Sunday, October 01, 2006

I Ching!! Goal of the Week?!? Goal of the Year?!? Or, just the most spectacular goal in the history of the MLS? Brian Ching singlehandedly beat D.C. United tonight with the one of the most brilliant goals in the 11 year history of the M.L.S. The Houston Dynamo deserved the win, as D.C. United had long since stopped pressing for a win. Still, it looked like this game was headed for a listless scoreless draw, before Brian Ching turned a perfect bicycle kick the left United keeper Troy Perkins completely flat-footed.

The goal was so breathtaking one might even overlook how incredibly unmarked Ching was as he set himself to receive the cross into the box. Not to take anything away from Ching. The goal was truly spectacular. He has earned the goal of the year. No goal in league history was any more impressive.

Earlier this summer, I got into a blogging match with some of the more noted soccer bloggers who were highly critical of U.S. Coach Bruce Arena for putting Brian Ching on the national team roster. My criticism went in the opposite direction. I was disappointed that Ching did not get to play in the World Cup, because I thought he could have been a productive contributor. Perhaps this goal will silence his detractors.

The goal destroyed what had been a fairly decent effort from D.C. United. Freddy Adu made some nice runs and nearly earned an assist with a perfect free kick that Matias Donnet headed just over the crossbar. Overall, D.C.'s passing was unusually sharp, and Perkins looked as if he was on his way to a well-deserved shutout, as he turned away several excellent chances from the Dynamo. The Dynamo also looked fairly crisp through the first 60 or 70 minutes. The level of play was as high as I have seen it in the M.L.S. But both teams began to falter in the attack. United subbed out their best attackers and seemed satisfied with a tie. Even United players conceded they had stopped pushing forward. Then Ching struck his mighty blow.

The Dynamo will qualify for the Western Conference playoffs, thanks to the victory. D.C. United, despite the loss, still laid claim to the Supporters' Shield for the best record in the M.L.S. this year. Not too shabby. This sends D.C. into the CONCACAF Champions Cup tournament.

Josmer Altidore Update: Jozy did it again! Another Saturday, and another goal for the Red Bulls' 16-year old wonder! M.L.S., this is your wake-up call. If we buy the hype, Freddy Adu will, possibly, someday be, to American soccer, what Wayne Gretzky was to hockey (small and matchless with the ball/puck at his feet/stick). Altidore might be the soccer version of Mario Lemieux. A big body and a born scorer. Altidore, who made his first start tonight, arrived without any hype, but his presence and ability are undeniable.

So, M.L.S., you've wanted a star in New York to market. Don't look now, but you've got one. And he's a local boy, as Freddy Adu is a local in D.C. It would be great to watch these guys on their teams in a few years fueling this rivalry into something truly huge. Unfortunately, Adu is surely headed for England in a year, and Altidore probably won't be too far behind.

The Red Bulls also have another potential star in the making with former first-round pick Marvell Wynne, who set up Altidore's game-winning goal tonight. The son of a former major league baseball player, Wynne won a big role on the U.S. Under-20 national side, based on his fantastic speed. According to Red Bulls' coach Bruce Arena, Wynne's tactical understanding is improving with each game. If he can raise his soccer sense to to the level of his athletic ability, Wynne will develop into a truly great player.

EPL -- As brilliant as Brian Ching's goal was, it may have been only the second best goal of the day. Robben van Persie scored a stunning airborne volley for Arsenal today. Was it luck or incredible skill? It was certainly hard to believe.

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