Saturday, October 16, 2010


We bought our tickets for the U.S. - Poland friendly at Soldier Field shortly after they went on sale. Sweet tickets right off the field. A weekend back home in Chicago. The announcement that Bob Bradley had been hired and that USSF had flirted with Jurgen Klinsmann but ultimately decided that they didn't want to cede control of national soccer development to a proven winner (why change things when they are already broken?) substantially dampened initial enthusiasm. The formal announcement that the U.S. - Colombia friendly would be held up the road at PPL Park in Chester killed the enthusiasm and I sold off the sweet seats (thank you StubHub). Consolation came in the form of a league match between San Jose and DC at RFK. Walking out of the stadium, I regretted not having left to Chicago.

Of our group of season ticket holders, only one other person made the trip to the game Saturday night and he regretted leaving his house as well. The effort was abominable. For the Earthquakes, the play of Bobby Convey, Geovanni, and Chris Wondolowski was terrific. Wondolowski's two goals had a significant degree of difficulty. At 27, Wondolowski has to be considered one of the elite strikers in the MLS. In the league since 2005, his goal total this season (14 in 25 games played) blows away his prior contributions (4 goals in 39 games). And watching him play from the field makes clear that Wondolowski's development is not dumb luck but the product of an incredible work ethic and a ruthless commitment to putting himself in dangerous positions.

For a neutral, Wondolowki's performance, coupled with confirmation of Bobby Convey's resurgence and Geovanni's skill, would have made the game worthwhile. But the negatives emanating from DCU's effort wiped that all out. It wasn't all awful. This was our first extended look at 33-year old Carlos Varela, who was fantastic. As impressed as we were with the skill on display in third division football in Switzerland, Varela's talent, honed in the top two Swiss divisions with Geneva's Servette, FC Basel, FC Aarau, and Bern's Young Boys, is self-evident. By the same token, so is Varela's professional approach to the game. We have never seen Pablo Hernandez play worse and despite the fact that he flubbed the numerous opportunities created by Varela, it did not change Varela's approach.

The flip side of that coin was the disaster that befell Jaime Moreno in the opening minutes of the game when he threw himself to the ground after contact with Brandon McDonald. Moreno was trying to draw a red card for McDonald -- encouraged by Morsink hopping around flapping his hand around demanding an ejection -- and ended up getting himself tossed as well. Ben Olsen opted to let Morsink take the role of defensive mid, with Clyde Simms being pushed into the backline and Stephen King asked to push up. The result was a disaster. Simms, as usual, was more than competent and proved once again why he is one the most valuable players on the team. But King was incredibly uncomfortable taking shots on goal and didn't look anything like the threatening attacking player we had grown familiar with at Maryland. As for Morsink, I have developed such a strong bias against him that I cannot rationally evaluate his performance. But I have grown increasingly sensitive to how often Morsink bitches out his teammates without holding himself to the same standard. The game reached an epoch of awfulness when, in the second half, an Earthquake player split a double team at the upper left corner of the goal box, with Morsink providing the inside cover. Rather than turn around and chase back coverage, once Morsink was beat, he stood in place. Notably, no one took him to task for the gross dereliction of duty.

Olsen used three subs. None impressed. Allsopp made no difference. Former Miami FC second-division promotee J.P. Rodrigues was lucky not to get tossed for some awful tackles after getting out of position and Junior Carreiro was a mess.

If DCU's goal was to hasten the end of the season, the awful effort undoubtedly had most of the team's dwindling supporters eager for the end of the year. I have not regretted going to games this year and have genuinely appreciated how entertaining the games have been, despite results. But not last Saturday. That was a travesty. A disorganized team that looks like it has not been provided any discernible tactical guidance is a fairly unattractive way to present season ticket holders with a request for renewals.

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