This is a good week to talk soccer, if only to celebrate two World Cup qualifiers in the next week.
The third edition of Howler Magazine – getting better issue by issue – contains an all-century team picked by Howler contributors and other so-called experts (including me.)
The first team, in classic 4-4-2 formation, consists of: Brad Friedel, Steve Cherundolo, Eddie Pope, Alexi Lalas, Carlos Bocanegra; Landon Donovan, Tab Ramos, Claudio Reyna, Clint Dempsey; Eric Wynalda and Brian McBride.
The subs are: Kasey Keller, Thomas Dooley, Jeff Agoos, Marcelo Balboa, John Harkes, DaMarcus Beasley, Cobi Jones plus Archie Stark, Billy Gonsalvez and John (Clarkie) Souza, the latter three from well before my memory.
The voting was done electronically and I cannot find my worksheet, but I am 95 percent sure this was my team:
First team: Keller; Cherundolo, Dooley, Balboa, Beasley; Donovan, Ramos, Reyna, Harkes; Dempsey, McBride.
My bench included: Friedel, Pope, Lalas, Michael Bradley, Wynalda, Jones and Harry Keough, the defender on the 1950 U.S. team that stunned England, 1-0, in the World Cup in Brazil. I was blessed to sit next to Keough at lunch in St. Louis in 2010, and I wrote about him when he passed in February of 2012. For me, Keough represents all the stalwarts in the great soccer cities, who played this sport back in the day.
One explanation: I included Beasley on the back line because he has saved this current qualifying effort by shifting to left back, and playing the full field, defense to offense. He was one of the young stars on the great 2002 run in the World Cup – and was the 80th-minute sub by Bob Bradley before the desperate 91st-minute goal against Algeria in 2010. He didn’t touch the ball on that run, but his presence was a sign that the U.S. had one run left. He makes everybody better.
If I’d waited another month or two, I might have put Jozy Altidore on my bench, too.
Readers may choose to comment.
The Summer 2013 issue of Howler is devoted to 100 years of U.S. soccer, with features on Jurgen Klinsmann, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, among others.
Then there is this story, I never heard before, about a bloke who was abusing Harry Redknapp at West Ham in 1994, only to have Redknapp put him in the match at halftime. The fan then put the ball in the net (but you need to read right down to the last paragraph.) Jeff Maysh finds Steve Davies and tells his weird story. Thanks to Howler for a memorable edition.
This is a good week for soccer. I hate that the match at Costa Rica Friday night disappears into a dark hole known as the beIN channel. The Mexico match in Columbus, Ohio, next Tuesday is on ESPN. A good week for soccer.
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.