Lionel Messi is over it

Written by :
Published on : June 28, 2016

 

 

 

Lionel Messi is totally over it. Arguably the best player in the world, Messi has been the face of Argentina’s national team and the entire soccer world for years now. He just turned 29 and is playing the best football of his life. Routinely making the type of plays that astound viewers and defenders alike, Lionel is in his prime and has helped Argentina become the #1 team in the world.

 

And he’s walking away.

 

After a gut-wrenching loss on penalty kicks to Chile in the Copa América Centenario final, Lionel Messi announced his retirement from international soccer. It was the 4th consecutive Copa América final that he has lost with the national team. When you combine that with a brutal World Cup final loss to Germany in the 113th minute, it’s easy to see why Messi is so frustrated. He has gotten so close on so many occasions and he can’t seem to take that final step to international soccer greatness.

 

 Defeat.

 

When he sailed his penalty kick attempt over the crossbar in last Sunday’s matchup with Chile, the whole world could see how deeply he was shaken. When he later went on to retire from international play, the entire soccer world was shaken. But are we really to believe that the best player in the world is going to quit on his country when he is in the middle of his prime?

 

That’s pretty hard to believe.

 

Rumor has it that other notable players on Argentina’s national team will also reconsider their future with the team. Combined with the frustration of all these close losses in important games is the general dissatisfaction among players with the state of Argentina’s federation. The federation is so dysfunctional that FIFA had to take over it’s management last week, and Messi took to his Instagram recently to publicly lament AFA’s inability to properly coordinate travel arrangements for the team. They can’t get their shit together and because of that the best team in the world might have just blown up, robbing soccer fans of some potentially great moments.

 

 “What the fuck, AFA?” – Messi, 2016.

 

For all of the missed opportunities at greatness on the international stage, Messi’s has enjoyed a great deal of success with his club team. Unlike with Argentina, Messi has reached the mountain top in La Liga. Barcelona has won eight La Liga titles, four UEFA Champions League titles, and four Copas del Rey with Lionel Messi leading the way. Because of all of this success, and all of the millions of euros he would be leaving behind, it seems highly unlikely that he will retire from soccer altogether.

 

Still it would be a shame if he does indeed retire from international play. We should all hope that he was just speaking out of anger, disappointment and frustration, because it would be a great loss for the entire soccer-loving world to see him walk away now. There’s too much talent in those legs for him to just give up like this. With any luck, he will take some time to reflect and decide to come back to the Argentine National Team in time for the next round of World Cup qualifiers this fall.

 

And if he does decide to leave Argentina’s team for good, I’m sure the US State Department can get him some sort of expedited citizenship so he can suit up for the USMNT… Too soon?

 

 


USMNT still has a long way to go

Written by :
Published on : June 23, 2016

 

 

Soccer is slowly becoming more and more popular here in the U.S. I just hope that what we all witnessed in the Copa America Centenario Semi-Final doesn’t turn too many new fans of the USMNT off from the game. Us Americans are pretty accustomed to the U.S. Men’s National Team underperforming on the big stages of international soccer, but the team has been much more interesting in recent years, and as a result more people have gotten into the sport.

 

In fact 8.1 million people here in the United States tuned in to watch our boys play against the #1 ranked team in the world, Argentina. You know, the team that also has the world’s best player, Lionel Messi. I knew before the game that we would have our hands full, but I had a sliver of hope that we could make the game interesting.

 

That hope began to fade quickly and substantially when Argentina’s Ezequiel Lavezzi scored in the 4th minute of play. When Messi scored on a free kick in the 32nd minute, I began to get very discouraged. I knew that there was very little chance of Argentina giving up that lead. But I still watched, hoping that we could put together something resembling competent and controlled soccer and at least lose in a respectable manner. Before the game, a 3-1 loss was something I told myself I wouldn’t be too upset about. That didn’t happen either. When it was all said and done, we lost 4-0. Brutal.

 

 Messi is almost impossible to stop when you’re playing your best. The USMNT didn’t stand a chance.

 

The USMNT advanced to the Copa America Semi-Final for only the second time ever, and that’s something to be proud of. But one thing is very clear after watching our team play against one of the best teams in the world, the USMNT still has far to go before they are to be considered legit world contenders.

 

It was painfully obvious that Argentina was in a league far above the Americans. Argentina plays a beautiful passing game that kept the U.S. chasing the ball for almost the entire 90 minutes. And when the U.S. did get possession, more often than not they made errant passes that quickly turned the ball over. With no shots on goal and very few chances overall, it was at times painful to watch. This is something that I’ve seen for a while now, and if it weren’t for the grit and determination of some of the U.S. players, I’m afraid we would lose like we did on Tuesday much more often.

 

We just don’t pass the ball well and miss people in space constantly. When compared to the best teams in the world, we look like amateurs. I appreciate everything that guys like Michael Bradley have done to help U.S. Soccer progress, but I am also looking forward to the next generation of players and hoping that they can pass the ball better than most of these guys.

 

 John Brooks had his hands full but played great in this tournament. We beed more guys like him.

 

That’s not to say that I wish to see everyone on the team get replaced right now. Clint Dempsey is still a very important member of the team, as evidenced by his four goals in the Copa America. And I wish we could clone John Brooks and have four of him on our back line, because he was a big reason that we made it as far as we did in this tournament. There’s other bright young stars like Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin and the baby face 17 year old, Christian Pulisic, who should all give U.S. soccer fans a ton of hope for the future. But until these young guns fully take over the team, there will be more heartache when we face the great squads.

 

I don’t like every move that Jurgen Klinsmann has made since taking over the national team, but unlike some, I do believe he has progressed soccer in the United States of America. He will be the one who leads the team in to the World Cup in Russia in two years, and we have to get behind him for at least that long. We need to hope that over the next two years, he continues to develop the young, rising stars of the USMNT so that we can show the world, and some of the newer fans stateside, that we are a team worth taking seriously.

 

We’ve made progress, but we still have a long way to go before we can play with the big boys.

 

 


SOCCER RECAP: USA vs Mexico

Written by :
Published on : October 23, 2015

 

 

 

Saturday October 10th, 2015. 6:30 PM PST. The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA.

 

 

 

USA vs Mexico. Mostly a friendly match with a dash of CONCACAF drama. I had not planned on going to the game but my excellent friends wanted to and threw down some cash on great seats right behind the US goal. I couldn’t say no. The four of us parked on one of the few streets in Pasadena not guarded by game day parking enforcement (or whatever that rent-a-cop garbage unit is) and made the free-parking hike toward the stadium.

 

On the way, we joked about who would have more fans? I mean this is America after all, but it’s Southern California AKA Mexico’s ex-girlfriend, so it should be a toss up. Soccer is really growing in the states. The ladies on team USA are the 2015 World Cup Champions, MLS keeps poaching (aging) international superstars, plus there is finally a real groundswell of support (See: American Outlaws below) across the country. Maybe the times are changing?

 

IMG_3833

 

We wind through the broken beer bottles of the tailgate lot and make our way in just as the national anthems blare. We grab $13 Coors Light drafts (yes, they sell beer for non-college games, Alex) and find our section. As we exit the tunnel, we are instantly faced with the full might of the packed Rose Bowl. I was here just the other week for the UCLA game but this isn’t the same. The arena was electric.

 

IMG_3788

 

Over 93,000 screaming fans. We get stopped by security as we try and move down the staircase to our primo seats. They tell us that the area is full even though we have tickets. The only way they let anyone down is if they say they have friends holding them a spot. We learn later, that the unofficial team USA fan club, the American Outlaws, took over the section and made it “general admission”, meaning that the staff won’t help us or anyone else get to their correct seats. Real talk translation: “we have no power over the crowd and are trying our hardest to prevent a riot.”

 

image2

 

We wedge ourselves behind a row off the aisle. Doesn’t matter about having a real seat because the entire stadium stands for the whole game. Mexico scores first and it’s instantly clear who has more fans. My old iPhone 4S does its best trying to record the madness.

 

(click anywhere on the window to start video)

 

But this game would stay close. Team USA answered the bell and the American half of the building broke out into song. I hope The White Stripes get money for this.

 

 

(once again click anywhere on the window to start video)

 

After an intense 90 minutes, we found ourselves tied and heading to extra time. That’s when we met Abraham Lincoln.

 

image1

 

But this wasn’t your grandfather’s Lincoln, this fella had the arms on his jacket missing so you could see his buff biceps. And as everybody knows, Lincoln freed the sleeves.

 

IMG_3795

 

I assumed this was a sign that we would win but Mexico was too good, too athletic, too fast. Since the half, the yanks looked like they were playing catch up. Overtime was a gift. One that wouldn’t last. Mexico put the dagger in with only minutes before the end of OT. Penalty Kicks were not to be.

 

I took the loss gracefully. The same could not be said for many of the US faithful. As we left the packed facility, I was overwhelmed by the clever vendors selling their wares to the exiting fans. Mainly, cans of beer, bootleg t-shirts and bacon-wrapped hotdogs. All at a reasonable markup. We grabbed an exit brew and hoofed it back to the car under the chants of “Mexico-Mexico-Mexico.”

 

I’d say it was a bummer, but I can’t. I saw five goals. Lead changes and equalizers, even overtime. It was incredible. Nothing like I had ever experienced. My closing thought (Jerry Springer!) is that everyone should see one real futbol game before they die. Something like this match. It will change you and make you a soccer fan for life. Trust me, it’s worth it.

 

Oi Oi Oi!!!

 

 

For a less funny recap of the game with GIFS of all the goals go here. Or google it. Lazy.

 

 


Champ and Chump: Week 5

Written by :
Published on : October 15, 2015

 

 

Welcome back to another installment of Champ and Chump. The Major League Playoffs are in full swing, college football is at the halfway point of the season and we are beginning to separate the contenders from the pretenders around the NFL. Hockey is back, and the NBA is on its way with a few more preseason tilts left for each team. Be sure to check out a couple recent articles by Antoine and Patrick to educate yourself on what to expect from the NHL and NBA this season. As for me this week, here’s a look at the champs and chumps.

 

Champ: University of Michigan Football

Harbaugh and khakis have led the Wolverines to the nation’s top ranked defense.

 

It was only a matter of time before Jim Harbaugh was going to revitalize the football program at Michigan, but I’m not sure even the biggest Wolverine slappy thought it would be this fast. Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, realistic expectations had Michigan needing a full season under their belts before they could compete for a conference championship, let alone a national championship. After just 6 games, Harbaugh and company look primed and ready for potentially both as they dismantled Northwestern this past weekend 38-0. It was the third consecutive shutout for the Wolverines who have outscored their last three opponents 97-0. Michigan has the nation’s #1 ranked defense and the offense seems to be finding a groove too. Climbing up to #12 in the rankings has folks in Ann Arbor ready to explode and with in-state rival Michigan State coming to town this weekend, expect the college football world to be glued to some Big Ten action.

 

Honorable Mention:

MLB Divisional Rounds- With at least two of the four going to the maximum 5 games and the other two looking like they may as well, the 2015 playoffs have gotten off to an awesome start.

Eli Manning- For as much shit as people give this guy (myself included), he’s having one hell of a season and Sunday Night was no exception. He went 41-54, for 441 yards and 3 touchdowns including the winner with 21 ticks left.

Andy Dalton- Leading the Bengals to an undefeated record thus far is anything but expected but perhaps something we need to get used to. After all, the guy’s made the playoffs every year. He went 30-44, for 331 with 3 touchdowns in an overtime win over the Seahawks Sunday afternoon.

 

 

 

Chump: Bret Bielema

 

If you didn’t see it, Bret Bielema and the Arkansas Razorbacks went down to Tuscaloosa to take on the Crimson Tide this past weekend. While Alabama went on to win the game, Bielema himself looked like a loser on two fronts. One, he coached the losing team, which is no embarrassing feat when you play Bama. However, after an interception in the first half, a little shoving happened, all of it very mild and the type of behavior you’d expect to see on a football field after almost every play. Bielema is seen in a video getting in between the players to separate this “confrontation” that is clearly not going to escalate, and then sells a shove by flopping away from the Bama player, getting the referee to throw a flag. This immature small victory causes Bielema to celebrate like a 5-year old who just knocked down his first couple pins in bumper bowling. I’m a big soccer fan, and much like we see in the NBA nowadays too, I am ok with a little selling of the foul every once in a while. Granted, there better be some contact, I am 100% against completely flopping. In the case with Bielema, you’re a coach. You should be setting the example for the players on the field, and instead you’re desperately trying to sell that to get your team 15 yards? It is cheap, classless and down right embarrassing. Stay on the sidelines and let the players determine the outcome of the game because after all, you were hired to coach. You do remember how to coach right? (12-19 career record at Arkansas)

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Rutgers QB Chris Laviano- Ugh this poor guy. In the final seconds, on 4th down near midfield with his team down 7, he spikes the ball trying to stop the clock turning the ball over to Michigan State.

Golden Tate- Saying that Lion fans have “turned their backs” on the Lions? Really?! You’re 0-5, have one playoff win in 57 years, you find any and every way to lose while making millions of dollars, yet they owe you more?… he has since apologized but the damage is done.

US Men’s Soccer- On Saturday night, the USMNT had one last chance to clinch a spot in the 2017 Confederation’s Cup after losing during the Gold Cup this past summer. Played in Pasadena, California, the US Men got on the board early only to lose 3-2 in extra time. These guys have been absoluty Jekyll and Hyde recently, when it matters most they’ve faltered.

 


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