Monday, October 31, 2005

Playoffs: Conference Semis - Game 2

Through the pixelated viewing box of Windows Media Player I watched the second game of three out of the four match-ups going on this last weekend. I have a line, maybe two for each result.

FCD vs Rapids

You have to admit that this result isn't the most surprising; with the Hoopes declining form over the last few months and with Colorado finding ways to win. Yes, I know, I know. It helps to play us twice in the last month of play. The bunker defense worked just enough for the Black-and-Blue to squeeze into the next round. Of course, Joe Cannon wasn't bad either.

Quakes vs Gals

The LA Galaxy are everything that's wrong with the playoffs. Here's a team that rises and falls with its #10, depending on if he wants to have his head in the game or not. Grant it, the Earthquakes had a job to do and didn't seal the deal. The Gal's are the example of not having to be the best team to get in the playoffs, just better than us.

Revs vs Metros

Um, wow? The Revs are the Galaxy antithesis. They are everything that's right about the playoffs. The way they turned on the offense during the last half hour or that match was reminiscent of the early 2005 Revs. The eastern conference finals are shaping up to be an epic battle.

United vs Fire

This match I haven't seen yet. As one who doesn't have espn2 (along with any of my other student poor neighbors) I couldn't catch or tape this match. I have my sources and will be receiving a copy very soon. I'm told it will be about 20 hours or so. But, from what I've read Chicago took DC out behind the shed on this one.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Rocky Mountin Cup to the Crapids (belated)

I wasn't going to write about the Rocky Mountain Cup final. I figured the moment had past, and those emotions were gone. But, my friend Eric (known to some as Deuce) handed my some pictures from that night and all those emotions came back.

For Salt Lake supporters the game sucked because the guys played like they cared for once, but it had been so long that the whole team had done so that they couldn't figure out how to seal the deal.

The Rapids went on to win on a goal by Fabrice Noel and with a flurry of streamers at the final whistle that was it; the season was over.

At the presentation of the Cup to the Rapids Jeff Cunningham instantly ran to Supporters' Corner hoisting the trophy in the air. Cannon and other Rapids players joined in. Sure they were gloating, but at least they cared enough to do so. These players were playing the game. Yes, they were taunting our fans, but it was all in good fun. They had their moment and it was done.

And for those on both sides of C-10, I want you to know that behind closed doors the Rapids players were genuinely thrilled to win the trophy. When I entered the locker for post-game interviews the cup sat on a table in the middle of the room. A couple of players, who I don't remember, were joyfully discussing receiving their first professional trophy. So, well done by all party's in putting the competition together. I think the players have taken to it.

On the way up the ramp (leaving the Rice-Eccles field area you have to walk up a ramp and through a crowd of people to get out. Both players and personnel have to pass through) I happened to be walking with Cunningham. He looked up and saw the wall of young autograph seekers waiting and hesitated. I mentioned that it can be tough to get through. The guy just started talking to me until we got through the crowd. I guess I made him look occupied enough so that he wouldn't have to stop. I don't know, but now I have a different level of respect for the man.

I reached a couple other supporters and chatted with them for a bit. Then we all had the same weird feeling that we didn't want to leave. This amazing thing of having a Major League Soccer team in our area we didn't want to stop. There was lamenting about having to wait until April to see the boys play again.

It's going to be a long winter.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Expansion Exhibition

The exhibition between RSL and Chivas was surprisingly intense. The Goats brought all their big guns and wholy cow Clint Mathis CAN run!

I liked the lineup RSL came out with. Everyone one of the boys were fired up and hustling. If that is who plays and how they play in 2006 then I will be a happy fan. My only worry was Nellie Akwari. Palencia blew past the guy way to easily.

Which brings me to my next point about Chivas. Once they find some body to link up to Palencia they won't be the worst team in the league. I don't want to say they'll be great, but they will be much better.

That and Palencia has perfectly manicured nails. His color of choice last night was a dark purple or maybe blue. I didn't take a very long look. Is it Mexican thing?

Watson sublimely chipped Garcia in the second half. The irony is the reds had no shots in the first half. Watson's goal was the difference.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Reaction to BASA: Defender of the Year

The soccer bloggers awards, known as BASA, announced the results for the defender of the year award. The committee voted in the following fashion:

1. Danny Califf
2. Eddie Robinson
3. Tyrone Marshall

While this is a descent listing of quality MLS defenders, I pose a few questions. How is Califf the best defender in the league when he's not even the best defender on his team? San Jose had the best defense in the league and Califf was a big contributer to that back line for the games he was in. But, there were others who had a better year - namely Robinson and Barrett.

Marshall? I don't know about that one. I know that being an RSL supporter I have no room to talk about defenses, but it never struck me that anything about LA's defense was that hot this year. Hartman had some nice saves. I would have put Dunivant before Marshall, but maybe you guys saw something I didn't.

Personally, Conrad would be in my top three mainly due to his consistency with Kansas City led to a break out year with the National team.

Parkhurst also deserves to be on the list as he has played every minute for the Revs this season. Not bad for a rookie.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Playoffs: Conference Semis - Game 1

It's sad when Brian Hall wants the glory of deciding a game through a phantom call.

For anyone who caught the playoff match last night Chad Barrett of Chicago looked to put the Reds up on a pretty header through traffic with only minutes left to play. But, Hall had just enough time to put the crack pipe down to make some kind of call to disallow the goal.

The DC homer announcers couldn't see it, I didn't see it, did you? maybe one of you who had the game on a real tv could shed some light on this.

But, to go off of what Prime said in another thread, it was a fun game to watch. Free flowing crisp passes through mutch of the game. There were lots of chances on goal. Watching the playoffs makes you feel good as to where MLS is going with the quality of play on the field.

Now if teams could only play like that all season long...

Followers of soccer know that the MLS playoff format is severly flawed. As it looks right now, the two best teams in MLS will not play each other in the final. If everything were to go through as it currently stands it would be the Gals and probably DC. Clearly, San Jose and New England should be in the finals. Let's hope for the unattached fan that's the case.

The problem is that there are no realistic alternatives. A single table system needs a punishment for the losing teams. I'm not Dave Checketts, but I can imagine he wouldn't be all that excited about investing all his capital into a team and stadium only to have the nicest grounds in the USL First Division.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Tie in San Jose

I'll admit, I totally missed the RSL and US games on Saturday night. I was too busy rockin' out to Steve Miller at the Delta Center, he was playing a private concert for NuSkin employees and their families. Thank you in-laws!

I watched the highlights of the tie in San Jose and didn't even bother trying to get the US game once I saw the score line. With all that said, here are my thoughts on the two minutes that I saw.

Only one of those four goals should have gone in. DeRo's ball should have been cleared, stopped, or sat on. But it definitely should not have squirted back over to him like a yo-yo so he could finish it.

I couldn't see who was marking Nash on the Smurfs second goal, but the point is that he was marked. The man had a defender between him and the goal and he still got a shot off, and that shot went in.

Okay, I'm a crack addict. I just watched Nash's goal again and it was legit. The defender still shouldn't let himself be megged like that, but what can you do? Sometimes you just get megged.

Now, I love Kevin Novak. The kid is a work horse that doesn't back down. But, honestly goals like his on Saturday shouldn't be scored at the professional level. Nice work Kevin, I know you deserve the goal that's awesome you got one past Onstad.

Andy's goal, in my opinion, is the only one that should have gone in. He was left unmarked and did well to put his chance away.

I do have to say that seeing an even score line was exciting for me. It's a huge hump that we kind of got over - or at least a leg up on.

Cheers to San Jose for the big crowd. I lived out there in 2001 and attended most of the games that season, and it was a rare occasion to get people behind the south goal. Last night it looked filled.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Freddy Show

After the game I heard someone make the statement: "playing DC United at this point in the season is like running into a buzz saw." That would seem about right in describing the night.

I jokingly referred to this game for weeks as "The Freddy Show" mocking the fact that a lot of people would be coming to see the boy wonder and not so much their hometown RSL. I reassured everyone that Freddy was only 16 and that he was great for a kid his age, but that he was often outmatched when playing against men. Well, yeah. Thanks for making me look like an idiot Freddy.

The attendance was decent for a 40-degree school night (14,306), and the Freddy Show was in full affect. The young lad made a mockery of the RSL defense. If you haven't seen it here's a windows media file of Freddy's Goal.

What's hard is that the boys came out to play tonight, for most of the first half. Good passes were being made, there was lots of movement, Melvin Tarley was getting through the United back line...repeatedly.

The only glaring problems I saw were the defense loosing their marks - especially on the third goal when Achu spread it wide to Jamil Walker who one timed it inside to Christian Gomez. All done with 20-30 passes on the ground.

As for me, I'll admit, I was jazzed about talking to the Freddy, seeing as DC was the last team to come to town. The fun part of the interview was seeing his reaction when talking about the atmosphere at Rice-Eccles. Not only was he saying that it "felt like Europe," but you could hear the out right giddiness in his voice. Tack another one up for the great fans that come out to soccer games in Salt Lake and add to the atmosphere!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Difference in Venue

After participating in and hearing all the criticism the RSL faithful have heaved at the Rapids and their spectators I felt the need to say something. The following is a post I submitted to an RSL fan forum. In response to another comment from a fellow supporter who said:

"I do need to mention that most of this was only coming from a few fans. The rest were quite nice to us."

I would have to agree. The true hard core rapids fans, who you had the sense that they've supported the team since it wore green and Marcelo Balboa was playing for them, saw our interactions with security and empathised with us after the game. It's a battle they've been fighting since 96 I guess.

It takes an experience like that to realize how nice we have it in Salt Lake. RES security has really given us our space and the other fans have truly grasped what we (the supporters) are their to do.

cheers to rsl, res, and slc!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Denver Road Trip: Reserves Match

The mood at breakfast on Sunday was lethargic. We all seemed to arrive at the complementary meal at about the same time. It was nice to get a hot meal to start the day.

Checking out of the hotel, we travelled out to the Rapids training facility for the reserves match. We arrived 10 minutes into the match with RSL already down 1-0. Former Blitzz 'keeper Chad Sackett was in goal, which was a plus for us old time supporters. In recognition to the fact, I wore my Utah Blitzz Radical Attitude Fan t-shirt.

It was my first reserves match. The scene was a reminder of how wonderfully simple the game really is. Take away the stadium and the PA announcer, the TV cameras and even the scoreboard and you have the same game played by the masses.

A funny moment came just before half time. A group of us were sitting by the sideline while Eric, the group photo man, was up taking pictures. In a situation where Jamie Watson had the ball inside the six and was dispossessed we heard from Eric's direction (something to the affect of), "c'mon first time Jamie!" We all turned in surprise that Eric would say that, and saw that it wasn't Eric at all. Brian Dunseth was standing by the photographer.

Dunnie ended up standing and talking with us for the remainder of the match. He's a funny person to talk to with a lot of entertaining stories and experiences to share. Another example that our players are class acts. In case it wasn't clear from my post on the team. I never doubted the players were class acts. The timing just wasn't right the night before.

Following the 5-1 loss of the reserves the bench came over and genuinely thanked the supporters. The occasion was much more organic and natural and everyone looked to be more relaxed and comfortable, players and supporters alike.

It was a perfect way for us to end our stay in Denver as we loaded on the bus and headed home.

The first RSL Supporters Road Trip is in the books, and I know I'm not the only one who hopes there will be many more in the future.

onward rsl!

Denver Road Trip: The Team

I am now going to give my commentary on what happened following the match involving the RSL team and organization.

As the final whistle blew the rage of a frustrated supporter simmered inside of me. We were there. We were loud. The support from the stands drove all night in a bus and sang their voices out and the team still lost.

The boys left the field with heads hung down, and rightfully so. They had a game that they could have and should have won and couldn't close the deal.

To avoid any further altercations with the black and blue faithful we waited in our section before the state police came to clear us out. On our way out Eric received a call from Scholesy calling on behalf of Ellinger who requested that the supporters come to the team hotel. It turns out that he was not impressed with the lack of appreciation his players showed the supporters and wanted to make it up to us.

We arrived at the hotel lobby not sure what to expect. Some of the players, including Jay, Jordan, Seth, Kenny, and Bryan Kamler stopped and said thank you to us. While most of the others, understandably, bolted through the lobby for the doors.

I'm pretty sure it's not what Ellinger wanted, but really what could he expect. As a player, if I had just had a bad game, at the end of a hard season, the last thing I would want to do is make small talk with a bunch of wide-eyed fans.

Needless to say some of the fans felt that a long and frustrating night had only been made longer and more frustrating. I for one felt silly standing there in the lobby. Someone even mentioned feeling like a groupie, which is pretty close to what we looked like.

In hind sight, all the players were going to be at the reserve match the next day as were all of the supporters. The gathering should have been made at the reserves match.

Back at the hotel in Willow Creek, a group of us were having a pickle of a time finding a place to eat. We ended up at an delicious pizza joint called Old Chicago.

Sleep was received well that night, especially on the soft hotel beds rather then the bus chairs.

Denver Road Trip: The Game

At Invesco the group first went down onto the field to be the backdrop for the RSL pregame show. It was nice to walk a proper grass surface. Fun was had, pictures were taken, it was a memorable 20 minutes.

Upon coming out of the tunnel under the stadium some of us were impressed by the large line gathered to enter the game. We later found out that there were only two gates open in the whole place, and there was a give away of free soccer balls that night. From what we were told by a local it was actually their best crowd of the season - twice as many as usual.

We made our way through the parking lot to a tailgate put on by some of the local fans. As we approached the area we were greeted with some obscenities, but the two or three fans that welcomed us were friendly. Some of them were wearing info sheets taped to their chest. The one fan that I met, named Lin, was from Peoria (close to wear I attended high school). With that connection he seemed a bit more friendly and an all around swell guy.

Getting into the stadium I was worried about my backpack, and more specifically the streamers at the bottom of the bag. The security guard searched through and when he found the streamers inquired as to what I was planning on doing with them. Before I could reply he answered his own question. "Oh, you want to throw 'em and get my field dirty.....that's fine - I don't have to clean it up," and he let me through.

Our seats were in the identical section in the northeast corner as the supporters sit at Rice-Eccles. We certainly made ourselves heard, which surprised the spectators around us. At one point we were informed by an exasperated mother that their were children around and to stop using such language. The offensive word being "crappy." Because she was so appalled we took such lyrics out of our chants/songs for the evening.

A few minutes later we were approached by security asking us to "keep it down." I couldn't believe what i was hearing. At a professional sporting even we were getting in trouble for be too loud. In the middle of the discussion I butted in the conversation by saying (something to affect of), "Is it a disruption being loud at a Broncos game?" He was quiet after that, and I would think that he realized he was fighting the wrong battle with us.

Another incident occured when a young lad was blowing a horn directly in the ear of one of our group members, Eirc, who asked the kid to stop. This didn't sit well with the kid's father who came storming down the aisle and proceeded to cuss out Eric out for telling his child what to do, using much more foul language than we were. Eric was the much bigger man. No fists were thrown.

The main problem the Rapids fans had was that they weren't used to the drums. Some where it was decided that it's better to be quiet and let soccer players concentrate rather than "disrupt" the game by cheering on your team. The Colorado fans don't understand how to support a team and neither do their security.

The game started well with an early goal from Cleetus. The team seemed to be inspired and were fun to watch for most of the first half. Then Colorado equalized just before the break. Our boys gave the game away by giving up a second goal late in the game. It was frustrating to watch, one can only imagine what it was like on the pitch.

The night at Invesco was capped off by having an energetic Coloradan chuck a cup of beer into our section. The brunt of it hit my row, with me, Eric and few others getting wet. The culprit cowardly ran up the aisle, but before escaping into the tunnel he turned, took a picture, gave us the bird and yelled some more obscenities at us.

We found out later that the stadium security actually kept a camera on our section and taped us for the entire game. If there was any way we could get that tape...

Denver Road Trip: Part 1

With sleepy eyes and drums in tow a group of 23 devoted RSL supporters set out at a quarter to midnight in a bus from the RSL head office at Trolley Corners in downtown Salt Lake headed for Denver to witness the third match up in the Rocky Mountain Cup.

Since Real is out of the playoffs and there is nothing else to play for, the RMC is a nice consolation on a less than stellar season.

Besides, the trip has been planned since may - there's no way we were going to back out now.

Our excellent driver, Bob, soldiered all through the night behind the wheel. We ended up making it to denver in 9 hours. Nice time under any circumstances, but especially since we stopped three times before leaving Utah to fix the heater and the door (which blew open).

Sleeping didn't really happen. Only in short increments. You only realized you slept when you caught yourself waking up - if that makes sense.

Arriving at our hotel, Embassy Suites, early (around 9am) most people took a quick shower and then headed downtown. Our large group split into smaller groups as we explored the city of Denver. With our group most of the day was spent walking the 16th Street Mall, during which we caught a large group of RSL clad gents out for a mandatory team walk. We stopped and wished our boys luck against the cRapids.

Lunch was had at a sports pub called Brooklyns, right by the Pepsi Center. We were met there by 1280 color man Wayne Scholes and RSL Marketing Director Trey Fitz-Gerald. Both class acts.

There was plenty of college pointy ball on the screens around the store. The most painful was watching Texas dismantle my Missouri Tigers on national television.

After eating discussion circulated around various RSL players and speculating what we thought of them and whether they would be in Salt Lake next season. Such conversations when it involves members of the front office and the media.

Before heading out to the stadium we saw the Colorado state capital. Time also allowed for a few minutes of recuperating at the hotel as we gathered back into our large group in preparations for the game.