Sunday, June 13, 2010

The slightly less than beautiful game

There are a lot of aspects of soccer that American fans just do not like. Things that go against what we believe in as sports fans. The top four that I can think of are 1) foreigners, 2) tight shorts, 3) lack of commercial interruptions and 4) the whole “let’s all roll around on the ground in horrible agony only to get up in two minutes and act like nothing has happened” bit. But if there is one item to add to this list it is ties.

Think about it in terms of major sports. Baseball (other than the All Star Game under Bud Selig) cannot end in a tie. Football (except for rare regular season occasions) cannot end in a tie. Basketball, golf and hockey all have rules to prevent tie games. But in soccer a tie game is considered to be a common and often preferable result. This goes against the grain of American culture as a tie is like kissing your sister, which unless your relationship is like Angelina Jolie and her brother probably isn’t a good thing.

Except that I was damn happy to get a tie against England on Saturday. The game started off like most US games in the World Cup do: with the other team immediately racing down the field and scoring. For some reason the Americans always think that the feeling out part of the first few minutes of the game assumes that the other team won’t try to score. That always leaves us chasing and we are horrible at it. Luckily we had a play happen that a) was incredibly lucky and b) always surprises me that you don’t see more of.

Dempsey’s goal was the damndest thing I ever saw because it was even more of a lucky shot than Kane’s cup winning goal on Wednesday night. He shot it straight at the goalie and it hit him right on the hands and then squirted away and he could only look in horror as the ball got behind him and into the goal. It is going to be one of the most memorable images of the World Cup: the England goalie looking on in horror as he realizes that he has just made one of the biggest blunders in ages.

But here is what surprises me about why it doesn’t happen more. Not that I expect goalies to flub shots but I cannot figure out why players simply don’t take more shots. Dempsey took the shot because he had an open look and there was nothing else for him to do but shoot. What you typically see are guys driving down the flanks and having a look at the goal and instead of shooting trying to pass the ball across six guys to the center. If the pass connects then it is typically an unstoppable goal. But almost all of the time the pass doesn’t connect. It’s off target or a defender gets there or the goalie cuts it off. If you shoot though at least something could happen. I never quite understand why guys just aren’t always firing straight at the keeper.

Still, all the US has to do now is play the way they should play and beat (or at least tie) Slovenia and then beat Algeria and we are through to the next round. And that is all that I am hoping for from this squad.

Best of 120 Minutes: There are desert island songs and then there are songs that make you want to knock down walls and break stuff. This is one of the latter songs. Smashing Pumpkins. The name says it all.

The five random CDs for the week:
1) Matt Nathanson “At the Point”
2) Black 47 “Live in New York City”
3) C. J. Chenier “The Big Squeeze”
4) Marshall Crenshaw “This is Easy: The Best of Marshall Crenshaw”
5) She and Him “Volume Two”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The reason it is not a big deal if they tie is that it is group play. I think American jerks spent all weekend trying to mock soccer and found the typical low hanging fruit of 1. Low scoring 2. Ties 3. Diving as sufficient reasons to stave off trying to learn about the games.

It's hilarious the Americans can get into the minutiae of Sunday football analysis or 162 days of 4 hour baseball games but can't seem to comprehend that in "group play" ties can be just as harmful or hurtful as wins and losses in the proper context, a low scoring game can be terribly dramatic, and that diving is no more reprehensible than flopping in basketball. Dj