Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The one in which we talk MLS and Total Football

Easter Sunday did me in. I rolled away from the dinner table so full of ham that I could hardly breathe. The irony of eating pork during a holiday that shares time with the Jewish Passover was not lost on me, but alas. I was so sated on honey-glazed ham and gruyere-soaked scalloped potatoes that I wasn't able to hold open my eyes long enough to clack out a few sentences on an MLS weekend that, while not wholly satisfying, was enough to keep us talking.

So our Monday Morning Striker turns into a Tuesday Morning Reserve. Alls well that ends with Thierry Henry netting another brace, yeah? Let's get through the big ones.

Total Kansas City

It's easy to wonder why, all of teams, a heralded but not supremely so KC side is the first since the inaugural year of the league in '96 to achieve a 5-0-0 start to the league. Seems highly improbable after the way they started last year, for sure. But then again, the StrongBox is in play this time.

But here we have the crux of it: KC is turning opposing possessions into short-lived affairs. They thrive flocking in numbers to the ball, and they thrive even more in cracking open defenses on the counter. There is some discussion budding along the blogosphere as to whether KC's effort represents MLS' first real attempt at Total Football. My thoughts? Not in so many words, and I am nearly certain that anything that looks similar to the Dutch experiment is coincidental. It is naturally hard to replicate that which was designed to defy duplication. At times, Graham Zusi will drift into positions that may define him traditionally as a fullback. It may be equally true that, simultaneously, Chance Myers will drive forward in his place. But this is not the stated aim of the formation, and it is not always entirely beneficial. Indeed, watching KC piledrive LA over the weekend, I was struck by how much better they look when they don't rotate positions, electing to overlap occasionally but deciding to stick a signpost at their stated position and make things happen there. There is no Cruyff on this team, and without insulting Peter Vermes, Rinus Michels he is not. And the theory itself is holistic. You are either playing Total Football, "total" being a stubbornly obstinate word here, or you are not. If you pick and choose from its principles, you are merely playing out of orbit.

Where I think people will get off is when Kamara, Sapong and whoever else pushes up to overlap and create space through confusion. This is not Total Football in so many words, but rather intelligent design. Anybody want to see what Kamara looks like at defensive mid? Me neither. At 5-0-0, I'm sure Vermes is fine without knowing the answer either. Plus, the way he destroyed LA's pathetic trap on the game-winner over the weekend was a thing to see.

Henry is the league's best ever

And there is no debate. None whatsoever. But what ever has gotten into Kenny Cooper? I'm sure Portland fans will scoff at this initially, but after giving it some serious thought: right now, as they are, would you take back the Boyd deal if it meant you got Cooper back? If you're an honest Portland fan, you'll give that more thought than you really want to.

Oh right, and Henry is a sick madman with designs on ruling this country. Watch out.

Weak sauce

For whatever reason, this was a watery weekend for goals. No real bangers in the mix. Wondo's second goal against Vancouver, which set the scoreline at 3-1 and kept San Jose toward the top of the West, was an appropriate microcosm. And am I the only one who hates watching games at Buck Shaw? I know where I can find a high school stadium if I want it. I'd like to watch an MLS game in a real stadium.

Who the heck are these Chivas dudes?

So Chivas USA is 0-3-0 at the HDC and yet has carried home wins from Rio Tinto and Jeld-Wen. With respect to Seattle, those are the two places I'd least like to travel to if I'm a player. What gives? I spent far too long looking at stats and chalkboards and message boards and there is almost no correlation that makes sense. They were owned in most statistical categories away, and things were split more evenly at home. Make sense to you? Me neither. They had some pleasing passages against Portland, and they pushed into space often enough that the chances were sure to follow, but was anybody expecting them to equalize, let alone go ahead, after Boyd put them up? I did not.

My explanation? It's a crazy game we follow. That's as scientific as I can get here.

You never forget your first

Montreal certainly won't. Neither will Andrew Wenger (I still like Mattocks).

Batten the hatches

This weekend promises to be a good one. New York-San Jose suddenly makes sense to watch. RSL-KC is a possible MLS Cup precursor. LA-Portland carries some weight after both tripped last week. And for the three of you who care, Toronto and Chivas play! That is happening as well. Try to contain your excitement.

- Will Parchman


Jay said...

Henry didn't look especially pleased to be scoring those goals. Bored already?

Will Parchman said...

I love Henry's official league photo. It's the perfect mix of smug, douchebaggery and out-and-out Frenchman-ism.


DrewVT6 said...

My bet on MLS in LA:
Come July Galaxy will trade Buddle to the Goats for one or both of their central defenders in a final push to make the playoffs. The Goats will take the bait, and fall out of contention while the Galaxy will make the playoffs and another deep run.

Jay said...

@drew_brown: a slightly different trade, and way sooner. Paolo Cardozo just traded for David Júnior Lopes.

Will Parchman said...

And panic sets in at the HDC.