I’m going to start this with an acknowledgment. Yesterday, I posted what I assume to be one of a countless collection of responses to Billy Haisley’s exhortation against watching ugly, crappy Major League Soccer. While it’s true I devoted most of that post to attacking (kill! kill!)…or, rather, examining, ahem, his rather useless advice to MLS (“get better”; that was it, really), I did take some time, a paragraph really, to defend MLS, the product.
Notably, I challenged his assertion that MLS players’ first touch is a problem. Funny what you don’t fully notice…
…because, holy dear god in heaven and the devil below, did Vancouver Whitecaps v. Red Bull New York feature a very, very large collection of hideous, bobbly first touches. Looked like they played the game in a goddamn bouncy house. Or maybe with one of those bouncy balls one gets from those 25-cent vending machines at the grocery. Just ugly, loose stuff all the over.
Point taken, Mr. Haisley. And I nowhere did I say it was a better product…just…the trapping was…never mind…OK, not that incredibly shitty. Wow.
The point here is to offer some substantive comments on the game referenced above. Hopefully, you’ll see something novel enough here.First, the game was closer than it looked in the highlights, or even how it read in the few articles I started (Full Disclosure: 95% of match reports are worthless; I rarely finish them). New York found time and room to play, even in Vancouver’s attacking third. They even managed to find good openings for serving a final ball – a first, necessary step to providing that final ball – but said delivery rarely went through. The pass either sucked (call this 60) or Vancouver’s defenders cleared it out (call this 40). Two things to note there: 1) Vancouver seemed to defend pretty deep – which, by a personal theory, allowed the chances; and, 2) the ‘Caps let at least three balls fall in the area, which points to suspect set-piece defending.
Vancouver won by playing a much, much sharper game. Based on this one game – and, full disclosure, that’s all it’s based on – Vancouver looks very going forward, less so chasing back. That said, the first piece is big: they created chances from all over the field and clearly enough to put at least a dozen on goal (that’s a guess, but also a minimum). Their new guys – Pedro Morales and Sebastian, even that Mezquida guy – all check in as ready and capable – and the fact that Morales came in for Fernandez was, for the rest of the league, mildly terrifying.
It’s both fair and natural to wonder how much Red Bull abetted the Vancouver attack. At least one guy – Richard Eckersley – absolutely did his share to boost Vancouver’s collective self-esteem. The poor bastard gave up two goals minimum by way of being overwhelmed as performance art. What I can say is that Vancouver attacked something like at will; my eyes, however, aren’t sufficiently trained to give a firm opinion regarding the Red Bulls’ role in their own demise.
Anyway, I’m put a little “watch” flag on Vancouver, especially the attack. That could be something special this year. And bad. Can’t forgot where they play (e.g. Cascadia).
1) I thought Lloyd Sam was awful – e.g. clumsy in approach and execution, loose on the ball, etc. So it was odd for me to find an article this morning about how much he’s wowed Red Bulls coach Mike Petke in the preseason. Either the game or that article lied to me.
2) Russell Teibert (the “Canadian Diego Fagundez”) turned a few heads last year. If he keeps up with performances like last night’s a good number of those heads will turn the other way. So many wayward passes and crosses and dribbles that dribbled away…
3) Just to reiterate, and the few times the ball dropped in Vancouver’s area notwithstanding, the ‘Caps defended the final ball ably. Also, deep. With New York far from the mood to punish it, this worked out all right last Saturday. To lean toward one opinion or another: other teams will test this back-line and, assuming it’s the norm, that tactic of defending deep. Vancouver will not pass all these tests, not with the way they’re allowing delivery. I mean, someone’s gonna get it right some day.
Right. That’s that. I’m going to try (I mean, try) to sit through Chivas v. Chicago before this week’s over. With Chicago up after Portland a little scouting seems in order.