Wednesday, July 25, 2007
The Beckham Phenomenon
Can we all agree now, that the phenomenon that is David Beckham joining the Galaxy has been much greater than anyone could have predicted or imagined? From the 100+ security restrained photogs vying to get a picture of him sitting on the bench to the frenzied reaction of the LA fans new and old, this January transfer has proven a masterstroke to this point. It really didn’t seem to matter that the player of focus only stepped on the pitch for 16 minutes or that LA was miraculously holding Chelsea to one goal, the game was a coronation ceremony, the likes of which are rarely seen in any sport in any country. The fact that I watched the game on 2 big screen TVs in the middle of a Colorado casino is an indicator of the impact MLS’ of the Beckham transaction. 110 countries carried this “glamour” friendly, I can’t imagine that they, and the rest of LA, won’t sign-up for more Galaxy games. Lastly, a sure sign that Beckham-mania is to the point of absurd, this article is about the man that truly ushered in the Becks era, the fourth official.
SuperLiga – Dia Uno
The SuperLiga is off to a decent start for MLS squads trying to prove their worth to Mexican Americans. Chivas immediately lived up to the diving stereotypes as Dallas’ new find ran within a foot of a diving Ernesto Miguel. Immediately Miguel feigned being clipped by Richardhino’s run and prompted a nearly five minute delay with his theatrics. FC Dallas managed to jump to a 1-0 lead due to a complex chip from Arturo Alvarez in the 56th minute, ushering in the crazy portion of the game. A minute after his insertion into the match, Chivas’ Antonio Olvera blasted a shot past a diving Ray Burse, Dallas third string keeper making his first start in place of injured Dario Sala and Shaka Hislop. What the referee failed to notice was Olvera clearly settling the ball with his left hand prior to his excellent strike. Despite the pleas of the Hoops, the goal stood. Tempers flared minutes later as Drew Moor received an elbow to the face by a Chivas defender. Unnoticed, again, by the refereeing crew, Moor ill advisedly took matters into his own right hand, striking the defender and receiving a red card in the process. This action prompted a near brawl involving every player on the pitch. Dallas managed to hang on for a draw. The draw has to be seen as a disappointment for the MLS side, given the nearly reserve squad that Chivas fielded. Only four Chivas players that saw action in their last competitive match took the field in Dallas. Further the Hoops had trouble connecting on passes all match.
The Galaxy shocked North America as they managed to top a nearly full strength Pachuca at the Home Depot Center. Joe Cannon was a beast between the pipes while Abel Xavier consistently cleared the area of danger as LA was under siege all evening. The Galaxy opened the scoring on a one-time strike from Alan Gordon, bringing Becks and son Cruz out of their skybox chair. Gordon was the recipient of a positively Beckham-esque pass from “Capitan Landon” that found Gordon’s chest between two defenders. Pachuca though they had sealed a draw in the 78th minute with a neat flick past Cannon by Rafael Marquez Lugo, but the Galaxy had other plans. Pressing the attack near the end of the match Donovan again sent a pass, cross field to Cobi Jones. Jones dribbled past his defender and rocket a shot toward goal directly into the path of Donovan. A leaping Landon deflected the ball past Pachuca keeper Miguel Calero for the three points.
Blanco Stokes Friendly FIRE
Yet again the chorus must be sung (“it was only a friendly”), but for one afternoon Cuauhtémoc Blanco made the 2007 version of the Chicago Fire appear to be a respectable football club. Celtic, fresh off being embarrassed in Colorado by the MLS All-Stars, strolled into Toyota Park expecting an easy win at the house of the Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers and not many home fans would disagree with them. What both parties received was a show that left league officials wishing that Blanco had donned a Beckham costume the evening before in LA. Temo put on a display of showmanship that left Celtic bumping into each other and his new teammates giggling. Blanco’s combination of skill and theatrics were on full display during the afternoon. He trapped a long pass with his ass, threw in the famed Blanco hop/bounce, dummied a Celtic defender out of his kilt, backheeled with precision and even scored a goal that looked eerily similar to that of Juan Pablo Angel’s three days prior. This is a player that the casual fan will pay to see, although one can’t help but be disappointed with the far-from-a-sell-out crowd that was in the stands Sunday. Despite the attendance failing, for the moment it looks like John Guppy is re-writing the entry on his tenure with Chicago. The Gupster hires Blanco, fires a coach who was only slightly less popular than he, and now on the verge of delivering Costa Rican assassin, Paulo Wanchope.
Other Friendly Action
Aston Villa kicks off their preseason this week with two tough matches against the best MLS crowd and one of the hottest MLS teams. Villa likely will be wondering if they landed on the right continent when they walk out on the BMO field pitch and are subjected to the howls of U-Sector and the Red Patch Boys. Then Villa travels to Columbus to take on GBS and the Crew. Marty O’Neill’s EPL side better be wary! The shock of the friendly season took place in Utah last week as MLS laughing-stock RSL took down UEFA-cup bound Everton 2-0. RSL had fitness and substitutions on their side, however only Tim Howard looked like a professional footballer for the Merseysiders. A few days later, RSL managed a draw against mighty Boca Juniors.
MLS Week 15 – Actual League Games Too?
Dynamo v. Revs – I’ve heard it mentioned in numerous circles that many fans of the league were disappointed that MLS did not do a better job of promoting this big match between the top Eastern and Western sides in lieu of hyping the Beckham debut. Even if they did, would it have gotten the attention it deserved? Likely not. Heck, most of the people that turned out for this showcase of a match were still at the concession booths when DeRo smashed in the Goal of the Week. Seem difficult for fans and the league alike to get their timing right.
United v. The Flagship – Woly’s header tops United and officially takes them out of the “hottest team” discussion. The Flagship, meanwhile, finds themselves tied for the Eastern Conference lead with New England. Five teams are within three points of each other in a race that can count out Toronto or a re-loading Chicago.
UFC v. Crew – Wil Hessmer and the Columbus defense continued it’s strong form blanking the masquerading mixed martial arts squad, but GBS dazzles the home crowd with two big goals and continues Columbus’ unrelenting surge up the Eastern Conference standings. The Hunt family announced that GSB’s jersey is set to be retired by the end of the week.
Rapids v. Wizards – EJ hits for two more, but a feisty Rapids side twice climbed back into the match to salvage a draw at Arrowhead. The Rapids, down by one, were boosted by the ejection of Jose Burciaga Jr. in the 67th minute and took advantage ten minutes later with DC reject Facundo Erpen putting the ball in the back of the net. Rapid fans know things are going well when Jovan Kirovski hits the score sheet. He scored the only way he could, unmarked and from the spot.
Quote of the Week
Chris McGuire, sports marketing manager for adidas soccer:
"At this time the LA Galaxy David Beckham jersey is the number one-selling shirt in the world."
Why Pay to See an MLS Game?
Here is a breakdown of players and other reasons to get you out to see live football in the USA!
New England Revolution – Andy Dorman – The most underpaid player is a joy to watch.
New York Red Bulls – Juan Pablo Angel – The Columbian can read defenses like a book.
DC United – Christian Gomez – Deadly from set pieces and a passing wizard.
Kansas City Wizards – Eddie Johnson – A scoring machine, in league play.
Columbus Crew – Guillermo Barros Schelotto – Turned the team around and saved Sigi’s hide.
Toronto FC – The Fans – Staking their claim to “Best Fans in the League” since day one.
Chicago Fire - Cuauhtémoc Blanco – The showman has arrived.
Real Salt Lake – A New Beginning – You can’t compare the team to a Phoenix since 1) it has yet to begin to rise and 2) there was nothing to create any ashes in the first place, but Kries has restocked this club with youth and quality. Perhaps a Designated Player is on the way, but who would put extra butts in seats in Salt Lake? Keith van Horne? Bill Paxton?
LA Galaxy – David Beckham – As if I needed to type that.
Chivas USA – Maykel Galindo – The Cuban speedster is a great story and the primary reason Precki’s side isnt’ fighting RSL for division basement space.
FC Dallas – Juan Toja – The pick-up of the year thus far has big game to match his big hair. This Columbian international will not be around long if he continues.
Houston Dynamo – The Houston Dynamo – Mentioning any one player would slight the rest of this loaded team.
Colorado Rapids – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – It’s a mouthful, but this venue is stunning. No details were overlooked (ala’ Chicago) and it makes for an incredible experience.
Transfer of the Week
It is not a done deal, but Freddy Adu is on his way to Europe. If the league gets the $7.5M they are looking for then it is a coup. Young Fredrick’s pricetag is not going to get any higher through league play. Here’s hoping that he gets some PT in Euroland or else I see a free transfer back to MLS in three years.
MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (3-2)
LA Goats v. The Flagship – The goats just can seem to work out their road troubles and the Flagship starts putting a streak together.
Revs v. RSL – The Jason Kreis youth movement is making me a beliver, but not over the top team in the East. RSL manages a draw.
FIRE v. UFC – A recharged FIRE remains winless against UFC, but gets a point for their troubles.
LA Goats v. KC – The road nightmare continues as KC makes amends for their poor showing last week.
The Soccer/Dynamo Power Hour – Glenn talks about Becks.
(NOTE: If you know a Podcast that needs to be added please let me know and post a link.)
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Being one of those fortunate enough to attend this year’s MLS All-Star Game, to be renamed the MLS Legendary Club Ass-Kick Fest; I wanted to post my impressions of the evening.
I arrived in Denver on Wednesday night and headed to one of the few Denver pubs on the FSC Pub Guide. Not exactly teeming with patrons donned MLS gear, but at least The Dream Team was on. I found out a day too late that I should have been at the British Bulldog or ESPN Zone. My bad, but how can you consider yourself unfortunate when you can score double tall Crown and Cokes for the price of a regular. The next day, both Denver papers were packed with All-Star information. I mean the game was on the front page with plenty about the team, Beckham and Celtic on the inside. There were even, fairly written pieces by sports columnists in both papers. Sadly, the Rocky Mountain News soiled their good name the next day by publishing a Bernie Lincicome piece. However, this anti-soccer piece was missing the typical Lincicome venom. This was a pleasant surprise given the terrible coverage the All-Star game received last year in Chicago. The Denver press treated the game as a major league All-Star of any league and for that I applaud them.
Outside the stadium, there was a bit of an All-Star village with skills challenges and player autograph signings. This was the site of the only FIRE representation of the evening. Ivan Guerrero and Matt Pickens were at separate booths and seemed to be pleasantly surprised to see a FIRE jersey at the proceedings. Diego Gutierrez was also in the Park promoting his charitable work.
Simply stated, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is the best soccer facility I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. The complex is sprawling with a ton of lighted soccer fields for the yutes. Parking was free and it was on a paved surface. Are you reading this FIRE fans? Free and Paved. Rather than being subjected to the odors of the Argo Corn Starch facility, the DSG complex smells more like a golf course. The exterior of the stadium is nice and about the only area of the stadium that doesn’t surpass Toyota Park. After entering the park the opulence of DSG versus TP became clear. Management here figured out how to install a stadium club store that featured not only a ton of Rapids merchandise, but jerseys and scarves of every team in the league as well as a number of popular teams from around the globe. C’mon league wake up! Further, they managed to work all their merchandising facilities into the building and had no need for cluttering their wide concourses with blue and white outhouse merch booths. Imagine that! MLS or the Rapids did drop the ball here in that they didn’t offer two big-ticket items that would have flown off the shelf: 1. David Beckham jerseys (only 100 delivered to the park) 2. Mastroeni All-Star jerseys. The stadium has plenty of concessions areas with reasonable queues. It is also possible to easily walk all the way around the park. As one circles the facility, the south concourse has something that will make every FIRE fan green with envy. In what looks like a garage (but easily could be, of lets say a firehouse) sits a Cantina. The Cantina opens to the concourse with two large garage doors. There are also two large garage doors opening to the outside of the stadium. The outdoor portion of the Cantina features seating a beer booth and a couple of foosball tables. The garage structure has concessions on one side and a full bar on the other. The roof was adorned with flags from around the world. The Cantina is, in short, the perfect addition to a soccer stadium. Another nice feature of the park flanks the club seating section on the eastern concourse. On the concourse and the first level of seating, the Rapids offer box seating for four at a patio table with a server. Tremendous idea!! On top of all that, we were far from the first people to leave the game and it only took five minutes to exit the parking area. Kudos to Kronke for creating this facility it is truly top-notch.
Delayed for ten minutes due to lightening, the match eventually kicked off with Celtic only fielding a handful of their normal starters. This gamble by the Celtic coach seemed to work well for the first fifteen minutes as the MLS All-Stars could seem to find a rhythm producing a tedious feel to the match. Then DeRo and the Boyz (no H in that one) got rolling and started testing the flanks via Ronnie O’Brian and MLS revelation and number one Jimmy Page fan Juan Toja. Ricardo Clark was an early standout and seemed to really give the rest of the All-Stars confidence with a run right through the Celtic defense that was eventually snuffed out. Eddie Johnson started playing a bigger and bigger role in the match and eventually drew a clear penalty kick in the 30th minute, but Johnson’s effort was saved but Celtic keeper Artur Boruc who had a tremendous night despite the score line. The All-Stars broke through in the 36th minutes as DeRo fed Juan Pablo Angel in the box. Angle took a deft tough to evade a charging Boruc the slid the ball between the posts. Eight minutes later, Celtic failed to clear a DeRo free kick that bounced to the feet of an onside Toja who slipped the ball under the leg of a sliding Celtic defender to put the All-Stars up 2-0. The second half witnessed wholesale changes by both sides, but none of the subs would hit the back of the net. The 2-0 score line would hold for the second half maintain the MLS All-Stars undefeated status under the “vs. the World” format.
It was refreshing go to an MLS all-star game with a heavy pro-MLS crowd. Certainly the Celtic fans had greater cohesion of wardrobe, but the numbers were 70/30 in favor of MLS supporters. Heck, the Rapids supporters even tried to get an “MLS, MLS” chant going, which is more than could be said for the FIRE’s Section 8 last year. The Rapids fans did their best to make FIRE fans feel at home by displaying signs and wearing T-shirts begging for the ouster of their coach and GM. Ah, the comforts of home! I also had the pleasure of taking my cousin to his first professional soccer match. Although I don’t thing he’ll be buying Rapids season tickets anytime soon, he is likely to visit the facility again. Small steps!
Depeche Mode once sang, “I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumors, but I think that God has a sick sense of humor.” This line took on relevance on Thursday as the soccer gods sat the writer of the US Soccer Snob Blog next to, yes, a Euro Snob. For most of the evening we sat in blissful ignorance of each other. I did pick up that he wasn’t rooting for MLS despite not donning a green and white striped jersey and not having a trace of an accent. No big deal, however the dam broke near the end of the second half, likely as combination of his frustration with his team and my vocal drunkenness which you’d think a Celtic fan would celebrate. Without any further adu, I give you, the conversation from hell:
Me to my cousin: This score is surprising since I’m sure that the All-Star would be the underdogs in this match.
ES: Actually, they were favored.
USSS: That’s surprising given the way the league is looked down upon around the world.
ES: Well it is an all-star team.
USSS: That’s true! I have no doubt that all the MLS players could play in the EPL.
ES(laughing dismissively): You’ve got to be kidding! Donovan is too much of a wussy to play in Europe. Did you see the World Cup last year?
USSS (set off): First, Donovan doesn’t want to play in Europe and second of all his performance was largely due to Bruce Arena’s positioning. You can’t expect Donovan to be effective chasing headers all game against a massive Czech backline. Have you watched a soccer game before today?
ES (noticing my jersey): You’re a FIRE fan, what the hell do you know?
(Cousin observing nervously)
USSS: I know enough about the f*%kin game to tell that you have no idea about what your taking about you f*$kin Euro poser.
ES (sheepishly): I don’t appreciate the profanity; there are children around here.
USSS: Ok, I’ll give you that one, but please try to watch a game sometime.
(Five minutes of silence elapse until full time is blown.)
USSS (extending my hand): I appreciate your passion for the game. Have a nice evening.
Had a few laughs in a facility, saw an interesting game, got a good result and got to go off and a Euro Poser. I highly recommend experiencing all four!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Quakes to Return
According to press reports out of the Bay Area, Don Garber will announce during the State of the League Address that the Quakes will return to the Bay Area despite not having a place to play next season. “Understandings” have been met between the Lew Wolff ownership group and the City of San Jose, just don’t ask Wolff for an address. Congratulations to the loyal Quakes fans and to Soccer Silicon Valley. Let this be a lesson to the groups across the country that are acting to save or bring soccer to their city (Philadelphia!).
Blanco Reports to FIRE
Most FIRE fans were worried about Blanco’s impact on the locker room when he signed for the FIRE, now those same fans can’t wait for him to arriving and start slamming slackers like Calen Carr and Chad Barrett against lockers! After watching this team mope its way through the last three months, it is clear that someone is needed to fight FIRE with fire! The no-BS injection of Coach Osorio and Temo will have underperforming players fearing for their lives after games. Can you imagine what will happen when Brian Hall makes the next terrible call against the FIRE while Temo is on the pitch? While, I don’t relish the though of the FIRE’s most high priced talent sitting out games due to suspension, it would be nice to see someone in a FIRE jersey look like they care about the team’s form. However, Luis reports that he did see the Houston game. Watch out!!
FIREsale part Three
All reports say the Fire are as good as sold to the family that brought you the Son of the better half of 7 and 7’s (potential Jimmy Buffett song?) will be the new owner of the FIRE. Andell Holdings will be taking over the fledgling FIRE in 30 to 45 day (crafted by a former Metrostar front office guy?). The only drawback is that this does not include the implicit ouster of GM John Guppy. Of course, it may be the wrong time to boot the surging Gupster after his hiring of Osorio, easily his most savvy move to date, despite the events of the past week.
Records go down in MLS
Three important records fell this week:
1. Houston Dynamo broke the league shutout record. The previous holders, walked away with the MLS cup the year they broke the record.
2. Steve Ralston broke the league assist record. The previous holder, walked away from the league with the biggest blond afro in history.
3. LA Galaxy shattered the MLS record for press passes given out for a player announcement. The previous record was 8.
MLS Week 15 – Can’t Stop Addicted to the Shindig
Dynamo vs. FIRE – This game was sadder than sad and unfortunately for us FIRE fans, a 4-0 spanking on the alleged night of hope (sell out, new coach, Mapp’s return) wasn’t the low point of the week (see: Cup, Open). At least Juan Carlos Osorio learned a great deal about his team during this debacle and now may have a clear view of just how far he has to bring this team to get to the promised land.
MOTM: Joseph Ngwenya – for his hard work and sublime skills on the third goal against the FIRE.
Hoops vs. United – United buries Dallas and the Hoops rise back to life thanks to the reappearance of Carlos Ruiz and the continued timeliness of Juan Toja. Tommy Soehn was rightly livid after this one that United had in the bag.
MOTM: Juan Toja – for sweeping the dust of the Dallas grave and pulling the rest of the team out of the ground.
Revs. vs. The Flagship – The Flagship has done rather well at home and you can’t expect to keep Angel off the score sheet forever.
RSL vs. Wizards – This one went almost according to plan by the 19th minute with EJ doing what he does (in league play), but RSL shut down the KC offensive juggernaut the rest of the match. Defense has not been a problem under the Kreis regime. The comical mistakes in the back that cost the team early on have, for the most part, gone away.
MOTM: No position to judge
Crew vs. LA Goats – Chivas USA is making Beckham’s home their own! This was a big win for Chivas and stay well situated in the playoff race ladder, just above Columbus thanks to the three points. This is the type of win that teams can point to as a reason they made the playoffs.
MOTM: No position to judge.
UFC vs. Dynamo – Here’s the deal. No team in the league is better prepared than UFC to handle red card situations. I’ve got to believe that this squad practices 10 on 11 more often than even strength. It is almost becoming inevitable and now number one draft pick Maurice Edu has been indoctrinated into the culture of violence! However, Houston did have every opportunity in the world to put this thing away, but couldn’t managed to put their shots on frame. A shocking development given the events of Thursday night.
MOTM: Carl Robinson – Directing traffic and shutting down attacks, Robinson was everywhere for UFC and helped salvage a point for his side.
Quotes of the Week
FC Dallas coach Steve Morrow on the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup:
"It's a big cup competition. I want to win and get my bonus."
Galaxy GM Alexi Lalas on English press potshots on MLS quality:
"It irritates me so much I want to put my fist through a wall--or through a television set playing Benny Hill,"
OK, there is much to unearth here that hasn’t been reported 1,000 times over in every paper, but was nice to see that the LA Galaxy have sold in excess of 250,000 jerseys prior to their unveiling and that upon meeting some of his teammates, one of them introduced themselves, then asked Becks, “Nice to meet you. What’s your name?” Victoria’s show was quite entertaining and could be worth picking up for NBC (ratings dependent). We’ll know the Beckham’s are having if everyone starts saying “major”.
“Major” Inroad of the Week
This one is a bit dated, but HBO’s “Entourage” featured entourage leader Vince falling ass backwards into a betting syndicate led by Dennis Hopper. Vince was on the edge of losing big money on Manchester United until Hopper’s pal noted that he hadn’t called in the bets. Hopper then convinced Vince to bet on the next game featuring Brazil. No word on FIFA on if these back-to-back matches were on a official FIFA international match day.
MLS Trade of the Week
Jason Kreis and RSL fleeced the Rapids and obtained rising US National Team force Kyle Beckerman for inconsistent Mhedi Ballouchy. Each side had a clear motivation for the trade, with Colorado already having a Beckerman in Pablo Mastroeni and RSL already having a Ballouchy in Adu. Perhaps Freddy’s play in center at the U-20’s was the final straw in proving to RSL that he needs to play in the middle, this making Ballouchy expendable.
U-20 World Cup
They gave us some thrills and hope against Poland and Brazil, but ultimately reverted to their form against South Korea. They managed to salvage an extra time win against the poorest sports in the tournament Uruguay, but couldn’t manage to come from behind against a very good Austria side. At least we learned that Adu and Altidore are not flukes. The Crew has to be encouraged by the play of Danny Szetela.
US Open Cup
While this remains my favorite competition, it is disappointing to see the early ouster of some MLS sides who trotted out B teams and paid the price as the USL teams have proven more than up to the task! D.C. United was dispatched in farm country by the Harrisburg City Islanders. Richmond Kickers ousted the LA Galaxy, while the Charleston Battery ended Houston’s double hopes. Perhaps, Houston and LA were looking at their schedule and decided that it was crowded enough, but FC Dallas was also on the brink of elimination at the feet of the Atlanta Silverbacks before finally topping the USL side in a penalty kick shootout. Houston’s ouster prevented another meeting between the Texas in-state rivals. These results alone warrant expanded Fox Soccer Channel coverage of these matches.
On the other hand, New England and Colorado topped Rochester and California Victory by two goal margins. Both the Revs and Rapids fielded close to full strength sides, but the Revs needed two goals in extra time to dispatch the underlings.
Then there was the Chicago FIRE marking their franchise low point by dropping a 1-0 match to the Carolina Railhawks. The FIRE fielded a full strength team and was blanked by an A-league club that started a keeper that had yet to play a league match. That is as low as you can go folks!
Quote of the Week II:
Fox Soccer Channel’s David Steinberg to Multichannel news on if he was surprised about the Gold Cup final ratings topping the Stanley Cup finals average rating by 40%:
“Not at all. Soccer is definitely poised to supplant hockey as the No. 4 major team sport in this country. You can already see some indications of that happening. One is TV ratings and another is live attendance. MLS attendance is either on a par or slightly above average NHL attendance. If you look at the country as a whole as opposed to specific regions where hockey may be strong, you just don’t see the same level of awareness of that sport as you do with soccer. Those are all signs of soccer growing more popular.”
Soccer Hater of the Week
A perfect follow-up to our quote of the week II. Every time Joe American sports fan feels threatened by soccer (which should be all the time this week), the ignorant haters come out of the woodwork don’t they? I know that the entities vying to bring MLS to St. Louis can’t be happy after reading this joke of a column in the St. Louis Post-Distpatch by Bryan Burwell. I mean, there is poor research and then there is just straight-up denial. How do you define denial? I’d start by writing this sentence: “Even in a soccer hotbed like St. Louis, is there anyone who believes it will ever rise above the NHL or even the WNBA, and become a core American sporting pastime?” Hasn’t soccer (not just MLS, but all levels of soccer in this country) supplanted these sports already? The NHL is a close call, but if you think about national team games of all countries, friendlies and minor league soccer, even the NHL may trail attendance-wise. I guess this is the mindset developed by only watching Sportscenter (until recently).
Soccer Lover of the Week
Here is an all too rare knowledgeable soccer ink from a major sports mainstream sports columnist. Mike Downey joined the Chicago Tribune a number of years ago and wrote a column about how excited he was to be part of the Chicago sports scene. He mentioned the FIRE and his love of soccer. Unfortunately, as many of us know, the Chicago Tribune, historically has been reticent to provide space in their sports pages to the FIRE of any kind. I would rate their coverage, as far as space devoted to soccer, the worst in the United State among cities with MLS teams. Yes this includes Kansas City and the New York papers. Being immersed in this culture, Mike certainly was never encouraged to write about soccer, more than once every World Cup, where his great column would be offset by a typical “Who Care?” article from one of the other columnists. Although this trend is clearly changing on the heels of the construction of Toyota Park and the successful Gold Cup at Solider Field, it is all to rare that we see columns like this in either of the Chicago papers.
MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (2-4)
MLS All-Stars vs. Celtic FC – The off season Celtic are no match for a group of in-form players playing for potential European vacations. Oops, I broke soccer writer code. Players only come over to the US for vacations and semi-retirements. I forgot… Either way lifelong Rangers fan Stevie Nichol has a stacked squad to pick from and will be starting a three man back line. Should be a crac’…um’ exciting game. Sorry, I’ll get used to that.
Dynamo v. Revs – The Dynamo come into the Big Razor a manage a draw.
United v. The Flagship – The Flagship starts taking on water due to the big Angel hole up top. United over their rivals here.
UFC v. Crew – UFC bookends their road odyssey with losses as the Crew rebound from California disappointment.
Rapids v. Wizards – Shock! Ballouchy is not the answer. Wizards reclaim pole position in the east with a pretty win against the Rapids.
The Soccer/Dynamo Power Hour – Glenn couldn’t keep up with me this week, so you’ll have to settle for archives.
(NOTE: If you know a Podcast that needs to be added please let me know and post a link.)
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
D.C. United at Kansas City Wizards – There are few sure things in life, but the Wizards will be at the airport to greet the return of Eddie Johnson. Much like the USA’s Copa America effort, the Wizards have had a great deal of difficulty finding the back of the net. You can blame it on some spectacular keeping in the last two matches, but too often they are holding onto the ball far too long and getting dispossessed. The chief culprit of this is Yura Movsisyian who is quite adept that putting himself in great attacking positions, but rarely has a clue about what to do from there except shoot in the direction of the net. Some crisper passing and better awareness of his teammates might have nailed down a starting spot for him once EJ returns. The Wizards attack is so potent that regardless of the caliber of defense in front of them, they will get looks at the goal. It is no surprise that the mid-week addition of Greg Vanney for Facundo Erpen had a lot to do with United’s poise in back. If Erpen had been back there he would have made at least one typically foolish error against the swarming Wizard offense.
MOTM: Troy Perkins - showed the form that won him the MLS goalkeeper of the year award last season and commanded the area giving him a rare clean sheet.
Chivas USA at FC Dallas – Chivas USA looked a bit slow all match and didn’t get the type of performance out of Maykel Galindo that Goats fans wanted. Laurent Merlin had a great game, but failed to convert his chances. Also, Chivas USA fans were conspicuously absent from the PHP, at least they weren’t show on TV at all. Dallas put forth an effort strong enough to top the visitors, and applied some icing late in the game.
MOTM: Ramon Nunez – for what surely should have been the goal of the week. His twenty yard blast left Preston Burpo a spectator.
Columbus Crew at Colorado Rapids – Due to the overlap in matches on DirectKick, I wasn’t able to bear witness to much of this match, however I think both sides privately will be happy with this result. The exponentially improving Crew are still not solid enough to expect a point on the road, while the depleted Rapids, just need to prevent losses until Beckerman and Gomez return from Venezuela.
MOTM: No Position to Judge
UFC at Real Salt Lake – When Robbie Findlay’s sixth minute shot dinged off the post, RSL fans though it might be a night to remember. Jeff Cunningham made them remember ten minutes later, when he converted an opportunity nearly identical to Findlays. Esky added a PK for the home side before the half, but RSL conceded yet another late goal and fell again at home. Sadly, UFC’s wonder goalie Sam Reynold’s who was in the midst of another solid match
MOTM: Jeff Cunningham – under pressure to perform infront of his former fans, Cunningham’s gorgeous first half strike reminded the RSL faithful of a month ago.
FIRE at Los Angeles Galaxy – OK, the Fire did not deserve to win this match. Their forward movements could hardly be called attacks and their only two shots of the evening were generated by CJ Brown. However, the Galaxy didn’t deserve to win it either, but they still managed to walk out with three points. Due to the typically poor refereeing of Brian Hall who awarded TWO penalty kicks to the Galaxy on “fouls” that did not even warrant yellow cards. Both poor calls were spurred by the considerable thespian skills of Kyle Martino. The first came as he approached the box and felt Chris Armas’ had near his, immediately he spun around and went to ground. The second came as he drove in the box toward Ivan Guerrero. Before, Guerrero could even get a foot in, Martino was two flying through the air grabbing his ankle. Again Hall pointed to the spot, then awarded yellow cards to Thiago and Brown, when they questioned the appropriateness of the relationship between Hall and Martino, or something to that effect. Hall showed why no MLS ref deserved to be in World Cup last year. The only other items to take out of this match were Abel Xavier having his best MLS match, Jon Busch looking like the smartest pick-up of the John Guppy era and the FIRE defense solidifying.
MOTM: Kyle Martino – sure I think his play was disgusting, cynical and immature. He likely should have been sent off before the half, but when it comes down to it, his two flops that Hall bought led to an LA victory.
The Flagship at Houston Dynamo – Is this about the time the Red Bulls are supposed to look old? NewYork didn’t even show up for this match and got blow off the pitch by a short handed Dynamo. Without, Rico Clark or the injured Brad Davis and Eddie Robinson the Dynamo made it an easy day for Pat Onstad and held NY without a shot on goal. On a positive note, Claudio Reyna has played in ten games this year, shattering my predicted over/under by 6 games and counting.
MOTM: Stuart Holden – he’s stepped it up when the Dynamo have needed him and may have cemented his place in the starting eleven with a goal and two assists in this one.
Chivas USA at New England Revolution – El Emporador strikes early while Andy Dorman continues to answer his critics, and cementing his title as the most underpaid player in the league.
MOTM: Preston Burpo – His eight saves allowed the Northern Goats to leave with a point.
Real Salt Lake at Columbus Crew – OK, RSL fans. This is rock bottom. After a few encouraging games at home RSL goes to Columbus and completely implodes. While Freddy and Nathan Sturgis were covering themselves in glory, directly north, their club was showing in shame capped by an ugly tackle on Schelotto, by a clearly frustrated Esky. The fact is, beyond Eddie Pope, Andy Williams (when completely healthy) and Nick Rimando, RSL just doesn’t have many players that are ready to be full time starters in this league. Jean-Martial Kipre and Atiba Harris are complete roving disasters waiting to happen. Daniel Torres managed to make it through this game without a major error, but you have to believe that Sturgis will start immediately. Hopefully, Kaptain Kreis will take a coaching lesson from Thomas Rongren and play Freddy in the middle. For the Crew, Jakob Thomas continues his return from injury and put together a Hedjuk-like effort. Also, the Columbus fans in the north end zone should write a letter to FIFA thanking them for mandating nets be put on goals. If that wasn’t the case, Schelotto’s blast from the spot might have destroyed the entire north stand with it’s sheer power. Sigi has once again, figured things out, and is beginning to reward the fans and front office for their patience.
MOTM: Alejandro Moreno – His hold up work and great possession and layoff paced the Crew to another victory.
UFC at FIRE – I went to this game with my buddy Kurt and appropriately lowered his expectations during the drive out there. Kurt, don’t look for much from the FIRE. This team is offensively challenged. Fifteen minutes into the match, he though I hadn’t watched a FIRE match all year. The FIRE, perhaps trying to win one for Denis Hamlett during his last interim game, came out firing on all cylinders. I’m not sure what the difference could have been, but the FIRE’s performance left fans with optimism for the first time in months. Some slick passing between Bakary Soumare (who was everywhere) and Chad Barrett led to the FIRE’s first goal since Peter Wilt was axed. Toronto rewarded their sizable road support with a great hustle goal by number one draft pick Maurice Edu. There is hope FIRE fans!
MOTM – Bakary Soumare – After being suspended for a match Soumare played the most solid game of his career in a sweeper role for the Fire. His height and athleticism blunted any Toronto attack for the vast majority of the match. He still needs some polish, but he is beginning to justify his lofty draft slot.
Kansas City Wizards at Los Angeles Galaxy – The Keystone LA defense did make a shambles of two plays and paid for them, on a couple of goals that will likely be cynically replayed around the world as an example of the “quality” of the team that Becks is heading. Chris Klein had a rough touch that Yura Movsisyan took and deposited in the back of the net. Four minutes later, Ante Jazic poorly and ill-advisedly headed the ball back to his keeper, Joe Cannon, but cannon bobbled the pass. KC’s Davey Arnaud pounced on it and headed into the virtually open net. For most of the match the Jimmy Conrad bolstered KC defense was doing a great job blunting the talents of Landon Donovan and Carlos Pavon. However, the insertion of veteran Cobi Jones was all LA needed to get back in the game. Six minutes after Cobi entered the match, Pavon blasted a shot past Kevin Hartman. Pavon’s slammed off the far post and fell into Cobi’s path. He made no mistake and drilled shot into the back of the net. Then in the 75th minute Donovan curled a low cross around a defender and found Jones on a near post run. Cobi’s clinical one-touch finishing left Hartman without a prayer.
MOTM: Cobi Jones – Off the bench Cobi was in the right place twice to pull the Galaxy level against the stingy KC defense.
The Flagship at Colorado Rapids – Despite a near superhuman effort from Jacob Peterson, who surely cemented his spot in the starting line-up, the Rapids fell again to a rare period of lax defending. Without any Rapids pressure, a rebounded shot was calmly put away by the grey haired and well traveled John Wolyniec. The Flagship held on for the rest of the match against a Rapids attach that was gaining steam by the second. Another five minutes in this one and the Rapids would have likely pulled out a draw, however, the Commerce City squad will have to look back at post shot and a crossbar rattler for signs that their offense is improving.
MOTM – John Wolyniec – Another veteran puts on a good show! Woly’s strike is all the Flagship needed to top the flaccid Rapids.
D.C. United at Houston Dynamo – The predicted shoot our never occurred, but tempers were flaring at this match-up of the two hottest teams in MLS (apologies to Columbus). As per usual, a poorly refereed match by Brian Hall led to the game nearly getting out of control, with pushing and shoving becoming a major feature of the match. Both teams had decent opportunities, but Houston’s poise and possession saved the day for the home side. The Dynamo got all they would need when Brian Ching’s foot when all hockey-style and redirected a Richard Mulrooney shot past a hockey keeper posed Troy Perkins. This game was a showcase for the league and featured some wide-open attacking play at times. These are clearly the top two teams to fear in the league.
MOTM – Brian Ching – He was a handful for DC’s defense all night and made the most of his positioning on the goal.
Discipline Committees Time to Shine
This week the MLS Discipline Committee was handed two golden opportunities to make examples to players who committed nasty frustration fouls on “star” players. I believe the league should seize this chance and hand long suspensions to Aleko Eskandarian and Nick Garcia for their very dangerous challenges on Schelotto and Donovan respectively. On the eve, of Lord Beckham’s arrival a clear message needs to be sent to all the players that these challenges will not be tolerated. Sure it is unfair to hand down stiffer penalties, because the fouls occurred on high priced players, but the league has to protect their big investments and there were no excuses for these terrible fouls.
FIRE Hire Juan Carlos Osorio
I’ll confess that I don’t know much about Osorio. He has experience in MLS with the then Metrostars and has also been the Bridesmaid in DC, Chivas USA and other open posts throughout the league. The fact that he was a fitness coach at Man City should help a team like the FIRE which has been crippled by injuries over the past two seasons. His short, but successful stint at Bogata’s Millionarios, points to good things to come. This could be the defining positive stamp of the John Guppy era. I’d expect Osorio to keep Denis Hamlett on board for the remainder of the season, but certainly Hamlett will be looking to spread his wings after whetting his beak.
FIREsale part Three
If you are looking for great info on the fire Luis Arroyave’s blog has been priceless these last few weeks digging up some great tidbits on the FIREsale. A number of items have been widely misreported. First, Frankie Klopas’ group is not a group. He’s frontin for the Greco family which owns a food production company. And the competing is not a European Soccer club, but rather the Seagram’s’ company that peddles wares familiar to most my readers.
As expected ESPN is throwing down the big-time coverage for what is widely expected to be Becks debut in a Galaxy uniform against Chelsea at the HDC on July 21. 19 cameras will be in place for the match. ESPN will carry three hours (or half hour depending on how you read the press release) of pre-game coverage, which only the Super Bowl can top! There will also be an extended SportsCenter (because they still can’t find time for soccer in the regular SportsCenter) and a hour-long documentary on Becks. Anyone still think he isn’t worth the money?
Let’s throw some dirt on this American campaign right away! Despite completing the mission of blooding players, BB the King and the rest of us, didn’t really learn much about our young players. A couple took a step down, but will still remain firmly in the mix. Jonathan Bornstein and Justin Mapp come to mind. A number, such as Sasha Klejestan and Eddie Gaven showed that they don’t belong on international pitches at this moment. Aside from the teams first ten minutes of the tournament EJ was a massive disappointment. Rico Clark looked solid until the Columbia game, where he was determined to set up as many dangerous free kicks for the opposition as possible. Kasey Keller looked like he was collecting social security already, while El Guzano inched closer to that #2 keeper slot. Benny Feilhaber came of followed up his epic Gold Cup final with a couple off and on performances. Only Ben Olsen emerged from this tournament looking like he could challenge for a starting spot, unfortunately is awash in better than average defensive midfielders. What BB and the fans were looking for was someone to that the attacking midfield reigns. That savior never materialized in Venezuela. Maybe that player was in Montréal?
U-20 World Cup
Man, did we all need this after Copa America! Even ESPN seized the moment, as the US was ready to take on Brazil, the US sports taste maker announced it was pre-empting the Hot Dog Eating Challenge to broadcast the USA vs. Brazil match-up. This unheard of move is yet another positive sign that ESPN has surely changed its mind about soccer in the last few years and is finally waking up to the true popularity of the sport with in our borders. The USA didn’t disappoint as two of MLS’ brightest young names, Adu and Jozy Altidore put on a show and helped team USA top Brazil 2-1. Altidore broke the tie and the Brazilians spirit with a goal minutes after the Brazilians equalized. The Americans effectively shut down the Samba Kings for the rest of the match after Jozy’s third goal of the tournament. From all MLS fans to Danny, Freddy, and Jozy: Have fun in Europe, we hardly knew you. That is unless MLS is ready to pony up for their brightest.
Soccer Basher of the Week
As expected, Beckham’s LA arrival this week once again brought out the knives from the “traditional” sports columnists like this widely syndicated columnist Tim Dahlberg. Dahlberg who you can contact at email@example.com take wrote this pile of trash. So I responded with this pile of trash:
So you start writing about soccer the second you hear something about Mr. Beckham coming here, and suddenly you judge yourself worthy of a soccer taste monger? Someone qualified to call the Los Angeles Galaxy “something of a minor league team.” That statement clear that your objective was not objectivity, but rather ignorant bashing. Why should we soccer fans expect anything less? God forbid a serious discourse about the boost that Mr. Beckham will provide to an already thriving league. Sure it may play to your traditional big-four audience, but soccer aficionados do not look across the LA line-up and see a minor league soccer team, with or without Beckham. I know you it is probably in your blood as an American sports columnist to downplay soccer at every turn (at least that is what all your articles suggest), but your tired argument are more suited for the 1970’s than the modern age. How did the Gold Cup final this year out draw the Stanley Cup final by 40% on TV? Did you know that the 2006 World Cup final had more viewers than the average World Series game? Soccer needs a savior? The only thing that is in jeopardy of expiration is your credibility as a sports writer in a changing American sports landscape.
MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (5-7)
Dynamo vs. FIRE – It looks like Coach Osorio will get a rude awakening on Thursday. The FIRE in current form are no match for sizzling Houston.
Hoops vs. United – United sends the Barra and the Eagles into a tizzy with a performance showcasing the South American flair up top unlocking a shaky Dallas backline.
Revs. vs. The Flagship – The Flagship has done rather well at home and you can’t expect to keep Angel off the score sheet forever.
RSL vs. Wizards – KC will look to take last weeks disappointment on someone, something, anything! Oh, look it’s RSL! RSL just doesn’t have a prayer in this one, but does manage to put up a good fight.
Crew vs. LA Goats – The hot Crew should be able to salvage a draw from the Goats who always seem to shine at home.
UFC vs. Dynamo – Mo and the new bhoys take on the Dynamo, but to no avail. Even with a hectic schedule, the depth that the Dynamo built during the last month will overwhelm the road weary UFC.
The Soccer/Dynamo Power Hour – Glenn Interviews Shep Messing and Oliver Luck
(NOTE: If you know a Podcast that needs to be added please let me know and post a link.)
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
MLS Week 13 – Tables Turning
Colorado vs. United – Perhaps scoring early and then giving up a bevy of unanswered goals was the theme for the week. Fred had close to a break out game and Nicholas Addlery, with identical stats to Fred, did have a breakout game while claiming the MLS Player of the Week honors.
MOTM: Fred –he has slowly been rounding into better form and this was his peak MLS performance.
Dynamo vs. Dallas – Because of the poor timing of this fixture, I had no opportunity to witness the scoreless draw. From all accounts, I didn’t miss much as the word “defense” featured prominently in all reports.
MOTM: No position to judge.
The Flagship vs. Crew – OK, the Crew are officially hot. As impressive as their win over the Flagship was, they managed to keep Juan Pablo Angel off the scoring column. The Schelottoless Crew had the run of play throughout the match and limited the visitors to ONE shot on goal. Andy Herron made an instant impact in the match by setting up Kei Kamara’s game wining strike less than two minutes after he stepped on the pitch.
MOTM: Kei Kamara – His cool finish netted three points for the home team.
Revs vs. Chivas – Just when one’s about to proclaim the greatness of the latest Revs youth movement in the stellar play of Adam Christman and Wells Thompson, the two and the rest of the East leaders get classed out of the Joint out west in a game that had more players missing from the roster than paid fans in attendance! Aside from the massive egg laid by the east leaders, the biggest disappointment of the match had to be the crowd. A beautiful California night and only a shade over 9k show up? What does this team have to do to draw the so called educated Mexican fan base we heard so much about? Chivas USA plays the second most exciting football in the league and they draw flies! How can they prove themselves? The next Honda (or is it still Honda, Mr. John Guppy?) Superclassico is Thursday August 23 and it is on ESPN2. No pressure!
MOTM: Maykel Galindo – his seventh of the year was typical of the class he has exuded all year and was a punctuation mark on the Revs’ Chivas USA football lesson.
Rapids vs. FIRE – Was anyone at Toyota Park paying attention to this game? It wouldn’t have mattered anyway because it was amongst the dourest matches played all season in the league with two slumping teams showing why they are slumping. With the Chicago Bulls’ Luol Deng, MLS Commish Don Garber, and prospective new FIRE owner and Ring of Fire inductee Frankie Klopas (see below) in the house why pay attention? Actually, why show up may have been the question asked as the FIRE’s form is having a noticeable impact on attendance. At least until Mexico’s Mr. Manners 2001-2006 shows up in a week or two.
MOTM: Matt Pickens – Matt, don’t get too excited about this. It’s more or less an award for king of the mediocre in this tussle.
UFC vs. Wizards- Now here is a match that the league should broadcast around the world! Of course, they might want to CGI some crowd into vast Arrowhead. I suggest dubbing the growing and rockin’ Cauldron. The Argies are out to help in Columbus and more notably KC! KC put Toronto to the test by the New Boys stood up well, thanks to some brick wall goalkeeping by …… Sam Reynolds? Having a keeper crisis’ Mo dipped into the MLS pool and struck gold! Reynolds had nothing short of a blinder in the second half and took everything the Carlos Marinelli inspired Wizards could throw at him, which was the kitchen sink, three hula hoops, a Fixx tape and balded radial tire. Greg Sutton’s headache just got bigger and Toronto pulls a draw from what should have been a very ugly game for the Canucks.
MOTM: Sam Reynolds – for throwing down a steel curtain in front of goal.
FIREsale part Two
In town for the blinder that was FIRE vs. Rapids, Don Garber’s mere presence acknowledged what his mouth confirmed, that the FIRE are in the process of being sold to one of two groups. Group A is Shep Messing’s Clandestine Euro Syndicate (SMECS). In two separate occurrences, one of MLS’ best broadcasters has dropped cryptic hints that the FIRE are going to be purchased by an European based group that will be a big shot in the arm to MLS (which is pretty much the definition of any new ownership group.) No one has been able to decode who the SMECS is at this time. Group B is the FIRE Fan dream team! Ring of Fire inductee Frank Klopas seems to be the lynchpin of the group with former FIRE marketing wiz Steve Pasterino and other unnamed local investors in tow. If Klopas’ group takes over, he will become the GM of the FIRE, with John Guppy getting the heave-ho! Now there is a promo event that will pack Toyota Park! The transaction could not come at a better time as FIRE fan frustration with the team’s play and the attitude of management is causing discontent from The Stage, to Section 8, to the Club seats.
Former FIREmen Swapped
Nate Jaqua and Kelly Gray traded locations this week in another puzzling move by the Galaxy. Nate the Tall was though to be the main beneficiary of Beckham’s sizzling crosses, but Frank Yallop’s fond memories of Kelly Grey must has scuttled those well laid plans. Jaqua’s scoring output of single goal this season greased the rails out of town. Jaqua will join a glut of forwards in Houston, but may find himself in the midfield more often than not. I mean when he isn’t riding the pine.
UFC Transaction of the Week
Mo sent embattled and shaky back Kevin Goldthwaite to The Flagship for Todd Dunivant. Seems to be an even trade to me, but wouldn’t you rather have Richard Mulrooney over these two? Then again, the Canadian food didn’t really agree with Mulroon. Of course, the moment Mo said, "Just send me Reynolds" might be the UFC Transaction of the Week.
LA has chosen the ominous Friday the 13th (of July) to introduce its newest signing: Kelly Grey David Beckham. The new Gals jerseys go on display July 11th and July 12th is when Beckham lands in town. Too bad no one will be paying attention because the FIRE are playing the Dynamo. Sorry Becks!!
The USA (aka The Bleeding)
I mean, we knew this could happen. But we were tricked by Eddie Johnson’s penalty conversion against Argentina in the 10th minute of the Tournament. The Argies answered immediately, but the US hung in and made a game of it! Then BB the King subbed out Ben Olsen for Eddie Gaven. Gaven’s lack of defensive skills were exploited by Lionel Messi almost immediately, as he backed Gaven up at will and slid a gem of a pass into Hernan Crespo to take a 2-1 lead and flatten the American’s confidence. This is what world class teams do and we learned a valuable lesson. The next match was the real problem.
Paraguay gave the US every chance possible to put away the match in the first half. The US spliced together was a near gag reel of missed opportunities. TWO unmarked headers from less than five feet out by Sasha Klejestan and Drew Moor and went unconverted as they were put wide and into the arms of the keeper respectively. Justin Mapp had a one on one with the keeper with Eddie Johnson sitting at the far post, but blasted it over the crossbar. Two or three other chances went begging as well. I do appreciate the fact that these young players are getting a much needed rough international baptism, but finishing has to be better and it has become the Americans top problem regardless of who we put on the pitch.
Lastly, Kasey Keller has looked about 105 years old during this tournament, while he has been stranded on a few occasions; his lack of decisiveness and slowed reflexes has cost the Americans a minimum of two goals and counting. Keller is cementing Howard as the States top keeper and playing his way out of numerous contracts. Maybe he can beg for a DP allocation in the A-league?
El Tri (aka The Succeeding)
Beautiful, attacking, wide-open and defensively sound football is being played by this Mexico team as they have romped through their first two matches. Nery Castillo has been a revelation and is probably making his agent very busy these days. His strike against Brazil was an uber-Golazo! His world class pace causes headaches for even the spryest defenders. Look for Castillo to be on the move from Greece to a major player soon.
1. It sure seems like Columbia has better options than Angel. Right!
2. Moreno shows Bolivia what they've been missing for the past five years. He also proves a point about MLS quality.
U-20 World Cup
Despite the finishing struggles of the Senior side, the US U-20 squad threw down a scary beating on an amped Polish side on Tuesday. The Poles entered the match on a high after downing Brazil in their opening match while the Americans were held to a disappointing draw by South Korea. The Poled jumped out in front in the tenth minute via some nice combination play in the middle of the field and some US ball watching. You often hear about a surrendered goal waking up a team, but rarely do you see it waking up a team to this extent. Over the next 80 minutes the USA, led by Freddy Adu, absolutely exploded for six unanswered goals. Adu and Danny Szetela made like Messi and Kaka and mercilessly carved up the stunned Polish side. First Szetela answered the opening strike with a perfectly placed header from the top of the 18. Then, Adu when to work on the right center back. After driving along the right side of the box, Adu spun and curved a shot around the diving keeper that found the far post and went into the goal, sending the commentator in near giddiness. Adu added two more well taken goals and Szetela made it a hat trick for the tournament as well. Adu’s performance was nothing short of masterful. MLS fans must be asking if that is the same Freddy Adu that had been playing in the League the last four year. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Coach Thomas Rongren plays Adu in his natural position? Note to Jason Kreis: SIT OR MOVE Mehdi Ballouchy! He is killing your team! Then again Jason, maybe you can keep him there, because if Freddy puts together another performance like that on Friday against Brazil, he’ll be off to Europe.
MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (2-4)
NOTE: Plenty of opportunity for me to make incorrect predictions this week.
D.C. United at Kansas City Wizards – United rolled over Colorado, but this is a different story. KC will delight the biggest home crowd of the year and make amends for their Sunday draw.
Chivas USA at FC Dallas – I just don’t see an answer for Galindo in Dallas’ back. Chivas continues to climb the table and gets within three points of West leader Dallas.
Columbus Crew at Colorado Rapids – The sellout crowd will have to look to the skies for fireworks because their limp side doesn’t have a prayer against the rampaging Crew.
UFC at Real Salt Lake – This should be an exciting one, but one that will end in another draw. Place your bet on the next UFC player to get booted from a match. Dichio is even money.
FIRE at Los Angeles Galaxy – The Gals faithful have something to cheer about as the lost FIRE wander in and out of the HDC without even realizing they are supposed to be playing a match. Galaxy take three points.
The Flagship at Houston Dynamo – The Crew showed the league how to mute The Flagship attack and the Dynamo have all the tools too execute that plan as well. Dynamo take three for a share of the Western lead.
Chivas USA at New England Revolution – On short rest, Chivas runs into a revenge motivated Revolution side that likely will be bolstered by a returning Taylor Twellman.
Real Salt Lake at Columbus Crew – RSL is heading into a buzz saw.
UFC at Chicago Fire – Will the FIRE also give UFC their first road victory? I hope not. This ones a draw as the FIRE finds a little bit of gelling on the pitch. The real fun maybe in the stands as Section 8 and the Red Patch Boys try to out shout each other.
Kansas City Wizards at Los Angeles Galaxy – KC carves up the Keystone LA defense and Yallop continues to sweat.
New York Red Bulls at Colorado Rapids – The Flagship continues their slump and draws the lowly Rapids.
D.C. United at Houston Dynamo – This could be fun. Goals a plenty in this one, but the Dynamo D does just enough to pull out three points.
The Soccer/Dynamo Power Hour
(NOTE: If you know a Podcast that needs to be added please let me know and post a link.)