i want: #pondcast holiday gift guide

WSOTP - Blog - Holiday Gift Guide

Normally, the “I Want” series I run on the blog catalogs a list of the items throughout the course of the year I personally want. And judging at the cost, diversity and frequency of the items I identified in 2015, it’s clear I’m a very greedy person.

But with us up to our necks in the annual holiday season, my WSOTP Podcast co-host Jeremy Lance, reminded me that we should probably be a little more outwardly focused. And as such, we shared our ideas on the last podcast about what we would suggest — and maybe not suggest, too — to get for your soccer loving friends this year. If you want to listen in to the full audio for the segment, forward ahead the 25:10 mark to hear our full explanations for our inclusions in this year’s list.

GIFTS WE WOULD ACTUALLY WANT
SHIRTS BY WORLD FC
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DJ: Ohio is not only home to great soccer writing, but also some pretty fresh soccer clothing, too. Case in point: the Columbus-based World FC make an excellent collection of original tee designs for a plethora of European clubs, from my Spurs to Jeremy’s Chelsea, Barcelona, Juventus and more.
CLICK IF YOU WANT WORLD FC
MATCHDAY PROGRAM SUBSCRIPTIONSWSOTP - Blog - Match Programs.fwJEREMY: Many of us on this side of the pond have a European team that we passionately follow, but few of us get to experience the perks of actually crossing the pond to watch our team in person. But you can get a piece of the typical fan experience shipped directly to your home — albeit a few weeks later — by subscribing to your favorite team’s matchday programs. Many English teams offer it as a service, and they offer a unique look at each club from an insider’s perspective.
CLICK IF YOU WANT MATCH PROGRAMS FOR
CHELSEA, LIVERPOOL OR TOTTENHAM
SOCCER PERIODICAL SUBSCRIPTIONS
WSOTP - Blog - Magazine Subscriptions.fwDJ: There are lots of great places to read about soccer online (ahem). But if you’re not reading some of the stuff available in print, you’re missing out. Subscriptions to quarterlies like the American-based Howler or 8×8 are great options. If you’re looking for some international flair, try out the always excellent Blizzard. Each offers long form writing, incredible works of art, and delvings into the corners of our soccer world that rarely get the limelight they deserve.
CLICK IF YOU WANT HOWLER OR EIGHT BY EIGHT
ANYTHING FROM ART OF FOOTBALL
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JEREMY: Whether you’re looking to add a unique piece of soccer clothing to your wardrobe, or a sharp looking piece of soccer art to hang on the wall outside your wardrobe, Art of Football has you covered. They create beautiful prints and t-shirts of iconic football moments.
CLICK IF YOU WANT ART OF FOOTBALL
PRINTS BY STEVE WELSH 
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DJ: Having been commissioned by the likes of Adidas, FIFA and even the FA, English artist Steve Welsh has long been one of my favorite soccer-focused artists. Much of his work can be found on shirts, but I’ve been eyeing this “S is for Socrates” print from his F is for Football series on Miniboro.com site for my home office for ages. 
CLICK IF YOU WANT MINIBORO PRINTS
SOCCER PLAYING CARDS
WSOTP - Blog - Magazine Subscriptions.fwNot all soccer gifts need be expensive, and there’s nothing better to stuff in a soccer fan’s stocking than playing cards. If you want to go the more traditional route for most of the world, you can get Panini stickers and fill up collection albums. However, if you want to stick to more American traditions, Topps makes sets just like they do for Major League Baseball. 
CLICK IF YOU WANT TOPPS OR PANINI

Most of the gifts below aren’t so awful, but you would definitely laugh at a friend or colleague if they received any of them. And as such, you probably shouldn’t want any of these.

GIFTS THAT SHOULD ONLY BE USED FOR WHITE ELEPHANT EXCHANGES
UGLY SOCCER CHRISTMAS SWEATERS
WSOTP - Blog - Ugly Christmas Sweaters.fwDJ: Ugly Christmas sweater parties are pervasive during the holiday season these days, but don’t be tempted to take the easy way out by buying one of those printed t-shirt/sweatshirt versions that are popping up all over the place. Why? 1) It’s cheating and 2) they’re really not that ironic anymore. I’ve even seen a few clubs starting to hawk their own printed ugly christmas shirts, and when you see them doing something so trendy… you know a trend is a bit past it.
CLICK IF YOU WANT UGLY SOCCER SWEATERS
JOSÉ MOURINHO MASK
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JEREMY: Amazingly still available for purchase in the Chelsea Mega Store when we recorded the podcast last Monday, with Mourinho sacked this week, they finally took it down by the time I got around to publishing this today. Luckily, if you want to have your Mourinho Mask ready ahead of the next job he inevitably takes, I was able to find it on an alternative website.
CLICK IF YOU WANT MOURINHO MASK 
WALLBANGERS
WSOTP - Blog - Wallbangers.fw
DJ: If you grew up watching Fox Soccer Channel during its heyday, you’ll remember Wallbangers as the life-size player and team logo posters that ran as every third commercial for on the now defunct channel. I’m not sure they even really make these anymore for pro players, but you can totally order custom ones for yourself. And that’s a million times more dorky than the originals.
CLICK TO BUY WALLBANGERS 
LUIS SUÁREZ PILLOW
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JEREMY: You know what really helps me to relax while I’m sitting around on the couch or laying in bed? Resting my head down on a pillow featuring the toothy mug of the soccer world’s most prominent vampire, Luis Suarez. No word on whether it will leave any teeth marks on you, though.
CLICK IF YOU WANT SUAREZ PILLOW
VARDY CRISPS
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DJ: I’m a big fan of chips. Like an addict, even. I’m also a pretty big fan of soccer, and the Premier League in particular. But there is no part of me that wants to try “Vardy Salted” chips. There’s no part of me that doesn’t think the salt is scraped off of Vardy after every performance.
BUY THEM IN A STORE IN THE UK
CRYSTAL PALACE EAGLE PERFUME
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JEREMY: Have you ever wanted to smell like Alan Pardew does after a day at the office? Now you can, thanks to Eagle Perfume available in the Crystal Palace team store. It may or may not be made with the musk of the actual eagle that is flown around Selhurst Park before every home match.

CLICK IF YOU WANT EAGLE PERFUME

 

an open letter to u.s. soccer

WSOTP - Blog - US in St Louis

Board of Governors
U.S. Soccer Federation
1801 South Prairie Avenue
Chicago, IL 60616

Greetings and good afternoon:

Running American soccer — at least I’d assume, seeing as how I have no experience in doing so — is an incredibly hard task. It’s probably a pretty thankless task at times as well. Few probably reward you for the countless hours you’ve put in, and the only feedback you receive is when people are angry or aggrieved.

I’d imagine that’s particularly true these days, considering the growing laundry list of complaints that the growing American soccer audience has for you. Opening up the pyramid, promotion and relegation, the banning of headers in the youth game, and claims of sticking with incompetent national team manager are all hot button topics in US soccer, and I’m sure there are countless others. Dealing with all of that can’t be easy, and coming up with solutions for those complains is likely even harder. In short, I respect — and even mostly approve — the work all of you do.

But not all of it.

You see tonight, the men’s national team kicks off qualification for the 2018 World Cup against St. Vincent & the Grenadines. They Caribbean minnows are ranked 129th in the world according to FIFA, pretty lowly when compared to our (admittedly disappointing) ranking of 33rd. And their record in international play isn’t exactly sterling either, so saying I’m worried about the USMNT losing to them isn’t really a concern.

So what’s my problem? In two words: the field.

Without a doubt, St. Louis is a hotbed of American soccer. Both historically and in present day. And even if it wasn’t, a city and population of its size is absolutely deserving of hosting a national team World Cup qualifier.

But — and let me make this very clear — when playing for the opportunity to qualify for a World Cup, it should be played on the absolute best surface possible. And you know what doesn’t qualify as the best playing surface possible for a professional soccer game that’s been organized for the sole purpose of reaching the most prestigious tournament your game offers?

A baseball field.

Even a well manicured baseball field like the one at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, even one used by a Major League Baseball franchise, even one who’s had a month to meticulously prepare — none of them should be utilized as a stage for our nation’s team to qualify for a World Cup in a single game. Why? Because their playing surfaces and facilities are not freaking made for soccer!

The grass surface on those fields typically isn’t one designed for the wear and tear exerted over the course of the average game of soccer. That means increased divots and therefore a less clean playing surface. The dimensions of the playing surface aren’t arranged to allow for a full-sized international field — and a field that just exceeds the minimums really shouldn’t be counted. That leads to cramped play and potentially the need to adjust your tactics. And most glaringly, there’s the need to deal with putting a temporary surface over the dirt baseball infield. Which of course leads a less clean playing surface and the greater chance of a player getting hurt when temporary turf slides across the dirt it sits on top of.

And that’s not to mention the kind of message it sends to the international footballing community. Look, we care so little about our national team’s success that we’re willing to sacrifice it to make a few extra dollars.

Do I think it will affect the outcome of tonight’s game? Probably not, but it could. But that’s besides the point.

When you think about it, there are easily fifty stadiums in this country — between MLS, NFL and NCAA football — that would be better suited right this very moment than Busch Stadium in St. Louis would be today. And that’s even if they were still playing the game tonight.

Don’t give me the “Well, New York City FC play on a baseball stadium and they did just fine” nonsense. The postage stamp they play on at Yankee Stadium looked like a U-10 field, and I’ve heard from several MLS players that surface there was far from ideal. If you want to turn to the grass-on-top-of-turf example (Ex: Dallas’s AT&T Stadium/Seattle’s CenturyLink Field) to mute me, don’t. Those games were mostly for friendlies, and even then you’d see coaches from Mexico to MLS clubs complaining that it was an unsafe surface too.

Long story short, when the national team is playing in games of importance, there’s really no reason at all that we should ever short change our players with a handicap of a substandard pitch. It’s embarrassing that we should be forced into such a situation just so we can make a few extra bucks.

And let’s just pray nobody gets hurt.

Signed,

D.J. Switzer
Wrong Side of the Pond

i want: nike free flyknit mercurial

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nike-free-flyknit-mercurial-fall-2015-1

If you’ve followed my I Want series for any length of time, you’re probably well aware that I have what you might call a shoe addiction. In fact 5 of the twenty-five posts I’ve made in the series so far have been some sort of shoe — be it boots to be worn on the pitch, or sneakers to wear off it — far more than any other category of things I want. And the latest pair to get added to that list is the fire that is the Nike Free Flyknit Mercurial.

Fusing the DynamicFit sock-like neck, Flywire and leather upper inspired by soccer’s Mercurial Superfly with the uber-comfortable Nike Free running shoe outsole, these stylish mids would look great when paired with the jeans, khakis or joggers of your choice this fall. And since they apparently come in not only the “dark grey” beauts above, but also wolf, platinum and volt (from last summer!?!?) colorways too, there’s a pair for everyone. Of course, that’s presuming you’re willing to drop some coin. Though they show as “COMING SOON” on Nike’s site under “Flyknit” shoes for $200, the item page itself says the shoe is “no longer available”. And scouring the likes of eBay or Amazon, you can expect to drop anywhere from $250 to north of a $800.

CLICK HERE IF YOU WANT  |  ebay.com

WSOTP x AO: just for tonight, let’s be lovers

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WSOTP - Blog - WSOTP x AO.fw

This is a short excerpt from my first featured post for the American Outlaws — the largest and most well-known US soccer supporters group — and their newly launched blog, ‘Voice of the American Outlaws’. After applying in December of last year, I found out in May that I was one of nine lucky entrants to be selected. The site soft-launched in September, and will soon be pumped by the AO mothership. To read my debut piece in it’s entirety, please click here or click the link at the end of the excerpt below.

As things currently stand, there are apparently two types of American soccer fans these days: those that are for Jurgen Klinsmann, and those who are not.

When he was first appointed back in July of 2011, Klinsmann was heralded as everything from “the first big manager in the U.S. men’s national team history”, to “the American soccer messiah”. Like President Barack Obama’s first term in office, Jurgen arrived at the helm of the national team with charisma and talk of change. His personality was bubbly and buoyant, and he promised to deliver wins with a style that should reflect our mentality and culture. The media mostly gushed about him, and fans were practically foaming at the mouth.

Nearly four and a half years later — much like our president — Klinsmann finds himself in a very different spot.

Continue reading “All Tomorrow’s Parties” on IBWM. →

WSOTP stadium guide: colorado’s dick’s sporting goods park

Featured

WSOTP - DSG Park - Stadium Interior Looking West Match.fw Welcome to the WSOTP Stadium Guide, the latest major undertaking on here on Wrong Side of the Pond. With traveling supporters steadily becoming a fixture at MLS matches, there aren’t a lot of great resources for visiting fans to research ahead of their travels. Over the next few seasons, I aim to visit and provide an up close and personal look at each of the 20 (soon to be 22) MLS stadiums to help fill that void. I’ll also take opinion from the locals, as the Supporters who call each stadium home know it far better than I ever will. To see the full list of stadium reviews, click here.

DSG PARK QUICK GUIDE
Address 6000 Victory Way
Commerce City, CO
Home Club Colorado Rapids
Soccer Capacity 19,680
Opened April 7, 2007
Soccer Specific Stadium Yes
GETTING TO THE STADIUM
From Out of Town?
Driving In
Public Transport
MATCH DAY EXPERIENCE
Parking / Tailgating
Prematch Pubs
Tickets / Where to Sit
Supporters Sections
Suites & Special Seating
Food & Beer
Fan Activities
BEHIND THE SCENES
Player Facilities
The Field of Play / WSOTP Pitch Pass
Meeting the Players
Hidden Gem

After having only visited one stadium in 2014 — and not posting that guide yet due to some “delays” in getting necessary materials — 2015 hasn’t exactly gotten off to a better start.

But I’ll make do considering stop number six on the WSOTP Stadium Guide Tour was for the 2015 All Star Game!

My wife, daughter and I were lucky enough to score some tickets to the July 29th match in the Colorado Rapids’ now eight year old Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The experience, as to be expected, was amazing, helped in no small part by the opposing team for this year’s game being my favorite European club, Tottenham Hotspur FC. I’ll try not to dwell on that too much, as I know the league’s marquee summer event isn’t exactly the average fan experience at DSG Park.

If you’ve never been to Denver, that’s reason alone to make a trip to catch a game at the Rapids’ home stadium. Perhaps best known as a wintertime destination due to the city’s proximity to the Rocky Mountain resorts, there’s even more to do in the summer time in Denver. Innumerable breweries, excellent outdoor offerings, fantastic museums and scenery that few other MLS cities can match are just a few of the things on offer. I hadn’t been to Denver in a decade, and it’s truly incredible to see how much the city has grown in size and culture.

As always, before we get started I wanted to give a special thanks to my excellent hosts — the Rapids’ Director of Public Relations and Communications, Diego Garcia, and Centennial 38’s David Wenger —  for showing me around and getting me acquainted with yet another spectacular American soccer stadium and city.

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lofty ambitions

WSOTP - FC Cincinnati Jeff Berding Press Conference.fw

Sitting in an auditorium on the campus of University of Cincinnati yesterday morning, before the press conference had even started, I  got the feeling that what was about to unfold at today’s official FC Cincinnati unveiling was going to change the face of soccer in the Queen City forever.

I’ve been around the Cincinnati soccer scene for 25 years — seeing “professional” clubs come and go as a player, a fan and a member of the media — and I can honestly say that I’ve never before had that kind of feeling about anything soccer related here before.

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fc cincinnati: panning out as expected

WSOTP - Blog - FC Cincinnati.fw

Back in May, alongside friends at Scratching the Pitch, I helped to break the story that the United Soccer League would be returning to Cincinnati. Included in that piece was the team’s name — FC Cincinnati — their colors, and their logo.

Two weeks ago, I was the first to tell you that the still unannounced FC Cincinnati would be coached by former US men’s national team captain, John Harkes. Also in that piece was confirmation that the team would also playing at UC’s newly renovated Nippert Stadium in 2016.

And today, I’m here to tell you that all of that was 100% correct.

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i want: crew sc new era cap by undefeated

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Crew SC Undefeated New Era Hat.fw

I’ve been a Columbus Crew SC supporter since the dawn of MLS twenty years ago. I’ve been a hat enthusiast for even longer. But despite my love for both caps and the Crew, and two decades of time to produce one, I’ve never once managed to find a headpiece that’s married the two together in a way that’s deserving of gracing the top of my (large) head. That is until now. Designer James Bond — best known for his brand UNDEFEATED — partnered with MLS to release a limited edition capsule of hats to celebrate the league’s 20th season. I was insanely jealous when Bond released a hat just for the Galaxy last year, so to say I was stoked to see this all black everything snap-back for my own Crew SC is understatement. Though admittedly, the rest of the line is pretty sick, too.

CLICK HERE IF YOU WANT  |  mlsstore.com 

soccer is coming back to the square

During last summer’s male rendition of the FIFA World Cup, a wave of national pride washed over the country, blanketing major cities with watch parties numbering in the thousands for each of the four US Men’s National Team matches.

It was no different here in Cincinnati, where the enthusiasm often transformed into euphoria as the boys were able to survive the “Group of Death”. Over seven thousand people showed up in Cincinnati’s city center to watch the action unfold on the big screen. If you weren’t able to make it, here’s a glimpse at the insanity:

So with the US Women’s National team in action this summer at the Women’s World Cup in Canada, the calls to return to Cincinnati’s Fountain Square were loud and frequent. And while there was absolutely interest to do so from last summer’s hosts — the NPSL’s Cincinnati Saints and Hoist — pre-existing conflicts on the Square’s calendar meant that regular watch parties just weren’t a reality like they were for the men.

Obviously, we were a bit bummed. As the emcee’s for last year’s events, it was absolutely electric experience to be a part of, and we wanted it to happen just as much as anyone.

But luckily, the stars have aligned for the biggest game of the tournament.

Despite a sputtering offense and some uninspiring performances, the US women’s absolutely airtight defense — which has a rather ironic 513-minute shutout streak going — has helped them navigate the tricky waters of their own “Group of Death”, through the knockout round and into their second straight World Cup final. And as it just so happens, Fountain Square had nothing going on during that time slot.

So you know what that means…

WSOTP - Cincinnati Saints Fountain Square WWC

That’s right kids: WE’RE HEADING BACK TO THE SQUARE!

Beginning at 6pm — immediately following the always enjoyable Art on Vine — on this coming Sunday, July 5th, the Cincinnati Saints and Hoist are once again bringing a US Soccer Watch Party back down to Cincinnati’s Fountain Square. And the Wrong Side of the Pond Podcast team is delighted to have once again been invited back to emcee the event!

As with last year, there will beers and drink specials to wet your whistles and keep your vocal chords ready to cheer. Of course there will also be food trucks there — like the delicious Urban Grille — to keep your belly satisfied, too. We here at WSOTP will once again be recording a live podcast prior to kickoff and during halftime, offering our analysis of the action, too.

And oh yeah, there’s that whole opportunity to stand united with thousands as we cheer on the ladies in their efforts to enact revenge on Japan’s 2011 World Cup final win. As of the time of writing, 500 people had already confirmed their attendance on the event’s Facebook page… just two days after it was posted.

So if you’re within 100 miles of the Queen City this Sunday, you’d do best to throw on your US kits and/or red, white and blue garb, grab all of your friends, and bring your best supporter’s faces to the Square to hopefully watch our girls lift the cup.

PS: the weather is looking aces for the weekend, too.

fallout

nuclear-mushroom-cloud

It’s fun watching a car wreck, isn’t it? We’re given physical evidence of this every time there’s one on the highway, as a long line or rubberneckers slows as they approach the scene of the accident. Craning our necks even as we’ve passed in an attempt to take it all in, we take some morbid satisfaction having captured a glimpse of the carnage.

Well, so long as we don’t know anyone that’s involved.

Watching and commenting in the echo chamber that surrounded Wednesday morning’s FIFA corruption scandal and arrests, it felt an awful lot like the rubberneckers on the highway. But instead of a normal accident, it’s lbeen lies we’re passing a nuclear explosion a few miles off the express way.

Everyone’s slowed their roll, stopped to survey the damage, and offered up a hot take or twelve. Ooh look, Chuck Blazer did rat everyone out. And there were arrests in Switzerland at the FIFA Congress. The South African government has been implicated as well? Wait, Nike has been too? Jack Warner has been arrested, and then sent to the hospital, and now has a legion of children singing songs about him? Holy freaking crap! You get the feeling that the longer you look, the more you’ll be able to take in. I mean, it’s Friday and the highway is still backed up.

And we’ve all enjoyed it. Thoroughly.

The problem is, though we might be enjoying the carnage at the moment, it could end up engulfing US soccer, too. Well, some corners of it anyway. And the joy that many of my fellow citizens have felt at watching FIFA get smacked by the long arm of the American law, I fear that could quickly turn to ire when the fallout hits a little closer to home.

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