Okay, I am super bad at this, but there's hope. I did some digging and MLS Direct Kick is one payment of $60 or so on Direct TV, which is both cheaper than NFL Sunday Ticket and less than upgrading my package to get NBC Sports so I can watch all the Premier League that I can handle. (I was doing some streaming, but for some reason, it's no longer down with my log-in, the bastards. Come to think of it, I might have to do some digging as to why it suddenly stopped working for me. I mean, Arsenal seems to have located themselves- for now anyway- so it'd be nice to catch a game or two, you dig?) Anyway: next year, I might have to pinch some pennies, plop down some cash for MLS Direct Kick so we can, in the words of Mortal Kombat 'FINISH THIS'.
But, to MLS! After some deliberation, I think I've got things narrowed down to a solid foursome of possibilities with two teams vying for the final 'wild card' slot. Here's what I've got:
FC Dallas (fielded a starting 11 of homegrown players last year in the playoffs and knocked out Seattle in one hell of a game. Was impressed. Plus side: the wife has an aunt, uncle and cousins down there, so it's conceivable I could get to the Metroplex and take in a game. Down side: Dallas is not exactly high on my list of places to visit in Texas, you know?)
Sporting KC (God damn it, I keep going back to articles about how awesome the fan culture is down there, but have yet to actual get to a game. We were in KC and didn't even go look at the stadium- though, to be fair, I'm not sure how amazing it is. It probably just looks like a stadium, you know? Plus side: it's close, I'm back FC Kansas City for NWSL, Down side: we randomly went to Kansas City because it was close this year. We'd probably go back for BBQ, but I think we'll be going back to Nashville before we get back to KC.)
Columbus Crew (Saw them get to the MLS Finals versus Montreal in one hell of a game. Very impressive. Once they got to the Finals and immediately conceded a goal to Portland and then promptly conceded a corner, the Portland player than went to take the corner was greeted with a hail of friendly beer cans. Strangely, this amused me. Plus side: one of the first soccer specific stadiums in MLS- they've been around for awhile. Down side: it's Columbus. Which is where Ohio State is located. Do I have a reason to actually go there?)
Minnesota United (Guardian Sport likes their badge- which is buried at the bottom of this round-up, and so do I. Plus side: they're the LOONS. How cool is that? Down side: do I really want to be that much of a Minnesota homer considering the fact I don't live there any more?)
Philadelphia (Men In Blazers did an excellent interview with Earnie Stewart a few months back and it's still kind of rolling around in my head. People seemed to be excited about what he might put together in terms of player development out there and right now they're sitting in 6th in the Eastern Conference, which puts them in contention for the playoffs. I want to see more.)
Toronto FC (People seem to seriously dig Toronto. I want to see more here, too.)
Well, shit. I jump on board the NEC Nijmegen bandwagon and they seem to be heading in the wrong direction entirely, but might be settling in to solid mid-table obscurity- we'll have to see what the next month or so brings. But I feel bad and I hope my support isn't a curse of some kind, because I hopped on the bandwagon on September 5th. The month before that (which seems to be the regular Eredivise season and not the preseason) they opened their campaign with two draws (against Zwolle and the interestingly named Go Ahead Eagles) and two wins (against currently 4th Place Heerenveen and 5th Place AZ Alkmaar) but after September 5th? Ru-roh! Thrashed 4-0 by PSV Eindhoven (currently 3rd) and another loss to Sparta Rotterdam, before scraping up a scoreless draw with (current) relegation fodder Willem II Tilburg and finally a win just five days ago against dead last (currently) Roda JC Kerkrade.
I'm assuming the KNVB Cup is similar to the FA Cup for England, but they didn't do so hot in the First Round of that either- going down 5-3 to Den Haag on penalties. (To be fair, I don't know if that counts as a bad loss- I mean right now, NEC Nijmegen is sitting in 11th and ADO Den Haag is two spots about the in 9th, so theoretically, they seem pretty evenly matched.)
What else can I report about NEC? Well, they've got some pretty devoted fans at least according to this YouTube video of what appears to be a funeral procession. (They don't seem to be super hardcore, but they have their moments, I guess. About four years ago, a preseason friendly with Blackburn got called off due to rioting fans. Nothing else showed up on the old Google Machine, so I guess that's good?) I also dug up this pretty comprehensive guide about their home, the Goffertstadion. I also went ahead and followed them on Twitter @NEC_nijmegen, which should be fun, because I don't speak Dutch.
Let's hope Month #2 on the bandwagon goes better than the first one did! Go NEC!
American Handegg News
Okay, okay. It's not all bad news for the Iowa Hawkeyes- but there's a spicy bouquet of 'ru-roh' in the air and I honestly don't know which way the rest of the season could go. For some perspective: we're a field goal and a touchdown away from being undefeated, but let's be real here: that game versus Rutgers we were bloody lucky to win. I'm honestly not sure what the hell is going on, though we're paying Kirk Ferentz a hefty amount of money to figure that out. We'll see what they can come up with Saturday versus Minnesota. Some scenarios/predictions for the rest of the season:
Scenario 1: "Oh, the humanity!"
Like the Hidenberg, Iowa goes down in flames and do so quickly. We lose to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska and barely scrape by Illinois and Purdue. Angry mobs storm the Pentacrest and burn Gary Barta in effigy for that damn contract extension. Final Record: 5-7
Scenario 2: "North Dakota Who?"
With the help of the world's largest crowbar and a metric ton of vaseline, the Hawkeye pry their heads out of their asses and right the ship. Beat Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin, Penn State, Illinois and Nebraska and drop a close one to Michigan. Win the Big 10 West and return to Indianapolis for an evisceration at the hands of Ohio State or a chance at Sweet, sweet revenge against the Wolverines. Final Record: 9-3
Scenario 3: "W-T-F"
The Hawkeyes confuse the hell out of everyone by beating Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska and losing to Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota. Kirk Ferentz does the most Ferentz-y thing possible against Penn State and beats them 2-0 thanks to a last minute safety. Final Record: 7-5
To me, the truth will probably lie somewhere between these three scenarios. And I'm fine with that. I came of age in the Latter Days of Hayden Fry, where 7 wins and a bowl game was considered just fine by the majority of reasonable people. That is not an unreasonable ask. Now, in these days of Kirk Ferentz and ridiculous contract extensions, a slightly loftier goal might not be an unreasonable ask either, but what, if anything, have expectations taught us about Iowa football? They always do better when there are absolutely no expectations whatsoever. So, consider me officially disinterested. That won't stop me from either hiding behind my couch with my hands over my eyes to peek at the score on Saturday (I'm scurrrrred, you guys. So scurrrrred.) or grimacing at the commentary on my Twitter feed, but in general: nil desperandum, y'all. It's Iowa football and there's plenty left to be played.