Jan 25, 2008

Friday Footie Link List, Jan. 25, 2008

One massive tournament I have not paid any attention to so far is the African Cup of Nations (I wish I could, but professional commitments and rooting interests in others leagues and sports have left me with very little room to maneuver). Luckily for me (and you), there is excellent coverage out there. Soccerblog.com has a moving piece on the role of the sport in Ghana, the country that is hosting the tournament. Titled Ghana: The crucible of African soccer, the piece traces the history of soccer in that country to its postwar roots, providing the names and stories of some of its biggest protagonists.

WorldCupBlog also has excellent coverage of the ACN, including photos, highlights and live blogs. TimesOnline has this inspirational piece on the state of the game in Africa. But best of all may just be Who Ate All The Pies' Top 10 Reasons Why the African Cup of Nations is better than the World Cup (No. 1: Germany can't win it).

Back in the U.S., ussoccerplayers.com has a full-on Q&A with new Red Bulls head coach Juan Carlos Osorio. Is Osorio the man to end the franchise's 12-year reign of futility? I don't know, I'm just glad he isn't Bruce Arena. This will make for a less poisonous atmosphere at press conferences, as El Bruce was at best ornery and at worst downright hostile toward media--and not just in New York. Additionally, Osorio appears to have identified what is for me the crucial shortcoming of MLS: defending. Asked how he turned things around in Chicago, Osorio told USSP "we defended well." This is consistent with remarks he made at his introductory press conference last month.

Speaking of MLS, the league is finally allowing teams to charter their own flights, reports BigAppleSoccer.com. It's about time! Dealing with commercial flights is no fun for anybody, least of all somebody who just spent two hours at maximum physical exertion.

The worst for last: FoxSoccer.com has a new Friday feature called Side Kicks. The inaugural edition to me demonstrates just how weak U.S. soccer journalism still is (outside of the blogosphere, of course!). The writers, Robert Burns and John Juhasz, do a fellatio piece on Landon Donovan where they argue that "LD is the best all-around U.S. [player] we've got. Hands down." The argument itself might--might--have merit on its own grounds, but what is embarrassing is that the writers base their claims on a statistical feat (Donovan's new status as all-time leading USMNT scorer). By doing so they fall into the age-old trap of trying to equate soccer goals scored with something like home runs in baseball. Unlike baseball and most other American sports, soccer does not lend itself to statistical analysis. There is as of yet no statistical way of measuring soccer players' impact or worth; you have to actually watch the games and see them interact on the pitch. The article shrugs off that Donovan "didn't like it in Europe," then asks (I'm assuming with a straight face): "Are all the Yanks playing abroad knocking in goals at an astonishing clip (and with consistency) for the national team? And if Donovan only scores goals against poor competition, why aren't those other players who are supposedly more skilled and ambitious getting hat tricks in the same games?" Uh, maybe because they aren't playing in many of the cupcake Nats games that Donovan is? And again, the obsession with goals scored. It gets worse, too, as the writers apparently think soccer penalty kicks are akin to free throws in a basketball game or something: "So he scores goals from the penalty spot. Doesn't someone have to? And if so, aren't you glad we've got someone who's confident enough to always want the challenge of scoring them? Yes, a lot of his international goals are from the spot, but all that means is that he scored them for us and put the team in a position to win games." Lame, lame, lame. I seriously think FSC would benefit from hiring a savvy blogger to be their soccer editor. No way any of us would have allowed this crap.

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