Thursday, July 31, 2008


The general talking point from tonight's third division soccer match between Real Maryland and Crystal Palace USA will undoubtedly be what appeared to be a stunning blown offsides call that negated a huge Palace error that had been converted into the tying goal. A Palace player, in a moment of an absolute brain freeze, sent a leisurely back pass from Real Maryland's half all the way back to Palace's keeper. The kick rolled right on to the feet of a Real Maryland player who was wildly offside, having largely quit on the game, providing the striker with an unbelievable bit of luck: ball at his feet, no one in front or behind besides the goalkeeper, who he quickly beat and glided the ball into the goal. All negated by an offsides call. Now I cannot convincingly pretend to know the rules of the beautiful sport -- my days of refereeing ended when I egregiously blew a handball call in the goal box during a 10 to 13 year old girl's soccer match that led three young women to break down in tears -- but I am certain that no offsides call lies when a player on the opposing team decides to gift you the ball when you are ten yards offside. And per this nifty explanation of the rule, that's right. Unless something happened that we weren't privy to, Real Maryland got royally screwed by a brutal cock up by the linesman. (According to this account, that is exactly what happened).

Regardless, the Palace player that caused the hubbub in the first place, Mathew Mbuta, is the reason I am smiling at the moment. Never mind the Cubs' decisive four game sweep over the Brewers at Miller Park. Never mind that Luol Deng signed a long term deal with the Bulls. Never mind the rumors flying that the Bears have an opportunity to acquire Favre. Forget that. I just got to watch Mathew Andongcho Mbuta play 90 minutes. Tonight, Mbuta was slotted in at striker for Palace, with Larry Mark playing the right wing, Teixeira on the left, and Paul Robson at right back. Mbuta scored the first goal of the night after an explosion by Mark on the right offered an easy crossing opportunity that Mbuta cracked home. Mbuta thereafter ran roughshod over Real Maryland.

Mbuta was profiled recently by and I share the exaggerated sentiments of the reporter. Perhaps Man United will never be in the cards for Mathew and I wish that he would consider playing for an MLS side (say, perhaps, DC United?), but I don't think it is too much to imagine that Palace may be able to sell Mbuta on before the close of the summer transfer window for a decent return to some European squad (even if only my beloved Keflavik IF). I'll put it this way... I feel so privileged to be able to watch Mbuta play soccer in a little venue at a state university at Maryland that, after having lugged around a Charlton shirt with the thought that I might see what Robson's reaction would be to a request for a signature and then failing to find Robson after the game, I asked Mbuta to sign the shirt. So I've got a throwback "AllSports" Charlton shirt signed by one Mathew Mbuta. I am in my 30s. Whatever. Palace's last two home games -- both against the Bermuda Hogges -- are coming up over the next week and I'm looking forward to both far more than the Wizards-United match slated for RFK this Saturday night.

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