Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Burch's Blast -- Luciano Emilio is being promoted for Sierra Mist's Goal of the Week. I have to admit I was shouting "Goal of the Year", when I saw Emilio's one-time scoring volley, knocking in the rebound of Christian Gomez' free kick that had caromed off the crossbar and out to Emilio. The big goal, though, was Marc Burch's magnificent left-footed rocket (of course), which drew United even with Toronto on Saturday night. Burch's goal was his first -- one that was a long time in coming -- and it touched off a cascade of goals by United, who buried Toronto by a 4-1 score.

About a minute before his goal, as Burch had sent in a nice cross, I was telling my gal-pal all about Burch's amazing left foot. I really think this young man has national team potential written all over him. If he can raise his game, especially on the defensive end, he should become a fixture at left back for the U.S. national squad. His gifted left foot is something no other American has -- something the U.S. team has lacked for the last ten years or so, since the days of Preki.

Burch is really in his first year playing regularly as a defender. He's learning this totally unfamiliar position, while playing at the highest level in this country. His occasional struggles must be expected, but his ability is both obvious and surprising, given the circumstances.

I think Burch can become a very good defender -- I've seen him make some very good plays. Though he was undone last week by the speedy Chivas attackers, Burch will benefit by more such encounters with top players. Hopefully, United will hold on to their one-goal lead over Chivas on Tuesday night. This will mean more games in the Copa Sudamericana, and more chances for Burch to learn how to defend against the speedy, skilled competitors he will encounter someday with the national team, should my predictions for him come true.

D.C. United has once again become the best team in the MLS. It would seem they are reaching their potential at a much more opportune time than last year's squad, which burned out in August. The crowd was ecstatic with United's offensive outburst on Saturday. United is, without question, the best ticket in town. Seeing them win the title this year, in RFK, would be absolutely amazing -- I get goosebumps imagining the celebration that will ensue.

Should United win the MLS Cup this year, it would be the best thing that could happen for the MLS and American soccer. The size of the crowd, the enthusiasm, and crowd's reaction would be something the American media couldn't ignore. No Beckham -- just the best-supported soccer team in the MLS, and an indication of the sport's potential in this country.

So, when Marc Burch or some other left back takes the field for the U.S in the World Cup, and there are tens of thousands of Americans cheering the team on, we can say it is America's game, too. It might also influence the D.C. city government to reconsider it's decision to take bids against United's bid to build a new stadium at Poplar Point.

Speaking of American national team players -- If you saw Kasey Keller post a clean sheet for Fulham, against Chelsea, you have to pleased for him. Keller had one particularly good save. Clint Dempsey is becoming a real fixture for Fulham, and someone English defenses have to watch out for (he had a couple of good chances against Chelsea) -- although he really pushes the limits of the rules with his physical play.

The American I was most impressed by, however, was Carlos Bocanegra. Boca was given the nearly impossible task of defending Didier Drogba. Sure, Drogba was coming off an injury, and was a bit of a surprise in the lineup -- probably not at his best. Yet, it was still Didier Drogba -- the most dangerous attacker in the Premier League last year -- and Boca ran all day with Drogba, and made several solid stops.

Throughout his career, Bocanegra has really been most notable as being a defender who is a good offensive threat -- not especially known for his defending. In years gone by, I don't think Boca could have kept with Drogba, but this weekend, Boca took his game to a new level. This was great to see. Though his national team play has been mostly underwhelming, Boca could still become a strong central left back for the U.S., perhaps flanked, one day soon, by Marc Burch.

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