29 July 2005

4 Glorious Minutes - 1 DCU : Chelsea FC 2

There's a script for this sort of game in every American sports movie ever filmed. Arrogant, bullying world power humbled by plucky yanks in the final minutes. But real sport is different than movies, and so it was this time. Chelsea wasn't arrogant, but supremely professional. The upstarts didn't pull off the come from behind miracle win, they scored too early for that to happen. Instead, DCU played credibly against the best in the world, but came up just short. Chelsea played well, but not overpoweringly. It was a game of a good team against a better team. The better team won, but you play it ten games in a row, and DCU could win 3 of them.

It was a wonderful night for soccer. The Screaming Eagles, Barra Brava, and La Norte led the crowd in full voice. There was much black and red in the seats. And when Boswell neatly finished a beautiful corner, it seemed like the impossible could have happened. But Duff's beautiful volley four minute later put it deadlocked into the half. A vicious counter attack in the second half sealed DCU's fate, as it took at least 10 minutes for DCU to clear the ringing from their heads. Counters will do that to you, when you give them up, you look much worse than you actually are. Everyone can understand giving up a goal on a set piece, but giving up the counter goal is more demoralizing even though it is worth just the same. They did recover, but by then it was getting late.

So who did themselves good?
  1. Chelsea: They are arguably the best in the world right now, and they showed it. Even in preseason form, they play with competence and professionalism, and showed that the rest of the EPL could be chasing the entire season.
  2. Boswell: The fear was that DCU would be dominated by Chelsea's attack. He was steady in the defense, and proved that he really was quite overlooked by everyone in MLS by going undrafted. No fear. The goal was only icing on that cake.
  3. MLS/DCU/Nowak: DCU didn't turtle, didn't play merely to survive. Nowak put out a team that wanted to go toe-to-toe with the best, and put up enough pressure that with one more connected pass there could have been more chances and perhaps a win. He wanted DCU to play with the same professionalism as Chelsea, and while he was right that DCU was a little too excited after the Boswell header, the team acquitted themselves well. An MLS team didn't look entirely out of place while being on the pitch with the EPL Champs, and that bodes well.
  4. Freddy Adu / Jamie Moreno: Both played with heart and passion, and tried desperately to get DCU an equalizer. Freddy had some great touch on the ball, moved beautifully with it, and represented DCU passion. Jamie was crafty as normal, and he and Josh Gros must have made the Chelsea back line a little more nervous than they would have liked.
  5. Dema: No fear.
  6. DCU fandom: You guys were great. Even after the body blow of the second Chelsea goal, you got back into the game after only a few minutes.

So who was outclassed?

  1. John Wilson: It kills me to write this, he misplayed about 3 square balls in a row. Any of them could have surrendered the counter attack goal that was later surrendered, and it was just luck that it wasn't Wilson misplaying it.
  2. Christian Gomez: Again, I hate to write this, but I didn't see him really getting into the attack.

As a man of my word, I have placed the Chelsea link on the right. Congrats to the Blues for a decent match, good luck on the rest of the season. Let's do this again in 10 years. And given the MLS learning curve, you might see a different result.

28 July 2005

DCU vs Chelsea in 4 Hours

Apologies to MES, but Joe has told people to sing...

Theme from United, DC

Come on I will show you how it will change
When you play a team not from Europe
Yankee boys (Hey!)
Everybody sing (Hey!)
Better run quick (Hey!)
Adu's just a boy
but he moved too quickly
We live on blood
We are United, D.C.!

We don't have some crazy russion billionaire owner
We'll just put you in a world of Payne
But by Gros or Gomez
We will
Hey! Hey!
Dema's our boy!
Go out and break a leg!
We live on blood
We are United, DC

Hey! Hey! We don't pay over 200 Mil (Hey!)
But some things are for free (Hey!)
We live on blood (Hey!)
We are United, DC (Hey!)
English Chelsea fan
this is your last game (Hey!)
We're not some crappy Galaxy
We're United, DC (Hey)

Cheap English man, but now you're in America
Can't even get to a Europen Cup.
Better go spot a place to rest
No more ground boutique at match in Chelsea
We are United, DC


You want to make it interesting, Chelsea?

It's a preseason game for Chelsea, nothing on the line but pride, right? So let's up the stakes in the pride column. I have challenged Chelsea blog to the following:

Open Challenge to the Chelsea Blog Admins here. Let's make tonight'ss game a little more interesting. If you win, I will display two links in Chelsea's colors at the top of my links column: the phrase "Chelsea Won" linking to Chelsea's home page, and the final score which would link to a post here gloating about the win. If DCU wins, you will link in DCU's colors (red,black,white) to DC United's home page with the words "DC United Won" and the final score linking to a post on my blog gloating about the win. A draw, and no links are required. Links will go up starting tomorrow and for a period of no less than one month.

Let's see what happens, shall we? Will they even accept?

[Update at 10:24 AM] Yes, I realize this is presumptuous, but what the hell, it could be fun. And yes Chelsea fans, I know the rgb values for that blue and white. I also note that today Payne gets his team. But really, the sale story can wait until tomorrow. Right now, it is all about tonight.

[Update at 10:38 AM] IT'S ON BABY! From the comments at Chelsea Blog...

8. Webmaster on July 28th, 2005 at 3:32 pm

I don’t really have a problem with your challenge.
Of course,
you have a lot more to gain from it than I do. A pre-season victory over the Champions of England will be viewed as a major achievement by DC United and their fans when in fact it’ll mean very little. You do realise we treat these games as training sessions?! ;-)
Consider that a pre-prepared excuse in case we do lose!
And there will be no gloating here if we win. Gloating is reserved for wins over the likes of Airline FC, the MU 49ers, Lucky Liverpool et al… not pre-season victories over MLS sides! ;-)

Hmm... a little defensive are we? Already coming up with excuses? But they've taken the bait, and I look forward to seeing a nice black, red, and white link about DCU's triumph.

Okay, seriously, Chelsea blog is being real cool to put up with a snotty Yank like me and actually do this. I do realize that DCU has much more to gain than Chelsea. But any probability expert will tell you, in choosing a strategy you multiple by probability by payout to determine value. I figure that the value here evens out for both sides :) And perhaps, if nothing else, we'll be setting the standard for cross blog bets in this game we love.

26 July 2005

Go Fish

The Goffather reports that Steve Guppy may not be long with United. The timing of this issue relates to when Steve's $120K would become guranteed. Apparently, the date is typically July 1, but DCU had extra time to make a decision because of Guppy's injury.

As a fan, you always want the team to keep a guy who you feel is giving his all out on the pitch. Steve was such a player in my opinion. He played hard, delivered some beautiful crosses early in the season, and had a positive attitude in his dealings with players, media, and fans. However, as a fan, you also want the best 11 on the field who will give you a shot at winning it all. And as an MLS team, which means "team with a very strict budget and salary cap" unlike some others, there's a resource allocation problem. Guppy doesn't fit into the cold calculus that Kevin Payne and others must compute in order to win championships.

If Guppy is let go, it is a sad thing indeed, and it would be no fault of his own. But it is probably the correct decision. Guppy will become a DCU ex-pat, and we should wish him well and hope another club takes him on. If he gives as much effort to that club as he gave to DCU, then I'm sure that club will be happy.

23 July 2005

The Eventual Heat Death of the Galaxy

0 LA : DCU 1

I had this post pretty much written. A short note that one point on the road is a good thing, some applause for some smart attacking, a few notes of disapproval regarding some of the defensive work (Wilson, I'm looking at you), and some discussion as to whether Adu was a good forward in the game, or even if he was playing as a forward. I thought he was invisible for most of the game. Yes, a few nice runs, but nothing special. Jamie seemed to be taking the burden of the work.

Then Freddie goes and gets the game winning goal, finds one of the sections of DCU fans in the HDC, and seems to shed two years of expectation and frustration. In the process, he destroyed whatever shred of sense I had when I was planning to discuss Adu.

As for the heat, ESPN was making a big deal of the 110F temperatures at pitch-level. I think Chastain's comment that heat makes you stupid (as opposed to focusing on the cramping, the hyrdration, and the like) is actually one of the more insightful comments. Seriously. I know that occasionally during a pick-up game in hot weather in DC, I get very stupid. The first stupid decision is usually by deciding to play soccer in 90+ heat in DC. Then after about 5 minutes, the only thing in my brain in Pancakes, Pancakes, Pancakes... Really.

22 July 2005

You are Number 6 (or not)

There is much consertnation over FIFA's ranking of the USA as the #6 football power in the world, the highest position ever for the USA. I mean, are they better than France, who's actually won a world cup? The English side that defeated the US in a recent friendly? Spain? Portugal? Germany? Probably not. The #6 ranking is undefensible.

However, there is a ranking system I do trust, the World Football ELO Ratings web site, where the US is ranked a much more reasonable #11. But there is one thing that FIFA and ELO agree on: This is the highest rated team the US has ever had in comparison to the rest of the world. All of the team above the US in the ELO rating have been ranked #1 at some point in history (Except Portugal, which only rose as high as #3). A win in the Gold Cup could move the USA into the top 10, above Italy. This is, quite simply, the best the USA has ever been, even with that loss to In-Ger-Land.

And you know, the more I think about it, the more that makes sense to me. The team we are sending to Germany may be the best team US Soccer has ever assembled in comparison to the rest of the world. Should make the World Cup interesting, no?

Bruce Arena, Renegade - 2 USMNT : Honduras 1

Here's what I liked about the USMNT's win over Honduras:
  • The US wasn't in top form, and gave up multiple chances in the back.
  • They were behind for 85 minutes.
  • They pressed from about the 60th minute onward, leaving only one guy back with Kasey Keller.
  • The way the telefutura announces love saying certain names: Landon Donovan, DeMarcus Beasley, Kasey Keller. Can't just use the last name, oh no, it sounds much more beautiful with a spanish accent in full.
  • The very sedate Bruce Arena got a red card. I didn't know he knew how to say "Give me a fucking break over the calls, cocksucker" in so many languages.
  • They still won. And Bruce can serve his red card suspension in a non World Cup qualifying game (otherwise I imagine we're frantically trying to schedule a friendly against Canada)

Seriously, yesterday's game may not have been top form soccer, but the result was wonderful. My wife loved the game, and as you know, the Significant Other test is a key one when evaluating a game. The last game she absolutley loved watching was the 4-3 PK DCU win over the Revs in the Eastern Conference final, which we attended. That convinced here that there was something to this entire soccer thing I have.

21 July 2005

Gold Cup

Did you know that you can get English subtitles during telefutura Gold Cup Games? Did you know that "¡Gol! ¡Gol! ¡Gol! ¡Gol! ¡Gol!" translates to "Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal!"? Did you know that Ben Olsen is now the Dema Kovalenko of the USMNT? Did you know the game is 6PM tonight? I do.

Missouri Misery

Sorry I was gone for a bit. Was on travel for a bit, then dealing with some home/work related things. But all is well now. And yes, I was on travel for a bit in Missouri. I do not like that state. If you are curious, spend three hours driving on I-44.

Anyways, DCU ties KC 1-1 last night. This was one of those games where you'd really like to see three points, for a couple of reasons:
  1. Championship teams can get full points on the road even while playing worse than the other team. And DCU's defense was not great. By all rights, it should have been 1-0 or 2-0 after the first 25 minutes. That DCU was up at the half almost made this the kind of game you have to steal.
  2. It's the fricking wizards. I mean, for chrissakes, c'mon. Put 'em away.

That being said, there were some good things:

  1. Wilson's spin move in the 10th minute on the wing.
  2. Adu's passing.
  3. Josh Gros. Not just the goal, but the number of times he stepped into a through ball while playing defense. Beautiful.
  4. The occasional long shot from Clyde Simms. I agree that these are real useful in softening a defense, and taking a shot from beyond the box that goes just wide makes people nervous. You can make a case that Gros doesn't find the net without Clyde's ealier work.

And there was bad:

  1. Defense was erratic. I love Boswell, but he and Wilson were not at their peak in this game.
  3. Giving up counters.

Anyways, the rest of the season looks travel free. This is a good thing. Let's gear it up.