Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sunday Morning Striker: DC is Vic Mackey, and the Revs were just token One-Niners

Can you believe that summer’s practically over? Sunday Morning Striker can’t. With the lifeguards on Rhode Island state beaches already having blown their whistles at brazen swimmers and sea gull chasers for the last time, SMS sat on his back porch yesterday, reflecting on a summer that undoubtedly breezed past us much too quickly.

Its is here in New England, where summer unofficially lasts from Memorial Day to Labor Day, that many vacationers sprawl to the region during the summer months with hotel and car reservations set for such destinations as Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod and Nantucket. It's been said that New England, with its warm weather and picturesque beaches is in the fact the ideal summer vacation spot - and far be it from me to disagree with such notable vacationers as past Presidents (Clinton and the Bushes) and celebrities (David McCullough, Paul McCartney, Bill Belichick).

And talk about spectacular weather! It was largely rain-free for the most part - no doubt the reservoirs and lawns suffered. Despite the lack of rain, there were no lengthy water bans to speak of in the southeastern sector, which almost becomes a rite of passage in recent summers. New Englanders were truly blessed with weeks upon weeks of beautiful weather during these past few months. Sure, it was humid and unquenchably hot at times, but then again, it’s summer. It’s supposed to be hot!

There really is nothing quite like summer in New England, and watching the Revolution play on the warm summer afternoons and nights is a huge added bonus. (Note: SMS is of the opinion that MLS should not align its season calendar to EPL and other European leagues. Rest assured, this topic will be addressed in a future article.) Of course, these summer months of watching soccer are naturally sweetened when your clubs flirts with first place, and having its tickets punched US Open Cup Finals is like the bubble gum at the center of the blowpop.

Plus, being treated to Ireland-Paraguay, CONCACAF Gold Cup matches, and of course, a visit from bench-ridden Beckham and the L.A. Galaxy only made the summer that much more memorable. Granted, although the time has come to store away the brightly colored polo shirts and Tony Montana white pants in favor of darker hues and dungarees, let’s not soon forget what a wonderful time this summer was.

And guess what? It’s also back to school for all you educational types! Guess who isn’t going back? The Sunday Morning Striker! Hahahaha, suckers! (Note: I kid, I kid - SMS is currently undertaking massive plans to return to school to obtain his Master’s degree in English come Spring 2008.)

Lastly, in conjunction with summer’s departure, it’s worth mentioning my nomination for The Summer Anthem – you know, that radio-friendly tune that gets played so often during the months between June and August that you can’t escape it anywhere on the FM dial. For SMS, that song was Rihanna’s “Umbrella”, which will forever evoke memories of Summer of ’07 for yours truly.

Anyway, the leaves are already beginning to turn their brilliant colors here in Rhode Island, and will falling weeks thereafter. But before they do, let's enjoy the last few weeks of hospitable September weather. What’s that? Only three regular season home matches left!?! Aiiiiyeeeeeeeeeeee!

In other news, DC United and Revs kicked off on Sunday afternoon under sticky, late-summer conditions at RFK Stadium, with only one point between them in the Eastern Conference. The last time these teams faced off, the United absolutely dismantled a hapless Revolution side to the tune of 3-0 back on August 5.

You may recall that the Black and Red began the season as slumbering giants while the rest of the East played hopscotch and dodgeball around them. Now they’ve awakened, and they’re in a baaaaaad mood –kind of like Michael Chiklis in The Shield. Remember when Chiklis once played the part of Tony Scali, an affable, pasty police commissioner in the early-90s drama The Commish? That was what DC was during the opening matches of the 2007 MLS schedule -lovable and unthreatening. Now? They’ve transformed themselves into the slimmed-down, ask-questions-later crime fighter. Let’s just say you don’t want to be Terry Crowley or a One-Niner on Vic Mackey’s watch. Did you see what Vic did to Guardo in Season 6? That’s pretty much what DC did to FC Dallas in Dallas last week. Yeah, you read that score line right: 4-0, DC United. So with DC’s guns blazing and Miranda Rights long forgotten, what would this mean for the Revs going into Sunday’s match? Let’s find out.

(Note: the Revs kicked off the first half sporting their road whites, which appeared to have boded well for the side considering the especially hot and humid temps and DC’s astonishing decision to wear their heat-absorbing black unis. Then again, this may have worked perfectly given the above comparison to Mackey, who has an affinity for wearing a black leather jacket in sunny southern California, the locale where The Shield is set.)

Despite the scientifically-proven advantage, the Revs nearly met disaster in the 3rd minute when DC’s Mark Burch swept a grenade into the box that Avery John chested down dangerously near the goal mouth with United’ Josh Gros buzzing nearby before Michael Parkhurst skied the ball out of harm’s way.

Minutes later, Cristian Gomez fouled Steve Ralston a few yards before the box, leading to a free kick for the Revs in the 10th minute. Despite the favorable spot, Ralston was unable to convert the attempt, as the ball sailed well over the goal.

Soon after, Emilio streaked through the Revs midfield after Shalrie Joseph coughed up the ball. The Brazilian marched forward and fired a rocked that fortunately bounced off the side netting.
By the 21st minute, Steve Nicol was commenting that both teams were playing “average football”, which may have been a kind assessment, since it appeared the match had more of a DC flavor than a Revolution aftertaste.

But by the half hour mark, it became increasingly apparent that the Mackey-like home side was in first place, as they continued to attack and intimidate within the guest suite, threatening to confiscate the opening goal. And they did just that in the 31st minute when Fred harnessed a gorgeous pass from Jaime Moreno right before the box, and fired the ball right past Reis for the one-nil advantage.

With the scoreboard smiling in DC’s favor, the Revs tried to find the equalizer amid the muggy conditions. Off a free kick in the 37th, Ralston unleashed a threatening pass into the box that somehow found Jay Heaps, who was able to take the bouncing ball and flail a low-voltage shot on net before midfielder Devon McTavish headed the ball above the bar to safety.

The Revs created yet another opportunity in the 40th minute when Khano Smith whipped a nice pass forward to Taylor Twellman, who headed the ball toward the far post. Unfortunately, said post, like any nonsentient entity, coldly denied the attempt, and the Revs frustratingly trotted back upfield soon after.

As time began to wane in the first half, and the tide appearing to have turned in the Revolution’s favor, Smith barreled down the left before unleashing a swift pass to Twellman. This time, Twellman took the pass, turned, and cleverly rocketed the ball in mid-air past Troy Perkins in the 45th minute. 1-1, Anyone’s match.

SMS won’t lie – he flipped the channel to USA-Brazil during halftime. Hoping to catch a glimpse of Bob Bradley’s boys as the local eleven sipped Gatorade in the locker room between halves, SMS was quietly swearing under his breath at the timing of the match. Unfortunately, it was a lot of pregame stuff, and when the match commenced, the second half in DC almost kicked off almost simultaneously.

The momentum amazingly salvaged prior to the finish of the first half, the Revs tried to do their best to keep the match under their control in frame two. In minute 48, Twellman took a deflected Smith pass off of Bryan Namoff and passed it right to his striking partner Pat Noonan, who misfired on the shot well off net.

Keeping the pressure on the United backs, Ralston laced an outswinging corner kick in the 55th minute that fortuitously deflected off of Bausch toward the goalmouth. Amid a fury of black and white shirted players, Jay Heaps footed the ball past the goal line for the go-ahead tally. 2-1, Revs.

At the hour mark, DC suddenly regained their offensive form as Gomez sent a pass forward to Luciano Emilio in the box. The Brazilian quickly turned to his left and pushed the ball toward to Moreno, whose quick shot was adeptly stuffed by a crashing Heaps. But the ball serendipitously deflected back to Moreno and only one man to beat this time – Reis himself- Moreno chipped the ball into the twine for the equalizer. 2-2, Anyone’s match.

Riding a tsunami of offensive chances, DC counterattacked in the 68th minute as Ben Olsen charged down the right flank and skipped a pass back toward Gomez sitting in the middle of the box. The striker deftly took it, and shot hard into traffic before the ball deflected off of Emilio and into the back of the net. 3-2, DC.

After the goal, Nicol became instantly heated, both literally and figuratively, and vehemently protested that a foul should have been called on Olsen against Smith just moments before he took the pass from Moreno. Referee Abby Oklulaja felt the criticism was especially undeserved, and casually sent the gaffer to the showers prematurely for the R-rated remonstration.

With two fresh subs (mmmm…subs) in for the Revs, one such sub- Wells Thompson – hooked a ball from the left toward Twellman, who immediately played it toward Ralston on his right. Unluckily, Ralston wound up and fired the shot just wide of goal in the 76th minute.

In an effort to reignite the attack, Paul Mariner, coaching in Nicol’s absence, inserted speedster Sainey Nyassi in the 83rd minute.

And no sooner did SMS finish off the previous sentence when Brian Carroll raced down the left flank and kicked a pass right toward a gatecrashing Emilio, who powerfully headed the ball into the back of the net in the 83rd minute. 4-2, DC, and SMS was hearing.

The Revs were given a token four minutes of stoppage time, but failed to find the necessary two goals needed to draw. Once the final whistle mercifully blew, DC had padded their first place lead with an additional three points over their rivals to the North.

Stat of the Match, Part 1: In three matches thus far, the Revs have acquired exactly one point against the United.

Stat of the Match, Part 2: Before Sunday afternoon, the last time the Revs tallied multiple goals (excluding own goals) was back on August 2 vs. Kansas City (2-0).

Stat of the Match, Part 3: The last time the Revs coughed up four goals in a match was back on May 26th vs. Kansas City (4-3).

Stat of the Match, Part 4: Matt Reis has a 3.00 goals against average against DC this season. Against the rest of the league, his GAA is 0.66.

Stat of the Match, Part 5: DC’s Luciano Emilio has now scored four goals in two matches versus New England this season. However, SMS can confirm that there is no truth to the rumor that Jay Heaps said afterward “I guess I have to just tip my cap and call Luciano Emilio my daddy.”

The AND1 OH BAY-BEE Play of the Match: Readers, SMS has betrayed you by failing to note these types of plays in which youngsters wave their tees in the air as if there are no repercussions. Though he couldn’t discern one particular play of this variety Sunday afternoon, SMS was impressed with MLS debutant Sainey Nyassi, and his trademark speed in the waning minutes of play.

True, Nyassi is a just a newcomer with much to prove before his induction ceremony in Oneonta, but SMS was excited every time the Gambian touched the ball. Mark my words: Sainey Nyassi will become a bonafide MLS star before long.

Mexico-Brazil at Gillette Stadium: Forgive my flair for the dramatic, but Wednesday, September 12, 2007 will go down as one of the most important days in the annals of the Sunday Morning Striker. For on this day, SMS will bear witness to two of the world’s greatest players: Brazil’s supremely-talented Kaka and Ronaldinho.

The occasion may unfold to become a story the grandkids about given Brazil’s scarcity in the region - this will mark only the second time in over fourteen years that Brazil has visited New England. The last time was back in June 1993, for the U.S. Open tournament, when A Selecao faced off against the US in New Haven, CT.

Why 50 Cent will never play left back for the Revs…or any other team: Recently, TMZ.com, an occasional guilty pleasure of SMS, reported that Fiddy was brushed up a bit by a Tyra Banks bodyguard on the “Fashion Rocks” red carpet, to which the Vitamin Water pitchin’ rapper got ticked and angrily retorted, “What the (bleep) is wrong with you? How are you gonna bump me?” said the muscle-bound, already-been-shot-at-nine-times rapper in response to the push.

With a reaction like that, it’s fair to say that oft-fouled (and borderline assaulted at times) Taylor Twellman is more of a man than Curtis Jackson.

Yeah, it’s almost autumn, but seriously, it’s way too soon for this stuff: SMS eyeballed a “Make their holiday wishes come true” Christmas banner at the top of “My eBay” page. Last I checked, there were still 105 shopping days left ‘til Christmas. Yikes.

SMS Alma Mater Soccer update: Yes, after nearly two months without regular updates of local sides not named the Revolution (the fortunes of the RI Stingrays were previously chronicled by Saturday Morning Striker), the college soccer season is well underway, providing fodder for regular updates.

In order to avoid any ambiguity, SMS will state for the record that he attended two colleges during his late-teens and early-twenties: Community College of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College.

Now, with that being said, it’s pretty hard keeping track of one club, nevermind four clubs (both schools have men’s and women’s soccer – it is the 21st century, after all). So, I’m defaulting to one club: the side that SMS watched for very first college soccer match. The club that SMS has officially adopted to update for the masses is…the Rhode Island College women’s team, colloquially known as the Anchorwomen! Yes, they are the lucky few that get a regular plug from the Sunday Morning Striker himself! It’s a wonderful day to be an Anchorwoman!

Ahem…on to the action…the Anchorwomen tied 2-2 to St. John Fisher College during their August 31st season opener at the generically-named RIC Soccer Field in Providence, RI. Lindsay Laurie and Gina Calenda scored for the good guys in a game that, despite the final score, was completely dominated by the home side.

Four days later, the Anchorwomen tasted victory in another fantastic performance in which they scored four goals over Johnson and Wales University, with a final of 4-1.

Finally, on Saturday afternoon, they dropped their first match of the season at Clark University, 3-1. Jessica Cardinal scored an early goal for the guests, but it was all Clark Cougars after that, with three unanswered goals thereafter. The Anchorwomen currently hold a particularly linear 1-1-1 record, and look to clinch victory on Tuesday when they face off against the U.S. Coast Guard Academy at RIC Soccer Field. Take a guess who will be in attendance?

For those of you who wish to jump on the Anchorwomen bandwagon while there’s still room, you can catch all of their home games live and in living color at the official RIC Athletics website (www.ric.edu/athletics).

As side note, I highly encourage you - if you’ve never done so - to head over to your alma mater and support the school’s student-athletes, whichever school or sport it may be. I can tell you from a personal standpoint that my heart filled with so much pride as I sat atop the aluminum bleachers, watching my fellow RIC classmates on the pitch. I’m truly humbled and proud to report on their 2007 season.

US Women’s National Team Feature: Hope you have your coffee supply is stocked and the bagels in fridge are fresh, because tomorrow morning’s Women's World Cup match vs. North Korea kicks off at 4:55am ET. If you’re a die-hard like myself, you will bypass your buddy TiVo on this one and wake up with the birds and catch the game as it unfolds.

SMS recalls a quote from his favorite comic book title as a teen – Generation X – in which Jubilee stated to Husk, her early-rising teammate, “Only garbage men and psychos are up this early…” Since we all know SMS’s profession cannot be categorized as “sanitation engineer”, I suppose that makes me a psycho. But we already knew this, right?

Join us back soon after the FC Dallas match at Gillette Stadium, where SMS hopes to be discussing victory rather than defeat. Though victory is crucial in these late-season affairs in which few points separate first and fourth place, don’t forget: this is also preview of the U.S. Open Cup Final, which will take place in Frisco, TX (which is, in fact, Dallas for MLS purposes) on October 3rd. Therefore, a hearty thrashing of the Hoops is in order come Saturday night to set the tone for the rematch in October.

No comments: