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” »

MLS, Liga MX, and Theory vs. Practice

Everybody wants to talk about TV viewership and make unflattering comparisons between MLS and any other league. As a fan of MLS, I know intimately well both the current challenges, the flaws of the league, and just how far the league has come in the last decade and how much more work is left to do. However, the people who paint Liga MX as some paradise and paradigm to follow are perhaps misguided.

Yes, a bit more flair and technical play in MLS would be fun. However, I honestly dislike split seasons and, in many ways, lots of general public interest and money prop up and gloss over the problems in Liga MX. And these are problems MLS should not ignore or try to replicate. Continue reading “MLS, Liga MX, and Theory vs. Practice” »

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” »

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” »

Mes que un desgracia

I’ve written a few times about the infamous “p chant” that was all the rage at Mexico games. Sadly, Spanish soccer stadiums are not so different. Instead, they often appear a teeming cauldron of prejudice – this is a land where players of African lineage still have to deal with monkey chants and it is the year 2016. No, not 1916. 2016. I will never forget the dignity and grace and humor of Dani Alves when eating a banana tossed at him, or the time Samuel Eto’o made fun of the not-so-subtle prejudices of the Spanish language by saying he will correr como negro (run like a black person) – an offensive allusion to the days of slavery.

So that’s why the above video shocked me. A handful of fans at the Camp Nou shouted “Maricon” at Cristiano Ronaldo during a moment of silence for recently departed Johan Cruyff. Continue reading “Mes que un desgracia” »

A Somewhat Modest Proposal for the USMNT

Let’s not shit ourselves: the US loss to Guatemala was bad both in terms of the result but also how bad the US played. But let’s also not forget that: most US fans have detested Jurgen Klinsmann since 2012. Nothing’s changed, but bad results increase the volume of the echo chamber.

Still, before sharpening your pitchfork and joining the “ax him now” people, a few thoughts. Spoiler: you will be offended and disagree with all of them. Continue reading “A Somewhat Modest Proposal for the USMNT” »

The Sketchy FIFA-related “Election” You May Have Missed

Last week, the man who once handled balls with dexterity and grace became the head of FIFA. Laughably, some members of FIFA tried to advocate for a non-secret ballot and even transparent voting booths. Yet even if the FBI and Swiss investigations (and the resulting problems finding corporate sponsors) prompt FIFA to cut down on corrupt broadcast deals and cash-for-vote swaps, the large and unwieldy structure will still be a large pork-barrel amalgamation of special interests. One country, one vote, and the majority of the countries in FIFA have depressingly low GDP’s and even lower scores on the Transparency International index.

It’s simple math, really. But, alas, your attention should not have been in Switzerland, but rather the Americas. Another ruse went somewhat undetected. Continue reading “The Sketchy FIFA-related “Election” You May Have Missed” »