Thoughts on MLS Cup and the Long Winter


The play was often disjointed, the scoring chances few and chaotic, and injuries and illness denied both teams some of their best. But for all that, it was an enjoyable final. Light on quality perhaps, but long on drama and emotion. While Donovan's assist to Magee was a thing of beauty, and LA largely controlled the first half, RSL were stringing the better passing sequences together after the break and deserved the win on the balance of play.

Enduring images?

* The aforementioned pinpoint delivery by Donovan for LA's goal...and his subsequent blast over the bar in the shootout.

* That Beckham's idiotic haircut still has the power to annoy and horrify. Apparently, you can't build up a tolerance for that abomination.

* Morales weeping openly when he realized that he couldn't continue in the 20th minute or so, and Williams completely losing it after the PK win. Good to see such emotion attached to the Cup...But what was a guy who was clearly running on fumes and emotionally wrought doing taking the critical 5th pen for RSL?

* Did the Gals drag Saunders off a beach somewhere? Surfer-bum chic or is Posh his fashion consultant too?

* Some of the quick, one-touch buildup play by RSL was outstanding and deserving of finishes that never materialized.

* Credit to Findley for burying one, but his touch wasted a couple of other chances for RSL. National team quality? Probably not yet, but he's quick and scores goals, and the US is increasingly desperate for both, so the future may have to be now...

The Off-Season

So now that MLS Cup 2009 is done and dusted, and the US Nats aren't in action until the Annual Scandanavian Scrub Challenge in January, I suppose it's time to enter the semi-hibernation state of the off-season. What to expect going forward...

* We'll wrap up the MLS 2009 season this week with a look back at my horrible record of predictions and coverage of the expansion draft.

* Posts may be thin on the ground until the SuperDraft rolls around, though I will be doing the "What I Want for Christmas" series in mid-December. I'll also keep tabs on the United coaching search, and I may provide a few updates from my DCU|FM Challenge, wherein I use Football Manager 2010 to see how I would have done 2009 differently for United.

* I may be tinkering with the site design, so if you show up one day to chaos, don't say I didn't warn you.


  1. Salt Lake deserved that, didn't they? I don't know what the overall possession stat was (because I'm too lazy to look it up), but the couple times they flashed 5-minute stats, they were absurd, like 75-25 to Salt Lake. Reminds me why I wasn't sorry at all to see Arena leave the US (despite 2002) -- he's got a propensity for producing horrendous soccer when it matters.

    Salt Lake, on the other hand, were really fun to watch (in this and the game in Columbus, which was the only other time I'd watched them this year, except against DC). The mixture of pace and technical, on-the-floor play is exactly what I'd like to see out of DC next year. We'll need a speedy forward (and probably someone to slot in at left midfield, as in my dreamworld Wallace is successfully converted to left back) to make it happen, but Quaranta-Simms-Szetela could be a good start. Though Salt Lake kind of indicate that you don't necessarily need a left winger to be successful with that style of play, as they really had four central midfielders on the field for the whole game. The important thing was that all four wanted the ball and were comfortable maintaining positive possession (except, perhaps, for Johnson in the first half -- he must have really been sick, because he was exceptional in the game against Columbus).

    Kind of reminded me of how the better Bundesliga teams play -- Schalke and Hamburg, in particular, though I think Bradley's team also play that way (have you seen Marco Reus? that kid is really fun to watch...).

  2. "Reminds me why I wasn't see Arena leave..."

    Really? I kinda liked having him here when we won those two MLS Cups, that one Open Cup and that Regional CONCACAF thing. Also kinda of liked it when we beat Portugal and Mexico in those minor games in Seoul. Sorry to see he has done such a shabby job turning around such a bad team in LA...oh wait...turns out they were pretty good this year.

  3. Really. I rather enjoyed beating Portugal and Mexico, too. The US's run in that World Cup turned me from a casual soccer fan to a fairly devoted fan, so I've got a lot of appreciation for what Bruce did for the US.

    But I'm not sure how one could watch last night's game and not come to the conclusion that Arena did exactly what he was often accused (by the BigSoccer masses) of doing with the US: bunker with a one-goal lead and hope for another goal on the counter. And that's what I don't care for, and would rather not see from the US (being aware that, it's one thing to bunker when you're the US playing against Spain, and another when you're the most expensive team in MLS playing the least). Put another way: I'd rather go down as West Brom than stay up as Stoke; I'm aware that that's essentially a matter of taste, but even if it's not right, it's certainly not wrong.

  4. I like the idea of the DCU|FM challenge. Definitely keep us posted.

    Does FM allow you to make pre-half-time subs? Or is that one of the things you would do differently? ;)

  5. @Shatz
    Oh, I've been making pre-halftime subs like crazy...but it's still pre-season. I'm sure you'll be shocked to hear that I've already shipped Burch out ;-).

    I agree. Salt Lake did play some really pretty stuff in patches. Of course, you could say that they had the benefit of having logged a lot of minutes on turf over the last few years, but that would disregard their solid play elsewhere in the playoffs.

    That said, LA were certainly better in their opening round series with Chivas, but I think they were pretty limited by injuries. I mean, Jovan Kirovski at d-mid? No wonder Arena wasn't throwing defenders forward.

    In the end, I was pleased that the team that won it was not only the one that played the prettier ball, but the one that seemed to want it more.

    Even if it leaves us as the butt of "8th place champions" jokes by the likes of our cross-pond compatriots...

  6. I wanted to come back to something rob mentioned as well about employing a similar style to RSL...

    I wonder if Fred might not find things a better fit at the point of a fast-moving, fast-passing diamond? On the few occasions he was played in the hole behind the strikers this year, I thought he played pretty well, even showing a dangerous shot from outside the box (certainly more dangerous than anything he did inside of it ;-).

    Just a thought. And a thought that assumes he'll be returning as we read the tea leaves of the "protected" list. Maybe they're just looking to hold him for trade or sale?

    Of course, getting back to the tight diamond midfield, I think we need a more forward-looking quality passer in the "Beckerman" spot than Simms will ever be.

  7. That said, LA were certainly better in their opening round series with Chivas, but I think they were pretty limited by injuries. I mean, Jovan Kirovski at d-mid? No wonder Arena wasn't throwing defenders forward.

    Certainly true, but Arena's the one who built a roster of old men, and when you do that, you run the risk of your team falling apart at a crucial moment. Something United fans have a bit of familiarity with lately...

    Regarding Fred and Simms, yeah, I think you're right on both counts -- that Fred will play better in middle in a diamond, and that Simms is no Beckerman.

    Two things in reaction to that:

    1. Maybe it's crazy, but should there be an effort to continue the Simms-at-CB experiment? I wasn't a fan of it when it happened, because (a) I generally think that Jakovic is the obvious candidate for offensively-minded-CB (and that he's best paired with a more strictly defensive CB) and (b) Simms's defensive strength is reading and breaking up attacks in midfield, not the kind of tight marking that's needed to play centerback effectively, but you could also make an argument that (a) Simms+Jakovic would be the best offensive centerbacks in the league and (b) modern possession play begins with centerbacks who are comfortable on the ball.

    2. I don't hate Fred (though he was awful at the end of the season, he's also been very good in the past, and given how bad the team as a whole was playing, I'm willing to chalk some of that awfulness up to trying too hard to break open play on the dribble and generally do things on his own, in attempt to compensate for the rest of the team not doing much) and would rather have Fred back than Gomez (though I'd like Gomez very much as a late-game sub), so I agree with the decision to protect him. But is he good enough to be the player that carries the team (as the tip of the diamond often is)? No, I don't think so. Still, if you're thinking of the diamond as a relatively fluid formation with all four players having a relatively equal responsibility for attacking play, like Salt Lake's four CM's, it's tempting to think that he could be an important piece of that puzzle.

    Also, I agree with Shatz: keep us posted on the DCU|FM challenge. I would imagine you've seen it, but if you haven't, Brian Phillip's Pro Vercelli saga is a pretty great example of how to share an FM game with the world.

  8. 1. Simms at center back
    I'm not enthusiastic about this approach. Actually, I'm a little sour on Simms as a starter, even in midfield. I'd really like to see us bring somebody in to challenge him--somebody with a bit more fire and grit and energy now that Olsen has called it quits.

    2. Fred in a diamond
    As you point out, I'd much rather put my trust in a fluid midfield with a variety of weapons than one that relies on a dedicated ponta-de-lança to do the damage. The later approach is too easy to defend and predictable (we haven't been down that road lately, have we? /sarcasm).

    3. DCU|FM Challenge
    I'm still pondering how deep to take this one. I tried an initial post based on my current pre-season run, but it got waaaaay too detailed and nit-picky, and I had to let it die before I spent more time writing it than playing the game. Maybe I'll get something a bit more restrained up next week.