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: Columbus Crew

Total Football Café: International Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo Edition

Well, it’s been way too long since my last post.  The busyness of fall is creeping up on me, thus crowding out things that don’t pay the bills, fun things like this blog.  Funny how that works.  Anyways, I’m about to enter soccer coaching season so the blog cupboard of the Total Football Café may look increasingly bare in the coming weeks, but I’ll do my best to slap some posts together as often as possible.  I hope the semi-bare nature of the cupboard doesn’t drive you away altogether.

In the spirit of slapping posts together, herein are some thoughts on several topics that have kept the American soccer world buzzing during yet another international break.  By the way, I can’t remember international breaks being so close together.  I know time flies when you’re having fun, but didn’t we just have an international break? 

If we have to have international breaks, we might as well take the opportunity to brush up on world geography.

If we have to have international breaks, we might as well take the opportunity to brush up on world geography.

Recently the debate resurfaced about whether the EPL should play some regular season matches in the U.S. (in future seasons).  I don’t like this idea.  I like the simplicity of each EPL team playing every team in the league twice, one at home, one away.  In fact I look forward to the MLS being able to switch over to a similarly streamlined system.  A “39th game” played in the U.S. as part of the EPL fixture list would be a superfluous money-grab.  I really don’t like the idea, yet if they ever decide to do it, I’ll be one of the first hypocrites in line to buy a ticket.  As for a UEFA Champions League Final played in the U.S. someday, bring it on!

Thanks to their enthusiastic new owner Anthony Precourt, the Columbus Crew finally ditched their puzzling, quasi-Gap ad logo with the three hard-hat dudes for a new, more traditionally soccer-ish crest.  The change is long overdue, but a good one nonetheless.  For all the fanfare surrounding its launch, the new crest is, well, it’s a crest.  Very tasteful, and light years ahead of the hard-hat trio, but like most MLS club crests it’s ultimately rather bland.  But hey, the important thing here is enthusiastic ownership and renewed vigor for one of the league’s inaugural teams.

According to this helpful diagram of the new Crew crest, the outer rim is a "circle".  #themoreyouknow

According to this helpful diagram of the new Crew crest, the outer rim is a "circle".  #themoreyouknow

Like most U.S. soccer fans, I’m sad to see Landon Donovan retire.  He has been simply the best.  Yes, there may always be some “what ifs” related to his career – I really enjoyed watching him during his brief stints at Everton, for example, and would’ve liked to see him play some full seasons in the EPL – but I also really admire him for sticking it out in MLS.  It’s easy to forget that he was grinding it out for several seasons during the league’s pre-Beckham glitz era, when the stadiums were a lot emptier and the perks sparser.  So for all he did for the U.S. National Team, he’ll also be remembered as a pivotal star for MLS in establishing and growing the league.

I’m also sad to see Donovan retire because it seems too early.  When I saw him play in-person in the 2013 Gold Cup semifinal against Honduras, Donovan looked better than ever.  His was a commanding performance, with two goals and masterful passing in the U.S.’ 3-1 victory.  At that point I never imagined he wouldn’t be included on the U.S.’ 2014 World Cup roster, nor that he would retire from soccer just over a year later.  I still believe he could’ve been a difference-maker at the 2014 World Cup.  Imagine him coming on as a sub against Belgium in the final half hour.

Landon Donovan kicking tail and taking names in the 2013 Gold Cup semifinal.  It was awesome.

Landon Donovan kicking tail and taking names in the 2013 Gold Cup semifinal.  It was awesome.

During all of the farewell Donovan coverage leading to his final U.S. match against Ecuador, there were rumblings of Donovan writing an autobiography.  This is a fantastic idea and I hope it materializes.  If Donovan requires co-authoring, he should definitely consider J.R. Moehringer who co-wrote Open, Andre Agassi’s superb autobiography.  I can see Donovan’s frankness resulting in a similarly fascinating book.

Unfortunately, team USA looked pretty flat with Donovan (1-1 draw vs. Ecuador) and without him (1-1 draw last Tuesday vs. Honduras).  Between the friendlies, Jurgen Klinsmann renewed his rhetoric regarding his preference that U.S. National Team players challenge themselves in Europe’s elite leagues if possible.  He seems particularly disappointed about Clint Dempsey’s and Michael Bradley’s decision to return to MLS rather than tarry on the bench for their former European clubs.  Klinsmann’s been saying this for a while now, never mind the fact that he selected many MLS players for the World Cup squad over Americans playing in Europe.  I get why Klinsmann says these things and I like the way he continues challenging the status quo in U.S. soccer overall.  MLS commissioner Don Garber on the other hand is apparently fed up with Klinsmann’s opinion on the matter.  As he explained during a rather unusual mid-week conference call with reporters, Garber takes Klinsmann’s comments as slams against MLS.  I also understand Garber’s point of view and don’t blame him for trying to defend the league.  Overall, the Klinsmann/Garber tussle is positive for American soccer.  They’re both right.

It’s unlikely I’ll forget last week’s Klinsmann/Garber war of words anytime soon because I actually received a handwritten note from Garber on Friday thanking me for sending him a copy of my book!  It was a very classy gesture of him and I sincerely appreciate his taking the time to write.

Can Fabian Castillo lead FC Dallas to MLS Cup glory?  Yes, yes he can.

Can Fabian Castillo lead FC Dallas to MLS Cup glory?  Yes, yes he can.

FC Dallas has clinched their first MLS playoff appearance since 2011.  They booked their playoff spot with a 2-1 win over Landon Donovan and his LA Galaxy.  The winning goal by Fabian Castillo in the 87th minute was thrilling and on a very short list of the best FC Dallas moments I’ve ever experienced at Toyota Stadium.  Now that FCD’s in the playoffs, anything can happen.  Seattle and LA have the most points in the league, but neither will want to face Dallas in the postseason.  It should be a blast!

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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