Sunday, May 19, 2013

New York Red Bulls 1, LA Galaxy 0: Why Carlo Cudicini shouldn't be blamed for Tim Cahill's game-winning goal

It's been a while since I last posted on here, but today's game (New York Red Bulls vs LA Galaxy) tested my patience. And since Twitter only lets me vent in 140 characters or less, here I am.

I don't have a favorite MLS team. I root for action-packed games and creative play from both sides, but my main focus is on fantasy soccer. I want certain players to do well so today I needed a LA Galaxy clean sheet.

Tim Cahill's game-winner in the 92nd minute is the main reason I'm a little heated right now, and in my opinion, Carlo Cudicini is not the only person responsible. Let me tell you who is and why.

Here's the breakdown on the game-winning goal...

The picture above was taken three seconds before Juninho crosses the ball into the box (via set-piece) in the 91st minute. After the ball is kicked, it's in the air for just under two seconds before Tim Cahill heads home the game-winner, leaving me, along with several Galaxy players stunned.

So, what's wrong with this picture?

First let's look at the matchups and see who is marking who: Omar Gonzalez/Thierry Henry, Sean Franklin/Jamison Olave, Todd Dunivant/Markus Holgersson and AJ DeLaGarza/Tim Cahill. The rest of the players pictured for LA; Greg Cochrane (hiding behind Omar), Gyasi Zardes and Rafael Garcia are marking nobody.

Dax McCarty and Lloyd Sam are completely unmarked. Why? Did LA fail to communicate with each other properly on the most important set-piece of the game? The answer is simple. Yes.

Is this Omar's fault? Is he the leader of the team when it comes to defending set-pieces? How can he see two guys completely unmarked and not be yelling at someone to get on them? Let's take a closer look.

Which player is responsible for the goal? (No. 1 = most reliable)

1. Gyasi Zardes - There are a lot of things that upset me with the way some players act on the field and silly fouls are very high on that list. I don't have the best access to picture quality at the moment so bear with me. Zardes fouls Roy Miller at the bottom of the screen right around the 90:30 mark.


Miller is dribbling towards the sideline with two options basically - he can pass to Jonny Steele or try to beat Zardes, Franklin and others off the dribble. The foul allows Juninho (a set-piece magician) to set up one final opportunity in the closing minutes of a 0-0 game. To me, this alone makes Zardes the No. 1 reason why the Galaxy lost today. If there's no foul, there's no set-piece. If there's no set-piece, there's no goal. It's not rocket science.

Even though Zardes commits the initial foul he can still make up for it by defending properly, but Zardes wastes time, precious time (pictured below). He takes too long to get back and mark up. Dunivant already has Holgersson, which means Zardes should move to either Olave or Cahill.

If Zardes is the second-tallest player on the field for the Galaxy at 6'2" behind Omar Gonzalez (6'5"), why isn't he marking someone who's a scoring threat in the air? Not only is he not marking a tall target, he pretty much marks no one at all. He basically just tracks back into space once the ball is kicked.

And why is AJ DeLaGarza (5'9") marking one of the best aerial players (Cahill) in the entire league? If Gonzalez has Henry, Dunivant has Holgersson and Franklin has Olave, Zardes' needs to be on Cahill, right?

2. Greg Cochrane - After the foul Cochrane immediately marks up on Dax McCarty, which is exactly what he should do. But, when McCarty moves behind the Gonzalez/Henry matchup, Cochrane gets lost and doesn't respond immediately. Then, instead of moving in front of Omar to get back to his original position, he runs behind him. This move is what keeps Tim Cahill in an onside position.

Since Cochrane keeps Cahill onside, he's the second player responsible for today's debacle in my opinion.

3. Carlo Cudicini - Bruce Arena was quoted as saying that the ball served up by Juninho was 90 percent keepers ball, and I agree to some extent. You can put a lot of blame on Cudicini for not coming out and punching the ball away, but in all honesty, he has roughly 1.5 seconds to make that decision from when Juninho strikes the ball. That's not a whole lot of time.

Cudicini struggled judging the flight path of the ball due to the angle of the kick and swerve it carried through the air. Juninho put just enough pace on the ball, causing Cudicini to second guess coming out. If you take a screenshot of the ball when it hits Cahill's head, there's no question it's Cudicini's ball to get rid of. But, it's much more complicated than that. If this were a corner kick, I'd be all over Cudicini, but the positioning of this free kick makes the keepers' job a lot harder than it looks.

4. Bruce Arena - It's tough putting the blame solely on coaches in soccer because they can only do so much. In this case, Arena prepared the marking matchups for set-piece situations so I have to find him at fault to some extent. Arena (pictured above, lower left) is standing calm and collected (with his arms crossed) while the second-tallest player on his team tries to delay time by standing in front of Juninho; who is simply just setting up the ball for one final kick. Juninho isn't trying to rush the kick, so why isn't Arena yelling at Zardes to get back and mark up. Arena is a legend, but not every player is as tactically gifted as a Robbie Keane or a Landon Donovan. Zardes is 21 years old and has played just 124 minutes in a Galaxy uniform this year. He's inexperienced and needs direction. If I'm Bruce Arena at the time of this picture, I'm screaming at the top of my lungs for him to get back and mark up.

The real heroes for New York aren't just Juninho and Cahill. Watch the goal again and notice how Henry avoids rushing in for the ball entirely, holding Gonzalez off long enough to prevent him from tracking back to clear the ball. If Henry runs in and tries to head the ball, he either disrupts Cahill's run or allows Gonzalez just enough time to get back and make a clearance with his head. It's the little things like this that made the Red Bulls the smarter team on this particular set-piece. This is what teams need to do to win championships. It's kind of like saying, "in your face" but without words, just movement. Henry, I applaud you on this one.

FYI: I was sitting 10 rows behind Juninho when he took the kick so I saw it all unfold right in front of me.

1 comment:

Pete said...

Dear Ben, I agree with everything you said except for the fact that the goal shouldn't have been allowed in the first place. Here is why. First, you mention Cochrane keeping Cahill on side, I don't agree with that. When Juninho crosses the ball,Cahill is still in front of Cochrane and so is Mcarty. Even though Mcarty doesn't get the ball, he made the run towards the ball and this must be considered an effort to try to get it, therefore he's offside.
Second, Olave pushes Gonzales in the back, that was clearly a foul.
Carlo should have came out for the ball but as you say it's not that easy. The comments I read about the 6 yard rule for GK's is absolutely ridiculous. There are so many variables in each play. Totally agree on the marking as well. Cahill is far more dangerous in the air than Henry and so the choice to pick De la garza to mark him instead of Gonzales was a really poor decision from Arena.