Sunday, July 31, 2005

MLS All-Stars 4 - Fulham 1

This was the kind of game American audiences need to see. The best of the MLS showed that this is not a bush league for forgettable players. No, it is a league that is emerging from their shaking startup and discovering what could be.

Now Fulham is no Man United or Chelsea, but they are still one of the top 20 teams in England. Also, Fulham is only in their pre-season phase of work, but still, the MLS looked great. The first 20 minutes was careful soccer on both sides of the ball. Once the MLS side starting feeling comfortable with each other (they had only had a couple practices together), the fireworks began. In the 23rd minute, Landon Donovan passed to Taylor Twellman who took a quick shot that caught Mark Crossley looking and ended up slowly finding its way to the back of the net. MLS 1 - Fulham 0

As first goals often do, they woke everyone up to the game at hand. Fulham started attacking with much more force, which tested the unfamiliar MLS backline. When Luis Boa Morte beat Chris Albright in the 34th minute, Albright ended up fouling him giving the Whites of Fulham a penalty kick. Claus Jenson took an excellent shot that got Matt Reis to dive the wrong way. MLS 1 - Fulham 1

The rest of the half and the first 10 minutes of the second half were mainly spent testing each other's side. There were a few good brakes, but nothing that want all the way.

In the 56th minute, the MLS side sprinted towards goal. Clint Dempsey knocked a volley from the top of the box that bounced off of Ronnie O'Brien and skipped between the bars. MLS 2 - Fulham 1

This goal and the beating sun seem to take it out of Fulham. It was obvious that they were not prepared to play a full 90-minutes of hard fought soccer. Normally one thinks of an All-Starr game as a light affair with lots of scoring and few hard tackles. This is not what happened yesterday. The folks from Fulham were playing for lineup spots and the MLS side was playing for pride, which meant that both sides actually cared about the end results. Unfortunately, Fulham just could not make it past the hour mark.

That said, the Whites did have a few good shots include one in the 79th that Reis had to punch over the bar. Still, their challenges on goal were few and far between.

For the MLS, they were poking through the English side's line during the last 30 minutes without many cares. One stand out with these challenges was Jeff Cunningham. Fulham had no idea how to deal with him. He was just too fast for them. My biggest surprise is that it took him 15 minutes to get a goal (he was subbed in for Clint Dempsey in the 68th), and what a goal it was. He took a pass from Christian Gomez and smacked it off the post for his first goal. MLS 3 - Fulham 1

Just six minutes later, Cunningham plowed past the White's defense and got to go one on one against keeper Jaroslav Drobny. Jeff kept the ball low, sneaking it past a charging Drobny, and it rolled just inside the far post. MLS 4 - Fulham 1

And that's the way it ended.

All and all, a great game. Fulham obviously need some more practice before their season starts in a couple weeks while the MLS can take this week to let their players rest and recover from the first part of the season.

So how did I do with this one? I guesed MLS 4 - Fulham 3, so I was a bit off on the offensive side for Fulham. Not bad if I say so myself.


Anonymous mario said...

Goal! Man you sure can write a good article. I have to agree about Fulham though, they weren't ready for a real tough game.

2:37 PM  

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