When Things Don’t Always Go As We’d Like…. (Panenka Fails)

Contrary to FIFA’s assertion on its website, the “panenka” penalty is not a “cult.” Rather, on a superficial level, it is a technique – a player approaches the spot, usually stutter steps, looks to see if the keeper moves early, and then chips the ball down the middle or to the other side. Some criticize the panenka as arrogant – in reality, players take advantage of the fact that 75% of keepers move before the ball is kicked in PK situations. Also, on an incorporeal level, watching a ball softly float to the goal – something a child could do – brings a smile. Attitude and confidence are definitely at play, but so is the realization that no matter what the stakes are, soccer is always and always will be a game.

Still, the panenka is not always perfect. Sometimes the shooter does not stutter step. Sometimes the keeper reads it. In such situations, you look foolish. Here are those moments. Continue reading “When Things Don’t Always Go As We’d Like…. (Panenka Fails)” »

Important MLS Scab Update!

MLS had millions to spend to sign star players from abroad this summer, but when it comes to refs? Nope. Sadly, the MLS and the referee union are at loggerheads, a dangerous sign giving the looming player/management CBA session. From the owner’s perspective, they want to keep costs down and hope the league can turn a corner towards profitability. From their point of view, expansion alone is enough for the players and refs: each new team creates new jobs for players and more games for refs to work. A lot of the owners have eaten a lot of money for decades, and would like to see a return on their investment.

From the refs and players’ perspectives, all pro sports leagues are only profitable to a degree. As MLS revenue expands with TV deals, they want a similar if not bigger share of the expanding pie. After all, the players are the ones kicking the ball and the refs are blowing the whistle. Why should management get all the perks? I wrote in 2009 about the very real prospect of a player’s strike and the possibility of scabs. This year, the regular refs aren’t reffing and……their union has released info on the scabs.

Here’s my take on the dirt (and the Union). Continue reading “Important MLS Scab Update!” »

Pedro of Barcelona is Steve Kerr. Feel free to disagree and be wrong.

It’s been, say, four years since my last intra-sport comparison. At Run of Play in 2010, I looked at college basketball to talk about Barca’s possession game, the half court offense, and Chinese water torture. A year earlier, I reflected upon the Chicago Fire career of one Cuautehmoc Blanco and another comparison stuck: Steve Nash at Phoenix.

Both were a bit aged. Neither played much defense. Yet both were indisputably the catalyst for their team’s respective offense. Recently, another NBA/Soccer comparison dawned on me: Steve Kerr of the Chicago Bulls during the 1990′s and Pedro of Barcelona and Furia Roja fame.

Here’s why. Continue reading “Pedro of Barcelona is Steve Kerr. Feel free to disagree and be wrong.” »

An Apology to Mainstream Media on Behalf of Richard Whittall (And Me)

Sometimes, the mainstream media is wrong. For example, a columnist at ESPN recently went on a posh vacation to Qatar. Surprise surprise, upon his return, he wrote a pretty bland, half-assed defense of Qatar. He had written quite movingly about the death of an Espanyol player years ago, but, like, the death of dozens of immigrant workers was brushed off as blogger chatter.

I actually wouldn’t mind to see a defense of Qatar. However, you need some stats. For example, the remittances from Qatar to Nepal (from migrant laborers) probably help out quite a bit. Also, there are probably some respectable employers in Qatar who don’t abuse the visa system. The problem is not defending Qatar. The problem is pretty shoddy journalism with vague assertions. Kudos to ESPN for taking it down.

A brownie point for a retraction. A hollow victory, no? However, sometimes, to a blogger’s chagrin, mainstream media is right. Continue reading “An Apology to Mainstream Media on Behalf of Richard Whittall (And Me)” »