The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

Archive for the ‘Celtic’ Category

Great Expectations

Posted by steigs on April 16, 2008

So DC United’s season is off to a bumpy start.  A couple of shutout losses on the road in league play already, with the 4-0 loss to Real Salt Lake one of the worst games I’ve seen the team play in years, and eliminated from regional play by Pachuca.  The grumbling/worrying/complaining has begun.  Perhaps the off-season changes aren’t helping.  Perhaps it’s time for a new coachEtc.  That’s what fans do.

This comes down to expectations.  We United fans have high expectations, at least in MLS terms.  We’ve had a winning team for four years now, with the best regular season record in MLS the last two years.  It might be different if we were rooting for Real Salt Lake or Toronto where just getting to the play-offs would constitute a good year.

Other teams I root for have even higher expectations.  Look at Celtic.  Two consecutive league titles and back-to-back trips to the round of 16 in the Champions League.  Pretty good.  Oh, but they’re in second this season in Scotland and, perhaps more importantly, keep losing to Rangers.  Heck, they’re having trouble even getting a goal on their eternal rivals.  (I hope that changes today.)  Cue talk about coach Strachan moving on.  It’s like what happens to an Ohio State or Michigan football coach who can’t get a victory in that rivalry.

There’s Arsenal, now clearly bound for third in the EPL and knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool.  Cue complaints about the failure of Wenger to bolster his young squad.  At the beginning of the year, most didn’t expect the young team could contend for the league title but a nice early run had the Gunners in first place for months.  They even managed to play with some style, like notable recent championship teams coached by Wenger.  This should be seen as a successful rebuilding year and now would be the time to talk about missing pieces to add — a world-class center defender, perhaps? — but now it doesn’t feel as successful.  Hopes were raised.  Expectations grew over the course of the year.  And, as students of revolution will tell you, it’s always when expectations are rising that rebellions are born, not when everyone is ground down and dispirited.  Still, no one thinks Wenger is going anywhere.

Finally, mighty Barcelona, stumbling to second (or third?) in La Liga but still in the Champions League.  Superstars on the wane, with talk that Ronaldinho, Deco, maybe even Henry to leave after the seasonNot to mention coach Frank Rikjaard.  One would think a run to the semi-finals of the Champions League would count for something.  But the expectations for Barca are so very high — win the league, contend for the Champions League, and do so with massive style.   It’s tough to meet them for very long.  Time to bring in a new manager, the old one’s running out of steam.

So, back to DC United.  My expectations are high — I want the team to win and I want to contend for the MLS Cup, plus continue to qualify for regional tourneys.  If MLS set up its competitions as they do in Europe, we’d actually be coming off of two league championships in a row — but both would have seen flops in European competition (as the counterpart to our play-offs).  We’d be looking at our team like fans of Inter Milan and Real Madrid do, with some frustration and disappointment. 

Ah, but of course, we don’t set up our competitions that way.  With the MLS regular season counting for so much less than a European season, we’re going to be happier if the team performs as Liverpool and AC Milan have in recent years — “good enough” in league without necessarily threatening to win it and then excelling in Champions League runs.  (Of course, I really want a “double” like Manchester United is going for this year — league and Champions League — but my expectations would be met with an AC Milan/Liverpool type of performance.)  I also want to keep playing in regional tourneys.  One of these days we’ll beat a team in Mexico and, in the meantime, maybe we’ll learn something and keep building our name with Latino fans in the US who have all too often looked down on MLS. 

Expectations matter.  The last two regular seasons have led to rising expectations — we seemed clearly best in the league, making the play-off crashes all the more frustrating.  Just as, I imagine, an Inter fan is getting ticked off by a team that cruises to the Serie A title yet can’t make a real run at the Champions League.  I’m trying to lower my expectations back to what really matters to me. 

Which is, in a roundabout way, why I’m not particularly upset yet.  If it takes Soehn and the DC United folks another month to get Gallardo and the rest of our attackers in synch, so be it.  If it takes another month of formation tinkering, so be it.  (Please don’t play three at the back again, though, unless they’re three regular defensive starters.)  If it takes a month to get Emilio putting balls in the net regularly, so be it.  Maybe it’s time to figure out if Quaranta is there to spell/learn from Moreno or sub for Olsen at right wing or a mixture of the two.  And so on. 

Because as we’ve learned the last two years, it’s not the first few months that determine whether our expectations are met — it’s the last few weeks of the season.



Posted in Celtic, DC United, England | Leave a Comment »

Wish I was there

Posted by steigs on February 23, 2008

These days, an American soccer fan can actually watch as much — if not more — soccer than the average European fan.  On television, at least.  If you’ve got digital cable or satellite tv.  And don’t mind taping games that are on during your time at the office….

One thing it remains difficult to do — and getting more difficult with the dollar growing weaker by the day — is actually attending the games in person.  I like to drop stories here about times I’ve been lucky enough to make the trek to places like the Nou Camp and Anfield etc.  The atmosphere can be incredible.  It’s something that you just can’t capture at home or even at a lively bar.

I follow several teams in different European leagues.  The Champions League can provide challenges to my fandom, such as the Celtic-Barcelona match-up in the round of 16.  Which of my favorites to I root for?  DC United is my first team.  But Celtic and Barca are my next two favorites.  When they play…I root for Celtic.  That was reaffirmed this week watching the first leg.

Damn, I wish I’d been able to get to Glasgow for the game — or even to watch in a Celtic-friendly pub in Scotland.  Keving of Lord of the Wing was there — let him describe it

The scene that met me was awe-inspiring. Thousands of green, white and yellow flags were being waved, the “Welcome To Paradise” banner draped over the top tier along wie various other CSC banners. The end was singing, swaying and belting out “Hail Hail” drowning oot the PA.Went down the front of Area 412. The Green Brigade had hung a banner over to the main lads in the section below. The section below was a sea of waving flags, including a Catalonia flag, the banner stated wie impressive intent “Roar Like Lions”. Now, I could see the whole stadium was energetic.

A look across to the “away end” and I was impressed wie the numbers of travelling. 2000 Cules were bouncing, singing and waving their colourful flags and instead of standing a gawping in wonder at the noise coming from the rest of the arena they were adding to it.

YNWA, started and as I stood looking all around I wondered if there was any better place in Europe. The displays were anarchic, spontaneous European, colourful and messes, which is great. Much better than the holding up the cards, spelling out a message type ones. These displays were on a par wie anything I have seen in Europe and were carried off wie as much passion as any Turk, Greek, Italian or Spaniard.

Posted in Barca, Celtic, Champions League | Leave a Comment »

Figures that Rangers gets the GREEN team…

Posted by steigs on December 21, 2007

The draw for the Champions League round of 16 and the UEFA cup round of 32 was today, telling us what tasty big-stakes matches will be able to watch in February and March.

Most of the headlines are about the eye-catching match-ups like Arsenal-AC Milan and Real Madrid-Roma.  Me, I’ll be watching Barcelona take out Celtic.  Sigh.  Why do my two favorite Euro teams always have to get drawn together?  (Celtic did manage to upset the Catalans in the 2004 UEFA Cup but lost at home to Barca in the group stages of the following Champions League campaign in ’04-’05.)  I suppose I should be happy that one of my teams will be in the quarter-finals for sure — or that Barca got an easy draw, given the current state of the Hoops.

Meanwhile, the now Beasley-less Rangers drew one of the traditional big two of the Greek league, Panathinaikos.  Not only do they wear green — their crest is a shamrock!  Judging from the team’s Wikipedia entry, though, there’s no sign that it was founded by Irish Catholic immigrants, which should reduce the potential for crowd trouble.

This seems a good time to tell you about my trip to see Rangers.  Want to read more about seeing a game at Ibrox, where they have banners celebrating Queen Elizabeth and bands play “The Great Escape” theme?  Read on after the jump!  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Barca, Celtic, Champions League, Scotland | Leave a Comment »

On the Hoops!

Posted by steigs on December 4, 2007

For the second consecutive year, Glasgow’s Celtic have managed to make it to the knock-out round of the Champions League without winning an away match.  Riding their luck, they survived a 1-0 loss at the San Siro to a disinterested AC Milan in the final game of the group stage while Benfica eliminated Shaktar in the Ukraine.  

Home field advantage matters a great deal but it seems absurd that a side that has beaten Man U and AC Milan at home in the last two years can look so awful abroad.  In three Champions League away games this season they didn’t even manage a goal.  Yeesh.  As Lord of the Wing put it:

Milan went up a gear in the second half, while we continued wie oor canny hold or water away performance where players who are usually reliable become bungling fools, liable to run balls oot the park, pass to the opposition or look at the ball like it’s a live grenade before booting as far up the park, to nae one, as possible.

What’s behind this home form?  At least in part, it must owe something to the remarkable fan support they get.  Celtic are, you see, the team of the great Irish diaspora, beloved in Guinness-drinking pubs around the world.   Want to hear about my visit to Celtic Park on a European night — even if it was the UEFA Cup — and how Scotland isn’t all bagpipes and Braveheart?  Read on! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Celtic, Champions League, Scotland | Leave a Comment »