Posted on 31 May 2009 by ASN Staff
Posted on 31 May 2009 by ASN Staff
Posted on 30 May 2009 by ASN Staff
“They’ve got a dummy in the center of their defense. It just gave us motivation to score goals on them.”–Houston Dynamo forward Brian Ching, on San Jose Earthquakes captain and central defender Nick Garcia, after the Dynamo defeated the Quakes 3-1. Garcia had made disparaging remarks about former Quakes (and current Dynamo) forward Kei Kamara.
Posted on 30 May 2009 by iyeo
Another week, another effort by the Los Angeles Galaxy to pick up the full three points.
Following their seventh tie in eight matches last week at FC Dallas, the Galaxy will host the Kansas City Wizards Saturday night in the latter of a busy day for professional soccer at the Home Depot Center.
The Galaxy are actually unbeaten in their last eight matches, but have only won once during that stretch, a 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls on May 2. Los Angeles sits in a tie for fifth place with 11 points and a 1-1-8 record. The Galaxy’s latest draw in Texas last week actually saw them take the lead three minutes into the match on a Landon Donovan strike, his sixth of the season. FC Dallas however equalized in the 31st minute as Drew Moor successfully headed Dave Van Den Bergh’s corner kick into the back net. The Galaxy had several chances to add to its third-minute goal, but were unsuccessful.
Saturday’s match could perhaps be the last good chance for the Galaxy to get a win, as Donovan will leave the team shortly after the match for national team duty, starting with the Confederations Cup, which begins on June 14. The Galaxy will also have to make do without defender and 2008 MLS rookie of the year Sean Franklin, who was diagnosed with a torn hamstring tendon and is out for the rest of the season.
Kansas City’s 2009 season has produced mixed results. The Wizards lost their first two matches, came back with two straight wins and it’s been up and down ever since. Curt Onalfo’s team are 4-4-3 with 15 points, putting it in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Kansas City did play league-leading Chivas USA to a 1-1 draw at CommunityAmerica Ballpark on May 23. The Wizards are led by Josh Wolff’s six goals and Claudio Lopez’s four goals.
Saturday’s match isn’t the only soccer match to be played at the Home Depot Center. The Los Angeles Sol of Women’s Professional Soccer will host Saint Louis Athletica in the first leg of the doubleheader. The Sol still sit atop first place in WPS with 17 points and a 5-1-2. The Sol’s latest win occured last Sunday against FC Gold Pride 2-0. Camille Abily scored the Sol’s first goal in the 27th minute on a penalty kick after midfielder Aya Miyama was fouled in the box on a breakaway. Sol forward Han Duan sealed the win with a strike in the 86th minute for her first goal of the season. The Sol were actually without midfielder Shannon Boxx and goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, who were away on international duty, but both will be back in time for today’s match.
Saint Louis Athletica have started to show signs of life after a slow start. Athletica went winless in its first four matches of the season, but has bounced back with two straight wins. St. Louis’ first win came against FC Gold Pride on May 9 and Athletica followed the win with a 2-0 win over regional rival Chicago Red Stars. Athletica currently stands in fifth place with eight points and a 2-2-2 record. St. Louis is led by standout goalkeeper Hope Solo and midfielder Lori Chalupny.
The Sol and Athletica have gotten to know each other quite well during the season’s first two months. The two teams played to a scoreless draw on April 25 at Robert R. Hermann Stadium in St. Louis. Los Angeles was missing Duan and Marta, both of whom were away on International duty. Shortly after the match, Los Angeles and St. Louis made a trade that saw the Sol send forward Chrstie Welsh and defender Kendall Fletcher to Athletica for future draft considerations.
Posted on 29 May 2009 by Steve Long
Soccer is a simple game. When a league approaches parity of player talent, it places a premium on other aspects such as coaching.
Even in that area, MLS has tended to a certain degree of parity, as the U.S. style spreads to the somewhat inbred coaching community. Arguing to the contrary is the lack of success of the occasional outsider brought in. So, what is happening?
One coach with whom I have spoken, whose tradition comes from outside the US, is surprised at how long teams wait to replace an underperforming coach. That observation, rooted in the greater financial ability to rotate coaches in the rest of the world, would argue that fear of job loss is not a major motivator for MLS coaches.
In yet another contradiction, I believe that they are often both too flexible and too rigid. Successful coaches train their players within a system which will be rigid in its fundamentals, but flexible in overall execution.
At most levels of play below the very highest, consistency requires a 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 as a fundamental, and overall maintenance of shape as the flexible execution. In essence, the players exchange roles which are themselves rather defined.
In top professional divisions roles are less rigorously defined as the players slide more comfortably into different positions as they respond to the dynamics of the game situations that they encounter. It is about speed of thought which in turn allows a deeper reading of the game.
One might draw the analogy to the value to some chess masters of “speed chess”. While a master of any art studies and absorbs the lessons and permutations to master the craft, it is the inspiration which distinguishes the truly artful.
To truly excel, one must stretch one’s mind. Thus the good soccer coach applies constant pressure in practices which stretch the player at all times. By now most MLS coaches have learned to structure all their drills to incorporate vision and control, at speed, and under pressure.
The players become comfortable with game-like situations and you will see that comfort displayed by strong teams fairly often on the practice field as well as in games. The best of coaches manage to keep training sufficiently varied to avoid boredom while maintaining good habits.
At the current MLS maturity level, almost every coach has learned this. Some took longer than others and some never quite figured it out. The latter are now gone.
The level of fundamental coaching competence in MLS is now near parity, joining that of most players. That’s what salary caps do and so we should not be surprised at the number of ties and close games this season.
This does not mean that each team will not have a unique style. Each carries into a given season its own history and team culture, the particular vision of the coach, and the various talents and visions of the players.
DC United has a culture of possession, control, and quick attack, usually down the center. Coach Tom Soehn learned from last season that other teams were packing the center and adjusted by placing greater emphasis on wing play to spread the field wider and open up space.
Perhaps he was fortunate to have early injuries to Fred and Tino Quaranta. Their absence allowed the younger Rodney Wallace and Chris Pontius to play a simpler game focused on better width. Overall team play benefited as better team habits formed.
In turn, they and other young players saw more time in games that mattered alongside the more seasoned. There is a certain synergy in the young and physically quick challenging and working with the mentally quicker veterans.
As United has developed more width in its game, opponents have had to adjust. Some have done quite well at it. Jason Kreis has proven to be a quick study at Real Salt Lake. He appears to learn quickly from game tapes of opponents’ play.
Last Saturday at RFK, his bunker defense shut down a heretofore potent DC attack. He took note of his team’s tall defense and counted on their reflexes to execute a strong offside trap in a flat back four. If United did get off a cross from the wing, RSL had height in the center to maintain control.
If United tried to go over the trap, the deep nature of the bunker would usually give the ball to Nick Rimando who is a quick and athletic keeper. DC United never found a good solution. Therein lies the next step in coaching and team maturity in MLS.
The coach who realizes this, and many probably have, will still need to find the specific tactics to anticipate and counter what a given opponent might do. Mastery of in-game tactical adjustments will distinguish the next level of MLS coaches.
The lucky coaches will have a few on field creators who will find ways to win games for them by adjusting team dynamics on the fly. Such players may occasionally win a game with individual brilliance, but the best of them will incorporate teammates and build a common understanding with a few others of similar flexible mind.
Tom Soehn, just like all MLS coaches now, will spend the rest of this season trying to solve the well thought out defenses of his opponents. The habits of flexibility that he can instill into his players will determine the team’s ultimate success.
As to the proper response to RSL’s flat bunker, enough slashing diagonal runs from midfield as United’s attackers who are drawn offside refuse to pursue the ball should leave defenders behind both ball and midfielder.
Yes, that means perfectly weighted lobs into small space or perfect placement through small seams. Those are signs of a high-level team. Focused practices that ingrain both physical skills and vision are critical.
This brings us back to why Tom Soehn has so often spoken of the occasional luxury of full weeks between games. It is difficult for a full team to practice properly when most players’ energies are concentrated on healing and recovery.
The fact that 2009 has allowed DC United to build more well trained depth will allow them to play slightly better against other teams as fatigue and injury take their toll on all teams, but the Open Cup and CONCACAF play will eat into the valuable practice time that Soehn so highly values.
For the reasons above, close games should remain the hallmark of the rest of the year.
Posted on 29 May 2009 by ASN Staff
Posted on 29 May 2009 by Nate Brinson
Kansas City Will Face the Galaxy Bunker Without Wolff, Hirsig
After a wild 1-1 draw against Chivas USA last week, the Kansas City Wizards (4-4-3) will make their first trip of the season to the Home Depot Center to face a club known for draws in the Los Angeles Galaxy (1-1-8).
For the Wizards, the result against Chivas was a mixed bag. Kansas City struck first through a sensational free kick from Claudio Lopez in the 56th minute, but the visitors drew level when substitute Eduardo Lillingston beat a helpless Kevin Hartman in the six yard box after a scramble on a Chivas free kick. Normally, failing to protect a lead at home would leave a team bitterly disappointed, but the circumstances dramatically changed shortly after Lillingston’s equalizer.
In the 68th minute, Josh Wolff was chopped down at the edge of the penalty area by Mariano Trujillo. Wolff was initially furious with referee Jason Anno for not calling the foul, but his anger quickly shifted towards Trujillo. The confrontation between the Wizards forward and the Chivas defender culminated in a yellow card for Trujillo and a red card for Wolff for lowering his head towards Trujillo. Fifteen minutes later, things became worse for the home side when Santiago Hirsig, who had a received a yellow in the first half in a seemingly innocuous confrontation with Atiba Harris, picked up his second yellow for a tackle on Sasha Victorine.
Suddenly, a draw appeared to be a satisfactory result for the nine man Wizards, and they were able to salvage a point from the game thanks to the Hartman’s heroics in the 85th minute as the Kansas City goalkeeper first charged down Harris, who had been played through by Victorine, and then poked the rebound from Lillingston before the Mexican could score on the empty net.
Kansas City may have had to be content with a draw last week, but Los Angeles has been content with a draw for nearly the entire season as they picked up their eighth consecutive tie last week against FC Dallas. The Galaxy started well as Landon Donovan scored in the 3rd minute, and the Los Angeles advantage grew in the 26th minute when Dallas midfielder Marcelo Saragosa was sent off for shoving Eddie Lewis. However, Dallas equalized five minutes later when Drew Moor scored from a corner kick, and despite holding a man advantage, the Galaxy were unable to score a game winner.
The outlook for this match can quickly be seen through the philosophies of each side’s manager. Wizards boss Curt Onalfo may have served as the assistant to the Galaxy’s Bruce Arena with the US National Team, but their tactics have been stark opposites. Through most of his tenure with Kansas City, Onalfo has eschewed defensive tactics as well as settling for draws as evidenced by the Wizards looking for opportunities to go forward in search of an unlikely game-winner while playing with nine men against a powerful Chivas club.
Meanwhile, Arena has mostly relied on a conservative approach with the Galaxy this season because of the mess he inherited from Ruud Gullit. These tactics may have helped Los Angeles stay within striking distance of a playoff spot through one third of the season, but Arena may have taken the cautious approach a bit too far at times this season. On two occasions this season, the Galaxy have found themselves with a man advantage in a tie game but failed to truly press their advantage.
With the Galaxy unlikely to deviate from their regular defensive outlook, the Wizards could find some difficulty in taking three points from this game because of the red card suspensions to Wolff and Hirsig. Davy Arnaud, who has cooled considerably after starting the season with three goals in his first four games, will move into the center of midfield with Jack Jewsbury, and Herculez Gomez will likely replace Wolff in the front line alongside Lopez.
Arena does hold one trump card in the form of Donovan. The American international has been involved in almost every Galaxy goal this season, and he possesses the skill and the speed to single-handedly trouble the Wizards backline. As long as the Wizards can keep a watchful eye on Donovan, the real question will be if Kansas City can successfully break the Galaxy bunker.
Posted on 28 May 2009 by mdiamond
Posted on 28 May 2009 by ASN Staff
Posted on 27 May 2009 by ASN Staff
The Chicago Fire head to the Home Depot Center to take on Western Conference and overall points leader Chivas USA tonight. The Fire have won two straight look be in good form while Chivas appears to be showing some signs of weakness after consecutive draws. The titanic matchup features the league’s two best squads as well as many of its biggest name stars.