Houston 3-0 Sydney + a Big, Blog-Link Semifinal Wrap

Was that a first half to savor or who?  Houston was everything the Los Angeles Galaxy was not.  While LA looked collectively confused, even panicked, not only did Houston look sharp and organized collectively, every player on orange looked comfortable and switched on to their roles.  I gave up watching around the 80th minute, but that was mainly down to Houston appearing so clearly in command.   Sydney FC, to their credit, set up a couple scrambles and  forced Houston ‘keep Pat Onstad into a save or two, including at least one tough one.  But the night was Houston’s without question.

In LA’s defense, they’re just in a different place than Houston right now.  Houston had every motivation to start a strong line-up; “real” competition is just around the corner for them and it’s big – the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup.  They have the title of best club team in the region to spur them on and the possibility of December games against the best in the world as a kicker.  More to the point, the Dynamo returned so much of last year’s MLS Cup squad that the players already know one another.  That the players look ready to roll going into a heavy March warms the heart.

LA, on the other hand, can politely be called “in transition.”  Their situation showed in who they fielded – plenty of rookies and trialists.  LA has the luxury of time that Houston doesn’t.  And, even with a manifestly improved second half, the clearly need that time.  It’s hard to say what should cause LA fans more worry in last night’s performance – the confused, even appalling static performance or signs that several players they took with them looked unprepared for prime time.

To wrap it all up, we got a look at the current pecking order in Major League Soccer (MLS).  I can’t say I expected the gap between the two MLS teams to yawn so wide.

Some other random notes on players and happenings:

– I liked a lot of what I saw out of Dwayne DeRosario last night, but I loved his early, long-range crack at goal.  Even when that went horribly off-target, it told Sydney’s defense that, if nothing else, DeRo believed he could crack one from outside.  And wouldn’t you know it, he did later.

– Stuart Holden looked fabu: quick feet, confident runs, alert passing – hell, even a near-post goal at a tight-ish angle.

– While it’s too bad Brian Ching didn’t score, he contributed plenty.  A passing big man is a good thing to have.

– Oh, and when I worried about Houston having trouble scoring?  Missed that one by a mile.  They looked in the mood to score several more.

– The most impressive thing, though, was Houston’s general shape and solidity.  As noted above, Sydney created a chance or three, but Houston’s players consistently either played or dribbled out of trouble.  Their ability to keep the ball is the best kind of defense.

So, yeah, good game.  Let’s see what all the people who get out of bed before me had to say:

100 Percent Soccer – Nicer than me to LA, but definitely underwhelmed.
ESPN – a meaty general wrap that makes points similar to what’s above.
USSoccerplayers.com – Did LA’s play make him stop watching or was it Allen Hopkins?
Goal.com –  If Ruud Gullit’s delusion is real, LA will have a long, long year.
LA Galaxy Offside – A tidy live-blog recap; she goes easier on LA than me.
Sidelines Views (Canales) – Expands on the  “different goals” idea I have above.
Yahoo! Sports – Liked some of LA’s new youth; Liked Houston’s win plenty.
Soccer Insider – mocks the tournament.
Who Ate All the Cupcakes – channels Becks’ inner shame and agony.
WVHooligan – likes the tourney, sees a long road ahead for LA – in spite of Becks.

OK, seriously.  That’s plenty.

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One Response

  1. Thanks for the update Jeff. Wouldn’t you know it, two hours before the game (but after Bare’s goal against LA, which was a joy to see) my cable went out. Those screams that perhaps you heard were not, in fact, from an LA fan horrified at the Gals’ performance, but from down here in Houston. Planning on seeing it this afternoon finally. (And Comcast claims it will be fixed today so I’ll be able to watch the final Saturday night. If not, would a jury of my true peers TRULY throw me in jail for any actions that might result?) :>

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