Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things

June 4, 2005


by @ 10:53 pm.
Filed under Uncategorized

First ever qualifier for Salt Lake City. They’ve gone all out, putting a nice grass field down at Rice-Eccles Stadium. They even had the sense to put the turf down early enough to let it grow together and get some roots. Well done, indeed.

Whoa! Early goal for the USA! Landon Donavan belts a shot from just inside the penalty area. No chance whatsoever for Álvaro Mesén. Early scoring is not a hallmark of American soccer, so it’s nice to see when it happens.

No start for Clint Dempsey or Pat Noonan. Revs fans across the country are screaming WHY? WHY DID YOU TAKE THEM IF YOU WEREN’T GOING TO USE HIM! Of all MLS teams, New England Revolution were gutted the most severely by call ups for this game (although I guess there’s really no such thing as an un-severe gutting), losing Ralston, Dempsey, and Noonan. That’s half of their goal production for the season missing.

Things worked out a little better for Greg Vanney. Even though he doesn’t make the final roster, fortunately for him, his FC Dallas are playing ReAL Salt Lake following the USA match in the same venue. He’ll get a start for club, if not for country.

The Ticos are hacking away at DaMarcus Beasley, knowing that he’s just coming back from knee surgery. Nice, fellas, nice.

Beasley almost scores at the half-hour mark off a beautiful through ball from Kerry Zavagnin.

Beasley gets another cynical hack from Gilberto Martiniez. The guy wasn’t even trying for the ball, and went studs up on Beasley’s lower leg. He should rightly have been sent off, but at least he got a card.

Rice-Eccles looks nearly full, and Sam’s Army, as expected, is in the house and letting their voices be heard. This is one of the few home matches I remember where the American fans don’t seem to be outnumbered by the visiting fans. Not a large Costa Rican community in Salt Lake, I’m guessing.

Costa Rica puts one in the net towards the end of the first half, but the play is called offside. That’s a darn shame, eh? All jingoism aside, it was a good fair call. It was also the first time Kasey Keller has been challenged since kickoff.

Kasey, by the way, is 22-2-4 since 1998 in international matches played on American soil. Or American grass, I guess I should say. Either way, it’s an incredible record.

So it’s 1-nil for the boys in RW&B at the half.

You know, friends, one of the few drawbacks of satellite television is that during a heavy downpour or thunderstorm, the signal from up in space gets kind of haywire. Also, said haywireness is normally more severe in direct correlation to the importance of what one is watching. Right now, I got nuthin’.

Fortunately, it is halftime, and Oklahoma storms come and go like, well, like the wind, I guess; suffice to say I’m keeping positive and hoping this will blow over before the whistle blows for second half. If I have to miss the feature on Curt Onalfo and the Concacaf qualifying roundup so be it. But past that, my mental health will begin to suffer.

The only upside is that the waving wheat, is sure smells sweet, when the wind comes right behind the rain.

But I digress. The soccer gods having smiled upon me (metaphorically, that is, I’m actually a strict monotheist in these matters), The picture comes back almost precisely as the game restarts. Sweet. I’d attribute this good fortune to clean livin’, but well, why press my luck, you know?

Kasey is immediately challenged by an early shot and comes up with a great parrying save. A little confusion in the back between Carlos Bocanegra and one of the other defenders. No harm no foul, though.

We quickly counter and nearly score as lil’ Stevie Ralston just misses getting on the good side of a cross by Landon Donavan. A quite eventful first three minutes.

Another good stop by Keller as Rojas gets a breakaway. Costa Rica have adjusted there timing a bit, after being called offside no less than six times in the first half.

Josh Wolff keeps making great runs but keeps failing to make effective crosses. If Bruce Arena shows patience, he’ll get his act together and be fine. But, with all the talent on the US roster these days, I’m not sure that will happen.

Yet another good save by Kasey. Costa Rica have come out of the locker room with bad intent. I’m not sure what their coach said at halftime, but it worked.

And then in the 60th, Keller’s fourth save is his best. Soto hits a terrific header, down and to Kasey’s left, and the man makes a stupendous one handed diving save. Unbelievable, this man is.

Ask Romario.

2-0! Great diving header by Brian McBride is greeted by an even better save by Mesén, but Donavan streaks in to pop the rebound in the back of the net. You have to say, in all honestly, that this goal was against the run of play; the aggressive Tico attacking really had us on our heels. Yet that’s the kind of goal we need to be scoring. The back breaker.

Pat Noonan gets in the game after all. Josh Wolff comes out. I’m rooting for Josh, but I’m afraid his chances are dwindling. He’s having a terrific season for the Wizards, however, and that carries a lot of weight with Bruce. We’ll see.

At the risk of repetiveness, Kasey Keller comes up big, again, in the 70th.

I’m starting to get annoyed at the thuggery of the Ticos. I’ve never considered them an “enemy” in soccer terms (ahemMEXICOahem), just an opponent. They’re starting to tip the scales however.

Bocanegra, Convey, and Zavagnin have had solid games tonight. Boca, I’m pretty sure, is a locked-in starter, but Convey and Zavagnin needed good games to increase their odds of getting on more rosters in more qualifiers.

Beasley off for Clint Dempsey. Great game by DaMarcus, especially considering he hurt his knee not much more than 15 weeks ago.

Brian McBride gets a well deserved goal in the 87th. Dempsey nearly scored, and Mr. Bake knocked in the rebound, even though two guys were marking him and THREE guys were standing on the goal line. Like I said, well deserved. The Ticos will be seeing McBride and Donavan in their nightmares for a while.

And that, as they say, is that. A handy 3-0 wind for los estados unidos. Qualification for Germany is just about in the ba . . . wait, what am I thinking? I’m not going to be the one who puts the mojo on this team . . . okay, start again. Qualification is within our reach, though definitely not assured; we’ll have to keep up this level of play up through the Mexico game in September .

Whew. That was close.

See you Wednesday for Panama.

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