June 30, 2006

Quiero el gol de oro!

For those of you who don't 'habla espanol,' "I want the Golden Goal!" If you are familiar with the NHL playoff rules, you are aware that in Overtime (now referred to as OT), the rule is 'sudden death.' In other words, next goal wins. Well in soccer (football, futbol, voetbol, calcio, etc., et al), FIFA (Int'l soccer's governing body) had been using Golden Goal for the Extra Time in knockout matches (a match where one team must be the victor or ganador). In the 2006 FIFA World Cup, FIFA switched to a different OT alignment where the game is played for 30 extra minutes regardless of any scoring in the OT period. The first goal does not win it, in other words. If the game remains deadlocked at the end of the two 15-minute halves, penalty kicks ensue (by now, the phrase 'penalty kick' in Switzerland and Argentina may be synonymous with 'Barry Bonds' across America.)

I see many flaws with this OT set-up:
  1. It takes away (in great measure) the suspense and excitement of the aura that surrounds "next goal wins." I cannot recount the times in which I have put my head to the floor in desperation as a ball shot by the other team glanced off the woodwork. Also, OT goals are not rewarded as highly as they ought be, because play simply resumes until the 30 minutes has expired.
  2. It causes players to not play the regular 90 minutes the way they should be played. If I were a center midfielder, in the 80th minute, knowing that 30 minutes awaits regardless of the score, I would not kill myself the last 5-10 minutes. It gives the game downtime. Players seem to be punished for playing 90 minutes strong, because they either get hurt, subbed, red-carded (in this World Cup) or they are simply ineffective for the last 20 minutes of the game. FIFA should take a hint when they see 4-6 players in OT have to be stretchered off the field because of injury and fatigue. Extra Time isn't supposed to be an IronMan match, it's suppose to be a physical chess match.

I do see one advantage, and it is somewhat crucial:

  1. FIFA does not want to see an World Cup match end on a penalty kick in OT. Face it (with a good attitude), sometimes refs make mistakes. I know, I am one. (not a mistake, a ref!) What a shame it would be to see the World Cup Final end on a Extra-Time PK resulting from a bad call.

My response to the one advantage is: "Don't give out PK's like you did in the Italy match. People that dive over a man lying on the ground after a tackle don't deserve goals, they deserve the "get up!" signal.

Leave a comment if you must debate!

June 22, 2006

Argentinian Understanding

Several years ago, I did not understand why Argentinians would kill one of their own players. I think I understand now. I wish Claudio Reyna lived in Argentina...

It's sad to say, but not having him on the field for any of our three group games gives us a better chance to win. I think even Ben Olsen outplayed him.

June 21, 2006

USA v. Ghana: Line-up & Prediction

This is the most interesting game of the tournament as far as what is at stake. The USA need a win by at least 3 goals if the Czech and Italians were to tie. If Italy were to beat the Czech, all the USA would need is a win. Here is my "best-bet" line-up:

GK - Keller

D - Bocanegra, Gooch (yc), Cherundolo

MF - Beasley, Reyna (yc), Dempsey, O'Brien, Donovan

F - McBride, E. Johnson

Notes:
- 3 in the back will force play outside; Dempsey (RWM) and Beasley (LWM) are fast enough to play both ways

- Midfield control will be the most crucial factor to a multi-goal win. We will not counter-attack well with the speed of the Ghana side. Also, if we don't control the midfield, Michael Essien will.

- I think McBride and Johnson are the best bet up front. McBride receives the ball well. Johnson's size, quickness, and skill will serve us well.

- A big question is who will play Def. MF. With no Mastroeni, we resort to either Dempsey or O'Brien in a 3-5-2 formation.

SUBS:

- Convey should come in for whichever wing Midfielder proves ineffective.
- Wolff could see some action if one of the forwards gets injured or gets tired.

SUGGESTION:

- With no natural Def. Midfielder, I think it would be a great idea to start Oguchi at Stopper with 3 Defenders behind him. He would act as the Def. Mid. Last week, he showed potential for distributing the ball.

- With him there, we would play a 3-1-4-2 (back to front)

Prediction:

USA 3, Ghana 1

- I don't think we can put up a 4-0 romp against a very determined, yet hindered Ghana side. (They are missing both game 2 scorers)
- We should come out the victors, but will need an Italian victory to secure the advancement.

June 19, 2006

Tolerance in the World Cup

This story didn't surprise me, yet it still disgusts me. A Ghana player (i don't know the adjectival form, and I'm not gonna make any jokes...) waved an Israeli flag after defeating Czech Republic on Saturday. This player plays for an Israeli club, and was merely saluting his fans who had travelled to see him. Read the full article here.

June 17, 2006

Blood - Red (US vs. Italy)

I think soccer fans will be talking about this game for years to come. An 9-man USA team outplayed a 10-man Italy team to hold on to a 1-1 draw. (I was right by the way in my last article with the score prediction.) There was much red seen in this match - from McBride's face to Mastroeni's studs-up tackle.

I felt the first red card, given to an Italian, was definitely warranted. There is no question. As a referree, I felt the second red card was also appropriate. I'm sorry if you had to listen to Marcelo Balboa rant on-and-on about how the referree was ruining the match. I cannot believe that a soccer player with the experience of Balboa would have been such an idiot. As I said, I am a referree. We are told to throw a red when a foul is harsh; and/or dangerous; and/or with studs exposed. Mastroeni made a few mistakes. The first mistake: Never foul that roughly when a red card has just been issued. Secondly, if studs are out, do not straighten your leg when going through the tackle. Thirdly, do not be late, or Get the ball! From a fan's perspective, a red card seems rediculous. However, I cannot see the referree arm of FIFA taking action against the referree of today's match for that call.

As far as Pope's second yellow/subsequent red, I felt and said that Arena should have taken out Pope. I realize that would have eliminated some athleticism in our attack, but I think a red card does even more damage. I wish Arena's thinking would have been along this line: "Man, two reds have already been issued. Eddie (Pope) has been close once already to picking up that second yellow. Maybe I should take him out." Unfortunately, that did not happen. I cannot be certain, but having a 10-on-10 match may have resulted in a win for us today.

For the record, Balboa's statement concerning the inconsistency in the referree's calling today from 1st half to the end of the 2nd was absolutely absurd. For a referree, these are the priorities:
  1. Safety (big in FIFA)
  2. Fair Play (also big)
  3. Game control*** and law enforcement (not police...)

Sometimes in controlling a game, cards must be given out early. The principle is: "Better an early yellow than a late red." An early yellow in a tightly called match is much better than having to throw a red in an out-of-control match. I thought the referree had constant control today.

Maybe what I hate the most is the attitude of the American players. It seems like they all echoed an anti-referree sentiment after the match. I think this shows their immaturity as professionals. I thought for sure, especially with veterans like Pope and Mastroeni, that they would not have acted like 20-year olds. (which happens to be my age)

What we need to advance to the Round of 16:

- A win against a tough Ghana side

- An Italian win against an angry Czech side

- Multiple goals for Us in the win against Ghana.

Stay tuned! Thursday, 9:55 a.m. EST. The US/Ghana game and the Czech/Italy game will be aired simultaneously on ESPN and ESPN2, respectively.

Suggested line-up:

GK: Keller

D: Bocanegra, Gooch, Cherundolo

MF: O'Brien (D-Mid), Beasley(LWM), Donovan(LCM), Reyna(RCM), Dempsey (RWM)

F: Eddie Johnson, McBride

June 15, 2006

Best Line-up vs Italy

After seeing a miserable result vs. the Czech republic, here is my proposed line-up for the Italy game:

GK - Keller

D - (left to right) Bocanegra*, Pope, Gooch, Cherundolo

MF - (left to right) Beasley, Reyna, Mastroeni (D-mid), Donovan, O'Brien*

F - Eddie Johnson*, McBride

*= not in line-up vs. Czech Rep.

- These are my predicted substitutes:

> (45') Ching for McBride
> (60') Convey for Beasley
> (68') Dempsey for O'Brien

Fears for Italy game:
- The USA play a great first half full of chances that barely go wanting, only to see the Azzuri (Italians) go up on a Midfield giveaway as stoppage time approaches.

- The USA get an early goal, but give one up in the waning minutes to manage a meager point from the match.

- (Worst of all) Reyna, Donovan, and Beasley again prove ineffective, leaving the USA with question marks as to their own ability and cohesiveness. I hope Arena will put the players in the positions where they shine most. Sometimes a coach can tweak a team so much, he actually puts a new team out on the pitch.

Decisive Factors:
- Foul tactically! - If you watched the Czech game, you would have noticed (maybe) that they disrupted the flow of the play consistently when the US gained possession.

- Chances will be more plentiful, put them away!

- The Italians can be defeated by early goals. Put them away as well!

Only time will tell!

Prediction: USA 1, Italy 1

- Fear #2 comes to fruition. The USA sees an early goal, only to have the Italians steal a point at the end with a late goal. (Maybe I will be wrong)

June 13, 2006

World Cup - Group E overview

Not getting a result against the Czech Republic really hurt our chances of advancing through the group stage (only the top 2 of four advance). The minimum number of points that the USA need is 4. To achieve four points we must tie and win in our next two games. A Loss all but eliminates us from contention (if Ghana beat the USA, and USA beat Italy, and the Czech beat Italy and Ghana, there would be a three-way tie for 2nd place, which would be broken by goal differential - not in our favor at the moment.)

Best-Case Scenario: (realistically)

- The USA win both matches, giving us 6 points and 2nd place in the group.
- The Czech win their remaining two games, giving them 9 points and 1st place.
- (If the Czech lose to Ghana, the US and Czech would be tied for 1st place, given the US would
beat Italy and Ghana.)
- (If Italy were to beat the Czech, Italy would have 6 points as well)

"2nd-Best" Scenario:

- The USA tie Italy and beat Ghana, giving us 4 points. (A 3-0 or 4-0 win against Ghana would
be helpful, but that is not likely.)
- The Czech win their remaining two matches. (vs. Ghana, vs. Italy)
- The Czech need to win their match against Italy by at least 2 goals to help us out in the goal
differential area.
- The USA and Italy tie for 2nd place with 4 pts. each. The USA having thumped Ghana 3-0 and tied Italy 1-1, and the Czech having beaten Italy 2-0, this would level goal differential. We need an extra goal somewhere.

It will be interesting to see what takes place. It could get very exciting.

June 12, 2006

Player Evaluation from game vs. Czech

I am extremely embarrassed and disappointed. This is to understate my emotions toward the game today. Saying that, I do realize that the Czech are a powerhouse. They are without a doubt a top-3 team in the world. Pavel Nedved was brilliant; Cech was barely tested. Here is a grade for each player based on performance. Feel free to leave comments to vent or dispute.


  • GK - Keller: Only had one save in 4 chances (shots on goal). Not much to say here, all 3 goals were spectacular! [B- -]
  • D - Eddie Lewis: Quite possibly the worst game i've ever seen him play. Never looked comfortable. He seems to have forgotten how to play the ball on the ground. Totally ineffective. [D-]
  • D - "Gooch": Possibly our lone bright spot all game. He did have a defensive error that led to the first goal, but that mistake was shared by Pope and caused by Lewis (left his area). Overall, very impressive. Should see a big payday after the Cup. [B]
  • D - Cherundolo: Even though he scared me to near death several times, he was solid in back. We will need consistency throughout if we are to advance to the knock-out stage. [B-]
  • D - Pope : He played better than I expected him too. He stoned Nedved, when I thought he would have been abused. The NC-born defender held his own. Will need to be a better ball server in game 2 against Italy, with maybe a chance to get forward on a corner. [B-]
  • M - Mastroeni : Ineffective, at best. The Midfield as a whole and as individuals can take the blame for the loss today. [C-]
  • M - Reyna: Had a lot of touches, but they seemed to mostly go to the other team. Midfield struggled in part because Reyna was MIA for most of the match. He did have the best US chance. Too bad the shot off the post doesn't even go down as a Shot on goal. [D+]
  • M - Beasley: To his credit (i guess), he was playing on his non-preferred side. He normally plays the left wing where Convey was. I thought he fought hard to the end. His play definitely suffers when the CM's can't control the Middle. [C]
  • M - Convey: I don't want to be too harsh on Convey for his effort today. All in all, I felt he did what was expected of him. He was definitely outsized, but his speed and dribbling ability did produce a few near chances. Hope to see him in rare form on Saturday. [B-]
  • F - Donovan: Did he play today??? I thought maybe he had been a sub when I saw him at the end of the match. Regardless of his position, he must be effective. He was not the leader he needs to be. Pavel Nedved showed him how to "run the show" today. Maybe a young Donovan learns and follows suit on Saturday. [C-]
  • F - McBride: McBride shouldn't be on the field if the Midfielders cannot serve him good crosses. I don't remember a single chance he had. Face it, his strength isn't on the ground. Someone should send a telegram to the Midfield to request possession of the ball, wing play, and good crosses. All in all, McBride not a fault. [no grade]

Improvements:

  1. Energy: a half-hearted effort will not be accepted. There are subs [Dempsey, Olsen, Ching] who will be zealous if the others are not.
  2. Why the 4-4-2 or 4-5-1??? : C'mon Bruce. You are a great coach, but we can't win playing another team's style of ball. He wanted to have the defensive help, and it ended up that we lost every important battle on the field. We are a team that attacks from the wings and corners. It was not there today. I think they should return to a conservative 3-5-2 approach.
  3. Kick Eddie Lewis to the John Brown moon! The lad could have only played worse by pulling a Jeff Agoos and netting one in his own goal. What about John O'Brien or Clint Dempsey. I was very angry with his performance. A 3-5-2 conviently places Lewis sitting the pine.
  4. Donovan needs to play CM: He did not get into the attack today playing FORWARD. Reason being, there was no one to create and possess. I plead with you Bruce, let Donovan play his position.
  5. Today (not always) the ball needed to be played on the ground. Too much air attack. It was ineffective nearly every time. The two chances we had with Reyna and Johnson were the result of ground attack.

I know Arena knows more than I, but I was not pleased with his decisions nor the team's play today.

June 11, 2006

"Stud" and Fantasy Sports

A close friend of mine (JW) commonly (probably tritely, as well) uses the word "stud" when referring to a fantasy sports standout. For instance, Dirk Nowitzki has been a "stud" during the 2006 NBA Playoffs. I wonder how this term came to mean "fantasy standout." The dictionary knows no such meaning for the word.

Even a casual perusal of a poor man's dicitonary clarifies to its reader that a stud is "a horse used especially for mating." That is the denotative meaning. We will not discuss the connotative meaning, for my blog must remain "G-rated." This is the reason I cannot use this word to refer to a professional athlete who just scored a triple-double, hole-in-one, or a hat trick. Why STUD? Why not phenom, superstar, or any other word apt in description? (Shew...I'm glad this is off my chest now. After reading this post, you can no longer claim ignorance after using this term!)

June 6, 2006

Update on Josh

I would like to let you know that I have created an update page for Josh, so that his family and friends can keep informed on his condition. The page will be updated 5-7 times per week. I will be receiving the information directly from the family, and I will be visiting him each week as well. Feel free to leave comments for the family on the site.

The address is: http://chandlerupdate.blogspot.com/

Pass the site along to your friends who desire to be informed.

June 3, 2006

24 hours Unbelievable

It all can happen so quickly. Friday night, two friends of mine were travelling from Columbia, SC to my home in NC, when they were in a severe auto accident. The occassion for the trip was a D.C. United game. Josh Chandler, one of my best friends, knew a guy that played for United, and we were to travel to DC on Saturday. Sometimes things change. Josh and Seth (Josh's friend) were on I-95 Northbound near Wilson, NC when Josh's Ford Focus hydroplaned sending the car into a spin, resulting in a collision with a nearby tree off of the enbankment of the highway.

I had touched base with Josh around 9:30 p.m. on Friday night. They were about 50 minutes away. When they had not arrived by 10:30, I called Josh again. Josh didn't answer the phone. Seth, the passenger in the car, picked up the phone, only to tell me very calmly that he and Josh had been in a bad car crash and that Josh was unconscious. After a couple more phone calls with broken signal, Seth was able to tell me that they were headed to Wilson Memorial Hospital. My crew from home shortly departed for WMH.

Upon arrival, we learned that the hospital, not having a trauma unit, had called UNC-Chapel Hill to transport him by chopper to their hospital. The chopper beat us to the hospital, which was located about 20 minutes from my house. After talking with a nurse who told us as much as she could at the time (it wasn't much), we were told we could see Josh quickly before they took him to Chapel Hill. The looks were somber. No one said much. A doctor informed us that he had sustained a few internal injuries in the chest/abdomen area, but the main area of concern would be his head/brain. He did not say much, but we could gather that this was extremely serious.

Still feeling shocked and having done all we could, my crew (me, dad, JWredberg, Seth) left the hospital en route for my house to get some much needed rest.

Seth miraculously sustained no severe or even minor injuries. He escaped with only a few scratches and some small bruises. Also amazing in this story is that fact that by God's providence alone, the first person to stop at the scene of the accident turned out to be a trauma surgeon. He was not called for. He saw the accident and stopped. How great is our God?! He is so amazing. It is relieving to know that while things seem out of control, He has not gasped in amazement, nor has he been surprised. He is sovereign.

Josh is currently at UNC-Chapel Hill in ICU. Pray for him, his family, the doctors, etc. As of right now, we are waiting for Josh to come out of a coma. He has not responded in 24 hours. The next 24 hours will be as critical as the previous. To God Be the Glory!

(Josh Chandler Story -Part 1)