Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Are we up for the challenge?

Ok, so the World Cup Draw was broadcast live a week and a half ago or so. ESPN's coverage here consisted mostly of Tommy Smith attempting to bring fellow broadcasters and former national team members back down to earth as they labeled the USA a "Contender" in the "Contender or Pretender" segment of the program.

As a columnist who's name I can't be bothered to remember or look up, recently wrote - the USA is the equivalent of a solid mid-major in the NCAA tourney right now (think Gonzaga about 5-6 years ago). No one will be surprised if we make a decent run in the tourney and pull some upsets, but the odds of us winning the whole thing are not high.

Well, the draw is done, and we are in (arguably) the second hardest group along with Italy, Czech Republic, and Ghana. As an added bonus, the two teams that come out of the group get second round games with Brazil's group - so odds are if you finish second your prize is a date with the defending champs.

I'll make a couple comments on the groups, but if you want the whole schedule/break-out, download your very own wallchart here - http://soccernet.espn.go.com/worldcup/wallchart?cc=5901.

Group A - On paper the hosts get an easy advance to the second round, but their team can be beat, especially if Ballack is injured/suspended. However look for the home crowd to carry them through.

Group B - England vs Sweden. Again. Minnows Trinidad have a tough road in this group.

Group C - The Group of Death - Argentina vs Netherlands could be the match of the first round.

Group D - Portugal vs Angola - a bit of bad blood in this one, the last time they played the game was called early because of violence.

Group E - USA faces a stiff challenge - more on this in a sec.

Group F - battle for second place behind Brazil, Australia is in for the first time in ages.

Group G - France vs Switzerland is a rematch from qualifying. Don't be surprised to see South Korea make another run this time around.

Group H - Spain again on paper with an easy group. Sheva makes his first WC appearance with Ukraine.

Back to the USA. I'm sick of hearing people complaining about the difficult draw. These same people were clamoring for us to get a #1 seed a few weeks ago. Are we one of the top eight teams in the world? Or are we dependent on a favorable schedule to advance in the tourney? Which is it?

What it is (IMO) is a great measuring stick - think about it - 1990 the USA makes the WC for the first time in 40-50 years. We draw Czech, then Italy, then Austria, losing 5-1, 1-0, and 2-1 respectively. Fast forward sixteen years, almost an identical draw (Czech, then Italy, then Ghana), but our team has improved astronomically (no offense to the players in 1990) in that timeframe. With dozens of players overseas, Reyna making the best 11 in the 2002 tourney, Friedel as one of the top 2-3 keepers in the premier League over first half of the decade, Beasely playing in the CL final with PSV, the list goes on. Plus Arena has 2-3 guys to choose from at almost every position on the field.

This draw is our chance to show exactly how far we have come and prove to FIFA that we belong among the seeds for South Africa 2010 and to the world that our top 10 ranking is for real. Either way though, I'm pumped for the games, our dvr will be getting a MAJOR workout in June/July.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

For a boy we like d'Artagnan...

As many of you know, we are not publicly discussing the names we are considering for the baby. However, as a public service, I thought you should know about some of the interesting resources that are out there. For pure entertainment value, check out http://www.notwithoutmyhandbag.com/babynames/
It's a site that was recommended to me by one of my editors and while I say to each his own, it's truly mind boggling to what lengths people are going in an effort to choose a "unique" name.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

It's actually only 3 days to go....

Ok, so I realize this is more important to some than to others, but it's actually only 3 days till the event we (ok I) have been holding our breath for for months.

The World Cup draw is this Friday in Leipzig at 2 pm CST - televised live on ESPN2.

The seeds were announced today, with Mexico pipping USA for a seed and Spain and France pushing out Holland. Despite the flurry of articles speculating on the red, white, and blue receiving a seed, logic dictated that it would not be the case. If they make the quarterfinals or better again this time and maintain their ranking then 2010 might be a different story though.

Seeded teams - Argentina, Brazil (F1), England, France, Germany (A1), Italy, Mexico, and Spain.

The USA can't be drawn with Costa Rica, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Serbia & Montenegro, South Korea, or Trinidad & Tobago - but anyone else is fair game.

Worst case scenario - both the USA and Holland getting drawn into group F with Brazil - good luck getting out of that group. Enough pessimism though, I'll break down the draw sometime over the weekend and give you my sure-to-be-wrong predictions for Arena's boys.

19 days to go...

...until we head to Riviera Maya on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula for a little post-Christmas R&R. We'll be making the trip with Jenny's parents and her sister's family, including nieces Anna and Caroline. Don is hoping a pick-up soccer game will develop on the beach. Jenny is looking forward to the "weightless" feeling that comes from floating in the pool or the Gulf of Mexico. All reports are that the resort where we are staying sustained minimal damage from the hurricane, so we don't expect any problems and are looking forward to getting out of here for a week or so!
Temperature today at home: High 11 degrees v. Playa Del Carmen (near where we are staying): High 88 degrees.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cover Story

OK, I'm not usually one to plug, but many of you have asked me about what I've been up to as a freelance writer so I thought I would share my latest published story because I am proud of the finished product. It's in this winter's issue of On Wisconsin magazine. For UW-Madison alumns, watch your mailbox for this cover. For the rest of you, feel free to check out http://www.uwalumni.com/onwisconsin/index.html and click on A Quest for Quitters.

Monday, November 21, 2005


With an enourmous assist from Jenny's dad this weekend, we painted the baby's room (formerly known as the Shannon Mangiameli Suite from her frequent visits there). We'd like to see Ty or any of those other TV decorator people do something that looks this good!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Making Room for Baby

Jenny had her first baby shower -- thrown by Mom and sister Heather -- over the weekend and we are amazed at the volume of gear this little guy or girl is going to require. It has spawned some major furniture rearranging in our home and, with some regret, we realize now we can't host overnight guests anymore (unless they are willing to sleep on the couch!). We've had so much fun hosting all of you over the years, but something tells us you won't mind sleeping soundly elsewhere while we struggle through 3 a.m. feedings! Here's a photo of Jenny, Heather and 6-year-old niece Anna from the party.

Keely Smith

She still doesn't know any hot jazz numbers to croon for us (though she does like to bark at squirrels through the back window) but Keely is firmly a member of our family now. She is approaching her first birthday at the end of December. Here's a before and after of her haircut. It will grow back!

Back to blogging

Found a cheaper (free!) option for blogging so we're back at it!