Hello all and sorry for the absence, but love trumps soccer (usually)...and my wife and I had a fantastic couple of weeks in Ireland, thanks for asking. I've been back for a couple of days now but am still getting used to not having giant breakfasts prepared for me and rivers of stout flowing to my perch in front of the big screen in the pub ;-). In trying to get myself back into a blogging groove, I'll just outline a little of what went on in my "soccer life" while on my travels...

* I managed to catch all of the US matches in the World Cup save, probably fortunately, the first half of the Slovenia match. The lasting impression? Pleased we got out of the group, but disappointed that we didn't take full advantage of one of the (on paper) weaker portions of the bracket. I could fly my "sack Bob" flag for a couple of starting line-up decisions, but I was pleasantly surprised with some of his in-game changes. That said, unless Buddle was dinged, bringing on Gomez for Altidore in the Ghana match was completely brain-dead. Sure we needed a finisher, but Altidore's physicality was causing panic in the Ghanain ranks as the match wore on. Surely Buddle would have been the better option?

* I don't usually get a chance to canvas international opinion (mostly Germans, English, and, of course, Irish) on US players and the US team in general and wasn't really surprised with the whole "hard-working, resilient, better than the sum of its parts, organized," somewhat patronizing stuff. It was a little surprising, particularly with Donovan's Everton stint having gone so well, that the majority of those I talked to chose instead to focus on Dempsey. I suppose he's been doing the business in the Prem (which is where most of their attention is focused) for longer, but then, so has Howard, who got little to no attention save for folks saying we'd be better off with Friedel between the pipes...

* Irish opinion seemed split on France's miserable showing. RTE delighted in showing clips from multiple angles of Henry controlling a ball with his arm in one of their matches, and there certainly was a fair amount of shadenfreude to go around. But many wanted the French to advance reasonably far in order to (a) justify that they lost out (albeit unfairly) to a quality team and (b) make claims that, but for Henry's cheating, they might have gone deep into the tournament themselves.

* Of course, there was no such quibbling in a pub packed with Irish, Germans, and Yanks when it came to the English performance against Algeria, save for the table of suffering English folks (who, to be honest, handled things pretty gracefully before being rescued by the musicians kicking into gear shortly after full time).

* I caught the "condensed" United-Crew match and, despite the finishing and Terry Vaughn (in his usual fine form), thought the team looked pretty decent considering the time off and the injuries. I'm glad Castillo's finally been sent packing and wonder about the impact of our new Montenegran midfield meistro (M3?) when he finally arrives. We're still not going to make the playoffs. Any hope for video of tonight's Open Cup match since it's probably our best shot at glory this year?

* I wish Chile-Brazil was a prime-time or weekend match here. Sure it wasn't technically brilliant (indeed, it was a bit too quick and sloppy for my tastes), but the pace was ferocious—at times it more resembled hockey than soccer. If any match in this tournament was going to hook a potential American "fan on the fence" about soccer, that might have been it.

I suppose I must be forgetting something, but I'll work it into the posts as I get my groove back. Patience though. I've got a bit of catching up and re-adapting to do in other areas as well...

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