MLS Watch:  Shielding

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Don’t watch the English Premier League and then the MLS

I caught some of the first MLS games of the season, here are some quick thoughts. It all comes down to each team’s new signings, good ones and terrible ones and or players they shouldn’t have let go.

I caught these games after watching the EPL, something that I wouldn’t recommend doing, since there’s no way the MLS can compete with that league and won’t and just makes the MLS games frustrating—but the MLS games still drew me in, the league does keep getting better. It just takes time.

The Art of Shielding the Soccer Ball

One thing that stood out in the EPL was the way players hold on to the ball like it was gold, and no matter what the score was or at what point in the game they were trying to keep the ball. Tevez and Anderson for example, they both shielded the ball late in the game with an infectious intensity.

Tevez on the sidelines holding up the ball to win a throw, and then Anderson in the corner to win a corner, both with such fight you’d think it meant much more, it was a game within a game, and they were up 4 nil. It’s kind of like king of the mountain, and not letting the other team get any glimpse of the top peak. That’s why Manchester United will win the league and a basic reason why the EPL is better than the MLS, and that’s not because of all the other obvious reasons—high flying action from end to end with fans nearly on the pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo, Torres and so on.

Houston Versus New England

In a revenge match from last years final, New England smoked past Houston with the help of two new signings: Abdoulie Mansally and Sainey Nyassi. Both players were part of the Gambian U-20 World Cup squad and smart signings by New England or actually not smart nor clever, but economical no brainers. Nyassi scored a superb late goal, a step over and rocket shot into the upper corner as he left Iani in the dust. Mansally was every where and has skill and strength—I’m sure he knows how to shield the ball.

For Houston it’s a story of letting players go that they shouldn’t have, two players who are now playing in Austria believe it or not, two forwards that the LA Galaxy could probably use too: Nate Jaqua and Joseph Ngwenya. How does the MLS let that happen? How much are they making over there? Did they sign just so they’d get good seats for Euro 2008? If that’s the reason I understand.

New England let Noonan go but that hasn’t seemed to hurt them, although I think it might.

Stuart Holden, the youngster who helped the U.S. qualify for the Olympics or at least played a part, and a marvelous signing by Houston a year ago, nearly scored off of a diving header, a goal that would have changed the game entirely but Reis tipped the shot just wide. The game was 1-0 at that point.

Time and time again both clubs would lose the ball on the sidelines or just clear the ball for clearing the balls sake. There was very little fight to keep the ball as though it mattered, all a bit too casual.

The poor signing for Houston, that’d be Bobby Boswell, all he did was look slow and clear the soccer ball to nobody in particular. What’s wrong with Craig Waibel? Why not keep him on the field.

LA Galaxy Versus Colorado

An odd and stupid penalty kick probably killed this game but for me it was again about the signings by these clubs.

For Colorado it was the genius signing of Christian Gomez, and then for LA it was the poor but hopeful signing of Ruiz. I can’t believe they didn’t pay the big bucks for a forward who could get on the end of Beckham’s crosses and wasn’t past their prime or scoop up some talented young players like New England did.

Wasn’t Alexi Lalas talking about getting players who could stand the pressure and shine in the Beckham frenzy? Ruiz I think was the wrong player—and the quick fix by getting a star probably isn’t the answer either. Houston and New England have built good clubs and are ones that other MLS clubs should model themselves after, but it’s a long season that doesn’t mean much as long as you make the playoffs (EPL has demotions remember and another reason it of course makes it all the better—but there’s really no reason to compare the two, so again don’t watch the EPL and then the MLS right after).

But really, if there’s a player like Gomez available, LA should have done every thing they could to sign him. He was the engine for DC United and now will help push Colorado out of the doldrums.

Chris Albright, who’s now with New England, could have been used by LA, they shouldn’t have let him go. I do like Abel Xavier. I love his energy, but his time in the MLS has not been helpful for LA.

Extra: I liked the Dick’s Sporting Goods commercial with Ben Olsen actually. If that’s Olsen’s wife he’s done well.  Here’s the making of the commmercial , but they don’t show the actual clip, unfortunately.

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