Friday, October 5, 2007

What's Bruce Arena Smoking?

OK, you're one game from clinching a playoff spot, playing in a market where the biggest pro sports collapse ever just happened, and you haven't won a match in a month. One positive you've had going for you, however, has been the stellar play of a dynamic newcomer, who has scored a goal in each of your past two games. So, what do you do? Well, if you're Bruce Arena, YOU BENCH HIM!!!!

Consequently, The Red Bull dropped a terrible 2-1 decision to woeful but feisty Toronto FC on Thursday night, squandering another chance to secure a playoff spot and potentially blowing the opportunity to avoid facing DC United in the first round of the MLS postseason, instead of the newly minted US Open Cup Champion, but still, objectively, less formidable, New England Revolution.

Did the exclusion of Francis "Grandpa" Doe from the starting lineup in itself condemn the Red Bull to defeat? Of course not. There were many factors in the loss: Joe Vide caught ball-watching on the first goal and his subsequent ejection, Ronald Wattereus flopping like a fish on Red Bull reject Marvell Wynne's second goal-providing cross, knocked in by an increasingly hapless Chris Leitch (yes, Leitch is indeed without hap). Additionally, at least according to the telecast, the 20,000 frenzied fans at BMO Field didn't hurt the Mo-Jo (see what we did there?) of our Great White North neighbors.

What we're suggesting is that Mr. Bruce Arena is either higher than Fat Rush on Hillbilly Heroin or he's chokin' like a dry drunk on a pretzel. And remember folks, we're not second-guessing here, way back in May we addressed Arena's disturbing propensity for safe (ie. defensive) lineups, when he should actually be embracing the Red Bull Rising If You Play Them, They Will Score Theory, spiritually, if not literally, supported by the great Johan Cruyff.

Here's the deal: With Reyna out (yawn), Arena went defensive against Toronto, playing two defensive midfielders (Vide and Dema Kovalenko) along with his recently favored flatback four (Leitch, Jeff Parke, Seth Stammler and The Big Easy, Dave van den Bergh, a revelation at left back). Rookie Dane Richards (nice goal) and Clint Mathis (okay game) were then tasked with providing all the creative spark behind Jozy Altidore and Juan Pablo Angel, who proved he was human on Thursday by not scoring a goal.

Put aside for a moment that Hope Solo would probably be an upgrade over The Walrus and Tim Conway and that Hunter S. Thompson, nevermind Hunter Freeman, would be preferable to Leitch. If your goal is positive, creative, attractive, winning soccer the midfield should be Dema as your defender/destroyer and The Cletus as your attacker/creator, with speed merchant Richards on the right and Grandpa cutting in from the left (already ably manned by the overlapping Big Easy) and hooking up with Clint behind Jozy and JPA.

The Red Bull can still clinch this weekend if both Columbus and Team Lalas lose (Is David Beckham really back? Stay tuned). But with just two games to play and either DC United or The Revs likely on tap, the time to go into a defensive shell and grind out victories has past. Put the most talented Red Bulls on the pitch and play The Beautiful Game, because Thursday night was Ugly Brucie in Primetime.

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