It’s time for a full season. A season in the Premier League seems daunting, so who to choose?

I can’t claim to be a supporter of any team other than Everton and Bolton [they aren’t rivals, I can have both]. Because I can’t watch games, or even highlights, of any other league on TV right now. Sympathies arise for various teams [Schalke, Fiorentina, Udinese, Lokomotiv Moscow, Molde], but it’s all superficial. The virus-laden aggregator websites that people keep lauding on discussion boards are intriguing, but watching long videos on the computer is intolerable. We don’t have Fox Soccer Channel. I’m excited about the Philadelphia Union, but haven’t been to a game yet and I know the roster in the video game is going to be vastly different from the eventual 2011 Union. So where to go, outside the English Premier League?

After all these years of sponsorship, Ūkio Bankas is no closer to dominating the wallets of the Scots.

I don’t have any ethnic or tourism-based links to any countries outside Britain [and Lithuania, whose league sadly is not included here], so you’ve got the other levels of English football, and Scotland. Playing as Cardiff was fun, but the SPL will probably let me detect progress better by having to play every other team at least thrice.

Vague SPL sympathies lie with Motherwell, Hearts, and St Mirren. Why? They aren’t dominant, and they have distinctive color schemes. And in Hearts’s case, it’s the Lithuanian connection. St Mirren get a really low rating in the game, significantly below Motherwell and Hearts [they were 10th, 5th, and 6th last season, respectively]. Being a low-level team unable to dominate would be good. And I know more about St Mirren than other teams at the bottom of the league, like Hamilton, St Johnstone and Kilmarnock. Is there even a city called Hamilton? Where are they from?

Facts I know about St Mirren:

  • They represent a city called Paisley, west of Glasgow.
  • They wear black and white stripes.
  • They used to play at a place called “Love Street” which was legendary for being windy.
  • Their name is spelled wrong. Saint Mirin was an Irish saint of the first millennium.
  • Two of their players’ names: Billy Mehmet and Andy Dorman. Neither of whom is on the team anymore, as it turns out.

The virtually unreadable text in FIFA 11 when played on a non-high-def TV is certainly irritating, but I’m trying to turn it into a positive. Who are these players? What does that say exactly? What do these weird marks mean in the Team Management / Squad view? How do I know who just got injured? It’s like using a shortwave radio to find out how the Hamilton Tiger-Cats game is going. I thought a player named “Weir” had been my Man of the Match in 2 of 4 matches, until the camera finally showed him and it turned out his name was “Mair”. Aha!

  • To get into the St Mirren spirit, go here to see the Paisley Panda. Go here to see him dressed for his day job.

So, how has the season been going? Well, Amateur level quickly got boring. I went from 4-4 against Dundee United, to 4-2 against Rangers [one of their goals was a penalty, the other came when my computer-controlled goalkeeper dove into my defender’s legs as he was about to clear it], to 7-1 against Motherwell and 7-2 against Kilmarnock. Higdon has 8 goals, Dargo has 3, McQuade has 3, van Zanten [I think that’s his name] has 1, Thomson has 3, Barron has 2, and Potter has 2. I can’t get Dargo to do what I want, and subbing in McQuade works better. Potter and Lee “Weir” Mair have both been man of the match twice, with about 18 tackles per game for each. The fact that my center backs are constantly having to clean up after my attackers give the ball away is a bad sign. And yet, it’s just too easy to score goals and too easy to win the ball, so it’s time to switch to Semi-Pro.

First game at Semi-Pro: 1-4 at home against Hibernian. 1 goal from Potter [assist from Travner…in other words, from a corner]. 2 of their 4 were penalties, but I got exactly 2 shots on goal, when I’m used to having 15. Deep breath. Let’s regroup with some time in the wilderness until I figure out how to pass with the yellow button no longer being magic.

Polonia Bytom's red and bluish army

Inter 3-3 Polonia Bytom. This is a struggle. I can’t pass between people while charging upfield. I just can’t. Polonia Bytom have a bizarre color scheme, like it’s supposed to be red and blue, but it’s actually red and lavender. In real life it’s closer to blue, but there is  something off about it.

Cardiff 3-3 CS Sedan. I was down 3-1 between the 50th and 82nd minutes. This may be a turning point.

Cardiff 4-3 Nordsjælland. Two extra-time goals this time in an all-time classic of mutual incompetence.

Bolton 1-2 Southend. Holy beans, it’s like wading through a swamp. Lee Chung-Yong managed to dribble between six people to score from beyond the penalty arc. I don’t know if I completed a pass of more than two yards.

Bolton 5-1 Hønefoss. Wow! Hønefoss just might be the ideal patsy for these situations. In addition to overall slowness and inability to shoot, their keeper barely ever kicks it. He rolls it out to the fullbacks like he’s Tim Grgurich running a basketball scrimmage. The EA programmers know a lot, but is it possible that they know the Hønefoss keeper does this in real life more than other keepers? Maybe he sustained an injury against Bolton and I didn’t notice.

Udinese 1-1 Grossetto. Low-scoring calcio in action…

Lokomotiv 1-0 Sibir Novosibirsk. Or maybe I’ve figured out how to defend, but not how to pass in attack. Well, at least I can keep the score down while working on other stuff. Let’s go back to the SPL.

Hønefoss GK Thomas Solvoll, either figure out how to boot a clearance, or sit out a game and give ex-Oakland University Golden Grizzly Steve Clark (center) a shot.

St Mirren 1 (Higdon 34), Hearts 2 (Elliott 6, Elliot 78). Yellow card for Mair.

St Mirren 1 (Dargo 18), Celtic 4 (Stokes 20, Hooper 22, Stokes 61, Samaras 82). Yellow cards for Mair and Higdon.

St Mirren 3 (Dargo 8, Higdon/Dargo 45, Dargo 49), Aberdeen 2 (Velicka 17, Velicka 25). More patient passing does the trick. As does the good odds that I can run up to the keeper, boot it at his face, have it bounce up in the air and then put it in. More importantly, why does a team other than Hearts have a Lithuanian star?

St Mirren 4 (Higdon 10, Potter/Brady 13, Brady 55, McQuade/Thomson 71), St Johnstone 1 (Hardie 86). Things are falling into place. St Johnstone is a really abject team, probably the first relegation candidate I’ve played. The guy at the point of their spear is about 5 feet tall and decisively prefers to dribble it into the goalie rather than shoot.

And let’s just do a little experiment.

Semi-Pro mode: Inter 2, Brann 2. Either the gulf between St Mirren and St Johnstone is huge compared to the gap between Inter and Brann, or I’m starting to tailor my attack toward St Mirren’s unique qualities, whatever those are. Had my first instance of an opponent diving, by way of “girly man-forward” Erik Huseklepp.

Amateur mode: Inter 17, Brann 1. I feel bad habits re-emerging. Martin Tyler says “That’s Lúcio’s tackle” about 25 times. As for Huseklepp, the feminine frontman‘s wiles fail to tempt the officials into handing out cards.

Captain Potter’s log, February 5th, 2011.

Recent accomplishments:

Figured out that sometimes I might like to pass laterally or backward.

Figured out which defender I should be controlling when the opponent has the ball. Hint: not always the one covering the guy with the ball.

Figured out to wait on corner kicks until my teammates have gotten into a promising position. It does make a difference.

No longer hitting the colored buttons as soon as I get the ball. The ball is occasionally under control now.

Current playing strategy:

Offense:

  • Blue button: lofted pass. Must be hit very very quickly to work.
  • Green button: fast pass.
  • Yellow button: sluggish pass. The yellow button is no longer a sure bet to get the ball to a teammate, so I’m using the green button almost all the time now.
  • Red button: shot.

Defense:

  • Same as before, except that a slide tackle is no longer a guaranteed foul.

Throw-ins:

  • Blue button: powerful throw that always goes to the opponent.
  • Green button: short throw to a teammate.
  • Yellow button: short throw to a teammate.
  • Red button: N/A

Things to work on:

  • How to score on a chip shot. Am now ~0 for 50 including practice games.
  • How to aim a lofted pass towards somebody instead of having it go in a random direction with a random amount of power. Am tantalizingly close to being able to do this.
  • Try out different formations, split between halves of a game.
  • Stop falling into the habit of using only the green button.
  • Watch the tutorials and read the manual again. There has to be something in there about what to do on a header.
  • Figure out how to get music to play during the games instead of the commentary. I’m sick of these guys already.
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