DJ WATCHES SOCCER – WEEKEND OF APRIL 9th

I’m sure you noticed, probably due to an ineffable but undeniable feeling of loss, emptiness, and ennui, that I didn’t post columns the last two weeks. For the pain and misery I’ve caused you, my tens of readers, I heartily apologize. Fear not though, your favorite part of the week is back (if your weeks are really uneventful). Thanks for all the kind notes asking if everything was okay (That was sarcasm . . . NOT ONE OF YOU WROTE).

 

WEST HAM v ARSENAL – One of my favorite English words is “mercurial”, in the sense of “unpredictable changeableness”. Andy Carroll is the platonic ideal of mercurial. He should have been sent off in the fourth minute for an ankle-breaker of a tackle, got away with it, then proceeded to score a hat trick. As for group mercuriality, West Ham blew a 3-2 lead and had to settle for a draw. Still, this was one of the best games of the season in the Premier League.

BOURNEMOUTH v ASTON VILLA – By all rights Villa should have been relegated after this loss, but Crystal Palace helped them out by beating Norwich City 1-0. Now, I don’t throw around the word “impossible” lightly. In my lifetime, I’ve seen the following things:

  • The Berlin Wall fell and Germany reunified, which people said was impossble.
  • Apartheid was dismantled in South Africa, which people said was impossible.
  • A black man was elected President of the United States, which people said was impossible.
  • I got married again, which, well, I said was impossible. “People” as such didn’t really care.

My point is, just because something is so unlikely as to be unimaginable, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible. Having said that . . . it’s impossible for Aston Villa to stay in the Premier League. Impossible.

FC DALLAS v  SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES – I know that watching soccer on an actual television channel is soooo 20th Century and all, soon to go the way of Conestoga wagons, wood-burning stoves, and newspapers, but I hate having to watch games on a computer, and using Chromecast is only slightly less annoying. But I am your humble servant, so I’m willing to suffer (not in the sense of actual human suffering, which so many people experience every day of their lives and which is a shameful blight on our society, but merely in a very modern, first world, spoiled rotten by the miracles of modern technology sense).

You’re welcome.

This (completely unjustified and somewhat pathetic) feeling of faux-suffering is not  at all helped by the early Earthquakes goal by Alberto Contero. Which I missed because I was typing, and which I cannot rewind and watch again because THERE’S NO SUCH THING on Chromecast.

I promise I’m not I’m not such a whiny, miserable piece of work in real life. This ugly personality flaw pretty much only manifests itself on FCD matchdays. Those of you who’ve trod this path with me for so many years may have some understanding of where I’m coming from here.

To cheer myself up, I become mindful of three things. First, that this present moment is all we have, and in plain point of fact all is well with this moment in the grand scheme of things; and in all truth, my overwhelming feeling, despite the perniciousness temerity of Mr. Contero, is one of thankfulness and joy and contentment with the place to which fate has brought me in life.

Second, I’m typing these words on a 2008-era MacBook my step daughter gave me when she got a new one for graduation. I’ve upgraded the OS, replaced the battery, and turned it into a smashingly fine good-as-new laptop. Next week I’m going to add 4 gigs of RAM and I think it’ll be even better. One of my hobbies is taking old computers and giving them new life. Normally I take old PC laptops, replace Windows with Ubuntu Linux and do any hardware replacements needed. This is my first Mac reclamation, and I’m quite pleased with it. What a great keyboard. It’s the little things in life, you know?

Third, my main man Daniel Robertson is calling this game. As I’ve said before, he’s a rising young talent in the world of soccer color commentary, and one of life’s really good people. He is, as well, wicked smart, articulate, and knows the American game as well as anyone working.

I also have to admit that Contero’s goal was really well-taken. I can’t begrudge a man his moment. Apart from that, the game is quite even, and is being played with the kind of high-energy, end-to-end style one likes to see in their domestic soccer league. Though I’m not sure why the players seem to stop completely every few minutes and stand, along with the fans, completely still and silent.

Wait, that’s Chromecast. Curse you, Google. Curse you.

And . . . now it’s stopped completely. Excuse me while I reboot this miraculous piece of cutting edge 21st century technology….

Okay, we’re back. Kinda. This is tedious. The broadcast resumed just as Tesho Akindele was taking a penalty kick, the reason for which I missed in the interim. However, on the upside, upon rebooting I now seem to have access to a rudimentary rewind feature I didn’t have before, so I was able to go back a few minutes to see what happened. At times like these I think back to the fact that I had to watch the 1982 World Cup final on a tiny black and white television set with poor reception, which gave a nasty electrical shock whenever I tried to adjust the antenna. So it’s all relative, isn’t it?

Oh yeah, clear PK. Good stuff. Tie game. Let’s go.

Man I like Michael Barrios. He’s everywhere, doing everything. With Mauro Diaz out, everyone on the field has to step up their game, and he’s at the front of that. Normally teams have to spend so much time worrying about DIaz and Fabian Castillo that they forget about Barrios, and it usually comes back to bite them. Now he’s having to be a little less like an F-117 Stealth Fighter, coming out of nowhere to do it’s job and return to invisibility, and more like a good old-fashioned A-10 Warthog, right in your face and causing damage with impunity (if you can forgive the militaristic metaphor).

This is the first time I’ve seen referee Alan Kelly in action. He may be the best I’ve seen in MLS. A quick Wikipedia search reveals that he cut his teeth in the League of Ireland, and has called numerous matches in both the Europa League and Champions League.  More like him, please.

Wondo scores early in the 2nd half, making a perfectly-timed run and getting a quality ball from Quincy Amarikwa to make it 2-1. Chris Seitz was left one-on-one with one of the best scorers in the history of the league, and could only hope for a miss-hit on the shot, which wasn’t likely. Amarikwa and Wondolowski, I believe, share some sort of science-fictiony hive-mind that allows them to read each other’s thoughts and make goals like this. The league should look into it.

MAURO COMES ON THE FIELD IN THE 60th MINUTE!

Wait, that’s Mauro Rosales, not Mauro Diaz. Still, not bad. He immediately starts causing all sorts of trouble for the left side of San Jose’s defense, and within three minutes of coming on the field he plays a ball to Castillo, who cleverly drives a cross off the head of Victor Bernardez and into the Earthquakes goal. Bernardez will be furious with himself for the own-goal, but I don’t think he knew much about it.

I judge the quality of an MLS match by one criteria and one criteria only – if this was the first MLS match a person ever saw, would they want to watch again the next week? This is definitely one of those matches. There’s 25 minutes left and I’d be shocked if it ends 2-2. Even if it does, it’s going to be entertaining.

Within five minutes of typing those words, there’s been no less than six near-goals, and the pace hasn’t slackened a bit. David Bingham is earning his bread in San Jose’s goal tonight.

Another thing I’m enjoying about this games is that the tackles are coming in hard but fair. Hard tackles we’re used to, clean ones not as much. It’s good to see.

Well, it did end 2-2, and I am, as promised, shocked. But the final score doesn’t detract from the truth that this was one entertaining soccer match. The only downside is the amount of empty seats in Toyota stadium. With the entire south end closed (for construction of the new National Soccer Hall of Fame, which is pretty cool), it should have been packed full. Yet, there was, as they say, plenty of good seats available. Distressing.

SUNDERLAND v LEICESTER – Another win by the improbable Champions-in-waiting. The highlight of the game, for me, wasn’t the two goals by Jamie Vardy, but rather came from play-by-play legend Peter Drury. In what has to be one of the all-time great backhanded compliments, Drury said of Vardy’s first goal “Who’d have thought there’d be such a thing as a ‘classic Jamie Vardy finish’ when this season began?” Oh, how I treasure that man. Drury, not Vardy. Rumor has it Vardy wants to renegotiate his deal with Leicester after the season ends. I tried to confirm this rumor with his agent, Mephistopheles, but he was unavailable for comment.

LIVERPOOL v STOKE CITY – Because Manchester United’s bus got stuck in traffic (first time in London, lads?) we were treated to the first half hour of this game on NBCSN. And I say “treated” with only slight sarcasm, because we at least got to see Alberto Moreno scored a GOTY candidate from 25 yards out, left-footed, swerving from outside-in, past Jakob Haugaard, who could only give a courtesy dive. That goal was prettier than Penelope Cruz. I think Stoke equalized before they switched to Spurs/United, but I’m not completely sure I care.

SPURS v MANCHESTER UNITED – They said the game started late because the Manchester United bus got stuck in traffic, but the rumour is (and I know this, because I’m starting the rumour, right this very second) they were late because they couldn’t convince Marcus Rashford that Platform 9 ¾ isn’t a real thing, and had to drag him physically from King’s Cross station.

You heard it here first.

Spurs came in having to win to preserve any chance of catching Leicester (Faustian bargains by Jamie Vardy notwithstanding), and ManU came in having to win because, uh . . . actually nothing comes to mind . . . they’d be better off not playing in the Champions League next year to be frank . . . so, I dunno, pride and honor and glory, or something? I’m going against my heart and rooting for United for the selfish reason that I don’t want Louis Van Gaal to get fired. I’d miss those interviews SO much. And I can’t even think about what it would do to the Men In Blazers show.

This was not inspired football, and I’m not gonna lie, I fast-forwarded through most of it and waited for the Masters to come on. One got the impression that the United players were sending a coded message to Jose Mourinho that ended with the letters RSVP. But in the end, Spurs win 3-0 and are still in the hunt for the title, which, in August, would have been just slightly more likely than Leicester winning it. But only just.

NYCFC v CHICAGO FIRE – Watching a game at Yankee Stadium is as close as you can come to watching indoor soccer without actually being indoors. Games on narrow fields should be played 8-on-8. Even the great Pirlo can’t look graceful and elegant under these conditions. I kept hearing the sounds of a pinball machine in my head. I wish the Yankees would keep the grass infield though; that’d make the baseball interesting at least.

The second half was way more compelling than the first, and showed how a scoreless draw can be just as entertaining as a seven goal thriller. Chicago had a goal disallowed on close, but fair, interpretation of the passive offside law. Either (and even watching it several times it’s hard to tell) the offside player got a touch just after the onside player, or, alternately, the offside player wasn’t passive because he interfered with the defender. Either way, I agree with Brad Friedel, who said (after watching it for at least the tenth time) “Who would wanna be a referee?”

LA GALAXY v PORTLAND TIMBERS – Watching the pregame show, I got to see a segment with Rachel Bonnetta, who is marvelous and wonderful. Good job Fox for having, along with the equally cool Katie Nolan, the two smartest, funniest, entertaining female reporters in the business. Who’d have guessed it? If they could somehow snag Rebecca Lowe away from NBC, they’d have the Triple Crown of feminine journalistic awesomeness.

I was afraid, however, that Rachel would be (along with the Don Ovan commercial) the most interesting part of the broadcast. No Robbie Keane means no meltdowns and obscene gestures, unless Nat Borchers’ beard manages to gain sentience and rebel against his human host, wreaking havoc and destruction on the StubHub Center. Which would be cool, don’t even try to deny it. No Stephen Gerrard either for LA, which, forgive me for the sacrilege, may or may not be a disadvantage. Portland are not playing like defending MLS Cup Champions, yet, so at kickoff my hopes are not high. Plus, it’s realllly close to my bedtime, and Tina wants to watch the season premier of Outlander on the DVR. I may not make it through this one at all.

Before a minute was even in the books, Robbie Rogers took a hard shot to his backside (Stop it . . . just stop it) and could barely run. I’ll be surprised if he makes it to halftime.

And. . . he doesn’t. Rogers comes off in the sixth minute, replaced by Rafael Garcia. It looks to me like he suffered a deep muscle contusion or, as you laymen call it, a charley horse. I can say this with some degree of confidence because I’m a doctor.

Okay, I can’t lie to you. I’m actually a juris doctor, which doesn’t really count. But I have had a really deep muscle contusion, and I can tell you, with no fear of contradiction, they hurt like hell.

Fun Fact: In Australia they call a charley horse a “corky” , and in Italy, a “donkey bite”. Good to know – with any luck this will be a question at your local pub trivia league in the near future. But probably not.

The first half, as it turns out, was pretty good, though goalless. Gyasi Zardes, or as it like to call him, the second coming of Tab Ramos, caused all sorts of grief for the Portland defense. Good crowd atmosphere, too. For some reason the California law against showing up to any sporting event until thirty minutes after the scheduled start time was being flouted with impunity tonight. Stick it to the man, Galaxy fans, yeah!

Fernando Adi scores in the 52nd minute, going far post from an extreme angle against Brian Rowe, who, to be fair, was screened by his own defender and didn’t see the ball until it was nearly past him. No power on it, just placement. Rowe won’t be happy when he sees it on video, but the shot was way too good.

Query: is “Herbalife Nutrition” an oxymoron?

Oh yeah, it’s way past my bedtime now; this game is too good. I’m going to regret it tomorrow when I have to discuss Tuck Everlasting with hordes of disinterested 7th graders at an unreasonably early hour, I just know it. But as Hyman Roth once said, “This is the business we’ve chosen”.

Oh my. Roy Lassiter’s son Ariel is on the bench for the Galaxy. Man that makes me feel old. I can’t imagine what it does to Roy.

Hey look, Nigel de Jong made a dirty tackle. Stop the press. I was under the impression MLS was cracking down on these types of tackles. I suppose a yellow card qualifies as “cracking down” in some bizarro parallel universe. Not in this one though. He shoulda been off, instead Darlington Nagbe is off, and probably out for several games. Same old MLS, always MLS’in.

Wait, is Ashley Cole making DP money? No? Okay, okay. Everything’s okay.

Well, it happened, just like I called it. Nat Borchers’ beard went sentient, and as its first act of vengeance for a life of painful and humiliating servitude, blasted in an own goal and leveled the score at 1-1. This is what the robot uprising will be like, you mark my words.

1-1 is the final. What a good game. It passes the “First Time Viewer” test with flying colors.

 

MISCELLANY, EPHEMERA, AND TRIVIA

  • Jordan Spieth decided to recreate the final scene of the movie Tin Cup Sunday in Augusta. I love that movie, but didn’t want to see it in real life. It was painful watching Kevin Costner pretend to play a hole like that. It was excruciating watching Jordan go through it. Personally I was rooting for Bernhard Langer, because he’s in his fifties, and Smiley Kaufman, because, duh, HIS NAME IS SMILEY.
  • Something I’ve been wanting to get off my chest for a while . . . Why does Nike insist on making the ugliest soccer balls in the history of the game? Is it just me; have you noticed it too? The horrid colors, the random designs – why? Soccer balls are inherently aesthetically pleasing, why must they work against that? I want answers.
  • No Warren County Middle School Soccer update this week, what with Spring Break and all. Sorry, I know that’s why most of you read this. Which kind of hurts . . .

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