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Another American Neo-con debacle; US Soccer

by colonelkurtz Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 03:31:36 PM EST

After watching the utter embarrassment of the American side in Stuttgart last week, the tenth loss in a row to  'Old Europe' powers, it's clear that the American soccer scene is a direct corrolary of the neo-con movement that rules in here in the states. Does nepotism, rewarded incompetence, tactical naivete, the wide employ of mercenaries, marketing stretegy over reality, all financed and run by a meglomaniacal cabal of hopelessly out-of-touch old oil-men, sound familiar? That Henry Kissinger is the godfather of both US Soccer, and the neo-cons, is all you need to know. The fate of the Americans on the World Cup stage this summer will be the same as any neo-con run Iran intrusion; disastrous! My prediction is that the American side, against its preposterously high fifth in the world FIFA rating, will be the first team to crash out and repeat their France '98 result as the worst team in the competition.

RUMSFELD'S MIDGET ARMY -- ARENA'S ARMY OF MIDGETS

Chief amongst the neo-con failures in Iraq has been the size of Rumsfeld's occupying army. The same could be seen with Bruce Arena's army of CONCACAF midgets that he threw out on the pitch against the Ger-Mens. Several field level camera pans showed our ineffectual college boys, who can outpace part-timers from Panama, but who were literally head and shoulders shorter than their Euro counterparts. Desperate, lunging slide tackles doth not a defense make, as was the American's hopelessly naive strategy in the first half, against a side that only looked comfortable out of their dead ball situations. Ballack's general indifference was interpreted wrongly by Arena, who kept his squad intact at halftime, only to allow perhaps the most amateur, incompetent goal I have seen on the world stage, in all of 25 seconds.... No, wait, if you go back to the first twenty minutes of the Poland match in '02, you can see such an incompetent display -- and like Rumsfeld, after his belated blitzkrieg, then botched occupation, he gets to plan for Iran, and Arena prepares for Germany '06.

MEXICO -- our CONCACAF prison-bride

US Soccer shills will say that our quarterfinal result in '02 validates their strategy to dominate CONCACAF, then build off the college and MLS players coming up. But that's like the neo-cons saying Grenada was a good tune-up for Iraq, when the real lesson was right there in Beirut. Eddie Johnson and Kasey Keller, surrounded by a platoon of Kleins and Cherundolos, may beat Mexico in the ice boxes we take them to, like Foxboro in February, but the luck of the Mexican draw last time, was all that kept us from being put out by a Brazil, or a Czech Republic, in the sixteenth final. Without world class speed or size, the Americans are still vulnerable to the tricks of even middling Euro powers, like the Austrians did to us back in Italia '90. The story goes that they brought a semi-competent speedster on their squad, just to expose the flat-footed American defense. He came on as a substitute at half and ran by the Americans to help create the two goals they needed to win.

MEN vs. COLLEGE BOYS -- Speed Kills

To me, the measure of a World Cup squad now is the number of World Class athletes you can field, measured in equivalent contact sports,  Could any American players off the last five squads play the skill positions in American football? I counted maybe six. We don't even field someone the quality of Bode Miller. I always fancied myself a good footballer growing up, as the center half, I had good vision, held the ball well, and could win it back if I needed to. Then I really learned how to play and watch the game after living in Prague for four years, during Sparta's heyday. But back in college, my good friend, who happened to be the best baskeball player at our small liberal arts school team, after being on scholarship to a big school, showed up one day to kick it around with some of the boys from the team. When he got his touch back, having not played in ten years, my friend at 6' 3" and 215 lbs, was far and away the best player on the field. His weightlifting regimen gave him the strength, speed, quickness and jumping ability none of us had. The solid sweeper went shoulder to shoulder with him and got himself levelled. The men vs. boys lesson that I learned that day, has never gotten through to the US soccer mavens.

US SOCCER as Neo-con cabal

The cabal that runs US Soccer, with the Hunt brothers money at its core, (they of the semi-legal stunt to corner the silver market,) maybe as dated and ruinous of a union as the Cheney/Rumsfeld marriage. MLS owns all of its teams, like the Texas oil-boys own the judicial and legislative branches of the US government now. With no accountability, the Ganslers, Sampsons, Arenas of coaching, soccer versions of FEMA's Mike Brown, dont get fired, they get passed around as consultants and taken care of. Someone like the outspoken Bora gets shown the door when he shakes things up. But no matter how hard they have tried, the MLS is almost exactly like the NASL, a comfy home for foreign mercenaries to draw a paycheck during the summer. Iraq is right now full of South African and Russian mercenaries who have no real allegiances and are paid three times as much as their American Army counterparts.

MLS, NASL -- same as it ever was/ same as it ever was!

My experience with the NASL's Seattle Sounders when I was growing up was much like all the other people now victimized by outsourcing, that their is no loyalty to the locals, just nepotism. Where I had the talent to be a boot boy, that went to some Englishmen's son, as did the college scholarship, because an English accent and a foreign name got you much farther, and still does. But the game is so much faster and more physical now that we cant just keep sending the white, college boy athletes, though they can be gotten cheaply: The Americans need to go out and get the kids who are hungry and desperate, who play basketball and football now, but they would need to be taught how to play the game. The Hunt Brothers, like Rumsfeld, are cheap old bastards and they want to get something for nothing. Whether it's in Iran, or Germany '06, these neo-con cabals will get nothing but pain and humiliation. I'd prefer to watch the World Cup, instead of World Conflagration '06, but we may get to watch both this summer.


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Could any American players off the last five squads play the skill positions in American football? I counted maybe six.
I'm surprised you got six.
The Americans need to go out and get the kids who are hungry and desperate, who play basketball and football now, but they would need to be taught how to play the game.
It's just hard to see this happening.  Young boys start out playing some soccer because their parents think it's safer, but by the time they're 12 or so, and have watched their dads watch and talk about nothing but football, basketball, and baseball,not many of them stick with soccer.  The best athletes go into the the American sports.  I would like to see your view come true, as I fell in love with soccer watching Arsenal and the 1rst division (now Premier League) in London.  But it's just a totally different game in Europe, because they are generally getting the best athletes--same comparison if you look at rugby, US versus the UK.  I'm afraid it will be many decades before the US is close to equal footing with Brazil, Argentina and the European teams.
by wchurchill on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 08:30:03 PM EST
I think the problem is that Americans, as a whole, just don't like soccer.  (I hate it, honestly.)  We don't even watch baseball in large numbers, anymore.  (That's fine with me, because I hate baseball, too.  It's too slow.)  If it's not football or basketball, it just doesn't sell.  I suppose there is hockey, but hockey is sort of the Apple to football's Microsoft.  It's a niche market.

The big money is in basketball, these days.  I remember Shaquille O'Neal signing a seven-year, $130m contract with the LA Lakers, probably ten years ago.  That was an absurd salary, at the time, but it's dwarfed by many others, today.

I love American football, but the NFL just hasn't been the same, for me, since Dan Marino retired.  The average quarterback these days is a joke, in my opinion, compared with the Marinos, Elways, Moons, and Kellys of yesteryear.  (To hell with Joe Montana.  Any fool can play well with the incredible teams Montana enjoyed.)  But I went to Florida State University and live in Tallahassee, right across the street from FSU's stadium.  Football is a way of life here, even though our team hasn't won the national championship since 2000 (2001?).  Stores here even sell t-shirts that read, "Tallahassee: A Drinking Town with a Football Problem."

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 11:21:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would suggest giving it a real chance when you're in the UK.  If I remember right you'll be in Nottingham.  I think the team nickname is Forest.  I would suggest watching some on TV, and then go to a few games, ideally with some mates from the pub, or from university.  I felt just as you are describing before living in London for 3 years.  But as you'll see, I think, it's such a totally different game over there--truly like a different sport.  hope you enjoy it.
by wchurchill on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 02:18:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you over or under 40?

I ask that because I tend to find that older Americans - unless they are immigrants - tend to dislike soccer much more than younger Americans. At least in big city, blue state circles, following world soccer has become quite fashionable.

 From personal experience, I find that lots of college kids - somewhat of the same demographic as the above - today are fans too. I've stopped wearing my jerseys to campus because I've gotten tired of getting into inane conversations with my jersey as a starting point.

But of course, the biggest influence to soccer's growth is Latino immigration.

Soccer is probably today about the 5th most popular sport in the country - behind NASCAR, football, basketball, and baseball. But ahead of hockey.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 02:37:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm well under forty.  I don't live in a big city, depending, obviously, on how we define "big".  Tallahassee has a population of about 125k.  It's not exactly New York.  We're a mid-sized market.  Our major sport is, as I said, football, since we have (or at least had) one of the better college teams in the country.

NASCAR has actually been gaining, as I understand it.  I've watched one NASCAR race in my entire life, and I vowed never to do so again.  (Let's be honest: People only watch it for the crashes.  No one really wants to watch people turn left for four hours.)  wchurchill may be right about the game being different overseas, where it's incredibly popular.

The Latino influence makes a lot of sense.  The only city where football is ever played in Latin America is in Mexico City, and the NFL only holds a game there, at most, once per year, during the pre-season.  (It's always either Mexico City or Tokyo.)  There's probably some influence from Mid-East immigrants, as well.  They seem to love soccer, too.

What I never followed was the failure of rugby to catch on in America.  It's brutal, like football, but without the pads.  Americans ought to love it.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 09:43:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's hard to build commercial breaks into rugby.

More seriously, the only ebb and flow sport in the US spectrum is hockey and that's really Canadian at heart.

In my experience, the atmosphere at UK football matches is qualitatively different to that at NCAA football or NFL football. It's really hard to explain the difference though.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 12:42:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hopefully UK football matches don't involve the fans of two rival teams getting into fifty thousand fights during the game.  I went to a Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets game several years ago with my father, and there seemed to be a fight going on every minute.  (Dolphins' fans were still angry about Jets' fans throwing batteries at our players when they played in New York during the previous season, and Jets' fans were angry because of Miami winning the game we went to, 52-14, which, as you probably know, is a humiliating defeat in pro football.)

I can imagine both American pro-football and UK football matches having different atmospheres from NCAA football, because college football crowds are basically made up of drunken fraternity members who scream constantly (for no apparent reason) and get out of hand.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 01:10:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not many fights at the average game these days. I won't say none, because it happens sometimes, but it's rare.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 01:31:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My American cousin seconds your observations of fans of both NCAA and NLF matches (plus adds for the former a winner-team 'tradition' for fans to rush the field and tear up the goalpost once the match is over). Football matches are really different (well, top matches at least). Even if there is a fight (which, BTW, you can avoid if you don't sit with the hardcore).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 04:38:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tearing down the goalposts is an odd tradition in college football, but it's usually only done when a school with a weak, unranked team defeats one of the giants -- a University of Wyoming defeating a University of Texas, or something like that.

Had Notre Dame not blown the game against USC (Southern Cal, not South Carolina) in the last five seconds, last season, their fans would've done it.  Not that Notre Dame is some kind of "unknown" team -- it actually has a very strong team -- but no one had defeated Southern California for almost three straight seasons.  (I think SoCal won nearly forty games in a row, and maybe even more, which is almost unheard of.  Texas finally beat them in the national championship back in January.)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Mar 29th, 2006 at 11:01:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Americans don't give a rat's a$$ about professional soccer. On the other hand, there may be some repercussions resulting from the World Baseball Classic, where the U.S. team was eliminated early.

http://www.lowellsun.com/sports/ci_3641726

by asdf on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 05:41:11 AM EST
From my perspective, they cared a little more when the teams punch through in the semi-finals, as happened 8(?) years ago... Then suddenly the flags got started waving and it's all "Bless America"...

BTW, it's FOOTBALL! ;)

by Nomad on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 10:41:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I watched that game against Germany, and indeed the US side played awfully against a mediocre team. But I don't think it was athletism that did it, more tactical (players, training) and strategical (coach) cluelessness and possibly untalented players. (But bad coach decisions or preparation can get the best players lose a game, see France in Euro'04 and World Cup'02.)

On the other hand: my American cousin says that the best US player is Diallo, who was missing, so were older stalwarts Donovan and Beasley, so maybe the team was missing the best strikers and gamemaker.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 11:01:42 AM EST
the best US player is Diallo

I mixed up something - I meant Adu.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 01:00:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
for a long time, I think this diary is dated. The Bruce Murrays and Chris Hendersons of the 1990 side wouldn't get a look in with today's team.

I think 10 years ago, this would have been a fair description of US soccer, but it has improved markedly in the interim. The 1990 and even the 1994 team were amateurs and mercenaries. Now, while the US is by no means a powerhouse, there starting 11 are all professionals capable of playing in - if not the Premier League or La Liga - certainly in the Dutch or German first division. The MLS has also improved over its life span too. I can personally tell you - having watched the league since its inception - that the league contains more talent and is on the whole just flat out more watchable than it was in 1996.

That said, I think the US's FIFA ranking is ridiculously high. In general, I think the FIFA ranking is a joke. Also, I think the US probably won't make it out of the first round this year. But I think this has more to do with playing in Europe, where European sides traditionally do well in world cups. South Korea is going to crash and burn too. (I don't see either Argentina or Brazil winning, even thought these two sides are the most talented in the world - again for similar reasons).

Finally, Henry Kissinger is not a neo-con. He's the Godfather of balance-of-power realpolitic in the grand tradition of Metternich. The neocons defined themselves in some ways as explicitly opposed to Kissingerian realpolitic.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 02:33:13 AM EST
I wish my opinions were dated, but if that was Arena's B- squad he threw out there, that does not say much about the future of US Soccer, just the same college boys, like Chris Henderson, who I played against growing up. Speaking of the future, where was the next American Maradona, Freddie Adu. Like all the hype behind the new and improved American scene, Freddie is not big enough yet to handle the pounding of World Cup Soccer. (Look what happened to Beasley last time.) Maradona was short and clever like Adu, but he was 40 lbs bigger to take the punishment. Arena was afraid the Germans would break Adu in half, but it would have been a good experience for him, if he had lived.

Lets make a distinction between professional athletes and those who are world-class athletes. No doubt, playing in CONCACAF qualifiers gives you the professional experience needed to play in Europe. But no American has gone over there and become a star. Lalas was a sensation in Italy for a year, as was Harkes and Reyna in England, but besides our goalies, we really have no World class athletes. What we have in the American program is a whole set of supplemental players, professionals by experience but lacking in the World Class areas of speed, size and quickness to play with Ballack, or just about anyone on the Brazilian side.

And with the cabal running the US Soccer, with Steinbrecher and the lot, things will never change. We're out after two matches, maybe we get a draw from Ghana.

by colonelkurtz on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 11:24:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In football, strategy and team-play is much more important than condition and individual player quality.

The Greeks didn't beat everyone in Euro'04 because having top international players, and the French crashed out of both WC'02 and Euro'04 despite good condition and nothing but top players. Paraguay under Chilavert is a recent example of a good team with a sole top player who is a goalie, which was good because strategy was built upon him. (Though, condition was part of the reason they lost against France in WC'98.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 01:07:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Greeks were brutally cynical and clinical, like their German coach. They took only one shot and scored against the Portugese. Italy and Germany will bring that kind of cynicism, all defenders, hoping to get through on penalty kicks, with them to Germany '06. If you don't even have the athletes, like the Americans don't, to execute this kind of nil-nil nihilism, then you can't compete on the World cup stage.

When Michael Jordan switched to baseball, I wrote an article saying that he would have made a much better soccer player, and created a world-wide sensation, than his disastrous decision to hit .137 in single A ball as a gawky right fielder. At almost 6'7", his huge strike zone was impossible to overcome, but on dead-ball pieces and heading out of the back, with his speed and quickness, he would have made a good stopper for the World Cup team. People forget Jordan was a heady athlete and would have picked up the nuances of the game very quickly, basketball having way more in common with soccer than baseball. He could have marked Ballack without having to pull him down everytime, like we did last Wednesday.

by colonelkurtz on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 03:11:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy and Germany will bring that kind of cynicism, all defenders, hoping to get through on penalty kicks, with them to Germany '06.

That would have been true 20 years ago, but football rules changed since (3 points for winning team, red card for tackling). Keeping a 0:0 on purpose for 120 minutes needs a very very disciplined team, Greece '04 was like that, not many others currently. But Italy and Germany more play at ruining the others' play, with a strong midfield, and Italy has top strikers - and at least the Italian defeat of Germany indicates that Trappatoni might have learnt the lesson that 1:0 can't be kept, and his promise to let play offensive this time was honest.

If you don't even have the athletes, like the Americans don't, to execute this kind of nil-nil nihilism, then you can't compete on the World cup stage.

Agreed. Also, I'm not saying there are no serious athletism problems - especially speed was apparent (it happened 2-3 times that the US team managed a good combination, but their striker was outrun by a German defender). But IMO the chief problem was that there was a bunch of players running on the field, not a team with a plan - there was not even nil-nil nihilism. However, my American cousin says that Beasley is kind of the gamemaker of the team, so maybe I saw his lack.

At almost 6'7", his huge strike zone was impossible to overcome, but on dead-ball pieces and heading out of the back, with his speed and quickness, he would have made a good stopper for the World Cup team.

Height is a disadvantage when you have to make quick turns. Beyond goalkeepers, there are only a few exceptional players around or above 2m, and they are forwards (e.g. Ján Koller, Nikola Žigić). So I am not sure. Another thing is that at amateur level, having a general good condition and speed might be an advantage beating rival's experience, but at professional level, ball handling with years of practice is an absolute must. Consequently there are only a very few players who made the switch from another sport.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 05:16:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You and I basically agree, but the two meter limit has never held true for the Belgians. In '90. Their backline had two at two meters and two other 1.85, and they were the winners of their group, save for some injuries, they would have gone far in that tourney.
by colonelkurtz on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 09:41:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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