Oh, that Jimmy Conrad. He's had a good life on the soccer field.
He played in the World Cup.
He captained Chivas USA.
Oh, and he beat Chelsea when Jose Mourinho was their manager.
In recent weeks, MLS has been putting it's money where it's mouth is, so to speak. The MLS Disciplinary Committee has been dishing out punishments after the fact for violent tackles and simulation.
It's come down hard on embelishment, too.
In my book, there are different forms of embellishment. There is embellishment that is used -- and, really, necessary -- to alert the referee that you have been fouled. This is the type of thing you see when, say, a faster player gets around a slower defender and is impeded. It might not be enough contact to bring a player down, but it is enough to stymie the attacker.
WATCH: Cruz and Benitez battle for possession
Unfortunately, refs are reluctant to blow the whistle in this scenario, thereby actually punishing the attacker. In many of these instances, the attacker will embellish the effect of the contact, making sure the referee recognizes that there was a foul. I'm okay with this kind of embelishment.
I'm not okay with embellishment that is meant to con the referee into thinking a foul has taken place when it hasn't or a foul is worse than it really is. For examples, check out Danny Cruz's shameful writhing after being elbowed by Jair Benitez in D.C.'s win over Dallas last weekend. Or Alvaro Fernandez's histrionics a few weeks ago against Houston. It's sophomoric stuff, and both players were rightly fined for it.
It's also nice to see that at least one of the players involved isn't throwing a hissy fit about being sanctioned for his actions.
"There are different perspectives on soccer in the world," Fernandez told The Seattle Times this week. "So where I'm from, down in South America, we work on getting an advantage out of every situation that we can -- no matter what that is. It's not looked upon badly. Here it is looked upon badly. It's not a bad thing, it is what it is, and I just have to adapt to the league."
NEW YORK -- Giorgio Chinaglia died on Sunday.
Younger and newer soccer fans in the United States probably know nothing about Chinaglia. On Wikipedia, they can learn that he scored 242 goals in 254 games for the New York Cosmos, 98 goals in 209 appearances for Lazio, and earned 14 caps for Italy (including two in the 1974 World Cup).
On YouTube, they can watch his famous assist on a Fabio Capello goal against England at Wembley from 1973 (below). And on Twitter and various blogs, they can discover his famously prickly personality, the one that dared to criticize Pele and in all seriousness said things like: "I am a finisher. That means when I finish with the ball, it is in the back of the net."
But what you can't learn from Wikipedia, Google, YouTube, or Twitter is the symbolism of Giorgio Chinaglia. He was a living symbol of the efforts made in the 1970s and '80s to make soccer a major sport here. Sometimes, he seemed like a ghost of the NASL's bittersweet run, but he was always there, carrying the banner of the game's past that eventually gave rise to the its present.
Unlike Pele or Franz Beckenbauer or Carlos Alberto, Chinaglia remained in New York after he retired from the Cosmos. He didn't just pick up and move on when the money ran out on the NASL. Instead, he stayed, worked in the game, did some TV analysis (including his legendary head-to-head on-air battles with Eric Wynalda during the 2002 World Cup), and c0-hosted a radio show on Sirius XM with longtime friend and soccer executive Charlie Stillitano.
And because of all of that, he was one of the most visible flagbearers for the NASL's ongoing legacy.
MLS, early in its existence, wanted nothing to do with that legacy. The league was meant to be a break from the past, a new venture, one that would not fall into the same patterns and turn down the same dead ends that the NASL did.
But in recent years, MLS' mindset has shifted with regards to the NASL and the past in general. The Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps, and Portland Timbers all chose to fully embrace their NASL histories, right down to the clubs' names. This year, the San Jose Earthquakes -- who likewise adopted their NASL moniker -- celebrated their past by putting historic images on their season tickets. And, of course, there is the on-again, off-again New York Cosmos resurrection.
To me, the remembrance of things past is vital to the success of the present and the potential of the future. I enjoy both watching MLS matches and sporting my Detroit Express t-shirt. It reminds me that, no matter what people around the world say, soccer is not a "new" thing in the US and Canada. It's been around for a 100-plus years.
I believe that Giorgio Chinaglia died appreciating that history. He was just waiting for the rest of us to appreciate it too.
Former Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher considers himself quite the football fan. He's famously a Manchester City fan, "loves" Mario Balotelli (whom he interviewed recently), and shows up regularly at Etihad Stadium.
But is he also becoming an MLS fan? In this Q&A with ColumbusAlive.com, in between promoting his concert in Columbus on Thursday and pimping his brother Liam's new band, he sings the praises of a recent MLS match he attended.
"I was amazed at the size of the stadiums and the amount of people that attended these matches," he says. "It was like, it's a big [expletive] deal, man, d’you know what I mean? It’s a big deal. And I was expecting it to be little more than, you know, a kick about in an athletic stadium with a few people attending. And I went to see the Galaxy and they were playing some team from Philadelphia, and it was real, d’you know what I mean? And the fans were all great, and it was a great atmosphere."
This past winter, rumor had it that former D.C. United captain Ryan Nelsen might return to the nation's capital. The 34-year-old centerback had played out his contract for Premier League side Blackburn Rovers, and was looking to finish his career with the club that developed him from a good college player into a world-class professional.
But then Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp offered him a six-month contract to move to White Hart Lane and provide depth and experience to a club that is this season challenging for cups and pushing for a UEFA Champions League spot. He couldn't say no.
He also has proven his worth to the gaffer. On Wednesday, Nelsen scored in Spurs' 3-1 win over Bolton in the FA Cup quarterfinals, and after the match, Redknapp clearly stated his intentions regarding the longtime New Zealand international.
"I had been chasing him for years and he's only on a six-month contract," Redknapp was quoted as saying in Thursday's New Zealand Herald, "so we'll have to give him a new one at the end of the season."
More bad news for TFC. They lost their midfield general Torsten Frings last week, and now, according to TSN reporter Luke Wileman, they might lose goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
No word yet from the club, but the image Wileman paints in this tweet doesn't bode well. Stay tuned.
Frei leaves the field on crutches, wearing an air cast left leg. Doesn't look good. #MLS
— Luke Wileman (@LukeWileman) March 23, 2012
Two weeks into the season in MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager, and it looks like the newbie, Andrew Wiebe, is the man to beat right now in the ExtraTime Radio Experts League.*
"It's a combination of research and luck," Wiebe told MLSsoccer.com this week. "Sometimes your research pays off. Sometimes your luck gives you the extra push you need. Without both, well, you're Allen Hopkins."
Obviously showing no sympathy for the low man on the totem pole, Wiebe has turned success in the ETREL into some new publicity: He appears on the latest editon of the ExtraTime Radio podcast.
But he is being chased by that crafty Canadian, Luke Wileman, whose team, Great White North, is just three points behind. Can Wiebe hold off the competition in Week 3, when his Bed-Stuy Brawlers face off against the Elusive Playmakers, a.k.a. Kyle McCarthy of Goal.com?
"I definitely can," Wiebe said. "He's got some weak spots on his roster. I think I've got a 15-point win in me."
Bad Idea Jeans = Marc Connolly, ESPN
BadRowePun = Dan Haiek, MLSsoccer.com
Bed-Stuy Brawlers = Andrew Wiebe, MLSsoccer.com
FC Curse of Caricola = Grant Wahl, Sports Illustrated
Elusive Playmakers = Kyle McCarthy, Goal.com
FC Empty Bucket = Jonah Freedman, MLSsoccer.com
Etienne Barbara FC = Simon Borg, MLSsoccer.com
The False DM = Jen Chang, SportsIllustrated.com
Fort Nonsense SC = Jonathan Yardley, FC Dallas TV
Great White North = Luke Wileman, TSN
Ill Eagles = Matt Gaschk, SoundersFC.com
kingDOMEtt = Taylor Twellman, ESPN
Land of Confusion = Jason Saghini, MLSsoccer.com
Leanderthal Albion = Leander Shaerlaeckens, ESPN.com
MLS Reggae Boyz = Mark Rogondino, Fox Soccer
Otis Redding United = Greg Lalas, MLSsoccer.com
Rainbow in the Dark = Max Bretos, ESPN
SBI United = Ives Galarcep, FoxSoccer.com
Slurpee Ratt = Alexi Lalas, ESPN
Witham's Whippers = Katie Witham, freelancer
Ya Mo Be There = Allen Hopkins, Fox Sports
* "Experts" is used loosely here. Kind of like Kim Kardashian's use of the word "marriage."
Frankie Hejduk is a legend in Columbus. His eight years playing for the Crew, including captaining them to the 2008 MLS Cup title, made him a fan favorite. (Drinking beers in the parking lot with the diehard supporters when he was suspended for a game didn't hurt his Q rating at Crew Stadium either.)
Now, after he finished his career with the LA Galaxy last year, it looks like the Crew might abide the dude again.
“There’s some Crew players that just resonate,” Crew President and GM Mark McCullers told The Columbus Dispatch recently. “Brian McBride still resonates. Frankie resonates and that certainly has value for us. I would love to have Frankie in the organization."
A confession: I'm not a fantasy freak.
I don't spend days analyzing the various formations and figuring out the optimum financially efficient roster. I don't partake in a great deal of trash talk with the other people in my league.
About the only thing I obsess about is which music idol I should name my club after.
But despite all of that, I play. I play against my colleagues and friends. I tend to lose, but I appreciate the competition and the comradery.
This year's new salary-cap game, MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager, is not easy. But it is a very good approximation of what it's like to be a real MLS manager.
The salary cap ($100 million) is tight, and building a well-balanced squad, with a mix of high-scoring stars and cost-efficient role players, can be a struggle. At times, I cursed the person who set the prices.
The upshot is that as I set my roster, I started making some intriguing decisions on where I was willing to sacrifice quality for quantity. If I went for a cheap 4th defender so I could add a more expensive striker, what happens if there's an injury on the backline? If I ditched the big-money third striker, does that let me have a better attacking midfielder?
Ultimately, you've got to decide. Just like a real MLS manager does. And then you play.
So without further ado, here's the roster of my beloved Otis Redding United. I promise you, we will not try any tenderness in the 2nd Annual ExtraTime Radio Experts League.