|Giraffes fighting is like people on acid.|
Or I guess I should say we’re winning.
We played our first game of the Europa League first round yesterday and came away with a 2-1 victory. It was a hard fought win, but in the end I think we deserved to win and honestly should have scored one or two more. We also should have had a great chance to score a goal at the very end of the game when I was played through on goal. I was clean in, but slowed down anticipating that the ball would bounce up a bit. Instead, the pass skidded on the turf and put me on a desperate chase. Fortunately though I made it to the ball just in time before being cleaned out by the goalkeeper. My foot got caught awkwardly under the ‘keeper and I went down with a lot of pain. Unfortunately, the referee saw nothing wrong with this obvious foul and didn’t call anything, or check on me to see if I was ok. This was terrible refereeing that pissed me off. First, it’s as obvious a foul as you’ll ever see in a game. Second, it’s a red card offence because the goalkeeper was the last defender. That would have been enormous considering that Brommapojkarna didn’t bring a backup senior ‘keeper and possibly would have had to play a junior ‘keeper for the return leg next week. Third, the double standard for attackers vs. defenders is infuriating. Imagine if in that situation the goalkeeper had got there first and touched the ball past me and then I had slide tackled him? I would absolutely be called for a foul and get a yellow card, if not red. If the referee didn’t think the goalkeeper fouled me, then he must assume that I dived, in which case I deserve a yellow card. But I didn’t dive, as you can see below. Besides, I want to score so that I can put a Europa League goal on my CV to give it some clout.
Although I didn’t write anything here, I felt very strongly that we could beat this team if we put them under adversity. I was vindicated when we scored our second goal from a horrible mistake just two minutes after our first goal. Brommapojkarna (which btw means “The Bromma Boys” and is the single coolest name in all of sports) have been having a bad season and the team is mostly young talents from Sweden. Thus they are far less equipped to deal with adversity than a team of veterans like, to pick at random, VPS. I played on a similarly-designed team with Enkoping SK. We had a ton of skill, but no history with adversity. It was almost the same team that had dominated Division 2 a year earlier and we had easily enough talent for Division 1. But as soon as things went wrong they just compounded and by June we were just making up ways to lose. We (VPS) screwed up by giving Brommapojkarna the first goal, but we really got in their heads once we took the lead. None of their players looked tired until we scored our second goal, then suddenly they were all tired.
It’s America’s birthday, so I figure I’ll talk a bit about USA! Not the country really, because who cares, but instead about our recently doomed World Cup campaign. I won’t talk too long because this won’t relate at all to most people who may read this. The United States both overachieved and underachieved simultaneously. The team advanced to the Round of 16 and only lost after extra time. On the flip side we only won one game. We were dominated in three of our four matches, only controlling the game against a completely out of whack Portugal team. We lacked creativity while our most creative players sat at home (Landon Donovan) or on the bench (Mix Diskeruud). We brought Aron Johansson over Eddie Johnson or Terrance Boyd, then benched him because he wasn’t as big and strong as the guys we left home. We took one of our best performers in the tournament (Kyle Beckerman) and replaced him in the knockout game with Geoff Cameron, a player having a horrendous tournament. And we put Cameron in a position he literally never plays (he’s a right back at Stoke City and a CB with USA). Despite all these coaching mistakes the team still made it out of the group of death, so that’s something. The fact that we gave up the most scoring chances (72, tied with freaking Honduras) and created the fewest doesn’t seem to bother most people. The point I’m making, and I promise I’m wrapping up though I could write 5000 words on this, is that USA got very lucky even though they shouldn’t have had to. We have the players to get the same results without all the luck. We should have been able to beat Ghana without a miraculous goal from a teenage reserve center back. We should be able to lose by a goal to Belgium without our goalkeeper making literally 16 saves. In the end, it all gets washed over because Americans care more about drama than results. If we won every game 4-0 and won the World Cup the team wouldn’t be nearly as popular as they are as lovable losers. Our goalkeeper Tim Howard is now a hero at home and the rest of our team goes back to their clubs honestly believing they did everything they could do, which is what everyone tells them but is not the truth at all.
Off the field the mood of the team is really good at the moment. Players are finally starting to come back from injury, plus we’ve got a new player in Jordan Brown (or Jordan “B”, since I’m obviously Jordan “A”). This has been good for the group and we’ve been able to improve the quality of trainings which has translated into better game performances. The team is also showing the resolve that defined us last year. Coming from behind to beat Brommapojkarna was something that reminded me of last year’s team, where every game we ran wild during the last ten minutes. We’re getting stronger as the season goes on, and that’s great news for our fans!
Our next game is away to Jaro, a cruelly difficult and emotional game for us before our return leg in Stockholm. To make matters worse, we really need to get something from the game and we don't have enough players to trot out a B team even if we wanted to. Hopefully we get a good crowd and earn the 3 points!