A True Championship!

One of the BEST football games I have ever seen took place today (well yesterday) in Moscow. The Champions League Final! For the first time ever it was an all English final featuring Manchester U versus Chelsea.

Just a week prior to this match, Manchester United won the Premiership straight out, as Chelsea allowed a late goal for a 1-1 draw. Manchester United would have won regardless, even with a Chelsea win because of goal differential.

Today’s game was live from Moscow on ESPN. How I missed the live broadcast of it, I don’t know. I guess I was looking for a REAL football channel to cover the action, not a wannabe football channel. Thankfully we had two of the best announcers in Martin Tyler and Andy Gray.

I was able to catch the entire game on Setanta after it had been concluded and I knew the outcome (because I had to watch a penalty shootout on Soccerway.com), but that did not make the game any less dramatic or exciting.

Overall, the teams played very offensively, just look at 27 shots Chelsea had. An unheard of number! The action was all Manchester United in the first half, with some good end to end action and beautiful header by the second best player in the world, Christiano Ronaldo. Oh the best player, Kaka, of course!

A late, “excuse me” goal by Frank Lampard evened the team, as Edwin Van Der Sar slipped coming out, cutting down the angle, as the ball took two odd ricochets off players and ended up in the net.

The game was great into the second half, as there were some great chances for both team, especially Man U. Yet with all the action and excitement, no goals could be had by either squad. This meat overtime periods.

If the only unfortunate event, Didier Drogba, lost his head for a moment and had a swipe at Nemanja Vidic on the chin, late in the 114 minute after some “controversy” on a throw in by Manchester United. As the scuffle broke out, players had to be separated and when it was all said and done, two yellows and one red were handed out.

Now this event alone did not loose the game for Chelsea. It was just a black eye on Chelsea and looks even worse in how things transpired.

The penalty shootout was exciting! No other word can describe it. Petr Cech made a great save on Ronaldo, who pussy footed up the ball and was not rewarded. That alone was enough to give Man U the finger and present the CL trophy to the Blues. But more drama was to unfold.

England and Chelsea Captain, John Terry strode up the ball, rain coming down facing Edwin Van Der Sar. It was one of those sporting moments that defines “the agony of defeat” (remember the ski jumper on Wide World of Sports?). Terry made his approach and just as he struck the ball, his planted left foot gave out, and as if in slow motion, the ball went right, off the woodwork.

At that point Chelsea was done. It was truly Manchester United’s match to give away. Ryan Giggs and Anderson both scored, while Nicolas Anelka, the newest member of Chelsea took his shot, to the left that was saved by Van Der Sar. The match was over.

Truly one of the BEST matches to be watched, all-time. I have seen some good matches, some exciting matches, some dramatic victories. But this game captured the essence of “the beautiful game.”

Sunday’s Beautiful Game

Sunday is set up to be the biggest day in Serie A (Italian football for all you Yanks) in a long time. Inter Milan and AS Roma are only separated by 1 point, after Inter has choked away an 11 point lead that seemed insurmountable back in February. Since that time a string of losses and injuries have dealt Inter a tough hand.

AS Roma has been one of the hotter teams in Serie A, but at times have lose games against clubs they should have defeated. February Juventus beat Roma 1-0, a 1-1 draw versus Cagilari and another versus Livorno has not helped the Giallorossi.

Thankfully the last two weekends Inter has not been at their best, a 2-1 lose to city rivals AC Milan at the San Siro followed by a 2-2 draw versus Siena, a game Inter should have won but World Cup winner Marco Materazzi could not convert on a penalty kick.

Both games will be televised on Fox Soccer Channel, Inter Milan will play Parma, who is fighting to stay in the Serie A, while AS Roma will travel to Catania. Parma definitely has something to play for in hopes they won’t be relegated, but need help from Roma, who should defeat Catania.

This is why Serie A and football is “the beautiful game.”

Giallorossi Live!

Looking back on this football season, it has been a season of missed opportunities for AS Roma in Serie A. Unlike last season which saw Inter run away with the scudetto title, this year has been a banner year!

Roma  has seen some excellent play while on the pitch from the starting  eleven, lead by their captain, Francesco Totti. But it has  also been the brilliant managing of Luciano Spalletti. His timely substitutions and  tactics have seen Roma sore in the club ranking, as  the best team in  Italy and arguably one of the best in Europe.

While a Serie A  title is not out of the question, Roma must get the “monkey off their  back” in Champions League play against Manchester United, the best club based on Fox Soccer’s World Club Rankings. And who is number two? AS Roma!

Last season in Champions League play, Roma was embarrassed, 7-1 during the  second leg versus Manchester United and as luck would have it, these two giants face off again this season in CL play. Roma is  definitely in form currently, albeit a slip up last week in a loss to  city rival,  Lazio, 3-2 on a last minute goal.

As it goes now a strong showing  in league play has set Roma up with an excellent chance in Champions League play and an even stronger  finish to Serie A, as their remaining  fixtures are not all that challenging. Matches against Genoa, Sampdoria  and Udinese are all top  half of of the table, but all more then  winnable, regardless of how CL  play finishes up.

Premiership to Remain Premier

There was a proposal set forth by the Barclays’s Premier League to stage league games outside of England. Many mangers of English clubs were not happy about the prospects of playing league games abroad.

The United States would have been one of the countries on the list with games played in two big market cities, New York and Los Angeles. Only one problem, which I am somewhat surprised that MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis did not recognize. Football…err…soccer for you Yanks does not sell in America.

Yeah, I am sure with expansion planned to Miami and San Jose, some would look at the MLS being on the upswing. Yet there are telltale signs all is not well. Consider that clubs have lost a combined $350 million since the league’s inception in 1994. Attendance figures are not stellar considering clubs are drawing between 11,000 and 16,000 fans on average. Yeah, I also know there are some exceptions, D.C. United, Toronto FC and the Los Angeles Galaxy (Thanks to David Beckham!).

But I can step back and take a breath because other, stronger nations in football, like Australia, Africa and Asia (Japan & Korea) have rejected the FIFA proposal.

From Gazidis, “I don’t see it as a negative for MLS, but the implications go beyond these games on their own. There are implications for the game worldwide. There are implications when matches are taken across borders in this way.” No one attends games now, what makes the MLS think with Prem clubs coming across The Pond, fans will flock to watch REAL football? Add to that, the fact clubs will raise ticket prices before of the QUALITY of football.

Now, I as a football fan (No, not NFL) would relish the chance to see a Premiership match. Honestly, it would just not be the same to see football in a country that hardly recognizes football…err…soccer as a sport in America.

Guess I will have to book my reservations for a Trans-Atlantic flight to meet Qster (Andy) at Villa Park and then off to Vicarage Road. Now tell me Yanks, do you know who plays at these stadiums? Ha, didn’t think you did. Go back to your American football.

MLS – More Lousy Soccer

OMFG! I sit down on Saturday night to watch a replay of Liverpool v. Reading and damned if the Western Conference Finals of the MLS are on, Kansas City v. Houston. Now I like Fox Soccer Channel, as they carry many quality matches from England and Italy. But watching the MLS is painful. It’s no wonder I pass every night matches are on because the quality of play is horrible!

MLS should stand for “More Lousy Soccer” not Major League Soccer because a “major” league will never survive in America. The talent pool of Americans who have skills will usually go abroad to play an international club, not at home in the USA. Oh sure, there is some attraction when big names, like Beckham, who was very overpaid to play for Los Angeles. Now enter Ruud Guillit, another big name from Europe who will head the Galaxy.

The point is, the matches cannot be seen as entertaining, I’m sorry. This is probably the same reason I pay no attention to college soccer or women’s soccer (sorry, it’s unwatchable in my opinion). Fans, I am guessing are not the most knowledgeable, I remember some of the “fans” who arrived on the red carpet at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA when Beckham made his debut versus Chelsea. Tonight, fans were throwing streamers onto the pitch. What the hell was that?

*sigh* Anyway, I will step off my soap box and be thankful I am not forced to watch this lousy game Americans call soccer. I am a football fan, I know the game, I know the plays and enjoy the clean and skillful style of play in England and in Italy. Sorry US, youth soccer might be attract large numbers of kids, but as they get older, soccer fails to capture their attention.

Respect the Beautiful Game

When it come to sports, the USA has three that seem to dominate: the National Football League (American football), Major League Baseball and the National Basketball League. Sorry I don’t count the National Hockey League as a real sport any longer, at least in the US since it is carried on some third party cable channel that specializes in outdoor hunting. But what about the beautiful game? Wipe that puzzled look off your face and don’t call it soccer.

No, I am not a Euro, although I am a huge footie fan and follow teams and leagues in the UK, Italy, Spain and Mexico. Unfortunately, somewhere between youth “soccer” (AYSO) and high school many kids seem to loose interest in the game and decide to choose some “big three” sports during high school.

When it comes to sports talk radio I have begun to loose respect for many of the supposed hosts. First many do not understand the game, this goes for Americans as well. Not to get off my first thought, but the game is 45 minutes of continuous action. Unlike the the “big three” you can’t go for a beer and a dog or you will miss some of the action.

I had the utmost respect for Steve Saban until he started trashing football (soccer) after the NFL played a regular season game at Wimbley in the UK a few weeks back. Along with many negatives about the game, the fans, which I believe he referred to as hooligans and the field, there was much laughter as he thought his take on the entire situation was funny. What I find funny is you supposedly have “Major” League Soccer teams in the USA playing in an NFL stadium with yellow lines painted while the NFL lines are still on the pitch…err field.

He is not the only one there are many others some I like, others I listen to just because there is nothing on the radio stations to listen to. The same could be said about those who covered the 2006 World Cup in Germany (The Ugly side of Germany 2006) and they were even former “professional players in the US. Why is this? As I said many do not understand the game or find it boring with a final score of 0-0 (that’s nil, nil, not zero, zero) or a 1-0 final.

I have given up watching the NFL, I rarely watch MLB and can’t stand the NBA. I spend Saturday and Sunday (sometimes Wednesday) watching The Premiership or Euro 2008 or UEFA Champions League qualifying. Why? Because it is more exciting with more sportsmanship. So NFL, thanks for the years of exciting football, but I have quit and moved on to watching real football. So I’ll pour myself another pint, don my Watford sweater and go watch some footie on the DVR.

Footie Season Opens!

I am counting down the minutes at work in order to get home and plop on the couch for 6 hours of football. No, not the American game (NFL), but the Premiership over in the UK. I know football…errr…soccer is not one of the “big three” in America and it never will be, regardless of what over the hill star signs with an MLS team. Sorry David but you are more fit for Hollywood than the pitch right about now.

I am madly refreshing the Watford F.C. site hoping to see a victory for the Hornets, who are my main team in the UK. Even though they were relegated after last season from the Prem, they should return in prime form and have a great shot at the Championship League. I am also excited about the start of the Premiership because I took on the role of manager of 6thFloor in a fantasy football (soccer for the Yanks) league. It will be the first time I try my hand managing my team of 15 and $100m.

As for the NFL, eh I am sure I will catch any games that involves my hometown San Diego Chargers, but outside of that I have lost interest in watching the games. I will run the 27th season of fantasy football (yes, American football, Euros) with me as the acting commish. Our draft is next weekend, hopefully both “football” teams see successful this season!

Man United Future Footballer

I think the video says it all. For a 9 year kid, Rhain Davis is pretty god damn amazing footballer. He was just signed by Manchester United of the Premier League in the UK. His skills are very impressive. Could he be the future Wayne Rooney?

Glitz. Glamour. Football.

Holy Christ! I am so sick and tired of ESPN covering football…errr…soccer for those in Americans who truly do not understand the worlds game. I am not the most knowledgeable, nor the best suited to try and explain soccer to non-soccer types. I follow my teams, Watford and AS Roma on a daily basis, looking forward to the start of the new season in August.

But tonight, a spectacle took place, in all places Los Angeles that truly reminds me why soccer in America will never rival the “big three” sports. In Carson, California, home to the L.A. Galaxy, Chelsea FC brought their game to town. All the stars were suited for the Blues, Drogba, Terry, Lampard, Sheva, Chech and the rest. For the Galaxy, the ONLY name that mattered tonight was Beckham.

I know I bitched about ESPN and their sloppy and unprofessional coverage of World Cup 2006. Eric Wynalda is a complete ass and an idiot! I don’t care how long he played for Team USA. He is a very poor announcer and should not even be in the booth. Dave O’Brien is NOT a soccer guy, but a baseball guy covering games for teams like the Braves and Marlins.

Tonight’s match was a place to be seen, typical of Hollywood and all the “big names” that came out to see the man who is [supposedly] going to change soccer in America. LOL. There was even a red carpet rolled out for all the “stars” in attendance. Posh Spice and Eva Longoria had the camera on them all night, drinking champagne behind big, bug eyed looking glasses. Other “big names” included Drew Carey, Kevin Garnett (like he’s a footie fan), Jennifer Love Hewitt (who is a hottie, but doesn’t know a lick about soccer), Kate Holmes (LOL!) and “The Govenator” were all in attendance.

The entire night, it was all about Beckham this, Beckham that, how he is going to tackle his new challenge. Then there was the ‘Beckham Cam’ pointed wherever #23 went. No matter what he did, lick, scratch his balls, the cam caught it. Don’t get me started on Bonnie Bernstein and Julie Foudy, two more people who should NOT be covering such a grand game. Neither bring anything to the table.

The match itself was entertaining, as Chelsea outplayed the Galaxy for 90 minutes. The statistics were quite one-sided in favor of The Blues. John Terry had a great shot and scored the only goal of the match and then it was time for Chelsea to step up the game play, which they did.

With about 12 minutes in the match, Beckham made his first appearance in a match. Everything he did, which wasn’t much was documented, covered from no less than 5 angles and replayed. In my opinion he didn’t do anything that was really worth talking about.

Overall, this move is nothing more than a PR move for the MLS and the Galaxy. Is Beckham washed up? Based on his success at Man U and last year helping to bring a La Liga title to Real Madrid some would argue he has a lot to gain coming to the USA. But soccer is not in our culture as Americans. Kids grow up playing organized youth soccer, which is HUGE, but professional the game is not even on the same level as the lower division European teams.

So, while Beckham will be talk of the town for the next few months and the Home Depot Center could set some attendance and revenue records, the bottom line is the Galaxy are not a good team. One footballer does not make a team, but possibly improves those around him. Will that happen with “Becks”? No one has an answer to that, but I can guarantee you this. Soccer will become a nightly piece on ESPN and other sports outlets.

I am not sold on Beckham and his move to the MLS. Like Pele in ’75 bringing his 35 year old legs to the NASL, Beckham does have a huge task in front of him if he thinks he can change the mindset of millions in the USA.

Beckham Arrival Overrated?

I have never been a big David Beckham fan going back to his days with Manchester United. He is one hell of a footballer and his accomplishments are quite impressive: FA Premier League Champion 6 times, FA Cup winner twice, UEFA Champions League once. Pele also listed Beckham as one of the Top 100 greatest living footballers in the world. So to his credit he is nothing short of a football good in the eyes of many.

Much like Pele, Beckham leaves the European (and Spanish) League flies across “The Pond” and lands in Tinseltown, Los Angeles, home to the L.A. Galaxy a team that has struggles this year in the MLS. Pele came to the NASL at age 35 in 1975 to the highly profiled New York Cosmos, where he played until 1977. Beckham at 32 years of age is getting on in his football career. It did not come as a big surprise when Man U. did not want him back, instead going with youth up front, so Beckham took his namesake and game to Real Madrid. Was his time in Spain a bust? If you base that decision on championships, then no Real Madrid won their first La Liga title in 3 years with the help of Beckham.

On January 11, 2007 it was announced that Beckham would follow in the footsteps of Pele and take his game to America, where football is known as soccer and has very little support compared to the other major sports like baseball, American football and basketball. The deal was 5 years up to a reported $250 million to play for the L.A. Galaxy. What sort of impact will he bring to the Galaxy is yet to be seen, but many of the reports I have heard are “team oriented.” It is no longer just about Beckham.

Will he be able to help the Galaxy who have 13 points with only 3 wins in 12 games? Sure I do think he will be able to bring his experience and talent to the MLS and America help the team win. I don’t think his impact will really help increase the interest in ‘soccer’ in the U.S., which is what many are banking on. Sure, those into the game of soccer in the U.S. are excited for his arrival, but I for one see it more as a PR move more than a smart move. Revenue for many of the MLS teams cannot be all that high and having to shell out $250 million for a single player is quite a bit.

Pele helped introduce the game of football to America from 1975-1977, I remember watching him on television and in person against the San Diego Sockers. Pele made 64 appearances and scored 37 goals, but he was a true ambassador of the game. Beckham leaves Europe with a turbulent past, the jury is out as to what sort of impact he will have on the league, the game and brings more Americas out to see one of Europe’s best.

Note: Oddly enough he will play his first match against a team he knows all too well, Chelsea, when they face the L.A. Galaxy on July 21.

Another Sunday

So Week #2 of the NFL is here and it will be another weekend I don’t watch football and turn my television to Premiership and Serie A footie [soccer]. Northern California has to be the worst place in the country for NFL football at the moment. Two terrible teams in the Raiders and 49’ers, who I believe will have a combined 8 wins between them when the season come to an end. Even with all 16 home teams selling out this weekend, there are no second games on FOX in the morning and CBS in the afternoon. Then again the match ups of Raiders v Ravens and 49’ers v Rams are just not that enticing. It’s no wonder I play fantasy football and pull for individual players and not teams.

The footie schedule is much stronger on Fox Soccer Channel and GOLTV today as my favorite Italian Serie A club, AS Roma go up against Siena. I already have my DVR set to record this match since I will miss about half the game as I am driving home. But this is quickly becoming my regular Saturday and Sunday schedule, watching footie and forgetting football. The big game of the day is Manchester United v Arsenal at Old Trafford beginning at 8:00PDT. Other Serie A matches from Italy include Lazio v Palermo and Atalanta v Catania.

It’s not that I am loosing interest in the NFL, as much as I am gaining more of an interest at getting back into footie. Guess I have the World Cup to thank for that. Forza Italia! Of course if the San Diego Chargers are playing or another game of interest I will watch, but until that time, the TV schedule for the NFL has truly been ass! I would gladly pay $9.95, hell $19.95 to watch the Chargers play each Sunday. I know Comcast offers an MLB and NBA package, but I don’t believe there is one for the NFL, like Direct TV has. Even watching football streaming on the Internet, give me that option.

I bought the MLB package this year for $89.95. Now the price might sound steep at first, but when you consider you get every out of market baseball game, it is a small price to pay for nearly unlimited games! I get to watch the San Diego Padres at my leisure (except when they play SF). Not sure this would work for the NFL, but it would be a great option to have. I can even buy individual UEFA Champions League match for $9.95. Hopefully the trend in the future will be offer more events on streaming media. Guess time will tell.

Fútbol or Football

Okay, so the US is a bit backwards when it comes to football, the American version and the international version. Those in the states usually refer to it as soccer and not football, fútbol or “footie.”

This past weekend was the opening weekend for the NFL and while I am a big fan of the NFL and fantasy football, I could just not get into the swing of the games on Sunday. Then again, there were some horrible games on television, maybe that is why. So instead of flipping channels during the early games and settling in for the afternoon affair I tuned the NFL out and the Premiership in!

The what you ask? The EPL. The Premiership, the top league over in England, along with catching two Italian matches. Now I can see many rolling their eyes and saying boring, but it was much more exciting that any of the three NFL games I had to choose from. Sure the scores were rather low scoring, 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, but it was a much more enjoyable product on the field, or in footie terms, the pitch, than was watching the NFL.

Maybe this is where fantasy football as gone, as I don’t care so much about watching the games any longer than I do about my fantasy players performing well enough to score big points. Of course I will also root and cheer for my San Diego Chargers, who in fact, kicked the shit out of “Raidernation!” One nation, my ass! And you Bay Area myopics thought Aaron Brooks was the answer to all your prayers. LOL!

I guess I have the recent FIFA World Cup to thank for the sudden infusion of footie in my life and the fact that Italy, my favorite football nation won the cup. As a kid I played the game, through high school and two years in college. But once out of college, I did not play again, but the love for the game is still there and stronger than ever. So while the NFL is in my blood, the love of the game lies watching footie.