Wednesday, July 18, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update – 07/18/07


Quakes to Return
According to press reports out of the Bay Area, Don Garber will announce during the State of the League Address that the Quakes will return to the Bay Area despite not having a place to play next season. “Understandings” have been met between the Lew Wolff ownership group and the City of San Jose, just don’t ask Wolff for an address. Congratulations to the loyal Quakes fans and to Soccer Silicon Valley. Let this be a lesson to the groups across the country that are acting to save or bring soccer to their city (Philadelphia!).

Blanco Reports to FIRE
Most FIRE fans were worried about Blanco’s impact on the locker room when he signed for the FIRE, now those same fans can’t wait for him to arriving and start slamming slackers like Calen Carr and Chad Barrett against lockers! After watching this team mope its way through the last three months, it is clear that someone is needed to fight FIRE with fire! The no-BS injection of Coach Osorio and Temo will have underperforming players fearing for their lives after games. Can you imagine what will happen when Brian Hall makes the next terrible call against the FIRE while Temo is on the pitch? While, I don’t relish the though of the FIRE’s most high priced talent sitting out games due to suspension, it would be nice to see someone in a FIRE jersey look like they care about the team’s form. However, Luis reports that he did see the Houston game. Watch out!!

FIREsale part Three
All reports say the Fire are as good as sold to the family that brought you the Son of the better half of 7 and 7’s (potential Jimmy Buffett song?) will be the new owner of the FIRE. Andell Holdings will be taking over the fledgling FIRE in 30 to 45 day (crafted by a former Metrostar front office guy?). The only drawback is that this does not include the implicit ouster of GM John Guppy. Of course, it may be the wrong time to boot the surging Gupster after his hiring of Osorio, easily his most savvy move to date, despite the events of the past week.

Records go down in MLS
Three important records fell this week:
1. Houston Dynamo broke the league shutout record. The previous holders, walked away with the MLS cup the year they broke the record.
2. Steve Ralston broke the league assist record. The previous holder, walked away from the league with the biggest blond afro in history.
3. LA Galaxy shattered the MLS record for press passes given out for a player announcement. The previous record was 8.

MLS Week 15 – Can’t Stop Addicted to the Shindig
Dynamo vs. FIRE – This game was sadder than sad and unfortunately for us FIRE fans, a 4-0 spanking on the alleged night of hope (sell out, new coach, Mapp’s return) wasn’t the low point of the week (see: Cup, Open). At least Juan Carlos Osorio learned a great deal about his team during this debacle and now may have a clear view of just how far he has to bring this team to get to the promised land.
MOTM: Joseph Ngwenya – for his hard work and sublime skills on the third goal against the FIRE.

Hoops vs. United – United buries Dallas and the Hoops rise back to life thanks to the reappearance of Carlos Ruiz and the continued timeliness of Juan Toja. Tommy Soehn was rightly livid after this one that United had in the bag.
MOTM: Juan Toja – for sweeping the dust of the Dallas grave and pulling the rest of the team out of the ground.

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 – This one went almost according to plan by the 19th minute with EJ doing what he does (in league play), but RSL shut down the KC offensive juggernaut the rest of the match. Defense has not been a problem under the Kreis regime. The comical mistakes in the back that cost the team early on have, for the most part, gone away.
MOTM: No position to judge

Crew vs. LA Goats – Chivas USA is making Beckham’s home their own! This was a big win for Chivas and stay well situated in the playoff race ladder, just above Columbus thanks to the three points. This is the type of win that teams can point to as a reason they made the playoffs.
MOTM: No position to judge.

UFC vs. Dynamo – Here’s the deal. No team in the league is better prepared than UFC to handle red card situations. I’ve got to believe that this squad practices 10 on 11 more often than even strength. It is almost becoming inevitable and now number one draft pick Maurice Edu has been indoctrinated into the culture of violence! However, Houston did have every opportunity in the world to put this thing away, but couldn’t managed to put their shots on frame. A shocking development given the events of Thursday night.
MOTM: Carl Robinson – Directing traffic and shutting down attacks, Robinson was everywhere for UFC and helped salvage a point for his side.

Quotes of the Week
FC Dallas coach Steve Morrow on the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup:
"It's a big cup competition. I want to win and get my bonus."

Galaxy GM Alexi Lalas on English press potshots on MLS quality:
"It irritates me so much I want to put my fist through a wall--or through a television set playing Benny Hill,"

Beckham Update
OK, there is much to unearth here that hasn’t been reported 1,000 times over in every paper, but was nice to see that the LA Galaxy have sold in excess of 250,000 jerseys prior to their unveiling and that upon meeting some of his teammates, one of them introduced themselves, then asked Becks, “Nice to meet you. What’s your name?” Victoria’s show was quite entertaining and could be worth picking up for NBC (ratings dependent). We’ll know the Beckham’s are having if everyone starts saying “major”.

“Major” Inroad of the Week
This one is a bit dated, but HBO’s “Entourage” featured entourage leader Vince falling ass backwards into a betting syndicate led by Dennis Hopper. Vince was on the edge of losing big money on Manchester United until Hopper’s pal noted that he hadn’t called in the bets. Hopper then convinced Vince to bet on the next game featuring Brazil. No word on FIFA on if these back-to-back matches were on a official FIFA international match day.

MLS Trade of the Week
Jason Kreis and RSL fleeced the Rapids and obtained rising US National Team force Kyle Beckerman for inconsistent Mhedi Ballouchy. Each side had a clear motivation for the trade, with Colorado already having a Beckerman in Pablo Mastroeni and RSL already having a Ballouchy in Adu. Perhaps Freddy’s play in center at the U-20’s was the final straw in proving to RSL that he needs to play in the middle, this making Ballouchy expendable.

U-20 World Cup
They gave us some thrills and hope against Poland and Brazil, but ultimately reverted to their form against South Korea. They managed to salvage an extra time win against the poorest sports in the tournament Uruguay, but couldn’t manage to come from behind against a very good Austria side. At least we learned that Adu and Altidore are not flukes. The Crew has to be encouraged by the play of Danny Szetela.

US Open Cup
While this remains my favorite competition, it is disappointing to see the early ouster of some MLS sides who trotted out B teams and paid the price as the USL teams have proven more than up to the task! D.C. United was dispatched in farm country by the Harrisburg City Islanders. Richmond Kickers ousted the LA Galaxy, while the Charleston Battery ended Houston’s double hopes. Perhaps, Houston and LA were looking at their schedule and decided that it was crowded enough, but FC Dallas was also on the brink of elimination at the feet of the Atlanta Silverbacks before finally topping the USL side in a penalty kick shootout. Houston’s ouster prevented another meeting between the Texas in-state rivals. These results alone warrant expanded Fox Soccer Channel coverage of these matches.
On the other hand, New England and Colorado topped Rochester and California Victory by two goal margins. Both the Revs and Rapids fielded close to full strength sides, but the Revs needed two goals in extra time to dispatch the underlings.
Then there was the Chicago FIRE marking their franchise low point by dropping a 1-0 match to the Carolina Railhawks. The FIRE fielded a full strength team and was blanked by an A-league club that started a keeper that had yet to play a league match. That is as low as you can go folks!

Quote of the Week II:
Fox Soccer Channel’s David Steinberg to Multichannel news on if he was surprised about the Gold Cup final ratings topping the Stanley Cup finals average rating by 40%:
“Not at all. Soccer is definitely poised to supplant hockey as the No. 4 major team sport in this country. You can already see some indications of that happening. One is TV ratings and another is live attendance. MLS attendance is either on a par or slightly above average NHL attendance. If you look at the country as a whole as opposed to specific regions where hockey may be strong, you just don’t see the same level of awareness of that sport as you do with soccer. Those are all signs of soccer growing more popular.”

Soccer Hater of the Week
A perfect follow-up to our quote of the week II. Every time Joe American sports fan feels threatened by soccer (which should be all the time this week), the ignorant haters come out of the woodwork don’t they? I know that the entities vying to bring MLS to St. Louis can’t be happy after reading this joke of a column in the St. Louis Post-Distpatch by Bryan Burwell. I mean, there is poor research and then there is just straight-up denial. How do you define denial? I’d start by writing this sentence: “Even in a soccer hotbed like St. Louis, is there anyone who believes it will ever rise above the NHL or even the WNBA, and become a core American sporting pastime?” Hasn’t soccer (not just MLS, but all levels of soccer in this country) supplanted these sports already? The NHL is a close call, but if you think about national team games of all countries, friendlies and minor league soccer, even the NHL may trail attendance-wise. I guess this is the mindset developed by only watching Sportscenter (until recently).

Soccer Lover of the Week

Here is an all too rare knowledgeable soccer ink from a major sports mainstream sports columnist. Mike Downey joined the Chicago Tribune a number of years ago and wrote a column about how excited he was to be part of the Chicago sports scene. He mentioned the FIRE and his love of soccer. Unfortunately, as many of us know, the Chicago Tribune, historically has been reticent to provide space in their sports pages to the FIRE of any kind. I would rate their coverage, as far as space devoted to soccer, the worst in the United State among cities with MLS teams. Yes this includes Kansas City and the New York papers. Being immersed in this culture, Mike certainly was never encouraged to write about soccer, more than once every World Cup, where his great column would be offset by a typical “Who Care?” article from one of the other columnists. Although this trend is clearly changing on the heels of the construction of Toyota Park and the successful Gold Cup at Solider Field, it is all to rare that we see columns like this in either of the Chicago papers.

MLS Prediction Central

Last Week (2-4)
SEASON (32-56)

MLS All-Stars vs. Celtic FC – The off season Celtic are no match for a group of in-form players playing for potential European vacations. Oops, I broke soccer writer code. Players only come over to the US for vacations and semi-retirements. I forgot… Either way lifelong Rangers fan Stevie Nichol has a stacked squad to pick from and will be starting a three man back line. Should be a crac’…um’ exciting game. Sorry, I’ll get used to that.

Soccer Sunday?
Dynamo v. Revs – The Dynamo come into the Big Razor a manage a draw.

United v. The Flagship – The Flagship starts taking on water due to the big Angel hole up top. United over their rivals here.

UFC v. Crew – UFC bookends their road odyssey with losses as the Crew rebound from California disappointment.

Rapids v. Wizards – Shock! Ballouchy is not the answer. Wizards reclaim pole position in the east with a pretty win against the Rapids.

The Soccer/Dynamo Power Hour – Glenn couldn’t keep up with me this week, so you’ll have to settle for archives.
(NOTE: If you know a Podcast that needs to be added please let me know and post a link.)

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