Highlights Reel: All About the Bike

Wayne Rooney’s fantastic (three-quarter) bicycle kick against Man City on Saturday may end up as goal of the year in the Premier League this season, not only for the quality of the strike, but also for its importance—it proved to be the game-winner in a Manchester derby with title implications.

(The EPL has successfully scrubbed it from most of the interwebs, but you can still see it here.)

As great as it was, though, it’s probably not even in the Top 10 for overhead-kick goals in the past two decades. A quick search by the Backpost I-Team turned up several bikes more impressive than Rooney’s self-described “best goal” of his career—including a couple from the unsung ranks of MLS.

Let’s take a look, in ascending order of brilliance:

5. Taylor Twellman, New England Revolution, 2007

Sandwiched between two defenders, Twellman would have received a high-kick call (and possible booking) from the ref if he hadn’t punched the ball into the back of the net.

4. Ronaldinho, Barcelona, 2008

With a defender to his left and one directly on his back, he loops it over the latter and—golazo!

3. Marcelo Balboa, Colorado Rapids, 2000

MLS goal of the year that season, naturally, and a strong contender for top goal in league history.

2. Trevor Sinclair, Queens Park Rangers, 1997

Pfffft. What?! Top of the box, man tight on his back, this one would top our list if not for …

1. Rivaldo, Barcelona, 2001

Forget bicycle kicks, this might get our vote for greatest goal of any kind, period. You heard the announcer: “…completes the hat-trick, a minute from time” to give Barca a 3-2 win over Valencia, send them to the Champions League, and claim the La Liga scoring title with his 23rd goal of the season.

Add that importance to the off-the-charts skill, and this one is tough to beat.

*Amusing footnote to Rivaldo goal: He’s currently 38, and played the past two seasons in Uzbekistan (really) after signing what he termed an “extremely tempting contract offer.”

Bonus clips!

Marcelo Balboa, United States, 1994 World Cup [“Missed it by that much!” says Tony Meola]:

Dwayne De Rosario, San Jose Earthquakes, 2004

Two words: De. Ro.

That’s our list (nothing against Rooney’s great goal of course). Care to dispute it? Know of any better ones? Let us know in the comments.

Ricketts: Rooney, All Footballers Have to Fight ’Em Off with a Stick

Shedding a bit of light on the recent Wayne Rooney sex scandal, former Tottenham and Toronto FC midfielder Rohan Ricketts has written a refreshingly frank account of life as a pro soccer player and all the opportunities and temptations that involves.

Here’s a nugget from the article, on Sabotage Times:

“Even if you don’t want to get involved it’s right in your face. I remember a time when one former England international who was always a good boy woke up in his hotel room to find a girl hiding in his bathroom. She had been brought in by another player. He didn’t do anything with her and went mad at the other player – but a lesser man would have found it hard to resist the temptation.”

And another:

“The girls can be like vultures – they see football as a market and they want the most expensive brands. They equate you to your market value. Players will shag each other’s mistresses all the time as well and some of the girls seemed to get their kicks out of that. One time I was chatting to a girl and she was proud to tell me that she was up in the 30s with football players. She thought that telling me that was cool.”

Click here for the entire article.

We’re fairly certain that you can take this same dynamic and apply it to the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour and  to some extent, the NHL and NASCAR.

But not our Major League Soccer, ha. No … our little league is still in its innocent youth.

Weekend Wrap

Yes, auditions for the Nats' left-wing spot are still very much open. Why do you ask?

If WFAN’s Mike Francesa covered soccer, he’d have one word to describe this past weekend for American players plying their trade overseas: yoooge.

Let’s get right to it:

In Scotland, DaMarcus Beasley got his first league start of the season for Rangers, and immediately seized the opportunity, assisting on a goal in the first minute of play against St. Johnstone. He was also involved in another goal, and fired two shots on target, as the Glasgow side won 3-0.

The performance comes on the heels of Beasley’s Champions League start against Sevilla. Maybe he’s turned a corner at Rangers. That can only be good news for the U.S.

In England, Brad Friedel and Aston Villa stunned Manchester United at Old Trafford, getting their first road win against United since 1983. Gabriel Agbonlohar hit the winner with a flying header off a cross from Ashley Young midway through the first half. Friedel stopped Dimitar Berbatov late, and Villa midfielder Stewart Downing cleared Nemanja Vidic’s header off the line with 10 minutes remaining to preserve the 1-0 win.

United’s loss at home to Villa meant Man U missed a chance to tie Chelsea at the top of the table, as the Blues were held to a 3-3 tie with Tim Howard’s Everton at Stamford Bridge. Didier Drogba scored twice but Chelsea’s sloppy defending on set pieces allowed an undermanned Everton team to become the first visitors to get any points at all at Stamford Bridge this season.

The third American keeper in the Premier League, Marcus Hahnemann, also helped his team get a result against a bigger club as Wolves made a second-minute Kevin Doyle goal stand up for a 1-0 win over Tottenham. Hahnemann made seven saves to preserve the win, including one on a rocket from Tom Huddlestone near the end.

But check out this postgame quote from Wolves manager Mick McCarthy, and feel free to translate for any Americans who are light on the lingo:

“Marcus Hahnemann’s not been diving around making saves everywhere. He made one really good save and no, we haven’t been mullered. They have to work like that at every game. If we have any passengers we’re knackered.”

I'm sorry, sir. I don't understand your banter.

Mullered? …. Passengers? … We have no idea. In any case, a valuable three points for Wolves.

Jozy Altidore came on for Hull in the 65th minute of the Tigers’ 0-0 draw with Blackburn. He made a run into the box eight minutes later and went down under a challenge by Blackburn defender Christopher Samba. Hull manager Phil Brown leapt up, calling for a penalty, but the replay showed one wasn’t deserved, and Altidore was booked for diving. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a dive—the young Yank tripped over his own feet.

Clint Dempsey went the distance in Fulham’s 1-1 draw with Burnley, while Jonathan Spector rode pine for 90 during West Ham’s 1-0 loss to Birmingham. West Ham is in the relegation zone with Bolton and Portsmouth.

We haven’t mentioned Dempsey’s Fulham teammate Eddie Johnson in this space, because he has rarely dressed and never featured in a game for the Cottagers this year, and now it appears he’s headed out of West London. Probably for the best, if he wants to get back into the national-team picture.

Jay DeMerit is back from recent eye surgery, starting and playing 90 minutes in Watford’s 1-0 loss to Derby County.

In Germany, Michael Bradley continues to shine for Borussia Moenchengladback, scoring a free-kick goal in a bizarre 5-3 win over Steve Cherundolo’s Hannover 96. Bizarre how? Hannover scored three own goals.

Pot O’ Gold Soccer Weekend

With today’s Galaxy-Dynamo midnight-movie semifinal clash kicking things off (what’s up with the 11 pm EST kickoff time, MLS?), this weekend is chock full of quality soccer viewing. From tomorrow morning’s U.S. vs. Slovakia friendly, which promises to feature an interesting lineup for the Amerks, to the other MLS semifinal between Chicago and Real Salt Lake, to World Cup qualifying playoff matches between Ireland and France, Portugal and Bosnia, and  the do-or-die New Zealand and Bahrain tilt in Wellington, it’s a bounty of meaningful matches. And there’s also a slate of top-notch friendlies, between Brazil and England, Italy and the Netherlands, and Spain and Argentina. Yep, this weekend has something for every soccer fan in just about every corner of the globe. Set your DVRs…

We here at Backpost are bullish on all things U.S. soccer, so we’re gonna start with the Galaxy-Dynamo game, which kicks off in two hours. It’s not a stretch to say this game features as much or more talent than has ever been assembled on an MLS pitch: Stuart Holden, Ricardo Clark, Pat Onstad, Brian Ching versus Landon Donovan, whatsisname from England, newly crowned Rookie of the Year Omar Gonzalez (who will be looking to redeem his so-so performance vs Chivas USA, esp in the first game), Greg Berhalter, underrated Edson Buddle, superfast Sean Franklin. It’s as quality a matchup as you’ll get in this league, and we’re licking our chops. Btw, did you see Beckham’s astounding 50-yard outside-to-inside swerving pass right into the path of Donovan last week? Yeah…that was nice.

As for the US game, we could see some novel combinations and some players hungry to stake a claim for South Africa 2010. With Charlie Davies’ terrible injuries and the sidelining of Oguchi Onyewu and Jay Demerit, there are suddenly some real holes in the team. Will we see Cunningham up top with Jozy? Rogers and Kljestan back in midfield?  Marshall paired with Bocanegra in central defense? Or the return of Jimmy Conrad? And don’t forget EJ, who once upon a time was a rising star in the U.S. strike force. This game, and the next one against Denmark, are chances for someone to start making his case for SA 2010.

The New Zealand-Bahrain game is just massive–two relative minnows in the world soccer community are on the brink of historic victories for their countries. It’s on at 2 a.m., but hey, that’s what DVRs are for. From Salient, the student magazine of Victoria University, Wellington:

Such a thing [a Kiwi win in this one] would completely change the sporting landscape of New Zealand, and that’s why this qualifier could be more important than the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Of course rugby will always be number one in this country, but if the football bug takes hold then New Zealand will truly be able to feel a part of the massive global football community. No game in the world is so widely loved, and no game brings nations and people together quite like football.

So forget the Rugby World Cup, that’ll come around soon enough. But for now, let’s focus on November 14th at Westpac Stadium. Tickets are on sale now, so get your mates together and get down there, give the lads your support and let’s hope we can get New Zealand on the footballing map.

In keeping with our Irish-themed header, we’ll leave you with this priceless item in advance of the first leg of the France-Ireland World Cup playoff:


Enjoy the games.