Friday, December 28, 2007

Allez, Eux Autres, Allez!

There are many good reasons to love the Portland band Eux Autres. Their name, and many of their lyrics, are in French (and in the case of the name, colloquial Quebecois French, at that)—certain to annoy rightwingers, Francophobia bandwagonistes, Marco Materazzi and other odious elements. Last Yuletide, they released one of the best Christmas anthems ever, “Another Christmas at Home,” which captures the punch- (and otherwise-) drunken atmosphere of whirlwind holiday visit to the Old Hometown, and features a tavern that sells champagne on draught. Guitarist Nick “Nicolhino” Larimer is both a Liverpool fan and a member of the Albina Going FC Unicorns—does football street cred get any more street, or any more credible?

But for fans of this game we call Beautiful, perhaps the best reason to bandy about Eux Autres’ difficult-to-pronounce name is that the duo almost certainly enjoys the distinction of being America’s smartest soccer band. (The fact that the competition in this category is arguably limited—given that oy-lite ska-pop nerds the Bouncing Souls constitute the rest of the field—should not be held against them.) Football contributes a rich and earthy hue to Eux Autres’ lyrical palette, a source for melancholic allusion and emotional allegory born of the game’s split personality—for fans, both a medium for fantasy and a cause of crushing heartbreak; for players, a means to fabulous wealth and a soul-draining job. (Suffice it to say that the vision of football propounded in Eux Autres songs is more Britannic than Brazilian; their first album included a song called “Partick Nil”. Yes, that’s a reference to Glasgow’s mighty Partick Thistle Football Club, currently doing business in the Scottish First Division…though they have the odd moment of glory to reflect upon.)

Their new album, Cold City, opens with a song called “The Deadball Era”: a weird Surrealist collage of 1970s English football hard yakka and spikes-up 1920s baseball. In its punchy lilt, the song turns phrases like “transfer market,” “cup ties,” and “no domestic fixtures and a doping scandal” into unlikely but catchy pop filigree. The subject seems to be a team (of some sort) drifting from early promise into seasonal disaster. (To the point where, perhaps inspired by Liverpool, Europe is all they’ve got.) The gaffer orders a winter break in Rio to clear the boys’ heads, to no avail—the Spaniards have their number, and the non-stop grind of life at the top reduces them to desperation. (“I’m always coming home, unless I’m leaving home.”) In the end, they must fall back on cold-blooded cynicism—the ultimate fate of every team as it faces the question of survival. “Mercy is for the unfit.” You can almost hear Roy Keane bellow it in the Sunderland dressing room.

In “Collision Theory,” pyramid football provides a handy metaphor for life’s calamities: “We’re never surviving this fall / It’s lower division for all.” Pop music’s job is to articulate and dramatize the most commonplace (e.g., basically mundane) emotions and experiences. In this case, Eux Autres say that we’ve all been there, and we’ll all be there again—even the lordly among us:

What next? A rock opera about the New York Cosmos? A spoken-word interpretation of the Serie A match-fixing scandal? A storming, two-minute-fifty-nine-second rave-up about the White Horse final in the 1923 FA Cup? Perhaps the game’s burgeoning Stateside popularity (and enduring alterna-culture, anti-jock cachet) will put Eux Autres on the leading edge of an indie-calcio subgenre that sweeps Hipster America. Picture the beauty: mustaches grown in irony; Manchester City shirts worn in deadly earnest.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Merengue

Like all good American soccer pinkos, I harbor a knee-jerk dislike for Real Madrid, due to presumed crimes-against-humanity-by-association that took place before I was born. And like all good American soccer pinkos, I love FC Barcelona because they stand for Freedom and World Socialism or something like that, plus those shirts can get you laid. But I gotta say, the Madridistas play some abso-fab football, do they not? This latest iteration of one of world sport's greatest rivalries looks like a minor classic:

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Stuffing

Congratulations to UrbanHonking Athletic, who served stuffed Unicorn for a holiday feast last night and claimed the Rivals Cup for the third time in a row.

Meanwhile, what's the over/under on how many goals Inter will score on Liverpool in their Champions League tie?

Thursday, December 20, 2007


We could talk about the stirring win by Arsenal's pre-teen XI in the Carling Cup. Or we could talk about how Liverpool is finally "finding its own level"—somewhere north of Sunderland and south of Manchester City. Or maybe the riveting news out of MLS regarding changes to senior-international designation rules...and they wonder why the league hasn't captured Joe Average's imagination.

But instead, let's talk about a huge match with trophy implications in not one but two competitions! Tonight, at the tranquil hour of 10 pm, the Albina-Going FC "Unicorns" take on UrbanHonking Athletic Club in the seventh round of Portland Futsal's Winter I season. This battle will decide the coveted Rivals Cup, with the winner taking home the Golden Angel of Victory after both sides beat Dudes FC earlier this season. Meanwhile, while my beloved Unicorns have stormed to an unbeaten record so far this season, we haven't quite wrapped up the Third Division Conference Argentina crown. A win, a draw or a narrow loss puts us into the divisional final after New Year's.

How often do you get to do the Double all in one night? No wonder our fans are excited:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Paging Guy Ritchie

Of course, the strange wave of burglaries perpetrated against Liverpool players' trophy homes while they're off playing games is NO LAUGHING MATTER. But isn't there something just a little comic, in that Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels way, about the whole affair? You just know that the Scouser thugs (Everton fans?) who came up with the scheme think of themselves as criminal geniuses of Howard Marks calibre, while the police investigators are doing their best combination of Sherlock Holmes and Keystone Kops. Most recently, Stevie Gerrard's manor got hit while he was taking down O. Marseille. After-action reports yielded this gem for the annals of criminal justice:

"Yesterday an officer stood guard outside while his colleagues carried out forensic examinations which were focused on muddy footprints left by the gang."

'Struth, Jonesie—look! Cor'blimey, it's a clew!

Monday, December 10, 2007

As Blatantly Self-Promotional As a Giorgio Chinaglia Press Conference

Somehow, the Royal We managed to take a break from the incessant blog posting (that's a lie) and non-stop wassailing (that's true) to

1) Appear on last night's edition of the Shuttlecoque Sporting Hour. Listen here: Not sure it's a performance that can be "recommended" in good conscience to neutral parties, but I do describe the strange dream I had yesterday morning in which I was mysteriously transposed with Stephen Gerrard and led Liverpool in a match against Tottenham Hotspur...a match played not at White Hart Lane, but in a vast concrete plaza at the foot of towering London apartment blocks.

2) Write a book review for The San Francisco Chronicle, the official newspaper of Sam Spade.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Old Nostalgics FC

Like many futbolistas Yanquis, the Eleven Devils Editorial Commissar makes regular visits to the invaluable blog Du Nord, a wide-ranging compendium of soccer news updated just about every day by some Irish Viking maniac in Minnesota. Du Nord is a great example of why my fellow "professional" journalists just need to shut the fuck up about blogs: Bruce does something no mainstream media outlet in this country does, and does it really well.

Today's DN post sent me tripping down le Rue de la Memoire in a big way, with three separate items that harked back to the days in the early and mid-'90s when I started following this sport we all call calcio in earnest:

—Carlos Llamosa, longtime defender for the US national team and various MLS clubs, is finally retiring. You may recall what a great, and oh-so-American-soccer, story Carlos was when he broke into the Show: a dude from Colombia, who was working security at the World Trade Center the first time it got bombed, comes out of nowhere (specifically the A-League), becomes a staple of the great early DC United teams, turns Americano and plays in the World Cup. Not to say that these kinds of made-for-Hollywood sagas are impossible now—see a certain Watford defender, who scrubbed his way up from college in Chicago to Non-League to the Premiership and national team—but it does remind me how provisional and seat-of-the-pants the whole MLS enterprise was back in the day.

—Meanwhile, it looks like the Rochester Ragin' Rhinos—the darlings of the American lower divisions a decade ago, the team that was certain to make the jump to MLS as soon as the top flight got its act together—are on the rocks in a major way. The Rhinos talked the good people of Rochester into helping them out with a stadium, and now may gift those same fine citizens with a ballpark of their very own if the club can't get out of debt. One could call it a cautionary tale, if one were of that ilk.

—Finally, DN compiles its usual updates on the American players plying their trade all over Europe these days. Just 10 years ago, any single American player getting a European deal was tantamount to a rain of toads. Now no one even notices—still waiting for The New Yorker to run an update on its Freddy Adu profile of a few years ago, the one that basically said the kid was worthless.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Two Notes From the Road

After spending a solid week in Montana, the Eleven Devils Notebook is just a little empty. Aside from watching Chelsea go nuts in the Champions League—THE WORLD'S PREMIER CLUB COMPETITION, or so we're told—football-related activities were at a minimum. Two little moments, though, livened things up:

—On a walk through my parents' woodsy neighborhood outside Missoula (I believe the experts would call it the "urban/wildlands interface"), I encountered an older gent wearing a Liverpool FC jacket. "Is that a Liverpool coat?" I asked. "Yeah," he said, "it's a great club." You'll never walk alone, indeed.

—On the drive back to Portland, somewhere between scenic St. Regis, Mont. and the Idaho border, I coaxed the Subaru past a semi-truck with a bright-orange cab. Stenciled on the side of the cab was the crest of Deportivo Cali, the great Colombian club. Who was the driver? Does he console himself on endless Interstates with thoughts of Depor's eight national titles? (Okay, I Wikipedia'ed that.) Does he seek out fleabag motels with Fox Soccer Channel? Does he trash-talk America fans over his CB?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Nil-Nil! Nil-Nil! Nil-Nil!

I will spare you the details, but I find myself with nothing better to do than watch the Monday Night Helmetball fixture between the Miami Football Dolphins and FC Steelers of Pittsburgh. And at the moment of this writing, it is one of the best helmetball games I have ever watched. Why? Because the score is 0-0, of course: deep into the third quarter, both teams appear incapable of scoring so much as a failure goal. The Steelers' kicker just missed a failure-goal attempt in the most pathetic fashion. Given the sheer suckitude of the Football Dolphins, it is entirely possible that this could end in a scoreless tie, in which case it would rise from mere regular-season-match-up-between-one-mediocre-team-and-one-horrible-team to legendary status.

C'mon Nil-Nil! C'mon Nil-Nil!

UPDATE: Did Ben Roethlisberger seriously just point up at Jesus after "leading" his team to a 3-0 win? Trust me, son—if there's one game the Almighty had no part of, it was this one.

And with that, I hearby issue an apology to the faithful reader(s) of Eleven Devils and promise not to mention helmetball for at least one calendar year.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The MLS Cup Final in 20,000 Words or Less

Any day that starts with a televised football match at 9 am is a good day, but in past years I have tuned in to Major League Soccer's championship decider with the knowledge that it would probably be a downer. One could call it the Denver Broncos Effect, in honor of those years-gone Super Bowls when the Broncos would barely show up: when a league stakes a whole season on a single game, the vagaries of sport pretty much guarantee that the game will disappoint at least sometimes. I used to make a practice of inviting a non-soccer-nerd pal over to watch the Final ("hey, it's the championship game—it'll be fun!"), but I learned my lesson after last year's 120-minute torture session at the hands of the Houston Dynamo and New England Revolution.

With those two teams matched up again yesterday, my expectations are low. I even went out of my way to dis the stolid but successful Revs in an earlier post. I now must issue a formal apology to all concerned, because Don't-Call-It-Soccerbowl '07 turned out to be pretty damn good.

Not fantastic, not a classic, not great, but pretty damn good. Both teams went for the jugular, and New England—thanks to the pacy Khano Smith and the immortal Steve Ralston (did I just type that?)—showed plenty of attacking gusto. But what I really liked was the game's hardboiled, fundamentally American nature. Everyone got stuck in; tackles were flying; Smith gave Craig Weibel a modified Glasgow handshake right in front of the ref. Pat Onstad's blind save on the flying header in injury time was a straight shot of voltage; to fake a Ray Hudson comment, the whole contest had more end-to-end action than a San Fernando Valley feature film.

It's also interesting, ain't it, that for all the talk over the years about how MLS needed more Latin flair or European know-how, the two teams that came out on top this season are just about pure Norte Americano products—a bunch of guys from Canada, the Caribbean and Los Estados Unidos who work hard, tackle with venom and, yes, can pull off the odd moment of magic.

The Shuttlecoque Has Landed

The gentlemen of the Shuttlecoque Sporting Hour, Portland's finest (only? I wouldn't know) sports-talk radio show, kindly invited me on the air last night. The resulting hilarity—we discuss a lot of helmetball, but also talk a (very) little MLS Cup and there's an exciting moment when they ask me to make up my own football code—can be heard via SuperWeb here:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Major League Skinflint

The MLS Cup Final—always a highlight of the global soccer calendar—is tomorrow, and so league commissar Don Garber is making the media rounds. In this interview with Jack Bell of the New York Times, Garber addresses a bunch of different issues. He is at his most charmingly ruthless on the subject of player salaries; while a handful of MLS players make big money, most are paid more like entry-level corporate drones, and many could almost certainly earn more tending bar somewhere. I consider it a scandal—it's practically immoral to ask grown men to risk their physical health and forestall other career prospects for $24,000 a year. (While, meanwhile, hyping your league as the next big thing in American sports...naturally.)

Given a chance to address this fundamental inequity, Garber has this to say:

"M.L.S. could be profitable today if spent less money on players."

That might be true, but then again if it spent any less on players than it already does, it would find itself on roughly the same level as my own Albina-Going Unicorns, pride of Portland Futsal's Third Division. (We are available, by the way, Commissioner.)

Then, Garbster adds:

"Our current CBA expires at the end of the ‘09 season. You will see us saying less and less about finances."

Well, that's nice. Gotta love transparency.

Monday, November 12, 2007


ITEM: The lads at Shuttlecoque Sporting Hour write to say that their programme can actually be heard on Sunday evenings, not Saturday as advised below.

ITEM: How TOTALLY EXCITING will it be to see the New England Revolution in yet another MLS Cup Final? They always bring what the Brazilians call "jogo bonito," do they not?

ITEM: My smarter and more talented younger brother is "blogging" (is that what the kids call it?) here.

ITEM: What shall we call the new Seattle MLS team? Entitlement FC?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Bog of Blog

Two hundred and fifty posts into its glorious existence, Eleven Devils has lately found itself in the Great Mire of Blogdom, sluggishly mucking through thick brambles of real life and non-football-oriented drudgery and seldom updating its eager public. But that can change! Let's go, XIDEVILS FOOTBALL MISCELLANY!!!:

—Your Humble Correspondent finds himself on the deep DL after a misguided clash over a 50/50 ball in Portland Futsal Division Three action. I took on a hulking member of the Rubber Burning Hotrods, and though the play was clean, I came away feeling like I might need to be hauled out 'hind the old barn and shaaaawt. After a week and a half of limping around, I'm still not good to go. So it was with bittersweet emotions that I watched from the sidelines as the Mighty Mighty Unicorns of Albina-Going Football Club handed out one of the best beat-downs ever to Third Div new boys Chico's Bail Bonds. (I don't know what's up with the stupid team names, but can we knock it off, please? Go pretentiously faux-English or pseudo-Latino or go home with your amateur branding!) Insiders tipped CBB as an early title favorite in the new Winter Season after they beat UrbanHonking Athletic by the maximum seven goals in round one. I'm proud to say that my boys gave them a comprehensive seven-goal hiding of their own to reflect upon. I'm sure the fact that I was not playing is mere coincidence.

—Speaking of branding, Albina-Going FC debuted its deliriously attractive new kit this season. The sky-blue number comes adorned with the club badge, which depicts a stylized unicorn superimposed over Portland's iconic Steel Bridge. Are we nerds? Hell yes. But v., v., v. sexy nerds.

—We direct your attention to a fine new(ish) radio programme called the Shuttlecoque Sporting Hour. Its hosts, a pair of erudite young men, attempt to redress the global psychic imbalance created by all the shite sports-talk radio out there by discussing le Sport with a grain of intelligence. The most recent show cited Eduardo Galeano, which earns it our Stamp of Approval. Portlanders with exceptionally strong radio receivers can listen live at 2100 tonight on 1450 AM, the frequency of KPSU, which broadcasts using equipment left over from the French Resistance. Others can download at Have fun with it.

—Yeah, Seattle to MLS. It becomes official today. You know what? Fuck those guys anyway.

—I was heartbroken to see that Maidenhead United lost in FA Cup First Round action today. I love Maidenhead United.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Ray Hudson Quote of the Week

Regarding a Ronaldhino free-kick goal:

"ESOTERIC! That's all I can say. There is more flair in this team than in a '70s high school reunion."

Of course, no one has the first clue WTF that means, but I insist that we all start using "Esoteric!" as an exclamatory adjective. It can be the new "awesome."

Strangeways Here We Come

This is odd: Lanus, the anonymous-seeming and thoroughly crappy suburban team I watched play (and lose to) Buenos Aires giants River Plate just eight months ago, is now in first place in the Primera Division. Just four rounds remain in the current championship, and it looks like a death-defying (as any experience with Argentinian football tends to be) race between the purple-clad lads and ever-fashionable Boca.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Four Posts & Two Lengths of Tape

I will admit to never giving mighty mighty Queen's Park Rangers a thought (except to appreciate the oh-so-English radness of the club's name), but this little rundown of the insanity that hangs around Loftus Road definitely inspires a flicker of interest. Sounds like they might be in League One next year—and hey, I don't have a League One club yet.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Rites of Autumn

Some say Major League Soccer lacks tradition. You can't blame that on DC United, however; the club is doing its level best to make blowing great seasons with playoff flame-outs against Chicago an annual ritual.

Robinho: Mythical Hero

Robinho, probably the most elegant player I have ever seen in the flesh—when he has the ball, it's like he's riding a bloody magic carpet to dreamland, nimble as a prancing squirrel on a telephone wire, as Ray Hudson might say—just keeps getting better. From the Press:

"...Robinho, Ronaldinho and other players attended a party that went on for hours and was complete with alcohol, sex and furtive escapes by footballers as they left the nightclub.

Moreover, O Globo said that at one point Robinho - who had been seen dancing with a voluptuous blonde - asked a security guard 'for 40 condoms,' adding that the Real Madrid player left the disco at 5 am.

The 23-year-old Robinho's involvement in similar activities has been documented in the past. In January, Spanish media accused him of turning up to a Real Madrid training session drunk - an allegation that was not denied by the club."

If there are any "kids" reading this, please: Don't try whatever Robinho thought he was going to try unless you've consulted a physician.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Canzano v. Garber

MLS Commisar Don Garber zipped through the City of Roses this week, studying our potential as an expansion city under the enormous hyper-powered magnifying glass he carries with him everywhere he goes. In the course of his travels, he took some time to talk to Oregonian sports columnist John Canzano on his popular sports-talk radio show. You can listen to the resulting awkwardness here.

Sports-talk is not a friendly environment for soccer—I think we all know this. To each their own, etc. I'm proud of "the soccer group" (see two sentences below) for building a sport without the support of the sports media mafia, which deep down just wants to protect its little piece of turf from incursions by subjects it doesn't collectively know much about.

Canzano and his charming cohost treated Garber with a notable lack of country hospitality, repeatedly and insistently referring to his product as "minor league." At one point, "the soccer group" (guess that's us) was referred as "hippie, granola, liberal..." (Ha. There are some skinheads these guys should really meet.) I would like to say that it amazes me that paid-up journalists still spout this stuff in 2007, but then again I work in the business.

On the other hand, there is another issue in play. Major League Soccer and the Timbers ownership group are talking about a possible $20-million, publicly financed retrofit of PGE Park to make it Beckham-worthy. To the extent that Canzano treated that idea with healthy skepticism, I salute him.

Public stadium financing is almost always a ripoff, amounting to a subsidy of some of the least needy people in America. Now, PGE Park is actually city-owned, which might move it into a slightly different category than the outright hand-outs most sports franchises seek; I'm not convinced of that, at least not yet. I would love to see MLS here, but not at any price. Garber and Timbers owner Merritt Paulson should be made to answer some tough questions—maybe even Canzano-esque questions—before they get a dime of tax money.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


If reports like this one are to be believed, the Hated Seattle Sounders are on the verge of making the leap to Major League Soccer. (Nevermind the fact that they're also on the verge of the USL First Division championship; that's a subject too painful to delve into.) It seems that after years of begging and threatening to move to every other cowtown on Puget Sound, Seattle drummed up the sugar daddies needed to make the leap to the big circuit. (A solid fanbase? Eh, we'll get to that later. Hey, we sold out a friendly!)

This, of course, threatens to leave the Portland Timbers without their most loathed rivals, condemned to a future of "heated" games against Victoria United or Burnaby Rovers or whatever other club emerges from the BC hinterlands to claim the Sounders' place. That's despite—and I will go on record here—boasting a hardcore supporters section that's larger and louder than anything MLS has to offer, and despite consistently turning out more paying fans than Seattle. (Success on the pitch? Eh, we'll get to that later. Hey, we have bagpipes!)

Memo to MLS: Seattle. Portland. This is a match made in Hades, and one you would do well to incorporate into your showbiz plans. The rivalry between the two cities was never in danger of cooling...but now it just got a whole...LOT...HOTTTTTTER.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Standard-Issue Heartbreak

Penalties. The very word is like a curse—like divorce, something occasionally necessary as a last resort but never a happy affair for anyone involved, and very often a scarring tragedy for the most fragile people involved. (In marriage, it's the kids. In soccer, it's the fans. In both cases, professional counseling is often needed.) After 210 minutes of deadlocked soccer, the Atlanta Silverbacks ended the Portland Timbers' season last night. On f______ penalties. We're okay. No, really, we're okay. We're okay, we're okay, we're okay....

The game itself was a classic bit of United Soccer Leagues nastiness, half wrestling match and half chess game between two middling grand masters both playing black. The Timbers looked like the better side through this meatgrinder, playing more positively and even sometimes flashing a little art. (Andrew Gregor—backheel?!?) Atlanta—well, they were tall. At the same time, Portland didn't really get in there too often, and when they did they produced only a few moments of danger. A great run by Bryan Jordan in the first half should have yielded a penalty, unless FIFA pulled a stealth rule change to permit defenders to shove forwards over the endline. A trickling header in extra time kissed the post and popped straight into the hands of Atlanta's keeper, who looked as surprised as anyone. Otherwise, too many long balls went in eccentric directions, and too much play was lost in the midfield.

And then the penalties—some of the worst penalties I've ever seen taken, and that includes both sides. The Silverbacks bagged a few, though, and it was enough to end Portland's improbable bid for the tarnished plastic crown that is the First Division title. Defeat (or as Al Gore might call it, the little-known third category) doesn't take away from the fact that some very special things happened in Soccer City this year. You only had to look around the overflow Timbers Army—trumpets and bagpipes and banners and a thing that sounded like Tolkien's Horn of Gondor—and see the way the large crowd in other sections responded to the hardcores' frantic harangues. This club has become a cultural juggernaut. I saw a lot of faces that have been there from the beginning, when there were maybe 50 people standing behind the north goal. And I saw a lot of kids who were probably about eight back then, and who've made the Timbers a big part of their lives. The Army, a populist uprising against everything boring and packaged in fandom today, is a thing of beauty. But now it goes away for awhile.

After the brutal conclusion, the Timbers made their ceremonial lap around the ground. How many of these guys will be back? One just never knows—life in the USL, in its tenuousness, resembles actual life to an uncomfortable degree. This team wasn't supposed to do anything, but it did. The boys lined up, linked hands, raised their arms and bowed like a theatrical troupe after the curtain. Show's over—just a little standard-issue heartbreak, and it's done.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Requiem for a Special One

MASSSSSSSIVE day in football news. The Eleven Devils Editorial Suite was abuzz with the ownership tangle at Arsenal—why must all Premiership takeover dramas involve either shadowy post-Soviet steel magnates or American plutocrats or both? why can't anyone nice ever chuck in a bid?—when the Execution of Jose flashed across the wires.

I'm hardly a Chelsea fan (no, that's my in every family, &c....), but it is sad that the Poshest have now lost their one asset guaranteed, week in and out, to entertain. Heavens know that the dreary grind of Drogbaball isn't keeping anyone riveted, but bless 'im, you could always count on Jose Mourniho. Many found the manager's trademark existential-Surrealist-magical-egotist style "annoying" or "grating". I guess it's just like caviar or certain pungent Gallic cheeses: an acquired taste.

We probably won't be long deprived. The geniuses on the email list shared by my futsal team, the Mighty Unicorns, already arrived at the perfect next mission for Mourinho: taking the helm of the Los Angeles BeckhamStars after this rancid season ends and Frank Yallop and Alexi Lalas receive their inevitable pink slips. Jose + Hollywood = Pure Potential. If MLS Commish Don Garber can take a moment from his next Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Omaha or Tuscaloosa or ______________, he should jump on his mobile. Tell Jose he will have friends here. He will be loved. We understand his kind...not really, but tell him that.

Meanwhile, let us leave Jose Mourinho with a piece of his own deep philosophy:

"So I know all about the ups and downs of football. I know that one day I will be sacked."

Monday, September 17, 2007


Funny thing, life. Just a year ago, if you'd asked a fan of the Portland Timbers about one Andrew Gregor, they would likely have intimated that he was just the sort of chap who, given different circumstances, could have served as Slobodan Milosevic's confidential personal assistant or worked as an expediter in the white-slave trade. Of course, he was a Seattle Sounder back then. Now, he's a Timbers hero—his fizzy little outside shot skipped over a hapless Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper and bounded into the net in front of the frothy Timbers Army with the joyful verve of a young bunny. It was the goal the Timbers needed to win their aggregate quarterfinal series against the 'Caps (though they'd add one more). And it was occasion for Gregor, who has the steel nerves and icy blood of a veteran mercenary, to stand stock-still with his fists in the air as his green-clad Timber mates swarmed him.

A very nice moment on a good afternoon of (s)crappy, edgy, ragged-in-a-good-way United Soccer Leagues First Division playoff action—a perfect day for football, from the cup-tie atmosphere to the gray, cool Englandy skies. The Eleven Devils Press Team watched the match from the sedate confines of PGE Park's family section, surrounded by squealing seven-year-old girls and their fathers, who repeatedly informed their charges that "we're rooting for the green team, the greeeeeeeen team, they're trying to get the ball in this net over here..." Ah well. Sometimes football isn't perfect, but it's never all that bad, anyway.

Now, the Timbers "return on success" amounts to a two-legged tie with the Atlanta Silverbacks. That's one long-ass flight to ATL for Friday, followed by a similarly long-ass flight home for the Sunday finale. That's the glamor and prestige of the USL for you. In any case, the hated Seattle Sounders are even worse off, with their first semifinal match slated for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. And thus we find ourselves torn: assuming, of course, that the Timbers can make the Final, do we want the Sounders to lose to the Islanders, thus ensuring our rivals' humiliation and a theoretically weaker opponent for Portland...or do we want the Sounders to win, setting up the apocalyptic Mother of All Battles in the Final?

You tell me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The UnBeautiful Game

"I don't get all the 'beautiful game' stuff," my pal and Albina-Going Football Club teammate Liverpool Mike once said. "I mean, sure—if you can play beautifully, go for it. But if you can't, you still have to try to win, right?"

Understand that LM pines for the days when English clubs made it through their seasons with squads of just 14 or 15 players; when the European Cup was a straight-no-chaser series of two-legged ties, no group stage fancy-pantsing on behalf of the big clubs' bankers. One might fairly describe his football aesthetic as old school. Thing is, though, he's right—in our zeal for football's artistry, fans (I'd say particularly us yanquis) neglect the truth that soccer is more often a game of grit, cojones and guile.

All this springs to mind because the Portland Timbers, our beloved USL First Division battleaxes, just barged their way through an astonishing (relatively) season of success. Beaten just five times in regular-season play, the Green Machine now looks to parlay second place in the table into a playoff championship. The knock-outs begin this week with a tie against the hated Vancouver Whitecaps...and, as Eleven Devils predicted, could possibly lead to a meeting with the super-duper-hated Seattle Sounders in the league final.

Manager Gavin Wilkinson, a brass-knuckles defender from New Zealand whose very being defines "blue-collar ethic," deserves enormous credit, and possibly a job as an MLS turn-around specialist. (If Sexy Jurgen doesn't take the LA job...) Taking over after the toxic reign of Chris "Where Is He Now?" Agnello, Wilko forged a low-low-budget team of rookies and veteran roustabouts into a steely side. That was after he lost (or bid adieu to) long-time Latin heartthrobs Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar and Byron Alvarez, the Timbers' perennial flair players, to free transfers. The soft bigotry of low expectations greeted the revamped side; I think we were all hoping for a semi-respectable mid-table finish.

How did they do it? The scorelines tell the tale: 0-0; 1-0; 2-1; 1-0; 2-2; 0-0; 0-0; 1-1...On one occasion, the Timbers scored four goals; another time, they scored three. Those delirious outbursts both came against a team named, for satirical purposes, the California Victory, and represented the most free-wheeling good times the Timbers had this season. Other than that, it's been raw determination, canny defending and goalkeeping. Pretty? Well, I haven't been to many matches, but it doesn't sound pretty to me.

On the other hand, does it really matter? When you have no money, play a league schedule designed to brutalize and wear down players and face uncertain future prospects (as the Timbers always have faced), are you under obligation to play beautifully? Or an obligation to leave it all on the field, playing whatever bucket-of-bolts style you can hammer together? I'd say the latter. It may not be a great advertisement for the game, but this time around, it might be good enough for a cup.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Clear Space in the Psych Ward

England has a couple of games coming up. That means things are going to get weird.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

You Know That Real Madrid is Behind This...Somehow

The Spanish FA, acting on behalf of the Monarchy, the State and the Last Crusade, put the kibosh on Team USA's odd (but awesome) scheduled friendly against Catalunya. Leaving aside the issue of why (or why not) non-national regions can't (or can) field national teams (unless they happen to be Wales...or something), this obviously leaves a gap in the schedule.

I suggest that CASCADIA call the US Soccer Federation without delay.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Great Moments in Sports Marketing

From a wire report on last night's oh-so-super SuperLiga final:

"Attendance was capped at 12,500 in the 27,000-seat stadium to limit traffic and ease parking problems for students in their first week of fall classes at Cal State Dominguez Hills. The school shares its campus with the Home Depot Center. As a result, the upper deck and north end zone were closed."

These geniuses really know how to drum up a big occasion, don't they?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Brief Note on the Champions League

In their current match against Liverpool, Toulouse are using a goalkeeper named Douchez.

That is all.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Serie A's Super '70s!

Or at least that's what it feels like when the TOTALLY AWESOME opening montage of this handy little YouTube recap of the Italian action rolls:

Are those jackanapes at Juve really using Comic Sans as the font on their strip this year?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Class. Caaaaaaah-laaaaaaaaasssss! Pure Class.

Liverpool caught on film playing decent football:

Uploaded by

I especially like that Voronin goal; the build-up pulsates with some Total Football vim, and new boys Babel and Torres do well. THIS COULD BE OUR YEAR. Okay, not really. But nice goals.

Friday, August 24, 2007

And That's Why They Call it The Beautiful Game

I can't say I'm proud, but I'm loving everything about this:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


FULL-TIME: Well, that sucked. I mean, it wasn't actually all that bad, but that somehow makes it worse, you know? I felt like I was watching a Team USA friendly from the late '90s—a particularly dire match against Israel comes to mind. That just underscores that our side is in pretty much exactly the same place as it's been for 10 years. We're okay (but never exciting). We're getting better (arguably). We have a few boys with initiative, a few with enough skill to get a game in the bottom half of the Premiership, a decent goalkeeper. We can beat Mexico. But any marginally competent European team doesn't even have to play well to beat us.

87th: Finally—the USA forces a real save from the Swedish 'keeper.

81st: Whatever.

78th: The Swedes just inserted a 12-year-old Bosnian kid, which I believe means garbage time has commenced.

75th: Spector concedes a free kick in a dangerous spot. Real good luck charm, Spector—if you want to be relegated or nearly relegated, take him on.

73rd: Convey's useless on the right, as well.

69th: Wow. The second promising counter dies at Convey's feet.

63rd: Feilhaberino gets seriously pissed at the ref, and looks very much like the singer for a nu-metal band. Nice chinstrap, man. Off comes Landycakes, who's had his usual invisible performance. On with Kamani "Yeah, My Fucking Name is 'Kamami'" Hill and Young Jack Spector.

58th: What's Swedish for GOOOOOOL-AZO! (?) Bound to happen eventually. The USA has played the better football overall, but the defense has been leaky and the attack lacks killer instinct. Sweden's barely been there, but a rocket from outside the area may be all they need.

54th: Nice to see Convey ambulatory, even though he can't put a decent all in either.

50th: Desperate saves at both ends...Zeppelin on the stereo.

48th: Beasley gets murdered. Bobby Sands Brigade of the Revolutionary Provisional Continuity IRA claims responsibility.

STILL HALF-TIME. Is it me, or is this taking a gilded eternity? Where my Swedes at? Oh, there they are.

HALF-TIME: Riveting stuff. It's a friendly, and I think everyone is having a very pleasant time.

40th: Some meaty Swede treats Dempsey like a jailhouse informant. Resulting free kick leads to nothing but embarassment for all concerned.

37th: How is that the United States can singlehandedly remake the Middle East into a prosperous bastion of Islamic democracy by toppling one single dictator, yet cannot put a decent ball into the box?

30th: Semi-half-decent stuff from the White Buffalo so far. They're moving the rock okay and appear to be in a creative mood, or as close as they get to one. Bradley unleashed big-time but went wide, proving he should be stitching people up instead. Big saves from Howard and the crossbar in quick succession.

20th: After conceding 148 corners in a row, all of which Sweden took awfully, USA mounts a thrust. Gross, huh? Feilhaber's Brazilian touch lets him down in the area. "Glory Days" has now played six consecutive times.

10th: Where is my Boddington's?

9th: Sweden's uniforms are even worse than ours.

7th minute: I want Michael Bradley to stitch someone up RIGHT NOW to prove to me he's not just Daddy's boy. Oh, nice backheel by Deuce—utterly wasted of course.

4th minute: Sound system at Portland's own Thirsty Lion Pub playing Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days." Landon Donovan is crying inside.

Sweden v. USA. Half-empty Nordic stadium. Third minute. Both sides have already missed chances they should have buried. DMB too distracted by his newfound hatred of the Pope and the Irish Republican Army to convert.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Circus Maximus

Good God, what an insane spectacle in New York's oppressed colony of Northern New Jersey last night, eh? While some of the nine-goal Red Bulls/Galaxy fiesta may have been predictable (some no-name Red Bull tried to take a piece of Beckham home in his cleats; Beckham will lay waste to this league as long as he's healthy; the SportsCenter wrap-up scored high on the know-nothing index), I particularly savor the sheer MLSness of the occasion. Edson Buddle? Clint Mathis? TOM ARNOLD? Now that's what we call futbol/soccerball!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Up the Ancients!

At Eleven Devils, we're utter suckers for the cool, quirky, evocative and plain bizarre club names one finds as one descends the English football pyramid from the relatively staid national leagues down into the potty world of Non-League. Consider the delightful Norton & Stockton Ancients, a team that squares off against such other awesome-sounding entrants in the Northern League as Esh Winning and Horden Colliery Welfare. The Ancients find themselves on a miniature FA Cup run, and The Observer is following along.

Nothin' But a Futsal Party! It's Nothin' But a Futs—

Look, it's 6 am and I'm coping with a mild hangover, alright? Blame Portland Futsal for the stupid headline. The futsal-ball palazzo in a cavernous ex-warehouse in Southeast Portland welcomed summer league players, sig/ots and their children for a lovely little post-season party last night. And since I can think of few things more compelling to the members of the Albina-Going Football Club than free beer, a solid contingent of Unicorns descended from the enchanted forest to take part.

AGFC's summer season—well, eh. We didn't exactly rip the Third Division limb from tiny limb in the manner we'd prefer. We lost the Rivals Cup to UrbanHonking Athletic, and struggled to turn out our full-strength side week after week. (When I'm playing 'keeper, you know there's trouble in Human Resources; our regular porteros, the Wright Brothers—they're not brothers, but they're both named Wright, see—were out of action for various reasons throughout the term.) The Third was also uncommonly loaded with actual talent this season, with a couple of outfits that obviously deserve immediate exile to the comparatively unglamourous First Division. I personally capped a season of ignominious performances by failing to get the word out about our quarterfinal playoff fixture, resulting in a forfeit that a team called the Samba Boys can pay me for later.

But hope springeth eternal, and los Unicornios seemed fired with a certain back-to-school vim last night. In the evening's 3-v.-3 tournament, we held our own against a crew of the fancy Latin boys who tend to excel at such unfairly skill-based formats. We took our bow thanks to a 2-1 loss, both enemy goals courtesy defensive lapses Then we moved over to one of the full-sized pitches for some half-speed, goalie-free 4s scrimmaging, with simultaneous beer consumption and an extra six-year-old on the field. This is a highly underrated way to play football, it turns out. I may have a headache and a sore ankle—but dammit, I LIVED, y'know?

Friday, August 17, 2007


Well, I had to call it that.

It seems the lads and lasses in Marketing over at Adidas decided to commission an original song for each of MLS' lucky 13 clubs. (Oh, go over to the Adi website and dig it up yourselves, would you?) And when it came time to choose an artist to represent for DC United, the choice was glaringly obvious: the mighty, the fearsome, the legendary, the iconic...BAD BRAINS.

(Actually, think of the possibilities: a reunited Nation of Ulysses rocking a custom-revised version of "Hot Chocolate City"; Fugazi's "Song Number One" [NOT a fuck-you song, thanks very much] reconfigured to address the Raul Diaz Arce crisis of '97 or whenever it was; Circus Lupus putting down a whole album about United's trophy case titled Solid Brass...)

And while it doesn't really sound like this chunka-munka neo-metalcore thing is exactly Bad Brains at their best, you have to say that it's a near-perfect match between band and club. Like Bad Brains, DC United had some classic early years followed by long doldrums punctuated by occasional tantalizing returns to form. And like United in the playoffs, the 'Brains are known for just not showing up. Any parallels between Bruce Arena and HR will not be considered here.

Meanwhile, the Houston song sounds pretty...whadda the kids say? Dope?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

DMB v. The Reich

DaMarcus Beasley finally figured out a way to fight racism in football: clinical finishing.

After absorbing the racist jibes of the sad little people of sad little club FK Zeta, Beasley secured himself at least a temporary place in Glasgow lore by pocketing the match-winning goal. That will serve the bastards right.

It is, of course, particularly shocking that a player for GLASGOW RANGERS, world-renowned standard-bearers of tolerance, should have to endure such abuse. While Beasley (quite rightly) unloaded on the bigots after the match and called for official action, his new club might just think twice before calling out the UEFA commissars...but that is another subject entirely.

Revenge of the Scum (?)

It should be the best of times for Portland Timbers fans. The Rose City's oft-wayward First Division side—o, the years of amiable mediocrity under an excruciating state-of-the-art-circa-Luton-Town-1974 strategic set-up; o, last season's unmitigated meltdown—seems to be in full roar at last. New manager Gavin Wilkinson promised a three-year rebuilding project, but has somehow molded a crop of under-cooked rookies, the usual United Soccer Leagues carnies and a few stalwart club holdovers into a table-topping outfit. Even a 0-2 loss to the hated Seattle Sounders, the club riding the Timbers' collective arse in the standings, couldn't pry the Axemen's man-hands off first place. Regardless of how the last two months of the season go (and historically, the Timbers are a catastrophic playoff team), this year's rendition of Soccer City USA can count itself a success.

Winning games means winning hearts, they say, and meanwhile the cultural phenomenon that is the Timbers Nation rolls on. Eleven Devils' usual cigar-butt-strewn place in the PGE Park press box (Section 107 Annex) has been vacant through most of this season (I've been "spending more time with my family," as the saying goes). But all reports suggest that the Timbers Army is in post-season form already, with a stronger capo system and an influx of fresh blood creating near-South Korean levels of synchronized fanaticism behind the north goal. (I'm eager to hear the so-called "Greek Chant," which I hope is as pervy as it sounds.)

And yet amid these scenes of joy, one can't ignore the coal-black thunderhead gathering above the Columbia, threatening to ruin the party. The Sounders. The bastards. Of course it would be them.

If you're less than briefed on the tribal intricacies of First Division life, be advised that the Timbers and Sounders are bound by some kind of sick cosmic bloodfeud. It's a real Montagues/Capulets type of deal: home-region players who've lined up with and against each other in various combinations throughout their careers; numerous annual tussles, including a quasi-permanent Open Cup tie (which Seattle always wins); a weird propensity to run across each other in the playoffs (ditto). It all makes for a steadily mounting archive of grievances both real and imagined on both sides of the ledger.

Portland fans will tell you that Seattle, to paraphrase John King's novel The Football Factory, is a shit club with shit support. Seattle's players are cheap-shot artists and thugs, at least until they transfer to the Timbers and become upstanding citizens. Away voyages to our sister city up I-5 are typically fraught affairs, full of hassles with stadium security and inevitable rounds of Internet recrimination afterwards.

On the flip side, Seattle fans will tell you...well, if you can find a Seattle Sounders fan, do drop a line. You might try the nearest comic book convention or donut shop. And yet the crowning indignity for Portlanders is that the Sounders, despite means of support less visible than the average identity thief and stadium mostly full of air, somehow manage to win shit. Besides a couple of prehistoric A-League titles, Seattle has played in two First Division finals in the last three years and took the trophy in 2006. (Even though it was against the Richmond Kickers, I'm told it still counts.) They've also won the last two Cascadia Cups, the unofficial championship of the Northwest contested by Portland, Seattle and the Vancouver Whitecaps. A title, please note, the Timbers have never won.

And so it is with no little unease that a Timbers supporter regards recent developments in Jet City. Last night, the Sounders served the Colorado Rapids with a 5-0 Open Cup beatdown, the kind of emphatic little-fish upset that would be cause for celebration were it the work of, y'know, anyone else. (As far as the Cup is concerned, the Timbers are, per usual, "concentrating on the league.")

Adding insult to insult, no less than three different investment groups are vying to bring Seattle's lukewarm fanbase an MLS franchise. (One of outfits calls itself "Atletico Seattle," suggesting that MLS team names have yet to hit rock bottom.)

For a citizen of Portland's seething cauldron of football zealotry, the thought of Seattle joining the Show and leaving the Timbers behind in the USL First is almost too much to take. But that is mere theory; consider the evil portents of current First Division reality. If the season ended today and form held in the playoffs, the Timbers and Sounders would meet in the league Final. What then?

La victoria...o la muerte.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

Mundial de los Descamisados

The Homeless World Cup is in full swing in Copenhagen—a fantastic, inspiring event that aims to use football as a rallying point to get people into jobs, houses and education. The United States seems to have come second in their first-round group, bowing to an apparent powerhouse in undefeated Kazakhstan (the former Soviet Union, sadly/impressively, seems to produce many of the slicker homeless sides). A decent goal difference would seem to book USA's place in the next round—good thing, too, since fans would be obligated to riot at the airport on the team's return if they had disgraced us.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

VI Day

Victory in Iraq.

Scroll down to see the remarkable photos of a celebrating people...scroll down further to find one grumpy lefty (undoubtedly a comfy Yank, Brit or Frenchie, possibly with tenure) commenting that the whole thing is just bread and circuses while the colonizers steal Iraq's oil. Realize that, as is so often the case, a lot of people just don't get what life is about.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Weep for the Southseasiders! Hail the Hordes of Evil!

Woe, woe are the men, women and children of Marsaxlokk! The brave Maltese premiers, who endured the probing gaze of an Eleven Devils Champions League Profile not long ago, made their exit from the Champies with a 9-1 aggregate loss to FK Sarajevo.

For those of us who've come to know and love the Southseasiders (aka Tal-Lampuki, or something), it is a dark day. However, we can take comfort in the fact that Sarajevo, which boasts a truly awesome club badge and an ultras section called THE HORDES OF EVIL, fights on.

And does Sarajevo know how to party? Why, yes:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Forza Iraq

I think it's safe to say that Iraq's against-the-odds run to the Asian Cup final bids fair to become the football story of the year. A championship for a country that the US tested the Pottery Barn Doctrine on would be a beautiful thing.

Of course, if Iraqi football keeps improving, there's every chance that the US will be drawn against the Lions in the group stage of the 2010 World Cup. I'm sure they would greet us as liberators.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How To Celebrate A Goal

Liverpool handled the Monks of the Shaolin Temple by a 3-1 final, but the South China boys scored this incredible free-kick goal, notable both for its otherworldly swerve and the commendable manic enthusiasm with which it was celebrated.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Liverpool v. ... SHAOLIN TEMPLE!

The great thing about football is that the all-singing, all-dancing entertainment doesn't cease at season's end. Liverpool, for example, has had a highly diverting summer: signing hot players right and left, making menacing statements about the Premier League title, and now trying to out-lawyer Man United for the services of G. Heinze. (United doesn't want the Argentinian, but doesn't want Liverpool to have him either. Alex Ferguson—and I know students of the international game will find this surprising—is being a complete prick about the whole thing.)

It's almost a shame that real games must start taking the place of all this hot-stove (or I guess that should be "ice-box") action. But it's showtime in Hong Kong, where the Men of Anfield face a pre-season match against a highly sinister outfit named South China AA. This club is the dominant power in Hong Kong's top competition, which bears the priceless and parody-proof name "HKFA Coolpoint Ventilation First Division League." Yes! But here's where it gets scary: South China's nickname is apparently...THE SHAOLIN TEMPLE!

Will the RZA play left back?

Saturday, July 21, 2007


In an incredibly significant (though how, exactly, it's hard to say) piece of cosmic kismet, here's an item from tonight's Galaxy v. Chelsea stat sheet:

Alan Gordon (David Beckham 78).

That means that many Portland Timbers fans saw the man (ex-Timbers phenom Gordon) who Beckham replaced as a substitute in his (Beckham's) MLS debut on the occasion of his (Gordon's) professional (Timbers) debut.

It's all incredibly exciting. The chief difference is that Gordon scored a goal in his first match, whereas it seems Beckham did sweet fuck-all tonight.

Southern Comfort for Los Timbers?

While SoccerballnationUSA focuses squarely on the Beckhamista non-event in Los Angeles, where Chelsea will lose to the LA Galaxy 2-0 in between appletinis and Posh and Bex will be seen sitting in the stands wearing sunglasses, actual competitive football remains underway elsewhere. Our beloved Portland Timbers (whom I have seen exactly once this season...I'm blaming the Kid for this, as will be my practice henceforth) take one of their difficult road swings through the USL First Division's southern outposts. The Atlanta Silverbacks—a team named for gorillas, which is pretty cool—and the Charleston Battery await. The latter fixture reunites the Timbers with formerly talismanic Portland forward Byron Alvarez, who is having a decent campaign with his new Dixie-fied club.

As Portland members of Calcio Amerika will be aware, the Timbers are currently TOP OF THE LEAGUE, a whopping five points clear of mighty mighty L'Equipe Football "Impact" du Montreal, the perennial Franco-Canadian power that typically runs away with the USL table before bottling it in the playoffs to allow the Richmond Kickers or someone through. Best part is, the Timbers still have a private reserve of games in hand over all the clubs that matter. Worst part is, about half Portland's points came against the utterly gash California Victory, a team the Timbers, in an innovative scheduling experiment, played five bloody times.

So the question is: Are the Timbers on the real tip, yo? A win over ever-tough Cascadian rivals Vancouver provided something of an answer, but for my money whether Gavin's Kids can squeeze some points out of these cross-continental away days may be more definitive. Dare we limber up for post-season fun at PGE Park?

Friday, July 20, 2007

UrbanHonking Athletic Seizes Rivals Cup


After a hard-fought match at Portland Futsal last night, UrbanHonking Athletic took the Rivals Cup for the first time. The coveted Golden Winged Angel of Everlasting Triumph has visited the trophy cases of both my Albina Going Football Club and Dudes FC, but UrbanHonking—ironically, the competition's founding club—heretofore knew only frustration. Honking bagged the hardware with a pair of white-knuckle one-goal wins, with last night's decisive strike coming with less than one minute to play.

All of which means that Albina Going's mission is now clear: RECLAIM THE CUP!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Auld Sod FC

In the depths of intense sleep deprivation, I was hit by a strange and probably stupid thought. (Thank God for the blogosphere! Now I can share it with EVERYONE.) Here it goes:

Major League Soccer should place an expansion franchise in Dublin, Ireland.

A beautiful, bustling, prosperous, sports-mad city lacks a truly big-time football club. Lansdowne Road is in the middle of a state-of-the-art rebuild. MLS has already broken out of US borders with Toronto FC (and, in another sense, with Chivas USA). A flight to Dublin isn't much more punishing than a flight from New York to LA.

FC Dublin (or whatever) would use Irish players as its domestic talent pool, and could even function as a sort of all-star team for the Eircom League. While money would dictate that the very best Irish players would continue to play in England or Scotland, an MLS side would provide a middle ground between the Eircom and bigger things. Meanwhile, the team's away games would attract a lot of Stateside interest, particularly in Irish bastions like New England, New York and Chicago.

Insane? Dumb? Probably both.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Copa Amerizzzzzzz...

The Copa America final looked like a classic in the making: stylish, steamrolling Argentina against an undermanned but still potent Brazil. Turned out to be sort of a soul-sucker, eh? Argentina didn't show up; Brazil did, chiefly in the middle of the park with studs showing. Well, it's a man's game after all, but if this is the new Brazil, look for various marketing entities to launch a desperate search for a new troupe of jogo bonito tricksters. Tackles from behind don't sell a lot of shirts.

Brazil was creative enough, in a thoroughly direct, ruthless way, on the three goals, but by and large it was a performance that said that Romance is Dead And We Are Here to Win the Fucking Trophy. Can't fault them too much. The referee was on top of just about all their transgressions, giving Argentina plenty of free-kick opportunities with which they accomplished nothing. Besides, it's a little unfair to expect Brazil to play like a whimsical crossbreed of Cirque du Soleil and the Harlem Globetrotters all the time. They are, after all, a football team.

Still, I hope some alternate dimension got the fully rocking samba/tango inferno that could have been.

Strange But True Facts

FC Barcelona, in addition to the expected basketball, handball and futsal squads, runs both a baseball team and a...roller hockey team (?).

The Wisdom of Socrates

Is it just me, or are Brazilian football mononyms just not as cool as they once were? I mean, "Robinho" is okay; "Vagner Love" is stone-cold cool in a kind of '70s black-is-beautiful I'm-gonna-have-some-women-over-and-drink-Colt-45 way; and "Kleber" has the virtue of being completely bizarre. But now that the Brazilians have exhausted every possible variation of "Ronaldo" and churned out multiple "Fred"s for some reason (why no "Barney", or even "Wilma"?), it's hard not to be nostalgic for the days of truly epic aliases. Like "Socrates," for example—has there ever been a better 'un?

Idea: the Brazilians should seek renewed inspiration in the Classical World. Think of this starting XI:

Cato * Cyrus the Younger * Thucydides * Pericles
The Emperor Diocletian * Darius II * Alcibiades * Crassus
SPQR ("The Senate And People of Rome"!) * Octavian

Seriously. How bad-ass would a player have to be to call himself "The Emperor Diocletian"?

Friday, July 13, 2007


With the "unveiling" of David Beckham in LA, we have been treated to the usual (and, what, the 10,923rd?) round of lazy, half-informed, unreported journalese on the crucial question of WHEN WILL THE (STUPID, IF THE WRITER IS BRITISH) AMERICANS TAKE TO THE (SORT OF GAY AND WEIRD, IF THE WRITER IS AMERICAN) SPORT OF SOCCER/FOOTBALL (OR WHATEVER THE COMMUNISTS CALL IT)?

As a so-called professional journalist, I am always astonished at what editors let writers get away with on this subject, though I suppose it has become a staple in the same vein as old favo(u)rites like DO POLITICIANS LIE?, SHOCKING VIOLENCE CLAIMS INNOCENT LIFE and HOW STRANGE AND UNKNOWABLE ARE TODAY'S TEENS, WITH THEIR GADGETS AND HOODOO MUSIC?

It's an easy way to earn a day's pay, I suppose: chuck in a few well-worn tropes about how Americans just don't get the game because there aren't enough commercials, or how the players are all soft because they can reasonably expect to live to 50, unlike gridiron pros; add some ungrounded speculation about how the World Cup, Freddy Adu, David Beckham or [INSERT SOMETHING HERE] might or might not change things; hit the bar. It's not quite as easy as quoting your cab driver while filing from foreign soil, but it's close.

Bad news comes for all hacks, however, in the form of a post on The New York Times' so-far excellent soccer blog. The jig is up, the party is over, because when nearly 1 million people in New York City alone are watching a Copa America semifinal match, I'd say the fait is accompli.

Some will say the gonzo ratings for ArgoMexico don't matter because the commentary was in Spanish. That misses the real story, which is that the language "barrier" is irrelevant to the growth of the US soccer audience. Enough Americans either speak Spanish fluently or know enough to get by to understand Univision. (How conversant do you need to be? "Pelota" and "gol" are pretty easy to work out, and most everyone can appreciate the Latino TV Cleavage Factor on some level.) Any American who lives in an urban environment is exposed to spoken and printed Spanish every day. A lot of Americans were born in or have travelled to Spanish-speaking lands.

It's over.

You Cannae Deny the Laws of Physics

You cannae. I cannae. But this dude can:

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Your XIDevils Champions League Profile: Marsaxlokk!

The chimera known as European soccer's "close season"—roughly 15 minutes after one 10-month slaughterfest ends, new competitions and the inevitable round of money-spinning pre-season friendlies, Asian-American grand tours and transfer-market freakouts begin—is over. (Our long international nightmare, one might say.)

The UEFA Champions League commences with its First Qualifying Round, starring 28 victors from the august top divisions of Bosnia, Wales, all the Irelands, the odd Baltic state and various other leagues where clubs tend to use mysterious combinations of initials for names. These teams will compete for the right to be beaten in the Second Qualifying Round by marginally larger clubs, who will in turn then be beaten by teams that finished third or fourth in one of the real leagues, who themselves will proceed to fuck up their group-stages campaigns, resulting in fired managers, ruined transfer prospects and fan protests organized around the chucking of celery, anchovies, rugulac or some other local product.

It all leads, of course, to the supreme drama of the Champions League knock-out rounds, culminating in semifinals featuring AC Milan and Barcelona taking on Overrated English Clubs A & B, the lattermost coming through on dodgy away goals or penalties, or preferably both.

The importance of the First Qualifying Round, then, is clear. [[[The Official XIDevils Fatwa on the Champions League states that ALL participants should be—y'know—champions and that the fussy business of qualifying rounds and group stages should be done away with in favor of straight two-legged knock-out play. Like the Old Days, which as an American sports fan I am constitutionally required to prefer.]]] A scan of participating teams reveals plenty of intriguing, exotic entrants, none more so than the CHAMPIONS OF MALTA, mighty Marsaxlokk. Because I am a sucker for any place name with a rogue X in the middle, let's take a closer look.

Turns out Marsaxlokk is a beautiful fishing village of just over 3,500 people. If it weren't for those bastards in the Faroe Islands forever taking the mickey, I'd say it's entirely likely that this hamlet is the smallest locality represented in the Champions League. The hometown team is quaintly nicknamed The Southseasiders, or less quaintly, "Tal-Lampuki," which might actually be quite quaint in Maltese for all I know.

The club seems to play its home fixtures in Malta's national stadium, meaning every man, woman and child in the actual town of Marsaxlokk could bring five friends to a match. The Southseasiders have been at it for close to 60 years, but appear to be a club on the make: two promotions in the last decade; recently linked to Paul Gascoigne (Wikipedia might be making that up, but I'm not); importing Eastern European, Nigerian, English and Brazilian players with some regularity. The bulk of the squad, of course, is Maltese, meaning that not even the most cosmopolitan opponents will be able to decipher the team chatter.

Team Tal-Lampuki Fighting achieved qualfication for Qualification by winning the Maltese Premier League, a 10-team circuit full of amiable-sounding, old-school-ish clubs like "Hibernians" and "St. George's" and "Wanderers." The MPL (Eleven Devils will be bidding on US English-language broadcast rights in due time) boasts an unusual and sort of interesting set-up. After the traditional home-and-away schedule, the league splits into a six-team Championship Pool and a four-team Relegation Pool, and another home-and-away series commences. It's hard to work out just how points carry over, but it seems Marsaxlokk won the first phase with a single defeat and a goal difference of +30, so it's safe to say they kicked ass by the bucketful throughout.

But how will Marsaxlokk cope with First Qualifying Round opponents FK Sarajevo? And how will they handle playing in front of Sarajevo's ultras, the "Hordes of Evil"? Southseasiders v. Hordes of Evil? This is the stuff that dreams, and the First Qualifying Round, are woven of.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Baby's First Soccer Fight!

Thanks to the infinite patience of my wife, and the resilience of my nine-day-old son (who is directly to blame for the lack of Eleven Devils activity), I packed the entire family off to Kells for an evening of elimination-round futbol. The air con was on, the U-20s were on one screen with the ArgoMexican match on the big enchilada, the Stella was icy and my wife, who is still recovering from months of pregnancy-related sobriety, gave me her Sierra Nevada after about a sip and a half. Sometimes life is good; sometimes Lionel Messi bags an delectable chip while your first born is at your feet, and life is very very very good indeed.

Despite all the reproducing I've been doing, I am aware that two superb football tournaments have been underway. From what I've seen on YouTube (and courtesy the Emanuel Hospital cable system), both Copa America and the U-20 World Cup feature the kind of football that make the sport a global obsession. Huge goals, fanatical fans, players going ballz-out for king and country—a refreshing change from the uptight play that too often pervades the game. Plus, after the USA's C team bowed out quietly in la Copa, the American young guns put together some of the most swaggering, game and (frankly) damn lucky football ever played by a US team. The Adu-captained Yanks are a sight to behold, and I was psyched to catch the last half of their knock-out with los Uruguayanos.

A big crowd of endearingly rowdy Argentinians were on hand, lending the faux-Irish pub a welcome Porteno flair. Songs followed all la Republica's goals. Two of 'em—Heinze going deep for a flying side-foot volley, Messi lofting it home—were mind-searing affairs. Mexico played a ferocious first half and for a time seemed set to kick, thrash and pummel their way to an upset. But by the end, Argentina was playing a kind of football that only they seem to play with such aplomb: virtually walking from pass to pass; one-touching it from one hemsisphere to the other; daring any and all to try to take the rock. Too bad such pure fuuuuuutbol can only really be played when there's nothing more to decide.

Meanwhile, Freddy and the Jets pulled off a classic heist in extra time, stealing a match Uruguay thought it deserved to win. the Urus acted like little putas after the whistle, while the USA imperiously departed with their quarterfinal berth in their collective shoulder holster. (Well, look, I haven't been getting a lot of sleep.) It was a refreshing change from that senior side of ours—those boys who have so often out-played the opposition in big games only to see a goal or two separate them from victory.

Good times. I think the boy liked it okay—he managed to sleep through the whole thing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Your XIDevils Premiership News Round-Up!

Sadly, Liverpool has sold forward Craig Bellamy, who attacked a teammate with a golf club when he (the teammate) refused to sing karaoke with him, to West Ham United.

New Manchester City owner Thaksin Shinawatra, the deposed former prime minister of Thailand, faces corruption charges from the quasi-military government that overthrew him.

Manchester United appears set to buy Argentinian forward Carlos Tevez from West Ham. Tevez was one of two Argentinian players involved in a byzantine transfer saga last year, when a shadowy international syndicate that somehow owned their contracts let them move from the Brazilian club Corinthians to West Ham for free. (A lot of weird shit happens in Brazilian football.) West Ham then turned around and punted one of the Argentinians to Liverpool, which was somehow
allowed even though the rules stipulate a player may transfer only once per year. Tevez proceeded to be the hero of West Ham's
last-minute escape from relegation, which prompted Sheffield United, who did go down, to file a legal challenge claiming that the Hammers should be kicked out of the league for using Tevez illegally.

And this is just the off-season. Who can wait for August?

Friday, July 06, 2007


It's been awhile. A long while. (Frankly, I've been doing...a few things.) But this—THIS has me psyched:

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Open Cup Awesomeness

The United States Open Cup First Round pairings came out today, a reminder of just how great this criminally underappreciated knock-out tournament is. The Portland Timbers drew a nasty-sounding outfit called the Bakersfield Brigade—an away fixture that sounds dicey at best. But by far the best match-up is this:

Lynch’s Irish Pub (USASA) @ Charlotte Eagles (USL-2)

That is just brilliant.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Weird (But Awesome)

USA v. Catalunya.

When can Cascadia get on the schedule?

Forza APM

Along with everything else, Yer Correspondent has been lax in keeping up on A Pretty Move, our wonderfully written and zealously impassioned cousin in Portland soccer blogdom. Along with Eleven Devils, APM went half-way dark earlier this spring, but their end-of-season coverage is a must-read.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Serie A: The Best?

Naaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Can't be. It's corrupt. The stadiums are a shambles, the clubs are operated along the same lines as the "neighborhood social clubs" on Mulberry Street and half the big teams got just got nailed for match fixing. Match fixing! The biggest club in the bloody country spent the season in exile. Meanwhile, the fans are killing each other when they're not chanting neo-Fascist slogans.

England's got the money and the global audience. Spain wins on style points and sheer fashionability. Germany has the enthusiasm, the grip of beautiful new parks and clubs run with Teutonic efficiency. France—sorry, I did NOT just type that.

And yet: there have been two major international football competitions in the last 12 months (with apologies to the World Clubs Cup), and Serie A won both of them. The league's all-star team took the World Cup, and now AC Milan owns Europe's Big Gulp. So if it's not the best league, which one is? And on what basis?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Buh-Bye, Boys

It's always a good thing when the team you pull for is playing on the last day of the season. However, not to curse Liverpool before their revenge/revisited triumph EuroCoppa rematch with Milan, but I am getting extremely bad vibes off this game. Why?

—It seems LFC has already told about half the squad that they're gone regardless of Wednesday's result. There's no doubt that the club needs an overhaul—they dropped so many Premiership points they should have banked—but what sort of message is this to send a locker room which has, after all, achieved the ultimate goal of all Champions League sides? Does imminent departure add motivation, or kill it?

[Weird side note: it seems likely I saw Liverpool new boy Leto in the flesh in February—the River Plate/Lanus forgettable. I don't remember him, and can't lay my hands on confirmation he was in the Lanus team. Anyone?]

—There's a white hot rage of need and determination emanating from Milan right now, born of their Istanbul collapse. Hopefully all the pre-game bluster and vengeance-fantasy leaves them tight and rigid.

—Still, on their best day I don't think Liverpool are quite geared to cope with Milan. The rossoneri squad is just monstrous, friggin' Ronaldo counting as a luxury item. I'll see your Cafu and raise you...uh, Steve Finnan?

—Lucky escapes in the Champions League aside, Liverpool haven't exactly roared down the home stretch...and I fear that gets us back to the possible motivation gap again. Milan wants this desperately. No doubt Liverpool taken as a whole cultural phenomenon wants it just as bad, the better to lord over Man United and Chelsea. (Even at its most cosmopolitan, football always comes back to the parochial. Love it.) What lies in the heart of the squad itself? It's been a long season. They have achieved plenty—over-achieved, some might say. Is it a necessity for them? It will need to be.

All the same, I thought the Reds were for it after Barcelona scored first at Nou Camp. They rode the lightning then. Maybe they can once more before the inevitable dissolution.

At Long Last

Two great sports join forces.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Mein (Meister)Schaft!

A few weeks ago, the increasingly annoying Tony Soprano mused (and I paraphrase): "After all the complaining and the crying, is this all there is?" Sometimes, the world of football seems so beset by problems, intrigue, oddity, inequity and pure migrane-inducing negativity, it's hard to remember what makes the sport (or any sport) a joy, in addition to a gripping but endlessly tangled mental puzzle.

So let's look in on Stuttgart's marvelous celebration after their equally awesome capture of the Bundesliga. My exposure to this team was limited this year, but I liked what I saw a lot: they seem like a slightly crazy, always-full-tilt gang of gunslingers. They won their title with fun football, and that's to be applauded no matter who you root for.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


I call it the Curse of the Simpsons Soccer Episode. You know the one: Bart and Lisa show up at the stadium revved up to check out the World's Most Popular Sport (tm)...and get nothing more than "to the center...out to the wing...back to the center..." To wit, every time I talk one of my non-futbol friends into checking out a match, it ends up being pretty dire.

At half-time of last night's Portland Timbers v. Seattle Sounders hate-cup tie at PGE Park, my pal the Norwegian (big Vikings fan...big) and I repaired to the concourses. "Um, well," I said. "At this level of soccer, you kind of have to use your imagination." He said he was cool with it. I don't know that I was.

I know, I know. The Timbers are in Year One (or should that be the more dramatic "Year Zero"?) of a self-professed three-year rebuild. New gaffman Gavin Wilkinson gave us all plenty of warning: we aim to contend for one of the eight playoff spots in the 12-team USL First Division, nothing more. That implies the Verdes will be scrapping for every point, and with a home win, a tight away loss and last night's not-much-deserved 2 :: 2 home draw, that is certainly the case so far. I guess you could say everything's going according to plan.

But that's rationality talking, and rationality is a stranger to the terraces during the 90 minutes between whistles. When your side is up against Evil Made Flesh, you don't want to see incremental progress, you want to see an epochal stand—Gandalf versus the Balrog, Rocky pummelling Dolph Lundgren, some shit out of that new gay porn Greek army snuff flick 300 (not that there's anything wrong with that). Instead, ye olde "announced crowd" of 5,700+ got a solid 75 minutes of "up in the air...over to the side...up in the air..."

Matches on the dreadful PGE Park surface always resemble full-contact volleyball. We know this. But the Sounders—taller, burlier, and most gallingly much smoother than the herky-jerky Timbers—coped with it better than the home side. They slit the central defense like a snitch at Sturgis inside ten minutes, and generally bossed the first half. The early insertion of human timebomb Tom Poltl said a lot about the Timbers' lack of edge in a match that is usually something close to a street fight. Poltl did his usual rabid terrier impression—good stuff as ever, and an inspiration to those of us born with out such intangibles as finesse and grace. Unfortunately, it took another 40 minutes, and another concession, before the Timbers knocked off the disjointed airball shite and started to jab for real.

After going down 2-0 (and after each side had a goal semi-dubiously disallowed), Portland got its flow on. Oregon State grad (and you can't lick them Beavers!) Bryan Jordan looks like the real deal—a sparky, duck-and-weave forward who's a threat every time the ball is at his feet. He lanced in the first fight-back goal, then put Andrew "The Angriest Smurf" Gregor on the spot by taking a mauling at the top of the area. Presto-chango, the Timbers nabbed a point from more or less nothing; the Army (in decent voice all night) had something to sing about; laps of honor were taken, etc.

It doesn't change the fact that this one was three-quarters godawful. There wasn't even much of the venom and spite one depends on these Seattle fixtures to provide. Ah, well. We got through it. One shudders to think what Sunday's match against the ever-powerful Ragin' Rhinos of Rochester will bring.

Meanwhile, we were left to ponder the emotional conundrum of Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar. Long the Timbers' most elegant player, OOO-go left for Seattle over the off-season. Just business, understand—nothing personal. So while the Army extolled Gregor—any self-respecting Timbers fan would have described him as a combination war criminal/loan shark/bicycle thief last year—we booed Hugo. Booed the man we used to drink with at the Bull Pen. And even so, he was still the only player on the pitch with a touch of art about him.

Painful. But in the immortal words of Flavor Flav, that's the way the ball bounces, G.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

It's All Happening

The reading public is understandably upset about the lack of Eleven Devils updates of late. Yr Correspondent has been abroad, and by "abroad," I mean Minneapolis (where some stone-cold good times were had with Commander Bruce of the infinite Du Nord blog) and Iowa (where some insane cycling shit went down). It's all in a day's "work," but it leaves this blog bereft.

However, football, like rust, never sleeps. Liverpool's epic season is set for an epoch-making conclusion in Athens, where the scrappy Reds—who squeezed past Barcelona and Chelsea by the barest of m., lucked out on drawing PSV and somehow are playing for the Kahuna despite lacking a striker, really—must ride the lightning against AC Milan. (YouTube the highlights of Berlusconi's men dismantling Manchester Bay Buccaneers, and you'll see that the Liverpeople will have their hands full.) Meanwhile, Reading's mascot was sent off, the Timbers opened with a win (!), MLS limped into its pre-Beckham non-mania and FC United of Manchester clinched both its second championship and second promotion in two years of existence.

Frankly, it all pales in comparison to a gripping Spring session down at Portland Futsal, where my own Albina Going FC ("The Unicorns") faces what could be the biggest night in its history tonight. After six wins on the trot keyed by an impressive defensive CV (goal differential = +29, and that's after having a couple matches capped at +7), the Unicorns can wrap up the Third Division Conference Argentina title, top seed in the one-day divisionals AND the unofficial (but hotly contested) Rivals Cup with a win tonight. Problem? We're up against arch-nemesis UrbanHonking Athletic Club. The Honking always gives us problems, and word on the Series of Tubes is that Svengali owner Mikey Merrill may have bagged a few late-season transfers. While it's hard to see a scenario where the three-team Cup will slip from our deathgrip, Athletic sits just three points behind us on the table, and thus is positioned to run us down in the last two rounds of the eight-week season if we bottle it tonight.

So, like the man says, It's All Happening.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


While nervously wondering if Eleven Devils is going to make it to the pub for today's CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS (i.e. Chelsea v. Liverpool), we browsed this excellent piece on football, socialism, Brian Clough, Shankly and champagne. Makes ya think, innit? Or something like that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


There were a few handsome goals in Major League Soccer last weekend—but how mind-shatteringly awful were DC United? The concessions to the Kansas City Wizzzzzzzards would have embarassed my own Albina Going Unicorns.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Why is Du Nord Brilliant?

My fellow professional journalists are wont (which I believe means they are "apt") to look askance (which I think means "be critical of") this thing of ours called the Blogozone. (That's right, right?) Blogs are amateurish, unreliable (unlike professional coverage of weapons of mass destruction, etc.) and lack the resources of actual news-churning outlets. (Resources such as: shitty coffee, bad pay, miserable overworked staff, computers that don't work or operate on proprietary systems designed in the 1970s, photo departments that won't do the assignments writers need them to do because the correct photo request form wasn't filled out at the right time...but I digress.)

In the future, I will refer such complainants to Du Nord (see blogroster, right), the mandatory-read daily soccer news digest composed by one antic genius in Minnesota. Du Nord is a perfect example of an unpaid blogger who does something his paid counterparts can't or won't do—if there's a story of importance to American soccer, he's on top of it, and he cherry-picks some very interesting bits and pieces from around the world.

But what's truly great about Du Nord is the author's slightly frantic writing style and bursts of bizarre humor. I quote:

A year old PDL team from Lancaster California is run by a guy with a dream. And he has a good dream. A dream I suspect most of us have. (No, not the one about Pam from The Office, a hot tub full of jello, a sleeve of saltine crackers, a roll of duct tape, and a short wave radio tuned in to Swedish hip hop.) ...


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Galacticos Reunion?

I'm telling you, this rumor, which has the distinct whiff of a Lalas fishing exped., only makes New York Red Bulls' signing of Marco Materazzi that much more urgent.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

MLS Real World

There are times when Yer Humble Correspondent feels like the plug should just be pulled, and this is one of them. Because this account of five MLS rookies sharing a house is undoubtedly the best Americansoccablag post of the last year. Who can compete? Unless we discover that a bunch of Timbers signings decided to join a latter-day Rajneesh compound, it's hard to match.

Sunday, April 08, 2007 the Future!

The first weekend of MLS action is in the books. And while I know the word is that this is the year the league makes its great breakthrough, based on the half of the Colorado v DC match I saw, not much has changed.

This was indeed the archetypal MLS game: a chippy, disjointed encounter in bad weather in front of an "announced" sell-out in the exurbs; played at what would look like half-speed to any indoctrinated Premiership fan; full of midfield hardasses determined to clog up play and disappointing foreign stars (DC's new Brazilians); both teams having a bad hair day. The real drag was also predictable—the lousy broadcast by "ESPN on ABC", far from showcasing the league's stated determination to look better on TV, was no different than any of the Mickey Mouse efforts the Disney empire has made in the past. Why was Julie Foudy referring to the league as "the MLS"? Is she British? And why did they slap up a list of "famous Freds", including F. Flintstone (but sadly not F. Flintoff) to kill air time and "introduce" DC's new Fred?

It's time for MLS to go to its broadcast partners with a DVD of any—pick one—Premier League broadcast and say, "this is what we want. Make it happen."

Friday, April 06, 2007


It appears that Eric Wynalda—former US national team star, annoucer, hotheaded loudmouth—has been suspended for this weekend's MLS season debut by his employer, the ABC/ESPN monolith. Why? Because he downed a few beers with a blogger and unloaded some of his endless storehouse of strongly held opinions. While he mostly ranted about the state of football in the US and MLS in particular, Waldo swerved out of his way to suggest that soccer-bashing sports bloviator Jim Rome could, at any time and place, provide him with oral sexual gratifcation.

Wynalda has apparently apologized to Rome for the remarks, which is too bad. Frankly, it's about goddamn time someone from the footballsphere told Rome to blow him/her. If ABC was smart, it would invite Wynalda to go live and repeat the suggestion in even more graphic terms. In fact, both DC United and the ColoArsenal Rapids should take the field tomorrow wearing special, limited edition "ROME CAN BLOW ME" jerseys, replicas of which could then be sold for $1000 apiece to an eager public.

Slapping down Waldo betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how American media works—instead of censoring the half-baked, vindictive madness that spews from the mouths of your content providers, the winning move is to accentuate it and encourage them to even more unfortunate faux pas. Major League Soccer should DEMAND that ABC put Wynalda back on the air, and tell 'em to put a few brews down him for good measure. Then we might see a frenzy that would put Beckhamania in the shade.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

See America on $35 a Day!

Major League Soccer kicks off in just two days, and most of the preseason coverage has been glowing. The buzz revolves around how the league has grown and solidified, Toronto FC's phenomenal box-office coup, 'Rado's new stadium and Beckham's impending and possibly catalytic arrival.

And I was feeling pretty good about all this, until I saw this item on the excellent S. Goff's WaPo soccer blog:

The Marc Burch trade is now official....Burch, 22, will join the club on a developmental contract, which means he will earn either $12,900 or $17,700 this season.

If this league has really grown up, what is it doing paying adult men less than $13,000 a year for risky physical labor? I'm all for giving young kids a bottom-rung, low-budget chance, and that rate might be appropriate for a 16-year-old apprentice living with his parents. But for anyone past the age of 20, that kind of payment is definitely immoral and should be illegal. How is someone supposed to live in a major metropolitan area, let alone maintain the physical and mental condition necessary to play professional sport and "develop," on less than $50 a day?

What can be done? MLS supporters groups in every city should start with a Day of Solidarity with their club's developmental players, using banners and other signage to let the league know that fans will not tolerate this grossly inequitable situation forever. Or will they? I don't think fans have ever made a concerted effort to get players more money in the history of American sports. Certainly, NFL fans seem perfectly happy to let their beloved cartel treat players like disposable parts. Then again, I don't think there's been a "major" league in the modern era quite this cheap.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


This killjoy is trying to kill the rumors, but I'm trying to keep them alive. Not that they, you know, exist.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Eleven Devils has been on an undeclared hiatus of late, which is not in any way related to its parent company's alleged "regulatory issues" in the Cayman Islands. However, news broke today that demands some notice. In its on-going quest to provide a "world-class soccer experience" (but what about the New York Red Bulls?), Major League soccer announced that:

—As teams enter the field, led by the referees (FIFA style), a new MLS anthem will be played.

—A new MLS anthem and signature sound was recorded last month by a full orchestra in Prague, Czech Republic, under the direction of an American conductor. More details on this piece of music will be revealed on April 6 on

A new anthem? A signature sound? A full orchestra in Prague? Consider our collective gourd exploded!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Emilio: Instant Legend?

I'll admit it: the MLS club I've followed most closely over the league's existence is DC United. For us neutrals in the middle of nowhere (or Montana, as the case may be), the early United sides were by far the most interesting MLS had to offer. And though I would not call myself a "supporter" of the Black and White and Red, I do look out for their results.

Seems like a promising season is in the offing for DC. For one thing, newfound Brazilian striker Emilio seems well on his way to becoming a club legend: