I watched quite a bit of soccer over Father’s Day weekend and was pleased to see the two teams I follow most closely get results. Sadly however, I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth and very little time to do full reaction posts. Instead, I’ll slam a couple together and bind them with the one central theme that dominated the two most important matches (to me, anyway). I suppose you know what’s coming from the title of this post…
On balance, United probably just about deserved a point away to RSL. They were on top in the opening stages and large portions of the second half, maintaining possession without looking particularly lethal. But the same charge of impotence could be leveled at RSL when they were in the ascendency, which was a welcome change after shipping four last week. On the other end, Pontius hit the bar twice and the tale of the stats makes for pretty level reading.
But the Davies plunge over Chris Wingert’s leg?
Shameful. I mean, I know that strikers are paid to get goals, that skirting the bounds of the rules is accepted practice in the game, and that the results-first, by fair means or foul mentality is the dominant one.
Doesn’t make it any more palatable.
I understand it’s part of the game, but it’s not a part I’m fond of. I’ll take the point and appreciate Charlie’s general hustle in pursuit of lost causes as well as the PK finish, but that doesn’t mean I have to feel good about it, particularly since this isn’t his first such incident.
Some other quick points…
It shows that United have been devoting time to set pieces on both ends. Not sexy or glamorous by any stretch, but an edge that middle of the pack scrappers need in the pursuit of points.
Gratified to see that United didn’t bunker on the road after grabbing the equalizer1. They had chances down the stretch to take all three points.
The back line is young and often positionally suspect, but I think they’re being unnecessarily exposed by a lack of midfield bite in front of them.
Vaughn bites both ways. I thought the RSL PK was correct (stupid place for Simms to be diving into a tackle anyway), but Jean Alexander probably could have been dealt red for leaving the boot in on Zayner. Did Vaughn even whistle that as a foul?
The Mystery Sniper
On the national-team front, the US eased past Jamaica and (going on the evidence of the laughable El Salvador v. Panama simulation-fest quarterfinal2) shouldn’t have many issues getting to the final. The performance was better, particularly considering that Donovan didn’t start3 and Altidore limped off after 10 minutes. But, once again, my focus is inexorably drawn to a dive.
It’s no secret that I’ve been less than thrilled with his outings for the US, reserving special attention for his decision-making. I flirted briefly with appreciating his qualities earlier in the tournament, only to have that appreciation wiped out by subsequent performances. So how then to deal with what was largely an impressive outing where he scored the game winner and sold the red card that saw Jamaica reduced to ten men?
I’m not going to argue that he wasn’t good. Once freed to get forward more (when he and Bradley Jr. figured out they both didn’t have to sit deep as there was no Jamaican midfield presence high and central), he made several bursting runs through the middle and generally looked better by comparison with Bradley Jr., who had an off game passing-wise. These good points were capped by a deflected drive that put the US up 1-0.
But I can’t shake the questions. What the hell was he thinking when he petulantly swiped a Jamaican’s legs to earn his yellow? Worse, imagine if El Vampiro Mexicano had seen that no contact was made on the burst through the middle that ended with him flailing his arms and flopping like a mystery sniper hidden amongst the blue-clad Salvadoran legions had just put a round in his back. Second yellow. The US down to ten. And that’s even ignoring the fact that he was moving clear of the last defender with about 3-4 teammates following his rush towards the Jamaican net.
Decision-making. And I’m still not a fan.
Other quick points…
I generally like, given the roster strengths and weaknesses, starting a five-man midfield with two holders and adjusting as the game progresses, but Kljestan playing the central role has limitations. His first look was consistently back and he carries little threat on the dribble or shooting from distance. I’d like to see Dempsey in that role, getting after defenders, sucking up midfield attention, with the hard-running Bedoya and Donovan exploiting the flanks.
Another poor start with an early goal nearly shipped and Howard to thank for saving the collective bacon. Hmmm.
Defense has been much better since Boca moved to the middle. Still, an abiding image I’ll have is two US players challenging for a ball in the air to, of all people, Dane Richards, missing their headers, and letting the ball drop behind them to the minuscule Richards. Poor.
Took a while to kill the game against ten, which wouldn’t be a problem except that a frustrated and disorganized Jamaica created some danger in that same time period.
Better stuff from both sides, even if the performances were tainted by chicanery. D.C. United continues to make the case for me to buy BackToTheMean.com, while the US had arguably their strongest performance since the second half of the 1-1 draw with Argentina. Am I yet holding out hope for a United playoff spot or US cup win? Tough to be positive in either case, but neither cause is dead yet, so that’s something.
Good thing too. With a lightweight middle of Dax + Fred, sitting back would have been a disaster. ↩
And that center linesman only added to the farce by making some of the other CONCACAF clowns look downright professional by comparison. ↩
Didn’t I mention last time we danced this dance that playing well without Donovan should be a priority? ↩