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.