Soccer Omnibus Post

Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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26 Responses

  1. Jonathan says:

    Regarding #2, and at the risk of an inappropriate comparison, it is somewhat similar to a hockey game that matches two stellar goalies. In such situations, one goal can be insurmountable.Report

  2. Ken says:

    “The US’ Love Affair With Soccer Will Remain a Quadrennial Phenomenon”

    Well, it works for figure skating. And platform diving. And bobsleds. And synchronized swimming. And that weird thing with the ribbon on a stick – no, wait they cut that. But there’s always that sport where they ski a while, then shoot something, then ski some more.Report

  3. Koz says:

    “So in order to become regularly invested in soccer, one really needs a rooting interest. Unfortunately, the only real candidate for most Americans is the National Team, which plays only sporadically and which, due to the nature of CONCACAF, largely involve games against desperately inferior teams.”

    One thing that’s definitely worth mentioning in the context of articles like yours is that soccer is primarily a club sport. Outside the World Cup, the quadrennial Euro tournament, and a very few other things, club soccer is a way bigger deal, financially and competitively, than international soccer. That’s true not just for the US, but the soccer world in general. But it has particular ramifications for the US. In particular, why MLS has a tough road ahead.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

      @Koz, This is very true, Koz. Good point.Report

      • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        Thanks. On a more serious level, this actually some wider implications as well. Football fandom is also, a symptom and an example of the trend away from actual citizenship for the European industrial democracies.Report

        • Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

          @Koz, I’m not sure I follow.Report

          • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            In Europe, football is emblematic of the paternalistic social relations between the administrative classes and everybody else, ie the bulk of supporters.

            This works through a vicious circle. The EU, UEFA, UN types who go to football matches and see the fans there reinforce themselves in their belief that the scope of cultural populism has to be substantially policed in order to prevent antisocial behavior. Therefore people’s cultural energies are forced into narrower and narrower places, ie football riots. Which causes the disapproval of the apparatchiks, causing further tightening the bounds of cultural expression, causing more football riots, etc.

            In America, we (mostly) don’t riot at sporting events because we can adapt to broad cultural circumstances ourselves, eg, we can pass Arizona immigration law 1070.Report

            • North in reply to Koz says:

              @Koz, fascinating. Perhaps we can apply this to American cheese as well? American cheese is soft, mild flavored and easily malleable. The adaptable flexibility of this most American of cheese reflects the supple flexibility and uniformity of America’s fundamentally conservative culture. American cheese also often comes in individually plastic wrapped slices which are a good example of the self sufficient individualism of America vs. the folk Marxism of the European cheeses that are typically sold in large uniform globs (some American cheese also comes in globs but this likely is due to the influence of American progressives trying to undermine the fundamentally individualistic nature of American cheese to be more like Europe). Europe with their many varied cheese, some of which are hard and brittle; some of which are soft and gooey and shapeless; lacks the adaptability and ubiquity of American cheese.

              Sure the left may claim that American cheese has the flavor of salted plastic or the consistency of a lightly gelled slug trail but this is to be expected as they try and impose their non-American cheese ideals on the silent conservative majority of Americans. The is why Republicans are the last best hope for staving off the menace of cheese munching surrender monkeys from Europe and Canada.Report

            • Koz in reply to Koz says:


              I take it you really don’t follow soccer very much?Report

            • North in reply to Koz says:

              @Koz, You got me there, Koz me lad. Too Canadian to bother. If I were to obsess about a sport it’d be hockey or curling.Report

  4. db says:

    I’ve watched the US team closely for each World Cup since 2002 and this time the skill of the US team seems so much deeper and well rounded. With Tim Howard in goal, DeMerit and Bocanegra on defense, Bradley in the midfield, and Donovan, Dempsey, and Altidore up front it feels like there are finally truly capable players at every position.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to db says:

      @db, Agreed – at least if Onyewu were healthy, it seems like the starter at every position would at the very least rate “passable” by most standards (especially if Herculez keeps the starting job alongside Altidore). Without a healthy Onyewu, there’s obviously a glaring hole on the backline, but even having just one such hole is a vast improvement over past years.

      The critical thing to me has been that there’s an actual creative ability coming out of the midfield and striker positions that we’ve never really had before; heck, even Cherundolo was regularly displaying that kind of ability yesterday out of the Right Back position. It’s by no means an exceptional ability that can compare with the elite teams, but it’s at least good enough to consistently create opportunities from the run of play. With the Jabulani ensuring that very few, if any, goals can come off of free kicks this tournament, that creative ability has been even more necessary than usual.Report

  5. Sam M says:

    “But in soccer, you mostly get a lot of passes that never get attempted or, if they do get attempted, sail out of bounds or get unspectacularly intercepted.”

    Exactly. Not sure if this is a bug or a feature. But it’s certtainly the case.

    “So in order to become regularly invested in soccer, one really needs a rooting interest.”

    But people will get vested in ANYTHING if they have a rooting interest. I mean, when the Olympics roll around, I root for the Americans in curling. And everything else. BUt that’s because I have… arooting interest. If a sport REQUIRES a rooting interest… well, I am not sure what that says. What do you think it says?Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to Sam M says:

      @Sam M, I don’t think it really says anything, to be honest – to some extent, all sports demand some sort of rooting interest to become really passionate, even if this is especially the case with a low-scoring sport without bone-crushing hits and eye-popping fastballs. It’s just that in most places in the world, a rooting interest is exceedingly easy to obtain and once that interest is obtained, soccer can be a uniquely enjoyable sport to follow.

      Even in the US, MLS now has enough teams that theoretically most people who are potentially open to soccer could easily find a rooting interest. But – and my argument is that this is what makes the US distinctive from other soccer-playing nations – Americans have been trained to expect that their club leagues are the best in the world. Even I, who consider myself a serious soccer fan, have a really difficult time getting more interested in MLS than I am in my local independent minor league team. If I’m being honest with myself, this is precisely because I know that the MLS’ quality of play is no better than the third-highest division in England. Sure, I may go to a game here and there and may even enjoy it more than going to an MLB game, but it’s tough to feel very passionate about a team whose players are mostly there because they’re not good enough for [the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga, the English League Championship, etc.].

      This psychological hurdle doesn’t exist in other countries for, I suspect, a whole host of reasons.

      Don’t take any of this as evangelizing for why Americans should like soccer, by the way. I don’t care much either way whether Americans ever become passionate about it, and I sometimes even relish the fact that the overall lack of passion about soccer is a source of mockery and/or exasperation in the rest of the world (much as I imagine the average LA sports fan relishes the resentment of we East Coast sports nuts). I don’t see soccer ever becoming, for the average American, more than a once-every-four-years passion, and I’m entirely ok with that, especially if the response I can give is a haughty “why would Americans care about soccer when we get to watch the best leagues in the world in four other sports 363 days a year*?”

      But I still think there’s quite a bit of value in the casual fan understanding the sport well enough to at least judge it on its own terms rather than through the prism of baseball, football, basketball, and hockey.

      At the very least, it makes for much more clever smack-talking with the English. There’s probably also some value in understanding why the rest of the world cares so much about this game even if we can’t bring ourselves to care much about it outside of once every four years.

      *Days 364 and 365 of course being the day before and after the baseball All-Star game.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        @Mark Thompson, (re: *) what, you don’t consider Home Run Derby a sport?Report

      • Patrick in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        @Mark Thompson,

        I’m just not buying the whole “Americans won’t watch because our pro league isn’t the best in the world” thing. By definition, only one pro league can be the best in the world. And yet, Americans still watch AAA baseball, Mexicans still watch their professional soccer league, Canadians still watch the CFL, etc. I don’t think people care if the Clippers may not be as good as the Real Madrid basketball team. It goes back to the rooting interest thing. Rivalries don’t care if the teams are competing for first or trying to stay out of the cellar.

        It takes time for sporting traditions to change, including what sports people enjoy. The NBA and NHL were nothing back in the ’40s. George Halas would go in the stands to retrieve balls kicked in the stands at Chicago Bears games. Even the mighty NFL was pretty much nothing at one time. So people’s tastes change. It’s really a question of whether the management talent at MLS has what it takes to market the professional sport of soccer in this country. They really need, in my opinion, to hit the Latino market much harder, because with the growing Latino population in the US, that’s the future.Report

  6. The US is competitive with all three other teams in its bracket, and I firmly believe it can take the bracket and make it to the semifinals. Where our probable opponent would be Brazil, which is a different sort of proposition than Ghana — but then again, there’s a reason that the games are played on the field and not on comment boards of public policy blogs.Report

  7. Nob Akimoto says:

    I know y’all are real happy about the US…

    But can I pleaaase take a moment and gush about the Blue Samurai and our wonderful wonderful victory against Denmark today?

    We were supposed to be the doormats of Group E and we beat both Cameroon and Denmark (both ranked significantly higher in the FIFA rankings) and secured ourselves a spot in the knock out stage.

    It’s definitely the case that the gap has become smaller and smaller between the old heavy weights and the RoW and that’s a very good thing.Report

    • @Nob Akimoto, Of course you can. Oddly, Japan are literally the only side I haven’t had the opportunity to watch or at least listen to live on the radio. Still, they clearly have deserved to move on after dominating a very good and organized Denmark side – 10 shots on target in a game they were up big early is beyond impressive, especially given the way the Danes shut down the Dutch most of that game, the incredibly unfortunate own goal notwithstanding.

      Plus, contra most World Cups, you get extra points for scoring on multiple free kicks with the Jabulani. And you have to like your chances against Paraguay as well.

      Also – I couldn’t agree more about the gap between the elite teams and the next tier (and I’ve long considered Japan right in the middle of that next tier – dubious doesn’t even begin to describe the FIFA world rankings) shrinking. The elite teams can’t just sleepwalk through the first round anymore, no matter what their group looks like, as France and Italy found out the hard way, and as England discovered just in time to stave off disaster.

      Still, I’d be lying ifReport

      • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        “Also – I couldn’t agree more about the gap between the elite teams and the next tier (and I’ve long considered Japan right in the middle of that next tier – dubious doesn’t even begin to describe the FIFA world rankings) shrinking.”

        Especially in a Cup competition, where sometimes the teams aren’t internally acclimated very well. You might be able to get away with being not as good as the next team but you have to be ready to play.Report