Dallas Delights as Galaxy Crumbles

By Paul Gardner

Here's one that I'm absolutely delighted to have got wrong: I thought the Galaxy would beat Dallas. Not because they play better soccer, they don’t, no sir, but because of their "effectiveness" and the home-field advantage.

Bah, forget it, Dallas made light of the Galaxy and thoroughly trounced them. That’s a surprise, for sure -- but what to say of the fact that they were able to do it by playing stylish soccer?

What needs saying immediately is that Don Garber and his MLS buddies owe a huge vote of thanks to Dallas -- because they will give us a final that will be worth watching. My wish-for final was Dallas vs. Real Salt Lake -- a matchup that sadly occurred in the first round of the playoffs -- but a matchup that gave us the best games so far.

One shudders to think of the nightmarish banalities that would have assaulted us if the Galaxy had been the team to play the Colorado Rapids. So Garber & Co., has dodged that boring bullet.

I’ve bitched all season long that I didn’t feel that the Galaxy ever produced the sort of soccer that its lineup was capable of giving us, and it was the same story last night. No flow, no rhythm, no style. It would be easy to say that Dallas prevented any of that, but that cannot be entirely the case, because that’s the way the Galaxy has been all season.

Frankly, the final is better off without them because they were just not worth watching. But ... the final will have to put up with the Colorado Rapids, and they’re not much better. We’re getting the stylish, entertaining Dallas against the pragmatic Rapids, a team without any style at all ...

Yes, of course Dallas should win this one -- but soccer being the theater-of-the-absurd that it so often is, even a team as pedestrian as Colorado is in there with a chance, so we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes. If you watched both Conference championships, you might reasonably wonder whether Colorado and San Jose were actually playing the same sport as the Galaxy and, particularly, Dallas.

Last night laid before us an excellent example of two soccer essentials: you need a good goalkeeper, and -- always assuming you want to play creative attacking soccer -- you need a playmaker. Dallas had both. Kevin Hartman’s first-half saves frustrated the Galaxy, while David Ferreira was a menace to the Galaxy defenders every time he got the ball.

I counted 26 clear passes from Ferreira -- only 6 of which were inaccurate (and even those caused some problems for the Galaxy). Twice he pushed a perfect pass through the Galaxy defenders to put Martin Chavez in alone on goal -- the first time Chavez mis-controlled, the second time he scored.

Those thrilling passes were never seen at the other end of the field. David Beckham does not make that sort of pass; I counted 34 Beckham passes, exactly half of which, 17, were inaccurate. His one pass that I rated “dangerous” came in the 86th minute. Beckham, to tell the truth, looked neither effective, nor particularly fit -- this, mind you, on the very day that England coach Fabio Capello announced that he was pleased to see how well Beckham is recovering from his Achilles' tendon injury. As for Landon Donovan, he was lost in one of his off nights -- indeed, he was almost absent in the second half.

Anyway, the Galaxy was damn lucky -- scandalously lucky -- not to have been down to 10 men in the 38th minute, when Dema Kovalenko, already yellow-carded just seven minutes earlier, launched a wild, late, dangerous tackle on Ferreira. Referee Jair Marrufo, called the foul, but did not give the obvious second yellow. He did, however, say a few words to Kovalenko. Someone should tell Marrufo, the verbal warning is supposed to come before the first yellow, not the second.

Bruce Arena was complaining on the sideline about fouls by Dallas that Maruffo was not calling. He had a point, but frankly, any coach who puts players like Kovalenko on the field doesn’t have much of a case when complaining about rough play.

The absence of the Galaxy in MLS Cup also brings considerable relief on another front, because presumably it will means that JP Dellacamera and John Harkes, our merry TV maestros, will have to stop going on and on about “set-pieces” (they mean set plays) -- something they did last night ad nauseam before the game.

Now, when you’ve made that big a point about something, and when it subsequently proves to be a damp, even a sodden, squib some sort of explanation is required. How was it that Dallas was able to score three very neat goals, and none of them came from a set play? We were not told.

I shall reveal all. Because Dallas is a team that wants to play soccer, that believes in passing the ball, to feet if possible, and that has a devilishly skillful master mind in Ferreira. It is not a team with the “set play” mentality at the front of its mind. From what JP and Harkes repeatedly told us, I’d have to assume that the Galaxy does think that way -- that was certainly what Seattle coach Sigi Schmid believed in last week’s games.

If you combine that mentality with Arena’s persistence in putting on the field destructive players like Kovalenko and Chris Birchall (both yellow-carded last night), any attempt to play stylish attacking soccer by moving the ball with pace and skill, is not likely to feature too often.

It needs noting: the Galaxy has never been a defensive team. Neither are the Rapids. The problem for both teams is that their play -- by which I mean their attacking play, the creative part of the game -- lacks form, pattern and ... style. It is a hit and miss affair -- the Galaxy putting too much faith in Beckham’s free kicks, the Rapids relying too much on the speed and guile of the splendid Omar Cummings. Attacking, entertaining soccer needs a much more varied arsenal than that. Schellas Hyndman’s Dallas has shown us that it has that arsenal.

10 comments about "Dallas Delights as Galaxy Crumbles".
  1. Gus Keri, November 15, 2010 at 9:36 a.m.

    A huge credit to coach Schellas Hyndman. He transformed this team. Many people, including myself, doubted him when he was hired 2 years ago from the college ranks. It took a lot of courage for him to leave the comfort of 25 years of reign at SMU. He proved every one of those doubters wrong. On other note, I feel sorry for Toronto, and the MLS for that matter, because they are not getting their wishes. There will be no NY with Henry, Angel and Marquez or LA with Beckham and Donovan. The only interested parties in Toronto will be the cowboys. How many of them are there?

  2. Bill Airsman, November 15, 2010 at 10:07 a.m.

    I've read Paul Gardner for over 30 years, and sometimes he's still full of it. The Raps are very entertaining and I'm sure they are looking forward to yet another encounter with the speedsters from Dallas.

  3. Philippe Fontanelli, November 15, 2010 at 10:15 a.m.

    Paul I second your comments. Although you have failed to mention Donovan's taking a page out of Kovalenko's play. He even looked as angry as Kovalenko. The way he played and retaliated made me loose some respect for him as aplayer and a man and I used to be uncoditionally and blindly his greatest fan. I didn't recognize him I guess the Arena aura is the influencer on him and the team. Way back after the Puerto Rico game I have mentioned several times that the Galaxy will falter down the line it was inevitable. Pompous annd arrogant Bruce Arena had to fall.
    And John Harkes is a bias idiot.
    I am glad for the Dallas and Colorado final, though neither team I fancy.
    I was yearning a NY and LA final and also disappointed in SLR falling out (these were the teams that I have favored through the season). Yes even LA in spite of "Pompous" BA. But had the likes of Donovan, Beckham, Buddle, and Juninho.

  4. Brian Something, November 15, 2010 at 10:21 a.m.

    I'm glad Dallas won. Had LA won, we would've had an English Championship style affair, really boring with lots of low percentage crosses, long balls and knockdowns.

    Dallas' inclusion means we'll at least see some skilled build up play, some soccer worth watching.

    The inclusion also means that announcers may actually talk about the soccer on the field rather than babble on incessantly about Hype FC's golden boy.

  5. Brian Something, November 15, 2010 at 10:22 a.m.

    If there was any doubt LA was going to play boring, long ball soccer, it was when the announcers started babbling on and on about what the Galaxy’s target forward set up would be on goal kicks.

  6. Loren C. Klein, November 15, 2010 at 10:23 a.m.

    Interesting revisionism re: the Galaxy, as they attacked with verve and were well-organised defencively from the beginning of the season--when Beckham's comeback was months away. Face it, up until Dallas scored there was one team on the park and it wasn't FC Dallas. LA's loss was not down to a setpiece mentality, but rather their defencive shape was extremely ragged, allowing Dallas' pace to take advantage of them. Full marks to Dallas for taking advantage of it, but some real revisionism going on about the Galaxy, especially by saying they're not defencive despite the fact that they were second in the league in goals allowed. Ah well, facts and Paul Gardner are usually never seen in the same room, so what else is new?

  7. Gerald Laing, November 15, 2010 at 2:02 p.m.

    I have to agree with you. Even though I have to ask why you write about a sport you seem to hate. The Galaxy cannot play creative soccer when they insist on having a thug like Kovalenko on the field. He cannot offer anything looking like attacking brilliance when you has only one ability and that is to tackle late and cause chaos. Some would say he is a tough player but I view it as a old slow player who has only one thing to offer. If he was on Dallas and did what he did last night to Donovan or Beckham, he would have been tossed. The MLS dosen't need players like Kovalenko anymore.

  8. Philippe Fontanelli, November 15, 2010 at 7:20 p.m.

    @ Gerald L; Paul G doesn't hate the game on the contrary he loves it and lives it.
    He understands the game and he is a true soccer/football afficianodo, way back. I read his articles when I was a kid in the seventies with World Soccer. And that was along time ago, I believe it was a year after Colombus discoverd America.

  9. Gerald Laing, November 16, 2010 at 7:53 a.m.

    My statement was more in jest than anything. I said it because most of Paul G's more recent writings have been pointing out the undesirable parts of the game and "bitching" (his term) about the state of the game. I for one would like him to find some of the more pleasing things to write about more often.

  10. beautiful game, November 16, 2010 at 7:42 p.m.

    FC Dallas produced efficiency, intensity and simplicity to topple L.A. I'm in agreement that Harkes and Dellacamera are nauseating behind the mike, lots of talk and hysteria over nothing. Ref Jair Marrufo did another splendid job in letting go muggings inside the penalty area and as usual not being able to count 10-yards for free kicks. If he should do the final, the Rapids should send out a rugby starting XI.

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