home to marquee names such as Best, Charlton, Cantona, Giggs, Keane, and Beckham. They boast the world’s highest turnover and are the most valuable franchise in all of sports. So, I can’t blame you if you snicker. I won’t fault you if you sneer. I can’t say I wouldn’t hate me too. It would be difficult not to group me in the prawn sandwich brigade or label me plastic. After all, I am a frontrunner.

When I started following English football in the early 90s, there was one team to support- United. When my great-grandmother, a Londoner, sent me footy magazines as gifts, I eagerly lapped up stories of Giggs, Ince, Cantona, Cole. The pull-out posters plastered on my wall were all of United players. Of course, with U.S. television coverage of international club soccer being limited to Spanish language channels, live viewing of my heroes was next to impossible. I was limited to the three month-old recaps in my transcontinental footy rags. I’ll admit it, I went with the winners.

And despite my efforts to controvert the perceived plasticity (I’ve seen United play in the flesh, both on American soil and at the Theater of Dreams), I’ve been met with the same skepticism. Why oh why couldn’t I just support Reading (like my PSP colleague) or Plymouth or Torquay or Dag & Red or Cambridge United? I’d have so much street cred! Instead I get the smirks. I get the rolling eyes. I get the throat clears. Eh-hem, oh United, real original!

Well come March 25th, I’ll be plastic no more…

MLS First Kick 2010 is not merely the beginning of a new era of Philadelphia fandom or the start of the league’s 16th franchise. No, Philadelphia Union away to Seattle Sounders is the day I, and thousands like me, finally have a vested interest in a soccer team.

I was born in Philadelphia. I live in Philadelphia. I support Philadelphia Union. It has a nice ring to it.

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Clint Dempsey has certainly made great strides to raise the status of American forwards abroad to the heights of their goaltender counterparts (i.e. Friedel, Keller, Howard) during a solid three full seasons with Fulham. He’s been a mainstay of their attack since a supporting cast role in ’06-’07 that saw him come on late in the season to drop Liverpool 1-0 to keep the Cottagers in the Premiership and was on pace to add several notches to last season’s goal tally of 7 (he led the team with 6 in ’07-’08) before suffering a knee injury in mid-January. But, it’s the inspired play of Landon Donovan that speaks the most of MLS.

Though Dempsey makes a strong case as the best U.S. player – his goal tally in World Cup qualifying matches Donovan and he notched huge goals against Egypt, Spain, and Brazil in the Confederations Cup to shine alongside his teammate – Donovan is as inextricably linked with the U.S. national team as he is with the MLS both in terms of  performance and general perception. The failures of the ’06 U.S. team in Germany were seen largely as a reflection of his own, while his masterful showing at the Confederations Cup has many hoping that he’ll now lead the team much deeper than the round of 8 reached in the ’02 World Cup. His near perennial designation as the top US player since ’02 is equaled by the many regular season and playoff accolades heaped upon him at the MLS level, which speaks to how he represents what the MSL – and the U.S. – can produce. This status was reaffirmed when his misgivings with Beckham over his fickle role with the Galaxy came to light ahead of the release of a book about the English footballer and his role with American soccer. (more…)

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Diego Maradona’s famous run against England in 1986 is probably the most famous play in soccer history (closely followed by the Hand of God). It’s a memorable play for many reasons, not the least of which is how it showcases one player’s ability to single-handedly change a game. Maradona’s goal reminds us how rare it is to see a player take over a match by himself, particularly against high-quality competition. A good team is so organized that an opposing player would require skill, speed, luck, guile, and a sublime finish (and cocaine in Maradona’s case) to even attempt a one-man run at goal. No, it is the ability to make a defense cover runs both on and off the ball that makes a great footy offense.

In this age of 80 million pound transfers, it appears some teams are forgetting this basic soccer maxim. There is no “Iso” play like the one that allows Kobe Bryant to drop 55 points in a game; you can’t send three midfielders to one side in order to get man-coverage on Messi the way the Colts do to free up Reggie Wayne. The best players have to be playmakers as much as they are finishers, and the most effective plays happen when passes are fast and flowing, not long and direct. After his 10 man Liverpool side defeated Everton this weekend, Rafa Benitez noted how the Blues made it easier for his defense by playing long and over the top. During a televised match, announcers will consistently return to the idea of movement. In-form strikers exhibit great off-the-ball movement while slumps often coincide with a distinct lack of it. This all ties into the role of superstars on the field. (more…)

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Jozy Altidore scored his first English Premier League goal today to help Hull to a 2-1 upset  win over Manchester City.

Altidore won multiple free kicks and looked dangerous throughout the match before pulling up lame with what looked to be a quad injury and leaving for a substitution in the 66th minute. The goal was the U.S. international’s first in league play. After Altidore’s injury, the pace of the game changed noticeably in Man City’s favor, but Hull held on. Good showing for the American.

I haven’t found the goal on YouTube, but you can view it here.

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