Dallas Soccer: Stream of Consciousness
There's an old song by the Minutemen, “It's Expected I'm Gone.” I think that pretty much sums up our George John situation.
He is not in the starting lineup because of a red card suspension, and I don't have any inside information, but I have a feeling we've seen the last of of the kid in hoops.
That's bad news.
Well, I say it's bad news, but in truth it's only bad news for us, the fans and supporters of FC Dallas. For George, it may be tremendously good news.
In case you have no idea what I'm babbling about right now, I'm referring to the reports that Blackburn Rovers of the English Premier League have made a bid to buy George away from FC Dallas. His size, excellent recent form, and Greek passport make him a very tempting target for English teams.
If you're wondering about the passport part, you have to understand that in England, there are very strict work-permit laws which hamper non-European players who try to move to the Premiership. European Union law, however, forbids discrimination against EU passport holders. Thus, George John will have no problems getting a permit.
Like most of us (I suspect), I have terribly mixed feelings about this. George John is a terrific young man, a very talented player, and the foundation of a vastly improved FC Dallas defense. So I hate to see him go.
On the proverbial other hand, let's face it; George John is underpaid for a man of his talent. He's one of the top defenders in MLS, and he's making school teacher money. If he was one of the top defenders in say, the NFL, he'd be making school district money.
As in, add up the money all the teachers in your local school district are making put together, and you're somewhere in the ballpark.
I have to think, without knowing the details of the average Premiership payroll, that George would be getting at least a ten-fold increase in salary at Blackburn. Maybe twenty-fold.
So what do you do, if you're FC Dallas?
Tell him no? Sure, he signed a contract, and there would be nothing immoral in expecting him to honor it. But this is the opportunity of a lifetime; it would be well nigh unconscionable to deny it to him.
Give him a raise? Okay, but unless the club is willing to make him a Designated Player, the money won't even come close to what he would be getting at Blackburn. Is FC Dallas likely to make him a DP? Not really.
So, probably, you let him go, suck it up, enjoy the allocation money, wish him well, and hope someone will fill his shoes.
What about us, the fans? Are we to resent George John for leaving in the middle of what could potentially be a treble-winning year?
Some might, but not me. Sure, I think his absence would seriously impair the odds of FC Dallas lifting any hardware this season, and that is depressing (in a non-real-world, soccer kind of way. Real depression is reserved for stuff like deaths in the family, divorce, unemployment, and the cancellation of Firefly by the idiots at Fox).
But, in my little universe, the players on my favorite team are not chess pieces, to be sacrificed with no emotional attachment. They are people whom I admire for their talent and dedication. They are people who bring me joy on a weekly basis during the season. If something bad happens to them, I hurt for them. If something good happens to them, I rejoice with them.
So, if George John gets to go to England, I'll hurt with him a little, because I know he'll be sad to leave. But I'll also rejoice with him, because he's doing something most of us will never get to do: live out his dream.
As for tonight, Zach Loyd is starting in central defense, and the team has come out in the first few minutes playing with confidence. It's nice to see. Confidence and a bit of flair. It's a whole new attitude with this team. They play like they are in charge of things, as opposed to years past when almost everything was reactive with this team, even in successful years. This is a team that imposes its will on the opposition more often than I am used to seeing.
Of course, no sooner do I write this, than Seattle scores first, in the 15th minute, taking advantage of an atypically bad touch by Ugo Ihemelu.
Now Zach Loyd is coming off the field, with what looks like a hamstring problem. Yikes. Jeremy Hall is coming in, having just been acquired from Portland (possibly because the front office knew George John was going to be leaving soon). I hope Zach is okay, but I'm glad to get a look at Hall.
I am very impressed by the large contingent of Sounders fans gathered in section 132. It looks to be 30-40 people that made the long trip from Seattle; they're in fine voice, as well. That, my friends, is good support. Well done.
Annnnnnnd, Match Day Live is giving me a “Technical Difficulties” notice. I hate to go negative here, but I'm really not a fan of the MDL experience. Lots of technical glitches and a consistently bad picture equal one unhappy customer.
I know, I know, I'm watching soccer, in America, on a computer, for not a terribly great amount of money. I'm aware of that. I'm on record as being sufficiently awed and thankful for the improvement in the lot of the American soccer fanatic since the days of, say, one NASL match per season, on a channel you could barely get reception on, played during the exact time your Dad insisted on the lawn being mowed and trimmed even though you had the entire weekend to do it. I get it. I lived through those days. But I'm bitching about MDL tonight, despite all that. So sue me.
Well, since I have a blank screen in front of me, I guess it is as good a time as any for a slight digression. To wit: How in the world is Robbie Keane getting multi-millions per year? I like Robbie Keane, don't get me wrong. He's fun to watch, he's a proven goal scorer, not too old at 31 years old; yes, all of that. Conceded.
But really, 2-3 million a year?
My mind is officially boggled at those numbers. Am I out of line on this? Is that a reasonable amount of money?
Okay, Match Day Live is on the air again, just in time for the last few minutes of the first half. The boys are down 1-0 going in to the locker room, but I'm not terribly worried. The Seattle goal was flukish (though quite nicely finished, I must admit), and FC Dallas out-shot Seattle by something like 11-1 for the half. So my naturally pessimistic nature is somewhat quieted.
The first ten minutes of the second half are much like the first ten minutes of the first. Lots and lots of FC Dallas pressure, lots of good chances, but so far no goals.
Oh, no. Come on. Disaster.
Danny Cruz is sent off. In the 55th minute. He picked up a cheap yellow in the first half, and now Mr. Gantar shows him the second yellow for, supposedly, taking a dive. I've been pretty happy with Mr. Gantar in the few games I've seen him work, but this call was atrocious. Unacceptable. (Ooh, freaky, I was typing the word 'unacceptable' just as Steve Jolley was speaking the same word on the broadcast. You know what they say about great minds, though . . .)
That was without a doubt one of the worst calls I've ever seen in MLS. Cruz was sandwiched between two players, running with the ball toward goal, and went down; a case of legs getting tangled. I don't even know that it was a foul on the defensive player, much less a dive by Danny Cruz.
Bizarre is not to strong a word to describe that call. And I say that as a fan who is all for throwing a diver out of a game. I think it doesn't happen nearly enough in any league, anywhere in the world. That being said, this was still a horrible call.
It may Castillo time. He should be ready to get back in to the swing of things by scoring a quick goal tonight. Or two.
The impressive thing right now is that FC Dallas is still carrying the attack to Seattle, even a man down. I think the Boys have an equalizer in them tonight, if not a winner. That would be a huge confidence boost at this point in the season. Not to mention a crushing blow for Seattle, which wouldn't hurt, seeing as they are the opponents in the upcoming US Open Cup semifinals.
Ha! There he is, Señor Castillo, right on schedule.
The main thing going against FC Dallas right this second, more so than the lack of an 11th player, is the presence of Kasey Keller. Kasey's just not really a give-up-the-late-goal kind of guy. Never has been.
There's been so many fouls called that Mr. Gantar's little spray can has run out of white paint for free kicks. Soon, a game like this will be known as a 'two can game'. You heard it here first.
Three minutes left, plus stoppage.
Four minutes added on. Come on Boys. A little magic.
AHHH! Well, there was a little magic there in the last minute, but sadly it was performed by Kasey Keller. He robbed Bruno Guarda like a drunk sailor on shore leave.
Full time. What a bizarre loss. One bad touch by Ugo leads to a goal, then an absolutely crazy red card helps prevent an equalizer.
And, lest you think I'm picking on Ugo, let me go on the record in saying that he was terrific tonight, that one thing aside; brilliant at times defensively, and only a Kasey Keller save away from scoring an equalizer. Ugo is the man, and make no mistake about it.
Okay, folks, I'm road tripping to Kansas City for next weekend's game, Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, so there may just be a road trip edition in our future.
See you then.
Wow. Raining in Seattle. I did not see that coming.
I also did not anticipate fog in San Francisco, heat in Phoenix, or humidity in Florida.
The fun part of stupidity is that everything is a surprise.
This game is being played on that execrable scourge upon modern civilization, artificial grass. Mercifully, they’ve at least come up with the technology to scrub off the football lines. Why no grass, Seattle? You’ve got the requisite moisture. Oh, I forgot, grass needs sunshine. Sorry.
Sorry for the snarky attitude, Seattle folks. It’s not your fault. I’m a little bummed by how the NBA Playoffs are going for my hometown team, the Oklahoma City Thunder . . .
Ooooh. Never mind. Forget I said anything. Sorry to bring that up. Look on the bright side - Clay Bennett has no interest in Soccer.
But I digress.
Okay, one more snarky comment: What’s the deal with those stupid gray X’s on the back of those hideous green jerseys? I know it’s supposed to be some sort of secret Adidas gimmick to give soccer players superhuman abilities or something. Probably a joint project with the boys over at the Department of Defense, I’m sure. Really though, it’s a soccer jersey, it doesn’t require titanium inlays, structural engineering features and top-secret CIA stealth technology. Sleeves and a number are really the bare minimum required.
Though for FC Dallas purposes, a sponsor logo wouldn’t hurt, would it?
It’s not even the 15th minute and Fredy Montero has already changed shoes. Come on Imelda Marcos, let’s get on with it.
Wow, I’m really going negative here. What is wrong with me?
Oh, I know what it is. Yesterday was the last day of school, and I won’t get to teach middle school for a whole 11 weeks. Clearly I’m compensating for my sadness and disappointment by lashing out at the opposing team in my soccer column.
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah . . .
Oh, I slay me.
Where were we?
OH! BREK SHEA! GOLAZO! MAGIC! 1-NILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!
Brek has gone back to the semi-Mohawk hair style, which clearly has a reverse Samson effect on the kid.
Leading the Sounders 1-0 in the first half, AT Seattle? Is that even allowed under League rules? Joe Machnik, call your office.
I was having lunch today with a friend who has followed FC Dallas in the past, but who has been out of the loop for the last couple seasons. He asked me “Have they picked up any good players?” I then gushed awkwardly about Fabian Castillo like a teenage girl describing her first Justin Bieber concert. It’s a good thing I lost my dignity years ago in a tragic barber shop accident, or I would be totally, like, embarrassed.
Ian Rush lookalike Álvaro Fernández just blatantly threw an elbow at Jackson’s face then feigned innocence when he got whistled. I’d make an anti-Uruguayan slur here, but I don’t know any. Besides, Uruguayans seem like a pretty decent people.
Except for this guy, who is a disgrace to all thin-mustached Ian Rush doppelgängers everywhere.
(There’s a sentence you don’t see every day)
Kasey Keller just fell on his butt after making a goal kick. But, because he is Kasey Keller, he still managed to look cool in the process, and send the ball 70 yards
Kasey Keller is to soccer what Chuck Norris is to everything else but soccer.
Unlike Chuck Norris, Kasey Keller’s tears don’t cure cancer, but they do travel back in time and prevent it in many cases.
I don’t want to be impious and say Kasey Keller is a god, but I’m pretty sure he is at least a demiurge.
Halftime. FC Dallas is winning, and haven’t given up a goal in 444 minutes. Nice.
I have the eerie feeling I may have jinxed things by mentioning that statistic. But I included it anyway, because fear is not an emotion I am familiar with; as I’m sure you all know, I like to live on the edge. Why, just the other day I was at the bank, and I saw the drive-thru lane that said “Commercial Transactions Only”, and I drove right up to it, even though my transaction was clearly not commercial.
Yeah, you heard me right. I’m a loose cannon. I’m trouble. I’ll do it again. See if I don’t.
I like the one announcer setup Seattle uses for their broadcasts. Until that glorious day when all we get is crowd noise with nobody talking, one is the correct number of broadcasters for a live sporting event. Maybe two for football. The NBA is going with three announcers for the playoffs, and even with quality talent, that’s just too many people. Though I like the chemistry between Mike van Gundy and Mark Jackson; it’s like listening to two guys on a sofa watching the game with a cooler of beer.
Kevin Hartman is absolutely flawless tonight. If you are a youth soccer coach you would do well to show this game to your team the day you want to discuss goalkeeping and defense. Kevin is out-Kasey-Kellering Kasey Keller.
Nate Jaqua comes in for Fredy Montero. I know it goes against conventional wisdom, but I was more comfortable with Montero on the field. Fredy is a bit off his game, and Jaqua has a sneaky way of scoring big goals. Not as many, or as often, as he used to, but he’s definitely not to be trusted.
I know this is off topic, but I have to mention it: David Beckham missed a league game so he could go to England and play in an exhibition game? There are so many things wrong with this it makes me dizzy. If I was a Galaxy supporter (like, in some bizarre alternate universe caused by a rip in the very fabric of space/time created by Wesley Crusher in a holodeck experiment gone horribly awry) I would be furious not only with Beckham, but with Bruce Arena, Tom Payne, Simon Fuller, Don Garber and (oddly, I admit) Yoko Ono. The whole thing is a joke. Even Allen Iverson is somewhere saying “Man, we’re not talking about a game; we’re talking about a testimonial”. It has a very slimy “Ken-Shamrock-leaves-MMA-to-work-for-Vince-McMahon” kind of feel to it. I hope the playoffs don’t coincide with WrestleMania this year. I’d hate for Beckham to have to make another tough call.
Oh yeah - while I was ranting, FC Dallas held off a furious rally by the Sounders and held on for a 1-0 win. This team is on a roll like a pat of butter. This team is cooking with gas. This team is, dare I say, a juggernaut.
This weekend is the always exciting game against the Dynamo.
This match is sometimes nicknamed “The Texas Derby”.
Some folks refer to it as “The Battle for El Capitan”.
Personally, I prefer to call it “Houston, You Have A Problem”.
See you then.
Okay, true confession time: I missed Wednesday's game because I was watching the Thunder beat Memphis. Not in person, unfortunately; Thunder tickets are harder to find these days than an honest politician. Worse than that, if they win the series tomorrow, I'm totally rooting for them to beat the Mavericks. I've lived in OKC for more than 20 years now, so surely you my dear friends will forgive me for this act of seeming disloyalty.
Brek is back at left midfield. Armchair pundits across the Southwest just know it's because Sensei is finally listening to them.
Danny Califf has full sleeve tattoos. Apart from the questionable aesthetic considerations, I cannot imagine sitting still for that long while being jabbed with needles. Then again, I went to law school, which seems like a similar experience. And by that, I mean both are long painful ordeals, and years later you wonder, “Why the hell did I do that?”
Steve Jolley, calling the game for Fox Southwest, rightly points out that Faryd Mondragon looks a bit like Darío Sala, though I would add, “but without all the awesome”. FC Dallas has always had good goalkeeping, and I'm glad we have Kevin Hartman; he is about as good as they come. but to me, Darío was and is The Man. Love that guy.
Where's Ruiz? I almost made the drive from Oklahoma City to Frisco for this game just to experience first hand the reception he would get from The Inferno and El Matador. And when I say “almost” I mean, “If I wasn't lazy as sin and averse to paying $4.00 a gallon for gas”. I can overcome one, or the other, but not both.
Speaking of Ruiz, if the Union had somebody on the field who could finish inside the 18, they could be up 2-0 here in the 22nd minute. They're kind of slicing up the defense, up to the point where they actually have to kick the ball in the goal.
On the upside, Brek is going all Gareth Bale on his markers. Speed, passing, smart runs, that whole thing. Sheanon Williams and Amobi Okogu don't have much for him.
And almost as I finish typing that sentence, Fabian Castillo torches three guys on the right wing, strides in to the box, and centers perfectly to, who, class, anyone? Yep - Brek Shea. In the perfect place, sans defender, for the tap-in. Beauty. Sheer beauty.
I hate it when guys get fouled then look to the ref and make the international sign language symbol for “Hey, ref, how about a yellow card for that?”. Just shut up and do your job. In this league you're lucky to get a call at all. Let's not be a bunch of obnoxious impertinent luck-pushers, m'kay?
Okay, there are three things wrong with that last paragraph. First, it's not a yellow card they're asking for, it's a “Yellow Tail Wine Yellow Card”. Second, “shut up” isn't really the right epithet for someone using hand signals. Third, it was just a shade too angry. If I actually had some Yellow Tail in the house, I might not be so irritable.
By the way, if you're a Yellow Tail distributor, and you're reading this, I am categorically NOT trying to weasel free product from you. DJ Walker cannot be bought.
(He can, however, be leased, with an option to buy, in certain circumstances)
CASTILLOOOOOOOOO! 2-0! MAGIC!
Jackson with the lovely cross, Castillo, who is not the tall one, skies for the header from six yards out, surrounded by defenders.
Apparently Fabian can only score when he's guarded by a minimum of three guys. I can live with that.
Two-nil at halftime. Kinda wish I had made the drive now.
Now Ruiz is in, as the second half starts. I couldn't tell from the broadcast what kind of reaction he got from the crowd. My prediction is he got an initial round of warm, appreciative applause, which will be followed by merciless abuse for the rest of the match. I know my people.
I hate to be cynical, but I think Petr Nowak might have suggested to his team that Brek Shea needs to hit the turf more often this half. He's getting a taste of the Ferreira treatment. Surely the league has told the refs to crack down on this, after seeing three star players get their legs broken in the last two weeks.
I know, I'm a dreamer.
Andrew Jacobson just absolutely ripped a left footed shot from distance. Mondragon had to get low and stretchy to stop it. I hadn't seen that part of Jacobson's game before. I like it. I'm a big fan of taking long shots. They keeps defenders honest, and can be a real momentum changer. Plus, it looks really cool when they go in.
I hope I'm not puttin' the mojo on them, but the defense looks outstanding now. The first 20 minutes were shaky, but since then it's been a treat to watch them work.
I may been injudicious when I implied that Nowak told his guys to foul Brek this half. That, or they're just really bad at it. They haven't been able to get close enough to foul him since that first one, in about the 55th minute, and we're in the 86th now.
Two minutes left, and this one is in the bag. This was a total domination. Not something I get to say very often. Feels good.
So who's next? Who wants some of this? Huh, punks, huh? Bring it, BRING IT!
Sorry. Got carried away.
See you next week for RSL.
It hurt enough watching this team without Kenny Cooper. Watching him against us is ten times worse.
Coop seems like he's extra worked up for this game; he's already tried to take a chunk out of Ugo Ihemelu and Brek Shea. Not dirty play, but kind of hyperactive, going-in-too-hard-because-he's-going too-fast kind of stuff. It must be a day of mixed emotions for the kid. I imagine he will get a very warm reception when he comes to Pizza Hut Park later on. I can't imagine otherwise.
Jel-Wen stadium is packed and loud. Nice. If you're new to American soccer, you have to realize that though Portland is an expansion team in terms of MLS, the Timbers have been a presence in the game, off and on, since the early 70's. So, it is no oxymoron to speak of the tradition of Timbers soccer.
Welllll. I'm not too surprised to see it is Jack Jewsbury who gets on the scoreboard first for Portland. I'm a bit surprised to see Portland score first, mind you, because FCD is off to a pretty good start. Jewsbury, I think, will end up being an even more important acquisition than Kenny Cooper for Portland. He's been around a long time, scored lots of important goals for Kansas City, is a natural leader, and does not know the meaning of quit. I've always liked the guy. He has been the mainstay of most all of my MFLS teams ever since his breakout year of 2004. Of course, they were all losing MFLS teams, but that's hardly Jack's fault.
The goal itself, however, was a bit lucky. Jewsbury hit it well, but actually bounced it off the near post, and off of Kevin Hartman's backside. There's a joke in there about pulling something out of somewhere, but I'm just going to let it go.
The atmosphere created by the Timbers fans is somewhat reminiscent of an English Premier League game. I love seeing that, but can't quite get myself to agree with Bobby Rhine and Steve Jolley that this amounts to a “12th man.” It may give a little boost to the home team, sure, but it's not going to affect FC Dallas, or any other professional team, the least little bit. All of these guys have played in front of crowds, okay? A little noise is never going to make them play any worse. It makes for good talking points, however, which is good for guys in the booth.
Despite the early goal, I still like the Loyd-Ihemelu-John-Shea back four. I believe Sensei has instructed young Brek to get forward at will, which seems to suit him just fine. He's going to give right backs fits throughout this season with his speed, skill, and desire to score. I don't know much about soccer, but I feel pretty secure about that prognostication.
Dangit. I think I jinxed them. Kenny Cooper scores from a header to make it 2-0. He beat Ugo in the air and put it just over Kevin's fingertips. If I was nothing more than a bitter homer who never gives the other team credit, I might point out that Kenny fouled Ugo to get that open look.
But I'm not. So I won't.
Now, I may not have the details just exactly right, but apparently a guy named Timber Joey cuts down an old-growth tree, kills the endangered owls living therein, and starts a forest fire which he uses to fry up the owl carcasses, every time Portland scores a goal.
Or something like that.
Anyway. FCD down 2-0 at halftime, but didn't play badly at all. Funny old game, innit?
Second half, and I almost just said one of those words we're not supposed to say in school. Only a (brilliant, inspired) offside call kept Portland from making it 3-0 within the first two minutes of the half. That, as the young people say, woulda stunk
I want to backtrack a little about what I said regarding Brek at left back. There is one sense in which I die a little every time I see him back there. That has to do with the sad fact that America produces so few of that devil-may-care, Didier Drogba/Wayne Rooney-esque, “I'll try anything and I have the skill to pull it off”, natural goal scoring type of players. Brek has the temperament to be one of those guys, and most of the skill (though still developing, to be sure). Now, we've stuck him in the back. That part, I hate. But I'm also enough of a pragmatist (at least when it comes to FC Dallas), that I'll accept whatever Sensei comes up with, as long as it works.
Well, now it is 3-0, in the 56th minute, and this time the defense as a unit is at fault. And, I might add, FCD is sunk. I'll be happy to eat those words if the Red Stripes should make an amazing comeback, but my pessimistic nature has gone in to overdrive, and I do believe, sad as it makes me to say it, that FCD is sunk. At least for this week. I don't mean to make any predictions about the season as a whole, of course. I'm not that glass-half-empty of a person.
All you can ask for at this point is that the boys have enough fuego to not give up, to make a game out of it, to not roll over and die. Win or lose, if you have the fuego, you have life. And, you have to say, the fuego was one of the things Sensei brought with him when he came to Pizza Hut Park, that took the franchise from underachievers to Western Conference champs.
Oh, and Portland? Portland have the fuego. If they played in front of a crowd of 20 people, all of whom had taken a monastic vow of silence, this team would have the fuego, or Spencer'd kill them.
Thirteen minutes left, and Portland looks like the only team interested in pushing the action. Ugh. What time does “Game of Thrones” come on?
So, let's see if I have this straight – Eddie Johnson, the Englishman, is playing in the United States, while Eddie Johnson, the American, is playing in England? Okay. Seems a shade inefficient, but that's none of my business. Whatever works, I guess.
HEY! FCD pulled one back! Brek Shea, streaking up the left side, puts a diagonal ball into the box for David Ferreira, who beats the defender to stretch a toe out and put it past Gleeson. Two goals down, six minutes to go. No problem, right?
OHHHHHHHHHHHH! DIPSY SELELOWANE FCD has scored again! Guess who? Brek Shea! One goal down, five minutes to play! Fuego, much?
This time, David loops a ball into the middle of the penalty area, and Brek Shea gets underneath it and pops it over Gleeson. Yeah, baby.
Injury time, and Kevin Hartman is going all NHL and leaving the net empty on a corner.
OH! Ferreira off the crossbar! Agh!
Full Time. Wow. Not a win, or even a draw, but a fine display of guts and fuego. I'm pretty happy with that. Gotta catch my breath.
See you next week for Vancouver.
I had forgotten that last year FCD only had 2 wins in the first nineteen games (sometimes it pays to watch the pregame stuff). That certainly gives some perspective on the less-than-stellar start to the season. That, and the undeniable fact that FCD has played a substantial percentage of the season with a man down.
I don't know much about tactics, but if your formation only adds up to 9, I know that ain't good.
Drew Moor is back in town. I hope he got a friendly greeting from the crowd. He was a fan favorite while he was here, and in fact had a standing invitation to marriage from at least one member of the Inferno, who shall remain nameless for the sake of propriety (you know who you are).
Speaking of the crowd, East Side looks like it is filling up nicely. Good sign.
Ouch. Marvin Chavez just got a calf full of Matt Pickens' cleats. He's okay, but that hurt me just looking at it. As much as anyone, I hate it when soccer players flop around the ground histrionically pretending to be hurt. But, you have to understand that certain kinds of knocks (like this one for example) are fairly exclusive to our sport, and tend to hurt like hell for about a minute, then go away. It's a fact of the game; sometimes when you see a guy flopping around, he is in fact in intense pain, and the fact that he's good as gold a mere minute later is not necessarily an indication that he is an un-manly, thespian-wannabe weenie.
This is especially true in the USA, where that kind of dramatic nonsense is generally not done, and definitely looked down upon. We all know there are parts of the world where this is common practice. I am thinking particularly of a region of South American known, I believe, as “South America”. But not in this country, buddy, no way; here we rub some dirt on it and keep playing. I think it has something to do with the inferiority complex the game has here, vis-a-vis American football. Soccer players know the reputation their sport has in this country, and go out of their way to combat it. Whatever you think of Chad Ochocinco's attempt to play soccer, you can feel fairly sure you'd never see him make a dozen rolls on the grass and wave his arms wildly after a hard foul.
This has been a really positive first 25 minutes. Castillo and Ferreira look really dangerous together, and OH, as soon as I type that, Ugo Ihemelu knocks in a goal! Colorado failed to clear their lines after a corner, and Ugo half-volleyed a Marvin Chavez header right past Pickens from six yards out. Nice.
Marvin Chavez is bleeding like a stuck pig after catching Nyassi's skull right in the face while challenging for the header. Man he's taken a beating tonight, just in the first half hour. Tough kid, Chavez, he’s not afraid to get in there. He's going to have to go off though. He may have a concussion; he's been on the ground several minutes now. Looks like Eric Avila coming in.
Again Sanna Nyassi with the tough foul, this time not even trying to play the ball and bringing Castillo to ground, hard. He's already on a yellow, and really he should be off. He's been out of control tonight. And if there is any soccer karma in the universe, we should see about a seven-man Rapids team by the end of the night.
I like Brek Shea as a left back a lot more than as a center back. He seems more comfortable defensively, and has already made a number of dangerous overlapping runs. This might be the ticket for him. He reminds me of Paul Broome, with his speed and willingness to get forward (there's an old school Dallas Burn reference for you kids).
Goal! David Ferreira, from a sublime through ball by young Castillo. Mayyyybe a hint of offside, but a good no-call by the assistant referee, in my completely objective and unbiased opinion. These two guys together may be the most dangerous combo in MLS. I mean, we knew Castillo could run like the wind, and find the back of the net, but if he can pass like this as well . . . defenders around the league will be losing sleep tonight, I suspect. And if not, they should be.
I do believe David Ferreira pulled a pacifier out of his shorts and put in his mouth as a goal celebration. I hope there's a good story behind this, some symbolism at play. Surely there must be. I'd hate to think he just happened to have one on him as a matter of course.
On the other hand, if he scores goals like that, he can pull a hobby horse out of there, I'm down with it.
You know I always enjoy doing new things, so I'm really delighted to type this next sentence:
Hey, FCD is up 2-0 at halftime!
Yeah, that felt good.
Second half OHHHHHHHH! Eric Avila plays a beautiful ball across the face of the goal right to David, who BURIES it, a mere 20 seconds in. Oh my. Are you kidding me? This is beautiful. Apparently the first three games were an extension of the preseason, and the regular season starts tonight.
Eric Avila, I believe, really needed that. He's had, along with everyone else, a slow start to the season, and may have been headed for the doghouse, and may have been flirting with a fatal lack of self-confidence. This is just what the doctor ordered for Avi.
I love the spray paint thing the referees are doing this year. They spray the spot of the foul, and spray the line 10 yards away the wall must stand behind. I feel pretty sure I could never be a referee under any circumstances, but especially with this innovation, It's almost a certainty I'd be reprimanded for painting a smiley face, or 'accidentally' spraying some mouthy punk who was complaining about a call.
FCD is still pounding the Colorado goal. I'll be surprised if they don't get at least one more tonight. I think Sensei Hyndman is entirely to my way of thinking when it comes to the best way to defend a three-goal lead, which is, of course, to make it a four-goal lead.
I'm not entirely sure Colorado has had a shot on goal yet this evening (speaking of sentences it is a pleasure to type).
Anthony Wallace has gone off with what looks like an ankle injury. I hate to see that; he's another really good young kid that used to play for FCD. Hope it's not too bad.
At his point, with about 20 minutes to go, the East Side of the stadium looks nearly full. The South End is pretty empty, but still, it looks like a nice-sized crowd. This is one of the few times the club has managed to combine a good crowd with a good performance. I can't tell you how many times terrific games have been played to sparse crowds, or good crowds have seen a stinker of a game. This, I'm hoping, is the start of a new trend.
Though to be sure, the mark of a true success is consistently good attendance regardless of recent form. In MLS, I'm not sure that has been seen yet, has it? Seattle has had consistently good numbers, but I don't think they have ever had a sustained run of really poor form in their brief existence. I'm more than willing to be corrected on this point, by any of you who have more complete knowledge of these things. I know Kenn Tomasch does a great job of keeping track of attendance trends in the league; I'd like to get his $.02 on this.
Zach Loyd just got chopped down, unnecessarily. He is another guy who has taken a beating tonight.
You have to say, Sensei has assembled a team that is not afraid to take a knock, which is a handy quality in this league, where defense is often defined as 'foul early, foul often'. I think half the challenge offensively this year will be keeping guys like Ferreira and Castillo off the deck and in the game.
And as if to prove my point, Jeff Larentowicz just completely hacks down Ferreira from behind, studs up, and doesn't even receive a verbal caution, much less a yellow card. What a joke.
The Inferno are in fine voice tonight.
All right! Full time, and what more could you ask for than a sound thumping of a hated rival on a Friday night? Not much, friends. Not much. The only thing I could have wished for was to have been there in person, but I'll take a win regardless of where I watch it.
See you next week for Kenny Cooper and the Portland Timbers.
It was a night of firsts in Frisco:
- First regular-season sellout that didn't involve David Beckham or a Mexican International. It was a beautiful thing to see – a solid wall of people all around. Instead of being an oasis in a desert of empty seats, The Inferno was what a supporter's section should be, which is a vanguard of noise and insanity that the rest of the crowd follows. I spent the first half up front, waving a flag, jumping and singing and casting aspersions on the heredity of the opposing players. The second half, I'm not gonna lie, I went up a few rows and sat with the old-guard. We're none of us getting any younger around here, and I didn't have a spring training to get back in shape for this kind of thing. Frankly, by halftime, I was beat. Sad, but true. I'm also getting to the age where I actually want to watch the game sometimes. When you stand with a supporter's group, you don't watch the game nearly so much as you experience it. Not necessarily better, just different.
- First time I ever said to myself “Terry Vaughan isn't too awful tonight” (though I understand there is a strong body of dissenting opinion out there on this). I didn't see the Brek Shea's red card play until I got home and watched the replay, and I have to say, if it was one of our forwards getting that treatment when he was alone on goal, I'd want that call. Yeah, you can say it was a little harsh, but you can't really say it was out-and-out wrong. What I did see was at least one sequence where Mr. Vaughn correctly played the advantage when one our guys was hacked, then when the advantage didn't pan out, he blew the whistle and gave us the free kick. That, my friends, is quality reffing, no matter where you go in the world. Sure, the play was kind of rough at times, and maybe he let a little too much go un-whistled (if there is such a word), but what do you want? It's a Brimstone game. It was going to be chippy, if not downright dirty, at some point. Mr. Vaughn didn't lose control while at the same time letting the boys play. Again, good reffing; it's not an easy line to walk.
- First time to the Londoner (free scarf and free beer from the player-bought keg = no brainer). Not too many years ago, the idea of a huge soccer-friendly restaurant in the little town of Frisco was about as likely as a NASCAR bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Now there are several. Lochrann's, Irish Rover, and Londoners, just off the top of my head. Amazing. Oh, and the idea of the players buying a keg and handing out free drink tickets to the supporters . . . genius. Pure unadulterated genius. I mean, like, Nobel Prize genius. Good on you boys. We're not talking, by the way, about a Dixie-cup of warm swill either, but rather a full pint-glass of cold draft goodness. If you can judge the quality of an organization by the way they handle the small details . . . this is a good sign.
- First time I stood in the corner section. Not bad. I still like behind the goal as a supporter's section, but the corner is okay too. You lose the unbeatable view of goals that happen right in front of you, but you gain a better perspective of play on the opposite end. Not a bad trade off, it seems. I think the compressed configuration of the corner section makes the Inferno look bigger on television. Which is always nice. We had a nice view of Milton Rodriguez's incredibly audacious goal. Left-footed back heel? Really? I wasn't sure I had seen it correctly, but yeah, that's what he did alright. The British have a term for a shot like that – Cheeky. Cheeky means, roughly translated, 'You had no business either trying or making that shot, but it sure is cool that you did'. The more I watch this game (and it's only been around two decades, so what do I know?) the more I think sheer audacity is the sine qua non of a great goal-scorer. Think Rooney when he was a kid at Everton; he would try anything, he'd shoot from anywhere. No fear, no self-consciousness, just audacity combined with skill. It's the difference between goodness and greatness.
- First time meeting a lot of the newer Inferno Members. It's been about three seasons (he said with disgust and shame) since I've been to a game in person. That's WAY too long. It gave me great joy too arrive at the Red Lot tailgate section; I immediately knew I was home. Not to mention the fact I was handed some food and drink withing thirty seconds of arrival. Speaking of eating, is there a better comfort food than tailgate food? I've had, in terms of taste, preparation, and quality of ingredients, 'nicer' meals than I had Saturday, but never, ever, have I had a more satisfying or enjoyable one.
- First time I met Doug Quinn. I introduced myself, and asked him how he was able to arrange the biggest full moon in 18 years as an opening-day attraction. Without missing a beat he says “Well, I had to ask Lamar”. I like this guy. I like him a lot.
- Finally, speaking of Uncle Lamar, it was the first time a crowd of people have marched to the stadium and put a scarf on the statue of Mr. Hunt. Beautiful tribute. I heartily approve. I was trying to describe to one of the newer, younger Inferno folks about Mr. Hunt and his legacy. “Look around”, I said, waving my arm in a broad sweep covering the stadium, the restaurants, the shops, the traffic, the people, the music, the tailgates, and just the out and out fun that everyone was having. “Without Lamar Hunt, none of this is here. None of it.”
I think that about covers it, don't you?
Really, a little rain the stands are 2/3 empty? I thought Canadians were made of heartier stock. If there was snow on the ground, it'd be standing room only, I guess. Having said that, let me point out I freely acknowledge it takes a special kind of nerve for an FC Dallas partisan to engage in attendance-smack. On the other hand if it rained in Dallas, in July, it could only help; get the temperature down to a manageable low 90's, and we're all over it.
Toronto have a midfielder named Hscanovics. Never in my life have I seen a name that starts with three consonants. If you don't count Irish names like, oh, McCarty. Okay, so I have seen a name that starts with three consonants – but never those particular three.
Wow this game is boring. You know those people who paid top-dollar for the tables on the side of the field, just the other side of the advertising boards? Yeah, they're texting instead of watching. In the rain.
Mark down this day as the first time a television commentator mentioned the existence of 'Brek Shea to Europe” rumors.
Bruno Guarda is getting hacked up but good by the Toronto defense. [WARNING: TECHNICAL SOCCER ANALYSIS FOLLOWS] He's making some nice runs, with and without the ball. Dax is more of a hold and distribute kind of midfielder, different in category, not quality. I wouldn't mind seeing them work together when Dax gets healthy, though I don't know who comes off for Bruno once Dax is back.
Now I can hear from all of you who know more about tactics than I do, as to why that was completely wrong. It's okay, I can take it. As much as I love the game, when people start talking about formations and tactics, all I tend to hear is that sound it makes when you tune the radio randomly up and down the
dial. In fact, here, Reader's Digest version, is what I know about soccer: If you have the ball, dribble, pass or shoot. If you don't have the ball, either make yourself available for an outlet, make a run toward open space, or defend. If you're the keeper, cut down the angle and command the six yard box.
That's pretty much it, as far as I can tell. It matters very little whether you line up in a 4-3-2-1 or a 4-1-4-1, or a 3-2-4-1, or even a 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1, as long as you play hard, play together, and, if you're Brazilian, play pretty.
The only other thing I know is that you should never sit on a one goal lead.
Oh, and short corners are a waste of time.
Oh, and artificial grass is an abomination.
Did I forget anything?
Anyway, no score at the half.
Kevin Hartman is having a good game. What a good pick-up that was for us. Why Kansas City discarded him like a rusty old tin can, I cannot figure. Speaking as a staunch and unyielding fan of the great Darío Sala – I am happy we were able to get Kevin to Dallas.
I'm watching the CBC feed of the game, and it is absolutely fascinating watching the advertisements for Canadian prime time programming. It's like being in a parallel universe. It's essentially the same shows, but with people you don't recognize, and less gun-play.
George John is taking a beating today, as well, but only because he's the type of kid who's not afraid to stick his head in there and not worry about the consequences. Which I like. In fact he's taken a knock to the head that is bleeding and he's had to come off. But the plain fact is I'm liking George John more and more every single week, and it's fun watching him come in to his own as a professional.
I hope he'll enjoy Scandinavia
(He said ruefully, eschewing the idea while sensing its inevitability).
Oh, so the sun finally comes out and Toronto immediately score a goal. Great, at least now we know how to beat them in the future – make sure it rains, or play indoors. They're like the opposite of a vampire; they need the daylight to live. It was a nice goal, I'll admit, but I hate being behind with only a half-hour to play. Well, frankly, I hate being behind, end of sentence.
I've gotten spoiled by our unbeaten streak, too. Being undefeated in six games is like getting high-speed internet, or a high-def television. You just can't go back to a dialup connection, or standard resolution. You just can't.
I like it here in winner-land; don't make me go back to loserville. I don't want to go back. I won't go back. You can't make me go back.
OH! DIPSY SELELOWANE! HOLY JABULANI! Equaliserrrrrrrrrr!
Milton Rodriguez gets his first goal for the team. Beautiful snap-header, followed by some gentle mocking of the Toronto crowd, putting his hands to his ears asking where the noise is. I knew I liked this guy.
It's such a more confident, composed, and competitive team this year. I can't put my finger on quite what the difference is. I think it has something to do with the captaincy of Hernandez, the assertive play of Ferreira, the addition of Rodriguez, and just the natural maturing of a fairly young team.
Whatever it is, me likey.
Cunningham comes on with less than 10 minutes to play. I'd like to see Jeff get a winner. He is a guy that thrives on confidence, and he could use the boost.
Atiba Harris has nearly gotten the winner twice in the last minutes. This is a team that really doesn't want to settle for a point on the road. That warms my heart to no end. It could be, people, that Senhor Schellas has managed to bring back the fuego to FC Dallas. There is no telling how far this team could go with just a touch of that mythical ingredient (I refer to the fuego as being mythical, not coach Hyndman).
Five minutes of stoppage time. Toronto are pressing, but we are not bunkering in. Good sign. I don't mind getting a point on the road, as long as we're not playing for a point, if you see my point. As it were. If you will.
Oh, you have got to be kidding me. Dario just got a red card, and he's not even playing. The ball went out of bounds by the Dallas bench, and Dario threw it back on the field, while play was stopped. For this he gets tossed? Mr. Jurisevic called a terrific game, but that was completely ridiculous. Give thou me a breaketh.
So, anyway, it's a draw. I'm pretty happy with it, too. Unbeaten in seven, and playing with spirit and confidence. Life is good, footballistically speaking.
See you next week for Colorado.
Usually at this point, I lament the fact that I'm not at Pizza Hut Park to see the game in person. But I've been there in July when it's 100-plus degrees outside. Therefore I'm fairly content to be watching from my palatial estate in Oklahoma City. And by palatial of course, I mean 'air-conditioned'.
I'm glad to see Milton Rodriguez debut tonight, and I'm glad to see Brek Shea abandon the cornrow experiment. Who was the guy who played keeper for Kansas City (among others) that made a brief but unfortunate attempt at little rubber-banded dreadlock seeds on his head a few years ago? That was about the worst hair in MLS history. He was also a commentator (and still may be, for all I know). Great, now it's going to drive me crazy until I remember. Thanks Brek, thanks for that. I blame you for this. Even Google is no help; 'kc goalkeeper bad dreadlock attempt' yields no results whatsoever.
Milton almost scores in the 10th minute, heading one off the crossbar from the corner. He also managed to give Espindola a shot in the chops in the process. Accidentally, mind you, but enough to let everyone know he's present and accounted for.
The Referee, Mr. Grajeda, has apparently purchased, and used, the Ed Hochuli workout video. This guy has the serious guns. It must give a player pause when trying to verbally abuse a ref who could snap his neck if provoked.
Mr. Grajeda is totally uninterested in giving David Ferreira the benefit of the doubt on two very close foul calls in and near the penalty area. To be fair, David is trying to sell it a bit too much. My perception is that the tide is turning against players who flop in the box. Referees, it seems, are sick of being made a fool of by thespian forwards and are consciously not giving calls when there is embellishment present. I'm all for this trend, too. How many times have you talked to a non-fan about soccer and the first thing they bring up is flopping? It's embarrassing.
Now, take a guy like Dax McCarty. He just got seriously whacked by Will Johnson. If you've played the game at any level, you know that reallllly hurt. But did Dax roll on the ground and stay there for several minutes, requiring a stretcher and some magic spray before he could continue? No. No. He stayed down for a few seconds to let it quit hurting (a little), then got up. I'm not sure what constitutes the elusive “American Style” of soccer, but surely this is part of it. Which makes me happy.
As the second half starts, looks like Dax comes out, injured. Jeff Cunningham comes on. You know Jeff would like to hang about five goals on his former team. I'll settle for one.
George John looks too big to be a soccer player. It looks kind of like a high school kid practicing with the local U-12 side. I'm glad he's on our side. He looks so much more composed and confident than he did a year ago. He's near the top of the “I hope we can keep him here” list, along with Brek Shea. Alumni of the list include Clarence Goodson, Kenny Cooper, and Juan Toja.
Either someone in the Inferno just lit a flare, or someone burst into flames from the heat. I think either one is possible.
Will Johnson just got robbed by the far post. It was quite a run, beating three defenders and Kevin Hartman. Is he that good, or was it a fluke? That would have been serious GOTY material.
Is there something wrong with me for not having any interest in seeing Inter Milan at Pizza Hut Park? Am I the opposite of a Eurosnob? Or is it just my indifference to pre-season exhibitions games? Or my irrational fear that Marco Materazzi will saying something bad about my sister and I'll be forced to head-butt him in the chest?
BREK SHEA! ONE-NIL! OHHHHH!
It seems the acquisition of Don Milton is paying off already. His hard left-footed shot from the top of the eighteen was fumbled by Nick Rimando, and Brek absolutely nailed the rebound first-time with his left.
Here's where one of my pet peeves may come in to play. With 20 minutes to go, most coaches will insist on bunkering down and absorbing pressure, hoping to sneak by with a 1-0 win. This, sadly, may be part of the 'American Style' we were discussing before. I would much rather live by the old saying 'the best way to protect a one goal lead is to make it a two goal lead. I don't know who first said that, but he was a genius. We have the players and conditioning to play it that way, and I'm hoping we will.
OHHHHHHHHHHH! Am I a prophet or what? Atiba Harris scores from the low driven cross by Heath Pearce. THAT friends, is American Soccer, in my book. Nothing but pressure for five minutes following the first goal, and now the points are in hand with fifteen to go. Very nice.
Well, we must be butter, because we're on a roll. FC Dallas are undefeated in their last six games.
(I'll take 'Things I thought I wouldn't be saying at the All-Star break' for $500, Alex)
Nice win. Good momentum for the second half. You know it's against my nature to be optimistic, so I won't. But it's nice. It's really nice.
See you in a few weeks for Toronto.
The crowd is so sparse and quiet that I could swear I'm overhearing a private conversation in the stands.
Oh, hey, we get an early goal. That's been helpful so far this year, hasn't it?
Sorry, it's been a bad week.
It's not very often you see Kasey Keller foul a guy in the box. It's also not very often you see him upbraid one of his defenders. Both these things just happened. Jeff Cunningham knocks down the PK for the lead.
Etymology: Middle English upbreyden, from Old English kpbregdan.
1 : to criticize severely : find fault with
2 : to reproach severely : scold vehemently
This is not an entertaining game. I'm actually considering switching to Flash Forward. Today is the day Demetri died in his vision, and that creepy Dyson guy kidnapped him at the end of last week's show.
Oh, the Sounders just equalized.
Anyway, apparently Dyson Frost has been flashing forward for about 20 years, which is how he left the video for the FBI agents to find when they were in Somalia, and how he was able to name Demetri in his message even though Demetri was in elementary school when he made the video.
Meanwhile, Olivia and Simcoe have, well, you know what they've done . . . hate her.
Hmm? Oh, it's 1-1 at the half. I think Kasey Keller hurt himself somehow; looks like they're going to sub him out for the 2nd half.
I wonder if Mark knows about Olivia and Simcoe.
Max Bretos and Alexi Lalas are the halftime team for ESPN. I think it was the stoic philosopher Seneca who taught us we are not compelled to have an opinion about every single thing in this life. So I'm going with Seneca on this one.
Keller's understudy doesn't look old enough to drive himself to the games. Of course, I'm in my 40's and all these guys (well, Keller excepted) kind of look like middle-schoolers to me.
Oh no, Fredy Montero, you did not just try to chip Dario Sala, young man. Don't even. Here's another tip, kid, don't look to see if the AR has raised the flag while you're on a breakaway. Just, you know, break away.
ESPN just showed a really nice shot of the Inferno. Hammster got some good screen time. You go boy.
I guess I made Montero mad with my gentle chiding a few sentences ago, because he just threw it back in my face with a beautiful goal from 40 freakin' yards out. Vindictive so-and-so.
Etymology: Latin sMlus, alone + ipse, self
1. Egoistic self-absorption
Avila comes in for McCarty. Glad to see Eric come in, but not glad to see Dax go out. I believe this is what the educated folks call a paradox. Or an oxymoron. Or a temporal displacement. Or something – in any case I have mixed feelings about it.
Of course, the death of Al Gough a few episodes ago proved that Flash Forwards are not necessarily pre-ordained to come true. So, Demetri doesn't have to die in this episode, or at all, and the internal logic of the series is maintained. So that's a good thing.
Break Shea in for Jair Benitez. Glad to see Brek out of the gaffer's dog house. Though no one seems to know what he could have done to get there in the first place.
Nice save by Terry Boss. What a great name for a keeper. Terry Boss. His Chris Berman nickname would be “The” or maybe “Bruce”.
If that is in fact his real name.
Another great soccer name coming in the game for Seattle. Freddie L. Jungberg.
Or something like that.
Speaking of guys who don't look like they're waiting to get their driver's license.
Okay I'm switching over to Flash Forward.
Crap, it's only an hour long, it's over.
Wait, I recorded it!
Oh, man, I didn't see that coming.
Okay, back to the matter at hand.
I don't know anything about Boss, but he doesn't play like a scared rookie. He's very confident and in control.
Yeisley in for Pearce. I haven't seen Yeisley yet. Is this his debut?
I hate the ticker that scrolls across the bottom of the screen on ESPN. But having said that, it just showed that Milwaukee beat Pittsburgh 20-0 today.
That buzzing noise you hear is Roberto Clemente spinning in his grave.
Ljungberg is going down with the slightest touch, then yelling at Terry Vaughn for not giving him the foul. Really, Freddie? This ain't exactly the Arsenal, pal. Cowboy up and get to work.
(Great, now he's going to march down and score, just to spite me)
Nice shot of The Inferno again, this time they're rockin' the red flare smoke. Nice.
Creditable showing by the Seattle fans - looks like about two dozen people made the trip. Well done to you good folks. I'm glad the volcano ash didn't keep you from traveling.
(I'm kidding – I know Seattle isn't near Iceland. It's over there by Australia)
This is excruciating! Somebody do something!
Oh. Okay, that will do. Yeisley gets taken down in the box, in injury time. Perhaps another last gasp draw for the boys?
Jeff slides it past the Boss and then goes over to give some love to the Inferno. He grabs Mom's famous “Goal” sign, that she's had forever, and poses for the camera.
Well played, Jeff.
John Harkes says he didn't see a foul; But then, he played in England where whacking a guy's ankle is called “Defense”.
So. Three points from four games. I should be more upset, but I'm not. We're showing spirit and tenacity. Lots of progress from last year. The year is young. Once we get some finishing going, we're going to be trouble. Terrible trouble. Right here in River City. Etcetera etcetera.
Okay, see you next week for the Revs.
10 million people in the New York Metropolitan area, and this brand-spanking new, state-of-the art Red Bull stadium is half full. This makes me want to say bad words.
At least the supporters group behind the goal (where a supporters group should be, in my view) is really loud and well-organized. Of course that just reminds me of how much I really miss standing with the Inferno on a regular basis. Standing and singing for 90 minutes is really the only way to watch live soccer.
Are we absolutely sure Hans Backe and Schellas Hyndman aren't related? They kinda look alike. Schellas is in better shape, and more tan, but I can see a resemblance. Maybe there's a really good 'separated at birth' story waiting to be written here. I think Buzz should bust some sort of investigative journalism move on this. Like he's not busy enough.
Once again we've started out the first 10 minutes going gangbusters, looking dangerous and applying constant pressure. It pays off in the 11th minute when Dax McCarty, who is no doubt the shortest guy on the field tonight, if not the shortest guy in the league, scores on a header from about 10 yards out. Whoever let him get to that ball is due a butt-chewing at the half. Oh, and who was the provider? Heath Pearce. I like this guy better every week.
I loves that Dax, though. Short guys rule.
I hate it for the National Team that Bob Bradley probably won't have the good sense to take Dax to South Africa this summer. I hope I'm wrong about this.
How did we become such a relaxed, flowing, integrated offensive machine this year? Is Schellas a genius? I can't remember seeing this kind of soccer from FCD. Ever. That doesn't mean I've never seen it. I'm just getting older and can't remember.
I don't know much about soccer, but even I know that if Juan Pablo Angel is going to score, he's got to at least touch the ball once in a while. Red Bulls have no one getting him involved. He doesn't need to be tracking back to midfield to pick up the ball himself. It doesn't even look like they have it in their game plan to get him in the attack. I'm not complaining; I don't want to see the guy around the goal with the ball at his feet, particularly. But you might think this would be something they might have discussed, you know, at practice or something.
Of course, as I'm thinking that, Kandji splits the defense and Angel puts it in the net, but he's called offside. Correctly, as it turns out. But, that's what they need to be doing to get Angel on the scoreboard.
They should get right on that - first thing next week.
I might be in the minority on this, but I really like Shep Messing as an announcer. Any guy that will refer to the midsection as the 'solarplexus' is okay with me. Plus, he was a goalkeeper, so you know he's just a bit crazy. Which is a plus, in my book.
Okay, once again, we're up 1-0 at the half. I'm hoping it will go a little smoother after the intermission than it did last week. Impressive as the comeback was, I'm hoping for a multi-goal thrashing this week.
I'm watching the halftime highlights here, and I am not believing Danny Califf got tossed out of another game. What is the matter with this guy? He's not a rookie; he's a seasoned professional. He's got to have more discipline that that. Chris Seitz had another horrible game in goal for Philly. But, I think he's better than that, and I really hope he's got the wherewithal to shake that off and not let it curse him for the rest of the season. That's going to be partly the responsibility of his teammates and coaches, as well.
Well, you can't say we came out flat in the second half, like last week. This is a repeat of the energy and positive play we've seen in the first half for two weeks running. Nice. Verrrry nice.
Oh my. Ferreira just got absolutely robbed by Boula Condoul. He should absolutely go to jail for that save.
And then, as if I jinxed it by mentioning it above, Red Bulls finally get the ball to Angel, and the game is tied. The goal was set up by Joel Lindpere, who is, I believe, the first and only Estonian in league history. Nice goal.
And, of course, by “nice goal”, I mean “@*&#$*!!”
Things are fast and furious now. Atiba gets robbed by the crossbar, and Kandji just misses wide. This is one of those games I hope is being watched by someone who's never seen a soccer game before. They'll be hooked.
Disaster. Kandji gets tripped by Loyd (I think) in the box. PK to Red Bulls.
Not disaster! Darío Freakin' Sala! Brilliant!
That was one of the best PK saves you will ever, ever see. Yeah, I know I'm prone to hyperbole at times, but if you didn't see the game, go watch the highlights on mlssoccer.com, and I defy you to tell me I'm wrong.
Agh! Coundoul, again with the larcenous save. This time on Jeff Cunningham.
Heath Pearce goes out, Avila comes in. I'm not sure why Pearce would go out, because he's been terrific tonight, but you can't hate seeing Avila on the field either. I guess I'll just have to assume the coach is smarter than me and live with it. I know this would make me rare among soccer fans (have you been on BigSoccer lately?), but I'm going to go with that thought.
Coundoul again. That's the third goal he's Bernie Madoff'd on us tonight. I don't remember him being this good in Colorado. Good, yeah, but not like, superman good.
Coundoul AGAIN! He's killing me, this guy. Killing me! His defenders need to buy all the man's drinks tonight. And dinner. And maybe a new car.
Eric Alexander, I believe making his debut, in for Dax McCarty. Again, I don't get it, unless you just want to get the new kid some minutes, or Dax has picked up a knock. But, as I said before, and let's make this a mantra: “The coach is smarter than me . . . the coach is smarter than me”. Repeat it with me.
Carl Robinson tackles (and I mean American football here, not soccer) Jeff Cunningham at the edge of the box. Alex Prus seems to be okay with that, and lets play proceed. I don't get Alex Prus sometimes; I really don't. Is it just me? Feedback, here, people – is it just me?
Another PK for Red Bulls. Good call, I can't argue with it. 90th minute. Angel beats Dario this time.
What a heartbreaker. What a complete heartbreaker. There is no way we should lose this game. We've been the better team. What a kick in the, um, solarplexus that is. Bouna Coundoul is a man amongst boys tonight, and we lose in the last minute. This is so wrong.
Games like this, however, I must grudgingly admit, are one of the reasons I love this maddening game so very much. It is sublimely beautiful, yet excruciatingly cruel, which makes it just exactly like life.
Just completely friggin' exactly like life its own self.
See you next week for whoever it is we're playing.
You never know what's going to happen when FCD and the Crew get together. Last time, it snowed. In Dallas. In the Spring. That was so unlikely it rates just below alien invasion on the 'Likely to Happen' scale. It made for some great photos, however. As would an alien invasion, to be fair.
If there was, in fact, an alien invasion during a match at Pizza Hut Park, the Inferno and El Matador would see to it the visitors made it to the Tailgate, then they'd proceed to get them good and drunk before kickoff, and all you would see on the national news would be little green men in Hoops jerseys, waving flags and chanting the theme song to “Dallas” at the top of their lungs.
That, as the young people say, would rule.
Kevin Hartman in the goal for the injured Darío Sala. I'm glad to have Kevin in goal. He's the David James of American soccer; a top-shelf keeper who is remembered unfairly for one or two aberrations which were both costly and highly visible. It's a bad rap on both of them, and any team with any sense would take them in a time of need.
Atiba Harris just misses from distance in the 14th Minute. Yeah, I dare you not to put a man on him. I dare you to give him space anywhere near the goal. Please, please do that. Do that one thing for me. I'll be happy.
In the away supporters corner, it looks like about a dozen Crew fans made the trip in to Dallas for the match. They're from the Nordecke supporters group, if I'm not mistaken. That's a long haul to make for an away game. Very impressive.
Speaking of fans, on the home side, there is nobody at this game. There are six million people in the Dallas Metroplex; how can the front office not find a way to put 20,000 of them in the stands for a home game on a consistent basis? This is getting embarrassing.
Heath Pearce may be the key to Jeff Cunningham having another big season. His service from the left side is going to be lots of trouble for lots of teams this year.
Oh wow. Philadelphia beat DC United. It is going to be a long season for DC. To all my friends in Barra Brava, let me just say: I feel your pain, people. I feel your pain.
Feirreira draws a PK in the 28th minute. We look so very dangerous offensively tonight. It both delights and frightens me. It's new territory. We actually possess a multi-player, multi-positional, unpredictable attacking style of play.
Cunningham drills the PK, we're up 1-0.
Hmm. Was that optimism I just felt just now?
Must. Repress. Feelings.
Dax just took a full-blast clearance right in the mush. He may have broken his nose. I've had that happen before; it is as disorienting as it is painful. Yeah, I just compared myself to Dax McCarty. And, yes, I feel a little ashamed of myself, thank you for asking.
Speaking of Dax, it is really a pleasure to watch him work the midfield. It's like watching Carlos Valderrama, but with about 10 times the energy.
In contrast, watching me play soccer was like watching Wilmer Valderrama, the guy who played Fez on “That 70's Show”.
Wow, a 1-0 lead at the half. I'll take that.
So, I now understand the meaning behind the “Yellow Card Row” which is next to the Inferno/El Matador section of the Pizza Hut Park. It is, so it seems, sponsored by Yellow Tail wine. So now, unlike last week, where I was puzzled and disapproving, I am now 100% behind the concept. Because Yellow Tail is really good. I am a big fan - especially of the Shiraz.
That, by the way, was an uncompensated endorsement. However, if there is, by chance, a Yellow Tail distributor reading, you know, I'm just sayin' . . . being a sponsor of this column could generate literally, oh, tens of people seeing your logo each week. Tempting, isn't it?
Zach Loyd is from Oklahoma? That's greatness; I had no idea. Probably the first Okie in the league since Joe-Max Moore. Though they're both from Tulsa. Now we just need someone from Oklahoma City (or, as we like to call it, “The City”) and all will be right in the universe.
Columbus equalizes through Adam Moffatt in the 52nd minute. We've come out flat in the second half, after coming out gangbusters in the first. Bah, I say. Bah!
Defensively, Columbus has come to the conclusion that fouls are only strategy available to contain Dallas in the midfield. Lots of shirt pulling and shoulder grabbing going on. Although to be fair, Heath Pearce just got a yellow for a hard foul on Steven Lenhart. But that's different. Somehow. In my little world.
I kinda like that Lenhart kid by the way. Tenacious and skilled. I wouldn't mind seeing him in hoops.
Speaking of Crew players I like, Frankie Hejduk is something like fifty years old by now, and I don't think there's a player on the field he couldn't run right smack into the ground, in terms of pure endurance. Is he in the mix for going to the World Cup this summer? He should be, if just for the experience factor.
Eric Avila on for Jair Benitez. Schellas Hyndman must be pretty happy to have the kind of depth that keeps Avila in a late-substitute role. Not to mention Bruno Guarda, who is a Hyndman favorite. I don't know much about soccer, but I know enough to know depth is important in a league where half the teams make the playoffs. No one is really out of the running if they can just make it to the post season and peak at the right time. Stay healthy and have a bench, and you have a shot in MLS.
Big save by Hartman to preserve the tie.
Oh, no. George John called for a foul in the box. PK to the Crew. Great.
Come on, Kevin, be a hero.
AHHHHHH! Hartman made a heroic save, but Schelotto nods in the rebound.
Howls! Howls of inappropriate language and expressions of unhappiness!
(Sorry, this is a family column, that's as close as I like to come to swearing. Usually.)
We're still pressing and looking dangerous, but I'm afraid we're not going to be able to tie this thing up.
Man, Heath Pearce looks good overlapping from the back. Kind of reminds me of Paul Broome, from the old Burn days.
The boys are really playing hard trying to equalize; its good to see the fuego back, if nothing else. I've talked about the fuego before, that intangible quality of intensity and commitment that's been lacking at times the last few years. Even if we lose, it's a good sign.
OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! DIPSY SELELOWANE! OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
ERIC AVILA IN INJURY TIME!
That's what I'm talking about! Yes! That was beautiful, that was magic. Avila with a low swerving shot from 24 yards out.
Columbus wants a hand ball call on the goal, but no dice. Danny O'Rourke, who, judging by his beard but not his demeanor, is the first Amish player in the history of the league, gets a straight red card for his protestations. Good.
It was definitely ball-to-arm contact by Eric, but it was hardly intentional, as the laws require. Good no-call.
Well, some nights, a draw is as good as a win; this is one of those nights. In terms of confidence, team spirit, and plain old good fortune, this was a good draw.
See you next week for the away trip to Red Bulls.
On the field, I'm really glad to see Brek Shea and Dax McCarty starting, puzzled as to why Dave Van den Bergh was let go, and still a little sad to see Dominic Oduro wearing Orange.
I also notice that it is crazy windy in Dallas today, and that there are way too many empty seats. Of course, I'm partially to blame for that, since I should by all rights have made the trip from Oklahoma City to Dallas for this game. But, as has been the case for the last two seasons, our old nemesis, “real life” has once again increased the mileage between my house and Frisco from 200 miles to Infinity.
I hate real life.
Dominic almost scored twice already. There aren't going to be many defenders in this league who can keep up with him. If he ever becomes a Cunningham-esque finisher, he'll win the Golden Boot and end up in Europe somewhere.
Dax just got the first yellow card of the season, I guess for having the nerve to challenge Richard Mulrooney without asking permission to make physical contact first. Did Alex Prus happen to see the Seattle v Philadelphia game the other night? A challenge like the one Dax just made would have been only slightly more contact than took place during the opening handshake ceremony at that game. It took the Union about 20 seconds to get a yellow card, and a bit more than 20 minutes to have a guy tossed. They were brutal; it was like watching a mugging in the rain.
The fans in Philly are going to love those guys.
Well, we're behind. Some guy I've never heard of made a really nice run from the back and slid the ball past my man Darío to thenear post. Meh.
Speaking of Darío Sala, I really miss that guy. He would come to the tailgates and hang around. He may still do that, but I haven't been to one in two years. The man is genuinely a fine human being in addition to being a world class athlete. In my view he is everything a professional athlete should be. Kids, if you're looking for a role model, look no further (or farther, I forget which is correct. I'll have to ask my daughter, she's in 10th grade and already has the soul and intellect of an editor. I think that is a compliment to her, but I've known a lot of editors in my time, so I'm not sure).
Oh, SNAP! The boys equalize really quickly! Atiba Harris gets the first Goal of the Week award, I do believe, for that finish. Very impressive, both in terms of team spirit and pure skill. Atiba squared the ball to David Ferreira (who I will henceforth be referring to as “The Little General”) at the midfield stripe, then made a great run to goal. TLG played it to him up the left side, Atiba ran with the ball, then cut inside, and ripped the ball past Pat Onstad from about 25 yards.
Okay, now I'm getting excited.
Of course my glass-half-empty side reminds me that last season started with Kenny Cooper chipping a guy from 60 yards out, and ended with us missing the playoffs.
I hate my glass-half-empty side.
I'll take 1-1 at the half, however.
Speaking of the Seattle/Philadelphia game, I had a couple other observations. The first is that I believe the over/under on games Freddy Ljungberg plays until his season ends with injury is somewhere around ten. He still has the skill to earn his DP money, but he looked really fragile. Granted, the Union guys were working him over liked he owed them money, but still.
Second. Kasey Keller is still so good, even at 40, that he actually looks bored sometimes, like he wishes he had his iPod and a magazine with him to pass the time quicker.
Third. Let's do a little soccer math here: plastic ball + plastic grass + Seattle rain = really ugly touches on the ball. It made several talented professionals look like, well, frankly, like me on the field. Not pretty. Funny, but not pretty.
Back to our game. I love it when a team spends way too much time setting up the free kick only to shoot the ball up into Row Z. Brad Davis, I'm looking in your direction here.
George John looks about 1000% more calm and confident this year. It's amazing, the difference between year one and year two with a talented and smart player.
The Little General just set Cunningham free with a great ball, but Jeff was un-Jeff-like in his finish. Hey, it's early yet.
Cunningham with another just-miss opportunity from the top of the penalty area. He should be dialed in now, like a sharpshooter adjusting his sights. I predict his next shot goes in.
Okay, I was wrong. Jeff misses again, but from an impossible angle, while being tightly marked, so it doesn't really count. He and Ferreira have a great understanding however, it is already obvious. They are going to create a lot of goals this year, without a doubt.
I like what I see from Jair Benitez on defense. I know absolutely nothing about him, but he seems pretty confident and capable so far.
Five minutes to go. I'd love to see someone strike a winner here, but given my nature, and my years of following this team, I'll settle for not giving one up.
Yep. 1-1 tie, full time.
It's okay. The team looks good, and the season holds promise. That's enough for me today. I'm going to take this as a good start and not worry.
Because, as the poet said, “Like all dreamers, I confuse disenchantment with truth”.
Now, I don't know what that means, but it seems like a pretty good thing to remember when you love this team, you know?