Monday, April 30, 2007

Quick Prediction

RSL vs. COL - Look for RSL and Cunningham to get on track versus the Rocky Mountain EastSiders.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

US Soccer Snobs Bi-Weekly Update -4/28

Good news! I managed to pull myself away from the X-Box 360 for a moment, even though I’m in the midst of guiding a significantly revamped Recreativo side to a third straight Champions League Title!

MLS Week 4

I finally had the opportunity to watch Toronto FC for a full game and what a disaster this side is! Clearly Greg Sutton and Marco Reda are in over their heads in MLS. It is shocking that Mo let Jon Busch go in favor of Sutton! Reda was victimized on all three KC goals. On the first, he lost track of his mark and allowed Eddie Johnson his second of the season virtually unmarked. Johnson just owned Reda all night. The middle of the Toronto FC defense was completely exposed on the second goal as Johnson easily beat Reda to the sideline and blasted a shot into Sutton. Unable to deflect the ball into a friendly area, the ball popped into the middle of the box. After Toronto’s other lost sheep, Marcelo Saragosa, wiffed at a clearance KC’s Kerry Zavagnain calmly put away his first goal since 2003. Another disappointment for TFC has to be the play of their some of their hailed English Championship signings, Jim Brennan and Carl Robinson. Brennan was completely invisible during the game and Robinson was just a bystander most of the time who seemed completely overwhelmed by the pace of the match. The news isn’t all bad for the expansion side! Late substitute, Miguel Canizalez impressed. His play led to the majority of Toronto’s quality chances. I though that Andy Welsh had a very solid game as well.

KC has got be enthused by their MLS start. They rebounded well from the previous week where they were booted from Open Cup play and fell to a dominant Fire team. The most dangerous player on the pitch against Toronto had to be newcomer Carlos Marinelli! This kid has class coming out of his ears! God help the rest of the league when he starts really gelling with EJ. There were flashes of that understanding on the night, but I’m sure that is only the beginning.

On Thursday, the Flagship is surprising everyone by not giving up a goal in its first four matches. RBNY keeper Ronald Watterrus has yet to be significantly tested, but none the less, zero goals is zero goals! The whole team turned in a solid match, but the standout (again) was the goal scorer Hunter Freeman. His crushed late second half goal gave NY all they needed to put down a limp Dallas side.

MLS PREDICTIONS:
TFC – KC: KC continues to roll over the league doormat.
COL – DCU: Draw here as DC’s struggles continue and Columbus continues to improve.
GALS – CHIVAS: Chivas with a superclasico victory!
REVS – DAL: Revolution top an exhausted Hoops
CHI – HOU: Sides draw as a hard fought game can’t find a winner.

RECORD – (2-4)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

US Soccer Snob's - Bi-Weekly Update 4/26/07

MLS Week 3
Ah, week three, or as I like to refer to it, the week I officially give up on my fantasy team. The Revs and the Crew got the week of to a great start with a 2-2 draw that was salvaged at the last minute by the Crew’s Kei Camara. The match was played at a very high level and was a good showcase for the league. As some of my readers (not sure I should use a plural) may know, I’ve been working to establish a soccer bar in Chicago’s Loop. It was a good start to see a few folks show up for this match and for 30 glorious minutes, this was the only thing on TV. The regular crowd was checking out the game and didn’t ask for the channel to be changed, so I’ll take that as a small victory. Getting back to the match, a lowlight was Andy Herron’s blatant WWF elbow to the face of Jay Heaps. Strange to see this from Herron, because he was never a dirty player during his time with the Fire.
Now we get in to Saturday. The day I felt compelled to post my weekend predications just before the kickoffs. Unlike Jamie Trecker, I’ll actually leave my predictions up without editing them. Needless to say, I was a bit off. 0-3 on Saturday! First to Toyota Park, where two evenly matched teams fought it out and played an exciting, although offensively uncreative game for 90 minutes. Chris Armas, put a great pass onto the foot of Chad Barrett, who beat the offside trap and then the keeper to put Chicago up 1-0 in the 36th minute. Barrett did a great job of shielding defender Nick Garcia, before beating Kevin Hartman. For the second week in a row, Barrett justifies the Fire conviction in his abilities. The teams traded questionable penalty kicks in the second period and settled on a 2-1 score line as a final. More about the announced crowd of 11,717 later on.

Remember that teenager that arrived amid a bunch of fanfare and is expected to be the next big thing? Sorry Freddy, but Jozy is the young Man now! With all the acquisitions of older players, the youngsters are getting it done for RBNY. A great right side combination resulted in Hunter Freeman playing a ball on the ground to Jozy, who used a tremendous first touch to knock the ball into nearby space on his left. He then spun around and cracked a shot over Houston’s Pat Onstad on the underside of the crossbar for what turned out to be the winning goal and a goal of the week frontrunner. Jozy played a tremendous game considering he was the lone RBNY striker for a good portion of the match following the controversial ejection of Cletus for a high boot. Fox broadcasters were, of course, singling out Claudio Reyna after the match for his influence, which mainly consisted of passing the ball backwards. Regardless, things are coming together in NY and these developments should scare the rest of the surprisingly strong Eastern Conference.

Almost as humiliating as my 0-3 prediction record was RSL’s effort versus Chivas USA at the HDC on Saturday night. RSL’s previously sold defense was shredded by the speed of Maykel Galindo who netted two great goals during the first ten minutes of the match gave Chivas all they needed. The American Goats added a bit more history to the night with Ante Razov hitting the back of the net for the 100th time in the league. Congratulations to Ante. He has quietly been the most consistent and efficient striker in MLS. It is sad and funny that the career best American strikers that are currently part of the league, Jason Kreis, Jeff Cunningham, and Razov, have never really had an impact on our national team. Taylor Twellmann could soon be added to this overlooked group, although Taylor is more a victim of timing. Then think of some of the players who have gotten more of a fair shake: Jovan Kirovski and Connor Casey. It this it is clear to see Bruce’s opinion of MLS.

Wrapping up the weekend was a solid 3-1 kFCD victory over the previously undefeated Colorado Rapids. Ramon Nunez began his official coming out party by putting away the first two Dallas goals. Jovan Kirovski interrupted the Nunez show to display that his chipper was working fine as he beat Shaka Hislop to draw the Rapids even, but Dallas proved to be too much for the visitors. The “sellout” crowd of 20,500 went home happy.

Attendance Reporting 2007
As an avid attendance nut, I’ve been completely perplexed to see some of the attendance figures this year! Some seem pretty dead on and others seem to be complete fabrications. The Chicago Fire attendance this year has been very accurate. So much so, it seemed that the team has been underreporting attendance. The NYRB game on Saturday seemed to have spectacular attendance, but only a bit over 12K was announced. Fast forward to KFCD on Sunday, every section had people in it, but no section could really be described as packed. This was announced as a sellout. As was the Rapids opener, when it was very clear that some sections were not sold at all. So what is going on here? Are some teams adjusting their attendance for non-soccer related reasons? Are they just trying to make it challenging to be part of the Bigsoccer attendance prediction thread?

Zizu and the Deteriorization of MLS’ Safe and Sane Policy
Yes the rumor mill is about with Zizu to the Fire or LA! Let me preface my following comments by saying Zizu is my favorite footballer of all time and I would be the first person running out to by a “Zidane” Fire jersey. And then a week later, I'd by a second one when the new jersey sponsor is announced. But only for selfish reasons would I want to see Zizu on the Fire.
I just can't bring myself to see from a business standpoint how any of this Zidane in Chicago or LA stuff makes sense. The main point of contention amongst MLS supporters is about the nebulous buzz term, which has become like crack in MLS club front offices since Beck’s signing. Adding Zidane will create more buzz, they say. Creating buzz is exactly what Sr. Blanco is for in Chicago and Mr. Beckham is doing nationally. The mission has been accomplished to a much larger extent that I expected from the volume of questions I get about them from non-soccer fans (or maybe they just don't know they are fans yet). What is the marginal value of adding Zidane to either of these clubs? Many true soccer fans will be showing up to see them already. Zidane to either LA or Chicago is pointless because both will be near sell outs after July. The Galaxy will sell out (to stated MLS capacities) most if not all of their road games, while the Fire will sell out cities with large Mexican populations.
I'm sure that the Fire get some hefty revenues from Merch sales, but Designated Players or no Designated Players, I have to imagine that revenue generated off of games is an MLS teams’ primary source of income. As for a Chicago Zidane buzz, does anyone think really think Chicago sports writers like Rick Morrissey and Jay Mariotti will devote more than one column to a Zizu signing. Even that would likely be yet another platform for these idiots to craft lines that a hack writer like myself could come up with on the spot.

Example:
"With the signing of Zidane the Fire are trying to wrest attention away from the Cubs and Sox. As if the public will be swayed by threat of head butt? Did they really think a Frenchman would convince us that soccer is a sport for Americans? He may be viewed as talented in Europe, but in Bridgeview he is a glorified kickball player with a big contract."
(Please don't forward this to the Chicago Sun Times, they may have it ready to go like a famous person's obituary)
What sense does it make to load LA, NY, and CHI and leave the rest of the league fending for itself with three teams devoid of even their DP slots? I'm a very strong believer in slow and steady growth and I was also in favor of the DP rule, but for this league to say that they've learned the lessons of NASL and then start concentrating all the DP slots in the major markets is a complete joke!
I don't think the Zidane move is going to happen, but if it does, I'd like to see a player that "moves the needle" go to a team that has some seating capacity. Zidane to New England, Chivas or Salt Lake I could see. However, I think given the AEG involvement, Zidane to Houston would be the most likely move (although the playing surface could affect that).
As for attracting the long sought Euro snobs, signing Zidane would actually lend less credibility to the league! What it does lend credence to is the widely held world view that MLS is a retirement league. Prior to this year, that claim was easily defended. Even the Beckham signing could be defended. Beckham has plenty of gas in the tank as he's shown since Capello tucked his tail. Angel will turn out to be a decent signing too. However, once you move beyond those to signings what do you have? Reyna should be retired, Guillermo (not a DP but pricey) is on his last legs, Blanco close to that and Zidane is in retirement! These are the only six names that the Euro-folks know. Mo Johnston today was saying that many players on his team don't even know who Eddie Johnson is! The secret about the Euro-snobs is that unless you move Manchester United, Inter Milan and Real Madrid intact to US cities, nothing will be good enough for them. You get Ronaldo, they'll want Ronaldhino. You get Del Piero, they'll want Christiano Ronaldo. Anything else would be a pale comparison to them, and they'd be correct.

Do we really want a Zizu USA retirement tour to detract from the progress of a Justin Mapp, Chris Rolfe or even Chad Barrett? These three players could be major forces on our national team for years to come. It is highly debatable that adding these so-called World Stars will help American MLS players a great deal. Where are Valderrama's, Etcheverry's, Nowak's and Cienfuegos' protégés? The US National team should be awash in attacking and slick passing mids! There have not been any clear reign-passing from these highly successful foreign stars. The closest thing is the Beasley-Stoitchkov relationship. Is it any wonder that as the league took a decisive path away from high-priced aging stars and focused more on Americans and up and coming Central American talents, that the overall quality of the league has rocketed up? Look at the on-field progress of this league since 2002. It is nothing short of stunning. My overriding concern, is that MLS is on the verge of halting this continuing progress for the sake of "buzz".


Only in MLS story of the Week
Upset with smoke bombs, flares and other disturbances (i.e. a real football environment), Chicago Fire planned to crack down on all Section 8 ticket holders by forcing them, and them only, through metal detectors and giving them pat downs. Let’s just say that the relationship between Fire management and Section 8 has been, um, rocky throughout John Guppy era. Perhaps the Gupster was looking for a measure of revenge for the demonstrations against him following the ouster of his beloved predecessor, Peter Wilt. With the situation looking bleak, Section 8 found a savior in Bridgeview Mayor Steve Landek. The mayor demanded that the Fire not go through with these measures because of its similarities to profiling. Section 8 also correctly argued that the league was sending a mixed message because league produced commercials featured fan generated smoke and pyrotechnics. Section 8 has been at capacity all season and is beginning to spread into nearby sections.. For a league that is struggling to inject passion into its fanbase to even think about taking actions like this against its most ardent supporters is reprehensible.

Toronto FC Lights Up Canadian Immigration and Reunification Bliss Abounds
I think Mo’s ran through three Blackberry’s last week. See if you can follow this. Expendable in NYC, Marvell Wynne was shipped over the border to TFC to play for the man that drafted him number one overall. In the airport, Wynne likely bumped into Danny Dichio who Mo ordered up from Preston North End. Dichio’s arrival in Toronto meant the departure of Connor Casey to his hometown Rapids. Unhappy in Toronto, Richard Mulrooney was reunited with his former teammates at the Dynamo Clash Quakes, who only had to part with a seldom used defender, Kevin “Bobcat” Goldthwait, and a first round draft choice. Perhaps Mo could use his phone to contact some of the 100,000 viewers that tuned in for the first TFC match and tuned out for the second.

Predictions:
RBNY – kFCD – Dallas salvages a draw against a surprising RBNY side.
Season Record: (2-3)

PODCAST (Glenn Interviews Fire coach Dave Sarachan):
The Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Prediction Update

Sorry about the slackin off! I've got a massive post that is going on the site tomorrow, but for now here is one more useless prediction:

RFC-KC: The Wizards and EJ bounce back to kick TFC while they are down. Look for Toronto's first goal of the season from Esky.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

US Soccer Snob's - MLS Predictions

Really quick here are my predictions for this week:
Chicago - KC: Draw - Entertaining match has goals, but no winner.
NYRB - Houston: Clash/Quakes - Ching and DeRo still too much for the Flagship
RSL - Chivas: Freddy and Co. - RSL loves the HDC
Colorado - FCD: Burn - Ruiz and company rebound in the home opener.

More on Monday

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

US Soccer Snob's Bi-Weekly Update - 4/18

MLS Week 2
Spectacular entertainment burst from RFK stadium as the KC Wizards started the season in grand fashion and everybody’s championship pick, DC United, again was doubled up by their opposition again. Although the great crowd of 22K plus didn’t go home happy they were treated to high quality soccer by two very talented teams. The train wreck that is Facundo Erpen proved his worth to the opposition getting torched throughout the match. I really think Erpen went downhill after the All-Star game last year where he was a Man of the Match candidate. His play in CONCACAF was horrific and now is approaching hackish levels during the early season. The flip side of United is the continued great play of Luciano Emilio. This guy is going to be torching nets all season and based on United’s backline play, they are going to need all the goals they can get.

From a presentation and fan comfort standpoint, the RBNY home opener lived up to what we’ve come to expect from a NY franchise: Massive embarrassment on some sort of scale. A Nor’easter that blew through the upper Atlantic states and cancelled every baseball game scheduled, did nothing to deter the Telemundo game of the week from kicking off on time. Next time someone want to rip on soccer just show them a video of this match and let them know that while the baseball players were warming their feet by the fire, MLS players were out earning a living at the expense of their health. That’s right, Ronald Watterus and Clarence Goodson had to be subbed out due to experiencing hypothermia type symptoms! All that to entertain perhaps the 2,000 or so fans that showed up. Anyone who was in that building should be commended!
In other game related news, who had Claudio Reyna and Marvelle Wynne (more on this later) out for the RBNY’s home opener? Reyna was almost a given, but Wynne made that an exacta that was hard to pick! Although all went well for the Flagship on the pitch as they plastered (K)FCD 3-0. The colonel’s men looked depleted from their road odyssey and bewildered by the weather. Almost as shocking as the weather was the performance delivered by Clint Mathis. Mathis was the lynchpin of the RBNY offense, setting up the first goal with at wicked corner kick that was well finished by Josemer Altidore. Shortly after that, Mathis was the recipient of a lovely backheel from Altidore, which he slammed in to the back of the net to put the Flagship up 2-0. Dane Richards and Hunter Freeman filled the shoes of Reyna and Wynne quite admirably by flying up and down the field, RBNY ran a tired KFCD into the ground. Too bad for RBNY that once, Reyna plays, he’ll slow up that attack and play some of that possession that his proponent seem to love so much.

Then there was the Fire in windy Colorado. The Fire are handed a great opportunity early in the match and then proceed to do their best to squander that opportunity throughout the rest of the game. The Fire were again anemic when the offense was being run by Chris Armas. I’m convinced that something has to give with Armas and Diego Gutierrez in the midfield. I can’t see the Fire offense generating more than one goal with both of these defensive minded midst in the game. Following his red card, Colorado’s Roberto Brown found himself locked out of the home locker room and had to wait for a team rep to buzz him in. Mad ups to the Fire fans who made it out to DSG park. I think they each brought a ten foot banner with them! There has been a great trend this year in decent road support for visiting teams, however, it will be hard to top the Houston 12 that represented their team and the league in Pachuca.

Only in MLS Observation of the Week
The Designated Player Rule is passed! Beckham is signed! Captain America is coming home! Arriba Blanco! Hype, love, hysteria!! Major League Soccer has finally arrived! Exactly ZERO DP signees played in their home opener. Viva la Revolution!

Other DP News: Send me an Angel

Sorry about the title, but at least I didn’t use something with the term “gets wings” like every other media outlet in the world.
The Flagship signed Juan Pablo Angel for and undisclosed sum that was immediately disclosed through sources. Strange to see a signing in NY that might actually have a positive effect on the box office. During Angel’s press conference he sounded very confident and seemed to know more about the league than Becks did at his presser. RBNY needed an established striker and they got one. It doesn’t hurt that he’s Columbian too. The drawback is that Angel had trouble making the Aston Villa bench during the new year and has not been in form for quite a while.
Meanwhile Guillermo Barros Schelotto, signed a two year pact with the Columbus Crew. Can he fill the shoes of Sebastian Rosenthal? I’m trying not to laugh too. Somebody get the Discovery Channel on the line, because this will be a hell of a more interesting geographical switch story than what the Beckham’s have going. From Buenos Aries to Columbus! How long until Schelotto tries to order a Malbec and gets a Becks? Nice to see a flood of passionate futbol players from south of our borders continue make their way over here. There really has been a great tradition being established from Valderrama to Etch to Moreno to Gomez.
Anybody else notice that the most maligned DP signing, Cuauctemoc Blanco, is the only DP that has been consistently in his former/current club’s starting line-up over the past year?

Under the Radar
Il Bruce has been a busy man! In the fog of all these DP signings, star-to-be, Wynne, was shipped to Toronto to help them shore up a defense that has given up six goals in two games. Funny that both the pre-season champion and surprise team picks have given up six goals in two games, while C-Bus has yet to be scored upon. The defending champs have one goal, Colorado, Chicago, KC, and NYRB are undefeated, and a team that has never played a home game leads the league in season tickets sold.

COMING UP: It will be the “Two for the Money” MLS style. I’ll start embarrassing myself on a weekly basis with result predictions!

PODCAST:
The Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis

Saturday, April 14, 2007

US Soccer Snob's Bi-Weekly Update

MLS Opening Weekend
Colorado Rapids opened their great new facility in grand fashion scoring two first half goal, both by newcomers, and holding on for a 2-1 win over last years Supporters Cup (yes I know it is actually a “Shield”) winners, DC United. Colorado fielded five new starters and was rewarded with Herculez Gomez delivering a goal and a man of the match performance. He also appeared to chair the Fred MLS welcoming committee by delivering some shoves, taunts and bruises to the Brazilian debutante. This also marked the first ESPN/ABC telecast for the year. With Honest Eric suspended for being honest, Julie Foudy’s voice managed to suck most of the life out of the TV broadcast. My favorite color commentary was when she reacted to a play with “Wow” followed by a long silence as pro broadcaster Dave O’Brien was expecting a bit more color. The broadcast was also dragged down by the corny “Famous Freds” montage. Nothing will convince the so-called red-blooded American’s that soccer is a pansy sports like a segment that features the music of Right Said Fred. Last on my list of broadcast no-no’s experienced was the incessant invocation of the word “sell-out”. I don’t think the producer realized that they were doing a TV broadcast, where every viewer could see the sparsely populated corners. I could understand if there were many no-shows because of the weather. I’d expect that, however when you see that all the areas that are sparsely populated were the last areas that are sold, it is clear that it isn’t a sell out. For a league that has come under fire for it’s past inflation of attendance figures, touting that so called “sell out” did nothing to make any one think the old days are gone!

Yes, there were things I did like about the broadcast. The half hour intro was very nice. Stoner did a good job as always, and the segments were well put together. Although, I am already getting sick of it, Dick’s Sporting Goods put together a heck of a nice commercial. The lettering on the seats of the stadium looked great. Why has it taken so long for an MLS team to get this done? I don’t want to hear any excuses about stadium ownership, leases, etc. MLS teams are the primary tenants, if they want to paint the seats with their names or logos they can do it. This should be a “Game First” Initiative. The entrance of the teams down the stairs was, if nothing else, interesting. I prefer the middle tunnel at Toyota Park, but the stairs look cool too. Colorado did a great job of having room for a stage, but not, explicitly having a stage as part of the stadium. ABC/ESPN did a solid job of micing the fans. The fans and the supporters group were in good voice all game, despite the noticeable departure of fans at halftime. The re-vamped halftime show was great too, with the MLS stats and even EPL action focusing on the league leaders and teams with American rooting interest.

I was unable to catch much of the FSC broadcast so I’ll have to chip in on that at another time. The LA-Houston tilt was marred by some camera troubles, however, I think that late Sunday afternoon time slot is great! Pre-HBO, post most baseball, not much sports competition. In addition, Chicago and many other cities with big Hispanic populations will have this broadcast on free TV. Quite a coup (or re-coup) for the league. Unfortunately the premier broadcast ended a 0-0, but the first half featured highly skilled football that had a definite attacking flair to it. What was also evident was the respect the announcers had for Donovan. Most players were referred to by their first and last names; however Donovan was routinely called “Capitan Landon”. It reminded me of the emphasis; the Mexican announcers would put on Hristo Stoitchkov’s name in the past. That sort of emphasis is not offered with out a great deal of respect.

MLS Thursday Night Football
Great to see the league in Primetime. This is a major upgrade from Saturday afternoons (AKA – the MLS Player June-August Bake-a-thon.) While it is good to see some pressure being put on an MLS side by its home fans, it is still the home opener. LA controlled the bookends of this match, but strangely the FCD O didn’t get kicking until their DM Marcelo Saragosa was injured in the 29th and replaced in favor of Aaron Pitchokolan (much to my fantasy joy). While Pitchkolan didn’t have much involvement in the attack, Saragosa absence seemed to move Dallas’ emphasis to the offense. The Hoops owned middle of the match, but their domination in that timeframe meant they deserved the victory in my book. Coopers goal off a wicked Nunez cross was top shelf stuff. What an upgrade from Foudy to Wynalda. I actually listened to the entire broadcast! Honest Eric for the most part was great, but he didn't do his homework on Jaqua last night. I certainly didn't feel like Yallop was scolding him by moving Nate to right mid in the second half. This was arguably Jaqua's most effective position for the Fire last year. While it was great to see LA's first round draft pick, Robbie Findlay, get a goal last night (due for a raise?), LA fans certainly weren't happy that it took nearly 180 minutes for the Gals to open their season account. The nice crowd of 23K+ let the Gals have it at the end of the 90.

Make sure you know what you are talking about
An April 11 column "Style over Substance" in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle an unnamed writer refers to so called "MLS journo" Wendell Brown as a "hack" for stating that “Players here need a style icon and Beckham is the perfect size to wear Dolce and Gabbana, Versace, Prada and Gucci." Ironically, the Newcastle writer proves to be a hack as a simple Google search reveals Wendell Brown to be Fashion Editor for Esquire magazine! Not surprising given Newcastle's standing amongst fashion epicenters (about three clicks south of Detroit.) Yet again, the UK press proves its lack of knowledge about MLS football at the expense of a cheap joke.

FSC and CBC step up to the plate
Props to the FSC for sticking with the USL through a three year agreement signed this week. Hopefully this and the strengthened MLS coverage will lead to additional coverage of Open Cup. I know this is a bit of a stretch, but any US soccer coverage is good promotion for the other two contracts. Toronto FC signed a strong 14 game pact with the CBC.

Developmental Player’s Salaries
I was involved in a spirited discussion this week with some of my soccer pals about this topic. As many of you know, MLS developmental players aren’t exactly tracking down Goldman Sachs money managers to handle their assets. Most, probably can’t even open bank accounts! During the conversation I came across as a cold hearted prick. Which is probably true, but hey someone has to or else we would have a league. Where I was coming from was two fold:
1. Market Forces - the lawsuit (backed by the NFLPA) against single entity was defeated because MLS said, "You don't like it, there are hundreds of other leagues in the world to go play in." The problem for young players is that unless a US player heads to a top tier foreign league, they've largely been forgotten by the National Team and MLS is leveraging this. I'm sure Michael Bradley's recent USMNT performance sent shivers down MLS’ spine.
2. Pay for performance - these developmental players have not shown anything yet, so why narrow the gap between them and proven performers who are also being pays relatively low salaries. There have been plenty of players that have stepped up to the plate and have been rewarded by the league. I think this provides massive incentive for these players to perform well. And who in MLS, aside from maybe the top ten players, are really being paid their worth? Mapp? Mastroeni? Cooper? Ruiz? Nary a player in MLS is being paid what they are worth on the world market.(See point 1)

In summary, would I like to see Developmental Players get paid more or get more benefits, sure. Will they get paid more in time, no doubt. However, there are really no great incentives for the league to do this now. As more and more drafted MLS players opt out of the league, the MLS minimum will be pushed higher. This issue has become a major issue in recent years, with players opting to play for some European based squads that would have a tough time with MLS reserve sides.


PODCAST:
The Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis

Saturday, April 7, 2007

US Soccer Snob's Weekly Update

MLS Predictions:
Order of Finish:East: DC United*, Revs*, Columbus*, Toronto*, Chicago Fire, KC, NYRB
West: Houston*, RSL*, LA Galaxy*, Dallas*, Colorado, Chivas
* - Playoff teams

Supporters Shield: DC United
Again, United builds an early lead and then starts going through a rough patch dealing with injuries and general from the extended season and extensive competitions. Tommy Soehn and company right the ship and start to cruise again before the playoffs. Houston looks to and almost closes the gap after signing Omar Bravo in the summer transfer window, but loses him for much of the season after Blanco breaks his leg in their MLS debuts at Toyota Park.

MLS Cup: United over RSL
Adu’s storybook season is denied its end by an overpowering DCU offense in front of a sellout hometown crowd. Huge Beckham poster hung in the south end is knocked from it’s mooring by an attempted volley by Ben Olsen. Addias is not pleased.

Open Cup: LA Galaxy
A-league teams are asked to foot the bill for “security charges” and forfeit the first two rounds to the Gals. LA plays all its remaining games at home to sell as many Beckham tickets as possible. Christopher Sullivan reminds us again that when he played in South America, they referred a home game as “en casa”.

All Star Game: MLS 2 - Celtic 1
In an amazing move, the entire MLS roster is populated by field players that have yet to make their MLS regular season debut. Claudio Reyna (injured since the first step he took on the Giant’s field turf coming out of the locker room), makes his MLS debut in a wheel chair and feeds a streaking David Beckham for the first goal in the 15th minute. Celtic fans react by drinking more beer. Halftime arrives and Tommy Soehn is forced to sub Reyna as his wheelchair suffered extensive damange heading into the locker room as it rolled over a piece of astroturf on the sidelines. Celtic tie immediately in the second half as a confused Maciej Zurawski (recently inked by RBNY) puts one in for his former teammates. Celtic fans miss the goal as the halftime beer and bathroom lines set North American records. The MLS all-stars win in stunning fashion as 85th minute sub, Zinadine Zidane (signed at halftime by Kansas City) charges, head first, through the Celtic defense and walks the ball into the back of the net. After the final whistle, Don Garber decrees that the entire MLS All-star team be transferred to RBNY via an special “Allstar Disburement Allocation”. Deposed US national team coach Bruce Arena, guides the re-named RedBull Gallacticos to exactly one point the rest of the season. At his firing, he notifies the nation that they just don’t understand the top level of football in this country, expectations were set too high and that Claudio Reyna’s wheelchair is now available via MLS Auctions. The wheelchair is eventually purchased by the Claudio Reyna Museum Foundation and added the it’s extensive collection which is currently located in Bruce Arena’s fourth bedroom.

MVP: Dwayne DeRosario
Mr. Excitement outshines all others and has a season for the ages. After the season new mega-star DeRosario is often seen hangin’ out with Dave Chappelle and Cypress Hill.ROTY: Robbie Rogers (if eligible)
Seriously, who the hell can tell what players are and are not eligible for this award.

CONCACAF Champions Cup
Disappointment follows US based squads on Mexican soil again. Despite having leads, both DC United and the Dynamo failed to protect their advantages on the road. United came into their match with Chivas level on aggregate(1-1). United jumped to a surprising lead on a spectacular goal by Jaime Moreno. As defenders began to close on Luciano Emilio in the Chivas box, Emilio poked a pass to Moreno who had his back to the goal. Moreno vertically one-touched the ball then bicycle kicked a lofting shot into the back of the net. The loft of the show was absolutely physics defying! Unfortunately the lead withered shortly after that as Aldofo Bautista put home a cross just before the half. Throughout the match Facundo Erpen again proved his worthlessness in defense getting torched by every available Chivas attacker. Chivas jumped ahead for good as some nice build-up in United area lead to a strong shot by Gonzalo Pineda right at Troy Perkins. The MLS goalkeeper of the year decided to attempt to catch the shot, but seemed to rethink that approach and opted to push it over the bar. The only problem with that is half way through Perkins’ though process his indecisive hand touched enough ball to slow it and allow it to hit the back of the net. United had other opportunities, but those too fell by the wayside and another American team slunk back from Mexico dejected. Certainly Houston and their 2-0 aggregate lead gave our league a taste of the glory you say!

Where do I begin?

The referee for this match was Mauricio Navarro. Mauricio Navarro was born in Santiago Chile on April 7th 1966. His hometown is Vancouver, Canada. The reason I’m telling you this is that Mr. Navarro made sure that he was a part of every single story about this match. Mr. Navarro and his crew missed an easy offside call in the third minute and allowed Pachuca to cut into Houston’s lead. Apparently seeking approval from the freeloading crowd, Mr. Navarro saw it fit to award the home team a penalty kick ten minutes later. This call was at the very least, debatable. Dynamo defender, Craig Waibel made an ill advised lunge at the ball as a Pachuca attacker was attempting to navigate a maze of defenders and then easily fell when Waibel caught some leg with the ball. Twenty minutes after the penalty, Houston keeper Zach Wells was given a yellow card by Navarro. Here's the laughable part:In the thirty fifth minute, the keeper for a team that is even was awarded a yellow card for time wasting. Please! Somehow, Houston got out of the half level on aggregate, although Navarro did ask the stadium staff to place all available balls in the Houston’s net during halftime for karma’s sake. Again, Houston coach Dominick Kinner seemed to make all the right halftime moves as a fired up Dynamo squad retook the aggregate lead off a goal by Brian Mullan in the 52nd minute. Enter Navarro, who took the next opportunity to blow the whistle. This time it was as a Pachucan attacker attempted to go around Brad Davis where the box meets the endline. Having been shut down, the attacker dives and Navarro promptly points to the spot, Christian Giminez converts and the tilt is level again. After this point, the teams were allowed to decided the match. Undeterred Houston again put themselves ahead on aggregate off a free kick that found the head of an unmarked Brian Ching in the 79th minute. Had there been six minutes left in the match, Houston would have advanced, however seven minutes later Pachuca’s Gabriel Caballero scored on a magical header goal to draw the series even again. High in the mountains of Mexico, the two sides headed to overtime. Late in the overtime’s first half , Giminez completed his hat trick for the home side by unleashing a vicious bending shot that started right and then tailed back left into the top left corner of the net. Stunned Houston keeper Zach Wells could only watch and admire Giminez’s piece of artistry. In the second overtime frame Houston had an opportunity to draw even again, but Ching’s head refused to come to Houston’s rescue again. A great cross was squandered as the ball eluded Ching’s head and connected with his shoulder. Five minutes later, Navarro blew his cruel whistle on the match.

PODCAST:
The Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis

Monday, April 2, 2007

US Soccer Update - 04/02/07

US v. Ecuador
Wow! The crystal ball was working pretty good last week as I almost nailed the attendance and the line-up (off by 2), but I don’t think anyone could have predicted Landon Donovan’s three goal outburst! It feels good when you repeatedly back a player and they prove time and time again that they deserve the adoration. My captain, LD, got sailed into by everyone in the press while Arena only seemed to hear it from Wynalda. Speaking of Arena, I’m not sold on his presence in the booth. First, Bruce extremely defensive about any subject regarding his tenure at the helm of the national team. Second, he has this strange exhale-like sound that infiltrates all his sentence. I’ll do my best to spell it, “ahhhmmmm”, but really slow and Brooklyny. I’ll give him credit for his zinger to DOB on the possibility of the Red Sox taking the pennant this year. Arena fired, “Oh, really? Has it been 86 years already?”
Also maddening about Arena is his commentary about any US player on the pitch that was out there for World Cup seemed to directly contradict his coaching tactics during the summer. “Landon isn’t really comfortable being a full forward so he should play withdrawn.” Oh, is that why he was chasing headers against a monstrous Czech back line. I swear one of these days, I’ll stop bringing this stuff up, but it still burns too much to let it go.
As for Wynalda’s “Red Card, Yellow Card” segment, this is a cute little vehicle for E-dub to voice his opinions. This is a good solution since he as such a difficult time getting them out during the game.

US v. Gautamela (sp)
It was rather sad that the crack production team at ESPN2 could even figure out how to spell the name of the US’ opponent. Perhaps some foreshadowing to a “Night of Many Mis-ques”. While Sunday’s Ecuadorian match was a scintillating performance from a US perspective, Wednesday night’s affair failed to match that standard on just about all accounts. Despite the presence of Donovan Conrad, Dempsey and Keller, the US side was young and mostly unfamiliar with each other and that disconnect was evident. A bunkered down Guatemalan defense flummoxed old and new alike, but amid the confusion some Americans managed to make their mark. US newbie Frankie Simek stood out, making some strong pushes into the offense and doing well against the barely there Chapin attack. Most of the American offensive forays in the first thirty minutes flowed through Justin Mapp on the left leaving Deuce an observer on the right. Any chances Mapp created were squandered by sports psychologist patient candidate Eddie Johnson. The greatest entertainment of the evening was provided by MLS’ master thespian Carlos Ruiz, who treated the crowd to some physical comedy not witnessed since the zenith of the Chris Farley years. One thing that was evident during the night was the inflation of MLS attendance statistics. The US crowd was announced at just about 11,000. I’ve seen less people there for an announced 17,000 FCD match.

Blanco Hops to MLS
If this off-season need a yin to David Beckham’s yang (don’t get too excited ladies), he will be meeting fans tonight at Chicago’s Toyota Park. The long rumored transaction will likely result in pen to paper on Tuesday, as mercurial Mexican forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Reaping a payday of a reported $2 million, Blanco will attempt to do something no other Mexican star has been able to accomplish, produce at acceptable levels in Major League Soccer. No doubt Blanco will be a star at the home and road box office after joining the Fire in June or July, as fans will pay to cheer or more likely jeer him. Similar to John Starks or Denis Rodman on the Bulls, Albert Belle on the White Sox and Roger Clements in pinstripes; the comparisons of the villain that fans must learn to root for immediately spring to mind. I’m sure there are hundreds more, but Mo Johnston has yet to respond to my inquiry.
Most of my feeling about this transaction were purged from my brain into a blog a few weeks ago when the rumor started. In the stands, this move will result in a more Mexican atmosphere to the games at TP this year which has it’s plusses (fiesta!) and negatives (flying beer). This move will help creates even greater animosity and intensity between Fire and Fire West (Chivas) fans. On paper and hopefully the pitch, the Fire will have the most creative group of midfielders and forwards in the league. This line-up will have to produce as Tony Sanneh was cleared of the books for this move, creating an extremely frail back line that consists of either young or old and slow players.

A Guide to Establishing a Soccer Pub in your Neighborhood
I’ve recently had the good fortune to happen upon a bar that was very receptive to the idea of showing soccer games. After a couple of conversations with the owner, I have found a place that will welcome soccer fans with open arms. Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying go get the same thing going in your hood:
Look for new establishment – these places are looking to get an edge, and the soccer bar angle is still rather unique in our country. It doesn’t hurt if the owner is originally from another country. The more TV’s the merrier too. An owner won’t want to devote all the TV’s in the place to soccer fans right off the bat.
Establish a good rapport with the owner and be prepared. Get all the appropriate communication material (cell phone, e-mail) and stay in touch on a weekly basis.
Stress the low start up costs for this venture. Fox Soccer Channel is likely carried by most bars already. MLS DirectKick only costs $100 a year for commercial establishments.
Patience – these thing don’t happen overnight. Set expectations low and ensure that the owner will have patience.
Promote, Promote, Promote – make sure the local club and supports group know about the place. Post links all over bigsoccer.com. See what the local team can do as far as gear or promo for the bar.
Location – People just don’t like going out of the way. Try to target a place with a central location.
I’m at stage one of this, so I’ll try keep a journal of the steps and missteps I make along the way.

PODCAST:
The Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis