in review: MLS jersey week

Ahhhhh. Take a second and breathe in that cool refreshing spring air. Mmmm… it smells like First Kick, doesn’t it?

MLS Jersey Week 2013

hopefully this is the start of a new yearly tradition in major league soccer.

Well if it doesn’t, it certainly should. In fact, I’d be a little surprised if you weren’t subliminally thinking about MLS right now, as the league’s marketing has been awfully hard to ignore this winter/spring. With an advertising campaign that’s been plastered all over the place — TV, print and all the various electronic outlets — the league is doing its best to not let you forget that the 2013 season is about to kick off.

My favorite promotional gimmick though has to be Jersey Week. Though the name sounds worryingly like ill-advised partnership with some Guidos from the shore, it’s actually a week-long unveiling of all the 12 new kits that will be adorned by MLS clubs this season. Though as regular readers know, I’m a sucker for gear, so it probably shouldn’t be that surprising that this would pique my interests.

Adidas and the clubs worked closely on what they wanted out of their kits this year, meaning that many fan’s calls for something different to spice up the MLS jersey scene might just be met. Said Maribeth Towers, MLS senior VP of consumer products in a league statement, “Jersey Week will celebrate the soccer jersey. Every stitch, every minor detail, every shade is designed in collaboration between the club and our partner at adidas.”

But as you might expect, some were smart-looking, “take my money already” designs, while others were… umm, questionable. Let’s take a look at each, and let me pass judgement over them like I could do better.

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i want: umbro nottingham forest away shirt

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Umbro Nottingham Forest FC 2012-2013 Away Kit

Though I was disappointed to see Forest miss out on promotion back to the Premier League this season, I am happy about the outcome for at least one reason. Since I’m not supposed to want wear kits of my beloved Spurs’ (current) rivals, Nottingham Forrest spending another season in the Championship means that it’s a least slightly more kosher for me to rock this latest effort from the vaunted “Tailored by Umbro” line from Nike’s soon-to-be-hawked brand.

My desire to nab Nottingham Forrest FC’s 2012-2013 away kit — similar to Sunderland’s away shirt from last season — is mostly just a sign of my weakness for the bright blue / teal hue Umbro chose for it. The perfect summer color if you ask me. But I’m also a huge fan of the shirt’s simple two-tone design, with only the black of the sponsor, club crest, Umbro logo and thin piping on the sleeve breaking up the blue. And as always, the discrete, detailed inclusions, such as the club’s traditional colors in red and white piping on the inside of the collar, help to give the shirt the extra character. I even dig the little, micro-collar. And the matching socks are… well, they’re eye-catching if nothing else.

CLICK HERE IF YOU WANT  |  http://www.nottinghamforestdirect.com

ten words or less #50

real madrid's cristiano ronaldo showing off his leg

there's been no word yet on whether cristiano will have to cover up his oily thighs when visiting madrid's new island resort in the UAE.

We’ve finally made it to the half century mark for my TWOL series. And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure if I should be celebrating that milestone, seeing as how the series exists simply because I’m a blogger who is too lazy to write his own original content all the time.

Admittedly, I’ve been a bit stretched lately due to an increased workload in my real world job, and moonlighting as a guest blogger on some other sites. But that’s no reason to ignore this space, so my deepest apologies if you’re feeling neglected. I do have some pretty interesting original content in the pipeline for you… though the ten links below will have to suffice as I continue to fine tune the new posts for the limelight.

See WSOTP (#11) on The Football Attic’s “League of Blogs”. – thefootballattic.com

Liverpool has Pinterest: not shocking considering how soft they’ve played. – pinterest.com

We need this in the U.S. far more than the UK. - soccerlens.com

Have you ever wanted to control Arsene’s Swedish dance moves? - fuldans.se

Why MLS should avoid foreigners with a long wrap sheet. – soccerbyives.com

Real builds $1b resort, removes logo’s cross to appease locals. – dirtytackle.net

Your side can’t score? Remind them where the goal is. – 101greatgoals.com

For nerds only: Kit Supplier statistics from around Europe. –  sportundmarkt.com
(warning: PDF download link)

Ronaldo vs Nadal: part of me wishes this was real. - youtube.com/NikeFootball

Pardew likens Ben Arfa to Messi… a.k.a “a stretch”. – bbc.co.uk

ten words or less #42

ninja balotelli

despite becoming a full fledged ninja, balotelli still can't put his bib on right.

It’s happy times at wrong side of the pond these days. Spurs are still sitting in a lofty position in the table at fairly advanced stage of the season, even despite dropping points on a cold wet night in Stoke.

Speaking of cold nights, I’m also looking forward to the winter weather that’s finally descending upon the Midwest. I means finally allowed to starting thinking about the only other hobby besides soccer-obsession that I really take part in… snow riding. However, I’m not foolish enough to think that all of you are as equally pleased about the arrival of Old Man Winter as I am. Don’t worry though, you’re not the only ones: Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli also hates the cold, and is apparently hoping that his knowledge of the ancient art of the ninja will keep him warmer through the frigid Northern English winter.

If looks could kill, Ronaldo would be a murderer… – dirtytackle.net

…so you better give him more of your money! – androidcentral.com

Fulham to redevelop Craven Cottage and still keep the cottage. – stadiumporn.com

This documentary makes me wish I understood Russian. – theoffside.com

Someone actually thinks Harkes was “getting better” at commentating? – socceramerica.com

Messi comes to his senses, ditches PES for FIFA. – kckrs.com

Tévez saves Christmas from Sepp Blatter. Absolutely brilliant. – youtube.com

The Timbers never cease to amaze me with awesomeness. – theoriginalwinger.com

umbro x new york cosmos

There was a package of awesome sitting on the front stoop when I got home from work last Friday.

I knew it would be there. Like an impatient twelve-year-old before Christmas, I’d been tracking the package on UPS’s website hourly for at least the previous day and a half. Knowing it had been sitting there since around 1:30pm ate me alive at the office, and I spent the better half of my Friday afternoon debating feigning illness so I could leave work to race home and retrieve it earlier.

well, look what we have here.

Suffice to say, this just wasn’t any package.

Back at the beginning of October, the newest addition to the New York Cosmos “Tailored by Umbro” line — a smart-looking green away strip — was just starting to pop up around the blogosphere. My longstanding obsession with the Umbro x Cosmos partnership is well documented, so it’s not that surprising that my ogling and drooling continued with the latest rendition of the Cosmos iconic kits. So just as I did when all of their other gear dropped, I made mention of it on Twitter:

So while that tweet was standard procedure for me, what wasn’t was receiving a response about it directly from @Umbro_USA.

Not only had Umbro replied to one my tweets, but they also made mention of possibly providing me a freaking free sample of their uber-amazing Cosmos line?!?! Saying that I was stoked would be a gross understatement.

A few anxious weeks transpired after, with some exchanged PM’s and emails providing my size and the other items from the Cosmos range that I fancied. I was told they couldn’t make any promises on what would come, but I should expect something to show soon. It all felt so surreal: could this really be happening to me?

My minuscule fears of an elaborate Twitter trolling were allayed when my contact forwarded me the shipping number early last week. Within three agonizingly long business days, the package for which I had so eagerly awaited finally made its way to my front door. And its contents were quite the sight to behold:

OOOOOOMMMMMMMGGGGG… umbro made it rain!

Umbro bestowed upon me a cornucopia of Cosmos swag so amazing, I could hardly believe my eyes. All three of their jerseys were included — the iconic remake of the white home kit, the still unreleased green away shirt I mentioned in that devine tweet, and my personal favorite, the bad ass jersey from the Cosmos Blackout line — along with a logo t-shirt and the team hoody. I’ve got to be honest: if they had promised me they were sending this much at the beginning, I doubt I would have belied them and probably would have dismissed further discourse as spam.

i love that the cosmos have stuck with their retro badge thus far, and hope they continue to do so if they land MLS franchise #20.

As it turns out, this was actually the first time I had seen any of the Umbro x Cosmos line in person, and the thing that immediately stood out about the jerseys is how light and comfortable their fabric felt after pulling them on. Unlike your standard polyester based, sweat-wicking jersey, the tailored shirts feel more like a cross between a stone-washed t-shirt and a really light towel. An odd comparison for sure, but it’s definitely a plus. While I can’t vouch for how the material would perform in match conditions, they are extremely comfortable to simply wear around.

surprisingly, the jerseys don’t feel like your average jersey. and that’s not a bad thing.

Ignoring the fabrics’ feeling, it’s really in the visual department that these Tailored by Umbro masterpieces impress. Each provides a modern, updated look that embodies the style and panache of the legendary NASL side. Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to Umbro (a design preference I share with them), though it’s the Manchester-based company’s attention to detail that makes them one of my favorite kit manufacturers.

this is the piping on the inside of the blackout jersey collar. nobody will ever see it, but it’s little details like this that make me gush.

the hoodie’s zipper has their diamond silhouette in it… it’s the little things.

This detail-oriented approach has been a hallmark of Umbro’s recent renaissance in product design, and has been balanced with brilliant marketing efforts that pay just as much attention to the little things. I’ve been particularly impressed with the Umbro Blog and the Kasabian England away kit launch as innovative ways they keep in touch with their core target market, but their other efforts deserve recognition too.  Shoot, just using the phrase “Tailored by Umbro” is a great marketing ploy: it not only tells the consumer they can buy a shirt that fits just right, it also gives the impression that you’re buying a product of higher quality. Genius stuff, really.

oh, that jersey has been tailored to my size? i better buy it then.

So all in all, while I was obviously ecstatic about the anonymous benevolence of our all-seeing Umbro Twitter overlords for selfish reasons (find me someone who doesn’t love free stuff, and you’ve also found a liar), I was also all geeked out because this amazing experience made me feel like “one of the big boys” in the world of football blogging.

Over the years, I’ve read new gear review unboxing posts on all the major blogs with envious eyes. Those guys seem so damn lucky: not only do they get write about soccer for a living, but they also have the manufacturers sending them freshest boots and gear to try out a gratis in exchange for some publicity and page views.

But thanks to Umbro — and their marketing partner Offside Media — I now know the euphoria and excitement those other established bloggers must experience every time they do an unboxing. And it gives me the opportunity to undertake nerdy photo editing projects like the shot to the right.

@Umbro_USA, you were able to squizz way, way more than a sample my friend. If it hasn’t come your way yet, I’m sure you’ve got a big wave of awesome karma heading your direction.

UPDATE: Just in case you want to see more of the Umbro x Cosmos line, I’ve posted all of my unboxing photos on the WSOTP facebook page.

ten words or less #38

sadly, this is how i probably appear to anyone from europe.

Between the Euro qualifiers, friendlies, the League matches and the Champions/Europa League qualifiers, I have to admit that I’m having a hard time following this season. Everything feels so… disjointed.

If it weren’t for Rooney being an idiot and Tottenham throwing away a winnable match, I wouldn’t feel like I know what’s going on this season at all.

Assou-Ekotto always tells it like it is. – mirror.co.uk

Another game for the soccer bar I’ll probably never own. – theoriginalwinger.com

The science is in: football is good for men. – independent.ie

The Brasileirão’s in danger of becoming a two-horse race. – theelastico.com

Ever wanted to know why random strangers wear certain jerseys? - footballists.wordpress.com

Today I Learned: Liverpool’s Pepe Reina has OCD. – dirty tackle @ yahoo.com

Paying Modrić what he deserves could be very dangerous. – telegraph.co.uk

i want to be like you

There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of, “the best form of flattery is immitation.”

liverpool's adidas third kit for the 2010/2011 season

exhibit a: liverpool's third kit looks strangely familiar.

It’s always seemed to me that the undertone of the phrase implies that someone is angry at having been copied by a lesser person. “How dare they jock my style!” seems to be the general feeling being broadcast by the copied party.

But really, it’s a good point to get across to the offended. You know you’re doing something well when other people are trying to be like you. There’s no doubt that those enviably looking on at your successes will inevitably try to replicate some of the steps you took to get to this point. So effectively, their copycat behavior is ultimately a testament to your awesomeness.

In certain circumstances, it’s possible that even those you once strove to be like are now striving to be more like you. If that’s the case, then you are really sitting pretty…. so Manchester City, take your well-earned bow.

Examine Exhibit A, up and to the left: the recently leaked 2011/2012 third kit for Liverpool by Adidas.

As is commonly known, Liverpool have long been the most successful club in English football. With 19 league titles, 7 FA Cups, and 5 European Cups, the Mereyside club have been the side that everyone (and I mean everyone, right Sir Alex?) in England wanted to be.

Also widely known is Liverpool’s recent fall from grace. It’s been two years since the Anfield outfit have finished inside the top four, and this upcoming season will be their first without European football since the 1999/2000 season. Whether this dip in results is due to the increased competitive abilities of the rest of the league or due to a decline in the club (it’s likely a bit of both), the fact of the matter is that Liverpool are now the ones staring enviously up the table.

And what better way to get back to the top than to emulate those who are currently at the top, right?! And who better to emulate than world-conquering Manchester City?

manchester city's 2007/2008 away kit by le coq sportif

perhaps liverpool think they can repeat city's meteoric rise if they start dressing like them.

So how are liverpool copying the citizens? Take a look at the kit to the right.

You see what i mean?

Sure, City’s 2007/2008 away kit by Le Coq Sportif isn’t exactly the same as the Liverpool’s new third option, but they are remarkably similar. The shorts and socks to be worn with both kits are white. the light blue and black striped shoulder sash persists in both, though in slightly different weights and locations.

I mean, could the Adidas designers really not have noticed the similarities? Aren’t they paid to check on these things?! They had to, which leads me to believe that maybe they did notice it and were actually trying to summon City’s mojo through the finest form of flattery.

However, if that is the case, then there are two huge problems with this.

  1. Maybe picking this Mancunian kit to imitate wasn’t the smartest of ideas. The season that City wore them, they finished 9th. Hopefully Dalglish and company are prepared for the consequences of wearing this imitation.
  2. When are they even going to wear this thing? Liverpool don’t even really need a third kit this season. None of next season’s Premiership clubs have black home kits, which means that Liverpool’s sharp looking away kit will work just fine. (If you’re wondering about Newcastle’s more-black-than-usual striped kit, Liverpool would wear their traditional reds anyway). Secondly, for most squads, a third kit is needed for European travels. But as i mentioned above, that’s not even an issue for them this year.
So, if Liveprool really want to channel the success that City has seen over the last two years, maybe going with a plain light blue kit would have been a better homage. It doesn’t really matter though, as this kit will probably only see the pitch during preseason.
But regardless of the reason Liverpool chose this particular kit design, it’s fairly simple to determine the real reason it even exists in the first place: so they can sell it to you to make money… wait, wait a second… maybe they are trying to be like Citeh after all.

round up #31

I have to admit that I’m a little depressed this week. I cancelled a vacation day that I had planned for watching the second leg of the Tottenham-Real Madrid Champions League quarter-final, as it makes no sense to waste such a precious commodity on a tie that will surely see my favorite team exit. I’m not sure whether I’m more sad about Spurs’ eventual exit, or by the fact that I’m giving up a vacation day. Oh well, another 5-day workweek for me.

real salt lake celebrate their win against saprissa

is this the best MLS side we’ve ever seen?

While I’m busy bumbling my way through another rainy monday in Ohio, I thought I could provide you with som interesting links from around the tubes and my tangent thoughts associated with them.

———————————————

Actually, you are quite divisible – fromaleftwing.blogspot.com
Retro jersey design is all the rage these days and I, for one, am a big fan of the movement. Retro inspiration tends to be me minimalist in nature, something I highly value in design both inside and outside of football fashions. with Umbro and parent company Nike leading the retro charge, we’ve recently been given some excellent kits that hearken iconic, cultural symbols of days past.

However, even hip and popular designing trends can produce stinkers. And the new USWNT kits are definitely a big stinker. In a similar move to France’s badass aways inspired by traditional french naval uniforms, the new American women’s kit pays homage to nursing uniforms from the World War II era. Is this jersey supposed to trick Sepp Blatter into thinking that the women’s game is finally taking his advice? Because if so, they’re doing an awful job at sexing the game up with low-cut shirts that still cover them up. Nike blew a massive opportunity to create a super cool and sexy nurse kit.

Why Arsene Wenger’s all-powerful status may come to an end – goal.com
Another week goes by, another opportunity for Wenger to make excuses. There have been growing concerns over the last season or two whether the Gunners are really benefiting from being solely governed by King Arsene, and whether the professor is finally losing the course. However, Arsenal are likely going to finish their sixth consecutive season without a trophy. That’s plenty of time for the fans and media to finally start questioning his methods.

It’s an interesting idea to hypothesize that, with American Stan kroenke set to launch a takeover of Arsenal, this could spell the demise of the Frenchman’s complete control of the club’s sporting initiatives. Purging Arsene of some of or part of the responsibilities that he currently governs with an iron fist may allow him to focus fully on what should be his main priority: the results on the pitch.

Player answers phone during match, takes out opponent – dirty tackle @ yahoo.com
Seriously, who answers their freaking phone during a match? As video below shows, apparently guys who play German amateur football do. Unless it’s a family emergency, your house is burning down, or a call up to the national team, there is no acceptable reason to take a call while playing. And since this dude was willing to interrupt his call to go crack some skull, I’m guessing that it wasn’t such an important call to begin with.

Now dick tackle aside, how about the form on that tackle?! Seemingly out of the action while chatting away like your average teenage girl on their T-Mobile Sidekick, Matthias Hilbrands swoops in and blows up the opposing player on the break for Fortuna Veenhusen. I’d also like to note that it was a clean tackle. so the next question becomes, “Why the yellow?”

RSL reserves topple Revolution – soccerbyives.com
I don’t know that we’ve ever seen an MLS side that’s as good as the current incarnation of Real Salt Lake. Despite the club having to defend its surprise MLS Cup championship last season, the Utahns (ick… wouldn’t Utovian sound cooler?) are steadily becoming a force to be reckoned with in the US. Having become the first MLS club ever to advance to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League last week, manager Jason Kreis decided to give a majority of his first team a much-needed rest against New England. And that was plenty good enough for the rough affair.

The real test, however, still awaits RSL. American sides have a horrendous 1 for 12 record against Mexican sides over two legs, and Salt Lake will be facing one in the final (Monterrey). There is some hope though, as one of only two MLS sides to ever beat a Mexican team is… drumroll please… Real Salt Lake! And if they are able to prevail in the continental championship, I may actually consider forgiving them for the stupid, stupid name.

Respect? I remember that one time at Old Trafford… – guardian.co.uk
According to Premier League chief dick Scudamore, next season everyone will respect the referees or else. Having grown tired of the near-constant bad behavior of the players in his league, he intends to crack down on the worst offence being committed by the ruffians — disrespecting the referees. To quote a tweet by the poorly punctuated Robbie Savage:

To much inconsistency in decisions from authorities elbowing wrong , air rifles wrong , swearing wrong, one only gets punished !

Scudamore’s efforts, while understandable, are way off base. First, there are bigger issues to tackle in his league than swearing at, surrounding,  or post-match calling out of a referee. Secondly, he is completely glossing over the bigger problem all together with respecting referees: his officials have been making a lot of mistakes lately.

How is a player/manager supposed to accept the criticisms of the fans and media, yet not be allowed to vocalize his criticisms of a referee who’s made an obvious mistake that could have had a huge impact on the outcome of the match? If you ask me, it doesn’t seem fair that referees are exempt from public thrashing that players receive when they don’t meet the grade.

ten words or less #2

i have to imagine that avram grant is making this face after being asked if he's staying at portsmouth.

well it seems like this has become less a blog about soccer, and more a blog about apologizing for not blogging about soccer. and while i feel that my series of recent prolonged absences on the blog can be easily justified (starting a new job, moving into a new house, increased travel for work, planning for the wedding), there is no doubt that they are all nothing but silly excuses for not doing my job.

and with the world of football bursting at the seams with stories of all sorts (domestic competitions wrapping up, preliminary world cup roster announcements, early summer transfer fodder, etc.), i feel like i’ve let a lot slip through the cracks and haven’t gotten to post as much as i would like.

so again, i’ll take the lazy road out to — if nothing else — make myself feel better. so here comes my second edition of ten words or less.

an old firm derby… at fenway? – washingtonpost.com

at least the juve duo are familiar with 2nd divisions – soccernet.com

trying to avoid jewish jokes about penny pinching clubs – guardian.co.uk

don’t worry: south africa has the beer covered this summer – news24.com

spurs’ new kits confirmed in leaked promo picture – footballshirtculture.com

don’t like the new USMNT jerseys? it could be worse – classicfootballshirts.com

things are getting crazy on merseyside – times.co.uk

finally, some lavish spending that makes sense – goal.com

ten words or less

so as i mentioned in my last post, i’ve had some trouble with the volume of links that i’d like to post for you all to read here on the site. and frankly, it’s driving me crazy for two reasons:

thought he's been a bust in manchester, there were some great days for berbatov in north london

  1. there are so many quality links out there, that i feel like i’m cheating you if i don’t share.
  2. i feel guilty for not posting as much lately.

so i’ve developed a plan. the proposal for the problem the plagues me… a new type of semi-regular post. i’m going to call it “ten words or les,” and similar to my round-up posts, i’ll talk about the best links i’ve recently found across the web. But there’s one major rule:  i’m limiting myself to ten words to describe each link.

it’s a win-win. i get to feel less guilty and share more entertaining tidbits from the world of football i read about far too much. you get more posts.

so here we go with our first ten words or less…

sometimes, just sometimes, i really miss berbatov at the lane - youtube.com

if you use google calendar, you’ll want this before june – google.com

this will not end well – footballshirtculture.com

i think this explains the arsenal and chelsea wins – studsup.com

i wish this was real – twitter.com

i would have liked to play footie with bob - coolthings.co.uk

thank f***ing god – thesun.co.uk

i should have practiced more – visualevolution.co.uk