What’s your number Scott McTominay?

It won’t be 39 next year.  Not after that Parc des Princes performance.

His PSG assignment? Take care of the boring stuff. The coffee orders. The midfield dish washing.

Partner with Fred in the center of midfield. Be his right sided wingman.

Jog east. Jog west. No ball watching.

Close PSG passing lanes to Mpappe and De Maria. Track Kehrer on corners.

Be a dart to cork on Veratti. Help Ashley Young double him up if he dawdles.

In possession, check to the ball between Di María in Mbappé. Turn and deliver the simple pass. You’re not Pirlo and you don’t have to be.

In transition, first time passes to Young or Dalot are required. Preferably, played into space, for them to run on to.

That’s the assignment. Humble midfield apprentice work.

But humble tasks completed with enthusiasm and excellence lift a team, and, individual reputations.

So what will your squad number be next year McTominay? The Spanish #4? The Argentine #5?

Because 39 no longer befits your stature.

Napoli’s Punk Rock Percussionist

He draws your attention, even at an inch tall on the TV screen.

His sky blue socks socks sag and rest at his shins, with a fat florescent yellow band sitting just below his kneecaps. Of course, the bands match his highlighter Nike Mercurial Superflys. The number 17 is stitched across his back. Tattoo sleeves wrap his forearms. A red Acqua Lete logo scrolls across his chest. Pirates goatee? Check.

Without the ball he and his mohawk (a mohawk that would strike fear in middle age 1980’s moms) take up positions a few feet in front of Napoli’s centerback pairing – Koulibaly and Albiol, forming a flexible, equilateral, defensive triangle.

In possession he stands between Mbappe and Neymar. He’ll turn with the ball when pressure evaporates, to play into Insigne checking in, to Callejon wide right, or to an overlapping Rui wide left.

To create attacking rhythm and draw out PSG a few more yards he’d again engage with his centerbacks, playing it back first time to Albiol or Koulibaly.

Hamšík trots, power-walks and gallops through the match. But never sprints. His knees stay bent. His feet stay light, ready to cushion incoming passes.

He turned down a Chinese ransom for nights like these. Napoli’s punk rock percussionist still has a role to play.

As observed from Napoli’s 2-2 draw with PSG on 10/24/2018

Quote

There is a point to this. Banega is also exactly what United do not have, an element beyond the strangulating Mourinho blueprint, trusted to purr about the pitch seeking the right place to deploy his velvet-pawed touch. Banega might not sprint or leap well at set pieces. But here he ran the game by stealth, an ambling brain in bright orange boots, funnelling possession into difficult areas and digging his fingernails into the back of United’s midfield.

on For-Éver Banega’s classic Old Trafford performance.

Mandžukić’s Chilena

Episode #5

Morning Journal,

I was thinking of my favorite football moment of 2017.

It wasn’t Monaco winning Ligue 1. An incredible achievement, but that was more of a story than a single moment.

Totti retiring, the actual day. His final goodbye at the Stadio Olimpico (which got killer reviews on Google by the way) came to mind. Tears and tears. A tearful Totti is a Totti worth remembering. But alas…

Then there’s the US men’s team not qualifying for the World Cup. A bit of shock and joy.  A hope that rot will stop, which may only happen if Eric Wynalda is elected as the USSF president. But that’s another journal entry for another day.

But the moment that rose to my hippocampus’s surface was Mario Mandžukić’s Champions League final chilena:

Mandžukić, Juventus’s alleyway brawler, displayed his technique and audacity to lift the hope of Juventus supporters around the world.

It wasn’t enough.

Mandžukić’s goal, his match tying goal. His momentum shifting goal. His glimmer of hope goal, will likely be forgotten. Real Madrid’s 3 second half goals turned brilliance into a consolation.

Football supporters just don’t sit around in pubs discussing all the amazing consolation goals they’ve witnessed.

But when it was executed, in that that moment, the Croatian’s chilena wasn’t a consolation goal. It was a celebration.

Here’s to more chilena’s in 2018.

Jack