Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sunday Morning Striker: Revs Edge Gals, 3-2

Taylor Twellman scored a pair of goals, including the game-sealer in the dying minutes of the match, as the New England Revolution outlasted the Los Angeles Galaxy 3-2 for their fourth victory of the season.

The Revs marched out under the bright lights of the Home Depot Center pitch intent on dismantling a potent LA attack commandeered by Landon Donovan.

It seemed early on as if the Gals had adopted the “the best defense is a good offense” philosophy. Conversely, it also left the defense weakened at times.

In 8th minute, Khano Smith on whipped a cross to Taylor Twellman, who immediately flicked it aside to line mate Adam Cristman. Unfortunately, the rookie flailed his right boot and missed on the gift pass, as the ball went harmlessly wide of the goal unscathed.

Thereafter, the Gals continued the offensive pressure in the early stages of the game, even though they had yet to register a shot on goal.

Eventually, the LA attack organized itself and broke through the Revs defending corps when, at 10:52pm ET (7:52pm PT), Peter Vagenas dissected New England’s backs and served in a perfect ball to Kyle Martino, who caught defender Jay Heaps off guard on a bad angle and nailed home the first goal of the match in the 14th minute. 1-0, Gals.

The Revs, with its hands full fighting the unremitting LA attack, managed to counterattack in the 19th minute, when Andy Dorman sent a crisp pass to a hard-charging Smith on the left wing. The Bermudan then sent in a cross from his left wing residence to Twellman, but the pair failed to orchestrate the equalizer.

As a result of the Gals emphasis on the attack, the Revs continued to exploit the holes in the Gals back line.

In the 21st minute, Cristman barreled toward the net and five-ironed a shot intended for a wide open goal that was poked out at the last moment by a sliding Ty Hardin.

Controversy erupted during the 32nd minute, Steve Ralston delivered a corner kick deep into the box, and the ball mischievously landed right into the heart of the swarm. Off a deflection, the ball squirted past keeper Joe Cannon before Kyle Martino tapped the ball out of danger back toward a sprawling Cannon, who then smothered the apparent illegal back pass from his teammate. However, referee Brian Hall allowed play to continue and Cannon immediately air mailed the ball down field.

Although the chances had materialized for the Revs on a handful of occasions, they came up empty handed each time for the remainder of the half.

Whatever coach Steve Nicol shouted or threatened during his halftime speech, it clearly worked, as the Revs crashed the pitch in the second half playing with a ferociousness that was clearly absent in the first half.

At 11:41pm ET (8:41pm PT) Andy Dorman sent a curling free kick into the box that was fortuitously headed toward goal off a Gal defender. Cristman, sitting on the doorstep of the LA goal, immediately spun his defender and side volleyed the errant ball into the net for equalizer, 1-1, in the 47th minute.

The Gals attempted to orchestrate an immediate answer. A floating pass into the box was immediately cracked toward the near post by Martino, but Matt Reis stonewalled the shot away.

With the Gals playing soft defense, Jay Heaps came up to attack, and mailed a lob to a hard-charging Twellman, who headed the ball just off the crossbar. The ball clanked off right back to him, and an undeterred Twellman then headed it again, this time past Cannon for the go ahead goal in the 52nd minute. 2-1 Revs.

Unwilling to sit back and play straight defense in order to preserve the one-goal lead, the Revs relentlessly pressed on the attack against the LA Swiss cheese defense.

However, in the final ten minutes of play, the Gals finally took off the training wheels and rekindled the same mode of attack that had the Revs on the ropes early on in the first half.
Nineteen minutes after midnight had struck on the East Coast, a resuscitated Gal side forced a corner kick from the left. Donovan sent the cross beautifully into the box before Tyrone Marshall leaned back and flicked the header toward the far post for the equalizer in the 84th minute. 2-2.

Undaunted, the Revs answered immediately. At 12:20pm ET (9:20pm PT), less than a full sixty seconds after the Marshall goal, Shalrie Joseph sent a feed toward Pat Noonan on the right flank. Noonan then took a quick touch and delivered a precise pass to Twellman just ahead of him in the box, and the MLS leading scorer did not miss, as he turned the pass right into the net in the 85th minute. 3-2, Revs.

The Gals had one last chance in extra time to try and salvage a point at home, when Kevin Harmse launched an oddly-bent ball on the Revs goal that was turned away by Reis. Seconds later, at 12:29am ET (9:29pm PT), the final whistle screeched and the Revolution pocketed a well-deserved three points in LA.

Thought of the Match: Is Kyle Martino really that of a good player, or is he simply the beneficiary playing on the same team as Landon Donovan?

Stat of the Match, Part 1: Between Twellman’s 4th goal (at DC, May 3) and 5th goals (vs. LA, Saturday night) of the season, four different Revs notched their first goals of the season (Jeff Larentowicz, Steve Ralston, Wells Thompson, and Adam Cristman).

Stat of the Match, Part 2: With Cristman’s goal in the 47th minute, the Revs have now gotten goals in consecutive games from this year’s rookie crops. Wells Thompson scored his first MLS goal during last Sunday’s 3-1 win vs. Chicago.

Stat of the Match, Part 3: Through seven games, Steve Ralston has already recorded more assists this year (6) than he posted all of last year (5).

Stat of the Match, Part 4: When the Revs face Houston on Saturday, the squad will have gone 49 days since their last defeat.

Sweet Play of the Match: When Mat Reis accurately predicted the flight path of Harmse’s last gasp knuckler, SMS watched in amazement at the replay. The physics-defying shot initially bent outward, then, inexplicably, turned inward, as Reis batted away the threatening orb, thus preserving the road victory.

Sour Play of the Match: What, exactly, was Joe Cannon thinking when he haphazardly slide tackled the ball away from Shalrie Joseph just above center circle? Seriously, SMS scratched his dome when Cannon jumped Joseph, fell down, handled the ball, then sprung up and kicked it away. And the whole point of this exercise was…?

Ask, and ye shall receive: During a first half offensive sequence, Dorman charged down the middle of the field toward the net, before stopping to send a pass to Smith on his left. Revs announcer Brad Feldman questioned whether Dorman should have just laced a shot on goal instead of passing it away.

Less than a minute later, during an almost identical sequence, Dorman seemingly heeded Feldman’s advice, and sent a flying duck well over the goal.

The gods were not pleased…with the Gals: The Revs played in their navy blue despite them being on the road. The soccer gods usually frown upon inconsistency when it comes to matters that may seem trivial to us mortals.

However, the home team dictates which colors are to be worn, and since the Gals brazenly chose their white unis, forcing the Revs into their traditional blues, they were subsequently punished with an embarrassing home loss.

Behold - the neon boots shineth! Twellman sported the neon boots for the first time since the DC match back on May 3. Coincidentally, he has scored in each game he’s worn the fluorescent footwear.

No word on whether Reis will seek a transfer to Tommy Hilfiger: Apparently, the Revs and men's fashion go together like Jessica Simpson and daisy duke shorts, as four Revs players - Jay Heaps, Pat Noonan, Michael Parkhurst, and Matt Reis - displayed their dashing good looks modeling what is sure to be at the height of fashion this summer.

The four were busy in and around Gillette Stadium in various model-like poses for Stuff@Night magazine last week, promoting not only tasteful apparel, but, the Revolution as well. SMS is men's fashion connoisseur himself, and subscribes to such fashion-first publications like GQ and Esquire.

That being said, SMS is always apprehensive about extracirricular ventures made by professional athletes, lest the gods punish such athletes with immediate failure on the field or pitch. SMS hopes that here is not a Stuff@Night magazine curse, a la the Sports Illustrated cover curse.

SMS was pleased that the gods approved of the off-field fashion foray as the Revs won on the most fashionable night of the week, in where else? Saturday night in LA, baby.

Apparently, Heaps is the seasoned pro among his teammates in the high-stakes world of modeling. Last summer, he posed in rather dapper spring and summer wear for the Style section of the Boston Globe.

The Cosmos-ization in the Rockies: SMS was watching the entertaining Real Salt Lake-Colorado match on MLS Thursday Night Prime Time (which, for the record, is 100% endorsed by SMS himself), and noted that the Rapids actually have a cheerleading squad. While he is never one to cover his own eyes at the sight of tastefully appealing females - especially at sporting events - SMS was sure that the soccer gods were not pleased by the whole spectacle.

Case in point: the game became the first in MLS history in which a 1-1 tie in which both scores were own goals.

Alas, the gods chortled, and SMS surmises that they will continue to do so at the end of the year, when Colorado, who currently sit atop of the Western Conference standing, is vying for playoff glory in October.

Police will not comment on the motive: “Adu OK after being hit in head by golf ball.” Yes, this was an actual breaking news story on Tuesday. How uneventful are things in Salt Lake, or in MLS in general, when such a headline crops up on Soccernet? Surely, there must be more interesting musings occurring the world of MLs, right? Right?

Revs Number 2 in the ESPNSoccernet Power Rankings: The Revs currently sit on the outside pole in ESPN's MLS Power Rankings. The top ranking has been awarded to the corporate club of Red Bull in NY.

Alas, MLS has found its way into ESPN’s sometimes comical attempt to rank everything from NASCAR drivers to Professional Bull Riders on a weekly basis.

SMS posits his own power rankings for hairstyles of MLS players:

1. Khano Smiths "the bro-hawk"
2. Juan Toja’s “Mid-80s Lars Ulrich”
3. Kyle Beckerman's "Biodome" white man dreadlocks
4. Matt Reis' "Professor X"
5. Kevin Hartmann's "Eminem"

US Women’s National Team Feature: The apparent goal-scoring heir to Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach is currently one of the best players in the world. Wambach has scored an astonishing 69 goals in 89 career caps with the WNT. Her best year came in 2004, when she not only scored 31 total goals, but scored the game-winner in extra time vs. Brazil during the gold medal game in during the 2004 Summer Olympics. She was named was named U.S. Soccer's Female Player of the Year for 2003.

Inasmuch as Saturday night’s Houston match is being telecast on Fox Soccer Channel, (which, sadly, is not available to Cox subscribers) SMS cautions his denizens that he may not be able to follow up with a post-match critique of the match. This may be a good thing, as the Dynamo will be playing at home with their “we are the champions, and you are the suckers” silver MLS game ball.

SMS can only imagine what the gods will do in reply to the Houston’s pompous display of showmanship. Creamsicles, you have been warned – while SMS may be unable to view the proceedings, the soccer gods will not miss a thing!

No comments: