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” »

Friends, enemies, shifting alliances – please give me your money. Right now.

I really loved the year 2013. It was a great time for me. My wife got her papers and could finally come to the US and live with me. She also brought along my two stepchildren who have grown into beautiful, amazing, brilliant individuals who inspire me every day.

MORE IMPORTANTLY, I successfully Kickstarted a nonfiction book on the history of Real Madrid & Barcelona. A year before the Kickstarter, I acted as my own literary agent and “queried” the idea to some publishers in the US and even the UK. I actually got some decent responses and one face-to-face meeting. However, nobody pulled the trigger. I kinda sorta felt like a conspiracy: I was “liked” to death. Like, why are people so kind but then unwilling to pay me? My sister, a recovering TV producer (and mother), explained being “liked to death” is uber common in both LA and elsewhere. It happens. A lot.

Thus,  one full (wasted) year after my idea, we Kickstarted, you supported me, you got your rewards, you were elated, and, two months later, I found out that Sid “Mother Fucking” Lowe was writing on the same topic. Understand that I write “Mother Fucking” as a compliment – Sid is boss. He is badass. He researches like an academic and interviews in that classic bipolar Oprah fashion that is 50% your best friend and 50% jaded civil rights attorney in a deposition. He gets access without selling out. He churns out more columns AND match recaps in a single day than I do in a month. I found out about Lowe’s project on a WSC forum, and thought: fuck me. Fuck me hard. Continue reading “Friends, enemies, shifting alliances – please give me your money. Right now.” »

Blogger Summer Break Edition

Leicester has just pulled off a fairy tale season in the EPL. Real Madrid has chased Barcelona to the finish line in La Liga and a date with Atletico in the UCL final lingers. Everyday, you come to this site, click refresh, nothing new appears, and you violently shake your iPhone or PC monitor. You are desperate for my thoughts on why Harry “Fleet-footed Kane” and “Not Racist” Vardy will bravely lead the line as England bravely wins the Euros in the bravest manner possible.

You need me, but I don’t need you. Time for a summer break, so sorry you content-greedy people who take advantage of me. Yes, I will still freelance a bit, but things will go dark here. Very, very dark. The lights will come on again in August or September, depending on my mood. You may (as in “you have permission”) follow me on Twitter. I do feel pity from time-to-time, so I shall concede you that one wish. You can also check out my GoodReads author page.

Until then, enjoy this piece on Mexico’s 2004 Copa America squad for FourFourTwo.

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” »

Extended Dialogue Trying to Make Sense of a Team Winning a Trophy

Q: Are you trying to tell me that a soccer club based in England recently won a trophy that is awarded based on a points total after a 38 game season? Surely this has never happened before and cannot possibly be true.

A: Yes

Q: So, unlike, say, our perfectly meritocratic BCS Championship Series for college football, those zany Brits have a regular season but don’t have any playoff at the end or something similar? What is wrong with those mofos?

A: That is correct.

Q: So, if I am to take what you have said as true and then take what I read on the internet at face value – a dangerous proposition – this Leicester (mispronounced) City has accumulated a sum of points from both drawing and winning games for the prior nine months.

A: Yes. Continue reading “Extended Dialogue Trying to Make Sense of a Team Winning a Trophy” »

Amazing Yanks Abroad Post Unlike Any Other

I am nothing, if not a skank of the clickbait variety. The other day while reviewing soccer “key words” that are popular on the Google, I noticed that Monday mornings quite a few Americans look for “yanks abroad.” At first, I failed to see the soccer connection. I figured some warm-blooded bros were looking for, ahem, some “poorly acted independent films of the ten-minute variety.”

But when I Googled “Yanks abroad”, I found something else: Americans care about how American soccer players play when not in the US. Except, of course, for one major gap. Continue reading “Amazing Yanks Abroad Post Unlike Any Other” »

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” »

More Potshots at the FIFA Prosecutions

About a month ago, I penned a reported feature for VICE Sports about the FIFA prosecutions. Basically, I questioned the use of US resources to go after white collar criminals from other countries who, based on the legal theory of the case, only “hurt” a nonprofit that is organized in Switzerland. I came to the conclusion that the US government was only going after FIFA for (1) Publicity and (2) Money. That’s right – if you read all the available guilty pleas, those Defendants are forking over millions to the US Treasury.

Thus, it looks and smells like “For Profit” policing. But there’s even something more worrisome. Continue reading “More Potshots at the FIFA Prosecutions” »

A Room of One’s Own…All Expenses Paid

About a month ago, I published a reported feature at The Guardian about youth development in the US. A few weeks later, “Billy” Parchman published another excellent article on the topic for Howler Magazine. Basically, big picture, there are major issues with 1) Focus – technical development, and 2) Access – pay to play kinda shuts the door for many people.

In the US, parents want their kids to compete but also to win. This means that young kids start to learn tactics and play six-a-side much much too young. In the long-term, nobody but coaches (and parents!) with a hard-on gives a flying fuck about your U10 youth tournament in Beaumont. It’s nice and fun to win, but, if your goal is to produce a high caliber player, you need to first work on technical ability, technical ability, and technical ability.

The first-touch is the first step to success at a higher level. Continue reading “A Room of One’s Own…All Expenses Paid” »

Pulpo Fiction

In 2010, an octopus stole our hearts. I speak, of course, about Pulpo Paul, the aquarium-dweller with the clairvoyant tentacles who correctly guessed predicted foresaw the results of World Cup games. Sadly, that same year in October, Paul allegedly died. Other animals tried to fill the gap, but they were clearly imposters. The world needed Paul, not some Paul wannabe.

Yet, as is often the case, nobody ever saw the dead body of this particular celebrity. Thus, a sliver of hope remained. In a rundown motel in one of those dark and blind alleys of Las Vegas, could a room full of Elvis, Notorious, and Tupac watching cable TV also have enough space for an aquarium filled with Pulpo Paul? Celebrity-love is the strangest kind because we never know the celebrity in any meaningful way, yet they haunt our dreams and fill our waking hours with emotions.

And this happens even after their supposed death.

Continue reading “Pulpo Fiction” »