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 penalties 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.

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Soccer in Excess

I watched a lot of soccer the past few days while visiting my in-laws where I had two things I don’t usually have at home: 1) an abundance of free time and 2) the Fox Soccer Channel.  I crave having FSC in my own home but it’s probably for the best that I don’t.  Lest it seem that I did nothing but watch tv, I also spent a lot of time running around with my son and nephew, including kicking around a soccer ball.

Wigan Athletic v Chelsea (21 Aug 2010) – I watched the second half of this game which demonstrated the lack of competitive balance in the English Premier League.  Chelsea scored 5 of their 6 goals in this half shutting out Latics.  On the same day Arsenal defeated Blackpool by the same score.   Not much fun at all.  Match report.

Fulham vs. Manchester United (22 Aug 2010) – This was a very entertaining game, but first off I must mention how charmed I was by Fulham’s very old school grounds at Craven Cottage.  If I ever get to see an EPL game in person this is where I’d like to watch it from.  I also enjoyed the humbling of a football superpower who should have gone away with a win but had to settle for a 2-2 tie.  Fulham’s Brede Hangeland could have been the goat when his own-goal put Man U ahead with 7 minutes to go, but became the hero by scoring the equalizer in the 89th minute.  In between those two goals Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale also heroically saved a penalty kick.  Other things I like about Fulham is that they have on their roster US MNT star (and former Rev) Clint Dempsey and Irish international Damien Duff.  I think I’ll add them to my list of teams to follow. Match report.

Manchester City vs. Liverpool (23 Aug 2010) – All I know about Manchester City is that they are very Mets-like in how they under-perform compared to the their cross-town derby rivals Manchester United.  I also know that the club’s owners have spent a ton of money in the offseason.  Whether they will end up reversing their fortunes or being Met-ly big spenders/big losers remains to be seen.  This game was a good start as they crushed a traditional football power in Liverpool.  Match report.

RSC Anderlecht vs. FK Partizan Belgrade (24 Aug 2010) – I probably wouldn’t have watched this UEFA Champions League qualifier  if not for my brother-in-law who became a Anderlecht supporter during his youth in Belgium.  It was a pretty exciting game as Anderlecht game back from being down 2-nil in the second half  and it looked like they had a third goal but the offside flag was up.  Since the teams were tied on aggregate goals and away goals, the game went to extra time and then a penalty shootout where things got really embarrasing for Anderlecht.   Goalkeeper Sivio Proto earned a raise by blocking two shots but three Anderlecht penalty takers sent their shots over the crossbars! They tried to blame a divot on the field but that didn’t stop Partizan from netting three penalties from the same spot for the win. Match report.

FC Barcelona vs. AC Milan (25 Aug 2010) – With 7 members of Spain’s World Cup Champion squad and Argentina’s Lionel Messi, I feel a little guilty throwing my lot behind an obvious superpower like Barça as a team I support.  I  like the team because they are supporter-owned and don’t wear a corporate logo on their jerseys and in fact donate money to UNICEF. Today’s game was a friendly Joan Gamper Trophy match against the equally illustrious AC Milan.  The  game served as an excuse to welcome back former Barça player Ronahildino and welcome new acquisition David Silva (the latter scored a goal).  As these friendly tournaments go, this one ended in a 1-1 tie with Barcelona winning on penalty kicks.  Match report.

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