Nathan Nipper

Dallas Texas

nipper.nathan@yahoo.com

Nathan Nipper grew up primarily in Arkansas and Dakar, Senegal.  He graduated from Ouachita Baptist University in 1999 with majors in history and communication and Regent University in 2002 with a master’s degree in communication.  He spent several years working as a television writer until 2010 when he began coaching soccer and teaching American history.  His varsity boys high school soccer team won back-to-back Texas private school state championships in 2013 and 2014.  In addition to his blog Total Football Cafe, he is a frequent contributor to World Soccer Talk.  He lives near Dallas – 4,754 miles from Stamford Bridge and 32 miles from Toyota Stadium – with his wife, daughter, and two sons.

Filtering by Tag: Blas Perez

Total Football Café: Weak Blatter Edition

So this past Monday we learned FIFA Dictator, er, President, Sepp Blatter plans to run for a fifth term as FIFA prez, to which the entire soccer world exhaled an enormous sigh of joyous relief that we won’t have to endure a brand new president and with him/her the potential prevailing of common sense or the rooting out of corruption.  “My mission is not finished,” says Blatter, to which we can only assume he means sucking up every last crumb from every last Cindy Lou Who in every last vulnerable Whoville country left on the planet.  As long as there are countries left to fleece, he’ll be there to see the mission accomplished.

"My mission is not finished," says Sepp Blatter.

"My mission is not finished," says Sepp Blatter.

On Friday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said he would like MLS to be the world’s first league to test a video replay system for reviewing referee decisions during matches.  The system would likely entail coaches being able to challenge one or two calls per half.  MLS is the perfect league to test such a system – which has been way too long coming – because Americans love to see correct calls made, plus, MLS refs need all the help they can get (just ask DC United head coach Ben Olsen).

Every time this video replay debate arises in soccer circles, I’m always amazed how many pundits groan that the review process would take too long, ruin the flow of the match, etc., etc.  They also say it would be impossible to draw the line as far as which decisions to review.  I don’t understand this at all.  You simply review the decisions that have the biggest impact on a match’s outcome.  That means, red cards, PKs, maybe the occasional offside call.  I would like to see mandatory review of all decisions that occur in the box, but a coach’s challenge system would likely be sufficient.

MLS Commish Don Garber, smiling at the prospect of MLS showing the world that video replay can indeed work.

MLS Commish Don Garber, smiling at the prospect of MLS showing the world that video replay can indeed work.

Whenever someone objects to video replay in soccer, I simply point them to Thierry Henry’s “Hand of Gaul” assist on the extra time goal that sent France to World Cup 2010 instead of Ireland.  Ridiculous.  It is almost the year 2015 people, the time has come for video replay in world soccer.

Thierry Henry:  still the most popular player in Ireland.

Thierry Henry:  still the most popular player in Ireland.

Saturday was a good soccer day with news that Brek Shea had an assist in his loan debut for Birmingham City, Diego Costa continued burning up the EPL with his hat trick in Chelsea’s defeat of Swansea, and Blas Perez scored two in FC Dallas’ defeat of Vancouver.  I was at the FCD/Vancouver game last night – the atmosphere was terrific, with unusually mild fall-like temperatures and a hint of MLS playoffs in the air.  I was also excited to see Mauro Diaz get a longer run out in the second half.  His ball control and distribution are terrific and he could be a huge difference maker for FCD in the playoffs.

If you’ve thought about checking out my book Dallas ‘Til I Cry:  Learning to Love Major League Soccer but haven’t quite taken the plunge yet, all obstacles are being removed as the Kindle version is 50% off this week.  Hope you’ll check it out and recommend it to your soccer buddies!

Total Football Café Weekly Roundup

I’m not sure the new EPL season could have had a better opening weekend, primarily because Manchester United lost, at home, to Swansea City.  If Man U keeps up this utter mediocrity, which began last season, I might eventually have to stop disliking them so much.  It’s interesting to me how much disproportionate post-match hand wringing has occurred about the sky falling at Manchester United.  It is only the first game of the season, and like the best action-movie villains, you predict Man U’s demise at your own peril.  They will live to attack another day.

"Zero wins."

"Zero wins."

While I greet each opening weekend of the EPL season with as much enthusiasm as the next fan, it’s always a little disappointing starting every season knowing that only five or six teams have much of a chance of winning the league (with the exception of Chelsea of course – I always want them to win it).  What I mean is, aside from the fun of occasional upsets, three-quarters of the league’s teams have very little chance of actually winning the title.  I wish the EPL had a bit more parity.  I’ve read the anti-parity arguments, that every league needs its super clubs (Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski make a good case for this in one of my favorite soccer books Soccernomics), but I just think it would be more fun if an Aston Villa or Stoke City had a realistic chance of challenging for the title.  At least the EPL has a handful of teams that could win the title – the parity (at least as far as how many teams could actually win the league) seems much worst in La Liga and the Bundesliga.

Ladies and gentlemen... Fabian Castillo!

Ladies and gentlemen... Fabian Castillo!

Meanwhile, over in the ol’ MLS, FC Dallas is turning into quite the story this season.  Despite a ton of injuries to key players throughout the year, they keep on keeping on.  They’re building a lot of confidence at a key point in the season and might just end up winning the Western Conference.  I was skeptical about rookie Tesho Akindele during his first few appearances this season, but he has steadily improved and now looks like a future franchise DP and permanent starting striker (especially after his hat trick at San Jose last Saturday).  FCD’s other current standout star is Fabian Castillo who is probably the league’s fastest player in the final third with the ball at his feet.  I wrote about Castillo in my book, mostly marveling about his speed with the ball, coupled with his very poor finishing and passing ability in the final third last season.  This season he has finally matured and is living up to his potential.  His decision-making in the box is significantly better.

I can't really stand RSL, but this guy's cool.  How could he stand those dreads in Manaus though?

I can't really stand RSL, but this guy's cool.  How could he stand those dreads in Manaus though?

Real Salt Lake is my least favorite team in MLS.  Their “Goal Gong” at Rio Tinto Stadium makes me dislike them even more.  I don’t have a rational reason per se, the “Goal Gong” just strikes me (pun intended) as cartoonish-ly goofy and all wrong for soccer.  Because of my disdain for RSL, I reveled in being at Toyota Stadium Friday night to see FC Dallas defeat them 2-1 (Castillo scored his 9th goal of the season, a career high).  FC Dallas won playing with 10 men in the second half no less, after Blas Perez received a second yellow card just before halftime.  Perez frequently brings these punishments on himself with diving, embellishing, and generally running his mouth, but in this case he was innocent of both cards.  It was a ridiculous decision by the referee.  But, beating RSL with 10 men just made victory all the sweeter.  Remarkably, Dallas is now in a three-way tie for first in the Western Conference with RSL and Seattle.

It's gonna be a good season...

It's gonna be a good season...

In other favorite team news, Chelsea looked comfortably dominant in their season opener at Burnley.  As with the Manchester United hand wringing, the media overhyped Chelsea’s win a bit – this was just newly promoted Burnley after all.  But, Chelsea looked very good.  Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas made more of an immediate impact than I anticipated.  Costa scored a goal that strikers should score, but frankly, it was the kind of goal poor Fernando Torres has missed buckets of the past few seasons, so it was great to see Costa smash the ball in with such authority.  That Fabregas pass to Schurrle for the second goal was jaw dropping.  I also got a thrill out of seeing Didier Drogba jog onto the field for a few minutes at the end.  It’s going to be fun having him around this season.

You'll always be number one in our hearts.  And so will that helmet.

You'll always be number one in our hearts.  And so will that helmet.

The only mixed feelings issue I had with Chelsea’s opener was seeing Thibaut Courtois replace Petr Cech.  I understand progress and I’m not surprised that Courtois got the starting nod.  And a big part of me wants to transition to Courtois because he’s so awesome.  But I mean, Petr Cech.  And Petr Cech’s helmet.  And it almost doesn’t seem like a legit Chelsea match without the helmeted Cech tending goal.  If this transition to Courtois is permanent, I think it would be easier to swallow if we had a proper changing of the guard ceremony.  Maybe Cech could remove his gloves and hand them to Courtois.  And then Cech could remove his Cech helmet, place it on Courtois’ head, and fasten the chinstrap.  Sorry Courtois, but if Cech has to go, the helmet has to stay.  From this point forward Chelsea keepers should have to wear the Cech helmet.

"Ha, ha!  Take that, FIFA ban!"

"Ha, ha!  Take that, FIFA ban!"

In other soccer world news, Luis Suarez’s appeal of his post-bite suspension partially worked.  He’s now allowed to train with Barcelona and even featured in a friendly last week.  I already thought he was getting off easy with the length of his “ban”.  Now it’s barely a ban at all – it’s a paid vacation.  He gets to train and play in meaningless friendlies without the pressure of performing in legit matches.  Ridiculous.

"Just call me Super Mario.  No, seriously, that's the only thing you're allowed to call me.  Because I'm Super.  Mario."

"Just call me Super Mario.  No, seriously, that's the only thing you're allowed to call me.  Because I'm Super.  Mario."

In other wacky-player news, Mario Balotelli is apparently now a Liverpool player.  Not sure what Brendan Rodgers was thinking.  It’s hard to see much upside in that acquisition.  I certainly wouldn’t want to take a risk on Balotelli.  At least he probably won’t end up at Chelsea now.  Speaking of Liverpool, Fox Sports must give us a where-are-they-now-type Being Liverpool special so we can see what football poet Dave Kirby’s been up to.  Plus, I’d still like to know who was in the three envelopes!

All other keepers wish they were Tim Howard.  Except Petr Cech who is his own brand of cool.

All other keepers wish they were Tim Howard.  Except Petr Cech who is his own brand of cool.

Then there’s the business of Tim Howard announcing he’s going to step away from the U.S. national team for a year to spend more time with his family.  I say more power to him.  It shows he has his priorities straight.  Plus, it’ll probably just make him all the hungrier to return and make a big impact when his sabbatical is over.  In the year leading up to World Cup 2014 I was ready to see Brad Guzan take over for Howard.  I thought Howard’s best goalkeeping was behind him.  Then he goes and has an amazing World Cup.  Howard’s not done yet.  I hope he enjoys the break and then returns to his Matrix-like shot-stopping ways for Team USA.

Random pic of Brad Evans in a Crew warm up suit because I did not remember Evans ever played for Columbus.

Random pic of Brad Evans in a Crew warm up suit because I did not remember Evans ever played for Columbus.

The Columbus Crew announced this week they’re unveiling “new branding” in October.  The only surprise here is what took them so incredibly long?  That Crew crest has befuddled me since the league kicked off in ’96.  The new crest could be a plain white circle with “Crew” written on it in Sharpie and it would be a vast improvement over The Village People that populate the current version.

Atlanta.  Georgia.  United States of America.

Atlanta.  Georgia.  United States of America.

Speaking of new stuff in MLS, the latest expansion franchise in Atlanta announced they’ve already sold over 14,000 season ticket deposits and the team doesn’t even kick off until 2017.  Very impressive.  Good job Georgians!  Now let’s just hope the club doesn’t get named Peach Fury or anything like that. Or have any Village People in the crest.

While I’m all about healthy, responsible MLS expansion in cities where there is demand, MLSSoccer.com ran an article this week about Austin, Texas making overtures about landing an MLS franchise.  Though I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and would enjoy seeing another intra-state MLS rival for FC Dallas, I don’t think an Austin franchise is a good idea.  Dallas and the Houston Dynamo should be league powerhouses in attendance and support, but they are not.  Despite enormous soccer communities in the big Texas cities, we still don’t support the MLS teams we have well enough.  I say give the next franchise to a city with Seattle/Portland-type demand.  That means Miami should also be scratched off the list.  Sorry, Miami.

"Hey, I'm just as confused as you are here..."

"Hey, I'm just as confused as you are here..."

Lastly on the MLS front, this Jermaine Jones saga is weird.  No one understands MLS’ “allocation” process, except MLS and maybe Alexi Lalas, but seriously, why can’t the league just sign Jones already?  The World Cup is long over and he could’ve been playing for an MLS team all this time.  Who is dragging their feet in this deal?  If Jones wants to keep playing pro soccer anywhere, why would he allow such a long delay?  If MLS isn’t going to work out, he’s already missed the beginning of the Euro league seasons.  Strange stuff.

I’m doing some more regular articles for World Soccer Talk in case you’re interested, including a piece on yesterday’s Chelsea v. Leicester City match.

There is only one week left to register to win a free copy of Dallas ‘Til I Cry: Learning to Love Major League Soccer from GoodReads (see the box at the top of this page).  And if you don’t want to go the contest route, the book is available on Amazon.

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