Houston Dynamo v Seattle Sounders

Brilliant tactics in Houston, or just a choppy field taking hold?


Events at BBVA Compass Stadium yesterday provided an interesting study in viewpoint, cause and effect.

From the Sporting Kansas City side, the Dynamo won because they made more plays, and because they shrewdly exploited referee Edvin Jurisevic’s inability to get his arms around the Dynamo’s rather cynical tactics.

SKC manager Peter Vermes more or less complimented Houston for their approach. In order to keep his visitors from finding a rhythm, in order to keep SKC from using the extra energy of an extended rest and run in behind the Dynamo defenders, Houston simply fouled in advanced places on the field.

That habitually allowed Houston to get 10 or 11 men behind the ball.

It should be stressed that Vermes wasn’t making excuses. He said straight out that Houston was the better side (“They got the ‘first half.’ They deserved it.”), but did point out the fouling, and that Jurisevic never got hold of the situation.

“At some point, the referee has got to step in and give a card, and that never happened,” Vermes said.

(MORE: Drilling down on the Dynamo’s 2-0 win)

But before we get into a conversation about fouling, naiveté from the men in the middle and whether this is an overly cynical tactic, hear what Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear had to say about it. The highly respected Houston coach said there were no brilliant tactics at work here:

“By no means are we looking to go foul,” he said. “And to be honest, we talked about not fouling them at halftime, because it gives them opportunities where Graham Zusi can be dangerous.”

So, where is the real truth here? As with so many things, somewhere in the middle, most likely.

The field was terrible. It’s small to begin with (70 yards wide). It had been chopped up by a football game the day before. And it’s past growing season at BBVA Compass Stadium. Just as Sporting KC had some trouble with a brand new field last year, Houston’s is highly imperfect this year.

The net out is a hard, choppy field, which makes a “pretty” game fairly impossible to facilitate. Instead, you get a game with lots of 50-50 challenges, a lot of scrapping for second balls and a more than a few collisions. And fouls.

Kinnear certainly did cop to this part:

“It was no game for shy players,” he said.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.