I must say, Saturday was a fantastic day of soccer for this Colorado man because I was treated to seeing two decisions by two soccer minds separated by thousands of miles--each of which was a whisker away from going the opposite direction of what was intended.
Travel with me, if you will, to Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil. This game made me even more aware that the soccer bug has infected me beyond repair, because I was transfixed by a game that lasted 120 minutes and ended in a 0-0 draw. Yet, Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal removed goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen in the 119 1/2' minute to bring in Tim Krul as a sub right before the game went to penalties.
This had never happened in a World Cup--and for good reason. Conventional wisdom dictates that you ride the guy that got you to that point. Not only did every Netherlands fan wonder what was happening, Manchester United fans gave an ever-watchful eye to their new manager and likely wondered, "Is this guy cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? Is this the manager we brought on?" One wonders with United fans if they were ready to give van Gaal a tenure that made David Moyes tenure almost look like Sir Alex's--let's bag the guy!
Tim Krul, goalkeeper for Newcastle United, knew about the plans--and that made two of them (himself and the manager). The Netherlands had lost four of the last five penalty shootouts until Saturday. The Netherlands' staff had been working for weeks on this maneuver--no gut instincts here.
The result? Van Gaal looks like a genius. The imposing, intimidating 6'4" Krul guessed right everytime and saved two of the five shots that gave the Netherlands their ticket into the World Cup Final Four to play Argentina (Wednesday, July 9th, 2:00 PM, ESPN). I like Argentina in this one.
Travel with me back to our hometown, back to our home way from home in Commerce City, Colorado. You know the place. I know my place--Section 121 in the South Stands watching my beloved "Coloradooooo Rrrrrapids!" July 4th Fever was in the air, with the Rapids ahead 1-0 on a great cross by Marvell Wynne to Vicente Sanchez. A sloppy game, yes, but things were moving our way.
For full disclosure, Dillon Powers is one of my favorite players. He patrols the midfield beautifully and sets Vicente and Deshorn up with wonderfully weighted balls, giving them opportunities galore.
But what was Dillon doing on that pass? Given his steadiness and body of work, that ball in some way (I don't see how) may have found its way to Irwin or another on the backline and we could well be saying, "Wow, that Powers was a genius!" But alas, it didn't work, and the Rapids went home with one point rather than three.
I realize that van Gaal has a proven track record, while Powers is a second-year player with a great track record thus far with all the upside in the world (think about where the Rapids would be without him). I realize that van Gaal contemplated and planned for this for weeks, maybe months; while Powers made one poor decision that he immediately regretted.
But for this Rapids fan, Saturday drove home the fine, fine line between ingenuity and insanity--and how many players and coaches walk this each game.
But I like how they take the risks, then let the chips fall where they may.