I apologize for not getting a game summary from last week up. I've been busy dealing with lots of B.S. at work this week. I thought the game against New England was pretty decent considering the terrible conditions. Vermes said it best when he talked about the high-speed winds and the terrible playing surface being major factors. If you watched the game, it was obvious that it was taking a toll on both sides. There were some great chances for goals in the game, but Sporting weren't able to effectively crack open the Revolution defense to put on over the line. They did have one bounce out of the inside of the crossbar. So close...
I liked the starting line-up that we got to see. I was happy that Vermes went with the "hot" hand and played Sapong and Saad on the wings. I am a big believer that the formation a team uses shouldn't matter that much, but it does seem like a 442 would fit our talent pool a lot better than the 433. The thing about SKC's shape is that they are essentially rolling with 4 CBs so that they can throw their outside backs out as wingers. It helps guys get open for crosses, but those become low percentage chances when you only have one dominant air player on the field instead of throwing three at goal.
Another issue i have with the 433 that Vermes has in place is that no one could control the middle of the attacking third. There were about five or six clearances that went right to the top of the area in front of the New England goal where there was not a single blue jersey. I don't think it should be too difficult to rotate guys towards the ball in those situations and those should have been picked up by either Sapong or Saad to create some better chances on the counter. If Vermes shifted one of his wingers to the middle to create some more chaos there, I think we would get to see some more hurried defenders making mistakes.
The USMNT somehow managed to escape without conceding a goal at Estadio Azteca on Tuesday. The write-ups on the MLS website sure were laudatory of Klinsmann and his side, but they, honestly, looked pretty over-matched. DeMarcus Beasley was somehow the man of the match and the worst player on the pitch at the same time. El Tri were having their way with him the whole first half, but thanks to excellent play by Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez, they weren't able to capitalize. It's about time Besler started getting some international caps. As I mentioned last week, The USMNT needs to take the old skeletons (Beasley) out and retire them. The younger the team gets, the better they will be.
While I realize that Clint Dempsey is probably in the top three best players the USMNT have available, I hate his game. He's an incredibly selfish player. He wasted at least two good chances taking the ball for himself instead of passing. Last week I talked about Sporting needing to pass and bide their time for sure-fire chances. I don't think the USMNT will ever have a weak enough opponent to be able to do that, but they need to not rely on the incredibly low percentage chance that a player like Dempsey will beat three defenders to goal. That's just not going to happen. He's good, but he's not that good.
El Tri looked like some kind of super-natural shadow team. They had a fantastic strategy worked out. Their players all have great touch on the ball and get the ball to one of their guys on every clearance. They played what looked like a 442 which allowed them to suffocate the USMNT whenever they got the ball. The Mexicans were playing miles faster than the Americans. Whenever the Americans got the ball or the Mexicans had the ball on the offensive side, the open spaces closed down almost immediately with black jerseys flying in to fill them. It was a suffocating first half and the US was more than lucky to get out of there without conceding. Azteca would be a truly terrifying place to play. 100,000 people "olé-ing" you or calling you "culo" at the same time is pretty intimidating.
Tonight, Sporting are hosting the undefeated Montreal Impact. I think everyone is surprised by their streak of wins. It's still early in the season, but winning four in a row is tough for any team at any time. The Impact are a scary team for SKC right now because their strength is exactly matched to counter our style of play. They bunker in and play defense and poach easy goals on the quick counter. SKC have shown in this season and the last that the quick counter is their achilles heel. Sporting will have to work extra-hard to maintain possession and to cut out any balls that get away with an Impact player. There will probably have to be some bad fouls committed today to keep the counter off the table. I'm confident in that Colin and Uri will bring it tonight. If they are soft in the middle, tonight could be brutal.
As far as the attack goes, I'm hoping that Sporting can find it in themselves to put passive pressure on the Impact goal. I want to see lots of little nibbling passes and maybe some cheeky give and go instead of the low-percentage cross. And, if they are going to keep just peppering the area with crosses, I want to see Sapong and whomever else is up top lunging at every single one to try and finish one. They need to finish every run at goal having crossed the back touch-line to try and poke or head the ball in.
Tonight's game is going to be a tough one. Don't worry though, I will be in The Cauldron and I will be singing the loudest. The weather may be a factor tonight. As of this writing, It's about to storm outside. There's still about 10 hours to game time, so we'll have to wait and see what happens. SKC always have the advantage at home. Let's hope they can put one in the net to end this scoring drought.
C'MON SPORTING SCORE A GOAL...