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Harry Hotspur's valiant campaign goes on!

Match Reports
DC United v Spurs, 14.05.03

Many thanks to one of Spurs Odyssey's American correspondents, Andy Juvan, for this blow by blow account of Spurs visit to Washington DC last week:-

FRIENDLY MATCH "CAPITAL CUP"
WEDNESDAY 14TH MAY, 2003
DC United 1 (1) Tottenham Hotspur 0 (0)

Scoring Summary:
DC -- own goal (Stephen Carr) 30

Tottenham Hotspur -- Kasey Keller, Goran Bunjevcevic(Mauricio Tarrico 45), Stephen Carr (Dean Marney 45), Chris Perry, Kazuyuki Toda, Christian Ziege (Goran Bunjevcevic 67), Milenko Acimovic(Simon Davies 45), Ledley King, Jamie Redknapp (Gustavo Poyet 45), Robert Keane (Milenko Acimovic 78), Teddy Sheringham (Lee Barnard 78).

Substitutes Not Used: Robert Burch.

TOTAL SHOTS: 12 (Robert Keane 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Robert Keane 3); FOULS: 19 (Chris Perry 4); OFFSIDES: 4 (Christian Ziege 2); CORNER KICKS: 2 (Dean Marney 1, Christian Ziege 1); SAVES: 0

D.C. United -- Nick Rimando, Galin Ivanov (Brandon Prideaux 64), Ryan Nelsen, Mike Petke, Ben Olsen (Jose Alegria 64), Marco Etcheverry, Dema Kovalenko, John Harkes (Bryan Namoff 78), Bobby Convey (Eliseo Quintanilla 70), Santino Quaranta (Earnie Stewart 45), Hristo Stoitchkov (Ali Curtis 67).

Substitutes Not Used: Clint Baumstark.

TOTAL SHOTS: 5 (Bobby Convey 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 0; FOULS: 13 (Bobby Convey 3); OFFSIDES: 2 (Ben Olsen 1, Earnie Stewart 1); CORNER KICKS: 1 (Marco Etcheverry 1); SAVES: 6 (Nick Rimando 6)

Misconduct Summary:
DC -- Hristo Stoitchkov (caution; Reckless Foul) 67

Referee: Kevin Terry
Referee's Assistants: -George Vergara; Robert Fereday
4th Official: Kenneth Kaplan
Attendance: 14,028
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Clear-and-70-degrees

Spurs faced DC United here in the US Capital on a beautiful night for a match. I had flown in from Chicago that morning and met up with Bruce and Elaine Lewis, who had had the good fortune to fly over from London on the same plane as the Spurs squad. It was nice to hear them say how friendly the players were, and, contrary to the usual image of Glenn Hoddle painted by the English tabloids, described him as being very warm and approachable.

Once of the small benefits of being a fan in this relative football wasteland, is that you can often get much better seats for matches here than you normally could in England. Our seats were 6 rows up and just a bit to the right of the players bench, around the 35 yard line on an American Football field. Unlike the meeting at White Hart Lane, this time Spurs really didn't bring many of their young players, the only ones from the reserves being Dean Marney, Lee Barnard, and Rob Burch. I was surprised not to see Slabber, Yeates, Ricketts, or Blondel. There were also several regulars missing, no Iversen, Doc, or Gardner. Interestingly with the rumors of a swap being negotiated with Charlton Athletic, there was also no sign of Matthew Etherington. Dean Richards and Ben Thatcher were presumably unfit, though Darren Anderton made the trip, apparently to begin some therapy on his knee injury here in the States.

There was a short ceremony before the match to honor former US National team captain John Harkes, who even non-American yiddos can appreciate, given that he scored against the gooners at Wembley in 1993. He is also a close friend of Chris Waddle's, from their time together at Sheffield Wednesday. DC United also fielded Hristo Stoickov, one-time star of Barcelona, captain of Bulgaria, and World player of the year during his pomp 10 years ago or so. I have seen him on many occasions during the past 3 seasons as he played for the Chicago Fire. He is sadly, a shadow of his former self, and while his skills have faded, his histrionics have only increased, and, not surprisingly, he collected the only booking of the match.

Spurs lined up in a 3-5-2 formation. The back 3 were Chris Perry, Ledley King, and Goran Bunjevcevic, restored to his natural position as a defender. When I have seen Bunje play in midfield, he always looks like what he is, a sweeper whose instincts are to jockey, not to challenge and commit himself. Christian Ziege made a welcome return to the starting 11, and Stevie Carr's presence on the right flank meant that Glenn could field the dynamic wingback duo that we have sadly seen too little of over the last 2 seasons. Kazu Toda, Jamie Redknapp and Milenko Acimovic rounded out the midfield. Of course, Teddy captained the side in his final match and was partnered as usual by Robbie Keane, who had entertained us in warm-ups with his ball-juggling tricks. Kasey Keller of course got a rapturous reception from the predominantly American crowd.

Besides being a Yank, my parents emigrated here from Slovenia, so I paid particular attention to "Milo" Acimovic. I confess to having reservations about him, because despite his obvious skills (even Darren "I don't let David Ginola take free kicks if I am on the field" Anderton seems to defer to him in dead-ball situations), he does not look high-energy enough for the Premiership. Watching him in the World Cup he seemed to drift in and out of games, strolling when everyone around him was sprinting. On the flip side he also created or scored half of Slovenia's goals. In this game, he again created most of Spurs best chances. Jamie Redknapp by contrast looked far from match-fit, and did not really impose himself on the game.

The game started fairly evenly. Perry was on the right of Bunje and Ledley on the left, and fairly early in the game a mixup between Ledley and Goran let in Bobby Convey, a very impressive and speedy, though small, 19 year old forward, who when in alone on Kasey shot into the side netting at the near post side. Kazu was putting himself about well and covering a good amount of ground. I like how he always "shows" himself as an option to the player having the ball. That's one area where he looks a great improvement over Steffen Freund. Whether he is strong enough remains to be seen.

DC United did not really have any aerial threat up front, and Ledley was consistently winning the balls in the air. However, he was outpaced by Convey again later in the half to a through ball but he did enough that Convey blasted well over the goal. DC United's shooting in general was pretty poor all game, and I don't remember Kasey having to really make any difficult saves, though he had to be alert to come out and smother a fair number of through balls. There was some nice interplay from Spurs, though often the final ball was cut out. Ziege saw much more of the ball than Stevie Carr on the other side, though Carr made some fairly deep forward runs with the passes to him not usually reaching their destination. Ziege was looking threatening whenever he had the ball, though some of his crosses were poor, as he himself acknowledging by holding up an apologetic hand a few times. Both Robbie and Ted were coming back fairly deep, so that often Milo was the most forward player and even Jamie joined him at times. I remember Robbie a few times even near the Spurs penalty area trying to recover the ball. As usual Teddy was also seeing a lot of the ball in deep positions, though from one of these he played an absolutely horrendous pass from the touchline into the middle of the field and straight to a DC player. A goal could easily have resulted but the defense held firm.

The game was being played at a pretty good pace and intensity. Ziege in particular, who sometimes seems disinterested if it is not a big game, was really into it. In one memorable moment, John Harkes trapped a ball on his chest and then proceeded to juggle it a few times and around Kazu. The ball then broke to another DC player and Christian just absolutely clattered him, as if to say "you don't take the piss out of us". Chris Perry also made a terrific diving tackle on a player dribbling toward the Spurs penalty area.

The goal that came on around 30 minutes was very scrappy, and not as good a chance as several that had come beforehand. The ball bobbled about in the penalty area with a couple players getting poor whacks at it, before Stoichkov stabbed it toward Kasey's right from about 8 yards away. It was a fairly soft shot and Kasey dived and had it covered, but it hit the inside of Carr's right leg, completely changed direction, and slowly trickled into the left hand side of the net.

Spurs responded well, and a ball was laid back for Jamie to strike near the top of the area but the rust showed and he blasted high over the goal. Milo then dribbled from left to right before releasing Keano into the penalty area with a perfect pass. Robbie was all alone but his shot was blocked by the keeper. Later a free kick from well out on the left by Ziege reached Teddy, who controlled well and score, but was flagged for offside. Ziege had been called offside a number of times in the first half as well, with him leaving no doubt that he thought the linesman was blind. From where we were sitting it was impossible to know whether the offside call on the goal was correct, and I don't remember them showing a replay of it on the scoreboard.

Half-time came and, looking around at the crowd, you could see that there were a lot of Spurs shirts in view on our side of the stadium. RFK stadium can seat 56,000, but wisely for DC United matches they close the upper deck, so the crowd is clustered together for a better atmosphere. The attendance for this game was reported at just over 14,000, which is quite good for a weeknight MLS game. In fact, DC United's average home attendance last season for all games was 16,519, according to the league's official web site, www.mlsnet.com.

Simon Davies, Gus Poyet, Mauricio Taricco, and Dean Marney came out early to warm up at half time, indicating they would be coming on for the second half. Spurs stayed in a 3-5-2, though it meant Tano played in the back 3 replacing Bunje. With DC United not having a tall forward player it didn't much matter. Chris Perry played in the center and Ledley moved to the right side. Dean Marney replaced Stevie Carr with Simon and Gus replacing Milo and Jamie. Jamie really did not get in the game much and looked short of match fitness, which he undoubtedly is. Milo played well but he must learn not to pout when he doesn't get the ball or feels a foul was not called. Simon played a very fluid role, staying more to the right but drifting all over midfield. Gus did the same except on the left. Both of them had some good touches, with Simon especially showing better distribution than I have sometimes seen. He also had the ball laid back to him just outside the area, but he was not able to trouble the keeper with his shot. Ziege continued his aggressive play, at one point squaring up to and having words with Ben Olsen after a heavy challenge by Christian. Stoichkov was also doing his usual moaning and crying and it resulted in a booking for him midway through the second half. He did have one nice shimmy and short run where he made enough space for himself to shoot but he failed to hit the target. Spurs pressed forward a lot, though it was obvious they were conscious of Convey's speed hurting them on the break. One Spurs corner was cleared poorly only about 10 yards out of the ara, and Ledley headed the ball to Robbie a bit right of center as DC pressed forward to try to catch Spurs offside. They were unsuccessful and Robbie had enough time to settle the ball, look up, touch it again, and then shoot, all from about 12 yards in front of goal. Unfortunately it was too much time and he shot wide of the near post. That was second sitter missed by him then.

Around 67 minutes Christian came off to be replaced by Bunje, with Tano going back to his more familiar left wingback slot. That is not a mistake, it really was Bunje who re-entered the game, to much bewilderment from the British contingent in the stands. The same thing happened about 10 minutes later when Robbie and Teddy came off to be replaced by Lee Barnard and... Milenko Acimovic. We tried to give Teddy a mighty ovation but unfortunately, DC chose the same stoppage to replace John Harkes, so we were drowned out by the roar for him. Spurs kept pressing forward and I was sure that Poyet would find a way to head home from a dead ball situation but he never really got a good chance. Milo had a tremendous free kick from the left of goal, about 10 yards from the end line and 15 yards outside the penalty area. We were expecting a cross but he curled it and it was heading into the far top of the goal when the keeper threw himself across and managed to tip it away. Late in the game Milo had the ball and crossed it, after which Gus, who was close by began absolutely berating him. Why I don't know. The game ended shortly thereafter and Gus was still gesturing at him on the bench. I really couldn't understand what he was so upset about, since he wasn't really open when the ball was crossed.

So Spurs had lost 1-0, but it wasn't a bad performance and they could have easily won, though DC missed a few good chances as well. With Teddy leaving obviously more forwards are a priority, though the defence looked a bit disorganized as well. Of course this was probably the first game all season that Bunje, Perry, and Ledley King had formed the back 3. On the plus side Kazu Toda lasted 90 minutes and Christian Ziege showed enough to remind us how much we have missed him. Hopefully he and Stephen Carr can both be fit for a whole season next year. Milenko Acimovic flashed the skills that are obviously there and has enough potential that I don't think he can be labeled a bust just yet. Still it is obvious that steel needs to be added to our midfield in general.

A curiousity was that Glenn spent the whole game sitting on the bench, and any yelling of instructions was handled by Gorman. Glenn in general was very subdued. The "Capital Cup" was presented after the game by Jurgen Klinsmann, but it happened so quickly that I barely saw Jurgen on the field at all.

Afterwards most of the Spurs squad, Glenn included, quickly made their way off the field. Given that this was a great opportunity to build up fan support for Spurs in the US ,along with associated merchandise sales (ENIC!), I was very surprised and disappointed that hardly any of them came over to chat and sign autographs, or at least applaud our section, which was predominantly Spurs fans. Kasey Keller did, not surprisingly, given the American crowd, and I had a chance to congratulate him on a fine season for Spurs. Robbie Keane was the only other Spurs player to come over and he spent a good amount of time signing people's programs. So cheers to those two but I was very disappointed with the rest. I know it was the end of a long and disappointing season but just a small effort on the players part could have reaped a lot of good will. I suppose it is consistent with a lot of the bad PR from this past season.

Still, it was wonderful to be able to see Spurs here in the states, and besides myself, who came from Chicago, I met some fans from Ontario, and besides Bruce and Elaine, I met several others who had made the trip from England. Given the large number of Spurs shirts on our side of the stadium I 'm sure many others traveled long distances to see their beloved Tottenham, and I hope that sometime soon Spurs will consider doing a pre-season tour in North America. Manchester United is coming this summer, and I know other Premiership clubs have come over during the last few years. It can only help to nurture a new generation of Spurs fans abroad, and with "soccer's" popularity only increasing here in the States, I'm sure it would be good business as well.

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