FIFA Journal: Entry #2

By Eric Homa

Fresh off a long overdue dinner at the Chinese Buffet Star that found me doubled over in pain from the repulsive amount of dried up, cardboard-like chicken nuggets; I decided it was time to delve back into the world of soccer.  By the way, I could go on for days about that absolute mess of humanity that frequents the Chinese buffet at any given time.  If I could find a clever way to tie that into how my weekly drive towards global FIFA domination went, believe me I would. 

Since the walnut shrimp I had didn’t inspire anything, but a cramp in my shoulder I suppose I will just get to the week that was in soccer.  First I want to touch on some real world soccer news.  In a game that saw my favorite club Arsenal get forced out of the Champions League tournament by possible world #1 Bayern Munich, I felt a tremendous sense of pride in what they were able to accomplish.  To play against Bayern this season would be like playing Halo 4 against a group of 17 year old kids who have a lot of extra time on their hands.  To say the least it would be an absolutely miserable experience that could set your pride back to an all-time low.  Unfortunately that is just the team that Arsenal drew in the tournament.  In the first match Arsenal lost 3-1 at home in the Emirates Stadium.  They would need a miracle to move past Bayern in the second leg of the match.  The unthinkable almost happened as Arsenal was able to pull off a 2-0 win in Bayern’s home stadium.  Beating Bayern at home is a task that has been pulled off by only one other team this season.  Arsenal showed a lot of heart and potential in that game.  Holding an huber-talented team like Bayern to no goals at home was a tremendous accomplishment.  Let me explain how Arsenal failed to advance even after a surprising win like that.  The way soccer works is a system called goals on aggregate.  Basically that means that after the teams have played each other twice with each team getting a home game, the total number of goals scored is added up and the leader advances.  If you were scoring at home you would see the totals were tied up at 3.  So how you ask do they decide the winner?  That’s right just as you might expect it isn’t determined on the field of play like every other sport.  It is instead decided by the simple fact that Bayern scored more goals on the road and therefore comes out the victor.  What a crock of shit.  Pretty safe to say there isn’t much more I need or want to say about that moronic set of rules. 

Ultimate Team has to this point been my most successful endeavor.  I have already conquered division 1 once before, and I decided to start my run at another championship.  My team is rather loaded at all positions, but with the game having been out as long as it has most other teams are just as stacked as mine.  I figured I should pay homage to my High School and name my team Newark Valley FC if anyone wants to test their skills against a world class organization such as mine.  Some sad news came out of headquarters this week.  I have been eyeing the strangely named Hulk, who is a Brazilian national player that plays for Zenit in the Russian Premiere League.  He is just the type of player I like with a good amount of speed, but he also happens to be very strong on the ball.  This is a combo almost as rare as a Buffalo Bills playoff birth.  I finally found him on the trade market for a fair price and snatched up his services.  In order to do so I had to open up a roster spot on my club.  The decision on who to cut was rather troublesome, and was one that I wrestled with over a span of what felt like hours.  I came to the realization that while in real life Jack Wilshere is my favorite club’s best player, and possibly the future captain of the English international squad, he just wasn’t good enough in FIFA to justify me keeping at this advanced stage of the game.  So with my eyes turned away from the TV I reluctantly saw my favorite player swept away to the trade pile with the push of a button.  Newark Valley FC would like to publicly thank Jacky Boy for all he has done for his old club and nothing but the best in the future.  On the field the fighting Cardinals came out looking very rusty.  Through 3 games the team had only earned one point.  Another point slipped through my fingers as I saw my struggle to tie the game up at 2 get tossed aside as my opposition scored a 90th minute winner.  My head was immediately in my hands as I pondered what it all meant.  Why was I being punished in such a brutal way?  The FIFA gods are obviously testing the intestinal fortitude of NVFC.  I needed to prove to myself that I hadn’t lost my Ultimate Team touch so I played one more.  My fourth game was a 2-2 epic the whole way.  Back and forth the attacks went as we both pushed for the 3 point win rather the 1 point we would earn for the draw.  In the 8-th minute I subbed in Liverpool star Luis Suarez to put a little more life into the Cardinal attack.  The move proved genius as Suarez bolted down the right side of the pitch and crossed a beauty of a ball into the box.  I held my breath as Napoli star Cavani leapt into the air.  It was a thing of beauty as his head met the ball and directed it just past the keeper’s reach giving NVFC a much needed win in the dying seconds of the game!  I did my best to get my large frame off the couch in the hopes of matching Cavani’s jump, and I’m quite sure anyone watching through my window found it puzzling.  I grabbed at the upper left side of my shirt as if I had on the jersey worn by my Ultimate Team, and kissed the spot on my Zelda shirt where my Club’s patch would be so gloriously displayed.  It is that exact feeling that keeps me coming back for more almost every day of the year.  I should have ended my day on that note of triumph, but instead I told myself one more was in order.  Although the game didn’t exactly go my way I was able to come to one realization about why European football doesn’t catch in in America.

I rarely have my headset on when I play FIFA as to avoid the obnoxiousness that will no doubt ensue over Xbox Live.  I made that mistake of wearing it for a couple matches during my Ultimate Team escapades.  As the whistle sounded indicating the start of the match between I was instantly in a fit of rage to see that my opponent was playing like a dickhead.  He just kept passing the back and forth between his defenders and every now and again even advancing the ball up the field so much that it reached a midfielder a time or two.  After a couple of minutes of this garbage I did what I felt was my only option and began a war of words, or as it turned out a war of my words versus his child-like screeching.  I started out small time trashing with a few expletives thrown into the mix as I progressively became certifiably insane.  After a few more minutes of my strikers running around aimlessly trying to somehow gain possession my opponent spoke.  He informed me that he only needed a draw to earn one point which would give him his 5th division 1 title in Ultimate Team.  As far as the game went we did end up drawing to give that prick his title, and give me a case of the picking on 16 year olds again.    The more important lesson however was that soccer will never be popular in the United States because of acts like that in the real game.  It is quite easy for a team to drop back and play a defensive game when they only need one point or are already up one goal and for the most part of what I have witnessed they do it more often than not.  This just isn’t the American way of sports.  Americans need the crunch of football helmets smashing repeatedly as two teams try to knock each other into next week.   We need constant up and down action like what we will see in the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament.  Watching 11 men kick a ball around with precision and accuracy that is at times breathtaking just isn’t what people look for in the fast paced world that is the American lifestyle.  I can assure you that when it happens in the world of FIFA it is no less frustrating.  Next week I will share some experiences of what has been going on in my head to head seasons campaign, as I use Arsenal to try and reach the pinnacle of FIFA greatness.  Until next time Coopie signing off.

FIFA Journal: Entry #1

I should warn that my journal posts will not always be this lengthy, but I thought it was important to get started in this fashion. 

Let me start by introducing myself with my FIFA background and soccer fandom if you are new to the Thumbstick Athletes.  I, Eric Homa of the Thumbstick Athletes, played soccer for a short time when I was around the ages of 8 or 10.  The only highlight reel worthy play I remember making as a budding super star surely on the radar of the USA national team was the time my coach decided to give my talents a try as the keeper.  I can only assume this had something to do with my slightly chubby build and severe lack of interest in soccer at the die.  As I stood there waiting to get my paws on any ball that came within 2 to 5 inches of me, I suddenly broke into tears.  It turns out that the usually reliable net maintenance team failed to notice a bee’s nest attached to the crossbar that I was guarding like the Castle Walls of Helm’s Deep.  I ran off the field holding my hand (insert soccer joke here) where I had been stung, and to this day I don’t remember playing in an organized league ever again. 

 

Fast Forward 6 years to the high school version of Eric.  As far as soccer and I went our relationship had seen better days.  We never really made that connection that I had with the more mainstream sports in the United States.  I spent many an argument debating that Football is more popular than soccer.  Now that I know how completely wrong I was I wouldn’t mind setting the Delorian to 1999, and telling myself to shut up and get back in line for another tray of chicken nuggets because you have no idea how much you will miss nugget Wednesday when you are 29.  Although I never showed much interest in Soccer I did always look forward to the World Cup.  If you don’t know what the World Cup is A) You probably don’t play FIFA anyway and B) You must wrestle me when and if we ever meet.  Soccer video games were always something I had an affinity for.  I knew nothing about the game or the players, but always found the video game translations very entertaining. 

 

Now look at me all grown up at the age of 29 chiming in with my silly thoughts on a video game podcast with my best friends, and in my spare time working in a management position for a very highly thought of company on the East Coast of our great country that refuses to come to the same realization that I have……..soccer is an amazing and beautiful sport.  It was the year 2010 that my love of soccer took its full form.   FIFA 11 pulled me closer to the game than I had ever been before.  I got to know the players and teams around the world like I never had.  I began to notice the insane footwork that takes place out on the pitch.  The passion that fans across the sea have for their favorite soccer clubs is something that I very much wish I was able to share in if only for an afternoon at the Emirates stadium watching  my team Arsenal.  FIFA as a game has grown a lot over the past three years, and so has my love of the game with it.  I am beyond excited to share my passion and competitiveness in the world of FIFA with fans of the Thumbstick Athletes both new and old.     With the USA national team right in the middle of World Cup qualifying and my online Pro Club team CTUnited always in the hunt for virtual glory I hope you all enjoy sharing my experiences with the FIFA franchise as much as I enjoy sharing them with you. 

 

I am going to keep my first set of the past weeks highlights from FIFA short and sweet.  I managed to track down CTUnited captain Geoff, or as he’s known in the Pro Club world Gen Gee.  We logged in to our usual spots with Geoff manning the any slot, and my Pro as the central striker.  I commonly refer to my Pro as Coopie due to his likeness and play style to that of Kenny Cooper of New York Red Bulls fame.  Coopie is best known for tripping over his own feet and a really poor first touch.  When he is on his game he passes the ball quite well for a big striker.  We started out 2-0 on the afternoon and decided to keep it rolling because when you are in that groove on FIFA you need to make it last as long as you possibly can.  In our third game CTUnited got up to an early 1-0 lead and we were looking poised to continue our string of division 3 dominance as we make our not so graceful rise back to top division glory.  Then tragedy struck.  Our back line was being pressured heavily by the opposition’s attackers.  In a move that Geoff is always proficient with he decided to pass back to the keeper and let him boot a ball out of danger.  As I watched the ball roll back towards our net I started to notice that our goalie was making no indication that he was planning on making any sort of move to the ball.  I distinctly remember letting out a shout of NO!  As the ball continued to roll past our apparently paralyzed goalie I began to chant NO louder and more frequently.  Geoff and I sat in silence for a period that seemed like 5 minutes, but was closer to 5 seconds.  The game was now tied 1-1, and I can only assume that the keeper became distracted by the sheer beauty of our home stadium the Greater Binghamton Sports Complex.  Now that we had a newly refocused goalie we were sure to make a push for that ultra-important second goal.  Soon after the restart at mid field the ball was suddenly on the move towards our goal again, but at least this time it was being pushed by the opposition.  I watched from my striker position as our lumbering ox of a center back defender took down an enemy striker inside the penalty box and the opposition was rewarded a penalty kick not seconds after our hearts were ripped out by our keeper’s day dreaming.  No doubt there was a little bit of acting on the part of the enemy player taken down in the box, but that is soccer after all isn’t it?  The penalty kick flew easily into the net and within 30 seconds of actual gameplay we were suddenly down 2-1.  We were a beaten down pair of broken hearted soccer lovers that couldn’t come back from that kind of devastation and the game ended 2-1.

 

 I picked this story from my week to show just how easily a fantastic night of FIFA can quickly turn into a cluster fuck of emotions that makes the dog scared to even breathe in your direction.  I can’t explain the feeling of pure elation that comes over me when we as a club or me on ultimate team score a late goal to win the game, or the satisfaction of a well-played club game that takes a tremendous amount of teamwork and understanding of how each of us plays.  Unfortunately the other end of that is just as emotional for me.  I get a genuine feeling is despair whenever I suffer a loss, and if it happens to be a loss from a late goal it’s best for me to not speak to anyone for at least 10 minutes until I can clear my head and come to terms with the fact that it doesn’t actually impact my life.   Until next time Coopie signing off.