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Soccer Culture

31 March 12:24 pm

Leave it to Jimmy Conrad to liven up media day, a normally subdued affair defined by the same five questions and lots of fringe players waiting patiently for someone -- anyone -- to meander over and stick a recorder in their face.

Conrad and the KickTV cameras made their way to Red Bulls media day a little more than a week ago to ask the hard-hitting questions normal journalists don't have the courage to ask. You know, things like whether Victor Palsson prefers yogurt or cereal. I won't give anything else away, other than to say Thierry Henry wasn't particularly amused by Jimmy's line of questioning. Seems to be a theme there.

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I had the pleasure of being on the other end of the microphone during media day a few years in Kansas City when Conrad was still knocking heads in MLS instead of cracking jokes in front of the camera. Let me tell you, it was nothing like this.

30 March 6:03 pm

The US Olympic team may have crashed out of the CONCACAF Qualifying tournament earlier this week, but Kansas City is still going to be a happening place for soccer this weekend. And I'm not even talking about Mexico vs. Canada or Honduras vs. El Salvador.

I'm talking about Budweiser Poolball. If you haven't heard of it, which you probably haven't, check out the video below. As someone who enjoys the occasional game of pool and takes any opportunity to kick the ball around, this is a beautiful marriage of footy and nightlife entertainment. Kansas City had the good fortune of having a couple of these tables set up around the city on Thursday and Friday for the lucky residents to enjoy.

If you gave me a day to mess around on one of these tables, if that's the right term, without limit, I would ask for three. Seriously. It's that awesome. I'm sitting at my desk imagining trick shots, seeing-eye combos off the rails and chips cross table. The possibilities are literally endless.

Even more intriguing, what if MLS organized a Poolball tournament around All-Star Weekend? Who wouldn't want to watch Dwayne De Rosario and Graham Zusi go head to head? Thierry Henry vs. David Beckham?

28 March 5:54 pm

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."

28 March 5:41 pm

Maybe this new proven goalscoring tactic could become commonplace in MLS? Fans of goal-shy Montreal, Toronto, New England, Chivas and D.C. may want to look across the Atlantic to see how one group of fans helped to turn their side into a goalscoring machine....well they scored once at least.

Fans of German side Magdeburg took a different approach to their team's scoring drought. Instead of booing and hurling abuse at players and coaches, fans of the Regionliga Nord side (Germany's fourth tier) made the task a little easier for their team.

Supporters assembled behind the goal their beloved team was attacking, holding up giant colorful arrows to point their team in the direction of the opponents goal!

And remarkably it worked.

American forward Chris Wright scored the bottom club's first goal for five matches and ended their 558-minute goal drought. However his equalizer wasn't enough for a point as the home side slumped to a 2-1 defeat and remain rooted to the bottom of the standings, scoring just 16 times in 25 league games.

Either way, it’s a novel approach from the German fans. A for effort.

23 March 3:59 pm

Leave it to the Timbers to create new boundaries for extreme MLS fandom.

I have no doubt there are plenty of MLS fan tattoos out there*, but I can't think of another organization that would be willing to create a contest around the concept and pay for the ink themselves.

But that's the contest Portland dreamed up, and winner Nathan Kensinger recently got his custom designed "Timbers Tattoo" by Igor Mortis at Tigerlily Tattoo in northeast Portland.

Check out footage of Mortis applying his artwork to Kensinger's calf below and watch Eric Brunner and Jake Gleason narrow the field to the winning design.

*I would love to feature MLS fan tattoos here on "The Sideline." If you want to show yours off, tweet me at @AndrewWiebe_MLS with a short explanation of your ink.

23 March 2:49 pm

Oh, that Jay DeMerit. Always thinking up new ways to share his passion.

This time, he shows off his knowledge of the wave-breaking phenomenon and applies it to innovative effect for the Whitecaps fans.

Surf's up!

22 March 5:04 pm

The link between Fulham Football Club and the US soccer world over the years has become so strong that they are often colloquially referred to as “Team America” in the UK. 

It’s hard to argue with that playful nickname and their long history of enticing players from the US to try their luck in the EPL is one Fulham are very proud of, according to the Cottagers website.

Several US national team stars such as Brian McBride, Carlos Bocanegra and now Clint Dempsey have turned out for the West London side at Craven Cottage, all earning high praise for their performances from fans and pundits alike.  

On Fulham’s official club website on Thursday they highlighted an article coming up in the clubs Fulltime magazine. The EPL side, who are led this season by US superstar Dempsey with 18 goals, are quick to point out their strong links with MLS soccer in particular.  

“While our Premier League rivals are only now just discovering the delights of America’s top league, it’s fair to say that we’ve been unearthing its hidden treasures for 13 years.”

So just like any good relationship, the benefits are reciprocal. Former Fulham and US national team captain Brian McBride explains.

“Fulham have been major players in increasing awareness of what American soccer players have to offer,” said McBride.  

Well said Brian, long may the loving relationship continue.

21 March 3:05 pm

Un coup franc joué dans l’esprit du jeu se tire à l’endroit où est commise la faute et avec un mur à la bonne distance (9,15 mètres). Sauf que les joueurs ont tendance à vouloir grappiller du terrain…

La solution ? L’aérosol magique ! Une petite bombe pulvérise une peinture blanche qui permet de marquer tant l’endroit où doit se trouver le ballon que celui où doit se placer le mur. Les traces s’effacent rapidement et le terrain n’en souffre pas.

Dès lors, impossible d’avancer discrètement quand l’arbitre a le dos tourné… Ce dernier peut se concentrer sur d’autres choses, notamment les tirages de maillot de l’autre côté du mur. Cela permet de gagner un temps considérable et d’éviter les discussions du genre « Mais j’ai pas bougé, M’sieur l’arbitre ! »

Originaire d’Amérique latine, cette innovation moins chère et moins controversée que la vidéo est utilisée depuis de nombreuses années au Brésil et a servi lors de la dernière Copa America. La Major League Soccer l’a adoptée la saison dernière et ne peut que s’en féliciter : ses arbitres, sceptiques dans un premier temps, disent désormais que l’aérosol magique est un outil nécessaire et efficace. Alors, quand le verra-t-on à la Coupe du monde ?

19 March 6:02 pm

You probably read that headline and thought... I bet he's talking about the record-breaking crowd that packed Olympic Stadium on Saturday. Or maybe what it all meant to Davy Arnaud, the Impact's captain and goalscorer.

You'd be wrong.

The moment that will stick with me the longest came on Friday evening. Not a soul was in the stands. The game itself was still almost 24 hours away. Chicago were winding down their training session, meandering to the benches as a contingent of 20 or so members of the Fire's Section 8 supporters group waited by the sideline to glad hand and shoot the breeze with the guys they were there to see play the next afternoon.

Waiting with them was a seven-year-old boy from Ottawa named Ethan Stroud. Wrapped tightly around his neck was a Fire scarf, but what really stood out was the intricate Chicago crest etched into the back of his head. While Ethan was busy talking to every Fire player who came in his general vicinity, soaking up the words and attention he recieved as he collected autographs on the back of the jersey that bore his last name and the No. 12, I spent a few minutes talking to his mother, Allison Darke.

She told me Ethan, who was born in Chicago, was adopted and that life hadn't always been this easy for the gregarious young man who rarely stopped smiling in the 10 minutes I watched him make what will surely be lifelong memories. He was born blue from lack of oxygen. He is paralyzed down part of his right arm. He hasn't let it slow him down.

He loves soccer, plays every chance he gets, five times a week much of the year. He plays on three teams. According to his mom, Ethan is the "first one in the van and the first one out of the van" when it comes time to head to practice or games.

"He doesn't have an 'I-can't-do-it button,'" she says.

His parents took him back to Chicago last July for his seventh birthday, an opportunity to visit the city where he was born. They didn't have time to catch a Fire game. That would come the next day among the 70 or so Section 8 supporters tucked in the far corner of the Big O's second deck.

At that moment, though, there was nothing more important to Ethan than what was going on around him. After Logan Pause, Dominic Oduro, Dan Gargan, Frank Klopas and the rest of the Chicago players and coaching staff made him feel welcome -- an understatement to say the least -- and signed his new prized possession, he did what any kid in their right mind would do. He ripped off his jacked and pulled the Fire's colors over his shoulders.

I walked away with the feeling that the next day's events would be special, no doubt, but nothing I did or saw that weekend could measure up to the pure, unadulterated joy Ethan got out of that experience.

Those 10 minutes reminded me what life (and soccer) should be all about. Optimism. Hope. Perseverance. Humanity. Too often, it's easy to forget that.

Then a moment like that comes along, and all it takes is a seven-year-old boy having the time of his life to deliver a reminder that what you're doing is just a drop in the bucket.

19 March 5:25 pm

There's been a lot of talk about anthems already this season. Just minutes ago, I plugged the Revs' new victory song. And, of course, Believe RSL has already made the rounds.

Thanks to a heads up from MLSsoccer.com's Chivas USA beat writer Adam Serrano, I stumbled on this D.C. United fan anthem that was submitted to the "Support Your Team" Contest at The MLS Reserves.

Granted, I don't have a complete grasp on everything that's floating around on the internet these days, but something tells me this joint is going to be hard, if not impossible, to beat. In fact, go ahead and crown "Welcome to the District" by Rene Guzman the cream of the unofficial MLS anthem crop for 2012.

Eye-pleasing production? Check. Legitimate flow from Guzman? Check. Lyrics that reflect the D.C. United story? Double check.

Check out the full lyrics and full music video below.

Think there is something better out there or just want to share something cool that should be on The Sideline? Tweet me at the handle below.

Hook:

Vamos DC, United and Free
Black and Red be the colors we bleed
Since nine-six, here with pride and tradition
United till we die baby, Welcome to the District

Verse:

My heart is two stripes, three stars above
Black and Red and the colors I was born to love
Home of the brave, where champions are made
Bubbles in the air, let the three stars wave
Original 12th man, we pioneered the way
My DMV brothers feel exactly the same
What more can I say, United till I die
96 and forever, your my heart and my pride
Let them all know, we're legends in the making
Whether home or the road, it's our for the taking
Scream Eagles Scream, carry the team forth
Let them hear our song, from Barra to the North
Vamos United, take your place on the throne
Black and Red forever time to bring the cup home
United to the end, through blood, sweat and tears
Forever your my friend, you'll always have me here