By Tony Edwards – San Jose, CA (Apr 23, 2013) US Soccer Players – In Tuesday’s column, Tony asks about ways to make a statement of intent; finds Toronto continuing to make the wrong kind of statement; looks at an amazing turn-around for US National Team player Brad Guzan; and suggests it’s time for the Crew to actually become “massive.”
Wasn’t there another way for Kansas City to make a “statement of intent?”
“Statement of intent” was NBC broadcaster Arlo White’s favorite line on Saturday night, replacing his usual stand-by of “massive.”
On the pregame show before Saturday’s game in Los Angeles, the broadcasters reported that US Soccer Hall of Famer and Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes was starting the same lineup as he did against the Red Bulls in New Jersey on Wednesday. This was Vermes’ “statement of intent,” that his team was good enough to take on the MLS Cup winners, on their turf, even after a draining game on Wednesday and a long flight.
That first-half was as entertaining a half as you’ll see. Good combination play, excellent runs off the ball, fast counter-attacks, skillful center backs who don’t just hit aimless long balls. Kansas City played also.
Los Angeles did what good teams do. They had an opportunity against a tired opponent and they punished that opponent.
Let’s hope this was Vermes learning from this experience and that he institutes rotation when his club begins the Champions League later this season. Saturday was an opportunity missed to give some starters a break along with giving players such as Bobby Convey a confidence boost.
Note to Mr. White, no MLS game in March or April are ‘massive.’
What’s a longstanding Toronto tradition Ryan Nelsen and his staff hasn’t overcome yet?
Toronto has allowed a losing or tying goal after the 80th minute 34 games going back to 2007, according to the Guardian. That’s a lot of points. Probably enough to have gotten them into the playoffs one of those years. Three of the last four games Toronto has thrown away points after the 90th minute, which makes them the opposite of San Jose, kind of.
Toronto had the chance to solve their own problems had they taken even one more of their earlier chances to put Houston away. I’m often of the opinion that when people point at defensive problems or giving up last minute goals, the first place to look is that missed chance early in the first half. After all, if you score three times, no one cares if you give up two.
Which leads to a bigger question. Where should MLS teams really spend their money? I’d argue that it’s not on designated players who are defensive midfielders or center backs. It’s not on players who will help you grind out a 0-0 tie on the road. It’s on guys who can take the chances they are supposed to take. Easy to say, difficult to do in practice.
How many goals has Dallas given up in the first half this season?
Zero. Dallas probably can’t keep up their average of 2.38 points per game (the Galaxy in 2011 and San Jose last year averaged just under 2.00 points per game), but if a team can quietly have a 6-1-1 record, it’s Dallas. There is nothing that reaches out and grabs you about Dallas. Their possession is okay. Their amount of completed passes isn’t anything special. What they are is opportunistic and know how to close out games. Funny how scoring the first goal makes life easier.
One year ago, how likely was it that US National Team player Brad Guzan would be in the running for Player of the Year for Aston Villa?
Not likely at all. In fact, the club and he had parted ways and Guzan was in the United States, considering his future. As the profile in the Observer reads, after Aston Villa brought in new manager Paul Lambert, Guzan was convinced he’d get a fair opportunity to play. After starting the season behind Shay Given, Guzan has regularly earned praise for his play. In fact, he’s the only goalkeeper in the Premier League to made more than 200 saves.
Think about that for a moment. To get to that number means averaging more than six saves per game in 31 appearances.
While no individual game in April is “massive” in MLS, are the next three games for Columbus kind of important?
The Crew has their longest home stand of the season these next three weekends, facing DC United, the Red Bulls, and Colorado. They finish out May with games in Toronto then New Jersey. It’s not saying they need 15, or even 12 points out of these next five games, but a case could be made that less than 10 leaves them a lot of work to do over the summer.
Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.