CCC08: Done, Dusted…and Ugly…just Ugly

Well, that sucks.  As any who cares by now knows, both of Major League Soccer’s representatives in the CONCACAF Champions Cup have exited the tournament, the Houston Dynamo with a whimper, while DC United went down with fists flying…well, judging by the scoreline at least; I didn’t see the DC game.

Being pressed for time today, I’ll have Jeff Carlisle’s double-bubble wrap on both semifinal series speak for the full record.  The comments below, a genuine post-mortem of sorts as opposed to yesterday’s gloomy prognostications, will be 1) brief, and 2) directed solely to Houston’s loss.  Nice picture, yes?

Deportivo Saprissa 3-0 Houston Dynamo: Ban Artificial Turf
That title should inform all that I intend to eat my sour grapes.  Saprissa’s stadium is a shitbox.  OK, that’s not right.  The stadium actually looks pretty awesome with the stands stacked over the field and so on; the field itself doesn’t look bad, either.  It’s the turf that sucks, sucks, sucks.  Watching Houston over-hit one pass after the other – a malady that played its most fateful role when Dynamo players got excited about an opening upfield – leads me to call for a ban on artificial turf (not seriously, no, but I do hate it).  It’s like Home-Field Advantage-Plus (H-FAP?).  If I had to name an iconic image from the game, it would be Dwayne DeRosario desperately chasing the ball through a seam he slit through Saprissa’s midfield; if memory serves, he caught that damn ball all of once.  Houston simply never got it going, not anywhere near where they had to.  They played the ball forward often enough, but their attack looked positively Columbus-esque in terms of menace.

None of this is intended to excuse Houston.  They had two legs, the first of them on favorable ground and featuring multiple opportunities.  Houston blew every one of them by the end of the first leg, leaving the far harder task of winning on the crap-factory field.

Getting back to the whole “ugly” notion, that first goal was uglier than the guy up top.  The second one, while a little better…still ugly.  By the time the third rolled in, depression rendered me unable to appreciate aesthetics; if anything, the goal looked like dull pain.  Feel free to add your thoughts below.

Well, that’s a wrap…I guess.  It sucks to type it, but…better luck this fall…dammit.  To think things looked so promising on March 31…

CCCO8 Semis: Strategery Before the Second Leg

I think that sums it up nicely.

The general mood of optimism going into the CONCACAF Champions Cup semifinals renders the funk looming over the second leg all the more blue. I’ll be surprised – and, for the record, damned happy – if either DC United or the Houston Dynamo make the final. It’d be one thing if only a handful, or even half, the pundits I read shared my view, but even the bigs ( and Soccer America) put out previews with a funereal, almost post-mortem tone – e.g. it’s more lessons learned for the next go-around than what to do about tonight.

One can even find such talk out of the proverbial horse’s mouth:

“’I was thinking about that while I was watching the [Pachuca-D.C.] game the other night, and boy, we’ve got to do better,’ said MLS commissioner Don Garber. ‘For this league to win over the core audience, we’ve got to be able to be among the best clubs in North America.’”

Fortunately, the future is not now…or, rather, it better not be because there’s not a lot anyone besides Houston and DC can do today to get the MLS clubs through (well, there’s the ref, I suppose…).

So, to throw out a question before (briefly) digging into some thoughts and details, which club would you rather be coaching today? Or, more practically, if you had to put money on DC or Houston to overcome the odds and advance to the final, which would it be?

My answer will appear at the bottom and after the jump; for now, here are some thoughts kicking around in my head these few hours before kick-off. Continue reading