Thursday, October 30, 2008

New blog

Alright, so you guys weren't expecting a new post on here. I wasn't expecting to write one. But I can't stay away from blogging. It's become ingrained in me. I've had reactions to certain things over the course of the last week or so and I've felt like blogging about it but haven't had an outlet.

Now I do. Check out the-touchline.blogspot.com for my latest ramblings on the world of futbol. I explain some things about the new blog over there and why I chose to start a blog from scratch instead of continuing here.

But the inspiration to continue came from here. I can't explain how much your comments on the previous post meant to me. For a while, I couldn't read them without getting choked up. Anyway, I hope you'll continue on to The Touchline (which I must say was one of the two finalists for the name of this blog that Andrea came up with). And if you choose not to, that's fine too.

So that's it. This I suppose was the epilogue of this tale. This blog will remain here, for nostalgia sake I suppose.

And with that, I'm out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Fond Farewell

I'm sure a few readers out there have probably guessed what's coming.

It's time. Time to shut down Sideline Views. This blog started because I was trying to prove the viability of soccer content that wasn't just news or commentary, but little extra bits of info here and there. I wanted to link it to a soccer site that I was working for at the time. That job didn't work out, but I got attached to the freedom blogging provides - the instant outlet to what I wanted to say and share with the world.
Luis was not only a good sport to go along with my idea of a blog, but he also became a big reason why I kept it going. From the start, it made our blog unique, because we had different points of view (though a surprising number of readers never seemed to figure out that I posted in green, while his posts were blue).
Luis' insightful, provocative posts would inspire me to take the time out of busy days to try to add what I could to the blog. Many of our faithful readers also helped keep us motivated to maintain the blog. Your comments, criticisms and praise really meant a lot to us.
When we could, we experimented with what innovation we were able to wring out of our limited technological talent. We put up audio clips of our interviews, videos, features, and more than a few photos.
In some ways, working on the blog helped prepare me for what I'm moving on to do now. I'm the new writer/editor for Goal.com USA. This new job is also why I left my position as contributing writer for espn.com.
Some of the ideas I have in mind for the Goal.com site in the future are things that I tried out on Sideline Views first. I'm not giving up reporting about soccer - far from it. With Goal.com, I think I'll be able to do a better job of that than ever. It just won't be here anymore.
I offered the blog to Luis to run on his own if he liked, but he declined, saying the fun of the whole thing was working with a partner on the project. Maybe he'll write his own farewell message later.
I'm not going to take the blog offline just yet. I'll leave it up here for those who want to search the archives (or steal our pictures).
For new material, though, I'll be writing exclusively for Goal.com now. Check out my daily feature article!
Luis' latest writings can still be found at Sports Illustrated, MLSnet and the Press Enterprise.



This is LB. I'll just jump in here since this should be the final post. As AC mentioned above, the whole fun of this was having a partner to work with. It wouldn't be Sideline Views without AC. I never felt like it was my blog, but I never felt like it was her blog. It was truly ours and we inspired each other and the loyal readers did as well.

I thought it was great to put audio links on the blog, take time and money (10 bucks a month, not that much, but still...) to put up things that nobody else was putting up and we got some awesome stuff. That Frank Yallop post-game presser about how f-ing knackered they were last year was classic. Truly awesome stuff. And you readers got to hear all that, unedited, raw, and that made it great. And I felt honored to be able to take that to you all.

We weren't trying to scoop people, though we had the Brad Guzan move to England first. And we weren't necessarily trying to bring you breaking news. We just had thoughts and could formulate opinions and such. And we enjoyed working for the readers, even if it meant taking a little extra time to work on something that we knew we weren't going to get paid for.

But now, AC is moving on in her career and if anyone deserves anything grand, it's her. She has been an inspiration in so many ways and will continue to be one I'm sure. So this blog, her brainchild, one I was fortunate to be a part of, is no more.

As AC mentioned, you guys can follow us through our various outlets. It's not the same, but this blog wouldn't be the same without Andrea.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sven update

I'm writing my PE column on Mexico and Sven Goran Eriksson, the now under-fire Mexico head coach.

Just had some thoughts I'm writing on here that may or may not make it into the piece.

First, last week I wrote about how Mexico might not qualify but odds are against it happening. Mexico has a plus four and Jamaica a minus three and barring two lopsided routs Mexico could lose and still get through.

Of course, the fact that Mexico has not qualified yet is enough for concern and FMF people have the right to be upset, which is one of the points of my column.

Anyway, here's a possible scenario that could see Jamaica through and Mexico out. If Honduras beats Mexico 3-0 and Jamaica routs Canada 5-0, Jamaica and Honduras go through.

How likely is that? Not very likely, according to history. Mexico has lost a World Cup qualifier by three or more goals at least once, but that was way back in 1973. They've lost by a pair of goals a few times since but not by three or more.

However, Mexico has not fared well in Honduras in their last two trips there. In 2001, Mexico lost 3-1 and in 1996 they lost 2-1. In 1993, though, Mexico won by 4-0 down in Tegucigalpa.

A Honduras victory is possible especially since Honduras was 20 minutes away from achieving as much in Azteca. But I guess it depends mostly on which Mexico team shows up, and that will depend on how Eriksson prepares for the match.

Is it possible Eriksson doesn't survive the year? Yeah, sure but I think Mexico would have crash out of qualifying for that to happen. To me, Mexico will probably get a draw down in Honduras and qualify for the Hexagonal. If that happens, the pressure will remain on high - could we call that an orange threat level? - for the winter and until the Hex begins.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Becks back to Prem?

It's unlikely, of course, even for a loan. He did practice with Arsenal last year to get in shape. Obviously, Becks wants to stay in as high a form as possible to continue playing for England.

I don't think Beck's contract allows for a loan to another team. It would be the Galaxy's luck to have him badly injured again. Alexi Lalas used to insist that Becks practicing with another team was fine, playing was another matter. Of course, he said something similar to Amado Guevara way back in the MetroStars era, and Amado played games during the offseason anyway. I'm trying to think of the last player MLS loaned out to any team, and I'm drawing a blank. Was it Brian McBride with his Everton gig in 2002? I think there's a more recent example, but I can't remember it. Suffice it to say, though, MLS does not readily loan players.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

For the love of the game

Raul Macias is spreading the gospel of soccer.

The Dope Show

Steroids is a problem that has plagued other professional American sports, most notably baseball.

But it was just a matter of time, really, until steroids made their way into MLS. On Thursday, they did as New York players Jon Conway and Jeff Parke were slapped with fines and suspensions after positive tests.

The two players tested positive for androstatriendione (ATD) and boldenone metabolites, according to a release, which are considered performance-enhancing substances.

Per MLS rules, each player has been banned for 10 games, including playoffs, effective immediately. They've also been docked 10 percent of their annual salary.

The release also says that both players purchased an over-the-counter nutritional supplement that contains ATD at "a vitamin store that is part of a national chain." Not sure what the intent of that information was but possibly they'd just like to be as detailed as possible. When you say steroids, after all, most people probably would think some sort of needle injection.

So what does this mean for New York? Well, Conway has started 28 of 28 games this season. Caleb Patterson-Sewell and Terry Boss split the goalkeeping duties in New York's last reserve match. Conway isn't the best 'keeper in MLS but it's a notch or three down from Conway to Patterson-Sewell and Boss.

As for Parke, only Seth Stammler and Kevin Goldthwaite have more starts among field players than Parke. Still, the club can probably absorb Parke's loss better than it can Conway's.

Perhaps the info about the national chain is to dissuade any fears about players possibly shooting up in the locker room. Maybe the two players made an honest mistake and took stuff without reading the labels too closely.

Still, steroids are steroids and professional athletes of all people should be careful about what they ingest, whether it's a plate of food at breakfast or nutritional supplements. Thus, the league was left with little choice but to follow procedure and ban the players.


None too happy

That would be Justino Compean, President of the Mexican Football Federation (FMF).

On the Mexican Federation's web site, Compean spells out in detail how he feels about Mexico's current situation, not through to the Hexagonal with one game to go.

If you can read and understand Spanish, check it out for yourself on the site. But if you don't, I've translated his words below.

And, of course, those are not words of happiness.

Compean:
It's a sad analysis, one of disappointment. To gain just one point as a visitor is far from what the Mexican national team should be.

The expectation was to go into Honduras having already qualified, and that's been compromised. There are no positive results as visitors. We rescued one point out of six and that's not what we expected to achieve as visitors. Gaining one point was not the most convenient thing, even if it is valuable, but that's the reality for this team, who should have gotten to Honduras already qualified.

It is obvious... we have fallen short - the officials, the players, the coaching staff, nobody has achieved anything when you only gain one out of six points.

It is true that the goal differential helps us but let's not be satisfied and go through falling down. We have everything - infrastructure, players, support from the owners. There is not a single excuse we have for not having qualified.

I am sure Mexico will be in the Hexagonal one way or another, and afterwards the World Cup. We have everything necessary to go. But I hope that on November 19 in Honduras we all have different faces. Today on our faces are disappointment, sadness, letdown. But we have to keep working and moving forward.

TnT vets over USA newbies

New and exciting doesn't always produce the desired results.

Reaction from Port-of-Spain

Recap

Grahame takes a look at Torres and congratulates Bradley

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Trouble for El Tri?

Mexico did not win in Edmonton on Wednesday. Canada played a valiant match and twice went up on Mexico but could not hold on as Mexico and Canada tied 2-2.

Coupled with the result in Kingston - Jamaica 1, Honduras 0 - Mexico does not have a spot in the Hexagonal wrapped up.

So, does that mean Mexico is on the brink of elimination?

Not really.

Here are the group standings through five games:

Mexico 10 points, plus 4 goal differential
Honduras 9 plus 3
Jamaica 7 minus 3
Canada 2 minus 4

So in order for Mexico to not qualify for the Hex, Honduras would have to beat Mexico and Jamaica would need to beat Canada, and then...

Jamaica would have minus 2 with a 1-0 win while Mexico would be at plus 3 with a 1-0 loss. So Jamaica would have to win by a lot and/or have Mexico lose by a lot.

Jamaica 4-0 means Honduras would have to beat Mexico by the same score. Jamaica would have plus one while Mexico would be even.

If Honduras beats Mexico by one, whether it's 1-0 or 6-5, then Jamaica needs to beat Canada by seven goals.

Of course, if you are arguing that Mexico is underachieving for even being in a position on the last game where they wont go through... well, that's a different story. And I don't know if you'll get too much of an argument from anyone on that.

U.S./TnT WCQ running blog

Clinching means new faces and starters for the U.S., including Torres.

----------------Guzan----------------
Hejduk---Califf---Orozco---Pearce
---------Edu--------Torres-----------
Kljestan-------Adu------Beasley (c)
--------------Altidore-----------------

Harkes and Dellacamera wax nostalgic over the "Shot heard 'round the world" by Paul Caliguri.
"The Star-Spangled Banner" actually sounds really awesome played by a calypso band. The bandleader exhorts the crowd to sing along to TnT's anthem. A few of their players also comply.

Jozy and Stern John are interviewed about the importance of the match. Jozy wants to make a good impression, SJ wants to take his country to the World Cup.

Kickoff!
1 - I've switched to Galavision, by the way. Jozy goes down wincing - he's back up, though. Don't know if he was trying to gain a little ref sympathy or was hurt.
2 - Torres tries to reach Bease with an over-the-top pass, but it's too far.
3 - Torres gives up a FK right at the edge of the box. Torres tosses his hands up, but this is going to be a tough one for Guzano. He punches the ball out, but it rebounds back in and Orozco finally clears it.
4 - On the counter, Sacha tries to lay ball back for Adu, but it gets cut off for a corner. Adu sends it in, Edu trips going backward for it, falling awkwardly as the ball skips merrily by.
7 - Captain Bease tries to take the ball on the wing on his own - doesn't work there.
8 - Torres is lively in the midfield, though playing it a bit safe. The announcers note U.S. nerves as Califf gives up a corner.
Yorke tries to shoot, but he's well covered and can't hit the ball clear - wide.
9 - Adu with a cute flick, but it misses Altidore.
10 - Guzan stops a shot from distance - gives up a bit of a rebound, but no TnT players are there and he scrambles to catch it. The announcers give him guff for that.
12 - The U.S. gets the ball off a bad touch of a TnT defender. Adu then gets fouled. Sach sets up the FK. It doesn't clear the first man, but Hejduk kills the counter by putting the ball out.
14 - Nice to see Torres confident, asking for the ball back from Sacha. Adu send ball wide to Hejduk gets there and his cross is out for a corner. The corner comes back to Adu, the U.S. scrambles to shoot, while TnT defends desperately and finally holds the young Americans off. They looked lively there, though.
16 - Bease gets shoved down. Torres tries a nifty through-ball. It doesn't make it, but the announcers praise him anyway.
17 - The announcers now complain on Heath Pearce's behalf - he was shielding the ball out when it looked to them that he was clearly fouled, but TnT get the ball. And then they nearly score, but the shot is high over the goal.
19 - The U.S. is playing little-guy defense, running everywhere to poke the ball away, but not really retaining any possession.
20 - Bease with a great cross.
23 - The announcers have fun with Edu/Adu passes. Torres loses the ball in a bad spot but chases his man to slow down the attack.
25 - This time Bease loses the ball in midfield and it leads to a shot Guzan has to dive for. Altidore tries a pass to a charging Bease, but DaMarcus is called offside. The announcers replay the move and disagree with the call.
27 - The anthracite shirt makes B.Bradley look more severe than ever.
28 - Orozco with a nice play kills a TnT attack.
29 - Adu is ragged by the announcers, who say he's there to be "the Donovan of the team" and he's not doing it. They note that Adu has a move here and there, but the U.S. isn't controlling the midfield.
32 - Now the announcers speculate that Bradley will be pissed at his midfield at halftime.
33 - Edu's pass doesn't make it to Adu.
34 -Hislop is down and being taken off the field. No, Hislop is coming in, I got that backwards.
35 - TnT break on the counter and Adu pulls a player. The crowd and announcers want a card for that. Doesn't happen.
37 - Torres from distance - way over. Not as close as his attempt against Cuba.
38 - Guzan with a poor clear gives up a close throw. A handball goes uncalled, but the TnT cross is poor and out for a goalkick. Guzan escaped a bit there.
39 - The announcers don't like the Edu/Adu combo for anything but comedic rhyme. They want to see Danny Szetela come in.
40 - Adu way overshoots a breaking Torres. Ugh.
41 - Hejduk gets his cross off, but right to the goalkeeper.
42 - Sacha falls over twice. Half the US team has mud and dirt all over their white uniforms. They look pretty grubby. They're not playing much better, either. Hejduk slips after reaching an Adu pass.
43 - Ha, the announcers aren't sure that the halftime highlights will be - nothing stand out as very good so far this match.
45 - TnT mounts a charge on goal - Orozco clears, then Pearce.
45+ TnT is controlling the ball for the last shot. And here it comes, as the U.S. defense is split, but the shot is wide.
Halftime - well, so far, not one of the newbies is really making a case to move on the the main team for the matches that really matter.
48 - Midfield play looking better for the U.S. early on in the second half.
49 - Yorke to Edwards - could have been dangerous, but Edwards faffed it up.
53 - Corner for TnT. It's headed away, but comes right back and Yorke nearly gets a shot off, then Scotland - wide.
55 - I'm back to watching ESPN during the second half, but I imagine the Spanish announcers were yelling on that last play.
56 - The crowd is increasing in noise - especially the insistent drums.
59 - Edu works hard to get the ball back, but Sach gives it away twice as quickly there.
61 - GOAL! TnT has overcome the youngsters! Edwards leads it out and dinks a cross in. The shot from Latapy rebounds off the post and rebounds in off Guzan. 1-0 TnT leads.
63 - Harkes and JP tell us at least 40 times that Latapy is forty.
69 - Davies is in for Adu - why does poor Charlie always gets sent in during a loss?
70 - Can't believe Jozy got that corner, but now the U.S. has a chance - or did - foul in the box negates the play.
75 - GOAL! Ok, that's why they send Charlie in. Jozy is like a bull in a china shop, banging off bodies in the box to keep the play going and finally slots a ball through that Charlie puts away for his first senior team goal. 1-1
76 - Latapy is out to a big cheer.
77 - TnT attacking hard now.
78 - Penalty! Hislop is pulled in the box. Guzan sets up against Yorke.
79 -GOAL! Yorke stuttersteps, getting Guzan to dive and miss his low shot. 2-1 Trinidad and Tobago are up again. JP reminds Harkes that he played against Yorke and Latapy in his day. Harkes is probably thinking, "Heck, I could go down there right now and do better than the U.S. midfield at present."
81 - Bease FK. Bounces around and Hislop goes in hard against his CDCUSA teammate. Sach overthrows Hejduk.
84 - The U.S. nearly gets another goal - Sach with a great header creates a chance, but Jozy hashes up the put-away.
87 - A flurry near the TnT goal, but the U.S. can't get a shot through the forest of defenders.
88 - Rolfe is on for Pearce. Torres came out earlier, with Szetela finally in.
90 - Szetela with a great low cross, but no one from the U.S. is able to get on to it. too bad. Tasty-looking ball.
90 + Harkes waxes nostalgic about playing versus the TnT coach.
Final whistle - TnT wins.
I'm not sure what sort of impression Jozy left today - his hustle helped create the U.S. goal, but then he grabbed Hislop for the penalty. Basically, it was what one might expect from young players, scrappy play, but a lot of mistakes.

And the finalists are...

Two of the following cities will win MLS expansion teams within the next few years. These were the seven bids submitted from groups with interest to take MLS to the following cities: Atlanta, Miami, Montreal, Ottawa, Portland, St. Louis and Vancouver.

I know not the financial backing of these particular bids. FC Barcelona is behind the Miami bid and Falcons owner Arthur Blank is supporting a bid for Atlanta, so it seems there is some pretty solid financial footing among the group.

But all things being equal, I've got to favor two cities from the rest of the pack.

I'd love to see MLS in Portland. As I've said before here on this blog, I think Portland is a great venue for soccer. The Trail Blazers enjoy quite a bit of support there but there aren't any other major pro teams there; no NHL, NFL or MLB teams. The Timbers have a passionate following that could carry over into MLS. And there is a natural rival nearby with Seattle. You think Galaxy-Chivas USA was an instant classic? Can you imagine Timbers-Sounders in MLS? I'd pay to see that.

As much as I'd like to support Atlanta, I think Montreal would be a great MLS town. Much like Portland-Seattle, there would be a natural rivalry with Toronto FC, whose fans have shown a tremendous amount of support for their club. Sure, there have been some streaming issues with the club but season ticket sales have been booming, and that's for a club who has had little success in their first two seasons. Montreal might have such a built-in fan base awaiting such a club. There could be a fertile fan base in Montreal as there was in Toronto and I don't know if I can say the same for Atlanta or Miami.

Still, I believe that Miami goes straight to the top because of Barcelona's backing. Barcelona is in good with the league and that's got to count for something. I think that is unfortunate because Miami already had their shot at MLS and failed.

Time to step up

The United States is through to the hexagonal so tonight's game in Port-of-Spain is meaningless, right? After all, it's not even posturing as first or second place gets you the same thing: a spot in the hex. Standings don't improve based upon your finish in the semifinal phase, so long as you finish.

Well, in terms of the hexagonal, no, tonight's game will not have an effect on that. But the game will carry a great deal of meaning for U.S. players.

In fact, there are five players I've singled out who I think need to show a lot in Trinidad tonight.

1. Freddy Adu. Young Freddy, the stage is yours. American fans have been salivating for years over the prospect of a European-season Adu leading the offense from the middle of the field. We have seen flashes of brilliance from him, as well as moments of absurdity. But in order to ensure more playing time next year in the Hex and Confederations Cup, Adu needs to have more of the former and less of the latter. Adu's biggest problem is his inability to constantly distribute the ball. Often times, he makes runs like a mad man through the center of the field and does not incorporate his teammates. While that can pay off, Adu needs to pick his spots better. Also, he has to try and solidify his spot among a deep group of midfielders. If Adu is going to be the heart and soul of the US attack come 2010, he needs to seize opportunities like tonight.

2. Brad Guzan. Tim Howard is the unquestionable number one goalkeeper. But if he goes down with injury, Guzan is next in line. Can he handle being the number one goalkeeper? Well, he had a brilliant career in MLS and made his way to England. But club accomplishments can only take you so far. Guzan will have plenty of opportunity to show he can be the number one goalkeeper, and there is an outside shot he and Howard could become the modern-day version of Friedel-Keller. Guzan will get tested. Trinidad will be a much tougher challenge than Barbados.

3. Heath Pearce. The defense for this match is woefully inexperienced. Frankie Hejduk is the senior member of the squad but how much he will have left in the tank in '09 and '10 remains to be seen. Entering this match, Pearce is the one player on the backline that seems to be in line for a starting spot in Hex games next year and beyond. He has to show leadership and help stabilize a young backline and ensure that inexperienced players like Michael Orozco and Marvell Wynne do not get rattled.

4. Jozy Altidore. Much like Freddy Adu, American fans have salivated over the prospect of having Altidore see meaningful minutes in meaningful games. Altidore is perhaps the best U.S. forward prospect, well, if not ever then certainly near the top. At some point, he will have to blossom and show that he is worthy of the hype. With a qualifier or three more under his belt, Altidore should be a first-choice starter in next year's Hex. But the time to show he can handle the pressures of a hotly-contested road qualifier is now.

5. Sacha Kljestan. With a loaded midfield, it seems Kljestan has an uphill battle of finding playing time. However, he did well to earn a start against Cuba and play well in that game. Now, with some of the more experienced players out of the way, the stage is there for Kljestan to show his worth. Kljestan is a strong two-way player for Chivas USA and is one of the best young midfielders in MLS. Should he carry that over consistently with the US, it will be just another strong option Bob Bradley will have in the Hex.

Canada contemplates Mexico



The Invasion - Or Not

They're coming! New clubs, investment, etc, coming to spice up little ole MLS.

Barsa bids!


Blank bids!

Jack's not terribly impressed with the history of foreign investment so far

Gullit prophesies doom.

Grahame has a blog! Well, ok, the LA Times has a blog and Grahame is on it, taking Gullit on.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Write for ESPN

There is a bit of a catch - you have to be LA-based, and you should have some soccer and journalism experience.

As Jen Chang, the U.S. page editor, has detailed, I've left my contributor post at espn.com. I'll have more news on where I've landed later on, but for right now, the big news is that people who thought, "I could write something better than that," whenever they read my articles now get a chance to try.

Seriously, I've had a good run with espn, and I'm pretty proud of the history of articles I've built up there.

Change is good, though, and I think the job will be an exciting opportunity for the right person.



My take on Torres

Here's my Tuesday PE column on Jose Francisco Torres.

It's along the same lines as the things I wrote when he first accepted the call-up to the US national team. But there was one prominent voice in this column that I hadn't mentioned here before.

I actually got to write a last-minute story on, not just Torres but the whole Mexican-American issue for Futbol Mundial. At first the story was supposed to be sort of a general piece about the Edgar Castillos and Michael Orozcos of the world. But then we got word that Torres had committed to the US and it was on. It became a rather timely piece for the magazine, which is great since fortunes change in the soccer world quickly. For instance, we could have written about a coach or team in qualifying but who is to say that said coach or said team will be in the same shape as before.

Anyway, I talked to Sunil Gulati about Torres and the issue in general and some of what didn't make it to the magazine wound up here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Torres talks


An outing of around 20 minutes – what are your thoughts?

I’m very happy. I’m grateful to the coach for putting me in. I thank God that things worked out for me to come play for the U.S. I’m very happy. We won, we came out with a victory in front of our fans. (the camera pans to a fan sign: Torres > Castillo)

What did you think this experience was going to be like?

I was nervous when I got here. I thought it was going to be different. But I got here Monday and all my teammates welcomed me. Little by little, I was training more and getting to know my teammates. I think I have great teammates that have treated me well.

Did you know about the drama over you in Mexico? What are your thoughts?

I think I made the right decision. I did wait for an opportunity from Mexico, but they didn’t give me one. I waited a while, and then the U.S. called again. I talked with my family and then I was the one who decided to come. I think it’s a great opportunity for me to play and succeed. Thank God, things are turning out well.

Congratulations.

Thanks.

TnT takes on U.S. young 'uns



Play the pundit. What do you think about Bradley's moves lately? Has he been too conservative? Is it too late for TnT? Will the fringe players and newbies perform well?

Lobster Bib Rankings (Oct. 13)

Two weeks left in the regular season and most clubs are sinking. There are four clubs worth a damn right now (those ranked, conveniently enough 1-4), a fifth that can go either way and nine clubs who can't get their acts together, nine clubs that vary from pathetic to uber-pathetic. And nine clubs who still have a chance of reaching MLS Cup 08.

Gotta love the playoff chase.



1. Columbus Crew (16-6-6). Can't imagine any other team occupying this spot for the rest of this season.
2. Houston (11-5-11). Need points to stave off a hard-charging Chivas squad.
3. Chivas USA (12-10-6). Few gave them a shot of repeating as conference champs, but that's exactly what could happen.
4. Chicago (12-9-7). May have sent message to Columbus: watch out for Fire in conference title game...
5. New England (12-9-7)... which New England have little shot of reaching now that Steve Ralston has a broken leg.
6. Real Salt Lake (9-10-9). Rio Tinto Stadium better become a house of horrors for opponents soon if RSL wants to reach postseason.
7. FC Dallas (8-9-11). Dropping points at home means must-win road games coming up.
8. Kansas City (9-10-9). Wizards sit in a playoff spot despite horrendous road record.
9. Colorado (10-14-4). Needing a win, Rapids came out with a losing effort against LA.
10. Toronto (8-12-8). Can't afford to drop points like that... well, they couldn't if they were actually alive.
11. Los Angeles (8-12-8). Nothing like two consecutive home wins to get a little fire going.
12. San Jose (7-11-9). It was too difficult for first-year club to maintain midseason surge.
13. DC (10-14-4). Road shutout is nothing to hang heads about for this disaster of a club.
14. New York (9-10-9). 14 goals allowed in last six games - that's not the way to close out a season.

East too?

That Galaxy breakdown I did earlier was, I should have written, was for the Galaxy to finish third in the Western Conference. But I realized while I was writing it and as others have since pointed out that there is actually a chance the Galaxy can finish ahead of all but three Eastern Conference teams and claim one of the two wild-card playoff spots.

How is that possible? Well, this is MLS after all and as I wrote earlier, anything can happen. It doesn't matter what you've done from April to September, because everything is amplified tenfold now.

Statistically, though, it is possible.


- First and foremost, the Galaxy must win at Houston and against FC Dallas. Two wins gives the Galaxy 38 points.
- Kansas City must not win. The Wizards host San Jose and travel to New England. Two losses keeps them at 36 points. Two draws gives them 38 points, and it would go to a tiebreaker. Each team beat the other once so tiebreaker then is goal differential, and if the Galaxy win out and KC doesn't win, LA wins that tiebreaker.
- New York is home to Columbus and at Chicago. New York needs to either lose both or draw one and lose the other. The latter gives them 37 points. NY holds the tiebreaker over the Galaxy.
- DC United has 34 points. A win and draw would give DC 38 points but LA would have the tiebreaker. Two wins puts DC at 40 points, anything short of that gives LA the edge.
- Toronto needs to not win out. Toronto beat the Galaxy twice this year and two wins would give them 38 points.


Chivas' road to the playoffs

So apparently we've not countered a Galaxy post with a Chivas USA post. The Galaxy post below about how they could get to the playoffs sparked this, so to counter that particular topic I'll offer here how Chivas USA can get to the postseason.

They're in. Congrats. Now try and win a postseason series. And feel free to score a goal this year.

Reading + Soccer = READ Futbol Mundial

It's not often that I get to combine my enthusiasm and experience in both soccer and education, but as guest editor for READ Futbol Mundial, that's exactly what I was able to do.

I've contributed articles to Futbol Mundial before, but the READ version is a different magazine aimed at engaging middle school students to read more by using soccer as a lure. The articles are trying to present positive role models and be instructive on different levels, teaching not only reading and writing skills, but a little financial literacy as well.

I was honored to be asked to participate in the project of putting together their second issue. I wrote quite a few of the articles in the magazine (Luis contributed one, too). The READ Futbol team put together an essay contest for kids as well, with "My Favorite Player" as a topic.

This issue is being distributed in the New York area, but all of the articles are available on the website and anyone in the country can enter the reading or essay contest. There's an option to upload photos. The issue has articles on the Olympics, a Claudio Suarez book review, an interview with Juan Pablo Angel, and more.

I've always respected the views of our readers, so if you have any suggestions and comments, post them here or on the READ Futbol Mundial site.

Galaxy's road to the playoffs

Mathematically, the Galaxy are still alive for a playoff spot. How is this possible, you say, considering their absolutely dreadful season?

It is MLS after all, and everyone is alive with two games to go, Galaxy included.

So how does the league's best offensive/worst defensive team get into the postseason. It's complicated, but it's possible.


- Galaxy has to win at Houston and at home against FC Dallas. That would give them 38 points at season's end.
- Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas must draw this weekend. RSL must then lost to Colorado. That would give Real Salt Lake 37 points.
- An FC Dallas draw to RSL and loss to the Galaxy would give FC Dallas 36 points.
- Colorado must lose to Chivas USA on Sunday. With that and a win over RSL, that would give the Rapids 37 points.
- San Jose must not win out. San Jose actually has three games left and if they win out they'll have 39 points.

So there it is in a nutshell. Two wins and a lot of help. Not likely but possible. Reason enough for Galaxy fans to keep hope alive.


Gary on the game



video

Gary Smith, the coach of the Rapids since Clavijo resigned in August.

BA post win

Bruce speaks briefly, sorta.

video
No, that's not all there was to Bruce's statement on the game. But my battery was flaking out, so that's all the video of Bruce I have.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bruce and Bob

Bruce Arena was asked at the Galaxy presser what he thought of the U.S. game versus Cuba.

"It was good," he answered, but he looked so utterly unimpressed that the entire group of journalists cracked up with laughter. "That kind of performance to is be expected. Cuba is not a strong team. They're an amateur team, basically."

One way to take that is that Bruce is exactly right, Cuba wasn't a strong team, even without players defecting. Another way to take that is that Bruce perhaps doesn't like the idea that another coach could surpass his own accomplishments, and his praise was a bir grudging based on that. Or maybe, Bruce was miffed that Bob Bradly didn't pull Landon Donovan after the USMNT game had been put out of reach by the Americans.

I watched the Cuba game thinking that Landon might, just might, because he's crazy like that, make it back from that for the Galaxy game if the U.S. routed Cuba and he got pulled early for a more inexperienced player. Instead, Landon went the full 90, so it was a surprise to see him on the bench, let alone on the field, for the Galaxy.

That wasn't Bruce's idea. He told reporters that he hadn't even had contact with Landon until his phone rang and Landon told Bruce that he'd come back and thought he could play in the game.

Cuba - US reactions

Ay Papi, look at what you started by playing so well in MLS!

"Strength to strength"

Michelle catches up with one of the defectors.

Bease is back

The kids contribute


The Mexican press complains about the post-loss presser. It was hot, crowded, and the Jamaican Federation president said the win was for the people of the country. Plus, the Jamaican press wanted Sven to answer at least half his questions in English. Also, their journalists cheered a few times. The strong implication is that the whole presser was partisan and nationalistic and unprofessional. What's ironic here is that the Mexican media is often considered to be in a similar vein.

Kingston rocked


Rafa Marquez: What we were missing was a little bit of luck. We had a lot of chances and plenty of attacks, but we didn't have the luck to help us score a goal. Considering the youth on the team, I think we played well and showed a lot of of character.

Gerrado Torrado: We didn't have good fortune. We got to goal again and again and couldn't score. They were able to score on one attack.

Sven: We've got to play more quickly when we're facing opponents with the physical strength of Jamaica. We needed to move the ball around more, all around the field. Now we've got to make sure that we do that on Wednesday. We'll play faster.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Advising Torres


Host: Let’s look at what his Pachuca teammates told Paco Torres before and after his decision to play for the U.S.

Torres: Well, I mostly talked with Gabriel Caballero and Miguel Calero. I think they’re supporting me in every way. Correa also told me a lot of things – that I made the correct decision. I think my teammates are supporting me 100 percent. I’ve learned a lot from them.

Narrator: Jaime Correa and Gabriel Caballero have admitted to talking with Torres about his decision and helping him come to the choice to play for the U.S.

Caballero: “Mexico waited until the last moment. They should have called him earlier. He decided to make the choice that was in his control. He’s got a lot of qualities. That’s going to help him to triumph. I think the Mexican team did lose a good player.”

Correa: “He held out for a little while, waiting to see if Mexico would call him. But he was thinking about World Cup qualifying games and the upcoming World Cup and he finally chose and I think made the best choice.”

Enrique Meza was the first person to seek out Torres about the decision and gave him the opposite council of his teammates.

Meza: He said yes to the U.S. before he ever heard from Mexico. We all told him to wait, but he felt a certain impatience because of the upcoming World Cup. The last time I talked to him about it, he told me, “Prof, I gave my word already. I have to keep it, because my word is important.”

Host: Gringo Torres also said that when he talked to Calero, Calero told him to wait for a call from the Mexican national team. The young Pachuca player made his decision in the midst of differing advice.

Then the panel argues. They mention Orozco and Camoranesi. They mention Torres is not a regular starter for Pachuca. They discuss how Torres didn’t go to the Olympics, despite the invite of the U.S. That should have been a sign, the panel argues, that Mexico should have taken him more seriously. Basically, the argument is, “Cap ‘im! Figure out later if he’s any good.”

They mention that Bradley sees potential in him and the panel expects Torres to play in the World Cup. They fault not so much Ericksson, but Jesus “Chucho” Ramirez for not brining Torres in to any youth team matches.

Mexico/Jamaica, second half.

The U.S. game just ended, so I'm tuning in late. Mexico is trailing by one goal.
46 - Mexico with a quick shot, but it's saved by Ricketts. Jamaica comes right back and is close with an outside shot. I can't tell who took it, though.
48 - Luis Perez sends a FK in, but Jamaica's defenders head the ball away.
51 - Gio sends the ball too far and loses it to Ty Marshall.
53 - Mexico gets a CK. Salcido sends in a great header, but Ricketts saves it miraculously.
54 - Ty clears a dangerous ball. The Reggae Boyz are fighting hard for this.
55 - Gardner's FK reaches Oswaldo, but he handles it fine.
58 - The next hard shot from Austin is much tougher, but Sanchez just gets there.
65 - Peres gives up a dangerous FK, but the angle is tough. Sanchez stops the ball, but it's surprising the defenders let it get through that far.
67 - Corner kick for Jamaica, but Sanchez grabs the ball. Ty is given a yellow for undercutting Jonny Magallon, but the announcers think it was way harsh.
68 - Shot comes close from distance for Mexico, but not really.
70 - Perez is out and Arellano comes in.
73 - Marquez nearly gets the equalizer, but his header goes off the post.
75 - Captain Rafa then gets a yellow, meaning he can't play the next qualifier for Mexico.
77 - Thompson's foul on Marquez only gets a yellow and this time, the announcers aren't forgiving and demand red. Tempers flare and shoving breaks out.
79 - Salcido gets a yellow.
80 - Ricketts catches a cross, then Sanchez does the same at his end. Mexico doesn't look in sync at all. There's individual runs, but that's it.
81 - Mexico's corner gets cleared out.
84 - Jamaica have a free kick. They're taking all the time they can. The FK is awful, though, way over the bar.
85 - Mexico is running out of time. Where's Blanco when you need him? Right - retired from El Tri. Arce misses wide with a shot.
86 - Jamaica has about eight clear chances to take a good shot, but manages only one and puts it wide. There was more enthusiasm than expertise in that attack, but Mexico just couldn't shut it down.
87 - Another terrible Jamaican free kick. Mexico is hanging heads already, though. Where's the famous fight? Well, it's true they're missing Blanco.
88 - Magallon sends a mammoth cross to no one, unless Gio is twenty feet tall.
90 - Gio earns the team a FK. All of El Tri goes forward. The ball bounces in the area, but Jamaica finally clear. Rice on the counter shoots wide. Too much epi in that shot.
90+ Ty takes the ball away, gets fouled. The fans in the stands are on their feet, saluting the presumed victory of the Boyz.
Another foul eats up more time. Vela gets a yellow for being pissy about the time Jamaica takes on the foul.
Sanchez sends the ball forward, but to no avail.
Final whistle. Jamaica wins, 1-0, and their fans exult.
Ok, realistically, this result shouldn't trip El Tri up much, especially if they can learn from it and play sharper. But Mexico's fans and media don't always keep an objective perspective and this result hurts their pride partly because Costa Rica and the U.S. have already qualified to the next round. So Ericksson could feel some heat, or at least hear the sound of a few matches being struck for that purifying fire.

U.S. /Cuba

Yes, I'm late again. I was actually watching, but I couldn't log on until now.
31 - Beasley! He's perfectly positioned, cutting behind the defensive line and LD spots him and drops in a nice pass. Bease controls the ball off his chest and shoots as the goalkeeper comes out. 2-0, US.
32 - Cuba comes right back. Munoz puts the ball in. A somewhat flukey goal, but the U.S. was napping on defense there. 2-1, U.S. still, but the Cubans have cut the deficit.
36 - In referencing that the WC qualifying scoreless streak getting broken, Harksey mentions that England scored against the U.S., though they were able to hold off Argentina. Spain also scored. All three games were friendlies, though.
37 - LD takes on three, then drops the ball back to M.Bradley, whose shot gets blocked.
39 - It's early, but Bease might be the Man of the Match already. Not only did he score both goals, but he also drew a yellow card. His speed is giving Cuba problems. At one point, though, he was on the ground for quite a while. Considering the injuries Bease has struggled with, it's not surprising that Bob Bradley's face at that time was pure sour pucker. He didn't look pleased at all.
42 - And that yellow Bease drew pays off - LD is clipped from behind. It's Colome again and the ref doesn't hesitate to pull out the second yellow. The U.S. has a man advantage.
43 - Harkes is trying to build up suspense, saying a team like Cuba can pull together when a man down. Doubtful, though. They're already demoralized by the defections.
44 - Harkes rightly notes that LD should be more selfish and shoot for the goal, even if it's from an extreme angle. I should make a macro about that, "Shoot, Landon!"
45 - Onyewu crashes in and bodies collapse like bowling pins. The goalkeeper claims the ball, though.
In the halftime interview, Bradley expects more goals. I'm shocked. He's not happy about the letdown after the second goal. I'm stunned.
Granted, everyone generally expected Cuba to get pasted in this game. The missing players probably wouldn't make much of a difference, but Cuba has salvaged pride, no matter how this ends, with a goal. Of course, if the U.S. clinches here, (and in all probability, it will) we could conceivably see a really fun team, young and untested, in future games.
48 - LD with #37! He started off the play, too, dropping in a little pass to Ching, who wisely went wide and then either dummied Pearce's cross or just missed it between his legs, but LD was there for the putaway. 3-1 U.S.
50 - The Galavision announces are calling on Bradley, now that the game is safely out of reach, to put in the young 'uns. Now they're discussing Torres.
51 - They think Mexico made a mistake in losing him.
54 - Though they criticize Sven for "losing" Torres, they're now comparing him favorably to the Cuban's German coach, who doesn't speak Spanish. They consider this a major fault.
56 - LD and Bease team up for a corner
57 - Demps nails a header from an LD pass on goal, but Molina is able to leap to make the stop.
60 - LD lays off another ball for Bease, but his hat trick is denied by Molina.
62 - LD took a corner, but Boca missed with the header, surprisingly.
63 - Demps gets fouled, draws a yellow.
63 - GOAL! Kljestan sent the ball from the Bease FK toward goal and Ching tapped it in. 4-1, U.S.
67 - Though I've switched back to the English coverage, I'm sure the Galavision guys are happy - Jose Francisco Torres is coming into the game for Heath Pearce. Altidore comes in for Chingy.
69 - Jozy's cross is way too far - Molina claims it.
71 - Cuba with a little run of possession, but then Jozy counters and holds off his defender and shoots right into Molina. Nice try, Joze.
72 - Weird - Harkes just said that Torres was naturalized in Texas, but born in Mexico. Really? I always thought he was born in the U.S.
75 - Ok, I wasted Google time there, but basically everything I found said that Torres was born in Texas.
76 - Freddy Adu comes in and gets a nice hand from his old fans as Kljestan goes off.
77 - LD takes a nice FK, but it bends just a bit too much and goes off the post. He had Molina beat, I think.
78 - Harkes is saying that Freddy got too much hype at 14. He takes a corner, then another, and this one goes to Dolo, then Dempsey, then rebounds off the crossbar.
79 - Bease and Torres have don't communicate well, and the ball heads out.
81 - Torres is game to try an outside shot. It goes over the bar - but not by too much. he walloped it. Nice to see the confidence.
85 - Cuba with a surprising run of possession, given that they're a man down and must be tired. Adu on the counter tries to find Jozy, but misses with the pass.
86 - LD with a nice throughball to Bease, whose pass to Jozy right in front of goal isn't as precise - Altidore can't reach it.
87 - GOAL! Jozy gets to this pass from Dempsey. LD is running support, but Jozy is all about firing on goal and he buries this one for his second international goal. 5-1 U.S.
90 - Shorty to Tallzy. Adu attacks his player and then sends in a cross that Gooch buries. That looked cool, the whole sequence. 6-1 U.S.
90+ Bradley blows the feel-good vibe by getting a pointless yellow. Daddy is stoic. I suppose it doesn't matter now, but that's not the discipline from Michael that I'd like to see. Unless it was a strategic move to blow his yellow card accumulation.
Final whistle.
Pretty comprehensive U.S. win. Nice to see the youngsters get out there and make an impact even in limited time.
I don't think we really saw what Torres can do in this game, but I think we saw enough to want to see more.
Bease was definitely an early sparkplug. LD had a nice game too. In his interview, Bease lauds the team effort. He also commends the home fans for energizing the team.
Sacha had a good game as well, as did Chingy. Of course, it's not too hard to look good against an undermanned Cuban team, but the U.S. followed through on their perceived dominance and actually dominated.

Man's inhumanity to man

This post has nothing to do with soccer. It's here because I couldn't sleep.
When I got my first LA apartment, I lived on Berendo St., right near where it intersected with 3rd. With the rent I was paying, I didn't expect the neighborhood to be posh, but it still gave me pause to see a heavy-set bearded man lounging on the sidewalk near the local donut shop. From the look of his grimy coat, he hadn't bathed in weeks. He was scruffy and seemed more than a bit unstable, his gaze focused vaguely in middle distance.

It was clear he was a regular. Most residents casually stepped around and over him at various times when he was in a stupor. Some would buy him a cup of coffee or a donut. He didn't harass people for money very much. "Change?" he would at times say wearily when someone passed. More often, he wouldn't bother. He would just shuffle along. Unlike other homeless people I'd seen, he didn't cart around any belongings that I knew of. He did have a little radio with old headphones that he'd play often. Usually he'd just nod his head along to the music, but I remember watching him once at a streetcorner break into an exuberant dance.
Sometimes he'd talk to himself and make no sense at all. Other times, he was lucid and insightful. When my friend Emily gave him change once, he asked if she was from Georgia. She said that was exactly right and he nodded thoughtfully, saying, "I thought I detected that Southern accent." When asked his name, he wouldn't always answer, but when he did, he'd say his name was John. He wouldn't offer a last name.
When Lord of the Rings came out, though, I had another name for him. As soon as I saw the dwarf Gimli on the screen, I thought of our homeless resident. His belly was even more full, his beard wasn't quite as long, and it was more gray than red, but the overall resemblance was uncanny. It became easy to refer to him as such, just because anyone who saw him would then understand who was being mentioned.
I don't want to present the untruth that Gimli/John was a pleasant, cuddly, sweet senior. He smelled incredibly bad most of the time. Sometimes he would soil the sidewalk. Now and then he'd try the doors of cars parked on the street until he found one that was open. Then he'd climb inside and take a nap there. While I don't think he took anything, the aroma that was left behind would be rank.
I'm not usually the type to engage strangers in small talk, and I never had much of a real conversation with Gimli/John. I always said hello, good morning, or hi when I crossed his path, though, and even when he wouldn't reply in kind, there'd usually be some flicker of recognition from him. Having ascertained that he was essentially harmless, I grew a little protective of Gimli/John in some ways. If he was slumped over on the sidewalk, I'd stop to make sure he was breathing. I'm morbid, I know, but I wanted to make sure he was all right.
After I moved away from that neighborhood, I'd occasionally visit friends there. I found myself looking for Gimli/John as I'd drive past. I'd ask for updates on him, and my friends reported that he was basically the same as always.
When I read the LA Times headline about a homeless man being set on fire, I thought immediately of Gimli/John. Mostly because even though at one point I used to volunteer for a feed-the-homeless organization, a food line isn't a place to keep track of one person in particular. Gimli was the homeless person that I thought of as a neighbor, the guy I saw regularly for years, though I'm not around that part of town anymore. Just reading the headline made me angry to think that anyone would do something so despicable to someone like him.
As I started reading the article, I realized with a dull thud that this hadn't happened to "someone like" my old acquaintance. It was actually him.
Horror, revulsion, sorrow, regret - even using more of those words, I can't accurately describe everything I felt at the realization that this troubled but generally inoffensive man was brutally murdered.
I thought back to my first negative impression of him. The truth was that all along, the evil in my former neighborhood wasn't the stinky old homeless guy who looked like Gimli from the movies.
Instead, the impulse to torture and kill someone helpless lurked elsewhere and one day, it struck for apparently no reason. I don't think I can ever go back there without a slight shudder at that knowledge. Most of all, though, I feel sad.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sven's task

My write up on Sven Goran Eriksson for SI.com.

So far, Sven's done a great job, an excellent job actually. And not all of those high marks have to do with coaching.

I still find it odd how Eriksson was hired on to the job having A) never stepped foot in Mexico and B) not speaking Spanish. Maybe that happens in other countries but Mexico always seems to want to hire coaches that know the league and are preferably Mexican - that they speak Spanish would seem a given.

I know they had Bora Milutinovic and, well, there's a rumor he speaks Spanish and English. I've heard him attempt both languages and it's very difficult to understand the man.

But I heard Sven Goran speak Spanish and it's not bad. For having had about three months to learn, it's not bad at all. Some people spend years studying it and only know the very basics, if that.

Of course, this is all well and good right now. If Mexico loses to Jamaica and Canada, nobody is going to care if Sven speaks Spanish like Enrique Bermudez. Sven's job will be in trouble.

But I don't think that will happen. Mexico will get through to the Hexagonal on Saturday.

Party in the new house

RSL celebrates the new stadium. This got me thinking about the merits of various MLS stadiums.

I haven't been to Rio Tinto yet, but I've made it out to all the other U.S. soccer-specific MLS stadiums.

I like the brick around the stadium in Bridgeview. I like the brats in Ohio. I like the sunken-in style of Pizza Hut Park and the little bull on every seat. I like the lawn hill at the HDC. Overall, I'd have to say I like HDC the most, but I do think that it will be surpassed one day. Part of the reason for that is I think some of the restrictions the HDC works under are silly and keep soccer from being taken seriously. One, the deal with the nearby college campus that limits attendance on certain nights means some important international games could see very poor crowds. Two, the way the two soccer teams get sent on an annual road trip every August doesn't seem to help their playoff strategies.

So I'm waiting, I guess, for the ultimate soccer stadium. And no, TFC's stadium isn't it for as long as it has artificial turf.

Does anyone else have a favorite stadium? Is it a new SSS, or a sentimental older structure? Tell us about it and explain what you like most, in the comments.

Mexicans in MLS

Just got the new issue of MLS Magazine in the mail. This issue is all about the storied history of Mexicans in MLS.

Wait, did I say storied? Well, let me see... there has been a long history of Mexicans in MLS as a few high-profile players were in the league at the start. This league has seen a wide array of high-profile Mexicans throughout its history... but storied?

Well, let me rephrase it then: this issue is all about the long and perhaps less-than-stellar history of Mexicans in MLS.

When you consider the proximity to Mexico and the number of Mexican soccer players capable of playing in MLS, it's sort of difficult to imagine why there hasn't been a greater number of Mexicans who have played in MLS. Financial issues are one obstacle I think that has kept more in-their-prime Mexicans from coming here. I know many were hoping Adolfo Bautista would join an MLS team but with a transfer fee and the salary he'd command, even in the DP era Bofo would be too expensive.

But there also hasn't been a great number of young up-and-coming Mexicans head north, perhaps for the same reason. Chivas USA tried to use both the in-their-prime and up-and-coming players but Juan Pablo Garcia left after 18 months and is now mired on Jaguares' bench while Francisco Mendoza is the only real Mexican prospect to blossom in this league.

Perhaps the biggest success story is this issue's cover boy, and that's Cuauhtemoc Blanco. He has far exceeded my expectations and has been a pleasant surprise to many in the league as well. You maybe would expect that given his salary and his starpower but to see it come to fruition on and off the field has been amazing. He's delivered in many ways that the other league's high-priced DP hasn't in that he helps his team win games and not just sell tickets.

Blanco might be the first Mexican to lead his team to an MLS Cup title. I don't know how many Mexicans have won an MLS Cup title.

Quick stream-of-consciousness aside: Jorge Campos was with Chicago in 1998 but I'm not sure if he was still on the team when they won the Cup, he may have been but Zach Thornton was the starting goalie for them in 98... Hermosillo and Hernandez didn't win the Cup with the Galaxy... Abundis was on New England when they were in the 06 Cup...

Okay, so perhaps we have one Mexican player who has won an MLS Cup.

Still, that's not to say there hasn't been a number of talented and prominent Mexicans come through MLS. In this edition, there is an All-Time Best XI Mexicans... let me know if you agree:

G: Jorge Campos
D: Duilio Davino
D: Claudio Suarez
D: Ramon Ramirez
M: Cuauhtemoc Blanco
M: Juan Pablo Garcia
M: Francisco Mendoza
M: David Patino
F: Missael Espinoza
F: Carlos Hermosillo
F: Francisco Palencia

Some of the honorable mentions include Luis Hernandez, Damian Alvarez and Hugo Sanchez.

I think that list is somewhat by default. Duilio Davino for instance hasn't exactly been a pillar of strength and consistency with FC Dallas but the options behind him were slim.

Anyway, with Blanco leading the charge, this may be the first year a Mexican player has a huge influence on an MLS Cup champion... or as we've seen perhaps any influence at all. And then perhaps that can help that history become storied.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Arena with the pipewrench

The Z-man takes a look at the last place Galaxy guys.

Vanney remembers, I think, what it was like to consider the Galaxy a special team, back before they had Becks. The thing is, I'm not sure Arena gets that, either.

Arena does touch on what I've always considered to be tough for incoming coaches - they never have their own guys around. They're left with the players of the previous regime, and no easy way to clean house, given the MLS salary cap.

They often try anyway, and end up doing a half-assed job a lot of the time. Then when impatient administration make another coaching change, the cycle starts over again.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Is West best?

I alluded to the fact that the west could send five teams to the postseason a couple of posts ago. I actually wrote about the fact that the Western Conference is now showing more than the Eastern Conference in my weekly PE column.

All you have to do is look at recent results to see that.


Chivas USA have won five out of six and four of those wins have come against Eastern teams - Toronto FC twice, Kansas City and DC. Two of those wins were on the road.

Recently, FC Dallas demolished DC United and Colorado beat New York. Those results not only gave each respective Western teams a shot at the playoffs but might ultimately account for spots 4 and 5 in the playoff race.

We might even see the West overtake the East this week. If RSL beats New York at home, which is a strong possibility, RSL would improve to 38 points while New York would stay on 35. FC Dallas has Toronto FC at home, and a win by FC Dallas would give them 37 points. Colorado would do well to beat the Galaxy and also improve to 37 points but even a draw would give Colorado 35 points and the tiebreaker over New York as Colorado beat New York twice this season.

The East is strong, there's no doubt about that. But it's top heavy and even Chicago and New England have gone through their inconsistent spells. New England is currently in a funk, and for that matter so is Chicago. New England has two wins since July 4 while Chicago has lost five of its last 11 games.

Many, myself included, wrote the Western Conference off as a lost cause but there were a few who held firm their belief that the West was superior. Seems those few may have been right all along.


Galaxy versus Dodgers

As some of you know, I'm a big Dodgers fan. As such, I've been suffering for about 20 years now. Until Saturday, in fact, I've had little to celebrate from the time Orel Hersheiser finished off Oakland on some a fall evening in 1988 right on through to the present.

But Saturday, the Dodgers finished off the Cubs and swept the NLDS to move on to the National League Championship series for the first time in 20 years.

Of course, as fate would have it, the stars are aligned against me. It's somewhat ironic then that the real stars aren't the ones causing it.

The Dodgers will host their second game of the postseason on Sunday evening with the first pitch slated to be tossed at around 5:22 p.m. our time. At about the same time, the hapless Galaxy will be kicking the ball aimlessly against the Colorado Rapids. Perhaps if the game starts on time it will be somewhere around the 22-minute mark.

Of course, as a freelancer I can't exactly take the game off to watch a game on TV. Gotta cover games to get paid so I'll be out at HDC. Now, I'm not exactly asking you, the loyal reader, to cry me a river. I don't expect any sympathy. I'm merely pointing out the difficulties of following a team as a fan while covering another team in a different sport in the same market for a living.

Anyway, I assume several people will be faced with similar dilemmas. It's a pretty safe bet that some Galaxy season ticket holders are also Dodgers fans and will also be torn between HDC and Dodger Stadium. If the Galaxy were top of the table, or even semi-competitive, the decision might be tougher. As it stands, though, the Galaxy will be without David Beckham and Landon Donovan against Colorado, who are hardly a name opponent. And if that's the case, it's easier to walk away from tickets and the game to watch a potentially historic event. Who's to say after all that it won't be, God forbid, another 20 years for the Dodgers to reach the NLCS?

A mediocre matchup, though, will capture our attention even if our minds will be on the goings-on in Chavez Ravine.

Now, I've followed games from other sports in the press box below. InterLiga always seemingly ruins some great NFL playoff matchup while college football games are typically interrupted by MLS games at HDC. Also, Lakers playoff games have gone on at or around the same time as Galaxy games before, which of course would make it more difficult for me if I cared about the Lakers.

Anyway, hopefully the Dodgers will win both of their first two games on the road against Philadelphia as they did against the Cubs. And hopefully they'll pile it on early against the Phillies on Sunday which will make it easier for me to go down the locker rooms and miss an inning or three of the game.

Whatever the case, I'm assuming a large portion of those in attendance at HDC will be following the Dodgers game in some fashion.

Sorting out the Western Conference

We know a few things about the Western Conference. Suddenly, the conference appears tougher than the East. There could be five playoff teams that come from the Western Conference, which seemed completely out of the question just a month or so ago.

But Chivas USA woke up, Real Salt Lake maintained their slow-and-steady pace while FC Dallas and Colorado also decided to try and make something out of their 2008 seasons.

With Houston all but certain of walking away with the Western crown, spots 2-5 are up for grabs. Only second and third place will be guaranteed a postseason berth, of course, so those are the spots teams want.

How will it sort out? I tried to handicap the field here.

Chivas USA 39
- at San Jose
- Colorado
- Houston

Playoff chances: Strong. Chivas did what needed to be done and that was to win games. Three points per game is the best way to assure playoff opportunities for yourself and Chivas have done well to attain victories. The club has won five of its last six games which translates to 15 of a possible 18 points the club has attained since Aug 30. With three games left, one win might be enough to get a playoff spot, especially if it comes against Colorado. Since the teams trailing Chivas (RSL, Dallas, Colorado) all play each other it will be hard for two of the three teams to overtake Chivas.

Real Salt Lake 35
- New York
- FC Dallas
- at Colorado

Playoff chances: Within reach. RSL should already be all but celebrating their first trip to the postseason. RSL blew leads to LA and New England in recent weeks and those four dropped points would be huge right now. Still, not all is lost for RSL, thanks in part to their massive win at San Jose a couple weeks back. RSL has a major advantage over Colorado and Dallas - their new stadium. Opening up new digs is reason enough to feel giddy but to do so in the midst of a playoff chase should charge up the club and the RSL faithful. RSL should take care of New York on Thursday, which would mean perhaps a win or even a pair of draws would be enough to get RSL through.


FC Dallas 34
- Toronto FC
- at Real Salt Lake
- at LA Galaxy

Playoff chances: Toss-up. At one point, FC Dallas appeared dead in the water. A coaching change led to some turmoil and a rough stretch of games without any victories before FC Dallas won consecutive games on two occasions to get back into the playoff picture. FC Dallas has a difficult task left, though. A home game against a beatable opponent awaits but FC Dallas will close out the season with two road games, both of which will be difficult. Yes, the game against the Galaxy will be difficult - anyone remember an out-of-it Galaxy squad that whipped FC Dallas to close out the '06 season? Probably what FC Dallas' season will come down to - should the Hoops beat Toronto - will be the game at RSL. It's possible that could decide third place in the Western Conference, which of course is a coveted spot in that it guarantees a playoff ticket. If that's the case, FC Dallas will have to overcome their 3-5-5 road record to possibly get a playoff ticket.

Colorado 34
- at LA Galaxy
- at Chivas USA
- Real Salt Lake

Playoff chances: Toss-up. Colorado may be able to determine their own fate. With wins over Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA, Colorado would figure to be in a pretty good position to get into the postseason. Still, first things first. Colorado will play consecutive games at Home Depot Center beginning Sunday as the Rapids visit the Galaxy. Colorado will face the Beckham- and Donovan-less Galaxy so the Rapids' task in that match is not as challenging as it could be. Still, the odds are against Colorado mostly because of what happened last weekend. Colorado fell at home and now must win at least one of its two remaining road games to have a shot at the postseason. And although Colorado's last road game ended in a 5-4 victory, the Rapids have lost eight of their 13 road games this season.

San Jose and Galaxy...
Playoff chances: uh... none. Wait... make that almost none. Technically they each have a pulse but that's about it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bringing in Bowen


So Tristan Bowen, who was the first player the Galaxy signed to their youth development program, could be the first player from that program to advance to the senior team. Officially, he has not signed with the team yet, but a lot of signs point in that direction. It's likely all over but the official confirmation.
The number one evidence, in my view, is that Tristan has been training with the senior team for some time (and looking better than some who are already on the team, by the way). The funny thing - or not so funny depending on your point of view - is that just by being a defacto Galaxy member as part of Galaxy Rios since early 2007, Tristan has more seniority representing LA than most of the actual current players, including Becks.
The future of MLS and the individual teams really rests on cases like these, where players are able to come up through the ranks and contribute to their local clubs.
Tris looks much younger in this pic with Cobi (taken in early 2007) than he does now. He's taller, bigger, stronger. Jozy-lite.
Becks was indirectly responsible for the Galaxy signing Tristan. The young scamp ignored the age requirement when the Galaxy held open tryouts for the team following the Beckham signing announcement. Despite the fact that due to the Becks publicity, hundreds came out for a crazy week of tryouts, Tristan made it through to the finals, but had to confess when the Galaxy wanted more documentation to look seriously at adding him to the squad. He became the foundation of their youth team instead.

Cali crew

Could Klinsi come back to Cali and coach the Galaxy?

I wouldn't bet against it. If Philly lures Arena away, or he becomes the latest coach to be dumped from the team, something tells me there is a good chance Klinsi would be available.

The other questions would be - would this choice help the team?


Lye Burns Rankings (Oct. 6)

Anyone up for a Crew-Dynamo MLS Cup? That only seems fair right now, the way the season is playing out. Of course, it probably won't happen. But those are the top two teams in the rankings and really, if they aren't 1-2 in your rankings, you must use some skewed formula that doesn't reward teams for success.

1. Columbus (16-6-5). With a plus-15, only club with a goal differential of plus-10 or more.
2. Houston (11-5-10). Five losses a league low.
3. Chicago (12-9-6). Fire have been maddeningly inconsistent recently - five wins, five losses and a draw in last 11.
4. New England (12-8-7). Somehow managed to come-from-behind and draw... which I suppose is some sort of positive.
5. Chivas USA (11-10-6). Five wins in last six - and four of them have been against Eastern teams.
6. Real Salt Lake (9-10-8). Road point at this stage of season is fine but a win could have been massive.
7. FC Dallas (8-9-10). Playoff spot is theirs to lose.
8. Colorado (10-13-4). Picked a bad time to get blown out.
9. San Jose (7-10-9). Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.
10. Kansas City (8-10-9). Will regret not having picked up full three points at home.
11. Toronto (8-12-7). Chad Barrett finally showing some signs of becoming a valuable forward.
12. DC United (10-14-3). What a miserable season DC has had.
13. New York (9-10-8). With playoff races heating up, Red Bulls lose two home games by a combined 8-5. Defense? Ha.
14. LA Galaxy (7-12-8). Galaxy competing with Kings for worst professional sports team in LA... and what do they have in common again? That's right, AEG.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sangre americana J11 recap

Back with another update on our boys south of the border, both in the top flight and second tier. Of course, now there is quite a bit more interest with Jose Francisco Torres committing to the US. Torres responded to his call-up to the US with his second 90-minute effort of the season... and his third booking.



PRIMERA DIVISION
Jose Francisco Torres - Played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in 1-1 draw with Necaxa
Michael Orozco - Played 90 minutes in San Luis' 3-2 win over Indios
Edgar Castillo - Played 90 minutes in Santos' 1-0 win over Morelia
Daniel Hernandez - Played 90 minutes in Jaguares' 2-1 win over Monterrey
Jesus Padilla - Came on as substitute in 88th minute of Chivas' 2-2 draw with Tigres
Marco Antonio Vidal - Did not dress in Indios' 3-2 loss to San Luis

PRIMERA A DIVISION
Sammy Ochoa - Played 90 minutes and scored a goal in Tecos' 3-0 win over Dorados
Miguel Gonzalez - Did not dress in Chetumal's 1-0 loss to Veracruz
Carlos Borja - Played 90 minutes in Tapatio's 1-0 loss to Salamanca
Noel Castillo - Indios Chihuahua had a bye


Changing of the guard

Remember when DC United and the LA Galaxy would have solid arguments in either camp for ultimate MLS supremacy?

As recently as 2004 and 2005, both claimed the MLS title. This past weekend, losses for both sides leave them close to missing the playoffs. The Open Cup title might provide some consolation for DC United, but coming against a USL team in a year when so many shiny new trophies with international prestige attached were available, it doesn't have as much luster.

As for Los Angeles, well, it would be the third year in a row they've missed the playoffs. Thing is, in terms of roster moves, no two teams tried harder to succeed by making numerous changes this year. How's that working out for them? Not so well.

The trend seems to show that changing by tweaking things rather than tossing them out wholesale is more successful.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Overlooking

Schwartz takes Sven to task:



Si aquí no los pelan, tienen todo el derecho de hacer valer su doble nacionalidad, y en ese tenor, Michel Orozco y José Francisco Torres defenderán ahora con orgullo y dignidad los colores de Estados Unidos.

If we don't give them a chance here, they have every right to use their dual nationality, and in that vein, Michael Orozco and José Francisco Torres now defend with honor and dignity the colors of the U.S.

Orozco ya lo había hecho desde los Olímpicos, y Torres andaba con que sí y con que no, pero al ver que en la última llamada de Eriksson -donde no hubo europeos- no fue tomado en cuenta, pues de plano optó por lo que más le convenía a él, que es la selección de los Estados Unidos, equipo multirregional que da oportunidad a los talentos cuando los detecta.

Orozco has already done so in the Olympics and Torres was going back and forth in deciding until he saw the latest roster of Eriksson, which didn't have any Europeans. Torres wasn't called, and he finally opted for what appealed to him more, the USA team, a multiregional squad which gives an opportunity when it detects talent.

Así que yo le veo un futuro promisorio a los dos a la larga en esta escuadra, y los felicito por su valentía para dar el paso y la voz de alerta de que en México seguimos desperdiciando talento.

I forsee a promising future for both players on this team and I congratulate them for their brave step in this direction and for raising the alarm about what will continue to happen if Mexico continiues ignoring new talent.