Last week, we lost by two goals and I called it a blowout. It certainly felt like one. We were dominated by Salt Lake from start to finish. This week, we won by four goals. So is it another blowout?
1) I can’t decide. See, at the 80th minute, Toronto was in something kind of like a hot spell, spending lots of time in our half, getting corner after corner, and putting Milos Kocic under way too much pressure. My section mates and I were really sweating, wondering if we were about to have our hearts broken yet again. That’s a blowout?
Oh, sure, in the 82nd minute, the floodgates opened. Three goals in ten minutes, we end up winning 4-0, and everyone leaves the stadium giddy and optimistic. Still, I’m not sure if an insane final ten minutes make it a blowout. A great win, yes. A lot to be happy with, yes. A blowout? I can’t decide.
2) When the season’s over, General Manager Gavin Wilkinson will have to make some very tough decisions on which players to keep and which players to let go. Kalif Alhassan is making those decisions even tougher. He’s scored two goals in our last two home games, and last night he looked sensational subbing for Diego Valeri.
In truth, I think Darlington Nagbe was playing the role of Valeri, and Alhassan was playing the role of Nagbe. Kalif was out there on the wing and he was absolutely on fire. How many shots did he put on goal in the first half? Four? Five? Sure, one of them was kind of a “shross,” but still, I was impressed. And shots aside, there was also some gorgeous passing between him, Nagbe, and Rodney Freaking Wallace. Oh, and I almost forgot Kalif clearing that Toronto shot off the line. All in all, a great night for Mr. Jazz Hands. He’s given Gavin Wilkinson a lot to think about.
3) Another player who raised his stock last night: Jose “Trencito” Valencia. Little Train looked great, didn’t he? Tons of energy, tons of effort. Sure, there were a few times I think he got a little ambitious, disregarding an easy pass, instead trying to take the ball straight between two defenders. In fact, I was fully prepared to write about how he was clearly a “shooter,” and not at all a “passer,” but then what did he do? He has two assists in the last ten minutes. Oh, sure, they’re not counting that assist on Valeri’s goal, since it bounced off a defender’s foot, but still, that was a pass, and a very good one at that. Clearly, Trencito has the potential to keep his head up and find the open man. All in all, it was a beautiful performance and will have a lot of people screaming for Train to be our new starting striker over Ryan “Everyone Hates Me Except C.I. DeMann” Johnson. Since the Jamaican national team has a game Tuesday, I’m not sure any of those guys will be starting next weekend against Chivas, so Train will have another game with which to impress Coach. I’m not taking a side on this one. If Trencito plays well enough to steal the starting spot, more power to him. Ryan will just have to steal it back.
4) A guy who doesn’t have to worry at all about his starting spot or his off-season destiny is Will Johnson. Great to have you back, Cap’n. And you truly are the Captain. You have a leadership about you that is hard to define. It’s obvious in the way you carry yourself out on the field, the way you interact with your teammates, even the way you work the crowd after the game. And the yellow card you got? Priceless. A perfect Will Johnson moment. For those of you who didn’t see it, here’s what happened: Toronto fouled someone and we were awarded a free kick just outside their 18-yard box. The ref squirts out his little shaving cream line for the ball, then paces off ten yards. But when he gets there, he doesn’t put down another shaving cream line for the Toronto players to stand behind, because they’ve already lined up a couple yards too close. The ref yells at them to move back, they refuse, the refs yells at them again to move back, they refuse, and then THE REF GIVES UP. I swear to God. He just says, “oh well,” walks over to their line, and squirts out his shaving cream line there. Well, as you can imagine, Will Johnson is not amused, so he paces off the distance from the ball to the line, turns back to the ref and holds up eight fingers. “Eight yards,” he says, right there for everyone to see. I’m in the stands, laughing my ass off, and the ref’s showing Will the yellow card. Absolutely classic. Great to have you back, Will. Keep up the good work.
5) A few quick player notes:
Rodney Freakin’ Wallace – I thought you were a little off your game the last month or so, but you looked fabulous last night. Very active on both sides of the ball. And a nice goal through Bendik’s legs.
Sal Zizzo – A very solid game, one that might earn you some real playing time the rest of the season. As always, your speed was there, but this time you kept your head up a little better than usual. A fairly solid night on D and a very good night bombing up that right side.
Diego Valeri – I’m wondering if we should always use you as a late-game substitute. You only played 20 minutes, but you scored one goal and assisted another. Glad to see that abductor muscle’s doing okay.
Kah, Zizzo, Kocic – A couple times there in the 2nd half, you guys were getting a little cute with the ball and Toronto nearly took advantage. A better team will score on us there. I’ll chalk some of it up to poor communication with new starters, but some of it felt like trying to be too cute. Cut it out.
6) It’s not really a Six Degrees column unless I make one or two completely ridiculous statements, so let’s take care of that right now by looking at our remaining schedule.
At Chivas. Home to Colorado. Home to LA. These games are totally winnable. And I mean wins, not draws. If we do it, that’s a four-game winning streak, and 51 points on the season.
After than, we’re at Vancouver. We’ve won there before, we can do it again. Another three points.
Then home versus Seattle and home versus Real Salt Lake. These teams are playing out of their minds right now. Still, we’re at home. We can get six points here. It won’t be easy, but we can do it.
And then we finish the season on the road at Chivas. Yes, they’ve been strangely frisky the last few weeks, but still, we can win there, no doubt.
So what am I saying here? Am I really saying we’re going to finish the season undefeated? You bet your ass I am. UNDEFEATED, BABY! We’re finishing the year with an 8-game winning streak, our final record will be 17-5-12, we’ll win the Supporter’s Shield with 63 points, then Gavin will sign Christine Sinclair, Tobin Heath, and Alex Morgan to carry us through the playoffs.
I’ve been wrong on every prediction I’ve made this season, but this one is guaranteed money in the bank. It’s gonna be a great couple months. Sit back and enjoy the ride.