Rest, cramp, strain, recover

This is why you see so many pudgy ageing men.  It’s just hard.  To elaborate…

Two weeks ago I finished a 3 month work out regimen.  You’ve probably heard of it, tons of infomercials, big following.  Anyhow, was feeling pretty good about myself.  Improved core strength, good aerobic capacity, no real problems with the strength movements.  My energy levels were higher.  Looking pretty good in the old swim-trunks, and I was glad to get through the program without injury.

The next week we were on vacation.  Figured it was a good time to rest, relax, recover.  Maybe eat a little too much and enjoy some of those favorites I’d been moderating.  So what – I put on five pounds – it will come off pretty quick when I start in again.  The plan was to cross-train a few weeks, maybe some running and strength work, then do the 90-day program again or try something different. Continue reading

Buckeye Lake

We recently returned from a family reunion/vacation on Buckeye Lake near Columbus, OH.  Our second trip out there in the last few years, and it was a lot of fun.  The kids are at the age to really enjoy water sports, which were our featured activity each day.  This meant early mornings – getting up at 5:30-6:00 EST(!) to make our cast off time, avoid the crowds, and hit the smooth water.  It also meant my brother and me had to make our attempts at wake-boarding, to the delight of the kids, since neither of us are very good.

The kids caught on quickly, though, aided by the patience of our cousins and their silver and red Buckeye boat (it really is an awesome ski-boat; the best one on the lake), not to mention some surprise instructions by a former professional wake-boarder and friends.  Weekends like these are big confidence builders for them; they tried something new, were pretty successful, and had fun.

For me, it’s a little strange to be on a lake that’s purely recreational.  Our lakes in Illinois usually have dual-hats:  flood control, power plant cooling, etc.  Lake Shelbyville, where I grew up, is a federally run lake with a flood control purpose primarily.  No houses and restaurants at water’s edge, fluctuating water levels, and lots of coves with old dead trees.  Couldn’t say which is better, but Buckeye Lake is sure a lot more convenient.

The best part of this vacation, though, was the family reunion.  Everyone made it back except one cousin, and we all had a genuinely good time together.  No major drama, the bigger kids were very kind and patient with the younger kids, and the adults were able to catch up and enjoy the down time.  We may have had some early wake-up calls, but the stress levels were low and the food was good, and the weather outstanding.  No real Griswold moments with this one, though I’d like to think old Clark would have approved.

USA World Cup Scrub

Yedlin = the Future

A couple of days since the USA Soccer team exited the World Cup – beat by a better team in Belgium, but defiant and unbroken in the end.  Everyone has acknowledged the brilliance of Tim Howard, the heart and drive of the field players, as well as their lack of possession and  finishing.  As much as the Team America was outplayed on the ball by Beligum, had Wondolowski and Dempsey scored on a couple of key chances, we could well be talking about one more game against Messi and Argentina.  SI.com’s Grant Wahl summed up the match very nicely (as usual).

Meanwhile, as mass attention begins to drift away from the team, the die hard American fans have begun the debate on strategy and tactics.  We made it out of the Group of Death – unexpected by most.  But we did so playing typically gritty, defensive-minded and opportunistic soccer.  This is not how Jurgen Klinsmann said we would play.  Did we make it to the knock-out rounds because of the coaching staff’s approach and preparations, or in spite of their tactics and roster selections?   Continue reading

Power of the Cup

“Who would win?” my son asked me.  “Michael Bradley and Graham Zusi vs. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan.  It’s two-on-two.”

“No goalkeepers?” I replied.

“Zusi and Bradley get Tim Howard.  The other guys get Brad Guzan.  Three-on-three.”

“Why Landon?” I asked him.

“Well, you keep saying he should be there with the team…”

That’s my boy!   For the record, I took Dempsey, Donovan, and Guzan.

This discussion took place out of the blue last week.  Before the World Cup, my eight-year-old son barely knew the U.S. Soccer team.  He knew a few of them, but now he knows the entire roster.  He’s interested, engaged.  He and his sister sat and watched nearly all of each group stage match – two of them out at sports bars/restaurants, one in town.  He can’t get enough World Cup.

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USA 2, Ghana 1 – Pentagram

What a game!  What a weird, wonderful, and at times frightening game!  Some will claim the USA turned back the clock about 30 years with a gritty, ugly, gut-check win.  Some will note that Juergen’s tactics and substitutions pretty much worked to a T.  And down at the Dublin Pub, with most of our YMCA U8 Soccer Team looking on (occasionally), we were starting to get a very bad feeling when Ghana continued to whip in crosses and come closer with their outside blasts.  The tying goal seemed inevitable…   And then Graham Zusi to John Brooks…

 

Juergen’s success with his subs continues…  With Germany’s pasting of Portugal, the Group of Death suddenly seems navigable – even with the injuries.  So on to five points about this opening World Cup Win…

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World Cup Couch Weekend

The big day is Monday – USA v. Ghana at 5:00 CST.  But today and this weekend (just in time for Father’s Day) we have World Cup Viewus Maximus.   Four games today, three games tomorrow.  No overlap, all available to watch on ABC and ESPN.  It’s like Sweet Sixteen weekend – all the games are on, all of them are important – only with higher stakes and it only occurs every four years.  Have a seat on the couch or head out to your favorite sports bar.

So far we’ve seen some bad refereeing decisions (Brazil penalty, Mexico disallowed goals) and a shocking dismantlement of the Spaniards by the Dutch.  The games this weekend all have some intrigue and reasons to watch.

  • Colombia v. Greece – 11:00 Sat:  Without Falcao, Colombia aren’t as fun, but they’re still pretty fun.  Will the Greeks come to play or will they bunker down?
  • Uruguay v. Costa Rica2:00 Sat:  Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani are worth a look.  Let’s hope Suarez’s knee is really OK.  The Ticos of Costa Rica are from our region and feature exciting players like Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz.  They’re definitely the underdogs in this group.
  • England v. Italy – 5:00 Sat:  Euro Old Guard powers square off.  The winner has the inside track on this group; the loser blames the weather and gets scorched by their home country’s media.  A lot to like here Ballotelli and Pirlo against Gerrard and Rooney.  This is one to watch.
  • Japan v. Ivory Coast – 8:00 Sat:  Which Japan shows up?  The technical swashbuckling samurai or the overmatched, over-pressured team of last summer?  Ivory Coast features big names like Drogba and the two Toures (Yaya and Kolo).  This is a potentially great match-up and we could see either of these teams winning the group or completely bombing out of the tournament.
  • Switzerland v. Ecuador – 11:00 Sun:  Can the Swiss take the heat?  The weather and Ecuadorians will oblige them.  Is Ecuador for real or are they just the beneficiary of playing all their qualifiers at a very altitude?
  • France v. Honduras – 2:00 Sun:  Hondo, our other regional cousins (we don’t claim Mexico) are big underdogs here.  Many of their players are MLS guys.  France has star power, skill, and talent, but you don’t know if they’ll show up to play or end up on strike.
  • Argentina v. Bosnia-Herzegovina – 5:00 Sun:  Messi, Higuain, Aguero for Argentina.  How will they play together?  Will Messi exert some leadership and lead this team like he can?  Bosnia will certainly try to bunker and counter but they do have Dzeko and Pjanic in the attack.

Here’s hoping for some great play, plenty of goals, and fewer bad calls this weekend.

Five Points from the Send-off Series

Less than a week from today, the U.S. Soccer team will take the field for their first World Cup match against Ghana.  That will be at 5 pm CST on Monday, so plan to leave work early.  Juergen Klinsmann has had his team together for three-plus weeks, he’s controversially cut Landon Donovan, and he’s  led the team to three wins in the send-off series against progressively more difficult opponents. The 2-0 win against Azerbaijan was a snoozer.   The back line didn’t have much to do, the offense looked rough amidst tired legs, and Mix Diskerud and Aron Johannsson  go the goals.  The next game, against Turkey, was more instructive.  Here the back line looked a little disorganized and loose, while Jermaine Jones had too much to do at the base of the diamond midfield.  But the offense looked better, more fluid, and the Bradley-to-Johnson goal was as good as you’ll see:

2-1, USA, with more for the coaches to think about.  This past Saturday, the team took on Nigeria, who will also be in Brazil and are easily the best opponent of the three.  This 2-1 win was pretty convincing, and should have us all feeling a lot more positive.  The defense looked stout, the attacking movements were there, and Jozy Altidore scored twice to break out of his slump.  If you had asked what we wanted out of the Nigeria game, those preceding three points are it.

So now it’s on to the grand stage.  The wait is nearly over.  It’s gut-check time.  Insert additional cliche here.  Ghana, Portugal, and Germany are on the horizon.  Here’s your U.S. Soccer Send-off Series Pentagram, with five points to consider…

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