Friday, May 04, 2007

Sunday Morning Striker: 2006 EC Final - The Remix!

At 6:55pm ET, Sunday Morning Striker plopped his tired self on the couch, ready to devote the next two hours of his life to the national telecast of Revs-United match.

Ok…so with minutes until the match, espn2 was showing the NCAA men’s volleyball tourney game between Pepperdine University and (deep breath) Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW).

The game’s about to begin wrapping up. Revs-DC United at 7:00…right?


7:01pm ET...Still no soccer…

7:11pm ET…In-game break during Pepperdine-IPFW. Oh, thank you, Steve Bunin (ESPN anchor) that you haven’t forgotten about the entire reason why SMS even reclined on the couch rather than shooting hoops in the driveway, enjoying the current spell of beautiful weather the Southeastern New England region was basking in!

(At this time, SMS deliberately walks out in protest and meanders into the kitchen to pour a glass of carbonated beverage.)

7:13pm ET…Pepperdine-IPFW volleyball at match point…SMS is not amused.

7:17pm ET…ESPN finally cuts to DC for the match….SMS is visibly frustrated, according to Chris, Official Brother of SMS.

At 7:23pm ET…Finally! Soccer, as advertised! Congratulations to the awkwardly-acronymed IPFW for upsetting Pepperdine. The both of you took 23 minutes of SMS’s time that he can never retrieve.

Anyway, the match was finally underway seconds later, as the Revs took the opening kickoff on the newly-sodded RFK Stadium baseball field/pitch.

Early on, DC inhabited the Revolution end, with limited success. Passes found their way back and forth between DC players, but there was little threat on the Revolution goal.

The Revs found a small glimmer of offensive opportunity early when Khano Smith stole a Bobby Boswell ball, spun a few DC defenders, and fired a limping dog toward DC keeper Troy Perkins.

DC countered minutes later on a Ben Olsen strike on Matt Reis, who coolly trapped the ball with Velcro-like grip.

DC’s Fred (yes, just Fred) was a hell-bent, one-man offensive, as he tried to bob and weave through the Revolution defense, often to no avail. In the 21st minute, he charged the Revolution end and laced a wicked shot on Reis, who once again smothered the low-caliber bullet. The Revs dismantled the Brazilian rookie many times thereafter, despite his best efforts to crack through the stalwart New England back line.

In the 27th minute, a DC corner kick found itself right to the doorstep of an unmarked Cristian Gomez, who launched a good shot that was deflected out of harm’s way by Reis.

For New England, a great chance to take the opening salvo materialized when Andy Dorman whipped a left-footed cross to Taylor Twellman, who powerfully headed the ball into the waiting clutches of Troy Perkins during the 32nd minute.

All was quiet for the remainder of the first half for both sides. Neither club seemed to launch the overpowering, quick-paced attack that would be necessary to stymie either side’s elite keeper. At the end of one minute of extra time in the initial frame, the match appeared to be headed down a one-way road to a goal-less yawn.

Any appearance of said goal-less yawn was quickly dismissed, as the Revs wasted no time launching their offensive attack in the dawn of the 2nd half. At 8:24pm ET, Shalrie Joseph booted a hanging pass to the cradle of Twellman as he broke through the box and fired on Perkins, who deflected the ball away to an onrushing Dorman, who steered the ball toward its intended destination for a 1-0 Revolution lead in the 46th minute.

The Revolution lead did not last long. In the 49th minute, at 8:28pm ET, DC’s Jaime Moreno and New England’s James Riley drag raced into the New England box after the ball, where Riley stiff-shouldered Moreno out of the play. Referee Terry Vaughn called a foul on Riley, and awarded DC the penalty kick. Moreno took the kick himself, and blasted it right as Reis guessed the opposite, thus giving DC the quick equalizer.

Play got “chippier” (Eric Wynalda’s words) after the teams were tied at 1. With both clubs battling to create offensive opportunities to secure a potential second goal, the intensity of the proceedings began to pick up steam.

Then, in the 59th minute, Joseph slide tackled the ball away from Olsen, who hit the grass hard, but bounced right back up. Although replayed showed that Joseph clearly got a piece of the ball, Arbiter Vaughn surprisingly took exception to the tackle, and flashed the red card to Joseph for the hard tackle. As Joseph pleaded his case in stunned disbelief, the Revs knew they were doomed to play out the remaining thirty-plus minutes one man down.

To the Revs credit, they did not back down. The navy and blue hunkered down and played their trademark brick wall defense, suffocating the unimaginative DC attack numerous times. In the waning minutes of regular time, DC was denied repeatedly of any quality scoring chances. But, with four minutes of extra time added, the Revs knew that DC would not go quietly.

As the final seconds slowly melted away, DC pressured with an all-out assault in the New England half. Moreno sent in a high chip toward Olsen, who vaulted himself to head the ball that just clanked off the crossbar.

Finally, with one last chance to take the match, DC frantically sent the ball into the box, as Luciano Emilio whipped a sure-fire header directly on net. Unfortunately for Emilio, Reis made an all-out, full extension right paw save, thus preserving the valuable road point for the Revs, as the match ended soon after, 1-1.

Stat of the Match, Part 1: Since walking onto the RFK Stadium field during last year’s 2006 Eastern Conference Final, DC United have combined to score four goals.

Stat of the Match, Part 2: Since walking onto the RFK Stadium field during last year's 2006 Eastern Conference Final, Taylor Twellman has scored six goals.

Stat of the Match, Part 3: Total minutes played by 2007 First round SuperDraft pick Wells Thompson: 158

Stat of the Match, Part 4: Total Minutes played by 2006 First round SuperDraft pick Leandro deOliveria: 0 (SMS note: de Oliveira was waived last summer)

Stat of the Match, Part 5: 2007 goals against average for DC United keeper Troy Perkins (2006 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year): 2.00

Stat of the Match, Part 6: 2007 goals against average for Revs keeper Matt Reis (Runner up, 2006 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year): 0.80

Stat of the Match, Part 7: Stretching back to the 2006 season, the Revs are 7-3-2 in their last twelve matches.

Sweet Play of the Match: Is there any question? Matt Reis’ sprawling acrobatic save on Luciano Emilio’s threatening header in the dying seconds literally saved the game for the Revs. In crunch time, there are few athletes more clutch than the bald brick wall. For his spectacular saves throughout the match, the gods smiled in approval, as Reis was awarded Honda Man of the Match honors.

Sour Play of the Match: Little debate here as well. When ref Terry Vaughn pulled the red card from his chest pocket for Shalrie Joseph’s tackle on Ben Olsen, everyone but DC fans and players objected to the call. Joseph was clearly playing the ball, and solidly dispossessed Olsen of the ball. Yes, the tackle was hard, and Olsen fell to the pitch, but the red was completely unwarranted. Even the soccer oracle himself, Eric Wynalda, spoke of the unfairness of the call at length for minutes thereafter, even stating that the call made him personally angry. Fair to say Mr. Vaughn will not receive a Christmas card this year from Wynalda…or SMS, for that matter!

Could a soccer version of Randy Moss find his way to New England? The Patriots traded for a high-profile football player in Randy Moss this past weekend and the news has the gears turning in the mind of SMS. Could a high-profile soccer player also be on the way as well?

The Pats seemingly opened their wallets in acquiring the troubled wide receiver, (with the help of some creative restructuring of Tom Brady's contract) which may (unlikely) or may not (likely) influence the Revs to do the same for a marquee player. SMS wonders aloud if said marquee player is on the Revs radar, and whether the Revs have the money to afford said player radar. That being said…

All Points Bulletin: It is day number 173 since the Designated Player Rule was enacted by MLS: Do you know where your designated player is?

Where’s the beef? During the offseason, the Revs extended the contract of Daniel Hernandez for a reported $200,000 for the 2007 season. As of May 4, 2007, Hernandez has spent exactly zero minutes on the field for the first team, as he nurses a strained groin. Granted, injuries do occur, and Hernandez cannot be faulted for being injured.

But viewing the situation purely from a business angle, if the $200,000 figure is accurate - MLS doesn't disclose salary figures - then Danny has thus far, earned $31,250.00 for sitting on the bench. By comparison, Andy Dorman reportedly earns $30,000 for the entire season. So, during the first five games of the season, Hernandez has already "outearned" Dorman, even though the Englishman has scored three goals thus far.

The Revs, to their credit, have opened up the checkbook for Twellman, Noonan, and Reis. Yet, one of the most unheralded and valuable players on the team plays on grossly underpaid, while the money streams in for injured non-contributors. Why Hernandez’s pact was extended after an injury-plagued season, while Dorman made peanuts after excelling in '06, is beyond the comprehension of SMS.

The soccer gods did not chortle: Taylor Twellman wore the highlighter bright boots again, and went goal-less for the first time since April 7 vs. Chicago.
Where’s the (smidgen of) hype? Can SuperDraft ever rival the fervor to which its NFL counterpart incites? Probably not. But that shouldn't stop the PTB at MLS from trying.

ESPN did a commendable job covering this year's MLS SuperDraft. It even devoted a full hour to the less-than-entertaining proceedings (compared to the mega-popular NFL Draft) before cutting off its broadcast prior to the final first round pick (13th overall). It's a good base; now MLS needs to find its own version of the zany, yet insightful Mel Kiper, Jr.

MLS did its best to get outspoken/opinionated Wynalda to cover its SuperDraft proceedings this year, and while it was an admirable attempt to infuse some color into the event, MLS would have been better served by inserting 3rd Degree Burn publisher/college soccer guru Buzz Carrick as part of its broadcast tandem. Carrick annually dispenses his top 10 prospects, forwards, keepers, mids on - so why not invite him to the party? SMS understands that SuperDraft is an entirely different animal than the NFL Draft. Mock drafts, draft day trades, and analysis of picks 1 through 255 are all spoken on ad infinitum.

After a thorough investigation, SMS has determined that, after a weekend's worth of NFL Draft viewing, MLS needs its own Mel Kiper.

Vintage Jay Heaps...on the hardwood! One thing you can always count on from The Worldwide Leader in Sports (ESPN, to the lay person) is their vast library of sports footage, famous and obscure. Early in the first half, viewers were treated to video of Jay Heaps playing Duke basketball back in the mid-1990s. Unfortunately, one of the clips showed Heaps clanking a foul shot – to which SMS was not pleased.

Red card, Yellow card, Game Ball: Wynalda returned during halftime to administer his broadcast booth justice with his mega-popular halftime segment. Kudos to Wynalda for devoting 2/3 of the feature to MLS (game ball to KC's Curt Onalfo, yellow card to Houston's Dwayne De Rosario) this time around, rather than international soccer, although the game ball to Dirk Kuyt of Liverpool was not, in the mind of SMS, appropriate during an MLS telecast. After all, do NFL halftime features spotlight CFL action?

Joe Franchino sighting: SMS cracked a joyful smile when the name of the former Revolution captain resounded through the ESPN airwaves at 9:05pm ET. Although initially taken by surprise (there was no prior mention of Franchino’s return from his leave of absence in the days leading up to the match), SMS was thrilled to see the grisly vet take the pitch late in the match in order to help secure the point from DC. SMS would like to welcome you back, Joey!

US Women’s National Team Player Feature: According to the US Soccer 2006 Women’s National Team media guide, “Tasha” or “TK” as she is nicknamed, “loves to travel and meet new people.” Natasha Kai became just the fourth player in WNT history to score in her first two caps during the 2006 Algarve Cup tournament. In addition to her goal-scoring skills, Kai is also somewhat of a collector – of tattoos. The 23-year-old forward already has twelve of them, to which SMS surmises would even impress fellow tat addict Travis Barker of Blink182 fame.

Join us again early next week when SMS shall provide unprecedented first-hand insight of the Revs-Fire match on Sunday. SMS refuses to be at the mercy of local cable affiliates in his reliance of Revolution coverage this weekend – he will be there in person instead. Take that, media moguls!

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