FOOTBALLS ARE ROUND!

Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things


May 28, 2005

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: DC UNITED v DALLAS


by @ 9:38 pm.
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As he promised, Brad Sham used the phrase “The Football Club” three times during the opening segment of FSSW’s telecast. It sounded very good. Very good indeed. Brad is best known as the voice of the Dallas Cowboys (they play American football, I’m told), yet he brings a high level of professionalism to all his soccer work; attending practices, keeping current on personnel issues; he’s very much a man in the know. He does great work, and in my estimation, Brad is a soccer guy.

Brad and Dave Dir got into a discussion early on about Freddy Adu and Peter Nowak; they’ve been having problems getting along, if you believe the press (which I don’t, generally). They were discussing Brad’s 16-year-old and Dave’s U-20 team; Dir made the wry and diplomatic observation that kids that age tend to “have all the answers to life’s questions, no doubt.” Dave Dir bringin’ the funny. Gotta love it.

So, no EJ, no Vanney, no Mulrooney, no Talley. Other than that we’re in great shape (gulp). Good opportunity for the Young Guns to make their bones. Mina getting his first start, and Alvarez is in as well. Also, young Aaron Pitchkolan looking to keep his consecutive game scoring streak going. It now stands at one. Chris Gbandi needs to do a Gbang up job as well (sorry about that. It’s a disease and I can’t help myself).

Dirty dirty Dema is on the field. Unfortunately. Ronnie gave him a little elbow first time they hooked up. I hope he gives him more than that before the evening is over. Freddy gets a well deserved start as well. The way this kid has raised his game this season is very impressive.

On the subject of Freddy, everyone who doesn’t think Peter Nowak knows exactly what he’s doing with regards to that young man should get a grip on reality and shut up (IMG, I’m looking in your direction). Nowak went pro in his mid-teens. Nowak played at the highest levels. Nowak is a winner. Nowak has forgotten more about soccer than all of his critics combined. Shut up and let him run the team. Freddy couldn’t be in better hands.

There. I have spoken. The subject is closed.

What?

As I’ve said many times before, the Screaming Eagles and Barra Brava are the best fans in the country. The sound they’re producing gives the game a European style atmosphere. And, they make the stands shake; that’s undeniably cool.

Pretty even play in the first 20 minutes. Ruiz just got hacked and the ref didn’t even give him a second look. He apparently hasn’t gotten the memo about Carlos’s new outlook on diving since getting to Dallas. The DC folks are booing him roundly. Yet they cheer Dema. Life is strange, ain’t it?

Moments later, Alvarez breathes hard in Freddy’s direction and Mr. Valenzuela gives the foul. Uh-huh, yeah … riiiiight.

Hey this ain’t journalism folks, this is commentary. Objectivity is only a secondary consideration in this space. But even when I’m subjective, I’m right. Always. Okay, most of the time. All right . . . more often than not. Happy?

Mina just misses from distance; keep taking those shots, kid; early and often. I’m okay with that, aren’t you?

Clarence Goodson gets yellowed up. I usually like Mr. Valenzuela’s work, but he’s on my bad side tonight.

FC Dallas equipment manager Marcus Owens gets thrown out of the game for giving Mr. V a bit too much stick from the bench. Marcus, if we ever meet, the beer’s on me. Memo to Greg Elliott: Give that man a raise. Or at least a bonus.

Ronnie just tracked back about fifty yards to help Bobby Rhine, who got beat by Eskandarian. I love this guy. In a very manly and soccer-type sense, I love this man.

Alvarez just got booked too. I believe he may have neglected to bow before his tackle on Freddy.

It took a forearm to Ruiz’s neck for Mr. V to finally give a yellow card to someone on the DC roster. Boswell is a bit of a dema, it looks like (hey, I invented an adjective. I amaze myself sometimes).

Nil-nil at halftime. Good, entertaining game. It’s a tossup as to who has the advantage. Certainly neither side can claim anything approaching “momentum” going into the final 90 minutes. A road win would be glorious for us. It’s achievable; definitely achievable.

DIPSY SELOLWANE!! Carlos Ruiz just scored the goal of the year just three minutes into the second half.

Beautiful little chip from Mina on the right side of the box. Carlos does a ¾ overhead volley and NAILS it into the upper right corner. Poor Nicky Rimando barely moved, then just stood there with a look on his face that said it all. That was class friends, pure class. Then Carlos ran over and gave some love to group of Guatemalan fans in the stands. Another example of class. He’s like a different guy since he came to Dallas. 1-0 to the Football Club.

Alvarez almost doubles the lead a minute later with a thumper of a shot from nearly the same spot Ruiz scored from. Rimando did well to get it over the crossbar.

OH!!! Ruiz chips Rimando then gets dumped by Namoff as he retrieves his own pass and goes for goal. PK for the good guys. Ruiz spots it up and beats Rimando to his left. Namoff, who should be off for that foul, doesn’t even get a yellow. Uh-huh . . . riiiiiight.

2-0 to the boys! Ruiz isn’t a big guy, but he’s carrying the team on his shoulders tonight.

Though, I must say, the back four for have been solid as a rock. I hope I’m not puttin’ the gris-gris on them by saying that, but they sure look good.

Another mean shot from Mina. Good save by Little Nicky.

Gbandi is having a good game on the left. Hermann Trophy winners seem to have the same type of curse that Heisman winners have. At the very least, it’s not a guarantee of a successful professional career. I’m really rooting for Chris to get a starting job, though. He seems like such a good kid and has been nothing but patient and hardworking for the team.

Ben Olsen takes a kick at Gbandi and doesn’t even get a verbal warning. Nice.

DC are pouring on the pressure with about twenty to minutes to go. We’re holding them off for now. Adu gets a free kick from the right side; makes a nice cross which gets popped back to Dema who skies his shot, landing it somewhere on the banks of the Potomac.

Moreno gets a nicely chipped ball from Gomez and makes a great shot, only to be robbed by the left post. Jaime is aging like a fine wine.

Oh, unbelievable! Gomez (I think) charges down the left baseline and shoots it directly parallel to the goal line. A breath would have put it over the line, but no one could get to it. Scott Garlick would have gotten a gray hair, except for the fact that he . . . well, never mind.

Wags comes in for Alvarez. Nice to see him healthy again, after he cracked his kneecap against the EarthQlash. I’ve never had my kneecap cracked, but just typing the words makes me hurt. I can’t imagine that not being a painful knock.

Folks it is all DC right now. Ruiz is the only one not back defending. And I mean defending desperately. This has been a great game to watch, win, lose or draw. It’s one of those games where you hope someone, somewhere, is watching his first soccer game ever. They’d be hooked. Well, maybe if they started watching after halftime, anyway.

Carlos just misses the Hat Trick with a close-in header. Ten minutes to go.

Ronnie tries to chip Rimando from distance. That would almost have been too much. Not that I wouldn’t take it, mind you.

Ruiz seems to have taken a knock and his holding his ankle. He’s coming off and Abe Thompson is getting what I believe is his first senior team appearance. Brad Sham tells us he’s the all time leading scorer at Maryland. This is not only interesting, but proves my point about Brad Sham. The guy knows everything, I’m tellin’ ya.

Jolley and Garlick save Gbandi from being responsible for a goal. Bad pass by Chris right to Carroll. Heh, you thought I was going to say “save Gbandi’s Gbacon”, didn’t you. HA!

Ohhhhhhh……. Abe Thompson just barely misses scoring his first professional goal. Nice chip shot, but it jussst scrapes the crossbar. That would have been a dream start for the kid.

Four minutes of stoppage time. Goodson almost gives up an autogol, but Garlick makes a kick save on his own man, right to DDD. Kovalenko skies another shot to somewhere near the Pentagon. Darn shame, that.

Full time, baby. 2-nil to the good guys.

What a great road win. Without a full strength squad, we shut out a good offensive team and get two goals. Awesome. Just awesome. Unbelievable work by the boys in the back. Five games unbeaten for the Football Club, with a lot of road games still to come before the opening of Frisco in August. Life is good, footballistically, my friends, life is good.

See you next week for ReAL Salt Lake.

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: USA V ENGLAND


by @ 4:54 pm.
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So, we give up a goal in the 4th minute. No big deal. I bet Bruce is smiling inwardly, even. We need to see how tough the boys are right now, going into the next round of qualifiers. What better way to find out than to go down a goal early?

It was a beautiful free kick goal by Kieran Richardson, in his first ever start for England. He was a big part of West Brom’s survival in the Permiership this year. The kid’s only 20 years old, to boot. Sven’s looking like a genius right off the bat.

Wolff misses a close half-volley chance right after England’s goal. He hasn’t missed many this season in Kansas City, which is why he’s getting a start today. He’s also gotten a couple of good runs on the right wing, but has muffed the crosses. Nerves, I’m guessing.

Somebody needs to tackle Alan Smith, but hard. He’s a talented forward, but a bit of a thug. Vanney needs to welcome him to the New World by making him kiss the turf before the half is over, methinks.

The play is fairly even after fifteen minutes, the goal notwithstanding. The days of an American team being awestruck or intimidated by the mere sight of an English jersey are way behind us. Even if the English don’t exactly agree to a man, the truth is we’re in a game with our peers, not our betters, today.

Ooooooooooh! Landon hits a long free kick from the left side and beats David James. Unfortunately, he didn’t beat the left post, but it was still very nicely struck.

Kasey comes a good 10 yards out of the penalty area and heads a long ball clear. Moments later he robs Joe Cole with a nice diving save. Cole struck it hard and on target from 20 yards out. A healthy Kasey is key for our World Cup hopes. Not that our country is short on quality goalkeepers; we’re deeper than the Marianas Trench at that position. But Kasey is well nigh unbeatable when playing internationally. Ask Romario.

Zavagnin misses just high. That would have been great for his international career. I like that guy. Always have. Quiet but solid. I know the Wizards are glad he didn’t catch on in England over the winter.

Donavan again just missing. Hit it wide left off a perfectly headed ball from Josh Wolff. I can’t see the English shutting us out today. How many we get, or how many give up I don’t know; but I just don’t see us staying off the board.

There is a huge Sam’s Army section right behind David James’ goal. I’d love to hear what kind of smack they’re yelling at him. Good job by the Guys (and girls) in red today.

Richardson strikes again just before halftime. Nicely worked goal by Eng-er-land. Pope uncharacteristically misplayed the ball, allowing Joe Cole to run right up the the 18 and hit an umarked Richardson. Nice finish. He may be this year’s Shrek, uh, I mean, this year’s Wayne Rooney. Sorry.

So we’re down 2-0 at halftime. Still no worries. The second goal was the only really bad bit of football we played. Crisper finishing was called for, to be sure, but we did create chances. Possession was about even, and but for the previously mentioned goal, defensively we were okay.

That buzzing sound you hear, however, is the cumulative sound of BigSoccer posters on their keyboards, calling for Bruce Arena’s head on a silver cyber-platter. So, please, go ahead and roll your eyes now, and save yourself some time, okay?

Five minutes in to the second half, and we’ve had most of the attack. Once again, finishing is the problem, not creating chances.

Normally, I’m a big fan of defenders pushing up and taking long distance shots. But our defenders today . . . well, suffice to say I’m rethinking that position.

Unless he comes up with a goal, Josh Wolff is going to regret this cap. He’s showing the exact opposite form he’s showed in MLS this year. Only the harshest fan, though, wouldn’t forgive all if he scores. I know I would.

Kieran Richardson goes off in the 59th minute for Phil Neville. This shows two things. First, Richardson picked up a knock, because there is no way he’s tired and he’s scored twice. Second, Sven is going to drop back and protect his two goal lead. Yeah, that worked really well for AC Milan last week, didn’t it? The best way to protect a two goal lead is to make it a three goal lead. Playing defensively is a bad idea, even if it just so happens to work once in a while.

Well, I may be wrong about that. Looks like Neville has taken Richardson’s midfield spot instead of going to the back. Good for you Sven.

Better attacking from USA now, here around the 70 minute mark. Zat Knight got away with a handball in the box for England, at least according to the crowd noise index. Wolff is doing slightly better on the left side. Dempsey seems to be a bit out of his element today, however. I’m not worried about that kid, though. He’s going to be big for us soon enough.

We get a good free kick chance just outside the box in the 72nd. Wolff fails to get his redeeming goal, but does get a corner, but to no avail.

Pope comes off for Boca. Pope had a terrible game, as much as I hate to say it. Convey comes on for Stevie Ralston, who was uncharcteristically uninvolved today.

Another free kick chance in the 77th. Nada. We look like a rec team compared to England in this area of the game. But only in this area.

OOOOOOOOOOOOHH CLINT DEMPSEY!

GOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!

Bocanegra nearly scores off the long service from the left side, but David James comes up with the save only to have Clint head it down and in for his first international goal. Sweet sweet sweet. Did I tell you Clint was gonna be big for us? DID I TELL YOU?!

Ten minutes remaining.

Conor Casey almost ties it up right after coming on the field for Brian McBride. Vanney gets a shot from the rebound, but boots it into Lake Michigan.

Fast and furious attack from the boys, This is the intensity we lacked in the first half. Wolff is continuing to improve as well.

Only 1:30 left. Come on boys. Come on.

Two minutes stoppage. David James spills one in the box, but no one was close enough to make anything of it.

Full time. A spirited 2-1 loss to the Mother Country.

It’s okay. We beat ‘em when it counted. YEAH WASHINGTON! IN YOUR FACE CORNWALLIS! USA! USA!!

Sorry.

Don’t listen to the doom-sayers. This was a good tune up for the upcoming qualifiers. Panama and Los Ticos will seem like high school squads compared to this match.

All is well in Nats land, kids. We’re on track. Don’t sweat it at all.

May 25, 2005

UNBELIEVABLE


by @ 4:37 pm.
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Well, if I live to be a hundred, I don’t think I’ll ever see a more amazing football match.

The UEFA Champions League Final between Liverpool and AC Milan is one for the ages. First of all, Liverpool weren’t even supposed to make it to the championship game in Istanbul (not Constantinople). They limped in to the competition, placing 4th in the English Premier League last season. This meant they had to start their season earlier than expected, and had to make it through the qualifying stages to even have a shot at getting to the final. It had to be a bit depressing; facing a long grueling Premier League season, they had to end holidays early, travel to the backwaters of Europe (well, okay, Austria, but playing against Grazer AK just for the opportunity to get to Group Stage play wasn’t what they had in mind when they started the 2003-2004 season).

But get there they did, and just kept winning and winning. All the while having a disappointing season in England. They made it to the finals, against all odds. They had to be happy to even be there. But, being Liverpool, one of the most succesful football clubs in history, “happy to be here” isn’t something the players were likely to say, or even feel.

So what happens in the final? They give up a goal in the first minute of the first half, and two more in the next 44 minutes, and go to the locker room down 3-0 to one of the best clubs in the world.

So what now? What do you say if you’re Rafa Benitez? What do you say if your team captain Steven Gerrard, who is FROM Liverpool, for Pete Best’s sake? How do you react as a player? Mail it in and be glad you got that far? Get on your cell phone and book a tee-time at your favorite golf course? Who could blame them if they did? Three goals down to AC Milan is not a tenable position with 45 minutes left in your season.

I’d love to know what was said in there, because Liverpool came out for the second half and pulled off one of the greatest comebacks, not just in soccer history, but in sports history. The game ended 3-3, and you just couldn’t believe what you were seeing. Instead of mailing it in and warming up the bus, they went to three defenders, added a midfielder, and played absolute lights out soccer, while Milan dropped back and tried to mark time until the trophy presentation.

Never a good idea. Never.

So the game ends tied. Two 15 minute overtimes, and possible penalty kicks to follow if no goals are scored.

But how could you top the preceding 90 minutes? Who could possible come up with something to out-do that?

Jerzy Dudek. That’s who.

Dudek, the greatest goalkeeper Poland has ever produced, took over. One is tempted to use the old “carried the team on his shoulders” saw, and in this case, it might even be worthy of being dusted off. His first superhuman save came just before the end of the second overtime period. Andrei Shevchenko tracked down a long cross from the left flank and hit a thumping header from about 8 yards out. The reaction save Dudek pulled off was good enough. The ball was struck hard and down, and bounced at this feet; the hardest kind of shot to stop in all of football. It was a glorious and unlikely save.

But on the rebound, Shevchenko got a good five yard run on the ball, hit it as hard as he could from no more than three feet from the goal line, only to have the hero of Liverpool get a hand to the ball and hit it nearly straight up and over the crossbar. I watched the replay at least a dozen times, a couple of those on slow motion, and I still don’t know how he did that. You can say luck, but you’d be wrong. It was impetuous; it was Homeric.

Then, the dreaded penalty kick shootout. Nobody wants a game to end this way, but that’s the way it is.

Serginho took the first kick for AC Milan and didn’t even come close. The ball may have landed in Greece by the time it stopped flying. Fine. It happens. Plenty of chances left.

Dietmar Haman has no trouble beating Dida to make it 1-0 to Liverpool.

From here on in, it’s Jerzy time.

He saved Pirlo’s attempt, guessing correctly and diving to his right, making a parry save. Now, we have to be honest at this point and say that Dudek cheated a bit here. The rules say the ‘keeper can’t move forward until the kicker makes contact with the ball. Good ol’ Jerzey was at least a yard forward when the kick was taken, but the referee must have been dozing, or perhaps thinking of how he’d make it back to the hotel if he called for a re-kick. At any rate, the goal stands. Cisse comes on and easily puts it past Dida, and Liverpool are up 2-0 with three kicks left.

Thomasson beats Dudek cleanly to make it 2-1, Riise, surprisingly, gets beat when he hits a low shot just inside the left post, which is saved by a correctly guessing Dida. It’s 2-1.

Kaka (really, his name is Kaka), scores for Milan; Smicer, who scored such a great goal in the second half, does the same for his side. 3-2

Andrei Shevchenko (2004-2005 European Player Of The Year, mind you), who had been so cruelly brickwalled by Dudek just minutes before in extra time, has to make his penalty kick to keep Milan in the shootout. In what will surely be his nightmare for the forseeable future, he hits his shot straight down the middle, hoping to catch Dudek diving away, but it doesn’t work; Dudek starts to his right but holds up and snuffs the shot with his legs. Game over.

If you saw it in a movie, you’d ridicule the screenwriter for coming up with such drivel. But it happened. If you can catch the replay on television, or know somebody who taped it, it’s worth watching, even though you know the outcome.

I love this game.

May 23, 2005

MLS NOTES: WEEK 8


by @ 10:48 am.
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STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: CD CHIVAS USA V FC DALLAS


by @ 9:05 am.
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Some combination of stress, ennui, and/or depression caused me to conk out before the game started Sunday evening; so here I am at 4:00 Monday morning, watching the Tivo, trying to clear the cobwebs out of my head. It must not be working, because I thought I just saw Aaron Pitchkolan score a goal in the first minute of the match. I gotta get a cup of coffee. That can’t be right, can it?

Yep. Unless my subconscious has instant replay, looks like it really did happen. Huh. Could’ve sworn I was having one of those early morning waking dreams.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a faster FCD goal, or a more aggressive start. I’m not sure what Colin Clarke said to them, but the boys came out like sharks around blood.

Good old Martin Zuniga, much beloved veteran of the Mexican first division and usurper of Brad Guzan’s starting role, gave up the goods 42 seconds into his MLS career. I’d love to know what was going through young Brad’s mind at that moment. I was going to criticize Thomas Rongen for making the switch, but then it occurred to me: that call probably came from a little higher up in the organization *coughcoughVERGARAcoughcough*.

Bobby Rhine gives up a penalty kick in the 19th minute. Unlike the one against KC the other week, this one was pretty definite. Cuadros ties the match. All 4,000 people at the Home Depot Center go nuts. Great.

Still and all we seem to have the majority of the possession and more of the dangerous runs going for us. Pitchkolan is giving the veteran Ezra Hendrickson everything he can handle and then some. Good showing for the young man so far.

Instead of using possession, passing and dribbling to get forward, Chivas are flopping their way to the goal at this moment. Very shrewd. I love the way Clarence Goodson never fails to give a diving opponent an earful before moving on. He’ll be hoarse before this game is over.

Pescadito gets dumped in the penalty area in the 39th minute and doesn’t even get a whiff of a penalty kick. Ezra Hendrickson plain ran him over. Nada. Carlos didn’t get a chance to make a dive, even if he had wanted to. Which I’m sure he didn’t. Because he’s not that kind of player.

What?

Christian Miles is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. I generally like his work, but he’s such a homer when calling Chivas games that it makes me ill. Why can’t someone invent a button that leaves the crowd noise but gets rid of the commentary? I’d pay a premium for that, wouldn’t you?

Halftime. Tied at ones. Good attacking possession soccer from the boys. Chivas mostly counterattacking and picking on Bobby Rhine. We should win this game, no doubt.

Second half, and Martin Zuniga gives up the goods again, this time a mere three minutes in. Ruiz gets the ball about 20 yards out, back to goal, turns Sequeira like a 45 rpm record, and beats Martin to his near post with a roller. Zuniga looked like he was going to bust out in tears. He’ll be on the bench before Independence Day.

DIPSY SELOLWANE!!! Ronnie O’Brien with another of those long range bombs we’ve come to know and love. 30 yards out, point blank, Zuniga has no chance. The good guys with a two goal lead five minutes into the second half.

Chivas pull one back almost immediately. Romo with a nicely taken header. No chance for Scott Garlick. Weak defending on the right flank from Gbandi and Pitchkolan to give up the cross. It’s okay, though, I think we have a few more rounds in the chamber. 3-2, good guys. Entertaining game. Shame no one was there to see it live in Los Angeles. What’s up with the Galaxy outdrawing Chivas? The place was rocking Saturday for the EarthQlash match; about half as many today. Go figure.

Chivas are starting to feel some confidence. Getting possession, knocking it around a bit. Why am I not worried? I just don’t see this team beating us. It’s not like me to feel this way. I’m generally such a glass-half-empty kinda guy. Must be the coffee.

Ramon Nunez comes out of the game for Drew Moor in the 69th. Terrific game from young Ramon. He’s going to be a good one. He worked well in attack with the veterans and caused trouble all night for the Chivas defense.

OH!!!! 4-2! Lovely run up the left side by Pitchkolan, who makes a cross right down the 18 to Eddie Johnson who hits it first time and beats Zuniga like a drum. Any game where Ronnie, Pescadito, and EJ all score . . . well, we’re just not going to be able to lose one of those.

If I haven’t made myself clear heretofore, I am categorically NOT impressed with the great Martin Zuniga. At any rate, the guy is no Jorge Campos. For that matter, he’s no Brad Guzan.

Twenty minutes left, and we are in control. I’d like to see the defense buckle down and shut-out Chivas for the rest of the game. But I really don’t think it matters. Thomas Rongen is in a no-win situation with this club. In fact I think he was hired with his firing in mind. He might make it to the end of the season, but not much longer.

Roberto Mina comes in at the 75 minute mark, replacing Eddie Johnson. EJ looks to have gotten stomped on the foot, and came off limping. I refuse to even entertain the idea that it’s anything worse than a bruise. Denial actually IS just a river in Egypt; at least in my world.

The final 10 minutes are kind of anti-climatic. Chivas pushing forward, but mostly ending up offside or shooting inaccurately. Dallas countering when they can but mostly just taking their time and playing defense. Chivas tired and frustrated, but to their credit, not getting dirty.

Ronnie makes way for Arturo Alvarez with five minutes left. Ronnie elevated his game to an even higher level tonight in response to the loss of Richard Mulrooney. Who would have thought a higher level was even possible for this man?

Just to rub it in, Ruiz beats three or four defenders, gets a shot off (which Zuniga actually handles very nicely), and new guy Roberto Mina buries the rebound to make it a five goal game for our heroes. Sweet.

Full time. 5-2 for the Football Club. Good win. Some defensive issues showed themselves, but come on, for a team that got absolutely clobbered with injuries in the last 10 days, it was a great showing.

Good work from the kids; Pitchkolan, Nunez, and Goodson come to mind, and of course, the brilliance of the Big Three was just . . . well, it was brilliant. Rhine continues to pile on the pressure offensively, while continuing to learn his defensive duties. All in all, an encouraging 90 minutes in a week that saw Mulrooney go down for the season, Wags get hurt, and Talley take a knock as well.

Oh, and it was all on the road, too. The boys came from behind Wednesday to beat Colorado, and totally dominated tonight against Chivas. Did I forget to mention they laid down the grass at Frisco this week? Sweeeeeeet.

Yeah, I’ll take that. Any day. See you next Saturday for DC United and Dirty Dirty Dema.

May 15, 2005

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: SAN JOSE v FC DALLAS


by @ 5:18 pm.
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I couldn’t tell what kind of reception Richard Mulrooney got from the San Jose crowd, but if there’s any justice, all 1,000 people there would have stood up and cheered the man for his service to the EarthQlash.

The good news for the first half is that we didn’t come right out and concede a goal within the first five minutes, as has been the pattern for a few weeks. Scott Garlick is sharp as usual, and the defense looks wayyy more organized than against Kansas City.

Troy Dayak goes down after running into Eddie Johnson, and winds up going off. It didn’t look as bad as all that, but apparently he wrenched or twisted the knee fairly severely. Of course, having broken his neck a few years ago, every game is a gift for Troy, one of the few bona-fide “tough guys” in the league.

Both Richard Mulrooney and Brian Ching go off with injuries within a few minutes of each other. It’s starting to look like a quality-of-turf issue at Spartan Stadium. Neither Richard nor Brian really suffered any contact, but rather lost firm footing briefly, suffering that tiny little twist that knees are so averse to. Both looked to have potentially long-term knocks. That grinding noise you hear is Bruce Arena’s teeth wearing down to nothing over the thought of Ching being out for the next round of qualifiers.

So a nil-nil half, not much excitement, but three potentially long-term injuries. Only a few good chances apiece, and one robbery-job apiece for Garlick and Pat Onstad. Not the greatest half of soccer I’ve ever seen, but the score is level, and I’m okay with that.

I think one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen in soccer is the huge orange sign reading “Ultras” in one corner of Spartan Stadium, with about, oh, being generous, eight people standing behind it. I’m sure they make up for their lack of numbers with intensity and dedication . . . but “Ultras”?

The pace is picking up with a half-hour to go, but neither side is looking as if they simply must get on the board anytime soon.

Brad Sham tells us that Ching’s injury is actually a hamstring strain rather than a knee problem. Not great news, in and of itself, but I suppose even a bad hammy is better than a bad knee.

Brian Mullan gets whacked on the back of the leg and has to go off as well. All three San Jose substitutions have been for injuries. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before in a soccer game.

Great save by Garlick in the 63rd minute to keep us in the game. It was a sharp header which then deflected off Eddie’s noggin, changing direction after Garlick had already reacted. Great reflexes by the Grey Ghost.

Oscar Pareja gets a yellow card for diving. I never thought I’d ever type those words. Bad call by an otherwise very competent referee, Mr. Erich Simmons.

Lots of pressure from San Jose, with most of our offense coming from counterattacks.

Now it’s looking like a goal is coming sooner or later. The stench of a one-nil result is thick in the air; like a polecat stretched out on a hot Texas highway (sometimes I amaze myself with this uncanny ability to paint a picture with words).

Bobby Rhine for the second week in a row is causing all sorts of trouble with his overlapping runs on the right side. He’s not just streaking down the touchline and making crosses; he’s taking people on and forcing defenders to help out on him, opening up space in the box. He’s really starting to take to this defender role, albeit by contributing as much to the offense as he did last year up front.

I’m getting nervous with three minutes left. San Jose are famous for the last minute winner, and they’re controlling the ball pretty nicely right now. Oscar Pareja, who came in as a sub for Mulrooney in the 35th, looks like he’s ready to come out in the 90th. He’s limping and a bit winded. Arturo Alvarez will finish the game. There should be quite a bit of added time, given the injuries in the second half. Mullan was down for quite a few minutes.

Whoa. Only two minutes? Does Mr. Simmons have a date tonight or something? Huh.

Well, another road draw. At least this week we kept a clean sheet. That’s an accomplishment. We didn’t look terribly potent on offense, but neither did San Jose. A fair draw, all in all. Not a stellar performance, but a solid defensive effort. Good stuff from Scotty Garlick and the boys in back. We’ll take it.

Mid-week game this Wednesday against Colorado, then, along with Willie Nelson, we’re on the road again; no more home games until July. Yeesh. Pack some extra socks and stuff guys, who knows if there’s a Wal-Mart in any of those towns.

See you Wednesday.

MLS NOTES: WEEK 7


by @ 5:10 pm.
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May 8, 2005

MLS NOTES: WEEK 6


by @ 9:19 pm.
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STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: WIZARDS v FC DALLAS


by @ 11:25 am.
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Before I can even come up with a witty introduction paragraph, the Boys are down 1-nil. Sasha Victorine heads in a corner kick. Scott Garlick got a hand to it but not enough to keep it out. I HATE IT when we’re behind before I can even get a witty introduction paragraph written.

Although this week it may be just as well, as I’m not feeling particularly witty. It has something to do with there only being three weeks of school left. For us teachers, time begins to slow to a crawl during this stretch. We get that desperate, “I’m not going to make it” kinda vibe going, and very little in life seems funny. After the 26th of this month, I’ll be the funniest cat alive. Until then, well . . . not so much.

That and the antidepressants aren’t working very well. But I digress.

Speaking of depressing, we’re unable to control the ball against the most defensive minded team in MLS. And, we just had a 2-on-1 break, and Eddie could neither get a shot or a cross off.

DIPSY SELOLWANE! I take back all the negativity. Bobby Rhine just made a perfect cross to Eddie, who nailed the header from six yards out. Bobby was so far forward he made the throw-in not far from the end line, got it right back, and made the cross. If the best defense is a good offense, then I’m very comfortable with Bobby in the back.

Now the Kansas City I know and love is emerging. Why they waited for Dallas to tie the game before they fell back into their shell, I don’t know. But it’s okay with me.

We’re knocking it around nicely right now, and Bobby’s still getting involved in the attack. You go, boy.

I just saw the Inferno Road Crew. Great shot of you guys throwing confetti after Eddie’s goal. I notice MudPoet is sans horns tonight. What’s the story, Travis?

Carlos just misses in the 39th. He was quite upset with himself. I wish I could read lips. Well, I kinda can, at least when it comes to professional-athlete-cussin’ lip-reading. Mostly because it’s a very limited vocabulary, and athletes tend to enunciate very nicely when they scream obscenities. But I never learned it in Spanish.

Just before the half, Scott Garlick saves a sure goal from Josh Wolff, who blew by someone, but I’ll be dag-nabbed if I can see numbers on these newfangled hoop shirts. If I had Hi Definition television, this would not be an issue. But if my Aunt had a mustache, she’d be my Uncle. Neither scenario is likely to happen anytime soon.

Rhine is causing all kinds of trouble for KC with his runs forward. They don’t seem to know what to do with him. He had another nice cross right before the halftime whistle.

So we’re all even going into the second half. Kansas City got the early goal, and got some good chances on the counter, but we still looked more dangerous, once we got going. We’re not a fast-starting team, however. We’re like an old Chevy pickup on a cold winter morning; gotta get the engine running for a good ten minutes or so before she’ll get up and go.

Apparently, this holds true for the second half as well, because Josh Wolff almost scored less than 30 seconds after the restart. Kansas City, oddly enough, came out guns-a-blazin’, as if they had noticed the same thing. Hmmmm.

Ah crap. Klein goes down in the box and KC gets the PK call. Seemed kinda soft to me, but nonetheless, Wolff buries the spot kick and we’re back to being down by a goal. Credit Wolff for taking a really fast throw in to release Klein. He took it so swiftly that it barely slowed down what was already a fast KC counter attack. Smart play by a guy who’s really getting his game back in form.

I’m going to channel the thoughts of El Jefe right now, and say SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP! Less than a minute after going up 2-1, Klein scores.

This was an inexcusable defensive lapse. Three guys, THREE GUYS standing around watching Burciaga’s 40-yard ball land right in front of goal. Vanney had his hands out like he was shielding an invisible player so Garlick could collect it, while Klein just runs right by him and unwraps it like a Christmas present it from eight yards out. That was not the defending of a professional soccer club. Wiz 3, FCD 1 in the 53rd minute.

Now the Wizards smell blood and are going for a fourth goal. When you get the Wizards to NOT drop back and protect a two goal lead, you’ve got defensive issues.

Finally, in around the 58th, we are starting to get some offense going. Problem is, Bo Oshoniyi is on top of his game and has robbed us twice in the span of about three minutes. A hard shot by Ronnie and a nicely taken header by Wagenfuhr both should have gone in, but for the fact that Bo knows goalkeeping.

And now a third save, that should go on Oshoniyi’s bubblegum card, if indeed he has one. Classic diving catch on Ronnie’s outside-of-the boot shot from 18 yards out. Bo has spent a lot of years in this league as a backup, after starting briefly for the Crew way back in ’96. He’s making the most of this opportunity and make no mistake about it. He’s actually one of my favorite non-Dallas players, but frankly, he’s killin’ me tonight.

Young Alvarez comes on for Carey Talley in the 68th.

Josh Wolff is just cutting up the Dallas D like they were the Sunday coupon page. He just made a 40 yard run right down the gut and got off a shot. Simo even tried to foul him along the way, but only fell down. When Simo can’t foul a guy off a run, it ain’t our night.

20 minutes left. Drinking has commenced.

Ronnie throws us a life line with a nice flicked-on headed goal in the 76th minute. Again it was Bobby Rhine with the service into the box. He’s getting more done offensively than he did when he played offense. 3-2, and hope springs eternal.

Gut check time. We’ve got the momentum going, and a tie would feel like a win after what I’ve seen tonight.

RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUIZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! That’s the kind of goal he was brought here to score! Beats three guys in the box, left footed shot across Bo’s body. 3-3.

That goal was made by Ronnie hustling back to track down Zavagnin at mid-field, getting him to cough up the ball, and then making a strong run right back to the KC end and getting the ball to Pescadito’s feet. That’s heart. That’s Ronnie.

Oh my. Preki comes into the game with six minutes left. It’s his first action since breaking his leg nearly two years ago. If this was ANY OTHER game but the Dallas game, I’d be rooting like a madman for the Great Man to get a winner for the Wizards.

But right now, it’d break my heart. Though I’d still, after a couple days to get over the pain, feel really really happy for him. One of the greats this league has ever seen, and he’s older than ME, for cryin’ out loud. The man’s going to be 42 in June, and he’s got every Dallas fan in the country scared to death right now.

Three minutes stoppage time. But before I watch it, I’m going to uncharacteristically pause the Tivo, get a Budweiser, and light a smoke. Yes, I’m a weak-hearted man, when it comes to these things. But I’m comfortable with it, OK?

Alright, here we go.

Oh! Ruiz just misses. Great long run by Mulrooney to set up the shot.

Arnaud gets fouled by Wags in Preki-land. I don’t think there was a chance on earth that he wasn’t taking this free kick. Fortunately, he makes a cross rather than a shot, and it comes to naught. Whew.

Full time. I don’t often say this, but that was a GREAT draw for the Football Club. Great effort, great heart, great finishing. And to be honest, I, shamefully, didn’t see it happening. Oh me of little faith.

Wow. See you next week for the EarthQlash game in San Jose.

May 2, 2005

NEW BLOG


by @ 1:23 pm.
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Do check out . . . off the post!

The writing is as cool as the name.

May 1, 2005

MLS NOTES: WEEK 5


by @ 4:33 pm.
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