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The travelling Everton fans can let it all hang out at Dick's in Denver on a balmy summer evening in the mile-high city... Dick's Sporting Goods Park, that is (What a Name?!?!). Actually it's not really in Denver.. it's in Commerce City, Colorado! The portents for Kommercial Kirkby are just too horrible to contemplate...
Another massive crowd is expected to swell the stands of this massive venue following on from hugely contingent of 91,250 that showed up at Toyota Park in Chicago... oh hang on. Typo alert. That should read 9,125. My mistake.
Everton arrived in Denver on Thursday, and spent that night at a team bonding dinner in Cherry Creek. On Friday morning, Everton and the Rapids were both in training from 10am at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, with a joint press conference between players and coaches at noon. Rapids head coach Fernando Clavijo and midfielder Terry Cooke spoke on behalf of the home side, while manager David Moyes, Tim Howard and captain Phil Neville represented the Blues. Here's what David Moyes had to say:
“I’ll just say thank you, this is our first time in Colorado and we are really enjoying it. The heat is actually different for us, we came from very cold weather in England before we left.
"It’s strange, we were enjoying it even though it’s very warm today. It is a part of our preparations for the new season. We have come to America for the last four of five years and have done well back in the Premier League from coming here.
"We find that we come here and the players can have some time on their own. We also tend to train in the mornings and evenings. We just find that it is a good place for us to come and relax.
"The players, like I said, get a little bit of down time and not quite as much media pressure here as we get back home. It’s not like a training camp, coming to America; there is a little more freedom for them so I think they enjoy that.
"Nevertheless, the work is still as hard, and as you know we start the Premier League season in two weeks' time. We are having to work on fitness with the players and get one or two players fit who are coming back from injury.
"I will say, this [Dick's Sporting Goods Park] is the finest pitch in all the places I’ve been at in America so far. The pitch here is magnificent. Some of the places we've been in America, they don't treat their pitch right…..they have American football lines, they have concerts on the field. But here this is the finest set-up I've been to in the USA and we've been to Dallas, LA, Columbus, Salt Lake, Chicago; we've been coming to America the last 5 years. You guys should really be proud."
The match kicked off with Everton flowing forward. And it wasn't long before Everton scored an excellent solo goal, Mikel Arteta splishing and splashing through the rather sluggish Rapids defence and spurting forth with a water-cannon shot after just 6 mins.
Howard had to be alert to pull off a couple of good saves to keep the Rapids subdued as the stream of Colorado attacks threatened to grow into a flood that might consume the plucky Blues.
A yellow card for Jack Rodwell at the break seemed a little inconsistent given the treatment Pienaar had suffered in the first half.
The second half had hardly begun when Cooke swung in a great ball that Yobo missed, slipping, and Kasey was in there rapidly to pull one back inside three minutes of the second half.
Osman finished off a great Everton move with a really poor shot straight at the goalkeeper when he really should've scored.
Yakubu reacted to a poor tackle 10 mins form time and was booked for his troubles... Nice work from Baxter and Osman near the end allowed Osman to fire home the winner in the 87th minute. Howard had to be alert to save well from Colorado Rapids Captain Cooke.
Last night, I saw Everton play at the Dick’s Sporting Good’s stadium in Denver. It was the first time for them out here, a nice evening, with the stadium about half-full.
Everton started off brightly enough with a nicely taken goal from Arteta after a decent build-up featuring Yakubu and Gosling. Unfortunately, Everton struggled to get going after the goal and while they looked solid at the back, there was little creativity going forwards. Obviously this was pre-season for Everton, mid-season for the Rapids — throw in altitude of 5,000 feet and the Rapids looked much quicker and sharper.
Terry Cook, Man Utd reject made a few runs down the right, testing Howard once and putting in balls that were easily dealt with. Pienaar looked to be the only avenue of creativity for Everton but was unable to get in any telling balls. Yakubu hung around up front like a lonely man waiting for a bus that would never come - anything that did show up was easily mopped up by the Rapids defense.
1-0 at half time was flattering. Mosey brought on Joey and Nuno for the second half, obviously trying to make sure we didn’t concede a goal but it didn’t work. Joey missed a through-ball and Casey edged it past a diving Howard, 1-1 — a thoroughly deserved equaliser for the home side.
From then on, Everton huffed and puffed but really couldn’t get anywhere, with Yakubu getting more and more frustrated and ultimately being booked. The Rapids were up for it and pressed forwards, testing Howard again.
Then, a beautifully worked move starting from Neville on the right ended up with (I think) Pienaar pulling a ball back across the 6 yard box right to Ossie’s feet which he should have thumped into the roof of the net. Instead he decided to pass it into the arms for the grateful ‘keeper (Mr Burpo). Bad miss that.
More pressure from the Rapids was soaked up by the Everton back line but then in the last 10 minutes, Baxter got one through to Ossie and he made up for his earlier miss. Howard was called into action one more time before Everton got a victory that was, to say the least, undeserved.
No doubt Howard was our star man, 3 great shot stops. Joey and Nuno looked solid enough without doing anything special; both the Jag and Joleon looked classy and made a couple of decent runs forward.
Neville was solid at the back but as soon as he got within 10 yards of the halfway line, he would punt the ball hopefully forwards – for a minute I thought Hibbo was playing! Baines looked a bit lost and uncertain – he needs some match time this season to try and realise his potential.
For me, both Arteta and Ossie were disappointing, easily dispossessed and making wayward passes. Pienaar looked the most creative on the pitch but was never going to achieve much with such little support. Gosling and Rodwell showed little indication that they would be anything other than bench warmers in the coming season.
Cameo roles from Baxter and Jutkiewicz gave them little time to do much but Baxter did have a hand in the second goal and Jutkiewicz showed that he liked to get stuck in. Yakubu looked isolated and was effectively marked out of the game, proving that having him as a lone striker up front will get us nowhere.
One rather surreal (and amusing) incident after the game ended, a gobshite in a Liverpool top who had been singing that bloody irritating scouse song about wandering around aimlessly by yerself decided to run onto the pitch and get his photo taken at the centre spot. Cue rather heavy handedness by the ground security on both him and the kid who was with him, ending up with them and a couple of others being cuffed and marched off by plod.
Don’t run on the pitch like that here in the US, you will get arrested, fined and maybe charged – no community policing here! Also, don’t wear a Liverpool jersey – it shows bad taste.
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