This Is Why they Call It the Beautiful Game

Srsly: Check out this sweet sweet combination of skill and teamwork that produced a golazo for Benfica against their Lisbon archrivals Sporting (former home of U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu) on Sunday:


Benfica won the game 2-0 to stay four points clear of Porto at the top of the table.


U.S. U-17s, Coach Richie Williams, Make the Wrong Kind of History

Former MLS midfielder Richie Williams and his U.S. U-17 charges lost 3-1 to Honduras in the CONCACAF Championship quarterfinals on Sunday evening in Panama City.

The defeat denied the team a berth in the 2013 U-17 World Cup, and made them the first U.S. U-17 side ever to fail to reach the World Cup, a string of 15 straight appearances dating to 1985.

The Americans came into the match as heavy favorites, but after Honduras broke a 1-1 tie with two goals early in the second half, the U.S. could not recover, and their World Cup dream evaporated.

Highlights here:

This is the third disappointing result for a U.S. youth team in the past three years, following the 2011 U-20 team’s failure to reach their World Cup, and the U-23’s inability to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

U.S. U-17s Edge Guatemala, Advance to Do-Or-Die Game with Honduras

On a patchy field in Panama City, the U.S. U-17 national team got a 49th-minute goal from midfielder Corey Baird and made it stand up for a 1-0 win over Guatemala in the Americans’ second game of the CONCACAF U-17 Championships.

Check out the highlights, which include some quality wing play from Rubio Rubin, and a sweet piece of skill (at the 1:56 mark) by newcomer Joel Sonora, a Boca Juniors Academy product who made his first start for the U.S. U-17s:

The victory handed the Group C title to the U.S., who defeated Haiti 3-0 in their opener on April 7 behind two goals from Red Bulls Academy player Christopher Lema.

The Yanks now move on to face Group D runner-up Honduras on Sunday (6:00 pm ET, Fox Soccer) with a berth in this fall’s U-17 World Cup on the line.

If the Americans win, they’ll advance the CONCACAF semifinals as well as to the nation’s 15th consecutive U-17 World Cup, with this year’s edition being held in the United Arab Emirates from October 18 to November 8.

MLS’s CCL Dream Deferred Yet Again

A team from Major League Soccer will win the CONCACAF Champions League some day. Just not this year.

After Seattle went out to Santos Laguna in a 1-1 second-leg draw on Tuesday night, the LA Galaxy represented MLS’s last hope for a 2013 CCL finalist. Their task was nearly identical to the one Seattle faced on Tuesday: They were playing on the road in Mexico, and they trailed by a goal after the first leg. Indeed, the Galaxy’s degree of difficulty was slightly higher, since Monterrey had scored two away goals in their first-leg win at Los Angeles.

Bruce Arena’s side had been 10 minutes away from taking a 1-0 win down to Mexico for the second leg when the visitors’ two biggest threats, Mexican striker Aldo De Nigris and his Chilean counterpart Humberto Suazo, each struck in the waning moments to send LA to a severely deflating loss. But the Galaxy have Robbie Keane and Juninho and a rounding-into-form Landon Donovan, and their fans had hopes that they could bag the two goals needed in the return match to either win the tie outright or send it into extra time.

LA generated some chances, but Monterrey ultimately showed why they’re the two-time defending champs. Highlights here:

Real Salt Lake’s narrow loss to Monterrey in the 2011 final is looking like a bigger missed opportunity with each passing year. Jason Kreis’s team got a 2-2 draw on the road in the first leg that year, only to fall 1-0 at home in front of an amped-up crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium. Ouch.

Monterrey and Santos Laguna will meet for the trophy in a rematch of last year’s final. The two-leg decider is set for April 24 and May 1.

Soccer’s Version of Deep Blue vs Kasparov

Here’s Barcelona and Argentina legend Lionel Messi taking on a robot goalkeeper on a Japanese gameshow. He either shoots wide, hits the uprights or is denied in his first few attempts, but (and go ahead and scroll to roughly the 6:00 mark) after several shots he learns two ways to beat the evil machine.

The first is a world-class combination of pure power and deadly accuracy, as Messi blasts the ball to the upper left corner, where Robokeeper—as the infernal device is known—gets a “hand” on it, but cannot keep it out of the net.

The second is a more reliable and brilliant misdirection, as Messi sells the machine on a shot to the left corner but then rocks his attempt into the right corner. The split screen display shows this pretty vividly. Take a look:

For the record, Garry Kasparov defeated Deep Blue 4-2 in their first meeting. In the rematch a year and a half later, after the machine’s engineering had been altered by its legions of programmers, Deep Blue prevailed 3 1/2 to 2 1/2.

BPFL: League Cup Preview

Co-commissioner MGlo filed his Week 31 Backpost Fantasy League recap earlier in the week.

Aaaaaaand here it is:

This week’s recap is a preview of the Backpost League Cup which pits the gregarious Disgruntled Numpties against the laconic Sporting de Dijon. I characterize these two teams as such based on their recent press conference in the bowels of Brisbane Road, where the Final is to be held. The press eagerly awaited the arrival of the two managers and what follows is a brief snippet of their remarks.

Phil McNulty, BBC correspondent: Are you surprised you have made it to the Finals?

DN: I got a kind draw, avoiding the two class teams in the competition. So, no, not surprised.

Phil looked over at Sporting but the manager offered no response.

Jim White, Sky Sports Presenter: How has the season been for you, what with trying to balance the League and Cup challenges?

DN: A lot of mediocrity this season. I’m high on the overall points total (maybe 13,000 out of 2.5 million) but that hasn’t translated into too many victories in the league. I chopped and changed a little too much too early (got rid of Ivanovic in week 3) and a little too little later in the season (Cuellar and van Persie for example). Balancing league and cup hasn’t been a problem since I’ve just tried to score as many points as possible.

JW: Yes I noticed you used your wildcard in week 20 but didn’t bother to use your January wildcard. Sporting, you used your wildcard early in week 5. What kind of effect did this have on your team?

Sporting just glared at Jim.

Barry Glendenning, The Guardian correspondent: I understand there is a history between you two. Care to share any inside info on the other?

DN: The rivalry exists on two fronts: Regents Park Sunday football and video soccer tournaments held a few times a year somewhere in London or thereabouts. However, from my perspective it wasn’t much of a rivalry on either front. In Regents Park I always wanted Paul on my team; he was a no-nonsense defender who was very hard to beat. In the video world Paul always contended for the top honors in the tournaments and I was always in contention for a molded plastic cow given as a prize for last place.


(Disgruntled Numpties manager 2nd from left, Sporting manager 4th from left)

At the appearance of this picture a small smile appeared on the face of the Sporting manager, but his Shields and Yarnell act was still intact.

Rob Stone, Fox Soccer presenter: What do you expect on the day? How confident are you?

DN: My squad looks good. I don’t expect to make any changes; unless I change my mind.

The Sporting manager cleared his throat but alas we were regaled with more silence.

And finally the last question went to Simon Mail, Leyton and Leytonstone Guardian reporter:  Any comments directed at the other manager?

DN: I know Paul’s been busy with the birth of his first child. I think a Cup Final victory would be a wonderful way to welcome the newcomer into the world. I’m rooting for Sporting de Dijon.

The Sporting manager considered this, smiled, and left the room.

If nothing else, the press conference was certainly interesting. Hopefully the match will be as well. The Numpties have won six of their last seven fixtures, while Sporting have won two straight. They also split the season series, with the Numpties winning in week two, 41-29 and Sporting taking the ritorno 65-55.

As for the League table there was no change among the top four clubs as they all walked away with victories. My Old27m squad walked away with another Performance of the Week, and that was despite giving up 4 points from a second transfer. Fall River Marksmen was the Unlucky Loser, with 64 points, better than nine other clubs.

Thanks MGlo. And we have an update regarding the Sporting manager’s demeanor. Word is he recently became a father, and was so sleep-deprived he’d all but lost the power of speech.

Here is some pretty convincing evidence to back up this claim:



Digging Out, Catching Up, Looking Ahead



Much like the pitch at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on March 22—the date of our last post, yikes—we have been snowed under the past few weeks. We picked up some more responsibility at the day job, and had a few extra freelance jobs come in. All of which is good for us, but not so good for the BP, which got shunted out of the picture.

We’re back, late on a Friday, having cleared the desk of about 317 tasks, to play a little catch-up. Here’s a 30-second rundown of some of what we missed while we were away:

• The U.S. got a massive and historic point on the road at Estadio Azteca, tying mighty Mexico 0-0, a result which, combined with the win at Dick’s, righted the Good Ship Klinsmann. For now.

• The U.S.-Mexico border war did not go so well where MLS was concerned: Seattle and Los Angeles both suffered home losses in their first-leg matches in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.

• Seattle had its troubles in the league as well, suffering consecutive losses to undermanned San Jose and Real Salt Lake sides to stumble to an 0-3-1 record out of the gate, their worst start in franchise history. Then new striker Obafemi Martins left the team to seek treatment for a knee injury. Tough times in the Pacific Northwest, where expectations were running higher than the Space Needle this spring.

• The U.S. U-20s learned their draw for this summer’s U-20 World Cup in Turkey and it’s a killer: The young Yanks were grouped with France, Spain, and a yet-to-be-determined African nation. Good grief.

• Montreal got their fourth win to start the MLS campaign, edging New York 1-0 to become the surprise team of the young season before being blanked 2-0 by defending East champs Kansas City in a bit of a statement game on March 30. In the West, Dallas is the early leader, reeling off consecutive wins over Houston, Real Salt Lake, and New England.

That’s a start, and we’ll have more in the coming days, along with the latest BPFL recap later tonight. Next week, we’ll have some site news.