Old Futbol Buffet–Super Sunday

I spent the last nice fall day of 2012 sitting on a barstool.  Forget fresh air. Back to back EPL games followed by the Big 10 Championship game, fueled by beer and wings.  Wouldn’t have it any other way.  None of the games were high on quality, but the fellowship was top notch, full of banter and awkwardness.

The morning started with Manchester City hosting Tottenham Hotspur.   I should have stayed in bed.  Same storyline—City’s opponents score early, City eventually wake up, Lamppost for the win.  (I called it as soon as he came on.)  I still don’t know if City are playing with three or four at the back but whatever the system, they look disjointed.  (Zonal Marking saw a back four morph into a back three with the introduction of Maicon.)  I rarely see fluidity in their play yet props for overwhelming an opponent and securing three points.  As for Spurs, imagine if they had a little more soccer IQ.  They are a glorified high school team, full of athletes and effort, but have almost nothing in terms of gamesmanship, like how to close out a match or turn things around when plan A isn’t working.  Lennon needs to go.  His lack of a finished product is holding this team back.  If you can’t cross, can’t score and only sometimes come back defensively, then you’re just another Nani.  As people noted several times throughout the game, I didn’t even know Dempsey was out there.  It was his turn to wear the invisibility cloak and, with two out and out wingers, he rarely saw the ball.  On the positive side, Adebayor was a real presence up top and nearly got Zabaleta sent off.  (Spooky at Dear Mr Levy gave a comprehensive breakdown of the past, present and future of the club.  Well worth the read.)

One thing that did bother me was Mancini’s slump pout in the first half.   Really?  You are going to be a big baby when you have a ridiculous amount of talent at your disposal and you can’t figure out how to win?  What do the pre-Mourhino Inter and the current City have in common?  Struggled to win the league despite a vastly superior team and were underwhelming in Europe.  And the same manager.

Another side note.  The commentators mentioned that Huddlestone was growing out his hair for a charity, in effect not cutting it until he scores.  So. . . you’re a rare scoring (eight goals in 210 career club appearances) central midfield player who has a hard time getting a consistent run of games (less than a dozen appearances for the club in the last two seasons).  Nice gesture, but you might want to rethink the terms of your contribution.

Next up was Chelsea against Liverpool.  If I had written the storyline before the game, you would not have believed me.  Blue Racist scores.  Red Racist takes out Blue Racist.  Red Racist equalizes.  The Reds came out in a 3-5-2 with Carragher anchoring the middle.  I’m pretty sure he was supposed to be put out to pasture a while ago.  As someone tweeted at halftime, LFC had 63% of the possession and were not even in the match.  (Chris at Famous CFC bemoaned the missed chances that should have killed off the game.)  Maybe a little more even in the second half as Liverpool outworked Chelsea and confused them by lacking any coherent shape.  (Ed at the Liverpool Offside blog saw Rogers tweak his first half lineup to generate a little more offensive punch.)  Johnson and Enrique were all over the place, with Sterling moving side to side.  And Suso just found the ball and promptly turned it back over.  The Blues in the last week have drawn with Swansea, eked out a win against Shaktar and shared points with Liverpool.  Is another November tailspin upon us?

Finally, Michigan State and Michigan battled for the BIG 10 Men’s Soccer Championship.  The conditions in Evanston were comical, with 35 mph winds causing any ball moving left to right on the TV screen to hang in the air and any free kick needing a place holder to keep it from rolling.  MSU used the wind to their advantage in the first half, pinning back the Wolverines and getting a screamer from Adam Montague.  The tide predictably turned in the second half, but the Wolverines weren’t too dangerous.  As time ticked down, UM threw more and more forward and were lucky to not be caught on the break.  Eventually a throw in was flicked on twice and T.J. Roehn scored on a lovely touch past MSU goalkeeper Zach Bennett.  At the end of regulation I had to go, so I missed Sean Doherty’s blast in minutes in to OT that won the tournament title (all goals here) for the Spartans and qualified them for the NCAA Tournament.  Congrats to Damon, Kylie and the squad.

Not a day high on sexy futbol but through the roof in the terms good natured chitchat, zingers and interesting talking points.  Besides the post election break down, time was given to racism in sports, upcoming hot yoga classes, how long Brad Friedel will actually play, the baldness trend in US goalkeeping, Cedrick’s Hope Solo interview, and how to wear a scarf like Roberto Mancini.  But nothing could top I’shawna’s declaration that she would happily be a baby mama for a professional athlete.  Direct quote: I got bills to pay.  So Raheem Sterling, if Liverpool comes to the US next summer for their pre-season tour . . .  (Note:  I’shawna wants it be clear that she will be the baby mama for Micah Richards.  This needed to be clarified.)

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Articles

I mentioned Nani earlier, and Mark Payne commented on his long term future at Manchester United for ESPN FC.  Diminishing returns and stalled contract talks could see the Portuguese winger at a new club in January or next summer, with Juventus a possibility.  I have never really liked him, constantly claiming that he is another CR7 . . . without the goals.  Doesn’t play defense, dives, takes ridiculous shots and turns the ball over a lot.  I am personally willing to drive him to the airport and hope that day comes soon.

Speaking of the Red Devils, Scott the Red saw United come back for the eighth time this season.  Smalling and Young had disappointing first halves, but Chicharito saved the day and De Gea made his presence felt.  Now if they could just stop leaking goals.

Received a little US soccer history over the weekend.  Found the article Homeless at 100 from David Wangerin for Howler Magazine via the Original Winger, which gave a quick overview of the associations that existed shortly before the American Amateur Football Association established itself in 1913.  The title of the article comes from the fact that the US Soccer Hall of Fame exhibits and materials are being stored at a warehouse for the time being, a sad commentary on the sport’s history in this country.  Hopefully one day it will find a permanent home so that everything—great players, accomplishments, keepsakes and the Association’s dirty laundry—can have a home.

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  1. The match-winner for MSU was truly a thing of beauty, but nothing could top Suarez taking out Terry…

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