Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sunday Morning Striker: Hi-Liters make their mark, beat Revs, 3-2

If you happen to be reading this from a residence/semi-permanent location within New England, you've surely been inundated with advertising images of numerous pumpkin-themed products. Pumpkin pies, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin candles, pumpkin bagels, and even pumpkin-flavored lattes have been flashed before your eyes on TV and in-store signage.

Now, if you like these products, then you have much in common with Sunday Morning Striker. For SMS delights in many Autumn-related goodies and sights, which also happen to include pumpkin-themed foods, candles, drinks, and actual pumpkins! Companies like Dunkin Donuts exploit SMS's appreciation for the pumpkin flavor by heavily promoting their Pumpkin lattes and muffins which you can combo up for a discounted price.

Like the brainwashed media gadfly he has become, SMS has unsurprisingly caved into the pumpkin craze and taken to a strict pre-match regiment of a Dunkin pumpkin muffin and pumpkin spice coffee for RIC Anchorwomen games. After all, with free admission and the lack of big guys in florescent orange jackets telling you that you've got to part with the beverage in your hand prior to entering, SMS takes advantage by brining in his delightful fall-themed fare. (Note: SMS realizes that RIC would rather have you purchase food at the concession, to which he does at halftime for the ubiquitous soft drink/coffee and hot dog. But in spite of free admission and no strict food or beverage policies, SMS contributes to the alumni fund to keep this good thing going.)

Yet, it seems as if every fall, there is another pumpkin-based product out there to pull a few extra Washingtons out of the wallet. I mean, c'mon: pumpkin lattes? Great idea, but you've got to admit, it's becoming a bit much. Of course, there can never truly be enough pumpkin themed foods in your author’s humble opinion, as SMS awaits the day where he can purchase pumpkin soda, pumpkin sushi, and pumpkin cereal. Mmmmmmm...

And to take the fall weather a step further, how fantastic is it to watch soccer with a backdrop of fiery reds, oranges and yellow leaved maples and oaks? SMS used to think, prior to his awakening, that football was the ideal fall spectator sport. While this is true to a point, absolutely nothing beats fall soccer at the alma mater.

Speaking of pumpkins, SMS hopes that the Revolution buggy doesn’t turn into one once the clock strikes midnight on the regular season. So far, they've played to a 2-2-2 record since September 9th, which is hardly encouraging since their competition in that span (with the exception of DC United) all had worse records than the Revs. Two more muffins remain on the schedule; it would seem to be prime pickings for a playoff bound team to gather some steam going into the playoffs.

In related news, the Revs hosted the pumpkin muffin Crew (7-11-10) on Saturday night. Recent history tells us that if the previous to matches are indicative of anything, it’s that the Revs back line will cough up a late-equalizer, thus knotting one of the best clubs in MLS against one of the worst.

Anyway, at 7:38pm ET, the Revs trotted onto the pitch in a 4-4-2, with midfielder Steve Ralston dropping to the back and Andy Dorman relegated to the cool air surrounding the Revolution bench. The Hi-Liters (a.k.a. the Crew, for their…heck, if you don’t know why they’re called the Hi-Liters, then maybe you shouldn’t be reading this) commenced the match in gleeful fashion as they passed the ball about for the early-evening entertainment.

By the tenth minute, the Revolution had grown weary of the Columbus passing clinic and jump started an assault. Khano Smith delivered a cross that just missed its connection with an oncoming Steve Ralston having been beaten to the ball by Columbus keeper Will Hesmer.
Shortly thereafter, the Crew sprung to life with a threat in the 16th minute, after they were awarded a free kick just beyond the D. Tim Ward fired a rising laser that rose just over the bar and out of the danger.

However, the Revs found the scoreboard first in the 26th minute when Ralston launched a corner directly to the noggin of a well-positioned Taylor Twellman, who sprung from Hesmer’s welcome mat and glanced the ball into the net.

The lukewarm Columbus attack managed to press into Revolution territory in the 33rd minute, when Eddie Gaven put a ball right toward Matt Reis before the keeper cradled it. Thus concluded the one of the few abrupt, yet harmless Crew mini-me attacks.

In the final minutes of the half, Columbus continued their short sojourns toward Reis and came back yet again in the 42nd minute, as Robbie Rogers whipped a threatening cross that the red-kitted keeper adeptly extinguished, as the Crew trudged back upfield yet again without finding the back of the net.

During halftime, SMS refreshed himself with a double fist of coffee and diet Pepsi, as the official friends of SMS were frantically texting him with such tempting messages as “hot chicks at the bar…meet us there in five.” Readers, SMS bypassed another evening of beautiful females and interdisciplinary banter among his blokes about anthropology, women’s studies, and sports to deliver this extremely-biased match report!

As Half Two kicked off, the Crew inserted their Argentinean striker, Guillermo Barros Schellotto, in an attempt to ignite their stale attack. The move paid immediate dividends, and the Columbus had its pedal back to the metal early on in the second half.

Anywho, with the Hi-Liters dominating possession, the Revs tried to answer back with a quick attack in the 55th minute, but Young Wells Thompson was caught well offside. Shortly thereafter, Pat Noonan raced toward goal before giving it up to strike partner Twellman, who guided a rocket just wide of the far post in the 57th minute.

The Crew finally put on their hard hats (SMS couldn’t resist) and jackhammered through the Revs backs when Schellotto harnessed the ball in the box, and fed it forward to Robbie Rogers, who initially flicked the ball off the right post. Unluckily, the deflection went right back into the box, and Gavin cleaned it up with an easy-as-pumpkin-pie goal in the 61st minute.

The Revs backs had their hands full yet again in the 77th minute, when Gaven raced down the left channel, and caught up to the ball just before the ball passed the byline. The midfielder then took the motionless ball right on the line, looked up, and beautifully delivered the ball to teammate Stefani Miglioranzi, who raced toward goal and easily pushed the ball past the defenseless Reis for the go-ahead goal.

Shortly thereafter, Nicol made a late-match substitution as he inserted Andy Dorman for Thompson to try and revitalize the stale Revolution attack in the 82nd minute. Amazingly, it worked – though indirectly - as Ralston took the ball, and initiated a little give and go to Shalrie Joseph inside the box, then quickly took the return pass and nailed it home toward the far post in the 83rd minute.

But the joy from the equalizer didn’t last. Schellotto, the bane of the Revs back throughout the second half, strolled past the halfway line, took the ball from 25 yards out, turned his defender, and fired a groundhog through yards of open real estate that just escaped the paws of Reis into the left post in the 86th minute.

Allotted four minutes of stoppage to send the crowd home happy, the Revs tried to form a late attack. The opportunity came from a free kick awarded just inside the D, as Ralston and Larentowicz stood before the ball. Then, Larentowicz stepped up and fired a curler that died on impact at the Crew wall, as the Revolution faded quietly into the cool New England night, giving up a sour 3-2 loss to the Crew.

Stat of the Match, Part 1: The last time the Revs beat Columbus was during last season’s final regular season match, winning a 1-0.

Stat of the Match, Part 2: For the third consecutive game this season, the Crew tallied a goal at 85th minute or later goal against the Revs.

Stat of the Match, Part 3: The sixth-place Crew has now scored three goals against the Revs twice this season. The only other club to record three or more goals twice against the Revs this season is first-place DC United (3-0 on 8/5, and 4-2 on 9/2).

Stat of the Match, Part 4: Since clinching a playoff berth on September 15th, the Revs are 1-2-1 in MLS action.

Stat of the Match, Part 5: After coming in as a 2nd half sub, Guillermo Barros Schellotto took only one shot on goal – the game-winner in the 86th minute.

THREEPENNY ANALYSIS: The Revs looked good early, despite intermittent Columbus attacks, and looked poised to impose their will going into the second half up 1-0. But when Schellotto entered the match in the second half, the momentum slid toward the Crew, as the Argentinean became the offensive catalyst that the guests had lacked in the first frame.

The Revs struggled to contain Schellotto, and the striker showed no mercy, as exemplified by his amazing 86th minute game-winner in which he simply took James Riley to school on, and then fired a missile that lodged itself into the left corner of the net. The Revs just could not find answer to his artistry, and just failed to spark anything offense thereafter.

Once again, the Revs failed to wrap up what should have been at least one point against a much lesser squad.

Random soccer-related thought: After scoring his 90th career MLS goal Saturday night, SMS strongly feels that there should be some sort of club-sponsored countdown banner devoted to Taylor Twellman’s march to 100 goals.

Trick or treat! The Gillette Stadium pitch came to the match disguised as a football field.

Sunday Morning Striker End of Season Award announcement: Prior to the match, the team trophies were handed to the club’s top performers. In recognition of this event, SMS has created his own award: “Most Improved Player since an SMS bashing.”

All season, SMS harped on a certain left-sided midfielder who’s more known for his wild crosses and shot than his curiously-stylish “brohawk” hairdo. A gentleman who, to his credit, kept at it, and actually put together a nice streak of well-played matches down the stretch. The man who nearly put a Rodney Harrison hit on Jay Heaps after scoring his first goal of the season against FC Dallas.

So without further ado, the winner of this year’s award goes to…Khano Smith!

SMS Alma Mater update: The Anchorwomen began the week on a rough note, with a heartbreaking 1-0 double-overtime loss to Roger Williams University on Columbus Day Monday. Freshman keeper Maddie Pirri did well to keep RWU off the board until Hawks forward Amanda daCunha spoiled the clean sheet performance in the 104th minute.

RIC then traveled to Bridgewater State College and dropped a tough 3-2 loss on the road. Brittney Godbout and Kerry Donahue trallied a goal apiece in the losing effort, as the maroon and gold came up a goal short.

Finally, the victory that eluded them all week was finally achieved on Saturday afternoon at the RIC Soccer Field, where Donahue and Krista MacKinnon scored the fist two goals against Plymouth State University. But PSU answered with a pair of its own in the second half, knotting the score at two, and sending the match to OT. But Abby Hummel ended the OT on her own account, with a wicked shot that lodged itself into the far corner for the much-deserved 3-2 win.

US Women's Nation Team feature: The WNT saw its first action since the World Cup on Saturday night as for the first of three consecutive matches against Mexico. Unfortunately, the match was not televised live from Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, and with the Revs-Crew match starting at half an hour prior to US-Mexico, SMS was relegated to following via MatchTracker during half time at Gillette. Luckily, our women thumped their Mexican counterparts 5-1, after initially going down 0-1 in the sixth minute.

SMS really doesn't want to go there, but he will: The whole Hope Solo controversy, which has been skewered, stewed, baked, fried, boiled, broiled, grilled and roasted by the media, has led SMS to conclude that there really is no such thing as bad publicity. Don't believe SMS? Go ahead - try to order a Hope Solo jersey from

Join us again after the regular season finale against Toronto FC, where SMS will revisit his pre-season predictions, and comment on how close he was to predicting the exact record of the Revs this season, among other prognostications. Want a good laugh? Just see how far off he was in his prediction of the first Revolution player departure!

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