Saturday, June 27, 2009

Confederations Cup Update

Seems the UF crew has decided to take today off and spend it outside or something, but never fear, we will still be your Confederations Cup Liveblog Leaders tomorrow. Both games are scheduled for liveblogging.

The third place match is set for 9:00 am ET and the final at 2:30 ET.

Hopefully we'll see/read you here tomorrow.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Backpasses: Three seconds of explosive hilarity

James Milner did his best to assure himself the future England captaincy. His PK had the balance of John Terry with the placement of David Beckham. (It's the first one)

Betfair had all of $51 bet on the US at 999-1 to win the Confederations Cup [NYT Goal]
Burnley are already asking to be relegated. Could we see a sub-10 point season? [Dirty Tackle]
Early word on the ESPN World Cup broadcast team [The Big Lead]

Scottish club on the brink of collapse. Unfortunately, it's the epitome of a poorly-run club [Two Hundred Percent]
True Hoop's take on the SiC [True Hoop]
Man City's Felipe Caicedo too black to dine in his own country [Off The Post]
Want to bet on the Confederations Cup final? Look at these stats first [The Spoiler]

At 1.21 PM on this Iran liveblog, there is a call for the US to wear green wristbands in the Final on Sunday. If that's something you can get behind, there is contact information. Sorry about the partisan blog link [HuffPo]

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Is Rivers Cuomo Predicting An Upset?

Weezer front man Rivers Cuomo is a soccer fan and an extremely talented musician. Naturally, he has penned a song for the USMNT and posted in on Youtube.

Is that an upset I hear?

Big hattip to The Offside Rules for finding this.

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Showdown in Chinatown 2009: The Recap

Steve Nash in flight

You've already seen the pictures and read our impressions. You've watched the video.

Now, after the hop, get a full recap of the match itself from our kid, the Likely Lad.

Blue - Team Reyna

Claudio Reyna
Adrian Mutu
Salomon Kalou
Quincy Owusu Abeyie (Spartak Moscow)
Javier Zanetti
Tony Parker
Ivan Cordoba
Javier Zanetti
Marc Stein
Thierry Henry (second half intro)
Mike Quarino (GK)

White - Team Nash

Steve Nash
Grant Hill
Chris Bosh
Mathieu Flamini
Edgar Davids
Martin Nash (Steve’s bro, who plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps)
Francesco Santoro (GK)

Showdown in Chinatown: The Rematch
Chris Bosh is tall, popular in New York City

by The Likely Lad

New York City-- Tony Parker came to play. We know because he told us. UF asked for a comment ten minutes before the game began and Parker declined, saying he "did press already." As far as I can tell that meant signing a couple footballs, taking a few pictures with the kids, then twisting his face in agony whenever Thierry Henry strayed from his side. It lasted all of ten minutes.

There's no karma in Tony Parker's world -- that is, we're still waiting -- he's won three NBA titles, is married to an equally vapid but especially beautiful television actress, and scored a fantastic goal not five minutes into Wednesday evening's Second Annual Showdown in Chinatown. His side, Team Reyna, would go on to win 8-5 at Nike Field on Chrystie Street.

Parker's piece of accidental magic capped off a sequence that began when teammate Chris Bosh played a neat one-two with himself. He's that tall; his legs are that long. The NBA star played the "Eddie the Eagle" card and ended the evening as the fan favorite. The Frenchman, though, rode his unending luck, skipping and redirecting a low, hard pass through his legs, turning the Team Nash goalie sideways for the opener.

He would come close again minutes later, but an aggressive slide from the same keeper stole out his feet and opened ten minutes of muted play -- nerves? Probably more to do with the surface, which was still wet from the late afternoon thundershowers. The rain fell until just minutes before gametime.

The play soon reached a comfortable speed -- looked like about 200 mph from where we stood, behind the Team Reyna bench -- and just in time for Arsenal defector Mathieu Flamini to level with the game's most pulsating strike. Team Captain Nash had fed Ryan Babel (who played with a bit of mean streak) into the box with a bouncing pass. Babel collected, then juggled in and around a passive defense before skipping the ball to Flamini, who connected on a full volley. The velocity was, as I recall, simply terrifying.

It was game on from there, as the Rossoneri Frenchman tried his luck again just moments later. The juices were flowing. Everyone wanted a piece now.

The strongest nose for goal belonged to Team Reyna's Adrian Mutu. The Romanian, playing to his considerable rooting section, was sniffing out opportunities at every turn. Cutting and tweaking through the Nash team's defense, he found Bosh alone in front, where the hoops giant had camped out all alone, just in time to bend one like Bent... and nearly skull a spectator.

Bosh was more efficient in front of his own keeper, where his shambolic clearance attempt -- he fouled it off, for lack of a better term -- led to an own goal, and a 2-1 lead for Nash's white side.

Bosh played a nominal left back position, though the purist may have preferred he'd been left home. As for the rest, he was a sensation. Completely lost in every situation, he was particularly befuddled by the "kicking of the ball." His aerial game was similarly ...emm ...distracted.

Teammate Salomon Kalou had no such difficulties. As Norwich City youth squad coach John Revell noted, Kalou plays the ball, not the other way around, and all of his considerable trickery comes in context. No wonder then his considerable work led to the tying goal, which, shock!, was credited to Tony Parker.

"It was no classic," Revell said, apparently unimpressed by Parker's last touch.

The score stayed tied as the first half progressed and Mutu continued to distinguish himself with skillful hard work. That, or he was just sweating one off.

The Romanian would eventually break the deadlock, but not before Grant Hill, playing sprightly for Nash's white team, executed the move of the game, nutmegging a hopeless Bosh during an Alves-esque drive down the right flank. It was going to happen eventually, but leave it to the Duke guy to pick on the least experienced player on the field. Ten thousand ugly co-eds cheering him and Hill might have had a flashback to Cameron Indoor.

Edgar Davids, the most obvious of the Dutch assembly (along with Babel), followed in close kind with a tittering display of ball skill. It amounted to nothing as the humorless Ivan Cordoba dispossessed him with a clean snap. Davids was masterful in his role of Dutch ball hog, and yes, spectators could be heard calling him a "hog."

The half would end just after the referee awarded a PK to Steve Nash. Either T.H. Ovrebo has stepped onto the turf or Nash was getting some preferential treatment. The call came after he botch an unmolested attempt on goal via bicycle kick. His effort from the spot was not too much better, but it did find the net, and give his side a one-goal advantage heading into halftime. (Note: the goal would be rescinded at halftime, or so we're told.)

After a quick break, some promotional squawking, and a t-shirt grab, the players resumed their endeavor, but this time with a certain former-Arsenal forward now on the pitch in his Nike high tops. Somewhere, Spectator swooned. It was Henry, and even in his malaise he could have set up or scored five or six goals for Team Nash.

Alas, proving he hasn't totally kicked the Arsenal bug, Titty managed just one, this despite hours of prancing and passing around the box. Mutu was more direct, mainlining ball after ball into the paths of his teammates, and eventually two more past Team Nash's worn out keeper.

Player ratings

Blue - Team Reyna

Claudio Reyna - 7 - Sleek and sharp as ever. And he stayed healthy ALL day.
Adrian Mutu - 8 - Ball moved at his leisure.
Salomon Kalou - 9 - Game MVP. Dribbling, creativity, demeanor... had the whole package. Cool dude.
Quincy Owusu Abeyie (Spartak Moscow) - 5 - Mystery man wasn't much of a factor.
Javier Zanetti- 7 - Part of the solid Inter-based backline. Allowed the others to roam as he and Cordoba shut up shop.
Tony Parker - 6 - Couple lucky goals preceded an impotent second half.
Ivan Cordoba - 7 - Did anyone tell him this was an exhibition? Wasn't violent, but played some serious D.
Marc Stein - 7 - That rating is for his outstanding Twitter performance, including the bit about Grant Hill recalling watching Cruyff play in the NASL.
Thierry Henry (second half intro) - 6 - Didn't do much, but clearly the most awe-inspiring presence. Didn't think we'd see him due to injury.

White - Team Nash

Steve Nash - 7 - Clearly the point guard. In the Cruyff role, if only cos he was surrounded by so many Dutchmen.
Grant Hill - 6 - Another b-baller who more than held his own. The nutmegging of Bosh was special.
Chris Bosh - 1 - The Hero, still.
Mathieu Flamini - 5 - Mostly invisible, save for that horrifying volleyed blast into upper right of Reyna's goal.
Edgar Davids - 6 - A fifth place finish, if you get my drift.
Martin Nash (Steve’s bro, who for the Vancouver Whitecaps) - 5 - Nooot bad, not bad at all. Stayed 3/4 serious and held his own.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst - 3 - Rumors of his appearance have been greatly exaggerated.

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RIP Michael Jackson, Former Honorary Chairman of Exeter City FC

The day that David Blaine, Jacko and Uri Geller visited Exeter City FC

The news that Michael Jackson passed away seemed to have briefly broken the Internets yesterday. But now the Internets are back online, and it's the 24-hour news media that is in 24-hour meltdown mode. Personally, Michael Jackson's death seems perfectly appropriate given the last twenty years of his life -- sudden, unexpected and very, very weird.

But to some, Michael Jackson will always be known as the man who briefly became the Honorary Chairman of Exeter City FC. Find out about this sudden, unexpected and very, very weird turn of events after the jump.

The year was 2002. Exeter City FC was mired in financial and ownership problems. Amidst all of this, the mystic spoonbender Uri Geller had clombed onto Exeter. The team was in a fairly precarious position, so any celebrity of note who was willing to put his weight (and money) behind the team was reluctantly welcomed.

And that's when Uri Geller promised to bring his good friend Michael Jackson to Exeter. The locals in Devon were skeptical, but then on a rainy summer day in 2002, there in fact was Michael Jackson at St. James's Park along with Geller and David Blaine. Below is the media coverage from that fateful day.

[BBC Devon broadcast]
[BBC news story]

By the end of the 2002-03 season, Exeter City had been relegated to the Conference League. Meanwhile, Geller was nowhere to be seen, not to mention Jacko. Exeter's former ownership were eventually found guilty of defrauding the club of millions of pounds, and except for the hard work of the Exeter City Supporters Trust and the good fortune of drawing Manchester United in the 2005 FA Cup, Exeter City FC might very well have folded.

So, for most Grecians, the Michael Jackson incident brings up some of the darker memories of our club's history. On this day, however, we can all look back and smile and say proudly, yeah Exeter City was the only football club in the world that had the King of Pop as its honorary chairman.

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Showdown in Chinatown 2009: Impressions of the Game

Flamini looks on as Zanetti and Reyna celebrate a Parker goal

Well, yet another Showdown in Chinatown in the books. It briefly looked like it mightn't happen this year thanks to the Biblical rains that New York has been suffering through lately. Then, like a crack of lightening, the announcer said, "Here are the players!" And sure enough, there they were, jogging on to the field to a scrum of kids, "media" and people who had snuck inside the fence.

The event still had a magical Dr. J at Rucker Park feel to it. Steve Nash, Claudio Reyna and the rest of the organizers have done exactly the right thing by keeping the game at the small Nike field. It's intimate, with players literally falling into the crowd on several occasions. And I can only guess what the event looks like to people walking past on their way home from work - "What's going on here? Who? Playing soccer??"

We've spent the past couple days collecting our thoughts, sorting through photographs and editing video (if you haven't watched it yet, do so here).

After the hop, words by Ian and photos by Spectator.

We were all on a high after watching the shocking win over Spain, and despite my continued erroneous iPhone weather updates (“The blob looks like its moving through”), we spent the next hour or so huddled four or five deep under a tiny umbrella as a rather tall Englishman laughed at our Yank grumbling about the rain.

Titi was very much the center of attention

The rain mercifully let up before 6pm or so, and then suddenly the players appeared from one corner of the pitch. They were soon mobbed by the “media” (lets just say that there were lots of people with media badges that were wearing Prada shoes).

Our buddy Marc Stein ponders his second foray into George Plimpton territory

We were able to talk with Babel, Kalou, Mutu, and others, who were great, although the NBA players were much more standoffish. Henry was mobbed, as was Steve Nash. In general though it was great access that you wouldn't normally get as a humble blogger.

Pre-game announcements

About 15 minutes later, the call came for everyone to clear the field, and eventually it was just the players doing warmups. Finally, at around 6:30, the arbitro blew the whistle and we were off.

Chris Bosh made Peter Crouch look graceful

Let it be said for the record that of the NBA players, the skills hierarchy was Nash>Parker>Hill>Bosh. I don’t think Bosh had ever played before, and it looked like it. Awkward 6-11" man loping down the right wing with horrible touch.

Bosh earns the biggest applause of the day after he completes a pass

By the end of the match the crowd was practically begging for a goal from the big man, and he nearly connected on a perfectly set up header down at the far end of the pitch. He also took a bit of heckling, at one point yelling “Don't boo me man!”

Grant Hill eyes the action

Grant Hill, on the other hand, who isn’t much shorter than Bosh, looked very good, even executing a ridiculous stepover move and generally showing great touch.

Tony Parker... He's French, bitch

One of the few times that Steve Nash wasn't running

Tony Parker managed to bag a few goals, but Steve Nash looked like he could be slotted into the midfield for a professional side. By the end of the match he was soaked with sweat, and was definitely taking the game seriously.

Cordoba cracks a rare smile

Zanetti keeps an eye on Babel

The Inter Milan backline of Ivan Cordoba and Javier Zannetti looked pretty solid in the match, although there wasn't much in the way of tackling going on. The running joke was that Cordoba didn't know it was a kick around because he looked pretty intense patrolling the back.

Claudio Reyna, ever the captain

Thierry Henry

Babel looked dangerous but his touch was a bit suspect, while Reyna looked pretty slow. Titi came on in the second half but due to a knee injury was only at like 50% speed compared to everyone else. He spent much of the game back on defense.

Solomon Kalou takes the shot

Mutu powers the ball into the net

Salomon Kalou was easily the fastest man on the field. The best soccer player to my eye was Adrian Mutu, who despite wearing an arm brace bagged himself an, er, brace, and looked very skilled even on a questionable and wet plastic pitch.

Babel jumps over Mike Quarino

The key is to look good even when you let in a goal

Also a special shout out to the goalkeepers, who got in front of some pretty hard shots and single-handedly kept the scoreline in the single digits. Marc Stein also came on for a brief cameo, and he didn’t look that bad, and even had a chance to bag a goal himself.

Davids was difficult to recognize without his trademark goggles

Edgar Davids spent much of the match dribbling and showboating. But it was hard to blame him. Even though he's retired, it looked like he could start tomorrow for the New York Red Bulls (hint hint).

The sun makes a brief cameo appearance in the treetops

Despite the rain, the sideline was packed, although the vibe wasn't very underground. Lots of groupies, hangers on, posses, clueless suits and extravagantly dressed women. I think they were handing out VIP passes by the cartload. ESPN was there, along with Fox Soccer, although the level of soccer knowledge amongst the TV people was pretty dismal. Let's hope the weather cooperates for next year, and we get a few more surprise stars – especially from the NBA – to play in the game.

A game well-played

That all said, it was a hell of a way to spend an afternoon. We can't wait until next year.

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Reading Rainbow Kick: Soccer Against The Enemy

UF is attempting to take you on a reading rainbow kick this summer. Requests have been made previously to provide book reviews for the various books about soccer out there, but we have been negligent in responding to those requests. No longer. UF hopes provide all of the readers with some additions to their summer reading lists.

Simon Kuper’s Soccer Against the Enemy is an outstanding book about soccer around the globe. Not just the well-known and well-paid, but the obscure and lesser earning soccer players around. More than that, Kuper provides great detail about the footballing world off the pitch. Against the Enemy is a fascinating read well worth any soccer fan’s time this summer.

Simon Kuper wrote Against the Enemy over fifteen years ago, while just in his early 20s, yet his writing evidenced a maturity and understanding beyond his years. Kuper traveled in a world far different, politically, socially and technologically, than the world today. Yet, his insights and stories then remain insightful and salient today, despite the differences in the times the issues are still similar.

Against the Enemy details, chapter-by-chapter, Kuper’s journeys to points around the globe examining the intersection of soccer and politics. Whereas Franklin Foer’s book, How Soccer Explains The World, attempted to show how soccer explained politics in various regions of the world, Kuper has a more practical examination of how soccer is affected by politics and used, as it were, against the "enemy." The former is a much more difficult theoretical jump because soccer, of course, cannot explain all politics and at times the facts will not fit in a neat box. Kuper’s work is deductive rather than Foer’s inductive work.

Although 15 years old, Kuper’s chapter on South Africa is particularly relevant today because of the historical and political perspective it places on World Cup 2010. When Against the Enemy was written South Africa was just emerging from apartheid. For the black population soccer was very important during apartheid and the World Cup was the holy grail for black South Africans and next year, while Aaron Mokoena likely will not raise the Jules Rimet Trophy next year, the country will finally bring the World Cup to South Africa. Kuper’s writing captures the import wonderfully with historical perspective and anecdotes. Truly a must read before next year.

In 2006, Kuper wrote an additional chapter delving into “terrorism” and soccer. The chapter lacks the detail, personalness, and original information of Kuper’s original writings. It provides only the droll stories about Osama bin Laden being a fan of Arsenal. Nothing new or noteworthy. However, the original work stands the test of time and is well worth your time.

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Showdown In Chinatown Video

Happy Friday people. Lets kick off a day of 'Showdown in Chinatown' coverage with a video. Yes, you read that right. A video! I hope you feel the love, this is just for you people. It's a first for UF and something we may start to do more of in future. Enjoy.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday Backpasses: A little tease

We'll have our full roundup of the Showdown in Chinatown tomorrow morning. All of the great stuff we did last year, plus video. I haven't seen it yet, I'm salivating.

Torres does his PES shoot. The first pic is not too flattering [Liverpool Reds]
Blind Item: Which EPLer hid his injury to get a new contract? [The Spoiler]
Is wiki vandalism never not fun? [Off The Post]

MyFC is losing membership fast [When Saturday Comes]
Is there a sea change happening on what people think about Landon Donovan? [Match Fit USA]
ESPN setting up new channel in UK for ex-Setanta content [Guardian]

New Chelsea 3rd kit. It's appropriately hideous. Plus, those GK socks! (in the comments) [ONTD_FB]

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Okay, Let's Put This Bitch to Bed and Get Ready For Brazil

Fuck soccer, I gotta dance!

Well, the euphoria from yesterday is slowly melting away. That means it's time to either break down Sunday's final against Brazil or see if we can't squeeze a couple of dick jokes out of Wednesday.

Yeah, we're sophomoric. But we actually tried to show some range with our juvenalia. Believe us when we say that we could have done an entire set themed with nothing but gay quips.

Some of these are more inspired than others. Enjoy.

Shit... Of course Salat is in the middle of the semi.

Dude, we're never going to find your contact out here.

Dammit, I knew I shouldn't have made that bet... Okay, which American wants to get blown first?

It's just how I always dreamed it. Right down to the Village People music.

Feel that? See it is true what they say about big hands.

Carlos, look at that. A monkey scored the clincher... Wait, is that racist?

There's actually no caption for this one. I just dig it because it totally reminds me of this picture of Master Shake (Use your imagination for the tiny Meatwads).

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Confederations Cup Liveblog: Brazil-South Africa

Welcome to the UF liveblog of the second Confederations Cup semifinal. I have two predictions. One: We will not surpass yesterday's comment total. Two: I will write shorter updates than LB does. Beyond that, this tournament has taught me not to make any grandiose predictions on the game itself, because I will be wrong.

I'm sure many of you are like me, still floating on a high after yesterday's US win over Spain. We have 72 more hours to enjoy it until the final kicks off. The presumption is that the Americans will face Brazil in the final, of course, but the game must be played first. And this is why we are here.

Sit back, enjoy, and complain about the vuvuzelas. It's the natural order of things.

Brazil: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Luisao, Andre Santos; Felipe Melo, Gilberto Silva, Ramires, Kaka; Luis Fabiano, Robinho.

South Africa: Khune; Gaxa, Masilela, Mokoena, Booth; Mhlongo, Dikgacoi, Pienaar, Modise, Tshabalala; Parker.

Alright, one prediction. Brazil in a cakewalk. There is four goals worth of difference between these teams. Let's see it.
-7.00 Ref is Busacca from Switzerland, if you care.

-6.00 Booth is tall, isn't he? Robinho smiling like he's riding the bus or getting a discount at a store.

-4.00 Is it bad that I was laughing yesterday when Iker Casillas, representing Spain, read the anti-racism thingy?

-2.00 I haven't heard a temperature update, but I'm presuming cold since Julio Cesar had two neck warmers on. Brazil's anthem short and sweet. South Africa's presumably newer.

The crowd stops blowing those damned horns long enough to give a rousing rendition of their anthem. (Unless the voices are piped in)

0.00 Kickoff. Seems to be a couple of minutes behind, unless ESPN is delaying the feed.

2.00 The first big BOOOOTH of the night. Pitch is the same as US-Egypt, and is in horrible shape.

4.00 Kaka fouls the crap out of Pienaar. Feels bad about it.

6.00 Brazil maintaining most of the early possession, but can't break through in the last twenty so far.

7.00 Dunga also cold. Looks stylish in his "High School Senior All Dressed Up" look .

9.00 Andre Santos gives the ball away and gifts SA a counter, but it comes to nothing. Andre Santos eventually the one to win the ball back. See that Deuce?

10.00 Julio Cesar doing jumping jacks to stay warm. Might be most of his action tonight.

12.00 First real shot of the game saved by Khume going to his left. Ramires with the shit from just inside the box. Maicon with the running on the right to set it up.

13.00 Quickly to the other end, Cesar has to make a dive after Andre Santos loses his man. The shot whistled wide.

15.00 A couple of times tonight, SA have had difficulty clearing the ball from their own box, instead seeing it pinball off of other players. Will such a mistake catch them out?

17.00 Brazil have a promising three on two shut down because of poor passing. Not much of an edge so far from the South American giants.

19.00 Robinho falls down after beating his man. Make no mistake, SA are packed in and it will take a special effort to beat them tonight.

21.00 Mokoena comes so very close. Lucio let him go on a free kick and Mokoena headed over from maybe three yards. Tough that. They need to make sure of the few chances they get.

23.00 SA have started to attack more, but that leaves them more open for a counter. One almost worked for Brazil there. Undeterred, SA press forward again, but it comes to nothing.

24.00 Robinho sure does love his step overs, doesn't he?

26.00 Pienaar kills a SA attack with a Landycakes type pass to no one.

28.00 SA free kick upcoming from about the same area that Mokoena headed over from earlier. Three players on top of it. Tshabalala takes it and forces a save from Cesar. Corner kick. Gets headed out by SA.

31.00 SA with the better of play. Yellow Card on Felipe Melo for flipping Gaxa. SA advantage played until Modise shoots wide. On the other end, Ramires' heavy touch in the box means he loses out on a nice look at goal.

32.00 Robinho called for offside. Correct call by a yard. Khune still saved the sit.

34.00 Andre Santos with a shot from 20. Saved well by Khune. Fabiano looked to have handled in the build up. Question: Where the F is Kaka? He's invisible.

35.00 Game getting chippy with some hard fouls. Ramires the latest to dish one out.

37.00 Brazil are getting their counters, but then holding the ball up and allowing SA to gain numbers and position. Strange.

Kaka sighting. Shot from 22 after moving in from the right misses the top corner by a yard or so.

39.00 Robinho wins a corner under the challenge of Mokoena and Booth. Poorly taken by Maicon.

40.00 Tshabalala is the most fun name to say in the tournament. Derek Rae certainly thinks so.

41.00 What is Method Man doing in the crowd?

42.00 Another Brazil counter. Kaka takes it nearly the whole way and tries to squeak it in near post on Khune. Khune gets down just in time to palm the ball on the ground.

43.00 Pienaar with a shot from 25 just gets saved by Cesar. No corner though.

45.00 Yellow card for Masilela. Took out the ankle of Andre Santos dead center on front of the goal, 25 yards out. Free kick upcoming. Who fancies it?

Brazil try tricky, but Pienaar runs it down.

Tweet tweet TWEEEET

As odd as it sounds to say, this game is rather even. Brazil seemed to get pissy at about the twenty minute mark and allowed SA into the game. South Africa obliged and got themselves some good chances. Both teams have gone close and could have scored.

The halftime talk for Brazil should be about how to get their heads back into the game and not to slow down on counter attacks. South Africa must look for more of the same effort, especially defensively.

See you in 15.

45.01 Second half begins. To be fair to Kaka from earlier, he was invisible because he wasn't being looked for. Hopefully, Brazil can rectify that in this half. I do not want extra time.

46.00 Early corner for Brazil goes to nowt.

47.00 Oh yeah, Gilberto Silva is out there too. Midfield for Brazil not used too much in the first half. Robinho shoots well over from 25+.

49.00 Kaka has the best straight arm in the business. Corner kick Brazil.
Nothing doing.


52.00 Kaka heads over off of a ball from Maicon. Wasn't convining attaking the ball.

54.00 SA working the left side and finally find Parker in with a look. Looked like his shot was deflected, but in the end was just that bad.

56.00 Maicon and Ramires work a two man game on the right. Cross in gets to Fabiano but his challenged header goes nowhere near the goal.

58.00 Modise's shot from outside the box takes a deflection off Luisao. Cesar initially went the other way and had to scramble to push the ball around the post. It was going in otherwise.

59.00 SA have taken over the game once again.

60.00 SA outshooting Brazil 11-9 at this point. Also, we hear singing instead of vuvuzelas. Nice.

61.00 Andre Santos gets a Yellow Card after taking Modise out at midfield.

62.00 Luis Fabiano gets a shot off. Was never going to beat Khune.

63.00 Robinho tries a half bike off of a giveaway. Goes wide of the post. Question-Is Jo'burg at altitude? Is that affecting Brazil? (Answers-yes;maybe)

67.00 More SA attacking. Brazil are looking to have everything covered, though.

69.00 The problem seems to be that neither team is looking to make that break-the-defense-open pass. Both teams are willing to shoot from distance at this point. It's not working.

71.00 Mhlongo gets called for a touch foul on Kaka. Sometihng indirect, so I don't know. Free kick goes for *gasp* nothing. Where are the subs?

74.00 Luisao seemed to play the man more than the ball on a cross from Tshabalala to Parker. No call though.

75.00 Brazil starting to wonder if they can play Italy again, because this sucks.

77.00 Extra time starting to look like a real possibility. Why don't Brazil sub?

78.00 Brazil have a couple of half chances, but SA defense are in the way of everything.

80.00 SA starting to look tired as well. Great.

81.00 More SA shots from 30+.

81.00 If this thing goes all the way to PKs, I want a raise. Dani Ales about to come on.

82.00 Corner kick Brazil. SUB: Alves on for Andre Santos. RB for LB. Corner kick clears everyone.

84.00 Lucio fouls Pienaar 35 yards out. Let's watch this shot miss.
Nope. Hits the onrushing wall.

86.00 Agreed gramesy.

86.00 Free kick in close for Brazil. On the left side, right outside the box. Come on, anything. It will be Alves.

GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL And I just cheered that there will be no extra time. Alves hits it hard to the far post and Khune was nowhere close. Slid just inside the post.

88.00 Alves Yellow Card for over celebration.

90.00 SA prepare their first sub. It's a double sub.
Fabiano blows a one on one.

Only one minute added. It's half over already.

Triple Sub: two for SA, one for Brazil. None of them will get a kick.

I was wrong, Kleberson gets a touch. Two minutes in to the one minute added on.

More subs. Last shot for SA.

After a false whistle, the final whistle finally goes. Tough luck for South Africa who outplayed Brazil for long stretches of the match. There is something to be said, though, for not settling on a 30 yard shot. Brazil's winning goal come on a free kick after Brazil attacked the defense.

That's all there is to it. We'll see you on Sunday for the third place and final matches.

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Real Madrid Now Addressing The Defense

After splashing down well over 100M Euros for Kaka and Ronaldo earlier this month, everybody wondered whether Real Madrid ever address its woeful defense. The answer is beginning to take shape as it appears the first sale in Valencia's firesale will be Raul Albiol, and Real Madrid is doing the buying for a reported £12.8m.

That is one Liverpool target gobbled up by Madrid and it still looks like Real has eyes for a current Liverpool player, Alvaro Arbeloa. One wonders though, how much they will actually pay if Liverpool will not let Alonso go.

It might be time, soon, to revisit the Madrid roster and how it might look next year.

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Altidore, Cesc, And Steve Jobs

So the US beat Spain. Seems ridiculous to even type those words, but it's true, and even better it wasn't flukey.

The US central defense played about as flawless a game as possible. And, going forward, Altidore, Dempsey, Donovan, and Davies did enough to create the necessary chances that the US buried. Woo hoo!

The best part is that I got to see the last 15 minutes or so live.

I just started a new project job on Monday. I've only been able to poke through the proxy to access one streaming media protocol (and even that's just audio). So I had no audio, no video, no live nothing for the match. I was following along solely by the UF liveblog. By half it was clear: we were playing with Spain.

I had the foresight to set the Tivo before I left the house in the morning. But my relationship with DVRs is not a good one. I'm too impatient. Even if I don't know the outcome, I almost always start fast forwarding because I have absolutely zero patience.

If we were going to beat the Number One team in the world I was going to watch it live. Somewhere. So I'm risking a job I've had for two-and-a-half days? I mean there are millions of other jobs to be had. A win—if the US could even hold on to its 1-0 halftime lead—like this might not happen again in my lifetime.

Working in my favor: I was so new here that I didn't even have an ID badge. Nobody could track when I entered or left the building. Getting back in once I left might be tricky but HOLY SHIT WE'RE LEADING SPAIN. Also, not many people even know who I am yet and there is only one person dependent on my output right now. He's an outside consultant. He's here four days a week. He's constantly putting out fires. My whereabouts are not his top priority.

I left. I walked out to my car and started driving. Where I had no idea. Is there anything remotely resembling a fucking sports bar anyplace around here? Christ I'm in the bubrs, shouldn't there at least be a Bennigan's every third block?

I had the game on XM Deportes as I'm turning down streets blind hoping for something to appear in this asphalt expanse. My Spanish didn't have to be that good to know 'cinquenta y siete minutos.' The clock was moving.

Finally I see a huge mall. There has to be something in there. I am literally running through the entire thing. No EPSN Zone. No electronics shop. What the fuck? This is America. All we want to consume is media, food and drugs. Why isn't anyone selling beer or TVs anywhere around here. I am not fucking missing the end of this match. Are we still even leading?

I get a text from a friend of mine in Dallas. "Are we really 20 minutes away from beating Spain?"

Yes we are, and that means we're still winning.

Wait. I saw an Apple Store.

Okay. They have computers and every other Apple Store I've ever been in has had net access. That's all I need. Well, I need it to not be heavily restricted access, but I'm out of options.

I walk in and walk over to a table of laptops. I type '' and Sweet Allah of Kismet... The stream comes up.

Dempsey just scored. I missed it live. But I saw Timmy Howard give the thumbs up after the replay. I stood there in the store and watched. I didn't just watch. I WATCHED. I blurted out "He was on!" when the flag went up on Connor Casey. I kept mumbling "Close him down, Close him down" every time Spain got the ball up the left side with space. I was contorting my body to help the ball move how I wanted it. It was like I was in an invisible yoga class for special people with Tourettes.

Customers started to back away. Pretty soon I was the only person around the front corner table of laptops. While I was driving, time couldn't slow down enough. Now it wouldn't move quickly enough. The 80th. Shit, we've collapsed worse in 10 minutes. This isn't in the bag. I might feel okay at the 85th.

The 85th comes and I'm about to relax. Then Bradley gets the red. "Bullshit!" It was as close to a shout as I think I would let myself get away with in a store full of strangers. Fucking Xabi Alonso.

An employee came over: "Can I help you?"


There was a bit of a pause. "Well, then can I ask what you're doing?"

"Uh... I'm watching us about to beat Spain."

He doesn't look like he cares. He does look at the streaming video, then looks at the URL. He probably makes a few decent assumptions that this isn't totally legal.

"I'm not sure you can do this here."

"Are you the manager here?" I ask him.

"No," he says.

"Then I can do this."

He walks away. I figure even if he does tell a higher up by the time anyone gets back to me it will be stoppage time. Maybe. I swear South Africa is bending time. And not in the way I want it.

It's just me, a sweet ass 17" Mac Book Pro, and a lot of weird stares.

But America, Fuck Yeah! We held on. We beat Spain. And I got to see the last 15 or so minutes of it as it happened. And the coolest part about it? The camera on the Haitian Sensation as he walked off the bench. No jumping, no screaming like he'd just met Jesus, no nothing. He squirted some water in his mouth and went to go shake a few Spanish hands.

Yeah, act like you've been there before. Not bad for a 19-year-old.

Anyway, I hauled ass back to my car, drove twice the posted speed, pulled into the parking lot, and totally lucked out. Someone was walking into my building just a couple of steps ahead of me. I could slip in behind them with the open door and wouldn't have to ring the desk on my floor and possibly have to explain where I was or why nobody could find me. Anonymity. It's your friend.

I casually strolled back to my cubicle. No suspicious looks. No "See me" Post-It notes. Nothing. Sweet. U.S. Fucking. A.

Read more on "Altidore, Cesc, And Steve Jobs"...

Is It A Secret Code?

Well this is an interesting set of pictures.

Do we need a Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Ring to crack this code?

Let the conspiracy theories begin.

Read more on "Is It A Secret Code?"...

Media Roundup USA 2 - 0 Spain: Biggest or Most Important?

Huge, monumental, enormous, historic victory by the US over Spain yesterday in the Confederations Cup semifinal. It actually is registering widely in the mainstream sports media in the US. Most of the pieces try to properly gauge the place of win in the annals of US soccer history. Is it the most important win ever? Is it the biggest win ever?

It is hard to tell, but it certainly ranks right up there with the other big wins (England 1950, Colombia 1994, Brazil 1998, Portugal 2002, Mexico 2002). Winning over the presumptive number one team in the world in FIFA International tournament in a knockout stage is very impressive, although the Confederations Cup is certainly not as prestigious as the World Cup, but it is probably the second or third best tournament it can hope to enter (depends on where you rank the Copa America).

The importance of this match will not be known today or tomorrow, rather it will be known in ten years, after we can observe the response of US soccer to it. Development of American soccer is not won or lost in a single match, but this victory certainly cements that Bob Bradley will remain the US manager for some time barring some epic collapse by the team. That means the future of US soccer now lays in his hands, for better or worse, and whether this win will propel the team forward or cause it to stumble backwards remains to be seen.

However, the US needs to bask in the golden glow of this victory while it can. This was a great, hard-fought win. Remember it and aspire to recreate it.

Grant Wahl, Sports Illustrated:

On the day the United States stunned the soccer world, forward Landon Donovan awoke to a vision of the future, courtesy of a picture from the past.

It came in an e-mail from his father, Tim. The son opened the attachment, and on his laptop screen there appeared a photograph of the 1980 U.S. ice hockey team celebrating their gold medal at the Lake Placid Olympics.

Sacha Kljestan:
All you haters can shut up now. To all my boys and people that support us... THANK YOU. goodnight

Jamie Trecker,
This was the victory American fans have been dying to see. It was against a major team, in a major tournament, and on foreign soil. Tonight's result was the biggest win ever in American soccer's long and fitful history, and the first time the USA had downed a No. 1 ranked team since that famous 1998 win over Brazil in the Gold Cup. That night, keeper Kasey Keller was the hero, stopping some 35 shots.

Steven Davis, Soccernet:
The United States' memorable bid for the ultimate tournament rally lives on. A night of stubborn, committed defending and opportunistic sniping saw the United States upend mighty Spain 2-0 in an absolute stunner.

George Vecsey, NY Times:
The stunning 2-0 victory by the United States over Spain — the best team in the world — is probably the greatest victory by the men’s national soccer team.

And when you think of it, the victory Wednesday is probably the second-biggest upset by an American team, behind only the 1980 Miracle on Ice by the hockey team over the Soviet Union in the Olympics.

Jack Bell, NY Times Goal Blog:
Now, the United States is playing with house money as it prepares for the final against the winner of Brazil - South Africa. Assuming the American team qualifies for next summer’s World Cup, its performance in the Confederations Cup will be factored into FIFA’s formula when it comes time to select the seeded teams in the eight first-round groups. While there may be no slam dunks in the 32-nation World Cup, this will make a difference.

Grahame Jones, LA Times:
The United States scored one of the most memorable victories in the nation's soccer history today, defeating European champion Spain, 2-0, in a semifinal of the Confederations Cup in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Steven Goff, Washington Post:
The 2-0 victory over Spain yesterday probably won't be considered the greatest upset in the 93-year history of the U.S. men's national soccer program, for it unfolded at the Confederations Cup, a mere rehearsal for next year's World Cup extravaganza.

But when you consider Spain's international rank (first), status (European champion), winning streak (world-record 15 matches) and unbeaten run (a record-tying 35 games since the fall of 2006), when you take into account the Americans' troubling path this year and their uninspiring play in the early stages of this eight-nation tournament, the outcome on a 36-degree evening in Bloemfontein, South Africa, will undoubtedly rival U.S. shockers on grander global stages: World Cup victories over England (1950), Colombia (1994) and Portugal (2002).

Ives Galarcep, Soccer By Ives:
The Americans delivered one of the best, most complete and gutsiest performance in American soccer history, scoring goals in each half to upset Spain, 2-0, to earn an improbable place in the Confederations Cup final.

The result was one of the biggest shocks in recent international history, with the all-conquering Spanish having broken the record for consecutive wins with their 15th on the trot against South Africa at the weekend.

Marca, translation please, the first quote was on this page of, but I worry it will be gone:
Onyewu y Demerit, dos frontones.Los centrales de Estados Unidos completaron un partido perfecto.


Al descanso, el marcador era preocupante y las sensaciones negativas. España no staba siendo España y Estados Unidos parecía el Dream Team en defensa.

Andy Hutchins*, The Big Lead:
I tweeted: “I cannot remember being this stunned by a sporting event in my lifetime.”

And I can’t. I wasn’t alive for the Miracle on Ice, and rarely considered two teams so unevenly matched as I did today’s. I though Spain winning by two goals would be a good result for our boys; before the game began, I would have bet any sum on Spain advancing.

This moment is for rejoicing, for celebrating a great game (both teams were offensively proficient, and the Americans’ backline did a remarkable imitation of granite) and reveling in the magic of sports delivering the unexpected.

*Mr. Hutchins is a TBL intern this summer and soccerphile like us. This is one of his first efforts and I have to commend him on a good post.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday Backpasses: Screw You, Sanford

Nothing like my state's governor dicking around to bring my mood down. Oh well. OOO-SAH, OOH-SAH, OOH-SAH!!!

Relive today's match in still picture form. Were Torres and Gooch the only two to swap jerseys? Scandal! [Daylife]
Looking into the EPL Actim Index [Avoiding The Drop]
To Denilson: just go away already. Oh, he did? OK then [Dirty Tackle]

Brazil and their special 4-2-3-1 [Guardian]
MLS punishments are harsh. Two games for dissent [Ginge]

This was the end of Setanta in the UK [The Spoiler]

Read more on "Wednesday Backpasses: Screw You, Sanford"...

Now For Act II Of Today's Fun

The above is a cell phone picture from the field where the Showdown in Chinatown will take place in approximately one hour. The weather does not look as nice as last year, but who really cares? It's the footy we are interested in.

UPDATE: Spectator says it's pissing rain and wonders if the players will risk it.

UPDATE II: Marc Stein reports he will be playing again and has lineups.

Team Nash (white): Steve, Martin Nash, Thierry Henry, Mathieu Flamini, Ryan Babel, Edgar Davids, Grant Hill and Francesco Santoro in goal

Team Reyna (blue): Claudio, J. Zanetti, R. Cordoba, Adrian Mutu, Salomon Kalou, Chris Bosh, Tony Parker, Me (gulp) and Mike Quarino in goal

Stein also reports that the game will go on despite rain.

Looks like former UF interviewee Mike Quarino gets to play in the game of a lifetime two years in a row.

UPDATE III, 5:56 ET: It appears our boys are busy at work, but Stein delivers with a nice little tidbit about Grant Hill telling Ryan Babel about watching Johan Cruyff.

Bigus Dickus and Spectator's vantage point behind the goal. Looks like Flamini in white, with Chris Bosh the lanky fellow in the bank, Tony Parker, Reyna, unrecognizable and Steve Nash.

Also, note the fellow in blue sitting on the bench looking down at something...I presume that's Marc Stein live twittering.

Another pic from Bigus...Reyna, Nash, ???, ???, ???, Tony Parker, Flamini?.

Chris think stringbean Peter Crouch on the pitch is unusual? Try 7 foot Chris Bosh. He's playing in just sneakers, apparently has never played before, and is having a good time. Awesome.

Read more on "Now For Act II Of Today's Fun"...

Well, That Was Fun

The US beating the number one ranked team in the world, Spain, two-nil to reach its first final of a major international FIFA senior tournament is about as awesome as it can get for a US soccer fan. However, that "Do You Care?" poll on the ESPN frontpage (above) is not so awesome.

There's an unsubstantiated rumor out there that Bob Bradley had the following statment after the game:

"I'm happy to announce that I have agreed a lifetime contract with USMNT."
I'm kidding, only slightly though. This win will paper over a lot of the flaws exposed earlier in the Confederations Cup tournament. Spain also did not do itself any favors by not watching the Egypt game tape. You can count on Bradley maintaining a firm grasp on the coaching seat through at least the 2010 WC and probably beyond.

Let's not dwell in the negative. Rather, let us bask in the glorious golden shine of victory. This was epic. I only wish I could have watched it rather than just follow along online.

However, things will get a little bit awesomer this evening during the Showdown in Chinatown. UF has several people on the scene and hopes to have some updates throughout the day with plenty of coverage to come in the days following.

Read more on "Well, That Was Fun"...

Confederations Cup Liveblog: Spain v. USA

Running late - let's get this mother going!

No time for subtext, Dr. Jones... LB jr had a doctor's appointment this morning (he's fine), and we're ready for the off.

Big question: how can the US stop this Spanish team scoring? I still love the whimsy of their anthem.

SPAIN (4-1-2-1-2): Casillas - Capdevila, Puyol, Pique, Sergio Ramos - Xabi Alonso - Riera, Fabregas - Xavi - Torres, David Villa.
Subs: everyone else

USA (4-2-2-2): Howard - Demerit, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Spector - Clark, Bradley - Donovan, Dempsey - Altidore, Davies.
Subs: everyone else

Vuvuzelas at the ready!

Preamble: It's going to be a long day down the flanks for the US. Capdevila and Ramos LOVE to get forward, and the two guys in front of them, Riera and Cesc, are no slouches with the crossing either. Spain need to keep their shape and hope that the speed of the US team doesn't cause too much havoc in the space the wing-backs vacate.

And we're off!

1 min: Xabi Alonso has some time to spray passes around before it works wide left with some lovely one-touch passing. Riera's low cross is sidefooted away by Gooch.

3 mins: Pressure down the US end, naturally. Cesc gets bundled over by Bocanegra, and the Spaniards take it short. Fabregas has his cross deflected, and as it loops toward goal, Howard does the safe thing in tipping it over. Spain take the corner short, but Xavi's delivery doesn't find his man and a foul in the box gives the USMNT a breather.

Then the US break well down the left, with Altidore winning a corner off Puyol as he tries to square the ball into the middle. Corner doesn't come to much.

5 mins: Landy goes into the book! Seriously, an unfair call, but as 7 EPL players found out last season, you don't fuck with Xabi Alonso as it gets you stamped right into the ref's book. The two arrive at the same time for a loose ball, but Xabi gets the shit end of the contact and the ref rushes for his book. Before that, Casillas nearly screwed up a clearance to put Xabi/Landy in that situation, coming out of his box to shin it clear.

Then he does it again! The Spanish offside trap looks as effective as the Maginot Line (yeah, UFers, I read our email thread from this morning).

7 mins: CHARLIE DAVIES BICYCLE KICK ACTION! Bright start for the USMNT, who are playing with the proverbial "nothing to lose". Getting round the back of those wing-backs is always going to cause problems. As Altidore gets clear in the box wide right, he finds his man on the overlap and the cross reaches Davies in space 12 yards out, but he can't do anything more than bicycle it instinctively and it 's always heading wide. Still, I'm impressed with their fearlessness thus far.

9 mins: Screamer from Dempsey 18 yards out, but it's juuuuust wide of the post. Lots of confidence in all-white thus far today.

@The NY Kid - you don't get to explain the Maginot Line to us. It was rubbish and patently didn't work. Much like Sergio Ramos on defense. Or Damarcus Beasley anywhere on the pitch.

10 mins: Bradley loses Fabregas for a moment, and the mohawked milquetoast volleys from 25 yards, but it's always going over the bar despite the late dip in trajectory.

JP and Harkes are gushing over the USMNT so far, and rightly so... just as they gush a little extra, Spain go close themselves! Torres lurks at the back post and gets to a low cross before his marker, but it's always going wide. Dangerous for a second, there.

@The NY Kid - keep going until you're red in the face, mate. The Line was rubbish.

13 mins: USMNT trick of the day: longballs over the top for Altidore and Davies to chase, chase, chase. Not a bad gambit considering Ramos will always be further downfield, and Puyol's a bit old and thus, the chance to Vidic him (as Torres/Gerrard did during that 4-1 game at Old Trafford, oh yes) is definitely there.

15 mins: A Sepp Blatter sighting! Does anyone else hate him as much as I do? To a man, the least likable person involved in the beautiful game, with that crook Jack Warner a very close second.

Bradley's searching for Davies up the middle, but his pass is too strong. Still, nice to see 'em asking questions of that Spanish backline. After all, it's only human. They're prone to mistakes.

Offside flag goes up against David Villa as he's a step too quick in pursuit of a pretty-looking cross by Ramos. The USMNT are defending a high, high line, which is troubling considering the pace Spain has up front. There's being aggressive, and being foolish. Might be straying towards foolish with that line.

17 mins: ESSENTIAL TRUTHS WITH JOHN HARKES, Pt. 1 of many: "The US is not New Zealand." Indeed they are not. Do you say that because it's not 3-0 already?

Fuuuuck me, close for Spain. Somehow, Torres is completely unmarked in the middle as Onyewu and Bocanegra leave him a nice 10-yard circle of room in which to operate. He gets the ball, turns and shoots, forcing a good save from Howard, but then the linesman flags for offside. On the replay, he was on. C'mon, officials! First the Landy card, and now this. One thing is certain: that high backline is gonna be mauled if they don't switch it up.

@EbullientFatalist - no clue why they seem to think Sergio Ramos is a physical player. He's Spanish! Surely Bornstein could have handled that.

20 mins: Donovan tries to get Davies through on goal when he maybe should have taken a shot, and Spain clear. They break up the left via Villa, who gets to the touchline again and cuts it square, but one of those tall Sequoia-looking motherfuckers in the middle gets it clear.

21 mins: Donovan learns from his mistake 60 seconds ago, cutting in from the left, dribbling freely up the middle and shooting from 20-odd yards. It's wide of the post, but you knew that already.

In a flash, it comes right back down the other end, and some sloppiness from the US gives a couple of scoring chances for Spain... the move ends with Riera dragging his shot across the face of goal from a narrow angle.

Demerit clears another low cross from the left wing. While the US midfield is holding its own, the backline is awfully bunched up, allowing plenty of space for overlaps down the flanks. That, coupled with their dangerous offside trap being so high up the pitch, and I fear the worst. Still, as long as Spain stays scoreless, I guess you could call it successful.

24 mins: Riera looks for Villa in the middle, but Onyewu is there to knock it behind for a corner. Xavi to take.... he plonks it right on Onyewu's forehead and it's cleared, but only as far as Capdevila, and Spain get another corner as Fabregas lurks looking for the ball over the top. It's taken short, and kinda wasted. Once they hoof it upfield, Puyol fouls Davies at the halfway line to give his defenders a breather.

A NOTE OF THANKS: seriously, you guys are great for coming to UF during all this USMNT hullabaloo.

27 mins: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL.... IN YOUR FACE, LA LIGA! What a move by the Villareal and Xerex reject Jozy Altidore... maybe the Spaniards will give him a run out when the domestic season starts again. The striker gets a yard of room in the middle to spin off Pique with his hip, leaving him for dust, and his shot is right at Casillas, who can only parry it in off his post with Puyol trying in vain to get back. Nice goal, that. What say you folk? Spain 0, USA 1

Well, that was something, wasn't it? Altidore gets booked for taking his shirt off during the celebration, but he gives not a flying fuck. How will Spain respond? Dellacamera is talking about "panic", which is perhaps a bit much considering there's an hour to go. I do, however, fear the gushing from the likes of Galarcep come tomorrow morning... honestly, that worries me more than the US losing 4-1.

30 mins: Spain picks up right where they left off, crowding the edge of the area yet finding no clear scoring chances. Ramos floats a beauty to the back post where Villa controls first-time, but Spector is there to block the shot. Spain do win a corner, and then another one as Spector(?) heads over. Xavi delivers to a US player again, and the Yanks clear.

CLOSE FOR SPAIN! From a broken play, too. Looked like a foul on Bradley in the midfield, but Riera takes it, shoots from distance, and the block falls to Villa. He takes a step to try and get some room, but blasts it over the bar from the edge of the box. Still, Spain keep pushing up the wings.

34 mins: It's been all Spain since the goal, and there's always the danger of trying to sit back and camp on a 1-0 lead, especially when you're angling for the upset. Mustn't forget how to attack, USMNT... so far you're hoofing it right back to 'em. Onyewu stoops low to head it out for a throw after the 2,475th cross from the left wing. Torres is caught offside from the throw, and is incredulous. I kinda am too, as that's kinda impossible.

@Mike Georger - yes, somehow they did. The linesmen have been very creative thus far.

36 mins: Free-kick for the US some 30 yards out as Davies gets bundled over. Donovan puts in a lovely cross to the back post, and Dempsey steals the header from Bocanegra, who was much better placed, to put it over the bar. D'oh. Coulda, shoulda been 2-0 if we're honest.

Boy, how Spain is missing some physicality in that midfield. Too many fleet-footed stepover kings there. Xabi Alonso can't do it all back there. They'd give all the paella in Catalunya for Marcos Senna right now.

As I type that, Spain comes close again! Beautiful passing opens up the right wing for Ramos, and he is able to find Torres unmarked in the box. He can't control, and also looks to pass instead of shoot, giving Onyewu enough time to lean in and knock it away for a corner that Xavi promptly wastes.

40 mins: Nice play by Altidore, who is giving the Spaniards all kinds of trouble on the ball. Capdevila plays it left-to-right to Ramos, and as he tries to cut it in for Xabi Alonso, Jozy is there to intervene and he takes a hard foul from the Liverpool man.

Seriously though: I know Altidore is still a bit rough around the edges and all, but why won't a Spanish club let him play? Is their racism still that bad over there?

Hard to keep up right now; Howard comes out of his area to clear the ball before Torres can reach it, and then Spain get a free-kick (didn't see what happened). Xavi tries to be clever and play it right across the edge of the box, but Donovan clears. It doesn't go far, and Spain set up another assault that almost pays off. Altidore gives it away and Villa gets it on the right via a lovely through-ball... his low cross for Ramos is denied at the last second by Bradley's hard challenge. Trying times for the USMNT since the goal -- they're defending on their heels and hoofing it clear every time, allowing Spain to reset and try, try again. Surely they can't hold the 1-0 lead?

45 mins: The Great Assault on Howard continues... this is becoming as lop-sided as that Assault on Precinct 13 (although Denzel did have some weapons eventually). Torres jinks inside his marker with ease on the right side of the box and shoots low with his left peg, forcing Howard to save with his calf. The ball bounces up and teases David Villa, who fouls as he tries to nudge a header goalward for one of the three Spaniards waiting at the back post.

One minute of stoppage time. And it's quickly gone.

HALF TIME: Spain 0, USA 1
Well, that was unexpected. The US are playing very well so far, at least in terms of scoreline. 25 minutes of positive, attacking football gave them the goal, and the final 20 have brought an avalanche of nearly-theres for the World's #1 team. Desperate defending at times, but Howard's goal remains unravaged by that scary assemblage of goalscorers in red shirts.


And we're back. My fingers are tired, but this game has lived up to my wildest dreams thus far. The Spaniards are quite flimsy in the midfield despite all their wonderful playmakers, and the USMNT are taking advantage.

Thanks also for the thank yous! Without you lot, we'd be nothing.

Bourbon glass = refilled
Plate of Nachos = refilled

And here come JP and John for more truthiness.

46 mins: Nice, ESPN. You missed the kickoff due to commercials. Had to squeeze one more Mike's Hard Lemonade shout-out in, didn't you?

47 mins: Donovan is, much as it pains me to admit, having a good game. Causing problems on the wings. His latest cross is blocked out for a corner, which he takes himself. It's a good delivery, and Dempsey tries the diving header, pushing it over the bar with Xabi Alonso's boot in attendance.

48 mins: Torres gets space out wide right and floats a dangerous cross to the back post, but Howard's there to punch it out for a throw. From the throw Villa gets some space to shoot, and it takes a wonderful diving save from the Everton man to keep it out. Corner, Spain... they take it short and Xabi Alonso has a crack from 25 yards, putting it just over the bar. Second half has begun much like the first ended.

49 mins: MAYBE A PENALTY BUT ALMOST CERTAINLY NOT! Onyewu came forward and left Demerit all alone to deal with David Villa up the middle. Villa tumbles in the box with Howard coming off his line, but he was always falling over.

50 mins: Spector does well to head yet another Ramos cross away from danger, but he hoofs it right back to the Spaniards and Xabi resets the attack. It's sloppy, but effective, defending from the US to keep their 1-0 lead. Sergio Ramos has set up camp on that right wing.

51 mins: Xavi has room to shoot in that space between Bradley/Clark and Onyewu/Demerit... his shot is deflected out for a corner that amounts to nothing.

Another corner for Spain as Spector blocks Riera's run and cross. Xavi takes it short and Villa gets it, controls it and volleys from a tight angle, but Howard plucks it out of the sky.

Harkes is right for once: every time the US clear, they give it right back to Spain so they can attack again. I'd say that the US has maybe enjoyed a minute of possession so far this half.

53 mins: As I type that, Donovan springs Davies down the right, but his cross is too long for Altidore.

54 mins: ANOTHER PENALTY FOR SPAIN BUT NOT REALLY! Looked like Xavi took a tumble, though in an offside position, under pressure from Donovan. On the replay, it looked like Landy did barge the tiny midfielder down, but the whistle remains quiet.

Riera has a crack from 20 yards, turning neatly inside Spector and shooting wide of the near post with Howard across to cover.

@J - no live feed of the Showdown in Chinatown, sadly. Fear not, as we have a quartet of correspondents there to do interviews, blog it, and also a UF first, some original video content! Stay tuned for Friday when we get the bulk of it up on the site.

57 mins: Howard saves well again from Villa, and the last minute or so has been all down the other end. Altidore's physicality wins the US a corner off Capdevila. Donovan to take...

... he floats it in to the middle, looks like Pique headed it clear, but it falls to Ricardo Clark who volleys it from 25 yards into that proverbial cliche, Row ZZ.

Thought: when will the US get their unfair red card? Soon?

59 mins: For all the shots on goal by the European champs, the US have survived to the hour mark with their 1-0 lead still intact. Squeaky bum time forthcoming.

Pique tries to get free up the right wing, even though he has no business doing so, and Bocanegra picks his moment to put a foot in and toepoke it back to Howard.

60 mins: The 10,118th corner for Spain. Xavi botches it again! Under pressure from Donovan, Xavi then gives up a throw-in. Breather for that US backline, but only for a minute.

61 mins: Wonderful shot by David Villa! Spector loses the ball from the throw-in, and Villa shoots just wide of the post from 20 yards.

NOT A PENALTY FOR THE US! The ball is hoofed forward and Altidore has time to control it. He wants to shoot from a narrow angle, but Puyol is there to tidy up.

63 mins: Villa's been rather wasteful today, missing with another effort and then failing to release Torres up the middle with the goal beckoning.

Ramos puts another cross in that finds Villa in the middle. He leaves for Riera who is galloping in behind him, but Spector's there to block. Assault on Precinct Howard continues.

65 mins: Seriously, are Spain going to score or what? The Siege continues as Howard makes two saves in quick succession, from Sergio Ramos of all folk, and then with the defense bunched, Ricardo Clark makes a tremendous block to keep out Ramos again. The US look exhausted, but still, their goal is virginal.

67 mins: Fabregas takes way too much time on the ball, cutting inside from the right with just one to beat. He dawdles an awfully long time before chipping a rather soft cross into the middle, and Donovan is there again to head it clear.

Del Bosque has had enough: Fabregas off, Santi Cazorla on. A true right-wing option now emerges for Spain.

68 mins: Torres is frustrated once more as the cross is too short and too soft for him to get to, and Bob Bradley's making changes himself.

69 mins: Subs for the USMNT: Charlie Davies off, Benny Feilhaber on. They need that midfield help to keep their shape. Parking the bus now becomes the obvious option, and I am stunned that 20 minutes stand between the USMNT and a massive, huge, enormous fucking upset. To be fair to Spain, they've been rather unlucky too, but that's nitpicking at this point. The US are defending like titans in the face of all this pressure.

70 mins: Donovan has room on the right to try and deliver a nice cross. He doesn't, particularly, though Dempsey does get clattered to the turf by Puyol as the ball comes in. No whistle.

If you're Del Bosque, what do you do subs-wise? Two more to make... David Silva? Sergi Busquets? They need some speed, and Riera is clearly exhausted and settling into that below-average form that he found with Liverpool after Christmas.

71 mins: Xabi Alonso's pass out right is too strong for Santi Cazorla to reach, and it's a USMNT throw-in. Then, Spain get to attack again, but Demerit is there to block off Torres from getting control of the delivery. Tremendous defending by Demerit again.

74 mins: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL... and I cannot believe it! US strike again on the break! You can hear Harkes laughing in the commentary box as he moves away from the mic. Feilhaber gets it wide right as Altidore breaks up the middle... Sergio Ramos displays some absolutely shocking defending in controlling the ball and teeing it up for Clint Dempsey, who is right there behind him to nip in and tap home with Casillas a million miles away. Pique hugs the post, hoping for the ground to swallow him whole. Ramos is incredulous. Unbelievable! Spain 0, USA 2

77 mins Sorry the update is a little slow... having a spot of technical difficulty at my end.

Mata is on for Albert Riera, and he wins a corner off Spector. They do nothing with it again as the defense holds. Feilhaber then bundles down Santi Cazorla, but Villa puts the free kick right into Howard's arms. For all their bluster and pace, Spain is not really creating too many clear-cut chances. Villa and Torres have been well controlled by Spector, DeMerit and Onyewu today. Unbelievable stuff.

80 mins: Xabi Alonso has another crack from distance after Mata's cut in from the left, but Howard parries it away. All Spain still, and still nothing to show for it. They're lining up in the 6-yard-box for a chance to touch one home, but the US are holding firm.

85 mins: SORRY FOLKS! My computer is struggling under the weight of all these Spain shots on goal. Conor Casey replaces Altidore, and the Spanish assault keeps coming up empty. Capdevila heads over from an offside position, a couple more difficult chances, and then the inevitable... US RED CARD! They have to be consistent. He goes in late and low on Xavi, I think, and the ref shows a straight red. Bit harsh, that, and a tarnish on their titanic performance.

From the free-kick, Onyewu is there again to impede David Villa.

86 mins: The pattern continues: Spain cross, US deflect/head clear. Spain cross, US deflect/head clar. Spain cross, US clear.

Final sub for USMNT... the tireless, peerless Clint Dempsey off, replaced by Jonathan Bornstein.

88 mins: Time to start discussing the end of Spain's almost-record unbeaten streak and winning streak?

89 mins: Pique gets a yellow card for Chelsea-ing the referee. Respect the Ref = not dead just yet! Conor Casey chases the ball into the corner and looks to hold off Capdevila, but he can't. Spain break again up the left, but David Villa, who's been rather selfish and rubbish today in equal measures, is offside. Will this cut his price tag enough so that Liverpool can buy him on the cheap?

Three minutes of stoppage time.

90 mins: THE BUS IS PARKED! Epic defending at the back by the US today. This time, Howard skips off his line to rob Mata who was lurking at the near post. Today, the little pigs' house was made of brick, and the Big Bad Spanish Wolf was left a-knocking at the door.

I don't know how much credit Bob Bradley can take for this; simply put, his XI showed up today. I eagerly/not-so-eagerly await the USMNT soundbites after the game.

90 mins + 2: Still a whole lot of nothing from the selfish douche, David Villa. Seriously, he's been crap today. 40 seconds to go! Alexei Lalas has enough time to jerk off to completion before the live feed cuts to Bristol, CT.

FULL TIME: Spain 0, USA 2
Wow. Just, wow. Have a drink tonight, fellas, as you earned that one. Not only did they successfully defend, albeit desperately at times, against that frightening Spanish attacking corps, but they took their smattering of chances when prompted and made 'em count. Just, wow.

I repeat: wow. Holy fucking wow.

Thanks for playing along, folks. Gush at will! You've earned it! A stupendous, phenomenal win by the US today. We can kinda ignore those blips last week v. Brazil and Italy, not entirely mind you, but somewhat. Beating Spain counts at atonement, right?

Also, sorry the updates got a little slow at the end there. My computer was literally dying.

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