Keep Calm...and beat a Top-4 London Rival
Hey, remember that time I was freaking out because I was positive that Fulham F.C. were in a tailspin and I said manager Martin Jol was on the verge on getting fired if they didn't do well in their upcoming matches?
It was only two weeks ago.
And I may have slightly jumped the gun.
Since then, Fulham managed a draw with hated South London rival Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, were mere moments away from defeating Norwich on the road...and then atoned for that by beating Arsenal.
If only I could have seen this coming...oh wait, they did this last year as well. Fulham were in the relegation zone after a Boxing Day loss at home to eventual drop victims West Ham United and many were calling for Mark Hughes to be sacked midway through his first season with the club. They then proceeded to win their next match and eventually finished 8th in the Premier League.
Fulham are notoriously slow-starters and always seem to catch some rough breaks early as the team starts to gel. After the New Year though, they typically put the pieces together and play some all-around great soccer...while managing to ride their luck as well.
On Monday at home against the mighty Gunners, the Cottagers fell behind in the 21st minute courtesy of a Laurent Koscielny. Still trailing 1-nil with 15 minutes, Arsenal defender John Djourou picked up a soft second yellow to get sent off. Then in the 85th minute, former Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos headed the ball in the box for former Arsenal academy product Steve Sidwell to head home to level the match at 1-1. Then in stoppage time, striker Bobby Zamora completed the comeback with a near-side volley that froze Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Superdraft: The Comic-Con of MLS
To all of us who love the Fire and watch more soccer than might seem humanly possible, you're probably counting down the days until next Thursday's MLS SuperDraft.
However, it appears the rest of the non-soccer...well, make that non-MLS world...doesn't seem to share our enthusiasm.
When I asked off from my full-time job to cover the draft, my supervisor had never heard of the event. When I was invited to a dinner party next Wednesday night and informed them that I'd be driving to Kansas City during that time, the host was convinced I was making it up (sorry Mel). Anyone I tried to explain the event to...was completely unaware of its existence.
When I step back and think about it, I guess I'm not too surprised. The SuperDraft is certainly not on the same level as the NFL or NBA draft. Most people won't plan their day around an event that takes place at 11am CST time on ESPN2.
One of the things I'll miss this year will indeed be watching the event on TV. From the combination of awkwardly bad transitions from the main ESPN announcers to the usually unprepared correspondent down near the podium to the completely over-the-top outbursts from Eric Wynalda or Alexi Lalas over the minutest details, the broadcast is usually a master class in how NOT to attract new viewers.
But for MLS junkies like myself, those moments are pure gold. I mean, it has to be tough to only have an hour or until the first round ends to fit in as much content as possible, but I have to imagine the 17 or so college kids home on winter break are watching the end of the re-run of First Take and then watching the draft and thinking, "What language is this in?"
But that's what makes the MLS SuperDraft in particular and MLS in general so great. It's a league on the verge of being truly mainstream and yet, the draft is basically an homage to everything "American soccer geek." And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I think I'll Tivo it as well and watch it when I get back.
The classic "Americans Abroad" dilemma
Unless you've managed to completely avoid Twitter all day (and if you're able to do that, you're a much stronger-willed person than myself and the rest of the HTIOT gang), it'd be hard to miss Tim Howard's wonder goal for Everton.
But lost in the shuffle was the fact that this was Landon Donovan's second game for Everton this season. Landycakes also joined the Toffees on loan during this period two years ago and greatly impressed the Merseyside fans. He did so well in fact that Everton want to bring in the Galaxy star on a permanent contract.
MLS commissioner Dan Garber would not allow Donovan to stay even though it appeared at the time that Landon was willing to leave. It was one of the few examples of MLS absolutely refusing to let a player go where others such as Clint Dempsey. Jozy Altidore and Maurice Edu have made the move. For some, the move abroad has helped the players tremendously. And in other cases, the players' careers have stalled and the player eventually returned to MLS... *coughFreddyAducough*
But what do you think? Is it more important for MLS to let their best players join the world's best leagues and show that Americans can compete on some of the largest stages in the world? Or is it more important for MLS to hold on to the best and help the league grow from within?