Monday, June 19, 2006

A Glimmer of Hope and A Beautiful Game

The USA came into Saturday's bout vs. the Italians having a.) never won a World Cup match on European soil, and b.) never defeated the Italians.

Sounds pretty daunting, eh? Especially considering the way the boys of the red, white and blue fell flat vs. the Czech Republic. After AC Milan man Alberto Gilardino scored the first goal for the Azzurri off of an indirect free kick, the whole Tavern On The Square let out a groan of despair.

However, not to worry, shortly thereafter, off of a corner kick at the Italian goal, the Italians let the US back in with an own-goal that dribbled past Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon. The rest of the game was highly sloppy, with 3 red cards being handed out (at least one, to Paolo Mastroeni, not deserved) and multiple fouls. The score, at the end of it all, was a
1-1 draw. Pretty good, considering the USA was down to 9 men, and, as we repeatedly learned over the course of the match, no team has ever scored when down to 9 men. This result gives the USA a glimmer of hope. However, the US MUST beat Ghana...

Speaking of Ghana, there is a reason soccer is called "the beautiful game"
by some. Ghana came out in Saturday's match vs. the Czech Republic ready to play. Their ball movement was skillful, their athletic ability unmatched, and their technique and patience rivaled some of the best teams in the game today, of which the Czech Republic was supposedly one. Right away, Michael Essien bewildered the Czech goalkeeper at 2:30 minutes and put home a score to make it 1-0 in favor of Ghana. After masterful gamesmanship by the Ghanan squad, a second insurance goal was put home by Asamoah Gyan.

Excellent play, also, by Ghana's goalkeeper, Richard Kingson. He showed complete control of the area and rushed out with conviction to make save after save. Kingson gets my vote for man of the match. A lot of Ghana players certainly helped their own careers that day, as undoubtedly European clubs are salivating with the thought of signing them to a lucrative deal.

What remains to be seen, however, is how Ghana handles the USA. Both teams will be eager to prove themselves on Thursday, and move ahead to the round of 16. Expect me to be out of work on Thursday morning.



A great Fathers Day weekend for sports: World Cup in full-swing, the Red Sox sweeping the traitorous Braves (well, they were once the Boston Braves, you know), and a display at the US Open that made even me feel good about myself.


Truly, an exciting match against Italy for the US team. Amazingly, there is a chance the team could survive the first round and be that team no one wants to play throughout the march towards the Cup. Kudos to Clint Dempsey, who stepped in and played a solid game (Revs Representing on the Big Stage!). Second, I cannot believe the US team could not use Jay Mohr, I mean Taylor Twellman, and his finishing touch near the goal. The number of missed opportunities boggles the mind. If Bruce Arena is to be replaced as the US Soccer General, the keeping of Taylor Twellman at home can be pointed to as one of the many reasons.

Of course, the game was a roller-coaster of emotions throughout, with the soaring low of Italy scoring, to the triumphant roars when the US benefited from the kooky own goal by Italy. At least the US was crashing the net, in contrast to the stinkfest against the Czech Republic team. The US seemed to have it in the bag with a tie game and an11 on 10 advantage mid-way through the first half; however, the two red cards earned quickly put the US in a 10 on 9 disadvantage before the too long. The US gets credit for hanging strong and getting at least one point out of a match that could have been disastrous.

The lack of scoring could still very much haunt the US. The US needs to first and foremost beat Ghana, which they should do, but considering how the Black Stars wiped out the Czechs who wiped out the Americans, nothing is going to be easy. If the US wins, they still need the Italian team to wipe the floor with the Czechs. Letting it get down to goal differential will kill the US squad, considering their inability to score. Exploding for five goals seems very unlikely.

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The Red Sox roller-coaster took another turn this weekend following some fantastic starting pitching. Showing that once again that the Sox go as the starters go, the Sox rode solid starts by Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Curt Schilling into a three game sweep of the Braves (who, I believe, are not officially referred to as the Reeling Braves, since that is the only way they are referenced anymore since they have lost 17 of 20. I am not going to pile on, but it looked like the 80s again in Atlanta: I swear Rick Mahler was going to pitch a game and Chief Knock-a-Homa was out in his bleacher teepee).

Other than more inconsistent work from the bullpen pitchers not named Papelbon, the Sox had a good weekend in Atlanta. The highlight of the entire weekend was the third inning play by Alex Gonzalez on Edgar Renteria Sunday night: with Marcus Giles on first for the Braves and the hit and run on, Renteria punched the ball in the shortstop hole just vacated by Gonzalez on his way to cover second base. Putting on the brakes, Gonzalez skidded down on his rear, still managed to reach back and nab the ball, and throw out Renteria from his knees. The best part was Giles, who actually rounded second and almost trampled Gonzalez. Giles had this expression on his face of HOLY $&!#, before he put on the brakes and scampered back to second. Truly a remarkable play by Gonzalez

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The less said about the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot, the better. Those professionals looked like Brigs & I trampling Olde Scotland Links out there. I expected to see an official come up to some of the players looking for their ball in the rough and offer them a cart so that they do not slow down play for the duffers behind them.

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