Thursday, May 31, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update – 5/31/07

Welcome to my supersized update.

MLS Week 8 – Rebound

FIRE vs. RBNY – In what hopefully will be the low point of the Chicago season as The Flagship scored their fastest goal in franchise history when Jozy Altidore put one past Matt Pickens with only 0:55 coming off the clock. The second RBNY goal set a MLS record for the fastest two goals scored to begin a game in league history. Let’s look at goal number two as key Chicago defensive weaknesses were exploited: lack of pace and poor central defending. To begin the play, Gonzalo Segares got absolutely smoked by Dan Richards on the right flank. I think Sega is still spinning around in the turf given the pace he was passed with. Richards send a nice, but not deadly cross into the middle of the Chicago box that was met by CJ Brown’s head. Not only was Brown’s clearance poor, but it looped over poorly positioned Jim Curtain, who left his mark to also attempt to clear the ball. That man was Juan Pablo Angel. The ball is about to fall to JPA’s feet when he takes a one touch to settle the ball in the air then hammered home his own volley. A lovely strike and the nail in the coffin for a team that can’t put away more than one than one goal a match. And with Chris Rolfe out of the line-up, this goal a match average is heading south.

Wizards vs. Revs – What a showcase for the league, following a glamour friendly featuring the Irish national team. Unfortunately, the Irish team was rounded up from local Boston pubs by Kevin Kilbane a week earlier and more fans were on hand to see the MLS match than the International friendly. I’m not sure but that might be a first! EJ netted his first MLS hat trick while showing a wide range of attacking skills.

TFC vs. Crew – Welcome back Andy! Another thrilling match played between Eastern Conference rivals saw the teams sharing the spoils. Fresh of a suspension for a vicious elbow, which Mo Johnston and Danny “it’s a mans game” saw nothing wrong with, Andy Herron put two in the back of the net before going down to injury all in the first half. Attacking soccer was on display all evening with Jeff Cunningham back in his old ground and set up pro-wrestler turned soccer player Danny Dichio for the first goal of the match. Toronto tied the game for good of a spectacular Jim Brennan free kick that took goal of the week with a heavy assist from the Toronto faithful In the stands, Toronto’s Red Patch Boys showed Columbus that a group other than Section 8 can take over their stadium at will. Crew fans, if any of you are reading: Why the hell does your team have three separate cheering sections? There the thinning one behind the net, the new seemingly Argie one to the left of that group and now this new one on the sidelines! Do your team, the league and us viewers a favor and consolidate your efforts.

Dynamo vs. DCU – HDNet Blackout warning. Only got to see highlights of this one, but DC United seems to have recovered from its Champions Cup hangover.

Galaxy vs. Rapids – Will this evening go down as the top nights of football in Denver? Huge crowd turns out for MLS and for once isn’t disappointed by the home team! It didn’t hurt that Kyle Martino was rightly sent off in the 25th minute. Herculez Gomez’ snap header off a picturesque Terry Cooke cross to beat Joe Cannon in the second half was all the Rapids needed to finish off a short handed LA team.

FCD vs. Chivas – And then like that Dallas is flat again. Galindo’s brilliance and determination proved the decisive blow to the Hoops, but Chivas quick one touch passing kept the visitors chasing the game all night. Dallas will be the head scratching team of the season and certainly not a team to bet the mortgage on.

RSL vs. FIRE – The FIRE’s effort was far more respectable in this match than their effort earlier in the match week. However, bottom feeder RSL still blanked them on the back of a stellar goalkeeping exhibition from Nick Rimando. The changing of the Curtins was well overdue because the old one was dusty as hell! With the exception of the haircut they look almost identical, except that Jeff, in his first MLS start, looked crisper than his bro has all year.
According to the Chicago Tribune when asked if the FIRE’s recent struggles led to the trial of Marcelo Salas, GM John Guppy said, "It's fair to say that. We need more quality on offense. Obviously, our recent challenges raised our attention to the matter.”
Maybe trading away the vast majority of 2006 goal scorers in the off-season should have raised your attention to that you bumbling fool! FIRE fan’s worst fears of the FIRE becoming Metrostars West with Guppy’s appointment have been quickly realized. We got all the hallmarks of the Metroscum now: underachieving team, attendance worries and worthless management. Thanks those responsible! It’s as if Guppy’s game plan for the season was: Sign Blanco not matter the cost, get revenue, do nothing else other than open the doors to Toyota Park.
Unlike many of the FIRE faithful, I’m not quite ready to throw the gauntlet down on Dave Sarachan yet. Whether it was Steve McClerran-esque desperation or simple injury problems (which most calling for Sarachan’s head seem to be oblivious to) his blooding of the young players against RSL at home was a great move. At least there was a glimmer of light on Sunday for the FIRE. Will Dave’s great drafting/scouting save him again? Tune in next Sunday.

Early Season MLS Awards (one award per player/team)

MVP – (tie) Eddie Johnson (KC Wizards) and Taylor Twellman (NE Revolution) – While asking myself, “Who is the first player I would build a team on the back for the first part of this season?” it always came down to these two players whose teams would be nowhere close to their current standing without them. As lame as it is to: 1) have a tie and 2) it be between the two top goal scorers, I can’t see it any other way. Each player requires the attention of nearly the entire back line. Neither’s team has another player even close to their capabilities and opens doors for their teammates that would only be open with their presence. Isn’t that what an MVP is all about?
Runner-up: Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire) - Win with him, lose without. That is also the definition of Value.

Comeback Player of the 1/3 Year - Clint Mathis (The Flagship) – Who else? Why couldn’t Bruce do this with Cletus on the National Team? Whatever it is, Clint Mathis is the lynchpin to RBNY’s suddenly explosive offense. I’m not discounting the significant upgrades that this team has made, but this seemingly insignificant move to the alleged junk heap has really blossomed for the Bruce. Match after match Cletus’ presence in the middle of the Flagship’s O has been dangerous and effective. Mathis’ strong free kick and dead ball abilities are almost just a bonus this season as his passion and competitiveness continues to drive this team forward.
Runner-up: Herculez Gomez (Colorado Rapids) – Gomez has been a demon on the pitch for opposing defenses and his revenge header this weekend to lift the Rapids over the Gals was a nice bonus for this MLS good guy.

Rookie of the Year (acquired in 2007 Superdraft) – Dane Richards (The Flagship) – Just give him the trophy now! Richards has locked
Runner-up: Michael Harrington (KC Wizards) – Fastest goal by a rookie in league history and a dangerous defender who can push up ala Frankie Hedjuk

Best Designated Player Pick-up – Juan Pablo Angel (The Flagship) -
Runner-up: Claudio Reyna (The Flagship) – Well he’s the only other one to have played in the league and he has yet to justify the money or allocation space.

Newcomer of the Year – Maykel Galindo (Chivas USA) – Robbed of this week’s Goal of the Week away by UFC’s fanbase, Galindo has show some extraordinary pace and acclimation to MLS. His physical presence as a striker is a revelation that hasn’t been seen in LA since Pescadito flopped into town. Do you think his success will convince any other Cuban national teamers to defect during Gold Cup this simmer?
Runner-up: Juan Toja (FC Dallas) – An added dimension. That is what this kid brings to the pitch.

Franchise of the Year – Toronto FC (UFC) – Between the ticket sales, the reaching out to the community, the fan support, the stadium from day one and the assembly of a competitive team, UFC simply has buried the rest of the league off the pitch.
Runner-up: FC Dallas – The Hoops seem to slowly be hooking into a solid fanbase in their new digs. The team hired a coach that is not afraid to shake things up in Steve Morrow. I mean the guy give the armband to Ruiz then benches him once he starts to fade. That will get you the respect of your team and it sends a great message that you have to work hard every week to stay on the pitch. The Richetti and Toja signings are also amongst the tops in the league.

Biggest Disappointment – The Amado Guevara Situation – OK, trade a DP allocation for a career mercurial player, then cut him from the team when he plays the way he always has. There are gutsy moves by coaches or front offices and then there are monumentally idiotic moves and this one qualifies as the latter, particularly for a club such as Chivas USA which could score some seriously bank on a designated player. Was I alone in thinking that they would be one of the first clubs to us this new toy? Now, the club has no true star and no DP allocation until 2010.
Runner-up: Houston Dynamo – If there was one team that spit in the face of the designated player rule it was the Dynamo. The one saving grace for this team has been the announcement of “going exclusive” with downtown Houston for a stadium. Let’s hope this happens because, it would be an instant front runner for best ground in the league.

Biggest Surprise – Quality of Play – Wasn’t there a talent diluting expansion draft this past year, which Mo turned into his personal swap meet? Note: Not one of the players selected in the expansion draft ever stepped foot on the pitch for Toronto in an MLS match. Instead of talent dilution, MLS countered the effect with the passage of the designated player rule that did exactly what everyone hoped it would do. Get David Beckham! Just kidding, but not really. The acquisition of Becks paved the way for talented players such as Andy Welsh, Carl Robinson, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Carlos Marinelli and many others who may have not considered MLS without his presence. The additional spotlight created by this and the new TV contracts has created and great incentive for players who typically regard the regular season as next to worthless.
Runner-up: KC Wizards – While Carlos Marinelli is no small addition, Curt Onolfo has been the difference maker and has embrace entertaining soccer at all costs.

MLS creates YouTube Channel
Following in the footsteps of the NHL and MLB, not much else to say. I guess it can’t hurt.

Team to Know
Making it to the final 16 of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup: Lynch’s Irish Pub. The boy’s from Jacksonville’s finest tap travel to Charlotte to take on USL-2’s Eagles on June 12th.

Quote of the Week:
“I tend to not concentrate the whole 90 minutes” – Jeff Cunningham to The Globe and Mail this week.

FIFA Says Getting High is Bad
Last week FIFA has banned international matches in stadiums above 8,200 feet sea level for health related reasons. Unfortunately, nemesis to the US national team, Stadio Azteca, sits at 7,800 feet above sea level. Amazingly that is over 2,800 feet above Denver's Mile High Field. No mention of any minimum air quality standards. A FIFA sanctioned air quality rule might do more to save the earth than 50 Al Gores!

Beckham’s Recall and MLS
David Beckham has been recalled by skittish England skipper Steve McClarren onto a desperate side for an upcoming Euro 2008 qualifier again opening the door for the uninformed MLS boo-bird from across the pond continue to trash the league. I just have to ask, where the hell to these fools get off bashing MLS? Their team is worried about a match with Estonia!!! Is that what the “supremacy” of the EPL gets you? This from the league where Teddy Sherringham continues to play? Players that are expected to struggle against Estonia? I watched “The Miracle Match” (a.k.a. The Game of their Lives” this weekend and it contained the perfect line about the British. “Just because they invented the game they believe it is their God given right to be the best at it.” Now, the entire island can’t see that their best day of their national team are well behind them. Only in betting parlours across the UK did anyone realistically think that the team that showed up for World Cup 2006 had a chance in hell in taking home the trophy.

Last week, Becks correctly stated that his conditioning will be better that it currently is after his first Galaxy tour due to the demands of playing in MLS in heat and style of play. This statement was met with dismissals from the likes of Sir Bobby and current teammate Ruud Van Nistelroy lamenting the summer move of Becks. The same papers that wrote Beckham off six months ago are now crying over his eminent departure from so-called “top flight football.” Certainly any football fan can see that there is a gap in the quality of play between the top American level and the top leagues in Europe, but while the sensationalists will describe this gap to be roughly the distance of Los Angeles and the last recognized planet in our galaxy, reality would place it much closer than that. Witness that every player that has made the leap from England or other top flight areas express surprise at the level of play in MLS. UFC’s Robinson continues to play for Wales as his manager made the astounding statement that he would make his decision on Robinson based on his current form rather than geography. What a novel concept! This policy paid off as Robinson rated above the likes of Ryan Giggs and Simon Davies in the most recent friendly with New Zealand according to the Daily Post. Luckily for MLS fans and Becks, McClerran has affirmed that despite playing in MLS, Beckham will be counted on, depending on form, throughout the Euro 2008 campaign.
For MLS this is a double edged sword. Thousands of tickets have been sold on the promise of the global superstar being on the pitch for the Gals. And man do they need him! The Galaxy currently sit in last place in the combined MLS table. Another challenge for the Galaxy and other MLS front offices is the lack of understanding about international duties among the casual American sports fans expected to turnout in droves for Becks. At the same time, MLS could have the good fortune of having a current England national team player on their league. If he continues to play for her Majesty’s team after while plying his trade with the Galaxy, the profile of MLS will be raised beyond its wildest expectations and may help shatter this retirement/semi-pro league moniker that the league has been saddled with overseas. However, MLS believes it can consistently attract this level of player it will have to begin to adhere to the international calendar. This summer the depth of MLS rosters will be tested like never before and while the growing reserve system helps offset this problem, nothing makes up for losing all the top players for league matches.
Here is a list of affected matches that and FIFA dates that may cause a problem with Lalas and Becks:
Aug 10 DC United (a)
Aug 13 New England (a)
Aug 15 Friendly v Germany (h)
Sep 2 Real Salt Lake (h)
Sept 8 Euro qual v Israel (h)
Sep 9 Colorado (h)
Sept 12 Euro qual v Russia (h)
Sep 14 Chivas (a)
Oct 13 Euro qual v Estonia (h)
Oct 14 Toronto (h)
Oct 17 Euro qual v Russia (a)
Oct 19 New York (h)
Nov 21 Euro qual v Croatia (h)

Dynamo meet the Prez
Dero and the boys got to press the flesh with George W. Bush Tuesday as he congratulated the team for their MLS Cup victory. Thanks to the efforts of Houston retailer, Lucho, the reigning champs will be stylin! Lucho tailored 26 custom suits complete with orange and gold ties for free. Maybe they could get some tips from him and Karl Rove on how to steal a victory or two. It might help them out on their current campaign.

Euro-Snob of the Week
This goes out to new soccer “fan” ESPN’s Bill Simmons who pledged his allegiance to Spurs after loving the World Cup so much. So first the former-Boston Sports Guy disses his local team for a foreign club based on reader suggestions, which is about as low as one can get in my book. Then in his recent continuing series of why he loves sports, he finds the MLS DirectKick commercial offering every MLS game for $74.95 guffaw worthy. Bill, if you need some guffaws or just straight laughter look at how much ink, money and time you’ve devoted to the Celtics over the last year. That is something to laugh or more likely cry at! The NBA lottery was just deserts for you buddy.

MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (3-4)
SEASON (15-27)

Colorado v. Toronto – Toronto was always going to be amongst the teams most hurt by International callup. Take the Rapids here.

RSL v. Revs – Another depleted team, the Revs, will fall as a full strength RSL gets their first win on the road.

RBNY v. KC – The Wizards made the first part of the statement last week, now they make the second part of that statement topping The Flagship.

DC v. LA – One of the hottest teams in the league against one of the coldest. DC over the languishing Gals. Boo birds come out at the HDC.

Hoops v. Dynamo – The I-41 rivalry and “El Capitan” is on the line. Without DeRo on the pitch the Dynamo focus more on the flanks. Brad Davis and Brian Mullan start targeting Brian Ching and the Dynamo get a much needed win.

Crew v. FIRE – Was there ever a match that had more of a draw feel around it? Oh, that was last week’s game vs. RSL that I picked wrong. Two teams looking distinguish themselves.

The Dynamo Power Hour with Glenn Davis
These broadcasts are taking on a bit of a funeral type feel these days aren’t they?

(NOTE: If you know a Podcast that needs to be added please let me know and post a link)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update – 5/24/07

MLS Week 7 – A step backwards
This weekend we were treated to some terrible soccer (and weather) almost across the board. Luckily there were a few moments of brilliance sprinkled between the hacking and incomplete passes.

Toronto v. Dynamo - Nothing can keep these fans away from the madhouse on the lake. Can 2,000 DeRo supporters be wrong? They were last Wednesday and Houston got outplayed and new acquisition Joseph Ngenyna made like his predecessor, Alejandro Moreno and squandered a couple of prime scoring opportunities. Andy Welsh slammed home a Ronnie O’Brien free kick to send the Torontonians into a frenzy. Most amazing stat of the day: Complaints by Mo: 0. More on this later.

FIRE v. Dallas – Another Brimstone Cup match, another Dallas win. Dallas outclasses the FIRE for 65 minutes and then managed to hang on for a 2-1 victory over the home team. Juan Toja was the man of the match in my book. His dominance across the field kept the 32 FIRE defenders fielded by mini-Coach “Defensive” Dave scrambling all evening. After Kenny Cooper almost broke the stage side Toyota Park crossbar in the 54th minute with a screamer from well outside the box, Toja doubled the Dallas advantage in the 60th with a rocket that would have scored without the slight deflection by Logan Pause. The FIRE with the fresh injection of Brian Plotkin, Thiago, and Chad Barrett besieged the Dallas goal for the remainder of the match and converted in the 73rd minute after Thiago won a ball from two Dallas defenders, split two more with a pass to Barrett, which was crossed to an on rushing Calen Carr. Carr poked the ball past Sala to halve the lead. The FIRE almost leveled in the match when Thiago slammed a Justin Mapp corner into the near post. This match revealed that the FIRE can no longer afford to play converted defenders such as Gonzalo Segares, Ivan Guererro and Robinson as midfielders and expect them to cover for an aging central defensive tandem of CJ Brown and Chris Armas. Armas in particular looks like he aged ten years in the off season.

Toronto v. DC United – Now here’s a game brought to you by Mo Johnston! UGLY! The first half lacked any cohesion whatsoever, but did bring the interesting footnote of Aleko Eskandarian scoring his first non-DC United goal vs. DC United. Aside from that, there was little to take away from the first half aside from the foul festival that is becoming commonplace at BMO field. I mean, we are talking about a team that is coached by a man who thought a red card was too harsh when one of his players tried to bite an opponent. DC was flat until the insertion of Guy-Roland Kpene in the 56th minute for walking yellow card Facundo Erpen who was on the verge of earning his second of the match. Shortly thereafter, DC tied the match off a Bobcat Goldthwaite own goal and continued pressing. In the 79th minute a great over the top ball found Luciano Emilio who was subsequently dragged down in the box by TFC’s Marvell Wynne. You guessed it, Mo didn’t agree with the call. That made no difference to Jamie Moreno, who tied Jason Kreis’ MLS all time goal record with a well struck penalty kick. Moreno who has only been able to score via the spot this season may well be running on fumes, despite his recent call-up to the Bolivian national side.

RBNY vs. Crew – I didn’t get to see too much of this game, but I did witness Dane Richards ROY campaign take another step forward with a great cross to ageless journeyman John Wolyniec for the opener. After that, Columbus pretty much got hammered into the ground by a merciless Red Bull side. The Red Bulls did very well considering they had to deal with the shock of Claudio Reyna not on the roster due to injury. Ronny Waterrus and Young Jozy were not on the pitch either with Waterrus nursing an injury and Jozy going to a Prom. Props to Bruce for letting Altidore attend an important event. There will be plenty of more games for him to take part in. I think Arena knows what he has on his hands in NYC and it should scare the hell out of anyone who loves MLS. I mean anyone, because it is clear to tell from attendance that no one in NY/NJ loves MLS.

Dynamo v. Revs – Shalrie Joseph fires a low liner past Pat Onstad early on to give the Revs all they needed against a tepid Dynamo attack. The Dynamo look very lost at the moment and might start to think about some serious changes. Rarely this year have Brian Ching, DeRo, Brad Davis and Joelajandro Dagrenya look close to being on the same page.

Colorado v. Wizards – Thank God for HDNet! That is so exclusive no one except Mark Cuban can watch the games! The draw here saw Carlos Marinelli back on the pitch, which is good news for KC’s fans. The fan base that has the distinction of putting up a “no rating” on their local TV game broadcasts according to the KC Star. That is sub 0.1 territory which means that less than 900 or so TV’s were tuned to the match. That’s got to hurt more than Jimmy Conrad’s jaw!

Chivas v. Galaxy – Superclassico and another “sell out”! Ever watch a match with no connection between either teams midfielders and their strikers? Watch this on MLS replay and you’ll be able to claim that distinction. Tough match for spectators and that includes those lying down on blanket on Lalas hill.

Dallas v. RSL – A great Sunday afternoon crowd witnessed yet another droll first half , which gave way to a RSL showcase (and Jeff Cunningham swan song) in the second half. But the RSL Williams/Adu show was stolen by Dallas’ finishing, including the no-look Goal of the Week stunner launched by Chris Gbandi in the 82nd minute. I was shocked to see that eight cautions were issued in this match. What is this? Toronto?

Friendly Notes:
This week LA fell to Rangers 1-0 at the Home Depot Center while Toronto held Benefica to a scoreless draw. Not to bad all things considered. What other conclusions are there to draw from this?

Sheva open to America
According to the Evening Chronicle in Newcastle, Chelsea striker came away from last summers MLS All Star game impressed enough to move him to the following statements about the league. Shevchenko said: "I would like to play there, actually. Soccer is growing in the US and I'd like to be a part of that. I played there last summer against the MLS All-Stars and I saw myself that it's definitely improving.” Upon reading this, Alexi Lalas picked up the phone.

MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (2-6)
SEASON (12-23)

FIRE vs. RBNY – As much as it hurts, I’ve got to go with the Red Bulls on this one. Bruce has got the whole team playing up to (Richards) and beyond (Mathis) their potential. With Angel getting familiar with his surrounding, the FIRE’s terrible (there I said it) central defense will look stupid all night.

Wizards vs. Revs – The Revs keep winning, but something tells me that Marinelli and the Wizards will be able to get a draw out of this one.

TFC vs. Crew – The TFC UFC takes on the Crew (who’s logo is probably more appropriate for the visitors given their style of brawl ball). Toronto gets their first road win here in a shoot out.

Dynamo vs. DCU – Tommy’s boys are back on track as Dominic continues to look for answers and Saturday night at RFK is no place to search for those answers. I’ll take DCU comfortably.

Galaxy vs. Rapids – All Rapids all the way here. Jacob Peterson and Connor Casey got some much needed time in the Rapids mid-week Open Cup victory over RSL. Look for these players to have a role in this match.

FCD vs. Chivas – Steve Morrow figured something out over the last month and it is going to be trouble for any team in FCD’s path. Chivas’ midfield is having some difficulty in connecting to its attacking players and Pablo Ricchetti will ensure that remains the case.

RSL vs. FIRE – Woe is RSL. This team is too good to continue to struggle the way they are, but alas, their struggles will not end on the road. The FIRE win their first in four and Carr begins to make a name for himself.

New Soccer Basher Enemy: Norman Chad – It’s great when a nationally syndicated writer uses every opportunity to bash MLS. Find his articles your own! I mean this stuff is hold over anti-soccer junk from days begone.

Euro-Snobs of the Week

The AP ran an article about two twenty year old American college students, Dan Dahlin and Ian Smith, who won tickets to the Champions League final via a UEFA lottery. Good for them, until the last quote of the page came up. When asked about David Beckham’s move to the Galaxy Smith quipped, "He's obviously shifting away from soccer to the movies." Obviously!!! Bite me Ian!

Writer of the Week:
Brian Dohn for this nice piece.

The Dynamo Power Hour with Glenn Davis special guest Marcus Hahnemann.
(P.S. – Is Thomas Rongren the spokes person for Danish Inspirations?)

NEXT WEEK: Early Season MLS Awards

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update – 5/16/07

MLS Week 6 – A Week of Firsts

The week kicked off with the Rocky Mountain Cup, in a game that featured great pace and a strong step-up on national TV from the leagues tarnished golden boy. Young Freddy was on a mission as his work in the first half kept Colorado under constant pressure. His blast in the 15th minute deflected off the bottom of Pablo Mastroeni’s outstretched boot and went into onion bag past my player of the week Bouna Coudoul. RSL managed to give up another embarrassing goal as former Fireman Jack Stewart positioned his shoulder perfectly to allow the ball to deflect off it, into the back of his own net early on. The second half featured some great football, but failed to product a goal. The game ended as the first ever draw that featured only own goals in league history and the sixth time that each team scored an own goal. The Colorado crowd of 13K+ looked and sounded great! Another tribute to the soccer specific stadium agenda.

FSC came out to cover the FIRE vs. Toronto FC match. Two hundred brave FIRE fans made the trek and witnessed the worst game their team had played all season. The FIRE offense was a shambles all match as Toronto controlled the tempo of the game and the FIRE were kept on their heels all afternoon. Toronto got on the board First when Jan Koellers uglier brother Danny Diccio put in the first in franchise history off an Edson Buddle feed. This also set off the first mass seat cushion toss in TFC history. (P.S. Dave Sarachan stole my joke about this incident, so The half of firsts wasn’t over for Diccio yet as his rugby style of play led him to crash into keeper Matt Perkins during a cross. After the ball was cleared, half the FIRE team went after Diccio and the melee sparked more flying seat cushions. Because of the intensity of the scrum, the referee decided to award the first red card in TFC history to Diccio. The FIRE’s Diego Gutierrez was also sent off. Upon review of the play, Mr. Diccio might find his vacation from the MLS pitch last a bit longer than just one match. Diccio completed the rare hat trick of firsts with a club and league first: First attempted Mike Tyson v. Evander Holyfield impersonation. No joke! The ogre attempted to bite Gutierrez! The change in the number of team representatives seemed to favor Chicago. Hell, Brentos even thought so. The opposite turned out to be true as CJ Brown decided to take a vacation from the back post during the second half and TFC put in the second and third goals of their inaugural campaign to walk away with their first win. Brown and Curtain’s weaknesses were on full display as their tortoise–like reactions and lack of cohesion allowed the FIRE to be doused for the second week in a row. This game became a perfect example of what the Chicagoans have given up to obtain Sr. Blanco. Now Andy Herrons’ elbows will be filled by Temo, but the defense sorely misses Tony Sanneh’s poise and organization skills, particularly with Matt Pickens embarking on his first full season as a starter. Brown and Curtain’s play may force Sarachan’s hand to put in first round draft pick The Big Baker, opting for talent over experience. Either way, it looks to be a shaky two months for a team that can’t seem to put up more than one a game.

Columbus vs. Chivas/KC vs. Dallas
OK, first Ante Razov is a freak of nature and one of the most underrated players in the league. For all the gushing about Jamie Moreno, Razov is doing it in less game and with less penalty kicks! Not that Moreno, is going Romario on us, but he is just not the opportunist that Razov is! Schelotto set up Ned Grabavoy (move over Eddie) for the tying goal and that is how the match ended. Ali Moreno did nothing again. Not all that much else happened, although I was flipping between the cosmopolitan hubs of Columbus and Kansas City during the games so I may have missed Eddie Gaven sulk off the pitch.

KC and Dallas proved that it is possible to lose A LOT of money betting on soccer. Dallas comes in struggling, but is boosted from the reappearance of Dario Sala between the pipes. KC’s flying high, but wunderkind Carlos Marinelli is on the bench. Result? A convincing 2-1 win for the visitors. The non-Dave Dir Dallas announcer was so beside himself that he dismissed Kenny Coopers opening headed as “not a thing of beauty.” A backtracking Cooper, back-nods (its a word now) the ball into the far corner, beating a slightly off his line Kevin Hartman and its not a thing of beauty? I must be watching the wrong game! The Wizards conceded another goal to Dallas late in the first half and couldn’t take advantage of a blinder of a game by Davey Arnaud until the end of regulation when rookie of the year candidate Michael Harrington convincingly headed in his second of the season.

The Taylor Twellman show came to LA and didn’t fail to disappoint. TnT beat Joe Cannon twice in the second half as the Revs came from behind to beat the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center. Kyle Martio showed up for the game and notched the opening goal in the 14th minute. The score stood at that point until just after the half, where Adam Cristman circled around and snuck a shot past a frozen Cannon. Ralston on the assist, in case that isn’t implied at this point. Five minutes later Twellman put one off the crossbar, but followed his shot and headed into the back of the net. The home team though they had secured at least a tie in the 84th minute when Tyron Marshall deftly headed Captain Donovan’s corner kick past Matt Reis to set off a wild celebration (well wild for this side of the Canadian border). The revelry was short lived though as Twellman scored on a Pat Noonan pass on the next possession. Thus ended Saturday’s Major League Soccer action.

Sunday witnessed the grand welcome to the Red Bull Home Faithful to NY/NJ for Juan Pablo Angel. I think I briefly spotted a Columbian flag at midfield. Just a terrible showing of support for a Designated Player, but none the less, an appropriate welcome. Captain Wheelchair was on the bench and Ronny Waterreus was still ailing. Colorado took it to the Bulls all match and went ahead on a nice Herculez Gonzales, Nico Hernandez connection midway through the first half. Props to Nico and Herculez for the Bull inspired celebration. Toro! Toro! The Red Bulls looked slow all game, but did manage to direct some shots at net, but Condoul was equal to the task and had his second seven save game of the year. Mike Petke and Mastroeni were also very important to the strong Colorado defense all afternoon.

BB is the King!
Congratulations to former FIRE, Flagship and Chivas USA coach Bob Bradley who will have the interim removed from his name by US Soccer Wednesday. Bobby, you earned it! Now go out there and show the country why we will never need a foreign coach at the helm of our team!

Xavier in LA

No, it is not this nation’s classiest college basketball program doing a movie, it is well traveled Portuguese defender Abel Xavier who will join the Galaxy June 15th on a free transfer from EPL side Middlesboro. Word is also that Mr. Ruiz, another “bargain” attraction is plotting his return to LA. How the f%*k does this league claim to have a salary cap? Please let me know! This is growing beyond the smoke and mirror typically employed by MLS front offices. This is just straight up ignorance of the rules.

Basher Alert

It is rare these days that a young sports columnist churns out an idiotic piece of crap like this. Of course, I could keep my fingers off the keyboard. And yes, I decided against a constructive e-mail, after all, he said that he knows everything already while saying he doesn’t understand the game! I’m not kidding!

My Response:
Mr. Robinson,

If you willingly admit you know nothing about the beautiful game, why do you write about it? Since when do American’s care about tennis? Check the attendance for tennis events vs. soccer events in this country and you will be surprised. Sorry about the lack of cohesion in my response, but I thought you’d enjoy it given the caliber of drivel that seeped from your pen when you wrote “looking for a tie.” No, it doesn’t deserve to be capitalized.

Adios Hack,
US Soccer Snob

Sorry for putting you readers through that! To reassure your faith in humanity, please read this great Bob Hunter piece from the Columbus Dispatch.

MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (2-4)
SEASON (10-17)

Toronto v. Dynamo - The locals are raging soccer lunatics! But that won’t stop DeRo form showing them what they’ll get in a year or two when he joins TFC. Houston send Toronto back to earth.

FIRE v. Dallas – I don’t know what the hell to make of either of these teams! The Fire have given up six goals in the last two games while Dallas put together just an awesome performance at KC last Saturday. The FIRE should be able to draw this team because Dallas team speed isn’t too much for Chicago’s snail like central back tandem of Brown and Curtain.

Toronto v. DC United – United still are trying to work out the bugs and have to settle for a draw at the Madhouse on the Lake.

RBNY vs. Crew – Boca! River! Schelotto! Angel! Someone get Chris Sullivan’s hand out of his pants! Red Bulls bounce back with Jozy and Angel showing the RedBulls largest crowd of the season why there is hope this season.

Dynamo v. Revs – You wanna mess with the Revs? I don’t wanna mess with them! He don’t wanna mess with them? Take the Revs as the Twellman show rolls on.

Colorado v. Wizards – No Conrad, No Marinelli, No Win. Maybe even a Connor Casey sighting! Funny that Connor is on the same team as Jovan Kirovski. I think they got the identical career path from their high school guidance counselors.

Chivas v. Galaxy – Watch out now its HONDA SUPERCLASSICO TIME. The Gals take out their recent frustration on their building squatters.

Dallas v. RSL – Holy Kreis! Checkett’s favorite Jason remains undefeated and notches his first win and fresh RSL legs prevail in the Dallas heat.

Sorry, but Glenn hasn’t posted his podcast yet.

Friday, May 11, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update

MLS Week 5

Come, join me on a shoddy week of match reporting! Luckily, I have more than match recaps in my head.

Week five started with a great match in our nation’s capital between DC United and the Revs. Sadly, this match was marred by a ridiculous straight red card handed to Shalrie Joseph on an all ball tackle from the side in the 59th minute. Even with a man advantage, misfiring United could only manage a 1-1 draw and lost big addition Fred to an injury that is expected to keep him four a few matches. Facundo Erpen was back in the line-up for Tommy Soehn’s side but failed to hand any clear goal scoring opportunities over to the Revolution.

Some refreshing atmosphere was added to Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday afternoon as a vocal Argentinean contingent was on hand to witness the Wizards down the Crew 1-0 on a dramatic extra time goal from Jose Burciaga Jr. The beautiful game was not on display in KC though as the teams combined for 34, mostly ugly fouls. While the Argentineans seemed to be rooting (all game) for the home side, it was unclear if their attendance was driven by the presence of Carlos Marinelli, the debut of Guillermo Barros Schelotto or the aura of Ryan Pore. Either way, the Wizards to keep selling those tickets as well as about 10,000 more per game. KC has yet to crack 8,000 tickets sold in each of their first two home games with one of the highest paid American players in top form again.

Oh, to see RSL’s stunning comeback versus the Flagship with two goals in added time. Unfortunately, I only purchased the Direct Kick package that gives you access to all the games on TV. Try to go with this. All the MLS games this season are televised according to Garber the Don many, many times during the off season. Therefore, I couldn’t get the game, because for some idiotic reason only some of the HDnet games are broadcast on Direct Kick. I can mention that the Brown goal should be goal of the week, not only for the skill involved, but also for the circumstances under which it was scored.

Also eluding my eyes this weekend was the Houston vs. Colorado match. Apparently, DeRosario was notified that if he wants DP money he better start playing like a DP. DeRo responded with two goals. The first was a vintage DeRo blast from well outside the box. The second was some good follow-up that surprisingly didn’t result in a major head injury for a Colorado players. After a collision between goalkeeper, defender and attacker, the ball was still free and rolling ever so slowly towards the line. Humorously, the Colorado defender who was buried underneath the wreckage tried to head the ball off the line while lying flat on the ground. DeRo finished the goal scoring sequence ensuring the defender the “I’ll bite your ankles” award of the week.

Sunday’s DC – Chivas match witnessed some great finishing from Christian Gomez and Mykiel Galindo. Jamie Moreno converted another penalty kick and DC rolled on to a 2-1 win over the Guevara-free Goats in a fairly even match. Ante Razov fired some threatening balls toward the net, but Troy Perkins, easing back into form, was not troubled. (Unfortunately this game kicked off at the same time as the Real Madrid vs. Sevilla tilt and I missed a great deal of the MLS match. Can ESPN please pay Ray Hudson what ever it takes to be part of their MLS broadcasts? Is he ever really that far off of the John Belushi news desk stints in the early days of Saturday Night Live? I fully expect at any moment he is just going to start spewing unintelligible words then go flailing off of his chair. Here’s a classic Ray line during the RM match about Guti, “This player is bringing tears to my eyes with his performance. The flamencos will be singing his name throughout the streets of Madrid this evening”

Now we go from the sweet strains of Ray Hudson to the Sominex duo of Kenn and Kenny who broadcast the Fire matches for Comcast Sports in Chicago. These two are a better fit for a golf broadcast or perhaps competitive chicken hatching than a futbol contest! Regardless, the match was very well played despite the choppy play in the opening minutes. The early star had to be the pitch. The roll on the high tech field turf seemed to play very true. Jeff Larentowicz stole the spotlight in the 16th minute with an amazing diving volley to beat Matt Pickens. The Fire pulled a goal back on another blasted goal by Chris Rolfe at the best possible time, right before the half. As much as I try I can’t erase the second half from my mind. Stevie Ralston and the Rev’s used a twelve minute span to convincingly bury the previously unbeaten Fire. Ralston never should have scored in the second half. Pickens elected to stay on his line as a slow cross rolled past him onto the foot of the hard charging Ralston who put it into the back post. That ball HAS to be Perkins’. The Revs sealed the deal when Wells Thompson scored his first MLS goal in the 81st minute. Up until that point, all Thompson did was draw fouls by putting his butt between the ball and Chicago defender. This match will not be mentioned again.

Salaries Posted
The players union posted salaries this week and they’ve become the hottest webpages this side of D-listed. This has been so dissected and mis-analyzed that there isn’t much to add except that Andy Dorman is the best value in the league since the first days of the Little Fish (who might be on the move again). 30K for three goals already this season. You’ve got to figure this young man may also be working his way in to the Welsh picture. Andy! Get yourself a real agent! Of course, this salary release draws out the boo birds who like to point out the discrepancy in the numbers. You know the folks who never pay attention to the league for 364 (or perhaps 362 after Beckham) days a year. Which brings us to award winning Philadelphia Daily News columnist John Smallwood’s column. Below is my response to Mr. Smallwood

Thanks for writing the column on MLS and the similarities at the far ends of the payroll bell curve. Luckily for us soccer fans, the similarities with the defunct NASL do end at the payroll for the most part. Only the NY Red Bulls are stuck in a terrible stadium lease agreement these days. That will be rectified within three years when the team moves into its own stadium which is already under construction. By the time the RedBulls move into their new stadium, only four MLS teams (DC United, Kansas City, Houston and New England) will be playing in stadiums designed for American Football. All of these teams are in the process of looking for places to build their own stadiums. The soccer specific stadium is the key component in differentiating then from now in American professional soccer. MLS is getting rights fees from ESPN, Telefutura and Fox Soccer Channel. The league has other revenues sources including its licensing of television and marketing of soccer matches through its subsidiary Soccer United Marketing. According to all reports out of Los Angeles, Mr. Beckham has already generated enough revenue to not only justify, but also pay off his year one salary. Mr. Blanco has yet to generate that level of income, but based on his reception in Chicago, it will not take long!

While Beckham and Blanco rightly fall into the category of those who need to be successful on and off the pitch, neither of the two NY pick-ups meet that criteria. Juan Pablo Angel will attract Columbian fans, however, he is far from a household name for casual American soccer fans. Claudio Reyna, despite his national team pedigree, will not draw fans in on name recognition or on his play because of its unflashy nature.

The side effect of the Designated Player rule is raising the level of play in the league, not only through the players acquired through this rule, but through residual signings. Players the quality of Carl Robinson (Toronto), Fred (DC), Carlos Marinelli (KC) and Guillermo Barros Schletto (Columbus) would likely not be in this league had it not attracted Beckham to it in the first place.

The days of questioning MLS’ viability and whether it will be around next season are long gone. Now the only question is, when will the league rise to the level of the top leagues in the world.

Ngwenya and Moreno Swap Cities
Alejandro Moreno stated after his trade to Columbus for Joseph Ngwenya that it was “no secret that (he) had fallen out of favor” in Houston. Ali! Could that be due to your finishing that leaves the fans in back of the goal hiding under their seats? Sorry, Sigi, you got fleeced on this one.

Now on to the best kept secret in American Sports, the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Talk about stars on the pitch, at one time or another Landon Donovan, Cobi Jones, Claudio Reyna, Juan Pablo Angel and Clint Mathis were on the pitch. From the match reports, all but the school night capacity crowd of 10,774 at the Home Depot Center missed out on a thrilling Open Cup qualifier between the Flagship and the Galaxy. The intensity of this game must have been off the charts as Jones was ejected in the 54th. Arena quickly put Angel in for Altidore. Yallop countered with Donovan off the bench. This was followed by the long awaited first Dema Kovalenko ejection of 2007 in the 73rd.. The match was scoreless at the end of regulation largely due to the efforts of LA’s keeper Steve Cronin who entered double digits in the save column. The match was decided in extra time by a final score of 3-1 in favor of the Galaxy who exploded for three in the extra thirty. Angel making his North American debut in this match, scored the lone RedBulls goal. I have to give Bruce Arena respect for fielding a full strength Red Bull side, while his adversary Frank Yallop put out a B-team that should have lost the match. Perhaps Yallop was looking to give his team a breather during the summer by bowing out of Open Cup play early. The fact that a MLS B team held a team of starters with two Designated Players (DP) to a draw in regulation, speaks volumes about the quality of the league and the depth that LA has quietly built.

MLS Prediction Central:
Season Record thru yesterday (8-13)
Last Week (2-4)

Saturday –
Chicago at Toronto – The Fire recover from their NE loss to down the expansion team. The atmosphere again delivers as 200+ Fire fans, egg on the Canucks. Mass beer drinking ensues.

Chivas at Crew – Chivas’ road odyssey takes another bad turn and the Crew tops the Californians.

FC Dallas at Wizards – KC delivers another masterpiece and rewards my buddy Joel for bringing his family out for the evening.

Revolution at Galaxy – Revolution top a dead and depleted tired Galaxy side.

Sunday –
Colorado at RBNY – The Rapids draw the Flagship, who are still trying to catch their breath from the Open Cup fixture.

The Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Quick Prediction

Rocky Mountain Cup
I'll take a multi-goal draw between the Salt Lake Freddys and the Mastroeni Machine.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s Bi-Weekly US Soccer Update – 5/3/07

MLS Week 4 – Questions, Answers and More Questions

The first question that went through my mind during the opening shots of Bee-Mo field was, “Are they just giving away scarves there?” While the answer to that was “Yes” for season ticket holders, the Toronto FC fans immediately cemented their position amongst the best in the league and their organized fan clubs are right near the top too. There was a great difference between the first franchise game for a Houston or RSL and then the first game we witnessed on Saturday. This crowd was not out for curiosity’s sake! Nay! They were out for the blood that their team has yet to draw. While TFC couldn’t reward their fans with any points, they did have their top performance of the year! Danny Diccio showed why Connor Casey got to go home to Denver as his physical presence asked questions of KC all game. That is a tremendous statement given that Jimmy Conrad and Nick Garcia are amongst the roughest defenders in the league! Perhaps following the advice in my TFC related entry, Mo replaced Marco Reda in the starting eleven in favor of Andrew Boyens and the result was a far more competent defense. Jim Brennan also elevated his game from previous outings. Despite having most of the run of play, TFC conceded a late near post Eddie Johnson tally. EJ was rewarded for his score by the Canuck fans with a dousing of Molsen. KC did well considering the early loss of superstar in the making, Argentine, Carlos Marinelli to a hamstring injury.

The Crew entertained DC United and continued the visitors woes by shutting out the side that most predicted to dominate the league this year. Columbus will become far more dangerous in the attacking end when Guillermo Barros Schelotto arrives, however an overall solid performance from the Crew helped them retain their unbeaten status. A real stand out this season has been the play of Joseph Ngwenya who caused DC headaches and probably bruises all night.

Saturday wrapped up with a Superclassico in the sold out Home Depot Center, where the Gals put two early goals on the other home team. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch the rest of the match due to technical difficulties, but it was nice to see Cobi hit the scoresheet.

Sunday was Texas Football matches which were amongst the most spiritless of the entire season. First the Revs topped an out of gas FC Dallas 1-0 under the midday sun at PHP. The Rev’s got their goal off the hands down goal of the week winning strike by Taylor Twellman. Twellman’s volley into the far side netting cam off a great pass from Steve Ralston, who is likely to top Carlos Valderrama’s all time MLS assist record this season. He is unlikely to adopt El Pibe’s hairstyle, although I think everybody would love to see that!

The Fire got the better of Houston at Robertson stadium for the second consecutive year as Chris Rolfe and company put together another solid, but unspectacular win. The lone goal in the match started with a long ball from Gonzalo Segares into the right hand corner that Rolfe tracked down. Rolfe then streaked to the corner of the box before faking a shot, then cooly taking it after the fake to beat Pat Onstad to the near post. The Fire immediately went into an even greater defensive shell and managed to hold on to the lead. While the 3-5-2 formation will not show it, the Fire have actually been starting five defenders, two defensive midfielders, two attacking mids and a lone forward. The absence of Justin Mapp was felt as his replacement Thiago again failed to show any of the spark that has been missing for well over a year. The stadium fell very quiet in the second half as the Dynamo supporters groups El Batillion and The Texian Army walked out of the stadium after a dispute with security. When will MLS front offices educate their security about soccer fans? This has happened in just about every city in the league with any sort of sizable support group. These groups are part of the attraction for (North) American fans now. Support the supporters and give them a long leash!

RSL unnecessarily dropped three points on its home pitch to rivals Colorado Rapids on Monday despite dominating possession and clearly having the better of the play all evening. A couple of mental breakdowns in the span of four minutes doomed the home team. The first goal came as RSL defender Daniel Torres tracked down a long lofted ball to the edge of his own box. Deciding to play the ball back to the keeper Torres turned to the left and was absolutely shocked to see the Rapid’s Roberto Brown in his face. Brown took the ball into the box and put a move on Torres that sent the RSL defender sliding to the ground. Brown easily converted past a deserted Chris Seitz to mark the occasion of Seitz’ first MLS start. Seitz added to his woes minutes later as he handled a ball that may or may not have been a pass back. I guess he never heard the “when in doubt” addage. This wrinkle was unfortunate for Seitz because he had played a great match up until that point. Overall, this match was a great viewing experience, because despite these lapses, high quality football was on display at Rice-Eccles and the crowd let it be know that there was no love for the visitors.

Let’s face it Coach John Ellinger is on borrowed time in Salt Lake. We know owner Dave Checketts recognizes that RSL is in the spotlight out there. He recognizes the need to show the fans that they are trying to improve. Freddy’s signing was a first step, now Ellinger needs to go. The Coach has gotten everything he’s asked for and has just been unable to make this talent line-up click, he couldn’t get anything out of Mathis, now he gets Freddy and despite all the trumpeting about Adu returning to his natural position, where do we find him? On the wing playing second creative fiddle to Mehdi Ballouchy! They flipped sides at the half, but Ballouchy was responsible for most of the attacking midfield responsibilities. To make matters worse, most of Ballouchy’s first touches were criminally bad, showing all the ball had to offer to the defense again and again. RSL needs to relegate Ellinger to the Rongren Pile and hire a proven winner.

MLS Prediction Central:
Season Record (5-9)
Last Week (3-5)

DC – Revs – The hot Revs keep DCU scratching their head and head out of RFK with another win.

KC – Crew – The Crew remain undefeated with a draw at Arrowhead.

RSL – NYRB – With Torres on the bench, RSL draws at home versus the Flagship.
Colorado – Houston – The Rapids got it going on and put on a showcase for their fans.


DC – Chivas – Finally DC’s breakout performance and a big W for the preseason darlings. In doing so, DC bucks the trend of Thursday Night teams underperforming.

Revs – FIRE – The Fire cool the exhausted revs and leap to the top of the table.

The Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis