Fitting Finale To A Stellar Saturday

The smile says it all...

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.

Morales: A difference maker by not playing...

• 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.

On the left, possibly the present. The right? Definitely the future...

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.

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30 responses to this post.

  1. Anyone else notice that literally the second Sean Franklin came off RSL scored? Coincidence? Franklin gets so far up the pitch that you think he is going to get caught on a counter, but he never seems to. Why? Because the Galaxy own the right side when he is in and he forces the left midfielder of the other team, whoever that may be, to track back in order to try to stifle his offensive presence. It usually doesn’t help. Even though he is 25 I can see him being a key figure for USA in 2014. He has the pace, athleticism, touch, and intelligence to do it.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/04/17 at 10:52 PM

      It’s almost criminal that the Galaxy have the two best defenders in the league, currently the best striker and the best American playing in MLS…

      Reply

      • I wouldn’t call them the two best defenders quite yet. They can both be considered in the discussion, but there are a few guys that I think are better. Chad Marshall dominates MLS and is the best offensive weapon on set pieces in the league. Jimmy Conrad is always solid and even put in 6 goals 2 years ago. I don’t know if you guys have seen much of Wilman Conde, but he is amazing in every sense as well. However the player I really liked at defense doesn’t even play defense anymore. Geoff Cameron was phenomenal last year and definitely deserved to win defender of the year, but most of the voters have no idea what they are doing (see the MVP vote in 2004 when Guevara won it over Moreno, or the 2005 Defender of the Year award when Jimmy Conrad won it over Dan Califf). Anyways I would put these 4 guys in the discussion with Gonzalez and Franklin for best defenders in the league even though I am totally on Franklin’s nuts right now.

        Reply

      • Posted by Kevin on 2010/04/18 at 12:29 AM

        You sound like a Seattle fan, but for LA.
        The only two teams I flatout hate with a passion is LA and Seattle.I support Houston and I would much rather support Dallas than either if those teams.

        Reply

        • Posted by fropa98 on 2010/04/18 at 7:44 AM

          Chivas once again looked inept against Houston yesterday. Their build up out of the back was atrocious and kept a couple of good counterattack opportunities from ever getting started. Geoff Cameron with another solid performance and a goal while playing “out of position”. Typical of these two sides the second half got very chippy once Houston got the third goal on a great run and pass by Davis to Oduro. Your grandmother could have scored the goal Oduro did. The highlight certainly had to be Palmer’s laser strike from 45 yards out that made Zach Thornton look like he was in his first professional game. That will certainly be a candidate for goal of the week over at FSC and could have been play of the day at ESPN.

          Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/04/18 at 9:37 AM

          Kevin:

          Don’t worry — not picking a MLS team yet (and may never)…I’d probably have to go with San Jose in the area…

          I just really like how the Galaxy play and how disciplined to their game plan they are.

          Reply

        • Posted by Kevin on 2010/04/18 at 11:41 AM

          Matt-I don’t care which team you decide to support I was just throwing it out there that you sounded like sounders fans. I hate how they always think they’re the best in the league, that they set the example…etc

          Reply

        • I don’t know if Cameron has an “out of position” :)

          Reply

          • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/04/18 at 9:19 PM

            Cfig:

            Not a knock on Cameron…I’m not sure I’ve seen a more vertical player than Cameron in MLS. He’s going to give Sacha Kljestan a run for his money in the “Most Vertical Player” award they are instituting this year…just saying…

            Reply

            • Ha, point taken. I’m really intrigued to see what Cameron ends up as long term positionally, as young as he is the guy shows some incredible adaptability and has the physical tools to play just about anywhere.

  2. Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/04/17 at 11:35 PM

    Edison “O Rei” Arantes do Nascimento. What a day for me to catch absolutley no match.

    WSJ is reporting that Chris Lenhart has been impeached as the U.S. Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Golazo. Sunil is starting a campaign for Edson de Souza to succeed Carrot Top. I wonder if the HQ will be moved to Carson?

    Reply

  3. Posted by Bob on 2010/04/18 at 12:01 AM

    At this point, BB has to at least look at Buddle. Is it really 7 goals in 4 games (and all of the Galaxy scoring so far)? As LD 10 says, we must err on the side of caution and at least look to see if this is just a fluke.

    RE: Gonzalez and Franklin – I wonder when and if both will try Europe. Both have won the MLS rookie of the year award and about half of the past winners are doing ok over there.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Kevin on 2010/04/18 at 8:44 AM

    Somebody please answer because I want to know if this is just me as a Houston fan or if chabala is sufficient for the USMNT? Good attacking good defence hardly ever see stupid mistakes.

    Reply

    • Posted by fropa98 on 2010/04/18 at 7:56 PM

      Chabala is very solid in the back and I think he distributes well to midfield from there. He is 22 so maybe he can get a few caps after this World Cup. However this is coming from another Dynamo supporter.

      Reply

  5. Posted by MichaelN on 2010/04/18 at 12:09 PM

    It’s very early, but if the Galaxy aren’t absolutely the team to beat – I’d be interested to hear the counter-argument. Buddle is playing out of his mind (the LD-Buddle connection is really clicking), and that back line is going to be tough to crack all year.

    On a side note – USMNT fans have to encouraged by the play of both Omar Gonzalez and Ike Opara. Two guys I can definitely see anchoring the middle in the future

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/04/18 at 12:19 PM

      I’m not sold just yet on Opara as the absolute centerback of the future but from what I’ve seen I’m impressed thus far.

      Reply

    • Posted by foreverorange25@gmail.com on 2010/04/18 at 6:54 PM

      Right now the Galaxy ARE the team to beat, but only time will tell if what their doing is just a hot streak or if they are seriously THE team to beat. Being the team to beat doesn’t necessarily make you the best team, just the one on the best form. Every championship team is essentially the team to beat at the start of the season, but would you buy RSL as the best team in the league? I don’t…

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/04/18 at 7:10 PM

        Kevin:

        On Sounders fans frankly I would probably be walking like my blank don’t stink if you know what I mean…solid first year, great attendance, very complementary team.

        I doubt the Sounders stereotype couldn’t be put on a few different squads.

        On the Galaxy, what I see in them is a team that is very well-coached (and I’ve never been a huge Bruce Arena fan) and has a good system of fast outside players, with possession oriented interior players and a defense that could likely start maybe 3 guys on Everton’s back line (and I’ve an Everton fan).

        Two things on the Galaxy…one, they have a non-injured Buddle this year and two, they don’t have Beckham…it is it a bit of the Gerrard syndrome? I think so.

        Reply

        • Posted by Kevin on 2010/04/18 at 8:53 PM

          Yes I completely agree with the fact that the sounders attendence is positive and I realize that many other teams do. The same thing I am stereotyping however I use them as an example because they are often considered to be the model fans. I don’t think any club should aspire for fans that think like they do. If this was 2008 I would be a typical 2009 sounders fan wearing orange.

          Now the galaxy I love the team itself and the organization but I hate the beckham mania and most of all what went down in the HDC during the western finals.

          The team play and shape is fantastic from the galaxy. Some good players but what really seperates the galaxy from clubs like…Dallas is the coaching. They may not have the best players (feel free to disagree) but the final product is good. Kind of like older USMNT teams vs Mexico. Also why I like clubs like everton and Houston

          Reply

      • Posted by fropa98 on 2010/04/18 at 7:53 PM

        I have to totally agree the Galaxy are playing at a very high level right now and deserve the moniker.

        Reply

    • The counter argument would be, if they lose Donovan and Buddle to the World Cup for six weeks where does the attack come from?

      (which I realize really isn’t a counter argument, I agree they’re the most in form team in MLS right now.)

      Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/19 at 6:48 AM

      They are looking good but steady on, the season is only 4 games old!

      Reply

      • George! See what happens when John Terry gets pulled out into wide areas? Ouch for us Chelsea fans. Tottenham were very good and fully deserved the win.

        I knew it was going to be a bad day when I heard the announcers getting excited about yet another Man U injury time goal.

        Reply

  6. Does anyone else get the impression that Landon Donovan has learned some stuff about how to play football at Everton and made Edson Buddle his Los Angeles reclamation project?

    “GODDAMMIT NO Eddie, I told you. At Everton Saha would run into the channel, then once the overlaps came, he’d wait for the play to develop, and only make the run to the penalty spot after the defense collapses. It’s all about timing! Get it right!”

    “No, no, no, when I send in the corner, first you pull away from your marker so they lose touch then you attack the ball to get across them! Time your jump so they’re pushing you higher! That’s the way Tim Cahill does it.”

    Etc…

    I can totally see this. If I were Landon’s team-mate I might be hoping he gets a transfer soon so I didn’t have to here “Everton this, Everton that” all the time.

    Reply

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