How Beckham Blew It
July 1, 2009 12:16 PM   Subscribe

"I'm not going to spend the next three years of my life doing it this way. This is f------ miserable. I don't want to have soccer be this way." Landon Donovan , center midfielder for the USA soccer team which recently lost to Brasil 3-2 in the USA's first FIFA final, talks about playing with David Beckham in an excerpt from Grant Wahl's forthcoming book 'The Beckham Experiment'.
posted by dig_duggler (84 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Center midfielders are such drama queens.
posted by spicynuts at 12:20 PM on July 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Donovan needs to ditch the Galaxy, and, now that his international stature has been raised (particularly after that beautiful second goal against Brazil), he needs to move anywhere but Germany. I think Bianca's show is cancelled, so they've got no real ties. Donovan's too small to go up against teams in Germany or the Netherlands, but speed/finesse-wise, he'd do well for a Spanish club (hell even a club in Mexico, where they may dislike him, but at least respect him).
posted by The Giant Squid at 12:44 PM on July 1, 2009


I'm of two minds on this one. ( I kinda have a soft spot for MLS; I had D.C. United season tickets for the first five years until I moved out of the area.)

It's nice to have someone of Beckham's stature in MLS, if only to raise the pay scale. Most MLS players make shit wages, and it wasn't long ago that Freddy Adu was the highest-paid player in the league at $500,000.

On the other hand, spending huge money on European players in their twilight is wasting money that homegrown talent could, and should, get. Alexi Lalas getting booted because he didn't mesh with Beckham is just downright disrespectful to American soccer.

We have been turning out world-class soccer players for some time now (Keller, Stewart, Reyna, Donovan, Pope, etc, etc.). We should do all that we can (if possible) to keep them playing at home.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:52 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not one mention of Brett Favre in the entire article. Fascinating.
posted by Senator at 12:52 PM on July 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


Let me guess... it ends in a tie?
posted by MeatLightning at 12:55 PM on July 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, between USA/BRA, the Sounders beating the Rapids, and that article, I'm finding this sport rather intensely depressing of late.

Which is why we love it, of course.

Also, is it weird to read an article of this scope about MLS in Sports Illustrated? Regardless, thanks for the post dig_duggler.
posted by 7segment at 12:55 PM on July 1, 2009


Nearly anywhere else in the world, Donovan's achievements would have made him a household name, a fixture on the covers of sports magazines and (considering that his wife starred in the CBS sitcom Rules of Engagement) celebrity rags.

'Nearly anywhere else' is a pretty long list of places, starting with Germany. Landon Donovan was not a success with Bayer Leverkusen or Bayern Munich. And the Bundesliga is not quite on the level with the Premiership, Serie A (Italy and Brazil), Ligue 1 or Primera.

Outside of the MLS, Donovan wouldn't qualify to play on a side with Beckham.
posted by grounded at 12:58 PM on July 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


You have to admit, this really just confirms that lurking bad feeling you got when you heard that Beckham was coming over here in the first place.
posted by callmejordan at 1:02 PM on July 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow. I love the anecdote about Beckham and Xavier being carded (in the steakhouse, that is). Never has there been a more appropriate time for "Do you know who I am?"
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:04 PM on July 1, 2009


Great read, thanks.

My impression of Landon Donovan just went up several notches. My impression of Beckham remains about the same.

Beckham didn't need to prove shit to anyone in the U.S. in terms of playing ability and worldwide stature. Sure, he's clearly on the back nine of his career, but it's not like he's Dan Marino hanging on a few extras years in search of his first Super Bowl ring. He's been there, done that, got the T-shirt. A World Cup for England would be the only thing, but that's so out of direct control...

What he and his people did, then, was embark on a multimedia project to bring the Beckham Brand to a blue-water audience -- the U.S. It centered on him coming to the team and leading it into the playoffs, and basking in the adulation of millions of NEW fans to the sport, like Gretzky did with the L.A. Kings.

Didn't work out that way, obviously. Beckham was Beckham alone. Gretzky brought more than his own formidable skills -- he also brought other players, too. Which you kind of need to have on a team sport. And even Gretzky didn't get to hoist the Stanley Cup in a Kings jersey. But at least he stuck around for a few good years.

So Team Beckham packed it in and headed back to Europe, to stay relevant and stay on the England team. Maybe that World Cup will finally come around...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:08 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


'Nearly anywhere else' is a pretty long list of places, starting with Germany. Landon Donovan was not a success with Bayer Leverkusen or Bayern Munich. And the Bundesliga is not quite on the level with the Premiership, Serie A (Italy and Brazil), Ligue 1 or Primera.

Outside of the MLS, Donovan wouldn't qualify to play on a side with Beckham.


IMHO, he couldn't hack in Germany because he was absolutely whipped for his then girlfriend (and now wife), was homesick and just wanted to come play back home. There's nothing wrong with that, but I think he sold himself short. That's one of the reasons I never had that much respect for him. And maybe he just couldn't hack it.

However, his performance in the Confed Cup and his comments in this article has changed that quite a bit for me. Dempsey may have made the all Cup team, but Donovan seemed to me to be the one that really helped the US give one of their better performances ever.
posted by dig_duggler at 1:28 PM on July 1, 2009


I thought it was a fairly shallow piece and if Donovan cooperated (seems likely), it comes off as something of a hatchet job from a wounded ego. It's all petty and banal and trying to drive book sales through insinuation. He's meant to be a crap captain because he doesn't say what Donovan (+/- the author) expects of him in front of the team and because he's not rah-rah American enough in his approach? Riight. The cheapskate shot was nice too.
posted by peacay at 1:39 PM on July 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Blow It like Beckham"
posted by Pronoiac at 1:44 PM on July 1, 2009


And then the check came.

O mother of all pregnant pauses, will the wealthy Beckham pick up the check? The writer would have us think it's a big deal because he paid only his share... however, that fit with David's goal of trying to be "just one of the guys".

The false drama is sickening, and I don't care if David didn't pick up the check. Not planning on reading this book.
posted by yath at 1:46 PM on July 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Donovan couldn't and won't adapt to any play style other than CONCACAF. European soccer is too fast and too rough for him, and the fans are brutal. I imagine the transition is difficult for most of the Americans playing overseas. He decided not to even really try, and it's a shame. Beckham should be team captain; he has oodles more charisma.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:52 PM on July 1, 2009


The cheapskate shot was nice too.

I figured it was appropriate. You're essentially a working stiff, and superstar David Beckham comes along, and it's suggested to go to a fancy restaurant. It's somewhat implicit there that Beckham's picking up the tab. He makes about a thousand times what the other players do.

That's like a millionaire inviting his secretary to lunch at a fancy restaurant and then chipping in only half. The options are basically that Beckham's a cheapskate, or he's horribly out-of-touch. Since his parents are working-class, I'd say it's probably that he's a cheapskate.
posted by explosion at 1:53 PM on July 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Giant Squid - the problem with Donovan moving abroad is that other teams would have to want him. After his showing in Germany, that phone call is probably not coming.
posted by pdb at 1:56 PM on July 1, 2009


At least add a "football" tag for all of us non-Americans. We don't really do "soccer".
posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 1:59 PM on July 1, 2009 [8 favorites]


Never has there been a more appropriate time for "Do you know who I am?"

Have you heard Beckham? He sounds like his balls still haven't dropped. He may look a dreamy hunk in his photo shoots but when he is interviewed it is a shocking shift to twink country.
posted by srboisvert at 2:00 PM on July 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


And all the while he could have negated this fiasco by simply putting it too a vote in front of the entire team about giving up the el capitanos armband. Instead he internalized the entire episode, gave up the armband to a guy who the team had never played a match with and wants to piss up the flag pole over the whole affair and complain because he got wet.

His fault. Still thought he played good during the confederations cup but alas, it's a team sport and Brazil beat them 2x'sin 1 tournament.

England needs to win a cup in my eyes also, otherwise they are overpaid nancy boys who get beat every time it matters.

Go Germany. :)
posted by Gravitus at 2:00 PM on July 1, 2009


If Donovan is such a great, underrated, mistreated leader as Wahl claims, why didn't he have a talk with Beckham about the realities of the MLS? Beckham signed with Man U at 15, he's spent his entire life among players with astronomical paychecks and he probably had no idea what his teammates were making. This was, after all, the US -- land of Michael Jordan and other well-remunerated sports stars.
posted by grounded at 2:03 PM on July 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


the confederations cup is nothing
posted by mr.marx at 2:05 PM on July 1, 2009


I hear Middlesbrough is looking for players...
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:08 PM on July 1, 2009


the Sounders beating the Rapids

Yeah, bad for you Colorado folks, but in a way good for MLS -- 32K attended that game, another record crowd for the Sounders. I think the MLS brass is regretting not coming to the Northwest sooner.
posted by dw at 2:13 PM on July 1, 2009


explosion, the guy just arrived at the club and he is one of eleven people at the restaurant. It's a team building thing; a getting-to-know-you exercise.
"After his first training session with the Galaxy, in Washington two days before a nationally televised game against D.C. United, he helped organize a dinner with 10 other players at Morton's steak house.."
Interesting choice of words. Do we think he rang the restaurant or did he get up on a chair and invite everyone or, more likely, the idea came up and he agreed and maybe offered a suggestion about the style of food or whatever? Again, this is petty, petty stuff, but it's being laid out so that Beckham comes off negatively. No doubt if Beckham had paid, he would be criticised for being too regal and above them all or something. If you want to join a team, you want to show that you're just one of the lads by paying your own way and not embarrassing everyone by assuming custody of the costs in my view.
posted by peacay at 2:20 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


the confederations cup is nothing

Everyone keeps saying that, but I think it's a lot more fun because it's "nothing." Everyone except Brazil came full-strength, and they didn't play the slow, plodding, defense only, 1-0 crap soccer we see in the World Cup, but the attacking and counter-attacking, balls-to-the-wall soccer 3-2 you normally see in league play.

Playing WC-style soccer is ultimately what killed the US against Brazil -- they went into that defensive shell and gave Brazil the ball to shoot at will. If they'd stayed on the attack after that first Brazilian goal they might have just hung on.

My one disappointment in this run is that now the US can't just show up in South Africa next year under the radar and then shock the world with a run into the semis (which I think this team proved it is fully capable of doing). Instead, the world will pretty much expect the US to get out of group, and they'll disappoint thanks to drawing into some hideous Group Of Death they always seem to drop into.
posted by dw at 2:24 PM on July 1, 2009


the world knows that if the c-cup was the w-cup, the us-team wouldn't make it anywhere near the f-inal.
this was a tournament that made charlie davies look like a class player. speaks volumes.
posted by mr.marx at 2:28 PM on July 1, 2009


You can troll the archives of the UK press and find over ten years' worth of articles criticizing Beckham for failing in various ways.

Which means the 'Beckham phenomenon' really and truly did cross the pond.

When Beckham finally hangs up his boots, they'll all go nuts with 'greatest moments' and tributes and highlight reels. And he'll deserve it.
posted by grounded at 2:39 PM on July 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is Posh Spice a proper sleb in Yankieland yet?
posted by Artw at 2:49 PM on July 1, 2009


He may look a dreamy hunk in his photo shoots but when he is interviewed it is a shocking shift to twink country.

Ali G's first line to Beckham in this interview just slays me.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:55 PM on July 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm in favor of finding and developing native players. If anything, the Beckham experiment proves that the MLS can't simply buy it's way into being a world class league. And while they've been pretty smart in a lot of ways, Beck's tenure in LA wasn't one of them. Hopefully, they won't repeat that mistake.

I'm a Sounders (Sounders 'til I Die!) season ticket holder and although I realize the record crowds probably won't last, there IS a lot of people around here that are hardcore fitba fiends. With Vancouver, Philly and Portland all coming into the MSL soon, this is an exciting time for football in North America...we just have to take the long view.
posted by black8 at 2:57 PM on July 1, 2009


we just have to take the long view.

True 'dat.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:02 PM on July 1, 2009


This is classic sleaze "journalism."

Beckham didn't pick up the check. He put in enough to cover his share and passed it along. That would be standard operating procedure at meals throughout the season. "None of us care," said Kelly Gray, one of Beckham's frequent dining companions. "It's just nice to go out to dinner."

Donovan didn't call Beckham out at Morton's after all, but he could never get over Beckham's alligator arms when the bill arrived. Nobody would have believed it, he thought: David Beckham is a cheapskate.


To support the claim the team was upset over Beckham's not paying, he has one sourced quote- which states exactly the opposite of his contention. Then he tops that off with what is most likely pure, unsourced conjecture over how Donovan could "could never get over [it]"
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:09 PM on July 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


the world knows that if the c-cup was the w-cup, the us-team wouldn't make it anywhere near the f-inal.

I, respectfully, disagree.

Team USA has reached the point where they can beat anybody on a given day. Defensively, they've been there for a while. Offense has been another story, but huge strides have been made. They've scored enough now that it's not a foreign concept anymore.

Consistency is the hobgoblin, now.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:38 PM on July 1, 2009


Here's what the Galaxy are about to me.

Back when they played at a very empty-looking Rose Bowl, tickets were just $6 or $12 or something ridiculous like that - not more than $20 for the cheap seats. I went up with a friend like we did many summer evenings when there wasn't an Angels game (also $6 with AAA...).

We settle in at the south end of the stadium and are surrounded by other languages. Spanish, Korean, probably some Chinese in there. We're the only people speaking English within earshot. Various vendors are coming up and down the stands selling programs and what-have-you. A jolly evening out for all concerned. Kids hooting and hollering, the Galaxians going at it with big drums and plastic trumpets. I think they were playing the New England Revolution that day, and I think the Galaxy were ahead, but I could be wrong. It was close, though, and it was a pretty action-filled game - lots of quick passes and all the other things that make soccer an edge-of-your-seat, blink-and-you-miss-it thing.

Then from nowhere this probably-intoxicated guy, hurling obscenities at one and all, comes flying down the steps next to our seats, pursued by who-knows-how-many security people. If you've been to the Rose Bowl, then you know that if you get going at too quick a clip down the stairs things aren't going to end well. Miraculously, he makes it to his target: he straight-up leaps onto the back of a guy who's twice his size, who, fair enough, flips his lid and starts pummeling the guy right back. Attacker and attackee are rolling around, women and children fleeing the scene, security can't grab either one of them. Suddenly the bigger guy manages to toss the little guy off his back and security leads him away. The crowd resumes their seats and play, of course, continues.

A few minutes later, the Galaxy score, perhaps winning the game; at the end of the game, an announcement is made: "Please move to the south end of the stadium for a special live musical guest!" Not knowing who'd be on, and not wanting to get stuck in the parking lot, we stick it out. Who comes onto the stage: Paulina Rubio, a huge Latin music star. Crowd goes wild when she comes on, people dancing in the aisles. I'm trying to dance and translate for my non-Spanish-speaking friend at the same time. Big smiles all around as people leave the stadium.

As we're on our way out, I see a vendor selling "El Salvador!" hats as Mauricio Cienfuegos, a great midfielder from that country, was on the roster at the time. We get a hat - sort of a fisherman's-style thing emblazoned with the colors and seal of El Salvador - as a memento of our awesome day.

As we get off the freeway, we remember that if the Galaxy win tonight's game, we're entitled to six free Krispy Kremes with our tickets stubs, and assuming that individual franchises weren't checking the score, picked up our dozen and headed home to consider what a little, LA-specific adventure we'd had: having driven for an hour and change to see a major league team play a game for $20, we'd seen a fight and a free concert by an internationally-known celebrity, purchased an El Salvador hat, and eaten free Krispy Kremes. None of our fellow fans seemed much bothered by the fact that none of us were using a common language other than cheering for the home team.

It was, looking back, probably the best day out I've had at a sporting event ever for sheer fun, and reminds me that even though I now live in soccer-mad Europe, there is an alternative to the worst elements of the game here: police escorting the visiting teams' fans to the train station, riots and hooliganism, nine-year-olds being indoctrinated with hateful slogans, and €200 tickets. Last week's amazing showing by the US national team in South Africa hammered home to me how well we can do on the field without all the trappings of the game as it exists in other countries: no paparazzi, no all-out media blitz. Just soccer.
posted by mdonley at 3:43 PM on July 1, 2009 [12 favorites]


this was a tournament that made charlie davies look like a class player.

No, stochasticity made Davies a class player for one brief moment. And then he spent the rest of the tournament looking like a six year old kid trying to decide if he's supposed to shoot or pass and if he's going to pass which team is he on again and is that a dandelion?

The man was so lost on the pitch against Brazil you'd think he was wearing 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, or 42 instead of 10.
posted by dw at 4:00 PM on July 1, 2009


This is classic sleaze "journalism."

Each to his/her own but the book is getting some pretty great reviews from some of the more prominent sports authors in the US, although that doesn't necessarily mean anything.
posted by dig_duggler at 4:06 PM on July 1, 2009


"I can't believe I enjoyed a book about soccer."
posted by Artw at 4:16 PM on July 1, 2009


I imagine the transition is difficult for most of the Americans playing overseas.

Well, it kinda depends on the player and the team, but I think it says a lot that most of the American success in Europe has come in the Premiership and the Bundesliga, and that its most successful players (Keller, Friedel, Howard) have been in goal. The whole Altidore affair with Villareal suggests there's still a lot of bias against American players. With the Spanish leagues, though, I'm wondering if they're like the 1960s-70s college football teams where they're just acquiring talent to keep it from other teams, even if that means carrying over 100 players on scholarship. IOW, a lot of the teams in La Liga are just buying up talent left and right with zero regard for whether they'll ever play a minute.
posted by dw at 4:26 PM on July 1, 2009


No, stochasticity made Davies a class player for one brief moment. And then he spent the rest of the tournament looking like a six year old kid trying to decide if he's supposed to shoot or pass and if he's going to pass which team is he on again and is that a dandelion?

The man was so lost on the pitch against Brazil you'd think he was wearing 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, or 42 instead of 10.


I like you. thanks.

still don't agree with mr wtford & jets up thread
posted by mr.marx at 4:40 PM on July 1, 2009


mdonley: that sounds like a fucking awful match day.
do you ever go to league games in europe, or are you too afraid of the hooligans you read about in the tabloids?

seriously:

we'd seen a fight and a free concert by an internationally-known celebrity, purchased an El Salvador hat, and eaten free Krispy Kremes

and then

Just soccer.


Get the FUCK away from football please, you are killing it. Holy shit.
posted by mr.marx at 4:46 PM on July 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


removing myself from the keyboard now, because that shit is stomach turning
posted by mr.marx at 4:49 PM on July 1, 2009


Well, at the end of the day it's a game of two halves and it's the side that scores the most goals that wins*.

* Subject to filthy yanqui rule changes to adapt it to their television advertising needs<>
posted by Artw at 5:11 PM on July 1, 2009


Not going to derail more than I have by sharing a happy memory [heaven forbid], but frankly, I'm more afraid of the hooligans, and the riot police, I see on YouTube (in a BAFTA-winning documentary). Check out a few matches here in Poland and then tell me a casual fan could bring his kids here for a day out watching a game. I'll pass.
posted by mdonley at 5:14 PM on July 1, 2009


That is Grant Mitchell off of Eastenders in a Sky 1 documentary though, BAFTA winning or not.
posted by Artw at 5:19 PM on July 1, 2009


To be fair, at least American fans tend to wait until they've won a trophy before they completely lay waste to the city.
posted by i_cola at 5:33 PM on July 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Last week's amazing showing by the US national team in South Africa hammered home to me how well we can do on the field without all the trappings of the game as it exists in other countries: no paparazzi, no all-out media blitz. Just soccer.

mdonley, my cynicism with American soccer had just about reached its peak, but your great perspective has knocked it down at least by half. Nice post.

(And attention Limeys, it's soccer, ok? Soccer. We already have a game called football. And "soccer" is a term invented by a Brit to begin with, so enough with the whining. OK??)
posted by zardoz at 5:37 PM on July 1, 2009


ESPN should be owned by Newscorp, not Disney. It truly is the 'Fox News' of sports journalism.

What a hatchet job.

The author should attend a match in Italy and watch Beckham play. Talk to Pippo Inzaghi, or Pato or Seedorf about Beckham-- not to Landon Fucking Donovan- the most celebrated third division-caliber player in the world. The only reason he was at Bayern last season was because of Klinsmann.

I'm an American who is really tired of the USA! USA! fanboys when it comes to football. It's 90% cheerleading/10% actual knowledge of the sport. It's really embarrassing.
posted by Zambrano at 6:27 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]




I don't really care about Beckham, but it was a real shame that he got injured pretty much as soon as he arrived in the States. I think it took a lot of the wind out of the sails. I thought he had a reputation as a hard worker, but it's probably right that he didn't know how to lead the Galaxy.

I did enjoy the U.S. run in the Confederations Cup (eventually). I thought Donovan worked his arse off in every game and had excellent touches. For the goal against Brazil he started the sequence not far from the edge of his own area and sprinted the length of the field to slot it home. Beating Spain was an achievement however you slice it, and the team has been getting better and better. As to the general reputation of the team, many countries would be more than proud of being quarter-finalists in the 2002 World Cup.

There's a lot of enthusiasm for the sport here in the States. I have a number of colleagues who are more than ready to talk about premier league matches and can't think of any who particularly care about American football. I think a generation, that grew up playing, has grown up and their kids are playing now too, but the older generation also has a real understanding of the game. MLS seems to be doing many things right this time around, and there's real home-grown talent. Clubs seem to be paying attention to fans, and it's on mainstream cable channels more this year than I recall it ever being. I'd give my eye teeth to live close enough to watch the Sounders. It sounds like a lot of fun.
posted by idb at 7:37 PM on July 1, 2009


>At least add a "football" tag for all of us non-Americans. We don't really do "soccer".

You should give it a go. The scoring system is completely pants, of course, but it's still interesting to watch. Just go to the head beforehand.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:38 PM on July 1, 2009


Zambrano: The author should attend a match in Italy and watch Beckham play. Talk to Pippo Inzaghi, or Pato or Seedorf about Beckham…

Inzaghi: “Well, he seems like a nice guy, and at least he understands that American football is a joke.”

Pato: “Yeah, look at the way he does anything to avoid playing when he's over there.”

Seedorf: “But he played great for us—would've been nice to have him stay. It's sort of ridiculous that we didn't have enough money to match the $15 million the Galaxy were offering him, especially considering that we're the sixth richest football club in the world.”

Inzaghi: “Yeah, but I understand, at least a little; I mean, we're still having to cut corners economically after that big expense a few years ago.”

Pato: “You would not believe how much it costs to buy a Champions League Championship.”

Seedorf: “Thank god we had Silvio there to help out. We wouldn't have even known who to bribe, but he's a whiz at that stuff.”

Inzaghi: “Yeah—we don't just know stuff like that…how to bribe officials…how to act like complete jerks on and off the field…how to show utter contempt an unsportsmanship no matter where you're playing.”

Pato: “I mean, it's not like we play for Real Madrid.
posted by koeselitz at 8:11 PM on July 1, 2009


(And attention Limeys, it's soccer, ok? Soccer. We already have a game called football. And "soccer" is a term invented by a Brit to begin with, so enough with the whining. OK??)

Attention Seppoes: Realise that when NO-ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD plays your daft game, the name may be re-appropriated by people who understand internationalism in sport.

(Yes Aussies: this counts for you too!)
posted by pompomtom at 9:57 PM on July 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


I like Landon Donovan. He's an overachiever who never stops working and doing all the little things that players are supposed to do. I think Beckham is obviously a great player, but the American experiment was ill-conceived at best, moronic at worst.

"I can't believe I enjoyed a book about soccer."


Here's another fantastic book about soccer/football: He Always Puts It to the Right: A Historical, Scientific, Anecdotal Analysis of the Penalty Kick
posted by mrgrimm at 10:20 PM on July 1, 2009


(Yes Aussies: this counts for you too!)

Aussie rules football has the advantage of being utterly mental though.
posted by Artw at 10:59 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's just cross-country basketball... what's so mental about that?
posted by pompomtom at 11:07 PM on July 1, 2009


You forgot the wrestling match and the charge of the orks from Lord of the Rings.
posted by Artw at 11:14 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Beckham has spent decades playing with some of the most famously difficult people in football. I had no idea Landon Donovan was one of them.
posted by fshgrl at 12:02 AM on July 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


idb mainly summed up many of my opinions upthread. I do, however think it's foolish to think of the USMNT as world beaters. Having said that, I think it's fair to look at USMNT participation in the Confederations Cup as part of a gradual process that really started around 1990.

To have gone from that 1990 squad, which featured college players to the present squad, which is made up of players playing for premier division squads in the US, Europe/Great Britain, and Mexico is a pretty huge leap in basically a generation. I think the team's international ranking (which was 14, and I think now is 12) is about right (if a little high at present). I see the US ranking in the teens for a while to come.

As for MLS, it's a perverse ugly knot of a system that's slowly improving the quality of its product, getting rid of the more stupid Americanized rules (I see the MLS likely ditching the eastern/western thing, going to a full table, ending the playoffs as they ended the countdown clock) - but I don't see MLS ever engaging in a promotion/relegation system unless it acquires USL (which I don't see happening).

Sure, the Eurosnobs (and Mexisnobs) are likely right, MLS probably ranks on par with second division leagues, with a few moments of seasonal brilliance here or there, and I'd be willing to bet cash money that a squad like Houston could give a squad like Wolverhampton a decent run. I'm not upset about that so much, considering the age of the league, the lack of an association football culture in the US, and the timidity of sponsors/networks/advertisers. I don't expect MLS to be producing AC Milan or Arsenal, but if in ten years, it gave us an Aston Villa, I'd be pretty happy with it.

Oh, and Fire Bob Bradley.
posted by The Giant Squid at 1:12 AM on July 2, 2009


At least add a "football" tag for all of us non-Americans. We don't really do "soccer".

Better yet call it what it actually is "association football" otherwise it isn't distinguished from rugby. Of course you may be familiar with the English short form of association football: "soccer".

The fact that the English have stopped speaking English shouldn't be used to stop other people from speaking English.
posted by srboisvert at 1:40 AM on July 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


At least add a "football" tag for all of us non-Americans. We don't really do "soccer".

Oh horseshit. Whenever I get dragged into a conversation in English about the Bundesliga, half the time they call it "soccer" since everyone knows it's the word Americans use for the same sport. Pretending it's the wrong word is like pretending people don't know that "cell phone" is another word for "mobile phone" or "elevator" is another word for "lift".
posted by cmonkey at 2:26 AM on July 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


When Sensible Soccer was released on the Amiga, everyone in Britain just stood in the shops screaming when they saw the title
posted by dng at 2:51 AM on July 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


...being carded (in the steakhouse, that is). Never has there been a more appropriate time for "Do you know who I am?"

They left out the next response from the waitstaffer, which would have been some variation of:

"They play soccer in LA? Get serious."
posted by rokusan at 4:30 AM on July 2, 2009


Oh horseshit. Whenever I get dragged into a conversation in English about the Bundesliga, half the time they call it "soccer" since everyone knows it's the word Americans use for the same sport.

Yeah, but we're talking about tagging here. A Brit is likely to look for threads on football by searching on the football tag, not the soccer tag. Given that there's no limit on the number of tags we can use, it seems reasonable to use both. The original comment didn't say 'remove the soccer tag, stupid Americans' it said 'can we add the football tag?'. Having both seems reasonable, that's the whole point of a folksonomy, surely?
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:39 AM on July 2, 2009


Oh, and on-topic: the US men's team were pretty good at the Confederations Cup, which pleased me because it's always good to see some non-traditional teams succeeding at high levels. As someone said upthread, consistency is the issue - they were great in 2002 and nearly knocked Germany out in the quarter-final, but don't seem to have done much since.
* The US won't get close to winning the world cup, though. Quarter-finals would be a good achievement, semis amazing, but that's as close as they'll get. For the moment.
* It's a mystery to me why individual US players haven't been particularly successful overseas. Does seem to indicate that the national team is more than the sum of its parts.
* Beckham to the US was silly. The way to build the league is organically, by getting people interested in their own teams, not parachuting overpaid celebrities into the league.
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:44 AM on July 2, 2009


Hey, mr marx: drama much?

I know it's hyperbole, but jesus, man: someone explains how they got a lot of bang for the buck and you basically call them a pussy. Oh, and the hooliganism is *totally* a tabloid invention. There's hardly *any* violence on the periphery of the game.

Maybe it's not that Americans are afraid of hooliganism at "football" matches; maybe it's they don't feel the need to choke the life out of someone else who cheers for another fucking club and don't understand those who do.

Again: IT'S A GAME. A FORM OF ENTERTAINMENT. START ACTING LIKE YOU KNOW THAT.

In other words, stop being a douchebag.
posted by grubi at 6:49 AM on July 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


At least add a "football" tag for all of us non-Americans. We don't really do "soccer".

(And attention Limeys, it's soccer, ok? Soccer. We already have a game called football. And "soccer" is a term invented by a Brit to begin with, so enough with the whining. OK??)

A Delightful & Measured Response To A Straightforward Request.
From Reasons To Hate Us, #134 in an occasional series.
Full set available from our publishers. Free padded binder with each volume ordered.
posted by i_cola at 7:19 AM on July 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Great article; now I want to read the book. Thanks for the post; sorry about the congenital snarkers in the thread.

> Get the FUCK away from football please, you are killing it. Holy shit.

Go soak your head. (Or what grubi said.)
posted by languagehat at 7:33 AM on July 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I like Landon Donovan ...

I meant to suffice that with ... but he shouldn't have said those things about David Beckham to a reporter. I think that's obvious, and he likely realizes himself. The guy is still on his team.

I can understand his frustration with the situation, and I realize he's kept his mouth shut for a couple years now, but there are better ways to handle such a problem than by going public to the media. Perhaps he had exhausted all his other avenues and wanted out of L.A. no matter what. After talking to the team brass, maybe he said "fuck it, I'm blowing this thing up."

Still, definitely my favorite US player since John Harkes.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:59 AM on July 2, 2009


I'm glad for the post, because it is an interesting tale, and just seemingly confirms what a lot of us figured might be going on behind the scenes and not so behind the scenes when Beckham began acting like a spoiled brat wanting to stay in Milan. If you sign a contract, you honor it. I probably would've sued him for breach of contract and possibly defamation instead of letting him go until July. I'm sorry, but your ego doesn't count in the eyes of the law if the ink is dry on your contract.

IMHO, he couldn't hack in Germany because he was absolutely whipped for his then girlfriend (and now wife),

You sound like quite a catch.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:01 AM on July 2, 2009


Also, mdonley's day sounds very much fun, and I've never attended MLS games. I have, however, attended Real Madrid matches and been around in the craziness of an Arsenal match letting out. Arsenal/MU, actually. I would certainly bring a family out. The atmosphere is like nothing else.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:04 AM on July 2, 2009


I think the team's international ranking (which was 14, and I think now is 12) is about right (if a little high at present). I see the US ranking in the teens for a while to come.


Still won't get us out of the third pot when it comes WC seeding time.

As for MLS, it's a perverse ugly knot of a system that's slowly improving the quality of its product, getting rid of the more stupid Americanized rules (I see the MLS likely ditching the eastern/western thing, going to a full table, ending the playoffs as they ended the countdown clock)

Most of this is Not Bloody Likely. The US is far too large to have a single division system -- and no major American sport has had one in 40 years (when baseball went to divisions). The playoffs are lucrative -- a fact that has led the EPL to consider instituting them as well.

- but I don't see MLS ever engaging in a promotion/relegation system unless it acquires USL (which I don't see happening).

It'll never happen in this country. The investment in an MLS is far too high ($40M franchise fee for Seattle, talk of $50M for Portland and Vancouver, $100M+ in stadium construction) to let these teams bounce between divisions.

I do wish we had "election," though. The Sounders now only share a name with the USL Sounders (and a few players) -- the ownership groups are different. When the Timbers enter the MLS in two years, it'll essentially be the same scenario (well, if they ever get the stadium issues ironed out).

What the MLS is playing right now is a game under international rules. There are no American gimmicks anymore. And it's succeeding as the fourth league despite not having countdown clocks. (All of which made the Beckham signing all the weirder -- it was a gimmick in a league that didn't need one. They made the same mistake the NASL made.)

I'm not upset about that so much, considering the age of the league, the lack of an association football culture in the US, and the timidity of sponsors/networks/advertisers. I don't expect MLS to be producing AC Milan or Arsenal, but if in ten years, it gave us an Aston Villa, I'd be pretty happy with it.

I should note that some of us were playing youth soccer in the 1970s, so, you know, don't discount us. It's our kids who make up this and the next wave of great American players.

But, yeah, all things considered the league's really come from nothing, gotten over its initial bumps, and for the most part found its niche in American sport. Attendance is down 7% on average, mainly from the collapse of the Dallas fanbase and the Galaxy missing a certain someone, all despite the Sounders selling 29K tickets. Still, most other leagues have seen a drop-off in attendance, and financially the MLS is doing OK.

The thing I've found odd is how criticial Eurosnobs have been toward the MLS when the A-League, which is also a promotion/relegation free recent startup, has a similar skill level and attendance figures but zero complaints from them.

Right now, if you took the best XI from the MLS they'd make a mid-table Premiership team. The top 8 teams in the Premiership would hold up well in any major European second division. Considering how terrible MLS was even just 10 years ago, that's an impressive achievement.
posted by dw at 9:14 AM on July 2, 2009


Also, totally agree that Bradley needs to go.

Steve Coppell: Tanned, rested, and ready. If he can coach a middling Reading team into the Premiership, can you imagine what he could do with this middling US team?
posted by dw at 9:16 AM on July 2, 2009


'IMHO, he couldn't hack in Germany because he was absolutely whipped for his then girlfriend (and now wife),'

You sound like quite a catch.


I'll ask my wife :) He was/is totally whipped/head over heels in love/whatever you would like to call it to make it more palatable. It's hard to put your heart into something when it's back home....
posted by dig_duggler at 9:27 AM on July 2, 2009


Get the FUCK away from football please, you are killing it. Holy shit.
removing myself from the keyboard now, because that shit is stomach turning


mdonley, please continue going to soccer games and having krispy kremes and great memories. And if you see any jerkoffs having tantrums like this, give 'em a good point-and-laugh for me.
posted by GeekAnimator at 10:54 AM on July 2, 2009


DW: The playoffs are lucrative -- a fact that has led the EPL to consider instituting them as well.

I think you're mistaken here. There was talk of some kind of "39th game" (the regular season is 38 games), that would be played outside of England, but it was very vague talk and was roundly criticised. There's certainly no move to adopting a US (or Australian) style playoff system.

The thing I've found odd is how criticial Eurosnobs have been toward the MLS when the A-League, which is also a promotion/relegation free recent startup, has a similar skill level and attendance figures but zero complaints from them.


To be honest, I don't think the A-League is even on their radar. It is only really mentioned in the media when an aging English player signs for one of the teams (usually accompanied by derision - "they consider him to be a star player?"). I'm pretty sure the English would look down on the A-League, if they knew more about it. It's just really not important enough to them. (Also, I'd suggest that the skill levels are lower than MLS...though I'm basing that mainly on seeing LA play Sydney and Wellington in friendly matches. A-League quality is certainly no better than the third English division - speaking as a former A-League season ticket holder).

Right now, if you took the best XI from the MLS they'd make a mid-table Premiership team.

I haven't seen enough of the MLS to really judge this - are you basing it on the recent results of the All-Star Games - the MLS beating teams like West Ham, Celtic, even Chelsea?

(I realise I'm only responding to disagree with you; I thought you made some good points and I've learned something from what you've said, please don't think I'm trying to flame you)
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:27 AM on July 2, 2009


I'm sure there can be arguments made about the sides, but DC United has beaten Toluca, Tottenham, and Celtic FC, and tied Real Madrid.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:47 PM on July 2, 2009


@Infinite Jest:
"I haven't seen enough of the MLS to really judge this - are you basing it on the recent results of the All-Star Games - the MLS beating teams like West Ham, Celtic, even Chelsea?"

There's a sort of weird transitive 'better than' thing going on, but I think it's something like the following decision matrix:

1) Sure, American squads have beaten top-flight Premier League squads in friendlies. I'd imagine, however, that Everton, West Ham, Chelsea, etc, were more in it for the money, rather than the win. Go have 50k

2) There are 75 or so Americans playing for top division squads outside of the US. None of these, however, are the top 2-4 teams in their league. Sure, Dempsey's at Fulham, Howard's at Everton, Friedel's at Aston Villa, plus the guys bouncing around in the Bundesliga, Superligaen, and Primera Division, all 'respectable' squads. Just about all of these guys, save Jose Francisco Torres, came up in MLS. Basically, this implies that the US produces talent that can make it (and by that I mean start) in the middle-tier of a foreign 1st division and definitely talent that can survive in the bottom of a 1st division.
Most of these guys left the US for the money, I'd wager. And, were the MLS a better paying league, they'd probably have stayed.

3) If MLS can produce talent that can survive at the 1st and 2nd divisions of the 'big' football countries, then likely, you could put together a team of 11 current (and possibly transferred out) MLS players that could perform reasonably well against any mid range 1st division squad.

4) Considering that much of the USMNT came out of MLS, then it's 'reasonable' to assume that the best 11 or so could hold their own in the middle of the premiership. (I'm guessing this means against Everton, Aston Villa, Tottenham, Man City, etc).

I don't necessarily think it's the case (maybe a little too optimistic yet), however. I do believe that most MLS squads would be at home in the Championship, and Houston, DC might be contenders for promotion.

Now, as for the IFFHS ranking of MLS as the 77th best league on the planet? I gotta call bullshit.
posted by The Giant Squid at 2:27 PM on July 2, 2009


Fixing that last comment...

Go have 50k-70k American fans pay between $70 and $250 a seat to watch your top flight English or Spanish squad take on a local favorite? Hell, show up, enjoy the vacation, play some football, and if you lose, no big deal. If the MLS team wins, they feel better about their squad and generate a little interest in their club, and they get a little international experience aside from the CONCACAF Champions League and that dreaded SuperLiga concept.
posted by The Giant Squid at 2:30 PM on July 2, 2009


The US played one and a half good games in the C-Cup, so let's not get hysterical about how good they are (remember, they moved to the semis becuase there were 3 mediocre teams in their group with a total of 3 points and one had to advance): a) Bad game against Italy; b) horrible game against Brazil; c) Decent game against Egypt, a team that some people say the players were sleeping with prostitutes one or two days before the game (they were walking on the field during the match); d) good game against Spain (though, Spain has a history of disappointing); e) good first half against Brazil, then they realized they were playing against Brazil.
This same thing happened in 2002WC: they advanced because Portugal could not score a goal while Poland was raping the US. Then they played MEX, the only team they know how to play against (and that is not much). And that is all.
IMHO, that's not a good team.
posted by dov3 at 2:49 PM on July 2, 2009


I think you're mistaken here. There was talk of some kind of "39th game" (the regular season is 38 games), that would be played outside of England, but it was very vague talk and was roundly criticised. There's certainly no move to adopting a US (or Australian) style playoff system.

No, I actually did see something about a playoff being floated, either this year or last. Can't can't find the article now, though.

To be honest, I don't think the A-League is even on their radar. It is only really mentioned in the media when an aging English player signs for one of the teams (usually accompanied by derision - "they consider him to be a star player?").

I cycled through British newspaper searches and found the sentiment seems to be both what you said ("They signed Dwight Yorke??") and also this sort of "isn't it ADORABLE?" attitude.

(Also, I'd suggest that the skill levels are lower than MLS...though I'm basing that mainly on seeing LA play Sydney and Wellington in friendly matches. A-League quality is certainly no better than the third English division - speaking as a former A-League season ticket holder).

You're probably right. I'm just going on the fawning love I keep hearing for the A-League.

I haven't seen enough of the MLS to really judge this - are you basing it on the recent results of the All-Star Games - the MLS beating teams like West Ham, Celtic, even Chelsea?

Partially on that -- though yes, all three teams were less than full strength, being friendlies and all -- and partially on the state of play I've seen vis-a-vis watching EPL and First Division/Championship games over the years. The passing is good, though not crisp. The dribbling is erratic, but not sloppy. The touches are still a little more about luck and a little less about "creating luck." But it's still interesting to watch. In other words, it ain't Premiership, but it ain't lower division ball, either. Put the best 22 players together and you probably have a team that doesn't go to Europe but also stays safe from relegation.

When you remember how abysmal the MLS was in '95, it's a huge leap forward in just 15 years to have a league that on the whole is second-division quality. I highly doubt the money will ever be there to make MLS into a destination league for anyone more than Europeans wanting to make some retirement money, but as a domestic league it's doing what it's supposed to do -- give domestic players a chance to play when otherwise they wouldn't be.
posted by dw at 2:54 PM on July 2, 2009


The US played one and a half good games in the C-Cup, so let's not get hysterical about how good they are

If the Netherlands or England had the ConCup run the US had, it would have been huge news. Well, after the hand-wringing about the thrashing handed them by Brazil.

a) Bad game against Italy

They really weren't bad. They just drew a red card and started playing that horrible defensive game they play.

b) horrible game against Brazil

Brazil scored first and that was pretty much it. Definitely horrible.

c) Decent game against Egypt, a team that some people say the players were sleeping with prostitutes one or two days before the game (they were walking on the field during the match)

That said, this was a team that was one bad call from drawing with Brazil. And the US took the opportunity, something they've been awful about in the past.

d) good game against Spain (though, Spain has a history of disappointing)

Good? Beating essentially the same team that had shredded all in Euro 08 is GOOD? Beating a team that has essentially wrapped up a WC spot (given they have six points in hand and only one real test left) in a decent UEFA group is GOOD? Dropping two goals on a team with a top 5 defense is GOOD?

I'd love to see what your definition of GREAT is exactly. A 7-man Aruba team taking a Brazilian team of '70 Pele clones to penalties?

e) good first half against Brazil, then they realized they were playing against Brazil.

Again, your definition of GOOD is lacking. They were just about running Brazil off the pitch. And then Brazil remembered they were Brazil, and the US remembered how to play their prevent defense, and we were done here.

End of the day, this pretty much said what most of us here in the States knew about this team -- that if they want to, they can be very, very scary, but you just don't know which US team is going to show up on a given day. Beating an essentially full-strength Spain team and leading Brazil for 3/4 of a match is nothing to sneeze at. The bigger question is whether it's that team that shows up for the rest of CONCACAF qualifications and the World Cup or whether it's the team that rolled over to Brazil 3-0 just days before crushing Spain.
posted by dw at 3:19 PM on July 2, 2009


dov3: I'm not sure at whom "let's not get hysterical" is directed, but, I do feel that the US is probably appropriately ranked in FIFA, and anybody who's been watching recognizes the US to be an team of decent talent headed by a guy who's probably in over his head.

Honestly, the US squad does really well at home, but plays abysmally on the road, usually courtesy of Bradley's tinkering, ridiculous line-ups, poor selections (cronyism), poor/late subs, an overreliance on long ball, and a poorly developed midfield.

I look at the game against Costa Rica, in which the whole Bradley 'problem set' was at work.
Bradley brought in Marvell Wynne (because he can play on astroturf?) and DaMarcus Beasley (who doesn't even get minutes playing for Rangers). J.F. Torres looked okay after a while, but gets subbed out by Kljestan?

And the whole squad played what looked like a 1-2-1-2-4 formation

Were Bradley not the man in charge, I think the US would be a more consistent team on the road and internationally, and that they're ranked 12th in the world would be seen as entirely appropriate.
posted by The Giant Squid at 3:32 PM on July 2, 2009


David Beckham in ugly confrontation with LA Galaxy fan

I have to say they seem like lovely guys.
posted by Artw at 9:55 AM on July 20, 2009


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