"El Classico" - A Brief Rundown From the Land of La Liga

Pepe of Real Madrid CF celebrates after scoring his team's 2nd goal on Saturday... (photo by Denis Doyle)

By Bryan Maag (@HalfBAM)

This game ("El Classico") is watched by more people around the world than then Super Bowl and World Series combined. These two teams play twice a year in league play and then may play in the Champions League or Copa del Rey. Last year Gareth Bale made a famous run against Bartram to finish the game off, outrunning him past the halfway point and putting it past Barca’s second goal keeper.

This year the teams have changed and adapted. It seems that Madrid is playing the style of play that Barca originally made famous: one touch futbol. Last year Barca swept the league series but lost out on the trophy to Real, which made the central base of Spain very happy.

Barcelona must be looked at like an island much like Monico, they were suppressed under the Franco regime during World War II and have been the team that has been the symbol of the sovereignty ever since. Barcelona just put their backing behind Catalon independence which could create a lot of problems in La Liga. The Spanish capital cannot allow an independent state to play in their national league unless they yield some power to the economic benefits that Barcelona provides.

Barcelona is a key shipping port for trade as well as a tourist attraction that brings in millions of dollars to the Spanish government. Losing Catalonia would be a significant tax loss and economically a strategically big loss to Spain which makes these games so important.

Half a billion people watch the El Classico, the only country predominantly rooting for Madrid is Spain.


So here is my recap of Saturday’s game. A 3-1 victory for Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid…

Lucho (Enrique) played for Madrid before he switched to Barca. He knows that these games mean more to the players individually than they do to the fans. After all, Barca is still on top of the league. He started Xavi and Pique who have had subpar seasons up to date. Lucho has instilled tight lines back into the Barca game and Madrid exploited their gaps. Marcelo was always left open on the left wing because Mathieu (the new Barca center back) was put on the fullback position which is usually controlled by Jordi Alba because he needed to stop set pieces.

He did not succeed today in his task. Once upon a time there was a left back at Barcelona with the name of Eric Abidal, a Frenchman that could cover the back but was let go by the prior ownership because of hepatic cancer, leaving the Baulgrana faithful questioning if the slogan “more than a club” indeed really meant anything.

Today Madrid asserted their midfield dominance. So much money is placed on putting the ball in the goal these days. You have to wonder if the midfield makes more of a difference than the actual attack, Iniesta went out early, but Barca did not have an answer because they were playing for their B team.

Real won two titles last year without beating Barca in the league, so VISCA BARCA.

"Sunday Night Fútbol" - USA v. Portugal: A Preview

(photo by Lawrence Griffiths)

By Bryan Maag (@HalfBAM)

Let's be clear, even though I was born and bred in the glorious 925, this is stil my first post so give me some patience...

The World Cup is in full bloom and America is starting to embrace the "beautiful game" slowly. I appreciate the posts and pods on The Section relating to our world’s number one sport and I want to add my two cents. So here I am.

Before I go into USA V Portugal I want to take this opportunity to address some issues I have had with the fútbol community as a whole.  I took a bit of exception to The Section’s pod on the build up to the World Cup. The commentator, I believe he went by the name “Trashman”, believed the Premier League was the best in the world. Sure, I used to tell chicks I like Friends over Seinfeld to get in their pants, but give credit where credit is due. We all know the real genius on the soccer pitch is found in Southern Europe. No talented player wants to knock around the rock on a cold rainy night in Stoke. I see this as a fundamental flaw to analyzing the game and its players.

The Premier League broadcasts internationally and is the highest grossing league in the world with owners coming from as far as Qatar, tulhe USA, and Asia. The product does not matter as much as the name on the back of the jerseys to create a marketing bonanza. People constantly state this league is the most competitive in the world and if you look at the numbers this is completely false. Just like the other leagues there is a rotation of three to four teams that consistently qualify for Champions League play. Your Sevillas, Napolis, and Real Sociedads nurture and develop Europe’s next generation while competing for trophies. Chelseas Europa Trophy after a champions league triumph shows the results of a pay to play system. Little Putin in London will not be close ever again. Now that I am done with that rant, lets get on to the game that will make us scream ‘MURICA...

Cristiano Ronaldo is about as talented as they come. (photo by Clive Brunskill)

America V. Portugal (A.K.A. La Liga Lite)

Believe it or not, we control our destiny going into the second game of group play. With the world number one bowing out in two games, the USA is in the envious position of controlling their destiny on Sunday. It is becoming clear that this cup is a young man’s tourney. The humidity and heat of the equatorial region is wreaking havoc on all those tired European knees. I would litske to point out that futbol players are the most taxed athletes in any sport. The european leagues start in August and go through May. World class players get 3 weeks off in the middle of summer then go back to the grind. For reference sake, Lebron has been bitching about playing the Olympics and playing in an air conditioned stadium (except in San Antonio) for 10 months of the year.  Futbol does not stop. The average player runs a 9 km a game. The World Cup gives you 4-5 days off in between games, and your group draw is critical. The USA was drawn into what many called the "Group of Death". At this moment I would like to present this video of what other countries think about their group of death.......

What to watch for on Sunday:

Ronaldo has to be at the top of your list. He is surely one of the top players in the world but he does not have the supporting cast he has at Real. There is no Benzema to hold up play and suck in two central defenders. Ronaldo is the captain and holds the country’s hopes and dreams on his sleeve but he cannot do it alone. Nani runs the wing. He is a fleet footed attacker that plies his trade at Manchester United. He has been injured most of the year but is coming back into a bit of form. I believe the USA can exploit his eagerness and use the space he exposes between the lines to start our attack.

The portuguese midfield is a melting pot of hacks from across Europe. This was the weak link of the team up until their first game. The midfield lacks creativity and is undisciplined. Bradley should have enough time and space to control the game. The back four of Portugal was the strong point coming into the tourney. Contreau (Real), Pepe (Real), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce) are all out of the lineup due to injury. These are three stalwarts that usually run the backwall for Portugal. Contreau was able to flank the winger in attack and create space i. It will be in the corner. It will be interesting to see how the team performs with them left out. As much as I want to see the USA beat a full squad, we need to take advantage of their weakness.

Our young squad is a mesh of what america is. Our servicemen have spread their seed around the world and we are reaping the benefits of our industrial might. We lost Jozy Altidore to a muscle tear in the first game which will hamper our current style. The USA has been really good at sitting back on defense and making a break when they get a chance. I want to see us exploit the gaps in the portuguese lines with creative passing and work the ball from the back. We should not be pinging the ball up the field hoping for a gratuitous bounce. Being from the bay area, I would like to see Wondo leading the front. We showed in the first game that we have can utilize our height in set pieces, which will be an advantage with Pepe out. It might be my football past but when someone lets near your line, you raise your level up. Bradley tossed arround errant passes in the first round, but i hope we can get a little Pirlo out of him for the match. Klinsmann is a fitness guru and I believe is the right coach for our squad. He has been bashed for his tactical awareness by Philip Lahm(german captain) but I believe he is good for our squad. Tournament play is a different beast than a long season. I want coaches out of their chair cheering and hugging. Uruguay just stated their physio put off cancer treatment to treat suarez,I can see the passion other people have for this tournament. It is time for the USA to come out of the shadows and put us in the knockout round.


USA 2 -Portugal 1: (plus one moment of Ronaldo brilliance)

Hope this went well and I hope to see you watching the game that has no commercials and a global following...

P.S.: Here is the water usage (toilet flushes) in the city of Berlin during the Germany - Portugal match: http://i.imgur.com/tOpYFEI.png

...and a nice little video on the Chilean Miners: http://youtu.be/QjVPAyQa7Kc

I'm Bryan Maag, and I'm out...

(photo by Lawrence Griffiths)