Friday, June 02, 2006

Big Game on June 3?

I probably overstate, but I think tomorrow's game v Ningland is far more important than an 11th game in a 32 game season in a league where 2/3rds of teams make the playoffs would normally be. D over at DCenters has been making a provocative case that winning the Supporters Shield this year (with its payoff of a place in next year's CONCACAF Champions League) should be a, if not the top priority, and I'll buy in. That makes the Ningland game an early and important six-pointer. With a third of the season gone, to be ahead of one of only a very few teams that could challenge DCU for the most points, United winning and being up 13 points over Ningland (who would only be down 7 should Ningland win) would be, he says, hyperventilating, sweet.

Not only that. When I look at the schedule I see three distinct sections, and the Ningland game brings an end to the first. In DCU's first 11 games they had 7 home games, 4 away, but after Ningland tomorrow night 9 of the next 12 league games are on the road, including trips to Ningland, KC, FCD, Chicago and Ningland again. Six of the final nine are at home, but for the balance of two months United is going to have to get their points on the road.

They're healthy now, they're playing well now, they've momentum now, and I hate freaking Ningland always. I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to projecting my emotions as a fan onto the players, but I've got to imagine that psychologically it would make a world of difference heading out on the road with a win rather than heading out with a home loss to the team DCU has to figure will be a primary challenger in the East. And if DCU don't win the East they can't win The Supporters Shield.

* * * *

In Friday's NYT an article on the Czechs, implying that the current team, with nine players, some of them important, over 30, may be too old and tired to run deep into WC06, which would bode well for the US if they were playing them third or even second in group play. But not first. The Czechs would love to make their third game of round play against Italy either meaningful in who finishes first in group or meaningless in that they're already through to knock-off, and that means winning their first game while they're freshest and most hopeful.

As Landru

says, I'm trying not to taunt any or all of the soccer gods, but I honestly don't think things could have broken much worse for the US in WC06 group draw and schedule. Suppose the NYT article is correct and that the Czechs could be cooked by round three, who gets them: Italy. And if Italy gets off to its traditional slow start, compounded by any hangover from the scandal in Italian football, and heads into the second game desperate for three, who gets them: US. The best the US could have hoped for, if they were to draw these three teams, would have been Italy first, Ghana second, Czechs third. Instead, besides drawing the group of death, they drew the worst possible schedule within that group.

Oh well. Best to have a little more music: Lansing-Dreiden.


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