Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sunday Morning Striker: Revs have Miss USA moment, draw 0-0 to RSL

Earlier this week, the incredibly beautiful Rachel Smith, better known as Miss USA, confidently graced the Miss Universe stage before awkwardly falling flat her rear before a world-wide television audience. Similarly, the Revolution played the role of clumsy brunette bombshell and embarrassingly fell on its you-know-what before 16,184 gawking onlookers, as the local XI drew 0-0 to Western Conference bottom feeders Real Salt Lake.

After Real (which, for the non-soccer types, is pronounced Ray-AHL) kicked off for the first half, both sides evenly advanced on each other’s sides in the opening minutes, with both keepers being tested early.

In the 8th minute, Taylor Twellman commenced what would become a frustratingly recurring theme throughout the night, as he headed a brilliant Khano Smith ball that was swiftly denied by a spring-heeled Nick Rimando. “Twellman nearly made it one-zero,” exclaimed Revs announcer Brad Feldman. Feldman could have easily tape-recorded that line for repeated use, as the Revs continued to press, but ultimately failed to wed the ball with the back of the net.

A hairy situation developed in the 18th minute, when newly-acquired Real striker Alecko Eskandarian attempted to push a ball past The Man Who is Dead to Him.* Before the chance fully materialized, Jeff Larentowicz thwarted the attempt by pick pocketing the ball away. However, after said extortion took place, Larentowicz, surrounded by a gaggle of Real…ists, passed the ball back to Matt Reis, who found himself caught off guard by the sudden pass back, and had to contort his body in an awkward position to kick the virtual grenade out of harm’s way. To make matters worse, Eskandarian pressured the very much alive Reis for the ball, before the bald brick wall ultimately smothered the ball for safe keeping.

(*After a fateful crossing of paths on the pitch in 2004, Eskandarian was knocked out of action after he and Reis collided while battling for the ball. Soon after, Esky stated that Reis is “dead to him.”)

In the 20th minute, the Revs fired again when Steve Ralston fed Andy Dorman a perfectly-placed ball, before the former Terrier launched a rocket on goal that was walled away by Rimando.

Although the Revs dominated possession for much of the match, Real exploited the few holes in the New England backline. In the 30th minute, wonderboy Freddy Adu broke free on the right flank before clanking a shot off the near post, drawing a collective heavy sigh out of the Revolution faithful.

Disconcertingly, the natural grass began to play a larger role than one expected as the match progressed. Although natural grass is a welcome sight for players and fans alike, it seemed that the soulless entity wreaked havoc on many Revolution players throughout the night. On more than three potential scoring sequences, SMS noted that the primary shot taker slipped or was tripped up by the sinister sod.

Of course, while the grass was thriving in its unwelcome role, the Revs continued to find their chances stifled by a noticeably less talented Real squad. Perhaps the most accurate comparison SMS can make with respect to the early-June proceedings, is that of an army (the Revs, of course) stockpiled with a cache of sophisticated weaponry (Twellman, Ralston, Cristman, Noonan) filled with standard Hollywood-industry blanks instead of high-caliber bullets.

The blanks fired with tantalizing frequency in the second half, when Twellman headed another ball alluringly close to the Real net, but deflected mere feet away from its intended target in the 55th minute.

Less than a minute later, Twellman again waltzed his way into the box with a scope clear of any distractions or debris before pulling the trigger on a wicked shot that Rimando coldly batted away. More chances mounted for the Revs in the half, but each one was snuffed out by rather serendipitous defending on the part of Real.

A wonderful moment came in the 71st minute, when Revs rookie and Irish international Bryan Byrne came on for Khano Smith. That moment was effectively ended soon thereafter as the Irish international was booked less than a minute into his MLS debut for a reckless foul.

With less than fifteen minutes left in the match, in the 79th minute, Ralston cut down the left flank before firing a cross to Twellman, who put a Rodney Harrison-caliber hit on Rimando as the two battled for the ball. Twellman, who SMS strongly feels should wear shoulder pads anyway the way he is often manhandled by crude defenders, gave Rimando a hit worthy of an NFL highlight film. Unfortunately, the ball squirted out of play, as Rimando struggled to get back to his feet.

In the 81st minute, Byrne received another “Welcome to MLS” moment when he was hard-tackled from behind by Ritchie Kotschau, which was promptly rewarded by referee Baldomero Toledo. With a man-advantage for the remainder of the match, the odds favored the Revs finally breaking through with potential clincher.

Said potential clincher came oh-so-close to materializing the 89th on a Ralston special from the corner that was powerfully headed on goal by Twellman, who painstakingly pushed the ball right to Rimando. After this opportune chance to attain the goal passed, SMS wrote “draw” in his notebook, as minutes later, the final whistle blew, and the home team, frustratingly drew with the MLS draw champ, Real Salt Lake, nil-nil.

Stat of the Match Part 1: The last time the Revs played consecutive home matches on natural grass, they went 2-0 (vs. Columbus 1-0 on October 14, and vs. Chicago 2-1 on October 28). This year, they are 0-1-1. SMS begrudgingly calls for the return of FieldTurf.

Stat of the Match Part 2: With the shutout, Matt Reis has now walled up the Revolution net four times this year, which is tops in the league.

Stat of the Match Part 3: When the almost tastefully-named Bryan Byrne came on in the 71st minute, he became the fourth different Revolution rookie to make his MLS debut this season.

Stat of the Match Part 4: Exactly 343 days ago Saturday night, the Revs and Real played to a scoreless draw in Utah on June 24, 2006.

Stat of the Match Part 5: Despite out-shooting Real nearly 3 to 1 (NE- 23 shots, RSL – 8), and putting 11 more shots on goal than Real (13-2), the Revs somehow drew Real 0-0.

Stat of the Match Part 6: After playing a remarkable 48 days without a loss (beginning April 8 through May 26), the Revs are now assured of going at least 21 days (beginning May 26 through June 16) without a win, as their next match isn’t until June 16.

Haiku of the Match: SMS offers this haiku in commemoration of Saturday night’s affair:

Revs draw to Real
Grass takes a life of its own
Bring back the FieldTurf.

In commemoration of Bryan Byrne’s MLS debut:

Nicol inserts Byrne
Minute later rook gets booked
Ref: leave kid alone!

The soccer gods promise a speedy investigation: Twellman has now gone goal-less in his last two matches while wearing his brightly-colored neon boots.

Beckham gains instant street cred: SMS did something Monday afternoon that he rarely does - listen to the radio - and his ears caught an electric rhyme referencing a rather obscure footballer. "Let it Go", by Keyshia Cole, Missy Elliot and Lil' Kim features a sample of Biggie Smalls' 1994 hip hop classic "Juicy.” But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the ditty (no pun intended) is the following rhyme Kim drops:

"Here's a lil lesson/Lil' Kim don't stress 'em/Kick 'em all straight to the curb like Beckham"

Boy, guess soccer really has come a long way when a player's name is mentioned in a hip hop track! With a burgeoning Houston rap scene infiltrating MTV2 airwaves, how long will it be before Clint Dempsey’s name gets dropped?

Don't ask about a potential Clinton Cup: In honor of the US-China MNT match Saturday, SMS proposes that both teams square off on an annual or biennial basis for the Nixon Cup, an imaginative trophy in honor of Richard Nixon becoming the first US President to make a journey to the People's Republic of China back in 1972. From here on out, SMS shall be the presenter of said fictitious trophy to the winning squad. Thus, with the US’s 4-1 thumping of China Saturday night, SMS hereby awards the very first Nixon Trophy to Bob Bradley’s boys.

First one to find one gets to give it to SMS! Readers, SMS hates to air grievances regarding address personal issues, but in this instant, it is to address a certain soccer apparel-related point. With SMS's birthday quickly approaching, why, oh why, is it so hard to find a Clint Dempsey Fulham jersey? Official Brother of SMS, Chris, reports no luck in finding such kit, and SMS has scoured the interweb and local soccer shops without any luck. There MUST exist, for retail purchase, said jersey. First one to provide useful information to potential outlet to purchase a Dempsey Fulham kit will win SMS's very first non-prize!

In case you didn't know...Arsene Oka and Willie Sims are both tied for second in Reserve League goals this season with a pair apiece in four matches. Additionally, SMS notes that the stats listed on MLS’s website are painfully outdated, and are inexcusably current as of May 6, 2007.

SMS’s bold pre-match prediction: Last year vs. the Revs at Gillette Stadium, the impeccably-dressed Jason Kreis scored a goal in the 55th minute on July 14th, 2006. This year, SMS guaranteed no such thing would occur this year. Remember, SMS guarantees the accuracy of all predictions, or the next one's free!

Best play by MLS' best goalkeeper: Reis was dumped in a pot of boiling water in the first half when Larentowicz carelessly passed back to the keeper despite a group of quickly converging Real attackers. Reis, clearly caught off guard the potential own goal, alertly tapped the ball away before an oncoming Eskandarian tried to poach the ball away. Reis then gathered the ball, and thus avoided an embarrassing sequence which could have landed Larentowicz the very first “Goat of the Match” award by SMS.

Nikki Hilton Award: SMS had created a new award for a forgotten Revs player who has seemingly dropped off the radar, quietly biding their time while more know teammates continue to bask in the spotlight (like Nikki’s sister, Paris). To encourage reader participation, please forward all nominations to RevsNet, where they will be read, scrutinized, and after more scrutiny, tallied for the count.

Tradin’ Places: Last year, Kyle Brown appeared in the 58th minute for the Revs the last time the home side faced Real. Saturday night, Brown was back – in a Real warm-up suit. Brown was listed among the substitutes for Real. Brown has yet to see MLS action this year for Real, after registering 12 career appearances for the Revs prior to his draft-day trade to Real this past winter.

Duty calls: Saturday night marked the final MLS match for Twellman, Ralston, and Parkhurst before reporting for US Men’s National Team duty with next week’s Gold Cup tournament. The talented trio will miss the next two matches vs. Columbus (6/16) and Toronto (6/23), leaving the Revs without its primary offensive catalysts. SMS hopes that while the club will certainly suffer, the opportunities created by the absences will help some of the younger players accrue valuable MLS minutes. SMS personally nominates Arsene Oka as the primary beneficiary of said absences.

Quote of the match: “You know, we only got a point. It’s disappointing. We want to get three points and get a win. Obviously we’re upset, but at the end of the day we’re at five wins, two losses, and three ties so it’s not all bad. We need to start getting three points at home though.” – Steve Ralston.

US Women’s National Team Player Feature: She is described as “one of the most skillful players in US history” in her bio, and recorded her 100th cap earlier this year. Aly Wagner is the Pepe Cancela of the US WNT, a remarkably creative midfielder who flat out makes her teammates better. During her illustrious career with the US WNT, Wagner has collected 20 goals and 33 assists, and in 2003, became the first overall pick in the 2003 WUSA draft when she was selected by the mysteriously named San Diego Spirit. Interestingly, her bio that “she refuses to watch reality TV.” But Aly, televised soccer matches are reality TV! Does that mean you refuse to watch televised soccer?

SMS holds the above truths to be self-evident – SMS doesn’t believe in research!

Join us again after the fourteen-day stretch Revolution-less drought, whereby SMS promises to deliver on many unspoken promises. In the meanwhile, SMS will be readying himself for Gold Cup action next week, as old friend Clint Dempsey returns to Gillette Stadium with the US Men’s National Team. Readers, be sure to give Deuce a hearty cheer for me, as SMS will be unable to clap loudly and rhyme praises from the press box during introductions come June 12th!

No comments: