Archive for March, 2012

The Weekend: Live Commentary

The weekend already in action, including a marquee RSL-Timbers match-up with 50-yard dash between Perlaza and Olave.

Clint Dempsey has–yawn–scored.

Lucky #13

TSG’s Week 4 MLS Predictions: Win Some, Lose Wee Bit

This is John Nyen, your tour guide. On the right, is a Tyrannosauras Rex. Amazing.

Let me tell YOU how it's going down this weekend...

Welcome to Major League Soccer Week 4 or as I call it…. The Reckoning. I managed to bring my win percentage down faster than Nicholas Cage’s bank account, as the East took revenge upon the West. The record stands at… 12 – 6 with 4 exactas (exact score) on the year (last week it was KC v Dallas). It has to be said that I went against one of the very great tennents of picking games in MLS.

That is, mainly, that if you think you are right… you are probably wrong.

Having said the above, my number is GOING to hit (just like a roulette player). So onward we forage into the wild, the weird, and the wooly.

As always, all times are East Coat, all games are variable based on the referree, Slim Pickens wasn’t told that Dr Strangelove was a comedy, and where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?

ONWARD!

Friday, March 30, 2012

7:30PM – D.C. United V FC Dallas – RFK Stadium – Television: NBCSN

"DeR0" deposits....

It’s raining, It’s pouring, the stadium concrete needs some re-bar coring…. It’s RFK! D.C. United are currently treating their fanbase to a less than exciting beginning to the season, and personally have made me look silly by the fact that I keep on insisting that somehow their offense is going to get on track. It certainly doesn’t help that D.C. started out their season playing potentially the best team in the East (KC) followed by two straight games on the West Coast against an angry Galaxy and a rejuvenated Vancouver. Given that information it isn’t entirely surprising that somehow the D.C. offense and defense look out of sorts.

On the other side you have the injury and national team depleted FC Dallas who have managed to scrap for points in just about every single game this year. Despite losing a good portion of their talented team, FC Dallas have managed to keep their organization together, losing only on a late Kei Kamara strike. With the USA getting dropped in the dunk tank by El Salvador, Dallas gets back Brek Shea who played in the recent FC Dallas practice. As well, Fabian Castillo was back in training. Thanks go to http://www.bigdsoccer.com for the updates from FC Dallas practice.

It has to be said that I loathe these “back at home for one team and second game on the road for another” matchups as they are subject to the whim of the fates. However, much of this game will be decided by whether Castillo and Shea will be starting for Dallas and how they look.

There are potentially two scenarios that I see happening here:

#1 Dallas comes in, controls the game, slows things down and attempts to get vertical with Shea on the left. They play stout defense and only give D.C. a sniff of goal

#2 D.C. comes into the game with speed, linking up through the midfield and establishing control while feeding De Rossario with balls he can do something with, meanwhile they play bend but don’t break defense and try to keep Perez from annoying the back line.

Music for this game: Do you really want to hurt me? by Culture Club (for the United fans)

Last Game for D.C. United: D 0-0

Last Game for FC Dallas: L 1-2

My Prediction: Ugh. This has ALL THE HALLMARKS of D.C. getting a home boost and doing something with it. I’m going for THE LAST TIME I say that D.C. wake up….. a draw here.. 1-1

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Saturday, March 31, 2012

2:00PM – Toronto FC v Columbus – BMO Field – Television: TSN RDS

I'm Chad Marshall. You may know me from previous blockbusters, like TSG's MLS Week 3 Predictions. That was fun...

Oh Boy…. I decided against writing about the potential imminent destruction Toronto will face at the hands of Santos (which I think will be a much tougher game than people will realize for Santos) and just move onto the Columbus game. If ever there was a “oops” moment for me it was re-reading my comments on this game and the Seattle game last week and wondering why I made the choices I did. Anyhoo, Toronto are going to be tired, they might be disorganized and Columbus to Toronto isn’t that far (in North American terms).

Meanwhile Columbus bounced back from their off week (something very easy to do) by taking advantage of some interesting referee decisions and winning against Montreal 2-0. The Nordecke was bouncing as the new signings for Crew finally proved their worth with both Mirosevic and Olman Vargas scored against 10 man Montreal.

This has all the potential of being a physical game with both teams probably forcing the play out of the middle to the wing. I just think that the defensive foibles of Toronto have a very good chance of appearing again.

Music for this Game: Neil Young – Toronto… look at your life, I’m a lot like you were…

Last game for Toronto: L 3-0

Last game for Columbus: W 2-0

My Prediction: 1-0 to Columbus.

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4:00PM – New York V Montreal – Red Bull Arena – Television: TSN RDS

Montreal… Welcome to MLS referee training 101! You haven’t had a full year in MLS until you have openly questioned a referee decision, watched a player get sent off, and groaned at seeing a certain referee (Geiger, Toledo) at your games. With a trip to New York things aren’t getting easy for Montreal in MLS. They will need to deal with the loss of Jeb Brovsky and the insane mood swings of RBNY to get a result here.

The stately Jeb Brovsky...

Meanwhile Red Bull finally did something expected by me. They ran rampant over the Colorado Rapids defeating them with four goals from their two strikers. Colorado was missing the steel in the middle of the pitch losing both Larentowicz (spelled without spell check) and Mastroeni (spelled without “red card”) prior to the game, and the Red Bull’s were at home, however a win was a welcome sight to the Metro fans.

I anticipate that RBNY is going to come out again on the front foot and attempt to dominate Montreal from the first whistle. The one thing that Montreal could attempt to do is to clog up the midfield and attempt to make Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper cut off from the supply. This of course could result in Henry coming back and collecting, however the disruption of the distribution will be very important for the Impact.

Music for this game: Talking Heads – Burning down the House

Last Result for New York: W 4-1

Last Result for Montreal: L 0-2

My Prediction: New York is too much for Montreal to handle and they win 2-0

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4:00PM – Philadelphia V Vancouver – PPL Park – Television: Local Only

....

ALL HANDS ON DECK! ALL HANDS ON DECK!

The call is going out to all Union players as Philadelphia have yet to pick up a point this season. The Union (it has to be said) look like one of those teams with a fair bit of talent that are waiting for a high draft pick and some veterans to compete. With the understanding of Nowak at an all time low, it begs the question of whether he knows that he cannot obtain Andrew Luck this year to help with the Union’s offensive problems. They Union seem to be sticking with the Danny Califf is injured mantra, leaving him at home to face the Fire without the Captain. They also were missing three of their players to Olympic Qualifying… (something that all USA fans know they won’t have to worry about any more).

Let’s talk about Zac MacMath

Let’s talk about rain soaked gaffes

Let’s talk about all the good things

and the bad things that may be

Let’s talk about Seitz… er… Macmath…

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Watching MacMath (with my independent observer cap on) has not made me comfortable at all. Much like the above mentioned Salt ‘N’ Pepa song, he may have arrived before his time, and it is very possible that he is going to be controversial. Despite a very good showing in the games he played last year, MacMath hasn’t been what I would call steady this year. Certainly the defense isn’t helping him out much, but the rookie goalkeeper should be watched to see if the nervousness and issues continue.

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US Draws El Salvador, 3-3…And The Bridge To London Falls Down

Not what was supposed to be the resonating image of the Group Stage for the U-23's.

The US U-23 squad took the field Monday night in Nashville with their proverbial backs to the wall.

They left with a valiant effort behind them, but their heads ultimately down.

Needing a win against El Salvador to advance out of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying group stage, the US players acted their age and put on an “immature performance” replete with wild momentum swings, a frenetic comeback and mental lapses at the worse moments to see their bid to play for a berth in Kansas City denied.

The US players will be airborne tomorrow, back to their clubs instead of Missouri (save Teal Bunbury of course.)

The crushing blow for the United States was as cruel as it was–objectively–deserved.

With the US holding serve in stoppage time, an errant pass by Brek Shea proved beyond costly as El Salvador gathered the turnover.

Now-villian Jamie Alas split two over-zealous defenders, cut across the grain in the center of the pitch to the left and fired a shot off Ike Opara and into what are typically Sean Johnson’s goal-retardant arms.

Only the ball did one of those squirmy things. Johnson met it a tad to late in flight and it short-hopped off the keeper’s snuff attempt looping into the goal tearing up the US boarding pass to London and ripping the heart out of his teammates on and off the pitch.

The story up to that point had been one of both resolve and uneven play.

After the US brandished a Terrence Boyd volley in the opening minute to seize the initiative in the match, El Salvador notched two goals two minutes apart late in the first as the US defense was playing at “tournament-level”–which was not very good for this crew this month.

Making matters worse, down 2-1, Caleb Porter had to call to his bench…for the aforementioned Johnson. Bill Hamid was injured–replays would show he probably should have been pulled before the second goal–and the US would have to use one of it’s sub rations in the wrong place, early in the match.

The second half began with El Salvador displaying one of their best traits, time management La Selecta put six players in their defensive third and went to the ground often under minimal contact to milk the clock. The US had other ideas though as Freddy Adu seized the match and told it what to do.

Adu played in Terrence Boyd to make it 2-2 and then moments hooked in a cross that Joe Corona “Dempsey’d” off his head to put the US, temporarily, on top.

however, as the US lost the initiative to go goal-seeking, their shape and discipline fell apart. Balls were hucked up the field and/or misplayed. Tackles were missed and assignments neglected.

The final sequence saw three errors in defense before the ball made its way to the Chicago Fire keeper and it made the US Olympic aspirations history. It was a microcosm of the tournament.

The skies the limit for Terrence Boyd, but gazing at it Monday brought no respite.

Lead passes:

The U-23’s and its identity are/were in transition.

A team’s identity is one of those conceptual, glob-like thinks that’s hard to define. To use our most aggressive analogy to date on TSG, a team identity is similar to Potter Stewart’s threshold test for pornography. Stewart in the famous Supreme Court pornography cased defined it as, “I know it when I see it.”

Identity is a feeling or even a repetition of one or two things the team does well that forces the opponent to play reactivly instead of proactively.

It’s that last sentiment–one or two things done well–that the US desperately searched for in this match, but game up empty.

US fans “never knew it because they didn’t see it.”

That the US controlled possession all tourney is a good thing; however it’s tempered by the quality of the competition it faced and what it did with that possession. The US is in transition.

The US didn’t do enough things well and did enough things poorly–defensive integrity–that it had no positive identity. Sure Joe Corona, Brek Shea and Freddy Adu took over games from time to time, but nothing was established in a YOU-MUST-DEFEND-THIS way.

Coach Caleb Porter could even feel that in the Cuba game expressing displeasure at the way his team moved on the attack despite the scoreline.

At the most basic level, the US was caught in some half-formed state–that eventually made it irrelevant in this tournament despite building hope for the next.

The players didn’t and don’t have enough reps to grasp the nuances of Porter’s system. They were not collectively good enough for other teams to react to their formation. And when that broke they relied on the familiar–counter-attacking–which exposed a defense that was designed to play chase-and-retrieve not stand-and-defend.

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Freddy Adu is best as an attacker–not as a captain….and that’s not a knock on him.

Did you ever think you’d see Freddy Adu compared to….Jack Jewsbury? You could consider these players totally different and you can consider Jewsbury the better for the captain *given the system (4-3-3) that both are/were deployed in.

Adu was the best offender on the pitch for the States in totality throughout this tournament. He “led” them back against El Salvador.

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US U-23’s vs. El Salvador: Will The Past Be Prologue?

Will the US get ahead tonight?

The US U-23 squad is not truly in trouble today….yet.

A win against El Salvador and the States (likely) faces Mexico a game earlier than they wanted to for the right to call London home this summer and to play for a shiny plate to put through the medal detectors on the way back.

The US finds themselves in this predicament because of either a bullheaded or stubborn approach against Canada.

Faced with a rested Canadian team on Saturday, the US elected to test their own offensive prowess and impose their will upon Canada. With the scoreline reading 2-0, bad guys, the approach is thus labeled, “Stubborn.”

While Canada played well, the US was certainly not up to the task.

The match may not be a bad thing if the U-23s make it to the Olympics.

In fact, it’s a good thing–an awareness and game tape of where the team needs to “do work” in order to be competitive in London is at least one outcome of the loss. The book is out on how to beat the Americans and Caleb Porter and now Porter must adjust.

Now, if the US loses, the reflection on the Canadian match will be one of myopia–how could Coach Porter and the plan be so staid, so static, so….arrogant?

Monday will prove is that dastardly single observation and result against Canada is a hiccup or symptomatic or a bigger ill.

Some things we recognized against Canada.

♬ "Stuck..not even close to the middle...with you"♬

• Outside Back Recognition & Positioning

The skinny: Canada did a fantastically well-disciplined job Saturday of positionally defending the United States–in fact it was near brilliant against how the US likes to attacks under the new regime.

Canadian coach Tony Fonseca sent the Maple Leafs Canucks Tophats out in a formation as mythical as Santa Claus on the international stage, the 4-3-2-1 or as it’s deemed, “The Christmas Tree.”

Fonseca dared the US outside backs (Zarek Valentin and Jorge Villafana) to advance up the pitch and be a focal point of the offense. They didn’t get very far.

Canada's team defensive disposition forced Porter's fullbacks into attacking purgatory on the flanks...

With Valentin and Villafana spread wide (see diagram), Canada capitalize defensively and offensively.

Regarding the former, the US fullbacks were caught in no-man’s land with and without the ball.

With the ball Valentin and Villafana struggled to link with (typically late-arriving) Mix Diskerud, Jared Jeffrey or the forward players on their side (Adu, Corona or Shea).

This completely negated the US attack and left the US typically up to one or two devices: (1) swing in a cross from a less than ideal location (Valentin choose this route more than Villafana) or (2) force Shea, Corona and Adu to attack in tighter quarters (Villafana tried to pinpoint passes and occasionally–both usually without bearing fruit.)

Here Canada's collapses with their 4-3-2-1 on Valentin with the ball. Poor interplay between Corona and Adu typically forced Valentin into a negative pass to Opara--sometimes under duress or to negative pass to Diskerud. Diskerud would swing the ball wide--typically to Villafana--the speed of play and Canada's smart positioning typically allowed them to recover.

On a turn, Canada’s defensive deployment left Ike Opara and Perry Kitchen exposed with Jared Jeffrey struggling to cope with the central space created. Both Opara and Kitchen were exposed for positioning flaws by media reads afterward, but really the attacks they conceded were only half their fault. The two weren’t put in a position to succeed.

Porter and the US needed to do a much better job of in-match recognition and adjustment. The sub of Amobi Okugo–not because he’s better than Jeffrey, but because of game tactics and tempo–should’ve happened much earlier as well.

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The Weekend: Your Live Commentary

MLS in full swing….

Dempsey vs. United on Monday.

These two again...

 

TSG’s Week 3 MLS Predictions. All Aboard!

John Nyen skippers your MLS Week 3 Predictions. Um, put on that life vest if you would…thanks..

Allow myself to applaud myself...

Greetings kiddos and welcome to another vociferous MLS preview in which I hope to channel less Shecky Greene and more Lorne Greene… or something like that.

We last left our intrepid observer, observing… and the results are in. I had a decent first week in which I managed to get 7 games with the correct result out of 9. I had 3 exactas, as well, picking HOU/SJ, POR/DAL, and CHI/MON with the correct result and the correct score.

Of course this means that I am fully headed to a week of picks resulting in an 0-9 record. As it remains, currently, the RECORD STANDS AT 7-2 (caps lock and bold type provided by Editor) and we shall see what happens.

As always, all times are East Coat, all sales are final, keep your towel about you and the number is 42… ALWAYS.

Friday, March 23, 2012

10:00PM – Seattle V Houston – CenturyLink Field – Television: NBCSN

Well then, Seattle certainly showed their quality playing the tired boys from Toronto.

Despite an absolute peach of a goal from Ryan Johnson, Seattle were in control for most of this match and certainly appeared to have a punch in their step following the crash out of the CONCACAF Champions League.

There's a new MLS golden boot leader on patrol in Seattle and don't call him Ponche!

Sigi Schmid moved former midfielder David Estrada up top to pair with Freddy Montero and this resulted in Estrada pulling off a hat trick.

Certainly the gods of luck didn’t help Toronto at all with Torsten Frings sidelined early in the game by an injury, however Seattle pushed the tempo of the game and took advantage of their chances they were given.

With the play of Patrolman Estrada, Eddie Johnson (USA Version) will find his time towards the top of the lineup very short as he attempts to recover from an injured hip flexor.

The chalkboard for the Seattle v Toronto game shows that Seattle attempted 9 through balls with 7 of them being successful. Of those 7 successful passes 4 were chipped balls with both of the attempts beyond the half way line being chipped/lofted balls. This was an attempt to abuse the high line of Toronto with balls over their head into the space given behind the back four. Without Frings (more on him later) Toronto were frequently caught out and gave up the ghost.

Now with the news coming in that Mauro Rosales is out for Seattle for a few weeks that should temper our expectation of Seattle being able to go high octane with their offense.

Meanwhile… in the Cave of Doom!–or rather in AT&T park in delightful San Francisco, California–Houston battled San Jose to a 1-0 win, with the winning goal coming from a Brad Davis penalty. …. with the winning goal coming from a Brad Davis penalty…. with the winning goal coming from a Brad Davis penalty. (Sorry about that, always feel that last line is on repeat.)

Houston is still showing their defensive prowess early in the season being one of two teams in the east to take maximum points from the start of the year. Certainly it helps that the two teams played by Houston were San “we like 11 in the box” Jose and Chivas “now eligible for relocation” USA.

I would say that Dynamo fans should be concerned that none of the goals for Houston have come from the run of play, but in reality that is just the norm for the defensively aware Houston Dynamo. They are much more of a set-piece team and this shouldn’t be considered a slight. If they have their set-piece mojo working on the season they will make you pay, with heavy physical play and big bodies.

I do think Houston can and will give Seattle a game here, they are far more defensively sound than Toronto and should be able to snuff out the persistent through balls and play in the middle of the field. Last year the results between the two teams had a tie in Seattle and a win for Houston at home.

Music for this game: The Presidents of the United States of America (they lump… they lump.. they lump it over your head)

Last Game for Seattle: W 3-1

Last Game for Houston: W 1-0

My prediction: 1-1

Saturday, March 24, 2012

1:00PM – Toronto FC V San Jose – BMO Field – Television: TSN RDS

Toronto!

San Jose!

BMO Field!

Mice in a Bottle!

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Video: Speaking On Behalf of the Chicago Fire

Chicago Fire defender Dan Gargan, boisterous about the Fire’s chances always on Twitter, goes video with a build-up to Saturday’s game.

As Brian McBride has retired, the ambassador gauntlet has been thrown down. Gargan is running with it.

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