Wednesday, July 25, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update – 07/24/07


The Beckham Phenomenon
Can we all agree now, that the phenomenon that is David Beckham joining the Galaxy has been much greater than anyone could have predicted or imagined? From the 100+ security restrained photogs vying to get a picture of him sitting on the bench to the frenzied reaction of the LA fans new and old, this January transfer has proven a masterstroke to this point. It really didn’t seem to matter that the player of focus only stepped on the pitch for 16 minutes or that LA was miraculously holding Chelsea to one goal, the game was a coronation ceremony, the likes of which are rarely seen in any sport in any country. The fact that I watched the game on 2 big screen TVs in the middle of a Colorado casino is an indicator of the impact MLS’ of the Beckham transaction. 110 countries carried this “glamour” friendly, I can’t imagine that they, and the rest of LA, won’t sign-up for more Galaxy games. Lastly, a sure sign that Beckham-mania is to the point of absurd, this article is about the man that truly ushered in the Becks era, the fourth official.

SuperLiga – Dia Uno
The SuperLiga is off to a decent start for MLS squads trying to prove their worth to Mexican Americans. Chivas immediately lived up to the diving stereotypes as Dallas’ new find ran within a foot of a diving Ernesto Miguel. Immediately Miguel feigned being clipped by Richardhino’s run and prompted a nearly five minute delay with his theatrics. FC Dallas managed to jump to a 1-0 lead due to a complex chip from Arturo Alvarez in the 56th minute, ushering in the crazy portion of the game. A minute after his insertion into the match, Chivas’ Antonio Olvera blasted a shot past a diving Ray Burse, Dallas third string keeper making his first start in place of injured Dario Sala and Shaka Hislop. What the referee failed to notice was Olvera clearly settling the ball with his left hand prior to his excellent strike. Despite the pleas of the Hoops, the goal stood. Tempers flared minutes later as Drew Moor received an elbow to the face by a Chivas defender. Unnoticed, again, by the refereeing crew, Moor ill advisedly took matters into his own right hand, striking the defender and receiving a red card in the process. This action prompted a near brawl involving every player on the pitch. Dallas managed to hang on for a draw. The draw has to be seen as a disappointment for the MLS side, given the nearly reserve squad that Chivas fielded. Only four Chivas players that saw action in their last competitive match took the field in Dallas. Further the Hoops had trouble connecting on passes all match.

The Galaxy shocked North America as they managed to top a nearly full strength Pachuca at the Home Depot Center. Joe Cannon was a beast between the pipes while Abel Xavier consistently cleared the area of danger as LA was under siege all evening. The Galaxy opened the scoring on a one-time strike from Alan Gordon, bringing Becks and son Cruz out of their skybox chair. Gordon was the recipient of a positively Beckham-esque pass from “Capitan Landon” that found Gordon’s chest between two defenders. Pachuca though they had sealed a draw in the 78th minute with a neat flick past Cannon by Rafael Marquez Lugo, but the Galaxy had other plans. Pressing the attack near the end of the match Donovan again sent a pass, cross field to Cobi Jones. Jones dribbled past his defender and rocket a shot toward goal directly into the path of Donovan. A leaping Landon deflected the ball past Pachuca keeper Miguel Calero for the three points.

Blanco Stokes Friendly FIRE
Yet again the chorus must be sung (“it was only a friendly”), but for one afternoon Cuauhtémoc Blanco made the 2007 version of the Chicago Fire appear to be a respectable football club. Celtic, fresh off being embarrassed in Colorado by the MLS All-Stars, strolled into Toyota Park expecting an easy win at the house of the Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers and not many home fans would disagree with them. What both parties received was a show that left league officials wishing that Blanco had donned a Beckham costume the evening before in LA. Temo put on a display of showmanship that left Celtic bumping into each other and his new teammates giggling. Blanco’s combination of skill and theatrics were on full display during the afternoon. He trapped a long pass with his ass, threw in the famed Blanco hop/bounce, dummied a Celtic defender out of his kilt, backheeled with precision and even scored a goal that looked eerily similar to that of Juan Pablo Angel’s three days prior. This is a player that the casual fan will pay to see, although one can’t help but be disappointed with the far-from-a-sell-out crowd that was in the stands Sunday. Despite the attendance failing, for the moment it looks like John Guppy is re-writing the entry on his tenure with Chicago. The Gupster hires Blanco, fires a coach who was only slightly less popular than he, and now on the verge of delivering Costa Rican assassin, Paulo Wanchope.

Other Friendly Action
Aston Villa kicks off their preseason this week with two tough matches against the best MLS crowd and one of the hottest MLS teams. Villa likely will be wondering if they landed on the right continent when they walk out on the BMO field pitch and are subjected to the howls of U-Sector and the Red Patch Boys. Then Villa travels to Columbus to take on GBS and the Crew. Marty O’Neill’s EPL side better be wary! The shock of the friendly season took place in Utah last week as MLS laughing-stock RSL took down UEFA-cup bound Everton 2-0. RSL had fitness and substitutions on their side, however only Tim Howard looked like a professional footballer for the Merseysiders. A few days later, RSL managed a draw against mighty Boca Juniors.

MLS Week 15 – Actual League Games Too?
Dynamo v. Revs – I’ve heard it mentioned in numerous circles that many fans of the league were disappointed that MLS did not do a better job of promoting this big match between the top Eastern and Western sides in lieu of hyping the Beckham debut. Even if they did, would it have gotten the attention it deserved? Likely not. Heck, most of the people that turned out for this showcase of a match were still at the concession booths when DeRo smashed in the Goal of the Week. Seem difficult for fans and the league alike to get their timing right.

United v. The Flagship – Woly’s header tops United and officially takes them out of the “hottest team” discussion. The Flagship, meanwhile, finds themselves tied for the Eastern Conference lead with New England. Five teams are within three points of each other in a race that can count out Toronto or a re-loading Chicago.

UFC v. Crew – Wil Hessmer and the Columbus defense continued it’s strong form blanking the masquerading mixed martial arts squad, but GBS dazzles the home crowd with two big goals and continues Columbus’ unrelenting surge up the Eastern Conference standings. The Hunt family announced that GSB’s jersey is set to be retired by the end of the week.

Rapids v. Wizards – EJ hits for two more, but a feisty Rapids side twice climbed back into the match to salvage a draw at Arrowhead. The Rapids, down by one, were boosted by the ejection of Jose Burciaga Jr. in the 67th minute and took advantage ten minutes later with DC reject Facundo Erpen putting the ball in the back of the net. Rapid fans know things are going well when Jovan Kirovski hits the score sheet. He scored the only way he could, unmarked and from the spot.

Quote of the Week
Chris McGuire, sports marketing manager for adidas soccer:
"At this time the LA Galaxy David Beckham jersey is the number one-selling shirt in the world."

Why Pay to See an MLS Game?
Here is a breakdown of players and other reasons to get you out to see live football in the USA!
Eastern Conference
New England Revolution – Andy Dorman – The most underpaid player is a joy to watch.
New York Red Bulls – Juan Pablo Angel – The Columbian can read defenses like a book.
DC United – Christian Gomez – Deadly from set pieces and a passing wizard.
Kansas City Wizards – Eddie Johnson – A scoring machine, in league play.
Columbus Crew – Guillermo Barros Schelotto – Turned the team around and saved Sigi’s hide.
Toronto FC – The Fans – Staking their claim to “Best Fans in the League” since day one.
Chicago Fire - Cuauhtémoc Blanco – The showman has arrived.

Western Conference
Real Salt Lake – A New Beginning – You can’t compare the team to a Phoenix since 1) it has yet to begin to rise and 2) there was nothing to create any ashes in the first place, but Kries has restocked this club with youth and quality. Perhaps a Designated Player is on the way, but who would put extra butts in seats in Salt Lake? Keith van Horne? Bill Paxton?
LA Galaxy – David Beckham – As if I needed to type that.
Chivas USA – Maykel Galindo – The Cuban speedster is a great story and the primary reason Precki’s side isnt’ fighting RSL for division basement space.
FC Dallas – Juan Toja – The pick-up of the year thus far has big game to match his big hair. This Columbian international will not be around long if he continues.
Houston Dynamo – The Houston Dynamo – Mentioning any one player would slight the rest of this loaded team.
Colorado Rapids – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – It’s a mouthful, but this venue is stunning. No details were overlooked (ala’ Chicago) and it makes for an incredible experience.

Transfer of the Week
It is not a done deal, but Freddy Adu is on his way to Europe. If the league gets the $7.5M they are looking for then it is a coup. Young Fredrick’s pricetag is not going to get any higher through league play. Here’s hoping that he gets some PT in Euroland or else I see a free transfer back to MLS in three years.

MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (3-2)
SEASON (35-58)

LA Goats v. The Flagship – The goats just can seem to work out their road troubles and the Flagship starts putting a streak together.

Revs v. RSL – The Jason Kreis youth movement is making me a beliver, but not over the top team in the East. RSL manages a draw.

FIRE v. UFC – A recharged FIRE remains winless against UFC, but gets a point for their troubles.

LA Goats v. KC – The road nightmare continues as KC makes amends for their poor showing last week.

The Soccer/Dynamo Power Hour – Glenn talks about Becks.
(NOTE: If you know a Podcast that needs to be added please let me know and post a link.)

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