Reflections on the Galacticos 3.0

It’s only human for a human to get attached to a human. Or, rather, a group of humans. After several years of so-so futbol, Florentino Perez returned as President with grandiose promises. We knew he would splash the cash, but his signing of Jose Mourinho as coach was a masterstroke: new signings and tactics led to three consecutive semi-finals in the Champions League, each time the merengues knocking at the door of greatness. Yes, the Madrid media made Mou go crazy, but what was not to love about Di Maria, Alonso, Diego Lopez, Ozil, and others?

Then we entered the Carlo era. Of course, he had followed in Mou’s footsteps before, notably at Chelsea. He instituted a more offensive approach, the team won the Champions League, and, this summer, the last remains of the Mou era are being discarded. But why? Continue reading “Reflections on the Galacticos 3.0” »

ESPNFC Re-activates Transfer Speculation

I’m admittedly not a big fan of transfer rumors. During most silly seasons (the winter and summer), I prefer napping to blogging about soccer. In a recent Bleacher Report article, a journalist describes his methodical process in trying to pin down, unearth, and then break a soccer transfer. They key appears to be building contacts with agents, players, and clubs (“sources” in journalism) but then keeping your mouth shut until the last possible minute. As Balague notes, when a transfer does happen, it can occur in breathtaking speed.

But that’s different from “transfer speculation”, the well-known practice of tossing big clubs and big player names into the same article and basically daydreaming. Still, transfer speculation is an art-form into itself. I’ve articulated a few rules for said craft, and have a nice example courtesy of ESPNFC. Continue reading “ESPNFC Re-activates Transfer Speculation” »

I think, therefore I Playstation – Andrea Pirlo’s Unauthorized Gamer Diary

If you haven’t read Andrea Pirlo’s excellent biography, you must do so. Right now. As Michael Cox pointed out in a review, “footballers’ autobiographies are rarely interesting.” (Except for Zlat) However, Pirlo has released a pearl of a book. I usually skim footballer biographies looking for potshots, but Pirlo’s candor and detail drew me in. Mad credit to Pirlo for being Pirlo, and the ghost/co-writer Alessandro Alciato, and translator Mark Palmer.

However, there is one major flaw in this book: they excised the detailed entries related to his epic PS2 FIFA battles with Alessandro Nesta. Luckily, I used all of my colossal weight in the eBook and soccer writing sphere to get my hands on said excerpts. And here they are, for your reading pleasure. Continue reading “I think, therefore I Playstation – Andrea Pirlo’s Unauthorized Gamer Diary” »

A Possible Flaw with Promotion & Relegation in MLS: the Franchise Model

I won’t go into much detail over the whole promotion/relegation debate. It’s been done elsewhere. Generally, the strongest arguments supporting pro/rel are (1) Historical examples – it has worked in Europe for several decades; (2) Financial – it will lead to more investment in 2nd division teams as investors try to achieve promotion; and (3) Philosophical – it will be more “meritocratic.” The current loser gets a dope draft pick aspect to North American sports smells of socialism to some.

But any attempt to impose pro/rel on a North American landscape will encounter a muddy terrain; I speak of the loathsome “franchise” system. And luckily there’s an example South of the border for what happens when pro/rel meets the “franchise” model. Continue reading “A Possible Flaw with Promotion & Relegation in MLS: the Franchise Model” »

Soccer Lynx – Quality Pieces, Familiar Places

If you’ve been around the block like I have, some of your favorite sites have long since been shelved, your friends have been laid off by media companies, and you sometimes struggle to find qualify writing on the internets. Still, take heart. It exists.

And here’s some of it. Continue reading “Soccer Lynx – Quality Pieces, Familiar Places” »

Soccer Pass Adjectives I Detest & Adore

Lots of big media outlets have written about the transatlantic pollination of the English language. Thanks to the pace, passion, and commercial power of the Premier League, the US and UK have gotten over that whole “tea party” stuff and the free flow of individuals and ideas has accelerated. In no particular order, I thank you, British Isles, for Monty Python, Fredorrarci, the Office, James Joyce, and tea (I am including former England colonies as well).

However, in terms of adjectives for passes in soccer, I’m afraid both the US and UK have fallen into a rut. Things have grown stale. The banter is too banterfully lukewarm. Luckily, easy solutions abound. Continue reading “Soccer Pass Adjectives I Detest & Adore” »

Tactics Talk: Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 Explained

LVG’s start as Manchester United manager was a step backwards. While United attacked with verve and swagger for a few spells, the defense looked timid. The Red Devils’ 3-5-2 won some summer friendlies, but questions remain whether it can and will work for United and in the EPL. I’ve put on my tactics-cap to explain the pros and cons of the system, and why it might not work at United. Continue reading “Tactics Talk: Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 Explained” »

The Season Also Starts

PART I

Bobby Kohn was a champion darts player. You wouldn’t know it, even if you asked him. The crowning achievement of his life was an Ivy League degree that collected dust in a box in his parent’s basement on Long Island. Since graduating from Brown, he’d couch-surfed and freelanced in Brooklyn and Manhattan. After several months, he landed some stable advertising gig, rented a brownstone he couldn’t afford with friends in Bed-Stuy, and his credit card debt tripled in the span of six months.

And he was a Spurs fan. Continue reading “The Season Also Starts” »

The Least Enlightening Thing Written About the World Cup

The World Cup is a large party and, sadly, has come to an end. I wasn’t able to write as much as I would have liked due to events in my personal life (disclosure: I am not a robot), but some trends popped up. First off, I felt like we read the same story with slightly different takes over and over. Favelas! Protestors! Folks with enviable but still modest reporting budgets flew to Brazil for a few weeks, interviewed a few people, and cobbled together some stuttering attempts at long-form journalism. These were smart people with occasionally bright insights, but you can only hear the same song so many times. Furthermore, Brazil has a burgeoning middle class, excellent universities, and plenty of great academic papers on race relations, poverty, and homelessness. Who wrote Pedagogy of the Oppressed? Yes. A Brazilian.

Still, of course, a good journalist can condense an academic paper into digestible form. There’s also the foreign perspective that can allow us to see big picture issues accepted as facts of life by locals. Like, for example, a slow as molasses legal system and the impossibility of filing for bankruptcy and being done within a decade. The lack of access to credit at reasonable rates (anything over 9% is f’ing usury dawg) has squeezed the middle class when coupled with inflation, and the squatter rights laws have created a perverse incentive to never enter the formal, above ground economy for many. However, most pieces were of the “what does this tournament mean to you, the local?” variety. They felt more superficial and contrived than illuminating. There was an arms race among “journos” to find the most dangerous neighborhood and oppressed group to faux interview some cats and chill while waxing on soccer before uprooting and ignoring any meta factors. “Thank for the caiprinha, nice to meet you for 90 minutes, try not to die a grisly death before turning 25!”

Yet, for all the tiredness and unoriginality of the “I was there” prose, the least enlightening thing written this World Cup was about soccer statistics. Continue reading “The Least Enlightening Thing Written About the World Cup” »

The Short Kiss Until a Few Months Later…..

Days after the World Cup draw, in response to the US’ group, a sharp editor at the New Yorker astutely observed that “we are all in the group of death.” In case you hadn’t noticed, things have gotten quiet in these parts, odd given that I write about soccer and the whole world is paying attention to soccer. Here’s why: unlike the US team, a beloved relative has not advanced to the knockout rounds from our collective humanity’s group of death. Like a Geoff Cameron clearance, the result was shocking, sudden and unexpected. (Unlike Cameron, this person cannot be replaced by Omar Gonzalez)

I’ll be MIA for a few months. But, luckily for you, my anal ass pitched himself to some great mags and sites early, so you’ll have lots of my copy to read. Enjoy as best you can (and go US!). Continue reading “The Short Kiss Until a Few Months Later…..” »