116street Soccer

Footballing from a lesser authority...

Location: New York, New York

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Seated on the 6 train this morning was a man reading the sports section of El Diario, upon which, in the top right corner, was a small picture of Juan Roman Riquelme, along with a mini-headline that read "Glub, Glub, Glub" (I assume that to be some kind of choking reference). In my mind, to label Villareal as chokers would be extreme (not to mention in poor taste). At the same time, it was evident that the Yellow Submarine is not quite ready for prime time.
After observing the full match, I was reminded of E.L. Thayer's Casey At The Bat, with Diego Forlan and Guillermo Franco in starring roles as Cooney and Barrows. Much like the Mudville Nine, Villareal did not necessarily play poorly, but in the few opportunities that came their way (the kind of opportunities that separate the great teams from the good), they came away panicked and sloppy. Again, to say that they choked is a bit much; a team such as Milan or Barca, to which such a stage is nothing new, would have won the match 3-0. But for this crew of Champions League newbies, their inability to finish should come as no surprise. Thus, we had Forlan playing as if Sir Alex Ferguson was standing directly over his shoulder, and Franco doing his best Taylor Twellman impersonation.
In Thayer's poem, it is the unheralded duo of Flynn and Blake who come through in the moment of desperation, getting on base with two outs in the ninth. In this dramatic reinterpretation of the story, it was Jose Mari, the late game substitute, who added the proper amount of embellishment to Gael Clichy's foul, resulting in the last-gasp penalty for Juan Roman Riquelme, "The Mighty Casey" personified.
As Riquelme strode forward, the ESPN2 cameras did an outstanding job of getting close in on the faces of Riquelme, the once-and-future hero, and Jens Lehmann, goalkeeper and world-class prick. You could already see the wheels turning in Riquelme's head; my initial thought was, he's nervous. When he started his run, it was already a done deal: unless Lehmann guessed the wrong direction to dive in (he didn't), this kick was going to be stopped. It wasn't a great save, but it wasn't a terrible kick, either; much like Casey's game-ending strikeout, it was a foregone conclusion.


Blogger brucio said...

"Jens Lehmann ..... world-class prick"
you got that right!

1:51 PM  
Blogger carlos said...

Villareal had some real issues scoring before the knockout stage so it didn't surprise me that they just couldn't get it done. They also seemed to play without the "fire in the belly." And by the way, very nice soccer to baseball analogy with the Riquelme to Casey comparison. I know some die-hard soccer fans who would neither want to be in that company nor understand it, but I appreciated it a great deal. I've got some musings of my own on this same spot if you'd like to chime in at:


1:13 PM  

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