Here's what's happening: I'm going to serve up your Saturday morning links at just-eat-a-breakfast-bar speed, and then we're going to put together the best possible soccer team from the Falcons current roster. You may join me after the jump for that activity.
1. NFL.com: Pat Kirwan lists 20 NFC South players who are primed for a major breakout in 2010, and three Falcons defenders made the cut. Actually, by NFC South I meant NFL. As in, Kirwan feels 15% of the entire league's overnight sensations play for the same team.
2. Buc Em: Trivia time... name the team Bucs fans consider to be their #1 rival. You think it's the Seahawks? Wow, you're way off.
3. The .com: You woke up this morning craving details on team OTAs. The official site keeps you posted like an envelope.
4. Internets Celebrities: With all the kerfuffle around here about a new stadium, I need you to review this hilarious and informative 20-minute documentary on the subject by some excellent blog bros.
5. Roll Bama Roll: SB Nation's Crimson Tide blog hosts a freak-out about losing Holla McGhee to your Atlanta Falcons -- or should I say a Colin-Peek-out? Peek was apparently a third-down monster last year -- something we'll soon be in desperate need for as Tony Gonzalez and Brian Finneran both retire to enter the Hall of Fame...
6. The Unlikely Fan: Shoot, the World Cup links snuck past the jump. If you only read one thing about soccer in your life, make it this. After one read, you will understand the dynamics of this year's tournament -- and you'll even have a team you could see yourself rooting for if your life depended on it.
After reading that and a few other Cup For Dummies articles, I've decided to root for Italy, in addition to the U.S. of course. Italy's team is apparently the '77 Falcons of soccer, giving up ~0 goals per game and scoring only when there's absolutely nothing better to do. To wrap your mind around that, just imagine the Grits Blitz coated in marinara sauce. Or don't. At this point I only plan on making an effort to watch U.S.-England and the final game, but might sneak in some more here and there.
American Falcoholics may find themselves rooting for geography (Mexico), our rivals (England), the biggest underdogs (New Zealand), the giant-killers (Slovenia, who just beat Russia), the favorites (Spain), the poorest country (Paraguay), the best player (Lionel Messi, Argentina), the most Comradely (North Korea), whichever team has the best poster from this list (Ivory Coast, Slovenia), or just rooting against the Pats-Colts/Sox-Yanks/Celts-Lakers (Germany and Brazil).
Here's my best crack at an All-Falcons soccer lineup (our international readers may begin openly mocking my lack of futbol awareness...... now):
For maximum faux-familiarity, we're running the 4-3-3, which has the the same name as the defense we run in tackle football. This is the only reason I have chosen this formation from the list of formations I found at Wikipedia. It seems to be kind of old-school, so Mike Smith should like it.
Centerbacks: Thomas DeCoud and Chevis Jackson
Centerbacks defend the area right in front of the goalie's domain. They're expected to be able to play man-to-man or zone, make clutch tackles, and get the ball back to the offense. (So, yes, basically they're safeties.) DeCoud is tall, rangy, and not afraid to pop individuals in the face, while Chevy lacks the prototypical centerback height but has the athleticism to keep up. Thinking William Moore's a little too stocky to play centerback.
Fullbacks: Kroy Biermann and Curtis Lofton
Sorry Ovie, this is another defensive position. Fullbacks need to be imposing, durable, versatile, and have what NFL announcers call "a high motor." Also, they should have decent foot skills. We know Duffburger can kick, and we also know from his special teams work he can get down the field. Lofton's leadership and playcalling experience will come in handy here.
Midfielders: Brent Grimes, Dominique Franks, and Sean Weatherspoon
This is a tweener position that requires both offensive and defensive skill, so we're leaning towards defenders who've returned kicks or picked off passes and guys with special teams experience. Grimes is holding down the middle of the field, where his insane range will come in handy. His job is to break up every pass that approaches center pitch, no matter how many miles he needs to dive. We're sacrificing a little bit of speed to get Spoon on the field instead of Christopher Owens or Dunta Robinson, but come on. Soccer is fun. Spoon likes fun.
Wingers: Harry Douglas, Eric Weems
Wingers must be fast and good with the ball, which sounds like HD and Special to me. Their combined experience at running endless end-arounds has developed their running-in-a-wide-loop skill, which will surely allow them to flank behind opposing fullbacks. I mean it's like the same pattern. We could even sub in Harvey Dahl as a pulling winger.
Striker: Jerious Norwood
The striker's job is to put the ball in the net, juking and outrunning guys the whole way. We've always said we wished Juice got to run around in the open field more -- well, here's our chance. He's now one of the two most critical players on the field. And if that doesn't work, some poor Greek is going to have to bring down Michael Turner all by himself.
Goalkeeper: Roddy White
He's nimble, has great vision and reaction time, is willing to lay out for the ball, and has great hands. Would've liked a younger Gonzalez here due to his experience under pressure, but we think Roddy can handle it.
If you've been a fan of association football for longer than I have (one week), I'm sure you can come up with a better lineup than mine, but at least we have a starting point. You're in charge of this roster now... what are we changing?