Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday night lights

I returned to my journalism roots on Friday. The high school football season got underway and I covered a game. Citrus Hill HS thumped Desert Mirage HS by 52-0. The game was over by the end of the first quarter as Citrus Hill rolled up 21 points on the kids from the desert.

Every season, I debate whether or not to cover prep football, and every season I find myself pacing the sidelines taking stats and busting my butt for three-plus hours. But I've been doing it for so long it's old hat by now. The first thing I ever covered was a prep football game, way back in 1997.

Whenever I cover a non-soccer event, I usually try and represent soccer, MLS if I can, so I wore a Galaxy t-shirt to the game. I wonder if anyone noticed.

SuperLiga sentiments

Some thoughts. Basically, it went better than I personally expected, but it could still be improved. Anyone else have ideas?

Schedule snafu

Galaxy players talk about the toll on the team.

Heather O'Reilly-last time in China

In honor of the USWNT World Cup campaign in China, here's scrappy young forward Heather O'Reilly on an earlier trip to the country, giving a tour. You can keep up with the latest on the squad here.

Forward spin

I looked at the 2008 SuperLiga for I tossed in some dream matchups, let me know what you think of them and if you would have picked the same.

Also, that picture is horrible. I agree with Jaime Cardenas - I look nothing like that now. I need to get my #^%*! hair cut so I can take a new one.

Tough luck

David Beckham's knee injury will likely force him to miss the rest of the regular season, which rules him out of away games against Chivas USA, Houston, Columbus, Kansas City and Real Salt Lake. The final game of the season, an Oct. 21 date at Chicago, is the only match that doesn't fall within the six-week time frame set for Beckham's recovery, but it seems doubtful that he would play in that game.

Jaime Cardenas and Grahame Jones of the LA Times explore some of the ramifications of the Galaxy's suddenly less-than-stellar road show.

Already, Galaxy games have lost a lot of their luster. My wife's boss, a proper Englishman from Bolton, told her on Thursday that he's going to try and get rid of his Galaxy-Dynamo tickets and I suspect he's nowhere near alone in that regard.

Cannon's conundrum

Practically no goalkeeper had had a longer tenure in MLS than Kevin Hartman with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Unlike the sometimes-sullen Zach Thornton, who also had a long stint with Chicago, Kevin was outgoing and congenial with fans - justifiably a Galaxy favorite for years.

It was never going to be easy for Joe Cannon to take over in such a situation, but to do so in this difficult season has only compounded the adjustment. Joe has been brilliant at times, has had some plays in which he could have done better, yet has been let down by his defense more often than not, or has been let down by his team's lack of offense going forward. It's been a tough year for someone who really wanted to make a good impression with his new club and its fans. That made the SuperLiga title especially important to Joe.

"I don’t know how to put it more plainly than to say that I’m devastated. To bring a trophy to this organization - losing this chance will be something that I’ll remember the rest of my life."

"I thought it was over. I thought – he’s automatic. This guy has taken some of the biggest PKs in this country’s history and he’s made them. I’m not going to say I wasn’t confident – I think any Galaxy fan in the crowd was thinking – what better script would you want to write? If you would have picked anyone, before SuperLiga starts, you’d have Landon Donovan take a PK. He’s an incredible player still. He feels very badly about it."

"When I was 16, in the regional semifinals, we played a team and we pretty much kicked their asses. I was playing well, it was a 0-0 game and then we lost in overtime. I was pretty devastated in that one, but professionally, this is the hardest."

"I won MLS Cup in 2001, and since then, I haven’t been in a real final. To come down to penalty kicks and you’ve played a good game and you have a chance to win. I really wanted to be part of the history for this incredible club – one that will probably become incredible again and start winning again. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be."

Joe also admitted that he'd like to one day join the San Jose Earthquakes again - but not for a while. Despite his obvious disappointment with the conclusion of the SuperLiga, he made it clear that he'd like to stay and win other titles with the Galaxy before he moves on.

Last-place battle

I'm trying to get amped up for tomorrow's Real Salt Lake-Galaxy match. I am, really. But it's been difficult to do so.

David Beckham will not play and may not play any more this year because of a sprained MCL. Worse, the two teams aren't very good. Combined, the two sides are 6-21-11 in league play. Only Toronto and their ghastly offense (18 goals) has scored fewer goals than the Galaxy (21), while RSL has scored a league-low 17 goals this season in 20 games.

Yet there the Galaxy was, slugging it out with Pachuca on Wednesday in the SuperLiga final and surely if the Galaxy could spar with and nearly beat Pachuca, they can beat RSL, right?

Well, that was an emotionally-charged final. Saturday's winner also won't receive one million dollars, so that argument doesn't exactly hold true. Also, you have to account for the fatigue factor. The Galaxy is, according to Frank Yallop, f-in knackered while RSL also played mid-week.

Perhaps Robbie Findley will want to put his stamp on the game against his old team and will get on the scoreboard early. I think the best that could happen for this game is for RSL to score early because that would force the Galaxy to step their own game up much like they did against Pachuca.

Neither side has much playoff life left. The Galaxy has that fool's gold that is "games in hand" as the Galaxy has played four fewer games than Colorado and Columbus and three fewer than Chicago. But those teams are far ahead of the Galaxy in the standings, so much so that even if you assume the Galaxy will win those four games in hand, the Galaxy still wouldn't make up enough ground to catch them. Plus, the Galaxy still has to play at Kansas City, Houston, Columbus, Chicago and Salt Lake.

Real Salt Lake has also played fewer games than the Rapids and the Crew but their attack has been lousy all year. Their problems are vast and likely can't be fixed during the remainder of this season.

So the fight to stay out of last place will unfold at Home Depot Center on Saturday. Let's just hope a soccer game unfolds as well.

The real five?

Mexican daily Ovaciones claims the five European-based Mexican national team players to be called up today are: Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela, Andres Guardado, Carlos Salcido and Nery Castillo.

In fact, this is their probable list:
Guillermo Ochoa, Jesús Corona, Sergio Blanco

Omar Esparza, Jonny Magallón, Julio Domínguez, Francisco “Maza” Rodríguez, Edgar Castillo, Carlos Salcido, Fausto Pinto

Giovani dos Santos, Gerardo Torrado, Gerardo Rodríguez, César Villaluz, Jaime Correa, Andrés Guardado, Patricio Araujo

Omar Bravo, Santiago Fernández, Nery Castillo, Carlos Vela, Luis Landín

I'm anxious to see the real list (which Compean said would be released at noon CT in Puebla today). I find it hard to believe that Salcido would be part of El Tri right now, considering his recent admission over his Copa America exit. He balked at playing in Copa America because of a row he had with assistant Sergio Egea.

You could see some talented youngsters that are expected to be part of World Cup qualifying and possibly the World Cup.

Most Mexican supporters want to see Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela and this might be the right time to bring them in. So far, those two have shown plenty to be excited about while playing for the youth national teams. Whether or not Sanchez thinks it's the right time, though, is all that matters.

As far as the above list goes, there's a lot of youth there and that's a step in the right direction. No need to bring in the usual suspects like Ramon Morales, Oswaldo Sanchez and Cuauhtemoc Blanco. While they still are quality players, it's well past time to move on from that crowd.

Still, it's not the official list and other sites have other lists so it all remains to be seen.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

No resignation

Frank Yallop has said before that he won't resign from the Galaxy. Someone in charge would have to dismiss him, because he won't give up.

Grahame Jones asked Landon Donovan about Frank, wondering if Landon would request that the coach be spared the axing many believe is on the way.

Landon responded: I think Leiweke knows how I feel and Leiweke has had nothing but positive things to say about Frank as well. You can’t put any of this on Frank. Maybe he’s made a few mistakes, but aside from that, he’s been – I think other coaches would have given up by now. I really think so. He believes and he keeps going and he’ll do it again this Saturday.

More Compean

Justino Compean told us after the SuperLiga final that Hugo Sanchez was calling in five European-based players for Mexico's games against Panama in Puebla on Sept. 9 and Brazil in Foxborough on Sept. 12.

He wouldn't reveal who they were but instead asked us to guess them.

Okay, I'll try.

Nery Castillo, Rafael Marquez, Andres Guardado, Ricardo Osorio, Pavel Pardo.


That's how you pronounce this guy's name, Justino Compean.

Who is he? Quite an influential person, actually. He's the Mexican Soccer Federation president and good friends with US Soccer President Sunil Gulati. The two have forged a meaningful relationship between the two federations and matches like February's US-Mexico game will likely be a regular occurrence just as Mexican club games in the U.S. will as well.

Anyway, he's the topic of my upcoming column. Look for that sometime tomorrow.

Honor, orgullo, pasion

Los galacticos sufren la derrota.

On the hot seat

Pumas UNAM had been one of the strongest teams in Mexico about three years ago. Since then, though, they've ranged from fairly mediocre to pretty awful.

When Ricardo "Tuca" Ferreti took over at the start of the Apertura 2006 season, Pumas seemed headed in the right direction. The club reached the playoffs and seemed to have set up a strong base for the future. The Clausura 2007 season, though, didn't go Pumas' way. Sure, the team only lost three games but Pumas did not know how to win as they went 3-3-11 and missed the playoffs.

Five games into this season, Pumas is 0-2-3 and Ferreti's job is in jeopardy. Pumas brass said Ferreti would coach this weekend's game against Jaguares but made no further promises beyond that.

With the short life span that Mexican coaches have, Ferreti is now the front-runner to receive a pink slip. Pumas' problems go beyond the coach, but he will take the fall soon enough. Pumas needs a goal-scorer up front. Paco Palencia's a fine player but he's not going to fill the nets consistently. I'm not sold on Ignacio Scocco and we haven't seen much of Esteban Solari or the other Mexican forwards, Iniguez or Barrera, to make me think that they'll score often.

Pumas still have 12 games to play but this season appears all but over for the Mexico City side.

Superliga highlights

Here it is, in case you missed it.

Six weeks

David Beckham will be out six weeks with a right MCL sprain. Ouch.

Six weeks puts us at Oct. 10. The Galaxy's last three games of the season are against Toronto on Oct. 13, New York on Oct. 18 and at Chicago on Oct. 21, though I would seriously doubt he appears in any of those games.

In all likelihood, Beckham's played his final (meaningful) game this year.

I don't think things could have possibly been any worse for Beckham in his first year in MLS. Different people will have different opinions about who is ultimately responsible. Some will blame the Galaxy, others will blame the league, still others will blame Frank Yallop and then there'll be some blame placed on Beckham himself (though few will probably blame Steve McClaren for running Beckham out for 90 minutes in a friendly).

Yallop took the blame for having played Beckham 90 minutes against Chivas USA but who knows if that was actually his decision or if Beckham demanded to play or what the circumstances were.

In the end, though, the fact is that Beckham's first MLS season was far more hype than substance because of his injuries. He delivered in one sense, in that he forced people and the media to pay attention to Major League Soccer. But that came at a heavy price, as Beckham admitted he rushed back from injury too fast and this final blow happened because he tried to overcompensate for his gimpy ankle.

At least we can all hope Beckham will rest and won't be under duress for the start of the 2008 season, though that may as well be a decade down the road.

Orange Flash?

Thanks to reader S.H. for sending this my way.

Here's a clip of Nery Castillo scoring a penalty kick for Shakhtar Donetsk in a Champions League qualifier against Red Bull Salzburg. S.H. suggested the nickname Orange Flash for Nery. Can't argue with that one.

SuperLiga scene

I don't get to see Jeff Carlisle that often, so it's always fun to catch up. We joked about the best route to take when covering games between LA and San Jose. It's a haul, but it's exciting that there's going to be a reason to make the drive again.

Anyway, here's my sidebar on Becks - and here's Jeff's take.

By the way, when I say that David Beckham was emotional at the presser - I mean he was near tears. I was sitting in the front row and set to record on my little digital camera to provide a clip here, but I couldn't do it. I didn't have the heart. David looked down at the reporters and he seemed so upset and red-eyed. I felt like a vulture, so I put the camera away.

SuperLessons colleague Grant Wahl weighs in with some lessons learned from Wednesday's SuperLiga final. Good stuff, as usual.

I didn't get a chance to talk to Landon Donovan, which is why I don't have any audio clips of him. Grant did and has some of what Landon told him in here. Plus, Grant gives us the story on the percentage of money that Pachuca players received and Galaxy players would have received had they won, and the disparity between the two.

Mediotiempo gallery

A lot of interesting pictures in the gallery of the Galaxy-Pachuca match.

This one is of a Galaxy supporter holding a Budweiser bottle clad in a yellow Xavi-style wig.

Tuzo triumphant

Marches home with the loot.

Meanwhile a pair of bruised Pumas look on. "How would it feel to win a million dollars?" says one. Responds the other, "Just be satified with finally winning a league game."

Champions League draw

The group stage for the Champions League is set as the draw was held on Thursday. Here's what the groups look like:

Group A
Liverpool (England)
Porto (Portugal)
Marseille (France)
Besiktas (Turkey)

Group B
Chelsea (England)
Valencia (Spain)
Schalke (Germany)
Rosenborg (Norway)

Group C
Real Madrid (Spain)
Werder Bremen (Germany)
Lazio (Italy)
Olympiakos (Greece)

Group D
AC Milan (Italy)
Benfica (Portugal)
Celtic (Scotland)
Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)

Group E
Barcelona (Spain)
Lyon (France)
Stuttgart (Germany)
Rangers (Scotland)

Group F
Manchester United (England)
Roma (Italy)
Sporting Lisbon (Portugal)
Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine)

Group G
Inter Milan (Italy)
PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands)
CSKA Moscow (Russia)
Fenerbahce (Turkey)

Group H
Arsenal (England)
Sevilla/AEK (Spain/Greece)
Steaua Bucharest (Romania)
Slavia Prague (Czech Republic)

At first glance, Group E appears to be the group of death. You've got Barca plus the French dynasty of Lyon, German upstarts Stuttgart and Rangers. There aren't any easy games there for any of the teams.

Group H seems weak and will be weaker if Sevilla doesn't reach the tournament. I suppose that's a good thing for Arsenal supporters.

I still think it's strange not to see Bayern Munich in the tournament. I usually pull for Bayern in the Champions League so I guess I'll have to find another club to support.

Mail, LB style


Your (sic) as delusional as the Mexican coach after the U.S. beat you last time. Your hatred for U.S. soccer and unabashed popsicle sucking of Mexico should get you fired.

Dear reader:

Yes, it was painful for me to lose to the U.S. Unfortunately, I didn't have the pace to keep up with Landon Donovan, the strength to muscle out Brian Ching or the potent right foot to beat Tim Howard, so the match was really one-sided.

In all seriousness, I actually wrote a pair of columns praising the USMNT after US wins over Mexico. I know you must feel like I hate U.S. Soccer but really I don't. In reality, hating people or things takes too much energy, although I was hating the little mosquito that was buzzing around my ear this morning, the little bastard. Oh yeah, and I also hate cold coffee and warm beer. What a waste of otherwise good beverages. And I hate it when people cut me off on the freeway, punks.

Well, I guess I am filled with hatred, but it's not wasted on soccer. I actually get along well with several US internationals such as Landon Donovan and Jonathan Bornstein, so it would be really difficult to hate them and then fake it and be nice to them. Plus, I've introduced my daughters to them as well as other USMNT figures past, present and future such as Preki, Bob Bradley and Brad Guzan, and I don't mix family with business for just anyone.

But if you feel I hate US Soccer, I don't know what to tell you. My beat for is Mexico and I usually take an opinion on an issue surrounding Mexican soccer and write about it. If that comes across as hate to you, I can't control that.

Thanks for reading and responding.


Answering mail

Ms. Canales,
I do enjoy your writing. However, some of the observation in your recent article (coupled with similar comments by Alexi Lalas in another article on Yahoo) don't sit well with me. The Galaxy (and most unforgivably, Lalas) are acting like victims here, and the excuses are tiring. They are complicit in their troubles.
If the schedule is to blame, why wasn't the team racking up points in the early going when they had a light schedule and plenty of time to rest players? And how is it that we didn't hear similar complaints from players and media when teams like the lowly Dynamo from a podunk village like Houston were playing 3 matches a week in the MLS and international play, yet found a way to zoom up the standings, sometimes in dominating fashion versus teams of quality like Chivas, NYRB, and to a lesser degree Dallas and DC? It seems that the problem isn't the schedule, it's in the team composition. Houston has the team; LA has some very good individuals.
The schedule is arduous, no doubt; but it's not to blame. Nor is the MLS to blame. The blame lies on the GM of LA. Perhaps the coach bears some responsibility (it was completely inadvisable to play Beckham the full 90 versus Chivas), but regardless: the blame lies with the LA leadership.
And someone please tell the LA players that they aren't being singled out with regards to arduous schedules. Stop playing the victim, it's very unprofessional.
And, Ms. Canales, despite this gripe of mine, please keep up the good work.

Dear Reader,

If you read the article, you'll see that I concur that the Galaxy leaders are complicit here, because they agreed to the schedule, when they should have refused to play unless it was more equitable.

Less games in the early part of a season does not help a team, however. It prevents them from finding their form and getting into rhythm. Think of it as training too lightly (you're not in shape for anything difficult) and then overtraining (you're so exhausted, you can't even compete).

I'm not saying the Galaxy are a good or bad team, or that they would have made the playoffs with a more balanced schedule. Every team has a busy run of the schedule, sure, but the Galaxy's is beyond that of any other MLS squad, by quite a bit. I'm pointing out that this schedule handicaps them - it makes it harder for them to play well and get results. For a league that constantly trumpets how fair their system is - it seems very inconsistent that one team has such a markedly worse schedule than any other.


Difficulties of managing the Galaxy

Frank Yallop's job has been seemingly on the line for weeks as the Galaxy trudges through poor result after poor result. Not even David Beckham has helped the Galaxy turn its season around as the club has yet to taste victory in league with Becks in tow.

The Galaxy last won a league match on July 4 and the club is now officially at the bottom of the table following Real Salt Lake's victory on Wednesday. Rumors are swirling that Yallop is on the outs and will be replaced by Jurgen Klinsmann sooner rather than later.

I've been on the fence regarding Yallop. In some ways, I feel he is responsible for the poor season because he's the coach and when things go sour someone has to take the blame, someone has to be held accountable. The season is technically not over but for the Galaxy to make a serious run at the playoffs, the team's got to win most of its remaining games and hope other results fall their way.

Also, the Galaxy has made several moves that have not panned out. Dealing Ugo Ihemelu and Herculez Gomez for Joe Cannon filled a hole that didn't exist. Kevin Hartman was more than capable of continuing here as the number one goalkeeper. And although Cannon is a fine keeper, the Galaxy found themselves lacking depth in central defense and at forward.

That spiraled into other moves and eventually the Galaxy was scrambling to fill holes. Nate Jaqua was brought in to replace Gomez and give the Galaxy some depth at forward, but with Jaqua struggling the Galaxy dealt for Edson Buddle and eventually rid themselves of Jaqua.

Tyrone Marshall was traded away and though he's long in the tooth, his experience could have been useful as well. Shavar Thomas was traded before he grabbed a starting spot and he's been nothing short of rock-solid at Chivas USA. And the Nathan Sturgis-Robbie Findley trade that yielded Chris Klein was a bad move no matter how many bicycle kicks Klein makes.

But despite all those moves, it's still unclear whether it was Yallop or GM Alexi Lalas pulling the trigger.

And nobody bargained for or could have prepared for the rash of injuries. Yallop has mentioned the injuries as well as the club's ridiculous schedule before but had never expresses his frustration to the level he did after Wednesday's match. Injuries and a demanding schedule are taking their toll on the club, and the manager can only do so much when dealt such a horrid hand.

Another thing to consider is the composition of the roster. While MLS expanded the rosters to 28 before the 2006 season, it is still difficult for teams to stockpile players. This goes for every team in the league, not just the Galaxy. Had things been different, perhaps the Galaxy might have been able to keep roster or salary-cap casualties such as Thomas, Laurent Merlin and Josh Gardner, players who may have been able to contribute with the Galaxy.

Compare the Galaxy's depth to Pachuca and Chivas, the two Mexican clubs they faced during SuperLiga, and it's not a comparison at all. Pachuca played without Christian Gimenez and Juan Carlos Cacho for a chunk of the second half and all of extra time but replaced them with Luis Gabriel Rey and Rafael Marquez Lugo, who could start for many other teams in the Mexican league. The same cannot be said for Gavin Glinton and Alan Gordon, the Galaxy's two forward subs.

In many ways, I'm convinced that Yallop is in a difficult situation and shouldn't be held accountable. If the buck needs to stop at someone, if someone truly does need to be held responsible, it shouldn't be Yallop. It should be his boss.

LD on SJ

Landon Donovan ran the mixed zone gauntlet like a trooper - answering whatever the reporters asked, sometimes over and over. After a couple of questions about the match, I asked him if he'd be interested in joining Frank Yallop in San Jose, if Frank ended up there.

"That's pretty speculative," answered Donovan, "I don't even know what to say. I've never even thought about it. What's my wife going to do?"

Donovan's wife is a TV actress with a regular series that shoots in LA.

I also told him Real Salt Lake was now ahead of the Galaxy on points. Landon hadn't heard that.

"Did they win? Great. I didn't know. I had other things to be worried about."


CF Pachuca is going to donate a portion of their $1 million prize to Hurricane Dean victims in the Mexican state of Hidalgo, of which Pachuca is the capital. Miguel Calero said the players were getting a 35 percent cut of the $1 million prize and from that they were donating funds to the people of Hidalgo. He mentioned the hard-hit areas of Tulancingo and Tizayuca as areas which they would be helping out with donations.

Additionally, Calero said the club would also be donating part of the remaining 65 percent to relief efforts.

"We're going to take a portion from each of our prize money and donate it," Calero said. "We're going to take some necessities, clothes and food to the people. The rest of the money is for the club and they will also take some of that money and donate a portion of it."

Hurricane Dean decimated the coastal touristy areas but also ravaged through Hidalgo.

Here's Calero talking about it and much more about the game. Sorry, it's all in Spanish with no translation.

Klein goal replay

Chaco talk

Christian "Chaco" Gimenez talks about the SuperLiga victory.

Habla en espanol pero... his words are translated to English.

Penalty Shootout

The game was much more than this, but here is the end.

Beckham's thoughts

Audio of David Beckham following Wednesday's match.

The 4-6 weeks diagnosis was one he made but then took back, but I guess it's not like a courtroom where the judge can tell the jury to disregard a comment as "Beckham out Six Weeks" was splashed across some web sites this morning.

After the whistle

On Wednesday, I wrote for The Press-Enterprise and Sports Ticker as well. My story for Sports Ticker was already in the body of an e-mail headed to the appropriate people when Chris Klein scored. Normally I would have been angry because another half-hour and a lot of the last 15-20 minutes went for nothing but the goal just left me speechless. I was stunned not just that the Galaxy equalized but how they did it.

With the tops of both stories pretty much shot, I wrote two ledes for each PE and Ticker story: one for a Galaxy win and the other for a Pachuca win. When Landon Donovan stepped forward to take the Galaxy's fifth PK, I moved up the Galaxy-win lede to the top of the Ticker story and started to transition into the body when Miguel Calero denied him. After Xavier missed, the game was over and I moved the appropriate lede to the top.

I walked downstairs and my legs were a bit numb. I couldn't believe how dramatic the game was and how much it took out of me emotionally. I hadn't realized it until I was walking down to the post-game press conference.

It was funny because before the game the song "Killing in the Name" by Rage Against the Machine blared through the stadium and once I got going on my way home the same song came on the radio. To me, it was fitting that I heard such a powerful song before and after that match.

I saw Rage in concert earlier this month and that had been the last time before Wednesday that pure drama and emotion unfolded before me. Like I was after the game, I was emotionally spent after the concert. I didn't leave the stadium until well after 1 a.m. on Wednesday, well, Thursday morning by that point, and didn't get home until 2:30.

All in all, it was all worth it.

Done, done

The U17 boys are out.

They didn't play badly, but it really is over now

Dramatic finish

It's still rather fresh in my mind, perhaps too fresh, but Wednesday's game has to rank up there in terms of best games I've ever watched in person. I want to get away a little before I start to rank it because you tend to make more of it because it just happened and you remember all the details but still, off the top of my head I remember watching Turkey-Senegal in the '02 World Cup and kind of having the same stunned feeling after the match.

Regardless of where it ranks in LB's Top 10 Games, the match was an absolute thrilling and pulsating affair. I don't think I can accurately sum up just how dramatic the match was. It was a final and the match definitely carried that across. You could feel the energy and the finality of it throughout the match.

Perhaps because of how it was scored or maybe because of the significance of the match but the Galaxy seemed desperate to score right from the start of the second half. It wasn't the throw-everyone-forward desperation, but from the opening whistle of the second half the team played with a sort of determined desperation. Joe Cannon kept the Galaxy in the game with some absolute great saves, including a late one off Rafael Marquez Lugo that could have made the ending less dramatic.

Stoppage time came and Chris Klein's heroics followed. Earlier in the match, I was telling Andrea that I used to think Klein was a very solid player but that his form had fallen off badly. He'd really done little in the first 91-plus minutes against Pachuca (he had one cross that was particularly atrocious) but Klein rose to the occasion in more ways than one. You don't see a successful bicycle kick every match, let alone in a final, let alone in stoppage time of a final with the home team down a goal, but that's what we got on Thursday.

Once the second-half whistle sounded, the stadium was buzzing and Pachuca's players and fans looked dejected. All throughout the extra time, I had a feeling that the Galaxy would win it. The match almost begged for the Galaxy to take it as Pachuca looked hard-pressed to find their rhythm in extra time.

But no team scored and off to PKs it was. After four rounds it was even 3-3 when Marvin Cabrera rattled one off the woodwork. Landon Donovan stepped up and I thought about his two-PK performance against the Fire on July 4 and his PKs during the Gold Cup and figured it was money in the bank. Instead, Miguel Calero somehow dived and knocked his shot away. Carlos Rodriguez followed with a goal and Abel Xavier pushed his shot wide.

Pachuca was left with glory while the Galaxy was left with heartache.

Darth Vader's curse?

On the Galaxy. The happy Pachuca gopher says, "A million bucks - that's a lot for one game." The Vadar Galaxy guy responds, "That's about what Beckham costs us for a week."

Ok, once again, it's got the 250 million dollar contract thing wrong, but it's still funny.

Here the Pachuca gopher goes off to the SuperLiga telling the other Mexican teams, "Keep fighting amongst yourselves. I'm going for a really big knockout!"

Getting to the presser

It's hard these days getting to Galaxy press conferences. Since the arrival of David Beckham, we've been told that we can't go to the press conference room the easiest way, through the Stadium Club to the elevator.

Instead, we leave the press box and walk the main concourse, fighting against the human tide of exiting fans to reach the elevator. The problem is, since Beckham arrived, the elevator can't take all the reporters present in one trip. There's no way they'll fit.

Even though is was actually a bit away from the press conference room, I used to take an interior stairwell to the lower level, is where the locker rooms are. I would just take a right to the presser event instead. But now, they've stationed a guard at the stairwell who won't let anyone non-staff in, press credential or no. There's no interior stairway to the presser events that the media can really use.

When Greg Daurio and I realized there was no way we'd fit in the elevator (which happens to also be unbelievably slow), we made our way down the only way we could, down the stairs in the stands. Our route took us near the Riot Squad section, where a full-scale fight was breaking out. I don't know who started it, or if they were provoked, but Pachuca fans began to chant, "Losers!" at the tussling combatants. Security looked pretty helpless.

Obviously, this slowed us down, but we eventually made it through. A whole group of reporters, though, got stuck at the stairs on the opposite part of the stadium. They get to the presser by crossing the field, which was closed off for the Pachuca trophy presentation. They finally were allowed to cross, but arrived late. Scott French was steamed that he'd missed Frank at the presser, but he recorded off my audio.

Cruel fate

Galaxy players celebrated when Marvin Cabrera slammed one off the crossbar to set up Landon Donovan's decisive attempt. This celebration, though, was short-lived.

Yallop raw

Some great stuff from Galaxy coach Frank Yallop.

By the way, knackered means really, really tired.


What a game. We haven't had the chance to blog much because of the drama that unfolded before us but we've got plenty of thoughts coming up. I'll put some audio of Frank Yallop up shortly.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


The trophy awaits the winner. If the Galaxy claim it, and Real Salt Lake pull out the victory versus Kansas City, the officially worst team in the league will be the SuperLiga champions.

Ex-Chivas USA players

So I'm watching the Santos-Chivas match and realize that there are two former Chivas USA players in the game.

Except they're not playing for Chivas.

Jorge Barrera and Johnnie Garcia each started for Santos for the first time this season. Garcia had played all four of Santos' games as a substitute while Barrera twice came off the bench.

Garcia played twice for Chivas USA last season. Like Pirata Castro before him, I was excited to see Garcia play in MLS because though he wasn't a big name, he was a solid Mexican league veteran who I thought could have helped out in the midfield with his skills and experience.

I was somewhat high on Barrera as well. I felt that his versatility would have been an asset for Chivas USA given the summer absences due to national team duty and the inevitable injury bug. Barrera, though, never played for Chivas USA and was cut in the spring.

Garcia returned to Mexico in January with Chiapas and has now surfaced with Santos. Barrera, meanwhile, also continued his career with los Laguneros. Not so much with Garcia, but I felt that Barrera's form had slipped badly if he couldn't get in any games with Chivas USA. But starting for what is currently the best team in Mexico (the only 4-0 side in the league) would suggest otherwise.

Costly header

Alex Zotinca of Chivas USA was slapped with a three-match ban and fined $1,250 for his head-butt on Galaxy mid Kevin Harmse last week. Harmse, who drew Zoti's wrath with a punch, was fined $250.

That means Zotinca will miss games against DC United, New York and the Galaxy.

Each player already served their automatic one-game suspension Sunday.

Doble Jornada

If you like Mexican soccer and want to watch some of it, you don't need to wait until tonight to catch a Mexican team.

In fact, you'll only have to wait about 15 minutes. Santos-Chivas starts at the top of the hour on Azteca America.

Today is the first midweek slate of games that will be played this season. Every so often, the Mexican league will feature midweek games. Unlike MLS, though, usually the entire league plays on Wednesday (with some games on Thursday) during these so-called doble jornadas.

Pachuca, of course, will be just one of two teams that won't play a league match tonight. Los Tuzos return to league action on Saturday against San Luis but the match that was originally scheduled for tonight was moved to Sept. 5, when Pachuca will play Tigres.

Doble jornadas are a necessity because of the way the calendar shapes up. Each Mexican team plays 17 games, so if there was one per week, it would take 17 weeks (aside from a journalist, I double as a mathematician). But when you account for the playoffs and all that, the calendar needs condensing so this is a way around it.

As far as today's Jornada 5 action, the most attractive game is the Santos-Chivas affair, followed by Cruz Azul-Toluca. The least attractive? Hate to say it, but Pumas-Puebla looks like a snoozer.

Sad stretch

By now, you may have read about the sad plight of Sevilla defender Antonio Puerta, who collapsed because of a heart attack during a Spanish league match on the weekend and succumbed to his failing heart.

It happened again on Wednesday. Chaswe Nsofwa of Israeli side Beersheva collapsed during training and died minutes later.

Both Puerta and Nsofwa were young. Puerta was 22 and Nsofwa was 26.

The hope here is that these are sad but isolated incidents. Really, though, it's a wonder that such tragedies don't happen more often. Soccer players, perhaps more than any other athlete, put their bodies under such duress and stress on a daily basis.

Broader SuperLiga view

Jeff Carlisle of Soccernet weighs in on the SuperLiga final.

It's funny because yesterday at Galaxy training some guy walked up to me, extended his hand and said "Hey Luis, how are you?"

I shook his hand and said, "Good. You?" It's too bad I didn't have any idea who it was.

I glanced down at his credential just as he smiled and said "Jeff Carlisle."

I felt kinda dumb. But, in my defense, he looks a lot different with shaggy hair and sunglasses than he does in his clean-cut, sunglass-free mug shot.

EDIT: Link's up and working now.

Increased competition

Most of us reading this blog are MLS fans - at least that's my assumption. Probably, our preoccupation in MLS ranges from a strong interest to an outright passion.

We're getting to the time of year, though, where our zeal will be tested. College football gets underway this weekend.

Now, I won't lie to you and tell you that part of my mind on Saturday won't be at the Coliseum, where USC will kick the crap out of Idaho. Still, my support for USC won't keep me from HDC - even if it is Real Salt Lake paying a visit - but it might keep some away.

Really, it's impossible to know how many fans will not be in attendance across MLS stadiums this weekend because USC or Rice or Ohio State or some other college football team will be playing this weekend.

MLS brass has said in the past that their attendance has traditionally remained strong in the fall, when college football and the NFL entices millions to drop money on their sport. Still, those sports inspire their own unique brand of passion and will detract attention from MLS; just how much remains to be seen.

Here's a short list of college football games that will compete directly with MLS games this weekend.

Galaxy-RSL: USC-Idaho
Dynamo-Kansas City: Rice-Nicholls State

Crew-Rapids: Ohio State-Youngstown State (9/1)

Also, SMU hosts Texas Tech on Monday as FC Dallas plays DC United on Saturday. And the Texas Longhorns play Saturday as well which might detract from FC Dallas and Houston home games. This list also doesn't include smaller schools and smaller divisions and I may have left out other schools as well.

Anyway, There are probably some MLS fans who couldn't care less about the pointy kind of football. And there are probably some MLS fans who are far more passionate about college football than MLS. Again, it's pretty much impossible to know that.

In terms of coverage, MLS may get bumped by some outlets by college football. Instead of a front-page sports story, MLS may be somewhere on page 6 or 8, if it's not there already.

I wanted to get some input from our readers.

Will the allure of the Pac-10/Big Ten/SEC/etc. be enough to keep you away from MLS, either by not attending a match or by not watching a match? How do you think college football affects Major League Soccer?

Grass looks good

The Home Depot Center field looked nice the last time I saw it, so any highlight-worthy moments will have a good background.

It did change between Saturday and Sunday, though. This year, the league decided to regulate MLS fields, mandating that they be mowed in rows straight across the field. Why the league feels this is more important than doing something about the artificial fields with the football markings, I don't know.

The HDC grounds crew used to have a little fun with the grass, cutting it into patterns. My favorite one was a diamond-shaped pattern that would start at the center circle and extend out. It was a nice artistic touch that was killed by the new rules.

For the USWNT national team game on Saturday, the grounds crew decided to mow in another pattern, a circle swirl that also converges on the midpoint of the field. It was good to see the old creativity back, but before I even finished my report on the match, another lawnmower had wiped out the patten and returned the field to MLS striping for the next day versus Real Salt Lake.

SuperLiga may not adhere to the MLS standard, but it probably does, so I don't know when we'll see the grass in anything but horizontal stripes. At least it won't be in the weird lines of a newly-laid field, like it was after the X Games.

Bad, but not so bad

Just how bad is the Galaxy's season? We all know it's been a terrible campaign for the Galaxy, but it kind of struck me when I read the always-excellent statistical analysis from Climbing the Ladder.

The Galaxy is on pace to have the sixth-worst record in MLS history. Ouch. They have a minuscule 0.78 points per game. Shudder.

But the Galaxy's overall campaign has not gone as bad, if you mix in results from all campaigns. The Galaxy flamed out of the Open Cup to a third-tier side but overall went 2-1 in the tournament and qualifying. The Galaxy thus far has a 3-1 mark in SuperLiga. So while their league mark is 3-10-5, overall the Galaxy is 8-12-5 which is still a bad record but certainly not historically bad.

Anyway, check out the link above. It's got some really cool info about how some of the best teams in MLS history fared when all competitions were mixed into their records and conversely how some of the worst teams' marks changed as well.

Rarity: a Pachuca loss

Before Saturday, Pachuca hadn't lost any game since the Galaxy beat them 2-1 on July 24. They hadn't lost a league game in, uh, forever. But they fell to Santos at home on the weekend.

Here are the highlights. Of note: Andres Chitiva will not play against the Galaxy as he was sent off against Houston; Santos' goalkeeper is USMNT favorite (of the love-to-hate kind) Oswaldo Sanchez.

And now a bit on Pachuca

This is from a couple of weeks ago. Pachuca beat Atlas 1-0. The goal was a bit opportunistic in that the Atlas goalkeeper put it in a bad position but Christian "Chaco" Gimenez did well to strike the ball from outside the box, which is a spot he's dangerous from.

Billy ball

My man Billy Witz of the Daily Breeze/LA Newspaper Group checks in on the Galaxy. He addresses the Tim Hanley situation, the goalkeeper coach who apparently left the team for personal reasons.


The Galaxy's latest acquisition was at training yesterday as Israel "Izzy" Sesay joined the team. Just last week, the Galaxy acquired Sesay in a weighted lottery and now he's on the same pitch as David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Abel Xavier.

I contemplated talking to him just to get his reaction about being here and the whirlwind week he's had but didn't. I didn't want to miss time with Yallop or Beckham so I passed.

But Grahame Jones of the LA Times talked to Izzy.

More Joe

This audio clip doesn't really have to do with the SuperLiga final, well, not much to do with anything at all I suppose, as far as the Galaxy's on-the-field performances goes, but Joe Cannon talked with a German TV crew for a few minutes yesterday.

The first response is to a question about how David Beckham has affected Joe's life.

I was standing behind the new rope the Galaxy has introduced to keep the players away from us (or is it the other way around?) when Joe Cannon was set to leave. He was one of the last Galaxy players still around. Several bolted right away; Cobi Jones and Peter Vagenas were with the first group who left sometime after Frank Yallop began talking to us. Landon Donovan split right in the middle of David Beckham's chat. The team PR people had gone around and asked us who we each needed to talk to and a lot of us asked for Landon but he tuned everyone out and walked off the field. Maybe he was in a hurry to get somewhere, maybe not.

Anyway, I asked to talk to Joe Cannon and the team helped out. Cannon walked over to us but by the time he got there some German TV crew had jumped in and started asking some random Beckham questions. I only recorded the first part of it, which is above. The rest was kind of the same type of stuff.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


David Beckham talks about his injury and the SuperLiga final as well as England and the European Championship.

Incidentally, this picture was not from today. They wore different training shirts today.

Cannon and Yallop

I forgot my digital recorder last week for the Chivas-Galaxy match, but I had it with me today.

Here's Frank Yallop talking about the SuperLiga final. He didn't really have much to say, as usual, so I only recorded about five minutes' worth. Plus, I called in to the "Around the League in 90 Minutes" show to give them an update on Goldenballs. I was on the show earlier talking about Chivas and told them I'd call 'em back with an update.

While there were a ton of reporters there for Frank, there were only a couple of us there to talk to Joe Cannon so I actually got a chance to ask him some questions, about four I think. I start it off, then Grahame Jones of the LA Times, Damian Calhoun of the OC Register and then I finish the portion I recorded. I think he kept talking to Damian as well as Jeff Carlisle of ESPN but I split.

Joe, as usual, had some thing interesting things to say.

Becks to play

At training today David Beckham told us that he hoped to play against Pachuca on Wednesday.

I will have more later, when I am not going 70 miles an hour on the 91 freeway.

If you were U.S.Soccer

How would you respond to this email that I got?

US Soccer should be ashamed at not heavily promoting the USWNT final send-off game at the Home Depot Center on August 25 (or any of the games). My family and I were among the only 7000 cheering fans. We're big fans of the WNT so we aware of the match on the schedule. Our team played with such intensity for the crowd but what must they have thought of their Country that in the greater Los Angeles area they could only get 7000 fans to send them off? Our club or our AYSO region was not aware to promote this match to their players. This is such an easy way to reach the thousands of young female players across the country.

Nike's ad about the WNT being the "greatest team you've never heard of" is a slam on US Soccer's ineptitude to make the soccer community and the rest of the nation aware of our great team. They deserve the support of the nation and it falls to to the US Soccer organization. I'm sure when our team wins the Cup, they will maybe get a small article in the back of most sport sections. But there will be no big parade, no White House visit to the President, and no leading story on Sports Center. And US Soccer will gloat at their victory. Shame on you US Soccer.

Spiraling downward

The SuperLiga has been part good, part needs-improvement thus far but the final might be a complete letdown as far as the tournament goes.

First, the stadium capacity is capped at 12,500 and although it has already sold out, the atmosphere will not be worthy of a tournament final no matter how raucous the crowd is.

Now, David Beckham is out of the tournament with a bum ankle.

So you've got a Pachuca squad who will is not likely to have forgotten their earlier 2-1 loss to the Galaxy who will feature three Mexican internationals who did not play in that earlier game against essentially the same Galaxy squad minus a few players (Kelly Gray, Ty Harden) who played in that match.

The Galaxy will have a chance only because they somehow seem to rise to the occasion in tournaments but logic suggests that Pachuca will win by quite a bit.

SuperLiga conclusions

More musings about SuperLiga in my weekly PE column.

I hope people don't misread but they probably will. I think I summed it up as best as I could in that the tournament did have a strong foundation for future tournaments but part of what I was trying to get across was that this cannot show one league's superiority over the next simply because of how the leagues are set up. Mexican clubs have more money to throw at players and don't have restrictions on their rosters.

LB Mexico rankings

1. Santos (4-0-0). Only team with no losses, no draw this season.
2. Pachuca (3-1-0). GK Miguel Calero's bothced free-kick of Santos' Daniel Luduena proved costly in 1-0 loss.
3. America (2-0-2). Best offense in league thus far.
4. Toluca (2-1-1). Jose Pekerman will take Toluca back to top of table.
5. San Luis (2-1-1). Own goal away from drawing Toluca at Nemesio Diez.
6. Monterrey (2-1-1). Nice albeit boring win over Pumas.
7. Atlante (2-0-2). Hurricane forced change of venue to Morelia but Potros Hierros still managed result.
8. Chivas (1-1-2). Yes Atlas, Chivas is still best team in Guadalajara.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Lunar Blackout rankings

1. DC United (12-6-3). Next up: FCD, Chivas exams.
2. New England (12-5-6). New York's carlos Mendes helped keep Revs in number two hole.
3. Chivas USA (11-6-3). Last three matches: wins by 2-0, 3-0, 1-0.
4. Houston (11-7-5). Dynamo hold two-point edge over Chivas, for now.
5. FC Dallas (11-7-3). Will fight with Dynamo for second place when all said and done.
6. Chicago (7-9-5). New campaign: Blanco for MVP!
7. New York (10-9-3). Defense is still a mess.
8. Kansas City (9-8-5). Didn't Eddie Johnson used to play for this team?
9. Colorado (7-9-6). Has Fernando done enough to quiet "Fire Clavijo" crowd?
10. Columbus (6-7-9). Club may have peaked already.
11. Toronto FC (5-12-5). Nobody said expansion would be easy...
12. Real Salt Lake (2-11-6)... just ask these guys.
13. Los Angeles (3-10-5). Pub-esque results of late.

Don't come to my window

Press release from the Galaxy:

The 2007 SuperLiga Final between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Pachuca of Mexico is sold-out for Wednesday, August 29 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., at 8 p.m. PT. In partnership with California State, University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), capacity was capped at 12,500 to limit the traffic and parking impact on students in their first week of fall classes at CSUDH.No additional tickets will be made available to fans walking up on the day of the game at the stadium. Therefore, fans without tickets are encouraged to watch this battle for regional soccer supremacy and an unprecedented $1 million prize live on TeleFutura and

RSL Fill-in

I was covering Real Salt Lake for MLSnet last night.

In the postgame interview with Jason Kreis, I was the one who asked him, "Jason - you scored so well and so often - what did you do that your players aren't doing?"

His answer is in the article.

Robbie Findley also told me that he was taken by surprise when he was traded, but he's adjusted pretty well. He mentioned Nate Sturgis is his new roommate in Utah.

Mantilla, the new Argentine defender, told me that people might expect too much of MLS at once. "This league is about ten years old - the Argentine league is a hundred years old," he pointed out. "But all the ingredients are here to improve and become as big one day as any league anywhere."

I was interviewing him in Spanish, and at one point I asked how he was adjusting in Salt Lake. "It's going well," he answered. "It helps that I speak English." D'oh. He said he's fine doing interviews in Spanish, though. He ends up translating for his teammates sometimes.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


What's so hard about a statement that says, "X-rays were negative for any fracture"?

U.S. soccer has a whole article about Abby Wambach's foot injury, which is great, because we needed an update, yet it is strangely ambiguous. "No serious damage"? Why not get specific? Slight sprain, bruised big toe, something a bit detailed would be nice.

Perhaps it's a pre-World Cup ritual, though, to fudge on injuries. In 2002, there was a lot of contradictory or even complete disinformation about some of the from Bruce Arena. The team concealed Eddie Pope's knee injury completely, for example. In 2006, the extent of John O'Brien's injury and fitness was never revealed.

So for all I really know, Abby has turf toe, a bad hangnail, a cracked nail, or a brand-new pedicure.

No Wambach, No worries

The USWNT is primed and ready.

Fair setback

I guess I packed too much into one trip. We took longer than expected at the fair and then to top it off one of my girls got sick at the fair which delayed us quite a bit. I wasn't able to go to the game. I guess I will have to wait for another time to head out to DSG.

Hardly recognizable

Luis left for Colorado before the Galaxy confirmed how bad some of their recent injuries were. Not only will David Beckham not make the trip, but neither will Landon Donovan or Abel Xavier, due to their injuries (calf strain and knee). Pretty much the team's best players, no?

Midfielder Kevin Harmse won't be in Colorado because he's serving a red card suspension for that not-so-sly and definitely not-so-clever uppercut he threw at Chivas USA's Alex Zotinca. The Galaxy only have 15 healthy field players available against Colorado, and one is the rookie who has never seen a minute of MLS game time, Josh Tudela.

Trainer Ivan Pierra
has been busy, busy, trying to patch up players. Before Donovan went into the match versus Chivas USA, they tried some cream or something on his leg to make that calf strain bearable. Ben-Gay? Icy Hot? Pierra also gave Beckham some kind of pill during the match. No-Doze? Anyway, old-fashioned rest turns out to be the new prescription.

state fair

So this trip to Colorado is cool so far but, just like at home, I will have a lot driving to do.

I am at the Colorado state fair right now in Pueblo. We are leaving soon, back to Colorado Springs and then I have to get ready and go to the game. It's a good 70 miles or so to Denver or so plus a bit further to Commerce City.

Lots of driving especially in an unfamiliar area but hopefully the game will be entertaining.

Impossible Is Nothing Altidore

Finally! I've been waiting for Altidore's IIN bit to show up. This one has the added bonus of a little intro with the ESPN highlight of him.

Jozy didn't disappoint in the game versus the Galaxy, either, scoring two goals. I still don't understand why he wasn't called in for the U.S. for the Sweden game. Perhaps Arena talked Bradley out of it.

Last chance

The U17s have to win this one versus Belguim. The Galavision announcers are discussing how disappointing they've been in the tournament.

I'm picking things up in the 2nd half, by the way. Belgium are defending like crazy after going down a man to a red card midway through the first half.

Williams with a good try. Pigeon on the field.

50 - Williams is more active already in the game.

52- Belguim is organized, the announcers say, which is their polite way of saying they're boring. They also like that the U.S. putting Josh Lambo in goal - they were hard on MacMath last game especially. Nimo! Nimo! The guy is yelling, because Alex Nimo came close on his shot.

53 - The U.S. is playing well, but still without a goal to show for it and the longer Belguim can frustrate them, the more the Europeans will grow in confidence. The U.S. needs a goal, but Galavision guys are impressed at their improved form.

55 - Bates also got a lot of flack from the GG last match, but they just gave him props for a good defensive stop.

57 - Although they like Williams, there's a whole argument with the GG guys going on about why he's still on the field. One guy wants to take out Williams, since the US is now really only using three defenders, and put on a forward. Thing is, that's exactly what Williams once was, and a pretty good one, so I say leave him in there and just move him up, which is what has happened.

63 - Kirk Urso scores! Belguim goalkeeper gets a hand on it, but can't stop it.

68 - The announcers are gleeful that Belguim's timewasting didn't work out. They say the U.S. can salvage their tournament, starting with this game.

71 - Bates is really popular with the announcers now. He just scored off corner - likely sealing the win for the U.S.

77 - With the U.S. safely in, the announcers are bickering about the other possibilities to move on. It gets confusing. Suffice it to say the U.S. is moving on. The red card made a big difference, but Belguim didn't look great before that, either.

78 - Lambo saves the day when Belgium gets a shot on goal from a corner.

83 - Belguim's goalkeeper proves he can do the same, saving a U.S. shot.

89 - The announcers argue for Urso to become a starter now. They really like how he's come on and his energy and cool head under pressure and his lack of fear when it comes to taking shots.

90+ Corner kick for Belguim. Last hurrah.

It turns out that the U.S. will finish second in this group. Tunisia stomped everybody else in the group and they all took a game from each other in turn. U.S. goes on by goals in favor - they're tied with Tajikistan in goal differential.

GG pick Urso as MOTM.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Making midfield magic

Aly Wagner suffered a groin injury back in May, and this was her first match back since then. She talks to veteran soccer reporter Scott French about coming back, just in time for the World Cup.

Taking time for the fans

The U.S. women have always been one of the most fan-friendly teams. Here O'Reilly and Markgraf sign autographs.

WNT in action

Markgraf with her baby - the reason she was making a comeback this year.
Lilly and coach Greg Ryan talk to reporters
Finns jog post-game
Solo grabs the ball

Game action - setting up for the Finnish free kick.

2nd Half - US v Finland

Well, the U.S. has a comfortable lead against an opponent that's not quite the creampuff of some of the more recent matches.

The halftime has been sufficient to fix the lights, by the way. They're slowly coming back to full power. Luckily, it was an early kickoff time, and the game didn't really miss a beat. I think the crowd was more thrown off - their murmurings about the light situation kind of killed the cheers.

Wambach's limping is the only worry. Normally, a toe injury wouldn't be such a big deal - John Terry played for Chelsea against the Galaxy with a broken toe and scored the game-winner. Then again, we just saw that Quaranta has been sidelined for the season with a toe injury. Then again, Quaranta is no John Terry.

OK - the official word from the U.S. officials - Wambach has a jammed toe. She might go in for X-rays later.

The stadium is playing an '80's goodie, "Eye of the Tiger" I think Boxx is singing along. Maybe not. Maybe she's just talking.

They kick off!

48 - O'Reilly with a great pass to Lilly, right in front of goal. Granma misses it. Yikes. Look for her to score another goal in a few minutes to make up for that.

49 - Rampone lines up free kick - leads to an outside shot by Lilly - yep, she was trying to get that goal back and nearly does.

51 - Finns looking lively for a bit, but the US defense chases them out again.

52 - Lloyd down in box, doesn't get call. Finns getting creative on D - a little between the legs pass to get the ball out.

54 - Turns out the assist Lilly had in the first half was her 100th. That makes her and Mighty Mia the only women to ever score more than one hundred goals and record more than one hundred assists.

58 - They took Wambach for Xrays. Lloys is doing her best, but the presence Wambach provides in the box is missing. The team has basically lost their only target striker. They're playing with a bunch of midfielders, basically.

59 - They're good midfielders, though. Tarpley had a cracker of a shot from outside just now. Anyway, I say the midfielders thing because a lot of the players have been midfielders, no matter where they moved to later on. Chalupny, for example.

60 - Tarpley so close on a shot the crowd thinks its in, but it hits the outside of the net.

63 - O'Reilly races in, takes nice shot, but it's a bit high and wide.

65 - Lilly used to be a midfielder, too. That's partly why she's further behind Mighty Mia in goals scored. She has an outside chance of catching her teammate, though. Only 32 goals to go. Mind you, that's more than Brian McBride had in his whole international career.

68 - Tarpley! Midfielders can be effective. Tarpley takes a nice pass from Rampone, waits until the keeper commits, then slides a shot past her and just inside the near post.

71 - The U.S. confident now, full of momentum mojo.

74 - Lloyd winds up on a shot, but Korpela isn't itimidated, and punches it out. Lilly is subbed out to a standing 0. Natasha Kai comes in for her. Kai has some nice moves right from the start. Gotta love her energy.

75 - Chalupny out for Leslie Osborne. Lloyd knocks nice sideways pass to O'Reilly, who just gets her foot in front of her defender to redirect it in. She's so excited. HAO is usually buzzing around the goal, but oddly, she hasn't scored a lot. Maybe this will start a streak. That's her 11th all-time.

80 - To put O'Reilly's goal into perspective, she just tied Whitehill for goals, and Whitehill is a defender. Of course, Whitehill has about 50 more caps.

84 - Finns with some gritty defending. The U.S. has the ball on their toe a couple of times in the box, but can't put it in. Finn free kick gets cleared out. Speaking of Whitehill, she gets subbed out right now for Marci Jobson.

85 - I missed the Tina Ellerton, Aly Wagner sub, but they're in now, and Wagner just forced a good save.

88 - Tarpley looked for Kai but her defender got a toe in to knock ball out. Pace has slowed slightly. Finns hanging on, U.S. looked pretty satisfied with four.

90 + Finns with a free kick - chance to salvage some pride. They get a shot off, but that's about it.

This one is in the books - the ladies look in good form heading off to China.

USWNT Running blog

The WARP tour is still going on in the parking lot of the HDC, so soccer moms are leading their kids into the stadium past the tattoed punk kids with mohawks and black bras, combat boots and lip piercings. It's funny to watch the groups eye each other as they pass.

U.S.: Hope Solo, Christie Rampone, Cat Whitehill, Kate Markgraf, Steph Lopez, Shannon Boxx, Lori Chalupny, Heather O'Reilly, Lindsay Tarpley, Abby Wambach, Kristine Lilly

Finns: Tinja-Rikka Korpela, Petra Vaelma, Tiina Salmen, Miia Neimi, Susanna Lehtinen, Jessica Julin, Sanna Valkonen, Katri Nokso-Koivisto, Leena Puranen, Annica Sjolund, Sanna Talonen

And they kick off!

2 - the Finns are not New Zealand - they're taking it to the States early.

4 First US advance, Wambach dribbles out for GK

6 - Lilly with good work in box, sends cross that misses crashing HAO and Wambach

8- US seems over early jitters and looks lively, attacking hard. Corner for U.S. finally gets knocked out for GK.

11 - Finn free kick - cleared out. Finns finding some space at times, but the U.S. defense looked dialed in, much more so than in the early going

13 - Kristine Lilly shanks a shot, and then mutters to herself. Happens to even the greats, but they bounce back - Lilly slams another shot, forcing a diving save from Korpela.

18 - O'Reilly with a shot - could've done better with that.

20 - It's plain to see how the U.S. women win so many games. They steamroll weaker teams, obviously. If they meet teams that can hang with them, even a little, they don't let up. They keep running, they keep coming, they try different things to beat their rivals. They try one shot, if it doesn't work, they try another. Oppenents used to refining their offense are forced to play crazy defense all the time. It's like putting out fires constantly. The Finn players are pretty good, but they are starting to get that overwhelmed look.

24 - Chalupney with a shot - blocked. Lilly, same. U.S. recovers, then Chalupney sends in nice pass to Wambach for a header that Korpela saves.

27 - Wambach is limping after a shot. Maybe she can run it off, but she is doing the run hop of the "I really don't want to put weight on this" people.

28 - Wambach is subbed off Carli Lloyd comes in. Lloyd is pretty awesome, but the Finns probably feel they caught a break, because Wambach is lethal in front of goal, best WNT strike rate ever. Yes, even better than Mighty Mia Hamm.

30 - Boxx scores for the hometown fans! She lives in Torrance. Lilly sends in the corner, Boxx gets a head on it and it loops up, spinning slightly, completely fooling Korpela, who can't figure it out and it drops behind her and into the net.

33 Tarp earns FK, Lloyd takes it - eek, sends it way over the bar.

35 - Finns on attack, ball in box kicked out by Solo.

37 - U.S. back in control - Finns looking worn out and it's not even halftime - wow, Chalup into the box, beats her defender and jukes goalkeeper with a pass to a wide open Granma - oops, Lilly. Goal #126

39 - Chalup to Lilly again, but Lilly is a little too careful with this one. She puts it right to the goalkeeper when she could have gone for broke on the far post.

40 - Lights out. No really, the lights in the stadium have just gone out. They keep playing, becaus night hasn't fully hit yet.

42 - This happened once before, during an InterLiga game. It took them fifteen minutes to get the power back - but that game was played at night, so the players had to just stand around and wait.

44 - Corner for Finland - cleared.

45 - They're going to try to fix the lights at halftime, I guess.

45 + US corner, cleared. 2 minutes of extra time. Rampone's free throw gets cleared out, she sends a cross back in, but Tarpley's header goes over the bar.


Toe takes out Tino

From the NY press release:

Transaction: New York Red Bulls sign midfielder/forward Francis Doe and place midfielder/forward Santino Quaranta on the season-ending injury list.

Francis Doe, who has been training with the Red Bulls for the past month, was most recently with Greek Super League side Atromitos FC for the last two years. During his time there, the 21-year-old played in 34 league games, finding the back of the net eight times. Doe also played 90 minutes in a 2-1 loss to Spanish La Liga side, Sevilla, in the UEFA Cup on September 14, 2006. The Liberian was also with USL First Division side, the Minnesota Thunder, in 2004 and 2005. He started his career at Ghanaian club, Buduburam FC.

On the international level, Doe has represented Liberia at the 2006 World Cup qualifiers as well as in the 2008 African Cup qualifying stages.

Quaranta was acquired by the Red Bulls on June 29 from the Los Angeles Galaxy in exchange for a conditional fourth round 2008 MLS SuperDraft pick. He has appeared in three games since joining the Red Bulls before picking up a right toe sprain that has sidelined him.

Francis Doe - #30
Position: Midfielder/Forward
Pronunciation: DOH
Height: 5-8
Weight: 150
Birthdate: December 25, 1985
Previous Club: Atromitos FC (Greece)

It's not over

I wrote the U17 team off a little quickly, partly because I hate the bean-counting that goes on when determining the possible scenarios for advancement.

However, the various permutations have worked out in the team's favor - well, to the point that if the U.S. defeats Belgium, they advance as one of the better 3rd place teams.

Of course, there's that little matter of defeating Belgium.

Pick a little


New England 2, New York 1

DC 1, Toronto 0
Chicago 3, Kansas City 1
Houston 2, Columbus 0
Colorado 2, Los Angeles 0
Chivas 2, Real Salt Lake 0


New England 1, New York 1
DC 2 Toronto 0
Chicago 1, Kansas City 2
Houston 1, Columbus 2
Colorado 1, Los Angeles 1
Chivas 0, Real Salt Lake 1

Friday, August 24, 2007

Worse and worse

Now Beckham is getting passed up by dinosaurs.

Galaxy get Sesay

The Galaxy won the MLS weighted lottery and have landed the rights to 16-year-old Israel Sesay. A native of Sierra Leone, Sesay is a highly-touted prospect who has been a part of the Bradenton Academy in Florida.

Some background on him here in this story from 2005.

More perspectives

A sampling of emails for me today.

Don't know if you watched the Galaxy on espn2 last nite, but Eric Wynalda is absolutely painful to listen to. Critical Critical Critical. and will not let up.
I'm a fledgling soccer fan, never played it, and watched it every 4 years for the world cup. however, with the arrival of Beckham, I am one of those who are now trying to watch it more, and i'm actually enjoying it (MLS) more than I thought. But having to listen to Wynalda is awful. I like the play by play guy, but Tommie Smith would be much better than Wynalda. ESPN should do something about it.

Another letter:

I just wanted to comment on your conclusions about Beckham being overused. I understand that it is your job to write what people will read, and at this you obviously have succeeded. However, I can't stomach how unsupported conclusions are arrived at so frivolously.

"Ultimately, such a grave miscalculation could make MLS seem like more of a joke than the play on the field ever has."

To think that the Galaxy making the playoffs (or not making the playoffs) is somehow going to "make or break" the MLS is simply pathetic. David Beckham has already done 90% of the job he was hired to do. Would it really help if the Galaxy were able to profile the MLS playoffs? Absolutely. But the fact that they probably won't be there is no different than the likely scenario that they lose the first game. In fact, this latter scenario may even be worse, given that it will show everyone the real picture that the success of this league and this sport in the US cannot be based on the television ratings of one summer. There is much more involved, and already in motion, to making the MLS a successful league.

"Ultimately, it doesn't seem that Beckham's heart is in question. Instead, the brains of the league and the Galaxy administration -- for not protecting their players by failing to protest such a top-heavy late-season travel schedule -- are the ones who appear suspect."

I would hate to see your comments if they would have sat Beckham, especially after Beckham actually stated he felt OK to play, and the Galaxy lost by a closer margin. In the future, do the sport and all of us a favor--reward your readers with intelligent insight about the play of the league and quit making the MLS nothing more than a Hollywood studio.

I just read the article about beckham not performing well and I belive its all excuses the is given for his inadequacy.The truth be told there is no way beckham can single handedly resurrect the La galaxy team to a championship team.That is the sad fact and people are hoping it will turn out to be a fairy tale.Beckham during his whole carrier has never been the Man of the team.H e has been a Good team player but you cannot build your team around beckham it wont just work.

Now the mistake LA galaxy did is they invested too much on beckham forgetting that apart from the off field attraction he brings he cannot peform magic on the field.O ne free kick here and there but consistent performance from him I don’t think so

Now if La galxy were wise and had not spend all that amount of Beckham.They might have been able to use somepart of that money to get some quality players to La.Now in LA we have beckham with 6.5million YEAR SALARY TO 900,000 for Donovan to a mere 17,000 for a player .Do you think it makes sense are people gonna die for the team well beckham might after all he is been paid but if I werea soccer player getting that small money and I see that big descripancy I aint gonna give my all

Its better LA COME out of their dream other wise they will be like real Madrid which after beckham came it took 4 years before achieving one title And even that came after Barcelona basically handed them the trophy.