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CommentaryEnglandTactics

Winning Ugly: Mourinho Style

April 6, 2015 — by Sanibel

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Like a Wes Anderson film or a Kurt Vonnegut book, Mourinho’s teams have a distinct and recognizable style. They’re known to “park the bus” and happily take a 1-0 win. His forwards are fully expected to track back and anyone unwilling to do so will be sold (Mata’s fate) unceremoniously. Mourinho’s style has become full-blown at Chelsea where it was only nascent and semi-developed at his earlier clubs. Unsurprisingly, some scoff that it wants for aesthetic pleasure. There are two basic storylines for a Chelsea under Mourinho (part II) win. First: Score early, play complacently, allow an equalizer, score a last gasp winner. Second: eighty-five minutes without scoring, frustratingly large number of corners that amount to nothing, jammy goal right before stoppage time. Chelsea's recent league match against Hull City was met with disapproval and classified as a typical Chelsea skin-of-their-teeth win. The disapproval is born of a belief that

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CommentaryEnglandEuropeThe AmericasUnited States

Rubio Rubin, Blast from the U-17 Past

March 30, 2015 — by Rob Kirby

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[Editor’s note: Rubio Rubin featured as a 67-minute substitute for Aron Johansson in Wednesday's 3-2 loss to Denmark and won his first cap for the full-blown USMNT. Originally commissioned by the Sarasota Herald Tribune to Rob Kirby in December 2011 but ultimately unpublished, this article featured a 15-year-old and U-17 Residency Program standout Rubio Rubin, before those heady heights. Congratulations, Rubin!] For two years, the crop of under-17 soccer players in the U.S. national team housed at the 350-acre IMG sports complex in Bradenton live and breathe soccer. They keep their eyes fixed firmly on the prize of representing their country at the 2013 U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. The top trophy represents the culmination of a 24-month dream. This newest group of 15 year olds, 32 boys all born in 1996, left home in August and moved into the all-expenses-paid U.S. U-17 residency program, with a

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Champions LeagueCommentaryEnglandEuropeGermany

My Kingdom for a Shin Pad: Dortmund Daytrippin’

September 18, 2014 — by Tyler

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Aw, c'mon guys. Why so glum? We ripped Besiktas apart, 1-0, over two games! We beat Crystal Palace, 2-1--but it was at the Emirates! 17th place Crystal Palace! And Red Bulls! Wait, we lost to the freaking Red Bulls? On the bright side, we face Aston Villa on the road in a few days. 2nd place, undefeated Aston Villa. No sweat. WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!? Arsenal has seen worse Champions League losses for sure. But yesterday kind of felt like that competition's version of the 8-2 at Old Trafford a few years ago. Gibbs looked pretty decent yesterday. And Ox, for that 30 minutes he played, was great. But one of those two will be hurt by October, so don't get too excited. Szczesny kept it from being 4-0 or 5-0 (but so did Dortmund's serial diver, Mkhitaryan, with his repeated shots off target). Yet even the Arsenal keeper

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England

Civilian Soccer Tyrants: Leeds and Massimo

August 19, 2014 — by Rob Kirby

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Northern English football fans are usually all-in or all-out. At Leeds United, however, the roller coaster highs and lows over the past decade have inner-ear imbalanced supporters. After a rogues gallery of financial disaster club owners, they remain wary of a flashy, volatile new Italian guy for whom "eccentric" puts it mildly. They could be excused for remaining cautiously fill_in_the_blank. (This said by someone who has never been to olde town Leeds and whose defining viewing moment involving the team begins and ends with the storybook match-winning FA Cup goal from an on-loan MLS Thierry Henry a few years back.) But as of August 3, Massimo Cellino, eccentric Italian entrepreneur, convicted fraud and serial sacker of coaches, announced he's buying back the LUFC stadium grounds that the club's broke ass previously had to sell, so that's positive, yes? Yes, Leeds fans? I'll take that grumbled assent as cautiously optimistic. And

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CommentaryDispatchesUnited States

Feeling friendly: 5 goals in 60 minutes

August 11, 2014 — by Tyler

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It's not the name of a motivational seminar. It was another sprint to Denver and back for the sake of the game. In 2013 there was the U.S./Costa Rica blizzard bowl. Today was the haul-ass that was Manchester United/AS Roma. The tickets were a birthday gift from family, and it was a worthy spectacle in terms of cost and effort. My sister and I agreed to meet at a parking lot at 1:15 so that we would have ample time to walk over to Sports Authority Field at Mile High, and you'd think we would have the logistics down by now. We both left our homes in different cities, we figured we'd given ourselves enough time, and each of us was late for the 2PM kickoff. She was late to the meeting place but early enough that she'd have gotten into the game with plenty of time, if it weren't

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CommentaryEnglandThe AmericastransfersUnited StatesWorld Cup

Besler-Zusi Axis of SKC Loyalty-Legacy Represent

July 22, 2014 — by Rob Kirby

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[Editor's note: On the eve of Sporting KC's expected destruction of Manchester City in a stateside friendly--booo, Nasri!!!!--Cameron Garrison, rabid SKC and AFC supporter, weighs in on his unbelievable happiness at USMNT Brazil 2014 standouts Matt Besler and Graham Zusi rejecting offers from England and abroad and staying put at the home of the MLS champions. Loyalty isn't dead, the legacy is only beginning.] So, Saturday.  What an AMAZING day for Kansas City and soccer in Kansas City.  It's really difficult to overstate just how big Saturday was.  We have been fortunate to have a number of fantastic players during this 4-year run.  Many have moved on. Many have stayed. And we have been so successful because Vermes is so brilliant at replacing those that have gone. But through it all, these two were THE guys. They were the heart and soul of the whole thing. Always.  As the WC

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BrazilCommentaryHistoryPhotographyThe AmericasWorld Cup

Dictators and Soccer: The Junta, Argentina 1978, Disappearings, Match Fixing and Early Deity Era Maradona (Argentina)

July 11, 2014 — by Rob Kirby

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The ruthless military junta that hosted the 1978 World Cup in Argentina lit the stage to maximum wattage and leveraged the spectacle to flashiest effect, by hook, crook and any means necessary. A world champion team would obviously cap that off, as would an obediently silent public and extermination of political enemies, so they duly made this winning trifecta come to pass. That it should happen to involve match rigging, bribery, bulldozing of shantytowns and villas miserias, "disappearing" tens of thousands of dissenters in abductions, incarcerations and torture, as well as forced relocation of squatters or any other huddled undesirable masses, so much the better. The junta hired a PR firm Burson-Marsteller to help improve the likeability of their public face, however. They weren't completely oblivious to popular opinion. [Editor's note: The ongoing Dictators and Soccer series includes other installments on Kim Jong-il of North Korea, Hitler of Third Reich

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GermanyHistory

Dictators and Soccer Short: Hitler Fandom Rejected by Schalke

July 10, 2014 — by Rob Kirby

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Germany in the Brazil World Cup 2014 finals. The Brazilians are all rooting against the Argentinians, so there's a core fan base. But then word gets out Hitler once supported the German national team. Then people bring up the old taboo of Nazis hiding out in Brazil and then counter allegations of Nazis in Argentina. Public opinion sways rapidly against Germany (amnesia or foolish forgetful forgiveness had set in at some point over the last 60 years) and the country's PR department has to act fast. [Editor's note: The ongoing Dictators and Soccer series includes other installments on Kim Jong-il of North Korea, the Military Junta of Argentina, Nicolae Ceaușescu of Romania, Pope Benedict XVI of the Vatican and Mobutu Sésé Seko of Zaïre.] The German spin doctors swiftly publish incontrovertible evidence that Hitler never actually supported the German side. Far from it. In fact, in the one known Fürher

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