Tuesday, July 10, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update – 07/10/07

MLS Week 14 – Fireworks
D.C. United at Kansas City Wizards – There are few sure things in life, but the Wizards will be at the airport to greet the return of Eddie Johnson. Much like the USA’s Copa America effort, the Wizards have had a great deal of difficulty finding the back of the net. You can blame it on some spectacular keeping in the last two matches, but too often they are holding onto the ball far too long and getting dispossessed. The chief culprit of this is Yura Movsisyian who is quite adept that putting himself in great attacking positions, but rarely has a clue about what to do from there except shoot in the direction of the net. Some crisper passing and better awareness of his teammates might have nailed down a starting spot for him once EJ returns. The Wizards attack is so potent that regardless of the caliber of defense in front of them, they will get looks at the goal. It is no surprise that the mid-week addition of Greg Vanney for Facundo Erpen had a lot to do with United’s poise in back. If Erpen had been back there he would have made at least one typically foolish error against the swarming Wizard offense.
MOTM: Troy Perkins - showed the form that won him the MLS goalkeeper of the year award last season and commanded the area giving him a rare clean sheet.

Chivas USA at FC Dallas – Chivas USA looked a bit slow all match and didn’t get the type of performance out of Maykel Galindo that Goats fans wanted. Laurent Merlin had a great game, but failed to convert his chances. Also, Chivas USA fans were conspicuously absent from the PHP, at least they weren’t show on TV at all. Dallas put forth an effort strong enough to top the visitors, and applied some icing late in the game.
MOTM: Ramon Nunez – for what surely should have been the goal of the week. His twenty yard blast left Preston Burpo a spectator.

Columbus Crew at Colorado Rapids – Due to the overlap in matches on DirectKick, I wasn’t able to bear witness to much of this match, however I think both sides privately will be happy with this result. The exponentially improving Crew are still not solid enough to expect a point on the road, while the depleted Rapids, just need to prevent losses until Beckerman and Gomez return from Venezuela.
MOTM: No Position to Judge

UFC at Real Salt Lake – When Robbie Findlay’s sixth minute shot dinged off the post, RSL fans though it might be a night to remember. Jeff Cunningham made them remember ten minutes later, when he converted an opportunity nearly identical to Findlays. Esky added a PK for the home side before the half, but RSL conceded yet another late goal and fell again at home. Sadly, UFC’s wonder goalie Sam Reynold’s who was in the midst of another solid match
MOTM: Jeff Cunningham – under pressure to perform infront of his former fans, Cunningham’s gorgeous first half strike reminded the RSL faithful of a month ago.

FIRE at Los Angeles Galaxy – OK, the Fire did not deserve to win this match. Their forward movements could hardly be called attacks and their only two shots of the evening were generated by CJ Brown. However, the Galaxy didn’t deserve to win it either, but they still managed to walk out with three points. Due to the typically poor refereeing of Brian Hall who awarded TWO penalty kicks to the Galaxy on “fouls” that did not even warrant yellow cards. Both poor calls were spurred by the considerable thespian skills of Kyle Martino. The first came as he approached the box and felt Chris Armas’ had near his, immediately he spun around and went to ground. The second came as he drove in the box toward Ivan Guerrero. Before, Guerrero could even get a foot in, Martino was two flying through the air grabbing his ankle. Again Hall pointed to the spot, then awarded yellow cards to Thiago and Brown, when they questioned the appropriateness of the relationship between Hall and Martino, or something to that effect. Hall showed why no MLS ref deserved to be in World Cup last year. The only other items to take out of this match were Abel Xavier having his best MLS match, Jon Busch looking like the smartest pick-up of the John Guppy era and the FIRE defense solidifying.
MOTM: Kyle Martino – sure I think his play was disgusting, cynical and immature. He likely should have been sent off before the half, but when it comes down to it, his two flops that Hall bought led to an LA victory.

The Flagship at Houston Dynamo – Is this about the time the Red Bulls are supposed to look old? NewYork didn’t even show up for this match and got blow off the pitch by a short handed Dynamo. Without, Rico Clark or the injured Brad Davis and Eddie Robinson the Dynamo made it an easy day for Pat Onstad and held NY without a shot on goal. On a positive note, Claudio Reyna has played in ten games this year, shattering my predicted over/under by 6 games and counting.
MOTM: Stuart Holden – he’s stepped it up when the Dynamo have needed him and may have cemented his place in the starting eleven with a goal and two assists in this one.

Chivas USA at New England Revolution – El Emporador strikes early while Andy Dorman continues to answer his critics, and cementing his title as the most underpaid player in the league.
MOTM: Preston Burpo – His eight saves allowed the Northern Goats to leave with a point.

Real Salt Lake at Columbus Crew – OK, RSL fans. This is rock bottom. After a few encouraging games at home RSL goes to Columbus and completely implodes. While Freddy and Nathan Sturgis were covering themselves in glory, directly north, their club was showing in shame capped by an ugly tackle on Schelotto, by a clearly frustrated Esky. The fact is, beyond Eddie Pope, Andy Williams (when completely healthy) and Nick Rimando, RSL just doesn’t have many players that are ready to be full time starters in this league. Jean-Martial Kipre and Atiba Harris are complete roving disasters waiting to happen. Daniel Torres managed to make it through this game without a major error, but you have to believe that Sturgis will start immediately. Hopefully, Kaptain Kreis will take a coaching lesson from Thomas Rongren and play Freddy in the middle. For the Crew, Jakob Thomas continues his return from injury and put together a Hedjuk-like effort. Also, the Columbus fans in the north end zone should write a letter to FIFA thanking them for mandating nets be put on goals. If that wasn’t the case, Schelotto’s blast from the spot might have destroyed the entire north stand with it’s sheer power. Sigi has once again, figured things out, and is beginning to reward the fans and front office for their patience.
MOTM: Alejandro Moreno – His hold up work and great possession and layoff paced the Crew to another victory.

UFC at FIRE – I went to this game with my buddy Kurt and appropriately lowered his expectations during the drive out there. Kurt, don’t look for much from the FIRE. This team is offensively challenged. Fifteen minutes into the match, he though I hadn’t watched a FIRE match all year. The FIRE, perhaps trying to win one for Denis Hamlett during his last interim game, came out firing on all cylinders. I’m not sure what the difference could have been, but the FIRE’s performance left fans with optimism for the first time in months. Some slick passing between Bakary Soumare (who was everywhere) and Chad Barrett led to the FIRE’s first goal since Peter Wilt was axed. Toronto rewarded their sizable road support with a great hustle goal by number one draft pick Maurice Edu. There is hope FIRE fans!
MOTM – Bakary Soumare – After being suspended for a match Soumare played the most solid game of his career in a sweeper role for the Fire. His height and athleticism blunted any Toronto attack for the vast majority of the match. He still needs some polish, but he is beginning to justify his lofty draft slot.

Kansas City Wizards at Los Angeles Galaxy – The Keystone LA defense did make a shambles of two plays and paid for them, on a couple of goals that will likely be cynically replayed around the world as an example of the “quality” of the team that Becks is heading. Chris Klein had a rough touch that Yura Movsisyan took and deposited in the back of the net. Four minutes later, Ante Jazic poorly and ill-advisedly headed the ball back to his keeper, Joe Cannon, but cannon bobbled the pass. KC’s Davey Arnaud pounced on it and headed into the virtually open net. For most of the match the Jimmy Conrad bolstered KC defense was doing a great job blunting the talents of Landon Donovan and Carlos Pavon. However, the insertion of veteran Cobi Jones was all LA needed to get back in the game. Six minutes after Cobi entered the match, Pavon blasted a shot past Kevin Hartman. Pavon’s slammed off the far post and fell into Cobi’s path. He made no mistake and drilled shot into the back of the net. Then in the 75th minute Donovan curled a low cross around a defender and found Jones on a near post run. Cobi’s clinical one-touch finishing left Hartman without a prayer.
MOTM: Cobi Jones – Off the bench Cobi was in the right place twice to pull the Galaxy level against the stingy KC defense.

The Flagship at Colorado Rapids – Despite a near superhuman effort from Jacob Peterson, who surely cemented his spot in the starting line-up, the Rapids fell again to a rare period of lax defending. Without any Rapids pressure, a rebounded shot was calmly put away by the grey haired and well traveled John Wolyniec. The Flagship held on for the rest of the match against a Rapids attach that was gaining steam by the second. Another five minutes in this one and the Rapids would have likely pulled out a draw, however, the Commerce City squad will have to look back at post shot and a crossbar rattler for signs that their offense is improving.
MOTM – John Wolyniec – Another veteran puts on a good show! Woly’s strike is all the Flagship needed to top the flaccid Rapids.

D.C. United at Houston Dynamo – The predicted shoot our never occurred, but tempers were flaring at this match-up of the two hottest teams in MLS (apologies to Columbus). As per usual, a poorly refereed match by Brian Hall led to the game nearly getting out of control, with pushing and shoving becoming a major feature of the match. Both teams had decent opportunities, but Houston’s poise and possession saved the day for the home side. The Dynamo got all they would need when Brian Ching’s foot when all hockey-style and redirected a Richard Mulrooney shot past a hockey keeper posed Troy Perkins. This game was a showcase for the league and featured some wide-open attacking play at times. These are clearly the top two teams to fear in the league.
MOTM – Brian Ching – He was a handful for DC’s defense all night and made the most of his positioning on the goal.

Discipline Committees Time to Shine
This week the MLS Discipline Committee was handed two golden opportunities to make examples to players who committed nasty frustration fouls on “star” players. I believe the league should seize this chance and hand long suspensions to Aleko Eskandarian and Nick Garcia for their very dangerous challenges on Schelotto and Donovan respectively. On the eve, of Lord Beckham’s arrival a clear message needs to be sent to all the players that these challenges will not be tolerated. Sure it is unfair to hand down stiffer penalties, because the fouls occurred on high priced players, but the league has to protect their big investments and there were no excuses for these terrible fouls.

FIRE Hire Juan Carlos Osorio
I’ll confess that I don’t know much about Osorio. He has experience in MLS with the then Metrostars and has also been the Bridesmaid in DC, Chivas USA and other open posts throughout the league. The fact that he was a fitness coach at Man City should help a team like the FIRE which has been crippled by injuries over the past two seasons. His short, but successful stint at Bogata’s Millionarios, points to good things to come. This could be the defining positive stamp of the John Guppy era. I’d expect Osorio to keep Denis Hamlett on board for the remainder of the season, but certainly Hamlett will be looking to spread his wings after whetting his beak.

FIREsale part Three
If you are looking for great info on the fire Luis Arroyave’s blog has been priceless these last few weeks digging up some great tidbits on the FIREsale. A number of items have been widely misreported. First, Frankie Klopas’ group is not a group. He’s frontin for the Greco family which owns a food production company. And the competing is not a European Soccer club, but rather the Seagram’s’ company that peddles wares familiar to most my readers.

Beckham Update
As expected ESPN is throwing down the big-time coverage for what is widely expected to be Becks debut in a Galaxy uniform against Chelsea at the HDC on July 21. 19 cameras will be in place for the match. ESPN will carry three hours (or half hour depending on how you read the press release) of pre-game coverage, which only the Super Bowl can top! There will also be an extended SportsCenter (because they still can’t find time for soccer in the regular SportsCenter) and a hour-long documentary on Becks. Anyone still think he isn’t worth the money?

Copa America
Let’s throw some dirt on this American campaign right away! Despite completing the mission of blooding players, BB the King and the rest of us, didn’t really learn much about our young players. A couple took a step down, but will still remain firmly in the mix. Jonathan Bornstein and Justin Mapp come to mind. A number, such as Sasha Klejestan and Eddie Gaven showed that they don’t belong on international pitches at this moment. Aside from the teams first ten minutes of the tournament EJ was a massive disappointment. Rico Clark looked solid until the Columbia game, where he was determined to set up as many dangerous free kicks for the opposition as possible. Kasey Keller looked like he was collecting social security already, while El Guzano inched closer to that #2 keeper slot. Benny Feilhaber came of followed up his epic Gold Cup final with a couple off and on performances. Only Ben Olsen emerged from this tournament looking like he could challenge for a starting spot, unfortunately is awash in better than average defensive midfielders. What BB and the fans were looking for was someone to that the attacking midfield reigns. That savior never materialized in Venezuela. Maybe that player was in Montréal?

U-20 World Cup
Man, did we all need this after Copa America! Even ESPN seized the moment, as the US was ready to take on Brazil, the US sports taste maker announced it was pre-empting the Hot Dog Eating Challenge to broadcast the USA vs. Brazil match-up. This unheard of move is yet another positive sign that ESPN has surely changed its mind about soccer in the last few years and is finally waking up to the true popularity of the sport with in our borders. The USA didn’t disappoint as two of MLS’ brightest young names, Adu and Jozy Altidore put on a show and helped team USA top Brazil 2-1. Altidore broke the tie and the Brazilians spirit with a goal minutes after the Brazilians equalized. The Americans effectively shut down the Samba Kings for the rest of the match after Jozy’s third goal of the tournament. From all MLS fans to Danny, Freddy, and Jozy: Have fun in Europe, we hardly knew you. That is unless MLS is ready to pony up for their brightest.

Soccer Basher of the Week
As expected, Beckham’s LA arrival this week once again brought out the knives from the “traditional” sports columnists like this widely syndicated columnist Tim Dahlberg. Dahlberg who you can contact at tdahlberg@ap.org take wrote this pile of trash. So I responded with this pile of trash:


So you start writing about soccer the second you hear something about Mr. Beckham coming here, and suddenly you judge yourself worthy of a soccer taste monger? Someone qualified to call the Los Angeles Galaxy “something of a minor league team.” That statement clear that your objective was not objectivity, but rather ignorant bashing. Why should we soccer fans expect anything less? God forbid a serious discourse about the boost that Mr. Beckham will provide to an already thriving league. Sure it may play to your traditional big-four audience, but soccer aficionados do not look across the LA line-up and see a minor league soccer team, with or without Beckham. I know you it is probably in your blood as an American sports columnist to downplay soccer at every turn (at least that is what all your articles suggest), but your tired argument are more suited for the 1970’s than the modern age. How did the Gold Cup final this year out draw the Stanley Cup final by 40% on TV? Did you know that the 2006 World Cup final had more viewers than the average World Series game? Soccer needs a savior? The only thing that is in jeopardy of expiration is your credibility as a sports writer in a changing American sports landscape.


MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (5-7)
SEASON (30-52)

Dynamo vs. FIRE – It looks like Coach Osorio will get a rude awakening on Thursday. The FIRE in current form are no match for sizzling Houston.

Hoops vs. United – United sends the Barra and the Eagles into a tizzy with a performance showcasing the South American flair up top unlocking a shaky Dallas backline.

Revs. vs. The Flagship – The Flagship has done rather well at home and you can’t expect to keep Angel off the score sheet forever.

RSL vs. Wizards – KC will look to take last weeks disappointment on someone, something, anything! Oh, look it’s RSL! RSL just doesn’t have a prayer in this one, but does manage to put up a good fight.

Crew vs. LA Goats – The hot Crew should be able to salvage a draw from the Goats who always seem to shine at home.

UFC vs. Dynamo – Mo and the new bhoys take on the Dynamo, but to no avail. Even with a hectic schedule, the depth that the Dynamo built during the last month will overwhelm the road weary UFC.

The Soccer/Dynamo Power Hour – Glenn Interviews Shep Messing and Oliver Luck
(NOTE: If you know a Podcast that needs to be added please let me know and post a link.)


Doug said...

Some nice insights Mark. It is about time that the quality of refereeing caught up to the improved play on the pitch. I wonder if MLS referees actually watch game film as they seem to miss the same calls week after week. Examples need to be made of players that risk the careers of other players (I'm all about "play on"- we are talking brutal fouls here), or really what quality foreign talent will want to roll-the-dice on their career to play in MLS.

Doug said...

Some nice insights Mark. It is about time that the quality of refereeing caught up to the improved play on the pitch. I wonder if MLS referees actually watch game film, as they seem to miss the same calls week after week. Examples need to be made of players that risk the careers of other players, (I am all about "play on", we are talking brutal fouls here) or really what quality foreign talent will want to roll-the-dice on their career to play in MLS?

Anonymous said...

how are you?

Looking forward to your next post

Anonymous said...

Great post, I am almost 100% in agreement with you