There is a disturbing new trend that is slowly creeping into the fighting game community as of late. It has always existed, but it has suddenly reached new heights, with players everywhere falling victim to it. It exists in all sorts of communities already, but it has become magnified lately thanks to the heightened exposure of the players to the mainstream media.
I'm talking about idolatry. We have elevated the likes of Justin Wong, Daigo Umehara, Alex Valle, John Choi and other 'top players' onto a pedestal that some people think makes them "untouchable" -- and, by virtue of the tag, a lot of people are following suit and actually making them so, transforming them into mini-celebrities.
Yes, it's perfectly normal to expect the very best of the best to command a good deal of respect in the community. I can even understand that the best players will be the ones that command the most media exposure, and thus will attract the most attention and respect. I don't really care about that, because it's not what I'm talking about -- people who attend events just to spectate can do what they like, and you could make a case that it's better for the long term success of the community that there are spectators that think in such a way. It's not the people who enjoy fighting games as a spectator sport that I'm worrying about.
It's the competitors.
The trend I'm talking about deals more with the amount of respect, lenience and flat-out nervousness that many players show when facing a player with a reputation. Why is it that every time I see Justin Wong on the big screen of a tournament against a player that might otherwise be decent, this player will just freeze up and give Justin the benefit the doubt in everything and let him style on them for the good part of a minute without even offering so much as a peep of resistance? Why is it that someone who has been seemingly been doing great in their pools and showing a lot of skill and resilience will completely scratch their gameplan come crunch time? Why do people, before even starting the match, completely defer to the more reputed player and practically give up before the fight's even begun?
A huge amount of people at Evolution were guilty of this. The problem is that the examples aren't really memorable, and so it is difficult to really point out what is happening because you can't really bring up an instant example. I had people tell me that Lamerboi would have not choked against Daigo if the person he was playing against was anyone else. I respectfully disagree: whether Lamerboi can deal with the pressure of an intense match or make cloudy judgments and decisions in a match has nothing to do with the reputation of the player he is facing and more to do with his personal ability. If you're thinking of Lamerboi's loss against Daigo, that is not the example we're looking for here. The examples we are looking for are, deservedly, much more forgettable.
There was the case of the halfway decent Chun Li player that went up on the big screen against Justin and nearly got double perfected in his first match, without ever taking Justin below 95% health in each of his rounds. It took the guy an entire match before he eventually remembered that he was playing Street Fighter and he actually bothered to start pressing some buttons and try things other than block and cry. The main reason for that? It was plainly obvious the dude realized who he was playing, and was never ever able to try to establish his game or play it, looking incredibly nervous before the match even began. It wasn't that Justin Wong at the moment was simply playing at much too dominant a level for his opponent to handle (it was clear Justin barely cared about the match), his opponent simply was never trying from the start and allowing Justin to get away with whatever he wanted; the match was lost before it ever began. That's where the problem lies.
If you are willing to spend $350+ dollars to get a ticket to travel to Las Vegas so that you can compete in Evolution, then you need to have more confidence in your own abilities and be less intimidated by the levels of others. Even at a hypothetical level: let's say you have an objective and clear understanding that you are not better than Justin Wong. This doesn't mean you shouldn't be playing at your maximum ability against him. You are here essentially competing at the highest level of Street Fighter play in the world, and you have made a considerable investment of time and money to get to this point. Why would you just let Justin Wong walk off with that investment without at the very least trying to get some return out of it? There's no justification for simply laying down and letting whoever you are playing walk away with the results of your time, money and effort, regardless of who they are.
The fact of the matter is that if you're willing to spend the money to essentially play at what can be considered a professional level, you need to start having a professional mentality about it. You can definitely be there to have fun -- this is completely acceptable. But you need to approach all your matches the same. You can't just make concessions in your game plan because you think someone will know how to handle it. Every match you play should require that the other player figure you out and deal with your approach accordingly. Stop figuring yourself out for them. Approach every match knowing full well that you only get to lose twice in every major American tournament.
If you're going to lose, so be it; let the loss come after you've actually put everything you have into the match, don't just give up one of your two losses for free regardless of who your opponent is. If I walked up to you right now and told you to give me $450 for absolutely no reason, you wouldn't do it. Why would you treat Daigo or Justin or Alex or John any different in that regard? That's roughly what you're doing when you mentally give them the win before you even play. And it's about time that people stopped doing that.
Roughly 24 hours ago, Daniel Rivera and I stepped off on an airport after a long eight hours of travel that took us from Las Vegas to Cleveland, OH and back to Miami, FL. It was pretty much the very, very end of Evolution 2010: the long trip back home. We were tired out of our minds and deflated over the fact that everything was over; four long days of work and play finally finished. All good things come to an end.
But man, it was worth it.
Evolution 2010 easily stands above each and every Evolution before it as the largest Evolution ever in terms of magnitude. With signups for SSF4 easily dwarfing 2009's 1090 signups by almost 600 additional participants, Evolution has definitely come a very, very long way since its inception as the B series of tournaments in California. Even then, despite its tremendous growth in size, the feel to the 2010 tournament was unlike any of the previous years before it, and at the same time recalled many of those years.
First, it definitely called to 2008 in its placement at the Las Vegas Strip. Yes, Caesar's Palace may be a very, very far cry from the relatively poor conditions that we were faced with when the tournament was held in the Tropicana, but that didn't change the overall "party" feel that was ever-present throughout the halls leading to the ballrooms during the off-hours Evolution experience (which is the one part that you can only really experience by actually going to Evo). Being on the Strip seems to add a lot to the experience of being at Evolution, and this year only served as a confirmation that Evolution should exclusively be held at hotels that are on the strip. I wouldn't object to it being at the Caesar's Palace again, and I actually think that the organizing party should seriously pursue that opportunity should it present itself. There was a lot to do after-hours in the tournament when the main event would shut down from the night, from the usual trolling of hotel rooms for casuals, to the "Salty Suite," a large, two-story suite that some people got over the weekend and used to host a large number of high-profile money matches and invitational, high-entry fee tournaments. Even getting into the suite itself cost money, apparently a necessity considering the cost of the suite itself (and the attempts from players to recover that cost). And of course, being on the strip, those were definitely not the only after-hours entertainment options for players to consider.
It had a bit of 2007 in it when you think about the scope of the sponsorships the event received. While 2007 was mainly sponsored by Toyota (which was kind of odd, in retrospect), this year had tremendous involvement of numerous sponsors and partners, with Capcom, Mad Catz (which is officially backing Daigo), Hori, meatbun, Namco Bandai, ECOLE and Galaxy4Gamers present in some form. The ball room this year was much bigger than the ball rooms used in previous years for the event, and the staff took advantage of this additional space to rent out space on the tournament floor. Each of these set ups brought something new to the table; for instance, this was probably the very first time at Evolution where, if you had not brought a stick with you to play with, you could simply amble over to the Mad Catz booth and immediately purchase a PS3 TE stick to play on. Another big change: the Evolution t-shirts this year were not commissioned and designed by the Evolution staff as they often are; this year, meatbun both designed and were in charge of handing out the t-shirts from their booth to people who signed up for the tournament (you would get your badge as well as a little card that served as a voucher for a t-shirt when you checked in to the tournament). This looks to have definitely kept costs and clutter down, and been a good way for meatbun to push some business and sell some of their own shirt designs. meatbun also designed the t-shirts for the judges, with Jessica Gaona providing the art for the Bracket Wrangler shirt which was a special perk available only for the judges themselves. Hell, Jessica Gaona herself was on hand to sell prints of her art and to hand-craft commissions at the event. People are finally starting to see the business potential at Evolution and tapping into it.
Slowly but surely, we're beginning to see growth in the concept of "clans" of pro gamers as Ricky Ortiz, Marn and Justin Wong jumped ship from Empire Arcadia to become fully paid and sponsored players with Evil Geniuses. With 2009 elevating certain people to near-celebrity status in the community, 2010 blew that completely out of the water. You could literally see lines forming for people to get their pictures taken with Daigo or get something signed by him at the Mad Catz booth, making me wonder out loud if Daigo is going to become Street Fighter's Ichiro... or if he already has been, and fame has simply finally caught up to him. Like last year, I could spot many of the well-known top players being pulled aside to be asked to sign various articles. I myself caught Alex Valle, Seth Killian, Daigo, Justin Wong being pulled aside once or twice to sign something or take a picture with someone. Between the marketability and popularity of the players as well as the business potential of Evolution being discovered, the most important steps for the community to make the full, legitimate leap into the world of e-sports are finally being taken.
How's this for a first? Evolution 2009 was the first major to break 1,000 players signed up for a single tournament. Evolution 2010 was the first major to break 1,500 -- to be more precise, over 1,600 players signed up for the SSF4 tournament altogether. This led to an unprecedented 16 pools being necessary to run the entire tournament, with only two players qualifying out of each pool. Each pool was filled with more than 100 players. This essentially meant that you had to do the equivalent of placing in the top two of a regional or major tournament just to get out of your pool. While that sounds impressive, the most impressive thing is that it all ran on time. Each of the pools was run by a single tandem of two people with four setups each, and somehow all of these judges managed to bang out a 128-man double-elimination within 6-7 hours each. The unsung heroes of Evolution 2010 are the volunteer judges. And trust me, I'm not just saying that because I was one of them -- in fact, I couldn't do more than judge my single pool of SSF4 before my voice ran out and I had to shift to helping out elsewhere. Other judges (such as Daniel Rivera himself) managed to run 2 to 3 pools and somehow keep their voices as well as their sanity, and they did it all for the community, a t-shirt, dinner and a thank you. They all should be able to put this on their resumés; that's how impressive their work over the weekend was.
With all these people present, it's only natural to assume that there's going to be a load of spectators there just playing casuals and trying different things out, right? Well this year definitely did not disappoint. The BYOC area (Bring Your Own Console; the casual play area) was absolutely massive, with one side of the ballroom effectively comprised of nothing but BYOC setups. Lots of new and different things were here to be played, such as a BlazBlue side-tournament run by the BB community, tournaments for prizes run by the Galaxy4Gamers booth, setups with classic Neo Geo games such as KOF '98 and Garou: Mark of the Wolves, as well as some other less-known cult favorites like Breaker's Revenge and Fighter's History. Old setups for classic Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo on arcade were present as well as numerous setups for SSF4 and STHD. Mike Z was there demoing his latest build of indie fighter SkullgirlS, while Capcom had a bunch of large, hi-definition setups put up for people to enjoy the first official location test for Marvel VS Capcom 3. Everyone that wasn't there to compete (or not just to compete) had plenty to keep themselves entertained with through the weekend.
If I was to point out what most improved from 2009, I would have to say the live stream and online coverage offered by the event in general. The massive undertaking was a collaboration put together by level|up, STiCKAM and G4TV. Everything went surprisingly well until the end (of course), where a single error managed to bring the stream down and leave a lot of people understandably upset, an unfortunate way for the most hyped fighting game stream of the year to end. It will probably be talked about for a long time until the next major event, and level|up will probably get a lot more criticism than they deserve. The fact of the matter is that something went wrong beyond the scope of what they had prepared for, and it marred their otherwise stellar effort for the entire weekend. I don't think enough props have been given to level|up for the quality of their stream and the colossal amount of effort they put into it, and I don't think the company should be defined by their one misstep. This Evolution was about growth, and it's perfectly normal to expect growing pains in every regard; one can only expect that level|up will learn from this mishap and that all future streams by them, possibly including Evolution 2011 next year, will be considerably better for it. That said, the commentary that was delivered this year was some of the best, with Keits and skisonic making their regular appearances, Seth Killian returning to the table as he did in 2009 for the finals and also featuring appearances by James Chen, Victor "dogface" Ratliff (who has been suspiciously quiet in the scene for a bit since his last Dogface Show) and Adam Sesslerfrom G4 himself to record the Evolution G4TV X-Play Special, which will be airing on July 20th. About 40,000 people were witnessing Evolution over the weekend simultaneously, and I can only think that the huge growth burst means that it's a matter of time before Evolution begins to reach hundreds of thousands of people in their homes through their television sets, with those numbers eventually climbing into the millions.
Bang the Machine was on Saturday night to close up the major festivities of the tournament, a poignant look into the past of the Street Fighter community and an interesting contrast to what it may hold in the future, with Peter Kang, the original producer, coming out to talk to the community about that project and a possible future project that will serve to illustrate that contrast. Seth Killian and Joey Cuellar (s-kill and MrWizard) collected the third and fourth Cannon awards at Evolution for their services to the fighting game community at large, the former for his writing and then his involvement with Capcom and the latter for helping Evolution take the big step it needed to take to become the major worldwide event it has transformed into.
Of course, there also happened to be a tournament going on over the weekend, and with everything I've had to say so far you'd almost believe that I'd already covered all the possible excitement over the weekend. While the most hyped-up game to go to finals was probably not quite so exciting in the end for SSF4 (Daigo won the entire thing, going completely undefeated through the tournament), a number of upsets during the semis and in Top 8 managed to keep the entire thing interesting. In between finals, Majestros debuted two new videos, the first more of an art piece than a strict combo video that called Super Fireball Battle, which is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, albeit much more awesome than what little the name implies. The second was a more straightforward combo video, and his efforts every year with his videos and his awesome contributions to the community in the work he puts in for the community netted him the third Cannon award of the weekend and the fifth such award given out at Evolution altogether. And if all of that just wasn't enough to get everyone hype, to build up the hype before each of the tournaments, each game was given a solid rap introduction by the community's very own redrapper, which culminated in the very awesome intro to SSF4 -- if you haven't seen it yet for whatever reason, I won't spoil it for you; go out there to Youtube, find it and watch it. It is worth it. The following is a (comparatively) short recap on the tournament finals themselves.
It was the very first time Melty Blood appeared on the big stage at Evolution. The lead choice for the community-voted game, it beat out a number of favorites such as Capcom VS SNK 2 for the final vote and made it into the event. The entries were modest compared to the entries for the other games (it attracted probably 10% of the players SSF4 did), and despite it being the first tournament to run in the morning at 9AM, the finals were still pretty hype and interesting. The visiting Japanese players did not dominate the top two spots although the tournament was won by a Japanese player. It was mentioned to me that the winner, Aruga, is one of the best players of the game in Japan, if not the best outright, so while he won the whole thing, that places 2-5 were not occupied by Japanese players speaks well of the Melty Blood community at large. If they make a repeat appearance in 2011 (which I wouldn't object to), they definitely have something to look forward to, now.
Clockw0rk dared us to dream in Marvel VS Capcom 2 as he almost made us doubt everything we thought we knew about the game by placing 3rd in the tournament with his classic Strider / Doom / Sentinel team. He played the Winner's finals against Sanford Kelly and just nearly sent him packing to the loser's bracket before falling and then losing to Justin Wong, who after being eliminated much too early in SSF4 focused all his attention to Marvel. The finals for the last year of Marvel VS Capcom 2 were decided by a classic showdown between the two eternal rivals of the game, Justin Wong and Sanford Kelly. Justin Wong beat Sanford somewhat handily after what seemed to be a strong start from Sanford, and Justin Wong fought out of the loser's bracket to win what may be the game's last tournament at Evolution. The commentary from Matrix and Yipes (who also placed in the Top 8 in the tournament) helped to keep Marvel 2's last hurrah pretty hype. Fun note: Marvel replaced BlazBlue after Evolution decided that the newest version would come out too close to the date of the tournament and that they'd rather not have the original version of the game at the tournament, leaving the door open for Marvel 2 to make its last probable return to the game roster. Thanks for the memories, MvC2.
Tatsunoko VS Capcom started with a match featuring Marn and Psychochronic, the latter of which both represented Canada's hopes and played one of the two giant robots, making the first match of the finals throw up a big red flag amongst the crowd watching the game as they were forced to watch some relatively unspectacular play. Things moved on rather quickly after that, with K Beast and Kurata quickly becoming crowd favorites with their stylish play. Kurasa's Doronjo seemed to do combos that would last forever, while KBeast's Yatterman-1 would keep attacking from all angles of the screen and pressing on with heavy rushdown that put Marn to the test in the grand finals. Marn managed to stay clutch and find his groove to walk away with the victory after getting demolished in the Winner's Finals by KBeast himself, proceeding to beat Justin in the Loser's finals and moving on to beat KBeast relatively handily in the Grand Finals.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix was perplexing in how it wound up playing out. The top two this year were not like the top two of last year, with some usual suspects present in the Top 8 but surprises being handed out all throughout the tournament, semis and finals. Cole put Daigo in the Loser's bracket in semis and fought his way to a 5th place finish while Daigo managed to push his way up to 4th before losing to Afrolegends' Boxer. DGV and Snake Eyes had other plans, however, keeping the more experienced players at bay and making the finals into a Ryu vs Zangief slugfest that went down the very last pixel of life, with Snake Eyes staying clutch and making the first ever Zangief top finish in ST / STHD.
The Women's Invitationals left me a bit perplexed. The level of play was substantially and perceivably lower than the main tournament, with only Kayane showing any semblance of knowledge of the game that could put her on a level to compete with the rest of the guys. The showing wasn't very good and it leaves me to wonder if it's just really that Street Fighter is more of a guy's playground and that it's difficult for a community with such heavily macho undertones to really provide an environment in which the female players would have a chance to honestly thrive. I can only hope that the level from these players in 2011 is much stronger and that the difference in quality of play between the invitational and the later event can serve to motivate the ladies to improve their game for next year. The female community of the game should take it as a challenge to step their game up. The rest of the community should take it as a challenge to help them along, as we originally did amongst ourselves to get to where we are now.
Tekken 6 felt like more of the same as we've seen so far with the game, with many different people managing to make top 8 with the win going to Nin's Steve Fox, who effortlessly cut through the competition to win the entire thing. After Tekken 6 there was a guest appearance by Harada, the producer for the Tekken series, who addressed the audience and community in general, thanking them for their support and promising more interaction between the community and the developers. He had a surprise for everyone however, as he invited Yoshinoro Ono on to the stage for them to have a bit of an exchange, where he revealed that Ono had a bit of an announcement he was going to make in the future, and to nag him a bit about it. Of course, the announcement was dated for Comic Con and it definitely stayed that way, but it was a fun exchange to watch and it gave something to talk about over the next few weeks.
Super Street Fighter IV was probably the most confusing of all the finals. A huge number of highly-rated players were missing entirely from the top 32, and a lot of highly ranked players were eliminated in the semifinals before they could reach the Top 8. Names like PR Rog, Gandido, Justin Wong, John Choi, Mike Watson, Marn, FlashMetroid, Combofiend, Ed Ma, Inthul, Sanford, Tokido, Gootecks, KSK... All of them were missing from the Top 8. Instead, this year, we had plenty of surprising dark horse picks and one familiar face sitting atop it all, also at one point on the verge of going down in the semifinals. It was interesting that the old guard seemed to be so heavily absent from the top 32 spots and that the notoriously difficult pools claimed so many players despite relatively favorable seeding separating a good number of the top players of the year away from each other.
Vangief made it into the top 8 after managing to squeak by Justin Wong's Rufus. A pad player, he played Zangief throughout the tournament and ended up going out to Ricky Ortiz, who counter-picked him by playing Chun-Li and sent him packing. His poking game was extremely strong and he was completely on point with his approach and zoning, but Ricky Ortiz was too strong for him (and for the rest of his competition) as he fought out of Loser's to earn the right to face Daigo in the Grand Finals. Gamerbee probably won the biggest upset of the entire tournament when he sent Justin Wong packing as he Jaguar Toothed and Rising Jaguared his way into the hearts of thousands of players with his ruthless Adon play. Abusing the strength of Adon's option selects, his strong normals and ridiculous uppercut, he made a huge case for top 3rd when he played against Mike Ross, who managed to squeak by a win with what can only be called absolutely clutch Honda play at the very end before he ran into the wall that was Infiltration's Akuma. Despite the exit, Mike Ross played at a level far beyond what we normally see from him, so it was no surprise to hear all the love that Mike Ross was getting from the crowd for his efforts. Shizza and Henry Cen almost just seemed happy to have made it as far as they had, turning in performances in Top 8 that saw them leave the Loser's bracket in the Top 8 almost as suddenly as they found themselves in it and that really didn't match up with the quality of play that they showed in the semifinals, being handily defeated by Ricky and Gamerbee. Daigo, of course, lived up the complete hype around his name and played a rather calculated finals against Ricky Ortiz that saw some flashes of brilliance out of Ricky but not enough of them to put Daigo's name in the Loser's bracket, with Daigo taking the first and only set necessary to declare him winner of the Evolution 2010 SSF4 tournament.
Soon after, with a few parting words from Ono and the Cannons, the weekend was over almost as soon as it began.
Every Evolution carries its own magic and mystique and this year was no exception. But it feels almost transitional, even moreso than 2009 did. With Marvel VS Capcom 3 right around the corner and fighting games suddenly becoming privy to the most international exposure they have ever received, the fighting game community is suddenly primed to explode in popularity and breadth, almost as much as it originally did when Street Fighter 4 was announced and, eventually, released. The real test as to whether it can hold up under this much scrutiny and whether there is more growth to be had begins now. With the number of high profile new games coming out soon, what will 2011 be like? KOF XIII? MvC3? A new version of Tekken 6? A new version of VF5?
We'll know in ~6 months. Until then, it's time to wait and see.
(There are no pictures posted yet, but pictures will soon be forthcoming.)
You know what that means?
It means no Pinchos.
Dreams everywhere.... crushed.
It's time for Evolution 2010, and it's time for me to get on a plane that will take me to Las Vegas to get there. I'll be going with my boy Danny Rivera and we'll be touching ground in Las Vegas at 9:30am or so LV time. We'll probably nap for a little before checking in to our rooms and then get ready for a glorious day of awesomeness.
Before we get on, however, we're headed to Final Round Arcade for some games, and afterwards we're going to Pinchoman so we can eat some of the delicious manna of the Gods (ie. Chicken Pincho Deluxe) before we actually go anywhere. You would be a complete fool to not come with us if you're in Miami, of course, so stop acting like a fool with your pants on the ground and come play and eat.
Give us a ring (if you know what's up)!
The weekend is quickly approaching. You've got your plane ticket to Las Vegas. You've made hotel reservations at one of the swankiest hotels on the strip, Caesar's Palace. You've touched base with your roommates. You fly out in the next couple of days. You're pretty much set for one of the most fun weekends of your life.
If you thought this was a review for the movie The Hangover, then you suffer from one of the following problems:
- You don't read my blog very often. Shame on you.
- You don't play Street Fighter competitively. You are probably a very successful person in life.
I am kidding, of course. You can be perfectly successful in life while playing competitive Street Fighter as long as your name is Justin Wong or Daigo Umehara, in which case you have contracts with companies who throw fairly good money in your direction to masterfully chuck a thousand fireballs at unwary opposition. The rest of you are like me, trying to find a way to balance Real Life with Hadokens, with (vastly) varying degrees of success (or failure).
The vast majority of people who will read this are people who have been to a major tournament before and know what to expect. But there are other, more inexperienced (read: stupid) souls out there that haven't had a chance to go to a big tournament. Maybe you've never been to an event of this magnitude before. Plenty of people will be popping their proverbial major tournament cherry with Evolution 2010, and a lot of these people may not feel as if they are completely ready for it. Sure, you've attended a few local tournaments where the brackets can, admittedly, get pretty big -- particularly now with the huge fighting game boom, thanks to SSF4. You definitely felt like you were the master when you did alright out of that 128-man bracket at that nearby tournament in a neighboring city, where people were so packed in such a small building that you thought you were going to run out of oxygen.
If you think this is going to be like that, I have news for you: you're both somewhat right and terribly, terribly wrong.
You will definitely feel like you're about to run out of oxygen, of course. It's just that the 128-man bracket won't be the entire tournament, that's just the first bracket that you'll try to qualify out of to reach the second part of the tournament. What that means is that there's about 16 of your local tournaments going on in the same day in one really big ballroom, which means you will feel both completely lost and intimidated on your first day.
Even with all of that, there's nothing to not love about Evolution, but if there was something about the entire package experience that you'd have to quickly learn to hate, it would probably be the "preparation" part. No doubt a lot of you went with the cheapest possible tickets that you could get to fly with, which means a lot of your flights start at 5 AM in the morning and have a connection or three somewhere along the line and get you there at 12 PM, Vegas time (which means you've spent roughly 10 hours in a plane or in airports). Alternatively, some of you are traveling in from overseas or South America, which means your plane trip is about three times more excruciating and claustrophobic than the flights of people in North America. I can already feel your excitement.
But don't be (too) afraid! If you haven't left for Vegas yet and you've never played in a major tournament, or would just like to be better prepared than the last time you showed up to one, here are some last-minute tips that will help keep your traveling experience pleasant and keep your money from vanishing overnight during your stay in Vegas.
Keep your pack light
I remember sharing my room last year with a semi-pro football player. This guy literally brought a huge bag in which he normally carries football gear to bring all his stuff in. While this was okay for him, because he was strong as hell -- that whole being a semi-pro football player and all -- this doesn't mean everyone is as strong as he is. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the vast majority of people who will be playing at this tournament fall under the more conservative "not very strong at all" category. It is important then that your skinny, sun-starved ass not bring anything larger than a backpack with the bare essentials necessary to survive and an additional place to carry your joystick (either an Evo stick sack, some other small bag, or just carrying it in plain view) so as to not crush your pathetically puny back with the overbearing weight of the military-grade survival pack you originally planned to pack.
Realistically, your ultimate goal should be to completely avoid having to check in baggage so that you can skip baggage claims entirely. Most airlines will let you carry on your main bag and your joystick without too much trouble, particularly if you tell them that one is your actual carryon and the other can be considered as something that will be resting on your lap or under the chair. Not all airlines and airports are cool with this, but the vast majority seem to be. It'll be next to impossible to fit a bag with your stuff while also carrying your stick separately, so be prepared to check bags in if your "carry on" looks like it would need to pay for its own seat.
A lot of you also have trouble understanding what bare essentials really consists of. A lot of the stuff you're going to use can be actually acquired at the strip at the nearby CVS. Your very bare essentials boil down to clothes to wear, unless you're insane and like buying clothes at Vegas and then discard them shortly thereafter. So if you're a pretty normal guy, find a good-sized backpack or duffle bag that you can take as a carry on, and start with the following items:
- 2 pairs of pants/shorts
- 4 shirts, preferably with one nicer shirt (decent polo or something)
- 4 sets of underwear
- 4 pairs of socks
- 1 extra pair of shorts
Most people are thinking, "why not a third set of pants?" Well, because you'll be hopefully wearing a pair around in public when you get on the plane. If you're using jeans, jeans can be reused for one day without it being a massive problem unless they get dirty. If you're pretty clean, you can get away with one set for a couple of days, and if not then there's probably a place in the hotel where you can do emergency laundry. You may want to investigate this before packing two pair of pants only, if that's the case. Of course, if the amount of pants you're bringing is a problem, just pack more pants. The extra pair of shorts can be swimming trunks or athletic shorts; the goal here is that if you plan on using the pool or gym for some reason, you actually can. If not, don't bother unless you just want a cooler-temperature backup. Also, you can probably skimp on one of the shirts if you plan on making it to the tournament early enough to scoop up your attendee t-shirt, since you will be packing it on your way back.
Many people also like to bring their own towels. Towels take up a lot of space in a pack, so either go with a relatively smaller towel, or just make sure you ask for extra towels for your hotel room very, very early in your stay. Hotel rooms seem to be stocked with ~4 small-to-medium sized towels, most people use two of these for some reason. If you have 4 people in your room, get 4 more towels. Get them changed constantly, too (harass the cleaning ladies for more).
Now, let's move on to the personal hygiene stuff. This can be purchased at CVS, but sometimes it's just better to take your own in case you're really picky about what you use. Here's a suggested list with things that will be easy to fit along with your clothes:
- deodorant (antiperspirant -- no exceptions)
- toothbrush / toothpaste
- shampoo (if you use it; a small bottle will do)
- hair gel (if you use it; a small bottle will do)
- louffa (if you use one, bring your own soap too)
- hand sanitizer (it's sold everywhere already anyways, take advantage)
- small pack of baby wipes (if you take violent dumps)
Hotels provide soap, most of the time. Hotel soap also sucks, most of the time. Bring soap you like if it'll make you happier. Also, a lot of people are going to see the baby wipes and think I'm insane. I have news for you: if people tend to say you smell like ass despite using deodorant, then chances are that it's your actual ass doing the damage. Use these after you make longer pit stops at the restroom. People who have to play with you will thank you.
Shave, shit and shower before you go
Try to do this as late as you can without it making you late for your trip. If you know it takes you an hour to get to the airport and checked in, make sure you've completed all the biological needs you can handle, shaved and showered roughly about three hours before the plane leaves so that you can be at the airport about two hours early. Feeling clean will go a long way towards making your plane ride somewhat enjoyable as it'll take longer for you to feel like a grimy son of a bitch.
Try not to eat a heavy dinner and don't eat a ton before you leave so you don't have sudden bathroom urges on the plane, or worse, in an airport in North Carolina. And if you can help it, avoid eating airport food, unless trips to the bathroom are something you look forward to. You also don't want to have an upset stomach when you get on a plane, and eating light goes a long way to alleviate that. If you think you'll have trouble with getting hungry, move on to the next step.
It's completely normal to get hungry at the tournament and on the plane or in a random airport in the middle of nowhere. You'll probably need to eat something to survive, and it's not always conducive to head out and find something to eat at short notice. To curtail this, I suggest you bring with you something that's both edible and relatively filling that you can quickly eat in an emergency.
I personally recommend Clif Bars as they're good for you, have plenty of carbs and protein and thus will fit into most reasonable diets, and they're goddamned tasty. Extra points if you can score a bottle of 1% milk somewhere to have it with (~400-500 total calories, which is enough for a meal and will easily last you a plane ride). You will need the carbs for your mind to operate clearly and to be able to withstand what amounts to a rough bunch of hours of playing.
If you're the kind of person that can't fucking operate in the morning without coffee, Folgers sells these little teabag-style coffee singles that brew a cup per bag. Bring a few. Don't like Folgers? Tough shit, you should've thought about that before you started drinking coffee every morning to feed your caffeine addiction. (Like I have.)
Drink lots of water
Water can be purchased in bottles everywhere. There's also water fountains at a lot of places, so you can get away with buying a single bottle of water and refilling as often as necessary in between matches. You will definitely need a bit of water, considering how ridiculously hot it is in Vegas if you decide to step outside for any reason (like enjoying Vegas outside of Evo).
One thing that water does a good job of is to help you regulate hunger. This means that you won't randomly get hungry, you'll just get hungry at the right times. Gatorade really isn't a replacement for water in this case because you aren't running a marathon. Try to avoid exclusively drinking soda, as tons of soda will eventually make you feel like absolute shit.
Take advantage of catering
If Evolution decides to cater the event again, make sure you take early and quick advantage of catering -- but don't overdo it. Get whatever snacks you can that will fill you up a decent amount and that look like they won't crush your stomach with the runs seconds after you eat. You want to stick to stuff that won't immediately crash through your system out into a bathroom stall. If the catering doesn't look like it'll hold you over, try to avoid buffets despite the obvious "advantage" of being able to get all you can eat, unless it's the end of the day at the tournament for you and you don't mind spending the rest of the day attempting to digest the colossal mountain of food you just put in your system.
Shave, shit and shower at the hotel, too
What, you thought that first time before you left your house was good enough for the rest of the tournament? Fat chance, slobbo. Make sure you're nice and clean before the tournament starts so that you feel great when you play and so that you're not a biohazard to the rest of the patrons. If people can spot you by your stank at a hundred paces, you need to clean up. If you take grimy dumps, that's what you packed baby wipes for. Use them, asshole. (Around your asshole, preferably.)
You don't really have to shave, but it might help you not look like a hobo by the end of the tournament. In the end, you know whether you'll need to or not.
Don't buy tons of shit
This might seem pretty obvious, but if your goal is just to go to Evolution and enjoy your time there, try not to go wild with Tourism-influenced Stupidity and keep your purchases to a minimum. Chances are you'll get more things than you took to leave at the tournament itself, so you don't want to overload your pack with shit that isn't necessary. If you planned on doing this in the first place, the packing guide here isn't for you: you will probably need to check bags in.
Hopefully, all of these tips can help make your trip to Evolution 2010 a smashing success. If your tournament experience sucks even after you follow all of these, then it's likely that you made the mistake of actually calling one of the phone numbers on the Whorémon cards that they hand out on the Strip and had one of them visit your room, leaving you with multiple different cases of STDs, the flu and broke.
I'm kidding, of course, the majority of you wouldn't know what to do with those cards anyways.
300 million people were rooting for the USMNT this Saturday, putting their confidence, hopes and prayers behind a squad that had thus far been, to say the least, electrifying. A squad that wouldn’t call it quits. The USMNT had excelled at making their suddenly rabid, newfound followers believe in their dream.
That dream ended that same Saturday, after 120’ some odd minutes of ridiculously close play that ended up in defeat for the Americans, leaving us thinking about what could have been and what is left in the future for them.
Bob Bradley’s team couldn’t find a way to make lightning strike twice in a long, drawn out confrontation between the US and Ghana. After Dempsey broke in to attack Ghana inside the box and got knocked down to give Landon Donovan the equalizing penalty goal, the American offense came ridiculously close to making history but were simply unable to finish their chances.
But while things have broken down now for the American team, there is still much more to hope for and look forward to. American eyes have been opened to the highest level of play in the game, and have seen proof before and now that the Americans definitely have the skills necessary to compete at the international level – and to make it interesting in the process. Their run in the Confederations Cup and now their admittedly short-lived but magical presence in the World Cup can only bode well for the future of American soccer.
On Landon Donovan’s Future
For you US fans, it may come as a bit of a surprise to know that, for once, the majority of the high level talent in a sport the US plays does not actually come from the US itself. Being a more international sport means that the US does not hold the strongest league, and therefore the really good players in the US tend to move away from the country to play at a much higher level. This might sound boring if you want to be a local fan, but it has the benefit of producing much better results at the international level of play when some players do manage to make splashes outside of the country.
Landon Donovan had a brief spell in Everton over in the English Premier League for ten weeks when he was loaned out to them by the LA Galaxy. He instantly made a great impression with the team, displaying a level of maturity and skills that made him such a favorite now in the World Cup. Now, he can carry this momentum to what might be a much more lucrative and interesting contract: the possibility that he might be able to play for Manchester City in the English Premier League.
The team, in its search for domination of the Premier League, appears to have inquired about his services from the MLS, as well as having sent a number of scouts to watch his games. While Everton had often inquired about his services after Donovan made an immediate impact in his time playing for the Toffees, Manchester City is definitely much likelier to be able to match or even exceed whatever amount of money Everton may be offering. Manchester City will also feature a much more powerful line up as it will be very able to come up with the money to offer players of the highest caliber, which could be either a clincher or deal-breaker for Donovan – he may not be willing to go to the team if he feels he will not get significant starting time, whereas he will immediately play for Everton if a deal is ever finalized. At least, it is safe to say that Landon Donovan’s services are highly valued, and for good reason. I hope he can land himself the best deal for him; he is aging, and come 2014, he will be needed if the USA plan on making their dreams come true. And for Landon, a 2014 World Cup victory would be the ultimate curtain call.
On Michael Bradley’s Future
Michael Bradley has the advantage of being 22 and already being part of a highly competitive and powerful league in the German Bundesliga, playing for Borussia Mönchengladbach. His experience on composure were on full display in every single one of his games, leading up to and including his equalizing goal against Slovenia on what would have been one of the greatest comeback victories in soccer history and what would have also been a much more magical moment than the victory over Algeria had the third goal after Bradley’s actually counted.
Regardless of how screwed or not the team got, Michael Bradley will have plenty of time to develop at Gladbach – if he can even stay there long enough before a bigger, more lucrative contract falls on his lap. There have been plenty of reports around the write that a number of bigger clubs have been looking at the young Bradley and have been suitably impressed with his ability in the midfield, and he might just be able to translate his great displays at the 2010 World Cup into a big contract with a big team – and to surround himself with the best of the best in terms of competition, which is necessary if we expect our team to grow.
On Charlie Davies’ Future
The Sochaux striker was absent for this World Cup following a potentially life-ending injury in a car accident that curtailed his available time to his French club, leaving him unable to make the roster due to contractual obligations to the club. He is, however, still 24 and has plenty of room to grow and develop into a top level talent, with his Confederations Cup performance the year before and his memorable goal against Mexico in Estadio Azteca being the highlights of his skill and ability.
A lot can be said about why the US team could not really finish and capitalize on its opportunities, and it’s easy to point out that one of the major reasons for all of that was Davies’ absence. Ostensibly one of the finest strikers to have come out of the USA, his absence in 2010 will only serve to prepare America for his eventual appearance in the 2014 World Cup, which would come with a much larger amount of experience and development under his belt. Bradley may be the current wunderkind of US soccer right now, but it’s Davies who, currently out of the spotlight, will develop into the USA’s lead goalscorer. All he will need is time.
There is obviously a lot more to say about the USMNT that I have yet to touch upon, but that will have to be another time. There is still much to be said about players like Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Jay DeMerit...
However, there’s still the matter of Mexico to talk about, and I think I’ll have to speak about one thing before I even touch there… and that’s a long, long chat about FIFA officiating, possible match-fixing and also the lack of technology being implemented into the game, and what that actually means for the actual integrity of the game, notions of “purity” be damned.
Let me preface with something here: I've just had the most miserable weekend of my life.
Without getting into the details of the 7 good hours of my life that the Marlins stole from me that I can never get back, this weekend was a complete tragedy of errors and disappointment in so many ways that coming to work on Monday seemed like a great way to get away from it all.
While I'd love to start the day talking about soccer, I think I'm going to vent a little bit about the Marlins first. They took up most of my weekend anyway, so might as well take a good chunk of my Monday morning, too.
Let me get started then by pointing out the most obvious fact: the Marlins are lost.
Absolutely, completely and utterly lost. The Marlins are currently playing with a listlessness that I thought I could only find from employees at an international conglomerate making minimum wage for horrifying work. Here we have people that are making serious bank for swinging a bat at a small white ball, and they are completely cocking everything up. And it's disturbing.
What's worse is that now what seemed like what was to be a quick change between managers (Fredi to Valentine) is now up in the air. Now we don't know when and even if Bobby Valentine is going to come and manage the Marlins. We're sending Edwin Rodríguez out to manage the games in Puerto Rico. The players may tell you anything they want about how firing Fredi hasn't had a negative effect on the ball club, but I'd say the opposite is true. And it shows. The only players that are still putting any significant effort into things are the ones you've come to expect this kind of hustle from now. Cantú. Gaby. Uggla. Stanton's bat has only been loud in the amount of air it's pushing back into the outfield. Loria still hasn't committed to his team's victory by really trying to put together a bullpen.
All of these things are just going to sink the team in the end, and for someone who says he's "completely committed" to winning, Loria just isn't holding up his end of the bargain. As long as this bullpen remains and this uncertainty sits above the ball club, my weekends watching the Marlins will continue to be colossal wastes of time, and I will continue to be monumentally angry every time I have to attend those absurdly boring games.
But what can Loria do? There aren't really any pitchers available in the market right now and everyone commands a huge price. Well, Loria, here's what I think you should do. First off, Logan Morrison is a tremendous bat, but he's supposed to not have Mike Stanton's upside and we're clogged in the outfield anyways. You have a choice to make: either expedite Logan's arrival to the Marlins and essentially give up on the season by piecing away our other free-market / arbitration-eligible production (Uggla, Cody, Cantú), or "mortgage the future" as they say and trade away Logan for relief help. But look for real relief help.
That isn't quite up your alley? Then get a little creative with your selection. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Pat Venditte. He's thrown 41 innings of 1.98 ERA in the minors this year. His WHIP is .902, his HR/9 is .9, and he's only given up a single home run in that entire time. Yes, so it's A+, but he's doing really well for A+ and the Yankees seem adamant about not giving the kid a shot. Guess what we need? Again, we need relievers, and this guy comes with two arms that he can pitch with. Bring him over, move him up to AA then to AAA as fast as you can manage, and see how he holds up. If he's for real, you just got a sudden great injection of bullpen help. If it isn't, then whatever, you likely did not have to give up a lot for him in the first place.
Looking more inside for help? Well how creative do you want to get? It can be said that our bullpen isn't really helping us, so maybe we just need to eliminate the factor of the bullpen coming out as much as we can. Let's go Japanese here. Bring up Sean West. Make him the 6th man in the rotation. This sound crazy to you?
It's not as crazy as you think. Japanese pitchers typically pitch once every week in 6-men rotations, and since the Japanese baseball league always guarantees a day off every week, you end up having an entire week off between starts every start. While this won't happen in the majors, that's still a whole extra day of time off for each starter that might let them pitch deeper into games. Alternatively, you can still take them out, but you will effectively allow all of your starters to be a "pinch reliever" in certain games by having the time they take between starts to replace their bullpen with a relief appearance (which they will have more time to recover from). If all else fails and radical change is too out there for you, just bring up Sean West and move Robertson to the pen. He's good, he's left-handed and he will be able to gobble up tons and tons of innings.
Badenhop, by the way, looks like he's been righting the ship down in AAA. He may be ready to get called up. So, do it already. Why is Veras on the team? Why is Veras even an option? Why do you insist on using guys like Veras, Houser and Pinto when they're absolute garbage? You already got rid of Pinto, get rid of the rest of the trash. You want to win, don't you?
And while we're at it, please throw Mike Lamb back into whatever dumpster you found him in. There has to be someone out there in AA or AAA that has a hot bat that you can bring up to replace him that is slightly more interesting. Maybe you can find a bench-riding clutchy dude somewhere in the AL that just really wants more at bats; with all the pinch-hitting opportunities he'll get with us (apparently plenty), you might as well give someone else a shot. Mike Lamb is old, washed up and can't hit to save his life -- or ours. I feel more confident with Bonifacio or Anibal at the plate than Lamb, and that's depressing.
And let's just finish all of this up by saying that I would love to be a scouting assistant and an assistant to the general manager for the Marlins. I will pore over all of these ridiculous minor league kids for you. Give me pseudo-free reign with an airline (I hear Jetblue might like that) and pay me and I'll fly around and look everywhere I can think of to find relief help. I'll even scout Eri Yoshida for you if you even have the mildest interest in her. At this point we need all the help we can get, so we might as well look.
Yes, I'm writing something about the USA and Mexico teams' performance in the World Cup thus far. Yes, you can read it soon. No, I can't write it right now. Yes, it will be like a preview to this weekend's games. Yes, I think it'll be pretty good. Yes, Fredi González was fired as Marlins manager. No, I don't know why either.
With all that out of the way, I'd like to note to you that Pinchoman is now offering a new menu item over in his majestic white truck: the Turkey Burger. If it sounds pretty straightforward, it's because it is: it's a turkey patty stuck between burger buns and generously doused in the classic Pinchoman sauces, including a bit of cheese sauce, barbecue sauce and the by-now-standard shoestring potatoes.
The thing that surprised me the most here (well, not so surprising in retrospect now that I think about it) is that it is actually delicious. The one I got was probably way too over-sauced (which is Ricky's way of sometimes compensating for flavor), but the thing is that the turkey meat's flavor works a lot better in a patty than it does in meatballs, so it doesn't need all that sauce to help it. It's delightfully soft and moist as it is, and I think the over-saucing actually kind of mutes some of the flavor that's in the turkey itself. Just toning down the sauce would be upgrade enough as it were.
Anyway, expect a nice little piece on the impact the USA have have on the beautiful game today or tomorrow with a Mexico and USA preview for the knockout stages, and then another one with my thoughts on the Marlins' firing of Fredi González (which still makes virtually no sense to me right now).
Unless you live under a rock, don't read my blog very often, or just really, really don't care at all about soccer (which if you're American isn't entirely unexpected), then you are very aware that the 2010 FIFA World Cup is underway in South Africa. While it was initially criticized as being somewhat drab for its low scoring games, the tournament has heated up as of late as the players on each of the tournament's 32 squads slowly settle in and become more familiar with the terrain and the ball. A lot of the initial draws that some of these teams have managed have been at the very least extraordinarily impressive upsets, and we've even seem some teams upset others that were heavy favorites to win with clutch performances and solid defense.
Of course, it wouldn't be a huge, major international sporting event without a large amount of rather unnecessary drama on and off of the pitch, which is part of what makes this one of the most exciting World Cups so far. Some of it is amusing and can almost be considered justice, and some of it is absolute trash.
I'll start things on the more sour notes, so that we can finish strong.
Refereeing in South Africa 2010 is abysmal
If you've been following the USA's run in the World Cup so far, then you are well aware of the absolutely horrid call against the USA in their match against Slovenia, which nullified what would have been their game-winning goal following their trailing 0-2 at half-time. The squad for the Stars and Stripes had to settle for an incredibly unsatisfying 2-2 draw against Slovenia after Maurice Edu was apparently called for a foul that he never committed. Replays show that Slovenian players were likely responsible for a number of fouls in that free kick that weren't called; instead, a mystery foul was called by referee Koman Coulibaly on no particular player on what was later stated to be no particular offense.
In other words, USA simply had a goal disallowed because the referee pretty much felt like it. Astonishing.
While that was probably the worst call of the entire tournament so far, there have been a great deal of calls so far that have been almost nearly as ridiculous, or at the very least that have caused a tremendous impact in the result of a game where they should not have.
Take Germany vs Serbia. Miroslav Klose was sent out of the game after committing an extraordinarily soft foul after being awarded a yellow card earlier for what was probably an even softer foul called on him. Serbia won that game 1-0 against a 10-man Germany, a shocking result considering that Germany, even with 10 men, is still a force to be reckoned with, particularly for a much smaller nation like Serbia.
How about Italy vs New Zealand? New Zealand scored an improbable but early goal to put themselves up against the reigning world champions 1-0. The Italians, of course, weren't going to let that stand. Being absolute masters of playing the game the wrong way by cheating your way into the score box, Daniele de Rossi gave a pretty convincing performance by taking a tumble in the penalty area, which the referee awarded for a penalty shot which allowed Italy to equalize the score. In a bit of justice, New Zealand did not allow any more goals against them for the rest of the day, giving the kiwis another point and a realistic shot at qualifying for the knockout stages; to do so, however, they will have to defeat red-hot Paraguay. Not impossible, but not simple to do either. Think about it this way: had Italy not cheated their way into a tying goal, New Zealand would be tied with Paraguay in the lead of Group F. How ironic that Italy did this exact same thing to another country from Oceania last World Cup, using a dive to get a penalty on a clean tackle against Australia. How disgusting that the only way they, the defending champions of last year, could do it is this way.
How about the Sunday night game of Brazil vs Cote d'Ivoire? I was looking forward to a great game between the two, and while it somewhat turned into a killing thanks to Brazil's extraordinarily talented Luis Fabiano responded to Dunga's faith in him by pounding a pair of goals into the Ivorians' net, while they could only respond with a single well-timed goal scored by Drogba on a solid header to the side of the goal. If the story ended there, then you could've considered it a pretty good game, but instead it somewhat devolved into a rather rough game where the Ivorians probably got away with a lot more than they should have (including some raised-spike tackles and stomps on players' legs), and later on a ridiculous sending off of Brazil's Kaká after he apparently elbowed Cote d'Ivoire's Kader Keita in the chest (and after getting a yellow card earlier for a seemingly innocuous play). Far be it from me to defend the Yankees of Fútbol for anything they do on the pitch, but Kaká should probably not have been sent to the showers at all during that match. His carding was already suspect considering what the Ivorians were doing for a good deal of the match -- and I was rooting for them.
Then there's the game that was just played between Chile and Switzerland. Valon Behrami was sent off on an immediate red card for essentially what was probably only a yellow card at most. Khalil Al Ghamdi handed out 9 yellow cards and a red card in that game, which the Chileans won 1-0 with a goal very late in the game, around the 75th minute, taking advantage of an undermanned Swiss squad that has ample chance to still tie the game despite the disadvantage.
So, to summarize all of this: the officiating has been absolutely terrible. There's no explanation for half of the terrible calls made this year, with the epitome of them being the call that's put the USA in a hell of a tight spot to qualify for this year's Round of 16. If the USA can't pull off a great game against Algeria (who have been looking surprisingly tough after their first game loss to Slovenia), then you'd better believe that the press and, well, just about everyone else is going to be complaining very loudly to FIFA in the upcoming months. They might be doing it anyways.
Well, everyone except the Slovenians, of course.
Let's move on to drama that's quite a bit more amusing.
Ireland is vindicated: France is falling apart
First there's the fact that Mexico beat France for the first time ever in a World Cup, routing them in a 2-0 win in which Mexico looked like the superior team for every single one of the ~90 minutes they spent on the pitch. People all over Ireland quickly went to cash in on the free Pizza Hut pizzas offered for every goal that France conceded in the World Cup, a quirky and great way to celebrate the beating that France took in that game. After only managing a lame tie to Uruguay in their opening game, France is now in an incredibly perilous situation in Group A, having scored absolutely no goals yet in the tournament, having given up two, and being tied with South Africa with only a single point to their name.
Then, a short time after that game, Nicolas Anelka, apparently fed up with the team's terrible performance and the lackadaisical attitude displayed by their head coach Raymond Domenech, jumped into an expletive-laced tirade at the head coach which led to the player's dismissal. As a result, the national team refused to practice on Sunday in protest of the decision to dismiss Anelka after handing a written statement to Domenech about how they felt that Anelka was dismissed for what they considered to be a way to defend themselves against the press.
It gets worse. Jean-Louis Valentin, the team director, resigned on the spot after the entire debacle. Robert Duverne, the fitness coach, got into a spat with Patrice Evra upon which he threw away his credentials in disgust and walked off. Patrice Evra has already been quoted as saying that France has suddenly found itself being a "small football nation," which cannot have sat well with any of the French fans.
So what's causing all of this? Some theorize that the fact that Raymond Domenech was actually told he was fired but would see the team to the end of the World Cup is not helping things. The team altogether looks entirely listless; France are showing themselves to be a boring squad that cannot muster any energy out of its own players, who altogether are showing no unity on the pitch despite showing a surprisingly amount of defensiveness off of it. Being in danger of elimination if they cannot beat South Africa in their next game, France's life in the cup is hanging on the thinnest of threads, and so far there are no signs that the French will be able to make things right quickly enough to turn in a decent performance against South Africa.
So seeing that France has decided to stereotypically surrender when the flames get hot, it seems that the race to qualify in Group A has really come down to whether Mexico and Uruguay feel comfortable enough tying against each other to move on from the group, leaving putrid France and unlucky South Africa behind.
The whole of Ireland, of course, is likely to be laughing at all of this.
Group C: what the USA has to do
England is also now in dire straits, needing to defeat Slovenia in their last group game to be able to qualify for the knockout stages. The USA will advance if they win, and can advance if they tie depending on the results of their other games.
- Slovenia: 1 win, 1 draw, 0 loss (4 points) (3 goals, +1 GD)
- USA: 0 win, 2 draw, 0 loss (2 points) (3 goals, 0 GD)
- England: 0 win, 2 draw, 0 loss (2 points) (1 goal, 0 GD)
- Algeria: 0 win, 1 draw, 1 loss (1 point) (0 goals, -1 GD)
Slovenia vs England will make or break whether the English can qualify at all, but now the last game has much less effect on USA's chances to qualify.
These are all the possible outcomes, depending entirely on the game between Slovenia and England:
- If England wins, they get 5 points, Slovenia stays stranded at 4. The USA will have to win to advance, but by winning they stand to win their entire group if they have a higher goal differential.
- If they draw, Slovenia gets 6 points (advances), England gets 3 points. If the USA outscores England (ie. England does not score at all against Slovenia, or ties 1-1), USA can draw to advance. Slovenia will win the group regardless of USA's outcome.
- If Slovenia wins, they get 7 points, England 2. USA can draw to advance. Slovenia will win the group regardless of USA's outcome.
The easiest result achievable depends on Slovenia beating England. The second-easiest result will be if England and Slovenia draw, but will require some scoring from the Americans, particularly if they decide to play the same sloppy defense they've been playing the last few games.
The hardest result will be if England beats Slovenia. The USA will have no choice but to win their final game against Algeria, which does not look very easy considering the mercurial nature of both the referees, Algeria's team and USA's defense. It will not be an easy game, but the USA should be only thinking about victory regardless of any other team's outcome.
The USA's future rests solely in the team's own hands. If they can win their last game, they have a bright future ahead of them, particularly if England can, as expected, beat Slovenia. The USA coming out on top of their own group would be great for the team as they will have to face a lower seeded team coming out, and it puts them in prime position to make it far in the tournament. For their sake, and the sake of American soccer, let's hope they do well.
Because, honestly, it'd be great if they finally considered an MLS expansion to Miami. I want a local soccer team to root for that's not Miami FC, damnit.
Joe Cappozi reports that Scott Strickland has just been called up to the 25-man roster, since Clay Hensley has been moved to the disabled list with some sort of neck pain.
Some other moves also came with this one. They've finally decided to send Cameron Maybin back down to AAA and have recalled Mike Lamb for the third time. Hopefully Cameron can once again try to fix up whatever problems he's having at bat. I wonder if the problem with him is no longer an actual problem and if it's all just mostly in his head. He looks to have the skills but he can't put anything together with them, and that's depressing.
I'm also kind of surprised we brought up Mike Lamb instead of Brett Carroll, since Brett gives you more value defensively on top of being about as good of a hitter as Lamb is. At least BC can hit a bomb (or a pinch-hit, game-winning single) every now and then.
Don't be surprised if Sean West gets called up soon to move Robertson to the pen since West has been tearing it up in the minors (2.04 ERA) and he's due to get called up soon, honestly. We need the pitching help.
As for Strickland? so far has been 3-0 with a 1.72 ERA in 15 2/3 innings; which means he's been sorely underutilized. I like the move, though. This isn't a move like bringing up Ayala, who managed to suck at every level. I'm still skeptical, but this is more of a Brian Sanches move to me, where a guy can't seem to find time in the majors, has almost given up but decides to stick around for just long enough to get called up. He hasn't been seen by major leaguers in forever and apparently his stuff is pretty good.
This might not instill a lot of confidence but he's essentially a less terrible, right-handed Pinto. The difference is that Strickland will come up hungry to make an impact so that he can stick to the roster.
- Renyel Pinto has finally been designated for assignment. God really does exist, after all! We don't expect to see him back in a Marlins jersey, and that's just fine.
- Badenhop seems like he still needs to fix his stuff. His ERA is 3.38 in AAA right now, which isn't much to write home about. I also don't think they're playing him very often, which is perplexing.
- Why aren't we seeing Logan Morrison yet? I suppose we're saturated at every position at this moment, but is he as important of a part of the team's future as Stanton, Gaby, Hanley and our other young pitchers? Could he possibly be a good chip to be used in a trade? Because we need help, and I bet dangling Morrison would make some teams give up some interesting pieces.
- We just recently got swept by the Texas Rangers. God damn it. Also, in that span of time, Mike Stanton hasn't been doing much of anything at all. I think he went something like 0-16 in that three game series. I'm giving him time like we gave Coghlan time, but hopefully he can figure it out a bit faster than it took Coghlan to.
- Mexico beat France in the World Cup, 2-0. The USA also just finished making an impressive comeback against Slovenia (with one of the goals a beauty by Landon Donovan), which they should've won 3-2 except for a disallowed goal that had been scored by the USA left it at a 2-2 tie. The USA need England to maul Argelia and Slovenia, and the USA need to maul Argelia if they want to advance. (Actually, they want England vs Slovenia to end in anything BUT a tie.)
Hopefully the Marlins can beat the Rays up this weekend, because if they fall any deeper into the hole they're carving for themselves, this incarnation of the Florida Marlins may never get the chance tor try and climb back out.