Blogs > Red Cards

Bob Weiser started playing soccer as a youth and has been following the sport ever since, dating back to days of watching the Bundesliga on PBS on Saturday afternoons.

Monday, July 19, 2010

All Union, all the time

The Union had an impressive week, getting its first shutout, or clean sheet, with a 1-0 win over Celtic FC of Scotland in the first night game at PPL Park and following that up with a 2-1 win over Toronto FC Saturday on Sebastien LeToux's late penalty kick.

Of course, it should be pointed out that that first shutout came with backup keeper Brad Knighton in goal, not starter Chris Seitz. I've been saying for weeks that Knighton deserves a shot to play over Seitz, whose inconsistencies and inexperience have cost the Union on a couple of occasions. I was disappointed to learn, then, that Seitz was back in goal Saturday against Toronto.

But the good news is they got 3 points against Toronto, a team that had an eight-game unbeaten streak heading into the game. Toronto, by the way, features Jon Conway, the Sun Valley High School graduate who is the only Delaware County high school product playing in MLS. See Chris Vito's story here:

Despite temperatures in the upper 90s again Saturday, LeToux was all over the field. His work ethic is simply amazing.

Up next is a friendly against Manchester United Wednesday night at Lincoln Financial Field. Man U will be holding a clinic Tuesday night from 7-9 at Chester Park for local youths. The Union's next MLS match is against the New England Revolution July 31 at PPL Park.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spain 1, Holland 0

The 2010 World Cup final seemed destined for penalty kicks. Still scoreless, time winding down before Andres Iniesta gave Spain the only goal it would need to win the World Cup for the first time in the nation's history.

Before the goal, however, the game was a physical battle that featured a record number of yellow cards - and one pivotal red to Holland's John Heitinga in the 109th minute. Whether or not the cards against Heitinga were warranted, the game was filled with hard fouls and the Dutch got away with what should have been a red card earlier when Nigel De Jong stuck his studs in Xabi Alonso's chest.

Frankly, the Dutch have no one to blame but themselves for the loss. There were plenty of opportunities for both teams to score. Spain had chances and the Dutch had chances. Arjen Robben could have easily had two goals if not for some outstanding saves by Golden Glove winner Iker Casillas.

The Dutch had their share of possession in the match - seemingly a lot more than Germany had against Spain in the semifinals. They were a fingertip away from Maarten Stekelenburg stopping that game-winner as well.

In the end, it was a great tournament with a back-and-forth final where Spain ended its drought and Holland lost in the final for the third time, the first since 1978.

Diego Forlan of Uruguay was deserving of the Golden Ball. I wouldn't have voted for him, because no matter how hurt he was, he should have been able to finish the semifinal loss. I was just as surprised to see David Villa come off for Fernando Torres in the final, though. Not sure I'll ever understand the substitution patterns of these coaches.

See you in Rio in four years.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The end is near

Unfortunately. As in, the end of the World Cup is near. Fortunately, a great month of soccer should conclude with what shapes up as a great match.

Spain takes on the Netherlands today at 2:30 p.m. The winner will be World Cup champions for the first time. Dutch fans are used to disappointment, having lost to West Germany in 1974 and Argentina in 1978, both times on the opponent's home soil. They won't have that disadvantage this year as whichever European side wins will be the first to win a World Cup outside Europe. Good thing they get to host a lot of World Cups, huh? History isn't on Spain's side - no team has ever lost its first game in the tournament and gone on to win it all. Spain lost to Switzerland, 1-0, what seems like years ago now.

Maybe that loss woke Spain up. The team has played very well since the loss, led by David Villa, Xavi and Carles Puyol. Spain figures to try to possess the ball with its short passing game, much like it did against Germany. The difference? I don't think Holland will let Spain play keepaway like Germany seemed to do. The Dutch will pressure the ball more and try to find its own offense.

Holland is led by Wesley Sneijder, Robin Von Persie and Arjen Robben and has the firepower to match Spain.

Prediction: Spain 2, Holland 1

Soccer is a cruel sport

That's about the only way to describe the Union's 2-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday at PPL Park. It was the first time I was unable to attend a home game.

But what I grasped from watching the game on FSC:

Once again, the Union totally dominated a game only to come up short. Maybe I'm a homer, but I feel like this team is significantly better than its record/results. The Union could have been up 3 or 4-0 against San Jose. They had several golden opportunities in the second half, including Danny Mwanga getting pantsed before Jon Busch made a great save, then Busch robbing Sebastien LeToux a couple of times. Then LeToux got bodychecked by a San Jose defender at about the 18-yard line. The defender made no attempt to play the ball and simply used his body to prevent LeToux from getting to the ball.

But the game was lost on a poor free kick from Roger Torres that led to a breakout by San Jose. Torres has been a major disappointment after a great start to his season. At the other end of the field, Jordan Harvey was between Arturo Alvarez and Chris Seitz. You just can't let the guy get a shot off there. Take him down. Take the yellow card, give the free kick and allow your teammates to get back and get set up. Of course, once the shot got past Harvey, you just knew it was going past Seitz, right? I mean, other than a PK in his belly against Seattle, the guy hasn't made one clutch save yet this year. I was ready to give him the year a few weeks ago. Now, I want Brad Knighton a start. Even if its against Celtic and Manchester United, let's see if he shows any better in game action. It's time for a change.

On the same front, I want the central defense shored up and changed. This team has allowed two goals in all but three of its matches. It has yet to record a clean sheet. Why? As much as Seitz is at fault, he's not the only problem. Danny Califf is big and physical. Too bad he isn't any good. Get him off the field now. Cristian Arietta was supposed to help out when he joined the team. He was the Defender of the Year with the Puerto Rico Islanders in 2008 in the USL. He must have had a hell of a team around him. This group just isn't cutting it.

Two games this week - the Celtic friendly Wednesday at PPL and another home MSL match Saturday against a Toronto FC team that the Union should have beaten earlier in the season up in Canada. With five of the next six league matches at PPL, its the perfect time to play a push for a playoff spot. If the team doesn't pick up a bunch of those 15 points, the playoffs are probably going to be out of reach.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Quick thoughts on semifinals

Netherlands 3, Uruguay 2

Like others, I was stunned when the Uruguayan coach took Diego Forlan out with about 10 minutes left and his team down 3-1. Were they conceding? No. Forlan was nicked up. Nicked up? Are you kidding me? It's the World Cup semifinals. My leg would have to be falling off down 3-1 if I was my team's best player. Very strange. The Dutch were the better team, but Uruguay had plenty of 'moments.' I thought Uruguay was really dangerous pretty early in the second half. And then - Holland lowered the boom. First Wesley Sneijder, then Arjen Robben in a 4-minute span. It was 3-1 and it was all but over. Uruguay got a late goal to make it close, but Holland held on to reach its first WC Final since 1978. Congrats to the Dutch and congrats to Uruguay on an outstanding tournament.

Spain 1, Germany 0

Spain has never won a World Cup title. Never even been to the final. Sure, the Spanish have been the best tournament over most of the decade, were favored and beat Germany, 1-0, in the Euro 2008 final. Still, this is Germany. A team that had scored 13 goals in the tournament. Instead of coming out and putting the pressure on Spain, maybe forcing Spain to choke a little in light of its past World Cup history, Germany seemed to be playing for 0-0 and overtime, possibly getting a goal on a counterattack. Now, I'm OK with counterattacking, but ... not when you're Germany. You're not supposed to be afraid of anyone when you wear that uniform and the Germans played like they were convinced they had little if any shot. Spain buzzed around the German net and were it not for a couple of Manuel Neuer saves, it could have been 3-0. Spain dominated possession and it almost seemed like Germany was letting it make all the short passes it wanted in the midfield. A brilliant header by Carles Puyol gave Spain the lead on a corner kick - he had just missed one in the first half. I don't know. Maybe Germany heard the octopus picked Spain.

Now, it's on to Spain vs. Holland and someone is going home with the World Cup for the first time in its history. Hope we get a great game - we'll definitely have a great pregame show - Shakira is scheduled to perform.

Monday, July 5, 2010


The first semifinal is just 12 hours away. I can't wait. Though I've rooted for Germany for years, part of me would like to see any of the other three teams win. Uruguay hasn't won the title since 1950 and neither Spain nor the Netherlands have ever won one.

Upstart Uruguay takes on the Netherlands Tuesday. The Dutch upset Brazil while Uruguay used the Hand of God 2 from Luis Suarez to beat Ghana in penalty kicks. The red card means Suarez won't play against the Dutch and Uruguay also could be Sans Diego - Diego Lugano and Diego Godan are both doubtful. The Dutch are without Nigel de Jong and Gregory van der Wiel and Robin van Persie and Joris Mathijsen are both doubtful. That's a lot of star power sitting on the bench, watching. That leaves depth as an important part of the equation and I give the Dutch the advantage there.
Prediction: Holland 3, Uruguay 1

Wednesday's second semifinal between Germany and Spain could be a classic. Fernando Torres continues to struggle for Spain, but David Villa has been the best player in the tournament. Germany, however, has been the best team. Germany will be without 20-year-old midfielder Thomas Mueller, who has four goals, but Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski are playing well. If it comes down to PKs, Iker Casillas gives Spain an edge over Germany's Manuel Neuer. Hopefully, it won't come down to PKs.
Prediction: Germany 2, Spain 1

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A busy Saturday

Where to start? I'll start with the World Cup, and I'll post more in a couple of days previewing the semifinals.

What had been a tournament dominated by South America suddenly isn't anymore. Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay are all gone and while some are calling Brazil's loss to the Netherlands a major upset I'm not one of them. An upset? Sure. Major? No. These were the Dutch, arguably considered the best nation to never win a World Cup and they have one of the best players in the tournament in Wesley Sneijder. Brazil just didn't play its best and when that happens at this level, you go home. Since Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup, and it has now gone back-to-back Cups without winning, everyone else might be playing for second in four years.

Argentina was clearly the second-best team on the field Saturday against Germany. Germany scored in the first five minutes and Bastian Schweinsteiger was easily the Man of the Match. For a team with a couple of players not on top form up front coming into the Cup, the Germans have been outstanding and Miroslav Klose continues to show why he's one of the top strikers in World Cup history. Two more goals Saturday give him four, or one more than he had in 25 Bundesliga matches with Bayern Munich this year. Germany wasn't 4-0 better than Argentina and it was 1-0 well into the second half. The Germans scored three late goals to blow it open. There were questions about Argentina coming in and though they appeared to be answered prior to Saturday, clearly the concerns were warranted.

Spain had never won a quarterfinal prior to Saturday. Hard to believe, huh? And at one point against Paraguay, it looked like Spain was going to be denied again. But then Iker Casillas stopped a penalty kick. About a minute later, Spain converted a penalty kick - but it was wiped out by players encroaching into the penalty area and the rekick was stopped by Paraguayan keeper Justo Villar. It was a surreal series of events. Neither team played great, but David Villa got the gamewinner to send Spain through against Germany.

It's going to be hard to argue with Uruguay-Ghana as the game of the tournament, simply based on the finish. After 119 minutes and about 45 seconds, Luis Suarez, a Uruguayan striker, stopped a sure Ghana goal when he used his hand. He was immediately red carded and Ghana was awarded a penalty kick and an almost surefire win. Frankly, it probably should have been ruled like goaltending is in basketball, but that is an argument for another day. The penalty here is a red card and a PK and Ghana had every chance to win this game and become first African team in the World Cup semifinals. Asamoah Gyan's strike caromed off the top of the crossbar and out of play and the ref blew the final whistle, sending the match to penalty kicks. Ironically, sadly, tragically, Gyan had a beautiful strike for one of Ghana's PKs, but Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera made two saves.

So that sets up Netherlands vs. Uruguay Tuesday and Germany vs. Spain Wednesday. Look for a preview in a day or two.

The day ended with a disappointing 1-1 road draw for the Union against Chivas USA. While it was nice to get a point for a team that had just one win in its first eight road games, it was not a good all-around performance. For some reason, Alejandro Moreno didn't play and it showed. Danny Mwanga scored his fifth goal and Sebastien LeToux was good as usual. But without Moreno, there was just some push offensively lacking and once the Union went up 1-0, it seemed like the players were content to try to ride that out for almost 70 minutes. It didn't work, though it probably should have been 2-0 when a goal was disallowed on a blown offsides call.

Four straight at PPL Park should help this team make a playoff push.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Quarterfinal predictions

Germany vs. Argentina. Brazil vs. Netherlands. Sounds like a couple of matchups you'd expect to see in the World Cup finals. Instead, we get them this weekend in the quarterfinals.

Here is a look at the four quarterfinal matchups:

Germany vs. Argentina

There has already been a lot of debate on the internet about this game. Argentina was a major question mark coming into the tournament - Diego Maradnna's crew struggled in qualifying. But when you have Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez, no one wants to play you. Argentina has been the most entertaining team in the World Cup and leads all teams with 10 goals. But there are questions about the back four - specificially Martin DeMichelis. As for Germany, Miroslav Klose struggled coming into the World Cup, but this is the World Cup and Klose has found the groove again in South Africa. He has scored twice to give him 12 career World Cup goals, just three shy of Ronaldo's record of 15. Like Argentina, Germany has questions in the back four. Potentially bad news for Argentina: Messi missed practice Thursday. He won't miss the game, though.
Prediction: Argentina 4, Germany 3

Netherlands vs. Brazil

A matchup of epic proportions. Brazil has been nothing short of the best all-around team in the tournament. Holland has been its usual entertaining self. Brazil doesn't have the question marks in the back that the Netherlands does. The Netherlands got a big lift with the return of Arjen Robben when it beat Slovakia, 2-1. Brazil, on the other hand, will be one of its top subs as midfielder Elano is out with an ankle injury. Brazil has plenty of other options, though, from Robinho to Luis Fabiano to Kaka to Maicon. The Netherlands counters with Wesley Sneijder, Dirk Kuyt, Robben and Robin Von Persie. In the end, Brazil is just a little better defensively.
Prediction: Brazil 2, Netherlands 1

Spain vs. Paraguay
Spain has never reached the World Cup semifinals. That seems hard to believe, but it's also hard to imagine Spain not beating Paraguay. This has been a tournament dominated by South America - and there stands a good chance of three of the four semifinalists being from South America, too. Maybe Paraguay will play better than it did against Japan. Paraguay was passive. Maybe it can duplicate that against Spain and Xavi, David Villa and Co., but it will be 10 times more difficult than it was against Japan. If it can get to penalty kicks, Paraguay has the benefit of having already experienced that and Spain could crack under the pressure. It won't get to penalty kicks, though. David Villa has been having an outstanding World Cup and it will continue.
Prediction: Spain 2, Paraguay 0

Uruguay vs. Ghana
Probably would have had a hard time finding too may people who had both of these teams in the quarterfinals. Uruguay has been led by Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, who have combined for five goals. Ghana, of course, is the team that ended the dreams of the United States with an extra time goal last weekend. Ghana's top two scorers - Asamoah Gyan and Kevin Prince Boateng - are both battling injuries. Gyan was hurt in practice this week and Boateng has a hamstring problem that could keep him out. Without that firepower, Ghana will have a hard time keeping up. Both will probably try to play, but neither will be 100 percent.
Prediction: Uruguay 2, Ghana 1

Union time change

I will have more on the World Cup tomorrow, but I just saw this on the Union web site:

The July 10 game vs. San Jose Earthquakes at PPL Park has been changed to a 6 p.m. start. It was originally scheduled for 5:30. It will be televised on Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Sports Espanol.