CCC08: New (Obvious) Angle on Last Night; Previews for Tonight

Because time is short, I’ll start with the preview material for tonight’s semifinal between the Houston Dynamo and Deportivo Saprissa; both come from Soccer y Futbol.  The late edition one kicks out probable line-ups, keys to the game for both teams – plus word of bureaucratic snafus…if our country cared more about soccer, we’d pull this crap deliberately…but, alas…

The earlier edition kicks out all the stops, larding on details regarding the status of several players (Eddie Robinson may play, but is he 80%, 85%, 90%?), quotes and perspectives from the players, etc. – do note Craig Waibel’s statement on what’ll happen if Saprissa comes out onto the field only to enter into a shell…do I buy his take?  Nah…

So, that’s that.  Now, the really interesting thing: J Hutcherson, in today’s Soccer Daily column on USSoccerplayers.com, reviewed last night’s Pachuca/DC semifinal and he hit a huge, red-flag point that came to me as I watched, but that slipped away as preoccupation with the here-and-now became paramount:

“Pity the gentle MLS team that thinks they can play Mexican clubs in Mexico without adjusting to more than the altitude. DC United fell for what were never opportunities, running themselves out of the game in the opening half hour, and letting the obvious play out in the second half.”

“For those of us who watch the Mexican League, we already know they normally don’t tight mark until the other team is closing at the top of the box.”

In DC’s defense, they typically didn’t start pressing until Pachuca reached half-field.  This is a big point, though.  All those forays forward, often 1/2-to-3/4 field sprints getting both forward and back, did look encouraging, but concern about DC burning out kept coming back.

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CCC08: Pachuca 2-0 DC: Um…your ball, Houston

Ignore the headline: this wasn’t that bad a loss. Well, it was and it wasn’t. DC United held up pretty well for 70+ minutes and in a tough venue against a savvy team. Moreover, the goal scored by Luis Montes, which undid DC’s worthy fight for a result, was equal parts smart and fluky; never let it be said the Americans gave up a soft goal. OK, the second goal, maybe that one was soft, but the other was a low-mid-percentage rocket: good shot, good goal…y’know, what can you do?

(Hey, hey: interesting side-note: with MLSnet.com eating too much to open, I had to force quit my web browser in order to find an article; the one I did find showed up on Google News’ crawl – that feels so Big Time!)

Without laboring the point, it’s worth noting that Pachuca could have had more: in fact, they squandered a couple positively gilded chances, most notable among them a cross that dropped delicately over a defender to Juan Carlos Cacho, open just outside the six. How the forward managed to fire straight at Wells, I’ll never know (thanks, Goff, for providing names in your piece).

No less significantly, DC had their chances – including a solid spell around the 70th minute, well after their legs seemed to have left them. And, as the report I linked to above mentions the Major League Soccer (MLS) club started pretty brightly, both keeping possession and slowing down the game. Putting the loss down to heavy legs seems wise, but, without having read anything about it, that’s a best guess. On the bright side, though, heading back to DC only two goals down isn’t the end of the world. Unlikely as it may be, this remains a winnable series. So…good luck, DC. Do us proud next week, ‘kay?

I’ll close with some other thoughts, most of them about DC: Continue reading

I Just Don’t Write About Soccer, I Play

Aside from writing about Soccer on a daily basis, I still play at least 3-5 nights a week. And for those of you who remember right before Christmas I had a total ankle reconstruction and less than 3 months from a total Brostroms surgery, I’m back on the field.

Anyways, to my surprise, I received an email yesterday asking me to look at a page about a new brand of football boots, NOMIS and they asked me if I would be interested in taking a pair of their Nomis boots for a test drive. Far be it from me to turn down a new pair of boots to test out.

So, I remember reading a post on The Offside a few weeks back about the Nomis soccer boots that Wayne Rooney should have worn. The song on the posted on the YouTube video was catchy and I couldn’t get it out of my head for a bit.

Take a look at the video for yourself.

They have different styles to choose from, and I’m not 100% certain which ones I’ll be trying out. But have no fear, I’ll be beating the crap out of them soon enough.

I’ve always been about certain brands of boots personally, but I’m curious to see if these live up to the hype shown on the video. When I’m done giving them a try, I’ll be sure to let everyone know how they turned out (and don’t worry, I’ll be honest too. It’s only fair to everyone).

So, for those of you who still play, what kind of boots do you generally wear?

New York Red Bulls: Gregory Coupet to NY?

Don’t think about it too hard. Take it all with a grain of salt. The 35-year old French international recently signed a contract with Lyon until 2010. That would make him 37 if he were to come over on a free transfer. “It’s a desire Greg has”…meaning, at least it’s not forced on him by his American wife…(that was a reference to Sheva, not Coupet – who doesn’t have an American wife).

He has been with Lyon for over 10 years and is still considered the number one goalkeeper for France heading into this summer’s European Championship. We’ll monitor this, but I can’t see it happening…

One thing it would do is piss Jon Conway off. Let’s hope Conway plays well enough to warrant his starting spot…

UEFA Champions League: Ronaldo and his “big head”, a 17 year old bails out Barca

Manchester United 2, AS Roma 0

It’s called ‘having a team’s number’. Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney made sure of that. The heart of the Red Devils scored the first away goal without the aid of his backheel but instead it was his head and it put one foot for Manchester United into the Champions League semi-finals. Roma was without their usual maestro Francesco Totti and it showed with a lack of definitive finishing – but he will be back next Wednesday for the return leg. A 2-0 defeat at home will mean all things will have to go Roma’s way at Old Trafford. United was not without their inconsistencies, however, as Roma dominated the run of play for the first 15 minutes only to curse themselves over missed opportunities and the superb acrobatics of Edwin Van der Sar. Roma has a knack of scoring away from home, having done so twice this competition so far, and they will be looking to exploit a possible gap in defense left open by an injured Nemanja Vidic. Oh – by the way – it was Ronaldo’s 36th goal of the season. Unreal. It prompted Roma’s midfielder David Pizarro to call Ronaldo a “big head”.

Barcelona 1, Schalke 04 0

17-year old Bojan Krkic grabbed a much-needed away goal early in the match and led Barca to a 1-0 win in Germany. Highlighted by physical play, Rafa Marquez and Puyol organized a stingy defense capable enough of keeping Schalke’s big men Altintop and Kuranyi away from Valdes’ net. Nothing went on target for the Germans, whereas Thierry Henry troubled a weak left side and supplied the winning square pass to Krkic (the first of only 4 chances throughout for Barca). Near the end, things got sloppy, the crowd became weary, and whistles were heard in an attempt to prod Schalke into action. No luck, Barca takes the away goal back to Nou Camp. With Krkic’s goal, he became the youngest player to score in Champions League history.

TODAY’s GAMES: Liverpool vs. Arsenal, Chelsea vs. Fenerbahce