Posts Tagged ‘ Men in Blazers ’

MatchDay Memory–America’s Next Top Soccer Fan

Men in Blazers is currently running a competition to determine “America’s Next Top Fan”. Here is my submission:

Once I heard about the Savile Rogue competition, I immediately stopped checking Europa League scores and started scribbling down all the reasons why I am America’s Next Top Fan. Me I’m just a guy, struggling to balance work, family and the beautiful game.  Over the years it has slowly overtaken my life to the point I’ve had to enter couples’ therapy with my wife in an attempt to save my family rather than descend into a state reminiscent of Fever Pitch narrated by David Peace’s Brian Clough.  In the beginning I would just watch an occasional game, play once in a while, pick up a copy of Four Four Two and search the burgeoning internet for info and a crappy game feed.  That routine evolved into playing almost every night, coaching several teams, spending money on PPV games and going to MLS games in the formative years of the league.  

Then I got married and my wife and I had a child.  An equilibrium was maintained until a wedding anniversary weekend when I watched Arsenal v Manchester United on my computer while my wife waited for us to go to breakfast.  Or the time I missed my son’s floor hockey game to rush to the bar to drink in another match and a couple of pints.

The game has consumed my life.  Like any good American I eventually started a blog with the simplest of intentions—write a couple of thoughts on what happened over the weekend.  That lasted a couple of weeks until I started blogging three to four times a week, including writing for sites that found my work and asked me to contribute for them.  Watching a game or two on the weekend became a half dozen games, catching up on highlights of the games I missed, listening to dozens of podcasts, reading every single soccer article on the internet, and constantly writing to keep up with my commitments.  After my wife and I started counseling, I finally caved and gave up the blog and after like three days without my fingers hitting the keyboard, I started a podcast, which I now spend any free moment editing and planning.

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The pod is a change for me as I don’t talk that much in day to day life but nearly got punched out in a men’s room in a Florida bar because I told a stranger that Gareth Southgate was a twat for missing a penalty at Euro 96.  (Turns out the English stranger was a big Southgate fan.) And put a couple of beers in me and a dose of tension, and I become another person—screaming, pacing, even more anti-social.

Plus I help run a local supporters group: setting up watch parties, including the dreaded 7:45am Saturday kickoff or the 8:30 Sunday morning games; planning pick up games at crappy parks; talking trash on facebook and twitter with other supporters throughout the week; developing a new logo for the group; and working on possible road trips for the future.

As for work, HA!  I have a pirated ESPN3 feed and illegal internet windows going so that I can watch games while “working”.  Great plan except when FCB mounted a stirring comeback only to nearly throw it away in the last 10 minutes, with me pacing my office, willing the ball to stay out of Valdes’ net and screaming and slamming my desk when Alba ran the length of the field to score the fourth and send Milan packing.  And don’t tell my boss about the inordinate amount of time I spend on twitter and facebook interacting, reading, and learning.  I would say in a given week, I do about 15 minutes of real, actual work.  I bank all of my personal and vacation days. Why?  So I can go on a relaxing trip with the fam?  Hell no.  So I can watch Champions League all spring and take MLS trips.  Last summer I took a week off to go to the Pacific Northwest to see the amazing supporters in Portland and Seattle.  By myself.  No wife, no kid.  Best vacation ever.

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I have a drawer full of kits.  Even after several purgings, I could wear a different kit every day for a month without repeating.  And I wear them all the time.  If I am not constrained by work or socially accepted norms—weddings, funerals, or jacket required restaurants—it’s what I wear.

The game makes me nuts.  During United v Real Madrid, I turned red, not with devilish pride but with murderous rage when Nani got sent off.  In a surprising moment of self-control, I removed myself from the group at the bar and put myself in time out, finding a TV off in the corner so that I could die a slow, painful death without raging against friends, acquaintances and strangers or throwing my glass at the TV.

time out corner

And why?  Why risk everything on men I will never meet, on results I cannot control no matter how many kit variations I try or seats I switch or Jedi exercises I do.  Why?  Because of Iniesta’s moment of brilliance against Chelsea, Donovan’s goal against Algeria, Cantona against Liverpool in 1996, Zakuani’s return, the current generation of La Furia Roja, Del Piero against Madrid, and that glorious spring of 1999.

After going through an entire pen’s worth of ink and all the napkins at the coffee bar, I took a breath and realized that I am not even the biggest fan in my city—Lansing, MI.  Just over a year ago, I joined forces with Aaron Passman, who started Mid-Michigan United, the supporters group I mentioned.  We have John who has a mancave in his basement with flags and banners from around the world, complete with a mankini that makes an appearance from time to time; then there’s Cedrick who takes over the bar screaming obscenities at the TV in several languages while amassing a list of soccer players he wants to die in a bus crash.  I’Shawnna who supports several clubs based on a mix of charitable contributions, talent, and injustice in an equation that makes your head spin trying to unravel it.

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But back to me, a topic I’m very fond of, if I could take one thing from Manchester City, it wouldn’t be Ya Ya or Kompany or the petro dollars, it would be Mancini’s scarf style.  If the Italian manager put a video on YouTube about how to properly tie and wear a scarf I would study it like the Zapruder film.  But alas, I’m stuck with acrylic scarves in a culture that doesn’t quite get why a grown man has something tied around his neck while wearing a full strip during matches.  But if I had a Savile Rogue scarf, made of the finest cashmere, I think I could turn things around.

Recent Media Intake

Here’s some of the stuff I’ve been reading/listening to over the last week . . .

Eddie and Robert broke down the fallout of Shirtgate for the Manchester United Redcast, with Rio failing to wear the Kick It Out T-shirt, which left Fergie out on a limb.  Is this the beginning of the end for the defender or just a simple miscommunication?  As for the Chelsea game, they noted that once Rooney starts scoring, he usually scores in bunches and they hope that Fergie doesn’t make a mistake like the one against City last year, ie highly defensive 4-5-1.

Speaking of Manchester United, I found an excerpt from Rob Smyth on Guardian Sport.  He wrote a piece on Roy Keane for an upcoming book Life’s a Pitch: The Passions of the Press Box about Smyth compared the Manchester United midfielder to pop icons Tyler Durden and Tony Soprano, which was interesting.  Reading this piece you understand why he will never be a good manager—he simply demands a level of performance that is impossible to consistently attain.

Moving on to Arsenal, Nick Hornby was on last week’s Men in Blazers to talk about the release of the 20th anniversary of Fever Pitch, the future of fandom, comments on the season thus far and thoughts on his e-book Pray, which recounts the dramatic 2011-12 season.

As for the Premier League in general, looks like the US EPL rights are going to the Peacock.  After a relationship of over 15 years with Fox (regional channels, the creation of Fox Sports World which morphed into Fox Soccer Channel and even led to the Champions League Final being shown on FOX), and leased games to the four letter network, the biggest league in the world is being shown the money and is moving to elsewhere.  Richard Deitsch posted Friday on SI.com that NBC, in particular NBC Sports Network, looks to be in the driver’s seat, with BeIN also a possibility.  It will be interesting to see if NBC shows games a la FOX national and if they develop an online platform and/or use their vast array of channels.

Nike sold Umbro.  Yawn.  The company will not exist in 10 years. Get over it.

Finally, there was lots of buzz this week about the possibility of the US hosting the 2016 Copa America.  At first it seemed like a done deal but there has been significant back tracking and conflicting details.  Would it be a 12 or 16 team tournament?  If it is 16 teams and involves several CONCACAF teams, does not seem like a Copa America but a Copa of the Americas? I don’t mind the US hosting and being and invited participant but it does seem weird that this country would host the 100th anniversary of a South American tournament, radically changing the structure and make up of the competition.  Just sayin.  Grant Wahl offered some other considerations for SI.com.

One player who probably won’t be there is Landon Donovan.  Roger Bennett sat down with US star for ESPN FC.  The long time face of MLS and the USMNT spoke about his future, including possibly not playing at the 2014 World Cup.  I appreciated his self-analysis about motivation and his desires for the future.  He has given a lot to his clubs and his country and maybe it’s time to move on.

Old Futbol Buffet–Footy Free

This weekend, I did not watch a single game.  You’re welcome.  Why? You ask.  By me not watching I created an environment of drama and goals.  Chelsea on 4-2 at White Hart Lane; United won 4-2 against Stoke; City grabbed three points at the death against WBA; Barcelona won 5-4 at the Riazor; and Valencia stole the match late at home against Athletic Bilbao.

Spooky at Dear Mr Levy saw Spurs’ start slow in part due to the absence of Dembele and Bale, rebound with a higher tempo second half but in the end capitulate due to defensive lapses.  Watching the highlights, what was Walker doing in the second half?  Not tracking, not marking, not shielding the ball out of play.  Spooky addressed and asked for patience towards the young player.  As MOTD stated, Spurs asked questions (at least for a little bit) and the Blues responded.

James Martin of ESPN FC summarized an open game in which he felt that Chelsea stepped it up.  See above.  Walker went missing and gave Chelsea plenty of room to operate.  James mentioned Gallas’ struggles as well as his clearances led to two of the visitor’s goals.  In the Blues won three more points as they look to cement their claim as title contenders.

Danny at Bitter and Blue saw the Champions (still have a hard time writing/saying that) grab all three points at the Hawthorns.  Despite Milner being sent off in the first half, City took the game to WBA and were eventually rewarded.  Stat Attack from Danny:

Eight of City’s 17 goals this season have been scored in the final five minutes, with five of these netted in the final five minutes. Nine of Dzeko’s last 11 goals have been to earn a draw or get the win.

This last statement led to Danny wrapping up the post.  Is Dzeko a super sub or what?  Have to say that watching the run in to last season and the early part of this season, he fits the bill.  After Aguero, Tevez, Silva and Balotelli run defenders ragged, he steps in and seals the deal.  The storyline will be whether he remains happy with that role.

Musa Okwonga of the Manchester United Blog for ESPN FC looked at the attacking triangle of Welbeck, van Persie and Rooney for Manchester United.  The three of them combined for all four goals, showing a cohesion that could put the Reds back in to the title chase.  Unfortunately the defense still needs shoring up and may ultimately prove the deciding factor come May.

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Articles and Pods

During the international break, I skimmed the internet, visiting sites previously unknown or ignored in my routine.  I came upon a post on Bleacher Report about players that United might get rid of in January and possible replacements moving forward.  Out: Nani, Josh King (striker I don’t know too much about), Bebe (forgot he was even on the team), Macheda, and Robbie Brady (a possible left back option going forward but if he wants to stay in contention for Ireland, he needs to be playing).  Who to bring in?  Hangeland to rebuild the center of the defense and Strootman to strengthen the center of midfield.  Yes to all of the above.

Occasionally I’ll check out the Pitch Invasion podcast.  Episode 8 looked back at the found of the Chicago Fire, with Peter Wilt, the founding General Manager of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club recounting the forming of the club, including the badge, the name (original name was going to be Chicago Rhythm?), the kit and development of the supporter culture.  I remember going to early games at Soldier Field, actually cheering against the home team so that I could support DC United.  Good times.

The USMNT has moved on to the next round of qualifying after a tougher than expected semi-final round.  A lot has been written and said in the last week regarding Klinsmann’s time in charge, just over 14 months.  I listened to two podcasts that examined his time thus far: Beyond the Pitch and Men in Blazers.  Both pods touched on the fact that a massive sea change has not occurred under the German and that is big ideas have not become concrete actions.  Alexi Lalas was on Men in Blazers to discuss this as a former player and current pundit, which made for an interesting conversation.

Finally, Grant Wahl looked at the emergence of beIN Sport in theUS and Europe for SI.com.  The network has the US rights to several leagues—Italian, French and Spanish—plus it has picked up USMNT away games, which previously were impossible to find.  From a US viewing perspective, the channel has essentially combined GolTV and Fox Soccer Plus, with the real losers being the German Bundesliga (still on GolTV, which has been dropped by DirecTV per Wahl’s article) and the English Championship (Bueller, Bueller).

But another loser may be the American soccer consumer.  BeIN has all of these leagues but only one feed.  (Sorry, that’s not fair.  They have the Spanish feed but guess what?  Americans would like to watch games with English commentary.)  My question is this: How do you show everything?  A recent example was the massive one time convergence of rivalry games that occurred two weeks ago: El Clasico, the Milan Derby and PSG v Marseille.  Here’s what beIN chose to do in their infinite wisdom: viewers only got to see the second half of the Milan Derby live as it was shoehorned in between El Clasico and the French game.  What?  That will be the norm as important games in Italy and Spain are typically shown in late afternoon Eastern time.  With no online platform, you can only see the live games that they show.  The rest are shown on delay, and in the internet age, they should be able to do better.

Every time they make a decision between leagues, they piss off people.  A couple of weeks ago, the Juve/Roma game (typically a big rivalry game, especially more so this year with Zeman in charge of the Romans) was not broadcast live.   The Juventini were PISSED and with good reason.  This is a big game and fans were not able to see it live, having to go into media blackout if they wanted to watch it without knowing the result.  Where will the channel put their focus as they to strike a balance between all of the leagues?

So far we’ve got a terrible name, poor distribution and only one screen for three important European leagues.  Can’t fix the first one without MAJOR re-branding.  I pray every day for a better name.  Distribution will be fixed over time.  I can’t believe that they won’t be in more homes by next summer.  Comcast will come around and so will AT&T.  As for the third, that’s where it gets tricky.  If they don’t add an online option to provide customized viewing and then we are at their mercy as I see it.  Maybe I want to watch Getafe v Osasuna or Genoa v Catania or Le Havre v Sochaux.  And I can’t because it conflicts with another match in another league.  And there is no option beyond illegal internet feeds.  That doesn’t seem right.

On top of all of this, is their pursuit of the EPL.  If they get that, everything I have mentioned will be negatively affected at a rate of 10, while causing the probable collapse of FSC.  While I don’t really like the channel (studio shows, graphics, choice of live Champions League games), you can’t argue with the access they provide to the game—constant repeats, online options, two channels. If they go away then beIN has a virtual stranglehold on the American soccer viewer.  I’m not really in favor of that.  Not only do I find that wrong on a very basic level, but basically I’m swapping Rob Stone for that annoying skinny blond that is constantly on in between games doing her best deer in the headlights routine.

Old Futbol Buffet–Up and Running

Back in the saddle again.  The EPL kicked off on Saturday, and Mid Michigan United got together to watch Newcastle host Spurs.  The Spuds are my second English team so I was anxious to see how they would set up shop this year.  Plus I wanted to see if the Magpies first game since a surprise fifth place finish last year.

I walked into Buffalo Wild Wings and was greeted with a host of African descent sporting pulled back dreadlocks.  No not Edgar Davids.  Mario Melchiot.  What the what?  Found him very hard to understand (of what I could hear).  And where was AVB’s London Fog jacket?  Redoing his image perhaps?  Anyway people started trickling in and I ended up keeping my kid under control and talking to Damon Rensing, Head Coach of the MSU Men’s Soccer team for a while, so I missed almost the entire first half.  From what I could tell I didn’t miss too much.

One thing that stood out was Newcastle’s corner kick routine.  It seemed as if two players were slow dancing at eighth grade Catholic dance (enough room for the Holy Spirit in between) before being joined by a third player.  Very weird.

The second half turned out to be more entertaining as Ba got things started with a lovely finish.  Chances came and went before Defore smashed home after Krul made the initial save.  There was a hint of offside but no matter.  Then it was a race to the finish as the substitutes maintained the energy and the attempts on goal.  The decider came from two Spurs attacking players doing something idiotic—VdV and Lennon had Hatem Ben Arfa on lock down just outside the area but allowed him to wriggle his way between them.  To compound that error there was a slight trip and an awkward clattering that led to a penalty which HBA dispatched to seal the three points.

A decent game highlighted by several quality efforts on both sides and a moment of madness from Pardew who shoved the assistant referee for a supposed blown call.  Not smart.  Plus he couldn’t get the walkie talkie to work up in the stands.  By the way, why don’t coaches have to go sit in the corner aka the locker room like players?  Anyway, hopefully United get off to a good start Monday afternoon and then next weekend it is Liverpool v City.

Spooky’s song sheet for the upcoming season reads: patience and positivity as AVB tries to put together pieces which may or may not be in place yet.

Zonal Marking looked at the match, pointing out the impact Ben Arfa had on the match.  He also looked at Pardew’s tactical change for the Magpies at halftime when he switched to a 4-3-3.

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To get ready for the upcoming season, I listened to several pods, covering a wide range of topics.

Phil and Anto had Sandy Jardine on Beyond the Pitch to talk about Glasgow Rangers.  To be honest I had no idea who he was, but this Scottish legend discussed the current situation for the Scottish giant.  Unfortunate circumstances got them to this point, but there is hope for the future.

The gang at Juventiknows dedicated a whole week to Alessandro del Piero, including photos, posts and a pod devoted entirely the Juve legend.  ADP generated some many great memories and it was a joy to take a look back.

Finally, in an attempt to up to speed for the upcoming EPL season, I checked out the first pods from Men in Blazers and the Manchester United Redcast.  Roger and Michael predict a weird season on the horizon while the panel at the Redcast are pessimistic that the Reds can take back the title from the Blues of City.

Found some more stuff throughout the week . . .

Ben Lyttleton looked at ten possible EPL story lines for the upcoming season—from matching the drama of last year’s final day to all of the coaching to the players moving from team to team.

James Horncastle examinted the impact Conte’s suspension might have for Juve.

Old Futbol Buffet–Tell Me When the FA Cup is Over

So I took the weekend off from non-La Liga games this weekend.  As I talked about in my Weekend Warrior post, I just don’t get into the FA Cup.  I should, but I looked at the fixture list and nothing really jumped out at me. Honestly, with United out, I probably won’t watch until the semis or the final.  May not watch at all.  Don’t think I’ve watched a Final since Portsmouth beat Cardiff in 2008.

Watched bits and pieces of Spurs game against Stevenage, and when I left Liverpool was tied 1-1 with Brighton.  The pressure must surely be mounting on Arsene at the Emirates as the Black Cats dumped the Gunners out of the FA Cup andMilanabsolutely thrashed them in the Champions League.  The battle for fourth in the Premier League is going right down to the wire and I’m not sure Arsenal has the stomach for the fight.

As for Juventus, I find them hard to watch right now.  As a fan, I should support them not matter what, but game after game of grinding play and poor finishing has left me struggling to carve out time in my calendar.  Of course I didn’t watch Sunday’s match against Cataniaand, from what I’ve read, missed a commanding performance from Pirlo as the Old Lady won 3-1.

I didn’t watch the Juventus game and Aaron’s post match wrap mocked me as I missed an open game full of chances and mistakes and goals.  Catania could very well have taken all three points but the Old Lady, orchestrated by Pirlo, won the match and set up a big time game with AC Milan.

Paolo looked back at a weekend in Serie A that saw Inter running off the rails and Napoli surging back up the table.  Their fortunes continued in the Champions League with Napoli beating Chelsea 3-1 and Inter falling to Marseille 1-0 in France.

One thread I hope to develop this summer is the nature and quality of my fandom going forward.  I can’t see how I can fully devote myself to three clubs (Manchester United, FC Barcelona and Juventus).  I never really have but maybe it’s time to invest in one to the exclusion of others.

I missed the Napoli v Chelsea first leg so read Zonal Marking’s recap of the game, which focused on high positioning of Ivanovic and the lack of organization from the Blues that the hosts were able to exploit.  Down 3-1 heading back to Stamford Bridge, don’t see how Chelsea turns it around.

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Podcasts

I spent a lot of time on the road on Thursday and Friday so was able to keep up with my podcasts.

On the SI roundtable, the panel discussed the Suarez/Evra fiasco, gave some thoughts on the African Cup of Nations and talked about some possible stories this season in the MLS.

The Men in Blazers pod featured a host derby as Chelsea played Everton. Again, HandshakeGate (what a stupid name) was discussed before Aaron Ramsey’s deadly penchant for scoring was mentioned.

Anto had Phillip Delves Broughton on Beyond the Pitch to talk about his interview with Silvio Berlusconi.  Great conversation and interesting insights into the former Prime Minister and AC Milan President.

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Jersey Leaks

This week I also came across possible jersey leaks for next season.  Underwhelming to say the least.  The Men in Blazers had snapshots of the US kit, which hearkens back to the 1994 World Cup kits from adidas.  After watching highlights on 101greatgoals.com, I clicked on a post with mockups up kits from Barcelona, Arsenal and Manchester United.  Ugh.

Old Futbol Buffet–Schedule Overload

This weekend was jam packed for me. Saturday started with the Liverpool/Manchester United game, which was followed by my son’s floor hockey game, and then I was off to run a community event at a local church. Instead of getting a nap in afterwards, there were almost 10 boys running around the house, engaging in a NERF war of epic proportions. Eventually things calmed down and I went back out to watch the replay of Osasuna against FC Barcelona.

Sunday was busy as well as I had to put my house back together. Then I headed out to meet with Aaron of Mid Michigan United to talk about future watch parties and events in the Lansing Area. Finally it was back home for church and then a well deserved rest before heading back to work this morning.

With a busy week at work and at home my reading and viewing were a little light but here we go.

Saturday

Manchester United 2 Liverpool 1

Originally I was going to watch this game later in the day because 730am is early, especially since I knew I would be out late the night before and had a long day ahead of me, but the my local pub was opening early and some of the guys were going to be there so I couldn’t resist.

I called my friend at halftime and he was like United is dominating. I told him I wouldn’t say there were dominating but they were in control. The game was much better than the league game at Snfield, but the opening goal wouldn’t come. Felt that Scholes and Carrick were able to handle a subpar Liverpool midfield and Suarez was only dangerous when he got one on one in space.

But what a second half. An absolutely blinding start from the Red Devils with a Rooney brace early to all but seal the game. Once again I felt they took the foot off the pedal as they did in the City FA Cup game and it almost bit them in the ass. The Liverpool goal was a complete cluster. First a non foul on Suarez, although to be fair it looked bad in real time, which led to the free kick that bounced off Rio’s nether regions to allow the villain to score. After that Liverpool just kept hammering away, almost getting rewarded with a Suarez header (off target and offside) and a blistering effort at the end.

United were the better team but just. They are far from the irresistible force of several years ago and may win the title only because City and Mancini don’t know how. As for Liverpool they were toothless for the most part. United were able to keep them at arm’s length pretty easily until Bellamy came on, although I felt he should have come on earlier. As for the rest of the team, they are simply not good enough. Spearing is not a replacement for Lucas, Johnson is decent but disappeared and Jose Enrique simply cannot deal with Valencia.

Zonal Marking summarized the game and focused on Giggs’ position, which was a narrow left sided midfielder, that created a numbers up behind Gerrard and Henderson and around Spearing.

I checked out the Red Rants blog to get their perspective on the game. Daniele gave a quick summary of the game before chiming in on the actions and comments of King Kenny and Suarez, ending the post with, “Liverpool should worry about clinching a place in Europe for next season, rather than spending energies to defend Suarez.”

Sunday

After my meeting with Aaron I had planned to watch Bologna versus Juventus, but the game was cancelled by the recent coldsnap in Italy.  I believe of their last three matches, only one has come off.  AC Milan’s late win against Udinese put the Rossoneri two points up but Juventus has two matches in hand.  Lazio has moved up to third with Inter truly out of the race after several recent poor performances.

Adam Digby examined the lack of creativity in this year’s Juventus squad.  Although the Old Lady is battling Milan for the title, the scudetto may have been out of sight had some of their draws been turned into wins, but goals have been hard to come by, especially against well organized provincial sides.

Paolo Bandini looked back at a Serie A weekend during which Novara did the double over a fading Inter, Milan stunned Udinese and Lazio held on to third.

Avi Creditor gave an update on Charlie Davies, back at Sochaux and fighting for a spot in Europe.  Had totally forgotten about that guy.

Podcasts

Rog and Mickey of Men in Blazers had another great show with a fantastic I Testify telling the story of one couple’s discovery of each other and soccer.

Gabriele Marcotti was on Beyond the Pitch to review the transfer window in Serie A and the futures of some of the teams.

I got to the 2/7 SI.com Soccer pod a little late, so the news that the panel covered (the draw between Chelsea and Manchester United and Suarez’s return against Spurs) was a touch stale but their comments about the managerial situation at Chelsea were interesting.  Steve Davis also shared some notes about MLS preseason.

Last weekend’s World Football Phone In was pretty entertaining as the panel discussed the nature of fans of Argentinean league; Porto post-AVB; the drama at  Ajax; and an African Cup of Nations final preview.

Old Futbol Buffet–White Knuckle Sunday

A rough week really got in the way of growing my soccer knowledge.  Late last Sunday night I started getting sick, but I went to work and was in a fog, which didn’t help because I actually had work to do.  By Wednesday I crashed and stayed home.  When I went back to work I was so behind that I really had to get on it.  So no midweek games, no Copa games, very little in the way of reading.  Not good.

Saturday morning I woke up to start a busy day.  In checking scores and texts and twitter, I knew something was happening at the Emirates, but my god, what a performance by the Gunners.  My guess is that they were inspired by my Strip Club post on Friday.

This is how sad I am.  I went to pub, with the family, to watch a game . . . online.  I watched Athletic Bilbao against Espanyol as I nominally put in Family Time, and I didn’t even bother having the bartender turn on the City/Fulham game because a) I didn’t want to be distracted any further, b) I have not caught Deuce Fever, and c) I was hoping that by not watching, somehow the Cottagers would further dent City’s title charge.  No dice.

Sunday morning I headed back to the pub for Chelsea v United.

Chelsea 3 Manchester United 3

In the lead up to the game, all I could focus on was United’s poor form at Stamford Bridge and their injuries, so I wasn’t very confident heading into the game.  But the game kicked off and the Reds were in control, not necessarily dangerous but having Chelsea in their pocket.  And then it went sideways.  Sturridge skinned Evra and his cross went off de Gea, struck Evans, and then fell into the back of the net. Chelsea and United traded blows and I felt that if United got a goal before halftime, they would be fine.  But to score you have to shoot and for some reason, the Red Devils, in particular Rooney, wouldn’t pull the trigger.

After halftime I expected United to move through the gears and maybe get a point but instead the Blues added a second.  As I tweeted right after the goal: wow. as scrappy as 1st goal was, the 2nd was absolute class.  Torres’ cross was inch perfect and Mata’s finish was spectacular.  From there things went from bad to worse, as Rio didn’t get tight to Sideshow Bob, who headed in to put the hosts up 3-0.  At this point, I was having flashbacks to the game against City in October.  Even the first penalty I felt was nothing more than a consolation but from there United pressed on, winning the second penalty.  At 3-2, I started shaking and went white knuckle as United tried to find the equalizer, which came from the Little Pea.  After that my nerves were shot as both teams had chances to win, especially Mata’s free kick, stunningly saved by de Gea.

The game was not fantastic on a technical level, with both teams guilty of loose passes, poor positioning and lapses in concentration but more than made up for it in fire and finishing. Chelsea are ashambles.  Malouda and Essien were simply passengers, especially for the last 30 minutes.  As for Torres, he was great in the link up play but man is he struggling in front of goal.  How does a player that short of confidence try to dribble three guys in the box?

As for United, their performance as a whole was good.  The move of Welbeck to the outside is a waste.  (Not was a waste because it’s happened before.)  Not sure why Sir Alex does that.  I would have brought in Park for that position much earlier.  De Gea got off to a slow start came into the match, culminating with fantastic saves on Mata and Cahill.  Rooney was muted for most of the game, but the penalty conversions seemed to wake him up.

Couple of thoughts about Howard Webb.  If he is England’s top ref, then that’s not good.  Several very questionable calls and no calls and a couple of dodgy penalties.  Inconsistent game to say the least. Chelsea didn’t deserve to win but the ref of the 2010 World Cup Final did not help.

In the end, United dropped two points but in an away match at a tricky venue, down 3-0, and your best player is not on song, I’m ok with it.  My final tweet of the game was: great fightback but shouldn’t have been in that hole. regardless stay within touching distance.

The comments from The Republik of Mancunia were spot on, especially regarding Fabio, Rooney and Fergie. Make sure to check out the post.

The post game comments from Zonal Marking were informative as well, as he focused on the tactical permutations during the game.

The panel on the Manchester United Redcast contributed a lot to the swear jar this week in their recap of thrilling game against Chelsea and their preview of the game against Liverpool.  Add a little talk about Suarez and Terry and this pod was not for the faint of hear.

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Transfers

I really missed the boat on transfers.  Zamora and Cisse to QPR?  Saha to Spurs?  Some Belgian guy to Chelsea?  Everton brought in a load of players in their effort to finish tenth in the EPL.  Of course Arsenal were involved as well, picking up Thomas Eisfeld from Dortmund who, as Amy Lawrence noted on Football Weekly Extra, ticks all of the boxes, “young, technical and injury prone.”

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Stuff

The boys on Men in Blazers reviewed the week that was in the Premier League and FA Cup, with Rog on a high after Everton’s week and Mickey at a low asChelsea continue to wallow in fourth.  They interviewed Gerry Baker, who was the firstUS player to score a hat trick in the English First Division.  Sounds like he was a pretty decent player as well.

Uli Hesse looked at the situation in the middle of the Bundesliga table, in particular Hoffenheim,Stuttgart andLeverkusen.  I wish I could make time for German football, but unless I give up Juventus and Serie A, don’t see how I can make that happen.

Marco and Aaron reviewed another solid effort at home against Siena from the Black and Whites.  Unfortunately they only gained a point, and it may be these sorts of results that cost them the title.  I’m hoping to catch the game against Bologna this weekend and see how they are doing.

Tim Vickery gave a quick preview of the Copa Libertadores on the SI.com soccer page, pointing a couple of key players and clubs to watch, including possible swan songs for Riquelme and Ronaldinho.

The SI Soccer Podcast panel looked at transfer deadline day and the goings on at the Philadelphia Union.  Plus Grant Wahl interviewed Jay Demerit about his time thus far in Vancouver.  Still have not seen The Jay Demerit Story.  Hoping to pick it up this