Friday, November 4, 2011

Going Suds Up: The Best Soccer, The Best Beers

By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer and Aston Villa Correspondent

Sorry guys, but I refuse to give up my standing whisky at the dive bar date in order to wait until Houston Dynamo – Philadelphia Union and Los Angeles Galaxy – New York Red Bulls are finished and I can give you a decent recommendation for the MLS semi-finals. Besides, I’m still smarting (kinda like Brad Evans and Alvaro Fernandez are) from the disappointment of the Seattle Sounders. Geez, why couldn’t Osvaldo Alonso show up in the first leg against Real Salt Lake? Just thinking back to that match drives me to drink. But I promise, American soccer fans, you’ll get a column from me involving the final.

Moving on. 

This week we’ve got plenty of action before the international break. Unfortunately, a lot of what is televised is boring. Blackburn – Chelsea? Come on now, who wants to watch that? And since I’m still angry about the ridiculously physical play against Seattle, I don’t really want to promote any sort of typically English style of play – so let’s tune out that Bolton – Stoke City match. Instead, I’m climbing back on my high horse and demand that everyone watch Italian calcio this Sunday. But if one person uses the words “boring” or “defensive” to describe the style, I swear I will hunt you down and take away your beer. You have been warned.

AC Milan v Catania (Sunday, November 6 at 8AM CT on Fox Soccer)

Photo Credit: 365Beers
There are two major reasons for watching this match. First, Catania under former Roma coach Vincenzo Montella are performing tremendously well. The Elephants are currently sixth in Serie A, primarily due to Montella’s attacking style. They’ve yet to lose at home, and fight hard to find a draw on the road. But the trip to the San Siro will be their toughest yet, with Milan back on form in the league and doing their best to climb back up to the top.

The other reason to tune in to this match is to see how the rossoneri will function without Antonio Cassano. In case you haven’t heard, the Milan forward came down with a mystery illness after last week’s match, and now has been diagnosed with a heart condition that will require surgery, leaving him out of contention for at least three months, but most likely longer. Although Cassano doesn’t always start, he’s been a force for Milan and Italy thus far this season, and his contributions will almost certainly be missed.

Rogue Ales “HazelNut” Brown Ale (Newport, OR): This one’s for you, Fantantonio. It’s the closest beer I can find to capturing the spirit of Nutella, one of the finest things in life. It has a gorgeous pour, deep red brown with a thick, slowly dissipating head that leaves a faint lacing. This brown has a malty, roasted aroma with, obviously, a hazelnut streak. It tastes like coffee, chocolate, and hazelnut…like drinking that spoonful of Nutella.

Napoli v Juventus (Sunday, November 6 at 12:45PM CT on Fox Soccer)

Ay dios mio. This is a match where yours truly needs a strong, strong beer or possibly twenty. Seeing as half of the Twitter-verse believes I am a Juventina, I follow a lot of Juve supporters – and they’re going to be firey on Sunday. But that’s not the worst of it for this Vesuviana. No, it’s that Napoli are currently underperforming in the league, sitting fifth, while the Old Lady are top of the table and remain undefeated.
And if you still think Italian teams are boring and defensive, watch this match and have a laugh. Both teams are both spastic and entertaining, whether it’s a counter-attack or a hilarious miss. And their defenses…well, just watch and see.

Stone Brewing 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA: Oh sweet 10%+ABV – you will be my saving grace this Sunday. The smell of this one makes it seem like you’re about to drink a porter: chocolate and coffee, a bit of toast. But then you taste it and it’s so much more than that, tasting first like caramel malts, but ending with a bitter grapefruit finish. Probably much in the manner of this match.

 About Kirsten

I may be a law student at Lewis and Clark, but soccer is my true love, with beer coming in a distant second. That’s not to say I don’t love beer–I’ve tasted over a thousand different brews, and listed many of them onRatebeer. Living in Portland, Oregon, I attend quite a few festivals and tastings, and am able to argue passionately about the merits of Cascade hops vs. Chinook. 

As for the soccer, I’m the Managing Editor of SB Nation’s Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte, the Italy Editor for SB Nation Soccer, and cover the Seattle Sounders on SBN Seattle (don’t judge–I’m from Seattle!) Finally, I write for Two Footed Tackle when I find words worthy enough for the site. Want more? Follow me on Twitter!

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?


We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It’s called “Brews and Views” and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We’ve got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we’ll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we’re asking our respondents the question, “Why American soccer?”.

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we’ve got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world’s game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It’s ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men’s National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA’s Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, “Why American soccer?”, then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that’s like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.


By Miriti Murungi /
MLS has been around for almost 5,700 days. That’s it.
On Day One, April 6, 1996, the San Jose Clash squared off against eventual champions DC United. At kickoff, the Internet as we know it today was a pipedream, analog cell phones were only in the pockets a few people who had hobbies like collecting classic cars and wine appreciation, Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg was an eleven year old harboring dreams of being sued, and #Twitter was ten years from launch. So many products, services and ideas that are now integral parts of our existence were isolated in the minds of science fiction writers and dismissed by countless others as utterly ridiculous. But that’s the story of human history, isn’t it?
If you tried to articulate what American soccer would look like in 2011 back on April 6, 1996, your family and friends wouldn’t be crazy to consider checking you into a facility where you would share sessions with the Lindsay Lohan of 1996, Robert Downey, Jr. But time has a way of catching up, and soon, our ridiculous science fiction fantasies become reality. That’s true in technology and soccer.
In context, five thousand seven hundred days isn’t a long time. In fact, one hundred years isn’t a very long time. One hundred years sounds like an eternity for many of us who are only several decades old, but one hundred years is also the age of a number of really old people, people who have seen society evolve in remarkable ways over the past century.
My surprisingly mobile, Kenyan grandmother is at least one hundred years old, but probably closer to one hundred ten. Calculating her exact age, aside from being unnecessary, is close to impossible because she doesn’t have a birth certificate. Nevertheless, we do know that she has lived through seeing her first white person, which is the equivalent of a person today sauntering around a corner and running into a green person; she heard English for the first time, and then saw English, a language she doesn’t speak, become an official language of Kenya, which, by the way, wasn’t even a country when she was born; and she saw a plane for the first time when she made the full-day journey (now a three hour drive) to the airport in Nairobi where she saw off her sixteen-year-old son who was embarking on a very random excursion to go study in some place called the United States. The next time she would see or speak to her son would be almost a decade later because there was no money for him to get back home and she didn’t have a phone. It would be decades until she got electricity.
In her century-plus of life, my grandmother has experienced independent rural living, then colonialism and the end of colonialism, the rise of metal boxes cruising around without animal assistance, and grandchildren, born to her son and Kenyan daughter-in-law in a land far, far away, who began visiting her about sixteen years after her son’s departure, oddly, speaking a language that was completely alien to her at a point during her adult life. And now, she periodically rides in her American, English-speaking grandson’s rented Toyota Corolla with her other Kenyan grandchildren, telling us tales of corruption and asking questions in Kimeru (her native language) about Obama’s foreign policy and why people flew planes into buildings. That’s a hell of a hundred years.
What’s all this have to do with anything? Good question.
To think that anything is out of the realm of possibility when we are only sixteen short years into a growing league shows a lack of appreciation of history and time. If we’re being honest, given how much can change in a relatively short period of time, guessing what American soccer will look like in just sixteen more years is about as difficult as my grandmother predicting that she would be comfortably riding in a Japanese car with me and my cousins in the 21st century.
Although the future is difficult to predict, we can recognize that American soccer has made phenomenal strides, morphing into a present that in many ways is unrecognizable from its form sixteen short years ago. We have financed and built major, sophisticated stadiums just for soccer. Real ones. That is unbelievable, science fiction fantasy on par with the Internet and personal cell phones to the average mind in the early to mid-1990s. It’s as mind-bending to an early 90s mind as my brother and I must have been to my grandmother.
These days, every summer, major clubs from around the world – Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Inter Milan – come to the United States to play our teams in our stadiums. We hear complaints, year after year, about how these friendlies are meaningless, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that similar mutterings have come out of my mouth, but the fact that they regularly exist is truly remarkable if we choose to operate with any measure of context.
In the last sixteen years, arguably, no soccer landscape has evolved as quickly as the US soccer landscape, a point those perpetually focused on shortcomings might miss. Of course, there is still work to do, but the foundation is already impressive. In context, so are the numbers. In 1995, average MLS attendance was zero (0). Today, league-wide attendance numbers hover around a much-more-than-respectable 17,000 spectators. In context, those numbers are at least admirable and, at most, fantasy numbers.
So, why American soccer? Because the greatest show on earth may be developing right in our backyard. That my sound asinine now, but perhaps not so much if you consider the rapid expansion and development that has taken place over the last sixteen years.

Twenty years from now, you’ll be watching a documentary chronicling this period that’s so compelling you’ll wish you were there. Well you are. Now. Here’s how the documentary begins:

The growth of modern, professional American soccer is a fascinating tale of invisibility, failure, failure, North American Soccer League, failure, Major League Soccer, resilience, globalization, immigration, identity, curious models of competition, and meteoric ascension, all being told through a ball and some grass, or in the case of the Seattle Sounders, some sort of synthetic grassy stuff. At the beginning, few could confidently say that Major League Soccer would succeed; few could envision a US men’s national team consistently in the knockout stages of the World Cup; few could envision a Women’s World Cup. But against the odds, all of these fantasies have become reality, and we’re only at the beginning.

I’m not so sure my grandmother would enjoy the documentary. She doesn’t even have a television, and even if she did, her vision would prevent her from reading the subtitles, as would her inability to read. But I’m sure she could appreciate and attest to the value of supporting someone or something that has shown great potential and has made massive strides in a very short period of time, even if that person or thing at times seems thousands of miles away. As she is well aware, incomprehensible futures have a habit of quickly becoming reality, and the ride is often just as rewarding as the destination.

That’s why American soccer.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Tuesday XI: Movie Monster Edition

Since you’re likely still recovering from your Halloween hangover (be it candy-induced or otherwise), we thought it’d be a good time to stick with the scary theme and bring you our own monstrous line-up. We figure a team like this ought to be a nightmare to play against, so we’ve lined them up in an old school, catenaccio formation, which you can find a primer on here.
Here’s our side:
GK – Michael Myers – No shot ever fazes him. Neither does getting stabbed, set on fire, thrown out a window, dropped down a mineshaft, decapitated, or nearly anything else.
SW – The Mummy – A little slow now as age has caught up with him, but he’s still able to keep our defense tightly organized.
Sorry Benecio, this Wolfman.
LB – The Wolfman – Transforms from a mild-mannered defender into a ferocious attacking force down the wing.
CB – Jason Voorhees – Our big lumbering man-marker that you’d have to go into outer space to shake, and maybe not even then.  
CB – The Great Pumpkin – Has a talent for keeping opposing players occupied, even if you don’t really notice he’s there.
DM – Dracula – Sucks the life out of opposing attacks with his timely tackles and knack for interceptions.
CM – Freddy Krueger – Lulls defenses to sleep with his deep positioning and short passing before unleashing a killer 40-yard pass  
RM – Slimer – Wreaks havoc all the way up and down the right wing. You’ll need a proton pack to have any hope of slowing him down.
LW – Jack Skellington – He may cut inside too much as he’s caught between his role as a winger and his desire to be a forward, but his long legs and nimble footwork mean he’ll succeed however he plays.
Deep-lying forward – Norman Bates – Famed for using his head fakes and movement to disguise his true intentions before slipping a dagger-like ball through the defense.
CF – Frankenstein – Our towering target forward didn’t have a good head on his shoulders, so we found him a new one and bolted it on. 
About “The Other 87 Minutes”

What is this new site we’re exposing you too? We’ll let them explain:

The Other 87 seeks to provide something that’s not instant analysis or eve of matchday previews. Think of us as the good bits of your favorite soccer coverage: the profiles that examine what makes a certain player tick, the historical background that sheds some light on how the sport has evolved to the present day, the silly features that are more than just tacking names on a list, but considering and explaining why each one deserves to be there.
O87 wants to be a home for soccer writing that makes you think, but that also treats the game as just that, a game. The greatest game, the one we obsess over and fixate on, to the point where we can’t read that gas costs 3.43 a gallon without thinking of Ajax’s 1995 Champions League winning team. But a game nonetheless.
“When you play a match, it is statistically proven that players actually have the ball three minutes on average. The best players – the Zidanes, Ronaldinhos, Gerrards – will have the ball maybe four minutes. Lesser players – defenders – probably two minutes. So, the most important thing is: what do you do those 87 minutes when you do not have the ball…. That is what determines whether you’re a good player or not.” -Johann Cruyff

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