First, what a beautiful night. It can't get better to see a game, warm enough for shortsleeves, breezy enough to not sweat. Twilight, this time a purple one, brought to attention by two circling helicopters for an army fly-over. (And planes out of National, flying directly over the stadium. Huh?) It simply cannot get any better, weather-wise, than last night, something I'll need to remind myself when I'm bitching about summer soccer and effing ESPN when I'm standing in the direct sunshine August 19 at 4pm v Colorado.
I declared the game important, and I think so even more now after last night's chippiness. To be up v Ningland by 14 points after 11 games in front of a long time on the road is wonderful. There is a huge difference between up by 14 to Ningland (who have a game in hand) than only up by 8. DCU is now up 10 points v anyone else in East and, with Dallas losing at home to Columbus (last seen being walloped a few nights ago here), DCU now up 3 in race for Supporters Shield. But much more than that: you have to beat your main rival at home. Done.
I don't know whether Jaime was on or offside on his goal. I couldn't tell when it happened and replays I've seen could go either way. Here's what's important: regardless of whether he was or wasn't offside, once the ball was at his feet, he abused Reis. (Ningland waahs and waahs about the offside - and how DCU gets all the calls at RFK - here. Pussies. Ba'al, I hate Ningland, more than any other team I hate Ningland.)
Both sides jammed the midfield and there were relatively few chances. Twellman demonstrated why he didn't land that morning with the USMNT in Hamburg when he botched a simple volley that was Ningland's best chance. Freddy whacked the crossbar. Lot's of chippiness, especially in first half when elbows were exchanged. The return match in two weeks in Ningland ought to be furious. Maybe then we can watch Esky's celebratory dance over the prone body of Matt Reis.
A really good article in today's NYT on USMNT in general and Arena in particular. Here're some quotes:
Arena prefers to be called a manager, however, not a coach. In that distinction lies his primary talent: building a team, in every sense of the word. He has a gift for breathing value into words that have become deflated with overuse in sports: honesty, chemistry, trust. Above all, he understands, in a way that no foreign coach could, just exactly what it means to be an American soccer player — his strengths and weaknesses, his needs and preferences, his constant battle with the realization that a player from the United States is always considered something lesser.and
The American style, as Arena sees it, is defined by an ability to adapt, to shape strategies and formations according to various factors: the players available on a particular day, the opponent, the weather. Style depends on the qualities his players possess, not on predetermined notions about how they should play. In the 2002 World Cup, the Americans sat back and counterattacked in the wilting heat against Mexico, using three backs to cope with players' injuries and suspensions, and then charged hell-bent at Germany in the next game, certain that the Germans were not the better team.and
People get too hung up on formations, which change constantly during a game, Arena says, before clarifying, "Our rule of thumb is, we're gonna play with a goalkeeper and try to play with a back four — and the next six, who knows?" The American team is built, and best understood, back to front. Goalkeeping is the most valuable American soccer commodity and export, in part because keepers here typically grow up playing sports that require the use of their hands. Given their lack of reliable goal scoring, the Americans also count on the back line to be impervious.
Soccer has become more generic, or homogenized, more reliant on fitness and speed, on applying greater pressure on the ball and providing less space for an opponent to operate; 40 percent of the goals scored in Champions League play in 2004-5 were counterattacks, according to the Union of European Football Associations. These changes dovetail with the qualities that elite Americans possess.Excellent article, with points to keep in mind when watching this June.