After a truly unexpected ending to an otherwise disappointing match that saw Almada add a million dollars to his transfer fee there are many takeaways. The defense was far better than in the preseason, while part of the offense didn't fire like expected. In non-team news the new Apple TV MLS coverage was great.
My main takeaway from the game was our lack of a cutting edge during transitions. Despite having two of the best attacking players in the league against a historically atrocious San Jose team we weren't able to capitalize on transition moments as one would have hoped.
For instance, in this attack Araujo actually did really well to beat two guys, get all the way down the field, and give it to Almada. Admittedly he took one more touch than he should have but it was still a good play which Almada then wasted by slamming a shot into his defender.
This was a very mixed bag for me, there were some good passing movements including some nice flick ons by both Gutman and Almada. It just wasn't quite as clinical as the attacks need to be. There were several times were Etienne Jr. especially got the ball in the box and didn't know what to do so he dumped it off for a two or three foot pass.
This was definitely a positive takeaway for me as I was very pleased by both Miles Robinson and Caleb Wiley especially tracking back to defend against counter attacks. They were both very smart about positioning and not overcommitting when tracking back.
This was just one of the numerous attacks diffused by Caleb Wiley when he gets back and is able to keep his attacker out wide to limit the danger of the attack. This play ended in a shot right at Brad Guzan.
Are defense was perfect by an means, though, as in the first few minutes especially we had trouble defending long balls and our positioning on the wings didn't help. Later in the game Caleb Wiley and Andrew Gutman defended the wing far better and actually marked the wing, but for San Jose's goal they were nowhere to be found.
This point wasn't entirely defensive minded, though, as there were also important long balls played out wide by our midfield, mainly by Rossetto who had an impressive 6/6 long balls completed. Unfortunately, none of these long balls led to goals, although that will hopefully change in the future when we have a first string striker in the team again.
Almada's Free Reign
It is impossible to talk about this game without mentioning Thiago Almada-we all knew he was good but I don't think anyone predicted that before the ball was kicked. Aside from ridiculous heroics there were also a number of tactical decisions that we saw play out in the middle of the attack. For one, it often wasn't in the middle of the field. Thiago Almada was given free reign which allowed him to end up way out on the wing here and then bring the ball in for a shot, or in the future pass to Giakoumakis who is happy to participate in the build up play of the attack.
(Also, for anyone wondering his shirt said "Fuerte Apache" which Almada's neighborhood outside of Buenos Aires which also has a cool Carlos Tevez mural, apparently.)
Brad is Back
Speaking of heroics, Brad Guzan made his MLS return from a season ending injury in great form. The bald wall made 3 three saves including some impressive reactions which was enough to earn him the golden spike of excellence (the voting happened before extra time, we all know Almada was the man of the match-sorry Brad.)