Monday, March 10, 2008

What I Saw This Weekend in Soccer

I only caught bits of pieces of football (soccer) this weekend. I did catch the entire last episode of The Wire though. I couldn’t miss it. Sad to see it end, but sometimes it’s good for a good thing to walk away at the top, a la Seinfeld. Plus, it’s time to sort of lead your own life, and not have your mood tied to the ups and downs of a fictional Baltimore city life, as moving, smart, and funny as The Wire was. I miss Bunk, Bubs, McNulty and the Avons, Marlos, Michaels, and Snoops. Now, it’s all about football, Champions League, Euro 2008, EPL, La Liga and even the MLS will start up in a few weeks.

The great joy for me is not just goals, and underdogs beating giants, or giants pulling out the win in the last seconds, it’s the shared joy of the players when their combined efforts result in a goal. The one twos and give and goes and four or five passes that lead to a goal.

I didn’t see a whole lot of that this weekend though.

I caught part of the Fulham versus Blackburn match, which turned out to not just showcase American field players, but also an American based keeper battle, Keller versus Friedel. The battle ended in a draw, 1-1, as Fulham tied the game off another Bullhard free kick in the late minutes.

Eddie Johnson struggled in this game, as though he can’t get his feet under him correctly and then doesn’t know when to go at goal or lay the ball off right away. He’ll learn quickly if he wants to stick around, and this all could be the best thing for him in terms of his growth as a player. He’s probably learned more in this short time in England as he has his whole life. It will be interesting to see where Dempsey, McBride, and Bocanegra end up when Fulham goes down. Those three are class players. Hopefully they’ll land at another EPL club.

Over in Barcelona, where you’d expect to see wonderful give and goes and sublime passing, there wasn’t enough. It was old Arsenal teammates taking on one another as Barcelona met Villarreal at the Camp Nou, with Henry facing his former French partner Robert Pires. No Messi on the pitch, as he’s out with a hamstring injury. Messi tearfully departed the pitch last week. Xavi scored again, he’s on a goal scoring tear, after an Iniesta cross from the byline from a give and go with Ronaldinho to get down the line. This goal tied the score 1-1, after a first half penalty kick for Villarreal. Villa, in third place, are a strong side, and they went ahead after a series of short, sharp passes enabling Tomasson to almost walk in. 2-1 Villarreal was the final.

Ronaldinho hit the post on a superbly struck free kick late in the game, just wasn’t to be. He was eager from the moments I saw of the match, calling to his teammates to raise their game. Wearing the captain’s arm band, I even saw Dinho slid to win the ball near the corner. Let’s hope that Barca can recover from this and still push Real Madrid for the title.

Extra: Dos Santos came on in the dying minutes, blue Nikes on his feet I think. I have more people searching the site for what type of soccer shoes he wears than most other players.