Monday, March 31, 2008

FC Dallas 1 - 1 Chivas USA

Opening day. Games that matter. The start of a new season, full of hope -- and ties. Damn, dirty, point-dropping, soul-gutting ties.

Well, not really. You see, Chivas USA, now that they have been made aware of the fact that the best available American players are better than rejected Mexican players, are a very good team. They had the best regular season record in the Western Conference last year, and are one of the early favorites to win the MLS Cup this year. While it's still frustrating to drop points at home, the Hoops have to feel good that it wasn't worse, especially with Kenny Cooper Jr absolutely refusing to acknowledge that he is, in fact, a six foot three inch forward and instead pretending that he is a pretty pretty twinkle toes. Now, Kenny played for the Man U reserves for a while and has very good footwork by MLS standards, but he is not Christiano Ronaldo, and the sooner he realizes this, the sooner he will start scoring goals.

FCD's big offseason move, Mexican Defender Duilio Davino had a mixed game, making some good last-second clearances, but totally botching a late-game chance that lead to the Goats' equalizer. Still, the Hoops would have had no chance if not for Super Dario in goal, who is still playing out of his mind.

The stadium was pretty full, though there were, as always, lots of latecomers and empty red seats. Sigh. Still, the atmosphere was pretty good, and it was a fun game to be at. I'm looking forward to a season that I still suspect will be better than some (i.e. almost all) are predicting.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cardiff 1 - 0 Southampton

Listened to this one on the internet audio feed, though of course logging on 6 minuets into the game means I missed the Paul Parry goal (to my American ears, the crowd's chant still sounds like "Potpourri! Potpourri!" I'm sure that would please Paul.). The rest was a bit "meh," but that also meant there was no serious threat by Southampton, which is good enough for me.

There are two scenes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which minor characters must insist to their clueless fellows that they are not, in fact, dead yet. With an ugly win over relegation-threatened Southampton, Cardiff's playoff hopes could be described in much the same way. Whether they end up like loyal Concorde or the plague villager remains to be seen, but I'd be on the lookout for Eric Idle carrying a club. On the plus side, the lingering possibility of relegation is shrinking in the distance in the team's collective rear-view mirror, and the FA Cup semifinal is coming up.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

OMG teh MLS NEWZeZ!!!11!!!!1!!

So, I am reading Goff's blog, and I see that Dick's Sporting Goods (Heh heh -- I bet I'm the first person to notice that the company's name includes a funny word for "penis."), a sponsor of MLS and the named sponsor of Colorado's home stadium, has finally started selling MLS gear on its website, including a very nice selection of FC Dallas gear. This is a nice step in the right direction for MLS, which still struggles to get its (non-Beckham) merchandise into stores, online or otherwise. On my way to the FC Dallas page, I see the following on the sidebar:

(See full screenshot here.) From this graphic, we can deduce several exciting tidbits and even some real shockers.

First, David Beckham has been realized for the beyond-world-class talent that he is, and has been elevated to being his own team. The Galaxy must be gutted, though now they have a good bit more salary cap room.

Second, Toronto FC management has finally realized that soccer will never work in Toronto, and has sensibly moved the team to be the second club in the Dallas area, reviving the proud name of the Dallas Burn. I can only assume the team will play in Southlake to overwhelming fan response.

Third, by cleverly announcing the expansion Orlando Pirates, MLS is finally returning to Florida, or maybe South Africa. FIFA is reported to be distressed either way.

Finally, the restored San Jose Earthquakes have seen the error of their ways and have wisely abandoned one of the few names in American soccer with any significant history, severing all historical and emotional ties with those silly MLS Cup trophies and that no-talent hack George Best, and revived the glorious Nike-name San Jose Clash. Somewhere in punk rock heaven, Joe Strummer is smiling.

So there you have it, folks, DSG is giving us all the awesome news! They are taking a true leadership position in the American soccer community, and we should all be thankful. Eat your heart out, MLS Rumors.

UPDATE: As of 10am on Thursday morning, it's still posted that way.
UPDATE 2: As of 5:45 pm on Saturday, it's still posted that way. Jeez. Am I missing something? I hit "Refresh" on the browser.

Disclaimer: I'm sure I'm not the first to notice this, but I have intentionally avoided looking up any other response to the story. I wanted to work in an unadulterated creative environment because I'm awesome like that. No really. I am. Why are you laughing?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

FC Dallas 2 - Clube Atlético Paranaense 1 (Friendly)

UPDATE: Great posts on 3rd Degree here and here.

Sorry, didn't catch this one either. What can I say, real life is actually more important than soccer (Shhhhh, don't tell anyone!).

Clube Atlético Paranaense ("CAP") has partnered with FC Dallas to share business and soccer practices and to help each other out in training. Many MLS clubs have such partnerships, but the FCD-CAP one is remarkably productive, in that the clubs actually seem to, well, do stuff. FCD has two players on loan from the Brazilian club, and the Hoops have spent time training at CAP's facility in Brazil each of the last two years, and FCD has returned the favor each of those years. In fact, two of FCD's players are actually on loan from CAP, and there is the near-promise of more to come in future years.

As part of the partnership, the teams play a home-and-away friendly series called the USA-Brazil Challenge, and give the winner a ridiculously large trophy. Yesterday's winning performance was the final leg, with FCD having won the first leg in Brazil two-to-nil with each FCD goal scored by one of the on-loan CAP players. FCD takes the cup with a 4-1 aggregate score, and the rest of MLS trembles in awe of the Hoops' preseason might -- or maybe not.

What made last night's game interesting was the fact that CAP finished the game with nine men after someone knocked over the ref while their whole team had surrounded him to protest an FCD goal off of a quick-kick. It was apparently pretty ugly, and while some fans are pretty angry at CAP's behavior, I think that since nobody got hurt, it just adds a little spice to a relationship that had been altogether too Kumbaya to make for really exciting soccer on the field. With some of their players having been such big babies, I feel more comfortable posting something like the below.


Cardiff 2 - Bristol City 1

I didn't get to listen to this one, as I was participating in that most American (and Texan) of pastimes, shooting semi-automatic firearms. What were you expecting? Rounders? Fortunately, the Bluebirds didn't need my psychic assistance, as they beat promotion-challenging cross-border rivals Bristol City. This win goes a long way towards insuring that Cardiff won't have to sweat any kind of relegation fight, even if they hit a bigtime loss in form the rest of the season.

What's even sweeter about beating Bristol City, apart from knowing that the fans were singing the old standard, "Always shit on the English side of the bridge," a ditty which amuses me far more than it logically should, is that a certain former Swansea player goes back to Bristol with a loss. For those who don't know, Bristol City striker Lee Trundle was a longtime player for Swansea City, and on the occasion of Swansea's win in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff at the 2006 FA Trophy final (not to be confused with the more prestigious FA Cup), he had himself a bit of fun. Lee was already a fan favorite of the Swansea faithful, and even though the Swans and the Bluebirds were not in the same league and the game wasn't against Cardiff City, Trundle made himself a legend to both fan bases with an anti-cardiff flag and t-shirt, though obviously each group of fans has a bit of a different take on the guy.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Success... for now

By now it's old news that Cardiff won their hearing versus the shady Langston company, though Cardiff's lawyers did their part to light up the cockroach-ridden tenement flat that is Cardiff's front-office situation, naming former chairman and Wimbledon-succubus Sam Hammam as the power behind the "throne" of Langston. The basics are this: Langston loaned the club 24 million pounds while Hammam was chairman, and are now claiming that the entire amount is immediately payable. The club contends that it has made various arrangements that mean the debt doesn't need to be repaid until 2016 or so. If it sounds like a cynical power play by an ousted chaiman, that's because that's probably what it is.

The hearing was for summary judgment, which in the legal world means the judge was required to view all the facts in the best possible light for Cardiff and then determine whether, having done that, Langston would still obviously be in the right. It's an early gambit by Langston, and there is still the specter of a full trial on the disputed facts. Still, the gambit failed, and with this victory, which forces Langston (who moved for summary judgment in the first place) to pay a healthy chunk of Cardiff's recent legal bills, Cardiff has shown the world and, perhaps more importantly, the local council, that they have a strong case going forward and are in this thing to win it, notwithstanding threats of administration and its ten-point-penalty bogeyman. They can also now seriously look into a much-needed loan signing for depth.

There had been some debate about whether the man who began the dismantling of Wimbledon or the man who began the dismantling of Leeds was the worse chairman, but now I think most Bluebirds supporters will echo the sentiments of one messageboard partisan: "Do the ayatollah now, you piece of shit." Here here. Long live the overspending corporate shill; down with the false-fan hypocrite. One thing I do know is that if there ever were any karmic debt to pay for the dark days of hooliganism, the Cardiff fans' ledger should be more than balanced by now -- Barnsley and Pompey/West Brom, beware.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

FC Dallas 0 - 0 Los Angeles Galaxy (Friendly)

Mr. Beckham (finally) comes to North Texas.

First, here's a little background. Last season, FC Dallas played in Superliga, a made-for-TV tournament pitting MLS teams against Mexican teams. For a variety of reasons, these two leagues' futures are intertwined, though there is still much more money in the Mexican game right now. It ended up being a fun tournament, with in-season MLS teams holding their own against late-preseason Mexican clubs, and the $1,000,000 prize enough to motivate the players who took the field (many veterans and national teamers on the Mexican squads were held out, especially in the early group-stage games). LA and Dallas were in the same group, and Beckham was scheduled to make his only appearance in Dallas in the LA versus Dallas group stage match. The Dallas front office promoted this game like they have never promoted anything before. It was frankly kind of frustrating, as Dallas were in form in the league at the time, but only a scrawny English deadball specialist who plays for a different team could warrant a billboard on the highway. Whether it was the marketing or just the general cult of celebrity surrounding Becks, the game was an instant sellout with tickets going for well above the standard going rate. Fans of Man U and Real Madrid, celebrity-loving soccer moms, and thousands of other people who couldn't name a single player off the FC Dallas roster.

Needless to say, when Becks bowed out with an injury, these people were not happy. People were demanding refunds and complaining about a bait and switch, and the FC Dallas front office learned a valuable lesson about overpromoting, and trust me, this is not a typical problem for FC Dallas. To top it all off, LA won a ridiculous but fun match at Pizza Hut Park, 6-5 (ask me about Landon Donovan sometime).

Afterwards, FC Dallas and the Galaxy managed to put together a preseason friendly for charity to stem the Public Relations bleeding, with FC Dallas agreeing to give free tickets to anyone who had bought tickets to the Superliga match, and fortunately for FC Dallas, Becks has been healthy. Not that it really matted, of course. Once word was out that one of Fabio Capello's little helpers would be watching the game in Dallas, ol' Goldenballs would have had to be missing a leg before he'd miss this game. I think I may actually have heard the sighs of relief in Frisco from my house 50 miles away.

As the wife and I had got our tickets to last year's game on the secondary market for a very good price once people had found out there would be no Beckham, we didn't have free tickets to this game, so we just caught this one on the streaming internet video FC Dallas provided. It was a pretty good game for a preseason warmup. FCD's manager Steve Morrow is implementing a new formation with a three-man back line and trying to get more width in the midfield. While the finishing was sub-par even for MLS standards, the crosses were flying in and there was a lot of activity in LA's defensive half. Frankly, I'm encouraged, especially since Dallas keeper Dario Sala played lights-out, making several great saves. Beckham, as could be expected in a match where he was trying to prove his fitness, was everywhere: tracking back to defend in his penalty area, advancing all the way upfield (to the point of being caught offside twice), and I swear at one point I saw that son of a bitch intercept a pass from his own teammate intended for a differeant Galaxy player.

The game ended 0-0, but there were a lot of chances for both sides. LA's defense is not well-thought-of (almost half of the Gals' salary cap is spent on three offensive players), but I am optimistic that with a few more games together, FC Dallas will have a better offense this year than last and a defense that is at least no worse. Go Hoops!


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Colchester 1 - 1 Cardiff

Cardiff dropped points today to Colchester. Colchester is currently in 24th place. That's dead last in the biggest friggin' soccer league in the solar system. I don't care that the game was in Colchester, this was 2 points that shouldn't have been dropped and will be very missed. Of course, it didn't help that Jimmy Floyd left the game about an hour in, which is not unusual, but doing so by means of a straight red is slightly out of the ordinary and not particularly helpful. The team's playoff chances are sinking down into the horizon, and the Bluebirds seem to be in no hurry to catch the sun.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cardiff 1 - 0 Hull

This weeknight special came on yesterday while I was at work, but I did remember to pull up the Soccernet Gamecast, which is really quite nice these days. A Stephen McPhail goal very early on gave Cardiff the win over top-6 team Hull, as they try to take advantage of the games-in-hand they have to claw their way back into playoff contention.

If they really want it, that is.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cardiff in the UEFA Cup? Perish the thought!

Cardiff City, of course, is headed to new Wembley for a semi-final in the craziest FA Cup this side of 1980. They'll be playing Barnsley, the giant-killers (great example in that link of an American journalist having to write for an unfamiliar audience, by the way). Fortunately, Cardiff are not giants, so the Bluebirds have a reasonable chance of advancing to the final, a game in which a win earns the victors a trip to Europe's second-most-important pan-national club tournament.

That is, of course, unless that winning team is Cardiff.

As background, I should mention that from a soccer standpoint, Wales is as independent of England as is Brazil, with it's own National Team, (such as it is), own governing body (such as it is -- which isn't much), and even its own top-level league (such as it is -- which isn't much -- at all -- no, seriously -- it's crap -- no offense -- and don't even get me started on the FAW Premier Cup). Cardiff, along with a few other clubs, play in the English system because, historically, the FA of Wales was even more crap than it is now. However, the Bluebirds still played in the Welsh Cup, run by the FAW along the same lines as England's FA Cup. Cardiff often won this cup, and with it the right to play in European competitions that eventually merged into and/or evolved into and/or were replaced by the UEFA Cup. Cardiff was in many ways very lucky to be able to do this, but the spots were Wales's to give, and they gave them to any team based in Wales that won the Welsh Cup.

Eventually, however, the FAW began to notice that the rest of Europe was (a) annoyed that England's smaller neighbors had an anachronistically large influence on the rules of soccer, and (b) noticing how truly crap the FAW was. Therefore, to ensure their survival and that of the national team (both laudable ends, particularly the latter), the FAW tried to appear to be aiming for Scottish levels of non-crap. To that end, they set up the League of Wales (meh -- whatever, but the potentially ultra-prestigious Champions League is based on doing well in League play, and they wanted to enter somebody), but they declared that only teams competing in a Welsh league would be allowed to play in the Welsh Cup, with the prize of a UEFA Cup berth. Of course, for the FAW, the result was excluding their three best clubs and three more that could arguably be the next three best clubs (i.e. Newport County, Colwyn Bay, and Merthyr Tydfil), and the lack of any positive Welsh results in European club tournaments speaks volumes. The FAW are crap.

As has already been mentioned once or twice, the FAW are a bit crap, and the League of Wales is also quite a bit crap (and of course I mean strictly from a competitive standpoint; far be it from me to impugn someone for supporting their local club, but still, it's really crap). Because of this, Cardiff and the rest told the FAW what they could do with their League, knowing full well that the alternative was a competitive ghetto of trans-Glaswegian proportions. In return, they gave up the possibility of any European tournaments, as the English FA was content to allow the clubs to remain in the English pyramid, but loathe to give up any lucrative European spots to "foreign" clubs.

Of course, it has been decades since a Welsh club was in England's top flight, and even longer since any were challenging for European slots through either the league or the FA Cup or League Cup. Therefore, the Exiles major gripe has been with the FAW, and not the English FA. On the Welsh side, the FAW have realized how badly they've dropped the ball, leaking cockamamie schemes to help the Welsh big three back into Europe without having to backpedal and restart the pissing match that got them into this mess in the first place. As to the English side, only Cardiff's recent surprising success in the FA Cup has been able to get people talking, and as the only club to take the FA Cup outside of England, you'd think the FA might have a bit of love for one of its stepchildren (or is that step-dragons?).

Still, the Bluebirds do have at least one potential white knight, and of course, there is a (very) long way to go to keep this from becoming a (very) moot point for at least another year. And ultimately, the Exiles' best chance of European play is to figure out some way to help the FAW, which is crap, after all, figure out a way to extricate its foot from its mouth so it can enter its best clubs into European competition, an area where it is a uniquely deficient governing body.

To close, I will simply say, "GOOO BLOOOOBIRDS!"

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Middlesbrough 0 - 2 Cardiff (FA Cup)

Man U beaten by Portsmouth. Liverpool AND Chelsea beaten by Barnsley. Every Premier League club EXCEPT Pompey and Boro beaten by SOMEBODY. Frankly, it feels like Cardiff were just fulfilling their destiny. It's been said elsewhere, but this is the Soccer gods throwing a bone to fans of every single non-Big-Four team out there. Peter Whittingham's and Roger Johnson's goals were like the final killing blows delivered by the ancient Roman conspirators to the reeling (and in the case of Boro, I do mean reeling - they played very poorly) embodiment of oppressive power, finishing the work begun by Portsmouth and Barnsley and Oldham and all the others. So what happens from here? Does Pompey play the part of Marc Antony or Octavian? Will Cardiff, with its upcoming legal case, continue to play the role of Brutus to the bitter end?

I don't know. all I know is I am a very happy Cardiff fan.

Anyway, on a slightly less classical note...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

FA Cup Motivations

Oh the majesty, oh the history, oh the glory of the FA Cup. Professional team sports are big business around the world, and as businesses, they naturally fall into the category of "Entertainment," a field that inevitably follows trends and hides its past. For that reason alone, it's wonderful and to me a bit amazing to see some of our favorite "Entertainment companies" (i.e. football clubs) continue to play in a 130-year-old tournament against competition against all-comers. It's good that those aspects of being a sports fan that make sports more than mere entertainment have survived long enough and well enough that we get to see near-amateurs score twice against one of the most-storied clubs in the world.

Clubs and players want to win the FA Cup for the glory, the prestige, the honor of it. They want to win for the players' and managers' egos or to be featured on the largest stage in British football. They want to win to be a part of history. They want to win it to show they can compete with the best in the world. They may even want to win it for the fans. Often, of course, there is the promise of riches to be spent on new stadiums, new cars, or any number of other things.

Never before, I think, have we seen so glorious a motive for winning an FA Cup match as Cardiff City has for winning against Middlesbrough on Sunday:

Litigation management.

From what I can tell, the fans and (I believe) the players would be alright with just glory, pride, and adulation, but if it's the prospect of paying legal bills that get Pete and Dave get all hot and bothered, we can now rest assured that they will give it their all come Sunday.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Crystal Palace 0 - 0 Cardiff

Well, at least a midweek draw on the road is better than a Saturday loss at home. Trevor Sinclair is back for the first time in quite a while, and Riccy Scimeca is back for (I believe) the first time since I've been following the club. I am assuming (or is that hoping) that starting them both means the Bluebirds are desperately trying to build up some usable depth in preparation for the FA Cup match versus Middlesbrough and not sheer insanity. After all, we have had, shall we say, a few issues on that front, and funny how a player who was "nowhere near ready" 10 days ago is now okay for 71 minutes in a League game.


Monday, March 3, 2008

Cardiff 0 - Leicester 1

So I finally have Linux working well on my laptop. The most recent Ubuntu actually gives me 3d acceleration and a stable Wireless internet connection, and I know the workaround I need to get sound working. The only things not working are Blackberry-as-bluetooth-modem and DRM'd digital media like my Cardiff City World audio feed. I was still basking in the glow of technological freedom on Saturday morning, so I just left the laptop in Linux and pulled up the BBC's live text updates.

I didn't miss much.

Looks like Dave Jones will have no trouble getting his wish to avoid having a bad Premier League season next year. Lord knows there's no good that can come of a year of increased national and global exposure and ridiculously huge TV revenue. Now, I'm not saying that Cardiff has the right situation to go up right now, but "sour grapes" is not exactly a trait that becomes the stuff of legends.