A Grab Bag. So much news, so I'll focus on soccer. Huh? I can't give a quick and still decent treatment to the Bush Administration's thumbing one big collective nose-thumbing to the Supreme Court. A constitutional crisis isn't exactly in the offing, since the Administration can say it is attempting to comply with the Court's opinion in Hamdan. In essence, the Administration is now asking the Congress to authorize basically the same illegally constituted tribunals that the Supreme Court struck down. That would be O.K. if the Court's only problem with the tribunals was the lack of statutory authority. There was more to it, as the Court noted problems with the process afforded the detainees.
The Administration is trying to come up with a passable forum for trying those detainees that it wants to try. The rest, it seems, may yet continue to rot in jails, even though the Administration is admitting it lacks sufficient evidence to charge and try these people. In fact they will be treated as P.O.W.s -- not guilty of much more than taking the wrong side in a war without end. The problem with that is, allegedly, some number of the detainees deny they were ever combatants. They may continue to be stuck in a Kafka-esque limbo, as the Administration resists every effort to provide real justice, in line with the Geneva Conventions and the general rule of law.
I have a couple of other essays percolating, but I'll wait to post them -- until I'm happier with the product. I did want to comment on the new ad by the Republican candidate for Senate in Maryland, the current Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. I'm not voting for him, but if I had any say on the Clios, I'd push for this ad to win everything. This is the best, most original political ad I have ever seen. There's not a lot of substance to the ad, but that's kind of the point. The ad aims to present Steele as a likable guy, and a cool dude. The message of the ad is that he's a different kind of politician that will challenge the establishment in both parties. The ad really is all about style, and it is loaded with style. The message IS the form.
Unlike most ads that try to show the candidate in some real world setting, or maybe some office, this ad is clearly a slick studio product. More than anything else, the ad looks as if it's a promo for a new HBO show called "Steele". The candidate appears on a barstool in front of a plain white background. The camera moves, the shots change, and Steele smiles as he talks, looking very cool -- like a TV star, not a politician. Even Steele's name appears stylized in a graphic that evokes a steel girder, bolts and all.
There's no real substance in the ad, but as I have said, the style is the point. It is very effective. It really suggests that Steele is different. He's willing to be cool, not too earnest or serious. He comes across as very likable and very cool, much the image he tried to set for himself before, appearing on Bill Maher's HBO show. Steele will have to to do more conventional spots that give voters some idea of what he will do for them, what he believes in -- at least, I think he'll have to do these kind of ads eventually. Maybe not. It's certainly a strong start for his campaign -- a great introduction to Marylanders in his first big campaign on his own.
OK -- on to soccer. I'll get to tonight's U.S. Open Cup matches in a moment, but I wanted to cover a few other things in the media today. The New York Times had a soccer grab-bag piece, including a link to the video for the fastest goal in history. Technically, it was the fastest goal in women's collegiate soccer, but no other goal could ever come any quicker. On the opening kickoff, Yael Averbuch of the Lady Tar Heels (North Carolina) ran up and launched the ball from the midfield spot. The ball rose high into the New Haven sky intil it arced down towards the Yale goal. The Yale goalie tried backpedaling into position, but could not get back in time to keep the perfectly struck ball out of the goal. You can find video at http://tarheels.nmnathletics.com/.
Houston's Edwin De Rosario continues to impress this fan. He also took a shot from midfield, beating Zack Thornton, to earn De Rosario the MLS Goal of the Week. Video can be found on the MLS' site: http://www.mlsnet.com/MLS/index.jsp. De Rosario, a Canadian, may be the MLS' best North American player, though Landon Donovan hasn't been clearly dethroned.
The Times also had a bit of a shout-out to the Yanks Abroad website. You can always follow our boys overseas by checking out: http://yanks-abroad.com/. The Times piece noted the recent flow of Americans to Scandinavian teams. www.nytimes.com/ then, copy and paste:
The MLSnet site also has a cool piece on MLS' historical best. As this is the 11th season, the writer, Jeff Bradley, took the occasion to reminisce about the top eleven impact players -- picking one player for each year. Not exactly an all-star side, as it is laden with strikers and midfielders. There is one goalie, though. Bradley's list, starting in 1996, and working forward: Jaime Moreno, Marco Etcheverry, Peter Nowak, Jason Kreis, Clint Mathis, Diego Serna, Carlos Ruiz, Landon Donovan, Jon Busch (from the Columbus Crew, the lone goalie on the list), Taylor Twellman, and, this year, Christian Gomez. I gave you the list, but Bradley's piece is worth reading for the details. Check out the MLS site: www.mlsnet.com/ and copy and paste this link:
Finally, the Dallas Morning-News has a fun piece on the trouble that the Dallas team has had in finding a decent, appropriate name. If I had a vote, it would be for the Toros.
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/spt/ then, copy and paste the link:
Now, as promised, the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup.
Just over 5,100 turned up in Illinois for the match. Clearly, there needs to be better publicity. That would be a pathetic turnout for a weekday regular season MLS match-up with nothing on the line.
D.C. United had a few surprises in their opening lineup. With Jaime Moreno out, D.C. coach Peter Nowak decided to pair his two speediest strikers, Jamil Walker and Freddy Adu. The biggest surprise was this left Alecko Eskandarian on the bench. Esky will miss Saturday's game against Real Salt Lake, as he is suspended for accumulated yellow cards, so he would have been expected to start tonight. You can't say that Nowak wasn't taking the game seriously, as he went with his No. 1 goalkeeper, Troy Perkins, over Nick Rimando, who had started in the prior Open Cup matches. On defense, Brandon Prideaux got a rare start.
Neither team generated much offense in the first half. Nowak continued to surprise at the half, when he replaced Walker with Rod Dyachenko. D.C. controlled the play, but fell behind in the 58th minute as Justin Mapp beat Troy Perkins to put the Fire up 1-0.
D.C. continued to press the Chicago side, but the score would keep getting farther away from them. Prideaux was replaced by D.C.'s newest player Matias Donnet, who created chances for his team immediately. Ben Olsen subbed in a little later, but Esky still sits. Donnet put one in the net, but offsides was ruled. The Fire answered with a goal of their own in the 76th minute, to take a 2-0 lead. Less than a minute later, D.C.'s Facundo Erpen was ejected for a dangerous challenge. Chicago's Chris Armas was also ejected for striking Erpen in retaliation.
Though down 2-0, United went on a furious attack. All the results this night, however, belonged to the Chicago Fire. Chicago weathered D.C.'s blistering attack. Finally, in stoppage time, the Fire put United out of its misery with the final nail, making the score 3-0. Chicago continued its mastery over D.C. in Open Cup and MLS playoff matches. On this night, the Fire advanced to the Cup final, on Sept. 27th, when they will host the winner of the L.A. Galaxy-Houston Dynamo game.
Lastly, news from the Euro 2008 qualifying: The beautiful game is restored. To my mind, the French are the real heirs to the Brazilian beautiful game of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Without Zidane, they may not have an answer to Ronaldinho, and they have no one the equal of Roberto Carlos on the free kicks. Still, the French play this game right, when they have it together . Obviously, they didn't quite have it together when the World Cup started. They pulled it together during the Togo game in Cologne, and went on a magnificent run. The point of all this? France had its revenge on Italy today, vanquishing the world champs by a 3-1 score. France does have the world's most exciting striker in Thierry Henry, who confirmed his status with one of the goals, but the real hero was Sidney Govou. Govou tallied twice, including a score in the 2nd minute. Vive Le France!