The Starting 11

So did you see that Wizards game Saturday night? They beat a DC United team that was one game away from the playoffs last year. And beat them soundly, 4 – 0. It's nice to have a major league team in town that, while slightly unlikely, actually has a chance to win a championship in their league. Now, my soccer knowledge is not that high, but I do enjoy it. I started watching 4 years ago when the last World Cup rolled around and I've been watching English Premier League games since then. Tottenham Hotspur is my team. I'm eagerly anticipating the World Cup this year. But until then, I'm going to be watching the Wizards, all their games are going to be televised on KCWE which is channel 1029 on Uverse, you can find it on your cable here.

To aid in my understanding of the players I thought it might be fun to assign each of them a beer that I feel best represents that player and that I'll be enjoying during the season. The Wizard are going to be running a 4-3-3 which is the kind of formation I employ when playing FIFA '10 on Wii. This style is kind of aggressive with 3 strikers (the primary goal scorers) forward and only 3 midfielders. The Wizards should score quite a few goals (and give up their fair share) so the games aren't going to be those boring 1 – 0 affairs most Americans like to make fun of. The starting lineup I'm going to use is based on this formation and their starting lineup for the opening game.

The Starting 11

Jimmy Nielsen – GK – Jimmy (I'm breaking convention and using his first name following my rule that anyone named Jimmy should be called Jimmy whenever possible) is new to the Wizards. He's kind of a scary looking, really white Dane. While I was watching him play, in quite limited action in Saturday's blowout, I just kept thinking he reminded me of Hoegaarden. He's smooth and light just like the beer, plus Hoegaarden seems like it should have an umlaut in it and the Danish seem like they're umlaut friendly so it's a match made in heaven.

Michael Harrington – D – Harrington seems like he's one of the best players on the team. He's real disruptive on defense and is comfortable bringing the ball up to attack. He seems like a guy you would hate if he was on the opposing team, but you love because he's on the Wizards. He reminds me of Great Divide's Hoss Rye Lager. Hoss is in the smooth lager tradition but it has that rye in it that adds a little bit of spunk or disruptiveness. Like Harrington, Hoss is versatile, the beer geek can appreciate it and the beer novice can love it.

Jimmy Conrad – D – Jimmy (see what I did there) is a long time Wizard, an all-star, and one of the faces of the team. He's not flashy, he doesn't score goals, but if you bring the ball into his zone, he's going to get a foot on it. Jimmy is Boulevard Pale Ale. Pale Ale is as Kansas City as Jimmy, it's not flashy, but it gets the job done. Along with Boulevard Wheat, Pale Ale is the beer most Kansas City beer drinkers have had and Jimmy is one of the Wizards a novice KC soccer fan can name.

Matt Besler – D – Besler is from Kansas City and went to college in Notre Dame. He's been a Wizard for a couple of years now and has become a crowd favorite. Because of his Irish style and Kansas City soul, Besler is Boulevard Dry Stout. Dry Stout is a very good stout, not the best around, but it definitely has a following.

Roger Espinoza – D – Espinoza is in his second year in the MLS and with the Wizards. He was the team's rookie of the year last year, he's listed as a forward but he didn't seem to score a lot so they moved him to defenseman this year. He seems a lot like Sierra Nevada Torpedo to me. It's a good enough beer but it never seems to come home from the liquor store with me, it doesn't score for me. (Update: This was updated when I found out Espinoza has been playing defenseman this year)

Davy Arnaud – M – Arnaud is another long time Wizard and is quite the goal scorer. His goal from Saturday night was a pleasure to watch. Even though he's 6'0” and 165 pounds, I'm going to say he's Left Hand's 400 lb. Monkey. The 400 lb. Monkey is a lot like Arnaud because, while it's an IPA, the hops aren't the main taste. Arnaud is a midfielder with a striker sensibility and he's quite good at it.

Jack Jewsbury – M – Jewsbury has been my favorite Wizard. He's got the biggest kick on the team and he's great at playing defense. He's battling for a starting position, I hope he wins it. Because of his kick, he's most like Boulevard Sixth Glass. The Sixth Glass, at 11% ABV has the biggest kick of beers I drink regularly. Sixth Glass also lost my starting spot among Boulevard Smokestacks to Long Strange Trippel.

Stephane Auvray – M – Auvray is that guy out there with the Sideshow Bob hair. He's a defensive minded midfielder, despite his hair he's not flashy. He seems to always be near the ball. Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye is a lot like Auvray. It's a great beer, but it's not flashy. Nobody mentions it as a top 10 beer, but it seems to very popular (near the ball) and every starting 11 needs a beer like Hop Rod Rye.

Ryan Smith – F – Going into Saturday night's game, I had no idea who Ryan Smith was. Following Saturday's game I can't wait to watch him again. He scored a goal, had a great assist on Arnaud's goal and was generally involved in every good thing that happened for the Wizards. To top it off he was wearing yellow shoes. By the 20th minute of the game, I knew Smith was Schlafly No. 15. No. 15 surprised me like no other beer ever has. I had no idea what to expect from it, but once I had it, I wanted more of it. I feel the same way about Smith, he has the capability to become my favorite player.

Kei Kamara – F – Kamara is another guy I like namely because when I play FIFA '10 as the Wizards. Kamara always scores at least one goal against us for the Houston Dynamo. Watching him play Saturday night I know why. He handles the ball a lot and is always a threat to score. He's Great Divide Titan IPA, one of my top 5 favorite beers.

Josh Wolff – F – Wolff is another long time Wizard and is a solid goal scorer. With all of the other long-time Wizards, I've gone with a Boulevard beer, but Wolff reminds me of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. SN Pale Ale is a beer lover's beer and I still drink it regularly. Wolff is like that, he's missed time with the Wizards for various jaunts with a German team and the U.S. National team, but he always comes back. I spend time with many other beers, but I always go back to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Key Substitutes

Teal Bunbury – F – My favorite name on the Wizards. Teal was the Wizards 1st draft pick this year and he looks the part. He looks like one of the tallest and biggest guys on the field. Saturday night he subbed in and really did everything he could to tack on another goal in the blowout. Bunbury is the Hoppin' Frog B.O.R.I.S Stout. In a stout category that was already well represented in KC, B.O.R.I.S. came to town and quickly became one of my favorites. Like Bunbury, B.O.R.I.S. is big and good and will take over a starting spot soon.

Chance Myers – D – Chance seems like the closest thing to Spicoli the Wizards have. He even likes snowboarding and body boarding and hails from California. I've never seen him play so I can't comment on his playing style. But the most hippie kind of beer I can think of that I love is Lagunitas Pale Ale and that fits Chance. Lagunitas is a wonderful pale ale and has quickly become one of my favorites since I first had one a couple of months ago. I hope Chance becomes a favorite in the same way.

Keep in mind I am a soccer novice. I hope I didn't get anything really wrong in my analysis. I'm looking forward to this season and I definitely think that having each player represent a beer is going to help me in watching the games. If you want better soccer analysis I encourage you to check out Hillcrest Road, the official KC Wizards blog, or  The Back Post. Soccer is meant to be enjoyed with a beer, any of the beers mentioned would go wonderfully with a Saturday night Wizards game on TV.

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