MLS Week 7 Feelings Check: Sister Kissing and Absent Forwards

ImageAs just about anyone who cares to know knows, Major League Soccer has a major sister-kissing problem. Hell, the Chicago Fire’s already well around second base, but more than a few other teams – my Portland Timbers among them – well, let’s just say they’re grasping at all the wrong bra straps. Look outside the nuclear family, boys, and chalk up some decent, American wins. Ya sickos…

This has been commented on and, fortunately, there is an upside. Those ties are a fucking god-send when your team is struggling to get started. At least one team comes to mind…with hope’s wings a-flutter over it.

A couple other thoughts occurred to me over this past Week 7, things that don’t fit neatly into the team-by-team narrative that will unfold below. On that, I quit Power Rankings cold turkey (seems to be the only way), so don’t read anything into the order below; I listed all 19 teams in the order that they came to me. And that’s it. I’ll make my measure of them in the comments (and why the hell do I sound like a late 19th-century prospector tonight?).

Getting back to those trends, how many teams are suffering from lost gambles on certain forwards to solve the problem? Think Eddie Johnson, Teal Bunbury, and, more recently, Andrew Wenger (no, I will not give him time to get going). There are more, I’m sure. What about the struggles of once/former stars like Marco DiVaio, who has failed to get going so far, or even Will Bruin who promised so very much….though that was in one game…maybe we all should have seen that coming.

On a related note, I’m not even sure the Timbers have a forward… Continue reading

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FC Dallas v. Seattle: Deuce Drops a Deuce in the Big D

This week has been lousy with talk of Clint “Deuce” Dempsey. Whether serving as the poster-boy for Major League Soccer’s lopsided salaries (he was on the crawl, people, I swear!) or as talisman for the Seattle Sounder’s (fucking!) triumph over FC Dallas, Dempsey featured on Yahoo!’s crawl not once, but twice.

Then we had the week before when his hat-trick against my struggling Portland Timbers made him the talk of the league. I resisted the talk, whether out of partisan spite or a habit of taking my hype in small spoonfuls. Still, Dempsey’s performance against Dallas this weekend has forced me to confront some demons. And to cough up a couple bucks. Sumbitch.

He’s not the fastest guy on the pitch – pretty sure I saw Chris Hedges win a foot race against him – but Dempsey’s fulfilling the playmaker role that (some) rumor(s) assigned to him in the preseason. And, lord, is he filling it well. Continue reading

Of Blaz Perez and Joining the Righteous Cult of Squad Rotation (C’mon Portland!)

ImageThis morning’s Kick-Off ran some little item ran on FC Dallas head coach resting the team’s forward, Blaz Perez. To anyone in a position to do so: see that this, or a similar memo, hits the desk of the Portland Timbers’ head coach, Caleb Porter. I mean, why not pull on some big boy pants and try a little squad rotation?

As noted in the piece on Perez, it’s about him being old. Old and tired. I kid, but it is definitely about resting a key player to, as the article puts it, make sure he, and others like him, are rested “when [Pareja] truly needs them the most.”

The idea of squad rotation – or even the simpler idea of giving players time to fully recover from injury – comes to me every time Diego Valeri creaks around the field like the Tin Man (as he did for the first couple games). Or, say, every time Darlington Nagbe dusts himself off from another “professional” kick at his ankles. Sure, you can ride either player another 20 minutes, or, when it comes to Nagbe, sick the Twin Terriers on the perps goon-style (that’d be Diego Chara and Will Johnson) to see if that can’t chase the problem away.

I credit Porter for working Valeri in over those first few games, but I’d still like to see him tread a bit more lightly through the recovery stage because it’s not like the fall isn’t going to be a fixture traffic jam – i.e. see note above about “when we truly need them most.” Bottom line, why keep a limping Nagbe on for the full 90, with Kalif Alhassan ready to roll at least half the time? If Valeri gets kicked – and, I swear, he’s catching up with Nagbe – sub him a little early, especially when the team has a lead. Um… Continue reading

Houston v. Dallas: On Leaving the Barnes Door Open

Hey, at least one team showed up to play. Or defend, at least. Yep, still pissed about Portland v. Seattle…at least Dallas managed to keep their side of the final scoreline respectable.

As a contest, Houston Dynamo v. FC Dallas delivered. Not that I needed Glenn Davis (that was him, right?) to remind me again and again and again. What’s the legal term? Res Ipso Loquitor?

Credit to Davis (or whomever that was) for one observation: somewhere in the middle 1/3 of the game he stressed the importance of referees coming into the game with a clear sense of how they’re going to manage a rivalry game – e.g. what gets a card, what gets a lecture, what gets a red card…more on that later. And good point.

Anyway, the game played out pretty much how one would expect with the home team – Houston – setting the tempo and building actual attacks. Giles Barnes squandered as many as some teams get in one night (no, not really; just a couple early ones) – and that was in the first 15. The Dynamo kept making chances, at any rate, even if most of them came closer to half-chances.

Dallas did the parry/counter thing for the most part, but to pretty good effect. The team can flat-out fly, for one, but there’s the recent intelligence as well: the addition of Mauro Diaz means Dallas has a man who can find those runs. And with Hendry Thomas playing behind Diaz… Continue reading

Portland v. Dallas: The Search for Second Gear/Base

Promises of progress ring hollow when they go long enough without being fulfilled. That’s not complicated.

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Closer to scoring a goal than the Timbers…

And the Portland Timbers find themselves in a fairly uncomplicated position after four games and two points. Anyone can sit back and weigh what’s going well for Portland and what isn’t. Here’s a piece that does it, but I haven’t even read it yet, just to make sure I’m relying on the pickled brain cells; don’t want things like optimism and reasoned caveats to get in the way of righteous funk. What needs to happen is fundamental enough that it doesn’t need dressing up: it’s time for the Timbers to start scoring goals on one end of the field, at least deliberately or earlier, and stopping the dumb ones from going in the other end.

So, the Portland Timbers went on down to Dallas, waded past the longhorns (presumably; I have to assume that’s why those beasts featured in the broadcast intro) and took the field. Things started reasonably enough that to make a case for viewing this as the Timbers brightest start to any game in 2014. Too great a gap between the defense and midfield made for the sole worrying sign I noted early. Then again, I don’t remember a lot of major importance happening in the first 30 minutes or so…(highlights for those interested in confirming). Continue reading

FC Dallas 2014 Season Preview: Will Nature Find a Way?

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No, not that best match, but it’s a killer pic. And loosely from Jurassic Park.

How’d 2013 Treat ‘Em: 11-12-11 (W-L-T), 48 gf, 52 ga; 8th in the West
Let the record show that I have been reading, and that I continue to read, the season previews posted by other sites. It’s just Matt Doyle’s so far – The Armchair Analyst, for MLS’s main page – but I do consciously try to disregard those perspectives so far as I can and instead rely on my own observations and opinions. That said, something Doyle wrote about Dallas just won’t get out of my head, so, credit to him for this point, however it turns out. He’s right, though: Dallas really does have good, to very good, players all over the field. Given that, how they cocked it up so badly in 2013 can only be a mystery. The only answer I have is this: it’s Dallas, people. And, for as long as I’ve watched the league (i.e., since the tail-end of ’96), Dallas most often follows this pattern: start hot, wander aimlessly, collapse. Sure, they got it right one year – 2010, when they made MLS Cup – but most years, including 2013, they faithfully adhere to their programming…kinda like the DNA thing in Jurassic Park. You can answer the small questions – David Ferreira not being the player he was; Blas Perez’s World Cup qualifying absences; injuries to the backline; maybe that Jackson guy is an asshole, so they trade him; I dunno – but the big one of how a roster this solid sinks to 8th in the West? Actually, I do have a guess. Schellas Hyndman. The man lost the locker room at some point and that was fatal. May not be true, but that’s my version of the fable.

Exciting Additions! – Hendry Thomas, Andres Escobar, David Texeira Tesho Akindele (There’s a School of Mimes!)

Tricky Departures… – David Ferreira, Jackson, Kenny Cooper

Quality Parts: Raul Fernandez, Matt Hedges, Andrew Jacobson, Zach Loyd, Blas Perez, Hendry Thomas

It Gets Better If They Come Good: George John, Jair Benitez (keep yer head, son), Fabian Castillo, Mauro Diaz, Escobar, Adam Moffat, Michel, London Woodberry (OK, don’t know him, gawd, what a name!)

What I’d Expect Based on the Above:
Since I’m already cribbing other people’s opinions, I may as well keep going: just about every podcast I listen to opined that Dallas found the missing puzzle piece when Hendry Thomas followed Oscar Pareja over from Dallas. And, if you accept the above theory about Hyndman being the problem, Pareja, who did ever so well with Colorado in 2013, could turn this quality roster into a force. Problems with chemistry could arise – say Escobar or Texeira could stink, or Mauro Diaz could fail to adequately fill Ferreira’s formerly big boots – but, when I look at the personnel on the roster, a lot of players I rate pretty highly wave back at me. Injuries could strike – I’m thinking George John, in particular – maybe other players will keep on with the under-performing. Maybe, but I doubt it. I don’t see how this team doesn’t take a playoff spot. I mean, there are five after all…the question is, who makes room? (My money’s on Seattle, or, more delicious still, Colorado…that is going to be a beautiful narrative in 2014.)

2014 Season Opener: v. Montreal Impact, March 8