From now until the end of the season, we'll be posting a number of clips from the previous weekend's English Premier League games. If there's a goal, save, dive, lip-read profanity, or hocked sputum we should know about, drop us a line at email@example.com. (You might also enjoy our better-late-than-never EPL guide)
Landon Donovan has heard you, America, and he has responded (Everton 2, Fulham 1)
Last week, many soccer scribes, us included, decided that Clint Dempsey was the best American ever to play overseas. Dempsey had just notched two hat tricks, one of them an historic first for an American in the EPL. The decision seemed obvious.
But in Friday's FA Cup fourth round match-up, Landon Donovan offered his rebuttal, whipping in two brilliant crosses, assisting on both of Everton's goals, and keeping American hopes for English silverware alive. It was, without a doubt, the best 90 minutes of Donovan's limited career in the Premiership. He controlled the midfield all game with his passing and possession and consistently found space on the right flank, where his precision crosses would have been the envy of his LA Galaxy teammate and one-time nemesis, David Beckham.
There was plenty of Dempsey hype coming into the match. What's more, three of the four biggest American names in the EPL were on the same field on a day that Donovan described as "a little bit of an American invasion." (Fox Soccer even ran a star-spangled montage.) This was the perfect occasion for Dempsey to end any debate. Yet it was Donovan who dominated for the whole game and Dempsey who, after an early shot, disappeared for 85 minutes.
Donovan has always had a taste for the big stage. (Remember Algeria?) But we stand by last week's assertion that at this point in their careers, Dempsey is the best American playing overseas, now or ever. While we respect Donovan's devotion to the Galaxy and the MLS, we hope that next year finally brings him to Everton on a long-term basis, and that Deuce and Donovan can push each other to even greater Premiership success (and allow us to continue arguing with Donovan fanboys).
Dirk Kuyt wins the game and reveals a strange truth about American fans (Liverpool 2, Manchester United 1)
This past Saturday morning found your Deadspin Premiershit columnist doing what I do most Saturday mornings: I woke at dawn, meandered over to Nevada Smith's, and ordered a Guinness for breakfast. Liverpool and Manchester United were kicking off at 7:45 a.m. in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Big game, big teams. The pub was packed with beer-drinking, jersey-wearing fans who stood three deep behind the bar, looking up at the flat screens.
I didn't notice much unusual about the crowd. The fans sung offensive songs. They bantered in accents from England and beyond, which is what you expect on soccer Saturdays in New York City. The games are an opportunity for expats here to find each other, and a bit of home.
The large fellow next to me was seemingly a good example: Wayne Rooney jersey, Man United scarf, pounding Stellas and hurling abuse on Liverpool with equal gusto. He knew the words to all the songs and chants. He called Paul Scholes "Scholes-y" and Ryan Giggs "Giggs-y." His accent made him sound like a roadie for Oasis. A true Manc. But there was something about him that I couldn't place, something that annoyed me. It troubled me for 87 minutes, and then Dirk Kuyt scored to put Liverpool up.
A few seconds later, the man turned to his friend and, in much quieter fashion, reiterated his frustration: "I fucking hate these Scouse bastards so much." He was now speaking in an ordinary-as-apple-pie American accent. This was no Manc. This was a Yank.
Now, I've occasionally caught myself shouting things during a soccer game such as "bloody hell" and "lovely ball" in an accent that's half North Dakota and half north England. And my Premiershit editor, Luke O'Brien, admits that when watching soccer at home alone, any utterance of the word "fuck" comes out as "fook."
What are we to make of this? Well, here's my theory: Soccer in America was for many decades seen as un-American, a strange foreign import with a whiff of "commie" about it, at least when played past the age of 12. Those days, thankfully, are over. But just as American soccer is now trying to define a national style of play, American soccer fans are figuring out how to cheer. Our "native" sports have never required much of us beyond moronically chanting "De-fense! De-fense!" and clapping in time to "Start Me Up." That doesn't cut it in soccer, especially not English soccer. And it shouldn't.
So we pull from other cheering traditions, at least until we find our own. Which is why it's hard to stay annoyed with guys like the Manc-Yank in the Rooney jersey. Like all of us, he's just trying to participate in a global sports fellowship the only way he knows how, the silly bell-end.
The match before the bowl (a preview of an upcoming game)
The FA Cup screwed with our Premiershit, which means there's a condensed EPL schedule until Monday. The biggest match will be Chelsea vs. Manchester United live on Sunday on Fox's dancing robot channel. Fox has taken to calling this "Super Sunday" (because of, you know, that Super Bowl thing later that day). Chelsea vs. Man U is now "The Game before the Game" and the latest effort by Fox to market soccer to Americans via football. Which must explain all the pretty fireworks in this video. But whoever will replace Piers Morgan as commentator? I'm hoping for a Man U supporter. Actually, I'm hoping for Karl Pilkington.