The Galaxy finally win a game. See the full post: http://www.thesection108.com/2012/06/18/irrational-exuberance/
Time to panic? Yep. See the full post: http://www.thesection108.com/2012/06/04/push-the-button/
I am guest posting over at the Section 108 blog. Thanks to the Gues-monkey for letting me do that. Please check it out: http://www.thesection108.com/. Hopefully I’ll be posting there more often.
Five weeks ago I would have told you it doesn’t. Home against Portland is always a game we should win, but this season it shouldn’t have made much of a difference. But tonight, it really does.
The Galaxy have started the season 1 and 3. We were eliminated from the CCL by a Toronto team that now can’t seem to buy a game (granted they had Frings back then). It has only been a few games, but we are in grave danger of setting a pattern that could very well doom the season.
Tonight is an opportunity to change direction. Portland is the second worst team in the conference right now (second to us unfortunately). We are playing at home. Our guys have now had a few weeks to get used to each other. Most of our guys are healthy and it looks like Beckham will play. On paper, this game is ours.
If we win, we show that we can do what we are supposed to. We show that the best team on paper can be the best team on the field. Then it is on to continue proving that true.
But if we lose. Oh, if we lose. A loss means the magic is gone. It means whatever force propelled us to the championship last year has been spent. It means the first 7 games (counting CCL) were not a fluke, but part of a disturbing pattern.
I remain, as ever, hopeful. I think we will win tonight. I think the rest of the season will be a fight, but one that our boys are ready for. It is so often the case in MLS that the team that takes home the cup is not the one who starts the best, but the one in best form going into the playoffs. I still believe that can be us.
Let’s just hope the boys don’t disappoint us.
Yesterday the Galaxy traded Paolo Cardozo to Chivas in exchange for Brazilian defender David Junior Lopes.
Before any of you English majors attack me for misuse of the quote above, I am not asking where Paolo went. He went to Chivas. I am asking, appropriately for the quote, about his true nature. See, I think we fans, or at least some of us, had a kind of romance with Cardozo. He is young, fleet footed, attacking, and exciting. He really showed a great deal of potential last season when partnered up front with Keane. J-ro and the Guessmonkey over at the COG actually read an email from me extolling his virtues as a striker and I think J-ro even agreed with me.
But the reality is that for all that potential, he never produced. He held the ball too long. He couldn’t finish his shots. He was getting chances and looking good, but he wasn’t getting much in the way of results. Perhaps he would be better as a CAM, but that’s just not the formation Arena plays. And so, he is now a marginal Galaxy player at best. Buddle, Barrett, and even Christman are probably above him in the striker pecking order. Maybe Donovan too. In the midfield he is sitting behind Magee, Stephens, and possibly even Franklin. He’s good backup, but we just don’t have much use for him now.
Lopes is a 29-year old Brazilian center back. At 6′2″ he is imposing and has some experience as a back line muscler. That’s clearly where we have a need. Despite that, this isn’t such an exciting trade. Yes, a big rugged center back is great. But I’m not sure he’s really any better than Myer or Boyens. It looks like Leonardo may be out longer than expected, so it’s good to have some additional cover. And one more big center back creates a possibility of moving AJDLG to a right back position so Franklin could play mid. Given all that, I think it’s a good deal for the Galaxy. But trading one bench player for another isn’t exactly the stuff of transfer news headlines.
I did not get to see the game this weekend. Wish I had Nathan still doing the game reviews. In any event, by all accounts it was an unimpressive showing by our boys (sans Donovan, who apparently had a slight injury).
Two questions come out of this game for me. The first is, can anyone fill Gonzalez’s shoes. The answer clearly seems to be no. The second is, just how big a problem is that for us?
Clearly the fatigue excuse doesn’t apply for this match. Nor can we claim it was really tough opposition. This was a New England team in the process of rebuilding playing us in our own home.
I’m not willing to call this disaster. It was a bad showing. But certainly we do need to worry whether the magic is gone. It is hard to imagine that the lack of Omar alone would be our undoing. But that just might be the case.
For now I remain, as always, optimistic. The back line is clearly a problem. But it’s early days yet.
How about you? Doom and gloom? Keep hope alive? Where is this season going?
There is a well known scene in Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail” in which King Arthur fights a black knight. As Arthur dismembers him, the black knight nonchalantly goes on boasting that there are merely flesh wounds and he will go on fighting. Bruce Arena this week has reminded me of the black knight.
As I previously posted, I had really hoped he would rest players in the RSL game and absorb a loss if needed to ensure a win over Toronto to advance in the CCL. He didn’t. Instead he played a similar starting 11 and lost both games.
In a post-game interview after the Toronto match, Arena denied that fatigue was an issue. I guess the players’ exhaustion was “merely a flesh wound.” I brought an Italian friend with me to the Toronto match. He loves futbol, but doesn’t follow MLS. He asked me why the Galaxy players weren’t running. He wanted to know if we were playing the tall, sluggish guy up front because our starting strikers were injured. It was obvious, painfully obvious, that our guys were drained and ineffective.
Of course, after the game we had the hew and cry of the commentators and fans wondering if the Galaxy just didn’t have it anymore. Some predicted gloom. Some said this was proof that without Gonzalez the team was a shambles. To me, this was all poppycock. Yes, I said poppycock.
This team didn’t really start playing together until right before the season. They have not gelled. They are not in top shape. And the coach threw them out there to play 4 games in 11 days. What did he think was going to happen?
The DC game last weekend did not signal any kind of dominance or resurgence by the Galaxy. But it did prove that this team is still the strongest collection of players in the league and still has what it takes to put up convincing wins. To me, it also proves that the performance against Toronto was not a result of some fundamental flaw in the team, but merely tired players.
Similarly, I think questions about any individual players’ effectiveness based on the last couple of matches are silly. Yes, Buddle was very disappointing against Toronto. But he hasn’t really played in months and then Arena put him in for a couple hundred minutes in the span of a week. Again, what did he think was going to happen?
I’m still obviously disturbed by Arena’s decision. But he made it, we lost it, and that’s that. Let’s not read to much more into it. We’ve still got a cup or two left to win.
It’s the bitter taste of disappointment. It’s the nagging feeling that stays with you that something that could have been great has been lost. It’s the hindsight that leaves you wondering if it could have been won. It is the shame of knowing that it happened in our house, on our turf.
But it isn’t a harbinger of a doomed season.
Last night Toronto thoroughly beat us at home to nip our CCL dreams in the bud. The common wisdom that it could not happen only makes the defeat that much worse.
What happened? I put this loss squarely on Arena. From my perspective, our guys were tired. They were outrun and outgunned by a side that had a full week to recover and prepare. I know that the RSL game was the home opener against a key rival. But it was one match in a 34 game season. I think Arena should have rested most of the starters and essentially played a B team. I think his focus should have been on beating Toronto and not assuming we were impervious to them at home.
But “Il Bruce” made a different choice. He committed to the season and played 10 of his starting 11 on Saturday. Even had we beaten RSL, I still don’t think it would have been worth it. But we didn’t. Instead, our guys were tired from the first leg of the CCL match. And now they went into the second leg of the CCL more tired and lost. Not just lost a game, but lost an opportunity. The Galaxy proved last year that we could win in MLS. The CCL was a chance to shine on an international stage. No just in our region, but possibly as far as the club world cup. For the Galaxy and for MLS, that would have meant unprecedented recognition. If Toronto can bring that, more power to them, but I don’t think so. I think this is the end of the road this year for MLS.
As disappointing as that is, it does not cast a pall on the whole season for me. Our guys were not bad, they were tired. Yes, there are things to work on. But we have always had gaps or problems, even last year. The only major concern I have this year is the lack of Omar. Although now that we are out of CCL play I have fewer concerns about depth. Boyens and Meyer are clearly not Gonzalez, but they both seem decent.
So, yeah, it was a bad night and the hangover may last a while. But all is not lost. We still have a full season before us and the best collection of players in the league. Perhaps it is just my nature, but I remain optimistic.
I do want to call out one player who I thought was superb last night: AJ Delagarza. It’s almost like he has a napoleon complex or something. For a little guy, he hustles and plays with the commitment and aggression normally reserved for guys built like Oguchi Onyewu. From the first whistle to the final curtain I could see him giving it his all. Okay, so he lacks Omar’s size and talent. But passion goes a long way and I’m very glad we have him this season.
I miss Nathan’s post-game summaries. Not my strong suit. But I did want to get something up before tonight’s game.
Last week in Toronto was a shaky start. Obviously giving up two goals in 20 minutes is bad news. But for a team that really just came together it doesn’t worry me. Magee was once again our hero and Buddle turned on the tap again, so we come out of there in good shape. Only needing a 1-1 tie or better at home is a pretty good position to be in.
I had hoped Arena would rest a number of starters last weekend. Apparently in retrospect he wishes he had too. I know it was opening weekend against one of our greatest rivals, but so what? The RSL game really didn’t matter much in the scheme of things. I think the priority this year has to be winning the CCL. And while it should not be too terribly tough to hold Toronto to a 1-1 draw tonight, I would have rested key players so as not to make it tougher. As it turns out, playing the starters didn’t help much anyway.
I didn’t think the Galaxy played all that poorly on Saturday. There were a couple of shots off the cross-bar and RSL’s third goal came only once we dropped to a three man back line. Again, under the circumstances, doesn’t mean much to me.
But tonight is big. Tonight is important. We must advance. The Galaxy have already established themselves as the best team in MLS. A repeat would solidify that. But it is time to look to a larger stage, to try to make a mark for all of MLS. A win in the CCL means a place at the Club World Cup. And that’s a level of success and exposure no MLS team has ever achieved.
I’m not worried. But I’m still keeping my fingers crossed.
Anticipation. Expectation or hope. Realization in advance. Intuition, foreknowledge, or prescience.
It’s that excited, nervous feeling you get before the start of something new. The tingle in your gut before you board a plane to a foreign country. The wave of adrenaline as you launch your raft down a turbulent river.
Or the moment you receive your umpteenth Galaxy season ticket holde scarf, signaling the start of a new season. Well, it is nearly here. The Galaxy are in CCL action in less than two weeks and have their home opener on March 10th.
Most of the important players are back. Birchall will be missed, but Sarvas should be a more than adequate replacement. I think we will sorely miss Gonzalez in the back, but we are not devoid of backups (though close).
On paper, we are the team to beat.
I tend to be an optimistic fan. I think our strength on paper will translate to results on field. But that’s the fun part about anticipation. We don’t know where this season will take us. We just know we are excited for the ride.