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.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Myeoma, myeoma and Weekend Preview

Touch, touch, touch, and touch. If Uruguay does well at the World Cup there is a good chance I'll play this song on repeat and dance for 36 hours straight. Normally Jim Stanley does the Weekend Preview but I've decided to give it a crack.

(all times Eastern)

Saturday

7:45 am - Stoke City vs. Wigan Athletic
Before you immediately X the screen and get annoyed that you've doubly wasted your time reading this blog, just remember that this game is on Espn. So out of principle, since we all want Espn to buy more Premier League games, you should tune in. Not to mention that getting up to watch soccer is the most pleasant of alarm clocks. You can snooze a little during half-time or have breakfast. Soccer this early in the morning is a good thing, even if it is only between two squads that are frisky at best.

10:00 am - Bolton vs. Manchester City
The Citeh is on a tear as of late and this match is on Fox Soccer Channel. In case our reader didn't know, Veetle.com is a nice place to watch any games currently showing on FSC or GolTV if you don't get those channels at home. And so far as I know I haven't downloaded any viruses or had my identity stolen yet. Manchester City is a permanent fixture on my watch-list this year if they don't conflict with the other TLOCA teams because they are one of two teams in my opinion that can break up the big four (pictured*). The other team was Hull City at the beginning of the season but now is more reasonably Tottenham if only for their propensity to explode offensively.

12:30 pm - Manchester United vs. Aston Villa FSC (note the 30 minute lunch break)
As much as I want to hype this contest to be a close one I can't bring myself to do it. United will be playing at Old Trafford having won its last 5 meaningful games and Aston Villa, who choke harder than Latrelle Sprewell, have tied or lost 7 of their last 10 games. Only one of those came against the big four, Chelsea. This one will end 3 nil and by the 80th minute you'll realize suddenly it's been an extremely one-sided contest and a typical United win. BOOOO. Whatever, its still the U, and therefore you must watch.

2:30 pm - Bari vs. Juventus FSC
No, the bitterness hasn't subsided yet. This year the inevitable Juventus crash out of the Champions League was a bit more sour than usual simply because this year's team was a better team than last year, and much more suited for the CL. All of this in spite of the fact that it was clear they didnt' have it, whatever it is that makes a team's impending failures tremendously obvious. Think Hleb and Flamini leaving with no reasonable replacements at Arsenal. So, in summary, David Trezeguet should be starting and that's why you should watch.

Sunday

9:00 am - Atalanta vs. Inter
This is a highly comical match-up we, as followers, are privy to twice a year because Atalanta and Inter have the exact same uniforms. Thus, if you're hung over just enough you might go the whole first half wondering when Inter signed Robert Acquafresca and why he's starting over Samuel Eto'o. To be frank, the only reason I watch Inter nowadays is because I hate Jose Mourinho and I want to understand why Inter, with their mostly uninspiring squad achieves any success at all. I don't get it and it's almost as if every time I watch them play I get further and further from the answer.

11:00 am - Liverpool vs. Arsenal FSC
If you had forgotten, Arshavin scored four goals against this team in what was the most disappointing yet insignificant draw in Arsenal history. I expect a win and even though Torres will be back and will surely score a hat-trick, we should still win 5-3. This game is unfortunately somewhat irrelevant since the season will be decided for Arsenal come January 27th, when they play, in order, Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. I am not looking forward to that.

Enjoy the weekend.




*From left to right; David Lloyd (Britain), Vittorio Orlando (Italy), George Clemenceau (France) and Woody Wilson (USA). The beauty of this photo, also coined, "The Big Four," is that Arsenal is clearly Clemenceau, Man Utd Woodrow, Chelsea Lloyd, though those two can be interchanged, and Vittorio, Liverpool, is trying to stay relevant even then. I think we know how this story ends. I feel like I've written this before...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Pots Are In!

Before this blog turns into all things Chelsea, it's time to move on to much, much bigger things.

Pot A
Argentina, Brasil, England, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain

Pot B
Australia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Honduras, Mexico, United States, New Zealand

Pot C
Algeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay

Pot D
Denmark, France, Greece, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland

I'm almost never correct in my predictions so it's quite necessary I point out when I am;
"- France has no business being in the "top-seeded" pot. And if Platini doesn't want more controversy on his hands, he'll make sure they're not.
- Holland deserves to be in Pot 1"
That quote was in this post and directly above my prediction that Arsenal would win 3-1 against Chelsea. Yay!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Forces of Evil Triumph Again


And emphatically, might I add. My brother, a Chelsea supporter, accused me over Thanksgiving of irrationally hating on Chelsea with the joint post that Juan and I put up a few days ago. Well, that's absolutely true - I hate Chelsea. But as I tried to explain, it's not the kind of hate that could be described as disdain or loathing. It's the kind of hate that the Arab states had (and mostly still have) for Israel. The kind you had in second grade for the playground bully. I'm talking about the good old fashioned kind of hate: the kind born of fear.

Today, everyone saw exactly why I feel this way. Chelsea put on an absolute clinic in how to deal with Arsenal. Soak up the pressure. Be patient. Don't try to win the possession battle, because you can't. But make sure that almost everyone is behind the ball, especially when it gets anywhere near the box. Pump balls forward. And whenever possible, whip a low cross into the six yard box and trust that William Gallas will mismanage it 1 out of 5 times. Oh, and have Didier Drogba. That strategy helps a lot.

Chelsea supporters should be really excited about this team. It's true that the ACN will deprive them of some key players, including the aforementioned Drogba, but their schedule during that period isn't overwhelming. They have yet to really suffer the key injuries which have afflicted all three of the other "Big Four" clubs. They're incredibly well organized and they have explosive talent that can win games at any moment. Again, the football isn't the prettiest, but it's incredibly effective. And it's hard to argue about the aesthetics of Drogba's second, which was a beautiful, perfectly placed free-kick, reminiscent of Cristiano or Thierry in his prime. The announcer summed it up perfectly after the opener, though. "Same old story: Arsenal play the football, Chelsea have the goal." And so it goes.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What Do Raymond Domenech and Robert Mugabe Have In Common?

They both refuse to resign. Despite overwhelming pressure from French fans, current and former French players, French and outside media pundits, outside soccer fans and The Legend of Carl Awesome, Raymond Domenech refuses to go away.

Ignore that phenomenal mustache for a moment and look at his resume. He took over in 2004 after France busted out of the Euro's. Since then, to put it simply, France struggled to qualify for the 2006 World Cup and barely made it out of their group. They beat Spain in the knock-out stages, Brasil after that, Portugal after that and finally lost to Italy in the finals. While that improbable run seems to help Domenech's case, in reality it was a result of Zinedine Zidane. In my opinion Zissou was one of the best, if not the best center midfielder to play the game - it's kinda of hard to screw that up even though Domenech really did try.

So France gets Spain in the knockout stages and it doesn't take a soccer historian to recall that Spain is the most disappointing World Cup team probably ever. Spain of course, doesn't disappoint to disappoint (and they'll choke in 2010, book it and don't act surprised when they tear up their group and lose to Australia in the 16's). Then France beats Portugal while enjoying what can be understated as a hostile crowd towards Portugal. Recall that the round before, Cristiano Ronaldo was accused of getting Wayne Rooney a red-card, seen here, after Rooney intentionally stamps a players groin. That video, stunning in its bias and lunacy, perfectly illustrates a laughable English media sentiment with nice xenophobic undertones. It turns out to be one of the most polarizing moments in the World Cup that year and instead of revealing Rooney as the brute fraud he is, ends up beginning the end of Cristiano Ronaldo in England. A shame really, but I digress.

France beats Portugal, Zissou shines bright as ever, and a still quirky, as opposed to clinically insane, Domenech looks like a genius. Coincidentally I develop this headache whenever the talent of the French football team is brought up (Zidane, Ribery, Henry, Viera). Yes, the French do well in the 2006 World Cup and Domenech retains his job, already a controversy in some camps.

Two years pass by and the French Federation gets it's chance to justifiably fire Domenech. France gets embarrassed in the Euro's, and I mean embarrassed. TLOCA laughs with delight as surely this is the end of our nemesis. No.

The struggles continue as a 2010 World Cup birth is in imminent danger before this stylish French guy palms the ball and sends them to South Africa at the expense of Ireland. No replays confirm the Le Main de Dieu part deux and this will totally die out in a few weeks.
----------------------------
On December 4th the 2010 World Cup draw is scheduled and The Mail has done some hypothesizing on what the pots will be.

Pot 1: South Africa (required), Brazil, Spain, Italy, Germany, Argentina, England, France
Pot 2: Holland, Portugal, Switzerland, Slovenia, Greece, Serbia, Denmark, Slovakia
Pot 3: Uruguay, Paraguay, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria,
Pot 4: Japan, Australia, New Zealand, North Korea, South Korea, United States, Mexico, Honduras

Some minor notes as this is surely wrong, and I'm not blaming the Mail, its just that Fifa makes the Sudan looked like a transparent, trustworthy government.

- France has no business being in the "top-seeded" pot. And if Platini doesn't want more controversy on his hands, he'll make sure they're not.
- Holland deserves to be in Pot 1
- Teams that are not as good as you think: France, Italy, Argentina, Paraguay
- Teams that are alot better than you think: Slovakia, Cameroon, Nigeria, South Korea, Mexico
____________________________

A rare event worth noting will occur Sunday, November 29th. The authors of TLOCA will join forces to watch Arsenal beat Chelsea 3-1. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Liverpool to the Europa League. No, There Isn't Anything More Humiliating


Rumor has it that Lyon didn't really, "go for it." That's too bad as Lyon don't owe Liverpool, "squat." The Europa league awaits, or as some here at TLOCA refer to it, the International Carling Cup. ZING!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Darren Fletcher's Black Magic Scottish Kung Fu












In case you missed it, yesterday Darren Fletcher scored what, in my opinion, has to be the goal of the season to date. Here it is, in all its glory. (And if the Arabic commentary doesn't really do it for you, go here and skip ahead to the 4:30 mark.)

United looking sharp again...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

On the Grind for the Shine

And we gon' get paid.

That's Chelsea. Grind, grind, grind. Bully the bad teams. Stifle the good ones. Churning through the league like a diamond-headed drill. Just look at that team picture. Have you ever seen a more unlikable assembly of athletes? (Juan contributes below) Look at Ashley Cole's tiny head. He's ready to whine about anything and everything. Look at John Terry's half-smirk. Look at Didier Drogba's dead-eyed stare. Anelka isn't even in this picture, but just go ahead and imagine him making this face. I think the only players I would want on my team from a personal standpoint are Essien and MAYBE Joe Cole (Lampard I admire, and he seems to have matured a lot, but I can't get over the fact that he taunted American tourists on 9/11... pretty low). That being said, you can also look at that picture and see men hungry for trophies. They're selfish and unlikeable, yes, but they'll do anything to get their hands on something shiny. And they're wonderful footballers. Anelka looks lively, Drogba is deadly, Lampard and Ballack dominate midfields, Terry and Carvalho have reemerged as the top central pairing of Premier League defending. It's a team of grizzled mercenaries with a big job to do. And they're doing it quite well at the moment.

Here's Juan's take;
Is Chelsea the least likable team in the world? I think so, and it begins with their players:

Anelka - He needs no hyperbole; his nickname is Le Sulk. The Champions League miss makes him unlikable even to Chelsea fans. Just look at his body language, the man could not care less. His celebrations are trite and worse, lame. Really? A bird? Perhaps a butterfly? If I had to convince you that Anelka is boring and genuinely unpleasant then this post will fall on deaf ears and moreover, a crazy person's ears.

Ivanovic - Quite possibly the dirtiest player in the EPL. I would love to give him that title for all of Europe but there has to be some other miserable asshole worse than him in the Scottish Premier League.

Ashley Cole - Um, yeah; his nickname is Cuntly Cole and he has a more awful attitude than Rihanna pre-Chris Brown's attitude adjustment camp. He never stops complaining and is universally reviled. This is too easy.

Petr Cech - Why is he still wearing that absurd soft-helmet? His accident happened years and years ago. I don't know much about him but the helmet is annoying, that can't be denied.

Michael Ballack - Fans of Germany like Ballack but that sort of proves my point. Ballack has earned no fans from his time at Chelsea. Nobody watches the Premier League and says, hey that Michael Ballack, I like how he never smiles, doesn't seem all that committed and berates refs and teammates. He's uptight and if I wanted I could argue that he has horrendously underachieved in England.

John Obi Mikel - Find me a Mikel jersey outside of Nigeria. I'm not being facetious either, nobody owns a Mikel jersey that they didn't buy on clearance or wasn't a gift from UN peacekeepers.

Didier Drogba - Even though you must respect this ruthless and gifted footballer, it is nearly impossible to like him. The slap, his entire saga with Avram Grant and Scolari. He has to sleep in the bed he's made and when you pwn 80% the premier league and half of Europe you'll tend to be hated by opposing fans. He wants it this way though, make no mistake.

Jose Bosingwa - I actually don't mind him all that much but if Carlos Tevez can fix his horrible burn on the side of his face than surely Jose can shave the worst unibrow in football.

Deco - Eh. Undoubtedly boring is this man. I was excited for him at first but now he reminds me of interest rates or another season of Friends. Ricardo Carvalho goes here too.

Michael Essien- I like him. Since his DUI he's been MIA but hey, he's at least likable I suppose.

So if you've been keeping count then we're left with Frank Lampard and John Terry as the most exciting players on Chelsea. They're certainly the face of Chelsea but let's go ahead an eliminate Terry because I can't think of one single center-back that is authentically moving. Center-backs can't be exciting, sorry. So yeah, Frank Lampard, he's uh, thrilling, just breathtaking to watch... uh no.

[Back to you Jim]

For Arsenal, today was a big wake up call, but it's not the end of the world to lose away to Sunderland. That being said, if the Young Guns want any shot at the league this year, they need to win next Sunday. No excuses, no complaints. I also recognize that Chelsea are going to lose key players for the ACN, but they have a very deep squad (and Arsenal will be losing Alex Song, who is rapidly demonstrating that he might be the most irreplaceable player other than Cesc - who else on the team can play that position?). United are still legitimate, but Chelsea are the real threat. Thus, if we don't win, we better start eyeing the Carling, FA, or Champions League.

More on this later. Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Beneath the Outrage















A defense of Henry's legacy, from unlikely sources.

Roy Keane (on Henry's left in the picture), the Ireland and Manchester United legend, on how Ireland need to get over it. (A hilarious interview, quite worth watching, especially the part where a reporter's cell phone goes off.) "Yeah, of course he handled it, but I'd focus on why didn't they clear it... Would I call [Henry] a cheat, no, I wouldn't think so."

Damien Duff, Ireland and Fulham winger (on Henry's right), on how he would have tried the stunt himself were he in that position. "I don't think you can blame Henry... if it was myself or Robbie [Keane] down at the other end, we would have tried it. You just expect the linesman or the referee to see it." (For the record, this is the position I've taken on the matter.) In fact, Robbie tried some trickery of his own during qualifying, and it worked quite well, thank you very much. Just ask Georgia about this little incident. Everyone seemed OK with it at the time...

Arseblogger (an Irishman himself) has been going nuts over the British press treatment of the issue, with defenses of Henry here and here.

Interesting to see how this will play out, especially now that the FAI's request has been denied. I can't lie, I would have loved to see a replay, just for the hell of it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The World Cup, Last Name Ever, First Name The Greatest

"Nobody will sleep tonight in Montevideo... They eat soccer, sleep soccer and they will wait no more."

That's a quote from the one-man crew and regular voice of Uruguayan soccer last night as the worst of all kinds of sporting droughts came to a cathartic end. This is Odysseus finding his way home, and make no mistake, it's been a long journey.


June 11, 2002
Uruguay's most recent world cup game. Ouch. That hurt to type. La Celeste entered the day needing a win over Senegal and a France loss (or win by less goals than our win). I was seventeen years old. Uruguay ended the first half against Senegal down 3-0. We had 45 minutes to get four. Four. Obviously it didn't happen. I hate Wikipedia with a passion but it does a nice job with the World Cups in case you're interested in re-living one of the strangest World Cups in modern history. In retrospect, this was the United State's best chance to make the finals but an even better chance for Uruguay had they emerged 2nd from their group. Sounds crazy but it's true, I could write for hours about that World Cup but I digress.

The bottom-line is that Uruguay choked when they got to the big stage. A 23 year-old Diego Forlan, a healthy Alvaro Recoba, an experienced back four, it all led to an abysmal showing and only until the last 45 minutes of the third game did Uruguay look like the squad everyone had anticipated. It's a shame really because if somehow we're forgiven for our pathetic 225 minutes prior, we would have been hot at the right time.

That's not how the World Cup works though. Heroes are carved into stone and goats sometimes shot when they come home. I can't think of an instance when the best team didn't win it. Sure there are upsets - Korea over Spain - but only seven countries have ever won, and five of them have repeated. That is to say, the great countries inevitably shine and the good countries eventually flame out. Here are the winners; Uruguay, Italy, Italy, Uruguay, Germany, Brasil, Brasil, England, Brasil, Germany, Argentina, Italy, Argentina, Germany, Brasil, France, Brasil, Italy.

The French team that won in '98 is arguably the best team ever assembled and the Brasil '02 team featured 5 players that are ranked in the top 50 players ever. The '86 Argentina squad had the best player ever to play the game who took the torch from the '70 Brasil team that had Pele. Uruguay won when it hosted in 1930, Italy when it hosted after that, England when it hosted after that, and Argentina when it hosted after that.

It's why Brasil will win the World Cup in 2014 (book it) and we'll never see the United States win one in our lifetime. And they are not the only ones on the list.


November 16, 2005

Uruguay loses to the Socceroos, coached by Guus Hiddink, by way of penalty shoot-out after splitting the home and home, 1-0 both games. I didn't watch the match, I watched only a few qualifying games. I, like just about every Uruguayan, assumed we'd be in.

Their absence didn't register with me until the World Cup had begun and my squad was nowhere to be seen. It felt like I had left the gate open and my dog had gotten out. You just assume you'll find the dog. Well, not this time. This time the dog is somewhere in Australia having been dismembered like a third trimester abortion.

I watched every game of the 2006 WC, every minute in fact except for 45 - the 2nd half of the Trinidad vs Sweden game when I actually fell asleep it was so boring. It changed my sports life. I started watching the English Premier League, then the Serie A, then La Liga. I even co-started a soccer blog*. I can tell you where Arsene Wenger was born, what David Trezeguet's mother looks like, and what Luca Toni's hand-rotation-near-side-of-head goal celebration means. The obsession had firmly cemented itself.

October 13, 2007
World Cup Qualfying for 2010, THREE years from now begins. What a terrible idea. Two and half, but still. Uruguay opens the campaign at home against Bolivia. I am watching the game, no joke, on a three inch by four inch online feed with a picture that looks something like this. Louis Suarez opens the onslaught and Carlos Bueno caps off a boisterous, fun, dick-shaking display of soccer, 5-0. Three days later we lose a horrendous and uninspiring game to Paraguay, 1-0. I probably should have gotten out then, while I still could.

November 21, 2007
It's gut-check time as Uruguay travels to Brasil. I wrote about it in a previous post. Here's the goal I'm referring to since youtube sucks now. If you don't feel like re-living all the hurt, in summary, we lost.

March 28, 2009
After the Brasil fiasco we earn 6 points in 6 games, including, The Point. We're at home against Paraguay, they're top of the table, and qualification is becoming a serious doubt. We win in dominating fashion, 2-0, but that match turns out to be just an up-draft in the free-fall we're in.

September 5, 2009
Three more games pass by and only 2 points come from them. If you're keeping track at home that's 14 points in 11 games. That's not gonna do it. It just isn't. The free-fall continues and the only positive spin available for the loss at Peru is that Uruguay finally hits the ground. To be fair the loss against last-place Peru was coming from fifty miles away. I intentionally didn't watch this game it was so obvious. I actually told my parents and family that I wasn't going to watch because I knew how angry it would make me. Best decision I ever made. 14 points in 12 games.

There are three games left and mathematically Uruguay cannot lose any of them.

September 9, 2009
Uruguay vs. Colombia. El Pais, Uruguay's CNN, writes a story essentially outlining how the Uruguayan players are so nervous they can't imagine performing well. Quotes from the players translate without ambiguity, "I'm so F*&^ING NERVOUS!" Emails fly back and forth between family members and the consensus is that we need a goal quick, because if it's 0-0 at halftime we'll crumble under the pressure. Sure enough, Luis Suarez scores 6 minutes in. It's one of those goals that's so important but gets lost in the box score and disappears. But don't be fooled, it's as important as any in the next 5 games. Uruguay 3, Colombia 1.

October 10, 2009
Uruguay at Ecuador. Mathematically we must win. You already know how this story ends but I am obligated to mention the through-ball that stopped time. Here it is, skip to the 3:45 mark. By the way, the other person screaming, "VAMOS! VAMOS! (4:02)" is not an announcer, it's just some guy in the booth.

Here's the translation, starting at 4:06, I would put it in all caps to emphasize but just assume it's all caps.

It's nowornever! Nowornever! Noworneverrrrrrrrrrrrr. Penalty!! Penalty!! Penalty at the death. Penalty at the death! It's red for the keeper! (shown yellow) To me it should be red for the keeper but that doesn't matter. I WANT TO KILL MYSELF! Penalty for Uruguay!! I need to calm down first!! 47th minute and 20 seconds! ... Here is the replay! (4:26)


Let's end on that.
_______________________________________

*The 2006 WC didn't always lead to good things

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

South Africa to Make Room for Uruguay

Poor Ireland, Poor Me



Oh, Thierry. You are my favorite. So elegant, so fluid, so effortless. The game looks so easy when you play it. And you exude class. On the pitch, a leader and a player's player. And off the pitch, a spokesman for playing the game the right way, a figurehead in the fight against racism, clearly intelligent and thoughtful. So French, really, but in the good way: handsome, stylish, a cavalier attitude. Again, just plain classy. That is, of course, until now.

The scoreline says that Ireland lost this tie on aggregate, but I feel, quite selfishly, like the biggest loser here. My favorite soccer player of all time is the sports villain du jour, and Raymond Domenech remains gainfully employed (still, my God!). It's true that Ireland did themselves proud with that performance (they must be exhausted) and yet its impressiveness will be overstated and grow in memory thanks to Henry's Tony Parker imitation. That's how things work. The narrative is clear here, and soon all we remember are the headlines. The Irish were playing so well! (And yet they spurned their chances...) The French were folding! (But in extra time, they had what is 95% of the time called a penalty ignored...) AND THEN! Enter the villain. The ball was handled, the goal was scored, and the brave Irish wrongfully, horribly, sent home with nothing to show for their efforts. What's inside the parentheses will be long forgotten.

I am going to ramble now. Is it too much to ask that a player be completely honest in this situation? It may be. I don't know. Let's say that in the heat of the moment, Henry plays that ball with his hand and crosses it for Gallas to score. The French have been mostly outplayed throughout the game. They're going to be left out of THE WORLD F***ING CUP if they lose. How much flak from his countrymen does he take if he immediately runs over to the ref, holding his hand in the air, pointing to Gallas and says "disallow the goal, I handled the ball," and then France goes on to lose!? I honestly don't know. Of course, it's better if he never handles it at all, but as damning as the video evidence may be, nobody knows what's in his head. Is it better to be respected by the footballing community at large or loved, albeit secretly, by one's country? Because while the French fans and the French press can now play the role of the gracious, empathetic winner ("we always wanted to advance, but not like that - how shameful of Henry!"), you can bet they're much happier with this outcome than if the headlines were proclaiming one of the great soccer upsets in recent years. They're not the ones who will be waiting four more long years before a chance to compete at perhaps the world's greatest sporting event. I know that in a perfect world, Henry would have immediately run to the ref and told him to disallow the goal. And regardless of whether the ref listened, he would never have celebrated the way he did. We don't live in that world.

And now it's been admitted by the man himself. (Henry is far too smart to deny - he knows the camera sees everything.) But what does UEFA do about it? What does FIFA do? Hopefully, this gets video replay installed in these high-stakes matches and Platini's head out of his own glorious buttocks.

Oh, Thierry. All of this doesn't change the fact that for a number of years, you were the world's best pure goalscorer. And that you will be remembered as one of the all-time greats for both club and country. What it does mean, however, is that like Maradona, like Zidane, you get a big black stain on your record. Even Wenger couldn't bring himself to say it was you. He said "someone's hand" was responsible. If only it were just "someone." But now, when I say your name the listener (assuming he cares at all about soccer) will think two things: 1) what a player he is/was, and 2) what an cheat/fool/hothead (all three for Maradona, plus cokehead). That second part makes me sad. When I wear the jersey that has your name on it, will random people (some not even Arsenal supporters) still give me smiles and a thumbs up? I don't know if I even want them to. Alas, another hero lost...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why I've Been Absent

Juan called me out the other day, and it's totally true: I've been nothing but a big fat dead carcass when it comes to this blog. I'm the Lucas to his Gerrard, the Diaby to his Fabregas. His shoulders should ache from carrying me on his back, and his lungs must hurt from all the disappointed sighs he must emit when he opens this blog and finds that SURPRISE! I have haven't added a single thing to it.

So let me go ahead and give the reasons why I've been absent, in no particular order.

1) I'm scared to jinx things. And by "things," I mean "Arsenal." Because I haven't felt this good about the team since the beginning of the 2007-2008 season. And before that (dare I say it?): 2004. I love the way they're playing: I love the swagger, I love the focus, I love how Vermaelen looks like evil Jude Law, I love the minimalist Fabregas goal-celebrations (taking a page out of Mr. Henry's book, of course, but then cutting loose for the one against Spurs, which I also love), I love Arsene trying to keep the team off everyone's radar, I love Gallas burying his crazy and performing like the world class defender he obviously thinks he is, I love the squad depth, and most of all, I love the football. Arsene says that soccer can be art, and if that's true, we're painting Picasso's on an almost weekly basis. So yeah, I didn't want to jinx any of that.

2) The Serie A is simply failing to capture my attention. In every single way. And maybe that's not fair, but let's see: Roma is pretty awful, Inter is winning the league despite not looking all that dominant, Juve are chasing, Fiorentina and Milan are in the mix. Are we sure they're not just rerunning last season and changing the names of the relegated teams for TV purposes? Juan, I'm relying on you to explain to me why I should care about a league that is falling behind the other two in the Big Three (and David Trezeguet's infectious smile after scoring goals is not a legitimate reason, though it is totally awesome). What (and who) should I be watching? Pato? Gilardino? Juve, after their big win over Atalanta? I need guidance here.

3) I'm waiting to see if Real Madrid's Galacticos will get worse. Because when they hit rock bottom (if this wasn't it, already), that's when I'll devote an entire page of this blog to my cackling, gleeful rants about how and why that team will never win anything.

4) The Pub. Instead of watching matches at home (or when I was employed, at work, but I'd never do that obviously) and then being able to immediately blog about it, I've been spending too much time at the Amsterdam Tavern. When I come home, fat and happy, full of donuts and Guinness (properly poured) for breakfast, all I want to do is take a nap. And when I wake, I've forgotten all the astute observations that I made about the games when I was watching. Things like "OHH WHY DIDN'T HE PASS THAT?" or "OHHHH! OHHHHH! THAT'S A F---ING AMAZING GOAL!" These are the kind of observations, yelled at a decibel level only reached with the assistance of alcohol, with bits of blueberry cake donut sputtering from my mouth, that make me such a respected and valued customer at the Amsterdam Tavern.

Yeah, that's about it. But to conclude: I will be posting more. I'm like Adebayor - just when you think you hate me and I'm worthless, I'll go on a phenomenal scoring run. (But inevitably, after I've convinced you that I'm a world class striker, I'll go back to being useless and in fact quite easy to hate.) Right.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Liverpool 2, Birmingham 2

This is just funny:



Also, I've got bad news here at TLOCA. The lack of recent posts has been due to a severe illness and subsequent death of fellow contributor James "Lucas" Stanley. He will be missed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Welcome Back David Trezeguet














He's been back since September 12th but yesterday, with his late goal against Genoa, he debuted his trademark joy (pictured).


Juventus 2, Tasty Salami 2

The match started off with a bang after Camorenesi dummied a cross to an overlapping Vincenzo who struck well from outside the box. It was the type of play that pays homage to The Beautiful Game and its always nice to see Iaquinta on the score sheet. What was set out to be a trap game was on pace to end 15-nil and I thought, "what a shame to watch a record-setting match on a grainy, small, frustrating feed."

If you didn't know, Juventus made some very relevant transfers this off-season and while Diego, Felipe Melo, and Cannavaro may steal the headlines, the best one of them all was the acquisition of Fabio Grosso from Lyon. He needs no introduction, of course, but it is worth noting that he replaced my arch-rival and nemesis-till-death, Molinaro. And if you're not that familiar with Juventus, that's like replacing Nicklas Bendtner with Fernando Torres.

Before I forget, another hilariously pleasing signing resulted in Uruguayan Martin Caceres joining the Old Lady - seen here about to carefully end another man's career. The website mentions a tradition of Uruguayan players joining Juventus and at first I thought that pretty awesome until I realized these are the men responsible for my impending nervous breakdown. Caceres is only 22 and yes, he is a very promising Uruguayan defender. Which is to say, he's extremely rare. Here's to wishing him a long and prosperous career at La Juve and more importantly, la Selecion.

In fact, Uruguayan nationals keep popping up all over the place lately. I watched the Real Madrid v Villareal match just the other day and who do I see but two Uruguayans, Eguren and Diego Godin. The best part about that video is that Carlos Tevez, who's knows Godin well, gives him a cheap shot and it's Eguren that confronts him with a sarcastic, he's not really hurt but you're the exact same asshole I remember you as, lecture. Anyway, moving right along.

It's after half-time at this point, all knotted up at 1's. Juventus lacks the final pass during attacking plays to lead to any relevant chances on goal. When Juventus struggles it's because the midfielders play long-balls over the top rather than use the fullbacks for a slower build-up. It sort of comes with the territory in the Serie A. Not soon after a seemingly innocuous run down the sideline for the Cured Meat suddenly turns malicious and a header is smashed home near post. I'm listening to the Italian announcers and could have sworn I heard the name Crespo.

This sends me scrambling to Gamecast, that pathetic excuse for following a game and I see H. Crespo has apparently scored. No, now I know I'm crazy. Hernan Crespo? Yes, it is. The man who could never quite fill the shoes of Gabriel Batitusta (could anyone) is on loan at Genoa. Not only that, he just put them ahead. Daggers - 76'.

Then Iaquinta scores - disallowed dubiously for offsides. Then Chiellini scores - disallowed dubiously for offsides. Am I witnessing a scandal? The replay shows Trezeguet, who flicked it up for Giorgio, onside by a full two yards. What's going on here?

I'm irate until, yep, David Trezeguet scores the equilizer and follows up with his spot-on impression of the happiest man on earth. The smile is contagious and just like that I'm ok with 1 point.

Welcome back David. I've missed you.
(actual game photo -->)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pandora's Box

"Impelled by her natural curiosity, Pandora opened the jar, and all evil contained escaped and spread over the earth. She hastened to close the lid, but the whole contents of the jar had escaped, except for one thing which lay at the bottom, and that was Hope."
__________________________________________________

Uruguay
at Ecuador
vs Argentina

Best Case Scenario: Somehow after losing to Peru, Uruguay still has control over their own fate. Colombia was a must win and they did; which is the only reason they're in this post at all. If they win out they could finish as high as third, which is so silly I don't even smile when I think about what they've put me through. Goal differential gives them the tie-break over everyone still chasing and two wins will see them auto-qualifying.

How They Can Back In: A draw to Ecuador and a win against Argentina still puts them through assuming that neither Venezuela, nor Colombia win their remaining two games. Venezuela has Paraguay and Brasil, and Colombia has a desperate Chile - who still need 1 point to clinch - and Paraguay. This scenario would also eliminate Argentina and the entire population of Montevideo would die with delight. Actually die of happiness. It would also effectively ruin any flicker of bilateralism remaining between the two nations.

What Can't Happen: So long as Venezuela, Argentina, or Colombia keeps winning they must follow suit.

Portugal
vs Hungary
vs Malta

Best Case Scenario: Portugal, on the other hand, does not control their own destiny. They must win their next two and require that Sweden acquire no more than 4 points in their remaining two against Denmark and Albania. They also need to win one of their remaining two games by more goals than Sweden wins it's lone game to beat the tiebreak. Remember that all of this is to finish 2nd with the opportunity to continue qualifying.

How They Can Back In: Sweden must lose out and Portugal can draw their remaining two games to overtake the Swedes on differential. Not exactly likely with Albania on the schedule.

What Can't Happen: Realistically they must win-out and hope that Denmark beats Sweden. Sweden's magic number is 4.

Israel
vs Moldova
at Switzerland

Best Case Scenario: Israel must win out and Greece and Latvia must both lose 1 of their remaining two games. They play each other so that's unlikely considering Luxemborg and Moldova are their other two opponents.

How They Can Back In: Greece and Latvia draw in their match, and neither squad wins by more goals in their last games than Israel wins in its two combined game. That puts Israel in second on goal differential.

What Can't Happen: Israel cannot lose because at least 1 point will be disseminated between Latvia and Greece since they play each other.

Turkey
at Belgium
vs Armenia

What Can't Happen: It's bleak for the Turks, hence my skipping of the other sections. The reason is because Bosnia cannot win either of it's two games, nor cannot it draw both games (because of GD). Bosnia has Estonia and Spain left on the schedule so it's not completely crazy. Again, hope is the agenda here. Obviously Turkey must win out and it wouldn't hurt to accumulate an 11 goal margin to win the tiebreak either, otherwise known as the song, Turkey feat. Memphis Bleek

France

vs Faroe Islands
vs Austria

Best Case Scenario: Raymond Domenech gets struck by a bus before October 10th

How They Can Back In: Serbia earns no more than 1 point against Romania and Lithuania along with France winning their remaining two by a margin of 9 goals.

What Can't Happen: If Serbia wins any of its next two, ladies and gentleman they will have automatically qualified for the world cup. Also, if somehow France only draws (or less) it's remaining two and Austria wins out, France is gone.

Egypt
at Zambia
vs Algeria

Practically all of Africa is still up for grabs but the Egyptians, a squad I think could do some things in the World Cup, is down 3 points to Algeria and needs some help.

_____________________

As I watched Andres Scotti's improbable, looping, momentum-defying header slowly bounce across the line to give Uruguay a 2-1 lead over Columbia I couldn't help but wonder about that feeling - hope. "Hope," by its definition contains an irrational element to it. Now, with this two year qualifying campaign coming to an end, I've wondered about the Greek mythology of Pandora's box. We all know the story; it was opened releasing evil and despair on the world but it also released Hope. What this terrible qualifying campaign has made me wonder about is the word, "but" in the previous sentence. Why is there this universal understanding that Hope is not just as evil as the other things released from the box? Why do we assume Hope is a good thing? And why would do we seem to take for granted that Hope is the countermeasure to the other evil qualities. It's a ludicrous notion and I've come to realize this after Uruguay ropes me back in for another month of this interminable qualifying horror story.

October 10th and 14th - those are the dates when this will all finally end and I can once again find solace in the facts, regardless of the outcome. I've gained a new appreciation for reality and it seems to me that the story of Pandora's box is a hilarious double entendre that we've all been missing for the last hundreds of years.

Ha.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fun With Statistics Part 1 - Relegation

Welcome to the first installment of Fun With Statistics. In this post TLOCA will examine the unique system of relegation. Does the system work? Let's take a look.

Since the year 2000, the following point totals have been relegated from the Premiership to the Football League Championship, formerly the First Division. Starting from the campaign that ended in 2000:

24, 31, 33, 26 ,34, 34, 28, 30, 36, 19, 26, 42, 33, 33, 33, 33, 33, 32, 34, 30, 15, 38, 34, 28, 36, 35, 11, 34, 32, 32

It's approximately a normal distribution and without Derby (2008 - 11 points) the distribution fits a bell curve even better.



Perhaps the data are skewed to the left* but that is understandable when you consider how payrolls are also heavily skewed to the left. I digress, as payroll stats is a topic for another day.

So with a reasonably normal distribution we can use the standard deviation to tell us if relegated teams are statistically different from those that remain in the top flight.

If you know a little bit about stats then enjoy, otherwise just skip to the punch-line below;

let y = relegation points
and we'll model them with N(30.6, 6.49)

Using a 95% confidence interval, which is to say, we're 95% confident a particular relegation score is between two values based on the numbers, we get

30.6 points plus/minus 3.4 points, or , an interval of (27.2 - 34.0) points**.

Does the system work? If the system works then the three worst point-totals are justifiably being relegated each year. We only care about the upper limit - 34 points - and how many times a team has been relegated when earning more than 34 points. If you glance at the data;

24, 31, 33, 26 ,34, 34, 28, 30, 36, 19, 26, 42, 33, 33, 33, 33, 33, 32, 34, 30, 15, 38, 34, 28, 36, 35, 11, 34, 32, 32

you'll see it happens quite a bit. The question though, can be asked in a better way. How many times was a team not relegated when earning 34 points or less. Even if West Ham several years ago was relegated with 42 points, which they were, they were still one of the worst 3 point-total teams that year. The system works on a relative basis, sending down the 3 worst teams relative to the others. That happened to be a year of high parity near the bottom, so sorry West Ham.
The key then is to find those teams that are no different (well, 95% confident that they're no different) from relegation teams in the past but still managed to stay in the Gloryship.

This has happened only once in the past 10 years. In 2005, West Brom was not relegated but only earned 34 points. So in essence, 4 teams should have been relegated that year, not 3. But hey, one in thirty ain't bad.




Next up - Promotion


_______________________________________
*I know intuitively the data look skewed to the right. Statisticians for some silly reason have accepted the fact that skewed to the "left" means the "hump" is on the right side. ...I don't like it either.

**I took out the outliers, Derby, Sunderland, etc, and the average with interval still rounds to 34 points. I even took out the top 3 and bottom 3 point totals and the point total is still 34 points. Rounding in this case is OK because a team must earn an integer value for points.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What We Knew, Didn't Know and This Weekend

I was 90 seconds away from calling the Chelsea v. Hull City fiasco. I had even parlayed my Hull prediction into a full post from Jim with the title, "why Juan is smarter than me." Drogba left me with nothing instead. Damn you Didier.

Then Hull went and got worked over by Tottenham, more on them later, making my top table prediction a foolhardy one. Fear not Hull-ites, only 2 of your next 12 games are against top 6 teams (from last year of course). That's partly why I predicted you'd get off to a hot start, but hey, I'm just a crazy asshole anyway right! (sigh. so bitter...)


What we knew;

  • Michael Owens does in fact, suck. Moreover, United's woes in front of goal is no fluke. Their goal totals in the Premiership over the last three championship years are in decline - 83, 80, and 68 last year. This is with Cristiano, of course, and he's kind of a goal-scorer. This year they're on pace for 19! Arsenal, on the other hand, is on pace for 190. This analysis makes it clear that United will struggle this year and Arsenal will break every record imagineable. Annnnnnd... done.
  • TLOCA is a bit pessimistic when it comes to Arsenal. I'll come down off the ledge if we get three from a starving Portsmouth team this weekend and I'll buy you a drink if we beat United in 2 weeks. Until then, I'm enjoying the breeze up here.
  • Chelsea is really annoying. FFLampard hasn't even gotten going yet.
  • Adebayor loves money.

What we didn't know
  • That Arsenal's Denilson and Song have been doing work in the offseason. I would have thrown Bendtner in there as well but he played as himself against Celtic. Arsenal's successes this year have come without key contributors; Arshavin has been solid but stymied in the final third and the same goes for Van Persie. Fabregas has clearly stepped up to the challenge but he tends to get off to hot starts. The EPL has and always will be about depth and the final half of the season so let's not crown Arsenal yet.

  • Tottenham looks very crisp. They've created 50 scoring chances in two games and look unfortunately fluid in attack mode. Aaron Lennon looks like he's made a jump and so does Jermaine Defoe. I don't like this one bit.

  • That Birmingham and Burnley would look so frisky. Birmingham surprised me with their poise and build-up against United in their 1 nil loss and Burnley did the unthinkable just a few days ago. The confounder here is that they both looked good against United so we'll have to wait a few more games to absolve them of relegation talks.

  • There have been 16 games played thus far and none of them have ended in a draw. Last year, 26.3% of matches ended a draw. That's kind of weird**, no?

This weekend;

Arsenal vs. Portsmouth - No points in two games and the schedule doesn't get easier for the Mouth. They have Citeh, Bolton, Aston Villa, Everton, Wolves, Tottenham coming up - all losable games. Ouch.

Birmingham vs. Stoke - The friskies collide to see who will be crowned most frisky.

Citeh vs. Wolves - The more we all see Manchester City, the better.

Wigan vs. ManUtd - a must-win this early in the season? More on this in a future post.

Liverpool vs Aston Villa (monday) - my guess is we'll leave with no further answers about either team but thoroughly entertained.





Until then

____________________________________________
**In fact, the probability of 16 games all ending with a win/loss result is .0076, or, under 1 in a 100 chance. 1 in 128 to be exact.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sally Can Wait, She Knows It's Too Late As She's Walking On By

"Lady-Luck was riding [Liverpool] reverse cowgirl all season long and they still finished 6 points adrift."
-TLOCA

--"Liverpool was not lucky at all."
---Comments
___________________________________________________________

During the Euro's 2008 a Turkish player earned one of my all-time favorite nicknames. Semih Senturk, the Lifeguard. If you were watching the Turks in the Euros you'll never forget their knack for the late goals. Perhaps "lucky" isn't the best word to describe it, but it's certainly something.

In the 2008 EPL season, Liverpool did their best Turkey impression. In the 80th minute or later, Liverpool snatched the lead to win 4 times. As if that weren't enough, they came from down a goal to win in the 80th minute or later another 2 times. Here are the who they beat, by whom, and when:

Sunderland, 83, Torres
Middlesbrough, 90+, Gerrard
ManCity, 90+, Kuyt
Wigan, 80 and 85, Riera and Kuyt (down one to win by one)
Portsmouth, 85 and 90+, Kuyt and Torres (down one to win by one)
Fulham, 90+, Benayoun
Chelsea, 81 and 82, Lukas Kuyt (draw)
Arsenal, 90, Benayoun (draw) :(

That's an astounding 16 points earned after the 80th minute. They finished the season with 86 total.

The next closest is, of course, Manchester United with 5 victories after the 80th minute (and no draws).

Sunderland, 90+, Vidic
Stoke City, 83, Tevez
Bolton, 90+, Berbatov
Aston Villa, 80 and 90+, Ronaldo and Macheda (down one to win by one)
Wigan, 86, Carrick

for 11 points. Chelsea and Arsenal only completed the late game magic 3 times for wins and Arsenal was the only team of the big four not have come back from the dead (down 1 into the 80th to win).

So I guess what I meant to impart is, since Pool still finished 6 points back and also snatched up 5 more cardiac thrillers than who they were chasing, it's not inconceivable that this year they return to earth. With no major signings and only departures (enter stage left: Arsenal), I predict a down year for Liverpool.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Schedules and Prediction's That Are Likely to Fail

Manchester United
I heard a staggering statistic the other day when I was watching the Community Shield match. In the previous 2 seasons, Cristiano and Carlito Tevez combined for 102 goals for Manchester United (67 and 35 respectively). They are also without Van Der Sar for some time. Here are there first 10 games:

Birmingham
at Burnley
at Wigan
Arsenal
at Tottenham
City
at Stoke
Sunderland
Bolton
at Blackburn

There are 7 ho-hum games in there for an uneventful 18-21 points. And three worrisome-but-could-be-blow-out games in there as well. My final answer is 24 points. If you want more analysis you're going to have to wait because I have absolutely no clue what to think of this team. United lost their identity, without argument, and they're ageing stars have aged one more year. Is Rooney capable of picking up the load? Because I know Berbatov is not. Valencia is a bruiser, which is to say, not exactly the United type. The man is huge by the way, just absolutely ripped. I'm scarred.


Liverpool
"Lucas - 'I can fill Alonso void'"

"Arhancet - 'LMAO!'"

Is it possible to write off a Liverpool team that had such a good year (all things considered) before this season even starts? The answer is yes. And the reason why is because Lady-Luck was riding them reverse cowgirl all season long and they still finished 6 points adrift. And they loved it. I have a hard time imagining Ms. Luck being so kind this year again. Here are their first 10:

at Tottenham
Stoke City
Aston Villa
at Bolton
Burnley
at West Ham
Hull City
at Chelsea
at Sunderland
Manchester United

That's pretty brutal (but wait, the best is yet to come). I count only 5 guarantees in there. 1 volatile, just absolutely unpredictable game against Hull City (my sleeper to win the EPL). 2 of the big four and 2 against the frisky six. My final answer is 21 points and that's not at all a bad thing.


Chelsea
I have them winning the league although I'll never admit it. This team would get choked by Dylon (I spit hot fire) because in the past two years they've been so close. Too close really. Drobga is happy, Anelka seems to hate life a little less, Ballack is surprisingly fit (for ze German National team), Lampard is FFL (Frank F*&^ing Lampard), and I really like the Zhirkov signing. Not to mention Deco, a healthy Joe Cole, Essien, Carvalho, Bosingwa, and John Terry.
Ugh. Here are there first 10 games:

Hull City
at Sunderland
at Fulham
Burnley
at Stoke City
Tottenham
at Wigan
Liverpool
at Aston Villa
Blackburn

Allow me to go on record with them losing to Hull City, panic at the disco, and then winning their remaining 9 games. My final answer is 26 points. And if you're clever, you'll realize you can only get to that number by winning 8 games and drawing 2, but I digress.


Arsenal
Are you ready for murder's row? At least for the first half of the ten. Cuz oh my goodness:

at Everton
Portsmouth
at ManUtd
at ManCity
Wigan
at Fulham
Blackburn
Birmingham
at West Ham
Tottenham

(Yes that is a picture of Gisele and yes she does appear to be a gunners fan.)

We could go our first 4 games without a single point, bust out of the Champions League and still be in September. That would cause me to fly to St. Louis and hang myself outside of Jim's apartment wearing nothing but my Carlos Vela jersey. Jim would go outside, see what has happened, and with the gun he's been carrying because of Arsenals start, shoot himself in the head. We'd make BBC front page and Arsene Wenger would be quoted as saying we made a hasty decision. Damn you Arsene. Damn you. My final answer is 24 points.

That leaves the standings at;

Hull City - 28
Chelsea - 26
Man Utd - 24
Arsenal - 24
Liverpool - 21




T-minus 2 days!!!! I'd be lying if I denied having an erection. Two days.

Monday, August 3, 2009

T-minus 12 days

The beautiful game returns in only twelve days. Twelve! Less than 90 days ago Arsenal faded out of memory with a meaningless 4-1 win over Stoke City and with that left behind a lingering sensation of disappointment. The parallels between Arsenal last season and a regretful hook-up are plentiful.

Before the night began, and while you were still sober, you had already decided that you weren't going to do it, she's not worth it, done. Decided.
Before last season Arsenal lost Flamini and Hleb with no replacements. Jim and I knew this was a problem. We'd say things like, "Who's going to play alongside of Fabregas?" Or, "I know we'll miss Hleb. I just know it."

Then... you start drinking.

Arsenal started off with beer; a nice win over West Brom, a pleasant outing against Fulham. Shotgunned one against NewCastle (that was fun). Beat up on Blackburn. Come from behind against Bolton! Uh oh. I'm feeling it... and it feels good. There aren't many feelings in this whole world that can beat buzzed off of beer. Then the Carling Cup happened - we did some shots, and oh shit, Jim and I were both drunk. Carlos Vela played the role of that friend who shows up to the party late, needs to catch up, and needs someone to do those shots of tequila with. And just like that friend you know in the back of your mind that whether or not you love him or hate him, what just happened throws this whole night up in the air. "Let's make some bad decisions tonight!" you joke. But still, your fate isn't sealed just yet. You can stop here and enjoy the night.

Those shots just settle down and guess who comes walking over - That Girl. Don't worry, you decided not to hook up with her. The reasons are obvious. You start up conversation and realize, she looks good.
Hull city wins 2-1 on a wonder goal. It's a fluke we said. These things happen. Whatever. Anyway, the real night is starting - Champions League! And you leave for the bar.

The girls don't pay for the cab, typical, and Sunderland draws 1-1. But whatever, you've made it, and rescued a point. These things seem trivial but it's all part of a season.

You make it past the bouncer, get inside and before you know it, Low by Flo rida and T-pain comes on and the grinding has begun. On the bar-TV show highlights of Arsenal beating Fenerbahce 5-2. It's gonna be a good night, yes I will do that shot of Beam.

Well well, who's this? Girl in the dress keeps looking over here. Oh my gosh she is. I should approach. She clearly wants to talk, I should approach. What will I say? Oh, oh, I know, I'll say, "hey, what's up?" No. That's horrible. "How's it going," is way better. Way better? That sounds square. I'll say, "..." wait a second? Where did she go? F#$%! Tottenham 4, Arsenal 4. I need a drink to forget this terrible luck (no you don't). One more down the hatch. Oh come on! Ms. Dress Girl is talking to some other dude now. Arsenal 1, Stoke City 2. Tequila please, Montezuma Blue. Ehhh. Nice (no, it wasn't).

Begin fragmentory black-out.
Arsenal 1, United 2 - Girl spills drink on your shirt.
Arsenal 3, Wigan 0 - It was a vodka tonic, no stain!
Arsenal 0, Aston Villa 2 - But your shirt is all wet and girls laugh at you as you leave the bathroom.
You're feeling pretty dizzy. Not good. Definitely shouldn't have done that last one... Manchester Citasdfkjf... Chelsejaskksk... Aston Villa at the death to steal two points. Time to go throw up.

Glass of water at the bar, Arsenal 1, Everton 1, and let's see if we can salvage this season. The Premiership didn't matter anyway, we were here for the Champions League. Let's get it together, Roma is up next.

Leave the bar for the after party at, excellent, FA's house. That FA Cup sure is a cutie. Wouldn't mind getting with her. The mere thought gives me a second wind. Arsenal 4, Cardiff City 0 (Eduardo brace). And what's this? Oh my goodness, at the afterparty is Ms. Dress Girl! This could be an epic night after all! Arsenal signs Arshavin. Damn, she has a boyfriend, but clearly not for long, they don't look happy. Arshavin is cup-tied.

The boot and rally works well as the budlight goes down without a problem. Everything tastes like water now anyway. Great conversation with FA Cup, she's always been a flirt. Always there, but for some reason it just doesnt mean that much to you. We all have those girls. Not to mention that Ms. Dress Girl is alone, the boyfriend has left. Ah yes, you remember why you came here in the first place. Arsenal squeek by Roma on penalty kicks.

Can this happen? Can we actually win the Champions League? Is Ms. Dress Girl really coming over to talk to me on the couch? The party is dying down, this is when moves are made.

"Hey there," she says as she sits down on the couch, "you must be Lucasz Fabianaski."
"Hahaha, no, who's that? I'm actually Arsene Wenger," you reply. "Where are you from with an accent like that?"
"Liverpool." She replies hastily. "You may know my older brothers, Fernando and Yossi."
Suddenly you feel nauseated. Looks like those budlights aren't going to stay quiet for long. Oh no. This isn't going to work.
"Excuse me," you ask politely, not wanting to screw things up for next time. You head for the door and wander around outside.
...
...
...

(beep, beep, beep, beep, beep...) What a terrible noise. Oh my god, my head... I feel like death. I'm alive, but I feel lik... Huh? Jesus where am I?

You've woken up next to That Girl. Manchester United 3, Arsenal 1. Sigh. I knew this would happen.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sometimes I Forget...

Just how good Robinho can be. Look at this:



Stupid. Also, go USA!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

USA vs. Brasil Game Notes

A few things before the game begins. It must be awkward to be a top 20 team scheduled to play the United States. Awkward for several reasons. The first is that Fifa has the United States ranked 14th in the world which at first glance seems at least 5 places too high. Though, if you look at the rankings:

10, France
11, Portugal
12, Turkey
13, Paraguay
14, USA
15, Czech Republic
16, Switzerland
17, Greece
17, Uruguay
19, Ukraine
20, Serbia

perhaps the US doesn't seem that highly ranked after all. In my personal opinion numbers 15, 16, 17 and depending on the outcome today, other 17 should be ahead of them but I will avoid splitting hairs. What is quite clear, however, is that the USA has no business being ahead of Paraguay, Turkey, Portugal, or France. In that sense they are adequately ranked but the tier of competition falls off so dramatically at 13 that the ranking of "14" seems to indicate one place-value below "13," when in reality its more like BCS vs. Football Bowl Subdivision. The rankings are not perfect, i.e. Egypt, winners of the African Nations Cup months ago, are ranked 40th, ahead of Costa Rica at 41, who smoked the United States. Not to mention England, who didn't qualify for the Euro's and hasn't beaten a real team in years, is currently sitting 5th. Wow. I digress.

So it must be awkward because the US is clearly on a lower level than top 13 teams but they should be so much better than they are, yet aren't, so yeah, it's just awkward to play a team like that. If you win, great, everyone legit beats them, but if you lose, you got beat by a crappy team that the world seemingly hasn't aknowledged as crappy yet. Are they underperforming, overperforming, I don't know. Whatever.

The second thing I wanted to mention before the ra, er, match begins is that Kaka has not seemed himself lately. The decline I mention hasn't shown up in the stats, in fact, the stat sheet shows him in top form. He seems to have lost a step - Caceres ran him down more than once in the open field, something I have never witnessed. And he also seems to lose possession more often than I remember. I know it seems like this is a complaint that Kobe is dunking with his left hand more often than his stronger right, but still, the club world seems to have coronated him as the 2nd best player ever and to me he seems like he's falling from soccer-god to extremely talented mortal. Just throwing it out there.

Alright, here we go 5 minutes to kick...

Brasil has thrown out a diplomatically appopriate line-up. No Juan, Elano and Daniel Alves. Hmmm, I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that the United States is Brasil's largest purchaser of exports by a wide margin. 18% vs the next highest (Argentina) at 8%.

The US however, trying to trump Brasil's subdued line-up has thrown out at least one turd in DeMarcus Beasley. What a joke. So far off to a bad start. Not to mention Bradley is leaving out Adu and a TLOCA favorite in Benny Feilhaber. If Adu continues to ride the pine I'm going to assume that Domenech has taken over our team and Adu must be a capricorn. There is no other reason. None.

1' - Announcer Del Carmen (or dellacamera or harkes, I forget) thinks that Bornstein has done a "good job" at full-back so far. True story, I wrote in the last entry that Bornstein was horrible but then Demerit stole the show so I deleted it because I didn't want to hate too much.

5' - The US hasn't gotten out of there own half but no threats of even half-chances yet so it's all good. We have fouled 3 times already and are on pace for 75.

6' - Whaddaya know. That foul apparently leads to an uncontested header from, hmm, 3 feet inside the six. I wonder when the United States is going to stop "zone" marking on free-kicks. Half our defenders zone mark, half man-mark and usually it ends with the defensive strategy of "not marking anyone." Brasil 1, USA 0

8' - We're already talking about how losing today won't necessarily eliminate us from the competition. Nice.

10' - Brasil starts dancing. Another foul. This time it was a dive though. This leads to Fabiano in on goal from a Beasley give-away who crosses to Robinho. The Chester City man scuffs it and misses an "easy 2nd." No bias here, those weren't my words.

14' - Kaka breaks through and leads to a corner. Del Carmen sarcastically describes the play, "well he's the most expensive player in the world ha ha." He's really bitter.

18' - I don't care how good the coach's son is, you still lose accountability to the fans and in the lockerroom. It's impossible to objectively analyze your son or criticize him in the lockerroom.

19' - Well so much for my Kaka has lost a step point earlier. He dribbled 60 yards and Bradley showed no signs of catching him.

20' - Um. Wow. Hahahahaha. A Beasley give-away from a botched corner kick in Brasil's half leads to a ridiculous run-out in which Michael Bradley is asked to run down 2 "flying" Brasilians. 2 on 1, Robinho finishes with ease. He then goes to talk to a microphone behind the goal.
Brasil 2, USA 0

21' - The replay shows that Beasley runs close to Donovan for a set short-corner play. Donovan passes him the ball, it rolls under Beasley foot, and causes the debacle. Technical difficulties, cue the Confederations Cup logo.

?' - Alexei Lalas back at the studio not so calmy explains that we need to "mark your men, its as simple as that." Not much analysis to be made I suppose.

26' - annnnnd we're back. We have absolutely no midfield marking whatsoever and Ramires, who is looking to pass, ends up slow dribbling 30 yards upfield, plays through to Fabiano running free and Howard clears. This diary is likely to end at half. My goodness.

33' - We have a corner and it doesn't lead to a goal by Brasil so we've fixed that snafu from before. The resulting crosses are cleared away. Oneywu takes a yellow to prevent another break. That's fine.

37' - The mexican wave has begun. Also, while I was trying to kill a gnat that somehow entered my apartment I look up and Fabiano is in alone. He kind of shoots but doesn't even care. That bastard always tries against Uruguay.

38' - Donovan makes that run he always makes which is really fun to watch. It leads to nothing because he passed to someone not named Jozy Altidore. You know the run, streaking up the field, flies by a few dudes. It happens once a half typically.

40' - Gilberto Silva misses a sort-of contested header over the bar. I remember that all too well. On a positive not we're sort of guarding people now!

42' - Robinho is being obnoxious and Oneywu barely touches him. Another weak call. This leads to a hilarious free-kick in which 2 Brasilians back post were so open they didn't really know what to do or how to comunicate who should do the scoring in such situation. It bounces, they kind of look at eachother, and then one of them shanks it over the goal and shrugs. I shrug as well.

Half-time

50' - Best 5 minutes the US has played yet. It's obvious we're trying now.

57' - Another red card! What is going on here. Kleijstan (sp) cleated some dude in the ankle pretty flagrantly but my goodness, are there no warnings any more.

58' - Gilberto Silva heads over the bar again. Sorry, I feel obligated to mention every time he doesn't score when he probably should.

60' - Spector is our best player out there. Besides Donovan of course. Nah, just Spector actually. Bradley throws in the towel again by taking out Jozy. At least he put in Feilhaber.

62' - Let's go Egypt! Brasil 3, USA 0 Maicon completes a beautiful give and go and give and score utilizing 4 players in a staggered run. This will also end the game notes unless there is something worth noting.

We need Egypt to win. If Egypt draws against Italy then we'd have to beat Egypt by four (as of right now) plus whatever Italy beats Brasil by should they also win. So let's hope they beat Italy and then we can control our own fate.

Monday, June 15, 2009

USA vs Italy - Confederations Cup

It's official, ESPN has begun advertising for the World Cup 2010. The ad shows Lahm's first goal (a neat far-post upper 90) and then Grosso's no-no-no-I-can't-believe head shake and then I don't remember anything after that because I get goosebumps and have to close my eyes. This is the voice in my head when I see it. That clip makes me want to guffaw, cry and throw-up all at the same time and I don't even care about Italy.

There's always time for nostalgia but I have more important things to get to, namely, Giuseppe Rossi effectively ending his citizenship in the United States. Traitor.

Italy vs. USA
Landon Donovan has 10 goals in 24 international appearances. That's not too shabby when you consider that many knowing soccer fans contend that Donovan is the USA's best player. If you would agree with such an assessment then I have a very, very worrying caveat to that statistic. 8 of those goals are from penalty kicks. 1 is from a free-kick and the other is from "free play." Yikes. I like that he is efficient from the spot but my goodness, 1 goal in 24 appearances from flowing soccer? That's reveals something. More on this later.

To the game:
The US looks really frisky! Italy seems a little slow out of the gates and we could make this happen. I watch Michael Bradley scuff the ball and blow a free shot on Buffon just outside the six and I think, hmmm, that reveals something. Then a few minutes later, Jozy Altidore (America's soccer equivalent of Barack Obama) also mishits a shot bearing down on Buffon. Hmmm.
What's that Ricardo Clark, you're an idiot? Yes you are. It may be a bad call but he sees red and we're down to 10 men. Ricardo has no explanation for kicking Gattuso in the upper-knee 3 seconds after the ball had vacated the area so does it really matter it was a harsh card? The answer is, "Ricardo Clarke is an idiot." Landon converts a PK - of course - but if you didn't know, the sun is setting on this game. Sorry Alexei Lalas but it's true.

By the way, allow me to take this space to illustrate Alexei Lalas' career for the red white and blue. Lalas led the United States in 1994 to a 3rd place group finish and a -1 goal differential overall losing in the first round of the knock-out stages. In 1998 Lalas led the United States to a -4 goal differential and last place finish in the group stages. But he did have a weird hair-do!

If I had to liken him to one other US player I'd go with Brandi Chastain. So yeah, Alexei Lalas.

Halftime. Back to the studio where we're joined by Alexei Lalas! What a coincidence. Anyway, Alex, sporting a subdued haircut, rants about the horrible call on Ricardo Clarke. He then, let the record show, claims that Jozy embellished the PK but, "hey, that's what you have to do." Very interesting. I personally don't think that Jozy embellished the foul and even if he did I do agree, that's what you have to do. So at least Lalas and I agree on that.

The 2nd half starts and wouldn't you know it, that son of a bitch Jersey trash traitor subs on. I speak of course of Giuseppe Rossi. Then a few moments later, on his first touch, he steals the ball, takes a few strides and absolutely launches past Tim Howard. 1-1. Just like that.

Does anyone else think that Tim Howard is becoming overrated a shocking pace? I digress.

Italy is the one that looks frisky now and our only hope, Jozy, gets subbed off in the 66th minute. Chances of the US holding on for 1 point fall like BearStearn's stock. 5 minutes later Daniele De Rossi, no relation to Giuseppe, rolls a shot past Tim Howard for number 2. It bounces perhaps tre times, passes by tre players (who all have enough time to react to it) and does not hit the side netting from 35 out. Announcers blame Iguchi for screening Timothy. That's interesting - usually a shot from 35 out is well seen. I'm no goal-keeper though, just someone who can count how many times a ball bounces before it rolls into the back of the net.

1 minute later (72nd) we officially throw in the towel. Do you know how I know - Demarcus Beasley subs onto the pitch. I stay tuned because hey, there are always set pieces for the US to score on. Luca Toni misses three easy chances - apparently he hasn't quite shaken that National Team slump he's in. This immediately changes my mindset from, hey let's steal one back, to, hey lets just not get embarrassed. Nope. Giuseppe smashes home a volley after Pirlo walks, read that correctly, walks by Jay Demerit. 3-1.

I hope Cash Cab is on. This reminds me I need to call my friend Jon and ask him if he ever rode in the Cash Cab when he lived in New York. Jon was always trying to hail that cash cab.