Oct 29, 2007

Did Bruce Arena Criticize Juan Pablo Angel? Not Exactly...

New York Red Bulls Head Coach Bruce Arena is said to have called out the club's star striker Juan Pablo Angel over his play in the opening leg of the MLS Conference semifinals. After a scoreless draw against the New England Revolution, Arena apparently bitch-slapped the Colombian for "not doing a good job showing for the ball." Arena is already being castigated for this on Yahoo! Sports and on the Big Soccer sewing circle.

Unfortunately, that's not exactly what happened. I was in the post game press conference as well and remember things a little differently. I hate to defer to flacks on anything, but the Red Bulls' official site does a good job of supplying a quote sheet from the press conference. Their quote of Arena is consistent with mine:

"New England did a good job on them and Juan [Pablo Angel] didn't drop the ball. We told the team at halftime that we needed to drop more balls at the feet of our forwards. Juan could have done a better job making himself available as well as [Francis] Doe. Again, New England plays them tight and on a turf field, you have less time to pass under pressure. We didn't pass to the feet of our forwards or cross well to them. In the game tonight, there were plenty of crosses available and we didn't do a good job on those."

Sorry folks, I don't think that quite qualifies as a bitch-slap, as Arena cites a number of factors for Angel's (and Doe's) ineffectiveness. I'm all for criticizing coaches, officials, players, etc. and Arena is clearly not above reproach. There are many things he can and should be second-guessed on this season and depending on how things play out I will call him to the mat for these at season's end. But criticizing Angel is not something he is guilty of here. So let's just settle down. Last I checked there was still a game to play this weekend.

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