Tag Archives: “soccer latest”

Landon Calling

7 Jul

Last week, I caught up with all-time leading USA goal scorer, Landon Donovan – a short profile and some thoughts on how American soccer should pursue its own style and method.

Landon Donovan was in the Bay Area last Saturday scoring for Los Angeles Galaxy in his team’s 4-3 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes before a sell-out crowd at Stanford. Is he the best US player of his generation? Cue the stats – all-time leading scorer for the national team with forty-nine goals, the leader in assists, a career spanning over a decade with one hundred and forty three appearances for the country. He is the public face of American soccer internationally. And he’s earned respect by demonstrating purpose and leading by example.

Now a veteran, he offers advice to the next generation of US soccer players. “As a young player you can tend to get caught up in one good game or one bad game, one good moment or one bad moment or one good team or one bad team. If you are in it for the long haul, there are lots of ups and downs,” he said last week when I caught up with him by phone. “The players I have most respect for are those who play year after year and have been very consistent and that is the hardest thing to do.”

Soccer’s rigors are intense. A few years ago, I watched Donovan train in Los Angeles. He was tireless, outpacing his teammates in challenges, firing shots at the goalie with an intensity equal to the force expected during a match. How does he prepare mentally for games?

“I do different sorts of, I guess you’d call it, meditation,” he says. “At this point in my career, I have played quite a few games. So it is not that I am going to come to a match and have some kind of realization. I do think about the specific opponent that I am dealing with and I try to be positive with myself and envision doing positive things in the game.” Strike that as a California attitude.

Donovan’s colors rose on scoring key goals for the USA. His strikes in the 2002 World Cup run to the quarterfinals helped bounce interest in the domestic game at a time when there were doubts to its survivability. And his famous last minute winning goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup unleashed a wave of patriotism that carried soccer’s message to all stars in the Union – this foreign game has an American stamp.

Last Saturday’s match at Stanford was a thrill beyond the norm. Ninety minutes of rollercoaster game action, a noisy spectacle bookended by a salute to the armed forces and fireworks celebrating the Fourth of July. Look at the contrasting styles between this match and the prize games of the recently concluded Euro 2012. At Stanford, we enjoyed an adventurous game of openness and space, goal loaded and wild. At Euro 2012, a taxing economy of European soccer obsessed with possession and control. For sure, the better odds of victory in international match ups lie with technically superior teams with powerful club traditions. But emerging US soccer has its own flavor and should not be afraid to develop its own methods. Flying down the field and heading for goal is the portrait Landon Donovan can hang in the soccer Hall of Fame. Call it the American game – willing and ready to bang.

Socrates Remembered

6 Dec

Socrates, the great Brazilian soccer maverick, has died at age 57. Those who saw him play were moved by his style. He glided over the grass, his intelligence working the angles, carving space, inspirational and beautiful. He was unlike the other midfield maestro of his era — Maradona. The Argentine was a short squat explosive; Socrates embodied elegance and poise, something special, the man with the golden heel. In the Beautiful Game, Socrates was the Beautiful Player.

Soccer was art to Socrates, it was never about winning and losing, “victory breeds conformity,” he said. He possessed contradiction, conflicted like so many great artists. He was a rarity amongst the soccer professional; an intellectual and writer, a qualified medical doctor, smoking packs of cigarettes each day during his playing years. His demon was the drink, so often the hemlock of the visionary. It helped kill him, and his reputation suffered, “They don’t want me to drink, smoke or think?” he said, “Well, I drink, smoke and think.” Off the field, he was an advocate for Brazilian democracy playing his part in the country’s democratic renaissance as it emerged from military rule.

His philosophical name was a perfect fit. He asked many questions of opponents and they rarely had an answer when he was in full flight. He captained Brazil in the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain, now acknowledged as the best team never to win the tournament. Arguably, Brazil ’82 were the best Brazilian squad of all-time. He wished for Brazilian football to return to it golden era of flair and freedom. He had little patience for the modern game’s tactical methods, dull and bureaucratic, players hampered in confining roles. Socrates was a man who stood for freedom of expression, on and off the field. When will we see his likes again?

MARKING BECKHAM

1 Aug

Becks is adding his golden signature to the black marker. Not that he is in a hurry these days to get around anyone on the field but apparently he is up for more autographs. Sharpie has signed Becks to its global campaign to become the pen of choice for the famed. The permanent marker scores – maybe it will rub off on Becks goal tally. But like all pens, it runs dry. When a Sharpie dies, and these days leaving the cap off for more than ten minutes can be fatal for its future, a cry of “Damn and Blast,” is likely followed up by a throw of the Sharpie at the trash can, that usually misses, like much of Becks’ free-kicks these days. More stains on the landfill.