Watford FC

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.

San Josť Earthquakes

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.

The Squad

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 come on.
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 it.
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 move quickly.
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.