Drilling down on, US Open Cup: Seattle 1, at San Jose 0

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SAN FRANCISCO

Man of the Match: When a game’s being played at an 87-year-old municipal venue, you don’t always get the luxury of instant replays. So even after Cordell Cato had given Seattle the lead, it was unclear how he’d done it. Did the ball, shot from a very sharp angle to the right of goal, go through the goalkeeper’s legs? Or did the goalkeeper really give some room between himself and the goal line? When the ball hit the side netting, there was too much surprise to recount the minutia. By the time the crowd had collected itself, San Jose was kicking off after the game’s only goal.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • The U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal gave San Jose a rare opportunity to play in San Francisco. Old Kezar Stadium, located in Golden Gate Park, used to be he home of John Brodie’s San Francisco 49ers and (for one year) the Oakland Raiders. Now, it’s better known as a running track and the site of occasional high profile high school football games.
  • The game also gave San Francisco, a traditionally strong television market for major soccer events, a chance to take in some Major League Soccer action. San Jose and Seattle was the only all-MLS match of the day, and although the Earthquakes’ supporters were expected to travel well, there was going to be enough tickets for curious San Franciscans to see two of the Western Conference’s better teams.
  • In the hours before the game, it looked like San Francisco might have had better things to do. There was no fan presence outside the stadium, and the bars around the grounds were relatively empty. As kickoff approached, Earthquakes fans arrived and filled the saloons, but at kickoff, one official placed the crowd at an estimated 3500-4000 people.
  • Thankfully, that number rose dramatically after kick off. Twenty-five minutes into the game, the crowd appeared to have doubled.
  • By that time, San Jose had an ineffective control on the match. They were playing a side of regulars while Seattle, arriving on one day’s rest, played a second-choice team.
  • Cato’s goal gave Seattle a halftime lead, after which San Jose really took control. Continuously pumping balls into the area, the Earthquakes were able to create a number of scares for goalkeeper Andrew Weber, though he was never called upon to make a huge save.
  • Except for the goal, same could be said for David Bingham. Seattle played well at the back, but going forward, all they had waas Cato on the right, meaning a lot of work for Ike Opara and Justin Morrow. Opara still looks shaky – nowhere near his rookie self. Against an attack he could have handled, he was inconsistent.
  • After Frank Yallop brought on Chris Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart, Seattle went into survival mode. They mounted some good counters but had little sustained possession. Most of their efforts were spent clearing crosses.
  • Three points of officiating controversy had San Jose fans shaking their heads as they left the stadium:
    • Tressor Moreno, who overall had a very bad game (giving the ball away ahead of the only goal), was taking down two yards into the area in the second half. Referee Yader Reyes awarded the foul but outside the area, and while this kind of ham-handed solution is becoming more common, this was a particularly egregious abuse.
    • A late volley off an attempted clearance of a corner seemed to hit a Seattle player’s arm, but Reyes demurred. He was immediately surrounded by four San Jose players pleading the team’s case.
    • After a number of ugly confrontations between the teams, including one that saw Alan Gordon red carded, six minutes of extra time was supposed to be played. Watches and clocks within the press box said the whistle blew less than five minutes into added time.
  • The confrontations got uglier after the final whistle, with Sounder Eddie Johnson having to be restrained while the San Jose players responded to Jason Hernandez Jed Zayner (who did not play) lying on his back, kicking his left leg as if in pain. The teams reacted as if there’d been a physical altercation. The officials were escorted from the field by security, and Seattle stayed on the pitch until all of the San Jose players had gone down the tunnel.
  • The ugliness wasn’t restricted to the field. There was an uncommon amount of profanity-laced chants, particularly from the San Jose supporters’ section. Perhaps this was a show of frustration at the score. Perhaps it was in response to a small but vocal group of Sounder fans who (also periodically engaging in crude chants) regularly out-yelled their more numerous adversaries.
    • I’m not oblivious to the fact that supporters sections regularly show poor judgment with their chants, but Tuesday night’s game was not at Buck Shaw Stadium, where perhaps the citizenry of San Jose may know what to expect in showing up. It was at an alterate venue and was likely to attract a number of semi-neutrals – people likely to have young children. And just like any other major sporting event, the stands feature a number of kids so young that it’s best to assume their parents would want to be able to exercise discretion over the language to which they’re exposed.
    • You can argue that people should know that profanity is going to be chanted at a soccer game, but they don’t. Most people we (as a community) want coming to MLS games are naive to what’s going on. That’s what being a growing league’s about.
    • This is a difficult subject for me because I happen to be very pro-profanity; however, you don’t see me using it in these posts. It’s a matter of respecting the likely views of my readers. There’s a time and place, and while I would like those times and places to be more frequent, I know that ProSoccerTalk isn’t the venue. I also know most adults don’t want me yelling profane words near their children, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t want me and 999 of my friends chanting them.
    • Major League Soccer fans are more emotionally tied to their league’s success than any other U.S. sports fan, and as such, they’ve become an extension of the product. That product is not represented well when, during one of the league’s rare appearances in a place like San Francisco, fans are undermining the idea MLS is a family product.
    • Right now, the league and its teams look the other way at this kind of behavior. I presume they don’t want to temper the enthusiasm of their most loyal clients; however, this kind of behavior is not acceptable. Teams should be more proactive about working with the leadership of supporters’ groups to educate membership about acceptable behavior.
  • Despite all the night’s negatives, it was a huge win for Seattle. Winless in seven, the Sounders’ reserves came up bit, keeping Seattle in line for a fourth-straight U.S. Open Cup.
  • They move on to face Chivas USA while Philadelphia will play Sporting KC, with all lower division clubs seen out of the competition on Tuesday.

Report: Newcastle’s Clark knocked out on Spanish dance floor

Scott Heavey/PA via AP
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A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.

Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.

Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.

The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 9 — Iceland’s next step, Brazilian bounce back?

Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images
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Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.

They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.

Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.

Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.

Below is Friday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group D
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group E
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina

Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images
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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.

Modric urges humility after big win, stunning goal (video)

AP Photo / Ricardo Mazalan
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There are few teams who’ve looked as strong as Croatia at the World Cup in Russia.

[ RECAP: Argentina 0-3 Croatia ]

Zlatko Dalic’s men now have a pair of shutout wins against decent competition, topping Nigeria 2-0 over the weekend before hammering Argentina 3-0 on Thursday.

The nature of those performances will have many, us included, debating just how far Croatia can run in this tournament. Veteran midfielder Luka Modric is hoping his team doesn’t do the same.

Let’s not be euphoric or get ahead of ourselves,” Modric said. “Of course this win will boost our confidence for the next game, and we have shown we can create opportunities, but let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground.”

Modric noted that Willy Caballero‘s howler “was a shot in the arm,” but added that they had played a “perfect game.”

That’s true. And while so much focus will be on Messi’s struggles, don’t sleep on the terrific performance of Vatreni. 

Modric also seemed to bristle when asked about shutting down Messi.

“I don’t want to talk about other players. We are happy with our own performance. We wanted to cut out Messi receiving the ball because he is the most dangerous player.”