Thursday, June 30, 2011

USA post Gold Cup--Quick Thoughts

I watched most of the Gold Cup and here is my analysis of the current player pool and what we have to look forward to for World Cup 2014:


Howard: Solid, sometimes spectacular. His comedic failure at the feet of Gio can be excused for the shambolic defending in front of him. Does tend to yell a lot. Surely you yell before the problem develops?


Lichaj: Became a big fan. Provides width, pace and edge to balance Cherundolo. Suspect defensively, his gaffe for Mexico’s second goal shows he has a lot of work to do.

Bornstein: Wynalda made some interesting points on his appearance @beyondthepitch podcast, but let’s face it, no one believes in this guy.


Bocanegra/Goodson: This pairing will probably get them through qualifying but not much further. I still worry about Bocanegra’s age come 2014, but seems better than the alternative. Onyewu, please pick up a white courtesy phone. Ream, maybe in 2 years he will have developed.


Cherundolo: His performances got me on his bandwagon. Solid going both ways, he revealed the biggest takeaway from the tournament—he can never go off again—but he will be pushing almost 35 in Brazil.

Outside mids

Dempsey: Take way the Guadeloupe game, and he was probably the first or second best player for the US. Must continue to get touches and lead the team offensively.

Donovan: Very hit and miss couple of weeks. He is a good player but maybe the US will have to sacrifice him for the good of the group.


Bradley: Well positioned, pulls the strings, high work rate. Heartbeat of the team. Just need to find him a partner.

Jones: Just not good enough. Feel there are deficiencies in each part of his game. Why is Edu not getting a run?

Kleijstan:. Don’t see how he starts but decent sub option.


Altidore: Play two years, every day at a high level and we’ll talk. Until then, stay away.

Agudelo: Meh. Young, raw, needs more playing time as well. There is something there, just not sure he is every match starter. Feel he should continue to be impact sub.

Bedoya: Not sure what his position is but was serviceable. May have a future because he has enough tactical flexibility to contribute.

Going forward we have to shore up the center of midfield and defense. I’m not too worried about the attack really because I think Bradley has found that the 4-2-3-1 is the way to go and the US has got enough attacking talent to make this work (imagine Stu Holden back in the squad!!), assuming the backline is not being overrun and just whacking the ball out and into touch. The next World Cup cycle will be interesting because Donovan’s position is under threat, the forward role needs to be sorted out and the CB pairing must become rock solid.

Monday, June 27, 2011

USA v Mexico--Quick Thoughts

If the Gold Cup Group game against Guadeloupe was World Cup Algeria Part II, then the Gold Cup Final versus Mexico had to be Confederations Cup Final v Brazil Part II. Before I get too far . . . what a game. End to end stuff, great saves, glaring errors, huge momentum changes, and fantastic goals.

The US came out and attacked, very much like United v FCB last month, and capitalized on their first set piece, one of the few advantages they had going into the match. Then the Americans finished off a swift move of quick passes, including a tremendous shield by Adu (surprise starter) that led to Deuce finding Donovan, who coolly finished. And then the lights went out just like 2 years ago against the Brazilians.

How big must have the Mexican eyes been when Bornstein came in? Cherundolo going off changed the match, and I don’t know any Spanish, but surely they said go at #12. With Chicharito occupying the two center backs, Gio and Barrera had their way with poor Jonathon, which led to Mexico being all over the US like white on rice, which totally disrupted any possession and rhythm from the Americans. Hoofing the ball up to the Roma like rotation of target players was not working. Once the ball trickled in to make it 2-2, the game was over. The US looked unlikely to score and the Mexicans had their tails up. Not much changed in the second half and Barrera’s sublime finish told us everything—Mexico is simply better. Gio’s ridiculous finish put the Americans in their place and now it’s back to the drawing board.

There has been a lot of talk about Bradley and his status as head coach. Sean Wheelock says that some of his sources say the US has peaked and grown stale. @UFStretfordEnd has started a #BradleyOut campaign on twitter. Going through a second World Cup cycle is tough enough and here is a coach who cannot win, who cannot win big matches and cannot win the PR battle. He either starts slowly, responding with smart substitutions that either change the match in his favor or cause the fan base to wonder why he didn’t start with those players; OR he gets a lead against a tough opponent and simply cannot hold it. I think Bradley is competent, professional and well organized, while being solid if not spectacular. If you can him, you have to ask, who would you replace him with? If you don’t have a replacement, you must continue on this course, sad and predictable as that might be.

Friday, June 24, 2011

In Your Ear-6.24.11

Black Angels, Phosphene Dream

I’ll be honest I don’t know how to classify this band—Wikipedia classifies them thusly: Psychedelic rock, Neo-psychedelia, Garage rock—I just know that I like their music. Stumbled upon the band somehow and have grabbed songs here and there over time. I listened to their album Phosphene Dream and was reasonably satisfied. Lots of guitar work through the album, which created some very interesting songs. Particularly liked the title track, Entrance Song, and Bad Vibrations. The cut Telephone is a catchy song that blends 60’s beach with heavy rock. In and out in two minutes. The album ends with The Sniper, which takes things down a notch before ramping up to rhythmic anthem for when that bender goes completely off the rails.

Sound Opinions Show #281

The guys replayed a Butch Vig interview from a couple years ago, in which he talks about how went from small time producer in Wisconsin to producing Nevermind and Siamese Dream to being in a band.

The interview was fascinating as Vig shared some stories about Cobain and Corgan, their moods, their genius, their interplay with other band members. These were some of the biggest bands and influences growing up so it was neat to hear a little behind the scenes. Vig also talked about his time with Garbage. Really enjoyed their first album; subsequent releases, not so much.

The hosts moved from the interview to a review of the new Foo Fighters album, which did not rate highly. They did have some good words about the Paul Simon’s new record, which should please Mr. Tony immensely.

iTunes Summer Sampler

Overall the sampler was ok. Found some really good tracks:

San Pedro - Mogwai

Driving garage rock instrumental track that I can get behind.

What About Us - Handsome Furs

Favorite track on the sampler from a group that I’ve found recently. Like what they are doing electronically in the background on this cut.

On the Corner - The Twilight Singers

Another favorite of mine. When I first heard this cut, I thought it would right off The Afghan Whigs Gentlemen CD. Turns out Greg Dulli is lead singer. Really could get into this band.

You Gotta Lose - Obits

Energetic cut with a punk vibe that hits you in the mouth and keeps on going. Dig it.

Here were a couple of losers:

Grown Ocean - Fleet Foxes

Haven’t really gotten on the FF bandwagon. This track didn’t help.

Mister Heavenly - Mister Heavenly

Uhhh . . . no. Couldn’t get into this track.

The Fox - Niki and the Dove

Didn’t really like this track. Too much going on plus I had mid 80’s flashbacks to Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and the like.

Comments on the rest of the tracks:

Lost in My Mind - The Head and the Heart

Slow build on this track with an enjoyable piano part.

Is It Done - J Mascis

Long time since I’ve heard anything out of Mascis or Dinosaur Jr. Not too bad, very understated track.

He Gets Me High - Dum Dum Girls

Hints of Elastica pepper this cut, which would be great for driving around.

Skull (Remastered) - Sebadoh

Had a little Pavement/Nada Surf flashback on this track, which was nice.

Do You Really Wanna Know - Papercuts

Ethereal track that has a 60’s vibe with some Decemberists and another band I can’t quite place.

Eyes Be Closed - Washed Out

Wish I could describe the track but I can’t. Imagine this is a take it or leave it track. I took it.

Can't You Tell - Vetiver

Dreamy song that reminds of early 90’s BritPop (blur, Charltans UK, etc.)

Swerve... the Reeping of All That Is Worthwhile (Noir Not Withstanding) - Shabazz Palaces

Track totally different that any of the others, with a rap vibe.

O My Soul - Daniel Martin Moore

The Band meets Blue Rodeo if that’s your sort of thing.

Especially Me - Low

Would have to be in right mood to enjoy this melancholy track. Could happen.

Endless Summer - Still Corners

Organ based track that easily would have fit into Twin Peaks soundtrack. Very haunting.

Sleep Patterns – Memoryhouse

If you like the sound of the Editors or Interpol with female vocals, you’ll probably like this track.

Sara - Chad VanGaalen

Voice sounds like several others I’ve heard. So so track, nothing to get excited over.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Riddle Me This

So . . . workers are wrapping up a project on Northbound 127 between Saginaw Hwy and Lake Lansing Rd. It looks to me that they basically paved a lane that connects the two exits, which leads me to ask two questions:

#1, Why? Was traffic really that congested? If anything they should add a lane Southbound from Saginaw to 496 because that seems to be the back up during the morning rush hour.

#2, With money for roads (or any project for that matter) at a premium, is it really necessary to add a lane that connects two exits that are about a mile apart? There are dozens of streets around Lansing that are in severe disrepair. Selfishly, I refer you to the Potter/Walsh Neighborhood because I can’t get out of my neighborhood unless I go out of my way to avoid certain streets for which an off road vehicle is required. Plus there’s Southbound Homer St. that is deteriorating by the day. (And fixing the problem is not patching for what it’s worth. Do it right or do what you’re doing now—nothing.) Seems like paving trouble spots would be a better use of funding that adding a lane of one mile to 127, which is pretty much the same as Coolidge Rd.

#3, Side question, unrelated to the 127 project. How is it that Saginaw is going to be repaved from just before Capitol to almost Grand Ledge without anything being done about the side streets off that road? Just saying.

Road conditions are a major hot button for me. If I ever run for public office, that will be one of the foremost planks in my platform—smooth roads for all. Think about it. There are enough idiots on the road to worry about without having to dodge potholes and man hole covers, which is another rant that I won’t get into now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

USA v Guadeloupe--Quick Thoughts

Hundreds, dare I say, thousands of words will be written about the US/Guadeloupe game, more insightful, better written, more worth your time. Doesn’t stop me from venting.

I hereby dub this match US/Algeria II (stolen from @GrantWahl). US needs a result; opponents miss an early chance that would have surely killed the US’ chances; a great goal sends the US on their way.

The US brought more energy to the game than against Panama . . . until Jozy scored. After that, not sure if it was the Spurs pre game meal that did them in, or the fact that they got what they came for, or the fact that this country can produce dozens of top flight goalkeepers, but not one world class striker.

Let’s face it . . . that might have been Dempsey’s worst game as a US international (says the guy who rarely watches the team). I was really pissed watching the game last night, but after a night’s sleep, I realized that players have off games. Deuce had an off game.

The addition of Lichaj really opened up the game for the US. Gave balance of attack from BOTH sides and allowed Donovan to come inside and increase his presence. Did leave the US vulnerable in the back but the crisis was averted because Nabab couldn’t stay onside.

Wondo. All due respect, you are ten times better than me. You just aren’t ready for this level yet.

What is going on in central midfield? Jones continues to disappoint, yet continues to play. Bradley subs Bradley with seven minutes to go? What is that? At least Sasha saved his ‘stache.

The US has Jamaica on Sunday. Can’t really fancy their chances based on the performance in the group. A win might set up a rematch with Panama, which could be tasty.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Strip Club—Pole Work Edition

On September 4th, 1994, Croatia kicked off against Estonia and started an amazing four year run for The Blazers in continental and international football. Their first competitive games as a new nation were for qualification to Euro 96, in which they won their group, only losing one match, including a draw and victory against 1994 World Cup Runners-Up Italy. At the Finals, they finished second to Portugal (if you haven’t seen Suker’s goal against Denmark . . . )and qualified for the knockout stage, where they lost to Germany despite a sick goal by Suker (

Two years on, they took the world by storm as they made it all the way to the semi-finals of the World Cup, which included a 3-0 demolition of Germany, before they lost to two unlikely and amazing goals from Lillian Thuram of the host country France. They responded by defeating Holland in the third place game to complete a journey from non-existence to the heights of international competition. However, things didn't go as well for the next decade as Suker, Boban, Prosinečki and Bilic retired, and the next generation couldn't match their achievements.

Croatia appears to be in the midst of a new cycle of success. In Euro 08, a team coached by Bilic played some very attractive football and introduced some new stars to the European scene, namely Modric, with Kranjcar, Pranjić and Olic featuring. If you have a chance, check some of the Croatian highlights from that tournament. After crashing out in qualifying for World Cup 2010, they look to be in prime position for Euro 2012, with a game against Greece probably deciding their fate.

On June 3rd, the Blazers defeated Georgia 2-1. Their remaining fixtures are as follows:

Sep 2 Malta v Croatia

Sep 6 Croatia v Israel

Oct 7 Greece v Croatia

Oct 11 Croatia v Latvia

Ivo Andov (@ivoandov), who has a little more insight on Croatia, had this to share on twitter:

Hard to gauge really. Plenty of young, talented players are coming through the ranks but little experience. Being in such an easy qualifying group isn't helping them at all imo. Bilic is an excellent coach, so that would be a plus. I think the only chance for them to progress is if Luka & Vedran & Darijo step up and lead the team. With such a young squad, it's possible for them to be a surprise, but I would err on the side of underachievement

Visit Ivo at or!/ivoandov

When I first saw the Croatia football national team at Euro 96, I was instantly taken by their uniforms, which looked like the Big Boy outfit down the street (insert pic).

I admit I was strangely gutted when they lost to Germany in the quarterfinals of Euro 96 despite knowing almost nothing about them.

The summer after Euro 96, I was at my local soccer shop and came across the Croatian jersey. I couldn't believe it . I immediately took it up to the counter and swiped my credit card. The jersey is one of the few I have that is made by Lotto, but it is lightweight and great to play in. Of course I get mocked due to the large checked pattern (either something about Big Boy or wearing a picnic blanket) but that's because people don't get it.

Assuming they make Euro 2012, they will probably be my second team, behind Spain. Another clash with Germany would be epic.

Wikipedia entry:

Monday, June 13, 2011

USA v Panama--Quick Thoughts

I was going to write some thoughts about the poor performance of the United States against Panama, but I ran out of time and then I read the post at, who said almost everything I wanted to say, but way better.

Post from Fuse at

I will add only three things:

First of all, the original announcer was terrible. He would just randomly say names or update moments of game. Plus he was switching between English and Spanish. Eventually they switched to a feed of @PhilSchoen and @Simply_Juan, which was tolerable.

Second, Jermaine Jones should be on the first bus out of the country. He was brutal in the first half and I tweeted that there was no way he would make it through the game. He would either be subbed at HT (came off after 60 min) or Red Carded out (lucky to avoid). He offers very little, and I want to know why Edu is not partnering Bradley.

Third, our forwards suck. Altidore is not up to this level. Agudelo comes in and out. Wondo missed a chance that should be converted by a national team player, MLS top scorer and MLS MVP candidate. It’s only when Dempsey goes up top that the US looks semi-dangerous.

Here’s hoping the US shuffles the pack and gets back on track Tuesday against Guadeloupe.

Otherwise there could be a new page created like this one:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

USA v Canada--Quick Thoughts

After the debacle against Spain, the US got back on track with a 2-0 win over Canada. The match started slowly, with the US dominating much of the first half. The second was much livelier and only Howard kept our neighbors to the north from getting a goal.

Couple of notes:


Howard did well, especially in a nervy second half. He yells a lot at his field players. How about yelling before the crisis arises?


Bocanegra started at left back. He’s going to be how old come World Cup 2014? (35). He’d better sign with AC Milan and get on the Maldini fitness plan if he wants to make a difference.

Center backs were composed and organized. Ream got megged but other than that, they dealt with a series of Canadian crosses and corner kicks. Cherundolo contributed down the right hand flank. Would have liked to seen Lichaj as well.


Donovan and Dempsey were solid. Thought Donovan had the better of the match, tracking back and providing an attacking thrust. Dempsey was muted until he moved up top and grabbed a goal. Kljestan was barely noticeable, which is good. Just keep the ball moving, meet your defensive responsibilities, but get rid of the ‘stache.

Jermaine Jones is worthless. My mancrush on him was over after the Spain game. I really cannot believe that after his performance against Spain, he was trotted out there again. Makes even simple possession into a chore. Had one thrilling dribbling moment. Other than that, waste.

Jones’ center mid partner, Michael Bradley did really well, perhaps even Man of the Match. Could tell a difference when he came against Spain to help change the game and continued on last night with great link up play, good positioning and tremendous work rate.


The forwards were ok. Felt they could have attacked the Canadian rearguard a little quicker. First touch is still heavy from both and they tend to move into trouble instead of finding a link up. Wondolowski barely registered for me.

2nd goal was fantastic. A lot of attacking success came from the right hand side, and in this moment Altidore fizzed a ball across the six, which Agudelo deflected and Dempsey put in.

From the Canadian perspective, Josh Simpson (#11) was quite good. Decent in 1 on 1 situations. Looked like US had eye on him because Cherundolo and Donovan would frequently double team in the channel. Doing a little research, turns out he plays with Manisaspor in the Turkish First Division and his team is Manucho (Man United reject). De Rosario didn’t quite make an impact. Think he was a little overwhelmed in midfield, with Canada’s possession very spotty, especially in the first half.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Futbol Time Management

A couple of weeks ago on the World Football Phone In, as a result of Sean Wheelock’s rant against Beckham’s trip to the Royal Wedding, Dotun started a rant segment at the end of the show. Wheelock stepped forward again and made some interesting comments about US soccer fans. In short, he said that he can’t stand footy fans in this country ignoring the domestic league. He went on to say that unless the fans that are following the EPL, La Liga, Serie A, etc., get invested in the MLS, the league will never hit the heights it is capable of. I was struck by his statements and almost quit the run I was on. It was if he was speaking directly to me.

When I first started following footy in the early 90’s, there was no US league, barely even a US team. Coverage basically consisted of World Soccer and FourFourTwo, week old London Sunday Times, with TV games hard to the find—odd Champions League game or an English game on PPV. To put it in context now, Americans can now see more European games than they can handle: Spanish and German games on GolTV, English and Italian on FSC, and a host of leagues on ESPN3. To put a further point on it, in 20 years we have gone from only seeing the FA Cup Final to watching Gary Neville’s testimonial live.

Then in 1996, MLS launched and Eric Wynalda scored that first goal and things were up and running. I originally started following DC United in the MLS. The team had Ben Olsen, who I really liked as a player, and they had a simple uniform, which was in stark contrast to the Nike pieces of crap during that time (insert pics).

DC was a little far away, so I followed them as best I could and would go and see them at Soldier Field in Chicago when the Fire started up. Fortunately I picked a team who was successful out of the gate, reaching the first four MLS Cup Finals, winning three of them. But in the end, I felt the quality of the games was poor, especially compared to other European leagues I was watching. The breaking point was the 1999 MLS final at Foxboro. The pitch looked terrible, with the American football lines still visible; Harkes and Lalas part of the halftime analysis (a vision of things to come); and the game wasn’t that compelling. I was like if you are not going to take this seriously, then neither am I.

The following summer I bought Euro 2000 on PPV, after that, I was hooked on European soccer. I watched a tournament that was exciting, dramatic, and fun to watch. There was no way I could go back to the Wiz v the Burn. In the fall of 2000 United were in the midst of three straight league titles, plus their amazing Treble season; Juventus, after reaching three straight Champions League Finals, were rebuilding; Real Madrid had captured 2 out of the last three Champions League titles and were heading towards a third in five years. Plus qualification for the World Cup in Japan/South Korea was starting.

In the intervening years I have tried to keep track of the league as a whole through websites, blogs and social media, even with the ridiculous team names, but for me, it comes down to time. I only have so much time during the week to scour the internet for articles and info and only so much time on the weekends to get drunk at the bar or watch legal and illegal feeds online. I have to use that time wisely. Plus I started have family and time is at a premium, which further reduces discretionary time. There are only so many hours in a day, so I choose to follow the big three leagues with occasional glances at Holland, Germany, and France.

And I am able to see all of these leagues because US networks sense the need to provide it. If there was not audience for European leagues, networks would not provide the platforms. Simple supply and demand. Consumers want the best product, and that product is currently in Europe, specifically at FC Barcelona. I want the kids of America dreaming of being Leo Messi and Xavi, not Landon Donovan and .

And let me say there that presentation of MLS is lacking. Soccer Night in America? Really. Has NBC sued for that yet? I would argue that between all the levels of soccer in this country, every night is Soccer Night in America. New slogan or new campaign.

So if it’s a choice between FCB/Villarreal and Colorado/Houston, I’m going La Liga. Or United/Spurs against Chicago/New York, I’m going with the Reds. I would rather watch a game of a high technical level or high energy and passion instead of a glorified High School game. In the past ten years I have probably seen a dozen MLS games in their entirety and have left feeling underwhelmed in the main.

When the Sounders launched in 2009 with accompanying excitement and fanfare, I didn’t get on the bandwagon. Last fall and winter I sensed the buzz around the Portland Timbers and wanted to jump in but work took over and I missed another chance to get in on the ground floor. I told myself after Wheelock’s comments that I would give the league another go this summer, but there’s Gold Cup and Copa America to watch, plus vacation and general sitting around to be done. For me, I may be an American but the game I love is in Europe, and what little time I have to devote to it will be spent watching from across the pond instead of my backyard.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Feature Presentation--Laughs and Crime

Animal Kingdom

Another recommendation from the Totally Rad Show. It finally came up at the library so I gave it go.

Film is about a young boy, 18 I think, who is absorbed into his extended family, who happens to pull robberies. The lead uncle is hiding from the cops as the story begins, with another uncle looking for a way out of this life of crime. The boy is in way over his head, trying balance being one of the family and not getting sucked into their legal problems, while maintaining a relationship with his girlfriend.

I think the term is slow burn. The movie builds towards a stunning finish, with great performances all around, especially the lead and Guy Pearce, as the detective. The movie felt very real and enjoyable all the way to the end. Not sure if it would hold up to multiple viewings, maybe two or three times to follow all the twists, but would definitely recommend seeing it.

Party Down Season 2

What happens when you have the fire of a dream, that fire is put out, just smoking with embers still burning but not extinguished? That's what this show explores with some sincerity and a lot of humor. Each character is pursuing some aspect of entertainment while holding down a crappy job with the catering service. The dynamics and performances of the characters really make this show and it's too bad that it did not get renewed. At the same time, the second season leaves with a cliffhanger that may have been hard to explore so perhaps it's fitting that it ended like that.

The shows move quickly and you can easily watch the entire season in a day, with frequent laughs and hilarity. The company picnic was a particular favorite. Plus Thomas Lennon from the State and Reno 911 makes an appearance in an episode.

Mesrine: Killer Instinct

Saw this preview during another movie and waited for the library to get it. The film is based on a book that explores the exploits of Jacques Mesrine, a French robber who flees to Montreal, the scope and audacity of his crimes and his subsequent escapes from prison. Vincent Cassel is absolutely spectacular, performing with an energy and charisma that is captivating. Halfway through the movie I wanted to write a movie just for him. Surely he has to be a Bond villain in the future.

Turns out this movie is only part one of the story. When the credits rolled, I was stunned. The second half is on hold and I hope to get it soon. I'm also interested to read the book, which should tell an interesting story.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 5

I don't know how these guys do it but they continue to create stories that are ridiculous, sarcastic and hilarious. The gang continues to get into trouble with mixed intentions and terrible results. The road trip episode was a highlight. The wrestling episode was totally uncomfortable to sit through but a great send up of The Wrestler and hilarious homage to WWE all at the same time. Danny DeVito rekindled some of his Penguin energry from Batman REturns for most of the season, peaking with his Trashman character. Finally there is drinking wine out of pop cans. Bravo!!

I love this show, and plan to start picking up the seasons at Best Buy or on the internet. Yes there is no substance to the show, and I'm ok with that. The writing, performances and laughs are worth every second.