Archive for September, 2012

The Weekend: Live Commentary

Cazorla and Arsenal try to cash the Cech.

Caz…

David Testo: When It’s Not The Beautiful Game

Living a double life takes its tolls … David Testo….

Last year, soccer player David Testo became the first active male professional athlete in North America to come out as gay.

He told about his life in the closet in astonishing detail for Leander Schaerlaeckens’ SB Nation feature Out of Bounds, which came out today.

Read it here.

[Editor's note: I was able to speak with Leander throughout his process of writing the story. His passion for getting it right and making sure it was perfect to his specific view of how it should be told came through in abudance.]

Some commentary on the piece by the author below.
 TSG: Leander, what’s the background on this story getting told and take us through what the story meant for you to tell.

Schaerlaeckens: This is easily the longest I’ve both pursued and worked on a story.

I first reached out to David in the weeks after he came out last November. I was going to write it for ESPN.com. He was keen but by the time he was coming to New York for a gala, he’d been so overwhelmed by media attention that he’d sort of run out of energy for interviews. We played phone tag for a few days and then decided to shelve it for a little while. In the spring, when the hubbub had died down some, we talked again and he said he still wanted to do the story. I’d left ESPN by then and pitched it to a few places and got an especially keen response from Best American Sports Writing series editor Glenn Stout, who was heading up SB Nation’s new Longform section.

The opportunity to work with him was hard to pass up. So I went to Montreal for three days and David and I talked most of each day. We developed a closeness that I hadn’t anticipated. His story was so very personal, and he was telling it so honestly, that it quickly stopped being interviewer-interviewee and  just became two guys talking about life. That’s the place they tell you to get to with interviews but you hardly ever achieve. It also meant that I became closer to the story than I probably should have been.

But, more than anything, it made me want to get it right.

And to tell it warts and all. David was clear that he was doing this in hopes of helping others who might be in a similar predicament. As he said in the piece, “I wish I’d had someone like me.” And I thought that was the best way to achieve it. I would have done him or his story no favors by dulling the edges of his experiences. So in some places it’s quite harsh and that was hard to do. There were a lot of times where I wondered if I was taking it too far. I was relieved to get a text from David earlier today saying he was happy with it. I’ve always tried not to care what my subjects think about my story but it’s hard not to. We’d all like to be liked. And especially in this case, where you’ve essentially become somebody’s biographer, you just hope to be accurate.

This was an important story to me. As a Dutchman I like to think I come from a slightly more tolerant (or is it indifferent?) society than the one I now proudly call home. I grew up thinking gay was okay. I’ve had fascinating discussions about how rare this is with my wife, who is as liberal as I am but went to a tough urban high school in New York where it was decidedly not. Some of my mother’s closest friends are gay. So to me it was natural. And a part of me remains appalled that not more athletes feel they can be themselves openly. If this story makes one gay athlete feel better about him or herself, I think David and me would both be ecstatic with how all this turned out.

Home Stretching: Schedule Strength & The MLS Table

Two teams that arrived differently, but need to finish just as hard…

Steve Fenn seeking to normalizing club abilities as the campaign closes.

The 2012 MLS season has reached a point where every playoff-realist (save Supporter’s Shield favorite San Jose) is to some extent dependent on the clubs around them for their final seeding. Some matches mean decidedly less to one of the combatants than they do to those closest to their opponent in the table. This was the case in Sunday’s biggest results, where Colorado’s draw with Vancouver and Philadelphia’s win over Houston were enormous outcomes for Dallas and Columbus, respectively. This dynamic will be echoed whenever an essentially-eliminated club squares off with one in the conference top 6. Given the closeness of so many of the top 6 in both conferences, this interdependency will likely be a major variable going forward, and strength of schedule could be a huge determining factor in these races.

To gauge strength of schedule, we can look at the goal differential (GD) of everyone’s opponents, weighted for home field advantage. Doing so is relatively easy once you calculate the average home vs away score in MLS this season, and tack that goal differential onto every matchup. The average score this season has been Home 1.60 vs Away 1.07, so I adjusted every matchup plus or minus 0.53 goals based on location. Here is the current MLS table by points per game, with the first two tiebreakers (goals scored and GD) per game, and strength of schedule per game:

“Four More Games! Four More Games!”

Keep in mind that strength of schedule is that club’s remaining opponents’ average GD, adjusted for location. The clubs with the lowest number have the easiest path. The differences here should partially shape numerous tight races for seeding within the top 6 of both conferences. Houston and Columbus will face two of the three easiest slates the rest of the way as they jockey for the last Eastern playoff spot. Out West, Vancouver has the easiest schedule and FC Dallas has a difficult stretch. If the red stripes and/or the Whitecaps don’t defy home field expectations, FCD’s solid recent run may only leave them as one of the best clubs to miss the postseason this year.

Is 4-6 matches too small of a sample for strength of schedule and home field advantage to accurately predict stretch run outcomes, though?

For comparables, I looked to leagues in Europe with respectable (if not MLS-level) parity, who are very early in their seasons. Ligue 1 has played 6 matches thus far and the English Championship have played 7. I calculated home and road goal differential per game for the 20 French clubs and 24 English clubs in those leagues. Of those 44 clubs, only four had GD away from home, with nine other clubs at zero or slightly above in their home advantage. It has to be noted that this does not take strength of schedule into account, and more exhaustive studies would have to be performed to reach any definitive conclusions on short-term home advantage.

However, all the surface facts point to LA Galaxy, DC United, and FC Dallas being at a significant disadvantage to their closest competitors based solely on their fixtures between now and the end of the season on October 28th. They will have to buck the odds in order to avoid disadvantageous 4th and 6th seeds in their conferences. Of course, the game isn’t played on paper and it’s certainly possible one or two of them will overcome, but the circumstances of their schedules can’t be overlooked when evaluating likely outcomes for the remainder of the season.

The Weekend: Live Commentary

All eyes on Brad Friedel this weekend as the American at Spurs; not Clint Dempsey.

I jump high too…

UEFA Champion’s League: Is City For Real?

(TSG will publish on an abbreviated schedule this week. The hamster needs some R&R in the Mentawaiian Islands.)

Real vs. Manchester City the headliner today. Can someone please build either one of those Schwarzanegger soundboards for Jose Mourinho quotes…. or at the least a language in Google Translate. Thanks, you’re the best technology.

And a preview from Leander Schaeklaeckens: “Money Looms over the Group of Death

The Weekend: Live Commentary

Stretch run MLS. Clint Dempsey is a Spur.

Corporal Cameron dons the Candy Cane Kit again and goes to work…

USA 1, Jamaica 0: The Deuceface, Herc Jerk Retro Diary

No pain?! No pain! No pain?! No pain!

Will Parchman with a massively fantastic missive.

Guys. I want to apologize for assaulting your fine literary senses here, but there will be caps lock tonight. The mood is heightened. Cockles are raised. Fine hairs are on edge. Jermaine Jones is still a person who plays soccer. So yeah. I’m sorry in advance, but tonight is not a night for feather dusters and foot-overs and happy winks. Tonight is a night for sledgehammers and biceps exploding from extra tight Affliction T-shirts and glass shards and metal studs aerating unsuspecting cheeks. Tonight is the night when the big bad giant steps on David’s head and eats his slingshot.

Style points are extinct as far as I’m concerned. It’s time for old fashioned American footy. Out-run ‘em, beat ‘em up and score ugly, high-percentage goals. Let’s get it.

 6:59 p.m. – Steve Fenn of Big D Soccer tweets this from Columbus: “In the American Outlaws section tonight. Everyone’s spirited, but it feels like some of the energy is coming from desperation.”

THANKS FOR THE CONFIDENCE BOOST STEVIE. Desperation you say? Guatemala is leading A&B 1-0 at halftime you say? This game is edging ever closer to must win, you say? I don’t even know if I’d want to be there. I feel like I’d do something stupid, like yell at a child or drop-kick a bench. Frankie Hejduk (HEYDUDE) is leading cheers on the sideline? WELL NOW I FEEL MUCH BETTER.

American lineup is out.

Howard; Cherundolo, Cameron, Bocanegra, Johnson; Williams; Zusi, Jones, Torres; Dempsey, Gomez

4-1-3-2, at least nominally. Five changes in the lineup tonight from the 2-1 loss in Kingston. Dolo and Boca are back, which is nice. Danny Williams holds in midfield, which is fine, his natural role anyway (nice to see him off the wing, yes?). Torres is on the left wing, which burns me everlasting. I have (famously!) given up on Torres but have hope that he’s remembered to bring his legs with him tonight. Graham Zusi is on the right and somewhere an angel loses its wings. The two issues from last week were a lack of width and no link-up in the middle. I don’t see any fix for those issues here, but I find it hard to blame Klinsmann because this injury-depleted roster hasn’t been all that kind to him.

PACKED house in Columbus. That’s nice to see, and touching that it coincides with such an emotional day. But even Ian Darke’s buttery English-y voice and all those U-S-A chants caroming around the concrete barriers of Crew Stadium can’t allay the feeling of oddness about this fixture. Columbus has the good juju though. Darke calls it a “happy hunting ground.”

Twellman: “Tonight is easily (Klinsmann’s) biggest game in charge of the United States.” Er. Yeah. I’d say. Kickoff time. Leggo.

‘1 – The US is already looking to play slicker, more poised footy. I can’t describe how glad I am that Boca is back to facilitate that. He’s beyond calm.

Twellman: “This may be Torres’ last straw.” How is he not out of straws at this point? How is he not completely strawless? Utterly devoid of sipping devices?

‘4 – Dolo is so good on the right side. You beautiful Hannoverian (don’t judge me) right back. Feeding in crosses like a parent feeding an incontinent baby strained peas. Did I just call Herc Gomez an incontinent baby? Whatever. Maybe.

‘5 – Happy with how solidly the formation is sitting. Danny Williams and Jones showing good poise as Jones sort of stacks high on top of Williams. How did anyone think Williams was a winger? Hurts the soul. He’s been good so far though.

‘6 – ZUSI BAR. CROSSBAR. Did Twellman just call that a hockey deik? I don’t care. Zusi, my fellow American. I’ll take back everything I’ve ever said about you if score tonight. Maybe not everything. Actually nothing at all. But I’ll be happy.

‘8 – Just mixed myself a Jack & Coke. Going to take a healthy rip every time Darke says something about a DANGEROUS JAMAICA COUNTERATTACK. Seen nothing of the sort, really. Just a couple of free kicks.

‘9 – Dempsey is the bellwether. He generally settles wherever service is best, and he’s drifting waaaay right toward Zusi and Dolo and away from… you guessed it, my man Torres. He’s being phased out already. I’M SURPRISED. Wait, no I’m not at all.

’12 – Steve Cherundolo. Can you be my dad? Incredible leading cross gets Herc in at 15 yards and it’s only Herc’s slightly clunky chest touch that lets Nosworthy break it up. Herc is always in the right place, just a matter of finishing touches. Seventh start in a row for the man who deserves it more than Jozy. Just my way of thinking.

’14 – Jones draws a weak free kick, a bail-out call really, but it gets the US the chance at a kick. Herc’s pretty in-swinger hits Jones RIGHT IN THE FACE and he does nothing with it. Jones failed on that possession, got bailed out by the ref on the free kick and then flubbed the hell out of a header freer than Chuck Norris waving American flags on a red, white & blue unicorn farting the National Anthem. I am rapidly souring on Jermaine Jones.

’18 – Herc challenges Miller on another free kick. Twellman actually makes a good point (!) on Herc and Dempsey, neither of whom are doing much to stretch the back line. Both look more like midfielders playing striker than strikers in the mood. This dominant spell of possession is cool and all, but like I said at the top, GOALS, BRA.

’20 – BLARGGGGGGGGG MILLER WHAT A SAVE. Williams with a beautiful pass splayed out for Dolo, who rocketed in a ball that Miller pushed onto the post somehow.

Dempsey was upending Jamaica all night…

Seconds later the goal almost comes again from Dempsey’s feed to Fabian Johnson. Goals. WHERE ARE YOU. Darke: “Have to say, USA unlucky not to be ahead.” HahahI KNOW IAN.

’23 – Zusi follows up a bouncing ball with a sliced volley that rips over the crossbar by a foot. This is kind of like a cat pawing at a piece of yarn that’s tumbled under the couch. It’s kind of sad to watch, but you have to think that given persistence the cat will get that damn bundle of fabric. Notice I’ve given the yarn no chance of catching the cat. Not possible.

Saw Miller’s save again on Dolo’s ball in that was deflected. What a damn save. Finger-tipped it against the post. Jamaica looks absolutely flooded.

’27 – Danny Williams is what Kyle Beckerman would be if Kyle Beckerman was better (and I like Beckerman). Very, very impressed with the Williams tonight. Jamaica just earned a corner. Lolwut?

Twellman just said to Jermaine Jones, by proxy of television, “Don’t get caught up in any of the baby games.” Needed that little laugh. THANKS TAYS.

’30 – WHAT IS HAPPENING. Danny Williams just rattled the post again. Apoplectic. A 30-yard WONDERstrike from Williams just pinged the post, and that screamer just blasted the inside shade of the woodwork. YOU DIDN’T SACRIFICE THAT GOAT LIKE I TOLD YOU, DID YOU. Thank you for confirming my suspicions that you are awesome, Danny. Goal next time though.

’33 – Herc was onside you meat clowns. He didn’t finish anyway, but whatevs.

88th minute and Guatemala is still up 1-0. A&B won’t score. That’s three points for the Quetzalcoatlians.

’35 – US has a 79-21 possession edge. Three of the Americans’ six shots have hit the woodwork. In other news, the capricious soccer gods are ripping the heads off their USA voodoo dolls with venom.

’39 – Okay, so I can give credit where it’s due, and Zusi’s been good tonight. Shown some spots going forward that’ve surprised me. I have no confidence that this is a consistent thing, but he’s made the right side a nightmare for the Boyz tonight. Dolo. My man. Been a beast on the overlap, too.

Guatemala wins. Blechshpalshshhshs.

HALFTIME.

Have you ever done something really well and not gotten due credit? On the other end, have you ever done something really terribly but gotten praise heaped on you for it? That last bit is Jamaica right now. Let me tell you a little real life parable. In the fourth grade, I took a typing class. Back in those days (mid-90s) the internet was just coming on and computer programs were pretty, well… bad. Our typing teacher was a program called Mario Teaches Typing.

The system worked like this: you did your typing (it moved Mario through his virtual world), wrote down your words per minute and took it to the teacher after each class period. Me being a little dirtbag, I cheated. My real words per minute was around 15. By the end of the year I’d lied my way up to around 45. I hadn’t done any real work, but hey, I got a certificate as the most improved in the class. That’s Jamaica right now. Lying little cretins. They’re not 0-0 good. Goals. GIVE ME GOALS YOU DIRTY AMERICANS.

’46 – Klinsmann says we need goals. Thanks Jurgis. You’re the best.

’48 – Bad giveaway from Dempsey leads in a Jamaican for a clear goal opportunity before he skies it. Going to be dealing with some of this as the US commits so many forward. Darke is going to lose his mind mentioning all these counters. “JAMAICA, THEY’RE SO COUNTEREY.”

’50 – Jose Torres update. He still sucks.

’52 – Can somebody please make a “DOLO YOLO” T-shirt? Please?

Done Will! Reader Marissa Villegas with the fantastic contribution. Thanks Melissa.

US passing accuracy is 91 percent right now. They’ve hit the post three times. Possession is hovering around 80 percent. There are no goals. THIS IS MY NIGHTMARE.

’55 – HERC JERK!!!!!!!!! IN THE FAAAAAAACE!!!!!!!!!

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 251 other followers