Wednesday, August 22, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update – 08/23/07


The Tipping Point
Please tell me that someone got a picture of Don Garber around 11PM EST on Saturday. At that point, the smallest crowd of the four MLS games played Saturday was 18,913 in Salt Lake City. Columbus had drawn nearly 22k and UFC sold-out BMO (pronounced Bee-Mo, Rob Stone) field again. Cuauhtémoc Blanco had scored a golazo of immense proportions and Maykel Galindo continued to press for a human interest story in SI. As immense as these accomplishments would be on any other given weekend, they were over shadowed by the landmark LA Galaxy v. New York Red Bulls game that took place at Giants stadium in front of 66k plus.
In a game that managed to simultaneously please hardcore fans, MLS suits and legions of soccer/Beckham curious sports fans, the home team dispatched the LA Galaxy 5-4 with a late Juan Pablo Angel goal. The game featured two Beckham assists, braces by three players (Carlos Pavon, Jozy Altidore, and Angel), and tension throughout the night. They myths about the weakness of soccer player, complains about low scoring, the general “no one cares” rumor were drown out for one night by the cheers (and boos) of a record crowd in Giants stadium 12 years after the league’s first kick. Nothing says soccer has arrived in America like Saturday night. Never mind the fact that ESPN Classic has deemed it an “instant classic” and is rebroadcasting it this week, it is the duty of the league and it’s diehard fans to make sure that soccer never fades again in the country. I’m up for it!

FIRE Fan Forum with Head Coach Juan Carlos Osorio
Juan Carlos “The Professor” Osorio took time to speak to a group of Fire season ticket holders last Thursday and I was luck enough to be in the audience. Osorio left all in attendance with a positive impression of a very thoughtful and methodical man who is focused on conditioning and will not accept any slacking off. He stressed his commitment to attacking football, all but vowing to play three in the back at home at all times. Osorio conveyed that if he is to bring in a Senior International player (as he did this week by adding Wilman Conde), he would expect that player to be a starter, a welcome relief to FIRE fans who’ve had to suffer through the Bedrossian-era. Among the varied questions that Osorio was asked, two of his opinions really stood out. As opposed to many pundits, he does not believe that NCAA regulations are hurting the progress of players in this country due to the top players finding summer leagues and PDL experience. He believes that the shortcomings of the college games lie in the coaching. Osorio was at his most animated when asked to compare MLS to EPL. He took offense to those who downplay the quality of MLS. Having the unique perspective of coaching in both leagues, Osorio believes that MLS-quality is equivalent to that of lower half EPL. “These are teams that can be beaten by MLS teams.” He believes that MLS teams could beat upper half EPL teams, but it would take some remarkable effort. On that note……….

Quote of the Week I:
Steve McClerran on the standard of MLS (source Liverpool Daily Post):
“I think it was possibly, top-of-the-Championship-lower Premier League. But I get the sense that in type of game, and that type of atmosphere, David will be okay.”

Read it and weep haters! This is a great vindication for our league particularly in light of all the harsh media accounts domestic and overseas and the constant Euro snob batter that MLS takes. The foreign press should know better, however we can’t expect Euro snobs or American sports writers to know anything about the sport.

Quote of the Week II:
Spanish player Xavi on the quality of the Greek pitch they are to play on today (source LA Times): "Anyone who plays on that pitch has a good chance of killing themselves."

It seems like eons ago that David Beckham launched a perfect ball over the DC United wall and into the side netting setting off a world cup final level celebration amongst fans and providing some sweet relief for MLS. Later in the match, Becks turned Josh Gros with a beauty of a lead pass to Landon who coolly put it in the back of the net. Donovan, with all his great attributes, may just have established himself as the top breakaway artist in MLS history during the past week. The Galaxy meet Pachuca in the Superliga final at the HDC next week. It should be quite the spectacle.

Dynamo Net Jersey Sponsor
The Houston Dynamo became the sixth MLS team to wear a corporate logo on their jersey after inking a four year $7.5 million deal with Amigo Energy. The comprehensive deal includes signage, hospitality and pre- and post game naming. The size of the deal falls right in the middle of the five teams that are not named RedBulls.

MLS Week 20 – Our Finest Moment
(NOTE: Due to a hectic non-soccer schedule these days, I’m only reporting on the games that I actually had the pleasure of watching.)
Revs v. Rapids – The WTFs (Revolution) put on a classic display of head scratching for 90 minutes delighting the 10k at beautiful DSG park. The Rapids put three past Matt Reis and the punchless Revs only force a single outbreak of Bouna-time. Oh Fernando, your team bought you another two weeks.

Gals vs. The Flagship – I won’t spend too much time on this game here. Amazing game, some wonderful skill, and a pair of goal keepers hung out to try by their terrible defenses.
MOTM: Clint Mathis – without Mathis’ control and explosiveness in the midfield the Flagship falls at home. The Empire Supporters club should make sure frail Reyna never sees the pitch again.

RSL vs. FIRE – The FIRE, that’s to Blanco, controlled this one from start to finish. Osorio, who had been working hard with his team all week on set pieces, was overjoyed when Blanco’s corner met net via Paulo Wanchope’s head. Despite that victory ensuring goal, this match will be remembered for the shot Blanco blasted from the 25 yard line into the far side corner. It was great to see so many “Fire” fans turn up in Salt Lake, although someone should tell them that the FIRE does not wear yellow.
MOTM: Cuauhtémoc Blanco – Blanco is in the process of reversing the curse of MLS for Mexican stars. His rugged style (when appropriate) is well suited to the league.

Week 20 Notes:
Chivas gets the job done against a dreadfully shorthanded UFC.
United disappoint the Crew’s biggest crowd since 2004 with a 2-0 road victory.
Houston reclaims west with clutch Ching goal in front of 19k+.
Revs rebound and shut down a disjointed Wizards.

MLS Commentators
Much has been made about ESPN and Fox Soccer Channel. While four commentators jammed into a booth can get annoying, particularly if one is Michael Wilbon, it is still far more preferable to the single announcer format. That form of commentating is dreadfully boring, despite being filed under “traditional” by footie-philes. The optimal format would be the classic American play-by-play guy with a knowledgeable and opinionated color guy, a role that Eric Wynalda perfectly fills. His ideal compatriot would be the terrific Glenn Davis or the highly knowledgeable Max Brentos, however, you’ll have plenty that “can’t stand” Brentos either. I could take or leave the sideline report, but the interviewing coaches in the middle of matches has to go!

Sir Bobby’s Big Mouth
English football legend Sir Bobby Robson again cast doubt on Beckham’s ability to play for England while playing for a US club team. “In the short term, he looks OK. But the longer he plays in America, with respect to the football being played there, the less competitive he will become, “ Robson told The Daily Telegraph. Robson cited the reels of MLS films he had reviewed as well as his onsite study about MLS quality this year. Oh wait, rather, these are the ramblings of an irrelevant washed up manager looking to stay in the papers in England. Formula for that: bad mouth America while mentioning David Beckham.

MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (2-5)
SEASON (42-73)

The Flagship v. DC United – The good ship Arena takes the Mo from Saturday and blows by their rivals for a change.

FIRE v. Wizards – The reborn FIRE and their new found road fanbase take Arrowhead by storm and do their best impersonation of early season Wizards.

Goats v. Gals – Superclassico becomes the inflightclassico as Becks and Landon rush back from the land of Euro to play limited minutes. Too back Chivas USA is sick of living in their shadow and punish the Gals on their home pitch.

United vs. UFC – The futility record is set and extended as Mo’s MASH ward grows. United drops UFC again by the lake.

The Flagship vs. Revs – Who the heck knows what to make of the Revs? I’ll go with a spirited draw here between the two least predictable teams in MLS.

Crew vs. Dynamo – With a myopic focus, the Dynamo are a dangerous team and the Crew seem to be running on empty.

Wizards vs. FIRE – It is darn tough to beat a team twice in a week, so I’ll say the Wizards get a draw in front of a capacity Toyota Park crowd.

Gals vs. Rapids – The Clavejo phoenix manages a draw against the Galaxy who have their playoff backs against a wall.

RSL vs. Chivas USA – Chivas is on a roll and RSL is always getting rolled. No trend change here.

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


Brian Asher said...

"Clint Dempsey and DaMarcus Beasley have shown little improvement at the club or international level since leaving MLS."

I must disagree. Dempsey has steadily improved his performance for Fulham...he is starting to score and make things happen in the best league in the world.

Beasley has progressed, albeit in a much different way than Dempsey. Beasley has already scored for Rangers in UEFA matches, but he is really turned into a good possesion midfielder. He still can use his speed, but he is less likely to give up the ball as he was in his MLS days.

I won't say that they are 10x better players because of the move, but for these two, I think they are better players for having made the switch.

Soccer Biz Mark said...

Brian - Thanks for your comments. I think Dempsey's improvement has been very recent, but let's hope it continues. I'm also glad that Beaz got one in Champions league. Regardless of where they may be scoring now, I have yet to notice any marked improvement in the two when they step on the pitch for the US national team. Maybe this will change Sunday as Dempsey and Beaz out samba the Samba Kings.