We’re Fans: Our Favorite Online Football Writing from 2018

Sure, you normally hit publish on this type of post in December. But I wanted to be sure no piece snuck in before 2018’s final seconds. Also, I procrastinated.

All three pieces are well written, but more so, they warped my football mind with new perspectives.

I hope they warp yours too.

Wright Thompson, The Greatest Game Never Played

Remember as a little kid, when adults would say read! It will take you to new worlds! Wright Thompson’s detailed descriptions make that true. He drops you off in Buenos Aires where the chaos of an eternal rivalry consumed the city.

You’ll hear rubber slugs whizz past, and smell the baking pizza from El Cuartito. But Wright also points out that Boca Juniors, caught up in the madness, missed one of the rarest opportunities in sport – a win-win.

Wright argues had Boca played and lost, they’d have a legitimate excuse to fall back on. Had they played and won? Legends. Forever legends.

Eusebio Di Francesco, The Smell of the Grass

I’m intrigued by professionals who are excellent in their work, but never wanted their jobs in the first place.

Through The Coaches Voice Di Francesco shares a first hand account of running from his calling, and how the smell of the pitch lured him into coaching.

Brian Phillips, World Cup 2018: France Advances Past a Cavani-less Uruguay

Never has a match report made me slam both fists on the dining room table and yell “Yeaaaahhhhhhhh.”

Then el profesor Alan Jacobs posted a snippet from Brian Phillips’ World Cup quarter-final match report.

The opening paragraph, which Alan dubbed “soccer and the impediments to success” is the most obvious, yet insightful explanation of soccer I’ve read.

Totti Dreams


Totti is the player you dreamed of being.
He’s the player’s name you’d shout during pickup games.
Pumping a fist while spinning away from a pair of trash bins after scoring.
Totti’s the reason you let your socks sag at your ankles.
He’s why you try chipping the keeper at any opportunity.
Totti is why you watch YouTube clips until 3am Wednesday morning.
He’s why you’ll never support Lazio.
He’s why you’ll never support Juventus.
He’s why Italian football became your obsession.
He’s why tomorrow will be the first day of a new Serie A.
A Serie A without dreams, a Serie A without Totti.

Atalanta – Serie A’s Lemons to Savor


Serie A returns this weekend. Be sure to give Atalanta a taste.

When life gives you lemons, stick em’ in your bra.” said an old roommate’s girlfriend when her plans went to shit. My plan that Sunday afternoon was the Derby Della Madonnina. Atalanta v Roma was supposed to be an appetizer. A nibble of fruit and cheese before the main course. I caught one Atlanta counter. And another. 5 minutes became 10. 10 became 30. I was captured. Atalanta was pushing Roma around like your Aunt Milda’s liver onions at Thanksgiving.

I’d heard murmurs from podcasts and tweets that Atalanta were a team on the rise. A young side eager to carry out Gio Gasperini’s 3-4-3 masterplan. Still, I hadn’t seen for myself. After all, it was Atalanta. In my years of following Serie A I’d never watched them play. And today I needed a Roma win. If only to slow the Juventus juggernaut from a fifth consecutive Serie A title.

Atalanta ripped my loyalties apart. My logic cursed Salah’s spurned chances and bemoaned Roma’s lack of possession. My emotions whispered for Atalanta. Her back three. Her old-fashioned touch-line wing play. And her boots-full-of-tricks number 10 – Alejandro “Papu” Gomez, were irresistible.

Gasperini’s 3-4-3, oiled and quick, confounded Spaletti’s defensive shape. Atalanta’s movement and passing stirred up a level of anticipation usually reserved for individual players. The type of anticipation you’d feel when “Brazilian” Ronaldo dribbled full force at defenders. Or when Zidane trapped a pass from the air without spilling his espresso. Each feint a word before the punch line, each touch a silk scarf from a magician’s wrist.

However, this interruption of plans went beyond formations and players. It came to life from the stands. The Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia, built in 1928, remains a noir shrine to Italian football of yesteryear. Smoke from the flares of the Curva Nord 1907 brought the nostalgia of Serie A’ early 90s pomp. And the supporters were KISS concert rowdy.

Late on Papu added to the ruckus, bamboozling Pardes to draw the penalty. Franck Kessié converted as Spaletti’s strategy fell to the cutting room floor. The final whistle kicked Atalanta closer to a European adventure while Roma wedged deeper beneath The Old Lady’s heel. This wasn’t the Sunday I’d planned. This wasn’t the Sunday Roma planned. But when life gives you lemons, you stick em’ in your bra.