Monday, November 1, 2010
Attacking Soccer on Display from American Coaches
Paul Gardner from Soccer America is always critical of the American game, and took a shot at the standard of the game in Major League Soccer after watching a relatively dull first-leg playoff match between the Columbus Crew and Colorado Rapids.
Gardner's own expectations of Major League Soccer matches had been heightened after seeing an outstanding first-leg playoff performance between Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas - two outstanding attacking teams that were led by coaches with strong pedigrees in the American game.
Where Colorado and Columbus had given us an utterly threadbare game, here were Dallas and RSL pulling out all the stops to produce almost everything you could wish for in a soccer game, including shots, saves, misses, mistakes, stupidities, superb goals, plenty of excellent soccer, just enough feistiness (well, two red cards) -- all of this perfectly book-ended by an early 5th minute goal for RSL, and a late 87th minute winner for Dallas.
Between those goals the pace never flagged, the play was always open and skillful. Here we had two teams willing to do what Colorado and Columbus seemed unwilling to do -- to take the risks that playing an all-out attacking game demands.
I’m tempted to look at the background of the coaches involved to come up with explanation for that difference. On the one hand, Gary Smith of Colorado and Robert Warzycha of Columbus, two died-in-the-wool Europeans with an evident affinity for the European approach -- perhaps I should say the current European approach. You can see that approach in maybe 60 percent or 70 percent of the various European leagues -- English, Germany, Italian, French, Dutch, even the Spanish --that we now get beamed into us.
While it is not a game played with packed defenses, it is nevertheless primarily defensive in mentality. It is certainly not a version of soccer played with any great commitment to the attacking side.
On the other hand, we have Jason Kreis of Real Salt Lake and Schellas Hyndman and Dallas. American coaches -- willing to put the emphasis on attacking play. What we saw in their game was almost a festival of the offense. Of course there was defensive play and it was, I guess, just about adequate. But the point was that, in front of both defenses there were midfields almost totally dedicated to moving the ball forward, to passing the ball forward. With that mentality, you get teams playing with style and rhythm.
Switching games and teams: one team that surely ought to be playing with a good deal of style and rhythm is the Los Angeles Galaxy -- after all ... Landon Donovan and David Beckham? But Bruce Arena (an American, but with an influential European on his team) has the Galaxy strait-jacketed in the (European) defensive mentality. This was appallingly evident in its game against Seattle. If I were Commissioner Don Garber, I’d be seriously tempted to fine the Galaxy for having all that creative and attacking talent -- in a league that needs lively attacking soccer -- and not using it.
Gardner is certainly not opposed to stereotyping the game in England and in the United States to being pretty direct and combative, as he normally writes about in his columns - his admiration for the South American game is quite clear, but there is hope that as the Major League Soccer playoffs continue to unfold, that we will continue to see a standard that will impress even the biggest critics of the game in the US.
Congratulations to both Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas, and we look forward to seeing exciting soccer from both teams in the second leg.
Posted by Mike Jacobs at 6:17 AM