Monday, April 30, 2007

Sunday Morning Striker: Soccer from the Pizza Oven!

After gorging himself silly on a buffet of draftniks, draftspeak, and Mel Kiper, Jr.’s drafthair, Sunday Morning Striker was more than ready to shed those unflattering draft party pounds by taking in some good ol’ non-American football Sunday afternoon.

The match kicked off amid steamy temps (81 degrees, 55% humidity according to and Avery John followed suit with a rather hot-headed foul on FC Dallas forward Carlos Ruiz, earning him the brightly-colored yellow card. FCD mounted good chances on offense early, with the Hoops inhabiting the Revolution zone for a good part of the early first half.

Then, at 3:19pm ET, the ball magically found itself in the FCD half. After the aforementioned ball exchanged a few Revolution player appendages, Steve Ralston found himself with the ball from about 40 yards out. The captain then looked left and fired in a pass to Taylor Twellman, who volleyed the ball right past Shaka Hislop for an early 1-0 lead for the Revs.

At 3:32pm ET, a passing locomotive blasted its horn beyond the oven-like confines of Pizza Hut Park as an Andy Dorman ball carelessly sailed over the left touchline. This had to mean something. A sign from the gods? Perhaps a call to arms for FCD to saddle up and crash the net?
Less than a minute after the signal, Clarence Goodson took a cross that found itself right into the mixer, before Matt Reis intercepted the missile for safe keeping. FCD then displayed what became a recurring theme: trotting back on defense one failed offensive chance after another.

To FCD’s credit, they continued their assault. Despite that, Jay Heaps contained Carlos Ruiz remarkably, thereby limiting FCD’s most potent weapon to the role of non-factor. The Revs held tough with Michael Parkhurst back in the starting eleven, although he showed some noticeable rust on a 40th minute foul on Franklin Nunez, which set up a dangerous free kick just outside the Revolution box. The kick sailed of harm’s way, and FCD looked visibly frustrated after the miss.

By the end of the first half, FCD had recorded six corner kicks, which proved that while their chances had often materialized, the Revs snuffed them out by neutralizing the Nunez-Ruiz scoring tandem.

For the second half, Steve Nicol inserted James Riley at left back for the recently-carded John, who played the first half like a man who was looking to add another.

Just as the ball was kicked off for the second half, an ominous television graphic flashed: "The Revs are 20-0-2 when leading at the half." Normally, SMS types “Game Ovah” on his laptop when such a stat appears, but not this time. Not in Dallas, er, Frisco, especially after last year’s four-goal thumping.

The Revs took advantage of a weary FCD defense early. In the 50th minute, Khano Smith ran down the left flank and crossed in the direction of a charging Twellman before the ball was ultimately deflected well over the goalpost by an FCD defender.

In the 54th minute, looking for a sequel, Ralston once again found Twellman about ten yards in front of the goal, where Twellman then knocked home what looked like his second goal of the game. But the sideline official called Twellman offside. Replays showed him seemingly even with the last FCD defender, causing TV38 color analyst Dave Dir to speculate that Twellman may have been offside “by a nose hair.”

Embarrassing nose hairs aside, FCD continued to mount pressure on the Revolution backs. In the 65th minute, Nunez launched a high-velocity shot on Reis, who gracefully batted the ball out of harm’s way. However, FCD remained poised to clinch the equalizer, as they held the ball in the Revolution half again for large chunks of the second half.

With the sands of time dwindling toward the 90-minute mark, FCD made another valiant attempt to equalize. Dominic Oduro broke through the Revolution defense and rocketed a shot that just went wide off the side of the Revolution goal in the 86th minute.

Just before extra time expired, the home team was given one last chance to even the scoreline. With the seconds ticking away during extra time, FCD set up to take a left side corner kick.
To the surprise of almost everyone not wearing the red hoops, the 6’ 4” FCD keeper himself, Shaka Hislop, came out of his goal and threw himself into the box, hoping to get a piece of the ball.

Instead, as the ball floated toward Reis, Hislop took down Reis, as the ball found itself just in front of an unsuspecting Abe Thompson all alone on the about ten yards out. The FCD midfielder took one clear look at goal and fired just right of the Revolution goal.

Seconds later, the final whistle blew, and the Revs took three points from their Western Conference foes, earning a well-deserved 1-0 victory

Stat of the Match, Part 1: With Taylor Twellman’s 13th minute volley, it’s officially official: 57% of the goals scored by the Revs this season have come from the blonde bomber himself.

Stat of the Match, Part 2: This marked the third consecutive game in which the Revs faced an opponent that was shut out in its previous match.

Stat of the Match, Part 3: Dating back to 2006, Taylor Twellman has scored in six of his last seven matches. In the six matches Twellman has scored, the Revs are 4-1-1.

Stat of the Match, Part 4: With the Revs win on Sunday, the navy and red are now 10-4-1 in their last 15 contests versus FC Dallas.

Stat of the Match, Part 5: 476-0. Total minutes played by 2007 Revolution Super and Supplemental Draftees this season, in comparison to their 2006 counterparts.

Sweet Play of the Match: The course of events on the match’s lone goal was truly one to behold. Initially, Pat Noonan found himself on the right flank, and launched a cross that serendipitously deflected off an FCD defender right to Shalrie Joseph. Joseph, then found Jeff Larentowicz in the middle of the field, about 40 yards out, and headed the ball toward Steve Ralston on his right. Ralston, the consummate pro, received the pass, took a few short steps upfield, and sailed a perfect diagonal pass for Twellman, who then flicked the ball past Shaka Hislop. One-nil, boys in blue.

Sour Play of the Match: In the 87th minute, with his team trailing, Dominic Oduro raced behind Revs defender James Riley deep into the Revolution end for the ball. Instead of allowing Riley to catch up to the ball, which would have forced him deep within his own territory nowhere to go, Oduro proceeded to push Riley out of bounds, giving New England a fortunate and time-consuming throw-in.

Why didn’t Bill Parcells have his number last year? In the 35th minute, Franklin Nunez launched a loopy-looking corner kick that flew well above the box before landing a good 10-15 yards outside of the Revolution goal. The harmless duck led to a Matt Reis goal kick, and prompted SMS to coin Nunez “Mike Vanderjagt”, after the erstwhile Dallas Cowboys placekicker.

Hidden Meaning of the Match: In the 4th minute, Avery John was given a yellow card for a hard tackle on Carlos Ruiz. Approximately 61 minutes later, his substitute, James Riley, was yellow carded for delay of game. Interestingly, John’s number (4) squared is equal to 16…which just so happens to be Riley’s number. To quote wicked-smaht writer Gregg Easterbrook, “This is the kind of hidden indicator that is essential to an insider's understanding of the game.” In other words- SMS has no idea what this means!

This is why, This is why I’m hot: Taylor Twellman sported bright neon yellow boots for the first time this year. The last Revs player to wear such flashy footwear: Clint Dempsey, who ironically sported almost identical boots in Frisco last year during the MLS Cup Final. Normally, the soccer gods swiftly punish such forms of attention grabbing (as they so unmercifully did last year in Frisco), but there would be no such repercussions. SMS was timid until the final whistle blew at 5:01pm ET.

Say it with me…Shal-REE: While SMS was pleased with the TV broadcasting tandem of Brad Feldman and Dave Dir (former FCD manager), SMS chuckled at Dir’s numerous unsuccessful attempts at pronouncing Shalrie Joseph’s first name. Dir often called our dreadlocked hero “Sharlie” throughout the proceedings, which prompted Feldman to save Dir late in the game by stating something to the effect of, “Don’t worry, all of his teammates call him Charlie.”

Hey, it’s better than “Second Place in the 2007 Eastern Conference Standings”: SMS was peeking through his latest issue of AAA Horizons Southern New England when he stumbled upon an advertisement for Revs tickets on page 10. The ad implored the reader to “Come See the Eastern Conference Champions!” Aaaiiiiiieeeeeeee!!! Let it be known that SMS has a huge inferiority complex due to recent MLS runner-up finishes, and shuddered at apparent pride taken in the referenced second place finish. Note Revs: for the long-term health of SMS, please win 2007 MLS Cup to avoid future runner-up references.

He may be good, but he’s no Luis “El Lobo” Fangoso: How about that dead animal residing on FCD midfielder Juan Toja’s dome? The 21-year old River Plate alumnae has played pretty well during his first tour of MLS, appearing in all six of FCD’s matches this season. It was reported during a recent espn2 MLS telecast that Mr. Toja is a Led Zeppelin fan, and sports the old school hair in tribute to them. Note to Senor Toja: SMS loves Flock of Seagulls, but…nevermind.

Jimmy Buffet concert on Saturday: Pizza Hut Park played host to sold-out Jimmy Buffett concert mere hours before FCD-New England Sunday afternoon. The music legend entertained more than 26,000 fans for a 9:00pm concert Saturday night, and by noon on Sunday, the field was ready to go.

Soccer on Sunday: Reportedly, many of the fans that showed up for the festivities the night before returned the following afternoon disguised as red seats. SMS is sure this would have never been allowed to happen in Foxboro.

US Women’s National Team Feature: In 2005, she helped her University of Portland squad win the NCAA championship. Lately, Stephanie Lopez has helped anchor a defending corps that has only allowed an amazing four goals in eight matches in 2007. While at Portland, she majored in psychology, which means your lines won’t work on her. The 21-year-old native of Elk Grove, CA is one of the team’s youngest and most formidable defenders, and will look to bring the squad back to World Cup glory in September.

Join us again after Thursday night’s match vs. DC United. Hey, it’s another national telecast! A guaranteed live telecast for SMS’s viewing (and scheduling) pleasure. SMS promises to break down the game like only he can do – which isn’t saying much of anything!

Chances of a live broadcast (barring any unforseen technical glitches): Optimal, 100%.

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