By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)
So we all had a heck of a soccer week. Sepp Blatter got re-elected. Then, very logically, Blatter stepped down from his position. Now that I've met my SEO word quota, let's talk about something that hasn't been beaten into the ground.
Let's talk about Jairo Arrieta. Why? Because it's one of those things that I've always wanted to do and just been unable to finish for years. YEARS! Ask, Drew sometime about our queue of Arrieta articles it existed at one time, like a painful reminder of my failure as a story teller.
After spending two years of being unable to not rekindle the things that made him so intriguing in 2010 with Columbus, Arrieta seems to have finally found his stride in MLS with DC United.
The thing is that this year he's actually creating fewer opportunities (3.6) and with less expected goals per 90min (0.299). I don't want to use the word luck because I don't know if it's really about getting lucky. Arrieta's header that tied things up on Wednesday was smack dab in the middle of Chicago's defense. His go ahead goal was a bit chaotic and nothing snazy. Still, he's been exactly what DC has needed: he's finished off the chances that are being created.
Arrieta isn't that guy in a fairytale who DC is going to ride to the playoffs on his unexpected season. They're going to need Fabian Espindola back to his 2014 form, more MVP-lite Chris Pontius and most assuredly Bill Hamid (unless they get more Jeff Larentowicz like PK's and shots) between the sticks.
Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann says his experimentation with the line-up and roster are done and these results matter in some way to him and the rest of the coaching staff. Which is great, but still kind of has that nagging feeling like… (to sound like a fifteen year old) all whatever. Forget about the game against Germany and that Joachim Löw looks to be bringing a strong side. That's not important.
Okay, it's important. But it's not the point I'm trying to make, focus.
Netherlands are a legitimately a top world team and they're not just throwing a bunch of chumps out there. This is a tough and deep side that has the tools to make things difficult at the Euros next year and may make a run at the trophy. This game Friday will be an example of what we really think about the US going into the summer and the CONCACAF Gold Cup competition.
We still don't really have any replacements for the injured Jozy Altidore up top. Juan Agudelo will look to get another opportunity but I'm not sure anyone is sold on him being the #2 on the depth chart. Sitting right behind him will be Michael Bradley... or maybe not. Bradley keeps finding his way between the #10 role and some sort of midfield creative possession recovery type of guy (#6??). The defense finally looks to be honing in on some sort of pairing by committee and now looks to be one of the stronger pieces on the field for the Red, White and Blue.
But this is about a US team that hasn't created a lot of opportunities against their opponents goal in the last year. If Klinnsmann truly is trying to win, then it's time for that to change. Create a dozen or so opportunities and hopefully we've managed to create and score more than our opponents. It's not about winning both matches or even one. It's being able to replicate things that make successful nations create goal opportunities and limiting the amount and size of opportunities surrendered to opponents.
Let's be clear about something before we start; I have two unique biases going into this game. First, towards Houston: I want them to be interesting. WANT them to be interesting. I just feel they have the pieces to BE interesting. And yet they aren't and really they're a borderline terrible team that has some how managed to fake the results to this point. Second, I undeniably think that Bradley Wright-Phillips is the best striker in this league right now and I have a giant George Clooney-like mancrush on him.
Houston has slowly worked their way up ASA contributor Jared Young's proactive score and maybe that's an indication of the team starting to meld under the guidance of new head coach Owen Coyle. They're not necessarily in contention, but it's not as if they're out of it sitting just two points back of a playoff spot. The potential word at this point is that Cubo Torres could join the club by July and if that's the case the last three months of the season could get interesting at the bottom of the table.
Looking over at Harrison, NJ (I have a town!) and the question that seems uncanny is: why do we keep having the Red Bulls connected to these “big time” names. It's not as if every team doesn't already want to throw money at a name for the sake of it but it seems as though the Red Bulls legitimately don't need any help scoring or creating opportunities. Some additional depth on the wings would be great but overall I think what they have going on is not just great but sustainable too.
If I was in the New York front office I'd figure out how the hell Greg Garza resigned with Tijuana and is not replacing the human dumpster fire that is Roy Miller. Defense has been shaky for the Bulls from time to time and it would be nice that rather than addressing a strength and risk upsetting the nice vibe they have, to instead use the cap to bring in depth and upgrade a defensive position.
The Weekend Match-ups
New York Red Bulls (0.05 expected goals against in even gamestates) at Houston Dynamo (0.05 xGDeven)
New York City (-0.85) versus Philadelphia Union (0.01)
Toronto FC (-0.26) at DC United (-0.56)
Montreal Impact (-0.21) Columbus Crew SC (0.08)
Seattle Sounders (0.68) versus Sporting KC (0.38)
Orlando City Soccer Club (0.27) at Chicago Fire (-0.12)
Vancouver Whitecaps (0.03) at LA Galaxy (0.03)
Prediction: LAG, win
New England Revolution (0.73) at Portland Timbers (0.26)
Prediction: Going NE
Dallas FC (0.04) versus San Jose Earthquakes (-0.03)
Prediction: Super, meh. I call a draw.