Final thoughts on the Olympics

This is going to be a long one, so I’ve divided it up into different subjects.

On the events themselves:

  • Obviously, there really is nothing more that can be said about Michael Phelps. Right now, he’s one of the top 5 greatest Olympic athletes of all time. If he just wins another gold or two in London, especially if he learns to dominate his weakest stroke, the breaststroke as well as he does the other three, he is simply the greatest Olympics athlete ever – better than Lewis, Blair, Thorpe, Nurmi, you name’em. He’s simply better.
  • I was really impressed by the way the USA men’s basketball team played and behaved throughout the entire tournament. Finally, probably for the first time since 1996, the team behaved in a the way that they needed to behave as the highest-profile athletes at these games. The USA hoopsters were spotted at all kinds of other events cheering on US teammates. Kobe had to go through all kinds of hoops to watch the soldout men’s soccer matches – which he clearly is really, really into. Like everybody else, I was really taken seeing these millionaires literally bouncing with excitement and glee as the gold medal game wound down and as they received their medals.
  • The women’s soccer team deserves enormous credit for overcoming a lot of distractions both self-made (Solo’gate 07) and unprovoked (Wambach’s injury) to grit out a 1-0 win over Brazil and win the gold medal. I felt really good for both Solo and Sundhage who could finally tell their wrong-headed critics to shut up. That women’s program has had to endure a lot of heat, but this win not only showed that the US still has the players to compete with the best of the world, but that US Soccer and the coaching it provided could adapt (by going with Sundhage over another college coach) and change as the sport changes and improves.
  • The under reported story of these games is the enormous improvement Britain showed going into London 2012. The country’s stunning medal total came despite serious underachievement in a sport they’re traditionally good at – track and field. If they get good at that (I think the key is to only run races in slow motion) then they could have a very successful games on home turf.
  • I hyped up the boxing before the games and was proven entirely wrong by hideous judging and blatant, barely-concealed favoritism to the Chinese fighters. By the end, Bob Papa and Teddy Atlas were just haranguing the organizers with contempt and calling for changes in the sport including the scoring and even including removing the headgear from the fighters.
  • Despite the shocking loss to Japan in the final, the Americans’ total domination of softball did little to dispel the legitimate criticism that not enough countries play the sport at a high level. Yes, in a way, the sport as a whole is being punished for the USA’s success at the sport, but that’s why football or Aussie Rules (both great sports) aren’t Olympic sports either.
  • Sports that must go – softball (sorry), baseball, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline, and tennis
  • Sports that must join the games – skateboarding and rugby sevens

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Has anyone ever heard this before about Arena?

From Gardner’s weekly moan:

In 1996 Arena made the switch from college soccer to MLS — a risky move, but one that he soon turned into a triumph, leading D.C. United to the first two MLS championships, and giving the league what still remains, for me, its best-ever team.

That team was built around the superb skills of the Bolivian Marco Etcheverry, the player who gave it personality and attacking flair. When Arena joined D.C. United, the fledgling MLS — under the guidance of then deputy commissioner Sunil Gulati — had already signed a number of star players. Etcheverry was one such, and he had been assigned to D.C. United because Washington was where the largest Bolivian community resided.

Incredibly, Arena did not want Etcheverry. So his very first move in MLS — nicely foreshadowing his first moves at the Red Bulls and the Galaxy — was to seek a trade. Some other club would get Etcheverry, while D.C. United would get the player of Arena’s choice. And Arena’s choice, the player he rated higher than Etcheverry was … you’d better be sitting down … Alexi Lalas.

Mind-boggling hardly begins to describe that Arena notion. He was saved from his own madness because MLS nixed the trade. To his credit, Arena quickly appreciated just how extraordinary were Etcheverry’s talents, and became his staunchest admirer.

Has anyone else out there ever heard this story? Is it true?

A complete performance with an understudy cast

It was a remarkable evening at RFK last night as DC put together a rare “complete” performance, but even more amazingly, one whose highlights came primarily from young, recent acquisitions.

Vide, Quaranta and Kirk each scored well-taken goals with Tino’s arguably a top candidate for goal of the season. Vide finished really well from Emilio’s perfect layoff and Kirk was well-placed to take advantage of Namoff’s well-struck header.

DC’s performance came with few mistakes, even at at the back. Crayton was solid against a Colorado attack only made him work on a couple of occasions.

Now, as we’ve said over and over, the key is for United to actually put some of these good performances together in a consistant manner. That hasn’t been United’s style since SuperLiga which is why I refuse to make too much of any single win. Theoretically, United’s next few matches should be favorable going into the Champions Cup opening against Saprissa. If United can’t get up for a revenge match at RFK against New York, than the season is over. After that, United faces Charleston and should comfortably win over such stars as Nelson Akwari and Lazo Alavanja. Then DC visits San Jose and hosts Dallas. That could be the makings of a great little streak going into the Champions Cup. Continue reading