Friday, November 20, 2009

For All The Cards ...MLS Cup preview

Sometimes a team looks so good on paper ... er, um ... cardboard - that the odds are being favorite to win are overwhelming. A Chicago vs. Los Angeles matchup for the MLS Final would have been great. But if the NFL had thought that about a franchise in Wisconsin as we do about Real Salt Lake - the Packers would have been sent packing ...

The Utah soccer club are upstarts - not quite the David to Goliath (actually David vs. Kyle), but they are led by a very young coach in Jason Kreis (above) who finished his career at RSL and was the first player in MLS to score 100 career goals.
His counterpart, veteran coach Bruce Arena, (former US National Team) has World Cup experience. He has also solidfied a club that was dead last - last season. Bringing in World Cup veteran Greg Berhalter (2006 Panini card above) and Jamaican international goalkeeper Donivan Ricketts was part of the deed.
But the man with the edge between the pipes has to be Nick Rimando - MLS vet and one MLS Championship ring better.
In the Midfield match up of Beckham vs. Beckerman (David vs. Kyle), and Mathis vs. Donovan - the edge goes to Los Angeles. Kyle Beckerman has had a banner year and former SI cover boy Clint Mathis is in his golden years. Clint got his start with the Galaxy (1999 Upper Deck rookie card below right)
The wild card has to go to the new generation - Real has two up and coming strikers in Yuri Moysisian and Robbie Finley. And a wild card in Fabian Espindola.

This should be interesting going up against the Galaxy's top draft pick defenders Omar Gonzales and Sean Franklin -back to back rookies of the year in 2008 and 2009.
Seattle will be the venue - a great one at that. The weather will be .. well, as usual, rainy and cold - as it has been since the first MLS Cup in New England back in 1996.

Prediction: 2:1 to the upstart Real Salt Lake.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rimando the Magnificent ...

Experience, experience, experience ... and then some awesome goalkeeping by Nick Rimando turned the 2009 MLS Playoffs upside down.
The dream final of Los Angeles vs. Chicago came to an end last night at the Fire's home stadium - Toyota Park.

No Beckham vs. Blanco ... no Galaxy vs. Fire ... no Hollywood vs. the Windy City ... instead it's the upstart Cinderella REAL SALT LAKE going to the final in Seattle.

While Chicago's veterans - Brian McBride and Cuautemouc Blanco played the entire 120 long minutes into extra time - RLS' no name players stood firm shutting down the home team FIRE.

Nick Rimando, winner of MLS Cup 2004 - then with DC UNITED, faced seven penalty kicks in the shootout - because the pressure looked to get to both Fire and RSL takers - each team missing two in the appointed round of five kicks. But Nick Rimando had different plans.

When it looked bleakest - after the first miss by Salt Lake's Javier Morales, Nick was the first to run up to him and seemed to say "don't worry, I'll win it". He was spot on correct.

Amazingly, Rimando guessed correctly ALL 7 times which way the Chicago penalty kicks went. He got close on several occasions and in doing so saved a whopping 3 of the PK's ! (like his fantastic GOAL GUARDS card above)
REAL SALT LAKE will appear in their first MLS Cup final and take on the stars of the Galaxy - at least the ones in Los Angeles.

On a card note - MLS has original photos available (with hologram) on line. I just happened to find one that was used for Nick Rimando's 2008 Upper Deck card. How cool is that ?

NEXT UP: MLS Cup reviews.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

That Vintage (football) Show

Taking a closer look at vintage cards has become a hobby. If we examine many of these before the days of whacked photographers and egocentric superstars (i.e. pre-upper deck) - the TV GUIDE reads as follows:

Preston vs. the Love Bug:

The vintage VW bus in the background fits in with the swinging 60's although it would be another decade before the afro-sporting Frenchy Fuqua and Franco Harris rocked Pittsburgh.

The Amazing Floating Lamar:

The Chicago QB was caught wearing a pair of Air Jordans and had to return to reality. Forget the fact that the Cards were playing in a baseball stadium. They were soon banished to St. Louis.

Poor Jack Butler:

A lonely farmboy who was so destitute that he had to throw passes to himself in the pasture. Not a bleacher nor hashmark in sight.

Heeeeeeeere's Johnny:
Before he got the Tonight Show in Hollywood, John was seen at old Griffith Stadium snagging tossed albino footballs.

Carr's Chicago Cards Cards:
Just to prove that it was a baseball stadium (Wrigley Field), here is better look at the box seats along the 1st base line.
C.B.'s Used Cars:
More Cardinals - more cars. C.B. had a long name - it would have been a fortune to put it on a sign. The Cardinals could have used a lawnmower. So they moved to St. Louis ... and finally Arizona where there is no grass. Problem solved.

Chicago Vice:
Was Zeke was auditioning for a part in L.A. - otherwise how do you explain the palm trees and the bungalow ?
The West Wing Back:
One of my favorite team photos - the Washington Redkins showing some cool architecture in the Capitol.

The Peeps of San Francisco:
Good old John Broadie sneaks into the family photo of Coit Tower. He retires to become a pro golfer.

Stay tuned for next season ....

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rarest Cards Still Being Discovered ...

Stories of old cigarette cards found in the attic usually get collector's hair standing on end - or at least some attention. Recently, A discovery of rare 1934 soccer cards made in the former Czechoslovakia were found in Canada.

Four of these cards depict the great ARSENAL F.C. team of the early 1930's. The world famous club won the F.A. Cup in 1930 and 1936 (runners up in 1932). They were league champions in 1931, 1933, 1934 and 1935 (runner up in 1932). A clear domination of English soccer for the era.

The club had earned a great reputation throughout Europe and toured in Spain, France and Central Europe. One card features a game against Racing Club Paris. (Arsenal-Racing List here) This contest against the French team was in benefit of war invalids. The record of matches which started in 1930 continued annually until the 1960's (except the war years).

Although I can find no record of the club, Arsenal played a match against Rokousko - who I assume is a Czech club. However, all that was prior to the Second World War and may not exist any longer.
It is great to find such priceless collectables and hope more will turn up in the future.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

FUTERA ... Out of This World cards

Last posting I featured a great new set from ITG of Canada. This time it is even better ...
Futera cards of the UK (near England for the geographically challenged) have just released their 9th annual series of World Football cards. The company began in the late 1990's with club sets that included Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Celtic.

The release began some of the most coveted sports collectables in recent years with their 1/1 autograph cards. (that means only one card like this exists in the entire world) Now if you follow baseball, hockey or basketball there might be a few million of you. However, since soccer - football is world wide - the hunt for these treasures is massive for the billions who love this game.

For Americans it's special as the cards depict players usually with national team jerseys - only an exclusive few make these limited sets. Two to three Yanks have been included with sets in the past few years. Recent sets have included Landon Donovan, Kasey Keller and current # 1 goalkeeper - Tim Howard (above).

Some of the more interesting memorabilia cards have been produced by Futera. For the collectors who are weary of jersey cards that come from photo shoots or practice gear - rest assured, these cards tell you exactly from which team / season the jersey originates. The back of the above card of superstar "Ronaldinho" lets you know the swatch comes from his rookie season with Paris St. Germain.

The newest twist on card collecting comes from what is on the back of these cards. Futera has developed online gaming for card collectors. Entering the digital numbers on the reverse of the cards, collectors add to their fantasy teams over the internet. Periodic winners get exclusive cards made by Futera and other prizes.

There are chase cards that feature current HEROES ... (like England / Chelsea Captain - John Terry and Holland / Arsenal gunner Robin Van Persie above).

The old boys are not to be outdone as the most sought after chase cards are the LEGENDS which show all-time greats like two former New York Cosmos - Pele' and Franz Beckenbauer.

So all around the world - at shops or online, from the Brazil's Greatest (Pele') to the Newest ( teenager - "Pato" at top), this set has it all. Made for the collectors and the gamers and the fans of the sport - 2009 FUTERA is out of this world.
Warning - this is a high end product - not for the faint hearted of finance. The HEROES card have a brisk selling price of $15 - 20 on the secondary market, while the LEGENDS can demand from $50 to $300.
The 1/1 cards that make it to the second hand auctions range from $100 to $500 for "average" players. Superstar 1/1 autographs (if anyone would give them up) would fetch well into the thousands of dollars price range - AC Milan's Gattuso bringing $450 last week on ebay.