Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pretty Vacant

I was thankfully excused from Tuesday night's debacle at RFK by a vacation out of the city. Outside of a text message from my sister telling me that "United is playing like Crap," I managed to load the game on the high-speed internet at a crappy, overpriced hotel in Philadelphia in time to see Rod Dyachenko come in for Burch... and promptly shut it off and turned on "In Bruges." I had time, while waiting for that insipid film to end, to read the comments of far more devoted DC United supporters than I and was impressed by how universal the frustration with Dyachenko is. DCenters has ably catalogued commentary on Rod's poor run of play of late; and fellow United/Terps supporter DCUMD states:

What more is there to say about Rod Dyachenko? I guess just that it's unfortunate that he is having his worst year as a professional in his third season with the club.

I'd like to see things this way as well -- rather than being angry at the player, feel bad for the circumstances of the failing. If anything, at least Dyachenko plays... Quavas Kirk apparently has not shown enough in training to even get on the pitch (check that, actually this thought leads to difficult questions about the judgement of my fellow native Chicagoan Soehn).

In any event, I am skipping going to RFK tomorrow night but will instead watch it on television where I can turn away when it gets ugly... and it will inevitably get ugly early and often.

In the interim, my enthusiasm for the sport has not waned and I am eagerly awaiting the beginning of the fizzy pop's season on the second weekend of August. When Charlton opens against Swansea City, I will, alas, not be at The Valley, but, at the same time, neither will Marcus Bent (and he will be screwing up team chemistry at Birmingham?; brilliant). While I doubt that the majority of Charlton supporters are happy with the composition of the squad at the moment, I am enthusiastic. The team has a good mixture of youthful untapped talent and veteran workmanship. My lack of technical understanding of the sport means that I am once again excited about Zheng Zhi, Lloyd Sam, Yassin Moutaouakil, Izale McLeod, Chris Dickson, Jose Semedo and Jonjo Shelvey's prospects with the first team this year. With the exception of Moo2kill and Shelvey, most of the commentary I read from other supporters seems to be very much down on these players, but I am ever hopeful that they will redeem themselves in the eyes of the red army this season.

The promise of a new season, of Saturday mornings spent reading updates on Charlton Life and following matches on ESPN's Gamecast, and of idly looking for fares to the UK from Dulles on VirginAtlantic, has me a wee bit pumped about soccer and I was able to focus some of that enthusiasm by attending my first home league fixture for Crystal Palace USA, who took on Western Mass tonight at UMBC.

This was the second chance I have had to see Crystal Palace USA live and in both matches they were, by far, the better team. Against Western Mass, they simply dominated the game and I cannot, for the life of me, fathom how this team loses any matches in the second division of the USL. The talent level on Crystal Palace's squad is beyond any reasonable explanation given the humble level of the league.

Shintaro Harada, who netted Crystal Palace's second goal of the match tonight, apparently logged significant time in the J League before deciding to come to the United States to play third division soccer because David Beckham came to the U.S.(?!)

Gary Brooks, pictured below in preparation for a bicycle kick that would put Palace on top, hearkens from far more humble beginnings, but still stepped down from the USL first division to play for the second division club.

Val Teixeira, Matthew Mbuta, and Larry Mark (as a sub for Mbuta) were, again, extremely impressive on the wings, but the player I was most interested in seeing again was Paul Robson. I am fascinated by Robson's story. After starting off as a Premier League player with Charlton, Robson made Crystal Palace USA only after surviving tryouts earlier this year against players with nothing even remotely approximating Mr. Robson's pedigree. Nevertheless, for the second game in a row, I walked away seriously impressed by Robson's skill and performance and cannot come up with any plausible explanation for what he is doing here. As pointed out on this CP Supporter message board, it is extremely difficult to gauge talent at this level, but Robson looked more than competent. He and Teixeira frequently switched positions to allow Teixeira breathers at the back and Robson acquitted himself well on the left wing. Robson made impressive runs from the back, was credited with an assist on Harada's goal, and shut down one side of Western Mass's admittedly anemic attack. I doubt anyone reads this drivel, but in case anyone does I would be grateful for any insight on Robson as his tenure with the Addicks (2001 through 2003) precedes any knowledge I have of the club.

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