The Champions League Final and the Boy Who Would Be King

Many years ago, I wrote this piece on Dirk Kuyt for this odd thing called a “soccer blog” and that many people named “the Run of Play.” The premise was simple: Dirk Kuyt, then at Liverpool, was really slow, but worked really hard, and scored ugly goals from time to time. This was back in 2009. Kuyt was a stark contrast to Liverpool’s other striker at the time, Fernando “El Nino” Torres, who ran like the wind and scored goals with the same ease as you and I blink.

Yet seven years later, things have flipped. Continue reading “The Champions League Final and the Boy Who Would Be King” »

A Little Bit of a Peptalk

Everybody is writing about the Champions League, but I still have my two cents to give. In particular, Pep Guardiola, my arch nemesis (as a Madrid fan), has come under criticism that is both unjust and kinda ridiculous. Of course, Pep does not get along with every single player ever, insists on a certain aesthetic to his teams, and has not won every single trophy ever.

Still, despite his flaws, he’s a damn good manager. But let’s go past the hot hair in written form you’ve read (skimmed) elsewhere, and look at the issues a bit closer. Continue reading “A Little Bit of a Peptalk” »

Folha Seca: The Arbitrary Importance of History

When researching and writing (and later “recording”) my first book, An Illustrated Guide to Soccer & Spanish, I looked closely at the history of the Spanish soccer term: chilena, which is “bicycle-kick” in English. Basically, a Spanish expat in Chile pulled off a bicycle kick near the start of the 20th century, it was reported, and the name caught fire. Still, how our society apportions credit for inventiveness kinda bugs me.

At the same time as the chilena came to be in South America, Josep Samitier starred for FC Barcelona in Spain. A continent away, he became known for his famous “lobster-kick”. What is a lobster-kick, you ask. Sadly, no video or even good still image of the lobster-kick exists. Based on a few bare-bones match reports, the move was similar to the “scorpion kick” of a certain loco goaltender for Colombia. Still, can we be sure Samitier did not invent the chilena? And what makes a kick “lobster” as opposed to “scorpion”? Continue reading “Folha Seca: The Arbitrary Importance of History” »

Where have all the Enganches gone?

The above picture recently surfaced of now retired Juan Roman Riquelme with Leo Messi and Javier Mascherano and Riquelme’s son. Arguably, Riquelme was one of the last enganches to excel in Europe and possibly the world. Of course, you ask, what exactly is an enganche?

Allow me to explain. Continue reading “Where have all the Enganches gone?” »

When We Knew that LVG had just Kissed Death as United Coach

It’s sad when a relationship ends, even when you’ve been with a defensive rooster of a man who seemed iconoclastic at first but has withered in conviction with age. A serious late season charge could still save Louis Van Gaal’s job at United, but with Mou lurking and Woodward silent, the writing seems to be on the wall.

Or, rather, in the British dailies. Continue reading “When We Knew that LVG had just Kissed Death as United Coach” »

Champions League Benching Provokes Measured and Thoughtful Inquest

If you watched the Chelsea-PSG Champions League first leg yesterday, you saw an exciting game. PSG dominated possession and narrowly beat Chelsea 2-1, but the English club looked dangerous on the break with Willian often leading the charge. However, in America, lots of attention turned to events off the field. Well, things on the bench, that is. Players. Sitting.

And what that means for youth academies and national federations. Continue reading “Champions League Benching Provokes Measured and Thoughtful Inquest” »

Watching Mou’s Madrid Unraveled From Afar

I still play FIFA 13 while sipping a fine glass of red wine, a melancholic gloom hanging over my head as my thumbs grow numb from the iPad slide-rule pass finger motions. I always play what is either a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-1-1: Higuain gets the nod ahead of Benzema with Ozil underneath, Di Maria wide right, Ronaldo on the left, and Khedira and Alonso shielding the back four. I know that this team didn’t win the coveted Decima, but they did reach numerous Champions League semifinals and enjoy the best La Liga season for Madrid ever.

And they are no more. Continue reading “Watching Mou’s Madrid Unraveled From Afar” »

Q & A: Silky Johnson Explains Why Every Player You Ever Loved In Fact Sucks

Every now and then, we at Futfanatico land a huge interview about futbol with an unexpected celebrity. Once we got Slavoj Zizek to predict a World Cup final. Another time, Jean Baudrillard turned his piercing gaze to American celebrity fans of Arsenal. While Rolling Stone barely nicked us to that Chapo interview, we are delighted to welcome Silky Johnson, the greatest hater in the history of hating.

Silky, a professional hater who makes your ex’s bae look like a bubbling cauldron of optimism, will now brutally and flippantly degrade every player you have ever adored. Continue reading “Q & A: Silky Johnson Explains Why Every Player You Ever Loved In Fact Sucks” »

The Disappearing Star Centerback Prodigy

The dodo. The dinosaurs. Why do all the really cool animals have to disappear off the face of the Earth? Sadly, soccer reflects this reality. For at least half a decade, a position on the pitch has been neglected like no other: centerback. Here’s a thought experiment. Right now, name a young star center back. Okay, easy you say. Thiago Silva. Okay, now name another.

Hard, isn’t it? Continue reading “The Disappearing Star Centerback Prodigy” »