What I Love About Soccer

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By Andrew Winner
The Talisman

The Talisman is drowning in a sea of misery. After drawing with Wigan at Anfield, it looks as though my squad Liverpool is out of the title chase after notching a miserable eight draws in their first 20 games. Despair washes over me.

Oh well, you’ll never walk alone when you have five European Cups to keep you company. In an attempt to improve the morale, I decided to make a list of the things I love about soccer. This is what I’ll be watching for over the next year.

  • Marcus Hahnemann – The first day of 2008 offered some heartening news from England – American goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann had his contract through the 2008-09 season.

His current contract included a clause that automatically extended the deal if he played 20 games during the 2006-07 campaign. He reached that mark on New Year’s Day against Portsmouth auspiciously – his howler against Portsmouth gifted his opponents an early goal in an eventual 2-0 loss by the Royals. Seattle lads, however, are used to cloudy skies and The Talisman is confident he’ll bounce back in no time.

After publicly voicing his frustration with the club’s unwillingness to extend his contract, this should help him relax and focus on keeping balls out of the net.

  • Giovanni Dos Santos – I may like this 18-year old kid more than many Mexican fans, not for what he can do but for what he represents. I believe Two Saints can lift the U.S.–Mexico rivalry out of the quicksand it labors in and elevate it to a higher plane.

Over the past 15 years, games between the best two teams in CONCACAF have disintegrated into a vulgar brawl on a soccer field. Players stomping on each other’s ankles, red cards, taunting, and other blatant violations of sportsmanship have ruled the day. When I look at Dos Santos, I see a player with the talent and creativity to change the way Mexico plays international soccer. We’re the class of North America – it’s high time we start acting like it.

I also find the musical accompaniment in the following Dos Santos Youtube clip to be especially fitting – one thing the kid needs to work on trusting his teammates.

  • Soccer by Ives – Ives Galcarep launched a new soccer site: www.soccerbyives.net. Already one of the best American soccer writers in the business, Ives quit the proverbial day job and will be devoting himself full-time to this endeavor. Multiple checks over the course of the work day are recommended.
  • The 1994 World Cup jerseys – We need to bring those back. Fashion is cyclical, people. Let’s get on that. Our current jerseys don’t feature the star nearly enough – I don’t think opposing teams are aware of it’s symbolic importance to our country.
  • Eric Wynalda – This guy needs his own television show. I can’t get enough of him. For those that missed it, here is his landmark interview with a Fulham fan site. Some great reading here.
  • Professional leagues besides England – I pledge to do a better job watching other leagues besides the EPL. Specifically, Italian football seems to be a more attractive league to for spectators. I’d watch more Spanish league if it was more accessible, but right now it’s Fox Soccer Channel or nothing for me.
  • Match reports written by British people – My friend Warren and I had a long conversation yesterday about how much we enjoy reading match reports from the UK. In addition to an expressive vocabulary and generally elegant prose, these match reports talk about concepts not usually found in American sports reporting, like a team’s recent “form” and whether or not an outcome was a “fair result”.

Here’s an example: a match report from the FA Cup between Birchall and Burton Albion. The outcome of this game doesn’t matter to me at all, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it.

I could go on and on. There are literally hundreds of things I find fascinating about soccer, like the moment when Cristiano Ronaldo starts to accelerate at a defender and the deep breath the crowd takes when a free-kick is swung into the six-yard box. I’ll be looking to all of them to bring me out the malaise caused by Liverpool’s atrocious performances in the EPL.

Predictions:

No big predictions this week, but with their recent form I would say Everton are the clear favorites to hoist the UEFA Cup on May 14th in Manchester, England. I don’t generally cross the river like this, but the Toffees are simply playing out of their minds of late.


Andrew Winner is a freelance soccer writer based in Seattle, Washington. He can be reached at: andrewwinner@gmail.com

 

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