Monday, December 19, 2011

Barca Wins Club World Cup

With two brilliant goals from Lionel Messi and two more from Xavi and Cesc Fabregas, FC Barcelona claimed the title of 'Best Club in the World' for the second time in three years this past Saturday, handily defeating Brazilian side Santos FC by the score of 4 - 0. 

As reported by The Australian:

"Lionel Messi grabbed a classy brace as the "artists" of Barcelona outclassed the Brazilians Santos 4-0 to lift the Club World Cup today and confirm its status as the best team on the planet.

The clash between the European and South American champion in Japan had been billed as a showdown between Messi, widely acknowledged as the best player in the world, and 19-year-old Brazilian sensation Neymar.

In the event, it was no contest - either between the two supreme talents or their teams - as Barcelona picked up its second world crown after winning the competition in 2009, when Messi was again the difference.
Barca boss Pep Guardiola called his men "artists" and dedicated the 13th title in his three-and-a-half years in charge to striker David Villa, who flew home after fracturing his shin in the semi-final and faces five months out....

They were like artists," he said, turning to their spectacular performance that secured the official title as the world's best side and saw the Catalan club net a cool $5 million.

'What was envisioned in their minds happened on the pitch.'

Messi, set up by Xavi, got the first after 17 minutes, before Xavi put Barcelona 2-0 up just seven minutes later to put it firmly in control, as prodigious forward Neymar struggled to get a sniff of the ball.

Cesc Fabregas, who pulled the strings in midfield, got the third on the stroke of half-time as the Spanish champion, which was at full-strength, threatened to run riot for the packed house of 68,166.

Messi got his second eight minutes from time as he rounded the keeper to roll the ball in after the influential Dani Alves threaded the ball through to him.

"We are extremely happy and our performance, especially in the first-half, was very satisfactory," said Guardiola, who declined to single out one player for more praise than the rest.

"I've tried to get the players to work together as a team and use the strengths they have. Our players have been playing very well, but it's important to keep that level going."

His opposite number Muricy Ramalho said there was no disgrace in defeat.

"Barcelona have played various teams around the world and nobody can beat them. Eventually some team may, but I don't think it's possible now," he said."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Barca Over Real Madrid Again

Defending champions FC Barcelona came back from a goal down against Real Madrid to take the El Clasico honours 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu this past week, in the latest rendition of this timeless derby.

After Alexis Sanchez cancelled out Karim Benzema’s shock 23-second opener, Barca took the lead when a Xavi drive took a wicked deflection off Marcelo and past Iker Casillas for the goal.

Cesc Fabregas then scored with a diving header for the former Arsenal captain’s tenth goal of the season to secure the three points which put Barcelona top on goal difference although Real have a game in hand.

On the down side, David Villa was taken off the pitch with a brokien leg.  Barcelona doctors now say he will be out of action for six months.  For any team other than Barcelona, the loss of a striker of Villa's caliber would be a season-changing events; but with Barca's deep resevoir of talent, the team should easily transcend this loss,

Pep Guardiola is now celebrating his fourth win at the Bernabeu since becoming Barcelona coach in 2008.  Visca el Barca!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Barca Crushes Levante 5 - 0


Cesc Fabregas scored twice as Barcelona threashed Levante 5 - 0 at the Camp Nou to stay three points behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid ahead of next weekend's Clasico.

First-half goals from Fabregas put the home side 2-0 up before youngster Isaac Cuenca, Lionel Messi and Alexis Sanchez racked up a score that reflected Barca’s complete dominance of the match.

Andres Iniesta weighed in with a pair of wonderful assists, with Xavi, Dani Alves and Messi creating the others as the home side ran riot ahead of the high-flying underdogs, who stay fourth despite the hammering.

It could have been more but for some unusual misses by Messi, and an incorrectly disallowed Iniesta goal that would have been farcical had Barca not already been five goals to the good.

The win sends out a signal to leaders Real, who won 3-0 at Sporting Gijon earlier, with next Saturday’s clash at the Bernabeu set to be a six-point humdinger.

Monday, November 28, 2011

While I was Away...

While I was away on my recent trip to South Korea, a great deal has happened with our supreme Jedi Soccer icons, FC Barcelona.  On Sunday November 20, Barca took on Zaragoza at camp Nou and crushed their opponents, 4 - 0, with goals by Pique, Messi, Puyol and Villa.

Then, on Wednesday November 23, FC Barcelona played AC Milan on the road in Champions League play, winning a thrilling 3-2 decision over their italian rivals.  Milan's Mark Van Bommel played in an own-goal to give Barca the lead, but former Barca star Zlatan Ibrahimovic equalized later on against his former club.  Then, Messi Wan Kenobi put Barca ahead, before Kevin Prince-Boatang drew Milan level once again.  A final goal by Xavi but Barca up for good, giving the Catalan's the clear advantage in their Champions League group. 

Riding their winning streak of 27 games in a row, FC Barcelona was perahps overconfiodent coming into their match against Getafe last week.  To everyone's great surprise, Getafe upset Barca 1 - 0 on the strength of Juan Valera's 67th mionute goal.  this shocking outcome ended Barcelona's historic 27 game winning streak, and has allowe arch rivals Real madrid to open a six point lead in La Liga competition.

That brings us up to date with Barca.  Let's hope they can now re-focus after the Getafe disaster, and gain some ground on Real.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Barca Over L'Hospitelet 0 - 1


Andres Iniesta struck just before half-time to give Barcelona a narrow victory over local rivals Hospitalet in the teams' first-leg Copa del Rey clash on Wednesday night.

Pep Guardiola's side made the short trip to Hospitalet, just outside the Catalan capital, in a game rescheduled due to the European champions' participation in the Club World Cup in December.

With a return at Camp Nou coming just three days after the final in Japan, uardiola stressed the importance of taking an advantage into that match against the Segunda Division B side.

His cause was not helped by the loss of several of his stars due to this week's international matches, with Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez, Dani Alves and Adriano all away with their South American national sides.

However, Barca's Spain's stars were given special dispensation to start in this match ahead of the friendly against England at Wembley on Saturday.

Carles Puyol, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, David Villa and Iniesta all started, and it was the latter who gave Barca the breakthrough as he blasted home a lovely effort from outside the box two minutes before the half-time interval.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Barca Ties Bilbao 2 - 2

From the Hindustan Times:

Lionel Messi saved Barcelona’s blushes with an injury-time equaliser in a 2-2 draw away at Athletic Bilbao as Real Madrid stretched their lead at the top of the Spanish league with a 7-1 drubbing of Osasuna.

In the rain-hit Basque country Ander Herrera opened the scoring for Athletic only for Cesc Fabregas to pull Barca level on 24 minutes.

When Barca defender Gerard Pique put the ball into his own net with 10 minutes remaining, Athletic looked all set to hand the European champions their first league defeat of the season.

In a frantic finish to the match, however, Messi made the most of a defensive mistake to pounce on a loose ball and score his 14th in the league and first away from the Nou Camp this season.

It means Real, on 28, lead Barcelona (25) by three points with Valencia (24) in third a point further adrift.
The rain had fallen all day in Bilbao but the conditions did not affect the quality of football as both sides looked for the win from start to finish.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Strikers Lose Inaugural NASL Soccer Bowl to Minnesota


"The NSC Minnesota Stars won the first North American Soccer League title against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on a 3-1 aggregate following a 0-0 draw Saturday, October 29th, on a wet Lockhart Stadium.

Being the lowest ranked seed in these playoffs, the NSC Minnesota Stars went through a tough gauntlet of teams to get to this point. They had to go through the third-seeded FC Tampa Bay, the regular season champion Carolina RailHawks, and finally, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

The match tonight was tough for both teams. A rainstorm prior to the match caused the field to be very wet, making the ball tough to play with a simple touch or pass."

Despite this loss, the re-born Fort Lauderdale Strikers have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the new North American Soccer Leauge.  Coach Daryl Shore's side has demonstrated tremendous poise in the playoffs.  As an official 'Striker-Liker' and a member of Flight 19, this writer is well pleased with the performance of the team this year, and here at Jedi Soccer we look forward to next season and, hopefully, another run at the NASL Soccer Bowl.

Well Done, Red and Yellow!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

United Chokes, but Strikers Advance to NASL Finals

This past Saturday, in a stunning display of mental collapse, DC United gave a match away to the visiting Chicago Fire in the final moments of the game, in a contest that was attended by the present writer.  Entering the match with their playoff hopes still alive despite a three game losing streak, United and the Fire played to a spiritless 0 - 0 draw after 89 minutes of play.  Then, in the closing moments of play, United was awarded a PK in the 90th minute, which Dwayne De Rosario duly converted, and for a moment the United faithful present at RFK were able to celebrate an apparent victory that was only moments away.  Unfortunately, stoppage time remained, during which United infuriatingly surrendered two consecutive goals in short order to give away the match, 2-1, before a stunned crowd of United fans.  Never has this writer witnessed the mood of a stadium swing so quickly from celebration to despair.  Astonishingly, despite this outrageous outcome, DC United still has a slim chance to make the playoffs if they win and the New York Red Bulls lose to the Philadelphia Union this upcoming weekend, an outcome that is surely unexpected and undeserved.  DC United's 2011 campaign is now mercifully drawing to a close.

But the best story of the weekend was in the NASL.  Our beloved Fort Lauderdale Strikers cinderella playoff run continued, as the Strikers dismissed the Puerto Rico Islanders 2-1 on the strength of two goals from Brian Shriver.  Winning the away-and-home series on an aggregate score of 5-2, the fourth-seeded Strikers now advance to the NASL championship final series with the sixth-seeded NSC Minnesota Stars, another improbable finalist.  Despite their respective .500 seasons, the Strikers and the Stars have defeated the two most dominant teams of the league this past season, the Puerto Rico Islanders and the Carolina Railhawks in order to reach the inaugural championship series of the new NASL.  The two-game series will be decided beginning this upcoming weekend on Saturday the 22d of October in Minnesota, with the final match of the season played on Saturday october 29 in Lockhart Stadium to decide the 2011 NASL champion.  Go Red and Yellow!

Finally, it is seldom that my weekly FC Barcelona report comes last in this column, but for once DC United's stunning ineptitude and the Strikers magical playoff run seems momentarily more momentous that Barcelona's steady and victorious professionalism.  This past Saturday Barca cooly downed Racing Santander 3 - 0 before 80,000 fans at Camp Nou on the strength of two goals from Messi wan Kenobi and Xavi to reclaim first place in the Spanish League standings.  Then, last night Barca defeated a very talented Viktoria Plzen, with no less than six Czech team national starters in the lineup, on the strength of goals from Andres Iniesta and David Villa, thereby tying AC Milan for first place in Group 'H' of the competiton.  Holding first place in both ther Spanish League campaign and the 2012 Champions League tournament, FC Barcelona is--as susal--on track for another brilliant and historical season. 

Visca el Barca!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Barca & Strikers Score 3 Each

With a 3-0 victory over Racing Santander this past weekend and goals by Pedro, Messi, and Iniesta, FC Barcelona has climbed into first place in La Liga and appears to be well on track towards yet another Spanish League championship in the early season.  So this week, we will instead focus on the surprising Fort Lauderdale Strikers instead, who appear to have hit their stride in the postseason and are now just one victory away from appearing in the NASL Cup final.

As reported in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel,

"The Fort Lauderdale Strikers have a leg up on the Puerto Rico Islanders after the first game of their NASL semifinals on Saturday.

Goals by Martin Nunez, Walter Restrepo and Brian Shriver helped lead the Strikers to a 3-1 victory over the Islanders in Puerto Rico. It was the Islanders' first loss at home this season.

The Strikers, who have eight goals in two playoff games, can advance to the league finals with a tie or even a loss by one goal in the second leg of the home-and-home series on Oct. 15 at Lockhart Stadium.

After the Islanders cut the Strikers' lead to 2-1 in the 85th minute, Shriver scored in stoppage time on a Mike Palacio assist.

The Strikers took the lead in the 49th minute on Nunez's goal on an assist from Lance Laing. They made it 2-0 in the 82nd minute on Restrepo's unassisted goal."

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers have chosen the best possible time to hit their stride and are now clearly living up to their moniker.  This win over the Islanders-- who until the playoffs started were clearly the class of the NASL-- proves the Fort Lauderdale can win it all. 

Go Strikers!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Barca Wins, Strikers Run Wild

This past weekend was a happy one here in teh land of Jedi Soccer, as FC Barcelona squeaked past Sporting Gijon in La Liga, while the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, my sole remaining domestic side with a chance for a championship, absolutely crushed FC Edmonton 5 - 0.

As posted by CNN sports,

"Barcelona went top of La Liga with an unimpressive 1-0 win at bottom side Sporting Gijon Sunday.
The reigning Spanish and European champions could not supply their usual brand of free flowing attacking football against obdurate opponents who belied the form which has seen them pick up only one point this season.

With top scorer Lionel Messi well-shackled, Barca's only goal came after 12 minutes through a deflected shot by Adriano and they struggled to add to their tally.

Eric Abidal went off injured after the break to add to Barcelona's defensive problems with neither Carlos Puyol or Gerard Pique starting.

Midfielder Cesc Fabregas is also sidelined for up to three weeks through injury."

Despite this unimpressive showing, Barca now stands in first place in La Liga standings, one point ahead of Derby rivals Real Madrid.  Visca el Barca!

Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers picked an excellent time to break out perhaps their best performance of the year, in the first round of the NASL playoffs.  According to SB Nation:

"From the opening kickoff the Strikers pinned Edmonton back and didn't let up. The Edmonton midfield was utterly overwhelmed with only NASL all-star team choice Shaun Saiko looking even remotely competitive. Edmonton's defense managed to fend off a few chances but for the most part it was down to 39-year-old goalkeeper Rein Baart to keep Edmonton alive. Throughout most of the first half he made a number of agile stops before his inconsistency showed; Baart allowed a frankly ugly Brian Shriver in first half stoppage time. In the second half, Edmonton showed only glimpses of quality and mostly let Fort Lauderdale do as they pleased, resulting in four more goals and a 5-0 romp...

Credit is due to Fort Lauderdale, who recognized their advantage and ruthlessly exploited it. After Baart's weak goal the Strikers kept up the attack in the second half; Shriver banged in another and Abe Thompson bagged a hat trick as Baart flailed helplessly. The taunts of the Fort Lauderdale fans to the defeated Eddies came in loud and clear and the referee blowing his whistle had the air of a mercy killing."

Next up for the Strikers are the Puerto Rico Islanders in Puerto Rico, which should be a tough match.  Next up for Barca is Racing Santander on October 16 in La Liga play.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Barca Routs Borisov 5 - 0

Last night, FC Barcelona began its defence of the Champion's League cup in Minsk against Ukrainian champions BATE Borisov in the opening round of this year's Champion's League competition.

According to FOX News Latino,

"Lionel Messi scored once in each half as Barcelona routed BATE Borisov 5-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday for the defending champions' first victory in Group H.

With his double, Messi joined Laszlo Kubala as Barcelona's second all-time leading scorer with 194 goals.

''I am very happy to have equaled a man who was so important in the history of this club,'' Messi said. ''I knew that I could match Kubala, but I didn't go out tonight thinking about scoring goals, nothing of the sort, just playing like always.''

Barcelona took advantage of the hosts' defensive errors to cruise to a comfortable win.

An own goal by BATE midfielder Aleksandr Volodko put Barcelona ahead before Pedro Rodriguez and Messi sent the Spanish giants into halftime with a 3-0 lead.

Messi got his second just after the restart with a cracking strike from inside the area, and David Villa capped the win in the 90th.

The 24-year-old Messi, now in his eighth season, has the chance to surpass Kubala on Sunday at Sporting Gijon in the Spanish league. Kubala played for Barca for a decade from 1951.

Barcelona's top scorer Cesar Rodriguez scored 235 goals from 1942-55. If Messi keeps scoring at the same rate he did last season, he could pass that mark before this campaign is over.

''(Messi) has equaled a legendary player for Barcelona, and he has done it at just 24 years old. I can't say anything more, only congratulate him,'' Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. ''The only way that he won't catch Cesar is if he leaves.''

Barcelona has four points, even with AC Milan after the Italians beat Viktoria Plzen 2-0."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Barca Destroys Atletico, Strikers Fall to Rowdies

After dropping a heartbreaking mid-week match to Valencia to surrender two points in the standings, FC Barcelona came roaring back this past weekend in classic form.  Facing Atletico Madrid, the Catalans returned to their typically dominant form.  Jedi Soccer hero Messi wan Kenobi scored a hat-trick of goals, and David Villa added another.  Adding insult to injury was an own-goal from Atletico's Joao Miranda  to complete the scoring.  Early in the Spanish league season, Real Betis surprisingly stands atop the league standings chart with 12 points, with Barcelona and Levante tied for second with 11 points.  Arch-rivals Real Madrid are tied for third with Malaga at 10 points each.

Now that DC United is eliminated from the MLS Cup playoff contention, our attention turns to the last US domestic team that we follow at Jedi Soccer, which has a chance to win a trophy.  Regrettably, our beloved Fort Lauderdale Strikers dropped their match this past weekend against cross-state derby rivals FC Tampa Bay (aka 'the team that should be named the 'Rowdies').  As reported on the Strikers website, "Tampa Bay’s first and game-winning goal came at the 68 minute mark when Shane Hill found Keith Savage all alone behind the Strikers defense. Savage tucked his shot past Matt Glaeser to give FC Tampa Bay the 1-0 lead. 

The goal came 17 minutes after Strikers defender Cristian Arrieta was shown a straight red card for a challenge against FC Tampa Bay’s Tsuyoshi Yoshitake. The ejection forced the Strikers to play a man down the rest of the way and Tampa Bay was able to take advantage. FC Tampa Bay’s second goal came in second half stoppage time when Matt Clare was able to control a long pass and fend off his defender long enough to score his second goal of the season."

The Strikers thus finish in 4th place in the 8 team league, a solidly .500 side who now sneak into the playoffs based on the NASL's generous tournament fomula.  The Strikers next face FC Edmonton in the first round of the playoffs at Lockhart Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 1, at 7:30p.m.  Go Strikers!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Barca Crushes Osasuna 8-0

This past weekend was a good one in the land of Jedi Soccer, as FC Barcelona proved that reports of their demise were greatly exagerrated, and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers secured a home-field berth for the first round of the NASL playoffs.  Only DC United turned in a dissapointing performance this weekend.

From The Hindustan Times:

"A hat-trick by Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona to an 8-0 rout of Osasuna in La Liga on Saturday as the champions responded with a memorable performance after a poor week by their high standards. The Champions League holders were accused of complacency after blowing leads against Real Sociedad and AC Milan to twice draw 2-2 but they stormed into a 5-0 halftime lead against Osasuna at the Nou Camp.

David Villa scored twice, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi and visiting defender Roversio (own goal) joined Messi on the scoresheet as Barca climbed to second in the table with seven points from three matches.
Barca are two points behind leaders Valencia who were 1-0 winners at Sporting Gijon earlier in the day after striker Roberto Soldado scored his fifth league goal of the season."

Unfortunately, in MLS action DC United stunk up the stadium against the Seattle Sounders.  According to SB, commenting on Seattle's fine showing,

"The passing, off-ball movement and penchant to threaten the keeper in Saturday's game was the team working at near perfection. Mauro Rosales and Fredy Montero were able to pick apart the DC United defense... But it was more than just great offense. In fact offense gets easier when your defensive players win the ball in 69% of opposed situations. Jeff Parke shutdown Charlie Davies, who had only 15 trackable actions. Osvaldo Alonso took Dwayne De Rosario out of the game. Both Davies and DeRo were pulled early so that United could make an attempt next week at earning their points in their attempt at the playoffs. But it may have been blocked shots that were the key, as Seattle blocked five and was blocked zero times."

Fortunately for DC United, they are not yet out of the playoff race in the MLS.  But they are not looking too strong at the moment, either.

Finally, our Fort Lauderdale Strikers managed to post a 1-1 draw against the lowly (and horribly named) Atlanta Silverbacks.  The goals were scored by Nico Colaluca for Atlanta and Brian Shriver for the Strikers. The Strikers earned the right to host a first round playoff game on Oct. 1.

Now that Barca appears to be returning to form, another exciting season of Spanish soccer is on, and our MLS side and NASL side are both either still in the hunt for a playoff spot (DC United), or already 'in' (Fort Lauderdale Strikers).  Coupled with Barca's 8-0 victory, that will do.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Barca Ties But United Wins

This past weekend was full of upsets in the land of Jedi Soccer.  Our beloved FC Barcelona surrendered a shocking 2 - 2 draw against Real Sociedad--surely a moral victory for Socieded-- but both DC United and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers posted wins in their matches.

Sporting their crisp new all-black 'away' Jerseys, FC Barcelona appeared to have the match sewn up with two early goals from Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas, but astonishingly they let Socieded back into the match with two quick-strike goals in the 57th and 59th minutes of play, allowing the home side to claim a 2-2 tie against mighty Barcelona.  Given that derby rivals Real Madrid posted a 4-2 crushing of Getafe, this is not an auspicious start to the season, as it gives the Galacticos some hope.  Next week we look forward to Barcelona returning to form.

In the States, however, the Jedi Soccer sides we follow, did quite well.   DC United saw striker Charlie Davies score a hat trick, for a 3-0 thrashing of Chivas USA, ending his nine-game scoring drought in spectacular fashion.  For his splendid efforts, the MLS has named Charlie Davies the MLS player of the week, a fine accomplishment.  With this win, United claws its way back into 5th place in the MLS Eastern Conference.

Likewise, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers downed FC Edmonton by the score of 2-1.  FC Edmonton opened the scoring in the 44thminute when John Jonke headed home Paul Hamilton’s long free kick. The equalizer came for Fort Lauderdale when Hamilton saw the ball go into his own net midway through the second half.  Then Brian Shriver scored the decisive goal in the 90thminute as Fort Lauderdale won their third game in a row.  With this splendid win, the Strikers have secured a playoff berth in the 8 team league.

So despite the dissapointing outcome for FC Barcelona, both DC United and the Strikers both performed quite well this past weekend.  And now-- back to business for Barca!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Strikers Over Impact 1-0

From the Montreal Gazette:

"With sixth place in the North American Soccer League on the line, the Montreal Impact lost 1-0 on Saturday, against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, at Lockhart Stadium, in Florida.

Strikers' midfielder Gerson Mayen scored the lone goal of the game, at the 70th minute, after receiving a pass from Mike Palacio behind the Impact’s defence. Mayen was alone in front of goalkeeper Evan Bush, and beat him on a low shot to his left. The Strikers goal ended the Impact’s streak of three consecutive games without allowing a goal.

“It was a tough game tonight and overall it was not a great performance,” said Impact head coach and sporting director Nick De Santis. “The effort to fight and to get the tying goal was good; however, we did not play our best game tonight. In the second half we were better. Perhaps their goal was questionable, but we’ll have to wait to watch the video. Now we need to regroup and go to Puerto Rico with the right mindset. Hopefully we can go there and get a positive result.”

This was the last of four matchups between the teams this season. The teams had previously played to three draws this season. With the win, the Strikers now hold the tiebreaker over the Impact, if necessary."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Barca Stomps Villareal 5 - 0

From the Guardian UK:

Cesc Fabregas described playing with Lionel Messi as "awesome" after the World Player of the Year set him up to score for Barcelona against Villareal on his debut in La Liga.

The former Arsenal captain, who returned to his boyhood club earlier this month, raced on to Messi's pass just before half-time, rounded the goalkeeper Diego López and slotted into the empty net to put the champions 2-0 ahead on Monday evening. A recruit at Barça's youth academy at the same time as Fábregas, Messi later added two goals as they strolled to a 5-0 victory.

"It's a pleasure playing with him," Fábregas said. "You know you can give him the ball at any moment and he'll decide the match on his own."

The pair already look to have created a formidable partnership as Barça seek a fourth straight Spanish league title and a third Champions League crown in four years. Fábregas also volleyed a brilliant goal from a Messi assist in the 2-0 European Super Cup win over Porto on Friday.

"Time will tell if I carry on scoring," Fábregas said. "For the moment I have a lot of desire to do things well and I am very happy on the pitch."

Monday, August 29, 2011

Rowdies Beat Strikers 2 - 0

On a weekend that saw DC United's match against the Portland Timbers at RFK Stadium cancelled because of Hurricane Irene, our beloved Fort Lauderdale Strikers lost another match against in-state derby rivals Tampa Bay.  This is the second time this season that the Strikers have lost to Tampa Bay.

Goals by Aaron King and Mike Ambersely were all  that Tampa Bay needed to win.  The Strikers best chance came in the 28th minute, when Teopolo Morales blasted a point-blank shot that was impressively saved by Tampa Keeper Jeff Attinella to keep the Strikers off the scoreboard.

This win elevates Tampa Bay to third place in the NASL, while the Strikers fall to sixth place.  Only the top six sides will advance into the NASL playoffs, which begin in a few weeks.

With the USL-PRO League season over for the Charleston Battery, and Jedi Soccer side FC Barcelona idle this weekend, the last few days have been thin on Jedi soccer action.  That should change tonight, as Barcelona take on Villareal to kick off their 2011-2012 campaign.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Barca Triumphs but US Domestic Season Sputters

On the same weekend that saw FC Barcelona, the premier team we follow here at Jedi Soccer, crush Napoli in the Joan Gamper Trophy invitational match at Camp Nou by the score of 5 - 0, the US-based domestic sides we follow all sputtered their way towards the end of their respective seasons in the MLS, NASL and USL-PRO leagues.

In Spanish League preaseason action-- extended by the players strike-- Barca schooled Napoli from the Italian Serie 'A' league in the fine art of football, scoring five times enroute to a majestic Gamper Trophy victory.  Two goals by the incomporable Messi Wan Kenobi, and additional contributions by Fabregas, Keita and Pedro were more than enough to put Napoli away.  With this additional preseason match, Barca appears now to be fully geared up for another triumphant Spanish League campaign which we are certainly looking forward to.

Across the pond here in the States, however, things were not so rosy for Jedi Soccer.  In MLS action, DC United fell to an attacking Sporting KC side by the score of 1-0 in Kansas City.  A crossed goal by Chance Myers was all the scoring the KC needed to overcome a lilstless DC United, which falls now to 6th place in the Eastern Conference and is in danger of not making the playoffs.

In NASL action, the season is down to its final six games, as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers fell to the league-leading Carolina Railhawks by the score of 2-0 this weekend.  The loss drops the Strikers down to sixth place in the league standings, and under the NASL playoff format, only the top six teams will advance.  So, with only six matches remaining, Fort Lauderdale is in danger of not making the playoffs.  It's a story of sixes.

Finally, in USL-PRO league action the Charleston Battery's season came to an end with a 1-3 loss to Orlando City, which now advances to face the Richmond Kickers in the American Division final.  In an exciting match that was tied going into overtime, Orlando went ahead in the 100th minute, followed by the ejection of Dane Kelley for a second Yellow card, and the final goal of the night two minutes into the second overtime period.  Thus the Charleston Battery's season comes to an end, with the USL-PRO League playoffs carrying on without them.

It's an outcome I fear both DC United and the Strikers will soon be facing, I'm afraid.  Let's hope not.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Barca Wins Supercopa

Yesterday FC Barcelona defeated arch-rivals Real Madrid 3-2 to claim the Supercopa de Espana trophy, which is the opening competition of the Spanish league season.  The match was marred by the now-characteristic rants from Jose Mourinho for Real Madrid.  It was a spectacular match, marred princi[pally by the Madrid manager's all-to-frequent misbehavior on the pitch.  As reported in the International Herald Tribue (from the UK),

"A Lionel Messi double inspired Eureopean and Spanish champions Barcelona to a 3-2 victory over bitter rivals Real Madrid in their Super Cup secobnd-leg clash and a 5-4 aggregate win.

The ill-feeling between the two sides was apparent throughout, but boiled over at the end of the match which saw three players sent off.

Barcelona were far from their best with their players looking rusty as they lacked their usual cutting edge, while Real played with determination. Andres Iniesta put Barca ahead with a deft finish before Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 100th goal in a Real Madrid shirt to equalise. Messi, though, proved to be the key player as he scored at the end of the first half and again three minutes from the end with French striker Karim Benzema finding the back of the net in between.

“Words fail me in how to congratulate my players on how they played tonight,” said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. “They are extraordinary and legendary players.”

Guardiola only gave new £29million signing former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas a few minutes of playing time towards the end of the game. But it was enough time for Marcelo to be dismissed for a late challenge on the Spanish midfielder.

Villa and Ozil were also red carded in the subsequent angry exchange – the latter being sent off from the substitutes bench as he had gone off earlier in the half – which prompted Guardiola to issue this warning after the match.

“Marcelo got a red card because we all know what happens after tackles in certain areas of the pitch,” said Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho. “It was a spectacular game from the first to last minute. But from the first minute of the second half, and I don’t criticise it because I know people do it, the ball boys hid the balls.
“It happens with small teams when they find themselves in difficulties.”

And so, Jose Mourinho blames the absence of ballboys for his teams loss.  Based on his antics the last two seasons, I don't thenk the problem is that Barcelona is a small club... I think the problem is that Jose Mourinho is a small coach.  And getting smaller all the time.  Visca el Barca!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Supercopa & US Team News

It was a busy and generally victorious weekend here in the land of Jedi soccer.  In Supercopa de Espana action, La Liga winners FC Barcelona took on Copa del Rey winners Real Madrid for the fifth time this calendar year, and it was a splendid match.  Mesut Ozil scored first for Real Madrid in the 12th nminute, but David Villa equalized for Barca a short time later, and then the incomporable Lionel Messi gave Barca the improbable lead right at the half, with the go-ahead goal in first-half injury time. 

Then, during halftime, the news that the long-rumored deal to bring Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona from Arsenal finally broke, bringing welcome news to Barca players and fans alike.  Despite this, after the re-start Xabi Alonso equalized for Real Madrid, and that was the match and the end of the first leg of the Supercopa de Espana 2011, a 2-2 result at the Santiago Bernabeu.  The season-opening action now shifts to Camp Nou for the second leg on Wednesday.

Across the pond, yesterdays MLS debut by DC United goalkeeper Joe Willis was a splendid success, with the rookie keeper from the University of Denver positng no less than six saves, including stopping a free kick, enroute to a stunning and unexpected 4-0 stomping fo the Vancouver Whitecaps.  Two goals from Chris Pontius in the 45' and 71' minutes, and additional scoring by Andy Najar in the 48' and Stephen King in the 81' would have been the story of the match on any other night, but the real story is the powerful debut of Joe Willis in the net.  It is now clear that all other issues aside, DC United has three capable goalkeepers on the roster with Bill Hamid, Stever Cronin, and now Joe Willis.

In NASL action, our beloved Fort Lauderdale Strikers yet again produced a tied match, with their 1 - 1 outcome against FC Edmonton.  The late goal in the 79' minute by Strikers substitute David Santamaria gave the Strikers the tie at Foote Field in Edmonton, after a first half goal by Edmonton's Paul Hamilton.  Despite the frustration of yet another tied match, the Strikers have now clawed their way back into playoff contention, standing in fourth place in the eight team league.

Finally, the Charleston Battery completed a seasonal sweep against the Charlotte Eagles.  Needing a win to advance to the playoffs, the Battery generated 3 goals in the first half to take a 3-1 lead, but Charlotte threatened late in the game by scoring two goals of their own.  Fortunately by then the Battery had posted four goals, with two from Mike Zaher, one from Zach Prince, and one from Nicki Patterson, and it was enough to preserve the win and advance into the playoffs.  The first round of the USL-Pro league playoff series begins this weekend, featuring USL-PRO seasonal chanmpions Orlando City hosting the Charleston Battery.

As the US soccer season ends, the European leagues start up once again.  Football-- its for every season.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Strikers Win Again!

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers have won their third match in a row, defeating the NSC Minnesota Stars at NSC Stadium with a goal in the 67th minute by Martin Nunez, for the only score of the night and the win.  As reported on the Strikers website,

"The game's lone goal came in the 67th minute when Shriver, on a long diagonal run, took the ball to the lower corner of the penalty area and passed backward to a cutting Nunez who slotted his shot inside the far post to beat NSC Minnesota goalkeeper Joe Warren. Nunez was brought into the starting lineup because the Strikers usual starter, Abe Thompson, was serving a one game suspension after receiving a red card in the Strikers previous game."

With this win, the Strikers now climb into 5th place in the NASL leage standings.  The top six teams in the eight team leage, will make the playoffs.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Jedi Soccer August Report

This past week all four sides that we follow here at Jedi Soccer were in action, and all of them here in North America.  The much-anticipated matchup in Miami between FC Barcelona and Chivas de Guadalajara on August 3rd drew more than 70,800 spectators, the largest attendance ever for a professional soccer match in South Florida.  David Villa scored first for Barca in only the second minute of play, and for a moment it seemed that a rout might have been on.  But Marco Fabian tied the match in the 60th minute with a blast from 30 yards out, and two minutes later Omar Arellano's centering pass from the right wing found Fabian open near the far post. Fabian jumped and converted on a scissors kick from eight yards out, for his second goal of gthe night.  Then, Chivas went ahead 3-1 on Giovani Casillas' goal in the 72nd minute. Jesus Sanchez sped past the Barcelona backline and centered a pass to an open Casillas, who beat Pinto with a shot just inside the 6-yard box.  Jose Luis Verduzco scored Chivas' fourth goal in the 90th minute, and that was the match, an impressive 4-1 victory for Chivas over the best club in the world at the moment.

In MLS action, DC United tied Toronto FC in a wild match this past Saturday that saw United goalkeeper Bill Hamid sent off in the 7th minute for an agressive challenge outside of the box, and then United coach Ben Olsen was also ejected in the second half for dissent.  Reserve keeper Steve Cronin, who hadn't played a match for the first team at all this season, was forced into action.   And then, there was a six-goal barrage, culminating in a crazy goal - countergoal sequence just before full time which saw Toronto take a 3-2 lead, only for United star Dwayne De Rosario to complete a hat trick from the penalty spot two minutes later to equalize a memorable short-handed draw against Toronto.  This outcome brings United to sixth place in the MLS Eastern Conference, with the season now 2/3rd complete.

A more positive outcome was achieved this past weekend in NASL action by the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who defeated the NASL league-leading Carolina Railhawks 2-1 on Saturday.  Goals in the 38th minute by Walter Restrepo and a late goal in stoppage time by Martin Nunez, were enough to power the Strikers ahead for the win.  This outcome brings the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to sixth place in the 8 team leage, ahead of the scandalously bad but-MLS-bound Montreal Impact, and the dreadfully named Atlanta Silverbacks.

Finally, the Charleston Battery has lost twice in the last week to the USL-PRO leading Orlando City Lions.  On Wednesday the Battery faced the Lions in Orlando and lost 1-0, then just three days later the team faced the Lions again in the Citrus Bowl, losing 2-1.  This win gives the Orlando City Lions the first two of three possible titles this season:  the USL-PRO American Division Championship; and the USL-PRO Regular Season Championship.  They now will enjoy home-field advantage throughout the USL-PRO playoffs.

It's not often that all four of my teams are in action on this side of the pond, so it was a good week in the land of Jedi Soccer.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Big Jedi Soccer Weekend

Although FC Barcelona lost the heavily-attended exhibition match on Saturday against Manchester United at Fedex Field, our local American Jedi Soccer sides provided some excitement and satisfaction over the weekend.  Of note were the victories by both DC United and the Fort Lauderdal Strikers, which more than compensated for a loss by the Charleston Battery.

A pair of brilliant finishes by Dwayne DeRosario was all DC United needed to power past the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium, marking the first time the team has won in San Jose in 13 years.  As reported on the Potomac Soccer Wire:

"De Rosario took advantage of San Jose defender Nana Attakora’s slip to open the scoring in the 57th minute, latching on to an Andy Najar long ball and curling a ruthless shot past Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch.  The Canadian international’s second strike arrived nine minutes later and was even more impressive, as he drew several defenders out of position and combined with Chris Pontius along the left flank before meeting his teammates’ return pass with a fine one-timer into the top corner.  De Rosario, who began his MLS career with the Quakes, has now scored three goals since arriving in D.C. via a trade with the New York Red Bulls in late June, all of them strikes against former teams in San Jose and New York."

In addition to this brilliant performance, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers Brian Shriver posted two goals and Abe Thompson added another, as the Strikers powered past FC Edmonton in NASL action.  Shriver combined with Thompson in the 14th minute to give the Strikers the lead, and then Thompson added another in the 29th minute to put the Strikers up by two before the half.  Shriver's second goal in the 76th minute sealed the win, bringing the Strikers to 6th place in the 8-team league.

Only the Charleston Battery's 0-1 loss on Saturday to the Rochester Rhinos kept our Jedi Soccer stable from a clean sweep for the weekend.  Rhino's substitute Drew Cost scored the game-winner, slotting home for the visitors at Blackbaud Stadium in the 68th minute for the only score of the game.  The Battery heads to Orlando, Florida next week for a pair of games against Orlando City on Wednesday and Saturday. Both games kick off at 7:30 p.m.

So, on an action-packed weekend that saw Barca in Washington, United winning in distant San Jose, the Strikers scoring big at home, and the Battery coming up short against Rochestor, our weekend tally is 2-2 for Jedi Soccer.  But it was better than that-- how often does Barca play in Washington, even if Messi didn't play?  It was a good weekend.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Man U Over Barca in DC

Yesterday the largest crowd in Washington-area history to ever attend a soccer match, were on hand at Fedex Field in Landover Maryland to watch FC Barcelona take on Mancheter United in a pre-season rematch of lat years Champion's League final in Wembley Stadium in London.  Wearing their new all-black away kits-- which strongly resemble DC United's home kit-- Barca played without the talents of several key players, most notably Lionel Messi. 

As reported by the Associated Press:

"Michael Owen scored on a counterattack in the 76th minute to give Manchester United a 2-1 victory over FC Barcelona on Saturday night.

Nani also scored early for United, which exacted a measure of revenge in a preseason exhibition that doubled as a rematch of Barcelona's 3-1 victory in last May's Champions League final.

Thiago tied it for Barcelona in front of 81,807 at FedEx Field, the largest soccer crowd in Washington-area history.

Tom Cleverley set up Owen's goal, stealing Sergio Busquets' pass in midfield, streaking toward goal, and then slipping a pass to Owen just in time to keep the forward onside.

Owen chipped the ball over Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who had rushed out to close the angle.
After a sluggish first half, Barcelona dominated the second until Owen's goal.

Thiago gave the defending Spanish league champions a deserved tying goal in the 70th minute, blasting a shot into the top right corner from about 23 yards out.

Nani put United, last year's Premier League winners, ahead on a similar goal to Owen's. Danny Welbeck collected the ball in midfield, charged forward, and then found Nani alone, who drove a low finish past Valdes in the 22nd minute.

Friendly or not, the rematch had a big-time atmosphere, complete with a halftime appearance from Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

Thousands of fans arrived several hours before kickoff, turning parking lots into a swirling mass of maroon and blue, red and black.

Barcelona's fans were in the majority, chanting "Barca! Barca! Barca!" as early as 45 minutes before kickoff, chants which eventually echoed throughout the stadium during the match's early stages."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Klinsmann Gets The Job!

From the Associated Press:

Now that the United States Soccer Federation's (USFF) perennial coach-in-waiting finally has the job, Juergen Klinsmann (picture) will be expected to kick-start a stagnant men's national team.

The USSF hired Klinsmann on Friday (yesterday morning, Singapore time) a day after firing Bob Bradley.

The US almost hired the former German star striker and coach of the national team twice - first after the 2006 World Cup and again last year, before giving Bradley a contract extension which turned out to be short-lived.

Klinsmann's first game as US coach will be on Aug 10, against arch-rivals Mexico in an exhibition in Philadelphia.

Qualifying games for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil begins next June.

Former US defender Alexi Lalas, who worked alongside Klinsmann for ESPN at last year's World Cup, expects him to inject energy but insisted that he was not a miracle worker.

"It's not as if all of sudden, because Juergen Klinsmann is coach, that we're going to have an American Lionel Messi drop into our laps," Lalas said.

Klinsmann and his wife, Debbie, live in California with their two children, Jonathan and Laila.

"His greatest weapon is the fact that he understands the American people more than any other foreign coach possibly could," former US star Eric Wynalda said. "If you're going to make the move, he's the perfect choice."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bradley Out! Klinsmann In?

Yesterday the USSF announced that US National Team Coach Bob Bradley was being dismissed as coach of the team.  So ends one of the more curious tenures of any coach of the national team.  As any fair-minded person can see, Bradley's tenure was far from a disaster-- under him the team won its group in the last World Cup, and his cumulative record during his tenure was 43-25-12-- not a bad effort at all.

And yet, it is also true that under him the team tended to fall behind in key games, and despite some key wins over Spain and Brazil early in his tenure, the team was also recently trounced by both Spain and a rising and dangerous young Mexican team.  It's clear that there is an offensive spark missing, and Bradley's cool and somewhat distant demeanor seems too detached from these challenges.

So, I think this was the right call.  And now, the name on everyone's lips is--once again-- Jurgen Klinsmann.  It's no secret that USSF boss Sunil Gulati has wanted Klinsmann all along, and now he will probably get his wish.  Although Klinsmann does not have Bradley's coaching experience, he does having something that Bradley does not-- first-hand experience of European football, and the mindset of championship sides like Germany.  And I think that is what is missing.  When he was the boss of the German national team, Klinsmann made the team engage in team-building exercises devised by the Japanese.  Given the recent success of the Japanese Women's team, maybe there is something to that. 

Klinsmann's philosophy is based on team camaraderie, attacking, and physical fitness.  I don't know how fit or cohesive the team is right now, but it's clear they need Klinsmann's attacking philosophy on the pitch.  That alone makes him the right man for the job.

As has commented,

"Truth be told, Klinsmann is a bit of an oddball. What other coach takes time to speak with groundspeople at games, comes to training sessions for teams he isn't in charge of, just to check out techniques and new approaches, and not only champions yoga as a way to help players prevent injuries, but joins in the sessions?"

Jurgen Klinsmann, the team-building, yoga-practicing philosopher of attacking football, looks like just the right ticket for the team.  If he gets the job and starts winning, he will surely be a strong candidate for the honored title of 'Jedi Knight of Football," bestowed only upon the most worthy players and sides here at Jedi Soccer.

Monday, July 25, 2011

DC United Loses to Everton

From the DC United website:

"It’s never easy to overcome a slow start in MLS, going down two goals early in the first half. Try doing it against an English Premier League side.

D.C. United were unable to accomplish that Saturday night against Everton, as the home side conceded two goals within the game’s first 20 minutes in a 3-1 loss.

“We can’t put ourselves behind 2-0 to a good team,” midfielder Chris Pontius said. “Can’t do that in MLS, can’t do that against an EPL team. You’re chasing the game the whole time.”

Despite it being a friendly match with no bearing on the standings, the first 45 minutes were displeasing to DC head coach Ben Olsen.

“First half I was extremely disappointed in several players that just didn’t that you don’t just walk onto a field, any field and play 60-70 percent,” he said. “I know it’s been a long week and maybe I’m making too much of this, because it is a friendly, but it just wasn’t good enough for me.”

Sloppy defending was at fault on Everton’s early goals. In the fourth minute, Brandon McDonald couldn’t keep up with Everton striker Victor Anichebe, who ran in behind DC’s back line.

Just 12 minutes later, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov beat the offside trap, collected a through-ball and beat goalie Bill Hamid.  

After the break things improved as United made several substitutions. Regulars Perry KitchenChris Pontius and Dwayne De Rosario joined the fray, and Olsen noticed an improvement.

“Second half I thought was good,” he said. “I thought Pontius and Kitchen both came in and gave us the right mentality.”

They were rewarded with a goal two minutes into the half after De Rosario found Pontius with a long ball over Everton’s back line.

That was all the scoring DC would see despite creating numerous chances. The final whistle brought disappointed, but DC managed to also emerge from the game without sustaining major injuries, and will get some time to rest and regroup."

Friday, July 22, 2011

United and Strikers Both Lose

What does mediocrity look like in print?  When you can 'spin' a club's recent performance one of two ways:  "United is unbeated in it's last five!"  But also, "United has won only one match in their last five."  And oddly, the same also pretty much applies to the NASL Strikers, too-- a team with more draws than either wins or losses.  I am sad to admit it, but both of my favorite American teams-- DC United and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers-- are merely mediocre.

As reported on DC United's website:  "For D.C. United, the chances came early and often against a beleaguered New England Revolution side. A combination of poor finishing — including a missed penalty kick by striker Charlie Davies in the 44th minute — and a strong performance from Revs ‘keeper Matt Reis let all those chances go begging, however, as the Black and Red fell 1-0 at RFK."

And as reported on the Strikers website:  "The Fort Lauderdale Strikers lost by a final of 3-1 against the second-place Puerto Rico Islanders, 8-5-4 (W-T-L), dropping their record to 3-9-5 (W-T-L) on the season. The Strikers took the lead on an own-goal by the Islanders, but gave up three unanswered goals in the loss." 

The only really noteworthy news in either match, was that the Strikers Eduardo Coudet was sent off for physically challenging the Referre for awarding a Penatly Kick to the Islanders, and the NASL disciplinary committee has tacked an additonal five game suspension on top of that, for the physical contact.

So, all in all, the mid-week news in the land of Jedi Soccer is not good.  But there is still enough time in the season to right the ship and salvage some dignity.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

League and Team Update

Now that the thrilling Women's World Cup is over, its time to re-focus on the three professional American soccer leagues.  While we've been away cheering on the American Women's Team, changes in the league standings of the three leagues have taken place.

In the MLS, our beloved DC United have fallen to a pitiful 6th place in the Eastern Conference while attention was focused on the WWC, despite being unbeaten in their last five games.  That's soccer for you-- sometimes you do everything right, and still you lose or fall in the standings, as so poignantly displayed by the US Women's National Soccer team.  DC United's next match is tonight against the New England Revolution at RFK Stadium. 

In the NASL, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers are likewise in 6th place in the eight team league, desparately trying to stay out of the bottom two so as to make the playoffs.  The Strikers are also playing tonight, at 8 pm against the second-place Puerto Rico Islanders at the Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel in PR.  This is their fourth and final match agasint the Islanders this season, coming off yet another a tie last Wednesday against the 7th-place yet MLS-bound Montreal Impact.  With a 3-9-4 season record, the Strikers have more tied matches this season than any other NASL side.

Finally, in the USL-PRO league, the Charletson Battery is in a respectable 3rd place in the American Division.  Their next match is on Saturday July 23d agaisnt the Dayton Dutch Lions at the Miami Valley South Stadium.  The Battery is thus currently the best positoned of any of the Jedi Soccer sides this blog site follows, to actually challenge for a championship.  The Battery is also scheduled to play an international exhibition match against Portsmouth FC, a former English Premier League side that was relegated to the second division after the 2009-2010 season, next Wednesday July 27 at Blackbaud Stadium.

For DC United and the Strikers, the objective is simply to avoid elimination and make it into the playoffs.  For the Batter, there is still a shot at taking their Divisonal Championship.  Go Jedi Soccer!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Japan Wins World Cup !

Yesterday in Frankfurt German the US National Women's Soccer team well and truly lost the World Cup to sentimental favorite Japan, squandering numerous scoring opportuinities and finally failing to convert three penalty kicks in the dreaded PK 'shootout' to decide the winner after two periods of overtime.

The first half totally belonged to the United States, who dominated both possession and shots on goal, 12 - 5 in the first half and 24-16 overall.  The American women pounded shots off the cross bar, the side posts, and sent shots wide left, wide right, and over the goal.  Despite their many chances they could not score in the first half.

In the second half, US substitute Alex Morgan finally scored for the Americans in the 68' minute of play with a powerful shot for 20 yards out, giving the Americans a 1 goal lead.  But just 12 minutes later, Aya Miyama scored for Japan to equalize after punching in a loose ball in a melee in front of the American goal, and Japan was back in the game., sending the match into overtime.

Then, in overtime the US again took the lead in the 104th minute off a scintillating header from Abby Wambach, and again the American's seemed poised to finish the match.  But 12 minutes later Japanese striker Howare Sawa scored in the 116th minute to equalize for the second time, and the match went into Penalty Kicks to decide the World Champion.

And then the wheels fell off for the American women.  Shannon Boxx had her shot blocked by Japaense Keeper Ayumi Kalhori; Carli Lloyd sailed her shot over the crossbar; and then Kalhori saved a second shot by Tobin Heath.  Only Abby Wambach made her shot, and it wasn't enough, as Japan won the match on PK's to win the first FIFA World Cup Championship for any Asian nation.

This match was the first time that the Japanese women had ever defeated the US women in international play.  Their record against the US is now 1 - 3 - 22... and one world championship.

Despite the heartbreak, the American women have comported themselves with great dignity, congratulating Japan and even expressing a kind of backhanded satisfaction that it was the Japanese who defeated them.  After the match, US goalkeeper Hope Solo said, "I truly believe that something bigger was pulling for this team.  As much as I've always wanted this, if there were any other team I could give this to it would have to be Japan. I'm happy for them and they do deserve it."

Indeed.  It is clear that the US was not defeated, so much as they failed to win.  With so many scoring chances missed, and a final shot count that heavily favored the US, they have no one to blame but themselves.

So congratulations Nadeshiko Japan!  Japan's 'Beautiful Flowers' have delivered a major world championship to earthquake-and-tsunami ravaged Japan.  Perhaps they really did need this more than the Americans did, and the advent of a new world champion instead of a three-peat for the US, can only signify good things for women's soccer worldwide.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

US Women to Cup Final!

With a resounding 3 - 1 vicvtory over a very competent French women's team, today the US Women's National Soccer Team advanced to the Women's World Cup Final for the first time since 1999.  As reported in The Seattle Times,

"The United States is in the World Cup final for the first time since it last won the title in 1999, and once again, it was Abby Wambach coming up big in a 3-1 victory over France.

Wambach broke a tense tie in the 79th minute Wednesday with a monstrous header - what else? - off of a Lauren Cheney corner kick. Cheney delivered the ball perfectly to the far post, and the 5-foot-11 forward soared over the scrum and pushed the ball past French goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz. Wambach let out a scream and did a sliding sprint into the corner, where she was mobbed by her teammates.

It was Wambach's third goal of the tournament and 12th of her career, tying fellow American Michelle Akers for third on the all-time World Cup scoring list.

Alex Morgan added an insurance goal in the 82nd, the first for the World Cup rookie. When the final whistle sounded, the Americans rushed onto the field. Wambach found U.S. coach Pia Sundhage and gave her a bearhug as the pro-American crowd of 25,676 serenaded the team with chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

"Abby, she's just the best," Sundhage said. "I'm very happy to have her in our team. Great."

Despite the loss, the World Cup was a resounding success for the French, who made their first appearance in the semifinals and qualified for next summer's London Olympics...

Though the Americans are two-time World Cup champions, they haven't made the final since Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain won it all in 1999. This American team will now play either Japan or Sweden in Sunday's final in Frankfurt."

This fan of The Beautiful Game is very happy to see our fantastic American women's team in the Final.  Go USA!

Monday, July 11, 2011

US Women Win Epic Match

From Huffington Post Sports:

DRESDEN, Germany -- The Americans are moving on to the semifinals after one of the most riveting games in the history of the Women's World Cup - beating Brazil 5-3 on penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie.
Abby Wambach tied it with a magnificent, leaping header in the 122nd minute, and goalkeeper Hope Solo denied the Brazilians again.

"We believe we can win this tournament," Wambach said. "I don't know if you can write a better script."

For Brazil, it is yet another disappointment at a major tournament. And this one is sure to sting more than any others because Marta had it won for the Brazilians on Sunday, scoring her second goal of the game in the second minute of overtime for the 2-1 lead that would have sent the Americans to their earliest exit ever. But Erika stalled when she went down on a tackle, and the delay added three minutes of stoppage time to the game.

That was all the time Wambach and the Americans needed, after pushing themselves to limit while playing a woman short from the 66th minute on.

Two minutes into stoppage time, Megan Rapinoe sent a blast of a cross from the left side that Andreia didn't come close to getting her hands on. Wambach, one of the best players in the world in the air, made contact and with one furious whip of her head, buried it in the near side of the net.

Wambach let out a primal scream and slid into the corner, pumping her fists, quickly being mobbed by her teammates. It was the latest goal in World Cup history...

The Americans, shooting first, made their three penalty kicks only to have Cristiane and Marta easily match them. But then it was Daiane's turn - the same Daiane who'd given the U.S. a 1-0 lead with an own goal in the second minute of the game. She took a hard shot, but Solo stretched out and batted it away.

Though the U.S. still had to make two more, the celebration was already starting. After Rapinoe smoked the net with a blast and Ali Krieger converted hers, the Americans raced onto the field, their joy only matched by that of the pro-American crowd of 25,598. Wambach tackled Solo and U.S. coach Pia Sundhage even broke out her air guitar when AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" began to play.

Shake the tournament, the Americans did. The win came exactly 12 years after the Americans won a penalty-kick shootout against China to win the title at the Rose Bowl.

The U.S. moves on to Wednesday's semifinals to play France, which eliminated England on penalty kicks Saturday."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

US Women Fall to Sweden

Last night the US National Women's Soccer Team was literally out-muscled on the pitch by a physical Swedish side that sucessfully took the American women out of their passing game, leading to a 1 - 2 loss for the Americans.  The physicality of the Swedes kept the American's from playing the passing style of attacking that they have adopted under coach Pia Sundhage, leading the American women to revert to the long-ball-over-the-midfield style that Coach Sundhage has tried to change.  It didn't work.

As reported on Fox Sports,

"Needing only a tie to win its group and the chance for a quarter-final matchup with a far less frightening Australian team, the Americans played a sloppy and disorganized first half and gave a disciplined Swedish side a lead it would not relinquish.  Sweden notched its two first-half goals on a penalty kick and a deflected free kick, giving the Swedes a 2-0 lead at halftime.

American striker Abby Wambach deflected in a corner kick with her shoulder in the 66th minute to halve the lead, but the US comeback ended there. 

Wednesday's loss sends the US to Dresden Sunday for the match against Brazil, which features the five-time world player of the year, Marta."  Widely acknowledged as the best female player in the world at the moment, Marta and her teamates also carry  the weight of Brazil's tremendous legacy of football succes into the match.  It will be a dangerous match for the American women, but despite this Coach Sunhage has publicly stated, "We're going to play in the final."  It was an incredibly bold statement for Pia Sundhage to make, but if the US gets past Brazil and makes it to the final, she will look like a football prophetess.
Let's hope the prophecy comes true.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

US Women Will Play Sweden

On Satrurday July 2, the US National Women's soccer team defeated Columbia in their second World Cup match 3 - 0, giving them a commanding position in Group 'C' and bringing them to their final group match against the powerful Swedish womens team.  Goals in the 12th minute by Heather O'Reilly, Megan Rapinoe in the 50th minute, and Carli Lloyd in the 57th minute were enough to overwhelm the Columbian women, giving the American side the victory.

According to,

"The U.S. has been the best team in Group C so far, outscoring its opponents 5-0 and firing the most shots of any team in the tournament with 46. Sweden, the fifth-ranked team in the world, has been the second best as it also had two shutout wins over North Korea and Colombia.

The U.S. and Sweden have already advanced to the quarterfinals but they are battling for first place in their group. The Americans need a win or a draw to finish first, while the Swedes need a win due to the fact that the U.S. has the advantage in goal differential, which is the tie-breaker to determine placement in group play.

If the U.S. wins or draws, it will travel to Augsburg to face the second-place team in Group D. With a loss, it  would travel back to Dresden for a matchup against the winner of Group D, which will likely be Brazil. Norway and Australia are playing for second place in Group D on Wednesday."

Sweden will be playing without team captain Caroline Seger, who is suspended for one game due to the two yellow cards she accrued in Sweden's victories over North Korea and Columbia.  The American women should thus have a good chance to win this match and advance in the tournament, barring a defensive meltdown or a heroic performance by the Swedish women.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Strikers Crushed by Tampa

Yesterday the Florida Derby between FC Tampa Bay and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers was renewed in front of a crowd of 4,248 Fourth of July spectators at Al Lang field in St. Petersburg Florida, who witnessed a resounding 4-2 victory for 'the-team-that-should-be-called-the-Rowdies' over their historic in-state rivals.  It was the Strikers first loss in the last seven outings.

Tampa scored first in the 15th minute, when Millien headed in a corner kick from Andres Arango.  Before the Strikers could respond, the match was suspended in the 31st minute due to lightning in the Tampa area; but after a 59 minute dealy, play was resumed, and the Strikers scored in the 39th minute from a Penatly Kick by Eduardo 'Chaco' Coudet-- his sixth goal of the season-- after a handball in the box by Tampa's Kwame Watson-Siriboe.  Thus the first half ended in a 1 - 1 tie.

The second half’s first goal came at the 55 minute mark when FC Tampa Bay’s Pascal Millien took a pass from Tsuyoshi Yoshitake and slotted home a left-footed shot past Glaeser to put Tampa Bay up 2-1.  Then, FC Tampa Bay threatened to put the game out of reach when Pascal Millien drove in on net and connected with Aaron King for Tampa Bay’s third goal in the 63rd minute.  It was beginning to look like a rout; but in the 68th minute the Strikers Eduardo Coudet found a streaking Mike Palacio who dribbled past two Tampa Bay defenders and scored from just outside the 18-yard-box to make the score 3-2 and bring the Strikers to within a goal.

Unfortunately, that was the last goal of the night for the Strikers.  In the 71st minute, a pass from Pascal Millien found Mike Ambersley, who scored Tampa Bay’s fourth goal of the night and his seventh of the year.  And that was the match, with the Rowdies crushing the Strikers 4-2 at home in the second meeting of the Florida Derby this year.

The Strikers are now tied with FC Tampa Bay at 17 points on the season, and are tied for fifth place in the NASL standings.  Going back to the original series between the Strikers and the Rowdies of the old NASL, these two teams have played 24 times.  Tampa Bay leads the series by one match, 12 wins and one tie, to Fort Lauderdale's record of 11 wins and a tie.  The Strikers return home to Lockhart Stadium on Saturday against the horribly-named Atlanta Silverbacks.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Florida Derby Resumes

This past Wednesday night, the Fort ALauderdale Strikers finally resumed their old rivaly with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, AKA 'Tampa Bay FC.'  In a strange but exciting match which saw Fort lauderdale outshoot their cross-state rivals 24-7, the Strikers dominated play from the opening wistle, and yet had great difficulty finishing with a goal.  In the 68th minute the Strikers botched a corner kick that allowed Rowdies defenseman Tsuyoshi Yoshitake to send a long ball downfield to the streaking Mike Ambersley, who  calmly put in the ball into the net for his sixth goal of the season.  At that point, despite having dominated the match, the Strikers seemed to be on the verge of losing the Florida Derby.

Fortunately for Fort Lauderdale, in the 90th minute of play Eduardo 'Chaco' Coudet came up big for the Strikers.  A beautifully struck free kick from 25 yards out just glanced the hands of Tampa goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, giving the Strikers the equalizer that ended the match.  Despite the tied score, the Strikers have managed to go undefeated in their last seven outings, although many of those outcomes have also been ties.

And so the Florida Derby is back!  The Strikers now take the Derby to Tampa Bay on the Fourth of July for a re-match with their cross-state rivals, before returning on the 9th to Lockhart Stadium against the dreadfully-named Atlanta Silverbacks.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

US Women's Team Strikes North Korea Like Lightning

In the opening match of the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup for the US National Women's Soccer Team, our side defeated North Korea 2 - 0 to commence their campaign with a solid win.  Goals by unexpectred starter Lauren Cheney in the 54th minute, and by defender Rachel Buehler in the 76th minute, were enough to carry the American women past a talented, young and agressive North Korean team.

After the match, North Korean manager Kwang Min Kim attributed the loss to the fact that the Korean players had been struck by lightning.  As reported in the Ghana News, Kwang Min Kim said,

"When we stayed in Pyongyang during training our players were hit by lightning, and more than five of them were hospitalised.  Some stayed in hospital and then came to Germany later than the rest of us. The goalkeeper and the four defenders were most affected, and some midfielders as well. The physicians said the players were not capable of participating in the tournament.  But World Cup football is the most important and significant event for a footballer, so they don't want to think about anything but football.

"The fact that they played could be called abnormal, the result of very strong will." reported the BBC.

Given the secretive nature of the North Koreans, we may never know if this is true or not. The players aren't allowed to speak to the press, their training sessions are protected by security guards and closed to outsiders, and their public appearances regularly get canceled. Plus, it is curious that Kim only mentioned this freak occurrence after his team lost.

If it is true, a lightning strike that injured four defenders and disrupted their training could explain why their back line seemed to fall apart in the second half after holding the U.S. scoreless in the first. But even if it's not true, it's still a tremendous excuse that others might now try in everyday life.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Weekend Report

In addition to the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, this past weekend also saw MLS, NASL and USL-PRO league action involving all three US-based Jedi Soccer sides.

In MLS action, DC United managed to post a 2 - 2 tie with the Houston Dynamo.  The first score was in the 31st minute, when United took the lead from a Dax McCarty-Josh Wolff-Chris Pontius sequence, with Pontius finishing with a blast that sailed past a sprawling Tally Hall.  Unfortunately, 10 minutes later Houston tied it up with a Penatly Kick awarded when United Keeper Bill Hamid accidentally caught Houston's Brian Ching's foot in the box.

For much fo the rest of the match Houston dominated, but United held on and managed to post another goal in the 83rd minute, when Andy Najar danced past Houston defender Colin Clark for the score.  Regrettably, Houson posted the equalizer five minutes later, when Brian Ching took a crossed ball from the wing and put it away to even things up.  And that was the match, a 2 - 2 draw for DC United.

In NASL action, our beloved Fort Lauderdale Strikers managed also posted a draw for the weekend, a 1 - 1 affair agaisnt the Puerto Rico Islanders, despite a generally poor performance overall.  Puerto Rico scored first in the 65th minute off a header from Jonathon Fana, the first goal allowed by Strikers Keeper  Matt Glaeser in 309 minutes of play.  But in the 79th minute, the Strikers evened things up with a goal from Martin Nunez off a beautiful crossed ball from Cristian Arrieta.  Nunez, the shortest player on the team, calmly put away the header and that was the match, 1 - 1.  Despite allowing in a goal, the Strikers Matt Glaeser was named the NASL player of the week.

Fort Lauderdale's next opponent is Tampa Bay FC, AKA 'the team that should be named the Rowdies,' in the re-start of the interstate rivalry that was rescheduled from a rain out earlier this season.  Fort Lauderdale has announced a sold out stadium for the match, it should be a good show.

The final Jedi Soccer action of the weekend was in the USL-PRO league, where the Charleston Battery incredibly played two consecutive matches in two days.  Against the Wilmington Hammerheads on Friday night, the Battery was crisp, scoring two goals enroute to a nice road win; but the three hour bus ride back to Charleston was obviously not enough rest, as the next day they fell to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.  Just 6 minutes into the match, Jason Yeisley punded a shot off the crossbar, which was rebounded into the net by the unmarked Matt Tuttle.  Then, in the 64th minute the Riverhounds forward Harada collected the ball just outside of the box, quickly turning and firing for the winning goal.

This outcome is not surprising; having a team play two matches in two days is unreasonable and I cannot help but wonder how this unusual scheduling came  to pass.  But at least the Battery won their match against the Hammerheads.

DC United is now 4-5-6 on the season, in fifth place in the MLS Eastern Conference.

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers are now 3-7-2 on the season, and in 5th place in the league.

The Charleston Battery's weekend campaign brings them 7-6-3 for the season, and third place in the USL-PRO American Division.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mexico Crushes USA 4 - 2

Despite limping into the Gold Cup final with Mexico, the US National Soccer Team took a surprising 2 - 0 early in the match, only to suffer a relentless Mexican onslaught of four unanswered goals enroute to a 4 - 2 humiliation before 93,000 mostly-Mexican sympathizers yesterday in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl in Padadena California.

A beautiful corner kick from Freddy Adu let Michael Bradley glance in a header in the 8th minute, and in the 23rd minute Landon Donavon finished a pretty through ball from Clint Dempsey to put the United States up 2 - 0.  For a moment the United States was in complete control of the game and enroute to a famous victory over their CONCACAF arch-rivals from south of the border.

But the famous victory went to Mexico, beginning in the 29th minute when Pablo Barerra struck a pass from Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez to put Mexico back in the game.  Minutes later Andres Guardado tapped in the ball aftera confused melee in front of the American goal, and suddenly the score was tied.  In the 50th minute Barerra stuck an incredibly skillfull shot with the outside of his right boot, swerving the ball into the goal for the third score of the night, and the Americas were now in retreat, looking confused and disorganized.  The clincher came in the 76th minute when Giovani dos Santos brilliantly controlled the ball away from US goalkeeper Tim Howard, dancing away past two defenders before chipping in a perfectly touched ball past the despairing lunge of defenders, for Mexico's final score of the night.

What a performance by Mexico, and what a dissapointment for the US!  I have prayed for the American's to get into the habit of scoring first, so when at last the team handsomely obliged my hopes, they reveal themselves to be unable to defend against world-class talent.  And that's what Mexico has right now, with Chicharito, Guardado, Barrera and dos Santos together comprising a new 'golden age' for Mexican football.  It looks like Mexico may be set to dominate CONCACAF for the next several years.

On our side, 'the usual suspects' delivered--  Donovan, Dempsey, and Bradley.  And the good news from this tournament was the re-emergence of onetime child phenomenon Freddy Adu.  Now 22 and seasoned from the dissapointments that come from high expectations coupled with a sense of entitlement, this older and wiser version of Adu seems capable of (at last!) fulfilling all the hopes DC United once had for him.  He has probably played his way into a berth on the US National Team for the next few years.

But the rest of the team just wasn't there.  Carlos Bocanegra was showing his age (35), and it's now clear that the US cannot play defense very well in the absence of Steve Cherundolo (also 35), and that is unacceptable.  We can't be that utterly dependant on one guy's presence on the pitch, and anyway our best defensemen are near retirement. 

So whats next?  It's pretty clear now that the US has lots of decent talent in the midfield.  But on defense we have age and talent issues, and we are still not an attacking team.  The upshot has been Bradley's bunker-and-counter attack strategy, which worked well enough to get us to the final.  But even though they fell behind, the Mexican's did not abandon their attacking style of soccer, which revealed the weaknesses of the American side on either end of the pitch.

This match has shown us the future: Mexican dominance in CONCACAF for the next several years, while the American program retools. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

US to Gold Cup Final

On Wednesday night the US National Soccer team outplayed a dogged Panamanian side to avenge their earlier loss and advance to the Gold Cup final against Mexico, the third time in a row that the two CONCACAF giants will meet for the final.

With Panama clearly adopting a circle-the-wagons strategy, it too a while for the US to break them down but it finally happened in the 77th minute when Landon Donovan and Freddy Adu together fed Clint Dempsey in front of the goal, who left-foot punched in the only score of the night.  It was enough, and now the United States advances to the final.

For the second match in a row, Bob Bradley has elected to use Landon Donovan off the bench instead of a starting role, and it seems to be working out.  For his part, Landon Donovan has characteristically expressed a 'whatever-is-best-for-the-team' meantality, accepting this new role for him.  This is why it is easy to respect this player so much.

Now comes Mexico, later tonight.  The 2009 5 - 0 thrasing at the hands of the Mexicans will surely be on the teams mind tonight, but lets hope not too much

Monday, June 20, 2011

Big Weekend for Jedi Soccer

This past Fathers Day weekend was all good news here in the land of Jedi Soccer, as all of the sides we follow either won or at least tied their respective matches.

First and foremost, the US National Team has finally delivered the kind of dominant performance we all knew they could, but were worried they wouldn't.  The hero of the match was Jermaine Jones, whose hustling performance both defensively and offensively was a real pleasure to see.  His hard work-ing performance in the midfield gave the US possession dominance, and set up Jones to blast a long-range shot that gave the USA a 1 goal lead.  Jones also managed to have a red card drawn on Jamaican defender Jermaine Taylor in the 67th minute, giving the US a one man advantage.  Then, in the 80th minute Juan Agudelo sent a perfect pass to Clint Dempsey, who put away the game-winning goal for the United States.  It was a dominant performance by the US national team, and we are glad to see they have found their mojo again.  Next up is Panama, the same side that defeated the USA just eight days ago.  If this team shows up for that match, Panama will be in trouble.

Moving on to the MLS, DC United tied the ridiculously-named Real Salt Lake ('Royal Salt Lake?'  Really?), 1 - 1.  RSL took the lead in the 39th minute on a converted penatly kick from Fabian Espindola, but DC United 's Charlie Davies returned the favor in the 85th minute when he was taken down in the box by RSL defender Chris Wingert.  This brings Charlie Davies to 7 goals so far this season, and DC United to 4-5-5 and a middle-of-the-pack 5th place standing in the MLS eastern conference. 

In NASL action, our beloved Fort Lauderdale Strikers posted a 0 - 0 draw against the MLS-bound Montreal Impact, another team with a silly name (which should be 'Olympique Montreal').  The really odd thing about the Impact this season, is that they have hardly played like a side about to be advanced to the MLS next season ('promoted' is the wrong word as they did not earn it on the pitch but in the boardroom instead).  Sitting in 7th place in an 8 team league, the Impact was desperate for a win, but they didn't get it against Fort Lauderdale.  To their credit, the Impact dominated the Strikers and missed several good chances to score a goal, but the other side of the ledger was the Strikers dogged defense.  This outcome drops the Strikers to 3-6-2 for the season and 5th place overall; but it is worse for the Impact, whose less-than-inspiring performance this season, calls into question their readiness to play in the MLS.  From my perspective, the Impact is playing like a side that should be relegated to the USL-PRO league, and not promoted to the MLS.  It's more evidence of the crying need for a promotion-and-relegation system in North American soccer, if you ask me. 

Finally, we come to the USL-PRO league, whose Charleston Battery posted a 1 - 0 victory over the Dayton Dutch Lions, the newest team in the league.  Levi Coleman scored late for the Battery in the 77th minute to give them the win, advancing the team to 6-5-3 for this season, and drawing them to within one point of third place Antigua Barracuda FC in the USL-PRO National Division.  This was a good outcome for a classy little soccer franchise.

Overall, it was a good weekend in the land of Jedi Soccer, more especially because the US National Team has finally found its rythym.  All they need to do now, is ride this rythym all the way to the Gold Cup.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

USA Edges Guadalupe 1 - 0

On Tuesday night the US Natrional Soccer team edged Guadalupe 1 - 0 to advance in th CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament, thereby averting elimination from the tournament had they lost the match.

But despite this win, it is now very clear that this team is simply not clikcing on all cylinders.  The sole score of the night came in the 9th minute when Jozy Altidore unleashed a cannon shot on goal from outside the box, giving the Americans the only sciore of the night.  It was a terrific goal.

Unfortunately, it reminds us that there has been precious little goal production from Altidore until now.  This was a weird match-- on one level, the US absolutely dominated Guadalupe, outshooting them 21 - 5.  But on another level, it was painful to see, over and over, our inability to finish off scoring chances.  Landon Donovan seemed listless and failed to finish his chances, and neither did Michael BradleyClint Dempsey, Britain's favorite Texan, failed to convert any of his five chances.  Despite dominating Guadalupe, we just could not score.

And so there it is: given our history of giving up a goal before waking up and playing football, and then the recent rout by Spain and the loss to Panama and now this almost-comical performance, and its clear that the US national team has scoring problems.

So now the USA advances in the tournament.  Well that at least is good news.  However, the outcome of this tournament is now less important, than resolving the painfully obviousl scoring problems this team has shown the last few years.

We need a world-class striker up front.  Or two.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Panama Stuns USA 2 -1

On Saturday the US national soccer team lost in first round play of the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time ever, losing 2 - 1 to Panama.  It was the first time the United States has ever lost a Gold Cup first round match, in 26 previously unbeaten matches.

After the humiliating 4 - 0 loss to Spain earlier this month, US goalkeeper Tim Howard promised the team would do better in the Gold Cup.  Well, the Gold Cup tournament is here, and its not any better.  Despite an early win against Canada, the US loss to Panama is potentially disastrous not only for our Gold Cup chances, but for Coach Bradley's career as well.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times,

"First-half goals by Luis Tejada and Gabriel Gomez sparked the Central Americans to their first victory against the U.S., which lost in group play in the Gold Cup for the first time.

The win assures Panama of a berth in the quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive tournament. The U.S.... plays winless Guadeloupe in its final Group C game Tuesday at Kansas City, Kan., and is almost certain to advance as well."

The part about the US advancing may be a bit optimistic.  True, Guadalupe is winless in this tournament; but their side is actually comprised of French league veterans (Guadalupe is French territory), so it would be deulsional to think Guadalupe is a soft target.  They have professionals on their team.

Panama scored both of their goals (one on a Penalty Kick) before the US, in typical fashion, finally woke up and played football.  As we have now seen so many times before, once the team is in a hole, the Americans play with a furious intensity that sometimes brings them from behind.  On Saturday Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey all missed scoring chances, leaving it to relative US newcomer Clarence Goodson to score the American's only goal.  It was not enough, and the Panamanians chalked up a historic win for their program.

Is this the end of Bob Bradley's run with the US National Team?  Not yet--there is still the chance of a win against Guadalupe tonight.  If they win, they advance and this debacle will be forgotten, at least until the next time we are forced to play from behind.  But if they draw aginst Guadalupe, they will need Canada to defeat Panama to advance.  And if they lose, they are out of the tournament.

And if that happens, the calls for Coach Bradley's head will be loud enough to hear in my living room.  Although under Coach Bradley the US national team has exceeded all of the objectives specified in his contract, the way that the team has done so, has been downright unhealthy.  The defense is spotty, and the team never seems to realize they are on the pitch, until the other guys score first.  The subsequent furious heroics are fun to watch but no way to win a tournament.  We can't go on this way. 

We need a better defense, and we need to start scoring first.  Bradley needs to make this happen starting tonight, and then make it stick.  Or get out of the way for another Coach who will fix our obvious scoring problems.

Monday, June 13, 2011

United and the Battery Lose, but Strikers Win Big

For the fourth time this season, DC United has surrendered four goals enroute to another humiliating dissapointment and defeat.  Despite United's recent victories, their losses are becoming spectacular crash-and-burn episodes, and Saturday's performance against the San Jose Earthquakes is a typical example.  Although United went into the half tied with San Jose, in the second half the wheels came off, as United's young defensive line fell apart and the Earthquake's Steven Lenhart posted a hat trick of goals, plus an assist to teamate Chris Wondolowski for the fourth goal.  All in all it was a humiliating performance by United, made worse by being at home in front of the United faithful.

It was a similar story for Jedi Soccer's chosen division 3 side, the Charleston Battery.  Playing in Pennsylvania aginst the oddly-named Harrisburg City Islanders (the Puerto Rico Islanders is a name I can understand... but the Harrisburg City Islanders?), the Battery failed to score any goals enroute to a 1-Nil defeat.  This defeat drops the Battery to fourth place in the USL-PRO league American Division standings.

The sole joy for the weekend in the land of Jedi Soccer, came from our beloved reborn Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who downed the NSC Minnesota Stars 3-0.  As with United's match this weekend, the first half was scoreless, but in the second half the Strikers lit up the scoreboard at Lockhart Stadium.  Early in the half the Strikers winger Yoximar Granado made a run down the sideline, cutting into the box to receive the ball and send it into the net for the first score of the evening.  In the 64th minute substitute Brian Shriver came on the pitch and just 30 seconds later he received a pass from Cristian Arrieta on his chest, which he then volleyed into the net for the second goal of the night.  Then, in the 77th minute, Strikers defender Lance Laing was shown a straight red card for a two-footed tackle, leaving the Strikers a man down and in danger of letting the Stars back into the match; but in the 87th minute the victory was sealed when Abe Thompson and Brian Shriver combined for a brilliant short-handed goal, the first short-handed goal this season for the Strikers I believe.  With that, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers move to fourth place in the NASL, behind only Carolina, Minnesota and Edmonton in the league standings.

I admire the Charleston Battery but I am not so emotionally invested in them, that a loss hurts too much.  But the 4-0 thumping of DC United at RFK stadium is a painful outcome, rendered bearable only by the Strikers consolation win.  Many thanks to the Strikers for salvaging some happy news from an otherwise dreadful weekend of soccer.