DJ Watches Soccer – Weekend of March 5

GAMES I WATCHED

TOR v NYRB – It only took until the 28th minute of Toronto v Red Bulls to properly integrate the MLS Live app on an iPhone 6, Chromecast, and then, the iPhone app being uncooperative, an aging Toshiba laptop running Ubuntu Linux. Just in time to see Lloyd Sam sky an easy shot over the bar. Neither of these events, technological or footballogical, were a big surprise to me.

Frankly, any time MLS Live operates correctly, I’m thrilled (though I do give them credit for improving the service consistently over the years – it’s light-years better than it was only three or four years ago). Besides, I’m not at all sure  the problem was on their side. As a brilliant computer programmer told me years ago, “It’s not surprising that computers sometimes don’t work, it’s surprising that they ever work at all.”

So here are the ground rules: I watch as much soccer as I can each weekend, and I write stuff about it. Some of it will be brilliant, some of it obvious, some of it humorous, some of it piercingly insightful, and some of it will be wildly tangential. If you’re looking for a lot of traditional sports writing structure and technical analysis, you’re not likely to find it. But if you enjoy stream-of-consciousy writing with lots of rabbit trails, you’re in luck. I’m going for a “Hunter Thompson without the mescaline” kind of feel. We’ll see how it goes. And yes, I just made up the adverbial phrase “stream-of-consciousy”. Or is that a compound adjective? I really should know these things.

For instance, watching West Brom v Liverpool this morning I became immersed in a philosophical introspection on the old saying “I’d rather be lucky than good.” Because let’s face it, Liverpool were awful lucky. And I mean awful in both senses of the word. I mean . . . a man down and a goal down. They’re done right? Then a goalkeeper howler and a late penalty (which was the Platonic ideal of a dubious call) gives them a 2-1 win. So, Herr Klopp, would you rather be lucky than good? I, DJ Walker, would rather be lucky. Most of the good stuff that has ever happened to me has been plain dumb luck. Being competent has always been a secondary consideration (on those rare occasions I could scrape up  enough competence to rightly call it such).

So yeah, I’m in the “Lucky” camp. Though, as that worthy Roman philosopher Seneca often warned us, it doesn’t do to trust in luck, as it leaves us as easily as it finds us. And he would know – Seneca was rich and powerful, until he pissed off Nero, who made him drink poison in the end. So there’s that part of it, too.

Toronto v Red Bulls isn’t exactly inspiring me to prosaic brilliance at at the moment. The match summary is more than likely to read “Blah blah blah, Giovinco does something unbelievable, Blah blah blah how does Bradley Wright-Phillips keep scoring?” Take away those two, and there’s not much to excite the imagination. But there is Dax McCarty, who I name King of the Midfielders, and I will brook no argument. I’d take him over Michael Bradley in a heartbeat.

Yeah, you read that right. And, by the way, that was part of the “piercingly insightful” stuff I mentioned earlier. Unless you’re a NYRB fan, in which case you may classify it under “obvious”. I myself am not a particular fan of Red Bulls, but rather one of those FC Dallas fans who STILL can’t believe we let Dax get away. But I don’t want to talk about it. It’s still a little raw, and I’m still a little bitter.

I used a lot of contractions in that last paragraph, as I do most of the time. I find it helps relate the casual, relaxed tone which I strive to convey. But (Tangent Ahead), have you ever tried to go five minutes without using a contraction in everyday speech? It is difficult . . . very difficult. To do it with any consistency, you have to speak like English is your second language, because you have to give thought to every word that comes out of your mouth, rather than just letting your unconscious fluency do all the work. It’s maddening, and really entertaining. I did this with my 7th grade English class last week. It was, as they say, a hoot. Try it as a party game, or, if you’re the boss at work, require it in your next staff meeting. Endless amusement will ensue.

Marky Delgado just came in for Toronto. Marky Delgado sounds like a character from a Matt Christopher book.

If something doesn’t happen soon I’m turning to NASCAR. The Las Vegas race is one of those godawful 1.5 mile tracks where the field spreads out in a long ponderous single file. It’s like Oregon Trail, without the dysentery. Yet I’m still considering it. Toronto is parking the bus, and Red Bulls can’t hit the broad side of a . . . bus, I guess.

Though as soon I say that, Toronto almost scores on the counter. Giovinco hit the post.

Now, another counter attack and Toronto wins a penalty. Giovinco scores and does a really weird celebration dance. Best I can tell, he was miming a guy starting and riding a chopper. But I’m not sure. Sadly, it’s the most interesting talking point of the match.

I should have been watching the first half of Chicago v NYCFC, which 3-1 in favor of Man City Lite (no offense, I just thought of that and, at the time, it seemed clever. I’m open to to the idea it was gratuitous and trite). Furthermore, NYC are wearing dark blue with reddish-orange accents, and not the sky blue we’ve become accustomed to. I kinda like it, except the red on blue doesn’t make for great visibility for names and numbers. Might go with the white next week, guys.

Okay, enough of this. Marky Delgado scores a second for Toronto in injury time. This idea of laying back then trying to score on the counterattack is pretty solid. I wonder why nobody’s thought of it before.

DAL v PHI – Time for FC Dallas. My team. A team that has caused me more heartbreak than women and American politics combined. Of the three, I still love women and FC Dallas. Politics I’m done with. In fact, my relationship with FCD has lasted longer than my first two marriages. But enough of that, I’m starting to sound like Norman Chad.

I switched just in time to see Mauro Diaz release Fabian Castillo on a breakaway to score in the 21st minute. Please soccer gods, let this be a harbinger for the season.

Castillo at times looks like that kid with the early birthday and the murky birth certificate who probably ought to be playing U-16 but instead he’s playing with the U-14s and it doesn’t seem fair to the other parents.

For the first goal of the year, they went with the “six guys paddling a canoe” celebration. Not bad. The classics never go out of style.

Since there’s clearly correlation between my switching to this game and the immediate scoring of the goal, I should really stop watching now. To go on seems likely to jinx the whole deal. I’ve played my part, caused the goal – it’s almost selfish to go on watching. Yes, I have that kind of influence over space and time. Don’t you? But for me it only applies to soccer. If I could manage such temporal manipulation over everyday events, there’d be no living with me. Also, I’d have at least won the lottery once. Maybe twice.

Before you write a mean comment, yes, I know that correlation doesn’t equal causation. But it does imply it when the correlation is repeated often enough. Or as Thoreau said, “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.” Think about it.

It’s not just me, Walker Zimmerman is a badass, right? It’s not even halftime on opening day, and he’s already bleeding. I love this guy. If I float the nickname “World War Z” for him, would you all jump on the bandwagon? Either way, with you or without you, I’m going to adopt it. Not just adopt it, I’m going to use it on a regular basis. Not just use it on a regular basis, I will, if need be, completely and obnoxiously run it into the ground. Don’t make me carry this burden alone. Help out. Use the nickname. It’s perfect, and what’s more it would would make a great poster. If kids still put posters on their walls. Do they?

My man Daniel Robertson is calling the game for the local FCD broadcast. One of the really great dudes of this world, and a quality announcer. National exposure can’t be too far off for him. You heard it here first.

I’m not a particular fan of the Union, but they do have Jim Curtin and Earnie Stewart running the show up there, and those are two of my favorite American players ever. I’d be nothing but happy for the franchise to prosper. They did such a nice job with their stadium, too, what with the view of the bridge and the real grass. And they had a supporters group even before they actually had a team. That’s fantastic – and the name “Sons of Ben” . . . come on, that’s quality. I’m going on the record in saying I want them to do well.

Not today, mind you.

Dallas scores a second, and then in the 89th minute, Castillo goes down with a groin injury.

I blame myself.

 

GAMES I DIDN’T WATCH, BUT SAW THE HIGHLIGHTS

ORL v RSL – No KaKá, so I don’t really ca-care.

Not completely true, but that was funny, you gotta admit. Two red cards and a PK in the first half beat this game with the ugly stick, but a two-goal comeback by Orlando to save the point at home redeemed the four minutes spent watching the highlights. Not just a two-goal comeback, mind you, but a two-goal comeback in injury time. And not just in injury time, but in the LAST MINUTE of injury time. If Orlando make the playoffs by one point come this fall, they’ll remember this game. We won’t, because that’s soooo far away from now, but they will.

By the way, have you noticed that injury time is now sponsored in MLS? I was a marketing guy at Band-Aid, Ace Bandage, or Icy-Hot, I’d be all over this trend (Note well, I thought of this first; if it happens, you large corporations can send the consulting fee ℅ my attorney, Kevin Lindstrom, Esq).

CHI v NYCFC – I knew I should have watched this game instead of Toronto v Red Bulls. NYC managed to finesse a 3-1 halftime lead into a 4-3 victory. McNamara gets Goal of the Week for sure.If you’re both a Fire fan and an optimist (tenuous proposition, I know), you can take comfort that you turned a potential blowout into a near comeback. Otherwise, all you’ve done is give up four goals at your home opener. But let us not forget the words of Robert Heinlein: “Don’t ever become a pessimist, Ira; a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun – and neither can stop the march of events.”

HOU v NER – Did I say McNamara gets Goal of the Week? And did I say “for sure”? I may have been hasty. My bad, Diego Fagundez. My bad.

Those Dynamo black unis are awful. Dear sweet Buddha they’re ugly.

SJE v COL – Wondo scores in a 1-0 Earthquake win? This is not news, by any stretch of the imagination. This is rather the history of the franchise for the last eight years.

POR v CLB – Federico Higuain is a goal scoring beast, and he’s not even the best soccer player in his family. The Crew pulled off one of the best deals in the history of the league when they signed this guy.

Dairon Asprilla didn’t score, but he torched the Crew defense all day long. Listen, if you know nothing else about soccer, you must know that if there’s a Colombian guy named Asprilla on the field, MARK HIM TIGHT. Sheesh.

Those Crew uniforms . . .

Oh, and it rained really hard in Portland. Stop the press.

 

SEA v SKC – This game is summed up by the crazy two-footed tackle by Oniel Fisher that left the Sounders a a man down, and the uncharacteristically poor goal given up by Stefan Frei that left them a goal down. Sporting were just along for the ride.

VAN v MTL –Vancouver scored a rouge in stoppage time, but still fell to Montreal 3-2. I crack me up.

GAMES I DIDN’T WATCH BECAUSE THEY WERE PAST MY BEDTIME

LAG v DCU – Seriously, it’s a school night, and I’m exhausted.

MISCELLANY, EPHEMERA, AND TRIVIA

Saturday, I flipped over to Club America v Morelia on Univision. For a second there I thought I’d been sucked into a wormhole and traveled back in time, or alternatively was having a mini-stroke, because I saw Cuauhtémoc Blanco on the field. CUAUHTÉMOC BLANCO, PEOPLE! The man is 43 years old. Turns out It was a one-off deal, to let him end his career where he began it, or some-such thing. A nice gesture and a fitting honor for a great player.

I’d love to say he looked great and that he was Gordie Howe-esque, as if he could go on playing for years. I’d love to say that . . . but I cannot. To call his running labored and painful-looking is about as nice as I can express it. Believe me, I’m not mocking him. I’m 51, and I can’t even remember the last time I ran, and I feel morally certain I looked way more awkward than Temoc.

As an aside – if you ever do see me running, you better start running too, because clearly something horrible and dangerous is gaining on us from behind.

He didn’t score, but did manage to pull the bunny-hop move. That in itself made it worth watching his time on the field. Which, if you’re keeping score at home, was until the 37th minute of the first half.

But, that’s not even the most interesting thing I learned about Blanco this weekend. Turns out, the guy is the Mayor of Cuernavaca. THE MAYOR! I have this vision of him ascending to the Presidency of Mexico, and then head-butting Donald Trump at a summit meeting. This is the only potential outcome that could justify a Trump presidency. It might be worth seeing him win, just to see this happen. But probably not.

My fondest hope is that future historians will read this column and wonder who Donald Trump was.

 

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