Archive for January, 2012

Somewhere Along The Way, American Soccer Knocked The Hustle

The @BestSoccerShow’s Jared Dubois says American soccer went pop when it should have went hip-hop.

If you are lucky to live long enough, you get the scary gift of watching the decades go by before your eyes.

Green Day went saccharin in a hurry...as did US Soccer says Jared DuBois....

Your tastes move from the frenetic sounds of electric guitars being punished by dudes with purple mohawks on to things that you can only describe as “more easily approachable” even without a glass of wine.

You either look at yourself years later and think one of two things, “What the fuck was I thinking?” or “Who the fuck have I become?”  And each proposition comes with it’s own frightening existential conclusions.

It is with this realization in mind, that I recently looked at the progression of the US Soccer system I grew up with as a teenager in the 90’s in comparison with what it has evolved into currently today.

You see US Soccer in the 90’s reflected its decade very well. A decade free of war and blessed with opportunity due to record-setting economic prosperity.  Think about the things people fought for in the 90’s… Saving whales? Rain forests? The right to wear your sideburns as long as you liked?  This was a “Why the fuck not?” generation.

In 1989, Paul Caligiuri scored the goal that sent the US National Team back to the World Cup for the first time in 40 years.  It was US Soccer’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit Moment.” Perfectly timed.

[Paul goes T&T on T&T..]

No one knew what it meant for the future of soccer in this country, but what you did know was that things would never be the same again.

US Soccer continued down this grungy path all through the 90’s–are you listening Alexi–fueled by a bunch of young kids trying to find a way to make a buck doing what they loved.  Many signing with the indie label (US Soccer) touring state-side to stay in shape and attempting to start a movement here at home.  Others signed with larger labels (Sheffield Wednesday, Coventry City, Real Betis even) and chose to Tour Europe instead, in hopes of making it big. 90’s soccer was just like college radio, unrefined, directionless and uninhibited.  More over it was one of the few sports that was yet to be ruined by corporate greed.

But just like all great scenes, once someone hits it big A&R douchebags start flocking to it to try and see how they can sell it to the masses.

Selling to the masses isn’t a bad thing though.  Everyone’s dream for soccer in the 90’s was to get it established and create a league that could be there for decades to come. However the danger with soccer–much like music–is that as a scene starts to gain in popularity the people that finance its success tend not to be people that came up through it.

Thus the direction it takes tends to lose the original message.

And this is where I feel US Soccer has failed in it’s most recent decade.

Isn't it....ironic?

Everyone knew soccer couldn’t stay grunge. It couldn’t remain like Nirvana drummer and now Foo Fighters’ front man Dave Grohl issuing a big bird salute….wait he did that on the cover of Rolling Stone. Moving on…

Like it’s musical counterpart, it was perfect for it’s short brief encapsulation of a time period that was always going to pass. It was going to have to pull a Madonna, reinvent itself and go a different direction.

It should have gone hip hop.

Instead it went pop.

Soccer, at it’s very core, is an urban language.  Something felt in the bones, not fabricated for artificial purposes.  America’s best athletes, like the rest of the world’s, often come from poor neighborhoods and kids looking to break free from their natural born environments.

The pay-to-play nature of youth soccer now in America deprives us of the natural free flowing talent that comes from neighborhoods that don’t have the money to play on club teams.

I like to liken it to *NSYNC versus Wu Tang Clan.

*NSYNC was formed by some rich white producer grabbing five young kids and pigeon holing them into roles that would sell (The Shy One, The Bad Boy, The Heart Throb, etc.).  You have them rehearse the same moves over and over again and teach them how to sing songs that are written by other people.  Yes, it is their voices singing, but what about that sound is personal or unique?

Then you look at a group like Wu Tang Clan that formed in the boroughs of New York, and honed their craft freestyling on the streets.  There a group of guys that knew their own voices and personalities and naturally found other guys that had the same skill sets and fascinations.  And they honed it.  Every day.  It’s organic, despite some forcing of martial arts themes…

(BTW, is there a better poaching forward in music than original Wu Tang Clanner Ol’Dirty Bastard? Guy was like the Chicharito of hip-top. Dirty was wanted in what seemed like 40 states and used to run on stage for one song and then buzz off faster than the cops could appear. Smash-and-grab at its finest.)

Brooklyn Zoo!: Ol’ Dirty Bastard in his prime

Whether you like Wun Tang, or not, is not the point.  The point is, you can manufacture a thousand *NSYNC’s–and we have–or you can catch lightning in a bottle if you look hard enough for it.  And if you do find it, you have something different than everyone else has.  You have style, you have bravado, you have a initial skill set to build off of that no one else in your system already has.

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Transfer Day Ticking: Who’s Your Muppet?

Man City here we come!

Which muppet is your team bringing in:

Done: Sebu LeToux to Vancouver Whitecaps. Return package: Allocation money!

Rumored: Bobby Zamora to QPR

The skinny: Martin Jol and the would-be England Euros’ striker Zamora have had some flame-ups and a former Fulham man is no in charge of QPR

Done: Luis Saha to Spurs….yes you read that right

The skinny: If you’re Everton and Dan Levy inquires about Luis Saha how do you now do either the: a) “oh god, oh please, oh please” routine or b) “Dan, c’mon. Okay, what’s Rednapp’s tramp stamp tattoo say?” routine. About how long do you thing Everton tried to play it cool on that one.

Done: Ryo Miyaichi from Arsenal to Bolton on loan

The skinny: Bolton was looking for this year’s Daniel Sturridge and after either getting negged on players or being unimpressed they finally settle here for the Arsenal Man from Japan. This is nearly a straight on swap into the line-up for the injured Lee Chung-Yong.

(add to threads below if you would during day….)

The Prem Goes On The Attack….Against Thug Life

Joshua Wells makes, of course, a triumphant return to TSG

#Trending...

There has always been a conflict between keeping athletes safe in college and professional sports and preserving the excitement of the game.

In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt felt it was necessary to step in and reform the way college football was played.

A year earlier, eighteen players had been killed on college gridirons.  Rules were added to the college game making it safer, including extending the yards needed for a first down to ten from five, adding a neutral zone to the line of scrimmage, limiting the number of running backs, legalizing the forward pass, and increasing penalties for personal fouls.

In the 1990s, the NBA went through a series of rule changes designed to limit physicality in the game and increase scoring.  While player safety wasn’t at the core of the NBA’s motivation for changing the rules, the evolution was positive for the sport.  The eliminating of hand checking in 1994 and using a forearm on players facing the basket in 1997 allowed for the current resurgence of the NBA on the back of a faster paced game with increased scoring.

The NFL is going through its own series of controversial rule changes designed to protect players, especially skill players, from concussions and other major injuries.

Youch!

The league eliminated the horse collar tackle after Roy Williams brought down Terrell Owens with the back of his shoulder pads, breaking his leg.  Defenders were no longer allowed to tackle at the knees of a defenseless quarterback after Bernard Pollard took out Tom Brady’s knee in the first week of the 2008 season.  A series of rules of been instituted to protect defenseless receivers from the brain rattling hits that formerly defined the league and made SportsCenter worth watching.

Each of these rule changes had a major impact on how their respective sports were played.  You could argue that these rule adaptations changed the sport into something entirely different than they were before.  The NBA has gone from a game dominated by post players to a game that is dominated by athletic guard play.  Gone are the days when a Tree Rollins could eke out a 15-year career just because he was huge.  Similarly, in the NFL, the Patriots are the Super Bowl favorite over the New York Giants despite having the lowest ranked defense to ever make it to the NFL’s biggest game.

As we near the end of the January transfer window, it seems that the Barclays Premier League is going through a similar transition.

Long known as the domain of hard men, harder tackles, and a pace that makes La Liga and Serie A look like their players are playing in a bog, this season has seen a trend that may slow the pace down and eliminate the value of some of the enforcers who have long been considered essential to football in England.

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Developing: Sebastien LeToux Vancouver-Bound?

LeToux: Not Bolton, VC-be?

Our friends over at The Brotherly Game have been all over this one.

The Philadelphia Union looking to deal–yes deal–perennial MVP candidate Sebastien Le Toux in the wake of Bolton taking a pass on bringing him across the pond.

Rumored destination? None other than the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Further, reports afoot suggest that the Union are attempting to make an out-and-out purchase of midfield component Roger Torres (part of the Luis Gil, Dilly Duka Super Mario triumvirate) from his Colombian side América de Cali by dealing both Le Toux and letting fellow Colombian keeper Faryd Mondragon return home.

As we asked earlier Monday, what in the world is up with the Union? Who is shuffling in and who is shuffling out?

 

Monday Bullets: Boyd, More Scotland, Etc.

Some quick news notes:

• Oh Boy, Oh Boyd!

holla'Portland...

Kris Boyd–he of the recent excursion to Dynamo country–is not earmarked for Stumptown USA, the Portland Timbers. Boyd will join as a designated player.

The flip from Boyd to Cooper will be contrasting for P-Town fans as Boyd’s game more closely dovetails with Diego Chara’s–a little bit of nastiness and solid in partnership. Boyd, a former teammate of Maurice Edu at Rangers, can put the ball in the back of the net and it sure seems like John Spencer is building a grittier team than 2011’s.

Want somebody on the end of those crosses other than Futi Danso. Portland, you’ve got your man.

In a Timbers offense that will rely on attacking carriage of Diego Chara and Darlington Nagbe, Boyd is the type of player with just the right economy of motion to make it work.

For the Dynamo, they miss out on another potential DP and–having been unable to re-secure Brian Ching–look to be limping already into the 2012 season. Chris Canetti and company would be wise to look for better matches just south of the border or into Central America like their brethren FC Dallas than to pine for Europeans.

• Philadelpia Tumult

The Union about to learn a whole lot more about Carlos Valdez this year. The defender of the year candidate along with rejuvenated Danny Califf authored the about face of Philly’s defense from problematic in 2010 to stout in 2011.

Gone now is Faryd Mondragon who early on in last year’s campaign was a Newcomer of the Year candidate. Now the Union will find out just how good both Valdez and youngster keeper Zac MacMath as Mondragon departs for his native Colombia. Given that the Union have played merry-go-midfielder over the past 6 months, that defense could get tested a lot more.

Where is LeToux, Mwanga, Adu these days? Does anyone know for sure?

• USA vs……Scotland?

A rumored USA-Scotland in the works for Jacksonville in May. That’s great. Someone remind US Soccer that San Francisco hasn’t been earthquaked in the Pacific yet.

Breaking: WPS Elects To Suspend Season

After working USSF to be sanctioned for 2012 despite not meeting the requisite requirements, the Women’s Professional Soccer League (WPS) suspended operations today for the 2012 season.

The main culprit per league messaging: the mounting legal bills of attempting to finally close the Dan Borislow ownership situation. (If you remember, coming out of Women’s World Cup 2011, the league engaged in a lengthy and vitriol-filled battled with the Florida-based club owner, much to the detriment it appear of its bank account and it’s ability to grow the league.)

Details are still forthcoming. Click here for more info from the source material.

Maura Gladys Deconstructs The USWNT & Hurricanes “Alex,” “Sydney” & “Carli”

by Maura Gladys

Five games, nine days and 39 goals. That’s what it took for the U.S. women’s national team to win the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying

One of the few negatives....

Tournament and book their ticket to this summer’s London Olympic Games. The U.S. steamrolled the opposition, beating Dominican Republic 14-0, Guatemala 13-0, Mexico 4-0, Costa Rica 3-0 and Canada 4-0. No question, the U.S. flat out dominated. But there was a weird tone to the whole affair. From a devastating injury to a key player, to the discussion stemming from two double-digit blowouts, there really wasn’t that unabashed joy and celebration that we saw at last summer’s World Cup. A few key takeaways from the tournament:

Krieger’s injury

Just 40 minutes into the tournament, right back Ali Krieger fell victim to an unnecessary tackle from Dominican Republic that completely tore her right ACL and partially tore her right MCL, sidelining her for the foreseeable future and throwing an appearance at the Olympic Games into question.

The injury is a crushing blow to the USWNT. Krieger is the best right back in the world, and her absence, no matter who fills that slot, will be felt. One of the most dependable players on the field, Krieger paired with Heather O’Reilly can consistently dominate the right side.

Sundhage was able to cover up Krieger’s absence on the fly with a variety of players including Heather Mitts, Rachel Buehler and Kelley O’Hara. But moving forward, Sundhage will have to do some serious searching to find Krieger’s replacement. Mitts had a solid tournament but the 33-year-old’s best days are behind her. O’Hara showed promise, but will need more time to acclimate to the position. Becky Sauerbrunn is another potential candidate. A natural center back, Sauerbrunn has the ability to make the switch, and also brings a calming, even-keeled demeanor similar to Krieger’s.

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