Magic of the Cup?
Fun and games, as always, in the third round of the FA Cup. I caught most of Hull-Newcastle, which was one of those end-to-end games that somehow end scoreless, and Preston-Liverpool, where Preston had a nice mix of the physical and the technical, but not quite enough to overcome the Reds, despite Robbie Keane's terribly wasteful finishing.
It's watching some of these do-or-die games, and the passion that surrounds them, that really makes me wonder how long we'll have to wait for the US Open Cup to build any sort of recognizable steam. USL sides have proven themselves plenty capable in past Open Cups, as well as the CONCACAF Champions' League, but I have to wonder if some of that is down to the lethal pairing of MLS rosters sizes with fixture congestion. It will be interesting to see if dishing SuperLiga and the CCL to different sides has a positive effect for MLS in the 2009 edition of the CCL (and the Open Cup, to a lesser extent).
Still, continental competitions aside, wouldn't it be nice to have a domestic cup with real weight and passion behind it? MLS Cup is a watery brew by comparison. And it's a walled garden. Come on, Open Cup--start getting magical already!
Movin' On Up?
Ives has the third instance of his mock draft up. I question his logic in our taking GK Stefan Frei with the #6 pick. Problem #1: We have more pressing needs. Problem #2: Does he count against the foreign player limit? If the FO goes shopping, you know they're going to want to bring in the foreign legions, so having two keepers counting against the limit wouldn't make sense (unless, of course, we can offload Wells for a reliable center back option). Problem #3: He's a Cal Bear. You remember what happened the last time we Superdrafted one of them?
Despite these issues, there are a few interesting nuggets to be prized out of Ives' piece. Item #1: United are apparently looking to move up in the draft order, presumably with an eye to Maryland's big defender Omar Gonzalez, who turned down opportunities in Mexico to sign a Generation Adidas deal. Seeing as how center back is our most pressing need, I'll color myself surprised only insofar as we're actually looking at the draft to address needs.
Who else might be near the top of our shopping list?
- Marshall (South Florida), D - a strong central defender who might be ready for immediate minutes
- Hall (Maryland), M - a speedy winger who would add a new dimension to the attack
- Stephens (UCLA), M - a versatile two-way midfielder who can create chances and provide cover for multiple spots in midfield, including on the wing
- Tracy (Wake Forest), F - might his non-GA status allow the Wake striker, who first caught my eye at last year's College Cup, to fall into our laps?
- Alston (Indiana)/Wallace (Maryland), FBs! - had to give a shout-out to the fullbacks didn't I? If Namoff gets a new deal, then we might not be looking for wide defenders in the first round, but if he doesn't . . ?
I also caught Valencia-Ath. Madrid this weekend, where (and I know the talent gulf is massive here, so ignore it for a moment) I couldn't help noticing Silva, a slight little attacking midfielder, tucking in beneath Villa, not exactly your prototypical solitary forward, with Mata and Joaquin rampaging down the wings. Perhaps it wouldn't be a practical approach in MLS (or technically/tactically feasible), but I sure liked the looks of their play. Chances coming from all angles--down the wings, through the middle, fullbacks rushing up to join in.
Pretty, pretty stuff. Only somewhat marred by the Spanish announcer taking the ref to task for not calling things Valencia's way because, come on!, they were the home side. Sure, Valencia had two goals and a PK claim disallowed or ignored in the opening stages of the match, but since when are refs supposed to say, "Oh, alright, you're at home, and your crowd is baying for my blood, so I'd better give you the 'wink, wink, nudge, nudge' treatment and here's your penal sirs."
Cultural differences. Meh?
So that's what caught my eye this weekend. What about you? Did you catch any FA Cup action? Have any thoughts on who United might be casting their eye over for the draft? Want to dig up the old formation ghost again?