Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pine State Table: Final Standings

(Click table to enlarge)
- John C.L. Morgan

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Introducing the Pine State Table

(Editor's Note: Click on table to enlarge.)

Beginning on August 29 when the University of New England hosts Maine Maritime Academy in Biddeford, Maine's eleven Division III men's soccer programs will play a total of 35 games among themselves.

The table above will be updated throughout the season to track how the eleven programs stack up against one another in direct competition.

- John C.L. Morgan

(Full disclosure: I am helping the men's program at USM as a volunteer assistant coach.)

The Cosmopolitan Provincialist: Six Reasons Why I'm Supporting SD Eibar

Even though I've been an avid FC Barcelona supporter since reading this book ten years ago, searching for a complementary European team or two to support has become a bit of a summer ritual for me over the last couple years. This annual quest has sometimes been quick and based on straight-up provincialism (see Liverpool FC and AS Roma), but it has also been based on criteria so esoteric and flighty that I would forget a couple weeks into the season exactly why I was following this or that team.

I'm especially taken with the task this summer now that my hometown team  is just (sort of) bouncing back from an ugly stretch  and my great-grandmother's hometown team is drifting rudderless into another year in England's second division. So on a recent afternoon I had a Crowley Moment, only instead of drunk-waking in front of the Argentine Air Force's Web site, I discovered myself reading a July 2006 post by Bill Simmons on the same dilemma. Not only that, but I've succumbed to the Internet wormhole Crowley describes: I've checked enough European clubs' Wikipedia pages to know that FC Dordrecht (Netherlands) considers Johan Cruyff to be its most famous player, even though he appeared in only three 1981 friendlies for the team.

Anyway, all of this is some long-winded context for a new feature I'll be adding a weekly feature on this site. Each week I'll track the progress of SD Eibar, a newly-promoted team to Spain's La Liga division for the following five reasons
  • By Maine standards, Eibar is a small town. Its 9.57 square miles of land area make it about half the size of Westbrook, but only about one-third larger than Hallowell. Also, its 27,000 residents would make it only the 4th most populous city in our relatively sparse state, which means it's only slightly more populous than South Portland.
  • By Maine standards, Eibar's stadium, Ipurua, is a small stadium. To wit: Portland's Fitzpatrick Stadium can fit 1,000 more fans than Ipurua can with its current capacity of 5,250.
  • The club's story reminds me of The Miracle of Castel di Sangro, the late Joe Mcginnis's book on a similarly-sized club's unlikely season playing top-level European soccer. Read this book, if you get the chance.
  • And finally, even though the chances of Major League Soccer adopting a promotion and relegation system appear to be slim, SD Eibar's unlikely ascent to La Liga gives us provincialists everywhere hope that one day the world's finest players--i.e., Xavi, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, etc.--could one day play in our backyards.
- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

SMAA Tops WMC in Annual Maine High School All-Star Games

All-star senior soccer players from Maine put on their cleats for a good cause. The 24th annual All-Star Soccer Tournament to benefit Special Olympics Maine was held Tuesday in Westbrook. For the boys, the Southern Maine Activities Association (SMAA) team topped the Western Maine Conference (WMC) 4-1. On the girls side, SMAA beat WMC 3-1. Organizers estimate that two games raise about $8,000 for Special Olympics Maine.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Five Thoughts on Klinsmann's Three Years

Three years ago today, U.S. Soccer's Sunil Gulati announced the hiring of Jurgen Klinsmann to replace Bob Bradley as the coach of the U.S. Men's National Team. In commemoration of Klinsmann's and Gulati's leather anniversary, here's a quick look at some positives and negatives of Klinsmann's three-year tenure so far:


* The U.S. qualified out of the 2014 World Cup's "Group of Death"

Since 1990, the U.S. has played in seven World Cups and has now survived the tournament's group stage in four of those competitions. The team's 2014 advancement to the knockout round marked the first time the U.S. has advanced from the group stage in consecutive World Cups, and Klinsmann deserves credit for overcoming the tournament's most laborious travel itinerary to qualify out of the group instantly dubbed the tourney's "Group of Death." Legitimate points can be made about the U.S. team's underwhelming style of play (see below), but surviving the group

* An overall record of 32-13-9, including an impressive 21-4-6 record in 2012 and 2013 competitions.

For some context, Klinsmann's winning percentage of 59% is slightly higher than the winning percentages belonging to his predecessors Bob Bradley (54%) and Bruce Arena (58%). And his positive result percentage (wins + ties/games played) is 76%, which is lower than Bradley's (85%) and Arena's (78%).

* Historic results, including the Americans' first-ever win over Italy and the Yanks' first-ever win in Mexico's Estadio Azteca.

Sure, both wins over Italy and Mexico were friendlies. But the win over Italy snapped a 10-game winless streak dating back to 1934, and the win in the notoriously hostile Estadio Azteca was remarkable enough to inspire a bloodthirsty cover on a soccer magazine's inaugural issue.


* Despite talk of adopting an attacking and technical style of play, the Yanks' style of play can still be described as "try hard, run fast."

Since his hiring three years ago, Klinsmann emphasized his desire for the U.S. to play a more proactive, attacking, and technically-astute brand of soccer. And even though Klinsmann continues to pay lip service to that style of play--and the U.S. has occasionally displayed the ability to actually walk that talk--its performance in the 2014 World Cup was reactive, defensive-minded, and conservative.

Here's a Dallas News article highlighting the Americans' impotent attack and reactionary approach in the World Cup before they relied on a record-setting performance by goalkeeper Tim Howard to be competitive with Belgium in Round of 16. At the risk of stretching a metaphor, we're still roping-and-doping, despite aspirations to be floaters and stingers.

* Landon Donovan

I didn't like the omission of Donovan from the World Cup roster when it was first announced, and I don't think I can ever be convinced it was a soccer-based decision. Worst of all, it's tough to not ridicule the inclusion of Chris Wondolowski and Brad Davis on the team, despite the fact that I respect both players' contributions to Major League Soccer.

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, July 17, 2014

On the Rosevelt Soccer Club

American Journal:
Now, this brainchild is coming to life in the Rosevelt Soccer Club, a nonprofit, premier soccer option for boys in Westbrook, Windham, Buxton and Standish that should prove significantly more affordable than the few existing, for-profit outfits in Maine.

- John C.L. Morgan

(Full disclosure: I'm a co-founder of the Rosevelt Soccer Club.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

U.S. Gives Gutsy Performance, Bows Out of World Cup

The United States was eliminated from the World Cup, but it went out battling. Belgium beat the Americans, 2-1, in the Round of 16 at Salvador, with all the goals coming in extra time. Tim Howard was heroic in keeping the game scoreless through 90 minutes, and he ended the evening credited officially with 15 saves. But in the third minute of extra time, Kevin De Bruyne finally broke the deadlock. He was set up by Romelu Lukaku, who had just come into the match.
Official highlights of the games can be seen here.
- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, June 27, 2014

U.S. Group Stage Highlights--Animated

Courtesy of artist Richard Swarbrick:

- John C.L. Morgan

Despite Loss to Germany, U.S. Advances to Knockout Round

Thomas Muller scored his fourth goal of the World Cup on Friday as Germany defeated the United States 1-0 to win Group G ahead of the Americans, who also advanced to the knockout stage of the World Cup despite losing. With two wins and a draw, Germany topped the group with seven points, while the U.S. progressed with four. Portugal beat Ghana 2-1 but both were eliminated. Portugal also finished with four points but the U.S. had a better goal difference.
Official highlights from the game can be seen here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Revs Top Rhinos, Advance to Open Cup Quarters

PROVIDENCE, R.I.-- A pair of first half goals from Saer Sene and Kelyn Rowe were enough for the New England Revolution to top their USL Pro affiliate, the Rochester Rhinos, 2-1 on Wednesday at Stevenson Field. Saer Sene opened the scoring in the 11th minute, while Kelyn Rowe grabbed a goal of his own in the 33rd minute. After starting the second half down 2-0, the Rhinos controlled possession and fought aggressively to tie, but fell short as they only were able to score on a Colin Rolfe header in the 55th minute.
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, June 23, 2014

Portugal Scores Late Goal to Tie U.S.

MANAUS, Brazil — The U.S. Men’s National Team’s once again delivered some late World Cup dramatics, but so too did Portugal. Substitute forward Varela scored a last-gasp goal at Arena Amazonia on Sunday night to give Portugal a thrilling 2-2 draw with the U.S., which had rallied from an early deficit and was on the brink of securing an early ticket to the Round of 16.
Official highlights from the game can be seen here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

U.S. Opens '14 World Cup with Thrilling Win

An early goal by Clint Dempsey--the sixth fastest in World Cup history--gave the United States national team a shocking lead against Ghana in the teams' opening game of Group G. And a late goal by John Brooks, an inexperienced American defender who came on as second-half substitute, earned the Americans a victory. The 2-1 win was the United States team's first over Ghana in three World Cup games.
Official highlights of the game can be seen here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The (Animated) World Cup

Richard Swarbrick, the filmmaker behind this sublime animated representation of some of the most well-known goals scored in World Cup history, will be animating each day of the 2014 edition. Above is his take on Day 1.

Swarbrick's YouTube channel is here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tactical Previews of the World Cup

Soccer writer Michael Cox has compiled a collection of tactical previews for each of the 32 teams in the upcoming World Cup. Highly recommend you check them out prior to every game and after each game to read his recaps. Here's a snippet of his preview of the United States' tactics:
The United States are expected to add to this variety by using a diamond midfield, which might be unique among the 32 teams. Jurgen Klinsmann has spent recent weeks telling the press that the formation doesn’t matter, but the switch to the diamond in April’s 2-2 friendly draw against Mexico was a significant move, and was designed to bring the best out of the USA’s outstanding player, Michael Bradley.
- John C.L. Morgan