DC’s Statement over the Crew

So, my weekend viewing went a little sideways. My original plan had me taking in Red Bull v. LA – and I’m very glad to have stuck with that. The other one-to-two games I expected to watch were Columbus Crew v. DC United (first) and Real Salt Lake v. Chicago Fire (second); I sorta managed the former – by which I mean, I watched it in archived chunks, mainly because I ran across the final score before watching. I caught highlights for Salt Lake v. Chicago – great goal by Cuauthemoc Blanco, by the way (look for it on Youtube…now) – but otherwise blew off. I don’t know that I missed much – I mean, RSL lost…again – while Chicago’s new toys worked as advertised. At the same time, I can’t say New England v. Kansas City was a better game; I’d be surprised, in fact, if it was.

So, with the caveat that I didn’t watch every minute in real time, Columbus versus DC looked like a pretty educational affair. The scoreline flattered DC, if only just: by that I mean, Columbus isn’t significantly worse, but their attack suffers from fairly severe limitations; put in more blunt terms, this team really needs a “go-to” forward. In players like Luciano Emilio and, on Saturday, Fred, DC has those players – and that’s why they won.

It’s not all a wash for the Crew, though. The recent defensive stability of Columbus seems to have left the buidling with Chad Marshall; his replacement, Ezra Hendrickson, struggled all day – and he was almost completely at fault for DC’s insurance goal. I’m not a firm believer in Rusty Pierce, either, and, looking at the line-up, I wonder how much the decision to shift Stephani Miglioranzi into midfield (and I’m assuming this is what happened) hurt the Crew.

For all that, however, the Crew kept the ball about as well as DC and did, for as much of the game as I watched, limit their chances while setting up enough of their own. Those chances weren’t great ones – call the majority of ’em half- or even quarter-chances – but the Crew have enough in defense and midfield to keep DC out of their defensive third. Again, they just don’t have enough to win against a team as good as DC.

DC continues to impress me. Their success is not built on great players – I find DC’s roster good in spots, but overall underwhelming – but on their capacity to play as a team. The movement is crisp and coordinated, they shrink the field to a postage stamp with pressure well up the field, and, when they’re in position, they’ve got the talent to exploit the opportunities. It’s a good formula, one I think has been part of DC’s approach since the Piotr Nowak took over. Whether I’m right or wrong here, one thing is for sure: DC is a team to watch down the stretch. Put another way, I think they’ll be number one again in my rankings at least.

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EPL: Tottenham rebounds while Man United sputters…

Tottenham 4, Derby County 0

Benny Feilhaber watched Derby get slaughtered but a formerly dormant Steed Malbranque who struck for a brace. Darren Bent opened his account with the Hotspurs as they tried to send a message to the rest of the league. Still looks to be a long year if they can’t perform against the big squads. Billy Davies hopes the signing of Eddie Lewis can spark something, anything…

Reading 1, Everton 0

Marcus Hahnemann won the duel of the American keepers as the feisty Stephen Hunt scored right before half-time in what was a purely defensive match-up. Both Hahnemann and Howard fared well but it was the former Rapid that got the win and propelled Reading into the midtable region. Bobby Convey return for 11 minutes of action!

Other Saturday Scores:

Wigan 3, Sunderland 0

Welcome to the Premiership Roy Keane: where you can beat Tottenham one week and lose significantly to Wigan the next. Two penalties allowed that to happen.

Middlesbrough 2, Fulham 1

The result was indicative of the kind of day Fulham was having. My favorite American player to date – Brian McBride – suffered a dislocated kneecap when he crumpled to the ground only 5 minutes after his opening goal. Wish you the best Brian – but it looks to be 5-6 months out. Hamuer Bouazza – about 10 minutes – later dislocated his shoulder and the former Watford starlet could miss several months. M’boro then proceeded to score two and win the game. Silver lining is that Clint Dempsey should see significant time now that Bouazza is injured.

Portsmouth 3, Bolton 1

Pompey won on account of Bolton having a terrible game – but credit new signing from France John Utaka who bobbed and weaved and put a great goal away early in the game. Kanu also struck for his first. Bolton could go down this year.

West Ham 1, Birmingham 0

Mark Noble put away a somewhat controversial penalty, but WHU outlasted City and got the three points.

Newcastle 0, Aston Villa 0

A bore draw. Ashley Young impressed on the left side however and Michael Owen grabbed some vital minutes for himself. Mostly it was just Villa finding different ways to shut down Viduka and Martins who looked like they could be dangerous, but were never really given the chance.

Sunday scores

Manchester City 1, Manchester United 0

The momentum Citeh is gathering is scaring the shit out of everybody. Former Barca man Geovanni has scored his second of the year and put Man Utd in the biggest hole they’ve been in a long time. What will it take for Man U to recover? Losing Ronaldo and Rooney certainly don’t help – should they let the young’uns run rampant?

Blackburn 1, Arsenal 1

Jens Lehmann gifted the Rovers a tie with the Gunners when flailed helplessly at a late David Dunn strike. Between this and the fiasco that was David Healy’s goal the other day against Fulham, the German should almost be axed. Blackburn survived the last 10 minute onslaught without central defender and former DC United player Ryan Nelsen, who was sent off. Brad Friedel, as always, played consistently well. Eduardo da Silva made his debut for the Gunners.

Chelsea 1, Liverpool 1

The ref has been sacked after this game and rightfully so as Chelsea’s PK gift (which Lampard converted) was one that provoked talk of ‘fixes’. All in all, it was just a terrible call but Fernando Torres goal early in the game was brilliant, even though the defending by Ben-Haim was extremely suspect.

Complete Updated Standings.

Revs Top KC: Pretty as Building a Suburb

Keeping score during the Beckham Challenge (intro/results)kind of turned me on the idea of taking notes during the games I watch. I tried it again during New England’s narrow (and dull) win over the Kansas City Wizards – one of several games that tweaked the meaning of the week’s power rankings. I’ll reproduce those below (and amend them; look for the parentheses), afer this brief interruption.

I finally figured out why MLSlive.tv, which has no real business working, um, works pretty well. Sure, there’s that teeny-tiny little screen, but what appears in that space approximates the visual scale of what one sees live – e.g. the players’ apparent size roughly matches their scale from fairly decent seats at a live game. In other words, so long as the feed works – i.e. absent any hiccups – it’s a decent, if circumscribed view of the action. So…way to go there.

Now, to the game…the discussion of which begins with what came to me around the 88th minute.

I like KC, but think they’re missing something. They seem kind of soft and small – so I guess it’s “steel” or balls they’re missing. Against that, New England has to be hard to play; so physical and big. KC plays this pretty version of the game (looking for quick combinations, playing up the middle, generally “keeping it positive,” etc.) as if they didn’t share the league with assholes like the Revs. They are, of course, and that’s why they lost – and not just last night. What happened out there shows the distinction between losing a game and getting beat. New England just kind of muscles around the field, knocking people down, going in for every 50/50. It’s not dirty (at least not always), but it’s hard as hell. So, narrow as the loss is, you know the players have aggravating knocks and bruises, all of them reminders of the loss.

In a related note, this gets at why I struggle to be a New England fan (and still I am; I cheered for the goal…pity my soul). Assholes are great when they’re losers – lovable, scrappy underdogs and all that. But they really suck when they’re on the cusp of being winners. It means asshole-ism wins.

Moving on, now, to the actual as-they-happened game notes: Continue reading

10 Bright Spots of Week 21: Angel, Altidore, Beckham, Pavon – where do I even start?!

Over at Because I Think…

Enjoy and let me know what you think.

United States Under-17s lose opening game 4-3 to Tajikistan

The U-17s suffered a surprise setback to their opening round in South Korea today. Possibly a firm display of underestimating your opponent, but after this loss, neither of their remaining matches seem easy. They will play Tunisia, Thursday, August 23rd and whoopee! it’s on ESPN 2 at the wee hours of the morning (4:00am) and then take on a Belgian squad sitting in fourth place on Sunday, August 26th. The young’uns were sunk by two late goals as each team took turns pummeling each other on the offensive end. The absence of Alex Nimo was surely a factor in the loss and his presence has to be made evident if the US boys are going to advance to the next round. Game recap and standings below…

Scoring Summary:
            1   2   F
USA    1   2   3
TJK     2   2   4 

USA – Mykell Bates (Greg Garza) 9th minute
TJK – Farkhod Vasiev 32.
TJK – Samad Shohzukhurov (Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev) 43.
USA – Greg Garza (Billy Schuler) 48.
USA – Billy Schuler (Alex Nimo) 53.
TJK – Nuriddin Davronov 82.
TJK – Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev 86.

Lineups:
USA:
18-Zac MacMath; 2-Sheanon Williams, 3-Mykell Bates (capt.), 6-Danny Wenzel, 7-Kofi Sarkodie; 8-Jared Jeffrey, 10-Bryan Dominguez (9-Ellis McLoughlin, 86), 17-Greg Garza (16-Brandon Zimmerman, 79), 19-Alex Nimo; 11-Abdusalam Ibrahim (15- Brek Shea, 72), 13-Billy Schuler
Subs Not Used: 1-Josh Lambo, 4-Tommy Meyer, 5-Chris Klute, 12-Kirk Urso, 14-Daniel Cruz, 20-Larry Jackson, 21-Brendan King

US Soccer’s Match Report

The full standings are here.