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Archive for March, 2012

USA SOCCER: What’s in a loss?

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Written by Daniel Valenzuela – Pictures courtesy of AP Photo

This week the US U-23 side was painfully eliminated from the Olympic Qualifying Tournament by El Salvador in an exciting 3-3 draw on Monday night.  Although the US was the favorite to win the tournament, Canada and El Salvador exposed the US’s many weaknesses.

In itself, the loss doesn’t mean much. But when coupled with the US’s failure to earn a spot in the Confederations Cup and failure to qualify for the U20 World Cup, US soccer fans can’t be blamed for feeling a bit uneasy about the development of the program.

Believe it or not, this is a sign of progress. Despite some lackluster results and frustrating performances by the US national team at all levels, a new chapter in US soccer is emerging.  The U23 squad highlighted a few of the positive developments in US soccer.

In particular, the U23 squad attempted to do things the right way by playing the ball on the ground, attacking with numbers, and scoring goals in the run play.  Moreover, players with talent are not only getting a longer look but seem to be more abundant than ever before.

In the big picture, the US is transitioning into the next level the soccer hierarchy.  There was a time when the US could pull a majority of its better players for any international match. That is no longer the case.  Players like Jozy Altidore, Alfredo Morales, Timothy Chandler, and Daniel Williams were all age eligible for U-23 squad but could not attend because of club commitments. Similarly, Joshua Gatt was recalled by his club team after being called into camp. The same was true of the U20 squad that was eliminated from the U20 World Cup Qualifiers. In the end, fans are left to wonder, “what if these players were available?”

As frustrating as it might be, it means that we are starting to have the same problems as some of the bigger teams in the world, i.e.,  Brazil, England, Argentina, Spain, Germany, etc.  Who regularly field youth sides without the best players in that age group.  Needless to say, that is the only similarity we have to those countries at this stage of US soccer’s development.  Considering that the US didn’t have all the best players in the age group, the team was still full of professionals. That, in itself, is a sign of progress.

In some, for too many years the US has rallied behind result oriented soccer.  Winning games was more important than playing the game properly.  Nonetheless, the flaw of that manner of thinking is clearly evident as the US has failed to win anything of any real significance. The new system will take time to learn, but in the end the US will be playing a style that isn’t designed to win games, but to win trophies.

03/25/12 – FC DENVER PREMIER 2:1 Colorado Rovers

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Joel Miller watches Lio Delpiccolo's game winner trickle in off the GK

Written by Brandon Best – Pictures by Destiny Fernandez

Having not played Colorado Rovers in over three seasons, Sunday’s match for FC Denver Premier offered the rare opportunity to play a somewhat unfamiliar foe in league play.  It was also a chance for Premier to play another squad that was enjoying the rarefied air at the top of the table.  The outcome of this past Sunday’s match could end up having major implications when the post season rolls around.  However, none of that was as important to FC Denver as showing up and continuing to try and take their game play to another level.

Tom Marks focused on the loose ball

It was a wonderful afternoon to be out at the park, after last Sunday’s game in the wind.  Right from the opening whistle FC Denver did well to control play and were really able to splay the ball around the field, keeping possession while trying to find a weakness in the Rovers defense, who had yet to concede a goal on the season.  Tyler Wilson and Adam Keller did well in the beginning to keep the ball moving from side to side and to break up most of the Rover’s attacks before they could into the final third.  When it came time for a change, Matt Haager also did well to come in and create good opportunities with some excellent vision.  Unfortunately for FC Denver, their first goal would be on themselves.  The own goal came when a Rover’s striker chased the ball down on their left flank and was able to get a cross off, which more than likely would have been put in by their player streaking into the six yard box had Dave Kron not beaten him to it and put it off his chest and past keeper Ian Campbell.  Going down 1-0 against the run of play was definitely disappointing for a side that has higher expectations for this season, but the breaks won’t always go your way and there was still plenty of soccer left to play.

Juan Gonzalez closes down space

FC Denver would pull even before half time, when Tyler Imbrogno’s cross floated across the box and Marco DelPiccolo looped his header back up and over the keeper and into the far side netting.  The goal would allow FC Denver to avoid coming out in the second half panicking that they were playing from behind.  Regardless of the score at halftime, FC Denver knew that the first half was disappointing and that in order to win the game and take the club to the next level, they would need a better effort after the break.

The team’s character would definitely be tested in the second half, when Kevin Bourland was sent off around the 60 minute mark for his second yellow.  Down to 10 men, FC Denver would not only have to limit the Rover’s opportunities but would also have to create their own against the stingiest defense in the league this season.  It was a tall order, but great individual efforts at all positions really allowed FC Denver to prevent Rovers from mounting a dangerous attack on goal.  When Rovers did manage to get a chance on goal, Campbell strained every muscle in his body to just get enough on the shot that it hit the cross bar and bounced away from goal.  With time winding down and the Rovers looking the more winded of the two teams despite being a man up, FC Denver knew they had to push hard if they were going to find a winner.  On a quick counter, Imbrogno did well to hold off his defender and turn the corner on the end line.  His cross was looking to pick out Joel Miller, who had made a 110 yard sprint from box to box to try and put in a goal.  The cross made it past Miller and onto the head of a Rover’s defender who did poorly to head his clearance right to the top of the box.  Lio DelPicollo had followed the play and was waiting at the top of the box, where the ball settled at his feet and he powered his shot past the outstretched Rover’s keeper for the game winner.

Lio DelPiccolo and Kyle Burns battle over possession

Coming back from a goal down and coming up with a winner after playing down a man for a long stretch of the half will definitely go a long way in building the character of the FC Denver Premier squad.  However, they will need to start putting together complete games from the word go, if they hope to dominate league play like they hope to.  Also, they will need to do better if they hope to keep pace with league leaders, Chivas, who have hung 10 goals in their first two games this season.

MOTM: Tyler Wilson. Coach Elbin States, “It’s hard to look past the 2 goal DelPiccolo (Marco and Lio) special, but Tyler played perhaps his best game yet for the club. He dominated the midfield with ball winning and effective distribution. We relied heavily upon him and he stepped up big time.”

Coach Elbin’s Thoughts: “This was a memorable match, full of dramatic moments. I loved how we dictated the pace of the game through clever possession. Rovers had to chase quite a bit in this match, and it allowed us to overtake them in the final 20 minutes of the game, even if we were a man down. I am so proud of the effort our guys put in.”



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