Saturday, March 31, 2007

Bienvenidos a la MLS

I sat down to watch a game and get on my laptop about an hour ago. I changed it to Chelsea-Watford for a brief moment until I remembered that Atlas-Cruz Azul was on, so I switched it to that.

It's a good game so far. I think I made the right choice. Plus, it's on a short delay as opposed to an hours-long delay. As long as I remember to change it back to Chelsea-Watford at the end, I'll be fine.

Anyway, during halftime of the game (it's on TeleFutura) they started talking about MLS. TeleFutura is going to show MLS games and MLS highlights are going to be on TeleFutura's nightly highlights show, Contacto Deportivo.

They spent only about a minute talking MLS. First, they opened with saying that Kansas City and Atlas had formed a partnership and the hosts said "That just shows that all roads lead to MLS." They brought on the guy who will apparently spearhead the network's MLS coverage and he basically teased some stuff that will be on Contacto Deportivo. He said that a well-known Mexican is headed to MLS and said that an ex-Real Madrid star could also be headed to L.A. Then they said their first game was Houston-Galaxy on April 8 and they finished off by saying "Bienvenidos a la MLS."

Paring down my picks

I've not yet decided who I'm going to pick to win the conferences and the MLS Cup champion. Last year, I called it and picked Houston to win the cup (I even had them beating New England!) in the preseason. Of course, I jumped off their bandwagon before the playoffs started, actually I can't remember who I picked but I might have picked Chicago.

Anyway, my first thoughts for the Western Conference: Houston has a good chance of repeating. I really like Colorado and what they did to improve. I'm a big Herculez Gomez supporter and I think he'll shine in Colorado. Chivas didn't make much noise but they have a good foundation. The Galaxy has a killer schedule but a good team nonetheless. Dallas and Salt Lake made changes but have a lot to overcome. It's easy to go with the chalk and pick Houston. I'll have to figure out my picks here in the next couple of days.

East: I think Columbus will be bad, again. Toronto has the makings of a decent club. I like Ronnie O'Brien and with Mulrooney also there, they'll have some good players. D.C. made a lot of changes to a team that had the most points in the league. It's hard imagining New York as being one of the league's best teams but then again it's hard imagining that this New York team will struggle with Bruce Arena at coach and Claudio Reyna at midfield. Goals will be hard to come by, though. New England remains strong. Kansas City doesn't excite me. Chicago should be solid yet again.

Well, there you go. My off-the-cuff thoughts on the season. I'll come back later in the week with some more informed opinions.

Done deal

Well, it looks like Cuauhtemoc Blanco will soon be property of the Chicago Fire after all. As difficult it is for me to believe, Mexico's biggest icon will ply his trade in Major League Soccer.

In case you're wondering, Blanco and the Fire will visit the Galaxy on July 4 and Chivas USA on Sept. 29. However, if Blanco does indeed play in Copa America as he recently stated he'd like to do, he won't play against the Galaxy out here at HDC.

I wrote in a previous post that I didn't think Blanco coming here was a good idea and I still feel that way. MLS has tried and failed to lure Mexican fans by bringing in high-profile Mexicans before and it hasn't worked. Luis Hernandez helped the Galaxy draw about 35,000 in his first game but the attendance eventually went back down to what it was before he got there.

Still, in much the same way Europeans and fans across the world will be forced to pay attention to MLS because of David Beckham, Mexicans will be forced to pay attention to MLS now more than ever. Beckham and Blanco joining the league will be a good thing if it draws more people and if those people stay fans and the league shows strong growth.

DC-You mighty

The sidebars that Eric Wynalda contributes to the previews are edited by someone else, but I interviewed Eric to get his observations.

It's not hard - Eric is machine-gun like with his opinions. He has a lot of them, generally hits the target and isn't afraid of doing damage.

When he was talking about DC United, though, it didn't surprise me that he criticized Peter Nowak wearing out his players. I'd observed United go from a good team to a tired-looking team last year myself.

When he was in Los Angeles with the national team, I asked Troy Perkins about why his squad faltered in the closing half of the season. His response, while not as barbed in its rebuke of Nowak as Eric's take, wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement, either, though Troy didn't mention the former coach directly.

"I think we just had some injuries that we were struggling with with our attackers. We kind of relied too much on certain guys to do the job for us. We were cutting corners and I think it bit us in the butt a little bit. Plus, it was just learning about how to keep momentum and how to win games, even though it was tough. I think we just burned ourselves out. We did too much too fast and in the long run it hurt us."

I'm not sure I'd pick DC to win MLS Cup, but the team definitely looks to be a beast in the East.

MLS one week away

We're getting pretty amped up around here for the start of the MLS season. The offseason has been decent for us. InterLiga came and went. We got to take a trip to Arizona for US-Mexico and San Diego for Mexico-Venezuela. There have been a few friendlies that have kept us going but the MLS season is what will carry us through to November.

On the writing side of things, I've got a busy week coming up. Monday is the commissioner's conference call. Tuesday I've got to hit up both Chivas (after training) and Galaxy (at luncheon) and then write away the rest of the week. Saturday is the first game, Chivas-Toronto, and I can't wait.

Anyway, I've had a few thoughts rolling around in my head about the upcoming season.

> The Galaxy's schedule is going to be brutal. That's just at first glance. When you look closer, it seems ridiculously brutal. How they handle all those games in July (7 games), August (5 of 6 away), September (8) and October (4 in 3 weeks) will determine their standing at season's end. If they get through unscathed, they'll be a favorite to reach MLS Cup. If they struggle, it'll be another quiet October for the Galaxy. Not all of their games are MLS games. They've got the Chelsea match and SuperLiga. There might even be more games to follow, but if Frank Yallop wanted to ease the schedule some, well, at least keep it from getting any more brutal than it already is, he'll throw out reserves, trialists and heck even some reporters and fans for U.S. Open Cup qualifier against the Crew.

> I'm not sure how the Thursday night games will do. It's been tried before without much success, though that was a while back. In some ways, I like the change of pace with more teams on national television. But then again the Galaxy will be on Thursday nights five times after Becks gets here (and just once before). I'm holding out my final verdict on this one until later, though.

> I'm a bit disappointed in the DP rule and that only New York and the Galaxy (and Chivas to some extent) took advantage of it. We heard all these rumors about Ronaldo, Wanchope, Figo, Davids, Zidane and now Blanco and nothing has come of them. Becks came through which is great and Claudio Reyna but that's it. Again, we'll have to hold off on the final verdict until at least the end of the season, possibly longer, but right now it's helped two teams and been nothing to the rest of the league. Chivas did pick up Amado Guevara with their DP slot, so they benefited some as well.

> Final thought for right now: I like the new playoff system. Well, actually, the standings system. I still think the playoffs should all be one game series but whatever. Getting into them will now be more challenging. A year ago, the Red Bulls got in with 39 points while the Galaxy and Salt Lake were left out of the playoffs with 39 points. In 2005, the most farcical of all playoff scenarios occurred when the Galaxy got in despite finishing 9th in the overall table and won the whole damn thing. In 2004, four of the five teams in each conference got in which meant you played 32 games to eliminate two teams from MLS Cup contention. This season, it's an improvement in that the top two teams in each conference get in as well as the four best remaining teams regardless of conference. If the four best are all Western teams, it doesn't matter. This could be intriguing because you could have a final like 2001 where you had two rivals playing for the cup. So potentially you could have Chivas-Galaxy, DC-Red Bulls, FC Dallas-Houston, Salt Lake-Colorado... uh, yeah, scratch that last one.

> Okay, one last thought. Toronto has a pretty solid team, much better than the 2005 expansion teams. What was kinda lost in the whole Toronto build-up was the expansion draft. I felt that Salt Lake and Chivas should have been exempt from the expansion draft simply because they were expansion teams from two years prior. So they got punished on both ends. First, there was a different set of rules in the 04 expansion draft. Secondly, the league admitted that 2005 Chivas/RSL went so bad that they would have to reassess future expansion teams and they did. The league should have let Chivas and RSL continue their development unperturbed by not letting Toronto choose players from their rosters. Chivas would still have Tim Regan and RSL would not have suffered through their own debauchery of losing and then re-acquiring Jason Kreis, so they would have kept their partial allocation. It doesn't seem like much but when these teams each allowed more than 60 goals in 2005 and then one year later you are forcing them to make key players available, it just doesn't seem even. I had some sympathy for RSL and Chivas v.2005 but I won't have much for Toronto if they get their asses handed to them. They had more breaks than their two predecessors.

Friday, March 30, 2007

El Guzano

Brad Guzan will probably start his third consecutive season opener against Toronto FC on April 7. I can't imagine it going any better than last year, when Chivas USA opened with a 3-0 rout of Real Salt Lake.

But last year followed the same pattern as the year before. Guzan struggled, the team struggled and he was benched in May.

He's looking forward to this year and to the goalkeeper battle he's having (and winning) with Preston Burpo.

Here's an audio clip to my interview with Brad Guzan on March 14.


It finally became official today. The Galaxy will play Rangers on May 23.

This year will be a rather exciting year at Home Depot Center. At the club level, we'll see all 13 MLS teams as well as Suwon Bluewings, Tigres UANL, Chivas de Guadalajara, Pachuca, Chelsea and now Rangers. Internationally, we'll see the U.S., Trinidad & Tobago, Guatemala and El Salvador. The last two might be minnows but they'll play each other and they don't much care for each other.

And that's not even counting the much-rumored Real Madrid-Galaxy match.

Okay, well, the Chivas-Galaxy match might be moved out of the area but until that happens - which I hope it does not get moved - we'll be planning for it right here at HDC.

Of course, you can get all the coverage on as well as our various other publications. And you'll get the behind-the-scenes stuff, cool pictures and audio clips right here.

More preview stuff

Another one of the sites I contribute to,, has started rolling out the season preview package. Judging by the first day, I'm assuming they'll be rolling along the stories over the course of the next week or so at two clubs per day.

It's D.C. United and FC Dallas today. Preview stories are here for D.C. and here for FC Dallas. Plus there are some quick hits for D.C. and FCD as well.

I wrote mine up for Chivas USA earlier this week. I kinda didn't write as much as either of those two. Mine came in at about 850 words. The DC one is about 1100 and the FC Dallas one is 1800. Oh well. Quality over quantity, I hope. Also, my quick hits are even quicker.

No shot

I'm officially on the record of giving D.C. United no chance against Chivas next Wednesday.

Honestly, a D.C. win would be good for MLS in some ways and I do think D.C. is a good team but they'll lose next week.

Of course, if D.C. pulls off the upset, I'll gladly eat crow and take a picture of it. Or maybe I'll eat some nasty dish that I normally wouldn't eat, like sushi, and pretend its crow. How's that? I'll have Andrea take a picture of it.

No, no, maybe

It seemed rather unlikely that Real Madrid would end their league campaign and then take off on a tour of the U.S. with little time for the players to rest. When the first report broke of such a thing, I was a little surprised because it seemed like there was little room in the Galaxy's schedule to accomodate such a game (Beckham had been rumored to play one half with Madrid, then another with the Galaxy)

One thing I should have learned from the debacle of the MLS Select team going to Spain in the middle of the 2005 season with no practice, a league mandate to pick at least one player from every MLS team (despite the squad's roster needs), and an exhausted Landon Donovan, is that there's always accomodations that can be made for Real Madrid.

So I'm skeptical of the Galaxy's first denial. They probably don't want to admit anything until it's set in stone, but MARCA has a story about Calderon returning from his preparation trip all hunky-dory. No specific plans or dates are mentioned, but the report does confirm a tour to the U.S. in June.


Todd Dunivant is another player I've grown fond of. I was disappointed when he was traded away from the Galaxy because I thought he filled his role perfectly out here, he had just bought a house and he was a good guy who loved playing for the Galaxy and out here in L.A.

Nevertheless, he understands the nature of the business. Here's an audio clip of the interview I had with him back on March 14 after the Red Bulls tied Chivas USA 2-2 in a friendly.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cuauh Copa bound

Cuauhtemoc Blanco wants to play in Copa America. Presumably, he would also like to represent Mexico in the Gold Cup. At this point, nothing save for injury would indicate anything but two cup appearances this summer.

How would Fire fans like that? Their prized offseason acquisition, a player who the club would have shelled out millions for, would be unavailable from late May to mid-July.

Facts and Figures

Got an email today from the league office - they're mailing out the new league factbook. You probably can't tell from my picture here, but it's over an inch thick, with lots and lots of info. This one is last year's and it's outdated now, of course, what with Toronto in the league and a few records fallen last year.

Cobi, Cobi, everywhere

Went to the Home Depot today - the store, not the stadium. Anyway, this was a banner along the back wall.

Most popular?

From Grahame Jones of the LA Times:

OAKLAND — The argument could be made — and quite forcibly too — that the most popular soccer team in the U.S. these days is Mexico.


Here's the rest of his match report from the Mexico-Ecuador game.

Humble Suarez

Claudio Suarez is a class act. He's easily one of the most sincere and humble players I've ever dealt with. The man is class through and through. I was happy for him when the Mexican federation recognized him on Sunday. They awarded him a plaque and the players carried him on their shoulders before Mexico played Paraguay in Monterrey.

Here's an audio clip of the interview. It's in Spanish so hopefully some of you will understand.

MLS - ad campaign

Color me underwhelmed by the "You're a fan, you just don't know it yet."

But I'll admit that I have no real clue what might convert sports fans of other stripes to soccer. I've been a soccer fan for a long time, and so I don't really understand those who don't appreciate the sport. I grasp the concept that they don't, but the "why" of it baffles me.

Oh well.

From one old guy to another

Ramon Ramirez was honored by the Mexican soccer federation before Mexico's game in Oakland on Wednesday. He paused to take a picture with, of all people, Barry Bonds.

The picture is up with this story. Check out Bonds' scarf.

As a Dodger fan, I must say I'm disappointed. Since Bonds was there supporting soccer (presumably) I'll let it slide.

This time.

New outlook for Galaxy

Meanwhile, Frank Yallop has some thoughts on how the Galaxy are going to climb back to the top of the league.

No, the plan doesn't depend on "kick the ball to Beckham at every chance".

That's at least partly because Beckham won't be here for a good while.

"July is a long way off," said Yallop. "We just want to make sure that we’re ready for the first game, try to get as many points as we can, and then move towards the playoffs. That’s basically what we’re trying to do."

Real Test for RSL

The third season might be the charm for RSL.

I didn't have room to include it in the preview, but here's what RSL coach John Ellinger said when I asked what he had learned in his first two years guiding the squad that would make a difference in their fate this year.

"For me, I have to say that the first year was the hardest, just getting comfortable with the level of play and the speed of play and trying to find the roster that makes sense and that can win some games. Last year, not hitting the panic button early was key for us, continuing to show some patience, and then in the second half of the season we hit our stride and we played extremely well. For me, knowing the importance of every league game you play is of the utmost importance as far as getting the points you need to make the playoffs. We need an early start and we need a strong finish. For us, it’s a long season and understanding that it’s a long season and that we need to get our points at different parts of the season to make the playoff. I’ve got a good group of senior leadership. They’ve been through it before. I was an assistant coach in the first year of the league and we ended up making the playoffs on a nice run there. I know it can be done. What I’m looking for now is that I want more consistency out of our team as far as not giving away silly goals. We were second in scoring last year, but we definitely needed to play better defense, if we’re going to get to the playoffs and go anywhere in the playoffs. The importance of scoring goals and also having a quality defensive unit out there is key."

African Events

Africa is apparently cornering the market on global tournaments at all levels.

We all know about South Africa 2010 (I suppose whether or not it actually comes to fruition remains to be seen). But Egypt and Nigeria were recently chosen as sites for youth tournaments.

Egypt will host the U-20 World Cup in 2009 and Nigeria the U-17 World Cup that year as well.

On a quick aside, FIFA dropped the name "World Championship" and switched to "World Cup" for its youth tournaments. The World Youth Championship is now the U-20 World Cup, which is good. World Cup grabs people's attention more than World Championship. Plus, nobody calls it World Cups but a lot of people referred to it as World Championships.

Anyway, it's good that the youth tourneys will be there. Not sure if the actual World Cup itself will end up being held there. These smaller tournaments are good for nations like Egypt and Nigeria and Canada (site of this year's U-20 tourney) because some countries just can't host it. Nigeria for instance doesn't have the capacity to host the actual World Cup but is a strong footballing nation and should be allowed to host something. Plus they already hosted a U-20 tournament before, the 1999 one.

Coughing up for Cuauh

According to this report (scroll down a bit), Blanco to Chicago is a done deal - it's just the little matter of the Fire coming up with the money to pay Cuauhtemoc.

The article mentions the Beckham five year contract signing as $250 million in salary, again. I thought it had been settled by now that Beckham is getting around five million a year - endorsement options make up the rest.

The story here makes it seem like MLS is being cheap to the Mexican player by comparison, since they have tallied it as Beckham making a million a month.

In fact, Mexican players have traditionally been given very high salaries by MLS. Paco Palencia was the only MLS player to earn over a million last year, more than any American.

If Blanco gets the 2 million a year he apparently wants, he will make more than any player in MLS not named Beckham.

If Beckham got injured. . . takes a look at what could happen in the future of sports injuries - basically, they cover the whole promise of stem cells, which have shown potential to help regeneration.

The premise has always been in the past that nerves don't regenerate, cartilage doesn't grow back, and ligaments can only take so much damage.

The Beckham line is just a draw to get eyeballs to this article, because the science is many years away from really affecting any of today's players.

Andrea's Take

Canales chatter Andrea's Reaction #1

The Other View

By the way they wrote up the game story on Prensa Libre, you would have thought Guatemala won a World Cup game.

Here's a translation of their match report on their web site.

Guatemala played one of its best matches over its previous seven friendly encounters, with a tactially disciplined squad that knew how to defend itself and pushed forward at times.

Guatemala stopped the positive results by the Untied States who in their last three games had beaten Denmark 3-1, Mexico 2-0 and Ecuador 3-1.

Guatemala played a defensive scheme agianst the Americans with only one striker - Carlos Ruiz - and although the did not have possession of the ball they destroyed the hosts' midfield advancement and did not allow them to get in their fast-paced rhythm.

But Guatemala was not content with just defending. In the second half, Guatemala took advantage of the right side of the field with Carlos Figueroa and the creativity of Jose Contreras and the dynamic Pescado Ruiz who troubled goalkeeper Kasey Keller because on two occasions he appeared troubled by the direct shots from the national team forward.

The national team faced a complicated rival that never stopped attacking Ricardo Trigueno Foster's area but the Guatemalan goalkeeper was alert and had a strong defensive line in front of him guided by Gustavo Cabrera and Claudio Albizuris and were complemented by the physical paly of Leonel Noriega, Carlos Quinonez and Freddy Thompson in the midfield.

Last night, althought Guatemala did not score and are now seven games without a win in the Bolillo Gomez era, they nevertheless took a step forward ahead of their June 7 game against the Untied states, an official Gold Cup match. The last time they played, the national team lost 4-0.

Kinnear's thoughts

I recently interviewed Dominic Kinnear for a column I wrote for about how MLS struggles against Mexican teams in the CONCACAF Champions Cup. So far, so good for Houston at least, however, as Houston beat Pachuca 2-0 in the first leg.

Here is the audio clip of that interview. I messed up a stat, though. I thought MLS was 1-10 in their last 11 series but its just 1-6 in their last seven. My bad.

Podcast reaction

Luis' thoughts. Reaction Ep #2

Prediction Pitiful

Well, was I ever wrong in my calls for last night. For those who listened to our podcast preview, I prophesied 3-1 for U.S./Guatemala. The game I imagined would have been much more exciting, but the reality was a scoreless semi-stinker.

For Mexico/Ecuador, I predicted Ecuador would bounce back with a surprise win versus El Tri. I didn't mention numbers, but I had in mind 2-1.

Well, I had a few minutes to gloat while Ecuador held that scoreline, but then Mexico roared back, 4-2.

Luis at least got one win right, as he guessed 2-0 for both matches.

As I was watching the U.S. U20 team beat Haiti, I was thinking that it wasn't a great game, but it had some nice moments. It turned out to be the U.S. highlight of the night.

Mighty Mexico

Mexico sure looked mighty in their 4-2 win over Ecuador.

El Tri fell behind 2-1 in the second half but that only forced Mexico set their attack on high, which yielded some great results. Mexico threw numbers forward and was rewarded by three goals in the final 20 minutes. Ecuador had no chance of holding them off and it really was just a matter of time until Mexico scored.

This Mexico team is getting better and better with each passing game. Sanchez has the squad heading in the right direction.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Not so great divide

It doesn't happen that often but every now and then Chivas USA and the Galaxy will practice pretty much right next to each other.

There are quite a few fields around Home Depot Center. The Galaxy, for instance, trained at Field 4 for most of the 2005 season and Field 6 most of last year. Chivas USA trained on University Field 2 for most of the 2006 season and the 2005 one as well. I don't know if there are some fields reserved for the national teams or what but more clubs should train down at Field 4. That and Field 1 are probably my favorite training grounds but the teams hardly ever use them. Chivas USA is more often than not on the University fields while the Galaxy has settled into Field 6.

I'm sure when David Beckham gets here the Galaxy will find a more stable place to hold its training session. Also, with Becks here, there will be more media out there than there was on Wednesday. On Wednesday, it was just me and the Galaxy's MLSnet writer, Greg Daurio, and the Fox Sports Net crew. Andrea arrived after I shot this video. I'm sure with Becks here there will be 20 times the amount of media out there and the Galaxy will hold their training sessions in a secure location.

Galaxy clip

Not to take the focus off the national teams in action on Wednesday but I had shot this on Tuesday and wanted to get it out before it got too much older. This is a short clip of the Galaxy's training session from Tuesday.

Bradley's decision

Assuming Bob Bradley has his interim tag replaced, he's going to face a tough decision regarding Copa America. If, as expected, he takes a team with few or no European-based players to Copa America, the team could struggle especially of Landon Donovan stays with the Galaxy.

There are some good MLS players who were not part of Wednesday's disastrous draw. Guys like Brian Ching, Jonathan Bornstein and Ricardo Clark were not included, as well as Pablo Mastroeni, Chris Albright and Chris Rolfe. With those guys on the field, I'd feel much better about the Americans' chances and even more so with Landon Donovan.

Still, Sunday's lineup versus Ecuador was what we likely will see in the Gold Cup and something like Wednesday - a mix of young and younger - is what we might see in Venezuela.

Ugh, oh

What's worrisome to me is that the U.S. lowered themselves and got stuck down there playing their opponent's game. That can happen.

Kyle Martino said something about it, when I asked him about the USL opponents the Galaxy faced in their recent preseason tournament.

"Those games are always tough because it’s a lose-lose situation for you," said the sometime-national team midfielder. "If you blow them out, it’s what’s expected, and those guys are coming to take your job and they’re coming with chips on their shoulders to really prove something. It’s always tough playing those teams. You have to tip your hat to them, they give a lot of effort, and every time we play them, they make it a battle. Unfortunately, more times than not, the level drops. They kind of bring it down to their level and make it a scrappy, dirty game with a lot of intensity. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit."

So I'll give Guatemala credit, and also add that for them, this was a Gold Cup dress rehearsal of sorts. It may not be pretty (I'm thinking Greece in the last Euro Championships), but if the U.S. doesn't figure out a way out of the muck of these kinds of games, Guatemala could end up with results like this against the Americans time and again.


Wow. What a game. And I mean that in a bad way. This is one of those games that I'm glad I didn't fork out my hard-earned money to go watch.

U.S. 0, Guatemala 0.

I guess what I'm most upset about is that Guatemala acted like this game meant something. They were acting like it was the first leg of a two-leg series and they wanted to get a draw on the road. See, that is the definition of a small team. A small team is happy with going for draws on the road in friendlies.

The Big Boys

U.S./Guatemala next.

Starting lineup for the U.S. is Kasey Keller, Jonathan Spector, Jimmy Conrad, Jay DeMerit, Frank Simek, Clint Dempsey, Benny Feilhaber, Michael Bradley, Justin Mapp, Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan

No running blog of any kind here - I'll be working on a reaction piece. Enjoy the game. It's on ESPN2 and Galavision. The matchtracker is on the US Soccer site.

Haiti-U20 Creeping Blog

Nice recovery from the U20's for the victory over a full senior team, albeit from a small country.

Post-game player interview - Ferrari blamed himself for Haiti's goal, since his possession loss led to breakaway, so he was looking to redeem himself twice over.

Post-game interview - Coach Rongen is happy with final result, but not that team suffered defensive letdown and missed chances. He cites fighting character of team, aggression late in game as positives. He also notes backline did well considering absence of Sturgis and other previous U20 starters on defense.

Final- U.S. 2-1 Haiti
Stoppage - Ferrari makes up for his earlier miss! He finishes off a ball headed across the goal by McCarty.

83 - As soon as I post that, Szetela is subbed off for Jalil Anibaba

79 - U.S.' control of the match has come to nothing except what might have been. On the plus side Danny Szetela has had a pretty nice game.

77 - the U.S. has got to be ruing their missed chances, especially since a header by Haiti just goes off the crossbar.

76 - Dax McCarty (my fave name on the squad) is in for the U20's

75 - Goal Haiti 1-1 USA
Haiti equalizes! Sub Epheine on a breakaway - Sarkodie burned on that a bit - and he didn't seem to understand which side Seitz wanted him to try to cover when Seitz came out and Sarkodie was trying to recover.

74 - Blake Wagner in for RR

73 -Haiti on the attack - a whiff in the box does the U.S. a favor.

72 - Spoke too soon, some shaky play right now as Tony Beltran is on the sidelines waiting to sub in. Beltran goes in for Altidore.

70 - The U.S. backline has pushed up much farther and is passing better, setting up opportunities for their players. Much better.

68 - Adu lines up corner - Haiti is making a sub (U.S. hasn't subbed yet). Keeper catches.

66 Now it's Ferrari's turn to miss from point-blank range. A sweet dribble by Zizzo beats the defense, and the cross finds Ferrari in front of an open goal. Somehow he skies it - well, it was a little tricky as it was served slightly behind him.

63rd - good ball movement right now from U.S., lots of switched and nice possession

58 - game opening up, U.S. earns two FK's looking to another goal, Haiti coming in hard on the counter

55th Goal Freddy! US 1-0 Haiti
Igwe nice pass to Freddy Adu, who dribbles two defenders to get into the box, dances there with the ball, almost teasing the Haiti players, gets fouled. It's not a dirty foul, but pretty clear, especially when Adu sprawls out spectacularly. Freddy buries the PK - no nightmare of the Holland misses from two years ago.

Half thoughts - not just Rogers, but the entire team has to have a bad memory about his miss. Real teamwork set up the chance, and they'll have to do that again to get on the board here. I'd like to see Quavas Kirk come in, as he adds some offensive punch to the backline.

45+ Haiti's Marceline gets a yellow. Impoverished Caribbean country or not, Haiti's men do not want to lose to a U.S. youth team. They're playing very physically and the referee has warned them already.

44th At the risk of being accused of having a Galaxy bias, I can really see now how much Sturgis sets up and creates for this team. It's not that the backline is bad, but except for Ward, there's not much offensive help from them.

40th The U.S. doesn't look like they have much in the way of ideas. Wallace is a good sized physical defender, but his passes are off by a fairly large margin.

35 Chris Seitz comes out to tackle ball away from breaking Haiti player. He saved a likely goal. I think he'll start for Real Salt Lake this season.

33 First Haiti corner leads to clearance off the line. U.S. didn't defend well there, poor marking.

28 Adu pass sets up U.S. break, ref doesn't call advantage on foul on RR.

22nd - just realized Fabrice Noel is playing in this game for Haiti. Former Colorado Rapids player - sad story about brothers getting killed in the conflict in Haiti.

Ward is looking good for the U.S.

Rogers missed a sitter.

US lineup

Chris Seitz, Anthony Wallace, Amaechi Igwe, Ofori Sarkodie, Tim Ward, Freddy Adu, Danny Szetela, Robbie Rogers, Sal Zizzo, Josmer Altidore, Gabe Ferrari

The U.S. team already misses Nathan Sturgis. Ofori Sarkodie gives up FK outside box.. Seitz covers it well as it goes over bar.

U20's versus Haiti


I was thinking of doing a running blog, but I'm behind on a bunch of work, so it will probably be more of a walking, maybe a crawling blog.

Players I'm excited to see in this match: Jozy Altidore, Robbie Rogers, and Gabe Ferrari.

This guy named Freddy Adu is also playing.

My pick to surprise people is Sal Zizzo. He's not really big or fast, but he can be tricky on the ball.

Goo goo ga x2

Congrats to Mia and Nomar!

Podcast preview

Well, here goes nothing. Luis and Andrea #1

Nothing against the Euros

I asked Kyle Martino if, when watching the national team in matches, does he cheer equally for everyone on the team, or is there an extra fist pump or two when an MLS player performs well?

"Absolutely, you want to root for the home-grown guys," Kyle responded. "You want to see MLS guys do good on the world stage because that means that this league is here, it needs to be respected, that it’s producing good players, and it’s creating good soccer. Anytime you see an MLS guy do good on the world stage, you have to be excited for him."

Tough luck

I'm not in Texas, but the news out of the camp about Heath Pearce isn't good. He responded to an email I'd sent, explaining that he'd suffered a foot injury a couple of days before the Ecuador game.

Apparently, he's still gimpy enough that they're not going to risk more injury versus Guatemala today.

Spies check out DC

MedioTiempo has a story about how the Chivas coaching staff came out to the DC United practice to scout the MLS squad before their CONCACAF Champions' Cup semifinal match.

Jaime Moreno didn't seem bothered.

"It's nothing, we've already played and they know how we play. We know how they play and we had a chance to see them this past weekend. I don't think there are secrets in soccer, we've just got to try to play well and put the ball in the net."


Gabcast! Test #1

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cobi speaks

It's the Cobi Jones month around here. Actually, this was a particularly strong interview I had with Cobi Jones on Feb. 5, just two days before the U.S. played Mexico in Arizona.

It was the first day of the Galaxy's training camp and everyone was talking Beckham but I really wanted to get his thoughts on U.S.-Mexico so I waited until all the Galaxy questions were out of the way and then proceeded to spend a few minutes chatting with him.

That's the first part of the interview. Here is the second half of that interview, where he talks about Rafael Marquez. Andrea jumped in and asked some questions, the first of which was about the environment and playing Mexico in front of large pro-Mexico crowds.

First audio clip!!

Okay folks. Now you'll have to bear with us here. Like I said, we're just getting used to this here audio clip stuff. To test it out, I used a small clip and uploaded it. It worked like a charm. I've gotta figure out how to do some other things with it and figure out how to string some interviews together and such but for now I just want to get some stuff out.

This clip is of Bob Bradley after Chivas USA lost to Roma FC in penalty kicks last July in the U.S. Open Cup. It's short. It's not the entire interview. Here, he's answering a couple of questions from myself, the Orange County Register's Miguel Melendez and Matt Zimmerman, then of the Long Beach Press Telegram.

Now, keep in mind, some amateur team had just beat Chivas USA in the Open Cup. Bob Bradley is visibly upset. His family is there and looked pretty emotional as well. Bob knows us and he's chatting with us and keeping his composure with us under the circumstances.

Some guy then, presumably from the local rag (the game was in Santa Barbara) comes over and asks some silly, silly question. Bob looks down at his credential, looks up and responds. With ice. If looks could have killed, Bob would be doing 10-20 right now.

Here is the link to the clip.


Story is off

As opposed to story is up. I sent my article to Top Drawer Soccer, which comissioned this latest assignment. Editor Rob Zeigler should have it up before too long.

Read it if you've been wondering what Bob Bradley's chances are to become the permanent coach instead of just the interim. Or if you're wondering when the final decision will be made. Or if you're curious about what the US Soccer federation president thinks of the U.S. men's team and their recent results.

If my story isn't up yet - check out Rob's article on one Gabe Ferrari. Good stuff.

Work gets in the way

Sometimes, working can get in the way of blogging. Such was the case today as both Andrea and I were out at Home Depot Center gathering interviews and the like. I've tried to do the mobile blogging thing but I can't figure it out. Plus, knowing me, I'd probably try and blog while I was driving or something and I kind of don't want to do that, you know.

But there was one major breakthrough in the Sideline Views world. We got our audio stuff up and running. I posted one test clip somewhere. I'm still trying to kick the tires and take the thing out for a few test drives but the possibilities for our things are unlimited. Already I'm preparing my cool Cobi Jones clips from before the U.S.-Mexico game and will have plenty of other things to get to. With the start of the season, there will be post-match press conferences, Gold Cup interviews, Beckham interviews... wow. The possibilities are unlimited.

Also, there might be a Sideline Voices show coming your way.

By the way, Andrea has this really, really cool story for you guys she's working on. Yay Andrea!!

Anyway, we hope you enjoy the clips and this blog.

Bilingual Boost

Yesterday our blog got a lot of traffic because of my little translation of a Ecuadorian article. Jonah, Luis' SI editor, even sent me a nice email thanking me for that.
It's something of a tradition for Luis and I to look for those stories, especially since he tipped me off to and I was already reading MARCA and regularly. I love that MARCA runs video of the Real Madrid pressers sometimes. I can listen to a Capello quote right off the web and translate it here.
We're on our computers a lot looking for stuff. Sometimes it's not even in Spanish - I remember when I found a link from Australia to an article where someone from their federation had met with Jurgen Klinsmann about coaching their national team.
No one, and no secondary site, linked me to the Ecuador article, or the Christian Gomez piece I found last night. Luis hunted down his Guatemala article the same way. Frankly, we don't translate more stuff because a lot of times it's not out there - a lot of outlets will ignore MLS. But they can't do that right now because there's too much interaction, especially in the Champions' Cup.

Fightin' Fish

I followed Andrea's lead and scoured the web for some of Guatemala's thoughts on their encounter against the U.S. I found a good story on about Carlos Ruiz, a player I've interviewed many times. I know Galaxy fans will always have fond memories of "Pescadito" for what he did in 2002 and during his entire time with the Galaxy.

In fact, his MLS career apparently led him to gain quite a bit of respect for the U.S.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised then when he told Prensa Libre that the U.S. es la mejor seleccion de la CONCACAF por mucho.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The MVP speaks

Christian Gomez, the MVP of Major League Soccer last season, is trying to lead his squad, DC United, to international glory versus Chivas Guadalajara in the CONCACAF Champion's Cup. I translated most of his quotes from an interview he gave while in Mexico, where the final leg of the home and away series is being played. The teams tied, 1-1 in DC.

On the team's attitude for the game:
“We’re coming to face Chivas as if it’s a final, because we understand the reality and the gamesmanship that their team brings. We’re going to try to play the way that we can and game to game, we’ve been finding our rhythm."

On where they stand:
"We’re even with them right now, and they have to win to get to the final, just like we have to beat them. So we don’t have to be desperate. They’re definitely going to pressure us and we have to be smart, move the ball around well, although we didn’t do that so well in Washington. That was the determining factor in limiting our goal chances. For that reason, we really have to finish any chances we create."

On the atmosphere created by fervent Chivas fans:
"It’s going to be an amazing experience. There’s going to be a lot of people supporting Chivas and we are used to playing in those types of games. We played in Chile in front of a full stadium and we’ve played various international games. Besides, we have players who are at an internacional level who really shine in games like this.”

For some reason, the article gave him two nicknames, Gomito, which I'd heard before, and Peligro - which was news to me. It means "Danger". Granted, I'm based on the opposite coast, but I'm not sure that's what DC fans call their guy. Christian "Danger" Gomez?

MLS - Almost there

Futbol Mundial's latest issue. I wrote a Westen Conference preview for them.

As far as answering the question posed on the cover - well, it will be tough. Everybody goes gunning for the champions. That's the nature of sport, and it makes repeats very difficult, because there's no sneaking up on any team.

Green is my favorite color

However, I don't wear it to the press box any more, because I get teased about it being the Galaxy's color. It's unprofessional to wear the colors of the local team, apparently. I still wear red, though, because though Chivas USA has it as one of their primary colors, so does over half of MLS at this point. I just avoid red and white stripes.

I'm not sure how the color thing became a rule in the pressbox. It might just be based on superstition, like the idea that the number 13 is bad luck.

Somehow, it's hard to believe that applies in soccer, where both of the all-time cap leaders for their respective senior national teams wear 13. Cobi Jones has 164, while Kristine Lilly has 320-something and counting.

Audio soon?

So I've been kicking around and kicking around some more the idea of getting some sort of audio outlet that will allow myself and Andrea the ability to post audio clips online. It's something I've been wanting to do for some time now but I only recently found a site that I feel comfortable using. It's supposed to be as easy as blogger is for creating and running blogs but it's not free.

It's not that it's that expensive (I'd probably go with the $10 per month plan). I wouldn't necessarily invest in into something that's going to yield a great return for me. For you, our trusty reader, it would be great because you'd get to hear some really great stuff, i.e. interviews and press conferences and the like. Heck, I'd even consider shooting the shit with Andrea, record it and call it our radio show and wouldn't that be fun?!? For me, it would be more of like a hobby because I know I'd enjoy all the aspects of that but it would be mainly for pleasure. Not that that's a bad thing at all. Nobody pays us to write here on this blog, for instance.

Another thing too is the time element. I've got about 1,455 things on my plate on the average day between writing, my other non-soccer job and my two rambunctious daughters (okay, my one rambunctious and one calm daughter).

Anyway, I'm leaning towards signing up for it. I guess I've just got to take the plunge.

One of the better things I have recorded is a snippet of an interview I recorded with Bob Bradley after Chivas USA lost to Roma FC in the U.S. Open Cup last summer. It is an instant classic, I can attest to that. I'll wait to give you guys the whole back story behind it if and when I post it but it's great. Another one is the Cobi Jones interview I recorded on his thoughts about U.S.-Mexico right before the game in February. I've got Alexi Lalas talking about that too but the Cobi stuff is really cool because he talks about Marquez's cheap shot on him in 2002.

So yeah, it's coming. Someday. I've just gotta dive in I suppose.

Bob and "the work"

One thing I learned about Bob Bradley from having covered Chivas USA last year and having interviewed him a countless number of times is that he is all about the work. His favorite phrase is "the work."

A typical question and answer session would be something like this:

Me: The team seems to have had some good results. At this point of the season, are you where you want to be?

Bob: We feel very good about the work we put in and we're hopeful the results will continue to show on the field.

At this point, Bradley is as concerned about the players' mentality as he is lineups and depth charts and all that. Results at this point are secondary; what matters most to Bob is that the team punches the time clock, puts in an honest day's work and creates a strong mentality.

That the team is winning despite all that is absolute gravy.

And if the mentality created in January, February and March carries over into June and July, it's going to be a good summer for the USMNT, regardless of who plays in what tournament and who does not.

Random thoughts

We've been having a good amount of traffic coming through here. For any of our newer readers, please feel free to explore the archives. I think this is post number 740 or something like that so we have a lot to say about a lot of different things. Also, I post in blue and Andrea posts in green.

Oh yeah, had a question to throw out there. My wife and I often debate about it. I've visited the following states: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Georgia and Florida. The last two were actually states I made layovers in (I flew Ontario-->Atlanta--->Frankfurt and San Diego--->Miami--->Trinidad & Tobago). I count those as states visited because I got off the plane, walked around the airport and got on another plane. My wife says they should not count because I was just at an airport.

So I leave it to our trusty readers. Do I count Georgia or Florida or not? A lot's riding on this...

Hot stove news

The U.S. U20 squad will be playing Haiti in the opening match before the U.S. Guatemala match on Wednesday. The game will be webcast on the US Soccer site.

It's pretty sad that I'm looking forward more to Neil Buethe of Studio90 calling the U20 game than I am to hearing Dave O'Brien wander off topic on the senior match. Thank goodness there's the Spanish broadcast for that one.

Due to computer error. . .

A batch of four comments was inadvertantly deleted. Please post again, if you like, but at the least know that we didn't mean to silence your opinion.

Another angle

I realize a lot of people hate the interim tag on Bob Bradley, and would rather he be given the job out right, or someone else be named to the post. I'm sure Bob's not fond of the label himself, but he's realized that it's still a chance and is making the most of it.

I mean, is the English FA, for example, better off for giving Steve McClaren the job there permanantly? A trial period might have done all parties well in that instance.

Ecua Reaction

I was looking for news from the other side of the match for a quick reaction story. I didn't find much, but I do think the report in Hoy had a disconnect between the headline writer and the actual author of the story.

The headline is, "Every Mistake, a Goal by Donovan". I read it thinking, "Ok, yeah, the first one, but what about the good work he did on the other two?"

When I read the article, the only mistake mentioned on Ecuador's part was on the first goal. The author especially gave Landon props on the final goal. I'm not sure if any other mention of mistakes was edited, or was never there.

Unending bewilderment

Landon Donovan is easily the most scrutinized American soccer player right now, perhaps ever. It speaks to his importance as a figure in both MLS and the U.S. national team. He's the best American now (maybe ever) and thus is subject to criticism, both positive and negative.

Every match he plays, every shot he takes or passes off, every crossbar he hits or goalie he beats, everything he does is put under a microscope. When he lined up on the right side against Denmark earlier this year, it was big news. When he told me that he prefers the Galaxy over Copa America, Bruce Arena and Eric Wynalda talked about it on national television. When he scores, he's the American Maradona; when he doesn't, he's the most pathetic player to ever wear the U.S. jersey.

Somewhere in between is the truth. We all have our opinions about him, some are favorable, some are not. Regardless, when talking about the merits of Landon Donovan, at least know the facts.

There is a prevailing sentiment that Donovan doesn't show up in "big games," that when the spotlight is the brightest, he folds. I don't know what people consider "big games." To me, "big games" are World Cup matches, World Cup qualifiers, Gold Cup, Confederations Cup, Copa America... basically anything that isn't a friendly. Some games are "bigger" than others. It's nice, for instance, to win a Gold Cup group stage match but is that as "big" as winning a World Cup group stage match? Of course not. Still, a match that has meaning and carries weight is nonetheless a "big game."

Here are some facts for you to chew on regarding Landon Donovan and how he's fared in "big games."

June 4, 2005: 2 goals in 3-0 WCQ win over Costa Rica
June 8, 2005: goal in 3-0 WCQ win at Panama
July 7, 2005: 2 goals 4-1 in GC win over Cuba
July 9, 2005: goal in 2-0 GC win over Canada
July 24, 2005: shootout goal in GC final win over Panama

June 20, 2004: goal in 3-2 WCQ win at Grenada
Sept. 4, 2004: goal in 2-0 WCQ win over El Salvador
Oct. 13, 2004: 2 goals in 6-0 WCQ win over Panama

July 19, 2003: 4 goals in 5-0 GC win over Cuba

June 17, 2002: goal in 2-0 WC win over Mexico
June 14, 2002: goal in 3-1 WC loss to Poland
June 5, 2002: contributed to goal in 3-2 WC win over Portugal
Jan. 19, 2002: goal in 2-1 GC win over South Korea

That's 17 of his 30 goals he's scored in "big games."

And to those saying that Donovan only scores in the Western Hemisphere, two thoughts: 1) if Korea is part of the Western Hemisphere, then I need a new atlas; 2) I wonder of those people were criticizing Donovan when he beat Gerardo Torrado to an Eddie Lewis cross and poked the ball past Oscar "Conejo" Perez on June 17, 2002.

Sueno madness

Turns out the Sueno MLS: Chivas USA Wants You! campaign was really the Sueno MLS: Chivas USA's Under-19s Want You!

The winner landed a spot on their Under-19 team.

Still, the club got what it wanted: publicity.

Graffiti blogging

I write for a few places, and I wanted to alert Sideline Views readers to recent posts on the u17 squad, the game versus Ecuador, and other thoughts.

Slovenia stops by

Hello to someone whose country of residence is in the midst of Euro Cup qualifying. A once key cog of Yugoslavia's soccer strength is now trying to make it alone. Like the U.S., Slovenia has had surprising success against Italy at times.

It's not often now that we need to add a new name to our greetings list, but it makes it all the more special when it happens.

Nature of the unknowable

It's been said before, and repeated often enough, that Landon Donovan will not get better unless he goes to Europe.

While I fully believe this could be true - I submit that it is equally possible that this is not, in fact, true.

History, not only of Donovan, but of other players, does not indicate it to be consistently true, either.

Statistically, Donovan is already one of the best U.S. players in history. He has played the majority of his career in Major League Soccer.

One must deduce that he improved during that time.

So the logic is evident that he improved in MLS.

The argument might more correctly be that Donovan would improve MORE in Europe.

This assumes another unknowable - that Donovan would get playing time to help him improve. Case studies of Bobby Convey, DaMarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey show this is not a given, and that the arrival of a talented young player abroad is not an automatic boost in performance.

Basically, even if such a thing were quantifiable (how would one measure it other than very subjectively?) the evidence that Donovan would, in fact, improve more abroad than he would by remaining in MLS is driven by an artificial construct.

-European soccer (or at least three major leagues there) would improve Donovan's play more than MLS because of the increased level of competition.

There's nothing to support this except for opinion, so it creates a circular argument. Other possibilities exist that are just as, if not even more likely.

- If Landon went to Europe, his play wouldn't rise significantly.

- If Landon went to Europe, his play would decrease slightly.

- If Landon went to Europe, his play would stay at exactly the same level.

- If Landon went to Europe, his play would decrease significantly.

All the possibilities are valid, so it bothers me to see so many discussions based on only the first, as if the others don't exist.

If Europe is so wonderful for developing players, why hasn't a U.S. player in Europe come along better than Donovan?

First blood

In honor of his first senior cap for the U.S., I hunted around and found one of the first articles I ever wrote that mentioned UCLA walk-on Benny Feilhaber. He'd been one of the last picks by then-coach Sigi Schmid for the 2005 u20 U.S. team in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament.

Schmid admitted that at one point he had doubts about a selection that now seems a brilliant choice – that of Brazilian-born Feilhaber, who has impressed with his poise on the ball – a perfect example of a late-blooming talent coming on strong.

“In my heart of hearts, I felt that Benny was a good player and he deserved to be here. He’s done everything to basically support that decision. He showed that he belonged and continued to get better.”

Feilhaber guessed that he might have been previously overlooked because he did not play extensively for UCLA his first year.

“I think the fact that I got a lot of time on the field this year allowed people to see what kind of player I am.”

Most observers were impressed by the midfielder’s control, timing and ability to find the open spaces. Though he has been in the United States for 14 years now, Feilhaber suspects his Brazilian heritage has influenced his development.

‘I think there’s a lot of my game that’s a little bit Brazilian. I’m usually pretty calm on the ball, and hold the ball and keep possession for my team. But I’ve gotten a lot of the American traits also as a soccer player, which I think have helped me play.”

Feilhaber on MLS

“MLS is one of the steps in the future that I want to reach. I’m working my way up there and I think I’m on the right track right now.”

Yes, the previous statements were actually made by Mr. Feilhaber.

In 2005.

Before he played in the Youth World Cup in Holland, doing so well that his stock rose and offers from abroad put MLS in his rearview mirror.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Daddy's boy

Michael Bradley made an impression on me the first time we met. It was the final game of the 2005 MLS season, and Chivas USA, though out of the playoffs for some time, came out pumped to win at home and at least avoid the mess of being the team with the worst record in the league. They faced the then-New York MetroStars, a team on the verge of missing the playoffs as well.

Only a win would place them in front of the Kansas City Wizards for the final spot in the postseason. The New York squad was reeling from the abrupt firing of coach Bob Bradley by general manager Alexi Lalas. Mo Johnston was in charge now and the New York faithful were hoping Amado Guevara would get inspired to perform well.

Tony Meola showed up big-time in this match, making double digit saves, but I also kept my eye on the tall, serious-looking kid in the midfield.

How tough, I wondered, must it be to play your hardest for a team that has just terminated your father as coach?

I watched carefully for any sign of uninspired play from young Bradley, waiting for a lack of hustle, a reluctance to tackle, perhaps.

Zilch. Michael wasn't the most dominant player on the field, but he was working hard and he kept making good decisions to help his team.

Early in the second half of the scrappy game, Michael had a good following run into the box to get on the end of a Mark Lisi cross. Michael headed the ball into the goal for his first-ever MLS tally.

The goal would prove to be the winning one, sending the Metrostars to the playoffs. That's got to be a little bittersweet, I thought as I walked down to interview the players. Michael had probably imagined that his first goal in the league would be one he'd celebrate with his dad.

I stationed myself by the player tunnel, hoping to get immediate post-game thoughts from Michael. I've found that players are sometimes more candid when the effort of the match is still fresh in their minds. I had my pad and pen at the ready.

"Michael, Michael," I called out when he came walking by. I hadn't interviewed him before, since I'd been on another assignment when the Metros had played the Galaxy that year.

Michael glanced up and then walked over, taking my pen from my hand. Startled, it took me second to realize that he was going to sign an autograph for me.

"No - I mean, I want to ask you a couple of questions," I said, holding up my press credential.

Now it was Michael's turn to look a little surprised. He returned my pen and nodded, though he seemed a bit wary.

"Is it hard to focus on playing well for the team after they've just fired your dad?" I blurted.

Michael looked a little pained, but he answered.

“A bunch of guys have said it – he’s still with us. We’re representing him and his system. "

I thought about what Michael said today, watching him play after his dad sent him into the game against Ecuador. I thought about the pressure that must be inherant when your father is on interim status and every match puts the both of you under the microscope.

I think both Bradleys represented well.

Promises, promises

That's what Landon Donovan was making last year, and while everything he said sounded good, I couldn't help but feel somewhat skeptical. Players need to do more than talk the talk, they needed to walk it. Still, it wasn't as if I doubted that he was capable.

Five goals and one assist in three games later, Landon's boots are made for walking.

Donovan thoughts

I was thinking about an interview I had with Landon some time ago - before the World Cup. I realized then that Landon would like to play on certain teams abroad, but also that he saw several reasons to outweigh that desire with other advantages, including being near family and the love of his life, whose work of choice happens to revolve around Los Angeles.

Beat Luis to it

OK, I cheated. This is an old column of mine on the topic.

MLS vs Europe

It's an ongoing debate that really has no answer, well, at least not a clear one.

Where is it better for players to develop: Major League Soccer or Europe?

At a glance, it appears a no-brainer but when you do a little bit of research and think critically, it's actually not quite what you'd expect.

I'll be writing a column here shortly about my thoughts on this debate and I'll be sure to post a link to it here on this blog.

Lasting effects

CONCACAF's top two teams beat CONMEBOL's two best teams not named Brazil or Argentina on Sunday. The U.S. took out Ecuador 3-1 while Mexico beat Paraguay 2-1 within a few hours of each other.

Does this mean, then, that the U.S. and Mexico should each get through to at least the semifinals of Copa America? Does this put CONCACAF on par, at least the cream of the confederation, with South America?

No. Freaking. Way.

These are friendlies, folks. They're nice wins for the Yanks and El Tri but litmus tests will be held in Venezuela later this summer.

Bruce Almighty

Bruce Arena, now and then.

Talking about Fulham's Clint Dempsey during today's broadcast.

"I think his inactivity has hurt him. He hasn’t played with the same confidence he had when he was playing regularly with the Revolution and scoring in the World Cup."

Talking last year after the U.S. was eliminated from the World Cup.

"We need to get more of our younger, talented players in Europe. We need them in a year-round soccer environment."

I actually agree with Bruce Arena here. I've always thought that Europe is a great option for U.S. players - provided they actually get games there. When they don't, I think they're better off in the U.S., playing and improving.

Captain America

Some people said Landon shouldn't be the captain of the U.S. squad after the World Cup, blaming him for the team's performance in Germany far more than any other American player. But most of the criticism seemed focused not on Landon's performance, which wasn't great, but not horrible, either. Instead, a lot of the critics harped on Landon for playing in the U.S., saying it would hold him back or stunt his development. Ecuador is a quality South American side, and it was Landon who was the major difference for the U.S. squad today, from the beginning to the end.

Going global

In the last couple of hours, we've had visitors from Canada, France, Netherlands, Italy, South Africa, Turkey, Portugal, Brazil and, of course, the United States.

Now that's cool.

Luis isn't watching ESPN2

Landon scored in the first minute and now Dave O'Brien, Eric Wynalda and Bruce Arena are discussing Luis' exclusive on Landon wanting to stay with the Galaxy this summer. But it's being miscontrued slightly. Landon said he'd rather play Gold Cup, than Copa America, so he could be with the Galaxy for Beckham's arrival. He said he didn't want to be gone the whole summer. They've cast it as Landon not wanting to play either tournament.

Bilingual benefits

One of the benefits of speaking Spanish is the ability to watch a game comfortably in two languages. Thus, when someone who's voice I don't care for is doing a game in one language, I can switch to the same game if it's on TV in another language.

As much as I like to listen to Eric Wynalda, his co-workers forced me to switch the game to Galavision.

By the way, Yvie gave up the TV without a fight. And I was gentle.

Match viewing, Bueno style

I'm about to kick my 3-year-old daughter off the TV. Around here, the USMNT trumps Little Einsteins every day including Sunday.

Don't worry. I'll be gentle.

Rooting for Ecuador

I know this guy will be cheering on Ecuador today.

Native son of Ibarra, Ecuador, the nation's greatest-ever soccer talent, Alex Aguinaga.

Dangerous Ecuadorians

Carlos Tenorio can flat play. He's going to be a handful for the U.S. Also, Ulises De la Cruz is dangerous out of the back.

Ulises De la Cruz, Edison Mendez, Luis Valencia and Giovanny Espinoza are all in the starting lineup and all played four games in the World Cup last summer.

U.S. Ecuador News

Benny starts! Landon is captain.

Continental Cobi

See, I've covered Cobi Jones for a while, but I didn't know he spoke French. I wonder if he practiced with Laurent Merlin while the French guy was briefly with the team. I wonder, now that Merlin is with Chivas USA, if there's going to be any French smack talk between the teams.



I guess I should have written more on Ecuador yesterday instead of an hour before the start of the game. Oh well. Here goes.

Ecuador had never qualified for a World Cup until 2002. They lost their first two games but beat Croatia 1-0 in the final group stage game. It wasn't just a meaningless game either. Had Croatia won, they would have gone through at Italy's expense. Even then, the then-third place Croats couldn't beat a nation who had virtually no international history to speak of.

Ecuador's two all-time greats used to play in Mexico. Alex Aguinaga and Agustin Delgado both helped Necaxa to titles and are both very well-respected in Mexico. But they've moved on now: Aguinaga by choice, Delgado by suspension.

As far as streaks go, Sideline Views' streak of US games ends at two but our streak of watching Ecuador in World Cups is strong. In 2002, I took in Mexico-Ecuador in Sendai while the better half of this outfit took in Ecuador-Costa Rica in Hamburg last summer. That's a streak I wouldn't mind maintaining.

Early morning game

Usually early Sunday morning football games are of the American brand.

But not today. It's all about the world's brand of football this morning. The U.S. and Ecuador are about 110 minutes away from kicking off.

On a sporting scale, it will be a good game against two World Cup teams, neither of whom were expected to get out of the first round last summer. Ecuador exceeded its expectations and went on to lose to England in the second round. The U.S. needed a win over Ghana to get out of the first round but lost 2-1.

It'll be interesting to see how the US looks with their best at their disposal. This is about as talented a team the U.S. can put out right now.

On a personal scale, this game will snap a two-game streak for Sideline Views and, sadly, Sideline Views' tour of NFL stadiums will end at two as well. But we'll be there for the first two games of the Gold Cup so mark that on your calendar. We're planning on going all out for that.

Watching the boys

The US Soccer site has a new webcast called MatchAccess where supposedly I can watch the U17 team play against El Salvador right now.

Yay, ok, it's live, and apparently I missed two goals already. The U.S. scored, Greg Garza with the first, Tommy Myer with the second.

Addendum: You futz around with your computer too long, you lose. The score remained 2-0, so I never got to see a goal, though the U.S. did well to manage and maintain the lead. Jared Jeffries is a baller, just a nice, controlled player.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Soccer on the road

Today I was back on the Inside Soccer radio show for a little guest spot. Host Brian Halliday had me scheduled for 5pm, when I was supposed to call in. Only problem was that I was dealing with some diabolical traffic in the middle of nowhere - well, Murrietta, which is close enough - so I had to pull over and hope that no semi-trucks came rolling by during the interview.

Bueno brace

Carlos Bueno scored both goals in Uruguay's 2-0 win over South Korea.

Andale primo. Make us Buenos proud.


Flashback: Stadium Adventures

When I went to Japan for the World Cup, I kept a journal. It was the only journal I'd ever kept. I wrote in that thing religiously. When I was at games, I made sure to write in it. When I was in a shinkansen, I'd make sure and write in it. When I was walking, I made mental notes about what to write in it later.

I was still three years from buying a digital camera, still years from keeping a blog so I didn't have a way to capture memories in pictures or on the web. So most of the memories I have from my 27-day stay in the Land of the Rising Sun are stashed away in my illegible penmanship. But I did write some journals on my computer, Stadium Adventures I called them. My intentions were good but my follow through was terrible.

I wrote only one of these and I had intended on writing one on each game I went to. Most of those memories are sadly gone and I will regret that I didn't follow through with my intentions in the future.

This journal I wrote has sat in an old laptop for years. I blew off the electronic dust from it, put it on the laptop I use now and decided to throw it up on here. I've been meaning to do it for a while but I didn't have any reason to and thought it would look awkward if I just threw it up in the middle of something important. So while there is a lull out here, before the MLS season starts and well before the madness of Beckham ensues, I figured to slap this on here on this trusty blog and get it out to the world.

Or at least our trusty and loyal readers. Enjoy.

(warning: it's a bit long!)
June 22, 2002

The best part of my Japan experience was attending World Cup matches. During my stay, I attended 10 matches in person. Of the 10 venues in Japan, I was fortunate enough to have visited seven.


Matches attended: England-Sweden, June 2.

My first World Cup match was an attractive affair between England and Sweden. I had been in Japan for five or six days at this point and it was very refreshing to go to an actual match. I was welcomed into the world of the English football fan.

At this point in my trip I was unaware of media shuttle buses and still thought the media was responsible for finding its own way to the stadium. Not until after my next match did I become aware of the “luxury” of media shuttle buses.

Anyway, I was staying in Tokyo those days, so I had to get to Saitama from Tokyo station. At Tokyo station, there were signs and fliers pointing the way to Saitama Stadium. It seemed easy enough; catch a train out of Tokyo, change at Akebane station and head toward Urawa. The trip turned out to be that simple, and it took a little less than half an hour. But I had been so anxious to get out of my hotel room that I left really early, so I got into Saitama City about five hours before the match.

I walked around the city, following a pack of English supporters. Since I had to do some reporting for a story I was writing on English fans for The Press-Enterprise, I figured then would be a good time to do it. But instead, I found a seat inside a store/restaurant and relaxed. I had done a lot of walking and I was kind of worried about getting to the stadium.

After about 30 minutes, my stomach forced me to go find some food. Unfortunately, I had no cash and nobody accepted credit cards, so I would have to wait. I decided then to walk back to the train station and catch a shuttle bus to the stadium. I waited in line for about 30 minutes, then walked a long ways to catch a bus. Again, I did not know there were media shuttle buses, so perhaps that would have saved me some time. Instead, I stood for the duration of the 25-minute bus ride to Saitama Stadium. But it was okay, since I chatted with some England fans and ended up interviewing them for my story.

Once at the stadium, I concluded my interviews. All of the people I approached were rather friendly, even the tattooed fellows I talked to. But after awhile, I was really tired and I just wanted to get into the stadium. I walked to where it said “Staff” figuring my credential would be able to get me through that gate, but I was wrong. After some confusion amongst the workers, I was told to walk back to the main bus parking lot, hang a left and walk about half a kilometer to the media entrance. I tried for a second to try and talk my way in through the gate where I stood but could tell it would be a losing battle, so I bit my lip and obliged.

The guys weren’t kidding when they said half a kilometer. Now, here I am in this spiffy outfit: new slacks, a nice shirt and my Skechers boots. Nevermind the heavy and expensive laptop slung around my shoulder. Needless to say, I was sweating and tired. The laptop felt like it weighed 50 pounds and my boots felt like bricks. Mind you, at the beginning of my stay, I did not expect so much walking. I was unprepared. After this day, though, things would change.

Anyway, I walked through what I thought was the media entrance and saw a free buffet and was excited. Free food! I was very hungry and dying of thirst, so I was pleased to see a little oasis. Unfortunately, I was at the wrong place. That tent was for VIPs only, not scrub reporters like myself. No, I was shuffled through the main media entrance along with a pair of irate Korean reporters and was told to walk another half-kilometer.

So at this point, I was wondering why everything had to be so difficult. I was upset that I was walking so much. FIFA should have told us reporters to bring some walking shoes and comfortable clothes. But I guess since they are well taken care of, they could probably not care less about the media. They did provide media shuttles (which again I did not know at this point) so I guess that was their way of throwing scraps at us journalists.

So while I was walking and hating myself for dressing up, I finally spotted signs pointing me toward the media center. After an x-ray search of my laptop bag (lucky for me I left my Glock at home) I was let into the media center. Finally.

So I was sort of lost. I did not know what to do. I remembered something about tickets, so I went to the ticket place and asked if I had a ticket waiting for me. I did not, of course, so I put my name on the list. Then, I walked to the main media center and was sort of overwhelmed. There were more than one hundred people in there, pounding away at their laptops, talking on their cell phones, hunched over the computers FIFA had provided for World Cup information or just hanging out and talking away the day. I nabbed a seat near the television so I could watch the Paraguay-South Africa match.

Then, after about an hour, I saw a familiar face. I saw Mark Zeigler walk in. I said hey and we talked for a bit. He asked me about a ticket, I told him I put my name on the waiting list and he said cool. He went his way and I stayed and watched the match on television.

At halftime, I went to see if there was a ticket waiting for me, and there was. I saw Zeigler again and told him I had gotten in. He was on his way up to the press tribune, the seats where they put us hacks in, and we walked yet again. But this walk was much worse than the other walks I had gone on. This one made those look like a stroll in a flower patch. We walked up about 14 flights of stairs. So again, as unprepared and out of shape as I was in at that point, it seemed like we were climbing Mt. Fuji. It was hard keeping up with Zeigler. He was talking and strolling up those steps like they were clouds and I was drudging up each one, trying not to huff and puff while I was at it.

After what seemed like an hour, we reached the top. My calves were shouting at this point but there was nothing I could do. My shirt was drenched and my forehead was dripping with sweat. Zeigler helped me find my seat, and guess what? I had to walk up more stairs. These came with an added bonus: they were cement and steep and the aisles were narrow. Nice. So after giving my calves a brief rest, I called them right back into action. I walked up more steps, and finally reached my seat. I thought it amazing that I had gotten there because I had thought I had little energy. I was barely eating those days, so I still don’t know where I managed to get the juice I needed to make that long trek.

The journey spoiled “The Moment.” I thought it was going to be cool when I reached the tribune and saw the mobs of fans in their seats, probably all chanting and all excited about their teams being there, the field more green than any television could ever portray, the flags and banners draped across the stadium making it feel like a true football palace. Instead, when I saw the fans and the field, I was breathing heavily and not in the mood for anything except a big bottle of water, which I had alertly stuffed away in my backpack.

Once the match started, it was a rather pleasant experience. But it took awhile for my day to finally pay off.