Tag Archives: US soccer news

David Beckham – Servant or Master in Downton Abbey?

4 Dec

butlers.1900 Now that David Beckham has played his last act in an American soccer role, what is next for the Englishman abroad? Having spent the last five years in Hollywood making friends (Tom Cruise and Russell Brand are mates), casting agents must be wondering if Mr. Beckham desires the spotlight of the silver screen.

I pondered this as I drove to the Los Angeles Galaxy stadium for the MLS Cup Final last Saturday. The team’s ground is located in the city of Carson. “Carson,” I thought, “Where have I heard that name before?”

Then it struck me. Carson is the butler in Downton Abbey. Yes, that was it! Mr. Beckham could start his acting career in Downton Abbey, Masterpiece Theater’s darling smash hit drama set in the snobbery fields of England, on an aristocratic manor cast between the privileged and their servants. But the big question was this? Would he be cast downstairs as a servant known as Becks or be claimed by the aristocracy upstairs as Sir David Beckham of Essex?

Hollywood aristocracy is not the same thing as English Lords and Lady Dowagers delivering lines of caustic sarcasm. So Mr. Beckham would be at a disadvantage when it came to sneering condescension. He always speaks fondly of his humble roots and I don’t mean his immaculate hair.

Furthermore, Mr. Beckham’s accent is not from the plum tree of linguistic fruits. He does not replace his “r” with an “h” as in, “Dahling, pass the sugar.” His timbre would immediately betray him as lower social class in England’s grand scheme of manners. The only thing going for him upstairs is the fact that he is married to Mrs. Victoria Beckham, also known as Posh in the Spice Girls. Her moniker may not be enough to fool the Lords of the manor, however.

So it seems Mr. Beckham may be destined for a role with the servants under the stairs. No doubt, he has been a loyal servant to soccer both in the States and in his native England. He served his country scores of times on the soccer field and off. He carried the Olympic torch at the recent Olympics, transporting the flame by speedboat up the River Thames in London.

But what role would he have as a servant at Downton Abbey? Surely not just Footman Becks bending his elbow to serve the aristocrats their garden peas at dinner. Becks would have to be higher up the food chain, perhaps as a junior butler, serving under Mr. Carson. Think of it as the same type of relationship Mr. Beckham had with Mr. Alex Ferguson, his “soccer father” and coach while he played at Manchester United. Learn a trade, son.

But the butler remains the butler until his service ends with the grave. Mr. Beckham represents a more mobile type of man, an iconoclast. Perhaps he would be better cast as the chauffer who falls in love with one of the Ladies of the Abbey and marries into the family. No longer called Becks by the masters but accepted as David. Too late – an Irishman already played that part.

That leaves being a valet to one of the Lords of the higher orders, dressing him for breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, and bed. But one can’t see Mr. Beckham dressing others when he is a fashion model himself. Nor can we imagine him putting the toothpaste on the toothbrush for his Lordship. Perhaps Downton Abbey is not the show for Mr. Beckham after all. Maybe the similar Masterpiece drama, Upstairs Downstairs, is a better option? Now let’s see, who could he play in that?

Alan Black writes a weekly soccer column, on Friday, for the San Francisco Chronicle. He is the author of the memoir, Kick the Balls.

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Portland – USA’s Soccer Front / Wayne Rooney Speaks Latin

21 Sep

Portland, Oregon – Portland is soccer mad. I stepped off the plane to see Portland Timbers merchandise everywhere. Even a fast food burger joint was selling scarves and hats along with the fries.

The city was buzzing with anticipation. Seattle Sounders were in town for a nationally televised MLS game on NBC last Saturday. Fans began lining up at the stadium the day before the kickoff. The bars buzzed with soccer talk. Seven hundred Seattle fans were making the trip south. And the Timbers Army, Portland’s thousands strong supporters group, was primed for a show of strength against their Cascadian archrival. No love was lost.

On game-day, I stepped off the light rail to crowd singing coming from inside the nearby stadium. It felt like going to a game in Europe. The atmosphere was pinging. This was a thumping soccer vibe, and it was right here in America.

Inside the ground, the Timbers Army occupied the entire north end. They bounced and sang in collective harmony. It was deafening. A lumberjack walked around the field wielding a chainsaw. He sawed off a log from a felled tree when Portland scored. Seattle’s goalkeeper shivered.

Every game sells out. I was told thousands are on the waiting list to get seats in the Army sections. The Timbers Army has gotten so big it has become a membership driven, non-profit entity. Members’ dues and merchandise sales finance community projects. Creating soccer fields in low-income neighborhoods is one example of this remarkable fan power. It fits right in with the city’s progressive wavelength.

Merritt Paulson owns the Timbers. He is the son of Hank Paulson, Treasury Secretary in the last Bush administration and former Goldman Sachs CEO. Remember Hank? In 2008, he read the note to the world that his capitalist pals in the financial industry had raided the cookie jar.

It seems an odd mix at Portland – social activism fan style on the one-side connected to the gilded edge on the other. Marxists may find that contradiction funny. Certainly, Portland is the vanguard for the country’s soccer experience. They seem to have figured out the grid lines between the team’s supply and the fans’ demands.

Terra Firma – Today’s classics lesson. His leg was sliced open by a cleat during a recent game. A bandaged Wayne Rooney, England’s superstar striker, was photographed on his sofa donning a T-shirt emblazoned with the Latin phrase, Virescit Vulnere Virtus (courage becomes greater through a wound.)

Over the summer, Rooney was photographed in Las Vegas not so much following Carpe Diem! as Carpe Cervisiam! (seize the beer!) On returning to his team a little bloated, Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson gulped, Re vera, postas bene, (Say, you are drinking a lot.) Fergie benched him. The press pounced on Wayne’s weakness for ale.

Of course, as we all know, merda taurorum animas conturbit (B.S. baffles the brain,) especially when beer is involved, so fans of the great Wayne Rooney patiently await his recovery and triumphant return to the soccer forum where the message to his detractors will be vescere bracis meis (eat my shorts.) Hail Rooney!

Captain Klinsmann on the Amazon Bound

6 Apr

USA national team coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, is engaging. His voice has a laid back feel. He has lived in California for a while. And from there he stares out across a continent of differences, and beyond that, over the sea to Americans playing soccer in foreign lands. From this acreage he picks the ingredients that must safeguard the American settlement in world soccer. Consider the weight of responsibility. It befits the German national to have a relieving chuckle now and again as he picks the cargo that will carry America to the samba party at the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil. The qualifying sails will be raised in June.

Last week’s Olympics elimination fiasco for the USA was noted not just for the result. Many people, without knowing the game’s structures, assumed the senior team were carrying the can of humiliation. Even though the U-23 squad coached by Caleb Porter was the real loser, the focus turned on Klinsmann and his vision for the future. The US Soccer Federation acted fast. Klinsmann would now be available to the press on a regular basis to discuss everything. Perhaps the men in blazers feared panic creep before Klinsmann’s ship, let’s call it the Amazon Bound, leaves the harbor.

In taking over the helm in 2011 from the stern Bob Bradley, Klinsmann insisted on a root and branch reform of the US game. The current US colony on Planet Soccer was established through hunger, a bite that proved to the old masters of the game that Americans could compete and win against them. They laughed at the Yanks to begin with but underestimated the fire of players like Brain McBride and Landon Donovan among others, players happy being tough underdogs. Chewing on the bones of bigger beasts was most satisfying. But the USA is no longer considered an underdog in most of its match ups. So where will the feed for the long term Klinsmann project come from?

Here are some bones from yesterday’s press conference call with Jurgen Klinsmann.

The melting pot crew–

“I have to adjust to the different soccer landscape in this country, adjust to the fact that 75 to 80 percent of the players are overseas, some in Mexico, so they’re all over the place. They come in from all different backgrounds, so that’s a bit of a different challenge. I just take things the way they are, and then I look for solutions and I look for ways to communicate with them in their own ways. Maybe I have to adjust and use Twitter and Facebook to get hooked to them and get a message out to them, which I hadn’t done before. So as a coach, it’s important that you kind of analyze your environment and say OK, based on what you’ve seen now, this is what you have to do and you have to change the way of doing things. It’s important to get the messages out to the players and that they understand why we do certain things, why we want to encourage them to look at things a little bit different. Every one of them has lived their daily lives in a very different way, and so we have to figure out how we get things across to them and hopefully make them step-by-step a little bit better in everything that they’re doing.”

The seeds for tomorrow –

“How can we help our youngsters and our kids to develop to the highest level possible? What structures can we give them? The introduction of a 10-month season is just one of these pieces. It’s crucial that we adjust to the global game. It’s crucial that we understand that soccer is not a seasonal sport. Soccer is a sport that is played 12 months of the year. In most of the soccer nations, it’s really played 11, 11 and a half months out of the year. How can we compete with those nations? Whatever it takes in the discussion and what is ideal for 10- to 14-year-olds and further up, what is ideal for all these kids, then you should adjust. We need to find a tier-driven environment because we need to give a lot of the younger players the opportunity to get enough games per year. If you look at the players between 18 and 22 years of age and you summarize all the amount of games they really have and see if they are part of an MLS system, then maybe simply it’s not enough. It’s really worth it to get everybody at the same table sooner or later and discuss all those topics. It’s not me coming in and saying this is what we need, it’s really everybody involved that needs to come together and say, ‘This is how we need our players to grow more effectively, to grow more continuously and not drop off in a couple of months here and a couple of months there as often was the case.’ But this is a huge topic.”

Every American wishes the fair winds blow the Amazon Bound to a solid trade in goals. Klinsmann may also benefit from the wisdom of Goethe. Carve this on the mast – Der Worte sind genug gewechselt, lasst mich auch endlich Taten sehn! (Enough words have been exchanged; now at last let me see some deeds!)

Alan Black is the soccer columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. He is the author of the memoir, Kick the Balls – An Offensive Suburban Odyssey, and The Glorious World Cup. (Penguin USA).