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Showing posts from March, 2015

USMNT Concede Another Late 2nd Half Goal But Hold on to Tie Switzerland 1-1

Check out USMNT winger Brek Shea curling in a perfect free-kick goal to put the Outlaws up 1-0 over Switzerland today in a friendly:

http://www.si.com/planet-futbol/2015/03/31/brek-shea-free-kick-goal-usmnt-switzerland

Unfortunately, Jozy Altidore got sent off with a red card deep into the 2nd half and the U.S., yet again, conceded a goal after the 80th minute to walk off with the draw. So that's 0-1-1 for this international period, outscored 4-3, which, let's face it...things could be worse and we're still nowhere near World Cup Qualifiers so. Everybody just chill...

New Yorker Fiction Review: "All You Have to Do" by Sarah Braunstein

Issue: March 16, 2015

Rating: $$

Review: Sarah Braunstein is exactly the kind of author I like to find in the New Yorker Fiction section: young, emerging, and that I've never heard of before. Finding out about new, promising authors is fully 75% of why I started this project in the first place.

"All You Have to Do" is set in a small town in 1972 and deals with an "encounter" between a young teenage boy and a traveling salesman. I use the emphasis quotes there because the real meaning and/or sub-meaning of the encounter are not clear to me even after having read (and skimmed over again) the story and sat on it for a few days.

The kid, Sid Baumwell, is fully inside the gauntlet of adolescence. He's starting to distance himself from his surroundings, his parents, his siblings, in order to try and find out who he really is. He's also working through his desires and what they mean to him; one of the first things we learn about him is that he's "hungry…

USMNT Blows Second Half Lead vs. Denmark in Friendly

The USMNT blew another 2nd half lead midweek vs. Denmark in an international friendly, conceding all three goals to the firebrand Danish striker Nikolas Bendtner. The U.S. has now been outscored 11-1 in second half play since this summer's World Cup and soccer pundits and fans are starting to fret (cause that's what they do) that the USMNT has lost its defensive cohesion and overall direction and, basically, that Klinsmann is mucking everything up. As the Men In Blazers are prone to say: "Don't read too much into international friendlies." But everybody always does; that's all we have to go on right now.

On the Bright Side...Jozy Altidore continues to perform after coming back stateside to the MLS and shaking off his EPL funk; he assisted on an Aron Johansson goal and scored one of his own, giving him four in the past six games.

Next Game:USMNT v. Switzerland on March 31st at 12:00 PM

The NYer on England's Rubbish Performance in European Competitions

Well by jove...it's not often that my two passions -- literature and soccer -- combine, and it's even rarer that the New Yorker writes pieces about European soccer. This one is so brand-spanking new I have yet to read it:

http://www.newyorker.com/news/sporting-scene/englands-european-soccer-woes

The unceremonious exit of Everton FC from the UEFA Europa League, at the hands of Dynamo Kiev this week, means that there are no English teams in the UEFA Champions League or it's lower-tiered cousin, the UEFA Europa League. This is a little disturbing, since the EPL purports to be the richest club league in the world both in terms of money and talent, and yet its clubs are getting bounced from European competitions like unruly teenaged drunks at a TGI Fridays.

The Literature of Soccer-Football, Volume II: Brilliant Orange

As a lover of literature and a lover of soccer-football, I'm on a quest to discover the best books about the sport. In each installment of this series I will review a different soccer book with an eye toward how it has helped me develop a greater understanding of the history, culture, tactics, and players of the game. Hopefully this series will serve as a game-plan for those looking to do the same...

Book: Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football

Author:David Winner

Rating: Three Points

What It's About: In a nutshell, Brilliant Orange is an examination of how Dutch culture influenced the unique style of football played in Holland and by the Dutch national team. In the late 60s and early 70s, the Dutch club team Ajax flourished under the leadership of superstar Johan Cruyff (say: Croif) and to some extent their manager Rinus Michels and created a soccer philosophy known as "Total Football." The main principles of Total Football are a.) relentless attack and…

New Yorker Fiction Review: "A Death" by Stephen King

Issue: Mar. 9, 2015

Story: "A Death"

Author: Stephen King

Rating: Meh

Review: Hey, guess what?? There's a story by Stephen King in the New Yorker this (last) week! Yeah, I don't care either.

There are people out there who think Stephen King is God. There are people out there who think his work is trash and won't go near it. I'm neither. I actually used to like his stuff when I was in my early teens...his short stories mostly...actually just the book Skeleton Crew. I tried to read It. I tried to read Cujo. Tried to read The Stand. Couldn't get very far through any of them. In fact the book of his I like best is On Writing, which is his autobiography-cum-writing manual.

Look...."A Death" is obviously well-written, well-paced, with good dialogue and all that. It's a solid story. I may not love Stephen King but he's a goddam pro. There's no arguing that. This story just fell flat for me. I could feel the author pushing it toward some kind of…

USWNT Wins Algarve Cup

What is the Algarve Cup, you may ask? For that matter, what is the USWNT? If you're asking the latter, you're really out of the soccer loop...if that matters to you one iota. The USWNT is the U.S. Women's National (Soccer) Team and the Algarve Cup is an annual women's international soccer tournament held in the Algarve region of Portugal. The U.S. Women just won it yesterday, beating France by a score of 2-0. I'd never heard of this cup until my recent and ever-expanding football mania took hold of me sometime over the summer and has caused me to look into the more obscure corners of the soccer world. This year the Algarve Cup is considered to be a pretty important tune-up (because it's the last tune-up) before the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada this summer.

For those of you who don't know, the U.S. has a pretty badass women's national team. We've won the Algarve Cup 10 times in the 21st century, won the Women's World Cup in 1991 and …

New Soccer Book: On Level Terms: 10 Legal Battles that Tested and Shaped Soccer in the Modern Era, by Ted Philipakos

Just heard about this book today on the Soccer Morning podcast, on which Philipakos was a guest. It's not due out on shelves until April 16th but you can pre-order a copy on Amazon, here
While the idea of reading about "legal battles" doesn't exactly raise my pulse, the prospect of getting an inside glimpse into the business of soccer and better understanding the game behind the beautiful game (and the fact that I keep a Literature and Soccer blog) probably means there's no way I can avoid reading this book. I'll let you know how it goes. 

Q&A With 2014 Playboy College Fiction Contest Winner Nolan Turner

Native San-Diegan Nolan Turner is the winner of the 2014 Playboy College Fiction contest. A recent graduate of the University of California at Irvine, Turner has recently switched coasts, trading the clear skies and authentic burritos of Southern California for the gritty streets of Brooklyn. His contest-winning story, "Something Ancient Welling Up", features a down-and-out gambling addict, a dilapidated roadside theme park in the Utah desert, and a literature-quoting, Red Bull-drinking Minotaur. Between researching an upcoming Raymond Carver/Satanism mash-up and getting accustomed to the work-a-day, nine-to-five world, Turner was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions about his work, his aspirations and the most important question of all: Did he get to meet Hef???
GC: First of all, congrats on winning the Playboy College Fiction Contest. That’s a pretty incredible honor for a young writer. So…what is it like to be the PCFC Winner? Has your life changed at all? Do…

U.S. Men's U-17 Team Schools Guatemala in CONCACAF Championship Group Stage

If there's a Ground Zero for International Soccer Geekery...its following the international Under 17 competitions. But when you're on the treadmill and starved for some soccer, you'll watch anything. And plus, just FYI: our U-17 team is dominating the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Honduras, having just taken Guatemala to school to the tune of 4-1.

It's rewarding to watch the U-17 lads for  number of reasons:

First, a slower pace of play and more frequent errors allows a student of the game more of an opportunity to learn and understand what's going on down on the field, especially when juxtaposed against my usual diet of Premier League Football, the flaws and techniques and playing styles become a lot easier to decipher when watching the lads.

Second, you feel like you're watching the future stars of the U.S. Men's National Team, MLS, and perhaps even EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, who knows...but you're definitely watching the future of American soccer. Pla…

MLS Work-Stoppage Averted

Dude...the absolute last thing the MLS needs right now is a work-stoppage. U.S. soccer is still riding the massive wave of popularity following the transformative 2014 World Cup which ignited or re-ignited the latent soccer passions of thousands...hundreds of thousands...millions!...of American fans and got us interested in MLS and world soccer all over again, hastening the day when we can actually, truly call ourselves a World Soccer Power.

Thus, it's really, really good for the sport that cooler heads prevailed in these labor talks and found a way to move forward. The details? Basically, until yesterday the MLS had no free-agency, meaning players were at the mercy of the whims of the MLS and could be sent to any team at any time. Now they've instituted at least partial free agency for players over the age of 28 who've played in the league for eight years and have lived in a state west of the Mississippi for three consecutive years or more than 1/10 of their lives, whiche…

Newcastle Downed By ManU in Mid-Week Snooze-Fest

I suppose you're not really a bona fide fan of a team unless you've been through some ups and downs with them, had your heart ripped out and come back for more, sworn-off them only to swear back on them the next minute, had your loyalty tested by sheer frustration and longing, and questioned how the gods pointed you toward the club in the first place and wished -- deep down in a small place inside -- that they'd pointed you somewhere else. Indeed, that's what it's like to be a Newcastle United fan every time they play.

In a mid-week league match-up against Manchester United, there were times when the Magpies looked like they might actually put the ball in the goal...more than a few times actually...and yet miraculously failed to do so. Specifically a missed opportunity by Cisse in the second half seemed a little "match-fixy" if you ask me, but then again the Red Devils looked just about as inept on offense. I began to ask myself "Are these two teams …

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Kino" by Haruki Murakami

Issue: Feb. 23 & March 2, 2015

Story: "Kino"

Author:Haruki Murakami

Rating: $$

Review: Hallelujah, and thank the New Yorker Gods for the odd double-issue, allowing your humble New Yorker fiction blogger to get caught up, and barely-so, I might add: there's already a new issue out this week but I don't get mine in the mail until Thursdays, so...here we go with another great Murakami tale.

I'm a complete Murakami convert after trying unsuccessfully to read one of his novels a few years ago, and have since found his short fiction much more enjoyable. I'm at a loss to say exactly why, except that -- most likely -- his slow, methodical writing about simple characters doesn't grip me enough to stay with him over 300 pages. Over 3,000 words, on the other hand? He's got me.

"Kino" tells the story of a recently divorced bar owner who has a spiritual "moment" after a number of visits by a strangely mysterious patron to his establishment.

The…