24 April 2010

A Perfect Day

It is probably too late to get a focused opinion or pertinent observation out of me, but this is me trying. As kickoff approaches, the game is the only thing that matters.

For all the road games I've witnessed firsthand for Philadelphia teams, I've never done so in New York or New Jersey. I am generally in awe of New York City's grandeur, sprawl, and history, but not as interested in bloody noses or any facial bruises.  

Humor, sports and screaming: these are a few of my favorite things.  And combining them all at once?  Add in a rollercoaster and that's it for me.

I like the talk, but would not rather do the walk. My size, temperament and subtle balancing would serve me well in a fight, I am sure, but I am just soft; the adrenaline of the crunch is just too much. Given my propensity for smack-talking, my chatter would likely be short lived if I were to be marooned and surrounded by New Yakkers.

Away support is one of the aspects of world soccer culture that sets it apart, and one of the biggest attractions to the sport for me. Allowing all the traveling fans their own section generally enhances the atmosphere by a significant degree. If they're in your home building, you must keep them seen but unheard. If they're audible, then you're being shown up. And the ante of insults can be upped when its impact will be deflected on thousands instead of individuals.

The pack mentality and competition for ear-space on both sides becomes its own match, co-dependent with the one being played out on the field.  Listening for the back and forth when watching a game on TV is intriguing for a newcomer.

Honestly, I couldn't ask for a better first experience on three fronts: away soccer match for our brand new Union, going into New York for a Philadelphia game, and the fortunate fact that the Red Bulls have failed to acquire hardware in any season of their existence. Talk about a perfect storm!

The fever has captured me, I must prepare the hatred.

21 April 2010

Just Get It Over With

The loss to Toronto, quite painful. I can tell, because rewinding the game for another look feels like actual work, which means this recap has been procrastinated out of any real relevance. A much tougher pill to swallow than the game lost to Seattle; despite being reduced to ten men in the first half again, the Union dominated long stretches of the match, and to any neutral were clearly the stronger team. For all Danny Califf's big words about his team's toughness and aspirations to infamy, he has whipped himself and at least one of his potential partners into a crimson frenzy, while in the process ruling himself out of the massive derby against the Red Bulls immediately following.

Trust me, if this were hockey, I'd be screaming the praises of his antics. Unfortunately for him, it's not! This crazy game has rules which govern personal conduct on the field of play. And no disrespect either, as it's a difficult concept to comprehend for any American. But the most recent dismissal has to smarten these aggressive players up quick, or the skilled players working that much harder in their absence will just be further exposed to injuries over the course of a seven month season.

And off the bus.

Dwayne De Rosario looks like an extra from Bad Boys 2. And not in a good way.

Contrasted with Danny Califf, who actually already looks guilty for his forthcoming red card.

BMO Field is a beautiful facility, can't really hate on that. The skyline backgrounded the corners and wide-shots all night to impressive effect. “That's where the Leafs play!” made me laugh all night.

“Win You Must” and Yoda banners from the raucous Toronto faithful. Quite nerdy, but epic. If only by shear geography, this a worthy international stage. Toronto are under a ton of pressure locally, failing to reach the postseason in their first three seasons.


Toronto FC (4-5-1): Frei, Hscanovics, Cann, Attakora, Usanov, Sanyang, Saric, Labrocca, De Guzman, Gargan, De Rosario

Philadelphia Union (4-4-2): Seitz, Harvey, Orozco, Califf, Arrieta, Torres, Jacobson, Miglioranzi, Fred, Moreno, Le Toux

Nowak still not on the field.


1' Harvey, to Seitz, back to Harvey. If those two ever passed to each other like that in training, I'd send them on laps.

2' De Rosario pressures Seitz into booting it out of play. The rest of the league got the memo on Seitz' erratic tendencies.

3' Le Toux did have an open header from 25 yards. He has to try to more with that. Frei was in no man's land but allowed safe passage back.

3' Califf knows he's past the ball, so he slashes down Labrocca but doesn't draw a foul. Just trying to get Danny's name in before he's sent off.

4' Seitz stumbles on the fresh grass turf while handling a long, long ball. Alarm bells are ringing.

6' Stiff tackle, quickly to ground by Califf on De Rosario. He got low. Wish he would have had another 60 minutes on the field to do that.

10' Corner for Toronto...

10' Leading to a great ball from Fred for Le Toux, who eventually dribbles the ball away and wasting a great break. Union keeping the ball and nicely linking up together, but not threatening the goal with purpose or accuracy.

15' Again, Union gelling in midfield, but Arrieta's cross is too strong and aimless.

16' Hscanovics' potentially gruesome challenge on Arrieta's standing leg only punished by a yellow card. There wouldn't have been much to complain about a red card there. Late and very pointy. I'd have some questions about that call.

17' Arrieta's delivery is better this time, but Moreno will need another couple inches if he wants to meet that ball with his head.

19' Mention of Toronto's 16,000 season ticket holders and 17,000 more on a waiting list. Very impressive.

20' Rob Stone's nice observation of the schoolyard game going on, 12-14 players in the same 30 yards of the field, all ball watching. They spent $3m on the new field and the players are only using ten dollars' worth.

22' Saric warned for persistent fouling on Fred

24' Union stalling with the ball too long between the back four...this does not portend well for our Union...

25' Yellow for Usanov, taking on Moreno's defenseless standing leg; that could have been really ugly. He could have been cautioned again for playing the drums in Hootie and the Blowfish.

26' Miglioranzi's deflected cross goes for Union corner. Torres being TP'd by Toronto supporters like the principal's house.

29' Le Toux's effort is at least ten yards wide of the goal before drifting into the stands. Distinct lack of sharpness in the final third for both teams.

31' Arrieta with a very nice ball into the box, Le Toux is pushed over and doesn't get his head to the back post.

33' Bad things happen when our back line plays it amongst themselves. Someone needs to be coming back and taking the ball from them. This will not be an acceptable practice going forward.

34' And yes, I knew this was about to happen. RED CARD FOR Danny Califf, who lazily stands over the ball before playing it back to Seitz, and sticks out an elbow in De Guzman's face which would have earned him a red card in Nelson Mandela's prison league from the World Cup on ESPN commercials, let alone an MLS game in Canada. Califf's appearance doesn't really serve his plea of innocence, either.

Seitz does his best to make Dwayne De Rosario's nasty ass famous, fumbling the free kick he easily should have stopped. Seitz' arbitrary hand claps to no one befit a player who has so disappointed his team. That would have been tough to overcome at full strength, but to pile that burden on to an undermanned side is likely to spell d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r. 1-0 Bad Guys.

37' Yellow card for Miglioranzi for a sliding challenge right on the touch line...

38' And De Rosario really should have taken the ensuing chance better than that. A low cross driven to the front post is deflected harmlessly past the goalmouth.

40' Torres' cross is fantastic, but Arrieta and Orozco miss their touches, and Frei pushes it wide.

43' De Rosario tests Seitz from 50+ yards. Not a bad idea, really. He could have been distracted by all the confetti in his box.

45' Fred does what I asked someone to do earlier, which is just pick the ball off our back line and get it moving. He finds generous time and space up the middle, giving the ball to Moreno, who gives and goes with Le Toux twice, before Torres' lofted through ball over the five TFC players between he and a composed Harvey is dispatched past Frei and over the GOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLline. I'm suspect of Harvey's mental capabilities at fullback, but not his tidy finishing on display here. A rare shiny moment of class in this slog of a match. 1-1.

45' Dellacamera makes note of Torres' second assist in as many games. And that's just how we roll into...


I hope Seitz' teammates give him a proper Amish shunning. He and Califf have some 'splainin' to do. I can't help but wonder if Alejandro Moreno is a more capable candidate for captain than Califf. It's early in the season, but why wait until it's too late? He's been successful in all his whistle stops around the MLS.


Subs for Toronto: Barrett, White come on for Usanov and Saric.

46' Union forced to shackle Le Toux's creativity by playing him in a much deeper position given the circumstances.

49' Le Toux's open header from point blank range is targeted right into Frei's thankful arms. Torres' sweet delivery once again fruitlessly wasted by the overworked Union attackers.

52' Toronto pressing with more conviction, which you would expect from a team on an hour long powerplay. There should be a penalty box for red carded players, no doubt about it. Maybe one day, Danny, they'll name it after you.

53' Seitz does exceptionally well to save De Guzman's shot from 22 yards. Despite some swerve and dip, the Union keeper forces the ball around the post.

54' Barrett's header at the back post from De Guzman's cross is balded wide.

56' Torres comes off for Shavar Thomas. Torres was on the business end of a physical challenge and hasn't looked so fluid since then. A cautionary defensive change for multiple reasons. Leading immediately too...

57' Thomas on the field barely a minute before picking up a yellow card, conceding a free kick at the edge of the 18 yard box. Labrocca's cross has lots of options at the back post, but no one displays the required desire. Sanyang looks like he got whacked above the eye with a mountie's baton.

60' Toronto's last change has Peterson on for the bloodied Sanyang.

62' Thomas is just oh-so-fortunate not to give up a penalty as he hauls down Brian White by the arm inside the area. Why are our defenders so dim?

65' Union absorbing Toronto possession over the last few minutes, rarely threatening or threatened.
Gargan goes down with a hamstring issue, leaving Toronto in an awkward spot, having used all three of their substitutions.

68' And he is getting a vigorous man rub on the upper thigh from the physio. This is ESPN, not LOGO, geez.

70' De Rosario's scissored effort goes wide, almost making the impossible look simple. Very impressive.

71' Le Toux's low crosses from set plays have been disappointing all night. Not quite sure what he's attempting there, but he needs to stop.

73' Jacobson off for Okugo.

75' Seitz allows the ball to lay up over the cross bar from Labrocca's deflected shot, which goes for a corner anyway.

78' Philadelphia retreating back to the keeper with their rare spell of possession. Lots of consecutive passes but ultimately turned over, allowing Toronto to win another corner. Gagan's header brings the crowd to their feet before they realize which side of the net was impacted.

80' Barrett's low shot certainly forces Seitz to work to save and hold possession. Fair to say there is a sizable dossier leaguewide on Seitz' shortcomings based on his first few starts.

80' OH FFFFFFUUUUUUUUDDDDDDGGGGEEEE. Penalty awarded against Seitz, who helps himself to a couple of slaps at White's feet, forced to make a decision not in his mental wheelhouse.

82' I HAVE MY FIRST REAL PURE HATE OF AN OPPONENT, so thanks for that, Dwayne De Rosario. I really had a hard time accepting our loss at the hands of that slimeball. He's the f*cking sixth Backstreet Boy, and he outscored us. 2-1 Bad Guys. De Rosario actually kind of looks like Scott Hall, too.

83' The Union will need a real miracle if their to get anything out of this game from this point. Arrieta's strike is off target, a bit hopeful but certainly from a favorable position.

85' Union pressing higher up the field, but unable to get any serious intention behind the efforts on goal. Toronto really milking the clock for all its worth from every whistle. Can't say I really blame them.

89' Le Toux does exceptionally well in defense, extinguishing De Rosario's through ball for Barrett and saving us a bit of pride.

90' Gargan's labored challenge gives the Union a long throw opportunity into the box. Toronto breaks on the ball, before De Rosario smacks the cross bar with a strike from an offsides position. Rarely has a forward been so thankful for an offsides flag.

90' Toronto content to play keepaway for the game's remainder.

Brainless mistakes by the defensive core again undo all the positive play made possible by the attacking players.  The manager needs to teach these players the kind of discipline they're going to need to facilitate their physicality.  Otherwise, tough tackles will just put us in tough spots, and no amount of South American or French magic is going to be enough to compensate.

15 April 2010

(Definitely Not An) Overnight Success

"I did it overnight, it couldn’t happen any quicker"
-Toronto rapper Drake

"Well the destination reached in down-a East detention
Where they whip down me pants look up me bottom"
-Toronto rapper Snow

As the kickoff for GAME 3 approaches, I am mostly free of the worries and doubts I had about the beginning of our franchise. It was mildly disappointing to lose the first match in team history on the road in Seattle, but not even managing to score was more worrying than disappointing. We wouldn't lose every game, and we'd eventually have to score, but a nagging doubt would still broadcast doomsday scenarios in my head. How long would it take to score? To win? Would we ever win? Could we go a whole season without winning????

Gratefully, Sebastien Le Toux must have been reading my thoughts, because he assuaged my troubled mind in splendidly swift fashion, smashing the game-long duck to pieces before half of the crowd were in their seats. And he would keep the party going all night long, collecting a hat trick as well as the Union's first MLS scalp. With the exception of a major mental error, the Union looked like the dominant side for most of the evening, and the eventuality of Le Toux's gamewinner was never really threatened.

So with a quality victory under our belts, we turn our attention to the newly created Canadian MLS franchise. I am still bitter from the Olympic Men's Hockey Gold Medal Game, and could really go blue in the face with Canadian hate speech...but I won't.

Last week, AUCU was stuck for words to write about a D.C./Philly sports rivalry without a lot of history. Toronto, and their F.C., challenge me in a different way. I have a surprisingly bottomless supply of hatred for The Only American City In Canada. Since TFC is owned by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, they share more than a few DNA strands with the Laffs, and as such, in 2007 they were forged in the flaming fires of failure into a sporting lineage devoid of any reason to celebrate for the last 43 years. And the Red Bulls think 15 years is a long time?

In any given spring of the early 00's, there were a few certainties: a couple of Neptunes-produced jams in heavy rotation, and a bloody mess of a playoff series between the Flyers and Laffs. The most fascinating aspect of this rivalry was the mentality of both teams, and their coaches, which dictated that, win or lose, the team that survived would be so tired and beaten that winning was not so different from losing. The respective atmospheres of the home crowds buzzed at a level only possible when the right combination of passion, history, blood, and artistry come together. Toronto played for Canadians no matter what Tim Horton's they went to.

Given the quality of the rivalry, I might be expected to have and give some begrudging admiration or respect for that team, or their fans. I don't, and I won't.

And maybe I should examine Toronto's lineup, and make observations and comments about funny names or funnier heritages. But guess what? I didn't recognize a single name on their roster. That could be the Blue Jays batting rotation for all I know.  Or the Marlies.  Or the Raptors.  I mean, honestly, who cares?????

Ah crap, just remembered this.  Kick someone for me tonight, Danny.

Game on.

13 April 2010

Open for Biz-nass

I had the joy on Saturday of attending the first MLS game played in our cordial City of Brotherly Love. Needless to say, though I will continue, the occasion was extravagant and the liver's ability to contest with an untidy variety of adult beverages received a stern examination. When the final whistle was blown at That Place Where Jeffery Lurie Prints His Money, the Odyssey itself was rendered no more epic than a canoe journey across the Delaware River compared to the fury unleashed by the Union's very first Frenchman. (Actually, given the the natural acidity of the water, that canoe trip would be kinda epic). The Union won a dramatic 3-2 decision in their, to repeat –dramatic pause-- First. EVER. HOME. GAME. (At least until the next first home game in June).

With hindsight, here's what must be a record number of words written about a single Fox Soccer Channel telecast.

Christopher Sullivan, do not want. Hair and wind tangled, Sullivan can hardly cope with the not-gale force winds.

Another pregame interview with Danny Califf. Seems like a nice enough guy, but if he had an S.S.-themed sex tape come out, I'd be the least surprised one here. I shudder to think of the social circles that personal décor could grant entrance to. Just sayin'.

Red Bulls get their first road win in 27 games. That is just adorable. They finally got better than an F for effort.

Katie Witham, I don't care that you stammered or shook your head a lot. I don't.

Le Toux first off the bus. You tube had no response for my desire to hear DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince's "Charlie Mack (1st out of the Limo)". Sad, that.

Outdoor studio an inhospitable environment for FSC's impressively onsite coverage. Mother Nature is owning Sullivan's broadcast professionalism, at the moment.

Alejandro Moreno's experience highlighted, very excited and confident about his game...”manage the game”...????...Oh god, is he our Trent Dilfer?

Interview with D.C.'s Rodney Wallace. Skip.

Interview with his teammate, Santino Quaranta. He looks like what happens when a Menduo kid goes to prison for muling.

Interview from McFaddens with the SoB's HNiC. Congratulations to the founders, quite an achievement today. Biggest victory for fat white guys citywide since I dunno, the Wing Bowl?

Shots of the classless D.C. United fans banished to the rafters, the quicker to hang themselves from. Who says we aren't welcoming?

Califf “stood up like men”...on the D.C. supporters “I hope they're ready to get rocked”

DC United's hometown announcer calling the match. I don't think I'm gonna have happy things to say about this. No, no I won't. Also, as I edit this (hahahahaha), I am watching Jon Champion doing “play by play” for ESPN UK. Note to American commentators: Often, it's quite alright to just STFU and let the game happen. Really, pace yourselves, you're too far behind to try sprinting.

Those old school Philadelphia Fury shirts look pretty sweet. I wonder if Mitchell & Ness is carrying those yet.

Both teams exit the tunnel. It's so on.

From nearby Delaware, Joe Biden's rider for this public appearance was modest and appropriate: a glass of warm milk, and the Late Edition of the Evening Post. He does really push the drama of the National Anthem over the top though.

Walter Barr the honorary captain for the Philadelphia Union tonight. Assisted on USA's goal in their 1-0 victory over England in the 1950 World Cup.


Union: Seitz, Orozco, Califf, Arrieta, Harvey, Miglioranzi, Torres, Jacobson, Fred, Le Toux, Moreno

D.C.: Perkins, Talley, Jakovic, Peña, Wallace, Barklade, Morsink, Castillo, Quaranta, Pontius, Allsopp

Tragedy has Peter Nowak in the press box tonight. Jim Johnson, R.I.P., did some good work up there, too.


1' Jordan Harvey concedes the first ever throw in against the Union! These are our record books, and we'll make them as trivial as we like, thank you very much.

2' Torres picks a pocket and finds space. His accent is Colombian, Torres! Torres!

2' Enough about the pitch dimensions. We're not playing in the Spectrum ferchristsakes. Not that there's anything wrong with that, Kixx!

3' Peña reckless, flagrant tackle on Moreno, an injustice to be rectified in double time.

4' YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Torres' wonderfully curvaceous cross finds Le Toux's head attached to a fantastic run. Creates enough separation to drive a D.C. United bus through on its way back home. The game could not have begun any better for the Union XI. They are obviously keen to impress their new fans in their debut, and oblige their desires with sublime execution. 1-0 Good Guys.

5' Castillo's chance from distance fairly innocuous, but the way the defenders backed off there will be punished later. Must do the closing down with more haste.

6' The Union's Moreno hauled down as a hoofball arrives from a panicked Seitz. No call. That was a foul from where I was. I will differentiate between the two Morenos by just calling D.C.'s “Brownie.” That's fair.

7' Moreno excellently executes a textbook drop toe hold to halt D.C.'s momentum in his defensive end. He could be a luchador in the offseason.

8' Extremely late nip at Fred's heels.

9' ...Allowing Orozco's floating long ball to eventually land at Le Toux's left foot only to be blocked. Moreno and Le Toux's understanding is very good to see.

11' Casual discussion between the commentators on the MLS' mining of South American talent. Which when you think about it, would be reverse American globalization. Or maybe it wouldn't. But that's a big word, so who can really say?

12' Torres with another excellent delivery into the box, this time from a dead ball. No connection on the other line, but the Union's attacking qualities look bright. We all understand him though, Torres! Torres!

15' Peña off, not really touched with any aggressive contact, and doesn't look particularly injured. Julius James replaces.

15' Torres doing a very good job of tracking back and not giving D.C. any room to breathe. He can't go back to Medellin...

17' Califf with some typically physical defending, shivving a United forward in the back with his knee.

17' Le Toux's backheel for Moreno unfortunately results in a brutal tackle from behind. That should be red. Dangerous, no attempt to play the ball. He actually ends up taking out Moreno's knee with his hip, if that indicates how absurdly poor the challenge was.

20' Injury update on Peña, minor hamstring strain. That doesn't sound like gauchoing up to me.

24' Passive sparring between the two sides over the last ten minutes or so. No real threats or inventiveness on display. Le Toux and Moreno having a tea party outside the 18 yard box, but fail to find real sharpness...yet...

25' United's “most encouraging breakout” was really weak and nonthreatening...there is definitely a pattern detectable in D.C. sports.

26' Califf's headers and tackles dictating D.C.'s possibilities on offense, which are quite scarce at the moment. Danny's play is emblematic of the confidence displayed by the Union's shape when United has the ball.

28' Wow, I would like to see that again. It appears Alejandro Moreno has added a flying knee to his repertoire, at the expense of at Jakovic's chin. OH! Snap, he got sandwiched, and the deciding blow was dealt by his own teammate. I hope those two aren't locker buddies or that is going to be awkward. Jakovic's memory of the incident will be slight, though.

30' Camera catches a goober in a full Captain America costume. And people tell me all the time that I am embarrassing? Puh-leeze.

31' Torres does a good job of getting some kicks back without incurring a cautionary card. 'Cos all the chicas scream his name...

35' Another two footer from a United player on Fred, and Wallace is carded for his stupidity. He might have gotten the ball, but at the potential expense of Fred's career.

36' Califf with a clean, hard tackle that flattens the attacker but frees the ball.

37' Fred and Torres continue their South American connection in midfield, frustrating United's defensive efforts.

38' Le Toux does a fantastic job of extinguishing the United attack before it starts with a strong tackle in their defensive half.

40' PINCH ME I MUST BE DREAMING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OK here we go. This was sweet. At 39:14, Arrieta clears the corner kick, finding Moreno posted up on his man at the midfield stripe, the ball arriving at 39:17. At 39:19, he sweeps the ball 40 yards diagonally to a streaking Le Toux, whose first touch at 39:21 gives him the room to blow by the three DC United defenders in my standard definition frame. Sometime between those two seconds, the whole crowd realizes what's on, and the noise rises as the fans get on their feet. Le Toux strikes the ball along the ground with supreme poise and composure. Before the second hand can tick again, the ball is past Perkins, but still a foot from the goal line. The celebration has already begun. The feeling you have when you know your team is about to score a goal in soccer is probably my favorite out of any emotion that sport can evoke. My thoughts at the time were probably more like “OMG OMG OMG DO IT DO IT DO IT HE DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” then handshakes and tongue kisses all around. 2-0 Good Guys.

41' Just breathtaking.

42' Moreno draws a card from Barklage, who was stranded at a distance too far from his settled position. United are shell shocked and weary.

43' Barklage follows up his weak defensive effort with a weak volley on net, comfortably handled by Seitz. Can't fault Barklage's consistency anyway.

44' Roger Torres releases the attacking play on the back of a great takeaway, and another tackle from behind has him on the ground, unable to even spectate the play following his ingenuity. Roger Torres, The Union's Number Twenty!

45' Miglioranzi goes to ground far too rashly for my liking. More aware or sinister players may have made a meal of that.


The Union have to feel great about what they've done in the first half, appeasing the rabid home support in spectacular fashion. Their dominance has been comprehensive, and as I tried to make our section aware, “NOTHING CAN GO WRONG!”

First day in MLS history with 8 games played. A real rogue's gallery of Philadelphia soccer history paraded on display for some apathetic casual fans attending, hopefully making up most of the 16,000+ that PPL Park won't have room for.

And we're back.


46' “Brownie” is on for United. I'll be kind and just call him low down, filthy, and sneaky.

48' James gets an Adidas logo stuck to his chin after a facial rejection of Jacobson's driven shot a far distance from Perkins' net, but not nearly as far from James' head.

51' Moreno's classy creativity allows the Union to play some really nice passes in the attacking third, ultimately earning a corner but precious little else. Torres' delivery into the box very positive again, though.

53' Jacobson's through pass via Montero's dummy springs a breakaway, but Le Toux's shot can only find Perkins' chest, and Philadelphia will eventually want to kick themselves for a change rather than their opponents for not burying United there.

56' The Sons of Ben applaud Talley's effort for United which lands several rows deep into their dedicated end zone section.

60' Wallace gets exactly what he wants from the show he puts on for the referee at the edge of the box, leaving his feet before making contact with a now yellow carded Arrieta's stationary leg.

61' Pontius' free kick lands in the SoB section, to rapturous reception. The volume from the crowd overall is slowly getting better, but it's clear that the supporters section will be a good influence no matter which end the Union are attacking.

63' UNMITIGATED DISASTER ARRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHHH An unfortunately lazy pass by an otherwise industrious Orozco gifts United a life line back into the match. His deflection ensures that Quaranta's shot eludes Seitz at full stretch. Harvey's positioning to receive that pass also deserves questioning. If he is prepared to meet a pass as opposed to accept one, then he at least finds himself in a better position to do the right thing, which is to kick whatever part of Quaranta's body will fully stop his forward momentum. On repeated viewing, Harvey does not make an attempt to get his body in the way of any part of Quaranta's simple, not so swift run. Have we seen Harvey in this area before? Draw your own conclusions. 2-1 Good Guys.

63' Le Toux should have buried that chance a few minutes ago, although he will redeem himself in about 17 minutes. But 3-0 and it's time to kiss the baby, and now we must suffer a bit before the reckoning.
64' And then, there are two balls on the field for a moment. Oh God, no. Will this ever stop haunting me?

64' Morsink helps himself to a heaping handful of Fred's shirt, pulling him towards the ground with an almost romantic intention. The referee must have also observed this tenderness, which caused him to leave his whistle up his

65' Wallace is an embarrassing diver. Faced with two defenders, he belly flops to the floor and earns a free kick he should be shamed of. Cheaters never prosper.

66' Allsopp earns a yellow card for yet another meaty challenge from United's sour tarts, this time against Califf. That's probably not a smart strategy going forward, considering Califf's temperament without getting hacked.

68' The pace is beginning to pick up, again on the back of poor, apathetic passes by defenders, United's in this case. Moreno's quality opens up the defence again, but the Union can't capitalize on the proceeding corner. Torres' energy and endeavor is celebrated by the crowd as he exits the match, in favor of Shea Salinas, formerly of Earthquake Country.

70' OH NOEZZZZZZZ> Setiz is unsettled by Brown's Avery-like tactics, and ends up dropping the ball outside of the box, and simultaneously right at Brown's feet. Firstly, Chris, I demand you tuck in your shirt. That is emblematic of the problem you've just created for your team. I didn't like the look before, and now it just has to go. Secondly, by the Tuesday after the match, the MLS' officiating director will have stated that this goal should not have counted, as there are rules about attacking players interfering with a goalie attempting to punt the ball from his hands. So the so-so job the official had been doing up to this point just entered into scandalous incompetence. And thirdly, some United players' audacity to taunt the side of the field I was sitting on thankfully didn't end in my ejection for stumbling over the railing to insult their heritage, or something. And oh yeah: “NOTHING CAN GO WRONG!” 2-2.

73' Quaranta adds a yellow card to his tally for the evening, with a poor tackle on Salinas.

74' Le Toux's low cross finds Salinas, who smashed the ball top shelf but off the frame of the goal. I thought he scored for sure in person, but that could have been due to a slight degradation in spacial awareness and depth perception.

76' Jacobson's sweet aerial through ball finds Fred on his galloping horse, before Moreno just can't find a seam for his shot. Since the jerks got their jerky second goal, play has been very open at both ends of the Linc.

78' RED CARD!!!!!!! for Jakovic, who can have little to complain about after hauling down Moreno before he could get in one on one with Perkins. Free kick on the edge of the area, dead center.

80' JUSTICE IS SERVED!!!!!! I was always thankful for the Statue of Liberty, and now I have to applaud the French for the origin of the first hat trick I've ever seen at a soccer game in person. Le Toux stands over the ball, while both teams' players obscure most of his view of the net. He looks right, then left, then right, then finally down as he MAGISTERIALLY rips a low shot to his left and easily past Perkins' right. “IT'S IN THE NET! It's in the net!” Absolutely electric explosion from the now fully awake and elated masses. Le Toux jumps into the arms of his bench, while his head has surely found the clouds. He has written Le Legend in his first game for his home fans, while bearing a name that fits right in with Philadelphia's love of a player's name than can be made to sound like a “Boo.” Letoooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuxxx. He'll give credit to his teammates for his outstanding play today, but the third belongs to him. What an individual effort.

81' At the game, this was an excruciatingly nerve wracking 15 minutes before the final whistle had blown. As previously stated, the experience of the Philadelphia fan from this point in a game is not always great.

85' The Union have been in shameless time-killing mode since taking the lead again. Never play prevent, never. United haven't really sniffed the Union goal since then either, though. The man advantage since the red card has certainly helped.

88' There is a slow roar building through the crowd. Victory is just a few torturous minutes away. I was watching between my fingers while squeezing my head with my scarf. Let it end, dear God just let it end.

90' The applause for Moreno doesn't match his contribution to the game. Fans, myself included, will grow to actively appreciate what he facilitates for his team. Four minutes of stoppage time added. I am going Artur crazy by now.

90' Possibly one last attempt here for United to get forward, but Quaranta's ball in from midfield is cleared and swept away in possession by the Union. Salinas quite happy to work the ball amongst himself in the corner, taking precious seconds off the clock.
90' Into the fourth minute now. United unable to reclaim possession. Tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick.


Le Toux raises his arms in triumph and dominance, as many of his teammates run to the North End Zone to celebrate with the bouncing Sons of Ben. They came, they saw, and they ultimately conquered.

Next up, more reflections on the opener and a healthy skewer of Canada's only American city ahead of Thursday night's clash.

10 April 2010

A (re?)New(ed) Rivalry

When one sits down to reflect on the sporting past between two historical and geographical rivals, one finds himself without much to say. In the spring of 2008, the Flyers and D.C.'s Capitals contested one of the all-time great first round playoff series, culminating in a Game 7 victory on the road for the Orange and Black. Beyond that, I have vague recollections of decimating the Redskins over the past decade, but their history with the Eagles from the 90s is better left forgotten.

But in this very week, that is all changing. The Eagles have shipped their often fearful quarterback to their divisional rival, and the Union finally get their hands on the Damned United.

So, with D.C. United rolling into town, leaving their four MLS Cups in some sad trophy case in a crack den reserved for the District's elite, the Union will be staring down their arch-rival. While most of the vitriol and ridicule has been reserved for the New York Red Bulls, and rightfully so, we, the supporters must summon the appropriate bile and hatred for what would be considered, in Eagles terms, “the gold standard.”

I have been to RFK Stadium. I don't think anyone would say it's anything nicer than a landfill. Its cavernous sadness echoes through the empty seats, the bitter remains of an American football team moved on to more lucrative pastures. I'm actually shocked it hasn't been knocked down. Are these statements what the MLS would want associated with its most decorated franchise? There are hopeful whispers in the Beltway corridor of building a dedicated facility, but our own cathedral will be opened and rocking before anyone in D.C. rubs two pennies together (coins, not the endearing nickname).

The glimpses of yesterday's pep rally I've seen were quite impressive. The fervor about town is at a true fever pitch for the tirelessly patient citywide support. And speaking of endearing, captain Danny Califf's comments to the fans would suggest that the physical tactics displayed in the franchise opener were not an accident. He related that D.C. United players could expect to see him standing over them. If I were little (which I'm not) and an immigrant (also no), and wearing a D.C. kit tomorrow (hell no), I'd be quicker releasing the ball than usual.

At present, I am probably a bit too excited to express properly the magnitude of today's occasion. THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERI-CA notwithstanding, of course.

As for the matter of today's match, expectations can be expressed in one word: desperation. The Union's young guns will be flying around, seeking to impress what will be a rabid and deafening home crowd for the first time. Between them, the two teams possess zero points, three losses, and a -8 goal differential. Despite Peter Nowak's dedication to a physical game, he will surely be anxious to provide his new employers with a modest goal haul and a result worth remembrance.

I anticipate the Union enjoying breathlessly loyal support, from what will be a sea of soccer ecstasy. It will feel like what it must feel like when Sting orgasms. All the energy and devotion that has been gathering for decades, appropriately harnessed in the past half decade, will flood down the aisles and onto the hopefully flawless playing surface.

Expect to see today:

A world class facility. A world class city. A world class franchise.

And finally,

A world class sport.

05 April 2010

The Completely-American Rejects

I present my edited and embellished notes from Saturday's Clash of the Mega Powers for the amusement of all AUCU readers. When my predictions ended up being correct, you will notice I label them as unedited. If they were wrong, they were probably deleted.

To begin: one of the best Fan Zone quips I can recall, regarding Chelsea: “11 of the most despicable human beings on the planet.” Hey, that's “11 of the most expensive despicable human beings on the planet.” Corrected.

Mustoe, Healey, and Lalas man the desk for ESPN2's coverage.

Lalas: “I don't think this is the end all and be all...” Lalas is alluding to the hidden-from-the-public game of mahjong that decides the Premier League, as opposed to something as trivial in the final standings as today's match.


Derek Rae is doing live coverage for ESPN in America. Rae's authority as an ESPN UK correspondent on the scene, while the match isn't even being covered in the UK by ESPN. Corporate synergy I can get behind.

Rooney out, seemingly alone in a club box. The room has been stripped of any object more dangerous than a meat pie. I bet Rooney throws a good meat pie, though. The meat pies have been cooled as a result of heightened security.

Berbatov's stage is set. I am a big fan of his creativity and awareness, but also because he winds up a ManUre supporter I know. Berbatov manipulates opponents with his magnetic presence and deceptive first step pace. He will continue to exist in a time plane exactly .7 seconds ahead of his teammates, while his admirers await his return to our temporal space.

The pregame package also highlights Malouda as an unappreciated talent, a status lessened by his quality on display today in Stretford.

Today's match marks just Vidic and Ferdinand's 8th game together all season, which by their place in the standings, has actually been a good thing. Ferdinand's command of his game is not what it used to be, and Vidic's mind consequently works harder than it's probably meant to. Their current European predicament lies at their respective feet.


Utd: Van der Saar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Fletcher, Scholes, Giggs, Valencia, Park, Berbatov (faraway gaze)

Chelski: Cech, Ferreira, Alex, Terry, Zhirkov, Deco, Mikel, Lampard, J. Cole, Malouda, Anelka

Drogba on the bench? Well never have I ever been so disappointed in you, Carlo.

United! Chelsea! Berbatov! Anelka! Not the clash the world has been waiting for, and it will be nothing short of dreary up top.

Rooney can barely watch, and in retrospect, for good reason.

Peter Drury and Efan Ekoku with the call on the international feed.

1' “All to play for, champions decided today” Agreed. The oceanwide disparity between American and British commentary neatly summed up by Ekoku's dramatic statement here, versus Lalas' dimwitted nonsense.

2' Malouda will break Neville. Believe that. (That has remained unedited.)

4' Berbatov dances a tango for one, spinning towards the end line brilliantly, while his ball into the six yard box is not met for desire by anyone in red. This lack of desire is personified by the lonely troll in a club box, obsessively stroking a ticket to Johannesburg used for pacification by his handlers, on loan today from the local simian habitat.

5' Here I made a vile comment about Gary Neville, which was in poor taste, but really funny. Trust me.

6' Ji-Sun “Rosa” Park. You're welcome.

8' Tight defending from England's new captain erases a bad giveaway by Fletcher. A lucky bounce saves Fletcher from being turned into an actual goat by an idly dangerous Rooney.

9' Advantage well played by Mike Dean to United. Valencia powers off Zhirkov and whips a cross to Dimitar who fails.

10' Berbatov's direction of the play is wizard-like, but he cannot sync to his teammates. Yet. (Actually, ever.)

14' Very tactical matchup (kinda boring)

14' Evra with a low effort, dealt with quietly by Cech. Decent buildup courtesy of Scholes' vision and Gigg's soft feet. They get older, but the balls stay the same age.

18' Chelsea playing keepaway in United's half for the better part of a minute, before Utd's really Old Guard forces a break in the play.

20' JOE COLE for Chelsea! Fantastic run by Malouda eats up every yard of the final third, taking Ferdinand and shrugging off Fletcher on his way to the touchline, before an instinctual cross finds Cole, who adeptly backheels Chelsea to an oh-so-precious lead. Class personified in Blue, if only for this moment. Cole's beautiful finish perfectly contrasted by Malouda's gallivanting dribble.

21' Rooney alleged to be ranting about cookies.

23' Berbatov's holdup stuff not happening for the Reds, unable to rise for the long ball after being repeatedly grounded by Chelsea's center backs.

26' Lots of nailbiting from Gibson and Macheda. I put that down to a lack of pillows at that end of the United bench.

26' Park's penalty appeal denied by Dean, rightfully so. That was very sneaky, Rosa.

27' Second glance, Zhirkov did get a sizable chunk of the thigh. Deany loves to give them too, doesn't he? 16 all year, twice as many as the next official. Prescient info shared by the commentator.

28' Scholesy gets a warning when a yellow card is much more suited to a tackler of his lowly reputation. Scandalous favoritism.

First 30 minutes, rather tepid, lukewarm, bland, unseasoned...except for that cheeky Cole goal. Much better occasion than match.

30' Anelka's tumble routine through United's defence would do a gymnast proud. Awakens from coma to no foul, flabbergasted.

31' Berbatov, used to stripping, not being stripped.

33' Chelsea traveling faithful with a clearly audible “U-S-A!” chant. Thanks for the shoutout!

34' Malouda marauds through United's center again, before Anelka RUINS EVERYTHING. Thanks for nothing.

35' Scholes gets a yellow a minute or two after the fact, for what can only be described as a standing drop kick, in the manner of a sports entertainer rather than a footballer.

37' Ashley Cole and Michael Essien in attendance. They are loving it while clearly sizing up the cheap local Manc tail.

39' United hardly a threat from the corner. Why couldn't Liverpool have played this team a couple weeks back????

40' Ekoku claims Chelsea's play as “controlled, mature.” Scarily, he's right. What on earth is going on with this Blue Side?

43' Jeez I really wish there was more to talk about.

44' Okay now here we go. At first look, it appears Berbatov was hacked down in the box by Lampard On second look, Lampard got away with one. And immediately following, Neville kicks through the back of Malouda, earning himself a seemingly desired yellow card.

46' Terry's tackle on Berbatov is obvious and Giggs' proceeding free kick is left hanging in the breeze to be cleared by Chelsea.


Tense, awkward, and hopefully the slow half of a slow burn.

Derek Rae at half time from the sideline is so much win! Again, kudos to ESPN for delivering the goods.

Sir Alex says about “80%” of United's fans appreciate the talents of Berbatov. That ratio is simply backwards, by my own informal polls.


Expect a much more dynamic United side after a good hiding from SAF.

47' Neville misplays Scholes pass, extinguishes attack for wrong side. Useless yesterday, useless today, and useless tomorrow. Gary Neville!

47' I wouldn't let Gary Neville dress up as Captain Crunch, let alone captain my team.

48' Drogba warming up, applauding the number of scumbags per capita in Manchester. Quite at home in Stretford. If you like seeing officials get yelled at, Chelsea's about to pass out the lollipops.

48' The ball rolls harmlessly over the goal line as Ferreira's pass would've been better as a shot. Guilt-edged chance for Chelsea to throttle this game.

50' Scholes' visionary, classy switches continually negated by Neville's weak crosses and neanderthalic mindset.

51' United applying marginally more pressure in this half, but nothing resembling a chance. Berbatov is the loneliest Bulgarian striker in the world right now.

56' As Park attempts to reclaim the center of the attack area, a free kick is awarded about 25 yards from goal. Berbatov comically loses his footing on an equally comical offsides run from the set piece. Provocatively poor play from Glazer's lads.

58' Park tries to deliver the end product from the best United move of the match, and curls it 15 yards wide of Cech's goal. He couldn't hit that so poorly again if he tried. Serves him right for trying, I say.

60' Mike Dean abets Ferdinand's abuse of Anelka, a partner in the criminally physical defending. There were about 20 fouls in that 5 second sequence that I counted. 20!!!

61' Berbatov's header is inches wide from Giggs' cross. United getting closer, and looking more likely to break their disadvantage.

63' Hearty timewasting effort here by Cech, adjusting each piece of kit before sending the ball out of play at midfield. Couldn't have handled that better in FIFA 10 if I tried.

64' “Thorough” tackle by John Terry. He'll take the ball, then he'll take...

66' Berbatov's header misses the target. (I'm just going to copy this sentence to paste where needed).

68' Drogba getting prepped!! This game was just not scumbaggy enough. No Drogba or Ballack from the start.

70' Twenty minutes of voracious Drogbacity is all we are entitled to. Scoreless against United in his career. I can see that breaking before we're done here. (Unedited).

72' Macheda on for Rosa Park, Scholes off in favor of Nani. Nani's first touch results in a warmup dive and a Giggs free kick from an angle on the skirts of the 18.

73' Fletcher taps his forearm like a junkie, appealing for hand ball. Embarrassing theatricality.

73' Kalou on for Joe Cole, who surely impressed Fabio Capello and his translator.

74' Nani's poor cross in contrast to Scholes splendid distribution. All possession today similarly wasted by United. Angels have been getting their wings for a good 75 minutes today.

75' Frustration building for United as Macheda waits too long to deliver the ball through. It was around this time last year when the budding Italian forward storybooked his place in Manchester lure with a wonder goal as a débutante against Aston Villa, which in a year's time has become a mere footnote. I am really sorry about that too, Frederico. I am. Really.

76' Mikel playing make believe injury. Chelsea don't kick the ball out of play, so can't blame United for doing same.

78' Ballack disrobing on the bench. Another injection of bitterness and rage to the Chelsea side. BetPaddyLadsNow's scrolling odds on a Chelsea player screaming at the referee just taken down.

79' DROGBA!! Brings his class to the party, offsides but right on time for Chelsea's title hopes. The game sure is easier when that rule isn't enforced. A huge goal towards preserving Liverpool's stake in the title collection record. I predicted this broken duck.

81' Quickly answered by MACHEDA!!! A fortuitous deflection bounces off the chest before the guiding forearm. A goal Thierry Henry would proudly claim as his own.

82' Deco off for Ballack. It's about time Chelsea got a player on who can really get in to the referee's ear. And face. And throat. And windpipe.

82' Commentators astutely point out that this match is far from safe for the Blues. That goal was the will of the Red Devil himself, drawing the ball into his mouth full of hell fire. Justice done for Drogba's offsides, as well.

84' Lampard's directional accuracy slightly lacking. Wayne Rooney is alone for ten paces in every direction. I'd hate to be the flea or cockroach from Manchester to cross his sightline at this point.

85' No momentum capitalization by United from that freaky deaky goal.

86' One Darron off for a Darren as Gibson takes the field. Unlikely to make much of an impact.

88' The Chelsea faithful in full, audible voice with just a few minutes to go. If United are to find inspiration to complete a comeback, they'll have to do it without the help of the 75,000+ at Old Trafford, who are being shouted down by their oppositional minority.

90' I expect no more than three minutes of extra time. But this is OT, so probably 10. Rooney departs his suite, unable to watch as Berbatov subsequently squanders a clear chance at an equalizer.

91' Four more minutes called for. The United supporters can taste defeat. And it doesn't taste very good, now does it?

92' Goal kick from the generously awarded free kick for United. Giggs' delivery has been sad and sloppy all afternoon. He tries to direct traffic from the middle, to no practical reward.

93' United loaded with guns and a total lack of trigger pullers.

94' A free kick for United from just inside the half. Van der Saar joins the attack, as Cech claims the ball and perhaps the season's League trophy.

In the end, the match was a rather tedious affair, with few moments of class or imagination. Chelsea control their destiny, and for my meager money, should be tipped to preserve Liverpool's co-claim to the title record in England. By that standard, everyone goes home happy.