June 29, 2002
SoccerPhone Now Says Day of Week

I finally fixed the problem I caused at some point in the past. For some time now, SoccerPhone got an error when it couldn't retrieve the scores from the MLS website. The problem was that I needed to set a variable at the VXML Document level scope, not at a block level scope. I didn't catch this breakage when I rearranged some of the code.

Like the Day of the Week enhancement, I won't deploy this change until after the weekend games.

Posted by Robert at 01:25 AM | link | comments (0) | trackback (0)
SoccerPhone Bug Fix For When MLS Website Unavailable

This wasn't such a big deal at the beginning of the season when virtually every game was played on a Saturday. However, recent weeks have included a lot of Wednesday games, and there have also been some Sunday games. So, to make it easier for you, my valued non-paying patron, to keep track of when games are being played or were played during the week, SoccerPhone will now say the day of the week before each series of games on a single day.

Okay, calm down. I know that life was barely worth living without this feature. I can only apologize for not providing you with such a life changing event at an earlier date.

Even though I tested this enhancement extensively, it is nearly 1:30 am. The last time I made changes this late at night, I made a dumb mistake. Out of fear of breaking SoccerPhone on the day of a lot of games, I will wait until Sunday to publish this enhancement to my TellMe Extension.

Posted by Robert at 01:22 AM | link | comments (0) | trackback (0)
June 23, 2002
SoccerPhone Briefly Broken Due to TellMe Change

Fortunately, I tried out "SoccerPhone" before Saturday's games, as TellMe made a change in the last day or two that broke SoccerPhone. The TellMe VXML interpreter appears to have been changed to more strictly enforce the schema on retrieved XML files used with the VoiceXML <data> element. I posted the details on the tellme.sharing.vxml newsgroup hosted by TellMe. I'll spare the rest of you (as if anyone is reading this) the details.

Since I had to update my Python CGI script that converts the MLS scores from HTML to XML, I also posted a fix to strip off the + sign from scores in stoppage time. When the VXML interpreter saw 92+, it would say "minute 92 plus sign". This fix had already been in the works, along with some general refactoring of the code to clean it up.

Posted by Robert at 12:27 AM | link | comments (0) | trackback (0)
June 22, 2002
Bad Officiating Gifts South Korea Another Win

Spain throughly dominated South Korea and they put in two goals that were called back. The second goal that was called back was an embarrassingly bad call by the linesman. As you would think he would know by now, the ball has to completely cross the end line before being called out. In this case, only the slightest bit of the ball crossed the line. Sad, sad, sad.

The reason FIFA gave for having linesman (assistant referees in their new terminology) from countries like Uganda and Trinidad is that they wanted to go with alleged specialists and they wanted to involve more countries. However, they ended up bringing in weak referees with little to no experience in calling fast-paced, important games. The end result is that the officiating at this World Cup is the poorest in memory by far. I think it's fine to include referees and assistants from the smaller nations, but please don't include them just because you feel like everyone has to be included in the final tournament. Use them in the earlier rounds of qualifying and bring them in to the finals only if they show they prove they are capable. I don't know who auditioned these guys, but his skills should be called into question, too.

The officiating bias for South Korea in this match was at least as bad as in Korea-Italy. However, while Italy was struggling to hold off Korea at the end, Spain continued their domination of Korea from end to end in this match. South Korea is a very talented team, but these two victories are seriously tarnished in my eyes. Neither were well deserved.

The Korean fans are obviously still bitter about the short track speedskating event at the Olympics where a Korean arguably broke the rules by skating off his line into the path of Ohno and was disqualified. The Korean who scored against the US somehow felt he was getting back at the US after scoring the goal by imitating the Korean short track loser. That might have been an iffy call, as it looked like the Korean had a strong enough lead to win. But it was short track, for crying out loud. That sport is about as important as mud wrestling. The call at the Olympics pales in comparison in import, number, and justification to the calls the second rate linesman at the World Cup have handed to Korea on a silver platter.

If the bad calls by the linesman weren't enough, the referee then let the Korean goalie take two hops forward off his line before stopping Joaquin's shot. Admittedly Joaquin's attempt was very poor, but that doesn't change the fact that the goalie cheated off his line. The kick should have been retaken.

Posted by Robert at 01:05 PM | link | comments (0) | trackback (0)
June 21, 2002
US Unlucky to Lose to Germany 1-0 in World Cup Quarterfinals

The US clearly outplayed the Germans, but what matters in the end is who scores the most goals. Germany finished one of a small number of chances and the US could not finish any of a greater number of chances.

Well, assuming that you don't consider Torsten Frings standing on the German goal line with his arm several inches away from his body and in the path of a certain goal to be a handball in the box. The US should have finished their other chances, but Berhalter's shot that ricocheted off Kahn would have been a goal.

As others have cogently argued on the BigSoccer boards and elsewhere, Frings should have been called for a handball in the box that stopped an obvious goal scoring opportunity. This would have resulted in a penalty kick for the US and a red card, and therefore, an ejection for Frings. The current German coach, Rudy Voeller, and a former German coach, Franz Beckenbauer, both agreed that it should have been a penalty kick.

When you are a defender standing on the goal line, your only function is to block the ball from going into the net. If you stand with your arms away from your body and the ball hits one of your arms, that's intentional. You put your arm in a likely path of the ball. If this weren't considered intentional, then why don't defenders always stick out one or more arms before a ball is kicked? As someone posted in BigSoccer, why don't they line up in the wall for a free kick with one arm over their heads and the other protecting vital organs? Because if the ball struck their arm, it would be an intentional handball.

Some messageboard posters have argued that it is a question of the ball playing the person (not a handball) or the person playing the ball (handball). They argue that Frings didn't move his arm into the path of the ball, instead the ball hit his arm where it already was. But, if you accept the arguments above, I think you will agree that stationing your arm in the likely path of the ball IS the person playing the ball.

Well, enough of that. The US, especially Reyna and Sanneh played wonderfully. Sanneh gets my pick for MVP of the tournament for the US. Donovan was unlucky to be facing possibly the best goalkeeper in the world. Against most other keepers he would have scored twice.

Friedel didn't have much to do. While he got a piece of the ball on the Ballack goal, it would have been almost too much to ask to keep out a header from that close in. If he gave up a rebound, Ballack might have put that away. Germany had only one other shot on goal. The only other dangerous opportunity was the Klose header off the right post on which Friedel was admittedly beaten.

O'Brien, Mastroeni, Berhalter, Pope, McBride, and Hejduk all had fine games. Lewis again played good defense while putting in some excellent crosses. Mathis, Jones, and Stewart did what they could after coming in as subs, which is always tough in a close, tense game like this one.

My only disappointment with the US was with the number of fouls. While you have to respond physically to physical teams, the US gave up to many fouls in dangerous spots. Given the incredible set piece skills of the Germans, that was asking for trouble.

Although I am disappointed by the US loss, they had a fantastic run at this World Cup. Four years seems so far away, but Sandra and I are already planning to be there in person to see the US go even farther in the tournament.

Posted by Robert at 10:39 PM | link | comments (0) | trackback (0)
June 17, 2002
US Thrashes Mexico 2-0 in World Cup Second Round

Although this is the fifth time the US has beaten Mexico in their last six matches (the US outscored Mexico 10-1 in these six games), this was a stunning, amazing upset. Mexico had been playing their very best and the US had come off a very weak performance against Poland. The US played a much smarter game than against Poland, taking on a defensive approach until they could launch the counter that gave them the early goal from McBride.

Mexico was then forced to attack at an even more vigorous pace to get back into the game. The US wisely stayed back and didn't allow Mexico to tire them out chasing the ball. The US defense allowed the Mexicans only a few dangerous shots on goal, and then Friedel cleaned up anything that got through.

In the second half, the US continued to mostly wait for counter-attack opportunities, but also began to pressure Mexico. Eventually, another counter-attack paid off and in the 65th minute O'Brien played a ball out wide to Lewis, who ran clear of his defender on the left wing and served up a perfect cross that Donovan clinically headed past Perez at the far post.

Mexico stepped up the attacks, although they held even less possession as the US took over from the tiring Mexicans.

Unfortunately, as the Mexican players came to the realization that they were beaten, they switched to ugly, dirty tactics and began to kick, knee, and head butt the US players at every opportunity. Not only did Marquez violently smash the top of his head into the side of Cobi's head, as part of his leap he intentionally stuck his left leg straight out and raked the cleats of his boot across Cobi's backside. Marquez had no chance of heading the ball.

Although Marquez was the only player to be red carded, several other Mexicans could have easily received additional yellow cards or been sent off for tackles from behind in which they applied their cleats to the calves of Americans. Just a few minutes after Marquez's assault on Cobi, Mercado stomped on the back of Cobi's right calf while Arellano kneed Cobi from behind. Amazingly, a foul was called on Cobi for playing the ball while on the ground. Of course, he was on the ground because Arellano had just shoved him to the ground.

Although I think Blanco is a great player, his verbal assaults and threats on Mastroeni and the knee he applied to Mastro while play was stopped should have earned him a red card, not just a yellow. Beckham was sent off in France for much less.

While the game was already rough and tumble up to the point of the second US goal, there had been no obvious attempts to injure opposing players. Mexico tarnished what had been a mostly excellent performance at the World Cup with a final 25 minutes of poor, dirty play.

Posted by Robert at 02:56 AM | link | comments (0) | trackback (0)
June 15, 2002
US Soccer team is enjoying the use of Avaya wireless gear at the World Cup

Cup Kicks Avaya Into High Gear

They went in as underdogs but have parlayed growing experience and meticulous preparation into early success at this year's FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in South Korea and Japan.

And they've never scored a goal.

Avaya Inc., the Lucent Technologies Inc. spinoff, built the massive IP-based converged voice and data network that is supporting the international event taking place in more than two dozen locations in the Far East nations. According to officials, the project, the first of its size and scope for Avaya, includes a number of lessons for any company considering building a cutting-edge enterprise network. [eWeek]

The story includes a nice picture of Jeff Agoos using a laptop and an Avaya wireless LAN card.

Posted by Robert at 07:13 PM | link | comments (0) | trackback (0)
June 06, 2002
Kick the IE addiction before it consumes you and your computer

Mozilla finally turns 1.0. The browser software, four years in the making in an open-source project, arrives on the Web. Netscape says developers wanted to be sure it "would indeed be ready for prime time." [CNET News.com]

Throw off your IE chains. Well, at least most of the time. A few sites don't work too well due to ActiveX controls and other Microsoft extensions that some websites have taken advantage of.

One of the coolest things about Mozilla is the ability to block ads by blocking the loading of images from ad servers. I rarely view ads online anymore, except when I have to use IE. To make it even better, most webpages will display faster since the ad images aren't even downloaded.

When you see an ad on a website when using Mozilla, right click on the image and select "Block Images from this Server." For more info on caveats and a relatively quick way to block ads from a large number of commonly used ad servers, check out the article at Blogzilla on ad blocking with Mozilla.

Bookmark management is also much better in Mozilla than IE, although that doesn't say too much. IE on Windows has probably the worst implementation of bookmark management I have seen in any browser.

Posted by Robert at 02:59 PM | link | comments (0) | trackback (0)
June 05, 2002
BBC gets at least 75% of the story correct

BBC: "The United States served up one of the World Cup's great upsets, as they out-fought Group D favourites Portugal to record a superb victory in Suwon." [Scripting News]

I can't believe how many mistakes are in this BBC report. Basic things like saying the cross on the third goal was from Stewart when it was from Sanneh. " An excellent cross from Stewart drifted over Baia and unmarked McBride headed in the United States' third..." This mistake is compounded by the later quote from McBride where he talks about the cross that came from Sanneh.

Also, their transcription of the quote from McBride is comically inaccurate, although I have seen the same error in other stories, too.

From their story: "McBride's header ultimately proved the winner, and afterwards he hailed the old college routine that created it." and "The ball got wide to Tony (Sanneh) and we played a Milwaukee Rampage right out of college.

McBride actually said something more like "we played for the Milwaukee Rampage right out of college." The Milwaukee Rampage is a second division pro soccer team in the US. McBride and Sanneh played for Milwaukee before Major League Soccer came into existence in 1996 as a first division league.

While I don't expect a BBC reporter to be familiar with second division soccer teams in the US, I also don't expect such sloppy reporting and non-existent fact checking.

Posted by Robert at 11:59 PM | link | comments (0) | trackback (0)
US Defeats Portugal 3-2 in World Cup Group Play

I had a dream earlier this week that the US scored three goals against Portugal. But in the first 37 minutes? Not even my dream was that good. Of course, waking up for a 2 am Pacific time start made me wonder if I really were awake. Any sleepiness was thrown off quickly, though, when John O'Brien put the US into the lead in the 4th minute. As the US piled on the goals it was obvious I was going to be wide awake for quite some time. This was an incredible accomplishment for the US team.

Donovan and Beasley gave the Portugal defenders fits with their slashing runs on the wing and into the box. It's amazing to think that those two won't reach their peak for two more World Cups - 8 years from now! It's almost guaranteed that Bayer Leverkusen will recall Donovan to Germany at the end of the MLS season. The only question is which team will win the Beaz sweepstakes. I think he could have even more of an impact than Mathis. I would love to see them all back in MLS next year, but they will develop even faster playing in Europe and it will be a great experience for them.

It was sweet to see McBride have such a great game. While so many other players get most of the press, his physical presence in the box and in the air greatly increase our possession in the opponent's end of the field. This is probably his last Cup and I was glad to see him have a much better experience than in 1998.

No one can really replace Claudio Reyna in midfield, but John O'Brien did as good a job as anyone. His quick reaction and well-placed shot clinched that first goal and he also did a great job of holding the ball in midfield and composing our attacks. Earnie Stewart also was big in midfield during the first half. His corner kick onto McBride's head made that first goal possible.

Other than the own goal, which fortunately had no serious consequences in this game, Jeff Agoos had a very good outing. Time after time, he kept the defense in form and cleared dangerous balls. Eddie Pope also had an outstanding game in center defense.

Sanneh played defense as well as I have ever seen him play. I was stunned to see him block out and stand up Figo time after time and force him to play the ball back out away from our goal. And his cross to McBride's head was also a beautifully struck ball.

Hejduk's passing left a lot to be desired, but his speed and tenaciousness made up for a lot and really kept the Portuguese from creating too many dangerous plays from the right side.

Friedel didn't have to have an incredible game, as the Portuguese shooting was definitely off. But, he made all the saves that he could possibly make, as he really had no chance on Bento's shot after O'Brien failed to clear a ball in the box and on Agoos's unfortunate own goal.

Posted by Robert at 11:48 PM | link | comments (0) | trackback (0)
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