Gamba 6-1 Dynamo: Twas no Team; A Typhoon It Was…Arrr.

Well all right. My first pirate-inspired headline.

So…how bad was the Houston Dynamo’s loss to Gamba Osaka? First, there’s the score to consider: any time your bunch gives up six goals, you couldn’t have had a good night. I don’t think Pat Onstad can remember the last time he let in six…assuming it ever happened. Bare got four of Osaka’s goals and, as one of the commentators noted, all four were not just well-taken, but each was a little bit different from the one before (and I felt inspired to ask this, when he had only two).

No, I think the best measure of the complete, um, uncloseness of the Pan-Pacific Challenge final comes with how I managed sleep. Somewhere around the 60th minute, I promised myself I’d go to bed either when Osaka scored its fourth goal or if the Dynamo showed no meaningful signs of life at the 75th minute. Osaka’s fourth came only minutes later. I went to bed assuming things could only get worse and, when I resumed watching in the morning (let us pause to celebrate the successful operation of a VCR), it did: Osaka dropped in a fifth in short order, hit the post once, again forced Onstad into a desperate scramble, scored their sixth – again, over a flailing, bewildered Onstad…you get the idea.

So…6-1. Suddenly, the Los Angeles Galaxy’s 1-0 loss in the semifinal doesn’t look all that bad…

In spite of the walk-over, I don’t think anyone would argue Houston looked worse than the Galaxy. Houston made repeated forays into Osaka’s half through the length of the rout. But they encountered an organized defense on every trip, even the several occasions they managed to create a little chaos, or even hit the crossbar, as Brian Ching did late in the game. Maybe it was the predictability of the Dynamo’s attack that created the sense of Osaka’s invulnerability, that nearly all their success and promising openings came down Stuart Holden’s right and from elsewhere too rarely if at all. Maybe with Dwayne DeRosario in the middle or someone besides Corey Ashe starting and going the full 90 on the left (and I like Ashe plenty as a sub), the Dynamo might have unlocked Osaka’s defenses. They had plenty of the ball, but, in the final tally, simply couldn’t do much with it.

The Dynamo’s defense was something else again. Too often a couple steps out of sync, a little slow, shell-shocked even: we don’t often see the Dynamo surrender six goals over three games, or even four or five. Bobby Boswell and Patrick Ianni have a lot of work to put into their partnership; put another way, Eddie Robinson just witnessed the embodiment of his job security in real time.

And, just to complete the record, I hadn’t counted on the halftime highlight reel of the Galaxy’s 2-1 win over Sydney FC. Good for them!

A couple random points that don’t fit neatly into the above narrative:

– I’d start Holden over Brian Mullan. I think he’s got more upside, thanks mainly to his fewer years. But he’s got great speed and close control, passes intelligently, and so on and so on. Thoughts?

– On a related note, I think I’ve got a live-blogging concept that I think will work for me.  Dropping random questions as they occur to me.  We’ll see how that goes…

– Judging by the tournament, the Pan-Pacific hierarchy goes Japan, U.S., Australia. For what it’s worth, I’m OK with continuing the experiment, perhaps even letting it evolve into something bigger. Why not invite a Korean team next year? Schedule it closer to the Major League Soccer’s (MLS) regular season? Let the U.S. Open Cup winner fly the league’s flag, etc. Have fun with it. It’s a money-spinner.

4 Responses

  1. I know I’m in a weird position, arguing that Dynamo really didn’t look all that bad after losing 6-1 (which is by far the worst loss in team history, BTW, topping the 5-2 loss at Pachuca in CCC play last April). But really, for a team that is only three weeks into training, they looked OK in the two games. The first game was such total domination that perhaps we all, and possibly the team, were suffering from inflated expectations going into the final.

    I think the loss is attributable to two important reasons:

    1. Dead legs. The team looked solid in the first half, going up 1-0 before falling behind 2-1. But after the first 5-10 mins. of the second half, where they continued to look relatively sharp, that team hit the proverbial wall. The term “dead legs” doesn’t even begin to do it justice. Even Corey Ashe was having trouble beating his man, not to mention Stuart Holden. It looked like they were slogging through mud. Gamba, meanwhile, while also in preseason, have been training a couple of weeks longer and had been in Hawaii for the past two weeks totally focusing on this one tournament, and it showed. Boy, did it ever show. A team that did not possess a huge speed advantage in the first half, sure showed up looking like they had turned on the afterburners in the second. And in relation to Dynamo’s now accelerating weariness, they had!

    2. Two words: Robert Boswell. Take a close look at all four of Bare’s goals. Who is the guy left in the dust as the big Brazilian (I didn’t know they grew Brazilians that big!) streaked toward the goal all four times? Hopkins and Healey made much of how Ianni and Boswell need help to grow together, but not once did they mention Eddie Robinson’s name. Man, did I ever miss him during the game. I’m not saying that Bare would have been neutralized or that Dynamo would have had more wind in the second half. I’m just saying that ERob would not have been burned like that repeatedly. Bozzie better shape up if he wants to play in this defense.

  2. Fair points, Martek. But with how they looked against Sydney, I expected more. More to the point, when you’re only three weeks into pre-season, a savvy team paces themselves. Instead, the Dynamo went forward a little blindly. And, as you noted, the dead legs hit like a hay-maker.

    As for Boswell, I’ll only note it was Barrett that Bare bodied against for his…his…gazillionth goal on the night (I think it was his fourth, the one he slammed across Barrett’s body with – yes – Boswell only belated slowing him down. If you read Jeff Carlisle’s analysis/write-up, I think he offers a pretty reasonable explanation for the adjustment…as well as why it didn’t work (e.g. Barrett’s too small; he just got over-powered). Then again, Barrett at least had the legs to keep up. Boswell, as you pointed out, did not. But I think his greater “crime” (it’s a pre-season game, hence the scare quotes) was failing to keep an eye on both the defensive line (i.e. he, or someone, stayed too far back, playing Bare onside) and Bare (he was definitely too far from Bare to help defensively), who slipped him on the first and third goal.

    That said, yeah, Boswell had a nightmare. Robinson must be sleeping easy these days, ’cause he’s not about to lose his gig.

  3. God, that’s fun….that analysis stuff. Can’t wait for the season…

  4. […] Much has been made of the consecutive sloppy defensive displays from Houston’s defense – the 6-1 blowout in the Pan-Pacific against Gamba Osaka and the 4-3 win over Toronto FC (TFC) – but Boswell came in […]

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