Saturday, March 6, 2010

Happiness II

Beautiful day to join a handful of other people at Ludwig to watch a scrimmage between Crystal Palace Baltimore and the University of Maryland. The scrimmage -- consisting of three forty minute periods -- was entertaining and did not conform to our expectations walking in. For much of the game, the Terps dominated possession and were far better organized than their professional opponents. Maryland should have taken the lead in the first period after winning a penalty, but Kaoru Forbess's try from the spot was woefully errant and sailed high above the cross-bar.

The best player on the pitch on either side was Mathew Mbuta. Mbuta is just a cut above and his attacks down the left flank had Maryland on its heels through the first two periods. He gave the division two side the lead by cutting inside and hammering a beautiful shot.

Mbuta's play in the first part of the scrimmage and Val Teixeira's good work in the second part of the scrimmage (culminating in Teixeira slotting home the winner on a penalty kick thirty seconds from time) bodes well for CP Baltimore's supporters this season. But there weren't many other good omens. I will concede up front that I may be completely wrong about this, but it doesn't look like CP's players like each other very much. The barking between the players was rarely collegial and the dissatisfaction with their teammates' play was palpable by several players on the field. They don't pass well and they certainly don't anticipate movement -- if they move at all; a repeated refrain from the back line in the third period was "let get's some f***ing movement!" But, if I am right, this is probably the natural outgrowth of trying to pull together a squad and will hopefully improve as the players get more time with each other in game situations. I hope that things will progress... if not, this is going to be a tough introduction to the second division of American soccer.

On the other hand, it is hard not to like Maryland's side. In contrast to the relative disharmony from the professional club on the other side, moments like Sasho Cirovski's flash of anger towards Billy Cortes and, earlier, irritation with a poorly taken free kick outside of CP's goal box, stood out from what was otherwise a very disciplined performance. Forbess made up for his pk miss by a gorgeous skilled shot on goal that would have made Rodney Wallace proud. Casey Townsend also brought a confident presence to the Terps' attack. When Maryland's players get a little quicker about taking shots on goal when the opportunity presents itself, they are going to be a scary side to face.

Two unrelated notes:

First, I am in appropriate awe of the fact that Gale Agbossoumonde, formerly of the U.S. second division's Miami FC, made the bench in Sporting Braga's fixture today against Vitoria Setubal. Mr. Agbossoumonde was born on November 17, 1991 -- roughly 18 months before I graduated high school. That's a hell of an achievement for someone that hasn't generated a lot of column inches even amongst those that follow the sport in the U.S.

Second, something that even less people will pay attention to, but, University of Maryland at Baltimore County alum and former Real Maryland squad member Daniel Bulls seems to have impressed Trinidadian powerhouse Joe Public. Trinidad and Tobago's Guardian has a short note up today indicating that the club will seek to get his signature after a one-week trial. Best of luck to him and, further, kudos for once again demonstrating to Americans that want to make playing soccer a profession that there a whole hell of a lot of different ways to keep the dream alive.

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