NFL Nation: Tim Howard

Bills tackle Chambers amped for World Cup

June, 11, 2010
Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Kirk Chambers will share his World Cup thoughts with the AFC East blog throughout the tournament.

A dozen years later, the moment remains vivid in Kirk Chambers' mind.

German forward Oliver Bierfhoff, near the right sideline, sent an arcing pass to Jurgen Klinsmann into the penalty box. Klinsmann controlled the ball with his chest and quickly blasted a shot. U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller dived in vain.

Keller didn't see the ball go into the net, but Chambers did.

[+] EnlargeKirk Chambers
Brett Davis/US PresswireKirk Chambers is looking forward to following the World Cup.
"That specific play," said Chambers, a sixth-year offensive lineman for the Buffalo Bills, "sticks out in my mind almost better than some football plays I've been involved with."

Chambers, a Utah kid watching the 1998 World Cup while in Berlin to serve a Mormon mission, was disappointed yet captivated when Klinsmann clinched a 2-0 victory over the U.S. in pool play.

"The place was just in a frenzy," he said.

There's football, and there's futbol. Chambers has a passion for both.

In the coming weeks, Chambers will share his 2010 World Cup thoughts here on the AFC East blog. He will be monitoring the games and storylines throughout the tournament, which begins Friday morning. He has filled out an ESPNsoccernet Bracket Predictor that you can follow.

"I love the game," Chambers said of soccer. "I grew up playing primarily football and basketball, but in high school I never played pickup basketball. It was always pickup soccer with my friends.

"But I didn't really understand what soccer was to the rest of the world until I spent two years in Germany."

Chambers, an avid Real Salt Lake fan, acknowledged it requires work for the average American to appreciate soccer.

"It takes a little effort to enjoy," Chambers said. "When I watch an amazing run at the goal and see someone flip a ball some crazy way, I know how that affects me.

"It's a very simple sport, but it requires creativity on the fly to make something simple look exceptional."

At 6-foot-7 and 315 pounds, it's difficult to pretend Chambers might've had this option had he played soccer instead of football in high school. But if given the option to play in the NFL or the Premier League, he said he would stick with America's game.

Still, he admitted soccer's non-stop action can be more riveting than football.

"What I've really come to appreciate during international matches, I feel tension from the opening kickoff until the end of the game," Chambers said. "There's an internal tension caused by the nervousness of what's going to happen.

"Football is so much stop and go and TV timeouts and off the field and on the field. In soccer, there's a nervousness that grips you until the ref blows the match dead."

Chambers said being a U.S. soccer fan can be heartbreaking because the squad is competitive internationally but hasn't been able to break through. I could hear the irritation in Chambers' voice when he recalled how the U.S. blew a 2-0 lead and lost to Brazil in last year's Confederation's Cup final.

Chambers is pumped about America's midfield -- with Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey -- and expressed thanks for goalie Tim Howard. Chambers, however, is concerned with defensive lapses shown in friendlies.

"It's a bittersweet thing being a U.S. fan," Chambers said. "We're right at the doorstep of becoming a respectable team. It's exciting to follow that."
Dallas Clark, Vince Young and Andre JohnsonUS PresswireWhich of these AFC South stars -- Dallas Clark, Vince Young or Andre Johnson -- would make the best soccer goalie?
A while ago on Facebook, regular reader and contributor Nathan Cherolis posed an interesting question for downtime in the NFL with the World Cup approaching.

It went something like this: If you could take one guy from each AFC South roster to train intensively for one year to be a World Cup goalkeeper, who would it be?

I called on soccer coaches who are familiar with the four NFL teams we’re working with for some input. And while they didn’t choose any shockers, I thought some of the rationale and conversation was interesting.

I also had a chance to speak with two of the chosen ones about how they feel they’d do.

So if you’re anticipating the opening matches Friday and the US-England game Saturday as I am, here’s a little football/futbol post for entertainment purposes only.

Dominic Kinnear of the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer is the lone top-level professional coach at work in our territories.

He’s familiar with the Texans and the Colts, and said he’d pick Houston receiver Andre Johnson (“He’s got incredible hands, and plucking balls out of the air is a necessity”) and Indianapolis tight end Dallas Clark (“Same thing, incredible hands, brave, not afraid to get hit going through traffic”).

“I don’t think it would be that far off because these are great athletes,” he said. “A lot of goalkeepers now are great athletes first. You look at the guy who plays for the United States, Tim Howard, the one thing that people marvel about with him -- especially in England [where he plays for Everton] -- is how good of an athlete he is.

“On the athletic side as far as shot stopping, timing of coming out to collect crosses, I don’t think it would take too long for those guys, because it’s kind of the same thing they do. They are big guys, they are going through traffic. Having a bit of contact in the air when they are catching the ball, it happens all the time. So I don’t think the timing of that would be that difficult for them.”

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