Friday, November 30, 2007

Animo America?

It seems like it's an annual thing now, which I guess it is. What's the saying about twice being a coincidence and three times a pattern or something?

Anyway, for the third year running a Mexican team has reached the final of the Copa Sudamericana. Pumas lost to Boca Juniors on '05 and Pachuca beat Colo Colo in '06. Now, it's America's turn to go against a South American giant... um, well, okay, a South American lightweight. I'm guessing a few people think America is playing an English club.

America will play Arsenal de Sarandi tonight in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final. Tonight's game is in Azteca and Wednesday's return leg is in Argentina.

When this has come up before, I wonder what other fans do. For instance, when Cruz Azul reached the 2001 Copa Libertadores final, it seemed like there were suddenly a lot of Cruz Azul supporters. I think that Cruz Azul gained a lot of attention and a lot of support from non-Cruz Azul fans because they were a Mexican club and were competing against a South American team in an historic event.

Now, that novelty has worn off. But the fact that a Mexican club will meet a South American team in the tourney final has not changed. So is there a feeling of support among non-America fans simply because they are from Mexico?

I would guess not. Any Chivas fan worth his/her salt is not going to support America under any circumstances, and if they do then you've got to question their mental sanity. Pumas fans, well, Tenoch and Julio summed it up best with their "Puto el que le vaya al America" mandate. I think Cruz Azul fans too would not necessarily pull for America.

But those teams have bitter rivalries with America. What about fans of Morelia or Tigres, who don't necessarily have America on their hate lists? What about Atlante fans, Tecos fans (El Guero and the five other UAG supporters) or Santos fans?

Honestly, I think that there is still an element of Mexican fans who would put country before club and support America. There are others who would not be upset if a Mexican club won Sudamericana (especially at the expense of an Argentine team) and there are others who will root hard against America. I wonder, though, which of those categories has more fans.

WARNING *** thin-skinned MLS fans might want to stop reading here ***

I guess this is one area where MLS and Mexico differ. I'm guessing if it was an MLS team, be it Houston, New England, New York or L.A., most MLS fans would get behind that club, whether they pull for that team during the season or not.

If you ask me where I stand on the topic, I think America fans should root for America and non-America fans should not. How would an America win benefit Monterrey? How did Pachuca's win last year benefit the rest of the 17 teams? I'd say the same thing if DC would have made it this far.

What's good for the goose isn't necessarily good for the gander.

Bummer for Bease

DaMarcus Beasley is done for the year. After hurting his knee in a Champions League match on Tuesday, Beasley will have surgery and will likely miss the remainder of the SPL season.

How does this affect his standing on the USMNT? In the first half of next year, Beasley probably won't play any role on it. He'll miss the Mexico game on Feb. 6 and whatever other friendlies the US schedules afterward. He could be healthy by the June qualifiers, though the US won't need him to get past Barbados/Dominica. He should be healthy by the fall and could see action in the semifinal qualifying round which starts in August.

Obviously, this is a much bigger blow for his club career. Beasley went through some tough times before settling in with Rangers and was faring well for himself. Though he won't be starting from zero once he gets back, he's going to fight another uphill battle to establish himself whenever his knee allows him to play again.

En fuego

Chivas USA lost to Fresno 3-1 on Thursday night. Don't have lineups, though I do know Lawson Vaughn played since he was in the picture accompanying the story from the Fresno Bee.

Not sure if Jesse Marsch played. I hope he got the night off to watch his beloved Packers go down in flames in Dallas. That would have been better than playing a meaningless game in Fresno. It's kind of ironic that Marsch played for so long in Soldier Field being the big Packers fan that he is.

Perfect Pumas

When the InterLiga calendar came out, I was excited that Pumas UNAM would finally be a part of the tournament. Since I began covering the tournament in 2005, Pumas hasn't been a part of the field because of their league results, both good and bad.

Now, though, they may again evade InterLiga once again. Pumas destroyed Santos by 3-0 on Thursday in the first leg of their semifinal series. Pumas need only to avoid a three-goal loss to advance to the finals, where they'd face the Chivas-Atlante survivor.

Pumas upset Toluca in the quarterfinals with a win-at-home-tie-on-the-road formula that they'll try to follow up with on Sunday in Torreon. Pumas, though, wasn't content with settling for just a win. They wanted to take care of business at home, which they did.

All season long, Pumas hasn't been one of the flashier clubs. They certainly weren't as flashy as Santos or Toluca but now they are poised to return to the final for the first time since Hugo Sanchez guided Pumas to consecutive league titles in 2004.

Pumas, incidentally, would qualify for the CONCACAF Champions Cup by winning the Mexican league and thus would be ineligible to participate in Copa Libertadores, for which InterLiga serves as a qualifying tournament. No Libertadores, no InterLiga. Nimodo.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Subjective judgment

All the Houston Dynamo fans who screamed at the injustice of Khano Smith's "headbutt" in the MLS final - take a moment to think back to Nate Jaqua's elbow in the Western Conference final. Both were fouls that I thought deserved a red. Not surprisingly, I didn't get any emails from Houston fans about how the refs missed the call on Jaqua - they were fine with that one.
Basically, that's the way I feel about the outcry over the DP grandfathering of players making DP money before the DP rule. It's funny to think that so many people grouse about how cheap MLS can be, but then want rules enforced to punish the clubs that were willing to spend money.
What I also find amusing is those who say that MLS should have just instituted the grandfathering rule permanantly from the start.
Well, the reality is that if the guys ran MLS had that much foresight, the league would be further along. Because they're not infallible prophets, they didn't make a decision without first seeing how the designated players would actually affect the league. Instead, what they did was give themselves a one-year window to see whether or not having a DP and a DP-like player would give teams too much of an advantage.
They soon discovered that in MLS, the whole is more important than the DP parts. No teams with DP players made it to the final. Teams are often better off with players who are slightly second-tier, at least as far as the national team level, because then they won't be missing as much time from their teams.
Yet for the league to say that DP players don't matter would be foolish. The fact is, MLS received more attention this year than any other in its existence because of players like Blanco, Beckham and Angel. If team owners had hesitated in going after those players because it might mean disrupting the chemistry a squad had because of perhaps being forced to give up stars they already had, the league, fans, and other players themselves would suffer for it. Increased exposure is good for everybody in MLS - well, except for perhaps the refs, because it just seems to make more people complain about them.
That doesn't mean that I was really in favor of the grandfathering extension. I was hoping the league would add another DP slot to everyone in the league. Chivas USA could have made good use of that. I understand, though, that it might be premature to add a DP when so many teams haven't even made use of the one they have.
Anyway, I asked Landon about it, and had to give credit that he immediately recognized his own impartiality.

"I’m probably biased. It’s hard to say, under one set of rules, you go get a player and then all of a sudden you can’t have that player unless you trade something away for him. I don’t think that’s a good thing to do to teams. The teams that went out and got players shouldn’t be punished. I think it was the right thing to do. I’m sure that other teams may not agree."

Also, I got confirmation from a Galaxy official that Landon does indeed have a no-trade clause in his contract. It's also likely that Landon isn't the only one in MLS with such a stipulation.

Pan-Pacific Championship

Yes, it's in Hawaii. What a perfect excuse to go, no? Unfortunately, it's probably a no-go. Anyway, here are more deets.
Major League Soccer (USA), the J.League (Japan) and the Hyundai A-League (Australia) today announced an unprecedented and innovative partnership in the creation of a new international soccer tournament to be hosted in Honolulu, Hawaii: the Pan-Pacific Championship (PPC), which will crown the top club from the Asian and North American soccer confederations.
The four teams to participate in the 2008 tournament are: reigning MLS Cup champion Houston Dynamo and Haleiwa, Hawaii native Brian Ching; the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup Champion Gamba Osaka, with 19-year-old Japanese sensation Michihiro Yasuda and J.League star Yasuhito Endo; the 2007 SuperLiga finalists Los Angeles Galaxy, whose international roster includes English superstar David Beckham and perennial MLS all-star Landon Donovan; and a club to qualify from the Hyundai A-League Final Series, which concludes in February 2008 ahead of the Pan-Pacific Championship.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A-league versus MLS

Sydney FC won, but there's nothing about the Galaxy going down to nine men in the AP article. The Galaxy blog has more details.

Five alive

In many ways, this upcoming two-week stretch will be a unique one in Mexico.

The Apertura season is down to four teams as Santos will play Pumas and Chivas will meet Atlante in the Liguilla semifinals. But those aren't the only clubs alive in the quest for glory. Club America will play Arsenal de Sarandi of Argentina in the Copa Sudamericana final.

It's not every week that a Mexican club has the opportunity to capture South American glory. Of course, it's happened three years running now in this tournament as Pumas and Pachuca reached the Sudamericana final in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

At least one Mexican club will add to its mantle in the coming weeks. My money's on Santos simply because how dominant they have been all season long. But I also think that America has a great chance of walking away with international glory. Arsenal is a strong opponent - their 2-1 win over Boca Juniors on Sunday and run to the Sudamericana final will attest to that. But America should have as motivation the chance to claim its first-ever South American championship.

Planning ahead

With the announcement of the recent World Cup qualifying draw, the USMNT learned its upcoming path to the 2009 Hexagonal and ultimately the 2010 World Cup.

But what was also learned should benefit Major League Soccer as well. Whether it actually translates into a beneficial scenario to the fans is another thing, but given the league's track record it probably will mean more logjams ahead for the American soccer fan.

The US will open with either Barbados or Dominica on matchdays in June with specifics to be determined. But the semifinal round will be played on the following days:

Wednesday, Aug. 20
Saturday, Sept. 6
Wednesday, Sept. 10
Saturday, Oct. 11
Wednesday, Oct. 15
Sunday, Nov. 19

While the MLS schedule won't be announced until sometime in late January or February, whoever makes up the league schedule should go ahead and avoid scheduling games on those specific days.

Shutting down for entire weekends, especially in September and October, is probably out of the question. But for sure MLS can avoid scheduling midweek games in August, September and October. While that won't prevent MLS teams from losing key players to the national team, it would at least let fans follow the international game without having to ignore the domestic product.

For years, MLS has done nearly everything wrong when planning its calendar with accordance to the international fixture dates and international tournaments. How MLS can continue to play during the World Cup is beyond me. MLS commish Don Garber told us before the 2006 season that the league wouldn't play through the 2010 World Cup. I'm going to hold him accountable for those words when the World Cup comes around next time.

Anyway, the US has now a series of important dates spread out over the latter part of 2008. It's not the federation's responsibility to try and avoid scheduling games that would conflict with the league. It's the other way around, and typically other countries just shut down. Again, the league would likely never consider simply not scheduling dates on weekends in during the season. The least they could do is to not schedule any games on USMNT matchdays.

And while we're on the topic, here's the calendar for Hexagonal matchdays in 2009:

Wednesday, Feb. 11
Saturday, March 28
Wednesday, April 1
Saturday, June 6
Wednesday, June 10
Wednesday, Aug. 19
Saturday, Sept. 5
Wednesday, Sept. 9
Saturday, Oct. 10
Wednesday, Oct. 14

There you have the matchdays. No excuses, MLS.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Presto change-o

I was mildly relieved that Preston Burpo was not snatched up by San Jose in last week's expansion draft. Now, I'm scratching my head trying to figure out why Chivas was so quick to ship him out of town.

Preston Burpo is now with San Jose after the expansion team dealt its fourth-round SuperDraft pick next year to Chivas in exchange for the 35-year-old goalkeeper. With Brad Guzan linked to a move abroad, it seemed like Burpo was a valuable player to keep around. Now, if Guzan does make a move to Europe, Justin Myers and Sam Reynolds are next in line to play the position.

Surely Burpo is more valuable than a fourth-rounder. Chivas struck gold in 2006 when taking Jonathan Bornstein in the fourth round but more often than not fourth-round picks struggle for playing time and are non-factors with their teams.

Either Chivas is certain that Brad Guzan is not going anywhere next year or they have other plans to fill the goalkeeping position.

As far as San Jose goes, now Frank Yallop need not worry about a starting goalkeeper. Burpo is a solid goalie and will provide some grit back there. He knows Jason Hernandez and will have an instant connection with one of his central defenders. And Yallop can go out and get a young goalkeeper and groom him if he pleases or he could choose to focus his attention on other positions. Another upshot is that Burpo used to play for Seattle for so long the Sounders might be interested in bringing him back when they join MLS in 2009 and might give up more than the fourth-rounder San Jose did to get Burpo from Chivas. Yeah, Kasey Keller and Seattle have been linked for years but Burpo nonetheless was a popular Sounder for many years.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

First date

The Galaxy are getting checked out by their new coach.

"He enters a room, he’s a presence," said Chris Albright of Gullit.

Attention on Alexi

If anyone thought that having David Beckham on a team that Ruud Gullit was coaching meant no one would pay any mind to Alexi Lalas, they'd be wrong.


And here are the results from our neck of the woods, well, at least for many of us.

Group 1A
Dominica v Barbados
United States v Winner

Group 1B
Turks and Caicos Islands v Saint Lucia
Guatemala v Winner

Group 1C
Bermuda v Cayman Islands
Trinidad and Tobago v Winner

Group 1D
Aruba v Antigua and Barbuda
Winner v Cuba

Group 2A
Belize v Saint Kitts and Nevis
Winner v Mexico

Group 2B
Bahamas v British Virgin Islands
Jamaica v Winner

Group 2C
Dominican Republic v Puerto Rico
Honduras v Winner

Group 2D
Canada v Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Group 3A
US Virgin Islands v Grenada
Winner v Costa Rica

Group 3B
Suriname v Montserrat
Winner v Guyana

Group 3C
El Salvador v Anguilla
Panama v Winner

Group 3D
Nicaragua v Netherlands Antilles
Haiti v Winner

The US could send a third-string side and still beat Barbados or Dominica. Ditto for Mexico and Belize but St. Kitts actually put up a fight the last time they met in qualifying (in 2004) so they'll need at least a couple of first-teamers.

So if form holds, these will be the following groups for the semifinal phase:

United States
Trinidad & Tobago


Costa Rica

The US would have an easier go at it than Mexico. Honduras and Jamaica, those aren't exactly walkover wins.

Far east draw

Here's the Asian results. The top two teams in each group advance to the final stage, which will feature two groups. The top two in those groups qualify directly to the World Cup and another team will face the Oceania winner for another spot.

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3
South Korea
North Korea

Group 4
Saudi Arabia

Group 5
United Arab Emirates

Grim stuff

So I'm waiting with mild anticipation to find out the preliminary draw results for the 2010 World Cup.

I ran across this to remind me that while the tournament should feature good soccer, it's one that I'm definitely watching from afar.

Two in, two to follow

Chivas beat San Luis 1-0 and Atlante beat Cruz Azul 2-1 as each team advanced to the semifinals of the Mexican Apertura 2007 liguilla.

The two will now wait for today's results to see who they face next. Santos leads Morelia by a 2-0 aggregate and will host Monarcas today while Pumas visits Toluca also up by 2-0.

Anything can happen in the playoffs, but I'd like to see Chivas and Pumas cross paths at some point. For that to happen in the semis, Morelia would have to upset Santos and I don't see that happening. In fact, I'm not so sure Pumas will hold on to their lead heading to Toluca. Nemesio Diez isn't exactly the easiest place to come away with a result, but then again they need only to lose by one goal, draw or win to go through.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Getting it

The Galaxy are off in Australia now, where new coach Ruud Gullit has a chance to see his players in action. They, in turn, have the opportunity to work with their new coach and learn from him.

I asked Chris Albright before he left for the trip about what made ex-players effective coaches.

"They get it," Chris explained. "They just get it. I can’t explain it to you guys, because you don’t get it. To be fair, I don’t get reporting. They understand the experiences [of players]."

Just as I was thinking that there wasn't that much to understand about reporting, since we're really not that complicated, Billy Witz chimed in.

"We make it up," he told Chris.

Chris nodded.

"I know man. They fabricate."

Friday, November 23, 2007

First legs complete

The respective first legs of each quarterfinal series in Mexico are over. There were some surprising results...

Santos 2, Morelia 0. Okay, so this isn't one of them. But it's particularly significant because Edgar Castillo scored a goal for Santos. Can't say for sure but he might be the first American to ever score a goal in a Mexican league playoff game. It was also significant because it was the first goal of Edgar Castillo's career.

The goal is about halfway through this clip. It's about 8 minutes of game action. The goal is in the 19th minute or so, and it's pretty much continuous action.

As for the rest of the games:

San Luis 1, Chivas 1; Chivas just need a draw at home to go through.
Atlante 1, Cruz Azul 0; Atlante played without top scorer Giancarlo Maldonado and get to go home for the second leg. Looks like it's lights out for blue cross.
Pumas 2, Toluca 0; Toluca needs a massive effort at home.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Rolling heads

In 2006, I pointed out to Landon Donovan that after his club team and national team suffered disappointing losses, both of his coaches had lost their jobs.

"It's my fault, now?" asked Landon.

I'd actually meant to lead into a question about the difficulty of starting over on both levels at the same time.

These days, David Beckham is facing the same situation now that his England coach, Steve McClaren, has been fired.

David played well against Croatia, registering the assist on England's equalizer, but then the team conceded yet another late goal. We saw a lot of those watching the Galaxy this year.

Admitting the obvious

One coaching change and a couple months after the actual event, USWNT midfielder Leslie Osborne states what seemed clear to many observers, no matter how many members of the team denied it at the time.

The change in goal before the Brazil game definitely had repercussions that took a toll on player performance.

It shouldn't be such a landmark moment that someone on the team finally just says the truth of that, but it is, because no other member, (other than Hope Solo) has done so. Part of me sympathizes that at any point, the squad was trying to sell this, "We were fine, it was no problem at all," line like they were some super-human roster completely untouched by something that would throw any team around the world, male or female.

There's solidarity and then there's denial. One shouldn't have to lead to the other. That's why Osborne's other statement puzzles me a bit, about how the players should be able to overcome the coaching if need be. That's not the way it should be. Coaching should be an asset to the team, not a handicap. If a coach's moves are an undeniable impediment to the team's performance, then it shouldn't be only one member of team standing alone in saying so.

Out of nowhere

Back in 2005, Herculez Gomez went from playing indoor soccer to a developmental spot with the Galaxy, to a starting roster spot, to being considered for the U.S. senior national team. He moved on to the Colorado Rapids before he earned his first cap this year. That accomplishment marked the first time he'd represented the U.S. national team at any level.

It's not quite the senior team, but Mike Randolph is looking to do something similar. The young Galaxy defender came on strong at the end of this year and now won't make the team's trip to Australia. That's because he's been named to the U-23 (Olympic team) provisional roster.

As the Galaxy's press release says:

"Randolph will remain in Los Angeles after having been named to the U.S. Under-23 National Team’s provisional roster for their upcoming camp. The U.S. roster is expected to be announced next week and if Randolph is named in the squad, it will be his first career call-up to the National Team at any level."

What I'm thankful for

I have a lot to be thankful for. Of course, what I’m most thankful for is that my family is faring well, that my parents are taken care of and my brothers are finding nothing but success.

But I’m also thankful this year for myself. Typically I don’t like to look back at my accomplishments, either professional or personal, and revel in them. I just like to go about my work as best as I can and let everything else go from there. But this year I do have to be a bit selfish and be thankful in myself.

Over the last 20 months or so, I’ve undergone an extreme change. In March of 2006, I weighed 308 pounds. After my workout on Wednesday, Nov. 21 I weighed 192. I’m up to 116 pounds that I’ve lost, and I still have more losing to do.

I’d been heavy for so long it got to the point where I didn’t care anymore about my weight because I figured it would be way too hard to lose it. But in March of 06 after some prodding from my wife and some serious soul searching I decided to sign up for a personal trainer at the local 24 Hour Fitness.

It was hard at first. In my first session with the trainer, he asked me what my goal was. I told him the most pie-in-the-sky thing I could imagine, that I wanted to weigh 199. Just having a 1 in front of my weight seemed impossible but screw it. That was what I wanted. I quickly realized it would take some time. After my first session, in which I did eight minutes on a stationary bike and seven minutes on an elliptical machine, I was sore for days.

I was the typical sports writer: watch sports, write about sports, don’t play sports, don’t exercise. So this whole working out stuff was new to me. My trainer ran me hard every time we met but I was up for the task. I busted my ass every time I went to the gym and stuck to my meal plan. I eliminated hamburgers, pizza, sodas, cookies, candy… all the crap that was keeping me heavy.

The first month I dropped 10 pounds. The second month I dropped another 10. The third month, I lost 13. Once I got going, I felt better and better about myself.

I stopped seeing my trainer in November and was at about 255. It wasn’t until February of this year that I got serious again. I basically told myself that either I was going to keep losing more weight or I would put it back on. So on my own I continued working out, developed a workout schedule and routines and exercises and all that. I stuck to my food intake, which incidentally I don’t consider a diet and never have. A diet is short term and I don’t plan on going back to eating the way I did. Ever.

In early June, I weighed 232. By August, I was down to 216. In October, I finally got down to 199. I hope to get down in the 170s or so. I’ve come this far. Who is going to tell me that I can’t go a little further?

I feel the best that I have now than I ever have in my life. I went from size 44 pants and XXL shirts to size 34 pants and L shirts. My wardrobe is tiny. Most of my old clothes are long gone. I enjoy working out. I enjoy playing soccer now, even if it’s just with my brothers and cousins on Sunday morning.

When people ask me how I did it, I tell them ‘the easiest plan to come up with but the hardest to execute: eat right and exercise.’

Anyway, I just wanted to share this with our readers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Times like these

When qualifying is over in Europe, be it for a World Cup or a European Championship, I'm always left with a bit of dismay.

I wonder if USMNT fans realize how lucky they are that their team is in CONCACAF.

England, with all the talent and resources imaginable available, cannot qualify for a major tournament. But the US is virtually guaranteed of qualifying for each and every World Cup. With the gap between the US, Mexico and the rest of CONCACAF, to me it is unimaginable that the US would ever miss out on qualifying for a World Cup.

England enjoys no such luxury. Like all other European nations, England must contend with a very strong field just to get to a major tournament. In Europe, it happens all the time. England did not qualify for Euro 2008. Ukraine, quarterfinalists in the 2006 World Cup, are out. Ireland, Denmark, Norway, each of whom has had success in recent World Cups and have plenty of talented players, can't get a sniff of this tournament either.

I've touched on this topic before but with the field for Euro 2008 finalized today, I feel for those fans from countries who do not qualify consistently for important tournaments. I guess they're geographically challenged. The US is not in the same position as Norway or Denmark or Ireland or any of those fringe European nations because of where the States lie on the globe.

Now, US coaches and players always talk about how difficult qualifying is and how each and every game is important. Well, the only nation who should even come close to beating the US on American soil is Mexico, and look at how good its gone for El Tri this decade. Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Jamaica, Trinidad, none of those teams should ever pose a challenge to the US. Costa Rica has the talent to play better but they can't ever score against the US here for some reason. Let's see, off the top of my head there was the 3-0 game in Utah in 05, the 1-0 game in KC in 01 and the 1-0 game in Portland in 97. So a 5-0 record in the hexagonal gives the US 15 points. One road win and one road draw mixed in should be sufficient to see the US through. That's not exactly a Herculean task.

Anyway, this isn't meant as a bash of the US. It's to their credit that they've achieved such lofty status in a short amount of time. Just think, in 1986 Canada qualified for the World Cup while the United States did not. When will that ever happen again? As far as I see it, the US and Mexico are shoo-ins for each and every World Cup, unless CONCACAF gets stripped of all but one spot.

So while the seemingly impossible task of winning a World Cup is still out there in all USMNT fans, at least one thing is certain: their team will have a shot of that goal, however realistic or unrealistic it may be, every four years. You can take that at least that part to the bank.

Puzzling situation

Needing just a draw before nearly 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, England instead lost to Croatia 3-2 and crashed out of Euro 2008.

For a nation like England to miss out on a tournament of that scale, it is nothing short of catastrophic. But there is no shortage of problems many point the finger at as to what is wrong with England: the FA is rubbish; Steve McClaren is rubbish; the players are rubbish; too many English clubs rely on too many foreigners and thus stunt the growth of England footballers.

Whatever the problems are, the FA has plenty of time on their hands in order to try and solve them. Well, solving those types of ills won't happen overnight so some damage control is in order.

In cast you missed the goals, here is a highlights package followed by the raw scene after the match:

Sorry, no commentary from the goals as they happened. Would have liked to have seen that. Here's the other video:

Mexican liguilla

I'm getting ready to watch the Mexican league playoffs. First up is Cruz Azul-Atlante on Azteca America at 5 p.m. SoCal time, then it's San Luis-Guadalajara over on TeleFutura at 7 p.m.

In case you want to follow along and don't know the league too well or want to read up on how the teams are entering the liguilla, check out my preview.

Quakes redux

And here's how they'll look... or the players they'll trade away to get to Opening Day 2008.

Ryan Cochrane - Houston
Clarence Goodson - FC Dallas
Ned Grabavoy - Columbus
James Riley - New England
Joseph Vide - New York
Ivan Guerrero - Chicago
Brian Carroll - D.C. United
Jason Hernandez - Chivas USA
Gavin Glinton - Los Angeles
Chris Pozniak - Toronto FC

Some pretty serviceable players, if they stick around.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stocking rosters

Now, this isn't what I think Frank Yallop would or should do. This is what I came up with when trying to figure out a 10-man list. And I tried to stay away from Jaime Cardenas' 10, which follow mine, just because I want to compare our teams so he could see that my time wasting was better spent than his.

LB's list

G Kevin Hartman - Kansas City

D Kelly Gray - Galaxy
D Jason Hernandez - Chivas
D Mike Petke - Colorado
D Chris Gbandi - FC Dallas

M Corey Ashe - Houston
M Andy Dorman - New England
M Joe Vide - New York
M Diego Gutierrez - Chicago

F Andy Herron - Columbus

Jaime's list

1- Brian Carroll (D.C. United)
2- Josh Tudela (Galaxy)
3- Clerance Goodson (F.C. Dallas)
4- Ryan Cochrane (Houston)
5- Preston Burpo (Chivas USA)
6- Connor Casey (Colorado)
7- Chris Pozniak (Toronto FC)
8- Ned Grabavoy (Columbus)
9- John Wolyniec (New York)
10- Chris Loftus (New England)

Okay, now getting back to Frank Yallop...

I think he'll take Pat Onstad as his goalkeeper. He obviously can't get Joe Cannon and went to Onstad the last time that happened, and it worked out well for him.

Perhaps we'll see him go after Kevin Harmse as well because Frank brought Harmse in himself.

I wouldn't be surprised if he took Laurent Merlin from Chivas. Frank didn't seem like he wanted to have parted ways with Merlin, that it was just a numbers game, so he might be willing to give the Frenchman a shot at San Jose.

Really, though, the pickings are slim. Some teams have some good players to choose from (Houston, Kansas City, Chivas, Galaxy) but some don't (DC, Chicago, RSL, Toronto) and you can only take one player away from each team, so that's that.

Diversity Decoded

One of our regular readers directed us to a new gender and ethnic diversity report on MLS.

I have to say, I was a little surprised at the report. Among head coaches, it mentions Fernando Clavijo as the only person of color in the league - then it adds that the recent hire of Ruud Gullit doubles that. Excuse me, but why was Juan Carlos Osorio overlooked - or counted as white? He's Colombian-born.

On the other hand, I'm glad someone is keeping tabs on these kind of issues. Frankly, there are so many soccer-knowledgeable females in the U.S. today, that I'm surprised that more aren't involved in the league. It could be, like Don Garber posits, a temporary blip because it's a relatively small organization. I'm still glad someone is tracking it, though, because it's easy for institutions to slip into a good ol' boy network without even realizing it sometimes.

Exercise in futility

Another year, another expansion draft.

A year ago, Toronto FC pillaged from around the then-12 team league to form the basic foundation of its club. Now, it's San Jose's turn to scour from the 13 existing teams.

San Jose coach Frank Yallop will have this list of players to select from. It's quite an expansive list. There are some MLS Cup winners on there, former league award winners and all-stars and high draft choices - there's even a World Cup winner on there!

In the end, though, this draft won't mean much. In fact, it won't mean anything. There may be some serviceable players who come out of this draft, and some of them might even do well for San Jose. But if the last three expansion teams' draft history is any indication, San Jose's opening day lineup will not consist of many of the guys on the aforementioned list.

A quick review of the 2004 and 2006 expansion drafts:


Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake entered the league with different philosophies. Chivas wanted Hispanic players while RSL just wanted players. The two teams stockpiled their respective first-ever rosters with old players, young players, American players, foreign players but looking back most of those guys were simply marginal players.

Here's what happened with the expansion drafts:

Arturo Torres, quit
Orlando Perez, with team
Ezra Hendrickson, traded early 06
Francisco Gomez, cut early 06
Antonio de la Torre, cut preseason 05
Matt Taylor, cut mid 07
Craig Ziadie, vanished
Jamil Walker, cut preseason 05
Thiago Martins, traded preseason 06
Jeff Stewart, vanished

Andy Williams, with team
DJ Countess, gone
Pablo Brenes, gone
Brian Kamler, gone
Nelson Akwari, gone
Chris Brown, with team
Matt Behncke, gone
Rusty Pierce, gone
Kevin Ara, gone
Erick Scott, gone

I went into detail with Chivas USA because I've literally been there from the beginning, from the first-ever expansion draft at the ESPN Zone in Anaheim in November 2004. Thomas Rongen was all smiles, Arturo Torres was all smiles and everything seemed good. The only players who made any sort of impact, though, were Orlando Perez and Ezra Hendrickson. Torres and Matt Taylor played significant minutes during their respective Chivas careers but neither did much except run a lot.

RSL has Andy Williams and Chris Brown still around but some of those other guys are just scary, like when you pull out some stinky brown and dark green mush that used to be food from your refrigerator scary.


Toronto coach Mo Johnston tried a different approach. Instead of stockpiling a team, he stockpiled players he could trade away. He selected some good players last year but their contributions for Toronto FC were nonexistent.

Toronto FC
Paulo Nagamura, gone
Danny O'Rourke, gone
Jose Cancela, gone
Adrian Serioux, gone
Nate Jaqua, gone
Rod Dyachenko, gone
Jason Kreis, gone
Tim Regan, gone
Ritchie Kotschau, gone
Will Hesmer, gone

Not one player is still with the team. I don't know if any one of these guys even made it past May. Honestly, I think that was an absurd way of going about things but whatever.

Anyway, if you are trying to guess what San Jose's first-ever roster will look like based on the expansion list, forget it. Now, that doesn't mean we all can't play the role of GM and try to piece together a roster from it, not at all. In fact, I'm probably going to do that later myself. But it'll ultimately be as pointless as the real draft itself.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Serving it up

The Galaxy Foundation had their annual Thanksgiving dinner for underprivileged kids in the community.I don't give a roll about being left unprotected in the expansion draft!
We're manly men in aprons.
Gravy goes with everything - or over everything - same thing.
Weren't these guys serving us food just a minute ago?
You can sell this on Ebay later on.

New kid on the blog

The LA Galaxy get an official blog going. Justin Pearson, who helped start up the FC Dallas blog, works for the Galaxy now, so he's set up an LA blog. Just in time to keep up with the team during the Australian/New Zealand tour.

I tried to get Justin to promise to take pictures from the beaches of Australia - we'll see later if he complies.

Justin and I also argued about the definition of "most popular club". He noted that in terms of overall attendance and team merchandise, it's no contest. The Galaxy are ahead of the rest of MLS by a large margin.

Dreamin' on

When Jorge Flores was selected as the Sueno MLS winner, I didn't pay much attention. I thought that tryout was a gimmicky at best and Jorge Flores or whoever else won wouldn't be much of anything.

After signing a developmental contract and even playing for the club, I figured it was more because of his work ethic than his talents that he landed both.

But now, Flores will take the next step toward becoming even more of a success story. Flores will be called into the US Under-20 squad, a source told me.

Now, the US might be trying to cast as wide a net as possible and calling up as many players as possible so as not to leave any stone unturned. But not every MLS-based teenager gets a call to the U.S. U-20s. So Flores has caught someone's eye.

Whether or not he sticks around is up to him now. He's got to put forth the same effort that got him to stick around at Chivas. But at least he's got the chance.

No longer

Well, that's officially an outlet where I'll no longer be covering the West Coast MLS beat. Print media may be scaling back coverage and articles, but that doesn't mean online media gets more respect. Far from it.

Where it all began

Clint Mathis started his MLS career in Los Angeles and has now come full circle.

All-time great

There have been many outstanding players who have competed in Major League Soccer and several of them have led their team to MLS glory.

Houston's Dwayne De Rosario is certainly that category. He scored the game-winning goal in MLS Cup 2007 on Sunday with a timely header late in the second half. It's actually his second such goal as De Rosario scored the match-winner in MLS Cup '01.

If you were to compile an all-time MLS Best XI right now, De Rosario's inclusion would be a must.

Sometimes, you take De Rosario for granted. Other players like Christian Gomez and Landon Donovan get a lot of publicity and sometimes De Rosario is overlooked. I'll admit that I did not consider De Rosario much for my 2007 Best XI voting while I included Gomez and strongly considered Donovan.

But maybe that's because De Rosario is more about performing when the lights are on the brightest, when the stakes are the highest and someone needs to step up and perform. That seems to be when De Rosario is at his best.

De Rosario has now won four MLS Cups, a figure few others have reached. From his first one, when he came off the bench to bury the Galaxy in golden-goal extra time, to Sunday's, when before the game he was the catalyst to the defending champions' attack, De Rosario's game has improved immensely. He's got a lethal shot and produced one of the best free-kick goals I've ever seen in person when he ripped a 30-yarder against the Galaxy late in the '05 season. But he also showed his ability to finish however necessary on Sunday by whipping that header into the corner of the net.

If there is one flaw in De Rosario's game, it's clearly his post-goal celebration. That little herky-jerky chicken dance has got to go. Aside from that, though, De Rosario is hands down one of this league's all-time great players.


And now the matchups are set in the Mexican Apertura 2007 liguilla:

Atlante-Cruz Azul
Chivas-San Luis

The most appealing series at first glance is Toluca-Pumas because of tradition mostly. Pumas hasn't been one of the best teams in the league but watching them go up against Toluca is still enticing. Atlante-Cruz Azul could produce some good games and might be the most even matchup.

You would expect Santos to take care of Morelia simply because of the nature of their seasons but typically things don't go well for the number one seed in the playoffs, last season notwithstanding.

The topic of my column for this week will be the playoffs so keep an eye out for that.

Sudamericana or nothing

Turns out three goals were too much to overcome, even at home.

America lost to Morelia in their repechaje series by a 3-1 aggregate. America won Sunday's game 1-0 but was eliminated nonetheless. Perhaps the worst moment for America on Sunday was when Rodrigo Lopez missed two penalty kicks within minutes of each other. First, Moises Munoz dived and blocked Lopez's attempt but the linesman penalized Munoz for leaving his line early and Lopez got another chance. However, he launched it over the crossbar.

A goal would have made it 3-2 in the aggregate and could have given America more life but it wasn't meant to be. Now America will have only Sudamericana to play for while Morelia moves on to face Santos.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

St. Louis Soccer

Soccer in St. Louis, a little bit of history.

Dynamo Dynasty

Ok, who is going to be the first to say it at the Houston Dynamo victory party, and send a royalty check to Pat Riley?

Three-peat! Three-peat! Three-peat!

I have to add that I think our readers (and I) did a pretty good job on our little poll. Three out of the four I picked scored. Of course, you, our readers, rated highest the players who actually ended up scoring.

Another addendum: the post-game quote sheet gets Pat Onstad (or the reporter who asked him) using the "three-peat".

“This group of guys are up for the challenge. To be down one nothing and come back to win shows the heart of the team, and how much winning means to the guys. We are definitely up for the challenge of a three-peat.”

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Chivas beats Chivas

El Rebano Sagrado beat El Rebano del Norte by a 2-1 score in Guadalajara on Saturday.

Sergio Santana and Edgar Solis scored the goals for Chivas while Claudio Suarez scored via a penalty kick for Chivas USA. Alex Zotinca picked up two yellow cards and Chivas USA finished with 10 men.

Here's the lineup for Chivas USA:

Preston Burpo (Sam Reynolds, 78); Alex Zotinca, Bobby Burling, Claudio Suarez (David Paladin, 62), Shaun Higgins (Jorge Flores, 74), Rodrigo Lopez (Erasmo Solorzano, 65), Lawson Vaughn (David Arvizu, 89), John Cunliffe, Francisco Mendoza (Desmond Brooks, 62), Anthony Hamilton (Matt Taylor, 46), Calen Carr.

Chivas, meanwhile, used different lineups per half. Go here for the lineups.

The game was held as a benefit to flood victims in Tabasco.

Solo quedan los recuerdos

I'd like to dedicate this next song to los Tuzos de Pachuca.

Yes, the once-grand Tuzo empire came crumbling down today in glorious manner. Like most empires, the fall of the Pachuca dynasty was epic. Cruz Azul did Pachuca in by a 4-0 second-leg win and a 6-0 aggregate victory in the repechaje round of Mexico's Apertura 2007 season.

Truth is, Pachuca's dynasty was in tatters since the fall of Miguel Calero. But now it's finally over and Pachuca are mere mortals once again.

Anyway, here's one of my favorite depressing songs.

Amor Limosnero:

Yo no quisiera hablar de despedida
me duele mucho, me parte el alma
pero que puedo hacer
ahora recojo mi arrastrado orgullo
hoy me marcho de ti
no lo vas a creer

Yo no quisiera provocarte pena
pues se de sobra que tu alma es buena
por no verme llorar
podias quedarte sin abrir las alas
y en tus alas se ve que ahora quieres volar

Y aqui se termina, aqui se termina
este amor limosnero
me voy de tu vida
porque te quiero
te doy la libertad
de que vueles en voz de tu felicidad

Yo no quisiera provocarte pena
pues se de sobra que tu alma es buena
por no verme llorar
podias quedarte sin abrir las alas
y en tus alas se ve que ahora quieres volar

Y aqui se termina, aqui se termina
este amor limosnero
me voy de tu vida
porque te quiero
te doy la libertad
de que vueles en voz de tu felicidad


Wow - just watched Russia versus Israel. What a crazy game. After Russia reel back an Israel goal in the first half with a goal of their own in the second half, fortune swings wildly in the space of a minute. A Russian shot goes off the post in the last minute of the game, then Israel nets the winning goal on a counter soon after.

All England need versus Croatia now is a draw to qualify for Euro 2008.

USA-South Africa running blog

Light the corner kicks of my mind. . .

Ok, that doesn't even make sense. As I wait for the game to start, I'm looking back a little. I was talking to another reporter yesterday about how difficult it is to interview players these days when the media is so monitored and controlled and get anything but a canned, robotic, rote response.
Of course, it's a little easier to get players to open up and chat when they trust you or at least know you a little bit. It takes time to build that relationship, though. Scott French, for example, whenever we cover the USWNT, points out that he's known some of the players on the squad since they were on youth teams, trying to decide which college to attend. He usually can get better quotes from those players than anybody else would, because they're comfortable just talking to him like he's an old friend.
In general, there's also a bit of prophetic pride when a player who you noticed doing well in the past and thought was special makes good. So I was reviewing my reporting history with the latest group that makes up the USNT
Brad Guzan (Chivas USA) Chivas USA is of course our local team, and I met Guzan before that disasterous 2005 season started. He seemed so incongruous, a big, tall fresh-faced goalkeeper pushed into the starting lineup of mostly Latinos in place of the injured Martin Zuniga. What really impressed me that season was Brad's capacity to take abuse. Not just the incredible amount of shots he faced, but the turmoil and discouragement of that first season. It didn't break him - it made him stronger and more determined.
Tim Howard (Everton FC) Tim I didn't meet and interview until he'd already been abroad. He's polite to the media, though, so he's fine to interview.
Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham FC) Same as Tim, though I noticed that Carlos seems more comfortable with interviews lately - maybe the captaincy helped. He seemed more impatient before.

Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA) Jonny B is another local boy. I knew of him in his UCLA days, but I didn't interview him until he was on Chivas USA. It was great to see him break out as a defender, though I still laugh when think how I was grilling him about the change early on. "Is this move going to work for you?" I actually asked.
Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96) Never spoken to him. He wasn't one of the players scheduled at the press conferences in Germany and I didn't have a credential for the mixed zone after games. He's not come out to camps or games in LA since I've been covering the squad.
Dan Califf (Aalborg BK) Danny's a cool guy. I first interviewed him before he made the jump to Europe. It was fun to hear him talking a little smack about his Danish teammates early this year, about how he wanted to earn bragging rights.
Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege) Gooch has been in Europe for a long while - I think I first interviewed him after the US clinched the World Cup berth versus Mexico in Columbus. He'd had a memorable duel with Jared Borgetti there and he was pumped up.
Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock) Heath is another Euro-based guy, but one of the most candid interviews I've met. He'll tell you what he really thinks, almost every time.
Jonathan Spector (West Ham United) Jonathan scares me a little. Ok, not really, but he's just serious sort of guy and he speaks like someone much older than he is. He says things in a formal manner; hardly uses any contractions, for example. It's a bit unusual.

Freddy Adu (SL Benfica) Freddy I met back when he was 14 and playing with the U20 team. He was such a happy kid, confident and in love with the game of soccer. He's matured, sure, but I hope he never loses that joy in the beautiful game.
DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers) Bease I also inteviewed first in Columbus. He'd scored there, and he was the big hero. I was really happy he stopped to talk to me, as a bunch of reporters were trying to get quotes from him and he could have called it a night in the mixed zone earlier than he did.
Michael Bradley (SC Heerenveen) I was there when Michael scored his first MLS goal in 2005. His obvious pride was still tinged with disappointment over his dad's firing, but look at both of them now.
Maurice Edu (Toronto FC) Never spoken to him. When he was in LA, I was interviewing other players and when I asked about him, he'd already left and boarded the bus.
Benny Feilhaber (Derby County) Brazilian-born Benny - I talked to him in 2005, when Sigi Schmid was fending off accusations of UCLA favoritism on the U20 team. Benny shut that talk up with a breakout performance in the qualifying tournament.
Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA) Sasch, his teammates call him, is another Chivas USA regular who quietly had an impressive season this year, improving on his excellent rookie year. I interviewed him first back when he was still a U20 player. He didn't get that much playing time with that squad, but I was pointed in his direction when I asked the team's media officer which players were particularly well-spoken (monosyllabic answers are no fun). Kljestan's a smart guy, and that comes acgoss in his interviews.

Josmer Altidore (New York Red Bulls) Jozy was in Peru with the U17 team when he was only 15, still growing into those big feet of his. He had a good game as a sub versus Italy and I interviewed him after that win. Nice to see him with the senior team today.
Clint Dempsey (Fulham FC) My favorite Dempsey interview was after he scored against Japan in San Francisco. I was there in the mixed zone and asked him about his celebration dance. He demonstrated it again (lean wit it, rock wit it) for all the press. But I first interviewed him back in 2005 when he had long hair and was known as "the other Clint".

Game on! After a little message from Nelson Mandela - which gives a great sense of occasion to this match. I love the stadium announcer - he sounds like a boxing or WWF guy.
1- South Africe controls early on, but Heath Pearce gets the ball back for the U.S. Wow - the picture just jumped to image of an empty room with computers. It looks like a security feed. Max Bretos apologizes.
3- South Africa gets possession back and generates a corner kick - the U.S. deals pretty well.
5- Ex-Metros and Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parriera is shown on the bench. He raises his arms and complains about something. I think he's directing ire at the ref already.
7- Adu with a clever little turn sends a ball up to Dempsey on the run, but he can't quite reach the pass in the box. Where's Eddie Johnson? He's fast enough to chase a pass like that. I'm surprised he's not at least on the bench. Maybe the European team that wants to buy his contract objected.
10- Tim Howard kills an attack by catching the incoming cross. Adu is playing well, gets a corner for his team. The corner gets cleared, then Adu gets the ball back for a good cross, but a defender from South Africa clears that out as well.
12- Nice run of attacking possession for the U.S. here. Dempsey with some footwork in the corner but he loses the ball trying to nutmeg his defender and then gets called for a foul.
13- Adu nearly slips a ball through to Jozy Altidore's run, but an SA defender gets a foot on it.
15- Beasley's speed gets the better of him; he races out for a pass and gets flagged for offsides. The crowd in Jo-Burg is great, a constant buzz of noise, even if quite a few seats are empty.
20- Corner kick for SA - this leads to a shot that Howard saves well near the post.
22- It's SA's turn for a good run of possession. They have a bit of momentum generated.
23- Dempsey, active on the counter attack, gets a corner kick. Adu takes and serves into the box. Bodies go down in a scrum. SA clears, but the U.S. has regained a measure of control in the game.
25- Dempsey is physical and active - I think he's looking to match SA physically and intensity in their defending. Demps just shoved an SA defender out of bounds trying to reach a long pass. The guy shielded the ball well for a goal kick and doesn't seem to mind taking the shove.
27- GOAL! Cherundolo! Stevie C! He's off on an overlapping run and Maurice Edu feeds him a nice little pass, the defense hangs back a bit, anticipating a cross, but Stevie keeps going and takes the shot past a flatfooted Rowen Fernandez. Nice.
32- The crowd rallies after pouting in near silence for a while. Now they're encouraging their team again. The U.S. is still possessing well, though, pressuring SA territory.
34- Adu nice run to the edge of the SA box, but can't beat last defender.
36- CAP looks grimly quiet on the sidelines. Bease on a counter catches up to a long pass from Cherundolo, takes the shot, but this time, Fernandez is on his toes and makes the save.
39- Pearce goes to ground to tackle a ball, and continues to play even while sprawled when the rebound comes back in his direction. He's having a good game so far.
43- The U.S. is keeping a high defensive line, and SA is having trouble breaking it. They're hoofing hopeful balls long over the top. Oh, a little team play gets the ball into the box for SA, then the U.S. clears for corner.
44- Crappy corner from SA. Missed everyone.
45- Pearce with a long, long pass upfield - to no one. Sheesh.
45+- Adu on a breakaway! He races with the ball into the box, showing off good speed for nearly halftime. Though Bease is coming into the box, Adu tries a tricky far post shot though he's got practically no angle. He misses. Beasley is probably thinking, "Dang, Landon would have put the ball on my toe."
Oof. Stevie C, hero of the game, goes down after a tackle from behind. He limps into the locker room. He might not be able to continue.
Halftime - The U.S. is managing the game well, though they're not overwhelming SA. Still, it's smart road team soccer to wait patiently for opportunities.
2nd half
Spector, Califf and Guzan are in for Cherundolo, Bocanegra and Howard, respectively.
48- Dempsey! Could have had the second right there, as he catches up to a ball headed back to the goalkeeper in the box. Dempsey gets a foot on it, but Fernandez is determined to make up for his earlier indecision. He snags the ball well.
52- Spector with a pass to Bradley, eek, poor decision as Bradley was surrounded by three SA players and has to fight to keep possession. He manages to pass back to Spector, who wisely goes in another direction.
53- The U.S. forget to cover the far post and Modise connects on a header that luckily for the U.S. is off. He was open though, as the U.S. defense got tangled up covering the near post and the incoming run from the otherside.
56- Delron Buckley nice dribble into the box, sends a quick pass back into blonde-haired Subusiso Zuma, but the there's a ton of traffic in the box and he can't slot his shot in past that.
58- The U.S. defense has lost composure. SA is pushing hard for the equalizer. Howard comes out for another ball in the box. The crowd is amped again.
60- Zuma and Pearce go down but, Zuma pops back up and carries his dribble into the box, where the U.S. look clueless right now. Zuma passes, but Spector clears the ball out just before Modise gets it.
61- CK goes to Modise at the corner of the box, but he tries to cut in looking for a shot and loses the ball.
62- Coach CAP looks more animated on the bench.
64- Bafana Bafana, with some great attacking play, can't quite breach the last line of U.S. defense. Spector blocks two shots in a row, just inside the box. Bradley looks grim now.
65- Jozy is in! Dempsey comes out.
67- The U.S. has barely moved out of their own half in this second half. CK cleared by Jozy.
68- SA regains possession, Zuma lays ball back for Macbeth Sibaya, whose low shot is wide, but not by much.
70- Pearce has trouble clearing a high bouncing ball in the box, and his attacker pounces, getting the ball and a cross to Benedict McCarthy off, but the header is weak and Guzan catches easily.
Sibewe Tshabalala is in now, I guess it was Delron Buckley earlier.
72- McCarthy in the box, Edu crashes into him, but ref waves play on. Interesting, but the replay shows the contact, while physical, was likely incidental.
74- Kljestan on for Adu.
77- Zuma was down for a god while, but he's back up now and in the game.
80- Modise with a shot from the top of the box between two defenders. It's way high.
82- Guzan with a little time-wasting move, taking his time on the goal kick. His kicks are about the only time the U.S. get into SA territory this half. Two crosses into the box in a row just miss Zuma. He's frustrated.
83- Guzan is out to snag another cross.
84- SA is mad. They want a handball in the box, but the ref gives a corner. Feilhaber, who had defended hard, even while contributing very little offensively, had a ball kicked into his bicep.
86- FK to SA. Feilhaber is out for Bornstien. Interesting. Pearce has been playing well, though, and Jonny can play in the midfield. Guzan catches the FK.
88- The crowd won't give up, and neither will thier team. One mistake could spoil the U.S. victory.
90- FK to SA, not far outside the box. Good chance for them. Modise hoofs it over the bar.
90+Edu and Kljestan work the ball well into the corner. The U.S. has its best moments in the second half holding the ball there a good long while, working short passes together to pass time.
Final whistle!
When did the U.S. become mini-Italy? Not that I'm complaining about the win, because 1-0 still counts in the wins column.
Rising like cream: Edu, Adu (Anyone heard Black Eyed Peas' song "Bebot"? That's the tune that gets stuck in my head when I think of those two), Guzan,
Holding steady like superglue: Howard, Cherundolo, Bocanegra, Bradley, Beasley
Sliding slightly like
players on a wet field: Dempsey (to be fair, not his ideal position, to be a lone forward; he's not really fast and being the only one up top negates his opportunistic movement), Spector, (dogged defending, but could make better decisions going forward), Califf (never looks good when you come in and the defense starts to fall apart) Pearce (really tired in the second half, though he hung tough on the last line)
Falling like concrete in the river: Feilhaber (lack of playing time at Derby is probably to blame) Onyewu (it's his job to hold the defense together, be the leader),
Drifting like dust in the wind: Didn't see enough of some players in action to really judge: Kljestan, Altidore, Bornstein.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Looking up

Things went pretty well for a couple of the Galaxy's best players today. David Beckham got an assist on Peter Crouch's winning goal in the friendly versus Austria, and Landon Donovan got a reprieve from the league - which voted to extend the "grandfather clause".

Claudio announces his retirement

At the end of next year.

Wind it up

Galaxy players going through their paces at the HDC today. Landon Donovan was inside, getting treatment for a calf strain. From here on out, practice will be optional until the team leaves for Australia, where they will meet up with their new coach, Ruud Gullit.Josh Tudela dribbles in versus Carlos Pavon and Kelly Gray.
Pavon puts a shot past Lance Friesz in a practice scrimmage.
Goalkeeper coach Ian Feuer puts Joe Cannon (far right) and Friesz through a drill.
Chris Albright defends while Mike Randolph considers a pass.
Kelly Gray, who scored multiple times in the scrimmage, puts another one away.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Same time next year

For all the excitement that infused this MLS season as a new frontier for the league, it strikes me as almost funny how much of a throwback year it's really been.

I'd crack more deja vu jokes, but let's take a quick inventory instead.

The Galaxy sign the biggest name in world soccer, and miss the playoffs. Again.
Chivas USA goes out in the first round of the playoffs. Again.
The Columbus Crew miss the playoffs. Again.
Sigi Schmid stays on as Crew coach. Again.
Fernando Clavijo hangs on to the Colorado Rapids coaching job. Again.
DC United loses to the Chicago Fire in the playoffs. Again.
The Fire lose to New England in the playoffs. Again.
FC Dallas melts down in the playoffs due to a player red card. Again.
Chivas USA's coach wins Coach of the Year. Again.
The Houston Dynamo claw back from a deficit in the playoffs to make the finals. Again.
New England makes the finals. Again.
A DC United player wins the MVP. Again. Hopefully, Luciano Emilio, if he goes to MLS Cup like Christian Gomez did, manages to look a mite more cheerful at the event. Gomez looked miserable that his team wasn't there.

Catching up with the Ochoas

Riverside Poly High has produced some quality soccer teams over the years and the Ochoa family has contributed to their success.

Jesse Ochoa was a standout at Poly before going by the name Jesus (though everyone around here still calls him Jesse) and playing in MLS and Mexico.

Sammy Ochoa went to Tecos UAG of Mexico and made the U.S. 2005 World Youth Championship squad.

So where are they now?

Jesus was with Chivas USA in 2005 but was cut in the preseason of 2006. He vanished. His wife had just given birth and apparently soccer wasn't an option. Not sure where he's latched onto full time but he's giving high school refereeing a shot. One of his less-famous brothers has reffed in the Inland Empire before and now apparently Jesus aka Jesse is giving it a go.

Yanks Abroad, meanwhile, reports that Sammy might consider joining MLS instead of staying with Tecos' reserve side at year's end. Sammy's got some talent but he's not playing at all for Tecos. He wasn't part of their InterLiga team in January 2007 which I took as a sign that they didn't think highly of him and hasn't played in the top flight since February. If it's between MLS and Tecoman of the second division, MLS is the better option.

Younger brothers Armando and Norberto are still in high school, though I haven't kept tabs on their progress. But the high school soccer season is coming up soon so we'll have time to keep up with the Ochoas as the year progresses.

All over the world

Nice to see clubs from parts unknown get some love in's Power Rankings. Actually, Jonah Freedman does well to give love to South American and Mexican clubs when they merit it and doesn't limit his rankings to the Old World.

But this time around, Japanese and Tunisian clubs joins those from England, Spain, Italy, Mexico and Brazil in his Top 10.

Urawa Red Diamonds! No. 9! I've actually been to their grounds, the Saitama Stadium. I was there for England-Sweden in the 2002 World Cup. At the time, I didn't really know much about the Urawa Red Diamonds except what little I saw of them via season highlights at a local eatery before going to the game. I saw the highlights of their Asian Champions League matches and how all the flags raise up behind the stands and thought that was pretty cool. They seem to pack 'em in there at that stadium. Go Red Diamonds!


Add the Belgium/Netherlands bid as another obstacle for a North American World Cup in 2018.

The two European neighbors tossed their collective hat into the ring for 2018 as Belgium and the Netherlands will look to co-host the 2018 World Cup. England is the favorite but other countries including the US and Mexico have expressed interest.

After the difficulties of a two-nation World Cup that was held in 2002, I thought FIFA would no longer be open to co-hosting a World Cup. Japan/Korea had several of logistical problems that arose because of the co-hosting. I was in Japan, did not go to Korea but heard plenty of stories about difficulties in getting back and forth between the two nations.

Of course, you needn't hop on a plane to travel back and forth between Belgium and the Netherlands. I see that as more of a likelihood than USA '18 or Mexico '18.

No support

Pachuca has regularly played in front of raucous crowds during their magical year-plus run in Mexico. On Wednesday, los Tuzos set out in search of yet another title.

A couple of things happened, though, that haven't happened often.

Pachuca lost to Cruz Azul 2-0 and is now on the brink of elimination. Only a complete turnaround in Estadio Azul on Saturday will prevent Pachuca from crashing out of the Apertura 2007 season.

Perhaps more rare: the attendance for Wednesday's repechaje game was zero.

Following the regular-season finale against Pumas, Pachuca supporters threw objects at the officials. At least one object made contact with an official, and the result was a ban for one match. Supporters were banned from a playoff game and Pachuca lost.

Check out some pictures from the game in this gallery here, including shots of the empty stadium. Seems kinda strange.

A dream final ruined

America held up their end of the dream Copa Sudamericana final but River Plate did not.

Arsenal de Sarandi beat fellow Argentine side River Plate in penalties to reach the Sudamericana final on Tuesday.

America, who beat Millonarios a day earlier, will host the first leg of the final on Nov. 28. Arsenal will host the second leg on Dec. 5.

This is the third consecutive year that the Sudamericana final will feature a Mexican team and the third time Mexican and Argentine teams have met in a South American club tournament final. Boca Juniors, though, took care of the other two Mexican teams, first beating Cruz Azul in the 2001 Libertadores final and then dispatching of Pumas in the 2005 Sudamericana final.

Arsenal, though, does not quite have the history of Boca or River, but that did not matter in the semifinals of this tournament.

Here's how the Argentine press saw the result:

"Cuenca's Crime"

Incidentally, Arsenal's goalkeeper, the player pictured above, is Mario Cuenca.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

America in the finals

America beat Millonarios of Colombia by 2-0 on Tuesday and reached the final of the 2007 Copa Sudamericana.

America can join Pachuca as the only Mexican clubs to win a South American club tournament.

Hans gets hung

Hans Westerhof is done.

After returning to Mexico to coach Necaxa over the summer, the former Chivas and Chivas USA coach was sacked by Los Rayos after failing to guide the club to the Mexican league playoffs.

Necaxa was one of the worst teams in Mexico this season. The club' s defense was particularly lousy as Los Rayos' porous defense gave up 32 goals, a figure surpassed by only three other teams.

Westerhof led Chivas to the final of the Clausura 2004 tournament and jumped in to guide Chivas USA midway through the 2005 season. He returned to Guadalajara for the Clausura 2006 season but was sacked midway through that campaign and said upon leaving Mexico for his native Netherlands that he'd not coach again in Mexico.

That changed, though, and now he's out of a job once again.

Bravo, bridge!

Who would have expected a bunch of bridge players to be the U.S. national team with real guts?

A new beginning

Pia to the U.S. post.

On second thought

Unlike most national teams around the world, Mexico does not play a game this weekend. The Mexican federation decided long ago that it would be best to allow the end of the season to play out with club rosters undisturbed during a crucial time of the Mexican domestic campaign.

I figured I'd look at the rosters of the eight teams whose seasons ended last weekend and try to piece together a roster.

Yeah, not so much.

At goalie, you'd have Jose de Jesus Corona, the lone bright spot on a lousy Tecos team. Monterrey's Jonathan Orozco has been called up recently as well so he'd be a go.

Defensively, uh, well, there's Omar Hernandez from Necaxa.

Jorge Hernandez from Atlas and Manuel Perez from Monterrey might make up part of the midfield and Tigres' Emmanuel Cerda would be an option up top.

But otherwise there's not much from the eight ousted clubs to put together a roster. I guess that's why those teams are terrible. Of course, it's an international date so the European contingent would be available but domestically, the pickings would be slim.

Any suggestions for a domestic Tri team from the eliminated eight?

Otra doble jornada

So much for the Bay Area InterLiga matches.

The two Northern California matchdays were moved to Texas and SoCal respectively.

As far as my neck of the woods goes, we'll get InterLiga doubleheaders on Jan. 8 and Jan. 9 as well as the finals on Jan. 12.

On the 8th - the matches originally slated for NoCal - we'll see Monterrey and San Luis and Pumas take on Cruz Azul. It's okay to show up late but do get there for the start of Pumas-Cruz Azul. That's quite an attractive matchup.

Then on the 9th we'll get Morelia-Toluca followed by America-Atlas. Please show up on time for this day.

The finals will be on the 12th and with any luck we'll get either America-Pumas or America-Cruz Azul. Of course, Cruz Azul commonly tanks in this tournament so the former matchup is more likely.

I know many of the players don't care much for InterLiga and some think it's a silly tournament but if I wasn't covering these games, I'd probably buy tickets for them even though I don't support any of those teams.

It's official

The United States and Mexico will play a friendly on Feb. 6, 2008 in Houston's Reliant Stadium. It became official when US Soccer announced the match today.

Here are some details: the game will start at 8 p.m. local time, 6 p.m. for us out here on the West Coast, and it will be broadcast on ESPN2 and Univision. Prices range from $35-165, with some "special" seats on sale for $275. According to US Soccer, the seating arrangement will be split into a US section, a Mexico section and a neutral section.

Initial thoughts: I wouldn't pay $165 for a friendly unless it came with a free iPod. $35 perhaps but then you'll be sitting in the last seat of the last row of the section farthest away from the field.

The seating arrangements are presumably to thwart any possible violence in the stands, I'm assuming. The US fans will likely take up a miniscule percentage of the seats, as always happens at US-Mexico games in Texas, California, Arizona, Illinois. Maybe they'll put the US fans in one of the end sections.

Still, the game probably will sell out despite the high prices. At that time of the year, fans will be dying to see their national teams in action. Mexico last played in October and probably won't play again until February. The U.S. will play Sweden a few weeks before but that will be with the MLS-based USMNT players. Plus, the usual fervor US-Mexico brings will help drive ticket sales as well.

As far as the revenue that will be generated from this match, I can't imagine it will be less than a million dollars. I may be way off here but when you add in the ticket revenue, parking, concessions, television advertising (from Spanish- and English-language networks), that's a shitload of money.

Both federations wised up to the fact that US-Mexico is a cash cow and both federations stand to gain quite a lot of money by playing each other regularly. Now, it's not to say that they haven't played each other because they have. But a lot of the US-Mexico games in recent years have been in official tournaments or World Cup qualifying matches. They played the friendly in Arizona early this year but the previous friendly they played was in 2004. They did not play friendlies in '05 or '06. It'll be interesting to see if they play a friendly to kick off 2009, being that they will play twice in qualifying during the year.

American fatigue

If Club America can pull off either the Copa Sudamericana title or the Apertura 2007 championship, they will only add to their already grand lore. But if the club can pull off the double, they will set a new standard that even Pachuca didn't achieve.

America is currently alive and well in two campaigns. Today, the Mexican club will host Millonarios of Colombia in the second leg of their Sudamericana semifinal series. America pulled out a 3-2 win in Colombia last week and need just a draw to go through to their first-ever Sudamericana final.

The club gets no breaks, though. America is in the repechaje of the Apertura and will play at Morelia on Thursday.

While Pachuca held both the Sudamericana and Mexican league titles at the same time, los Tuzos did not pull off the double when winning Sudamericana. America has a chance to top Pachuca's grand run to finish off 2006 when they won the Sudamericana and reached the semifinals of the Apertura 2006.

America might be running on fumes though. Since Sept. 22, America has played 15 games in 53 days. By Sunday, they will have played 17 games in 58 days. That's about one game every four days, and that calendar has included games in Colombia and Brazil and all over Mexico. In fact, here's how they've fared over that time:

Sept. 22 at San Luis (1-2 L)
Sept. 25 at Pachuca (4-1 W)
Sept. 30 Cruz Azul (2-2 T)
Oct. 3 Pachuca (0-2 L)
Oct. 7 at Toluca (1-3 L)
Oct. 10 Vasco da Gama (2-0 W)
Oct. 14 Veracruz (0-0 T)
Oct. 20 at Pachuca (2-1 W)
Oct. 24 at Vasco da Gama (0-1 L)
Oct. 28 Chivas (2-1 W)
Oct. 31 at Atlante (1-2 L)
Nov. 4 Necaxa (1-0 W)
Nov. 7 at Millonarios (3-2 W)
Nov. 10 Monterrey (1-0 W)
Nov. 13 Millonarios
Nov. 15 at Morelia
Nov. 18 Morelia

It's a taxing schedule to say the least but so far America has come away with excellent results.