Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mouthing Off: Belgium 4 - USMNT 2

Just a few comments on the USA - Belgium game from Correspondent Scott...

What's the deal with Lexi Lalas sounding as if he is in a huge argument every time he comments, daring someone to disagree?  Lighten up Big Red. You're wrong sometimes just like the rest of us - like when you insisted Geoff Cameron pushed off on his goal and that the Belgians were up in arms.  Neither did he push off (it was a nudge at best in the context of a professional soccer game), nor did the Belgians complain.  Just because you don't have anything to say doesn't mean you get to make things up - and try to make us believe it by saying it with a snarl.

And while Taylor Twellman at least called out Lalas a bit on his comment, and made a few insightful observations throughout, his ability to banter and wittingly fill a conversation void falls well short of the mark yet.  Ian Darke (who needs his eyes checked if he really thought Romelu Lukaku was offside even with the yellow line on the monitor) must have felt like he was playing verbal pitch and catch with a one-armed two-year-old.  Maybe he had a bad night but it was enough to make me wonder what kind of a job Gus Johnson would have done. Yikes.

The display on the field wasn't much better.  While the final possession statistic was close to 50/50, and the US did create a few nice chances, Belgium dominated the game more or less from start to finish.  Throw in a dash of horrendous defensive lapses and you have a recipe for a 5-1 drubbing.  That the score was only 4-2 was due to the magnanimity of the referee who waived off a pretty clear handball on Damarcus Beasley in the box at one end (the hand lingered and was too far away from the body not to call it) but then punished a Belgian defender at the other end when he was struck on his arm tucked firmly into his body.

Game Day Beer Review: 21st Amendment Brewing Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Fruit Ale

(4.90% ABV) Poured from a can at a private club in northern New Jersey, in the exclusive town of North Caldwell, at a place featuring a luxurious, dark-paneled bar.  The beer was poured into a pint glass. Hell or High Watermelon appeared a murky yellow/gold color, with a blazing white head, as pictured above.

The beer smelled of wheat, yeast and some undetermined spices on the nose.

Unlike most watermelon beers, this one did not lead with its fruit -- it was all wheat on the initial tasting. The watermelon flavor is very subtle, and only comes through at the end.  We'll drink to summer with this one: B

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The End of Tiki Taka

photo by twm1340via PhotoRee

Ed is back with some thoughts on the supposed "end" of Barcelona's reign

Journalists have been hitting the “Spain is Done and Germany Has Taken Over” narrative pretty hard the last few days after the all-German final which followed Bayern’s drubbing of Barca in the semis.  But is this really the end of tiki taka?  Or are these journalists just kind of hoping it’s the end?  Unfortunately, I think it’s more of the latter than the former.  Let’s face it, it’s not fun to watch your team play Barca and have the ball only about 20 minutes during a game if they’re lucky.

Here are the facts:

Barca, and not all of Spain, is pretty much the only team that plays the tiki taka.  Real Madrid doesn’t play it – and plays much more of the Bayern style with fast wingers and fast break football.  Ironically, in the second leg of the semi’s against Dortmund they reverted more to that style when they leaned on Luka Modric, and this was really the only time they had substantial success against the Germans.

As for Barca, they didn’t exactly have a bad season this year.  Their goal differential in La Liga was +80 (second only to Bayern’s) and they won the league.  Plus they came in fourth in the Champions League, after reaching the finals last year and dominating though ultimately losing against “Park The Bus” Chelsea, and after dominating Manchester United the year before at Wembley.  This with lots of injuries, a new coach, and the loss of the best player in the world for the semi-finals.  I think, therefore, it’s a bit early to pronounce them dead.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

It's Gonna Be a Long, Hot Summer

Ed Couldn't Write This Week Because His Vehicle Broke Down
photo by babastevevia PhotoRee

It's Sunday of a holiday weekend and Correspondent Ed's gone missing again -- so it's back to the slave quarters to churn out some more drivel for the masses.  At least we hope Ed is enjoying himself....

Regular readers of this blog will remember that we traditionally head into a more relaxed publishing schedule as we go into football's "off-season."  Sure, we could cover every one of the hot transfer rumors out there, or report on Barcelona signing yet another much-hped, bad-haired starlet, or even discuss Manchester City and Chelsea's money-grabbing American tour, but we prefer to focus on keeping it real, giving our readers some inspired, slightly off-beat coverage of the happenings in world football, and throwing in a beer review every few days or so.  So if you don't see a new post each day, don't stress: we'll be back publishing regularly when the football heats up.

As a parting gift, here are a few thoughts on Bayern Munich's pulse pounding 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions league final yesterday, a game played at the New Wembley Stadium in London, England:  

o The newspaper articles are full of praise for the players on both sides, and for the men from Bavaria in particular, especially one Arjen Robben.  But let's be honest: Bayern should have been playing the final 20 minutes of the match with 10 men -- and possibly nine.  The evening's referee was correct to give a spot kick for Dante's kick in the box -- but his reluctance to show yellow for the same infraction is a bit curious.  A second yellow would have shown the stadium Dante's backside during a long walk to the tunnel, and was clearly deserved.  We can't help but wonder what the final score would have been in that scenario.  

o Contrary to many reports, with Bayern fielding both Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery at the same time, an entirely new generation was turned off from German football.  Talk about despicable characters....

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Trailing Thoughts

An Appropriately Named Trail for Correspondent Scott to Blaze
photo by TroyMasonvia PhotoRee

Scott's post should be entitled "Deluded Thoughts":

o When I look at the talent on Manchester City and Chelsea compared to Manchester United, I can’t help but conclude that Sir Alex’s departure will also mean the end of United’s dominance in the BPL.  No offence to David Moyes, but Darth Ferguson’s success is nearly inconceivable; how he managed to just keep winning with different players is inarguably impressive.  Finally admitting his penchant for bullying referees aside,  his ability to instill belief in his players was second to none.  Maybe Moyes has the same mojo and only needs a bigger budget to weave his magic at the top of the table.  Maybe.  But I think United will bounce around the top half of the table a little more from now on instead of perennially winning or showing.

o Liverpool finished 7th.  That’s a spot above last year, a spot below 2011 and the same spot as 2010.  No real movement in 4 years.  Of course, Brendan Rodgers will take heart in the slight improvement over last year.  And he should.  When you look at the team and assess their potential for success next year, you can’t help but be optimistic.  While the earliest Rodgers additions of Joe Allen and Fabio Borini have not yet been successful, his more recent acquisitions of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho have been brilliant.  The two January signings have not only lifted the team up a few pegs in terms of quality, they also more than adequately filled the very large, teething shoes of one Luis Suarez.  With Steven Gerrard continuing his renaissance, Raheem Sterling continuing his development, Lucas Leiva continuing his journey back to form and both Luis Enrique and Glen Johnson continuing to raid down the flanks, Liverpool has the makings of a quality starting XI.  Still, a little defensive shoring up is in order as well as a patient search for depth across the field.  We’re behind you Brendan.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Boston Beer Sam Adams Summer American Pale Wheat Ale

Memorial Day is the traditional kick off to summer here in the United States -- even if the weather in the northeastern part of the country will make it feel more like a rainy spring weekend....  But that's of no concern to us, as we live in Florida, where summer is well underway.  And we've managed to get a good head start on the beers to try this season:

The first of these was Sam Adams Summer, which we tried when it was poured at Morton's steakhouse in Fort Lauderdale. The beer arrived a nice copper color with a beautiful, thick head, as shown above

Sam Summer was all mild hops and citrus on the nose.  The beer initially started off dry and while the wheat shone through, it finished with a nice lemon twang. It was very refreshing; and even though it's not officially summer yet, when you have one of these in your hands it feels like it should be....  B

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Self Congratulatory

photo by What Makes The Pie Shops Tick?via PhotoRee

Even though this may drive Correspondent Ed to drink (even more), let's look at exactly how right we were when farlieonfootie made its second annual predictions for the 2013 Barclay's Premier League season....

Hmmmm, let's see.  Here's the way we called it WAY BACK in August 2012:

Champion:    Manchester United
Runner up:    Manchester City
Third:           Chelsea
Fourth:         Arsenal
Fifth:            Spurs

SO, we managed not only to name all of the top five the teams, we got the order 100% correct, too (for those who don't believe it, look it up).  Not bad for rank amateurs....  Kind of makes you wonder why they play the season, doesn't it?

And as long as we're wallowing in self indulgent praise, let's see what else farlieonfootie put on paper (okay, the web, to be 100% accurate) back on August 17, 2012 that looks semi-brilliant now, starting with this little gem:

..."[W]e believe the biggest move of the summer has...been...the announcement that Manchester United finally landed their man in the person of Robin Van Persie."

Yup, we were right.  Again.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Abita Brewing Lemon American Pale Wheat Ale

(4.40% ABV) Abita Lemon Wheat was poured on draft at the world famous Acme Oyster House in Party City, USA - New Orleans, Louisiana. 

The beer arrived in a plastic cup with little fanfare and featuring only the slightest bit of a head. The smell was full of wheat, with some lemon citrus scent also apparent. 

Lemon Wheat was cold and refreshing, with the lemon twang most noticeable on the finish. The beer was very crisp tasting, but nothing to write home about.  The oysters, however, were another story altogether....: B-

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Boston Beer Porch Rocker Fruit Ale

Boston Beer's Porch Rocker pours a clear-as-a-bell orangish gold color with a thin white head that quickly dissipates.

It smells of a combination of hops and a bright lemon scent. On tasting the beer, it starts out sweetish  but finishes moderately off-dry. The malt flavor is recognizable, as is the lemon. Its nowhere near as sweet as the shandies being turned out by some competitors -- namely Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy. Porch Rocker still tastes like a beer.

It's effervescent on the tongue and medium bodied. Sam has produced a beer that is eminently sessionable for the dog days of summer. B

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Final Curtain Call: Manchester United 5 - West Bromwich Albion 5

Photo by Trinity on Flickr

Manchester United said goodbye to Sir Alex Ferguson after one of the wildest games of the season, a contest in which the Champions twice saw three goal leads pegged back by the home side.  While the Reds will regret not sending out their Manager a winner on a sunny day at the Hawthorne's, the ten goal tribute to the legendary Manager was a day which United fans and neutrals alike will long remember.

If the pre-match atmosphere inside the stadium was rousing, the opening ten minutes of football was equal to the occasion: Shinji Kagawa heading a Chicharito cross into the net to give United an early 1-0 lead on the afternoon.  Although the combination play occurred in the opposite order that most observers would have expected, Kagawa headed the ball down and past West Brom 'keeper Ben Foster like an old pro.

Five minutes later and the lead was 2-0 after Jonas Olsson deflected Antonio Valencia's cross into his own net. The wing play was the type United fans wished they had seen more of this season, with the Ecuadorian beating his man before driving the ball low and hard toward goal.

After the initial rush, played inevitably slowed down, although Chicharito should have punished West Brom once more in the 24th minute when he missed a delicious opportunity to head United to a third score on the afternoon.   Alexander Buttner didn't miss his opportunity, through, and the third goal arrived before the half hour mark, with Tom Cleverley feeding in the left back at the top of the six yard box. Beating Foster was easy enough from that point, and the disgusted West Brom 'keeper was forced to pluck the ball from the back of his net once again.

As if finally awakening from a pre-game nap, the third goal caused West Brom to snap into action -- with James Morrison slotting home in front of Phil Jones to pull one third of the deficit back five minutes before half time. While Javier Hermandez continued to bedevil the West Brom defense, Foster's acrobatics at one end and Jonny Evans challenge on Shane Long at the other kept the scoreline at 3-1 as the teams headed to the locker rooms.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Good Juju (Ginger Ale) Spiced Beer

(4.80% ABV)  Drunk during American Craft Beer Week at Tap 42 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Good Juju (Ginger Ale) poured a caramel gold color with a fluffy white head.

The smell of ginger was immediately apparent.

The beer had a decent ginger spice on the finish, with some orange and vanilla also apparent. We found it to be a very nice and refreshing beer, and something different than everything else out there -- certainly sessionable. Good Juju had just the right amount of carbonation and very clean finish.  B

Saturday, May 18, 2013

La Liga's Embarrassment of Riches

These Boots Will Soon Be Mandatory in Spanish Football
photo by Mzelle Biscottevia PhotoRee

We don't know if you had the opportunity to watch yesterday's King's Cup Final, but we did.  And after witnessing that "spectacle," we have two thoughts: 1) it's fitting that the final was moved to Friday night due to a conflict with tonight's Eurovision Final: last night was a great warmup for anyone who enjoys seeing lots of gel, makeup and handbags on display; and 2) what a complete embarrassment that game was for Spanish football.

In some ways, the whole fiasco was a fitting farewell to Jose Mourinho's time at Real Madrid.  While holding seemingly endless promise at times, the end to Jose's reign was predictably chaotic -- fist fights, red cards, fake injuries and more.  The chickens are coming home to roost, and Jose is leaving Stage Left.  You reap what you sow, some might say.

But the game was also a stinging indictment of the modern Spanish game.  Full of artistry and world class players, Spanish football is slowly being killed by drama queens and sheer fakery.  The amount of facial "injuries" sustained by players who were not touched is at an all-time high.  The amount of rolls an "injured" player attempts to complete on the ground after being fouled -- all in an effort to con the referee -- is at its peak.   And the amount of time wasting -- stretchers being brought on to the pitch, only to see an "injured" player experience the type of miracle usually reserved for those at Lourdes -- is greater than in any other league in the world.  In short, modern Spanish football is an embarassment, and is now at the risk of turning itself into a parody of the true sport, a la the World Wresting Federation.

But farlieonfootie, you say: Spanish football is the best in the world: home of Xavi, Iniesta, Ronaldo, Falcao and more.  It contains Barcelona, until this year the paragon of the modern game.  It includes Real Madrid, Europe's most decorated team.  And its national team has won both the last World Cup and the most recent European Championship.  Yeah, we know all that.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Lower Your Expectations

Ed Has Lowered His Expectations Ever Since He Supported For John Edwards for President
photo by John Edwards 2008via PhotoRee

Caution:  This article by Correspondent Ed was written under the influence of an adult beverage.  Or two:  

It's pathetically easy to be a fan of Manchester United.  At least it used to be.  David Moyes is a great coach, but will he have Fergie's touch?  Unlikely, because like him or hate him, Fergie was one of the top coaches of all time.  That's a tough bar to meet.  Look for United to remain in the top four due to their budget; but don't expect too many top finishes.  It's definitely going to heat up in Manchester when Pellegrini shows up at City.... 


I've never hated Arsenal as much as I have this year.  Their perpetually annoying manager aimed for a top four spot, and despite embarassing themselves in the Champions League and playing pretty poorly most of the season, it looks pretty certain that they are going to make it.  This is a team with a poor goalkeeper, worse defenders, and some retread forwards and midfielders.  Great coaching?  I guess.  But anyone that has no answer to Olympiakos in the Champions League Group stage ought to be ashamed of themselves.  And guess what -- next year in the Champions League someone else is going to embarrass these guys.  Arsenal is flush with cash yet all they hope for is mediocrity.  This is pathetic and sad, and underserving of a Champions League position.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Back Bay Brewing False Cape American Amber Ale

(6.00% ABV) False Cape Amber Ale was drunk on draft in Virginia Beach, Virginia during American Craft Beer Week.  By the way, there is a nationwide toast to Craft Beer Week tonight, May 16, at 8pm EST / 5pm PST -- so now that you've been warned, be prepared to take up a glass.

False Cape Amber was poured with absolutely no head, as pictured above.  The beer was produced by a very small brewery in Virginia Beach -- so small it doesn't even get mentioned yet on Beer Advocate.  It was true to its promise as an amber ale -- the deep amber copper color came though even in the semi-dark environs of the bar at which we enjoyed this beer. 

False Cap Amber had a mild smell; in truth, the maltiness was the most apparent aspect of the nose.  

The beer's overwhelming taste was of a musky, muted chocolate, and it struck a nice balance between malt and hops.  This beer is a direct descendant of New Belgium's much celebrated Fat Tire.  

The mouthfeel was medium, and the beer was well carbonated.  Nicely done: B+

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Smartmouth Brewing Alter Ego Saison

(5.30% ABV) Poured on draft during a recent trip to Virginia Beach, Virginia -- a beach so nice they named it twice....  The beer was poured at the bar at the Hilton Hotel on the beach, which was hopping for a recent weekday night.

Alter Ego appeared a thick orange color with zero head.

Our initial thought was that the beer gave off a banana smell -- we're not certain, but we're thinking slightly off-style for a saison....  But we also found pears and apples on the nose.

Alter Ego had a medium mouthfeel -- not too viscous -- and was well carbonated.  Zesty, in fact, with a lot going on in the taste department -- citrus and spice predominating. It was sweeter than many saisons we've drunk, but still -- we liked it: B

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Trouble With Wazza

I forgive people. It's what I do. It's how I was raised. And it explains in part why I find it so difficult to understand all the venom that's been spewed in the direction of Wayne Rooney lately by so many Manchester United fans. 

I get the feeling of guttural disappointment. I get it. But just as two wrongs don't make a right, meeting Rooney's transfer request with vile name calling and ill wishes upon the player and his family doesn't feel to me like the right reaction to the striker's current situation. And to read Twitter lately is to understand how out of control that situation has become. 

This is not a piece to defend Rooney in any way. Regular raiders of this blog may remember our severe disappointment at the Englishman's first request to leave United. For many of us, it's when the bloom first came off the rose in our relationship with Wazza.  While we never engaged in the "Roo-nay" "Roo-nay" idol worship that greeted his every appearance on the pitch three years ago, we understood his talismanic relationship with the fans. We understood the appreciation for his tremendous work rate, his willingness to run down every ball, and to hustle back and forth to the ends of the pitch. 

And despite forgiving Rooney for his first request -- we blame his advisor, Paul Stretford, more than the player for putting the Englishman in a virtually untenable position -- we gradually overcame our disappointment. The goals and the drive certainly helped. Gradually, the disappointment seemed just to seep into the background, a part of Rooney's history to be sure, but no longer a defining part of his history. No, we'd rather remember THAT goal against City, and the season of 30+ goals in which he appeared to develop a telepathic relationship with Antonio Valencia, a partnership that applied salve to the still fresh wound created by the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid. 

And just as we put the issue behind us, so did Rooney. He went about and did his work. He let his feet do the talking on the pitch.  He scored goals -- lots of them. Maybe not so many as in years past, but no one can question his work rate or desire to win, or his impact on our team. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Swan Song: Manchester United 2 - Swansea City 1

Overseeing a development he had witnessed dozens of times in his illustrious managerial career, Sir Alex Ferguson saw his side notch a late winner to overcome a determined visiting side at Old Trafford, defeating Swansea City 2-1 on an 87th minute Rio Ferdinand goal.  The defender's score capped off a day filled with raucous celebrations in Manchester and all over the globe, a day marking not only the Champions' 13th Premier League title, but -- perhaps more sentimentally -- the end of the most remarkable managerial career world football has ever known.

If both the spectators and the players began the match with lumps in their throats, the players for both sides soon put their game faces on: Chicharito hit the underside of the bar to get the action underway, and with Phil Jones losing his footing at an inopportune moment, it was only lady luck that denied the Red Devils a lead within the first five minutes.

Nine minutes later and Swansea defender Chico Flores' used his body to keep Hernandez from testing the Swans' 'keeper yet again, as United continued to exert pressure on the visitors.  Paul Scholes -- as he has been so often in his career -- was once again at the center of United's movement, but by the 25 minute mark there was still no joy for the home side.

United were denied a decent penalty shout in the 32nd minute as Shinji Kagawa was felled in the box by Neil Taylor, but referee John Moss wasn't convinced -- even as Sir Alex looked on expectantly from the sideline.

It was Hernandez, though, who always looked the most likely, and he finally slotted the home side in front shortly before halftime, pouncing on a loose ball in the box as he has so often, the ball finding its way to the Mexican's feet as if by magic after a Robin van Persie free kick bounced fortuitously around in the Swansea end.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Holding on Tight
Photo by pixydust8605 on Flickr

To our Moms, and all of yours, as well: Thanks for being there every day of our lives.  Happy Mother's Day from farlieonfootie.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mourning Ricardo Portillo

photo by Ingy The Wingyvia PhotoRee

In which Scott perfectly captures our feelings -- for perhaps the first time all year:

Serving as a referee on Saturdays for teenagers in a Recreational League, Ricardo Portillo’s passion for the beautiful game was obvious.  That his life was tragically snuffed out with one petulant punch by a rebuked goalkeeper renders equal parts of anger and sadness.  Our thoughts, prayers and sympathies are with Portillo’s family as they attempt to make sense of the senseless.  And our ire is cast at any and all players and parents who fail to respect the integrity of the rules of the game and proper comportment.

I was not a witness to this incredulous event nor do I know the protagonists on a personal level.  Still, that has never stopped me from stating facts (OK, opinions) on the subject at hand.  First, I agree with the illustrious president of Fort Lauderdale Select FC, Mark McCormick, who have opined that “this probably was not the first incident for this kid. I'd bet my last dollar that he grew up in a culture where referee abuse was considered a sport to itself. He likely had a parent who spent their games yelling at referees from his earliest ages in the sport or coaches who did the same. It's rare that a kid suddenly turns violent with a referee. It's usually the last straw in a long progression of failed parental or coaching leadership.”  Second, what are YOU going to do about it the next time you witness such fomentation?  Will you say something?  Will you keep your child on the team just because they win?

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Evil Emperor: Perspective from a Liverpool Fan

Scott in happier days....
photo by scragzvia PhotoRee

At least Correspondent Scott has never claimed to be unbiased. Here are this Liverpool fan's thoughts on Sir Alex' departure, and the appointment of David Moyes as his successor at Manchester United:

Darth Ferguson’s Evil MU Empire is coming to an end.  I have mixed emotions.  On the one hand, I can’t imagine another manager having the same success he has had over the past 26 years, so his departure should bode well for Liverpool and all the other Premier League teams.  On the other hand, after two 2-1 losses (fraught with burglary and buggery) to his Evil Empire this season, it is excruciating never to have another shot at putting the red-faced Scot in his place.  I feel like Lucy not only moved the football for the umpteenth time, but then up and walked home with it leaving me alone to stew in my zig-zaggy shirt.  Curse you, Darth Ferguson!

Even more curses upon the appointment of David Moyes to succeed the Dark Lord.  Despite the requisite Liverpudlian rivalry, I respect, admire and, yes, even like the Evertonian Scot who has consistently punched above his budget for a decade-plus in the Premier League.  Yet, sadly, it is inevitable that, like young Anakin, Moyes will be seduced by the Dark Side and I will have the happy literary license of consonant alliteration when I forevermore (until he is replaced) refer to him as Darth David.

This is farlieonfootie for May 10. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

It's Hard to Say Goodbye

We thought about showing a Manchester United flag on our website, and playing martial music as if we were a communist country that had just lost its Dear Leader, but we rejected that. Fergie always said the club is bigger than any one person, and we're about to see if it's true. Like Sir Matt before him, Sir Alex Ferguson is leaving the building, and no one is quite sure what will come next.

Instead of writing something mawkish and dreary, lamenting our loss, we at farlieonfootie would rather focus on celebrating what we had -- how good it has been during the 'Alex Ferguson era' at Manchester United. So we're re-publishing something we wrote two seasons ago, in full.

Because we still can't say it any better:

In anticipation of the game Sunday, I was reading a piece by Daniel Taylor in The Guardian yesterday in which he alluded to an interview conducted recently with Kenny Dalglish. While talking about the bitter rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool, the Anfield head man admitted to a sense of regret over United's ascendancy in recent years:
"I never considered they would catch us," [Dalglish] admitted.  "You take greater satisfaction from when your own team is successful, and [Manchester United have] been more successful than Liverpool over the past 20 years."
The quote got me to thinking.  Nothing in life is guaranteed, and those of us fortunate enough to be fans of Manchester United have had it pretty good of  late: 11 League titles, five FA Cup trophies, two European Champions League titles and a bunch of other awards and honors (35 in total) during Sir Alex Ferguson's time in charge alone.   That's quite a haul by any stretch of the imagination.  Laissez le bon temps rouler, as they'll be saying next week in Louisiana.

And it's tempting to think it'll go on forever.  I'm certain it must have felt that way to Liverpool supporters in the '70s and '80s, good times continually abounding, the League title coming back to Anfield 11 times in that 20 year span, and the next one seemingly always right around the corner.  But nothing lasts forever.

Which is why I'm sitting back and really enjoying this season.  Appreciating it not only for what it is, but for what it may still become.  Because one day it'll be gone.  This is not meant to be a work of doom and gloom, a piece to make all United fans sad -- "Remember, man, you are dust, and to dust you shall return."  We'll save that particular downer for Ash Wednesday next week.

No, this is rather more of a "Stop and smell the roses" piece, thanking the heavens above for Sir Alex and the current crop of Reds.  We have the best team in England -- fact.  We've won the European Cup twice in the past decade, and expect to challenge for it every year, including the present one -- fact.  We expect (not hope) to win every game we play, and are bitterly disappointed when it doesn't happen -- fact.  Not many fans of many teams in any sport the entire world over can state the truisms that we as the United faithful can.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

We Agree, I think

photo by Ed Yourdonvia PhotoRee


Topic:  SPURS


Ed:  I wanted to note for the record that Spurs stunk and couldn’t score against Southampton, even though your whipping boy [Scott] Parker wasn’t playing.  

JamesWell, dear Sir: Notwithstanding the absence of "My Whipping Boy" (I don't know if I really like how that reads) - the fundamental problem created by the impact of  Parker's skill set on this year's squad (e.g., sans Luka Modric) was not rectified by AVB's lineup last Saturday (of course it really wasn't rectified when Daniel Levy failed to get off his ass once again in the last two transfer windows).  To wit, there is no one, since the Sandro injury, who has been instructed to consistently occupy the defensive sweeper role (although I think that  Dembele, Parker and Jake  Livermore are more than capable).  And there is no one on the entire squad with the SKILL SET to recycle possession and trigger up field movement.  No one, that is, except for young Tommy Carroll - who for whatever reason AVB has chosen not to blood in this year. 

With the supremely athletic Sandro as a sweeper, Moussa Dembele was able to occupy the recycler role kinda sort of non-conventionally.  Specifically, Sandro covered so much ground that Dembele, after he got it from Sandro, could simply run the ball up field and then dump it into a void created by the sheer speed of the Sandro process, as opposed to running headlong into three opposing players and being dispossessed as Parker does most of the time.   What I can't for the life of me understand is why AVB doesn't just tell Parker to stay the f-- back there, do his whole pestering, tackling, disruptive thing and then get the ball to Dembele.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project Fluffy White Rabbits Tripel Ale

photo by rossjlvia PhotoRee

(8.5% ABV)   An excellent beer from a very talented husband and wife team that are "gypsy brewers" in the Boston area -- meaning they don't own their own brewery, but they aren't contract brewing, either.  Instead, the Pretty Things team controls all aspects of the brewing process in someone else's brewery while their beer is under production.  The duo are very hands on during the beer making process, and it clearly shows.  We were fortunate enough to taste their most recent effort last week:

Fluffy White Rabbits poured a brilliant deep gold color, with a tiny whisp of a head noticeable. Fluffy White Rabbits also left behind some lacing and a trail of clear alcohol on the side of the glass, a testament to the legs in the beer.

The beer smelled primarily of hops and peppery spices, with a subtle note of Belgian yeast also apparent.

Fluffy White Rabbits combined an orange citrus flavor married with the drying restraint of hops and Belgian yeast. The beer offered a relatively viscous mouthfeel with nice carbonation. Recommended. A-

Monday, May 6, 2013

Flat: Chelsea 1 - Manchester United 0

photo by OliBacvia PhotoRee

Juan Mata led visiting Chelsea to a narrow 1-0 victory over a flat and disjointed Manchester United in a game that showcased more fireworks in the final five minutes than it did in the previous 85.  Continuing their rather inexplicable hoodoo over the home side, Chelsea managed to not only beat the Reds, but pull off something no other team has done in quite some time -- shutting out United at home -- and tightened their grip on third place in the crucial Champions League race.  

The Blues looked threatening right from the get go, with Juan Mata picking out Demba Ba in front of Anders Lindegaard, but the quickness of the Spaniard's cross took the Chelsea forward by surprise and the opportunity went begging.  The visitors spread the field and plied early pressure upon their hosts, with a number of Chelsea players unsuccessfully testing the Danish goalkeeper in the opening twenty minutes.

For their part, the home side waited until the ninth minute to get their attack started, but for the most part it was all bark and no bite in the game's early going.  For a second week running it was the champions looking ragged on both sides of the ball in the first half, and laboring to get their game in gear.

With the first half gone, the somewhat tame affair had  been largely dominated by the visitors, although a flurry of opportunities for the home side, including Robin Van Persie's attempt to steer in Ryan Gigg's 30 yard pass just before the whistle, was perhaps a sign that they could build on for the second forty five.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Cold Storage Craft Brewery Florida Avenue American Pale Wheat Ale

(4.70% ABV)  Poured on draft at the Sheraton Westshore in Tampa, Florida.  The beer was served in a glass that still retained a film of dishwater soap on certain spots -- thus the bubbles sticking to the side of the glass in the photo above.

The beer itself was only mildly more impressive than the appearance of the glass.  Florida Avenue Ale wasclear gold color and smelled ever so faintly like grain. Overall, the beer offered only a very innocuous smell.

The taste followed the nose with the exception of a slight citrus/lemon note at the end.  It contained lively carbonation, but the beer had a very thin mouthfeel.

Overall, we'd have to say this beer was truly nothing special -- a beer like this won't convert many to the craft beer revolution: C

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Things That Sound Good But Aren't

photo by jaygoobyvia PhotoRee

Like Ed's thoughts today, for starters:

I'm excited that Borussia Dortmund is in the Champions League finals. I've always enjoyed their attacking style of play, their talented midfielders, and of course Robert Lewandoski. I'm also a fan because I know they're not a big budget team like Manchester United -- just to throw out a name -- a team who last year bought one of their players and if rumors are correct tried to buy two. Bummer to be Shinji Kagawa at this point I guess.

I'm also pleased for Bayern Munich, not so much because I'm a fan, but more because they fought so hard for it and are (regardless of outcome) the best team in Europe this year. The way they pressed high but backed off once beaten, the way they played a physical man-to-man defense on Xavi and Iniesta, they way they countered fast with width -- none of this was that new, but I expect everyone to do it against against the diminutive Spaniards now that we know it works. Plus Bayern were probably unjustly robbed last year when they lost to an inferior Chelsea squad who played above their ability throughout the tournament. I also remember Bayern beating up Manchester City in the group stage. At the time I thought City was weaker than I thought; now I think it was Bayern that was tougher than I thought.

But yet, but yet, despite all of this I'm not that excited about the final. These two teams know each other very well and play each other often. Advantage Bayern, therefore, even though Dortmund has gotten the better of them in the past. Plus, it would seem this battle has already been decided in the Bundesliga (I could say that over and over even though I don't like watching it much) over a 38 game season. Playing it again, even if for a different trophy, just doesn't seem right.

* * *

Wow, was that really Barcelona that Bayern played the other night? I've never seen that team look so positively meek. Some time ago I wrote an article questioning whether it was personnel or tactics that made Barca so good. Well, Barca without Messi and several others looked so very ordinary, it would seem an argument in favor of personnel. That said, their coach missed much of the season, and the team also looked sloppy tactically or at least positionally. Either way, I'm still shocked that Bayern put them out of the tournament 7 to 0. They lost their will and their pride. And now Bayern has their old coach? Egads!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Luis Who?

Luis Suarez is More Than Just a State of Mind for Correspondent Scott
photo by .Martin.via PhotoRee

Even when winning 6-0, Scott can't stop talking -- or writing -- about Luis.  It's a man crush kind of sort of thing....

Rarely has a furor been forgotten so quickly as when Liverpool poured in six goals against flailing Newcastle in only the first of Luis Suarez's 10-match ban for his zombie-sans-rotting-flesh act.  Playing right from the start as if they were as hungry as the punished Uruguayan, it was only three minutes in when Daniel Agger's glancing header got the party started.

After that, with Philippe Coutinho conducting the ensemble, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge each netted twice and Fabio Borini added another for good measure. Borini can be forgiven his energetic celebration of a goal that put the visitors up 5-0, given that he was a mere 34 seconds back from lengthy injury, having come on as a substitute in the second half. Although, I won't be having my children examine the Italian's technique as it was a healthy slice of toe that propelled his score past a very competent but completely overwhelmed Toon 'keeper. 

Meanwhile, despite two scores and inspired play throughout his time on the pitch, Sturridge seemed to contract a tricky case of cocklaphobia. So paralyzed was he with his irrational fear that, with two goals already to his name, he couldn't even bring himself to shoot (nor find the dismayed Coutinho to his right) when put through on goal in the late stages. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: D.L. Geary Brewing English Pale Ale

Poured from the bottle at Legal Sea Foods in Boston, Massachusetts.  The setting was the end of a beautiful New England spring day - sunny and mild, with temperatures in the upper 60s.  Legal Seafoods is located less than a half a mile from where the Boston bombings occurred two weeks ago -- a site that we visited yesterday to pay our respects to both those departed and those injured by the terrorist actions.

Geary's poured a copper orange/brown with a full white head.  The beer smelled of malt, fruit and bread.

It's a medium carbonated, medium mouthfeel beer.  Fairly traditional malt flavors dominate.  There's nothing out of bounds here -- these guys are plowing familiar ground, but they do it really well.  B+

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Overlooked: Four Who Missed Out on the PFA Team of the Season

photo by Tom (hmm a rosa tint)via PhotoRee

By now we all know who made the Professional Footballers Association 2013 Team of the Season, but what about those who didn't?  farlieonfootie sends our crack reporting team in search of those who fell just short:

o Michu: How can the league's fifth leading scorer be kept off the team, particularly by the likes of Eden Hazard...?  Sure, the Frenchman showed some fancy footowork, but 17 goals can't -- and shouldn't --be ignored.  If the awards had been announced midway through the season, Michu would likely have won PFA Player of the season hands down.  Yes, he cooled off somewhat in the season's second half, but let's not forget what he did and what he meant to his team.  A certain oversight.

o Asmir Begovic or Simone Mignolet: It's tough to distinguish between the two, as they made spectacular save after spectacular save virtually all season long.  Injuries took their toll on Stoke's defense, and Sunderland is Sunderland -- but look at what their 'keepers did....  Think about how bad Stoke would be without the big Bosnian in between the sticks.  Hint: they failed to score in 15 of their games this season; that's relegation material if ever we heard it.  And as for Sunderland, 11 clean sheets with that motley crew is pretty damn impressive.  We love David De Gea, but come on -- someone give these two some love, as well.