Daily Sweeper, 11.2: MLS Playoffs, Past and Future + Enough Crap to Fill 10 Outhouses

– Before looking backward, let’s take a glance forward. I’ve got my picks laid out, but here’s what people have to say about this weekend’s conference semis – all except that one no one seems to care about. Shhh….

New England Revolution v. Red Bull New York
Now that I think about it, I didn’t see – or rather, I didn’t read – a lot of copy on this one. But the unpaid interns (they just have to be, right?) at MLSnet.com turned in their preview. Elsewhere, Clemente Lisi wrote a bolder preview for USSoccerplayas.com framed around the possibility that Gillette Stadium might be the Last Chance Saloon for Red Bull’s coach Bruce Arena. I don’t know about that – I bet The Bruce gets another year regardless – but Lisi does well enumerating the man’s sins.

Houston Dynamo v. FC Dallas
I’ll start by confessing that I rarely want to lose bets, never mind badly. C’mon Dallas: prove me wrong.

Previews abound for this one, but you can find most of what you want to read on tonight’s game in 3rd Degree’s daily round-up. Time’s short, though, so get cracking. But MLS’s interns did their bit, as did Goal.com, and Yahoo! News.

If gambling were legal in this damnable country, I’d be running an over-under for how quickly Dallas succumbs.

– Now to look back. I posted my piece last night – an ode to Clyde Simms as it turned out. It’s funny, though: I’m able to celebrate this game and DC’s part in it, but that’s down to a coincidence that I caught them after they woke up. From what I’ve read, my thoughts would have been vastly different had I caught the first half.

Moving on to what other’s thought, this one got picked apart – and, this time ‘round, I’ll take a broader view (e.g I won’t essentially ignore Chicago). To follow up on that aside, I’m going to lead with Chicago. Continue reading

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Name That Footballer–South Park Style

Yeah yeah, I haven’t posted in a while.  Did you miss me? Well don’t get used to this.  Aside from writing 5 research papers for a total of 60 pages one has to actually do the research, which is where I’m at now.

Thanks to The Offside for this great bit of time killing fun during my reading of Segmental Reduction Theory in German.  It really is fun I tell you.

Think you know your footballers? Can you name them dressed up as South Park characters?

Click here to find out. I have 11 correct as of now, but I’m still thinking.  I want to know who the drunk cracked out guy is with the cross around his neck.  My guess was Cantona, but that wasn’t right.

DC Goes Home: Thank You, Mr Simms.

A lot happened in the final 30 of the Chicago Fire’s tighter-than-a-preacher’s-butt win over DC United – as much as the game as I caught after getting home from work, picking up the kids, feeding the kids, etc. While that shortened viewing time limits my ability to speak to big concepts like Justice (upper-case? oh yeah), I can at least speak to the Justice of the last 30.On that score, it’s a wash: referee Jair Marrufo didn’t call a penalty when DC ‘keep Troy Perkins fouled Calen Carr just inside DC’s area, but he also caught a tricky one when Christian Gomez nudged the ball with his left arm with what, for all the world, looked like the DC’s series equalizer. As for the rest, Marrufo might have missed some calls against Cuauhtemoc Blanco – though that serves the bastard right for going down easy as he does often as he does – and he overreacted by sending off Rod Dyachenko at the death, but, fortunately, the ref didn’t turn this game in a meaningful way…at least not that I saw.

But the really amazing thing about this one was the 180 change in tone from the time I started watching to the end of the game. When I tuned in, DC’s body language whimpered “beaten.” The thing of beauty that Clyde Simms knocked into Chicago’s net more than changed the mood, it reminded DC of who they were: the best team in Major League Soccer. From that goal forward, DC piled on 20 minutes of non-stop hurt and pressure – until they finally, and almost invisibly, petered out somewhere between the 88th and 92nd minute. The way I figure it, Clyde Simms’ teammates owe him a pint for every minute of that short life.

Fluky as DC’s in-game equalizer proved to be, the moment I thought they’d clawed back came with a gorgeous one-two that played Christian Gomez in on Chicago’s left; with him behind the defense and a tie on the aggregate seemingly seconds away, it looked like overtime at least. Instead, things wound up as it seemed they would when Chicago was up three goals on aggregate.

Getting back to the notion of what turned this game, I did see something in the highlights from before I tuned in: what looked an awful lot like the wrenching defensive lapses that have killed DC United time and again. As well as Chad Barrett and Chris Rolfe took their goals, the shitty thing for DC fans is that both players barreled into the area facing goal and with no one on their backs. It’s like the definition of insanity, those lapses, and I can’t believe that DC won’t focus on correcting the defensive problem between now and the 2008 season instead of, again, bringing in still more offensive ringers. The latter look prettier, but the defensive problem is like a cancer.

Over the course of the season, I’ve seen the notion that there are no moral victories pop up a couple times on DC fan sites. I suspect we’ll see some of that tonight and tomorrow. Even if I wasn’t pulling for DC (no, not remotely), their team turned in something special tonight, the kind of passion on the field that keeps all of us watching the game. I don’t so much expect DC fans to find solace in that, as I would hope they’d appreciate the pride their team showed in fighting back from what looked a lot like a state of beat-down death.

As for Chicago, who I managed to almost completely ignore in this narrative (so what? they’ll be back), I’m guessing they’re looking at each other in the locker room right around now and, with a quick exchange of glances, acknowledging they just walked out of a war zone. They don’t get closer than tonight very often. Matt Perkins, among others, won’t sleep soundly tonight.