Thursday, June 26, 2008

Back on the scene and what do I find?

Finally, a little bit of time to write, and oh, what a series of topics there are. Here's a quick rundown:

FORZA: Dynamo vs. little d tonight in the Thursday ESPN game. (Here's Jeff Carlisle's always-excellent advance here and the Chron's here.) I know, I know. Journalistic objectivity should compel me to write the team's name properly and all that. But my journalism hat is over there somewhere and I have no love at all for that team. I had to miss the home opener and this is my only chance this season, unless it happens in the playoffs again, to abuse Drew Moor for screwing up twice (TWICE!) allowing Jonny Magallon to score for Mexico against the US here last February, and spew my hatred toward Andres "Cock"Rocha. Kenny Cooper continues to scare me, as does my fellow St. Thomas alum Arturo Alvarez (technically, I guess, he's not an alum, since he left after his sophomore year to go to Mayde Creek High School just west of here, but hey, a successful pro is a successful pro. The Eagles maintain their claim on him!).

No Eddie Robinson and no Richard Mulrooney, but yes to DDR, yes to Chingy and yes to SuperCanuck between the sticks. Add to that a rabidly anti-Dallas crowd and that ought to be enough. My pick, 3-1 l'Orange. And maybe it's my Celtic-leaning ways, but the sooner that the candystripers drop that whole "Hoops" nonsense the better. There is only one Hoops, and they are the three-time (and counting) SPL champions. And the stripers look more like FC Bayern anyway.

LAHM LAYS DOWN THE LIONS: My head and just about every other part of me, especially the part of me that's half German (my mother's father and my father's mother both full-blood), knew that Turkey would fall yesterday. But my my heart, thrilled by yet another Turkish Houdini act, leapt when they tied it late. But when Lahm scored, my final thought was, "How fitting." (Highlights here.) You just don't tease the devil like that again and again and again without at some point it coming back to devour you. The Turks were definitely THE most entertaining story of this tournament, the sort of thing that draws us all to sports over and over again, and we all owe them a huge round of applause for that. Now, if the Germans don't win the whole shebang, it'll be their own damn fault.

And for the record, I won't be surprised to see either Spain or Russia win today. But if I had to bet, it'd be Spain by a goal, which of course means the Battle of Leningrad will be Sunday.

TODAY (AND TOMORROW) ROBERTSON, IN 2010, WHERE?: Bernardo Fallas had much to say yesterday about where Dynamo will play in the coming years. The deal with UH to stay at Robertson should be worked out very soon, which is really great news. But Fallas also said that he expects a Dynamo Park deal to come this summer, with Texas Southern University as a partner and the financial details with the city worked out sans referendum, and with a move-in date sometime in 2010.

After predicting this to happen, in order now, before New Year's Day, before the Pan Pacifics, before the start of the season and before Memorial Day, I am out of the prediction business. Still, Fallas' stories are warming my Orange heart. Now I will look away and not look back at this, nope, not even a peek. (One little one). NO!! Thanks Bernardo, for screwing up my life!

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Friday, June 20, 2008

I hate HDNet; The TURKS!!!; Welcome home to the Flyin' Hawaiian and other thoughts (music and afield) heading into the weekend

Watching the Turks today rip the spleens out of the Croatians has restored my faith in the anything-can-happen aspect of this wonderful sport. I was watching with my sons and when Semih Senturk fired that equalizer all three of us let out loud LOUD screams of surprise and amazement. Not having a dog in that hunt, we felt terrible for the Croats, amazed at the Turks and, speaking for myself, are those Turks straight out of central casting or what? From the coach on down, those guys are straight out of the "Hey, get me a Turkish looking guy for that part" universe. Awesome. Halfway through the second half, I just blurted out loud, "The Turks are going to win this game. I guarantee it." And when Kidney Boy scored with a minute to go, I doubted, but somehow not fully. These guys are the 2004 Greeks (though I'm sure they'd say the 04 Greeks are the 08 Turks) and the 2007 Asian Cup-winning Iraqis. They will not be denied.

Of course, that guy up at the top of the page is not Turkish, but is Haleah's very own Brian Ching, back in Orange Saturday for Dynamo's game against Commerce City (Read the link, another well-written piece from Jeremy Rakes, who used to work for me. I taught the kid everything he knows!). (Fave quote from Dom Kinnear in Jeremy's story: "Scoring is helpful.") Missing will be Pat Onstad and Dwayne De Rosario, who of course played for the Maple Leafs in their 4-1 victory against St. Vincent and the Grenadines (though how they took on two teams at once is something of a mystery to me!).

That means that Tony Caig will be back in goal for this game. The sentence itself says everything I want to say about the guy. If Colorado takes no shots on goal, we're sitting pretty, but it's when the other team takes aim at the net that Caig's deficiencies start to become evident. I resisted the urge to go negative on the guy earlier in the season, but after watching his "performance" against New England with my own two eyeballs, I have to say he has some work to do to get back in my good graces. Maybe we can get Rustu here after the Euros are over. Dreaming, I is.

Of course, seeing as how I won't be heading to a bar tomorrow night (date with my longtime leading lady takes precedence), there'll be no way I can DVR the game as it's once again on HDNet, the network I have come to hate. Games on HDNet = games I don't see. Bastids! I don't even hold it against Comcast for not carrying them. Now that's saying something, hating HDNet more than Comcast. Are the highlights even going to be on MLSNet? Right now, it looks like no. HDNet must die.

Stepping out of the footy for a second: Three pieces of music that Tiger should listen to while rehabbing his knee or at
the very least I expect to wind up on several people's year-end best of list:

The Odd Couple by Gnarls Barkley (Listen to a wonderful interview with the pair from Fresh Air here.)
She & Him Volume One by Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward (Listen to another great interview with Deschanel and Ward from World Cafe here.)
Rain by Joe Jackson (Still one more wonderful interview with Herr Uber -pianist here from World Cafe.)

I just got all three of these CDs last week and they are definitely worth your time. If you're not foot-tapping and totally into Danger Mouse and Cee Lo Green's Gnarls Barkley's tunes then you get your Nutmegged registration fees refunded. It's a lot of fun.

I've been a fan of Jackson's since waaay back with Night and Day. Body and Soul I think I completely wore out a needle on back in the day as well. It's some awesome Jumpin' Jive. Rain will have you amazed at the man's continued virtuosity.

And Deschanel and M. WArd have put together a very, very fun disc. Enjoy. Read more!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Midweek musings, scattershot style

Wow, what a week that was, in no particular order:

The Turks... Petr Cech... Ching's brace, then hat trick, then brace again but in a different way... 8-0!!!!...Couldn't Matt Reis have been called up before last Thursday rather than the day after? He's the best freakin' goalie in North America. Guzan who?... Ching released back to Dynamo today... Whoopee, now can we get teh Canadians to do the same for DeRo and Onstad?... Michael Ballack's blast to sink Austria and his trash talk afterwards. Clearly, repeated airings of The Sound of Music are getting to Ballack and he's had enough... El Tri barely beats Belize??! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Bienvenidos a Mexico Sven.... Borgetti to Dynamo rumor. Say it ain't so Golden Boy. Please..... Telling my son on Father's Day no less at the 85 minute mark: "Petr Cech is one of the best keepers in the world. Watch him back there. He's in total control." Thanks Petr. Thanks a lot..... A wild, funky, weird Euro tournament... Viva Oranje! (Euro edition)... The Turks!!!... Matt Reis' from the gut holler after stopping Stuart Holden's brain dead shot to the left... (Non-soccer note) Tiger Woods' win with a bum knee was beyond amazing... Thierry Henry's career as one of the world's best is now officially over, not that Barca seems to know that... The Turks should win Euro 08, if for no other reason than to give the other half of Crete something to celebrate after Euro '04... Yes, but Holland have it in the bag now.

Work is once again taking up most of my time this week and for the next couple of weeks to come so that's the most you'll see from me today. More to come when I get to it.

In the meatnime, this is cracking me up from Coldplay's Chris Martin as reported by the always astute SF over at The Offside Rules:

Q:"What do British people do when they have finished winning the World Cup and the European championships?"

A: They turn off the Playstation."
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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Quickie Dynamo-Revs preview and other thoughts

The vocation is taking a toll on my avocation this week, as work has been time-consuming so have had little opportunity to post (ain't that the way?). But here's a quick series of takes on today's festivities.

Heading over to Robinson tonight to see Dynamo host the Revs. ESPN is pushing the game back to 8:25 central time tonight, instead of our customary 7:30 sweat-filled swampy beat down. Perhaps it takes a conspiracy theorist to suggest that Hartford's own Worldwide Sports Leader is assisting the Nor'easterners, but still, 8:30 p.m. when it's still in the mid-80s outside with about 356-percent humidityis enough to sap the will out of most people (OK already! I'll talk, just please crank the AC. PLEASE!!!!!).

Jeff Carlisle over at ESPN (them again!) has a nice rundown on tonight's game (read it here). Of course, this is the first thing to catch the eye from Jeff:

3. Missing internationals
World Cup qualifying is in full swing in many parts of the globe, and both New England and Houston will be missing important performers on Thursday as a result. New England is without forward Kenny Mansally, as well as midfielders Khano Smith and Shalrie Joseph, who will represent The Gambia, Bermuda and Grenada, respectively. For Houston, goalkeeper Pat Onstad and attacker Dwayne De Rosario will be away with the Canadian national team, while forward Brian Ching is set to join up with the U.S. ahead of this weekend's qualifier with Barbados.

Shalrie Joseph is the player on New England I fear the most as I continue to believe that he is the best midfielder in the league. So under normal circumstances, I'd be celebrating his absence. However, with DDR, the Flyin' Hawaiian and Super Canuck all gone on duty, that means Dynamo is missing the men who have scored their last five goals and nine of the last 11. That. Is. Huge. Not only that, with Onstad away, Tony Caig is back in goal. Now I'm not going to jump on the Bash Caig bandwagon that seems to have lost steam after he turned in a clean sheet against NYRB two weeks ago. He HAS been playing better, there's no doubt about that, but then again he hasn't been seeing the New England Revolution, for my money the best team in the league all season. So Eddie Robinson's return from suspension couldn't come at a better time.

Still, what will the line-up be without Ching and DeRo up top? Bernardo Fallas is generating some discussion along these lines on his blog, and comes up with the following four possible combos (sorry for the extended block):

---------------The Keg----------------


---------------The Keg----------------

Or even:

---------------The Keg---------------

The latter one is highly unlikely as it prevents Kinnear the flexibility of pushing a defender (Mulrooney) to midfield in a switch to a 3-5-2.

The problem with the first one is Kinnear appears to still be holding out on Caraccio, whom you would think would be the logical choice.

The same goes for the second, although it would allow Holden at attacking mid.

Still the first offering would be my lineup to start the night.

However, Kinnear may have other ideas. He has been careful not to disclose his lineups during practice lately. It used to be that players with orange bibs would have a lock to start at designated positions played during intra-squad scrimmages.

That hasn't been the case lately.

So, if he wanted to get creative tonight and stick to a 4-4-2, Kinnear could go with something like this:

---------------The Keg--------------

I think Bernardo is right that Kinnear won't go with Caraccio up top for whatever reason. Apparently, the Argentine is falling out of favor ala Paul Dalglish a year ago. So I think Kinnear will do this:


SUBS: Waibel, Cameron, Caraccio

Ianni should get the start because there's no way Waibel can match up with the speed of Dube and Nyassi. Mullan, despite his almost total lack of finishing prowess, has been able to break down defenses and might be able to create chances for Holden to slide up and in. Davis' return will be a welcome one because if there's one thing the Orange need, it's his service. First off the bench should be Geoff Cameron, followed by Caraccio if the game is scoreless or we're down. If we're up late, then Waibelho comes on to help nail it down and pack the back.

What do you think?

In any event, it should be a fun night. Look for Mister3d and I on the El Batallon side of the field but on the sideline.


And here's a great Extra Time from over at with an interview with Richard Mulrooney. Nice.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Canadians we can believe in

In the end, our Canadians were better than their Canadians.

Sure, Brian Ching got the brace in Dynamo's 3-1 win last night (can't seem to find highlights anywhere. Ah well.), but Dwayne De Rosario was my true Man of the Match. DDR's goal just before the end of the first half was a thing of beauty. Catching Toronto napping and then dinking it past Sutton for the score was a huge lift going into the break. Then DDR comes back and assists on the Flyin' Hawaiian's first goal early in the second after Thundering Pat Ianni secured his trip to Beijing with an out-of-nowhere interception, feeding DeRo, and it was all over but the shouting from there.

Or so we thought there at Robertson Stadium.

Toronto showed some spirit in a game in which they were just dominated. Super Canuck Pat Onstad made back-to-back, point blank saves on Laurent Robert and Jarrod Smith that were things of beauty. Then came Chingy's third a few minutes later on a nifty cross from Stuart Holden. Jeff Cunningham's goal salvaged some pride for the other Canadians out there, but then it was well and truly over.

Here are some ratings.

Onstad: A+ on the kick saves alone. Again, he showed why Dynamo are much the lesser team when our very own Special Ed teacher goes to international duty.

Back line: A- Cunningham's goal was too easy, but other than that, they were lights out. Waibelinho got beat on several occasions. I know he's just happy to be out there, but he'll be even happier if he can go back to the right side. Ianni gets an A on his interception that led to the second goal alone. He just roared out of the backfield and sent the entire Toronto defense on its heels. Wow. Boswell had several nice clearances, but also got bailed out on a few mishits. A solid game, just not one of his better ones. Mulrooney was also solid.

Midfield: B+ Holden had a nice cross for Ching's second, but is still looking to get untracked. Mullan once again is making great runs that go absolutely nowhere. The Ashe vs. Marvell Wynne battle was entertaining all night. Too speedsters going toe to toe. Clark was very solid showcasing once again why he's second only to Shalrie Joseph in the holding mid role.

Forwards: A+ Two for Chingy, a goal and an assist from DeRo. Does Dwayne stay up top? He says no, but honestly, this is the best top pairing we've seen all year. Results alone mean De Ro has to stay up top. Can you see another possible combo that has worked?

Subs: Davis and Wondo were nice coming in, though both came in too late to merit a grade. Wondo's card was great. Talk about announcing your presence. He was a one-man goon squad.

(Fallas' take on the game is here.)

Hopefully, some of this will carry over to Thursday night, though it will have to be without DDR, who will be away for international duty. I don't think the Orange are going to see as much space to operate as they did last night against the Revs. Still, it should be a beautiful game, and a result better than the season opener would be nice indeed.

What do you think? Read more!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The big blue and white

Well, with Dynamo getting rained out last night (and does anyone have video of that, by the way? I can't seem to find any.) in DC, the big highlight from yesterday was Argentina's 4-1 shellacking of Mexico in San Diego. (Great story about it here.)

The best headline I saw was from Luis Bueno's Siddeline Views: "Sven me from the mess."

Erikkson has his hands full with that team. Too many prima donnas. No cohesiveness. And now they expect to all come together under a guy who is just now in the process of learning Spanish (though to be fair, when he learns it, it'll be, what, his sixth tongue?)? El Tri is in dire straits.

Next up for the Argies is our very own U.S. Snakes Sunday at Giants Stadium. Hopefully, all that goal scoring in San Diego tired them out, or it could be the capper of a very long two weeks for the US squad. Will the US finally score in the run against the big three of England (2-0), Spain (1-0) and Argentina? I don't want to seem unpatriotic or anything, and it pains me in the extreme to write this, but if I had to bet, I'd have to say the chances don't look good.

Still, go US! I'm with you all the way. Read more!

Monday, June 2, 2008

A quick pair of videos and thoughts on the value of home and away support

(NOTE: See Update below)
I found these two videos over on the El Batallon Web site. Those guys and the Texian Army share a great deal of the credit for making Robertson Stadium into the place it is today. No one, and I mean, NO. ONE., wants to play Dynamo there. (I especially enjoy the first one, taken at Frisco May 28. About two-thirds of the way in, check out the truly pathetic HOME support for the candystripers. No wonder that place is Robertson North whenever Dynamo play there.) The second video is from the NYRB win this past weekend.

There has been much talk over on Bernardo Fallas' and Lark Howarth's blogs on the Chron about the fact that the two groups were, for what I believe is the first time ever, sitting on opposite ends of the stadium for the NYRB game this past weekend. Apparently, as best I've been able to determine, the two groups were growing beyond their sections and could no longer accommodate their independent growth if both were going to be next to each other on the North End. So now the Texian Army is on the South End (Los Surenos?) and El Batallon, seemingly the larger of the two, now occupies almost the entire North (Los Nortenos), which is clearly shown in the second video above.

Speaking as someone who sits somewhat in between, I have to say I like the arrangement and think it will be a real positive for both groups. It's also nice to have the songs and chanting coming from all around. There is now no quiet end of the stadium for opposing teams to feel relaxed. The TA now occupies the end that traditionally houses what little away support there has ever been at Robertson, so "welcoming" those invaders I assume will be their own little bailiwick in the future.

The traditional harmony between the two groups is, I believe, the envy of MLS, especially in light of the recent racist chants in Columbus (which you can read about here, here, here and here). Certainly, understanding the El Batallon chants (which you can hear here) has got this gringo more interested than ever in improving my limited Spanish. I would hope this continues. Maybe the two could enter into a healthy competition to see which side gets the most Dynamo goals. If so, the TA currently leads 1-0 after Chingy's strike Saturday night.

More power to both in the future growth that hopefully will eventually grow to encompass the stadium entire. Though as Lark pointed out on his blog, what arrangement there eventually will be in Dynamo Park, which is currently slated to seat about 10K less than the Rob, is anyone's guess.

UPDATE: Here's a statement from the Texian Army posted on their Web site this afternoon:

Texian Army Section Change
Written by Board of Directors
Monday, 02 June 2008
The Texian Army has embraced a new opportunity to help energize Robertson Stadium by relocating to Section 231 in the South End.

Some media outlets have featured speculation about the move and other Dynamo fans have asked about it. We have already heard and seen many positive responses and encouragement about the move to Section 231. But we want to clarify our motives here to assure all Dynamo fans of our dedication to creating a passionate environment, and also to prevent any misunderstanding about the change.

We decided to move to Section 231 after discussions among our committed membership resulted in a consensus that the South End offers the Texian Army the best opportunity to enhance the Dynamo's home field advantage and encourage more fans throughout the stadium to participate in chants and songs.

With the Texian Army in the South End, along with the Houston Pulse who are also supporting the Dynamo, and with El Batallon and other groups in the North End, visiting teams will now have nowhere to escape the passion of committed groups of supporters. Both ends will now feature groups that sing and chant continuously and create impressive visual displays. Whether visiting teams head North or South, they will now have to deal with loud, active groups. Having groups on both ends also means that the Dynamo players will never find themselves far from the passionate vocal and visual support that we bring for 90 minutes of every game.

By adding our songs and chants to the South End, the Texian Army will also help energize that half of Robertson. We will continue to bring continuous, loud support with coordinated songs and chants. While we will keep some songs that are popular among supporters groups throughout the Americas, we will also gradually introduce new, original songs and chants that our members develop. We believe that Dynamo fans in other sections of the stadium will eventually join us in many of these chants and songs, as we all continue the process of turning Robertson into the loudest, most intense home field in American soccer.

The Texian Army will also continue to create the visual spectacle that distinguishes organized supporters groups around the world. Fans have become accustomed to our visual displays of creative banners, large original flags, avalanches of streamers, flurries of confetti, and non-stop waiving of a forest of orange and white flags. We will only continue to improve these visual displays in Section 231 as our members develop even more new, original visuals.

Although the Texian Army is the oldest organized supporters group for the Houston Dynamo, having formed before the new MLS team in town even had a name or colors, we have always welcomed new groups in all parts of the stadium that bring passionate support for the team. We wish other groups of Dynamo supporters great success and will enjoy seeing them continue to grow and show their passion for the Dynamo.

The Texian Army is energized about our new role in the South End in Section 231. We hope that many of you will join us in our efforts to push the Dynamo forward. You can help by joining us in songs and chants. Our lyrics are available at our tailgates before every home game and will soon be available at this site. You can also consider whether you want to become directly involved in the jumping, chanting, singing, and flag waiving that we bring to Section 231. If you want to join this effort, then come to one of our tailgates or watch parties and get to know us and learn more about what we do. In either case, we urge you to express 90 minutes of passion in support of the Dynamo every game.

See you in the South End.
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