Monday, April 17, 2006

Dallas Cup Update II
For all those uncounted millions that want to know how the Dallas Cup resolved, all I can say is, "Not according to plan". In game one of the semi-finals we saw the Dallas Texans play CF Monterrrey. The Texans played a very defensive minded game, held multiple defenders back and seemed determined not to let Monterrey's speed beat them. At half time the game was 0-0 and I commented that Monterrey would probably really push to score before the end of regulation as they had dominated the first half. The refs had called a pretty poor game up to that point and seemed slanted towards helping out the local team, but the calls got inexorably worse in the second half. The Texans were allowed a lot more leeway and Monterrey was called for ticky tack stuff. The game remained 1-0 until late in the second half when the referees award the Texans a PK after their star player took a brilliant dive. I'm not even sure if the defender made contact before the player went sprawling, but at that point it was too late. The Texans buried the PK and burned out the rest of the clock.
In the second semi-final the penalty calls went from bad to worse. Manchester United was given every advantage, but still Santos Laguna prevailed. Santos had gone up 2-1 in the second half when their goalie got hurt (apparently a blow to the face). It appeared to be somewhat serious as several people were huddled around him for a few minutes. A few minutes after the restart the Santos goalie took another hard fall to protect the goal and upon getting up was obviously hurtting. He was in so much discomfort that he threw the ball straight out of bounds and collapsed to get the ref to stop the game for a minute. The ref glanced at him once and then signaled for Man U to throw in while the goalie was still on the ground at the edge of the goal box. The Santos supporters roared in outrage as Man. U. was allowed to resume it's attack while the goalie was prone. The Santos defenders did a good job holding off the shots until they could deflect the ball in the air and their goalie could make it to his feet and grab the ball. At this point he was outraged and might have been jostled more by a Man U player and he kicked out at one that was passing by. The ref quickly blew his whistle and gave the goalie a red card and awarded Manchester a PK. While he booked the goalie he also took displeasure to the remarks one of the other Santos players was making and red carded him as well. Manchester tied the game on the PK and Santos had to play the rest of the match down two players and with their second string goalie. From there on it was a test of survival for Santos. They somehow managed wave after wave of Manchester attck until regulation ended and they went into OT. In OT it looked like more of the same. Man U making attack after attack and it looked like we were just waiting for the inevitable. It looked like all Santos could do was try to hang on and win it with PK's at the end. Finally with less than two minutes left in OT. Santos connected with a long pass to their left striker. He looked weary as he made feint after feint and moved steadily closer down the field. I don't know if the Manchester defender was caught off balance or whether he thought that they wouldn't really take a shot as they had been content just to clear the ball and run at the clock, but he never displaced the ball. Finally the attacker took a shot from the left wing and sailed past the goalies diving and outstreched arms. The crowd erupted and Santos won. The Santos fans immediately started blowing their horns and beating their drums. They celebrated in the stadium into the parking lot and out onto the street. Easily the best sporting event I've ever attended. Loads of fun. The next day I went out and bought a Santos jersey so that I could support them in their finals match. I'll update you all on the finals later. I've got to get to work now.

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