I met sunshine in a little cafe off Mulberry St., for “lunch,” and this is how the conversation went:
Magadh: I’m not going to waste my time doing posts during the international break.
sunshine: Look, my son, I have customers whose needs must be met. I know this is big ask, but I simply can’t allow any let up in production.
Magadh: But nobody cares. We’ve talked the Cascadia Cup to death. The Netherlands played freaking Andorra last night. The USMNT played Antigua and Barbuda. There are only about 47 people there. How am I supposed to squeeze anything of consequence out of that?
sunshine: Not my problem, laddie. You were brought in to do a job. I expect you to do it.
Magadh: Well, thanks for the cannoli, but I’m out of here.
sunshine: Look pal, you’ve got a lot of nice teeth. I’d hate for anything to happen to them. And I haven’t even started on your fingers.
Magadh: If you bust my fingers then I certainly won’t be writing anything for you.
sunshine: Fair enough.
It was at this point that a three hundred pound guy in a Gucci suit sidled up and dropped a couple of pictures of my cat playing the yard on the table in front of me. I got the point.
See here were are, two matches to the end of the season and held captive again by the gigantic life sucking vampire that is the break for World Cup qualifiers. I’m sitting in a tiny little office listening to radio rebroadcasts of Bundesliga matches on http://www.90elf.de (which is a pretty great site if you love football and speak German). I really love blog writing, but there are just some mornings when there is not that much upon which to build a column.
I suppose that I could talk about the USMNT match from last night. You can probably still smell the residual stink in the air that it gave off. Essentially this was a match between a bunch of guys who play in some pretty decent professional leagues and a team that finished dead last in the bottom division of the USL. Yes, pretty much every member of the A and B national team also play for Antigua Barracuda FC, who finished dead last in the division this season.
Never let it be said that Americans are not generous people. For instance, last night our men’s national soccer team made Antigua Barracuda FC look like real contenders. My impression has been the Jürgen Klinsmann was trying to institute a more dynamic approach to the game in his coaching of the USMNT. If that is the case I must say that his efforts so far have signally failed. Ok, it didn’t help that the match was played on a rubbish tip repurposed as a football pitch. This fact of the matter is that both sides had to play on it. It made the passing a bit dicey, but the problem that really beset the team was not where the passes were going but when (and particularly with what frequency). The lads from B and A were, for the most part, content to park the bus and allow the US to drive things forward. Given that that was the case, it was incumbent on the US to shift the ball quickly in order not to allow the defense to settle itself and to maintain its shape. The sight of USMNT midfielders repeatedly dawdling on the ball, seeming to wait for someone (God maybe) to split open the defense and allow them the victory that their superior professional status merited, was exceedingly grim. The through ball that led to the A and B equalizer was well played, but the fact that the opportunity arose at all is absolutely scandalous.
In the end, superior quality came through, but only just. The back end of Eddie Johnson’s brace came extremely late and saved the US more than just blushes. I understand that Klinsmann is building something new, and that it takes time. But the failure in terms of engagement and attacking mindset evinced in last night’s match highlight the massive task with which he is confronted.
I really had to force myself to be engaged by that match. I just don’t care that much about the international game to begin with, and when it’s done so poorly it is the sort of thing that tries men’s souls. I spend most of my time during these breaks scanning the injury reports to see if Arsenal players have gotten crocked (as Laurent Koscielny has apparently done, on the training ground no less). I suppose one of the advantages of the Timbers’ current situation is that we don’t have to worry so much about people getting bruised during international breaks, although we do have some guys who play for their national teams. I must say that, in terms of my Timbers consciousness, I am much more relaxed during these breaks than I would be if we had more people of that sort of quality. Nonetheless, I think I would be fine with it if it meant that we (and by “we” I really mean the people running the show) had actually upgraded the side.
Truth to tell, the UEFA qualifiers did not provide much more in terms of interest. There weren’t really any big surprises. Like me, you were probably on the edge of your seat at work, panting hungrily for details about the tilt between Sweden and the Faroe Islands, or wondering intently whether the Czech Republic could overcome the feisty footballing power of the Mediterranean that is Malta.
Perhaps this would be the time to suggest that last summer’s European Championships made two things absolutely clear. First, and probably most important, that virulent racism is alive and well in Eastern Europe (and not only there). Second, that having a tournament in which fully 30% of the teams have absolutely no chance of winning is a travesty. Still, the teams from the larger nations are compelled to put the ligaments and tendons of professional footballers on the line in places like Torshavn for reasons of…well, I don’t know. Profit would be my guess.
Anyway, it’s time for me to go and see if my cat has departed this mortal coil. I’ll be back on Monday with more blab, assuming sunshine is willing to spring for another plate of Pollo al Forno.