Well, the first ever Burgundy Wave - Flakoglost FIFA Tournament is in the books, and it was everything we expected and more. There were goals. There were gutty comebacks. There were a lot of expletives. And a lot of beer. Perhaps the two are related.
First, the divisions. A random computer draw put most of the favorites (at least, according to their twitter bravado) in the Palguta Group. @ProtectYourNet had already scrimmaged against #DareToTerry and bested him in two matches, tying a third. Rapids Rabbi knew that having home-field advantage was beneficial. But, on the other hand, my hand-eye coordination pretty much falls apart after two beers. Stamina in Palguta would be as much a factor as talent. Tactics, too, would play a role. The group was rounded out with Our Beloved Editor-in-Chief, John Rosch, who expected to play the spoiler, as work obligations meant that he would be a late addition to the festivities.
The Clavijo division was either filled with humble souls, or was inexperienced, or both, since all had professed publicly or privately that they expected to lose every match. Former Burgundy Wave editor @UZworm was written off well in advance, since he professed to have not picked up a controller since FIFA 05 was out. For the PS2. Flakoglost mixmaster Todd Brossard kept his cards close and gave no indication of his abilities. @StormInMay had already dropped three scrimmages to the Rapids Rabbi, and her dominant theory on offense was to pass the ball to her Bae, AKA Luis Solignac. Um, ok.
The opening match in the Palguta Group was a cagey affair between Rapids Rabbi and Protect Your Net, playing as Arsenal and Manchester United, respectively. Whitesides bagged a goal in the first half, but the Rabbi saved the day just before the whistle with a goal from Oxlaide-Chamberlain to even it at 1-1. Terry and ProtectYourNet drew 1-1 as well. But Richard Terry would put himself in the driver's seat with a 2-1 win in the next match over the rabbi.
Each player brought their own tactical approach to the tourney. Terry played an aggressive, swashbuckling style of driving through the center of the park and using superior agility and technical skill to fire dangerous shots. His aggressive was fun to watch, but made him vulnerable on the counter. Whitesides, meanwhile, locked down his defensive side of the field and mostly threatened on the counter while denying the middle of the park to his foes. The Rabbi's lack of agility meant his only hope was to get the ball into the corner and dance along the goal line, looking to ping-pong it off the meaty French forehead of Olivier Giroud.
Meanwhile over in the Clavijo group, played with North and South American teams, the game play was, um interesting. UZ and Storm started off playing Colo Colo v Seattle Sounders. Chris went up 1-0 before picking up a red card, but hung on to win 2-1. Todd and Chris went at it in the second frame, and UZ bagged another 'V', 2-0, albeit with a bevy more cards thrown of all colors. UZ's dominant theme for the tourney was ‘hard in the tackle'. Or dirty. Tomato, tom-ahh-to.
Editor UZworm's note: I also allowed the least goals over the tourney, haters gonna hate B)
The two groups boarded metaphorical 'flights' that traversed across my living room, as the Clavijo trio started playing Euro matches and the Palguta quartet began playing matches in the US. I expected most folks to play as Euro giants, but the Clavijos were a decidedly eclectic bunch. Matches were played with AFC Wimbledon, Crawley Town, Hearts, Aberdeen, FC Mainz and Ajax. Maybe that was the booze taking hold.
In the Americas, I played with Boca Juniors and Richard Terry took Club America. In what might have been the best match of the tourney, a 2-2 draw saw the rabbi grabbing a last-second goal to stay afloat in the group. A Rabbi victory over ProtectYourNet, 1-0 in the next game, meant that the group was deadlocked 1-1-2 (W-L-T) going into a string of matches against late arrival John Rosch. Barring a shock upset by John, the group winner would be decided on goal differential. The challenge, then, was obvious: pummel the poor Burgundy Wave editor senseless, more-so than your opponents.
Protect Your Net opened with a 3-0 shellacking of Dear Editor. But the rabbi took off the gloves. Playing as Olympiakos in an aggressive 4-3-3, the Rabbi committed dastardly acts of brutality against Rosch's Burnley side, and won 5-0. Then Richard Terry inexplicably decided to choose Morecambe against Crawley Town, needing a 5-0 win to make the final. Didn't happen. Terry squeaked a 1-0 win. The Rabbi won the Palguta group. In hindsight, I think Terry was starting to get annoyed that the FIFA matches were interrupting his beer drinking.
Over in Clavijo, Todd needed a big win over Burgundy Wave Emeritus Editor Chris White to advance. Didn't happen. Chris advanced to the final. The most fun match of the night was Portsmouth v Luton Town; Storm v Worm. The nil-nil draw was something to behold, as Portsmouth keeper Paul Jones, with great help from both posts and the crossbar, stood on his head to preserve the draw, Storm's lone point of the night. Each miraculous save from Jones, each "donk" off the bar resulted in a fit of screams and cursing from UZ that would terrify a banshee and make a sailor blush. No joke. Thankfully, my wife and kids came home right in between the Football League 2 finally and the title match, so that everybody had to clean up their language a bit, lest my 3 year arrive at her Orthodox Jewish pre-school to inform her teachers "Look! Abba's friend with the green shirt taught me a new word!"
The final was set to be an equal matchup, two Colorado Rapids sides, mano y mano, UZWorm v. Rabbi. The Worm stayed with Pablo Mastroeni's trusted 4-2-3-1, while the rabbi attempted to stretch the field with a flat 4-4-2. The Rabbi played Cronin and Powers in central mid, Badji and Doyle up top. Chris started Luis Solignac on the flank and also Marcelo Sarvas. The game was, well, kind dull. Neither team could generate much offense, as the middle of the park was packed with bodies and the flankers lacked the speed to get in behind the fullbacks. Chris had a good look or two, pulled wide, and the rabbi laid nothing better than a few soft dribblers into the mitts of Clint Irwin. After 120 minutes, the sides were deadlocked, nil-nil. To penalties.
After trading a few hits and misses, the score stood 2-2, when the Rabbi's Sam Cronin came on to shoot. Deciding to test Chris' mind, I set up to chip him down the middle, but the ball struck the bar and popped out. The next set of strikers made their shots. It was down to UZ's Micheal Azira to win the game. Over the flinching Clint Irwin's left shoulder. Back of the net. UZ takes home the cup. The rabbi is still, 36 hours later, devastated.
Truth be told, the evening was more than just a pitted battle between Rapids fans and video game geeks. It was a great hangout of great folks. Richard Bamber and Comrade M played the role of supporters group. Beers were consumed in mass quantity. And a bunch of folks who I had never spoken to in person 12 months ago came and carried on together like lifelong friends. That's the beauty of soccer: it creates community and friendship on a common love of the beautiful game. It was an awesome night. A shout out and thanks to all that were there.
Although it would've been nice to take home the cup.