Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Their country is in meltdown, wracked by sectarian violence, a well meaning-but-occupying force and the chaos that comes with civil strife, yet Iraq managed a victory of unimaginable proportions in the Asian Cup final last Sunday. A 1-0 win over a highly-favored Saudi Arabia was not only well-deserved, but it lifted a fractured nation, if only temporarily, out of its cycle of gloom. And, from a purely footballing sense, the Iraqis showed flair and panache in domination a seasoned Asian team like Saudi Arabia. An added bonus for USA soccer fans -- we get to play them in the Confederations Cup in South Africa in 2009. Hopefully, the match will be played in a spirit of goodwill, against the backdrop of a violence-free Iraq. One can only hope.
News that West Ham has signed former Arsenal midfielder Freddie Ljungberg and promptly issued him the No. 7 shirt
was a real tonic for this supporter. With Tevez leaving, what we needed was some guile to add to the pace and power in the side, and this bloke fits the bill nicely. The fact that he's Sweden's captain brings a nice element of leadership to the equation. He may not bang the goals in like he used to, but he will surely set up the likes of Ashton, Bellamy and Zamora. He's the kind of signing that can push Hammers 3 to 5 places up the table. With Ljungberg on board, the season has a much more stable look about it.
The lads (the redheads, or gingers, as they say across the pond), four of their teammates (Adam, Tyler, Trevor and Zach) and I (as coach) entered a local 3 v. 3 tournament last weekend dressed as our 'closest' MLS squad. Without a doubt, we were the 'best dressed' team in the tourney, but based on the quality of play, we were among the best teams as well. Sometimes, results aren't everything; once in a while, it pays to play 'real' soccer and forget about the final scores. Other teams can run and impose themselves on everyone, but at least we moved the ball and played a brand of the game that was easy on the eye. Well done, Red Bulls!
The lads and I have been to quite a few Red Bulls matches lately. I have always enjoyed the technical prowess of our No. 10, aka Captain America. He passes the ball cleanly and accurately. The problem? Those passes are almost always lateral or backwards in nature. Come on, Claudio, how bout a probing, forward pass once in a while? We are dying to see brash, attacking football in New Jersey -- and you, as the local lad done good, should be the one to provide it. Don't let the soul-less Bruce Arena, with his rigid adherence to systems and tactics, stamp the Beautiful Game out of your DNA. Let some of that Portuguese and Argentine ancestry come out of the woodwork. The New York/New Jersey market is ripe for some soccer played the right way. Get in there and lead from the front (of the midfield). Find Angel with some of those searing passes, and we are well and truly in business!