By Tony Edwards - San Jose, CA (Nov 15, 2012) US Soccer Players -- In Thursday’s column, Tony suggests there’s no advantage to having the second-leg at home, looks at Salt Lake’s stunning ending to the season, and pleads with successful coaches to stop playing the ‘no respect’ card.
Isn’t it asking a lot for a recovering player to make a difference to a team well behind on aggregate?
Dwayne De Rosario, Mauro Rosales, and Leo Gonzalez all still feature on the midweek injury reports going into this weekend’s second-leg of the Conference finals. When healthy and fit, there’s no question those players are key to their team’s fortunes. Still, to think they can have their usual influence on a game might be stretching it.
Can De Rosario change the series? Yes, but no De Ro isn’t the entire story for United. That does two things simultaneously, taking away what DC accomplished in his absence and what Houston did in the opening leg. That they didn’t create too many opportunities says more about Houston, who are going to, let’s be polite, do their best to minimize any space for DC’s attacking players this weekend. It’s simply not the environment where a returning attacking player is the difference, even if it’s the reigning League MVP.
In Seattle, does Sigi Schmidt start Mauro Rosales, knowing he might only be able to go a short amount of time? Or, does he see how the game goes and then bring him on as a sub with all those potential risk and benefits? I don’t have an answer, but it’s an interesting situation where a player’s availability might create more issues than it solves.
According to statistics provided by MLS, in a two-legged series (total goals), is there an advantage to winning the first leg?
Not that you’d know it from San Jose’s performance in the Conference semifinals this year, but there is. Since 2003, when MLS went to a “two-leg, aggregate format” for the Conference Semifinals, when a club won the first game they advanced to the next round 62.1% of the time (40 examples). Since 2008, teams who won the first leg went on to the next round 76.9% of the time. This contradicts all the nonsense about the ‘advantage’ of having the second game at home.
So how do you get the higher seed to attack in the first game when sitting back is a coach’s first instinct in an aggregate goals series? Have away goals count double or take a suggestion from Liga MX and use a system where the tiebreaker is the team with the best regular season record.
Would successful, astute coaches stop complaining about how their teams get no respect?
Among the featured quotes of the week, two jump out at you.
"We've been the best team in the league since July. I'm glad nobody noticed." Bruce Arena, talking to reporters after defeating San Jose Earthquakes 3-1 to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
"Throughout the US, I don't know if the Houston Dynamo get enough credit, but maybe we should." That’s Dominic Kinnear, commenting on his club’s five conference finals in the last seven years.
Maybe that works in club soccer, but come on. Local and national outlets cover the Galaxy’s season in detail with their strengths and flaws examined endlessly. Houston isn’t a lot of fun to watch at times, but people looked at the Eastern Conference playoffs and no one is surprised the Dynamo is in a good position to advance. Let’s reserve the ‘no respect’ card for legitimately marginalized pro teams playing in small markets with scant media coverage. That simply doesn’t apply here.
Which owner had no problem assessing blame as he announced wholesale organizational changes?
That would be CD Chivas USA’s Jorge Vergara, with the club as a co-investor/operator throughout its history but now the sole owner.
“We understand the different situations that took the team into the wrong direction….” Vergara said during a press conference on Tuesday. “They tried to imitate the style of play from other MLS teams; they played more physical, the qualities of the US players and they forgot to use the technical advantage and speed of Hispanic players. We didn’t play like they do in the US, or Mexico and the failure of that is in this last season.”
It’s worth reminding apparently everyone that once upon a time Chivas USA was quite good. That was after they moved away from their expansion year experiment with applying what might work in Mexico’s topflight to MLS without the same ability to recruit and spend on talent. Trying to draw Chivas USA closer to Chivas – also owned by Vergara – is his business, but it’s within the same system that caused the problems in 2005. Leaning on old soccer stereotypes didn’t help then and it probably won’t help now.
When is the last time Salt Lake scored a goal?
Stunningly, Salt Lake last scored on October 6th of this year. The team went more than 500 minutes without scoring through the end of the regular season and into the playoffs. To his credit, RSL coach Jason Kreis is not putting the blame on his forwards. “…it’s the typical stance that most people would take is that it falls on the forwards, but not for me, no it falls on everybody to create…and to take goal scoring chances,” Kreis told the Standard-Examiner.
To be fair, since Javier Morales left, Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola score most of the goals for RSL. However, US National Team player Kyle Beckerman’s 9 assists in 2011 were almost double his previous career high (five for the Rapids in 2003). Beckerman had a much more typically excellent MLS season this year (four assists), but couldn’t compensate for the lack of a third option.
Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.