Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ciao, Cobi

Taking a look back at Cobi Jones, now that he's stepped off the MLS stage.

I still think there's a small chance, if his injury improves during the offseason, that Cobi might return, but I'd put it at less than ten percent.
"

"That would be highly unlikely - to come back next year," Cobi himself said.

El Guzmano

Brad Guzan won the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award on Wednesday. With the lofty award comes some attention from outside the regular soccer media, one of which was Los Angeles sports talk radio station AM 570.

Guzan was a guest on the Loose Cannons on Wednesday afternoon, which was great for him and for Chivas USA.

The only problem is, host Steve Hartman introduced him as Brad Guzman.

Listen to the podcast here. It's on the lower left side.

(Thanks to DB for this info)

Classy guy finishes first


Waaaay back in 2006, I took my daughter Yvie out to Home Depot Center with me. I wanted to take some pictures with her and a player or two. The one Chivas USA player I saw and got to take a picture with her was Brad Guzan, who on Wednesday was named the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Guzan was as accommodating then as he has always been. He's a classy kid and has been from the first time I talked to him.

I've shared this picture before on here but I thought it was appropriate to re-post today.

Alright, Afshin

Pete Vagenas told me once about how his soccer career in Pasadena developed under the guidance of Afshin Ghotbi, who ran a youth club in that area. Afshin has gone on to one of the most varied coaching careers imaginable. I talked with him only a few times when he was the assistant coach of the the Galaxy, and it always struck me how calm and composed he was - in victory or defeat. He definitely seemed like a true tactician of the game.

This article doesn't mention his Galaxy days, but it does explain how Afshin may become Iran's next national team coach.

Guzan's the best

Congratulations to Brad Guzan as he was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year today. Quite an accomplishment when you consider where he was his first season.

Sudamericana semifinals

River Plate tied Defensor Sporting of Uruguay 0-0 and qualified for the Copa Sudamericana semifinals. River Plate will meet fellow Argentine side Arsenal in one half of the semis while Club America of Mexico will play Millonarios of Colombia in the other.

At this point, the final most people want to see is River Plate-America. Both sides are loaded with tradition and count on support from millions of fans across the globe. That final would be truly captivating. However, it probably won't happen. Too many things seem to go wrong against Mexican teams in South American competition. Still, Pachuca won this very tournament a year ago to break Mexico's duck in South American tournaments so if anything America has that to draw inspiration from.

A final of Arsenal-Millonarios might still be entertaining but it wouldn't draw nearly the same amount of attention as River-America.

River Plate seems like a team of destiny, at least in this tournament. Their Round of 16 match against Botafogo was one of the more thrilling finishes I've seen in a while. River were playing 9-on-10 and needed a goal to win the series. It seemed like it was all but over until Ariel Ortega hit a perfect cross to Radamel Falcao, who placed the header gently into the back of the net in stoppage time and River Plate won 4-2 and advanced on a 4-3 aggregate.

I'll get right on it

Got this in my SI.com inbox:

Hometown: Kwekwe

Question: can you please provide information on zimbabwe striker joseph ngwenya on my email address every week.this must include how many goals he scored this season and his current form

Come on, man. I mean, if you made it to SI.com, I'm sure you can go right over to MLSnet.com. Or maybe internet access in Kwekwe is limited to SI.com/soccer.

Making an entrance

Eric Wynalda was one of the many media members who turned up for Tuesday's Chivas USA media game. He was his usual talkative self. But at one point he walked by a group of us and expressed his feelings over a colleague of ours.

Okay, he was irritated. Jaime Cardenas pretty much sums it up on his blog so go here for the info.

As for the media game, I wasn't able to participate because I had less than 24 hours notice that the game was taking place. It was a bit of a disappointment since I played in the first two and I'm in much better shape now than ever. I would have liked to have participated but I needed more time to prepare. I've got daughters and they've got places to be and I can't just drop everything on a moment's notice. I guess that's what happens when you get old, people start to depend on you.

Oh well. I wouldn't have minded playing on the same team as Eric Wynalda and Christian Miles. Daily News writer Billy Witz played in the game so I'll have to ask him how it went. Actually, the better question would be how the hottest ChivaGirl looked, I mean, played. Kortney was on one of the teams. Honestly, forget Waldo. It was missing out on Kortney I was most upset about.

Forwards out

Preki ruled out Ante Razov for Saturday, which was expected.

But many are wondering whether Maykel Galindo will see playing time or not. LA Times writer Jaime Cardenas says not to hold your breath.

Galindo told us yesterday that he has a sports hernia, which is far more serious than an abdominal strain. We're waiting to hear from team trainers about some specifics regarding the injury and whether one led to the other or not and the like and once we do, I'll let you guys know.

I don't think Chivas is done, though, even if Galindo doesn't play. I would be more skeptical of their chances if Houston and DC United hadn't also lost 1-0. In fact, the four higher seeds combined for zero goals. I think Chivas was going for the draw and would have been content with that result but were also aware that a one-goal loss wasn't going to kill them. Preki disputed that, though. He said they never go for draws but I don't necessarily buy that.

Preki also said he wouldn't rule out starting Jonathan Bornstein at forward. If that happens, that would be an act of desperation. There are essentially three players to fill the two forward spots: John Cunliffe, Laurent Merlin and Ramon Nunez. Starting Bornstein there would be a bit of a no-confidence vote on that trio. More likely would be another 4-5-1 with a healthy Orlando Perez at left back, a midfield line of Bornstein-Mendoza-Marsch-Nagamura-Kljestan and Merlin up top.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

England 2018?

If you're reading this blog, chances are you follow CONCACAF somewhat closely. And if you do, you know damn well that this region is not the greatest. Okay, it's pretty bad. Let's face it - the U.S. and Mexico pretty much get a pass into the World Cup. I can't imagine either the U.S. or Mexico not qualifying for a World Cup and sometimes I wonder if Mexico's 2001 campaign really happened, and I usually ask myself 'How the hell did that happen?'

Costa Rica is a strong nation and some team usually steps up and makes things interesting (Honduras in '01, Trinidad in '05) but even the Ticos are separating themselves from the rest of the pack.

So when the World Cup rotation was set to head to North America, I was pretty excited. Much like the easy path the U.S. and Mexico have to get to the World Cup, this region had a similar challenge in hosting a World Cup, which would be great for soccer fans on this side of the world.

I was 10 in 1986 and 18 in 1994, so I didn't truly enjoy those tournaments so I've always kind of hoped for a World Cup in this part of the world, one that I could drive to instead of take a 10-hour flight to. I was happy with either Mexico or the U.S. hosting, though I must admit hanging in Guadalajara the night before, say, Germany-Scotland would be awesome. I mean, think about the amount of Estrellas, Sols and Jimador tequila that would be consumed! Fantastic!

Well, those thoughts are now simply pipe dreams. The rotation system is no more and 2018 has been opened up for the world to bid on.

Honestly, though, I thought the rotation system was lame. The way I see it, the World Cup should alternate between Europe and elsewhere, which is how it's been for the longest time.

In 1958, Sweden hosted. Four years later it was in Chile, then England, then Mexico, Germany, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Italy, US, France, Korea/Japan, Germany, South Africa.

Brazil 2014 will snap that streak. There's no way the World Cup will be away from Europe for three consecutive World Cups. I don't see it, and honestly that's sacrilegious.

Let me be the first to congratulate England for hosting the 2018 World Cup. If Brazil deserved to host the 2010 edition, surely England deserves the 2018 tournament. We can hold out hope that 2022 will be in either the U.S. or Mexico.

Obrigado Brasil

It's been pretty much a well-known fact that Brazil was going to get to host the 2014 World Cup but the official announcement still gives me jitters.

Brazil is now officially the host nation for the 2014 World Cup.

In soccer terms, there are few nations as deserving as Brazil to host a World Cup. The last time Brazil hosted a World Cup, the nation had exactly zero World Cup titles. Now, Brazil has five. Then, games were not broadcast on television. Now, overall viewers for one World Cup numbers in the billions.

But soccer is not the only factor considered for hosting a tournament, and Brazil's economy has lagged. I don't profess to know the economic health of Brazil but I would venture to guess that it is healthier than South Africa's. Maybe it's not, I don't know. But I do know that South Africa isn't a safe nation at all. In fact, I think it has one of the highest murder rates in the world. So if South Africa can host a World Cup despite its economic and safety shortcomings, surely Brazil could pull one off.

Well, that's not exactly the line of reasoning behind this latest selection. Actually, it was the rotation process that landed South America a World Cup. 2014 will be that continent's first World Cup since Argentina 1978, so the continent will be a focus for the tournament, not just Brazil.

Personally, I don't know if I'll go. Who knows if I'll even still be in the business in 2014? As a freelancer, I've got to pay for stuff on my own, and I'd fancy to guess that that would be an expensive venture. I won't go to South Africa for monetary reasons and other issues as well and I wasn't in Germany. I did go to Japan for the '02 World Cup, which was cool.

I'd love to go to Brazil. My daughters will be, uh, let me see, 10 and 8 by then, so maybe we could plan a family trip... or not. That's quite an expensive trip.

Regardless, I'm happy that Brazil got the nod for 2014.

Facing facts

So I tried this Facebook deal. Some of the Chivas USA players were talking about Facebook and I felt all old since I didn't know what it was all about so I tried it and created an account and all that. Well, I nearly forgot about it until I got a couple of friends trying to add me. So I figured I'd beef it up so it doesn't look so pathetic.

If you want to add me, go for it. You can search for me. I'm the one with the Inland Empire, CA network. And if you can give me some tips on how to not make it look so lousy, I'd appreciate it.

Rework the postseason

Another writer chiming in on how the MLS postseason doesn't work.

Okay, so that writer is me.

I guess my bottom line is that I feel in many ways the playoffs are cheapened somewhat by the inclusion of teams that have more losses than wins or have had an otherwise drab regular season.

Plus, consider that MLS sees 8 of its 13 teams in the postseason while MLB allows 8 of its 30 teams in the playoffs. Yes, there are too many #$*&!@ baseball games in one season but that season means a whole helluva lot more than the MLS campaign.

Flagging down the Bull

Pat Walsh points out that Bruce Arena doesn't seem as mighty as he once did.

I'll be honest, that's why even back in early 2006, I was hoping he'd coach a club somewhere, though not necessarily even in MLS. Arena had gotten comfortable with the U.S. national team, leading them out against a lot of undermatched squads, frankly. If he ever lost, he tended to blame MLS, the players, everything but himself.

At the World Cup, when he admitted "blame" for the team's loss and performance, he did so in his trademark sarcastic manner that actually expressed the opposite of taking any responsibility.

I don't think Arena's a bad coach at all, but I do think he started to buy into an overinflated sense of his own importance. A club job, I thought, would reveal the substance of his skill.

I'm not in New York, so I'm curious as to what grade fans or those closer to the situation would grade him.
From my outside perspective, I'd venture a B-. Signing Reyna as a DP for a million dollars? Trading Todd Dunivant? What the heck was up with Wattereaus? Positives would include signing Juan Pablo Angel (who he is apparently pissing off now, though), and Dane Richards.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Interliga announcement


InterLiga™ 2008, the fifth edition of the tournament that determines two berths for Mexican clubs to the prestigious Copa Libertadores, will be held between Wednesday, January 2 and Saturday, January 12, 2008, with stops in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. The eight teams participating in InterLiga 2008 earned berths based on their combined record in the 2006 Apertura and 2007 Clausura seasons of the Mexican domestic league. The eight squads are: Group A – América, Atlas, Toluca, Morelia;Group B – Cruz Azul, Pumas, Monterrey, San Luis.
If any of the participating eight teams becomes champion of the current 2007 Apertura season, to be crowned the weekend of December 8, that club will be replaced by Atlante. The champion of the 2007 Apertura is required to participate in the 2008 CONCACAF Champions Cup. While InterLiga™ 2008 will determine two Mexican club births for Copa Libertadores known as “Mexico 2” and “Mexico 3”, the other spot, known as “Mexico 1,” has been determined according to the regulations set forth by the Federación Mexicana de Fútbol. Given Pachuca’s required participation in the 2008 CONCACAF Champions Cup due to its status as the champions of Mexico’s 2007 Clausura, CD Guadalajara, the 2006 Apertura champions, have been selected as “Mexico 1” and will participate in the 2008 Copa Libertadores. Schedule In its fifth anniversary, InterLiga will kick off on Wednesday, Jan. 2 in Frisco, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, with a Group B doubleheader, highlighted by a duel between InterLiga™ veterans Cruz Azul and newcomers San Luis (matches start at 7 p.m. local). Group A action hits Frisco on Sunday, Jan. 6 including a match up between Mexican powers América and Toluca (matches start at 4 p.m. local). InterLiga will return to the Bay Area for the first time since 2005, beginning Thursday, Jan. 3 with Group A action starting at 6:30 p.m. (local time). Less than a week later, Group B clubs will be featured in a doubleheader on Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 6:30 p.m. (local time). The Bay Area venue will be announced in the coming weeks. For the second consecutive year, InterLiga™ returns to Houston’s Roberston Stadium for a Group B doubleheader on Saturday, Jan. 5 featuring Cruz Azul against Monterrey as well a match between San Luis and Pumas (matches starting at 7 p.m. local time). Group A teams will close out the group phase on Wednesday, Jan. 9 in Carson, California including a match between América and Atlas, Mexican League playoff opponents during the last two seasons (matches starting at 6 p.m. local). The InterLiga™ 2008 finals will then take place on Saturday, Jan. 12 at The Home Depot Center, site of the finals in 2004, 2006 and 2007. Match times and order of the games will be announced in the upcoming weeks.

Who can name the guys in the photo? Take a wild guess even if you don't know.


Frank finality

The Galaxy owners, AEG, haven't yet made a decision on whether to retain Frank Yallop. Our poll shows that if our readers had their way, Klinsmann would be the new Galaxy coach.

Some time ago, I asked Landon Donovan if players had spoken to team administration about their preference. Landon admitted the uncertainty was difficult to deal with.

“I think [the players] are doing everything they can for Frank. They’ve given everything for him. If [Galaxy administrators] decide it today or tomorrow, that’s fine. You know how this business is.”

“I’ve gotten to the point where whatever is going to happen is going to happen. If he’s gone, he’s gone. If he stays here, then great. There’s no use worrying about it.”

With the upcoming exhibition games still to be played, Frank's fate could be put off a bit longer.

Mexico mourns

... or rejoices depending on what colors you wear.

The four most popular clubs in Mexico met on Sunday as Cruz Azul played Pumas and America hosted Chivas.

Cruz Azul got a pair of goals from Miguel Sabah and beat Pumas 2-1. Later in the day, Juan Carlos Silva scored a pair as America beat Chivas 2-1 in the superclasico, which again lived up to its name.

America got a great performance from Memo Ochoa and the goalposts. Two Chivas shots hit the post and several others were saved by Ochoa. The story above doesn't mention crowd count but during the television broadcast the announcers said there were more than 100,000 people in Azteca for the game.

And just for kicks, here's a picture of Francisco Palencia and Cruz Azul goalkeeper Oscar Perez posing with their sons. Little Tristan Palencia's got a cool little hairdo.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Freddy scores again

This time, it's the winning goal.

Cazador outtakes

PE colleague Jim Alexander talked to Chivas USA exec Shawn Hunter at a recent game. Although he talked to him at length, Jim was only able to use a small portion of what Hunter told him.

Here's the rest of that interview courtesy of Jim's blog.

What brave new world?

It could just be a muddy NFL game in London.

Or it could be the beginning of the apocalypse.

Other issues, other teams

The rivals of the U.S. women aren't resting on their progress, but the U.S. isn't the only squad looking to regroup. While the professional game is progressing in Germany, one Norwegian player is retiring to focus on a teaching career because it's too difficult to do both.

For that matter, Norway's coach has issues of his own in dealing with players.

Running with the Red Bull

New York's Dane Richards still has an outside chance of picking up Rookie of the Year honors. Unlike Maurice Edu, another top contender, Richards also has a chance to help his team in the MLS playoffs. His speed is one of his greatest assets and it can really stretch the three-man backline of New England.

Here's what the Galaxy's Mike Randolph, no slouch in the speed department himself, had to say about defending Richards.

"Every time they pass him the ball, I feel like I’m at a track meet. I’m just running for my life, basically. He’s a good player, very fast. I just try to keep him in front of me."

Format finagling

Max Bretos had an interesting suggestion last night. After noting that none of the higher seeds held an advantage in any of the playoffs series thus far, he opined that the current MLS playoff format was a bit unfair to the higher seed. He proposed that the home-and-away series be switched from the current first round to the conference final round, with the first round being a winner-take-all match at the higher seed's home stadium.

I mulled that over. I'm not sure that the current structure is so unfair. Thing is, I don't believe that any playoff team has put away their opponent. After what the Earthquakes pulled on the Galaxy in 2003, everyone knows that not even a four-goal lead is safe. No team in the current playoffs has more than a one-goal lead.

Basically, I have a hard time believing that any of the teams coming home for the final game isn't confident that playing at home for the final game isn't the exact advantage they need to control their destiny. Frankly, if a team can't beat any MLS opponent at home for the right to continue to battle for the championship, they don't deserve to move on. Even a one-goal win by the home teams would guarantee overtime and perhaps a winner-take-all penalty kick format.

Plus, it's hard for me to look at the playoffs as such an upset when Chivas USA is missing both Ante Razov and Maykel Galindo, or when Chicago merely continues its jinx versus DC United. FC Dallas and New York's results are a bit more surprising, but given their playoff history, I'm more than a bit skeptical that they can finish the job.

Rumor had it that the late Lamar Hunt insisted on the current playoff format, after the league owners scaled back the playoffs to save costs. He contended that reaching the playoffs was an honor, and that each team's fans deserved to see and cheer their team in at least one playoff match. The current format allows that, but the solution Bretos proposed does not.

There's a certain logic to Hunt's argument, but I'd like to hear from readers what they'd prefer. Frankly, I'd like more of a Champions League style format - continuing the home and away set-up all through the playoffs, until the final match, which would of course be the winner take all. I realize that would somewhat nullify the home-game advantage that the higher seed in the conference final currently gets.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Chivas-KC thoughts

Sorry, no running blog from L.B. tonight. I'm on my fifth Bud Light and if all goes well I'll double that by night's end. I don't drink-and-type well so no go.

Anyway, the first half went pretty bad for Chivas USA. Kansas City is up 1-0 at halftime.

The one thing that could have done Chivas USA in has happened as Preki was forced to change his formation. Chivas stressed a "block of eight" this year in which the defensive and midfield lines were responsible for a bulk of the work, but against the Wizards Preki was forced to use a 4-5-1 formation because of injuries, so there goes the "block of eight." Laurent Merlin's okay normally but he needs another forward to play off of and Sacha Kljestan isn't playing like Maykel Galindo normally would.

Chivas are in trouble. The best they can hope for at this point is a 1-1 draw but given their paltry few chances and ineffectiveness on set pieces, that's asking for a lot.

Okay, on to number six. If I'm firing on all cylinders I'll write something after the game. If not, well, I guess they will have gotten to me.

NY and NE rb

Here we go, here we go! With the pregame show, that is. It's almost over, though. Reyna's on the field.

10 - Sorry, connection problems. Red Bull is playing well but the game is scoreless.
15 - Lots of balls going over the top - not a great-looking game. I could be biased because of the NFL lines.
16 - Altidore with a shot - hits the crossbar. Well done.
21 - Juan Pablo Angel with a shot - way over the top.
26 - Dane Richards and Francis Doe causing New England's defenders all sorts of problems. Altidore can't quite get turned in the box versus two defenders.
28 - Corner kick for NE, earned by Ralston and taken by Ralson. Cleared out.
29 - Nice cross comes to Angel, but his header goes off target. Good chance.
31 - New England is gaining more ground on their counter chances.
32 - Freeman takes a hard outside shot, but Reis hangs on to the ball. Good thing, because Jozy was right there for the rebound.
37 - Red Bulls still pressuring, but still coming up empty. Freekick chance way in the corner now, earned by Reyna. NE clears.
39 -Wells Thompson is a scrapper. He could get carded out of this game, or make a real difference.
42 - Ralston's crosses are quality. Nothing came from that one, though.
44 - Van den Burgh has nice crosses as well, Angel gets on the end of that one, but fouls in the process.
45 - Last chance on a freekick for New York doesn't work out. Good soccer for the Red Bulls, but the scoreboard doesn't reflect that.

2nd half
46 Red Bulls keep their energy up. They're working hard for a goal.
47 - New England looks a little flabbergasted at the work rate of the Red Bulls, but they're managing to hold them off.
50 - The last pass is just missing for New York. They're coming close, but that doesn't count in soccer.
54 - Semi-scrap between Pat Noonan and Angel. The scrum looked intense for a bit, but no punches thrown and no cards given.
57 - NE looking dangerous on their last couple of attack. It's New York's turn to defend desperately.
60 - Shalrie with a hard outside shot - just wide.
62 - Angel with some tricky moves in the box - New York fans boo, wanting a penalty kick, but nothing doing.
63 - New York with an attacking wave, but NE fights it back.
65 - NE looked like it had a great advance going, but Francis Doe got the ball back, then Heaps saved a possible goal by getting to a cross first on the other end.
66 - Twelman in the box, but can't get a shot off. New York a bit lucky there - the ball bounced their way.
68 - Sinisa Ubiparipovic comes in for Francis Doe. That's a bit surprising. I thought Doe had been really active.
71 - Red Bulls have regained the majority of the control, putting pressure on NE again.
72- CK for NE - then another. Ralston takes, cleared.
74 - Michael Parkhurst gets his first card of the year taking down Jozy on the breakaway. Free kick comes to nothing, but New York is pushing hard again.
77 - Time is running out for New York in a game they have dominated but not delivered on the goals.
78 - Chris Leitch on for Van den Burgh.
80 - NE with a nice passing sequence - a draw would be fine for them. They're not giving up on the win, but they're certainly not pushing as hard for it.
83 - Joseph is playing so well for NE - they did well to extend his contract.
85 - Jeff Parke gets a yellow for dissent, apparently. Seth Stammler barely saves a goal from Twellman. Heaps with a forearm to the head of Altidore. Then he's taken down at the top of the box, but the ref plays advantage, even though he gives a yellow leter on.
87 - Clint Mathis on for Reyna, while NE has yet to make a sub. Oh, no - Adam Cristman on for Pat Noonan.
89 - Angel nearly made a flick behind the defense, work, but Parkhurst clears.
90 - James Riley on for Wells Thompson. Cristman and Twellman combine well to keep the ball in New York's end. What looks like a handball turns into a foul for Dane Richards. Coach Bruce Arena is furious, but the replay shows it was the right call. Perhaps not so on the next call, which looked like a New York corner denied. Just the story of the match for Red Bull.

Fulltime

Panchito's tale

When Francisco Mendoza first arrived at Chivas USA, he was a bit homesick but toughed it out, both on and off the field. He's one of three players still around from the first season. He also earned the nickname Panchito, but he preferred to be called Pancho. At first, he tried to correct people when they called him Panchito but after a while it just stuck and he stopped correcting people.

The Daily News' Ivan Orozco tells us a bit more about Panchito's life.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Smoke gets in your eyes

The Galaxy are playing a wildfire relief charity match.

Chivas USA, of course, is busy with the playoffs.

Dictating terms

If Chivas USA plays their game, they will be tough to beat.

Of course, Eddie Johnson will be a handful for Chivas.

Garber gabs

...with SI.com readers via Jonah Freedman.

Interesting info in that Q&A. He downplays the talk of expanding the DPs from one per team to two per team, which is the a good move in my opinion. He also talks about the US Open Cup and taking summer breaks when important tournaments are going on and how weather plays a role.

Wilmer Cabrera Intro

The new coach of the U.S. U17 team, Wilmer Cabrera, is going to be introduced by USSF president Sunil Gulati via conference call to the media today.

Yep, I'm on hold again. Same peppy swing music playing. I'll admit to liking the big band era, and had fun during the revival back during the Swingers period in the 1990's, but the same tune again and again is annoying.

Ha! Sunil Gulati just admitted his Spanish is less than perfect. True, but I'd admit the same of myself. It always cracks me up when people say Landon Donovan's Spanish is perfect. It's not. The fact that it exists at all is a good thing, but it's not nearly perfect.

Wilmer is on now, talking about his experience as a player and how he thinks it will help the young players he coaches.

Jeff Carlise asks about the Hispanic community's involvement in the youth ranks. Wilmer says he's just looking for good players, no matter where they are from.

Brian Gomez asks about the biggest challenge faced by Wilmer in his new gig. Wilmer says continuing and improving the success of the U17 team and developing players for the full national team.

Sunil adds that Wilmer's experience as a youth player who came up to play for his national team will inform his coaching.

Sunil talks about how he knew Wilmer for a long time, back in his playing days. He tried to bring him to MLS at one point.

"Fun to play" is part of Wilmer's coaching philosophy. Wilmer says that's the way he learned.

Sunil says that Bradenton is being assessed against the alternative - and if the alternative becomes the better option, Bradenton could be changed.

I ask Wilmer if, since he came up through the youth system of a pro soccer team, if he prefers that to be the future model, rather than Bradenton.

Wilmer says U.S. soccer is not to going to follow one route - that the MLS academy system may look good right now, but it needs to be evaluated for effectiveness before the current U17 system is scrapped.

Then I asked Sunil about the language issue as a potential team divider. Back in 2005, I covered the U17 World Cup in Peru, which featured a number of Spanish-speaking players - the Farfan brothers, David Arvizu, Diego Restrepo - and one of their teammates expressed frustration that sometimes they spoke only in Spanish. He felt left out, and said it happened on the field on occasion as well.

Sunil says he's disappointed that it would ever be considered an issue, especially considering how so many of the top teams in the world - he mentions Barcelona - play well with a variety of languages and cultures. He assumes Wilmer will sometimes speak in Spanish to players who are comfortable in the language, but primarily will communicate in English.

Wilmer says the most important language is the language of soccer.

Someone asks Wilmer about the soccer differences between Colombia and the U.S. Wilmer says it is huge. Wilmer says that soccer is life - or survival for some Colombians. They have to succeed because they don't have other options. In the U.S., he points out, there are many options and education is better, so players aren't motivated the same way. They have to have a passion for the game to dedicate themselves to it.

Wilmer cites the large number of American kids who play soccer - and he mentions the freedom the game gives them versus the restrictions of other sports.

Sunil mentions that the hiring of Wilmer is also a concrete step for the Hispanic outreach initiative.

Sunil says the changes have elicited a range of reactions from the American soccer community. He says he's not trying to turn the world upside-down, but nudge it in a direction that encompasses more of the general society in the U.S. today.

Sunil also explains that a variety of characteristics led him to pick Cabrera for the job. His playing experience, his coaching philosophy, his bilingual skill and his experience with different cultures, especially the Latin community.

That's all folks. Podcast will be up later on the U.S. Soccer site for direct quotes.

Painful memory

Chivas USA lost in the first round last year. It was a tough loss that lingered with players for quite some time afterward.

If there is any good that can come out of that, it's that it serves as motivation for this year's postseason.

Winning women

I ranked who I think the top candidates are to replace Ryan. I'd say that there are also other contenders like Tom Sermanni, Mark Krikorian, and Jim Gabarra.

Gabarra could probably sympathize with Jerry Smith’s position as a coach who could possibly be eliminated from contention because of a spouse being a former national team member, since he is married to Carin Jennings-Gabarra. Granted, Carin retired quite a while ago, but she would still have ties to some players, like Kristine Lilly.

Actually, Gabarra has an advantage over Smith due to his recent pro experience from his time at the WUSA, as does another possible candidate, Mark Krikorian. But Smith's long record at Santa Clara could out weigh that.

All things considered, I still believe the female candidates hold the edge here. That's even without including Marika Domanski-Lyfors as a coaching possibility, though she could be a contender. But I belive Pia Sundhage has a decided advantage due to her American coaching experience. A candidate like Jillian Ellis also has comparable experience and achievement to Krikorian, Smith and Gabarra, with the added intangibles of being female and working more recently with the current player pool.

White rage

When Cuauhtemoc Blanco visited Chivas USA, he was knocked down inside the penalty area in stoppage time by Alex Zotinca. No foul was called and the game ended 1-1. After the game, Blanco was asked about the play and the officiating in general. He put his index finger to his mouth and said he doesn't comment on officiating, that we saw the play and we can comment on it. It was a typical response from him as he doesn't often talk about the referees after the match.

After Thursday's 1-0 win over DC United, Blanco finally talked about the officiating as Luis Arroyave reports.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The voodoo that you do

I'm trying to explain to a non-MLS friend how Chicago always beats DC in the playoffs. It defies logic, but it keeps happening.

Of course, the match isn't over yet, so this post could look very foolish soon.

Crystal ball is fixed

I pondered long and hard about my latest SI.com column. I previewed the MLS playoffs which start tonight as Chicago plays D.C. United. I didn't want to do a boring series-by-series preview. Instead, I wanted to break it down in terms of the teams I think have a shot of winning the cup and those who don't. It actually worked out pretty evenly between the contenders and the also-rans.

Still, given my recent run of making picks - which kicked off thanks to a poor weekend in Las Vegas recently - I hesitated. I went back and forth between picking who I thought would win it versus who a safe bet would be and I came up with a pick.

Anyway, let me know what you think about my picks and how I split the teams up.

Quid pro quo

Here's the article I mentioned yesterday.

My point about things like Germany not hiding the weights of its female players is that the Germans seem a lot more focused on treating both teams like professional athletes.

Eric Wynalda noticed another regard in which the women were unique - the fact that all the TV commentators for the women's game were inclined to be friendly and sympathetic to the players.

"I think it’s amazing that the network will hook up a satellite broadcast to see what Julie (Foudy) thinks of the men’s game, but when the women fall on their face, the boys aren’t allowed to comment."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

With a wonder and a wild desire

Chivas USA's desires are simple: glory or nothing.

The Good German

Jens Lehmann's situation as an analogy to Hope Solo's (though many things are different) was referenced in the comments of an earlier post.

I also got an email from Billy Witz, another soccer writer, about it.

I can't help but wonder if Greg Ryan were coaching
Arsenal, would Jens now be eating fish-n-chips by
himself off in the corner?

Both Eric Wynalda and another commenter mentioned that open opinion seems to be standard in German culture. Whatever the German philosophy is about tolerating dissention, it doesn't appear to have hobbled their national team performance in any way.

Anson not an option

Some people have mentioned Debbie Keller as a pre-Solo outcast of the women's team. It's not that I disagree, but I wasn't covering the women's team at the time. I defer to the observations of Scott French or Grant Wahl, who agree that Keller was a remarkable player who deserved more of a national team chance.

Grant, who was covering the women's team at the time, offers more details on the Solo/Keller parallel.

Grant's recounting of Keller's situation also touches on why Anson Dorrance won't be an option to coach the U.S. women again, at least not now. The lawsuit filed by Melissa Jennings is ongoing, though Dorrance settled with Keller in 2004.

Fresh air

The wildfires that are ravaging through Southern California are nowhere near Carson. But their remnants are.

Because of unhealthy air conditions caused by the wildfires, Chivas USA is heading to Kansas City one day early. Instead of leaving for KC on Friday, the club will leave tomorrow following training.

Like it's 1998

Greg Ryan may deny it, but at least one person thinks there are definite corrolations between the men's team in 1998 and the women's team this year.

That's Eric Wynalda, a key player on the Steve Sampson's World Cup squad.


I've got more of his views in an article coming out tomorrow, but here's a sampling:

"There are a lot of similarities to 1998."

"Solo was absolutely right. She’s getting all this heat for pointing out what was obvious to anyone in soccer. The story has become about her when she didn’t even play."

"I don’t believe the players on this team when they say that the goalkeeper switch wasn’t a distraction. I played on the team when the starting goalkeeper role was a toss-up between Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel, and it was definitely a distraction."

"I played in Germany, and it was pretty typical there for players to criticize each other and coaches as well. Players would bring that to the national team as well. That’s competitive sports. People have opinions. What’s done on the field is what matters most of all, not what’s said off the field."

Hacking it

John Hackworth moves on to assist Bradley with the full national team.

Does anyone think John Ellinger will take up the U17 post again?

There's certainly precedent. Both Sigi Schmid and Thomas Rongen returned to youth national team coaching positions (the U20 squad) after being let go by their MLS teams.

Ante's tale

Ante Razov was on the TV show Extra on Monday. Television crews came out to training about a month or so ago to shoot a segment on him for one of their "Most Eligible Bachelors" segments and it aired on Monday.

That's not why we chased him down yesterday. Actually, I talked to him on Saturday (not about his bachelor status) and Ivan Orozco of the Daily News was among those who chatted with him on Tuesday (like me, he talked to him about his knee).

Where do we go now?

The San Diego Union-Tribune's Mark Zeigler takes a look at some of the leading candidates to take over for Greg Ryan.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Greg speaks

Okay, actually he sent an e-mail to the Associated Press. But nevertheless, Greg Ryan discusses his ouster as USWNT coach.

Panchito returns

Francisco Mendoza hasn't played a game for a while but he returned to training today and slipped right in. He showed no signs of any setbacks and should be ready to go on Saturday.

Absent three


One of these players said he'd start on Saturday. The other is expected to play. The other hopes to play at some point during the playoffs, though it won't be Saturday.

Promising return


Ante Razov is not going to play on Saturday but don't count him out of the postseason just yet.

Bonnie's View

On the recent USWNT goings-on.

I've read Bonnie's stuff for a while now, but I hadn't met her until the 2006 World Cup, where she went out of her way to be nice to me.

"You ask good questions," Bonnie complimented me after a press conference.

I have to say, it was one of the highlights of my World Cup trip.

Freddy off the bench

Yeah, I know this was a couple of days ago, but I hadn't seen Freddy Adu's latest goal for Benfica until now. It's a pretty good one. Hopefully, it will earn him more playing time. He's going to need some to make the Olympic team next year.

Monday, October 22, 2007

More from Gulati

Some quotes from Sunil Gulati. The entire quote sheet will be up on US Soccer's web site later in the day but for now here are a couple of quotes that I'll put up on here.

On the review process:

We weighed up everything that took place principally in the last 45 days… and partially over the last couple of years. The highlight of those two years of effort and training and preparation is the last 30 days in China.

I’m not going to point to any one fact or any one individual decision. Obviously coaching decisions impact games and all of that was weighed in but I’m not going to try and put a percentage on any particular result or decision.

On hiring a woman:

Obviously we have the national team led by April Heinrichs for a number of years and prior to that we’ve only had men coaches. We will certainly be talking in the next two to three weeks with some female candidates but we’ll have the best coach we can for the national team. If that’s a woman, that would be terrific.

On the different levels of expectations between the men’s and women’s teams:

We do bring a different level of expectations and standard to the women’s program. My guess is that if we would have gotten to the World Cup final in Germany, aside from the immediate disappointment, we would have said ‘Wow. That was pretty terrific.’ Whereas in our women’s program because of the excellence that group has achieved over time, the expectations are much higher and frankly the players and our fans and everyone else knows that we’re not going to win every game but the expectation is that we’re going to be competing for a gold medal virtually every time we’re in a competition.

On Greg Ryan’s 45-1-9 record:

Greg’s record over the last two years is very good in terms of the winning percentages it’s probably the best we’ve had. All of our coaches because of the dominant status of our team obviously have very high percentages but even within that, Greg’s has been very, very good including against top-level teams.

The end of the process, which is the Beijing part of it and those 30 days there for a number of different reasons, it’s not just about one result obviously it’s the only loss Greg has had depending on how we view penalty-kick competitions in tournaments but I think we also were concerned about some of the performance in games we may have won or tied as well as the overall assessment of the program was and based on all of that we came to a decision that we wanted to make a change.

Greg Ryan status

I'm on hold for the USSF conference call. They're playing peppy swing/big band music. I'm not sure if that's a sign.

It's now officially time for this shindig to start, but the band is still playing. It could be victory music - it could be the last song on the Titanic.

Greg Ryan is out as coach.

Sunil Gulati made it official in his opening statement. No replacement coach is named yet. A search committee has been set up - Mia Hamm is part of it. A coach will be picked in about a month.

Grant Wahl has the first question - Gulati answered it generally about the entire program needing evaluation and review.

Christine Brennan asked about the impact of the goalkeeper decision - Sunil doesn't want to point to one event. Sunil says some female candidates are in the running, but won't promise that a woman will get the job.

Filip Bondy asks, given Ryan's record, why it wasn't considered good enough. Sunil answered that there are different expectations for this team as compared to the men, compared to the past record of success. He acknowledged the excellence of Ryan's record, but he said that the World Cup performances were concerning.

Sunil says he has talked with members of the team, but won't say that Ryan ever "lost the team".

Sunil acknowledges that Brazil is ahead of the U.S., at least technically. He maintains that the U.S. hasn't so much fallen off as many other teams have caught up.

Bonnie Ford wants to know about Sunil's reaction to Solo's being ostracized by her team. He says he believes that some people involved in the situation might do things differently if they could. Sunil says both men's and women's teams have had issues in the past, but they have been handled internally.

Sunil says he will consider foreign candidates for the coaching job. He does point out that they're looking for someone who knows American players and has coached at a high level, because the Olympics are around the corner. He stresses the time issue.

Steve Goff wants to know about Tony DiCicco as a possibility. Sunil says that he doesn't want to discuss specific candidates yet, given some have job status issues with other teams.

Sunil says Mia was picked to represent the players on the decision committee. She was at the top of the list and agreed "enthusiastically" when asked.

Representing the LA crew, Grahame Jones, asked about Ryan's reaction. Dan Flynn takes this one, says Ryan was disappointed.

Sunil says that Solo is not suspended from the team in any way. The USSF has no issues with her, but it will be up to the new coach to decide in what goalkeeping direction to go.

Steve Davis asked about the timing. Sunil answers that it had to be decided quickly, because the Olympics is coming up soon.

Mike Woitalla asks about how most of the coaches at the World Cup were female.

I'm up.

Here's part of what Sunil says to my question.

"The ultimate job of a coach is to give us the best opportunity to succeed."

"Secondly, we need to see progress."

Can anyone guess what I asked?

Anyway, no more updates. I have to drop out of the call, but the entire thing will be podcast on the US Soccer site later.

Real Salt Lake strikes

Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA were at the same level at the end of '05. But two years later, Chivas is the western champs while Real Salt Lake is still pretty terrible.

Part of the difference I think is that Chivas bagged a gem with their first-ever draft choice while RSL did not. Brad Guzan is a leading candidate for Goalkeeper of the Year while Nik Besagno played 88 minutes this year. Also, Chivas got serious about rebuilding before the '06 season while RSL's first coach made it to the start of this season.

There are some good building blocks in RSL but the club might need more drastic changes to be a true contender.

Here are their top goals from 2006.


More on Hope

Small tidbit.

And a bit on the upcoming USSF conference call.

Check back here at 1pm Pacific. We'll keep you posted.

Clasico-free playoffs

The Galaxy did not win on Sunday and thus did not set up a first-round Super Clasico playoff series. Several Chivas USA members, including club owner Antonio Cue, were hoping for the Galaxy to win so that could have happened. Instead, the Galaxy's season is over and Kansas City awaits.

A couple of us talked to Jesse Marsch after Saturday's game about the Galaxy and here's what he had to say about the now-dead series.

"The one thing that would scare you about the Galaxy is that they've been on a bit of a roll. Even if you say they haven't been playing great, they've still been getting results. Now seven teams in a row have been bit by that kind of recipe. You watch them play sometimes and it's not like it's great but they walk away with three points. That scares you a little bit about the Galaxy."

"Certainly Landon is a big-game player. He's proven in the league that he's a big-game player."

"(David Beckham) is a major factor. When he got on the field, the momentum changed completely. It went from being New York's possession and New York's game to all of the sudden the Galaxy's... He started putting some passes together. They started getting some corner kicks and a couple of them were short but they were in their half more when he got on the field. He's a great passer and that's going to help any team out."

A crashing end

The Galaxy's season came to an end on Sunday in Chicago thanks to John Thorrington's late winner.

David Beckham, Frank Yallop, Joe Cannon and Landon Donovan all chime in on where the team goes from here.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Award winners

After much thought and analysis, reading up and reviewing, I submitted my votes for the respective league awards.

I expect that not everyone will agree with me, so please feel free to tell me where I let you down. Or let me know how you agree with me.

I had to submit a first-, second- and third-place vote for each category. Some categories only had a select group of players to vote from while others were open to any player in the league. The Best XI was a bit strange. I had penciled Blanco in as a midfielder but he was listed as a forward so that threw me off.

Most Valuable Player: Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Juan Pablo Angel, Luciano Emilio.

Coach of the Year: Preki, Tom Soehn, Juan Carlos Osorio

Defender of the Year: Claudio Suarez, Eddie Robinson, Shavar Thomas

Goalkeeper of the Year: Brad Guzan, Pat Onstad, Matt Reis

Rookie of the Year: Maurice Edu, Robbie Findley, Dane Richards

MLS Fair Play Award: Terry Cooke, Eddie Gaven, Todd Dunivant

Comeback Player of the Year: Eddie Johnson, Adrian Serioux, Gavin Glinton

Referee of the Year: Abbey Okulaja, Jair Marrufo, Brian Hall

Newcomer of the Year: Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Juan Pablo Angel, Maykel Galindo

Best XI
(3-5-2 formation)
Brad Guzan
Claudio Suarez
Eddie Robinson
Shavar Thomas
Steve Ralston
Juan Carlos Toja
Guillermo Barros Schelotto
Christian Gomez
Sacha Kljestan
Cuauhtemoc Blanco
Juan Pablo Angel

Last of Bueno's Rankings

1. D.C. United (16-7-7). Only Eastern team to end season with loss.
2. Chivas USA (15-7-8). No. 9's message: "I will play during the 2007 playoffs."
3. Houston (15-8-7). A chink in the armor: Dynamo failed to score up a man for 50 minutes with conference title on line.
4. Chicago (10-10-10). If there's any justice, Blanco will win MVP.
5. New England (14-8-8). Uninsipiring come-from-ahead draw at a bad Toronto team.
6. New York (12-11-7). A new wrinkle with this franchise: club has life entering the postseason.
7. Kansas City (11-12-7). Pieced together solid end-of-season effort for a change.
8. FC Dallas (13-12-5). Annual slump entering playoffs in full effect.
9. Los Angeles (9-14-7). At least Cannon gives a shit.
10. Columbus (9-11-10). Better than their record indicates.
11. Colorado (9-13-8). Seriously, does anyone on this team care about anything?
12. Real Salt Lake (6-15-9). Ended the season on a high.
13. Toronto FC (6-17-7). So do they get a pass on leaving players unprotected? On second thought, not much worth protecting.

All that's left

The Galaxy's season ended in September and then all of the sudden found new life before it finally died when John Thorrington scored in stoppage time today.

But there were some highlights during this season. Here are the top 10 goals for the 2007 LA Galaxy.



By the way, major props to Climbing the Ladder for compiling these videos on each MLS team.

Joltin' Joe

The always colorful Joe Cannon describing Sunday's game:

I almost felt like we were a second division or a pub team and they were Chelsea.

On edge

I can't remember the last time I was literally on the edge of my seat for 90 minutes during a regular-season MLS game as I was today during Galaxy-Fire. There was so much drama and so many big plays throughout the match. I kept expecting the Galaxy to score. It kinda had a feel to it, like the one team has 95 percent of the chances but either gets stoned by the goalie or misses wide-open shots and then the other team just gets a goal from out of nowhere. It happens and I thought it would happen today.

I remember during the first half telling my wife that a lot of MLS players lack touch, that you don't see players able to chip the goalie with a soft touch too often. I think I told her that when Wilman Conde took a shot right at Joe Cannon in the second half. To his defense, I told her that Conde wasn't a forward but still.

So of course the game-winner was exactly on the kind of shot you don't see too often in MLS as John Thorrington hit a soft shot over Cannon on a late breakaway.

Credit to Chicago for turning around their season and getting into the playoffs. Sucks for DC United that they get Blanco and Co. in the first round but that's the MLS playoffs for you.

As for my prognosticating skills, I think I'll keep my yap shut from now on. My kisses are deadly these days. Well, actually, I am writing the MLS playoff preview for SI.com so I guess I'll have to pick someone. Crap.

Any requests? Should I pick DC to win both the Shield and the Cup? Or should I pick Houston to repeat? Or anyone else?

Playoff schedule

Chivas USA vs Kansas City Wizards
1st Leg: at KC, Saturday Oct. 27, 5:30 pt
2nd Leg: at Chivas, Saturday Nov. 3, 7:30 pt

Houston vs FC Dallas
1st Leg: at FC Dallas, Saturday Oct. 27, 6 pt
2nd Leg: at Houston, Friday Nov 3, 6:30 pt

DC United vs Chicago Fire
1st Leg: at Chicago, Thursday Oct 25, 5:30 pt
2nd Leg: at DC United, Thursday Nov 1, 4:30 pt

New England vs New York
1st Leg: at New York, Saturday Oct 27, 4:30 pt
2nd Leg: at New England, Saturday Nov 3, 4:30 pt

Fire Galaxy Running Blog

Wow, there's an actual pregame show for this game on Fox. The Fox guys don't seem to realize that Gavin Glinton isn't in the starting line-up just because he's playing well, but also because Kyle Martino is out on yellow card accumulation.

Frank is interviewed, says this is a tough game, that the Fire are playing well, but it's great to have the playoff chance come down to one game.

Frank says, "We'll see." as far as getting David Beckham on. As I predicted, he's not in the starting lineup.

The Fox announcers just suggested Frank for Coach of the Year - yikes - what are they thinking. Frank is doing well to hold on to his job.

Now they're doing a Cobi Jones tribute, but they just called him CJ. Excuse me, but CJ is the Fire guy. I'm switching over to TeleFutura as soon as they start coverage.

YAY! Telefutura is on and they are already pimping this match as Blanco versus Donovan. I have a few quotes from Landon on that exact topic.

It’s going to be fun. I probably won’t be near him at all, but it will be fun. I’m excited. No, (I haven't told other Galaxy players what to expect from Blanco) but I will. I think most guys know him and watch him and know what he’s about. You’ve got to be careful with all his antics and what he does. I have to assume that our guys know what they’re doing.

Here's what Mike Randolph said.

I’m looking forward to that a lot, especially since they have Blanco up top. He brings a lot to the table. I’m excited about the game and what it means to the franchise, my teammates and Cobi. We’ll be ready to go.

Toyota Park looks great.

1 - Wow, Rolfe with the early shot. He could be the overlooked big factor in this match. Corner for Fire.

2- Another corner for the Fire. They've come out on fire.

3 - Fire definitely look like they're playing for the win and to bury the Galaxy. Wanchope on an open counter. Cannon takes it off his foot. Wanchope complains, but the announcers agree it was clean - no foul.

4 - Dasan Robinson, down holding his head. Fire dominant early, and Blanco hasn't really been involved.

6 - Juan Carlos Osorio has his tie tucked in funny - like he's eating soup. I guess it's windy out there. Frank Yallop has his suit jacket on. Osorio is a super-animated coach.

7 - Glinton in the box. Oops slipped. Pavon slipped, too.

9 - Galaxy with a little better control in the midfield. The announcers are asking where was Josh Tudela in the beginning of the season. Actually, he was with the team, but not getting playing time. Corner for Galaxy, Pavon (I think) missed the volley chance.

10- It is windy. The announcers are making gone with the wind jokes. Blanco with an outside shot. Cannon tips over, corner for Fire, cleared for a deep free throw.

12 - Another corner for the Fire. Blanco takes short, then serves into box, headed around, eventually out for goal kick.

15 - Cobi on the right gets a corner with hard work. It's cleared out. A Chicago counter comes to Cannon. This game is end to end action, good ad for MLS so far. The Galaxy have put hardly any pressure on Matt Pickens, though, while Cannon has been up against it.

17 - Barrett offsides. Donovan is on the wing, not really his best spot. He's been struggling a bit. The entire Galaxy midfield, actually. Randolph saved what looked like a Barrett break there.

20 - Blanco is arguing offsides with the ref. Game has settled down a bit. The announcers are worried that Blanco is losing his head. He's just getting fired up, guys.

21 - Now the announcers are complaining about how crappy the MLS refs are - they say that they tolerate all sorts of contact.

22 - Cannon saves the Galaxy! Blanco free kick finds CJ Brown, who heads on goal, but Joe just gets a hand on it to get it over the bar. WOW.

25 - The announcers are mocking Barrett, he had a weak pass up front that ruined a break.

27 - The Fire are closing in on the Galaxy goal - working the ball around for chances. The Galaxy are defending like crazy, but essentially possessing the ball almost none of the time.

29 - Now the announcers are impressed by how long Cobi has lasted and the fact that he is still a starter. Landon is so far back he seems like he's playing defender.

32 - Cobi passes into the ref - Chicago wins the ball back. The break nearly yields a scoring chance for the Fire. Now they have a corner. Blanco is talking to Barett about something. He probably wants him to pass. Gonzalo Segares takes the corner, which is headed over the bar for a goal kick.

35 - Now the announcers are talking about how Osorio has orchestrated a great turn around for the Fire. True dat.

36 - Vagenas and Blanco in a spat. Not sure what happened. No replay of the foul yet. Ok, they finally showed it. Blanco took Pete out with a tackle, and Vagenas looked to step on him, then came over and pushed his shoulder when Blanco rolled around complaining. One announcer is sure the step was accidental, but thinks Pete shouldn't have gone over to Blanco.

39 - Cobi bad pass leads to Fire counter, Blanco leads, has shot chance - Cannon comes up big again with the save.

41 - Damn! Barrett misses a practically open goal. Wilman Conde great long pass to Blanco, who sends a perfect pass to Barrett, who beats a diving Cannon, but puts it over the bar.

43 - The announcers keep calling Donovan "the captain-general" of the team. He's only seen the ball on defense it seems. Blanco with another great pass to Chris Rolfe, who slams it over the bar.

44 - The announcer and I are giving Cannon credit for the last two Fire misses. When a goalkeeper plays so well, opponents start to put too much on their chances. On the other hand, a tie, if Cannon does get the shutout, won't save the Galaxy. They have to score.

Halftime - forget Blanco versus Donovan or Beckham. It's been Blanco versus Cannon (and maybe Barrett versus his nerves)- and a draw only helps Chicago.

The announcers are fawning over the play of the Fire and Blanco, but along with the compliments are chastizing them for not putting away chances. Highlights are all Chicago, as well they should be. Barrett is getting roasted for his miss.

Interestingly, the news update is all about a bad fire in Malibu. Hmmmm

Beckham looked antsy on the bench during the game. I wonder if he and Frank planned on him playing the entire second half. I wonder if he'll come in on the right.

2nd half

2 - Telefutura starts the clock over in the second half, which drives me nuts, but I'm not going to do the math to figure out the overall time, so I'll go with it. The Galaxy actually had the ball for a bit there. Randolph is playing well.

4 - Landon with a free kick, but it's pretty far out. Pickens collects. Oh, that's what he looks like. Cannon has his lucky dark blue shirt on. It's working so far.

5- Prus lets some manhandling of Cobi by Blanco go.

8 - Cannon again takes the ball off Barrett's foot again. Announcers agree no foul. Landon nearly reaches Glinton for a counter chance.

9 - Rolfe with a shot. Cannon save. Rolfe muggs Chris Klein and then tried to draw the foul, but Prus makes a good call there. It kills the announcers to admit it, but they do.

10 - Corner for the Galaxy - Donovan takes. Cleared away - Ante Jazic breaks up the Fire counter.

12 - Now the announcers are speculating if the Fire are playing for the tie. They do look like they've taken their foot off the gas. Beckham getting ready to check in. Fans boo.

15 - Beckham is on for Vagenas and the play is completely bypassing him. He looks a bit lost. The Galaxy actually play the ball well out of the back for once, but Jones is whistled for offsides just when the break starts to look dangerous.

17 - Glinton down. Buddle coming in, Pause out, Thorrington coming in. The Galaxy cut him earlier this year - wonder if he'll get a chance for revenge.

18 - Beckham still hasn't touched the ball. The Fire without about three chances to score on their latest attack. Cannon saves one, one is blocked, and the other goes out for a corner which is finally cleared.

20 - Announcers discuss the rising quality of MLS and how many players on the field have played in World Cups.

22- Scramble in front of the Galaxy goal. Galaxy players miss about eight chances to clear. Beckham looks tentative, announcers say. A free kick finally gives him a chance to play, but it's far out. Still, he serves a decent ball to Pavon, who puts it over the bar.

24 - Blanco is mad that Tudela wasn't called for a foul for a tackle.

25 -- Galaxy breakaway, but Pavon shoots over the bar.

26 - One announcer maintains that Blanco tripped himself to get a free kick, but it works and is in a great spot. Strangely, he doesn't take it. Segares does, and puts it over the bar.

28 - Galaxy sub, Alan Gordon on for Josh Tudela. Yallop is throwing everyone forward.

30 - Cannon saves another shot on a Fire counter, this time from Wanchope. Osorio is covering his eyes.

31 - Corner kick for Galaxy. Buddle couldn't connect well and ball is out for GK.

32 - Galaxy with another attack that ends in a Beckham shot over the bar.

34 - Fire counter - Thorrington shoots, Cannon parries for corner. Chicago can taste the playoffs now.

36 - Wanchope sits, Soumare in. Blanco earns a free kick by holding the ball near the corner. It's dangerous, and this one he takes. He shoots for the goal. Cannon saves again.

37 - Now Cobi earns a free kick deep in Fire territory. Troy Roberts nearly gets to Beckham's service. He complains that he was held by Dasan Robinson and the announcers agree, but the ref missed it. No PK.

40 - Big fuss in the box on the Galaxy corner. Pickens is rolling around, saying he got hit. It finally gets sorted out with a goal kick, but Pickens is not happy. I think Buddle thinks of it as payback for the way he was shouldered off the ball on the play before.

44 - Chicago holding on, the Galaxy pressing for the goal. Chicago is putting everyone behind the ball for the tie. Klein earns a foul, Beckham takes, it's cleared.

45 - We're into injury time now. The Fire sub in Calen Carr. That's not exactly a defensive move.

I guess I called it on Thorrington. He gets his revenge. Bad Galaxy backpass gets cut off and since everyone is forward, they pay bigtime. Thorrington has all the time in the world to chip Cannon.

Fulltime

Galaxy lose, and the Fire will play DC. KC will face Chivas USA.

Heads up

Hi all, I'm not in Chicago, but I'll be watching the game on TeleFutura and doing a running blog here. Hopefully Jaime Cardenas, who is in the Windy City, will chime in with a few comments.

I thought it would be fun to run a contest for the game, so I've decided to announce another giveaway.

The prize is this Galaxy lunchbox, (shipping charges do apply, sorry, overseas fans).
The winner will be the person who correctly guesses the final score of the Chicago/Galaxy game, including who scores the goals. If there are duplicate correct answers, the first one with the right prediction in the comments is the winner. They're time-stamped, so that will be the decider.

I realize non-Galaxy fans probably don't want the lunchbox, but I don't have a lot of other stuff from different teams to give away. We might have a Chivas USA contest soon, though, so keep checking back for that one.

Only one entry per person, please. Everyone is eligible (our last giveaway was won by adam), so send your guesses in.

El Rey Nkong

While Colorado struggled futility in front of the goal on Saturday, Alain Nkong buried a beautiful strike against Chivas de Guadalajara on Saturday.


Whitewash

"David who?"

Award winners, first set

I've decided on my Goalkeeper of the Year. Big shock, but I'm going with Brad Guzan. He's been the best 'keeper in the league this season for many reasons. First, his 13 shutouts are the second-most single-season total in MLS history. He's a commanding presence on Chivas' backline and has come up with the big save time and time again.

Preki also gets my vote for Coach of the Year. Few gave Chivas a chance in the preseason. Paco Palencia and Juan Pablo Garcia were gone and with the inexperienced Preki in charge, many predicted doom. Then, the Amado Guevara situation also prompted fears that many to think that Preki didn't know how to handle players. But Chivas USA won the Western Conference. In the end, it may look like Chivas limped across the finish line but they turned away a determined Dynamo team, one of the team's biggest nemesis, to win the conference.

If Chicago wins or ties today, I'm picking Cuauhtemoc Blanco for my Most Valuable Player. Otherwise, Juan Pablo Angel gets the nod.

I'm still trying to sort out my Best XI. So far, I've penciled in Brad Guzan, Juan Pablo Angel, Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Luciano Emilio. The formation is a 3-5-2 so we'll see where I plug in other players.

Historic draw

I wrote before the three-game series versus Mexico that the games would probably be more useful for that squad than for the U.S. It certainly seems that the female El Tri team learned some important lessons - they managed a tie versus the U.S. for the first time in 22 matches.

Granted, the U.S. squad was greatly affected by defensive injuries, and the game was a meaningless friendly, but it doesn't bode well for the US team and their Olympic dreams that a non-World Cup team could play them even.

It's time to give Mexico credit, though, because this is a squad definitely putting in the difficult legwork to prepare themselves for the Olympics. They took their full squad to the Pan-American games (which I think the U.S. should have done - especially since it probably would have given them an early crack at Brazil - much better to take a loss there, perhaps, and learn how to avoid that in the World Cup, for example), they lined up a difficult series with the U.S., and they've managed a lead versus the U.S. in two out of three of those games. In the final one, the defense hung on for a result.

They didn't even have all their top players here - compared to the U.S. No MariGol, no teen phenom Verónica Charlyn Corral, no Iris Mora. Monica Ocampo may now be the team's top player, though. She's great on the ball, full of nifty moves.

Briana Scurry was in goal for this latest match, but a number of other U.S. players were out due to what seems like a sprained ankle epidemic.

Checking in from Chicago

The LA Times' Jaime Cardenas is in Chicago for the Galaxy-Fire match. His trip wasn't a waste after all thanks to Colorado's loss on Saturday.

Jaime checks in with his story for the Times as well as some other notes from his blog.

SJ GM at HDC

John Doyle was spotted at Home Depot Center on Saturday. The new general manager of the San Jose Earthquakes, Doyle was spotted chatting with Chivas coach Preki and Houston boss Dominic Kinnear.

Preki told Doyle not to take any of his players and Doyle said he'd only go after the good ones.

One who cares

Jim Alexander cares.

A veteran writer who has covered plenty of MLB, NFL and NBA games in the past, Jim makes it out to soccer occasionally and doesn't act like he'd rather be elsewhere.

He turned out for the season finale at Home Depot Center last night and as far as I could tell was the only non-regular out there.

Jim tackles the now-age-old question about the interest surrounding Chivas USA.

Defeated Dynamo

Houston didn't lose on Saturday at Chivas USA and their position in the Western Conference table didn't change.

But the defending champs failed to beat a 10-man Chivas side to secure the conference title. After the match, their locker room was somber, to say the least. I poked my head in there after leaving Chivas' more joyful dressing room and I heard no noise emanating from Visitor Locker #2.

Here's my brother Danny's reaction story for MLSnet.com. Danny's new nickname, incidentally, is Colin Walsh.

All the way

Who would have thought after Houston beat the Galaxy 3-1 on Sept. 16 that the season finale in Chicago would mean something?

I guess we should have all expected the Galaxy to do this. After all, this is the third consecutive year the club has hit the jets late in the season after doing little in the beginning part of the year. Even with an all new cast and crew, the Galaxy is still piecing together a late-season run.

In 2005, the Galaxy translated that into an MLS Cup title. Last year, the club fell short of the playoffs but were playing some of the best soccer in the league by year's end.

This season, the Galaxy's seven-game unbeaten streak hasn't been filled with lopsided wins. But wins are wins and the Galaxy's compiling them at breakneck speed.

Today comes another one. Chicago hasn't lost a home game since the dark days of 2007, aka the pre-Blanco era. But the Galaxy has their swagger back and that has taken them a long way before.

Galaxy 2, Chicago 1.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Scenarios for Chivas

Chivas USA won the west and now will await the result of Chicago-Los Angeles to see who they get.

It's actually pretty straightforward.

If Chicago wins, it's Chivas-Kansas City.

If Chicago and LA tie, it's Chivas-Chicago.

If Los Angeles wins, it's Chivas-Galaxy.

The away leg would be at KC on Saturday, at Chicago on Thursday or against the Galaxy on Sunday. The home leg is likely set for Saturday, Nov. 3.

Could've used him

While Colorado bowed out quietly, former Rapids striker Alain Nkong scored a clutch goal in Mexico.

Nkong scored a late equalizer as Atlante tied Chivas 1-1 in Guadalajara on Saturday.

CHV-HOU running blog

I probably won't have time to blog the whole match, but here goes some.

Notes: This match will decide who finishes atop the Western conference and wins home field advantage for the playoffs.

Dylan Hernandez, who covered the San Jose Earthquakes for years, is in the house - the stands, that is, not the press box. He's a baseball writer for the LA Times now, but I'm guessing he still has a soft spot for Dom and his boys.

Houston must win to take finish first in the West. Chivas USA only needs to tie.

Laurent Merlin won the battle to start for the injured Ante Razov. He was my pick on that count all along - he's just more polished on the field than John Cunliffe, usually.


Joe Ngwenya and Brian Ching are up front for Houston.

I've been distracted from the match entirely by the conversation about possible playoff scenarios. The sure thing is that if Chivas USA loses tonight, they're playing FC Dallas. If they win, there are still numerous possibilities to be settled on Sunday, depending on the result of the Colorado game.

Oh, and Jesse Marsch is out due to a right groin strain.

13 - Galindo with a good run to get into the box, but the Houston defense shuts him down before he can get a shot off.

15. Houston is carrying more of the possession, but Chivas USA has looked more dangerous on their counter opportunities.

* Sorry everyone - I had computer problems and couldn't keep up the blog at all. Apologies.

Wishing and hoping

And thinking, and praying

Some Galaxy players, fans and coaches might be cultivating ulcers watching games on Saturday.

Frank Yallop

I’ll be watching the internet or the games, definitely watching them live. They are a bit nerve-wracking. Sometimes it’s not good to watch them but you have to watch them, because that’s what it is. We’ll be watching and hoping that there are some good results for us and that we can really look forward to Sunday.

Ante Jazic
I probably won’t watch. We’ll be in our hotel or something, and I’lll probably go for a walk. I don’t really want to watch those kind of matches.

Landon Donovan

We watched last week. We said we weren’t going to watch last week, but you’re sitting in your room and you have to watch, so I guess we’ll probably watch. It is nerve-wracking. It takes a lot out of you.

Llew the legend

Llew Llewellyn doesn't go to post-game press conferences with just a recorder. He often totes a little rolling case with all his media supplies, usually because he leaves for home after interviews instead of returning to the press box to file stories.

I've been saved more than once by Llew when I've discovered too late that I forgot to change the batteries in my recorder. He always has a spare set.

To thank him, I try to bring any commemerative soccer pins I come across back to Llew - who collects them. I brought him one from the World Cup, for example.

It may be that I'll soon be working games in LA without my safety net. As Cobi Jones descended the podium after the press conference following what will likely be his final regular season game, Llew mentioned that he's also probably worked his final Galaxy game.

He's got a trip around the world that he's put off for some time, not to mention book and music projects he's been waiting to tackle.

All the best wishes to one of the best.

Thanks, Llew.

Los Tres

Chivas USA will put the finishing touches on what has been a strong campaign this season. Win or lose, the club will have set plenty of new regular-season highs.

To think, just three seasons ago Chivas USA was the laughingstock of the entire league.

I took the time to reflect back a bit on 2005 for my Press-Enterprise story this morning. I wrote about the three remaining members from the 2005 squad: Orlando Perez, Brad Guzan and Francisco Mendoza.

If you'd have asked me at the start of the 2005 season to pick three players who would have lasted the longest with the team, I probably wouldn't have picked that trio. Sure, Guzan seemed a no-brainer because he was the first draft choice and all but the other two weren't a given. Mendoza wasn't the most highly-regarded player brought up from Mexico while Perez was a journeyman at best.

I might have thought Isaac Romo or Hector Cuadros would have outlasted Mendoza. I might have put those two with Guzan as the final three. Or Christian Jimenez because he was a young, talented local kid. Or Arturo Torres for the same reason.

Instead, those guys are all gone, all just part of a bad first-year team.

Mendoza has been the best of the original eight the club brought up from Mexico... well, one of the two best. Luis Alonso "Negro" Sandoval has also gone on to succeed. He had a successful spell with Jaguares and even earned a call to the Mexican national team in December 2005. But Sandoval jumped ship in early March, just left to Guadalajara on a weekend trip and decided not to return.

Panchito blossomed into a standout at Chivas USA. Panchito became a fixure under Bob Bradley a year ago and has become one of the club's key players. The losing was hard on everyone the first year but it didn't bring down his spirits any.

"Believe me, I’ve enjoyed every one of Chivas’ three seasons and I’m extremely happy because of that," Mendoza told me.

He's still got room to improve and could be an even more important part of the team next year but Mendoza has come a long way in a short amount of time.

Like Panchito, Guzan has been a fixture with the team. Martin Zuniga was supposed to be the starting goalkeeper the first year but an arm injury in preseason sidetracked those plans. Guzan was tossed into the frey prematurely and was the brunt of many first-year jokes. But he showed quickly that he could play and by the team he was benched in favor of a healthy Zuniga in May, many including myself protested. Zuniga played because he was healthy, not because of Brad's improving play.

Eventually Guzan got the starting job back. He won the praise of Thomas Rongen and Hans Westerhof and first-year goalkeeping coach Javier "Zully" Ledesma. Sure, Guzan gave up a ton of goals that year but he wasn't really in a position to do otherwise. The defense was bad but it was all because of the abysmal formation/scheme/tactics/mindset. Rafa Marquez would have been hard-pressed to keep that defense intact. The three-man backline was a recipe for disaster.

Still, taking all that abuse, both on and off the field, only made Guzan stronger.

"It’s been good to be part of the club since Day One," Brad said. "It’s a good feeling to be able to experience the highs and lows. Obviously the lows have helped me become the player that I am. Without Chivas USA, who knows where I’d be?"

Of the three, Perez surprises me the most. The first year, he was in the same category as Ezra Hendrickson and Francisco Gomez, guys who had played in MLS before and had something to offer. I would have ranked Perez third in terms of value in that group, but again he outlasted Hendrickson and Gomez. EZ was dealt early in '06 and Gomez vanished during the preseason as well.

Perez stuck around. He is a useful player because he is versatile and knows his role on the team.

"Me, Brad and Panchito, we’ve been here from the beginning," Perez told me recently. "We’ve been through it all, the bad times and the good times and I think that our hard work and dedication paid off for us. There have been many players in and out and we’ve seemed to do what we got to do to stick around."