A Series of Questions…Answers, Please

I am, officially, going nucking futs in the other space, finally coming good on a concept I’ve wanted to try for a while.   Don’t count on it sticking around, though…I have a lousy record with such things.

What am I doing?  Posing a series of questions that came to me as I watched DC United fail to solve the ever-shifting riddle that was the Crew’s defense.  Rather than excerpt these, I’ll just post a title(-esque thingy; I’ll just say what it is I’m asking on the other side of the link….briefly) and let those so inclined click through.

– Was trading Alejandro Moreno the worst decision in the Houston Dynamo’s generally happy existence (e.g. not a lot of competition, there).

– Do DPs make us all look like rubes and yokels when they bust?

– Think ESPN’s broadcasts of MLS suck?  Too bad.  It’s not going to change anytime soon.

All righty, then.  I hope to get some answers or replies to those…but I’ll take insults…I guess.  But I am a wilting flower…

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MLS: ___(#) of _____(s) for Week ___

So…in some background chatter, I decided to work a concept similar to Breton’s “10 Bright Spots” posts – check out his latest entry from today. Originally, it was going to be “5 Black Eyes from Week ____,” – e.g. five bad performances, bad decisions, or instances of bad behavior – and it was intended to give the flipside to Breton’s posts. But when the time came to name names, I couldn’t quite nail down 5 black-eye-worthy items; three didn’t feel too bad, mind, but it ain’t five. Given that I decided to add a couple secondary concepts to the mix: talking points and minor mysteries. This may change next week – hence the blank-laden title – but I will get this concept nailed down by Week 5…promise.

Without further ado, here are four black eyes plus one point of interest for Major League Soccer’s Week 2:

1) Parkhurst’s Howling Thursday: I didn’t see the Chicago Fire run straight over the New England Revolution, but I saw enough in the highlights and read enough stray comments – though Lord only knows where – to believe the typically steady Michael Parkhurst suffered a fit of the horrors late last week. Can’t see a repeat happening…but what if it does? Continue reading

MLS Week 1 Collective Power Rankings: One for the Circular File

Here’s the word from the Semi-Detached Pundit Collective (SDPC): we have no frankin’ clue what’s going on. Well, that’s not entirely accurate: New England impressed all observers in the survey but one (3rd Degree) and there’s general agreement as to who are the three worst teams in Major League Soccer (MLS) – Toronto FC, the Los Angeles Galaxy, and the San Jose Earthquakes, and in that order.

After that, however, it’s a fuck…ing….train…wreck. Calling views on the MLS’s, um, “middle 10 teams” a mash of opinions constitutes an insult to a mash of opinions. We’re way past that. Between the diversity of methods, the several pundit outfits involved still trying to figure this stuff out, this project comes closer at present to having 11 people with no shared languages among them attempting a re-write of The Bible – and with a flock of angry, holy-roller partisans barking in all 11 scribes’ ears throughout.

Tempting as it is to throw the results into the circular file, let’s just dub the mess itself an accurate reflection of where things are after Week 1 of MLS’s 2008 season. In other words, no one knows what’s going on and there’s nothing wrong with that. It just means I have eleven sets of data for this week’s survey and they all tell me different things. Let me list those before moving on (and, again, if you see rankings out there that don’t appear down here, due point them out to me):

Center Holds It
(me)
Goal.com (Kyle McCarthy)
Orlando Sentinel (Brant Parsons)
Fullback Files (um…Fullback?)
Sideline Views (Luis Bueno)
Soccer By Ives (Ives Galarcep)
WVHooligan (Drew Epperley)
Blue Blooded Journo (a collective)
3rd Degree (Parrish Glover)
“Jason” (left his rankings in CHI comments; always welcome)
Fox Soccer Channel (Keith Costigan)

(UPDATE: Oh, the hat!  ESPN.com finally posted their Week 1 power rankings, so I thought I’d post ’em here, even if I’m not about to re-calculate (Bastards!  Do your homework on time!).  In case you’re not aware, ESPN.com also takes the collective approach to their rankings, so maybe that was the hold-up.  Anyway, a quick look at the numbers suggest that little, if anything, would have changed: maybe KC ties Chivas (you’ll see below), maybe DC and the Rapids flip-flop (again, very much doubt it), and maybe TFC would have wound up worse than LA…but with all of them pretty close, I don’t think the collective rankings would have moved.)

Now, onto the results: each team will be listed by rank and with their average score following the club’s name. To provide some perspective, the most common score(s) assigned to each team by the individual members of the collective will appear in parentheses after that, followed by the previous week’s ranking and average. The ranges we’re looking at for some teams are nothing short of absurd. I’ll close it all out by trying to squeeze some kind of sagacious observations out of the data-cluster-fuck.

Now, to the numbers: Continue reading

Houston 0-0 Saprissa: “Better Luck Next Year” Already?

In the end, the game itself disappointed as much as the final, goalless score. In spite of the healthy number of chances (duly recorded in Soccer America’s write-up) the entire affair felt a little flat – especially from the Houston Dynamo’s point of view. For what it’s worth, I credit Deportivo Saprissa with pacing this game – an ominous sign given what that meant last night and what it will mean on the return leg. Then again, perhaps the various intrusions into my viewing experience detached me from the game (I have to ask: how the hell did my ten-year-old beat my three-year-old in falling down the stairs?).

OK, new approach: I’m just going to name the first five – I dunno – notions, concepts, or….sensory impressions?…that pop in my head and assume they’re the most important items.

– DeRo, A Man Alone: Not quite that, but Dwayne DeRosario was one of two offensive players for Houston who looked remotely switched on; the other, Corey Ashe, continues to impress me – quite a bit, lately (and Pat Onstad played another beauty in goal). Maybe Houston’s offense is like an old Ford truck; maybe it can’t fire properly till it’s warmed up. Even missing critical players – here, I’m thinking Brad Davis and Brian Mullan – Houston worked the ball forward pretty well; they even found seams in Saprissa’s back-line. But, like a synapse firing sideways, a half-step separated ball-from-player and player-from-player nearly every time. Getting back to DeRosario, between setting chances with seeing-eye flicks and making runs at Saprissa’s goal, some of them desperately lonely, he served as the fulcrum for an attack that never quite came off. That was through no fault of his own; so far as I’m concerned, the rest of his side let him down. Especially… Continue reading

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.

CCC08: Semifinals Tonight, Tomorrow

I’m presently in negotiations with the wife about catching both semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup (no sex for how long, now?), but have kept and will keep as close a watch on the proceedings as I can. As such, a preview post of some sort seems appropriate…even if I’ll be doing more cribbing than original work. A schedule for the semifinals, who plays who when and where, shows on CONCACAF’s official site (tucked way down at the bottom of this)…even if current news too often does not…

CF Pachuca v. DC United (1st Leg; home team first)
(Tonight, FSC, 7 p.m. PST – so, yeah, 10 p.m. PST…wish I lived on the East Coast right now)
Unfortunately, I didn’t catch Pachuca’s escape from Honduras’ CD Motagua in the second leg of the quarterfinals, but know the Mexican team ain’t what it was as recently as one year ago. Still, count Steve Goff – or, looking between the copy and the headline, it’s more accurate to say the Post’s headline writer – among those who still believe DC has their work cut out. He’s mainly using history as the frame, but, as that article points out, DC has done a couple things, both big picture (roster changes) and small (resting people on Saturday; managing their arrival), to get up for this game. Soccer America’s preview goes into a little more detail personnel-wise – and good thing, so you know who you’re watching as well as what – but there’s not a lot about Pachuca’s relative slide since 2007. Here’s to hoping that’s an edge and that a result of some kind will follow. If, however, you want to get really depressed, just review the hard data passed on by Sideline Views…thanks for the smile, guys…

Houston Dynamo v. Deportivo Saprissa (same as above)
(April 2, FSC, 7 p.m. PST)
I never thought I’d type this, but, in spite of the fact they’re playing a Mexican squad, I like DC’s chances better. To begin – or to conclude, rather – Saprissa gets the second leg; given what I’ve read about the atmosphere down there, getting a result tomorrow night only grows in importance. Given that, nagging injury issues, players starting out of position (Brian Mullan: you should be farther upfield, son) and hints of indifference in crucial positions (cough…defense…cough, cough) certainly prompt some concern. Things like that need to be corrected yesterday; Jeff Carlisle, in his semifinal preview for ESPN.com, points to why:

“…their opponents, Costa Rican champions Saprissa, will be brimming with confidence. The ‘Monstruo Morado,’ fresh of their 2007 Apertura triumph, have been laying waste to their domestic league in the current Clausura tournament, sporting an unbeaten record that has seen them win nine of their 10 matches.”

As for direct observation, I saw a little of the Saprissa’s first leg, quarterfinal loss to Mexico’s Atlante FC, a game they played from the back-foot. Even then, however, they showed the ability to break quickly. Atlante contained this pretty well on the night I watched, but Saprissa ran them over 3-0 on the return leg. I dunno. Doubts about Houston’s “D” didn’t fully blossom until I got the full measure of how well and often Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi violated it this weekend; confidence, good or bad, carries over from such performances, so it’ll be up to Houston to get their heads back to frosty.

UPDATE: The Houston Chronicle provides word on the latest injuries for both teams – and, hey, it’s three a piece, 50/50.

Well, here’s to hoping I get to catch at least some of both games…without giving up too much…

GREAT OUTDOORS
– Haven’t been doing this lately and I miss it….unlike the Daily Sweeper. In light of the gap, I thought I’d pass on a video clip that has probably made the rounds dozens of times over. But – because key portions of my brain stopped developing around the second grade – I still absolutely shit my trousers every time I watch it. Enjoy.

MLS Week 1 Power Rankings – HA! (+ do post your own rankings)

I’m torn between two images for this first edition of the Major League Soccer power rankings. This one captures what rankings, oh, #2-14 look like to me:

This one, on the other hand, gets to how making each of those selections felt:

So, yeah, confidence is low, people, so low in fact that I put fairly little stock in what appears below; I blame the whole Week 1/too little information thing.

Rankings and jabbering aimed at justifying them appear after the jump. And, as always, the previous week’s ranking appears in parentheses after the current week’s rankings. This will go into the collective rankings – look for those Thursday – along with several others I have already found. Anyone is welcome to submit power rankings of their own into the comments (or to email them to me; jeffbull71[at]yahoo.com) and those will go into the collective mix as well.

Now….the rankings….accuracy, validity, hell, even intelligence, not guaranteed: Continue reading