Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesdays With Messi and A Soccer Lesson

Joe Knows Greatness

SI sportswriter Joe Posniak writes a very interesting post on his blog about the genius of Messi.  Despite describing himself as a non-soccer person, he makes some very interesting observations about soccer.
"I measure soccer against the sports I have grown up loving, and it seems to me that that soccer — a bit like baseball — is defined by failure. Most corner kicks don’t find a teammate’s head. Most crosses into the box are too long or too short or turned away. Most shots are not aimed for the upper right-hand corner. Most runs end up being stuffed a long way from the goal. Most goals are the result of a staggering blunder — either by the defenders or the goalkeeper or the linesman who missed offside or awarded a shaky penalty kick or gave a free kick in a dangerous place. One somewhat cynical soccer commentator told me that what I need to understand is that every single goal, even the most brilliant of them, is the result of an error somewhere along the way. I suppose there are pitching coaches who would say the same thing about home runs."
He goes on to say this about Messi...

"Messi simply does things — little things and big things — that other players here cannot do. He gets a ball in traffic, is surrounded by two or three defenders, and he somehow keeps the ball close even as they jostle him and kick at the ball. He takes long and hard passes up around his eyes and somehow makes the ball drop softly to his feet, like Keanu Reeves making the bullets fall in “The Matrix.” He cuts in and out of traffic — Barry Sanders only with a soccer ball moving with him — sprints through openings that seem only theoretical, races around and between defenders who really are running even if it only looks like they are standing still. He really does seem to make the ball disappear and reappear, like it’s a Vegas act."

It's interesting to me that a guy who doesn't really follow soccer that closely, can recognize the greatness of Messi so easily. 

Tuesday's Soccer Lesson:  Dive Like C. Ronaldo

Here's a funny little video of a coach teaching his players the "Cristiano Ronaldo".  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Best Quote of the World Cup

This is far and away the best quote I've heard during the World Cup so far.

"Ricardo Clark looked like he had a case of "Ghana-rrhea"!"

From a friend of mine who I will leave un-named.

World Cup: Huntsville Supporters and Goal Line Technology

Fans Gather On The USA Bandwagon

The Huntsville Times has an article about the 150+ fans who gathered to watch the USA yesterday at a local establishment.  My RCU broadcast partner, John Moran, has some nice quotes to offer.

Goal Line Technology

The sport lost a terrific opportunity to force the crooks officials in charge of the game at FIFA to implement goal line technology when England collapsed after having Lampard's obviously good goal was disallowed by the refereeing crew.  If England had lost 2:1 instead of 4:1 to a dominant German side, then the debate in favor of goal line technology would be infinitely louder.  Can you imagine the furor of the English media, if that disallowed goal would have been the difference between the two teams?  As it is, FIFA can go back to the default stance of ignoring the rest of the world clamoring for use of the technology.
The ball is clearly over the line (except to the refereeing crew)!
The technology is already available and in use by several other sports, including tennis.  However, I don't expect FIFA to do anything about it without being forced financially to do so.  You see, it's not about the protection of the game, it's all about money for FIFA.  Don't fool yourself into believing otherwise...

RCU Splits The Points With CFC

With the end of the USA's run in the World Cup, it would have been understandable if soccer fans were to wallow in privacy on Saturday evening, but a large crowd of the Valley's soccer fans came out to support their local side, Rocket City United, in a crucial NPSL Southeast Region league match against Chattanooga FC as the clubs drew 1:1.

Nearly 900 fans filled the Madison City Schools Stadium and witnessed a back and forth affair that was dominated for large portions of the match by CFC.  The Blue's attacking tandem of Chris Ochieng and Luis Salazar harried the RCU backline for 70 minutes.  It was only the goalkeeping heroics of Mike "Goose" Gustavson who saved RCU's "goose" on multiple occasions.   However, CFC dangerous duo  finally broke through in the 65th minute when good work around the top of the penalty area allowed Salazar to run free near the endline.  Salazar picked out Ochieng in front of the gaping net for tap in finish and the 1:0 lead.

CFC prepared to batten down the hatches with RCU pushing for an equalizer.  It was forward Andrew Nkurunungi who was the catalyst for RCU when the second dubious penalty in as many games with CFC was awarded to RCU.  In their last meeting in 2009 in Chattanooga, a 90th minute "phantom" penalty was awarded to RCU.  In that case, the soccer gods righted the misdeed as CFC goalkeeper Richard Masters saved the spot kick.

In the 75th minute of last night's match, Nkurunungi latched on to a ball in the penalty area and went down under what looked like incidental contact from the CFC's Russell Courtney.  Referee, Steve Walker, who had allowed several nasty challenges to go uncalled throughout the night, blew for the spotkick to the dismay of the CFC bench and players alike.  Alexi Munro slotted the penalty home as CFC's Richard Masters had guessed to the wrong side.

The goal gave RCU life and for the final 10 minutes, RCU were the more dangerous side.  In the 87th minute, RCU nearly took home the full three points when RCU left back Jacob Letsholo's header crashed off the crossbar. 

In the end, the teams split the points and CFC remains 3 points ahead of RCU in the standings.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Big Saturday for National and Local Teams

Two big games today!  One in the afternoon (if you don't know what I'm talking about, shame on you!), and one at 7:30 PM at the Madison City Schools Stadium when 2nd place Rocket City United play 1st place Chattanooga FC. 

RCU will be looking to turn around the poor result on the road against FC Tulsa.  As always seems to be the case in the short NPSL Southeast season, this is a virtual must-win match for RCU.  It's a "six pointer" as a win would pull RCU level with CFC at 10 points, while a loss would see them six points behind.

CFC is a much improved team over last year, where they relied a little too much on athleticism.  This year, they've made some improvements in the attacking third of the field that has seen them go undefeated this season.

Also, we should expect to see a phenomena that has so far been a very rare sight in the NPSL Southeast, the traveling supporter.  CFC have a legit supporters group called the Chattahooligans.  They will be traveling down 72 this afternoon to support their club and hopefully in large numbers.  This can only be a good thing for soccer in the south.  

RCU is looking to capitalize on World Cup fever and are hoping for a good crowd tonight.  This week, kids get in free when they wear their soccer jersey!  Should be a fun day for soccer fans in the Valley.

Friday, June 25, 2010

First Round Rewind

Friend of the PWT-blog and former RCU coach, Greg Petersen, gives us his thoughts on the first round of the World Cup.



Uruguay veteran striker Forlan has been outstanding in this tournament. Not only in his play, but in his leadership. Uruguay was not expected do to much in this tournament and they have been one of the nice surprises so far.

Mexico also has played very well so far in this tournament. Young players like Dos Santos, Hernandez, and Barrerra have been very exciting to watch. Veterans Salcedo and Marquez have been outstanding. Uruguay and Mexico coaches and players need to be applauded for there quality of play in the first round. Both teams came in well prepared and have shown in their matches.

South Africa, the first host team not to make it to the second round, just was not good enough. Their defeat of France gives them a little satisfaction in their exit

France Or should I say FC CATASTROPHE? Very disappointing showing from some of the better players in the world.  We will hear more about this in the future, but my friends from France say very similar to USA WC 1998 minus players sleeping with other player’s wives.


Argentina has been the class of the tournament so far. I predict they will win the cup. They need to make sure is that their defense is not their worst enemy. This team is so talented and their attacking abilities are scary!  Maradona seems to have everyone in such a positive and focused state of mind even the players on the bench seem happy! Palermo’s goal was so rewarding and deserving of a player who has done so much for Argentina football, especially his club Boca Juniors! Even if you’re not a fan you needed to applaud this moment!

South Korea deserves to be in the second round. I don’t think they will go far in the next round, but you have to give this country their due respect for how they play.                            

Greece  BORING!

Nigeria has no one to blame for not being in the second round except them. Sani Kaita's red card against Greece was just completely irresponsible.  Yakuba's miss against South Korea is still having everyone scratching their heads wondering how he missed that, but this is African football where one minute you seeing something amazing, like Enyeama’s goalkeeping against Argentina, and the other minute you see something and ask yourself “ did I really just see that? “ Unfortunately, my prediction about the African teams came true.


USA I will have a separate article analyzing of the USA team after they have finished the tournament. As everyone knows there has been some amazing and unforgettable performances and moments from the USA team and individual players in the first round, but further analysis will show we still have some work to do to be considered an elite team at the world stage. We also had some glaring consistent deficiencies in our game. Remember, with all the excitement and emotion of the last minutes of the Algerian match, we were 2 minutes away from soccer in the US going backwards?

England, overall, has had a poor showing in the first round. Is this a result of the players being fatigued from demands of the EPL?  Or is this team and English football in general just over rated? They did have a very convincing qualification and Capello has brought a lot of positive changes and some much needed discipline, but the way this current team is playing is far away from being one of the great teams in the world. Based on we are seeing English football and their players are in real trouble. Maybe, it's time English football starts focusing on developing and giving their own players more opportunities to play first team football in their country. Their coaching also needs a lot of improvement. Recent Barcelona coaches that were hired to take over and run the Liverpool Youth Academy said the academy was in such poor shape, they were five years away from producing a player for the first team.  This not to say England does not have their exceptional coaches. Yes, they have their Tony Carrs, Dario Gradis, Roy Hodges, and Sir Alex Fergusons, who is Scottish, but generally, the tactical knowledge of their coaches are not that good, especially outside the environment of British football. I have a feeling many people in England are worried about the future of England’s football and they have every right to be. It just raises the question why do we have so many English coaches coaching are kids in America? Again not to say there are not some good ones, but Beckenbauer was not so far off when he said “kick and rush” recently.  Let’s see how England does against Germany on Sunday?

Slovenia should be very proud of what they have accomplish at this tournament, but at the same time regretting not getting 3 points against the USA. Both Slovenia and USA could probably say that? It was also very naive to think Slovenia was not a very good team before this tournament started.

Algeria is another team of whom it was naive to think they where not that good. Not to say this was a strong group, but Algeria has been a very worthy opponent in recent competitions.  If Algeria's finishing was better, we could very well be saying something different about the USA?


Germany looked phenomenal in their match against Australia. Oezil is a real talent. Look forward to them being a real difficult opponent in the 2nd round and beyond.

Serbia was a major disappointment. They looked good in the qualifications and Partisan and Red Star are again producing very good players for western Europe, but that old Yugoslavia under achieving mentality popped it’s head up again in World Cup competition.

Australia started off on the wrong foot in this tournament, but ended on a high note. A lot of positive things going on in Australian soccer world! Is Tim Cahill one of the best goal scorers with his head in the world?

Ghana I cannot tell you how happy I am for this coach and his team making it to the 2nd round.  Defensively, they are very disciplined. They've made huge improvements since the African Cup of Nations. I don’t think we have seen the best of their attacking players yet? Only team from Africa to get to the 2nd round.


Netherlands is one of the better teams in the tournament. Elia is an up and coming talent. His performance in the 2nd half against Demark was incredible. Serious team to challenge for cup. We have not seen the best of this team yet!

Japan surprised their fans more than anyone. They did not have high expectations for this coach or team team, but after that performance against Denmark, they deserved to be in the 2nd round. NICE FREE-KICKS!

Denmark coach Morten Olsen has to be disappointed in his team’s performance. After an extremely difficult group in the qualifications, which they sailed through, their game was against Cameroon was probably the only time we saw what Denmark’s true capabilities.

Cameroon was never a threat. At least Eto can tell his children he scored 2 goals in the 2010 World Cup.


Paraguay did what I thought they would, but nothing really exciting in their play, just effective as collective group of players.

Slovakia beat Italy squarely. Deserve to be in the 2nd round.

New Zealand should be very proud in this tournament. Defensively, they where very good. A few more goals they could of made it to the 2nd round, which would have been a huge accomplishment.

Italy was old and missed an opportunity to prepare for the future.


Brazil finished top in their group, but this team has really been uneventful so far, reflecting the nature of the Head Coach Dunga. Now that they enter the second round, expect a much sharper Brazil. This team is loaded with talent and experience, but still don’t think this team has the mentality to win the Cup.

Portugal showed their true attacking potential against North Korea scoring 7 goals by 6 different players. Now they know that they are capable.  It will be interesting to see Portugal play against a quality opponent in the future rounds. Nice training session against Brazil.

Ivory Coast has some very special players and demonstrated they can be a very capable team, but they're currently not as good as Portugal or Brazil. I was extremely happy that Drogba was able to play.

North Korea was the least talented team in this group, but let’s give them respect for their honest play and for never giving up.


Spain started off on the wrong foot against Switzerland.  Their stars returning from injury were not in the best of form. Then in the last 2 group matches, Spain found their form and reasserted their status as being one of the tournament's favorites by finishing on top their group.

Chile was one of the most entertaining teams to watch

Switzerland, thankfully, is not making it to 2nd round, but you have to respect coach Ottmar Hitzfeld for his coaching abilities.

Honduras has to be given thanks for tying Switzerland!

Soccer Bar Review: The SmokeHouse Restaurant

Just in time for tomorrow's big game, here is the latest installment of our soccer bar reviews.  PWT-blog's roving restaurant reviewer, Darrell, has the low down on the Smoke House Restaurant.

Conveniently located at the north end of Bridge Street, Smoke House Restaurant was the site that we recently watched the UEFA Champions League Final. This restaurant is very spacious around the bar, which has two 52” flat screen TVs overhead on one side and two more 52” flat screen TVs on the other side. There are two additional large flat panel TVs beside the bar on a wall. There is a separate dining room with a single 42” TV. Channels available include ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, FSC, and ten or so UEFA channels. They might also purchase a PPV channel for special sporting events. The restaurant manager Chelsey Maples told me they could open early for an early match with advanced notice.

Food at the Smoke House is a bit eclectic. There is variety, including some items you would not expect. I had Frank’s Steak which came with two sides. It was excellent; I would order it again. Prices were a little on the high side. They have a kid’s menu. View the menu. I noticed 12 beer taps at the bar including Yuengling, Sam Adams, Killians Red, Boulevard Wheat, Miller, Bud, etc. In bottles, they serve Sam Adams, Corona, Heineken, Bud, Coors, etc. Other beverages include O’Douls non-
alcoholic beer, soft drinks, tea, coffee, etc.

The restaurant is a spacious open style with lots of tables and bar integrated in the floor plan.  Across from the bar is a bandstand and dance floor. I expect they play only late at night. There are three separate dinning rooms and two patio seating areas, one of which is adjacent to the bar with garage doors that open on good weather days.

The only negative comment I have is a few pesky flies were around when I was there in May.  This was probably because of the garage doors that open by the bar. This is understandable, but still annoying.

On the soccer bar scale, the Smoke House rates "3 soccer balls" mainly due to the good food, and big multiple TVs with soccer channels.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gooooooooooooooool! The Most Beautiful Word In Any Language!

I had to watch the match yesterday from a bar at National Airport just outside Washington, DC.  In a colossal act of imbecility, I scheduled my family's flight to return to Huntsville from a short trip to visit relatives for 11:30 AM; just as the second half of the match was to kick-off.

It's obvious that the soccer gods were smiling on me, because my flight was delayed an hour and a half and I was able to watch the match in it's entirety.  Thank you, soccer gods!  I will now have to make a sacrifice by missing 3 sitters on the goal line in my next pickup game.  :)


Now, allow me to get a little emotional.  I didn't hear it live, but the call from Andres Cantor of Landon Donovan's goal is one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard.  I don't speak a lick of Spanish, but it's beauty and power brought tears to my eyes.  If I can figure out a way to make it my ringtone, I'd be one... very... happy... man.

 Not actually Andres Cantor!

Click here to listen.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

RCU falls to FC Tulsa 2:1 After Travel Delays

It is said that sailing is the slowest form of transportation with the possible exception of air travel through O'Hare, and Rocket City United now have first-hand experience of the latter.  After canceled flights and hours in the lounges of the famous air hub, RCU made it to Oklahoma for their match with FC Tulsa a mere hour and a half after their scheduled kick-off.

When play was finally started, RCU were unable to shake of the road weariness as they gave away two early goals.  Unlike the Yanks of the World Cup, the boys from the Tennessee Valley were only able to reduce that deficit to one in the time remaining for a 2:1 loss to the team from Tulsa. 

It was a missed opportunity to pick up points on league leaders Chattanooga FC who were held to a rare home draw by Atlanta FC, 1:1.  RCU now sits alone in second place with 7 points from 4 games (2-1-1).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Instep With Desmond Armstrong: USA v Slovenia

In this edition of Instep with Desmond Armstrong, the RCU coach breaks down the most exciting and controversial match in the World Cup so far, yesterday's tilt with the USA v Slovenia.

RCU Face FC Tulsa

RCU takes its longest road trip of the year to face NPSL newcomer FC Tulsa tonight.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

World Cup: Not feeling good about Friday

I tend to have a negative outlook when it comes to the US Men's National Team.  Sometimes my negativity is totally unjustified.  You see, it's a survival technique that I've learned from years of having my hopes dashed when the Yanks have come up short in big games. 

When I started getting that feeling of dread shortly after I finished celebrating the good result against England (and no, it wasn't just a hangover), I thought to myself that it's a shame I can't be optimistic. 

I should feel great in front of Friday's match against the small eastern European country, Slovenia, right?  Coming off the big result against England, the Yanks are confident.  They looked just as dangerous as the Limeys.  In their press conferences they've been saying the right things.  They seem focused and ready to roll.  And on paper, the Yanks are favored, but should they be? 

But then, I start thinking of when the US has played eastern European teams in the World Cup, and I couldn't remember a single good result.  "That's just my doom and gloom", I thought.  However, this time, it may not be unjustified.  

Let's take a look at the USA's World Cup results when playing eastern European teams.

1990 USA 1:5 Czechoslovakia  Click the link to watch the full match. Keep an eye out for RCU coach Desmond Armstrong playing right back for the USA.  Warning! SoccerRocker hairdos in full effect for the Yank players!

1994 USA 0:1 Romania Petrescu shot beats Meola to the near post! (Goal at 1:35 in this video)

1998 USA 0:1 Yugoslavia Komjenovic cleans up the rebound.

2002 USA 1:3 Poland The USA nearly blows their chance to move onto the second round.

2006 USA 0:3 Czech Republic Jan Koller strikes early and the rest was the Czechs.

That's 0 wins, 0 ties, and 5 losses.  Not a lot to be hopeful for, is there?

Well, maybe I'm being unfair.  Let's take a look at the results of the friendly matches we played against eastern European squads in the run up to the 2010 World Cup.  These are matches against teams that play a style similar to Slovenia.  In the two recent matches against eastern European opponents...

USA 0:1 Slovakia  Yanks in Europe take one on the chin from the Slovaks 
USA 2:4 Czech Republic Bench warmers score two, that's positive! :)

...Uh-oh!  "O" fer two!!! 

I'm not trying to put a downer on your day.  I'm just trying to point out that there may be cause for pessimism.

At least now, I feel better because if history is to judge, the Yanks are clearly not supposed to win this game, and I have a built-in excuse for my pessimism.  And if the USA does lose to Slovenia, I can just shrug my shoulders and think to myself,  "We weren't supposed to beat them anyway!" 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Nkurunungi Brace Earns RCU A Draw In Alabama Derby Match

Rocket City United earned a draw on the road in Birmingham behind two goals from Andrew Nkurunungi.  Perhaps inspired by the USA, who earlier in the day struck back to draw England, RCU twice battled back from one goal deficits to tie the match with Pumas. 

Rocket City United now sits alone in second place (7 PTS, 3 GP) behind Chattanooga FC (9 PTS, 3 GP) who defeated FC Tulsa 2:1.  RCU will look to keep pace with CFC and keep their unbeaten streak going as they take the long road trip to face FC Tulsa next Saturday. 

Instep with Desmond Armstrong: USA v England

In this installment of Instep with Desmond Armstrong, Desmond gives us his pregame, half-time and postgame thoughts on the USA v England match from Tommy's Pizza in Huntsville. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

World Cup Stuff: Linens N Things, Jozy Crashes Teaparty, Tshabalalalalalalalaaaaaaa!!!

Linens N Things

This guy may be a little too into the English team.  But I'll be honest, if I were 12, I'd be all over that bedroom setup!!!

Jozy Doesn't Like Tea

Jozy Altidore takes out some frustrations on an English teaparty.  Foreshadowing, maybe...???

RCU's Bafana Bafana Boys Were Right!!!

What a rockin' atmosphere at the WC opener, and at first, I thought RCU forward Calvin Mbatha was stuttering when he mentioned that Siphiwe Tshabalala was one of the guys to keep an eye on for the South African team.  What a goal!!!

Nice little line dance after the goal, too!

Friday, June 11, 2010

RCU Travel To Birmingham For The Alabama Derby

On Saturday, Rocket City United will travel down I-65 to take on a familiar foe in Pumas of Birmingham.  The rivals have already had two derby matches in 2010, and RCU's coach Desmond Armstrong feels his team is ready to get the better of the Birmingham side in this third meeting. 

Pumas won 1:0 during the US Open Cup Qualifying Group phase, and the teams appeared to share points after a 1:1 draw in RCU's NPSL season opener.  However, the league has ruled that Pumas played four ineligible players during that match and have since awarded the RCU a victory on forfeit.  The four players in question participated in the match while not having their International Transfer Clearance paperwork.  At the same time, RCU had four players who did not participate in the match while awaiting their ITC paperwork to clear. 

As a result, RCU now has 6 points from 2 matches, while Pumas have 3 points from 3 matches.  Regardless of what the standings say, Saturdays match is sure to be a feisty affair to decide Alabama bragging rights.

World Cup Stuff

World Cup Drinking Game

I'm much to old to be playing drinking games, but I do remember my college days when any excuse to get temulent was grasped with both hands. For those of that bent, the good folks at the EPL Talk have released rules to a drinking game for watching the World Cup. Please enjoy responsibly.

Daily Show Previews US v England

Here's a pretty funny clip from the Daily Show's Senior Football Analyst John Oliver who tells us he's huge football fan!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
World Cup 2010: Into Africa - Two Teams, One Cup
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Colbert Doesn't Miss Out Either

During Colbert's Sport Report (pronounced coal-bear spoar ree-pour), Mark Fisher and Mark Starr debate the merits of soccer.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sport Report - Soccer Debate - Marc Fisher & Mark Starr
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

RCU's South Africans Talk World Cup

As the 2010 World Cup kicks off today, the spotlight shines on South Africa.  I was able to chat with Rocket City United's South African contingent Alexi Munro, Calvin Mbatha and Travis Banjes about what the World Cup means to their country and how they see their Bafana Bafana doing in the tournament.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Instep with Desmond Armstrong: World Cup Matchdays 1 and 2

The PWT-blog is happy to present you with the first of a series of segments in which Rocket City United and former US international Desmond Armstrong will preview and analyze international and domestic soccer.

In today's Instep, Desmond and I discuss the first few days of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. 

World Cup Etiquette: Ask First! Then Talk!

If you've followed soccer in the USA for any time, you've probably recorded a match shown live while you were at work. The idea is that you would go home and watch the match later. But sometimes that just doesn't work out right.

Imagine that you run into a fellow soccer buddy at the water cooler or supermarket or pick-up game. He screams out, "Did you see that goal by..." or "Awful stuff from the goalkeeper on that one..." That, typically, leads to your face flushing with anger, then frustration, then curiosity.

You hold back the curses, and only say, "Actually, I haven't watched it, yet. I recorded it to watch after work." That's followed by apologies on both sides and a split-second decision by you on whether the tidbit of intelligence shared with you was enough to ruin the viewing experience. If it isn't, nothing more is said. If it was a major detail of the match, you'll ask about the rest of the match, and just scan the recording you have at home unhappily.

However, the situation described above DOES NOT HAVE TO HAPPEN!!!

Why? Why?! Why didn't you ask if I've seen the game, yet???!!!

Let's all take a vow, as World Cup soccer fans, to not speak a word about any game until we have asked the crucial question, "Have you seen the game, yet?"

If the answer to that question is "yes" and there is no one within earshot that has not seen the game, feel free to discuss the crappy play by the English center half, or the idiotic substitution from the USA coach, or the blatant dive from the Italian forward.

If the answer to that question is "no", say no more. Do not say one word about the game! Any minute detail could ruin the match for your buddy. The next time you see him, you'll be able to gab about whatever you'd like with him, but right now you need to shut up.

It's just good World Cup etiquette.

Speaking of the WC, you may not have to miss those live games after all.

Univision will be streaming all matches live and for FREE on their website. So, you don't have to miss the games live. You can watch at work, if your firewall doesn't block it. Just remember not to scream "Goooooooooooooooal!" when Andres Cantor does. :)

Enjoy the World Cup. Remember your good manners and ASK FIRST!!!

Know Your American History!!!

Despite what you may have heard from the mainstream sports media over the past 20 years or so, American soccer has a rich history. Before what I call the dark days between World Cup appearances in 1950-1990, American soccer actually kicked some ass in the first half of the 20th century with the highlight being the 1930 World Cup in Uruguay. An article from Slate highlights the great popularity the game enjoyed during the 1920s and ponders what could have been if political infighting between the the American game's officials hadn't torpedoed the successful American Soccer League.

Did you know the first goalkeeper to record a shut out in the World Cup was American?

USA Goalkeeper Jimmy Douglas dives to make a save in the 1930 World Cup Semifinal against Argentina. Earlier in the tournament he shut out Belgium 3:0 to become the first goalkeeper to register a clean sheet.

Did you know the first player to score a hat trick in a World Cup game was American?

(Photo from Soccer in a Football World)

USA forward Bert Patenaude (in white) scored three goals against Paraguay in the 1930 World Cup. He still holds the record for most goals in a World Cup by an American with 4.

Did you know the best finish of any non-European/non-South American team was the American team?

The 1930 USA World Cup team lost to Argentina in the semifinals when one defender broke his leg and the keeper tore his knee up and couldn't move. This was before the days of substitutions. Yugoslavia refused to play the third place game and the USA were awarded third place.

Did you know Landon Donovan is not the best American player ever?

(Photo from Soccer in a Football World)

America's greatest player Archie Stark scored 333 career goals. He declined the opportunity to play in the 1930 World Cup. Can you imagine if he did? We could have a star above the US Soccer Shield!

Oh the possibilities... but hey, maybe we'll be able to see this on July 12th.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Mystery of Mr. Gaetjens' Number

Remember the #18 Joe Gaetjens USA jersey I bought a few weeks ago and showed you the other day? Well, ESPN sportswriter Leander Schaerlaekens wrote a piece on the mystery of the number Gaetjens wore for the USA in 1950. In it, Schaerlaekens claims it may not be 18 after all.

There are several photos showing the front of the Gaetjens jersey, but frustratingly none that show the back and the number he wore.

Well, I wanted to know before I shelled out close to $100 for the sparkling duds. So, I contacted the only man in the world who would know, if anyone does, US Soccer Historian Colin Jose. Mr. Jose was tremendously gracious when I contacted him and through our correspondence over email he wrote,

"This is the situation with numbers. There is NO official list of numbers. Most of the one's we know have come from photographs, where we can identify the players. The only other source is a small piece of film that lasts about 10 seconds. I think that is where we figured out that Gaetjens wore number 18.

We might well be wrong, but if someone has another number they must have got it from a photograph.

The numbers do not follow the regular pattern of 1 being the goalkeeper and 2 the right back and so on. For example Ed McIlvenny was #14 and as right half he would normally be #4. But Charlie Colombo was #4 and as centre half he would normally be #5. So there is no rhyme or reason to the numbers.

So I am sorry I can't help and confirm. We may never know for sure all the numbers."
So, there you have it. Mr. Jose says he got the number form a piece of film and an ESPN producer says he is "98 or 99 percent sure" that the number was 18. His source is likely the same "grainy footage" that Mr. Jose saw. That's enough for me.

Proud to don the number 18.

Like Schaerlaekens says in his piece, "mystery unsolved", but I was confident enough to drop my hard earned green on the jersey.

Greg Looks Into His Crystal Ball

Friend of the PWT-blog and former RCU coach Greg Petersen looks into his crystal ball and shares with us his predictions on the World Cup.

Teams that will be challenging to win the World Cup?

Brazil, Spain, Holland,

Teams who are going to do better than people think?

Argentina and Portugal

South American teams that will have a good tournament who have not already been mentioned?

Chile and Paraguay

African teams that will have a good tournament?

I hope I am wrong about this, but I believe very few African teams will have success. I had high hopes for Ghana, Good coach and some exceptional players, but injuries have deprived them of having a team that could cause some problems. Ivory Coast without Drogba? Not good, but with him or without him, this team can score goals. It has to because they will be conceding a few. Not good that Brazil and Portugal is in their group.I hope one of the teams from Africa in the tournament proves me wrong.Maybe Nigeria?

How will the USA do?

USA will have no fear playing against England, but they should be afraid of what every player on the England squad is... and that is Capello. England will have a good World Cup because of this man and it will start with the first match. No one would happier than me if we beat England, but it is very unlikely with Capello in charge.
Playing Slovenia is like looking in the mirror for the USA. This team is very good defensively. Bottom line is the team on the day who does better with their counter attack opportunities and set pieces will win the match. Slovenia is a much better team than people think.

I hope the USA does not have to play Algeria with something on the line for both teams. Algeria, as long as they keep their heads, can be a very worthy and dangerous opponent.

If the USA does make it to the second rounds,it will be a very worthy accomplishment. This will not be an easy group.










Who will win the World Cup?

I would be a very happy man if the Netherlands or Spain wins the World Cup, but if I was a betting man I would put my money on Argentina. This team has so much talent and Maradona.is not as stupid as you think. He actually is very refreshing! He will let the media focus on him and let his players focus on their football. Come on this is Beckenbauer 101.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

World Cup Viewing Parties Start Saturday At The Station 2 in Bridgestreet

A few days ago, I asked where are you going to watch the USA v England match. Sportspave and the International Society of Huntsville are sponsoring a viewing party at the Station No. 2 at Bridge Street Town Center.

They will also host viewing parties for the the remaining USA group matches and selected quarterfinal, semifinal and finals. There will be food and drink specials and free give-aways. Sorry, the ee-fray eer-bay is limited to pig latin speakers only. So, brush up on your foreign languages!

Monday, June 7, 2010

World Cup Stuff: My USA Jersey, Fantasy Tips, Econonmics, USA v England Ref, The Onion Article

Just Doing My Bit for the Cause

So, here's a photo of the new USA jersey I recently had personalized. It has the name and number of Joe Gaetjens, the scorer of the USA's lone goal in the 1950 World Cup upset over England. I'm hoping it brings us some good luck on Saturday.

World Cup Fantasy Tips

As this WC nears, I’ve been getting deluged by friends who don’t follow the international game closely for tips to help them win their WC fantasy league. Whether it’s a player based fantasy challenge or a team you-pick-em game (always pick Brazil, if possible), read up to help you pick your winners.

Who’ll win the World Cup? Check the economics.

NPR is has a very interesting story on a Goldman-Sachs study on how the economics of a country affects its FIFA rankings and likelihood of winning the World Cup. Brazil and Argentina are the outliers here, because they are always good.

Uh-oh! Ref for USA v England is card happy

"Yeah, I get to send someone off!"

Carlos Simon of Brazil has been named the referee for the USA v England match on Saturday, and boy does he like reaching for the cards in his pocket. Expect to see more flashing yellow than a construction warning sign. Here's the breakdown of the World Cup 2006 games he worked.

Italy vs Ghana (5 Yellow Cards)

Spain vs Tunisia (8 Yellow cards)

Germany vs Sweden (1 Red Card, 5 Yellow Cards)

Oh, and one other interesting tid-bit about Mr. Simon. He was recently suspended by the Brazilian Federation for six weeks for “perceived errors.”

What has two thumbs and loves soccer? This guy!

My work cube: Wait! Could this article be about me?

The Onion cracks me up. They’ve done it again with this hilarious article about the USA’s only soccer fan. Are you that guy in your office?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

RCU Comes From Behind To Beat Atlanta FC 2:1

For about 15 minutes during the first half of last night's match against a short handed Atlanta FC, it looked like Rocket City United might be on it's way to another frustrating 1:0 loss. RCU's play in the first portion of the match looked disheveled and uninterested. Red card suspensions and multiple injuries forced Atlanta FC to travel with only 12 players, with the only substitute available being the back-up goalkeeper. However, Atlanta came out with the better of the play early and RCU soon gave up a soft goal when two defenders failed to clear the ball from danger and Atlanta's Aziz Izmour pounced on the mistake to put Atlanta up after 12 minutes.

RCU seemed to settled down after giving up the goal, and they would take advantage of two set pieces to get back into the match. In the 30th minute Jacob Letsholo drove a corner kick deep into the penalty area that sailed over the Atlanta defenders and found Alexander Munro who struck a brilliant first-time volley. The shot took a deflection on its way into the back of the net to bring the match level.

The goal gave RCU confidence and they would begin to assert their short passing game along the flanks to create chances. In the 41st minute, good work from Fernando Sanchez and Derek Pirtle won another corner in which Brian Kimbugwe's strong header forced Constant Matey in the Atlanta goal to parry. Matey's parry was weak, however, and the ball bounded invitingly off the right post for Derek Pirtle to power into the gaping goal for the 2:1 lead.

RCU's goal was rarely threatened in the second half, while RCU continued to find space in the flank and whipped in crosses that troubled the Atlanta defense. In the 73rd minute, Brian Kimbugwe's late run into the penalty area met another Fernando Sanchez cross, but Kimbuqwe's narrowly angled volley missed wide.

In the final 15 minutes, Atlanta dialed up the pressure and some uncharacteristically sloppy play from Michael Gustavson in the RCU goal provided some exciting moments, but Atlanta never really threatened the RCU goal. Frustration bubbled over for Atlanta when in the 87th minute, Atlanta midfielder Oscar Olivia threw a vicious elbow at the head of Derek Pirtle. Olivia's name was noted by the referee Justin Brown and Olivia was ejected for his violent conduct. Three minutes later, referee Mr. Brown blew full time on a RCU victory.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A night in Chattanooga

First, I must apologize. I've had some technical difficulties with my video camera. And I actually lost some of the post-game videos from the match. So, this post has been a little late in coming.

Last Saturday night, I had the pleasure of traveling up to Chattanooga to help broadcast the friendly match between Chattanooga FC and Atlas of Guadalajara's U-23 squad for 105.1 FM ESPN Chattanooga, The Zone. Since CFC had never broadcast any of their matches before, Sheldon Grizzle of CFC asked my broadcast partner for the RCU matches, John Moran, and I to travel up the road to join sports radio pro Nick Bonsanto call the game.

The match was very entertaining with CFC pulled the upset 2:1 over the youths from the professional club. John and I had a great time calling the match and would like to thank all of the staff from CFC. We'd also like to thank Nick and Davis from ESPN Radio for making us feel at home in the booth and in the stadium despite our nerves. The atmosphere was amazing with a record crowd of 6,317 witnessing the match.

Seriously folks, if you ever have the opportunity travel up Rt. 72 on a Saturday evening to take in a match at Finley Stadium, do it. It's worth the trip. The crowd and the atmosphere is what soccer is all about and makes it a great night out.

View of the record crowd from the broadcast booth.

You can check out some of our pregame interviews with CFC players and coaches at my Vimeo channel.

RCU Ready For Rival Atlanta FC

Rocket City United and Atlanta FC are in a similar, unfamiliar position heading into Saturday night's match at the Madison City Schools Stadium. The two rivals are the only champions of the NPSL's Southeast Region. Atlanta took home the title in 2008 and RCU in 2009, but both teams face an uphill battle, if either would like to repeat as champion in 2010.
Atlanta has dropped its first two matches against Pumas and Chattanooga FC by identical 1:0 scorelines and desperately need points from this match. RCU sit in a little better situation with one point from a draw against Pumas in its first match. Each team is struggling to score goals and will look to shake off the early season rust and put together the first of what they hope will be a string of good results. Meanwhile, Chattanooga will host Pumas in a match which will decide who will sit at the top of the NPSL Southeast region table.

Armstrong: 2010 US Open Cup and Atlanta FC preview from Ryan Harbaugh on Vimeo.

The match is likely to be a fiesty affair with so much on the line. Gates at the Madison City Schools Stadium open at 6:30, but you can join the team for its pregame meal at Tommy's Pizza in BridgeStreet.

Also, the RCU reserve squad will play Friday night at 7 PM at Columbia High School. The reserve matches are free and open to the public.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

World Cup: USA v England Watching, WC Finals Goalscorers,

Where are you watching the USA v England match?

So, it's a little under two weeks away from the big match. How do you plan on watching the match?

A good buddy of mine is an American soccer geek of English descent and is hosting a few hundred of his closest friends for the match at his home. He's created a soccer pub in his basement for the match including a bar , multiple TVs, and multiple kegs of English and American brews to choose from. Too bad he lives a 13 hour drive from Huntsville.

Fortunately, Jacob at Southern Soccer has the scoop on at least one viewing party hosted by Sportspave and the International Society of Huntsville at the Station 2 at Bridgestreet. They'll be hosting viewings of each US group match and selected matches in the knockout rounds, including the semifinals and final.

Are you having/attending a watch party? Are you planning on going to a sports bar to catch the action? Or are you going to watch at home so you can scream "Gooooooooal!" and "U-S-A, U-S-A!" in the privacy of your living room?

As you know, we, at the PWT-blog, are still trying to identify a true soccer bar in the Huntsville area, and we expect to review a few more places prior to the big match. So, keep an eye out for prospective establishments.

I Scored A Goal In The World Cup Finals

Geoff Hurst, who scored three goals in the 1966 World Cup Final, is one player featured.

ESPN has an amazing web series called "I scored a goal in the FIFA World Cup finals". In it, they interview nearly every living player who scored in the World Cup finals from 1950 through 2006. It's great entertainment and an terrific history lesson.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

RCU Comes Up Short At US Open Qualifying

Rocket City United failed to qualify for the US Open Cup this past weekend in Tuscaloosa going 0-1-2 in group play. The weekend tournament began on Saturday morning after weather canceled play on Friday night.
In the Group A opener on Saturday morning, RCU fell to NPSL arch-rival Pumas 1:0 despite the unexpected clearance of at least one of the players expected to miss the tournament due to paperwork issues. In the second match Saturday night, RCU held the returning tournament champions, Lynch's FC, to a 1:1 draw but suffered a blow when goal scorer, Derek Pirtle had to be helped off the field with an injury. Sunday afternoon saw RCU fall to eventual group winner Legend's FC by the familiar scoreline of 1:0.

RCU's defensive corps has been solid up to date, but the lack of a consistent scoring threat appears to dog the club. RCU will try to rest their weary legs and return to NPSL league play on Saturday, June 5th when they host Atlanta FC at the Madison City Schools Stadium at 7:30 PM.

In Group B, fellow NPSL southeast region teams FC Tulsa and Atlanta FC also came up short, as CASL Elite grabbed the spot in the US Open Cup.

Meanwhile, Chattanooga FC upset FC Atlas of Guadalajara's U-23 team in front a huge crowd of 6,317 spectators at Finley Stadium. Check out my NPSL post.