Archive for the ‘Fan Perspective’ Category

TSG Potluck: Pre$eason tours

Is MLS hampered by the European pre-season tours?

Potluck question from the venerable GeorgeCross (this was briefly discussed yesterday):

With many European teams coming stateside for their pre-sea$on tours, how do you think this hampers the growth of MLS / capturing non-MLS football fans?  Especially when United knock Seattle for 7.  It gives these fans an even bigger reason to say MLS is a joke, and this is the reason they don’t follow MLS, but a Euro team.

Discuss…

TSG Potluck: New Jersey or old?

Has heard at TSG studios during the final..."Why do their uniforms look like Elvish formal wear"? - Margo.

Potluck question from TSG commentor Eric:

With more and more Americans becoming fans of soccer, an increased number of jerseys are being seen on the streets. On any given weekend around DC, I can see a handful of jerseys, mostly USMNT or EPL clubs, just walking around and it has become “popular fashion” of late.

Jersey sales are huge business and clubs and manufacturers are very aware of this. Around this time every year, fans anxiously await to see the new kits for this season and decide whether or not they will splash the cash for a shirt that more often than not looks pretty much the same as last season’s.

A quick peak in my closet will reveal more soccer jerseys than shirts I can wear to work (I could provide a list but I don’t want to bore any of you), and I always say “Oh, I’m not getting X jersey this year”, but I always somehow manage to buy the most current shirt. Are you in the camp of having to have the latest jersey no matter what or do you just have one that you’ve been wearing for years?

Discuss…

The Fan In You: Death Valley Days

In this The Fan In You piece, TSG Photog Extraordinaire Matt Mathai fills us in on how he came about his passion

Death Valley Days “Life nowadays as a DC United fan”

There's only one Matt Mathai. One Matt Mathaaaaaiiii. There's only one Matt Mathai.

My first introduction to top-level soccer in America came in 1992 when a friend and I went to see the USA-Ireland match at RFK Stadium.

More so, it was a chance to see Roy Keane, Niall Quinn, Thomas Dooley, and the new elegant US player, Roy Wegerle. It was really cold and rainy for a May day and match, but we stuck it out and were rewarded with a 3-1 win.

I was hooked.

I had played, coached, and reffed soccer at various levels all my life, but this was different somehow.

I’ve now lost count of the number of times I’ve traveled to watch the USMNT in action since then.  The most memorable time was in 2001 when the Screaming Eagles, a DC United supporters group, organized a trip to Mexico City for a WC qualifier.

Estadio Azteca was and is awesome.

110,000 fans in green, and then there was about 130 of us in red, white, and blue.

The tension ramped up when we unfurled a huge US flag right behind goal. A little unwise, perhaps, but we hadn’t come all that way to sit quietly and anonymously in a corner. We were hit by all kinds of things thrown at us….beer, coins, batteries, and other less savory things that I am too much of a gentleman to mention.

I love the red jersey I wore it that day. It now has a burn mark where I was hit with a lit flare.

Yes, you read that correctly, hit…with…a…lit flare.

All of it, though, the atmosphere, the sound, the singing, the armored riot police escorting us through a tunnel of plexiglas riot shields, all of it was awesome.

1992: USA v. Ireland: Notice the Budweiser ‘frame’ they used for ads.  This was an improvement over having to take commercial breaks, which they did during the TV broadcasts of the 1990 World Cup.

In 1994, my friend and I took a lot of time off and spent a lot of money to see 14 World Cup matches.

The most notable were: Ireland vs. Italy (a shock upset), Saudi Arabia vs. Belgium (one of the finest goals ever scored in a World Cup) and Germany vs. Bulgaria (Stoitchkov beating the Germans with a beautiful free kick ). Then Italy vs. Brazil….the final.  I remember sitting in the stands in Pasadena thinking that I’d fulfilled one of my dreams.

Here’s the shot I took of Stoitchkov nailing his free kick.

And here’s a shot of the pre-game ceremony at the final in Pasadena

I joined Sam’s Army early because I liked the idea of promoting American support for the USMNT.  I was tired of watching games in the US where our fans were outnumbered.   In the beginning, it was often just 10 or 20 of us in red behind a goal.

The players noticed, though, and that made it worthwhile.

I was thrilled when MLS started.

Only the finest graphic design from 1996...

The announcement in 1995 that my home of Washington, D.C. would get a team was a great day for me.

I felt committed to helping it succeed in any way I could, so I decided to form a supporters group….which eventually became the noted Screaming Eagles.

I set up a listserve and a web page and started to attract traffic from the people I used to talk to on the rec.sport.soccer newsgroup.

I contacted the DC team (as yet unnamed) in 1995 while they were still in an office in NYC and we agreed to talk once they set up operations in the DC area.  I was lucky enough to establish very good relationships with everyone in the front office, and those relationships persist to this day.

The first sign I had that we had something was when the Name-The-Team contest was conducted via telephone and my web page.  That was pretty cool.  It’s a long story for another time, but I’m glad to say that sanity prevailed and the name ‘DC United’ was selected.

Here's a shot I took in April 1996 at the Meet the Team event. Bob Bradley, John Harkes, Marco Etcheverry.

Where have you gone, Said Fazlagic?

The year began with such promise.

It wasn’t to last.  We were terrible in the early days. Arena fired half the team after the second game, a 0-4 loss at Columbus, I believe.

Continue reading

Re-Publish: Turkish Delight

When in Rome...er Istanbul.

A few years ago, in an effort to find myself, I quit my job and decided to work for myself; so that I could travel the world. Leaving potential clients hanging in the wind, skipping town in the beginning of a relationship (that ultimately failed), and avoiding general responsibilities wasn’t the best idea, but I was youngish and stupid!

My travels took me to Istanbul, Turkey and as a huge soccer fan, I had to go to a couple of games. My goal was to watch a game at the famed Ali Sami Yen stadium, where Galatasaray play. I had read stories and seen pictures of manic fans wielding cutlasses with fires a blazing behind them, and I wanted to see this for myself. Sadly, the only game they were scheduled to play during my time there, was a Champions League game against Bordeaux at the Olympic Stadium (where Liverpool won in 05 in a thriller against AC Milan), as Ali Sami Yen was deemed too small to host a Champions League match.

European side of Istanbul, taken from the Asian side docks.

Below are my experiences at a Super Lig game and at the Champions League group game.

Fenerbache vs Antalyaspor
Around 6pm, I proceeded to buy a ticket to Kadikoy which is on the Asian side of Istanbul. I still can’t get over the fact that I went from Europe to Asia in 20 minutes to watch a football game, but there you are. According to the website the game was supposed to start at 8pm, so I wanted to get there early and take some pics of the more fanatical fans. I expected the boat to be full of Fenerbache fans in their blue and yellow striped jerseys, but surprisingly they weren’t…more on that in a bit.

Continue reading

My First USMNT Match Goes Like This…

Lead-in: I’d like to apologize to Preston Petri. The Webster University student and TSG reader inquired on what he could do for his first USMNT game and yours truly suggested writing a column…and then foolishly gave him a 250-word limit. Sorry Preston.

The report below is excellent though; I owe you more words next time Preston!

Dempsey: Live, in color...and apparently in flight

This is a guest post by first-time contributor Preston Petri

I have been to many professional soccer games in my life, but there are a few that stand out vividly in my mind.

Seeing Bayern Munich play VfB Stuttgart at the Allianz arena with 65,000 crazy fans was one that I will never forget. I also will never forget watching 70,000 fans screaming for David Beckham in an exhibition between LA Galaxy and Chivas de Guadalajara when Becks didn’t even get off the bench. Although these experiences were very exciting, I’ve never experienced a soccer game like my first USMNT game against Poland at Soldier Field.

Rolling up to the tailgate, the first thing I noticed was the incredible number of Polish fans. I had a tough time picking out any USA fans, and I almost felt like I was in the wrong country. Chicago is a major hub for Polish immigrants and it’s easy to see why this friendly match was scheduled to be there. The Polish fans were superior in numbers, and I knew this would make for a great environment inside the stadium.

After walking inside and finding our seats, the passion from every single fan could be felt immediately. I’ve never felt as if I had so much stake in a game as a fan. Being an American gave me every right to be just as passionate as the rest of the stadium. The game itself was a fantastic match, and with constant banter between American and Polish fans, the atmosphere remained epic for the rest of the game.

Despite a fair but somewhat disappointing result with the 2-2 draw, the game was an incredible experience. The pride that you feel due to national association is something you could never experience at any club game. I didn’t think I could be a bigger fan of the USMNT before the match, but after attending, I realize I was proven wrong.

Are You Ready For Some Football?

Spurs on their warmup jog. Photo Credit - Allison Pasciuto

On October 31st of this year, the San Francisco 49ers will play the Denver Broncos at Wembley Stadium as part of the NFL’s global outreach football program.

Last Wednesday evening, Tottenham Hotspur landed at San Francisco airport, and Thursday morning had an open practice for fans at the Earthquakes’ training facility.

Tom Huddlestone's hiked up shorts were quite the distraction...and not in a good way. Photo Credit - Allison Pasciuto

People in the two teams’ marketing departments must have realized at some point that they could form a partnership that would be entertaining to fans from both teams. So the 49ers sent quarterback Alex Smith, offensive tackle Joe Staley and kicker Joe Nedney to the Spurs’ practice to meet some of the players, try some kicking and get a view of the “other” football practice.

I have a friend who works for the production company that does 49ers Total Access, a TV show that tends to follow all things Niners. He called me up as they knew nothing about soccer and asked me if I knew anything about “the TottenHAM Hotspur.” I said, “A little, their manager is named Harry –” “You’re hired,” said my friend.

I assumed I would be there as a liaison of sorts – pointing out certain players to the cameramen, giving them a bit of history and facts so that the interviewers would come off as knowledgeable, etc. Turns out it was just me and one cameraman – I was the interviewer AND and I had to come up with my own questions! What follows are my notes about the whole affair which lasted over two practices.

The practice itself

Keanos' still got it.

About half of Spurs’ starting eleven were not there as they were still on post-World Cup holiday. So sadly no Crouch (yes, I would have asked him to do the robot). Defoe, Gomes, King, Lennon, etc. were also absent. Still, Spurs are a talented team and many of their superstars were on show. Some bullet points:
– Luka Modrić is tiny and looks like a 10 year old schoolboy. He was also the best player on the pitch by far and his ball control is spectacular.

- Tom Huddlestone is a big boy. He also likes “hiking” his shorts up to uncomfortable levels.

- Younes Kaboul is bigger still, but he looks in shape.

- Robbie Keane really does bark and yap, and is still a very skillful player.

- Gareth Bale has simian-like features.

- Cudicini ALWAYS has a scowl on his face.

- Roman Pavlyuchenko is known as “Pav.”

- Hutton never shuts up and is really funny (if you can understand him).

- There was a definite distinction in skill between Modrić, Bale, Pav and a few others versus the rest of the squad.

The 49ers arrive

Joe Staley and Alex Smith of the 49ers get their Earthquake jersey's. Photo Credit - Allison Pasciuto

The first day Alex Smith and Joe Staley showed up midway through practice. The obvious thing one notices is how big they are, especially in relation to the Spurs players (yes, even Huddlestone). Even Joe Nedney, the kicker, was bigger than most of the soccer players.

I talked first to Joe Staley, the gregarious tackle. Both he and Alex Smith were surprisingly knowledgeable about soccer. They both not only avidly followed the USMNT, but they watched most of the other World Cup games as well, and both gave perfect descriptions of what offside meant in soccer. Most surprising to me was that they also knew all about the significance of Wembley Stadium and its importance as a national venue, and were incredibly excited to play there.

I asked Staley what he thought of the soccer practice and he mentioned that the biggest difference is that there is a lot more scrimmaging between the entire team. In football, the players tend to work on their positions more and there isn’t nearly as much running.

When posed the question whether “any of these players could make it as a NFL football player,” Joe quickly shook his head and said, “No”…until he saw Huddlestone and said, “Well, he could!”

Clive Allen.

Alex Smith was a little more serious. His views on instant replay in soccer were very well thought out, and, in my opinion, spot-on. He said that it should be in use for goals and major incidents in the penalty area, but for everything else, just let the game flow.

The US athletes were much more comfortable talking to me and the camera than the English ones were. 49er All Access wanted me to interview the English players as opposed to Modrić, Ćorluka, etc. Although polite and obliging, the soccer players answered the questions quickly and without any embellishment. They also knew nothing about American football (though a couple of them do watch it occasionally). The one exception was Clive Allen, one of the Spurs coaches.

Clive Allen is a Spurs and QPR legend who played with many teams throughout his successful career. A gifted striker, he also, as I found out, was the kicker for the London Monarchs in NFL Europe. He was fantastic to interview.

Completely engaging and very knowledgeable about both sports, he too was a big advocate for goal line technology and instant replay. He also still had the ability to kick the hell out of a football (pigskin) when Nedney challenged him to a kicking competition.

Athletes are athletes
At the end of the first practice, there was a shooting practice on the Spurs’ keepers. Staley and Alex Smith were encouraged to join in with Keane, Bale, Pav, Kranjčar, Huddlestone and a couple of others.

Joe Staley scoring off a volley. Photo Credit - Allison Pasciuto

Clive Allen would stand at the byline of the penalty box and whip in balls either in the air or on the ground for the players to either trap and shoot or one-time towards the net. Keeping in mind that the Americans hadn’t played organized soccer since they were 5, they acquitted themselves pretty well. They both trapped the ball on the chest as if they had been playing for years. Admittedly Staley’s chest is pretty huge, but their ball control was good.

Staley even scored a goal which was followed by an equally impressive goal celebration (based on the Bafana Bafana World Cup goal celebration dance). Both Bale and Modrić were incredible during this drill and slammed the ball in the back of the net with deadly precision.

After this it was the NFL players’ turns to throw American footballs with the Spurs squad. Surprisingly no one aside from their 49 year old coach (Clive Allen) could run AND catch the football. Some notes:
– Huddlestone has great hands. The boys were challenging Alex Smith to whip it at him, and though he would cower a bit, he caught every single one of them.

- Bale has an arm, a cannon even. He kicks with his left, but throws with his right.

- Jenas should never be a wide receiver.

- Whenever he has a free moment, Redknapp is ALWAYS on the phone.

- Hutton never shuts up and is really funny (I was finally beginning to understand him).

Gareth Bale - Back up QB. Photo Credit - Allison Pasciuto

During the second practice, Nedney challenged Clive Allen and the two young keepers (Cudicini didn’t seem to be in the mood) to a kicking competition with the American football. The keepers, after a couple of miss-hits, really could hammer the ball. They need to work on their aim (their shots would hook to the left), but if it doesn’t work out with Spurs, I’m sure an NFL team could pick them up.

Equally impressive was Nedney’s distance and accuracy on goal kicks, and shots on goal with a soccer ball. On penalty kicks, Nedney buried half of them in the top corner. The rest were well saved by the keepers (who were also adept spot kick takers). However, neither could hold a candle to Allen, who never missed.

At the end, both the players of the two sports left with a mutual admiration for what the other does.

All told it was an entertaining two days. I got to watch a professional Champions League-bound team practice and be put through their paces, as well talk to some NFL players who were funny, intelligent and knowledgeable.

One note to leave you with: in the interchange of trying out the different sports and positions, taking penalty kicks or passing the ball, the one area that the NFL players could not get and failed at – keeper!

Fan Diary: Entry #3, Slovenian Roller Coaster

Before Landon froze Handanovic

More from Colin Crawford in (and around) the field

Yesterday we went to the USA v Slovenia game.  We learned from our previous exploits to show up really early to avoid lines for the bus and to get into the stadium.  We tried to buy some souvenir scarves but were declined by “the official card for the world cup” (since I am out of the US)…which is also the only card that you can use to buy souvenirs outside the stadium…awesome, thanks Visa.

US fans were ready early....

The crowd was absolutely phenomenal.  The US fans were in the stands and in strong voice at least 45 minutes before kickoff.  The first goal was tough to swallow and the second was downright depressing just before halftime…especially when the States almost got the equalizer just a few minutes before.

Halftime really gave it time to sink in that the US probably won’t make it out of the group stage.  When Donovan scored just after half, the US fans woke up and were given a glimmer of hope and used every bit of their energy to push the States on for the equalizer.

When that came, the place went absolutely nuts…at some point I picked up the 5-year-old child that was standing next to me and gave him a big hug.

Now the part that is painful to talk about…the 3rd goal.  The entire stadium thought it was good…it wasnt until we settled our celebrations down that we noticed it wasn’t allowed.  I went from being absolutely overjoyed at what should have been the greatest comeback in US soccer history, to being absolutely furious and puzzled as to what had just happened.

When we got back to the house, all the people here were just as puzzled and felt for us.  We quickly focused our attention on England v Algeria and were given a gift by the Algerians.  We need a win 6/23 to move on, and that’s it.  We don’t need help from anyone else and our destiny is back in our own hands, so I guess I will use that to alleviate the frustration with the ref.

After the England v Algeria match, the USA v Slovenia match was replayed and I got a better idea of just how bad the ref really was.  There was a string of 4 fouls in the second half that could have been red cards against Slovenia, but only 3 yellows were shown.  I read today that the ref is having an expedited performance review and will most likely be banned from officiating any more matches this world cup.  For me, the damage is already done, so it doesn’t really matter.  The best possible solution is for the US to come out with something to prove against the Algerians and take 3 points and one of the top 2 spots.

Deflation more than elation in leaving the field...

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