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Fool’s Gold

The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) defeated Costa Rica last night 1-nil on a counter-attack goal courtesy of Brek Shea in the 83rd minute that started with a beautiful over-the-top service from Landon Donovan and concluded with a decent enough finish to rattle the net. With the result, the United States won their group in the Gold Cup. They will face El Salvador next in one of the quarterfinal match-ups this Sunday.

A good result with a good goal sequence. One certainty for the USMNT is that Landon Donovan knows how to counter-attack, when he doesn’t disappear for fifteen or so minutes every once in a while during the most important games…

But was the result really good enough?

The question during the Gold Cup and the World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF group is not whether or not the USMNT wins games, but it’s how they win and play. Do they have a reliably dynamic style that meets world-class standards? Let’s be candid: CONCACAF is not overly difficult and wins should consistently be achieved on the road and should definitely be achieved at home. During the home matches, there should be an abundance of spectacular goals and stellar performances from the goalkeeper up to the forwards. At this point, these games should not require a counter-attack goal after the 80th minute to secure a narrow victory at home. At this point, the USMNT should be running circles around the Gold Cup and CONCACAF competition with consistent 3-0-like victories.

Have the recent results really been good enough?

The teams from the Gold Cup and CONCACAF represent the weakest competition they will potentially face in the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. Does the team that struggles to defeat Costa Rica at home and other similar competition have the roster, style, toughness, talent, strategy, resilience and intelligence to defeat or compete with Spain? Brazil? Germany (their first team)? The Dutch? Portugal? England? Argentina? Belgium? Uruguay? Ghana?

Frustratingly, each time the USMNT roster is announced, there is a steadily uneasy feeling that half of the selected players should not even be there…especially one year out from the World Cup.

However, don’t paint me as a pessimist. I am an eternal believer in the “glass is half-full” mentality. I have long said Jürgen Klinsmann has the intelligence and insight to coach a USMNT that wins a World Cup. But, sadly, that team has not come very close to being organized on the field during his tenure thus far. Amazing things can happen in games that are predicted otherwise. Unlikely players show up and can change a game in an instant. Upsets happen and the USMNT has pulled off a few magical ones. They undoubtedly have the potential.

Yet, I am also a realist and am cognizant of the talent level of the aforementioned teams. There is a distinct difference between qualifying and playing in a World Cup and qualifying and competing for a World Cup.

It’s less than a year from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and it needs to said that 90 minutes is a long time, especially when you’re having to chase a ball while simultaneously climbing a mountain of goals against.

P.S. The U.S. v. Mexico game at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on September 10th will once again be epic! Importantly, it will reveal the talent and overall readiness of the USMNT going forward…

Usually, I Order a Coke with No Ice…

In partnership with Ogilvy & Mather Bogota, Coca-Cola may have just started a cool sustainability revolution with its ice bottle. According to a July 9, 2013 article, “Coca-Cola unveils new bottle made of ice,” the popular soda/pop (a serious debate, I know) maker gave the sweating populace of Colombia the rare icicle-like treat.

The ice bottle appears to be precisely what you would imagine it to be: ice that is frozen in the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle, with a rubber band around the middle for holding and drinking convenience, with the refreshing soda/pop cooled to the perfect temperature inside.

Just as long as it is easy to drink with an ice bottle opening and that famous scene from “A Christmas Story” doesn’t occur, then the general public should be in good shape. If need be, adjustments then have to be made.

It’s hot outside. What feels good on a hot summer day? Ice. What’s even better than ice? Ice with chilled Coca-Cola! But here’s the genius of it all: The outer and inner contents of the ice bottle will refreshingly chill your heat soaked bones. It’s a win-win. Actually though, since the bottle is made of ice, that means once you are finished drinking or using the bottle, it simply melts away without becoming trash.

It’s a win-win-win!

With the number of countries throughout the world that experience hot weather all year-round or even just seasonally hot weather like in the United States of America, the potential for this commercial product could be astronomical. Imagine the continents of South America, Africa and Australia for starters. Middle Eastern countries also tend to be on the slightly warmer side. Specifically, Dubai is always looking to the future and embraces some Western ideas and tendencies.

Imagine going to the beach during Summer vacation and instead of having to lug around a cooler filled with empty soda/pop bottles or cans at the end of the day…well, now you don’t have to. The cooler would be significantly lighter. Incredibly, this idea could spread to adult beverages. Because water is a key ingredient in beer, it is manageable. The recipe would have to be altered and thoroughly tested, but it is workable.

Wouldn’t you try a Coca-Cola or a Corona in an ice bottle on a hot Summer day?

Environmental sustainability is a vitally important issue and Coca-Cola’s seemingly simple ice bottle could be the practical product the public embraces globally just like Coca-Cola itself. Having traveled all around the world, I will speak from extensive experience when I say American consumer goods, like Coca-Cola, Pepsi and McDonald’s are very popular. In the case of the Coca-Cola ice bottle, the brand is already well-established and a favorite with millions of people.

If managed properly (cost, distribution, etc.) and affordable pricing is offered to the public, then we could be on the cusp of a global effort to positively and realistically preserve the environment.

Some of our worries could just melt away…

P.S. Two suggestions to Coca-Cola: don’t use a rubber band (use something recyclable) and make the gripping band larger so it can be hand-held, not finger-held.

How 90 minutes Can Be Defined by a Few Seconds

This past Wednesday, Arjen Robben once again proved why he is a world-class soccer player. Starting for Bayern Munich in their German Cup clash with Borussia Dortmund, a team that has had their number the past few meetings, Robben was the beneficiary of receiving a deflection in the 43rd minute from a tackle just on the outer perimeter of the reigning Bundesliga champions’ 18-yard box. What did he do instantly upon having the ball at his feet?

On Saturday night, the Argentinian maestro for the Columbus Crew, who sports the unusually high number 33 (although 3×3=9…), also had the ball come to his feet several yards outside of the 18-yard box in the 2013 season opener at the Home Depot Center against Chivas USA. What did he do with it?

In the best leagues in Europe, players do this with frequency. Robben’s strike was fantastic, but not necessarily rare. The best players do not think, but rather react in the many situations throughout any given match. Practice is designed for thinking and the game is won by reacting. For example, most do not focus on the immediate pass or action right in front of them, but are cognizant of their surroundings and instead prepare for what the second and third pass needs to be. In those quick moments, they move and act accordingly. In the case of the two shots above, both the Dutchman and Argentine knew what to do in each of their split second decisions. They’ve trained many years for such opportunities.

Arjen Robben and Federico Higuaín showcased moments of brilliance that are celebrated so passionately in “the beautiful game.” To witness this just three days apart was particularly special because two players from completely different backgrounds, cultures and leagues shared an exhilarating commonality of giving its fans the thrill of a game altering goal with a similar impromptu strike on distant pitches, separated by the world’s largest ‘pond’: the Atlantic Ocean.

“Großen Fußballtor!”

“Gran Arco de Fútbol!”

Incredibly, regardless of any language barriers, at least everybody can agree both men scored a “great soccer goal!”

At least that was my reaction.

We’re a Little Bit Normal…& A Lot Griswold

From a very young age this became a tradition,
exploring foreign lands became our mission
Christmas vacations with the family led us to thrilling locations,
and exposed us to new and different cultures of various nations
My Mom, Dad, two older sisters and I did this together,
and made the trek no matter the weather
These trips started with a cruise in the Caribbean on a boat so grand,
that gave us the joy of feeling the heat of the Christmas sun firsthand
Kauai was a beautiful place that was like heaven,
we even met Pierce Brosnan, that’s right, 007!

Alaska, Iceland, Norway and Sweden gave us all wintry chills,
riding into snow covered adventures over those magical hills
Some of our trips were to places surprisingly pretty,
like Ushuaia, also known as the world’s southern most city

One part of the world had a special kind of allure and power,
unknown to most, including, at this point, Matt Lauer
It was a hotel made completely of ice,
including the bed, which was a definite roll of the dice
Here I tasted lingonberry juice for the first time while standing in snow,

in a block made of, well, you know
But alas, there is more to our journeys than snowmobiles and a sleigh ride,
like the wonderful food we excitedly tried
There was that night we broke bread with some Norwegians,
whilst getting a crash course in eating tendencies of the Scandinavian regions
One dish, two dish, three dish four-five and six,
together we desperately wondered, “how much more will they fix?”
Yet if you think this was a crazy dinner to be at,
wait until you read what, or who, I’ve kept hidden under the vacation meal hat…
There was one dinner I will never forget that ended with an uncomfortable recognition,
the main course was reindeer…I think you will excuse the following omission
Some hilariously inappropriate jokes have been told and a few you wouldn’t believe,
Like my Dad once telling a customs agent about where we were all conce—
Nevertheless, traveling is a bit of an art for my family, oh my,
Like strolling through freezing Beijing for eight hours that left me pleading, “but why?”
The answer was not found in the worn soles of my shoes,
but instead right in front of me with countless breathtaking views
Whether by car, train, plane or walking a long street,
How we arrived on time at these places was always a feat
Egypt, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Bali and Dubai,
each celebrating with festive spirit as majestic as Versailles
A good deal of our family’s traveling occurred during this time of year,
which always got us inspired and full of cheer
This family tradition led us into multiple passports with stamps galore,
with continents at 7 and thirty to forty countries we’ve come to adore
Memories were created that will last forever,
and when I have a family, I hope they too will enjoy this yearly endeavor!

Merry Christmas!!!