pic of the week 12/29-1/4

Fernando Torres Unveiled

Look at that picture. Just look at it for a second longer, too.

That is a man unburdened. That is a player who has long felt pain, but is feeling the warmth of the sun for the first time in ages. That is the reaction of a man who’s scaled unbelievable heights, then suffered through unbelievable lows before eventually finding his way home into the open arms of some 45,000 who love him unconditionally.

Fernando Torres has been the butt of many jokes in this space and countless others. Some of it may well have been deserved, but much of it probably wasn’t. Injuries, bad luck and mismanagement could have easily shouldered some of the scorn he’s received — but they rarely do. Yet it’s still easy to forget that Torres was likely the finest striker on the planet in 2007/2008. Even during the next two injury-hit campaigns, he was still putting up ridiculous numbers despite limited showings. And though he’s been far off that form since, I can’t help but feel like there’s never been a player more deserving of that kind of support. To get a fresh start where you’re already adored? To go home? He built his name there. He rescued them from La Segunda. And, in a small way, he actually helped set Atlético Madrid on the path to being the reigning Spanish champions that they are today too.

This particular quote from /r/soccer user AtletiCampeon captured the emotion best: “Torres brought us back, we will bring him back as well.”

If nothing else, for Fernando’s sake, I hope they do.

WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 20

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 20

Despite most of Europe in the midst of a winter break and MLS being in a bit of dull period during its off season, the last podcast of 2014 still has plenty to offer. D.J. and Jeremy do their best to recall all of the Premier League action from Boxing Day and the past weekend’s double dose of fixtures, including hashing out the surprise managerial moves expected from Crystal Palace (#PardewIN!) and yet to be made by (Coloccini?). The guys also take a look back at the best and worst of world football from 2014, as well as making a few bold predictions for 2015. And as is normally the case, you’ll get your normal weekly servings of Fantasy Update, Fulham Watch  and everyone’s favorite, Winners & Wankers.

Don’t forget that we will still want to answer your questions and talk about the topics that interest you in the “Pondcasts” coming in 2015. So send them to us via email to contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com or hit us up on the social media links on the bottom of the page.

WSOTP Podcast on iTunes WSOTP Podcast on Stitcher WSOTP Podcast RSS Feed

WSOTP pod: episode 22

WSOTP Pod - Season 1 Episode 22

the biggest signing of the MLS offseason? not exactly, but michael parkhurst’s move back to the states is big for the crew.

Most January transfer windows our eyes are glued to Europe, waiting for one of Europe’s uber-elite to overpay for the luxury of stripping away another side’s best player in the middle of the season. But it would be a cold day in hell when an MLS side is the one making the biggest waves in the transfer market. But thanks to Toronto FC’s $100 million dollar gamble to bring in England striker Jermain Defoe and US national team midfielder Michael Bradley, someone definitely needs to go check the underworld’s thermostat. So Jeremy and D.J. spend a sizable chunk of Episode 22 talking about those arrivals, and the long-term implications of the growing trend of USMNT players returning to home to play in a so-called “lesser” league. We did find time to talk about European transfers and the normal EPL round-up too. So worry not Eurosnobs, this isn’t a completely MLS-centric podcast.

Subscribe to the WSOTPpod on iTunes or Stitcher.

WSOTP pod: episode 8

WSOTP Pod: Season 1 Episode 8

WSOTP Pod Season 1 Episode 8

In case you didn’t already know, WSOTP Pod‘s Jeremy Lance (@JeremyLance) is a Chelsea fan while D.J. Switzer (a.k.a. me and @wrongsideofpond) is a Spurs fan. So this past weekend’s matchup between the two London rivals was also means that this was the first ever WSOTP Pod Derby. And as such, you can expect that Episode 8 of the podcast will spend considerable time on the topic of that match. But we’ll still delve into all of the other weekend happenings in the Premier League, not to mention take a look at many of the interesting story lines as the MLS regular season approaches its end, preview this week’s Champions League fixtures, and highlight a new pub in the WSOTP Soccer Pub Atlas. And pardon our A.D.D. several times throughout the pod, as we were also watching the Crew’s match against FC Dallas while recording.

Click here to subscribe to the WSOTPpod on iTunes.

ten words or less #81

torres fans can take comfort in knowing fernando’s cat-like scratch of vertonghen’s face wasn’t viewed as ridiculous as luis suarez’s bite.

I don’t know if anyone else is feeling this way, but my cup runneth over with football at the moment. I already felt like my cup was full with the increased availability of Premier League coverage this season, but that’s feeling even more full given that the Capital One Cup and European midweek fixtures regularly on the calendar again. The MLS season has reached crunch time, providing a myriad of playoff races to and storylines satisfy one’s needs. And don’t forget: another round of World Cup qualifiers is just a fortnight away, too.

So with my attention span being pulled in a thousand directions at the moment, it’s been a bit difficult to crack out full-length pieces. But worry not, I’ve got you covered with the eighty-first edition of Ten Words or Less. And if I do say so, this one has some delectable links. Also, be on the look out for Episode 8 of the WSOTP Pod to drop later this afternoon, too. Though with both posts hitting you in short order, you might feel like your cup is running over too.

United fan marrying into City family trolls with his toast. – youtube.com

Dunny provides insight into how Generation Adidas got it’s start.
– theoriginalwinger.com

Spurs-Chelsea last weekend was a tactician’s dreamworld. – zonalmarking.com

Hey Geoff Cameron: less about you, more about the team. – espnfc.com

Would you eat — or pay $40.58 for — a Zlatan Burger? – guardian.co.uk

I back academies, but there are decent arguments against them. – latimes.com

For no other reason than tweaked nostalgia, I need these. – hypebeast.com

I’m no El Tri fan, but I dig me some Jorge Campos. – inbedwithmaradona.com

Great insight on year one of the MLS-USL partnership. – philly.com

This seems way more like something Sterling would do. – fanatix.com

WSOTP pod: episode 3

WSOTP Pod: Season 1 Episode 3

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge after scoring against Aston Villa

sorry to make you wait daniel: we finally get around to talking about liverpool on episode three of the pod.

With a second week of Premier League fixtures now in the books, D.J. and Jeremy take a look at the results in this week’s edition of the podcast, including: Chelsea’s choice of a false-nine line up against United, Cardiff’s shock result against Manchester City, the protracted Gareth Bale transfer saga, and even — at listener request — Liverpool’s performance against Aston Villa. We’ll also spend some time talking about some quotes from new Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt in Sports Illustrated, Dempsey’s home debut in Seattle, another WSOTP Soccer Pub Atlas pub highlight… and even D.J. doing a crap impression of Arsène Wenger.

a troubling transition

The biggest problem with success is replicating it. The blood, sweat and tears that are shed in the process of reaching greatness always takes a drastically larger toll than any champion is willing to admit, and so they’re almost always at the root of the failure to retain their crown.

chelsea celebrating 2011

chelsea's changing of the guard has been anything but a smooth transition.

In professional soccer, this saying rings particularly true.

Success usually means winning the league or advancing to the late stages of drawn-out knock-out competition(s), both of which require a tremendous amount of energy, focus and planning. For instance last season, Barcelona’s two-trophy haul was the product of a 60 match season, and their pint-sized prince Leo Messi played in 55 of those matches. I don’t care how fit you are, nobody can play that many games in 12 months and be fresh for most of the following season.

The prolonged stress on both body and mind normally don’t manifest themselves until the following season, when all of the energy from last season finally catches up with them. It’s for this reason that we have yet to see a club repeat as Champions League winners, and even more rare that we end up seeing teams that are truly dynasties.

Hell, for some teams, just coming close to sustained excellence ends up consuming them. Just look at Chelsea.

Despite pulling in an impressive three League and FA Cup titles each in the last six years, their billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich, has eyes for only one prize: the UEFA Champions League. His vast amount of oily riches has propelled the Blues agonizingly close to his goal on several occasions, but they’ve not been able to clear those last hurdles. And in pursuit of Champions League glory, Abramovich’s actions and itchy trigger finger has left Chelsea teetering precariously in the balance.

In the nine years since the Russian oligarch bought the club from Ken Bates, Abramovich has burned through 6.5 managers (I’m only counting Hiddink as half, since he was technically just an interim manager), some of which were the finest and most successful in the game over the last decade. His tendency to poison relationships with his managers, most notably when the fallout pushed José Mourinho out the door in 2007, has undoubtedly undermined their efforts to be crowned kings of Europe.

chelsea's andre villas-boas

just because AVB doesn't have any grey speckled in his ginger beard (yet) doesn't mean that he isn't a quality manager.

That’s why it’s surprising that when Roman decided to dispatch of Carlo Ancelotti this summer — just a season removed from the Italian leading Chelsea to their first Double in club history — and replaced him with a very young André Villas-Boas, I was still caught off guard by the decision.

Abramovich’s track record with major purchases acquisitions up until last January have almost always had one thing in common: they all had proven track records. Whether it was a player or manager that was being brought to Stanford Bridge, they were already successful in their prior endeavors.

Makélélé, Drogba, Schevchenko, Ballack and Deco were brought in after successful careers abroad. Ca$hley was bribed to swap North London for West London after proving himself, and Anelka had literally played decently for everyone. Likewise, Scolari had won a World Cup, Ancelotti had won two Champions Leagues as a manager and one as a player, and Hiddink has to be some sort of wizard to have pulled off all of the successes he’s had.

But Villas-Boas on the other hand, doesn’t have near the same pedigree. Strike one was always going to be that he never played professionally. Sure, the rosy-cheeked AVB hauled in an impressive two trophies last year in his lone season at the helm of Porto. But prior to that, his only experience as the manager of any professional football team was a surprising 9-month spell with Portuguese minnows Académica de Coimbra. Coupled with his young age, his inexperience in the upper echelons of the game was a stark departure from any of the previous new faces that had been brought in by Chelski.

So while replacing a relatively (by Chelsea definition) successful manager is hard enough at a big club, Villas-Boas was even more under the gun due to these supposed handicaps. Unfortunately, Chelsea’s form so far this season seems to be giving weight all of those fears. And predictably, AVB has been taking the heat for poor results.

And though I love seeing Chelsea in turmoil from a Tottenham fan’s perspective, I don’t think Villas-Boas deserves to be shouldering all of the blame.

One of the biggest issues that most of the punditry thought would undermine Villas-Boas’ legitimacy in the Stamford Bridge dressing room would be his age relative to that of many of the big, influential players at Chelsea. At 36, he’s only three years older than Lampard and Drogba, and a relatively five years older than Terry and Cole. With each of those players casting long shadows of influence at the club (Terry in particular) due to their contributions the last few years, there was always a fear that they would have a hard time taking orders from a man that’s a) never played a minute professionally (though this wasn’t a problem for Mourinho), and b) was significantly younger than anyone else they had ever taken orders from.

It is this power struggle, in my questionably expert opinion, that is the root of the problems at Chelsea. If André Villas-Boas is ever to have any hope of righting the ship and getting Chelsea back to competing for every trophy under the sun, those star names have to go.

And while I’m hardly the first to promote that idea, I think it’s important to examine just why their leaving is so crucial for Chelsea to get back on track..

First and foremost, don’t take my statement above as any sort of slandering of the quality of any of those players. All are still more than capable of playing Premiership football, and I have no doubt that many top teams would love to have them in their sides. However, it is clear that they’re all in the autumn of their careers (though some more so than others).

Normally, a squad full of experienced players would be considered a great asset. But with AVB being brought in by Abramovich to reshape the squad and it’s playing style, these older players tend to become a liability. Remember that one of the main points of beef that Abramovich tends to have with his managers is the style of play they force the team to play. The oil baron yearns for attractive, attacking football similar to that found in Madrid and Barcelona, and heads have rolled when they’ve failed to deliver.

Yet to this point and much to his chagrin, Roman’s most successful appointments have been of the more defensive mindset. Mourinho’s trophies came on the back of highly organized and efficient strangling of the oppositions offense and countering. Ancelotti is Italian… so there’s not much more I need to say about that. This kind of “anti-football” as some have labeled it, requires two things:

  1. A very organized defense-first mentality from the entire team, which often involves sitting deep and allowing the opposition to bring the game to you…
  2. …which leaves loads of space behind them for your team to quickly counter into and score.

Because of this, Chelsea’s current squad was built with a defensive mindset at its core. And with AVB trying to get his Chelsea squad playing with attacking flair, you see where the problems start to develop. If there’s one thing that Barcelona has taught us in the last few years, it’s that offensive, attacking football requires two things from a team:

  1. That your team apply quick pressure high up the pitch, which forces the opposition to cough up the ball earlier and closer to their own goal.
  2. This high pressure requires fit, quick players to apply it appropriately.

Understandably, aging players that have lost a step, or maybe don’t play as quickly as they used to, are far from ideal for this type of system. Lampard, Terry, Drogba

continuing to lean on the fading elder blues will only hamper the club's future prospects.

And the player who highlights this the most is everyone’s favorite punching bag, John Terry. There’s no disputing that Terry was one of the finest center halves of the last decade. His on-pitch leadership abilities, smart distribution, heart, work rate and ability to provide timely runs forward made him a linchpin in Chelsea’s dominance at the turn of the century. But the last two years have been rough on John. His always short temper has gotten shorter, his laziness has increased, and most noticeably, he’s lost some of his pace, too.

Yet, his new manager’s system requires Terry to hold a defensive line that is much higher than what he’s used to. JT’s decreased pace would be cause for concern here, unless he’s partnered in the back by a players that’s fast enough to cover for him. Luckily, the club signed what they hoped would be their center-back-of-the-future David Luiz, a player full of both youth and speed. And all appeared to be falling into place…

Trouble is, both Terry and Luiz are the type of central defender that likes to push forward and launch the attack. With both of them pushing forward and leaving the middle empty, it’s left AVB’s high defensive line extremely vulnerable to the counter attack goals that have plagued them all season. So to help stem the bleeding, Luiz’s susceptibility to caution/ejection has seen him dropped and Terry instead partnered with the more “conservative” Ivanović.

While Luiz’s sacrifice has proven to be marginally more successful as far as immediate results are concerned, it comes off as counterproductive to Villas-Boas’ long-term goal of building an attractive, competitive squad for the future. With a £21 million price tag hanging around his 24-year-old neck, it’s clear Luiz needs to be a cornerstone of that project. Are the short-term results worth  sacrificing the development of the “new” Chelsea squad that the manager is trying to build?

chelsea's meireles, ramires and sturridge

chelsea should rely on their young stars now instead of shelving them for short-term success.

Loads of money has been spent to bring in fresh blood in order to remake the squad, but they need to be playing together as much as possible to build cohesion and gel. Daniel Sturridge (£7 million), Raul Meireles (£12m), Ramires (£17m), Luiz, Juan Mata (£23m) and Fernando Torres (£50m) are all great players that need to grow together as a team, and that can only happen if they can get enough games together. Continuing to rely on Terry and Drogba instead of Luiz and Torres — no more than a temporary band-aid — will just harm their confidence and undermine the goal of creating a team for the future.

Of course, none of this has taken into account the sway that Chelsea’s veteran players still have at the club. The influence that players like Terry still have over their fellow teammates and club management is palpable, and has led to scores of rumors of a divided dressing room at Stamford Bridge. Whether Villas-Boas has more sway at this point remains debatable, and whether he or the elder statesmen of the team leaves first will likely answer that question.

Look, I’m not saying that Villas-Boas is doing a fantastic job and deserves absolute absolution from any of Chelsea’s poor form this season. He’s made plenty of mistakes, for sure, and that’s probably partly due to his age and inexperience and partly due to the normal adjustment time needed to adapt to life in the Premier League.

That said, André has also shown a lot of promise, too. And it’s through that promise that I believe he had to have been smart enough to know that this was the type of season he was facing if he decided to fill the vacant hot seat on Chelsea’s bench this summer. One would also hope that he communicated that to Abramovich when he took the job, buying himself a season or two to transition the club from the current aging squad to a young, competitive squad for the future.

The trouble with transitions — at Roman’s Chelsea anyway — is that they’re expected to be seamless and just as successful as the periods they’re attempting to bridge. His track record of quickly pulling the trigger has blown some of the time with this golden generation, and firing AVB now could set the next generation off-track before it even get’s its feet wet.

new year’s resolutions

As 2011 winds to a close and the dawn of a new year is upon us, I imagine many of you are in the final stages of planning for the annual — and often eventually pointless — ritual called “New Year’s Resolutions”. Every year, millions around the world make commitments to achieve personal goals over the next year such as losing a set amount of weight, breaking bad habits or forming good new ones.

times square soccer ball

now that a very soccer ball-ish times square ball has dropped, it's time to think about what we want to have happen in 2012

However, despite these resolutions generally being made with the best of intentions, for one reason or another, we normally have a hard time keeping them. Scientists tell us that only 12% of all of New Year’s Resolutions are actually met by year’s end, a rate poor enough to make you wonder why we even make them in the first place.

Personally, I like to take the easy way out by not botering to make resolutions, period. By taking this approach, it prevents me from feeling disappointed when I don’t meet the overly ambitious targets I always end up setting for myself. After all, the easiest goals to achieve are the one’s you never make… or something like that.

But just because I don’t set my own resolutions, that doesn’t mean that I can’t make empty promises for other people instead.

Why pass up soaking in all of the instant gratification of setting ambitious goals, especially when I’m not responsible for any of the work that goes into turning dreams into reality?!

With that in mind, I present to you my idealistic 2012 World Football New Year’s Resolutions list:

For Mario Balotelli to keep being… Mario Balotelli

 balotelli why always me

i don't know why, mario... but let's hope it stays that way.

To say that the young Manchester City starlet has endured a roller coaster 2011 might just be the understatement of the year. From the highs of driving around Manchester’s city centre in a convertible giving fans high fives, to the lows of lighting his own bathroom on fire with fireworks, the Italian starlet has been nothing short of a machine at producing ridiculous headlines. He seems more at home in a made-up comic strip than in the life of a real, live professional athlete. And that’s just the way we like it, especially since he tends to make my job writing significantly easier. So please, Super Mario, don’t go changing anything. Just keep being you: it’s what you do best.

For Jürgen Klinsmann to show his grand USMNT experiment is actually working.

Now, don’t take this the wrong way. I’m all for Klinsmann’s efforts to reshape the national team and build it a new identity, and I know that this transformation won’t happen overnight. It needs some time to set in, like any master plan, and I feel like a pretty patient guy. However, it’s hard to stomach loses and ties against sides that we had been — and should still be — beating. I’m not asking for us to start rolling over Mexico like the Spanish would Andorra, but I would prefer to see us start stringing together some positive results sooner rather than later. A continued run of bad showings could, after all, have a devastating impact on the team’s moral and confidence. And that’s definitely not something we need heading into World Cup qualifying.

For John Terry to finally get what’s coming to him.

I’ve made no secret for my distaste for Terry in this space, so it’s not surprising that I would want for fate to finally catch up with the bastard in 2012. And even though I don’t need to recant all of his sins since most of them have played out publicly, I still want to. So, here’s why John’s karma is long overdue to bite Mr. Chelsea: 2001) drunkenly taunts American tourists at Heathrow airport immediately after 9/11, 2002) charged with assault for an altercation with a nightclub bouncer, 2009) takes cash bribes to give unauthorized tours of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, 2010) may or may not have had an affair with a former teammate/friend’s baby mama, 2011) racially abuses the younger brother of international teammate during a match. Even though he’s been “cleared” in a majority of those cases, how can one guy be investigated for so many claims and they all be false? Oh yeah, they can’t. Cue the Law & Order dun-dun!

For Jose Mourinho to finally to overhaul Barcelona as the best side in Spain.

mourinho eye poke

if mourinho doesn't come out on top soon, i fear for eyes the world over.

I know it’s pretty unrealistic to think this could happen in the 2012 calendar year, despite the fact that Real are currently three points clear of rivals Barça going into the Winter Break. Pep Guardiola and his men definitely still have a death-grip like hold over Mourinho and his charges’ confidence, as is evident with their impressive strings of results in the multitude of Clásicos in 2011. And while I’d love to see Los Blancos regain the edge in the rivalry for reasons that include restoring “parity” to Spain (and I very loosely use the word parity considering it’s a league where only two teams ever win) and being a fan, my main reason for wanting to see Mourinho finally overcome his demons is much, much more important. You see, I fear that if the Special One’s galácticos don’t take over the crown as Spain’s best soon, I think he’s going to poke out EVERYONE’s eyes.

For Alex Morgan to increase the number of shoots she books like this one.

So what if I’m married? I’m allowed to have internet crushes on attractive celebrities just like anyone else. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with desiring to see more scantily clad pictures of my chosen crush. I mean as far as the picture shown, it underlines her ability to look attractive in both classy and sporty attire, not to mention her ability to knock the balls around… knock balls around the pitch you dirty perverts. And thanks to the WUSA WPS getting a renewed lease on life from US Soccer, Miss Morgan should stay in the limelight just a little bit more.

For Daniel Levy to not only continue sticking to his guns on not selling, but also pull the trigger on some big buys too.

Look, I’m stoked that the Tottenham chairman told Chelsea to shove their £40 million for Modrić where the sun doesn’t shine over the summer. It showed ambition, and sent a message to the rest of the growing egos in the locker room that nobody was bigger than the club. But aside from the last minute swoop for Rafa van der Vaart two summers ago and the bargain buying of Scott Parker from a desperate-for-cash West Ham, Levy hasn’t exactly shown any willingness to spend to match the club’s ambition. Though the free signing of Brad Friedel and the short-term solution of Adebayor up top have proven to be shrewd bits of business, the club desperately need to make a statement buy. Otherwise, can Spurs really consider themselves title challengers if we’re the only side that’s not continuously bringing in world class, young talent? I don’t think so.

For Neymar to finally move to a team in Europe, and for said team, to make him cut his hair.

neymar and his hair

hey, rufio. leave your hair in brazil once you leave for europe.

It might just be me, but I’ve grown extremely tired of the weekly Neymar transfer rumors. At this point, I’m not sure if the constant stream of “done deal” rumors to Real Madrid/Barcelona are actually true, or if it’s just an elaborate ruse by Santos to raise their asking price for the extremely talented young starlet. And if anything was learned from Barcelona wiping the floor with Santos at the Club World Cup final, it’s that Neymar needs to move on to a club where he’ll be pushed to raise the level of his game… and that clearly can’t happen in Brazil. And let’s be honest, a classier club will actually make the kid cut off his stupid rooster hair so he looks like a proper footballer.

For Blackburn Rovers owners Venkeys to finally put their manager out of his misery.

Don’t let yesterday’s upset win away at Old Trafford fool you: even a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time. Said plainly, Rovers boss Steve Keane is not a Premier League caliber manager. The rumors of his impending sacking have been circulating since at least the tail end of last season. And to be completely honest with you, I have no clue how he’s still in his job. The Ewood Park outfit have struggled in nearly every department on field this season, and the fans have stood in unison for months saying that want the poor guy out. Maybe the Venkeys think they can save themselves from the drop if they just stick it out with the same manager all season, who knows. But regardless of whether you have a shit manager or not, if you don’t end up spending a significant amount of money to bring in fresh blood this January, you are going down.

For Carlos Tévez to end up at A.C. Milan.

With the dispute between Carlitos and City having now extended an entire half of a season, the Citizens are finally ready to rid themselves of this headache permanently. And luckily, they’ve lowered their asking price enough that a few other clubs are at least considering the thought of making a move for the temperamental striker. Though Corinthians have renewed their interest, the club making the most noise about signing Tévez are the Rosaneri. So why do I want him to end up there? Well, if Carlos is signed permanently, Milan will have the undisputed craziest front line in the world: Robinho (the brat), Pato (the indifferent), Cassano (the mad hatter), Ibrahimović (the bully) and Tévez (the ego). And with Silvio Berlusconi resuming his duties as club chairman, I’m really hoping he forces Allegri to play all five of them at once.

And lastly, for Fernando Torres to keep looking like this:

sulking torres on chelsea bench

a big dose of “aww”

As a married man that has yet to have his first kid, sometimes I feel like I’m constantly feeling pressure to start making babies.

angry feyenoord baby

while i want my eventual offspring to be a fan of football, THIS type of child fan might be a bit over the top.

My high school friends are starting to have kids, as are a few from college. There must be something in the water at work, as there at minimum five pregnant ladies wandering around the office right now. And anytime I bring up my wife around any of the lot, they feel it necessary to let me know that I’m effectively “on deck”. Hell, when we got a puppy a while back, my mother-in-law told us we should have had a baby instead.

It’s not that I don’t want to have kids, I just don’t want them yet. Considering that’s it’s a tiny miracle that I’m actually able to make it to work each day on time, it would be safe to say that I’m maybe not quite mature enough for that kind of responsibility yet.

Thankfully, my lovely wife has agreed to postpone having children, for a little while at least. I convinced her it’s so we can enjoy each other’s company sans-children, take some trips, etc. However — and perhaps more importantly — by delaying having a baby, I’ll still have the energy to get up and watch early morning soccer matches each weekend. Also thankfully, my wife very rarely reads my posts.

So, imagine my surprise this morning that, while I’m reading through my normal morning blogroll, I found myself thinking I wanted to have a kid of my own.

But, not just any kid. I want this kid:

How freaking awesome is he?!?! He knows damn near every player’s name, and he’s what, 6 or 7 at the most? And not only does he know their names, but he’s genuinely having his mind blown by seeing his Spanish heroes. That’s not to mention that he’s not even Spanish: he’s actually Costa Rican! I doubt there are more than a handful of 6-year-old grommets in the entirety of the US that can name half of the USMNT players on site, let alone the players from another country.

For those concerned that the poor little guy’s hopes were crushed because most of La Furia Roja passed him by despite his ear-splitting screams (I’m sure Carlos Puyol’s ears are still ringing after he decided to quickly bypass the youngster), worry not. As this linked video shows at the 3:08 mark, he was actually able meet a few of the stars. But that wasn’t enough for this young fanatic, as he was even so bold as to pet Fernando Torres’ magnificent blonde mop!

What… a… badass!

Now, I am perfectly aware I can’t have this particular kid. I’m sure his parents would certainly balk at the idea, not to mention the whole language barrier thing that might prove a tad problematic as well. So that leaves me only to hope that my eventual child will be half as awesome as this footy-obsessed toddler.

Sadly, that’s also making a big assumption that I won’t smother him/her so much with soccer that they end up hating the sport and preferring that disgusting gridiron variety just to spite me.

the keys to the car

do you remember the first time you ever got to drive a car? i do. i remember feeling like i was a badass. “look at me, driving around with all of the other adults,” i recall thinking, despite the fact that i was just a naïve, pimply-faced 16 year old that was still struggling to control my pubescent hormones. but none of my character flaws (ADD, immortal, egotistic, etc.) mattered, because i was driving a freaking motorized vehicle like a grown up.

much like every other car-crazed 16 year old, i went flying about the streets of southwest ohio like a bat out of hell. seeing as how i was invincible at the time, i thought nothing of breaking speeding laws because i was an adult and i could handle it. blast the music and roll the windows down? sure… i could even handle four more distractions, so i’m going to pick up my friends now.

tim ream of the united states

ream took a beating last night, but also showed promise.

of course, this attitude eventually lead to trouble. six months into having a drivers license, i had rear ended two cars, a speeding ticket, and a trip to juvenile traffic court all resulted.

clearly, i was in over my head and i wasn’t ready for the responsibility of driving the car.

some might say that it’s my parents fault for giving me the keys to the car too early, as they failed to recognize that i wasn’t ready to handle the privilege of driving. but i disagree, and instead think my parents did the right thing. while i suspect they did recognize that i was probably too immature to step behind the wheel of the car aged just 16, they probably also knew that you have to let the chicks leave the nest at some point. it’s often said that learning by experience is the best way to learn, and while i often learned lessons the hard way (and still do), those early miscues eventually made me a better driver.

moral of the story: sometimes you have to let your kids to do things that they’re probably not ready for, just so they can learn a necessary lesson or two.

in last night’s gold cup tune-up against spain, USMNT coach robo-bob bradley did exactly that: he gave the keys to the car to the america’s next generation of footballers. and predictably, they crashed and burned like your average 16-year-old driver.

at this point, there’s little doubting that the americans are a nation on the rise on the international stage. we’ve had some respectable showings at recent world cups, made the final or the confederations cup, and have finally become a dominant force in our own region. but all of this success has come mainly on the backs of a core group of established veterans: donovan, dempsey, howard, onyewu, cherundulo, bocanegra, etc. and while these guys are all at or around their peak playing years, they’re all closer to the ends of their careers than the beginnings. we can’t continue to expect them to play every game from here until the end of time, so we’re going to need some young guys to step up and show they can contribute.

and honestly, what better way to test your youngsters than against the world’s indisputably best team who is looking for a bit of revenge for the defeat in the confederations cup two years ago? quite the trial by fire if you ask me.

in last night’s 0-4 drubbing, the US started nine players with less than 35 caps. of those, four were earning their fifth cap or less… two occupying spots in the american’s extremely leaky first half back line. two of the subs brought in during the second half had less 30 caps between them. so to say this was an inexperienced teamsheet tonight would be an understatement.

so with that in mind, maybe we should have expected an outcome like this. while i expected spain to come out winners, i also thought bob’s bhoys might keep the scoreline respectable. instead we received what can either be interpreted as a masterclass lesson in how not to play in the future, or a gigantic warning sign that the USMNT’s future isn’t quite as bright as we’ve quickly gotten used to during to.

for some players, last night was probably an excellent learning experience. tim ream was out worked by a physical álvaro negredo several times (especially on negredo’s off the bar chip), but i think last night’s bruises will taught the young big man an important lesson or two. and though juan agudelo didn’t live up to his hype, he showed some flashes against a very experienced and organized spanish defense. goodson showed well in the second half in the back, but was caught out for torres late ego-boosting goal. let’s just hope the fresh blood in the team took something from this moving forward, and will be better drivers moving forward for it.

robbie rogers takes on sergio ramos

rogers might not be able to cut it at this level.

unfortunately, i think this match also might have been the first nails in a few players’ coffins. jonathan spector, despite being a “veteran” with 31 caps, continued to show he can’t cut the mustard at the top of the game: he was too slow in decision making regardless of the position he played. robbie rogers again looked to be in way over his head when playing against the world’s elite. kljestan, another one of my favorite whipping boys, put in another indifferent performance. the 25 year-old would have needed to put in a massive performance to convince me to be impressed with him in the slightest. i’d like to be critical of altidore, but he rarely saw the ball… maybe because he didn’t work hard enough to find it?

either way, maybe there are some guys in bradley’s young contingent that don’t quite deserve to be the ones driving this team forward.

luckily, bob realized at half time that he needed to stop the bleeding and put in some of his big guns. the addition of dempsey, cherundolo and bradley certainly brought some calm to the side. but again, it took the addition of the old guard to make it a respectable match.

let’s be honest though too: the americans are not going to face a team like spain in the gold cup. that’s not to say that the won’t be facing any quality sides in the regional championship, but there should be enough talent in the squad to challenge the mexicans for the title, especially since bradley will have his best available for the tournament. but whether or not the young lads can shake off the ass kicking from the spanish in time for the first match against canada might be a more important thought to ponder at this point though.

who knows: maybe some of the youngsters will step up, showing they belong up here with all of the adults. but eventually, the next generation of yanks need to start carrying their weight and contributing, or all of the progress we’ve made in the last 12 years will be for nought.