Soccer Science: Hungry Like The Wolf

HOUSTON, TX - This did not happen in San Antonio, because only 1/4 of this goal celebration corps took the field. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

A great poet once exclaimed: "I just added 2 more guys to my wolfpack. Four of us wolves running around the desert together in Las Vegas looking for strippers and cocaine". I forget his name, but he seemed to have a penchant for blood oaths and Rufalin. Anyways, aside from his questionable character, he also displayed a surprising lack of knowledge regarding wolf pack behavior. You see, wolves don't simply join together to start a new pack.

Interestingly (a relative term) the social structure of a community of wolf packs can, with a little leeway, be seen as analogous to the developmental structure of a professional soccer team.

So, delving into the parallels between wolf packs and soccer teams (as many are wont to do): there are the established leaders of the groups, or Alphas, similar to senior squad members. There are also the tagalong losers of the pack, gammas and deltas, which have failed to establish any important role in the pack. They are left straggling along, hoping to get the scraps of the pack, with the fear of being left behind. Kind of like the players who seem to just take up space on the bench and locker room. Then there are the offspring of the Alpha male. They hang around the pack and, through trials and tribulations, a select few mature into Alphas. What does this have to do with the Dynamo laying an egg against the Scorpions? Lets Jump like David Lee Roth to this weeks Soccer Science.

To these youngsters, Tuesday's match against the Scorpions was their chance to prove their "Alpha-ness" (not a scientific term, obviously). The ultimate goal for them, with this limited PT, was to show they deserve time with the senior "Alphas" as opposed to continuing their work in the Reserve League. Two players immediately come to mind: Deric and Ownby. Soto too, to a lesser extent, but he has a year until he rejoins the pack, so I'll hold off on him...for now.

Deric was a presence all night, that much was clear. He snuffed out multiple 1-on-1 opportunities by SA. However, more...(ahem)... "quality" opposition should have finished each of those chances. He still looks shaky coming out for crosses in traffic, but what impressed me the most was his distribution out of the back and his willingness to win. The first point is more tangible. He linked the ball to the midfield multiple times, instead of feeding the defensive players intent on kickin' and hopin'. This gave us a chance, albeit an eventual failed chance, at equalizing down the stretch. He also displayed a more abstract desire to win. There are times when you can tell someone just NEEDS to win. Usually that comes from a forward (Arsenal-era Henry) seizing the offense in the clutch, or a keeper (Keller vs. Italy) making a string of last-ditch saves. Surprisingly, it was the former that Deric supplied down the stretch. He got up the field to make his clearances from a higher point, urging our offense to press with his play. He even took a throw-in at one point, which was hilarious.

Ownby provided the same desire to win, except from a super-sub position. His inclusion sparked the offense late, most notably when he cut inside the defense and let loose a stinging effort that would've equalized the match... if it hadn't curled directly into the keeper's hands. His efforts lead multiple people to plea for his continued inclusion in the senior team. I don't see him unseating anyone in the first team yet, but I pray that he becomes a regular sub soon. He is even getting me excited for tonight's Valencia match, if only to see how he does against professional opposition.

I'm not discounting the promise of Dixon, Creavalle, or Recio, nor am I expecting either Deric or Ownby to become starters anytime soon. But if young wolves got progress reports in wolf high school for their Alpha-ness, Deric and Ownby would surely be at the top of the class, while the other two would be playing catch-up.

Err, was there any real science in this post? No? Umm...wolves, or Canis lupus, can occupy a territory of up to 13,000 km! A fact that Liam Neeson in The Grey is all too aware of.

Saluting the Scorpions

I plan on writing something more complete on the Scorpions themselves, but for now let me offer up a "well done" to their squad. Regardless of the many excuses that can be made for our loss, whether its a lack of caring for USOC or a certain bus being parked in certain places, the Scorpions did what they had to do. They defended well, and got the ball to Campos quickly on the counter. Most importantly, they just wanted it more. What I mean is that they truly wanted to #beapartofhistory, #beathouston, and any other hashtagged motivational themes their victory lived up to. And that's what they showed up to do. So props, San Antonio.

RIP, Heavy Metal

Its one thing seeing a former rock god courting floozies on VH1, or watching an overweight rocker strut to a Kia commercial, but it is an entirely different thing to see a former heavy metal frontman doing commercials for Stanley Steemer. That is exactly what Dee Snider of Twisted Sister is doing. And it is very sad. I'm not a product of the heavy metal generation, but after reading Fargo Rock City I can atleast appreciate its general rockingness, if not its societal importance. So seeing Mr. Snider in full-on TS garb preaching the ability of Stanley Steemer to "clean the rock 'n roll out of your carpet" is...well..sobering.


SS Book Club, Week 2

This week, I read a compilations of essays by (again) Chuck Klosterman. They spanned his many newspaper and magazine gigs and provided pretty cool insight into topics ranging from Britney Spears and Val Kilmer to Journey on a boat (not with T. Pain, though). Here's what he had to say on Soccer fanatic Steve Nash's speed:

You probably think you know how fast Steve Nash is, because he plays basketball at a different speed than everyone who plays against him. However, to truly understand how fast Steve Nash is, you need to watch him buy baby food...because it was raining - I reached down to get my umbrella off a chair. By the time I returned to an upright position, Steve Nash was already on the other side of the street...This was some Philip K. Dick-Star Trek-vampire shit.

Food Critique of the Week

A couple of these SS posts have discussed a fantastic restaurant I've been to, but this week I have to complain about somewhere I ate at while searching for apartments in the med center. I stopped at the Black Walnut for lunch. Don't worry, the food was excellent (as always). I love the Black Walnut and go there whenever I am near Rice Village. What I must complain about is their "Houston Game Calendar" which lists all games for each day of the month. Good news: it includes Dynamo matches. Bad news: it includes all "Houston DynamoS" matches. Ugh.

Apropos 80's Video of the Week

Is it even a question?


The one thing that pains me about the early exit from the USOC is the lack of remaining opportunities for these hungry young guys. Dixon should continue to see limited minutes and Ownby has certainly earned some super-sub minutes, but Recio and Creavalle will not have many opportunities going forward. Deric, too, will likely find himself back on the bench for much of the remaining schedule. While the US Open Cup is called America's FA Cup, it is being treated like the Carling Cup. And that is great, if you can use it to give younger players competitive minutes. The limitation is, of course, that they need to win to continue getting the minutes.

So it would be a catch-22, if only the team actually cared about the USOC. For now, the young guns must develop under the Reserve League, and take advantage of any seldom first team action they may earn.

Last thought: future CCL qualification. I'm fine using the MLS Cup as a means to qualification. The fixture crunch promised by MLS and CCL matches means a serious attempt at the USOC would only add further strain to first team players, thus necessitating the youthful approach to the SASFC match. We tried to Carling Cup the USOC, and failed, so now we need to work on preparing our best squad for a run at the Cup. I couldn't be more pumped.

Forza Naranja

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