Archive for the ‘Turning Back the Clock’ Category

A Different Breed: Hideous Keeper Kits

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Editor’s Note: Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr Clint Dempsey. Your scorpion kick attempt on Wednesday night brought us back to a piece we did nearly two years ago. Much less than seven degrees of separation brought us to the infamous “scorpion kicker” Rene Higuita…and the hideous keeper kits he and his between-the-pipes clan wear.


Tony Meola, the fifth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?

Tony Meola, the fifth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?

It is often said that soccer goalkeepers are a different breed. One way in which they stand-out from the crowd is by the “unique” kits they don on the pitch relative to their teammates. And “unique” can sometimes mean strange or just plain ugly.

I was reminded of this after watching the Chris Kirkland clad in all white (including a cap) let in five versus Manchester United on Saturday. Kirkland had no forehand, no backhand and certainly no style.

Then I was cued again while watching a giant leprechaun or Brad Friedel if you prefer play splendidly in yesterday’s upset of Liverpool. So, I thought I spend some time scouring the net for the most “unique” kits I could find.

A different breed, indeed.

Continue Reading for Caps, Jerseys and Jorge Campos

The Most Important Win?

A great player whose life was tragically cut short


A couple of months ago, I watched “The Two Escobars,”  ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on the lives of Colombian soccer player Andres Escobar and drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar. It was recommend to me by a non-soccer fan as one of the best documentaries he has ever seen. It is excellent.

The film follows the rise and fall of both Colombian soccer (national and domestic teams), the Medellin Cartel, and the subsequent deaths of the two Escobars.

One tends to forget how good the national Colombian team was. They dominated their 1994 CONMEBOL qualification group winning four games and drawing two, including a 5-0 thrashing in Buenos Aires of favorites Argentina. It was an incredible collection of very exciting players including Carlos Valderrama, Faustino Asprilla, Freddy Rincon, Adolfo Valencia and of course, Andres Escobar.

Obviously with such an emphatic win over Argentina and brimming with confidence, Colombia were certainly 1994 pre-Cup favorites. Sadly they went three and out, beating Switzerland in a meaningless third game, to finish last in the group.

The game that knocked them out was their second against the hosts, USA. After losing their opening game to Romania, Colombia had planned on righting their ship by destroying a well supported, but inferior U.S. side. The U.S. played brilliantly and with Colombia’s attacks rendered moot, some defensive luck, and the fatal own goal, were eventual 2-1 winners.

All this, as well as the subsequent murder of Andres Escobar (a few days later in Medellin), was talked about and discussed as part of pre-match commentary for Tuesday’s USA versus Colombia game. Both Harkes and Lalas were interviewed and asked to give their accounts of the emotions they went through back then. Sidenote: I honestly thought it was the best commentary either one of them has ever done.

So the question that came to my mind: Was this the USMNT’s greatest ever win?

A great last second goal, but this game should have been a lot easier.

Obviously in 1950 they beat England 1-0, but aside from being a phenomenal upset, U.S. Soccer did nothing of note for almost 40 years following.

Another notable game could possibly include their recent thrilling win over Algeria, to propel the USMNT to winning the group in the past World Cup. Really? Group C was certainly one of the weakest groups in South Africa and whereas they did win, that game should have been a cakewalk, and the USMNT were 90 seconds from going home early. They also failed to beat Ghana, and have not been that impressive in the three subsequent matches since the summer.

One could also point to the U.S.’s excellent win over Spain at the 2009 Confederations Cup. That win would certainly have been their second greatest had they held on to beat Brazil in the final, but in the end it was a very good win that told the rest of the world, “Watch out: the USMNT cannot be underestimated.” Sadly, since that win in Bloemfontein, the USMNT haven’t taken their game to the next level.

Donovan scores the second in an epic win against traditional rivals in South Korea

My close second would be U.S.’s win over Mexico in the second round of the 2002 World Cup that took them into the quarterfinals (which they controversially lost to Germany). Their run in this cup, and victory over traditional rivals, gripped the nation and got the USA excited about their prospects for the 2006 World Cup.

The won their 2006 qualification group and headed to Germany in high spirits brimming with confidence. Maybe too much, as they underestimated the Czech Republic and Ghana and went home early.

No – I believe the 1994 USMNT’s win against pre-Cup favorites Colombia on home soil at the Rose Bowl was the biggest win in U.S. Soccer’s history.

It came about after an opening game draw against Switzerland, and though they lost in their final group match to Romania, they progressed for the first time to the knockout stages. They lost to Brazil in a close 1-0 game, but a previously skeptical nation embraced their soccer team, and with the MLS playing its first game two years later, the stage was now set for the U.S. to be a dominant force in CONCACAF.

Lalas takes on Valenciano sporting a hall of fame ugly kit!

It was also the starting point for foreign clubs to wake up and notice that cheap, but good talent could be found in the northern lands across the pond. Claudio Reyna, Alexi Lalas, Joe Max-Moore and Brad Friedel all moved to European clubs after the 1994 World Cup. Some current overseas players moved to bigger clubs and some got bigger contracts to come back and play in the inaugural MLS season in 1996.

I remember that it was at this point that the media also began to notice that soccer was indeed a popular sport outside the U.S. borders, and that the U.S. could compete against the world’s best (after all, they did lose to the eventual winners). Sadly, some of it had to do with Escobar’s death, but the word “soccer” was often on non-fans’ lips. Newspapers started printing European league tables, sports magazines started doing soccer related features, and people started to pay attention to the qualification process as the U.S. qualified for France ’98. Sadly they crashed and burned and finished last, but four years later they were a different team.

This was a special victory. The USMNT realized that they were for real as they had beaten one of the world’s best (whilst wearing the ugliest uniforms ever created to boot). Everyone began to take notice, and though it would be many years until they created another such upset, it was this win that made it all possible.

DISCLAIMER: I came up with this list before I did any research. In perusing old games, the 1989 final qualification game against Trinidad and Tobago, in which the USMNT won 1-0 to book their place at the 1990 World Cup certainly could be the USMNT’s finest victory. Not only was it their first away victory in 2 years, and it qualified them for their first World Cup in 40 years, but it justified to the world that they deserved to host the 1994 World Cup.

FIFA had previously come up against a lot of scrutiny for awarding the prestigious event  to a nation with no professional league, and at the time were slim hopes to legitimately qualify for the world tournament. This win changed that and was the birth of the 1994 team that beat Colombia.

I think this list that is entirely open to interpretation. This is just my opinion and I would love to hear your opinions. One thing I’m sure we can all agree on…that the USMNT’s biggest win is sure to come…hopefully soon!

They Shared It: The USMNT….20 Years Ago!

Finally we return to our “Turning Back the Clock” series:

From Sam in our comment section (I had to create a post):

Sam says….

“Didn’t quite no where to share this with you guys, but perhaps in the spirit of talking up hypothetical strategy on our complete destruction of England we could stop a minute and think of just how far we’ve come…”

If anyone wants to doctor up the faces (not the hair!) with the current day players…TSG would love to post it.

USMNT profile: Italy '90 (1)

USMNT profile: Italy '90 (2)

Dooley? Earnie? Bruce Murray? Tony Sanneh? Which Former Player Could USA 2010 Use Most?

We continue the Jumble Part II by leading with a thought from the comment section.

Roy Wegerle: Topps in George's book...

TSG commenter George Cross hinted at a dandy of a post idea as he dropped the name Roy Wegerle as we discussed the impact that a certain Owen Hargreaves could have on the English side in 2010. Cross, an English nattie fan, went back in time to extol the abilities of Wegerle and how he would factor in the US side.

He said:

Yes, Hargreaves is Canadian. But I would argue that one of the most talented players to ever represent the USA was South African (his Mrs was a Yank!)…

How you could use his creativity and invention in the final third now!

A certain Roy Wegerle. The man had sublime skill. He would walk into the US team now, playing in the hole. We would be talking about ‘who would partner him?’ and ‘how to build the team around him?’ and ‘how to get the best out of him?’. Obviously, it’s just my opinion, but I think he was that good.

He was a bit like Glenn Hoddle – in those days “flair” players weren’t appreciated (in England). They were a luxury. Apart from Liverpool, who were a good footballing side, it was long ball, with a little and large combination up front – one to win the initial header or flick, the other to feed off it. Football has evolved immensely and I wonder how much he would command in the transfer market today.

I had the pleasure of watching him play quite a few times when he used to play for Chelsea, Luton* and QPR* in the late 80s / early 90s.

Thanks George for the trip down memory lane and thanks for kickstarting the idea on the piece we’re about to mention. However, I should probably reserve my gushing praise more for a Brit comparing a Yank to Glenn Hoddle.

Anyway, from George’s astute commentary TSG asks the questions, “Which former USMNT player could help the United States out most in World Cup 2010?”

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Working Our Way Back: US Downs Mex..(2002)

Had such a good time with the video splice of the States – Germany 2002 tourney game, that we’ll work our way backwards.

Not quite the pace and theatrics of the last video, but 5 minutes on the game that advanced the Yanks to play the Ballacks.

As a fan, this game is a bit lost on me over time. I do remember when I watched the game that the entire time I was pretty much confidant of a US win….gosh I was young…and naive.

Wolff missing that open volley…yuck. McBride with the laser (and tackling like crazy) and one Cuauhtémoc Blanco Bravo looking less like Tummi Gummi and being active as ever.

Germany 1 – USA 0

World Cup Soccer Balls: Tiento To Jabulani

The required equipment list for soccer spans exactly one line that reads “ball” in some language. Even the term “ball” is relative as disadvantaged kids around the globe are known to use wadded-up plastic bags and Pelé allegedly juggled a grapefruit.

The 1930 World Cup was played with the Tiento. (How much do you think this weighed when wet?)

For most Americans of my generation, the term “soccer ball” conjures up an image of black-and-white paneled ball that would leave hexagonal imprints on body parts if one happened to block a boombosa from close range.

Soccer balls haven’t always been the meticulously stitched spheres most in America play with today as illustrated by the Tiento (right), the ball used for the first World Cup in 1930. Actually, two Tiento balls were used, one selected by Argentina in the first half and one second ball selected by eventual winner Uruguay for play after the interval.

Recently, the online version of the Telegraph posted a photo collection of soccer balls from every World Cup that illustrates the evolution of the soccer ball from the hand-stitched leather ball of Uruguay ’30 to the thermally-bonded Adidas +Teamgeist of Germany ’06 . The collection also includes a ball called “Allen” (France ’38), the numerous Tango versions and the controversial Fevernova (South Korea ’02).

One interesting piece of trivia contained in the Telegraph piece is that the black-and-white panel design was created for television to help distinguish the ball during black-and-white telecasts. Hence, the name Telstar. (It goes without saying that this television-induced sports innovation fared much better than the Fox / NHL “glowing puck” experiment from a few years ago.)

Adidas has created the Jabulani

Starting in 1986, for the World Cup in Mexico, Adidas designed the look of the ball to reflect the host country in some way. According to, Adidas has engineered the Jabulani (left) for World Cup 2010 in South Africa . “Jabulani” means “to celebrate” in isiZulu, one of the official languages of South Africa.

The eight panel, spherically molded ball boasts technology that ensures “perfect roundness” while the eleven color design represents the eleven players per side during a match. The Juablini will be formally introduced on December 4th, the day of the World Cup draw.

Say What?…Soccer Quotes

Sadly, Dr. Evil did not make the list.

Sadly, Dr. Evil did not make the list.

I have a fondness for words and quotes.

In the USMNT nickname discussion, commentor Baquito Alyeska jokingly suggested the name “The Wynaldas” and remarked that there is a “limitless supply of Wynalda quotes to put on the t-shirts” and provided a couple including this gem:

On Mexico: “Once I step on the field, I hate ‘em. Nowhere is it written that I have to say I like them. That’s just the way it is.”

While I won’t get on-board with calling the USMNT the Wynaldas, it did inspire me to search for interesting quotes about / on soccer. So, below are 10 plus a “bonus”.

Add your favorites in the comments.

“Soccer is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated. It satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening–it is without doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”
~ Unknown

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