CommentaryDispatchesUnited States

Feeling friendly: 5 goals in 60 minutes

August 11, 2014 — by Tyler


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 for the fact that I was much later. Some days the trip to Denver is an hour. Today it was two, and my trip was more special than usual this time. The clogged interstate is nothing new, as are the inevitable rear endings when traffic stops and starts. This afternoon, I had the pleasure of being the furthest car back in a three-car chain reaction. We all pulled over and got out, shook hands, agreed that while I was considered at fault in such situations (for following too closely), I was also the only one with any damage to my vehicle. It lasted five minutes. No harm, no foul, and we got in our cars and kept moving.

I found my sister and we hustled to the stadium on foot. It was already 2:15 when I parked, but there were plenty of other latecomers who had likely been stuck in traffic as well. We approached the steps and were met by men with clear plastic bags for my sister to transfer the contents of her purse. That was a new development, which we later learned is something now done at NFL stadiums. (Warning to any of you who plan to attend an American football game in the future: this sucked.) The catch is that anyone with a bag bigger than a baby’s fist must turn in the bag to a bag check station, and then walk around the game with the contents of said bag displayed for all the world to see in one of the clear plastic bags. At least the clear bags were free, but I can imagine a fee being imposed soon enough. At the bag check there were signs: “No weapons. No marijuana.” What about opium? No time for clarification.

We entered, found our seats, and the game already had progressed to the 30-minute mark. My family had come through with some decent tickets, though. They couldn’t have planned it as well as it turned out, but they turned out to be pretty good indeed. We were in the corner, but in the 8th row. For the next hour, we’d see five goals end up in the net at our end of the field. Not bad at all.

I don’t like United. I really don’t like United. But I’m learning to respect Rooney, at least in neutral games. I definitely can’t be mad at Mata, and I’m fine with Wellbeck and Valencia. Others on the team I’m not so fond of, and others more aren’t really worth the emotion or have recently departed. The scoring started just as we sat down, and those familiar United faces were making it look easy. We chatted while watching, I didn’t catch much in the way of tactics but I rarely do anyway, and our timing turned out to be pretty darn good. Rooney scored with a nice floater from the edge of the box into the upper left of the goal, and we’d barely had a chance to figure out if all the fans in attendance were United fans or if it just seemed that way because they were sitting all around us.

The next 15 minutes saw Rooney drop a nicely lobbed pass right in front of Mata for an easy dink into the net, and Rooney completed his brace by converting a penalty. Halftime, and with it came three advertisements on the big screen, all for United. Two of them were identical, played right at the start and again at the end of the break, and they looked like they were corporate ads. That wasn’t the intention, or maybe it was, but that was the feel of the ads. They featured players “training” indoors, doing a conditioning work, perhaps? They featured a good amount Giggs and van Persie, so maybe the ads were for skilled nursing facilities for all I know. Players were shown getting in shape while messages flashed on the screen. “Teamwork.” “Development.” “Religious Symbolism of Gothic Cathedral Sculptures.” “CHEVEROLET!!!” Hell, I don’t know what they said, but it was bizarre. Gag. What, still no opium?

The second half featured the predictable substitutions, like that sissy pants Ashley Young. I used to like that guy until he turned. And then I noticed the very obvious absence of mismatching pink and turquoise Puma footwear. Adios, World Cup. We chatted, United’s 8th-string keeper Amos shanked passes out of bounds and screamed at his own players for not having the forethought to know he was going to kick the balls out, and I laughed. Suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere, the ball went flying more than half the length of the field, over Amos’ head, and into the same goal we were sitting near. What the hell was that? Fans took to their feet and roared, and it became clear that if you weren’t for United today, you were against United.

Pjanic’s 70-yard strike was hilarious to see on the big screen replays. Poor Amos. By the 60th minute, the large Spanish-speaking contingent of United fans had struck up yet another “Chicharito” chant, the (Mexican?) wave passed us by a couple times and eventually we joined in by throwing our hands up each time even if we didn’t stand when it went past. Too cool for that! At far at the other end of the field, the best 12th, 13th, and 14th man in soccer started warming up, which caused the expected reaction among the fans. I can’t hate on him either. As a matter of fact, I have a feeling there isn’t a single person on earth that doesn’t like Hernandez, regardless of who he plays for. Poor guy can’t get a start. He was clearly going to see some action, but first the crowd cheered for a different reason.

Enter Totti. Very cool. I don’t watch Serie A, but I suddenly felt like there was finally a superstar on the field. No disrespect to United (ahem, for now), but there was freaking Totti. We had ample Totti in our corner toward the end of the game, and it seemed like a good time to take some pictures. Hey, no disrespect for United (ahem, for now), but I don’t need any of those guys taking up memory in my phone. My phone takes star pics only, bitch, and Giggs was too far away on the coaches bench to warrant any attempts until now. I got a few Totti pics, and eventually my sister realized his name wasn’t “Toiti”.

IMG_20140726_154359_532 (2)
Blurry Totti

Another observation, which always catches me off guard when I get a chance to see top level players from a closer distance: some of these guys are pretty thick. Valencia looked like he could bench at least two and a half Amos, and Totti had the whole Sylvester Stallone can’t-keep-arms-down-at-sides-because-too-huge thing going on. He took the armband when he took the field, not by waiting for the exiting Roma player to remove it from his own arm, but by ripping the guy’s arm clean from its socket. He then turned toward the crowd while holding the bloody stump outward, then thumped his own chest with the lifeless hand of his teammate as the crowd roared, “Maximus! Maximus!”

A small band of dedicated Rome-ite fans just behind the nearby goal made as much noise as they could whenever the Rome-ite subs passed during their warmups. “Is that why they run all the way over there?” my sister asked, clearly implying, so they can have someone in the stadium cheering for them? Then the place erupted. Chicharito was on, and with him came one of several opportunities for me to be bothered by so much of the United fan presence and then calm down and remind myself that it’s just an exhibition match. Dominated by Chevy branding.

Eventually I noticed a lot of booing whenever a Romish defender touched the ball. I couldn’t see clearly, but I figured it was the player responsible for bringing down what appeared to be United’s large, center forward halftime sub whose name I don’t need to know. There were howls from the crowd for a penalty midway through the second half, but United were denied their second chance from the spot and the ref gave them a free kick just outside the box. The booing of the culprit continued and then it hit me: they were booing Roma’s new left piece of poop, Ashley Cole. I have a feeling there isn’t a single person on earth that likes that guy. Too bad he was as far from our seats as any player could possibly be. I would have un-photographed him. I don’t know what that is or how to do it, but it’s very disrespectful.

There was a flurry of activity as Roma tried in vain to narrow the margin. Crosses dropped in the box and we were treated to a bit of a frenzy right in front of us, even a nice shot cracking against the United post and a beauty of a Romium half-volley a few yards to the right of goal. But to no avail. Eventually, Totti brought his team within one more goal, courtesy of a penalty awarded after the ref deliberated for about five seconds, clearly swayed by frantic Italian hand gestures. (It was easy to see how he was persuaded, for Italians very rarely employ hand gestures when speaking.) The ball had smacked a United defender’s hand in the box, the call seemed accurate enough for a friendly, and Totti put it in the net from the spot. The goal was followed good amount of respectful applause for the national and club talisman. It was a nice moment.

The game ended, and we beat it from our seats before the United players’ slow victory lap reached our corner of the stadium. While that wretchworthy annoyance was developing, some Romulan subs were subjected to some light sprints by one of their coaches. It was a strange sight, and with many of the reported 54,000 in attendance remaining to applaud United, it felt like kind of a haves versus the have-nots moment. I really don’t like United. Really, really.

We left the stadium and stood in line for at least half an hour in order to retrieve my sister’s bag. There were no less than five Denver police officers standing there, making absolutely sure that the bag checkers caused as much confusion and delay as possible. Five cops, serving and protecting by monitoring a bag check. Well, what else should they do?–half the city is stoned anyway. I think their badges said “Chevy”. I passed the time by turning to watch small packs of United fans passing by while chanting–three hordes in total, comprised of between four and ten fans each time, not really conjuring up proof that they root for the most popular sports team on the planet–and looking through my pictures. Turns out I got a smidge of Kagawa and a dash of Nani stuck in my phone. Eh, those guys are also all right in my book. I swear I don’t like United.


Juventus 3-0 Roma: The Scudetto Slips Away?

January 11, 2014 — by Suman


Editor’s note: It’s been a while since we’ve done any match reports on CultFootball–not like the good old days, when trunchfiddle might watch a Bundesliga match over the weekend and write up a quick post and title it “Borussia Dortmund beweisen ihren Wert

Of coures, it’s not as if trunchfiddle and the rest of us have stopped watching matches–we’ve just stopped writing about them. But even that’s not entirely true–in what’s become a bit of a double-edged sword, most of our typed match-related output has migrated to our email listserv. It better fits the transient nature of match commentary

So here is a compilation of some of our thoughts, pre- during, and post-game of last weekend–the match in question being Sunday’s late Serie A matchup in Turin, which ended in a decisive 3-0 win for league-leading and two-time defending domestic champion Juventus over unexpected challengers Roma.

This match, at the halfway point of the season, was going to essentially decide whether there would be a Scudetto race the rest of the way. Going in, Juve was 5pts ahead of Roma in the Serie A table–even though Roma remarkably entered undefeated (Juve’s line: 15W 1D 1L -> 46pts; Roma: 12W 5D 0L -> 41pts).

But Roma had lost the momentum going into the winter holiday break. After starting the season with a record 10 wins in their first 10 fixtures, they slumped to 5 draws in the last 7 fixtures of 2013 (cf the Guardian’s handy Stats Centre, which includes team-by-team league form and league position time series.).  For accounts of that magica-l early season form, see Paolo Bandini in the Guardian (“Roma’s resurrection embodied by Francesco Totti but made by Rudi Garcia“) and Gabriele Marcotti in the WSJ (“Manager Rudi Garcia’s Tactics Spark Turnaround at Roma Soccer“), both writing in early October.

Meanwhile, Juve had dropped points early in the season with a draw at Inter and a shocking 4-2 loss at Fiorentina–but they won the rest of their league matches, finally pulling past Roma into the top spot in late November.

The 5-point gap at the New Year meant a Juve win Sunday would result in I bianconeri basically sewing up their 3rd straight Scudetto, while a Roma upset would mean the race would be back on.
One match preview worth reading, even now post-match, is by tactical guru Michael Cox, focusing on who he claims are Serie A’s two best midfielders,  La Vecchia Signora’s Chilean attacking Arturo Vidal & Roma’s Dutch deeper-lying Kevin Strootman:
(One of the themes of our match previews and reports over the next 5 months will be pointing you towards players to watch ahead of this summer’s World Cup–keep an eye out for Vidal and Strootman this summer, as well as Juve’s other midfielders: young Frenchman Paul Pogba, and Italians Claudio Marchisio and of course elder statesman Andrea Pirlo.  Roma’s Daniele de Rossi may also feature for the Azurri in midfield.)
In response to this link, our Roman amico Simeone wrote:
Definitely, the game will be decided in the middle…Pirlo-Vidal-Marchisio vs Pjanic-Strootman-De Rossi. WOW !!
I think Juve is still better in the middle, but if Pjanic and Totti (with Gervinho) have a good day, the match will be really fast-paced and exciting to watch.
And I wouldn’t discard the role of Maicon, he is a crazy player who excels in big games….and there on the right Juve is not strong….
Roma must be fast, very fast in counter attacks because Juve’s defense can be beaten by speed only.
I hope Roma wins, it would be good for Serie A and for all the Magica fans….
I wish we could watch it together !!
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to watch it together, and even more unfortunately for all the Magica fans, the game went against Roma from very nearly the beginning. Trunchfiddle’s halftime report:
I’ve got a nice clean English language sopcast feed running on the desktop.
Saw the Juventus goal. Made by Tevez, scored by Vidal.  Tevez has still got it.
Pogba is very good. He’s a blur in the open field and has a shot like a rocket. His and Vidal’s hairstyles are some next level shit.
Juve look very dangerous in the attacking third (and on the counter). Nice intricate passing and movement, very pleasing on the eye.
Roma apparently held more possession before the first 20 mins, but I didn’t see it. Their play is also nice to watch, very attacking but not nearly as sharp or intricate as Juve’s.
Totti flopping all over the place. Gervinho wearing some kind of headband.
And now James Richardson running the halftime show for BT Sport
Coach Larry weighed in with a few words at halftime–or rather just after halftime:
Roma just seem a couple steps too slow. Have done little threatening from their extra possession. Pjanic been suffering with some sort if knee issue.
Now Roma don’t react at all to a free kick to the far post, late runner Bonucci slides it home. This match is over.
That 2nd Juve goal came in the 48′, and did effectively end the match. Well, if it didn’t end prematurely then, it certainly did just after I tuned in, at the 75′, when Roma’s captain Daniele de Rossi, clearly a step slow even chasing Juve’s defender Giorgio Chiellini down the flank, went in two-footed after Chiellini had crossed the ball, and earned himself a straight red. Off the ensuing free kick, some more poor set-piece defending resulted in a Suarezian goal line clearance by Roma defender Leandro Castan and a Juve PK for a gravy 3rd goal.
It was Castan’s 2nd ignominious moment of the match–it was Castan that lost his mark on the earlier free kick for Juve’s 2nd goal.  Indeed, here were Simeone’s words Monday morning:
I owe you few words after yesterday….
First, yes, Serie A was available on dish in 2001. [in response to an unrelated Serie A question]
Regarding the game, although I liked the way we started it, and overall the whole first half, I was worried because Juventus was playing the game that we were supposed to play: stay calm, wait for their attacks and punish with lethal counter attacks. I was thinking “Look at that smartass of Conte, he is waiting for us to show off how good we are and he will punish us on the first real chance…..son of a b….!!”. And that is what happened….The match was decided by few episodes and it seems like everything is going in Juve’s advantage these days.
Unfortunately De Rossi and Totti didn’t play well and Castan made a huge mistake on the 2nd goal (unusual for him), which kind of ended the game for me. Strootman is a giant. I love that player. The rest is history. Now, unless Juve thinks that they already won, there is no way they will lose this scudetto….;-(

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La Magica Roma: 1982-1984

December 17, 2010 — by Simeone1


I am an hardcore fan of the “magica” Roma…I fell in love with the “giallorossi” (“red-yellow”) when I was a kid, 10 years old (1980), Roma-Udinese 0-0, at the old Olimpic Stadium with my mum and dad. We got there at the last minute and we could only find standing “seats”, at the bottom of the Curva Nord (the other curve, Curva Sud, is the home of Roma’s fans). Tw years later Italy won the World Cup, defeating Argentina with Passarella and an already famous Maradona.  (Gentile, the rough italian defender, still has a piece of his jersey!)  Then Italy-Brazil, 3-2, an amazing game, with three goals by Rossi (and a great counterattack goal by Antognoni disallowed)….I am talking about the great Brazil of Zico, Falcao (a Roma’s player by then), Socrates, Junior, Eder….I think one of the best games ever by the Azzurri, second only to the 1970 semifinal victory against Germany (4-3 in overtime). Poland of Lato in the semifinal was a joke and then the usual win against Germany…we rarely (never?) lost against Germany in the World Cup.

There was always a party in the streets during that summer of 1982 in Rome, Italian flags everywhere, people crazy rallying for hours after each game…and remember that we barely made it through the first round, with a tie against Cameroon.

Well, a few months later, in the ’82-83 Serie A season, Liedholm (Swedish coach), Falcao (5), Conti (7), Di Bartolomei (10), and Tancredi (goalie) lead the Roma squad to the second scudetto after 40 years!!  Nobody removed their flags from the windows and balconies, they just added the Roma flag!!!  I remember those days with a lot of joy. I was 12….still a kid.  Me and my dad going to the stadium by subway, then bus, sometimes walking for a couple of miles just for the heck of it (waiting for the bus was boring and we were usually early for the game, since the sooner we got there, the better seats we could get). Bringing paninis with us, spending hours in the stadium, cutting newspapers to use when the teams stepped into the field, singing the Roma anthem by Venditti (see below).  Many times my cousins came along, as well as some friends from school, but it was mainly me and my dad…always there.