I didn't have the clever name, but "Seth" was responding to my comment about needing Meram.
Justan Meram: Where my MLS and Mgoblog obsessions collide.
|WHAT||#10 Michigan vs #3 Akron|
|WHERE||Harder Stadium, Santa Barbara, CA|
|WHEN||11:00 Eastern, December 10th 2010|
|THE LINE||College soccer lines, junkie?|
|WEATHER||Sunny, around 60
0% chance of rain
Right: meet the only context in which this is 100% appropriate.
Livebloggin' is in effect starting maybe a half-hour before the game.
And here's where the problem kicks in: how does one preview a soccer game? Stats are sparse on the ground, there's not a clean division between units that allows for easy compartmentalization, I haven't seen Akron play and have rarely seen Michigan, and while I am outstanding at Football Manager—truly righteous—most of my skill comes in identifying hot young talents other teams are content to give away for peanuts.
Let's start with what we know: Michigan's last loss was against this Akron team. It was not a pretty one. Michigan got clunked 7-1—Akron's biggest margin of victory on the year. They also lost 1-0 in a spring exhibition at the Silverdome.
Ives Galarcep's most recent MLS draft "Big Board" has Akron players at…
1. Darlington Nagbe, M/F
2. Perry Kitchen, DM
3. Kofi Sarkodie, DR
5. Darren Mattocks, F
8. Zarek Valentin, DC
18. Anthony Ampaipitakwon, M
25. Michael Nanchoff, ML
…this is seven of a starting eleven in the top 25. Michigan has one player, Justin Meram, at 25. (In the comments, a "Seth Brokekicker" admonishes Galarcep for hyping Meram up when he's needed on campus next year.) Someone asks about Soony Saad and Galarcep says he's on the 2013 board.
I bet not even Jamiemac of Just Cover can find a line for tomorrow's game, but if he does Michigan will be an impressive underdog. Akron is be the #3 seed and while Maryland was the #2 and beat Akron 3-1 in an exhibition last spring it's hard to find a reason Akron wasn't far and away the #1 seed in the tournament if they don't manage a single loss against Cleveland State(!) in late October. Their schedule wasn't great and as a result their RPI was fourth. Michigan's was worse. Before the tournament they were third in a stretch of Big Ten teams ranging from 12 to 15; Indiana was 12th and first in the league despite going only 9-7-2 against D-I.
One man's scouting report follows. This guy has seen three games this year, has not had the benefit of replay except once, and is not Zonal Marking, so bear with me.
Meram vs Maryland. Jake Fromm/Daily
Anyone will tell you that Michigan's strength is in their attackers and this is true. Freshman Soony Saad is the nation's second leading scorer and rookie of the year with 19 goals; he's a crafty shooter who scored from his own half this year and scared the hell out of UCF's goalie when he tried it again in Michigan's tournament opener. Strike partner Justin Meram is a soccer version of TJ Hensick or Mike Comrie, a gifted dribbler and accomplished sniper who's all right physically but will not wow you. At the UCF game a friend of mine turned to me and said in all seriousness "he's better than Robbie Findley," and I thought to myself "this is literally true." When in doubt Michigan chucks it up to Meram and hopes he can run onto it.
Soony's brother Hamoody alternates between a central attacking midfield role (Michigan plays with a dedicated destroyer behind him, relieving Hamoody of many defensive duties) and a wing spot, where he interlinks with both forwards. He's often the player who touches the ball right before the guy who gets the assist. He's not as much of a threat with the ball at his feet as the two strikers but is good at getting them involved in space.
The two wingers are usually senior Alex Wood and sophomore Latif Alashe; Alashe is more immediately impressive but Wood was the guy who sprung Meram for the tying goal against UCF. Alashe deflected the winner into the net. Those five attackers are the strength of the team.
so gritty snow follows him around in the hopes it will become sand.
On defense it's considerably wobblier. The defensive midfielder is redshirt junior Adam Shaw, who is a gritty, gritty man. By this I mean "5'8" and not very fast." He makes up for this by being dogged. The word just sort of leaps into your mind as you watch him play. That kid—dogged, that kid. He could be to be a weak link against a rampaging Zips midfield. With Hamoody Saad upfield and multiple Akron players capable of dropping into the hole or effectively transitioning into attack he's going to have his hands full unless Michigan makes a tactical change.
The defense has scared me in games against mediocre opponents this year and was obviously gunned down in spectacular fashion in the game against the Zips earlier in the season. Since it is my fate to not like the left fullback on any soccer team I've ever watched I haven't been a big fan of Chase Tennant; he was pretty weak in two of the three games I saw and while he was better against UCF he still gives away possession flamboyantly. He's not an offensive threat.
Right back Jeffrey Quijano is a senior who fought through a challenge for his job and reclaimed his starting spot midway through the season. He's prone to leave his feet in bad situations but is much better on the ball than Tennant and can be a threatening presence down the wing. Quijano scored one of Michigan's goals against Maryland and put Meram's on a plate after slaloming through several defenders. (Or so Goal.com says. I have no idea since I was at the basketball game.)
The central defenders are okay. I like Kofi Opare better, as he seems less prone to misjudge long balls and better at developing possession from the back. Brian Kemczak is his running mate and has come off like Jay Demerit—solid defensively but a hoofer as soon as it touches his foot. I have gotten a sense of vague disquiet whenever the ball is bouncing around the box and can't tell if that's justified or just how I watch soccer.
I didn't notice much about goalie Chris Blais but the guy next to me at the UCF game muttered something to his friend about how he had "frankly been a weak link." That guy sounded like he really liked Prairie Home Companion and said something patronizingly moralistic about a yellow card he thought had gone to Soony Saad for rolling around theatrically after someone had stepped on his foot. Said yellow had actually gone to his brother for dissent. So take that with a grain of salt. I thought he could have done better on the UCF goal, which pinged around the box and probably should have been fisted away*.
Miscellaneous bits. Michigan is very good at set pieces. Soony Saad is a bomber who's a threat to score by shooting; Hamoody takes the corners and usually drives hard in-swingers. He was the motive force behind Michigan's game-winner against UCF when he swung in a terrific ball that was headed for the net and just needed a tiny deflection to wrong-foot the goalie. It reminded me of David Beckham's World Cup goal against Paraguay:
In this case the touch was from a Michigan player; on both the initial ball did 90% of the work.
Michigan did catch a bout of short corner disease against UCF, so be warned.
Search me. They're really good, tied for the national lead in scoring at 2.65 goals per game (tied with most recent Michigan victim Maryland) and sixth-best defensively, ceding just 0.63 per game. Michigan's at 2.17 and 1.42, respectively, so they're close to the Zips on the front line but not so much on the back. If you take out the Akron game those margins get way smaller, but hey—we're playing Akron.
Coach quote from the Tulsa guy after getting whipped:
"They're very opportunistic," Tulsa coach Tom McIntosh said. "And they are very good on set pieces. They don't need many chances for goals. The problem is we got two goals down, then we had to chase the game. This is not a team you want to chase a game against."
Michigan can vouch for that. There's an interview with a couple recent alums that is beyond boring.
Grant Wahl** names literally half of Akron's outfield players as people to "keep an eye on" and naturally picks them for the title:
Keep an eye on Akron forwards Darlington Nagbe and Darren Mattocks, midfielder Perry Kitchen and defenders Kofi Sarkodie and Zarek Valentin; Michigan forwards Justin Meram and Soony Saad; North Carolina midfielder Michael Farfan; and Louisville defender J.T. Murray. The national semifinals will be broadcast on ESPNU and ESPN2 on Friday, with the final being shown at 4 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2.
I'll go with Akron to win it all. Coach Caleb Porter has had the most talent in the country for a while now, and all he needs to validate his program's success is an NCAA championship.
Wait… what? Their coach is 35? That's loony.
Soccer predictions are even dumber than football ones, which are dumb but I feel I have to do. But: given the previous matchup, the ridiculous concentration of talent on the Akron roster, and the feeling they're the heavy favorite to win the entire tournament, I'm not expecting victory.
On the other hand, Cal almost ended them in OT and soccer specializes in WTF moments. Back in 2002 I've got no idea what's going on when I turn on the TV in Ireland and catch Manchester United playing the improbably-named Zalaegerszeg. Man U dominates but never cracks the defense and then in stoppage time this happens:
This would not be anywhere near as titanic an upset, obviously, but it's tonic for anyone looking at 7-1 earlier in the year and wondering how the rematch could play out the other way.
*(If you're looking to start a soccer blog you could do worse than "Fisted Away.")
**(Prepare to experience the odd frisson of a relevant Grant Wahl tweet in a liveblog, kids.)
I didn't have the clever name, but "Seth" was responding to my comment about needing Meram.
Justan Meram: Where my MLS and Mgoblog obsessions collide.
I remember that match in 2002 with Man United. Complete fluke result, proven by the fact that Man United routed "Zeta" 5-0 in the return leg the following week.
Perhaps the more hopeful way to look at this, since I don't consider Michigan to be the minnows that Zeta were (and furthermore, this is not a preliminary Champions League equivalent, but a tournament knockout match), is the Romania - Argentina match in the 1994 World Cup. Romania won 3-2, with Hagi pulling the strings with Dimitrescu the attacking mid and Radiciouou (sp) the fine Romanian striker. Argentina, of course, was missing Maradona, but still had Caniggia, Balbo, and Batistuta. It was a game full of attacking verve and a joy to watch.
I hoping for a win, but the Akron team is loaded. They have underclassmen who are being considered for the draft and play for the U-20 team. I'm hoping we can develop some of the forwards and defenders so that they become viable options for the USMNT.
Also SBI, has the story of Justin Merman:
Yah, the bar I go to here in Akron is a big soccer bar. With everyone being knowledgeable and scouting UM's team, they give them credit but basically say this Akron team is the best in it's storied soccer history. It could get ugly real quick.
Took a gander at the big board for Maryland players:
That's pretty impressive. Then you compare to this guy's opinion of Akron players, five of whom he has in his top 8, with 2 more in the top 25. Still, they've got 2 forwards and a midfielder in this guy's top 20, so you know they're pretty solid offensively (along with the comment that they were tied for first with Akron in goals per game). Maryland was also just behind Akron on D, ceding just 0.65 goals per game (compared to 0.63 for Akron).
I guess there is hope. Michigan softball 2005, anyone?
Sometimes I like to read things using Garrison Keillor's voice and rhythm. After Brian's PHC comment, I tried it on portions of this post. It didn't really work, although I did enjoy trying to figure out how he would pronounce Zalaegerszeg.
COLLEGE CUP TAILGATING INFO. - SANTA BARBARA
The pregame tailgate location for all Michigan fans and alumni will be in parking lot #16 next to Harder Stadium.
Look for the "Michigan" tent in parking lot #16 in advance of the game to connect with other maize and blue faithful. Game kicks off at 8pm vs Akron. The tailgate kicks off at 5pm.
This message was sent out to all the presidents to post on their websites for the U-M clubs of: LA, san Diego, san jose, orange county, and san Francisco. Turnout may be 100-200 people.
The Assc athl director at ucsb said they have a no alcohol policy on campus but look the other way on game days as long as there are no kegs and beer/drinks are in cups.
Ryan Yoder is the point person for "Tailgate Central." Please call or text him with any questions - 419-461-6665.
I wanted to post this on the MGoBoard but I do not think I have enough points.
you're reading a blog called "Fisted Away."
there's also a Cubs/baseball blog "fisted foul"
snow follows him around in the hopes it will become sand" is overflowing with the nectar of win.
I know SoCal can be nice this time of year, but I doubt they'll be any sun at 8 p.m. local time on Dec. 10. Just sayin'...
"Man U"? Brian, are you signalling your ABU status? Has it come to this?
Wouldn't the (fear the roo) pic be appropriate when playing Streets of Rage III?
"At the UCF game a friend of mine turned to me and said in all seriousness "he's better than Robbie Findley," and I thought to myself "this is literally true." "
Umm no. While I'm not a fan of Robbie Findley's inclusion into the world cup team, the pro and international game is at such a higher level than college the comparison is ridiculous. If Meram manages to play a 100 games at a pro level and score 30 goals he'd be the most successful soccer player to come out of Michigan other than Alexi Lalas.
Apparently they lost the second leg 5-0 and went out 5-1 on aggregate and then lost 1-9(!) after being slotted into the second teir European competition in their next game. They haven't scored a goal in Europe since (never let your professors tell you nothing good comes off Wikipedia). Good thing we only have one game to win.
to lobby Brian to change the title of this blog to
mgoblog | Michigan football, basketball, hockey, futbol, and general what-have-you
I live in Akron and my kids have attended Akron U's soccer camps every summer for past 5 years. I also attend at least a couple of Akron U soccer games per year and watched them earlier this year play Florida Coastal Atlantic team, in which FCA did not even get a single shot on goal. The Zips are scary good on defense and can flat out shut teams down. I have also coached youth soccer and attended a coaches clinic put on by Caleb Porter. This guy runs a top notch program and knows his stuff. He is also very personable and remembers me by name every time I see him, which is only a couple of times per year. He even remembered that I attended his clinic. I took my son to the UM vs Notre Dame soccer match when we were in Ann Arbor for the UMass football game. UM will have to play their best game of the year to match up with the Zips. That being said, anything can happen in soccer. If CSU can beat the Zips and UM can beat Maryland... then we still have a shot. GO BLUE!
Not to be all red-blooded Nascar Stanzi-ized "Amurican" and all, but I didn't understand over 50% of the words Brian used in describing these players. Woofing? Right back? Robbie Findley? Soccer? Oh, my UFC-loving head is all messed up and stuff.
Best of luck to Blue as they battle the Zips this weekend in this athletic contest.
So, does that mean Adam Shaw==Nigel De Jong?
Both are gritty, gritty 5'8 destroyers. Except, I hope Shaw doesn't "tackle" quite as terrible as De Jong does.
Great moments are born from great opportunity.
And that's what you have here tonight, boys.
That's what you've earned here, tonight.
If we played 'em ten times, they might win nine.
But not this game. Not tonight.
Tonight, we run with 'em.
Tonight, we stay with 'em, and we shut them down because we can!
Tonight, we are the greatest collegiate soccer team in the country.
You were born to be collegiate players -- every one of ya.
And you were meant to be here tonight.
This is your time.
Their time -- is done. It's over.
I'm sick and tired of hearin' about what a great soccer team the Zips have.
This is your time!!
Now go out there and take it!
Great post, Brian. Love the soccer talk.
But, come on, was there really a doubt that I could find some lines? Per 5.dimes:
Lines include 90 minute and stoppage time. Does not include OT. Meaning bets on these lines are final and graded when stoppage time ends, which is why they have a 'draw' bet on the board. A number with a + in front is how many you win on a $100 bet. A number with a - in front of it is how much you have to wager to win $100.
Akron -1, +125
MICH +1, -165
Akron to win -139
MICH to win +354
O/U 4.5 goals
TO ADVANCE INTO FINAL (so it includes OT and PKs)
MICH, btw, is +592 to win the whole damn thing
I actually attended a soccer school, Indiana U, and I spent some time broadcasting games on college radio. Its been a long, long, long time since those days. 20 years ago. I bring it up because back then, the thought of a Big 10 soccer conference was a pipe dream, let alone another Big 10 program actually doing things on a national stage.
Since I am also a Michigan sports booster, I am finding this soccer run very fun on many levels.
Go Blue, Beat Akron.
but I absolutely have to work tomorrow.
However, if they get past Akron, I will get on a plane or drive or whatever my way down there for that.
That picture of "Adam Shaw" is definitely a picture of Jake Stacey who played there 2 years ago. He was definitely not slow.
Will Coach Burns trot out his normal starting formation 4-4-2 which in reality is more of a 4-1-2-1-2, which Shaw playing holding mid and Fabio and Hamoody playing a more attacking position, or will he make an adjustment? While Coach Burns has done a ton for the program (that cannot be denied), and is by all accounts a very good guy, there's evidence to suggest that he isn't the greatest coach. If I were him, I'd come out in a 4-2-3-1. This would allow for a greater holding presence at the center midfield position. Also, having Soony up top to hold the ball and then have the options of Hamoody, Meram, and Fabio at his disposal looks verrrry appealing.
Sorry for liking soccer and calling out a coach. I know everybody on Mgoblog hates both of those things more than anything else.
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