If you are one of the tens of Americans who watched soccer's World Cup on Fox and FS1, you know that France won the title on Sunday, defeating tiny Croatia 4-2. If you are a novice or non-regular to the game, you listened intently, and consciously or not, constantly heard soccer terms that are accepted as sport-wide, even though it's really just how things are said and done in England, where, of course, soccer (or football) is king.
For example, we know that a tie game is a draw, a 'game' is really a 'match', the field is called the 'pitch' and that period between when the half should be over and when the referee finally blows his whistle is what is called 'stoppage time'. Soccer terms. Okay, fine.
But why, when we say the score, do we have to say “nil” when no one has scored a goal? If the score is 1-0, we are supposed to say “one-nil”. If we don't, we are thought of as not knowing anything about soccer. This is, as the Brits might say, rubbish. Listen to the guys doing the game on Telemundo. If the score is 2-0, they say “dos a cero” (two to zero). They don't say “dos-nil”.
We are supposed to adopt all of these English phrases, just to show we are soccer, ahem, football, savvy. How many of our Major League Soccer teams have the word 'United' in the name? Why? just because Manchester United is a good team in the English Premiere League? Even more so, when we name a soccer team, if it doesn't have the word United in it, we have to tack on an FC on the end. FC stands for football club. We can't even call soccer teams soccer teams in this country.
I haven't checked the schedule, but I'm sure LAFC has a road trip something like NYCFC, then on to DC United, Toronto FC, Minnesota United, down to Atlanta United, and a stop at Real Salt Lake on the way home (Real Salt Lake? Pronounced ray-ALL, like Real Madrid—some unknown Spanish soccer influence in the middle of frickin' Utah. Apparently, in American sports, this is what we are supposed to think of as culture).
Speaking (writing) of schedules, this is where things go a little too far. The next time you watch ESPN or FS1, look for the soccer scores, or schedules, at the bottom of the screen. You won't notice this unless you pay attention, but both networks will list the home team first. So what, you say? In every other sport in the USA, we do it the other way around. Visiting team on the left, home on the right, or visitor on top, home on the bottom. In England, they must do it backwards, so someone decided that it has to be done that way here. So if you see Seattle Sounders FC-Atlanta United and a 10pm ET start, you wonder why the game is so late, and if the fans will make that midnight train in Georgia to get home.
There are some colorful soccer terms that Americans could steal, but don't. Wouldn't it be cool if the field goal kicker for an (American) football team is called a striker? An exhibition game is called a 'friendly' (San Francisco Giants broadcaster Jon Miller uses that one in spring training). A game-tying goal is an 'equalizer'—a very descriptive term.
France may have beaten Croatia in the championship, but the best match was the quarterfinal between Belgium and Japan. See, what happened was, things were crazy on the pitch, and it was nil-nil at half time. Japan struck quickly, then added a second goal for a two-nil lead. Around the 70th minute, Belgium got on the board, and minutes later came up with the equalizer. In stoppage time, and trying to avoid extra time, Belgium avoided the draw, and scored the game-winning goal for a 3-2 victory at full time, and avoiding decisive penalty kicks. By George, I think we've got it. I think.
Baseball idea from soccer: A soccer team has 23 players on its roster, 11 play at one time, and only three substitutions are allowed for the entire game. That means, nine guys don't play, but the coach (manager) has 12 guys to pick from when he makes his substitutions. How about if baseball teams do this in September? Rosters are raised to 40 (we still really don't know why), but just make it so that only 25 can play (the normal roster size). You don't have to specify which 25 (like some have suggested), but it would eliminate the possibility of 16 or so pitching changes. Just a thought.
Happy Hometown Hero Harper Hottest Homerun Hitter: Bryce Harper won tonight's home run derby, out-blasting Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs in the final round. Although the names in the eight-man field were a bit pedestrian, there was quality and drama. Harper's semifinal victory was over Max Muncy of the Dodgers, who fared well. Harper thanked the hometown D-C fans, calling them awesome, and saying “I love Washington.” He is a free agent at the end of the year.
Dodgers in first at the break: This should be the top headline, but it can't go un-noticed. Thursday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers moved into first place in the National League West for the first time this season. They lost that lead Saturday, but a victory over the Angels Sunday, and an Arizona loss, gives the Dodgers a one-half game lead at the break. They were 16-26 in May. Remember?