Dallas Soccer: Footballs Are Round

Stream of Consciousness: Seattle Sounders at FC Dallas

August, 21, 2011
8/21/11
3:06
AM CT
he encyclopedia says Stream of Consciousness is “a narrative mode that seeks to portray an individual's point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character's thought processes.” In other words, DJ watches games, and writes down whatever comes to mind. Sometimes prescient, sometimes odd, almost always entertaining.


There's an old song by the Minutemen, “It's Expected I'm Gone.” I think that pretty much sums up our George John situation.

He is not in the starting lineup because of a red card suspension, and I don't have any inside information, but I have a feeling we've seen the last of of the kid in hoops.

That's bad news.

Well, I say it's bad news, but in truth it's only bad news for us, the fans and supporters of FC Dallas. For George, it may be tremendously good news.

In case you have no idea what I'm babbling about right now, I'm referring to the reports that Blackburn Rovers of the English Premier League have made a bid to buy George away from FC Dallas. His size, excellent recent form, and Greek passport make him a very tempting target for English teams.

If you're wondering about the passport part, you have to understand that in England, there are very strict work-permit laws which hamper non-European players who try to move to the Premiership. European Union law, however, forbids discrimination against EU passport holders. Thus, George John will have no problems getting a permit.

Like most of us (I suspect), I have terribly mixed feelings about this. George John is a terrific young man, a very talented player, and the foundation of a vastly improved FC Dallas defense. So I hate to see him go.

On the proverbial other hand, let's face it; George John is underpaid for a man of his talent. He's one of the top defenders in MLS, and he's making school teacher money. If he was one of the top defenders in say, the NFL, he'd be making school district money.

As in, add up the money all the teachers in your local school district are making put together, and you're somewhere in the ballpark.

I have to think, without knowing the details of the average Premiership payroll, that George would be getting at least a ten-fold increase in salary at Blackburn. Maybe twenty-fold.

So what do you do, if you're FC Dallas?

Tell him no? Sure, he signed a contract, and there would be nothing immoral in expecting him to honor it. But this is the opportunity of a lifetime; it would be well nigh unconscionable to deny it to him.

Give him a raise? Okay, but unless the club is willing to make him a Designated Player, the money won't even come close to what he would be getting at Blackburn. Is FC Dallas likely to make him a DP? Not really.

So, probably, you let him go, suck it up, enjoy the allocation money, wish him well, and hope someone will fill his shoes.

What about us, the fans? Are we to resent George John for leaving in the middle of what could potentially be a treble-winning year?

Some might, but not me. Sure, I think his absence would seriously impair the odds of FC Dallas lifting any hardware this season, and that is depressing (in a non-real-world, soccer kind of way. Real depression is reserved for stuff like deaths in the family, divorce, unemployment, and the cancellation of Firefly by the idiots at Fox).

But, in my little universe, the players on my favorite team are not chess pieces, to be sacrificed with no emotional attachment. They are people whom I admire for their talent and dedication. They are people who bring me joy on a weekly basis during the season. If something bad happens to them, I hurt for them. If something good happens to them, I rejoice with them.

So, if George John gets to go to England, I'll hurt with him a little, because I know he'll be sad to leave. But I'll also rejoice with him, because he's doing something most of us will never get to do: live out his dream.

As for tonight, Zach Loyd is starting in central defense, and the team has come out in the first few minutes playing with confidence. It's nice to see. Confidence and a bit of flair. It's a whole new attitude with this team. They play like they are in charge of things, as opposed to years past when almost everything was reactive with this team, even in successful years. This is a team that imposes its will on the opposition more often than I am used to seeing.

Of course, no sooner do I write this, than Seattle scores first, in the 15th minute, taking advantage of an atypically bad touch by Ugo Ihemelu.

Now Zach Loyd is coming off the field, with what looks like a hamstring problem. Yikes. Jeremy Hall is coming in, having just been acquired from Portland (possibly because the front office knew George John was going to be leaving soon). I hope Zach is okay, but I'm glad to get a look at Hall.

I am very impressed by the large contingent of Sounders fans gathered in section 132. It looks to be 30-40 people that made the long trip from Seattle; they're in fine voice, as well. That, my friends, is good support. Well done.

Annnnnnnd, Match Day Live is giving me a “Technical Difficulties” notice. I hate to go negative here, but I'm really not a fan of the MDL experience. Lots of technical glitches and a consistently bad picture equal one unhappy customer.

I know, I know, I'm watching soccer, in America, on a computer, for not a terribly great amount of money. I'm aware of that. I'm on record as being sufficiently awed and thankful for the improvement in the lot of the American soccer fanatic since the days of, say, one NASL match per season, on a channel you could barely get reception on, played during the exact time your Dad insisted on the lawn being mowed and trimmed even though you had the entire weekend to do it. I get it. I lived through those days. But I'm bitching about MDL tonight, despite all that. So sue me.

Well, since I have a blank screen in front of me, I guess it is as good a time as any for a slight digression. To wit: How in the world is Robbie Keane getting multi-millions per year? I like Robbie Keane, don't get me wrong. He's fun to watch, he's a proven goal scorer, not too old at 31 years old; yes, all of that. Conceded.

But really, 2-3 million a year?

My mind is officially boggled at those numbers. Am I out of line on this? Is that a reasonable amount of money?

Okay, Match Day Live is on the air again, just in time for the last few minutes of the first half. The boys are down 1-0 going in to the locker room, but I'm not terribly worried. The Seattle goal was flukish (though quite nicely finished, I must admit), and FC Dallas out-shot Seattle by something like 11-1 for the half. So my naturally pessimistic nature is somewhat quieted.

The first ten minutes of the second half are much like the first ten minutes of the first. Lots and lots of FC Dallas pressure, lots of good chances, but so far no goals.

Oh, no. Come on. Disaster.

Danny Cruz is sent off. In the 55th minute. He picked up a cheap yellow in the first half, and now Mr. Gantar shows him the second yellow for, supposedly, taking a dive. I've been pretty happy with Mr. Gantar in the few games I've seen him work, but this call was atrocious. Unacceptable. (Ooh, freaky, I was typing the word 'unacceptable' just as Steve Jolley was speaking the same word on the broadcast. You know what they say about great minds, though . . .)

That was without a doubt one of the worst calls I've ever seen in MLS. Cruz was sandwiched between two players, running with the ball toward goal, and went down; a case of legs getting tangled. I don't even know that it was a foul on the defensive player, much less a dive by Danny Cruz.

Bizarre is not to strong a word to describe that call. And I say that as a fan who is all for throwing a diver out of a game. I think it doesn't happen nearly enough in any league, anywhere in the world. That being said, this was still a horrible call.

It may Castillo time. He should be ready to get back in to the swing of things by scoring a quick goal tonight. Or two.

The impressive thing right now is that FC Dallas is still carrying the attack to Seattle, even a man down. I think the Boys have an equalizer in them tonight, if not a winner. That would be a huge confidence boost at this point in the season. Not to mention a crushing blow for Seattle, which wouldn't hurt, seeing as they are the opponents in the upcoming US Open Cup semifinals.

Ha! There he is, Señor Castillo, right on schedule.

The main thing going against FC Dallas right this second, more so than the lack of an 11th player, is the presence of Kasey Keller. Kasey's just not really a give-up-the-late-goal kind of guy. Never has been.

There's been so many fouls called that Mr. Gantar's little spray can has run out of white paint for free kicks. Soon, a game like this will be known as a 'two can game'. You heard it here first.

Three minutes left, plus stoppage.

Four minutes added on. Come on Boys. A little magic.

AHHH! Well, there was a little magic there in the last minute, but sadly it was performed by Kasey Keller. He robbed Bruno Guarda like a drunk sailor on shore leave.

Full time. What a bizarre loss. One bad touch by Ugo leads to a goal, then an absolutely crazy red card helps prevent an equalizer.

And, lest you think I'm picking on Ugo, let me go on the record in saying that he was terrific tonight, that one thing aside; brilliant at times defensively, and only a Kasey Keller save away from scoring an equalizer. Ugo is the man, and make no mistake about it.

Okay, folks, I'm road tripping to Kansas City for next weekend's game, Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, so there may just be a road trip edition in our future.

See you then.

Stream of consciousness: FC Dallas at Houston Dynamo

May, 29, 2011
5/29/11
5:54
AM CT
The encyclopedia says Stream of Consciousness is “a narrative mode that seeks to portray an individual's point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character's thought processes”. In other words, DJ watches games, and writes down whatever comes to mind. Sometimes prescient, sometimes odd, almost always entertaining.

Not many people know this, but humidity was invented in Houston. By Sam Houston himself.

Yeah, true story.

Big night for Bobby Warshaw. The rookie gets the start in place of the groined-up George John. Yes, I just coined the phrase 'groined-up' for guys carrying groin injuries. Help spread it around if you can.

The phrase, not groin injuries.

Oh look, Terry Vaughn is the referee tonight. What could go wrong with that?

Some remind me again why we ever got rid of Brad Davis?

Speaking of Brad Davis, he just saw fit to get in Fabian Castillo's face, then before he knew it he was squaring off with Daniel Hernandez. Be smart, Brad, back off from that one. Getting in Castillo's face is safe and makes you look tough; Squaring off with Capi, not so much.

Halfway through the first half, no score, and no end to that horrid brass section the Houston front office hires each week to lend atmosphere for the fans. And by atmosphere, I mean “annoying cacaphony that makes normal people want to gouge their ears out”. I hear they're a hard group to book; they have a standing gig at Gitmo, torturing detainees.

OH, GOALAZO! JACOBSON! MAGIC!

Fabian Castillo drills a shot from 20 yards out, it hits the crossbar, rebounds all the way to the edge of the 18 to Andrew Jacobson, who heads it past Tally Hall, who was still getting up from trying to save the initial shot.

The downside is that Castillo looks to have twisted his ankle on the play.

Okay, he's back in there. Oh to be 18 again.

Oh my. Philadelphia beat Toronto 6-2 today. In Toronto. Aron Winter may not be around long enough to establish legal residency in Canada. This is a team that goes through coaches like most people go through contact lenses. Philadelphia must have cashed in their collective birthday wishes, lost teeth, and letters to Santa on this game.

Well crap. Cam Weaver ties the game in the 43rd minute. That magnificent SOB Brad Davis sets him up perfectly. Tie game going to the half. It's a fair score, especially since Houston has had about 2/3 of the possession.

But getting dominated in possession is no big deal, right? Look at Manchester Uni . . .

Never mind. Bad example.

Second half, and it only takes Kevin Hartman two minutes to rob Lovel Palmer for the second time tonight. He is so good.

I suppose at 37 Kevin is too old to be in the national team picture, as deep as we are at that position. Which is fine, really, because I don't want him gone, at all, this season or next, but Bob Bradley has a reputation for rewarding good club form with USA call ups. Hartman certainly deserves the honor.

Lots of pressure from FC Dallas right now (60th minute). Opposite of the first half. Fun to watch.

Oh wow. Brek Shea just busted out a 60 yard run, capped off by a long shot that forced a really fine save by Tally Hall. Had that gone in it would have made every highlight show on the planet. And some in outer space.

GOAL! 2-1! MAGIC!

Freakin' Bobby Rhine is a mystic psychic of some type. As Marvin Chavez was lining up his corner kick, Bobby says “Keep an eye on Ihemelu” and ten seconds later Ugo bulls his way through a crowd of Dynamo markers and heads in the goal from six yards out.

Bobby, how do you feel about this week's Powerball drawing? Send me an email, if you don't mind.

Bad to worse for the Dynamo. Kofi Sarkodie sees a second yellow for a hard tackle from behind on Brek Shea. A goal down and man down. 18 minutes to play.

That's a darn shame, ain't it?

I am forced to compliment Terry Vaughn on his handling of the call. Which tastes kind of bitter, but what's right is right.

Dallas is doing a nice job of controlling possession now that they have the lead. They're nothing like Barcelona in terms of knocking it around at will for as long as they want, but there's no shame in that, is there? The only team as good at possession as Barca is Spain, which is almost a redundant statement.

I was just going to write “I get nervous every time Brad Davis gets a touch”, and as I was tapping the keys, he did it again. Perfectly weighted ball to Colin Clarke, who manages, somehow, beyond all probability and likelihood, to beat Hartman and make it two-all.

Brad Davis is truth.

Tie score, two minutes left.

Insert your favorite vulgarity here.

Three minutes stoppage.

Scheiße.


I guess you can't really complain about a point on the road, especially in Houston, but it feels more like two points lost. Still, what a good performance overall. Good start for Warshaw, good stuff from AJ. Good defense, except for the part where they didn't tie Brad Davis up in the locker room before the opening whistle. A very entertaining game.

And we get to keep the cannon. So there. See you next week for The Revs.

Stream of consciousness: FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders

May, 26, 2011
5/26/11
10:55
AM CT
The encyclopedia says Stream of Consciousness is “a narrative mode that seeks to portray an individual's point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character's thought processes”. In other words, DJ watches games, and writes down whatever comes to mind. Sometimes prescient, sometimes odd, almost always entertaining.


Wow. Raining in Seattle. I did not see that coming.

I also did not anticipate fog in San Francisco, heat in Phoenix, or humidity in Florida.

The fun part of stupidity is that everything is a surprise.

This game is being played on that execrable scourge upon modern civilization, artificial grass. Mercifully, they’ve at least come up with the technology to scrub off the football lines. Why no grass, Seattle? You’ve got the requisite moisture. Oh, I forgot, grass needs sunshine. Sorry.

Sorry for the snarky attitude, Seattle folks. It’s not your fault. I’m a little bummed by how the NBA Playoffs are going for my hometown team, the Oklahoma City Thunder . . .

Ooooh. Never mind. Forget I said anything. Sorry to bring that up. Look on the bright side - Clay Bennett has no interest in Soccer.

But I digress.

Okay, one more snarky comment: What’s the deal with those stupid gray X’s on the back of those hideous green jerseys? I know it’s supposed to be some sort of secret Adidas gimmick to give soccer players superhuman abilities or something. Probably a joint project with the boys over at the Department of Defense, I’m sure. Really though, it’s a soccer jersey, it doesn’t require titanium inlays, structural engineering features and top-secret CIA stealth technology. Sleeves and a number are really the bare minimum required.

Though for FC Dallas purposes, a sponsor logo wouldn’t hurt, would it?

It’s not even the 15th minute and Fredy Montero has already changed shoes. Come on Imelda Marcos, let’s get on with it.

Wow, I’m really going negative here. What is wrong with me?

Oh, I know what it is. Yesterday was the last day of school, and I won’t get to teach middle school for a whole 11 weeks. Clearly I’m compensating for my sadness and disappointment by lashing out at the opposing team in my soccer column.

Heh.

Heh heh.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah . . .

Oh, I slay me.

Where were we?

OH! BREK SHEA! GOLAZO! MAGIC! 1-NILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!

Brek has gone back to the semi-Mohawk hair style, which clearly has a reverse Samson effect on the kid.

Leading the Sounders 1-0 in the first half, AT Seattle? Is that even allowed under League rules? Joe Machnik, call your office.

I was having lunch today with a friend who has followed FC Dallas in the past, but who has been out of the loop for the last couple seasons. He asked me “Have they picked up any good players?” I then gushed awkwardly about Fabian Castillo like a teenage girl describing her first Justin Bieber concert. It’s a good thing I lost my dignity years ago in a tragic barber shop accident, or I would be totally, like, embarrassed.

Ian Rush lookalike Álvaro Fernández just blatantly threw an elbow at Jackson’s face then feigned innocence when he got whistled. I’d make an anti-Uruguayan slur here, but I don’t know any. Besides, Uruguayans seem like a pretty decent people.

Except for this guy, who is a disgrace to all thin-mustached Ian Rush doppelgängers everywhere.

(There’s a sentence you don’t see every day)

Kasey Keller just fell on his butt after making a goal kick. But, because he is Kasey Keller, he still managed to look cool in the process, and send the ball 70 yards

Kasey Keller is to soccer what Chuck Norris is to everything else but soccer.

Unlike Chuck Norris, Kasey Keller’s tears don’t cure cancer, but they do travel back in time and prevent it in many cases.

I don’t want to be impious and say Kasey Keller is a god, but I’m pretty sure he is at least a demiurge.

Halftime. FC Dallas is winning, and haven’t given up a goal in 444 minutes. Nice.

I have the eerie feeling I may have jinxed things by mentioning that statistic. But I included it anyway, because fear is not an emotion I am familiar with; as I’m sure you all know, I like to live on the edge. Why, just the other day I was at the bank, and I saw the drive-thru lane that said “Commercial Transactions Only”, and I drove right up to it, even though my transaction was clearly not commercial.

Yeah, you heard me right. I’m a loose cannon. I’m trouble. I’ll do it again. See if I don’t.

I like the one announcer setup Seattle uses for their broadcasts. Until that glorious day when all we get is crowd noise with nobody talking, one is the correct number of broadcasters for a live sporting event. Maybe two for football. The NBA is going with three announcers for the playoffs, and even with quality talent, that’s just too many people. Though I like the chemistry between Mike van Gundy and Mark Jackson; it’s like listening to two guys on a sofa watching the game with a cooler of beer.

Kevin Hartman is absolutely flawless tonight. If you are a youth soccer coach you would do well to show this game to your team the day you want to discuss goalkeeping and defense. Kevin is out-Kasey-Kellering Kasey Keller.

Nate Jaqua comes in for Fredy Montero. I know it goes against conventional wisdom, but I was more comfortable with Montero on the field. Fredy is a bit off his game, and Jaqua has a sneaky way of scoring big goals. Not as many, or as often, as he used to, but he’s definitely not to be trusted.

I know this is off topic, but I have to mention it: David Beckham missed a league game so he could go to England and play in an exhibition game? There are so many things wrong with this it makes me dizzy. If I was a Galaxy supporter (like, in some bizarre alternate universe caused by a rip in the very fabric of space/time created by Wesley Crusher in a holodeck experiment gone horribly awry) I would be furious not only with Beckham, but with Bruce Arena, Tom Payne, Simon Fuller, Don Garber and (oddly, I admit) Yoko Ono. The whole thing is a joke. Even Allen Iverson is somewhere saying “Man, we’re not talking about a game; we’re talking about a testimonial”. It has a very slimy “Ken-Shamrock-leaves-MMA-to-work-for-Vince-McMahon” kind of feel to it. I hope the playoffs don’t coincide with WrestleMania this year. I’d hate for Beckham to have to make another tough call.

Oh yeah - while I was ranting, FC Dallas held off a furious rally by the Sounders and held on for a 1-0 win. This team is on a roll like a pat of butter. This team is cooking with gas. This team is, dare I say, a juggernaut.

This weekend is the always exciting game against the Dynamo.

This match is sometimes nicknamed “The Texas Derby”.

Some folks refer to it as “The Battle for El Capitan”.

Personally, I prefer to call it “Houston, You Have A Problem”.

See you then.

Stream of Consciousness: Philadelphia Union at FC Dallas

May, 15, 2011
5/15/11
1:12
PM CT
The encyclopedia says Stream of Consciousness is “a narrative mode that seeks to portray an individual's point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character's thought processes.” In other words, DJ watches games, and writes down whatever comes to mind. Sometimes prescient, sometimes odd, almost always entertaining.


Okay, true confession time: I missed Wednesday's game because I was watching the Thunder beat Memphis. Not in person, unfortunately; Thunder tickets are harder to find these days than an honest politician. Worse than that, if they win the series tomorrow, I'm totally rooting for them to beat the Mavericks. I've lived in OKC for more than 20 years now, so surely you my dear friends will forgive me for this act of seeming disloyalty.

Brek is back at left midfield. Armchair pundits across the Southwest just know it's because Sensei is finally listening to them.

Danny Califf has full sleeve tattoos. Apart from the questionable aesthetic considerations, I cannot imagine sitting still for that long while being jabbed with needles. Then again, I went to law school, which seems like a similar experience. And by that, I mean both are long painful ordeals, and years later you wonder, “Why the hell did I do that?”

Steve Jolley, calling the game for Fox Southwest, rightly points out that Faryd Mondragon looks a bit like Darío Sala, though I would add, “but without all the awesome”. FC Dallas has always had good goalkeeping, and I'm glad we have Kevin Hartman; he is about as good as they come. but to me, Darío was and is The Man. Love that guy.

Where's Ruiz? I almost made the drive from Oklahoma City to Frisco for this game just to experience first hand the reception he would get from The Inferno and El Matador. And when I say “almost” I mean, “If I wasn't lazy as sin and averse to paying $4.00 a gallon for gas”. I can overcome one, or the other, but not both.

Speaking of Ruiz, if the Union had somebody on the field who could finish inside the 18, they could be up 2-0 here in the 22nd minute. They're kind of slicing up the defense, up to the point where they actually have to kick the ball in the goal.

On the upside, Brek is going all Gareth Bale on his markers. Speed, passing, smart runs, that whole thing. Sheanon Williams and Amobi Okogu don't have much for him.

And almost as I finish typing that sentence, Fabian Castillo torches three guys on the right wing, strides in to the box, and centers perfectly to, who, class, anyone? Yep - Brek Shea. In the perfect place, sans defender, for the tap-in. Beauty. Sheer beauty.

I hate it when guys get fouled then look to the ref and make the international sign language symbol for “Hey, ref, how about a yellow card for that?”. Just shut up and do your job. In this league you're lucky to get a call at all. Let's not be a bunch of obnoxious impertinent luck-pushers, m'kay?

Okay, there are three things wrong with that last paragraph. First, it's not a yellow card they're asking for, it's a “Yellow Tail Wine Yellow Card”. Second, “shut up” isn't really the right epithet for someone using hand signals. Third, it was just a shade too angry. If I actually had some Yellow Tail in the house, I might not be so irritable.

By the way, if you're a Yellow Tail distributor, and you're reading this, I am categorically NOT trying to weasel free product from you. DJ Walker cannot be bought.

(He can, however, be leased, with an option to buy, in certain circumstances)

CASTILLOOOOOOOOO! 2-0! MAGIC!

Jackson with the lovely cross, Castillo, who is not the tall one, skies for the header from six yards out, surrounded by defenders.

Apparently Fabian can only score when he's guarded by a minimum of three guys. I can live with that.

Two-nil at halftime. Kinda wish I had made the drive now.

Now Ruiz is in, as the second half starts. I couldn't tell from the broadcast what kind of reaction he got from the crowd. My prediction is he got an initial round of warm, appreciative applause, which will be followed by merciless abuse for the rest of the match. I know my people.

I hate to be cynical, but I think Petr Nowak might have suggested to his team that Brek Shea needs to hit the turf more often this half. He's getting a taste of the Ferreira treatment. Surely the league has told the refs to crack down on this, after seeing three star players get their legs broken in the last two weeks.

I know, I'm a dreamer.

Andrew Jacobson just absolutely ripped a left footed shot from distance. Mondragon had to get low and stretchy to stop it. I hadn't seen that part of Jacobson's game before. I like it. I'm a big fan of taking long shots. They keeps defenders honest, and can be a real momentum changer. Plus, it looks really cool when they go in.

I hope I'm not puttin' the mojo on them, but the defense looks outstanding now. The first 20 minutes were shaky, but since then it's been a treat to watch them work.

I may been injudicious when I implied that Nowak told his guys to foul Brek this half. That, or they're just really bad at it. They haven't been able to get close enough to foul him since that first one, in about the 55th minute, and we're in the 86th now.

Two minutes left, and this one is in the bag. This was a total domination. Not something I get to say very often. Feels good.

So who's next? Who wants some of this? Huh, punks, huh? Bring it, BRING IT!

Sorry. Got carried away.

See you next week for RSL.

Stream of Consciousness: FC Dallas at DC United

May, 8, 2011
5/08/11
9:13
AM CT
The encyclopedia says Stream of Consciousness is “a narrative mode that seeks to portray an individual's point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character's thought processes.” In other words, DJ watches games, and writes down whatever comes to mind. Sometimes prescient, sometimes odd, almost always entertaining.


I'm really hoping Khal Drogo's Blood Riders will continue to protect the Khaleesi from her evil brother . . .

Wait a sec. Wrong blog. Sorry.

Start again.

Whoa, is this Dave Johnson calling an FC Dallas game? Strange days indeed.

Brek is back to the left side of defense, after being on fire while playing on the left side of midfield. Very odd in my opinion, but in Sensei we trust, right?

Eric Avila gets the start, hopefully bringing all the spark he brings off the bench.

DC United is probably my favorite Eastern Conference team, mostly because I think the Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles are so cool. If Dax had to go somewhere else in MLS (which I still wish he hadn't, with all my heart), I'm glad he went to DC.

With Fabian Castillo and Andy Najar on the field together, you're seeing the cream of the teenager crop in MLS. The odds either of them will still be in the league when they hit their 20's? Not good, if history is any guide.

How many teams has Joseph Ngwenya played for in this league? I was trying to think of a baseball journeyman analog to Ngwenya, but I can't come up with one. Plus, I'm pretty sure there's never been a Major League baseball player from Zimbabwe. He's been a good addition wherever he's gone, to be sure.

Wow, Kevin Hartman just robbed Charlie Davies, and Ugo Ihemelu was smartly waiting on the line to clear the rebound shot.

I have complained about Match Day Live (which, for you Luddites, is the MLS live online soccer product) on more than one occasion this season. But as I sit here and reflect (because the game is kind of boring right now, halfway through the first half), the fact is that when I was kid, not only was there little to no soccer on television, there was certainly no such thing as a computer that would fit on your lap that and show you live sporting events.

I mean, at the risk of sounding like one of those old guys at the barber shop who begins every sentence with “when I was a boy . . .”, well, when I was a boy I watched the 1982 World Cup final on a tiny black and white television with poor reception, at the gas station where I was working for the summer (yes, kids, at one time they paid people to pump your gas for you at a gas station), at risk to my very life because every time I tried to adjust the picture the damn thing shocked me.

Now there's so much soccer on TV I can afford to be a snob and look down on Serie A games because they just don't interest me as much as English or MLS games. In those days, I would have traded one of my siblings for a chance to watch Italian soccer on a weekly basis. Two siblings, if it was in color.

It's been a pretty evenly matched first half. Neither team dominating, but DC with the more dangerous chances. The way this season has gone, I'm pretty happy with a 0-0 halftime score, especially on the road. Andrew Jacobson is having a quietly productive first half, if you know what I mean.

I think this is a good chance to steal three points on the road, going in to the second half.

I predict serious damage being inflicted by Castillo in the second half, as older legs start to get heavy and he just, well, he just runs around being 18 years old.

Early in the second half, Ngwenya takes a flop after receiving just slight contact in the box, then has the nerve to complain about not getting the call. Give me a break. Mr. Toledo is not interested in it, to his credit.

I am of the opinion that a player who flops, dives, or otherwise (as the rules call it) 'simulates', shouldn't get the call even if he's been fouled. It's like when a child doesn't get what he wants and throws a fit – if you give in, you just reinforce the bad behavior and guarantee it will happen again and again and again and again, ad nauseum.

And nausea is indeed what I feel when I see a penalty given on a dive. Dallas has never been a diving kind of team, the Ruiz era notwithstanding. And even Ruiz kind of toned it down while he was here. Somebody, Oscar Pareja is my guess, must have had a talk with him early on and told him that's not the way of our tribe.

For that matter, DC have never been much a flopping kind of team either, which is one of the reasons I like them. They always play hard and fair, which is not always the case in MLS.

(coughcoughRAPIDScoughcough)

Fifteen minutes to go. This game has 'dramatic late winner' written all over it.

I love that Yellow Tail wine is again sponsoring the team this year, so that every caution is now a “Yellow Tail Wine Yellow Card”. I also enjoyed listening to Dave Johnson trying to say “Yellow Tail Wine Yellow Card”.

Who could we get to sponsor all the red cards? Red Baron Pizza? Killian's Red Lager? The Red Cross? The estate of the late Red Foxx? The possibilities are mind boggling.

Ohhhh, Kevin Freaking Hartman. He stones Fred in the 89th minute to save the day. Fred had a point blank header at an open goal and Hartman all but took flight to dive in at the last second an snuff the chance. Unbelievable this guy.

Three minutes time added on.

Okay, so maybe I was wrong about the dramatic late winner thing. What we have hear is your basic nil-nil draw on the road. I'll take it.

See you Wednesday for Toronto.

Stream of Consciousness: FC Dallas at Vancouver Whitecaps

April, 23, 2011
4/23/11
11:24
PM CT
The encyclopedia says Steam of Consciousness is "a narrative mode that seeks to portray an individual's point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character's thought process." In other words, DJ watches games, and writes down what comes to mind. Sometimes prescient, sometimes odd, and almost always entertaining.


Nice. Vancouver looks nice. I get the impression of a clean, pleasant, scenic place to live. And, though located in a foreign country, I gather they speak English. Which is a plus.

Empire Field, as I understand it, is a temporary facility, which will only be used until a state-of-the-art mega-stadium is completed. But, why would you want to leave Empire for a mega-stadium? Empire is beautiful. The field is a bit narrow, and the sight lines are slightly marred by steel columns in places, and the grass is made of horrid plastic but overall it looks like a really good place to have a soccer team.

The width and composition of the pitch can be fixed easily enough. I'm not sure what modern engineering can do about getting rid of support beams, but if that was the only problem with the place, you'd still have yourself a major league facility.

I'm guessing it has something to do with peripheral matters like luxury boxes, dressing rooms, and practice facilities. Anyone who is up to speed on this topic is welcome to set me straight in the comments.

I'm watching the Vancouver home feed on MLS Match Day Live, and I just heard the announcer call Brek Shea “Shea Brek”. Which I guess is forgivable since on a national telecast, the DE (Designated Englishman) commentator called Dax McCarty “McCarthy” all night.

Mind you, I am merely observing, not criticizing. We're none of us perfect, after all.

Speaking of imperfection, MLS Match Day Live is buggy as all get out. It just cut off, and gave me a message saying “Your Session Has Timed Out, Please Log In Again”. How can your session time out when you're six minutes into the game? In fact, why would my session time out at all, ever? This is not the first time MDL has failed me this season, either. Get it together, MLS, or I will be forced to write an especially pointed and strongly worded letter. And you don't want that.

Daniel Hernandez and David Ferreira have both taken hard shots to the melon from this awful plastic Adidas ball and had to shake the cobwebs off as a result. Daniel actually had to come off the field for a minute. Coincidence, or indictment of plastic soccer balls? You be the judge.

Plastic grass and plastic soccer balls. What is the world coming to?

Vancouver scores first, from a terrific header by Michael Boxall, who I have never heard of until just this moment. Earlier today I was watching a replay of the Seattle-Colorado match and the announcer said no team has lost this season in MLS when scoring the first goal. Like my normally pessimistic nature needs that kind of encouragement, right?

Fortunately, I missed the part of SEA-COL where poor Steve Zakuani got his leg broken. I hate watching that kind of thing ever since I saw Lawrence Taylor end Joe Theismann's career years ago. Blood doesn't gross me out, but seeing legs bend in ways God didn't intend them to bend makes me dizzy and nauseous.

I hope this doesn't end Zakuani's career. I feel somehow that Dema Kovalenko is at fault here, but I can't quite articulate why.

Oh, hey! I was about to complain about the slow starting ways of this team, but before I had a chance to get all glass-half-empty up in here, we get a PK from a handball in the box. Excelente.

Oh. Or not. David Ferreira misses the PK. I would have bet good money against that happening. I would have bet the ranch, if I had a ranch.

This is why I avoid Las Vegas for the most part. I'm a terrible gambler. And while I know it is the basest kind of solipsism, I would swear that me betting on something makes it less likely to happen. In fact, in times of drought, I try to keep my car windows down at all times, as a public service.

Once again, we see an FC Dallas side that is playing nice attacking soccer, getting plenty of chances, but not finishing. Except for the Colorado game, it seems to be a theme so far this year. I have to think, though, that it is a style that will pay off in the long run. In baseball terms, this is more like a team batting slump, as opposed to a lack of quality hitting.

But, leaving the future and rejoining the present, FCD goes in in to halftime, once again, trailing. Harumph.

The Vancouver supporters are in fine voice, and it got me to wondering about the existence of Canadian Football Hooligans. Could there be a more anti-stereotypical concept? I think this is the seed for either a good situation comedy, a Harry Shearer mockumentary, or at very least a skit for the next reunion of The Kids In The Hall.

David Ferreira just took a hard foul and seems to be hurt. He's holding the area around the achilles tendon, and is in extreme pain. To use the word agony would not be hyperbole.

Great.

I know this isn't a non-contact sport, and I don't want it to become one. But on the other hand, if two star players are lost in one weekend to rash challenges, it may be an indication that something needs to change.

To be fair, the challenge here wasn't dirty in the least, though it was from behind, and clumsy; and I didn't see Brian Mullan's challenge on Steve Zakuani, though Mullan got a straight red for his trouble. So it may be I'm overreacting, but you can't have this league become known as a place where it's open season on skilled players, and hope to prosper.

And, as if the Universe was trying to give the team a tiny bit of positive Karma for their troubles, George John scores from a Brek Shea corner moments after David gets stretchered off the field.

1-1, 54th Minute. Eric Avila in for David.

Now George John is hurt. He was tripped by Eric Hassli , and landed hard on his arm, hurting his elbow. According to the home announcers, he “fell down on his own.” Heh.

Things seem to be working better with Brek playing the left side of midfield rather than in the back. The late comeback last week seemed to start when he was pushed up from defense to mid in the second half.

Jackson is giving Vancouver all sorts of trouble with his overlapping runs from the right side of the defense.

Is the white spray paint the referees are using an optional practice? I see it in this game, but in others I haven't. Anybody know the scoop?

Stop . . . Avi Time.

Eric Avila scores the go-ahead goal in the 83rd minute! Collecting a loose ball, taking a couple touches and drilling a diagonal shot from just outside the penalty area. This kid is SO good off the bench. He comes in late, and plays with confidence and audacity. I love it. He probably hates it, because it just means he'll start less, but, man, he's a super-sub.

Two minutes to go. Vancouver pressing. Come on boys. Come on.

Four minutes of extra time. Guh.

Yeah, road win! And from a goal down, at that. Awesomely good win. Much needed. Depressing about David, though.

See you next week for the Galaxy.

Stream of Consciousness: FC Dallas-Portland

April, 18, 2011
4/18/11
12:00
AM CT
The encyclopedia says Steam of Consciousness is "a narrative mode that seeks to portray an individual's point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character's thought process." In other words, DJ watches games, and writes down what comes to mind. Sometimes prescient, sometimes odd, and almost always entertaining.


It hurt enough watching this team without Kenny Cooper. Watching him against us is ten times worse.

Coop seems like he's extra worked up for this game; he's already tried to take a chunk out of Ugo Ihemelu and Brek Shea. Not dirty play, but kind of hyperactive, going-in-too-hard-because-he's-going too-fast kind of stuff. It must be a day of mixed emotions for the kid. I imagine he will get a very warm reception when he comes to Pizza Hut Park later on. I can't imagine otherwise.

Jel-Wen stadium is packed and loud. Nice. If you're new to American soccer, you have to realize that though Portland is an expansion team in terms of MLS, the Timbers have been a presence in the game, off and on, since the early 70's. So, it is no oxymoron to speak of the tradition of Timbers soccer.

Welllll. I'm not too surprised to see it is Jack Jewsbury who gets on the scoreboard first for Portland. I'm a bit surprised to see Portland score first, mind you, because FCD is off to a pretty good start. Jewsbury, I think, will end up being an even more important acquisition than Kenny Cooper for Portland. He's been around a long time, scored lots of important goals for Kansas City, is a natural leader, and does not know the meaning of quit. I've always liked the guy. He has been the mainstay of most all of my MFLS teams ever since his breakout year of 2004. Of course, they were all losing MFLS teams, but that's hardly Jack's fault.

The goal itself, however, was a bit lucky. Jewsbury hit it well, but actually bounced it off the near post, and off of Kevin Hartman's backside. There's a joke in there about pulling something out of somewhere, but I'm just going to let it go.

The atmosphere created by the Timbers fans is somewhat reminiscent of an English Premier League game. I love seeing that, but can't quite get myself to agree with Bobby Rhine and Steve Jolley that this amounts to a “12th man.” It may give a little boost to the home team, sure, but it's not going to affect FC Dallas, or any other professional team, the least little bit. All of these guys have played in front of crowds, okay? A little noise is never going to make them play any worse. It makes for good talking points, however, which is good for guys in the booth.

Despite the early goal, I still like the Loyd-Ihemelu-John-Shea back four. I believe Sensei has instructed young Brek to get forward at will, which seems to suit him just fine. He's going to give right backs fits throughout this season with his speed, skill, and desire to score. I don't know much about soccer, but I feel pretty secure about that prognostication.

Dangit. I think I jinxed them. Kenny Cooper scores from a header to make it 2-0. He beat Ugo in the air and put it just over Kevin's fingertips. If I was nothing more than a bitter homer who never gives the other team credit, I might point out that Kenny fouled Ugo to get that open look.

But I'm not. So I won't.

Now, I may not have the details just exactly right, but apparently a guy named Timber Joey cuts down an old-growth tree, kills the endangered owls living therein, and starts a forest fire which he uses to fry up the owl carcasses, every time Portland scores a goal.

Or something like that.

Anyway. FCD down 2-0 at halftime, but didn't play badly at all. Funny old game, innit?

Second half, and I almost just said one of those words we're not supposed to say in school. Only a (brilliant, inspired) offside call kept Portland from making it 3-0 within the first two minutes of the half. That, as the young people say, woulda stunk

I want to backtrack a little about what I said regarding Brek at left back. There is one sense in which I die a little every time I see him back there. That has to do with the sad fact that America produces so few of that devil-may-care, Didier Drogba/Wayne Rooney-esque, “I'll try anything and I have the skill to pull it off”, natural goal scoring type of players. Brek has the temperament to be one of those guys, and most of the skill (though still developing, to be sure). Now, we've stuck him in the back. That part, I hate. But I'm also enough of a pragmatist (at least when it comes to FC Dallas), that I'll accept whatever Sensei comes up with, as long as it works.

Well, now it is 3-0, in the 56th minute, and this time the defense as a unit is at fault. And, I might add, FCD is sunk. I'll be happy to eat those words if the Red Stripes should make an amazing comeback, but my pessimistic nature has gone in to overdrive, and I do believe, sad as it makes me to say it, that FCD is sunk. At least for this week. I don't mean to make any predictions about the season as a whole, of course. I'm not that glass-half-empty of a person.

Yet.

All you can ask for at this point is that the boys have enough fuego to not give up, to make a game out of it, to not roll over and die. Win or lose, if you have the fuego, you have life. And, you have to say, the fuego was one of the things Sensei brought with him when he came to Pizza Hut Park, that took the franchise from underachievers to Western Conference champs.

Oh, and Portland? Portland have the fuego. If they played in front of a crowd of 20 people, all of whom had taken a monastic vow of silence, this team would have the fuego, or Spencer'd kill them.

Thirteen minutes left, and Portland looks like the only team interested in pushing the action. Ugh. What time does “Game of Thrones” come on?

So, let's see if I have this straight – Eddie Johnson, the Englishman, is playing in the United States, while Eddie Johnson, the American, is playing in England? Okay. Seems a shade inefficient, but that's none of my business. Whatever works, I guess.

HEY! FCD pulled one back! Brek Shea, streaking up the left side, puts a diagonal ball into the box for David Ferreira, who beats the defender to stretch a toe out and put it past Gleeson. Two goals down, six minutes to go. No problem, right?

OHHHHHHHHHHHH! DIPSY SELELOWANE FCD has scored again! Guess who? Brek Shea! One goal down, five minutes to play! Fuego, much?

This time, David loops a ball into the middle of the penalty area, and Brek Shea gets underneath it and pops it over Gleeson. Yeah, baby.

Injury time, and Kevin Hartman is going all NHL and leaving the net empty on a corner.

OH! Ferreira off the crossbar! Agh!

Full Time. Wow. Not a win, or even a draw, but a fine display of guts and fuego. I'm pretty happy with that. Gotta catch my breath.

See you next week for Vancouver.

Stream of Consciousness: Colorado Rapids at FC Dallas

April, 10, 2011
4/10/11
1:16
PM CT
Disclaimer: DJ Walker's Stream of Consciousness is exactly what it says it is, a stream of consciousness while watching the game. It's not a match report, but is rather meant to be entertaining. Hopefully you will find it so, even if unconventional.


I had forgotten that last year FCD only had 2 wins in the first nineteen games (sometimes it pays to watch the pregame stuff). That certainly gives some perspective on the less-than-stellar start to the season. That, and the undeniable fact that FCD has played a substantial percentage of the season with a man down.

I don't know much about tactics, but if your formation only adds up to 9, I know that ain't good.

Drew Moor is back in town. I hope he got a friendly greeting from the crowd. He was a fan favorite while he was here, and in fact had a standing invitation to marriage from at least one member of the Inferno, who shall remain nameless for the sake of propriety (you know who you are).

Speaking of the crowd, East Side looks like it is filling up nicely. Good sign.

Ouch. Marvin Chavez just got a calf full of Matt Pickens' cleats. He's okay, but that hurt me just looking at it. As much as anyone, I hate it when soccer players flop around the ground histrionically pretending to be hurt. But, you have to understand that certain kinds of knocks (like this one for example) are fairly exclusive to our sport, and tend to hurt like hell for about a minute, then go away. It's a fact of the game; sometimes when you see a guy flopping around, he is in fact in intense pain, and the fact that he's good as gold a mere minute later is not necessarily an indication that he is an un-manly, thespian-wannabe weenie.

This is especially true in the USA, where that kind of dramatic nonsense is generally not done, and definitely looked down upon. We all know there are parts of the world where this is common practice. I am thinking particularly of a region of South American known, I believe, as “South America”. But not in this country, buddy, no way; here we rub some dirt on it and keep playing. I think it has something to do with the inferiority complex the game has here, vis-a-vis American football. Soccer players know the reputation their sport has in this country, and go out of their way to combat it. Whatever you think of Chad Ochocinco's attempt to play soccer, you can feel fairly sure you'd never see him make a dozen rolls on the grass and wave his arms wildly after a hard foul.

This has been a really positive first 25 minutes. Castillo and Ferreira look really dangerous together, and OH, as soon as I type that, Ugo Ihemelu knocks in a goal! Colorado failed to clear their lines after a corner, and Ugo half-volleyed a Marvin Chavez header right past Pickens from six yards out. Nice.

Marvin Chavez is bleeding like a stuck pig after catching Nyassi's skull right in the face while challenging for the header. Man he's taken a beating tonight, just in the first half hour. Tough kid, Chavez, he’s not afraid to get in there. He's going to have to go off though. He may have a concussion; he's been on the ground several minutes now. Looks like Eric Avila coming in.

Again Sanna Nyassi with the tough foul, this time not even trying to play the ball and bringing Castillo to ground, hard. He's already on a yellow, and really he should be off. He's been out of control tonight. And if there is any soccer karma in the universe, we should see about a seven-man Rapids team by the end of the night.

I like Brek Shea as a left back a lot more than as a center back. He seems more comfortable defensively, and has already made a number of dangerous overlapping runs. This might be the ticket for him. He reminds me of Paul Broome, with his speed and willingness to get forward (there's an old school Dallas Burn reference for you kids).

Goal! David Ferreira, from a sublime through ball by young Castillo. Mayyyybe a hint of offside, but a good no-call by the assistant referee, in my completely objective and unbiased opinion. These two guys together may be the most dangerous combo in MLS. I mean, we knew Castillo could run like the wind, and find the back of the net, but if he can pass like this as well . . . defenders around the league will be losing sleep tonight, I suspect. And if not, they should be.

I do believe David Ferreira pulled a pacifier out of his shorts and put in his mouth as a goal celebration. I hope there's a good story behind this, some symbolism at play. Surely there must be. I'd hate to think he just happened to have one on him as a matter of course.

On the other hand, if he scores goals like that, he can pull a hobby horse out of there, I'm down with it.

You know I always enjoy doing new things, so I'm really delighted to type this next sentence:

Hey, FCD is up 2-0 at halftime!

Yeah, that felt good.

Second half OHHHHHHHH! Eric Avila plays a beautiful ball across the face of the goal right to David, who BURIES it, a mere 20 seconds in. Oh my. Are you kidding me? This is beautiful. Apparently the first three games were an extension of the preseason, and the regular season starts tonight.

Eric Avila, I believe, really needed that. He's had, along with everyone else, a slow start to the season, and may have been headed for the doghouse, and may have been flirting with a fatal lack of self-confidence. This is just what the doctor ordered for Avi.

I love the spray paint thing the referees are doing this year. They spray the spot of the foul, and spray the line 10 yards away the wall must stand behind. I feel pretty sure I could never be a referee under any circumstances, but especially with this innovation, It's almost a certainty I'd be reprimanded for painting a smiley face, or 'accidentally' spraying some mouthy punk who was complaining about a call.

FCD is still pounding the Colorado goal. I'll be surprised if they don't get at least one more tonight. I think Sensei Hyndman is entirely to my way of thinking when it comes to the best way to defend a three-goal lead, which is, of course, to make it a four-goal lead.

I'm not entirely sure Colorado has had a shot on goal yet this evening (speaking of sentences it is a pleasure to type).

Anthony Wallace has gone off with what looks like an ankle injury. I hate to see that; he's another really good young kid that used to play for FCD. Hope it's not too bad.

At his point, with about 20 minutes to go, the East Side of the stadium looks nearly full. The South End is pretty empty, but still, it looks like a nice-sized crowd. This is one of the few times the club has managed to combine a good crowd with a good performance. I can't tell you how many times terrific games have been played to sparse crowds, or good crowds have seen a stinker of a game. This, I'm hoping, is the start of a new trend.

Though to be sure, the mark of a true success is consistently good attendance regardless of recent form. In MLS, I'm not sure that has been seen yet, has it? Seattle has had consistently good numbers, but I don't think they have ever had a sustained run of really poor form in their brief existence. I'm more than willing to be corrected on this point, by any of you who have more complete knowledge of these things. I know Kenn Tomasch does a great job of keeping track of attendance trends in the league; I'd like to get his $.02 on this.

Zach Loyd just got chopped down, unnecessarily. He is another guy who has taken a beating tonight.

You have to say, Sensei has assembled a team that is not afraid to take a knock, which is a handy quality in this league, where defense is often defined as 'foul early, foul often'. I think half the challenge offensively this year will be keeping guys like Ferreira and Castillo off the deck and in the game.

And as if to prove my point, Jeff Larentowicz just completely hacks down Ferreira from behind, studs up, and doesn't even receive a verbal caution, much less a yellow card. What a joke.

The Inferno are in fine voice tonight.

All right! Full time, and what more could you ask for than a sound thumping of a hated rival on a Friday night? Not much, friends. Not much. The only thing I could have wished for was to have been there in person, but I'll take a win regardless of where I watch it.

See you next week for Kenny Cooper and the Portland Timbers.

Foreign jersey survey

March, 21, 2011
3/21/11
10:36
AM CT
I did a very informal and categorically unscientific survey of which foreign soccer jerseys folks were wearing at Pizza Hut Park Saturday. The methodology was thus: I looked around and noticed people's jerseys, and kept count in my head. Pretty slick, I know. I'm expecting to hear from the MacArthur Foundation any day now.

Results: Manchester United 10; Real Madrid 6; Barcelona 4; one each for Rangers, Hamburg (really, Hamburg?), Fulham (with the Dempsey 23 on the back - very nice), Club America and Chelsea (one of those god-awful Dayglo green things).

Observations: The ManU majority does not surprise at all. The folks at GolTV should be interested and pleased with the Real and Barca numbers. Surprisingly, I saw no Arsenal and no Celtic. I also saw two Dallas Burn jerseys, one with the Brandon Pollard name and number, which was very cool. That's even cooler than my FCD Hoops jersey with Mickey Trotman's name and number on the back. Biggest surprise: I saw not one USA jersey. There must have been at least one, somewhere, it seems to me, but I sure didn't see any.

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