Tag Archives: football

Rivalry Between Chicago Fire and New England Revolution Rekindled

For the third time this season the Chicago Fire defeated the New England Revolution.  The perennial Eastern Conference contenders are currently the top two teams in MLS and both harbor championship hopes.

But on this night—and the previous two meetings between these two teams—Chicago had New England’s number. They have won the three games by a combined score of 9-1.

This game was by far the most challenging of the three as the Fire had to come back from an early goal off the head of recently healthy striker Taylor Twellman. But thanks to a sinking knuckleball from Gonzalo Segares and a rebound from Wilman Conde, Chicago got the win and pulled to within one point of first place.

Chicago has been knocked out of the playoffs the last three seasons by the Revolution and the rivalry between these two teams seems to grow every year.

Budding rivalries like the Fire versus the Revolution are exactly what the MLS needs to continue pushing forward and improving their standing in the world of soccer.

Both Chicago and New England have been paving the road for the growth of MLS, especially in the past two seasons.

Chicago made one of the largest splashes last season when they signed Mexican international Cuauhtemoc Blanco. And they have continued their quest for international talent with the acquisitions of the Colombian, Conde, Lider Molina from Paraguay, and recently acquired Marco Pappa from Guatemala.

The Revolution have been one of the top teams in MLS over the last two seasons, finishing runner-up in the last two MLS Cups, and becoming the first MLS team to win the Superliga title.

These two teams are on the forefront, driving MLS in to the future that looks very bright. It is great to see this rivalry grow and blossom.

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Not a Soccer Blog…Top Eight From The News

Thanks to the absence of the venerable Nick and Austin, I have heard rumors of this blog turning into a “soccer blog.” While I have no problem with that, I thought I would appease all my eager fans with a mixed bag of non-soccer news.

Here are the top eight stories today and my not-so-humble opinion on them.

1. Brett Favre and the J-E-T-S? Who saw this one coming? I don’t think Favre will pull a Namath and win a Super Bowl, but I do think he takes a team that won just four games last season to the playoffs.

I also would like to see the Jets release Chad Pennington already so that the Bears can add him to their stable of unreliable, mediocre quarterbacks. One positive about Pennington: he is much better than Grossman and Orton.

The Patriots are safe on the top of this division for at least another year.

2. In honor of Landy I will delve into the Packers. This was a huge mistake. Plain and simple. ESPN’s Rachel Nicols asked the question that I would like to see answered: “Are the Packers better off with Aaron Rodgers than Brett Favre?”

How can they answer that with a yes? They have never seen Rodger play for a whole season, and while I am sure he will be decent, Favre is a Hall of Famer. There is no comparison. This is a win now league and the Packers just shot themselves in the foot.

3. Because we are The Looper I have to mention something having to do with golf don’t I? How ironic would it be if Sergio Garcia won the PGA Championship this weekend? The man that was expected to challenge Tiger Woods wins his first major with Tiger sidelined with an injury.

But, to tell you the truth, I hope he wins it. I think without the pressure of having to beat Tiger, Garcia will be loose and this could mark a significant turning point in his career if he is able to pull it out. He is just one shot off the lead after most of the field finished the first day and he is one of the top five most talented golfers there so why not?

4. Have you lost count of how many players Georgia has suspended this season already, because I have. They are named the preseason number 1 and immediately their players begin to act like they just won the National Championship.

Let me be the first to say that I don’t think Georgia will finish in the top 20. They obviously don’t have the maturity or leadership, their coach, Mark Richt, doesn’t have the experience to withstand the pressure and while their star running back, Knowshon Moreno, will be a front runner for the Heisman, he is not prepared to lead this team through the heart of an impossible SEC.

5. Can’t you see it now. Kids all over L.A. with dreadlock wigs and wearing number 99 Dodgers jerseys on Halloween as the Dodgers battle deep into the playoffs behind midseason acquisition, Manny Ramirez. So far Manny has hit four home runs in just six games and has energized this team that was struggling mightily to score runs.

I still can’t believe the Red Sox made the trade. I know Jason Bay is good—I have seen him 16 times a year when the Cubs play the Bucs—but he is not Manny. This is a team that is fighting for their playoff life and they traded away their best bat.

If they are able to overcome the Rays and withstand a run from the Yankees and make the playoffs it won’t matter but I don’t know if they will be able to without Manny in their lineup.

6. Sticking with baseball, how can I not mention the Cubs. Just a week and half ago people said they were going to fail as they fell into a tie with Milwaukee. But just five days later the Cubs were the proud owners of a four game sweep of the Brewers and a five game lead in the division.

Since that series the Cubs have continued to roll winning nine of their last 11 games. Meanwhile the Brewers have been winning but have also been fighting—Parra and Fielder’s little shoving match in the dugout the other night—and seem frustrated after not taking advantage of a great opportunity with Chicago in town for four games.

In no way am I writing off the Brewers but I do think they need to pull themselves together the rest of August in order to avoid a catastrophic collapse like we witnessed last season.

7. Why is there football on tonight? It is not that I am not ready for football—it reminds me that fall is coming and that is always a good thing—but it seems so early for people to be hitting each other.

Am I going to watch any of the games tonight? No. Maybe I will turn on the Bears game for five minutes to see Orton beat up by the Chief’s fourth string defense, but otherwise these games are absurd.

These EXHIBITION games are more for the coaches than anyone else and all the hoopla that comes from these games is completely ridiculous. The football writers need to wait until at least Labor Day, please.

8. I guess I will finish up with the Olympics, which begin tomorrow. I am excited to see the summer games. Great athletes competing in the largest competition in the world is always good time.

Highlights for me have to be whether the USA basketball team can actually win gold, Michael Phelps (why did he grow that disgusting ‘stache, by the way?) run for eight golds and how many people asphyxiate do to the poor air quality.

Should be a good time had by all.

So there you have it. Hope you enjoyed and hope that it inspired Nicks and Austins everywhere to come out and write once in a while.

Euro 2008: Spain on Their Way to The Finals

Spain is on their way to the finals of the Euro 2008 against Germany on Sunday.

No matter how many times I say that it does not get old.  It has been 44 years since Spain last won a major tournament, but Sunday they will have their chance.

The game was not pretty for the first half with both teams playing more to avoid defeat than grab the victory.  But that all changed in the second half when Xavi buried a shot/pass from Barça teammate Andres Iniesta.

From that point on it was all Spain. The Russians looked the part of the inexperienced, overmatched side and could not recover from the Spanish goal.

The goal actually made things much worse for the Russians who were suddenly forced to attack with more players and thus leaving their back line unprotected to the deadly Spanish counter attack.

A one goal lead soon expanded to two on a beautiful flick from Cesc Fabregas that found Daniel Güiza alone in the box.  Güiza chested the ball down and then used his right foot to flick the ball past the diving Igor Akinfeev.

Spain added one more goal for good measure when Iniesta found Fabregas streaking down the left hand side of the pitch.  Cesc settled and found David Silva in the box for his first goal of the tournament.

Spain now enters their biggest test of the tournament against the pre-tournament favorite Germans.

Here is a look at the keys to Spains victory over the Russians:

1. Depth

The depth of this Spanish side cannot be understated.  It was on display against Greece in the meaningless group game when 10 new players started for Luis Aragonés and won.  And it was on display again tonight

When the tournament’s top scorer, David Villa, went down with an injury in the first half, Aragonés brought on Fabregas and Spain adjusted their lineup from two strikers to a formation with Fernando Torres up top alone.

Cesc made an immediate impact—he assisted on the goals by Güiza and Silva—and controlled the midfield well along with Marcos Senna.

Fabregas, the youngest player on the Spanish squad and the star midfielder at Arsenal, will most likely take Villa’s place in the final after he was ruled out with a quad injury.

Spain will miss Villa for sure.  There is no doubt about that.  But this team is very deep and will be able to adjust.

2. Sergio Ramos and the defense

I was not a fan of the way the Real Madrid defender had played in the first four games of the tournament.  I thought he went forward too much without any results and struggled at the back.

That all changed against Russia.

Ramos got forward like always but, this time, he was incredibly dangerous.  He took on, and beat, defenders and played a few very nice crosses into the box.

But what impressed me most about Ramos was his play at the back.  Sure a few times he was beaten, but every time he fought back to win the ball.  His sure play shut down Yuri Zhirkov who has caused so many problems going forward this tournament.

The solid play by Ramos set the tone for the rest of the defense as well.  Throughout the tournament, Spain has looked shaky at the back and vulnerable, but except for a couple of early chances for the Russians, the back four were a rock.

Casillas is a great keeper.  And a goalies best friend is a solid defense and only had to save one shot against Russia.

3. Counter Attack

I have written this before, but I will say it again: Spain is at their best when they are running at teams.

They are amazing on the ball and are the best passing team in the world.  But they spend way too much time moving the ball in circles without actually accomplishing anything.

This was the story in the first half of the game.  But then things changed.

In no way am I saying the loss of Villa was a good thing, but it did cause more of the midfield players to get involved at run at goal without the ball—exactly how Xavi scored.

And then the next two goals were pure counter attacks after Russia began to push everyone forward—very reminicent of the first game between the two teams when Spain won 4-1.

Against Germany it is most likely that Torres will be up front with five midfielders behind him.  While he and Villa worked great together, Torres is better suited to working up front alone and making magic in the counter attack.

It will be something Germany will have to be weary of, especially if Spain takes the lead and Germany must push more bodies forward.

4. Superstitions

Spain is known for coming up short in every major tournament and being unable to live up to expectations.

The team seems to have shaken all of those sentiments this tournament.  First it was defeating Italy—on the dreaded June 22nd and on penalties no less.  Then came the dreaded yellow jerseys—mustard colored according to the very superstitious Aragonés—that did not seem to slow Spain down against Russia.

Now the only thing that stands in the way of Spain and breaking their “curse” is the Germans.

No matter what team lines up for Spain on Sunday, the game should be incredible.  Both teams are world powers and the game should be a true slugfest.

HALA ESPAÑA!

Mexico vs. USA

I am ashamed to say it but I only watched parts of the latest installment Duke vs. UNC. It was not because I was doing work, but because I was watching the international friendly between Mexico and the United States.

The CONCACAF rivalry has been heavily weighted in the favor of the USA lately with the boys from south of the border going winless in their last nine matches in the states.

This game was mostly of an opportunity for the managers to test out new formations and give some of their young players the chance to get on the field and experience the excitement and pressure of this ever-growing rivalry.

For the USA, we got a look at the future in 18-year-old Jozy Altidore, who made his first start for the team and if coach Bob Bradley knows whats good for him, Altidore will be in the starting 11 from now on.

Not only did Altidore score the second goal for the USA but he reeked havoc all day and made the Mexican defense look old and slow.

Another 18-year-old who impressed was second half sub Freddy Adu. Not only did he bring a spark but his moves in stopage time that made two Mexican defenders look stupid and set up a final scoring chance for the USA, but he was a creative force all around.

On the Mexican side, the future looks so very bright.

During last year’s Copa America Nery Castillo ripped some of the best national teams in the world and is one of the best strikers in the world.

And while he and Andres Guardado were not in this game they are the core of a group of young attacking Mexican players that are honing their skills overseas.

Two young players for El Tri that were on the field in Houston were Carlos Vela who gashed the flanks of the USA defense all night long and Gio Dos Santos.

The team experienced no decline when manager Hugo Snachez took out Vela in favor of Barcelon’s Dos Santos, who many say will someday supplant Ronaldinho as Braça’s attacking midfielder.

The USA has had the best of the Mexicans of late but that could soon change. As soon as El Tri have their four young stars aligned the world has to watch out.

With Dos Santos and Guardado on the wings and Vela and Castillo up top, the Mexicans will be a force to contend with not only in CONCACAF but in the World Cup and beyond.

Mexico has the higher profile players performing well overseas but with the signs that Altidore and Adu showed as well as the skills 20-year-old Michael Bradley has shown in Europe mean the US will keep the rivalry alive and thriving for years to come.

Only in Green Bay

Coming from Chicago I am taught to hate the Green Bay Packers. They are the Bears chief rival and up until recent years they had our number.

Since Lovie Smith took over as Chicago’s head coach the tide has shifted as he has made good on his promise to vanquish the Cheese Heads to the north.

Even this year, a down year for the Bears and a year when Brett Favre looks like he is 25 again, Da Bears got the best of their NFC North foes, TWICE.

I have the utmost respect for Favre but I can not stand the Packers as a whole and even worse are Green Bay fans.

Generally I have no problem with people from Wisconsin. Actually I think they are all around great people.

So maybe it is the water in Green Bay or something, but whatever it is, the fans are idiots!

Just another example is recent AP story about a man who duct taped a #4 Favre jersey to his 7-year-old son because he refused to wear it on Saturday when the Packers faced the New York Giants. [full story here]

Are you kidding me?