Wednesday, June 27, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update – 06/27/07

MLS Week 12 – Parity and Clarity
KC vs. Crew –KC was missing EJ, but still had a team more than capable of producing results. What KC didn’t have was an answer for Guillermo Barros Schelotto. The midfield maestro, sprayed passed throughout the pitch and assisted on the game winner. The happy fans were stuffed with dollar brats and the Crew responded in kind by stuffing KC’s still potent attack until late in the game yielding a late goal to KC runner-up funnyman Jack Jewsbury. Wil Hesmer replaced Andy Gruenebaum in the Crew nets and made Sigi look smart for the first time in months.
MOTM: Guillermo Barros Schelotto

Chivas USA vs. Dynamo – Every week for the last month on Glenn Davis’ tremendous Dynamo Power Hour, the topic of “who will step into the Gold Cup void” was brought up. Houston was arguably the hardest hit squad by the call-ups and needed a knight! That man was Brad Davis as he torched the Dynamo’s rivals for a hat trick. A good crowd was on hand despite the terrible scheduling of the match opposite the Gold Cup semi-finals.
MOTM: Brad Davis

UFC vs. Revs – With Toronto fresh off a tremendous thumping of Dallas and the gutted Revs looking shaky versus the lowly Crew, you’d think UFC would finally put the smack down on the road. Wrong! Kevin Goldthwaite gifted a goal to Andy Dorman early on and the Revs never looked back. The next two Rev’s goals were things of beauty as Noonan’s flick to the far post beat UFC keeper Srdjan Djekanovic. The third and final Revs goal was a marvel of team passing (and UFC) ball watching. Ronnie O’Brien fired some blistering shots on goal, but failed to put any past the formidable Matt Reis.
MOTM: Andy Dorman

Hoops vs. Rapids – Didn’t catch too much of this one, because I had to watch one of the most over hyped fights since DeLaHoya vs. Mayweather. That Juan Toja always seems to be in the right place doesn’t he? Dallas gets Richetti back and pitches another shutout. Now if only Morrow could find some consistency in this squad.
MOTM: No position to judge

United vs. RSL – OK, how many of you though that the MLS website was wrong when you saw this score? Kreis is looking like a genius for the moment, and really hasn’t done all that poorly since he took over the reigns at RSL. Robbie Findlay goes for the brace and shows some finishing variety from distance. On nearly identically set-ups, Findlay put one in the far post and one in the near post past ex-RSL keeper Jay Nolly. Whodathunk it that RSL’s first win of the season would come without Adu, Klein, Kreis or Cunningham. Despite the shutout, Kreis will need Nathan Sturgis to play a huge role in this team to get them back in the playoff race.
MOTM: Robbie Findlay

Crew vs. Galaxy – Speaking of Lazarus-like skeelz! Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you your resurgent Columbus Crew! Vying for team of the month right now, the Crew looks reborn! It is almost as if Guillermo took the team in to the locker room and explained to them exactly where and how he expects everybody to play. He is the unquestioned driving force of this team. This match had some interesting footnotes in it as it featured a first half red card, two unsuccessful penalty kicks, and two goals by a undermanned team. Frank Yallop’s seat might be getting a little hot as we all know Alexi has fired coaches for far less.
MOTM: Wil Hesmer

Dynamo vs. KC – A steamy afternoon leads to a blistering finish! Patrick Ianni’s first in MLS is one to remember as his header beats Hartman & Co. to the near post to take three in KC.
MOTM: Patrick Ianni

Last week, the Chicago FIRE unceremoniously dumped embattled coach Dave Sarachan following the FIRE recording only one win in the last eight matches. This streak came on the heels of the best start in franchise history. Saddled with injuries and national team call-ups an inexperienced FIRE squad’s 3-1 loss turned into Sarachan’s last game at the helm. The firing immediately drew criticism from FIRE captain Chris Armas, who felt the firing was poorly timed and not warranted based on the available player obstacles that Sarachan faced over the last month. Like most player and organization moves under the dark tenure of John Guppy, you can file this one into the PR cabinet as well. FIRE fans have been looking for the head of Sarachan for the past three years. Guppy saw his opportunity to raise his stock amongst the FIRE faithful and made a rash decision. Sarachan, not even a year removed from a US Open Cup championship deserved better. There were plenty of times over his tenure that would have warranted an ax, but this was not one of them. Look for Guppy to further pander to Chicago’s Mexican community by naming a bi-lingual and likely Latino coach based on comments he made to the Tribune’s Luis Arroyave.

Rumor around the bigsoccer board (via Shep Messing comments), is that the FIRE are to be sold. No word on who the suitor is just yet, but any team name/color change would be a disaster for already dwindling FIRE fan base. In the span of five years, AEG and MLS could betray almost all the fans upon who’s backs and dollars this formerly proud franchise was built.

Kreis Continues to Clean RSL’s Camp
RSL dealt starter Chris Klein to the Gals for Findlay and Nathan Sturgis. Ironically it was Buddle’s arrival in LA that made Findlay expendable. Buddle only arrived in LA after UFC secured Jeff Cunningham from RSL. Dizzy yet? This is a really great pick-up for the Wasatch Brigade. Both Findlay and Sturgis have shown an ability to compete at the MLS level, so from that perspective they are not much of a gamble. Sturgis can solidify the massive backline crater that is the Jack Stewart-Daniel Torres mess and learn from the retiring Eddie Pope. (Please believe me that I wrote these comments prior to Findlay’s brace against United) Amazing that July is not even here and Jeff Cunningham, Chris Klein and Jason Kreis are no longer RSL players. Eddie Pope will be gone at the end of the year. Let’s hope that the RSL scouting staff has been working overtime because RSL has a ton of cap space. The Klein trade is interesting from LA’s perspective. Aren’t they supposed to be getting a fairly decent right sided midfielder soon? Hmm… which leads us right into the weekly….

Quaranta heads back East
With Santino Quaranta clearly not in Frank Yallop’s plans, the Galaxy dealt the one-time player of the future for the US for a second Superdraft Pick. Quaranta should find more success in KC with its dynamic attack and will provide some much needed depth on the Wizards thin bench. Almost as importantly, Quaranta will easily have the best hair on the team, a position he lost recently in LA even before the addition of David Beckham, thanks to defender Abel Xavier.

UFC Transaction of the Week
As rumored for the past three years, Mo finally inked former Dundee United striker Collin Samuel. The T&T striker is only 25 and could be the long awaited heir to Stern John’s MLS throne.

Beckham Update
The man himself kept a very low profile this week, but there was some news surrounding him this week. Addias is kicking off their “Futbol vs. Football” ad campaign in the US this week featuring Becks and Reggie Bush swapping gear. DC United announced that they expect the LA Galaxy match to be a sellout at RFK. (Garber smiles) And most importantly, rumors are circulating that Beckham will see his first MLS action at the All-Star game, which is just as fitting as a glorified friendly against Chelsea.

Copa Oro – Round-up
Didn’t everything just stay the same until Sunday? Thursdays Gold Cup semi-finals witnessed underwhelming performances from the regional giants, USA and Mexico. The refereeing continued to be controversial with a line judge whistling a late Canadian equalizer off sides, when replays showed, it clearly was not. The call incensed the (for the moment) pro-Canadian crowd, and drew the expected Mexican fan beer tossing. At $7 a pop, those are some expensive missiles! At the end of the action Thursday, the matchup everyone (and seemingly both teams) was waiting for materialized: USA vs. Mexico for the Gold Cup. Come Sunday, Soldier Field became Azteca Norte. Despite the overwhelming majority of Mexican Fans, the American has a decent turn out of fans. All of which had to know what they would be walking into. Let’s face it, USA vs. Mexico in Chicago is not a family event. The drama of the match and the high temperatures produced as much sweating in the stands as there was on the pitch. The Americans and Mexicans shed their poor form and broke out their A-game for this Final which was a Classic(o). Both teams left everything on the pitch and played a classy game of football. The game was a coming out party for young players on both sides of the ball. The Mexican youth struck first with Nery Castillo torching the clumsy Gooch to cross to a wide open Andres Guardado at the back post. Buoyed by the insertion of Ricardo Clark for the volatile and already yellow carded Pablo Mastroeni, the Americans took the game to El Tri in the second half. An underrated pass from Jonathan Spector to Brian Ching and Ching’s subsequent sublime turn led to him being taken down in the box by the Mexican defender. Surrounded by 60,000 of his biggest detractor (supporting both teams), Landon Donovan calmly slotted home the PK to equalize. The Copa was settled on a world class strike from a rising force on the American team. Rafa Marquez cleared a corner to the top of the box, but before it reached the ground Benny Feilhaber volleyed the ball into the far netting, setting of wild celebration amongst the vast minority of USA fans. So confident that their work was done, the US muffed two easy scoring chances hitting the post and crossbar respectively. The US had to rely on a point blank save from Tim Howard on Bofo Bautista to preserve the win and retain the massive Copa Oro.

Major Annoyance
As classless as some of the Mexican fan chants and behavior could be (flying beers and nachos anyone?), it was matched by the cluelessness of some of the American fans I bumped into this extended weekend. Most seemed to have built their entire pedigree on top of being in Germany last summer or owning a Man U scarf. Many of those occasionally rooting for the Americans showed up in every jersey in the world except a US jersey or even MLS jerseys. That would be heresy for the true euro-snob contingent. Regardless of their performance on the field, every Euro-based player was “spectacular”, while Donovan and Hedjuk “totally sucked”. Gooch was a “beast” despite getting toasted over and over, while repeatedly forgetting his field position. After getting beaten by DeRo on a free kick (only to have his ass saved by the post) then covering a ball that could have been blown his way by the wind, rather than shot, Shakey Kasey Keller, was showered with name chants from these buffoons. I guess when you are only used to watching pro soccer on TV, you have no idea what to root for when you are at the games in person. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for every US fan that walked into the steamy cauldron of Solider Field this past week. I just wish some of them would wake up to what it takes to truly support your national side and start following all the national team players regardless of what side of the pond they ply their club trade.. The majority of Mexican fans in attendance issued a pretty good lesson in fan support.

A quick comment on Sam’s Army:
These patriots are really up against it because of:
Infrequency of US games (particularly in Chicago)
The breeding of US Sports Fans (sit on hands until prompted by scoreboards or organ.) Great shots of the stands on Sunday with all the US fans sitting in the first few rows and the legion of Mexicans standing behind them.
Aversion to singing by US Sports fans.
Lack of organization.
Geographic inconsistency of games.
Lack of understanding by stadium personnel about cheering/supporting soccer teams. (Flags good, etc.)
These things being said, it is NO excuse for Sam’s Army not singing and chanting all game long. There are normally very long breaks between chants/songs from this group. Can’t Sam’s Army collude with the local team fan bases (at least in Chicago, Houston and DC) and get some folks in there that know how to lead cheers for 90+ minutes straight?

My All Oro Squad:
Franck Grandel (Guadeloupe)

Richard Hastings (Canada)
Carlos Salcido (Mexico)
Samuel Cabellero (Honduras)
Carlos Bocanegra (USA)

Benny Feilhaber (USA)
Juan DeGuzman (Canada)
Pavel Pardo (Mexico)
Landon Donovan (USA)

Nery Castillo (Mexico)
Carlos Pavon (Honduras)

Copa America
Sadly, if you are reading this you know that Team USA that landed in Venezuela is not exactly the A-team. I’m not sure if it is even the C team! BB the King is sticking to his plan of using Copa as a blooding (or blood letting) for the yutes in the pool. I think some hope is there given the experience available up the middle from Kasey Keller, to Jimmy Conrad to Ben Olsen. Up top, a Johnson/Twellman front can be dangerous, but the likes of Justin Mapp, Feilhaber, Rico Clark and Eddie Gaven are going to have to figure out ways to get the ball to these strikers. The though of which makes me shudder. Just read it again. We are depending on two of the biggest question marks in MLS history, in Mapp and Gaven, to unlock the likes of Argentina, Paraguay and Columbia. Jay Demerit will also get every opportunity to prove his worth after spending most of his time on the Gold Cup bench.

During the opening round, Jamie Moreno acquitted himself well, by setting up an own-goal. Moreno drove into the Venezuelan box, juked a defender and fired a shot toward the back post, which was redirected into the net by another defender. In fairness, a goal likely would have been regardless, because another Bolivian player was charging the backpost and would have tapped in the Moreno ball.

MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (0-6)
(NOTE: If you ever want to make a tremendous ass of yourself, just try predicting MLS matches. What happens when we fall of the horse?)
SEASON (23-42)

Colorado vs. United – United will be looking to rebound from their disappointment in Salt Lake and should be able to manage versus a limp Colorado attack.

Dynamo vs. Dallas – El Capitan is at stake again and the Dynamo are primed to disappoint the home crowd.

Flagship vs. Crew – Ok, I’m going to make a mistake again, but I’ll take a draw in this Eastern Conference showdown.

Revs vs. Chivas – The Revs manage a draw in a Copa America depleted match up.

Rapids vs. FIRE – FIRE finally get another win as a road weary Rapids can’t keep pace with the FIRE youngsters.

UFC vs. Wizards- Off the top corner, its UFC with a draw in Cowtown. The slumping Wizards start praying for an early end to the Americans Copa America adventure.

The Soccer/Dynamo Power Hour
(NOTE: If you know a Podcast that needs to be added please let me know and post a link.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update – 06/20/07

MLS Week 11 – All Hands on Deck
kFCD vs. RSL – Classic RSL late game flop with Jack Stewart gifting a late goal to Dominic Oduro. Stewart and Daniel Torres are clearly not MLS quality defenders and cost their team at least two points this week with some horrible play. More on Torres later.
MOTM: Nick Rimando – again Rimando did everything he could to get a result for his team, but by the 90th minute, Stewart had had enough of the scoreless thing and decided to break the deadlock.

Revs vs. Crew – Too much overlap this weekend for me to catch all the games and this one that I didn’t get to see. A massive result for the struggling Crew as the manage a tie against a threadbare Revolution side. The development of Adam Christman has to be a pleasant surprise for the Revs as he staked out a spot in the Rookie of the Year race with two goals.
MOTM: No position to judge.

FIRE vs. United – Thanks to the efforts of the junk heap erector set that is the CTA, by the time I walked into The Globe Pub the FIRE had already given up two goals and didn’t show any sign of life by the half. The sides traded goals in the second half and Jerson Monteiro netted his first MLS goal as a consolation for FIRE fans who went out of their way to catch the HDnet broadcast. The story of the night had to be DC crisp passing that kept the FIRE defense chasing the ball all match. Luciano Emilio was clinical and the FIRE didn’t find any answers in their new line-up.
MOTM: Luciano Emilio – Two goals and some Blanco taunting in front of the big crowd. The Brazilian is rounding back into his CONCACAF Gold Cup form.

KC vs. The Flagship –You have to wonder why Juan Pablo Angel was not called into the Copa America squad. The guy scores goal after goal after goal. He is now the Flagship’s record holder with goals in six straight games. His first came over the top of Jimmy Conrad, who is a world class defender. Now, I know there could be some backlash because of his reserve status at Aston Villa then his mega-star performance on this side of the pond, but it sure is fun watching him. This story here has to be KC’s ability to get a draw on the road in tough circumstances. Down two goals, without Eddie Johnson, not problem. The Flagship needed some a late PK to get the draw in their house. This games also spoke volumes about the depth of the league. Quite a bit has been made about teams being gutted with call-ups, but you still had Cletus, Captain America, Conrad, Zavagnin, Angel and Watterus out on the pitch for a nice (by NY soccer standards) crowd.
MOTM: Yura Movsisyan – Two goals in ten minutes to push KC into the lead as a substitute.

Rapids vs. Chivas USA – Maykel Galindo keeps his name in the MVP race with a goal, while the American Goats received a little help from Terry Cooke who crossed it into his own net. El Guzano posted another shutout and the fast rising Goats walk away with the three points.
MOTM: No position to judge.

kFCD vs. UFC – A record MLS crowd turned out at the madhouse on the lake Sunday afternoon to see UFC off in grand style. (Might BMO Field be MLS’ first with South American style fences between the fans and the pitch?) The number one draft pick Maurice Edu finished off a wild scramble in the box 22nd while Danny Dichio scored his team leading fourth three minutes later. The Hoops looked out of gas from the beginning (after playing on Thursday) and missing defensive wiz Pablo Richetti due to suspension only worsened Dallas’ problems. UFC added two more in the second half to convincingly crush the Hoops before their six week road odyssey begins. On that trip the pretender or contender question will be answered. They might have to do without Dichio for most of that trip as he left the match injured, early in the second half.
MOTM: Maurice Edu – right place, right time all afternoon.

RSL vs. Galaxy –
Copa Oro:
Who had two?
Whoever picked two as the Cuban defection total wins a prize! Lester More and Osvaldo Alonso ditched the team prior to their 5-0 throttling at the feet of Honduras.

Five Topics Being Addressed at Soldier Field this Week
1. Redemption – El Tri comes to the Gold Cup semi-finals this week playing poor than have at any point in the last decade. The Mexico that took Argentina to the brink of elimination at World Cup is a distant memory. This is not to say that the caliber of the players is any lower than last summer, arguably, this team should be strong supplemented by a few names such as Nery Castillo and the unpredictable, but passionate Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Like the United States, anything other than a Gold Cup victory would be unacceptable. Mexico will have an overwhelming home field advantage not matter who they play in Chicago, but have more than their problems scoring against the US to contend with this week.

2. For Real? – Ladies and Gentlemen of the soccer world, may I introduce to you Guadeloupe. This tiny French dominion has shocked everyone paying attention to Gold Cup buy knocking off Canada and red-hot Honduras to book their tickets to Chicago. This is not a team that will be intimidated by the pro-Mexican crowd and will provide a stern test to the struggling El Tri.

3. Ready for Prime Time? – After years of headscratchingly poor performances, Canada is turning this Gold Cup into their coming out party. Lead by a midfield as strong as any in the tournament and strong goalkeeping from Pat Onstad, Canada shredded Guatemala 3-0 en route to the windy city. Canada’s second goal would have torched any defense in the world and offered a glimpse of what the true level of talent lies just to our north. Canada vs. US will be an epic battle that will provide the victor the confidence and experience necessary to take the Cup.

4. Domination – Can the US, who has looked solid, but not spectacular throughout the tournament, stamp itself the team to beat in CONCACAF. This trophy would be a definitive statement capping a ten year change of leadership in the region. Despite Mexican, claims to the contrary, US has done everything, but make it official that they are el mas macho. Everything is in place for this team to claim their second consecutive Gold Cup title. The Americans will be playing on US soil with the deepest roster in team history. A few things that can unravel the Americans would be Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan. Onyewu has looks pedestrian to just plain bad throughout the tournament. Since his breakout in the 2005 Gold Cup, Gooch had slowly eroded his position in the squad. This card attracting play burned the US in World Cup and would have hurt in this tournament had the US been playing a side that could take advantage of his missteps. Luckily, Panama was down a man and had three key players suspended when Gooch’s failure to take charge of a situation led to the only goal surrendered by the Americans. The coach’s son has not had a good tournament. Apparently, Jamie Trecker and I are the only people to see this since his performances have been nearly universally praised. For me, his poor passing and chasing do not trump Ricardo Clark’s experience and poise. He just doesn’t seem to have that bite that Rico does. It’s not to say that it won’t develop in time, but this is not the stage for him to hone his skills any further.

5. Competency – The refereeing in this tournament has been an absolute joke. From frequent phantom offside calls to the mass red carding of Mexican opponents, the CONCACAF referees have lent credence to FIFA’s decision last summer to limit their participation in World Cup to one. The red cards against Mexican opponents Panama and Costa Rica led to cries from their coaches of match fixing (in so many words). Panama was still rattled when they played the US on Saturday and contested every foul and card that went against them. The US team was nearly reduced to bystander as the battle between the Panamaniacs and the refereeing crew raged on. Although some American shins and ankles might disagree with that as they were caught in the crossfire a number of times.

Good to See
Arguably the most dangerous player in Gold Cup is headed to the LA Galaxy. Carlos Pavon has said that he is transferring to the Galaxy for the remainder of the season. Suddenly the doormats will look like world beaters upon the return of Gold Cup players, the addition of, Abel Xavier, Pavon and the impending arrival of the subdued Englishman nicknamed Becks.

The Unthinkable: UFC Trades a Striker
Always afraid to let the hinges on his door cool down for a second, Mo Johnston dispatched unproductive Edson Buddle to La-La land for veteran Tyrone Marshall. Marshall arrives after being handed a 3 game ban for this reckless, leg-breaking tackle on Kenny Cooper. The motivation for obtaining Marshall is clear on UFC’s side: Pick up a veteran MLS back to help the inexperienced defense. The Galaxy’s motivation for this trade is a little more difficult to understand. Marshall was the stalwart of the Galaxy back line, and if there was ever a time that his club needed him, it was now. His departure, was more or less a white flag for Yallop until the concurrent arrival of Abel Xavier and the return of his estranged Gold Cup players. I’m not sure of Yallop’s policy or reaction to Marshall’s last moment on the pitch for the Galaxy, but that might have been a final straw. The Buddle equation is clear as, but yet another travel into reclamation land for Buddle, is closing in on the Jeff Cunningham jersey collection statistics. The only difference is that Buddle rarely has to change his number like Jeff. On a serious note, a front trio of Nate Jaqua, Buddle and Landon Donovan looks great on paper, but it also looks like it can take five years off Riot Squad members lives!

Beckham Update
We can’t go a week without this can we? Depending on which paper you read, Becks either had a Hollywood ending at Madrid or he didn’t. He did because he is heading to the Gals with a Spanish league title medal around his neck. He didn’t because both of Real Madrid’s goals came with him off the pitch. The world’s comeback player of the year ironically hobbled off the pitch prior to the conclusion of the match due a nagging his ankle problem. Again he watched from the sideline in tears as his team played on without him, except contrary to last summer, the tears were of joy. TomKat and Posh were in attendance and seemed to be having a good time. Phil Schoen’s mention of them sent Ray Hudson into such a tizzy, that they might have had to call the remainder game in separate rooms. The post match celebration saw him carrying his three “Daddy” jersey wearing sons onto the pitch to some of the loudest applause every heard at the Santiago Bernabeau. The celebration itself was a sight to behold as it looked more like an Olympic opening ceremony, that the last gasp surprise it turned out to be. Now nothing separates Beckham from MLS. Will anything be the same? Certainly not for LA players, but it says here that the Beckham addition will be like anything else with the league since the hiring of Don Garber; another step in the right direction. Then again, this staircase has had rather uneven steps over the years hasn’t it? It could also be argued that Beckham has already changed the face of MLS since the league may not have Richetti, Carlos Marinelli, Able Xavier, Guillermo Schilloto, Carl Robinson, Blanco, Angel or Pavon without him.

With La Liga behind Becks, the foreign press corps have now taken the gloves off for a new round of jabs and speculation about MLS’ quality. Which sent Alexi Lalas in to a global headline making assault on the EPL. While most of his comments were ill advised to foolish, his latest tirade was welcome by those of us who know the sun does not revolve around the EPL. On that note lets look at a letter I shot off to Paul Hayward who was about 4 months late in accusing MLS of being a lower tiered standard than the almighty EPL.


Your attempts to portray MLS as multiple levels down from the EPL are as laughable as they are misguided. You forget that MLS fans, like myself, have not only been exposed to MLS, but we have watched the Mexican league, La Liga, Bundesliga and the Argentinean league. Therefore, unlike the English we are adept to recognizing that there are multiple styles of play. Funny how every foreign player playing in the league, such as Carl Robinson and Juan Pablo Angel have had nothing, but good things to say about the quality of play. Now, I have no idea if Sunday’s 3-2 LA victory was your first MLS experience, certainly the play of the two bottom feeders are no greater representation of MLS than say a Wigan/Watford fixture from last season’s EPL campaign. Need I remind you how Chelsea fell 1-0 to an MLS all-star team last summer? Now, I know Chelsea was in pre-season, but they lost to a team that had never played together before! Fulham was demolished the previous summer under similar circumstances. Real Madid, Liverpool and a host of other clubs have arrived in the US expecting to steamroll the MLS competition, only to find that they had been misinformed about the quality of the league by press reports overseas. Of course, after avidly reading press reports from the UK since Beckham inked the Galaxy contract, it is apparent that global football knowledge is not a precursor for publication in the sport sections over in Jolly ol’.

Cheers is it?

MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (3-3)
SEASON (23-37)

KC vs. Crew – Buck a Brat? How many for Sigi? He’ll need something to do while his team get sent back to earth by hot KC.

Chivas USA vs. Dynamo – Chivas is tough on the road, but a rested Houston will manage a draw.

UFC vs. Revs – Look for road win #1 for Toronto here.

Hoops vs. Rapids – Rapids have shown that they are a tough nut to crack at home. Herculez puts the Rapids over the top.

United vs. RSL – RSL isn’t going to right the ship against United. DC in a close one.

Crew vs. Galaxy – Galaxy looks like they might be on to something. Columbus’ match earlier in the week will take a toll on their defense and allow the Buddle/Jaqua connection a few.

Dynamo vs. KC – Wizards make six points this week by topping the Dynamo at home.

The Soccer/Dynamo Power Hour

(NOTE: If you know a Podcast that needs to be added please let me know and post a link.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update – 06/13/07

Quick note: My viewing of MLS matches was rather limited this weekend due to Gold Cup overlaps and the lack of TIVO and the attendance of a killer Roger Waters show.

MLS Week 10 – MIA

The Flagship v. UFC – It was very considerate of these teams to play anemic soccer until the late-arriving UFC crowd, and a flock of seagulls, got to the ground. Upon receiving notice that 85% of the sold-out crowd arrived Jeff Cunningham volleyed a cross into the roof of the net opening his UFC account in the process. All seemed to be going well until Juan Pablo Angel was put in a position where he could not be marked, behind a free kick. JPA blasted it over the wall and into the near post, leaving keeper Srdjan Djekanovic gaping like someone trying to pronounce is name for the first time. A minute later, a poor UFC clearance in the box flew in the general direction of JPA and a 2-1 Flagship lead ensued. The irony of all ironies occurred as Claudio Reyna played his best match of the year on Field Turf. UFC didn’t live up to its moniker during the match, however the fans contributed with a beer shower for JPA after his second goal, which resulted in a Flagship player tossing a cup back into the stands. Off the pitch was a different story as some pushing and shoving occurred in the tunnel between the two teams, but nothing that wasn’t “boys being boys” according to Il Bruce.
MOTM: JPA – The definition of a deadly striker. Certainly his skill level is well above that of the average MLS character, but could he really not cut it a Aston Villa? Probably in the same way that David Beckham was not cutting it at Real Madrid and with England. More and more I see that politics can play as much of a role in European football as skill does. I’m sure Cletus and Captain Landon would agree.

Rapids v. Dynamo – This poorly timed match occurred opposite of a US Gold Cup fixture, but you have to be impressed with the performance of the depleted champs.
MOTM: Stuart Holden for his spectacular late winner.

Chivas USA v. FIRE – I missed my first FIRE home game of the year to attend a spectacular Roger Waters concert. I did tape the game and attempt to watch it beginning at 3AM Sunday morning. I passed out during the match…no problem. Except that I woke up at the 90th minute very disappointed. Another great MLS crowd was largely unrewarded as the FIRE failed to find the net again. Chivas’ consistently excellent passing led to the only goal of the match, late in the game by Pablo Nagamura.
MOTM: Nagamura gets it for scoring his first career MLS goal and for his strong defensive work in Chivas’ midfield.

Gals v. kFCD – I did not see a minute of this match. Kenny Cooper wishes he could say the same thing. Are Dallas players just magnets for leg breaking tackles?
MOTM: No position to judge.

The Flagship v. United – As much as us fans of other teams love to hate United’s feisty midfielder, you have to love seeing the guy go for the had trick. DC now has a top form Olsen, the South American front four are really starting to understand each other and they managed to put two goal on the Flagship a man down. Look out MLS! The pre-season predictions are starting to look less and less foolish.
MOTM: Benny Olsen

Dynamo v. Crew – This game took a back seat to the Gold Cup for me, so I didn’t see much, but both Joseph Ngwenya and Alejandro Moreno. The Champs seem to be back on track after grabbing
MOTM: No position to judge.

Copa Oro Surprises Rundown!
Guadeloupe – Minnows coming into the tournament, now have to be seen as a rising force in the region. With a number of current and former top flight players available to this side, their international experience and the composure that comes with it, helped them easily stand up to sides that supposedly outclassed them.

Panama – Their takedown of Honduras at Giants stadium shows that they will not be intimidated when they arrive at a pro-Mexican Reliant stadium on Wednesday.

Attendance – Gold Cup attendance has been reported up from the tournament two years ago and featured a massive crowd of 68,128 at Giants Stadium largely for the Honduras vs. Mexico match on Sunday.

Not So Much:
El Gigante ES Muerto? - Mexico has been very unimpressive at this tournament. After scraping by a shockingly strong Cuba, El Tri fell to Honduras thanks to an early second half red card that had FIRE written all over it. After trying with limited success in the first half, ex-FIRE defender Samuel Caballero finally got under the skin of Temo Blanco to the point where Blanco applied a significant elbow to Caballero’s chest. Sold well enough by the Honduran to get the attention of the side judge, Blanco was quickly shown the red card and escorted off the field in front of the massive Giants stadium crowd. Up until that point, Temo had been the hero of the Mexican side after converting a penalty kick in the first half.

US Form- While fielding a very experimental side against the T&T back-ups, the Americans’ also failed to impress with their droll victories against T&T and Guatemala. Taylor Twellman and Landon Donovan looked in top form, but uninspired play from DaMarcus Beasley, Gooch, and Kasey Keller are causes for concern. Justin Mapp continued to drift in and out of the game and Benny Feilhaber was unable to find the form he had displayed earlier against the likes of Ecuador and China. Gooch’s sloppy play in both of his matches has put him on the starting line-up chopping block, with DeMerit, Bocanegra, Conrad and even Spector able to step in for him. The US did rebound from their poor outing to wax El Salvador in Foxboro. This was a strong turnaround game for Beasley. Spector had a very strong outing as well. The rest of the side played up to snuff with the exception of Michael Bradley, who is inching closer and closer to being saddled with the weight of nepotism cries.

Haiti - It is back to the drawing board for the team expected to experience a break out Gold Cup this year. Despite its near home field advantage, Haiti looked sluggish and unorganized during their three matches.

Refereeing - As with our domestic league, the refereeing has been wildly inconsistent throughout the tournament, particularly on the flanks. With line judges frequently trailing plays and erring on the side of the defense, a number of promising attacks have been snuffed by offside flags. Get those judges on a diet so they can keep up with the plays!

Callups Affect more than MLS:
With a season and a cup on the line La Liga side Sevilla may be without two of its top players in Fredric Kanoute and Daniel Alves who have been called up by Mali and Brazil respectively.

“Washed up” Becks is England Savior
David Beckham’s man of the match performance against Estonia on Wednesday all but assures some major scheduling and ticketing headaches for MLS. After the Three Lions’ expected drubbing of an Estonia team that would have it’s hands full at the Gold Cup, our man Becks said "I will definitely be at the Euros, I believe I can carry on playing for a long time. The L.A. Galaxy will do everything possible to help me keep playing for my country." This statement was affirmed by former rock god, current Galaxy GM and rising UK sports tabloid star Alexi Lalas. "We consider it an incredible honor to have our players playing for their national team, and think it's a wonderful statement on David Beckham and the L.A. Galaxy," Lalas said to the AP.

Beckham – Winners and Losers
When the Gals signed Becks they knew they were buying a three ring circus , however with his resurgence in form that circus has expanded to seven rings and features a daily parade down main street. Who are the grand marshals of that parade and who is cleaning up the elephant dung?
Major League Soccer – It’s all over the papers these days. Everyone trying to measure the quality of our league. Is it Championship? Is it Conference? Is it Pub League? Well the only way to know is to watch. What is it? It’s not English style football. It’s not South American either. It is a still developing American style that is the blend of both. English dump and chase, but with back heels. South American bravado, but with structured defending. Carl Robinson who has experience in the EPL, Championship and MLS stated that the style of play in MLS is more like the international game. Since it does not resemble exactly what is seen in Europe or Mexico, it is deemed unworthy by those used to their own domestic game.
It is further though or assumed that the best American players are all in Europe. Landon Donovan, Eddie Johnson, Taylor Twellman might disagree with that. When Beckham arrives, he might not even be the hands down best player in the league thanks to great seasons by EJ and Juan Pablo Angel. Regardless, it says a lot about the league that the best English player on the earth will call MLS home. (Yes, he is currently better than Terry, Gerrard, Rooney and the lot of them.)

True MLS Believers (fans like us) – Vindication is right around the corner for us fans that have always believed in the league. We’ve know that the quality on the pitch is far greater than the jeering folks from overseas (who haven’t witnessed a match) or the American writers who question the word “major” (who wouldn’t know football quality if it smacked them in the face). Heck, even Jamie Trecker grudgingly admitted that this season the level of football in MLS is quite high. Let’s quote double down Trent: “Our little baby’s all growns up.”

Alexi Lalas – I’m not sure if media whore is the right word, but Lalas has become Paris Hilton level tabloid fodder for papers world wide. They can even use the name “Lalas” in a headline ov’r there without explaining who he is. Isn’t this why he wanted to be a rockstar?

MLS Players – As much as some of us felt that American players were being poached prior to this summer, we are really going to feel the pain during this winter transfer season. It will be fun hearing all the rumors of MLS players like Donovan, Maykel Galindo and Dane Richards headed over the EPL to save some relegation pegged side or another. It won’t be fun when some of those players do leave our league. The increased quality of MLS will help all players develop their game and their pocketbooks.

New/Potential American Soccer Fans – You know these people at games. You have to explain the offside rule to them every time the whistle blows. They all bought tickets to the Beckham match in their home town. They probably were also roped into buy tickets to another game for that purpose. Then they read the future Sir Becks will not be showing up in their hometown! Outrage! Scandal! Call the Mayor! The ticketing situation is going to be a major league headache for MLS sides hit by Beckham’s international date conflict.

Steve McClerran – Wouldn’t it be great if he just came out and admitted that his original decision to exclude Becks from the squad had nothing to do with there being better players available. (see Aaron Lennon below). I certainly questioned some of Bruce Arena’s call-ups (or lack thereof), but how can any fan of Her Majesty’s team have any confidence in their manager selecting the best players? How can they be assured that the manager isn’t trying to send political messages with his selection. A vote of no confidence is in order for McClerran.

The English – I just love seeing their little football world being shattered. The whole of the isle is beginning to wake up to the realities of a global sport where the US is now a player. The EPL is largely comprised of non-domestic players, their icon is playing in the US and they’ve been reduced to sweating out games against Estonia. Let’s face it, England will always be vastly overrated and the depth of the current pool of English players is that of a kiddie pool.

Aaron Lennon – The future is when? The heir to his Beckness’ throne has just been defrauded. Lennons long term promise may still be there, but Beck’s resurgence has highlighted Lennons shortcomings on the right.

Posh – What she thought was going to be a Motley Crue level light show trained solely on her LA touchdown is turning into an isolation spotlight. Unfortunately, this may open the door for her to seek religion. Look! It’s Tom and Katie at the front door with a welcome basket complete with a copy of Dianetics!

Blueprint for Establishing A Soccer Bar
As avid readers know, I am working hard to establish Manhattan’s as Chicago’s Downtown Soccer Bar of choice for MLS fans. Here is a letter/e-mail that I composed that might help you get the ball rolling in your area:

I am writing to gauge your interest in hosting viewing parties for [LOCAL TEAM] road games. In addition to providing a needed service to [LOCAL TEAM] fans in our growing area, you will be able to attract new customers to your establishment. Certainly, soccer fans’ craving for drinks and appetizers is well known!

This opportunity will not cost your establishment a dime! While some [LOCAL TEAM] games are not televised locally at all, many are available exclusively on MLS DirectKick (the soccer equivalent of the NFL’s Sunday Ticket).While DirectKick does carry a cost, it is very small (establishment charge of $100) compared to that of the NFL package. This cost could be absorbed or defrayed by our group. The fact that your establishment carries this package can be advertised; free of charge, on many MLS fan sites on the internet, thus potentially drawing non-[LOCAL TEAM] fans to your business.

All our group would require is a single (1) television with sound for no more than two hours. One of the great things about soccer is that you can set your watch to games beginning and ending. We are open to being seated in a side room if one is available or in the main bar area.

Given that this is a new venture, I have no idea how many people will show up for a given game. The number of attendees will be highly dependent on the availability of the match. I would expect the games available on DirectKick to be more highly attended than those that are available on basic cable. Most likely, each game will attract between 5 to 20 people.

There are games available on basic cable on [GAME DATE AND TIME]. If you are interested in hosting these gatherings, please contact me at and we can discuss this proposal more in depth.

I look forward to hearing from you,


MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (3-3)
SEASON (20-34)

kFCD vs. RSL – Tying is what they do, so I’ll take a tie here.

FIRE vs. United – Moreno or no Moreno, United rolls over the fledgling FIRE.

KC vs. The Flagship – Without EJ in the mix, even with Wizards will struggle. More goals for Angel and another home win for the Arenas.

Rapids vs. Chivas USA – Chivas’ passing will continue to dazzle and will lead to another three points for Preki’s men.

kFCD vs. UFC – A rested Toronto FC will know the importance of a home win before hitting the road for a while. Take UFC!

RSL vs. Galaxy – I’ll take a tie here as well, which will not please the “sellout” crowd.

The Soccer/Dynamo Power Hour

(NOTE: If you know a Podcast that needs to be added please let me know and post a link.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update – 06/06/07

MLS Week 9 – This is a Journey
Toronto vs. Colorado – Great Crowd! European-like Atmosphere! (Just felt like torturing fans of the other twelve teams in the league.)
Man of the Match (MOTM): Bouna Condoul – Without Bouna-time between the posts, the Rapids would have been buried in goals. Great game in a losing effort for greater Denver’s number one dashiki wearer.

KC vs. The Flagship – Another lovely game at the old football stadium, lines and all! Seems like the crowd is on the rise in KC particularly the exponentially growing Cauldron. The RedBulls for their part gave the Kansas City fans a game that was a good summary of their season: early Juan Pablo Angel goal and an early Cletus ejection. The only thing out of sorts was the appearance of a RedBull player running around with Claudio Reyna’s jersey. EJ treated the RedBulls and the crowd to a summary of his performance last week: precision finishing.
MOTM: EJ of course. Man, I love playing through international match dates. Damn you economic and climate realities!

NE vs. RSL – Another MLS classic scenario! Season high crowd leads to anemic performance by MLS clubs. A crowd reminiscent of the Alexi Lalas, Foxboro glory days was on had expecting a trouncing of the reigning league doormat. Ninety minutes later, the score was the same and RSL gets out of town with a point.
MOTM: Nick Rimando – 13 saves. (That’s a period after the word saves.)

Gals vs. United – An injury and call-up riddled LA Galaxy somehow defused a flat DC United. The biggest disappointment was the performance of Landon Donovan prior to his departure to the Gold Cup team. Donovan’s terrible performance was capped by a sitter miss in the second half that just has to be buried. Nate Jaqua seemed to actually be playing soccer this week, but coach Frank Yallop failed to give Nate the Tall the coordinates of the opposing teams goal. This turned out to be bad news for fans as a $6.95 beer and $3.50 pack of Twizzlers were victim to Jaqua’s errant attempts at goal.
MOTM: Peter Vanegas – Shutting out a dangerous DC front four is no small feat, but Pete was all over the pitch and helped Cannon organize the patchwork back line all evening. He even had a chance to join in LA’s limited attack and started the most dangerous sequence of the evening.

Dynamo vs. kFCD – Ricardo Clark played a key role in all three of the goals scored, during this match, but bummer for him that one was Dallas’ opener in the 32nd minute converted by Abe Thompson following a bad giveaway by Clark. Rico more than made amends for his mistake with a goal and an assist early in the second half to put Houston ahead of their intra-state rivals for good.
MOTM: In no position to judge since I was tailgating at Toyota Park and didn’t see the match.

FIRE vs. Crew – For a match with seven yellow card and two red cards, the game never really seemed nasty or out of control. I guess that is a sign of good refereeing. Although Calen Carr’s two foot dive at the feet of a defender an the end of the match went unpunished by Mark Gieger.
MOTM: Frankie Hedjuk – Yes, I’m naming a defender on the wrong side of a 3-2 match the man of the match. Hedjuk was a demon all evening on the right flank and created many problems for the Chicago defense. It was good to see his tireless work rate back in full display after a number in injury riddled seasons.

Is there anything more satisfying than a win that leads to calls for the ouster of the opposing teams coach? Granted, following a 1-0 loss to Thailand, China’s coach, Zhu Guanghu, was already on the hot seat, but the temperature of that seat was turned up another 100 degrees following the 4-1 trashing at the hands of the Red, White and Blue. Enough about China, the real story here was the overall performance of our boys. The US looked great after China’s goal, which resulted in large part from some very confused defending by the US and a competent finish from the Chinese. After that moment it was all US. The depth and overall quality of the players in the pool has to be viewed as amongst the deepest and strongest in the history of our country. Another positive is that no longer interim BB the King is not saddled with any unexpected and problem occurrences like headlines that read “Breakout Performance from Jesse Marsh!” On to Gold Cup we go and Guatemala awaits. The measuring stick is a finals appearance. Any draw in the first three matches of Gold Cup would be considered a setback for our national team.

Quick Media Note:
Beginning tonight, a wild six weeks of international tournaments with US involvement begin and the US sports media is not turning a blind eye to it! It was very heartwarming to see extensive articles on Gold Cup from every media outlet where the action is taking place (including the quarters and finals). The soccer wires were abuzz with great articles reminding even us most ardent football maniacs that this tournament has a building history and that the teams playing have stories behind them. Surely, the availability of all the matches on English language TV (for the first time?) doesn’t hurt.

Debate of the Week: Is MLS Beckham Worthy?
With the unexpected (unless you read my blog frequently) resurgence of English and Real Madrid dead weight that was David Beckham, pundits around the world (and even two in the US) are weighing in the ability of MLS be able to support a high level of match fitness for Beckham. With the Gals current terrible form, Beckham will be entering a team where wins are just as important as they are in any league in the world. As US Soccer fans, we know fitness will not be a question. MLS is a very difficult league to play in from a fitness perspective given the weather and travel demands on the MLS player. After all another one time English demi-god Gazza (who Becks was compared to when he signed with Galaxy) couldn’t even hack it with the United reserves and many former top-flight players like Steve Guppy or Peter Canero and even Lothar Assheus and Luisia Hernandez could not adjust to league for just that reason. Let’s see what the “experts” are saying Becks and the League:

Rangers Boss Walter Smith to "I don't think there's any doubt about that. I think the one thing that there'll be at LA Galaxy is that they have a great level of fitness and the American lads who play will never be short of that. They all had decent pace and were all very fit. It's like every other league. Regardless of the level of play that you come in at, you won't get an easy ride when you come into it.”

RedBulls Juan Pablo Angel to The New York Times: “''Honestly, I did not expect the league to be so good. This is a very tough league to play in. It's physical. It's fast. And it looks like the teams are pretty even, which makes it more competitive because in Europe most leagues only have a few top teams.''

Former England Boss Glenn Hoddle to Daily Express: “"In my day when you hit the 30 mark people started saying your international career may be over, but the way they train now their fitness levels are so much better. David is a fit young man and one thing he has never relied upon is blistering pace, so he will be able to play until he is 38 or 39 if he wants to. I see no reason why he can't keep playing for a long time."

Former England Captain Alan Shearer from Western Daily Press: "I don't know if David is regretting going to Los Angeles Galaxy. But he's better than that standard, without a shadow of a doubt.”

Former England Captain Ray Wilkins to the Evening Standard: “It will be difficult for him to stay in the England side once he moves to the States as the standard of the MLS is far below La Liga and the Premiership. If his fitness levels stay the same he would have a chance but he will find it difficult to maintain those. Football in America is on the up but it will always be difficult because it is not the number one sport there. In fact it is not even in the top four.”

(Note: Something in common between Alan and Ray: never played vs. MLS competition.)

The Final Word:
Former England Captain David Beckham to the AP: "The move to LA will not have any adverse effect on me. Physically I will be fine and as good as I was against Brazil. Traveling is not going to be a problem because I would travel from anywhere to play for my country."

Blogwriter Soccer Biz Mark to this Blog: “I’ve always felt that a players call-up should depend on their current form. Steve McClerran finally recognized this two weeks ago. Fabio Capello realized this three months ago. MLS will provide to Becks all the challenges he sought and then some.”

MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (2-4)
SEASON (17-31)
The Flagship v. UFC – The Flagship zooms in and takes three points, despite a full fledged wrestling match between Dichio and Dema.

Rapids v. Dynamo – Dynamo are going to have a tough time without their stars, while the Rapids have a number of hungry forwards. Rapids take the three.

Chivas USA v. FIRE – Chivas’ passing and speed and road fan support will confound the FIRE at times, but the home side should be able to manage a draw. Fans in attendance will be reminded about Blanco’s pending arrival every 5 minutes.

Gals v. kFCD – Dallas grabs the three and the home fans go home happy. kFCD is dominant in the midfield and Kenny Cooper begins a mid year resurgence.

The Flagship v. United – United at RFK is just a buzzsaw and bruised Flagship can’t hold together in a showcase shootout.

Dynamo v. Crew – Another team that was disappointed last week, the Crew, tear into the depleted and tired Dynamo and finally notch another win.

The Dynamo Power Hour with Glenn Davis
Does anyone know where Glenn Davis gets his attendance figures? Every week he is off of the MLS reported statistics by 2-3k. Up and down!

(NOTE: If you know a Podcast that needs to be added please let me know and post a link.)