Puck’s Gameday Happy Hour: Thoughts on the USWNT Goalfest, Clint Dempsey, Venezuela and More…

<img class="size-full wp-image-5351" title="deuce hat trick" src="http://www.yanksarecoming.com/wp-con
Damn it feels good to be a gangster. This being a soccer blog, I will not continue to bore you with how the world revolves solely around me. There is a lot of news to cover this week, so let’s get right to it.

First of all, regardless of what happens tonight against Venezuela, the United States are having a tremendous soccer weekend here in the waking hours of 2012. Clint Dempsey continues to prove his class is a cut above, worthy of mention among the world’s elite. His hat trick today (the first by an American in top-flight English competition) against one of the EPL’s most stingy defenses is just more validation—the real question is how many of these mammoth performances will it take for a bigger club to pay a price even Fulham can’t turn down for Deuce’s services.

Speaking of mammoth performances and goals, how about Amy Rodriguez netting five….off the bench…last night in the USWNT’s record-shattering 14-0 victory over the Dominican Republic. Look, there are a bunch of things Dominican women do well—soccer, apparently, is not one of them. It would have been even more bloody, as hard as that is to fathom, if it weren’t for a few fine saves by the Dominican goalkeeper. An injury to Ali Krieger that appears to be serious certainly marred the enormous win—but taking nothing away from the US Women—they received a qualifying scare for the Women’s World Cup and aren’t about to allow that to happen again.

Elsewhere in the soccer universe…

For the Ivory Coast, the African Cup of Nations may be a last shot at glory for the most elite group of talent an African side has ever assembled.

African Cup of Nations

For those of you not paying attention, which is probably a lot of people unfortunately, the 2012 edition of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) gets underway this weekend. This year, the games will be hosted in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The format features 16 teams in 4 groups, followed by the standard knockout rounds. Most European managers hate this tournament as the competition takes place in the middle of the season. For example, my beloved “Citeh” will be without the Toure brothers for nearly a month while they suit of up with the Ivory Coast. Note to our rich oil baron owners: we’ll be okay. Regardless of what the jackleg Europeans think, this should be a very exciting tournament.

Now, when the average soccer fan thinks of the traditional powerhouses of African soccer, they come up with 5-6 names; Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Egypt, and possibly South Africa. Guess what folks, only two of those teams managed to qualify for their continental championship. Nigeria, Cameroon, Egypt, and South Africa will be watching this one from the sidelines. As an outsider looking in, this completely baffles me.

How Cameroon does not qualify with the “greatest striker in the history of football” Samuel Eto’o is laughable. Nigeria is an even worse example. That is a solid team. Hell, at the 2010 World Cup they battled against Argentina for 84 minutes and lost 1-0. They even had a shot to move onto the knock out stages if not for one of the most idiotic red cards I have ever seen. Nigeria exports two things, Oil and soccer players, and not qualifying for the continental championship is a disgrace. I am not going to come down on Egypt too bad– not qualifying for the AFCON was what got Sweatpants his current job. Of the teams that did qualify I was encouraged to see Botswana participate. 70% of that country is a desert wasteland, and another 20% one of

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the World’s most protected and biologically diverse wetland habitats. I didn’t think they had enough people in that country to field an actual competitive squad.

Taking a look at the tournament squads, there are two prohibitive favorites: the Elephants of the Ivory Coast, and the Black Stars of Ghana. The Elephants are loaded from top to bottom with world class talent. After a disappointing World Cup, albeit in the Group of Death, they have to be motivated to make a statement to the rest of continent. As the New York Times wisely pointed out– this group isn’t getting any younger either– and this tournament may be a last shot at glory for one of the most remarkable collections of talent ever fielded by an African side.

On the other hand, USMNT fans are intimately familiar with the type of squad that Ghana can put together. Unfortunately, the Black stars will again be without the perpetually injured Michael Essien. Honestly, am I the only one that thinks Sidney Crosby and Essien are sitting in a room together planning their global empire? It isn’t like they have anything else to do.

The tournament sets up nicely so that if both Ghana and Ivory Coast win their groups, they will not meet until the final. Looking past the power houses, there are two other teams to keep an eye on during the next month, Tunisia and Zambia. Tunisia has a very solid, defensive-minded, counterpunching squad that will be looking to do some damage on a larger stage.

As for Zambia, the AFCON is one major step to returning to the great footballing nation they once were. Anyone under the age of 25 probably has no recollection of the tragedy that hit the Zambia National Football team in 1993. With only a couple qualifying games to play and a stranglehold on their qualifying group for the 1994 World Cup, the team plane crashed on the way to Senegal for a qualifying match killing all 30 passengers on board. Check out Mark Lomas’ Story for some perspective.

As is South American tradition, Hugo Chavez mixes soccer support with statecraft. He’s like Joey Barton, except President of stuff.

USMNT Returns to Action

It’s been too long since the Yanks were on the pitch. Sure it is only a friendly, but it does mark another chance to see if the changes that Klinsmann wants to make are beginning to take root in the players’ minds. Tonight, the USMNT will play Venezuela at University of Phoenix Stadium. I have been excited to this game for months because of all the talent Venezuela has at its disposal. I expect their firecracker of a manager Ozzie Guillen to start with King Felix on the bump, Elvis Andrus playing short and leading off, Bobby Abreu in Right, Magglio Ordonez in left, and Miguel Cabrera at first hitting cleanup. Shit, that’s baseball you say?

I will be honest, I don’t know a damn thing about Venezuelan soccer other than the fact they have never qualified for a World Cup. I do know that the country has a ton of oil, and their president/dictator/comedian is a professional crazy person. He opens his mouth, says something ridiculous, and I laugh. His support of the Venezuelan team is well noted– and it is certainly in keeping with historical reality to mix soccer and statecraft. At the end of the day, Chavez is like Joey Barton, except President of stuff.

Four days later the USMNT will travel to Panama in an attempt to avenge last summer’s Gold Cup loss. Several months down the road, I think it is time to reevaluate the Panama loss. Yes, it was on home soil, but that team is a hell of a lot better than they have been traditionally. A lot of young talent and great coaching has the Panamanians playing possibly the best football they ever have. SI writer Grant Wahl has even gone so far to predict that Panama will qualify for the 2014 World Cup. I guess only time will tell.

Amy Rodriguez scored five goals last night. Off the bench. The USWNT resumes play tomorrow.

USWNT 2012 Olympic Qualifying

First game, as noted above, was a roaring success. They’ll play another tomorrow. Bottom line? After the squad is safe and sound following a shooting at their hotel the Lady Yanks should be ready to take care of business. No one should be worried about the USWNT qualifying for the 2012 games. Predicting they qualify is about as bold as predicting Paula Deen getting Type II diabetes, or Amy Winehouse dying of a drug overdose… it is going to happen.

PUCK’S FREE ADVICE

This free advice goes out to all those soccer fans with kids. Not having children, this may seem a bit strange, but stay with me. It is never ok to walk into a bar with 6 children under the age of 10, and then leave them there unsupervised. This is especially a bad idea when the bar is the kind of place frequented by at least 65% bearded men who like to rip shots of whiskey at 12:30pm. Furthermore, never ever, walk behind the bar and ask the barkeep to “keep an eye on my kids for me” before walking out, not to be seen again for several hours. That my friends is grounds for a call to child protective services.

I am heading into gamenight with “more hits than the Braves and the Yankees”

Sorry for partying…

Puck is the Pop Culture Guy for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at puck@yanksarecoming.com and we encourage you to follow him on Twitter at @PuckLovesPBR. Rich Text AreaToolbarBold (Ctrl + B)Italic (Ctrl + I)Strikethrough (Alt + Shift + D)Unordered list (Alt + Shift + U)Ordered list (Alt + Shift + O)Blockquote (Alt + Shift + Q)Align Left (Alt + Shift + L)Align Center (Alt + Shift + C)Align Right (Alt + Shift + R)Insert/edit link (Alt + Shift + A)Unlink (Alt + Shift + S)Insert More Tag (Alt + Shift + T)Toggle spellchecker (Alt + Shift + N)▼
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Dempsey had one hat trick this year, but today became the first American to pull off the feat in a top-division match. Remarkable.Puck
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back into the Happy Hour. Since we last got together, I have been on top of the world. The Syracuse Orangemen (they will never be the Orange to true fans) are the number one team in the land, Manchester City remains atop the EPL table thanks to the head of Edin Dzeko, the New York Yankees completed a monster trade that should help cement their dominance in the AL East for the next few years, the SOPA/PIPA bills took a huge hit with widespread protests, and the Anti-Christ Rick Perry dropped out of the GOP Presidential Race. Damn it feels good to be a gangster. This being a soccer blog, I will not continue to bore you with how the world revolves solely around me. There is a lot of news to cover this week, so let’s get right to it.
First of all, regardless of what happens tonight against Venezuela, the United States are having a tremendous soccer weekend here in the waking hours of 2012. Clint Dempsey continues to prove his class is a cut above, worthy of mention among the world’s elite. His hat trick today (the first by an American in top-flight English competition) against one of the EPL’s most stingy defenses is just more validation—the real question is how many of these mammoth performances will it take for a bigger club to pay a price even Fulham can’t turn down for Deuce’s services.
Speaking of mammoth performances and goals, how about Amy Rodriguez netting five….off the bench…last night in the USWNT’s record-shattering 14-0 victory over the Dominican Republic. Look, there are a bunch of things Dominican women do well—soccer, apparently, is not one of them. It would have been even more bloody, as hard as that is to fathom, if it weren’t for a few fine saves by the Dominican goalkeeper. An injury to Ali Krieger that appears to be serious certainly marred the enormous win—but taking nothing away from the US Women—they received a qualifying scare for the Women’s World Cup and aren’t about to allow that to happen again.
Elsewhere in the soccer universe…

For the Ivory Coast, the African Cup of Nations may be a last shot at glory for the most elite group of talent an African side has ever assembled.African Cup of Nations
For those of you not paying attention, which is probably a lot of people unfortunately, the 2012 edition of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) gets underway this weekend. This year, the games will be hosted in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The format features 16 teams in 4 groups, followed by the standard knockout rounds. Most European managers hate this tournament as the competition takes place in the middle of the season. For example, my beloved “Citeh” will be without the Toure brothers for nearly a month while they suit of up with the Ivory Coast. Note to our rich oil baron owners: we’ll be okay. Regardless of what the jackleg Europeans think, this should be a very exciting tournament.
Now, when the average soccer fan thinks of the traditional powerhouses of African soccer, they come up with 5-6 names; Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Egypt, and possibly South Africa. Guess what folks, only two of those teams managed to qualify for their continental championship. Nigeria, Cameroon, Egypt, and South Africa will be watching this one from the sidelines. As an outsider looking in, this completely baffles me.
How Cameroon does not qualify with the “greatest striker in the history of football” Samuel Eto’o is laughable. Nigeria is an even worse example. That is a solid team. Hell, at the 2010 World Cup they battled against Argentina for 84 minutes and lost 1-0. They even had a shot to move onto the knock out stages if not for one of the most idiotic red cards I have ever seen. Nigeria exports two things, Oil and soccer players, and not qualifying for the continental championship is a disgrace. I am not going to come down on Egypt too bad– not qualifying for the AFCON was what got Sweatpants his current job. Of the teams that did qualify I was encouraged to see Botswana participate. 70% of that country is a desert wasteland, and another 20% one of the World’s most protected and biologically diverse wetland habitats. I didn’t think they had enough people in that country to field an actual competitive squad.
Taking a look at the tournament squads, there are two prohibitive favorites: the Elephants of the Ivory Coast, and the Black Stars of Ghana. The Elephants are loaded from top to bottom with world class talent. After a disappointing World Cup, albeit in the Group of Death, they have to be motivated to make a statement to the rest of continent. As the New York Times wisely pointed out– this group isn’t getting any younger either– and this tournament may be a last shot at glory for one of the most remarkable collections of talent ever fielded by an African side.
On the other hand, USMNT fans are intimately familiar with the type of squad that Ghana can put together. Unfortunately, the Black stars will again be without the perpetually injured Michael Essien. Honestly, am I the only one that thinks Sidney Crosby and Essien are sitting in a room together planning their global empire? It isn’t like they have anything else to do.
The tournament sets up nicely so that if both Ghana and Ivory Coast win their groups, they will not meet until the final. Looking past the power houses, there are two other teams to keep an eye on during the next month, Tunisia and Zambia. Tunisia has a very solid, defensive-minded, counterpunching squad that will be looking to do some damage on a larger stage.
As for Zambia, the AFCON is one major step to returning to the great footballing nation they once were. Anyone under the age of 25 probably has no recollection of the tragedy that hit the Zambia National Football team in 1993. With only a couple qualifying games to play and a stranglehold on their qualifying group for the 1994 World Cup, the team plane crashed on the way to Senegal for a qualifying match killing all 30 passengers on board. Check out Mark Lomas’ Story for some perspective.

As is South American tradition, Hugo Chavez mixes soccer support with statecraft. He’s like Joey Barton, except President of stuff.USMNT Returns to Action
It’s been too long since the Yanks were on the pitch. Sure it is only a friendly, but it does mark another chance to see if the changes that Klinsmann wants to make are beginning to take root in the players’ minds. Tonight, the USMNT will play Venezuela at University of Phoenix Stadium. I have been excited to this game for months because of all the talent Venezuela has at its disposal. I expect their firecracker of a manager Ozzie Guillen to start with King Felix on the bump, Elvis Andrus playing short and leading off, Bobby Abreu in Right, Magglio Ordonez in left, and Miguel Cabrera at first hitting cleanup. Shit, that’s baseball you say?
I will be honest, I don’t know a damn thing about Venezuelan soccer other than the fact they have never qualified for a World Cup. I do know that the country has a ton of oil, and their president/dictator/comedian is a professional crazy person. He opens his mouth, says something ridiculous, and I laugh. His support of the Venezuelan team is well noted– and it is certainly in keeping with historical reality to mix soccer and statecraft. At the end of the day, Chavez is like Joey Barton, except President of stuff.
Four days later the USMNT will travel to Panama in an attempt to avenge last summer’s Gold Cup loss. Several months down the road, I think it is time to reevaluate the Panama loss. Yes, it was on home soil, but that team is a hell of a lot better than they have been traditionally. A lot of young talent and great coaching has the Panamanians playing possibly the best football they ever have. SI writer Grant Wahl has even gone so far to predict that Panama will qualify for the 2014 World Cup. I guess only time will tell.

Amy Rodriguez scored five goals last night. Off the bench. The USWNT resumes play tomorrow.USWNT 2012 Olympic Qualifying
First game, as noted above, was a roaring success. They’ll play another tomorrow. Bottom line? After the squad is safe and sound following a shooting at their hotel the Lady Yanks should be ready to take care of business. No one should be worried about the USWNT qualifying for the 2012 games. Predicting they qualify is about as bold as predicting Paula Deen getting Type II diabetes, or Amy Winehouse dying of a drug overdose… it is going to happen.
PUCK’S FREE ADVICE
This free advice goes out to all those soccer fans with kids. Not having children, this may seem a bit strange, but stay with me. It is never ok to walk into a bar with 6 children under the age of 10, and then leave them there unsupervised. This is especially a bad idea when the bar is the kind of place frequented by at least 65% bearded men who like to rip shots of whiskey at 12:30pm. Furthermore, never ever, walk behind the bar and ask the barkeep to “keep an eye on my kids for me” before walking out, not to be seen again for several hours. That my friends is grounds for a call to child protective services.
I am heading into gamenight with “more hits than the Braves and the Yankees”
Sorry for partying…
Puck is the Pop Culture Guy for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at puck@yanksarecoming.com and we encourage you to follow him on Twitter at @PuckLovesPBR.
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  • George Leon

    Love your coments, keep on partying.!!!

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