So today is one of those days when I’m kinda stuck between things — freelance assignments, a big family wedding that requires me to drive people places, waiting to hear from people I’ve tried to contact for this site — and I could be using that time to ride the bridge, work on something I’ve back-burnered or start a new project.
Instead I’ve just been looking at goofy soccer stuff on the web.
Like this from Jimmy Conrad, who has been winning me over, episode by episode, until today I think I’m ready to call myself a fan. In this clip, he instructs a very good-natured Chris Wondolowski in how to dress and act like an MVP.
That part where Wondo comes out in the red hat? Yeah, that got me.
NO QUARTER: The best thing today is Mikey Buytas’ interview with former Battery star Mark Watson. It’s a must for Battery fans, so get over there..
HOW TO WATCH SOCCER: I also enjoyed this article from MLS analyst Matthew Doyle. It’s ostensibly about tactics and formations, which, as an elementary student of the game, are topics I spend a lot of time wondering about. But then it morphs into three suggestions:
1. Pay attention to where the ball is being won.
2. Pay attention to where the ball is being possessed.
3. Pay attention to where chances are being created.
Pretty simple, and probably a better way of understanding a style of play than focusing on a nominal formation. Which, BTW, mirrors a comment that Mike Anhaeuser made during a short conversation about what formations he likes to use. Really, what’s the difference between a 4-3-3 and a 4-5-1 once the game gets under way?
Formations reflect personnel and philosophy, and occasionally represent a tactical response to an opponent’s tendencies. But it’s probably nonsense to get too wrapped up in formations as if they were something static. As Doyle quotes Bob Gansler: “If, after five minutes, the 4-4-2 looks like a 4-4-2 out there, you’re [in trouble]. If the 3-5-2 looks like a 3-5-2, you’re [in trouble].”
The original quote was probably a bit more colorful.
I suspect one of the reasons Americans maybe tend to think more about formations is simply our “Throwball” upbringing. Sure, a standard 4-3-3 can become a 4-3-3 wingers just by the same people widening the field a bit, but there’s a fundamental tactical and personnel difference between a double tight-end I-formation and an empty backfield four-wide set. So I’m gonna try watching soccer this year by Doyle’s advice, instead of my upbringing, and see if I notice anything differently.
MLS FANTASY: Speaking of Throwball, fantasy football has come a long way since I drafted my first team in 1991. I took a bunch of grief for it, too, but fantasy football is now big business. There’s even a live Sunday-morning television show devoted to fantasy decision during the NFL season.
Fantasy soccer? Still nerdland, apparently. But it seems to me that MLS is taking its MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager game more seriously this season, with a series of articles on MLSsoccer.com actually explaining some of its cryptic elements.
The Regiment is has a league in the game, and I’ve just joined it. Still not too late for the rest of you to hop in for the first week of the Regiment league season… The league code is 11721-2819. Create your franchise, pick your team, and then click on the Classic Leagues link and enter that league code.
We’ll talk about the obsessive madness that is Soccer Manager here someday. But it shall not be this day.
TIMBERS PROMO VIDEO: So I can understand that some of you are likely to get sick of me talking about the Timbers. Fair enough. But for a team that hasn’t done much (so far) since arriving in MLS, it’s a franchise that really does a good job of putting out cool stuff that really helps to get the fans going. Here’s their latest:
BAD SPONSORS: Finally, as a mark of my maturity, I leave you with this countdown of really bad jersey sponsors. Welcome to 5th grade…