Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Turkey, A Perfect Recipe
Photo by Moonjazz on Flickr

On this day of the year in which we Americans pause to reflect the many blessings and bounties we have received throughout the course of our lifetimes, let us be thankful for the things that matter most in our lives: family and friends.

This is farlieonfootie wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Beatdown: Manchester United 5 - Bayer Leverkusen 0 -- Game Recap and Player Ratings

Lonestar Beatdown - Arlington - 2/19/10
Photo by Andrew Plante on Flickr

Three days off a disappointing draw in the Premier League, Manchester United traveled to Germany Wednesday night and shook off all their problems -- at least temporarily -- with a 5-0 hammering of Bayer Leverkusen to generate their biggest away win ever in the Champions League competition.  Wayne Rooney turned in a dominating performance, playing a crucial part in four of his team's five goals, on what turned out to be a glorious evening for the English champions.  Ryan Giggs also had an exceptional night out, bringing insight and virtuoso skills to a central midfield that has been sorely lacking both qualities this season.

As if serving to remind viewers of their past glories, and with their former manager watching from the stands high above, the Red Devils swaggered their way through the BayArena, silencing the home crowd and leaving a devastated and demoralized Leverkusen side in their wake.  Herewith the individual player ratings from the Red Devils' most comprehensive victory of the young season:

De Gea: A virtual spectator in the first 45, and only marginally more involved after the interval. 7.0

Smalling: His pressure on the offensive side of the ball led to an own goal and an early 2-0 lead, and his tap volley emphasized the gap in quality between the two sides at 4-0. 7.5

Ferdinand: Beaten much too easily by Stefan Kiessling on two occasions. 6.5

Evans: Crucial challenge to deny Kiessling and keep the home side off the board in the first half. Was rewarded for his efforts with a second half tap in for the third goal. 8.0

Evra (C): A big part of his side's early offense on the break. His header led to his defensive partners' second half goal. 7.0

Giggs: A playmaker in the middle who looked full of invention tonight, crystallized in the moment he picked out Nani for the evening's final tally.  Looked years younger than 40 tonight. 8.5

Jones: Did his job and broke up play well; never let Leverkusen get up a head of steam. Almost added a fifth goal near the end of the contest. 7.0

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Water Cooler Talk: On Spurs' Many Isssues

mount kailash water
The Corporate Office, in the midst of another lavish redecorating scheme
Photo by Romana Klee on Flickr
Heard around the office recently:

Ed: James...!  [eyes widen] To what do we owe this great pleasure....?! [Expresses shock, slaps his knee while doubling over with laughter]

James: I'm back in town, Ed.  [grimaces, folds arms in front of chest and leans on wall next to the water cooler] Spurs are struggling, and so are the Gators, but I can't keep hiding forever.  My family needs me. [shakes head dejectedly].

Ed: I'll bet..! [rolls eyes]. 

James: Hey, here's some gallow humor you'll appreciate.  I heard this on the radio yesterday: AV, no plan B. [looks at Ed hopefully for a sign of encouragement]

Ed:  [picks up the thread of the conversation and runs with it in earnest] You know Spurs' biggest problem is Roberto Soldado doesn’t score, James.  Worse, he isn’t even a threat to score.  He can’t beat anyone with the ball, doesn’t head them in, doesn’t kick them in.... Frankly, I'm not sure what his strength is....  Van Persie doesn’t dribble by people, but when he gets the ball up front he puts it in the back of the net.  Lewandowski's the same way.

James: While Soldado gets pretty much zero service with nary a cross from the two inverted wingers that AVnoplanB continually insists on playing, nor a through ball from our ineffectual number 10's caught in the middle of all that congestion, he is also inherently unsuited -- like Defoe -- to be a lone striker. That's what I really still don't understand about that acquisition. [scratches his head] The only one who is even theoretically suited for this system is...wait for it...wait for it.... Adebayor! Aaaarrrrrgghhh!!!!! [puts gun shaped finger to his head and pulls imaginary trigger]

Ed: [chuckles] I never watched Soldado in La Liga so I really don’t know what they did with him or what his strengths are.... But frankly I haven’t seen any strengths yet. [frowns and pauses] By the way, I think AVB agrees with you about Adebayor. Where’s that guy been, at the Russian affiliate?
James: [snickers
Ed: [light goes off inside his head] Hold on a minute: Did you just use the word "nary"?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Donation: Manchester United 2 - Cardiff City 2 -- Game Recap and Player Ratings

Photo by Matthew Burpee on Flickr

David Moyes' side may be unbeaten in ten, but the talk on the ride home from Wales was likely less about extending the streak than it was about donating two points in the 90th minute to a gritty Cardiff City side in a game played at Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday.  Kim Bo-Kyung popped up late to equalize the scoreline at two in a game that never quite got going -- both teams combining for a disjointed, stuttering attack.  While certain of the visitors' problems can be laid at the doorstep of injuries, with medical issues necessitating a number of changes to the lineup in key areas, the Red Devils' Manager will be increasingly worried that the substitutes he recalled to action largely failed to perform.  

United put in an uneven and shaky performance without several marquee names in the lineup, particularly in the contest's second half.  Still, the visitors largely kept the home side at bay in the final frame, and could easily have emerged with all three points intact: Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney both misplaying gilt-edged opportunities late in the action.  Herewith the ratings of the players' individual performances in a loss that will smart at least until next weekend

De Gea: Busy early and might have done better on Campbell's goal. Good distribution from the back. 6.0

Smalling: Still looks a fish out of water offensively but was powerful in the air. Can't blame anyone but himself for the 90th minute free kick that led to the loss of two points. 5.5

Ferdinand: Showed his experience and positioned himself well throughout. 6.5

Evans: Beaten for pace by former Red Devil Frazier Campbell on the first half equalizer. 6.5

Evra: Kept the peace and linked up well with Januzaj. Well-taken unmarked header to re-establish the lead just before the half. Disappointingly flat footed on the late equalizer. 6.0

Valencia: Demonstrated great anticipation on the interception that led to his side's opening strike. 6.0

Fellaini: Paid the price for his reputation, as he was repeatedly called for fouls he didn't commit. Sat deep but came forward and should have done better on the corner kicks. Better today, but still little to write home about. 6.0

Cleverley: Was extremely lucky his giveaway didn't relinquish a 2-1 lead, and added a level of feistiness when the game called for calmer heads. 4.5

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Show Some Respect – I Have a License (Part 2 of 2)

Coach Tjeerdsma
Photo by Northwest Missouri State on Flickr

Following on from Part 1 of this topic, in which Correspondent Scott amazed readers not only with the fact that he and Correspondent Ed had improbably managed to obtain the coveted “E” Coaching License, but also displayed an anomalous ability to regurgitate certain factiods, herewith the finale:

“Are you teaching children or are you teaching soccer?” asked one of the finely uniformed instructors.  We all agreed that it is both.  That youth coaches are teaching children is so obvious, yet also so overlooked.  Giving lectures or drawing complicated diagrams may work for adults but you’ll have a cluster of kids tackling each other if you try that approach.  Instead, recognizing that kids want to be active and 80% learn visually (another regurgitated factoid), show quickly then let them do.  In awe of its simplicity and truth, I eagerly added the following Yoda-like sagacity to my notes: “If they hear it, they will forget it.  If they see it, they will remember it.  If they do it, they will understand it.” 

Yes, we are teaching children.  And teaching children tactics (after teaching technique and skills, of course) is teaching them to make decisions on the field.  Just as a parent’s job is to teach their children to make good choices in life (so they get it right when the parent is no longer there all the time), a coach’s job is to teach players technique under pressure (skill) and to make good choices of the field (tactics) when the coach can’t be there.  And how do we do that?  With directed questions that lead to the right answer.  With positive reinforcement liberally doled out when you “catch” them doing it correctly (instead of simply pointing out all the errors).  And by subtle redirection when they are off course.

Positive reinforcement was nothing new to me.  Nor was redirection when dealing with misbehaving children.  But directed questions?  Sure I might throw back the “How do you spell this?” question to my son or daughter with “How do you think it is spelled?”  But asking questions while coaching?  Wasn’t I there to instruct, often at many decibels higher than a normal conversation?  Why would I ask players a question when clearly I was the one with the crisp “E” Coaching License certificate and the surfeit of knowledge that I must generously ladle into the impressionable brains buzzing around me?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Show Some Respect: I have a License (Part 1 of 2)

Employees pay tribute to former district engineer, Vols coaching legend
Scott prefers orange pants when he stalks the sideline

Scott has a whistle and he's not afraid to use it:

So you probably know by now that Correspondent Ed and I have joined that elite group of soccer dads and wannabes who have officially acquired a coaching license.  The "E" license to be precise.  Which my wife is quick to point out is situated between "D" and "F."  But, as I maintained throughout high school and college, letter rankings are overrated. 

I found the course nothing short of a revelation.  From the enthusiasm and knowledge of the instructors to the number of attendees, I was impressed and humbled.

Right away we tackled the age-old question of why so many of America's best athletes abandon our beloved game of soccer.  In these pages it has been posited, and supported by many, including myself, that as children get older the "money" sports of football, basketball and baseball suction away the very best athletic talent by dangling the dreams of riches and fame before impressionable eyes.  However, it seems our uniformed instructors came armed with statistics.  Specifically, the United States loses 30-35% of youth soccer players between the ages of 12 and 15 primarily because they lose interest because the game is no longer fun because they can no longer complete due to a lack of fundamental technical skills.  Sorry for the repetitive "because," but when cause so clearly leads to effect, it must be highlighted.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chile Con Carnage: Footballing Thoughts on England and the USMNT

            Photo by gkdavie on Flickr

Ed is not optimistic about Brazil:

Watching England battle Chile was sad at first.  They just don't seem to have the players.  Big guys with strong arms against small guys with quickness and footwork.  Not a fair fight.  Chile's players just seemed better at the sport, and ended up dominating in a 2 to 0 win that the English tabloids described as "Chile Con Carnage."  Even Wayne Rooney, who looked the most dangerous of England's players, seemed a distant second to Alexis Sanchez.  Sanchez had everything and reminded of a smaller but no less dangerous Sergio Aguero.  I've never seen much of Sanchez on Barcelona -- it always seems that Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta outshine him.  But perhaps it's more a question of there being only one ball, because even against Brazil last night he seemed the most dangerous and effective player on the pitch.

So is England really that bad?  No, but they're not that good, either. Ultimately, England doesn't have too many players that can just beat you with the ball in the final third.  While there are poachers and strikers that can beat you without -- Robert Lewandowski and Robin Van Persie come to mind -- those that can just run at players make an enormous difference.  See, for example, Luis Suarez, Aguero, and of course Messi.  England's best at this is the newcomer Andros Townsend.  And perhaps there's Theo Walcott, whose speed makes up for his lack of skill and allows him to get past defenders.

What about the USA?  Well, more of the same problem.  Sadly, I still think we are more or less a dumbed down version of England.  This isn't so bad and is much better than it used to be.  But in the game against Scotland the team really struggled with creativity in passing, and until Breck Shea and his ridiculous haircut came onto the field no one seemed dangerous or able to beat anyone.  A great coaching instructor commented that he believed that every country had a style of play, and for the USA it had to do with our conditioning.  Even at the very end of a long game against Angola game four years ago Landon Donovan was able to make a 70 yard run at full sprint and finish a goal.  But I'm not so sure of that.  I think we're still finding our style.  And I expect the US style to be something that contains a little bit of every other element, except our players are going to be bigger and faster than yours.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Cisco Brewers' The Grey Lady Witbier

The Location: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida.

The Date: Saturday, November 16th, prior to the kickoff of Brazil vs. Honduras.

The Time: 5:47pm, Eastern Daylight Time

The Weather: 74 degrees, moderate breeze blowing from the east.

The Scene: The scent of paella cooking on an outdoor gas-fired ring, soccer balls and footballs flying nearby, a group composed of adults and children receiving a thumbs up from the Honduran woman across the parking lot.

The Music: Bring it on Home, Little Big Town

The Beer: The Grey Lady Witbier, Cisco Brewers (4.50% ABV)

The Taste: Drunk from the bottle.  Notes of lemon with a peppery spice, with a slight bit of orange on the back end; Coriander and yeast also upfront in the taste profile.  Relatively dry finish for a witbier. It's sweet and sour co-mingled in a bottle.

The Feel: Saturday Night + Paella + Soccer + Friends = Good Times 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Evil Twin Brewing Ryan and the Beaster Bunny Saison

Photo by Mosman on Flickr

The Location: The Laser Wolf, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The Date: Thursday, November 14th, Boys' Night Out.

The Time: 10:00pm, Eastern Daylight Time

The Weather: 74 degrees, cool enough to break out the jeans but not the requisite flannel shirt.

The Scene: Small crowd standing at bar admiring a well-thought-out beer list, moderately tattooed woman fluttering like a moth to the flame that emanates from the heartbreaker that is Correspondent Ed.

The Music: Alt Rock / Nu Metal

The BeerRyan and the Beaster Bunny, Saison, Evil Twin Brewing

The Taste: So well balanced it's unreal.  Coriander, clove, pepper and citrus notes all present and accounted for.  So is the Belgian yeast strain and the farmyard funk.  This beer is not as overly bitter as some other examples of the style, with the orange citrus moderating the hops to perfection. These guys killed it with this one.

The Feel: What's not to like?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Complete Game: Liverpool 4 - Fulham 0

Complete Superstructure Erection
Photo by Stevesworldofphotos on Flickr

Which made Correspondent Scott a happy man for the International Break:

While they didn't score as many goals in the second half as they did in the first, Liverpool's 4-0 drubbing of Fulham at Anfield on Saturday was their most complete game yet this season.  With Liverpool boy Austin Powers (nay, Mike Myers) in attendance, the Reds positively exploded with offensive firepower after the first 20 minutes and kept the Cottagers pinned back for the rest of the game.  It's really a wonder they didn't score more in the second half after leading 3-0 at the interval.
The own goal that opened the flood gates was a direct result of the quality of Steven Gerrard's delivery of the free kick.  The captain may have his detractors (even I have risked blasphemy to point out his shortcomings when necessary) but he has resurged as an experienced force each week, now with a lengthy run of healthy play.

Soon after, despite all the pressing, Liverpool's second goal came from another set piece - this time a corner.  How about that Martin Skrtl?  Emphatically powering home his header, the Slovak has found new life after his previous relegation to the bench.

The all-out siege on Fulham's goal continued until the halftime whistle and produced another fine goal when Jordan Henderson deftly weighted  his pass for the indomitable Luis Suarez to slip past the onrushing 'keeper.  Such was the euphoria and momentum that the Reds barely protested when the referee waved off the tepid appeals for a penalty when Kieran Richardson clearly handled the ball.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Russian River Supplication American Wild Ale

The Location: Napa, California, in the heart of the American wine country.

The Date: Saturday, November 9th, after a tough day of touring vineyards on a bike.

The Time: 4:00pm, Pacific Daylight Time

The Weather: 66 degrees, sun just beginning to lower in the perfectly blue California sky, trace humidity.  Best described as "the absence of weather."

The Scene: Feet on table, the University of Miami and Virginia Tech playing college football on a nearby television, with a small group of people relaxing near the hotel bar.

The Music: I Drive Your Truck, Lee Brice

The Beer: Supplication, Russian River Brewing

The Taste: Tart cherries and a mild funky taste, but not nearly as sour as one might expect -- the sourness being just about perfectly offset by a brown sugary sweetness.  The pinot noir barrels that the beer was aged in make themselves readily apparrent.  There's a saying in the wine business that it "takes a lot of great beer to make a great wine," and there's no better example of that than this beer from the ultra-talented Vinny Cilurzo and crew.

The Feel: Life doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Anchor Brewing Anchor Steam California Common Ale

No trip to Northern California would be complete without sampling one of the state's best known and oldest beers, Anchor Brewing's Anchor Steam California Common Ale. The granddaddy of the craft beer movement, this beer was one of the first that truly opened our eyes to what American beer could be -- and we're happy to see that approximately 25 years after we first tasted it, Anchor Steam is still holding its  head up proudly. 

The beer poured a crystal clear copper color with a bright white head that left behind considerable lacing, even on the plastic airline cup from which this beer was drunk. Anchor Steam smelled primarily of caramel malt, with the mildest touch of hops just barely noticeable. 

Smooth malty goodness dominated the flavor profile; floral and hop notes also shone through. Anchor Steam could be the perfectly balanced beer: it was medium-bodied and tingly on the tongue. An American classic: A-

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Flat Track Bullies Exposed? Manchester United 1 - Arsenal 0 -- Game Recap and Player Ratings

Photo by Boom Boom! Revolution on Flickr

Robin Van Persie's 28th minute header provided Manchester United with all the margin it needed as the home side rode the crowd's energy to a crucial 1-0 victory over league-leading Arsenal at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon.  Prior to the game the team's Captain, central defender Nemanja Vidic, had asked his teammates to produce a 'statement' victory, one that testified to the Club's title credentials in a season that has seen its share of ups and downs in the early going. Although he was badly shaken up in a collision with his own goalkeeper at the end of the first half, Vidic evidently received the performance he was looking for, as Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones in particular turned in inspired shifts on their way to victory. 

Although Arsenal looked lively and controlled much of the game's second half, the Red Devils successfully dulled the visitors' cutting edge, holding the Gunners scoreless for the first time this season.  Herewith, our ratings on the individual performances from a victory that saw the Reds gain ground on virtually all of their title rivals

De Gea: Nothing to do in the first half bar a punch or two. Busier in the second half but never truly threatened. 7.0

Smalling: Displaying good hustle and intensity on the right, the Englishman worked hard to stretch the Arsenal defense. Had a real chance to put Van Persie's free kick in the net but finished like the center half he is. 6.5

Evans: Read the game well and used his body to make a number of key blocks. 7.0

Vidic: Knocked nearly unconscious upon colliding with his own 'keeper after overseeing a very quiet first half. Departed at the interval. 7.0

Evra: Game plan involved lots of crossing from the left flank but the Frenchman needed to hustle back more on defense. 6.0

Valencia: Looked strong and committed in the air.  Worked his socks off but still lacks the ability to produce a consistently reliable cross. 6.0

Jones: Gritty performance in midfield but tried to do too much on the dribble. Clash of heads with Sczcesny produced an inexplicable yellow from the referee. Broke up play exceptionally well, and was badly missed in midfield when switched to center back. Beginning to come into his own? 8.5

Carrick: A calming presence in the middle, but was unable to dictate the game when Jones was moved back to defense. 6.0

Friday, November 8, 2013

No Touching (and Other Thoughts)

Correspondent Ed writes this one from the no-touching "safe zone":

It seems for Spurs these days that good touches into the net are hard to find.  They certainly are tough in the back – beasts in the back – and opponents other than West Ham can’t seem to break them down.  However, they also seem very predictable and, well, boring in the middle and up front.  They are able to possess, but unable to do much with that possession. 
Part of this is the lack of form of Roberto Soldado.  I am still trying to figure out what he’s good at.  He certainly isn’t dangerous in possession – he lacks any ability to beat someone with the ball or even threaten to beat someone.  He also seems to struggle just to find an open shot.  Robert Lewandowski – a tough comparison I know – is very nimble in traffic and is able to manufacture shots which he accurately installs in the back of the net with his quick release.  Again, Soldado doesn’t have the ability.  I’ve heard that the ability Soldado does have is to finish crosses.  Hmmm.  Haven’t seen much of that either, though to be fair, Townsend likes to shoot lots more than he likes to distribute.
It’s been asked on the talk shows whether it is preferable to win or to play pretty football.  My answer to that is “yes.”  Pretty football is currently being played by Arsenal AND they are winning if no one noticed.  Why can’t Spurs do the same?  Is it really that the team just needs to learn each other and gel?  Not so sure I believe that.  AVB is a very young manager after all, and I suspect he’s the one that has to do more adjusting and learning than the team.  Though to be sure, he’s doing pretty well right now even if it is pretty boring. 
#             #             #
All it takes is just a bit of touch to wake the sleeping giant known as Manchester United – was it from this very blog?  One can only wonder.... But some how, some way, they remembered they have Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie and a heck of a lot of other good players.  Their run is beginning and unfortunately will likely last for some time. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: 21st Amendment Back in Black American Black Ale

Somehow at 35,000 feet over Texas on a recent flight out to the American west coast it seemed fitting to drink a California beer, so we had previously asked the crack farlieonfootie aviation staff to make certain the corporate jet was stocked full of a brew that would slake the considerable thirst worked up during our 5 hour trip from Florida.....

Which is not exactly how we came to be drinking Back in Black, an American Black Ale produced by San Francisco-based 21st Amendment Brewery. For those of you not hip enough or old enough, the 21st Amendment was the very fine piece of legislation in the United States that repealed the nasty little brutish lapse in American social mores known as Prohibition. 

Back in Black was poured from a 12 ounce can into a plastic cup -- the G5 somehow being found absent of the Riedel crystal beer glasses more typically used (Note to self: remember to ask Correspondent Scott who else was on that last flight he took).  Indeed, however, even in plastic the beer appeared as a darn black (or brown, at the very least) color, topped by a extra thickish mocha-brown colored head -- who knew a plastic cup could retain such considerable lacing?

The scent of sweet malt rose immediately  from the cup, followed by a tiny, bitter-ish hop note. Roast coffee was the flavor we recognized first and foremost, with the taste gradually becoming a bit metallic in the middle before the swallow ended with a large dose of hops. We don't know nor do we care to delve into the subtleties of the somewhat opaque style often referred to as a "Black IPA"  (Is it an IPA?  Don't think so....  Or an American Black Ale?). What we do know, however,  is that this beer wasn't half bad, and that if the flight had lasted much longer we would have been hard pressed to turn down another. B

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Regret: Manchester United 0 - Real Sociedad 0 -- Game Recap and Player Ratings


David Moyes and his side will likely rue the two points dropped rather than celebrate the single point gained, as Manchester United and Real Sociedad played to a goalless draw in a Champions League Group Stage match played at the Anoeta Stadium in San Sebastian, Spain on Tuesday night. After enduring a largely uneventful opening 45 minutes, fans of both sides were treated to a more open and entertaining game after the break, with United missing on three separate golden opportunities to secure the victory. Javier Hernandez and Robin Van Persie will both be disappointed for misfiring, the Mexican from directly in front of goal and the Dutchman from both open play and the penalty spot. 

A late Marouanne Fellaini foul saw the Belgian shown an early exit for his second yellow card of the evening, although happening as it did in the last minute of regulation the visitors went largely unpunished for their midfielder's excessive fouling. 

Herewith, the individual player ratings for a draw that extends the current unbeaten streak to seven before League leaders Arsenal visit Old Trafford at the weekend.

De Gea: Not much to do before half time.  Busier after the break but never really tested. 7.0

Smalling: Still struggled to convince at right back, and strangely for his size, was beaten in the air a number of times. 6.5

Ferdinand: Never under real pressure. 7.0

Vidic: Good distribution from the back today and showed that his recovery pace is still there. 7.5

Evra: Saw lots of the ball in the offensive end of the pitch but found little joy. 6.0

Valencia: Carried the ball forward, but was unable to translate the possession into opportunity. 6.0

Fellaini: More involved this game and showed some prowess the the air. Broke up play with his physicality but got caught in possession a number of times. Played in constant danger of being shown a second yellow for accumulated fouls; thankfully he lasted until the 90th minute before being shown the door. 6.0

Monday, November 4, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: Staatliches Hofbraühaus Hofbraü Original Munich Helles Lager

The Location: Lockhart Stadium Parking Lot, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The Date: Saturday, November 2nd, the final game of the NASL Fall season.

The Time: 6:45pm, prior to a 7:30pm Ft. Lauderdale Strikers' kickoff

The Weather: 78 degrees, heavy cumulus clouds lingering overhead and partially blocking the sunset. Moderate breeze blowing through the parking lot.

The Scene: Children throwing and kicking balls, cars looking for open spots, adults gathered around a charcoal grill, and the smell of grilled meat and smoke mingling delightfully in the nearby air.

The Music: Small Town USA, Justin Moore

The Beer: Hofbraü Original, Hofbrahaus Munich

The Taste: In a word, refreshing. Aromatic hops and malt in almost the perfect balance. Caramel, bread and biscuit were all present and accounted for. This is how a good German lager should taste.

The Feel: Perfection.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Foot Off Pedal: Manchester United 3 - Fulham 1 -- Game Recap and Player Ratings

An early first half bombardment from the visitors led to a 3-1 victory for Manchester United over Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday.  Although the Red Devils appeared good value for their lead during a blistering first half performance, three substitutions at the interval changed the side's chemistry as David Moyes' team took its collective foot off the gas pedal on the their way to a second consecutive victory in the League this season - another first under the new United manager.  The result was a victory that came with some of its sheen taken off, as Fulham fought their way back into the contest and could have scored on multiple occasions in the second half to cast doubt on the result.

The game was a tale of two halves, as Antonio Valencia, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie all scored before the break.  Injuries and a desire to rest certain players before a tough mid-week trip to Spain altered the side's momentum, and Moyes will be pleased to have escaped with a two goal victory after a second half that saw his team outhustled and outplayed.  

Herewith the verdict on the individual player performances in a crucial victory that allowed the team to pick up some points on its rivals:   

De Gea: Tested and passed: did enough to deny Berbatov on two separate occasions. Beaten only by an own goal off the Rooney deflection. 7.0

Rafael: Good final touch to deny Berbatov when the score was 1-0 and the result was still in the balance. His injury could be a concern. 6.5

Evans: Rarely bothered before coming off at the half. 6.5

Vidic: At his imperious best today, and never afraid to lead with his head. 7.0

Evra: Made some nice runs, but didn't appear familiar with Januzaj playing in front of him. 6.5

Valencia: Side-footed tap in to start the game, the Ecuadorian looked in full beast mode early on. Dropped back to fill in for Rafael in the second half. 7.0

Jones: Skied his first shot, but worked diligently in the middle. Still looks a bit 'fish out of water' in midfield. 6.0

Cleverley: Sprung RVP to begin the play that led to the visitors' third of the afternoon before coming off at the break. 6.0

Januzaj: Beautiful pass to unleash RVP for the Red Devils' second, but didn't nearly impact the game in the same manner as past weeks. 6.0

Friday, November 1, 2013

Game Day Beer Review: New Belgium Lips of Faith Yuzu Imperial Berliner Weissbier

This beer was drunk several weeks ago and reviewed largely via memory, so don't be too literal in your interpretation -- it's more an impression of what we remember about the beer than anything else.  And there are some times in which our memory serves us better than others....

That being said, the first time we drank New Belgium's Lips of Faith Yuzu Imperial Berliner Weiss it was poured into a snifter from a 22 ounce bottle during a recent gathering at Correspondent Ed's -- obviously, the beer was drunk prior to the police shutting down the affair, a rather common experience from our observation (in fact, Ed didn't so much as flinch when the handcuffs were placed on his wrists, and he has the stone-faced "perp walk" expression down cold).
The beer was a pale yellow/gold color, and whatever white head it initially expressed itself with quickly disappeared.  Yuzu struck us as clearer than some other Berliner Weisses we've drunk -- if clarity is your thing, this might be your sour.....
If you judge a beer by how it smells and tastes, however -- as most people tend to  -- maybe it's not your beer.  We smelled a wheaty citrus scent, and by and large the taste followed the nose.  The beer wasn't nearly as sour as we would have liked -- especially coming as a Lips of Faith offering.  Overall, we had kind of a "meh" reaction to Yuzu -- hoping for more of everything: more citrus, more sour, more tartness.  In fact, we wanted more of everything except this beer. 
Don't get us wrong: it's not a diaster by any means, it's just not something we'd seek out on a regular basis.  And not because of it's taste, but because it could have been so much more.  Yuzu is the victim of high expectations and low follow through:  C+