Wednesday, August 15, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update – 08/15/07


Beckham Enters
I’m not sure what you expected on those Beckham long passes and his one free kick. On the free kick, Carlos Pavon met it at the near post was completely covered and did fairly well getting the ball anywhere near the goal. Long pass number one, was easily dealt with by Troy Perkins, while his long pass to Donovan should have resulted in a PK. It’s not like every time Beckham passed in EPL or La Liga it lead to a goal. I sometimes wonder whether the MLS critics watch anything other than highlights from other leagues.

LA is a better team than they’ve showed this year, but they need time in training with Beckham. I thought their biggest error is playing Donovan as a forward. He is always more effective when he get more touches as an attacking mid. The problem for LA is that they have Beckham, Donovan and Kyle Martino with Attacking Mid as their best position. I say leave hothead Martino on the bench and play Becks right in the center, with Donovan just in front of him and Buddle/Pavon up top.

To the dismay of a great Revs crowd, Becks sat out against the Revolution a couple of days after his United debut due to his arch nemesis Field Turf coating the field. Just as Becks and the Gals get people on board the flying and ankles and swelling and swamp gas excuse, word comes out that by apparently flying the plane backwards to LA, Beckham is suddenly “78%” ready to play in Thursday’s Superliga fixture. Here’s the bottom line: Becks isn’t going to play on Field Turf unless he’s 100%. Sorry New York, but you still might get a token appearance, after all the game is on national TV.

Here’s a quick Becks PT equation:
National TV:
ABC (+6), ESPN (+4), Fox Soccer (+2), All Other Channels (0)

Grass (+2), Field Turf (-2)

Eastbound (-2), Westbound (+2), No flight (+1)

Advance Ticket Sales:
36,000+ (+4), 22,000 – 36,000 (0), 0 – 22,000 (-2)

Negative – Hugo Boss Suited Becks
0-4 – Warm-up bench Becks
4-8 – Limited Minutes Becks
8+ - Full 90 Becks

Enough ankle gate for now……..

The Dynamo/Pachuca rematch lived up to the hype and became an instant Superliga classic. This game had everything ugly in it, but made for a thrilling evening for 21,000+ at Robertson Stadium. Playing a role in the match; a face volley, three ejections, a shootout, last minute heroics. The Dynamo took a lead thanks to some great right side work by Brian Mullan who smoked his defender on the way to the endline. At the endline, he sends in a low cross to the feet of an open DeRo who takes a crack at it. The ball ricochets off of his face and into the back of the net from 10 yards out! Not a goal of the year candidate, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. The Dynamo topped this feat by poorly heading a ball back to the keeper from near midfield ten minutes later. It fell to the feet of a Pachuca forward who was brought down by Patrick Ianni who was given a straight red card. While the ensuing free kick from just outside the box amounted to nothing, Pachuca did manage to tie the game before the half. The second half saw more excellent ball possession by Pachuca and eventually a great goal from Andres Chitiva. The outmanned Dynamo seemed headed toward the inevitable until the 83rd minute when Eddie Robinson powered home the tying goal, setting off wild celebration throughout the majority of fans in Robertson. The game was headed toward overtime, but not before Chitiva was awarded his second yellow for diving of all things. Back on level terms, the Dynamo found some decent offense in the first extra frame until substitute Cory Ashe was sent into the midfield camera stand by a Pachuca defender. While still on the ground, a dazed Ashe then attempted to cleat a nearby Pachuca player earning him a dismissal as well. Both team’s defenses held and off to the shoot out we go. Neither keeper could stop the first three chances. The first miss came courtesy of US national team striker Brian Ching, who had keeper Miguel Calero leaning the wrong way and still managed to hit the post. Houston keeper Pat Onstad rescued the moment by saving the next Pachuca attempt. Joseph Ngwenya tried to really put the pressure on the Mexican side by rolling the limpest penalty kick taken by an MLS side since Ante Razov’s MLS Cup 2003 attempt. Calero stood his ground and used his groin to stop the shot since he didn’t even need his hands, while wagging a finger at Ngwenya. Rafael Marquez Lugo finished over a diving Onstad to seal Pachuca’s place in the Superliga final. This game was a tribute to the potential of this new tournament and the equality of the top teams in CONCACAF.

Stars and Stripes Swap Sides
Due to irreconcilable contractual differences ($), the Red, White and Blue (nicknames for our national team are welcome in feedback), will not get the pleasure of visiting Azteca Stadium on September 9th. Our boys have to settle for Brazil at Solider Field. Drat! I mean, now I get to see the Yanks give the Samba boys a shot within walking distance of my house. Oh, cruel fate! I have seen a quality for quality swap like this since Deep Purple replaced legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore mid-tour with legendary guitarist Joe Satriani. I guess that makes it three victories we’ve scored over Mexico this year.

MLS Week 19 –
LA vs. United – With Becks clearly ready to take his MLS bow serial idiot, Kyle Martino foolishly dives in on Fred’s ankle and gets sent off, sending his team to certain doom. In the UK they would call it a “horror tackle” here we just call it dumb! Few in the crowd likely saw the tackle given that it coincided with Becks removing his warm-up shirt. I’m surprised that any of the ESPN cameras even were trained on the action. I’m mean, there was a man running back and forth on the sideline for 20 minutes! Landon Donovan did a good disappearing job for 60 minutes. Shocking that this would happen when he was playing up top. The good news is that the home team won and everybody when home happy. Except for LA. Hey went to New England frustrated.

Crew vs. Dallas – This might be Fox’s match of the year. A rather anemic first half gave way to a wild finish at PHP. Dallas had to shelve Juan “The Revelation” Toja due to a Superliga injury. Oft injured Adrian Serioux started the match but was shockingly injured in the first half and was replaced. Only Columbus could score in the first half that saw each team taking control of the action. The second half began with a great deal of Columbus pressure, but it was Dallas that scored off a nice bit of opportunism from a Arturo Alvarez who finished in a classy manner when the ball deflected to his feet in the box. The score wasn’t tied for long as Columbus converted a penalty kick after Chris Gbandi dragged down Wild Man Hedjuk just near the end line. Andy Herron handled the PK with ease. The goal of the game began at the foot of goat in waiting Marcelo Saragosa. Who finished Oddly, the crowd seemed to steadily grow from minute 0 to 70.
MOTM: Dax McCarty

Dynamo vs. Rapids – It was Bouna time and is still Clavejo time at DSG Park, however, all this result got him was a stay of execution. I only managed to see highlights of this game due to the HDNet Blackout, but it didn’t appear that I missed much.
MOTM: No Position to Judge

UFC vs. The Flagship – What do we do when you are being marked closely and Mo Johnston I your coach? You punch the defender in the gut and get away with it! I wouldn’t expect to see Andrea Lombardo for a bit UFC fans. He can visit the rest of the team in the ER this week. This match also gave us the great National Post headline “Toronto FC Crushed by New York Teenager.”
MOTM: Jozy Altidore – His second goal may have sealed his transfer to Euroland.

LA vs. Revs – Yallop pulled his head out of his butt for one game to start a line-up that has a modest chance at success. Two forwards up top backed by Landon Donovan at attacking mid. Crazy, I know! However, it was the same old result for the Galaxy who were without Abel Xavier who would have prevented the Revolution goal. What was also made clear in this match is that Ty Harden is not improving. Only the play of Joe Cannon and some Revolution misfires kept this match from getting ugly. The Galaxy had some moments, but it would be nice if they could ever field the same team twice. If LA manages the playoffs this year, it will make Real Madrid’s 2007 feats seem small by comparison. Frank Yallop knows Alexi Lalas has fired managers for less, but Yallop is not a miracle worker. A combination of rash front office moves, key injuries and media whirlwind have combined to turn the Galaxy into the most publicized soap opera on grass and Yallop it’s all too weak adhesive.
MOTM: Shalrie Joseph for being everywhere all evening.

MLS Commentators
Much has been made about ESPN and Fox Soccer Channel. While four commentators jammed into a booth can get annoying, particularly if one is Michael Wilbon, it is still far more preferable to the single announcer format. That form of commentating is dreadfully boring, despite being filed under “traditional” by footie-philes. The optimal format would be the classic American play-by-play guy with a knowledgeable and opinionated color guy, a role that Eric Wynalda perfectly fills. His ideal compatriot would be the terrific Glenn Davis or the highly knowledgeable Max Brentos, however, you’ll have plenty that “can’t stand” Brentos either. I could take or leave the sideline report, but the interviewing coaches in the middle of matches has to go!

A Friend in the MediaYesterday morning, I was watching C-Span2's Book Symposium (I dig deep for you people!) featuring Dave Zirin. Zirin is a non-conformist American sports writer who was discussing his latest book, "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" The title alone made me think about soccer of course. Although the audience didn't touch on our favorite sport, I did manage to find quite a bit about Zirin online. As part of an interview, he had this interesting observation that many of us can relate to:
“You know, when you talk about liking soccer in the U.S., people act like you're taking French lessons at the local Muslim school. You might as well burn the flag in your backyard. The fact is, it's the most popular youth sport in the United States. Whether people want to admit it or not, soccer is a major sport in this country.”
At his website, he did have this must read article about a life changing event at a soccer match.

Quote of the Week (source ESPN Soccernet)
Sigi Schmidt on David Beckham: "When you look at his face, he's not here for retirement. He's not here for a paycheck. He's here to step on the field to win games. That's not something you can hide or disguise."

MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (3-2)
SEASON (40-68)

Revs vs Rapids – poetic that the Revolution will be the team to send Clavijo out to the unemployment line again.

Chivas vs. UFC - the woes continue for Mo’s Street Fighting team as rested Chivas blasts a broken team.

United vs. Crew – A classic match-up that finally means something again. Look for the Crew to rebound from last weeks let down and score a big win over the Eastern Conference foes.

Galaxy vs. The Flagship – 15 minutes of Becks isn’t enough to save the Gals from their third consecutive league defeat.

FIRE vs. RSL – These two struggling, but rising sides battle to a well played draw. The point earned does little to inspire playoff dreams amongst their fans.

Dallas vs. Dynamo – Fear the Fish! Dallas is a very dangerous team now and should dump the Dynamo on their home turf.

Revs vs. Wizards – This is one to Tivo! I believe in the Wizards at home.

The Soccer/Dynamo Power Hour
(NOTE: If you know a Podcast that needs to be added please let me know and post a link.)

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