Seattle v. Colorado: One Big (DP) Thing and Several Smaller Ones

Speaking as a Portland Timbers fan, goddammit. Speaking as a U.S. Men’s team fan…I’m sorry. Dropping the blasphemy is the best I can do right now. I lost money on this thing (you don’t want to know) so it’s going to take some doing to get over the bitterness.

Hell of a win for Seattle, obviously, as most 4-0 wins are. What impressed most was the slow strangulation of the Colorado Rapids – something that goes double after an opening 10 minutes that saw a number of Seattle players cough up the ball (Djimi Traore, Osvaldo Alonso, etc.)

One thing I noticed, though: this team is fucking addicted to heel-flicks. MLSsoccer.com typically posts a sort of “best plays” compilation (example): I imagine it’s going to be lousy with Sounders highlights.  I blame Clint Dempsey. Speaking of…

The Big (Obvious) Thing
Clint Dempsey owns his DP label in 2014. And in a very, very complete way. He’s dropping toward midfield to facilitate possession, riding challenges, dishing passes (2 of every three coming off one of his heels) and he’s getting kicked for his troubles, often. See: Mari, Jose (though it wasn’t as bad as Kasey “Shameless Homer” Keller made it sound. Useful as that can be, Dempsey’s also unlocking defenses with those same showy (admittedly entertaining) moves. (Still, fuck him.) The way Marco Pappa continued his run into the box on the way to Seattle’s second goal testifies to his teammates’ faith in Sir Clint’s ability to play out of trouble. Dempsey appeared completely closed down – two defenders closing around him, with two more between him and the goal – but he popped the ball free (with the heel, natch) to Pappa, who shot toward a mitten-handed Clint Irwin, who bobbled it for, yes, Clint “Goddamn” Dempsey to clean up. More troubling still (for the rest of us, anyway) is the way Dempsey took the set-up role from Obafemi Martins, who has ably filled that role for the past couple games.

Bottom line, Seattle pinned Colorado into their defensive end and just ran at them and ran at them and ran at them. The Sounders did it with enough ease to make it seem like they’ll be able to do this against any team they can pin back. Sigh…and oh my gawd. The thought of Seattle-ites with another reason to feel smug does turn the stomach.

Other Smaller Things
– Keller got one big thing right in this game: Colorado passed Seattle the noose by giving the Sounders second and third chances. And Irwin had a terrible game, coughing up rebounds readily and often as a 20-year smoker coughs up phlegm. By contrast Stefan Frei held on firmly to the few shots he faced. It mattered.

– Similar contrasts defined this game: Consider Dempsey versus Edson Buddle; Martins v. Gabriel Torres; DeAndre Yedlin v. Chris Klute; Alonso v. Nick LaBrocca. The Rapids won only one of those match-ups by my count – I put LaBrocca over Alonso and by some distance – and maybe they punched even with Klute v. Yedlin, but the forward comparison was elementary school versus college. Torres did nothing and Buddle did little more than give up the ball.

– Bottom line – and I think it’s pervasive – Colorado doesn’t have much for final third game. They’ve thrived on PKs, but even those (or at least two of them) came from through-balls that originated fairly close to midfield – typically through the absent Dillon Powers. Might have mattered last night. It’s fair to assume that the Rapids would have fared better with a little more control up top. It’s fair, even if you don’t buy it.

– Several Rapids players had good games; that’s the weird thing. Drew Moor might have got beat on a couple scrambles, but he also cleaned up a ton of mistakes. Mari was good and LaBrocca very good. (I won’t lie; I’ve always liked LaBrocca; he does bald men proud.) It just wasn’t enough with everyone else not quite there.

– Finally, that sweater Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni wore? Totally DP-caliber.

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MLS Week 6 Feelings Check: A Failure to Launch

ImageWe’re finally to that point in the long – and, by August, interminable – Major League Soccer season when narratives start to take shape. And thank gods for that. Who doesn’t like a story? And the title, it’s a joke so inside that it’s entirely possible that only I will get it. Still, it fits the vagueness of what comes below.

I like stories, personally, because they signal an end to the long march through watching and commenting on highlights (which I’ve long felt was a little low value). Maybe the time lost watching and re-watching highlight reels will go to watching one more game each week; maybe. What I’m after here, and what I’ll be after in the (many, many) weeks ahead is a general sense of what’s going on across the MLS as a whole. Something as global as power rankings, but without the faux-precision…like getting rid of the guys with the chains in futbol Americano. Maybe it’ll deal more with players in the future, or trends that track below the game-level. For now, though, it’s all about games. At any rate…

…so, where are we, or rather where are MLS’s 19 teams after Week 6, and how do they fit together. Again, generally? Continue reading

Colorado v. Portland: Brain. And His Pal Fart.

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“What was that? What we need is emotional content.”

Which experience was the dream? The 65 or so minutes in which the Portland Timbers rather ineffectually controlled the game or the OH MY GOD WHAT JUST HAPPENED? As in the three or so minutes where Portland turned a rather polite draw into a two-goal loss. Plus the loss of the starting goalkeeper. Maybe the some pieces of someone’s mind’s still out there. Haven’t looked yet.

There was nothing to do but look away, really, after Portland coughed up that second penalty kick. The Colorado Rapids wisely took the opportunity to give another player a chance to take that second PK, and why not Dershorn Brown, who appeared to have recovered from Donovan Ricketts’ attempt to leave part of his cleat above and just to the left of his groinal area. (Yes, I know “groinal” is not a word.) That kid, Weber, think his name is Andrew did really well to save Brown’s attempt, but he bobbled the rebound. So it goes, you know? Call it a bad day at the office. If your office was a meat locker. Cold, cold, cold.

It’s not quite a shame what happened, mainly because Portland never quite got around to doing a whole lot today. The Timbers possessed the ball well enough and worked it upfield competently – better than competently, at least once in the first half (’twas a smooth move that freed Jack Jewsbury on the right for a cross that resulted in not enough tragically) – but just about everything ended quietly. I haven’t reviewed the highlights yet, mainly because I’m trying to draw just my memory, keep it pure, y’know (as it can be given the decision to float my brain in a little beer). Continue reading

Colorado Rapids 2014 Season Preview: Pulling for the Plucky Orphans

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Where’s Oscar?

How’d 2013 Treat ‘Em: 14-11-9 (W-L-T), 45 gf, 38 ga; 5th in the West
Rock-solid seasons from several league freshmen (my people call them “rookies”) made the Rapids into one of the pleasant surprises of 2013: Deshorn Brown ran through defenses and Dillon Powers carved them up, while Clint Irwin stopped them from scoring. OK, A LOT more players contributed – I kept an eye on Sanchez and Torres often as I could – but things must have felt pretty good in Commerce City, the future bright, etc. Might call it a Rocky Mountain…no, don’t. (Keep your dignity.) For all the optimism, Colorado barely made the post-season and they didn’t stick around long, either. Still, plenty to build on and they had a coach taking the team in the right direction…

Exciting Additions! – Marvin Chavez, uh…wait…hot off the presses, Jose Mari

Tricky Departures… – Hendry Thomas, Tony Cascio

Quality Parts: Deshorn Brown, Clint Irwin, Drew Moor, Dillon Powers, Nathan Sturgis, Marvell Wynne

It Gets Better If They Come Good: Vicente Sanchez (who could be above if I knew this team better), Gabriel Tores (ditto), Danny Mwanga, Marvin Chavez, Dillon Serna, Edson Buddle (injury-free?), Nick LaBrocca…and, now, Jose Mari.

What I’d Expect Based on the Above:
…(this picks up on ellipses left open in section 1) then an old flame came around, flashed a lotta leg, whispered remembrances of sofa sex under the sizzling Texas sun, and – poof! – Oscar Pareja’s gone just like that, leaving a team of wounded children, mouthing the word “why?” through trembling lips. Eh, it’s probably not that so much as Rapids players wondering why no one (say, a new head coach) has come by to rescue from the damn orphanage. Unless something changes before March 15, Colorado will kick off 2014 with an interim coach at the helm. Less a coach, even, than a player who just retired. That hardly seems ideal when you’re trying to build on potentially fragile momentum. Divorces happen, though, and the kids survive, even when they get ugly. I’ve heard (literally; confessed podcast whore, here) concerns about a sophomore slump epidemic hitting this team and a coaching absence could certainly exacerbate that problem. For whatever reason, though, I’m optimistic about this bunch. It’s not going to be easy – not in a Western Conference armed for live-test of the M.A.D. doctrine –but the Rapids have solid-to-good players in most places and enough old guys to help keep heads looking in the right direction. If nothing else, keep your fingers crossed that watching them work out any lingering “daddy issues” against FC Dallas will be the stuff of legend and future reality TV programming.

2014 Season Opener: @ New York, March 15

All Right, All Right. Enough With the Foreplay…

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Wait for it….

Results in preseason don’t count, or so we’re told about just about any sport. That doesn’t sound so bad great if you’re from Portland, Oregon, this March 2014. On evidence of the Portland Timbers’ preseason, some of bad habits from last season appear to have carried over into 2014. Something about early doors…

When it comes to the rest of MLS…it’s just confusing.

No, fans shouldn’t feel any emotion stronger than mild optimism – a light beer on the imaginary scale that equates beer to happiness – on seeing their team hoist a preseason trophy. On the other, 2013 was a tall bucket of shit for DC United, so it only seems fair to let them whoop a little about taking the Carolina Challenge Cup…even if they win it just about every preseason. As for everyone else, just keep cool if the ball rolled your way in early 2014. And nod sagely as if it’s all going according to plan. Continue reading