Friday, July 24, 2009

Coming home thoughts and weekend picks

Boy, it sure was nice watching what is basically an MLS First XI advance to the Gold Cup Final last night. But even nicer was watching Chingy and Goalden take over the attack in the second half, leading to Kenny Cooper's put it away goal. It is whetting my appetite for the second half of the season, I can tell you.

So a shorthanded Dynamo go 3-3-1 on their seven-game road stretch, and even though two of those wins were against USL-1 teams, it speaks volumes about the mental toughness of this squad from top to bottom. Big revelations were these:

1. Watching Danny Cruz go right at people. I feel like Cruz is very much a younger version of Brian Mullan, and perhaps that is directly attributable to going up against Mully every day in training. I remember Corey Ashe mentioning that in his first year how much he improved specifically because he had to endure getting schooled by Mullan everyday. Now it's Cruz' turn and once again it appears to be paying dividends. Cruz is going to be a star in MLS, no doubt about it. He's dangerous every time he touches the ball. (Dynamo should get a recording of J. Fred Duckett's "Cruuuuuuuuuzzzz" call from back in Cheo's day at the Astrodome and play it when he scores. And yes, I'm dating myself with that comment.)

2. Mike Chabala's pace and toughness as an outside back. Chewbacca was solid throughout, and was cruelly screwed by that non-goal goal in Seattle. (If that was called correctly, the record would have been 3-2-2. Think about that!) He's got a nice touch that needs work, but he was very helpful and solid when we needed it.

3. It's not all good. Specifically, Julius James and Dominic Oduro are big dropoffs from the first or even second choices at their positions. It's not all bad as James did make some good, tough plays and Oduro has nice pace, so I guess the best thing to say is that the only consistency we got from these guys was their inconsistency. James allowing himself to get pulled out of position in Toronto allowed DeRo to score in that draw at BMO Field. And if Oduro actually goes right at someone it would be the first time. It reminds me how much I enjoyed Dynamo playing against him when he was in Dallas. Challenge him and he crumbles. Both have a lot of work to do and should not be selected if we can help it.

4. Back to the positive. Important minutes for many, many down-bench players. This can only be good in the long run. There should now be no doubt that Dynamo is the deepest, most talented and toughest squad in MLS. This is no guarantee of any trophies to come, but so many signs are encouraging, aren't they?

Now on to the predictions:

Last week: 4-2
Year to date: 56-66 (.459 or 15 games over random chance)

FC DISASTROUS at REAL SALT LAKE. 1-0 RSL I know that Frisco is not as bad as they were. I know that Atiba Harris fills a small roll, especially with the Gold Cup absence of Kenny Cooper. But let's make no mistake here. The team still has serious problems up and down the field. Not to say that RSL is much better, but the only thing worse than FC Frisco at home (with their customarily embarrassing gathering of people in the stands) is that team on the road. RSL squeaks it out.

FIRE at SOUNDERS. 1-1 Draw After seeing Seattle twice over the last two weeks and watching the way Chicago has played without Brian McBride, I just think that Temoc alone will be enough to salvage a road point here. Seattle is very proud of themselves for making it through late against two shorthanded Dynamo sides. Well, I think Chicago will administer a dose of reality to them. The Fire are starting to pick it up. Though Soumare's absence might just lead to a Seattle goal.

TORONTO FC at CREW. 1-1 Draw. My favorite kinds of rivalries are the ones that I would never have predicted before they exploded into full-scale hostilities. This Trillium Cup business definitely falls into that category. I have no horse in this race, but I do enjoy watching these guys tear into one another. Columbus is clearly getting things into a sort of groove, but will seriously miss Guillermo Barros Schelotto, without whom it is merely an above-average team. However, Toronto have never beaten Columbus, and I don't believe it will come here. The Reds are decidedly mediocre and will completely miss the injured Adrian Serioux, without whom they have a somewhat less-than-tough defense. All signs to me point to another draw, the teams' third against each other this season. I really hope they play each other in the playoffs though, as the match-up will be hugely entertaining to watch.

GALAXY at WIZARDS. 2-0 LAG LA is definitely playing better and is a quality side, and KC without Davy Arnaud and Jimmy Conrad, not to mention Roger Espinoza, are among the worst teams in the league. LA walks to a win here.

REVOLUTION at DYNAMO. 2-1 Orange Dynamo have never beaten New England here at Robertson Stadium, making the Revs the only team to "own" the field here. This madness must end now. And I firmly believe it will. Houston beat New England in the regular season for the first time ever earlier this year in Gillette, and now it's time to break the streak here. With Andrew Hainault and Brad Davis back and a first home game in a month, Dynamo will come out on fire. I have maintained all along that Ade Akinbiyi has been unlucky this season and will definitely be a difference maker in at least two games this season. This could be one of them. Did you see his goal at Starfire this past Tuesday night? Beautiful, beautiful work. The Revs have been getting their act together and Shalrie Joseph is a monster, but Dynamo are not going to be denied here. Their frustrations are going to get let out all over the Revs.

NYRB at RAPIDS. 2-0 Colo. Please. Colorado (even without the High Cs -- Conor Casey and Colin Clark) is at least above average this season. NYRB, on the other hand....

DC UNITED at EARTHQUAKES. 2-1 QUAKES You know, I see no reason to predict San Jose to win this match. The team is in disarray and is truly awful in many ways. DC United on the other hand, is in that scrum in the east jockeying around at the top of the conference an is much better than they have been in years. I have a feeling, though, that San Jose will hold serve at home, though my head says "You are mad!" Well, mad I may be and I fully admit that this pick is wack. But I'm going with it. Prove me wrong DC.

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