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.)

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