Friday, September 30, 2011

Game Day Beer Review: North Peak Brewing Co. Diabolical India Pale Ale

(6.66% ABV). Diabolical pours a thin apple-ciderish red, with relatively little head. The predominant smell is hops, with just a hint of mellow pine needles and honey on the finish. I'm getting hops, too, upon tasting, but this beer's not overhwelmingly bitter. I also taste just a little bit of malty sweetness and some faint floral notes, and a little hint of grapefruit becomes more apparent as the beer warms.

It's a decent but not great IPA. It' definitely thirst quenching, and something very refreshing to have after spending the early afternoon of a hot summer day out on Lake Michigan.  I'll give it a B.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


photo by TalAtlasvia PhotoRee

Correspondent Ed has returned from celebrating Oktoberfest in Munich, during which time he also managed to file this report:
Bayern Munich is a heavy blunt instrument made of steel which has at its front a menacing pike, and that pike is Franck Ribery.  After enduring – or perhaps permitting -- Manchester City to frolic about for the first 15 minutes of their Champions League match on Tuesday at the Allianz Arena in Munchen, the heavy gears of Bayern churned into motion and slowly and cruelly ground one of the EPL’s most feared teams into a wailing and bickering hoard.
Throughout the match, Bayern controlled the center of the pitch, and relentlessly beat back any attacks that came from the seemingly talented front line of City.  While David Silva still shone above the rest, Kun Aguero was a never a factor, routinely flicked aside by the larger and faster defenders of Bayern.   For some time Gareth Barry was able to hold his own, but ultimately his resistance proved futile.  And Ribery controlled the left side of the pitch, beating City’s defenders with quickness and bullying them unmercifully.  In one challenge for a 50/50 ball, City’s Kolo Toure found himself scrambling to find his legs as he stared in shock at the scarred face of his French tormentor. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Holy Cow! Six Things We Learned in a Shock Champions League Draw with FC Basel

photo by gamerscoreblogvia PhotoRee

1. I'm stating the obvious here, but United have some major concerns on defense, at least as long as Nemanja Vidic is sidelined. Sure, Basel may have scored three, and emerged with a draw -- but that was only a symptom of the larger problem last night. This is shocking to say, but three is probably the least number of goals Basel should have scored last night, and the number of opportunities the visitors created has to be extremely unsettling for Sir Alex. Especially when noted that last night was a European night -- you know, the same type of European night in which United conceded only once during the Group Stage last season -- this has to be setting off some major alarm bells for the Scot. It's actually quite shocking as to how open a game United are playing, whether by design or accident -- although I can't imagine its by design. Scoring lots of goals has a way of papering over any cracks in defense, but you can be damn well sure that Sir Alex knows this is a situation that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later if this season is to end in trophies of any kind.

2.  Giggsy's vision is still pretty damn good. He may not have the speed or the moves that he used to have, but as he's slowed down, the game seems to have slowed down for him, as well. And by that I mean that Ryan Giggs seems to be seeing the game in slow motion. Sure, Danny Welbeck scored the first two goals of the game, but they were merely the end product of Giggs' Matrix-like vision -- in which the Welshman seems to slow down time itself while pondering his options, and then land the dagger blow with stunning accuracy. He may not be 17 anymore, but Ryan Giggs at age 37 is the very definition of the complete modern player, and -- if this is possible -- even better than he was several years ago.

3. I'm starting to wonder exactly what the Da Silva twins are made of. Maybe marshmallows, possbly a bit of jello mixed with some gummy bears, but definitely not anything very hard. Or anything that lasts a full 90 minutes. In fact, I'm kind of thinking of them as the anti-Viagra....  I tweeted pre-game that I was concerned Sir Alex had opted for no defensive subtitutions on the bench, and wondered aloud the last time either De Silva had managed to play a full 90 minutes -- with the concern in the back of my mind that there was no way Fabio would last the whole game. And it was right about on 70 minutes that the diminutive Brazilian's carriage turned back into a pumpkin, necessitating the movement of Valencia to right back -- clearly not his best position, as the penalty showed -- and the introduction of Nani into the game. I'm not saying that United didn't need Nani, at that particular juncture, but instead that I hate having to use one of our substitutions every game on a defender whenever one of the Da Silvas is in the starting lineup.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Game Day Beer Review: Shipyard Brewing Old Thumper Extra Special Ale / Strong Bitter

(5.90%) ABV.  Old Thumper pours a light, reddish-tinged yellow, somewhat deeper than a golden color. I drank the beer on draft at the Jetport in Portland, Maine during a recent flight delay. Old Thumper on draft has very little smell: I got very vague, mellow hops, and a slight wihiff of apples on the nose. It was, however, a very easy drinking beer.  It's fairly sweet, with a ciderish taste up front that ends up in a dry, smooth finish.

I've had this beer several times before, but I liked it this time better than I remembered -- maybe it's because it was on draft, whereas the majority of times I've had it before were from the bottle.  Either way, I could easily drink this one all day long. B+

Monday, September 26, 2011

An EPL Voyage of Rediscovery

photo by milesgehmvia PhotoRee

o It's good to see that Edin Dzeko has rediscovered his old form from last season. After a torrid start to this year's campaign, the hat trick plus one against Spurs seems to have been his last gasp at scoring. My prediction after Saturday's abysmal performance is that he'll start to spend a bit more time on City's "other" roster, probably slotted in right next to Carlos Tevez on the bench.

o Howard Webb has redicovered his run of crappy form that began at the 2010 World Cup.  In perhaps the most blatant incident of ignoring a clear-as-day foul, Webb stood just two or three feet away from Louis Saha as Vincent Kompany blocked the Frenchman's progress and bowled him over just outside the box. How Webb could have failed to see the obvious impediment is beyond me, but it's only the latest in a growing string of poor calls by England's "top cop."

o Chelsea's defensive signing of the year last season, the guy who was going to reinvigorate the Chelsea back line, the Portuguese wonder boy David Luiz, has rediscovered what it feels like to be on the outside looking in.  Luiz now has one of the best seats in the house to watch a lineup that's managed to keep only one clean sheet in its last ten league games.  As always, though, there's a silver lining: at the very least, Luiz' time riding pine should give him more time to consider alternative hair care prodcuts.

o Fernando Torres is the doghouse. Chelsea's ladyboy can't seem to get out of his own way: last week a goal that led to the Miss Of The YearTM, and this week a goal and assist leading to a two-footed challenge and a straight red, courtesy of farlieonfootie's favorite whipping boy Mike Dean. Now that Torres has seemingly rediscovered his goal scoring form, he gets to spend the next three games watching from the stands.  Can you hear the boos, Fernando...?

This is farlieonfootie for September 26.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stoked Up About Peter Walton

photo by charenton_via PhotoRee

Wayne Rooney rests his sore hamstring as Dimitar Berbatov is thrust into the limelight with his first start of the season at the Britannia on Saturday. Away to Stoke is always going to be considered one of the toughest games of the season, and the Bulgarian will need to be at the very top of his game if United are to repeat last season's late victory here. Berba is joined up top by Chicharito, and the visitors' attack will also feature Luis Nani and Ashley Young on the wings and Anderson and Fletcher in the middle of the park. David De Gea's defense comprises Antonio Valencia, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand and fan favorite Phil Jones, and the Spaniard will face a stern test with Stoke's extra-large bodies and strong set piece play.

Rory Delap's first long throw of the afternoon leads to an early opportunity for the Potters, but it's a clear-as-day penalty committed by Jonathan Woodgate that really grabs the eye in the early going. Woodgate extends his arm to shove over a streaking Mexican missile, as Javier Hernandez breaks free on goal in the game's third minute, and it's an utter mystery as to why referee Peter Walton decides not to point immediately to the spot. Although it's clear from the play that Walton's vision is suffering today, Chicharito's leg and hip must be hurting even more as he's forced from the field of play after a stoppage of nearly three minutes.

Stoke's plan of attack on Saturday involves fouling early and often to begin the contest, bundling over not only over Hernandez, but also Jones, Evra, and Nani in quick succession.  It's a real rough and ready first ten minutes of the game, and as Chicharito limps off due to the lingering effects of Woodgate's shove, it's Michael Owen into the breach to repair the United offense.

The early boil must cause Tony Pulis to fear that Sir Alex may not invite him to share a bottle of post-game wine, as the contest seems to settle down a bit at this point.  Some of the game's early heat is removed and neither side creates much in the way of offensive chances.  Manchester United look a bit labored at the halfway point of the first half, and neither Nani nor Young have yet to make much of an impact on the day's action.  Not content to be denied any longer, though, it's at this point that Nani pops up from nowhere to play a quick one-two with Darren Fletcher, before cutting inside and through the vaunted Stoke central defense -- beating about half the team in the process -- and finishing expertly with his left foot to give United the lead.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hypocrisy, Horse Teeth and the Offside Rule

photo by treehouse1977via PhotoRee

Scott answers an age old dilemma in his latest piece:

In order to distract myself from last bloody Sunday when the referee of the Liverpool/ Tottenham game pulled so many yellow and red cards out of his arse that rumors were circulating he had stumbled upon a pre-match smorgasbord of wounded canaries, I set aside my third bottle of Rioja and earnestly considered the paradox that has consistently confounded sages through the ages: How can we hate a player on one team and then cheer for him when he joins our team?

I completely acknowledge that as I point out others who are guilty of this fan foible, there are three other fingers on the same hand accusing me back. How else could I span the gaping chasm from loathing Luis Suarez for maliciously denying the poor Ghanaians their rightful victory in the last World Cup with his goal line handball antics, to wearing out my Uruguayan rosary beads every weekend in hopes that he might help Liverpool restore their dignity and former glory? 

Conveniently ignoring the perpetual toothy scowl, I find myself, more often than not, quickly excusing his petulance and tantrums, whether it be at the Britannia or on White Hart Lane, so I can return to cheering for the goal we desperately need. It makes no difference that he has gone from annoying defenses to just plain annoying.  All because he swapped his light blue jersey from the summer of 2010 for the blood-red jersey worn by fanatics in a city along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary.  Andale dientes de caballo!

Friday, September 23, 2011

On Benedict Hargreaves

photo by Marion Dossvia PhotoRee

I wasn't prepared to dislike Owen Hargreaves; I really wasn't.  In fact, my memories of Hargo are pretty good, actually.  I enjoyed seeing a North American player become a key part of the United squad -- Hargo was living proof that a Canadian could actually perform at the highest level of a sport other than hockey or curling....

I can still see Hargo bounding on the pitch, complete with his curly moppet of hair, and stifle opposition defenses while at the same time controlling the pace and possession of a game as one of the world's premier holding midfielders.  My most vivid memory of Hargreaves, though, likely isn't the same as yours - mine involves him curling a free kick beautifully into the corner of the net at Craven Cottage in March 2008, his first league goal for United (and one of only two league goals he scored in total for United) made all the more vivid by the fact I was in attendance at the game with my oldest daughter.

And before I go on, let me state this for the record: I didn't feel the same sense of betrayal that many United fans felt when Hargreaves left for Eastlands during the last transfer window.  Maybe it was naivete on my part.  I prefer, however, to assign my feelings to a genuine sympathy for Hargo, and a sense of magnamity toward someone who has been through a lot.

I remember how dejected I felt when Hargreaves took the pitch against Wolves last season, lasting less than five minutes before a pulled hamstring forced him into that long last walk into the tunnel, the finality of his career at United settling on me -- as I'm certain it did for many United fans, and likely Hargo himself -- that day.  Sure, there was the mild hope that he might return, but there was always that next injury -- shoulder, etc. -- that time and again popped up to derail his comeback plans.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Fast Five

photo by desomurchu archive galleryvia PhotoRee

Ed has some thoughts on last weekend.  Unfortunately, it took him until Thursday to verbalize them:
Just when you think you’ve got the EPL all figured out there’s a week like this.

First there’s United against Chelsea.  Wayne Rooney, averaging three goals a game his last two games, falls down on his way to his second goal against the Blues.  Huh?  No, it’s true.  And while United ultimately put in three, Chelsea for the most part saw the better of the play.  Torres' first goal after the half was a as shocking as it was merciless, almost nonchalantly flicking it over De Gea on a quick through ball. 
His sec . . . . oops, of course there was no second, but instead there was that complete “Doh!” that we’ve all seen countless times, where after beating De Gea with a quick stepover, he nearly missed the entire stadium on a kick in that should have been a layup.  But let’s face it, it was the first time in a long time that Torres looked dangerous.  And it was the first time that United seemed to be on the defensive most of the game.  Does this mean United is vulnerable?  Well, it was just one game.  But their lack of dominance against the speed lineup of Chelsea – that is, the lineup they went to after pulling Lampard – has got to put some concern in United fans when they think of what Barca might do to them if it all comes to that again.  Hmmm.
Second there’s Spurszzz.  Someone clearly put the jumper cables right on the left and right . . . . well, let’s keep this above board, and say that Adebayor and Scott Parker, the smartest looking holding midfielder in the EPL, absolutely transmogrified (wait, is that a word?) the team.  Spurs went from a demoralized last place team to a team that looked downright dangerous, taking advantage of a Liverpool team that looked predicatable and slow and, well, slow. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy Birthday to Us

First birthday cake
Columnist Ed prepared us a delicious egg and dairy-free lemon cake.  Photo by Fimb, via Flickr

farlieonfootie turns one today!  A year ago, all the hoopla started with this witty piece, and many expected that would be all she wrote.  But...surprise!  With only the slightest vision of where we'd eventually end up, a year later and 394 blog entries down the drain -- plus a few beers or two -- and just look what we've become!

Okay, so it's not much, I know, but we'll keep trying, and maybe eventually we'll get it right....

In truth, it's incredibly hard to believe it's already been a year since we began this effort.  Where has the time gone....?

You may think that on an occasion as august as this I'd like to thank our team of crack correspondents -- regular contributors Ed and Scott, in particular; semi-regular and ever faithful Spurs' and part-time beer correspondent James; our semi-semi-regular bloggers Ian and Coach Tom (Are you out on probation yet?  I can not believe the police didn't buy your story....!), and even our long-lost La Liga man Todd -- but then again, why should I?

They've all been handsomely paid for their work, have a large and growing crack research staff at their total disposal, and enjoy the finest in corporate luxuries -- we serve caviar from vending machines around these parts....  So, as per usual, they should all be thanking me for giving them the best opportunity they've ever had to be a part of an enterprise so large and successful.   You're welcome, boys.

If you've enjoyed our blogging wit, well then you're one of the few.

If you've learned something about the game we all love, you've got to get out more often.

And if you've tried one of our recommended beers, my apologies -- often times we drink so much that we have no recollection whatsoever as to what we've just written.

But don't you worry: if you find us distasteful, offensive, ignorant and mouthy, you ain't seen nothin' yet.  Sit back and relax -- this won't hurt a bit.

This a celebratory farlieonfootie for September 21, ready to begin Year Two!

Shagging Sheep

photo by asgwvia PhotoRee



(A rooftop beer bar in the middle of Manhattan, specializing in Italian craft beer.  The Empire State Building peeks out from behind the bar in the distance.  A midday crowd is gathered around the bar, comprised of tourists enjoying an Indian Summer afternoon, and locals who've snuck away from an honest day's work.  At the corner of the bar sits a stranger, wearing jeans, flip flops, shades and a long-sleeve black jersey with the number "1" and the name "De Gea" emblazoned on the back.  A car horn honks in the distance.)

How 'bout a drink, Nick?

     (Glances up from drying some glasses)
Whaddya want?

I'd say a beer, but I just finished hot yoga class before coming here.  You got any coconut water before I move onto the hard stuff?  I'm parched.

Hot yoga?  Ain't that for girls?
I don't know, man.  If it's good enough for Giggs, it's good enough for me.  It's a great workout.        
Turn up the volume, will ya?  United's on.

(fade out)


(A festive Elland Road.  A frenzied crowd of Leeds supporters cheer on the home team, lustily chanting, clapping, stomping their feet, and showering United with prolonged boos and cat calls.)

FAN #1
Think we'll do it again?  Loved knocking those bastards out of the FA Cup a couple seasons back....

FAN #2
Could be, but they're takin' it pretty seriously.  Look at the lineup they've run out tonight.
FAN #1
Yeah. Giggs, Berbatov, Owen, Valencia, Macheda....  Christ, those boys must be desperate to get some playing time.

FAN #2
Ryan Giggs reduced to playing the freakin' League Cup.  Bastard's so old he can barely run, 'cept after birds.

FAN #1
                       Yeah, and they're just a shite Barcelona.
                        I hope we crush 'em.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Game Day Beer Review: Dark Horse Brewing Sapient Trip Ale Tripel Ale

(8.50% ABV). Poured into a styrofoam cup and smuggled into a Third Coast beach club, Sapient Trip Ale was a mellow orangish-gold, almost amber-like, as it entered the cup. The overwhelming smell was of ripe bananas and belgian candy sweetness.

Upon tasting, Sapient's burnt caramel and clove flavors were readily apparent.  It's a fairly straight forward tripel, and well balanced, but ultimately not great. B.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Very Strange Day at Old Trafford

Columnist Ed and friend in an undated family photo
photo by thelazydbavia PhotoRee

The slight surprise in today's lineup is that Rio Ferdinand is judged unfit to play, mandating Phil Jones and Jonny Evans to deputise at center half for the home side. With Chris Smalling at right back, it means that United will face their arch-rival Blues at home with a less-than-experienced back four. As if anticipating a game which could see more than a few goals, Sir Alex has selected some real offensive firepower in the Reds' attack, with Chicharito partnering Wayne Rooney up top, and Nani and Ashley Young manning the wings. Darren Fletcher and Anderson are handed the keys to the engine room, while David De Gea covers the net with Fergie's strong pre-game endorsement.

Chelsea sport a new look, as well, with Juan Mata on the flank and Raul Meireles in the middle, and Fernando Torres partners Danny Sturridge up top, as new coach Andre Villas-Boas continues his tinkering efforts to find an ideal starting eleven. It's a mark of how much both teams have changed since they last met back in May, and the Reds will hope to keep the hoodoo on the Blues in a League encounter that may ultimately have an impact on the title race.

United look to play the ball over the top to Hernandez in the early going, as they try to exploit Chelsea's lack of defensive pace. At the other end, De Gea is called into action, parrying a ball away from the goal line with his feet on Chelsea's very first attack of the afternoon. In truth, United look a bit sloppy in the opening minutes, with a couple giveaways offering Chelsea an early toe hold into the match. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Another Saturday...Down the Drain

photo by samantha celeravia PhotoRee

Despite the cold, rainy weather, a large contingent of Blackburn fans endured a  pre-game march Saturday to demonstrate against Steve Keane continuing as their Manager. "We need an experienced manager," said one of the protesters. He's right, although never mind that Rovers already had a perfectly good one in Big Sam before they jettisoned him to make way for Keane.  "I don't blame [Keane] for taking the job. I'd do the same if they offered it to me," said another marcher. Good point -- So would I!  How 'bout it, Venky's?

o But while Steve Keane is feeling the heat -- perhaps temporarily relieved by his team's 4-3 home victory on Saturday over Arsenal -- how hot is the water beginning to get for Arsene Wenger?  That Arsenal lost again yesterday isn't really news at this point.  What is news, though, is just how bad the Gunners managed to look while losing.  I haven't previously been in the "Arsene Must Go" contingent, but even I'm beginning to doubt Le Professor after this most recent loss, in which the Gunners' defense most closely resembled a packet of Swiss Cheese.

o Arsenal's shape continues to be terrible. The defense, even with the addition of Andre Santos and Per Mertesacker -- or maybe because of the addition of Santos and Mertesacker -- couldn't hold a straight line if they were tied together to a ruler. They looked completely panicked and disorgnaized at the back yesterday -- "at sixes and sevens," as the Brits like to say -- and Laurent Koscielny in particular looked completely out of his depth trying to guard Chris Samba on set pieces.

o Arsenal's current form is poor -- and I mean really bad. The quality of their football has noticeably and truly dropped. It's as if the disappearance of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri has turned them into a team which would struggle to stay on the good end of a relegation battle.  And yet we know that the team wasn't this bad when Fabregas and Nasri were out last season -- which they were a fair bit.  I think it's safe to say that in addition to missing their two best players the London side is struggling from a real crisis in confidence right now, and it must come from the very top.  I've long believed that any organization comes to resemble the person in charge, and if this is the case, then Arsene Wenger is not the calm, cool, professorial person he resembles on the outside, but a frightened, disorganized and incompetent man on the inside.

Game Day Beer Review: Sebago Brewing Bass Ackwards Blueberry Ale

(4.00% ABV).  Served on draft in Maine, Bass Ackwards Blueberry is probably a better name for a beer than it is an actual beer.  But it's not all bad.  It poured a clear, golden color, with a smell of pure blueberry pancakes. Actually made me kind of hungry for breakfast, as a matter of fact.  Good thing we were staying at a Bed and Breakfast...!

The taste was actually better than I expected, not complex and very clean.  It was all blueberry, and highly carbonated. It's definitely drinkable, but probably best for Summer: B.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Game Day Beer Review: Brauerei Beck's Oktoberfest Marzen

Columnist James has returned with his thoughts on a true taste of Fall:

Beer: Brauerei Beck & Co. Oktoberfest Marzen

ABV: 5.00%

Presentation: Poured on draft into a 32 oz Beck's Oktoberfest promo mug at The Flying Saucer, Columbia, SC.

Appearance: Light brown / golden, with a decent two finger head that dissipates quickly to thin lace.

Aroma: Some light sweet malt, overpowered by yeast / almost vinegary skunk.

Taste: Not the rich, malty marzen taste we know and love; more like a malty lager with Becks' typical skunkiness layered in.

Overall: Fairly drinkable, faintly marzen style beer.  An overall disappointment, but not surprising from Beck's. If you're like me and look forward to the marzens all Summer, it's best to skip this one. But at least I got a huge glass mug I can now throw spare change into. C-

Friday, September 16, 2011

Game Day Beer Review: Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams) Latitude 48 India Pale Ale

(6.00% ABV).  I haven't seen this for sale before, so I was looking forward to trying it more than I typically look forward to Boston Beer's offerings.  Not that I don't like them, but Sam Adams has become the most "coprorate" of the craft brewers, based on my unscientific sense of size and corporate attitude, and so I'm rarely as jazzed about having a Sam as I am about something from some brewer a bit smaller and more daring. 

Drunk from a bottle (due to the lack of an available cup) while on a recent trip to New England, Latitude 48 IPA was mildy hoppy on the nose, although it's hard to say how it would have smelled if it had been properly poured into a glass, so don't hold me to this.

On tasting, the beer was more citrusy than hoppy, almost like a dumbed-down IPA for the novice beer drinker. I am getting strong grapefruit and mild pine, though, kind of like Boston Beer was teasingly trying to mix my home state of Florida with the tall pines surrounding our bed and breakfast in Maine. The prototypical Sam malts are identifiable up front, as well. 

It's decent and different, and it didn't give me an immediate headache like many other IPAs, so I'll give it a B.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


photo by daily sunnyvia PhotoRee

Manchester United toiled their way to a workmanlike 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light last night, leaving hosts Benfica and Portugal with a satisfactory point, but unable to reach the dizzying heights which the team has occupied of late.  The English Champions looked more fluid in the second half than they did in a disjointed first, and dominated posession for considerable periods of the match without creating the wealth of opportunities which they have recently come to expect. 

o The match was largely devoid of any sort of flare or excitement, and it brought back some none-too-vivid memories of last season's European snoozers against such sides as Olympique Marseille and Rangers.  Chalk the outcome up to Sir Alex's much more conservative managerial style when the team plays in Europe, and I reckon the Scot will be secretly pleased with the overall outcome.

o Sir Alex offered a complete overhaul of the lineup, choosing to sit eight players who took the field last weekend versus Bolton.  Confidence or arrogance....?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stoke City Potters and the Toothy Draw

photo by lightscripturevia PhotoRee

It's only week four, but we sense some doubts have been raised in Correspondent's Scott's hopes for a Liverpool victory parade at season's end:

At the Britannia Stadium last Saturday, Liverpool showed why most commentators believe they will challenge for fourth place at best, and only their fans believe they have a chance at the title.  But even this fan’s hope has taken a beating after a loss in the type of game they need to figure out how to win.  Forget the vaunted Stoke defense and the particularly parsimonious play of Asmir Begovic in goal – when you dominate a game from start to finish and spend most of it camped out in the opponent’s half, you need to win.  And you don’t do it by blowing breakaways and missing untended goals….

With Andy Carroll and newly-signed Craig Bellamy on the bench, Kenny Dalglish’s squad faced Peter Crouch’s new team on a blustery British Saturday.  But the crisp breeze did nothing to focus play at first, as both sides were sloppy with passes and seemed to be playing a game of hot-potato rather than keep-away soccer.  Not only was the play sloppy, but so were the challenges – which occasionally bordered on comical.  To wit, Martin Skrtel literally had to unravel his hand from Ryan Shawcross’ shirt after defending a corner in the 10th minute.  But the chuckles trailed off (at least for the traveling Liverpool contingent) when Jamie Carragher was wrong-sided in the box by Jonathan Walters in the 20th minute, and tried unsuccessfully to hide his clutching from the ref.  The resulting penalty marked the only shot on goal for Stoke City during the game and one of only three shots in total by the Potters; this compares to 24 shots by Liverpool, 7 of which were on goal. (Ed. Note: Just think about this statistic for a second.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Game Day Beer Review: Short's Brewing Strawberry Short's Cake Fruit Beer

(5.0% ABV).  Poured on draft at the Short's Brewpub in Bellaire, Michigan, Strawberry Short's Cake appears a reddish-brown color with virtually no head.  The beer's dominant smell is strawberry syrup, slightly artificial, followed by a secondary scent of grapes. The taste follows the scent, with the addition of a vaguely coffee-like finish.

I'm also getting as much of a grape flavor as I am strawberries, as I drink it a bit more. Consequently, this beer is not as sweet as might be expected, and probably sessionable if you're looking for something lighter. It's not Short's best beer, but I give them definite props for trying something different: B.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Jarring, and Other Random Thoughts on EPL Week Four

photo by Chris Makarskyvia PhotoRee

It was jarring to see Mikel Arteta in an Arsenal shirt on Saturday. It's always strange the first time you see a player identified so strongly with one club suddenly wearing another team's kit. Likewise Niklas Bendtner at Sunderland -- although it was refreshing to see he's still useless, no matter which shirt he wears -- and maybe a little bit less so, Peter Crouch at Stoke.

o Fernando Torres didn't look very happy sitting on the Chelsea bench Saturday. Nor did Florent Malouda. I wonder what the atmosphere is like inside that locker room.... My sense is that it's probably closer to Manchester City's than it is to Manchester United's. At the latter, it's expected that you're going to spend some time on the bench -- that is, unless your name is Wayne Rooney or Nemanja Vidic. At the former, however, all of the players who signed there were originally lured in under the pretense that they'd not only be starting, they'd be leading the 'revolution.' It's a massive difference in mindset.

o Arsenal may have won Saturday, but they continued to look completely impotent in front of goal this season. No matter what personnel Arsene tries, his boys can't seem to find the back of the net. That is, unless the opposition goalie throws his clearance right at the feet of the closest defender, allowing the ball to settle nicely in front of Andrei Arshavin with the goal begging. If that's what it takes for Arsenal to score, though, it's going to be a very long season indeed at the Emirates.

o Liverpool found out on Saturday just how tough the away trip to Stoke is. I read somewhere on Twitter that the last three English champions (United, Chelsea, United) all won their away games at Stoke, but needed goals post the 80-minute mark to do so. I guess Liverpool won't be joining that club, but that'll only be a real surprise to their most ardent supporters.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Never Forget

September 11th Memorial | 9-11-09
September 11 Memorial photo by idovermani on Flickr

Let us pause for a brief moment today and remember those brave souls who lost their lives in an horrific attack on the civilized world that was carried out by cold blooded terrorists.  May the thousands who lost their lives that day -- or in the dark days that followed -- rest in peace, and may God's eternal grace be granted to all of them and their families.  We will never forget your sacrifice.

This is a profoundly sorrowful farlieonfootie remembering a tragic loss ten years ago today, on September 11, 2001.


photo by diff_skyvia PhotoRee

Saturday's trip to Bolton is one of those tricky away encounters for Manchester United to navigate, with a trot down to the Reebok to visit the Bolton Wanderers. Sir Alex tinkers only gently with his wildly productive lineup, exchanging Javier Hernandez and Rio Ferdinand for the injured Danny Welbeck and the rested Chris Smalling. David De Gea starts once again in goal, despite the mysterious media-fueled rumors to the contrary, which suggest pre-game that Fergie feared the Spaniard wouldn't be physical enough to cope with Bolton's vaunted aerial attack.

Before the game has time enough to develop any sort of a rhythm or tempo, it's Chicharito opening the scoring for United, with Nani offering a perfect ball in from the wing and leaving the Mexican Pea with only a tap in to open his account for the season. Hernandez showcases his typical dazzling form with the score, timing his run perfectly, and zigzagging in and out of the Bolton defense to lose his marker -- an England center back, no less -- at the last possible minute.  

A minute later and it's Wayne Rooney...showcasing his defensive skills, Wazza tracking all the way to clear a ball off the goal line, and then blocking a second Bolton shot for good measure. Michael Carrick replaces an injured Tom Cleverly, the young midfielder clattered over by the dire tackling of a brutish Kevin Davies, and United fans collectively hold their breath for word on the youngster's status.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Game Day Beer Review: Cayman Islands Brewery Ironshore Bock

(7.00%).  Drank from a bottle poured while overlooking the Caribbean Sea and listening to Bob Marley, I was probably generous in my scoring of this beer.  I apologize for the overall brevity of this review, but suffice it to say that I was slightly distracted while drinking....

Ironshore had a mild, maltish smell, and was a clear, copper color ,with only a small amount of head by the time my waitress brought it to the table. I got a bit of sweet malt and lots of carbonation when I brought the beer to my lips, but other than that it was a bit vague.  Ironshore has a pleasant taste, mellowed to match my mood.  Verdict: C+, and probably the best of the local brews in the Cayman Islands.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Please Hold

office phone cropped
Photo by Chris Dlugosz via Flickr

Correspondent Ed takes a vacation from his hectic work schedule to check in and offer some of his typical stunning insight into the international break :

This international competition break has been a bit painful, positioned as it was only three weeks into what promises to be a very exciting season in the EPL. Perhaps it's the success -- or conspicuous lack thereof -- of the American team, or perhaps it's just the annoying figure that is Fabio Capello and his underachieving three lions, but whatever the reason, it just seems that there's too much of these national team games.

Even Sky Sports news seems to be in a bit of a holding funk, pulling the always perky Georgie Thompson for the likes of Vicky Gomersall. Urgh...!

But let's do our best to put all of that to the side, and through the unrelenting din of the hold music, here are a few thoughts:

1. From Top to Bottom. Once the most exciting team in the EPL, Spurs are now in dead last and look in need of a complete transfusion. It's shocking what a difference a few months makes. I've said it before and I'll say it again: while Luka Modric is a great player, he's not worth £40MM, and if he wanted to move to Chelsea they should've let him go. Spurs could probably have picked up Charlie Adam and Gary Cahill with that money, and they still would have had £10MM left to spend. At the  end of the day, while Modric is a creative player, he's a defensive liability and a poor shot. His real value is about £15MM, and an unhappy Luka might be worth less than that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fat, Dumb & Happy

England flags
England Flags photo by sk8geek via Flickr

England struggled to an unconvincing 1-nil win over a spirited bunch from Wales on Tuesday night at Wembley, in a match more notable for the lack of ambition and cohesion from the England squad than anything else.  Liverpool's Steward Downing combined with Manchester United's Ashley Young to put the English in front shortly before the half, yet the home side was unable to convincingly put the contest to bed in the match's second half, despite a starting lineup containing considerable EPL 'star power.'  My belief is that this stems from a central midfield that played as if fat, dumb and happy, coasting through the game at three-quarters speed, and lacking the required creativity and quality to link up with the man up top, a bonafide goal scorer who goes by the name of Wayne Rooney.

o In fact, England spent the last fifteen minutes of the match on the back heel, as Wales threw attack after attack at their nearby neighbors.  Sure, the English eventually held out and took all three points for Euro qualifying , but at the risk of being obvious, let me point something out. This was Wales they were playing, not Germany or Holland. At home.

o Indeed, England were very fortunate not to end up with a draw, as Rob Earnshaw somehow conspired to miss a wide open net from point blank range with roughly 15 minutes left, well after England had grown content with their slim one goal lead. I can't figure out how a team spearheaded by Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young can look so blase on offense, but Fabio Capello apparently has. Maybe it has something to do with the forcefield that is Gareth Barry in the midfield.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cold, Wet and Slightly Dreary

photo by Jo Naylorvia PhotoRee

Our title refers, of course, to the weather in Belgium last night, but we could have equally been referring to the performance turned in by the US Mens National Team in their contest against the Belgians on Tuesday. Witnessed by only the sparsest of crowds due to the inclement weather sweeping across Western Europe, the Belgians defeated a sluggish and wet American squad 1-nil in a game largely devoid of excitement or action. With so many quality local beers to otherwise occupy their attention, who could argue when the vast majority of Belgians decided to stay at home and watch the match on television?

o That the US team was tired -- and showed it -- shouldn't really come as a surprise to anyone. Playing just four days after their last game and traveling nine time zones -- and ten and a half hours on a plane -- to play a friendly in Europe just points out how preposterous it is to have the USMNT based on the West Coast. Slotted at the Home Depot Center solely to placate Philip Anschutz, MLS' largest individual investor, the US team isn't headquartered near their CONCACAF rivals in the Carribean, nor anywhere remotely close to where some of our best players ply their trade -- in Europe. Having the team based on the East Coast of the US -- say, Florida, given it's proximity to the Carribean, Mexico, and year 'round weather -- would make a ton more sense, but when did common sense ever count for anything when money is at stake?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day

photo by Trodelvia PhotoRee

Wishing a happy and relaxing Labor Day to all of our readers in the United States and beyond....

Game Day Beer Review: New Belgium Brewing Sunshine Pale Wheat Ale

photo by smaddenvia PhotoRee

Beer: New Belgium Brewing Sunshine American Pale Wheat Ale

ABV: 4.80%

Appearance: Clear, yellow, bubbly.

Smell: Strong citrus, light yeast.

Taste: Strong carbonation, with lemon and slight spice and pepper.

Overall: Not a fan of unfiltered wheat beers, but this is a good -- if unexciting -- choice on a hot day. B.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Dawn of a New Era

photo by robert.melokvia PhotoRee

If you believe it's possible to pick up some positives despite a losing scoreline, the transformation of US soccer took several baby steps forward over the weekend, even as the team lost their international friendly to a young and talented Costa Rican side, 1-0.  Herewith some thoughts on the match, which demonstrated the USMNT to be very much of a work in progress: 

o If the USMNT was looking to bury its game so that the fewest possible fans could watch it, ESPN2 at 11:30 EST on a Friday night was a pretty good place to put it. Apparently it was a fairly good place to hide it from the ticket buying public, too, as the entire upper deck of the Home Depot Center was populated with empty seats.

o The difference in the Klinsmann era was readily apparent in the first half. Beginning with the second half against Mexico and continuing through the most of the first half against Costa Rica, the US played dynamic, attacking and -- most importantly -- confident soccer, as if a breathe of fresh air has been given to the side.  Playing without Clint Dempsey and Stu Holden -- two guaranteed starters in big matches going forward-- the US played flowing offensive soccer, and made it look like they were having fun.

o The Klinsmann philosophy was visible in the first half one-touch, little triangle, give-and-go offense. It's pleasing to the eye, and something we never saw under the Bradley era -- or any other American coach for that matter.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Game Day Beer Review: North Peak Brewing Burly Belgo India Pale Ale

(6.50% ABV). Poured from a bottle into a tulip glass, Burly is a deep, peachy-reddish color with a thick, fluffy head that leaves behind less lacing than I would have expected. There's a lot going on in the nose: I get malt and clove and coriander spices, in addition to  pine and mellow hops.

The taste is rich, and fuller than I would have expected, and ever so smooth.  It's like a Belgian-American lovechild: light, delicate mouthfeel, combined with a real IPA flavors.

I like this perhaps best of any of the IPAs I've tried recently. It doesn't feel like they're trying to blow the roof off the beer (or my mouth) with hops, and the beer's delicious aftertaste lingers lovingly on the tongue. I love the stubby bottle, too. 

It's a classic, just wish I could find it in South Florida: A.

Friday, September 2, 2011

And They Have a Plan

photo by dyobmitvia PhotoRee

By Correspondent Ed

I remember with great fondness my deep foray into the world of Battlestar Gallactica (new series) with the new and improved, wicked hot cylon ladies.  I also remember the shows great tagline, repeated at the beginning of each episode just to set the tone:

"The cylons were created by man. 
They evolved. 
They rebelled. 
There are many copies." 
[Then an ominous pause before ……]
"And they have a plan."

Ooooooo, that still makes me shiver a little bit, that whole evil plan stuff.  I mean, they're not just out there trying to get us, they've got a plan, too!  And we don't know what it is!  In the immortal words of Bill Paxton's Private Hudson from the movie Aliens: "Game Over, man!!  We're all gonna die!!"

After watching the beat down of the team formerly known as Arsenal this past Sunday, and after watching Arsene Wenger excuse it at least in part on account of fatigue (so sad), even the most loyal fan of the current manager must be wondering "Does Arsenal have a plan?"

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Working the Phones

Correspondent Ed Working the Phones Yesterday to Chase Down the Latest Transfer Rumors 
photo by Darwin Bellvia PhotoRee

I can't get all that excited about the transfer day "drama" from last night.  Sure, I worked hard to try and get into the spirit: I watched Sky Sports' wall-to-wall HD Transfer Day Deadline broadcast along with the rest of you, religiously checked my Twitter feed every two to three minutes during the day, and searched longingly for some "in the know" sources to tip me off to the latest and greatest rumors.  But in the end, I was left with a general emptiness and overall sense of boredom.  In retrospect, I found myself wondering what all the fuss was about.

In the drama-laden world of SSN, Mikel Arteta went to Arsenal on a 'shock' transfer, Raul Meireles pulled a 'stunner' with his move to Chelsea, and the combination of Peter Crouch and Cameron Jerome will go a long way toward creating the 'twin towers' destructive front line at Stoke City.  But do any of these 'dramatic' transfers really matter? Has the title race been changed or altered in any meaningful way?  Methinks not, and it appears to me that every team bar Chelsea has effectively ceded the race to the two teams from Manchester, and Chelsea hasn't done nearly enough -- even including the signing of the wily Spaniard, Juan Mata -- to put any real fear into the heart of their two northern opponents.