Klinsmann vs Garber and MLS Forcing You To Obey

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Much has been made recently of the clash of words between Jurgen Klinsmann and Major League Soccer commissioner, Don Garber.  On October 15th Klinsmann spoke out about his concerns over U.S. players not competing at the highest level and made remarks that some, including Garber, considered detrimental to the U.S. based league.

This brings to the forefront the constant need of MLS to control the conversation. Garber came out immediately after Klinsmann’s remarks with a spicy overly defensive comeback of his own. He took offense to Klinsmann’s ideas that players should consider looking outside of MLS for playing opportunities and that maybe MLS isn’t up to the same level as European leagues. Of course Klinsmann didn’t come out and say it that matter of fact.

Most of Garber’s frustration comes from a positive place of wanting to improve the league while not losing big name players, and in turn, the ticket revenue that comes with them. But he goes about it the wrong way.

All this does is expose the overly sensitive nature of MLS and Garber, but also the absence of any sense of reality. This need by MLS, and its owners to fear monger people into singing its praises appears to be getting worse.  Indeed, it’s a great league, and it has improved drastically — the caveat that every writer and pundit make, because in fact it’s true. However, to force the issue through rhetoric and publicly bashing anyone that speaks up against the league, actually has the opposite effect. If MLS were truly a superior league, its laurels and on field play would speak for itself.

Garber should want what is best for the U.S. Men’s National Team and understand that a player going abroad does not necessarily weaken the domestic league, at least not in the long run.

Apparently there is also growing frustration from some club owners over Klinsmann’s advice to look at other options. They are upset because they’ve invested a lot of money in their academies and many of the top young players are being advised to look abroad.

That outlook by owners is insane.   Improve your academy. Compete. Be the best to get the best. That’s the American way right?

Don’t ask for Klinsmann to recommend your academy if it isn’t up to the level of the one at Ajax (Netherlands), or Tottenham, or Fulham, or any other number of mid level European clubs. Yes, mid level European teams have stronger academies. But give yourselves a break MLS, they’ve been at it for over a hundred years. There is also nothing wrong with staying and playing in MLS, if that’s best for the player. Klinsmann’s point all along has been that it’s a personal decision and it’s different for every player.

In all honesty, Garber isn’t claiming MLS is superior to those top European leagues, but his actions reek of a jealous insecure boyfriend. As if every potential MLS player was his girlfriend, and the European leagues are the taller better looking guys that flirt with his girlfriend and have something he doesn’t have. Not only more money, but more confidence, and no receding hairline.

So, then Garber tries to overcompensate. These better looking guys flirt and his girlfriend is genuinely interested.   Problem is he doesn’t have the confidence in himself as a “man” (not Garber himself of course, but him in this comparison), so he needs to lash out and try and control the situation.

This is never a good sign. I guess in some ways if your girlfriend is interested in other options, she shouldn’t be your girlfriend.

The USMNT play Columbia in just under an hour at Fulham’s Craven Cottage in London. I desperately want whatever is best for the progression of soccer in the U.S., so personally I hope some young guys get looks from European scouts. And also that the boys put on a good display of American soccer on European soil.

Now, how do I stealth out of the office to a bar and down a couple beers, watch the game, and get back unscathed? And not want a nap in my office later? Hmmm.

My Michter’s and My USMNT

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USA vs. Honduras – Friendly – Oct. 14th

It only seems fitting that I start things off with admiration for a 10-year rye whiskey that I enjoyed on my wedding day. The Michter’s 10-year is a beautiful thing.  It’s quite a bit more expensive than a bottle of Bulleit or other average mass-produced whiskeys, but in exchange you gain a considerably more complex, peppery, and oaky taste.  It’s rustic and to the point and I love it.  After spending 10 years in fire charred American white oak barrels you’d expect it to be a level or two above the grocery store whiskeys.

Admittedly, that’s like comparing apples to oranges but it’s a way to gauge it next to a more widely known whiskey. Yes there is a big difference in price, but the point is, it’s worth it. It’s doesn’t have to be one or the other though.  You have Bulleit as a staple in your home bar for mixed drinks or the Tuesday night sip, and then bring out the 10-year for the more special occasion.  This 10-year is probably more accurately compared to Whistle Pig, or Willet, or Rittenhouse, but even then, so much has to do with the vintage.

The Michter’s 10-year wasn’t available for over three years, but the re-release hit the market in April, just in time for my wedding in May. Surprised they knew. This is a very nice whiskey, not because you can’t find better ones (for extremely high prices), but for the fairly manageable price, although not every day drinking price of $110 per bottle, you get an outstandingly smooth Rye. (And no, I am not being paid by Michter’s, nor do I have stock in the company or receive free samples from them)

No need to worry though if $110 sounds out of reach.  The Michter’s US1 Straight Rye ($48) will more than suffice as an every day drinking whiskey. With each bottle from a single barrel, this is a notch above most mass produced whiskeys. It’s more basic than the 10-year of course, but in a way I don’t mind at all. It definitely gives homage to the early days of drinking. I mean the really early days of the 1750’s, which is when the recipe for this straight rye was created. It’s been handed down since and is still implemented, so they say.  If true, that’s pretty amazing.  I know every whiskey company tries to claim the same sort of thing, but Michter’s is a true American small batch whiskey distillery.  They actually process and bottle and distribute all from the same place. They don’t farm out to other distilleries like many supposed small batch whiskeys. Most importantly they produce a decent amount of product so that it’s attainable at many Bevmo’s and high-end liquor stores and isn’t out of the realm of affordability.

Of course there are the rarest of rare rye whiskeys out there, and 25-year-old bourbons I’ve never tasted that are surely amazing. But for the purpose of this post, which is to point out a great rye that’s special to me, I stand by Michter’s and put it up there with the best. They also have a 20-year rye, which isn’t nearly as attainable and will be my next step up in the ladder.

I enjoyed the Michter’s US1 Straight Rye during the United States vs. Honduras game on Tuesday. Beer is usually my beverage of choice during any USMNT game, but when you need to drown your sorrows in the gluttony of substitutions and sporadic 2nd half play that comprise most U.S. friendly matches, this is a good choice. It’s still hot in Los Angeles and I don’t have air conditioning, so I enjoyed it over a big block of ice, but it’s more than good enough to throw back neat.

Drinking and Soccer – A New Chapter

I wanted to be with the regular people. To know how they lived and what drove them to do what they did. That was far more interesting than the countless and monotonous conversations about movies or technology or who got the new iPhone. It was like coming back to a different life. Things had been put into perspective. I felt different, like I didn’t belong anymore. You live in your bubble too long and it will start to seem like the insignificant things are the most important. I desperately needed to walk into a bar many Americans could barely fit into, throw a couple euros down and have the bartender slide a tiny ice-cold beer across the bar top. I would grab it just as a little overflow drips down the outside of the frosted glass that’s so cold the beer freezes before it makes its way to the bottom. I would sip that frothy top and be in heaven. One last thing to complete this dream would be a soccer game on in the background. Never too prevalent or obtrusive as to get in the way of conversation, unless of course it’s the World Cup or a big European match. In that case T.V.’s are often propped up outside in a public square or in an outside bar area or some type of gathering area where drink and food are prevalent.

To walk in from wherever you are going or whatever you are doing and just sit or stand and have a quick beer in the daylight on a Wednesday is something so simple, yet so hard to find in the U.S. Not only hard to find, but discouraged. And I live in a liberal city and work in a liberal industry. The great U.S. is amazing in a million ways, so this isn’t a bashing of Americans, but more so a realization of what’s important, at least to me, and what sometimes we lose sight of. Drinking. That is said with some sarcasm and kidding of course, as there are many more important things than drinking. However, the experience of drink as a means of social normality and life is part of what prompted the creation or re-branding of this blog.

Spending time in Portugal and Spain during this last World Cup was not only an amazing experience, but combined a few of my favorite things in such a beautiful way it was hard to come back to reality. One thing was of course the game, which in itself is beautiful, not only on the field but also in its connection to the culture and people.   Coffee or espresso is in abundance and easy to find wherever you go, and always, at least in my experience, of high quality. Never had a bad espresso. The availability of a quick ice-cold beer was a wondrous thing and I’ve never truly recovered from that accessibility. Add in a little whiskey, or grappa, or variation of the sorts and damn, I’m in a good place. What makes this all come together though are the people and the environment and the discussion that surrounds all these things.  They are all activities, which for the most part are accessible to the working-class man, the regular person, or the un-rich.  With soccer, and drinking really, comes a reverence to history and an appreciation for the past.   This historic perspective is probably more of a European thing , which makes sense due to its inherent advantage over the U.S. in that department.

This won’t be just about my personal experiences in other countries, but how these few things I love bring people together. The conversations in bars and restaurants and homes and public squares are so varying and important and interesting, and connected in too many ways not to create a forum dedicated to Coffee, Soccer, Beer, and Whiskey, and of course the people and culture that surround these things.   I’m not an expert in any one of these areas, but I’m quite educated and experienced in all these “disciplines” and simply in love with them, and a writer, so here we go…

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Soccer in America and How Dempsey Changes Things

As some of the greatest European clubs in history head home after their pre-season tour of the United States, we are left with a longing for that same excitement and spectacle in Major League Soccer.  Even in pre-season their level of play is high and fast paced and full of dazzling trickery.  Not to mention goals.  Their teams are stocked with millionaires whose fame transcends the soccer world.  The constant close-ups of Cristiano Ronaldo’s tousled blonde-tipped hair give us an idea of his stature in pop culture.  Fans, mostly women, scream at his every touch of the ball.  A celebrity in every sense, even an icon.

MLS can’t match that and they shouldn’t, although they tried with David Beckham. MLS must be given a great deal of credit though.  The league is doing much better and the quality of play is improving.  Although still light years behind the European giants of the game they can compete side-by-side and make for an interesting match.  However, the salary cap issues, wage minimums, and the designated player situation in MLS, unless changed, will always keep the league a level below their European counterparts.  (I wrote a more in-depth and factual column regarding those MLS salary issues on Yanks Abroad.)

For now, the begging question and continual argument among U.S. soccer fans and MLS fans alike is how to improve MLS, while also improving the U.S. National Team and in the process increase the reputation of American soccer players abroad.

Clint Dempsey is one of those players who has elevated the American game and perception abroad.  He spent the last 7 seasons in the English Premier League, but last week made a surprise move back to the mainland  — Seattle to be specific.  Dempsey is arguably the highest regarded American soccer player currently, and definitely the most successful in Europe.  He signed a lucrative contract with the Sounders that coincides with that reputation.

It was a great move for MLS and I can’t see how it will hurt the league in any way, other than tying up a great deal of money for one player. That aside, it gives them star power, an elite player on the international stage (under 35), and the current face of American soccer.  It was a huge signing for MLS but also somewhat shocking.

Dempsey has always professed his desire to compete at the highest level.  He fought for an opportunity to move from Fulham to a club with UEFA Champions League ambitions.  He got that with Tottenham, and was one win away from qualifying last season for the prestigious tournament.  The London based club will surely be in the mix again this season for one of those top four spots.  He was playing in the best league in the world and alongside some of the elite players in the game.

Seattle will line his pockets with a reported salary just north of $5 million per season, not including bonuses.  He will be their star player and automatic pick on the team sheet every game by manager Sigi Schmid. Those are things that Tottenham could not match or guarantee.

His decision makes sense, if not for those reasons, maybe for the bigger picture of moving Major League Soccer one level higher.  If the league is ever among the best in the world his move to Seattle could be one of two monumental moments in MLS history.  When they look back they could say it was David Beckham and Clint Dempsey that pushed MLS from the shadows of the soccer world into the light.  Landon Donovan might also deserve a little credit.

It won’t be that simple, and that might be a disservice to all the low earning career players in the MLS cog that keep it chugging. History often proves that greatness is built on the backs of hard-working common folk, while the famous and powerful take the credit.

The real question is whether Dempsey playing in MLS will hurt or help the progression of soccer in the U.S.? Maybe it will have no real effect.

Or, is it more important for U.S. soccer that the best American players compete at the highest-level possible and on a world stage, wherever that might be? Remember, it’s the world’s game.

Is it better for the progression of basketball in Spain if Pau Gasol plays for the LA Lakers or if he goes back to play in Barcelona?

He would surely make the Spanish league far better but he would be selling himself short.

It’s a complicated tug of war between improving MLS but also making sure American soccer players compete at the highest level and show the world they can play the game.

When teams like Real Madrid and Chelsea and AC Milan come to the United States there is no choice but to compare them to MLS and to the American game.  They are all teams, simply, full of men competing against each other in a game with a ball.  This idea that comparing them is off-limits, as some protest, is an insult to American players and MLS.  If playing against the best is how you get better, then that is what American soccer players should always strive to do.

MLS must improve and it is, and it’s encouraging, but there might be some sacrifice to the game in the U.S. overall if it sets up a precedent of wooing Americans playing abroad to the states with checks full of zeros, especially when much of the league is getting by on sub par wages.

In the end this choice for Dempsey was his own.  No one forced it upon him but it doesn’t mean as dedicated fans of his, and U.S. soccer, and world football in general, we can’t question it. This Dempsey move will surely bring some of that excitement and spectacle to Seattle, if only a small nugget of what we saw from Cristiano Ronaldo.

It’s easy to question his motives, but he has a country to carry on his back in the 2014 World Cup and must ensure he gets adequate playing time in order to do so.  He has a family and must provide for them as best he can.  Who am I to say he should turn down the millions of dollars and an opportunity to end to his career in his home country.

How it will impact MLS and more importantly U.S. soccer is something we’ll have to wait and find out.  But the encouraging part is that transfer moves like Dempsey to Seattle (while in his prime), and European clubs coming to the states more frequently in pre-season, are all signs that the sport is progressing in America.

Scarves in MLS Need to Go Away

The use of scarves is one aspect of European soccer that should be left to the Europeans.  I’m a proponent of adopting as many European ideals as possible, but not in this case.

Scarves just don’t work here, at least not as a sports fan’s accouterment.  If you are in the dead of winter in Chicago and need a scarf, sure, wear one.  But at a Galaxy game in Los Angeles in June?  Nope, doesn’t work.  Please stop.  I understand the European inspiration, but a blue and gold Galaxy scarf wrapped loosely around your v-neck t-shirt doesn’t have the same impact as a sea of Liverpool fans hoisting their scarves above their heads at Anfield while singing in unison the song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

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Major League Soccer chose to have their season during the summer.  That should automatically disqualify clubs from using scarves as team apparel or memorabilia.

These scarves were originally created for the obvious reason of warmth.  Then the soccer scarf as a way for fans in England to show their team colors from under their heavy winter coats. They are rooted in the history of the game and therefore have meaning.

MLS fans tried this one and it doesn’t work. I thought soccer scarves in the U.S. would only be a fad in the infancy of American fandom while they searched for their identity, but no.  I was reminded of the prevalence of scarves last night at the Galaxy vs. Timbers game.

Without having the history or the cold weather it simply becomes a trend, or something for appearance without any utility.  It makes for a stadium full of weird hipster wannabes.  We should aspire to replicate what they do in England, but first and foremost our fans are in desperate need of some grit and brawn, not chic.

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USMNT Finally Free of Criticism

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With rumors of locker room turmoil and player dissent circling the U.S. Men’s National team like a vulture ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica last Friday, they desperately needed a game free of criticism.  A game where they were so commanding in victory that any venom from critics and pundits would be squelched, at least for a few days. They got exactly  that.  Not necessarily because of their play, but because the blizzard-like conditions neutralized any disparity between the teams.  It was a game of who could get a shot on a goal and await the snow caused rebound. The USMNT did that part better and even though they had fewer total shots, they finished the one chance they had.  For that they should be praised.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 4.39.42 PMIt was humorous though to watch the post-game analysis. Alexi Lalas offered his usual serving of impassioned rants, but in the end this game was a crap shoot, literally.  It should be a game free of criticism, but should also be a game free of real praise.  The game was played through sheets of falling snow that made players indecipherable.  The pitch was transformed into a soft bed of white snow that would have been better suited for sleeping, snow angels, cross-country skiing, even American football; anything but soccer.  But the game must go on, and so it did, barely.  It is impressive that with help of a tireless grounds crew, they were able to finish the game, but the conditions make it hard to judge it as a game of soccer.

Costa Rica filed a protest with FIFA claiming the game should be replayed because of the weather conditions.  FIFA rejected that notion swiftly.  Apparently Costa Rican captain Bryan Ruiz would have had to make a formal complaint during the game in order for FIFA to consider Costa Rica’s appeal.

In the end the conditions were much better suited for the USMNT, no doubt.  The average temperature for the majority of Costa Rica, excluding the mountain regions, is 74 degrees Fahrenheit.  That’s year around.

Regardless of the outcome on Friday, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann must have realized criticism would be at a minimum.  After the beating he’s taken in the media the last couple weeks it had to be a relief knowing the heat wouldn’t be cranked up too high after this one.  He’ll hope things stay on the cold side tonight in Mexico, but that’s unlikely.

Lalas did say after the game that this showed what the Americans are all about and that they adapted well and fought for the win, even in adverse conditions.

They did get the victory, so that’s a positive.  It counts for 3 points and will hopefully help the team come together in the midst of anonymous sources claiming there is a disconnect between the players and Klinsmann.

Rest assured their criticism-free ride ends tonight.  Maybe they can prolong it bit further with a draw or a win, but either way the vultures are looming.  A win will surely continue their free ride, but a draw in the tough conditions of Azteca Stadium in Mexico would also keep the critics at bay a while longer.

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Fight breaks out at MLS game, sort of…

The Supporters’ Shield goes to the team that finishes the MLS season with the most points.  This year that team is the San Jose Earthquakes. They did enough to lay claim to the trophy after matching the L.A. Galaxy’s two goals on Saturday in San Jose.  The draw in combination with Sporting Kansas City’s draw with the New York Red Bulls clinched the Supporters’ Shield for the Quakes, but not without incident.

A fight broke out in the stands during the game which led to the arrests of seven fans.  As the police attempted to ease the fighting they were hit with beer and other thrown objects, including smoke bombs. There were also reports of physical assault on police officers, but it’s unclear to what extent. It all sounds fairly serious and makes it seem as if this game had more meaning to the supporters than it did the players.

The Galaxy know their playoff spot is in the bag, and San Jose are obviously set for the playoffs and know the Supporters’ Shield is basically meaningless hardware. The MLS has attempted to give it more weight in recent years by making it an automatic qualifier for the CONCACAF Champions League.  Of course the CCL is a tournament that yields very few fans and very little money and has MLS teams continually brush it aside in favor of league play.  At least now the Supporters’ Shield adds slightly more clout than a number one seed in the playoffs, but still lacks the incentive teams apparently need to fight for that top spot in the league.

In Saturday’s game the players from both teams must have been rolling their eyes as the fight broke out in the stands shortly after the halftime break.  They were surely thinking, “Really, they are fighting over us? We aren’t even fighting on the field.” Robbie Keane actually thought the game was a friendly.

One contingent of hard-core Galaxy fans reportedly in the midst of Saturday’s violence are conveniently called The Riot Squad.  There was also another fan club allegedly involved that call themselves the Angel City Brigade.  Clearly, they gave far too much credence to their overly extreme names as they cheered, and fought, literally, for a team named after the stars.

Check out the video of the aftermath.  It’s actually quite anticlimactic.  Seriously, the cops were worried about these hipsters?

Wait until the end of the video as a few fans lazily trickle out of the stadium.  My 91-year-old grandfather could have taken down these hooligans. The term hooligans in this case is a sarcastic characterization.

(Sorry, the video would not embed, but come right back after you view it with the link below)

Rowdy L.A. Galaxy Fans Arrested – VIDEO LINK

Is this the state of MLS fans in the U.S.?  No wonder there is an issue with soccer catching on with mainstream sports fans in America.

The Riot Squad, and maybe U.S. soccer fans in general seem to be overcompensating for something.  Not only with the names of their fan clubs, but with extremity of their actions, especially in comparison to their appearance, and the level of action on the field.  Something doesn’t match up here.

It seems as if they have some need to add more drama to the game because they don’t appreciate the game of soccer for what it is, at least what it is in the MLS. They need a chant, or a fight, or bongo drums, or whatever other type of stimulation they can inject into an MLS game to make it interesting.  In some ways, I don’t blame them.

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We need to raise expectations for U.S. Soccer

In a few minutes the U.S. national team kicks off against Guatemala in Kansas City. Technically it’s not necessary to win as a draw will move them safely to the next round.  There was “technically” no necessity to win on Friday night either against Antigua and Barbuda, but they knew winning was crucial in order to avoid a must win game tonight.  They accomplished that.

The problem is on Friday they were forced into winning instead of playing good soccer.  They were forced into winning instead of improving.  Forced into winning instead of developing youth.  Forced into winning instead of playing the right players.

U.S. at Antigua and Barbuda

Friendlies are for the young guys, World Cup qualifiers are for the steely eyed veterans.  Friendlies are where you try new things and get the young kids a run.  I understand all that and know that the main goal is to qualify for the World Cup. The problem is the mentality that fosters for the future.  Not the mentality of winning, but the mentality of winning without framing it in the context of the opposition.  When Klinsmann chooses a team of the hottest players at the moment, even though they probably aren’t the best for the future, it stalls the progression of U.S. Soccer.

Klinsmann is forced to win, rather than be good. He has to win in order to keep his job. But a win against Antigua and Barbuda should be superfluous to that of improving the quality of soccer. It should be icing on a beautiful cake.  A game where points are expected but not so crucial you have to sacrifice the way you play in order to win. When you have to force a win against a team of that caliber it plays with the psyche of the players, and the fans.  It makes them think that grinding out a win against a sub par team is worth praising.

If the U.S. had taken care of business properly in previous games they would have been able to relax and play creative soccer and maybe even work in some young guys, the guys who will be peaking in 2014, instead of those lingering on the wrong side of 30.  Now, because every game is do or die, those young players only get minutes in friendlies and training, not in matches that really count.

Klinsmann mentioned in pre-game interviews his concentration on younger players, but he also spoke about the need to bring in the guys who are playing well at this moment.  It seems like his focus is on the short-term, as I guess he’s forced to do.

He had this to say:

“We always have an open-door policy that if something interesting comes up, we open the door and see where it could lead. For example, Eddie Johnson right now. He worked his way back into the picture. I was connected with Sigi (Schmid) and he mentioned him several times and he got this chance now and he took his chance. There’s a lot going on. At the same time, we want to improve the team chemistry and become more confident to push the whole game a little bit more forward. That’s a process that will take time anyway. It’s all about getting things done right now. It’s all about that game tomorrow night against Guatemala and beating them, winning the group and advancing to a very busy 2013.”

Admittedly, it would be devastating if the U.S. didn’t make the World Cup.  But as a team of veterans and players in “supposed” good form frolicked in the rain on a pitch that couldn’t handle the rain, or apparently soccer, the void of quality was shockingly apparent.  I know I’ve complained about it in previous posts, but I cannot accept excuses of a bad pitch or a tiring trip to a far off country with stifling humidity. Or a tough away atmosphere without the Nike balls and warm chicken soup that a player’s mom makes before every game, or whatever home remedy makes them play like a different team at home. I cannot accept it anymore.

I will accept a less than stellar performance on occasion, because that happens even with the “gods” of Spain, but I cannot tolerate, nor should any USMNT fan tolerate, these types of lackluster performances whether they win or not.

On a weekend when England chewed the tiny country of San Marino into a saliva soaked wad and spat them out through a straw splattering against the wall in a shameful heap, the USMNT, with a similar gulf in class meandered its way to a last-minute victory over their crumpled piece of Antigua, but left it lingering in their mouths, smelly and sour.

The U.S. is no England, but as a country, we’ll never reach those levels unless we hold our team to a higher standard.  I know people are out there theorizing and contemplating, but I ‘m talking about really questioning the state of soccer in the U.S.  Even though we won on Friday, it was a pitiful display of soccer.

Eddie Johnson after his goal against Antigua and Barbuda

I did like the inclusion of Eddie Johnson, which I discussed as an option over a month ago in, Klinsmann has a choice, no easy answer.

He not only found the goal, but apart from a few errant passes, looked really comfortable and confident on the ball.

I will also accept the difficulty of playing on a pitch the size of under-9 AYSO fields. A pitch like that can definitely act as the great equalizer.

That’s all I’ll concede though.

It’s about expectations. I know you can argue that a team who can win even when they play badly is a good thing, but this just didn’t feel like a good thing.  Aren’t we past the times of simply saying, “Oh well, we’re the U.S., and as long as we scrape out a few wins and qualify for the World Cup we’re happy.”?

I’m raising the bar of expectations.  At least in this little corner of the internet where only a few faithful come to read my rants.  I thank all of you that do, by the way.  This is just my opinion.  Maybe a bit harsh at times so feel free to comment if you think so.  Kick-off is literally in, oh, wait, there it is.  They are underway in Kansas City. Big ups to my little brother, who’s there in KC cheering on the USMNT as I write.

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The ‘diving’ drama starring Luis Suarez – One Minute Rant

I would have loved to move on to another topic but I was given no choice after Luis Suarez’s flopping massacre this weekend at Anfield.  The dive was so obscene it was a caricature of a dive.  It was a bad Saturday Night Live impersonation of Suarez diving.

Or maybe the Liverpool striker imagined a cape whipping in the wind behind him, and the “S” on the back of his jersey standing for Superman instead of Suarez.

Here is the video if you haven’t seen it.  Wait for the replay, but this way you can see it in the context of the game as well.

 

For some reason, on this one, Suarez wasn’t in the moment.  He acted instead of simply being.  Simply being would have still instinctively produced a dive, but it would have been far less appaling.  He might have even won the penalty.  Instead, he didn’t get the call, but somehow returned to action without even a warning from the referee.

Acting class Suarez.  You’re getting rusty.

The parallels raised in my last post, Phantom of the Opera in La Liga, have proven true in this case.

A dive in La Liga equally as bad, admittedly not in the penalty box went unnoticed, while this has become a source of public outrage.  Every news outlet has covered it and most have lambasted it.  That part is good.  The fact that people are speaking out about this type behavior is good.  It proves that although it happens in every league, in England this will only be allowed for so long.

Remarkably, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has taken a stance of support for Suarez.

“At this moment there seems to be one set of rules for Luis and another set for everyone else,” Rodgers told liverpoolfc.com. “I find it incredible that in nearly all the coverage about Luis Suarez this weekend, very little focus has been placed on the fact that he was actually the victim of a stamping incident within the first five minutes of the game.”

It is utterly unbelievable to me that Rodgers has not condemned Suarez or the act of diving in general.  At least in the most publicly courteous manner. He could have said this would be dealt with as a club and that he’s spoken to Suarez and that he feels confident something like this won’t happen again.  All that PR fluff we’ve become accustomed to hearing.

Then, he could have went on with his tantrum about the set of rules for Luis and another set for everyone else, blah blah blah.

the-phantom-of-the-opera-lil-jon-remix-dubstep

Phantom of the Opera in La Liga – One Minute Rant

On a weekend when one dive stole all the headlines, another dive took place, although not in the penalty box, but far more egregious.  This was so bad it shouldnt even be called a dive.  The performance was by Deportivo player, Riki, and the venue was the Spanish La Liga match between Deportivo La Coruna and Sevilla FC.

The on-air commentator called it a Phantom of the Opera Tackle, which describes it far more accurately.

Then to my disbelief, the commentators made a quick joke followed by a silent pause as they seemed to be hoping viewers would forget, and then casually moved past the topic as if it didn’t happen.  I argue that if this was in England, or Germany for that matter, the announcers would have pounded this guy, he probably would have been carded by the referee, and other teams and fans would have pleaded to slap the player with a hefty fine.

There were mass appeals and criticism from pundits and fans last weekend, but they were all pointed at the Antonio Valencia dive in the Manchester United game at Liverpool.  Although his dive led to a penalty, making it more newsworthy, it wasnt the clear-cut cheating and hideous flopping simulation we saw with this Deportivo player.

Check it for yourself.  Sorry for the video quality.

Even though my previous post, Valencia accused of diving, already condemned the act of diving and those types of theatre in football, Riki’s (aka Riki Martin) performance was so appalling and more on par with underground public theatre than the broadway performance Valencia put on, that a one minute rant was in order.

This blunder has hardly been covered online as it was a game between two mid level clubs in La Liga and most people, including myself, brush aside La Liga, with the exception of the top 3 clubs. I only came across this tragedy by chance as I was writing another article and the droning beIN Sport commentators said the aforementioned phrase that caught my attention – Phantom of the Opera tackle.

Call me a theatre nerd, but as a fan of that classic musical I turned my attention from my computer screen to the television.  Not only was the reference valid because of the fall, but it became true on many levels as I noticed the player had a mask strapped to his head.  Granted, one of those clear protection masks, not the white plaster type mask associated with the actual musical, but nonetheless a priceless analogy, that I’m sure was not meant on that level by the commentator, but played on that level brilliantly.

The mask was either part of his costume and something he uses to win pity calls from referees, or if I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt, he suffered from an over zealous nose picking session.

As bad of a theatrical performance as this was, the assistant referee somehow fell for it.  He had a perfect unimpeded view and still waved his flag violently like a little tattle-tailing girl.

I almost didn’t rant about this because it infuriates me so much and I didn’t want to bring attention to the fact that somehow this still takes place on the professional level, and in a top European league.  Granted, I shouldn’t expect much from La Liga, but come on Spain and La Liga.  You guys know how to play football.  Why continue to do this, why, why, why?

Because he got the call and got away with it.

My one minute is up, not counting the video of course.  Okay, maybe slightly longer than one minute.