Saturday, June 17, 2006

I've watched Mastroeni's tackle a good ten or twelve times, and while the straight red may have been harsh it wasn't unreasonably unwarranted, being late, cleats up, and vicious. Frankly it was no worse than de Rossi's elbow on McBride, and yes, that makes it a makeup which is what made the red card wrong, two wrongs not making a right and all. I stand by my bitching about Pope.

McBride was offside, and admitted so after the game, on the Beasley non-goal.

Donovan finally got involved in the second half, and until playing not only down a man but with only nine killed the legs of the Americans they were the better side, and I honestly if with admitted homerism believe they were the better squad today. Maybe the Czechs losing took some urgency out of the Italians (which was probably lacking anyway in their respect for the US), and the US clearly had more at stake, and they played like it. Besides, the Italians are diving whinging pussies.

What I take out of the game is the speed the US lacks. They're at the point where they can see and intuitively know what to do but do not yet have the technical and physical skills to do it. Passes arrive where they should but not when they should, a fourth, an eighth of a second too late, just late enough to allow the defense to react and defuse the danger. I do want to make a big deal of this as an important development: against one of the traditionally most difficult defenses to attack, the US had a plan, they had a vision, and they almost executed it. Playing Italy even 11x11 would be an achievement; playing them even 9x10 for half the game is an accomplishment.

The US could have come out and folded, especially after giving up the set piece goal in the 22nd. Yes, their score came on an own goal, but the pressure was there, and it felt like a goal was coming. Dempsey played well, and actually ran at the Italian defense, something perhaps only he and perhaps Donovan are capable of right now, and Mastroeni was wonderful until his ejection. Onyewu is stil struggling, but Cherundelo and Bocanegra rewarded Arena for the starts, and Keller redeemed himself.

They are still alive. They need to beat Ghana and Italy needs to beat the Czechs for the US to advance, and neither of those is particularly more or less likely than the other. Think of it this way: the US has to beat a team that beat the team by two that beat the US by three. Italy only needs a draw. The US will be without Pope (no biggee) and without Mastroeni (a biggee judging by today). But they are still alive. I taunted gods and they're still alive. Ba'al.

* * * * * *

I see by internet DCU gave up another late goal, went scoreless another second half. Didn't see it, busily fulfilling husbandy duties, so no game commentary this time. Two home games this week, Wednesday and Saturday, and I expect six points, dammit.

Taunting Gods

It's ten minutes before kick-off. I've got a good feeling.
I'm thinking win. Ba'al help us all.


I hate the fucking Italians, the biggest group of diving whinging pussies outside of American conservatives.

All was looking positive until Mastroeni made an admittedly bad tackle, a certain yellow, and was shown a straight red. If I give the Uruguayan referee the benefit of the doubt, he was concerned that the game didn't descend into a total bloodbath, a bit late since McBride bled profusely after a vicious elbow to his face. I don't give the ref the doubt: it was a make-up call for the red which should have been give to Di Rossi for the elbow to McBride's face. (And is it a FIFA regulation that McBride is required to have his face damaged in every other international game?)

The Italians had one chance, a free kick set up by a dive, and they exploited a poorly executed offside trap to go up one. The US scored on an own goal, but it was deserved as they dominated possesion and the pace. If the US was one half a gear faster they could have scored three.

And we've seen, hopefully, blessedly, the last international game of Beasley's career. Dempsey, who I will hate with all the hate I have within the context of my Unitedness once he's back in Ningland, is so clearly an upgrade over Beasley that Beasley looks triply lame.

Still no Donovan. Well, he had one nice touch at the top of the box around the 40th, but he's still invisible. Mastroeni was the best player on the field. It shouldn't have been a red, but he shouldn't have made the tackle in the first place, not when the US was playing well, not in the US end of the field. Pope looks old and slow. Onyewu is going to get a yellow for wrestling.

Side note: this part of Minnesota feels like summer DC in it's effing Augustest. They must have two seasons in Minnesota: suck winter and suck summer.


More later, but...

I was wrong about Beasley playing again, but I stand by my assessment of his useless ass. Yes, he did put the ball in the net that was PROPERLY disallowed for offsides, but on a field of only 17 players (not counting the keepers), with the freshest legs, he simply, with the ball at his feet, refused to run at anyone.

Mastroeni deserved a yellow and got red, for which anger is justified, but Pope's tackle would have been yellow under any circumstances and as such he deserved to be sent off ESPECIALLY SINCE HE KNEW HE ALREADY HAD THE FIRST YELLOW, HIS TEAM WAS DOWN TO TEN ALREADY, THE BALL WAS AT MIDFIELD AND THE DEFENSE WAS NOT IN DANGER, AND IT WAS A STUPID TACKLE EVEN IF HE DID GET PART OF THE BALL.

McBride looked cooked, and the only reason I can think of for why Arena didn't sub in Wolff or Ching was that he needed McBride's experience on defense more than he needed Ching or Wolff's energy on offense.

A just result in terms of flow of play, but I wish the game had been able to play out 11x11. Arena's 4-1-4-1 was working, and the Americans were the better team in the first half. Now Pope and Mastroeni will have to miss the Ghana game, but at least the Ghana game will matter, something I didn't think would happen until Ghana beat the Czechs and I wavered on my pessimism ten minutes before kickoff.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Posting early and abbreviatedly while I'm in a room with wifi
(while the wifi is good). More next week.

Lots of miles on the dogodometer?

Good thing about lots of miles on the dogodometer? Seeing the tour.

We're So Sorry, Uncle....

Research demands that I find out why this town I'm in is called - -
but I'm on vacation, a quick cursory googling suggests cursory won't suffice, and a broader, more important question is why every other Minnesota city is a star city and where the hell is that detour going to take me anyway?

We were planning to go into the heart of Minnesota and find the headwaters of the Mississippi, but when I asked the desk clerk at the hotel this morning he asked, how did you get here, and when I told him it was on US 53 through Wisconsin he asked, did you like that highway? I said, no, it was boring, and he said, well, you've already seen most of Minnesota then. He suggested we drive down the St Croix River valley, and we did, and it was nice if nothing whooptacular. Stillwater looked like a cool town. We had thought to stay in Rochester (where a famous clinic studies the effects of mayonnaise on humans), but that was a Uniontown Pennsylvania of a town, so fuck that. Drove down into the prairie to see what the prairie looks like, and it looks like what you'd think it looked like only cooler.

Going back out last night for one last drive up the Northshore along Lake Superior, heading back into Duluth we saw a house for sale on the across the road from the lake. It was vintage art deco, two-storied, ising-glassed, metal-flashed, rounded where it should be square, square where round should be, immaculate condition. Top floor balcony up front (off the master bedroom?), it had three bedrooms (we stopped and picked up one of those flyers realtors post), two and a half baths, recently renovated kitchen with all new appliances, hardwood floors, a finished den. It sat on three acres, wooded but weeded wooded, with a gazebo and a back patio and a brand new fence. $287K. $287K. The same house in Blackdograd would be $2 mil listed, and people would slit throats outbidding each other to pay the most.

It was 45 degrees and blowing lake mist this morning, June 15, in Duluth. I'd have to find a job in Duluth, and that job would pay bupkis. I understand, but $287K for the single most absolutely coolest looking house I've ever seen?

Last thing for now: these Minnesotans, they use these things called vowels in their pronunciation. More so up north than here in the prairie, but those accents you hear during skits of Prairie Home Companion? Believe.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

One Sentence No One Would Ever
Guess They'd Hear From Me

Duluth, at first impression, seems a not horrible town.

And Minnesota Rt 61 along the north shore of Lake Superior is simply spectacular. You can't always trust those green scenic dashes on road maps, but they got this one right. Lake Superior, today at least, is cobalt blue.

BTW, Spain beat Ukraine 4-0, so 31st place for USMNT is theirs for the taking.

Duluth Update!!!!

If you're ever in Superior Wisconsin, stop for pizza at Shamrocks on Tower Ave. Looks like a dump, it shakes when trains go by, and the cigarette smoke from the lounge next to the dining room stinks, but the pizza is the best I've had since I can't remember.

Oh, it's "pop" not "soda," "hoagies" not "subs," "suckers" not "lollipops." And liquor stores are called "bottle shops."

More importantly, the radio in Minnesota reminds me constantly of just how sucktacular DC radio is. In Minneapolis there's a station that's sort of a KEXP light - it plays some of the same bands, but from what I heard only the bands' CD's single. Signal carried almost 125 miles. Then there's KUMD (as in U of M Duluth) that's just played three hours of roots and blues. You ain't getting either in DC (but you in DC know that.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I mentioned, loudly, that Sonic Youth has a new CD out. Reclick on this link to that link to hear the new CD for FREE! and click on this link to hear a good review of the new CD plus a good bio plus more FREE! Sonic Youth music, past and present. Sonic Youth. Go. Now.

Gyorgi Ligiti, whose name I knew but whose music I'm only became familiar with through my connection with the folks over at Sequenza 21, has died. If you've seen 2001: A Space Odyssey you've heard Ligiti's music, and Kubrick used Ligiti's music in other movies, but of course there's so much more. Here's an NPR obit, here's Alex Ross' appreciation, here's the NYT's, and over on S21 you'll find much discussion of Ligiti's music and importance (including a critique of the NYT obit).

Jeebers, watch this:

Like that one? Watch this:

* * * * * * *

Me, the Blackdogress, and Planet are getting on an airplane Weds morning for some place called Minnesota. Don't know how much posting there will be, though I'm told that this Minnesota has electricity and I'll be carrying a laptop and a crappy wifi thingee. I am deeply concerned that I may miss the Ningland game Saturday night because of crappy wifi thingee and/or otherwise being engaged. How I managed to arrange for the Blackdogress' college reunion in said Minnesota to be scheduled so that it didn't conflict with a DCU homegame will regretably have to remain a secret.

Something's Changed

I don't know whether Josh Bolton has resuscitated this administration or just temporarily stopped its hemorrhaging, but something has changed since Bolton took over as Chief of Staff.

The daily embarrassing revelations of ineptitude and incompetence have ceased. The photo-ops are less embarrasingly transparent. The Decider!s speeches have been tricked out with nods towards modesty and high publicity meetings with people of ever-so-slightly dissenting opinions have been scheduled. The Decider! has been given a PR makeover and the White House is functioning more coherently and efficiently.

Take today's trip to Iraq: it's not nearly as hubristic as Captain Codpiece on an aircraft carrier nor as treacly as Captain Thanksgiving with the prop turkey. Is it PR? - of course, that's what White House's do. But Andy Card and Karl Rove would not have followed up the news of Zarqawi's death with The Decider! making a speech full of grave warnings about the work to be done then scheduled a full cabinet meeting at Camp David devoted to all things Iraq (with press releases telling us so) and then flown The Decider! immediately afterwards for a relatively low-key (by this administration's previous standards of self-aggrandizement) meeting in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki.

I'm not saying anything fundamental about this president's mindset, his motives and morals, his imcompetence and dangerous foolishness has changed. He's still going to run this fall's elections on gaybaiting and spicbaiting and all the other usual demagogueries, and he's still the spoiled rich brat asshat he's always been. But someone was smart enough to get him a world class handler, and that handler's doing a good job so far. The Decider! may not ever get the polls up to 45% again, but at least they've stabilized.

It's probable that the days of the daily White House PR fuck-ups are over. That started when Bolton took over. If this administration rebounds from the depths in which it found itself recently, much of the credit historians reward will go to Josh Bolton.

I Have to Talk about the Czech Game More.

The ramifications of the US crashing out embarrassingly of WC06, for the future of American soccer, both club and country, are huge and potentially devastating. If the US is dissected by Italy like they were dissected by the Czechs, if they then, already eliminated and dispirited, lose to Ghana, if they go goalless, finish last – and unless somebody loses today (Tuesday 6/13) by more than three goals (and are shut out), the US is last after round one – any and all good efforts towards building soccer’s foundation in America after the run on WC02 are stymied at best, obliterated at worse.

The suits who’ve spent billions on soccer this time around aren’t going to come back if this well runs dry again. Nike and Adidas are long-termers, but we’re a couple of genocides, at least three horrific and minutely video-taped natural disasters, a presidential election and concurrent and virulent culture wars, and four more years of Lord NFL expanding it’s hegemonic tentacles into all metaphors American between this June’s WC and South Africa in 2010. That’s a boatload of Wednesday night games in crappy stadia in mosquito-humid August between Colorado and Real Salt Lake. Soccer will survive, but it won’t expand: corporate investment will stagnate and fan base expansion will stall.

Soccer is a no-go in America under the best of circumstances. Imagine if the US actually made a run to the finals: by next MLS mid-season, most of the buzz would have evaporated. I understand. I could trot out all the reasons why soccer will never be a major sport in America, but you know what they are. The hope with this WC was to solidify the base, expanding it by converting a modest percentage of casual fans into passionate fans – more season ticket holders, larger walk-up crowds – and convince investors that the viability of MLS was now somewhat better than highly speculative. Maybe get a couple of stadia built, maybe get some investment in youth development leagues, maybe jack up the salary cap in MLS a bit, maybe attract some aging washed-up but still better than the average MLS player Euro-stars to finish their career “building” soccer in America.

Not if the USMNT finishes 32nd, outscored 8-0, their coach attacking the players – and Arena called some out yesterday, including Donovan and the ever-suck Beasley. I hope I’m wrong, and in the small picture I am: MLS will survive, a mediocre league on the level with England’s League One, and I’ll get riled up when Ningland comes to RFK or Carlos Ruiz flops tearfully after a dive. There is a core of soccer fans in America, and we’re not changing our minds about the game because this USMNT sucks worse than even my not-taunting God’s worst nightmares predicted. But we’re not the ones Nike and Adidas and AIG and Budweiser were targeting.

This could all be moot should the USMNT grab wins over Italy and Ghana and then show respectfully in the knockout rounds. Making it out of group play, beating a soccer power like Italy, rebounding bravely from yesterday’s embarrassment, losing bravely to Brazil in knockout will not provide soccer a breakout in American sports consciousness, but at least it won’t set American soccer back. Grabbing a point against Italy and three against Ghana, regardless of whether that puts the US through, will at least staunch the bleeding and maintain soccer’s status quo in America.

Nothing yesterday suggests that the game will be anything other than an easy Italian victory: if the US couldn’t press the Czech defense, why should anyone believe they’ll get through the Italians? Nothing yesterday suggests they can beat Ghana. Ask yourself this: Is Eddie Pope really one of the four best defenders in the United States? Is DeMarcus Beasley really one of the best six midfielders in the United States?

More on the actual soccer later.

Monday, June 12, 2006

First Blush

That sudden concussive explosion you just felt was the suits of U.S. Soccer, the suits of MLS, the suits of Nike and Adidas, and the suits of ABC/Disney/ESPN, collectively oh-shitting themselves at the prospect of 32nd place for the USMNT in Germany.

The Czechs were wonderful, composed, technically adept, and tremendously coached, and Tomas Rosicky's Mr. 10% must be kicking himself for agreeing to an Arsenal contract before the WC. The Czech's looked at Arena's probable 4-4-2 with the again invisible Bobby Convey on one midfield wing and the always has, the still does, and the always will suck DeMarcus Beasley on the other and crafted a defense that played wide and deep and didn't allow many long runs and crosses. Donovan disappeared. Reyna hit a post in the first half (when US down just one - that would have changed the game), but is slow.

Slow. The game was too fast for the Americans, for the defense, for the strikers, but especially for the midfield. Slow. 3-0 does not reflect how much better the Czechs were (and they lost their monster striker to injury in the first). Nedved and Rosicky or Reyna and Beasley? More later, but holy figgety fvck.

What a depressing 18 hours of soccer.

LAG 1, DCU 1

So I miss the first ten minutes because we're getting home from the Blackdogress swimming the bay, and I miss the second ten minutes because I have to call MLSNET to get them to help configure my computer so I can watch the game on MLS Live (they recommend using IE rather than Firefox or Mozilla, btw), and then twenty seconds after the game's on Gomez scores a brilliant goal, a wonderfully stunning goal. Ah, I say, this will be as easy as I thought it would be.

The LA Times sings all praises for MLS' original diving pussy Cobi Jones, and it will suck to be Dominic Mediate in practice this week for flubbing the touch that lead to Jones' goal, but this was about effort. United was outworked. Out hustled and out hit. That LAG were the aggressors and United took four yellows to only one LAG shows that DCU were both retaliating and retaliating slowly and tiredly. That LAG had played a derby game Thursday night and still outworked DCU should raise questions about United's fitness and depth.

Look, I don't want to overreact. A point on the road and all that. Unreasonable expectations on my part and all that. LAG's second game with a quality coach and all that. But here's the thing: this is the kind of strategy I expect all the lesser teams to deploy against United. Beat them up. Bait them with fouls. Jam up the middle and run down the wings. Beat them up some more. Teams cannot beat DCU in a wide open game of technical prowess. They're not going to try. The only way donkeys like LAG get a result against United is to outwork, out hit, out hustle, out run United, and the best way to accomplish that is to frustrate the bejesus out of United.

A point on the road and all that. That sucked.