Weekend Redux: Reds Fire, Rapids Expire

A wonderful weekend of soccer just concluded. I happen to have the time to catch the marquee match-up at Anfield, Rapids-RSL and some of the West Ham vs. Arsenal.

Let’s jump right in.

• Liverpool knocks over Manchester United, 2-0

» You can’t start commentary here without talking about the play of Fernando Torres. He consistently threatened the Man U’s backline all day long, testing the offsides barriers and commanding possession. He gave Nemanja Vidic fits, so much so that Vidic “earned” his third straight red against Benitez’s side.

Torres to Ferdinand: Take a seat and I'll beat up Johnny Evans

Torres to Ferdinand: If you're done being embarrassed, take a seat and I'll start busting up Johnny Evans

But that’s not it, Torres went toe-to-toe with Vidic–at 25 mins of the first half winning corner that had Vidic just flabbergasted–and won on strength and then literally danced around Man U’s left center and left flank (more on that later). The Spaniard also tracked back on defense and with a little more than 20 minutes left parried a dangerous free kick that would have challenged Reina.

I’m not old enough to make this claim, but for his shear combination of strength, finesse and precision, Torres is, in my book, one of the greatest to play the game.

» What in the world has happened to the left side of Manchester United’s defense which was leaking like a sieve all day long. Rio Ferdinand is just a slim shadow of the player he used to be and Patrice Evra so disinterested that he thinks it’s a privilege that Sir Alex is allowed to play him. TSG never makes these statements in isolation and today again both Evra and Ferdinand looked marginal to average at best.

Case in point, about 55 mins in a horrible play by Evra gifts the ball to Benayoun who rumbles to goal. Evra is seen just jogging back into the play; somewhat incredulous.

As for Ferdinand, Fernando Torres abusive run against him on the game winner about 60 mins in was indicative of how the oft-injured Ferdinand has lost a step and lost strength. You know how you know when a player is slowly losing it? He starts to complain to the ref incessantly. Ferdinand used to be average at best in his ref discussions, now it looks like he is looking for some sort of courtesy from the zebras. Your time has gone Ferdinand.

» Speaking of losing it, the Paul Scholes is very quickly heading to the over-35 req league — fast. Scholes often trailed the play and was a non-factor today. Going forward Scholes will be dubbed at TSG, “The fading Paul Scholes”

» In other news, Dimitar Berbatov has earned the nickname “The very average Dimitar Berbatov”

» Wrapping these points up, without Gerrard the Anfielders had the depth to take it to the Traffords. The game, in my opinion, was really won with Benitez’s line-up selection.  Aurelio, Benayoun, Torres and Kuyt capably backed by a resurgent Lucas and industrious Macherano. Fergie’s backline played high and was at risk from the through ball and counter all day. The central midfield of Giggs, Scholes and Carrick couldn’t link anything and the last 20 minutes of the game saw long ball after long ball USMNT style in an attempt to get some offense going.

Real Salt Lake defeats the Colorado Rapids

(Note: tried to watch Galaxy – Earthquakes, but it didn’t make the tele — if someone has a report, would love to hear it.)

» The best USMNT striker on the field Saturday night was clearly Robbie Findley over Conor Casey. Casey had a sloppy game and didn’t seem in sync with his club. Meanwhile, Robbie Findley netted a brace and showed excellent offensive runs and command of the ball. After a 15th  minute header, Findley had a highlight real goal just before the half as we gathered in a long lead pass in time to juggle it over the Rapid’s goalie and then slot it into the bottom right.

Coming off that brace, Findley moved the ball excellently in the 2nd. We still lacks some strength, but he’ll see another call-up from Coach B.

See Findley’s highlight goal at the 2:15 mark.

» Did Colorado already quit on their coach? I found their lack of effort and execution appalling. It was clear that the Rapids were eager for the oft-season.

» Former USMNT hopeful Drew Moor looked slow as his hips were turned twice on the 3rd RSL goal.

West Ham battled back against Arsenal for a 2-2 draw

» Yank’s Johnny Spector was in the right full position and was matched up alternately against the likes of Arshavin and Van Persie and did a very admirable job. Good job in Specs getting the start and making use of it. Specs had other player responsibilities for the two Emirates goals.

• Other bullets:

Amr Zaki who?

Amr Zaki who?

» Fulham battled back to tie Man City, 2-2. Remarkable given that Fulham find the back of the net less than DaMarcus Beasley. Clint had his typical seeing-eye header that bounced and then dodged the valiant effort by Shay Given.

P.S. If you want to see the lamest goal celebration ever, check out Lescott’s score where Adebayor tried to get the credit. Beyond lame.

We changed our minds, it’s better than an Amr Zaki start. Twice this year, we’ve commented to look out for Hugo Rodallega. The Colombian national, fresh of a transfer from Necaxa of the Mexican league, is making DW Stadium forget all about Zaki who came out roaring last year for the home side, but then fizzled after a bout with I’m-too-good-itis. Rodallega netted a brace against Burnley on Saturday. Look for the 26-year-old to put his national team back on the map in the coming years–he’s that good.

» If the Slovakia friendly November 10th does happen for the US, you may see star Marek Hamsik (who we discussed Friday) come in as a future member of Chelsea. Rumor has it he is the guy for the Blues come the January transfer window.

» Just another piece of evidence that superstar Lionel Messi is not too fond of Diego Maradona skippering his national side.

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Matthew N on 2009/10/26 at 5:45 AM

    I jumped up on top of my chair and screamed at the top of my lungs when Ngog put that 2nd goal in during added time. I knew they could do it. Liverpool’s non-star players are very underrated, even by their own fans. Aurelio, Benayoun, Kuyt, all don’t get enough credit.

    I tried watching the Crew/Rev game on ESPN2 last night, but it was just terrible after watching LFC/MUFC and Arsenal/Hammers all day. Plus, Columbus didn’t care cause they already clinched the Shield.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/10/26 at 6:22 AM

      Completely agree Matthew.

      I’m a huge Benayoun man and it was some combination of his incredible ability and Patrice Evra’s utter laissez-faire that had Van Der Saar threatened on his left side all day long.

      In our trade pieces we mentioned Kuyt who has this unique ability to be wonderfully talented in the striker, forward, or midfielder role. He lets the game dictates how he play. He’s a little like Donovan in that realm — physically he’s a little slower, but harder to knock off the ball. TSG loves Kuyt.

      While Aurelio played well, I still love Riera on that left flank. And no Gerrard or Aqualani to speak of…impressive.

      MLS players in general suffer not from the final touch as Franke Hedjuk suggested earlier this year in commentary my brother wrote, but from the first touch. In general, the first touch is sloppy, slowing down the game, reducing offensive options and leading to more turnovers.

      Reply

  2. The Liverpool v. Manchester United match demonstrated yet again that Steven Gerrard is as much a problem for his side as a solution. He plays like he’s a one-man team when he’s on so everything gets built around him. This of course means everything falls apart when he has one of the many matches where he looks distinctly ordinary. His inconsistency is the cause of Liverpool’s inconsistency. It’s no surprise how their midfield finally starts looking decent when he’s out injured and they can play a tactical system instead of the supporting cast in the broadway hit scored by Phil Collins, “The Stevie G Show”. The reality is that Liverpool are a better team without their talisman in the side.

    As for United, their real problem is really the center of midfield. I just don’t rate Carrick and their Canadian is alright, but he spends most of his time hanging with the trainers. Giggs hasn’t got enough in the tank to cope with the wing in United’s expansive attacking style and leaves a soft underbelly when he plays at the base of midfield. Scholes is just plain done but he presents the same problem of no steel at the base of midfield.

    Chelsea is going to run away with the PL this season on the strength of Lampard, Essien and Ballack – the three best midfield players in the league – especially if Joe Cole takes to the point of a diamond like a fish to water, as he was born for the role. I reckon Torres for Drogba would be pretty much a straight swap – main difference is that one’s taking a month off for the African Nation’s Cup.

    Reply

  3. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/10/26 at 9:39 AM

    @Tuesday

    Interesting commentary on Gerrard. I do think the players defer to Gerrard too much when he is on the pitch. Are they a better team, hmm? I’ll have to consider that.

    On Man U, I am lot more worried about them after that came. We’ve been saying all along that there midfield need new horses. I mean do we really think Scholes and Giggs are the answer this season for them? Maybe there is some truth to Man U ownership looking to pay off debt more than fund the team. Regardless, while we new about their weakness in midfield, how about the left side of their defense–I honestly thought it was atrocious and have never seen Evra not a give a hoot as much as he didn’t yesterday.

    Chelsea need to be more dynamic on offense. Michael Ballack returning to form is huge for them, but they still need more out of Florent Malouda. I’m also interested to see how Terry and Carvalho hold up through the entire season. Both in my mind have lost a step.

    Reply

  4. Posted by MM on 2009/10/26 at 1:30 PM

    Injuries took its toll on Rapids. They lost Colin Clark, Jacob Peterson, & Jamie Smith. That’s all of their wingers. Not good when use the empty bucket formation. GK, Matt Pickens was also injured at the end of the season as well. Despite what Marcello Balboa says, Preston Burpo is not a number one GK in the MLS. The Rapids were lifeless over the last two months of the season. They couldn’t figure out how to play without wingers. Casey’s only goals over this stretch came off of PK’s.

    Reply

  5. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/10/26 at 1:55 PM

    @MM

    Thanks for the feedback. I have not watched the Rapids so my thoughts were constrained to one observation.

    That being said, I still didn’t see a team fighting for the playoffs, including Casey who got dispossesed in the 2nd half and prompty earned a yellow with a silly foul.

    Reply

  6. Posted by sfshwebb on 2009/10/26 at 4:51 PM

    I thought the Liverpool game was more about Sir Alex’s poor team selection and tactics than about a Liverpool dominance. Liverpool were given the game by a fearful United. As a life long Liverpool fan, i was extremely proud of the result and it showed that with their backs to wall, the players have a spirit and determination that can take them far. Carragher, stepped up like he always does for the big games and hopefully this performance will inspire him to raise his game from the below standard play that he has been showing thus far this season. Glen Johnson curbed his forays up-field a bit to concentrate on defence and this was his best defensive display this season. I was happy that Ngog got his goal and it will do a lot for his confidence but when he was given his chance to prove himself midweek he failed. He has the skills to become a decent player but right now is too young to be counted on. Why Babel or Voronin arn’t give a longer look is beyond me. Voronin lit up in the Bundesliga last year and i think should be given a chance to prove himself. He’s more skilled than Ngog and certainly has more experience.

    This is the most wide open Premiership in a long time and i believe that the winner will have 5-6 in the loss column. This is Liverpool’s first victory against a potential top 8 team and certainly the first clean sheet they have kept against a good team. Their defense played very well against Man U but is still very far away from being the dominant force it was the past few years. Hopefully this will help them go on a long unbeaten run.

    Reply

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