What did our beloved Claret and Cobalt do the evening of March, 10th? They did what they trained for. They did what they most wanted. They did what they are capable of. They “came to score” (The Aggrolites).
Well, that was all a bit disappointing. After one of our stronger halves on the road, we were claimed by a mistake and a rather brilliant shot from distance. Did we deserve a win? Not particularly, although Nat Borcher's headed goal threw a little discussion into things late on.
Let's run through those two goals they picked up. The first was, for me, down to a bit of unluckiness on our end. Will Johnson attempted to clear the ball from inside the box, but the ball hit Chris Wingert on the back, rebounding to Camilo, who finished with real aplomb. For the second, Chris Wingert stood a step (perhaps two) behind speed demon Dane Richards, who curled the ball around our left back, leaving Nick Rimando with nary a chance to save.
There was nothing particularly we could do about the first goal after the scuffed clearance. Will Johnson shouldn't be hard on himself for that one, as those sorts of things rarely happen. It's not down to inability, unawareness, nothing of the sort. For the second, perhaps Wingert could have been slightly closer to Richards, but when you're defending on the edge of your box against a very quick player, marking too closely could lead to the player darting past you and having a golden opportunity.
Tactically, we did well leading up to those two goals. The full backs — as I discussed in my match preview — sat back a little deeper than usual, and Will Johnson and Ned Grabavoy took positions further up the pitch to compensate. It was hardly perfect, but it presented us with some fine attacking play at times (Javier Morales had a reasonably solid half, despite a cautionary retreat at the half) through the setup. It was as good a strategic response as we could have hoped for, but again, goals win games and all. We created chances, but rarely (Saborio's headed effort aside) were they particularly clear-cut.
It is worth remembering, of course, that Vancouver has done particularly well with their season, looking significantly better than they did in the preceding campaign. It doesn't excuse our loss, but it does keep things a little more calm, I suppose. At any rate, it doesn't fix things.
It is particularly interesting to me how much our season has been affected by the unbalanced schedule. With a balanced schedule, we don't play San Jose three times (losing all three), we don't play Vancouver thrice, we don't play the Galaxy thrice. Obviously enough, I suppose, but I'm under the impression that, although it's not reflected in overall points totals, we are facing a more difficult set of teams this year than we did last year. Although looking at years past isn't always entirely revealing, we can see in 2011 that the top four teams in the Western Conference had more points than any team in the Eastern Conference. Of course, that doesn't account for Vancouver (last in the west) and San Jose (seventh in the west,) who have looked vastly improved. It all goes rather to show that it's hard to predict things based on past performance in this league, and honestly, that's a bit disconcerting.
Right, well, I shan't harp on this thing too much. Let's take a moment, breathe, and realize that if we can find 11 points from our remaining 9 matches, we'll finish with as many points as we had last season. A full 27 points are up for grabs, and we know we're better than our form has shown. What's that they say about form? It's temporary. And something else is permanent.
Oh, yes. Class.