Posts Tagged ‘ United States ’

Bad Hair, a Historic Run, Crazy Fans and Bad Refereeing (World Cup 2002) Part 1

698px-2002_fifa_world_cup_logo-svg

Four years on from France 98 and I was ready. Having been completely consumed by Euro 2000, I looked forward to the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. With the help of the internet I was able to learn more and more about the teams and stay up to date on the most recent results.

The tournament started earlier than usual due to the rainy season and, due to the time difference, games kicked off in the middle of the night here in the United States. The United States had qualified (including the first Dos a Cero in Columbus) and opened up against a Portugal team led by their Golden Generation (Vitor Baia, Sérgio Conceição, Jorge Costa, Rui Costa, Fernando Couto, Luís Figo, Nuno Gomes, João Pinto, etc.), who had made the semis of Euro 2000.

us-wc-2002

The night before the game I had a strange dream, a dream in which the United States thrashed the Portuguese in a stunning upset. Quite the premonition but complicated by the fact that I had slept through the match, missing the Stars and Stripes stunning achievement. I awoke in the early hours and drove to a friend’s house where local coaches were assembling to watch the match, and, as the memorable first half unfolded, my dream was becoming a reality. Portugal fought back and nearly saved a point, but the US held on and set the stage for a historic tournament, in which they reached the Quarter Finals.

This tournament was memorable for several reasons. Recently wed, my wife and I had rented the upstairs of a house and were starting our lives together. Our house didn’t have air conditioning, so I was sweating in the heat even at 2am. I was able to get out of the house to watch the morning matches, as a local bar hosted watch parties for the US games. It was my first taste of communal watching with US fans and not just ex-pats watching EPL and FA Cup games.

moreno frings

Referees were in the news due to several key decisions: Italy falling to South Korea, partly due to some dubious decisions; Spain also losing to the hosts and some even more questionable calls (ball not going out of bounds, phantom whistles, etc); and the no handball call in the Germany/USA game. Frings  stopped the shot on the line and nothing was called.

Average goals continued to decline for the third straight competition but there were some amazing strikes (apologies for the awful music). Uruguay produced two great goals, one by Darío Rodríguez  against Denmark and another by Forlan against Senegal. Edmilson hit a half bike against Costa Rica, there was Torrado’s laser against Ecuador, and Japan’s interplay for the single goal against Russia was fantastic. Dynamic free kicks were also on show with Roberto Carlos against China, Raouf Bouzaiene for Tunisia against Belgium, and Johan Walem for Belgium against Russia. The champions produced two wonderful goals, with Ronaldinho torturing Cole before laying off for Rivaldo and their second against Germany in the Final.

YOKOHAMA - JUNE 30: Ronaldo of Brazil lines up before the World Cup Final match between Germany and Brazil played at the International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan on June 30, 2002. Brazil won the match 2-0. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

2002-world-cup-korea-fans

Defending champions France were absolutely abysmal, going home with only one point and no goals scored. Brazil made the Final but not before Rivaldo had a shameful dive against Turkey in the Group Stage. Unfortunately Ronaldo unleashed a horrible haircut on the world as well. But one of the lasting memories of the tournament was the noise of the South Korean fans. Watching them support one of the surprise packages of the tournament was a joy. This summary from the Guardian team really captures the highlights (and lowlights) of the tournament.

World Cup 2002 Film

World Cup 2002 Final highlights

Summer of Soccer–Copa America Centenario

As I looked ahead to the summer of 2016, I just couldn’t believe all the soccer would be on. The addition of the Copa America Centenario and the expanded Euros created a month of wall to wall coverage that surpassed even the World Cup in terms of soccer coverage.

——

I’ll admit that the Copa America does not make my radar. I caught bits and pieces last year, even watching the Final in the locker room at Silverbacks Park after a Reserves game. This year I was looking forward to possibly going to a game in Orlando but was defeated by time and money (and to be honest, matchups). I made it a point to watch all of the US games as this would be a good test of how the Stars and Stripes matched up against superior South American competition.

US v Colombia

I chose to not go to the AO Atlanta event at Red Brick and played homefield advantage at Rose and Crown. Met some Terminus Legion members there and had a good time despite the result. The game was over early and the fear of not making it out of the group started creeping to the surface.

Mexico v Uruguay

Crazy game with the ten men of Uruguay taking it to El Tri. In the end, Rafa Marquez put Mexico in front and a third was added to put a period on an entertaining match.

US v Costa Rica

Headed to Rose and Crown again. The US got an early goal and put the match away before halftime. Jurgen stayed with the same line up and the team pressured Los Ticos, creating lots of chances.

US v Paraguay

After watching England v Russia at the Righteous Room I went to Fado Buckhead for the AO ATL event. Getting there early allowed me to get in the door, with Terminus Legion setting up on the roof right next to a reserved area for an engagement party. Cannot imagine what they thought as fans kept filling the rooftop and going mental with the US goal and Yedlin red card.

Brazil v Peru

After playing with the TL team in the Sons of Pitches Supporters League, I made the short trip to Bottle Rocket in Castleberry Hill. Watched the first half with the Castleberry Hill Athletic Club and then headed home for the second half. After missing the dramatic events of the previous nightcaps (Chile’s late late PK and Costa Rica stunning Colombia) I watched all the way to the end. My reward: seeing Brazil getting absolutely screwed.

US v Ecuador

With kickoff at 9pm and me being old, I stayed close to home at Rose and Crown. Ran into some of the ATL Evertonians, met up with frequent pod guest JR Francis and met some new soccer fans. The US played well and with the second goal I relaxed. Bad idea as Ecuador pulled one back and made things nervous at the end.

Mexico v Chile

When I showed up at the bar after watching a Georgia Revolution game, it was 2-0 to Chile at halftime. Over the next 45 minutes I didn’t know if it was fatigue or alcohol or something else influencing my vision as El Tri were eviscerated.

US v Argentina

After a rough weekend I stayed home and watched the game on the couch. This also allowed me to engage the twittersphere. Hot takes ahoy! I was upset that we lost (though not surprised) but was really pissed at the lineup choices. Yes Jurgen was forced to make changes but I would have not made those changes. The game was over early and just had to be endured.

Argentina v Chile

I headed to Fado Buckhead to meet up with the Terminus Legion gang to watch the Copa America Centenario Final. I was surprised to find the bar full of fans of each team and, as the teams walked out for the national anthems, tension was in the air. The game was standard South American fare—fouling, whining, handbags and occasional skill. The referee was front and center with several questionable decisions. I spent most of the match talking with fans because the conversation was much better than the game. Once normal time was over I left, knowing that I could get home before penalties. Sure enough, kicks from the spot were required and when Messi missed his, I thought only Romero can save him now. No chance. While Messi will end his career without an international trophy, no one can deny his greatness.

——

This was a special tournament, a celebration of soccer in the Americas. A few memorable moments dotted the event but don’t see this edition living long in the memory. US Soccer is posturing to reshape international events in this hemisphere and I hope their efforts do not come to fruition. Each region needs a quadrennial competition to showcase the teams and bring the festival to different parts of the continents. But money talks so see everyone in 2019 or 2020.

——

Check out more posts on my trips, research and memories on the MatchDay Memories page.

Soccer in a Football World

41g7SvKIhzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Soccer in a Football World, David Wangerin

The development of a football based game in America created outlets for rugby, soccer and American football.  Eventually the gridiron version of the game dominated the sporting landscape but the flame of soccer was never extinguished.  Wangerin discussed the regional leagues that have always been present and the several attempts at a national league that have come and gone.  The MLS is the current incarnation and Wangerin explored the issues that face the league—soccer specific stadia, procuring talent and the financial underpinnings of the league.  Throughout the book he also weaved in the history of the National Team, which has seen a move from a totally amateur administration to an organization that created Project 2010 as a way of raising the United States’ international standard.

The book is as expansive as the country and is a fine primer of how the game as grown in the United States over the twentieth century and the matters that it will confront in the future.

US Kits 2016

My original plan for this post was to scream and yell about the new US kits. I yelled about the blue shirts with icing and the white Women’s World Cup shirts with volt socks, and even created a petition on change.org. But let’s face it. Either you like them or you don’t. It’s a matter of taste. Are they the worst shirts ever made? No, but we can do so much better. (Need proof? Check out my side project USMNT Kits for some beauties and real eye sores.) Here are my quick thoughts on the most recent version:

Dorothy - Inspiration usa-2016-copa-america-home-kit-4

There’s a lot going on here with the reversed out Dorothy shirt, with the new crest and the new template from Nike. White home shirt makes sense but the sleeves look terrible up close, yet not so bad from far away. Will be interesting to see how this translates on TV. Still upset that Nike can’t use the colors of the flag especially when it’s right there on the new crest.

download usa-2016-copa-america-away-kit-1

Every sporting brand has to have a black jersey. (The Brazil black strip was sick even though it never saw the light of day.) The US finally got on the bus and . . . missed. Sleeves of different colors has created the nickname of the cop car on the interwebs. The appearance of a training shirt takes away from the importance of the strip, and in the end, my takeaway is that this looks like the uniform for an upcoming Hollywood comic inspired superhero team blockbuster. And that’s not a good thing.

I’ve been very unhappy with the Nike kits but have come to several realizations. 1. I’m not completely powerless but really all I can do is whine on social media and not buy the shirts. Haven’t bought one since the Centennial. 2. Nike is in the business of making money and not making aesthetically pleasing gear (looking right at the Oregon Ducks). Plus it’s been proven that people like outlandish and crazy gear rather than the conservative, straightforward goods I would purchase. 3. And, this may be the most important, Nike is paying US Soccer a shit ton of money. So while we can say fire Nike and fire whoever is saying yes at US Soccer, the Federation can only say no so much or lose revenue. (However, someone else would step up.)

What I really want to focus on is the look of US jerseys. Consider the iconic national teams around the world. Brazil in their yellow, Holland in their orange, Argentina in the sky blue and white vertical stripes, Mexico in the green. Fans know what they are going to get. Yes there will be slight changes based on the design or fashion or the template but the home shirt does not vary. Chances are taken with the away strip (Mexico black shirt, Spanish black and volt, Brazil’s green shirt are examples).

American flag background - shot and lit in studio

So what should the US look be? Not the federation crest because that’s been a hot mess for a long time. Let’s start with the effin flag. Rich red, white and navy blue for colors, stars and stripes as design elements. Conrad Burry modified the 2012 strips and came up with a nice set.

CdxeYkdUAAAZQ0s

It could be argued that the Waldo shirt should be our home shirt but I would remind readers that the shirts of many CONCACAF teams are red and white—Costa Rica, Panama, Canada and Costa Rica come to mind. That leaves the navy blue. While there are many teams that wear royal blue, the navy blue would be our standard strip at home and the visitors can wear their white get up in America. No one that I can think of owns navy blue as a home shirt. Several teams use it as a change strip, so think about it.

juventus-95-away-ls-cl juventus-12-away_2_1

As for the flag elements, we’ve seen two variations of the stripes (World Cup 94 and 2012), but what about the stars? Juventus have used a star design several times over the last 20 years to varying effect. Put that in the idea blender and see what comes out.

In the end, my position is that the US kits should be based on the colors and elements of the United States flag, not whatever the manufacturer is promoting/throwing against the wall. The sooner US Soccer starts on this the better. American kit design has been wandering through the desert for longer than 40 years and it’s time to find the Promised Land.

——
Read the rest of my Strip Club posts here and follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

Atlanta Supporter Groups

rmcf-atl

11351317_10152966206105017_4504504581550004654_n

I’ve been in Atlanta for over two years and have run into tons of passionate and knowledgeable soccer fans, many of whom have formed official and unofficial supporters groups for their favorite clubs. I started jotting down a list and was surprised how many teams were represented throughout the city. Below is what I’ve come up with so far. If I missed a group or got something wrong, let me know.

mufc-atl

12027496_1648143088775041_9132854118078162159_n

 

English Premier League
Team Nickname Twitter Facebook Bar
Arsenal (Official) ATL Gooners @ATLGooners Facebook Brewhouse
Chelsea (Official) ATL Blues @ATLBlues  Facebook Hudson FC
Chelsea GA Blues @georgia_blues Facebook Ri Ra
Crystal Palace Crystal Palace ATL @CPFC_ATL Facebook Fado Buckhead
Everton (Official) ATL Evertonians @atlevertonians Facebook Fado Buckhead
Leicester Atlanta Foxes @LCFCAtlanta Facebook Brewhouse
Liverpool (Official) LFC ATL @LFCAtlanta Facebook Meehans Downtown
Manchester City ATL Cityzens @MCATLCityzens Facebook Brewhouse
Man Utd (Official) ATL MUFC @atlmufc Facebook Fado Midtown
Man Utd (Unofficial) MUFC ATL (Brew Crew) @ManUtdScAtl  Facebook Brewhouse
Swansea Atlanta Jacks @Atlanta_Jacks Facebook Meehans Vinings
Tottenham (Official) ATL Spurs @ATLSpurs Facebook Meehans Atlantic Station
West Ham (Official) Atlanta Ironworks @IronsAtlanta Facebook Brewhouse
Europe
Team Nickname Twitter Facebook Bar
Bayern Munich (Official) Mia San ATL @miasanatl  Facebook Der Biergarten
FC Barcelona FC Barcelona Atlanta @barca_atl Facebook Fado Buckhead
Real Madrid (Official) Madridistas ATL @MadridistasATL Facebook Olde Blind Dog
South America
Supporter Group Twitter Facebook Bar
Corinthians Fiel Torcida USA @FielAtlanta Facebook
Atlanta United FC
Supporter Group Twitter Website
Footie Mob @FootieMob Website Midway
Resurgence @ResurgenceATL Website Brewhouse
Terminus Legion @TerminusLegion Website Fado Buckhead
Faction @TheFactionATL Website Fado Midtown
Atlanta Silverbacks
Supporter Group Twitter Facebook Bar
Westside 109 ATLWestside109 Facebook
Atlanta Ultras AtlantaUltras Facebook
Georgia Revolution
Supporter Group Twitter Facebook Bar
The Uprising @TheUprisingRevs Facebook
United States National Teams
Supporter Group Twitter Facebook Bar
America Outlaws ATL @atlantaoutlaws Facebook RiRa

mia-san-atl

Copa Libation–United States v Colombia

us col

Drink:    Pints of Newcastle

Snack:   Pizza

Craven Cottage was such a great venue.  The fans, which appeared to be mostly Colombia supporters, were right on top of the action. Watching the teams walk onto the field, I was struck by how tall Jon Brooks was.  He must have been a full head taller than most of his teammates.  And there was an Interesting difference to how the teams approached their national anthems.  The Colombian players sang theirs with gusto while most of the American players went into gameface mode and just stood there.  Social media was abuzz about Mix’s Mustache but I’m going to stay out of that.

Having watched the Scotland/Ireland game live, I already knew the result of this match but wanted to see how the US played.  Klinsmann sent the team out in a 4-1-3-2 with Jones again as CB and Diskerud part of line of three with Fabian Johnson and Bedoya while heralded prospect Rubio Rubin led the line with Jozy.

The Sunderland striker opened the scoring after Rubin undercut a Colombian defender, who then handled the ball.  It was a soft penalty, and Jozy somehow converted it as he went down the middle and goalkeeper really should have saved it.  Jones’ passing out the back was a mixed bag as was Jozy’s hold up play, and Rubin had a chance to score a goal on his debut with 10 minutes left in the half but didn’t’ get good contact.  What really concerned me was the disorganization of the midfield and defense.  Colombia is a very dynamic side, with lots of quick, varied and dynamic movement, but too many times the US either had 5 or 6 across the back, which set up long range shots or delicate, dangerous passes, or there were  not enough defenders to protect Guzan, which allowed the Colombians to use their pace and trickery.

For the Colombians, all eyes were on James Rodriguez, who captained the side on the night.  ESPN had him as left mid on their lineup but he seemed to play on the right of a front three, then floated out to the left and then central.  He was everywhere and his free kick 20 minutes in was wicked and only narrowly missed. Carlos Bacca, who didn’t feature at the WC because of injury, got the start, and caused the US problems.  He should have equalized after 32 minutes but hit the outside of the post.  The Colombian rearguard stayed at home and were really physical, taking no prisoners against America’s mix of strength and speed up top.

The half ended with the South Americans on top and they should have had a penalty as Jones got his arm in the way of a Colombian shot just before the break.  After the interval the US could not get a handle on the game as Los Cafeteros pressed the Stars and Stripes all over the field.  The Stars and Stripes did not deal well with this.  However, when they composed themselves and passed their way through, it was something to behold.

Klinsmann went to the bench midway through the second half bringing on Wood and Morales for Rubin and Morales.  Rubin could have scored again to start the half but missed the target.  Overall pleased with his play, as he showed some strength and skill and a little soccer IQ, just his finishing let him down.  Lee Nguyen got a chance with 15 minutes to go, coming on for Mix had very few touches in second half as US success came from wide positions.

Colombia dominated and eventually turned their dominance into a victory.  James straight up roamed in the second half causing all sorts of problems.  Bacca equalized on the hour mark as James broke into the penalty area, and Teo, who was in the offside position, allowed the Sevilla forward to pick up the ball and dribble pas Guzan.  They ended up getting the winner as Cordona’s initial cross was blocked, but he quickly gathered himself and flicked the ball to the far post where it was met by Teo, who shrugged off Juilian Green.

If, as Taylor Twellman mentioned several times, Jurgen wanted a test, well he got one and the result was not pretty.  Some bright spots in Garza and Rubin but not much else.  The technical ability was lacking and unfortunately Rubin couldn’t hit the target with his efforts.  Interested to see who Klinsmann rolls out for the Ireland game and how they perform.

Finally, no fashion notes other than that I wish Colombian had worn their red away shirt and I still don’t like the US jerseys and am anxiously awaiting the next version.