Thursday, August 9, 2007

On Beckham's Debut, Emiligol Comes Through: DCU 1-0 LAG

Wow. It was pouring out there. I don't know if you could tell, but for those of us there live, we were amazed by how much the rain fell and how tough the guys were to play through it. (Also: during DC's brief ceremony, Barra Brava/SE held up a sign which read: Good Riddance. Further down the pitch was a sign directed at Mrs. Beckham, reading: We Sing Better Than Your Wife. Classy guys, those BB/SE's.)

About Beckham, quickly: what he did was very tame (not once did I see him sprint) but he was very lethal. One of his crosses forty yards from the box nearly found three (!) different options, and had Perkins not smothered the ball, the game would have been tied. His service is something no MLS player is used to. Defenses will find it hard to cope.

Glad to see Burch rewarded again, but I was even more excited to see that Simms got the nod over Carroll. It must have been a simple decision: recently Carroll has been underperforming while Simms has been solid. It's good Soehn made the switch, too, because not only does Simms cinch the midfield, he occasionally ends up with the ball at the top of the key and he's dangerously unpredictable there.

Fred started and finished in the hole as Gomez sat out with a 'charley horse.' Fred gave us a show, throwing himself around with abandonment. I didn't realize it until I saw him in person tonight, but Fred thinks quicker than anyone on the pitch. He has to: he's one of the shortest guys out there and his feet naturally attract the ball. As soon as it's his turn to dribble, there's one, two, three defenders all at his ankles and he needs to make a crucial pass yesterday. I held him in high regard before, but seeing him provide ground service like that redoubled my respect for his ability as a player. A worthy successor of Gomez.

Emilio's strike sent the crowd into raptures. It was so unexpected: all season long he's played the poacher, finding the odd ball in the box and slotting it home easily. This was the first taste of Emilio long distance, and it was very, very sweet. I couldn't see exactly, but Joe Cannon could estimate neither pace nor placement once the ball was struck and the result was such that he got a piece, but not the whole pie. Sweet, sweet pie. And just like that, Emilio is top of the league for goals. Priceless.

Perkins, along with the rest of the squad, was lucky a ball didn't slip 'n' slide its way into the goal to tie the game, but by the same token, Perkins smothered everything he touched. No more the mushy long distance goals struck sweetly in the rain. Club America, never again.

Other notes:

- Landon Donovan has some wicked pace about him.

- I've never seen RFK so packed nor so intense. It was pouring rain but the folks sitting exposed in the lower seats never budged, refusing to forsake their good view of Gilded Nuts.

- I-66 at QuarterVolley dubbed Landon Donovan "The Scampering Hairline." After witnessing him tonight, that's the funniest thing I've ever heard.

- DCU must really be pushing for Moreno to set the record because when he's out there he hogs service and then fails to produce. It's not always like this, but I've noticed that when Moreno is injured, his decision-making is very labored. He just never unleashes the ball, as if it were glued to his feet.

- Dammit, Vanney's better again. McTavish and Boswell were starting to click and Burch was on the verge of capitalizing with his magic left boot. Vanney's recovery will change this, I'm sure.

- DC United, when turned on, has some of the tastiest attacking flair in the league. Flicks and soft touches, deft traps and beautiful service-- these are the stuff of dreams, boys.


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Aha, Well Now... News and Notes 8/07

- It turns out that AS Roma has won the Danny Szetela lottery. Szetela will join fellow U-20 Yank Gabe Ferarri after his Columbus contract runs out midway through the 07-08 Serie A campaign.

What a signing. It seemed to be a crapshoot where Szetela would be headed, from both sides of the Old Firm to Glatasaray in Turkey to EPL mediocrity with Everton and Middlesborough, but Szetela seems to have picked the best of the lot by signing with perennial power AS Roma. No doubt Szetela will mature into a more technical, decisive player in that kind of environment.

- Also, Benny Feilhaber is close to a deal with EPL newcomers Derby County. Seems as if County has a quota of one token American for the coming season, and by God, they're determined to fill it. This, however sudden, is a great chance for Feilhaber to see significant first-team minutes in the EPL immediately. If he can impress England like he has Germany, there is no doubt that he could become a Derby mainstay from the outset. People should be very excited about this.

What's remarkable, though, is that Feilhaber is willing to look at other offers. From what I understand, Hamburg was making moves that placed Feilhaber higher on the depth chart under the theory that Feilhaber would become a crucial piece of the club's '07-'08 campaign. After Alexander Lass left for Wolfsburg, Hamburg's options were to keep Feilhaber, or sell him and buy another like him. Feilhaber was perfectly willing to do whatever it took to impress Huub Stevens, but Hamburg, it seems, are less picky than they seem.

Great opportunity for Benny. Good luck.

- YA's Best XI: Preston Zimmerman is finally out, and it's got some interesting tidbits. Zimmerman informs us that according to what he's heard of the coaches' timetable for his progress, they will be looking to call him up to the first team midway through the season. They are impressed with him and are positive he will do well. This assures me, because for a while I was worried that Rongen might have been keeping Zimmerman on the bench for some kind of rational reason. Also of note: Zimmerman prefers to arrive at each training session an hour early (!) so he can chill and clear his head. Very serene. Good luck to him this season; we're all expecting big things.

- YA also has this curious exclusive, which they're dubbing "Maximum Access." They've given a young American abroad, Max Cream, 19, his own serial in which he'll chronicle his budding European soccer career, currently in the German fourth division with SV Meppen. Max will receive no assistance from YA aside from final editing and he'll receive no accreditation as a member of the YA staff. The only reason this exists, I would think, is because Max Cream has a fascinating life story and YA doesn't think anyone could tell it better than Max himself. But that doesn't matter: it's a good read and I'm waiting for more. I can't help but root for the young gun this coming season.

- General aside: the coming season is a great season for Americans abroad. This is really exciting. DMB is already impressing at the Ibrox, Freddy is finding Benfica a great fit, Zizzo is ready for his Hannover challenge, Zimmerman is set to soar, Ferrari is ready to debut, Heath Pearce is hunting glory, Michael Bradley is positioned to take center stage with Heerenveen, Benny Feilhaber could potentially become a Premier League starlet, and now Danny Szetela is giving America the opportunity to apologize for Alexi Lalas. There is plenty to watch and plenty to be hyped up for. And it all starts in a week.


Sunday, August 5, 2007

Van der Sar Denies the Blues: Chelsea (0) 1-1 (3) ManU

I didn't see the match, so my word is reduced to hearsay, but for all intents and purposes, Ives, both Daryl from The Offside and Andy from The Offside: Chelsea, and BlueChampions are as good as my word.

From what I hear, Mikel was shaky, Malouda was brilliant, Cech is slowly and surely recovering his astounding form of two years ago, Tal Ben-Haim looked a natural Blue, Giggs is aging gracefully, and van der Sar was a revelation.

Luci's Brace Does The Trick: DCU 3-0 NE Revolution

Can we label Marc Burch a success now, please? The guy's a real asset in the back. He's got all the touch, pace, vision, and service of a quality left-footed forward while maintaining competent defense. It's not like he's ousting anyone from the left-back position (I'm sure Gros is happy to move up, and judging by the scoreline, so are we), but Marc Burch has made a real name for himself and I don't see him on the bench any time soon. What's more, I think he's poised for a big fat raise at the end of the season because DCU will be fending off big offers by a good many clubs looking for a solid, young left back.

Anyways, this young squad, starting out a 4-3-3, had the best possession in league play I've seen from DCU in weeks. They had vision (Guy Kpene? Clyde Simms? NE had no answer for their long-distance connections) and pace (Rod Dyachenko outpaced just about every member of the Rev's defense; Josh Gros = Khano Smith in my eyes) and an incredible amount of tenacity (McTavish went box to box consistently throughout the game). Arguably the most solid road performance of United's '07 campaign.

The rookies were not without assistance, though: Ben Olsen was everywhere DCU needed him to be and Namoff, though he's still getting back into shape, did just enough to stymie Khano Smith's best efforts. Luci's found his way with the goals again, and I'm hoping this carries over for Thursday's game versus the Beckhamites at home.

Judging by the good performance of the new recruits, Tom Soehn has to feel like his gut was telling him right all along, that these kids have the potential to command a game and that they are in fact solid investments for the future. And I think I would have to agree with Tom Soehn's gut.

Other notes:

- It's painfully obvious that Jaime wasn't ready to play, let alone set the league record for career goals. Take your time, Jaime. We've got you covered.

- Where did Soehn stick Mediate for Namoff? In the back? Why?

- Clyde Simms made an excellent case for some starts in the near future. Carroll, you've been warned.

- Luci now has 12 goals on the season and is tied for first with Eddie Johnson.

- I was very impressed with Dyachenko's performance in Gomez' usual position and this worries me to no end. The team found its best run of form and possession in weeks while Gomez was absent, and furthermore scored all three goals without Jaime on the pitch. I don't think Gomez will be usurped as the team's chief free kicker until Burch scores with his magic left boot, but I do think that Gomez' role as playmaker is under serious scrutiny right now.

- I'll take Comcast's match coverage over ESPN's any day, if only just to hear how cocky Rongen is about his former team.

- Kpene didn't look terribly injured to me and seems to be returning to his old scrappy, resourceful self. I'm hoping this translates into more minutes for him while Jaime recovers.

- If you're thinking that the Revs should have been awarded a penalty for that Olsen-Perkins gaffe, let me be the first to tell you otherwise. There was a serious miscommunication, but the replays make it clear that Perkins was trying to minimize himself and his potential contact with Smith. He didn't splay his arms or slide far at all; Smith, screaming, tried to make the most of a dead situation. In fact, I'll go so far as to say the refereeing was halfway decent this game. But maybe that's pushing it.

- Reis himself proved that Perkins is the better goalkeeper. Pwnt.

- I do think Beckham will play on Thursday, if only for 10-15 minutes. If Gomez puts one in on Joe Cannon while Beckham is on the pitch, I'll laugh until I weep because God had a sublime appreciation of irony.