pantagruelfool II

Thursday, September 14, 2006
Well, my last post exulted at the M's at .500 and wondered if their recent rise was exclusively due to the mediocrity of the NL West. It was. Beltre returned to being hacktastic, their starting pitching no longer was pitching to AAAA talent, and as for the rest, bleech. Now, getting to .500 is very unlikely, but at least so is a 90+ loss season. I wasn't wrong about LAAA or Texas, so I got that going for me. The entire coaching staff is gone in another 2 - 3 weeks, with the GM a 50/50 proposition. But Bavasi probably gets one more off season to get it right. I think Ichiro has gone about 2 for 100 with runners in scoring position over the last couple of months, and other than the return of Snelling and Ibanez's career year, hoo boy, what a yawner. Still, will have attended a good dozen games this year, and other than last Monday's snooze fest (how can a 2 1/2 hour game seem 6 hours long?) I have enjoyed them all.

Better than the Hawks game we attended a couple of weeks ago (their last preseason game - hey $350 tickets for free - like I am not going...), in which parking/traffic was horrific and the constant 125 decibels blaring was very disturbing to my poor aging ear drums. Incidently, the Raiders are horrible, a lack of talent, coaching, and desire should add up to a 1-15 season unless some kind of miracle occurs in the next few weeks. But I did get a really cool Hawks hat at the stadium, so all was not lost. I do think weekday games for the Hawks should be banned, the combination of regular awful commuting traffic in downtown Seattle with another 20,000 cars thrown in the mix is a recipe for total gridlock. And it was achieved! Yikes!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006
The Mariners are at .500!!!! Hoo Wee! I haven't posted on them for awhile, but this is truly great news, and makes the remainder of the season that much more intriguing. The reason for this latest upsurge is very simple: The NL West. The Mariners OWN them. If we could bribe Colorado into exchanging schedules and leagues for the remainder of this year, I would think a playoff berth would be a slam dunk. Alas...

The big deal is simply that the team is really hitting right now, the Beltre move to the #2 slot has been excellent, Ichiro! has recovered his golden stroke, and the black holes in the lineup have disappeared for the most part. Whether this is due to the mediocrity of the NL West pitching staffs or something truly has changed only time will tell, but I would like to think we could keep it up even after the cross-league games end.

Can they make the playoffs? Only if they win the division, and that is actually possible. Anaheim is 2004 Mariner dreadful, so we can ignore them, Texas has the wonders of August and September in Dallas to look forward to, which leaves Oakland, a team/city that always seems to frustrate us. Their starting pitching may be somewhat better, their bullpen is not any better, and, frankly our hitting should be better.

At his point 90 wins probably guarantees you the AL West, but it may only take 88 wins, and that is not out of the question for the M's. I look forward to an intriguing September, the first one in a couple of years.

Saturday, June 24, 2006
Are the Seattle Times and PI having financial problems? Well, we all know that the PI is on death row, but I bring this up because both papers' World Cup coverage is non-existent. Given that Seattle is considered a bit of a hotspot for soccer, it is amazing to me that neither paper has sent any reporter/columnist over to cover the events. So, get your World Cup coverage off the net folks, because the local papers are not even bothering. Well, the London Times is covering it pretty thoroughly, so who needs Steve Kelley's dunderheadedness anyway?

Thursday, June 22, 2006
USA out of the World Cup in the first round. The good news is that the US is not the BIGGEST disappointment of the round robin tourney, The Czech Republic is. Whew, we're #2! I guess that 0-0 tie with Morocco just prior to the WC was a better indicator of the quality of this team than anyone really wanted to admit. Soooo.....

Should Arena be fired? How can you not? The team was not prepared to play the Czechs, getting thoroughly depantsed by a team that lost to everyone else, looked out of shape and undersubstituted in the Italy game, and decided to play Ghana for the 0-0 tie. I guess.

Why start a 4-5-1 if you weren't planning on playing a defensive game? That made no sense, Ghana's strength was their offense, so it would seem obvious that you would need to score a good 3 goals to be assured of defeating them. So where was the offense? Landon Donovan reminded everyone of why he washed out of the English Premier League, and Reyna was outclassed by every midfield we played in the tournament.

I understand our talent is not exactly Argentinian, but I would have have liked to see Arena put out the most aggressive offensive team he possibly have could for this game, especially since Pope and Mestriano were on the sidelines so the likelihood of keeping Ghana off the board was not very strong.

I'll watch in slow mo tonight, but I do think the fact that the US team did not put together very many quality offensive chances throughout 270+ minutes of play does relate to the coaching. Better us than the Czechs, a nation on the verge of collective suicide probably right about now, but, we can't do better than the Aussies? Yi yi yi.

There is 2010 to look forward to, but at some point if we can't start dominating our pre-Cup games (given the real weak group we play in) we might as well get used to mediocre Cup play. We just aren't very good right now. If you can't beat Morocco 5-0 in a tune up for WC play, maybe you can't be surprised that you go 0-3 with a whopping one true goal scored (the other was an own goal).

Monday, June 19, 2006
Oops, I meant any of these teams getting PAST the round of 16. Sorry. Incidently, the NHL and the NBA are still playing. Good golly, time to put those seasons out of our misery. Both playoffs for those leagues should have been over by mid-May at the latest. I though they were WINTER sports. If your winter sports league is still going by the MLB All-Star game your season is too bloody long!!

I am convinced that I often see different games than the ones sportwriters see. I recall numerous Sounders (Seattle soccer) games from the 70's and early 80's that the PI/Times reporters and the games I saw existed in different dimensions. I finally decided that these journalism school graduates had played about three intramural soccer games and seen about 4 others before given the (distasteful) task of covering Sounders games, so they just ended up writing the usual sports game coverage, a list of three highlights and quotes from the managers and three other players. Which brings us to...

The US-Italy World Cup game. The US coverage has been virtually over the top, extolling the US squad for one the greatest games in history against THE soccer power in the world. Keep in mind that the US did not score (an own goal by Italy was the point for the US), the game was a foul fest in which the red cards were mainly deserved and the last 30 minutes of the game both teams looked like they were playing in the La Brea tar pits. It was not a great game, and Italy is not the team it was back in the 80's.

I believe that the original seeding for this Group was something like Czech Rep., USA, Italy, and Ghana. We are now looking at a situation in which Ghana and Italy advance (Italy merely needs another draw to guarantee that), while the supposedly "better" teams go home. Keep in mind the FIFA rankings had USA at #5 and Italy at #13. So tying a team lower ranked than you and playing on a neutral field is a gigantic triumph???? What will we say if Ghana (#48) does to the US what they did to the Czechs? The US will be missing two of their best players, and defensive stalwarts at that. Can we maybe score a goal this time? Pretty please?

We could kvetch about the groups, no other group had three out of the four teams ranked in the top 20, but I think most of that could be blamed on Italy, and I think FIFA correctly understood that the Czechs and USA were WAY over rated in FIFA's own standings. After all, how many commentators give any team from that group any chance of getting into the final 16? Maybe the Czechs prior to that disaster against Ghana, now I think all of us could agree that the final 16 is very unlikely to have a team from Group G.

The fact is the Italy-USA match was not prettily played by either team, indeed, my point about two mediocre teams squaring off in a mediocre match is inarguable at this point. Oh yeah, I did see that one goal by Argentina last week, four absolutely perfect passes leading to a pretty-as-you-please 5 yarder into the net. Maybe the most splendid goal I have ever seen from a team perspective. Wow.

Saturday, June 17, 2006
We are playing the last five minutes inside the US box, and the ref has pretty much swallowed his whistle. Something the ref should have done about 85 minutes ago... Ends in a draw, and let's face it, the last 30 minutes of this game was virtually unwatchable. But, the US gets a point, leaving them 4th in their division.

What has to happen? They must beat Ghana and Italy must beat the Czech Republic. Anything else puts them in 4th and on the airplane home. Possible? Sure. Likely? A little less so.


Refereeing: F

US offense: C+. Some better opportunities, but still no goals for the tournament (today's goal was scored by Italy). Still looks very befuddled around the top of the box.

US defense: Substantially better, but Italy was very content with their one goal, and, frankly, is not that good of an offensive team anyway.

Italy offense: You are going to beat a Brazil with that? Hahahahahahahaha.

Italy defense: Not the shutdown stuff we have seen in past World Cups.

Frankly this was two mediocre World Cup teams going at each other with truly an abysmal referee. Not exactly highlight reel stuff. One of these teams will make the round of 16 (maybe both) but go no further.

Well, Mariner time, see ya.

55:00 Italy is really dominating the time of possession right now, but a nice turnover by the US, and then a weak shot by Reyna. Roles to a large extent have reversed, with Italy controlling at the US counterattacking. Goal by Beazley disallowed for an offsides, Beazley in for the obvious offensive reasons...

71:00 A little sloppy right now, teams are probably getting a little tired. See a lot of jogging. Real nice save by Keller, one handing it away.

I think the field has become very muddy and or tar like. The filming is in slow motion? Oh, yeah, maybe just 19 players really dead on their feet.

46:00 What was I saying about 5 on 5? Pope off with his second yellow. Yikes! Must be an NBA ref....

Italy really going for the full dives at this point, Convey out, Conrad in, primarily to replace Pope. Italy getting a lot of play right now, gee being a man up and all. I would think that Arena is going to have to sub some offensive players in at about the 70 minute mark if it is still tied. The US cannot afford a tie.

44:00 Another red card, this time on the US, really disappointing because the passing by US had been much crisper over the last 5 minutes or so. 10 on 10, and given the number of fouls being committed/called could five on five by the 90 minute mark...

1 to 1 at the half, second half both teams to be shorthanded. I still think Italy is comfortable with a tie, and the US cannot be sanguine. But, if Italy goes to the 9-men-in-the-box for the entire second half, the US can steal this. Practice is a good thing.

Crap, customers so I miss the US tying goal! Good lord, an own-goal???? And then a red card! Holy Smokes, is Italy TRYING to lose this thing? A new game now, and the US with the man advantage has got all the breaks going their way. Miracles can happen? Oh yeah, that phrase has been used before, sorry.

Italy is really going in to a shell now, quick two pass counterattacks and otherwise let the US play around in mid field.

15:00 Direct kick by US two yards out of the box, blocked by the wall, corner ineffective, but the following throw in leads to a bad shot by Convey over the goal. Good try, and US definitely having most of the play. But the US is consistently shooting, Italy may be playing a bit too conservatively. Give anyone enough shots and they can score.

It still looks like the midfielders and forwards aren't really sure where each other is going to be, and thus a lot of "final" passes seem to be really poor efforts.

Goal!!! Catastrophe for the US! A quick direct kick on the right side of the box, header for a goal.

7:00 Another bit of worthless passing in mid-field ending up back to Keller. Gol, I hate that. Landon falls down for no good reason. Onyewu is looking to foul out...

Not too surprisingly Italy allowing US to get most of the play, contenting themselves with quick counterattacks.

3:00 A bit of running around so far, an early free kick for Italy goes the other way. A deep throw in fro the US is not very good. Lots of grabbing and clutching early, and an early yellow on Lotti for such. Foul fest today?

Ghana totally destroys the Czech Republic, does this guarantee the US finishes fourth in their group? I think so, but I will do a bit of blogging of the Italy-US game, depending on how work and lunch goes here.

Pre-game: Arena makes a couple of changes, benching Beazley, doh!, and adding a player (Bocanegra) that might actually play defense on the left wing.
Pregame thoughts: Italy will probably play their usual defensive game with effective counterattacking, US will actually have to get their midfielders to funnel plays to the forwards to get some strong chances. He who scores first, wins? That would be the template...

Lalas picks the US for the upset? Sure, what else would he do? Based on Italy beating Ghana, Ghana beating the Czechs, Czechs beating the US, an Italy win 5 - zip? Not on US tv he won't be.

Thursday, June 15, 2006
First day and one game done, and the US World Cup foray is kaput. Admittedly, they still have two games to play in their round robin, but, for all intents and purposes, it is OVAH! At this point I would give their chances of moving on to the next round at less that 20% for the simple reason that a draw with Italy is the equivalent of a defeat. A draw guarantees Italy's advancement, thus the US must win two to advance as I must presume the likelihood of the Czech's losing to both Ghana and Italy as pretty much nil, therefore the win-out scenario.

The weird part is this: A win on Saturday bumps their chances of advancing to around 75+%.

But if Italy scores first on Saturday, go ahead and leave, beat the traffic and maybe you can actually be on the airplane by the time the game ends. Italy may be mediocre overall, but then so is the US, and Italy can play defense exceptionally well. But when you lose by the equivalent of 38-3 (in American football parlance) what else do you expect? At least after Saturday, the homer announcers can shut up about this team being "The best USA team ever", and we can move along to just watching some damn good futbol.

That damn 0-5 goal differential is just going to kill them no matter what happens. Gah!