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Pinch me, I must be dreaming
Do you believe in miracles?
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 defense in the back. Pure fun.
Dear Santa: all I want for Christmas is a team that can have fewer than 5
players on the injury report every week.
- 1 Jon Conway
- Keeper. He's not a bad keeper, really, but the whole
defense looks less organized and solid when he's in goal. Can flail hideously
on a high cross.
- 2 Eddie Robinson
- Defender. Robinson has really improved and stepped
up to fill in for injured players. He doesn't make those scary defensive
blunders he once did. On the other hand, his tackling can get wild at times,
and he gets close to losing his temper completely one game in three. If he
picks up one yellow card in a game, it's even odds he'll head for the shower
- 4 Chris RonÚr
- Midfielder. Has had more playing time this season,
due to the Great Injury Crisis, and has looked speedy and creative when he's
come on. And getting more playing time buys you an accent on the line-up card
and correct pronunciation of your name, apparently.
- 5 Ramiro Corrales
- Midfielder. Corrales looks more sure and solid
with every game. His shooting, however, continues to be wildly off target more
often than not, and he has an unfortunate tendency to attempt to beat defenders
instead of laying the ball off. Unfortunate, because he lacks the ability to
beat defenders and loses the ball when he tries it. Every. Single. Time.
- 6 Ronnie Ekelund
- Midfielder. Ekelund has spent some time on the
injury roster this season, and has looked quite unfit when he has played.
More recently he has looked more like his old self, coordinating the midfield
with well-directed passes. He has also shown a certain amount of hustle, and
attempts on goal, which borders on the shocking coming from him.
- 7 Ian Russell
- Right wing. Russell works immensely hard every game,
and is still the only Quake who can put in a good cross on a consistent basis.
When he moves inside a bit, he can really help put the pressure on and get more
involved. When he hangs out on the right, the rest of the team frequently
ignores him, even though he is taking up good positions.
- 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. It is nice to see Arena giving him some time on the national
- 9 Brian Mullen
- Forward. Mullen has been the brightest spot in the
Quake's attack this season. Works extremely hard, and can pull a pass out of
midair on to his foot with the loveliest of touches. Scores goals, and makes a
lot of goals for others to score.
- 10 Landon Donovan
- The poster boy of US Men's Soccer continues to
shine and we'll see flashes of what makes him great every game, but truth be
told, poster boy's heart hasn't always been in it this season. Defenders have
learned that Landon can get put off his game by roughing him up early and
often. While he has learned to dodge ankle-crushing tackles, and has
perfected that charming move where he throws his head back as if poleaxed, he
gives up 30 pounds and 4 inches to most players he's up against, and doesn't
always get the call when he goes flying, or deserve it. While it is a
tremendous joy to see Donovan streak away to the far left corner and slot one
in from a ridiculous angle, goalies seem to have wised up to that move, and
there has been more than one occasion when he had a better shot before he took
the ball wide. Still and all, my god, he's fun to watch! Deft quick touches of
breathtaking skill and vision, blazing well-timed runs. Watch carefully while
you may, you won't see something like this for a many a long and dismal year.
- 11 Manny Lagos
- Midfielder. Lagos is another one who's spent some
time on the injury roster. 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. This season, primarily
due to the ravages of injury in the team, he has been playing in a forward
spot, which is a tooth-gnashing exercise for fans, who much prefer to see him
working the ball in midfield.
- 12 Jeff Agoos
- Defender. I have to take back everything I've said
about the slowness of Agoos. He is looking a great deal trimmer and fitter than
he has in years, and has picked up a bit of pace. No, he is never going to beat
Donovan (or most anyone) in a flat sprint, he isn't getting outrun on a regular
basis. The best reader of the ball out there, Agoos anticipates trouble so well
that he will snuff it out before it became a problem. A sharp tackler, but
(usually) a clean one.
- 14 Dwayne DeRosario
- Forward. Sometimes you wonder is DeRosario has
some kind of gypsy curse on him. All set to be able to get more playing
time at the beginning of the season, and he goes down injured. He never, ever,
gets the call from referees, even when he deserves it. (Be it said, however,
DeRosario has gone down rather too easily, rather too many times, so the boy
who cried wolf factor is at play here.) We love his energy. He 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. He makes a lot of chances for
other people, pulling defenders and hustling for the ball deep into enemy
territory. We were happy to see him come on and score against New England. The
funky chicken walk has been long absent from Spartan.
- 16 Craig Waibel
- Defender. Another one who has been called in to
patch the Bleeding Injury Dike. Solid enough, although he puts in a lot more
high tackles than I like to see.
- 17 Todd Dunivant
- Defender. Plays left back like a man with about 15
more years experience. Extremely sure-footed, reads the game well. Comes
forward to very good effect, where he can beat defenders and lay in a sweet
ball to the middle. To top it all off, he has a throw-in that can make it two
thirds the way across the field (well, at Spartan, at any rate). If this kid
isn't rookie of the year, there ain't no justice in the world.
- 18 Pat Onstad
- Keeper. We will, eventually, forgive Onstad for the
own-goal in his debut, where he softly patted an easy catch into his net.
Well, OK, we do forgive him. When he is in goal, the whole defense plays with
more coordination and confidence. Great in the air, astonishing reflexes, and a
throw that can reach the other half of the field.
- 19 Troy Dayak
- Central defender. A rock. Dayak anchoring
the center of defense with Agoos -- what more could you ask for? Well, keeping
them healthy, for one thing. Dayak has spent more time on the injury roster
than off it.
- 22 Jamil Walker
- Forward. Light and lanky, Walker runs like a
colt. Has a lot energy and skill on the ball. Needs to learn that the pros run
a lot faster than the college kids.
- 25 Brian Ching
- Forward. We love the way Ching and Donovan were
working together on those few occasions when injury and national team duties
didn't interfere. It was starting to look like the beginnings of a beautiful
scoring partnership. We hope to see more of it next year. Ching is a big lad,
who knows how to throw his weight around. He makes excellent runs, and takes
chances when they present themselves.
- 26 Arturo Alvarez
- Another one of the skillful new kids, whom we
haven't seen much of yet.
- 29 Johanes Maliza
- Looks very skillful as he plays with the ball in
warm-ups, hasn't had enough playing time to tell much.
- 30 Josh Saunders
- Keeper. We've heard good things about Saunders,
but I haven't seen him play yet.
- Rodrigo Faria
- Forward. So new, he doesn't have a number yet.