Saturday, September 27, 2008

Email on LD

I don't think my article on Landon was advocating a move to Bayern Munich, but I can see where some have taken it that way.

Here's what one reader had to say:

With all due respect I don't think Landon Donovan would even make the Bayern Munich matchday party more than 12 or 15 times in a season. They simply have too much talent going forward already in their squad (Podolski, Klose, Toni in attack not to mention Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribéry pulling strings in the final third) for Donovan to be anything more than a bit-part squad member. At this stage of his career he should be looking to play week-in and week-out. 19 goals in the American league is to the minds of 95% of the football world the equivalent of maybe 5 or 6 in England, Italy or Spain - in fact he could get 50 goals and prove very little - to be considered one of the best players in the world you are required to test yourself against the best defenders and defensive units on a regular basis - only three leagues in the world genuinely offer him this opportunity and their would certainly be interest, but he needs to take a reality check on his options. He should realise that taking a lower third Premiership or Liga or Serie A side to mid-table safety offers far more scope for the growth of his brand, development and even global respect quotient than warming the bench (or stands) of a European superpower like Bayern.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chicago/Galaxy running blog

Last year, Chicago destroyed LA's playoff hopes in the final game of the year. This year, they could pretty much kill the Galaxy off - a little earlier this time around.

LD talks about doing "internal work". Sounds like colonics or something. LD gives a nod to Hispanic Heritage month, saying those were his soccer teammates when he was growing up. Foudy points out that the Galaxy will lose players in an upcoming game for international duty.

LD also does a bumper blurb in Spanish. "Arriba Galaxy" he says. He won't be hearing much of that tonight, frankly.

Galaxy - Wicks, Jazic, Franklin, Roberts, Klein, Becks, Vanney, Lewis, Donovan, Gordon, Buddle

Fire - Busch, Segares, Conde, Soumare, Prideaux, Rolfe, Pause, Mapp, Thorington, Blanco, McBride

Foudy thinks Blanco is going to have to step up to turn the Fire around. Stone points out that McBride doesn't really seem to have helped the Fire much since he joined them.

1- Nice crowd. Not a big surprise, but still nice to see.
2 - Klein takes ball away from Mapp.
3 - Fire throw. Blanco seems really on tonight. Franklin fouls and give up a free kick to the Fire.
4 - Blanco takes it - hits it right to Wicks. Not Blanco's usual cannon shot.
7 - Blanco lays ball off, Mapp takes a shot. Way over.
8 - Gordon fouls Pause in midfield.
9 - Wicks saves a Rolfe shot!
10 - Chicago corner - Soumare header - Jazic clears off the line!
12 - Becks with a good volley pass, but Busch beats Buddle to the ball.
13 - GOAL! Rolfe! He got the ball poked away from him twice, but he got it back both times and sneaks the ball in far post. He shot through Troy Roberts' legs, and that seemed to throw Wicks off. 1-0 Fire.
26 - Corner for LA - Becks takes it. Galaxy get a throw out of it.
27 - It gets served into the box, but the header is way wide. Goal kick.
30 - Gordon with a low shot, but not fast enough to threaten Busch.
32 - Yikes. Harkes just said, "Beckerman" No.
34 - The crowd is building up momentum with Spanish chants.
35 - GOAL! Lewis! LD to Klein, whose low cross reaches the box, where Lewis gets a foot in front of Rolfe to poke the ball towards goal. 1-1
36 - Becks is grimacing like crazy. I think his ankle is hurt again. the announcers ignore it.
SAVE! Wicks. Blanco served the ball in, but Wicks made the save.
37 - Corner kick ends up with a shot over the bar by the Fire.
40 - Beckham to Buddle - who shoots just wide.
44 - Wicks punches a ball out, Thorrington serves it back in. Blanco is down after colliding with Wicks. He barreled right into him.
Blanco heads toward the sideline.
45 + He's back now - just got called for offside.
Halftime - the Galaxy fought back after the Fire went up early. It really depends who has the legs in the second half for the win, I think.
I can't believe Mauricio Cienfuegos isn't on ESPN's influential Hispanic players poll.
50 - Chicago is coming in hard and the Galaxy are scrambling to hold them off.
51 - Either LA will surprise the Fire on a counter or the Fire will get the goal they are pressing for right now.
52 - Wicks catches a tipped ball from Troy Roberts. Becks gets booed as he sets up for a corner. Over the bar. The Galaxy get another corner. It pops out and Becks serves it back in - Gordon heads wide.
54 - Harkes gushes over what Bruce Arena has brought to the Galaxy. Are we looking at the same team?
57 - GOAL! Blanco! On the counter on an outlet pass - Wicks mistimed coming out, collided with Roberts and couldn't get the ball. The home fans go crazy. 2-1 Fire.
59 - GOAL! Rolfe! A pass snuck through to Rolfe - though it looked offside to me, but the linesman keeps the flag down. Wicks gets a hand to it, but that doesn't stop the ball and it continues into the goal. 3-1 Fire.
63 - Even though the Fire were pushing hard for a goal, they actually scored on counter chance, not the the pressing opportunities.
66 - LA FK - right to the hands of Busch.
69 - Donovan missed a scoring chance near post. Nice feed from Klein.
71 - Another chance wasted - Lewis pass - LD tried to volley it but his touch was off.
78 - Even Harkes mentions Cien as influential - why isn't he on the poll, Harkey?
80 - Corner for LA. Various player have a chance at it, but a whistle blows - handball on Roberts.
86 - Jordan creates a corner kick chance. Becks takes it and Franklin gets a header on it. It's not a good one, though, and the ball goes wide.
Final whistle
Well, this was always going to be a tough game to win, but now the Galaxy are looking at having to win out to try to make the playoffs. That's nearly impossible, especially with all their internationals missing for another game.

Oh yeah, the result

So Mexico did lose on Wednesday after all as I mentioned briefly in my previous post.

Now, before people start to call for Sven Goran Eriksson's head, let me remind them of one minor detail: it's a meaningless friendly he lost.

Meaningless in terms of result and impact of the loss. Mexico is 3-0-0 in World Cup qualifying so far. The game probably shouldn't have been played since no European players were available and neither were players from six Mexican teams, yes SIX including a couple of important teams in Chivas and Santos (in terms of players they provide the national team).

Eriksson will continue to prepare the squad for World Cup qualifying and I think before people start to get upset with or lose confidence in Eriksson, let's wait until he plays some qualifying games on the road. That's not exactly a great deal of adversity but it will be the first potential bit of adversity he faces when Mexico plays at Canada and at Jamaica. He'll have his full team then and will be playing in games that matter, not a meaningless friendly.

A loss or two and then it might be open season. But to lose to Chile with what some people called a C team - on an own goal at that - ... who cares? I just don't see how that would reflect bad on Eriksson.

Next time, try HDC

Mexico lost to Chile 1-0 at the LA Coliseum on Wednesday night. The crowd count was 32,924.

Now, the Coliseum is great for big games. A full-strength Mexico squad against a name opponent could draw upwards of 50,000 or more, even on a Wednesday night. But when Mexico brings a team that isn't loaded with stars, or as was the case this week a team that has basically one star and a handful of recognizable players, the Coliseum makes no sense.

That's when it is time to play at Home Depot Center.

I suppose the only drawback would be the college. If Cal State Dominguez Hills caps the attendance at whatever, then all bets are off. Otherwise, it makes much more sense to play a friendly like this at HDC than it does at the Coliseum. There's not a whole lot of difference between 32,924 and 27,000. It's not like 27,000 versus 57,000.

Sure, you lose a little in terms of attendance but you gain a lot. First of all, it's a soccer specific stadium... unless it's being used for X Games or concerts or high school football or tv shows or whatever. Still, the field is in decent shape right now, probably better than at the Coliseum where poor field conditions are typically a concern and complaint.

The traffic around the Coliseum is generally bad and when you play a game in there it gets horrendous. Traffic around HDC, even before and after big games, is manageable.

And of course had the game been played there yesterday it would have sold out. I think you could probably say that Mexico would sell out any game it played at HDC. A packed 27,000 would make a far better atmosphere than a big stadium with lots of empty seats. The Coliseum seats more than 90,000 so there were more than 50,000 empty seats on Wednesday. That's a lot of wasted space.

I guess in the end I like HDC quite a bit and think it should be used for soccer events whenever it makes sense. Gold Cup games at HDC make sense. Midweek friendlies make sense to some degree (Mexico-Argentina would be better off at the Coliseum, for instance). But playing second- or third-rate friendlies in a big stadium, well, that doesnt make a whole lot of sense.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Marta, Marta, Marta

Marta the magician is coming to Los Angeles.

It makes simple sense to me. Brazilians like LA. A bunch of them live near Venice Beach, well, pretty much any of the beach communities have a Brazilian cafe, club or restaurant where they like to congregate.

There's so many of them around, that it might be hard for Marta to learn English - she won't need to use it in her off hours if she lives in one of the communities where a lot of them gather. One Brazilian player told me once that in LA, he speaks more Spanish than English.

Marta speaks Swedish from her years of playing there, but I'm not sure she'll get to practice that as much.

Vote is in

The LB/Sideline View Readers vote for the 2008 Honda Player of the Year is in. I just sent my vote over, about 11 hours before the polls close.

If our readers' opinions are any indications, a certain English-based player will win in a landslide.

There were 26 first-place votes submitted - 18 of them were for Tim Howard. The only other player to garner more than one first-place vote was Michael Bradley, who nabbed two. The following players each got one vote (though the last one was probably trying to bust some balls): Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Landon Donovan, Freddy Adu, Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson (see, I told you).

To figure out our second place vote, I used the same system Futbol de Primera uses to determine their winner - three points for a first-place vote, two for second and one for third.

Second place was Michael Bradley with 21 points. Third place was Oguchi Onyewu with 19 points followed by Carlos Bocanegra (11), Landon Donovan (9), Freddy Adu (8) and Clint Dempsey (5). Others receiving votes were Steve Cherundolo and (more gag votes probably) Danny Califf and Josh Wolff.

Thanks again for participating! The award will be handed out sometime next month and I'll be there for the festivities.

Learning Spanish: a three-month course

Grahame Jones of the LA Times was another English-speaking reporter out at Tuesday's presser. Jones talked about Eriksson's Spanish-speaking ability and started his story about a bit of a misunderstanding between Eriksson and a reporter, who asked Eriksson if he now eats chiles. As an aside, it's sort of a badge of honor for a foreigner to eat a heaping pile of jalapenos or drizzle of some spicy salsa over a plate of food.

It was a bit unfair, of course, since the opponent is Chile and he was asked several times about Chile earlier. I'm sure he picked up on the word "chile" and thought of the opponent so he began talking about the country.

Everyone laughed it off, of course. But that just shows that he's been accepted by the media and possibly the public at large.

After all, the man speaks Spanish. He knew no Spanish, had never even been to Mexico, before he was hired. But now he does all of his pressers in Spanish and has taken an interest in learning about the Mexican culture and history. He said he's visited the Museo Nacional de Antropología often and learned about the Mayans, for instance.

He's shown not only a desire to acclimate himself with the country beyond the sport and his job but a true interest in learning about his new country.

And while people may criticize his player choices, they can't say he has not done well to pick up on the Spanish language and Mexican culture.

In the honeymoon phase

Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune was one of four non-Spanish speaking reporters at the press conference on Tuesday. Zeigler wrote a feature for the UT on Eriksson and the current honeymoon phase the 60-year-old is enjoying with El Tri right now.

It's one that might be damaged tonight with a loss.

Of course, as Eriksson mentioned, the job is... well, if it's not easy, it's certainly less stressful. Things will change, for sure. He'll lose a game or tie an opponent many felt shouldn't have happened. Heck, he may come under fire for not winning with flair or by enough goals.

Whatever the case may be, Eriksson will encounter adversity - it's just a matter of time.

Still, as Zeigler mentions, all is well for Eriksson who said on Tuesday that he doesn't like Mexico, he loves it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Respect for the pioneers

Especially when they leave, it's important to remember those who have gone before.


Sven fields a question about playing friendlies in Europe.

His response? It's hard to gather a team in Europe for a midweek friendly. He said he wants to play more friendlies in Mexico. Not in Azteca but in Monterrey or Guadalajara and the like. He wants to play all qualifiers in Azteca.

Sven on the roster

I went to a hotel in downtown Los Angeles today for a press conference featuring Mexican national team coach Sven Goran Eriksson. He answered questions in English first but I didn't record those with my camera.

But I got a snippet of him, actually several snippets, answering questions in Spanish. Here's one he fielded about the strength of the roster and about some discussions that took place regarding players from clubs who were in action this week.

Basically, he said he could have brought in players from Santos or Cruz Azul or some of the six clubs that were playing Champions League/Copa Sudamericana but it sounds like there would have been some strings attached. So instead he opted for a group of players he could have ultimate freedom in selecting, in terms of both for the game itself and to start/use off the bench as he saw fit.

Pasadena Pete

I thought Pete Vagenas' goal against DC was really nice, just perfect redirection.

Here's what Pete had to say after the game about that goal, among other things. He definitely looks at the bright side of an injury.

Picture this

(I found a Memo pic, too!)
I got a call from an editor yesterday regarding my Mexico column. They were trying to figure out which player was available for the match in order to run a picture with the story. It took a while but they found one.

At first, they asked about Giovani Dos Santos. No, I told them, he wasn't included. Then they asked if Carlos Vela was around. No again. I told them if they could find one of Guillermo Ochoa, that was their best bet. Ochoa played for the U-23s when they were here earlier this year so there may have been some shots of him from those games.

Not sure who else could have been there. Francisco Fonseca may have had some older shots floating around somewhere. Zinha has played in some games here but he's not exactly a prominent player.

I suppose that speaks to the level of this roster. It's many players who could add depth, few players who have played in qualifying this year. As one commenter noted on my post from yesterday, it's refreshing to see these kinds of players called up and given an opportunity to show what they can do. There isn't much to lose if the players don't do well and Mexico loses.

There is a lot to lose, though, if you drop 50 bucks on the game and watch some relative unknowns lay an egg against Chile. But I suppose that's on you, and if the youngsters do well and score a goal or three, perhaps then it will be worth it.

Who's your MVP?

I thought Guillermo Barros Schelotto was horribly overlooked for the All-Star Game.

Still, it seemed that GBS was going to get a nice consolation prize from many writers - the league MVP title. But Landon Donovan is making a play for consideration.

It's not coincidental, either. He's quite deliberate about it. He mentioned that the title was a goal of his before the year started.

Here's what LD had to say about chasing down GBS for the MVP.

"Is he the front-runner? I don’t know. You guys [reporters] determine that stuff. Whatever. I’m going to do my part. I want to make it clear that I can be the MVP. I have five more games to do that. Obviously, making the playoffs will help that a lot. I’m going to keep going. I know it’s other people’s decision. If I keep playing the way I’m doing, in my mind, I am."

What about our readers? Who would be your MVP pick and why?

Politics, parts and partiality

The Republican campaign manager has accused the NY Times of no longer being a "journalistic organization".

It's not that often that I identify too much with an old gray lady, but in some ways I feel I've fielded some similar criticism when I write about Landon Donovan, the whole "if you're not attacking him, you're not objective" spin.

It's puzzled me that there's such polarity on Landon, however, when he plays a very different part than any candidate in this political season. He's certainly not going to be in charge of anything other than how he plays. No one has to choose him at the expense of anyone else - people can have a favorite USMNT player without denigrating Landon's accomplishments. He's simply a soccer player - and by any measurable degree of performance, a good one.

19 goals, 8 assists, in 20 games.

For comparison, Cuauhtemoc Blanco is renowned (rightly so) as a playmaker, and he has 7 assists this season. Guillermo Barros Schellotto more than doubles Donovan's assist total (18), but LD more than triples GBS's goal output(6). Both CB and GBS have also played a few more games than LD this MLS season. With the U.S. national team, the stats are even more staggering - at barely over quarter-life, LD holds the U.S. records for both all-time goals and assists.

I'm often asked to write about LD because I'm local to LA. Part of my job isn't just to report, but also to analyze. My opinion of Landon is that he's a good player who is near his peak right now. It amused me to hear LD say nearly the same thing.

But my point about LD going overseas has long been thus - it's too late to make him any better. He is, I believe, as good as he gets right now. Going abroad and doing well there won't be doing well because he's abroad, it will be simply the same guy doing well abroad. Going abroad and playing badly will probably illustrate something about the MLS level, as well as how much Landon relies on feeling settled to play well. There's a lot of good players in MLS who fail to do well abroad, for whatever reason.

In other words, if he fails abroad or if he succeeds, Landon is still essentially the same player. Whether the hype about him goes up or down and whether anyone changes their opinion of him based on the outside context of where he plays is another matter.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Forget it

I just finished writing my Tuesday Press-Enterprise column. I decided to write about the Mexican national team, since they're playing on Wednesday out here in Los Angeles.

One of the things I noticed rather quickly when doing research was the strength of the team that will play on Wednesday. Strength of course isn't the best way to describe this team.

First, the roster:

GK: Guillermo Ochoa (América); José de Jesús Corona (Tecos).
D: Diego Martínez (Tigres); José Antonio Castro (América); Edgar Dueñas (Toluca); Juan Carlos Valenzuela (Tecos); Leobardo López (Pachuca); Fernando López (Necaxa); Fausto Pinto (Pachuca); Jorge Torres (Atlas).
M: Antonio Naelson (Toluca) Mario Méndez (Toluca); Jaime Correa (Pachuca); William Paredes and Luis Pérez (Monterrey); Arnhold Rivas (Tecos).
F: Enrique Esqueda (América); Francisco Fonseca (Tigres); Carlos Esquivel (Toluca); Carlos Ochoa (Monterrey)

Now, I'm not comparing this team to any other national team team. I'm comparing this team to the Mexico teams used during qualifying. Compared to those teams, this roster is not as strong. Not saying it's weak, just not as strong. Actually, nowhere near as strong.

Of course, that doesn't mean a whole lot. First, it's my opinion. Your opinion could be that this team is stronger than the one that beat Canada 2-1 on Sept. 10. You would have a tough time arguing that but you could argue it... maybe.

Secondly, these games could come in handy. They are opportunities for players to show themselves to Eriksson. Some players have yet to play for Sven-Goran Eriksson, many of these players in fact including Guillermo Ochoa. This game is certainly not without meaning to them.

But as I mention in my column, the fact that six Mexican teams are in action this week severely hampered Eriksson's options. No players from Chivas, Pumas or Santos. Forget about Cruz Azul and San Luis players. For accuracy purposes, we have to mention Atlante too.

Anyway, the game then will be a mix of players who will try and show their worth to Eriksson for the first time (Ochoa, Jaime Correa, Zinha) as well as those trying to re-establish themselves with the national team in general (Gringo Castro, Kikin Fonseca, Mario Mendez).

Still, if you're on the fence about going to this game, get off and stay home. Perhaps it's my dislike of fighting through the Coliseum traffic on a Wednesday night, knowing you've got to get up early the very next morning. Or maybe it's the decent-but-not-headlining-opponent that is Chile. And then, and most importantly, there are ticket prices for the game itself: ticket prices range from $30-70. If you spend even on the low end, it's debatable whether you get your money's worth given the roster. If it were an international fixture date and all the top players were here, that's a different story. But paying $30-70 to see whether Enrique Esqueda can break through for the senior team... well, that doesn't sound too appealing.

And if you live within driving distance and are tired of seeing these kinds of friendlies played in the US - to take a phrase from my column, these kinds of "cash grabs" - then you should not go. Voice your displeasure that way. Because if they keep drawing 40,000 to 60,000 for these games, well, you'll still see plenty of them played on American soil year in and year out.

Leftist Brigade Rankings (Sept. 22)

It was an odd week in the standings. The top teams from last week did well and so did most of the teams near the bottom. The middle-of-the-pack, though, had some downright terrible losses as DC, New York and Chicago were all embarrassed soundly.

It had a slight affect on the table, though the top and bottom didn't change too much.

1. Columbus (14-6-5). Showing they can win without Barros Schelotto - aka the 2008 MLS MVP.
2. Houston (10-5-9). A week without a match to try and personally recover from damaging hurricane.
3. New England (12-7-6). Draw on the road was positive; now comes potential top-of-conference showdown with Columbus.
4. San Jose (7-9-8). Moved up here partly by default, partly because 'Quakes haven't lost in more than two months.
5. Chicago (11-9-5). Only bad losses by teams that were at 6 and 7 a week ago prevented Chicago from slipping further.
6. Colorado (9-12-4). Well in the playoff hunt out west. Still not sure if that says more about the Rapids or the Western Conference...
7. New York (9-8-8). One of the league's worst road teams.
8. Chivas USA (9-10-6). Became first team in league to beat Real Salt Lake at Rice-Eccles Stadium this year.
9. FC Dallas (7-9-9). When they're on, FC Dallas has potential to be a conference finalist, if not more.
10. Kansas City (8-9-8). Look who's alive in the playoff race.
11. DC United (10-12-3). Yeah, they got hosed on a 63rd-minute red card, but it's not like everything was great for the first 62 minutes either.
12. Real Salt Lake (8-10-7) Completely terrible way to lose at home; RSL's playoff hopes took serious dent.
13. LA Galaxy (7-11-8). First win since June 14 not enough to get Galaxy out of last place in the Western Conference.
14. Toronto (7-11-7). Shining light for Toronto FC fans: the Maple Leafs broke camp recently.


As I mentioned before, I wrote an article on the big hero of the DC-LA match.

But the topic wasn't really about how well Landon is playing for the Galaxy - more about where he might play next.

Personally, I give credit to Landon - he didn't play cute or go silent when I asked him about the topic. As has been his habit for a long time, he answered honestly.

As a reporter, I appreciate that and I'll certainly miss it when and if he leaves. Others, though, see another view.

From an email today:
If the feelers are already out there for "Donovan to Europe" (meaning he doesn't need to put out the "I wanna move" sign) and he cannot move til the winter window, why is he risking distracting the team during its playoff run by publicizing this? And it's this very sort of personnel turnover, both player and coach, that has contributed to the Galaxy's decline to comparison, teams like Houston and NE get a coach and keep them, and then build a team of players willing to limit somewhat their salaries and ambitions for the greater good. Guys like DeRo who could play somewhere else higher profile for a lot more money.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I spy a win

My Beckham sidebar is on now.

Now, a few people might be thinking, "Hey! What about the guy that scored the hat trick?"

Not to worry. I've got a piece coming up on him, too.

But this one was about captain Becks, who seemed pretty business-like about the win. For that matter, so was his coach, Bruce Arena. Though they sat at the post-game presser together, Arena took questions first. He left the dais when he finished, patting Becks on the shoulder as he passed. "Monday," he told his player. Becks grinned. It was little "back to the grindstone" moment.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The aftermath: Quaranta

Santino Quaranta was actually one to stick up for the referees. Well, he didn't exactly say that referee Terry Vaughn's terrible call was correct but he tried to talk about both sides of the issue.

Here's audio of my little chat with Santino.

He was actually a bit disconsolate, but it was mostly to do with his ankle. Quaranta had a giant bag of ice taped to his ankle as I talked to him.

The aftermath: Burch

Marc Burch wasn't as down as I expected him to be after the match. He was talking as if he'd just suffered a tough loss - a usual tough loss in which his team lost due to a mistake or three or a lack of effort.

Saturday's loss was an unusual tough loss because of a horrid red card that Burch was unfortunate to have received.

Here's the audio of what Burch had to say after the whole thing went down.

Perhaps since he had some time to think about things, he may have not been as depressed as you would expect. Or maybe he was so infuriated he needed the time to calm down and collect his thoughts.

Whatever the case, he won't play in DC's next league match. Through no fault of his own, of course.

Becks post win

Arena postgame DC

Arena's reaction to his first win as Galaxy coach.

The aftermath: Soehn

Tom Soehn wasn't one to hold back his thoughts after the DC's 5-2 loss at the Galaxy. He said the match officials had a rough night before calling the red card against Marc Burch a "travesty."

I gotta take a bit of credit for the last comment.

At the post game presser, Soehn answered a question about the defense and another about the Galaxy. He was about to step away as no one else had their hand raised for a question so I threw my hand in the air and asked him about the red card.

He didn't tear into the officiating crew but he was obviously none too pleased with the call.

Listen to the entire presser here.

Tom Soehn post-game

Tom Soehn talks about the game versus the Galaxy.

Galaxy/DC running blog

The Empire Strikes Back behind the Galaxy bench.

This game could be the death knell for the Galaxy if they lose. Predictions - get them in before kickoff.

DC don't have Jaime Moreno or Marcello Gallardo. Apparently Moreno has an inflamed knee. Gallardo hasn't played since hernia surgery and is actually in Argentina.
DC - Louis Crayton, Bryan Namoff, Marc Burch, Devon McTavish, Gonzalo Martinez, Fred, Santino Quaranta, Clyde Simms, Ivan Guerrero, Thabiso Khumalo, Luciano Emilio.

LA - Josh Wicks, Chris Klein, Sean Franklin, Troy Roberts, Ante Jazic, David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Greg Vanney, Eddie Lewis, Edson Buddle, Alan Gordon.

2 - GOAL! Well, that was quick. An early Galaxy foul set up a FK, which was put out for a corner, which Guerro took. McTavish scored, beating his defender, Edson Buddle. 1-0, DC.
4 - Jazic and Klein work the ball up the sideline, but lose possession before they can get a cross off.
6 - Again a little possession, but no cross before ball is lost again.
7 - Beckham overshoots Buddle on a long pass. DC gets back, gets another corner.
8 - Khumalo takes this one - it's cleared.
9 - Vanney looks like he gets ball on a tackle, but Vaughn whistles for a foul. vanney tempts fate by arguing vehemently.
11- Becks gets up slowly from a tackle, limping a bit. He grabs his left ankle. Yes, that's the notorious one from last season.
13 - Guerrero goes tumbling from a Becks tackle.
14 - Jazic finally gets off a dangerous cross - Buddle heads over the bar.
16 - Guerro seems to be embellishing, but Vaughn is giving him the benefit of the doubt.
17 - Galaxy attack, but Lewis sents a cross high that Buddle can't get, DC tries to clear, Edson!
just wide.
19 - Emilio on the break - deflects over the bar. Corner looks dangerous, finally out for a throw.
20 - 00000h - Becks gets shoved, no call. It's possible that Vaughn didn't see the hand push by Guerrero, as he was behind the play.
Becks gets up, furious. He screams at Vaughn. Play continues and Wicks has to make a desperation tackle on the edge of his box for a FK. Becks is still yelling at Vaughn. Yellow card for Becks.
23 - GOAL! Landon gets a perfect outlet pass from Klein, and he gets a touch on the ball as Crayton comes out low for the ball. LD keeps cool and just flicks it over him - Crayton gets a slight touch, but the ball trickles over the line. 1-1
25 - Galaxy corner. Becks sets up. Oooh, Franklin knocks down Crayton, who goes after him and gives him a shove. This is a testy game. Vaughn forces the players to hug it out. Hmmmm. That didn't look sincere.
28 - Jazic with a nice slide to claim a ball, but Lewis' probing cross gets cut off.
30 - Franklin knocks the ball out for a corner. DC will take that happily. The Galaxy are vulnerable on corners. Wicks catches this one.
32 -Jazic steals another ball.
33 - Lewis crosses, Gordon misses, ball falls to Becks, who crosses back in, Lewis rushes in an knocks the ball toward goal past Crayton - off the post.
34 - LD gets caught half from behind - yellow on Simms. The FK is flicked on, but misses the onrushing players and goes wide.
35 - LD works the give and go with Gordo, who is free in on goal, but Crayton saves his shot.
36 - GOAL! Becks gets the ball back, tries a give and go with LD, but falls for some reason. LD looks up, sees a gap and rockets a low shot into the corner of goal. 2-1 Galaxy
38 - GOAL! A through ball springs Edson, who leaps over Crayton, whose dive pushes the ball out as defenders rush behind him to cover. A DC defender tries to clear, but the ball falls to Lewis, who tries from distance. Crayton has recovered just enough to dive and block that one, but crucially, can't grab it and the rebound falls to Gordon. With two DC defenders on the goal line, Gordo isn't offside and he shoots between them for the goal. 3-1 Galaxy
42 - Buddle almost breaks through but the ball is cleared away inside the area. Buddle would have had an empty net in front of him.
43 - Buddle has another chance on a corner kick but cant quite get to Becks' cross.
44 - Simms with an opening in front of Wicks but the cross screams into the area and Simms can barely get a head on it.
45 - Becks wins corner, takes it and ball bounces around for a second before it gets cleared.
45+ Buddle in alone on Crayton - who stops the ball, but gives up a rebound again. Buddle gets to the ball, has the goal open with only one defender - and he hits the crossbar!
Halftime - Well, the Galaxy really bounced back from a really crappy start. Perhaps Becks fired up his team with the passion he showed on that non-call.
I just ran into Martin Rogers. He said, "Unusual things happening here today." "Like what?" I asked him. "Well, the Galaxy are winning," he pointed out.
46 - McTavish foul. It's a ways out, but Becks sets up for it - sends it bending to Crayton, who gives up a rebound, but catches the ball again. Becks then steals the ball and then takes another shot - Crayton saves. Becks didn't hit it very hard - ball was moving away from him.
47 - GOAL! Khumalo beats Klein, and Wicks, for some reason, it way out of position, Khumalo sends in a low hard shot for the score. 3-2, Galaxy still lead, but DC pulled back quickly.
49 - Galaxy FK - Becks sends it in well, but Crayton kick-saves the header from Buddle. The follow shot is no good - players are offside.
50 - DC really took the energy out of the crowd with that goal. Galaxy fans are nervous now and there's tons of time left.
52 - Galaxy build an attack, but Lewis' outside shot gets blocked and DC counters. Shot by Emilio from middle distance is wide.
53 - Becks hits a poor cross.
55 - LD tries to control an outlet pass - defenders cut the ball off.
56 - LD falls trying to head a Becks cross - Gordo tackles a DC player from behind and gets a yellow. Something tells me this game will see a red card somewhere.
58 - Gordo tries to reach a ball over the top - foul negates his effort.
60 - Galaxy playing with fire as DC attack in numbers - Becks takes off on the counter, but Buddle can't reach his pass and DC regains possession.
61 - Franklin is down, but Vaughn can't whistle play dead. Finally DC sends the ball out.
62 - Vagenas subs in for Gordo.
63 - Hey, I was right about the red card. Beckham steals the ball fromBurch, but Burch goes after him and knicks him from behind - after the ball was already out. Vaughn comes over and gives Burch a red card. For a bit it looked like Becks might get a second yellow, too, but Burch finally leaves and no other cards come out.
68 - Crayton dives to make another save - LD rushes in, hopeful, but no rebound here. Emilio shoots the other way - Wicks dives, but the ball is wide.
69 - DC manage a bit of zippy possession for a bit, but the Galaxy get the ball back. Eddie Lewis in on the run from the throw-in - shoots, Crayton catches, gives up a bit of a rebound, but grabs the ball again. "Has this goalkeeper held on to the ball once on the first try?" asks a reporter.
71 - Galaxy corner - it bounces around, leads to an acrobatic one-hand save from Crayton.
72 - FC FK. Wicks catches - hangs on.
73 - Becks on the attack. loses ball, though he seems to get grabbed a bit. DC with another nice little run of possession.
75 - DC still maintaining possession, oooh Galaxy counter, Becks give and go with Klein, who crosses to LD - McTavish cuts the ball off to Crayton.
77 - Total miscue on the Becks pass to Klein. Klein was looking to run on to it, so the ball was way behind him.
78 - Becks blocks a cross out for a corner. Good chance for DC here. The ball bounces around, and DC get a shot off that is blocked, clearance for a throw.
79 - Ryan Cordiero comes in for Martinez. Arena takes out Vanney and puts in McDonald.
81 - GOAL! Pete! LD had the pass on a Galaxy attack - a little chip that Pete ran onto and volleyed at an extreme angle past Crayton. 4-2 The Galaxy have some breathing room.
83 - The Lewis is caught offside, though the crowd gripes about it.
Quaranta is off, Rod Dyachenko in.
84 - Oooh, Becks and Buddle on the break, Buddle springs Becks, who backheels - oooh, Buddle wasn't expecting that. Too bad, that would have been a great looking play.
85 - Wicks bobbles a catch, but finally hangs on.
86 - Jazic as last man pulls another one of those sliding tackles - good thing he's so good at those.
87 - Did Jazic hurt something? Franchino is coming in for him.
88 - Francis Doe comes in for Emilio.
90 - DC building up a play again, but the Galaxy counter - Buddle with a hard shot - Crayton blocks it. Out for a throw.
90+ Doe dribbles in for a shot - Wicks hesitates, but then makes the catch.
GOAL! LD again. Klein with a long pass finds LD, who puts the ball away. The press box argues whether or not Buddle touched the ball along the way, which would have put LD offside. Not that it would have changed the outcome of this game. 5-2 Galaxy.

A Warrior's Story

Claudio talks about what it was like to have his life story thus far condensed into book form.

In general, he says it felt a bit strange to have a record of his life, that he relived a lot of memories when he read the book and that he hopes that his story can will interest anyone who is curious about how soccer affected his life as a child from a poor family to a player with a successful career.

Star Wattage

The Galaxy have a crucial game at home today versus DC United. The team will apparently have a couple of famous fans on hand that I've seen at matches before, though never at the same one.

Tony Parker and Kobe Bryant will be rooting for their buddy David. Both basketball players have achieved with their separate teams what David still lacks - a U.S. championship.

On that note, let's play compare/contrast. I'll start off, and anyone who likes can continue in the comments.

All three speak a Latin language, but not a shared one. Tony speaks French, while Kobe speaks Italian and David speaks Spanish (a little).

All are in their thirties, but Kobe and David also have children.

All played soccer as kids. Obviously, only David does so professionally.

Commandments to curb violence

My brother and I used to run around quoting our favorite lines from the DeMille classic - "So let it be written; so let it be done." "Bring it back stained with his blood!"

Aside from the film, there's no denying that the original Bible set of laws is probably the most famous list of rules anywhere. The form has been borrowed many times. Now there's a ten commandments for hooligans.

Remember AYSO

Ah, the joys of AYSO!

Many people in the U.S., including Cobi Jones, first kicked a soccer ball around in AYSO. Besides introducing kids to the joys of soccer, the organization also supports projects to make the world a better place. They're working on a new venture with Barsa these days.

An AYSO worker explained: AYSO is working with FC Barcelona on a Malaria No More campaign. Basically what we are doing is asking anyone who plays youth sports (specifically soccer) to find family members, friends, etc to donate $1 for each game they play in order to raise money to buy bed nets. There are some pretty cool prizes as well. The website is

Friday, September 19, 2008

At the HDC

Ah, the Home Depot Center - acres of athletic facilities, a number of sporting personalities, and one frazzled me, trying to get stuff for stories.

I ran from the Galaxy's practice field to try to catch Claudio Suarez before he left with his teammates on a bus to the airport. I waited by the front entrance of the complex as various Chivas USA players walked by from the practice field. A fan stopped Johnny Bornstein for an autograph.

Then Bob Bradley emerged with Pierre Barrieu.

Noticing what they carried, I asked if they were going to play. Bob said yes. I asked who usually wins. Pierre just smiled. Bob admitted, "He won last time."

"Get revenge, then!" I called after them.

Then the soccer fan walked over to me. "Andrea? I heard him call you Andrea. Are you Andrea Canales? You write for ESPN?"

I said yes, wondering if I was going to be asked for my autograph. No.

"I read your stuff," said the fan.

"Thanks," I answered, vaguely disturbed that he hadn't mentioned whether or not he liked or agreed with anything I wrote.

He nodded at me. I wasn't sure what else to say.

"I don't usually get recognized," I finally ventured.

He eyed me and then said, "Well, I heard Bob say your name, and then I thought it might be you."

I was left wondering if my byline picture looks really outdated or something. My hair is shorter now.

The fan said he wanted to get Landon Donovan or Eddie Lewis' autographs. I told him I was waiting to talk to Claudio Suarez.

"Oh, well, I'll let you do your job," said the fan.

Suarez appeared, and as I started talking to him, Abby Wambach walked by. It's rude to break off an interview, but it would have been nice to get a few comments on the WPS from Abby. Timing is that way sometimes for reporters - it rarely falls into place perfectly. Sasha Victorine, Chivas USA's recent signing, also passed at the exact time I was occupied. It often happens that way. Ten players one doesn't really need interviews from will pass by, then the three players one wants to talk to all pass at the exact same time, so only one ends up getting interviewed.

Anyway, does anyone want to guess what sport Pierre and Bob were going to play?

Bruce takes the blame

I'd like to think that it was my crack reporting skills and persistent questions that got Galaxy coach Bruce Arena to fess up, but as the recording shows, I was asking something pretty general. I think Bruce was looking to vent a bit.

In any case, he didn't hold back.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tough luck Charlie

The PE's Jim Alexander profiles Galaxy goalkeeper Charles Alamo.

Now, if Alamo's injury had been caused by a reckless opponent barreling him down while trying to score a goal, his Galaxy teammates could rally around the event, "Remember Alamo!" as motivation.

But it seems that Alamo's afflictions were more or less self-inflicted.

I had a chat with Jim recently when he came out to the last Galaxy home game - we gloomily exchanged stories about the dire straits in the newspaper industry. Jim mentioned the importance of reporting that comes from an outside source - because otherwise, it's essentially P.R.

Ottawa breaks new ground

I have to admit that I was a bit surprised to read something about Ottawa's new bid for an MLS team.

"Costed" isn't accepted as valid by my word processor, but I guess that's behind the times, because it's apparently a word in financial circles. It's the past tense and past participle of the transitive verb form. costed To estimate or determine the cost of: The accountants costed out our expenses.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Will skirts take the field?

Frankly, I understand why it's considered derogatory to refer to a woman as a "skirt" - I mean, would people reduce men to a piece of clothing? No one called a guy a necktie, even if only guys wear that.

But I think the skirts in the video look both cute and comfortable. In general, I don't understand why women's teams have to look like they're wearing handed-down uniforms of the men's team. A little style and originality is great to see.

On the other hand, anything looking too costumey or cheerleaderish is likely to be avoided by teams. I wonder if any of the WPS squads will go for a unique uniform look.


The Johnny Exantus saga takes a twist abroad.

He's now with Royal Racing in Belgium, whose logo seems to be a rat.

I don't know yet if Red Bull New York got any compensation for him. He was in their youth academy, but was considered a great prospect to sign. They're going abroad at a younger and younger age, it seems. While I'm happy for them, I'm a bit sad that we don't get to enjoy these young stars on U.S. fields a bit longer.
It was great to watch Jozy play, for example. I never got to see Johnny X play.

The Galaxy are #1

In terms of their old color, green.

It's also interesting to see how the other MLS teams stack up.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Jozy's life with the yellow submarine

The Spanish press isn't easy to please, but they seem to like what they see so far from Jozy Altidore. Myself, I'd have liked for him to score, but I was actually happier to see his passing touch. Nothing increases popularity with teammates more than dishing off sweet assists, even if the other players are so surprised to get the ball that they hash up the shot.

Who, what, where

WPS Player Allocations – U.S. Women’s National Team

WPS Team
Players Listed in Alphabetical Order

Bay Area: Nicole Barnhart, Rachel Buehler, Leslie Osborne

Boston Breakers: Angela Hucles, Kristine Lilly, Heather Mitts

Chicago Red Stars: Carli Lloyd,Kate Markgraf,Lindsay Tarpley

Los Angeles: Shannon Boxx, Stephanie Cox, Aly Wagner

Sky Blue FC: Natasha Kai, Heather O’Reilly, Christie Rampone

St. Louis; Lori Chalupny, Tina Ellertson, Hope Solo

Washington Freedom: Ali Krieger, Abby Wambach, Cat Whitehill

I guess what surprises me most are the names that are missing from this list. I don't know if they're not considered national team, haven't agreed on a WPS contract, are planning on going abroad, or have decided to retire from pro soccer.

Obviously, I'm not talking about the college players. I don't expect young women to leave school when the pro league hasn't proven a stable career option.

I mean players like Kacey White (who is on the current post-Olympic tour) Briana Scurry, India Trotter, Jenny Branam, and Amy Lepeilbet.

These players and others were either on the national team recently or knocking on the door, and I'm curious as to when they'll get allocated.

Still, I think the international players that are brought in may eventually make the biggest impact on the league. Which players would you most like to see go where?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sangre americana J8 update

Our young Mexican-Americans were in action over the weekend in Mexico. Okay, well, closer to the truth... their teams were in action. But we didn't get to see Jesus Padilla, Daniel Hernandez or Michael Orozco play. And as far as I can tell Sonny Guadarrama isn't with Morelia much, and if he is still around he isn't dressing for matches anymore.

Here's the rundown of the Americans south of the border.

Primera Division

Edgar Castillo: Played final 28 minutes in Santos' 1-1 draw with Necaxa.
Daniel Hernandez: Did not play in Jaguares' 2-1 win over Indios.
Marco Antonio Vidal: Played final 37 minutes in Indios' 2-1 loss to Jaguares.
Michael Orozco: Did not play in San Luis' 2-1 loss to America.
Jose Francisco Torres: Started and played 75 minutes in Pachuca's 5-2 win over Chivas.
Jesus Padilla: Did not play in Chivas' 5-2 loss to Pachuca.

Primera Division A
Sammy Ochoa: Played 90 minutes and scored a goal in Tecos' 3-1 win over Real Colima.
Miguel Gonzalez: Played 90 minutes in Chetumal's 0-0 draw with Atletico Mexiquense.
Noel Castillo: Played final seven minutes in Indios Chihuahua's 3-1 loss to Queretaro.
Carlos Borja: Tapatio had a bye week.

Leonidas (the) Brave Rankings (Sept. 15)

Okay, so not sure if he had the Brave following his name but King Leonidas ruled. just watched 300 last night for, oh, the 300th time. Good movie, lots of action, good fighting. MLS... not always the most action, some good fights, some dull ones. Still, not a whole lot of intrigue right now. East is pretty much decided save for positioning. The West has two good teams and a bunch of inconsistent slop.

Anyway, here are the rankings.

1. Columbus (13-6-5). Last time Crew tied in Toronto, a lengthy losing streak followed; Crew's a better team these days, though.
2. Houston (10-5-9). Didn't lose to league's hottest team.
3. New England (12-7-5). Nothing like a 4-0 ass-whipping to turn things around.
4. Chicago (11-8-5). So should Chicago worry after Busch's shakiness on Sunday?
5. San Jose (7-9-8). Yes, it was Houston but 'Quakes probably feel like they left points on the table.
6. DC United (10-11-3). A rarity for DC - a draw.
7. New York (9-7-8). Things turned around quickly for New York; get 'em off the road and Red Bulls ain't half bad.
8. Colorado (9-12-3). Don't look now but Colorado is improving at, well, a rapid rate.
9. Real Salt Lake (8-9-7). For all their progress this season, RSL still has a piss-poor 1-9-2 road record.
10. Chivas USA (8-10-6). Injuries, absences caught up to Chivas in Foxboro.
11. FC Dallas (6-9-9). Went from a gritty road win to bad road loss to acceptable road result.
12. Kansas City (7-9-8). Much-needed points at home also helped Wizards avenge earlier loss at Galaxy.
13. Toronto (7-10-7). Should have done better to protect 1-0 lead at home.
14. Los Angeles (6-11-8). Good news is, only Colorado gained full three points out west. Bad news is, the Galaxy looked awful.

Here we go again

I'm not sure why the British tabloid press continues to insist that Los Angeles Galaxy fans are booing David Beckham.

I'm sure a few Galaxy fans were at the game, but a game in the MidWest is not going to bring in many LA fans. It's simply too far away.

So it's not Galaxy fans booing David Beckham - it's Kansas City fans. Which, I suppose, would not be much of a story to report. Why not just say "fans", then?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The softy

I was watching some broadcast that mentioned journalistic objectivity and it reminded me of a slightly awkward situation I had recently. In hindsight, I'm not sure where to draw the line at bring a reporter versus a human being with feelings.

In the visitor's locker room when Real Salt Lake was in town, I talked first to Robbie Findley (it's always easier to start off with a player one knows a little). Nearby there was a group of reporters around Fabian Espindola, who'd been injured during the game, due to that self-inflicted flip of his. Jaime Cardenas was translating for the English speakers and Fabian.

I ventured over as the group moved on, asking Fabian in Spanish if he would answer a few questions. He agreed.

I asked a couple of questions about the game and the late offside call, and if he had done anything different on the flip than he normally did. Then I tried to ask something that put his injury into a specific context.

"You've been playing so well recently, does that make your injury and the way it was caused even worse?"

I expected something along the lines of, "Yeah, it's bad luck."

I don't know if the full impact of what happened hit Fabian just then, but his face fell and he looked crushed. "I feel terrible," he said. "When I think about how well I was playing and how hard I worked to come back from my earlier injury - I feel like crying."

What a dramatic quote. Suddenly, I realized it wasn't just an emotional statement. Fabian's eyes welled with tears. He tried to blink them back and looked away.

I stood there with my recorder feeling like a schmuck. Should I say something sympathetic? Would that compromise my reporter viewpoint? Would the other reporters notice I'd made a player cry?

I bailed, pretending nothing unusual had happened. "Thanks," I said, moving away to interview someone else as quickly as I could.

Honestly, I felt bad for the guy. But I also felt like I couldn't show that at all. Looking back, though, I wonder if I was being professional, or cold.
Or maybe just wimpy - worried about my rep in the pressbox.

Who's got next?

Justin Rodriguez profiles Charles Renken. I actually think Charles will have an easier time of it because Freddy Adu came before him. People will be more careful about the hype they put on Charles. Freddy has lived up to many expectations with a pretty solid pro and international career, actually, but the build-up around him was such that some people still think he's disappointed.

Back when I first wrote about Charles, there was another young player on the U.S. youth scene garnering attention.

Though older than Charles, Sebastian Lletget was still a technical prodigy, and he and Charles intuitively recognized each other's skill and worked particularly well together. Sebastian was eligible for Italian citizenship (though that's notoriously difficult to get) and later completed a transfer to West Ham's youth system for a short stint.

But now he's not apparently there any more. He's not back in the U.S. youth system either. He's apparently in San Francisco (he participated in the adidas ESP camp in July of this year).

Last in the league

That would be the Los Angeles Galaxy, folks. It's such a contrast to the league's first ten years. During the past three years, no original MLS team has turned over more players or coaches. Luis and I sometimes debate which trade or move hurt the team most, but that's like trying to assess each individual straw on a camel's back after it's broken. A lot of different things played a part.

That includes a league structure that basically punishes teams for having international players because it plays during international dates. Still, it's a reality each MLS team has known for a long time.

The problem with losing is that people want change to be the answer and solution, even if that's not actually going to make things better. It feels decisive, though. It's actually a lot easier than the patience required to trust for improvement.

For example, Sigi Schmid was given lots of time in Columbus after disappointing seasons because the organization simply believed in his ability and the system he was building. Frank Yallop was so weary of the pressure in LA that he took on an expansion-era San Jose team rather than wait for the axe in Los Angeles. Now both men are Coach of the Year candidates and ahead of LA in the standings.

I don't buy the "Best Coach in MLS" label that's been flung around for Bruce Arena. As one friend added, "Not in the current millennium".

On the other hand, if he gets switched out as well, I don't think that's going to necessarily improve the Galaxy.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

DC/FC Dallas

RFK stadium and the flag-waving Barra Brava versus the Hoops.


1 - Sully thinks DC's high pressure to deny service will be key to the game.
3 - Quavas Kirk with a shot after DC had a nice run of play. It's Q's first start this season.
5 - Andre Rocha is down and now on the sideline with an injury.
9 - DC United is pinging the ball around well, but the last pass to set up a golden goalscoring opportunity is prevented by FC Dallas' persistent chasing.
10 - GOAL! Coooooop! McTavish bloops a clearance, missing the ball, which falls in the box to King Kenny, who eludes his defender just enough to fire a scorcher of a shot. 1-0 Dallas.
11 - DC had the early run of play - the goal came very much against that, on a DC mistake. We'll see how DC United regroups.
16 - Well, the response is pretty intensive pressure on the FC Dallas goal. DC hasn't really pulled the trigger yet, though, as Dallas scrambles in defense.
17 - Beautiful chip pass from Moreno to Santino, who can't quite put the shot away past a rushing Dario Sala.
20 - Cunningham with a nice move and shot, but Crayton just gets a hand to it.
21 - Moreno knockdown pass to 'Tino - shot over the bar.
23 - Marcelo Saragosa doesn't get ball, but gets plenty of Moreno, who goes sprawling and clutches his shoulder. No call.
27 - GOAL! Moreno! This time he gets service from Khumalo, a square cross that Moreno buries with a precise header. 1-1.
31 - Mctavish, the last man, stands up Jeffy C.
36 - As DC sets up for a corner kick, Adrian Serioux comes out for Micheal Dello-Russo. Apparently Serioux is injured.
37 - Short corner leads to a cross that gets cut off and cleared.
43 - Cooper not super - goes near post and gets bumped as he fires, sending the shot wide.
Halftime - Well, Moreno was rewarded for his good play with a goal, but with their early goal, FC Dallas is still lurking. Another counter attack goal could put the pressure on DC again. Still, United are playing well and their fans are loudly helping them keep focused on the final result.
83 - Connection problems! Anyway, the game is still tied, but both teams scored another goal.
84 - ooooh, Luciano Emilio just barely sent a header wide.

Better all the time. . .

My WNT article about their upcoming tour is up. As I was writing the article, though, I couldn't help but muse on the what-if scenarios.

What if Greg Ryan hadn't made the goalkeeper switch? What if the USWNT had only lost to Brazil by a goal, and without the team issues that followed Ryan and other team leaders deciding to ostracize Hope Solo? Would Ryan still be coaching the team?

In hindsight, is the ultimately team better off after all the crap they went through?

Now they have an internationally experienced coach who has instilled a more versatile, flowing offensive style. Pia Sundhage really understands the pressures of the women's game and the psychology needed to confront an opponent from the inside out (from the start of the announcement by Ryan to switch goalkeepers, my concern was for the lack of confidence this displayed in his players and how the change would affect the defense - voila, own goal by Osborne). More importantly, the team also has a coach who is professional enough to look at emotionally charged situations objectively and make the best decision for the team as a whole. Pia didn't pick sides. She just came in and asked everyone to work together as a team and leave the past in the past.

Aside from Pia, I think the players have, or should have, a better understanding of team unity. It's not everyone doing everything the same way and thinking as one and saying the same thing. It's working together in spite of differences.

Moral of the story is - was it worth it? Would you trade a third place finish in the World Cup for a new coach and a gold medal? Or if Ryan had gotten the team to the final of the World Cup before losing, would you have kept him around for "more of the same"? Would you insist upon change instead?

It's possible that Greg Ryan did the team a favor with his odd call to trade out goalkeepers. It set the ball rolling for a host of changes. While some were painful ones with continuing repercussions, there's a clear argument to be made that things have improved a lot. More attractive soccer looks especially good with a glint of gold.

Medic mayhem

Those who come to this blog for insightful and cogent analysis, skip this post.

First, Zack Thornton gets set down none-too-gently, to the delight of the TFC crowd.

Then, there's this.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Merging viewpoint

Earlier this week I talked about how combining CONCACAF and CONMEBOL would make sense but it's all but a pipe dream.

A reader though picked up on the idea and formulated his own concept of a new football region and how it would look like. It gets my stamp of approval.

From reader Brian:

Combine North and South America into a single football federation
(Federacion Americana de Futbol or Confederacion Americana de Futbol)
and run the World Cup qualifying, the federation cup (Copa America),
and the champions league similar to UEFA.

CONCACAF = 40 National Teams

CONMEBOL = 10 National Teams

FAF or CAF or CONAMBOL = 50 National Teams

I. Americas Football Fedration Qualification for World Cup
A. Preliminary Qualifying Round
Minnows (Bottom 30 teams in Region) play home and away to get to next round
30 teams reduced to 15
15 teams from Preliminary Round join the Top 20 teams in region

B. Final Qualifying round
35 teams
8 Spots (4.5 from CONMEBOL; 3.5 from CONCACAF)
5 groups of 7
5 winners and #1 second place team automatically advance
other #2's (4) have playoffs for last two spots

II. Copa PanAmerica
(held every four years, the summer between the World Cup and European
Championship, i.e. either 2011 or 2013)
A. Preliminary Round
Minnows play home and away
15 Winners join top 20 in region

B. Final Round Qualifying
35 teams
5 groups of 7
top 3 in each group qualify for finals, plus host (16)

C. Finals (Proceeds like European Championship)
4 groups of 4
top 2 in each group advance to knockout round

D. Seeded Groups for each qualification (using FIFA rankings for
inaugural qualifications)

Pot 1: Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia, Uruguay
Pot 2: USA, Mexico, Chile, Ecuador, Venezuela
Pot 3: Honduras, Peru, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Canada
Pot 4: Cuba, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, Panama, Guatemala
Pots 5-7: Winners of Play In Round


E. Seeded Groups using FIFA rankins for CONMEBOL and CONCACAF
rankings for CONCACAF

Pot 1: Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia, Uruguay
Pot 2: USA, Mexico, Chile, Ecuador, Venezuela
Pot 3: Honduras, Peru, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Panama
Pot 4: Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, Guatemala
Pots 5-7: Winners of Play In Round

I like the second seedings better.

III. League Champions Cup
Combine Copa Libertadores and CONCACAF Champions League into a single
championship and run similar to UEFA Champions' League

IV. Align MLS schedule with the Clausura tournaments south of the border.

I think this forces US soccer to either sink or swim. But the real
question is who objects more the CONCACAF associations (not sure if
the minnows of the big 3 would have the most to lose) or the CONMEBOL

Blanco tribute

I spent quite a bit of time last night, searching the web for relevant information on Cuauhtemoc Blanco. I fell asleep mid-story and woke up early this morning to finish it, early as in before 5.

So read it!

It's a bit of a tribute to Cuauhtemoc Blanco for

The best part of the story I think is the links to various video clips. I was actually able to find quite a bit of them - the goal against Brazil in the 99 Confederations Cup, the goals against Jamaica in a 2001 qualifier, the goal against Honduras in a 2001 qualifier, goals against Belgium and Croatia in the World Cup. Lots of moments that Blanco fans surely remember.

Blanco will always be Public Enemy No. 1 to many American soccer fans, though Oswaldo Sanchez and Rafael Marquez probably rank right up there with Mexican players American soccer fans love to hate. But a portion of American soccer fans are witnessing first hand just how talented and special a player Blanco is and can be. And some of them - notably Fire fans, are probably thrilled he called it quits. More games for the Fire and less for El Tri is a good thing.

What the big guns say

Hey, hey, check out the MLS owner who is blogging and thereby revealing his love of the ellipses.

The post got me thinking, however, about other MLS owners. I got a little wistful when I thought about the antics about Mark Cuban, really. Honestly, most MLS owners are pretty bland by comparison. The Wizards group might be the most energetic guys out there, at least until Seattle hits the scene.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to throw open a forum for our readers, who are scattered about the country, to chime in on what type of blog post their local MLS owner would put up (or should put up) if they were so inclined to blog.

Would Robert Kraft muse melancholy about losing Tom Brady and Taylor Twellman to injury in the same year? Would the Hunt sons be gleeful about Columbus and somber about Dallas? Would Dave Checkets explain that he's looking into hypnotism to fool RSL players into thinking they're at home? Have at it.

Polemica = Controversy

It couldn't really be a Blanco situation without a little drama, could it?

Anyway, here's some of the back-and-forth swirling around about 'Temo. I don't have time to translate it right now, so can our readers jump in and explain the big issue? Or perhaps everyone has watched enough Galavision and Telefutura games to figure out the Spanish. Good luck!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Time to vote

It's that time to vote again, and no I don't mean in the presidential election.

No, this concerns US Soccer and the annual Honda Player of the Year award.

Now, our readers have done well in the past to help me fill out my ballot so I wanted to continue that trend. Help me fill out my ballot!

I will list the eligible players later but here's the relevant information from Futbol de Primera, the fine outfit that puts on the award and year-end event.

The Award
* The Honda Player of the Year Award recognizes the best player on
The U.S. National Team who has played in at least 3 games during the
calendar year. This year, 23 players have met this requirement...
The Rules of Voting
* Each eligible player must have played in a minimum of three (3)
games with the U.S. National Team during 2008.
* A first place vote equals 3 points, a second place vote is worth
2 points and a third place vote counts as 1 point. At the close
of voting, all of the points are tallied and the winner is the player
who receives the most overall points.

So there are some of the parameters. Now, I typically place way more emphasis on games that really matter, ie World Cup qualifiers, Gold Cup, etc., than friendlies but I will leave everything up to you. If you want to vote for the players who did well in friendlies or qualifiers or whatever, go ahead - so long as it was with the senior team, that's fine.

I don't want to skew the votes one way or another so I'll leave my own thoughts out of this. For now, tell me who you think I should vote for first, second and third, or just tell me who is most deserving of the award.

Here are the eligible players:


Golden Tarp

That's Lindsay, of course, who along with Heather O'Reilly is part of the U.S. women's national team 'tweeners - not a veteran perhaps contemplating retirement in the near future - but not exactly a fresh face. After all, both won gold medals in 2004 already, so they've got a set going now.

Anyway, I had a recent interview with Tarp, who is one of the nicest and most articulate players around, even if she does at times pull off the politician's trick of dodging some questions by giving thoughtful answers to ones that weren't asked.

Example: How have your responsibilities on the field changed through the years, if at all?

"The biggest thing throughout my career is appreciating the moment. Being in the Olympics is a surreal thing. While I’m there it’s just about having fun and enjoying where I’m at."

Great answer - not exactly pertaining to what I asked, however. It's actually a really effective technique to use with me, though, because I always get self-conscious and wonder if I'm mumbling and my interviewee can't understand me. That's usually not the case, though. It's a clever sidestep.

Here's more of what Tarp said - leftover quotes I didn't use for the article.

The victories were both very different. In 2004, I was one of the youngest players on the team. There were a lot of veteran players and it was their last tournament. We felt that the best thing possible was to send them out with a victory. This time, we all believed in ourselves and we all believed in each other and we believed we could do it.

After losing to Norway in that first game we did a great job of regrouping. We believed in each other and believed we were going to win. It was more for ourselves than anything.

It was tough to lose those players – but at the same time, we found a way to win.

Pia has done a great job of coming in. She always reinforces enjoying the moment and enjoying where we’re at, enjoying the process. She loves soccer and her feelings are contagious. Personally, I’m loving the game right now. I love to play. I love to play with my teammates. I’m really enjoying this time in my life.

I did feel that we were going to win before we stepped onto the field and I feel that that’s part of every great team. You have to believe you’re going to win. I had that feeling and I think the whole team had that feeling and as a result, I think that helped us win.


So the United States, Mexico and Costa Rica are all on nine points after three qualifiers apiece. Each nation is pretty much through to the Hexagonal, though I haven't done the math. Maybe they are in for sure, don't know.

And while it's a great accomplishment for each nation to be 3-0 at this point, it's not exactly surprising. It's actually kind of expected that each team is where they are.

Which brings me to my question: is this semifinal round really necessary for the Big Three?

There are arguments for both sides of the question.

On the one hand, you don't want to give any team free passes. Let the Big Three mix it up with the rest and let them go through qualifying like any other CONCACAF nation. You don't necessarily want to make it any easier for the big dogs' already, they've gotten themselves to the point where they are the regional powers. At some point, Mexico should be at the same level as Canada regardless of past accomplishments, right?

Then again, we all know what's going to happen. The Big Three will cruise in this round and easily get into the Hex. There was some intrigue in 2000 with Costa Rica and Guatemala fighting out for the last Hex spot but that is ancient history as the previous cycle showed. All this round does is show the disparity between the region's upper crust and the supposed second tier. If Honduras, Trinidad & Tobago and some others are supposed to be the second tier, this region is in sad shape.

I don't know, though. I'm not sure what else can be done to change this system. It's a lot to ask the Big Three to play 18 qualifiers over an 18-month span when the outcome isn't hardly ever in doubt for them. Many of us dream about some sort of merger with South America but I don't think that is realistic, though the prospect of some real high-intensity qualifiers makes my mouth water. Can you imagine the US going down to Quito needing a result to get into the World Cup? Talk about drama, more drama than the US going into piss-poor Cuba and playing on some crappy field with crappy lighting and getting a boring three points.

Maybe CONMEBOL might be up for that, though. They get 4 spots right now guaranteed with a chance of a fifth. That fifth spot would be against a CONCACAF nation so there are 8 total spots from the Western Hemisphere. If CONMEBOL had a shot of getting six teams in, maybe that would be some incentive for nations like Chile and Colombia to push for a merger since it'd be easier for them to face the US or Costa Rica needing a spot in the World Cup than Brazil or Argentina.

Okay, well, I'm totally daydreaming now. Yes, it'd be fantastic. No, it's not going to happen anytime soon.

In reality, the US, Mexico and Costa Rica will be in the Hex next year with Honduras, El Salvador and Trinidad/Guatemala. The US will win all five home games, lose in Mexico City and San Jose, win in San Salvador and Port-of-Spain/Guatemala City and draw in San Pedro Sula and many will feel that the US has a grand shot of reaching the WC quarters again because qualifying was a breeze when in actuality qualifying will give many a false sense of security for qualifying in such a brisk manner does little to prepare the team for real competition. Mexico in Azteca is real competition; Guatemala in Guatemala City is not.