What did our beloved Claret and Cobalt do the evening of March, 10th? They did what they trained for. They did what they most wanted. They did what they are capable of. They “came to score” (The Aggrolites).
Such were our dire straits in the last few weeks that a 1-0 win would have been a massive improvement in form. That our 2-0 win last night in the CONCACAF Champions League was celebrated as heavily as it was is no surprise. It was, barring one or two strange moments, perhaps the best attacking performance we've seen in 2012.
How fitting, this turnaround, that the catalyst up front would be a player whose form has bordered on the dangerously ineffective at times. Paulo Jr., whose work thus far saw him making a high degree of key passes but not providing any real thrust or danger in his striking ability, came alive rather like Frankenstein's monster. Only, you know, less clumsy and less made of a collection of body parts and whatnot. Still, if you uttered, "It's alive!" — well, you weren't that wide of the mark.
Tauro coach Gonzalo Soto: "To see a beautiful stadium, so full of enthusiasm…I think soccer is growing in the US in an incredible way."
Receiving a fair few plaudits himself is Ned Grabavoy, whose ability on the ball and his understanding with his teammates was substantiated against Tauro. He very much dominated the right side of midfield, showing more than just flashes of brilliance. As we begin our CCL and MLS runs-up, performances of this sort will be essential. It wasn't just a one-time thing, either — he also looked quite good against FC Dallas, despite our loss in that one.
While those two are, for me, the players to have made big impacts last night, everyone was on-song. Kyle Beckerman was his stalwart self, and his goal was well-deserved. His little fishing celebration, too? A nice little thing. His red card, to my eye, isn't nearly as harsh on replay as it seemed at the time — I won't comment too substantially on that right now, but I will say that I can't find much reason to be upset about his sending off, aside from the fact that it happened.
The rear guard partnership of Wingert and Watson-Siriboe (The Magnificent Ws, perhaps) dealt well with the demands placed on them, particularly with a surprising number of long balls sent their way. Wingert showed no real sign of discomfort in the center, and Watson-Siriboe continued his meteoric rise through the RSL ranks. Replacing him when Olave returns will likely give Jason and crew more than a few moments of discussion. His commanding performances are food for thought, are they not?
Disappointing was the Kenny Mansally injury, which is quite harsh on a player who looked very strong patrolling the flanks. First a shoulder separation, then a knee injury — the man is apparently cursed. Given the very different nature of the injuries, we have no reason to call him injury-prone, but we can certainly call him unlucky. We can also call him very good cover, but that is only of real matter when he's not injured. Le sigh.
Oh, and how about our playmaker-in-chief, Javier Morales? Oh, my. The man's still got that magic. When players aren't constantly kicking at his ankles, he gets even more of a chance to show it — and Tauro, for all their histrionics weren't hacking about. The Man Himself had four key passes, 45/60 completed passes, and won four fouls. By any measure, that's quite nice.
At any rate, we finally looked like the team we know we are. We were effusive in attack, dominant in defense, and fluent in the midfield. Cohesion: That's what we saw. That's what we need to see again. Thanks to this win, we'll have a chance to show that again in this, the most illustrative of competitions in which we are involved.