pic of the week 12/2-12/8

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Alex Morgan Engaged to Servando Carrasco

Behold the power of social media: an Instagram that broke several million hearts! This week’s Pic of the Week comes to us from the account of US Women’s National Team star striker Alex Morgan, as she announced her engagement to her boyfriend by means of a modestly filtered, mildly blurred photo. That sound you’re hearing? Cries of despair coming from an untold number of men around the country and world as they witness their pathetically slim chances of making a move for US soccer’s most desirable asset collapse on their phones and tablets. 51,062 favorites? You know those are all girls.

The lucky bastard that will have the honor of Morgan as his future ball and chain is Houston Dynamo midfielder Servando Carrasco. The pair first met while they were both plying their trade for the Seattle Sounders back in 2012 and have been dating since, despite both having moved on to new cities since then. And it would appear they have their sights set on the long haul. I don’t blame the guy; I’d be trying to lock her down too.

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ten words of less #83

Military Soccer

cheers to these dudes for A) fighting for our freedom and B) just for attempting to play soccer in army boots. though i’d guess the touch they offer is only slightly worse than those of the original adidas predators.

Though I didn’t plan this out or anything, the fact that this week’s TWOL is very American-soccer heavy is oh-so-ironically perfect timing considering today is Veterans Day. That said of them, none of them have anything to do with veterans themselves. Anyway, many thanks from WSOTP to all of the veterans and current members of the armed forces for protecting my freedom to choose real football over its gridiron cousin.

Also, be sure to watch the blog in the coming weeks as we’ve got some pretty cool developments in the works.

I really wish I was an Ohio University journalism student. – athensjournal.com

Kit man forgets kits; buys knockoffs for team to wear. – football-shirts.co.uk

Being a rookie MLS player still ain’t all that. – buzzfeed.com

I’m admittedly a little jealous of this guy. – inbedwithmaradona.com

Sporting Park is fancy, yo. – digitaltrends.com

How rich: Qatar now accusing others of World Cup murders. – si.com

Timbers’ smart prep, or Merritt’s convenient propaganda opportunity? – kckrs.com

Fitba Thatba‘s newest song is for the Aaron Ramsey fanboys. – youtube.com

Definitely the hottest replication of the Miley-Thicke twerking incident. – vine.com

Finally… more questions starting to be asked of college system. – foxsoccer.com

an interview with professional olympic gold medalist heather mitts

To slightly misquote Irish rock band Thin Lizzy, the girls are back in town. Yup, you heard that right. Women’s professional soccer is back.

Heather Mitts of the USWNT and Boston Breakers

heather mitts dishes with WSOTP on her olympic triumphs, the new women’s pro league, and more.

Resurrected from the ashes of the failed WPS and WUSA through a jointly subsidized venture by the USSF, the Canadian Soccer Association and the Mexican Football Federation, the new eight team National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is looking to finally find the right formula for women’s soccer in the States.

The first order of business for the fledgling league was to allocate the fifty-five players whose salaries are covered by their respective national federations, and I was intrigued to see who ended up where. Would big name players stay with their older clubs, or would some be picked up teams closer to home? And of all the players out there, the one I always tend to keep an eye out for is fellow Cincinnati native, Heather Mitts.

A long time member of the US Women’s National Team setup with an impressive 138 caps, Heather has earned three Olympic Gold medals and a World Cup runner’s up medal in the process. Mitts is also one of the few players in NWSL who has had the privilege of playing in the other two editions of a top-tier American women’s league. And if for some reason you’ve not heard of the marking back for her on-field exploits, it’s quite possible you have heard about her off of it thanks to stunning good looks that have earned her a modeling career. All in all, not too bad a gig for a girl from Ohio.

So with the launch of the new league just around the corner, I thought this would be a great time to reach out to Heather to pick her brain about NWSL, her career with the national team and more.

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ten words or less #66

Tottenham's Clint Dempsey celebrates scoring against Manchester United

deuce earned his stripes against united once again.

From this American fan’s perspective, the long holiday weekend that’s just passed us by was quite a good one.

Saturday’s fixtures were chock full of goals, averaging just over three and half per match. Then on  #EpicSunday2 (© Fox Soccer Channel) with an entertaining Gunners loss to Chelsea and a gutsy, come-from-behind draw for Spurs against Manchester United. And with a whole additional day to recover after spending Sunday at the pub watching it all go down — not to mention being able to squeeze in a few hours of skiing on Saturday night — I would be hard pressed to design a better weekend for myself.

So with some bigger things around the corner still needing some attention and final polish, this seems like the perfect time to share some of my favorite links from the last week.

The European Transfer Market: Visualized. – transferwindow.info

Greeting fans through your car sunroof isn’t the best idea. – theoriginalwinger.com

Il Fenomeno finally get’s his move to England. – guardian.co.uk

Well look who’s decided he wants to play this year. – lagalaxy.com

Footballer lowered into a well to save a little girl. – dailymail.co.uk

Ferguson has bigger issues than Zeki Fryers move to Spurs. – espnfc.com

Like Rapinoe, I wish more USWNT players would move abroad.
– prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com

Ronaldinho get’s his own, footie-themed Bollywood Space Jam. – indiaglitz.com

If MLB ran soccer teams… their kits could be AWESOME. – kckrs.com

Adu now looking for his 9th club in 9 years. – soccerbyives.com

ten words or less #65

Thus far, 2013 has been a whirlwind. As with most years, there’s been the expected absurdity that accompanies the holiday season to keep me busy: the annual cornucopia of fixtures, plus the ensuing avalanche of (faux-)headlines that is the January transfer window.

inter milan's wesley sneijder

the only person who’s had a busier start to 2013 than WSOTP is wesley sneijder’s agent.

But, unlike previous years, things have been especially crazy around the imaginary WSOTP office during this already hectic time of year thanks to the eclipsing of a number of major milestones for the blog. First, I had the privilege of having my first ever article published by legendary blog In Bed With Maradona. Next came the announced partnership with the stalwarts at the Free Beer Movement. And then piggybacking off of that, over the last week I’ve seen the WSOTP Soccer Pub Atlas get further attention from at least three major MLS blogs… which has left me buried in pub submissions.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. If these were problems, they’re good ones to have. And thanks to the vast increase in exposure for the blog I’ve also seen an influx of new followers and likes from the social media channels. And if you happen to be one of the n00bs, don’t think I’m just a “soccer bar specialist” — as if that kind of specialization actually exists. I also write a bit, too. So make sure to check back regularly to read my musings on the world’s game.

So as I put some finishing touches on my next original treatise, let me kick the new year off in truly lazy fashion by sharing a few of my favorite links from the last week.

Sign this petition to end USSF support for Sepp Blatter. – theshinguardian.com

Kevin Prince Boateng takes a stand… and might walk away. – guardian.co.uk

“He eats other chairman sprinkled on his morning corn flakes.” – dearmrlevy.com

Want to find and watch an old match? Check this out. – reddit.com/fullmatch

A theory explaining why Gooners are the way they are.
– beardedgeniusofftwitter.tumblr.com

Is Baines just good, or good because he’s at Everton? – espnfc.com

Ben Olsen is a D.C. icon. – kckrs.com

My new year’s resolution to read more books got easier. – forbes.com

Checkout any time you like, but you can never leave. – dirtytackle.net

The true centennial crest for US Soccer. – thebeautifulgear.com

ten words or less #58

US National Team Celebrating at Azteca

two things i learned today: 1) the USMNT can win in the azteca, 2) jermaine jones likes to celebrate like a boss with his oxygen tank.

Though I’m admittedly still on a bit of an adrenaline high just over two hours after the United States’ “historic” win in the Azteca — I won’t elaborate further on it, as tonight’s win has spawned another full-length post where I’ll delve into the topic in greater detail. But it still feels good to beat Mexico, even if it was just a friendly.

So, as is typically the case, I’ve got a TWOL to bridge the gap. And it’s a good thing, as there’s a load to talk about. I’d be positively giddy for the start of the Premier League season, were it not for Spurs recurring ineptitude with transfer dealings. Ligue 1 is back in action already, where Ibrahimović netted a brace to save PSG’s rich asses in a come from behind draw with Lorient. One of Chris Rolfe’s two goals against the Union at the weekend is an MLS Goal of the Week candidates (vote for him in the first link below, okthx). And in Italy, there’s more match fixing… though I suppose that’s almost to be expected at this point. Anyway, the on with the links…

For real though, vote for Rolfe’s goal. – mlssoccer.com

Levy waits this long for only “£26m plus add-ons”?!?! – guardian.co.uk

Miniboro provided a smart “faux campaign” for Tailored by Umbro. – miniboro.com

MLS is one step closer to their dream of NY2. – newyorkpost.com

The Fat Spanish Waiter analyzes the rise of English tiki-taka. – rafabenitez.com

The things pro athletes throw their money away on… – football-italia.net

His ego knowing no bounds, Eric Wynalda interviews… himself. – kckrs.com

Maksim Molokoedov: Chile’s first professional Russian player AND prisoner.
– dirtytackle.net

As an aspiring journalist, this would be a freaking dream. – theoriginalwinger.com

Pia has some leverage, and she intends to use it. – shekicks.net

ten words or less #51

The New 2012 USA Nike Kits... now with hoops.

in all the hullabaloo yesterday', i somehow missed the USMNT/USWNT kit announcement... we were long overdue for making the same kit for both teams, though i'm still not sold on the hoops.

With the dust having settled after yesterday’s epic announcement, I wanted to extend welcome to all of the new readers who were lucky kind enough to stumble across WSOTP over the last 48 hours. The Cult of Rolfe extends far and wide, and I’ve been mightily impressed at the speed and distance by which they’re able to spread information… you lot had Soccer by Ives tweeting and Taylor Twellman re-tweeting my link within an hour of posting. Stellar work.

Hopefully some of you will stick around to see what else the blog has in store… and maybe disseminate my writing a bit further. But just as I warned on Twitter yesterday, if you’re expecting this space to be inundated solely with Rolfe/Fire news… you might end up a bit disappointed.

Anyway, thanks again for stopping by the blog — whatever your reason — and as a reward just for you, enjoy some of my ten favorite links from the last week.

Solid Euro 2012 infographic to help build the excitement. – betting-guru.com

The official song of Sir Alex Ferguson’s mindgames. – fitbathatba.com

Facepalm Level: Infinity. Worst idea ever to fix US soccer. – businessinsider.com

I need the brown ones, but I want the rest. – nikeinc.com

The only way you could get me to play golf. – golfoot.ch (warning: French)

Spurs vs. Norwich… through the lens of a crack pipe. – dearmrlevy.com

The new Houston Dynamo stadium looks drool worthy.
- youtube.com/houstondynamovideos

Puyol gets his face stapled mid match, like a man. – dirtytackle.net

The Predator line just made a major left turn. – soccerbible.com

An honest look at the urgency for goal line technology. – theseventytwo.com

ten words or less #47

stevenage vs tottenham

the last time the minnows of stevenage graced this blog, it's because their scott laird was punched by one of his own fans as they upset newcastle in last year's FA cup.

If this wasn’t a vintage “FA Cup Magic” weekend, I apparently don’t know what one is. One “upset” was on the cards, as the O’Neil bump effect continued on as Sunderland definitely thumped Arsenal and sent them crashing out at the Stadium of Light. Stevenage triumphantly/frustratingly held — and let’s be honest, outplayed — Spurs, earning themselves a lucrative replay at White Hart Lane. Liverpool thumped an unlucky Brighton side to temporarily re-over-inflate their fan’s expectations for the rest of the season. And Chelsea… well they continued to look piss poor as Birmingham City forced a replay at St. Andrews where they’ve only lost once all season.

The FA Cup’s been enough to fill a hundred story lines on its own, which has predictably delayed my job of finishing my next full length article. So as I struggle to push out the next post, enjoy these articles by writers who are a bit more diligent and focused than myself.

Why Chelsea are stupid not to let Mata reign centrally. – guardian.co.uk

Smart. Someone buy me this. – thebeautifulgear.com

Behind the scenes video from Alex Morgan’s SI photo shoot. – theoriginalwinger.com

Adidas HQ gets a shiny, futuristic makeover. – contemporist.com

Villa taking advice from Cleveland Browns. This will end poorly. – foxsports.com

I bet you didn’t think that futsal was that dangerous. – kickette.com

Potential bidding war brewing? Anfield Cat up for adoption soon. – dirtytackle.net

Am I to take a female “model only” club seriously? – theoffsides.com

Americans buying Tottenham? Not sure how I feel about that. – express.co.uk

This year’s football feel-good story is undoubtedly “Zambia”. – inbedwithmaradona.com

ten words or less #32

potential corinthians signing bing chang bao

i'm fairly certain bing chang bao's potential signing by corinthians is not what's kept the club from being able to buy tevez.

While it’s often times more fun to squabble and make a fuss about all of the (likely) false transfer rumors that abound this time of year in the soccer blogosphere, I find it interesting that this particular TWOL posting get’s half of it’s links from mainstream media outlets. They’re not usually known for diving into the transfer drivel, so you’ll get some interesting reads this time around.

And since it’s not very often that the likes of CNN, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports get to grace the hallowed spaces on my blog, I’m sure their editors are rushing to publicize their distinguished appearances on today’s quick update.

Ronaldo, Coentrão and Mourinho… you dirty dogs. – dirty tackle @ yahoo.com

How I feel during every USMNT “home” match.” – cnn.com

Ooooh… that burns, doesn’t it Messi? Doesn’t it!?!? – whoateallthepies.co.uk

Signing a rubbish player probably won’t catch the Chinese market. – ojogobonito.com

Nobody on the FIFA executive committee gets dirty money. – nytimes.com

The typical American soccer fan? I hope not. – reddit.com/user/devineman

Yet nobody wondered when decent-named players signed in Turkey. – si.com

A brilliant piece on the state of the women’s game. – foxsports.com

seven reasons why shaun toback is a xenophobe asshat

I’m going to start today’s article off by apologizing for the very misleading title. I’m not going to be examining the seven main reasons why BleacherReport author Shaun Toback is an asshat, as I don’t have enough time in my day to pour through what is sure to be a litany of varied reasons.

the defeated u.s. women's national team

after the USWNT lost in the world cup final to japan, i braced myself for the "anti-soccer" backlash.

Instead, I’m just going to focus on a tiny sliver of Toback’s douchebaggery: his proclaimed hatred for the sport many of us (and I’d venture to say, most everyone who visits this blog) hold dear.

Let’s also be quick to address the rarity of this type of posting on wrong side of the pond: I’m not normally one to make direct attacks on writers whose opinions I disagree with. But Shaun’s typical, reactionary soccer-bashing article after yesterday’s Women’s World Cup final houses so much flawed logic that my brain is hurting. Trying to comprehend the sheer amount of stupid in this post is literally impossible. His seven “reasons” why non-gridiron football will never take off in this country needed a point-by-point retort, and I feel just pissed off enough to offer my services.

1. Soccer’s Great Moments Are Fleeting

barcelona passing

barcelona's tiki-taka movement is one of the subtleties that newcomers to the sport often overlook.

Mr. Toback starts off his article letting everyone know he’s a big all-around sports fan. He tells us that he hates soccer, but wants it to succeed, because he likes to watch “great athletes that play [sports] enjoy success.” I’m not exactly sure what the hell that means, but I think he’s trying to imply that it can, at times, be interesting to watch elite athletes compete in a sport he’s not particularly interested in. He probably doesn’t enjoy regularly watching swimming, but was still probably riveted (like the rest of us) by Michael Phelps at the Beijing Olympics.

However, he takes objection with soccer because in the average soccer game, “nothing really happens.” Of course, he’s referring to the typical argument that the only “big events” in soccer are goals. A tried yet tired argument, Toback and the rest of the soccer haters never listen to us when we say there’s significantly more to soccer than just goals. If he really appreciates sports, then he would take the time to understand that much of what makes soccer so special is what happens in between the goals: amazing offensive build ups, slick and tricky passes, intelligent defensive teamwork, brilliant individual displays of skill. Just as with basketball or hockey, it’s awe inspiring to watch masters like Messi, Ronaldo or Xavi completely take over and dominate a match.

Nuances, just as with other sports, are what makes soccer so interesting. Not taking the time to watch and identify those intricacies of each sport will ultimately sour any new viewer’s perception of the game.

2. Soccer Is a Finesse Sport and Americans Don’t Care About Finesse Sports
There is a one word answer that is the perfect, short retort to this point: golf.

 nigel de jong kicks xabi alonso

nigel de jong packs enough violence into his game to keep in the most cerebral of american fans entertained.

But let’s be honest, one word rebuttals aren’t near as fun as long-winded ones.

Second, making a snap judgment about the lack of speed and power of an entire sport based upon the women’s game is plain retarded. I present: women’s tackle football. Have you ever watched paint dry a WNBA game? Aren’t there things called “ladies tees” in golf? All are slower, less explosive versions of the men’s game, and that ultimately makes them a different game that requires a different appreciation.

Third, watch a freaking men’s game. It’s borderline out of control it’s moving so quickly. And if you don’t think there’s violence in soccer: Nigel de Jong has a foot he’d like to put into your chest. Thinking there’s a lack of power in the sport seems silly when you consider that Ryan Shawcross will literally tackle through your leg.

3. The Field Is Too Big
I would believe one of the arguments that Toback makes if he could actually decide what he’s bitching about. Is the field too big or are red card ejections stupid? Sadly, neither argument is strongly backed up.

 real madrid's ronaldo is fast

ronaldo is fast enough to make the field small.

He makes the assertion that playing a man down isn’t really that big of deal, and the team’s odds of still winning aren’t greatly reduced, all because the field is too big. I feel fairly safe in assuming that Toback probably missed the second leg of the Arsenal-Barcelona Champions League tie last year. After Van Persie’s crap ejection, Arsenal’s chances of the winning the match were effectively zilch. But throwing that or any other examples out, his argument is still poor. The whole point of the red card ejection is that the offending team should still be able to compete, just at a disadvantage. Sometimes they overcome it, but most times they don’t.

And if you want to shrink the field just to get more goals or have red cards be more impactful, there’s an existing solution for you: indoor soccer or futsal.

4. ESPN Doesn’t Care About Soccer
To paraphrase a quote from BASEketball, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen an MLS commercial for ESPN, I would have a shitload of nickels. Does this guy ever watch any of the ESPN channels? If so, I don’t know how he could miss the channel advertising soccer. Remember the six months leading up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa? They advertised the Cup so much that I was getting sick of it.

And even though I know it’s not the same network, I’ve seen a plethora of ads pushing Fox Soccer Channel on numerous other stations on my cable provider. Both Fox and ESPN shelled out a lot of money to show MLS and English Premier League games, and they wouldn’t do so if there wasn’t an audience worth selling it to… so I’m pretty sure they care about the sport a little bit.

Comparing soccer’s struggles to pull in American audiences to the audiences pulled in by a 100-year-plus reoccurring national cultural event is like comparing apples and oranges. Soccer is a growing sport facing a tremendously biased and entrenched sports scene. Expecting it out draw something like the All-Star Game consistently is like expecting the professional lacrosse league to suddenly start attracting viewers in the millions in the next 5 years. It’s just not practical, possible or comparable.

5. Excessive Flopping and Terrible Refs
I would throw Toback a bone on this complaint, but he’s a little late to the party. Last time I checked, the quality of refereeing and the debate on how to aid them in an increasingly difficult decision-making process is one of the largest controversies in the sport. And as for diving, it’s one of the few problems in the game that FIFA and the governing bodies are actually attempting to alleviate. As he pointed out, even us diehard fans know these are two massive problems in our sport.

erika of brazil

i'll give toback credit: as erika showed us, simulation is rampant in the men's and women's game.

But while Shaun admitted that cheating and poor refereeing can give a team an “advantage” in American sports, he took it a step further by asserting that matches and tournaments are “routinely” and “completely” decided by these kinds of events in soccer. Is he trying to say that outcomes in the NBA, MLB and NFL are never influenced by these sins?

Wait, I seem to recall an NFL Conference Championship game that just might have been influenced by a controversial referee decision. I also remember Tim Donaghy and the NBA’s referee betting scandal that possibly influenced playoff basketball games.  Armando Galarraga had his place in baseball history destroyed when his perfect game was botched by umpire Bill Hohn.

I’m also guessing that Toback thinks player cheating is exclusive to soccer. Ignoring that the NBA’s Manu Ginobli is a serial flopper — after all, he’s a dirty foreigner — players try to deceive the referees with diving in the NHL (Alex Ovechkin), college basketball (Kemba Walker) and even the NFL (Brett Favre). And while we’re on the topic of players gaming the system, maybe we should just ignore that whole steroids thing that did/didn’t happen in baseball.

Point is, every sport has its black eyes and bad sheep. Holding those against one sport while ignoring the faults of other sports is not only hypocritical, but also a bad reason to think a sport can’t build it’s popularity if those horrible things are happening. Last time I checked, the American sports leagues all recovered from these “disasters.”

6. The Mystery of Extra Minutes and Other Vague Soccer Rules
Here’s the thing about sports: they all have different rules. And in every sport, there are confusing rules. Try explaining icing or offsides to a non-hockey fan, you’ll run into problems. The NBA has been grappling with how to call traveling for a half century. In the NFL, you’re allowed to hit certain players one way, but other players only in a different way.

Just like with any other sport, it takes some time to learn the rules. You can’t just learn them over night, and it takes repeated viewing to learn the differences in how to call a certain situation one way or another.

But if you say that there are virtually no people in this country that have been watching soccer their entire lives and that’s why no one get’s the rules, you must be smoking crack. I sat and watched yesterday’s women’s final with over 70 people (ages 15 – 65) yesterday at a bar in Dayton, Ohio, and just about all of them correctly thought the Japan offsides call in the second half was a bad one. And that’s just one small bar in a mid-sized Midwestern town.

And if you’re really in need of some clarification on the “vague” rules of soccer, read the damn rulebook.

7. Americans Suck at Soccer

giuseppe rossi of villareal

an american superstar does exist: rossi just chose to play for someone else.

No, the US Men’s National team isn’t a World Cup winner, and we’re still a ways off. But it would be foolish to suggest that we suck. There are a slew of Americans playing in the top leagues in the world. We knocked off World and European champions Spain in the Confederations Cup in 2009. We’ve made it to the World Cup quarter finals, something many nations can’t say. And that’s just the men. Our two-time world champion women’s team has made the semifinals or better in every major women’s tournament ever.

Even if we haven’t produced our own American star yet, that has more to do with our crap youth development system than the sport not attracting our biggest and fastest youth athletes. We don’t need LeBron James or Ray Lewis sized athletes to be competitive… Spain’s world-dominating side have an average height of just 5’10”.

And if he really does want the game to succeed, Toback propagating a bunch of biased, non-factual bullshit as to why the game sucks isn’t helping the problem.

————————————–

What it seems like is that, though Shaun insists he has tried to like the game, he has gone into every soccer experience with the same worn-out preconceptions and never looks past what the xenophobe hivemind has instructed him to believe. To fear what is foreign is natural, but to not take the time to learn about it before developing an opinion is ignorant.

Five minutes of Google searches on each objection would have stopped this article in its tracks, but it’s clear that the author didn’t feel it necessary to put in due diligence. It’s always best to bash things without doing your homework, right Shaun?

To be honest though, I don’t know what the guy’s problem is. Maybe some little football playing lassie (lad?) broke his heart at some point during his youth. Or perhaps he’s bent out of shape that he finally invested himself in the sport, and had his heart ripped out when the ladies lost yesterday’s final. So goes soccer, Toback… get used to it.

What’s really interesting though is that if Toback is so disinterested in soccer, then he wouldn’t have written an article all about it in the first place. Even though he thinks he’s tried and failed to get caught up in the “fever” that surrounds soccer, his article actually proves that he might have caught the sickness more than he thought.