A Shropshire Lad

I picked this up before the pandemic hit (or at least before we knew it was hitting). I am sure that I have read A.E. Housman before. I didn’t read it for a while, but it has been something I have been keeping nearby lately and reading from. I even read it to my little one during dinner (poem XVII, which opens with a stanza about football [which I changed to ‘soccer’ when I read it my little soccer fan]). Read more

Bangkok Spurs

At a night market in the Ramintra neighborhood of Bangkok, I opted to skip shoe shopping to drink Singha and Chang and watch Tottenham play Watford at a pleasant bar.

A group of young men sat behind me and by their cheers and groans were evidently Spurs’ fans. When Heung-Min Son scored a rabona to win it in the eighty-ninth minute, we high fived and showed that ethnic and linguistic differences can be overcome by the atavistic bonds of alcohol and tribal affiliation. In other words, world peace can be achieved if we all agree that #Arsenalsucks.

Note: the woman in the picture is not a Spurs fan but she is my sister and doesn’t really have strong opinions on the matter.


Leicester City

img_4200When I was flying back to my dreary, dismal home from Thailand and was wandering the shops and stores of the Bangkok airport, I saw a store selling exclusively Leicester City swag. T-shirts, scarves, banners, etc.

At that time, Leicester was a terrible team. They had only just escaped relegation and aesthetically speaking, ran the gamut from mediocre to downright unpleasant to watch.

So this store, in an international airport, felt like the equivalent of an unaffiliated, single-A team from central Nebraska having a gift shop in the Yucatan (though truth though, as usual, is far more prosaic; Leicester is sponsored by King Power, the duty free vendor for BKK Airport – they even play in ‘King Power Stadium’)

Well, five months or so after I saw that fateful store, Leicester is topping to table in England and fun to watch, to boot. Feels like fate.

In Honor Of Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff, who was famous for turning Dutch ‘Total Football’ into a reality on the field, was also famous for smoking a ridiculous number of cigarettes each, on stubbing them out when he had to take the field. Sadly, he now has lung cancer.

So let’s remember what made him and watch him do the famous ‘Cruyff Turn.’

Just Because… Here’s A Video Of Zinedine Zidane Dribbling

The Formation Is Not The Problem

I totally reject the premise that Juventus’ problem in the Champions League is their 3-5-2 formation. Totally and without reservation. Formations, provided one has the players to execute and the tactical nous to make adjustments to a particular player’s role (go a little wider or tuck in a little more; attack more or stay back; mark or press this opposing player), are beside the point.

Manchester City has struggled in the Champions League with a far more expensively assembled lineup, yet no one is blaming Manuel Pelligini’s formation on their shortcomings.

The Champions League is difficult and Juventus, with the exception of their goalkeeper, the ageless Gianluigi Buffon and Andre Pirlo, and their tireless terrier of a striker, Carlos Tevez, does not have many players with experience in the latter stages of the tournament. Switching to a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2 or a 3-3-1-3 (shout out to Marcelo Bielsa on that last one) is not the answer. Luck, a few new players, and some more luck are the answer. I would argue that they failed in the past because Juventus didn’t sufficiently rotate over the season, but it’s certainly not about a particular formation, unless it’s not properly executed.

This Article Says It Better Than I Could

Why I was devastated that Donovan didn’t go to Brazil.

No Surprise Donovan Is Retiring

Seemed pretty obvious really. He had flirted with it before. And despite taking a sabbatical that included missing some national team friendlies, I think it was being part of the national team that kept him going. He’s been a very good club player – only players like Carlos Valderrama have been better in MLS – but it was as a member of the United States Men’s National Team that he made his mark. I would say that he is the best and most skillful outfield player to have ever played for the team (#2 was Tab Ramos, who was held back by struggles with injury).

When he was left off the World Cup squad in favor of players who were slower, less talented and who, being over thirty, were clearly not players for the future, it is easy to see how he could ask: Why go on? There is nothing left for him to accomplish anymore in the league and he was pigheadedly denied a final World Cup (where, as the most clinical finisher in US history, he would have been expected to add to his five World Cup goals, including burying a shot against Belgium). Now’s the right time and would have been, even if he had gone to the World Cup for  fourth time. Just would have been nice to see him don the US jersey one last time.


Here Is My Final Statement On The Matter

Landon Donovan deserves, on form, skill, leadership and experience to be a started for the United States Men’s National Team in Brazil. He is not the player he was four years ago, but he is still better than every American midfielder save Michael Bradley and, while not a pure striker, by any means, a more reliable source of goals and assists than anyone American striker (and yes, he is better than Clint Dempsey who is more one-dimensional; Dempsey brings hustle and a Paul Scholes’ like ability to ghost into goal scoring positions from the midfield and deeper areas, but he does not have the creativity nor the ball control nor the dribbling skills of Donovan).

He was left off because Klinsmann got upset because Donovan took a sabbatical from the sport, missing some national team games in early 2013 (though giving notice – he didn’t just not show up). Klinsmann couldn’t understand and didn’t forgive and that’s all she wrote.

There are no footballing reasons for America’s best attacker not be on the plane to the World Cup. And make no mistake, we were never likely to make it out of our group (the proverbial group of death). And if we were to make it out, it would be from an unlikely goal against a top team like Germany or Portugal. And if we were going to score that goal (a “John O’Brien moment”), it was only really likely to come from Donovan. Even if Dempsey were to turn it on, without Donovan to create chances and draw defenders away, he’s going to lack for space. And flat track bullies like Wondolowski and flat footed slowsters like Brad Davis won’t create that space and those chances against top opposition.

And one more thing, should it come up, Donovan was also our most reliable penalty taker. No one wants to see Clint take another penalty kick again.