Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sunday Morning Striker: Revs blast FC Dallas, 4-2 - No videotape required!

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or recently awoken from a lengthy coma, you’ve surely been inundated with the news of Bill Belichick’s less-than-savvy video surveillance tactics. Reportedly, the Pats head coach sent a video assistant to film their opponents’ defensive coaches in an attempt to decipher their defensive signals at halftime.

The shrewd undertaking committed by one of the best head coaches in NFL history has certainly left the region buzzing about the embarrassment and shame this incident has cast on the New England Patriots organization. It’s one thing to be clever – within the rules. But after the NFL specifically addressed this type of incident during the preseason, everyone in the league was well aware of the crackdown that would soon follow on the practice of videotaping the opponent’s sideline.

Luckily, Sunday Morning Striker has it under good authority that Revolution manager Steve Nicol has not resorted to such unsportsmanlike methods.

But, as he often likes to do on Friday afternoons at the office, SMS began to imaginalize: What if Nicol did unleash an anonymous Revolution employee to scour the secrets and strategy of FC Dallas during this weekend’s match? (cue the Wayne's World "doo-doo-doo-doo...doo-doo-doo-doo..")

After tough first half, the players and coaches head to the locker room, whereby Anonymous Revs Employee hands over an ominous tape, the contents of which could be potentially damaging to the former Dallas Burn.

Nicol (pointing to the VCR): Laddy, cue the tape.

Audio: "Can you believe the hotel rooms? Two words: mini-bar."...."I dunno, he was saying something about his girlfriend's missing panties..." "Wrecked'em? Damn near killed him!"

Nicol: Fast forward it a bit...

Audio: "I am stuck on band aid brand cuz band aid's stuck on me..." "...The Foxy Lady? How far is Providence from here?"

Nicol (clearly agitated): a little further...

Audio: "Fifth row...third seat from the left...blonde hair..." "Nice..." "Damn, I got burned by both Stephen Jackson and Drew Brees did nothing for me last week? 16 combined points? What the ---"

Nicol: Bloody hell! (Ejects the tape and slams it to the ground.)

(End imaginatory sequence)

So, as you can tell, this premise would fail to accomplish much, if anything, in soccer. The audio, though intermittently entertaining, would only lend itself for blackmailing purposes.

Wait a minute...maybe it would work in soccer!

Back to reality, a revitalized Revolution attack warmed the cool New England air Saturday night, as they emphatically throttled FC Dallas 4-2.

While the Revs had been soundly defeated by DC United in the nation’s capital less than a week previous, the supporters must have arrived at Gillette Stadium wondering whether a repeat performance was about to occur.

Adding more uncertainty was the fact that manager Steve Nicol had to watch this one from the locker room, as his red card during last week’s loss resulted in suspension from this match. Temporarily taking over the Revolution reigns was none other than the Ipswich Town legend himself, Paul Mariner.

Any such fears of an encore were not easily erased when Dallas’ (herein after “the Gondoliers” for their red-striped kits) potent trio of Carlos Ruiz, Abe Thompson, and newly-acquired Brazilian playmaker Denilson stalked the eastern end of the pitch. Yet, the trio of Avery John, James Riley, and Michael Parkhurst kept them at bay early on.

Though the backs kept their end of the bargain, it was the forwards that had to deliver as well if the club was to pocket a critical three home points. Pat Noonan answered the call when he took a pass from Khano Smith on the left flank and flicked the ball into top shelf for the opening goal of the match in the 29th minute.

The Gondoliers turned their attention toward salvaging the equalizer in the 35th minute when Dax McCarty launched a long, floating free kick into a hive of striped and navy gentlemen. As the players all jockeyed for the ball, it was Ruiz – el pescado - who impeccably timed his jump and headed it right into the back of the net. (Note: I wonder the Spanish word for – ah, forget it)
Steve Morrow’s boys kept the pressure on the backs yet again during a mad scramble in front of the net when the ball dangerously bounced around like a Mexican jumping bean. Then, when it appeared that the final bounce appeared goalward, Parkhurst ended the chaos by athletically heading the ball over the bar in the 37th minute.

With SMS’s bladder about to burst due to a couple of Aquafinas and a pre-match soft drink, he hoped for a quick Revolution strike to put them up before the close of the first frame. Minutes later, the whistle mercifully blew - but without the hoped-for goal.

Now, SMS is going to share with you a secret of his. During halftime, I feel the need to stretch the legs and leave the confines of his generously-sized, cupholder-equipped throne from his section 102 dwelling. In order to accomplish this, I walk down the East ramp to the ProShop, where he is tempted to purchase numerous Revolution items and apparel. The ongoing question is “do I need this?” as he touches various jerseys, hats, and hoodies. Successfully keeping my impulsive buying habits at bay –therapy has done wonders - I returned to my seat, and like the homer that he always is, hoped for a gaggle of Revolution goals in the second half.

It looked promising early. The Revs had taken control of possession in the opening minutes of Half Two, as the attack “ooohed” and “ahhhhed” the crowd with a few prolonged possessions in FC Dallas real estate, but these endeavors failed to produce.

However, their efforts were rewarded in the 65th minute during a hasty counterattack which saw the ball transferred between Jeff Larentowicz and Steve Ralston, who paced close by on the right. Ralston took the pass from Larentowicz, and devilishly pushed the ball middle to Pat Noonan, who one-timed it past Dario Sala for the double.

Goal number three nearly came in the 74th minute when Taylor Twellman tried to join his strike partner on the scoresheet by taking the ball mere yards in front of Sala. But, Drew Moor stood his mark up, and smothered the attempt before it even approached his keeper.

The Revs continued to press, and with less than fifteen minutes in regulation, a frustrating scene occurred when no less than four Revolution players touched the ball within ten yards of the box – and no shot to show for it. Amid the tantalizing affair, Ralston burrowed through defenders, took a close pass from Twellman, and fired the ball off of Aaron Pitchkolan. Undeterred, the captain cleaned followed up on the deflection, re-acquired the ball, and fed the goalmouth at minute 78.

A touch of late-match drama unfolded when Ruiz struck again from a quick pass from Dominic Oduro and quickly headed it top-shelf, thus narrowing the gap to one goal in the 84th minute.
The goal energized the Hoops, but their aggression on offense left them painfully out of position in the 90th minute when Smith corralled a deflected ball yards before the box and powerfully heeled it inside the far post for the final goal of the match just before regulation expired.

Stat of the Match, Part 1: The Revs scored four goals for the first time since they scored four against Toronto FC back on April 14th.

Stat of the Match, Part 2: Khano Smith scored his first goal in nearly a year. His last one came on October, 14 2006 vs. Columbus.

Stat of the Match, Part 3: FC Dallas hasn’t won at Gillette Stadium in over four years. Their last win at the Razor came on July 16, 2003.

Stat of the Match, Part 4: The Revs tallied three yellow cards during a five-minute span during the closing minutes, when Adam Cristman (83’), Shalrie Joseph (86’) and Matt Reis (88’) all received bright yellow presents from referee Kevin Stott.

Stat of the Match, Part 5: The Revs will face FC Dallas again on October 3rd for the U.S. Open Cup Final. With their win Saturday night, New England is now 19-9-1 all-time vs. FC Dallas.

Random Soccer Related thought: Shalrie Joseph and Asante Samuel – separated at birth?

The OH-BAY-BEE Sweet Play of the Match: Khano Smith twice turned Gondolier defenders down the left flank, but the most notable one occurred in the 43rd minute. After taking a pass from Parkhurst, the Tall One, being closely marked by Pablo Ricchetti, turned him left as the Bermudan went right and fired a shot on Sala. Though the shot was stopped, the play was sweet. SMS was amazed to see young kids waving t-shirts and hoodies in approval despite the cool temperatures.

G-Unit signs a DPA before the September 15th roster freeze: While the Revs were busy booking plane tickets back to Serbia for Dusan Petkovic, the soon-to-be-signed-before-injuring-his-ankle defender, G-Unit made a monster signing by agreeing to terms with rap star Jim Jones. The move is significant because of Jones’ street cred paired with catchy lyrics.

This signing got SMS wondering: what if the Revs signed a big name soccer star? Oh wait a minute…that would actually require paying more than the going rate for rookies and sophomores. SMS’s bad…

Adam Cristman can’t find Uzbekistan…for real: After sorting through Thursday’s mail, SMS was pleasantly surprised to find the Revolution’s own Adam Cristman in Sports Illustrated’s “The Pop Culture Grid” section. Among the categories, the rookie forward says that Lindsay Lohan was his favorite celebrity scandal of the summer, Red Stripe is his favorite beer, and “Goodnight Moon” was his favorite book as a child.

In the same section, Rapids midfielder Pablo Mastroeni offered his own PG-13 responses: One Night in Paris was the last DVD he bought, his dad’s magazine stash was listed under “Favorite book as a child”, and finally, with the summer over, Pablo can now “ditch (his) banana hammock.” Ugh, after reading that, SMS just vomited in his mouth a little bit.

SMS Alma Mater Soccer update: The RIC women had three matches on the schedule this week. The first one, a home match vs. the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on Tuesday, was postponed due to torrential rain.

The second match, also at home to Wheaton College on Thursday night, was a disheartening affair that featured an overwhelmed home side doing their best to keep the 15th ranked Lyons at bay. Unfortunately, RIC fell hard to Wheaton, 5-0.

On Saturday, they traveled to UMass-Boston and played the Beacons up in the Hub, where they returned to their winning ways, taking a 4-1 victory. Laurie Lindsay chalked up a double, as teammates Brittney Godbout and Jessica Cardinal each tallied a goal in the Anchorwomen win.

Revs wish for home crowds like that seen at Wednesday’s Brazil-Mexico match: Yours truly was present for Wednesday night’s Brazil-Mexico match, and was absolutely floored when he entered the stadium to find over 67,000 fans on hand to watch a soccer game. Yes, this was truly an amazing sight, one that I had never witnessed in person, as I stared in awe upon a sea of canary yellow surrounding the pitch.

Interestingly, there were also a few Revolution players also present for the match, and stated that they had wished the same turnouts for their matches. An insightful piece from The Boston Globe’s Frank Dell’Apa detailed the same:

"It was unbelievable, from the time we got there 30 minutes before the game," said midfielder Shalrie Joseph, a native of Grenada who has played more than 10 international matches for his national team. "It was one of those atmospheres that as a soccer player you'd love to play in.”

Of course, it would be ideal to see these types of crowds at Revolution matches. But the organization did itself no favors that night - there was little advertising or promotion of the Revs during the match. In fact, I overheard some spectators nearby ask whether there was a pro team that played here.

The Revs front office could have easily promoted the club before 67,000 hardy soccer souls, but for unknown reasons, bypassed this golden opportunity. The only hint that pro soccer team played at Gillette was a breif flashing of the Revolution logo during halftime, without any mention of ticket deals, prices, or any other pertinent info. And people wonder why there aren’t more fans for Revs games…

SMS Monthly Book Recommendation: For those of you who may wonder what the big fuss about David Beckham is about, pick up John Carlin’s “White Angels: Beckham, Real Madrid, and the New Football.”

The book is exceptionally written, and the author’s personal football allegiance to Real Madrid gives the story a unique personal touch. In addition, it also explains Beckham’s worldwide popularity, the characters behind the scenes of the world’s most visible (note: profitable) side, and the human element of how a group of superstars like Zidane, Ronaldo, and Becks, despite their amazing collective talent, can fail against lesser sides.

US Women’s National Team feature: The women played a tough match against North Korea on Tuesday, as they drew 2-2 during a rain-soaked affair. Abby Wambach and Heather O’Reilly scored during what could be argued as the most competitive match this year for our women.

Three days later, the Americans faced the aesthetically-pleasing Swedish squad under drier conditions, and easily beat them 2-0. Wambach struck again, this time with a pair of goals, giving the US a critical three points in group play, thus placing them atop the Group B standings with North Korea.

The women will kick off against Nigeria on Tuesday morning at a more reasonable 8:00am local time, as opposed to the prior 5:00am start times for the North Korea and Sweden matches. For those of you who care, I diaried both matches from my lovely living room couch before the sun came up. Needless to say, my work productivity slipped this past week.

Join us again after the New York match, where SMS will report back on what facial expressions Bruce Arena will have cooked up for the camera. That alone should be entertaining. But like you, SMS is greedy – I want the goofy reactions and the three points! Perhaps the stars will be correctly aligned for both! Additionally, I will detail another no-fail idea of how the Revs can bring more fans to Foxboro.

Got a question, comment, or deeply-held grievance? Send an e-mail to Please know that Sunday Morning Striker may, just may, choose your e-mail on a completely arbitrary basis for publishing right here on

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