Author: aaronwojtaszek

Our Boys in Brazil – An American Love Story

Wow. That’s all I have to say… Wow.

The U.S. Men’s National Team’s quest for World Cup glory ended at the hands of Belgians. Four years of scouting, training, qualifying, and preparation ended at the moment the whistle blew in the 121′ minute of extra time in Salvador, Brazil. It was a bittersweet ending to the story of how twenty-three men wooed the hearts of an entire county. For the past four weeks they took America by storm.

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I have grown up playing and watching soccer my entire life. As I matured through high school, so did my love for the game. Each year my love for soccer grows – you will even find me waking myself up at 8AM on Saturday and Sunday mornings to watch English Premier League. I say this because it’s pretty rare to find an American who loves football. No, not the guys running each other over every Sunday. I mean football. The real football, or soccer as we call it. The sport that can make entire nations wallow in depression and in a split second jump through the ceiling of their homes because their team scored a goal.

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The reason why I am so attached to soccer is because of what the American public saw happen in these last four weeks – it’s glorious.  U.S. Men’s Soccer defied the odds, and battled adversity when the entire world doubted them otherwise by advancing out of the infamous Group of Death. Their journey was nothing less than an emotional roller coaster ride. One second you can feel like you are walking on the clouds of ecstasy as it seems like your team cannot possibly lose, and the next your beating heart is ripped out of your chest when the other team scores a goal. Anyone who took the time to watch the United States’ matches knows what that feels like. When John Brooks scored the game winning goal against Ghana in the 86′ minute, the crowd I was with went absolutely fucking mental, and in the very next game as the U.S seemed absolutely certain to be pulling a victory from the lauded Cristiano Ronaldo show, Portugal, we were shot right out of our seats when they equalized in stoppage time. When we qualified for the quarterfinals, there was an odd sense of satisfaction. I knew what it was supposed to feel like, but most others did not. “We lost to Germany! They played so poorly.” One would say. “But that doesn’t matter, we still made it out of the Group of Death, that’s all that matters” Another would reply. Our country became confused, “What is goal differential? How does that make any sense? This is why soccer is so stupid!” Idiots would say.

That’s what is so funny about America. For years soccer has lived in the shadows while the NFL, MLB, and NBA ruled the day. Yet when the Americans took on Belgium in the quarterfinal on Tuesday, an entire nation put everything down to stop and watch. The masses gathered at watch parties, bars, and living rooms across the country to watch our Great Nation take on the Belgians. They were captivated. In awe. And for 120 minutes we all yelled, screamed, cried, cheered, jeered, and clapped for our Boys in Brazil.

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The point I make with writing this blog comes all down to one thing. The We. For four weeks We the People came together to support those Boys in Brazil.

Soccer is the only sport in this world that brings entire countries and their people together in the way it does. I was never sure when the sport would catch on in my own country, but I think it has now. I hope it has. I hope it has, so I can share my love of the game with others as they begin their journey as American soccer fans.

Either that, or its because my generation grew up being driven around by their moms on Saturday mornings to kick a soccer ball around, eat orange slices, and get yelled at by psycho fathers.

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Cheers!

 

FootGolf!

Today I want to spend some time talking about a sport that I didn’t know existed: FootGolf!

FootGolf is a mixture of both golf and football (soccer for us Americans). Instead of a swinging a golf club at a tiny ball, a player instead kicks a regulation sized soccer ball around on a closed 18 hole golf course. All golf rules apply. Basically you trade a bag of clubs for a pair of boots.

When I was younger, I would play practically the same thing with my friends. Instead, we would kick the ball around the fields, calling out holes (usually a trash can or something), always trying to see who could hit the hole first. It was always a ton of fun. Now being older and placed out of any type of competitive soccer league, an alternative has presented itself.

Let’s dive into a little bit of Foot Golf history. In 2009 the Nederlandse FootGolf Bond (NFGB) organized the first FootGolf tournament in the Netherlands.  The actual origins of the game are unknown, but then again it’s not exactly a novel idea. In 2009 the International FootGolf Association (IFGA) was established by the founders of the NFGB. More and more players from different countries started to support the sport. From there, the Federation for International FootGolf (FIFG) was created in June 2012. The FIFG became the official governing body of Foot Golf, when it was sanctioned by the IFGA in December 2013. So far there are 22 member countries, but more are joining at a rapid pace! The first FootGolf World Cup was held in Budapest, Hungary in 2012, and the sport even has its own social media network: footgolfer.com.

The United States has its own league for the sport.

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The American FootGolf League is the official governing body for FootGolf in the US. On the site, there is the list rules, upcoming tournaments, and a map of all of the official AFGL courses open across the country. Unfortunately, there are none that are local for me but I have a feeling that will change in the near future.

I can’t wait to play my first game!

FootGolf

US Soccer Unveils New Away Kit

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CHICAGO (April 1, 2014) – U.S. Soccer and Nike unveiled the new Men’s and Women’s National Team away kit, a striking red, white and blue design that will first be worn by the MNT against Mexico on April 2 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Fans can purchase the bold red, white and blue jersey now on ussoccerstore.com. Additionally, fans who are in the area for Wednesday’s game can purchase the away jersey and other U.S. Soccer products from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT on Tuesday in front of Gate 2 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The jersey has a modern crew-neck collar and consists of three bands representing the colors of the American flag. The base color of the jersey and the cuff of the sleeves feature a prominent red. The upper torso and top sleeves include a bold blue tone, and a white chest band extends over the middle of both sleeves.

The back of the jersey features a unique and specially designed font for the names and numbers, which is modern and angular. Each number on the back of the jersey also houses a small U.S. Soccer crest at the bottom. Additionally, there is a pennant tab inside the back of the neck featuring 13 red and white stripes to represent the original 13 colonies.

 

Well there it is folks. Your 2014 Russian National Team kit…oh wait.

 

I have to say I am not thrilled with Nike’s design on the new 2014 World Cup away kit. In my opinion the kit lacks any real American symbolism. The blue is too bright, and the red overpowers the entire thing. People have been saying it looks like something Russia or France should be wearing. A few minor tweaks could have really made this a nice jersey. There were fake leak photos online of the kit having an extra white stripe, and a darker shade of blue at the top, instead we have this:

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I have to admit it didn’t look bad versus Mexico.

 

My rating:

5/10

Lot of potential to create something special, instead Nike over-thought this and screwed up the color scheme. Oh well I guess.

Either way – BRING ON THE GROUP DEATH!

 

 

 

NYCFC Unveils New Crest

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New York City Football Club, Major League Soccer’s 20th team unveiled their new team crest last night. NYCFC crowdsourced their new crest through a contest in which graphic designers could submit their sample ideas. Supporters could then vote on which crest they felt would be the one that best represented the franchise. The contest ultimately came down to two different crests but it was the circular one that prevailed. The colors in the crest take homage to NYCFC’s owners who also own MLB’s  New York Yankees and English Premier League’s Manchester City.

NYCFC will play their debut MLS season in 2015.

Bayern Munich Prospect Julien Green to Announce Commitment to United States Soccer

Bayern Munich prospect and German-American Julien Green has reportedly made a decision to represent United States Soccer on the international level. The  eighteen year old, Florida-born Green, who had made two senior team appearances for UEFA Champions League holders Bayern Munich this season, submitted paperwork to FIFA, sources have said.

U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann just tweeted out to confirm the news:

The official U.S. Soccer announcement is expected within the next 24-48 hours. Green is also scheduled to train with the U.S. ahead of next month’s friendly in Phoenix against Mexico, as he had before the Americans’ March 5 loss to Ukraine in Cyprus.

Klinsmann also noted that he would be given a fair chance to make the 23-man World Cup squad as well. Green has scored 15 goals in 19 appearances for Bayern Munich II which is the Bayern Munich development team that currently plays in the German fourth division.

Green was born in Tampa, Florida to an American father and German mother. He holds a dual citizenship in both countries.

Green’s commitment would be a huge addition for U.S. Soccer, maybe not for this World Cup but for the future. People comment on how the US lacks offensive firepower, and that talent being produced in States is not up to par. Well Green is that answer. He is a promising winger playing for the reserve team of perhaps the best club in the world right now. He has also already made his senior debut for Munich at eighteen years old. That’s impressive, and if he can stay on track he will become one the United States’ best players to date.