Like the rest of us, baseball players are sports fans, and for some that passion extends to soccer. Lars Anderson and Ryan Kalish, two of the top prospects in the Red Sox organization, can be counted among that group. With the World Cup final — Holland versus Spain — coming up on Sunday, Anderson and Kalish shared their thoughts on the world’s most popular sporting event.
David Laurila: The two of you are the biggest World Cup fans on the Pawtucket team.
Ryan Kalish: Absolutely. We came in this together and we brought a whole band of people with us. When it started, nobody liked it, but now we have everybody watching it. When it comes on the TV, everyone just swarms around.
Lars Anderson: We’ve been fortunate to have open minds amongst us.
DL: Why is the World Cup important?
Kalish: Shoot, it’s the world’s most popular sport and it only comes around every four years. It’s a combination of countries and support and they’re so emotional about their game that I don’t know how you couldn’t love it.
Anderson: Soccer is a war stopper, man. Didier Drogba from the Ivory Coast pleaded with his countrymen to stop their civil war to support the soccer team, and they did. What other sport can claim that?
DL: Who have you been supporting?
Kalish: I fell in love with Uruguay — their national team — solely because they have a guy named Diego Forlan who has by far the greatest hair in sports. I mean, it’s slicked back, silky blond hair. It’s very nice. I have short hair, and I’ll never go away from it, but I’m jealous.
Anderson: Diego is like a wild stallion running through the fields of Valhalla. But for me, my favorite team is Spain and it always has been. But I found a love for the US and a patriotism that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
DL: Do you feel that the US played well?
Kalish: They played all right, because they did not go down early. That was the biggest thing. They played well, although I don’t think that they played to their full potential. They showed that they can compete with the world. They just need to believe it, and hopefully the next time around we’ll get stronger, which it looks like we’re going to be.
Anderson: I always felt like the US had a good chance of winning. I had a good feeling watching them. I felt they had a shot, because it seemed like they had a lot of chemistry and a real desire to play. I thought they had some bad breaks and that might have cost them.
DL: What are your thoughts on the officiating controversies that kept arising?
Anderson: I think there need to be some changes. What I love about soccer is that it‘s a 90-minute game that lasts about an hour and 45 minutes, including halftime. That’s really nice, because the last eight minutes of a basketball game is, realistically, going to last 35 minutes. But at the same time, Frank Lampard hit a goal for England that would have tied Germany and totally changed the complexion of the game, and it clearly went a yard behind the line. To have that goal not count really hurt them, so on something like that there needs to be replay.
Kalish: They definitely need some sort of technology. We have it for hockey now; we have it for baseball, as far as replays, and they could make it where a light goes off when the ball crosses that line. I’m sure they can differentiate that with a soccer ball, like they do with a goalie and a puck. I think that needs to be implemented
DL: What has been the biggest disappointment of the World Cup thus far?
Kalish: The U.S. losing. I mean, it was a painful day for a lot of us. We were all [in the clubhouse] watching the game — it was a 2:30 slot — and against Ghana I really thought they could go through to the final eight and make some sort of run at it. That was definitely the biggest disappointment. We were pretty heartbroken for about 24 hours.
Anderson: For me, the biggest disappointment was Fernando Torres cutting his hair and not playing like he can.
Kalish: Yeah, that was bad.
Anderson: He’s from Spain.
Kalish: I have a theory on this guy. It’s [Anderson’s] favorite player, who used to have the slick blond hair and I solely attribute his bad play to his haircut. Now it’s short and he looks like a child, and I wish he wouldn’t have done that.
Anderson: It’s devastating for me, really and truly.
DL: How surprising was it to see Brazil get knocked out by Holland?
Kalish: Well, [Holland] is my team in our bracket, so I had to have faith, but it was surprising. The Netherlands are super underrated, and even though they’re rated fourth in the world, going up against Brazil they’d have been a tough team to pick. But they have scrappy players and they play hard. And they know how to flop, that’s for sure. Maybe that’s an added bonus.
Anderson: I felt like Brazil probably had a little overconfidence about them, which is understandable, but at the same time they should know better. Watching that game, when their backs were against the wall, instead of fighting back they just really crumbled. They lost their composure and what had gotten them there.
DL: How do soccer players differ from baseball players?
Kalish: You get to go first on this one, Lars.
Anderson: This is one of the things that I wish would change about baseball. Baseball is a very stoic, professional game where you’re supposed to act like a professional, but what that really means is that you’re not supposed to change expressions and stuff like that. If you watch a soccer game, it’s like you can see the pain and agony, and you can see the elation of victory. When they score it’s like a celebration. If I hit a home run and did something comparable to what they do after scoring a goal, I’m either going to get one of my teammates hit in the ribs or myself hit in the ribs. I wish that you could express yourself a little more in a baseball game. Something I really love about soccer is that they can show those emotions and just have that fire about it. I love that about soccer.
Kalish: Obviously, that would be nice, but I also see the other side of that point. Scoring a goal, for them, is just a lot more emotional, because you can go 1-0 and it’s the game.
DL: It’s even more rare than Lars going deep, really.
Kalish: He said it’s as rare as you going deep.
Kalish: But really, overall, over the course of the season, you could hit up to…shoot, 40 or 50 home runs and it’s like that even-keeled type talk. I don’t mean myself, but some guys will hit 40 or 50 a year, so it’s a lot less rare than a goal. I think that the reason Lars and I are so attracted to soccer is that the sports are so different. I just love sports that are different., because it keeps me interested in the sporting world.
DL: Any other thoughts on soccer?
Anderson: It’s a beautiful game. I have a tidbit of advice. I used to be someone who hated soccer; I hated it until I was 18 years old. I don’t think that you can watch soccer in 10-minute segments, but if you sit down and really watch a good soccer game, for the full 90 minutes, you’re going to feel some sort of emotions and see why it is an attractive game. It’s the best sport.
Kalish: Absolutely. You just fall in love with certain things about it. You fall in love with the fact that…if you want excitement all the time, it’s probably not your game, but at the same time it’s tactical. Some people might say that soccer is boring, but have you ever sat and watched a boring baseball game? I have. Sometime there’s not much going on, but that’s a part of it. It’s a chess game. People are trying to move here and there, just like in baseball where you’re trying to move runners. If you’re a baseball fan, I’m sure you can get into soccer.
Anderson: I’ve always seen soccer like…basketball is like a Michael Bay movie, with stuff blowing up and people are getting shot for the whole movie, where soccer is like there’s a little ebb and flow, ebb and flow, and crescendo.
Kalish: Quentin Tarantino.
Anderson: Yeah, and then it either crashes down and there’s despair, or there’s a goal and everybody is embracing. It’s this huge wave of emotion instead of just being dulled to this constant barrage of something happening.
Kalish: You never know what you’re going to get.
DL: Who is going to win the final on Sunday?
Kalish: I’m going to go with Spain. I think their passing and their control are going to overtake the Netherlands’ striking attack.
Anderson: I agree, Espana.