With Chad Ochocinco attempting to make the transition from football to futbol with a four-day trial with Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City, this seems like a good time to revisit a little ditty I wrote for FOXSports.com leading up to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
One of U.S. soccer’s up-and-coming talents will be on display in Germany when 6-foot-4, 201-pound defender Oguchi Onyewu takes to the pitch for his first World Cup.
“Gooch” has the combination of size and strength that is rarely seen on the soccer pitch (he is believed to be the biggest field player -— non-goalkeeper -— in U.S. national team history). American sports fans, however, see this sort of impressive physical specimen all the time. Whether it’s flipping through NFL Sunday Ticket each autumn Sunday while checking out the doings of the stars of their fantasy team, or admiring the high-flying abilities of the NBA’s best players, the U.S. features the greatest collection of athletes in the world.
The fact of the matter is this: Soccer is not the most popular sport in the U.S. That spot is firmly held by football. Soccer, known as football outside the U.S., is the most popular sport, at least team sport, in most other countries. The best athletes in those countries play soccer like our nation’s best athletes dream of playing in the NFL, Major League Baseball or the NBA. While that is beginning to shift thanks in part to the professional aspirations Major League Soccer is offering young players, soccer remains far behind the established sports.
So, while Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Eddie Johnson, Clint Dempsey and the rest of Team USA prepare to take on the world’s best soccer players in Germany, let’s consider an alternate universe where our nation’s greatest athletes possessed soccer skill, grew up in the game, and eventually went on to represent Team USA against the rest of the world’s best.
What if our nation’s greatest athletes were soccer players? Here is a look at how our “Dream Team,” comprised totally of star athletes outside soccer, would look …
Chad Johnson (club: Cincinnati Bengals) -— Wide receivers seem like a natural to play forward. They are playmakers, with speed and size to challenge any defender the opposing team throws out there.
Could you imagine Johnson with a list of World Cup defenders that he’s going to beat like the one he had last season for cornerbacks he faced?
Game 1 – Marek Jankulovski and Tomas Ujfalusi of the Czech Republic … check
Game 2 – Fabio Cannavaro and Alessandro Nesta of Italy … check
Game 3 – John Mensah and Hans Sarpei of Ghana … check
Terrell Owens (club: Dallas Cowboys) —- The fun of having Johnson and Owens playing together at forward, besides the fact that there just wouldn’t be enough ball to go around, would be the creativity of each of their goal-scoring celebrations. Think the Sharpie would warrant a card?
Kobe Bryant (club: Los Angeles Lakers) —- Bryant played a lot of soccer back in his youth, which means the transition from court to pitch would be smooth. However, some have considered Bryant to be a bit of a ball hog. How would that translate to the pitch? This team has a lot of ball hogs. Great players want the ball in crucial moments in the game. That’s the sort of athlete we want here.
Carl Crawford (club: Tampa Bay Devil Rays) -— Crawford was once recruited to play option quarterback at Nebraska and point guard at UCLA. He now toils in Tampa, where he currently leads the big leagues in stolen bases. As arguably baseball’s best all-around athlete (who also is a U.S. citizen), Crawford earns his distinction as baseball’s lone representative on the starting 11.
Steve Smith (club: Carolina Panthers) —- At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, Smith would be the smallest player on this team. However, Smith still has height advantage over USA notables Donovan, Beasley and Bobby Convey. Seeing Smith work in the open field after he catches passes on the gridiron would indicate that he would have a knack for doing the same with the ball at his feet on the pitch.
LaDainian Tomlinson (club: San Diego Chargers) -— On the gridiron, Tomlinson is able to run inside or use an arsenal of moves outside to embarrass defenders. The sort of skills that the NFL’s most dynamic player possesses translate well to the pitch, where Tomlinson would be a nightmare to defend.
Troy Polamalu (club: Pittsburgh Steelers) -— Every soccer team worth its salt needs a player with goofy hair. That’s where Polamalu fits in. Well, it’s not just because he sports a long weave of black hair, but because he seems to be wherever the ball is at all times.
Joey Porter (club: Pittsburgh Steelers) —- Somebody needs to get in the opposing team’s head before game time. Porter would be seen on the pitch in Kaiserslautern kicking dirt on Italy’s Francesco Totti. Think the 5-foot-11, 181-pound Totti is going to mess around with the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Porter? Now, 6-foot-8, 220-pound Jan Koller of the Czech Republic would be a better match for the meanest man in Germany.
Brian Urlacher (club: Chicago Bears) —- The 2005 NFL Defensive Player of the Year does more than tackle opponents on a regular basis, he showed his athletic versatility in college, where also played some receiver and returned kicks. If by some stretch of the imagination a forward is able to beat these other defenders, Urlacher — one of the fastest linebackers the NFL has seen — will surely be there to eliminate a scoring threat.
Roy Williams (club: Dallas Cowboys) -— Unfortunately, Williams’ signature horse-collar tackle would earn him a red card. Still, even if Williams gets red carded, we don’t think any forward is going to want to mess around with the aforementioned defenders.
Kevin Garnett (club: Minnesota Timberwolves) —- At 6-11, Garnett would be the tallest ‘keeper in the world. Throw in a wingspan of more than seven feet and the quick reflexes required to play in the NBA, and it’ll be tough for even the world’s best strikers to get a ball past him (that’s given that they can even get by our Fearsome Foursome of defenders).
Forwards: LeBron James (club: Cleveland Cavaliers), Grady Sizemore (club: Cleveland Indians), Dwyane Wade (club: Miami Heat)
Midfielders: Tiki Barber (club: New York Giants), Reggie Bush (club: New Orleans Saints), Bill Guerin (club: Dallas Stars), Allen Iverson (club: Philadelphia 76ers), Derek Jeter (club: New York Yankees)
Defenders: Brian Dawkins (club: Philadelphia Eagles), Ray Lewis (club: Baltimore Ravens)
Goalkeepers: Elton Brand (club: Los Angeles Clippers), Ben Wallace (club: Detroit Pistons)
Bill Cowher (club: Pittsburgh Steelers) —- The head coach of the Super Bowl champion Steelers deserves this spot, but will need assistants such as Bill Belichick (club: New England Patriots), Phil Jackson (club: Los Angeles Lakers) and Bill Parcells (club: Dallas Cowboys) to help keep a roster loaded with flamboyant characters in line.
- Watch: Ochocinco kicks extra point in 2009 preseason game
Ye Olde Rhino’s Sports Pub and Grille is hearing things.
The good word around the watercooler is that the NFL is considering eliminating two weeks of preseason games and adding two more weeks of play to the regular season. We know. This is groundbreaking stuff.
Once upon a time, the NFL played six preseason games. As recently as the 70s (well, not so recently, as a matter of fact), there were six preseason games and 14 regular-season games. That’s just plain nuts … way too many games that didn’t count for anything. And, that 14-game season really had to mess with fantasy football players (did the playoffs start in Week 11? Geesh!).
With this year’s NFL preseason set to blissfully kick off in just eight days in Canton, Ohio, here are the five preseason games that will be featured on the big screen at Rhino’s Sports Pubery …