Jordan Morris and Christian Pulisic, World Cup 2018 Champions

The past twenty four hours have been incredible for the American national soccer team fans around the world, as their hopes and prayers have been answered. The second most hyped American of all time (and the only national team player I’ve ever personally met) Jordan Morris scored his first Major League Soccer goal for the Seattle Sounders last night, while the 17 year old wunderkind Christian Pulisic (who likes his name to be pronounced the “American” way, Puh-li-sick) scored his first Bundesliga goal for Borussua Dortmund in like his second or third start for the German giants. It’s fucking nuts.

Morris, 21, has been on the American soccer hype train since he scored on his debut for the Yanks in April 2015 while still a sophomore at Stanford University. Everyone went apeshit, is he the new Landon Donovan? When will he go pro? Will he go to Europe? It was crazy. Eventually, Morris decided to stop his college experience half way through his junior year and go pro for the Seattle Sounders in Major League Soccer. It took him 8 games total to score, but he has not been completely disappointing so far. He’s just kinda a workhorse, running around wild without much end product. Seattle and American fans are hoping his goal (the game winner against a rising Philadelphia) is the first of many in his rookie Major League Soccer season, in which he will be absent for the summer hopefully winning the Copa America with the United States.

On the other hand, this time last year Pulisic was a relatively unknown sixteen year old who had just transferred to one of the biggest clubs in Germany and in Europe, Borussia Dortmund. American fans were still unsure whether he would play for the United States or Croatia in the future, but Pulisic was sure: he loved America goddamnit. He worked his ass off on one of the best teams in the world and broke into their first team mid way through the current season, and already has a good amount of appearances in both the Bundesliga (probably the second best or highest quality league in the world) and in Europa League, where Dortmund were a stoppage time goal away from making the semi finals. When I say good amount, he has like a dozen. A seventeen year old American! A dozen appearances in the Bundesliga! This is crazy! He already has more goals than Landon Donovan had in his few years in Germany as well. Fucking legendary.

Are these guys the future of American soccer? The hopes and dreams of millions of American soccer fans are riding on their shoulders.

The First Loss is a Bitch

Last season, my JV soccer team only had one loss all season, a 1-0 loss on the road due to a late penalty. This year, our first loss has come to the exact same team, again on the road, but under different circumstances-a completely one sided match ending 3-0 to the home team. It is heartbreaking, considering how tight last year’s game went.

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On the ball in green, here I am getting overrun by a bunch of Iowa City guys :/

Position by position, player by player, we were outclassed, although we will never know if their goalkeeper was better than ours because we never got a shot off on target at the guy. It was bad.

The only thing that was worse than losing 3-0 to these guys was playing almost the entire game nonstop. I’d never played a full half of a JV soccer game before, and not only did I play the entire first half I also played three fourths of the second half without coming out as well. I am by no means the fittest person either, so I was completely gassed. I also found out the next morning I had influenza, so that was fucking ass. Although I didn’t actually have any symptoms until well after the game was over, my body was probably feeling it and I didn’t know. Or something. The game just sucked complete ass, and I still haven’t scored a goal this season. We’re four games in already! Granted I didn’t play the third game because of having influenza, still. My balls are heavy with the weight of a goal on the mind.

A Photographic Essay of the First JV Soccer Game of the Season

 

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Here’s me, wondering how the hell I got the captain’s armband with the way I was playing.

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Getting ready to pounce. The defenders I was going up against were not great but they were for the most part really big and strong so that was spooky.

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Here I am, looking like I’m about to put in a wicked cross, but it was deflected and went out for a throw in.

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After the ensuing throw in, the ball found its way into the hands of the keeper who literally dropped the ball not once…

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but two times.

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All I had to do to get my first goal of the season was turn ‘n’ bang.

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Unfortunately I decided to go the distance, dribble around with the ball and get fouled.

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Now as you can see, the referee declared I had earned a free kick from being fouled, although my loud mouth pointed vehemently to the penalty spot. I still swear to God almighty that it was a penalty, not a god damned free kick.

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At this point I heard my coach shouting to look at the man standing unmarked next to the wall, my teammate who later scored twice, and decided to lay it off to him.

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I really should have just shot the free kick myself, as however good my teammate was at finishing later that day he somehow directly pounded his shot into the wall he was at first parallel with. Really, I should have just shot the ball right when the keeper dropped it rather than dribble and draw a foul in hopes of getting a chance at a spot kick but whatever. 

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Calling for the ball moments before I made the terrible decision of yelling at the linesman. I dove into the penalty box with two defenders on my ass and I swear to God they damn near snapped my leg in two, and I was livid. I asked (that’s a nice way to put it) if the referee even saw what happened and he threatened to send me off, and that was that. Coach subbed me out before I could get my goal and I never saw the field again. :/

To Luis Suarez

My introduction to who is perhaps the best striker on the planet right now began at the 2014 World Cup. I was watching Uruguay, the home country of Suarez, play England, the country where he played club soccer, with my dad in the living room. My dad had just finished introducing me to the players to look out for, and described Uruguay’s leading man as “the third best player in the world right now.” I was very much excited to see this gigantic match up, where one of the two former soccer giants could have been knocked out of the world’s most important sporting event that night.

My dad was born in 1966, so of course he has always been an England fan. I had no opinion either way, although I thought the blue of Uruguay’s kits looked much nicer that the bland all white of England.

Suarez scored a great header in the first half, a goal that was very much heartbreaking for my father, seeing one his favorite players score a wonderful goal against one of his favorite teams. Later on, my dad’s favorite player Wayne Rooney, the captain of England, scored the equalizer and his very first World Cup goal. I am not going to lie, at the time I thought it was lackluster, at least compared to other goals scored during that time in the World Cup. Suarez later scored a great goal in hilarious circumstances, five minutes from stoppage time, knocking England out of the World Cup and giving the two time World Cup winners three points and eventually a spot in the round of sixteen. Seeing Suarez go mental on the touchline at full time, and how emotional he was when he scored, was quite a sight to see. I believe seeing Suarez act so emotional at that time impacted the way I act when I score goals, as I can barely control myself when I’ve put the ball in the back of the net.

Anyway, since that World Cup, I have watched hours of Suarez footage. The 2010 World Cu matches, his handball on the line against Ghana, his bite on Ivanovic, his bite on Chiellini, his racial abuse of Patrice Evra, his wacky comments in his defense of these stupid acts, his stupid autobiography, his ridiculous teeth, memes about Suarez, all the goals he has ever scored for Uruguay and Liverpool and Barcelona, everything there is to have seen about Suarez I’m sure I’ve seen it. Despite all his controversies, he is the best striker in the world and shows a dedication to winning that every team he comes against must envy. He is without a doubt my favorite player, and a huge inspiration to my fledgling JV soccer career, just not my personal life.

An Open Letter to Brad Evans

Dear Brad,

I’m a junior in high school, and this spring will be my second year of JV soccer for my class. I was recently appointed as a captain for my team, a dream of mine since the moment last season ended. I’ve always been infatuated with the idea of being a captain, a leader for all those around me, or just someone’s inspiration for improving themselves and performing better. This year I will finally be able to help lead my team to JV soccer glory as a part of a trio of junior varsity captains.

My entire family is from Seattle, my dad grew up watching the 1970s NASL Seattle Sounders, and so obviously I am a Seattle Sounders fan. I could write a book about my love for the Sounders, but now is not the time. You, as captain of my favorite team, have been one of my biggest inspirations for the past two years in and off the pitch. I never quite understood the importance of a captain in a soccer sense until I saw you score the opening goal of Seattle’s 2-1 loss on away goals to LA at home during the MLS Conference Final in 2014. The game began with the Sounders one nil down on aggregate, and you slid in to score an early goal and rather than run off and celebrate, you ran straight back to the half line, waving your arm to rally the team back with you. The Sounders went on to finish the first half 2-0 up, Dempsey’s goal being one of the best moments of the season as a Seattle soccer fan. Although the team failed to make the MLS Cup that season, I have never been more inspired by a performance that the Sounders during that Open Cup and Supporter’s Shield winning season, with you leading at the helm.

Since that 2014 season, you have been one of my favorite players. I aspired to as much of a workhorse, a leader, and as versatile as you have been on the pitch for years for the Sounders. Outside of my father’s playing career I have no bigger inspiration than that of your amazing career with Seattle as well as with Columbus and the United States Men’s National Team.

Yours Truly, a JV Soccer legend.

Why Sprinting is Fun

Doing sprints at soccer practice sucks. It is one of the hardest things we have to do, day in and day out. No matter how skinny, fat, tall, or short someone is, sprinting sucks. Even the most athletic of players are tired by the end of it. It pushes your body to the limit, in a way no other drills or practicing can. But it’s fun.

It’s not really fun, in that I look forward to it everyday, but sprinting is fulfilling, and I feel like a practice without sprints isn’t a really good practice at all. I love pushing myself and my body to the limits, (well sometimes, I’m actually kinda lazy) and sprinting is the easiest way to push yourself because you instantly feel the pain. It’s not like pushing yourself to score a good goal or something, because in those situations you have to focus on technique and precision to get it right, it’s not an immediate effect. Sprinting as hard as you can is something you just do, not something you think about and work on.

I have never felt the pain of doing sprints over and over as I have before this year. Our JV soccer coach has been pushing us harder and harder every time, and this year we have a higher number of slow and fat and lazy kids who don’t even make it ot the finish line. The athletic guys push themselves for no reward of the team, as it is the slowest member of the squad that sets the speed, even though everyone must always give their all to the team. It helps knowing that you’re not the slowest person on the team, either. Actually, the knowledge that you can outrun almost your entire team definitely helps when pushing yourself. I luhh pushing myself, and helping push my teammates to their absolute maximum. I feel like a super saiyan, like when everybody on the team puts in 100% effort we will achieve a new form, like we’ll all have golden hair or something.

Sprinting as a collective team is actually one of the most uplifting activities you can do as a sportsman.

The Stress and Excitement of Try Outs

Okay I wasn’t even stressed out about try outs for soccer this year. I was only there to prove to the varsity coaches that I should be on JV, instead of taking the puss way out of just not showing up. I led all of the freshman and sophomores who had no idea what to do, and the juniors and seniors that would later follow me to JV soccer glory. Anyway tryouts were lit.

We were supposed to have two a day practices, two hours of conditioning in the morning and two hours of actual practice time in the afternoon. Well it rained a lot so we didn’t have a whole lot of conditioning to do because fields were too wet, but we practiced on turf so we could still ball it up!! We played 11v11 full field a few times, and I scored every time! It was lit. I pretty much captained my team to undefeated glory. For real, I was the only person talking or giving out commands or telling anyone what to do, I felt like a boss. I don’t think the coaches that were there liked me much, because I constantly talked about JV soccer. I openly said things like “varsity is shit” and “varsity players are douchebags” so that probably gave them a bad impression. I would also ask the coaches where Coach Evans, the Canadian-American JV coach was. They would always reply he was in Florida, that he would be gone for all of tryouts, and to stop asking.

I tried my hardest to prove I was a decent player and a good leader, while at the same time showing that I was shit. I would play well and then try a bunch of cheeky tricks or something so no one ever got the impression I was any good. I scored a really good goal, running through five freshman to slip one past the keeper, and then scored another where a viewer must have had the idea that had a real keeper been inside the net the ball would not have gone in.

I love scoring goals, and fully planned on doing that during tryouts no matter what. I did score in the full team games, but I completely shat on the pitch when it got down to one versus ones and small scale stuff like that. One might say I’m a big game player, yunno.

In the end I made JV. I am incredibly happy and excited for this season. I hope I’m captain.

Mark Noble for England

There are few one club soccer players left in the world today. One of these rare creatures, Mark Noble, just finished a testimonial match for his tenth year playing first team soccer at his boyhood club West Ham United Football Club, of East London. The Hammers are having their best Premier League season in their history and are fighting for a place in the UEFA Champions League next season, as well as facing a chance to playing in their first FA Cup semi final since 2006.  Mark Noble has lead the team as captain for this historic season, under new manager Slaven Bilic. mark noble mark noble mark noble mark noble 

Noble, as well as leading his team close to glory, captained every level of England youth teams up until the senior squad, where he never got a call up. Whether it’s because West Ham were for a long time a yo yo club that could never quite cement a place in the Premier League, or it’s because Noble came up in a time with Lampard and Gerrard and other great players in their prime in his position, maybe it’s big club bias from England manager Roy Hodgson, who knows. Mark Noble deserves a place on the England squad, at least at some point in his career. mark noble mark noble mark noble mark noble mark noble mark noble mark noble

Marky Nobes really is an inspiration. He has done more for his club than any other midfielder has for their own team in the Premiership. He’s experienced promotion, relegation, and promotion again and now is on the brink of Europe next season either through direct qualification or winning an FA Cup for the Irons for the first time in over thirty years. mark noble mark noble mark noble mark noble mark noble mark noble mark noble mark noble mark noble

Side note: the best-ever top flight West Ham team finished third in 1985/86, exactly thirty years before this dream run by West Ham into the UCL places and a potential trophy for the club.

West Ham have been playing like a dream this season. West Ham deserves Champions League, they deserve an FA Cup, and Mark Noble deserves England.

Here’s an absolute banger he scored last month against Norwich, just because Mark Noble is a ledge.

Why JV Soccer is the Best Soccer

Every spring, dozens of young teenage boys at Kennedy High School anticipate the greatest time of year: soccer season. Most the the potential soccer legends are freshman and sophomores, and most of them are lame because they don’t make JV. They all get their hopes up to make varsity one day but most will quit soccer before they start JV by their junior year. A lot of the juniors and seniors already know their places, as they will have had the experience of the previous years to gauge their skill level with their peers. Some of these guys are complete douchers, and even though they suck they plan on making varsity, and to be fair, some do. They’re still douchers though. A lot of the guys know they aren’t that good and keep their mouths shut. Some exceptional ones, however, not only know their place in the world but loudly and proudly accept it. JV legends!!

I played JV my sophomore year, and I can’t be more grateful. I was taller than a lot of the freshman and sophomores, and played more physically than them, so it wouldn’t have made sense for me to play fresh/soph because I would have wrecked them all. Anyway on JV, I made a lot of friends with people I would never have talked to otherwise. A few of the better friends I had on JV soccer last year were seniors, and it was the only time in my life I would ever get to see them and get to know them. They were all so rad. Although everyone was pretty mean to each other, as you know teams full of angsty young men usually are, we had a bond that nothing could break. Well I guess after some of them moved away the bond was broken but still. JV!! Mike Thompson, this big as heck guy that stood at around six foot a jillion and I had a bit of a rivalry. We played in similar positions and both had opportunities to score lots of goals, however Mike and I finished the season with four and three goals, respectively. And even then we were the top goalscorers! Also Mike only won top goalscorer because during the game at City West Mike Thompson took a corner that lead to an own goal, but coach didn’t want an own goal to be the reason we won the game so he marked it down as Thompson’s goal. He even tried to take credit for the assist too! You crazy Thompson, you crazy.

Leicester Are Real Title Favorites

With their three to one victory over third placed Manchester City, Leicester’s dream run to the top of the Premier League table continues with a five point lead over second placed Tottenham Hotspur, who are having a dream season in their own right.

Leicester and the Premier League’s top goalscorer Jamie Vardy, 29, has signed a new contract  with the league leaders until 2019. That is insane. This man was playing semi professional soccer in England just a few years ago, and only signed a contract with a League One side in 2011. Vardy signed with Leicester in the Championship in 2012, and has been key to their meteoric rise from lowly Championship battles to the cream of the crop in England, first place in the Premier League.

Riyad Mahrez, Danny Drinkwater, Kante, and Mark Albrighton are just some of the other incredible Leicester players showing their form this year, after being incredibly average for so long. Leicester fans must be buzzing, after fighting their way back to the Premiership for the first time in over a decade, and the fighting from last place at Christmas 2014 to the great escape of 17th place at the end of the 2014/15 season. At Christmas 2015, Leicester were two points ahead at the top of the table.

Many people have been expecting a drop in form at some point from the Foxes, but other than a lackluster January Leicester have gotten six points from six in consecutive games with Liverpool and away to Manchester City. Their next figure, home to Arsenal, is arguably the hardest fixture they will have for the rest of the season, and they will be jumping into that game on the form of their life. The fact that Leicester haven’t lost to Manchester City, who were by far the favorites to win the title at the beginning of the season, in both the home and away legs is absolutely incredible.