Tough loss for the Columbus Crew, though not so much because it wasn’t deserved. I’d only argue Red Bull New York isn’t that much better in the attack. Let’s just say they ought to keep watering that field before every home game. That’s not the same as saying they were lucky – I credit them the win, no question – but that Columbus made about one quarter of the luck they needed.
Again, I’m going to assume all of you are like Dear President Bush and would prefer your summaries/analyses short and bulleted. Here goes:
Columbus Overall: The bitch here is, these guys know what they’re doing. It’s the distance between knowing what you’re doing and being able to that scuttles the Crew. Again, I don’t think Schmid is the problem. They’re playing a good style – and I believe the results can come, given a correction* – but just lacking that little sumpin’ sumpin’.
Red Bull Overall: A solid performance, but not where generally expected: the defense impressed me most. Since I’m not going to go into Red Bull as much after the jump, may as well do it here: yeah, Oscar Echeverry had a good game, Juan Pablo Angel can make the telling pass up top like few others, etc.; the most impressive thing about Red Bull was their organization and the way they limited the chances to those of the half-or-less variety. In the big picture, Red Bull looks stronger than I expected.
Now, some details…with a Crew orientation.
A Defender is a defender: Defending is the one of the great, under-rated skill in soccer. I know this because I became a midfielder converted to defender late in my, um, “lower-division” career. (What is this word, “amateur,” of which you speak?) Danny O’Rourke, who I like well enough as a “destroyer,” is not a defender and, good golly, does it show. He can learn most of it, but the real problem is his instincts are all wrong. There’s just this certain way defenders read and play the game: I know I didn’t have it…I’m not sure O’Rourke does either.
Hero & Goat: Will Hesmer, do make up your mind. Are you the PK-stopping, certain-goal-stoning stud that showed up late? Or maybe you’re the guy snoozing by the far post on NY’s first goal? For what it’s worth, I think he’s the latter: Hesmer settled into a great game, made massive saves – two within seconds, even – and generally looked like a stud…and he couldn’t do dick on that second goal.
Prus & Yellows…or the Lack Thereof: Eddie Gaven got abused in a special, special way. The skinny lad had every right to feel aggrieved by the 60th minute – right around the time he picked himself off the shiny, shiny turf for around the 60th time. Alex Prus let the Red Bulls – who muscled the visitors from the sticks like the world-weary, big-city folk they are (probably on drugs too…) – get away with too many dirty fouls – especially against Gaven.
*Hit and Hope: Complaints about the “quality of the final ball” is the tried-and-true shorthand for a poor performance on offense. The Crew do something a little worse: they don’t really consciously play the final ball, but seem to just kind of whack it in – a little blindly, even.* The pity is, they play some gorgeous stuff to get it up there – and this isn’t just Schelotto – which I take to mean the Crew know how to set up the attack. It’s just sealing the deal where they struggle.
Guille & Gaven*: Do follow the asterisks, people, because they’re important. They asterisk in the above bullet point, which appears on the end of “a little blindly even”, is meant to exclude a couple players – in this case, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Eddie Gaven. I’ve flagged this distinction before – e.g. the one about the value top-drawer overseas players bringing unique value over domestic players – but believe a different dynamic either exists, or can exist, between Gaven and Schelotto. Both players see and can play the same kind of killer ball: the main difference is Schelotto can do this many times a game and within a second, while Gaven only does it several and provided space. The point is Gaven has the brain and a fair chunk of the technique to make these passes; these aren’t the lessons he needs. He needs to learn techniques for finding space and shielding the ball, along with quicker decision-making – and, yeah, that little bit of technical ability – to become a much, much better player. We always talk about finding the “great American player” and I think Gaven has the ability to become a player similar to Schelotto. The trick is making these things instinct, getting the mental/physical processes into our players’ bones. I don’t know how to do this either, but think using a guys like Schelotto as mentors for guys like Gaven is one way to skin that cat.
Well…that wasn’t all that short now, was it?