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.)

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