(an un-comprehensive and un-objective look at the weekend that was)
So I’m having a beer with an old friend, and we start talking soccer. He’s a fan: was at 5-2 vs LA, drove with me to Salt Lake City for a World Cup qualifier, etc. He hasn’t seen the Quakes in person since ‘05, but he watched all the US World Cup games in 2010.
I tell him the Quakes have last year’s league leading scorer, and he can’t believe it.
Chris Wondolowski. Local guy, from Danville.
“Who? I never heard of him.”
If the San Jose brass can’t get Wondo on to the Bay Area’s sports radar, they should quit the soccer business and get jobs with the federal witness protection program, where the ability to hide someone in plain sight is considered a virtue.
• • •
Checking out US v Argentina…
On paper, a 4-5-1 (or 4-3-3 depending on how far Donovan and Dempsey push up the wings) appears to play to our strengths: depth in midfield, and a couple of Premier League-tested guys who seem to enjoy attacking from a deeper position. The reality is we end up with 10 guys behind the ball, and when we gain possession there’s no one forward to play the ball to. The half-time switch to the 4-4-2 gave us a fighting chance.
Tim Howard is still The Man in goal.
When I hear the question, “Juan Agudelo, is this guy the future?” I have to take a moment and remember that ex-Red Bull Jozy Altidore is all of 21 years old.
1-1, a great game and a great result against an Argentina side that stayed with their stars throughout. I’m glad US Soccer scheduled the match. We need to raise the bar for “success” regarding the National Team. Beating traditional football powers like Algeria is all well and good, but I hope we can take our game to a higher level.
• • •
Meanwhile, back in MLS…
In Seattle, they’re wondering where their scoring disappeared to. After three games, their only goal has come via a poorly taken corner kick that pin-balled off the defense to the far post where a lucky Steve Zakuani tapped it in.
Ex-Seattle DP Blaise Nkufo, who scored five goals late last year (all in a four game stretch), disappeared from their roster mysteriously just before this season opened. I can picture him in some airport lounge, sharing a pint with Ronnie O’Brien.
Watch out for Philly. Carlos Ruiz is back in the league. He scores, Philly wins 1-0. Two games, six points, and packed houses at PPL Park. Peter Nowak knows how to succeed in this league, and with MLS’s overly generous playoff qualification system, who knows how far the Union can go in their second year?
In Toronto, they may have finally found someone to play with DeRo: Javier Martina, a product of Ajax’s Youth System, His two goals gave Toronto their first win Saturday and have TFC fans smiling for the first time in a long time. His second goal was pretty sweet. GK Stefan Frei pulls down a corner kick, drop kicks it 70 yards to Martina, who plays the bounce perfectly and slams home a volley from the top of the box.
It feels awkward rooting for Salt Lake, but I hope they carry on their good work against Saprissa on April 5. Their 4-1 beating of LA this weekend tells you a bit about what form they’re in.
Speaking of Salt Lake, I’m happy to hear that Jason Kreis’ #9 is being retired by that club, and that they’ve extended his contract. As a player, he retired as the league’s all-time scorer, and as a coach, the team he’s building has only gotten better since stealing the MLS Cup a couple years back.
The Red Bulls went to Columbus without Thierry Henry and starting goalkeeper Greg Sutton (both hurt), four other starters (Marquez, Ream, Richards, Agudelo) and their used-to-be starting GK (Coundoul) away on international duty, and still ground out a point in a scoreless draw. Great effort by the Red Bulls, the kind of passion you get from a team working to win the Supporters Shield, instead of playing for 10th place.
What’s happened to Columbus? Was it that long ago the Crew were all about Guillermo Barros Schelotto and back to back Supporters Shields?
Monday night, six-time NFL Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Ochocinco will line up at right forward for the SporKC’s reserve team when they take on the PDL (level 4) Kansas City Brass. Reports are that Ochocinco preferred soccer in high school, but turned to American football as it appeared to be a more lucrative career path. These days his game is described as “rusty;” he’s a great athlete who may not be a good soccer player.
Is this “just a publicity stunt?” So what if it is? Updating the joke going ‘round when Beckham signed: “Upon hearing the above news, sports fans were shocked. Who knew Kansas City had a major league soccer team?”
(Thanks to a suggestion by the author, we have rechristened this column "Pete's weekend wrap" instead of "Ratajczak's weekend wrap." Still, in case you're interested, it's pronounced "rah-TIE-chock." — Editor.)