The Dreaded Post-Jose Mourinho Hangover

For a sought after manager paid millions per year, Jose Mourinho has a bad rap. In sum: many think he’s a shortsighted taskmaster. They point to Inter Milan’s fall from grace as proof that, despite a treble-winning season, he ran the team into the ground. Some claim he picks a Starting XI, will make good subs, but rails to properly rotate and blood young talent. Of course, another interpretation is that Mou at Inter got the best out of a veteran squad even if his signings (Mancini, Quaresma?) did not blossom. His Chelsea squad also won the EPL title, UEFA Cup and Champions League after he left.

Let’s look closer at Mou and, with this knowledge, reflect upon Real’s current travails. Continue reading “The Dreaded Post-Jose Mourinho Hangover” »

Robin Van Persie & the Blessed Act of Creation

Destruction is inevitable, creation divine. For most forwards in soccer, we ask little. If you loiter in the 18 yard box for 90 minutes, that’s okay. If you’re occasionally offsides, that’s okay. All we want is the bare minimum: competent finishing. If you get an open header, firmly place the ball on frame, or, even better, towards a low corner. Do not let the ball hit your nose. Do not balloon the ball over the opposing net. And please don’t blow simple tap-ins.

Chicharito Hernandez blew United fans away two years ago with his consistent finishing. Since then, cracks in his game have surfaced. When not served on a platter, he seldom eats. Other forwards, though, do not depend so heavily on service. Rather, their talents go beyond the mundane. They soar in a world where midfielders are accessories and any “service” will do. Zlatan Ibrahimovic comes to mind. However, the lurking Swede is more battering ram than ballerina, more brute force than grace.

I prefer forwards that walk on air. And that’s why Robin Van Persie has blown me away. Continue reading “Robin Van Persie & the Blessed Act of Creation” »

Victor Valdes & A Life Spent Watching Nets Ripple From Not Afar

The shadows that dance in the corner of your eyes. The voices only you can hear. A breath on the back of your neck. The creaking of an old wood floor. Humans are predators. We have two front-facing eyes so that we can focus on our prey. Yet the view behind our back terrifies us.

And this is especially true of goalkeepers. Continue reading “Victor Valdes & A Life Spent Watching Nets Ripple From Not Afar” »

Rest In Peace: David Wangerin

The universe is a cruel and unpredictable place. Do you know who David Wangerin was? You should. He wrote the Bible on the history of American soccer that nobody at MLS wants you to know about. Yes, soccer predates MLS. It even predates the allegedly “doomed to fail” NASL. He inspired me to write about soccer. He even inspired a particular post on the KC Spurs. David passed away a few weeks ago after battling an illness. The world is a web of interconnecting threads. A cold chill blows through the hole where his line used to tie us together. Rest In Peace.

The Ghost of Ozil Haunts Your Defenses

For centuries, humans have struggled to prove the existence of ghosts. Every one of us has felt a shiver late at night, heard an odd voice in a poorly lit room, and sensed in our bones a foreign presence. TV shows proliferate in which individuals use the latest technology to try and monitor paranormal activity. The result? Inconclusive. Videos show flashing light. Audio reproduces strange sounds. We rightly ask – do ghosts exist? We answer: maybe. Yet the TV shows still give us goosebumps and nightmares.

After 90 minutes of a Real Madrid game, some ask: does Ozil exist? Did you even see him on the field? However, Madrid won. Many say Ozil was essential. Was he? We struggle to invent new statistics like “secondary assist” to prove his merits. We stare at heat maps after a game. We draw up chalkboards. Yet the very essence of Mesut Ozil is to avoid detection either by the defense or us. We struggle to reduce to material terms his immaterial brilliance. Ozil is a ghost of the game. He terrifies the opposition. And that is his greatest accomplishment. Continue reading “The Ghost of Ozil Haunts Your Defenses” »

The Best Soccer Award Is Waking Up & Being Xavi Hernandez

Awards are for the vain folk that feel the need to be rewarded for greatness. An award, usually a piece of precious metal, is handed to an individual, usually a sentient homo sapiens, based on that individual’s contributions to a particular endeavor. Subjectivity underlines the entire process. Humans clasp at the material to the detriment of the abstract. In soccer, we look at goals and dribbles and sometimes assists. Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo scored a boatload of goals last term. In the attacking third, both cause havoc. However, neither Messi nor Cristiano is a Champion of Europe nor the World with his national team. Both offer immediate impact at various moments during a game, yet disappear for spells.

I don’t think that Xavi deserves a soccer award because this material token would cheapen his accomplishments. Xavi is transcendent – we ironically love him as a footballer for transporting us to a place outside football while we watch him play football. He is the consummate non-footballer footballer.

And here is some proper praise (from a Real Madrid fan, no less). Continue reading “The Best Soccer Award Is Waking Up & Being Xavi Hernandez” »

The Baffling & Blessed Grace of One Argentine Lionel Messi

I’ve heard there was a special chord

That Ray Hudson sang when Messi scored

But you don’t really care for pundits, do you?

It goes like this

The fourth, the fifth

The Xavi pass, the Andres split

The baffled d decomposing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Continue reading “The Baffling & Blessed Grace of One Argentine Lionel Messi” »

The Gerard Depardieu Appreciation Society Proudly Draws Your Attention to X Player…

Genius is not always recognized in its time. Genius is not even always recognized in its own language. We of the present must sometimes toil to correct the omissions, slights, and errors of the past. But above all, we must live fully in the present.

We can never turn back the pages of history to correct the sinking popularity of acting genius Gerard Depardieu. We can never re-write the critical reviews which widely panned Green Card, perhaps the greatest and most accurate immigrant love story of all time. But we can draw your attention to the fact that Gerard, after a personal request, did provide the dubbed French voice of John Travolta in the 1981 film Blowout. You probably didn’t know that before. And now you do. And that’s an important first step.

In terms of soccer, many steps need to be taken. Thus, we have formed a society to sing the praises of players who likewise will be or have been slighted by history. And today we sing the prose equivalent of a melancholic tune for X Player. Continue reading “The Gerard Depardieu Appreciation Society Proudly Draws Your Attention to X Player…” »

Paul Scholes: the Brilliance of Lightning Sans Thunder

There’s only one Paul Scholes. And after his testimonial game, we probably will never see him don a red jersey ever again. To categorize Scholes is to do him cosmic injustice. To describe a talent beyond words is a fool’s errand. Yet the player, who meant so much to so many different fans and players, deserves a tribute. And a tribute he shall receive. Continue reading “Paul Scholes: the Brilliance of Lightning Sans Thunder” »