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 xxx.xxx.xxxx and we can discuss this proposal more in depth.
I look forward to hearing from you,
[YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFO]
MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (3-3)
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.)