Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Two late daggers

Just when it looked like America was going to down to Brazil with a shot of advancing to the Copa Libertadores quarterfinals, disaster struck.

Twice.

Flamengo scored goals in the 88th and 90th minutes to beat America 4-2 in Estadio Azteca. Flamengo now needs just a draw to knock out America and move on in the Copa Libertadores. Even a one-goal loss would see the Brazilians through to the next round.

America's lone saving grace this year was Copa Libertadores. The league campaign has been the worst-ever in their storied history. And now the club's poor form has finally carried over internationally.

Hi Dave

Dave Denholm gives me quick shout-out on his latest podcast. Incidentally, he's also invited me back to guest on his show sometime soon, so keep an ear out for that.

Car Talk

Forbes has a bit here on the cars soccer stars drive, and they mention that they don't actually know what is David Beckham's latest model of Porsche.

Well, it's not often that this blog will ever scoop Forbes, but I saw Beckham in his ride just last week pulling out of the parking lot (he gave a little wave).

So I can reveal to our readers exclusively that the car. . .

Is black.

I'm not holding back, I just don't know that much about cars to remember what differentiates one model from another. It was a black convertible Porsche. Very shiny.

In my defense, I don't write much about cars.

Hale shoma chetori?

A while back, I was asked about whether the Galaxy were really working on scheduling a friendly match with Iran's national team.

Well, they are trying to put that together.

A Galaxy tour to the Middle East is also on the horizon.

Springsteen's also partial to redheads. . .

This story has been out for a while, but this particular spin on it made me laugh.

The beat goes on. . .

I'm sure people can guess which soccer moment makes this list, but #15 is also a special one for me.

Much Ado about Dan

Yesterday when I talked to him, Ruud Gullit didn't seem to understand the fuss that kicked up about the Galaxy ticket rep that was brought in for a recent reserve game, as reported by the Times of London. (By the way, Ruud has no fear about shaking up developmental systems he believes aren't working.)

We had one game where somebody in the office had to play. That’s just a statement that it happened, nothing else. The club is working on that. They asked me what has been a surprise and that has been a surprise, but it’s not a big deal. The interview was about what more than that, but they pick out one thing. I think that many teams are struggling with the reserve teams. We’ll try to make it better, bring it attention, and maybe accelerate that process.

The ticket service rep called in to help the shorthanded Galaxy reserve team, Dan Cerwinske, was a college teammate (Dayton) of Chris Rolfe, the Chicago Fire star, (Chris writes a blog, too) and he still plays in a local league. I actually met Dan the day I grabbed a beer with fellow reporter Martin Rogers. Dan looked to be in decent shape - and I can attest to his bonafides as a Galaxy enthusiast, because he was wearing an Angel City Brigade T-shirt that evening. Apparently, Dan can help patrons purchase passes (310-630-2221 dcerwinske@lagalaxy.com) and also play on the pitch.

Not to say that there shouldn't be a better reserve player system, of course. That's across the board for MLS, but I also remember when the system first came into existence. That was 2005, and before that, there were no reserve teams or games at all.

Hans on Bravo: Now or never

Mexican sports daily Cancha spoke with Hans Westerhof recently about Chivas forward Omar Bravo, whose contract runs out at the end of the season. Bravo has longed for a move to Europe but such a move has been reportedly squashed by Chivas management time and again.

Westerhof told Cancha that "it's now or never."

The former Chivas de Guadalajara and Chivas USA boss said that Bravo would make a good addition wherever he lands in Europe.

"He's not Drogba. Maybe he wouldn't have as much success as he's had with Chelsea, and he's not Messi. But I'm certain any manager would love to have him on his team. He's a fighter, a warrior and he's improved tremendously both technically and with his attitude."

Westerhof went on to praise Bravo's technical ability.

"He's fast, strong and good in the air. His best position isn't center forward. He plays best on the wing, on the left side, and he's also good defensively. That's why I feel he can succeed in Europe."

After stints with Chivas, Chivas USA and Necaxa, Westerhof is now working for the Dutch FA.

Por otro rumbo

Los cubanos que estaban a prueba con Chivas USA ya no estan con el equipo. Hoy supuestamente tienen cita con la immigracion. Van rumbo a Seattle y tal vez Puerto Rico pero no se sabe con quien y cuando encontraran trabajo. Pero no se van a dar por vencidos - eso si esta seguro.

Una entrevista que tuve con Yenier Bermudez puedes escuchar aqui.

Y aqui esta el articulo que salio ayer en The Press-Enterprise (en ingles).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Facing a new direction


“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” --Thoreau

En route to Copa quarters

Atlas of Guadalajara beat Lanus of Argentina 1-0 in the first leg of the clubs' second round Copa Libertadores series. With just a draw at home, Atlas will advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament. Not bad for a club many had given up on at the start of the year.

Bruno Marioni scored the game's only goal, in the 37th minute. It was a nice one too.


USOC already?!?

Can you believe the Open Cup is upon us already? It's not the tournament proper quite yet but Real Salt Lake and San Jose will compete in a USOC play-in match Wednesday in Utah. If nothing else, it's a good opportunity for both sides to right some early-season wrongs.

Locally, the Galaxy will host Colorado in a play-in match on May 27, the eve of US-England. So while the club's stars might be elsewhere, the USOC will nonetheless be on the line that night.

Herr Siegfried

One of the league's early surprises thus far this season has been the Columbus Crew. Not many pundits (myself included) gave the Crew much of a chance to compete in the Eastern Conference and while the season is still very young the Crew looks like a club that will compete for a playoff spot at least and possibly even more.

The Crew's latest win was Sigi Schmid's 100th MLS coaching victory which is really a significant accomplishment. Only Bob Bradley has more MLS coaching wins in league history - that's pretty elite company.

I always felt that Sigi got a bit of a raw deal here with the Galaxy, that he was fired prematurely. I still feel the Galaxy would have made it to MLS Cup 2004 had he remained in charge, but that late-season coaching change was too much for that team to overcome. Still, some would argue that he should have been sacked after the '03 season, which I can't really counter.

Ultimately, though, Sigi landed on his feet and finally has the Crew headed in the right direction. He's gotten quite a bit of criticism for his playoff-less time in Columbus but this team has the makings of a pretty good side and Sigi deserves credit for the job he's doing.

More on Ruud

Jim Alexander doesn't come out to soccer as much as we'd like but the venerable Press-Enterprise columnist is always full of insight when he does.

He's not your typical soccer-sucks columnist who groans at an MLS assignment. On the contrary, he always wants to find out as much information as possible on the goings on in MLS and the local sides.

It's always interesting to read angles from such sports writers because often we're reading our own stuff ("our own" meaning good writers like Steve Davis and Jeff Carlisle and the like) and while there isn't anything wrong with that, it is nice to get an outside perspective.

Anyway, Jim's got a blog post here with some info on the Galaxy's lineup in terms of salary. His audience is predominantly made up of general sports fans on the blog there.

I always try to get Jim to come out for more soccer games and hopefully if the Galaxy keep winning and Chivas USA gets its act together he'll have more reason to go. That one of our own, Redlands' Landon Donovan, is tearing things up certainly doesn't hurt the cause.

It's been a while

This video shows something that Galaxy fans have not seen for quite some time.

Guess who?


Of course, that's Sean Franklin, Ruud's Player of the Game last match, on the left. Who he is laughing with after practice is a bit more difficult.

Lazy stat hunting

As the game wrapped up on Saturday, I mentioned that Donovan's goal total was probably the highest in MLS history for the amount of games played, but I didn't want to bother to look it up.

Turns out the Galaxy media department did it for me. From their weekly update:

"With the eight goals, Donovan also set the MLS record for most goals over the first five games of the season, breaking the former mark of six, which was held by five different players."

Not going to happen

The first sentence of this article, that is.

Times chimes in

This time, it's the LA Times, not England's Sunday Times, who chimes in with a piece on Ruud Gullit.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Everybody judges

Ranked 'em.

Objectivity is an illusion

Apparently, it would not only kill some people to say anything positive about LD, but it also slays them if anyone else does.
Email this morning:


Why are you still making excusses for Donovan's poor performance in the 2006 World Cup. I didn't understand why you stood up for him in 2006 and why you continue to do it 2 years later. The fact that you wrote the preface of "Objectively speaking" before you stuck up for Donovan's 2006 debacle, shows your blatant agenda of sticking up for Landon. What relevance does the 2006 World Cup have to do with the Galaxy game this past weekend? Let his play speak for itself and stop being his cheerleader. Here's what he is, a talented player who will continue to tear up MLS and CONCACAF, but is too far out of his comfort zone when he tries to play outside the region, both for club or country! That's it! Final!

Over and out for young Americans

The Primera A season has come to an end for the young American prospects plying their trade in Mexico's second division. As none of the three players we've kept tabs on here are on teams that will participate in the Primera A playoffs, the only chance of game time the players have will be for their respective top flight clubs in Week 17 and/or Liguilla.

Here's a look at the players, their stats and where they may end up in the future.

Sonny Guadarrama, Morelia: 8 games, 7 starts, 636 minutes; 2 goals. Guadarrama got some playing time for Morelia in the first division, but that was under deposed coach David Patino. Since Luis Fernando Tena took over on March 22, Guadarrama has been exclusively with the reserves. Morelia, though, struggled mightily down the stretch and Guadarrama could still not find his way back to the top flight. In limited time with Morelia, Guadarrama struggled. He had a red card in 18 minutes of action this season.

Sammy Ochoa: 16 games, 16 starts; 1,403 minutes; 7 goals, 3 yellow cards, 1 red card. The former US Under-20 forward had a strong campaign for Tecos A. He scored seven goals and was a consistent starter, missing just one match during the season. Tecos' front office, tough, has a history of making poor decisions and whether Ochoa can crack his way onto the first division team remains to be seen. At best Ochoa has proven he can withstand the rigors of a campaign and has a scorer's touch to boot, and that alone should warrant some playing time.

Jesus Padilla: 14 games, 14 starts; 1,208 minutes; 3 goals, 1 yellow card. More Mexican than cactus but less talented than it too. Padilla has regressed this season, and likely would have done so had his true background not been revealed. Worse, Padilla was passed over for promotion a week ago. When Chivas boss Efrain Flores reached down to Tapatio for a forward, he chose Antonio Salazar instead of Padilla, and Salazar responded with a goal in a 4-0 win over Puebla.

There were at least five other American-born players who saw time in the second division this year. My most glaring omission was Texas native Marco Vidal of Indios. Vidal was a regular on the Juarez side and finished out the season with a 90-minute effort against Salamanca. Also, Noel Castillo is with Indios as well though he did not appear with them during this season. Edgar's younger brother saw time with Santos' second division side during this Clausura campaign before his departure. Additionally, Monterrey A has within its ranks Robert Adrian Debaca of New Mexico while Carlos Borja played some minutes with Tapatio.

It's difficult to keep tabs on youngsters in the second division but it's even more difficult to find out about them in the first place. But this trend of Americans in Mexico will likely only continue to grow as a growing number of young Americans head down to Mexico to try out for Mexican clubs. When this topic has come up among coaches, players and soccer officials in general, that youngsters doing so is not in question; it's just a question of how many go down there and how many more will continue to make their way onto First Division rosters. So maybe in the upcoming editions of these updates, I could coin this "Futbol mexicano. Hecho en los Estados Unidos."

Week 5 spotlight

Now with AC chiming in!

TEAM OF WEEK 5

G: Matt Reis Will Hesmer

D: Michael Parkhurst Sean Franklin

D: Chad Marshall

D: Marvell Wynne

M: Santino Quaranta

M: Shalrie Joseph

M: John Thorrington Marcello Gallardo

M: Amado Guevara

F: Landon Donovan

F: Alan Gordon Mike Magee

F: Jaime Moreno Alejandro Moreno

Star: Though Amado Guevara was a spark plug and scored twice and Jaime Moreno had an outstanding game, Landon Donovan takes the honors for the second consecutive week. Donovan's hat trick was sublime and fueled the Galaxy's rout of Chivas USA.


Top defense: New England toppled the league's last unbeaten side on the road no less.

Top attack: Los Angeles scored almost at will against Chivas USA in the second half of Saturday's lopsided Super Clasico.

Coaching expertise: Perhaps its more of a cumulative nod, but Toronto's John Carver has seemingly found Toronto's ideal lineup. With Amado Guevara in the center of the midfield, the club's attack is potent. Also, Maurice Edu and Carl Robinson can be more effective in defending without needing to solely handle attacking responsibilities.

Top goal: Marcelo Gallardo's goal against Real Salt Lake was beautiful. From a tricky angle, Gallardo slammed a volley into the back of the net.
Sacha Kljestan's strike to bring Chivas level in the first half of the Super Clasico was a stunner.

Top save: Will Hesmer made a diving save late in Columbus' match against Houston that helped the Crew to their third consecutive win.

Top game: Galaxy-Chivas USA: A derby game, seven goals, high drama, taunts and insults, elation and depression. What more do you want?

Quotable: The essence of a rivalry:

Chivas USA coach Preki when asked about Landon Donovan celebrating a goal a few feet from Chivas' bench: "That's absolutely crap... I do not appreciate it and we do not appreciate it as a club. It shows a lot of disrespect."

Retorted Donovan: "If he doesn't want that to happen, then don't let me score. I tried to apologize to him because I realized that he was upset about it... but if he can't accept an apology then I guess he's not a big enough man."

Donovan Dos, when I asked if his celebration location was in retaliation to Kljestan celebrating his goal in front of the Galaxy fan groups. "No. [Pause] I think there are more important things we could be talking about."

LOWLIGHTS

Worst defense: Chivas USA. What was a bright spot a year ago is now abysmal.

Worst attack: Kansas City's attack left a lot to be desired. San Jose's looked more hopeless to me.

Dema Kovalenko: His volleyball-style defending led to a PK and opened the floodgates.

Almost Charming rankings

1. Columbus Crew - The Crew is clicking along, counting on Moreno to score and Hesmer to deny goals.
2. Chicago Fire - John Thorrington is proving he's more than last season's one-goal hero.
3. New England - Often New England is good, sometimes they're lucky, but the combo works.
4. Kansas City Wizards - There's no place like home for the Wizards
5. FC Dallas - Last of the unbeatens falls by the slimmest margin
6. Toronto FC - Better Red than ever before
7. Los Angeles Galaxy - Landon Donovan's star is burning brightly beside Beckham's
8. New York Red Bulls - Jozy's a young hero - Mike Magee's been there and survived injury woes to contribute again
9. Colorado Rapids - Where, oh where, will their goals come from?
10. DC United - A little revenge versus Real could help right the ship
11. Chivas USA - Brad Guzan isn't helping his transfer value with games like the last one.
12. Real Salt Lake - Blaming the ref doesn't score goals
13. San Jose Earthquakes - The lackluster offense gives the defense no margin for error
14. Houston Dynamo - No one expected the league champs to be dragging down the Western Conference

La Barca rankings (April 28)

1. Columbus (4-1-0): Went 3-0 against Chivas, DC and Houston.
2. Chicago (3-1-1): John Thorrington helped right Fire's wrongs.
3. New England (3-2-1): More than keeping afloat without injured stars.
4. FC Dallas (2-1-2): Offense dried up at home.
5. Toronto (3-2-0): Guevara, Ricketts and Robert round out a standout midfield.
6. Kansas City (3-2-1): Suffered the wrath of the Red Patch Boys.
7. Los Angeles (2-2-1): Things are going well when Alan Gordon bags a pair.
8. New York (2-1-1): Struggled against but finally overcame pesky 'Quakes side.
9. Colorado (2-3-0): Not much to like from previous two games.
10. DC United (2-3-0): Nothing like Real Salt Lake to help cure the ills.
11. Houston (0-2-3): Not winning and now not scoring either.
12. Chivas USA (1-3-1): How bad are things? First three-game losing streak since '05.
13. San Jose (1-3-0): Offense will be an issue all year long.
14. Real Salt Lake (1-3-1): Reality hits hard with pair of road losses.

Sangre americana update J16

The seasons are winding down in Mexico as the Primera Division has one week left on the slate while the Primera A's regular season culminated. None of the second-division Americans will be involved in the playoffs, though, but all four of the top-flight players are in line to reach the Liguilla.

Michael Orozco: Started and played 45 minutes in San Luis' 0-0 draw with Atlas.

Jose Francisco Torres: Started and played 73 minutes in Pachuca's 1-0 loss to Jaguares.

Edgar Castillo: Played 90 minutes in Santos' 2-1 win at Tigres.

Daniel Hernandez: Played 90 minutes in Jaguares' 1-0 win at Pachuca.

Sonny Guadarrama: Played 90 minutes in Monarcas A's 5-1 victory over Monterrey A.

Sammy Ochoa: Played 90 minutes in Tecos A's 1-1 draw with Coatzacoalcos.

Jesus Padilla: Played 90 minutes in Tapatio's 4-0 loss to Tigres B.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Preki post-game

A few words from the coach.

Ruud at home

The Times paints a picture of a lonely, frustrated Ruud Gullit who may not stay with the team long. Of course, the Times also seems to think the signing of Joe Franchino was a big mistake, so they might not be the best judge.

Goles y mas goles

The SuperClasico

Figo?

Probably not. Last night, as reporters made their way to the post-game presser, we saw some fans calling out to someone in the expensive suites. I didn't think much of it until the presser, when the rumor started rumbling that they'd been saying "Figo! Figo!" Some media were wondering whether to run with a Luis Figo rumor. Now, Figo could have been visiting his old teammate, but I have to chime in that I didn't hear "Figo" being called out at all. I thought I heard "Viggo".

Now, Viggo Mortenson is an actor who was raised in Argentina and is a big soccer fan. He came to watch Barcelona play when they were last in LA.

Granted, I didn't see Mortenson (though I did run into Tom Cruise), but I'm guessing my take, as speculative as it is, is more likely than Figo being in town. After all, Viggo already lives nearby, so it's just a matter of deciding to come catch a game.

Under the influence

The Galaxy's power couple.

Happy Becks

video

Fuzzy pan shot

video

Gretzky expectations



Wayne stopped by the HDC to catch Becks and the boys.

You've got a friend

The three Cubans' (Yenier Bermudez, Yordany Alvarez and Jose Manuel Miranda) trial with Chivas USA has ended, but countryman Maykel Galindo is looking out for his island comrades. All three are now off to Seattle, where the Sounders, Galindo's original U.S. team, is having a look at them. Maykel has put in a good word.

Laughing last

At the Galaxy practice on Friday, I asked Ruud about what the team would do when Landon and or Becks miss games when way on international duty. Ruud responded that all teams have important players miss games for whatever reason and have to adjust. He mentioned a Liverpool squad having to adjust to the loss of Steve Gerrard, for example.

It was pointed out that Liverpool could then bring in Peter Crouch.

"That is true," said Ruud. "But I have Gordon." He smiled, and the assembled group of reporters laughed.

Ruud was serious, though, and he continued with the comparison. "He’s big also and he can head the ball also."

Apparently so. Gordon helped turn the tide for the Galaxy versus Chivas USA.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Reveling

The Riot Squad, as the Galaxy match wound down.

Galaxy/Chivas USA running blog

Traffic here is horrible. Backed up for a mile, at least. I actually bumped a car on my way in. The driver hopped out, checked out this bumper, and then got back in his car. I didn't even bother to look at mine. It's messed up already.
Anyway, they're calling out the starting lineups. ACB and the Riot Squad are waving flags. the Legion has balloons. And drums.
Ruud was coy at practice when we asked if Franchino would start. He's starting. I wonder if he really has the full 90 in him.
Kickoff!
2 Chivas USA has the first real attack Kljestan takes a deep throw-in - Galaxy break it up, out on the counter, then Chivas USA recovers.
3- Galaxy counter, Buddle takes down a long pass, sribbles a bit, then gets the ball to Donovan, but chivas D breaks it up.
4 - Galaxy corner. Flashbulb city. Becks takes, Franklin can't quite get a head on it, but it pops out to Franchino who tries to take it in to the box, deflected out, Becks serves it back in, Buddle header, Guzan catches.
6 - MacDonald tackle on Mendoza - yellow card, though some in the press box think it was clean. McDonny did. Others, including the ref, disagree.
8 - Handball! Hand of Donovan doesn't come off nearly as well as Maradona's did. He's caught redhanded and carded with a yellow.
9 - FK for Chivas - Galindo gets on the end of it and is just wide with his shot.
11 - With two yellow cards in the first ten minutes, the press box is speculating on someone getting sent off soon. Beckham has a long run wasted when he passes short and his teammates can't work the call into the box.
13 - Kljestan and Galindo work a give and go in the box, but Cronin catches the cross.
15 - Kljestan to Braun, but Xavier tackles for a corner, which is cleared.
16 - Galaxy on the counter!, LD beats defender, is on the run with Buddle, but the pass into the box gets broken up.
17 - Yellow on Suarez.
18 - GOAL! Three balls in a row get headed up high repeatedly, but then the ball finally drops to perhaps the smallest player on the field. LD takes a touch at the top of the box, then rockets a shot past Guzan. 1- 0 Galaxy
Some in the pressbox are saying there was a McDonald handball just before the shot. I didn't see it, but all agree Donovan's finish was impressive.
19 - Galaxy FK, cleared.
22 - Chivas USA corner. Punched out by Cronin
24 - CK. Kljestan. Cleared to Becks, but his pass goes to Kljestan.
25 - The Galaxy have been pushed back deep by Chivas - not any more. Donovan leads out a counter, drops a pass back to Becks, but Suarez cuts off the service.
28 - Shavar Thomas is down in the box. He's up again.
30 - Buddle took a knock to the head and is bleeding. He's off the field.
31 - Chivas attacks with a man advantage.
32 - Becks long run gets wasted when Chris Klein's cross goes to no one.
33 Bornstein does the same going the other way.
34 - Donovan denied a counter, ball came off his arm. Ref doesn't call a handball, but give the ball the other way. Weird compromise.
36 - Donovan won't be denied this counter - he flicks a free pass to Buddle, who shoots on goal, Guzan dives and parries it. Chivas clears.
Going the other way, big boy Braun gets fouled, giving Chivas USA a FK about 30 yard from top of box.
37 - GOAL! It deflects wide for a corner. Cleared. Kljestan gets it back, runs in on Xavier and unleashes a bending ball that hits the underside of the crossbar and goes it. He runs not to the Legion corner, but in front of ACB, where he celebrates with a front kick, Karate Kid style. 1-1. One ACB guy throws a flag at Kljestan.
42 - Major Miscommunication. A long pass befuddles the Galaxy D, and Xavier knocks it as Cronin comes out - it heads towards goal, but then goes wide for a corner, which the Galaxy eventually clear.
44 - The Galaxy on the attack, but Buddle's shot is over the bar.
45 - Franchino gets a yellow for a tackle on Galindo. Galindo is still down, but he's back up now.
Halftime - tie score. It's pretty justified, though the Galaxy had the better chances. Both goals were pretty nice, but the press box likes Kljestan's better. "Unstoppable." Humm, so Guzan could have stopped Donovan's shot, I guess. Still, Guzan's play on Buddle's shot kept the score close so Kljestan could tie it.
47 - Seats are still empty, so concession stands must be long. CK for Chivas USA.
48 - the corner is cleared, but Becks sends a bad pass back to center that falls to Chivas. Marsch sends the ball to Mendoza, who is alone against Cronin, but sends his shot off the post! wow, Galaxy escaped there. Galindo battling against Xavier - Xavier fouls, FK cleared out.
50 - Chivas has possession, but they're stuck in midfield, pretty much.
52 - Galaxy can't really get out of the midfield, either. Cronin comes out of the box to tackle a ball, but Galindo contests it, Cronin gets ball and Galindo, who goes down and stays down.
54 - He's back up now, but limping. And suddenly, not limping anymore. Playing possum?
56 - Becks cross in the box cleared out.
57 - Ante Razov coming in for Galindo.
59 - GOAL! Randolph battles for the ball on the wing, get up the left side and sends a cross to LD. It's a bit behind him and LD cuts back to get it, controls against the defender and shoots into the net. 2-1 Galaxy. As Greg Daurio is my witness, I called 2-1 as the score for this game.
61 - And then LD mishits another Randolph cross. Ugh. bad. Galaxy get a FK, though, and Becks sends it verrrrrrry close.
62 - GOAL! OK, I was wrong on the score. Chivas counter and the Galaxy commit a half-dozen errors and failed clearances in front of goal before Razov puts the ball into the net.
64 - Chivas CK. There's some controversy before it's taken. It bounces back from one end of the box to another, but the Galaxy eventually clear.
65 - Galaxy counter. LD is fouled just outside the box. Becks lines it up. It hits the wall.
67 - The momentum belongs to Chivas, because the Galaxy just can't put this game away. Every time they go up, Chivas pulls it right back. Or the Galaxy give it away. The first was mostly a cracker of a goal, but there were numerous defensive errors on the second Chivas goal.
70 - Randolph cross into the box cleared out.
71 - Buddle is out, Alan Gordon in.
72 - The midfield is tight. Both teams have cut the game down.
73 - Shavar Thomas is down. It's probably a cramp, but I don't know.
75 - Marsch with outside shot. Wide.
76 - GOAL! GORDO! The much maligned Gordon knocks in a header past Guzan. Becks took a long Franklin pass, touch passed to LD, who crossed into the box, where Lawson Vaughn mishit the ball into the air. Gordon got good position, then Guzan came out for the grab, but couldn't get it. Gordon's header knocked down into the goal. 3-2 Galaxy
77 - GOAL! Gordon knocks down a pass for LD, who scores again, a low knuckler into the corner. 4-2 Galaxy.
82 - Nagamura coming off for Raphael Wicky.
83 - Kljestan from outside - Cronin catches.
84 - GOAL! LD to Becks, back to LD, who shoots low to the corner, Guzan gets a hand on it, but Gordon is there for the putaway. Gordon gets credit, but that goal was mostly the dynamic duo of Becks and LD again. 5-2 Galaxy.
87 - Razov from distance. High.
89 - Cronin with a cheeky cutback in the box, sends Atiba Harris sliding.
90 + The Galaxy are knocking it around pretty well.
Wicky from outside. Cronin catches, well, he catches his own rebound. Little bobble there. Chivas still fighting for the consolation goal. They aren't getting it. Final whistle. 5-2 Galaxy

Worth the investment

I've spent the last 90 minutes or so watching the Toronto-KC match, and peeking over my laptop to watch the NFL draft.

If you haven't gotten it, you should. This is a good game, nice atmosphere, good players and hell there's even Bruce Arena there, as he's the color commentator... hmm, actually, not sure if that's a plus.

Anyway, the MLSlive.tv is a great buy. $20 and you get the whole season. (and no I wasn't asked by the league to plug the feature)

I'm impressed with Toronto. Guevara, Ricketts, Robert is a good trio and then you've got Edu and Robinson. I think Sean Wheelock said it was one of the best midfields in the league and it's hard to argue with that at this point. The makings are there for a productive season the Toronto midfield.

Guevara by the way scored his first Toronto goal and no he was not offside. Toronto 1-0 in the 63rd.

Chivas chatter

Leftover quotes that will be wasted otherwise. What Chivas player said what? (the answers are on the comments)

"I will play whatever they ask me to play. I feel like I’m getting there. I don’t quite feel like I’m (ready for) 90 minutes but I’ll put it all on the line and will do whatever is asked of me."

"You have to approach each game with the utmost respect for the other team and concentration and just be confident whether its Beckham or whoever we’re playing that week."

"I know everybody over here gets excited about these games. I know everybody over there gets excited about these games. We’ve got to put aside all those other things and put aside how we’re not as happy as we could be with the way the start of the season has gone and get ready for a big game that should be a lot of fun."

"Ever since I started my family and friends have been into every game especially the Clasicos because the atmosphere is better and the stadium is packed so they enjoy the atmosphere. The fact that Beckham is here, my friends that are girls probably enjoy the game a little bit more."

Galaxy guess again

Who said it?

"To be honest, and that’s the reality of it, David Beckham is who he is. We all know that there’s going to be some considerations for everything that comes with that and who he is."

"It’s a little bit odd, I must say [two teams sharing a stadium]. It’s odd – same training pitch and everything. We don’t see each other much, but it is a little strange."

"I look forward to building on the second half of the last game, especially with the competitive game coming up."

"It’s got nothing to do with the last game. We’ve talked and joked, because we work at the same place. There’s no anger towards each other, but you never know. You could clash on the same play, you could clash with any of the other players. That’s the way it is."

What parity is all about

"The good thing is that is doesn’t matter too much if you lose one game, because everybody else does, too."

The Wisdom of Ruud

Stories part 2, sort of

Here's a thing I wrote about Chivas USA's thoughts on David Beckham and Landon Donovan.

I had written another story about Ante Razov and Brad Guzan but for some reason it never made it to print. Oh well. The best quote I had was from the Razov interview I'd linked to earlier.

Here's what he said when I asked him about getting booed and jeered by Galaxy fans.

"I get that everywhere I go. That comes from fear. They must fear something I do to them. They don't boo bad players usually. They boo guys who they fear might do damage to their team. I take it as a compliment."

Scrimmage

Clasico comments

From the young 'uns.

Sean Franklin: Defender
I’m excited for it. I heard that it’s pretty intense, either when they’re home or we’re home. I know it’s going to be a tough match this Saturday. I’m expecting good things out of our team. I’m looking forward to it.

Previous experience?
I’ve seen it - on TV last year.
What did you think of the game?
It was ok.
Was it the 3-0 Galaxy loss?
I think it was. That’s why I didn’t want to bring it up.

Mike Randolph - defender, midfielder
Impression of clasico?

I like them. They’re fun. They’re intense. The atmosphere is unbelievable. I actually gear up twice as much as any regular game. They’re our rivals. They play in the same stadium, so these are games we have to win.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Down in the depths

It was nice knowing you, Veracruz.

After losing 4-2 on Friday to Pumas UNAM, Veracruz punched a ticket to the Primera A. Veracruz has been relegated, saving the first division lives of both Puebla and Tigres.

The relegation system in Mexico is complicated, which is why you don't have America bidding farewell to the top flight. America finished last in the standings for the first time in its history but is pretty safe. America is fifth overall in the relegation standings so the club would need to string together a few more terrible seasons to fall out of the top flight.

Veracruz pieced together some wretched campaigns of late. So did Puebla and Tecos and Tigres and Atlas. But Veracruz proved to be the worst of the worst.

Missing the point

Shaka Hislop thinks the Dynamo aren't showing enough team spirit because they didn't fight Landon Donovan when he yelled at Pat Ianni.

Shaka gives no context for Donovan's behavior at all, mentioning neither the earlier hit or the fact that Donovan scored while Ianni was clutching him - an arguable PK call if Donovan had failed to score.
Funny that Shaka also doesn't say anything about how Houston's team spirit has been in games versus his old team, FC Dallas. Houston owns a 5-1-3 record against Dallas.
Instead, he mentions how players are less motivated by small crowds. I am underwhelmed by this insight.

Ruud's not that excited

About the classico, that is. In a way, it makes sense, because he's played in Italy, the Milan derby there and he talked to the press about how the whole city goes crazy about those games and everywhere the players go, they see stuff about the game and people ask them about it.

In other words, if Beckham was playing for A.C. Milan like Ruud did, and appeared on a TV show before the match (like he did recently on Ellen), he'd be questioned about the match and some Inter fans in the studio audience would boo him just on principle. Ellen herself would be forced to disclose which team she prefers and then the audience would both cheer and boo her choice. Bets would be placed all across the city, with celebrities declaring on Access Hollywood clips which side they're pulling for, and Kobe would show up in Beck's box alongside Tom Cruise and Will Smith.

But obviously, LA isn't Milan, as Ruud said. Still the derby we have is the one we have. Ruud wants to win it, of course, but he's not going crazy about it.

Stories part 1

I wrote a bunch of stories in the last couple of days on the Super Clasico. Two are up and I hope the other two get put up soon.

First, Chivas USA players' thoughts on the Clasico. It's funny because several of the players I talked to said the same thing that Steve Cronin did, that if you don't win a Clasico, you hate seeing the other players from the other team around the HDC following the match.

Also, Chivas USA needs a win badly regardless of the opponent. There are some people who always say that every match is important so if you ask them the question "How important is this game?" you will get the same response: "Every match is important." And that makes for boring copy. It's better to ask open-ended questions like "Talk about the significance of the match" which actually isn't technically a question but you get the point.

Preki is one of those people so I tried to structure the question the right way. You can hear it on the audio clip I posted earlier. Anyway, I used his responses in this story if you didn't listen to the clip. Basically he said "Every match is important" and then elaborated a bit.

I'll post the third and fourth of my stories when they are published.

Orozco speaks

Okay, Michael Orozco and I spoke a while back. I had the interview sitting around and he gave a really good interview and had a pretty good tale. I decided to use a lot of the interview as a Q and A for SI.com. I kept some of it for another piece which will probably come down later this summer at some point. I'll keep you posted.

Anyway, here's the story for SI.com. Many people had never heard of Michael Orozco before he was called up to the US Under-23 national team. Few fans thought he was worthy of starting before the tournament as Patrick Ianni was thought to have had the inside track at starting in central defense for the US during the Olympic qualifying tournament but Orozco opened everyone's eyes with his impressive play.

As I point out in the piece, Orozco isn't the only American-born player down in Mexico. But then again, if you read this blog regularly, you already knew that.

Clothing dispute

Beckham's jersey sets off a legal war.

Alexi Lalas aims for a Solomonic solution.

Preki talks Clasico

Audio of my chat with Preki about the Super Clasico.

Calling the Clasico

Now's your chance to call your shot for Chivas-Galaxy. Tell me who is going to win and why.

Sangre americana J16

The American contingent in Mexico heads down to the final weeks of the regular season. With two weeks left, all of the four top-flight players have a chance of reaching the Mexican league playoffs, or Liguilla.

Michael Orozco, San Luis vs. Atlas, Saturday 3 p.m. PT: Orozco's San Luis side is on the verge of claiming the top spot in the overall league table and the number one seed in the Mexican league playoffs. With two matches left in the regular season, San Luis is even with Chivas at 29 points atop both the league standings and the Group 3 table. Orozco has started four consecutive matches since returning from the Olympic qualifying tournament. Atlas will leave some of its big guns at home, such as Bruno Marioni, as the Guadalajara club focuses on Copa Libertadores, which might make Orozco's task of dealing with the Atlas attack less challenging than it could be. TV: Galavision.

Jose Francisco Torres, Pachuca vs. Jaguares, Saturday 5 p.m. PT: There is no reason to believe Torres won't see time against Jaguares unless Pachuca coach Enrique "Ojitos" Meza wants to rest Torres for international play. Torres was suspended a week ago and did not play in Pachuca's 5-2 loss to Puebla but the Texas native started and played 62 minutes in Wednesday's match against Saprissa in Costa Rica. Pachuca will host Saprissa in the second and decisive leg of the CONCACAF Champions Cup on Wednesday as Torres could play his third match in eight days. Against Jaguares, Torres should start as he did midweek and should make his sixth start in seven league games, a streak only interrupted by his red card against Monterrey. TV: Azteca America.

Edgar Castillo, Santos at Tigres, Saturday 5 p.m. PT: Castillo's Santos side is in position for a playoff spot but may have missed out on securing the top seed in the playoffs by dropping points against Necaxa a week ago. Santos let los Rayos level the match late in the second half. Still, Santos has 25 points, four clear of Monterrey in Group 2. Castillo has all but regained the form he had prior to missing a pair of games due to injury. TV: Telefutura.

Daniel Hernandez, Jaguares at Pachuca, Saturday 5 p.m. PT: Jaguares can still reach the Mexican league playoffs but the club is working hard against itself and damaging its own chances. Against a bad Veracruz side, Jaguares failed to hold on to a lead and allowed two goals in the final 12 minutes and lost 2-1. Hernandez was part of the collapse as he played the entire match and picked up a yellow card in the 81st minute. Still, Hernandez figures to start against Pachuca, a match that will likely decide whether Jaguares still has clear options entering the final week of the season or if their run ends here. TV: Azteca America.

Sonny Guadarrama, Monarcas A vs Monterrey A, Saturday 1 p.m. PT: Guadarrama will look to help Morelia close out the Primera A regular season against Monterrey. Morelia's senior side has been eliminated from playoff contention but whether Guadarrama gets a shot to show his skills on the senior club remains to be seen.

Sammy Ochoa, Tecos A vs. Coatzalcoalcos, Saturday 2 p.m. PT: Ochoa has scored seven goals and has played in all but one of Tecos A's matches this season but like Guadarrama it remains to be seen if Tecos gives Ochoa a shot at playing in the top flight.

Jesus Padilla, Tapatio vs. Tigres B, Sunday 10 a.m. PT: Padilla's future with Guadalajara may be limited to Tapatio and the second division. Chivas chose to use Antonio Salazar instead of Padilla when the club looked to Tapatio for a striker. Salazar has one goal in nine games compared to Padilla's three in 13 but Salazar got the nod instead.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Frank Franchino

Left over from the interview with Joe:

On the Galaxy, then and now-
A lot has changed. I see just Cobi when I walk in and Pete. There’s very few guys here, the whole organization has changed, the team has changed, the stadium has changed. We used to play at the Rose Bowl. Pete and I were talking about that today.

Losing to LA twice in MLS Cup -
At those times, I was with the Revolution. We fought together. We had a great, cohesive team. We came up short, but we had a great team. They continue to have a good side. That’s what we need here –is chemistry. Maybe in ’05, the Galaxy had it. I wasn’t here. I know in New England, chemistry is a huge thing. I can see it here. I can see it building.

On his role in turning the Houston game around -
I wouldn’t say I was a huge impact on that. I think it was more my teammates stepping up and whatever was said in the locker room that motivated them.

Do people expect the Franchino of his early Galaxy days?
The organization has changed. The players have changed and there’s a lot of talent. It’s a matter of getting the chemistry right and everybody fighting for each other and fighting for the club. Whatever your role is, you just go out and try to perform it the best you can. That’s all I’m here for.

On praise from Becks-
I don’t know what he said, but anything, if it’s coming from Becks – I know he has a great eye for the game. He’s been with great players, and I appreciate that. But at the same time, I don’t feel 100%. I want to work towards that.

Talking with Nicol about his future -
I was able to play my first 90 in a reserve game against Kansas City. I had a conversation with Stevie. We were on the same page. He felt like I could still play.

His Galaxy future-
I’m excited about the club and the opportunity, but at the same time, it’s not going to be easy, just jumping into this team, because we have good players. I’m just going to come out and do my best to make it worthwhile.
I have to come out and earn it. They threw me in the game, but that doesn’t matter. Every day, you’ve got to earn it and come out and become 100 percent and try to earn a spot. Whatever my role is, my expectations are high for this club and I want to be a part of it.

Revs/FC Hoops

Dallas and New England going at it. I was stuck in traffic, so I missed the first 20 minutes. It's scoreless.

20 - Shalrie Joseph from distance, but Sala is set and parries the dangerous ball.
23 - Dallas is unbeaten, but NE is tried and tested. They've bounced back from poor results this season already. CK for Dallas.
24 - Flecha Roja serves it in, Toja with a sexy side kick sends the ball toward goal, but Matt Reis palms it away.
25 - Reis shows up on the "beckham cam" which really seems pointless when the ball is at the other end and the goalkeeper is just shaking his legs to stay loose.
27 - I like the drums at Dallas - they help compensate for the gaps in the Thursday night audience. Khano Smith from distance. He's no Shalrie - Sala catches easily.
29 - Cooper sets up the give and go with Rocha - gets a corner out of it. Dax sends it in, ball gets cleared out. Rocha tries from distance - he's no Alvarez - it skies far over the bar.
32 - Wagner has come up, tries a shot, gets deflected out for a corner. Alvarez sends it to Davino, but the header deflects and is cleared out, Shalrie is on the run, but Dax pokes it away.
35 - Former U17 teammates Igwe and Wagner are pitted against each other in this match. Both are playing well.
37 - Smith wins the ball off Dax's foot then sends it to no one. Revs get a corner out of it, but it's cleared.
40 John Harkes tends to talk in half sentences. "To get to an MLS Cup. He's done well."
41 - CK for NE - Cleared, Smith shot, deflected, Wells Thompson shot parried, rebound to Adam Cristman, his hard shot is wide by not a lot.
42 - FC counter! Cooper is in the box with the ball and appealing for a foul on Reis. Not happening.
45 - Revs and FC trade counter opportunities as the ball goes back and forth. Ref Prus shakes a finger at Drew Moor for a wild sliding tackle, but doesn't pull a card.
Mansally with a shot over the bar. Kenny, you're no Shalrie, either.
Halftime. Revs are hanging in there, even with their injuries and while on the road.
56 - Pace of the game has really picked up, but it's still scoreless, with possession going back and forth. the intensity has amped up, though.
60 - Yuck - don't like Arturo's hair. That said, he gets fouled hard by Wells Thompson, who sees a yellow for it. The FK is cleared by the Revs.
66 - Richetti is on. Now they're talking about Cooper's rehab.
67 - Davino is not an elegant defender, but he's really effective.
68 - Clips of Cooper Sr - hey, get back to the game, please!
70 - Shalrie from a bit of distance, gets a CK. Revs, on the road, have a change to sneak out with a point. Service gets cleared, sent back to the box, Heaps in front of goal, puts it over the bar. Bad miss.
71 - Ricardinho on for Toja
72 - Rocha with a good shot from distance. Reis has to dive for it, but he makes the catch.
73 - GOAL! Smith gets the better of Dax on the wing, cuts inside and sends in an angled shot just as he enters the box in traffic, Sala leaning the wrong way makes no play on the ball as it slides into the side net. 1-0 New England.
74 - I said Dallas was ripe for a loss, didn't I? They could very well come back, though.
76 - Cooper header! Over the bar.
80 - Good FK chance for FC. Or not. Dax overhits it, wastes it.
83 -Dallas has had more possession this match, but the chances and the execution? All New England, really.
84 - Alvarez in the box. He goes down. Heaps foot knocked against him, but lightly, and Prus calls against Arturo.
86 - Dallas corner - headed on goal by Moor, but right to Matt Reis, who punches it out.
88 - "What time is it?" Steve Morrow is pointing at his watch - telling his team that they're running out of it.
90 - Ricardinho down in the box. Heaps standing over him yelling, "You're a faker!" or something to that effect.
Dallas FK, cleared to Richetti -wow - he sends a scorcher toward net, but it's just wide of the mark.
90+ Dallas on a furious attack, Igwe ugly challenge on Ricardinho - no embellishment there. FK to Dallas - Dax serves it in - header by davino is wide.
Ricardinho with another shot, Reis saves, holds, takes his time.
Fulltime - Revs defeat Dallas.

Familiar face looking for new start

I had a hunch that Cobi Jones, the Galaxy's assistant coach, had a lot to do with the team bringing in Joey Franchino, so I asked Franchino about it. What's interesting there is that Joe and Cobi had epic battles in the Revs/Galaxy clashes of yesteryear, but they apparently always maintained respect for each other. Franchino seemed sincere when he talked about how he appreciated Cobi. Here's the article.
Even if Cobi spoke up for Franchino, I still give Gullit a lot of credit for playing the new guy - heck, Ruud even gave himself credit for it.

Love to hate

Ante Razov brings out the boos. It seems like fans either love him or hate him. Galaxy fans seemingly love to hate Razov. He's actually given the Galaxy fits over the years. He's still the Fire's all-time leading scorer against the Galaxy and has scored more Clasico goals than any other player, at least in their regular season matchups.

Here's audio of our chat from Wednesday. I included some of what he said in a story I filed to MLSnet.com this morning. I'll post that link when the story is published.

Clasico or Coachella?

Saturday will be a memorable day in Southern California, but like so many other days the choices are vast. Saturday, though, may be a particularly tough day for some to choose an event to attend. You'll have the Chivas USA-Galaxy match in Carson and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, a three-day event which starts on Friday.

It seems like a tough choice: soccer or music? music or soccer? Well, we decided to try and help sort out which event would be the better to attend.



LINEUPS

David Beckham and Landon Donovan bring the starpower while Maykel Galindo, Sacha Kljestan and Brad Guzan also add talent.

Out in the desert, you'll have a bit of everything: Flogging Molly, Dwight Yoakam, Cafe Tacvba, Death Cab for Cutie, Scars on Broadway, Portishead, and Prince are just a handful of the acts that will be there. And that's just on Saturday.

Advantage: Coachella

SONGS

"Soy de Chivas" by Legion 1908
"Hey ___ you suck" by LA Riot Squad

"When Doves Cry" by Prince
"Maria" by Cafe Tacvba
"Salty Dog" by Flogging Molly

Advantage: Coachella

AFFORDABILITY

Clasico tickets may cost you at least $30 per at this point. I found four tickets for $42 this morning on Ticketmaster. Add parking and it may run you well over $100.

Single-day Coachella passes are sold out. At this point, you'll need to fork over $269 for then entire-three day event. Add costs for gas and you're looking at quite a bit of money.

Advantage: Clasico

AMBIENCE

When it comes to soccer games in the United States, the Clasico provides about as good of a soccer atmosphere as there is. Regardless of who plays and who doesn't, a Clasico environment is unmatched.

With Coachella, there is something about being one of tens of thousands of people that makes you feel both special and insignificant at the same time. The tension and excitement and anticipation of seeing band after band, act after act and hearing song after song after countless song will only rise throughout the day and culminate with what should be energetic and memorable performances from the headliners.

Advantage: Coachella

COMFORT

At Home Depot Center, you'll have a seat - whether you choose to sit in it is a different story. Carson, also, is within easy driving distance for much of Southern California.

It's supposed to top out at 103 degrees in Coachella on Saturday, and you'll need to get there early if you want to be anywhere near the main stars, and even the minor ones. Oh yeah, and you'll need to stand for a lot of the time. Nevermind the drive out to the desert.

Advantage: Clasico

MEMORABLE

Each Clasico match is special and memorable. We've heard that from the start, and now it's really true.

When are you going to have another chance to watch Prince and Flogging Molly on the same day?!?

Advantage: Coachella

VERDICT

Go to the desert, enjoy the music, recover on Monday... and Tuesday if need be. There will be more Clasico games this year.

Internationally speaking

Mexican clubs had some international dealings on Wednesday, on and off the pitch...

- Pachuca tied Saprissa 1-1 in Costa Rica in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions Cup final. Luis Gabriel Rey scored los Tuzos' goal early in the second half and the club nearly made it stand but el Monstruo roared back with a goal near the death as Victor Cordero evened things up. Pachuca need only win at home to claim their second consecutive regional crown. Texas native Jose Francisco Torres started and played 62 minutes.

- America and Atlas learned their international fate on Wednesday. America will play Brazilian side Flamengo while Atlas will meet Lanus of Argentina in the knockout round of the Copa Libertadores.

Future in Guadalajara

Recent reports have linked Ramon Morales to Chivas USA as the longtime Chivas Guadalajara player's contract is up at the end of the season. A move to Carson would seem a natural fit for a player revered by the Chiva faithful.

Turns out, those rumors are just that. Morales told Mexican sports daily Cancha that his future is in Guadalajara.

Said Morales: "Those are just words, just rumors. I've played all my life here. As long as I can play, I want to play here and finish here, where the people have seen me play, suffer, celebrate and celebrate with them. That's a dream and a goal of mine."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sound and fury

Finally got the audio of the interview with Landon Donovan to work. I can't edit the sound clip, though, so there's a couple of extra questions at the end.

Is the question really answered?

250 million? He might make that, he might not.

Guess who's back?

Sacha Kljestan served his suspension on Sunday and will be available for Saturday's game against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Said the Chivas USA standout about facing the rival Galaxy: "I don't enjoy beating anyone else better than I enjoy beating the Galaxy."

Becks chimes in

On the Ianni/Donovan incident:

It showed [Landon] was more determined after, because obviously he got his goal. It’s all about character when things like that happen. I asked the referee what he thought of the decision and he said he felt it was accidental, which I found quite amazing. Landon got up and got on with the game. That’s the character he is. As much as these things upset you personally, he showed his character and he got his goal.

Video caught the coach

Ruud Gullit was asked how he evaluated whether or not the Galaxy should sign up Joe Franchino. Ruud mentioned that he took advice from his staff, but also utilized modern technology.

"I saw some videos on the MLS website," said Ruud.

There's a lot of good video on the site these days. Troy and the other video director/cameramen/producers have been busy. I like the QuickKicks feature, too.

Still, it's pretty ballsy of Ruud, and I have to give him credit, to put a player in a game who he'd never even seen practice with the team in person before. All Joe did before taking the field was a warm-up with the squad.

Pachuca-Saprissa for regional supremacy

Pachuca of Mexico and Saprissa of Costa Rica will play the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions Cup tonight in Costa Rica. It will be interesting to see how Pachuca handles playing in Costa Rica as El Monstruo had its way with both Atlante and Houston at its house, winning each game by the same 3-0 score.

Though no American team is left in the tournament, an American player may participate nonetheless. Jose Francisco Torres of Pachuca is might play against Saprissa. Pachuca enters the match on the heels of a terrible result as los Tuzos fell to Puebla 5-2 on the weekend.

Colossal


Against Colo Colo, it was only fitting Colotto got the goal. Diego Colotto scored the goal that helped Atlas through to the knockout phase of the Copa Libertadores as Atlas tied Colo Colo 1-1.
Cancha ran a story yesterday on Atlas' one and only Mexican league title, way back in the 1950s. Few expected much of Atlas this year but the club booked a passage to the second round, a feat city rivals Chivas failed to do. Atlas, though, needs some help to get into the Mexican league playoffs.

Ianni ignites ire

Since we're now four days after the fact and readers are still interested in the Donovan-Ianni incident, I'll post the audio from Patrick Ianni. I used a lot of what he said in my post-match sidebar for MLSnet.com.

I didn't get to ask Ianni any questions, though. Scott French took care of asking the questions and he pretty much asked everything I had planned on asking him. I actually thought Ianni was having a decent game until the Galaxy's first goal. Anyway, here's the audio.

And I'm not sure if Scott felt this way but yes there were some in the press box who thought that Donovan's taunts should have drawn a yellow card.

Chinese shortcomings

China plays a friendly today, against El Salvador at the LA Coliseum. Sorry, we won't be out there nor will we be doing a running blog.

But if you are up for a good read on Chinese football, check this story out. Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes about the sad history of China's national team. The premise is great:
It is among the most perplexing questions in soccer today: How can the world's most populous nation be so bad?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Boo, hiss, technology

I won't bore anyone with my computer problems, but suffice it to say that I can't get the audio to save in Vista. So I'm transcribing the LD bit here.

Me: What'd you say to Pat?
LD: (pause) I'd rather not repeat it.
You guys exchanged jerseys at the end?
LD: Yeah. That's part of the game. If someone's going to take a cheap shot at me, then I would suggest not to, because it got me riled up.
Do you play better that way?
LD: I don't know if I played better. I maybe played a little more energized, because the adrenaline was pumping, but at that point in the game, I think that was going to happen anyway, because we were getting frustrated with things and that kind of added fuel to it.
So bottom line, was it a straight shoulder-to-shoulder?
LD: There are a lot of shoulder-to-shoulders that still get called. In that context, where it's nowhere near the ball, as I'm running full-speed, to just put his elbow out and shove me, I don't think that's too fair. I know if I did that on the other end, I'd get called for it, so you've got to go both ways.
Did it feel good, then, to get that goal in, while he was hanging over you?
LD: Not only that, but I don't know if you saw the replay, but he was grabbing and holding me. They were doing a lot of that the whole game. If someone defends well and defends fairly, I tip my hat and say, congratulations, but if you're going stand and grab me and pull me and tug at me all day, I'm going to let you know about it when I do score.

A moment of silence

I'm holding my breath a little, but it's likely my faithful little laptop has given up the ghost (sniff!). After I posted the Landon tidbit, I was busy loading up some audio and video from today's practice. I also decided to download some audio from the web - nothing weird, I just thought it might be fun to add some sound effects to videos. I found a public domain recording of "Night on Bald Mountain" and set it to download. Like it sometimes does when I have multiple tasks going, my computer froze up. No biggie. I turned it off and tried to restart. No go. No go in "Last known good configuration", no go in any safe mode, nada, nada.
For all those who say I'm a role model in any way, let me emphasize that I am in fact at times like this a good example of what not to do. First of all, writers should learn all they can about computers so they're not helpless in the face of expired warranties. Secondly, writers should back up all their data monthly, weekly, even daily. Thirdly, all writers should know exactly where their reboot discs are and how to use them.
I guess I should appreciate how long my little $800 dollar laptop hung in there. I bought it just before I covered the 2005 World Youth Cup in Peru, so it was there when the U.S. U17 team (Young Jozy, Preston, et al) defeated Italy. I actually lost my power cord at the stadium there, and was in a panic until the stadium staff returned it to me a day later. It's been dropped more than once, got mislaid in Chicago, went to Germany, bounced around in a bike rack while I rode through Hamburg, and generally been a faithful little computer that could handle anything I threw at it.
I'm anthropomorphizing a piece of machinery, I know, but I'm sentimental. Anyway, I'm using another computer right now - just wanted to explain the holdup on the Landon interview. I'm not sure how to load the audio on this one - it doesn't have the same program my laptop does, so it might take a while. My laptop had WindowsXP on it. This one has Vista, which I really despise.
Anyway, I'll quit mourning. . . sometime.

The Taunting of Landon

The Galaxy's afternoon practice today was the first chance I had to ask Landon Donovan what he'd said after he scored the first goal for the Galaxy versus Houston on Saturday.

Justin, the Galaxy's media guy at the training, wasn't sure I'd get the chance to interview LD, though.

"Tuesdays are when Bianca's taping (Rules of Engagement), so Landon is usually in a hurry to make it to catch that."

Justin promised to ask, though, and I told him I wouldn't take too long. As Landon was walking away from the post-practice stretch, Justin intercepted him to inform him of my request. Landon nodded and headed over to where the press folk were encamped.

"Thanks, Landon," I said, switching on my recorder. I didn't delay, and just asked him straight out.

It's anticlimactic, really, Landon's response. Before I post the audio, here's what my best guess of what I thought he'd said was; "Don't fucking pull me again!" My take was that LD was actually reacting to getting grabbed on the goal attempt, as well as venting frustration over getting tugged at all through the game.

For those who think Landon's language was vile, don't come to Galaxy practices - the scrimmage today had worse during the 15 minutes I watched.

Bit of a mess

Chivas USA has dropped two consecutive games after Sunday's 2-0 setback to FC Dallas. Chivas hasn't lost three in a row since the dark days of 2005, and had gone almost one year since losing back-to-back games. But while the club has issues that need sorting out, it's not exactly time to write the season off.

Now, I'll say the same thing about any team in the league. After all, you don't win MLS Cups in April, and it's not exactly the EPL where two early-season losses can pretty much destroy a team's title aspirations.

A year ago, Houston started off 2-5-1 and even lost three consecutive games to finish off May, and they turned out okay.

So far this year, DC and Chivas have looked like shit while Houston can't win a game. What does it mean? Nothing. It's April. It means nothing. These teams have plenty of time to get their acts together, and each of these teams has an ample amount of character.

So go ahead and write these teams off if you will. Just be prepared to welcome them back in at some point later this season.

On the job

Looks like Jesus Ramirez will stay on for a little longer than expected. Mexico's interim coach was only supposed to keep the seat warm until the Big Name was hired, and was going to lead Mexico through the two friendlies in June.

Now, Mexico officials say Ramirez might stay on through the first World Cup qualifiers, against Belize June 15 and 21.

Now, I know it's only Belize, and Mexico could throw all of the league's Mexican-born players' names in a hat, select 11 and still beat Belize handily, but doesn't it seem that the FMF is doing a poor job of handling the situation? I mean, it's not any tournament Mexico faces this summer - it's qualifying for the World Cup. And the FMF is willing to send its team into such vital games with quite a bit of instability.

A popular belief lately is that Jose Pekerman will assume the duties and while he still may if he were really on deck, wouldn't it make sense to bring him aboard for the qualifiers? Leaving Ramirez on the job leaves the door open to speculation: Can the FMF not find any interested parties? Are they going to wait until after Euro 2008 to nab a coach, perhaps Big Phil? Or is Ramirez the man, given that he would come cheaper than most others? Not that the FMF doesn't have money, but they did pour a lot of resources into Hugo Sanchez.

Regardless, it looks like Ramirez will lead Mexico for at least four more games: Argentina in San Diego on June 4, Peru in Chicago on June 8 and Belize twice, in Houston on June 15 and in Monterrey on June 21. Beyond that, it's anybody's guess who will pace the sidelines in future Tri games.

X factor

As promised, audio of Abel Xavier talking derby. Say what you will about his play, he's always a great person to talk to.

First look at Clasico

I wrote this week's column on, what else?, the Galaxy-Chivas USA game.

I'll post the Abel Xavier audio later this morning so keep an eye out for that.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Little and big

I guess today is the day for the soccer ads. Though it doesn't fit the theme of the stars bringing inspiration to the small fry of the game, what Beckham is trying to do to spread the gospel of soccer in the U.S. strikes me as somewhat similar. It's a big dream, that's for sure.

Groupings

The espn Power Rankings.

Cronin on the clasico

I had the chance to talk to Steve Cronin on Saturday after the 2-2 draw with Houston. Cronin is pretty ripped actually. It's hard to tell with his uniform on but he's got some muscles. You could probably call him barrel-chested and be okay with that description.

Anyway, I asked him about the rivalry with Chivas USA. Some of it made it to my PE column for Tuesday, and some of it got left out. I had to stop at 720 words or so (damned print limitations).

So here's something that Cronin said regarding the rivalry.

"Anybody in the league I think they want to rise to the occasion to play this team for one reason or another. I don’t think the fact that it’s Chivas adds any extra pressure to us. The pressure of that game can only reach a certain point and I think we play a number of those games throughout the year."

So Cronin might actually vote for the last of the four options on the recent poll.

Cuban doesn't like us

Mark Cuban, that is. The NY Times updates some of the issues involved today in sportsblogging, and MC clearly feels that "someone on Blogspot" is less than legitimate. Granted, Cuban gets more traffic on his blog than we do, but did he get hits from Nigeria this morning? Well, maybe he did, but the global power of soccer is still something to behold.

Sangre americana J15 update

Here's how the Americans did in Mexico this weekend.

PRIMERA DIVISION
Michael Orozco. Played 90 minutes in San Luis' 2-1 win over Morelia. San Luis is now even with Chivas on points atop Group 3 and the overall league standings.

Jose Francisco Torres: A week 14 red card kept him out from the lineup and Pachuca was flattened by Puebla 5-2. Not sure if they were related but los Tuzos missed their midfielder.

Edgar Castillo: Played 90 minutes in Santos' 1-1 tie with Necaxa.

Daniel Hernandez: Played 90 minutes in Jaguares' 2-1 loss to Veracruz. Hernandez picked up a yellow card in the 81st minute.

PRIMERA A
Sonny Guadarrama: Started and played 68 minutes in Morelia's 2-1 loss to Coatzalcoalcos.

Sammy Ochoa: Played 90 minutes in Tecos' 1-0 loss to Tigres B.

Jesus Padilla: Played 90 minutes in Tapatio's 1-0 loss to Tampico Madero.

Week 4 Spotlight

Rolling out a new feature here. Hopefully this becomes a Monday morning fixture. Let me know what you think.

A look back at Week 4 in Major League Soccer as I spotlight the best players and a couple other tidbits, both good and bad, from the weekend's slate of games.

TEAM OF WEEK 4
G: Kevin Hartman
D: Frankie Hejduk
D: Jimmy Conrad
D: Duilio Davino
M: Laurent Robert
M: Guillermo Barros Schelotto
M: Ronnie O'Brien
M: David Beckham
M: Brian Mullan
F: Landon Donovan
F: Alejandro Moreno
Coach: Ruud Gullit

Star: Landon Donovan. Inspired second half performance helped Galaxy salvage a point. Two goals now give him five for the season. Could have done without the taunts, though.

Top defense: Kansas City. After early goal, Wizards defended well for 86 minutes and shut out a strong and determined Fire attack.

Top attack: Los Angeles. Turned the pressure on for the final 45 minutes. Had it not been for a strong performance by Houston goalkeeper Tony Craig, the Galaxy could have scored even more.

Coaching expertise: After his side was thoroughly outplayed in first 45 minutes, Ruud Gullit made two defensive moves at halftime. The moves helped settle the team a bit and Galaxy turned on the pressure and nabbed a point at home.

Top goal: Ronnie O'Brien. For the first time in two years, San Jose scored a goal in regular season play.

Best game: Houston 2, Galaxy 2. High energy, high drama, standout goalkeeping, clutch goals. Only thing missing was a winner.

LOWLIGHTS
Worst defense: Colorado. Expansion teams aren't supposed to score so easily.

Worst attack: Chivas USA. Yes, they were missing Sacha Kljestan and Francisco Mendoza. But that doesn't excuse this lousy performance.

Random gaffes
Chad Barrett: The Chad Barrett we knew was there all along returned as the young Fire striker was up to his usual missing-a-wide-open-net tricks.

Chivas USA's intensity: Where was it?

Red Bulls wall: Up a man, New York yielded a free kick to New England early in the second half. Instead of making it difficult for Revs' Jeff Larentowicz, the wall distracted goalkeeper Jon Conway as the Revs scored the equalizer.