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Frustration: It's in the game

One fan employs a video game to help understand what the real-life match-up between two teams might be like.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Having recently acquired the EA Sports game FIFA14 for my PlayStation 3, I will be spending a little time each week playing FC Dallas against their upcoming match-up. Usually I'll post the notes as a sort of pregame glimpse into the match-up and how the game could go, though this week's is a postmortem examination of a lost chance.

First, a few notes about me and video games:

I don't play video games that often.

Even before my wife and I had our first child this year, I wasn't burning up the PS3 controller. The last game I bought was a Call of Duty game probably 3-4 years ago. Before this month, I hadn't picked up the controller for anything but Hulu Plus, Netflix, or MLBTV in probably over a year.

When I do play, I'm not that good.

I'm not that good, even when I do play pretty consistently. I was (eventually) decent at FIFA10, but generally speaking I'm not what you'd call a "natural."

I don't like to lose.

Especially to an AI team. I hate losing. I'm the kind of guy who will (and did) sit and play for a few hours until I can at least get a draw. I have yet to lower the level of the AI team, but frustration can really build up... kind of like when your favorite soccer team isn't playing like you know they can.


You can read all kinds of reviews for this game, but a few things struck me in playing the game for the first time and reading what others had to say.

First, it doesn't really reward dominant wing speed, something FC Dallas has. Defenders can pretty much track-down any speedy winger, even when they're many steps ahead. The "sprint" button is basically an instant turnover.

Also, you can know that I'm not very patient and FIFA14 forces you to be very patient on defense. Gone are the days of finding ways to stay close to defenders and get possession back in a matter of seconds. Easy chances are few and far between. As EA Sports says, "If it's in the game, it's in the game," and difficulty winning and keeping possession are definitely "in the game."

Something else of note when it comes to FIFA14's version of the Hoops -- many of the players are pretty underrated. I'm not complaining, after all the game was released eight months ago. How were they supposed to know how good players like Mauro Diaz really were? They have to save the really great skills and control for the players who are clearly the best in the world, but it does get frustrating when you know that Castillo or Watson don't get caught from behind on the wing.

FC Dallas vs. New York Red Bulls

On Sunday morning, I embarked on my first attempt at a FIFA14 preview match. One cool feature is that FIFA14 goes online and finds out who is playing more and updates rosters. Though I played with the starting eleven we've seen for much of the year, the real game turned out to see some other players get the nod, including Walker Zimmerman, Moises Hernandez, and Raul Fernandez.

That being said, the game I played was pretty much a dead-ringer for the game you all watched in terms of irritation and hopes being dashed.

If I'm going to be real about it, I should have won that game, and yes, I called the game a "stupid cheater" at least a few times. Here are some ways the two matches were similar:

Referees had a lot to do with it.

FIFA14 allows players to grab and tug at one another without getting called for fouls and allows the AI to commit "professional fouls" when your team is on the move as well. Early in the game, my FC Dallas wingers were getting the better of the Red Bulls and at least twice were pulled and slowed-down from behind by Lloyd Sam with not so much as a foul called.

Missed chances.

The real team had a few more real chances on Sunday than I did, but I still had lots of opportunities to put goals away. Learning how to score effectively and efficiently is another thing that's always hard as you learn a new soccer game. I used to have a lot of trouble with the Winning Eleven franchise and it looks like this version of FIFA isn't going to give me any free passes either. My hope is that I can at least make myself good enough to put a goal or two on the board next week.

Henry had a lot to do with it.

So, it turns out that Thiery Henry is really good in this game. It's no surprise, as stars whose careers have been world-class are given the benefit of the doubt in the virtual world, especially against an MLS team devoid of any/many players who have plied their trade on the International scene.

Henry scored the only goal against the virtual Hoops on a really nice header off a free-kick. Leading to the goal in the real match, the first touch with his knee was spectacular. The ensuing pass that took two mini bounces before winding up on the right foot of Wright-Phillips and in the back of the net. Henry's touch has always been exquisite. We're lucky to have players like him in MLS. There are more and more in the league and the class players like him display raises the bar for everyone.


Like Chris Farley at the end of this bit, I was angry at the end of my version of last weekend's matchup. I really hoped to get off to a good start on this series. In my PS3 match, Dallas out-shot New York 12-4.

Chris Farley Hidden Camera Commercial Video (via pittboy78)

As I see it, I have two options before Wednesday's matchup against Seattle: get better or make it easier. I guess I better go practice. Anger only causes me to tackle more, and that's not good for the card count.

Final Score (FIFA14) - New York Red Bulls 1 - 0 FC Dallas

FInal Score (Reality) - New York Red Bulls 1 - 0 FC Dallas

Next game - Wednesday night at Seattle Sounders