Faryd Mondragon said, “If we play the way we know how to play, we can beat anyone.”
Sebastien Le Toux on Houston: “We know we can beat them.”
And, as Marc Narducci reports, Danny Califf knows it can be done. Califf was on the LA Galaxy team that, in the 2003, beat San Jose 2–0 in the first leg, was up 2–0 in the second half, and lost 2–5 in extra time. “It was pretty crazy, but that goes to show that while something may seem impossible, it’s not.”
Kerith Gabriel writes, “Put yourself in Sheanon Williams’ shoes for a moment,” and ask yourself if you would be content with simply making the playoffs. ” Gabriel concludes, “If you said yes, take Williams’ shoes off. They don’t fit you.” He reports from Houston that Williams said on Wednesday night,
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think we can go out there and get this result. They are a team that is a lot like us, and they do a lot of things similar to us. They are organized and smart, but so are we, and I feel that if we stick to our game plan, we can make it rough on them…[To beat them] is why we are here. In the beginning of the season, we talked about what our goals were, and they were to make the playoffs. Now that we are here, it’s tough to be satisfied. Deep down, just getting here was never good enough for us…we’re here to make some noise, as well…It’s been a good ride, and I am happy with the opportunity I have been given. I was thinking back on it just this week that, just a few years ago, I was in Harrisburg, not really happy with where I was at, and now I am definitely at a point where, when this year ends, I can look back and be thankful, but I am not ready for it to end yet, and neither are my teammates.”
Looking for some insight on who might start tonight? John Hackworth says, “Houston scores over 40 percent of its goals on restarts and there is a big size advantage if Roger, Freddy or even Jack is in there. You are losing some serious battles.”
So, what’s Pauno’s status for tonight’s game? Peter Nowak said, “I think he’s healthy enough to be in the 18.”
If you are like me, you may find the title of a post reflecting on the Union’s season opening win in Houston way back in March, “Philadelphia hope stars align again in Houston,” sends the wrong message. Some luck is always a factor, but the decisive factors will always be good preparation, good tactics, strong performances, all seasoned with consistent and focused hard work. The Union need to cast aside “hope” and embrace fearless action.
John Hackworth filled in for Nowak for the Union’s weekly press conference on Tuesday, which inevitably led some to wonder if he was avoiding possible criticism of his starting formation. Not so, according to Nowak, who said, “I have no problem with any kind of stuff. I have no problem to face the music.”
Brad Davis says of Houston’s game plan, “We can’t just go bombing forward and throwing guys forward. We have to be smart in our defending, and I think there’s going to be chances there at the break when they throw a lot of guys forward. The game plan and the mentality is the same thing. You start the game wanting to win, but we’ll see what the game brings us as far as what we need to do.”
Despite the opinion of some of the professional punditry that that Tally Hall would prove to be Houston’s weakest link on Sunday, he came up big, his ten saves being only two shy from an MLS playoff record. Soccer America talks to the man they say has emerged as Houston’s “talisman.” (Get it?—they’ve got a million of them!) Hall says of the Union, “They scored early on us the first game at home, and for 85 minutes, we threw everything we had at them, and they didn’t break down. Philly’s going to work as hard as they need to get the job done, and we need to have that same mentality and throw it back at them.” Read the piece if only for a great story he tells of seeing Danny Califf play for Aalborg in Denmark.
After all the smack talk the other day about the dirty Union, Danny Cruz, the recipient of that Garfan tackle, said on Wednesday, “I’m a physical player as it is and I don’t mind it. I enjoyed the game Sunday. I’m not a player that has a problem with it. It excited me and actually made me want to play harder.”
Andre Hainault also said, “Sunday was a playoff game and the pressure is high. I know I took a couple of shots, but I gave a couple as well. It was a playoff game and it’s all part of it.”
Calen Carr suffered a concussion in th e preseason, which is why he looks like Petr Cech playing as a forward. He says in this profile, “The concussion is behind me and I’m feeling really good. The protective headgear is precautionary, more than anything. I feel like my old self.”
The first shite throwing drama queen in the “Union are Dirty” soap opera, Houston Chronicle’s Jose de Jesus Ortiz, takes another swipe at the Union. This time it’s at attendance at Sunday’s game.
The editorial board of The Daily Cougar, the student newspaper of the University of Houston, home of the Dynamo’s Robertson Stadium, whines about how “UH student and faculty will be inconvenienced again when the campus parking lots are overrun by fans” coming to tonight’s playoff game. Later, the editorial board refers to Dynamo fans as “soccer crazies.” To my mind, what’s crazy is how “thedailycougar.com” conjures up something completely different from a student newspaper.
Culture Map Houston says the Dynamo not only beat the Union, they beat an “18,000 Philly-fan-strong road crowd.” In other words, they beat the Union and you and me. Don’t they understand that the whole meaning of the Union is that team and fan cannot be divided?
Sporting Kansas City topped Colorado 2–0 to advance to the Eastern Conference Final. They look very good. Despite winning 2–0 with a brace of second half goals over Real Salt Lake, Seattle is out of the playoffs, losing 3–2 on aggregate. Kansas City will host the winner of tonight’s match between Houston and Philadelphia (8:30pm, ESPN2) while RSL will (I think), depending on the outcome of tonight’s match between LA and New York (11pm, ESPN2), either go to LA on Sunday or host New York on Monday for the Western Conference Final.
The Wall Street Journal looks at the desperate spot New York finds itself in.
“I was with Arsenal when we led the league in red cards and won the league. You know how many red cards Roy Keane took at Manchester United and they won the treble? You know how many red cards Becks took at Manchester United? Dennis Bergkamp? Puyol at Barcelona? Piqué? It doesn’t mean you have to lose the game. Undisciplined? I don’t agree.”
MLS, which moved into the third spot as the best attended professional sport in the US in 2011, is the tenth best attended soccer league in the world.
USMNT U-23 coach Caleb Porter has called up his first 31-player training camp ahead of 2012 Summer Olympics qualification. The fact that such notables as Freddy Adu, Zac MacMath, Jack McInerney, Amobi Okugo and Sheanon Williams are not on the list will surely be changed when the MLS post-season ends. Among those who were called up are Reading United alumni Cody Cropper (Ipswich Town) and Zarek Valentin (Chivas USA).
Clint Dempsey has been named the Futbol de Primera US Soccer Player of the Year. It is the second time he has won the award.
Cristiano Ronaldo played his 105th game for Real Madrid on Wednesday, a 2-0 victory at Lyon in the Champions League. In the game he scored his 100th goal for the club.
There has been a lot of attention lately on racism in the English game. Here’s a look at the effects of sexism on English women’s football.
Last, but not least, congratulations to former Union goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who tweeted the following early this morning: “Best night of MY LIFE! Olivia Grace Knighton has arrived…Born 4:53am 7lb 12oz, 20.25in. We are so blessed! :)”