Something Great

Arsene Wenger cobbled together starting lineups with spit and duct tape and Denilson and somehow the team dragged its ass over the finish line in third or fourth.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Our Founding Father

With the end of the Champions League and the Euro's in full swing, it's easy to get caught up in the wash. Make no mistake about it though, this blog is discretely about one man, and one man only. Carlos Bueno and his flowing hair, if you haven't been following, have been on an absolute tear in La Primera Division de Uruguay.

Penarol - the first soccer team I learned about when I was a kid - recently won the Clausura and in 14 starts, Carl Awesome has scored 13 goals. The Penarol jersey was also the first jersey I ever put on. I don't know why I still remember this, but I wore my carboneros jersey to school in third grade, called a substitute teacher fat (or something about how her shirt made her look fat) and she responded furiously by calling me a bumble-bee in front of the whole class. I distinctly remember laughing as I told her it was a Penarol jersey. Then I popped it in her face and told her to be cool. Alright that last part didn't happen, but the rest of the story is true.

Anyway, if you've never seen him score then you might not fully understand who this man really is. His happiness makes Trezeguet appear somber and the faces he makes would shame Cristiano Ronaldo. If there was ever a time to click on the links we here at TLOCA provide for you, this is the one. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only watch one soccer celebration, this is the one.

Watch the first three minutes with a straight face, I dare you.

His antics are so belligerent, so unsporting, yet so beautiful and pure that you can't look away. He begs for your forgiveness and in the end, his catharsis can only make you smile.

The Legend

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Back To Your Corners - Round 1 Euro Breakdown

Four days later the first round of Euro2008 is complete. Here's the breakdown...

- These teams just got on the elevator with Paris Hilton and feel pretty good about their chances:

Spain - David Villa and Fernando Torres both picked up record endorsement offers from CutCo after their performance against Russia. The small forwards played huge soccer and made a scoring chance out of just about every possession. The Spanish midfield, like a nice Lane Bryant bra, supported the big two up top nicely. I like Xavi and his explosiveness but as an Arsenal supporter I have to believe Cesc Fabregas could have done an equal if not better job than Iniesta.

The Red Fury however would not be complete without a shaky back four. It's really a back two as Sergio Ramos and Campdevilla play midfield 95% of the time. Regardless, the back two of Puyol and that other guy I can't remember were not good. After the World Cup I started a Carlos Puyol Isn't Good and Is Actually Pretty Bad facebook group, but alas, nobody joined - I think the title was too long.

Holland - I've been meaning to look up why "the Netherlands," is what Holland is being called these days but Jeff accidentally canceled our internet connection. Unlike my extremely slow stolen internet connection though, Holland's counter attack proved fast and effective. Ruud redirected home a goal that his wife thinks about during sex and Sneijder proved to everyone why he's on a club like Real Madrid. Everything went right for Holland and if Le Oranje really love me, they'll beat France the same way.

Germany - What a better way to stick it to the Pols then to shoot two bullets into their hearts with one of their own. Its no wonder Podoslki didn't celebrate all that much after his goals seeing as how Benedict Arnold was the only one clapping.

Ze Germans need a better game out of super Mario Gomes, Jansen and Ballack. Unless he starts taking Cialis though, something tells me Ballack will never satisfy me.

Portugal - I have them to win it all so they better do well. I would appreciate if Pepe wasn't their leading goal scorer but they looked pretty comfortable. How hot is Nuno Gomes by the way - I never knew he was so attractive. Him and Cristi must clean up.

Czech Republic - I'm still bitter about these Slovakia haters. No analysis for them.

Croatia - The penalty was whack and they actually should have drew or even lost this game. Consider yourself lucky Croatia. They do have really sweet jerseys though - love that checkboard.

Sweden - I will never forget Ibrahe'sogood's face after he scored that laser beam. He actually had three different celebrations. He started with complete disbelief, then he shot his guns in the air and then with his teammates around him he started the arm pumps. What a goal.

As for the second, the announcers cracked me up, I'll let them finish this section.

"A greek tragedy really!?!"

- The following teams couldn't get her to come upstairs but did get the, "I had fun, lets do this again" text message afterwards and feel like they're still in it.

- Unless you watched the game you wouldn't have known how close they were to evening the score. Not until five minutes after the third goal did I feel they were finally done. The only problem is that they only started playing well when Italian legends of the fall, Fabio Grosso and Del Piero came in. Donadoni has some fairly simple decisions to make in my book.

Also, how surprising is it that 5th place AC Milan's struggleville trio of Gattuso, Pirlo and Ambrossini continued their crappy play a few hundred miles north... The answer is... not at all surprising.

Romania - They played for the draw, they got one point. "Job done" as english speaking Romanians say. Now all they have to do is draw with Italy and win against an already-having-clinched Netherlands side and they're through. Sometimes in the group of death you have to advance in interesting ways.

Austria/Switzerland - dear referees, How about a call? Sincerely, Co-Hosts. These two squads made like Jim Halpert in the 2nd season of The Office - hard work that better effing pay off in the end. I still have hope, so long as they get a friggin call.

Russia - This team just got housed by the Spanish Inquisition but they actually played pretty well. It's unfortunate for them that Sweden/Greece didn't share 2 points, but don't count Russia out. They hit the post (when the game was still 1-0) and even scored late.

Poland/Turkey - I thought they were fiesty. They lost to the favourites, that's all.

These two teams just found out she's a dude:

France - I think the problem is just that Domenech's wife is a slut.

Greece - when your strategy is great defense and counter-attack, you should probably make sure Zlatan doesn't end your day. Get a new goalie too, Nikopopoulis is terrible. His nickname is George Clooney and he just finished making Ocean's 12 (and 13). Both those movies really, really sucked.

Here is Jeff's call of the second goal -

"Grab the ball goalie... Grab that ball! You IDIOT!!!"

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Report from the Front

Though taking a back seat to the Euros, yesterday's USA-Argentina clash was certainly not overlooked by the 78,000+ who sold out the Meadowlands and were able to watch the rarest of soccer oxymorons play out: an exciting nil-nil encounter. As one of those present, I'd like to give a brief rundown of the experience:

1. The atmosphere was absolutely magnificent. I'm not sure how things appeared on television, but inside the stadium, despite being 90 degrees, people were loud and proud throughout the match. It was a true futbol match. In our particular section, we were lucky to have a very vocal group of American supporters and crucially, a kid with one of those ridiculous blow horns. Fantastic.

2. As expected, Argentina brought numbers to the clash, and it's safe to say they made up a little over half of the crowd. While that's still a bit embarrassing, it's a great improvement from the 85% Mexican crowd in Chicago a few years ago, and I happen to feel that American fans need to see the Argentina supporters in their element if they ever want to learn how to party right at an international match (drums, flags, chanting, dancing, etc.). And I think we all know that South Americans know how to party. In the parking lot after the match, most Argentina fans had no intention of leaving despite the rain and thunder. They pulled out their coolers and grills, blasted their salsa music, and got right back to it.

3. Decent number of cute girls. Sporting both Messi and Donovan jerseys. That's what international friendlies are all about. And the atmosphere was extremely friendly in the crowd, with both sides giving the other a good-natured ribbing. Lots of chants, but it was done smiling, and without bitterness.

4. In the first half, there was a palpable buzz every time Messi touched the ball. The combined sound of 40,000 Argentinians holding their breath and 35,000 Americans muttering "here we go." Though Cruz was the one with all the good chances, it's really fascinating to watch Messi because he completely controls the tempo of the game when he's on the ball. Not to mention the fact that he draws every American defender towards him which allows him to pass the ball out and let someone attack the flanks. In the first half, our wingbacks were totally invisible, and as my friend Jake commented: "It feels like we've been playing a man down since kickoff."

5. Tim Howard had a great game in goal. Not only did he make some great saves, but at no point did he ever feel vulnerable, if you know what I'm saying. He did an excellent job organizing his defense, and I was totally impressed.

5. Perhaps the highlight of the game was when the people in the row directly in front of ours unleashed a massive tubular balloon into the crowd. The entire stadium watched in awe as it was slowly taken by the air currents, first hovering high above the field, and then slowly drifting down near field level, and then, completely improbably, floating into the Argentina goal to uproarious cheers and laughter.

6. At halftime, there was a requisite intruder on the field. Wearing an Argentina jersey and waving a blue and white flag wildly. He did pretty well, but got absolutely CRUSHED by a security guard who blindsided him just when he thought he had gotten away. This is the kind of stuff you miss on television.

7. The ref was extremely overzealous. I'll need to see replays, but I was shocked by the sending off of both Mastroeni and Mascherano. And though it could have just been American clumsiness, a lot of the fouls called against the USA looked pretty bogus. This doesn't excuse the fact, however, that they tend to give those up right outside the area. We just can't do that.

8. Though it pales in comparison to Lionel, Donovan is the US player who by far gets the most buzz from the crowd when he's on the ball. He's instantly recognizable, even from a distance, because of his bizarre receding hairline and the uniqueness of his gait. At this point, I have to concede that he'll never really be a great player, but he has moments, and he's exciting to watch.

9. The final ten minutes of the game were amazing. The heavens opened up and started dumping rain on us, thunder and lightning boomed across the skyline, the US started applying pressure which culminated in a series of corners, and the US fans just went plain nuts. Outnumbered though we were, this was the point at which the USA started absolutely dominating Argentina in terms of crowd noise and enthusiasm. If by some chance we had scored, I swear to God the place would have come crashing down.

10. I have no voice left whatsoever.

Another day of amazing football ahead, and I can't wait. I may have to take back what I said about the Group of Death; the Nederlanders look a little toothless at the moment with no Babel, Robben, or van Persie. Also, people are discounting Romania, but they have a rock at the back in Chivu, and a world-class striker in Mutu up top. Sometimes all you need are those two things and a little bit of luck. France needs to be very careful (or not, both Juan and myself would be ecstatic if they got taken down).

Also, I don't necessarily agree with Juan's Portugal pick, but I can't think of anything better at the moment and will thus hold my peace. At any rate, if it means we get to see these girls for the duration of the tournament, then I'm all for it.