Land of the Free Kick

For the last 48 hours or so, I’ve tried to craft an in-depth, meaningful essay on The Moment, on the feeling I had seeing Landon Donovan stroke it into the net, the emotion of watching the goal over and over, and perhaps most tear-jerking, the compilation of reactions from U.S. fans everywhere (the guy sliding down the stairs kills me). But I can’t. It’s beyond me in my current adrenaline-overloaded state.

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I wanted to talk about how the goal, and the entire U.S. World Cup run so far, has basically eliminated the stodgy bullshit from mainstream media columnists, who have never failed in the past to trot our their tired and dismissive drivel about America never being a soccer nation. Which is awesome. Because we already are a soccer nation.

I’ve long since gotten past trying to convince non-soccer fans of the intrinsic beauty of the game. I don’t care if you like it or not. I don’t need you. The U.S. team doesn’t need you. And I can blissfully skip past any ignorant comment after years of red-faced defense of this game I love. Today, I am secure in knowing those people missed out. Serves ’em right.

Ink will be spilled coast to coast about What It Means. I’m usually annoyed at that stuff, too. For every success or failure, we have to hear how it will affect soccer in the future. What other sport is faced with such repeated analysis?

Here’s what it means. It means we won a game in dramatic fashion to save our skins. It means casual sports fans have taken notice because the U.S. team’s fight and belief (and this insane ability to pull goals out of their ass in the waning minutes) is something Americans admire. They don’t need to know a set-piece from a settee to feel something for these Yanks. It means I’m going to bar tomorrow to hopefully re-live one of those scenes from the video, a bar where the proprietor suggested I get there three hours early to avoid being turned away by the fire marshal.

Ghana is a tough foe. They will be very difficult to break down defensively and they have athletes all over the park. Their ability to score goals is suspect, but their discipline and work-rate will be a huge issue for this U.S. team, as will the Yanks’ ability to recover from a physically- and emotionally-draining performance just three days earlier. The game threatens to be 0-0 for a long time, increasing the pressure with every passing minute. This game is as close to a toss-up as you will find.

But watching this U.S. team in this World Cup, would you bet against them?

Landycakes Swings One In

Fresh off making a hilarious run for the border, Landon Donovan debuted Saturday for Everton at Emirates Stadium against home side, Arsenal. His inclusion in the starting team was something of a surprise, considering he’s been idle since skying a spot kick over the bar in MLS Cup and has only been training on Merseyside for a week. Regardless, it took him all of 12 minutes set up a Leon Osman goal off a corner.

Following the 2-2 draw, Everton manager David Moyes was quoted in The London Times as saying, “Donovan did very well. From what I have seen of him his football’s simple, quick, lively and he was intelligent today. He tracked people back and we know he can play off the front or wide. I thought he made a good contribution.”

Most of the other games in the Barclay’s Premier League were cancelled on the weekend due to weather, but Donovan’s USMNT teammate Clint Dempsey led a slew of highlight shows with this cracker against Stoke mid-week.

Quite a finish. Still lost to Stoke. Looks like English punters will see plenty of the Americans leading up to the US-England World Cup tie on June 12.

The Weekly Dump

Manchester United - Leeds FA Cup

Jermaine Beckford, Leed’s United, celebrates after scoring against Manchester United at Old Trafford Stadium (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Manchester United crash out of FA Cup – A result that brings joy to a lot of (non-ManU) supporters. Not only did they lose to a third division club, it was the once mighty Leeds who did the deed.

And Sir Alex is pissed,

“The preparation was good but I was shocked at that performance. We didn’t start right and Leeds did. They fought like tigers but you expect that from any team coming to Old Trafford. It’s a disappointment. Human beings can always surprise you but I didn’t expect that. I don’t think any of them can say they had a good day. We never got going and the quality of passing – the whole performance – was bad. Leeds had a far better appetite for the game than us. You need luck and they got it but they deserved it because they played really well.”

Portsmouth again unable to pay their players – This is the third month Pompey players watched their payday go by with nothing to show for it.  The club is facing dire financial times but officials promise the players will be paid.  The Football Association is taking Pompey’s television revenue to pay past debts to other clubs.

News Flash: Liverpool stink, players fault – Joe Speaker’s beloved Scousers are doing their best imitation of an MLS club.  Steven Gerrard blames the players, “We are in this position for a reason and it tells us that we really haven’t been good enough, and the players have to take responsibility for that.”

President of the Iranian Football Federation said “Happy New Year!” to Israel. Then quickly apologized while he still had breath to do so.

The U.S. Men’s National Team kicked off their winter camp and our very own Joe Speaker tell us what to expect.

Finally, it seems Landycakes decided to make a run south of the border to pick up a Mexican Lottery ticket.