Howard saves the day

Everton became the first club to defeat an MLS all-star team, winning tonight’s match on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw over the 90 minutes. Everton was comprehensively outplayed during the final 60 minutes, but our American goalkeeper Tim Howard kept us in the match and then came up huge in the shoot-out, just as he did against Manchester United earlier this year in the FA Cup semi-final.
Considering the heat, the altitude, and our lack of depth (leave it to Everton to face an injury crisis half way through the pre-season), I determined before the match that I would judge our performance based mostly on the first 30 minutes. And we weren’t bad during that span. After that, however, it was all we could do to string two passes together.
There were a few good performances in addition to Howard’s world-class goalkeeping. Louis Saha (scorer of our goal) was sharp. Mo Fellaini was very good until he tired (at his rambunctious best he’s a player and a half — a central midfielder and half of a forward). And 17 year-old Jose Baxter showed a few flashes after coming on late as a sub.
But Jack Rodwell’s passing was horrible and he and Phil Neville left too many gaps in the center of midfield. Leighton Baines was lightweight at left back and Joey Yobo and Joleon Lescott struggled at times to contain Connor Casey, the excellent, old-fashioned #9. Tony Hibbert and Leon Osman worked hard on the flanks, but their crosses were mostly poor. And Tim Cahill, playing out of position, struggled to get into the game.
For MLS, there were a number of good performers, with Connor Casey and Landon Donovan at the top of the list. I’d love to see either wearing our Royal Blue Jersey.
Clearly, we have some work to do before opening against Arsenal in mid-August, but the main thing is to get somewhere close to having a fully healthy squad.
UPDATE: Here’s a report from another American Toffee-supporter who, like me, watched the match from his recliner.

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