Notes of an American Soccer Spectator

The saga continues…

… on my web site where new posts appear regularly.  Goodbye, tumblr.  It was fun while it lasted.

Glory Days

Later today, I’ll be driving out with my family to attend a soccer match at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead.  The Cosmos will be hosting the Tampa Bay Rowdies.  This is an important match for both teams who are at the top of the NASL table with 15 and 14 points respectively.  A draw will be barely good enough for the Cosmos who need to capitalize on this opportunity playing in front of a home crowd to take the win and the three points.

Earlier this week Bruce McGuire commented on the du Nord Futbol Show that there was no real connection between the present day Cosmos and the the Cosmos of the past.  While he respects the fact that “Cosmos v2.0” has played well enough to be in first place in the NASL, he doesn’t respect the claims of the club and the league that “Cosmos v2.0” is a continuation of the storied club of the 70s and 80s.  Additionally, “NASL v2.0” has nothing to do with the original NASL.  The sentiment expressed by the du Nord Futbol Show host is that folks should just drop all the nostalgia stuff and concentrate on playing good football now.

While I wouldn’t say that I agree with Bruce McGuire since I believe he overlooks the fact that the spirit of the Cosmos (or any other football club) is carried by the supporters and not the commercial institutions who are the custodians of physical manifestation of that spirit, I do feel uncomfortable with how the NASL and the Cosmos are selling and marketing nostalgia.  The focus on the past comes across as too insistent, almost insecure.  Perhaps it’s the lack of humility with which these new institutions lay claim to past glory that is not rightful theirs that rankles.

Tonight, the Cosmos will be honoring Shep Messing for his contributions to the club.  The implication is that the present NASL and the current Cosmos are empowered to confer honors.  And by conferring honors receive honor in return by having the historic figures of the first NASL endorse this modern incarnation.  Bruce McGuire might say that Cosmos v2.0 are not worthy of associating with Shep Messing and Pelé, not worthy of basking in past glories the present club didn’t not earn, but only purchased, but football is as much of a spectacle as it is a beautiful game.  I will arrive at Shuart Stadium with my wife and our ten year old son and we will don our Shepstaches and cheer for the goalkeeper who wore our teams colors a generation ago and we will have fun.  Whether deserved or not, the truth is that nostalgia has entertainment value.  We will be entertained.  Yes, we know that Cosmos v2.0 isn’t the original Cosmos, but nobody is being harmed here.

My guess is that by next year, we’ll all be used to seeing New York’s green and white tearing it up in the “new” NASL and we’ll be talking more about Marco Senna and Kyle Reynish than Shep Messing and Pelé.  But for now, we’ll wave our enlarged Pelé head in the supporters section and pretend that the past is ours and we’ll have a good time doing it.  After all, the past is just a story we tell ourselves.  And living is done in the moment.

Green and White and Red All Over

With the move of the EPL to NBC-SN, it appears I won’t be able to keep up with my favorite Premiership teams the way I used to.  (I don’t have access to NBC-SN and am not inclined to get cable TV just to watch the EPL.)  I have mixed feelings about not being able to watch any EPL match I want.  Last season, I really enjoyed following Liverpool and despite the fact that Stoke City continued to disappoint, I did enjoy watching those matches too.  But what real connection do I have to either of those clubs?  None really.

What’s odd is that watching an EPL match feels different than watching an MLS match.  Maybe I just like that foreignness.  That feeling that foreignness gives.  I still have access to the Scottish Premier League, so I’ve got the Celtic - Ross County match on from last Saturday.  And I’m getting that feeling.  Celtic could slot in for Liverpool.  And Celtic matches better with my new team’s colors, the green and white of the New York Cosmos.

I went with my friends to Shuart Stadium in Hempstead to watch the Cosmos take on Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the Cosmos first NASL match of the twenty-first century.  The level of play (while not dismal) left a lot to be desired.  I could write a complete analysis of the Cosmos’ performance last Saturday, but I won’t.  I’ll just say that they made a lot of mistakes.  Lots of sloppy play.  Not tight and precise.  I’ll be interested to see if this is characteristic of NASL play or just the growing pains of a new club.  How the Strikers didn’t beat the Cosmos, I don’t know.  (Well, obviously they lost by scoring fewer goals, but you know what I mean.)

While I was in Hempstead cheering on my local team, the red and white team that plays in New Jersey were in Kansas City.  I watched that match with my son yesterday.  The Metrobulls are looking more solid than they did at the beginning of the season.  Still some late game glitches, but they did manage to punish KC for every one of their errors.

Grassroots Support

Yesterday, the Cosmos announced the identity of their new shirt sponsor.  Arsenal fans will recognized the familiar imperative.  As a fan it’s difficult to get excited over such things.  I suppose it could be worse.  The Cosmos could have covered themselves in the logo of some beverage that I have no interest in.  While I was mulling the announcement over this morning, I thought that an airline for a sponsor is about as harmless as it comes.  My preference would have been a local brewing company.  Alas, my own brewery is not in any financial position to sponsor any team beyond the (perhaps) the U11 level.

I’ve been doing my bit to try to stir up interest in the Cosmos out here on Long Island.  A buddy of mine who owns a bar and who is also a soccer fan (though hockey is his mother sport) has agreed to be the home of local Cosmos supporters who want a soccer friendly environment to meet and catch away matches.  The bar is Kreators in Mt Sinai.

Amongst other quixotic ventures, I put together a web page with a calendar and a map.  The calendar will list soccer matches and the map will show where the match will be shown or played.  The idea is that if people know when a match is and where they can watch it will other soccer fans and supporters, then maybe they’ll bestir themselves to get out and watch the beautiful game and have a craft beer or two with friends at the same time.  All in the spirit of the Free Beer Movement, of course.

Le Toux!

As I sat watching the first half of the match between Philly and KC, I wondered if my spectator luck had changed.  For the last month I’ve felt like I’ve cursed the teams that I’ve chosen to root for.  Very rarely does a team I want to win actually accomplish the task.  Philadelphia came out of the gate strong and pressed KC who didn’t appear to be prepared for this match.  Le Toux scored an early goal to put Philly on top, but when offered a second chance scuffed the ball just wide of goal on what looked to be an easy goal.  Is there such a thing?

I had an odd thought while watching the match.  Perhaps I could be a Philadelphia fan.  They have a French striker and I have a better chance of catching their matches live than the red drink team in New Jersey.  MLS Live blacks out the beverage team, and, as I said earlier, Philadelphia isn’t much further away.  Philly is local-ish.  They could be my TV team.  Like Stoke.

Opening Day

It’s halftime in the Stoke, West Ham match as I write this and even though the match is being broadcast live I have the strange feeling I’ve seen this game before, except the last time it was in Fulham and it was Berbatov who scored just at the stroke of 45.  What does it matter if Stoke wins?  I still get the experience of watching football, even if the quality is lacking.  And what concerns me most is why Geoff Cameron isn’t on the field and why Brek Shea isn’t starting yet.  Come on you boys in red and white, send in the Yanks!

Really, I’m just passing the time.  Taking a break in an other productive morning.  Perhaps, the Stoke result doesn’t matter so much because I’m comforted by the thought that the MLS resumes today.  And we the return of the MLS sides to action, the significance of the Premier League contests will diminish.

To celebrate the MLS’s return, I’ll settle in this afternoon with the match between Philly and KC.  I’ll root for Philly even though I’m certain my choice is dooming them to an opening day, on the road loss against the former Wizards.  Philly is almost a local team.  PPL Park is only a few miles further away than RB Arena from my sound-side bungalow.  And now that Sebastian Le Toux has returned to the blue and gold, I’ll have more reason to cheer.  Le Toux was wasted at New York last season.  And I think it was through no fault of his own.  He’s a better player than he was when he was with New York.

Then tomorrow, New York will take on the Timbers of Portland.  My only source for optimism is the thought that the Timbers are just as unprepared as the boys of the drink.

Stoke and West Ham are taking the field for the second half.  Changes?

Wide Canvas

Yesterday it was like Christmas.  Both new issues of Howler and XI arrived yesterday.  Literary magazines that I read every single word.  Howler is a work of art.  Big, expansive.  A wide canvas.  Pictures, drawings.  Good writing.  XI is compact like the Paris Review.  It’s the Paris Review of football.

I suffered from a soccer hangover yesterday.  Instead if the Champions League, or MLS pre-season matches, I read.  Today, I think I’ll be able to watch a match.  Liverpool v. Zenit.  Zenit is a club based in Russia, in Saint Petersburg.  Founded in 1925, FC Zenit is a comparative newcomer to modern football.  I know nothing else about them and don’t know what to expect.  The stories in the news focus on racism, a particular problem in Russia (why?).  One headline: “…the racism of radical Zenit St Petersburg supporters…”

Football provides a forum for talking about taboo subjects.  A line from David Winner’s book, Brilliant Orange.

Stoked for Shea

Last March (or was it the end of February?) I spent the afternoon in a pub in Boston watching the US play Italy in a friendly.  This is the way I remember it: Shea comes on in the second half and gets out wide on the left side and tries for a moment of magic.  With his toe he flips the ball over the head of the defender and darts inside toward the goal.  That’s when Franz (who bleeds Arsenal red) nudged me in the ribs and said, “I hope Arsenal gets Shea.”

Before that moment, I hadn’t thought about Brek Shea beyond noting that he could probably do with a new hair stylist.  But ever since that match last winter when the US beat Italy and Shea attempted his audacious trick, I’ve paid attention.  When Shea became the hero at Azteca in the summer, he looked like a young player on the rise, one who was going to be with the national team for a couple more World Cup cycles.

But his time at FC Dallas last season was marked by injury and bench warming.  So when I heard that Shea was set to move to Stoke City to join his US international teammate Geoff Cameron, I felt immediately optimistic.

Today, Stoke City host Reading at the Britannia.  The kick-off is in about fifteen minutes.  It’s possible that Brek Shea will make his Stoke City debut.  If he does, and if he does well, then my inexplicable affection for the men in red and white stripes might just be taken past the no turning back mark.

"Who do you support?" asked Derek.  I understood from the context of our chat that he was asking which Premiership side I supported.

"I haven’t really decided," I said.  "The brain is bad about these things.  Ultimately, it’s the heart that decides.  Stoke City wasn’t even on my short list of teams when I started following the EPL, but somehow, I find myself wanting them to win even though they don’t most often.  What’s worse is that I prefer to watch teams like Arsenal and Liverpool.  But when Stoke plays these sides that play a style of football more attractive to me, my heart is win Stoke.  If that makes me a Stoke supporter, then so be it."

However, given the release of the findings of Europol’s Operation Veto, how could I ever don the jersey of a side that advertises online betting?  More about that in a future post.  Time to turn on the match.

The New York Cosmos announced today the acquisition of Spanish midfielder Ayoze as the team’s fifth signing this off-season. Ayoze, 27, is a left-sided midfielder/winger who joins the Cosmos from Sporting Gijón where he had played since 2010.

The New York Cosmos announced today the acquisition of Spanish midfielder Ayoze as the team’s fifth signing this off-season. Ayoze, 27, is a left-sided midfielder/winger who joins the Cosmos from Sporting Gijón where he had played since 2010.

The New York Cosmos announced today that Carlos Llamosa has joined the club as an assistant coach.

The New York Cosmos announced today that Carlos Llamosa has joined the club as an assistant coach.