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” »

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” »

The Really Not So Super League

Everybody has a million-and-one-ways to improve MLS. Many of these proposals can be reduced to the film Field of Dreams as envisioned by Scrooge McDuck: if you spend money on wages and transfers, more and better players will come. Well no shit. This past winter, MLS’ financial reticence was magnified by the number of deals done between European clubs and the Chinese Super League.

Allegedly thanks to state support via a new and overly generous TV deal, the CSL is awash in cash and clubs spent tens of millions to sign kinda-sorta-decent players like Ramires and Jackson Martinez and even Alex Teixeira. But is everything as it seems? Continue reading “The Really Not So Super League” »