10 Bright Spots of Week 3: A Different Becks and A Good Weekend to Have a Keeper

BIGSOCCER: 10 Bright Spots of Week 3

1. Kyle Beckerman

Someone pinch this guy. Two goals, one a possible goal of the week, against a revamped D.C. United squad that looked helpless at the machinations of a fluid RSL attack. Beckerman was overwhelmingly the reason for that. He won balls in the midfield, showed near-perfect passing abilities, and never let up. Let’s not forget his long range shooting. Beckerman’s second goal was brilliant…Findley laid the ball off after posting up in the penalty box, Beckerman took a field goal’s three steps and fired a shot that powered past the flailing Jose Carvallo.

2. Arturo Alvarez

Alvarez gave RBNY a taste of their own medicine in a 2-0 shutout at home. He mirrored Dave van den Bergh, who scored the fastest goal in RBNY history in last week’s home opener – a 2-0 win over Columbus. Alvarez showed poise, blazing speed, and a general lack of respect for a fumbling New York backline. New York showed most of the attacking prowess, but Alvarez made his contributions count, scoring that quick goal and taking a lot of pressure off of big-man Kenny Cooper, who was able to grab his third of the young season.

3. Bouna Coundoul

Easily, save of the week and game of the week for the Colorado keeper. Coundoul weathered a storm of Revolution shots, 9 on goal total, to help Colorado to a 1-0 shutout. His goal line saver on Kenny Mansally was the most entertaining of the bunch, but Coundoul kept the Rapids from another Kansas City let down. The Revs almost found their equalizer late but it was Bouna time and he embraced it, parrying away a late free kick and a breakaway from rookie speedster Kheli Dube. 

4. Robbie Rogers

First this game made me dizzy. Secondly, Rogers exploits on the wing made me harken back to the U-20 World Cup when Zizzo and Rogers ruled the touchline. His industrious work on the left almost went unrewarded until he received a nice through ball from Schelloto (one they had been trying to get to work all game). Rogers made the most of it, feigning a shot to the far post and firing near. His second shot was a product of gasp! – a mistake on Brad Guzan’s part! – but his decision to shoot early threw last year’s MLS Keeper of the Year for a loop. Best game of the weekend… 

5. Landon Donovan

If Donovan had put some earlier chances in (turn your body, Landon, turn your body), the Galaxy might have overcome their defensive mishaps. He did however manage to score both of LA’s goals which was pissed all away after Greg Vanney decided to forget about Jeff Cunningham on the game-winning goal. I like him in the Galaxy’s offense this year and I see only a career year for him – if he stays healthy and Beckham too.

6. Maurice Edu

The man called for goals and he got them. Wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Edu covering every inch of the field like a madman. He was everywhere, winning balls, breaking up Galaxy advances, and giving new acquisitions Guevara and Robert the freedom to move with the ball. The Galaxy should have probably still won that game, but Edu delivered on his promise of a win and goals. And they did it in Los Angeles… 

7. Nick LaBrocca

Why not give #7 to the man from New Jersey who has “graduated” from the Colorado reserves and embraced his role in the Rapids midfield. Between LaBrocca and DiRaimondo, scrappy might describe both of them but when you have Gomez (let’s remember the Argentinian had to leave the field this weekend with a knee injury) in front of them, winning challenges and distribution is the name of the game. LaBrocca grabbed the winner for Colorado over a New England team that was putting a lot of pressure on Colorado offensively. Scrappy can win games though and Colorado came away with three.

8. Shea Salinas

Yep, along with #10, you’ll see two pity picks in this week’s Bright Spots. Salinas was the perfect injection for San Jose in the second half against Chicago and it almost paid off. Almost. He worked his ass off on the wing, getting open consistently, and finding himself in the right place at the right time…but he couldn’t convert. Most noticably from 2 yards out. A deflection off the post fell right to his feet and all Salinas had to do was beat Jon Busch far post, but instead he tried to slot over the sprawling Busch and into the upper corner. Didn’t work, he skied it, and that was that…win for Chicago. Great stuff from a rookie though…look for him to get better and better.

9. Jon Busch

San Jose had the offensive edge at home but Busch made it look the other way around. Saved by the post and only really threatened with shots that were a bit manageable, Busch has proven already that he can be the first team keeper that the Fire desperately need this year. It’s clear some defensive issues are going to need to be worked out, but Chicago still sits at the top of the table with Blanco already poised to surpass his output from last year.

10. Tony Caig

I know, I know…most of you are saying no way to this pick. This guy had a terrible showing in his first two matches only to come back this weekend and shut out a prolific Kansas City attack. The Wizards have been caught on a bit of a downturn in form, but Caig held his own. Basically, this is a pity pick.

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Bob: Commence the Experiment

A couple people are posting the U.S. roster that was called in to play Mexico this Wednesday – and at least one person is playing “the roster game” (and having a couple bites at as he does it). On the other side of the affair, Sideline Views’ Luis Bueno listed Mexico’s traveling party and added some analysis for good measure. Much like Luis, I think the Mexican roster looks pretty solid – as in, a whole lot like an A-Team…or maybe that’s just what I think when I recognize many of the names on a Mexican roster.

So, to kill some time on a slow Sunday (the Super what now?), I thought I’d take some time on the question of who should we play against this bunch. Given my present state of, um, underwhelmedness regarding the significance of the result itself, I’m still advocating on-field experimentation. And, in the event we do lose, we can adopt the Mexican tactic of blaming the loss on such externals.

So, below, I’ll trot out the starting XI I’d like to Bradley trot out on Wednesday…and I do so knowing this is not the line-up we’ll see. Before naming names, I should confess I tend to favor 4-4-2’s for perhaps the dumbest reason: I’ve played as a defender in my share of 3-5-2’s and I just hate how exposed I feel back there…absolutely prejudiced me against that formation. What can I say? I view myself as a midfielder…in spite of the few seconds I’ve received on that opinion from the various coaches I’ve had.

Enough preliminaries…here it is: Continue reading

U.S. 2-0 Sweden: Our Depth Beat Their Depth

There was a lot to like about this game. Seriously. Fox Soccer Channel commentator Christopher Sullivan griped at the end about a certain lack of artistry, but anyone who tuned in saw a good, fairly even, pretty up-tempo game. And, better still, the U.S. Men’s National Team (Yanquis) flat won; they gave away fewer chances and played the better game. This is Sweden, mind, not elite, but definitely “real Europe,” even if it wasn’t their first team. That doesn’t matter because that wasn’t our first team either. Sweden’s first team might beat our first team 6 or 7 times out of 10, but the gap is closing – at least that’s what I pick up from watching our B-Team out-play, even out-think, the Swedes B-Team.

The Yanquis did well enough that it’s hard to find sincere fault with anyone’s game – though it’s not like I’m not going to try below. As for the Swedes, well, they settled for average; at times, I thought the game looked like a circa-1996 Sweden v. USA, but with the roles reversed. I can recall one tactically inspired move from Sweden, an overlapping cross-field run that totally isolated Ramiro Corrales on the U.S. left. But one move by the U.S. best illustrates the differences in inventiveness: Pat Noonan broke in on the left, dished to Landon Donovan and continued his run; Donovan holds for a bit, then pokes the ball into Noonan, who taps a lay-off that nearly resulted in a shot; it was all fast, short passes, the Americans trying to pick their way through Sweden rather than hoofing toward space and crossing. No, neither move ended with a goal – in fact, both U.S. goals came off something perilously close to slop – but the Swedes never matched the savvy and understanding on display in the U.S. move. Hell, we almost played “street-ball” right there.

In any case, I’ve got the notes to blab, blab, blab. But I’ll spare all y’all from that and bang out some player ratings – e.g. the refuge of a blogger who can’t figure out a structure for his talking points. Enjoy. Continue reading

To the Superdraft! …and better days ahead…

Like Laurie over on the LA Galaxy Offside, I really, really want to dig into whole upcoming Superdraft explosion, but….well, here I am some considerable yet unknown number of days after Buzz Carrick posted the first of his Superdraft scouting series for ESPN (goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders; forwards are pending) and I’ve still got nuthin’. With all the little links poised on my little on-screen post-it I figure it’s time to just bang out something or those things will wait till my computer goes obsolete several times over.

Now, in real terms, if you want to get smart, read Buzz’s stuff. I have only one thing to add to that data-dump: a half-baked stew of loosey-goosey research with a dash of, possibly, dodgy memory. Here goes:

If I’m not mistaken, most people viewed the 2007 Superdraft class as a little underwhelming, at least up until and immediately after the selections; that’s the memory piece. The research component came with looking over the 2007 draft – still helpfully hanging around MLSnet.com – and here’s what strikes me: some steady starters came out of the top 10, guys like Maurice Edu, Wells Thompson, and Michael Harrington. Keep traveling down the list and the names – Robbie Findley, Ty Harden, Corrie Ashe – keep coming. Hell, you can go all the way to #48 and you’ll still see a player who hung something on the right side of tough in the Rookie of the Year polling: Adam Cristman. Dane Richards, one of the hottest players of 2007, came out of this bunch.

Assuming I’m remembering the pre- and post-Superdraft chatter correctly, all those players came out of Superdraft that was widely regarded as weak. Still, 20 of the 52 players listed picked up some minutes and, at a minimum, 14 played major minutes for their new clubs. And, if I’m correctly recalling the chatter heading into the 2008 Superdraft, the smart set views this as a stronger class; Carrick certainly speaks well of the draft pool for defenders, even if he’s less jazzed about the options at midfield and at ‘keeper; maybe the forwards will be super-hot…I don’t know these things.

So, what am I saying? Get excited, people! The fresh blood smells sweet! Woo-hoo! Woo! Woo. Woo…um…

The problem is, that isn’t working for me. I just think I’m more visual, that I have to see a player before I know what to think about them. In other words, I need games – real ones, ideally, but it takes a stupid beggar to spite a penny. I expect the off-season funk will continue till March. Yeah, March. Things will look better in the lamb/lion season, when those pre-season friendlies and tournaments get started. Then I’ll know what to make of some of the new kids who come through the draft. Ah, who knows…maybe I’ll find some solace in February.

EPL Daily 12.12: Maurice Edu abroad!?; Capello done…; Gerrard burgled

Fabio Capello – England’s next skipper. Eurosport says it’s as close as you can get to done. BBC Sport is saying the talks are just beginning. Even Ruud Gullit has thrown in his two cents, saying that the Italian could really make a big impact on English football as long as you don’t expect “sexy football”. The English playing “sexy football”, Ruud? HAH!

No real proof as of yet, but the Maurice Edu to Aston Villa rumors are back!! First, the Daily Mirror (crap). Second, Vital Football. It’s picking up steam, but Martin O’Neill has yet to confirm.

Steven Gerrard joins the list of 6 other Liverpool footballers that have been burgled in the past 18 months. His house was hit while he was in France destroying Marseille. Others? Crouch, Dudek, Agger, Kuyt, Reina. Scary part is, Gerrard’s wife was home at the time – first time someone has been in the house. Lucky no confrontation was involved.

Aston Villa defensive stalwart Olaf Mellberg is ready to snub Martin O’Neill and join Juventus. His contract is up in the summer and pre-contract talks can happen in the January transfer window. His thoughts? “Juventus? I can’t deny it.” Well put. Mellberg’s loss could present some sort of mass defensive exodus as Wilfried Bouma, keeper Thomas Sorensen, and Martin Laursen all are awaiting contract talks but could certainly opt for other opportunities as many will be in line to snatch them up.