EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions below are those of Soccer Outsider Jeff Maurer and not Soccer Insider Steven Goff.
I’ll try to give my usual, unvarnished opinions during this match, but you should know: the San Jose Earthquakes have a very active PR department. In fact, it was a comment I made during a national team match (I made a Guns ‘N Roses analogy in which I called Chris Wondolowski “the Buckethead of international soccer”) that indirectly led to the “the opinions in this column are those of Jeff Maurer, not Steve Goff” disclaimer that precedes every column. The benefit of a blog is that I — unlike a journalist — can be opinionated. On the other hand, I’ll try to be fair to San Jose’s players. Although it’s not going to be easy when Steven Lenhart looks like Will Ferrell had a baby with a Portuguese water dog.
This is a midweek match, so United’s depth should be an advantage, right? Maybe, but Ben is running out basically the same eleven who have been getting the results: Willis | Woolard, McDonald, Kitchen, Russell | DeLeon, Saragosa, Cruz, De Rosario | Pontius, Santos. It looks like Kitchen will play in the center and Russell on the right, as I suggested in my last column (and I get 100 percent of the credit for that opinion). Obviously, Ben reads my work.
Here’s kickoff from San Jose’s itty-bitty Buck Shaw stadium (it’s not just the stadium, it’s the field that’s itty-bitty)..
3’ - On a small field, a guy like Santos is even more valuable than normal. He can win headers on long throws, and he’s dangerous on set pieces with both his head and his feet.
8’ - Goal United! Cruz with some good work and De Rosario with an unbelievable finish! Any English commentator would say “it’s a dream start for United!” It’s a cultural tradition.
12’ - Am I the only one who thinks “Earthquakes” is a weird name? It’s like schools on the East Coast calling themselves the Hurricanes — why are you naming your team after the thing that is a clear and present danger to your region? I grew up in Kentucky — no team there was called the Fighting Lyme Disease.
18’ - Goal San Jose! I’ll have to see the replay, but whoever was keeping Moreno onside is at fault for that goal. They won’t show a replay that will identify the guilty party, but the ball never should have been alive at that spot on the field to begin with.
20’ - Goal San Jose! All of a sudden it’s 2-1 Earthquakes! It’s the Buckethead of international soccer, Chris Wondolowski (the opinions in this column are those of Soccer Outsider Jeff Maurer and not those of Steve Goff) although most of the work was done in the buildup. United’s back four are all over the place.
23’ - What does Ben think of that last goal? Well, there’s a shot of him on the bench gnawing on the end of a pen like a pit bull on rawhide. Or like Sir Alex Ferguson on gum.
29’ - United turn a throw-in into a corner kick for San Jose. I’ll be that pen has burst wide open.
30’ - Goal San Jose! Book an appointment with Ben’s dentist for tomorrow morning. What a bad goal to give up — the corner kick never should have happened, and Cruz deflected the ball past Willis and into the net.
34’ - Great bicycle kick by De Ro deserved a goal, but Busch makes an incredible save! Seems like opposing ‘keepers have made some pretty amazing saves against United this year.
Halftime: 3-1 San Jose. United’s attack still looks good, but their back four look lost without Dudar or Jakovic.
46’ - Well, this is interesting: Najar is in for Saragosa, and he’s playing as a right back. The move makes sense, although you think Ben would move Cruz to the back since he’s a better tackler and less creative.
50’ - United have had a couple shouts for a penalty kick but haven’t had any of them go their way. They may be due for a penalty kick by attrition.
56’ - Santos and Dawkins with a hard collision, and Santos is upset. I can see why — Dawkins barreled right through him. Dawkins gets a yellow and MLS’s Disciplinary Committee has something to do this weekend.
64’ - Goal United! It’s Daniel Woolard! No, that can’t be right. Well, it’s scored by a United player wearing a “21, Woolard” shirt, but I will await confirmation from two independent sources and a blood test before I definitively give the goal to Woolard. Woolard scoring is about as likely as is Steve Lenhart’s haircut sweeping the nation (the opinions in this column are those of Soccer Outsider Jeff Maurer and not those of Steve Goff). Najar played a good cross and, yes, Woolard headed it home. Game on.
69’ - Goal San Jose! Game off. It’s Wondolowski again. Can I point out that Buckethead is actually a pretty amazing guitar player? He’s just not the guy who fans want to see. Willis didn’t do very well on that play — I think he should have had it.
73’ - Geez: 5-2 San Jose. Alright: Willis definitely should have had that one. A shot goes over Willis and off the crossbar, but Lenhart is there to tap in the rebound.
80’ - As long as my opinions are being disowned (and this match is over as a contest), I might as well go all-out: if someone is standing on the left side of an escalator, you should be allowed to push them down that escalator (the opinions in this column are those of Soccer Outsider Jeff Maurer and not those of Steve Goff).
87’ - Goal United! 5-3. It won’t mean anything, but that’s a nice goal: great ball from De Ro, clever finish by Salihi. Hamdi Salihi has opened his account. I wonder what kind of checks he’ll get? Go ahead and get the Looney Tunes ones, Hamdi — they don’t cost extra.
Full time: 5-3 San Jose. Well, the analysis here is pretty simple: San Jose are good, and our back line is going to be very suspect until we get Jakovic or Dudar back in there.
Willis: 3.5. Well, it was nice of him to do poorly on the last two goals and take all of the ambiguity out of it. Hamid will start the next match.
Woolard: 4. Let’s focus on the positive: very well-taken goal. If you started Daniel Woolard on your fantasy team this week, for a minute you thought you were a genius, but the five goals will ruin your point total.
McDonald: 4.5. He is only one half of a good center back tandem.
Kitchen: 3.5. Played much better as a defensive mid than he did as a center back.
Russell: 3. He was brought in for stability, but in my opinion (and, it seems, not necessarily Goff’s), he hasn’t impressed.
DeLeon: 6. Lenhart outdid him both in crazy hair and in goals. But still a good game.
Saragosa: 4. Didn’t put enough pressure on San Jose’s midfield.
Cruz: 4.5. A small field takes his best asset — his work rate — away from him.
De Rosario: 8. An outstanding performance was wasted.
Pontius: 6.5. He’s combining well with De Rosario and De Leon.
Santos: 6.5. He’s making the back line look better than they probably deserve by winning so many long balls.
Najar: 5.5. The Najar-at-right-back experiment kind of worked. Hmmmm...should we start the “Najar or Russell” discussion?
Salihi: 6. His performance was a bright spot, but I still don’t see who would make way in the lineup for him.
Korb: 5. Alright — what about the “Korb or Russell” discussion? I just think we should be having discussions about Robbie Russell’s role on this team.