Thursday, July 7, 2011

Week 16 Poll

The question for this weeks poll was nearly swept away and ignored due to a tidal wave of poor refereeing.   It is something I wondered immediately after seeing the play.  Was Feilhaber attempting to dive?  No question he had a right to react to the ball that was cleverly nipped off his feet and into his face, but even before Borchers makes the tackle, does Benny commit to something devious?  Watch this clip a few times from the :58 second point on, decide for yourselves, and vote on the right.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Wowzers I really got my money's worth on Monday night watching RSL claw New England to pieces while simultaneously being kicked in the nuts by the ref. And then watching RSL claw New England to pieces while the Revs got kicked in the nuts by the ref. The only thing that would have made my evening complete on Independence Day would have been to watch Jason Kreis and Stevie Nicol kick the ref in the nuts while both teams clawed the comically third-rate, shabby, slow-witted, disgraceful, and incompetent nincompoop to pieces. Or that was my thought as I left the stadium, anyways. I woke up the next day without a voice because I had completely sacrificed it to booing Yader Reyes as hard as humanly possible, and with a fresh and altogether more positive outlook on the game.

Without Reyes' "additions" to the game, all we would have seen was RSL clawing the Revs to pieces. Judging by how superior RSL was while playing a man down, if they had a full squad on the field it would have been another 5-0 romp like it usually is when New England comes to town. Instead we got all the Fourth of July Fireworks (the little bit of vomit that escapes my stomach into my mouth every time I hear a comparison to this game and fireworks will turn into a flowing Amazon of Awful that will threaten to destroy whoever is nearby if the metaphor doesn't die soon) and what was really one hell of a game to watch. There was real soccer drama all the way through this game. It took hours to recover from the sheer tension that Reyes managed to produce in just 90 minutes. Every goal but Espindola's classy finish was directly created by the the ref. They all came off penalties and set pieces, most of them erroneous calls to begin with. He was just doing his best to make sure the fans got to see their five goals, but distributed in a more equitable fashion. Good man!  More after the break...

MLS On Fire: 4th of July Edition

This weeks 'On Fire' is all about trying to deal with third degree burns. Referee Yader Reyes from last nights Real Salt Lake v. New England Revolution match walked on to the pitch a nobody, and left as man with a million questions to answer.
The call by the ref here was appalling, but it was only the beginning. (At least he was consistent?) Going through this game and counting the bad calls would be a waste of time. Lets just say is is a number with more digits than pie has decimal places. For this, Yader Reyes is our first man to get burned.

How to slip in the fireworks metaphor here? Just about every RSL v. Revs article has gone with the standard "fireworks were on the field" comment. We heard it from players after the match, TV commentators, and in all the write ups. So I will try to continue a similar tradition here. Skip the next paragraph if you wish to avoid the worlds most thinly veiled extended metaphor.
The match between Real and New England was like a 4th of July party. One organized by your blind uncle thats missing a few fingers. And despite all of the other able bodied talent available, your uncle is the one playing with the fireworks. In the process he starts all sorts of fires and burns himself horribly. This is disappointing. The only positive thing to come out of the event is that, due to Uncle Reyes's blatant and egregious errors, others are able to show their true grit by stepping forward and battling to save the party. In the end, after burning the party goers from Salt Lake much worse than the ones from New England, the party goers from Salt Lake feel lucky to escape with all of their limbs. The party goers from New England, being maimed, but not mortally wounded, are still very upset with Uncle Reyes's performance. Uncle Reyes somehow survives the evening, but later dies from the wounds.
End metaphor.

Real Salt Lake is heating up, because of the incredibly short hand they have been dealt and their ability to fight through it to keep gaining points. We saw it with Charlie Divies, we saw it with the ref last night, and we've seen it with the unfortunate injuries of Javier Morales and budding star Paulo Jr., just to name a few. And though they are only a shadow of the juggernaut they were made out to be at the start of the year, it looks as if they are going to peak at exactly the right time. When the decisions / luck starts falling RSL's way, they will be a force.

Jason Kreis, for his ability to stay so damn cool, is on fire. It is simply incredible that he was able to hold his tongue after the match and focus on his players' performances. But after seeing that the machine gun fire of bad calls was hitting both sides, he even approached the other coach to try and stage a walk out. Bold move Kreis, and if it weren't for the incredible comeback of RSL, it would have been the most fitting end to this match. And lets not forget who scored RSL's goal to tie it up- super sub Fabian Espindola with a beautiful outside left. Watch Kreis explain his tactical substitutions in his post game conference to see how brilliant of a sub this really was.
Well that's more than enough fireworks for this week. Stay tuned for Russell's comments on the game later this week, and check back next week to see who's on fire, heating up, and who's getting burned.

ps Honorable mention for Will Johnson, as he is still Will Johnson.

Monday, July 4, 2011

RSL 3 Revs 3

I just saw the highlights from Salt Lake v. New England. Three words. Fine the ref.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

MLS on Fire Week 15.5

Welcome to the first installment of MLS on Fire. A simple roundup of players that are doing great things for their teams or for the league as a whole. We might even throw in an announcer or a coach every now and then. So lets start things off with a bang here...
Darlington Nagbe is obviously on fire with this wonder-goal he scored for the Timbers against Sporting KC. You might want to put on a diaper before watching this, as it caused me to seriously loose my shit.
Though Portland failed carry the momentum of this goal into a tie or a win, the 20 year old midfielder may have scored a greater victory in the process. If this doesn't force Euro-snobs to take note of the ever rising tide of talent in the MLS, nothing will. Rooney's lucky bicycle kick can move on over because there's a new sherif in town. Honorable mention to the announcer (John Strong?) of Nagbe's goal for matching the emotion of the moment perfectly.

Steven Lenhart makes the list this week, but not without pissing a lot of people off to get there. I can't decide whether to love him or hate him, but he has certainly made his presence known lately. There has been no slowing him down since his hat trick for San Jose against DC. He was the difference maker against LA, pulling a bitch move to infuriate Josh Saunders enough to act a fool. Lenhart had the European instinct to sell the foul hard enough to get the ref to show red. Then last night against the Red Bulls, he made very few friends, but played a key role in keeping the match level.

Chris Pontius makes the list for keeping DC United classy, despite all efforts by Charlie Davies to drag the team through the mud. Please try to ignore one of the most annoying goal callers in the MLS and check out why Pontius is climbing the ranks among the MLS elite.
It may not be the prettiest goal ever, but for every ball he puts… ugh… "IN THE NET", five more have been hitting posts or have somehow been miraculously saved by keepers. Pontius has been firing shots left and right for DC, so look for more goals from him in coming weeks.

Brek Shea is simultaneously on fire and heating up. He has been absolutely dazzling for FC Dallas, and everyone who has seen him play a single game knows it. Somehow this cat manages to outdo his past performances every single game. Instead of a recent goal highlight, get to know the man named Brek with this little gem here. Spoiler alert: Brek Shea is an abstract artist. I guess that explains the haircut.
USMNT boss in the making? Perhaps.

Dax McCarty and Dwayne De Rosario get honorable mentions for seamlessly integrating into their new squads after a surprising swap this week. (I secretly suspect DeRo got tired of name confusion between him and Dane Richards. Same initials and similar first names? Too much for the Canadian star to handle.) De Ro had a nice assist, and McCarty had a less flashy performance, but did the job well in the midfield. After doing this well in their first week at new clubs, we can expect better things to come for the Red Bulls and DC.

Will Johnson gets honorable mention as well for continuing to be Will Johnson.
Thats all for today, but with a few exciting matches left to be played tomorrow, a week 16 post may not be far away. If you disagree with our rulings or think somebody got snubbed, feel free to let us know in the comments.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

MLS FInes Charlie Davies - and What it Means for the League

In a stunning decision this morning, the MLS announced a $1,000 fine against Charlie Davies for his game changing flop against Real Salt Lake. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out here.

Now I will try to compel to you what an incredibly massive victory this is for the league, existing fans, and prospective ones. An incredible precedent has been set today.

I was absolutely irate over Davies’ dive. Wingert executed his tackle perfectly. To the t. He made an amazing play to break up a clear goal scoring opportunity, and in the run of play, his team was punished for it. I don’t even blame the ref here (not completely at least). Would it have been a good idea to check with the assistant before awarding a penalty? Sure. But that wasn’t the primary fuel for my rage. What pissed me off the most while watching the whole thing go down is how helpless I felt as a fan. At the time, Davies was basically exploiting a sinister loophole to gain his team a few points. And after the decision had occurred, I knew nothing was going to reverse it. Well that was all before the groundbreaking decision to punish Davies after the fact for this egregious dive. Does it give Salt Lake their two points back? No. Not even close. But it shows that the league stands firmly on the side of good, not evil deceit. Wingert quoted Charlie Davies as telling him “that’s football” cheekily after the penalty was awarded. Well now in the MLS, it isn’t. For the few fans that found themselves watching their first soccer match that night, they were undoubtedly swayed by the events that took place on the pitch, but I’m confident they and other soccer critics take greater note of this bold move by the league.

What will Davies think of this? He may do what some DC United fans and ‘worldly’ fans have done already. Defend the dive by hollering about how acceptable it is in Europe. He may even make a snide comment or two in private about how he paid a bargain price of $1000 dollars for a point for his team (never mind the two lost by Real). But that’s why this decision by the league is so damn great. What of the ‘worldly’ fans trying to demonstrate their cultural knowledge by supporting “embellishment” now? Well, the little wind they had in their sails to begin with is gone. Perhaps they can row back to their beloved European leagues.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why The 2011 Gold Cup Has Been So Annoying

The Gold Cup is a CONCACAF tournament played every two years. It is an exciting time for the region, as teams from smaller nations in the Caribbean and Central America have the chance to face off against the Soccer giant of the region, Mexico, and the slowly rising star that is the US national team. It is an exciting time for American soccer fans, as we are able to watch our prospective World Cup team develop in front of our eyes. Fresh blood, controversial call-ups, and hype for new national team players, and of course criticism as soon as these new players make one mistake. This is all part of the excitement of the Gold Cup. Half the time the Gold Cup is played for an extra prize. National pride is always at stake, but when the Gold Cup played directly following a World Cup year, the ante is upped. The winner of the tournament wins entry to the Confederations Cup, a tournament played the year prior to the World Cup in the coming World Cup Country’s venues against winners of other FIFA regional competitions. In 2007, the United States’ victory over Mexico earned the team a spot in the Confederations Cup in South Africa, giving the team a crucial trial against some of FIFA’s top teams, and some crucial experience on the field where they would soon compete for Soccer’s ultimate prize. USA stunned international audiences in 2009 by beating Spain to earn it’s spot in the final, where they fell to Brazil. We defeated the World Cup champions the year before the World Cup, and it was all made possible by the Gold Cup.

This Gold Cup, as you may already realize, falls on one of those important years, and matters that much more to the nations involved. But for some odd reason, I’m yet to reach the appropriate level of excitement. Even now that the USA v. Mexico final has moved swiftly from prediction to reality, I don’t find myself feeling even half the butterflies that I felt for the team in some international friendlys in the past. And I am not alone in my sentiments. Although there has been plenty of conversation about the National Team through their uneasy journey to the finals, it has been tainted by an overwhelming amount of negativity from domestic fans. Instead of rallying support for the team, every decision has been questioned and mocked as if US Soccer were conspiring against the success of our nation. But that isn’t it either. Something about this team has failed to inspire fervor in the hearts of even its most attentive fans. Even after the lackluster victories and the embarrassing defeats, this team still represents the greatest selection of individual talent an American soccer side has ever seen. And even though they have been underperforming from the start, the spark of interest was never really there to begin with. Why?

Well, in a roundabout way we are suffering from a problem we have never had to worry about before. There are too many talented young American players. The MLS is doing its job, and doing it damn well. Our domestic league is churning out talent at an ever increasing pace, and the US has never seen so many viable options for call-ups. And while this is an overwhelmingly positive thing for the future of the National team, it makes it all to easy for us fans to criticize. Now instead of focusing on some subtle progression made by our young guns on the team, we now have the option of looking elsewhere. So if our one of our offensive talismans are slumping (for example, Dempsey in Panama round 1), instead of getting behind him and reminding others of past performances and important history with the team, we can look elsewhere, and say “Brek Shea is murdering it right now for FC Dallas! Where the hell is his call up?!?!” It was an option that was simply much less prevalent in the past. If Tim Ream, a man who has been a incredible stalwart and rock for us in the back, slumps for a few games, our first impression is no longer to question what could have caused this change or simply hope for him to regain his form. Our gut reaction as a nation is now to see who is doing the job better elsewhere and search for answers for why Bradley wasn’t able to predict the future. I’m as guilty as any other of taking the easy way out, and it has lead me to a bit of lack of compassion for the current US team. Our true problem is right now as fans and as a team, is that we are a Soccer nation going through puberty. Late bloomers, perhaps. Inconsistent ones? Certainly. But even if one leg grows a bit faster than the other, I think some day soon we’ll be standing tall.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Soccer Stalkers

Soccer Stalkers is a new Soccer blog based out of Salt Lake City focusing on the MLS and U.S. Mens National Team. It is so new that no articles have been written yet, or hardly even conceived. In coming weeks we will attempt to create thought provoking, entertaining soccer coverage for a broad audience. Some articles will cater to to die hard fans and others will present the game at it's simplest. Our goal is to provide honest, independent coverage, and to speak out on issues only when we have something new to contribute. If we feel there is an important perspective that the rest of the soccer community fails to raise or aptly defend, an article will be born. Lastly, we plan to cover the glorious, rapidly developing league that is Major League Soccer from top to bottom, providing insight on the most high profile players down to the supporters of each individual team. There is a new voice in American Soccer, and we certainly hope you fans deem us worthy of your attention. Welcome Soccer Stalkers.