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From my seat (recliner) — the MLS All-Star game

By Mike Gaynes :  30/07/2009 :  Comments (15) :
So how many of you Evertonians stayed up until 5 in the morning to watch our Salt Lake City adventure on ESPN? Here in California, I had the pleasure of watching the boys over dinner, instead of at 8 in the morning as usual. And I have no rooting interest in MLS, so I was delighted to see us end their All-Star winning streak, even if we got gassed and outshot about 19-2 in the second half.

A few things jumped out at me. First, I was shocked by my first view of Louis “who the hell is that” Saha —– he looks at least ten pounds lighter and in superb shape. He showed it throughout. The goal was a ridiculous MLS misplay, but Saha’s finish was clinical, and he had some superb touches well into the late going, even with Jo.

Hibbert has clearly been working on his crosses — his first three, all to Osman, were inch-perfect. Fellaini looks ready for the season already, and Cahill’s conditioning is obviously there as well. And Jo looks like he’s been lifting weights all summer — he looked newly strong on the ball to me, although his diving is a little rusty. He drew attention and fouls with strong runs, including the one that gave Baines the free kick that Jo headed just over.

I saw one immediate danger sign — Yobo being beaten easily and repeatedly by his mark, Conor Casey, who isn’t exactly Ronaldo — he couldn’t stick with the USA national team, which is not a hotbed of good strikers. Yobo should be quite fit because of his international duty, right? But only Howard’s great save kept out Casey’s header after Yobo was stranded, and Casey also shrugged Baines with ridiculous ease to set up the MLS goal, which caught Hibbert dozing instead of tracking to the far post.

Everybody but Saha and Cahill seemed to show the effects of not being game fit, and also of the Utah altitude. Baines looked tuckered out at 30 minutes, and he and Ozzie just gave away the store, time after time.

I especially enjoyed the spirit of the game. One thing you don’t see every day is Moyes laughing. Knowing MLS had no third keeper after Thornton’s injury, he was daring the MLS field players on the bench to put on the gloves and get in there. But of course he granted Kinnear’s request to put Keller back in, so we saw excellent sportsmanship and some good comic relief. I also enjoyed Howard and Casey, the two bald buddies, exchanging a congratulatory head butt after Howard saved from Donovan.

And as to Howard, what can you say? Stoning Casey, the absolute blinder on Arnaud, and then stopping three penalties. How sweet it was to see Ljungberg the ex-Arse trying that chip and getting embarrassed by the best keeper in the Prem.

That’s the last time I’ll get to see the boys in prime time, at least until I make it over to your side of the pond. So I really got a huge kick out of this.

Reader Comments

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Martin Cutler
1   Posted 30/07/2009 at 05:36:24

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Not the most exciting of games but we won, Howard was on a bloody blinder (esp. on the PK’s) ... please keep that up throughout the season Tim!
Overall, considering this is just a warm-up for EFC and not winning the world cup as it would appear for the MLS "all stars", then a pretty decent performance I thought.

One step at a time!

Jamie Crowley
2   Posted 30/07/2009 at 05:32:42

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Just got back from the Pub in St Augustine, FL, wathching the game with a True Blue from England and a great guy who roots for EFC in a pedestrian manner.

I didn’t think we looked good at all.... but Pre-season... let it ride... Let’s hope this isn’t the Everton that shows up August 15th — they’ll get their arses hand to them.

But pints flowed.... so I’m drunk and happy.

Saha was horrid. Hibbbert showed nothing. Neville was poop. Cahill was non-existent.

But we were in a pub full of Yanks yelling occasionally for the beloved Blues — and all was well.

Patty Beesley
3   Posted 30/07/2009 at 09:23:36

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You must have been drunk Jaimie..."Saha horrid, etc." Did we see the same game?
Tony Williams
4   Posted 30/07/2009 at 13:28:07

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Yobo was actually carring a slight knock... so that must have affected his performance.
Gareth Cooper
5   Posted 30/07/2009 at 13:30:22

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Anyone know what the deal with the white kit was? Have the black and pink ones not arrived yet? If so is the white one a third strip or a training top?

I know its not that important, but you would have thought the MLS allstars could play in any colour whilst we should have been in our usual blue?
Mike Allison
6   Posted 30/07/2009 at 14:08:18

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I think its at least a little bit important. Only at Everton would we take on a high profile game like this (for the market its in) and not wear our own colours. Furthermore, in the week we release our new away kit, we don’t even wear that!

Our kits are blue and then black, so what colour do the MLS wear? Blue and black. How some people get by in the world amazes me sometimes. In terms of recognisability in a new market, brand identity etcetera, to wear a kit that doesn’t match, like a local village team would, well, only at Everton.
Mike Hazard
7   Posted 30/07/2009 at 14:42:17

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The biggest observation I made was the increase in pace when Wallace and Baxter came on, not so much Vaughan who looked like a headless chicken during his spell.
Mike Gaynes
8   Posted 30/07/2009 at 14:46:52

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Agreed, Mike H. I forgot to mention how much I especially liked Baxter’s aggressiveness... he wanted the ball, and when he got it he immediately attacked on the dribble, creating a couple of near chances. He also made a nice block on the line. Good young player. Only problem I had was telling him apart from Wallace. They look so much alike.
Lloyd Sloan
9   Posted 30/07/2009 at 15:27:35

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Darren Griffiths said on EvertonTV that the white kit isn’t a registered kit - the MLS always play in blue and black so we converted some white training tops into an "away" kit with the addition of names and numbers.

I don’t think I’ve seen as much of a "home" ref as that one since the days of Clive Thomas!
Keith Glazzard
10   Posted 30/07/2009 at 22:54:28

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Mike Gaynes - you’ve summed up some things I was thinking myself, especially that Saha, Fellaini and Jo Alves look to be in good condition and ready to go (I would expect nothing less of Cahill). I can remember when young Rooney came back from his hols full of pies and chips looking more like a football than a player. The boss was disgusted then, but he must be at least reasonably satisfied with this lot.

Saha has certainly found his way back to the target. Yakubu must be looking on with interest. And Jo is getting so much more involved in the play. I suspect that these two think that, for their own reasons, they’ve got something to prove this season. I hope they do it.

I’m a Baines fan and so I’ll say he came in for that ball already 75/25 down. Muscled out of it? If he had muscled in for it he would have had to concede a pen - the MLS team scored a good goal.

And, of course, there was the double wammy of Tim the gloves doing the glory run for EFC and USA at the same time. Priceless. I am sure we are going to see a few more American players at Goodison in the next year or two.

Hope you enjoyed your dinner. Perhaps with a little cognac to steady the nerves for the shoot-out?
Mike Gaynes
11   Posted 31/07/2009 at 01:01:40

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Keith, thanks for the chuckle. Dinner was great... but how did you know it was cognac?

Actually, I held off until after the shoot-out, and then drank two good stiff Hine VSOP toasts... one to the amazing Yank (I’m so proud!), and the other to Captain Pip, who told the ESPN sideline reporter before the game that he had never taken a penalty in his entire career. The one he drove through Keller’s hands was his first ever.
Peter Fearon
12   Posted 30/07/2009 at 14:05:16

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Unlike some, I thought there were a lot of positives from the MLS All-Star game. I thought Saha looked in great condition, as fit as he's been while he's been a blue. Osman looked very sharp and of course, Tim Howard was tremendous.

In the first half, there were some great pin-point passes to the left and we opened them up several times. Pienaar for Rodwell would have made a world of difference. Clearly Jo has a lot of work to do before the season starts. Baines was not focused and Cahill seemed to me to play too deep.

Blues fans should remember two things: first, that this is a much more serious game to the opponents than to us and they were highly motivated as well as in mid-season fitness and form. These aren't nobodies. This is a multi-national side of multiple internationals.

Second, Salt Lake City is a very high altitude location and I think you could see the toll that was taking on Cahill and one or two others. Altitude doesn't just impact your pace and staying power, it also impacts your concentration.

I was impressed with the first half and delighted by the result. I also thought it was a great sporting gesture for Moyes to assent to Keller returning after being substituted.

Jamie Sweet
13   Posted 31/07/2009 at 02:17:38

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Mike, did Captain Pip not notch a rather nice penalty in the FA Cup Semi-Final against his former club? He was telling the ESPN reporter fibs! And he is always praised for being such an "honest professional!"
Andy Mack
14   Posted 31/07/2009 at 09:09:45

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Just got to watch the highlights, and one thing I did like about the US style coverage, was the penalty shootout with the over the shoulder on-pitch camerawork, much more involving than Eurostyle coverage using the standard stadium cams. Where to be honest, I usually make a cup of tea during shootouts and just wait for the winner they are that hit or miss.

From this viewpoint however, you really get the feel how it isn’t a piece of piss to score a penalty when you’ve got Howard looming on the line.

Don’t know whether we’d allow a cameraman on the pitch for a shootout, someone else to blame for a shootout loss perhaps, but great to see it used to such effect. Especially as we won.
Keith Glazzard
15   Posted 31/07/2009 at 12:49:08

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Mike - Dr Johnson is quoted as saying "brandy for heroes". Seems appropriate, doesn’t it.

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