Soccer Spectating Report 10-15 May


Palermo 2:1 AC Milan (10 May)

It’s been a while since I checked in on Italian football so when I saw that my putative favorite Serie A side was hosting the home leg  of the Coppa Italia semi-final, I decided to check it out.  It was a fun game with some  exciting goals and Berlusconi’s Bandits reduced to ten men.   It looked closer than in reality since the Milan goal did not come until stoppage time.  Palermo are now through to the Coppa Italia final for the first time since 1979 where they face Inter.

Western New York Flash 3:2 Boston Breakers (13 May)

I’m kind of stretching the limits of soccer games I watched since there was no tv or radio coverage of this game and thus I was left to following the online match tracker.  Western NY are rapidly becoming the team to beat and hated rivals as they were able to defeat Boston without Marta, Christine Sinclair and Alex  Morgan playing. The Breakers managed to make things respectable by coming back from 2 goals down twice and playing a good second half but too little too late to steal a point.

New England Revolution 1:0 Vancouver Whitecaps (14 May)

The Revolution are taking their time getting things together as a team, but this game was mostly another positive step forward.  The Revs earned a win and their second straight shutout under sloppy, wet conditions.  Benny Feilhaber drew a penalty shortly after halftime and Shalrie Joseph converted the penalty kick.  Feilhaber should have doubled the score but his goal was erroneously called back as offside.  The Revs strong second half also saw a good shot by Sainey Nyassi stopped by Whitecaps goalkeeper Jay Nolly.

Ajax 3:1 FC Twente (15 May)

One of the downsides (for me) of European football it lacks the drama of an end-of-season match to decide the league championship.  By serendipity the Dutch Eredvisie season ended with the first place team Twente (71 points) playing at second place Ajax (70 points) effectively making the final game of the season a championship game.  Twente had the advantage of a win or tie giving them the title, while Ajax had home field advantage.  Siem de Jong scored 2 goals for the home side and a Twente own goal gave Ajax a comfortable win for their first championship in 7 years and 30th total.  It’s very exciting to see one of “my teams” earn a championship.

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Soccer Spectating Report 19 April-9 May


The European season is coming to an exciting conclusion while the MLS gets into full swing. Here’s three weeks of soccer highlights.

New England Revolution 3:2 Sporting Kansas City (23 April)

This game was the culmination of an exciting week – striker Rajko Levic’s first home game, the debut of midfielder Benny Feilhaber and the premier of the Revolution’s new shirt sponsor.  While I’m not too excited by corporate advertising on the jerseys themselves I do appreciate that it will improve revenue for the team.  The game was exciting come from behind win with Feilhaber helping set up the first goal and Lekic scoring the game winner with captain Shalrie Joseph scoring as well.

DC United 2:3 New England Revolution (26 April)

The Revs traveled to Maryland for a US Open Cup qualifier, playing an almost entirely different lineup from their previous game against Kansas City.  It was a good sign of the depth of the team as the Revs easily took a 3-goal lead with two goals by Kheli Dube and one by Alan Koger.  They let up towards the end of the game allowing United to get back two points but the Revs held on for the win and advance to the next qualifier versus KC.

Real Madrid 0:2 Barcelona (27 April)

This game had everything: the mad rants and eventual expulsion of José Mourinho, Real’s negative play and hard tackles,  Barça’s excessive play-acting, and lots of fisticuffs on and off the field.  Of course none of these were good soccer and an embarrassment to the game.  Imagine a novice soccer spectator being told that two of the best clubs in the world were playing in the world’s premier tournament and then seeing every soccer stereotype acted out.  Luckily there is Lionel Messi whose two brilliant goals in the final 15 minutes were a joy to behold.

Real Salt Lake 0:1 Monterrey (27 April)

I rooted against Real in the afternoon in one Champions League and for Real in the evening in another Champions League.  Real Salt Lake historically made it to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League and tied against Monterrey 2:2 on the Mexican leg of the final.  Unfortunately, RSL was not able to secure a MLS bye in the Club World Club despite a lot of pressure on the Monterrey goal and good chances in the final 20 minutes.

Chivas USA 3:0 New England Revolution (30 April)

Hello gut punches, I remember you!  The new players and wins against KC and DC built up a lot of excitement for the road game against one of MLS’s weaker sides.  The Revs lost and lost bad as the Goats scored twice in the first half and sealed the game in the 57th minute.  I guess it was lucky that I wasn’t able to get video of the game, just audio from the Revs website.  And the audio cut out after the third goal and I couldn’t restore it.

SC Herenveen 1:2 AFC Ajax (1 May)

An exciting Eredivisie season is coming to a climax and Ajax came from behind to win their second-to-last match.  Herenveen scored in the 19th minute but Ajax calmly responded in less than a minute with Miralem Sulejmani’s equalizer.  Christian Eriksen put Ajax ahead for good right at the start of the second half.  Ajax stands in second place one point behind FC Twente and face that team at Amsterdam Arena for the final game of the season on 15 May that will decide the Eredivisie championship.  Interestingly the same two teams met for the Dutch Cup final on 8 May which was won by FC Twente 3:2.  Hup Ajax!

Boston Breakers 1:0 Sky Blue FC (1 May)

The Breakers won their first home game and broke a two-game losing streak on Rachael Buhler’s goal in the 53rd minute.  A week later though, they lost 2-0 away to Philadelphia.

Barcelona 1:1 Real Madrid (3 May)

A better game than the first tie of the Champions League semi-finals with the home side dominating the first half and going up 1-0 in Pedro’s goal in the 54th minute.  Real Madrid made things interesting when Marcelo Vieria equalized ten minutes later but it was too little too late.  Barça advances to the final against Manchester United at Wembley on May 28th.

New England Revolution 0:0 Colorado Rapids (7 May)

Accentuate the positive: the Revolution got a point from the defending MLS Cup champions and their first shutout of the season.  On the downside, the Revs failed to score themselves despite having long periods of dominating the attack and shots by both Ryan Cochrane and Benny Feilhaber hit the crossbar and Shalrie Joseph missed a golden opportunity.  I guess this is baby steps for recovering from the Chivas lost and bringing the team together.

Fulham 2:5 Liverpool (8 May)

Things got ugly quick at Craven Cottage as Fulham went down by three goals to Liverpool in the first 15 minutes. Maxi Rodriguez would net a hat trick in this laugher for the Liverpool side.  It’s quite a recovery for Liverpool who were in the relegation zone a few months ago and now are challenging for a spot in the Europa League.  I just wish the Red Sox ownership purchased Everton instead.

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Soccer Spectating Report 22 February – 20 March


Lots of catching up to do.

USA 3:2 El Salvador (22 February)

I managed to tune in to one match in the 2011 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship, this quarterfinal match.  It was odd to watch what looked like a high-school game (albeit highly-skilled) played in a mostly empty stadium in Jamaica.  It got to a rocking start with each side scoring within the first 10 minutes.  Then it slowed down until the 95th minute when Mario Rodriguez put the USA up 2-1.  Another goal by Marc Pelosi in the 112th minute seemed to seal the deal for the USA.  Then it got weird.  Three players (2 USA, 1 El Salvador) got sent off in the final minutes and El Salvador capitalized on a penalty kick, but the USA held on for the win.  I didn’t watch any of the rest of the tournament but the USA U17 team won the semifinal versus Jamaica 2-0 and the championship versus Canada 3-0.

Ajax 2:0 Anderlecht (24 February)

The Europa League duel of the Low Country capitals continued with another easy win for Ajax who won 5-0 on aggregate.  This competition is derided for being meaningless but the fans at Amsterdam ArenA were having a great time.  Ajax advanced to the Round of 16 versus Spartak Moscow where alas they would lose 0-4.

Everton 2:0 Sunderland (26 February)

Everton continued a successful spell with an easy victory over Sunderland.

Mallorca 0:3 Barcelona (26 February)

Despite missing some key players, Barcelona won another easy game on the road with goals by Messi, Villa, and Pedro.

PSV 0:0 Ajax (27 February)

The Amsterdam side had a chance to gain ground in the Eredivisie but failed to do so in this dull, scoreless tie.

Manchester City 1:1 Fulham (27 February)

There was a soap opera plot regarding former City/current Fulham manager Mark Hughes, but the drama was pretty apparent on the field in this tense match.  Damien Duff earned a point for Fulham with his late first half equalizer.

Everton 0:1 Reading (1 March)

After the high of defeating Chelsea in the the FA Cup replay and some good wins in league play, Everton’s anemic attack and loss at home to Championship side Reading was a huge disappointment. Now Everton doesn’t have much to play for the rest of this season, except to avoid relegation.

Ajax 4:0 AZ Alkmaar (6 March)

Willem II Tilburg 1:3 Ajax (13 March)

L.A. Galaxy 1:1 New England Revolution (20 March)

The Revs kicked off their 2011 MLS season in an uncharacteristically wet and windy Southern California against the defending Supporters Shield champion LA Galaxy.  Shalrie Joseph put the Revs on the board in the first three minutes and then the Revs mostly defended against a relentless Galaxy attack.  New England also benefited from the referees calling back three goals on LA, but the refs called it right on at least two of them.  A nice scrappy point well-earned against one of the top teams in the MLS.

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Soccer Spectating Report 15-20 Febuary


A slow week for me.  Lots of things to do and choppy streams that cut out mid-game.

Arsenal 2:1 Barcelona (16 February)

The Champions League match started off looking like it was just going to be Barcelona being awesome again with Lionel Messi feeding David Villa for a goal in the first half.  But then Arsenal made a very impressive comeback late in the game with a narrow-angle shot by Robin Van Persie and then the winner by Andrei Arshavin.  A great win for Arsenal – their first ever versus Barcelona – but I think Barcelona will win by a comfortable margin in their home leg.

Anderlecht 0:3 Ajax (17 February)

The Europa League is not as exciting as the Champions League but it did set up this match between historic clubs from the capitals of the lowland nations.  When last I saw Anderlecht they were failing to qualify for the Champions League in embarrassing fashion. Ajax qualified for the Champions League but their third place finish in group play demoted them to the Europa League.  The game was a bit of a laugher with everything going Ajax’s way.  Belgian Toby Alderweireld put Ajax up 0-1 with a header in the first half and then set up the second goal with a pass to Christian Eriksen in the second half.  After Anderlecht missed a penalty kick (something they’re apparently not too good at) Mounir El Hamdaoui finished things of with a third goal for Ajax.

Chelsea 1:1 Everton (a.e.t, 3:4 pk) (19 February)

The FA Cup replay at Stamford Bridge looked very grim when Frank Lampard put Chelsea up 1-0 in the 103rd minute.  But then Leighton Baines miraculously tied it up in the 118th minute and it would be decided by penalty kicks.  Baines had his kick blocked by Petr Cech (déjà vu?) and then Tim Howard made a great save on the shot by Nicholas Anelka, but the game would be decided by Ashley Cole skying his kick over the goal.  I’m not a big fan of games decided by penalty kicks, but dang if this wasn’t exciting.  And more important, Everton advances to the next round of the FA Cup.

FC Barcelona 2:1 Athletic Club Bilbao (20 February)

Barcelona recovered from their Champions League loss with yet another win in La Liga.  Not their best match of the season but their was some Messi magic with fancy footwork and the winning goal.

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Soccer Spectating Report 24-31 January 2011


Well, the transfer period is over now.  This week I saw Luis Suarez leave one of my favorite clubs and move to the rival of one of my other favorite clubs.  Not much in positive news for the teams I follow. Ah well.  The games have been entertaining at least.

Liverpool 1:0 Fulham (26 Jan)

In the battle of clubs formerly managed by Roy Hodgson, Fulham got the better of Liverpool overall and were even responsible for all of the goal scoring, but still took the loss.  The loan goal occurred after some defensive miscues by Fulham allowed the ball to bounce around the goal mouth.  John Pantsil’s attempted to clear the ball, but it glanced off his leg and into the Fulham goal.  American star Clint Dempsey played another great attacking game but just couldn’t connect for a goal.

Ajax 4:1 NAC Breda (27 Jan)

While their hopes of an Eredivisie championship are slipping, the Amsterdammers still have a chance to earn some hardware by repeating as KNVB Cup (aka Dutch Cup) champions.  After going down a goal early on, Ajax made it look pretty easy dismantling NAC and advancing to the Cup semifinals.  The same teams met again over the weekend in Breda with Ajax winning by the same scoreline.

RW Oberhausen 1:1 FC Ingolstadt 04 (28 Jan)

I added another new league to my spectating catalog with this match from the German 2. Bundesliga.  American international Edson Buddle lead the MLS in goals while playing for Los Angeles last season and earned a transfer to Europe.  He scored a goal for Ingolstadt in his first match with the team last week.  In this match, Buddle’s team went up on a 27th minute goal by Stefan Leitl.  Shortly after halftime, Ronny König equalized for the opposition.  Buddle himself entered the game in the 61st minute, but there would be no further scoring.

Everton 1:1 Chelsea (29  Jan)

A most-exciting FA Cup match that saw the home side go ahead in the 62nd minute courtesy of Louis Saha.  I held my breath in hopes that Everton could hold or even extend their lead, but alas a Chelsea counterattack resulted in a Salomon Kalou goal 13 minutes later.  Everton seemed to be the better team on the field so it seems something of a wasted opportunity.  It’s going to be a tough replay at Stamford Bridge on 19 February.

Hercules 0:3 Barcelona (29 Jan)

Earlier this season Hercules shocked their hosts at Camp Nou with a 0:2 victory and hoped to upset the La Liga table leaders again in their home grounds.  Barcelona would have none of that and easily dispatched Hercules with a goal by Pedro just before the half and two goals by Lionel Messi in the final minutes.  The highlight of this game was watching with my three-year old son who pointed out things like “that guy fell down” and shouted “goaaaaaaaaaaal!” after Messi’s scores.

Melbourne Victory FC 2:0 Gold Coast United (30 Jan)

I was up late and couldn’t fall asleep so I tuned into some A-League soccer from Australia.  Melbourne is a sister city of Boston, so their teams have my support although for completely arbitrary reasons I’m drawn to the expansion club Melbourne Heart because they have more of an underdog status and the name Heart resonates more with me than the cocky Victory.  There’s also the fact that the captain of Victory is Manny Muscat, a brute of player serving an 8-game suspension for a vicious tackle.  Nevertheless, it was a Victory game that was on so that is what I watched.  The home side won on a hot day where the crowd was thin and hiding in the shade.  Both goals were scored by Danny Allsopp, a one-time DC United player.  The A-League seems to have a lot in common with the MLS.  It’s too bad our countries are so far apart because it would be fun to see an international cup match of some sort featuring North American and Australian teams.

Internazionale 3:2 Palermo (30 Jan)

Now this is some thrilling soccer!  An offensive spectacle and the lead changing hands over the course of the match.  The only thing wrong with is is that Inter ended up victorious as I like to see the mighty fall.  Palermo took the lead 5 minutes into the game thanks to Fabrizio Miccoli and then doubled their lead in the 36th minute Antonio Nocerino.  Inter were able to get one back with a Giampaolo Pazzini goal in the 56th minute.  The big turning point is when Javier Pastore took a penalty kick that would have put Palermo up 1:3 but had his shot blocked by Júlio César.  The momentum shifted to the home side who soon scored two goals in a matter of minutes: Pazzini (73′) and Samuel Eto’o (76′).  Still a great game though.

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Soccer Spectating Report 10-23 January 2011


Liverpool 2:2 Everton (16 January 2011)

Everton traveled across town to Anfield for the second leg of the Merseyside Derby.  The Reds dominated the first half with Tim Howard rightly angry with his defenders.  Raul Meireles broke through in the 28th minute to put the home side up by 1.  The Blues came out strong in the second half and within 6 minutes Sylvain Distin and Jermain Beckford put them up 1-2.  Sadly, the come from behind would not last as a Tim Howard foul set up a successful conversion of a penalty kick by Dirk Kuyt.  On the one hand it’s a disappointment that Everton wasn’t able to hold on to a win.  On the other hand a road draw with Tim Cahill and Steven Pienaar not available (and taking 4 points from Liverpool on the season) is not too shabby.

Barcelona 4:1 Malaga (16 January 2011)

Barça demolishes yet another La Liga opponent.  I feel like such a glory hunter watching this time, yet they play so beautiful.  At least Malaga was able to net one goal for themselves.

Ajax 2:0 Feyenoord (19 January 2011)

It feels like a long time since I’ve seen Ajax.  I enjoy the Amsterdam supporters chants and the especially appropriate singing a Bob Marley song (“Three Little Birds”).  This was the second leg of the Klassieker derby, although while Ajax are close to the top of the table, Feyenoord are not very competitive this season.  Ajax easily handled their rivals with a Toby Alderweireld goal in the 31st minute and a Miralem Sulejmani penalty kick in the 77th minute.  This match got my hopes up for Ajax to continue climbing up the Eredivisie table but they then proceeded to lose their weekend match at Utrecht.

Palermo 1:0 Brescia (22 January 2011)

Not for the first time I’m writing about a 1-nil match involving Palermo where the final score gives no indication of the end-to-end play on the field with numerous shots off the crossbar, crosses right across the goal mouth, and great saves by the keepers.  Palermo had the better of possession and chances on goal and their efforts were finally rewarded with a lovely shot in the back of the net by defender Cesare Bovo.

FC Bayern München 5:1 1.FC Kaiserlautern (22 January 2011)

It’s been a long time since I’ve watched a Bundesliga match and it seemed to me that the pace of play both in dribbling and passing was faster than in other  leagues.  The score of the game is a bit misleading as Bayern München piled on 3 goals in the final 10 minutes.  Still, the home side dominated the match overall unlike their earlier meeting at Kaiserlautern when the Red Devils upset the Bavarians.  I need to make sure I fit in more German fußball in my soccer diet.

United States 1:1 Chile (22 January 2011)

The USA opened up their 2011 campaign by hosting a friendly against Chile at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA.  The American roster included an even greater number of young, inexperienced players than the previous game in South Africa with seven players earning their first caps.  Chile drew first blood with a beautiful set-up and goal by Esteban Paredes in the 54th minute.  Substitutes Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo spiced up the US attack in the second half. Agudelo was tripped making a run through the box and Bunbury sealed the equalizer on the penalty kick.  Another decent performance by a young American side giving hope for the future.

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The World of Soccer


A lot has happened since my last soccer update.

First, there was the draw for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.  The USA were drawn in Group C with Korea DPR, Sweden, and Colombia which looks like a tough group.  I expect the USA will probably advance, but I could see a scenario where they finish behind Sweden and North Korea as well.  Group A with the  hosts and two-time defending champions Germany, Canada, France, and Nigeria looks like a tough group as well.

The bigger news for many people was the announcement of the hosts for the men’s World Cup in 2018 and 2022.  I find myself have mixed reactions to the whole thing.

On the one hand, I was really hoping the World Cup would return to the US (and to a lesser extent I would have liked the Netherlands & Belgium to get a chance to host).  The USA, England, and some other bidders seemed much better prepared to host a World Cup than Russia and Qatar.  On the other hand, it’s good that countries that have never hosted the World Cup before to get a chance. And the World Cup is going to have great attendance and be a great success no matter where it is held.  Experienced fans will travel anywhere in the world, and new fans from those regions will have a chance to see the games. On the other hand, there seems to be a lot of evidence of corruption in how FIFA awarded the bids.  Yet, corruption or not there is some virtue in the World Cup going from South Africa to Brazil to Russia to Qatar, about as four different places in the world as I can imagine and sign that this is a truly global event. Yet Qatar hasn’t yet built the stadiums and it could be 120 degrees in the summer.  Building a dozen new stadiums and air conditioning them doesn’t seem very economical.  But the plans for Qatar’s systems call for solar power of the air cooling system and the stadiums will be dismantled and donated to developing nations after the World Cup. Still it seems that countries with lots of money are being awarded as hosts rather than countries with a true love of the game.  So what, they have the money, let them spend it on creating a great stage for the world’s greatest sporting event.  Let the US spend money on player development.  Let developing nations spend on more important things than soccer. But Russia is a bastion of racism against black players and Qatar discriminates against Israelis and homosexuals.  This is a tough one to rationalize, but there is a case to be made for the World Cup being a way of pushing a progressive message through in these countries. So, I don’t know what to think, but I’m not going to worry about it too much.

Here are the games I’ve watched the past two weeks.

Barcelona 5:0 Real Madrid (29 November 2010)

Deep inside I have no real reason to hate Real Madrid or to support Barcelona, but damn if this wasn’t a satisfying result in the first El Classico I’ve ever watched.  It helped that Real’s Cristiano Ronald was a total brat in pushing Barça  Pep Guardiola for no apparent reason, while Barcelona played a beautiful game of passing and possession.  The goals for lovely too, my favorite being David Villa’s second goal through the keeper’s legs and then gently bouncing into the net.

Chelsea 1:1 Everton (4 December 2010)

After the Blues poor form through November and coming off a 1:4 home loss to West Brom, a trip to Stamford Bridge didn’t look to promising.  Luckily Everton put in a good performance against (an admittedly slumping) Chelsea strong on possession and attacking in the second half.  Jermain Beckford’s header to equalize in the 85th minutes was a lovely sight to see.

Arsenal 2:1 Fulham (4 December 2010)

For a loss to a top side, this was still a pretty impressive game for Fulham.  The goal by Diomansy Kamara in the 29th minute tied the score and Fulham had some good chances to go ahead even as Arsenal squandered some excellent chances of their own.  Unfortunately for Fulham, they were victims of the beautiful footwork and scoring of Samir Nasri and his two amazing goals.

Ajax 1:1 NEC Nijmegen (4 December 2010)

A tense and frustrating match saw Ajax go winless at home for the third straight game.  The disappointing season for Ajax resulted in head coach Martin Jol leaving the team after this game.

Napoli 1:0 Palermo (6 December 2010)

This was a low-scoring game but not for lack of trying as there was lots of end-to-end play with each side attacking well but meeting up with even better defending and some great saves by both goalkeepers.  The game nearly ended in a scoreless tie but for Christian Maggio’s last minute goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Barcelona 2:0 Rubin Kazan (7 December 2010)

Barça finished up Champions League group play (winning Group D) with a pretty easy win over the defensive Russian side.

AC Milan 0:2 Ajax (8 December 2010)

In their first match under their new coach and last match in Champions League play, Ajax had to try to earn a win in hopes of securing a spot in the Europa League.  Unexpectedly, the result was a satisfying road win at Milan with goals by Demy de Zeeuw and an awesome long range shot by Alderweireld.  Milan brought on former Ajax players Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Clarence Seedorf, but didn’t have much fight in them.

Everton 0-0 Wigan (11 December 2010)

Ugh!  The less said about this match the better.  There’s no reason that Everton shouldn’t have won this game dominating play throughout.  To go scoreless defies belief.

Newcastle United 3-1 Liverpool (11 December 2010)

Not teams I would usually watch but I’ve made friends with a NUFC supporter on Tumblr and this game was on the tv at the James Gate pub when I went in for lunch.  I didn’t see the whole match but I did see Liverpool equalize early in the second half and then the impressive goals by Joey Barton and Andy Carroll to give the Magpies a deserved win.

 

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Thankful for Soccer


I had a busy week of travel for the Thanksgiving holiday but managed to watch a handful of soccer games live and via ESPN 3 replays.

South Africa 0:1 United States (17 Nov 2010)

Ah, the sweet, sweet sound of vuvuzelas.  The USMNT has played a lot of games in South Africa the past couple of years and returned for the Nelson Mandela Challenge.  It was a good opportunity to see a lot of youngsters as five players earned their first caps.  There were a number of great individual performances including Eric Lichaj, Brad Guzan (captaining from the goal) and of course Mikkel Diskerud (who provided a golden assist) and Juan Agudelo (who scored the lone goal).  At 17 years old Agudelo is the youngest player to score for the USA.  It’s a small sample size, but this game made me very happy about the future of our side.

Ajax 0:0 PSV (20 Nov 2010)

Ajax’s battle with PSV for the top of Eredivisie table was physical, gritty, and tense, but all the same it ended in a scoreless draw.  Ajax continues to struggle and have been winless in three straight Eredivisie matches. Also, in a game I missed on Tuesday, Real Madrid eliminated Ajax from Champions League contention.  Oh well, time to focus on the domestic league.

Italy 0:1 United States (20 Nov 2010)

Who’d have thunk that the Italian women’s football team also focuses on defensive play?  A fairly dull World Cup qualifying playoff match saw Italy and the US goalless through 90 minutes.  Then Alex Morgan (always Alex Morgan and her fresh young legs) scored in the 4th minute of stoppage time for the win.  Scoring a dramatic, last-minute goal to win the match?  Now the US women are playing like the US men.

Manchester City 4:1 Fulham (21 Nov 2010)

I didn’t watch this match with great attention but saw enough of Manchester City’s evisceration of Fulham at Craven Cottage to not be happy about it.

FC Dallas 1:2 (o.t.) Colorado Rapids (21 Nov 2010)

The unlikely MLS Cup contenders played a fairly entertaining match in Toronto.  David Ferreira’s first half goal was the scoring highlight of the game but also the only highlight for Dallas.  Rapids’ star Conor Casey equalized in the second-half after fighting for a rebound while laying on the ground.  The game winning goal in overtime Macomba Kandji made a good drive to the net and had his  shot deflect off of Dallas’ George John for an own goal and the win.

Everton 4:1 West Bromwich Albion (27 Nov 2010)

This seemed like a rerun of the Fulham-Manchester City match last week with the home side demolished by four goals and even playing a man down due to a red card.  Everton is looking pretty hopeless these days as they are winless for November (and they kick off December at Stamford Bridge).

United States 1:0 Italy (27 Nov 2010)

Amy Rodriguez provided the goal in Chicago to give the US women a 2-0 aggregate win over Italy and the final spot in the 2011 Women’s World Cup.  Pia Sundhage was not happy with her team’s play and after the matches against Italy & Mexico (not to mention friendlies versus China and Sweden) it looks like the team needs to get it’s act together if it hopes to contend for the World Cup championship.

Palermo 3:1 Roma (28 Nov 2010)

Thanks to a profile of young Argentinian star Javier Pastore on Cheeky Chip, I’ve finally found a Serie A team I want to follow and that is the Sicilian side Unione Sportiva Città di Palermo.  The flamingo pink side joyfully defeated Roma in a battle for the 6th spot in the Serie A table and are in striking distance of moving further up the table next week.

There’s an exciting week coming up including El Classico at Camp Nou, the draw for the Women’s World Cup, and the announcement of the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 (Go USA!)

 

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Socceraholic


I’ve been watching a lot of games lately, and the games keep on coming.  So many leagues, so many competitions.  I’m going to need a break.

Canada 1:0 Mexico (8 November 2010):

The final of the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup was a bit anti-climactic as both sides had already earned a spot in the 2011 Women’s World Cup through their wins in the semi-finals.  Host nation and giant-killers Mexico returned to Earth after eliminating the United States. Canadian captain Christine Sinclair scored the only goal after her side was awarded a penalty kick on a handball in the box.  As I noted in my last post, I look forward to these two nations representing North America in the World Cup (with the US hopefully joining them) and the continued improvement of competition in women’s soccer worldwide.

Chelsea 1:0 Fulham (10 November 2010):

While others tuned into the Manchester Derby, I was drawn to the less-heralded West London Derby which I imagine is a one-sided affair akin to William & Mary’s athletic rivalry with University of Virginia (that is Chelsea and Virginia are indifferent to those who want to be rivals with them).  Playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea have not lost or even conceded a goal in Premiership play this season was a mighty challenge for Fulham.  Impressively, Fulham put a lot of pressure on Chelsea and controlled the ball for long periods of time with a goal seeming due any moment.  Sadly, it did not come, but I believe that Fulham wore Chelsea down for their match with Sunderland on Saturday.

Everton 1:1 Bolton (10 November 2010):

Here’s a game that can be looked at in two ways.  On the one hand Everton played a great game, controlling the run of play and putting a lot of pressure on the Bolton goal.  Bolton’s only really good moment was the classic counterattack that lead to their goal.  Everton should have really scored a goal or two an won this game, so the end result is rather disappointing.  On the other, after going down 0-1 in the 78th minute and then losing a player to a red card in the 84th minute, I’d pretty much resigned myself to an Everton loss.  Jermaine Beckford’s dramatic goal in the third minute of stoppage time was a pleasant surprise that salvaged a point from the match.

FC Barcelona 3:1 Villareal CF (13 November 2010):

Another exciting game featuring Barça’s attacking style as they faced a rival for one of the top spots in La Liga.  David Villa and Lionel Messi (2) scored to lead Barcelona to an important victory.

Colorado 1:0 San Jose (13 November 2010):

The MLS  “Eastern” Conference Championship was one by one of the most exciting goals I’ve seen in my soccer-watching experiment.  At first, I thought the goal was scored by Omar Cummings  on a brilliant assist by Kosuke Kimura, but it turns out that Cummings never touched the ball and at best distracted Earthquakes’ goalkeeper Jon Busch as Kimura’s shot rolled in.  That was enough to send Colorado to the MLS Cup Final for the first time since 1997.

AZ Alkmaar 2:0 Ajax (14 November 2010):

Ajax played a road match in Alkmaar,  a city I totally wanted to visit on my recent trip to the Netherlands because of their famed cheese market.  The teams slogged through the rain with neither side getting their passing side started or managing a good shot on goal for much of the match.  AZ (pronounced Ah-Zed by the English commentator) scored at the 74th minute and put the death knell in the 89th minute with Ajax looking pretty much anemic in return.  This disappointing loss was the second straight in Eredivisie play.

Los Angeles 0:3 FC Dallas (14 November 2010):

I have a bias against Los Angeles and LA sports teams in general, and against the LA Galaxy in particular due to their frequent MLS success (especially two MLS Cup victories at the expense of New England).  So I admit a certain bit of schadenfreude seeing FC Dallas not just defeat, but also embarrass, the Galaxy in the Western Conference Final.  Now we should see two good teams in the MLS Cup Final with no “stories” other than the fact that the Eastern Conference champion is from a city 8° longitude west of the Western Conference champion’s hometown.  Sports in the USA have never been strong on geography.

Speaking of the MLS cup, I was listening to the a recent A Football Report podcast and the MLS playoff format was discussed.  The European commentators were pretty much dismissive of the American playoff system emphasizing that the team that plays best over the course of a long season.  A fair point and there is much I like about the European way of doing things but I also find it anticlimactic to end a season without a championship game or series.

I’m probably going way behind my ken, but I thought up a system for the MLS that would reward the best team(s) of the regular season while still having an exciting playoff system.  This concept assumes that the MLS will expand to 20 clubs by 2012 and at that point I’d divide them into two geographical conferences of 10 teams each (listed below).  There would be no inter-conference play and thus each team would face one another 4 times (2 home/2 away) for a total of 36 regular season games.

The advantages of two ten-team conferences include:

  • Encouraging regional rivalries
  • Allowing for fans to travel to more away matches.  While I never expect this to be as big a factor as it is in Europe, I would say that a diehard Red Bulls supporter, for example, would be able to go to more games in New England, Philadelphia, and Washington than in Seattle and San Jose.
  • Increase the draw for CONCACAF Champions League, US Open Cup, North American SuperLiga, and Canadian Championship matches due to the novelty of teams from the two conferences facing one another.
  • Reduce wear and tear on players traveling long-distance.  European players have complained about the long road trips necessary in the United States, so perhaps more players from abroad would be attracted to playing in the MLS.
  • And it would probably save on travel expenses.  MLS could even tout it as a green initiative.

The top 3 teams would qualify for the playoffs for a total of 6 teams (down from the currently overgenerous 8).  In the conference semifinals the top-ranked teams would earn a by while the 2nd and 3rd place teams faced one another in home-away aggregate goal series.  The winners of the semifinals would face the first place teams in a one-game conference championship hosted by the first place team.  The conference champions would then play the MLS Cup Final at a neutral location.

Probably a crazy idea, but I think it would be more fair and entertaining than the current system.  Of course, what would really make it work would be if the MLS developed a second division either through expansion or collaboration with the new NASL and begin a promotion/relegation system but I think that’s a long way off, if ever.

Eastern Conference

  • Chicago Fire
  • Columbus Crew
  • D.C. United
  • Kansas City Wizards
  • Montreal Impact
  • New England Revolution
  • New York Red Bulls
  • Philadelphia Union
  • Toronto FC
  • 2012 Expansion Team (New York / Detroit ?)

Western Conference

  • C.D. Chivas USA
  • Colorado Rapids
  • F.C. Dallas
  • Houston Dynamo
  • Los Angeles Galaxy
  • Portland Timbers
  • Real Salt Lake
  • San Jose Earthquakes
  • Seattle Sounders F.C.
  • Vancouver Whitecaps F.C.

Related posts:

Soccer Update


I’ve been too busy to watch much soccer lately with Halloween & my son’s birthday one weekend and an out-of-state conference the next.  I’m not complaining.  There are  more important things in life than spectator sports.  With that being said I’m going to use this post to catch up on the teams and competitions I purportedly am following with scores on the matches played since I last wrote as well as their current place in the standings.  The games I actually watched are bolded with links to the match report.

In related news I will be participating in the 30 Day Football Challenge on my Tumblog.

English Premier League (after 11 matches)

Everton (Position-11, Points – 14)

  • 30 Oct: Everton 1 – 0 Stoke City
  • 6 Nov: Blackpool 2 – 2 Everton

Everton continue to hang in there in the EPL with a 6 game undefeated streak.  They do need to get more wins than draws though as they always seem within striking distance of making an impressive move up the EPL table but never get there.  Even Liverpool is ahead of them now.

Fulham (Position-13, Points – 13)

  • 30 Oct: Fulham 2 – 0 Wigan Athletic
  • 6 Nov: Fulham 1 – 1 Aston Villa

Fulham is also hanging in there with USMNT star Clint Dempsey providing both goals versus Wigan, and a last-minute goal by Brede Hangeland to earn a draw versus Villa.  A friend on Facebook told me that the goal was totally undeserved but he’s a Villa supporter.  Next up, Fulham faces Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (yikes!).

Eredivisie (after 13 matches)

AFC Ajax (Position – 3, Points – 27)

Ajax did not look at all in top form in their loss to ADO for their second loss on the season in the Eredivisie.  I missed a much better win a week earlier, but apparently their mid-week Champions League match threw the club into a funk.

La Liga (after 10 matches)

FC Barcelona (Position – 2, Points – 25)

The one team I follow that I don’t really have to worry about is Barça who cruised to four straight victories in the Spanish Primera División.  I watched the match on Sunday and while the hot pink uniforms were ugly the play was beautiful.  My son enjoyed saying “Goaaaaaaaalllll!!!” along with the announcer.

UEFA Champions League (after 4 matches)

FC Barcelona (Group D, Position – 1, Points – 8)

Barcelona did face a challenge in their rematch at Copenhagen with each side scoring their goal within a minute of the other in the first half, and that score held.  Barça had lots of chances that bounced off the crossbar.  Needless to say, Copenhagen are the biggest challengers in this group and Barça should inevitably advance to the next round.

AFC Ajax (Group G, Position – 3, Points – 4)

A very unfortunate loss for Ajax to the French club who up to this point had no points in the Champions League.  Now Ajax has to hope to get some points from much tougher opponents in Milan and Madrid.  This game was weird to listen to as the Auxerre supporters had a constant, creepy chant that was so loud it sounded like they were using bullhorns.

CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying

US Women’s National Team

Had I written last week I would have commented on how easy everything is for the United States and that there’s just not very much competition in women’s football, especially in CONCACAF.  This was especially true in the 9-0 drubbing of Guatemala in group play that I watched (the US outscoring opponents 18-0 in three group matches).

Then came Mexico’s defeat of the US in the semifinals in the greatest upset in team history.  I’m not surprised that the US won the third club match tonight and expect they’ll win the two-leg playoff against Italy to gain entrance into the 2011 Women’s World Cup.  In a way this is a good thing.  The US gets a wake-up call that will help them hone their competitive edge.  The women’s soccer world gets to see Mexico and Canada participate in a growing world competition.

Other teams I am theoretically following and supporting:

  • Kaiserlautern – 11 games, 12 points, 15th place
  • Kyoto Sanga F.C. – 29 games, 16 points, 17th place (out of 18) and in the relegation zone.
  • Melbourne Heart – 13 matches, 17 points, 6th place.
  • Maccabi Haifa F.C. –  8 matches, 18 points, 3rd place.

Related posts:

Getafe 1 – 3 Barcelona

End of Summer Soccer


Major League Soccer played their final regular season games the past week spelling the end of summer soccer.  The playoffs have begun but for the first time in a decade the New England Revolution will not be participating in them.  What a year to start following the Revs after all those years of post-season success (albeit without a MLS Cup trophy to show for it).

Summer soccer is one of the idiosyncrasies that set America apart from the major European leagues that play from August to May.   It’s not obstinacy on the part of United States soccer, but the fact that parts of the United States have far more severe winters  than much of Europe.  Teams playing in Massachusetts, Colorado, and New Jersey just could not host home games in the winter, or at least draw a devoted crowd in the midst of a blizzard.

In my ongoing effort to learn more about football worldwide, I decided to see if anyone else plays in the winter.  I figured that Russia is a cold, cold place so they  must play in the summer.  And I was right.  Except not for long because Russia will be switching to an autumn-to-spring calendar in 2012-13.  Good luck to fans of FC Zenit Saint Petersburg in February.  Brrr.  Scandinavian nations also play on a summer schedule and, oddly enough, the League of Ireland switched to a summer schedule in 2003 (I haven’t figured out why).  The Australian A-League also plays a summer schedule although their summer is our winter.

Anyhow, here’s the matches I’ve watched in the past week and a half.

AFC Ajax 2:1 Auxerre (19 Oct 2010) –  This match saw Ajax win their first match of the Champions League this season to go with a loss & a tie.  The first half was all Ajax as the Amsterdammers went up 2-0.  The second goal in particular was a brilliant example of team passing and running setting up the goal for El Hamdaoui.  The second half got a little crazy after André Ooijer’s professional foul earned him a red card and forced Ajax to defend their lead with 10 men.  But then the French side went down to 10 men on a handball attempt on the goal. Then in the waning minutes of the game an Auxerre sub was sent off before he even made it on the field!  Comical, to say the least.  Match report.

FC Barcelona 2:0 FC Copenhagen (20 Oct 2010) – Lionel Messi scored both goals for Barça moving them to the top of Group D in the Champions League.  The Danish side had some moments where they seemed to be in control but never really threatened.  Really, Barcelona should have taken advantage of their offensive superiority and score more.  Match report.

New York Red Bulls 2:0 New England Revolution (21 Oct 2010) – The Revs finished off their 2010 campaign with a road game versus the Eastern Conference champions.  It ended as one would expect as a loss, the first time the Red Bulls have defeated the Revs since 2005 breaking a 16-game undefeated streak.  New England looked the better side in the second half but failed to score and then gave up a stoppage time goal.  Wait ’till next year.  Match report.

Tottenham Hotspur 1:1 Everton FC (23 Oct 2010) – One thing I love about European football is the names and there is no better combination than Tottenham and Hotspur who play at the romantically named White Hart Lane.  There also a Premier League power nipping at the heels of the big three so it was something for Everton to earn a point and extend their unbeaten streak to four games.  Everton scored on a fantastic first half free kick by Leighton Baines.  Alas, a rare error by goalkeeper Tim Howard contributed to the Spurs’ equalizer a few minutes later.  Match report.

West Bromwich Albion 2:1 Fulham FC (23 Oct 2010) – Speaking of great names, here is West Brom and their home grounds The Hawthorns.  Things started well for Fulham with a Zoltan Gera strike (scored as an own goal against West Brom) but in the pouring rain the Baggies (lovely nickname too) were able to equalize and then go ahead before the break.  Match report.

Real Zaragoza 0:2 FC Barcelona (23 Oct 2010) – It was all Messi again as Barça earned another easy victory against the La Liga cellar dwellars.  I confess I didn’t watch the whole game as I went to the yard to play soccer with my son, but I did see both of Messi’s goals.  Match report.

AFC Ajax 3:1 Heerenveen (27 Oct 2010) – El Hamdaoui was the hero again with 2 of the goals  in what was a pretty easy victory for Ajax.  Luis Suarez had several chances that were either just stopped by the keeper or bounced off the cross-bar (including two in a matter of seconds) so the score could have been much higher for Ajax.  Match report.

Related posts:

Footy Report


Another fine weekend of European football.  The Revolution won too but I didn’t watch due to the MLB playoffs.  It was a very sport-filled week.

Fulham FC 1:2 Tottenham Hotspur (16 Oct 2010) – I tuned into this London Derby live from Craven Cottage but alas the feed cut out for several minutes, including the minute in which each side scored their first goal.  Fulham opened the scoring with a great run by USA’s Clint Dempsey who fed the ball to Diomansy Kamara to tap in the goal.  The Spurs equalized with a Roman Pavlyuchenko tap-in a few moments later.  In the second half, which I was able to view live, the Spurs would controversially take the lead with a beautiful long-range goal by Tom Huddlestone.  The assistant referrer flagged Tottenham’s William Gallas offside by the referee overruled him and allowed the goal to stand.  Fulham put some pressure on the Spurs goal at the end of the match but were unable to finish and thus earned their first loss of the season (to go with one win and six draws).  Match report.

AFC Ajax 3:0 NAC Breda (16 Oct 2010) –  Ajax hosted the football club with the longest name in the world: Nooit opgeven altijd doorgaan, Aangenaam door vermaak en nuttig door ontspanning, Combinatie (I love little bits of trivia like that).  While long on name, NAC was short on goals and were easily dispatched by Ajax.  Jan Vertonghen, Mounir El Hamdaoui  &
Luis Suárez scored the goals.  Suárez had a particularly beautiful goal on a free kick.  Match report.

FC Barcelona 2:1 Valencia (16 Oct 2010) – A big game for Barcelona as they faced the team at the top of table, playing at Camp Nou where they have lost to Hercules and drawn with Mallorca.  Granted it wasn’t that big a deal because Barcelona has won every other game they’ve played this season and well, they’re Barcelona.  Valencia dominated play in the first half and scored a well-earned goal in the 37th minute.  A rejuvenated Barça squad came out after half-time and equalized within 90 seconds on a great finish by Iniesta.  Barça went ahead with good on a Puyol header in the 69th minute.  They had to make things interesting after all.  Match report.

Everton FC 2:0 Liverpool FC (17 Oct 2010) – The biggest match of the weekend for me was the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park where Liverpool visited Everton in their first game since being acquired by the Boston-based NESV group.  The new owners haven’t had a chance to fix the Reds yet and the Toffemen took the opportunity to kick them while they are down.  Tim Cahill put Everton ahead in the 33rd minute but Mikel Arteta’s long-range blast in the 49th minute was a thing of beauty.  All in all a satisfying match and a great second consecutive win for Everton .   Match report.

Related posts:

Sister City’s Soccer


I discovered this week that Barcelona is a sister city of my hometown of Boston, MA.  This gives me a good reason to support FC Barcelona for what better way to foster goodwill and cultural exchange than through sport?  It also means I don’t have to feel like a heel of a frontrunner picking one of the best football clubs in the world to follow.

I thought it would be fun to look through the list of Boston Sister Cities and see what other soccer teams I could potentially support (in my admittedly dwindling free time):

Kyoto, JapanKyoto Sanga F.C. plays in the J. League Division 1, finishing in 12th place last season.

Strasbourg, France – The historic Racing Club de Strasbourg has fallen on hard times in recent years and play in France’s third division Championnat National after being relegated from Ligue 2 last season.

Hangzou, China – Hangzhou Nabel Greentown F.C. finished 15th in the most recently completed season of the Chinese Super League.

Padua, Italy – Calcio Padova finished 19th in Serie B and managed to avoid relegation in the play-outs.

Melbourne, Australia – Home to two teams in the A-League, 2-time champions Melbourne Victory FC who finished 2nd last season and expansion club Melbourne Heart FC playing their inaugural season.

Tapei, Tawain, Republic of China – I think the closest I can find to a premier club team in this city is Tatung F.C. of  the Intercity Football League.

Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana – This Ghanaian city has two football clubs, both of whom were relegated from the Glo Premier League to the Poly Tank Division One League at the end of last season: Sekondi Eleven Wise and Sekondi Hasaacs F.C.

Haifa, Israel – Haifa has two clubs as well both playing in the Israeli Premier League: Maccabi Haifa F.C. (2nd) and Hapoel Haifa F.C. (11th)

Boston, England – The original Boston has a club on the 7th level of the English football pyramid, Boston United F.C., charmingly nicknamed The Pilgrims.   I think the Revolution could take them.

I think some of these clubs should be invited to an off-season tournament in Boston, MA, perhaps the next Fenway Football Challenge.   Of course there’s one world class football club that may soon have a strong connection to Boston and that is Liverpool!  As an Everton supporter, I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Here are the games I’ve watched the past week:

AFC Ajax 1:1 AC Milan (28 Sep 2010) – An exciting Champions League match saw my Amsterdam side host Berlusconi’s Bandits from Milan.  At least two of Milan’s players once played for Ajax, including their goal scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic who was assisted by form Ajax player Clarence Seedorf.  Mounir El Hamdaoui continued his impressive first season with Ajax by providing the opening goal of the match.  Match report.

Rubin Kazan 1:1 FC Barcelona (29 Sep 2010) – On paper, Barcelona outmatched Rubin Kazan but this match ended in a disappointing draw.  The Russian side tied Barcelona in last season’s Champions League match at home and even more surprisingly won the match at Nou Camp.  Rubin Kazan’s continued success against is the type of thing that will make sports commentators say “they’ve got Barcelona’s number” (and they did say so in the post-game) .  Match report.

Birmingham City FC 0:2 Everton FC (2 Oct 2010) – The Blues wore their hot pink kits to their away match St. Andrews in Birmingham.  To confuse things further Birmingham wore blue and are also known as The Blues.   Everton seemed to have better control of the ball but the two sides went to half-time scoreless.  In the 54th minute the Everton attack paid off with an own goal by Birmingham’s Roger Johnson.  Late in the game, Everton appeared  to drop back into defense allowing Birmingham to attack, attack, attack with Everton just clearing.  To my novice eyes this seemed a poor strategy, and perhaps because I’ve been watching too many Revolution games, I expected the equalizing goal at any minute. I was happy to be proved wrong as Everton not only held the lead but Tim Cahill added another goal in the third minute of stoppage time for Everton’s first win of the season!   Match report.

FC Barcelona 1:1 RCD Mallorca (3 Oct 2010) – I only saw the first half of this game but caught all the scoring.  It looked like the Barcelona Globetrotters against the Mallorca Generals as Barcelona dominated possession and toyed with their lesser opponent.  And yet, Mallorca managed to equalize near the end of the first half and hold on for the draw.  Quiet a shocking disapointment for Barcelona.  Match report.

Related posts:

Soccer Heartbreak and Gut Punches


The local teams provided the heartbreak and gut punches this week although I also watched some entertaining European matches, albeit lacking the same emotional commitment.

AFC Ajax 5:0 MVV Maastricht (22 Sep 2010) – This KNVB Cup match saw Ajax hosting a Eerste Divisie (Dutch first division) opponent.  There was no upset by the minnows from Maasricht with the game clearly a romp by Ajax.  Ajax even started some of their younger players such as Florian Jozefzoon who scored his first goal.  The rout wasn’t interesting but the web stream I watched had Dutch commentary in the first half and no commentary at all in the second half.  I enjoyed listening to the crowd chants and drumming, and even the shouts of the players on the field.  Match report.

FC Dallas 2:2 New England Revolution (22 Sep 2010) – This is my fault.  I started writing the match report in my head at about 75 minutes.  I was excited that the Revs could play on the road versus a team with a 15-game undefeated streak and carry out a convincing shutout.  They even survived a penalty kick by FC Dallas that went wide.  Then in the 80th minute Darrius Barnes took down David Ferreira in the penalty area and he didn’t miss the PK this time.  Suddenly it was a knuckle-biter to see if the Revs could hold on for the win but Jeff Cunningham’s stoppage-time equalizer seemed almost inevitable.  Match report.

Boston Breakers 1:2 (OT) Philadelphia Independence (23 Sep 2010) – The WPS Super Semifinal started well with the Breakers hosting in Harvard’s new soccer stadium which has less seating more spacious field and a complete absence of football gridiron markings.  The Breakers scored first on Lauren Cheney’s 22nd minute goal and had the better run of play in the first half although Caroline Seger equalized for Philadelphia in the 29th minute.  Boston looked outmatched and tired in the second half but held the score to a 1-1 tie into overtime.  Then came the heartbreak on an apparent handball by Philadelphia’s Danesha Adams.  Handball or not, the Breakers lethargic play allowed too many opportunities for Philadelphia.  They put together a great desperation attack in the final minutes with one excellent chance on goal, but it was too little, too late.  Match report.

FC Twente 2:2 AFC Ajax – Another hotly contested Eredivisie match for Ajax this time against the reigning title holders.  The pre-game histrionics at Twente’s Grolsch Veste included banners the size of entire section of the stadium, explosions and red flares, and unison singing of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (at least Wikipedia says it is that song, it sounded like something else, maybe being sung in Dutch?).   They put US sports’ fans to shame. Ajax went down early on a gorgeous finish by Twente’s midfielder Theo Jansen.  Ajax equalized a few minutes later with a clean follow-up by Morrocan star Mounir El Hamdaoui.  Jansen scored again an hour into the game but Ajax fired back six minutes later with a blistering long-range shot by Eyong Enoh.  That was all the scoring but this was an exciting, fast-paced game with lots of end-to-end play, shots deflected by the wood, and great saves by the keepers.  A point well earned for Ajax.   Match report.

Athletic Bilbao 1:3 FC Barcelona (25 Sep 2010) – In the pouring rain, Barça faced off their host in a another Messi-less league match.  I learned that Bilbao tries to maintain a roster of players entirely from the Basque country and despite the limited player pool have never been relegated and are among the top La Liga teams of all time.  Nevertheless, they were no match for the champions who may have been a little sloppy in the mud and should’ve had more goals.  Bilbao should get some credit for managing to hold Barcelona goalless for almost an hour despite losing a player to a red card.  Things were interesting in the last five minutes of the match when Barça lost David Villa to a red card and Bilbao scored their goal to make it 1:2.  Busquets ended any intrigue with Barça’s third goal in stoppage time.  Match report.

New England Revolution 2:2 Columbus Crew (25 Sep 2010) – I hate reruns.  In this case, the Revolution had a convincing 2-0 lead (scoring the first goal 80 seconds into the match) against one of the top teams in the MLS, only to allow their opponent to score two goals late in the second half and settle for a tie.  How can a team so low in the standings with no realistic hope for the playoffs still have so many gut-punching loses?  Match report.

FC Gold Pride 4:0 Philadelphia Independence (26 Sep 2010) – The WPS Championship match featured the best team by far in the WPS facing the upstart spoilsports from Philadelphia.  I actually hoped that the Independence would make something of their unlikely position in the final after eliminating the Breakers, but it was not be.  I’ve grown fond of Amy Rodriguez and glad that we have her on the US national team at least.  The star for the Independence however was goalkeeper Val Henderson who made several great saves while the rest of her team could do little before in front of her.  Still, 4 goals ended up in the Independence’s net and that was that for the WPS season and congratulations to FC Gold Pride for dominating the 2010 season. Match report.

Fútbol & Voetbal


FC Barcelona 5:1 Panathinaikos (14 Sep 2010) – Barça opened the Champions League season against their obviously mismatched Greek opponents.  Panathinaikos looked like they could only touch the ball long enough to clear in the first 20 minutes, but then Gouvou surprisingly opened the scoring on a fast break.  That would be it for Panathinaikos as Lionel Messi quickly equalized, David Villa put Barça ahead, and then Messi added another goal for a 3-1 halftime lead.  Messi had a chance for a hat trick in the second half from the penalty spot but a very weak kick was easily blocked.  Daniel Alves and Pedro Rodriguez added goals to run up the score in this laugher wher Barça had possession for 76% of the match.  Match report.

Feyenoord Rotterdam 1:2 AFC Ajax (19 Sep 2010) – The Klassieker is the Dutch derby between the top Dutch football clubs and the major cities of the Netherlands.  This match-up is sadly marred by fighting in the stands and rioting in the streets.  And it’s not just the supporters as the on-field fisticuffs in the second half of this game can attest.   Ajax scored late in the first half and early in the second half, and despite the contentious of the match and a late Feyenoord goal the game was pretty much in Ajax’s hands all the way through. Match report.

Atlético Madrid 1:2 FC Barcelona (19 Sep 2010) – Apparently Barcelona has had bad luck on away games against Atlético Madrid in recent years and with Atlético off to a strong start, Barça were at risk of losing back-to-back league games.  In the end Barça won the game but lost Lionel Messi.  Leo scored the first goal for Barcelona and Pique put them ahead for good, their goals sandwiching a goal by Atlético’s Raul Garcia, all within the first 32 minutes of play.  Barcelona dominated play for most of the game and things turned physical toward the end of the match leading to the hard foul in stoppage time that injured Messi’s ankle.  Still, I liked Atlético’s fighting underdog spirit, and it was good to see one of my favorite players from the World Cup – Diego Forlan – even though he was not a key player in the game .  Match report.

I’ve noted before that Barcelona includes 8 players from the World Cup champions and Lionel Messi (not to mention a couple of Brazilians).  The concentration of talent on one roster has made it fashionable to hate Barcelona as discussed in this interesting Run of Play article by Eric Freeman.

Related Posts:

Soccer Weekend


I’ve decided to update my weekly soccer-watching reports on Mondays instead of Fridays so that the posts will be up more immediately after most games are played.  I watched a lot this weekend (albeit some in highlight reels) so this is a pretty full post all the same.

Chivas USA 2:0 New England Revolution (10 Sep 2010) – The Revs took their playoff hopes to Los Angeles to face one of the worst teams in the leagues.  And played flat out embarrassingly falling behind in the first 6 minutes and hardly possessing the ball in the first half.   Hard to believe this is the same team that played so well against Seattle or for that matter even the team that suffered those disheartening losses against Chicago and Philadelphia. At least the team showed some life in those games. This side is all but mathematically eliminated. Match report.

AFC Ajax 2:0 Willem II (11 Sep 2010) – I missed the game but was able to watch a 9-minute highlight film on YouTube of my Amsterdam side’s home win.  Their opponent Willem II are from the Dutch city of Tilburg and are charmingly named for a Dutch king who reigned from 1840-49.  They just barely avoided relegation from the Eredivisie last season and were suitably outmatched by Ajax.  All the scoring took place on penalty shots though as Willem II players blatantly tripped up Ajax attackers in the penalty area in a nearly identical manner.  Uruguayan captain Luis Suarez handily fired both penaltieshttps://othemts.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5116&action=edit&message=10 into the net.  I’m pleased with the results but I’m always a little disappointed in a game when there’s no scoring from the field.  Match report.

FC Barcelona 0:2 Hércules CF (11 Sep 2010) – I also watched the highlight reel for this one.  Barça hosted at Camp Nou the Hércules club from Alicante who were just promoted from the Segunda Division.  In shades of the Kaiserlautern-Bayern match, Hércules totally outplayed their higher-ranked hosts with two exciting goals and some great defending and goal-keeping all while wearing bumble bee outfits.  Barcelona will just have to shake off this shocking loss as they head into their Champions League match opener versus Panathinaikos.  Match report.

Everton FC 3:3 Manchester United (11 Sep 2010) – The most exciting game of the day was in Liverpool.  Everton took an early lead on a Steven Pienaar goal and along with some fine stops by goalkeeper Tim Howard things were looking good.  But then Man Utd scored 3 unanswered goals and it looked like a romp.  The dramatic conclusion came in stoppage time at the end of the game where Everton scored not one but two goals by Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta to steal a point away from the match.  Everton even had yet another chance as the final whistle blew. Wow! Very reminiscent of Man Utd’s draw with Fulham.   Match report.

Fulham FC 2:1 Wolverhampton Wanderers (11 Sep 2010) – Speaking of Fulham, here’s another good game with an exciting finish.  Fulham went down a goal in the first half and then lost forward Bobby Zamora to a broken leg.  Mousa Dembele turned things around with an equalized near the start of the second half and the winner in stoppage time for Fulham’s first win of the season to go with three draws.  Match report.

Mainz 05 2:1 1. FC Kaiserlautern (12 Sep 2010) – 1FCK won me over with their scrappy upset of Bayern.  In this game they attempted to continue their success on the road in a regional derby (although a fairly recent one) with Mainz 05.  The Mainz spectators creeped me out with their pregame tableau of a skull-covered ziggurat and a priest ripping out the heart of 1FCK.  The Red Devils tried to rip out the heart of Mainz with the first goal of the match at 21 minutes which they held for some time despite being outplayed (and being “bad boys” – as the commentator noted – accruing numerous yellow cards).  Sadly, the home side equalized at 71 minutes and went ahead 3 minutes later, and that was that. Match report.

Related Posts:

Soccer Week in Review


My soccer-watching exploits for the past week.

AFC Ajax vs. Vitesse (14 Aug 2010) – I have to admit that this is the kind of game I enjoy watching.  Granted I’m sure the football purist found the defensive lapses on both sides lacking.  But I liked how the lead changed several times in the first half.  I like how three goals were scored in about 5 minutes of the first half.  I like how Ajax scored a goal within seconds of kicking off the second half.  I like that the over-matched Vitesse despite being outplayed by Ajax seemed to have a chance of pulling off an upset, at least until Ajax scored their fourth goal.  I like that Ajax won.  Match report.

Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution (18 Aug 2010) –   Tuned in hoping to see the Revs extend their 8-game unbeaten streak and streak of not allowing goals in league games, but alas it didn’t finish well.  The Revolution took an early lead in a very entertaining first half on a goal by Marko Perovic.  Chicago equalized in the 32nd minute.  Then the game began to get bogged down with penalties with most of the calls – and some non-calls – going against New England.  The most egregious referee error was not calling a penalty when Perovic was knocked down in the Chicago penalty area in the 90th minute.  Boston Globe coverage.

FC Bayern München vs. VfL Wolfsburg (20 Aug 2010) –  I watched this game on ESPN 3 which didn’t show the first 30 minutes of the game nor was there any commentary.  It was interesting to watch a televised match with only the sound of cheers and drumming of the fans.  The game was very defensive when I first tuned in with Bayern protecting a 1-0 lead.  There were so many back passes it seemed the two sides were playing toward their own goals.  The second half opened with Wolfsburg making an impressive barrage of long-range shots stopped only by the goal post before finally putting in a header off a corner kick.  With the score tied Bayern took control of the ball and got many free kicks due to the suddenly desperate physicality of Wolfsburg.  It looked like it would end a 1-1 tie but instead Bayern won the game dramatically on a stoppage time goal by Bastian Schweinsteiger.  Match report.

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Forming an Association with Football (aka Soccer)


For many, many years I’ve been meaning to pay more attention to soccer.  It’s a sport I enjoy both on the field as well as it’s history and folklore. Soccer has been part of my life since I was a child and played in the Stamford Youth Soccer League and watched New York Cosmos games. Yet I find many obstructions to following the game today outside of the quadrennial FIFA World Cup.  These include:

  1. I live in the United States where soccer coverage is hard to come by, even for our local professional teams.  I seem to be able to take in news of American Football (which I dislike) by osmosis, but have to dig deep to fin anything about soccer.
  2. I don’t own a television.  Even if I did, I probably couldn’t afford the cable packages that include coverage of European football.  Local saloons generally don’t show soccer games either, especially if there’s a Red Sox game on.
  3. I have a family, and a job, and lots of preoccupations that suck up my time.

Nevertheless, with the seasons beginning in the European leagues, I’m committing myself to trying to follow some teams in addition to my local Boston teams:

The choice of teams is somewhat arbitrary although with exception of Barcelona, all of these teams are from cities I’ve visited and enjoyed.

I started today by watching Ajax’s opening match at FC Groningen online. After a quiet first half, things were looking good for my new favorite Dutch side.  Ajax’s new Moroccan forward Mounir El Hamdaoui scored two goals to put the team comfortably ahead.  But as the minutes ticked away in the second half, Ajax gave those two goals back and had to settle for a tie.  According to a tweet I read this is “the first time they give away 2 goal-lead since losing 4-2 at Vitesse on 24 December 2006.”   More on the game from the Ajax website.  I actually missed bot of El Hamdaoui’s goals as I was distracted by my son, but that’s okay, that’s what replays are for.

So as the season continues I’ll try to update on my spectator experiences.  If anyone has any tips or resources for the novice fan, please put them in the comments.  And yes, I do plan to continue to use the word soccer.  I like it’s distinctive and unambiguous sound compared to the more pedestrian football.