I hate Mexican referees

USA 1-2 England

Kieran Richardson - 4'
Kieran Richardson - 43'
Clint Dempsey - 79'

United States: Kasey Keller -- Greg Vanney, Eddie Pope (Carlos Bocanegra 73), Cory Gibbs, Steve Cherundolo -- Clint Dempsey (Clyde Simms 90), Kerry Zavagnin, Landon Donovan, Brian Rolston -- Brian McBride (Conor Casey 82), Josh Wolff.

Subs not used: Marcus Hannehman, Bobby Convey, Gregg Berhalter, Jonathan Spector

England: David James -- Ashley Cole, Wes Brown, Sol Campbell (Zatiyah Knight 45), Glen Johnson -- Kieron Richardson (Phil Neville 59), Michael Carrick, Joe Cole (Jermaine Defoe 63), Jermaine Jenas -- Andy Johnson (Luke Young 76), Alan Smith

Well, I write this having got off a plane from Chicago several hours ago, and man, and am I fucking tired. But, since I'll forget everything if I don't do this now, I do this now. First off, Chicago is a neat town. It's no New York or anything, but it's nice enough. I flew in, spent the night in the hotel bar with some of the England travelling support (who do not deserve their reputation...they were brilliant) talking shit, and then the game was today. Or yesterday. Fuck's sake, it feels like it was a month ago, actually. So tired.

Right, so we know it was England's B-minus Team, as pretty much everyone in the world pulled out, followed by the late setbacks for Shaun Wright-Phillips and Stewart Downing. However, this was essentially a B-plus Team for the USA, with no DaMarcus Beasley, no Eddie Johnson, no John O'Brien (he's been out forever, but we really miss him all the same). So, while the result wasn't going to do much for either team, it was at least an exercise in seeing how much strength in depth we have, if any.

With the 9 million England fans running around the Windy City, and with it being Memorial Day weekend, it had a kind of carnival atmosphere (except now I've had the "Eng-ger-land, Eng-ger-land, Eng-ger-laaaaaaaand" chant stuck in my head for hours. Bollocks). With great anticipation from all, they kicked off, and we got set for a great game.

Too bad England scored in the fourth fucking minute.

Before I get into that, a word about the referee. This ALWAYS fucking happens to us...we get a referee from Mexico or Central America, and they don't even make a fucking pretense of anything other than the fact that they're going to fuck us for 90 minutes. Seriously, we don't even get dinner and a movie beforehand, and it really irks me that nothing is ever done about it. Now, please do not get me wrong. I'm not saying that as a racist thing or anything else like that. My violent hatred for Mexico is only there for soccer-related things. It's not exactly a secret that they don't like us very much, and I honestly feel that referees from there do whatever they can (within the Laws, to be fair, but that does give more leeway than you think) to assist the other team. It's really cunty and I fucking hate it, but what can you do? That is, other than to say in capital letters, BENITO ARCHUNDIA TELLEZ, YOU ARE A FUCKING CUNT. YOU'RE A SHIT REFEREE, A DISGRACE TO YOUR PROFESSION, AND I HOPE YOU GET FUCKING GONHORREA OF THE FACE, YOU FUCKING TWAT.

There. That feels better.

Anyway, Andy Johnson has picked up for himself somewhat of a reputation of being a diver and a cheat, and he sure did cement that in this game. For a guy his size to be taking pratfalls all over the place is just ludicrous. But, he convinces Premiership referees...not just corrupt Mexican ones, either. Anyway, his lovely dive won England a dangerous free kick. I had a bad feeling about it, even though I thought it odd that Kieron Richardson (making his Eng-ger-land debut) was going to take it. He struck the ball, and within 0.3 seconds, I knew it was going in. Kasey Keller had absolutely no prayer of stopping it -- it really was beautiful free kick, curled over the wall and into the top corner. The England fans went suitably batshit, and really started having fun afterwards. It didn't help that we responded by playing like complete shit for the next 10 or 15 minutes. The English then started singing "Are you Scotland in disguise?" at us, which is just mean. Some of it had to do with our odd new dark-blue kits, of course, but it was mainly because we weren't putting up much of a fight. It should be mentioned though that Alan Smith tried to eviscerate Clint Dempsey's legs (from behind no less), and that corrupt fuckstick in yellow didn't even call a foul, let alone send him the fuck off. Just saying. A few minutes later, England were a little unfortunate to not be 2-0 up. Joe Cole sent a high shot screaming towards the corner, but Keller did exceptionally well to get across and get two strong hands on it. Just a great, great save that maybe prevented this from becoming a rout.

That said, we started to string some passes together finally, and generally pulled ourselves back into it. Before the game, I mentioned to my roommate that David James' nickname was Calamity. Man, did he ever live up to that...he was just awful. The US won a free kick in what didn't seem all that dangerous of an area. Landon Donovan's shot was a beauty though, wickedly curling in on goal. James was caught completely off-guard, flapped wildly at it, and missed completely. Unfortunately, it hit the post and went out. Fuck. If that went in, it's a whole different game at 1-1. That said, I'm reading the Soccernet live commentary to jar my memory (it's 2:11 AM, I'm tired), and we really did have a better first half than I thought we did. Kerry Zavagnin blazed a long shot juuuuuust over the crossbar, and Donovan had a shot go wide of the post that he probably should have done better with. For the other mob's part, Alan Smith probably should have scored (it was like an inverse instant replay of Donovan's miss) as well. Josh Wolff had a few bright moments, but he so often gave the ball away, or failed to produce a good cross, or sent his shot in the 40th row...it's maddening, because he does have a degree of skill. He's just not consistent enough to be worth it at the international level.

Late on in the half, Calamity James was caught flapping again, this time at a cross, but unfortunately the US couldn't capitalize. Even more unfortunately, England didn't fail when the next chance came their way. Eddie Pope today was, to use an English turn of phrase, absolute fucking gash. Seriously, I'm a fan of the guy, I appreciate everything he's done for the US National Team, but you just can't defend well when you have a giant fork sticking out of your back. The dude is just done as an international-level center-half. Anyway, his error allowed Joe Cole in to the penalty area. He probably could have scored himself if he wanted to, but he opted for the sure thing, that being the wide-open Richardson. Keller had no chance as the young Manshit United player cooly side-footed home.

Well, fuck. Twice.

At that point, I thought we were going to get killed. Despite creating some decent chances and the decent play of Gibbs and the two wingbacks, I just thought that England were going to build off that momentum, and then hit us on the break once or twice as we threw people forward. For most of the second half, we did throw lots of people forward...but, it ended up being to great effect as the second 45 belonged entirely to the guys who all of a sudden didn't look like fucking Scotland in fucking disguise. Whatever Bruce Arena said at the interval worked.

Much like the first half, the second started brightly as well. Greg Vanney didn't miss by much on a volley attempt, but Joe Cole missed by rather more up the other end. Brian McBride caused a few problems, but Zat Knight (in for Sol Campbell) was equal to the task. Actually, he had a pretty damn good game back there for England, and maybe deserves a longer look against Colombia. Later on, Wolff missed another 75 clear chances, while Cole sent an effort up into orbit. England created a better chance with Jenas setting up Johnson, but the striker was at a tough angle. The best he could do was go for the short side and hope to catch Keller leaning the other way, but Kasey ended up saving it pretty easily. They had a few more half-chances, but the end of that came when the astoudingly-awful Pope came off for Bocanegra, who should have been out on the pitch in the first fucking place.

I said to my roommate at around that point that if things kept going the way they were, we had to score sometime. And, sure enough, we pulled one back thanks to some unlikely sources. Donovan sent a free kick into the area, and Bocanegra did exceptionally-well to get on the end of it with a sort of flying kung-fu Jet Li toe-poke. James was positioned well, and I should qualify my earlier statement about him by saying that he's a fantastic athlete, and a fine shot-stopper (my theory is that his problems are more mental than anything else). Anyway, James saved with his legs, but Clint Dempsey was there to tuck home the rebound. It not only gave us something to finally cheer about, but it also seemed to liven up the team as well as the crowd. England didn't see much of the ball after that, and even the England funs finally shut the fuck up for 3 seconds. :)

Unfortunately, we didn't really seriously threaten the England goal again. Some of that may have to do with the head-scratching substitution of Conor Casey for McBride. Maybe McBride was just exhausted, but still, there has to be a better option than Casey (who is gash and shit at the same time). With Wolff and Casey up top, we just weren't scoring.

So, 2-1 to England, but I think the result is more than a bit harsh, especially factoring in the domination of the entire second half by our boys. Still, if we win our next two games (against Costa Rica and Panama in qualifiers), then I'll take losing a B-friendly to England.

Sleep. Now.


The FA Cup Final

Thank you, Arsenal Football Club.

I write this having come off one of the worst weeks I've had to endure in quite a long time...mainly job-related stress, but anyway. For 120 agonizing minutes, it seemed like the misery would continue as the black-clad Dark Side of the Force attacked the Arsenal goal in waves, always seemingly inches away from driving the dagger into our hearts once again. But, there was a light at the end of the tunnel after all, and who knows? Maybe there's a light at the end of my tunnel, too. It sounds like lunacy to draw hope from a football match, but there you go. Anyway, the teams:

The FA Cup Champions: Jens Lehmann -- Ashley Cole, Philippe Senderos, Kolo Abib Toure, Lauren Bisan-Etane -- Robert Pires (Edu 105), Gilberto Silva, Patrick Vieira, Francesc Fabregas Soler (Fredrik Ljungberg 65) -- Jose Antonio Reyes (sent off 120), Dennis Bergkamp (Robin van Persie 86)

The Evil Sithlords: Roy Carroll -- John O'Shea (Quinton Fortune 77), Mikael Silvestre, Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown -- Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane, Darren Fletcher (Ryan Giggs 91) -- Wayne Rooney, Ruud van Nistelroy

Right from the opening kickoff, this was a crackling, blood-and-thunder encounter. And, let's be honest...this was always going to be the first decent FA Cup Final for a few years (probably back to the Arsenal-Chelsea one), and one of the few good ones of the last 8-9 years or so. It's usually odd to have a final populated with the likes of Southampton or Millwall or even Newcastle (did anyone ever think they were going to win those games?). Oddly enough though, it was mostly clean in the early going. We all expected the stormtroopers in black to make a few "message" challenges early on, but that didn't quite materialize. Actually, that was probably a major reason why Arsenal's brightest spell of possession came in the first 15-20 minutes or so. Somewhere around there, the guys that looked like a team of referees stepped up a gear defensively, and Arsenal rarely saw the ball again, let alone a decent chance at goal.

We have to be honest with ourselves, there. United dominated the game, and were unbelievably effective at controlling the midfield. Their back four, though a bit makeshift with Wes Brown out of position on the right, put up quite a forcefield around their penalty area. It's no secret that we were missing Thierry Henry, of course. It isn't just his finishing or his runs that make him (and therefore make us) more dangerous. When he's on the field, he often draws two and even three defenders towards him when he makes a foray into the box. The resulting open space is the exact reason why we score so many goals off of tap-ins from slide-rule passes. It's really not rocket science when you think about it. Anyway, Dennis Bergkamp and Jose Antonio Reyes never really got going, and never really looked like they would cause United any significant problems in the back. Also, while you can't ask an 18-year old kid to take an FA Cup Final by the throat, Cesc Fabregas was essentially invisible out on the right flank. Sure, it's not his natural position, but he never put any pressure on John O'Shea (even when Ronaldo was all the way down the field after one of his bombing runs). That was the one thing I wish Arsene Wenger had done differently - line up Pires on the right, start Reyes on the left flank, and play van Persie up top to begin with. Pires wasn't exactly himself either, but I think you can trace that to Henry's absence. They have such a wonderful understanding and chemistry, Pires just has less to work with when someone else is out there.

For our esteemed opponents, Rooney and Ronaldo were brilliant. I wish I didn't have to say it, but they ran us completely ragged at times, and very often looked like scoring (or assisting in Ronaldo's case). Without them, there's no way they outshoot us 23-5. But, and this is the key point in the match, Arsenal's defense held firm and limited the damage that they might have otherwise caused. Yes, they had 23 shots at goal. I say "at" goal because many went wide or right at Lehmann due to some timely pressuring and closing down from our backline. Senderos in particular (outside of one glaring error that almost lost us the game) showed that he really was the heart of the defense today. Ashley Cole was brilliant in shadowing Rooney, but Senderos was even more vital in cleaning up many of United's most dangerous runs and chances. That said, all the credit in the world has to go to Jens Lehmann. He took a lot of shit from us supporters earlier in the season, and some of it was even warranted. But, United easily win this game if Lehmann wasn't on absolute top form. Yes, he flapped at a few crosses, but I'll take that when it comes with the wonderful reaction saves he made otherwise.

Seconds and minutes went on, fingernails were chewed off (literally, in my case), and nerves were unsettled. We can't keep holding out against this onslaught, surely? Well, it helped that van Nistelrooy wasn't the same player he's been in the last few years. Maybe it's the season ravaged by injury, maybe it's the fact that his one-dimensional play becomes more glaring as he gets older. I don't know. I'll take it, whatever it is, though.

Extra time, then, and I was almost numb at that point. Well, I alternated between that and not being able to watch at times. I had the match Tivoed because I didn't wake up until noon, so I even fast-forwarded past one or two of United's late free kicks...I just couldn't bear it. But, as the legs got tired and spaces started to open up, our back five stayed the course and heroically got us through the first half of extra time. After the restart, Arsenal got a ninth wind, it seemed. The pendulum started to swing the other way, and a we finally started to create a few half chances. Somewhere in here, Roy Carroll made a strong save off a van Persie free kick. I'll tell you what, though. Next year or the one after, those are going to go in all the time. ALL the time. As things wound to a close, Reyes got himself stupidly sent off, after Rob Styles had specifically warned him not to make another silly challenge (and had let him off the hook once in extra time!). Way to go, jackass. What if we had needed him to take a penalty, especially if it was tied after five? Despite his upswing in form at the end of the season, I still would LOVE to see Reyes go. He's a good player, but he's eminently replaceable.

By the way, since I'm on the subject, a word about Rob Styles. Whatever his reputation was before the match, he really showed me a lot today. He kept the match under control, he issued cautions at the right times and held off also at the right times. He correctly didn't give a penalty (once for each team) on accidental handballs in the area. Whoever the fuckstick was that was calling the game for Sky really needs the "intentional handling" chapter of the Laws of the Game tattooed across his fucking forehead backwards so that he can be reminded of it every morning when he looks in the mirror. Idiot. Actually, that reminds me. Did we really need two Manchester United cheerleaders in the commentary box AND two more in the studio? Fuck's sake, it was more than I could take at times. But, I digress. Getting back to my original point, Styles had a fantastic game, and I think he's elevated himself in my opinion to the class of referees that I think are the best in England: Graham Poll, Steven Bennett, and now Styles. I hope he gets more high-profile matches next season, as he's definitely earned it.

So, on to penalties. You know, even when they go our way, I consider this the worst way to end a contest in all of professional sports. I understand that the demands of the modern game (read as: television and PPV) make them somewhat of a necessity, but it's one that I liken to, say, going to work. Necessary but unfortunate. Anyway, Alex Ferguson seemed to toy with the idea of putting Tim Howard in goal for the shootout, and to be honest, I think he made a huge mistake by not doing so. Carroll didn't do much wrong in the shootout, and the Arsenal players took such high-quality penalties that it probably wouldn't have mattered. But, at the time, I almost surely would have done it if I were them (actually, I'd have had Howard starting in the first place, but that's neither here nor there). Howard is an amazing athlete, and I've seen him save penalties live and in person. But, as I said, our penalty takers were just off-the-charts good. Anyway, let's recreate the drama and go through them all...

- van Nistelrooy stepped up first, and I knew the bastard was going to score. Sure enough, he struck his penalty very well, and Lehmann guessed wrong anyway. 1-0 Evil

- Lauren, cooler than James Bond in a singles bar, places into the top corner. 1-1

- Scholes goes for power rather than location, which generally isn't the best of ideas. Lehmann guesses right, and actually ends up making a pretty easy save out of it. My neighbors wonder what all the yelling is about. 1-1

- Ljungberg utilizes the "cheeky, half-hit effort right down the middle" ploy. You know, that one works way more often than it should...not complaining, though. 2-1 Good

- Ronaldo starts, then stops, then starts again. Lehmann guesses wrong, but I thought that kind of run-up was illegal. 2-2

- Robin van Persie, you are my fucking idol. He hammers his shot into the top corner, and no keeper on earth is saving that one. 3-2 Good

- Rooney easily scores with a powerful effort. After diving to his right to save Scholes' shot, Lehmann dives the other way twice, and guesses wrong both times. Penalties really are a chess match in that sense. 3-3

- Ashley Cole finds room high to Roy Carroll's right, as the troll-man starts to dive the other way, then tries to come back, but ends up standing and watching it nestle into the net. 4-3 Good

- We win if Keane misses, but he simply side-foots it into the same corner that Lehmann had just dived at twice before. You have to give it to him...that was pretty cool under pressure. 4-4

- We win if Vieira scores, and fuck's sake did Carroll ever come close. Come to think of it, Howard would probably have saved this one if he guessed right. But, it found its way past Carroll and into to the net. My neighbors wonder what all the screaming is about. 5-4 Good

So, there you go. Good season, guys. We'll reconvene in a few months and do it all again...but, in the meantime, I'll still be around to update on the US National team, and maybe the Metrostars as well. There will definitely be a report of how we kicked England's ass in Chicago once I get back from my trip. Until then, take it easy, ladies and gents.


The relegation fight

West fucking Brom? Really?

Fuck's sake...did the WORST fucking team out of the four have to stay up?

I think this clinches Bryan Robson as Manager of the Year. I don't think I could keep West Brom up in Championship Manager, and I've just got finished taking Arsenal to their second straight Treble!



The worst thing is that I still have not seen highlights or anything of that game.

Either way, you can offically say that we have Everton's number, yeah? 11-0 on aggregate this season? I'd like to see the Blue, Red or White Scum accomplish that against anyone...the simple truth is that at if you take everyone in the EPL and put them on absolute top form, nobody is in our league. NOBODY. Unfortunately, the Blue Scum were more consistent than anyone this season, which is why the won the title.

It's cool, though. Next season is going to be a big surprise for them, I think.

Hmmm...maybe I should try for ten hours of sleep before the next game?


The last two games

I'm having one of those awful periods where work and other stuff have combined to completely drain most of my will to do anything extraneous. Unfortunately, this can be counted in that category.

That said, the Arsenal have played very well over the last two matches...and have been defensively brilliant while doing so (the one goal conceded coming off an unlucky deflection). Give West Brom credit...they came to play, and they made it really difficult on us for a while. It's even more evident when they went into Old Trafford and got a point out of them. Perhaps if they had given that kid goalkeeper a shot earlier this season, there wouldn't be a relegation dogfight...he has the look of a real talent, that one.

Anyway, congratulations to Everton for ensuring that the Scousers won't be in the Champions League (look people, they're not beating Milan...really now)...and good luck to Norwich and Crystal Palace in their relegation struggle. I'll be happy if either one of them stays up.

Now, off to see if I can get *gasp* SEVEN whole hours of sleep!

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