The local teams provided the heartbreak and gut punches this week although I also watched some entertaining European matches, albeit lacking the same emotional commitment.
AFC Ajax 5:0 MVV Maastricht (22 Sep 2010) – This KNVB Cup match saw Ajax hosting a Eerste Divisie (Dutch first division) opponent. There was no upset by the minnows from Maasricht with the game clearly a romp by Ajax. Ajax even started some of their younger players such as Florian Jozefzoon who scored his first goal. The rout wasn’t interesting but the web stream I watched had Dutch commentary in the first half and no commentary at all in the second half. I enjoyed listening to the crowd chants and drumming, and even the shouts of the players on the field. Match report.
FC Dallas 2:2 New England Revolution (22 Sep 2010) – This is my fault. I started writing the match report in my head at about 75 minutes. I was excited that the Revs could play on the road versus a team with a 15-game undefeated streak and carry out a convincing shutout. They even survived a penalty kick by FC Dallas that went wide. Then in the 80th minute Darrius Barnes took down David Ferreira in the penalty area and he didn’t miss the PK this time. Suddenly it was a knuckle-biter to see if the Revs could hold on for the win but Jeff Cunningham’s stoppage-time equalizer seemed almost inevitable. Match report.
Boston Breakers 1:2 (OT) Philadelphia Independence (23 Sep 2010) – The WPS Super Semifinal started well with the Breakers hosting in Harvard’s new soccer stadium which has less seating more spacious field and a complete absence of football gridiron markings. The Breakers scored first on Lauren Cheney’s 22nd minute goal and had the better run of play in the first half although Caroline Seger equalized for Philadelphia in the 29th minute. Boston looked outmatched and tired in the second half but held the score to a 1-1 tie into overtime. Then came the heartbreak on an apparent handball by Philadelphia’s Danesha Adams. Handball or not, the Breakers lethargic play allowed too many opportunities for Philadelphia. They put together a great desperation attack in the final minutes with one excellent chance on goal, but it was too little, too late. Match report.
FC Twente 2:2 AFC Ajax – Another hotly contested Eredivisie match for Ajax this time against the reigning title holders. The pre-game histrionics at Twente’s Grolsch Veste included banners the size of entire section of the stadium, explosions and red flares, and unison singing of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (at least Wikipedia says it is that song, it sounded like something else, maybe being sung in Dutch?). They put US sports’ fans to shame. Ajax went down early on a gorgeous finish by Twente’s midfielder Theo Jansen. Ajax equalized a few minutes later with a clean follow-up by Morrocan star Mounir El Hamdaoui. Jansen scored again an hour into the game but Ajax fired back six minutes later with a blistering long-range shot by Eyong Enoh. That was all the scoring but this was an exciting, fast-paced game with lots of end-to-end play, shots deflected by the wood, and great saves by the keepers. A point well earned for Ajax. Match report.
Athletic Bilbao 1:3 FC Barcelona (25 Sep 2010) – In the pouring rain, Barça faced off their host in a another Messi-less league match. I learned that Bilbao tries to maintain a roster of players entirely from the Basque country and despite the limited player pool have never been relegated and are among the top La Liga teams of all time. Nevertheless, they were no match for the champions who may have been a little sloppy in the mud and should’ve had more goals. Bilbao should get some credit for managing to hold Barcelona goalless for almost an hour despite losing a player to a red card. Things were interesting in the last five minutes of the match when Barça lost David Villa to a red card and Bilbao scored their goal to make it 1:2. Busquets ended any intrigue with Barça’s third goal in stoppage time. Match report.
New England Revolution 2:2 Columbus Crew (25 Sep 2010) – I hate reruns. In this case, the Revolution had a convincing 2-0 lead (scoring the first goal 80 seconds into the match) against one of the top teams in the MLS, only to allow their opponent to score two goals late in the second half and settle for a tie. How can a team so low in the standings with no realistic hope for the playoffs still have so many gut-punching loses? Match report.
FC Gold Pride 4:0 Philadelphia Independence (26 Sep 2010) – The WPS Championship match featured the best team by far in the WPS facing the upstart spoilsports from Philadelphia. I actually hoped that the Independence would make something of their unlikely position in the final after eliminating the Breakers, but it was not be. I’ve grown fond of Amy Rodriguez and glad that we have her on the US national team at least. The star for the Independence however was goalkeeper Val Henderson who made several great saves while the rest of her team could do little before in front of her. Still, 4 goals ended up in the Independence’s net and that was that for the WPS season and congratulations to FC Gold Pride for dominating the 2010 season. Match report.