Monday, March 26, 2012

The MLS Grinder: Chivas!!!!!!!!

I have some beef with MLS. And I caution you in advance: Don't read more into this than I'm spitting out.

I know I'm about to get all #firstworldprobs on you, but MLS Live's blackout deal with Galavision sucks. OK, so you can't overlap on NBC. You can't cut in on ESPN either. But I can understand Arlo White and Taylor Twellman, even though sometimes I'd rather not. Galavision's Jorge Perez Navarro has a nice speaking voice, but he might as well be insulting my mother and calling me a bitter failure for 90 minutes. I'm not a fluent Spanish speaker. I'd wager most of the league's fans aren't either. I know MLS is hamstrung by Galavision's TV deal that poaches an MLS game every weekend, but why not also staff an English-speaking crew and run a simulcast on MLS Live for fans who want English commentary, the game streaming on their computers and in HD, a service Galavision does not provide? If the original contract isn't set up that way... why not?

I doubt I'll ever reach the stage where I'm ungrateful for MLS coverage. That it was on TV at all was great, and the strides the league has made from the days of begging anybody to pony up money for games is mind-boggling. But the times, they are a'changing. The league wants to reach out to its Spanish-speaking audience, and that's probably a shrewd tactic. And Hispanic audiences are undoubtedly more soccer-mad than American ones, though I doubt many of them south of the border are all that interested in MLS. MLS Live it up, folks!

One thing I did learn about Mexico on Sunday night: they seem to have the same stupid obsession with teen vampires. KDaBra, Domingo a las ocho!!

Anyway, onto brass tacks and down to business and into the fire and all that.

Casey Townsend, ladies and gentlemen
Game of the Week
Chivas USA 1, Real Salt Lake 0

In a lot of very basic ways, MLS is like every other league in the world. There are two 45 minute halves. There are referees that everyone claims on their lives to be blinder than Helen Keller (too soon?). There are goal dances and full stadiums and empty stadiums and disinterested owners and voraciously interested owners and everything in between.

But in some key areas, MLS is decidedly set apart. The conference system is unique. The sheer travel burden placed on teams asks more of them on routine weekends than most European clubs are asked of in difficult Champions League fixtures. But the key area where MLS is so radically different from the rest of the world is in competitive balance. I'm too lazy to look up Manchester United's lifetime home record against Wolves, or Real Madrid's home record against Racing Santander, or Inter's home record against Cagliari. But I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the papa bear in each of those relationships had never lost a home game in the series. At the very least, these are horribly abusive relationships in which one team continues to be battered into submissiveness, and the league continues to push the disparity. What else can they do? Implement a salary cap? Balderdash.

However you feel about that, MLS' otherness is startling in this regard. That it took LA four years to win a title with Landon and Becks is unthinkable. For all the funds they've pumped into prime DPs, New York has never won anything of consequence... ever. Meanwhile, RSL has plugged along as the pride of MLS the last few years in a league that values shrewdness over clumsy, bloated transfers. Those styled in the EPL management school of thinking need not apply here. And there are many things to like about that.

So anyway, RSL being the top of the heap, both in general ethos and in current affairs, meant they were primed to positively smash woeful Chivas, losers of their first two at home, into a million itty pieces.
So they went out anWAIT CASEY TOWNSEND DID WHAT?????

Anybody can beat anybody. Anywhere. If you didn't really believe it before, you kind of have to now. It's hard for me to describe how uninspired Chivas were in their first two games, harder still to relay that information to you because almost nobody actually watched either. Chivas' only real redeeming quality was the ability to string together passes, matching Houston in that category in the opener and surpassing Vancouver. But the finishing made your head smart. The tape says Chivas put seven shots on target over their first two combined, but its hard to remember a time when they really looked dangerous. Aside from Nick LaBrocca, their front four might as well be a bunch of weekend duffers.

Remember too, aside from a hiccup here and there, Rio Tinto has been the Alhambra West. Entering 2012, RSL was 30-4-13 there since 2009. And here is lowly Chivas, cap in hand, wondering if they could please score a goal and take three points if you would be so kind to allow us?

Which is why Chivas' ability to shut down RSL, 2-0-0 RSL, and stay frosty enough in the attacking third to carry away a goal came not from left field but from a different stadium entirely. Robin Fraser wisely played a 4-2-3-1, settling Oswaldo Minda and Peter Vagenas into holding spots over the back four of (left to right) Ante Jazic, Heath Pearce, Rauwshan McKenzie and James Riley. This was the third straight game Chivas has used this formation, and the familiarity bled through. I've always liked Pearce's composure, especially at this level, and Riley has brought consistency and toughness to the right side.

So it really didn't matter that for the first time all year, Chivas was battered mercilessly at its own game. RSL gunned down Chivas with a 61-39 edge in possession, completed roughly 150 more passes and snapped off 13 shots. Guess how many for Chivas?

Especially in MLS, one is all you need. Now on to my fancy new headers!

Best of the Best

Things I know after SKC's late 2-1 win over FCD, the only game I got a chance to watch in its entirety thanks to a hectic weekend that I had to work through. Grumblegrumblegrumble...
  • Either Kei Kamara is kind of a douche, Jair Benitez is kind of a douche or they're both kind of douches. Just shut up already, guys. 
  • Kamara got straight stonewalled on a PK by the ever snowy-haired Kevin Hartman less than 10 minutes into the second half. About 15 minutes later, Kamara got loose in the box and Hartman turned him away again with the same right hand. Nails. So I'm not saying Kamara didn't deserve his game-winner, but FCD was practically begging SKC to score in the second half. Poor finishing. The possession numbers were 60-40 in SKC's favor, and FCD's 261 passes was startlingly low. This team needs Ferreira back in a bad, bad way.
  •  The foul awarded to Blas Perez about 20 yards out, which led to Ricardo Villar's free kick goal, was weak. But it was a well-taken set piece that my fantasy team was all too happy to collect. I am now 0-2 with 90 points from two games. How the frick does that happen?
  • It may be a little much to ask SKC to pack out the StrongBox every weekend, but… is it really? It's a gorgeous facility and SKC is the best team in the East. A lot of empty seats in KC on a beaut of a Sunday for footy watching.
  • I freaking loved Aurelien Collin's goal in first half stoppage time to square the game at 1-all. He wasn't even looking goalward. 
  • Who on earth decided Hernan Pertuz was a fullback? *In best Ricky Ricardo* "Schellaaaaas, you got some 'splainin to do."
  • Was hoping to hear Navarro call George John "Jorge Juan." Maybe next time. Highlights:

- I get the feeling Henry today was pacing around his locker room with an unamused smirk, as only the French can, mumbling disaffectedly to himself, "Zeez vankers veel feel my wras toozay." And so zey deed.

Worst of the Worst

- There is something decidedly rotten in Philadelphia, and it ain't moldy cheesesteaks (Buh-zing!! Tip your waiters, guys). God knows why, but I spent *a lot* of time studying the Opta Chalkboard on the Fire game to try and diagnose Philly's trouble and came up with a few digs.

The most obvious was Mwanga's heat map. He was yanked after 65 minutes, and I think I can see why, at least partially. He spent almost no time in the box. In a two-striker format it is not always necessary for both to buzz around the inside reaches of the area constantly, but it helps to be there occasionally. A look at Mwanga's distribution map is even more disconcerting. Eleven of his 12 completed passes were either lay-offs, square passes or back passes, none even all that close to the box. He registered no shots, although to be fair neither did any of the four forwards used by Peter Nowak, unless you'd like to count one deflected attempt from Lionard Pajoy right after the restart. I laugh heartily at those who thought Mwanga was poised for a breakout. Maybe some day, but not like this. That upscale GA contract burns right now.

More notes from Philly's maps: Keon Daniel has no idea what position he plays (his heat map looks like a crime scene), Michael Farfan is indispensable, Brian Carroll needs to slow his role with the launch passes and Carlos Valdes must listen to a lot of Death From Above 1979, because he continues to tell league forwards that You Are A Woman, I Am A Machine. Moral of the story: Unless Mwanga wakes up, Philly has no forwards. I can remember a time last year when the Union looked awful offensively with Le Toux. This could get ugly. Fast.

- TFC did the unthinkably hilarious by getting curb-stomped by the visiting Earthquakes three days before welcoming a CCL land mine in Santos Laguna, a team that just kneecapped Seattle in Mexico. TFC was without Torsten Frings, and it should be interesting to see where they go without Stefan Frei, who broke his leg and will miss some serious time. We all remember Milos Kocic more or less winning TFC their second leg against LA in the CCL, but can he stand up over a long run? Shea Salinas' goal on Sunday raises questions.

- Yeah, Saer Sene scored to take struggling New England past Portland, which is still just so terrible away, but damn... somebody needs to fire the Revs' barber with extreme prejudice.

- Will Parchman


jon said...

As far as Galavision, I agree! The interesting thing is that teams are allowed to produce a local broadcast for Galavision games and I'm guessing they must be available on MLS Direct Kick or something because they look just like MLS Live broadcasts (same halftime dead air screen, etc. Anyway, that part at least means I have yet to watch a Galavision broadcast this year, since *ahem* streams are available.

Jon Alan Schmidt said...

FYI, the main reason why LSP was not packed yesterday was the fact that Kansas was playing North Carolina for a spot in the Final Four--a pretty big deal around here. I was there myself, though.

Will Parchman said...

No excuses KC, play like a champion.

I hear you though.

Matt said...

Nothing wrong with Sene's hair. He's just channeling the QPR Cisse. Kind of bad-ass if you ask me.

Will Parchman said...

That mohawk with inscriptions of uncertain origin carved into the side of the head look is big in France. Mamadou Sakho's is thoroughly ridiculous: