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: Landon Donovan

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: International Break Blues Edition

So this was week one of one of those two-week FIFA “international breaks” in which national teams around the world assemble their stars for mostly meaningless friendlies.  This is the international break that always sneaks up on me because of its awful timing.  The new Premier League season is just gaining momentum when FIFA slams on the brake (pun intended) and makes fans wonder what to do with all this extra weekend time on our hands.  Meanwhile, MLS sails along with regularly scheduled matches as if FIFA doesn’t exist.  The more we learn about FIFA’s hulking, iron-fisted ways, the more I kind of love it that MLS continues to just do its own thing.

Before the international break really got rolling with friendlies however, we had transfer deadline day to keep us entertained.  I still don’t understand why the transfer window closes several games into most European league seasons, but I’ve never really investigated.  Seems it would make more sense for the window to close before the first match of the season, but then when do the decisions of monolithic soccer governing bodies like UEFA make much sense?

This guy was apparently in charge of Man U's transfer deadline day strategy... which explains a lot.

This guy was apparently in charge of Man U's transfer deadline day strategy... which explains a lot.

Speaking of not making sense, for all of pro soccer’s supposed modernization with technology, analytics, etc., transfer deadline day reveals many clubs still seem to be flying by the seat of their pants.  You would think the mega super clubby clubs would have access to the best intel and thus spend their riches wisely.  Yet this year Real Madrid seemed most interested in buying up dudes who can help them sell the most jerseys, never mind whether they’ll have chemistry in the way of an actual formation or anything.  I mean, Chicharito?  What do they need that guy for?  On second thought, they need all the help they can get selling that hot pink away jersey which is hands down the current worst jersey on the planet.  Manchester United’s transfer strategy seemed mostly reactionary to their awful start to the EPL season – just throwing player ideas at the wall to see what sticks.  For once, Chelsea came out of this window looking calm, cool, collected and downright genius.  They even scooped up a decent substitute striker in Loic Remy to replace Torres who was loaned to AC Milan.

Woof.  This jersey deserves a FIFA infinity ban.

Woof.  This jersey deserves a FIFA infinity ban.

Even though I’m bummed to miss EPL games during international breaks, I do look forward to seeing the U.S. in action every time, even if it is just a friendly.  Wednesday’s match in Prague versus Czech Republic reminded me of a freshman game after a big group of seniors graduates.  Though there were many familiar faces from last summer’s World Cup squad, we also got to see a lot of young newcomers.  It was a reminder – particularly in a week when former U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra announced his retirement at the end of this MLS season – that the U.S. is undergoing a major changing of the guard ahead of World Cup 2018.  My favorite newbie in the U.S./Czech match was forward Joe Gyau.  He is certainly raw, and perhaps didn’t help defensively as much as he might’ve, but I loved his speed and assertiveness with the ball.  There is a lot of potential there.  While I didn’t relish my man Petr Cech getting scored on (by Alejandro Bedoya), we are talking about Team USA here, so I’ll take that 1-0 victory any day.

Carlos Bocanegra:  another trusty American soccer warrior retires.  

Carlos Bocanegra:  another trusty American soccer warrior retires.  

On the MLS front, LA Galaxy have turned on the afterburners.  LA stomped the Colorado Rapids 6-0 on Friday night.  Landon Donovan looks so relaxed and unstoppable since his retirement announcement.  If the World Cup were next month, would Klinsmann leave him off the U.S. roster?    Two months ago, LA seemed pretty ordinary.  Right now they’re clearly one of the best teams in MLS. 

Last night FC Dallas lost a painful one at Real Salt Lake 2-1.  Dallas didn’t play poorly, the top four teams in the Western Conference (Seattle, LA, RSL, Dallas) are just closely matched.  Dallas should still make the playoffs without a problem, which would be a definite improvement over the last two seasons, but they’ll still have to muster their utmost discipline.  They play nothing but big Western Conference games from here on out, including home and away against LA, and home against Seattle.  Good times, but nervous times.

For much of the season Sporting KC seemed a lock to win the Eastern Conference, but now they’ve lost four in a row and look all vulnerable.  Meanwhile, Houston is just now starting their season as usual.  They never start playing until August, thereby conserving energy for most of the season and disguising themselves as mediocre, before springing a trap on unsuspecting teams in the run-up to the playoffs.  Dynamo are now just three points out of a playoff spot in a conference that is mostly wide open for the taking.

This is Houston beginning their annual end-of-season playoff run.

This is Houston beginning their annual end-of-season playoff run.

If you need a good way to get yourself through week two of the international break blues, check out my soccer fan memoir Dallas ‘Til I Cry:  Learning to Love Major League Soccer.  Here is a review from a recent reader:

Dallas ‘Til I Cry" is a fun, quick read.  I personally have an issue with American soccer fans who refuse to acknowledge the growth of or lend support to Major League Soccer, so it was refreshing for me to read of the author's journey from "Euro snob" to purposefully giving MLS support a chance… Overall, this a great read for FC Dallas fans, MLS fans in general and those interested in knowing a little more about what it means to support the top-tier domestic league in the United States.