Friday, June 25, 2010

Brazil plays Portugal plays Brazil

A disclaimer at the outset.  I didn't watch all of this match.  I scanned through it quickly online.  Isn't it a miracle that we can do that?  Was it just a few years ago I was making videotapes of games so I could watch them?  And thinking it might be cool to save the tapes of the good games to watch them in some future year?  When I could say, "Well, let me show you a real game..." as the merits of some future contest were discussed.

Back to the match.  The verb "play" is really operant here.  I had the strong impression that neither team was willing to risk very much.  Portugal only needed a draw to go through.  A win for either would have been a plum but not at the risk of a loss.   The Portuguese,  as John Harkes noted early in his commentary,  chose to play compact in their own end,  giving Brazil space on the far side of the half line but stymying opportunities to peel open the defense because there was less space.  I considered that my team might do well to use this strategy tomorrow against Volga.  But I digress.

The most notable thing that struck me was the physicality of some of the play.  Felipe Melo threw a full on body check to draw a card close to the end of the first half that 'weren't purty' much less an exemplar of the 'beautiful game'.   And by the end of the match fouls,  most appearing to be Brazilian,  were taking place that I believe would have drawn a card in another game.   Ramires, for example, almost at game end with a late, needless slide tackle.  Interesting.

Maybe everyone in the world but me knows this.  I watched Ronaldo make a great run down the left wing late in the first half, and was struck by the fact that this heralded player made his cross to go right with his right foot.  I was astonished!  Does this guy not have a left foot?  He would have been much more dangerous had he been able to cut the ball with his left foot.  It would have been easier to pull it back from the defender who, in the instance, cleared it.   Oh well.  Interesting.   Will hope to see more from both these teams in the next round.  I'll bet we do.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Portland Timbers whale on Kitsap

The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is one of the best things about soccer in the United States.  Why,  my jolly crew of 050s Old Nicks are eligible to enter ourselves into this threshing machine and aspire to the highest levels of soccer in the country.   Seems I remember that the Rod Stewart fan club from Hollywood gave a twist to the shorts of league teams not too long ago when they put together a touring side.  That being said,  I am happy to see that( Dee-Kay )Dike, that would be Bright Dike, pulled a hat trick off in Kitsap.   The Timbers need to shake out the willies and get their sea legs---they are that good if they think they are.   Sadly me and the boys won't be sittin' in the stands for the next round of US Cup play when the Timbers face off the Sounders.   We knows our priorities and we're scheduled for the 'last match of the season' against FC Gresham East that evening.  

Rule.  You gets to play, you play.  You can't play you watch.   I'm just sayin.... 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Scrappy match consistent with expectations

It's just after nine in the morning and I've had an entire pot of coffee and am suffering from post-adrenal letdown after having watched the US play Algeria in the must win match in South Africa.  And the contest wasn't a disappointment, on most levels.   It kept me at the edge of my seat and, I guess, for the price of admission you can't beat that.   We don't have cable,  so I was watching on Telemundo which I often do.  I consider it as secondary education: my ear is getting better and better at picking out the specific words in Spanish and increasingly knowing what the gist of the commentary means.  The weird thing this morning was that I thought for a few minutes that I was hallucinating.  The on-screen match caption showed that the teams were Estados Unidos v Argelia.  Felt like I was suddenly suffering dyslexia.  But I guess that in Spanish and Portuguese they've scrambled the letters to come up with that name and it's okay by me.

The game itself was fun to watch if frustrating for partisans of the US.  The Algerians throughout the tournament have looked more organized,  creative,  and hungry than their FIFA ranking would ever suggest.  (FIFA rankings being a whole 'nother kettle of fish)  This game was no different. Early on, the Algerians managed to get a look at goal when the American defense made a small error. Does that sound familiar?   Luckily Algeria has not shown great flare for putting the ball in the goal and the scare seemed to firm up our back line.  

Minutes later the US appeared to have their first goal on a shot at close range by Dempsey but the linesman's flag was up and the goal was called back.  Replays showed it to be a close thing but nowhere near the travesty that occurred in the game against Slovenia.   From that point on,  the first half settled into an end to end contest.  The Americans played aggressively and looked continuously to get the ball to Altidore.  For his part,  Altidore was repeatedly smacked, bumped, and otherwise knocked around anytime he took the ball.   Our side got the ball in close to goal repeatedly but the quality of service wasn't there .   The half ended with the sides even a nada y nada.   As they went to the dressing rooms, the announcers informed us that England was leading by a goal in the other match.   Not that the news added much pressure.  I think everyone was convinced that the US had to win this match regardless.   

The second half started with few changes in the lineups and the character of play reflected as much.  The US made an immediate rush and got into the box but then the cross was poorly placed. The clock ticked.   Perhaps emblematic of the whole feeling of being jinxed in the box was a dramatic attack about 57 minutes in.   Altidore engineered a breakaway down the right side and the ball ended up going to Dempsey who took a great, open shot which ricocheted off the right post toward the left side.  Dempsey had continued to run through and his rebound came back to him at which point he blasted it skyward! It's like a Bob Dylan song!  "How many times can a man shoot the ball??????"   The Algerians were continually probing around the top of the box and managed several times to get position and opportunity but no joy.   The clock ticked.  The cameras took to panning the crowd where partisans for both sides bit their nails,  faces painted and attired in national colors, but momentarily not making much noise.   The scrappy character of the contest was exemplified by the image of Dempsey going to the sidelines with a split lip and blood running down his chin after taking an arm in the face in a scrum in the box. 
The clock ticked.  Time ran out.  The officials added a four minute reprieve at the end.   And it took only two of those minutes to close the door on frustration and win a ticket to the round of sixteen.  In a fast paced attack,  Altidore took a blistering low shot which bounced loose from the Algerian keeper and fell to Donovan running in.  And so again, Donovan was man of the match, carrying his crew forward.   It's good to see because I suspect this will be Donovan's last World Cup. (He'll be thirty two in 2014 so it's not impossible he'd play again.)   Seconds later,  the Algerians had a last free kick opportunity and their frustration burst loose as the ball went over the end line.  I couldn't quite figure out what they were yelling about but they were in the referee's face.  Unfazed, he threw out their captain,  and the last minute of the game they played short.   

The news from the other match,  that England had won but with only a single goal,  gave me pleasure.  This group had been hard-fought and fun to watch (with the exception of a half-dozen moments of angst over bad luck or bad play).  The Algerians,  whose eyes reflected the pain of the loss,  can take pride in having done very well and having showed a world audience that they deserve more respect.   The US can take pride in having gotten through the first round this year without a loss and having shown real character in coming back in the Slovenian match as well as the England match.   I think the next level will require us to step up our play.  No lapses at the back.  Shooting on frame but not at the keeper.  And not leaving big spaces for unmarked opponents to maneuver in the middle.   Regardless,  I'll be there with my next pot of joe and a pocket of hopefulness.  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Argentina v Greece

Only six minutes remain in the match. Argentine efforts have netted only one goal though it appeared to me that the ball was controlled by Argentina's 19 (Milito?) using his right ribcage and forearm to drop the ball back for the shot...maybe it's just my trifocals failing me.  Messi has just cracked a shot off the left post...ouch.  The Greeks have been stalwart in the back end and haven't given very much of a look at the goal to the blue shirts.   But!  Here Messi picks up the ball on the right and evades two tackles, cracks a shot that's so hard Tzorvas' parry just bats it out to another attacker who puts it away.  And that's probably the game.  At the attacking end of the field Greece has had trouble collecting the ball and getting a shot away.  The sole forward, Samaris, has had one good break and a shot from the left that just barely cleared the right post.  Otherwise, not much.   There'll be no joy in Athens tonight.   Interesting to watch though because the Hellas' crew did a good job of stopping the attack.   So it's a look at one of the teams that has a good chance at the final right now.  Based on what I've seen so far,  I'd say the Argentines are a good bet to be there.  

Monday, June 21, 2010


Today's non-announcement that our favorite referee from Mali was not on the list for upcoming matches in South Africa was not much of a surprise.  And good for FIFA for recognizing that any match in which Mr. Coulibaly is the Center is going to be controversial at this point,  not good for the game nor for the the hapless referee.  Interesting to note that the AR who was apparently at the sideline when the Edu goal was nullified is named Candido.  God help us if it turns out that Voltaire's been reincarnated and is making a modern version of his classic with the pitch as a metaphor for the "best of all possible worlds".  Candido will certainly be disillusioned!   Okay...but what's worse than a ref who makes horrible calls is the ref who never shows up.   Our guys had to suffer through playing the Highland Stillhouse crew in their new imported finery (South American uniforms with hand sewn patches for heaven sake!)  without the benefit of a referee. it is true that the notorious Italian soccer madman and cordon bleu chef,  Paolo Ruffi,  took the whistle and kept some curb on the game.   Fact of the matter is it didn't stop Stillhouse from outscoring us.   So it goes...

On a related subject today's paper had a very poignant article entitled, "Diving makes it hard on referees, fans, foes".  The piece made the case that theatrical acrobatics on the pitch hurt the reputation of the game and that there's a lot of that going on, etc.   Yeah,  I agree, but then there are the moments when you get to see the slow mo of the Cote d'Ivoire player's boot sliding, cleats up, straight into Elano's mid-calf as the Brazilian attempts a sweeping slide tackle.  Or the image of English cleats launched straight into Tim Howard's thorax at full throttle.   Diving not good,  but let's remember there's some effort to protect the players going on as well.   

My last lament of the day was that I listened to the "noted" local soccer commentator,  John Canzano give an "interview" to one of the sports talking heads from KGW late on Sunday night.  In the three minutes before I clicked over to CSI something,  Canzano said he was disappointed by this World Cup because it seemed everyone was not playing to win but just trying not to lose.
And so that wasn't going to win him or anyone else over to soccer.   I dunno.  I'd say that's
defense,  and, yes,  much of it's been tougher this year.   Maybe he only saw the North Koreans. My experience in the game is that teams who rush forward impetuously generally pay a price in the back of their net.  It aint as easy as it looks.  And one more time,   soccer isn't just interesting because of the score.   A bigger pile of....well, it's just a bigger pile.  Not better.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Edu's Goal and similar issues.

After yesterday afternoon's friendly out at West Sylvan, The Guys and a couple of our most beautiful fans who happen to be married to a couple of The Guys,  repaired to Big Red's up at Sylvan for a beer or two,  moments of reflection,  and some free peanuts.  A survey of all at the table concluded,  enthusiastically,  that Edu's goal was indeed a goal and a fine one.  Two people hadn't seen the footage yet,  but agreed just because they respect their teammates opinions.   A further inquiry led to the conclusion that referees are a necessary evil.   When all the shouting is over about this World Cup I expect that officiating will continue to be the number one topic that comes to mind down the years.   How many matches already have been played with one team shorthanded?  And how many players will be out in later rounds because of an early accumulation of yellow cards?  A lot!