Monday, March 4, 2013

Bad Day at the Office for Soccer's Good Guys

Yesterday was a day with, for me, 2 notable soccer games: The North London Derby between my beloved Arsenal and the despised hosts Tottenham Hotspur (a.k.a. Spurs or the Tiny Totts); and the opening game for the New York Red Bulls, away to the Portland Timbers.

It was a typical post-Highbury Arsenal match: We dominated for the first 35 minutes, yet couldn't find the net.  Then we got screwed by the officials, and ended up losing.

Gareth Bale, the Welsh chimp who has been carrying Spurs all season now that Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric have been sold to pay off former manager Harry Redknapp's financial mismanagement, and will probably also be sold in the off-season for that reason, scored, but the replay showed offside, yet referee Mark Clattenburg let the goal stand.

Just 2 minutes later, Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla got clobbered, a clear yellow card foul that should have stopped play to attend to his injury.  Clattenburg let play continue, and Aaron Lennon scored.  Where it was 0-0 going into the 37th minute, it was now 2-0 to The Scum after the 39th.

Arsenal never recovered: Although a corner kick led to a Per Mertesacker header that cut the deficit to 2-1, Arsenal never looked like getting the equalizer, mainly because Tottenham decided to play like a "Dirty Northern Bastard club like Stoke, Bolton or Sunderland, and fouled Arsenal's players continuously, knowing that Clattenburg, yet another English ref who does not give Arsenal the benefit of the rules, let alone the doubt, would let them get away with it.  The 2-1 score held.

It was only Tottenham's 5th win over Arsenal in the last 40 League meetings between the clubs.  The last 2 of those have been gained through blatant cheating The fall 2011 match at White Hart Lane came through a goal off a clear cheat from "Hand der Vaart."

Needless to say, the English media has been wanking over "classically English club" Tottenham defeating "foreign club" Arsenal. has said it's "a below-par Tottenham that's too good for Arsenal." Bullshit: If they were too good for Arsenal, they wouldn't have to cheat.

Bale, one of the biggest cheats in the game for his constant diving (he had 3 of them yesterday, punished for none), has been called "brilliant" and "the best striker in the League this season" by the media, both British and American.

They're trotting out the same lines that Tottenham fans have trotted out for years: "The balance of power has shifted in North London." Tottenham haven't finished ahead of Arsenal in the League since 1995: To borrow the line from Fever Pitch, referring to what was then Arsenal's League title drought, "Eighteen fucking years!"

And Tottenham fans brought out the line, from the London Underground, "Mind the gap." (The New York Subway equivalent is, "Please, watch the gap.") Last year, the gap was 10 points at its peak, and 7 points at this stage, after both Derbies had been played, with Tottenham having won 2-1 by cheating at White Hart Lane and Arsenal having won 5-2 at Ashburton Grove -- exactly the same situation as this season.  And Tottenham, with the toughest part of their schedule yet to play, blew it, and Arsenal finished a point above them.  The same possibility exists now.

There is also a lot of discussion about Arsenal's defense.  Arsenal have now allowed 32 League goals this season, and only Chelsea (30) and Manchester United (31) have allowed fewer.  Neither of the Tottenham goals should have stood, and if Clattenburg had done the right thing, the game would have ended with the classic scoreline of "One-nil to The Aresnal," and anybody talking about our "horrible defence" (as it would be "spelt" over there) would look like a damn fool.

And, of course, Fox Soccer Channel, which covered the game in the U.S., dragged out Piers Morgan, the British TV "presenter" (what they call a host) who is, for the moment, the highest-profile celebrity Arsenal fan.  (Except for Queen Elizabeth II, who was so sickened by Tottenham's cheating that she had to be hospitalized.) Morgan, who replaced Larry King as host for CNN's 9 PM Eastern Time talk show, has it right on guns, but on the subject of Arsenal, he is nearly as crazy as gun nut Alex Jones.  He is convinced that Arsenal is in decline (no, Liverpool are in decline), and that it's all the fault of Arsene Wenger (not by a long shot).  Morgan actually said, "If he has an ounce of integrity, he will resign."

Hopefully, if Wenger is asked about Morgan's monumentally stupid statement, he will drag out his classic line, "No, I did not see it."

This Arsenal season has been a failure.  The four competitions that the club are in:

* The League Cup: Lost in the Quarterfinals, to Bradford City, a 4th division club.  Though, to be fair, Bradford did also beat Premier League clubs Wigan in the 4th Round and Aston Villa in the Semifinal, before losing 5-0 to PL club Swansea City in the Final.

* The FA Cup: Lost in the 5th Round to Blackburn Rovers, currently in the 2nd division, the first time in Wenger's 16-year stewardship that Arsenal have lost an FA Cup match to a lower-division side.

* The UEFA Champions League: On the brink of elimination, taking a 3-1 deficit into the away leg of their tie with Bayern Munich.  Arsenal would have to win by 3 goals to advance.  That's not going to happen against Bayern in Munich.

* The Premier League: Arsenal currently sit in 5th place.  If the current standings hold (or "the current table holds"), Arsenal will qualify for the Europa League, but miss the Champions League in 2013-14 for the first time since the 1997-98 season -- 16 years.  That means Arsenal will get some money for qualifying for the EL, but miss out on the much greater sum they would get for qualifying for the CL, to say nothing of the matchday revenue.

It's easy to say, "Arsenal always finish ahead of Tottenham." And, "Arsenal always qualify for the Champions League."

Well, the Yankees missed the Playoffs in 2008, and let the Red Sox finish ahead of them in 2007 and '08.  It can happen.

For Arsenal? As they say in medical dramas, "I'm not going to lie to you: It doesn't look good."


The Portland Timbers are not a very good team.  Major League Soccer fans like to call them "Not Seattle," for their much more established regional rivals, the Seattle Sounders.  They hosted the Red Bulls last night, and things were looking pretty good for Metro.  Especially since the Timbers had the awful Donovan Ricketts in goal, and their central defense included Mikael Silvestre, who played on Man United teams that won 5 PL titles and the 2008 Champions League, but by the time Arsenal got him he was horrible.

Sure enough, Fabian Espindola, a soon-to-be 28-year-old Argentine making his Metro debut after playing for Real Salt Lake, scored in the 9th minute to open his club account.  Portland scored just a few minutes later, but Espindola made it a brace in the 24th, and Jamison Olave, another South American (Colombia) who played for Salt Lake last year, scored his first Red Bull goal to make it 3-1.

One does not simply blow a 2-goal lead in the 56th minute.  It is folly.  But the Red Bulls did, allowing Portland to make it 3-2 in the 56th, and then Olave neutralized his earlier score with an own goal in the 83rd.  Final score, 3-3.

Ordinarily, a road win is acceptable.  Especially when it's on the other side of the continent.  After all, English teams in European play do a lot better when the away game is close, as in France or the Netherlands, than they do if it's on the other side of Europe, as in the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, or Turkey.  But the Red Bulls should have won this thing.

I don't blame Olave.  The problem is, Ryan Meara is still coming back from last season's hip injury -- he said on Twitter he'll be back in 2 weeks, in time for the home opener against hated DC United -- and Luis Robles was in goal.  Robles is no better than Ricketts.

Maybe Mike Petke, the former Metro defender making his debut as manager for the club, didn't have much choice.  But when Meara comes back, Robles should never start again unless Meara gets hurt again.  As Jerry Glanville, a coach in "our football" and now a TV pundit, would say, play Meara until his tongue looks like a necktie.

Yesterday was a rotten day.  True, the Yankees beat the Red Sox in spring training, but as the late, great Billy Martin would say, "It's an exhibition game, George! It doesn't mean anything!"

Look at the bright side: It's Monday morning, and I have to go to work!



Hours until the Devils play again: 7 1/2, tonight, away to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Days until the Red Bulls play again: 6, this coming Sunday night, away to the San Jose Earthquakes.

Days until Arsenal play another competitive match: 9, the aforementioned away leg of the Champions League Round of 16, against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.  Arsenal were supposed to play Everton this Saturday, but it was moved because Everton qualified for the FA Cup Quarterfinals, which are to be played this weekend.  Arsenal should also have qualified for that round.  Alas...

Days until the Devils play another local rival: 11, against the Philadelphia Flyers, a week from this Wednesday night, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly.  They will also play The Philth on Thursday, April 18 (away).  The next game against the New York Rangers (a.k.a. The Scum) will be on Tuesday, March 19 (home); Sunday, April 21 (away); and Saturday, April 27 (away, the regular season finale).  They will play the Islanders on Monday, April 1 (home).

Days until the Red Bulls' home opener: 12, on Saturday, March 16, against D.C. United (or, as Metro fans call them, "The D.C. Scum").  Under 2 weeks.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby," against either the New England Revolution, the Philadelphia Union or D.C. United: See the previous answer.

Days until the U.S. National Soccer Team plays again: 18, on Friday, March 22, against Costa Rica in the last, "Hexagonal" round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers, for the region that encompasses North America, Central America, and the Caribbean nations.  The game will be played at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in the Denver suburb of Commerce City, Colorado, home ground of MLS' Colorado Rapids.  A must-win if America is to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

Days until the Yankees play again: 28, on Monday, April 1, at 1:05 PM, at home at Yankee Stadium II, against the Boston Red Sox.  Just 4 weeks.  Beat The Scum!

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: See the previous answer.
Days until the next North London Derby: Unknown, since next season's schedule won't be released until mid-June.  The season will most likely open on the 3rd Saturday in August, in this case August 17, but it's been a long time since Arsenal vs. Tottenham was an early game (possibly 1988-89).  But even if it is that early, that's 166 days.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 178, on Thursday night, August 29, away to Fresno State University in California.  A little under 6 months.  The first home game of the 2013 season will be on Saturday, September 7, vs. Norfolk State.  The schedule is far from complete, with only the first 4 games set, all nonconference games.  The question marks surrounding the Big East, including Rutgers' own bolting for the Big Ten, have forced this.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: Uncertain, since the 2013 schedule has not been released.  But if the usual pattern holds, it will be on the 2nd Friday in September... which, next year, just so happens to be a Friday the 13th.  Oy vey.  Anyway, if that's the way it works out, then it's 193 days.  A little over 6 months.  And when it does happen, it will be the first game they play without Marcus Borden as head coach since Thanksgiving Day 1982 (a loss to Colonia High of Woodbridge), as he has left the program.  (Did he jump, or was he pushed? I don't know.)

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 269.  Under 9 months.

Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 335 (February 2, 2014).  Under 11 months.  Of course, we have no idea who the opposing teams will be.  The possibility exists that either the Giants or the Jets could be in it -- or both.  To this day, no team has ever played a Super Bowl in its own stadium -- in spite of multiple hostings by Miami, New Orleans and various California teams.  Only 2 have done so in their home metro area: The 1979-80 Los Angeles Rams, whose home field was then the L.A. Coliseum, and they lost to Pittsburgh at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena; and the 1984-85 San Francisco 49ers, whose home field, then as now, was Candlestick Park, and they beat Miami at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, which had a much larger capacity than Candlestick.

Days until the next Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia: 340 (February 7, 2014).

Days until the next World Cup, in Brazil: 465 (June 12, 2014).  Under 16 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 1,250 (August 5, 2016).  Under 4 years.


Graeme said...

Replay showed the first goal to be 'onside'. I suggest you watch the actual footage and establish the facts before writing drab. Haven't read any further than this as clearly not much point. Harry Potter is more factual and informative. COYS

Graeme said...

Haha I couldn't resist reading on in the end. Thank you for writing this, it has cheered me up no end. Brilliant. I would begin taunting you if I thought you were even slightly serious. Enjoy the rest of your season. COYS

Uncle Mike said...

The fact that you had to put quotation marks around "onside" shows that you're a goddamned liar and you know it. Harry Potter? Even Gandalf couldn't make Tottenham better. FOYS!