Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Unfortunately, busy real life precludes virtual

Otherwise, I'd be writing about the awesome performance of the Indianapolis Colts last Thursday night, the disappointing outing by the Bears on Sunday, the ins and outs of the upcoming college basketball season, how IU Soccer is rolling right along, and of the course the Women's World Cup.

I imagine some folks are mad that their daily sports-blather about meaningless Baseball games and unplayed NFL match-ups has been interrupted for full ESPN coverage of the Women's World Cup, but I love tuning into the early morning match-ups. The only thing I don't dig is prying myself away from a solid Norway-Canada match to go to work.

The big surprise was that North Korea was able to tie, and even to really test, the US Women's team. I think when Abby Wambach's back on the field (and the US has 11 players for a whole game), the the Americans will have nothing to worry about. Julie Foudy, quoting some bad Chinese-English translating, said it best:


The USA is one of the very best teams in Shanghai. There's nothing to worry about. But they've got to go out and get points. The game against Sweden is imperative to get a least a tie, and then they can win against Nigeria, & they should be fine.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Hometown Hoosierville

I was actually in Bloomington for the very big sports weekend, and there were a number of great performances by IU teams. I was only able to catch one, tho.

Men's football walloped poor Indiana State 55-7. They may be better than last season, but I wouldn't go counting on going to a bowl just yet. If they beat Western Michigan on the road, that would be a good step.

Men's basketball rolled in the Bahamas, but the opposition wasn't anything to write home about. A really encouraging sign was that not only is Jordan Crawford ready to play, but Jamarcus Ellis may be a 6-5 replacement for Earl Calloway. Bassett will probably bring the ball out of the back, but I would be surprised to see Ellis and Crawford initiating plays for DJ and Eric Gordon (who looks every bit as good as advertised).

Men's Soccer tied #9 Maryland 1-1 on Friday night, despite being outshot overall, but they finished strong and can feel good about the result, given that Maryland went on thump #10 Notre Dame 3-0, and Notre Dame had just beaten #1 UCLA 2-1 in OT on Friday.

But on Sunday I and my mother-in-law were part of a record-setting crowd of 7,243, topping the previous record by over 1,200! I can attest that Bill Armstrong stadium was packed for the UCLA-IU match. And that was a little surprising given the heat. It was very hot, with no cloud cover, and my face is still glowing with a nice IU-crimson suburn I got from watching the game.

The game was pretty even, and seemed to go in ebbs and flows, as neither side wanted to get beaten or over-exert, and were very deliberate in trying to establish their style of play. UCLA was very possession-oriented, and reminded me a bit of the Mexican national team, not only for their quickness in reacting to 50-50 balls and miscues, but also for their tendency -in any developing offensive play- to put the ball well over the net. That said, the Bruins have got a great keeper (Brian Perk), a good defense and create some very good chances for themselves when they are playing their game.

But IU won, and justly deserved it. I'll say that this is maybe the best IU team in the air that I've seen in a long time, maybe since the 1987 championship squad. IU has a lot of quick players that also have good size. Most of the Hoosiers are 5-10 or taller, and that ability allows them to play the ball up, control it, and counter-attack very quickly. Those quick counters seemed to come in waves, but were especially notable at the start of the second-half, and then right before the game-winning goal. UCLA had been building momentum after a flurry of IU chances, but then the Hoosiers had a couple of counters. Indiana had a man with the ball attacking (I think it is was Darren Yeagle) when he got sandwiched between two Bruin defenders and the ball popped up. While the crowd was on its feet yelling for a foul, 6-2 Brian Ackley tracked the ball, saw Kevin Noschang, and headed the ball behind the UCLA back line before anyone could react. Noschang broke free, I think the defenders may have thought the goalkeeper was going to scoop it up, and nailed a shot off the top bar and into the net before GK Perk had a chance to make a play on it. Perk looked stunned, and UCLA seemed to get the air knocked out of them. UCLA kept coming, but IU's defense prevented most dangers before they started, although I seem to remember a couple of bouncing passes through the IU box. But Greg Stevning in particular did a great job of breaking up plays and clearing passes with his head. His style of defending reminded me a lot of Andrew Parrish's work on the 1995 Runner-up squad. It looks to be another good year for IU Soccer.

I'm looking forward to it.