Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who We're Buying A Beer For...

Dunno if he'll give you a beer, but we will!
Oh, man.... we still run this column? You bet! The beer-buying is back and we've got a whole slew of honorees to hand out cold brew too.

Same rules as always as we give thanks and kudos to those helping the great game of soccer in America.

1) MLS Upsets

If there's one thing that gets sports fans interests' up it's seeing the little guy triumph over the giants of the sporting world. David versus Goliath. We've never seen a number sixteen seed take down a number one seed in the NCAA basketball tournament, but when it comes to Major League Soccer and their (often times assinine) playoffs; all bets are off.

We've not even going to get into the "Geography Fail" that the playoffs are, but for suspense and upsets MLS can't be beat.

Exhibit A: New York Red Bulls have all the glitz and glimmer that befits a team based (just outside) in the Big Apple. Two Designated Players in French international Thierry Henry and Mexican international Rafa Marquez, and shinny new stadium, and the financial commitment from a major corporate sponsor. Unstoppable, right?

Enter the San Jose Earthquakes. They Bay Area side slide into the eight and final playoff spot on the back of league-leading scorer Chris Wondolowski. Over two-legs of their first-round playoff match the Earthquakes shook the Red Bulls defense to the core. Down 1-0 at home, San Jose rebounded to bounce out to a 3-0 lead (en route to a 3-2 aggregate win) on New York in Red Bull Arena. Even though Wondo found the score sheet in the second-leg it was USMNTer (probably worthy of another look from Coach Bradley) that was the fuel to the Quakes fire.

The little engine that could.

Exhibit B: The Columbus Crew took all the spoils in the Eastern Conference with 50 points and they've advanced out of group play to the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals, but all that was just window dressing as they fell to the fifth placed Western Conference team, the Colorado Rapids. 2010 is the year the "West Is Best". Despite crawling back to tie the series score 2-2, the Rapids were able to triumph in penalties.

Exhibit C: Last year Real Salt Lake got to player spoiler in the MLS Playoffs leading to their first ever MLS Cup, but this season they had the targets on their backs. FC Dallas, owners of one of the best home forms in 2010, rode that to pull out a 2-1 win a Pizza Hut Park. On the road they were able to use Dax McCarthy's first post-season goal to squeeze out a 3-2 aggregate series win over the defending champions.

Even though Los Angeles went into the 2010 playoffs with the Supporter's Shield owning the league's best points total, the Seattle Sounder we're one of the season's second half's hottest teams. No upset here; just quality soccer.

Three of four of the first-round MLS Playoff match ups showed that for excitement and underdog-rooting, American soccer is you one-stop-shop. And that's brew-worthy.

Maribel Dominguez (goal scorer
 in the 3rd min) and Co. handled the USWNT cooly.
2) Mexican Women's National Team

Losing sucks. Losing to Mexico really sucks. Having a lose to Mexico throw a huge wrench into your World Cup qualifying plans really, really sucks.

On Saturday night, the United States Women's National Team looked to be in the driver's seat heading into their Gold Cup semi-final against regional rivals, Mexico. The USWNT had outscored their group opponents 18-0, has never lost to the southern neighbors, and owned the world's number one FIFA ranking.

History means nothing when the whistle blows and Mexico took the game to their continental counterparts. The Lady Nats looked very much like their male counterparts giving up a third minute goal and then clawing back for the tying scoring. It only took two minutes for El Tri to find the lead and the final tally of the match to end it, 2-1.

Even though we'd hate to give too much kudos to Mexico we think that this loss, one of the biggest in women's soccer history, will play to the USWNT's advantage. The U.S. team has sat atop the FIFA rankings for years now and never falling lower than number two. We hardly think the loss will drop them further than second-best, but hopefully it gives the side and their coach, Pia Sundhage, some perspective and some drive moving forward.

Last night, the Lady Nats completed part one of their qualifying comeback, defeating Costa Rica in the third place match, 3-0. They'll face Italy in an away-and-home playoff on November 20th and 27th, respectively for one spot in the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany.

Here's to Mexio (hopefully the last time we've got to say that) for, hopefully, setting the America's head on straight and rebooting their World Cup drive.

3) Abby Wambach

Did you see what happened to Wambach in the USWNT match against Mexico? The Lady Nats' star foward went heavy into a challenge near the end of regulation and bashed her skull open.

USSoccer.com's USWNT Blog takes it from here:
U.S. forward Abby Wambach suffered a gash on the left side of her forehead in the waning moments of the USA's semifinal loss last night to Mexico. The team medical staff had to insert several large staples to close the gushing wound, but there wasn't enough time left on the clock for her to get back on. Back at the team hotel, Wambach received 13 stitches on her forehead and leading up above her hairline.
Staples! Are you kidding me??!?!? And this isn't first time that Wambach's been counted among the walking wounded. She played on after getting mashed in a first-round match in the 2007 World Cup against North Korea as well.

We're ready to put Ms. Abby in the Brian McBride Wing of the "American Soccer School of Hard Knocks".

Put a cold beer on the gash. We promise it will feel better.

Photo Credits: MLSSoccer.com, USSoccer.com, LegendsOfBeer.com

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