MLS Semi Game

Okay, so you know I watched the MLS semifinal game last night, between Eastern teams NE Revs and Chic Fire. Here is my reaction, before I read any news articles:

The TV experience: I love watching HD soccer, especially now that I can record it on the DVR and watch it when I am ready and pause it when I need to. Don’t tell the network that I zap through all the commericals and most of the talking heads stuff before, at the half, etc. (Sorry Julie Foudy, but I want to use my time to see the game.) ESPN has gotten better at missing less action with better timing of the promotional popup mess.

I hate so much of what ESPN does to take one away from the game. Why block the gorgeous look of the stadium/field/players with that ugly red and black banner scoreboard? There is more “filler graphic” than there is real info, even if you call the promo logos information. It is even wider on the second row from the top, so the most intrusive part is more in the middle of the screen. And it is not even at the top of the screen, so that I am teased by seeing the game above the banner. (How many times have I written to ESPN to fix that this year, never to get any reply?) ABC/ESPN: get a clue, watch an HDNet broadcast.

The setting: That new stadium looks gorgeous, although it is oversized for the crowds the Revs draw. But why do they have that 30 yard gap between the stands behing the goal with the rabid supports and the rest of the crowd? Are they trying to isolate the rowdies from the families? It makes for a bizarre view on TV, the way the crowd is fractured. I bet it must be even more bizarre for the people there, when we see the near sideline totally empty. Strange site…

However, the field looks good. Those American tackleball lines are almost entirely gone, at least enough gone that they do not detract from the visuals. But…

A plastic field none the less. Probably plays better than many, but it promotes a game that is less entertaining to watch, as it encourages the high ball, which encourages big players and rough play.

The man in the middle: Kevin Stott, you are on my holiday list now. Your gift will be a new whistle. Did you forget to bring one? How many rough tackles do you let happen? Why no yellow cards for studs up shin busting tackles after the ball is gone? Did you have direction from the league office to not give out cards so the “stars” of the team would all be available for the final?

The goal: Taylor Twellman had that one moment of brilliance that decided the game. Of course it was dangerous play, with his boot just missing the heads of two Fire defenders. Of course the ref wasn’t calling any penalties for mugging in the box, so why should he disallow this? Thanks for the one moment of pure soccer joy.

The run of play: There were countless tactical and rough tackles to prevent an offensive thrust, many by both teams. Few were called as fouls, some were allowed as “play on” advantage by Stott, and many brought on whining from Blanco, but also from Twellman, Ralston, etc. So both sides resorted to this dirty style, as of course you do whatever it takes to win that the ref allows you to get away with…

So to get a chance on goal, anyone, especially in the middle of the field, had to get rid of the ball fast. One or two touches were all you were going to get before you were chopped down. Both teams understood, both teams moved the ball to the wings where it could be worked forward for the inevitable cross. Some crosses connnected into some sort of shot, but remember that the receiver of the cross was getting mugged as the ball arrived, so few were very threatening. TT’s moment of brilliance was from a cross that bounced straight up during the initial mugging, then TT got balanced before the defenders and got the bike to go in. ..

The coaches: Osorio, while he got the players to play tactically well, blew the substitute thing. Calen Carr has the mobility to get away from the mugger and get a shot off, but didn’t get on until the last ten minutes. Wanchope’s concrete boots just set him up for Parkhurst of whomever to mug him when the ball arrived. Rolfe did okay out on the right, but I wish he had an extended chance up top to use his speed to escape behind the Rev muggers on some through ball.
Oh well, NE Revs back in the final. Probably another one goal will decide that game as well, unless there are more whistles by the ref.

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