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Toxic Talk: Alexi Lalas, Michael Bradley, and the Thing About Motivation Edition

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Welcome to Toxic Talk, where our resident hater tells you what sucks about soccer this week.

Costa Rica v United States - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

One last word about Alexi Lalas and his heirloom tomato face and then I promise I’ll stop talking about him until the next time he does something dumb. Of course Alexi Lalas has the right to say what he wants to say, everybody on Twitter who was insulted by my previous entry in this saga, in which I mostly just provided a brief synopsis of 8 Mile, which should have told you how serious that article was, but WHATEVER. He’s a paid television pundit and former international soccer player. Go say what you like.

The reason people took issue with what Alexi said was because of how banal his “pep talk” actually was, which makes the entire thing seem incredibly disingenuous. There’s a reason Lalas has a reputation for being a blowhard, and that rant sums it up: all he said was “be better.” But it’s Alexi Lalas, so really it sounded more like “BE BETTERFDFHAKD#@%@#.” This is one of my favorite videos of all time demonstrating my point of Alexi Lalas as a pundit.

He doesn’t actually say anything half the time he’s talking. He just affirms things that happened or says “he should be better.” And then he named names, said “wonder boy,” and slammed people who have tattoos. Maybe in his heart of hearts this was some genuine, misguided attempt at motivating players, but I’m 98% certain it was for clicks. And that’s why the players are so unimpressed with him.

Michael Bradley’s hilariously macho “lions don’t listen to sheep” quote notwithstanding, Lalas is only helping himself here. Literally anyone with eyes who watched the last two USMNT games knows they didn’t go very well. But both didn’t go very well for different and specific reasons (namely an exposed formation in one game not providing two center backs with little to no chemistry any cover in one game, followed by a game in which you played two of your oldest players at outside back in +100 degree weather in Honduras against wingers who have nothing else if not blazing speed, etc etc). The players know this, and guess what? They all want to get to the World Cup. Even tattooed millionaires that care for nothing but themselves want to get to the World Cup, because that’s where more money is. Professional athletes are already extraordinarily motivated individuals to get where they are in their careers, full stop. They’re there because they worked really, really hard to get there. If the USMNT gets to Russia, it’s not going to be because they heart themselves there. It’s going to be on Bruce Arena and the players to actually fix the problems we saw. Lalas’s rant doesn’t do anything but stir up fans who want blood because their team isn’t playing well. Don’t pretend it’s anything more than that.

Ugh. Alexi Lalas. Here are some highlights from a good soccer team to get that out of my system.

Boiling Points

  • If you give TommyMac this look, he will score -

The zone 20-30 yards from goal, center-left of the top of the box, is the TommyMac zone. If you are playing Thomas McNamara, don’t let him get in his zone. He will curl it into the far corner. Don’t let him get in his zone.

Last night, he was definitely in his zone.

Denmark’s men’s team offered money from their contract with the Danish FA to the women’s team provided FA came around on giving the women equal footing. The Danish FA refused.

I’m mad about the Danish FA being a butt part. The rest of it is pretty neat-o.

  • Dani Alves making sure Neymar takes this free kick -

The look on Cavani’s face. I want it framed.

  • FC Koln wanting a game in which they lost 5-0 completely replayed because VAR might’ve wrongfully allowed the second goal Dortmund scored to be counted -

YOU STILL GAVE UP 4 OTHER GOALS, DUDES

  • The internet whenever Paul Pogba changes his hair -

Just go Twitter search “Paul Pogba’s hair” and marvel at the sheer amount of people who care so much about something that doesn’t concern them in the least bit. Get a hobby. Like model airplanes or something, I don’t know. Let the man color his hair.

  • This -

Ok. I see you.

  • Also, this -

Forget an intervention. New England need an exorcist after that.