Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Lamar Hunt Cup- 2013

I have always loved the US Open Cup.  The idea of a cup competition which any team can enter,  any team can tumble the giants,  any team can aspire to reach beyond their normal fields of play is the stuff of legends.   Add to that the fact that the Cup is the oldest competition of its kind in the States,  and it says volumes about the place of football---yes, that football--in American sports history.  

So I am unusually charged up to have my hometown crew,  the Portland Timbers RCTID, claw their way back from a 0-1 deficit to Dallas to finish the quarterfinal match 3-2 with a gutsy and relentless battle for the win.   That puts the Timbers in a semifinal match against RSL,   also by chance their closest rival in the League table,  to go forward to the Open Cup championship.

This excites me.   It excites me beyond winning the MLS Championship.  Because the Open Cup Champions are inscribed on a long list of hallowed teams who,  through their love of football,  made the game an American game long before it hit the mainstream.   And carving their names into that list will, in my opinion,  be there long after individuals leagues and teams have been forgotten.   Being on that list would cement Portland's claim to be 'Soccer City USA',  a place where a sport which had no roots became a central part of the community's self-identity.  

The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.   Soccer.  Football.   Legends.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Who the heck is Ali Daie?

I read the news this week that Abby Wambach had passed Mia Hamm as the all time goal scorer in international women's soccer.   My attention was caught though by this statement embedded in the article  "the record for men's international soccer is 109 goals, held by Ali Daie of Iran."    What?   I was dumbfounded.   The leading international men's goal scorer is a guy from Iran?  A guy I've never heard of?  

I was particularly intrigued because Daie is from Iran, a country seen in so many ways as being at odds with the rest of the world.   And yet here was a football hero who was not just a national phenome but was in fact on FIFA's steering committee.

Daie was recruited by no less a footballer than Beckenbauer and played professionally in Germany though it seems his national team appearances were sometimes a conflict with his club commitments.

For comparison, the other top men's scorers are not necessarily the most obvious names. Following Daie is Ferenc Puskas, the brilliant Hungarian striker, who tallied nearly a goal per game for eighty five appearances, sixty some fewer than Daie's.

The tally board is worth looking over.  In part because the most effective strikers aren't necessarily household names.   Pele is merely the fifth on the list- his appearances being fewer than some other strikers.

Far down the column is the USA's homegrown champion,  Landon Donovan with forty nine goals in 144 appearances.

Worth thinking about,  this question of footballers and the satistics we all crave about their performances.