Monday, October 31, 2011

John Harkes is... The Commentator

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Editor's Note: With all due respect and a thousand plaudits to "Dirty Tackle" (It's only fair... they spun off one of our series, too) we present the potentially true life and times of America's favorite soccer commentator, John Harkes.


A few years back I decided to start my own blog. You know... a little "let's get inside ol' Johnny's head" sorta thing. Share a few ESPN-free thoughts, highlight some music that I'm listening too.. like my buddy Alexi does. Then before I really could get going I ran into a little trouble and had to lay low for awhile. You know... a little "life happens" sorta thing.

Anyways... now that the Eric Wynalda "slander machine" has been dialed down I can get back to writing. It reminds me a lot of back in 2002 when I was playing with the Columbus Crew. I was struggling with injuries so I decided to quit... I mean... retire from soccer. You know a little "when the going gets tough, the tough get going away from the things that are tough" sorta thing.

But I'm back! Like when I came back from not playing to commentate on people who are playing like I was still playing. On Fox Soccer and then ESPN and then my bathroom mirror and then ESPN again. Can't hold ol' Harkesy down.

You might be wondering what the deal is with the split photo at the top of the post is all about? Or not. Either way I'm going to tell you. It's one of the perks of following the ol' Harkes-inator through this blog. See the thing is I'm just never sure when a soccer game might break out so underneath piece of clothing I wear I've got an old jersey on. If I ever loosened my tie on the tee-vee then you might be able to catch a glimpse of it!

You know... a little "Superman" sorta thing.

I figure... hey... this car has some gas left in the tank and why not take the ol' Harkes-mobile out for a spin every once in awhile. I can't just be sitting by the ol' Harkes Bat-Phone waiting for Major League Soccer to have a "Legends" game again. You know... a little "grab the bull by the horns" sorta thing. Only I'm grabbing soccer games by the horns....

I don't think that metaphor is working...

But, yeah, I'm jumping in games all up and down the Northeast when I'm not on the tee-vee with that jabber-box Ian Darke or hiding from that hit-man that bastard Wynalda set out on me. Weekend warrior pick-up games, co-ed indoor soccer, youth tournaments... you name it, the Harkesy is out there. Playing like a true number six should.

Hey... I gotta wrap this up. I'm not really even supposed to be on a computer right now. I'm at ESPN HQ in Bristol right now and "technically" I'm not allowed on company property "at this moment", "pending an investigation" into "certain vending machine accusations".

Until next time.... remember 1989!


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VIDEO - USMNT Halloween in Mexico

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So the U.S. Soccer account tweeted out this video today of the USWNT in Mexico during Women's World Cup qualifying last October. Maybe we just missed it the first time around, but this is pretty funny.

Particularly Abby Wambach's Pia Sundhage "costume" and then the camera panning over to the coach who's mowing down on ice cream (probably?).

Who else wants to see Alex Morgan as a real beach babe and not just some silly t-shirt?

OK... everyone... put your hands down. Settle down!


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MLS Fight Night - Rafa Leaves His Marquez

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Editor's Note: Before we even write anything... let's get this out of the way... Everyone's favorite American soccer commentator with his best line ever (that's not really saying much with that), "Marquez fell. Maybe a fly got into his eye."

Watching Major League Soccer highlights last night one might think hockey season broke out. Sporting KC's Kei Kamara mixing it up against Matt Pickens and the Colorado Rapids was the nightcap, but the undercard in the early evening proved to be the most compelling.

The American soccer world is buzzing about the post-game handbags between New York Red Bulls Rafael Marquez and LA Galaxy's Juninho. One of the league's DPs in a brouhaha with the Galaxy's midfield cog.

The whole incident (video embedded at the end of the post) started at the final whistle when Marquez, with a history of animosity towards American internationals, threw the game ball at Landon Donovan. There's been some dispute as to whether the Red Bull midfield was throwing the ball back to the ref or at Donovan, but it seems pretty unlikely that the latter explanation outweighs the former.

Either way, Adam Cristman jumped to Donovan's defense, leading Marquez and Galaxy forward to exchange poorly thrown punches (Cristman got a good couple of shoves in there, but man Marquez whiffed). Midfielder Juninho arrives on the scene and as both teams involved themselves in the fray and a trailing elbow (maybe? hard to see...) from the Brazilian struck New York's Stephen Keel. The defender took a theatrical tumble and, Marquez, seemingly mentally attached to Keel, did so too, under some sort of phantom contact from an unknown assailant.

The instigator now became the victim.

Donovan had plenty of choice words for the behavior and play of the Red Bulls squad, alleging their East Coast rivals are a "cheap team". 

On the plus side... David Beckham was able to avoid getting into the fight. That's incredible self-restraint from the man.

In the end, though, this is all about Rafael Marquez and his continual immature behavior. The former Mexican international has a bad reputation of for these types of incidents from the Cobi Jones headbutt to the karate kick to Tim Howard. Earlier in the season he criticized his New York teammates for not being good enough and was suspended for a match for the remarks. 

In his two seasons with the Red Bulls Marquez has solidified himself on the "busts" list of MLS designated players, notching just two goals and six assists and generating quite a lot of accusations of being lazy and unproductive for his side.

Red Bull coach Hans Backe deserves some blame, naming Marquez captain upon his return from suspension and rolling out bizarre rosters (16 players, anyone?) and tactics that would (and have) frustrated any marquee player (ask Theirry Henry how happy he's been this season).

So maybe Rafa wanted to be done with the 2011 season? Maybe he was just tossing the ball back to the ref? Maybe he's kind of a jerk? 

Either way Marquez isn't what New York needs in its midfield for 2012 and building for the future (next season the Mexican will be 33) and so why not get it done and over with now. Red Bulls have the money to go out and look for a new DP with less baggage and more motivation. The long-suffering fans of New York deserve better than watching a side struggle and slough through this sort of drama.


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Friday, October 28, 2011

EVENT - American Outlaws Bastrop Ball Drop

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Photo Credit: Denna Roy
In September, fueled by months of drought and high winds, wildfires swept across Central Texas destroying thousands of acres of forest, parks, farmland, and homes. Thousands were evacuated and many lost their homes. Many, nationwide, opened their hearts and wallets, to aid the victims of some of the nation's, and most definitely, Texas' most deviating wildfires in 2011.

Thousands of dollars and hours of time spent is being donated to help fund the clean up and rehabilitation of an area south-east of Texas' capital city Austin. Two weeks ago a music concert was held to help support these efforts, drawing over 16,000 people and raising over a half millions dollars. In the "live music capital of the world" this was just what they do; use music to support others.

Austin soccer community was no different as the United States soccer supporters group, the American Outlaws, launched an effort to push its local and national members to donate soccer balls to help those who lost the most return to a sense of normalcy. While a soccer ball and a chance to play again might not seem like much to the casual observer, soccer fans know the power of their sport to help heal and donated soccer balls by the hundreds.

This Sunday, October 30th, national leaders from the American Outlaws will join Austin-area soccer and community leaders in a "ball drop" for youth players. The event will take place at Bob Bryant Park in Bastrop (600 Charles Blvd.) where the balls will be handed out to local soccer players and a kick-around will occur.

The event is fueled by a unique partnership between the Outlaws and philanthropic company, Little Feet. Little Feet operates much like the shoe company, TOMS, where individuals can purchase a soccer ball and one will be donated to a cause of the person's choice.

The Outlaws and Little Feet have even collaborated to produce an supporters-specific soccer ball for the organization's members. Beyond Bastrop AO chapters across the country have taken up the cause purchasing soccer balls for local community projects as well.

Since this is in the FBM's backyard, we'll be on hand to cover the event and will post photos, video, and interviews.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO THE AMERICAN OUTLAWS-LITTLE FEET.


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Omar Cummings, yo!

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We've been waiting a while to use this one, but Colorado Rapids forward Omar Cummings tallied his first playoff goal and only his fourth of the season to push his side past Columbus Crew, 1-0, and book home and away dates against Sporting KC.

If the Jamaican international gets hot (and we all know that the MLS Playoffs is all about getting hot) will the KC backline look a little like this?

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?

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We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

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By Abram Chamberlain / "Front Office Blog"

There’s nothing more American than bad sports movie clichés: the undisciplined team in search of a coach, the player who’s personal faults get in the way of his own success, and thelittle team who shocks the world.  Yet finding these tropes playing out in real life is difficult, if not near impossible.

As heroic as Willie Mayes Hayes looks jumping up the wall to save his team from a homerun, it’s not the same feeling we get while watching Carl Crawford do the a similar job. We watch sports movies and ignore their clichés, because we want life to imitate art, but it rarely does. Yes, we know that Woody and Wesley will always make up in time to beat The King and Duck, Hickory High School will always win the Indiana State
Basketball Championship, Ricky Vaughn will always get Clu Haywood swinging, but the climaxes are enthralling every time.

We care for these players and they're not even real.  In those worlds these fictional characters make less money than us. In those worlds these fictional characters make everlasting memories that get engrained in our consciousness.  In those worlds the actions of these fictional characters draw everyone, the crowd, the team, the communities, the families – except for Rosie Perez- back together.  The only sport that comes close to the clichés is American soccer.

This is why Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria is better than Roy Hobb’s homerun.  It is why the 2009 Confederations Cup against Spain was more powerful than Rocky Balboa finally taking down Apollo Creed.  It is why RSL’s loss to Monterrey in the second leg of the 2010 CONCACAF Champions League Final was more devastating than watching the Permian Panthers fall just short of their ultimate goal -poor referring and all. And
while MLS is not the best league in the world I cheer for them, because as sports movies have shown us repeatedly everyone loves the rough, rugged runt. Just look at Tanner in The Bad News Bears.

Why American soccer?

Because everyone doubts America’s abilities as a soccer nation (Gridiron Gang).  Because Spain is better (Miracle).  Because of second half comebacks in the 2010 World Cup (Diggstown). Because of the failures at the 2011 Gold Cup (Sunset Park). Because of last second hail maries to Juan Agudelo against Argentina (The Replacement). Because everyone loves an underdog (every sports movie since the original Karate Kid).

Everyone loves the sports movie cliché, and no sport brings these clichés to life better than the beautiful game as played by Americans in America.



About Aaron


He is a soccer contributor for "Front Office Blogs". You can follow him on Twitter as well.

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Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?

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We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

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By Chris Billig / "Gay 4 MLS"


Why American soccer?

Because no other sports culture is such a testament to its nation’s great diversity.

America is a nation of immigrants, and true to that tradition, Major League Soccer is a league of immigrants. At the start of the 2011 season, 38 percent of players on the league’s rosters were born outside of the United States and Canada, adding the first players from China and Israel and representing 57 nations in total. These figures make the MLS the most diverse league in our country. Clubs get high marks when it comes to diversity in hiring in national studies. But forget the statistics; for me it’s more about the feeling of pride I get when I see the series of flags representing players’ home countries adorning PPL Park’s River End during Philadelphia Union home games.

It’s the pride in diversity through displays like this that really makes us special. Major League Soccer made “Embrace the Colors” the cornerstone of a past marketing campaign. The delegation making the case to FIFA last fall for a World Cup in the USA boasted the diversity of our nation and within the sport as a part of their efforts.  Even our Commander in Chief acknowledged the Colorado Rapids’ diversity when they visited the White House this summer:  This is like a mini United Nations right here,” President Obama remarked. “You’ve got players from Argentina, England, France, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Scotland, and Senegal.”

The diversity in soccer’s fan base is something special too, even for the tensions it can sometimes bring. There are the vansful of suburban youth soccer players herded by their parents and coaches and the scores of latino fans who bring along the traditions of the soccer fan communities of Mexico, Central, and South America. And for me as a fan, diversity amongst the fan base means being welcomed as a gay man by the local soccer supporters groups to which I belong.  

And when it comes to the LGBT community, all sports have far to go, but America’s soccer community has taken some great strides this year and achieved some notable firsts. This July the Columbus Crew became the first American pro sports team to co-host a gay sports tournament with their Pride Cup. Chivas USA’s Michael Lahoud and Justin Braun are the first pro sports teammates to pose together for a NO H8 Campaign photograph leading up to Major League Soccer’s first Equality Night at the Home Depot Center. (Braun scored a hat trick against Houston that night.) The Sounders participated in a Seattle-wide pro sports video for the It Gets Better project and DC United became the first MLS team to make one on their own supporting LGBT youth. These efforts make me proud beyond words to be an American soccer supporter.

So from race and ethnicity to gender and sexual orientation, diversity within the sport will always be a work in progress. But right now it’s the biggest answer I have to “Why American Soccer?”

About Chris

Chris Billig is a soccer supporter in Austin, TX, where he helps run the city's American Outlaws chapter. He is working on starting a blog with a gay slant on American soccer, currently Tweeting at @gay4mls and posting at gay4mls.tumblr.com.


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Brews And Views Series: Why American Soccer?

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We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

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By Eric Betts / The Other 87 Minutes



Or rather, why soccer?

Soccer isn’t my favorite because it’s the lovable underachieving sport, or because the cool kids, the beautiful people, the sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies or dickheads love it and think it’s a righteous sport, Ed.

I love it more than the others because I believe the mechanics of the game are more refined, more entertaining to watch and participate in. The game is better, the same way Monopoly is better than Battleship or the jungle gym better than the see-saw. And because I believe that, I also believe that the game can speak for itself; that the key draw beneath the advertising and the branding and even the free beer is the soccer. That the game will spread as the understanding of it spreads. That to know soccer is to love it. 
Because make no mistake. Our game is superior.

It’s not just because the action is continuous, with fewer and shorter breaks than nearly every other major sport, though that certainly doesn’t hurt. I’ve already written on our site about how the average football telecast features 11 minutes of gameplay and 17 minutes of replays and the average baseball game consists of somewhere between 55 and 500 distinct moments of gameplay, each lasting between 0.396 seconds, in the case of a 103-mph fastball, and 30 seconds, in the case of a David Ortiz home run waddle, which we’re generously counting as gameplay in order to make a point. Compare that to soccer, where it’s 90 - (TAS - STA) or 90 minutes minus (time actually stopped minus stoppage time allotted). The common complaint from the non-fan — “But they’re not doing anything!” — really means they’re not doing anything that can be quantified for the non-fan to understand. But continuous play is just the means to an end, not the end in itself. That we have so much action makes soccer better; it isn’t why soccer is better.

The key to all ball sports is the manipulation of space. From billiards to basketball, tennis to team handball, controlling the space in which the game is played in the surest way to victory. We don’t always think of sports this way. Even the kids on the U8 team I’m coaching this fall see it in the negative, as the absence of opposition from a particular zone rather than the positive, the presence of open space. We talk of shaking your man, of getting open; of pulling your opponent around the court, of hitting it where they ain’t. We’re talking about space.

Teams battle to control that space within certain limitations of their game. This limitation, in my experience, is the sticking point for many of soccer’s detractors, at least the ones who aren’t just complaining that soccer players aren’t doing anything. This prohibition on the use of hands seems to them to be insurmountable.

Football has limits built throughout its rules — about the forward pass, about receiver eligibility, about the ball not being allowed to touch the ground — but the biggest is one of time. Play is so easy to stop that there is very little time for the offense to accomplish anything before they have to start again, hopefully a little bit further down the field. The time limit is so brief as to constrain independent thought; that’s why football teams leave the thinking up to their quarterbacks and coaches, and require other players to merely execute or follow their own decision trees. A football player doesn’t have time to figure out what his teammates are doing; he has to know immediately, and so the sport is prescribed and decisions assigned according to its caste system.

In basketball, the limitation isn’t time but space. A basketball court is a small area for ten large men to run around in, one that’s getting smaller as the players get larger, and so the challenge becomes about overcoming density. The space required to operate is at a premium, but basketball is also the sport that requires the least amount of space. The most common way for players to create space is to use the z-axis: can’t go around them, can’t go through them, have to go over them. Another is to take advantage of that density with plays like pick and rolls, backdoor cuts or three point specialists who run around four different screens before catching and uncorking their shot. They collide bodies into one another in order to ensure there isn’t a body waiting at the point where they wish to score.

Soccer’s limitation is actually less constricting than either of these. It only checks how you can manipulate the ball, not what you can do with it or where or when. There is space for players to exploit not just as individuals but as a unit, and there is time for them to think and solve problems rather than simply executing someone else’s dictum before the man with the ball gets killed.

That freedom leads to what was called earlier in this series “moments.” Moments are better than highlights; a highlight is impressive, a moment makes your jaw drop. Typically moments have something extra about them. Usain Bolt’s 9.58 in Berlin in 2009 was a highlight, but his 9.69 in Beijing, the one where he started celebrating with 20 yards to go in a race for the Olympic gold medal, was a moment.

In soccer, that something extra is not just that the stakes of scoring are so much higher, it’s often an idea. The highlights of other sports are typically physical, a combination of athleticism and technique. With the time and space limitations, that’s what those players have the ability to do. The highlights of soccer often have a mental component: a nugget of creativity at their heart. It’s the defense-splitting pass, the crossfield ball that sets a man 40 yards away free on goal, the two touches taken to get around three defenders. The way the physical blends with the artistic.

These moments aren’t limited to the soccer you watch on TV. You can have them in pickup or in indoor play, kids can make their moments in rec or travel ball. They’re a little slower, a little sloppier, but they’re the kind of plays you remember for the rest of the season, if not the rest of your life.

It’s great that American soccer is on the rise; it’s fun to get to root not just for a team, but for an entire sport to succeed. But ultimately, that means little. If our sport was as popular as water polo, jai alai or korfball, we’d still be there to coach, watch and play it.

It’s the best game in town.



[1] With the exception, interestingly enough, of dodgeball, where the spaces are rigidly defined between teams. When I was 11, some friends and I invented a version of dodgeball that we played after Boy Scout meetings. I’ll go to my grave convinced that our version is superior.



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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Tuesday 10: Halloween Costume Edition

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With everyone's favorite spooky holiday coming up next Monday, we thought we'd take the opportunity to give you some ideas for soccer-related Halloween get-ups. If you want, just put "Sexy" in front of each of the names and adjust accordingly. 


1. The Dirk Kuyt – Recycle your costume from that time you were Sloth from “The Goonies.” Run around a lot.
The Francesc Satorra: Pretty easy, right?
2. The Francesc Satorra – Recycle your costume from that time you were Borat. Whenever possible, stand directly behind two people engaged in conversation and stare down at them dispassionately.
3. La Liga – Get some friends and all wear a Malaga, Bilbao, Villareal, etc. jerseys. Carry signs that say “We are the 90%.”
4. The Andy Carroll – Attach a fake ponytail. Drink a lot. Do nothing else.
The Carlos Tevez: Strike down upon thee with what? I don't know what you're talking about.
5. The Carlos Tevez – Go all out putting together a really awesome costume, like, for instance, Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction. Then, adamantly refuse to say anything relating to Ezekiel 25:17, any line from the movie, or anything in a Sam Jackson voice, and ignore anyone’s references to the movie.  
6. The Pele – Wherever you end up going, try to charge them a cover before you’ll go in.
7. The David Beckham – Make a grand entrance wherever you’re going, then run off to one, two, or three other parties, returning each time more bummed out than the last. 
8. The Hope Solo, Captain of the Millenium Falcon – One for the ladies: Black vest, blaster pistol, goalie gloves.
9. The Julio Baptista: Pick your favorite Beast: X-Men or Beauty and the...
Nicolas Anelka: The Incredible Sulk
10. Nicolas Anelka, The Incredible Sulk: Wear purple pants. Paint self green. Stand in the corner with your best pouty face. 

About "The Other 87 Minutes"

What is this new site we're exposing you too? We'll let them explain:

The Other 87 seeks to provide something that’s not instant analysis or eve of matchday previews. Think of us as the good bits of your favorite soccer coverage: the profiles that examine what makes a certain player tick, the historical background that sheds some light on how the sport has evolved to the present day, the silly features that are more than just tacking names on a list, but considering and explaining why each one deserves to be there.
O87 wants to be a home for soccer writing that makes you think, but that also treats the game as just that, a game. The greatest game, the one we obsess over and fixate on, to the point where we can’t read that gas costs 3.43 a gallon without thinking of Ajax’s 1995 Champions League winning team. But a game nonetheless.
“When you play a match, it is statistically proven that players actually have the ball three minutes on average. The best players – the Zidanes, Ronaldinhos, Gerrards – will have the ball maybe four minutes. Lesser players – defenders – probably two minutes. So, the most important thing is: what do you do those 87 minutes when you do not have the ball…. That is what determines whether you’re a good player or not.” –Johann Cruyff

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VIDEO - Top Ten Major League Soccer Goals of 2011

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Bask in their glory.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

We Dare You to Get a "October Madness" MLS Playoffs Brackett Challenge Going at the Office

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Why wait until March to experience the thrill of guessing wrong about sports? With the Major League Soccer playoffs "kicking off" on Wednesday night (play-in game, anyone?), tomorrow is the perfect time to pass this handy bracket around the ol' water cooler and get your co-workers into the semi-shady world of sports betting a few months early.

Cash prizes, Happy Hour drinks, and/or privileged parking spaces could all be up for grabs among your soccer newbie colleagues!

Seriously... we dare you to do this...


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Friday, October 21, 2011

Going Suds Up: The Best Soccer, The Best Beers

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By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer and Aston Villa Correspondent



Sometimes soccer just provides an excuse to drink – and drink a lot. Like MLS this weekend. Is there a point to the final matches? New York Red Bulls’ win over Philadelphia Union on Thursday night meant they clinched the final playoff position, leaving no real purpose for watching the games. Except for the love of the sport and your team, of course. And for drinking! That’s why we’re headed into barley wine territory this weekend. Our focus: what to drink when the game is just a background to indulging in some quite fine, quite strong beers.


First, we’ll jump to ESPN’s soccer game of the week. It just might prove that someone was drinking heavily when the schedule was decided.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Swansea: Saturday, 6:30am CT on ESPN2

Really, ESPN? Are you trying to make sure the viewing numbers for soccer are so minimal that you shouldn’t be showing the sport at all? Because really…who wants to wake up for two low-table teams? Wolves haven’t picked up a point in their last five matches. Their last came against Aston Villa, a team that prides itself on playing for a draw. Swansea at least can be entertaining  (and god help the team that concedes a penalty and sees Scott Sinclair stepping to the spot) but a purposeful awakening seems a bit much if you’re not a Swans supporter.

Lost Abbey The Angel’s Share: Sorry dudes if I’ve included this one before, but my high-tech tracking system (ok, so it’s me remembering to include the beers I’ve written about in a spreadsheet) says I have not. And Angel’s Share is the crème de la crème of barleywines. Sure, maybe you don’t think you should start off the day drunk off a 12.5%ABV beer, but I say that just gives you an excuse for a quality noon nap. Like most barley wines, it pours deep brown with a thin head and no lace. Alcohol is heavy in the aroma along with chocolate and raisin. The taste is bourbon, brandy, raisin, chocolate, vanilla with an intense warming ability. Yum.

Inter Milan v Chievo Verona: Sunday, 4pm CT on Fox Soccer (delay)

It’s clear Fox Soccer made a non-negotiable schedule of matches, or else they’d never show this, even on replay. If you’re an Inter fan, you’ll need strong booze to get you through the match, but if not, perhaps it will help you feel giggly rather than wanting to smash your head against something hard. The nerazzurri are quite dreadful thus far this season, above the relegation zone only because they’ve managed to score more goals than Bologna. The [redacted] Flying Donkeys, on the other hand, bring a big bus on all their travels, and park it just in front of goal. If this game ain’t beer-inducing enough for you, watch a replay of the Juventus-Chievo match. That’ll have you running for the alcohol.

Dogfish Head Immort Ale: A widely available barley wine – for those of you lucky enough to live in areas where Dogfish Head distributes, anyway. And use your Dogfish Head glass, of course. Pours peachy amber with plenty of beige clings. Aromas are of yeast, smoke, and evergreens, so it should get you in the Christmas spirit.  Lingering smoke taste after toasted malts and bread. The only drawback is that the palate is slightly syrupy, but at 11%ABV, this one will leave you feeling giddy, no matter how crap the game is.

For you crazies – Manchester United v Manchester City: Sunday, 7am CT on Fox Soccer

Let’s face it, if you root for one of these teams, your Sunday as the potential to be quite disheartening. Both teams remain unbeaten, with City drawing away at Fulham, and United drawing last week to Liverpool and before that, to Stoke. Both remain untouchable at home, however, although the Red Devils at least allow opponents to score before demolishing them (but hope lies with the next team to play at the Etihad – if Stephen Warnock can do it, so can you!).  Anyway, it’ll only be fun for neutrals, so bring out the…

Lagunitas Brown Shugga: mmmm, such a tasty winter ale, and at 9.84% ABV (no, I have no idea how they get it so exact, either) it will keep you warm even if your team leaves you in the cold. It even pours a pretty red brown with a white head—like Santa Claus. Smells of lots of brown sugar with a bit of citrus hop, and tastes like a perfect winter brew, with lots of sugary spiciness and alcohol.




 About Kirsten

I may be a law student at Lewis and Clark, but soccer is my true love, with beer coming in a distant second. That's not to say I don't love beer--I've tasted over a thousand different brews, and listed many of them onRatebeer. Living in Portland, Oregon, I attend quite a few festivals and tastings, and am able to argue passionately about the merits of Cascade hops vs. Chinook. 

As for the soccer, I'm the Managing Editor of SB Nation's Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte, the Italy Editor for SB Nation Soccer, and cover the Seattle Sounders on SBN Seattle (don't judge--I'm from Seattle!) Finally, I write for Two Footed Tackle when I find words worthy enough for the site. Want more? Follow me on Twitter!



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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?

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We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

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"American Soccer: A Dissident, A Dissident Is Here"


By Matt T / "The Shin Guardian"

A few weeks back I took a listen of Coldplay's new single "Paradise."

With it's first release, Yellow, way back in the 1990's, Coldplay had some promise. They weren't quite Radiohead-ish in their approach and analogies to Scottish-band Travis popped up for them as they got going, but soon it was the full, near-oppressive marketing force or power or whatever that thrust them through the MTV channel on the box and into every kid's earbuds.

Before that moment, it was of course, Coldplay and it's raw music arrangements. The band had talent and even at the moment after the song "Yellow" and it's accompanying video screamed up the charts, there was a feeling that the band still could choose the path it wanted to take.

Christ Martin & friends as we know took the fortune and fame route. I don't begrudge them that at all, but the release of their second album oozed with "stadium-fillers." What are stadium-fillers? Anthemic songs that play well to large audience in massive arenas and...stadiums.

At that moment they lost me, they choose their route and I choose mine; a route not unchoosen by many early adopters of a band. I choose the wistful, "I remember when" and thought of songs like "Sparks" whenever "Clocks" and "Green Eyes" would emanate from the ceiling speakers at my dentist's office.

Now, I take a listen of new Coldplay singles in the hopes they'll one day return to their roots, flush with cash and settle back into a more anonymous existence producing the music that I hoped they'd make. They'd backtrack and take the path not taken.

But, before I even listen to the new singles, I've already pre-determined their personal failure and listen more with amusement imagining how this song or that song will be tweaked at the O2 in London or at Red Rocks in Colorado. My predetermined expectations have never been bucked.

Pearl Jam turned 20 years old recently and they may as well have choosen Frank Sinatra's "We Did It Our Way" as their anthem.

Igniting out of Seattle as "The Grunge Scene" was taking grabbing a foothold in the early 1990's, Pearl Jam's "Ten" was strong, nay, it was fierce, flush with musical accomplishment.

The band's follow-up "Vs." only hit harder, ironic in that it was acoustic piece "Daughter" that resonated the best. The album sold the most copies at the time of any album in it's first week.

Then the band hiccuped. It went toe-to-toe with Ticketmaster who had marked up tickets for shows on their tour. The band in-fought and the product suffered. The next releases underwhelming into the late 1990's--the album "Yield" had every Pearl Jam fan scratching their heads wondering if the tombstone had already been etched for the Seattle crew fronted by Eddie Vedder and backed up by Stone Gossard.

The previous album No Code had been experimental but Yield was supposed to illicit the pleasures of yesteryear. It didn't. But Pearl Jam kept toiling and kept toiling.

The band overcame the loss of band members and the Rokilde tragedy (when a compressed crowd led to 9 deaths at a show in Denmark). They perservered...and in hindsight now appear better for it.

They did things their way--releasing recordings of what felt like all of their live shows to keep fans engaged as well as make some coin.

Lead singer Eddie Vedder explored the depths of himself as did the band, staying true to their landscaping sweeping rifts while introducing new wrinkles.

They arrive at their 20th birthday this year with a sense of class, a grizzled meaty tale of true artistic success and a brand that conjures up every antonym of the word "sellout." Why American Soccer?

The parallels between MLS and Pearl Jam are there. With a squint, they look identical.

The difficulties in filling stadiums without adequate promotion, the cultivation of the game without losing its identity, the gradual but measured success.

Because of ambassadors like "Lalas," "Wahl," and "Twellman," who remained true to the cause like Vedder and Gossard did to Pearl Jam, the US game arrives near it's 20th birthday (2013) with its own meaty tale that will resonate through the rest of my lifetime and with those that I sang "Jeremy" with at my prom (yes, um, that unfortunately did happen.)

With Coldplay I'll reminesce about what could have been. With Pearl Jam, 20 years in and I'm still rocking and believing in something meaningful. I'm sure I'll feel the same in 2013.

 


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