Pizza. Pizza was the key. For all the smart and well thought-out words about Leicester City’s run to an unlikely EPL title, only one fact was undeniable: Italian manager Claudio Ranieri treated his players to pizza parties. If the team got a clean sheet, then Ranieri would take his players to Peter Pizzeria – and he obliged them to make their own pizza.
The EPL is a cruel, intense dog-eat-dog world, and a place where only player-eats-pizza tactics can work. The strong devour the weak, along with some pasta and plenty of Olive oil.
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.
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” »
After a stunning youth World Cup about a decade ago, Jozy Altidore has failed to meet your lofty expectations. Some are delusional. Some are mad. Many are sad. I, however, am philosophical as always. How did Jozy get to this point: a striker who seems to get more injuries than goals?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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” »
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.