MLS Cup Preview: Dynamo’s O versus Revs’ D

Welcome to this, my last MLS Cup preview, where I’ll turn my (divided) attention to how the Houston Dynamo’s offense matches up with the New England Revolution defense.  I’m burning out ever so slightly on this project, less because it doesn’t interest me than it only feels like more blah-blah-blahing as we get closer to the point where all the talk becomes immediately irrelevant – e.g. kick off.  On the upside, this will be my shortest selection…I hope.

Before getting into my copy, I want to flag Allen Hopkins’ (exceedingly lazy) column for ESPN, the one where he turns over his space to an anonymous player and coach and has them breakdown the game (nice work if you can find it).  At any rate, that both seem to favor New England is only the most curious part of an interesting read.

But that’s there stuff.  Here mine…which, not surprisingly low-balls the Revs’ chances: Continue reading

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Revs v. Dynamo: First Preview of Four (on the Way to Brainwashing); The ‘Keepers

I’m putting the Daily Sweeper on hiatus for the remainder of this, Championship Weekend, in order to truly obsess over the upcoming MLS Cup Final. Said obsession includes plans to not only dissect the teams to the point of creating a bloody mess, but also to:

1) convince myself that the New England Revolution can, in fact, win the game.
2) push myself into a game-time frenzy powerful enough to scare my children.

Now, the obvious sub-text of #1 is that I expect the Houston Dynamo will leave RFK’s cold/soggy/cold-soggy field as the 2007 Champions of Major League Soccer (MLS). (NOTE: THIS IS NOT A FORMAL PREDICTION AND IN NO WAY REPRESENTS MY WAGER FOR THE FINAL INSTALLMENT OF THE CENTER HOLDS IT/WHO ATE ALL THE CUPCAKES PLAYOFF PICK DUEL.) Perhaps all those caps aren’t necessary, though, since the text of #1 clearly points to an intention to arrange my mental space and, hence, my wagering around a New England Revolution win…I’m just not sure I’m ever going to get there.

Anyway, getting back to the plans for the weak, I plan to build the week’s posts around a four-day breakdown of components from both teams that will face each other on the field – e.g. the Dynamo defense versus the Revolution’s offense; the Revolution’s defense against the Dynamo’s offense, etc. Today will begin with a very brief, gut-reaction overview of the match-up, followed by an equally brief analysis of the on-field, essentially indirect positional showdown between the ‘keepers. One last thing: I invite anyone out there to drop their thoughts on the match up – whatever they happen to be and whether they’re on topic or not – into the comments. I’m especially looking for the insights of “interested parties” – here, I’m thinking of Martek and Jimmy Chowda.

That said, here come my two cents: Continue reading

Eastern Conf. Final: Reputations Polished and Dented

Is that all there is? The New England Revolution beats the Chicago Fire, who beats DC United? Will it take the revival of Kansas City, or the arrival of Red Bull New York, or – god forbid – the Columbus Crew to confound this predictable procession? Lord, I hope not, because the status quo sure looks set to hold for a damned long while.

Not that I’m complaining – writing, after all, as a Revs fan – or not that I don’t think New England deserved to win. Truth be told, the Revs played as well last night as they have all year, smartly ceding possession to Chicago where it couldn’t hurt them and clamping down like a pit bull where it mattered on defense and creating space and possession in the attacking third. If there’s a complaint to level against them, it’s that they were a little slow to fire into half-openings; worse, when gifted a couple glorious openings, key, veteran players – Steve Ralston and Shalrie Joseph – fired embarrassingly high and appallingly wide.

Of course, the offense – or, rather, Taylor Twellman – got it together the one time required, scoring off a bicycle kick that, even in real time, somehow developed in slow-motion; with the ball arching in the cold air, Twellman squared his body with his back to the goal, while Dasan Robinson and (was it?) C. J. Brown quickly closed the space until there was nothing much wider than a foot’s width opening through which to strike. Twellman’s foot squeezed through, the ball bounced into the corner of Matt Pickens’ goal, and that, though we sensed it more than knew it at the time, was the end. From there, the entire team scrapped all over the field to make that lone goal stand up.

In fact, the Revolution looked more like scoring a second than Chicago looked like scoring a first. What Chicago didn’t miss, Matt Reis swallowed up. Worse, things too rarely reached that point. Chicago’s forwards struggled in particular: Chad Barrett by bolting aimlessly around and Paulo Wanchope by lumbering a step or two behind every play. New England shut off supply by shutting down Blanco and Rolfe, the latter of whom the Revs abused just shy of illegality. Referee Kevin Stott admirably let the teams play, but, in what had to be one of the greater surprises of the night, both teams played a fairly clean game, leaving Stott little cause to wave around cards; maybe yellow card trouble isn’t always a bad thing.

For my money, two things, one avoidable, the other not, sunk Chicago. First, the unavoidable piece: their most effective players on the night – Gonzalo Segares and Wilman Conde – played too far back and had too many defensive responsibilities to help with the attack. As for the avoidable, that came with choices of personnel and substitution: subbing Barrett, whose sheer effort may have produced something eventually, didn’t add up, nor did introducing Calen Carr with only minutes remaining. But, to return to something I commented on last night, the biggest problem came in the personnel department: starting Wanchope can be excused, but leaving him on at least 45 minutes too long cannot. And, of course, Justin Mapp finally came on the field for the Fire, but a visible disconnect between him and the rest of the team came with him. Continue reading

Daily Sweeper, 09.10: My Issue with Women’s Game, Philly Looking Good, The Revs’ Problem, More U.S. v. Brazil (much more)

– To lead with my quibble against women’s soccer: Germany 11-0 Argentina. I have absolutely no problem with watching women’s soccer, but would prefer to watch a game as opposed to ritual slaughter.

– Wake Philly fans up when December comes?  It’s worth flagging the language people are using with regard to a potential stadium in Chester, PA (as well as who’s showing up to the events – e.g. MLS Commish Don Garber).  Everybody just seems so damn happy.

– Matt Reis speaks the truth – and his words apply not only to New England’s Sunday loss to DC United, but to the Revs in general:

“‘We didn’t keep possession, went straight to goal every time,’ Reis said. ‘With the formation (3-5-2), we had a numbers advantage in the midfield, but we ended up chasing the game, even with the lead.'”

I’ll go one better: I think this applies to U.S. soccer almost across the board.  A sense of urgency that borders on spazzing seems part of our game.

– Tucked toward the bottom of Ian Plenderleith’s wrap of Week 23‘s action, he touches on how the constituent members of this summer’s Argentine Invasion are coping with the change in soccer culture; it’s an interesting piece of anthropology, down to the stuff about Mauricio Taricco, who played in a totally separate time and place.

Contained in the same article is the unpleasant (for me) news that Week 24 starts on Wednesday.  Damn.  This totally throws my posting schedule.  At least that Wednesday game kinda sucks.

– Right.  Time to wrap up the day where it started – namely, with reactions to the U.S. Men’s loss to Brazil.  Why not start with the central take-away from the game delivered by Brazil’s Kaka (article):

“It was a tough game,” Kaka said. “They played well. I think they’re getting better.”

Me too, Kaka.  Me too.

Then again, opinion falls on both sides of that one.  Count Frank Dell’Appa the biggest dissenter from that view; I also think it’s fair to color Jen Chang unimpressed with everything but the U.S. Mens’ attitude.  Jon Burklo from the American Soccer Daily falls in among the mildest of dissenters – he comes closer to confusion and disappointment, though that’s mainly from a big-picture progress perspective.  On the happy side, you’ll find Ives Galarcep and Jonah Freedman, who leads with his own half-giddy disbelief.  Here’s the shocking thing: I think the best top-to-bottom report came through Sports Illustrated from the Associated Press. That’s always a little surprising.

After reading all that, I can’t say I’ve changed my mind much.  We did a little all right.  Nothing wrong with that.  I wasn’t expecting anything else.  More to the point, I wouldn’t have believed in a win had we secured one.

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