Of all the lousy, two-bit, ill-starred woeful teams to have fallen for, this
one tops the list. Watford have seen any number of talented players pass
through the side, only to move on to bigger and better things, including quite
a number of talented goalkeepers (coincidence? I think not). They have had
the good fortune to have had Elton John's interest and occassionally money, and
benefitted from the tutelage of an excellent manager in Graham Taylor. Still,
Sir Elton has quit the board, Taylor has gone off to other pastures, and
Watford had just that one brief shining moment of glory, coming in second in
the old First Division and losing in the Cup. For the rest of their unstarred
existence they have been, as one commentator had it "a bye-word for
suburban mediocrity". Doesn't matter. I still love 'em, even if I now live
too far away to see them play.
Question: "Why do you follow Watford?"
Answer: Blind, stupid, and desperate.
There was a time when one had to be blind, stupid, and desperate to watch
the Quakes (or the Clash, as they were then known), but no longer. Gone are the
Heart-Attack kids who would blow leads in the last 5 minutes in the most
distressing fashion, followed by a heartrending loss in a shootout. This is a
team that knows that football is a team sport and plays with a lot of energy
and style. Hard-working midfield, genuine superstar-in-the-making up front, and
a rock-solid goalie in the back. Pure fun.
- 1 Joe Cannon
- Keeper. He won his spot when the first string guy
went down injured and hasn't looked back. Comes out quickly and aggressively
(all those d**n shoot-outs taught him something I guess), distributes the ball
well, good reflexes. Dominates the box. Still young, especially for a keeper:
in a few years he may be pressing for a spot on the national
team. Occassionally has a complete stinker of a game in which he makes
astonishingly and uncharacteristically bad decisions. Frequently gets
over-excited: needs to learn how to take a deep breath and calm down.
- 2 Eddie Robinson
- Defender. Robinson has been playing well, making
some good defensive plays. On the other hand, he also makes some appalling
defensive blunders. Improving, but scary.
- 4 Chris Roner
- Midfielder. We haven't seen much of Roner. He's come
on late in a couple of matches, and shown some energy, but nothing striking.
- 5 Ramiro Corrales
- Listed as a defender, but he typically plays in
midfield when he plays. Corrales has improved a lot this season, but he still
has an unfortunate tendency to give away the ball too easily, usually after
winning it well, and his shooting is atrocious.
- 6 Ronnie Ekelund
- Midfielder. Ekelund plays the game like he has
eagle eye view of the field. He knows where everyone is and immediately passes
to the open guy. Not fast, but it isn't like you notice, because he somehow
manages to get in position for the ball to come through him. Watching Ekelund
line up on the ball anywhere in or around the area is an exercise in
frustration: he has no striker instincts whatsoever. He will pass the ball,
even when he has a good bead on goal. Breathe deep. Accept it. Two goals in a
career is plenty.
- 7 Ian Russell
- Right wing. Hustle Russell. Another hard worker. He's
been troubled with injury this season and hasn't looked as sharp, but when he's
having a good game, he's up and down that right wing chasing everything. He's
learned how to beat defenders to get in the cross, and his crossing continues
to improve. In fact, he's really the only one of the Quakes who can put in a
good cross on a consistent basis.
- 8 Richard Mulrooney
- Midfielder. Mulrooney epitomizes what the Quakes
are all about: not flashy, just a lot of hard work and hustle. To watch
Mulrooney play you would think he was a thirty-something grizzled veteran. He
works harder than any other two men on the field. He never stops. He tackles
hard, and often. He is relentless. There he is in defense, slicing away the
ball from the attacker that beat Agoos. There he is in midfield, chasing every
loose ball, every 50-50 ball, every 30-70 ball, heck, every ball. There he is
slinging line-drive corners low into the box. There he is. Every game, every
where, always. Damned shame Arena didn't take him to Korea. Maybe next time.
- 9 Scott Bower
- Midfielder. Bower has been on injured reserve all
season. When he's playing he shows speed and energy.
- 10 Landon Donovan
- OK, so post-WC everyone knows LDo. What can you
say that hasn't been said? A sweet first touch on the ball, scary-genius
three-steps-ahead vision, world-class sprint speed combined with the ability to
stop and turn on a dime, and the ability to beat keepers from impossible
angles. Can shine as either a striker or a play-making midfielder. The best
thing about Donovan, though, is how hard he works for the rest of the team. You
see these talented young kids come and go, and flame out in their hype machine
because they start figuring they are better than the everyone and don't need
to be bothered. That isn't going to happen to Donovan. Class act: 12 hour
flight from Korea, landing an hour before kick-off and 36 some hours after
playing his heart out in the WC quarter-finals, and the kid comes to Spartan,
suits up, and gets set to play for the Quakes. Comes on 5 minutes from time and
helps make the last goal. I remember the first time I saw Donovan in
warm-ups. Yallop likes to run the guys through tight-area one-touch passing
drills, and there's Donovan showing more skill and vision in 15 minutes than
the whole rest of the field showed the whole day. You watch football for years
and years, sitting through all kinds of dreck in miserable weather, and
maybe just maybe you are lucky enough to one time have the chance to watch a
talent like that develop. I will weep when Bayern Leverkeusen takes him back,
but I feel blessed for having had the chance to see him blosson. Nike used to
have this campaign "will that player be you?" That player will be
Landon. Weaknesses: the boy needs to control his temper, learn how to dodge
tackles better without performing transparent dives, and try to keep his
scary-genius vision toned down to a level where his teammates are on the same
page. Donovan is slow to settle into a team: he played some stinkers early on
for the Quakes and some stinkers for the US National team. Remember: it was a
question whether he'd even make the squad and he wasn't a starter for the
Quakes until halfway through the season.
- 11 Manny Lagos
- Midfielder. Lagos has had some injury problems this
year that have limited his effectiveness. When he is fit, he is a fine dribbler
of the ball, albeit with a deceptive style that looks almost clumsy. Not
flashy, but with solid technical skills. The cleanest tackler of the ball.
Takes shots when he has a chance, but usually poor ones.
- 12 Jeff Agoos
- Defender. Yes, Goose is slow. Pathetically slow.
Painfully slow. He can show little bursts of something like speed over 10
yards, sometimes, but more than that and he's outrun easily. You watch him one
on one losing a footrace that exposes the back of the defense cruelly and you
wonder: why the heck is this guy on the field? Still, for my money he is the
best reader of the ball you could want at the back. Nine times out of ten he
doesn't need to be fast, because he nipped the problem in the bud before it
became a problem. Sometimes you don't even notice how good he is because it
didn't look flashy. From way up in the stands you don't see how much he works
to keep the defense organized as a solid unit. Still, that tenth
time...well... that's what you have Cannon back there for. Has a nice
left-footed shot that he shows off on free-kicks near the box. Excellent, hard
tackler of the ball. Takes no prisoners. Ever. As the guy from section 108
shouted "Agoos! You are hideous, but I love you!"
- 13 Devin Barclay
- Forward. Another speedy kid who hasn't seen a
whole lot of action this year. Has created some dangerous situations when he's
- 14 Dwayne DeRosario
- Forward. Mr. Energy. DeRosario runs hard every
second he is on the field. Many a defense has been surprised and dismayed to
see DeRosario come charging in after a back pass late in the game, regardless
of the score, when everyone is exhausted already. DeRosario makes a lot of
chances for other people, pulling defenders and hustling for the ball deep into
enemy territory. This season he has had trouble finishing his own chances,
which has been harmful to the team as a whole: Graziani has taken to passing
across to DeRosario to give him the chance to score instead of finishing his
own chances. The guy can't seem to catch a break: in the Colorado game he
scores two, but they both bank in off defenders and get credited as own goals.
Weaknesses: An unfortunate tendency to try to run through three players instead
of laying the ball off, and a well-deserved reputation for going down a little
too easily, to the point where he won't get the call even when he does deserve
- 15 Luchi Gonzalez
- Forward. It can't be fun to join a team where you
are behind Donovan, Graziani, DeRosario, and Barclay in competition for a
spot. Has seen a little playing time late in the game while Donovan was away on
national team duty: shows speed and skill. He'll get his chance next year.
- 17 Jimmy Conrad
- Defender. Very solid in central defense. Good
tackler of the ball, judges his position and reads the ball well.
- 18 Jon Conway
- Keeper. Solid, usually. Can be horrible on the
cross. Doesn't come out nearly as aggressively as Cannon.
- 19 Troy Dayak
- Central defender. A rock. Another take-no-prisoners
guy. Came back last year from a hideous neck injury that should have ended his
career, if not his ability to walk. Every time I see him lunging in to spear
the ball with his head, I cringe.
- 20 Ariel Graziani
- Forward. A pure goal-scorer: knows how to beat
defenders, knows how to strike the ball. Get him within 25 yards of goal with
the ball at his feet and he'll find a way to take a chance. But,
characteristically for a Quakes player, Graziani also works hard for the rest
of the team, making diagonal runs to draw off a man, pressing defenders for the
ball. One of the most awkward-looking running styles you'll ever see, but can
- 22 Zak Ibsen
- Defender. Ibsen has has less playing time this year
than last and has looked rusty when he comes on, giving away the ball in
dangerous places. Had a solid season last year.
- 24 Wade Barrett
- Listed as midfielder, but usually stays well back
out on the left flank. Barrett has had some really great games, marking some
stellar players out of the game. Has started to get some nice balls in to the
forwards from the side when he does come forward.