Sometimes the game just isn't flowing your way, and you run out of ideas on how to change it.
It was a lesson a forlorn FC Barcelona side experienced at the ruthless hands of Bayern Munich in Wednesday's UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg, and Gus Johnson gained much the same lesson in the broadcast booth over those same 90 minutes.
After a two-month layoff, FOX Soccer used the Barça-Bayern match to resume its controversial on-the-job training of Johnson as the network's lead soccer announcer, a daunting challenge for the veteran sportscaster but one that he's handled reasonably well to date.
But this week was a harder slog for the demonstrative Johnson – and perhaps his predicament is best summed with a hackneyed old coaching phrase: Johnson wasn't really put in a position to succeed.
After pairing him with the more experienced Warren Barton in previous Champions League matches, for today's match the decision-makers elected to leave Barton in his familiar studio environment alongside Rob Stone, Eric Wynalda and Brian McBride. Johnson was instead assigned retired English striker Ian Wright as his partner on the call – and the chemistry just didn't take.
Wright offers a clipped London accent and a wealth of knowledge from a career full of famous goalscoring exploits in the English Premier League, which probably adds up to a can't-miss combination in the eyes of network executives.
But his staccato delivery of repetitive talking points – how many times did Wright castigate Barcelona for their lack of width (which surely sounded more like “whiff” to any untrained American ears watching this game on FOX's more widely carried FX channel)? – left Johnson with limited room for his trademark bursts of excitement, or even the occasional bit of scene-setting.
There were also worrying signs when it came to Johnson's own preparedness, however. He got off on the wrong foot in the early going by referring to Bayern's high-pressure approach as a “full-court press,” which he should know will court scorn from soccerphiles suspicious of his basketball background.
Johnson consistently stumbled over the pronunciation of Barça star Andrés Iniesta, and his allusions to the Spanish giants' famed “tiki taka” passing style were downright malapropisms.
Unfortunately for the broadcast duo, Bayern's systematic blunting and dismembering of their hosts left little drama in the occasion, which only magnified their slips and shortcomings. The anticlimactic game's latter stages challenged Johnson and Wright to provide analysis and conversation without tuning out the action on the field – an underrated challenge that the best in the business manage subtly and adroitly.
Wednesday provided a reminder Johnson hasn't joined their ranks quite yet. And it doesn't get any easier in his upcoming assignments: an EPL match this weekend, followed by the FA Cup and Champions League finals later this month.
North American soccer fans have heard it a thousand times from countless different voices, from FIFA boss Sepp Blatter on down: If you want to be a serious league on the world stage, move to a fall-spring schedule like everyone else (by which they actually mean Western Europe, of course).
This argument shrugs off a range of important factors behind MLS and other leagues’ choice of a spring-fall alignment, but perhaps the most important one is the simple fact that it can get awfully cold and snowy in places like Montreal, Chicago and New England every winter.
As it turns out, some people across the pond have taken note of this obvious fact, too, including one of the most powerful men in German soccer.
Namely Karl-Heinze Rummenigge, the chairman at Bayern Munich as well as the chair of the European Club Association, a lobbying group for more than 200 of Europe’s biggest clubs.
"Everywhere, be it Germany, France or England, summer is the best period of the year. And that is the season we don't play,'' Rummenigge told France Football magazine for its latest issue. "In deepest winter, when it is very cold and snowing, we play nearly all the time in conditions that are disagreeable for both players and spectators. It is not logical.
"My sense is that we are heading straight in this direction,” he added. “It's completely possible, even if this idea does not thrill our friends in South America.”
Laying out a future in which European leagues open in January and run until the fall, he predicted that the change would make for more pleasant conditions for both players and supporters and even help reduce the conflict between club and international soccer by leaving a month-long window for national-team play.
"In future, there could be two phases: one for club competitions, the other for qualifying matches or finals of the World Cup or the Euros,'' Rummenigge said. "For one month, national teams would be completely free to call up their players.''
That would also help resolve the looming problem caused by FIFA’s selection of Qatar as the host of the 2022 World Cup, allowing the desert nation to host the world’s biggest sporting event during the mild Middle Eastern winter.
Skeptical reactions from ECA and FIFA officials underlined the difficulties of making this sweeping change to the current status quo. But Stateside soccer folks can take heart from the news that Europe’s elite might actually be coming around to our way of doing things this time.
"It is clear that there will soon be negotiations to examine what can be done. My point of view is that an eventual change to the calendar shouldn't be viewed critically but more as an innovation that could improve the general context,'' Rummenigge said. "Changing the calendar carries risks but it is also an opportunity. The issue of the calendar will become more important the closer 2022 gets.''
If you clicked because of that title ,you should be ashamed of yourself.
Anyway, Dortmund finished atop the UEFA Champions League "Group of Death" thanks to their 1-0 win over Manchester City on Tuesday (side note: LOL!). That means one of the other group winners will have to face Real Madrid in the Round of 16, and also that City finished with the worst group record of any EPL side in Champions League history, with just three points.
Mostly, though, this is all an excuse to post video of Dortmund's secret weapon, "Footbonaut." Resistance is futile:
Hat tip to Goal.com's Seth Vertelney for the video. This thing is both awesome and ridiculous.
After watching from afar as Jimmy Conrad and Kick TV cavort around Poland enjoying Euro 2012, I'm pretty much at a loss for words.
Life isn't fair, that much is clear to me now. Of course, that sentiment is also coming from someone who has watched all but one game of the tournament, so I'm sure there isn't going to be much sympathy coming my way.
Still, the tournament looks like a blast apart from a few scattered incidents, and fortunately Conrad has been kind enough (it's his job after all) to send back regular reports from the front lines, where Zywiec flows freely from the taps, song crops up around every corner and faces rarely go unpainted.
If you haven't been paying attention for the past few days, check out Jimmy's horse-drawn carriage interview with Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl and his afternoon of revelry with Croatian fans. Let's just say he seizes the day in Poznan.
Comme beaucoup d’entre vous certainement, j’ai les yeux rivés sur l’Euro depuis une semaine et aujourd’hui, je sors du sujet MLS pour partager avec vous deux trouvailles concernant l’équipe des Pays-Bas.
La première charmera tous les parents… et les inspirera peut-être. Ce bambin de deux ans connaît les noms de tous les joueurs de l’équipe ! Si votre enfant sait faire pareil avec votre club de MLS, envoyez-moi la vidéo.
La seconde… je vous laisse la commenter. Trois chanteurs très connus aux Pays-Bas ont revu et corrigé La Danse des canards pour encourager leurs joueurs, qui font partie du clip !
If you're Polish, probably pretty good - and we have the video to prove it:
The rest of the game, probably not so much. Brutal result for the co-hosts.
By the way, Columbus Crew coach Robert Warzycha was at the game. He probably won't come home with Robert Lewandowski, but given all the talk out of Crewland about a new DP for the summer, maybe he'll figure out a way to smuggle countryman Pawel Brozek back to Ohio?
The UEFA Champions League final will never be forgotten by Chelsea fans around the world, including in New York City.
And, courtesy of Kick TV, you'll see many of them in the video below as they react to Chelsea's PK shootout victory over Bayern Munich in Saturday's final outside of Legends, a Chelsea fan bar in New York.
We'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
This week, US internationals playing in Scotland pine for US shores, a New York Red Bull encounters strange things in Manhattan, and an American pundit defends the honor of the Wigan manager's nomenclature.
Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty has a slightly bizarre experience when hunting for an apartment in Manhattan.
Looked at an apartment n the city and what do I see a dude doin n the communal garden? Yea...knife throwing. #onlyinNYC http://twitpic.com/9g5yfr
— Dax McCarty (@DaxMcCarty11) May 1, 2012
Is this a hint that US national team midfielder Maurice Edu would like to return from Scotland to America? Better question: Can Mo do the Carlton Banks dance?
Fresh Prince of Bel Air is one of the greatest shows ever! Lol
— Maurice Edu (@MauricEdu) May 3, 2012
One of Edu's Glasgow Rangers Yankee teammates also gets nostalgic about the USA -- video-game style!
Anyone remember playing this when they were younger!?? #OldSchool http://instagr.am/p/KFaQbsmX7P/
— Alejandro Bedoya (@AleBedoya17) May 1, 2012
ESPN's Alexi Lalas begs English wordsmiths to give Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez some credit for his managerial prowess, oh, and to get his name right too.
Dear England: After what Roberto Martínez has given you I think he deserves to get his accented second syllable back. Gracias.
— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) April 28, 2012
Fox Socer pundit Costigan takes a tour around Boston for the first time, on route to met Red Sox and Liverpool FC chairman Tom Werner. Safe to say he is impressed.
Entering Fenway to interview Tom Werner for @FOXSoccer What an incredible stadium http://yfrog.com/oe8gngxj
— Keith Costigan (@KeithCostigan) April 30, 2012
If you see a soccer tweet that should be included in our top five, be sure to send it to the @MLS_Insider!
Behold: The jerseys for Euro 2012 have been released. And there are many sashes.
The US men's national team made waves before the 2010 World Cup by reintroducing a sash to their jerseys in homage to the 1950 team that famously beat England. And while it's not exactly unique – teams like Trinidad and Tobago and Peru have been rocking the sash for years – it's not exactly standard fare.
So from whence come the sashes? This is undoubtedly jingoistic, biased, and self-aggrandizing, but I tend to think that the US brought the design back into vogue.
Which would also mark the first time that Europeans have ever taken fashion advice from Americans. Give yourselves a pat on the back, readers.
I, for one, feel pretty good about it. I like the sash on the US jerseys. I think they'll look good at Euro 2012. Undoubtedly, you feel differently. And... discuss!
Needless to say, Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League games were exciting.
Perhaps even more so because of the nearly unprecedented attendance. Between the two CCL matches, 71,001 fans showed up. That's an average of 35,500.
By comparison, UEFA's four Champions League games this week averaged 49,776.25. That includes 75,632 fans who packed the Nou Camp in an attendance figure nearly as ridiculous at Barcelona's 7-1 destruction of Bayer Leverkusen.
Take what you will from it, but it's fair to say that the bar for CCL matches hosted by MLS teams has been raised.