The weekend started out busy and finished with an astounding round of boos for one of the world’s greats. The action started off in Pennsylvania where the Quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold cup were taking place.
The first match of the day saw the boys from Canada taking on a Honduras side that I am sure many of us would love to see out of the tournament. Honduras being one of the stronger sides in the tournament had a weak start to the match with the Canadians holding much of the possession. The Canadians failed at every turn however to put the ball in the net of the Honduras side. With Hondurans falling all over the field the referee finally caved in the 36th minute, giving a penalty against the Canadians on a botched bicycle in the box by the Honduran forward. Following this Walter Martinez, who in my opinion should have already received many yellows in this tournament for dives, stepped up and put the penalty past the Canadian keeper to give the Hondurans a 1-0 lead with less than
ten minutes to go in the first half.
The second half was much of the same with Canada holding much of the possession but unable to score the equalizer to take them into extra time.
Little did I know, this was just the beginning of a horrible weekend for referees around the U.S. Canada got hosed in their attempt to take one of their weaker sides through to the semis, but they played well throughout the tournament earning some respect from the rest of the region and showing promise for the future. I will look forward to seeing the Canadians in years to come as many of the players on the pitch were from their youngercore of players who will only improve over time.
The U.S. men were next up in Philidelphia to try and book their way to the Semis against a pesky Panamanian side. With what most people have been calling the USMNT’s C or even D team this could turn out to be a tough battle. After a poor performance by Luis Robles in goal during the match with Haiti, we welcomed Troy Perkins back between the posts. Playing in Norway has brought Perkins’ game to a new level earning him the number 2 role behind Howard for now in my opinion, with Guzan riding the pine at Aston Villa.
After sending Bornstein and Cherundolo back to their clubs we were left with the questionable backline of Heath Pearce, Jimmy Conrad, Chad Marshall, and Jay Heaps. Aside from Heaps the other 3 are fairly solid players, none of which from what I have seen, will end up in the first XI though.
The midfield mix was setup in the normal Bob fashion, Logan Pause and Kyle Beckerman filling the space holding midfielders (like we do not have enough of those already) and Stuart Holden and Robbie Rogers filling the space on the wings. Pause held up much better in this match than in the last, but Beckerman as per usual in this tournament held the midfield intact. The boys on the wings who had been having a successful tournament looked like they were lost at times in this match, showing their youth a bit during their stints of inactivity.
And for yet another USMNT match, Brian Ching held down his place up front accompanied by Davy Arnaud, who started strong and put in the work but never quite found the game, but one ball, against the Panamanians.
After a start in which both teams traded possession, an attempt by U.S. veteran and captain Jimmy Conrad turned brutal, earning him quite a concussion and a busted up lip in the process. After Conrad was helped off the pitch by a few of the Panamanian players, in a show of great sportsmanship, play resumed earning Panama a corner in short time. Before the corner was taken Clarence Goodson made his appearance replacing Conrad, and as most coaches hate to sub before a set piece, this was no different and a prime example. The corner not cleared by the U.S. found the foot of Blas Perez, and in the dying minutes of the first half of play (45th minute) Panama opened the scoring. Neither side looked like taking over in the first half or composed for that matter, but the goal was against the run of play to that point.
The second half started with a bang. Whatever Bob had said in the locker room stuck with the players, and 3 minutes into the second half Davy Arnaud took a ball down right outside the 6 yard box and slotted it back to Kyle Beckerman who slammed the shot into the upper 90, out of the reach of the Panama keeper.
While coming out on fire to start though the U.S. cooled down just as quickly, giving Panama time to regroup instead of staying on the attack. The back and forth would last the rest of regulation time taking the teams into two periods of overtime play. Kenny Cooper came in late in the match for Davy Arnaud to try and put a spark in the offense and Robbie Rogers was taken off to be replaced by Brad Evans, who has been playing in defense but plays midfield for his club team Seattle Sounders FC.
Extra time started off much the same with both sides trading possession and not producing anything resembling an attempt at scoring. Now not mentioning it before, I will say this now, the officiating in this match was awful! Over and over again Brian Ching and others were taken out by the defenders of Panama only to be told to get up and play on, but finally in the 103rd minute when Kenny Cooper was speared/ninja kicked, was a yellow card produced and a penalty awarded. As an FC Dallas supporter I like Cooper. However, as a USMNT supporter I cannot see him getting a place in the regular squad any time soon. There were some worried when Cooper stepped up to take his own penalty, but I was confident as I have seen him slot many penalties home and know he is good for them. However, he did have me worried as he stepped up and put it past the keeper but off the inside of the post to put the U.S. up 2-1 going into the second half of extra time.
As the second overtime session started I knew there were 15 minutes for Panama to draw even, taking us yet again to penalties, not unlike a previous meeting between the two sides. This would not be the case though as neither side looked impressive, and neither side scored either. This match was a tough one for the U.S. and the matches are not going to get any easier as the semifinal place that was booked happens to be against a scrappy Honduras side, who we have had problems with as of late. So, while enjoying seeing the boys get through another match, I am not getting my hopes up that this weak U.S. side can outmatch Honduras after sending the players responsible for our group win back to their clubs.
Now while I did not watch the matches on Sunday in Texas, it looks as though the Mexicans and Costa Ricans took care of their opponents handily. Mexico getting past Haiti 4-0 and Costa Rica taking care of the tournament Dark Horse Guadeloupe 5-1. This will be an interesting semifinal round in which neither match looks to be an easy one, I cannot wait.
I only watched 3 other matches on the weekend since FSC played its weekend match earlier in the week, upon Master Beckham’s return to the MLS in a match in which Beckham was unproductive as the Galaxy blew past the struggling Red Bulls 3-0. The other matches I checked out were all International Club friendlies, with Seattle Sounders FC taking on Chelsea, LA Galaxy taking on AC Milan (Interesting), and Club America taking on Inter Milan in the opening match of the World Footbal Joke/Challenge. So there is not much I can really critique from these matches as the European sides are in preseason form and not playing at full speed yet, but I will give you what I can from the matches.
Seattle Sounders FC v Chelsea drew a huge crowd rivaling that of a match in Europe. There was a sea of green to see the new expansion side of the MLS take on the European giants and I have to say they did not disappoint. Now Chelsea being in preseason form started out slow but controlled the ball and passed with relative ease when they had possession. Seattle on the other hand, try as they might, showed why the MLs is MLS and why European football is still boss. The Sounders who have been the surprise side of the season by starting out better than any other expansion team has in MLs history just could not score. In mid season form Seattle came out strong showing their attacking prowess, but as we know MLS is not EPL and it showed.
Seattle allowed Chelsea to navigate the field with ease, and while looking dangerous on attack and competitive they could not score. This came as no surprise though to those who are in the know about MLS, as it is no secret the finishing is weak across the league. Nineteen year old Daniel Sturridge, new signing from Manchester City, started off the scoring for Chelsea in the 12th minute after receiving a pass at the top of the box from Florent Malouda and putting it past Kasey Keller to take the 1-0 lead.
The play for much of the remained of the first half went back and forth until the 35th minute when Nicolas Anelka slid a pass through the middle of the box to an oncoming Frannk Lampard who chipped the ball past Keller with ease, taking Chelsea into the half up 2-0.
The second half saw the Sounders hold Chelsea scoreless with the help of a few key stops by defender Zach Scott who took the ball off the line not once but twice to keep the English side off the board. So while Chelsea earned the win, and who did not think they would, Seattle in my opinion represented the MLS well and gave the English side a game they might not have expected.
Aside from the overall skill level of the players, Chelsea look to be
having a good start to the preseason with Ancelotti fitting in nicely as new manager of Chelsea. Should be interesting to see how the match shapes up when they face former boss Jose “The special One” Mourinho in the World Football Classic, I will keep my fingers crossed for a tough match anyways as both sides will want to win this one.
Now the next match kicked off an excuse for Americans to see some top flight teams from around the globe and promoters to make some cash off of said teams. It was Jose “The Special One” Mourinho’s first appearance on American soil with his Inter Milan side, taking on the Mexican giants Club America in one of the worst officiated games I have witnessed to date. While America are not a bad side and Inter
were playing at a liesurely preseason pace and should have still been able to walk off the pitch in the end with 3 points. We Americans decided though that MLS referees should officiate these matches though, and needless to say, it made a difference. America looked dangerous on the counter and much of the first half was back and forth, with neither side opening up the scoring.
In the second half Inter opened the tournament with a goal in the 51st minute from a set piece when Silva put a header into the ground and off the America keeper into the net. Ten minutes later Cordoba equalized for America beating the Inter number 3 keeper Belec, who had no chance. The rest of the match was controlled by the refs, seeing a player from each side sent off and neither side taking control of the match. Ending regulation 1-1 America thought they had slid by with a point as players began to exchange shirts and shake hands, but no, that was not the end as both sides would find out.
Draws in this tournament did not go to extra time, but instead, penalties. So after some confusion both sides lined up to settle the match from the penalty spot. Both sides were doing well beating the opposing keeper until the ancient Inter midfielder, Patrick Viera,
stepped up and skied his shot over the bar giving America the advantage. All was looking well for America until Inter’s keeper Belec blocked the fifth penalty from America extending the penalty shootout, but no again, the line judge has decided Belec stepped forward and we are going to take another shot. And this is how America got out with 2 points for the penalty win as their player stepped back up and put his next shot into the top of the net beating Belec and winning on penalties 5-4.
As newcomers to the side Thiago Mota looked good, setting up many opportunities for the front men of Inter. And his former and current teammate Diego Milito looked lost in my opinion, still coming to grips at his new club. Watching Milito play with Zlatan Ibrahimovic though made Milito disappear as they are too much of the same type of player. This would make me as a supporter and or coach hope that the deal for Barcelona frontman Samuel Eto’o goes through soon as I do not see an Ibra/Milito partnership shaping up well for either of them over the course of a season. And now as I sit and watch Inter’s next matchup in the tournament with Chelsea, it does not seem to be going much better.
Last off, the return of Master Beckham to the Galaxy fans in a friendly acquired during his extended loan stay at AC Milan this winter. The match ended 2-2, making the Galaxy look better than they are with a draw and introducing AC Milan into a new life without Kaka. Now, no matter what kind of reception Beckham thought he would receive upon returning to the HDC, I do not think he expected what he got.
The stadium was filled with signs from supporters telling Beckham exactly what they thought of him, and they did not disappoint as every time he touched the ball in the first half he was met by a resounding Boooo from the fans, at which point he would launch a ball to the front man in an attempt to catch the defense asleep and steal a goal. Beckham then met one of his former supporters on the way to the locker room at the end of the first half, calling the fan to come out of the stands, to which the fan obliged before being snagged by security.
Said fan is rumored to have received a 10 year ban from Galaxy matches, but upon watching the replays I will be interested to see what happens to Mr. Beckham. Does Don Garber have the bottle to fine the superstar or even suspend him (he would like that), I do not think so. MLS thinks Beckham is a god, and while I will admit compared to the other players in the MLS he is a quality player, but above the law, I do not think so. He should be punished just like any other player would be had he done the same thing, but the advertising dollars are too important.
I mean Brian Ching, who was not even in attendance at his match, was fined over a Twitter post that called the ref a cheat for missing a call (that he missed big time). And he was not even in attendance and made no more of a statement than you or I would in the same circumstance. But in the MLS Beckham is beyond laws and will get by with what he wants yet again. I happen to agree with the Galaxy fans on this one though, as the team was not doing too bad without Beckham. I am not a Galaxy supporter as you will come to know and anything that will weaken their side helps my FC Dallas side. So, Mr. Beckham go back to Europe! As one fan so nicely put it, “We were here before 23 and we will be here after!”
The guy does not want to be here obviously so let him go and start running the league the way you should so our league is not full of prima donna superstars who are just here for a paycheck. The play might be worse, but atleast the players will give it their all to earn their pay and our respect as a member of our clubs.
So, while I enjoyed the many games this weekend, I was……
- Disappointed in the officiating
- Worried for the future of Inter Milan and The Special One’s chances of a Scudetto repeat
- Happy to see the MLs compete with European sides (yes, even in preseason)
- Unhappy about the joke of a tournament in the World Football Classic
- And happy the USMNT made it through another round
Also looking forward to
- Gold Cup Semis
- Oguchi Onyewu’s AC Milan appearance
- FC Dallas getting on track