Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mold Breaker

The Baltimore Sun's Bob Parasiliti recently penned a short puff piece defense of the WaPo-ravaged Randy Edsall.  There was nothing earth-shattering about Parasiliti's profile.  The column's pro-Edsall bent is not subtle, and Parasiliti is clearly trying to convince Terrapin partisans that the head coach merits a second-look. 

Vocal Maryland football fans, however, are not sympathetic.  The conventional wisdom holds that Coach Edsall is a stammering, unimaginative drill sergeant, sent from the University of Connecticut to soil the upwardly mobile program crafted and polished by Ralph Friedgen.

While perusing the venomous comments abounding this series of tubes, my head kept wrapping around the intemperate, confrontational language used by the Washington Post's crappy sports columnists playing Salome.  And that brought me back to this past Maryland Day, where the number of fans that turned out for the football players' autograph session was considerably smaller than those at Maryland Day 2011.  Yet, despite the negativity, despite the personal attacks, despite the cutting accusations of professional incompetence, sitting all by himself at a lonely table was Randy Douglas Edsall.  Coach sat there for a better part of an hour vulnerable to the rebukes of any internet warrior desiring to give him a piece of their mind.

If I am a player on his squad, what Coach Edsall did on April 28th was the embodiment of living your word.  If a collegiate coach is going to demand accountability from his players, he damn well better not make himself scarce when slings and arrows are directed his way.  Coach Edsall has not run away.  He has not hidden.

This trait, while admirable, does not win any football games.  But it should win some respect and it should win some vocal support.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Catching Up

When Cameroon's football squad shook off both the lengthy Fecafoot imposed suspension of Eto'o for his alleged role in organizing a protest against remuneration for national team duty and the ignominious expulsion of Roger Milla from the FA to beat an even more dysfunctional Democratic Republic of Congo squad that had eight players ignore call ins to the national side for a world cup qualifier, Iya Mohammed -- yet another cherub adorning Sepp Blatter's collection of angels throughout the world -- might have whispered a prayer of gratitude that Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting managed to convert his penalty.  Or not.  Because, of course, in Blatter's FIFA being accused of long-standing corruption while simultaneously pissing all over the players that make football great in your country nets you an invite to manage the 2014 World Cup.

No matter.  I can fiddle while FIFA burns as much as the next man and, frankly, the only reason I cared about this match was a player that came on as a substitute in the eightieth minute.  Crystal Palace Baltimore alum Matthew Mbuta earned yet another cap for what is, despite Fecafoot's best efforts to sabotage them, a pretty good side.  The same Matthew Mbuta who plied his trade as a professional athlete in front of dozens of moderately-interested fans at UMBC's Retriever Soccer Park.  The same Matthew Mbuta who could gain no serious run out with an MLS team -- including D.C. United -- to harness his exceptional footballing skills.

Mbuta has, obviously, moved on and has a new (likely far more serious) professional employer, Sweden's Syrianska FC.  Thus far in the 2012 Allsvenskan, Mbuta's only played sporadically for Syrianska, seemingly appearing in only three of the club's dozen fixtures to date.

Syrianska is only in its second season of top flight football in the club's history; surviving a relegation playoff last season to retain a place in the Allsvenskan this year.  I had planned on learning about and following Syrianska closely this season after Steve Goff reported that D.C. United's Josh Wicks was set to join the club earlier this year.  But perhaps because Wicks added another incident (this time a headbutt leading to a red card and league suspension) to the litany of moments where impulse control would have helped his squad, any deal between the keeper and club failed to materialize.  Wicks would appear to still be in need of a club.

At the same time, while D.C. United's front-office staff showed little interest in the raw talent of a youthful Mbuta, the team remains interested in past-their-prime European players that are being shown the door by clubs within which they've become living legends.  This time, someone on staff appears to have traveled somewhere other than Vienna, and has focused on Hibernians' former captain Ian Murray.  Unlike the tabloid-concocted Ryan Nelsen return rumors shot down by Greg Seltzer, there is no obvious reason why a link between United and Murray would be invented.

The thirty-one year old center half has previously expressed an interest in leaving Scotland now that he's been released by former Bohs gaffer Pat Fenlon from a decade long affiliation with the Edinburgh club.  Murray has "always hankered for an American style of life . . ." and is reportedly keenly interested in moving to the MLS, so perhaps D.C. United's been the target of his agent's inquiries.

Murray's preference would seem to be to play as a center back or defensive midfielder.  If United is interested it would seem to be another person brought in to bury Ethan White (rather than to address weakness at fullback).  White deserves much better, but at this point, I need to stop complaining about the composition of the squad.  The team this season has been far more entertaining than I had anticipated and I am once again looking forward to games at RFK.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bought In

That was a blast.

Over the last few years, I've gone to see the U.S. Men's National Team play Cuba, Jamaica, and Colombia.  Doesn't compare to last night's spectacle.

Q:  How do you enjoy a supposed 4-1 drubbing that purportedly reinforces your country's minnow status in world soccer?

A:  When the scoreline doesn't even begin to approximate the action on the pitch.

67,000+ people in the stands, overwhelmingly good-natured, and largely enthralled for the full ninety.  I regret not taking my kids despite what would have been a late night; it was fantastic -- expensive, but fantastic.

I listened to all kinds of commentary on the team and its performance on the metro ride home and couldn't participate because... well...  I just sat back and enjoyed the game.  I did walk out with a real appreciation for Herculez Gomez, who was terrific for the first seventy minutes and still was tracking back and winning balls late in the game.

Plus, why have an opinion when someone, in this case TSG contributor Joshua Wells, can write what you want to say in a much more interesting manner?  Lots of head bobbing during this read.  Wells:

Sure, Brazil is more talented, but Klinsmann knows that as of right now, there’s no reason the USMNT should feel inferior or be intimidated to step on the field with anybody in the world.  Now he’s pleading with his players to buy into that and be bosses because of it.  As American soccer fans, it’s time we bought in as well.

I'm a believer.  Done and done.