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Eoin O'Callaghan

Eoin O'Callaghan

Eoin has worked in sports broadcasting in Ireland as a researcher, reporter, presenter and producer. He is currently a soccer reporter/anchor with the Fox Soccer Report


TANGENTS

5 Things To Watch For In MLS This Weekend (It Is Actually More Than 5 – Ed.)

Written by on April 27, 2012 | 2 Comments »
Posted in Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS, New York RB, San Jose Earthquakes, Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps

It’s just talk, talk, talk ‘til you lose your patience

The memorable scene from the film adaptation of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross sees ‘Blake’ (Alec Baldwin) pay a visit to a group of under-performing real estate agents to berate them for their ineptitude. He hurls insults. He ridicules them for the constant excuses. When challenged by Dave Moss (Ed Harris), he pulls up a chair, rolls up his sleeve and takes off his watch. Laying it on the table in front of Moss he says – ‘You see this watch? This watch cost more than your car’.

The media world was whipped into a frenzy after what happened following Toronto FC’s 3-2 loss to Chicago. Aron Winter said this, the players said that.

What does it all mean?

It means there’s too much talking.

What do you say after a 6th straight defeat that hasn’t been said before?

Talking, as ‘Blake’ might say, is for closers. For when talking is as inane as this, surely you’d prefer to say as little as possible.

Here’s what Ryan Johnson had to say earlier this week – ‘I think you have to make some changes at some place, I don’t know where. But some change needs to happen’. Astute.

Aron Winter came out with this clincher – ‘The moment we get the first points, everything is going to turn’. Wrong.

And finally, MLSE Chief Operating Officer Tom Anselmi gave his opinion on TFC’s current mire – ‘They have to get this straightened out. Our fans deserve better’. Corporate.

A friend of mine enjoyed a very successful playing career in England and wrapped up his on-field days in the lower leagues before graduating to a coaching role. He used to tell me stories of watching from the dugout, as his team would lose a game 3-1 with two of those goals coming from set pieces.

Training the following week would feature forensic work on dealing with corners, free kicks and even throw-ins. The following Saturday, the team would forget everything they were taught, panic, lose poise/focus and concede from a set piece once again.

Player intelligence can be incredibly poor at that level. Awareness of certain situations and being able to make a decisive move quickly are basic elements within a top player’s skill-set.

And it’s what limited players find hardest to pick up.

Winter was heavily ridiculed for saying his side can make the play-offs. It was a ploy solely intended so his team remain calm. Against Chicago, nobody took a breath when in search of an equalizer. It was frantic and ugly. Desperate. It made for entertainment, sure. But this isn’t entertainment.

At the end of the scene, ‘Blake’ pulls out the new Glengarry leads and proudly shows them off. He tells the salesmen that they won’t be getting them because the information is for ‘closers’. He walks to Moss’s desk and retrieves his watch. As he’s putting it on he says, ‘And to answer your question, pal. Why am I here? I came here because Mitch and Murray asked me to, they asked me for a favor. I said, the real favor, follow my advice and fire your fucking ass because a loser is a loser’.

 That’s Entertainment

 With New York having to piece together a back-four for this weekend’s clash with the Revs, many are predicting another embarrassing Red Bulls defensive display. But sometimes, inexperience can be a major positive. Rookies can be naïve but they’re also bullet-proof, knowing they have a point to prove.

For Markus Holgersson, the changes to the back line may also be a blessing in disguise. Suddenly, he’s the leader back there. He’s the experienced figure. And following a barrage of criticism, the Swede needs a big performance.

In many ways, there’s something akin to Per Mertesacker about the strapping centre-half. He’s big – therefore he should be commanding. Not necessarily. With the ball on the ground, he always seems on edge, nervous.

But, moving to MLS from the Swedish league champions would indicate he’s got a lot to offer, especially being on the periphery of the international squad. Sweden has produced quite a steady line of impressive stoppers so it won’t come as a surprise to see Holgersson improve as the season continues.

But currently, the defense is struggling badly and since the beginning of the campaign, New York has looked insecure at the back.

Timid.

Soft.

There needs to be aggression. Though the main focus from last week’s collapse to DC was on individual errors, the key was a lack of cohesion. Players will make mistakes but it’s up to teammates to react, anticipate, be aware and ensure that an error is dealt with and quickly forgotten about.

Last term, New York was accused of missing a collective identity. Already this season, the same affliction is costing them.

Stand and Deliver

 San Jose’s 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake was overshadowed by a number of things – Jason Kreis’s displeasure at the officials, two red cards, two injury-time goals from the ‘Quakes and an eighth of the season for Chris Wondolowski.

But, one key aspect was ignored. The quality of service San Jose provided from wide areas. Steven Beitashour continues to impress at right-back, getting forward to deliver two excellent crosses that were glanced to the net by Khari Stephenson and Simon Dawkins.

The service for the second was particularly impressive. The game entering injury-time, pressure to simply get the ball into the area but Beitashour knew exactly what he was doing – lifting the cross perfectly into the path of Dawkins who was able to run onto the centre and power it to the far corner.

Their opponents this weekend – Philly – have kept things very tight in recent weeks. Unbeaten in three, two straight wins, three straight clean-sheets.

But, in the first game of the season, Portland caused them lots of trouble in the air and if Beitashour can conjure some more impressive deliveries, the in-form due of Wondo and Stephenson will make things difficult for the Union. 

La-La Land Starts Making Sense

 Two straight wins for the reigning champions and things slowly getting back to normal. Their two goals against Colorado last weekend were incredibly contrasting in styles but comparable in beauty.

The first came from a dead-ball – Beckham standing over the free-kick forty yards from goal. The Rapids defence expecting an in-swinging cross but instead, Beckham delicately clips it to the near post where an unmarked Mike Magee had timed his run to perfection, carefully looping the header towards goal with Marvell Wynne glancing it to his own net.

Beckham’s pass a piece of under-valued brilliance.

The second goal was even better.

The Galaxy deep in their own half – Beckham and Magee exchanging passes before the latter switches the play and spreads it wide left for Donovan. He races through the middle and feeds Keane who holds it up intelligently, waiting for the arced run from Donovan on his left.

Buddle makes the decoy run, opening it up for Donovan to receive the perfectly-weighted pass before he slides it past Matt Pickens. A superb goal.

Things beginning to click, a first-choice eleven once again though still no clean sheet this season. Should one arrive at the Home Depot Center this weekend against Dallas, other teams should be getting a little nervous.  

  Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strain)

 Martin Rennie likes systems. He’s a pragmatic coach – all that matters is the result.

If his side can achieve that by playing attractive football, that’s a bonus.

After two straight defeats, he changed things for a home clash with Dallas – Omar Salgado through the middle, Camilo on the left, Sebastien le Toux pushed wide right and both Eric Hassli and Davide Chiumiento on the bench.

The Italian an unused substitute while the Frenchman came on with just over 10 minutes left. The starting offensive trio that faced Dallas provides plenty of options for Rennie with an ability to interchange throughout a game.

In fact, the Camilo goal came from him popping up wide right, taking a pass from Young Pyo Lee, cutting inside onto his left and arrowing the shot to the far corner.

For this weekend’s game against Columbus, Rennie has a dilemma.

Does he stick with pace, skill and perhaps a lack of physicality or will Hassli come in solely to be a nuisance to the Crew defence?

They certainly weren’t outfought by the bruising Houston Dynamo last week in that 2-2 draw and did suffer badly at the hands of New York’s quick movement and incisive attacks. So, perhaps Salgado, Camilo and Le Toux will all be retained for this one.

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2 Responses to “5 Things To Watch For In MLS This Weekend (It Is Actually More Than 5 – Ed.)”

  1. Gilian says:

    I am really getting to love Eoin’s MLS previews!

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