Thursday, August 30, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update – 08/30/07


Superliga Final
Well its been about twelve hours since I finished watching the Superliga final and I’m still in disbelief. That sure looked and sounded like more than 12,500 didn’t it? The MLS side fought valiantly, but were outlasted in sudden death penalty shootout. This game will be remembered for Miguel Calero’s save on Landon in the fifth frame of the shootout, but the match was peppered with moments and amazing saves by both keepers. Joe Cannon and Calero looked like two of the top keepers in any league as they frustrated their opponents who were handed plenty of quality chances by spotty defending. Becks took to the pitch and had to be taken out after injuring his right leg around the 37th minute. Cobi Jones’ experience helped the Galaxy persevere and led to the eventual tying goal and what a goal. The most unlikely goal from the most unlikely source. Much maligned Chris Klein buried a spectacular bicycle kick off a weak Pachuca clearance in the third minute of second half stoppage to effectively send the game into overtime. Overall the final reflected what the entire tournament prooved that the gap between Mexican and MLS teams is effectively zero. Both leagues are capable of producing some attractive soccer, although the Mexican versions is much prettier to watch on a consistent basis. Something else that we've come to expect, poor refereeing, was also evident as the CONCACAF crew did their worst again. This tournament was a success and I look forward to watching next year's version in Spainish or English.

MLS Week 21 – Separation and Flagging
FIRE v. Wizards – A little something for everybody at Arrowhead, which enjoyed the Blanco bounce at the gate for this Wednesday fixture. The FIRE had the home team on the ropes early, but Kevin Hartman called Blanco’s bluff and stood his ground, blocking the Mexican’s early penalty kick attempt.
MOTM: Kevin Hartman

Goats v. Gals – Chivas Explosion!! Beckham Explosion!! Marsh v. Becks! Galindo shows who is boss of LA pitches at least until Pachuca rolls into the HDC. You get the feeling that this team is one Designated Players away from being a serious championship contender. Oops!
MOTM: Maykel Galindo – Opportunism and pure skill result in two for Chivas’ break-out star.

Crew vs. Dynamo – While it took Nate Jaqua to pull a Dynamo draw Schelotto’s dazzling footwork enroute to his league leading assist was worth every bit that the league is paying.
MOTM: No position to judge

Wizards vs. FIRE – Different day, different teams. The FIRE follow their new leader to three points at home over a limp KC side earning me a free lunch in the process. Life is sweet.
MOTM: Cuauhtemoc Blanco – One goal, one assist in a 2-0 victory. Enough said.

Gals vs. Rapids – You leave Becks at home and you will pay. A massively depleted Galaxy line-up got sliced and diced at DSGPark. You can’t be good if you give up three goals in the first half to the Rapids and the Galaxy aren’t. I think there was only one outbreak of “Bouna-time”.

RSL vs. Chivas USA – Chivas just can’t be stopped at home. Proof? They haven’t lost at the HDC this year. Chivas has enough gas left in the tank to slip by RSL and take three more points as the 2005 expansion derby sees the sides on opposite ends of the table.
MOTM: Jesse Marsh – Marsh’s sleek flick past Nick Rimando was all the home side needed to seal a solid week.

Other Week 21 Notes
The Flagship gets deflated and loses two thanks to some spotty defending and poor keeping.
United’s massive week pulls them within three points of the Revs.

Signing of the Week
Am I the only person who though Denilson was 45 years old? A long forgotten cog in the Samba King football machine, the midfield maestro came to MLS this week inking a deal with the Hoops. The 30 year old Denilson comes to MLS via Saudi Arabia, thus making him subject to excessive search at all US airports.

Sinking Lower
You’ve got to hand it to Eddie Johnson. He knew before any of us that the Wizards were on the cusp of ultimate MLS off field success when he spurned the offer from EPL bottom dwellers Derby County. Looks like next year they are going to be packing the house finally! Of course that house looks to be a minor league baseball stadium, but hey, it’s a start.

Quote of the Week
St. Louis Attorney Jeff Cooper who is trying to bring MLS to the hotbed on the possibility that his application for an MLS franchise be revoked by the league after presenting stadium development plans to the city of Collinsville, IL.:
“I’ll not only lose a lot of money,” Cooper told the newspaper, “but I’ll look like a dumb-ass at the same time.”

Yallop all but Gone?
Word is a certain Southern Californian-based German is waiting in the wings should Frank Yallop’s Galaxy. Good news for this gentleman is that he won’t have to change his Addias based wardrobe.

Ann Killion
Last week Ann Killion wrote a piece about Becks and US Soccer that was supported by twisted facts and perpetuated a great deal of myths.

Below is my reply, her rebuttal and my reply.

I had to come to expect so much more from you when you start talking about soccer. Of course being a true MLS believer might dampen my views in your eyes, but en route to your “more of the same” point you skipped over two significant occurrences last week that us true believers took note of. One was your incorrect claim that the league “wallows around the 12,000 mark”. This might be true for the NY RedBulls, but is off by about 3,000 for the league. According to, the league is averaging 15,917 this year. Backing out Beckham matches, the average is right around 15,000.
Secondly, you seemed to miss the attendances in non-Beckham matches this past weekend. True there were the typical attendance woes in Sunday’s Wizards and Thursday’s Rapid matches (7,000 and 10,000 respectively), but the story was very promising elsewhere. Columbus drew it’s largest crowd since 2004 (23,000), RSL put nearly 19,000 in the stands and Houston had over 19,000 show up for their in-state rivalry. Earlier this week DC United drew 18,000 on a Wednesday! This is not more of the same. This is a clear and measurable upwards trend.

To make matters worse, you go on to perpetuate the myth that by somehow stepping foot on European soil, American players improve. There is no evidence to show that being added to a roster of a European team improves American players other than goalkeepers. The results have been a mixed bag at best. Most American players show little to no improvement after transferring overseas. Clint Dempsey and DaMarcus Beasley have shown little improvement at the club or international level since leaving MLS. Clint Mathis set himself back years by playing in Germany and only now has regained any of his earlier MLS form. Bobby Convey’s club form had improved, but he has yet to have any significant impact on our national team. On the flip side, Landon Donovan has neither improved or regressed by choosing MLS over foreign options. Certainly if a starting MLS player starts for and EPL or LaLiga team on a consistent basis, they will likely improve their form, but otherwise the transfers have been tantamount to a water treading cash grab and who can blame the players for the later.

Ann’s Reply:
Thanks for the email. Re: attendance: 1) After the experience with the Earthquakes, I know better than to believe MLS' figures and 2) there is still a Beckham effect because there are ticket plans that require buying tix to other games in order to see Galaxy.
Re: Europe - I don't know anyone in the soccer world who doesn't think players get better and tougher by playing in the best leagues, including Bruce Arena and our current national team coach whose own son is playing in Europe. Landon absolutely regressed between 2002 and 2006.

US Soccer Snob Rebuttal:

Thanks for your reply. I certainly appreciate it.

1. What's at debate is reported attendance numbers. I certainly know there is a difference between reported and actual in MLS. Your mixing and matching of what you think the numbers are and the reported numbers is misleading, but hey, it makes your point.

2. The European move is a myth. Look for any signs of proof of this claim outside of the goal keepers box and they will be limited at best.

3. Donovan did not regress between the last two world cups. He just played out of position. Did you expect LD to win headers from the Czech back line? His greatest 2006 moment was against Italy where he was arguably the best player on the pitch because the red cards forced him into is natural attacking midfielder role.

MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (3-6)
SEASON (42-73)

FIRE vs. The Flagship – The Metros are out rooted in their home by Blanco fans, but still get a draw against a FIRE team whose stock is rising.

United vs. Hoops - This is why Direct Kick was invented. East vs. West in what could be a preview of the MLSCup. United looks to put together something more substantial than the fluky 1-0 victory they scored last week.

Wiz vs. Dynamo – Another blockbuster showdown! This should be an exciting match that sees the Western Conference team start building up en route to October with a convincing win over the Wizards who have played a Beckham-like schedule in the last two weeks.

RSL vs. Gals – RSL returns to So Cal to get three points from Klingsman’s Galaxy.

Rapids vs. Crew – Look for a draw between two adrift sides. Colorado’s got the Mo’, but the road can be an unfair place.

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

US Soccer Snob Filler Update 8/29/07

Apologies to loyal readers, but the column will be delayed a day and shorted due to FC Soccersnob’s Pitch Relocation Efforts which will be more Chicago-style than San Jose if you know what I mean.

It all comes down to this. The worst team in MLS getting pounded into Bolivia by a Mexican club. Really, would anyone feel that less confident in the American entry if RSL donned Galaxy jerseys tonight? At least the Gals are staying in the news, so they got that going for them.

Tonights predictions:
KC vs. RSL – Again, I’m a fool, but I gotta think that KC’s rough and tumble backline is going to have trouble with the speed of Robbie Findlay. This should allow RSL to pull out a draw.

Pachuca vs. Gals – The is no way the Galaxy win this game. Pachuca is the only team in this hemisphere that could currently be considered one of the top five in the world. The Galaxy are one of the few teams in this hemisphere that would actually be know in europe… punchline.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update – 08/15/07


Beckham Enters
I’m not sure what you expected on those Beckham long passes and his one free kick. On the free kick, Carlos Pavon met it at the near post was completely covered and did fairly well getting the ball anywhere near the goal. Long pass number one, was easily dealt with by Troy Perkins, while his long pass to Donovan should have resulted in a PK. It’s not like every time Beckham passed in EPL or La Liga it lead to a goal. I sometimes wonder whether the MLS critics watch anything other than highlights from other leagues.

LA is a better team than they’ve showed this year, but they need time in training with Beckham. I thought their biggest error is playing Donovan as a forward. He is always more effective when he get more touches as an attacking mid. The problem for LA is that they have Beckham, Donovan and Kyle Martino with Attacking Mid as their best position. I say leave hothead Martino on the bench and play Becks right in the center, with Donovan just in front of him and Buddle/Pavon up top.

To the dismay of a great Revs crowd, Becks sat out against the Revolution a couple of days after his United debut due to his arch nemesis Field Turf coating the field. Just as Becks and the Gals get people on board the flying and ankles and swelling and swamp gas excuse, word comes out that by apparently flying the plane backwards to LA, Beckham is suddenly “78%” ready to play in Thursday’s Superliga fixture. Here’s the bottom line: Becks isn’t going to play on Field Turf unless he’s 100%. Sorry New York, but you still might get a token appearance, after all the game is on national TV.

Here’s a quick Becks PT equation:
National TV:
ABC (+6), ESPN (+4), Fox Soccer (+2), All Other Channels (0)

Grass (+2), Field Turf (-2)

Eastbound (-2), Westbound (+2), No flight (+1)

Advance Ticket Sales:
36,000+ (+4), 22,000 – 36,000 (0), 0 – 22,000 (-2)

Negative – Hugo Boss Suited Becks
0-4 – Warm-up bench Becks
4-8 – Limited Minutes Becks
8+ - Full 90 Becks

Enough ankle gate for now……..

The Dynamo/Pachuca rematch lived up to the hype and became an instant Superliga classic. This game had everything ugly in it, but made for a thrilling evening for 21,000+ at Robertson Stadium. Playing a role in the match; a face volley, three ejections, a shootout, last minute heroics. The Dynamo took a lead thanks to some great right side work by Brian Mullan who smoked his defender on the way to the endline. At the endline, he sends in a low cross to the feet of an open DeRo who takes a crack at it. The ball ricochets off of his face and into the back of the net from 10 yards out! Not a goal of the year candidate, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. The Dynamo topped this feat by poorly heading a ball back to the keeper from near midfield ten minutes later. It fell to the feet of a Pachuca forward who was brought down by Patrick Ianni who was given a straight red card. While the ensuing free kick from just outside the box amounted to nothing, Pachuca did manage to tie the game before the half. The second half saw more excellent ball possession by Pachuca and eventually a great goal from Andres Chitiva. The outmanned Dynamo seemed headed toward the inevitable until the 83rd minute when Eddie Robinson powered home the tying goal, setting off wild celebration throughout the majority of fans in Robertson. The game was headed toward overtime, but not before Chitiva was awarded his second yellow for diving of all things. Back on level terms, the Dynamo found some decent offense in the first extra frame until substitute Cory Ashe was sent into the midfield camera stand by a Pachuca defender. While still on the ground, a dazed Ashe then attempted to cleat a nearby Pachuca player earning him a dismissal as well. Both team’s defenses held and off to the shoot out we go. Neither keeper could stop the first three chances. The first miss came courtesy of US national team striker Brian Ching, who had keeper Miguel Calero leaning the wrong way and still managed to hit the post. Houston keeper Pat Onstad rescued the moment by saving the next Pachuca attempt. Joseph Ngwenya tried to really put the pressure on the Mexican side by rolling the limpest penalty kick taken by an MLS side since Ante Razov’s MLS Cup 2003 attempt. Calero stood his ground and used his groin to stop the shot since he didn’t even need his hands, while wagging a finger at Ngwenya. Rafael Marquez Lugo finished over a diving Onstad to seal Pachuca’s place in the Superliga final. This game was a tribute to the potential of this new tournament and the equality of the top teams in CONCACAF.

Stars and Stripes Swap Sides
Due to irreconcilable contractual differences ($), the Red, White and Blue (nicknames for our national team are welcome in feedback), will not get the pleasure of visiting Azteca Stadium on September 9th. Our boys have to settle for Brazil at Solider Field. Drat! I mean, now I get to see the Yanks give the Samba boys a shot within walking distance of my house. Oh, cruel fate! I have seen a quality for quality swap like this since Deep Purple replaced legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore mid-tour with legendary guitarist Joe Satriani. I guess that makes it three victories we’ve scored over Mexico this year.

MLS Week 19 –
LA vs. United – With Becks clearly ready to take his MLS bow serial idiot, Kyle Martino foolishly dives in on Fred’s ankle and gets sent off, sending his team to certain doom. In the UK they would call it a “horror tackle” here we just call it dumb! Few in the crowd likely saw the tackle given that it coincided with Becks removing his warm-up shirt. I’m surprised that any of the ESPN cameras even were trained on the action. I’m mean, there was a man running back and forth on the sideline for 20 minutes! Landon Donovan did a good disappearing job for 60 minutes. Shocking that this would happen when he was playing up top. The good news is that the home team won and everybody when home happy. Except for LA. Hey went to New England frustrated.

Crew vs. Dallas – This might be Fox’s match of the year. A rather anemic first half gave way to a wild finish at PHP. Dallas had to shelve Juan “The Revelation” Toja due to a Superliga injury. Oft injured Adrian Serioux started the match but was shockingly injured in the first half and was replaced. Only Columbus could score in the first half that saw each team taking control of the action. The second half began with a great deal of Columbus pressure, but it was Dallas that scored off a nice bit of opportunism from a Arturo Alvarez who finished in a classy manner when the ball deflected to his feet in the box. The score wasn’t tied for long as Columbus converted a penalty kick after Chris Gbandi dragged down Wild Man Hedjuk just near the end line. Andy Herron handled the PK with ease. The goal of the game began at the foot of goat in waiting Marcelo Saragosa. Who finished Oddly, the crowd seemed to steadily grow from minute 0 to 70.
MOTM: Dax McCarty

Dynamo vs. Rapids – It was Bouna time and is still Clavejo time at DSG Park, however, all this result got him was a stay of execution. I only managed to see highlights of this game due to the HDNet Blackout, but it didn’t appear that I missed much.
MOTM: No Position to Judge

UFC vs. The Flagship – What do we do when you are being marked closely and Mo Johnston I your coach? You punch the defender in the gut and get away with it! I wouldn’t expect to see Andrea Lombardo for a bit UFC fans. He can visit the rest of the team in the ER this week. This match also gave us the great National Post headline “Toronto FC Crushed by New York Teenager.”
MOTM: Jozy Altidore – His second goal may have sealed his transfer to Euroland.

LA vs. Revs – Yallop pulled his head out of his butt for one game to start a line-up that has a modest chance at success. Two forwards up top backed by Landon Donovan at attacking mid. Crazy, I know! However, it was the same old result for the Galaxy who were without Abel Xavier who would have prevented the Revolution goal. What was also made clear in this match is that Ty Harden is not improving. Only the play of Joe Cannon and some Revolution misfires kept this match from getting ugly. The Galaxy had some moments, but it would be nice if they could ever field the same team twice. If LA manages the playoffs this year, it will make Real Madrid’s 2007 feats seem small by comparison. Frank Yallop knows Alexi Lalas has fired managers for less, but Yallop is not a miracle worker. A combination of rash front office moves, key injuries and media whirlwind have combined to turn the Galaxy into the most publicized soap opera on grass and Yallop it’s all too weak adhesive.
MOTM: Shalrie Joseph for being everywhere all evening.

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

A Friend in the MediaYesterday morning, I was watching C-Span2's Book Symposium (I dig deep for you people!) featuring Dave Zirin. Zirin is a non-conformist American sports writer who was discussing his latest book, "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" The title alone made me think about soccer of course. Although the audience didn't touch on our favorite sport, I did manage to find quite a bit about Zirin online. As part of an interview, he had this interesting observation that many of us can relate to:
“You know, when you talk about liking soccer in the U.S., people act like you're taking French lessons at the local Muslim school. You might as well burn the flag in your backyard. The fact is, it's the most popular youth sport in the United States. Whether people want to admit it or not, soccer is a major sport in this country.”
At his website, he did have this must read article about a life changing event at a soccer match.

Quote of the Week (source ESPN Soccernet)
Sigi Schmidt on David Beckham: "When you look at his face, he's not here for retirement. He's not here for a paycheck. He's here to step on the field to win games. That's not something you can hide or disguise."

MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (3-2)
SEASON (40-68)

Revs vs Rapids – poetic that the Revolution will be the team to send Clavijo out to the unemployment line again.

Chivas vs. UFC - the woes continue for Mo’s Street Fighting team as rested Chivas blasts a broken team.

United vs. Crew – A classic match-up that finally means something again. Look for the Crew to rebound from last weeks let down and score a big win over the Eastern Conference foes.

Galaxy vs. The Flagship – 15 minutes of Becks isn’t enough to save the Gals from their third consecutive league defeat.

FIRE vs. RSL – These two struggling, but rising sides battle to a well played draw. The point earned does little to inspire playoff dreams amongst their fans.

Dallas vs. Dynamo – Fear the Fish! Dallas is a very dangerous team now and should dump the Dynamo on their home turf.

Revs vs. Wizards – This is one to Tivo! I believe in the Wizards at home.

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

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

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



Well, well well. Look who isn’t so damn superior after all. Chivas, America and Morelia went crashing out of Superliga leaving Pachuca as the only remaining Mexican side to face the three surviving MLS teams (LA, Houston, and DC). Pre-season was never recognized as an excuse during CONCACAF Champions Cup and I don’t want to hear it now, either. The Mexican teams didn’t even contribute to the most entertaining game, leaving that to Dallas and LA Galaxy.

Let’s call it like it is now. The Mexican and American football are on even footing in the quality department at the league and international levels. Luckily that is due to a rise in quality here, rather than a decline south of the border.

Shame on MLS
Add Beckham’s Ankle-gate to the list of MLS contradictions, right behind wanting passionate fans, but also wanting the fans to tone it down for the soccer moms and their young-ins. On one hand you have Alexi Lalas telling everybody that when you buy a ticket to see the LA Galaxy you are paying to see a team. The other hand put together a back loaded road schedule, a gala press conference and a player-centric portion of The MLS brass is not fooling anybody! Alexi, is the Galaxy’s schedule back loaded due to the high demand of seeing the Galaxy post July? I’ll agree with brass that no refunds should be issued, because no one can guarantee that a player will not be injured or suspended, but let’s not BS about why record crowds are showing up in the first place.

Speaking of the foolishness of the league, believe it or not, they sure have a blind spot in their Beckham marketing. Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen David Beckham play in a short sleeve jersey in the past five years. I’m not seeing any hands at this time. Now raise your hand if you’ve seen any long-sleeve Beckham jerseys for sale in the Beckham Collection online. I’m still not seeing any hands. Wake up MLS!!! With Becks sidelined indefinitely, you can’t afford to drop these many balls!

Shame on the Commentators
All week, commentators have been weighing in on Freddy Adu’s transfer to Benfica. While most of the pundit chatter has been accurate (right time, good price, correct style of play), I’m shocked at the amount of people that have spoken about him NOW having to earn his playing time. Didn’t he transfer to RSL because he was having to earn his playing time? Wasn’t he put out on the wing because Christian Gomez and Mhedi Ballouchy were in his natural position? Didn’t Pitor Nowak make this kid earn a spot in the DC United line-up from day one breaking the ground for Beckham’s high priced cameos? Freddy and the pundits should be praising Nowak for teaching him the lesson about earning his place in the starting line-up. That experience alone will keep Adu from becoming Cletus II. As for the other major question about Freddy: “Why does he perform so well with the national teams, but not in MLS.” I’ve got an answer for that too! Ready…….
This isn’t rocket science people.
For the second time in a year, Adu has transferred to a side that plans to play him at his natural position. We’ll see if those promises ring as hollow as they did on this side of the pond.

Shame on the Rapids
I don’t care how MLS or the Rapids want to dress up their 5-0 trashing at the hands of A-League side Seattle Sounders, that result is an absolute disgrace for a team that was vying for their first Cup. It could be a blessing in disguise for Rapids fans who can’t wait to see Fernando Clavijo axed.

MLS Week 17 – Goal Seekers
KC v. Revs – An entertaining showdown resulted in the Revs staking their sole claim to first place and KC wondering where their second half offense went. Perhaps they should ask some of the bruised members of The Fort who were no doubt clipped by wild shot from Yura Movsisyian and Kerry Zavagnain. While he didn’t get much PT, Adam Christman showed how to stoke a counter attack with a brilliant (and I don’t throw that term around like they do in Jolly Olde) pass to Steve Ralston in the closing minutes of the match. Christman then turned around and sprinted down the field. He was rewarded with a perfect pass from Ralston (expect the best) and calmly slotted past Kevin Hartman to seal the deal at 2-0.
MOTM: Matt Reis – Kept KC off the scoreboard and was huge in the first half.

Crew v. FIRE – Blanco, Wanchope and Rolfe on the pitch at the same time. Here come the fireworks! This is exactly what a sell-out crowd on a gloomy Chicago night was expecting. However, the Trident of Death failed to skewer the Columbus defense nor change the complexion of a dull match. After the match the Crew’s Frankie Hedjuk whined about the all the fouls that Cuauhtemoc Blanco drew (6). However, he didn’t mention the amount of times that the referee waved the “get up” signal at the new Chicago star without blowing the whistle (6).
MOTM: Matt Pickens for an amazing, game saving stop in the 87th minutes.

Rapids v. Dallas – Dallas shut out the anemic Rapids offensive and Drew Moor decided to help out my weak fantasy team with a goal. Dallas did what the needed to do despite coming off a brutal Superliga campaign.
MOTM: Drew Moor scored the games only goal and contributed to the Dallas shutout.

Dynamo v. RSL – The Superliga did claim the spirit of the Dynamo who got dropped by another timely Robbie Findlay goal. Despite the Dynamo’s weariness, this is certainly one of the shock results of the year. Combined with the Dallas win, it certainly makes things more interesting out west.
MOTM: Robbie Findlay – To send the deserving RSL fans home with a smile for once.

United v. Revs – Speaking of shock results, who saw this DC demolition coming. The Revs simply did not show up to play. From Matt Reis, lax play that led to the first goal to an “attack” that failed to have any good ideas all afternoon, the Revs got outclassed when everything was in their favor. The Revs had home field advantage. Fred was suspended for DC. Jamie Moreno and Christian Gomez started on the bench and only Moreno made an appearance. Apparently the Revs defense though Luciano Emelio was on the bench too, because no one bothered to mark him. The result? A brace and a 3-0 beat down administered by the wobbly, but dangerous United.
MOTM: Luciano Emelio for two quality goals.

Galaxy v. UFC – The World Greatest Sideline show traveled to Toronto and Hugo Boss suits got some nice press from Becks, Alexi Lalas and Frankie Yallop. Beck’s decided against the stylish LA Galaxy lapel pin, but did manage to scowl the entire match. ESPN again decided to broadcast a long block of a bench player, but also had the good sense to make the Toronto crowd its second biggest star of the evening. The Galaxy reverted to the non-Superliga form and tried to make all watchers believe that the six goal outburst earlier in the week was a mirage. Toronto really pushed any attack in this match and looked the more likely to score, but was continually thwarted by Joe Cannon.
MOTM: Maurice Edu pushed the Toronto game and played with emotion all match.

Fair and Balanced Journalism
This article is a fair take on soccer’s misfires from a casual fan perspective and this is the type of article that journalists of the future will write in the country. It is good to see that after the bashers had their fun, that the soccer-open journalists are still following the Beckham story even if all the press does not reflect well on MLS. It is great to see the “Well, show me” articles rather than the typical “I don’t care” ones. Of course, there are still the Euro Snobs which Bill Simmons falls directly into the category of with his continual MLS bashing and recent jibe at the Beckham situation. Anyone still harping on the, “Why Soccer Won’t Work Here” train of though, have really missed the boat. Soccer is already working here and is well on its way to passing the NHL in the national consciousness, if it hasn’t already. And for the record, I don’t judge the national consciousness by what ESPN shows. They managed to avoid most Gold Cup highlights despite some NFL level crowds.

MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (1-5) (much like RSL, I’m just focusing on getting back to .500%)
SEASON (37-66)

LA vs. United – After watching that game in New England, you’d be afraid to pick against United too! I’d be shocked if Becks isn’t dressed for this one on natural turf.

UFC vs. The Flagship – The Arena Bulls crush a spirited, but clunky Canadian team.

Crew vs. Dallas – In what should be the most entertaining match of the weekend, the Crew and Dallas fight to a draw.

Dynamo vs. Rapids – I would not want to be in the Rapids shoes now. The only worse place to be would be Fernando Clavijo’s shoes. A loss and he’s gone.

LA vs. Revs – Becks sees more than 12 minutes, but LA still can’t handle a motivated Revolution.

Quote of the Week (source USA Today)
Bruce Arena on the State of the RedBulls when he arrived last season:
"You'd sit around every day and wait around for the Giants to say if you can use the field, and it's generally, 'No.' And then you got in the vans to go to a high school field or another field. I was shocked. ... There's no reason why anyone should expect this franchise to be any better than it is today. Frankly, it's overachieved."

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

US Soccer Snob’s US Soccer Update – 08/01/07


SuperLiga – Solo un Partido
Let’s face it, there is only one game that anyone will talk about when the first round of Superliga is brought up in discussion. That would be the 6-5 goal fest between FC Dallas and LA Galaxy that put the Gals through to the Semi-finals. Dallas fans were already on edge after hearing that Becks wasn’t allowed on the Galaxy Cruiser headed to the Big D. To add insult to injury, Dallas allowed four goals in the first 18 minutes. Arturo Alverez pulled one back before the half for the Hoops, but they were still staring a significant deficit in the face at halftime and the frustration showed as Juan Toja and Alvarez were issued yellow cards in first half extra time. Dallas came back on the pitch with a mission and it almost paid immediate dividends with Carlos Ruiz drilling a bicycle kick into the back of the net two minutes into the half. Unfortunately, the linesman correctly judged Ruiz to be in an offside position. LA’s defenses held due to some stellar keeping from Joe Cannon until the 78th minute when all hell broke loose. First Dallas narrowed the gap to two goals thanks to Toja. Four minutes later, Alvarez got his second narrowing the score line to 4-3. Apparently this didn’t sit well with Landon Donovan who put together a Maradona-style ¾ of the pitch run, darting through the Dallas defense, juking Dario Sala and finishing calmly before making the throat slash celebration, which earned him a yellow. This match was still far from over.
Extra time, was plenty of time for Dallas to slip another past Cannon narrowing the gap to one again. In the 95th minute the Gals answered with a counter attack in which Donovan found Carlos Pavon wide open at the far post, who blasted the ball past Sala for a 6-4 score line. With a last gasp Dallas AGAIN narrowed the deficit to one goal with an Abe Thompson header off a Dax McCarthy corner. The game had to end at that point to the disappointment of the fans who saw nothing short of an amazing game and had no reasonable gripes with management despite the absence of Becks. Although you can’t tell that to Dave Thomas of the Star-Telegram, who don’t even have an FC Dallas section on their sports page.

Check out these statistics:
Donovan – 1 goal, 3 assists
Gordon – 2 goal, 1 assist
Alvarez – 2 goals
Toja – goal, assist

The great thing about Superliga is what many of us US Soccer supporters have hoped for has been the case, MLS teams and FMF teams seem to be on equal footing. Only Chivas has managed a win over a MLS side to this point. DC has been aided by a couple of red cards, while Houston left their foot off the gas against Morelia to put both DC and Houston on the bubble tonight.

MLS Week 16 – Meanwhile in Non-Border War Action
LA Goats v. The Flagship – Something tells me that MLS defenses have figured out JPA. Chivas did a great job of shutting down a flat Flagship and sent them off into a long break on a down note.
MOTM: Ante Razov

Revs v. RSL – Those RSL boys can’t seem to keep their frustrations to themselves! Beckerman was a lynchpin for the tea, but RSL, yet again, gave up a late goal to fall at home against the Revs. Again, I believe that this match was a positive step for RSL. Falling to a late goal, while playing a man down against one of the best in the league isn’t as shameful as some of RSL previous losses.
MOTM: No position to judge

FIRE v. UFC – The revamped FIRE managed to take down a bruised UFC in convincing fashion on Sunday. Blanco was every bit the field general he was expected to be when he was signed. His presence has been what was missing from this team since the departure of Peter Nowak. Yeah, it’s been a while. This fixture was also an audition of sorts for Calen Carr and Chad Barrett to play opposite new signing Paulo Wanchope. Barrett may have played himself off the team with his uneven performance, while Carr was arguably the best player on it. Carr played with an extra gear all match and should be starting with Wanchope up top come Saturday.
MOTM: Calen Carr

LA Goats v. KC – Another thriller in KC, but this time Yura Movsisyian was actually on target! His late goal sends the Wiz to win following last weeks disappointing draw with the Rapids. Kerry Zavagnain, who hadn’t scored since 2003 now has three goals this season, two of which might be up for Goal of the Year discussion.

Friendly Action
Aston Villa swash buckled through North America last week and diced up UFC and the Crew in what were entertaining, but disappointing matches for MLS fans. Neither side took the games too seriously and it showed in the goal tallies, but made for fun watching.

Transfer of the Week
Paulo Wanchope joined the FIRE this week and John Guppy has managed to completely remake this team midyear. The Wanchope move is massive no matter which way you look at it. The FIRE instantly have one of the regions most recognized players, a great finisher and a leader for an aimless group of forwards. Blanco has a quality player to pass to and the Costa Rican fans have another FIRE player to root for. Great news all around!

I couldn’t use another Adu, Adieu, etc. reference that has been used in every single paper in the country. As expected on the heels of an amazing U-20 World Cup performance, Freddy Adu is off to Euroland to play for Benefica. An excellent choice by Adu and his agent! The Portuguese league is great for Freddy’s development, but if he though it was tough getting off the bench in DC, wait until he arrives in the land of Port and Cork. Here’s hoping Adu can make it work for the sake of our national team.

MLS Prediction Central
Last Week (1-3)
SEASON (36-61)
KC v. Revs – A rematch of an early season classic, in which EJ scored a hat trick. Don’t expect the same. KC’s defense has been shaky as of late and the Revs play tough at home. Revs take the three points.

Crew v. FIRE – A resurgent FIRE tops the Crew as Blanco and Wanchope have their home coming out party.

Rapids v. Dallas – A rested Rapids manage a draw versus a depleted Dallas.

Dynamo v. Salt Lake – Just RSL’s luck that once they start putting together some promising play, they have the hottest teams in the league lining up on their schedule. Dynamo in a tight one.

United v. Revs – Another Eastern super battle. I’ll take the Revs to topple a road weary DC United.

Galaxy v. UFC – Will he or won’t he? If you were Frank Yallop, would you let David Beckhams’ fragile ankle near a Mo Johnston team. Mo might just stomp on it in the Friday presser! Look for the Galaxy to build on the Superliga momentum over a gutted UFC.


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.)