Blog Archives

Happy Monday!

Life can change in a matter of seconds.

The same goes for sports, which includes the beautiful game. And the Columbus Crew proved this sentiment with authority last night in the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Red Bulls at Mapfre Stadium.

Blink and you might have missed it.

Justin Meram scored the fastest goal in MLS Playoff history. He blazed the back of the net just 9 seconds after kickoff. Plus, he’s #9 on the Crew. It was meant to be.

Have a Record-Breaking Week!

P.S. When it comes to the MLS Cup, the Red Bulls will not deny the Columbus Crew (Remember the 2008 Final)  

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Soccer’s Headache?

“The U.S. Soccer Federation is recommending a ban on headers for players 10 and under, limits for players between 11 and 13 and having medical professionals rather than coaches make decisions on whether players suspected of concussions can remain in games” (AP)

For the past few years, I have been forecasting a future with youth soccer that would see school districts impose headgear requirements for its players. The helmet (of sorts) would likely be soft-shell, as worn below by current Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Čech who suffered an unusually brutal injury nine years ago.

(Arsenal.com)

(Arsenal.com)

“The depressed fracture of the skull that Cech suffered in a clash with Reading’s Stephen Hunt threatened his life. His skull is thinner than average – possibly as a result of being born a triplet – and he will have to continue wearing his protective rugby-style cap for the next two years at least”
–Duncan White, Telegraph, 2008

The two factors going forward in this debate will be safety and reality.

Everyone wants players to be safe, but at what point does it cross into over-protection?

Petr Čech’s injury is an extreme anomaly. Precautions can and should be taken. Safety is a paramount concern. Concussions and head injuries do happen in this sport. Any player suspected of suffering a concussion or potential head injury needs to be examined and taken care of in the best way possible.

The proposed solution as a whole, however, seems to be bordering on the excessive. If parents don’t want kids to play or kids don’t want to play because of this fear, then don’t play or stop playing. That’s fine. It’s that simple. And to be clear, this recommendation doesn’t come with any attitude.

That’s just the reality of the beautiful game and life.

P.S. Headers are bad for the sport? 

Don’t Mess with Messi

Pep’s homecoming to the sidelines at Barcelona was like déjà vu…for Barcelona.

The Chimera of Camp Nou (Messi, Neymar and Suarez) is an ever-attacking three-headed monster that stretches the defensive barriers of its adversary with dangerously dynamic precision. These three players for Barcelona are world-class in their own rights, and playing against a squad missing several key players, found lots of space to roam and pressure Bayern Munich high up the field without serious consequence in the first leg of their Champions league semifinal in Spain.

In the present moment, Barcelona (led by its offensive monster) showed why they have the most potent attack in the world. Having to deal with the brilliant dribbling and misdirection of Messi, Bayern’s defenders did well until the 77′ when the aforementioned Argentine’s first tally sparked a barrage of goals during the next several minutes. Before then, it was entertaining back-and-forth soccer with Neuer making some sublime saves.

Bayern Munich’s Lewandowski and Müller did well up top, considering they were consistently outnumbered on their counter-attacks. Unfortunately for them, their golden chance at a first half combination for the prized away goal was literally half a diving foot away. There were moments when Bayern Munich found space and exposed vulnerabilities in Barcelona’s defense, but Pep’s Boys (sans Robben, Ribery and Alaba) were unable to command a threat on the flanks that was necessary (and open) for that essential away goal/goals.

While Barcelona was going to find the back of the net, it is worth contemplating how many goals Bayern Munich could have scored if the two missing pieces in their 3-headed offensive monster were healthy? How would that have altered Barcelona’s tactics? How would Barca have performed if it was missing Messi and Neymar?

Curiosity aside, 3-nil was the final score. It was a result well earned for the Catalans.

Barcelona is elated.

Bayern Munich is deflated.

A 2-2 Tie Just Doesn’t Sound Right

(Important Disclosure: Since yesterday was not a FIFA-sanctioned day of friendlies, USMNT head coach Jürgen Klinsmann may not have been able to call-up a couple European-based players from their clubs)

A plain golf shirt. Human bomb pops. An MLS-based American team. An international-based American team.

What do you get when you add all these together?

A trip to Brazil this June without a clear travel itinerary or cool clothes to wear.

Last night’s United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) soccer friendly with arch-rival Mexico in front of a pro-U.S. crowd (in Arizona?) fittingly ended in a clouded 2-2 tie. They were up 2-nil at halftime, but conceded two second half goals to a more energized and fluid Mexican squad.

Quick fact: It’s only Dos-a-Cero in Columbus, Ohio. True story.

It was a prototypical tale of two halves and a mixed result that could have used the energetic and offensively dynamic Mix Diskerud (23) of Norway’s Rosenborg BK managing the middle of the pitch with likely Brazil 2014 partner Michael Bradley. Why wasn’t this the case? Because there are, apparently, two U.S. teams. One consists of players based in Europe and elsewhere around the world and the other team includes the best talent of Major League Soccer (MLS). Yesterday’s American lineup versus Mexico was made up of the best MLS players (except for newly American certified Julian Green).

It’s one thing to experiment with such an open tryout during off-peak years, but two months from the biggest soccer tournament in the world?

At this point, words like continuity and confidence should emanate from Jürgen Klinsmann’s USMNT. Yet, words like scattered and phrases like lack of chemistry and static creativity are defining a team that is producing juxtaposing results month-to-month, half-to-half and position-to-position.

Here is a quote from Jürgen Klinsmann after the 2-2 draw regarding the coveted spots in the starting lineup, as reported by Andrew Wiebe on MLS Soccer online.

“Naturally, it’s open,” Klinsmann said. “How much it’s difficult to say.”

A valid question to ask and ponder in April 2014 is this: why isn’t there one cohesive USMNT (a combination of the best players of MLS and abroad) with a select number of players vying for starting spots instead of an open tryout for seemingly every position? Or, more realistically, competing for a nod on the bench as a super sub?

Julian Green (18) did well last night as a substitute, demonstrating his raw speed, energy and his anxiousness to impress.

But what about Aron Jóhannsson (23), who has a relentless attacking mindset? Why isn’t he, who is a forward that could provide much needed excitement and creativity up front, getting more consistent time and experience?

Teams like Germany may use young players or undefined players at the national team level for a friendly, like they did versus the United States in 2013. However, Germany’s A-squad has been all but set for quite some time with only variable changes here and there. And the best (or right) players get their minutes because they are viewed as valuable assets.

As a glass half-full believer, it’s quite possible that Klinsmann’s strategy will pay-off tremendous dividends in ways that have not yet been revealed or imagined on the pitch.

Still, the World Cup is played on a pitch…in 2 months.