Neymar to PSG: The Gloriously Pathetic Details

Lots of other people have written their “thinkpiece” on what the Neymar to PSG transfer deal means. Basically, blah blah more wealth blah blah spend lots of money bad blah blah. I actually care little for the so called Chicken Little // Greed in football big picture analysis. I care more about the precise details of this deal. The consummation. The exchange of money. The hard currency.

And they are hysterical. Continue reading “Neymar to PSG: The Gloriously Pathetic Details” »

Right Said Fred Adu

No country produces a never ending stream of star players. Even South American giants like Argentina and Brazil have their fair share of “the next big thing” that turn out more dud than stud. On the one hand, we as fans deserve share of the blame for rushing to heap praise and feverishly clasp at the next young prospect.

On the other hand, a player may not reach his or her potential for myriad reasons. A bad club situation. An injury. A poor attitude. All of the above.

Yet many Americans cannot stop dwelling on once wunderkid Freddy Adu. And I am one of them. Continue reading “Right Said Fred Adu” »

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” »

Celebrating Johan Cruyff the Asshole

Lots of smart and knowledgeable people have chimed in on Johan Cruyff, the Dutch soccer legend who recently passed away. Yet, as pointed out by Brian Phillips on Twitter, nobody has noted or observed or come to grips with the fact he was an asshole. Like all geniuses, Cruyff was difficult to work with as a player, a coach, and even an executive. He had ideas, the ideas were black and white, and you were with Cruyff or against him. When I saw Cruyff was an asshole, it is a compliment. Lots of people are assholes and forgotten, but to truly be an asshole and beloved is arguably the pinnacle of humanity.

Everybody loved Cruyff except the people who he detested and criticized constantly, and even they left flowers at his homage at the Camp Nou. Continue reading “Celebrating Johan Cruyff the Asshole” »

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?” »

Landon Donovan: Remembering the man we never knew

The goals. The recent sabbatical. The early retirement. The World Cup snub. The goals. There’s so many trite talking points when waxing on Landon Donovan, the all-time leading goalscorer for the US Men’s National Team. For the past few months, I’ve purposely kept away from the topic to gather my thoughts and hopefully pen something different. Long-time fans will recall the criticism Donovan received as the “kid who couldn’t hack it in Europe” when he returned from Bayern Leverkusen to San Jose. This belief was given further credence when Donovan and team USA failed to advance out of the group stages at Germany ’06. Yet after 2010, fans made peace with Donovan. In 2014, may were even sad when he was left off the roster (despite no role in qualifying).

Still, what’s always most fascinated me about Donovan is not the sport, but rather his personal side. No, I don’t speak about the trite “not motivated” debate about whether “his head is in the game.” Rather, I refer to the weird anecdotes and incidents that popped up about him during his professional career. Many of these went beyond the typical “celebritydom gossip” to really make one ask: WTF? Here are some of my favs. Continue reading “Landon Donovan: Remembering the man we never knew” »

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’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.

Klinsmann’s Alchemy: Will the US Roster Formula Trump Individual Form?

Unlike many other national teams, Jurgen Klinsmann has named a 30 man roster for the US national team camp and then will name his 23 man World Cup roster later. On cue, hundreds of journalists have channeled their fantasy sport inner banshee and churned out a thousand-and-one “who will he pick?” articles. The majority myopically focus on the century old debates of age vs. youth, class vs. form, defender vs. striker. However, no team is just a spreadsheet of players with grades categorized by positions. In all human endeavors, there’s a, surprise, human element. And World Cup history shows Klinsmann would do wise to focus as much on chemistry as individual skills. Continue reading “Klinsmann’s Alchemy: Will the US Roster Formula Trump Individual Form?” »

World Cup Moments: The Goals That Weren’t…..

As you may have noticed, it’s not all lollipops and summer days around here. I’ve been pretty dissatisfied with media coverage of World Cups since 2010, when the press focused too much on the “Africa” in South Africa. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Except when everybody talks only about voodoo and raises doubts about “proper organization.” Nobody bothered to puncture the surface and probe for worthwhile stories of humanity.

Brazil 2014 has not been different. However, in the interest of reader sanity, it helps to recall that, despite problems off the field, the World Cup has produced some magical moments. The Guardian has a nice series on this. Here are some of my own favorite moments that revolve around goals not happening. Continue reading “World Cup Moments: The Goals That Weren’t…..” »