Thursday, July 31, 2008

They're coming for the kids

Part of me is really skeptical about teams abroad tapping into the U.S. youth soccer market.

I mean, unless they naturalize a bunch of players, they can't bring over American prospects who don't meet work permit standards. It's all well and good to want to play in Europe, but generally, you have to do something here first before they want you over there.


Mediotiempo cartoons of course have something to say about the exits of Atlante and Pachuca. Here the Pachuca gopher and little horse of Atlante complain about their mistreatment to the authorities. It's paradoxical, considering the players that got physically rough as the games ended.

No Mexican teams in SuperLiga final

Need translation? Click below.

Announcer introduces analyst Carlos Albert
Carlos Albert: Atlante has demonstrated, like all the teams in this tournament, that they’re not in good form yet, they’re in preseason. But that’s a pretext, like the bad refs, because all the Mexican teams accepted those terms while chasing the carrot of a million dollars. On one side, we also have to recognize that the U.S. teams have grown, while some of the Mexican squads are too puffed up with their own value at times, thinking they’re going to win just by wearing their uniforms and showing up. That’s untrue. The SuperLiga has shown that you have to show up serious and ready to play these types of games.

Announcer: There’s a big rivalry, clearly, not that that excuses the way both these semifinal games ended. What’s your take on that situation?

CA: The theme we have to accept here is that the U.S. teams are in midseason, while the Mexican teams are in preseason. We have to recognize that the Mexican teams can’t show up and take it easy. In the U.S. there are good players. They’re disciplined, they’re organized, they’re fit. You have to see the goals that beat Pachuca and Atlante. We can see they were good goals, well taken, goals that indicate good soccer. Those goals weren’t the fault of the ref, the fans or the field conditions. They were soccer goals. We lost. We have to learn to lose, so that what happened this year doesn’t happen again – they return without the million dollars and without dignity, because due to their impotent inability to score, they turned surly and scuffled and now many people have reason to speak badly of our teams.

Sven's first list

Sven Goran Eriksson released his first list of callups to the Mexican national team. There weren't any European players on the list (this is just for a short three-day camp) nor were there any MLS players (he said thanks but no thanks to Cuauhtemoc).

There were two foreigner-born players, including one American, but not the Argentine many thought would get the call.

Edgar Castillo got the call while Francisco Torres did too. But it's Edgar's teammate on Santos, not Texas-born Jose Francisco Torres of Pachuca. In total, there were six Chivas players (might have been seven if Luis Michel wouldn't have broken his arm) and four Santos players.

The biggest surprise was Leandro Augusto of Pumas. The Brazilian-born Augusto was a favorite of Hugo Sanchez but was never called in by his former boss. Another surprise was Carlos Ochoa of Monterrey, who hasn't proven himself to be anything special during most of his career.

There will be another roster on Aug. 11 or thereabouts, and that will be for the qualifier against Honduras.

Here's the roster:

Goalkeepers: Oswaldo Sánchez (Santos), Guillermo Ochoa (América), José de Jesús Corona (Tecos)

Defenders: Omar Esparza (Chivas), Óscar Rojas (América), Jonny Magallón (Chivas), Leobardo López (Pachuca), Edgar Dueñas (Toluca), Diego Martínez (Tigres), Fausto Pinto (Pachuca), Edgar Castillo (Santos).

Midfielders: Luis Pérez (Monterrey), Gonzalo Pineda (Chivas), Jaime Correa (Pachuca), Leandro Augusto (Pumas), Fernando Arce (Santos), Alberto Medina (Chivas), Ramón Morales (Chivas), Francisco Torres (Santos).

Forwards: Adolfo Bautista (Jaguares), Luis Ángel Landin (Morelia), Carlos Ochoa (Monterrey), Omar Arellano (Chivas).

ADD: And just to be sure that I didn't get misinformed about the Torres who was called in, this is a picture of Torres from the FMF web site, which I'd link to if it weren't the most gawdawful site to nagivate.

I interviewed Jose Francisco Torres a couple of weeks ago and this, I can say with 100 percent certainty, is not the same guy I talked to.

SuperLiga Salvation

In only two years of existence, two different SuperLiga scenarios have already played out in the final.
The first was the MLS/Primera Division split final, with Pachuca and the LA Galaxy representing both participating leagues. Pachuca, of course, became the first SuperLiga champion in history. Now, the 2008 winner is sure to be an MLS squad - either New England or Houston - because a second finals scenario has taken place; two MLS teams in the final. The last possible configuration is obviously two Mexican clubs battling for the title.
But SuperLiga may not make it that far if problems persist and teams from Mexico vow not to participate.
Here are my suggestions for the tournament.

1) Play in Mexico. SuperLiga should start incorporating at least one Mexican venue every tournament, even if for only one match. It would season up the MLS teams, and give the tournament true international ambiance.

2) Split the difference on refs - yes, the tournament is organized by SUM, but as a gesture of involvement, the FMF should get to pick half the refs involved in the tournament. SUM should just ask for a list of names to be submitted by a certain time, and if the complaints about the refs start again, politely point out that half the officials were approved by the other side.

3) Play on decent fields.

4) Negotiate an equal split of the prize money - players should not get less for winning simply because they play for an MLS squad.

5) Have the captains of each squad read the FIFA Fair Play pledge before each match - perhaps it wouldn't make a difference, but perhaps it might serve as a reminder that players are role models.

Blanco ruling - Way weak

I don't mean weak in the aspect of the discipline handed down. Two years is a pretty solid sentence. But U.S. Soccer wimped out.
I'll highlight the part that is especially crucial: "The suspension is due to his actions during the U.S. Open Cup match between the Chicago Fire and D.C. United on July 8, 2008."
It's pretty much impossible to tell if the punishment fit the crime when the description of what Blanco did to merit the censure is never given.
Why not name exactly what Blanco's trangressions were?
One of the things I believe MLS does right is when releasing discipline information, like adding game suspensions to red cards and so forth, is to include video of the incidents so everyone is absolutely clear what it is that was cited.
Even if the powers that be decided not to release video that DC United reportedly provided to the federation featuring Blanco, the USSF should have at least cleared up the competing stories out in the public. The Fire organization clearly said one thing, while DC United had their own version.
I suspected the truth was somewhere in the middle, but now U.S. Soccer has basically said, "You can't handle the truth" and "We're not even going to tell what really happened."
Also, a bad precedent has been set. Frankly, one reason MLS goes into so much detail in its discipline procedures is to have them act as a deterrent. No one can say, "I didn't know that kicking my hated rival would have such drastic consequences," after Rico Clark's massive suspension. People know exactly what will lead to what.
I mean, did Blanco do anything significantly worse than some of Atlante's players last night? If so, U.S. Soccer should be up front and honest about it. No more pussyfooting around and hiding the facts, giving us a sentence without all the reasons for the conviction.

What's in a name?

Obviously, Stephanie Lopez is still a player of Hispanic descent even if she's gotten married and changed her name to Cox. However, it's simply harder for people to make the connection to her Latina roots without a recognizable name to clue one in.
That's partly why blondie Amy Rodriguez is a welcome sight on the U.S. roster - she's officially the second player of Hispanic descent (Her father is of Cuban descent) to make an Olympic roster for the U.S. team. So while A-Rod can no doubt be an inspiration to fast little soccer forwards everywhere, there's little doubt her last name will catch the attention of a few hopefuls who also find it encouraging that someone with a Spanish name (supposedly Amy speaks a little of the language, too) can reach the pinnacle of the U.S. women's game.

No Memo for you

Just to update our readers on an earlier post, seems Everton won't be Guillermo Ochoa's final destination after all.

Everton boss David Moyes said that
Memo was not a player they were interested in obtaining.

That doesn't mean that Ochoa won't wind up in Europe of course. For his benefit and for the benefit of the Mexican national team, Ochoa should go somewhere in Europe. With Carlos Vela and Giovani Dos Santos already in England, the EPL could stand for the arrival of another young Mexican international.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


What was supposed to have been a battle for the right to play for the SuperLiga final instead turned into, well, a battle.

Atlante vs. New England in a battle royale. Vilar versus Heaps. Atlante assistant versus Albright. Disgrace versus Revolution.

The match itself was not the greatest display of soccer. Shalrie Joseph's early goal made the rest of the game pretty much anticlimactic. But what wasn't expected was the way Atlante went down swinging... and gouging and chest-butting and grabbing and clutching, all of it dirty and shameful.

Now, you've got to keep in mind what kind of club you're dealing with. Atlante does not represent the typical Mexican club. Atlante are for all intents and purposes a bottom-feeder that rose up and had one great season. They won the Clausura 2007 title but probably won't contend for a title in another decade or three. To lump Atlante in with Pachuca or America or Cruz Azul and others in the same class would be a disgrace to Mexico's upper crust.

What Atlante did was shameful. It was a black eye on a tournament that's loaded with them, that could barely stand to have been dealt with another negative blow. A million-dollar tournament that isn't quite, that is played on below-average fields, that has had questionable calls at best, conspiracy theory-raising calls at worst, a tournament that now will be associated with poor smortsmanship from one of its semifinalists.

Verbal jabs and accusations from south of the border will be harsh. We'll probably hear 'The tournament was staged for MLS teams and the refs are on MLS' side' or the like.

Now, none of that excuses Atlante's behavior. Nothing can justify Federico Vilar knocking Jay Heaps down with a chest blow. Or the gutless assistant coach slamming Chris Albright's face. Or the mad scramble from player after player well after the final whistle was blown. In total, five Atlante players saw red.

Let's hope in future editions of this tournament that cooler heads prevail and that the issues listed above improve, mainly the refereeing. Until then, we can hope the display we saw from Atlante was an aberration.

NE vs Atlante

Here we go, with the game to decide the second finalist of the SuperLiga. The telenovela is ending, and Paloma's heart has been broken because she has just returned (from a kidnapping?) to find the love of her life has married. Or maybe it's a lie, but too late, the game is starting.
The announcers focus on the midfield, saying Shalrie Joseph is key for the Revs. Well, yeah.
* 3 - Federico Vilar (GK)
* 2 - Javier Munoz Mustafa
* 6 - Gerardo Espinoza
* 8 - Alan Zamora
* 9 - Giancarlo Maldonado
* 11 - Luis Gabriel Rey
* 15 - Arturo Munoz
* 17 - Jose Guerrero
* 18 - Christian Bermudez
* 23 - Gerardo Castillo
* 31 - Daniel Arreola
* 1 - Matt Reis (GK)
* 2 - Amaechi Igwe
* 3 - Chris Albright
* 6 - Jay Heaps
* 11 - Kheli Dube
* 13 - Jeff Larentowicz
* 14 - Steve Ralston
* 16 - Mauricio Castro
* 21 - Shalrie Joseph
* 29 - Kenny Mansally
* 31 - Sainey Nyassi

1- Albright scrapping from the start - no surprise there.
3 - Atlante might be considered the weakest semifinalist, but they're taking it to the Revs early, attacking hard.
4 - Maldonado earns a corner. Cleared, but Atlante regain possession and continue an attack. Reis is mentioned as the All-Star keep.
6 - Nyassi with a decent attempt in the box, but the cut-back move to get free was better than the shot. Vilar catches.
8 - Maldonado with a shot at the other end, but he doesn't even put it on frame. Reis dives, for practice more than anything.
9 - Dube with a header that is way off.
10 - The announcers mention Sunil Gulati is in the house, watching the game. Well, yeah, he works for the Revs.
11 - Maldonado called for offside, though he seemed even on the replay. But TV angles aren't always accurate. It depends where the camera is.
13 - The teams have played before, back when NE was training in preseason at Cancun. Atlante won 1-0.
14 - Revs developing a better rhythm after withstanding the early Atlante onslaught.
15 - Announcers report that Blanco gave Joseph serious props after the All-Star game, said his play allowed the other players to shine.
16 - Nyassi with a nice attack, gets overexcited and loses the ball at the edge of the box for no good reason.
18 - Igwe gets a pass or shot into the box, but Dube touches a pass back to the defense of Atlante.
19 - Dube with an opportunistic shot. High.
23 - Corner kick for Revs - cleared but leads to another corner. Joseph with a header, but it's high.
25 - Off the crossbar! Mansally with a great move to get free on the side, crossed the ball into the box, where Dube, I think kicked the ball off the crossbar.
26 - Corner for Atlante on the counter, Reis catches the header.
27 - Save! Reis dives to stop another shot. Igwe collided with Guerrero on the play, and Guerrero is down.
30 - Messy tackling in midfield. Ref is letting a lot go.
31 - GOAL- Off a FK by Rally near midfield, Ralston serves it into the Atlante box and Joseph goes high to power the ball into the goal. 1-0 Revs. Joseph is key indeed.
33 - Atlante have a FK of their own, closer than the one the Revs scored on. It appears to miss everybody, but they get a corner out of it. The Fort boos that lustily.
34 - No matter, Reis scoops up the corner kick and motions for his team to calm down.
35 - Dube shoots into the arms of Vilar.
37 - Nyassi with a hopeful shot. No.
39 - Castillo is off for Vanegas. Reis catches a cross and stops an Atlante attack.
40 - Albright in the box, working the give and go, but doesn't get much on his shot and Vilar catches it.
41 - Rally's FK misses everybody.
43 - Nyassi puts in a great low cross, but no one can reach it.
45 - Atlante appear to have lost their mojo.
45 + But just as I type that, they attack and Reis has to catch a cross to stop it.
The Revs did well on their goal and stayed just ahead of every Atlante attempt on the other end, but the game is well within striking distance for the Mexican squad. A comeback is possible in the second half.
46 - Shalrie gets fouled - obviously Atlante has decided not to let him roam freely - he makes too much of an impact on the game. They're looking to shut him down.
48 - Fight! Ok, well, at least some shoving there. This game has a lot of emotions as well. I'll bet the Atlante player said to Reis, "What's the point? You'll just lose to the Dynamo again!" Meanie.
50 - Taylor Twellman is warming up.
52 - Atlante attacking hard - Nyassi gets a card for a tackle from behind.
54 - Atlante corner. Reis catches.
55 - Rally FK - Joseph gets a bit of it, but the ball ends up in Vilar's hands.
56 - Espinoza gets a card and Rally a FK in almost the same spot as a minute ago. Bad kick, though, Rally overshoots Joseph by quite a bit.
59 - Reis gives up a chance when he palms a ball instead of catching it, but the defense is able to clear.
61 - Igwe from distance, but Vilar sees the ball the whole way.
62 - Dube crosses to Mansally, but Kenny puts his chance wide. Poor.
63 - Handball! The ref doesn't give it, though. Lawrentowitz was going for the ball may have had his hand out for balance, but it definitely wasn't by his side.
66 - Nicol is exhorting his charges to keep calm.
68 - Joseph gets a ball full in the face from a teammate's attempted clear. That smarts.
70 - Maldonado is pissed off to be whistled offside.
72 - Nyassi fouled deep in Atlante territory. Vilar misses Rally's FK, but all the other Revs fail to poke the ball into the net.
75 - Rally with another FK, but Atlante manage to clear. TeleFutura now wants to know who is your game MVP. I say Shalrie wins in a landslide.
76 - Albright clears a service into the box via header, but gives up a corner.
77 - Save! Reis picks the ball off the Atlante attackers foot.
79 - Adam Cristman comes in for Mansally.
80 - Trujillo comes on for Guerrero.
83 - Joseph with a shot - deflection falls to Smith, who winds up - wide.
84 - Cristman gets fouled deep - a FK for NE. But before it can be taken, Joseph is down and handbags break out. I guess Joseph got a headbutt from Luis Gabriel Rey, who gets a red card. Vilar is pissed at Albright, who by the way speaks Spanish, so I'm sure something was said there.
88 - The FK finally gets taken, and cleared, though Nyassi gets a shot off the clearance. Wide.
89 - Nyassi down for another NE FK. It's taken quickly, but Albright then gets fouled. Another FK, leading to a Lawrentowitz shot - high.
90 - Cristman gets a yellow - I guess he threw the ball at someone? Chippy game.
90+ Atlante stop Smith on the line of the box - finally set up a real attack, but the cross overshoots everyone in the box. Bad.
Shalrie wins the MVP. Big shock.
Atlante scrap desperately for a final chance. Zamora gets beaten fo a ball with Joseph's touch. He twofoot tackles Joseph. That's his second yellow and he's gone. Something about Albright is dais by the announcers - apparently he and Zamora had words during the exit.
Mustafa elbows Dube, not even going for the ball - gets a yellow. Ugly.
Nicol is pointing at his watch. Finally, the whistle blows.
Revs win. Vilar comes hunting for Albright. A scrum breaks out, because he hits Heaps, just for being in his way. Albright is hit and pissed. The ref is trying to keep players off each other.Vilar is grabbed for an interview and he says he can't talk because this is a dangerous country or something like that.
The Atlante coach blames the ref, what's new?
So it's the Revs and Houston in the final. Deja vu all over again.
Just to wrap it up, here is the conduct report from the game, because I missed some, there were so many.
NE -- Amaechi Igwe (caution; Reckless Foul) 27
NE -- Sainey Nyassi (caution; Pushing, Holding) 52
ATN -- Giancarlo Maldonado (caution; Dissent) 53
ATN -- Gerardo Espinoza (caution; Pushing, Holding) 56
ATN -- Fernando Navarro (caution; Pushing, Holding) 71
ATN -- Alan Zamora (caution; Reckless Foul) 84
ATN -- Luis Gabriel Rey (ejection; Violent Conduct) 85
NE -- Chris Albright (caution; Dissent) 85
ATN -- Federico Vilar (caution; Dissent) 86
ATN -- Federico Vilar (ejection; Second Caution) 91+
ATN -- Alan Zamora (ejection; Second Caution) 94+
ATN -- Javier Munoz Mustafa (ejection; Second Caution) 95+
NE -- Jay Heaps (ejection; Violent Conduct) 95+
ATN -- Luis Venegas (ejection; Violent Conduct) 95+

Problems at DSG Park?

Let's see, this season thus far there have been issues with fans and security and yelling stuff and throwing stuff and all sorts of things across Major League Soccer. We've seen it boil over in Columbus, Toronto and New York.

So why not add Colorado to the list?

Apparently there were some sorts of problems at the Colorado-Columbus match on Sunday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. I'll let one of the fellow contributors to Around the Leauge in 90 Minutes explain as he did in the e-mail I received earlier today.

I'm sure it was noticeable that there was basically no noise in the stadium...not that our tiny supporters section makes it some kind of kop or anything, but something is better than nothing.

In any case I'm sure everyone is aware of the new rules the league handed down regarding streamers...and the video taping of supporters groups.

I want it to be known that we have had huge problems with stadium security and from our own front office. It really is a long and complicated problem, but I'll do my best to give you all the gist of it.

Security essentially interprets the rules differently on a game-to-game basis, and as a result they can essentially throw you out for anything. I was personally threatened ejection one game for questioning whether they had enforced the rules properly (I used no profanities or threats), and the security guy saw fit to call over the police and have me forcibly removed from the building. Any excuse to throw any of us out, they'll take it.

While we continue to have these problems, the Rapids Front Office stands idly by and does absolutely nothing. This is not like the problems in New York where the clubs hands are tied and they have little or no control over security...KSE (the Rapids ownership) has full control of the facility and can run it as they see fit, including the conduct of the stadium security. When it comes down to it, they really don't care about the supporters, I'd even go so far as to say they don't want us at all. This is the same front office that has told us that we are "replaceable" and that we make sections of the stadium "un-sellable".

So here is what happened in Sunday...we were trying out best to do our thing (drums, streamers, etc). A smoke bomb was lit in our section (and was shown on both the jumbo screen and the TV broadcast), this naturally alerted security. I do realize that smoke bombs are not allowed and why they don't allow them (funny that the Rapids use it in all their marketing though, pretending that they support some great fanbase). I did not light it, and I did not see who lit it.

You'd think security would find the perpetrator with their alleged CCTV and throw him out, nope. Instead they came down and basically started throwing everybody out. I didn't matter if we asked why or for what reason, or if we could see these "tapes", they just basically booted anybody that made eye contact. However have heard that the whole thing about cameras is a bunch of crap, and that they're not taping us at all.

In disgust the entire section pretty much walked out. By the final whistle there were 5 people left in the section. To my knowledge security threw out several people, not least a 13 year old kid who was looking for his parents. Two season ticket holders were also banned, and I'm sure several non-season ticket holders were also banned.

This is just an example of the kind of crap that happens every single home game. We try our best to bring atmosphere into that stadium, and we try to do the same things other groups around the league have been doing. You'd think with the new stadium and everything, our supporters group would grow. It hasn't. We have actually shrunk in size, we have fewer people at each game. We can't recruit new people because they get booted for nothing. It really is getting to the point where there may not even be a supporters section at all next year. This is quickly flying out of control (as if it already hasn't). They are killing the supporters. Its at the point where we may have to completely start over (again).

I'll admit we have the smallest, and possibly worst, supporters section in the league, its not like this is news to anybody else. Its not like we don't try to make it better. We try our best to make it better and nothing comes of it. I'm not writing this to whine and complain, or to look for sympathy. I want some advice. I want to save the section.

What have other groups done to try and improve things? We sure wont get any support from the front office, they don't care. We've met with them frequently and they tell us they'll make changes...and it never happens. Does anybody have any advice on how we can handle this. We're frankly running out of ideas.

Read, if you want to

What I've glanced at today.
Grant's take on the U.S. women - I agree with Solo's assessments, but I'd have liked to hear from the forwards on the squad as well, since I doubt Solo is expected to score.

Drawing it out.

Melancholy Messi - he's on the Barcelona roster for their U.S. tour, and not the Olympics. Though Zeigler points out rightly that the U.S. team isn't getting caught up in this fight, I think the U.S. is at least indirectly involved. If Barsa is forcing Messi to stay with their team due to financial concerns, then U.S. money is making the Argentine team that much weaker, possibly aiding the American chase for the gold medal.
But do Barcelona fans even want to see a glum Messi perform in New York when he's clearly indicated his desire to be elsewhere?

Not-so-thrilled with the McBride deal

More deals on tap for Quakes?

Heh, I think

Mediotiempo cartoons skewer the SuperLiga again.
I don't know why the Houston guy isn't in Houston colors, but anyway, he's in the background cheering on Atlante's horse against New England.
But he has selfish motives - "I don't want to go get a million dollars on foot," the Dynamo dude tells Atlante's horsey.
It was only in the previous edition, though, that Pachuca's gopher was very confident. "Houston, you have a problem!" he says to the Houston player (this time in Dynamo colors). "What's that?" responds the Dynamo dude. "You're my client!" says the proud gopher.
It must be said that Houston had certainly lost to Pachuca time and again.
Also, mediotiempo's gallery of the Houston/Pachuca game is great.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Houston/Pachuca running blog

Hey, hey - here we go now. Well, not just yet, some telenovela is on. "No quiero verle nunca mas!" spits the heroine. Oh, ok, it's over now. Bring on SuperLiga! Post predictions quick!
Ha, the announcers know all about the Houston/Pachuca history.
"Houston wants revenge," they say. I've picked Pachuca to win, however, so I predict a heartbreaking 2-1.
* 1 - Miguel Calero (GK)
* 2 - Leobardo Lopez
* 3 - Julio Manzur
* 6 - Jaime Correa
* 7 - Damian Alvarez
* 8 - Gabriel Caballero
* 9 - Bruno Marioni
* 12 - Juan Rojas
* 16 - Carlos Rodriguez
* 18 - Jose Torres
* 21 - Fausto Pinto
* 18 - Pat Onstad (GK)
* 9 - Brian Mullan
* 11 - Brad Davis
* 13 - Ricardo Clark
* 14 - Dwayne De Rosario
* 16 - Craig Waibel
* 20 - Geoff Cameron
* 24 - Wade Barrett
* 25 - Brian Ching
* 27 - Nate Jaqua
* 32 - Bobby Boswell

Robertson doesn't look full, but not shabby for a Tuesday night.
1- Dynamo early on.
3 - The announcers compliment the field. It's not so nice, but definitely improved than the last SuperLiga game, which was embarrassing.
4 - Brad Davis takes a corner, overshoots everyone.
6 - Davis threatens to bring a ball down in the box, but the defense of Pachuca covers - Lopez slides in to claim the ball with a tackle. Announcers agree that the Dynamo are far more aggressive early on.
8 - SAVE! DeRo creates somethng out of almost nothing. A Pachuca clear falls to him and he touches it to himself and rockets a shot on goal from 30 yards out that Calero just dives to touch over the bar. Close.
9 - Corner cleared.
13 - Hey, a Sangre Americano reference - they're talking about how Torres turned down the U.S. Olympic team.
14 - Heh, announcers are amazed that Ngwenya, who is infamous for a crappy PK against Calero, is now on trial in Germany with Bayern Munich.
15 - Ching with a header! It's a ways out, though, and Calero comes up with it.
17 - "Food poisoning" sound worse than "stomach pain" which is the reason the announcers give for Eddie Robinson's absence. Dynamo take a FK, clearance falls to Mullan, who takes a rather crappy shot. The announcer has fun with it, though, getting very dramatic. "Mullan shoots with his left foot! He shoots the ball very hard! He shoots badly!"
19 - DeRo's cross caught by Calero, but the Dynamo aren't just knocking on the door, they're banging dents in it.
20 - Mullan! Wide.
24 - Pachuca has had a bit of run lately, now has a corner. Onstad catches it and the announcers give him props, but mercifully, manage not to reference his advanced age. (It's like the "Jay Heaps played basketball at Duke" reference - done to death.)
25 - Nice Pachuca shot, blocked by Boswell. The color commentator scoffs at giving Boswell any credit. "He didn't move - the ball just hit him." Well, maybe he didn't move to make sure the ball hit him.
27 - The announcers also reference how Erikson is watching the SuperLiga games.
29 - Marioni is down. He touched the ball into the box too far and then dashed after it, vaulting over Wade Barrett along the way. He's not going to get that call - he doesn't even have the ball.
31 - Heh, the announcers talk about getting the the stadium, mentioning how many fans are trickling in still. "With GPS, it's no problem."
33 - Torres gets a card for a late, hard tackle on Davis - Lopez argues it. Lopez gets a yellow, too.
34 - Pachuca clear the FK.
35 - Correa with an outside shot. Wide by more than a bit.
36 - DeRo on the run - beats his defender, into the box, shoots right into Calero. The announcer lament rightly that he should have passed. Ching was right there.
38 - Apparently coach Meza has the whole bench warming up, so changes could be coming soon for Pachuca.
39 - Rico Clark has a yellow, but they never really showed why. Reckless foul, apparently. Ok.
41 - Not much point in playing a lot better than Pachuca if the scoreboard doesn't reflect that. Yes, I love to point out the obvious.
42 - Meza is now arguing with the linesmen, they don't like where the subs are warming up, getting in their way. "Are you going to eject all my subs?" a snide Meza apparently asks.
44 - Davis wastes a cross to Ching - just overhits him badly.
Halftime - All Houston, in every aspect, except the most important one. There's not even a single goal. Ooooh, Pachuca going after the referee! Marioni, Meza, they're all up in his grill.
Alvarez interviews that this is a contentious and emotional match.
45 - Pachuca already looks better this half. They're deep in Dynamo ground.
47 - Marioni wide.
48 - The announcers like Onstad, they mention him as a possibility for 2010 if Canada makes the World Cup. Guess they're not Greg Sutton fans.
49 - Save! Onstad! He cut off the angle, foot save.
50 - SAVE! Onstad! Dives for this one, a more difficult one. Out for a corner.
SAAAAAVVVEEEE! The toughest one of all, the announcers can't believe it, but Onstad's reflexes stop a point blank shot off the corner by Lopez.
52 - What did Meza say at the half? Pachuca all over the Dynamo now.
53 - Corner for Pachuca. Onstad punches out, but not far and Caballero tries, but misses a bicycle kick. Must have been inspired by last year's Chris Klein version.
56 - This is weird. Calero is limping around and Marioni is bringing paper cups of drink to his teammates.
59 - Calero apparently has a slight pull. Houston readies a sub.
60 - NO goal! Offside. But the replay seems to show even. Announcers gripe about the call. Caballero wuz robbed.
61 - Davis is out - Ashe in.
64 - Rodriguez! Shoots high, but not by too much.
65 - Jaqua! Diving header wide, but close. Announcer, "The Tower Jaqua threw himself knee high to send the ball toward the goal!"
66 - Ashe sends in a cross that Calero can't hang on to, but Jaqua hits the ball out.
67 - Ashe with another cross, but this one is poor and Pachuca claims the ball.
68 - Kinnear is throwing everything but the - oh wait, here comes Kei Kamara for Jaqua.
69- Ashe with another cross, but misses the front line and Mullan's shot on the follow is blocked.
70 - Corner for the Dynamo, earned by Geoff Cameron's cross.
Montes comes on for Rodriguez. Pachuca clear the counter.
71 - Caballero sulks off the field. Aguilar is subbed in for him.
73 - Corner for Dynamo - header by Kamara goes over goal and falls in the back of the net.
74 - Hah, that's always tricky - fans have to text in the game's MVP. Well, no goals yet, so I say Onstad, but the true hero could yet be shown.
76 - Dynamo on the attack again. A corner chance. DeRo takes it.
77 - GOAL! Waibel flicks the ball on and it goes far post, where Boswell gets a foot, or an ankle on to the ball, with Calero way out of position. It goes into the goal, not pretty, but finally, very effective. 1-0 Dynamo. Waibel's flick really made the goal.
80 - Pachuca have picked up the pace looking for the equalizer, but the Dynamo are also primed to release on the counter. Ashe is likely to get a good chance here.
82 - Ching wastes a chance to pass to Kamara, passing to his buddy DeRo instead, but overshooting him with the cross.
83 - Marioni shot, deflects off Waibel.
84 - Torres is out - limping slightly. Dynamo fans are celebrating already. They can taste their revenge.
85 - Ashe with a great move gets a good cross off to Ching - but the header is wide.
86 - Houston trying to keep the ball, Pachuca trying desperately to set up a goal chance. Tough tackling both ways. Meza is cussing on the sidelines.
87 - GOAL! ASHE! This time, he's the beneficiary of a great cross by Mullan, who somehow slips two defenders and gets a pass into the area, who misses everybody but the littlest guy on the field - who nails a header into the goal. 2-0 Dynamo.
89 - Onstad takes him time with a goal kick, infuriating the Pachuca fans, who clamor for enforcement of the six-second rule.
90 - Barret is shoved down and then when he gets up, gets shoved again. Boswell comes up to defend him and all manner of shoving and insults break out. Marioni gets a card, but others get away with pushing. Marioni was losing it, though. I wonder what he says when he's that mad. None of the Dynamo players speak Spanish.
90 + Boswell wins the games MVP. The assistant coach of Pachuca has been tossed from the game. Baldomero Toledo, the 4th official, had it with him, I guess.
Final whistle.
More shoves and insults break out, Security intervenes. They have to protect the ref, Neil Brizan, but also Ashe, who apparently made some gesture that pissed off Pachuca players. Torres is interviewed and says that the team was robbed a goal, but that they accept the outcome. Calero says little, "That's how refs are."
Well, Pachuca was hard done by that goal that was called offside but didn't seem so. Still, the Dynamo dominated the early going and should have scored. They asserted themselves again in the second half after Pachuca had a good run, and this time, the Dynamo sealed the deal and broke the Pachuca jinx.

Week 18 Spotlight

Technically, Monday's RSL-Toronto match was in Week 19 of the MLS schedule, but that doesn't really make sense. Playing a Monday night match doesn't make sense either but that's what went down in Utah last night.

Anyway, that caused a minor ripple effect out here as we waited for the fifth of five matches in a two-day span to be played out before handing out or weekly kudos.

G: William Hesmer
D: Jamison Olave
D: Chad Marshall
D: Chris Wingert
M: Roger Espinoza
M: Amado Guevara
M: Brian Mullan
M: Darren Huckerby
F: Dominic Oduro
F: Kenny Cooper
F: Robbie Findley Abe Thompson

Coach: Schellas Hyndman gets off the schneid and notches his first MLS coaching victory. Ironically, it came against the club that ended his predecessor's run.

Jason Kreis: RSL moves over .500 for the first time in history. Props.

Top goal: Okay, I tried to keep this on league play but was there anything better than Cuauhtemoc Blanco's backheel to Christian Gomez and his subsequent finish against West Ham? That backheel was a thing of beauty and Gomez did well to find the inside of the net as well.

I'll take a goal from league play - Abe Thompson's late stunner.

Top save: Will Hesmer had about four saves worthy of MLS Save of the Week... if there were such an award. I think the one he had early on Mehdi Ballouchy was probably most difficult.

Best game: Okay, keep going back to the All-Star game. In a perfect world, the all-star game wouldn't be followed by a full slate of league games but MLS doesn't stop for the World Cup so why stop for the ASG? The rest of the games this weekend seemed mild compared to the win over West Ham.

Did you realize that the Rapids had 17 corner kicks in their 2-0 loss? Terry Cooke took 13 of them but to no avail. Columbus, meanwhile, had zero. It's the biggest disparity since... uh... a while ago. Sorry, don't have the energy to put that into perspective. But consider the other corner kick numbers of the weekend: LA had 4, FC Dallas had 0; Chicago 4, KC 3; San Jose 9, New York 3; Toronto 6, RSL 5.

Toronto fans, but I won't repeat myself.

The Galaxy's offense had been rather pedestrian in the last four or five games before FC Dallas. Now, the club has hit a new low or at least a low that hasn't been seen since March. For the first time since the season opener, David Beckham and Landon Donovan failed to produce a goal. They don't have Abel Xavier around this time to blame the defensive failures on either.

Yeah, what a crappy debut for Dominguez.

Definitely noticed

There may have been only a few people who bothered to read all the way through the comments on my post about Toronto fans at the MLS All-Star Game. One major point of contention was whether or not very many people were actually watching the exhibition match (the implication being that it didn't matter how the fans behaved because few saw it).

My argument all along wasn't that it was a huge amount, but that compared to most Major League Soccer games and the ratings they generally pull, the All-Star Game was a showcase and no doubt watched by many. Even if the respect the league players gain or lose can't be measured, the people watching can be, or at least a rough estimate.
Turns out, quite a lot of people were watching (once again, it's relative to MLS standards). The ratings increase is especially notable because it was a weekday broadcast, when ratings are typically lower for sports.

From the NY Times:

The ratings for the All-Star Game broadcast Thursday by ESPN and Telefutura were the highest in league history. ESPN had a rating of 0.47 and reached 453,000 households, and Spanish-language Telefutura had a rating of 0.37, reaching 389,000 households. The total was a 124 percent increase over last year, according to The Sports Business Daily.

Not Times

Not really soccer related but since a lot of us read the LA Times, though this would be of interest. It's a hilarious parody of the LA Times' web site by a former LA Times employee.

Maybe if Grahame Jones gets the axe he can write some stories for this guy.

Earthquake in LA

Maybe it's a sign that those new trades are going to pay off for San Jose in the second half of the season.
The LA area shook hard with a 5.8 quake just a few minutes ago. Some stuff I own fell off the desk I'm using (including the poor camera - it's cursed), but otherwise, it was a normal bake and shake day in LA. Carry on.

The Ballad of Reading

Seen and processed around the web.

One take on Wambach

Sponsor suffocation

Well, well, another case of not supporting local soccer for Euro glory.

A hero in the background of the beautiful game's development

Sweet Stuff

See what being a loyal friend and a world class athlete can get you? Ice cream!

Lankershim Boulevard Rankings (July 29)

I get a kick out of people calling the MLS All-Star Game the All-Star Break. Where exactly was the break? Moving games from Saturday to Sunday?

Anyway, here are my latest rankings which came a day later than normal because of the RSL-Toronto match on Monday.

1. New England (10-4-3). Mighty Revs may be getting mighty tired of not playing any league games.
2. Columbus (9-5-4). Played with 10 men, yielded 17 corner kicks but still walked away with win.
3. Chicago (7-5-5). Good news: you've got McBride. Bad news: US has him first.
4. DC United (7-8-1). Looks like SuperLiga negatives carried over into league play.
5. Real Salt Lake (7-6-6). Another week, another first: never before had this team had more wins than losses this far into the season.
6. Houston (5-4-8). Nate Jaqua is massive upgrade over Franco Caraccio but will that lead to wins?
7. Chivas USA (6-6-4). Dan Kennedy Era begins on Saturday, but will Lance Parker Era follow shortly thereafter?
8. Toronto FC (6-6-5). Only an inept offense could consider an inept forward an upgrade.
9. Los Angeles (6-7-5). Another sign of downward spiral: goal differential is in the negative.
10. FC Dallas (5-6-7). If Cooper goes, so to will playoff hopes.
11. Kansas City (5-5-7). So much for that surge in offense.
12. Colorado (6-9-3). "It wasn't our night" excuse gets old pretty quickly.
13. New York (5-6-7). A little more than a week to prepare for demolition at hands of Barcelona.
14. San Jose (3-9-6). Slowly, and I mean very slowly, this team is starting to look better.

Through Welsh eyes

With Kenny Cooper a target of Welsh side Cardiff City, this writer took the opportunity to explore football in America. He really wasn't too positive in his story, but then again what else is new, right?

I suppose this story caught my interest only because it was written for Welsh supporters and tried to familiarize them with MLS. Because, you know, Welsh football is clearly superior. Wales is, after all, a world power.

Wait... they're not? Surely you jest.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Double-A to San Jose

Arturo Alvarez is off to San Jose, while FC Dallas gets draft picks in exchange.
I'm not sure what to think of this move, except that the Schellas Hyndman regime apparently wasn't working for Arturo.
It's been a disappointing year for Alvarez - he came on strong at the close of the FC Dallas season before his silly foul in the playoffs cost Dallas a chance at the championship. Maybe he never got over that, or his teammates didn't or something, but he didn't have the same impact at the start of this season.
San Jose is in serious need of impact, so Arturo should get a chance there. Sometimes a fresh start really does work like a charm.


Per request (who says we don't listen to our readers?) a USWNT-centric episode of Canales Corner.

Sangre americana J1 recap

One week of Mexico's Apertura 2008 season is in the books and here is how the Sangre americana lot fared.

Sort of slow actually as only one of the first-division players saw action. In total, though, one American scored two goals over the weekend.

Primera Division

Edgar Castillo - Played 90 minutes in Santos' 3-2 loss to America.
Marco Antonio Vidal - Played 90 minutes in Indios' 1-0 loss to Tecos.
Jose Francisco Torres - Did not play in Pachuca's 0-0 draw with Tigres.
Michael Orozco - With US Olympic team
Sonny Guadarrama - Did not play in Morelia's 2-2 draw with San Luis.
Daniel Hernandez - Did not play in Jaguares' 5-0 loss at Alts due to suspension.

Primera A

Jesus Padilla - Scored both goals for Tapatio in a 2-0 win over Real Colima.
Carlos Borja - Played all 90 minutes in Tapatio's 2-0 win over Real Colima.
Sammy Ochoa - Served first of three game suspension.
Noel Castillo - Did not play in Indios Chihuahua's 1-0 win over Socio Aguila.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Memo to Everton?

Guillermo Ochoa may become the latest young goalkeeper to move from the New World to the Old.

Ochoa, a star with Mexico's Club America side,
is reportedly linked to Everton.

Everton, of course, is Tim Howard's domain. The United States national team's first-choice 'keeper will probably keep his starting spot with Everton, Ochoa or not. But that likely wouldn't stop Everton manager David Moyes from pursuing Ochoa.

As Aston Villa just showed by acquiring two talented goalkeepers, the more depth you can stockpile in England the better.

Galactic problems

Just got home from a day out with the fam so didn't have a chance to do the running blog. It's halftime in Frisco and the Galaxy's defense is up to its old tricks as FC Dallas leads 3-0.

I'll update periodically through the second half. Go ahead and post your thoughts on the match here.

Eduardo Dominguez fit right into the Galaxy's backline as he turned a ball over that led to the second goal. Steve Cronin is yet again terrible while the entire defense has done little but cause some slight interference to FC Dallas' attackers.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy's offense is strangely quiet. It's been quite a few number of games now that the Galaxy has been rather average looking on the attack. Perhaps teams are starting to figure them out or the club was playing well above their means or probably a combination of the two.

Anyway, feel free to share your thoughts on the match. 3-0 at halftime.

UPDATE: 4-0 to FC Dallas. Complete turnaround from the last trip to Frisco, a 5-1 Galaxy win.

Google is reading my mind

We don't yet have any real ads on this site that people pay to have placed, but I did sign up for a couple of the automatically generated ads that earn money when people click on them. So far, we're making about four cents a day on that. I've noticed something strange lately, though.
I don't know about the display our readers get, but mine again and again shows some camera on the right that Amazon is selling. As long-time readers know, I dropped the little digital camera that I take pictures with (video, too). It's taped up with black electrical tape, and it basically still works, though. Thing is, it's a little pocket camera, with a tiny zoom, so every time the ad for nice camera comes up, I pause in temptation.
The other thing that's displayed is a little Google text ad right over the top of where the posts start. It's been advertising LASIK eye treatment lately, and I've been thinking about that, too. I'm nearsighted, and usually wear contacts, but they are a hassle. I'm kind of a weenie when it comes to any surgery, though. Wounds on the soccer field are ok, because those are battle scars, but scalpels are a different matter. I've never had any surgery before. I suppose it's mostly done by lasers anyway, but I keep reading about some people who get halos or weird white spots and then I start to think "Contacts not so bad".
I haven't decided what to do yet. However,I just think it's funny that rather than making us much money, the ads seem to be mostly baiting me into spending mine.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

For the ladies

Yep, every once in a while, it's time to address the female players of soccer with information that is especially relevant to them. It's just a simple fact that women are more at risk. It's also true that an ACL injury can ruin a career, or come close to it.
Or at the least, it can ruin a dream (see Osborne, Leslie and Whitehill, Cat).
So get informed and take the time to take care of your ligaments.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Someone is working on a U.S. Soccer project (it's not the federation, it's a scholarly venture), focusing on the men's team and sent me a list of questions, wanting my perspective. I know what I think, and usually people don't have to ask twice for my opinion, but I'm well aware that there's a world of different thoughts out there.
With that in mind, how would you answer these questions?

# Is U.S. Soccer on the right track in attracting potential fans?
# Are they alienating current fans by playing in less traditional soccer cities?
# Is U.S. Soccer hurting themselves by playing games in cities where the visiting team is the “home team”? (i.e. playing Mexico in Phoenix)
# What does U.S. Soccer need to do to fill the stadiums with U.S. fans, not just soccer fans or fans of the visiting teams?
# How many U.S. Soccer games have you attended?
# Of those games, do you find more U.S. fans or more fans for the visitors?
# Should U.S. Soccer have a “home base” where they play their games, or should they continually move them?
# Should they play in MLS cities? Should they use MLS games and staff to promote U.S. Soccer games? Should they do double headers?
# Do you think players like Donovan, Bocanegra, Howard, etc have an impact on fans coming to the game or do fans not care as long as they are seeing the U.S. National Team?
# What does U.S. Soccer need to do to sell out friendlies (besides playing teams like Argentina and Brazil)?
# With a World Cup on the horizon, what needs to be done to promote the team and support?
# Do you find the atmosphere of games to be a problem?
# Do you think U.S. Soccer will have more success attracting soccer fans or American sports fans.
# Do you think that the U.S.'s results in events such as the World Cup affects attendance?
# Who is the most recognizable U.S. player?
# Is it better for U.S. players to play for the domestic league or go overseas?
# What suggestions would you make to U.S. Soccer?

Sangre americana preview: Torres

Jose Francisco Torres passed on the US Olympic team so he could play more for Pachuca. On Saturday, we'll learn if that was a good decision.

Torres was in a preseason battle with plenty of other talented players for a starting spot in Pachuca's loaded midfield, and while he doesn't bring years of experience to the table, he has plenty of other qualities that make him appealing.

Torres, 20, is a speedy, hard-working midfielder with improving ball skills. With Pachuca, though, Torres is one of a handful of talented midfielders. Gabriel Caballero, Damian Alvarez, Gerardo Rodriguez, Jaime Correa, Luis Montes... the list goes on.

In SuperLiga, Torres got a shot to show his worth as did most everyone else. Torres didn't hurt his cause as he played well during his audition.

A season ago, Torres started seven league games and played 10 overall. He also saw time in the CONCACAF Champions Cup and is a valuable member of the team going forward. Had he gone to the Olympics, perhaps it would have lessened his chances of playing this season.

Still, Torres potentially has the most upside of the young Americans here. He plays on one of the best clubs in Mexico in terms of churning out young talent. Chivas gets a lot of credit for producing young talent but Pachuca is right up there when it comes to young talented players. Torres would certainly add to los Tuzos' riches if he continues to develop, and Apertura 2008 may be a big step forward for him.

McTrade finally happens

The news broke last night during the broadcast and now it's all over the web. Chad Barrett for Brian McBride.

It's like trading two shiny new quarters for an old 10-dollar bill.

Barrett would be pretty good if it weren't for one thing: his inability to finish. Being as he's a forward and his job is to finish, that's kind of a big issue. Had McBride been in Barrett's position to finish the chances that were served up to him on silver platters, Chicago might have a win or three more in their win column.

As it stands, Chicago is in good position to make the playoffs. With McBride, though, you've got to think that the Fire is second behind New England in terms of MLS Cup favorites, with Columbus a distant third.

Of course, it will be strange to see Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Brian McBride on the same side. That might take some getting used to.

So does McBride instantly become one of the league's best three forwards? The best forward, period?

Good thing for us out here at HDC is that McBride's first game with the Fire might be against the Galaxy on Aug. 21. So we've got that to look forward to.

Toronto doesn't represent well

I've had it with the fawning over Toronto fans. At the most, I'll allow that they're better fans of their home team than of anything else, including the game itself. However, the game, the concept of the beautiful sport and believing in its worth and value, is something I hold sacred.

I don't, however, understand the point of Toronto joining an American sports league if they're going to be so freaking rude about it. Booing the U.S. anthem? Singing their own anthem over it? If that happened at a U.S./Mexico match in L.A. (Where mind, the teams would be playing against each other and boorish rivalry would make a bit more sense) people would be livid. It doesn't happen, though. Mexican fans might ignore or cheer over the U.S. anthem at times, but sing their own over it? Not even in Azteca. Because it's rude and unsporting and they respect the game more than that.

I don't buy the "We didn't know our anthem was going to be played." excuse, either. Come on. Half the U.S. stadiums play their anthem even when there aren't any U.S. teams involved - just because they're hosting some event. When has the anthem ever NOT been played at BMO? Did the Canadians simply not trust their own organizers?

The Spanish announcers were simply befuddled during the game to see steamers thrown at Beckham. One questioned, when boos rained down on various MLS players, whether the Canadian fans understood that for this match, which team was the home side.

Sure they did. And they didn't care. If it's not TFC, it sucks, no matter how pretty the crosses of Becks were or the goals by Gomez and Blanco. That's so simple-minded, to not accept the larger concept of league representation, the opportunity to see some of the best players available working together for a common cause. If nothing else, respect the game, recognize and reward good play - but there was little of that from the fans.

It was especially ungracious when so many players from other teams had gone out of their way to say that they were excited to play at Toronto. They weren't talking about looking forward to the turf, either. They were hoping for a good reception from the fans.

If those fans had thought big for just a moment, thought, "Hey, here's a chance to show the world that we can be amazingly supportive fans, give the MLS players so much love that they'll be hoping their next trade is to Toronto, show the over a hundred countries this match is broadcast in that we are classy and appreciate quality play."

Instead, the fans came off like immature idiots who don't give a fig for the game. None of the cheering corresponded to good plays on the field, except when DeRo scored his penalty. Streamers were flung at the corner-kick taker when the MLS All-Stars had a chance to make good on a set play. Streamers were thrown all over the ESPN desk during the halftime show - yeah, it's not like the game needs more exposure on TV, no. (Don Garber, do you still think the Toronto fans are so wonderful when they're aiming streamers at your head on a live broadcast and making you look like a schmuck?) That'll show the world leader in sports to come to BMO.

Anyway, I suppose natural truth and consequences will take place. MLS will realize that the crazy atmosphere is very limited in scope. It is for TFC only and all other MLS events, including the final championship match, should never be held there.

The best fans in MLS? Not by a long shot. Fans who recognize how far the league has come, how far it still has to go, who can cheer generously for both club and league when the occasion presents itself - can you imagine the Fire fans if this game had been held there? They would have blown the socks off the TFC malcontents. DC fans, too. LA fans, RSL fans, heck, even Rapids fans paid more attention to the game and supported the All-Stars more last year.

* Actually, I'm wrong to over-generalize all TFC fans. Clearly, some were just fine. But more than a few made the representation of the whole look bad.

Sangre americana preview: Borja, N.Castillo

What do you get when you cross Carlos Borja and Noel Castillo? A former youth international whose brother is the superior athlete? Not exactly.

Actually, you get two guys who can only hope that the Apertura 2008 season leads to more playing time in the second division, which in turn might lead to a bright future in 2009 and beyond.

Carlos Borja (Orange, Calif.) was one of two American-born players who saw action for Tapatio in Saturday's season-opening 3-1 loss to Leon. Jesus Padilla (San Jose, Calif.) started, went the distance and scored a goal while Borja came on in the 85th minute.

Noel Castillo (Las Cruces, New Mexico) and brother Edgar both tried out for Santos Laguna. While Edgar flew threw the system and established himself as a starter with the first team, Noel struggled. He was let go from Santos and found his way to Indios Chihuahua. There is another Indios that plays in the first division - Indios de Ciudad Juarez - but Noel's on the Chihuahua version. That Castillo saw the field in the first game of the season seems encouraging - he's thought of at least.

Until each establishes himself as a bona fide starter for their respective clubs, the top flight is nowhere near. That doesn't mean we'll stop updating them, though. It will just make it a bit more challenging to find out about their exploits.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mr. MVP to you

Photo courtesy MLS

Mr White talks about the All-Star Game.

Blanco, post game: It was a tough game, but it was fun, and most of all, it was a chance to play well, get an important win, and make sure the fans enjoyed the game.

Blanco, pregame: I think it's nice to play with other pros of different teams. You can enjoy yourself, have fun and put on a good show for the fans.
Pablo: We've faced each other in games, Mexico versus U.S., and haven't said nice things to each other, but I've talked to him the past couple of days. He's a good guy. More than anything, he's a great player and I expect a great match playing with him.
Angel: It's an honor to be chosen. I played last year and it was a good experience. it's a very American thing, to get together the best players in a league for a game. It's nice, to play those who are usually your rivals, confronting a good team from Europe.

An All-Star Game of their own

Why should MLS have all the fun? I guess what surprises me isn't that a player would be interested, it's that the press report on it isn't making merciless fun of the mere concept of aping an American event.
SV readers, what do you say? Would a Premiership All-Star Game be a total travesty? Who would they play?

All-Star Game running blog

Photo credit: MLS/Paul Giamou
David Beckham, Jim Brennan and Jorge Flores visit a young fan in the hospital.
Welcome to the All-Star Game - where rivalries (Chivas USA and Galaxy and TFC) are put aside as players take on the world (West Ham).

Predictions, people. I know you've already voted in our Sideline Views poll, but now you need to guess who is going to score. Get your picks in before kickoff for bragging rights.
Yay! El Juego de las Estrellas! I'm watching on Telefutura, in case you didn't get the hint. Aww, Blanco and Donovan did the welcome together, LD cracking up a bit at the end. That was cute. Now they're doing a montage where the players explain what the game means to them. Angel and Toja mention how they were injured earlier this year and makes it meaningful to get here anyway. LD says that with the players the All-Star team has, this is a real game. He also gives Toronto props. Pablo Mastroeni trips up over his Spanish, but says this is important. Blanco, in his always-surprisingly soft voice, says this is a game for the fans and that he expects and hopes that they will enjoy it.
More Blanco after the commercial - he says he'd like to rejoin El Tri, but it's up to Sven. He says that of all of LD's qualities, he'd like his quickness. He calls LD a friend, but says when they're on different teams, they're competitive rivals. As far as him contributing to the Fire, Blanco says, of course he's working hard. "Mexicans come here to work," Blanco says. He says he's been inspired by all his countrymen here that work hard, seeking the American dream.
The announcers say that Cuauh seems more relaxed these days.
Now they're interviewing LD. He says he never imagined playing with Cuauh, but that Blanco is friendly and calm and that they had fun at practice. LD says he'd like Blanco's tricks in his own arsenal. "He does what he likes with the ball."
LD says MLS is improving, and Blanco, as well as Beckham and Angel are a big part of that. The announcer also references LD's stated desire to go play abroad, says this could be his last All-Star Game.
Beckham and Blanco lead out the All-Stars. The shorts are a rather bright Pepsi blue, but I like the black shirts. West Ham is in light blue.
West Ham: Robert Green, Lucas Neill, Anton Ferdinand, Scott Parker, Dean Ashton, Matthew Etherington, Carlton Cole, Hayden Mullins, Julien Faubert, Calum Davenport, Joe Widdowson
All-Stars: Matt Reis, Frankie Hejduk, Christian Gomez, Juan Toja, Jimmy Conrad, Jonathan Bornstein, Shalrie Joseph, David Beckham, Pablo Mastroeni, Kenny Cooper, Cuauhtemoc Blanco

No LD in the starting line-up and the announcers complain a bit about this, wanting to see LD and Blanco together after all that buildup.
Becks has his hand up against the setting sun.
2 - Chippy play already - Bornstien fouled.
3 - Offside on West Ham. The All-Stars are woefully our of sync, but it's early yet.
4 - Bornstein nods the ball down to Reis.
5 - Ooh, West Ham on the attack again, ball in the box, but a shot doesn't get off.
6 - The announcers talk about the lack of practice time and the difficulty of not unrestanding each other as a team. Just then, Becks crosses to Coop, but the ball gets cut off.
8 - Ashton shoves Hejduk in the box.
9 - Corner for MLS, but it's cleared. Frankie misses a chance to shoot, but Jonny cuts off the counter attack cross.
10 - Pablo's sliding tackle cuts off a shot. Corner. That one is cleared, but a ball deflects off an MLS player for another corner.
Julien Faubert takes it, but it's cleared as well.
12 - Cooper with an outside low shot. It's wide.
13 - A good MLS attack is ruined when Bornstein's overlap doesn't take the turf into account and the ball runs away from him.
15 - Lots of basically pointless possession for the MLS side. They're having trouble timing runs and just hitting a lot of passes back and forth in the midfield.
17 - Blanco goes down, gets the call. It's far away, though, so neither he or Becks fight over the FK.
19 - Gomez to Cooper, who gets grabbed but doesn't go down right away, trying to shoot the ball. The ref waves it off.
20 - Cooper earns a corner. As Becks goes to take it, he gets streamers tossed at him. I though MLS was supposed to crack down on those? The announcer are surprised the TFC fans are throwing stuff at Becks. The service bounces around the area, but Green eventually corrals it as it popped up towards the goal.
22 - MLS still struggling to put together an attacking play.
24 - West Ham with a nice run of possession, but the through ball runs off on the turf, far ahead of the forwards it was meant for.
26 - GOAL! This time Ashton makes no mistake - a ball out of the midfield falls well for him and Frankie's tackle is too late. Ashton shoots to the left of Reis. 1-0 West Ham
27 - GOAL! MLS strikes back. Becks passes to Blanco, who put in a sweet backheel to Gomez, who shoots far post - side netting. Nice. 1-1 All square again.
31 - Now another run of MLS possession - Becks shoots and earns a corner. The clearance fall to him and he picks out Gomez at the top of the box, who shoots so horrible that if he hadn't already scored, everybody would hate him.
34 - Bornstein and Blanco - nice give and go, Blanco crosses to Cooper in front of the goal, who gets pulled down, but no call again.
37 - Cooper tracks way back into the midfield for the ball and gets fouled. Announcers discuss how Schelotto should be an All-Star. Toja with a nice play advances the MLS cause.
39 - Blanco earns a FK - who will take it? Becks, it looks like. He clears the wall, and Green dives to parry it. Corner.
40 - Cleared, but falls to Becks and he takes a shot. Wide.
41 - Honestly, the play looks better. MLS players finding a bit of rhythm.
43 - West Ham manages to hold them off, though. Ooh, Toja breaks through with a pass to Bornstien, but the ball back isn't great for Toja.
44 - GOAL! This time, though, Toja hooks up with 'Temo. Blanco overlaps and receives a pass back in a good spot - and hits a bending shot that finds the upper 90 and side netting. 2-1 MLS leads. Golazo! The announcers get high off 'Temo's goal.
45 - West Ham with an immediate attack, but the ball pops loose and Reis claims it.
45+ MLS with a late attack chance off a FK, but West Ham escape.
Blanco's halftime interview - he says the game is hard, but that they were able to work together to get the two goals. He's asked how important it was to answer the first goal and he agrees. He says he saw Christian make the run for the goal and made sure to get him the ball. Then he's asked about his goal and he smiles - it's a "yeah, wasn't that sweet" smile.
Halftime: MLS deserve the lead, but at the very least, West Ham have scored more than Celtic or Chelsea. Blanco is rightly the hero of the day, with a great assist and sizzling goal. It's evident that the game means a lot to 'Temo. I'm reminded of what DeRosario said when his goal beat Chelsea in 2006, "I didn't get to go to the World Cup. This is my World Cup."
Blanco was left home by LaVolpe, didn't have a great experience abroad, is fighting for Eriksson to notice him - he's definitely motivated against a Premiership team.
Garber (I switched to ESPN) says the McBride situation has been resolved. As he says this, a streamer falls across his face. Funny. So much for his edict. Garber won't reveal where McBride is going (until the official announcement tomorrow), so perhaps that's why Rob Stone doesn't care about grabbing a streamer roll (it fell across his desk) and throwing it back where it came from. "Got him!" he exults, cutting off whatever Garber was trying to say about expansion. He then bumps to commercial as more streamers fly in across the frame. "You think it's funny, Toronto?" asks Stone.
I'll bet they do.
LD comes in for Blanco, crushing the Telefutura announcers who wanted them to play together. But then they get busy proclaiming Blanco the MVP already. Cooper is out for Angel, and Luis Boa Morte comes in for Etherington.
46 - LBM has already played in an MLS AllStar game, back as a member of Fulham. They lost.
48 - Becks sets up for a corner. Cleared for another deep throw. MLS retaining possession, but no dangerous chances yet.
49 - Angel called for offside, though he doesn't agree with it.
50 - I've switched to ESPN, and Cooper is being interviewed. he gives a careful answer about the possibility of a transfer and Harkes and JP are thereby convinced a deal is done.
52 - TFC fans chanting for Brennan. Bornstein gets a yellow for holding Faubert. Dangerous FK.
53 - Reis catches the deflection.
54 - Toja nearly through, but trips at the top of the box. West Ham counter, but an offside kills the attack.
56 - Donovan starts an attack and Bornstein sends in a sweet cross, but Angel doesn't quite make in front of the goal.
57 - LD gets a ball in the box, passes it back. Harkes cracks on him for that, saying he should shoot.
58 - Shalrie looses the ball in midfield, West Ham has numbers, but Reis blocks out Faubert's shot for a corner. The corner leads to another chance, Ashton cracking it to Reis, but it's offside. Reis blocked it anyway.
60 - Crowd goes wild for DeRo and Brennan, coming in now. They are both Toronto boys.
62 - ESPN with the interviews is killing me. West Ham just took another shot on goal while they're talking to Steve Nash. We already know he wants Vancouver to join the league.
63 - Becks sets up a FK - it misses, but not by much.
64 - Buddle is shown briefly on the bench, looking a bit forlorn.
65 - Collison comes in for West Ham.
67 - GOAL! Ashton takes a shot - a double deflection fools Matt Reis. It's not really deserved, as MLS was dominating the game, but they never put the match away and West Ham hung in there. 2-2.
69 - Angel fights for the ball, turns and knocks a pass to DeRo, he's fouled in the box! PK! DeRo is taking it.
70 - GOAL! He nails it, banging it in off the top of the crossbar. He's money in All-Star Games.
71 - No goal! Angel is pissed. It didn't look offside and Angel hit a great shot.
72 - MLS pressuring the goal now, but West Ham escape as the cross of Becks is cleared.
75 - Rob Stone looks terrified of that bird. the hawk used at games to keep away pesky seagulls. Stone's voice is shaking. Again, whenever ESPN does interviews, someone takes a shot on goal.
79 - MLS again has the better of play, but it hasn't led to a goal and West Ham could still nick a draw or better.
84 - Donovan in the box, interplay with Angel, but can't get a shot off.
86 - Donovan misses a Bornstein pass. Mastro fouls Parker at the arc - threatening FK here.
87 - The ball hits the wall, but it eventually gets to Boa Morte in the box - his header attempt is caught by Onstad. MLS just can't put this game away.
89 - Ralston and Buddle coming in now.
90 - Becks to Rally, who hits a nice cross, but West Ham clear. It leads to a West Ham counter, Boa Morte goes for the tough angle on his shot, but it crosses the front of goal and goes out.
90 + Four more minutes. Donovan cut down from behind. Becks sets up, but it's kind of far. DeRo takes it, it threatens, out for a corner.
That's cleared, now West Ham threatens but the MLS team finally brings the ball out of the back.
FK - MLS plays the ball around a bit.
Final whistle! MLS wins and keeps its perfect international record. Not bad of an All-Star game. No one got hurt and there were a couple of good goals. Becks seems enthusiastic about the match. "We've done well tonight."
His accent seems stronger - must be because of talking with the West Ham guys.
If Blanco isn't the MVP, I'll eat my hat. Course, I thought Schelotto would be here.
Nope, I'm right, Blanco gets the MVP. He thanks the fans. Becks and Landon congratulate him. The players exchange shirts.

Sangre americana preview: Guadarrama

Sonny boy! After the Clausura 2008 season, I would have bet money that Sonny Guadarrama would not have made it through the summer unscathed. A new coach came in midseason (Luis Fernando Tena) and Guadarrama saw zero playing time with the first team once that happened.

But Guadaramma made it and his prospects are pretty good - at earning playing time that is. Not sure about nabbing a starting spot.

Guadarrama, a native of Austin, Texas, broke into the Mexican leagues with Santos and moved to Morelia after the Apertura 2007 season. But with Morelia, he spent most of his time playing the Primera A.

He's back though and it looks like the seasoning may have paid off. He's been with the club during the preseason and could get a crack at some playing time in Morelia's midfield. Morelia struggled bad last season and could use some changes to help contend for the playoffs. Morelia made some good moves in acquiring Marvin Cabrera and Hugo Droguett but Guadarrama, 21, could add some youth to the team.

If you're interested, I actually had the chance to talk to Sonny in January during InterLiga. I was saving this interview and I suppose still am but nothing's come of it. So I'll put it up here and
let you guys listen to Sonny's tale.

Sangre americana preview: Hernandez

Daniel Hernandez was a bad boy. It wasn't his play - which actually was pretty solid a year ago. It was his temperament that led to his downfall. That and his teammates' inability to keep their tempers in check.

After a brawl broke out in the Jaguares-Cruz Azul playoff match a year ago, Hernandez and several of his teammates were slapped with suspensions to start the Apertura 2008 season. Consequently, Hernandez will be out of action for a pair of weeks.

It should not be a disaster, though, as Hernandez wasn't exactly a starter at the beginning of last year.

Hernandez, 32, did not play at all the first five games of last season. He only got the opportunity to play regularly when the club made a coaching change. When Sergio Almaguer took over, Hernandez's playing time increased as he quickly became a fixture in central defense. Hernandez helped turn Jaguares' season around as the club reached the playoffs. The Tyler, Texas, native ended up going the distance in 11 matches and played in 13 overall last season.

Jaguares is not one of the favorites to contend for the Mexican league title but a playoff spot is within reach. Hernandez will need to continue his solid play on the backline for that to happen but should get the opportunity to do so once his ban is lifted.

No tears in Nigeria

In her conference call about her injury, Abby Wambach mentioned receiving cards and emails of support from players around the world on different teams. Not everyone was feeling sad on her behalf, though. Here's an email I received:

Just wanted to comment on your article on Abby Wambach.
As a football journalist, I usually have a lot of sympathy for players when they get injured, especially in the course of a game.
But in Abby's case, I am afraid, I will have to make an exception.
Abyy is not just a physical player, she is a dirty player in my humble opinion.
Back in 2003 at the WWC, she deliberately elbowed and injured Nigeria defender Bunmi Kayode.
Usually, one would dismiss this as an accident, but Abby was caught on camera laughing and high-fiving her team mates while Bunmi lay bleeding on the turf.
There was not even a shred of sympathy for another athlete that she had almost decapitated.
Till this day, Bunmi carries the scar on her face.
A similar thing happened at the 2007 WWC. This time, Faith Ikidi was the victim. You can take a look at the replays of both incidents.
Abby deliberately went out to injure Faith, and the poor kid was stretchered off the pitch in tears.
So permit to say that for Abby Wambach, its a case of what goes around finally coming around.
There are millions of Nigerians whose reaction to Abby's misfortune is way worse than mine.

Can't find video of that incident, but here's another that shows Abby playing tough.

Sangre americana preview: Ochoa

Sammy Ochoa got a shot to show his worth to U.S. national team coaches earlier this year in France but despite scoring a goal he was not called up for the big show.

It's sort of fitting as that has been his calling card with Tecos UAG. And so far, this season is already following along those lines.

Ochoa, a native of Michoacan and graduate of Riverside Poly High, represented the United States at the World Youth Championship in 2005. Though he seemed to have put himself in prime position to make a move out of the second division at that point, his career has not progressed much since then.

Ochoa, 21, has spent most his time from the end of the tournament until now in Mexico's Primera A despite his goal-scoring antics. Last year, he had 16 goals with Tecos' second-division side but was promptly returned to Primera A to start this season. He scored a goal in the opener but also picked up a costly red card. Ochoa was suspended a total of three matches for the red card and overall violent conduct at the end of the club's match with Salamanca.

When he returns, he is likely to regain a spot on the field as his scoring touch has not failed him. But his path to the first division seems difficult at best. Tecos has traditionally been near the bottom of the Mexican league table but that hasn't led to any increased playing time for Ochoa with the first club. Most if not all of his time this year could be spent in Primera A.

La Flecha Roja Olimpico

Dax is going to the Olympics!
It's bad news for Nathan Sturgis, as his injury woes continue, but Dax is the guy with the cool nickname anyway. Still, it leaves the Olympics team a bit thin on defense - Dax plays midfield, while Sturgis was an option for the backline. It's all riding on Parky and Orozco, I guess.

Edgar in the Times

Edgar Castillo was profiled in the New York Times on Wednesday.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, there may be little new information in there that you haven't already come across here. But his story is clearly of interest to more than just soccer fans as a whole new audience has now been exposed to his tale.

It never ceases to amaze me how he was completely looked over by American youth coaches. Castillo was a star as a sophomore in high school. He was in the system already but couldn't progress further in the ranks of the American system. And now, watching him play for Santos we're all left wondering how this guy was deemed not good enough to play at the next level.

When talking about him to a colleague recently, I think my exact phrase was 'What dickhead coach didn't think he could play?'

It's funny, though, when you think about a couple of our Sangre americana boys. Not necessarily Castillo because he went down to Mexico to try out for Santos, but Jose Francisco Torres and Michael Orozco. Both of those guys were scouted here in the United States by Mexican scouts. Who the heck knows where the American scouts were and what they were looking for but those players' doors were opened by Mexican teams and plucked right from underneath American coaches' noses. US Soccer should consider themselves lucky that Orozco accepted the call and that Torres still considers the US an option if he receives the call again.

And you wonder how many more players are out there that don't fit the mold, that have the talent and ability to compete at the highest leve, but are being overlooked?

Anyway, didn't mean to get off on that tangent. As far as Castillo's story, there is a slight error. Noel Castillo is with Indios but not the first division Indios. Edgar's bro is with Indios Chihuahua of the Primera A division. But it's a good thing he was included because I'd lost track of him. He played 14 minutes in the season opener last week. I'll add him to our list of Mexican-Americans.