Day 263: Full Day of Football

Amari Cooper's first NFL TD.

Amari Cooper’s first NFL TD.

It’s a good day when three of my favorite football teams play on the same day and all win. Actually, two play football (soccer) and the third plays American football. And there’s a fourth that’s my favorite soccer team (the LA Galaxy), but they weren’t in action today. Clear as mud? Good.

A quick recap:

1. Manchester United. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wake up at 4:45am on a Saturday to catch the Red Devils. Their 8am game fit perfectly into my Sunday sports-viewing schedule, since it would be over just before the NFL games. Just like last week, the story of the match was Man U’s 19-year-old phenom Anthony Martial, who scored two goals in the 3-2 win.

2. FC Barcelona. They started off slowly, but Barca quickly turned their match against Ligante into a rout, 4-1. Messi missed a penalty kick! Of course, he also scored a brace, and Neymar also scored, so it was business as usual for the best team in the world.

3. Oakland Raiders. Their defense is a still a sieve, but credit Coach Jack Del Rio for having his team ready to play today. Last week was utterly dismal: a no-show for the new coach in front of the home fans. So today’s game was a pleasant surprise as the Raiders show heart and played good enough to beat the favored Ravens. I was hyped about Carr, Cooper, and Murray on offense before the season began. After week one, I was ready for another 3-13 year, but hopefully today’s game is a sign of better things to come. I still have my fingers crossed for 8-8, but the defense needs some help.

Day 219: Manchester United

Manchester United (via Facebook)

Manchester United (via Facebook)

The 2015-16 Premier League season starts tomorrow, so for us soccer fans across the pond, that means waking up at 4:45am to watch the action.

I’m a Galaxy fan because I love all things L.A., but the MLS is still years away from competing with the European leagues. It’s nice to have the European stars on the downsides of their careers come over and build the MLS fan base, but watching the teams in the Premier League or La Liga reminds me why the sport is called The Beautiful Game.

It’s why Americans like me wake up before dawn to watch soccer.

When I’m not rooting for the Galaxy, I’m pulling for Manchester United. As someone who came to the sport later in life, I had to choose a team. It’s not like how I chose my basketball, baseball, or football teams; that was easy, since I grew up in L.A., which meant following the Lakers, Dodgers, and Rams (although once I saw the Raiders play, I immediately switched allegiances. This was made easier by the fact that the Rams abandoned L.A. for Anaheim, then the Raiders moved down from Oakland. Also, I was seven years old at the time).

So why Man U? My stepdaughter roots for Manchester United. Before I became her stepdad, I’d watch her play for her club and school teams. I learned about the sport so I would know what was going on when she played. I watched videos and learned the history of the league. I read the fantastic The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss.  I felt like a bandwagon fan when I started watching Man U, since they’re the most successful club in league history, but that wasn’t going to stop me from cheering for them.

And something funny happened along the way: I became a soccer fan.

It’s my favorite sport by far right now. I’ll never be a rabid Man U or FC Barcelona (my favorite non-American team) because I believe you have to live within the city where they’re located to truly feel the fans’ passion. I think of American football and the passion that it ignites among fans here in the States. Or how the city of Los Angeles gets into a frenzy whenever the Lakers are closing in on another NBA title.

But I love soccer. And I’m rooting for the Red Devils, bandwagon or not.

Day 204: CONCACAF Gold Cup

Team USA's Gyasi Zardes

LA Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes representing the U.S.

Well, that was interesting. Not only did Jamaica upset the U.S. in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-finals, but the Panama-Mexico match nearly ended in a riot. As much as I love The Beautiful Game, the ugliness of any sporting event marred by questionable refereeing and unruly fan behavior is something I’ll never appreciate.

Some of that ugliness was on display at the Galaxy-Barcelona game I attended two nights ago. On a beautiful Tuesday night in Pasadena, a sold-out crowd of over 93,000 filled the Rose Bowl to cheer for their teams. It was a remarkably pro-Barcelona audience, since Barca has the longer and more illustrious history.

Now, I’m all about supporting your club and being passionate and vocal. Unfortunately, some “fans” think of the games as an excuse to over-imbibe and act like an idiot. F-bombs filled the air, as did slurred speech and the occasional near-fight. I was embarrassed for them and felt bad for all of the parents who had to explain to their children why it’s not acceptable to act like a drunken buffoon in public.

As I commented to my stepdaughter, it was like being at a Raiders game.

(For the record, I’m a card-carrying member of the Raider Nation. Most of us diehard fans act responsibly, but it’s the unruly types who make the news. And truth be told, I’ve seen some bad behavior at the Raider games, especially when they were in Los Angeles.)

Day 186: U.S. 5, Japan 2



The first 16 minutes of today’s World Cup final was the reason why soccer is called The Beautiful Game: four goals for the Americans, a hat trick for Carli Lloyd (topped off with an incredible strike from midfield), and the team’s third World Cup title.

It was stunning, unbelievable, and awesome.

Not sure what else I can say about watching my country win the most prestigious futbol tournament in the world. I’ll just end with my favorite hashtag during international play: #OneNationOneTeam

Day 181: U.S. 2, Germany 0

Carli Lloyd

Carli Lloyd

In a game they were not expected to win, the U.S. played their hearts out and upset the No. 1 team in the world tonight. We watched with our local chapter of the American Outlaws and although the crowd is louder for the men’s team, there was a lot of vocal support for the women’s team. Chants of U-S-A were sprinkled throughout the contest and after the U.S. took the lead, the “I Believe That We Will Win” chant rang throughout the bar.

The semifinal against Germany was billed as the greatest game in women’s soccer, featuring the top two teams in the world and ranked the highest by the Women’s Soccer Power Index. It was the precise attack of the Germans versus the impenetrable defensive wall of the Americans.

This is what I love about The Beautiful Game: the ebbs and flows, the highs and lows. I love how all of the details add up, from a player’s subtle move to the extra pass that leads to a shot on goal. I was so fired up after the first half, in which Team USA outplayed the Germans: the defense was solid again and the offense was generating enough chances that a second-half score seemed inevitable.

The good feeling quickly soured as the second half began and the Germans took their efforts to the next level. I was down in the dumps when Julie Johnston was carded, giving Germany a penalty kick. Johnston had played brilliantly throughout the tournament and for her to make such a crucial mistake seemed like a cruel gesture from the soccer gods.

Then something unbelievable happened: Celia Sasic pulled her penalty kick wide. The roar of our crowd was one of disbelief. Could the Americans take advantage of their new lease on life?

They did. A controversial foul (it looked like Alex Morgan was taken down outside of the box) led to a penalty kick that was converted by Carli Lloyd, then minutes later Lloyd set up substitute Kelley O’Hara for the insurance goal.

From depression to elation in a matter of minutes. I love this game.

Day 177: One Nation, One Team

Carli Lloyd with the winner (from

Carli Lloyd with the winner (from

The slogan for the U.S. soccer team (One Nation, One Team) couldn’t be any more appropriate today. Hours after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling, the women’s national team played its quarterfinal game against China. Maybe it was just me, but the national anthem before the game seemed just a bit louder and more passionate. And the Americans’ effort on the pitch matched the anthem.

The first half was utter dominance by the U.S.; even though the offense still isn’t firing on all cylinders, the effort and hustle was evident on every play. Amy Rodriguez and Kelley O’Hara were excellent as they took over for the suspended Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday. The offensive attack was more dynamic and it seemed like every time China had the ball, American players were swarming all over them.

My favorite player of the tournament has been Julie Johnston, who fed a perfect ball to Carli Lloyd for the winning header. Johnston has owned her area of the field, playing more physically and precisely against whomever lines up against her. It’s part of the reason why the Americans haven’t allowed a goal in what seems like months.

It still feels like the U.S. offense should be scoring more goals, but with the defense and effort they gave tonight, it’s shaping up to be a classic against Germany. As Coach Jimmy V said decades ago about the college basketball tourney: “Survive and advance.”

Day 173: USA 2, Columbia 0


The first knockout game of the Women’s World Cup for the USA was against Columbia. I thought the Americans would outclass the Columbians and sure enough that’s what happened. Although the US offense continues to struggle, the defense has been outstanding, with its third shutout in a row.

We watched the game with our fellow American Outlaws and munched on pigs in a blanket and loaded tater tots. The local Outlaws group hasn’t been as vocal as they were for the men’s team, but it’s still a passionate fan base. We’ve got our fingers crossed for a run to the finals, but I may have to cut down on the bar munchies if I’m going to fit into my USA gear by the time the final rolls around.

Day 167: She Believes


Abby Wambach

Last year my favorite World Cup hashtag was #IBelieveThatWeWillWin. This year for the Women’s World Cup, the hashtag du jour is #SheBelieves. After winning Group D, aka the Group of Death, Team USA is in great shape to go far in the tournament and bring home the Cup.

I believe.