Week 5 Through One Set of Eyes (ONLY)

Below, I’ve rambled out a list of observations about Week 5’s action, most of which points to shifting around the power rankings equation - but I won’t get to that till tomorrow. I watched three of the games below (more or less) start-to-finish - each of those bear an asterisk. Of the other two games, I caught the barest of highlights for one (look for, oh, this: “$”) and have neither read nor seen anything about the fifth game...and I’ll still talk about it as if I was a mouse in Tom Soehn’s pocket. And, as is my wont, I haven’t read a damn thing after watching all of these games.

One might think my post-Week 5 predictions' record of 12-22 would point to writing with more humility. But, as I’ve learned from our society’s most successful citizens, not to mention the majority of paid and unpaid observers, noting personal shortcomings or admitting doubt of any kind would only make me appear weak. In other words, I called these games correctly; the teams just played them wrong.

I’m also feeling a bit “fancy,” I suppose, after nailing an Exacta for the Kentucky Derby. And, just to jinx it*, Street Sense will not win the Triple Crown; I’ll be shocked if he wins the Preakness.

(* I’m very anxious about seeing a Triple Crown won in my lifetime, but know that current training techniques work against it. I figure by both calling and betting against potential winners, I’m doing my limited best to encourage the cosmos to allow a Triple Crown win to come to pass.)

Now, on with the Week 5 Rewind...

Kansas City Wizards 1 - 0 Columbus Crew*
Didn’t learn nearly as much from this game as we might have...in a better world free of stupid vagaries. Well, that’s not totally true: this reinforced a personal impression that Columbus has two-thirds a good team - even one-third a very good team (defense). However, the missing piece is pretty obvious: they’re pushing the border of “suck” for generating offense. That Guillermo Schelotto, the Crew’s brand-new Argentine, led the team in shots in less than 30 minutes on the field says plenty about the forwards they’ve got as well as offering some hope that Schelotto will be able to help.

So, this game did say something about the Crew; it’s on the winning side of the score sheet where things still seem murky. Why? It’s in the math: the Wizards shut down an offense, but a pretty mediocre one; and they did labor to score - it took a defender on a bold/fluky run - but that was against a solid, foul-happy defense (it’s like the Crew didn’t think they had enough yellow in their uniforms). But my provisional take on the Wizards goes about like so: they’re definitely a better team than Toronto FC and are probably better than Columbus, and DC United as well. The rub? I’m not willing to say they’re worse than Chicago.

Real Salt Lake 3 - 3 Red Bull New York ($)
The first, crucial observation: ha ha ha ha. HA HA HA HA HA HA HAAAA!

Delving into details, good to see Clint Mathis back to decent form, scoring as he did with more than one body part; the finish off his foot was a good ‘un. It’s possibly significant this was a late collapse by a heretofore impenetrable Red Bull; altitude could count for something.

As for RSL, this shows they have fight left in ‘em, but I remain fairly certain this represents the height of their aspiration (e.g. spoiler). Still, the only thing that would have been more magical than RSL ending Red Bull’s shutout streak would have been seeing Toronto do it.

Again, ha ha ha ha ha ha. A-HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HAHAAHAAHAA!!

Colorado Rapids 1 - 3 Houston Dynamo*
Good gravy, what a friggin’ game! And, while I called Houston a “paper tiger” as recently as Week 3, I’m happier by far watching this version of Houston. And Dwayne DeRosario? How great was it to see him remembering he can play better than most? That is what we pay to see, people.

Turning to the game itself, I must confess to thinking, much as in the Thursday game between DC and New England, the officiating favored Houston, especially around Ryan Cochrane, who accumulated enough cheap shots to earn an “honorary red,” but who, if memory serves, didn’t even pick up a yellow; overall, it simply felt like an occasion where the ref readily dished cards to one side, while merely lecturing the other. (UPDATE: The first article I read on this reminded me why I thought the officiating so off; I had forgotten Eddie Robinson getting away with nearly decaptitating Roberto Brown. If that doesn't draw a fine, I really, really wonder about that fine/suspension Sacha Kljestan picked up.) But, also like Thursday only to a greater degree - Houston deserved this win, no question: they controlled the game from Colorado’s lone, early goal till the final whistle with a defense that pressed over 2/3 of the field (and at altitude, no less) and sharp passing elsewhere.

The battle between Houston’s Richard Mulrooney and Colorado’s Herculez Gomez provided both a highlight match-up and shorthand for the game: after a tense first half, Houston (and Mulrooney) got the measure of Colorado (and Gomez) and shut them down cold; with the Rapids’ options shut down man-by-man, Houston’s skill players, led by DeRosario's ripping, unstoppable shot from range, brought the three points home. Calling Houston’s man of the match comes harder than you’d think: DeRosario’s the obvious choice, but only Cochrane’s cheap, plentiful fouls marred the team’s effort. For Colorado, forward Roberto Brown played the best game, no question. The weakest? Probably Dan Gargan, who, some highly impressive moments going forward aside, caused problems for the wrong team.

DC United 2 - 1 Chivas USA
This is the one about which I know nothing but the final score - literally. Based on that, though, DC seems headed in the right direction. On the other side, it looks like this team needs more than getting rid of Amado Guevara.

New England Revolution 3 - 1 Chicago Fire*
While Colorado/Houston was the game of the week, I had a hell of a good time watching this one - despite my latest attempt to defect from the Revs’ fold. For all that, though, the Revolution plays pretty only in spurts and, troublingly, seem more comfortable on the counter. The great exception that proves that rule came with their second goal, which seemed so foreign as I watched it. After finally pinning Chicago in their end (was it the one and only time?) New England worked the ball quickly across the top of the area to find a wide, wide open Khano Smith, which is what happens when you play the game right; the beauty of the goal - basically a tap-in for an alert Steve Ralston - came in the approach and I’m a sucker for that.

On the Revs’ side of things, I can finally say the upside of Adam Cristman became apparent: he runs well off the ball (which Columbus could certainly use) and fights like hell - damn shame about the shooting, but that might come later. Bet he’s irked that fellow recruit, Wells Thompson, beat him into the goal-scorer’s club; and bet the style of Thompson’s goal takes him past irked to envious. Smith also played a good, powerful game, showing what pure athleticism can do with a telling pinch of skill and Steve Ralston, apart from scoring a goal, brought more to the game in terms of brains and composure than will ever show on a stats sheet.

On Chicago’s side, I finally found enough rope to fulfill my long-standing wish of hangin’ ‘em. That bunch looked something like lost and average, never getting the upper hand in a contest that seemed ripe with opportunity. For all the toughness on that team, the Fire positively begs for some creativity; all their goals I can recall come off of penalty area scrums or sneaky shots from Rolfe that somehow find a way through a crowded area. In other words, like the Crew, they rely on low-percentage offense and, even if it’s a few percentage points higher than Columbus’, winning games comes hard.

No comments: