I watched three games today.
I woke up early for that Manchester Derby where Manchester United defended, defended and defended and hoped for a moment of creativity somewhere in the match to notch the win. It happened with an unmarked Paul Scholes directing home a bounding header.
I flew back home to catch the Chelsea-Tottenham game where a 6’0” 20-year-old left back was dazzling….on offense. Gareth Bale netted one on a sublime near-post strike and Tottenham played like a team that regularly participates in Champion’s League football.
Now I just finished watching the Galaxy-RSL clash.
I can easily say this final one was the most enjoyable from many different perspectives.
• First, two just phenomenally coached teams. Each team knew exactly what they had to do and attempted to execute to their coach’s desire.
Unfortunately for RSL they were without a critical cog in Javier Morales and playing with a few too many miles on the odometer in the past week tonight. You could say those things–on the team level–were the difference.
• Two teams that–for the most part–played to the whistle both from a finishing-the-play perspective and from a “I-just-got-fouled….Call-it!” perspective. How refreshing is that if you witnessed the match.
• More impressive skill from some Galaxy players that I’ve really come to…well…enjoy watching.
Is Omar Gonzalez just 21-years-old? We may need to check his birth certificate like a Dominican baseball player.
Unbelievably composed the entire night, Gonzalez–that I could see–made a two meager mistakes on the evening, misreading a swerving service that nearly netted a goal in the 2nd half and failing to clip or professional-foul Robbie Findley, who had created a few chances upon his introduction, to send a message.
Other than that? Flawless. One play really stuck out to me: About 10 minute into the 2nd half Gonzalez received a pass under duress and was being pursued from behind and being closed down from the front as he moved from center to right with ball just past the half line on his side.
He made the smart play in just unloading the ball up the field…..only it was nearly a perfect over-the-top ball to Landon on a fly pattern near the right line. Landon corralled and earned a throw-in. I was stunned.
Sean Franklin. Hopefully Franklin’s heal injury is nothing to sweat about. Franklin in the 1st half was lights-out on defense and incisive and just plain thrifty in attack. If the play called for a cross, Franklin crossed it. If the play called for a dump-and-run, Franklin executed it. In my mind, Franklin will be a national team player at the highest level for the US again.
And of course, Edson Buddle. I can reference this piece which talks about my past infatuation with national team campaigning–long before I started this publication–for the rather mercurial Buddle.
I was more impressed with Buddle’s movement today that either of the goals frankly. The first goal was a great team goal and credit goes to Buddle, Landon (with his kick0meter working) and Arena–that play was diagrammed and executed. On Buddle’s second goal, the announcers claimed he was getting more power by striking the ball on the half volley.
What I saw was a striker, in the definition of the word, realizing he was about to get closed down after finding space and launching an accurate strike quickly. That got my blood going.
For me, witnessing Buddle be equally adept at receiving service and making runs off Donovan and Juninho–well my vote still goes to a look-see for him in May by Bob Bradley. Those that say Buddle is merely a junior replica of Jozy Altidore are wrong. Buddle is a slashing striker who just happens to have a strong physique and doesn’t mind contact. Jozy seeks to initiate contact and gain the advantage through throwing his on-hip defender off-balance. Different players…
About the only part of Buddle’s day that you would want to take back was his demonstrative taunting of Nat Borchers. Here’s the thing…if you’re beating the guy up all day long, then stay mum….you’re team has more to lose.
Buddle’s 1st with music stolen from Gonzalo Higuain greatest hits:
• On RSL’s side of the ball, I’m hard pressed to anoint anyone with a top player award and similarly loathe to label anyone goat. RSL looked fatigue, but in true cliché fashion, fought like a champion seeking to figure out the LA defense (which had only allowed three shots on goal until this evening ALL SEASON). USMNTer Kyle Beckerman was well-disciplined with the exception of some opening minutes in the 2nd half….and he also blasted a grass-cutter into the lower left corner for the Salt Lakers lone tally.
Conversely Will Johnson clearly missed fellow midfielder Morales as Johnson found himself thrust into the creator role when he’s really more of a Scottie Pippen-type.
Galaxy-RSL a very fitting finale to a stellar Saturday.