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Leading up to the final of this World Cup, I am struggling with the fact that it is nearly over. For one month, we have had soccer at our beckon and call. I would wake up in the morning and there would be a group game from Cape Town. I would go to work and the day would pass by with a match in the morning from Durban, and one to push me through to the end of the day in Jo’Burg. Match trackers and ESPN 3 were my most watched and studied websites. I almost got sick of soccer. Almost.

This world cup has been…well it has happened. It’s too early to put some sort of historical adjective on it and by the laws of reference, this one will seem like the greatest World Cup in modern times, but we don’t really know how history will judge these matches. What will be the talking points looking back in four years, eight years or 24 years? Will the ball be scorned as it is now? Will this be seen as a turning point for refereeing, cleaning up the game because of poor calls and poor eyesight? Will it be seen merely by the winner and the loser; the first notch in the bedpost of a great European power and the let down of perennial favorites?

We don’t really know. Many people will judge this cup immediately. Many people will say yes to soccer because of this cup, like I did after the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Others will be turned off because of the officiating, the rules or the diving. All I know are my feelings which are muddled. I have struggled with this cup and its massiveness within the blogging world. Everything has exploded and been made into a grand gesture. Fruit trays everywhere, wine glasses clinking, waiters taking the appetizers before I’m finished, this cup has had all the arrangements of a 20’s era ball. Everyone is coming in to enjoy the scene and it’s great, but I’m overwhelmed much like I would be at such a ball.  Twitter breaks every time something big happens and all the while all I can do is sit back and observe. It’s all too much, too powerful.

Since this is my first World Cup to truly follow and be on the guest list of, I don’t know how to act. My favorite writer is writing everywhere, tweeting like the Cup depends on it, every single person has an opinion on goal line technology and Bill Clinton and Mick Jagger not only talk to each other, but they watch matches together in comfort. I mean hell; the Cup has even brought me out of my self induced blogging dungeon to write about my feelings and the Cup. My mind has been shell shocked for a month and I’m not sure whether to drink the wine, or throw it in Mick Jagger’s well creased face.

I go from being completely amazed by the most boring matches, to being unimpressed at some of the greatest plays of the tournament and I don’t know why or how. It’s like the part of my mind that knew soccer, the one that had a grasp on the game I love, was beaten up like a prize fighter past his prime. It knows what movements it is supposed to do and how everything is supposed to feel, but it can’t seem to keep up. It’s slow on the uptake and can’t block a jab to save its life.

That’s my mind during this World Cup. This Cup, and possibly all the rest for the duration of my life since this is my first, has been like this; a mind blowing experience where the world dances around the ring and I sway back and forth trying to hit it. I still don’t know how this South African adventure will be seen in years to come, but I do know that this one will be remembered by me for the sheer loopiness of what it has done to my soccer consciousness. An entire month seems like it has been one long soccer match and the end is coming in less than four days. Netherlands/Spain will be here before I know it, and then I hope I can get a grasp on this event, this Cup, this 20’s era ball. Maybe and only maybe, I will finally see that the fruit was organic and the wine was locally produced but right now it all looks canned, and I’m drinking Boone’s Farm.

Get well cd9

Tragic news has struck today with the report that Charlie Davies and two others were in a serious single car accident at 3 AM yesterday morning. One passenger was killed immediately, while the other two were taken to the local hospital. I will let the professionals explain all the details. Goff, SBI

Davies will be out for 6 to 12 months at least and will require massive rehabilitation on his broken leg, and while worrisome, it means nothing in comparison to how generally lucky he was. Seeing the picture of the car makes the whole situation hit home even more clearly. However, I have seen accidents and professional athletes hurt before, but none have filled me with this deep sense of  sadness like this one has. It was like a classmate, or distant relative was hurt, not an athlete who I have only seen on television. I felt a pain that made me think of the good times I have had with Charlie not on the pitch, but as another young 20-something figuring out the world. I feel a kinship to him, like I know him personally.

I think this is due in large part to the access we get to our favorite stars these days as American soccer fans. The rising talent of US soccer is different from nations like England, and Spain. They grew up doing the same things we did. Playing on little league teams, going through the throes of high school and struggling in college. Now, they are out in a world they love and we love. They use twitter to tell us anything from their feelings after a crushing loss to the hottest new song they just heard.  They update their facebooks with pictures of parties and their normal (in comparison to WAGS) girlfriends showing us that while being stars, they are, in fact, young, immature and human, just like me. European starlets don’t seem the same in this sense. I don’t feel any connection to them beyond the fact that they play football, and I love football. Beyond that, I don’t know who they are or what they do with their spare time. The connection isn’t as strong because since they are stars, they lead such different lives from such an early age. Guys like Wayne Rooney, or Cesc Fabregas have spent their entire lives in academies designed to make them great players, but I have no connection to them. I did not spend time in those academies.

Of course there are other reasons why I wouldn’t feel a kinship to these players and do for American players; like their different nationality, my lack of exposure to them on the national team or many others, but my argument is that some of this American affection is in part due to the fact that players like Davies, Jozy Altidore, and Stuart Holden are easy to relate too, and through this, they are easy to love, cheer for, and worry about like a friend of the family.

Look across the blogosphere today and the rest of this week, and you will see a coming together, a unification of bloggers, intent not to talk about strategies and point totals, but of a common heartfelt sorrow for a young man who may never have the career he was destined to have before this fateful day.

My thoughts are with Charlie and his family, and I hope he has a speedy recovery from his injuries.

The USMNT faces off against Costa Rica Wednesday night. During the 9th minute, do something special for Charlie Davies, the number 9 for the US Men’s National Team. I will be in my home holding a candle and thinking positive thoughts.

The Joys of Fandom

As a soccer fan, you go through a lot to follow your club, especially if your team isn’t in the same country or region as you are. It’s not easy to follow a club that isn’t in your neighborhood. The games aren’t on television, the newspaper doesn’t talk about the team, and your friends don’t care that your team just got hit with a transfer ban, or that the 19 year old phenom that your club has been placing all of its hopes and dreams for a good season on has decided to leave the club and go back to his home country of Bulgaria because he is homesick. They don’t care, nor do they understand.

They don’t understand why you get up at 4 AM to watch a two hour match in a country they can’t pronounce. They don’t understand how you can watch it on your computer where all of the players look the same due to the grainy eight-bit-like video you found on some website that is written entirely in Arabic or Japanese. They don’t understand that the result of this weekend’s matches determines next week’s mood either. The only people that do understand are other football fans.

Is mario playing for Barcelona?

Before the advent of the internet, an American football fan would go years without actually seeing another that followed the same team. Since I was not old enough to really be a fan at that point, I don’t know what they did to find out information about their beloved club, but I assume carrier pigeons and telegraphs were used daily.

carrier_pigeon

Now, fans from all around the world can gather on forums and blogs to argue the finer points of the 4-4-2 versus the 4-3-3 and etcetera. It really is a great time to be soccer fan as games are finally being shown on ESPN and other local outlets. The world is becoming smaller and more intimate and the best way to see that is through the explosion of popularity for the English Premier League in places like North America and Asia. The world’s game is finally becoming worldly and I am excited for the future. Where will we go from here?

UPDATE: So as I was traveling around the internet, I found some other articles on fandom by some much more intelligent people than me. So, forget everything I just wrote and go to these sites.

Footsmoke

The Run of Play

Futfanatico

Sport is a TV Show

The calm before the Storm

Hi world,

I want to apologize for leaving the blogging world for such a long time. Life got busy, with school, moving and everything, but look for a preview of the US-Mexico match later on today, or early tomorrow, and hopefully normal blogging services starting again soon as well.

Things I have missed:

FC Dallas’ Resurgence

Kenny Cooper’s move to 1860 Munich

All of the incredibly fun pre-season friendlies that happened in the US

Beckham and his wonderous Circus

The end of the Gold Cup and the goal fest that was the US-Mexico final. Who expected that?

Okay, apologies once again.

Colombian Independiente Medellin Jair Benitez (R) vies for the ball with Uruguayan Defensor Sporting's Julio Marchant during the Copa Libertadores soccer match in Medellin on February 24, 2009.

Today, FC Dallas made their second move of the transfer window by signing Jair Benitez from Deportivo Cali on loan for the rest of the season. Benitez is a 30 year old Columbian left fullback with good speed and average ball handling skills. To make room for him in the 24 man roster, FC Dallas released Micheal Dello-Russo.

I think this is a great signing to cure the Hoops’ left side defending problems. Benitez looks like he can attack well, but has the experience and skill to defend better than the company of players that have inhabited the left fullback spot this year. Here is a not very good video that kind of shows Benitez. He is in green on the left side of the field.

FC Dallas are trying to fix their problem spots during this window. They traded for Atiba Harris, a right side midfielder meant to balance the threat of Dave Van den Burg on the left. Now with this signing, Dallas is looking more and more dangerous. I believe they will make at least one more big move and probably more this summer. I know they are actively seeking a high target striker to compliment Kenny Cooper, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another defender enter the mix as well.

In other FC Dallas news, the rumors are picking up again that Kenny Cooper is being courted by teams from England, specifically Bristol City, a Championship club. Cooper’s english passport makes him easier to acquire since he won’t need a work permit and teams are recognizing his skills. I would be surprised to see him move this summer, as I think the MLS will want too much money for him, but stranger things have happened. If he does leave, then the Hoops’ will definitely need to find a striker who can replace his goal production which is one of the best in the league.

Cooper has his detractors here in the States, saying that he is lead-footed, and isn’t as good in the air as he should be due to his 6′ 3″ frame. He does have things to work on, and he isn’t as good as he can be, but he is a young player (23) that has a good skill set. I see a good future for Cooper as he figures out his game and matures more.

FC Dallas has traded Marcela Saragosa for Atiba Harris in a surprise move today. Click here for the official report.

Atiba Harris (left) and Chivas USA could not crack Kevin Goldthwaite and the Red Bulls defense.

Saragosa had lost his starting spot this year due to injury and poor form. I have never been a fan of Saragosa’s, but he was liked by Schellas Hyndman which allowed him to play even when his form and his decision making were at their worst. Saragosa was a central midfielder who played on the right occassionally and this year was converted to a right back. However, he was dreadful in that position, which got him benched by Hyndman.

Atiba Harris is a young, midfielder/forward who has played on the right side for Chivas. He has been a bench player at the LA club, but it looks like he will challenge for a starting spot at right midfield where no one on the Hoops has fit this year.

I like the move a lot, and think it will work out in our favor. Saragosa was dead weight, and Harris should become a first guy off the bench type or a starter before too long.

I’ll update with more later. Keep checking back to this post to find out.

Danny Szetela has now signed with the MLS, leaving Racing Santander. Szetela is a central midfielder that played with Columbus before making the move to Europe in 2007.

FC Dallas is first on the allocation list of teams who can sign Szetela. The team is in need of another striker, a right midfielder, and some defensive help, but are pretty secure in the center of midfield. Szetela could play as a right midfielder, but I don’t know how affective he will be there.

Personally, I think this is the best that FCD will be able to get with the allocation, and will be a good option for the team to persue.

He could also be picked up by FCD, and then traded to New York or another team who wants him for another player or allocation money. Szetela is from New Jersey and may want to move back home and play for NYRB.

I’ll keep you updated.

UPDATE~~~~~~~~Szetela has signed with DC United as cover for the often injured Ben Olsen and others. A good pickup for DC who looks like they may be a real contender for the Cup. FC Dallas passed on the chance to sign him, and still hold the #1 allocation slot. Click here for more.

Rumors abound that Demarcus Beasley will come back to the MLS, and FCD might be able to lure him to Big D. However, I don’t see him coming back to the US to play his club soccer. I think he is still relevant in Europe, and a small club somewhere will take a chance on him.

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