1. Los Bravos

    I grew up with baseball as my favorite sport.  I used to go to spring training every year with my Dad and older brother and used a Glenn Hubbard glove in my one and only season of Little League.

    As I fell in love with soccer, I’ve paid less and less attention to baseball on a regular basis.  The Braves recent troubles have gotten me thinking about it again though.  

    Making the move on Frank Wren was the right thing to do.  You hit and miss on player acquisitions all the time, but the misses have been catastrophic for the Braves recently.  It’s not to say that Wren should have known BJ Upton and Dan Uggla would forget how to hit once they put on a Braves uniform, but someone has to pay the price for the anchor that’s been placed on this lineup.  

    The next question is on Fredi Gonzalez.  In general, I would say he deserves another shot with a better roster.  I think he’s had to use duct tape to try to keep this team competitive given the tools he’s been handed.  However, questions are starting to arise about the team’s motivation, chemistry, and effort.  These are things that the manager has to influence.  If he’s lost the locker room, he has to go.  At the least, some of his staff has to go because of the severe backslide in many players’ performances.  

    The biggest thing I think the Braves and the fans have to accept is that this is now a medium market franchise.  Liberty Media is not going to spend big money on it, it just won’t happen.  You’re going to have to look at the model of the Kansas City Royals and others to figure out the best way forward.  

    If the Braves can get back to their “Braves Way” of developing talent through the minor leagues, they’ll be fine.  That’s how you can compete with the big money franchises because you have a steady pipeline.  If not, they won’t be able to spend the money to compete and they’ll have to look at players who are good value for the money.  

    Either way, the team needs some excitement around it to reignite the fan base.  The malaise of being a perennial first round playoff elimination, and now watching multiple teams clinch playoff berths at Turner Field, has taken its toll.  The vibe of the franchise has to change, and that will be the new general manager’s most important job.  


  2. It all started in 1986…

    Argentina v. Germany.

    The first World Cup Final I saw was in 1986.  I had played my first season of soccer that spring, but had never seen the real thing.  Some of the 1986 World Cup ended up on American TV, I remember finding it and being transfixed.  

    I would play my own World Cup matches in my backyard.  We had brick wall on the backside of the house.  I’d play the ball off the wall and say I had 5 seconds to score between the 2 trees on the other end of the yard.  Once I figured out the format of the tournament, I would replay all of the games in my head in the backyard.  

    I remember getting excited about it, but the game that sealed it for me was the semifinal between Argentina and Belgium.  The two goals Maradona scored made me a fan forever.  I couldn’t wait until the final.  I remember being excited about University of Georgia football games and other big sporting events, but that 1986 World Cup Final was right up there.  

    We planned the day around the game, probably the only family in Riverdale, Georgia who did so.  My dad decided to pull for West Germany, mostly just to antagonize me.  We were yelling back and forth as the game went on.  When the Germans tied it up late, I was on the edge of my seat.  The ball Maradona played in to Burruchaga made everything okay again.  After watching the trophy presentation, I was back out in the back yard, pretending the wall was Maradona and I was Burruchaga running in to score the goal to win the World Cup.  

    I loved Maradona and that Argentinian team.  We found a sky blue and white striped shirt at the little soccer shop we had in Riverdale, and my mom sewed an Argentina patch on it.  I begged to wear #10 in my next season of soccer because I wanted to be like Maradona. 

    I was already well on my way to falling in love with soccer from the earlier games, but the 1986 World Cup Final and Argentina sealed it.   After that tournament, I wanted to learn everything about the sport.  It was then that I found out bits and pieces about the US national team and watched the few games televised on the road to the 1990 World Cup.  I of course went nuts for the USA watching our games in Italy in 1990, but Argentina has always been my other team to support.  

    That will never change, because in 1986 the Albicelestes inspired a kid in Riverdale, Georgia to follow the path less traveled in terms of sport.  It was easy to be a football fan in those days, but I was a soccer fan.  Yes, I played but I also wanted to watch games and read everything I could find about the sport.  I wanted to learn.  Thankfully, my parents supported me and helped me learn everything I could.  I’m sure I checked out every soccer book at the public library at least 5 times.  

    My life is better now because of the World Cup and 1986.  For that reason, I’ll be cheering on Argentina today with my all.  Just like my 9 year old self in Riverdale back in 1986…


  3. Hearts on Fire

    So, I’ve been completely engrossed by all of the World Cup previewing going on everywhere right now.  

    I’m completely confused at what the US is expected to do in this group.  

    I’ve listened to TalkSport out of the UK a good bit in the afternoons on Sirius, the European media is completely dismissing the US, but talking about how Germany could be the team to disappoint due to all of their injuries.  

    US based media is pushing Germany as a tournament favorite, but dismissing Portugal as the team struggling with injuries.  

    Some think Ghana will be the best of the African teams, some give them no chance.  

    It just goes to show that this World Cup might be the most wide open in history.  

    I’ll say what I’ve said since the draw.  The US is in the Group of Death.  However, all of the games are winnable.  The biggest difference with this group compared to others is that there are no cupcakes in it.  Every game will be a battle.  

    The scheduling plays to our advantage.  I like that we have the Ghana match first, we can prepare for it and it’s the (slightly) easiest match in the group.  I like that we get Portugal in the Amazon on a crappy field.  The travel, the humidity, the field won’t bother our guys.  It will be like a CONCACAF special.  However, Portugal will struggle with it.  

    Germany is a strong squad on paper.  However, they do have quite a few injuries that will affect them.  Their players will have to get used to a different climate quickly.  Most people seem to think we should hope they’re already through and field a weakened squad against us.  They could also be so beat up and tired that it won’t matter.  

    Anything really can happen in this thing.  


  4. From the field

    "Don’t you know, black kids don’t play soccer," was one of the first things I heard from one of the kids today at John Hope Community Center.

    It was our first day of soccer in the neighborhood, we were working with the summer camp at the Community Center.  

    Buck, the kid who didn’t think he could play soccer, wasn’t happy because he was struggling in the 2v2 games we set up.  He was playing against the only two Hispanic kids in the program, a ten year old boy named Angel and his little brother.  We mixed up the teams, and things went a little smoother. 

    To end the session, we did a three team scrimmage and I picked Buck for my team.  He wanted to play goalkeeper, and was diving all over the place stopping shots.  He was even getting pretty good with distribution, throwing the ball out to his teammates.  

    After we won the last game, Buck was one of the first kids to come running over for a high five and a hug.  

    Can’t wait to see Buck and the crew next week…


  5. One of their more underrated songs…


  6. I’m really lucky…

    When people ask why I do what I do with Soccer in the Streets, I’m just going to refer them to what some of my former players wrote to me today on my birthday. I didn’t expect to get messages like:

    - “Happy birthday to a person who has always been there for me. Thanks for everything you’ve done and everything you do for me.”
    - “I’m glad I got to meet a great person and share some soccer experiences with you. Thanks for everything you have done for me.”
    - “Happy birthday Coach!! One of the greatest human beings to live. Always there ready to help out. Thanks for everything Coach.” 

    I can’t even begin to express what that means to me. All I know is that I’m really lucky to be able to do what I do…

    Thanks for being part of my extended family y’all.


  7. Final thoughts on #SnowJam2014

    The sun is out, temps are rising, and the ice is (mostly) gone from Atlanta’s roads. 

    Many are using the 2011 storm that shut the city down to compare to this one, which isn’t entirely fair.  The snow started on a Sunday in 2011, so people woke up Monday morning and knew schools were closed and many roads were in bad shape. No one was surprised.  

    The major issues in 2011 were that it took until Friday for many people to get back to something resembling normal.  Part of that is that the temperature didn’t rise above freezing for 5 days, which is rare around here.  The major issue is there was no strong plan to deal with the poor road conditions.  The city, state, and county leadership did not work together well.  

    The biggest difference I’ve seen in 2014 is that the city roads (from my experience) were cleared much quicker this time around.  Ponce de Leon Ave. was a nightmare 3 days after the storm in 2011, it was fine this morning (less than 48 hours after the snow started to fall).  In 2011, I couldn’t get to the office until Friday, and that was a dangerous drive.  I’m at the office now with no issues driving over.  

    What needs to happen in the future is to improve coordination between leadership in preparation and immediate response.  The timing of the storm in 2014, combined with school being in session, made for a traffic nightmare.  People panicked, which made the initial response more difficult.  Interstates couldn’t be cleared quickly because they were gridlocked.  This just can’t happen.  

    It was our traffic issues, which can be awful on a beautiful day, that made #SnowJam2014 a nightmare.  Hopefully next time schools and businesses close because of the hint of a bad winter storm, we’ll remember these last few days before we complain.  And… hopefully we’ll see some solutions that attempt to address our traffic issues as well as snow plows.


  8. Shoe Laced, 9.13

    I’m way late to the party on Aloe Blacc, but his vocals on Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” have made that song my pop guilty pleasure recently.  Did some digging, and liking what I’m finding…

    Check this out…