Posts Tagged ‘ MMMSL ’

Old Futbol Buffet–Shin of Samir

This match was all about momentum.  Sir Alex set out United with a clear game plan, building on the success at StamfordBridge.  Defend, counter, score, repeat.  To be fair, Rooney’s first was a scuffed shot, but the second was the result of Nastasic being out to lunch as the Reds drove forward.  And just like the match against the Blues, even at 2-0 up the game was only heading one way.  Minutes away from halftime, I was praying for the whistle, and when Barry’s shot fizzed wide just before the interval, I thought United might be able to hold on.

In the second half, the game changed in an instant.  The Red Devils went from a virtually unassailable 3-0 lead to a white knuckle 2-1 advantage.  The pendulum had swung to the hosts and everything favored City.  They had the athletes, the speed and the momentum.  And United had Ashley Young and a lack of soccer IQ.

Now I don’t want to get off a rant here but . . .

What a woeful performance from Young.  Turnover after turnover after turnover; constantly going to ground; lack of defensive cover for Evra.  But the worst was that in the final minutes of the game, he switched flanks, latched on to a long ball and just had to not give it up.  What does he do?  Gives it up.  He must go at the end of the season.  United need to rebuild their flanks, as Valencia is the only consistent performer and he is perpetually injured.

Moving on . . .

United didn’t know how to close out the match.  Ahead for the first time in ages, not having to outwork, outfight, outscore their opponents, they lacked the composure to finish the game off.  The Reds couldn’t take advantage of City being stretched and were lucky to escape with the three points.

Look at City’s goals.  They got in behind the United defense as Evra fell asleep and then Tevez showed amazing poise to layoff for Yaya after a mad scramble.  On the corner, Young was watching Zabaleta as he smashed in a shot through Jones’ legs (through the legs was another theme of the match).

Side note: Mancini will get some gas for not starting Tevez but in this instance I support the Italian manager.  Aguero and Balotelli were causing problems and could have caused more had Balotelli decided to give more than maybe 50%.  City had a lot of possession but weren’t too dangerous, but what this pairing did was set up the substitution of Tevez, especially after Evans went out.  Mancini brought on the energetic Tevez and was close to turning the match around until the dramatic winner.  It could be asked would the result been different with Tevez from the off.  Maybe.  But if City were down 2-0 and Mancini had brought on Balotelli, then based on his performance, the Citizen would have not even got back into the game.

Did United deserve to win?  Conflicted.  Draw probably would have been the fair result, maybe even a City win.  Looking back at the season thus far: a gift at Liverpool, a steal at Chelsea, and a taut encounter at City with a fortunate deflection.  Is this the steel of champions or the luck of paper tiger?  In the season of the weird, we won’t know until May.

Doubt if I will read a fairer report of the game than Suffering Bruin’s post on Bitter and Blue.  He acknowledged that Young’s goal should have stood; he castigated the fan who threw the coin at Rio; he also acknowledged that if Tevez had started and Kompany was on the field , things might have gone differently; finally he wanted viewers to appreciate the fact that Tevez could have gone down when Evra was pressuring him, but did not.

Over at Red Rants, Daniele compared RvP’s impact to that of Cantona, as the Dutchman saved United (again) after a hard fought performance at the Eithad.  He correctly pointed out that Sir Alex played with more purpose (read: attack) than last spring’s away fixture, which saw United pack the midfield, slump to defeat and eventually concede the title.  Reading the report I was reminded that Young set up the first goal so have to give him so credit but still ready to drive him away from Manchester.

Finally Zonal Marking saw United sit back and counter and the Reds executed the approach to full effect.  Likening the game to the Chelsea match a couple of weeks ago, Rooney would drop into the midfield so that the center mids wouldn’t be overloaded.  Once winning the ball, the Red Devils were very direct, which caused the two goals.  Tevez’s introduction changed the game as the center backs chased Tevez and Aguero around with Carrick and Cleverly being passed around, letting the Citizens run at United, never a good thing.  In the end, poor set piece defending created by the substitutions created a frantic ending, with United securing the points.

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Following the Manchester Derby, Mid Michigan United held a FIFA 13 Tournament, a combination of fun, one year birthday of the group, and a fundraiser for Ele’s Place.  I had never played the game on the Xbox or the Playstation so didn’t rate my chances.  Playing as Manchester United, I held my own against my opponent, who used Valencia.  My lack of offense and defensive organization was eventually punished as I lost 1-0 to eventual champion Cody, a 20 year old college student at MSU.  He won the tournament in the final against a seven year old.  Yes seven.  All of the 30 somethings fell to the wayside and the younger generations triumphed, but a great time for a great cause.

Finally, after watching the Barcelona match, I played an indoor game.  Down 5-2 at half, we roared back to win 8-6.  I chipped in with a goal but that was about it.  I am really surprised that my off season workout of drinking beer and watching soccer is not paying dividends.  Ugh.  Time to get back at it.

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Articles and Pods

Due to a #FF from Scott the Red, I found this post at Man Utd Tactics about the changing personnel and formations from the first Premier League winning side until now.  Sir Alex won his first title using a 4-4-2 with wingers and high/low forwards.  From there he moved to a narrow 4-2-3-1 culminating in the 2002/03 Premier League winning side.  Since then he has moved oscillated between the 4-4-2 and 4-3-2-1 win depending on Rooney’s position (and fitness and mindset) and the central midfield pairings available.  This season Sir Alex has even tried a 4-3-3, which makes sense since he has so many attacking players.  Of course this only works with Welbeck and Hernandez in advanced positions.  They simply cannot play on the wings due to a lack of technical ability and defensive cover.  Seems as if the gaffer is adding this formation to his repertoire for games in which United are favored.  Long term, he needs to find a center midfield general and shore up the center of the defense.  As the author states:

The history of United’s changing tactical approach since Keane left the club can be summed up as an attempt to overcome the loss of Roy Keane with an interlude where the tactical approach was completely changed to exploit the brilliance of Ronaldo.

Future success will be determined by strengthened the middle.  If this continues to go unaddressed, no number of world class strikers will be able to save the Red Devils.

Last week marked one year since the death of Brazilian star Socrates.  Fellow MMMSL Over 30 competitor tweeted out his post from last year in remembrance.  To be honest, my only knowledge of the player is from occasional references from Tim Vickery on World Football Phone In, but Peter’s post and video from YouTube were a nice introduction to the player.

A week after the trial balloon of a 64 team Champions League was floated, Gabriele Marcotti laid out a revision of the current system.  Basically the two best first place teams would move on right to the quarterfinals, while he proposed a play-in system for the four best third place teams against four worst second placed teams.  My first instinct is no.  Seems very NFL-ish to me.  European soccer is foreign to Americans because of its straightforward nature.  Normal numbers (16, 8, 4, 2), home and away, move on.  (Away goals is a little confusing.)  Plus why should third placed teams have any second chances?  They already drop into the Europa League. (I’m assuming Gabriele’s plan would eliminate that option).  Anyway, keep it as it is.  Yes there are dead rubbers on Matchday 6, but that there was also the drama of Celtic and Chelsea.

Chris Bevan profiled American Oguchi Onyewu for the BBC.  Currently on loan from Sporting, he has landed on a Malaga team defying expectations after a summer of confusion and uncertainty.  Winners of their Champions League Group and currently fifth in La Liga, Los Boquerones have generated excitement both home and abroad.  Gooch has made six appearances for Malaga thus far.  At 30, there is some question whether he is part of Klinsmann’s plans for World Cup Qualification.  His strong, physical presence will be needed, but is fully healthy?  That’s my question.

Speaking of UEFA, word came down that the association plans to hold the 2020 European Championships all over Europe.  Debates regarding the format both make compelling cases: a single or joint venture incorporates visiting fans and the hosts while the new arrangement will allow countries in general and selected cities in particular a chance to participate in this great competition.  I’m open minded at this point.  Strike that.  I don’t really care because with the expansion to 24 teams from 16, it doesn’t really matter at this point.  This is a money grab as most things are.  So UEFA, do what you’re going to do.

Finally, A recent podcast I’ve found is The Big Questions, hosted by Aaron Stollar.  Part of the North American Soccer Network, Aaron looks at issues beyond who won, who lost and news of the day.  On Episode 10, he had Alexi Lalas and Leander Schaerlaeckens on to speculate about what the game of soccer will look like in 50 years.  They examined the fight between international football and club soccer; the speed of the game; the future of US soccer and the possibility of robots.

Exploring the next 20,30, 50 years of American soccer, a possible North American league was discussed.  Hate this.  Travel is the biggest consideration.  Could you imagine Seattle away to Mexico City (2800+ miles)?  The panel also touched on the changing demographics in this country and how that will affect the USMNT.  Finally, time was spent on the structure of MLS, with promotion and relegation not really a possibility due to the financial investment of the owners. Great insights and opinions.  Definitely worth the listen.

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Old Futbol Buffet–Couch Potato Edition

Saturday was a beautiful autumn day in Lansing, with citizens out and about shopping, enjoying the weather and tailgating for the big MSU/OSU football game.  How did I enjoy the day?  Sat inside a home or bar and watched over eight hours of footy.  The day began with the 7:45am Arsenal v Chelsea and ended with the 4pm Sevilla v FC Barcelona match.

Arsenal 1  Chelsea 2

Arsene Wenger probably did not sleep Saturday night.  The Gunners are the most eye catching team in the Premier League at the moment, yet the results are not following.  The hosts dominated the European Champions but were sucker punched twice and got nothing from the match.

The first Chelsea goal came out of nothing as Arsenal shambolically defended a free kick.  The Ox, on for the injured Diaby, left David Luiz open.  The Brazilian missed the header but Torres was able to volley home as Koscielny got twisted around.

The Gunners struggled without Diaby initially but eventually found their attacking strategy, which was to get into wide areas.  Eventually the alien known as Gervinho made up for last week’s debacle with a fantastic finish.  Halftime came with matters all square and Arsenal having every chance of winning.

They kept pressing after the interval but were wasteful in front of goal.  Arteta did a solid job of winning the ball back, but he was slightly culpable for Chelsea’s second goal. He was slow to react after losing the ball and put Vermaelen in trouble.  The resulting set piece was floated in by Mata and the bending ball was not dealt with. Then AFC put on their subs but these changes unbalanced the team, as the Ox ran around all over and Theo was marginal.  Giraud should have equalized towards the end but his effort hit the side netting.

Chelsea put in a veteran performance and the Gunners did everything but convert their chances. The Blues probably only had a handful of chances, scored two and Torres, who was meh, made a hash of a break away.  The back line for CFC was solid and Cech made two great saves.  As for Arsenal, Cazorla was decent but missed two chances outside the box.  Jenkinson was fantastic, showing real drive and determination at right back.  Still waiting for more from Podolski though.

The Arseblogger tried to keep things in perspective after the Chelsea game, noting that Arsenal were superior for most of the match but failed to take their chances and made mistakes at the defensive end.  Fair comment and I think the Gunners are a top four side, with one caveat—can they do it against the smaller clubs?  When they play Wigan and Stoke and Reading can they unlock packed defenses and maintain concentration for the one or two moments they are under pressure?  If the Gunners can, then they will be right there.  If not, then a fourth place (or lower) awaits them.

Zonal Marking was not impressed by this clash of London teams (although he was impressed with Oscar), focusing his analysis on the each team’s left side and Arsenal’s substitutions and shape after going down 2-1.  What I saw as Arsenal unbalanced after Diaby’s exit, ZM explained as a move to width as Ramsey moved inside and the OX, naturally a wide player, played in the right hand channel.   As for the Gunners finish to the game, their lack of shape (ie almost no linked midfield) allowed Chelsea to maintain possession and kill off the game rather than keep it the high tempo which kicked in after the Blues’ second goal.

Fulham 1  Manchester City 2

The Cottagers got off to a great start as Mark Halsey, the villain of last week’s Liverpool/Manchester United match, awarded a very soft penalty.  Petric converted and for 85’ minutes, it looked as if Fulham would hang on for a point.  But alas, the Citizens overwhelming talent won the day.

Kun Aguero canceled out the opening goal just before halftime and then Mancini threw on attacker after attacker in search of the winner.  Eventually it was Dzeko who won the points scoring almost immediately after his introduction with minutes remaining.

Big result for City given the outcomes of the day.  Unfortunately for Fulham, who tried to hold into the second half, Riise’s poor clearance created the half chance for Dzeko. David Silva was head and shoulders the best player on the field, gliding past defenders, creating chances and pulling the strings.  Special mention must be made of Brian Ruiz who did everything he could for the hosts.

I must have been watching a different game than Kristian of Cottagers Confidential.  He felt that Fulham deserved a draw.  True, they defended well and did whatever they could to stop the Citizens but they were hardly dangerous.  Also, he didn’t feel Ruiz did enough, which, considering the circumstances, he did all he could for the cause.  Fulham were surprisingly good for me.  As I told my mate, I wouldn’t have thought that Baird and Sidwell were a Premier League center midfield pairing, but they marshaled the game well.  The team as a whole was well organized and will give lesser teams trouble.

Suffering Bruin jotted down some thoughts after the game for the Bitter and Blue blog.  Can’t agree with him enough about using some sort of video to weed out fouls and resulting penalties like the one on Riise.  Despicable.  He also mentioned the lack of pace for City.  I don’t see it that way.  I see clever, technical players who are able to maintain possession in tight spaces and create chances in other ways (example would playing in Zabaleta in time and time again) rather than mazy or heaving runs from all over the pitch.  City are right behind the chasing pack and now turn their eyes toward Borussia Dortmund.

Manchester United 2  Tottenham Hotspur 3

Much was made of Spurs poor record at Old Trafford so of course United crapped their pants and gave up a 23 year unbeaten run.  The Red Devils first half was utter dreck as their defense was exposed time and time again.  Vertonghen got things up and running, driving right at the United defense and no one picked him up.  His shot ricocheted off Evans and put the visitors up just two minutes in.

Things got worse minutes later as Bale beat Rio for pace and scored the second.  The opening 45 minutes showed a couple of things—Spurs have got real pace that unsettle the best teams; Giggs and Scholes can’t start and or play together at present; every time RvP goes down, the Red Devil Nation holds their collective breath.

The second half produced the usual United fightback, as Nani converted a fine cross from Rooney.  Dempsey immediately replied as Defoe wriggled free, setting up Bale, who unleashed a vicious blast that was only partially saved by Lindegaard and Dempsey tapped in.  Kagawa was able to quickly reduce the margin back to one but that was to the end of the scoring.  A fine effort from Spurs and despite dropping into a defensive shell, they left with all the points, their third league win in a row.

Rooney’s introduction gave the hosts a spark and he was terribly unlucky on his free kick that hit the post.  Kagawa is still positive but doesn’t play towards goal so his impact can be negated.  Scholes still has it but the team must be working around him for to influence the game.  The comeback was inspiring and depressing at the same time.  Southampton required an amazing effort and Liverpool needed the helping hand of the referee.  12 points from six matches and yet this team is nowhere near top form.  Only time will tell if this is the typically slow start and if real problems are on the horizon.

Spooky was thrilled with the result.  His thoughts at Dear Mr. Levy see a team starting to move in the right direction, full of speed and hunger and led by a coach coming into his stride.  I agree with him that Walker struggled and will need to improve defensively in order to shore up the defense, but with the firepower available, performances like the first half could be the norm.

Reading Doron’s comments at the Stretford End 24 hours after the match put things in perspective.  Besides praise for Scholes’ second half, the lack of presence in midfield, which affected the entire first half, and Rooney’s introduction, Doron addressed the fact that Fergie got the line up wrong, simple as that.  He will not make the same mistake next time.  My guess is that he will use a more athletic, high energy team that stretches Spurs as they exposed United in the first half.  He made the changes and almost salvaged something from the match, but the poor start and key moments went against the Reds.  His statement towards the end should be put on the United locker room bulletin board:

Why oh why can’t United start games like they seem to have to start second halves? In every game bar one in the league we’ve had to come from behind which isn’t good enough at all. Can’t the players be motivated from the off or is it more to do with Fergie picking the wrong team to begin with and having to make changes?

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MMMSL Over 30 Playoff Final

CCFC claimed the over 30 playoff title last night in a 4-3 in Double OT thriller over Grand Saints.  Down 2-0 early (Hagan and McNally?), we battled back to 2-1 (Christensen)  before halftime and then the two teams did their best Manchester United/Tottenham impression.  CCFC scored right at the beginning of the second half through James Glenn before Grand Saints responded moments later to make it 3-2 (Drauer?).

Later on Brett earned a penalty, which was converted by Wael Awad to make it 3-3.  There were several chances for both teams to win it in regulation but extra time it would be.  Not much in the first period, but early in the second session, Brett won another penalty.  Will Robinson slotted it home to put CCFC ahead.

We then had to survive an onslaught to run out winners.  Fantastic season for the lads.  12 win and 2 draws in the regular season (Champions) and playoff champions.  Our first double since 2006 that made the post match beers that much more satisfying.

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Articles

Jonathan Wilson commented on Liverpool’s start to the season (the worst since 1902) ahead of the weekend’s fixtures.  Their poor start may be down to two factors—tough fixture list (Arsenal, City and United) and conversion of chances (somewhere in the neighborhood of 6% before Saturday’s match).  On the plus side, while passes attempted remains static, their completion percentage is higher, so Rodgers may be having some sort of effect and the Reds are pleasing to the eye.  Wilson posits that: The good news for Rodgers is that passing, the absolute core of his philosophy, has improved, even given the tough start. The bad news is that individual errors keep undermining the effectiveness of the overall structure.  Maybe the season really did start on Saturday with their 5-2 thumping of Norwich.

Grant Wahl touched a couple of interesting tidbits in his weekly column for Planet Futbol.  Klose’s honesty (he admitted using his hand and got a goal overturned); Stuart Holden’s return to Bolton; Sounders vote of confidence of their GM; and Columbus hosting USMNT games.

Old Futbol Buffet–Being: Screwed

This weekend was filled with football from Spain and England.  Saturday I managed to catch a couple of La Liga games in afternoon, and then Sunday started early with Liverpool hosting Manchester United, which was followed by Manchester City v Arsenal.  This was followed by my Over 30 Semi Final before some beers and pizza and then bed.

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Saturday

Went up to the pub for Real Betis v Espanyol and FC Barcelona v Granada.  Haven’t totally collected my thoughts on those matches yet, but the first match was dire.  Not many chances and rarely held my attention.  The FCB match was fascinating as the Blaugrana could not break down the visitors until El Capitan made the breakthrough minutes from time.

After that I headed to Lansing’s Old Town for the Bluesfest.  While down there I listened to band while watching the first half of the Michigan and Notre Dame game.  No skin in the game and I was ready to throw my beer through the TV as Denard threw pick after pick and put pressure on the Wolverine defense.  Ugh.

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Sunday

Liverpool 1  Manchester United 2

The Reds from Liverpool got hosed.  Even as a fan of the Red Devils, there is no other conclusion from the game.  Halsey had a howler and these things happen.  He missed a trick though.  For Shelvey, if he had gotten a yellow for his challenge on Rafael towards the beginning of the match then gets a yellow (and so does Evans) and then he is off.  As for the penalty, very little contact and Valencia forced the referee to make a decision.

United were not sharp. Maybe it was Liverpool, maybe it was the Champions League virus, maybe it was the personnel.  The defense was in shambles, with players getting tackles wrong and constantly letting Suarez run at them.  In the midfield, Giggs was wasteful in possession and Nani was awful.  Can’t get him on the bus out of town soon enough.  Kagawa was decent in possession but not incisive enough.  There wasn’t a killer ball, a direct punch at the opponent.  Scholes came on the second half to get hold of the ball and pushed Giggs outside for Nani.

LFC were still dangerous after the red and deserved the lead and probably a little more from the match. Glen Johnson owned Rafael and the hosts should have exploited that more. Probably the biggest revelation of the match was the Spaniard Suso.  He was fantastic and an upgrade on Borini.

The Red Devils win was less than satisfying, as they were poor and probably didn’t deserve anything from the match.  Again the question remains:  Will LFC stay with Rodgers?  They played well but the results are not coming.

Doron and Nik focused on Fergie’s lineup for their post at the Stretford End.  The gaffer didn’t get it exactly right and was forced into changes, especially in midfield, but, in their opinion, the back five were solid and proved the manager correct.  Issues remain for United despite the three points, which they are quick to point out.

Ed at The Liverpool Offside remains optimistic despite the loss and increasing injury list for the Reds.  Suso’s performance gave him hope as did Liverpool’s performance before and after the red card.  Unfortunately the club is in the relegation zone after five matches.  A run of results will get them clear, but when does that run start?

Manchester City 1  Arsenal 1

Don’t know what to make of this match, other than Joe Hart is an amazing keeper.  City played well after the midweek disappointment but were missing a gear.  Yaya never got going and Aguero was just a half step off.  In the end, City’s directness compared to Arsenal’s patience made for a nice conflict and a fully rested side might pose more problems for Londoners.

As for the Gunners, I have started a paypal account to buy Gervinho a first touch.  Old joke but never get tired of it.  Several times he got in and just gave it away.  Then at the end, he created some space for himself and put it in row Z.  How good is Cazorla?  This year’s David Silva, we’ll see if he can do it for an entire season.  Jenkinson looked confident and was a presence both attacking and defending on the right side.

The Arseblogger was pleased with the performance, which saw the Gunners go to the home of the Champions and get something from the match.  The teamsheet was quality with a couple of quiet performances from Diaby and Poldolski.  The team was assured in possession (a little too assured for me—shoot the damn ball) and earned a deserved point.

Harkiano at Bitter and Blue still cannot figure out if the Citizens start to the season is solid, sluggish or poor and is looking to the next five matches to make a conclusion.  Again City played well but Silva and Yaya did not have enough of an influence and the strikeforce could not finish off the limited number of chances they had.

Finally, Zonal Marking looked at the 4-2-2-2 of City against the 4-4-1-1 of Arsenal, although to be fair, the formations were fluid and unbalanced times.  He focused on the match-ups around the pitch and each manager’s second half substitutions.

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Podcasts

Uli Hesse joined Anto on Beyond the Pitch to discuss the current storylines in the Bundesliga, including Dortmund’s attempt to win three league titles in a row and Bayern’s signing of Javi Martinez from Athletic Bilbao.  They also touched on the German National Team and their mentality heading into the next competition.  Finally, Uli has written a great piece on the founding of the league at ESPN FC, which I highly recommend.

The panel on the Lovely Left Foot pod gave their thoughts on this summer’s transfers and also commented on the early rounds of games across Europe, while revealing boredom with the current Champions League set up.  Have to say, Match Day One was not short of excitement.

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Other stuff

My Over 30 team, CCFC, reached our tournament final for the third year running.  We destroyed our opponents and now go for the double next Sunday.  Our opponents ground out a win against a team that one my teammates described our version of Chelsea from last year.  Hard to watch and the beers only helped a little.  Sunday we go for glory.

Currently I’m reading Philippe Auclair’s book on Eric Cantona.  Can’t recommend it enough as he tells of Le Roi’s rise through French football to his days at Leeds and United.  Learning a little bit about the history of Ligue Un and the Les Bleus as well.  Good stuff.

Old Futbol Buffet–Champions Again and Again and Again

Once again, for person who prides himself on organization and planning, I got it all horribly wrong.

What a week.  The majority of the week was spent preparing and executing the Annual Franchise Meeting for BIGGBY COFFEE, which is a lot of work and quite exhausting.  So what did I follow it up with?  A weekend of relaxation?  A massage and pedi?  Hell no.  Onwards and upwards.

Friday night I hosted a poker party that went until 2am.  I lost most of my money, as usual, but it was still a great time.  After a couple of hours sleep, cleaned up the mess that was made, then got ready for our latest community event, which entailed setting up hundreds of feet of hose and two ginormous tarps.  Following an afternoon of splashes and laughs, took a deserved nap and then woke up with literally nothing to do.  I went up to Claddagh’s and watched the first half of the United/Fulham game before switching to Real Betis v Rayo Vallecano.

RvP and Kagawa opened their United accounts and the finished product that was lacking against Everton arrived.  Truly dominating 45 minutes and with Rooney out for a month, the future of United could develop before our eyes.

Sunday was supposed to be an epic day of footy.  11am Liverpool/City then walk over for the MSU men against New Hampshire to be followed by my over 30 game, a tension filled clash against old rivals for the league championship.

And then the starting time of church got changed and everything started to unravel.

I missed the double header, which was disappointing on several levels.  I was involved in the planning and the event was the culmination of several months of hard work and could provide the launching off point for Lansing soccer culture.  But what are you going to do.  I did get to see the second half of the Barcelona game.

I finished the day playing in my over 30 game.  The weather was quite hot and after a week of meetings, drinking and stressing, I was not in the best shape.  I had not touched a ball or done any fitness since the previous week’s game so I was not sure what my contribution would be.  Our team started fast but couldn’t capitalize and as our opponents came into the game, the sense of dread began to build.  Halftime arrived with the match scoreless although we two chances on the goal line.

The second half started with us on top but again no goals.  The post was hit, the ball bounced around the goal, shots went wide; everything but in the goal.  Then it happened.  One of our attacks was cleared to the outside, their midfielder bent a ball around our defense, and their forward ran onto it and put it away.  We were down 1-0 and a loss would see the title go to the Arsenal.

We ramped up the pressure and again no dice.  Finally, one of our corner kicks was cleared to the top of the area and our center back smashed a shot through the crowd and into the back of the net.  1-1, a draw was good enough due to our superior goal differential.  So back to back league titles and on to the playoffs.

Now it’s back to work.  With Labor Day ahead of us and no plans, should have time to watch plenty of games, which will be nice.

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Other Stuff

Off the Ball had Philippe AuClair on last Thursday (8/23) to discuss PSG, where the recipe is not going quite to plan.

Roger Bennett’s latest column for Soccernet echoed the dilemma I was faced with this summer—the nature of the soccer/football fan.  Are true fans the ones at the ground week in or week out or can fandom reach across an ocean due to the wonders of the internet and cable/satellite television?

Old Futbol Buffet–Another Sunday, Another Victory

Sunday was a big game in our over 30 league, a confrontation of the two most dominant teams of the last four years.  This game usually sets the tone for the return game later in the season before the winner take all tournament final in the fall.

Our build up to this game was not, how shall I say, challenging.  We played some of the worst teams in the league and our record was 3-0-0 GF 33 GA 0.  But from the opening whistle we came out firing and never let up, roaring to 4-0 halftime lead before running out 6-1 winners.

We must guard against complacency in a couple of weeks, but, should we win that, we will be in good shape for another league title.  Plus we take another crack at the State Cup after July 4th, as we go for our first ever treble (League, League Tournament and State Cup).

Afterwards we went to the bar to celebrate and were able to catch the last half an hour of US v Canada.  Not pretty.  The play, the uniforms, the result.  I’m sure the US will take care of Antigua on Friday but the Guatemala game could be a little tricky.  Klinsmann’s troops will progress to final round, but I still want to see the day when the US takes these teams out to the shed. Mexico beat Brazil by the way.  Ummm . . . I think the Yanks are officially the little brother on the continent.

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Articles

Roger Bennett of Soccernet and Men in Blazers examined the new direction for Liverpool Football Club, from manager to kit to finances.  The hiring of Rodgers will hopefully build a successful pleasing to the eye, but it is off the field where the biggest strides may be made. Rog’s synopsis of the Warrior kit deal was eye opening and we’ll see if this relatively small company can bridge the style gap.  Also, partnerships are in the works to increase LFC’s brand presence and revenue streams as the clubs looks to catch up with the big boys.  On and off the field, the Reds are poised to get back to the top.

Jeremiah Oshan posted on SB Nation about MLS attendance thus far this season.  Not only is the league growing for the eighth straight year, but could break last year’s record-setting attendance. Montreal is helping and Columbus ,Houston and San Jose are experiencing big increases in attendance.  Josiah’s research shows that the current average attendance of 18,542 compares nicely with Argentina’s Primera Division (19,843), France’s Ligue 1 (19,742), and Netherlands Eredivisie (19,538).  I will be a paying customer at two games in just under a month, so I’m doing my part.

Mark Zeigler looked at the curious case of Cal FC for UT San Diego.  Eric Wynalda’s team are in the Fourth Round of the US Open Cup after a long road that included winning

a seven-team qualifying event for amateur teams, then took out the reigning Premier Development League champions 3-1, the runner-up from the USL Pro league 4-0 and – last week – the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer 1-0, all on the road.

I have heard Wynalda speak several times on the state of US Soccer and how his views do not match with the USSF establishment.  Zeigler echoes this: CalFC was born, rooted in rejection, motivated by marginalization, with the specific intent of scorching a swath of carnage across the American soccer landscape.  How far can they go?  Who knows?  They have the Sounders in Seattle tonight and then go from there.

Old Futbol Buffet–Two Late Goals

So I took a little break from blogging over the past two weeks, although I didn’t take a break from watching games and listening to podcasts. I caught an amazing game between FCB and Valencia; watched United struggle away to Stoke, where Crouch scored with his head (collector’s item); and struggled through Juventus’ 1-1 draw at Catania. Elia made his debut and looked far from the dynamic player that is in the orange of Holland.

I lost my podcast notes from the previous week, but basically if you are not subscribed to Guardian’s Football Weekly, Beyond the Pitch and the World Football Phone-In, you are missing out.

Xavier Rivoire was asked about the current French Revolution at Newcastle on the Off the Ball show on Monday 9/26. He says the original Revolution was in the mid-90’s, led by the fabulous David Ginola, which were great times.

The panel of the Manchester United Redcast was brought back to Earth after draws against Benfica and Stoke City. They wondered if the Red Devils were too dependent on Rooney. Maybe, maybe not, but they can’t maintain this pace without Wazza and Chicharito. During the show Robert Meakin told why Darren Fletcher is valuable and his summary was spot on.

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Looking at the slate of games for Saturday was a little underwhelming, especially when compared to Sunday’s matches—North London Derby, Atletico Madrid v Sevilla, Juventus v AC Milan and PSG against Lyon. My grand plan was to wake up, clean the house and go to a local establishment for a triple header before my Over 30 Final under the lights.

Well that didn’t happen. We saw some friends we hadn’t seen in a while. A couple of Magic Hats and Gin & Tonics later, we ended up spending the night. We spent a leisurely morning with them before heading home. Our slow start to the day took out Spurs v Arsenal and Atletico v Sevilla. I got my housework done and got my nap in, then headed out for the Serie A clash.

First off was to grab a quick salad and head to work to watch the game online. The Drive Thru line around McDonald’s was wrapped around the building, so I made a quick decision to go inside and watch the game. The internet connection was absolutely horrible and I saw very little. At halftime, I packed up and headed to work.

Juventus were much sharper than my previous viewings, with Vucinic going close several times in the first half. Milan didn’t do much in the opening period (that I could see), but started the second half well and asked a couple of questions. The game was much more balanced in the second period with Milan frustrated but content with a share of the points.

Vidal really deserved a goal and his laser just went wide with 15 minutes to go. Vucinic as well moments later, but the match was crawling towards a draw, with both teams very tired. Then magic happened. Vucinic and Marchisio played a one two that didn’t quite come off, but the clearance went of Marchisio’s foot and into the back of the net. 1-0 Juventus on 87 minutes and the stadium went wild. They closed out the match, with Marchisio grabbing a second, and gained three vital points over their rivals.

Riding the wave of adrenaline, I went to my match. I had been sick all week and knew my fitness would suffer, but I planned to give it a go and do what I could for the team. We were down a couple of key players but felt confident that we could win the game, which would give us a league and cup double.

We started horribly, conceding possession, defending shambolically and a lacking a cutting edge up top, yet the game remained scoreless until just before the break. Our fastest forward darted through their back line and went in on goal. His shot was saved but his forward partner gathered the loose ball, settled himself and buried it. One nothing to the Evil Empire at the interval.

In the second half our opponents took it us and finally scored early in the second half. We had a bad match up and their top scorer got in on goal. After that, the game went back and forth. We had a couple of chances on free kicks, but nothing came of it. The over time periods were pretty poor, with both teams being pretty tired and the quality of play wasn’t that great. I came out after the first overtime period with nothing left in the gas tank. We had plenty of subs, so I conceded my spot to someone who could actually run.

In the second overtime period, we had a point blank header saved on the goal line. The ensuing clearance was hoofed forward and our defender lost it in the lights. An opposing forward ran onto it, beat a recovering defender and slotted it home. Four minutes to go and we had nothing left. The seconds ticked away and so did our chance at more silverware.

We had a good season, finishing as League Champs with 13 wins and 1 draw, but it was the two cup losses that we focused on. All in all, we won 17 of our 20 matches, yet we found this campaign unsatisfying because we could have won more. Always next season, right?

MatchDay Memory–22 Old Men Running Around in Funny Shorts

Pete Davies’ book, Twenty-Two Foreigners in Funny Shorts: The Intelligent Fan’s Guide to Soccer and World Cup ’94, is an enlightening journey through soccer’s history.  He blends tales of lower league English football with comments on European leagues at the time (early 90’s) as well as summaries of World Cups leading up to USA ’94.

I borrowed the title to talk about the Over 30 Men’s team in play on.  Our team name is CCFC, which means or has meant several different things over the years. As I understand it, the original name was Coma Construction Football Club, with one of the founding members getting a sponsorship through said company.  When he left, it morphed into Capital City Football Club as we are located in Lansing, MI.  But the one name that all of our opponents agree on is Cheaters Cheaters Fuckin Cheaters, due to decisions, circumstances and incidents from seasons gone by, which we wear as a badge of honor as we collect trophy after trophy.

After several years of league dominance, we decided to try a new competition, the Gerhard Mengel State Cup, which is a traditional cup tournament, usually with teams from the Metro Detroit area.  We had played some of the teams a couple of years ago in the now defunct Tournament of Champions, which we won in 2006.  The draw was released and we went to Redford and played Metro Rangers.  When we pulled up to the field, there were no nets or corner flags; then we went out to warm up and the pitch was hard as a rock, covered with grass (read straw), and even at 10:30 AM it was already 80+ degrees.  Add to all of this no subs, and we knew we were in for a long morning.  We came out strong and got on top, leading at halftime 3-1, but our opponents scored right after the second half kickoff and with a slender lead, we continued to look for the fourth goal, which finally came and we were able to relax.

The semi-final pitted up against a familiar opponents–Drita SC.  Several years ago in a tightly contested match, heated words were exchanged and matters nearly came to blows.  The following year, Drita actually got in a fight at the tournament, which we observed from an adjoining field.  Looking at the team, they should be a walkover: old, carrying extra weight, not particularly athletic.  But try getting the ball off of them.  An early goal from one of our new players settled our nerves, but we couldn’t find the second as the momentum switched to the visitors.  They continued to knock on the door but we kept it shut, finally winning a penalty that knocked the stuffing out them, and then we added a third to complete the victory.

In the final we met Carpathia Kickers, a sports club in Detroit, MI.  The venue was Ultimate Soccer Arena, a complex with two full field indoor fields and a third smaller field, complete with bar, restaurant, and stadium seating.  We had a full roster (18) but were missing a couple of key players.  The match kicked off with the Kickers knocking it around very comfortably, causing us to chase for most of the opening 15 minutes.  This period resulted in two quick goals for them, which put us behind for the first time in almost a year.  Finally we settled down and created a few half chances but went into half time with a lot of work to do.  As soon as the referee started the second period we were all over them, putting pressure on the ball, possessing a little better and taking control of the game.  Try as we might we couldn’t score and were actually closer to letting in the third instead of scoring our first.  Our opponent’s keeper, who looked mid-50’s, made several great saves before we finally scored with about 15 minutes to go.  We continued to pile on the pressure, especially from set pieces, but the equalizer was not to be.  With only seconds remaining, we had a corner kick and threw everyone in the box, including our goalkeeper.  The ball was cleared by the Kickers right down the middle and their player walked the ball almost 75 yards into the net, killing off the game at 3-1.

Gutted, we were awarded a Finalist (not Runner-Up) trophy and medals for each player.  The better team had won but we gave a tremendous effort to get back in the match.  Now it’s back to league play where we hope to win the league and post season tournament.  Doesn’t matter how young or old you get, winning is still great and losing still sucks.

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