It is a little disappointing that Cristiano Ronaldo was MIA after settling his important tax issues in Spain, but fortunate for the MLS. Dax McCarty and Dom Dwyer came through late to salvage a respectable result vs. one of the most prolific and talented sides in the world. I do still feel this was an opportunity not ‘seized.’
Losing on a penalty shootout is not a real loss. The real loss though, was the opportunity to put a little more edge in their play to signify the desire to gain a bit more respect for Major League Soccer and the individual players who are not considered at La Liga level. Well, by and large, they are not and many of them confirmed that. It was though, a night where one might have considered the rare opportunity to display their personal skills against some the most skillful and tactically astute players in the world. And a few players did just that!
Some notable players:
Michael Bradley– Drifted around presenting options for teammates, kept good possession, played nice triangle combinations in the low and mid thirds of the field, and sprayed the ball around well enough, but rarely if ever drove the ball forward attempting to penetrate the mid and final third. I comment fully aware of the fact that this was not a showcase for Michael Bradley as he has and will have bigger games to up his intensity- His performance is understandable for sure.
Sebastian Giovinco- He is a player that should have “seized the day”, because although he has lit up the MLS with his speed of play, clever maneuvers, and great finishes, he has never really obtained the respect from clubs considered at ‘another level”. He gets credit for his industry on the field and showed great bursts which indicated his determination. Respect for that! Only, too often those dribbling runs ended in sloppy exchanges and finishing attempts. Aside from the 30 yard screamer that just dipped wide of the left post.
Sebastian Schweinsteiger- Among one of my personal favorites over the past several years. He treated this like a walk in the park. Once again, like Bradley this understandable. He gets a pass.
David Villa- Put forth the effort and had that one great opportunity form 8 yards out that was blocked, but most of his urgent maneuvers amounted to very little.
Tim Howard- Once again demonstrated his tremendous skills and desire to prove his worth and he did. He made some very solid saves on the heels of the MLS field players giving too much respect and space for the RM players to operate. He was calm and in control even when the attackers got ‘cheeky’ with their attempts. He came out on top in all 1 v. 1 situations.
Kelly Acosta- One could argue that this young player was the best player on the field. He used great speed to shake off opponents and found space for himself. Had a consistent urgency about his play that stood out and was quick and intense when defending. He is a great young U.S. player to watch.
Miguel Almiron- like Acosta, the Paraguayan showed no signs of awe and frequently displayed the speed and guile to take space and solve problems in tight spaces. Too me, he stood out as one that played with a purpose both for MLS and for himself. Much respect!
Ignacio Piatti- Another player who deserves kudos for his efforts to generate action on the field. Although the Argentine did not have dramatic success, he played with the verve that claimed his right to be there. He seemed like he had a mission, almost to say, ‘why am I coming off the bench? That is a commendable attitude that deserves recognition.
Ultimately, it was not a bad night or a terrible result for the MLS Crew, but still a bit of an opportunity lost in some respects. Those that played with Ambition and Focus showed themselves well. MLS should keep climbing!