Hungover Dispatches from Htown: Messi Walks on Water Edition

Futfanatico is closed for the summer as per usual. In fact, the only editor is not even in the United States of America: how dare him! Thus, this random dispatch from GonzoBro is even less edited and less relevant than ever, yet we need pageviews so here goes.

I.

“On assignment” means one thing to baller freelancers like me: watching adult films on the company dime late at night while staying in some roach-infested Howard Johnson motel in the crummy neighborhood of a somewhat major metropolitan area. That fact may creep you out, but honesty and fidelity to truth at all costs are the trademark of GonzoBra.

Every time you see a byline at The Guardian like “Tom Dart in Dallas“, I think: how many Debbie films did this guy catch between flights during his cursory three-hour stay at a Day’s Inn? “On assignment” means “on our” means stags will be stags roaming the wild and its always ever so much fun and glamorous and they don’t serve peanuts in coach anymore and you have zero space to rest your elbows but you are paid to travel hence travel is suddenly fun.

Yet this odd thing happened: Lionel Fucking Messi and the the Argentinian national team came to play a game vs. the US in my own backyard: Houston. On Assignment suddenly meant zero travel, just futbol. Of course, the codo mofos at Futfanatico couldn’t land me press credentials. Should I bother? Could I cook up some content to get paid to pay back a relative who stopped talking to me a few months ago?

The Heavens answered, shouted, cried out: HELL YEAH. SMy wife of all people insisted we attend the Argentina-US match…but not actually pay to enter the stadium. I had no clue what this bonita broad was cooking, but I lapped it up and was ready for whatever whenever. Continue reading “Hungover Dispatches from Htown: Messi Walks on Water Edition” »

Requiem for a Team

When Florentino Perez hired Zinedine Zidane as manager, the prevailing narrative was simple: he had messed up the hiring of Rafa Benitez in the summer, and Zizou would play the part of the Di Stefano “player-coach” who filled in coaching gaps. Instead, he’s showed a touch of Del Bosque: a manager with a gift for managing egos and clear tactical ideas plus a bit of game-planning.

Which is why he will be fired much too soon by Real Madrid. Continue reading “Requiem for a Team” »

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” »