DC Goes Home: Thank You, Mr Simms.

A lot happened in the final 30 of the Chicago Fire’s tighter-than-a-preacher’s-butt win over DC United – as much as the game as I caught after getting home from work, picking up the kids, feeding the kids, etc. While that shortened viewing time limits my ability to speak to big concepts like Justice (upper-case? oh yeah), I can at least speak to the Justice of the last 30.On that score, it’s a wash: referee Jair Marrufo didn’t call a penalty when DC ‘keep Troy Perkins fouled Calen Carr just inside DC’s area, but he also caught a tricky one when Christian Gomez nudged the ball with his left arm with what, for all the world, looked like the DC’s series equalizer. As for the rest, Marrufo might have missed some calls against Cuauhtemoc Blanco – though that serves the bastard right for going down easy as he does often as he does – and he overreacted by sending off Rod Dyachenko at the death, but, fortunately, the ref didn’t turn this game in a meaningful way…at least not that I saw.

But the really amazing thing about this one was the 180 change in tone from the time I started watching to the end of the game. When I tuned in, DC’s body language whimpered “beaten.” The thing of beauty that Clyde Simms knocked into Chicago’s net more than changed the mood, it reminded DC of who they were: the best team in Major League Soccer. From that goal forward, DC piled on 20 minutes of non-stop hurt and pressure – until they finally, and almost invisibly, petered out somewhere between the 88th and 92nd minute. The way I figure it, Clyde Simms’ teammates owe him a pint for every minute of that short life.

Fluky as DC’s in-game equalizer proved to be, the moment I thought they’d clawed back came with a gorgeous one-two that played Christian Gomez in on Chicago’s left; with him behind the defense and a tie on the aggregate seemingly seconds away, it looked like overtime at least. Instead, things wound up as it seemed they would when Chicago was up three goals on aggregate.

Getting back to the notion of what turned this game, I did see something in the highlights from before I tuned in: what looked an awful lot like the wrenching defensive lapses that have killed DC United time and again. As well as Chad Barrett and Chris Rolfe took their goals, the shitty thing for DC fans is that both players barreled into the area facing goal and with no one on their backs. It’s like the definition of insanity, those lapses, and I can’t believe that DC won’t focus on correcting the defensive problem between now and the 2008 season instead of, again, bringing in still more offensive ringers. The latter look prettier, but the defensive problem is like a cancer.

Over the course of the season, I’ve seen the notion that there are no moral victories pop up a couple times on DC fan sites. I suspect we’ll see some of that tonight and tomorrow. Even if I wasn’t pulling for DC (no, not remotely), their team turned in something special tonight, the kind of passion on the field that keeps all of us watching the game. I don’t so much expect DC fans to find solace in that, as I would hope they’d appreciate the pride their team showed in fighting back from what looked a lot like a state of beat-down death.

As for Chicago, who I managed to almost completely ignore in this narrative (so what? they’ll be back), I’m guessing they’re looking at each other in the locker room right around now and, with a quick exchange of glances, acknowledging they just walked out of a war zone. They don’t get closer than tonight very often. Matt Perkins, among others, won’t sleep soundly tonight.

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Ha ha ha ha ha!!

Given I’m the MLS guy on this blog, you probably know what I’m laughing about.

Not to kick Red Bull fans while they’re suffering, but it’s the fact I half-saw this coming that makes me find Red Bull New York’s loss to lowly Toronto FC so funny (from yesterday’s collective rankings): “[Red Bull] didn’t suffer much for last weekend’s draw to RSL (much like they won’t suffer much tonight when they draw at TFC).”  It wasn’t the specific result I felt coming, but that Red Bull would somehow screw up that which seemingly could not be screwed.

And, lordy, how did they screw it!  Chris Leitch’s wonderful finish into his own goal approached Platonic idealism for the essential concept of “mistake.”

It seems important to mention I didn’t see so much as a second of this game till I caught the highlights minutes ago.  It’s possible, even, that Red Bull played Toronto off the park, but the final score tells the relevant story in the end, especially as we approach the playoffs.  For all the love for Angel and Altidore, for Dane Richards’ speed wunnerful, wunnerful speed, for all the shining promise of Red Bull’s incredible start, the hard reality is observers don’t believe in this team – and for good reason.

That’s it from me.  I welcome more informed views on the game down below.

Revs Break Duck Over Dallas’ Heart

It wasn’t till Taylor Twellman’s post-game interview, when he smiled about seeing “Rally” (Steve Ralston) and “Heapsy” (Jay Heaps) in the first flush of final victory the New England Revolution had ever known, that real contentment about the state of things filtered in. Even if a sprinkling of New England fans made the trip to Frisco to share the moment, trophy ceremonies in disinterested, or even hostile, environments lack for the due fullness of joy. But calm, happy expression on Twellman’s face and the realization that Ralston, Major League Soccer’s (MLS) answer to Cal Ripken Jr., would collect at least trophy in his relentless career bridged the gap between what I hoped to see and what I got. Call it the difference between a cozy little wedding and a drunken tear through a Vegas chapel: both can make you happy, but one is definitely more fun.

As for FC Dallas, it’s something more than there being no joy in Frisco. A suicide watch might be in order.

In practical terms, I caught about 65 uninterrupted minutes, I saw three goals scored, heard the noise that attended the other and caught the replay, and still have no clue how New England scored their third, or who did the scoring. My apartment building – God bless it and the nuts who live there – was evacuated when the fire alarm went off, something that happens way more often than it should. Based on as much of the game as I saw, though, the story line going in held up – e.g. the Dallas’ defense would sabotage their offense. And thinking of that defense only reinforces all the questions about why a team desperately in need of defensive solidity went and bought a circus animal named Denilson.

The Dallas defense committed something worse than sabotage, really – at least where the two New England goals I saw were concerned; we’re talking Rube Goldberg goals, improbable progressions of events concluding with finishes so easy you’re almost willing to buy the mouse-trap. I’m wondering whether Steve Morrow even bothered yelling at his defenders; after all, what would Dallas’ defenders learn from abuse what they don’t already know? What’s the sense of piling pain on top of humiliation?

The real tragedy is one glorious goal the Dallas’ defense canceled out. When Arturo Alvarez picked up the ball on the touch-line near the cameras, you knew something good would follow. But something better still came as Alvarez rushed toward the Revolution goal and launched a shot past Matt Reis that defied centuries old laws of geometry. After pulling that one out of the top drawer, I’m betting Alvarez had the sadly sparse Dallas crowd on its feet when, a few minutes later, he took off on a run straight through New England’s center. That Alvarez enterprising wizardry came up just short typified Dallas’ night: good, but painfully short of good enough.

Getting back to New England, even as they didn’t look so special at any time I watched, I got to wondering about what this win will do to the Revs’ still-live bid for MLS Cup. Even with everyone pointing to DC United and Houston, or even a Chivas USA team that seems to be fading, the prospect that anyone watching had just watched a kind of exorcism occurred to me. What kind of a lift could New England get from this?

Well, that’s me waxing poetic. I had a couple nuts-n-bolts points to pass on in the form of player ratings – though with a little twist. It occurs to me that when a given player turns in an unremarkable performance, it makes sense to not remark upon it. With that in mind, I started writing down the names of people and/or entities that did bear pointing out. Here’s that little role call: Continue reading

FC Dallas 1-1 Chicago: Good Game*…um…Offside Equalizer?

(* This asterisk is meant to indicate I caught only about 25 minutes of the second half, but I’m assured by trustworthy parties that this was a good game.)

(UPDATE: Future readers of this post should check the comments.  Hats off to Tim for suggesting a method of checking for offside.  The present position of this page: Carlos Ruiz was, in fact, on side.)

The bomb of a goal Chris Rolfe produced to give the Chicago Fire the lead over FC Dallas will probably be what most people remember about last night’s game; it truly was something.

But having watched the video clip currently pasted on MLSnet.com’s front page about six times now, count me very surprised that another talking point is, at time of writing, nowhere to be seen. (Memo to readers from the future: that front page highlights will, no doubt, be long gone by Saturday, so you’ll have to pop over to the archived video; P.S. do you have flying cars yet? Do you eat food from tubes?). That talking point: um, wasn’t Carlos Ruiz offside when Clarence Goodson knocked on his assist? Apart from watching the video six times, I have repeatedly frozen the image at the crucial moment (right around the, um, “latter half” of the 20th second of that front-page video clip) and feel pretty comfortable saying Ruiz looked more than a step or two offside. In fact, if you listen closely to the audio I think you can hear Eric Wynalda start to say something, only to drowned out by Glenn Davis’ excited shouting.

Then again, I would feel pretty comfortable in thinking Ruiz was offside if it weren’t for the fact that none of the reports I’ve read so far makes any mention of it (LINK, LINK, LINK). I’m checking players’ quotes and I focused on the Chicago media, on the theory they’d be the more aggrieved, but I’m just getting disappointment at the tie – from both teams, for the record. I’m about to wander to Chicago’s corner of BigSoccer, an act that can only mean I’m desperate for some kind of confirmation of what I saw…or, rather, what I think I saw….dang it. Well, here’s the place I expected to see something and…nope. Nothing. It’s not an easy call by any means, but it’s something you can see in slow-motion – Ruiz is out front and the defense keeps running back with the ball – but, dang, he really looks offside.

Anyway, don’t get me wrong: I prefer the outcome as is: it keeps Columbus in it (my pity-crush) and I have that soft spot for Dallas. And, yeah, it was a good game, good pace, lots to like about this one. Looking forward to the weekend.