It’s a Funny Ol’ Game…
I have to laugh sometimes at how people jump from one extreme to another. We seem to have become a bi-polar society or something—not that I’m an expert on the topic or anything. The American soccer fan is a prime example of this.
For any sports fan, there are moments of pure bliss. Martijn Reuser’s got to clinch promotion for Ipswich at Wembley in 2000, Alexi Lalas’ late winner in the US Open Cup Semi-Final in 2001, Carlos Ruiz’s winner in the 2002 MLS Cup Final, Landon Donovan’s winner against Algeria last month all spring to mind. There’s no doubt that goals like those are something special and give fans a buzz they don’t quickly shake.
It’s the other extreme that I find amusing though. Now, if I were a, lets just us Chivas fans as an example, I’d be used to failure. Every season, yeah, this could be the one, but it won’t be. You’d get used to the team falling apart somehow…it always happens.
Fortunately, when it comes to MLS, it’s all about the other team in LA for this guy. You know, the team who plays in the HDC and has actually won something…. several something’s.
So, last night wasn’t the best result LA has had this season. Heck, as results go, it was pretty dreadful. If you followed my Twitter stream, or Facebook Page updates, you’d have read my obvious frustration in what was going on. After all, this team is head-and-shoulders better than any other MLS team right now.
This morning, everything I read online is about how awful this result is for the image of US Soccer. How it was a dreadful performance by LA and they should be ashamed of the result.
Ok, they should be ashamed of the result. It is an embarrassment. They never should have lost at home like that to any team, even a team that plays in whatever they are calling the USL1/NASL this summer.
The thing is, while the result was pathetic, LA didn’t perform that poorly. LA dominated the midfield. The controlled the tempo of the match and, if you didn’t look at the scoreboard, looked easily the better team.
From what I could tell watching on TV, Puerto Rico’s game plan was to stick two men on Donovan any time he came within 5 yards of the ball and shut him out of the game. Guess what, it work. By doing so, the Islanders gave up the midfield but took away any creativity LA had going forward.
I don’t have the stats (and I’m too lazy to look them up) but I know LA had plenty of opportunities to score. It could have been a shooting practice drill at times. But some quality keeping from the Puerto Rico goalie and growing desperation from the LA players resulted in nothing.
At the other end of the park it was a different matter. I do remember hearing the stat that Puerto Rico had a total of 4 shots on goal. Gee, guess how many goals they scored. I’ve always rated Josh Sanders as a decent goalie but he seemed to have lost the plot last night. As for LA’s backline, I’m not sure if they got caught out pushing too far forward trying to score or if they just weren’t paying attention. However, Saunders isn’t entirely at fault on the goals. Dreadful defensive lapses made the result even worse that it should have been.
That’s the thing about soccer, only one stat matters, the scoreboard. A team can completely dominate a match in every way, but that doesn’t make a bit of difference if they don’t have the better stat where it counts.
There are no excuses for last night’s performance. But I’m not going to go all bi-polar here. After all, this is a team who were tap dancing their way through the league. Yes, I’m noticing a trend here with the Open Cup exit, the come-from-behind draw against a San Jose side that should be playing at Puerto Rico’s level and then last night. Arena needs to get the team focused again. It’s not easy with players missing for the World Cup, the All-Star game and all the Euro friendlies we see every mid-season. Fewer distractions and more focus on competition right now would be good. But, it’s the cards the league has given the teams.
While it does suck, last night’s match is not the end of the world and I’m not going to say it’s the end of LA’s Champions League chase. Though it did set them back a bit. Four goals will be tough to over come. But now is the chance of Arena to show his worth.
With luck, Arena will focus on the return leg the next week at the expense of the Chicago and Real Madrid matches. That’s what teams in the rest of the world would do. Right now LA has a decent cushion in the league and the Madrid match is only there to sell some tickets so now that they are sold, who cares?
Yeah, coming back from 4-1 down is unlikely…about as unlikely as losing 4-1 at home to Puerto Rico. Not saying it will happen, but it could. After all, before last night’s match, the previous Champions Cup match LA had played in they were up 2-0 on the road to Saprissa in Costa Rica with 45 minutes to go and ended up being knocked out in a massive second half collapse. LA is due for a good result. …Or am I just being manic here? Either way, things are somewhere between the two extremes right now.
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