• AFA football: Calhoun faces a final obstacle in his renovation: BYU

    Wed, June 30, 2010 by David Ramsey with 2 comments

    Troy Calhoun has revived Air Force’s football program. He’s changed a loser to a winner.

    But there’s one challenge where he’s failed miserably.

    He hasn’t beaten Brigham Young. He hasn’t come close. (A reader – thanks AFAFan – points out that Calhoun hasn’t beaten Navy, either, but his Air Force teams have played Navy tough. The Falcons haven’t played BYU anywhere close to tough.)

    Air Force has a sorry history against BYU. The Cougars lead the all-time series, 26-6. The Cougars have won the last six meetings by a combined score of 243-130. That’s 40.5 points per game.

    That, if you’re an Air Force fan, player or coach, is humiliating.

    The Cougars have beaten Calhoun-led teams three straight times by a combined score of 107-51.

    If you’re looking for the most interesting, most entertaining game of AFA’s season, you don’t have to look far.

    BYU visits Falcon Stadium Sept. 11. The Cougars boast Jake Heaps, considered the nation’s top high school quarterback last season. He looks on his way to joining BYU’s long line of gifted quarterbacks, a line that includes Mr. Clean, Jim McMahon, and Steve Young and Mad Max Hall. (I’ll miss Mad  Max; he ranks among the most unpopular players in  Mountain West history.)

    No doubt, Heaps will  deliver all kinds of damage during his BYU career.

    But there is reason to doubt he will inflict major damage when he visits Sept. 11. A true freshman will be battling against what might be Air Force’s strongest-ever secondary. Reggie Rembert, Jon Davis and Anthony Wright Jr. are the Falcons best players. Each is extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands. Each is a threat to steal a pass and ramble to the end zone.

    This will be an intriguing battle. The kid vs. the wily veterans. The kid leading the program that has been beating up on the Falcons for decades.

    Should be great weather. Should be a great show.

    The Falcons might – or lack of might – will  be revealed early this season.

    Check out Jake Schaller’s Air Force blog. Make sure to scroll down a bit to see Jake’s look at next season’s Army-AFA football game:

    http://gazetteafasports.freedomblogging.com/

  • Flopping? You hate it; I hate it; everyone hates it

    Tue, June 29, 2010 by David Ramsey with 2 comments

    I’m a soccer fan, which means I have to listen to endless griping about the sport.

    Q: What about the lack of scoring?

    A: It can get irritating, but it’s not much different than hockey.

    And here’s the big one.

    Q: What about the flopping?

    A: That goes to somewhere far beyond irritating, but it’s not much different than basketball.

    In the recent NBA playoff series battle between the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan developed a simple, brilliant strategy to defend Carmelo Anthony.

    He instructed his defenders to fall at the merest hint of contact with Anthony. And the plot worked. Clueless officials whistled Anthony for offensive fouls.

    My point is simple.

    Soccer has faults, but those faults strongly resemble faults found in sports that are embraced by traditional fans who dislike international sports.

  • United States at World Cup: A good but not great run

    Sat, June 26, 2010 by David Ramsey with no comments

    This respectable run by the United States takes away the sting from a sorry performance in 2006. This team delivered gripping drama and an exciting, attacking style.

    But it’s not time to jump up and down with joy.

    The Americans could have – and should have - taken a longer trip in the tournament. The United States controlled the second half of Saturday’s loss to Ghana and had chances to keep this game from going into extra time.

    A new star must emerge. Landon Donovan might return in 2014, but he’ll be 32 and he won’t have the legs left to carry a team.

    A new focus must be found. The United States wandered into a 2-0 deficit against Slovenia and 1-0 deficit to England and a 1-0 deficit to Ghana. The team didn’t seem to truly get interested until it fell behind.

    The Americans rode to the Final 16, and it was an exciting ride.

    But it’s no cause for celebration.

    For our nation, the big soccer party remains in the future.

  • U.S.-Ghana at halftime: Here we go again

    Sat, June 26, 2010 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Watching the United States-Ghana game with Gregg Braha, coach of the 3A state champs St. Mary’s Pirates.

    He’s a soccer expert.

    I’m not.

    But we agree on this:

    The Americans are wandering without a clue through this contest with Ghana. There’s little hustle. There’s little imagination.

    And that translates into serious depression for soccer fan all over our vast land.

    Of course, there’s reason for optimism. The Americans have come-from-behind to tie England and Slovenia. This is an awful first-half team.

    And a sometimes magnificent second-half team.

  • Reason to doubt Americans as they seek to extend World Cup run

    Fri, June 25, 2010 by David Ramsey with 1 comment

    Yesterday, we talked about several reasons for optimism when it comes to American soccer.

    Today, let’s look at one negative:

    Yes, the United States took a thrilling path to the Knockout Stage with a comeback tie against Slovenia and a last-gasp win over Algeria.

    But, remember, Slovenia and Algeria will never be considered world powers.

    A skeptic could argue that the United States should have stomped both teams.

    Was talking with a soccer nut yesterday, and we both agreed the United States should defeat Ghana on Saturday.

    We also agreed it would be no shock if the Americans lost.

    The Americans have offered hints of power in this World Cup. They were magnificent in the second half against Slovenia. (After being awful in the first half.) They refused to surrender in the final minutes against Algeria.

    But these were only hints.

    Saturday offers the chance to make good on those hints.

  • Why the United States has a strong chance to advance

    Thu, June 24, 2010 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Here are reasons to be optimistic as the United States prepares to tangle with Ghana in the knockout stage of the World Cup:

    1) The Americans are clutch. They battled back from a 2-0 deficit against Slovenia and they scored in the 91st minute against an Algeria team that had little interest in victory. This version of the U.S. finds ways to score when it has to score.

    2) The U.S. is jammed with offensive weapons. Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore are all  dangerous, and they work well together. All  three played crucial roles in the goal that dropped Algeria and lifted the Americans to the knockout round. Donovan found Altidore with a perfectly timed pass and then Altidore found Dempsey and then Donovan came roaring as the trailer to finish the attack.  In 2006, the U.S. scored only two goals in the group stage. In 2010, the U.S. has scored four times. (Actually, the U.S. scored six times, but semi-blind officials called back two goals.)

    3) The American boast Tim Howard, one of the best goalkeepers in the Cup.

    Tomorrow: Reasons to doubt the Americans.

  • U.S.-Algeria: A perfect ending delivered by just the right person

    Wed, June 23, 2010 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Landon Donovan was exactly the right man to deliver victory over Algeria. He’s the face of American soccer, and he’s the man who finally – finally! – put the ball in the net for the United States.

    I watched the game in a packed restaurant, along with 200 other soccer freaks. For some strange reason, I didn’t spot a single Algerian fan in our midst.

    When Donovan scored, the big room exploded. Strangers were hugging and slamming hands as they rejoiced.

    His goal ended a grindingly tense game. The Americans were robbed of a goal by Clint Dempsey in the first half and Dempsey hit the post  in the second half and Jozy Altidore just missed on a header and it was beginning to look as if the Americans were doomed to elimination.

    And that would have been horribly, depressingly unjust. The United States beat Slovenia on Saturday and were robbed by a bad call. And the United States looked on its way, against all odds, to a virtual repeat against Algeria.

    It was a huge day for soccer in our United States. A few million Americans have been converted from soccer agnostics to soccer fans after the United States ultra-dramatic contests against Slovenia and Algeria.

    Should the Americans have taken an easier path to the knockout round? Absolutely. Slovenia and Algeria will never be confused with Brazil and Argentina.

    But the Americans remain breathing. They beat out two mediocre teams and two sets of below mediocre officiating crews.

    Donovan and his gang have a great chance to keep this ride alive. On Saturday, the Americans open the knockout round and you can bet on a massive TV audience in the U.S.

    When the U.S. scored, millions of soccer fans were celebrating in living rooms and bars and offices all over our vast land.

    But the most  jubilant celebration had to be at the offices of ABC, which is televising Saturday’s game.

  • U.S.-Algeria: Grave injustice, take two

    Wed, June 23, 2010 by David Ramsey with 1 comment

    Clint Dempsey was not offsides. The United States should be leading Algeria, 1-0, and several million American fans should be relaxing right now over breakfast.

    Instead, another horrendous call has left those millions of fans tense and nervous. I’m staring at a plate of eggs and potatoes right now.

    A few friends – and my wife – were irritated by my suggestion yesterday that the U.S. soccer team encounters anti-Americanism from World Cup officials.

    Here’s my reaction:

    How can you explain today’s call against Dempsey any other way?

    See you after the game.

  • Does the United States encounter anti-Americanism from World Cup refs?

    Tue, June 22, 2010 by David Ramsey with 4 comments

    At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the big buzz among soccer fans was the rise of the United States. Remember, Americans had zoomed to the quarterfinals in the 2002 World Cup and just missed a journey to the semis. Only a performance for the ages by German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn prevented the U.S.  from a deeper trip in the tournament.

    I wouldn’t say international soccer fans were enthusiastic about the Americans’ rise. In several conversations, I sensed a fear of the United States becoming a world soccer power. These were friendly conversations, but the general theme was this:

    Americans already dominate almost everything. And now soccer, too?

    Which leads me to this question:

    Why does the United States repeatedly encounter horrible, seemingly blind officiating at the World Cup?

    In 2002, officials missed a blatant, obvious hand ball against Germany that would have tied the game.

    In 2006, officials banished Eddie Pope and Pablo Mastroeni with questionable – and in Mastroeni’s case extremely questionable – red cards, forcing the United States to play with nine men in a 1-1 tie with Italy.

    And in 2010, officials waved off what would have been the game-winning goal in Saturday’s 2-2 tie with Slovenia. The United States had mounted one of the more inspiring and thrilling comebacks in recent Cup history, and  officials forever polluted a great morning of soccer with a call that always will remain mysterious.

    Is this long list of ridiculous calls an expression of anti-Americanism?

    In 2004, I talked with a dozen or so soccer fans in Athens who were nervous about the Americans vaulting to the top of world soccer.

    That vault hasn’t happen, for a variety of reasons.

    One of those reasons is curiously clueless calls against America’s soccer team.

    Tuesday:  Plan to post at halftime of United States-Algeria game and also after the game.  Also planning to talk with Pablo Mastroeni about the game. Pablo started for the 2002 and 2006 United States World Cup teams.

  • Spain’s Casillas and his journalist girlfriend endure an international controversy

    Mon, June 21, 2010 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Here’s a fun look at the recent troubles of Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas:

    http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/21/spains-goalkeeper-loses-beard-keeps-girlfriend/

    Tomorrow on the blog:

    Does the United States team encounter anti-Americanism from referees at World Cup competition?