Archive for April, 2012

The Weekend: All About The Derby

Monday really is the big day this weekend.

Manchester United vs. Manchester City for two neighbors that definitely both need the title this year.

One more in them?

End Of An Era As Pep Departs Barca

Pep Guardiola, this afternoon, bid adieu to the team he brought into consideration as the best ever, FC Barcelona.

Messi says thanks...

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Op-Ed: A Soccer State of The Union from Hipster Central

Matthew Biggerstaff doesn’t dubstep around Generation Y Soccer in America

Good evening.

The Evil Empire?

As one of TSG’s youngest contributors (Matt has lovely and legitimate conversations about car seats and strollers with our men’s league teammates) it is my duty to keep you informed on the social status of the game we all love so dearly with the most important generation (that being my own, of course).

All self-importance aside, I do think that people ages 16-25 are the critical group that must adopt, love, and share the game with their peers to continue the rapid rise in soccer awareness in America if you will.

This will lead it to become a mainstream part of our society (specifically the MLS and USMNT) after some of the great work people like Matt Mathai and supporters groups across the US have done to build supporters and the league.

I know, the first thing you think of when you think of this group is GET OFF MY LAWN, however there have been some positive signs and encouraging progress, including pissing off people like Dana White. Hopefully my observations can provide some insight into how the game is progressing from a social standing.

In case you missed White’s (head jabroni of the UFC) rant at the end of March, here is a brief recap.

‘Can’t stand soccer. It’s the least-talented sport on Earth. There’s a reason three-year-olds can play soccer. When you’re playing a game when the net is that big and the score is 3-1 (and that’s a blowout) are you kidding me? You know how untalented you have to be to score three times when the net is that big?’

Apparently Mr. White forgot that just ahead of soccer on the list of things three year olds like to do, is wrestling and fighting. Jimmy Conrad responded via youtube and his analysis was spot on.

First off, tangent much Dana White?

Why does soccer threaten you so badly?

Is it because when this was posted on Facebook and Reddit everyone laughed at your ignorance and wondered what stick got stuck up your ass?

The reaction that I saw was a bunch of people embarrassed for a guy who has ‘Old Newspaper Sportswriter Syndrome’, otherwise known as the need to knock something they do not understand or like. You know, that columnist in the paper who has been the baseball beat writer since the beginning of time and can’t figure out what all the noise over this ‘World Cup’ is and decides to share his two cents on how soccer is a fad and kids play it until they are 12 and then don’t follow it anymore and suddenly they mutate into ‘true’ (ie baseball) sports fans like some sort of weird genetic experience.

We get it Dana, playing a bending pass to beat three defenders to an onrushing striker after a 12 pass buildup doesn’t take as much talent as fighting someone in a confined space.

Clearly.

These gentlemen (generally, I haven’t seen any ladies dumb enough to write this sort of article) are a relic of time having been passed by. I’m sure most of them think the internet is a fad, and jorts will be good to wear on warm days this summer. In contrast to this, I will share some things I have seen amongst my peers in the last two months that strongly contradict this stance that ‘Soccer is stupid, no one likes it, it will go away.’

I was driving in a neighborhood in the Bay Area on a nice day and I saw a dude about 12ish skateboarding in a crisp red Landon Donovan USMNT kit.

First, I was jealous, as that kit is FRESH and he looked better than I did right then, not to mention I haven’t purchased that jersey, so I had some jersey envy in that moment too.

It got me thinking about when I owned my first US kit (probably not until 19?) and the fact that kids these days grow up with the USMNT as role models and a team to cheer for, and they wear their gear as well. This exposure didn’t exist when I was in middle school ten years ago. My friend Shawn pointed out that yes, while it is cool an American kid is rocking the US jersey while skating, kids in Europe are rocking their national kits while actually playing instead of skating. We have to start somewhere though right? My friends and I always prized our jerseys as the height of our middle school fashion, so if you were wearing a jersey, it had to be of someone you really liked and would stand behind as a fan. None of this ‘oh I guess I kinda like that team, my aunt and uncle got it for me’ but real support. You weren’t showing up rocking a Charlotte Hornets jersey without a good reason that you were wearing it. If young Americans think US soccer is cool, we are getting somewhere (and consider me Miles Davis.)

What's up.....Chivas?!

At the mecca of all things cool and fashion forward, Coachella, I was accosted by multiple MLS jerseys.

In case you don’t know what Coachella is live without the iFins, it is an indie/electronic music festival in Indio, CA (weekend 1, holler) that attendees would say is the most important place to be all year and the pinnacle of being ahead of trendiness.

It was here that I first saw a Chivas USA jersey as we pulled into the campground and parked.

At first I thought ‘Chivas USA fans do exist?’ but then realized that if one was wearing any outfit at Coachella, it was carefully curated to make a statement as you only get three days of showing your finest fashions to your fellow campers and the ridiculous magazines like US Weekly that cover it.

However this was no random sighting as later I saw an attractive female with an Henry NYRB jersey on Saturday afternoon. You must understand that for a girl to be wearing this outfit, it truly meant something. My own girlfriend spent a minimum of 6 hours picking, preparing, and matching her Coachella outfits and I was privy to at least 4 picture messages and 17 text message on my thoughts on said outfits. (Note, the lady and I follow the delicatessen’s principle to looking at those of the other sex in public. “I’m still getting the ham sandwich, but the turkey looks nice today.”)

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The Beautiful Game: Offering Women Hope in India

The beautiful game happens in India....

—–

Chandrima

Chandrima Chatterjee is the program director for Street Soccer USA–a non-profit that seeks to improve the spirits and lives of the homeless through soccer–in Philadelphia, but most recently here charitable work as an ambassador for Yuwa took her to Jharkland, India where she witness how the beautiful game was impacting the lives of young women in a notoriously difficult part of the world to grow up and even exist in.

[In Jharkhand] these girls have their work cut out for them from day one in order to come to practice 6 days a week at 6am. Jharkhand is one of the most dangerous places in the world for human trafficking and violence. An estimated 30,000 people, mostly young women, are trafficked from the state each year. Girls in Jharkhand have little to no education. Many are forced to become young mothers and/or victims of trafficking.

—-

….[My] heart leapt at the focus Yuwa has using football as an outlet to promote livelihood improvements for young women in villages in India. My father was once in a similar environment — village life in India is challenging to say the least. His life story has taught me that with some encouragement, and with just one reliable support structure (a family member, a mentor, a coach, a friend) a life can be transformed and a child can be empowered to become the adult he/she dreams of growing up to be. This is the hope that I have for all of Yuwa’s girls.

 Please read more of Chandrima‘s story here.

TSG: Premiership Best Eleven 2011-2012

The EPL is wrapping up–though not before a last gasp effort for Manchester City to wrestle the title away from their neighborly foes United.

Our picks for Best XI:

Krul, not kind to opponents....

G: Tim Krul (Newcastle)

The skinny: Tough pick here. Krul kept Newcastle in games as they got their footing in the beginning of the campaign. He’s got a knack for big saves and didn’t spawn a single clunker all year. Over 35% of his starts were clean sheets–this for a team that just returned to the league and without having the benefit of immediate backline chemistry. Newcastle now is a stone’s throw from Champion’s League play. Unreal.

That said, a fantastic return to form by Petr Cech put the Stamford Bridge toll collector in the conversation. If Chelsea are not anemic in the middle of the year, Cech slots in.

Others considered: Michael Vorn, Peter Cech, Joe Hart

DEF:   Jose Enrique (Liverpool), Martin Skrtel (Liverpool),  Brede Hangeland (Fulham), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal)

The skinny: Enrique has been Liverpool’s biggest find this season, despite “bigger” signings of Henderson, Downing and Adam. He’s steadied what has been a notoriously inconsistent position for Liverpool and offered a lot going forward in the attack while providing solid defense.

Enrique just slides by Ashley Cole whose own candidacy is–again–a victim of Chelsea’s collective goal to get AVB fired. Leighton Baines for all his attacking might is highly negligent on defense. Down a rung.

Dino Zoff-esque...

In the middle there are just so many good candidates. Vincent Kompany will be a first-teamer on many ballots, but it’s another Liverpudian here as Martin Škrtel steps as best Premiership defensive anchor.

Skrtel has claimed the throne of “one nasty bad ass motherfu…” central defender from Nemanja Vidic in the Serbian’s absence.

I’m not sure why Brede Hangeland never gets credit in this race. He may not be the most proficient defender in 1-on-1 situations and his distribution may be suspect from time to time, but his impact on steadying and setting the Fulham backline cannot be underestimated.

Each year Fulham find themselves with some rotating cast of fullbacks and play the underdog in a most of their matches and each year Hangeland has the squad in the top 8 or better in goals conceded

Bakary Sagna rounds out the backline. Overcame some tough injuries and still was rock solid for Arsene Wenger. More importantly, Sagna allowed Theo Walcott to run around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Others considered: Vincent Kompany, Benoît Assou-Ekotto, Kyle Walker, Ashley Cole

Name this Toon.

MID: Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Alex Song (Arsenal), Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)

The skinny: The case for Clint Dempsey has been made here at TSG, many times over. For a player on a team that generates little offense, Dempsey is that offense with more than half of Fulham’s shots and goals.

Alex Song continues to be the most underrated player in the Premiership. Song eased the transition of Cesc Fabregas to Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky–two players who are hardly known for their defense. Song is the glue of Arsenal’s midfield and while he’s not quite Makeleian in his holding role his being on the pitch is a necessity to Arsenal’s success.

Yohan Cabaye edges out fellow Tynesider Cheik Tiote here–more because of Tiote’s injury. Bet you didn’t know that Cabaye was the second leading tackler in the Premiership. This for a player who can be downright wizardly in possession. Cabaye can play on my team any day. What a find.

Antonio Valencia won’t be a popular pick. Many point to Paul Scholes form or Sir Alex’s managing as the reason Manchester United went on their tear to just about bring the title to Old Trafford. Valencia–quietly–is the league leader in assists (13) while adding width to a Red Devil attack that desperately needed. That and he play tireless defense, even deputizing at right fullback from time to time.

Note: David Silva was a shoo-in at the beginning of the year, but he’s underwent some sort of malaise during the time that City needs him most. Can’t in good conscience put him on the list in that he’s been absent when City’s needed him most.

Others considered: David Silva, Cheik Tiote, Scott Parker, Jonas, Juan Mata, Luka Modric

Robin and Boy Blunder....

FW: Robin Van Persie (Arsenal), Papiss Demba Cisse (Newcastle)

The skinny: Arsenal’s RVP will likely top the 30-goal mark by season’s end. Despite facing double-teams, RVP has scored in everyway and exuded the leadership expected of a captain with only a few minor blemishes.

Papiss Cisse edges Wayne Rooney and the sneaky good campaign of Emmanuel Adebayor for the second forward spot, despite only having 10 games under his belt. None other than Eric Wynalda said it best on Sunday when he commented, “Cisse is a goal scorer. He realizes scoring is just passing to a bigger target.” Statistically, Cisse–11 goals in 10 matches–would score at higher clip over Robin Van Persie if it you extrapolated his numbers.

Others considered: Wayne Rooney, Emmanuel Adebayor, Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez, Grant Holt, Demba Ba

Your thoughts?

Real v. Bayern: Counters-A-Plenty

Kickoff shortly to discover who Chelsea’s opponent will be in the Champion’s League Final.

Friends and enemies....

This may be as thrilling if not more than yesterday’s if merely for the fast the Jose Mourinho’s side need to open it up and Bayern’s domestic campaign is lost. That and the Champion’s League Final is in their backyard.

This is Bayern’s game of the season. Period. They’ll have found some redemption if they merely offer a Final in Munich to their fans.

Meanwhile, the La Liga super club storyline changes with a win to by the home side. Suddenly, the Madridistas have vanquised Barcelona directly and in the table and have a chance to climb atop the Champion’s League perch and claim that they–not Barca–are the best team in the world.

Starting line-ups shortly.

 

Barca vs. Chelsea Primer: Has Javier Really Been A Great Masch for Barcelona?

Barcelona is tired.

The genius of Messi has been a little more challenging lately....

It’s not hard to see that. When a team gets tired, they slow off the ball.

Barcelona, more so then any other elite team, thrives with off-ball movement. It’s necessary for neutrons in their attack.

No movement.

No attack.

And you can tell they’re not moving appropriately lately as evidenced by their talisman Lionel Messi laying into the team on the pitch lately.

The Spanish machine–and it should be considered a machine more than any German squad of recent note–is still whirring, but it’s not purring at “spot the checkered flag, seize the checker flag levels” right now.

Throughout the third trimester of this season, Barcelona has slowly began relying more and more Messi attacking defenses like Michael Jordan did in his earlier years. A basic, “I’m going to draw a quadruple-team and I might try and finish or I’ll hopefully pass it to an open guy that knocks down the bucket.” Watch any highlight show on Fox Soccer, ESPN, Sky and they all show the same thing.

“Messi receives on the right hash. Messi dribble centrally. Four defenders converge. [Messi lays off or Messi beats them and just misses.]”

Oh, it works, just not always against the big boys with Chelsea last week playing the role of the Detroit Pistons.

As Messi has been relied on and relied on, the constant funneling of the ball through Messi is taking its toll. Messi’s passing accuracy per match has dipped since January.

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