Monday, May 7, 2012

The MLS Grinder: Rhythm Peek-a-Boo

Before we dive into all that MLS offered us this weekend - and there was a fair amount - you should know that Stanislaus United Sturlock Express has drawn Fresno Fuego (PDL) in the first round proper of the US Open Cup. Don't worry, we'll be keeping tabs on them for you, and the winner will take of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the second round.


That said, back to the big leagues! Will's off doing his thing this weekend, so while I'll be keeping the same general premise of the grinder intact, I'll also be doing things my way. With roughly a quarter of the season completed, the "it's just a slow start" excuses have lost their weight while some early burners are starting to fade. At this point, it's all about who's finding that rhythm, who's losing it and just what in Brian McBride's name they can hope to do about it.


Just Groovy
Seattle 1-0 Philadelphia


The Sounders are the best team in the league right now and they're not even going on all cylinders. Nobody personifies this more than Mauro Rosales. By his and Sigi Schmid's admission, the guy's knee isn't yet 100 percent. Still, his soccer brain is constantly ticking and it's very likely the best in the league. Check out the highlights and try to find a play not involving Rosales. Good luck.


To the surprise of no one, Seattle created the first half's best chances. That's not to say that the Union weren't plugging away in attack. They were truly going for it, but they never made me even think they were going to score. Whenever I contemplated thinking they would, it was with Freddy Adu leading the visitors forward. And while Mauro Rosales excels being nominally deployed on the wing, it's far from Adu's M.O and it shows. Sound familiar?


Philly gets a bad rap for being a defensive team and that's not really fair. This game showed why. The Union can attack, they just don't do it particularly well. They have the skill to break out and do some damage, but they don't have the squad that Seattle does that can dictate play. So yeah, grinding, defending and countering is their best bet.


Leave too much space and they're screwed. Naturally, it was Rosales exploiting that space. For as good as he is on the ball, he might be better off of it. Thought poor spacing had a role to play in it, the Argentinian No. 10 had the whole right flank into the 18 to touch up to his 63rd-minute winner. Regardless, he's making his teammates immeasurably better.


Just look at Eddie Johnson, who, while pretty much playing for his career, has suddenly become a very viable professional again. The faint calls for him to be called up are grossly premature, but the (grown-ass) man has grown out west as the super-sub role seems to be a perfect fit for now.


Kind of Funked
Kansas City 0-2 Montreal


After a historic start, a loss, and a bye week, you would have expected Sporting to come out firing. And they did, but they came up short again.


It's not that they're not still supremely talented, team-oriented and just plain good, but they've lost that sort of invincible gleam. That and they haven't scored in three weeks. That never helps. Now don't get me wrong, this team is still scary good. How much noise is Graham Zusi making after all!?


Yet if this KC squad wants to go down as one of the truly great and dominant teams in MLS history, simply outplaying their opposition isn't enough. They have to take care of the ball, close down on defense, keep their wits about them and otherwise play like the champs they should be. Too coachy? Yes, but it's also truth.


Go read the team sheet, that includes the subs, and explain why they didn't punish an expansion team short on rest. Kansas City didn't close down Felipe on the first goal (2:50) and Jimmy Nielsen caught it at an awkward angle.


In the build-up to the penalty and what was ultimately the second goal, there is an obscene amount of space between the defense and midfield lines. Of course, KC had to lose their own throw-in first by making it an unnecessary 50-50 ball, then some lead-footed defending gets duly punished by Lamar Neagle.


There were some understandable shouts against the penalty call on Aurélien Collin's tackle from behind. But it was a tackle from behind, deep in the box that took out Neagle and his goal-bound run. Collin was lucky to escape a card, and frankly, he and his entire team should know better.



Losing It
Dallas 0-2 Colorado


You can understand the damage done by the loss of Brek Shea to turf toe. It's a lingering injury the guy's been fighting for a while now, and let's face it, he's the most talented player on that team right now. So losing him was always going to hurt.


That doesn't give the rest of the team the right to losing their freaking minds.
I'm looking at you Assistant Coach Hernandez.

I don't know what Hernandez said to referee Mark Geiger to earn his first yellow card, but the challenge he put in on Martin Rivero for his second was straight dafty. Rivero did well to get the ball out quickly, but Hernandez had enough time to pull out of the tackle, especially with Geiger standing all of 10 feet away from him. Anyone who's played has been in that situation where you have one of two choices. The first being to hang out there for a second longer and really stick the guy. The second is simply side-stepping temptation. Dallas-Colorado is a rivalry of sorts, but not the kind where you'll get away with picking the former choice.


Even before that though Dallas looked pretty badly off their game. For at least the first 15 minutes any pass from Colorado traveling more than 20 yards had to go just as far up in the air first, yet the home team didn't look much better.


The midfield build-up play was sloppy and their best bet was to pick out Blas Pérez up top and hope for some magic from Jackson and Fabian Castillo overlapping. Unfortunately for the home crowd - hold that thought - Pérez left his studs up a little too long, straight into the knees of Drew Moor, earning himself a straight red card. The call looks a little questionably bang-bang on the replay, but assuming that Pérez had his eye on the ball, then he also would have seen Moor's leg; something he's not supposed to kick.


You can see all the acts of questionable intelligence below:


You can't really fault Dallas for losing. They held on until the 61st minute when Jaime Castrillon's close-range header got past Kevin Hartman. For half an hour George John and co. proved why they rank among the best defenses in the league. But without David Ferreira - and he won't be back for some time now - this team can't really hope to control a game. They're a formidable counter-attacking team, they threatened to punish Colorado on a number of occasions, and getting Shea back will help with that, but even when they did go forward at full-strength it was in headless chicken fashion.


Props to Larentowicz - there is nothing he can't do that Kyle Beckerman does, by the way - for running his side through a weakened team. It really wasn't as easy as most 9-men opposition is, but the Rapids were committed to breaking down a truly struggling team. 


FC Dallas is still one of those teams you absolutely do not want to meet on their day, but for now they are poop luckless.


Back to the crowd: Dallas is averaging about 14k a game this season. Not awful, but the crowd today at least was very timid. I know there hasn't been too much to cheer about, at the same time, you expect a little more from one of MLS's original soccer specific crowds. Maybe it's the heat, maybe it's the team, regardless, it's a serious bummer to see all those empty seats.


- Jacob Klinger

8 comments:

Will Parchman said...

I will say this about the crowd. I've lived in Texas on and off for the last 12+ years, and I have never, in my life, been hotter than I was at an FCD game in Frisco last July. Like, never. It was so hot, in fact, that they cordoned off the side of the stadium opposite the press box because it was in the sun. As in, you could not sit in the sun because it was a health hazard.

It's not quite that hot just yet, but it's probably averaging somewhere in the realm of 90-95 already. Dallas isn't a super great sports town to begin with, but the horribly oppressive heat kills high-octane cheering/chanting/singing. Thus, Portland and Seattle's temperate climates serve perfectly for fervent cheering. Sounds strange, but it's totally true.

Jacob Klinger said...

I believe it. I've never been and like I said it makes a lot of sense.

From what I can tell it's not a very TV-friendly stadium either. Makes sense if the suns that bad on the other stand.

dikranovich said...

in a funny twist, you play the MLS season at the same time as europe,and seattle and portland are not going to be so fan friendly. and new england..... yikes.

Jacob Klinger said...

All the more reason not to if you ask me.

John said...

but don't you know Jacob, Wynalda says MLS will become a superpower if we just switch to the "world's calendar" (I guess South American is just too cool to be a part of that calendar)

dikranovich said...

eric wynalda causes nothing but trouble for us soccer. he has since 1990. who wouldnt love to see harkes and wynalda go at it MMA style?

Jacob Klinger said...

I'm just an American. I can't understand how big boy soccer works. Don't overwhelm me with your knowledge of Europey land or the interwebs.

;)

John said...

@dikranovich give me WWE style Hell in a Cell called by Jim Ross