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)
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
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)
DC -- Hristo Stoitchkov (caution; Reckless Foul) 67
Referee: Kevin Terry
Referee's Assistants: -George Vergara; Robert Fereday
4th Official: Kenneth Kaplan
Time of Game: 1:51
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,
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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