Monday, November 29, 2010

The difference a year makes...

I had best come to grips with Kurt Morsink's tenure with D.C. United. The moment that the club chose to protect Morsink over Barry Rice, I should have put two and two together and recognized that Ben Olsen would become the full time coach.

United may have a particular way of doing things, but this iteration of the club is likely to eschew sublime displays of skill for blue collar work ethic more reflective of an Npower Championship side.

Last season, when Curt Onalfo's hiring was announced with some fanfare, my fellow season ticket holders and I attended the coach's welcome reception at Black Finn's. There was, amongst supporters, ardent enthusiasm fully on display and we chatted briefly with Jaime Moreno and, separately, Coach Onalfo to express our optimism for the start of a new season.

Tonight, I flew solo to the hastily organized reception for Mr. Olsen at the same bar. I was joined by a sparse crowd of no more than three dozen United supporters. Coach Olsen spoke for no more than three minutes and was received by polite applause. Kevin Payne left shortly after the coach's brief address and I followed shortly thereafter.

Nothing about tonight or what transpired earlier in the day will quell the negativity surrounding the team at present. United remains very much a club in decline. Despite having exceptional young talent in the guise of Andy Najar, attendance will undoubtedly fall again this year with season tickets dropping off as well. With no imminent prospect of a stadium, the long term prospects for Washington's MLS franchise are not good. But whatever role the front office has played in bringing about the current state of play, they are not shrinking violets. If a supporter wanted to have a go at Payne, he was there tonight. He might not have been there long, but he was there.

For my part, I am happy to see Olsen get the job and cautiously optimistic that United will be, if nothing else, competitive next season in a wide open league. They are unlikely to be entertaining, but the pieces of the team are largely in place (sans, perhaps, some additional attacking players).

As expected...

When Maryland knocked out Penn State to make the final eight of the NCAA tournament, the Terps, as the number 2 seed in the tournament, joined six of the other top eight seeded teams in the quarterfinals. Perhaps fortunately for Maryland, the only top eight team not to advance was South Carolina. The Gamecocks were upset by the Wolverines at home and Maryland will face the number 10 seed rather than the number 7.

Our daughter attended this afternoon's game in a newly acquired pink University of Michigan sweater -- a gift from her uncle's recent trip to the Big House -- but it wasn't warm enough to keep her interested in the game. Penn State presented a formidable opponent for Maryland and those at Ludwig were treated to an entertaining match-up that featured five of the thirteen underclassmen targeted for Generation Adidas offers as recently identified in a report by Steve Goff.

Nevertheless, despite a very well played game, my two-year old declared that she was ready to come home ten minutes into the second half -- a half that Maryland dominated. It is a reflection of my failings as a father that we didn't actually begin the slow exodus from the stadium until fifteen minutes was left in regulation. I took another thirteen to get to the entrance and was rewarded by the parting sight of a well hit ball from Taylor Kemp into the upper corner of Penn State's goal.

I celebrated like an idiot, thrilled that my expert dawdling had won enough time to see the deciding moment of the game. Our final exit from Ludwig was followed by that of D.C. United's new full time head coach, Ben Olsen. I can only hope that we'll have a chance to celebrate D.C. United's exploits next season as stupidly and as joyously (my daughter kept telling me that the whole thing was "funny daddy, it was sooooo funny daddy").

As to Maryland, Taylor Kemp's winner was fully deserved. The Terrapins did a wonderful job of stretching the Nittany Lions with balls played to the fullbacks (Kemp and Greg Young) and crossed back in to the box. Kemp and Young could focus on attacking because Ethan White and Alex Lee locked down the middle of the field and, when required to, Zac MacMath saved the team -- MacMath's save of Drew Cost's screamer early in the first half looked amazing from our vantage point. On the other side of the ball, I was impressed by Alex's brother Justin, who, in part, forced Maryland to play the ball to the wings, and by the pressure mounted by Penn State's junior forward Corey Hertzog and freshman Jordan Tyler.

Kemp's goal also erased frustration that had been building from a failure to capitalize on Maryland's second half dominance. Jason Herrick's anger at not being fed the ball in an open position by Casey Townsend after Townsend had done great work to get himself free summed up a series of wasted opportunities that made the game much closer than it should have been.

No matter. Maryland is through and we will next see them live in the fall of 2011. The team that comes back should be very different from the one we saw today. In addition to the departures of seniors Greg Young, Will Swaim, Doug Rodkey, Jason Herrick, and Billy Cortes (four of whom were in the starting XI), the Generation Adidas targeting of four underclassmen (Matt Kassel, Zac MacMath, Ethan White, and Casey Townsend -- all in the starting XI) will likely lead to additional departures forcing a major overhaul (I would be surprised if London Woodberry is back next season as well).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Divided and Falling

The last time we saw Rodney Wallace, he was sitting by himself in the stands at Ludwig watching some of his former classmates finish out a fantastic regular season.

We will be back out at Ludwig this afternoon -- one week after seeing the Terps convincingly dispatch UPenn in the second round of the NCAA tournament -- and it will be interesting to see if Wallace will make it out as well.

The trip out to College Park should be a little more difficult for Rodney as he'll be out in the Rose City for the Timbers' inaugural season in the MLS. He will not be wanting for familiar faces as he'll be joining fellow Terrapin Jeremy Hall and another local product and DC United defender, Jordan Graye.

I need to maintain a bit of discipline about my thoughts on United. The club continues to do a tremendous job with regard to its supporters. There was simply no question that we would renew -- and expand -- our season tickets for the next season. No matter how dire the product is on the field, we've generally greatly enjoyed our trips to RFK and are looking forward to another year.

But the team itself is likely to be, once again, awful. Protecting Kurt Morsink after losing Jordan Graye was the final straw. I, admittedly, have little to offer by way of meaningful analysis of the relative attributes of players and strategies. But what I lack in competence, I have made up for in resilience by way of witnessing nearly every horrid minute of United's seasons over the last two years.

Jordan Graye had a solid rookie campaign marred by two gaffes that he was unlucky to have turned into goals for the other side. Graye's crosses and distribution were better than anything offered by United's other wide players. That is not to say that Graye's deliveries were exceptional, but rather underscores the absurdity of having signed Danny Allsopp to play up front with little ability to feed him the ball in the box.

Kurt Morsink, in contrast, underperformed and with a few notable exceptions was a negative influence on the field. Morsink made a mockery of on-field leadership by consistently hectoring others and failing to live up to his own exhortations. A fair review of tape from this past season would expose numerous examples of piss poor play from Morsink.

I am inclined, Rod Dyachenko excluded, to support United players regardless of perceived deficiencies, but Morsink lost me early on in the year and his failure to follow through on plays -- to give his best effort with limited talent -- infuriated me in the stands. Morsink was an emblem of the team's shortcomings rather than a ray of hope for a resurgent 2011 campaign.

And, more importantly, Morsink sits in a position -- center midfield -- that is already competently patrolled by Clyde Simms and Stephen King.

Morsink is a good player. He has built a career as a professional soccer player and he earns his salary. He would probably be an important contributor to another MLS side -- unlike Rod Dyachenko, who did not have the skill to play in the MLS but was asked to do more than he could by Coach Soehn -- and so my annoyance is not really a personal sleight at Kurt. Instead, it is exasperation at what United's front office has seen and how they've assessed the last couple of years.

Perhaps McCarty will be a useful addition. I don't know. Dax had a couple of games this last year where he imposed himself on the pitch in a way that Rodney Wallace has not yet been able to do. But both Graye and Wallace were promising, good young players and United, frankly, pissed Graye away. Ascribing value to Morsink, after not doing the same for Graye -- on top of benching Graye for much of the remainder of a meaningless season but playing Morsink -- does not bode well for a meaningful turnaround in 2011.

I've had several days to reflect on the loss of Graye and Wallace. Rather than come to grips with the new reality, I've just become increasingly disenchanted with United's management. At least I will get to see Jordan and Rodney (and Jeremy Hall) play for a competitive side when the Timbers visit RFK. Nevertheless, for some reason, that prospect doesn't salve the wound.

Best of luck to Graye and Wallace (and Hall) in Portland. We'll miss you.

This Week in the Veikkausliiga

The last time we saw Josh Wicks, he was sitting with a friend in the stands at Richard Montgomery High School this past summer watching Mason Trafford and Real Maryland play in a USL2 league fixture.

Two reasons that will not happen again: a week and a half ago, Real Maryland announced that it was self-relegating to the fourth division and will play in the USL Premier Development League in 2011 and, on Wednesday, IFK Mariehamn's addition of Josh Wicks was formally announced to a roster that already included Mr. Trafford.

My initial thoughts about Real Maryland's move to the PDL have evolved from disappointment that we will no longer be able to see third or second division soccer locally, to gratitude that Real Maryland will continue in some form and that we'll have the chance to see local PDL squads by just hopping on the metro up to Rockville.

I know more about IFK Mariehamn than I do about any PDL team, yet the DC metropolitan area is blessed by a relative abundance of PDL sides. Real Maryland will join another local new entrant, the Fredericksburg Hotspur (an hour and a half's drive away), in the mid-Atlantic Division. And both clubs will compete against a well-established side in the Northern Virginia Royals (an hour's drive away in Manassas).

It will take a little more work to get out to see Josh Wicks play. Wicks' signing was announced at the same time as IFK Mariehamn reported that the club had successfully negotiated a two-year extension of Mason Trafford's contract. Negotiations with another former Real Maryland player, Joe Funicello, are reported to be ongoing.

We're thrilled that Wicks has secured a spot at Mariehamn. He remains one of our favorites to have ever donned a DC United shirt. Wicks plays with passion and, when away from the field, showed as much enthusiasm for the game as a fan as he does as a player. He has been unfairly slated for a red card in a US Open Cup Final that he should, admittedly, not have put himself in a position to earn. But, like Louis Crayton before him, there was never any question that Wicks enjoyed playing for United and he never shied away from United's supporters.

The Aland Islands are set to welcome a heck of a player.

And, in the meantime, if anyone knows how we can kit the family out in IFK Mariehamn gear, please drop us a line.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Onwards and Upwards

Great results for my passive following of sports this weekend. Charlton's ridiculous 5 to 1 drubbing of Posh at London Road; the Bulls 103-96 win over the Wizards and Captain Kirk before the annual circus trip; Manny Pacquiao's -- hero to pinoy around the world -- utter dominance over Antonio Margarito; and the Bears' third win over a division rival this afternoon were each welcome developments.

In terms of live sports, I spent the weekend watching women's college sports. Saturday at Comcast and Sunday at Ludwig and two different results.

On Saturday, the Maryland women opened their basketball season with a walkover against Monmouth. This version of the Terps remains young. There are no seniors in the team, only four juniors (Lynetta Kizer; Anjale Barrett; Kim Rodgers; and Yemi Oyewufa), and the season will hinge on the quick development of several freshmen, particularly Alyssa Thomas, Natasha Cloud, and Laurin Mincy.

While last year's squad presented a perimeter threat to their opponents, this year's version should get most of their points in and around the paint. Maryland had a significant post advantage over Monmouth. Kizer and Thomas headline a strong front line that also features freshman Alice DeVaughn and sophomore Tianna Hawkins. The two that I am most excited about seeing develop this season are Diandra Tchatchouang and Essence Townsend. Both seem to possess incredible physical skills that they have not fully harnessed. Townsend missed all six of her shots and hung her head a bit after a miss, but continued to work hard on defense and made her presence felt around the boards.

Maryland missed an awful lot of shots near the rim and failed to convert a number of breakaways they created with steals off of Monmouth players. If they can execute better on Tuesday, they will have a chance to upset a surprisingly strong Hoyas team at McDonough.

While the Maryland basketball team faces a tough early test against Georgetown away two days from now, the Maryland soccer team had its season ended by Georgetown at home this afternoon. The Hoyas women's soccer team imposed a physical style of play on the Terps at Ludwig today. Led by a charismatic Ingrid Wells, the Hoyas pressed the Terps' defense and forced Maryland's midfield to sit far back away from Jasmyne Spencer and Sade Ayinde.

And yet, even isolated, Ayinde's brilliant turn inside off of a well-fed ball left her with enough space to hammer home the equalizer. As good as Georgetown was -- and they fully deserved to win in regulation -- Maryland likely would be in the final 16 of the tournament if they got anything from the right side of the team during the game. Lots of sloppy giveaways and poor touches allowed Georgetown's defense to play compactly within the box and focus on Spencer leaving the wings largely ignored.

Losing on penalty kicks is a tough way to end a season, but the team has to be proud about the incredible strides they have made in a short amount of time. Walking out of Ludwig back to the car, I marveled at the number of people who turned out for the game -- which took place at the same time as the home opener for Maryland's men's basketball team. A lot of the people there were Georgetown partisans (and their student supporters were great throughout the game), but there were a whole heck of a lot of families at the stadium that were cheering for the Terps. We saw girls walking around with t-shirts that had been signed by members of the Maryland team and a lot of young soccer players taking in what they might aspire to down the road.

That's a pretty good year.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Midas Touch

The NASL announced today that the league's application to the U.S. Soccer Federation for sanction as a second division of professional soccer has been finalized. Eight teams are part of the application and one of those eight is not from the Baltimore area.

Inside Minnesota Soccer is, of course, on top of the story. There seems to be quite a bit of animus towards some of the owners involved with the NASL -- particularly Joey Saputo who has only managed to get a nice soccer-specific stadium built and get the Montreal Impact into the MLS.

I don't quite get the criticism. For many of the teams, the clubs only exist because of an irrational economic risk by investing significantly in something that few see as having any financial upside. I am sure that Pete Medd could have done some things better and anyone who is owed funds by the club certainly has a right to think poorly of the business, but the fact remains that without Medd's willingness to throw himself into the club, we don't have the opportunity to watch a second-division team play in the Washington - Baltimore metro area.

Having the team in the area gave me, personally, a chance to introduce my daughter (and wife and other family members) to a sport in a relaxed atmosphere. We've had enough great experiences watching CP Baltimore games -- seeing the team beat the Red Bulls in the US Open Cup at a high school field in Annapolis; taking my newborn along with the rest of the family to a wonderful afternoon out in north Baltimore for a match against the Bermuda Hogges; and, most recently, having my daughter shine in her recently procured pink Montreal Impact jersey when Saputo's team crushed our side -- that I have got nothing to complain about. I am also fully aware that we only got to see CP Baltimore play because Medd made it possible.

Some of the criticism seems to also lack perspective. Yes, this was a World Cup year, but many football clubs throughout the world are struggling to survive because the economics of the sport are screwed up and because the world economy is not exactly firing on all cylinders.

Dundee Football Club's future is in peril following a 25-point penalty for going into administration for the second time in the last seven years.

Just a year and a half ago, we were at Dalymount Park watching the Bohs. When we returned home from Ireland, we sponsored one of Joseph Ndo's shirts and were thrilled to see him net a vital away goal in Austria against Red Bull Salzburg in Champions League qualifying. Now? The club is in desperate straits, carrying 5 million euros in debt with little hope of a sufficient stream of revenue to service that debt. The club is now asking supporters to come up with €300,000 in donations to "get through the licensing process" to return to the Premier Division. Regardless of what happens, the club's talent is going to be gutted and they will struggle to remain in the top flight in 2011 and 2012.

Bohemian FC is a 120-year old club that is at risk of being felled by an embarrassing Champions League qualifying loss against Welsh-side The New Saints earlier this year. That's football. The fact that lower division soccer has not taken off yet in the U.S. is dwarfed by the fact that famous first division Irish sides (the Bohs news comes on the heels of Cork City's liquidation) are maintained by the thinnest of margins.

Bohs supporters are undoubtedly angry, but they will play a seminal role in the survival of the team, just as Cork City's supporters assisted in making the Cork City FORAS Co-Op's first year in the second division a relative success with a sixth place finish and just as, in England, supporters (with the considerable help of a local tycoon) of a fourth division side kept Accrington Stanley viable last season.

In contrast, supporters will have little to do with the return of "FC Baltimore" or AC St. Louis to the second division (or the return of Real Maryland to the third division). And that makes some sense insofar as the connection between supporters and these clubs is far more limited than the link between club and fans in Ireland or the United Kingdom. There is little reason for supporters to expend the time and effort on recapitalizing teams that became money pits almost immediately after coming to fruition and show no significant prospects for improvement in the near term. But that doesn't mean that this should not be a goal for U.S. soccer fans. Phil Rawlins' lack of regard for the importance of football fans in Austin was yet another incentive for fans exercising a bit more strength in terms of the sport in the U.S.

Still, any such uprising does not seem to be in the immediate future. In the interim, getting involved in helping teams outside of the United States that are facing extinction would seem to be a useful and educational alternative. I've learned quite a bit from only limited involvement with Ebbsfleet United and Stirling Albion and the supporters of Accrington Stanley. Most of what I have learned is of limited relevance outside of the specific context of those clubs, yet each experience has underscored the seminal role that supporters have the ability to play as something more than mere customers of an entertainment.

IFK Mariehamn

Two pieces of good news today to help break up the workday.

First, Maryland won its quarterfinal ACC tournament tie against Clemson. London Woodberry was once again absent from Maryland's squad, although Ethan White returned to the starting lineup. The Terps' backline continued to be a bit makeshift as Alex Lee was only able to put in twenty minutes, with Greg Young relieving him for the balance of the game.

The story of the match would appear to be Billy Cortes' continued star turn at right back in Woodberry's absence. Cortes' goal and assist accounted for both of Maryland's goals and put the Terps through to the semifinals to face Virginia.

Second, Goff reports that Josh Wicks will sign a contract to join IFK Mariehamn. If true, Wicks should be in the mix to replace Willis Ochieng.

If Wicks goes to Mariehamn, he'll be the third player with Real Maryland ties to join the team, following Giuseppe Funicello and Mason Trafford.

IFK Mariehamn presents a great opportunity for Josh. For reasons that still elude me, Wicks has drawn the ire of a number of DC United supporters. We were at the US Open Cup final against the Seattle Sounders. We saw the "stomp" on Montero. We were disappointed, but that is not my lasting memory of Josh Wicks as a member of the team. Much like Louis Crayton, Wicks played for the club's supporters and went out onto the pitch with enthusiasm every time he suited up.

The most endearing thing about Josh is how much his love for the sport is apparent. We've seen Josh in the stands at Ludwig, where he happily signed autographs for young kids at a college game, and in the stands at Richard Montgomery, taking in a Real Maryland game along with a sparse group of other supporters.

I hope that Wicks ends up at Mariehamn and I hope that he's been able to work through those things that have stood in the way of his success in the sport. We're rooting for him and, obviously, Real Maryland east.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Yeoman's Work

On Friday night, the Terps paid tribute to the senior members of the 2010 men's soccer team -- Will Swaim, Greg Young, Doug Rodkey, Billy Cortes, and Jason Herrick.

Some of the five will have a career as professional soccer players, although, with the exception of Jason Herrick, I am unsure as to which desire such a future.

During the game, our daughter wanted to goof off on the grass near the field. Standing next to her, I got a chance to see Herrick, at field level, deal with a defender that continually fouled him and tried to intimidate him with physical play. Herrick was nonplussed. With each hack, Herrick would pick himself up and return back to the play without a change in facial expression. If anything, the confrontations seemed to light a fire under Herrick.

In addition to a bit of a physical resemblance, watching Herrick play is a bit like watching the English international Kevin Davies. Both are physical strikers that do not shy away from contact. Both are also often overlooked because their consistent and steady play is overshadowed by flashier peers. And both seem to have fully committed to a professional approach to their craft.

After catching Spurs-Bolton this morning, I find the comparison a bit more intriguing. Davies was, of course, tremendous. More than his brace, his best play of the game came on the header that led to Martin Petrov's goal. Through 90 minutes, Davies won nearly every fifty-fifty ball that was near him. The header to Petrov was gorgeous.

Herrick offers similar attributes in the air and Casey Townsend, among others, has benefited immensely from Herrick's willingness to commit himself to every free ball. But I nevertheless wonder if any MLS team will value Herrick's considerable contributions on the field. Herrick is frequently faulted for not being able to consistently create his own shots, but Herrick nevertheless creates scoring opportunities.

Jason will be drafted by an MLS team, but the pick is unlikely to be made with much fanfare. That's unfortunate, because several years of watching him play have eliminated all doubts that he'll be successful as a professional -- so long as he is given a real opportunity to prove himself.

A Big Year III

Yewande Balogun put up another shutout (Gametracker says she made 6 saves) and kept Maryland in their ACC semifinal matchup against Boston College to facilitate a Danielle Hubka game winner less than a minute into overtime. The Terps now face Wake Forest in the ACC Conference final on Sunday.

We were at Ludwig for the men's season finale against Coastal Carolina. Shaun Docking's strategy was different than what we've seen from other teams. Docking had two of his defenders shadowing Jason Herrick and Casey Townsend continually throughout the first half. And it worked, Coastal Carolina shut down Townsend and Herrick.

However, there were eight other outfield players for Maryland who had an easier time of it. Boyzzz Khumalo's alma mater gave up five goals on the night. Four were screaming shots from out side the goal box -- a beautiful free kick from Karou Forbess, a rope from Billy Cortes to give Maryland the lead, a stunning laser from Helge Leikvang to close the scoring, and another shot whipped into goal off the foot of Matt Kassel (which I missed while chasing around my daughter). All five goals would have been scored off of long distance shorts (and Leikvang would have had a brace), but Helge's shot bounded off the crossbar just beyond the goal line only to have the rebound put back into the net by a brilliant header from Paul Torres.

London Woodberry was, again, "injured," and Ethan White also didn't feature. The backline of Cortes, Lee, Young, and Kemp was not heavily challenged. The game was comfortable enough where we got a relatively extended look at Jake Pace and Gordon Murie.

Maryland rolled tonight. The team, however, seems unsettled enough in defense that the Terps' ability to make a dominant run in the NCAA tournament is a bit of a question. As good as Cortes has been at right back, Maryland is better with London Woodberry at fullback and Cortes in the midfield. The ACC tournament will be an interesting trial run.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Trying to be for a sport when it is flat on its back

On Tuesday night, I opted to subject my two-year old to the elements at Ludwig over enjoying the comfortable interior of Comcast, where the Maryland women were hosting their first exhibition game of the season. We've dallied and dithered on renewing our season tickets, principally because of my almost singular focus on soccer to the exclusion of everything else. Our daughter has never asked me to take her to a basketball game (although there is no question she enjoys going to see the Maryland women play), but she does constantly ask to join me at soccer games.

I will remedy my lethargy by renewing today and we'll plan to be at Comcast for the second exhibition game Sunday. And I'll do both because, while watching my Bulls get thumped by a Knicks team that made two-thirds of its three point shots, I got caught up with DC Basketcases.

It is dramatic understatement to note that Eileen and Judith are passionate about women's basketball. Their love of the sport exists in an environment where most of the sports world is either apathetic to it or actively derisive. Even within this hostile environment, some of those in charge of the sport have piled on by marginalizing its fans even further, as Sheila Johnson proved again recently by summarily dismissing any responsibility to keep fans informed about major developments with the Washington Mystics.

Yet, in spite of these challenges, they remain firmly committed to the sport.

It may be obvious that I see parallels between soccer and women's basketball. In the Washington metropolitan region, we are at great risk of losing three of the four professional soccer teams in our area over the offseason and, should it happen, few will care. Although the collapsing of franchises may not matter to people now, I believe that, with time, scores of other families will come to appreciate what the Freedom, CP Baltimore, and Real Maryland offer. I would imagine that DC Basketcases has the same abiding hope for the Mystics and women's basketball in general.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

TT For Now

It is fitting that after declaring the 2010 Bears a fun team to watch, viewing two of their last four games has killed my interest in football this season. I am grateful insofar as it could have been a lot worse had I actually seen the game against Carolina.

But despite the hand-wringing and hectoring of the Chicago media, it is difficult for me to pin the blame for losing three of the last four on a lack of a running game or an unwillingness to abandon a pretty passing game. For the first time in quite some time at Soldier Field, the problem does not appear to be coaching strategy, but execution. Jay Cutler is probably a fine quarterback, but his unwillingness or inability to adjust to Martz's offense and take the checkdown option is killing both him and the team's massive offensive potential.

The easy refrain from those responsible for interpreting Chicago sports is to vacillate between pillorying Cutler for his outsized ego and horrid performances and lecturing Martz for his unwillingness to run the ball into the line. It is not surprising that the media analysis has been derivative and overladen with affected expertise, nor is it surprising that its bogus bluster. What is surprising is that it need not be this way and that the state of sports writing in the country has not devolved to a state that this is all that is on offer.

Witness, for example, T.J. Simers' incisive takedown of Vinny Del Negro after VDN's four game tenure with the Clippers. Simers gets to the core of what many Bulls fans saw early on in his time in Chicago, but what appeared to evade Chicago sportswriters busy telling supporters that Tyrus Thomas was not a committed enough player and disruptive in the locker room. The truth, I would imagine, implicated VDN's deficiencies as a coach.

In contrast, early returns for Tom Thibodeau's nascent reign are promising. Dare I write it? The 2010-2011 Bulls are entertaining. I have watched two of the three games this season (the opener in Oklahoma City and Monday night's game against Portland) and the ceiling/floor on this team is wide open. Thibodeau has rewarded performance and handed out playing time on that basis. After the first two games, Scalabrine looked like he was going to be TT's security blanket, but the ginger giant did not see significant floor time when the Blazers began their fourth quarter run. Luol Deng rode the pine when his play on the court fell flat, but on Monday night Thibodeau seemed fully content to hand the game over to Deng on his way to a career game. TT has also not been enamored with the veteran players brought in to round out the squad, and C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, and Keith Bogans have not been guaranteed playing time just because they've logged significant minutes in the NBA.

The team has not yet gotten significant contributions from the Jazz trio (Korver, Brewer, and Boozer) and if and when they do step up the team becomes even more difficult to characterize. For the time being, the Bulls' returning core is setting the pace. Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, and James Johnson will drive the team.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

3 to 0

A pair of three to zero results have made for a pleasant day.

I don't know if any Charlton supporter expected the squad to go away to Swindon Town and come back having given our playoff vanquishers of a season ago a drubbing. I did not and news of Joe Anyinsah's second goal caused me to give an audible cheer in the office today -- something quickly misinterpreted as having something to do with developments in the midterm elections. Paul Benson's goal had me even more excited as I have taken quite a shine to the player. I am very hopeful that the quality of his character will be rewarded with plenty of tallies during the league campaign.

I knocked off work in time to make it to Ludwig for a visit from the #17 ranked Tribe of William & Mary. Although we made it to the stadium in time, snacks for the little one were the first priority and we missed the decisive goal score a minute into the game. We were in our seats for the second goal -- the best we've seen from a Terp all season -- when Casey Townsend one timed a punted ball from Taylor Kemp into the left corner of the goal. Townsend should have had a brace but put a free shot directly into William & Mary's keeper. The rebound, however, led to the third goal.

London Woodberry was "injured" again for tonight's game and Ethan White was also out for the game. But the makeshift backline of Billy Cortes at right back and Greg Young slotting in next to Alex Lee in the middle did not give the Tribe many opportunities on goal. Even where the shots were put on frame, Zac MacMath was there to palm the ball away from goal.

Maryland dominated the match and William & Mary didn't seem to be in the same class. But my principal takeaway was that, as much as I enjoyed the game, I was glad to hear the final whistle, as it was really, really cold.