Thursday, August 10, 2006

That was fun. United came out full of vinegar; I was afraid they would emotionally burn-out early, and when Cassano made his deke around Namoff and shortsided Perkins I thought DCU might flatline then and there, but three minutes later in what I think DCU's sublimest goal of the year they five touched a beautiful sequence that Alecko deftly buried. Good stuff. Game on.

(The Post article makes mention of a spat Alecko threw when during a free kick from a dangerous spot in the late first half, Adu apparently took the kick that Alecko either thought he was to take and was told to take. Freddy stealing a glamour shot against a big European team from a teammate? Nah, can't imagine it.)

The rest of the first half was just excellent wonderful soccer. The second half couldn't and didn't match the first for play or urgency. United did crumble a bit in the second half as Madrid poured in fresh legs and DCU stayed with the starters. Nowak, when asked why he was keeping the starters in the game when he did his obligatory interview at the 60th minute just laughed and said, "We're playing Real Madrid for Christ's sake." And though Madrid carried play in the second half, with one fabulous sequence off a brilliant free kick by Roberto Carlos saved brilliantly by Perkins and scrambled away by the defence, DCU looked dangerous enough that they could easily be imagined to steal a goal. In the end it was a just result.

The first half was as well as United has played in recent memory this year. Jaime played as hard and fabulously as he has in months, and United played with a focus that would have blitzed most MLS teams. Early on in the second it looked like United was playing for the tie and hoping to steal a goal, but fine. I find it reassuring that United played intensely focused soccer - which they haven't for awhile, to be honest. I've been concerned that Nowak's relentless intensity - plus all the minutes the starters are logging - might burn out the team over the course of a long season. Perhaps he does know how to pace and when to push the team better than I suspected. Perhaps he didn't have to say a word to the players. Perhaps - and hopefully - this will have a re-energizing effect on the team for the rest of the MLS season. With a week off now before the Metros, it'll be fascinating to see how they come out next Wednesday.

Anyone who didn't think DCU should take this game against Real Madrid anywhere on Madrid's conditions was wrong. Yes, it would have been wonderful if the game was at RFK, or Camden Yards, but when Real Madrid agrees to play you go and play them when and where they say. That DCU showed strong on a neutral field, before a slightly pro-Madrid crowd (though the fans cheered all good soccer), makes the result all the more impressive. Good, good stuff.

UPDATE: DCenters has a youtube highlight film posted. The porn-movie music track whoever created the youtube used is annoying, but the highlights are sweet.

UPDATE TWO: mention needs to be made of Quaranta scoring game winner last night for LAG v Houston (and how nice to have MLS back on FSC, btw).. Came on as a second half substitute. Collected a pass on right outside box, tried to dribble past a defender; the defender gets foot on ball which pops into the air and serendipitously right onto Quaranta's foot, and he nicely volleys the ball over Houston keeper's head. He crosses himself, bows down to kiss the field, and smiles like a man let out of prison.

Which changes my opinion about the trade exactly none.


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