Monday, July 30, 2012

Spain Bombs Out of Olympics

From the Chicago Tribune:

Spanish soccer fans were forced to confront a rare case of failure on Monday after their Olympic side crashed out of the London Games without scoring a goal.

Shock group D defeats to Japan and Honduras, both by a 1-0 scoreline, sent the Spanish packing, El Mundo, perhaps slightly prematurely, declaring "a return to the dark ages" on Monday.

Sports daily Marca more circumspectly lamented "a sad end for a team that arrived at the Games full of hope and aspirations".

The Spanish players were furious with Venezuelan referee Juan Soto after he turned down two penalty claims in the second half on Sunday in Newcastle.

After Spain's senior side majestically swept aside all before them at the World Cup and European championships, their under-23 side presented an ugly image to the world by angrily surrounding the referee at the final whistle.

"Spain said goodbye to the Games with a dismal cocktail," Marca wrote, complaining of "bad luck, bad refereeing and a terrible image at the final whistle as a result of the buildup of tension during the match."

Spain's exit deprived them of a chance to add an Olympic title to their world and European crowns, which had helped lift a country struggling with rising unemployment, sweeping austerity measures and a banking crisis.


El Pais daily said the Olympic team's performance in London, and the players' behavior towards the match officials, had damaged the image of Spanish soccer.

"Football has never gone well with the Olympics, but with the soccer brand that currently sets the country apart it was the right time to return the sport to the summit it scaled in 1992," the paper wrote, a reference to the gold medal triumph at the Barcelona Games.

"But it not only fell off a cliff, it did so verging on the ridiculous against opponents of little pedigree like Japan and Honduras. A total failure."

Writing in As sports daily, columnist Alfredo Relano compared Spain's flop to times past.

"It was a step backwards, a trip down the time tunnel that reminds us that everything wasn't always so great," he wrote.

"That we have experienced exceptional times and we have to be prepared for when they come to an end."

El Mundo described the shock of seeing Spain humiliated on the soccer field after a period of unprecedented success as "a fearsome blow to the stomach, one which leaves you winded".

Former Spain striker Fernando Morientes acknowledged that the Olympic side had not been "up to the task" but said he had faith the young squad, most of whom helped Spain win the European Under-21 title last year, would come good.

"This team is an exceptional group in every sense and it would be wrong to apportion blame," Morientes wrote in El Mundo.

"They are sure to bring us a lot of joy. We have faith in them, they are the future."

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Return of the Cosmos !


"What was old is new again ... or something like that. The New York Cosmos, still arguably the most recognizable brand in American soccer despite a nearly 30-year absence, will be returning to the NASL in 2013, the league announced on Thursday. They will be the ninth team in the league, which will admit Ottawa as team No. 10 in 2014.

"The history of the Cosmos and soccer in the New York City area are intertwined," NASL Commissioner David Downs said in a statement. "Bringing the Cosmos into the NASL is a logical next step as we embrace the heritage of our own past and now reunite the Cosmos, Strikers, Rowdies and several markets with ties to the NASL’s early days. Most importantly, we look forward to the Cosmos enhancing the quality of our league both on and off the field."

There are still some rather significant details of the Cosmos' return to be worked out, the biggest of which is where they'll play home games. There have been several rumored sites for a potential home, but there was a notable absence of anything official in the release.

During their heyday, the Cosmos were drawing crowds of nearly 50,000 to Giants Stadium. Players like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia helped lead them to a record five Soccer Bowl titles and made them the most successful team during the original iteration of the NASL.

The Cosmos name has lived on more as a branding idea than anything else, and previous attempts to relaunch have failed spectacularly. Their most significant moment in recent history was probably a group of former stars suiting up in Cosmos gear to play against Manchester United in Paul Scholes' testimonial last year. This move heralds their most significant step toward returning to top flight soccer, though.

"The owners of the Club are committed to running the team to the highest professional standards both on and off the field," Cosmos Chairman Seamus O'Brien said on the team's website. "As we look to the future, on a national and international stage, we remain conscious of the Club's unique and unmatched history, and the role this has played in the lives of so many of our fans. It is with this legacy in our heart that we set our minds to the future."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

United Returns to Form

From :

Here's a bit of Major League Soccer-related conventional wisdom: win most of your home games and average at least one point on the road, and you'll be in the playoffs come November.

In recent years, D.C. United seems to have forgotten that formula, losing at home—often in heartbreaking fashion. Over the past couple of campaigns, the Black and Red have been downright awful at RFK Stadium, going 7-16-9 while watching its attendance numbers dwindle in return.

This season, however, has been a completely different story. With a home record of 7-1-2, DCU has already matched its win total from the previous two campaigns and is making the venerable stadium a fortress once again. The club continued its winning ways on Saturday evening, trouncing the Montreal Impact 3-0 in front of its largest (and sweatiest) crowd of the year—18,032 people.

The victory—combined with a Sporting Kansas City Loss and Red Bull tie—allowed United to reclaim sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference.

"It's great," midfielder Chris Pontius said after the match when asked about his side's home performance. "It's the one thing for our fans and this organization, every one of our goals this year is to take back RFK and make it a fortress to play against us this year, and I think we've done that. "

United's goals remain clear. "We always say if we win at home then we find the road to be a playoff team," Pontius shared after the match. "So, we are winning at home and we are doing all right on the road as well. We need to get a couple more results on the road and boost ourselves and create the gap between us and some of the top teams in the East."

United's July looks nearly empty—the club will travel to Houston on July 15 for its next match, and will play at Columbus the following week. We won't see them at RFK in a league match until early August. If you need your DCU fix before then, though, you'll have your opportunity on July 28 when the club takes on Frencdh powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain.

One thing is for sure—if United keeps its current form, we'll have to stop talking about the team as a playoff possibility and start talking about it as a cup contender.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spain Reigns in Ukraine !

The Spanish national football team has once again demonstrated their dominance over Europe this past weekend, crushing Italy 4 - 0 enroute to a historic repeat as European Champions and their third consecutive major international tournament victory in a row.  This unprecedented achievement catapults Spain into the 'Greatest Team Ever' debate, without a doubt, as no other nation-- not even mighty Brazil -- has achieved three major championships in a row.

Even without standout striker David Villa and defensive captain Carles Puyol, the Spanish were imperious and unstoppable.  David Silva collected a beautiful cross by Cesc Fabregas in the 14th minute and scored the first goal.  Then, a few minutes later, Xavi Hernandez sprung the offside trap that let Jordi Alba find the back of the net, essentially putting the game away by halftime. 

The early moments of the second half saw the Italians coalesce and launch some dangerous attacks on the Spanish goal by striker Mario Balotelli, but the outstanding goalkeeping of Iker Casillas once again saved the Spanish from conceeding any goals.  At the age of 31, Iker Casillas has now won five league titles, two Champions League trophies, one Copa del Rey, two European Championships and a World Cup.  No wonder Spaniards call him 'Saint Iker.'

And then the wheels fell off for Italy.  In the 62d minute, substitute Thiago Motta limped off the field with a pulled hamstring, leaving Italy down one man.  With the chance to put the game away, the Spanish attacked mercilessly, as substitutes Fernando Torres and then Juan Mata scored two more late goals to complete Italy's misery.

After the match, the Italians were philosophical.  "Against Spain, you accept losing more easily," said Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon. "It was a great adventure. In a final, you have to win but today we played against a team of incredible quality."

So now it is official: Spain is the defining national team of our era.  Are they the greatest ever ?  No one can say for sure; but we have now reached the point where that is a legitimate question.  The absolute dominance of Spain over the international soccer scene over the last four years is undisputed and has defined an era.

All that remains now, is another World Cup victory in Brazil in two years.  Viva Espana !!!