The True Importance of Winning?

In the latest issue of The Classical, there’s some pretty words written about losing. In particular, the NBA has stories from the 2000′s about teams that couldn’t win a ring but earned critical acclaim. I speak, of course, of the Chris Webber Sacramento Kings and the Steve Nash Phoenix Suns. These teams both were fun to watch – the Suns tried to score in six seconds each possession, and relied on the delicious pick-and-rolls of Nash and Amare Stoudemire. The Kings, meanwhile, enjoyed solid guard play from first Jason Williams and then Mike Bibby, while Chris Webber’s soft hands freely spread the ball around.

Neither team won a title, but both won fans hearts. Are there any soccer teams in the same vein? Yes. Here they are: Continue reading “The True Importance of Winning?” »

Real Madrid v. Atletico Recap: Tactical Indeterminacy Revisited

The game is over. Real Madrid has won La Decima. Allegedly, Sergio Ramos has not dropped the trophy. Thus, as per the actual game, there’s not a lot to write home about. Atletico defended with numbers and score off a setpiece/goalie error. Madrid switched formations (pushing Ronaldo up as a striker and Di Maria wide as a winger) and then made some key positive subs (Isco for Khedira, Marcelo for Coentrao) to turn the momentum, tie the game, and dominate in extra time.

But still, Atletico had a wonderful season. They won La Liga. They reached the Champions League final. They sold Falcao last summer, yet only improved. If they sell Diego Costa this summer and improve by the same increment, they will win every trophy imaginable (and probably some made up ones). Yet just how has Atletico done it?

Many have ideas. They are almost all at odds. Continue reading “Real Madrid v. Atletico Recap: Tactical Indeterminacy Revisited” »

Real Madrid’s History Revisited

Atletico is campeon. Long live Atletico. If you’re a Real Madrid fan, you’re used to losing La Liga by now. FC Barcelona has been off the charts the last decade, so we’ve been happy with Copitas del Rey and good Champions League showings (and the occasional SuperCup). This year, we all know that the big game still looms: this Saturday, the chance at La Decima. For non-Spanish speakers, “La Decima” means “The Decima.”

I’ve had the pleasure of writing some historical summaries/snippets for SoccerPro this past week and the series will run until Friday. It deals with Real Madrid’s past and present. Here’s Part I and Part II. Enjoy.

Some Real Sober Reflections

The Carlo era is a success. By that, I mean he has equaled Jose Mourinho’s trophy haul in his first and third seasons at Madrid (He won the King’s Cup the first year and SuperCup the third). At first glance, Carlo has Madrid playing slightly more attacking, offensive soccer. The team has reached the Champions League final and made the race for La Liga interesting until the last month.

However, a close look that some other things have stayed the same. Continue reading “Some Real Sober Reflections” »

Financial Fair Play Cometh: the Gnashing of Baby Teeth

Here’s the deal. Financial Fair Play is here. Both Manchester City and PSG have failed to meet sustainable debt levels. In response, both are faced with two identical punishments: First, their Champions League roster has been reduced to 21 players (instead of 24), and 8 of them must be homegrown. Second, both have to pay fines of between 50-60 million years spread out over a few years.

Soccer fans ask: is this strong enough? Continue reading “Financial Fair Play Cometh: the Gnashing of Baby Teeth” »

Soccer English: the Kick Kick of Cristiano Ronaldo?

If you just look at this picture, it appears Cristiano Ronaldo is doing a Nigel De Jong impression. No big deal. But, alas, it was  kind of a big deal. Ronaldo has scored off heels. He has scored off wicked dipping free kicks. He’s even come super close to scoring off bicycle kicks several times.

But just how exactly do you label his goal vs. Valencia? Continue reading “Soccer English: the Kick Kick of Cristiano Ronaldo?” »

The Champions League Semis and Tactical Entropy

Tactics talk. I’ve engaged in my fair share. Inevitably, a manager affects his (or her) players. Sometimes, his (or her) approach, attitude, and man-management makes a team worse. Sometimes, the team plays better. However, I’m interested in how tactics, like all systems of knowledge, can become a closed system, close to “perfection”, and thus cease to be useful in the real world.

What do I mean? The Champions League semifinals. When we learned that neither negative nor attacking football works. Or did we? Continue reading “The Champions League Semis and Tactical Entropy” »

Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Reality Reconsidered

I’m no stats guru, but if your buddy predicted a Sergio Ramos first-half brace would seal this tie in the second leg away in Munich, there’s a 90% chance he’s full of shit. For many Madrid fans, the Champions League has been an exercise in pain deescalation for the past decade. For years, we couldn’t get past the quarterfinals. Then, Mou guided us to the semifinals, only to lose to Munich on penalties and fall just short of a classic remontada vs. Dortmund. We’ve come a long way from the dark days of Luxemburgo and Juande Ramos and Pellegrini.

So, what exactly happened? Continue reading “Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Reality Reconsidered” »

Tuesdays with Moyesy

Back in February, a manager’s fate was sealed. His team looked lifeless. They drifted in and out of games without purpose. Senior players had not yet openly revolted, but simmered with anger. Still, despite it only being a question of time, manager David Moyes sat down for a series of interviews with Oprah Book Club acclaimed writer Mitch Albom and they engaged in a series of tender, heart-warming discussions about life, death, Ryan Giggs, and everything in between.

We hope you enjoy this abbreviated transcript. Continue reading “Tuesdays with Moyesy” »

US Players: The Winding Path Backwards & Ahead

Remember all the buzz when Jozy Altidore first signed for Sunderland? He’d just scored a plethora of goals in the Eredivisie and was ready to return to the EPL and take it by storm! Yes, the manager at the time was a bit crazy, but the team had survived relegation. Surely Jozy could knock in ten goals and guide the Black Cats to mid-table security? Right?

Then, this season happened. Continue reading “US Players: The Winding Path Backwards & Ahead” »