So it wasn’t as good as I would have hoped, but it wasn’t as bad as I had feared.
Hope had me thinking “Maybe we can steal a WIN!”.
Fear had me thinking “Please, Lord, not another PUMAS…”
I knew a win was really far-fetched and the best case realistic scenario would be a 0-0 draw or just hold them to 1-0. That would give us the confidence and result we needed with the second leg here at RFK stadium. I feel pretty confident that we can score a goal or two here at RFK, but we needed to keep it close down in Mexico.
With that in mind, the 2-0 result isn’t bad. I don’t know if we can score two goals on them, it will depend not just on our form, but what posture Pachuca will come out in. If they concede ground and try to bunker we should get it easily. But if they come out to play and hold onto the ball for long stretches, it will be very hard for us. But the preview is for another day…
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The altitude was a HUGE factor. I could see United players breathing hard ten minutes in. 30 minutes in, they were *gassed* and sucking serious wind already. Not coincidently that was also the stretch when Pachuca really started to press and got several good opportunities on goal including one in which a Pachuca player, all by his lonesome, shot right at Wells from about 10 yards out.
They managed to ride it out, drew a few fouls to catch their breath a bit and made it into halftime 0-0. I thought they played fairly well before they got tired, and had some decent stretches where they were able to maintain possession and make Pachuca chase the game a little bit. And while they didn’t get any clear chances on goal (Colombian goalie Calero is a beast, btw) they did manage to put the Pachuca defenders under a bit of stress and had them scrambling a bit. I thought we put out a really good effort, but I knew it couldn’t last.
Sure enough, second half starts very similar to the first as the starters have managed to catch their breath during halftime. But about ten minutes in they really start to show some fatigue, and this time there is no respite. Pachuca scores in the 61st minute as their winger (Montes? who had just come in) catches Wells cheating while looking for the cross and instead drives a wicked shot to the near post. I can’t say I “blame” Wells on that since no one really ever shoots from there… but somehow the goal feels a little cheap. You should never get beat to the near post. All the credit goes to the Pachuca player though, it was an excellent shot.
Now at this point, Pachuca again steps on the gas, but United just can’t steal momentum back. Whereas in the first half they were able to string together some passes for some good possession, now they can’t complete more than 2 or 3 straight before giving it up. And the turnovers aren’t really forced. Its the type of pass you make when you’re exhausted, mentally and physically, and the ball just doesn’t go where you want it to. Worse, most of these turnovers came as we were trying to push upfield. So that guy who just made a run upfield for you… no he has to stop… turn around… head back into position. And you can just see that it took all he had to make the run in the first place, and turning around just saps all the strength you have. Now thats one less run in the tank for later.
Meanwhile, Pachuca takes the ball and is off to the races like its still the first half. And once the legs get tired and heavy like that, you could see the United defenders labor to turn, change direction or pace. making every cut by Pachuca that much more effective. Every attempt at a tackle is just a little late, resulting in more fouls. United defenders started giving more space so they don’t get beat on the dribble. And that extra cushion lets them start swinging in cross after cross. McTavish’s foul that led to Pachuca’s second goal was just like that. he stuck his leg out late and didn’t have the strength to pull it back in time. Soehn realized that and had the sub lined up already, but it was too late.
The last ten minutes were just brutal. I half expected to see another 2 or 3 goals get put in to really seal the deal. Seeing their opponent exhausted seemed to give Pachuca an extra boost as well.
A few quick points
- Niel falls over a LOT. I realize some of it is actual fouls/contact. But he has to stay on his feet vuz nobody is giving him the call.
- Emelio really need to play as high as possible. Stop coming back for the ball.
- We are getting killed down the wings. Preseason, KC and now Pachuca. It’s like a racetrack down the sidelines.
- The flying Gonzalo Brothers (OK, not really brothers) are so far amazing. Great chemistry and understanding between them. It’s nice to see us actually winning defensive headers, and I don’t get a mild panic attack everytime we give up a set piece near the box. They both (moreso Martinez) cover a lot of ground.
- Wells now is better than Perkins was when he first took over… but he’s not yet as good as Perkins was when he left.
- Gallardo… great game. He’s doing what he needs to do, now we just need the forwards to be where they need to be.
- Simms. MOTM in my book. He had a pretty good year last year with Gomez in front of him, and is having an even better year with Gallardo so far. i think since Gallardo plays more defense it is helping Simms there, and also forcing him to become a little more offensive minded. Wouldn’t surprise me to see Bradley call him up for the national team, as he loves those 2-way middies.
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