Friday, July 28, 2006

Getting Carried Away

This whole mp3 posting thing is pretty damn cool if you ask me (For the record, if anyone has an issue with these mp3 postings, please let me know and I'll remove them immediately). The staff at comanche/soul is pretty geeked up about it, so I thought I'd share a few more for the weekend:

M. Ward - "To Go Home". I've said it before, but the full band really suits M. I've enjoyed each of his releases, and his last, Transistor Radio, was one of last year's most underrated releases. For an alt. country guy, he's mighty tuneful. And with that rising piano part that introduces each chorus and verse and the floor-tom pounds, you sense Ward may have discovered his inner Brian Wilson, finding a complex arrangement to back up his strangely melodic songwriting.

Figurines - "Rivalry". Initial reports from these albums seemed to unanimously trumpet their Pacific Northwest indie (Built to Spill, Modest Mouse) sensibilities and their massive hooks. I picked up the album a couple weeks ago, and had mixed feelings. Yes, it's good, but I would liken them more to the Shins than either of those two -- the production just isn't there yet -- but probably less immediately catchy. It's one of those songs you'll enjoy four or five times before forgetting about it, only to be pleasantly surprised when it surfaces on iTunes again in six months.

In other news...
Recently came across this article on Drudge discussing the new Arab backlash against Israel. Though many predicted the conflict in Lebanon would polarize the region into an Iran-influenced camp and an alliance of Jordan, Egypt and the Saudis. Unfortunately, it seems popular opinion may be pushing that alliance against Israel.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Return of the Berserker

Time for a return to standard postings here at comanche/soul:

In the news...
Surely everyone's been following the mess in Lebanon. I promised to hit on the subject a week ago but have finally gotten around to it. Nearly 400 people have died on both sides since July 12, and as the fighting continues, U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice has announced a plan to place a force of 10,000 in southern Lebanon for the time being, to be later replaced by a standing international force of 30,000 to help the Lebanese government regain control of the country. The initial force would be supplied by Turkey and/or Egypt, and would be commanded by either NATO or the UN. Either way, it's a sticky situation that is, according to some, an indication of the polarization of the region into Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah and Jordan-Saudis-Egypt camps. Slate offers a tabled breakdown of who-hates-who.

Sadly, it's not the only quickly escalating conflict in the region. Yesterday Ethiopian forces entered Somalia by request of the Somali government. The current regime, which occupies only a small portion of the country near the Ethiopian border, has no military or real power, with Islamic militias occupying the capital Mogadishu and the vast majority of the country. If you're looking for the next potential Afghanistan, look no further than Ethiopia, where a weak UN force has set up an even weaker government barely surviving against Islamist militia forces. A situation that will most likely cost a hell of a lot more lives than the Lebanon-Israel conflict, but one that, I'm guessing, will go virtually ignored by the US and EU leadership.

In music...
I realize it's been forever since I've blogged. I've even held up this post for a long time. But luckily some exciting tour announcements have been made. First off, the Hold Steady, in support of their October 3rd release Boys and Girls in America will hit the road. Luckily for the Beltway crowd, they'll be returning to the area, though this time making it to Baltimore's Ottobar on October 2.

Also, the hype machine rolls on as Minneapolis' Tapes n Tapes return to the DC area, this time to play the Black Cat. Led by fellow Carleton College alum Josh Grier, their steady stream of press has continued for the band. Loyal c/s reader Ross Mattson informs me that the Mpls Star-Tribune referred to their joint bill at legendary Twin Cities' venue First Avenue with the Plastic Constellations as the must-see show of the summer. Find out for yourself on Halloween here in DC.

Popmatters ran a nice review of a Futureheads' show recently. Stylus reviews their latest album (speaking of which, I can't find my copy anywhere).

Good news: The Tyde -- from, where else?, Southern California -- return with their third album. Following their debut Once, their sophomore release Twice, their calling this one Three's Company. It's been out in England for a while -- their label, Rough Trade, was undergoing some distro issues Stateside -- and I've heard lead single "Brock Landers" a number of times. I'm going to try to post it, but be patient with me, as this will be the first c/s venture into the realm of multimedia.
The Tyde - "Brock Landers"

Friday, July 14, 2006

Music Update

After a brief hiatus, lots of music (and music news) has registered on the c/s radar recently. It's a good thing, as you can only listen to so much sports talk radio before you feel like you've heard it all before. So, without further delay, the comanche/soul music update...

Starting with the sad news, Syd Barrett, founding member of Pink Floyd, passed away this week at age 60. One of the more famous acid-casualty cult figures, he left the band after it's second LP, A Saucerful of Secrets. Due to mental illness probably caused by regular LSD use, his behavior had become increasingly erratic; he once supposedly appeared at a recording session with a bowl of oatmeal on his head (note: this is a totally unconfirmed rumor I've heard). His crowning achievement, however, remains Floyd's debut album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and specifically that album's tour de force, "Interstellar Overdrive", which I first heard about 3 am on a Tuesday morning at the University of Kentucky college radio station 8 years ago. Slate has a nice obituary here. Read allmusic's here.

The Fiery Furnaces are on tour with Man Man this summer. They recently came through DC -- I missed the show -- but it sounds like a wise decision. Why? Read Popmatters' live review of the band a friend once ridiculously called "the most important band in music today."
*Late addition: My good friend and Seattle music scenester (just kidding...he would surely frown at this title) Andrew Huffer (also, ace guitarist/vocalist of Juggernaut) writes in regarding the Furnaces' tour:
In regards to your recent comments about the Fiery Furnaces, I would have to agree that they were disappointing at best in their live show. Part of the attraction of the furnaces for me is some of the subtle melodic nuances that Matt employs on guitar or keyboard. Unfortunately they have elected for some reason to pump the volume up in their live show to a point where these touches are completely drowned out, leaving a wall of fuzzed out guitar noise. Matt is clearly a very talented guitarist but unfortunately the effects are wasted. This decision has the additional effect of pushing Eleanor's vocals way down in the mix, leaving her trademark delivery lacking in punch. Kate and I actually left their set early, and it was interesting to note that as soon as we were in the street, the sound quality seemed to increase a good deal. The night was not a total waste, as the openers Man Man put on a fascinating show. If you imagine five of the Animal character from the Muppets playing a rotating collection of instruments complete with shouts and whoops you'll get a pretty good idea of what they are like. I'd never heard any of their music before, but you can't help getting into the show. The music itself is kind of a mix of sea shanties and experimental percussion, all sung by their gruff-voiced lead singer. I definitely recommend going to see them play if you get a chance

The Arcade Fire are back in the studio, and Pitchfork has a short update. While I'm a little skeptical of their ability to follow up the tremendous Funeral -- an album that, like Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, got so big and so great so quickly that it later experienced some growing pains -- I'm still looking forward to what might be in store.

The Pipettes have finally released their full-length, We Are the Pipettes, and I think I might have to buy it. Just as my good buddy Smokey loves Cat Power for reasons that border on impure or unclean, there's definitely some pull towards the Pipettes. I think it's mostly the girl-group shtick and the polka-dot dresses, but the songs are okay too.

The Legends, Live at DC9, w/ the Positions
I had the tremendous pleasure of venturing down to DC9 to hear some live music on a Tuesday night. Always good to have a show early in the week -- kind of energizes me a little and gets my musical blood flowing, so to speak. Of course, DC local band the Positions were not so much of the tremendous pleasure. Whether they copped their sound directly from "Indie Success for Dummies" (somewhat cute female lead singer - check, guitarist who can't play - check, no real hooks - check). To be fair, they weren't that bad, it's just that every song ran together and they relied too heavily on the incessant horn parts for any hint of melody or catchiness.

The Legends -- Sweden's former umpteen piece pop collective now condensed to five members -- then took the stage to a packed house (packed meaning roughly 150 people) and played a superb set. They dressed like your standard issue hipsters but brought along a solid stage presence that served them well. Too often up-and-coming bands playing small venues seem unable to really fill the room, as though they have to be seem totally unassuming in order to appear "real."

But as usual (I must say this every time I see a good band), none of this would matter if the tunes weren't good. The Legends did a set of half old, half new material, and both were equally strong. The lead singer rightly and humorously referred to their new material as "disco" -- it had that standard hi-hat and snare pattern that's all the rage with bands like the Killers these days -- only to later claim that he "hates disco" but was going to play it anyway. Another particularly telling moment came when he labeled a new song as our "Joy Division" song, and it was just that: moodier, a little darker, and sung with a tweaked accent, but still melodically strong.

What really stuck out from the show and what made dalliances into Ian Curtis territory interesting (and even fun) was the production. I swear, I've never heard such nuanced production at a live, club show, especially in a venue this small. But on that night, the drums had real depth and variation in tones, the guitar echoes were perfectly foggy, and the vocals lifted and crystal clear when they needed to be. Of course, the band took almost two hours to soundcheck (and maybe more before we got there), so I'm guessing this was a case of efforts paying off. Not to knock the loud, sloppy rock show (and yes, I'll be there on Saturday at the 9:30 Club for the Drive-by Truckers, currently one of America's two best rock and roll bands), but this should still come as a reminder of what a little attention to detail can do for a show.

Unfortunately, we left before the Acid House Kings took the stage, so I can't really comment on them. I'm guessing a little trippy and perhaps with some strange instrumentation and/or driving, persistent beats? Who knows...

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Cup Runneth Over

The collective hangover that has most of us back to the dull grind of midseason baseball and previews of NFL training camp (if this rings true, do yourself a favor and give the MLS a serious shot) undoubtedly has similarly kept a few Frenchmen in bed today. Their unlikely collapse and unfortunate luck on penalties cost them the World Cup, but it's difficult to argue that Italy weren't deserving winners.

The term "purist" is often used to describe a soccer fan who values the "beautiful game" played by the Brazil of 1982, the Dutch teams of the 70s, and, most recently, the remarkable display Argentina gave us in their 6-0 demolition of Serbia and Montenegro in this World Cup. But, lest we forget, all those teams went down as "unfortunate losers", falling to more pragmatic but equally qualified teams. So I'll submit that the "purist" can describe those of us that take real joy in watching a back four play with the skill and composure we saw from Italy in this tournament. World Cups can be funny things -- take 2002, where Korea and Turkey were semifinalists and France didn't score a goal -- but one thing is generally true: the best team over the course of the tournament usually comes home with the trophy.

Argentina looked the best, Brazil had the most talent, Germany had the raw enthusiasm and energy, France seemed to have fate, but Italy had the most composure, the best defense, maybe the best midfield, and certainly the best luck. Consider how many Italian players could reasonably be in the best eleven. Cannavarro, Buffon, Zambrotta, Gattusso, and Pirlo are probably no brainers, but Grosso, Totti, and even Toni deserve a look. And for sheer value, two goals, a fine penalty in the final shootout, and getting Zidane ejected probably gets Materazzi in. As for luck, they looked to be in a whole heap of trouble down to ten men heading into overtime against Australia, but somehow conjured a penalty out of nothing. They lucked into the easiest draw of the knockout rounds, and they were certainly lucky to see France's fortune run short on Trezeguet's penalty that had Buffon well beaten.

So congratulations to the Italians. For the French, it's probably time to scrap the drawing board altogether and instead draw up a digital spreadsheet or something. I would like to see Viera back to captain the team next time around, in a Zidane-like role, and Henry should have another tournament in him as well. Barthez, however, will not be missed. Zidane's contributions to the world game are undeniable. But in truth, the 98 Final, the stunning Champions League final volley for Real Madrid, the overall mastery against Brazil this year will all be forgotten. When our generation tells the story of this World Cup, it will most likely forget much of his play and remember his momentary, but complete lapse of reason.

comanche/soul Best of World Cup 2006
MVP - Fabio Cannavarro, D Italy. The best defender I've seen for some time. Covers more ground than any center back in the game. For a short guy, he can jump with any striker. For a defender, has wonderful touch. But what's most remarkable about him: for the most tenacious defender in a tournament that set records for most yellow and red cards, he emerged without a single entry into the referee's notebook.

Young Player - Cristiano Ronaldo, MF Portugal. I truly hate him and I believe that he represents most of the awful aspects of this year's tournament. But he was still the best, and if he can keep the theatrics to a minimum, he'll be great.

Best Eleven - GK Buffon, D Grosso, D Terry, D Cannavarro, D Lahm, MF Frings, MF Zidane, MF Viera, MF Appiah, F Klose, F Henry.
(Honorable mention: D Zambrotta, D Thuram, D Rio Ferdinand, MF Maniche, MF Essien, F Robben, F Torres, F Podolski, GK Lehmann, MF C. Ronaldo)
***Note: The Best Eleven was selected without consideration of the team as a whole.

Goal of the Tournament (in order) -
1. Klose, Germany v. Argentina. Perfectly executed and beautiful in its simplicity.
2. Maxi Rodriguez, Argentina v. Mexico. The most spectacular of the bunch, a stunning left footed volley from a right footed player to win in overtime.
3. Torres, Spain v. Ukraine. The early leader for goal of tournament, it sneaks above Cambiasso at #4 because of Puyol's persistence and skill.
4. Ayala, Argentina v. Germany. A subtly impressive goal. Anyone who's ever headed a ball knows that getting a header by a diving, in-form keeper and a man on the post is a difficult charge. Doing so with a man on you even harder. Adjusting mid-air after a bump and diving to reach the ball, even more difficult.

Post-Cup News
Marco Materazzi has admitted to insulting Zidane, claiming it was just a typical on-field insult. Hard to believe really, especially with Materazzi's history of questionable behavior. But until Zidane tells us otherwise, there's not much else to go with.

One of my personal favorite players, veteran German midfielder Dietmar Hammann, has left Liverpool for Manchester City. He's definitely getting older, but it's always sad to see a player with his impact leave. Readers may recall his game-changing introduction into the 2005 Champions League final as a second half sub, effectively shutting down AC Milan's midfield and giving Steven Gerrard license to roam.

Though it appears Real Madrid have learned nothing from the colossal failure of the Galacticos' era, they're gearing up to make a move for Italian World Cup star Cannavarro (see above). It's still a risk to make a bid for an ageing player, but at 32 he appears at the peak of his powers, and center backs tend to age pretty well. Cannavarro and Sergio Ramos should form a productive partnership at the back as Madrid looks to rebuild and finally win some hardware next season.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Best of the World Cup, Part I

I've decided to go ahead and start my World Cup awards presentation. Today's installment will give a report card to all the first-round-eliminated teams. After the final next week, I'll name my Best Eleven, Player of the Tournament, Coach of the Tourney, and a few other awards TBA.

Group A
Costa Rica - Have to be disappointed by their showing. An exciting opening match against Germany should've given them a little confidence heading into their more winnable group games, but a suspect aerial defense was their undoing. C-.
Poland - What's the deal here? Same story as 2002 -- qualify with ease, then play miserably before getting it right in their final game for a consolation win. Looked completely lost against Ecuador. C-.

Group B
Paraguay - Typically tough in the back but lacking anything close to an attacking spark. Unlucky not to get something from the England game though, and a draw there would've changed the entire complexion of the group. Not terrible, but could've been better. C.
Trinidad and Tobago - In getting a point in their first ever World Cup match, they far exceeded any previous expectations. In nearly getting another one against England (and nearly taking the lead), they demonstrated that they could battle with anyone. They might have finished bottom of the group, but arguably went home happier than any of the other three teams. B+ (a goal would've made it an A).

Group C
Ivory Coast - Poor Ivory Coast. If not for some slack marking and poor deadball defending, this team would've been in the knockout rounds. Hell, if Drogba could've converted more than one of his fifty or so chances, they would've beaten Argentina. Without a doubt the most exciting team to get knocked out in the first round, the future is still very bright. Expect them back with a vengeance in 2010 when the tournament comes to Africa. B-.
Serbia and Montenegro - Looked one dimensional against Holland and out of their league against Argentina. Blew a two goal lead against the Ivorians to finish last. After much better showings in the past as Yugoslavia, S&M's last games with the M will be easily forgotten. D+.

Group D
Angola - The should've-been-also-rans proved to be much more, showing their mettle in a tough 1-0 loss to Portugal and a steely 0-0 draw with Mexico. A 1-1 draw against Iran was a bit disappointing -- especially with a shock Round of 16 qualification theirs for the taking -- but ultimately this was a successful campaign for one of lowest rated teams in the tournament. B.
Iran - Never seemed likely to beat Mexico despite playing them tough for most of the game. Likewise against Portugal, but maybe should've put Angola away in their consolation game. Expectations were not quite met, and this might be the last adventure for Ali Daei and Co. at this level. C-.

Group E
Czech Republic - What happened here? One of the more impressive and methodical opening match performances led to an utter collapse against Ghana and a subpar performance against Italy. Shame to see the excellence of Nedved and Rosicky go out so early, but the loss of Koller and Baros up top was just too much to get past. C.
United States - The expectations after 2002 were foolishly high. Bruce Arena can devise a gameplan to compete in a hostile environment in the jungles of Guatemala, but what happens when the team is forced to play 11 v 11 to win on neutral soil against a quality, European opponent? Bright points were hard to find, and it's back to the drawing board for the Americans. C-.

Group F
Croatia - Blew a lead twice against Australia that would've put them into the next round. Failed to beat Japan, missing a penalty in the process. Losing to Brazil 1-0 was their best result, but given the South Americans flame-out, that's not much consolation. C.
Japan - For all their energy, clearly not up to this level yet. Still, that they blew a late lead against Australia and even led Brazil briefly, this tournament has to be seen as disappointing. C-.

Group G
South Korea - Everyone knew South Korea wouldn't be in the semis again this far away from home, but that doesn't mean they haven't improved. A credible, if not quite deserved draw against France was a good result, and they barely missed second round qualification. Expect them to be in the hunt to advance in 2010. B-.
Togo - The only team to drop all three group games was suprisingly in each one of them. However, incredibly bad team organization and management issues did nothing to help the worst stereotypes of African soccer. With problems like those, they probably won't be back in the Cup for quite some time. D.

Group H
Tunisia - Blew their chances by drawing with the Saudis. Blew a shock lead against Spain. Blown penalty call ostensibly cost them against Ukraine, but mostly they were undone by poor coaching, choosing to play without a single striker when they absolutely had to win. C-.
Saudi Arabia - By their low standards following the 2002 debacle, not a bad tournament. A decent draw with Tunisia (where they blew a late lead) and a 1-0 loss to Spain have to be acceptable in comparison to the 8-0 thrashing by Germany last time around. But that was Spain's B team and they still lost 4-0 to a mediocre Ukraine team. Not impressive, but not bad by their standards either. C.

Easy Listening

Since I've departed the comforts of college life, I've found myself wanting for exposure to new music. Used to be all I had to do was turn on the college radio station and flip back and forth until they stopped playing Joanna Newsome and started playing something worth my time. I could drop into the record library too and borrow whatever lost, early 90s gem from the Vigilantes of Love I wanted to check out.

In the real world, things haven't been quite so simple. DC is hurting for quality rock radio, decent record stores are practically nonexistent, and there's a lot less time to spend with my headphones. That said, some degree of disposable income has made purchases possible, and I thought I'd share a few recent discoveries -- both new and old -- for your own listening pleasure:

Superdrag - Regretfully Yours. Knoxville's Superdrag remind you of the best one hit wonders of modern rock radio. You'll recognize "Sucked Out" ("who sucked out the feeling?..."), but you'll stick around for the loud but melodic guitar interplay and the band's live show feel.

The Kingsbury Manx - The Fast Rise and Fall of the South. Saying North Carolina's Kingsbury Manx chronicle the rise and fall of the American South is sort of like studying the Kinks' Arthur, or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire as a landmark academic work in social history. But if there is a musical touchstone for the Manx, it's certainly Ray Davies and Co.'s light and melodic mid to late 60s catalog. This album might not do much for history buffs, but the music's great for retro-fetishists seeking a few Southerners take on British folk-inspired whimsy.

M. Ward - "To Go Home". Probably available for download somewhere, as I did, Matthew Ward continues his remarkably consistent catalog with this cut off the upcoming Post-War. Anyone who saw his tour with My Morning Jacket knows the full-band setup suits him remarkably well. Anyone who heard his last record knows the production quality has continued to improve steadily over his career, adding texture and noise to his brand of folk-rock. Anyone who ever enjoyed any of his stuff at all knows he's best with a resigned verse and a rousing, longing chorus. And for anyone who doesn't fall under any of these categories, start by downloading "Vincent O' Brien" and "Helicopter". If it works for you, continue here. His is one of the most unique voices in indie rock, and easily the most tuneful alt. country songwriter I've heard since Messrs Tweedy and Farrar were still plyin' their trade.

Drive-By Truckers - "Wednesday". The Drive-By Truckers are the kind of band rock geeks love because they ask all those rock fantasy questions that inhabit our dreams and conversations with fellow insiders. Their breakthrough album (some would say their best, but I disagree) Southern Rock Opera asked what Skynyrd would've sounded like if fronted by revisionist Southern historians. Two albums later, The Dirty South wondered how exactly Carl Perkins coaxed such golden performances out of Elvis, while the track "Danko/Manuel" equated DBT youngster Jason Isbell with the late Richard Manuel of the Band. On their most recent album A Blessing and a Curse, standout track "Wednesday" seems to hypothesize as to what the Replacements would've sounded like with a dynamite three-guitar attack. The answer is the best slab of guitar pop I've heard all year and track #1 up to this point on my best of the year list.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Been a while since I had the chance to blog on the World Cup, but as our days dwindle and our lives return to the normal grind, it seems a bit more pressing. That, and regular reader Ross Mattson has informed me that his summer internship bores him and he needs stimulation. Either way, here's some food for thought as we enter the weekend's final games:

- Say what you will about the coverage and, specifically, the commentary, but the ESPN/ABC family have absolutely done their part. Not only has every game been able in HD, they've also offered free through July 17th, meaning every game could be watched online, live. The footage is decent too.

- JP Dellacamera is our best play-by-play man. Tommy Smyth, I'm sorry to say, is our best color guy. John Harkes isn't bad. Marcelo Balboa continues to be abysmal, and I can't imagine he will stick around unless he's married to Chris Berman's sister. He talks as much as Dicky V. but has no schtick, nor expertise, nor humor.
Soccer needs to breathe. If you've never had the pleasure of watching a game with a single, knowledgeable play-by-play man at the helm and no color guy (as many Premier League games are televised), you're missing out on a lot.

- comanche/soul shortlist for World Cup Best 11:
GK - Buffon (Italy), Lehmann (Germany), Ricardo (Portugal)
Defenders - Cannavarro (Ita), Lahm (Ger), Terry (England), Miguel (Portugal), Grosso (Italy), Cole (England), Ayala (Argentina), Marquez (Mexico), Senderos (Switzerland)
Midfield - Appiah (Ghana), Riquelme (Arg), Beasley (USA)...just kidding, Rodriguez (Arg), C. Ronaldo (Port), Pirlo (Italy), Nedved (Czech), Xabi Alonso (Spain), Cahill (Australia), Zakora (Ivory Coast), Yorke (Trinidad and Tobago), Frings (Ger), Zidane (France), Viera (France), Ribery (France)
Forwards - Klose (Ger), Podolski (Ger), Torres (Spain), Henry (France), Villa (Spain), Robben (Netherlands), Crespo (Arg)
*Anyone I'm missing? Let me know in comments. I'll announce the full team next week.

- The Italy-Germany semifinal was a fine game, with both teams committed to playing balanced soccer. Italy went forward far more than usual. You almost sensed that they feared the ensuing penalty shootout -- where history unquestionably favored the Germans -- and really pushed for the regulation win. And when the goal did come, what a goal it was. Pirlo slid a nicely weighted ball between two defenders to Grosso -- excellent all tournament -- who bent the ball immaculately past a few defenders and the diving hand of Lehmann. As Germany pushed for the winner, del Piero sealed it with a terrific finish from Gilardino's through ball. Italy may have had the easiest run to the final, but they've looked pretty sharp, displaying a typical tight defense and quality midfield play. They've also looked stronger as the tournament's gone on. Cannavarro has been tremendous, and should get some votes for Golden Ball (player of the tournament) should Italy win it all.

- We're halfway through the France-Portugal semi, 1-0 to France off a Zidane penalty, calmly stroked past the diving Ricardo. Chances for both teams, with Portugal looking more and more dangerous running at the French defense. Look for France to grab another, then Portugal pull one back for a grandstand finish. We'll see...

- Everybody's saying it so I may as well join in: Eriksson's coaching job was one of the worst in recent memory. Failing to address any of the obvious problems with his team, England barely deserved their quarterfinal spot. 17 year old Walcott had no business on the team and Eriksson paid badly for foolish selection choices. How about a proven goalscorer? Better yet, how about someone with an actual top flight game to his name? The four man midfield of Gerrard, Lampard, Beckham, and Cole would've cleaned up in a long distance shooting exposition (save Lampard, perhaps), but simply couldn't play together. A creative manager would've figured out a way to get the most out of four quality midfielders and seen the pressing need to inject some speed onto the right wing (the left had it in spades). The center backs were predictably excellent and Robinson was good, but goals were clearly the problem. As for the performance in the shootout, you had to see it coming.