Friday, May 11, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update

MLS Week 5

Come, join me on a shoddy week of match reporting! Luckily, I have more than match recaps in my head.

Week five started with a great match in our nation’s capital between DC United and the Revs. Sadly, this match was marred by a ridiculous straight red card handed to Shalrie Joseph on an all ball tackle from the side in the 59th minute. Even with a man advantage, misfiring United could only manage a 1-1 draw and lost big addition Fred to an injury that is expected to keep him four a few matches. Facundo Erpen was back in the line-up for Tommy Soehn’s side but failed to hand any clear goal scoring opportunities over to the Revolution.

Some refreshing atmosphere was added to Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday afternoon as a vocal Argentinean contingent was on hand to witness the Wizards down the Crew 1-0 on a dramatic extra time goal from Jose Burciaga Jr. The beautiful game was not on display in KC though as the teams combined for 34, mostly ugly fouls. While the Argentineans seemed to be rooting (all game) for the home side, it was unclear if their attendance was driven by the presence of Carlos Marinelli, the debut of Guillermo Barros Schelotto or the aura of Ryan Pore. Either way, the Wizards to keep selling those tickets as well as about 10,000 more per game. KC has yet to crack 8,000 tickets sold in each of their first two home games with one of the highest paid American players in top form again.

Oh, to see RSL’s stunning comeback versus the Flagship with two goals in added time. Unfortunately, I only purchased the Direct Kick package that gives you access to all the games on TV. Try to go with this. All the MLS games this season are televised according to Garber the Don many, many times during the off season. Therefore, I couldn’t get the game, because for some idiotic reason only some of the HDnet games are broadcast on Direct Kick. I can mention that the Brown goal should be goal of the week, not only for the skill involved, but also for the circumstances under which it was scored.

Also eluding my eyes this weekend was the Houston vs. Colorado match. Apparently, DeRosario was notified that if he wants DP money he better start playing like a DP. DeRo responded with two goals. The first was a vintage DeRo blast from well outside the box. The second was some good follow-up that surprisingly didn’t result in a major head injury for a Colorado players. After a collision between goalkeeper, defender and attacker, the ball was still free and rolling ever so slowly towards the line. Humorously, the Colorado defender who was buried underneath the wreckage tried to head the ball off the line while lying flat on the ground. DeRo finished the goal scoring sequence ensuring the defender the “I’ll bite your ankles” award of the week.

Sunday’s DC – Chivas match witnessed some great finishing from Christian Gomez and Mykiel Galindo. Jamie Moreno converted another penalty kick and DC rolled on to a 2-1 win over the Guevara-free Goats in a fairly even match. Ante Razov fired some threatening balls toward the net, but Troy Perkins, easing back into form, was not troubled. (Unfortunately this game kicked off at the same time as the Real Madrid vs. Sevilla tilt and I missed a great deal of the MLS match. Can ESPN please pay Ray Hudson what ever it takes to be part of their MLS broadcasts? Is he ever really that far off of the John Belushi news desk stints in the early days of Saturday Night Live? I fully expect at any moment he is just going to start spewing unintelligible words then go flailing off of his chair. Here’s a classic Ray line during the RM match about Guti, “This player is bringing tears to my eyes with his performance. The flamencos will be singing his name throughout the streets of Madrid this evening”

Now we go from the sweet strains of Ray Hudson to the Sominex duo of Kenn and Kenny who broadcast the Fire matches for Comcast Sports in Chicago. These two are a better fit for a golf broadcast or perhaps competitive chicken hatching than a futbol contest! Regardless, the match was very well played despite the choppy play in the opening minutes. The early star had to be the pitch. The roll on the high tech field turf seemed to play very true. Jeff Larentowicz stole the spotlight in the 16th minute with an amazing diving volley to beat Matt Pickens. The Fire pulled a goal back on another blasted goal by Chris Rolfe at the best possible time, right before the half. As much as I try I can’t erase the second half from my mind. Stevie Ralston and the Rev’s used a twelve minute span to convincingly bury the previously unbeaten Fire. Ralston never should have scored in the second half. Pickens elected to stay on his line as a slow cross rolled past him onto the foot of the hard charging Ralston who put it into the back post. That ball HAS to be Perkins’. The Revs sealed the deal when Wells Thompson scored his first MLS goal in the 81st minute. Up until that point, all Thompson did was draw fouls by putting his butt between the ball and Chicago defender. This match will not be mentioned again.

Salaries Posted
The players union posted salaries this week and they’ve become the hottest webpages this side of D-listed. This has been so dissected and mis-analyzed that there isn’t much to add except that Andy Dorman is the best value in the league since the first days of the Little Fish (who might be on the move again). 30K for three goals already this season. You’ve got to figure this young man may also be working his way in to the Welsh picture. Andy! Get yourself a real agent! Of course, this salary release draws out the boo birds who like to point out the discrepancy in the numbers. You know the folks who never pay attention to the league for 364 (or perhaps 362 after Beckham) days a year. Which brings us to award winning Philadelphia Daily News columnist John Smallwood’s column. Below is my response to Mr. Smallwood

Thanks for writing the column on MLS and the similarities at the far ends of the payroll bell curve. Luckily for us soccer fans, the similarities with the defunct NASL do end at the payroll for the most part. Only the NY Red Bulls are stuck in a terrible stadium lease agreement these days. That will be rectified within three years when the team moves into its own stadium which is already under construction. By the time the RedBulls move into their new stadium, only four MLS teams (DC United, Kansas City, Houston and New England) will be playing in stadiums designed for American Football. All of these teams are in the process of looking for places to build their own stadiums. The soccer specific stadium is the key component in differentiating then from now in American professional soccer. MLS is getting rights fees from ESPN, Telefutura and Fox Soccer Channel. The league has other revenues sources including its licensing of television and marketing of soccer matches through its subsidiary Soccer United Marketing. According to all reports out of Los Angeles, Mr. Beckham has already generated enough revenue to not only justify, but also pay off his year one salary. Mr. Blanco has yet to generate that level of income, but based on his reception in Chicago, it will not take long!

While Beckham and Blanco rightly fall into the category of those who need to be successful on and off the pitch, neither of the two NY pick-ups meet that criteria. Juan Pablo Angel will attract Columbian fans, however, he is far from a household name for casual American soccer fans. Claudio Reyna, despite his national team pedigree, will not draw fans in on name recognition or on his play because of its unflashy nature.

The side effect of the Designated Player rule is raising the level of play in the league, not only through the players acquired through this rule, but through residual signings. Players the quality of Carl Robinson (Toronto), Fred (DC), Carlos Marinelli (KC) and Guillermo Barros Schletto (Columbus) would likely not be in this league had it not attracted Beckham to it in the first place.

The days of questioning MLS’ viability and whether it will be around next season are long gone. Now the only question is, when will the league rise to the level of the top leagues in the world.

Ngwenya and Moreno Swap Cities
Alejandro Moreno stated after his trade to Columbus for Joseph Ngwenya that it was “no secret that (he) had fallen out of favor” in Houston. Ali! Could that be due to your finishing that leaves the fans in back of the goal hiding under their seats? Sorry, Sigi, you got fleeced on this one.

Now on to the best kept secret in American Sports, the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Talk about stars on the pitch, at one time or another Landon Donovan, Cobi Jones, Claudio Reyna, Juan Pablo Angel and Clint Mathis were on the pitch. From the match reports, all but the school night capacity crowd of 10,774 at the Home Depot Center missed out on a thrilling Open Cup qualifier between the Flagship and the Galaxy. The intensity of this game must have been off the charts as Jones was ejected in the 54th. Arena quickly put Angel in for Altidore. Yallop countered with Donovan off the bench. This was followed by the long awaited first Dema Kovalenko ejection of 2007 in the 73rd.. The match was scoreless at the end of regulation largely due to the efforts of LA’s keeper Steve Cronin who entered double digits in the save column. The match was decided in extra time by a final score of 3-1 in favor of the Galaxy who exploded for three in the extra thirty. Angel making his North American debut in this match, scored the lone RedBulls goal. I have to give Bruce Arena respect for fielding a full strength Red Bull side, while his adversary Frank Yallop put out a B-team that should have lost the match. Perhaps Yallop was looking to give his team a breather during the summer by bowing out of Open Cup play early. The fact that a MLS B team held a team of starters with two Designated Players (DP) to a draw in regulation, speaks volumes about the quality of the league and the depth that LA has quietly built.

MLS Prediction Central:
Season Record thru yesterday (8-13)
Last Week (2-4)

Saturday –
Chicago at Toronto – The Fire recover from their NE loss to down the expansion team. The atmosphere again delivers as 200+ Fire fans, egg on the Canucks. Mass beer drinking ensues.

Chivas at Crew – Chivas’ road odyssey takes another bad turn and the Crew tops the Californians.

FC Dallas at Wizards – KC delivers another masterpiece and rewards my buddy Joel for bringing his family out for the evening.

Revolution at Galaxy – Revolution top a dead and depleted tired Galaxy side.

Sunday –
Colorado at RBNY – The Rapids draw the Flagship, who are still trying to catch their breath from the Open Cup fixture.

The Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis

No comments: