Archive | June, 2009

Rapids Host FC Dallas

Posted on 23 June 2009 by Jeff Cann

The Colorado Rapids [5-2-5; 20 pts] have not lost in their previous 6 games when they hosted DC United at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park last Saturday night. Two goals and an assist by striker Omar Cummings extended their streak to 7 games [3-0-4] as they won 3-0.

For his efforts, Cummings was awarded the MLS player of the week and is the second Rapids player to win the award this year. Strike partner Conor Casey won the award in MLS weeks 2 and 11.

The Rapids ability to get results will be put to the test this week as they play two games against MLS Western conference opponents. The Rapids host FC Dallas [3-7-4; 13 pts] on Wednesday and travel to play the Seattle Sounders FC [5-3-7; 22 pts] on Sunday.

Unfortunately for the Rapids, strikers Cummings and Casey account for 13 of their 20 goals this year. Due to their success in MLS, both players were called up to their national teams.

Cummings was named to the Jamaican national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup that begins on July 3, 2009. Conor Casey has two appearances in the FIFA Confederations Cup where the U.S. Men’s National Team remains alive in the semifinal round. Casey is expected to remain on the national team as they play in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Luckily the Rapids acquired veteran striker Pat Noonan who was traded from the Columbus Crew in exchange for allocation money and the first round pick for the Rapids in the MLS 2010 SuperDraft.

The game against FC Dallas is a critical test of the young Rapids team that will need to find goals from strikers Pat Noonan and Jacob Pederson and attacking winger Colin Clark.

The match is also in the danger zone for Rapids teams over the past 6 years. On paper, the Rapids should beat FC Dallas. The Rapids have a tendency to play down to the level of their opponent, rather than just dropping the hammer for an easy 3 points. The 3-0 drubbing of DC United could be an indication of the attacking mindset brought to the club from coach Gary Smith.

The Rapids drifted to second place in the MLS Power Rankings. They have not been rated this high since the first week of the 2008 season.

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Quakes hold on to beat Galaxy 2-1

Posted on 23 June 2009 by epederson

The Quakes beat the Galaxy 2-1 Saturday as they refused to be muscled out of the win in their second classico match up of the season. The win moves the Quakes ahead of New York in the league table, but the Quakes remain at the bottom of the Western standings one point below Dallas. Ryan Johnson’s game winning goal keeps him in the golden boot competition with a tally of six, equal to Landon Donovan.

“It just comes down to being hungry,” Ryan Johnson explained, “I was hungry out there and I want it bad.”

The Galaxy will rue failing to draw the match when it looked like they had every capability of doing so. This game breaks with both the Galaxy’s penchant for battling to a draw and with the Quakes’ predilection for giving up a second goal.

“Give San Jose credit,” Arena commented after the game, “They made a couple plays and we weren’t as alert as we needed to be. We were a little suspect in defending in the box today and it cost us the game.”

In the thrilling final minutes it seemed all but inevitable the Galaxy would get a second goal to tie the game, LA sending the ball into a standing room only Quakes penalty area time and again. The Quakes were out matched on size, but their focus, determination, and perhaps a little bit of overdue luck preserved their lead. On the 88th minute the ball was in the 6 yard box for what seemed like an eternity before forward Quincy Amarikwa was able to clear it.

Amarikwa was one of three strategic substitutions Yallop made that allowed the Quakes to hold on for the win. Chris Wondolowski came on for Campos in the 73rd minute, bringing fresh legs, and Eric Denton came on for Bobby Convey in the 82th minute to provide the team a more defensive look. Quincy Amarikwa’s substitution for Ryan Johnson in the 84th minute was a gem, as he repeatedly took the ball into the Galaxy corners and held it there, running down the clock in the safest part of the pitch.

The different outcome was all the more surprising given the game started with a sense of Déjà vu, Pablo Campos scoring an early goal as he had in the prior match with LA. Pablo’s solo run on goal could not be stopped without LA giving up a Penalty Kick, which he took neatly to put the Quakes up 1-0 in the 6th minute. Even with the early goal, there was always the feeling that the Galaxy would come back.

It was clear from the early minutes that the game was more likely to be decided on grit than on brilliance. Landon’s quality was missing for the Galaxy, while the Quakes seemed to lack cohesion. The Quakes line-up was quite a bit different than previously fielded with Brandon McDonald and Aaron Pitchkolan as centerbacks, Antonio Ribiero in midfield, and Darren Huckerby on the left wing.

Positive play from the Quakes seemed to break down in the Galaxy half when passes were either not delivered to attacking runs, or made into space when the runs were not made. The Galaxy, in contrast, looked better coordinated working the ball into the Quakes corners, but a lack of quality crossing and finishing undermined their efforts.

In the 14th minute there was a nice turn and strafing shot from outside the box by Ryan Johnson trying to double the Quakes lead. It was a heroic attempt in lieu of combination play which was nicely saved by Ricketts. A fine solo run by Huckerby earned a free kick in a dangerous area, but the Quakes failed to capitalize on it. At the other end the Galaxy were getting more shots in and looking dangerous, but failed to score even when Joe Cannon was caught stranded well out of goal. Neither side showed a very convincing attack.

The first half ended with the Quakes stringing a dozen or so passes around the pitch, in a legitimate dose of possession generally absent from their play. The Galaxy went to the locker room having outshot the Quakes, but down 1-0 on goals.

The Galaxy came back out for the 2nd half looking stronger and easily the more threatening side, but it was the Quakes who scored in the 53rd minute. Campos heading a Leitch cross back across goal to Ryan Johnson who made an instinctive finish well. 2-0 Quakes.

Two goals up, the Quakes looked even hungrier for a third, and might have nicked it with a simple chip when faced with an open goal.

The Galaxy started to turn up the pressure in earnest, in a game ending crunch the Quakes have been so vulnerable to. Getting the ball into the Quakes area repeatedly, LA got their reward in the 64th minute when a long free kick was headed by Gordon to Kirovski who headed past Cannon. 2-1 Quakes, for the moment.

Kirovski almost tied the game minutes later with a 2nd goal, only for Cannon to make a fine save.

It looked like the writing was on the wall. No bookie would have bet on the Quakes holding on for the win, as 20 players and the ball parked in front of the Quakes net. The tying goal looked inevitable.

The Quakes held off the Galaxy with a huge team effort, winning 2-1, weathering the sheer drama with measures of focus and fortitude that made their performance memorable, even if it wasn’t always pretty.

“Today’s main objective was to get three points, and getting that result was great for us,” Yallop offered. “I feel we’re on the right path. We worked very hard sticking our head in, making it difficult for our opponents when the ball is played into the box.”

“Our guys were very brave and I’m very proud of them on today’s performance.”

Ratings (scale of 1-10 with 10 being best)

Players:
5.5 Cannon
Joe made some quality saves, but was lucky not to be punished for a severe misjudgment coming well out of goal. Hard to tell whether Joe or his defenders were responsible for some Keystone Cops incidents in the back, but Joe has got to be the communicator. Not his best night.

7.0 Leitch
Chris played OK in the first half, but made a much bigger impact in the 2nd half when he really got his crosses going. He was a key part of the Quakes attack and notched an assist.

7.0 McDonald
Brandon was thrown into the Quakes centerback spot and did the job in that critical position. A great job blocking, tackling and covering the space, he would have rated an even higher score if not for some moments of confusion and risk talking at the back would could have been disastrous.

6.5 Pitchkolan
Aaron looked pretty solid in defensive play, and almost scored a header. Would have scored higher if we took entertainment value into account, as he got a Yellow Card for refusing to back up the wall on the free kick. I would love to have heard the discussion he had with the referee over what 10 yards is.

6.5 Zaher
Mike looked solid as left back, very confident especially defending in the corner and getting the ball out of danger. Mr. Zero Panic. Looks like he can hold his own.

4.5 Convey
Bobby really is a superlative player when he is doing what he likes, but his heart didn’t look in it Saturday. Was he playing injured and miffed about having to do so? He wasn’t making the runs his fellow teammates seemed to be looking for and combination play did not seem to be on his agenda, which limited the Quakes attack.

6.5 Corrales
Ramiro suffers the fate of most holding midfielders, you can never do enough. The effectiveness of this position depends quite a bit on team coordination, which was a bit lacking with all the new faces. Still he won balls, set up counter attacks, and tied to make things happen.

6.0 Ribeiro
Antonio looked a bit out of sync at times, but looked interesting going forward and might have been dangerous if passing had been better. The crowd was screaming for him to chip the ball with Ricketts well out of goal which could have made him instant Quakes legend.

7.0 Huckerby
Darren didn’t look his best, but was better in the 2nd half especially with his frequent ghosting at the left touchline out of the defenders minds’ eye, and a nice mazy run. In the last 30 minutes he had the opportunistic look of a top striker.

7.5 Campos
Pablo created and converted the PK, and got the assist that made the second goal happen. He worked on defense, clearing the ball out of danger. One might critique some of his passes or continually getting muscled off the ball, but at the end of the day no one had more of an effect on the score line. Man of the Match.

7.0 Johnson
Ryan always looks to make a great effort, and he leads the Quakes in scoring as a result. For much of the match he was well neutralized, but some of that may be a result of the lacking combination play. His shot in the 14th minute was a real quality strike, and his finish in the 53 minute was the game winner.

6.0 Wondolowski
Chris played the last 20 minutes and provided new energy and troubled the opposition defense, but might have had a goal if his first touch had been a bit better.

6.0 Denton
Perhaps the best measure of Eric’s effort it that the Quakes did not give up the tying goal. To the extent he shored up the Quakes defense in the last minutes, he did his job.

7.0 Amarikwa
Quincy played less than 10 minutes but did a brilliant job taking the ball into the Galaxy’s corners and holding it there, a savvy tactic which may have saved the day. The skill was excellent, the application was perfect. He made an impact very quickly.

Intangibles:
Quakes defending 6

The defending vacillated between confident and confused, but the team work to keep the ball out of the net in the last 20 minutes was clutch.

Quakes passing 5
The passing looked off, with the Quakes passing in the air more than usual. Reportedly it was a poor, sticky pitch, but maybe the absence of Arturo was also part of the difference. No joga bonito on display.

Quakes finishing 7
Given the Quakes weren’t creating rampant opportunities, taking the clean ones they got was essential, so they did fine.

Quakes coordination 5
Ever been to a youth game where the kids don’t want to pass to each other? Add to that a backline not in sync with their keeper. It wasn’t pretty.

Quakes tactics 8
Giving big points here because there were clear shifts in tactics based on the game situation, they were smart tactics, and they shaped the game.

Refereeing:
No terrible glaring calls, but the head referee clearly thought the Quakes were diving everywhere on the field, even in the center circle. In one couple minute stretch the Referee admonished Campos for getting knocked down in the middle of the pitch and then yellow carded Johnson for not getting up fast enough after his attacking run was tumbled by the Galaxy. The fouls calls may have been correct, but from the cheap seats it looked like the standard for a foul was closer to Australian Rules Football than Italian Football.

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Does the U.S. stand a chance against Spain?

Posted on 23 June 2009 by ASN Staff

After Sunday’s shocking turn of events (a.k.a. The Miracle on Grass) led to a surprising semifinal berth at the 2009 Confederations Cup, the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team sets its sights on Spain, whom it will face Wednesday afternoon. The European champions, winners 15 straight games and unbeaten in their last 35, present the most formidable hurdle the U.S. has faced so far in a tournament that already saw it play (and lose to) world champions Italy and Brazil.

Which begs the question: Does the U.S. Men’s National Team even stand a chance against Spain in tomorrow’s semifinal? You tell us. Cast your vote in the poll and defend your view in the comment field below.
[polldaddy poll=”1729351″]

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Photo gallery: Quakes 2, Galaxy 1

Posted on 22 June 2009 by ASN Staff

ASN’s Damon Tarver was at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Saturday night gathering photographic evidence of the second California Clasico of the 2009 campaign. (Check out Eric Pederson’s match report and player, intangible ratings here). Here are some of his favorites.

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Miracle on Grass

Posted on 22 June 2009 by ASN Staff

After the loss to Brazil, ASN told our readers not to panic. But we weren’t expecting this.

Clint Dempsey's goal put the USMNT through to the semis

Amazingly, and against odds that were deemed “all but mathematical,” the U.S. Men’s National Team has advanced to the Confederations Cup semifinals. The U.S. stunned Egypt 3-0 in the final group stage matchday of the Confederations Cup Sunday and got the exact amount of help it needed from another unlikely result: Italy’s shocking 3-0 loss to Brazil, which eliminates the defending world champions from the tournament. The Yanks will take it. Next up is Spain in the semifinals Wednesday.

Full reaction here
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Oh and by the way: Still think Bob Bradley should be fired? You know who you are. Apologies will be accepted via comments in the space below. Have at it.

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Marta, Abily 2 much for Gold Pride

Posted on 22 June 2009 by iyeo

Though it’s only the first season, Women’s Professional Soccer’s version of the California Clasico is already turning into a one-sided rivalry.

The Sol have yet to allow FC Gold Pride to even score on them let alone beat them, and the trend continued on Sunday afternoon, as two first-half goals combined with an unbreakable defense and goalkeeping enabled the Sol to come away with a 2-0 win over their Northern California counterparts on Fathers Day at the Home Depot Center.

“The team’s confidence is very good,” Sol head coach Abner Rogers said. “The main thing for the team is to concede zero and keep playing and don’t give anything away,”

The win built an even wider gap between Los Angeles and the second-place Washington Freedom. The Sol have 28 points on the season, 12 points better than the Freedom. FC Gold Pride

Los Angeles needed just a small touch to get on the board. In the 17th minute, Aya Miyama sent a corner kick into the box that was punched out by Gold Pride keeper Nicole Barnhardt. The ball however went to Sol defender Martina Franko. Franko sent the ball into the box and Abily slid and got enough of the ball to sneak it into the far right post for her league-leading seventh goal of the season.

The buildup to the Sol’s second goal in the 25th minute was a little more easier, as midfielder Shannon Boxx sent a longball that was tracked down by Marta and Marta did the rest, outracing Kristen Graczyk to the box and beat Barnhart to the far right post. It was Marta’s fifth goal of the season and amazingly, her first goal since May 15, when her 81st minute strike decided the Sol’s 1-0 win over Sky Blue FC.

The Sol continued to put pressure in the second half. In the 70th minute, forward Han Duan, who entered as a substitute in the 67th minute shot in the box that was stopped by Barnhardt, Aya Miyama chased down the ball and attempted a rebound shot, but again Barnhardt got in front of the ball and sent it out of bounds.

Barnhardt had to make one more save a minute later off the ensuing corner kick, as Duan received Miyama’s corner kick and shot for goal, only to be denied again. The Sol ended up with 12 shot attempts, all on goal, but the efforts of Barnhardt, who recorded eight saves in the match, prevented Los Angeles from adding to the lead.

“We knew they (FC Gold Pride) were going to keep possession,” Rogers said. “We just allowed them to have the ball and try to win it in midfield, where we have numbers, then when we get it, we want to play with much more urgency.”

FC Gold Pride also had its share of chances in the box. Its first close call came in the 31st minute, when Christine Sinclair sent a laser just inside the top of the box. Sol keeper Karina LeBlanc deflected the shot, but it went to Tiffeny Milbrett, who was at the far left post and looked to have an open net shot, but Sol defender Mayna Makoski blocked her shot attempt. In the 78th minute, midfielder Tina DiMartino led a Gold Pride break and found Adriane in the box. Adriane actually got her shot past LeBlanc, but just went wide left. FC Gold Pride actually outshot the Sol by one, but most of those shots never posed any real threat on goal, as Barnhart’s counterpart in goal, LeBlanc, made only three saves and earned her league-high 10th shutout of the season.

“I’m just trying to stay involved in the game,” LeBlanc said. “I go into every game thinking I want to do the best I can do for my team.”

Sunday’s match wasn’t only about the match itself, but also an opportunity to celebrate a defining moment in women’s soccer as well as women’s sports. As part of WPS celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the U.S. women’s soccer team’s triumph in the 1999 World Cup, when a crowd of over 90,000 filled the Rose Bowl to watch the United States outlast China for the World Cup in penalty kicks, the World Cup trophy was on display and US Soccer Hall of Famers Mia Hamm and Joy Fawcett were honored at halftime for their contributions to the 1999 team.

The Sol will be awful busy for the next two weeks, as it will play four matches during that span. It will start with a trip to St. Louis to face the Athletica, then Los Angeles will quickly return home for a rare Saturday morning match with the Chicago Red Stars. On the other hand, FC Gold Pride will have a week off before facing the Athletica on July 5.

Match Facts

Los Angeles Sol 2, FC Gold Pride 0
June 21, 2009; Home Depot Center

Scoring Summary
LOS – Camile Abily (Martina Franko) 17
LOS – Marta (Shannon Boxx) 25’

Lineups :
Los Angeles Sol: Karina LeBlanc; Manya Makoski, Allison Falk, Martina Franko, Stephanie Cox; Camille Abily, Shannon Boxx ©, Aly Wagner, Aya Miyama, Brittany Bock (67: Han Duan), Marta.

FC Gold Pride: Nicole Barnhart; Rachel Buehler, Leigh Ann Robinson (57: Marissa Abegg), Kristen Gracyzk, Carrie Dew; Tina DiMartino (85: Tiffany Weimer), Leslie Osborne ©, Formiga; Christine Sinclair, Tiffeny Milbrett, Eriko Arakawa (67: Adriane).

Misconduct Summary
NONE

Statistical Summary:
FC Gold Pride Los Angeles
Shots 13 12
Shots on Goal 7 12
Saves 9 3
Fouls 8 8
Corners 2 7
Offside 0 2

Referee: Daniel Fitzgerald
SAR: Marlene Duffy
JAR: Maurizio Laudani
4th Official: Adam Brugman
Attendance: 4,593
Weather: Sunny and 77 degrees

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Ching rescues home point vs. RSL

Posted on 22 June 2009 by dbuckholt

It only seemed as though a full moon was over Robertson Stadium Saturday night, as the Houston Dynamo struggled through a series of bizarre events to salvage a 1-1 draw against 10-man Real Salt Lake that kept alive their 11-game unbeaten streak and gave Houston sole possession of first place in the Western Conference.

Brian Ching came on as a second-half substitute and scored in the 89th minute to grab a point for Houston, after Brad Davis missed a penalty kick in the 74th minute.

“It was one of those nights you walk off the field kind of feeling disappointed, but you’re happy the guys kept on fighting and got something out of it,” Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear said.

The point clinched Kinnear’s spot as the coach for the MLS All-Stars in their game against Everton on July 29.

“That’s just a product of me being in charge of the team that’s playing the best in MLS for the first half of the season,” Kinnear said.

“With the circumstances, the heat, going down a man, with the penalty kick being awarded, I think we have to be very pleased. They are the best team in the league. This is a successful result,” Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said. His team got a point in Houston for the first time after four straight losses.

Referee Jair Marrufo waved the teams off the field in the 25th minute for a water break, baffling both sidelines.

“(Marrufo) told me before the match we’ll have a break at 25, and I thought he was joking. I didn’t think it was FIFA-regulated, or just part of the game of soccer. I just jokingly said back to him, ‘Let’s have two of them.’ He did mention it to me, but honestly I’d never heard of that. I hadn’t done that since club ball. I didn’t think he was serious, and I didn’t think twice about it,” Houston captain Richard Mulrooney said.

The temperature at kickoff was 89 degrees with a heat index of 92, difficult conditions but hardly unheard of for summer games in Houston. There were also reports after the match that the break was due to a pregame request from RSL, but both benches seemed surprised at the stoppage.

“We were all shaking our heads. What frustrated me was they were trying to slow the game down, and then to stop it like that, it played into the tempo of the game at the time,” Kinnear said.

Salt Lake took the lead just after the stoppage, as Yura Movsisyan got open on the right side of the box in the 28th minute and pulled the ball back to Fabian Espindola, whose shot deflected off Bobby Boswell’s leg and past Pat Onstad.

“It was a little bit of luck by them. We weren’t so sharp in the first half. All I know is I saw the shot, and it went in off of Bobby’s leg,” Kinnear said.

RSL’s 4-3-3 formation put a triangle in midfield to clog up the Dynamo attack, similar to the 4-5-1 Chivas USA played in Houston’s last home game.

“There was nowhere to go. They were playing deep. When we tried to play in the midfield, they were closing the ball down pretty well. And our passing over distance was off enough to where it made it easy for them to defend,” Kinnear said.

Boswell ended up with two of the better offensive chances for Houston off corners, heading over the bar in the 32nd minute and heading wide in the 69th minute.

Salt Lake central defender Jamison Olave was already playing on a yellow from the first half when he picked up an idiotic second card on what appeared to be delaying a restart by jumping in front of a throwin in the 58th minute, although the unofficial play-by-play showed the card was for dissent.

“I haven’t looked at the video yet. If it’s as bad as I think it is, I’m going to be very, very unhappy. It’s been addressed already and we can’t afford to do that,” Kreis said.

Ching won a penalty in the 73rd minute when he beat RSL keeper Nick Rimando to the ball at the edge of the box before being taken down.

“I don’t think it was a penalty. The ball is going out of bounds. I am going for the ball – I didn’t even look at Ching. The referee had a good game, just not on that particular play,” Rimando said.

It was Houston’s first penalty kick of the season, and Davis was picked to fill the role that had usually been taken by Dwayne DeRosario in previous seasons. Davis shot weakly to the right after hesitating on his approach and Rimando had an easy save.

“I’ve made a few for this team, and I’ve missed a few. It’s going to happen, but you get by it. I’m upset right now, I apologized to the guys, but the best thing I can do is just move forward,” Davis said.

“I think he changed his mind halfway, I don’t know. I don’t think it was a good penalty, because it got saved,” Kinnear said.

Ching had been out with a hamstring injury picked up in training with the US national team, and had not seen league action since May 30. But he came in with great energy to start the second half in place of Cam Weaver, and was rewarded with the late equalizer from a Brian Mullan assist.

“We got our chance and we finished it. We played to our strengths. Anytime they sit back, you want to get the ball wide and make good runs in the box. (Mullan) serves a great ball for me, and it was pretty easy for me to finish,” Ching said.

“Great goal, if you watch it, Brian Ching picks up the ball about 30 yards out, sprays the ball to Brian Mullan, and he’s the only one running in the box. His desire to get on the ball is excellent, and he goes through unmarked. He’s the only one at that time who had the energy to make that burst to goal. It’s bread and butter for (Ching), isn’t it?” Kinnear said.

The Dynamo now face a tough stretch of four straight MLS games away, in addition to a US Open Cup game at USL side Austin Aztex on July 1.

MATCH FACTS

Real Salt Lake at Houston Dynamo, June 20, 2009
Robertson Stadium, Attendance: 17,151

Scoring Summary:
RSL – Fabian Espindola (Yura Movsisyan, Chris Wingert) 28
Hou – Brian Ching (Brian Mullan) 89

Misconduct Summary:
RSL – Tony Beltran (caution; Reckless Foul) 17
RSL – Jamison Olave (caution; Reckless Foul) 34
Hou – Richard Mulrooney (caution; Reckless Tackle) 44
RSL – Jamison Olave (caution; Dissent) 58
RSL – Jamison Olave (ejection; Second Caution) 58
RSL – Javier Morales (caution; Reckless Foul) 67
RSL – Nick Rimando (caution; Reckless Foul) 72

Lineups:
Houston
G – Pat Onstad
D – Craig Waibel (Wade Barrett 8, Corey Ashe 61), Bobby Boswell, Geoff Cameron, Andrew Hainault
M – Brian Mullan, Richard Mulrooney (c), Stuart Holden, Brad Davis
F – Kei Kamara, Cam Weaver (Brian Ching 46)

Substitutes not used – Tally Hall, Danny Cruz, Ade Akinbiyi, Dominic Oduro

Real Salt Lake
G – Nick Rimando
D – Chris Wingert, Nat Borchers, Jamison Olave, Tony Beltran
M – Kyle Beckerman (c), Will Johnson, Javier Morales
F – Clint Mathis (Tino Nunez 76), Yura Movsisyan (Ned Grabavoy 82), Fabian Espindola (Robbie Russell 63)

Substitutes not used – Chris Seitz, Raphael Cox, Ian Joy, Andy Williams

Shots: Houston 10, RSL 2. Shots on goal: Houston 5, RSL 1. Fouls: Houston 13, RSL 15. Offsides: Houston 3, RSL 2. Corners: Houston 9, RSL 2. Saves: Houston 0, RSL 3.

Houston Ratings
Onstad 7.5 – not at fault on goal, could have brought a book to read otherwise
Waibel NR (Barrett 8’ 6 – RSL goal came on his wing) (Ashe 61’ 6.5 no room for his speed)
Boswell 7 – tough to mark a defender down for missing offensive chances
Cameron 6.5 – RSL attackers had too much room in box on the goal
Hainault 7 – good night at both outside back spots
Mullan 7 – rescued a below-average night with the assist
Mulrooney 6.5 – another Houston player with some giveaways tonight
Holden 6 – not a factor
Davis 5.5 – poorly-taken PK
Kamara 6.5 – one decent shot on Rimando
Weaver 6 – invisible (Ching 7.5 – one of his textbook finishes)

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Marta, Sol have their way with Gold Pride again

Posted on 22 June 2009 by iyeo

Marta may not look happy here, but her team has been dominant

Though it’s only the first season, Women’s Professional Soccer’s version of the California Clasico is already turning into a one-sided rivalry.

The Sol have yet to allow FC Gold Pride to even score on them let alone beat them, and the trend continued on Sunday afternoon, as two first-half goals combined with an unbreakable defense and goalkeeping enabled the Sol to come away with a 2-0 win over their Northern California counterparts on Father’s Day at the Home Depot Center.

ASN’s Ivan Yeo reports.

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U.S. shows poise, grit in improbable advance to Confederations Cup semis

Posted on 22 June 2009 by ASN Staff

Gooch played an integral role in the winJust as it was not advisable to panic after last week’s loss to Brazil, it is equally important not to get too high after Sunday’s stunning events that saw the U.S. Men’s National Team through to the semifinals of the Confederations Cup. At least not about the skill, ability and potential of this U.S. team and their chances to make serious noise next summer.

So what exactly can and should U.S. soccer fans expect? ASN’s Adam Rozsa lays it out for us and also provides player ratings from Sunday’s match with Egypt.

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U.S. shows poise, grit in improbable advance to Confederations Cup semis

Posted on 22 June 2009 by arozsa

See if this sounds familiar: The U.S. Men’s National Team, playing in an intercontinental tournament, is in serious trouble. It has struggled to make an impact in the first two games, and now faces a strong African side flush with confidence after taking a top European scalp. First and foremost the U.S. needs a win, but also requires other results to go its way to advance.

While comparing this situation to the 2006 World Cup may be an exercise in semantics, it’s certainly noteworthy that this time the U.S. stepped up and thoroughly trounced two-time defending African Cup of Nations champions Egypt 3-0, and, albeit with some help, booked their ticket to the semi-finals of the 2009 Confederations Cup.

Now, perhaps you might have the sneaking suspicion that some serious gloating is about to commence. I can understand why. However, as it was not advisable to panic after Thursday’s game, it is equally important not to get too high after Sunday. At least not about the skill, ability and potential of this U.S. team and their chances to make serious noise next summer.

Let’s be clear: This U.S. team is not in the class of Brazil, Italy or Spain. They are not in the peer group with Portugal, Germany or Argentina. Saying this is not an insult.

The U.S. firmly falls in what a college basketball fan might call a “mid-major” category. Teams like the U.S., Egypt, South Korea, Mexico, Sweden, Ukraine or Japan are all capable of troubling the giants when things go their way.

Things did not go their way against Italy. Brazil played as if they had a point to prove. Such is life.

While Egypt was a team firmly in the sights of the US from the start, nobody with knowledge of the international game wrote it off as an easy victory. This was a team that won the African Championship both at home and in West Africa. Their relative obscurity to most Americans is due to their absence in the World Cup, having not appeared since 1990 due to the maddeningly difficult CAF qualifying procedures. They showed their potential to surprise the big-boys against Brazil, and confirmed it was no fluke by defeating Italy 1-0.

However, if the U.S. was ever going to advance from this group, they were going to need 3 points from somebody. And when Brazil and Italy are the other options, this was the game that was circled on the calendar. When the test came, the US did the job, and they did it with a fighting spirit, lung-busting fitness, timely finishing and a superior tactical approach.

Fighting spirit you say? Others were questioning this after Thursday. Here is a take from Grahame Jones of the Los Angeles Times

“…the Americans taking the field these days under Coach Bob Bradley are a pale shadow of the teams that once represented the U.S. internationally. They lack fight, they lack spirit, they lack cohesion, they lack leadership and they lack discipline.”

And he goes on to cite this as an example:

“In 1994, the U.S., with the likes of Marcelo Balboa, Alexi Lalas, Tab Ramos, Cobi Jones and Earnie Stewart in the lineup at Palo Alto, was able to hold eventual champion Brazil to a 1-0 win at the World Cup.”

Now, if you want to knock the Americans for getting trounced 3-0 against Brazil, by all means go ahead; you had no way of knowing that they would hand the same result to Italy just a few days later. If you feel as though they should have showed more spirit than say, striking the post twice in the second half despite being down three goals against a powerhouse like the Bullies from Brazil, go right ahead.

But to use that 1994 squad as an example? That team that could barely advance the ball beyond its halfway line with a man advantage? It seems John Harkes has been passing around whatever he has been smoking and forgotten to send it my way. Perhaps if we had a more recent reminder of what the tactics of your garden-variety Bora Milutinovic team looked liked, my point would be more clear? Hmmm….

Now maybe there was a tinge of hyperbole in Mr. Jones’s grumpy rant. And if not, it certainly had the sound of a writer who desperately wants the US to succeed. I can empathize. Which leads us to the next juicy, vindictive, hindsight-driven morsel (ok, so I guess I’m gloating a little).

“But truth is, the Americans are no further along than they were twenty years ago when it comes to playing world-class teams. The USA cannot win big games away from the comforts of home. They pretend that they can ‘step up to the next level.’ That’s magical thinking at its most delusional.”

That quote comes courtesy of Jamie Trecker of Foxsports.com, whose magic thinking apparently includes believing the 1990 US team, in all their short-shorts and mulleted glory, were anything more than a sideshow and joke at the World Cup. Perhaps he has forgotten the victory over Portugal in 2002 or the draw with Italy in 2006. Compare today’s decisive victory over the African champions in 2009 with the gutting 1998 loss against Iran, and its clear that the U.S. have “stepped up to the next level.” Only in the mind of the delusional does that level mean consistently beating teams like Italy or Brazil.

But of course, Trecker remembers the 1998 fiasco quite well. At least when it comes to gathering ammo for his latest gleeful, sensationalist bashing (Soviet Union? Really?). Perhaps he’ll identify this inconsistency on his own. But I digress.

Now, lung-busting fitness is not much of a debate, really. It’s easy to point out that Egypt, after suffering a demoralizing last minute loss of a point off the Brazilians and fresh off what must have been a physically draining 1-0 win over Italy, was exhausted and perhaps out of gas for this group finale. However, the U.S. had the same schedule with the same rest as the Egyptians. And they played those games down a man for nearly half the time. As far as running goes, the statistics don’t lie: check them out yourself. Fitness has, and will always be, a strength of the US team. In a tournament format with quick turnarounds this is a big deal, especially for teams like the USA or Egypt who aren’t brimming with multiple stars at every position.

Timely finishing is key at the big tournaments. Egypt had their chances just the US did, but the US put them away. Ask any Mexican fan, and they’ll tell you that the US, while not possessing a single player that’s going to pose and strut beside Tiger Woods in a razor commercial, has vastly improved its ability to take what few chances it gets in a tightly contested game. Now, while I’m a dear fan of MLS and look forward to watching its continued growth in this country, this particular trait is, in my mind, due to the slowly increasing ranks of Americans moving to Europe and honing their skills in leagues that are usually better and always more pressure-packed than the American top flight.

Clint Dempsey scored some great goals for the New England Revolution, but he became a force in front of the net last Boxing Day against Chelsea. Michael Bradley scored more goals abroad in a season than any US player in Holland, and has further honed his bursting penalty area runs in the perils of a Bundesliga relegation fight. Nobody will mistake either of these players for superstars, but for the US team, their steely nerve and fearlessness in front of the goal will certainly make the top teams take notice.

Now comes the fun part. Listen: The U.S. was a better side tactically than Egypt. Yes, since most of the soccer junkies on the series of tubes is convinced that Bob Bradley, the stoic, Ivy League-educated man in charge for America is a slobbering, blithering idiot, (seriously, who screens those guys?) this may seem hard to believe.

I’m not going to tell you that Bob had some brilliant, earth-shattering tactical approach that he developed with Gus Hiddink and Jose Mourinho in a bunker thirty floors below sea level.

What I am going to tell you that he certainly prepared his side better than Egypt, who while admittedly had a less clear objective coming in, looked utterly listless and disjointed as to whether to press forward or sit deep against the US. Bradley’s boys, however, looked equally comfortable both taking the attack to Egypt and striking on the counter when it presented itself. He moved Dempsey in front of goal and it immediately paid off. He brought on Conor Casey and he latched on to numerous clearances, turning 20 second breathers for the US defense into 60 second breaks. He elected to keep his side cohesive instead of bringing on a third sub and the lead was held.

In short: Bob is perfectly able to pick, prepare, motivate and manage a team to win against a quality opponent in a tournament setting. No amount of coaching brilliance is going to change the fact that in order to beat Brazil or Spain at this stage you’re going to need every bounce to go your way. But rest assured, the US will have a fighting shot.

And until you see American faces smiling back at you in their post-game Champions League interviews, it’s hard to ask for much more than that.

USMNT Player Ratings (1-10 with 10 being highest)

Guzan – 6
Flapped at a couple of crosses, but acquitted himself well on numerous dangerous balls in his area. Wasn’t asked to do all that much, and best save of the night came on a play already whistled dead. When this guy starts playing every week, look out!

Onyewu – 8
My man of the match. Has improved immensely in his footwork and reading of the game since 2006, and as always, was massive in the air. Cut out numerous counterattacks with excellent positioning.

Demerit – 7
Another quality outing from Jay, who has used this tournament to leapfrog Danny Califf as the #3 center-back. He’s better suited to deal with dangerous crosses than to slow down speedy attackers 1 v 1. This game met his strengths, and he was up for it.

Spector – 7
More myth than man was the oft-injured West Ham defender, but has impressed during this Cup. Shows impeccable intelligence when picking his times to get forward, and delivered the lethal cross for Dempsey’s winner. Already staking a strong claim to right back his ability to play left back will ensure his place in the lineup when Cherundolo or Hejduk return.

Bornstein – 6
Bent but never broken, Bornstein has seemingly been the focus of his opponents attacking thrusts for three straight games now and has acquitted himself well. A move to Europe would do more for him than perhaps any player on the roster to force him to solidify his positioning and his crossing.

Bradley – 8
His thrusting runs from midfield are fast becoming his signature, and unlike against the Italians, he finished off his best chance today. Has literally run more than anyone in the whole tournament. Adding Maruice Edu and Jermaine Jones the US midfield mix promises that no encounter with the Stars and Stripes will be a simple one.

Clark – 6
Not as influential as Bradley, but covered a lot of ground when he stopped stepping on Michael’s toes. Not as comfortable with the ball under pressure as you’d like, but showed his typically adeptness at timely switches of play from the pivot.

Dempsey – 7
Those questioning Dempsey’s effort need only look at the stats. This guy bleeds for the shirt, and his intensity, while often surfacing in the form of a surly attitude, has led to nothing but a history of big goals in big games for the US. At times he seemed not to recognize the situation when Spector got forward, leaving his midfield and backline rather exposed. If he can’t be reined in, a move closer to the goal, which paid dividends in this match, might be in order against Spain.

Donovan – 8
Showed his worth and versatility in the midfield today, giving the committed two-way effort and blistering runs his old buddy DaMarcus used to provide for the US before his injury and form issues. You get the sense that the killer instinct that got Landon to 40 international goals is coming closer to the surface. If he can finish on a run like his first half beauty he might just rekindle it. In the meantime, he covers a ton of ground, plays provider and is an invaluable part of the US team.

Altidore – 6
Looked very much like a tired player, and that’s to be expected with his lack of match fitness. But he still frustrated the Egyptians with his raw power and smooth movements in the box, turning his mark nicely to help set up the first goal.

Davies – 7
A breath of fresh air for the US. He looked menacing on the counterattack, even when he was on his own. Frequently pulled wide to stretch the Egyptians and offer a target to his midfield. He’s terrific with his back to goal and he’s certainly forcing his way into the conversation for the starting XI with the different attributes he can offer compared to the rest of the striker pool.

Subs:
Feilhaber – 6 – Tackled hard, got into the attack and generally worked his but off when asked. He’ll offer more than just running when he’s back in form. Cross your fingers that he gets there.

Casey – 7 – Came on and did his job. Offer and outlet for clearances, hold up the ball and make Egypt work to get it back. Can’t ask for more.

Coach Bob Bradley – Incomplete
– Just like after the Brazil loss, it’s important to remember that Bradley’s real task is qualifying for and showing well at the World Cup. He’s now got a couple more games in South Africa and the Gold Cup to help him continue to shape and assemble the team for next summer. Win or lose, he needs to make the most of these games, and only time will tell if he does.

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