Sunday, August 31, 2008

Taking nine for the team

I'm trying to crank out my PE column tonight so I don't have to worry about it on Monday morning, which is a good thing since I'm going to be out and about most of the day. I'm writing a column on the horrendous scheduling by Major League Soccer and how they're playing right through World Cup qualifying.

John Carver actually got me to thinking about dedicating my column to it. Originally, I was going to write about Chivas-Tauro but forget that, especially after what Carver said on Saturday.

If you missed it, skip below a few posts.

Here's the players who will be absent from Toronto FC this weekend:

Greg Sutton and Jim Brennan (Canada)
Amado Guevara (Honduras)
Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala)
Tyrone Marshall (Jamaica)
Carl Robinson (Wales)
Marvell Wynne (US)
Jarrod Smith (New Zealand)
Julius James (Trinidad)

Let's see... that's pretty much their whole team. They'll have Danny Dichio, Tyler Rosenlund, Kevin Harmse... uh, like I said, that's their whole team.

It's an extreme case for sure but the schedule will cripple many teams. The Galaxy will be without three players, Houston will make do without a quartet, Chivas has two absent players, Chicago is sacrificing a trio of players I believe... seemingly every club will be without players. Why exactly is it necessary to play through this schedule? Ridiculous. The league really ought to be ashamed of itself.

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself... Back to writing...

Pay to play

Paying for field access has become part of the price of the beautiful game for some.

On the one hand, it's a great thing that soccer fields are in such high demand.

On the other hand, things shouldn't get to the point where people are gouged to use a field.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


A colleague shouted this out as the "statistic of the night" after the Chivas USA match on Saturday:

With David Beckham and Landon Donovan in tow, the LA Galaxy has the same exact record of the expansion San Jose Earthquakes.

The Galaxy almost had their first win in quite a while on Saturday. The Revs came back though to tie 2-2 after Ladnon Donovan put them up with a brace. San Jose meanwhile got a late goal from Darren Huckerby to beat Kansas City 2-1 at home.

And yes, the Galaxy and San Jose each sit on 6-9-7 with eight games left. San Jose has all the momentum while the Galaxy is twisting in the wind. Saturday's match against Real Salt Lake will of course be played without Landon and Beckham as the duo will be with their respective national teams. Not sure if San Jose will lose anyone, so they may in fact surpass the Galaxy sooner rather than later.

Esky returns

Alecko Eskandarian was the last player in the locker room on Saturday night. I don't know if he was getting treatment or not but he walked into the shower after nearly everyone else was dressed and on their way out to whatever they had going on after the game.

As I took an empty seat next to him, a camera crew approached him and began recording as I fired away some questions. That set up a pretty comical scene as Preki interjected some thoughts from across the locker room.

Here's audio of the interview. See if you can make out what Preki said to Esky, jokingly... I think...

Not holding back

John Carver didn't hold back much after Toronto lost to Chivas 2-1 on Saturday.

He said he was "absolutely furious" with his defense and also was disgusted with the league and its scheduling. In fact, he even said Toronto FC asked the league to postpone next Saturday's match against Chivas due to extreme hardship.

Here's audio of the interview.

Quickly, TFC has these guys absent on international duty: Greg Sutton, Tyrone Marshall, Jarrod Smith, Jim Brennan, Amado Guevara, Carlos Ruiz, Marvell Wynne, Carl Robinson and two others I'm missing.

Listen to the audio to see how he thinks he may have to fill the void.

Posts coming shortly

Long time between posts. Sorry for not having posted in the last couple of days. Lots has happened with international callups and such but life has intervened here on this trusty blog. We do it for free, and sometimes free things don't take priority.

Anyway, I'll be posting up some audio of the Chivas-Toronto fallout shortly.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sangre americana J6 update

Another game, another goal. This time, it's from Jose Francisco Torres, and this time we've got highlights.

Torres started and played 58 minutes for Pachuca in their 2-0 win over Puebla. He picked up a yellow card as well as scoring his first-ever goal in the Primera Division.

Also in action...
Edgar Castillo: Played 90 minutes in Santos' 2-0 win over Tecos
Marco Antonio Vidal: Played 90 minutes in Indios' 1-0 win over Morelia

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"The Dream" plays on

I wrote a story on Jorge Flores for both and Futbol Mundial. As one can see, Flores make the cover of F.M. I used different quotes for each article, and there's one by Claudio Suarez in the F.M. article that is very prophetic. He talks about how young players can burst on the scene and make an impact because they're somewhat overlooked. He says the hard part is doing well when other people figure out a player actually worth defending against.

Flores is actually doing that, because he's had some good play recently and he hasn't lost his ability to provide a spark. However, he's not scoring like he used to, either.

Developing talent

About a year ago, I talked to Brad Friedel about his plans for a youth academy in Ohio. It was actually still in the process of being built and planned and such. I believe it's in its just completed its first full year or it's been opened right around there. Things seem to be heading in the right direction for Premier Soccer Academies.

The PSA just had two of its year-round members invited to Bradenton for the full-time residency program there - Victor Garza of Edinburg, Texas and Joel Nash of Birmingham, Ala.

I know Friedel sounded enthusiastic about the project when talking about it and how the entire youth system in the United States was ass backwards. He said something to the effect that kids train once a week and play a bunch of games on the weekend and he said it should be multiple training sessions a week and one game on the weekend. He also said many youth coaches were just in it for the money. It was a really good interview and he seemed very passionate about it.

Anyway, here's what he said in a press release about Garza and Nash and the US national team.

“It is a tremendous honor to have any of our players be selected for their current national team,” said Brad Friedel, President and Co-Founder of PSA. “We are delighted to have Joel and Victor further their career playing for their country. It is our goal at PSA to give every player the opportunity to reach their goals and this is a prime example as these two players move to the next level.”

And this is the description of the PSA from the same press release

PSA is the first residential soccer academy of its kind offering full year-round scholarships to athletes in an effort to develop the next generation of professional soccer players. Each year players from across the globe, ages 12-17, will be recruited based on ability and skill level, not the parents’ ability to pay. Additional athletic, academic, and health/nutrition programs along with an assortment of different level coaching clinics, will be offered throughout the year targeting all ages and skill levels. Facilities are state-of-the-art and include three and a half soccer fields, indoor fieldhouse, 5,000-square-foot workout facility, student housing and academic learning center. PSA officially opened August 20, 2007 with the arrival of the first class of residency members.

MLS' development system is nowhere near as developed as Brad Friedel's which is a shame because they've got a 12-year head start on him. And even if teams do develop young talent there are so many loopholes and restrictions and stuff that they could miss players anyway.

Perhaps it will take Friedel and others like him to get a true youth development system in place in the US so we can start seeing youngsters develop like they should right here in the US.

Champs League highlights

Maybe there's something strange that happens somewhere over the southern border. Maybe when MLS teams head into Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, they lose all sense of themselves.

Maybe that's why both Chivas USA and New England looked like garbage on Tuesday.

And yes, I'm fully aware that DC and Houston won home-and-away series just this year against non-Mexican CONCACAF teams and all that. The tally, though, for MLS teams against CONCACAF competition on their turf is tilted way against the MLS teams' favor. Anyway, here are highlights of the games.

Joe Public-New England

Tauro-Chivas USA

And here's another result of interest - Cruz Azul destroyed Hankook Verdes 6-0 in Mexico City.

Doble jornada for Mexican-Americans

There will be a near-full slate of action in Mexico tonight as Jornada 6 will continue.

Of course, two games have already been played while another is slated for November and those three games involve teams who have some of our players on them: San Luis-Cruz Azul, Toluca-Chivas and Jaguares-Pumas.

But there should be some Mexican-Americans in action regardless.

Primera Division
Edgar Castillo, Santos vs. Tecos, 2 p.m. Castillo has played every minute of every game for Santos this season as Santos needn't worry about any sort of drop of form from Castillo. In fact, Castillo is taking the next step towards stardom as he has been part of El Tri's roster under Sven Goran Eriksson. With Santos, Castillo should provide some danger on the left side as usual. It's another foreign-born Mexican national team player, though, who is garnering attention as Argentine Matias Vuoso scored two goals in a 5-3 win over Chivas a week ago. TV: Azteca America (delayed to 8:30 p.m. PT)

Jose Francisco Torres, Pachuca vs. Puebla, 6 p.m. Torres has not enjoyed much success this season, but then again neither have Los Tuzos. Torres has played in four of five games with just one start. He's logged just 167 over the first five games of the season. Pachuca have started the season off with an 0-3-2 clip and desperately need a win against Puebla to get some points and stay in the playoff chase. Perhaps Torres can help earn himself some more playing time if he can get a start and show well in a Tuzo victory. If Pachuca continues losing, it seems only a matter of time before Enrique Meza is shown the door at which point Torres' future might be up in the air. TV: Azteca America (delayed to 10:30 p.m. PT)

Marco Antonio Vidal, Indios at Morelia, 6:30 p.m. Vidal's season has been a bit of back-and-forth. He played all 90 minutes in Indios' season opener, lost his starting spot, went down to the second division, went back to the top flight and sat the bench before starting on Sunday against Toluca. And that's just five games into the season. Maybe it's a bit ff uncertainty on Vidal's part or a lack of confidence or just a lack of first-division skills. Whatever the case, Vidal has not enjoyed consistency this season at all. Maybe he'll start, maybe he will come off the bench, maybe he'll do neither. Who knows? At least we'll get to see this game live. TV: Azteca America.

Primera Division A
All games will be played on the weekend.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Borja tallies

Sorry I'm just getting to this but I just ran across it.

Seems like an American scored a goal for Chivas de Guadalajara's second-division side. And it wasn't El Gringo either.

On Monday, Carlos Borja scored the only goal for Tapatio in a 1-0 win over Academicos, Atlas' Primera A side. Borja, ex-Chivas USA developmental player, scored his first goal with Tapatio in the 76th minute.

Chivas USA/Tauro running blog

Predictions only get worshipful prophetic credit before kickoff.

Here we go!

Tauro: Dominguez, Rojas, Palmas, Manotas, Moreno, Vega, mclean, Parris, Canales?
Escobar, Aguilar

Chivas USA: Thornton, Bornstein, Suarez, Thomas, Mendoza, Naga, Chiles, Paladine, Flores, Kljestan, Harris

Weird, the broadcast missed kickoff.

1 - Mancilla, the coach of Tuaro, well he looks like he enjoys a beer now and again.
4 - Flores is active early on, but his cross misses Harris.
5 - Tuaro has apparently won more championships in Panama than any other.
6 - GOAL! A weird mix-up in front of the goal, as the cross, popped way over, then a Tauro player dribbled a bit in the box, nutmegged Shavar, and another Tuaro guy, Edwin Aguilar, got a foot on it to poke the ball past Thornton. 1-0 Tauro
9 - Chivas USA corner. Sacha received a short corner, passed to Paladini, who made a hash of the cross - Tauro recover the ball.
11 - Flores with a much better cross, but Kljestan gets beaten to it, just barely, by a defender. Corner. Out for a throw. Flores crosses to Harris - header! Wide.
14 - Kljestan's pass is too far, but Flores fights for it regardless in the box. Gets called for foul.
17 - The announcers applaud CONCACAF for setting up this tournament, saying it's the first step in matching Europe. I choke a little on my iced tea.
19 - Yikes, Flores has been playing well, but he blipped on that play. Bornstein crossed the ball well, and Flores' first touch left the ball about eight feet away from him. He'd have been better off shooting.
21 - Two shots by Tauro are closer to killing fans in the stands than in scoring.
23 - CROSSBAR! Thornton beaten again and only the heavy metal saved him. It was a free kick from distance, but it floated high and Thornton backed up and jumped too late.
26 - Escobar from the edge of the box - barely misses the far post.
27 - Corner - caught by Thornton.
30 - The announcers are seriously harshing on Thomas and his mistakes in this game. He gives up a dangerous foul here, just in front of the arc. FK tips the crossbar - very close.
34 - Midfield muckery. Oh dear. Ball popped out to Harris, thanks to a nice Kljestan pass, and Harris came in alone on the goalkeeper and kicked the ball right into him. "He was alone and he failed horribly," says the announcer. Pretty much.
36 - One announcer puts Harris as the fourth forward on the squad, behind Justin Braun.
38 - Nags brings down a Tauro player. Threatening FK. Hits wall.
39 - Nags from distance, hits downtown. The skyscrapers, at least.
44 - Suarez fouls Canales (how dare he?) and Tauro gets a FK. It's served into the box, but no one gets a shot off. It looked to the announcers that Harris fouled somebody and it just didn't get called.
45 - Flores! Why doesn't he shoot? Ball gets away from him in the box and the clearance hits Paladini in the face, first, then his arm.
Hah, hah - the announcers replay not the flukey goal as the "Key play of the game", but Harri's miss alone against the goalkeeper. Cruel, but funny.
Well, with missed opportunities like that, though, Chivas USA have only themselves to blame at this point, depleted roster or no.
46 - The announcers are shocked that Jim Curtain replaces Suarez. They were sure Preki would get rid of the almost-worthless Thomas (their words). They are less surprised that Alecko Eskandarian comes in for Paladini.
48 - They call Esky Alexander, though.
49 - Esky with a close shot - he took it first touch and impressed the announcers by barely missing the far post.
55 - Tuaro player down and off the field.
59 - Another player down. I'm beginning to suspect it's to gain a bit of rest in the humid and hot weather.
60 - FK for Chivas USA. Kljestan puts it over the bar - couldn't get the dip down.
63 - Chivas USA look like they're running out of steam.
64 - Yellow on Vega for clipping Mendoza.
65 - Vaughn is on.
69 - GOAL! Aguilar picks up a pass and the defense breaks as he moves in on goal. they anticipate a pass and no one steps to him until Thornton comes out - Aguilar puts the ball calmly past him. 2-0 Tauro "The goal that kills," the announcers say.
73 - Corner for Chivas USA, but it's cleared.
75 - Esky from distance. Close, but wide.
76 - Chivas USA corner. Caught by the keep.
79 - Chivas trying hard to get a goal to cut into the differential, but Tauro break on the counter and nearly nick a third goal.
80 - Chivas USA with a FK, but goalkeeper is able to snag it. Now the goalkeeper is wasting time with an injury that the announcers don't believe exists.
83 - Panchito's cross misses the box, his teammates, the goal.
84 - Nurse has not played this game and the announcers don't understand why.
85 - Corner for Chivas USA. "A goal would be a marvelous miracle for the MLS team" It doesn't happen. Corner gets cleared.
88 - Flores telegraphs a pass, gets a corner out of it. It gets cleared for another corner, but Dominguez catches that one.
90 - Aguilar gets the MOTM. His second goal convinced the announcers.
7 minutes of stoppage? Wow.
Sach tries to save a ball on a Chivas USA buildup, but he's tired and it goes out.
Nags gets a yellow for clipping Aguilera.
Final whistle. Pretty horrid game for Chivas USA.

Got Gol?

Gol TV has my favorite soccer announcer, Phil Schoen.

Problem is, it's not that easy to find the channel any more.

It's only on DIRECTV.

And as far as what's only on GolTV - the upcoming 2010 World Cup qualifying matches and exclusive TV coverage of Spain’s La Liga.

Sorting out the West

The headline for this could have read How the West Will be Won except for one thing: the West will be won by Houston. The rest of the conference will have to battle for the scraps that are the second and third places and playoff spots. Fourth place this year will likely get you what fourth place got you last year - crap.

I tried to figure out who that would be in my Tuesday PE column.

I wasn't high on RSL because of their road struggles and their 5 remaining road games. I talked about the Galaxy's challenges yesterday and I think Chivas USA will face a similarly tough schedule should they get into the CONCACAF Champions League proper. Colorado's a mess. FC Dallas has problems scoring and San Jose is an expansion team.

What a great conference! Someone has to finish second and third, right? Who do you think will fill those slots?

Champions League underway

I go back and forth on this brand spankin' new tournament.

The CONCACAF Champions League gets underway today for MLS teams as Chivas USA visits Tauro FC of Panama and New England visits Joe Public of Trinidad & Tobago.

Part of me is anxious to see how MLS teams do on the road against some regional competition while another part thinks this is a complete waste of time. I guess I could become a regular schizophrenic debating this topic with myself.

On some level, more games against more regional competition is a good thing. We can only truly know how good MLS is in this region by MLS teams matching up against regional competition. SuperLiga doesn't exactly fit the bill since all the games are played on American soil.

The Panamanian national team might not be much but how good is their league? Trinidad & Tobago has a decent national team but is their league up to par as well? We know how MLS teams struggle in Mexico - that has long been documented. But how do MLS teams fare against Central American and Caribbean foes? The occasional Champions Cup series has given us some mixed results as MLS teams have not done well against Costa Rican sides but have been able to get past Jamaican and Honduran teams.

On the other hand, is that really important? Is it necessary to dedicate much of the latter portion of the season on the Champions League? We're talking about six midweek games in September and October, games that could place a heavy toll on the participating MLS teams. Will MLS teams even be able to place their full attention on the Champions League with the league slate bearing down on each club?

Ultimately though I... uh, well, I can't decide. I wasn't in favor of it at first just because it didn't seem necessary but I can't say I'm not intrigued to watch the games tonight and that I won't be interested when the group stage gets here, regardless if Chivas USA and/or New England get through.

What say you?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Because of the wonderful things

Sometimes the beautiful game connects with people in a beautiful way.

Arena in the kitchen

Somehow Bruce Arena struck me as a bit of a foodie, though I never heard much more about his taste in cuisine other than "he likes a good steak". Simply from the hotels that he approved for the U.S. national team, one could surmise that Arena liked to pick from the best options available. Nothing too remote and spa-like, though, usually something in the heart of the city (often with a good steakhouse on site).

I could picture Arena as the host of some traveling food show, "Bruce's Beef" where in some remote location of Guatemala, for example, Arena tries to find someplace that cooks a decent steak.

Anyway, that's a bit of a wandering intro for an article in which I'm of the opinion that the heat is on Bruce. He's going to have to whip up something good, and I'm not sure he has the ingredients he needs. It's not that I think that Eddie Lewis is a disaster move, but not shoring up the defense immediately could really come back to haunt Arena.

Galaxy's huge challenge

I wrote my PE column on the Western Conference and how the playoff picture may sort out. I actually predicted which teams I think will join Houston in the postseason.

Now, I won't reveal who I think will come through but I will add a little bit more here on the Galaxy and why I think it will be hard for them to reach the playoffs. Maybe you can put two and two together and decide if I think the Galaxy is among the two teams I gave a shot at the playoffs.

Before I start, every team in the West is saying the same thing - if we can just win one or two in a row, everything will be okay. Yeah, that's all well and good but let's look at statistics, people, not just some pie-in-the-sky sentiment. How many times has each Western conference team (besides Houston, they are excused and may go to recess early) won two or more games in a row? (And I'm only looking at consecutive wins, not unbeaten streaks because you aren't going to tie your way to the playoffs)

- Real Salt Lake: Zero
- FC Dallas: Twice (won two consecutive games on separate occasions)
- Colorado: Zero
- Chivas USA: Once (won three-in-a-row in late May, early June)
- Galaxy: Twice (won two consecutive games on separate occasions)
- San Jose: Once (won two straight earlier this month)

In other words, it's not just as easy as flipping the switch.

Now, as far as the Galaxy goes, the Galaxy has not beaten a team with a winning record. Four of their remaining nine games are against teams with winning records: at New England, at Chicago, at Columbus, Houston. Also, DC has a 10-10-1 mark now and will play at the Galaxy.

Of the Galaxy's remaining four home games, two could be played without Landon Donovan and David Beckham as international calendars become congested on Sept. 6 (Real Salt Lake at Galaxy) and Oct. 12 (Colorado at Galaxy). I suppose you could throw Eddie Lewis in there as well, and possibly even Ante Jazic.

Five road games loom on the calendar and the Galaxy has a 2-5-3 road record thus far.

Now, you can say what you will about the players and the cohesion and the affect Bruce Arena may have on the team (because I know some of you are thinking that very thing right now!). I'm merely bringing up statistics. And these stats don't lie. It's going to be extremely difficult for the Galaxy to reach the playoffs.

As for my thoughts on the other Western teams, well, you'll have to wait for the column to find out about that.

No defending the west

I got an e-mail earlier today from a faithful reader asking me to help stick up for the Western Conference.

Now, as much as I would like to defend the West, I just can't do it. Not right now.

The Western Conference is clearly the weaker of the two conferences. There's no debating that. The only thing you might be able to debate is just how much distance there is between the two conferences. Maybe you think none of the Western teams could compete in the East, maybe you feel that the Western conference has some of the league's best players and that it's only a matter of time before they get their act together, or maybe you want to let the season play out until making a final decision.

But there's not much to debate. Here are some stats way in favor of the Eastern conference:

- Kansas City and Toronto are tied for last in the East and are five points out of a playoff spot. In the West, each team would be tied for third.

- Two Eastern teams have a negative goal-differential, compared to five in the West.

- Four Eastern teams have more wins than losses. One Western team has the same.

- Eastern teams have won a combined 22 road games; Western teams have combined for 11 road wins.

- Eastern teams have yielded an average of 26.9 goals. Western teams have given up nearly three goals more, with a 29.7 clip. The Galaxy is throwing off the average, you say? Take out the Galaxy and Western defense are still more porous with a 27.5 average.

- Even with the Galaxy's prolific but slowing attack (which DC United may surpass soon) Eastern teams have outscored Western teams 199 to 197.

Now, those should be some sobering statistics for Western teams. It's a good thing the league allowed for three Western teams to reach the playoffs instead of the two guaranteed spots a year ago because three is two more spots than the West deserves this year.

Of course, we can only hope that this would send a message to the league, that conferences should be done away with, that there should only be one table with the top six or eight teams getting into the playoffs regardless of anything else save points. Balance the schedule, let every team play every other team once at home and once on the road and have equal footing for everyone.

We all know, though, that such moves are too drastic for a league that is often reactive instead of proactive, especially when it comes to playoffs and the like.

Week 21 spotlight

In the 21st week of the MLS season, there were some several outstanding performances this week but unfortunately the week was one in which many star players were missing due to international duty, something that could easily have been prevented.

G: Louis Crayton
D: Jimmy Conrad
D: Chad Marshall
D: Richard Mulrooney
M: Andre Rocha
M: John Thorrington
M: Guillermo Barros Schelotto
M: Mike Magee
F: Luciano Emilio
F: Kei Kamara
F: Taylor Twellman

Coach: Juan Carlos Osorio somehow is turning around a New York team that had seemingly been left in the rear-view mirror by the Eastern frontrunners. Juan Pablo Angel is back to his old self but Mike Magee is proving to be a splendid complement to the Red Bulls' attack.

Top player: Guillermo Barros Schelotto had a goal and two assists and was easily the most influential player of the week. For all the hype the Galaxy gets for being dangerous on set pieces, Columbus is for my money the league's best team on set pieces. And that's largely due to the crafty Argentine.

Top goal: Andre Rocha's strike against Kansas City was a well-taken shot from distance, the kind we'd like to see on a more regular basis every weekend.

Top save: Zach Thornton kept Chivas USA from falling into last place in the Western Conference with a diving effort to turn away San Jose's Ronnie O'Brien.

When will Major League Soccer learn? When will MLS take into consideration the international calendar when making the schedule? On Wednesday, the US and the rest of CONCACAF kicked off the semifinal phase of qualifying. The league didn't care apparently and had two games scheduled on Wednesday and another on Thursday. Such players absent from their MLS squads included Pat Onstad, Brian Ching, Dwayne De Rosario, Sacha Kljestan, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Gonzalo Segares, Landon Donovan, Eddie Lewis and David Beckham, who played in an England friendly on Wednesday. It's beyond ridiculous that MLS plays through the World Cup but the league should at least have the foresight not to shoot itself in the foot and lower the quality of its regular season games by forcing teams to play through qualifiers and play without their top players. The league turned Galaxy-Chicago from potentially one of the most anticipated matches of the year to one devoid of most of its luster. Upcoming qualifying weekends will also cost teams players on Sept. 6-7 as well as Oct. 11-12. MLS needs to stop this nonsense. All the Hexagonal dates for next year are already set, so there is no excuse for this happening in 2009.

Nery to Spain, for Real

Nery Castillo seems to have found a new home. Though rumors to Italian side Roma were gaining steam, it seems Nery has found a home in Spain, with Real Betis.

Perhaps now one of Mexico's most talented can find some club stability he has not enjoyed for more than year.

Castillo had spent most of his career in Greece, with Olympiakos. But he left the Greek club for Shakhtar Donetsk last summer. His Ukrainian stay didn't last long as he joined Manchester City over the winter, and while that partnership didn't last his manager there is now in charge of the Mexican national team as Sven Goran Eriksson is with Mexico.

Castillo now seems poised to settle down with a club in the Spanish league, which is already home to Mexicans such as Rafael Marquez, Omar Bravo and Andres Guardado. Perhaps with some solid footing underneath, Castillo can shine for Sven as he did for Hugo Sanchez.

Luca Brasi Rankings (Aug. 25)

It isn't quite time yet to sink any teams but there are several clubs who look like the should be sleeping with the fishes. There seems to be a big dropoff between six and seven this week. I'd take any team from the top six over any team from the bottom eight - with the possible exception of the slowly climbing number eight club - in a home-and-away series or a one-off match.

1. Columbus (11-6-4). The Crew might be starting to really come together as a team, which is a scary thought for rest of the league.
2. Chicago (10-6-5). Blanco and McBride have yet to start a game together, but that should change Sunday at Houston.
3. New England (11-6-4). Four points in two games is quick turnaround from previous skid.
4. DC United (10-10-1). Two shutouts in three games for Louis Crayton? Should have made the move sooner.
5. Houston (8-5-8). Chinks in the armor? Houston gets slapped hard by New York...
6. New York (8-6-7)... who despite the win still find themselves one spot under the Dynamo. Sorry, can't discount Houston's midweek 4-0 win.
7. FC Dallas (6-7-8). Payback's a bitch as KC pulls out late draw.
8. San Jose (5-9-7). Road draw moves 'Quakes to within striking distance of playoff spot.
9. Real Salt Lake (7-8-6). Gonna have to do better than 1-8-1 road mark, worst in the league.
10. Toronto (7-8-6). Banking on aging Carlos Ruiz to get back into playoff chase; quite a risky proposition.
11. Kansas City (6-7-8). Back to old KC as only offense comes from a defender.
12. Chivas USA (6-9-6). Need more minutes from Razov, Eskandarian, et al for Red-and-White to have a chance.
13. Colorado (7-11-3). So much for getting off to good start under new coach.
14. Los Angeles (6-9-6). Bruce Arena learns tough lesson in first game: no Landon, no Becks, no offense, no hope.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sangre americana J5 update

Michael Orozco is back with San Luis. He reported earlier this week back to his club and will now try and regain his starting spot in San Luis' defense. San Luis hasn't necessarily missed him. While Tigres and Pumas have yielded fewer goals than San Luis, los Gladiadores have a whopping 16 points through five games. With Orozco back, the club's defense could become even more sound than it already is.

So, how'd Orozco do in his first game back? Actually, he didn't play. But other Mexican-Americans did.

Primera Division
Edgar Castillo - Played 90 minutes in Santos' 5-3 win at Chivas
Jose Francisco Torres - Played final 45 minutes in Pachuca's 3-1 loss at Pumas
Michael Orozco - Did not dress for San Luis' 1-0 victory over Tigres
Daniel Hernandez - Played 90 minutes in Jaguares' 3-2 win at America
Marco Antonio Vidal - Started and played 45 minutes in Indios' 1-1 draw over Toluca
Sonny Guadarrama - Did not dress in Morelia's 2-0 loss at Puebla
Jesus Padilla - Served one-match suspension for picking up red card in J4

Primera Division A
Sammy Ochoa - Played final six minutes in Tecos' 1-1 draw with Irapuato
Carlos Borja - Tapatio plays Academicos on Monday
Noel Castillo - Did not play in Indios Chihuahua's 0-0 draw with Correcaminos
Miguel Gonzalez - Did not dress in Chetumal's 2-0 loss to Pumas Morelos

LA Soccer beat

Luis wasn't at the game last night, exploring other possible career options instead. So that meant I had a Chivas USA assignment to cover the game.

Here's my match article. And reaction piece.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Preki post-Quakes

Here's some of Preki's thoughts after his team split points with the 'Quakes. There's not going to be any video of Frank Yallop, because he didn't do a post-game presser.

Chivas USA/Earthquakes rb

Chivas USA versus the new and improved Quakes in a major clash for points for two playoff desperate teams.

I ran into Sacha Kljestan's dad, Slavko, in the elevator. He looked at the Free Kick magazine, where his son is the coverboy and said, "Who is that guy?" The younger guy with him (a friend of Sacha?) said dryly, "Yeah, he must have an ugly dad."
I cracked up a little at that. Slavko shook his head at the magazine. "He needs a haircut, don't you think?" He turned to me.
By then, the elevator had opened and the pair had stepped out. "You tell him that," I said before the doors closed.
* 1 - Joe Cannon (GK)
* 2 - Eric Denton
* 3 - Nick Garcia
* 4 - James Riley
* 6 - Darren Huckerby
* 7 - Ronnie O'Brien
* 10 - Francisco Lima
* 12 - Ramiro Corrales 14 out
* 17 - Arturo Alvarez
* 21 - Jason Hernandez
* 33 - Scott Sealy
Chivas USA
* 28 - Zach Thornton (GK)
* 3 - Jim Curtin
* 4 - Shavar Thomas
* 5 - Paulo Nagamura
* 6 - Francisco Mendoza
* 9 - Ante Razov
* 13 - Jonathan Bornstein
* 16 - Sacha Kljestan
* 19 - Jorge Flores
* 24 - Atiba Harris
* 37 - Kraig Chiles

5 - Chivas USA have a corner. They take it short and get a throw. Quakes clear the danger.
7 - Ante caught offside. The Quakes have a pretty impressive traveling contingent sitting in the regular Riot Squad section. that's good to see. They're loud too, spurring the Union Ultras and the Legion to try to drown them out.
12 - Corrales is down. Apparently he stepped on Atiba Harris trying to make a tackle and his left ankle turned. He limps off after at least three minutes.
15 - Kelly Gray comes in for Corrales.
19 - Eeeek moment for the Quakes. Razov hit a long pass to Harris, but Garcia got there first. His backpass to Cannon almost didn't make it and Cannon had to run outside his box to play the ball.
20 - Chivas USA corner. It's cleared.
23 - The Quakes had the ball in the Chivas USA box and Alvarez was trying to turn but Curtin cleared the ball way out first.
Bad news for Ramiro Corrales. It's actually his knee that's the problem. He has a left knee MCL sprain.
25 - Harris is offside, again.
27 - Sealy gets undercut going for a header, and topples acrobatically. It's interesting that sometimes the most spectacular falls are where the player bounces back but just fine, and the ones that look like no big deal are often the worst.
29 - Razov earns a free kick right at the arc. Joe got burned by 'Te FK the last time the teams played here.
30 - 'Te went near post - and barely missed wide right.
34 - Jase Hernandez just had a nifty take-away tackle on his old teammate, 'Te.
37 - Riley gets a yellow for his takle on Flores.
39 - Bornstein heads a dangerous long ball out.
40 - Atiba Harris is down. It looked on the replay like Garcia caught him on the ankle as he was clearing a pass.
42 - Someone asked about the formation for CHivas - looks like a 4-4-2, with Flores breaking forward on the attack.
44 - Denton slidetackles a dangerous ball out.
45 - Sach with a shot off a feed from 'Te! Joe saves it.
45 - Too often, games where a lot is on the line end up like this - tightly contested affairs where not a lot happens - 000hhhh, Flores fights his way into the box, great job there, lays off a perfect little pass to 'Tiba - ugh, he shoots way wide.
46 - Chivas USA right off the bat with a chance, but a Quakes defender clears the cross into the box.
48 - Chivas USA moving the ball well around the perimeter of the Quakes' box. Joe finally claims an errant pass.
50 - Chiles cross in front of goal - no one. Oooh, deep Quakes pass nearly gets through while Zach is off his line.
52 - O'Brien with an outside shot. I could see that one coming. He dips his head slightly before he shoots.
'Te on the counter! Tries to finesse the ball low into the corner and misses wide.
53 - Shaver Thomas gets a yellow card for a tackle.
55 - Denten with a foul on Chiles deep. Chiles sends in the FK like a cross, but the Quakes clear. It gets served back in - over the line. Goal kick.
56 - Some in the pressbox think this is Huckerby's worst game since he joined the league. He's done little of note.
57 - Hernandez is given a yellow for a clumsy shoulder challenge. It's a FK in a dangerous spot, but Sacha doesn't do much with it. High over the bar.
60 - Alecko Eskandarin is in for Chiles.
63 - 'Te tumbles, but kicks out at Hernandez at the same time - gets called for the foul. Sach had a nice play to get 'Te the ball, but Hernandez was all over it.
66 - Bornstein rampages up for a shot - wide.
67 - Joe comes out for a cross - oddly, he hesitated a bit and made it more scary for his defender than it should have been.
68 - Attendance is announced as 12,209.
69 - Kelly Gray high on a FK, but it deflected and the Quakes have a corner. It's taken short, put out and another corner follows.
70 - Zach punches this one out, heaving his bulk through the crowd in the box.
73 - Offside! No goal for Alecko there.
75 - Quake corner - headed wide.
77 - Ooh! Joe saves a touch Harris shot, give ups the rebound, Mendoza chases it down and slips a pass to 'Te, who shoots wide of the far post.
81 - Quake FK - Zach catches.
84 - Ned Grabavoy comes in for Sealy.
89 - Crappy backpass gives Ante a chance in the box - Quake defense barely recovers.
90 + O'Brien gets a yellow for a bad tackle.
Quake corner. Alvarez header - over the bar.
Deep Quake throw. Huckerby fights his way into the box, but Zack saves the shot.
Final whistle
No late game heroics. The teams split the points.

Out of the gym, onto the field

Someone pointed out to me the moment he knew the U.S. was going to defeat Brazil for the gold medal.

It was during the break for the overtime periods, when Brazil's players fell to the ground to rest, exhausted. The U.S. players were obviously fitter, and a tired Brazilian defense would probably give up chances.

When I was watching Argentina versus Nigeria, I had a similar epiphany when the referee stopped play for a water break. Argentina had looked plodding, but as their players hydrated and received encouragement and instruction from their coach, I thought, "This break will save them. They get the water they need, they catch their breath against the athletic Nigerians, they get that little second wind they need to create something."

There's always that push-pull between athleticism and artistry. In the U.S., we're so competitive as a country that we push kids into formal soccer games as young as four. They're lugging around little trophies.

Though they're not on the exact same topic, I found these points of view interesting. The first is from an article on the Argentine team, which quotes their coach, Batista.

"In Argentina we are making some mistakes," he told me. "We are emulating things that take us further away from our football. And we are depriving children of their childhood. There is too much emphasis on work in the gym, on weight-training and speed. And too much pressure on kids as young as seven or eight to win. This is not good."

"The child is not treated as a child," Batista argues. "I believe strongly in respecting the stages - there is a time when you have to play for fun, enjoy the game. Argentina's strong point has always been technique. If you look at the best players in Europe, they are always the ones who are technically excellent. Gyms and machines can never give you what keepy-uppies and contact with the ball do for a child."

The other viewpoint arrived in my email inbox from a reader. If other readers have any thoughts on the merits of fitness and strength versus technique and the best balance, or if anyone wants to tackle the question this reader posits, post in the comments.

I just wanted to say that your article a few months back on college soccer hurting the development of our young players should be on the front of soccernet and required reading for everyone high up in the USSF and MLS. We have more and more people playing the game as soccer grows more popular, but we still will still have a serious lack of quality players unless our youth player development system is completely overhauled. We can't insist on following the high school-college-draft model we use for basketball and football. Soccer is a completely different game that relies much less on size and athleticism (which can be developed anywhere) than the other two.

We need to look towards Europe and Latin America for how to develop soccer players. They've been playing the sport longer than we've played anything, and they have it figured out. If we have any desires of turning into a powerful soccer nation we need to adopt the same system of youth teams owned by the professional clubs. There are innumerable problems with our current model, as I'm sure you're familiar with, so I'll just stick to the most obvious.

The first and most important is that the current model has our talent far too spread out over the country. There are thousands of high school soccer teams in America, so none of our young players are exposed to a really high level of competition. In other countries, it's centralized, so you have the top youth division, with 20 teams, followed by the next, followed by the next. Thus the best young players week in and week out get exposed to the highest level of competition and the best coaching available in the country. If a player isn't good enough, he's cut and a better one takes his place, so this elite level of play is maintained, and obviosuly every young player's dream is to be a part of these leagues. It is the most nurturing environment possible to create good soccer players. In the United States, we may have 12 year olds with the potential to be the next Zidane, but unlike their European and Latin American counterparts they will spend the ages of 12-22 unexposed to a high level play, not to mention very, very poorly coached (relatively speaking, let's face it, in the older generations soccer was much less popular, thus we have a smaller pool) by coaches who have the wrong objectives, which brings me to my next point.

The coaches of high school and college teams in the United States have one thing in mind: winning. That is how their success is measured and their only incentive. Youth teams in the rest of their world have one objective, and that is churning out top quality players for the parent club. The end product is not only technichally superior but far more creative and tactically aware than American soccer players, who may be just as athletic. No one cares if the youth team wins or loses, as long as it yields great players for the club. But in the US the youth teams only focus on winning, thus our prodigies spend their practices focusing on conditioning and learning how to play the American youth soccer game, aka running war. How on earth we decide our youth game to allow unlimited substitutions, I have no idea. It's barely soccer at that point.

There is also the issue of scouting, how do we expect ourselves to find talent (which evaluating is much more subjective than basketball and football, it's not just a matter of who's bigger and faster and who gets the best stats) when there are thousands of high schools spread out over this vast nation, and then come age 18 all of the players move to completely different systems? And I'm not even getting into how bad the youth programs in this country are, the profiteering, the poor coaching, etc. etc.

Though our current system may be decent for developing mid level talent, ie lots of pretty good high school soccer players, I am amazed that despite having to grow up playing their game in America we still have some decent players that can make mid level European leagues. But if the MLS is to survive (with it's rapid expansion, the talent pool is going to be spread very thin, and since the last draft was very weak, as well as the one before it with the exception of Edu, I fear things are only going to get worse) and if we are to have any real success on the international level, we need to adopt the European system as soon as possible.

It'll take a long time for the changes to come into effect as developing a good youth system takes years, not to mention it'll take 7 or 8 years before we have our first young ones who have made it all the way through the system. There need to be major incentives for MLS teams to create these systems, as well as funding from the MLS. Each MLS team needs to have sole access to the contract rights of its youth players (they cannot go to the draft, then there'd be no incentive), and I think players from a team's youth system, at least at the beginning, should have a portion of their salary not count toward's the team's salary cap. The youth teams need to get the best facilities and coaches and need to be exposed to the best competition. We need all of our young soccer players striving to play these teams so that our very best are all put together in the most nurturing environment possible.

Am I the only one that thinks this way? Is there any chance of the European system becoming the norm here? What can the average frustrated American soccer fan do to help bring about change?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Arg/Nigeria gold medal game

Why not? I was late to my computer, but no one has scored yet.

Ambruse Vanzekin (G)
2 Chibuzor Okonkwo (D)
4 Onyekachi Apam (D)
5 Dele Adeleye (D)
13 Adefemi Olubayo (D)
8 Sani Kaita (M)
12 Ajilore Oluwafemi (M)
10 Isaac Promise (F)
9 Victor Nsofor Obinna (F)
11 Solomon Okoronkwo (F)
14 Peter Osaze Odemwingie


18 Sergio Romero (G)
2 Ezequiel Garay (D)
3 Luciano Fabian Monzon (D)
4 Pablo Zabaleta (D)
12 Nicolas Pareja (D)
5 Fernando Gago (M)
10 Juan Riquelme (M)
14 Javier Mascherano (M)
11 Angel Di Maria (F)
15 Lionel Messi (F)
16 Sergio Leonel Aguero (F)

15 - Nigeria isn't backing down. They're using their speed well to push Argentina back.
18 - Romero grabs the ball in the box.
20 - Riquelme and Messi hook up well on the give and go, but Nigeria's defense then presses in and gets the ball back.
21 - Zabaleta on the wing sends in a cross, but it's cleared.
22 - Messi in the box, cuts back, beats one guy, trips, appeals for a penalty, ref denies it.
23 - Romero has to clear outside of his box and he hits the ball awkwardly. Argentina get away with it, though, as their midfielders claim the ball.
27 - Nigeria is pressing in on the Argentine goal. Argentina is forced to defend and they look unaccustomed to the task. Landon Donovan mentioned that, said, "They hate to defend."
30 - Odemwingie with a shot - wide. Still, it's the guys in green who look dangerous.
31 - Wow, I've never seen this before. The heat in China is so bad that they're letting the players take a break and drink. Players are drenching themselves in water.
34 - Messi and Aguero nearly connect right at the top of the box, but the final pass fails.
35 - The ball falls to Promise in the box as Nigeria push hard for a goal. Promise doesn't get a real shot off, but the ball pops up and Romero has to grab it.
37 - Odemwingie nearly gets by on the endline, but the ball bounces over the line. Goal kick
39 - Balboa keeps going on about how Argentina isn't playing well. They do look tired. Zabaleta crosses, and now Argentina has a corner.
40 - Corner is short, but leads to a header chance - right to Vanzekin.
41 - Balboa rips Kun for not taking a shot. His cross gets too far and it's a throw.
43 - Zabaleta just gave up on that pass. Argentina is definitely tired. Or drained from the heat.
44 - Odemwingie nearly gets to a long pass in the box - but he's bumped off the header and Romero collects.
45 - Monzon from 40 feat and it's on frame! Vanzekin has to dive to push the ball out.
45 + Corner is cleared. Messi drives in, sends ball out, Nigeria are falling over each other in the box trying to clear. They eventually do.
As Messi walks off the field, about three Nigerian players push him, but in front, so the ref can't really see. Balboa mentions they're trying to provoke a retaliation. Messi just bats their arms away. Actually, he's so short, they look like bullies pushing him around.
47 - Argentina has been better this half already, threatening to score and looking lively.
50 - Save! Vanzekin! He denies Messi after a spin move freed him for the shot.
51 - Yellow card. Zabaleta got hit and the ref pulls the card quickly.
55 - Nigeria with a rejuvenated stretch of play. It leads to a shot that way high, but the ball was in Argentina's half for a matter of minutes.
57 - Nigeria again circles the Argentine goal. If Argentina breaks, they will have space.
58 - GOAL! Di Maria gets a fabulous, perfect pass from Messi, and breaks toward goal. Vanzekin comes out and Di Maria chips him delicately. 1-0 Argentina.
61 - This Argentina can do - hold the ball and teasingly possess it, fall over on fouls as a suddenly desperate Nigeria try to score.
64 - Save! Romero gets ball and holds.
65 - A scramble near the Argentine goal. It results in a Nigerian corner.
66 - Corner is cleared. Argentina release the counter leisurely. They're in no rush.
68 - Argentine FK as Di Maria was brought down there. Riquelme take the kick, but it's headed out for a corner. Messi takes it short, gets the ball back and fires a low shot that Vanzekin catches.
70 - Ekpo is getting ready to come in. MLS representing in the goldmedal match! Water break here, too.
72 - Ekpo sends in a cross, gets to Argentina, but a forward crashes in on it and the ball is pushed toward goal, surprising Romero, who dives late. Lucky for him, it's wide.
74 - Di Maria gets beaten and yanks hard on the shirt of his man to kill the counter. He gets yellow.
75 - Ball in the box ! Ekpo nearly gets to it. Argentina lucky there. Then the world is lucky to watch Messi's skill on display as he makes a run and beats three defenders before getting the pass off - the ball is out for a corner.
76 - Short corner needs to another Argentine attack and Vanzekin has to dive and smother the ball.
78 - Messi on the break!
Okonkwo just saves it by getting a touch on the ball. Balboa goes on about how short Messi is and thus hard to knock off the ball.
79 - Ekpo lays the ball off and the ensuing shot is - high. Not a bad effort, though.
80 - Kun Aguero is off for Sosa. He trudges off tiredly.
82 - ooh, yellow card for time wasting on Argentina's Garay.
83 - Now Riquelme sees the same card for the same reason.
84 - Romero saves a shot! And perhaps the gold for Argentina there.
86 - Anichebe pushes off Riquelme. He takes his time with the free kick, but not as long as before.
88 - Di Maria is down and a stretcher comes out for him. Argentina could be timewasting there.
89 - Ever Banega is in.
90 - Nigeria have a corner here. Messi plays a little defense, takes the ball off Obinna and skips out on the counter. He's pulled down for a FK.
90+ Ekpo nearly stopped on the sideline, but he hustles to get the ball out to a teammate and is successful.
Ekpo helping Nigeria threaten, but then gets called for a high kick.
Messi is subbed out, as the fans roar his name. He really set up that goal. Lavezzi is in.
Ball in the box! But Argentina clear.
Riquelme gets the ball in midfield, turns and releases Lavezzi, who touches to Sosa, who pops the ball out to the wing instead of going for goal. Lavezzi gets there and babysits the ball until he gets pushed down. Great timewaster and perfectly legal.
Romero catches a long ball.
Final whistle! Argentina wins! They win gold! They repeat as champions and deservedly so. If Messi is going to flake out on his club commitment to Barca, this is the way to return - covered in Olympic glory.


More reaction

Simply Solo

Ok, here's an easy one. This post will have stuff on Hope Solo, so if one is tired of that, don't read the rest of it.

Ann's take.

Hopeful celebration

Helene's take

Jeff's view

Mark's observations

Michelle muses

Scott says

Art's aware

People pipes up

Scott F. says

Hope reaches out and touches someone

It doesn't take a genius to guess that the second imitation gold medal Hope celebrated with was for her father, Jeffrey Solo.

What a difference a few months makes.

Back around ten months ago, Hope Solo was at probably at her lowest point.
And now

The Pia Principle

I think if there was ever any doubt that Pia Sundhage is the ideal coach for the U.S. women's team, they've been erased. In gold.

This piece highlights some of the reasons why her approach works

I can't help but wonder if the men's senior team had taken a similar chance, had been willing to go a different route and stretch their concept of the game by bringing in someone who looks at play in a fundamentally different way, if they might not be better off in the long run.

Sundhage knew she couldn't overcome the resistance the U.S. players had built up to a possession style all at once. Everyone saw a lot of long balls punted by the American players during the tournament. No one could do a complete 180 from the way they played for so long.

She stayed positive, however, and kept preaching the message, in close games, in blow-out wins. She'd emphasize again and again: keep the ball, be creative, work together, look for each other.

Sundhage walked the walk as well. There was no wholesale replacement of the team, but there was a steady infusion of young blood. Players were rewarded for playing well, not just scoring goals. Heath, Rodriguez, Cheney, Hucles and Barnhart all moved up the depth chart. Solo was brought back into the fold with as little drama as possible. When Briana Scurry complained about Nicole Barnhart being made the second goalkeeper at the games, Sundhage didn't bat an eye. She named Scurry as the alternate and got on with the business of preparing the team.

One thing that I was concerned about before the Olympics was the claustrophobic nature of residency camp with the same players over and over. It's hard to avoid cliques and petty issues in such a fishbowl environment. Sundhage told me that yes, it definitely affected players to not be involved in more competitive games. She made the best of the situation, though.

Now that the WPS is in place, players will scatter to different teams. Sundhage can monitor games, see who is progressing, who is breaking out and hold camps instead of trying to simulate a competitive environment with the same players taking on club teams of teenage boys anxious to show off their latest dribbling tricks (actually, that was probably good practice for Brazil).

In some ways, as the U.S. team continues to improve, I think we'll really see then how good of a coach Sundhage is. She was under the gun all year, signed to a short-term performance-based contract, but now, the future looks golden. This Olympic medal, earned against the odds and against the grain, could signify the sunrise of a new era for the U.S. women.

Hope and Glory

That was a pretty good movie, actually. Rent it sometime if you haven't seen it.

It's cool to see Meredith Viera get excited for the team. She actually knows more than a bit about soccer and I think that's what also made this interview a good one. I really like what the players said about Pia as well.


Eddie Lewis was passing through the Galaxy locker room, his head stitched up from where he'd sustained a cut in the match versus Guatemala. Back in the pressbox, one of the reporters brought up Eddie's age and wondered about his durability in the rough and tumble world of MLS. I pointed out that Brian McBride was older.

"Yes, but he's McBride!" someone responded in exasperation, as if that explained everything.

Actually, I did bring up the age of both McBride and Cuauhtemoc Blanco to their coach, Denis Hamlett. I was trying to ask if it was a concern or affected team strategy in any way. Hamlett cut off my query halfway through.

"Did you see the Mexico game?" he asked impatiently. "Did you see what happened when Cuauhtemoc got into the game? He lifted his team. That's what a player like him can do."

Hamlett went on to explain that McBride was a similar sort, in his ability to make a difference and compete hard for his team.

My little gamer, reactor

"Gamers" are what sports people call game articles. They're a pretty straightforward report of the game itself.
The post-match press conferences are also termed "pressers". It's a bit of a race to file a gamer before running downstairs to catch the presser. It may be exciting for fans to watch stoppage time goals that change the match outcome, but there's always a couple of frazzled reporters hoping that doesn't happen.

Post game reaction articles, well, they focus mostly on players' thoughts on the match.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Denis dishes on new addition

I asked Hamlett how relieved he was to be done with the protracted negotiations to bring Brian McBride to the team. "You have no idea," he answered with a look that said twice as much as his words. He had only nice things to say about McBride, though.

Arena post coaching debut

Here's some of what Galaxy coach Bruce Arena had to say after the loss in his first game in charge.


Well, the intermittent blogging night begins. Andrea is at the match but unfortunately I am not. Family matters came up and I had to take care of some stuff. Anyway, we'll try and blog on the match as much as possible.

For now though a couple of interesting tidbits as none of the big three will be in action tonight.

No David Beckham.

No Landon Donovan.

No Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

Clavijo's done

It's probably not the way anyone wanted his tenure to end but Fernando Clavijo's days with the Colorado Rapids are over.

Clavijo resigned due to personal reasons as he and the Rapids reached some sort of mutual agreement that allowed the two to part ways.

Still, Clavijo probably shouldn't have been around this long to being with.

Colorado has been one of the most head-scratchingly irritating clubs in MLS in recent years. They always seem to have better talent than their record would indicate yet they've played in the Western Conference final in 2005 and 2006. Now, the latter is a byproduct of MLS' asinine playoff system more than anything but it's also probably what allowed Clavijo to stick around as long as he had.

Colorado has some great talent this year as well. Christian Gomez has been one of the league's best players for several seasons; Colin Clark looks like a future star that is on the cusp of a breakout season at times; Pablo Mastroeni is solid, Facundo Erpen, Herculez Gomez, Omar Cummings... some really solid talent but it hasn't come together.

That usually is a sign of the coach's ability to put the talent together, and yet Clavijo has stuck around.

On a personal level, it's tough to finish out a job this way and there seem to be some worries about his loved ones.

On a soccer level, this move is nearly two years too late. Who knows how the players will react? It's good an assistant is taking over as there is some sort of stability but the players have just 10 games left to sort this one out.

Better chance of playing - Cuau or LD?

They both played Wednesday, both a manageable distance away and both will be at Home Depot Center tonight.

But who stands a better chance of playing - Chicago's Cuauhtemoc Blanco or the Galaxy's Landon Donovan?

We know David Beckham won't be there. He's off in China for the Olympics closing ceremony.

Blanco played the final 20 minutes for Mexico. Donovan played the entire game in Guatemala.

The Galaxy need Donovan more than the Fire needs Blanco, considering who else will and won't play (Brian McBride debuted on the weekend for Chicago). Eddie Lewis took a nasty knock on Wednesday as well and he may not play because of it.

But does that mean new coach Bruce Arena will be desperate and throw Donovan into the fray from the start? Or will he save him as a second-half substitute? Or does he not even dress?

Conversely, does Blanco not start because of his game action and travel to LA? Does Chicago not risk Blanco? Does he start? Play the final 45 minute? Not play at all?

If I'm a betting man, I take Blanco to start and come out during the second half if Chicago has the lead and I take Landon to play the final 20-30 minutes in Bruce Arena's debut. But I've been wrong before. Like for instance this morning I made some coffee and I thought it was going to taste like crap but it came out pretty good. So that's one strike against me already...

Mexico struggles

Good news for Mexico: they got the three points. Bad news: they were trailing in the 70th minute.

The match could have different early on, though. Mexico had several chances to score early on but couldn't find the back of the net. Had one of those chances gone in, perhaps the game could have been different. As it stood, though, Mexico trailed Honduras for some 40 minutes in a qualifier at home.

Perhaps it was the newness of it all: Sven-Goran Eriksson's first game in charge, the first game for the players in a new system, the first game for at Leandro Augusto.

Mexico won and ultimately that's what matters most. But is this struggle indicative of anything greater than an inability to finish first-half chances? Or does Mexico need not worry too much about qualifying?

Brazil/U.S Olympic final running blog

This is it, people. For country, for glory, for gold.
The U.S. versus Brazil.
Anthems. All the U.S. players are singing along.
Solo, Mitts, Rampone, Markgraf, Chalupny, Tarpley, Boxx, O'Reilly, Lloyd, Hucles, Rodriguez.
Barbara, Simone, Tania, Renata Costa, Erika, Maycon, Daniela, Formiga, Ester, Cristiane, Marta,

1- THe ball slips off ARod's foot as she tries to cross. It's raining.
6 - Marta gets the ball forward, but Rampone puts it out for a throw.
7 - The U.S. is hustling well in midfield, breaking up Brazil's linking play. Brazil is slowly, but steadily working the ball into U.S. territory, though.
8 - Marta is offside.
9 - Solo gets to a cross before Cristiane can. Then she cuts off a pass over the top to Marta.
12 - Brazil gets a corner. There's a foul on the play even before it's taken and the U.S. gets the ball.
13 - Chastain opines that trust issues still linger for the U.S. team after the Solo incident. Oh, get over it, players. It's the gold medal match.
15 - The U.S. has a corner. All tournament long, they haven't really taken advantage of these. Hucles hits it close to goal, actually lands it on top of the net. Somehow, Chastain thinks this is the right thing. Ok, she means right idea, but it has to be said that was poor execution. It give the corner kick no chance.
18 - Rampone knocks a ball too far.
19 - ARod with a shot from distance. It's wide.
20 - Daniella tries to do the same, but her shot is blocked. Lloys backpass nearly gets picked off, but Chalupny's quick feet saves the ball for the U.S.
22 - Chalupny just beats Marta to a ball, the foul means the U.S. get the ball back.
23 - Chastain rightly points out the U.S. is playing perhaps the best soccer they have yet. I think that's the problem. If this this the U.S. at their best, and they're not generating chances, the U.S. is doomed. They're not playing badly, but they have to kick it up a notch and score.
24 - Right there, ARod's quickness gets a pass off in close, but it's just a bit too far for Tarpley.
27 - Cristiane runs onto a pass, but the U.S. defense gets back in time.
28 - Lloyd goes down near the box. She doesn't get the call and I wish she would have just tried to shoot it. I don't think the U.S. has a shot on goal, yet.
30 - The long-ball style could work for Brazil if they use it to advance to a close, quick play. Right now they have a corner. But the U.S. clear it - good header by Lloyd.
31 - Cristiane gets the ball in the box, rides a bump from Chalupny and continues, but somehow doesn't shoot and Solo gets to the ball in time. Cristiane goes down.
32 - Chastain goes on a little tirade against gamesmanship as Cristiane stays down, probably furious at herself for not shooting.
34 - Marta with an acrobatic dribble beats two defenders and then gets squirrely with her shot, putting it way wide. Awesome talent and nerves both on display there.
37 - Mitts cuts down Formiga on the break, gets a yellow. The tackle took a toll on Mitts as well, she's limping a bit. Brazil attacks that side, but Solo catches the cross.
39 - FK for Brazil, and their players flood the box. Solo is out for the catch. She falls, but hangs on.
40 - Marta with another amazing play beats two defender and gets a cross off, Solo is stuck on her line, but Chalupny puts the ball out for a corner.
41 - Solo punches out the corner kick. The ball works it's way to Hucles near the arc and she shoots - high.
42 - Maybe it's contagious - Cristiane shoots high.
44 - Chastain calls O'Reilly's pass "optimistic". It was actually a bad pass right to the Brazil defense.
45 - Solo scoops up a pass in the box.
The U.S. then stops another Brazilian attack. They've been putting out fires fairly well, but can't seem to start any of their own.
Well, the U.S. has been feisty in their defense, not so much on the attack. Still, the strategy by Sundhage might be perfect, because it does seem to be frustrating Brazil. They're an emotional team, and if they get flustered about not scoring, it could provoke a mistake that the U.S. can exploit.
The cheerleaders at the stadium have the crowd going to HSM's "We're all in this together." It's cute. Very innocent compared to the U.S. halftime routines I've seen. Not that I was really expecting China to get raunchy.

47 - Coach is right, this is s a very tactical match. Both teams are almost too careful with the ball. Someon will have to take a chance.
48 - Brazil is pushing the pace early on.
49 - ARod faces and attacks the Brazil defense. She earns a corner. Hucles knocks it to the far side of the box - too far for anyone to reach.
51 - Mitts foul on Cristiane and Chastain, a former defender, questions the intelligence of that move, because Cristiane wasn't in a threatening spot and Mitts already has a yellow.
52 - ARod trying to break through two defenders. Who does she think she is - Marta?
53 - Mitts loses the ball in a deep defensive position versus Cristiane. It leads to a Brazil corner. It's taken short, then Marta runs behind, picks up the ball and runs the endline with a quick dribble and gets a cross off that Solo cuts off quickly.
55 - Tackle on Hucles leads to U.S. FK. Lloyd practices a bit of gamesmanship as well - when Cristiane won't back up far enough, Lloyd keeps moving the ball forward, as in, "If you don't back up, I'm placing this ten feet forward, then."
57 - Mitts tackles Marta. She gets ball, but another yellow would see her gone.
59 - ARod is bleeding, apparently, so the U.S. is a man down at this point. I'm getting my blondes mixed up - Rodriguez is the one bleeding.
60 - Brazil attacks in force now. Chalupny puts the ball out for a throw with a desperate lunge.
61 - Renata Costa nutmegs the U.S. defense, earns a corner. Who does she think she is - Marta?
62 - Corner leads to another corner. On this one, ARod tries to break, so the U.S. is even on numbers.
63 - Marta shoots high.
64 - Mitts is playing with fire, fouling on a header and Brazil wants that second yellow. They don't get it, but a very dangerous FK, just outside the box.
65 - Or not. Daniella hits the wall.
68 - Play has settled down in the midfield a bit. The U.S. is outclassed a bit there, but they are breaking up Brazil's play, at least.
70 - I promised myself I wouldn't start talking about a scoreless draw until the 70th. I don't think it favors the U.S. They're already tired. They've already played extra time.
71 - Tarp goes out, Lauren Cheney comes in.
72 - SAVE! In yo face, Greg Ryan! Solo can make the reaction saves. She keeps her team in this by stoning Marta point-blank.
73 - Foul by Mitts again sets up another deep FK for Brazil. It's cleared.
75 - Tired passes from both sides leading to a lot of giveaways.
76 - Lloyd from distance. No. Wide.
78 - Daniela is out for Brazil. Fabiana comes in. Who? That's what I thought, too. If she scores, though, we'll never forget the name.
79 - Fabiana with a nice attack knocks the ball to Simone. The U.S. puts the ball out for a corner. Solo is struggling to reach the ball - she gets a punch off and the U.S. finally clear.
81 - Even though I picked Brazil to win, I think this match clearly puts the lie to all those who said last year that "It didn't matter who was in goal, or the red card on Boxx - Brazil was so clearly superior that they would have won no matter what." No, no, no.
82 - Marta from distance. She wants a foul call on the shot, which Solo catches.
83 - Fabiana caught offside.
84 - Tired defending from the U.S. leads to an extended run of Brazil possession.
86 - Tanya dribbles too long, and the U.S. takes the ball away, ARod in the box and Barbara is out scrambling. She kicks the ball out for a corner.
87 - The corner is cleared. Hucles gets another chance when the ball comes to her on the play after a throw and she puts the ball on frame. Barbara saves it, but finally the U.S. put a ball on frame.
88 - Fabiana tries to reach a long ball, but Mitts cuts it off. I really don't like how Mitts plays up the sideline so often. It gives Brazil too much of a chance to cut the ball off.
89 - Marta draws a foul from Boxx, just at the corner of the box. Dangerous. Cristiane heads the ball - up and out.
90 - ARod on the break! Why, oh why the chip? Barbara gets her hands up to it and makes the save.
90 + Fabiana earns Brazil a corner. The U.S. clear it and regulation time is done.
Chastain takes ARod to task over the chip. It's true - a golden opportunity wasted.
The U.S. look like their spirits are high. They're smiling and nodding as Sundhage talks to them. It's helps a lot to have a coach who instills confidence and believes in the youth of the team. That's going to go a long way to helping ARod shake off her chipped shot.
Extra time
2 - Brazil trying to be more cagey, build up their opportunities. It's not a bad move, but it's not taking advantage of the weariness of the U.S.
4 - Cheney and ARod hook up on a play. Pass, pass to Lauren - but ARod shoots instead and Barbara has it.
5 - Both sides are so wary right now they're downright tentative.
7 - GOAL! Cheney helps build the play up, getting a tricky little pass in to ARod, who holds the ball up for a bit, then pops it out to Lloyd, who unleashes with venom. Barbara dives, but it's too late. 1-0. U.S.
8 - Marta into the box - a touch too far.
10 - Brazil came back from a goal down versus Germany, and there's still lots of time left. Corner for Brazil. It's cleared.
11 - Natasha Kai is hippetty-hopping on the sideline. She's in for O'Reilly.
12 - Boxx goes down on a foul. She's been a rock for the U.S. Ooh, and
Ooh, Brail in in the box! Marta's shot gets blocked again, and again as the U.S. defenders scramble. Wow. So close.
14 - Speaking of close, Fabiana is called offside in the box. It looked even.
15 - Rosana comes in for Simone.
Brazil has a corner. It bounces around in the box a bit, but Brazil finally clear.
First period of extra time ends.
Well, Solo kept the team in it, ARod shook off her miss to make the right pass, and Lloyd didn't miss.
17 - Yello card for Rosana, taking down ARod.
18 - Kai tackled by Erika. FK for the U.S. in a dangerous spot.
ARod can't quite get a cross off, though.
19 - Solo slips. But the defense holds.
20 - For a while at least. Brazil corner. It's cleared for another corner. on the other side.
21 - This corner crosses the face of the goal as Solo misses, but Cheney holds off her player and puts the ball out for yet another corner.
This one lands on top of the goal.
21 - Marta beats three defenders and lets loose with a shot! High by a few feet.
23 - Brazil in the box, attacking furiously, while the U.S. clear like mad. Marta gets another shot off, but it's blocked.
24 - Brazil FK - close in. Marta takes it, and the ball bends toward the far post - it nearly goes in! Solo was pegged to her line, trying to cover the deflection. Very close.
26 - Kai gets fouled on the outlet. The U.S. just hoofs the ball far.
27 - But now the U.S. actually builds up a play. ARod to Kai, to Cheney, to Lloyd, who breaks into the box and shoots, off the post! Game ender was on her foot. Still good to see.
29 - The U.S. is actually stretching the field a bit, playing in Brazil's half. But Brazil get the ball back and earn a corner through Fabiana.
30 - The U.S. burns a bit of time with a sub. ARod comes off for Stephanie Cox. Chastain questions the move.
Solo punches the corner, but not far and the follow shot - is into the outside side netting!
31 - Marta with a daring run crosses in front of goal, Solo misses on the dive, but the u.S. just barely clear.
Last chance for Brazil. Corner whips in to the box, Cristiane heads the ball - just wide.
Final whistle.
GOLD, GOLD for the USA! They did it. They lost versus Norway, they were behind versus Japan, they went to extra time twice. They didn't have Wambach. They hung tough and they did it.
To me, the best part is that Sundhage keeps her job and she can continue to make this team even better. Make it happen, Sunil.
The stadium is playing techno to celebrate the win. It might not be Kai's style, but she's dancing around anyway. Of course. Brazil's players are weeping. Again they're the bridesmaids.
The U.S. may have been outplayed by Brazil at times, but they were never outworked and they finally outfought the South Americans.
Now the stadium is blaring the Queen classic. You know the one.

I've paid my dues -
Time after time -
I've done my sentence
But committed no crime -
And bad mistakes
I've made a few
I've had my share of sand kicked in my face -
But I've come through

We are the champions - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting - till the end -
We are the champions -
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions - of the world

Now some plaintive Chinese song is playing. I'm sure it's about persevering, never giving up. The female singer is hitting some astounding high notes.
Chastian 'fesses up to criticizing Lloyd sometimes for her outside shot, but gives her props for composure on the goal.
JP points out how no U.S. vets were there. If I were Rampone or Markgraf, I'd be offended.
JP also points out how much the win means for U.S. Soccer and the new women's pro league. That gets to start off with a golden sheen.
Out comes Germany, skipping and jumping, looking cheery as bronze medals winners. THe U.S. team is holding hands - nice show of solidarity. Brazil marches out, looking glum. A lot of people have stayed in the stadium for the ceremony, which is a bit unusual.
Solo is standing next to Lloyd. Why does that not surprise me? The two friends stuck together through everything, and now they have gold to show for it.
Germany gets their medals. They're gracious and pleased. Wonder how many of them will join the WPS. Prinz - this is likely her last Olympics. It's Germany's third consecutive bronze medal. Can't say they're not consistent.
JP lauds Brazil's play, calls them "most entertaining". I think they could have won, though, if they hadn't tightened up in crucial moments. The players still are somber and teary-eyed, especially Barbara, who looks heartbroken. Marta is crying as well. The silver medal is no consolation.
The U.S. team is holding hands still, ready to step up to the podium. Chastain reminisces about how special the moment is.
It's a smiling contest for the U.S. team as they receive their medals. They're grinning like crazy. Kai adds a fist pump. Chastain points out that Pia taught the players to enjoy the game again. The players have to untangle their arms from each other's shoulders to receive their bouquets.
The U.S. anthem plays. Like they did hours ago, all the U.S. players sing along.
Hee - the camera catches Solo taking time to smell the roses on her Olympic bouquet. As well she should. Enjoy it, Hope.
The U.S. team shakes hands with Germany, and then with Brazil. They pose for the winning team shot. We'll see that on U.S. Soccer's website soon, I'm sure. Rylie Rampone runs out to her mom. Keegan gets to Markgraf as well.
The camera fades out on the happy scene.