Monday, August 07, 2006

Why beating Chelsea matters

MLS All-Stars 1-0 Chelsea

For a game that meant nothing, it looked like there were 22-men very interested in the outcome on the pitch on Saturday. For the MLS, it was about pride, both for the league and for the individual players. For Chelsea, it was about building their brand. Chelsea longs to crack the US market (thus their tours over the last two years and their partnership with LA), so they wanted to use this game to introduce themselves to a wider market and maybe get some highlights on TV.

Sad day for Chelsea as the highlights went to the MLS.

Yes, there were some good passes and some rocket shots, but MLS was able to stop everything that came their way. Okay, Chelsea fans will stress that this is their pre-season and that it was a friendly, but that doesn't really carry the water it should for two reasons. First, a lot of the Blues players saw action recently in the World Cup and second, the EPL season is only two-weeks away. Not being game fit with just two-weeks before you are taking on the best in England just doesn't seem right, especially when you use 8 subs.

Anyway, here is some of the good and bad form the match.

Good - MLS controlled the first 20-minutes of the game forcing Chelsea to define. It was obvious that this was not what the Blues had in mind and were surprised by it.

Good - Bobby Boswell, Facundo Erpen and Jimmy Conrad. When Chelsea did get their attack together, this MLS backline was able to disrupt and confuse the EPL Champions.

Good - Chris Albright coming down the right side. Chelsea did not know what to make of him and that lead to him getting a great chance shot at goal, which beat the keeper but sadly went just past the bar.

Bad - During Albright's build up to this great shot, ESPN's Eric Wynalda was busy talking about MLS coach Peter Nowak's history with the Chicago Fire.

Great - Houston Dynamo Eddie Robinson making the stop of the match by clearing the shot off the line.

Bad - The shot Robinson stopped was almost an own goal by MLSer Facundo Erpen.

Good - Dave O'Brien actually makes a good call on this one that includes his voice increasing in volume and excitement. If only they had been talking about the game prior to the shot instead of chatting with LA's GM Alexi Lalas.

Bad - The amount of time it took for the MLS second half subs to get in the game. Chelsea came out looking for an early goal and it was mainly by luck that one did not happen in the first 15-minutes of the second half.

Great - Houston Dynamo Dwayne De Rosario, who had been all over the field, settles the ball and makes a fantastic blast of a shot to get the lone goal of the match.

Horrible - The call by ESPN when the ball goes into the net: Lalas - "I've got the checkbook, I just don't know if I can use it." The goal was scored as he said 'checkbook.' Not quite a 'do you believe in miracles' moment now is it.

Good - Chelsea's all out effort in the final 10-minutes to get an equalizer. Their passes were sharp and their numbers were there, but the MLSers were able to put a stop to it.

Great - Troy Perkins and Joe Cannon. MLS had more shots then Chelsea, but the Blues shots were much better. If it were not for these two excellent keepers, one goal would not have been nearly enough.

Silly - Why was the crowd chanting 'U-S-A' towards the end of the match? Yes, a lot of the players for the MLS are from the US, but many of them are not. It seems extra strange when one realizes that the 'U-S-A, U-S-A' chant could have very easily changed to 'M-L-S, M-L-S.' Three letters is three letters.

Fantastic - Jaime Moreno's speech after the game. His simple call on soccer fans to show up at MLS games even when the likes of Chelsea are not there was wonderful. Class act all the way.

Too cute - Dwayne De Rosario carrying his child, who had a De Rosario jersey on, after the game.

Bad - Looks like Chelsea's Joe Cole might have damaged knee ligaments during the game.

So yes, this games means nothing in terms of points, but it does give the MLS a nice boast in their international standing. This win was reported all over the globe (here, here, here, here, here, etc.) and even got some attention in the US. As far as pr goes, this is one of the best things to come MLS's way in a long time.

Before you start thinking I'm being so grandiose about all this, ask yourself, what would have been said had Chelsea beat the MLS? I think statements like "what a waste it was" and "look how bad the league really is" would be echoing everywhere. This one victory does not make MLS a great league, but it does show movement in the correct direction.

Now all we need to do is get ESPN to institute a 'only talk about the game when the ball is in the final third of the pitch' rule and for MLS teams to play like they are facing Chelsea during every match and we might be on to something.

All and all, a fun game that shows Nowak to be a great coach (really, only three defenders, okay) and that MLS can put on a good show.



Anonymous Soccernista said...

Enjoyed reading your analysis of the game. The win is definitely a positive for MLS, and hopefully will help in their attempts to grow the fanbase.

1:32 PM  
Blogger twohundredpercent said...

A definite positive for the MLS. Of course Chelsea will say "this was only a friendly", but a team playing an "all-star" team (that, presumably, doesn't train together and play together week-in-week-out) and losing augurs ill for Mourinho's self-proclaimed "All-Stars".

From an English perspective, we can but hope that this proves to be more than merely a blip, and that the EPL can be a little more competitive than it has been for the last few years.

3:53 PM  

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