Yesterday’s good news comes from the McDiarmid Park in city of Perth. It was here that Ross County recorded only their second away victory yesterday, moving them into 10th place- out of the relegation spaces and two points ahead of St. Mirren. The win has them trailing 9th place Partick Thistle only on goal differential and 8th place Kilmarnock by only a point- and with a match in hand over the Rugby Park side. But on to the match…
In his first start since Boxing Day, Melvin de Leeuw made a very strong case for being in the starting line-up each and every week. In the 29th minute defender Evangelos Oikonomou took the ball all the way into the left corner of St. Johnstone’s half, but a cut back move on midfielder Lee Croft that will haunt the young man’s dreams for the rest of his days, and passed the ball into de Leeuw. The lanky Dutchman took one touch to settle the ball with his right foot and then hammered it across the face of goal and inside the far post. Saint’s keeper Alan Mannus got his hands to it but it was a heavy shot and he could not stop it. While it would prove to be the only goal of the match (and the only one Ross County needed!), there were plenty of other chances. Jordan Slew continued to add to his string of near misses, and Yoann Arquin made a bullish run down the sideline that should have resulted in a goal but his pass to Slew was off target. The real story of this match, however, did not involve either of these players
Goalkeeper Mark Brown may have played his best match in a County shirt. Brown was on his game from the opening whistle, but it was in the second half, as St. Johnstone pushed for an equalizer, that he was at his best. First, he pushed league scoring leader Stevie May’s overhead kick over the bar. Then it was a Dave Mackay shot which deflected of Yann Songo’o that he was able to turn it around the post. Finally, in the dying minutes of the match he pushed away a close-range header by defender Steven Anderson. To see Brown playing so well was truly as relief as Michael Fraser may not see action again this season through injury and the only back-up on the bench is U20 goalkeeper Sean McCarthy
Safety could be as few as eight points away for County. There are four more matches before the table splits for the final five matches and in those matches County will face third place Motherwell, second place and newly-crowned League Cup champions Aberdeen, soon-to-be-champions Celtic, and a Highland Derby against 5th place Inverness Caledonian Thistle. If County could even manage two draws in those four matches they would put themselves in a good spot for the final matches of the season.
Yesterday’s bad news comes from PPL Park in the city of Philadelphia (sort of). It was here that the New England Revolution dropped their second straight match in the 2014 MLS season. While the team played better than they had the previous week against Houston, they simply could not finish their chances- and they had their fair share over the course of the match. It was a testy match (is any sporting even between teams from “Boston” and Philadelphia ever anything less?) that probably could have seen a red card or two, but in the end it was a first half goal from Sebastian Le Toux that brought victory to the Union.
For the second match in a row Diego Fagundez looked as though he will continue to his ascent to stardom in MLS (and likely beyond), defender Andrew Farrell played in his first match of the season and shined, and new acquisition Teal Bunbury looked more like himself than he has since he burst onto the MLS scene as a teenager several years ago. The real story of this match, however, was not who played well, or even who played, it was who didn’t play at all.
Specifically, 2013 MLS Defender of the Year Jose Goncalves. As you may be aware Goncalves is in a contract dispute with the club. He feels that the price that they agreed to pay for him when his loan from Swiss side FC Sion was over was too low given that he played every minute of the 2013 and was named Defender of the Year. About that part, he is correct- he out-played the “buy out” money FC Sion and the Revolution agreed upon prior to when he originally signed with the club on loan. He wants to renegotiate the deal, the club- never known for having deep pockets or an abundance of sentimentality (see Joseph, Shalrie) has apparently told him to abide by his current (valid) contract and we’ll “see what happens…” The cynic in me translates that into, “Give us another great year so that we can flip you for as many draft picks and as much allocation money as possible.” But getting back to the immediate situation… According to some sources New England coach Jay Heaps gave Goncalves the option of “getting over it” and playing or continuing to sulk and not playing. Goncalves, unfortunately, showed the kind of petulance that is so particular to footballers and decided to do the latter. Heaps was true to his word and not only did Goncalves play, he didn’t even make the bench.
This is not what this club needs.