New England v. Chicago Preview (All Right, All Right; I’ll Do It)

I’m about to do something I almost never do: preview a game, namely, the Eastern Conference Final pitting the New England Revolution against the Chicago Fire. For the record, I blame the quality stuff other people are turning out. Even MLSnet.com’s typically tepid preview contains a vital information-nugget: Shalrie Joseph will have to sit out the final if he picks up a yellow in the semifinal. That’s pretty big, bigger than Taylor Twellman being in the same situation to be sure. I also learned that Kevin Stott will officiate…though I can’t remember whether I have an opinion on him or not.

Before getting to my thoughts, here are the other “inspirations” that got me thinking too much about tomorrow night’s game. Ives Galarcep turned in pre-game analysis for ESPN that hits plenty of useful highlights, most notably the potentially defining match-up between Joseph and Cuauhtemoc Blanco – more on this later from me. A couple people took up the rivalry thing: Blue Blooded Journo conducted a Q & A with himself in which he looks into everything from Chicago’s fans to the horror that is Blanco’s face…Chicago fans may want to skip that one. Finally, even though Luis Arroyave failed to get “bulletin board material” out of either side of the rivalry, he passed on an absolutely brilliant alleged quote from Clint Dempsey:

Just last year, a scuffle nearly broke out in the Toyota Park tunnel with Fire defender Gonzalo Segares and ex-Revolution midfielder Clint Dempsey. Sources said Dempsey yelled ‘I don’t care–take me to jail’ as teammates tried to restrain him.”

I’ll be asking for a t-shirt for Christmas, along with another inspired by Britney Spears (credit to Ann Romano from the Portland Mercury): “Rehab Is Hard Y’all.”

Now, for my look ahead to Those Things That Will Loom Large in tomorrow night’s game. Continue reading

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Red Bull Loses, Wins: Hide the Children

There are ugly wins. Then there’s the win the New England Revolution picked up against Red Bull New York. The Revs will take this home – albeit like a dog covered with a mystery rash requiring a long, long course of lubing with topical ointments, I doubt they’ll be showing it off.

As the title implies the Red Bull did this to themselves: between helter-skelter defending and losing the beat to the possession game that had them looking the better team in the first half, Red Bull ceded the initiative and hung too close to the ropes. Bizarrely, though, the coup de grace came with a wild throw from one of their own: a thumping back-pass from Carlos Mendes to Jon Conway, who, unbeknownst to his teammates, was sleep-walking.

Things looked nearly as ugly on the other side of the ball. With New England playing like they were – the usual mixture of hard-running, hand-grenade quality passing (e.g. close enough), and scrapping after every 50/50 – the telling mistake was always going to come from a Red Bull blunder; the only surprise came with the great, whopping, even stomach-turning aspect of the thing.

For the record, I watched this game in the morning, when the Insanity Juice is safely locked in the fridge. So, my notes should read a little more literally. Here goes: Continue reading

Revs Top KC: Pretty as Building a Suburb

Keeping score during the Beckham Challenge (intro/results)kind of turned me on the idea of taking notes during the games I watch. I tried it again during New England’s narrow (and dull) win over the Kansas City Wizards – one of several games that tweaked the meaning of the week’s power rankings. I’ll reproduce those below (and amend them; look for the parentheses), afer this brief interruption.

I finally figured out why MLSlive.tv, which has no real business working, um, works pretty well. Sure, there’s that teeny-tiny little screen, but what appears in that space approximates the visual scale of what one sees live – e.g. the players’ apparent size roughly matches their scale from fairly decent seats at a live game. In other words, so long as the feed works – i.e. absent any hiccups – it’s a decent, if circumscribed view of the action. So…way to go there.

Now, to the game…the discussion of which begins with what came to me around the 88th minute.

I like KC, but think they’re missing something. They seem kind of soft and small – so I guess it’s “steel” or balls they’re missing. Against that, New England has to be hard to play; so physical and big. KC plays this pretty version of the game (looking for quick combinations, playing up the middle, generally “keeping it positive,” etc.) as if they didn’t share the league with assholes like the Revs. They are, of course, and that’s why they lost – and not just last night. What happened out there shows the distinction between losing a game and getting beat. New England just kind of muscles around the field, knocking people down, going in for every 50/50. It’s not dirty (at least not always), but it’s hard as hell. So, narrow as the loss is, you know the players have aggravating knocks and bruises, all of them reminders of the loss.

In a related note, this gets at why I struggle to be a New England fan (and still I am; I cheered for the goal…pity my soul). Assholes are great when they’re losers – lovable, scrappy underdogs and all that. But they really suck when they’re on the cusp of being winners. It means asshole-ism wins.

Moving on, now, to the actual as-they-happened game notes: Continue reading