Sunday, July 31, 2005

East Asian Football Federation Championship begins

On the opening day of the East Asian Football Federation Championship, North Korea surprised a much higher ranked Japanese side by winning 1-0. The hero for the North Korean's was Kim Yong Jun who hammered home a ball in the 27th minutes after Yuji Nakazawa failed to clear it. The victory was all the sweeter for the Koreans after being eliminated for the 2006 World Cup by Japan last month.

In the other match of the day, South Korea and China tied 1 each. China took an early lead, but South Korea was able to make a come back half way through the second half.

The tournament continues tomorrow when the women's side take the field.

By the way, the men teams are competing for $500,000 while the women will get $50,000 for the victory.

Site news


I don't know if anyone is actually reading this blog, but if so know that I will not be posting much next week (Aug 1-6). Also, I am trying to set up a RSS feed, but it doesn't seem to work. If you are trying to get the feed and not having much luck, please know that I am working on it.

Thanks for your time,
Mike H

MLS All-Stars 4 - Fulham 1

This was the kind of game American audiences need to see. The best of the MLS showed that this is not a bush league for forgettable players. No, it is a league that is emerging from their shaking startup and discovering what could be.

Now Fulham is no Man United or Chelsea, but they are still one of the top 20 teams in England. Also, Fulham is only in their pre-season phase of work, but still, the MLS looked great. The first 20 minutes was careful soccer on both sides of the ball. Once the MLS side starting feeling comfortable with each other (they had only had a couple practices together), the fireworks began. In the 23rd minute, Landon Donovan passed to Taylor Twellman who took a quick shot that caught Mark Crossley looking and ended up slowly finding its way to the back of the net. MLS 1 - Fulham 0

As first goals often do, they woke everyone up to the game at hand. Fulham started attacking with much more force, which tested the unfamiliar MLS backline. When Luis Boa Morte beat Chris Albright in the 34th minute, Albright ended up fouling him giving the Whites of Fulham a penalty kick. Claus Jenson took an excellent shot that got Matt Reis to dive the wrong way. MLS 1 - Fulham 1

The rest of the half and the first 10 minutes of the second half were mainly spent testing each other's side. There were a few good brakes, but nothing that want all the way.

In the 56th minute, the MLS side sprinted towards goal. Clint Dempsey knocked a volley from the top of the box that bounced off of Ronnie O'Brien and skipped between the bars. MLS 2 - Fulham 1

This goal and the beating sun seem to take it out of Fulham. It was obvious that they were not prepared to play a full 90-minutes of hard fought soccer. Normally one thinks of an All-Starr game as a light affair with lots of scoring and few hard tackles. This is not what happened yesterday. The folks from Fulham were playing for lineup spots and the MLS side was playing for pride, which meant that both sides actually cared about the end results. Unfortunately, Fulham just could not make it past the hour mark.

That said, the Whites did have a few good shots include one in the 79th that Reis had to punch over the bar. Still, their challenges on goal were few and far between.

For the MLS, they were poking through the English side's line during the last 30 minutes without many cares. One stand out with these challenges was Jeff Cunningham. Fulham had no idea how to deal with him. He was just too fast for them. My biggest surprise is that it took him 15 minutes to get a goal (he was subbed in for Clint Dempsey in the 68th), and what a goal it was. He took a pass from Christian Gomez and smacked it off the post for his first goal. MLS 3 - Fulham 1

Just six minutes later, Cunningham plowed past the White's defense and got to go one on one against keeper Jaroslav Drobny. Jeff kept the ball low, sneaking it past a charging Drobny, and it rolled just inside the far post. MLS 4 - Fulham 1

And that's the way it ended.

All and all, a great game. Fulham obviously need some more practice before their season starts in a couple weeks while the MLS can take this week to let their players rest and recover from the first part of the season.

So how did I do with this one? I guesed MLS 4 - Fulham 3, so I was a bit off on the offensive side for Fulham. Not bad if I say so myself.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Real Madrid get Robinho; Michael Owen gets shown the door?

Real Madrid made two big announcements within a few hours of one another today. First, they sealed a deal with Sevilla for Julio Baptista and then they got a five-year contract with Robinho.

So where does this leave Michael Owen? Between Ronaldo and Raul, Owen will not get many chances as a starter. Someone with as much talent as Owen has will not be happy collecting his pay from the bench.

I'm sure Arsenal are interested in bringing him back to the EPL, but will they be able to handle the cost? Real will want to make some money in order to pay for their new Brazilians, so it will be a little pricey.

Rumor has it that Newcastle and Man United are also interest in Owen.

US Under-17 Men's team gets ready for their tour of Holland

Starting Monday, the US Under-17 men will play four matches against Dutch club reserve teams. This is their last big practice session before the start of the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship in Peru in September (their first match is Sept 17th against North Korea).

Here is the Holland Schedule

Aug 1 - PSV Eindhoven
Aug 3 - Heerenveen
Aug 6 - KRC Genk
Aug 8 - Ajax

These are some good teams and should help prepare the U-17 side for Peru.

The State of MLS

Fox Sports has an excellent article on the current state of MLS as it enters its 10th All-Star break. Take a look at it here.

This is the part I find most interesting:

"League officials traveled to Toronto on Thursday to discuss a possible franchise there in two years. The same day, the league announced the sale of operating rights to D.C. United for what Garber said was upward of $25 million, the highest price yet for a MLS club.

MLS folded two teams in 2003 and opened play this season with two new franchises, Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA. Garber and others were giddy over the advantage that Chivas brings in terms of marketing toward Latinos in the Los Angeles area, which already has the L.A. Galaxy."

When Tampa and Miami folded in 2003, more then a few people thought that it was a sign of the end coming on fast. Thankfully, it turned out to be a tactical choice that allowed money to go elsewhere in the league. With the recent sale of DC and all the stadiums coming online (side note, I didn't realize Chicago would also have a stadium next year), the MLS is set to enter the post-start up phase of its life. Hopefully, with the new stadiums and improved TV deals, the league will have the money needed to push into the mainstream of US sports. Still, I must wonder, is Toronto a big soccer town?

It's All-Star Day

MLS All-Stars vs. Fulham FC
Saturday @ 3:30pm EST
Broadcast on ABC

So today is MLS's big day to shine. It is the first match of the season to be broadcast on network television (the opener between Chivas and DC was suppose to be broadcast on ABC, but with the death of Pope John Paul II, it ended up on ESPN). Add to it some spice from the English Premiere League and you have a good recipe for attractive soccer.

But before we get into the game itself, it is interesting to note that this is the fourth time in four years that the setup of the All-Star game has been different from the preceding year. Last year it was East vs. West; in 2003, the All-Stars took on Chivas de Guadalajara; and in 2002 it was the All-Stars vs. the US national team minus their European-based players. Of all those, I think this is the most interesting. Anytime you have an EPL on the pitch, it is going to get more coverage and attention. Not to knock Chivas or the US nationals, but it doesn't really seem to be as big of a deal when they come to play.

Enough with the history chat, how about today. Do the names Carols Ruiz, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Greg Vanney, Jimmy Conrad, Matt Reis or Brad Davis ring any bells for you? If not, you probably have not watched any highlight reels after any given MLS weekend. These folks will represent the best America's top league has to offer. On a side note, it is a shame Eddie Johnson, Amado Guevara and Eddie Pope are injured, as they would make this great lineup even better.

As for Fulham, I have a soft spot in my heart for them. I think it has to do with their constant underdog status. For those who do not know, they are Chelsea's West London neighbors (there stadiums are only a few tube stops away from one another). They might share a lot in regards to location, but they don't share as much when it comes to paychecks. Also, the stadiums are truly on opposite ends of the spectrum. Fulham's Craven Cottage is an old stadium with narrow entries into the less then wonderful seating areas. Stamford Bridge looks like a lot like a modern US football stadium with its large concourse levels and individual, non-obstructed views. It is easy to tell were the money is. Still, Fulham always find a way to make the best of it and stay with the 20 best teams in England.

For this match, the main storyline has to do with Brian McBride (and to a lesser extent Carlos Bocanegra's) return to the MLS. When McBride played with the Crew, he scored a very impressive, and still team record, 62 goals. He is also a starter for the US national side. Carlos Bocanegra was twice named the MLS defender of the year during his four years with the Chicago Fire. With subplots like this, ABC should have more then enough fluff pieces to fill any slow moments in the game.

Overall, it should be a wonderful match. Look for a lot of offense and some moments of pure beauty.

My prediction:
MLS All-Stars 3 - Fulham 2

Friday, July 29, 2005

Freddy Adu would love to play for Chelsea

But then again, who wouldn't love to play for Chelsea?

Adu admitted yesterday that he would enjoy being a member of the Blues and that they were his favorite team. One really nice part of his quote is this:

"Playing in the Premiership is a goal for me and I think I can do it. I just need to keep working hard and keep my head on straight."

It is wonderful to see a young player understand that if he wants to reach the heights of the EPL and Chelsea in particular, then he needs to stay focused on improving his soccer skills. It would be real easy for the 16 year old to have a big head, seeing how he has been greeted as the superstar of American soccer. Thankfully Freddy has not lost touch with reality.

Let's just hope he gives DC and the MLS a few more highlights before he crosses the pond.

One ref cleared of charges in Germany

The German referee scandal took an interesting twist today when prosecutors said they did not have enough evidence to bring charges against Juergen Jansen. Jansen has denied all along that he was part of the match-fixing scandal. Here is the article on this announcement.

Third-round Champions League draw

Liverpool avoided a draw against Everton, should they end up beating FBK Kaunas who they lead 3-1 after the first leg. However, even though they will not be playing each other, they will both have difficult opponents.

Liverpool will probably end up playing CSKA Sofia of Bulgaria while Everton will play against the third best team in Spain's Primera Division, Villarreal.

Here is the full list.

Basel v Werder
Bremen Artmedia Bratislava / Celtic v Partizan Belgrade / Sheriff Tiraspol
Shakhtar Donetsk v Inter
Shelbourne / Steaua Bucuresti v Rosenborg
Man Utd v Debrecen / Hajduk Split
Malmo FF / Maccabi Haifa v Dynamo Kiev / FC Thun

Everton v Villarreal
FBK Kaunas / Liverpool v Dinamo Tirana / CSKA Sofia
Sporting v Udinese
Valerenga / FC Haka v Club Brugge
F91 Dudelange / Rapid Vienna v Rabotnicki Kometal / Lokomotiv Moscow
Anderlecht / Neftchi v Slavia Prague

Anorthosis Famagusta / Trabzonspor v Rangers
Dinamo Tbilisi / Brondby IF v Ajax
Real Betis v Monaco
Wisla Krakow v Panathinaikos

First leg: August 9/10, second leg: August 23/24.

Chelsea beat DC United

What a shock, Chelsea is a better team then DC. How will I be able to sleep tonight? But enough of the sarcasm, let's talk about the match.

DC was the better side the first 30 minutes. They were pushing around the Chelsea defense, running set pieces with ease and making a mockery of Chelsea's paycheck. The high point came in the 31st minute when Christian Gomez perfectly sailed a corner kick into the area, finding an unguarded Bobby Boswell's (seen in the photo being too sexy for his shirt) head and landing in the back of the net. DC 1, Chelsea 0. Okay, match over, thanks for coming.

Or maybe not.

The goal sparked the 31,000 strong crowd, but it also sparked the 11 Chelsea players. From this point on, it was all the English side's game. Within four minutes new signing Shaun Wright-Phillips was given too much time with the ball and he slung a curling cross to the far post that found Irishman Damien Duff and plunked right into goal. DC 1, Chelsea 1.

At halftime, Chelsea subbed 9 players. Even with their new lineup they managed to control the match. It was obvious that the Premiere league side did not want this match to end in a tie and in the 56th minute Arjen Robben and Hernan Crespo made an easy run past DC's backline and Crespo just poked the ball into the netting. DC1, Chelsea 2.

Even though they were being dominated, DC almost pulled level in the 73rd minute when Chelsea's Lassana Diarra nearly put the ball into his own goal. Oddly enough, this seemed to give some energy to United. From the 75th minute to the final whistle, DC was back in the game. They had multiple shots on goal and put some heavy pressure on the backline, but it was not enough.

In the end, DC looked good. I must say, they looked better then a club who is being outspent 100-1 should look. United should be happy with the outcome.

By the way, I nailed the final score of this match as well. Maybe I should just predict non-MLS matches for now on.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Soccer to unify Korea

Okay, it might not be permanent unification, but for a few days next month, North and South Korea will hold "unification" matches between their men's and women's nation teams. Both matches will happen in Seoul's World Cup Stadium. The men will play on Aug. 14th and the women will play on the 16th.

Here is the announcement.

The background to the timing of the matches has to do with Aug. 15th being the 60th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule. Let's hope this good spirit floods off the pitch.

The Duel of Champions - DC United vs. Chelsea

The newly sold MLS champions DC United will take on English Premiere League champions Chelsea. This is the first time the two leagues champs have gone mono y mono.

This will be a great match for all involved. Freddy Adu will be on the pitch for United as will midfielder Ben Olsen and forward Santino Quaranta who have been away at the Gold Cup. There is a chance defensive man Bryan Namoff will also be back from injury in time for the game. With this being so, DC will have their best team out on the grass for this event.

DC is undefeated against English clubs, but none of them had what Chelsea has. Let me name a few of the things Chelsea has that no one else does: Claude Makelele, Damien Duff, Frank Lampard and Hernan Crespo. And those are just the ones I can think of right now.

So Chelsea comes in with a $200 million roster. DC, on the other hand, has a little less to spend. Although numbers are not exactly know, $2-3 million is a good guess. Um, who will win?

One of the great things about soccer is that money doesn't always buy you a win. If a team gets lazy then they are just asking for trouble. Tonight, I think Chelsea will get more then they expect, but not enough to show them up.

My prediction:
DC United 1 - Chelsea 2


DC United Sold

In a major announcement just hours before their match with Chelsea, Global Sports and Entertainment will take over United.

From the press release:

"D.C. United and AEG announced today sale of the four-time MLS Cup champions to Global Sports and Entertainment, subject to formal approval by Major League Soccer. United President and CEO Kevin Payne will head the newly formed ownership group, which includes local businessmen Willi Lauterbach and Tim Kissler, as well as several other investors. The purchase price was not disclosed, but is the largest paid to date for a Major League Soccer team."

AEG still owns four other MLS teams (Los Angeles Galaxy, Chicago Fire, San Jose Earthquakes and MetroStars). The President & CEO of AEG did add, "This sale was a difficult decision for our organization, as the franchise has always been a favorite. However, the transaction will enable us to focus our attention on other teams and the continued development of state-of-the-art stadiums for these franchises."

This is another bright day for the MLS. The fact that other organizations are interested in the premier US soccer league is great. The influx of new cash and ideas will only help. I look forward GSE's ownership as well as their new stadium (which I'm sure will be announced soon). I'm also glad to hear about AEG's commitment to new stadiums.


Chicago holds AC Milan to the fire

Chicago came to play. It's nice to see that MLS teams are no longer scared of their bigger European rivals. Heck, for a little while it looked like the Fire were about to snatch this match. It would have been real easy for them to just drop to the side after going down a goal in the 21st minute, but Chicago had other plans. In less then a minute, they marched down Solider Field, blowing past Milan's midline, letting Chris Rolfe snap the trigger on a fast shot that beat a confused looking Valerio Fiori. Game tied.

Then, in the 35th, Any Herron broke away from the pack and had an excellent chance on goal, but ended up putting it right into the keeper’s hands. Unfortunately, Herron did the exact same thing on a break away in the 57th. However, he got a second chance on this break when Fiori smacked the ball back at him, but again, he could not get it past the goalie.

In, what turned out to be the final high moments of the match for the Fire, the 64th and 67th minutes, both Chad Barrett and Samuel Caballero had shots on goal that bounced off the posts. Had this been the end of the match, it would have been hard to say that Chicago was not the better side. However, soccer is a 90-minute affair.

Milan controlled much of the final 20+ minutes and they made good use of their time. Alberto Gilardino put the ball in goal in the 76th and Serginho did the same in extra time. The interesting thing about Serginho's shot is that it was almost not counted. The ball hit the crossbar flew down right behind the goal line and bounced back out onto the pitch where it was cleared. But the ref was able to see what had happened and made the correct call.

Something to point out, during the last 20 or so minutes, Fire coach Dave Sarachan substituted seven players in order to give everyone an opportunity to play in this match. In doing so, he knew he was making it harder on his team to win, but it was still the right and classy thing to do. For a lot of his team, this will be their one, and only chance to play against a squad like Milan. I'm glad Sarachan respects his players enough to not try to fight for a meaningless victory at the expense of their enjoyment.

On a personal note, I not only picked the winner, but I got the score correct as well. Maybe I should only predict matches involving International teams.

Chicago Fire 1 - AC Milan 3


Week 18 and my FC Dallas like performance

So how are my predictions like FC Dallas, they look good early and then fade, fade, fade away.

Maybe I have been too harsh in my criticism of the MetroStars. I think this might have to do with the whole "Super Club" idea, but I can't be sure. After last night's game, the amount of respect I have for the club has grown considerably while my concern that FC Dallas might be in for a long stumble has ticked up a few notches. Let it be known that Dallas was lucky to loose the game by only one goal. Sergio Galvan Rey, also know as the "King of Goals," was all over Dallas's missing backline. He had two goals called back in the first half plus one that counted in the 74th minute. I felt sorry for Dallas keeper Scott Garlick. The one piece of good news for Dallas is that Clarence Goodson looked amazing in offensive mode. He scored both Dallas's goals. Too bad he couldn't be as inspiring on the other side of the ball.

All in all, Dallas looked like the Dallas of last year while the MetroStars were determined. They both have a week and a half off before they meet again in Dallas for the opening of their new soccer stadium Pizza Hut Park. If Dallas can't get things back together for that match, it is going to be a long second half in Big D.

How about that New England Los Angeles match. It was just really good soccer. Both teams played conservatively in the first half, but in the second 45, they were more alive. With Donovan back in the line up, LA looked ready to play a game. The attack combo of Gomez and Donovan caught NE looking more then a few times. As for New England, Clint Dempsey had a productive outing. Both teams played equal matches so it is only fitting that they share the points.

So what did I learn from this week's guesses? If you are a member of any MLS club or in any way a supporter of any MLS club, please hope that I do not have the bright idea of predicting a victory for your side. Oh well, maybe I'll do better after the break.

My Guesses vs. Final Scores
Game (my guess) Final score
MetroStars - Dallas (0-2) 3-2
New England - LA (3-2) 1-1

Total so far this season: 2-6

Terrorism vs. Hooliganism

No big shock here, but Germany is more concerned about terrorism during the World Cup then they are about hooliganism. Let's go to the article.

"Outbreaks of hooliganism have hit Europe this year, but several key Germans said Wednesday at an international soccer conference that they fear terrorism is the bigger threat."

I'm sure that Germany does very much not want to relive the 1972 Olympics, so I'm sure they will do everything they can to prevent such actions. However, I do wonder if hooligans, maybe align with more fascist friendly elements, might try to disrupt matches featuring teams from majority Islamic countries. Without getting to political, I am concerned about any matches featuring Turkey. There are plenty of Turkish individuals living in Germany, so they will have many fans at their games, however there is a mini-backlash going on in parts of Europe concerning Turkey and their quest to join the EU. I just hope people will put their political anger aside and let the players decide it on the field.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Let's hear it for the kids

The US Under-21 Women’s National Team dunked Norway 4-1 to win their seventh consecutive Nordic Cup.

Sorry to say, but I really have not been following this to closely, so I will have to direct you to this match report for the details. Here is a really good quote:

“Overall, it was a great finish to what has been a six-month journey and I told the team we needed to end it by getting the hardware,” said U.S. head coach Jillian Ellis, who won her second Nordic Cup after also leading the USA to victory during the 2000 tournament in Germany. “Lindsay Tarpley was a fantastic leader for us. She played anywhere I asked her to play, motivated the team and led by example. Chalupny and Heather were great today as well, their flank play was special, but everyone contributed and played very well. We got a lot of compliments from all the teams and coaches here.”

Now they get to come back to the states and get ready for their college camps.

Since we are on the subject of youth soccer, I just want to point out that the 2005 US Youth Soccer National Championships kicked off in Florida today. It's great to see tournaments like this taking place. This is how the US will continue to grow as a soccer power.

Chicago Fire vs. AC Milan Prediction

Chicago Fire vs. AC Milan
Wednesday @ 9pm EST

You have got to love it when the big European teams come to America to play MLS clubs. Yes, the Europeans will clobber the MLS teams most of the time, but even in those beatings, US soccer is winning. The amount of news coverage and excitement around a game like this makes the outcome not so important. That is, unless the MLS team pulls off the impossible and humbles the giant. Is this outcome likely to happen in this match, no, but everyone knows that so no one will be shocked when the Fire burn out.

That said, Chicago have a great record against international clubs (10-5-1), but none of these clubs match the strength of Milan. There is some very good news for the men in red, their Captain Chirs Armas and three other players are back from their time at the Gold Cup, so they will be fielding their best lineup. Also, they have been on a great run, going seven unbeaten matches before this past weekend's defeat in Colorado, which can be excused by saying they were looking forward to tonight's game.

As for Milan, well you don't win six European Championships by luck. Chicago is a good team (especially of late), but they are not at the level of tonight's opponent.

Look for some early goals by Milan followed by some pure fun soccer.

Chicago 1 - Milan 3

By the way, there have been a few good quotes ahead of this match. First some praise for US soccer from Milan's defender Alessandro Costacurta (who trained with the MetroStars in 2002):

"When I trained with the MetroStars, I saw the level of play in this country firsthand. I saw all of the kids playing in the park. I now see the FIFA World Rankings and know that the United States is ranked sixth, many places ahead of Italy, so United States soccer has arrived."

Now some fun from Milan's boss Carlo Ancelotti. When told that Chicago had enjoyed an excellent exhibition involving Real Madrid and Chivas de Guadalajara a few weeks ago, he responded:

"If Real Madrid came here and put on a good show, we want to put on a better show. We want to show our soccer to the people."


MLS Week 18 Predictions

MetroStars vs. FC Dallas
Wednesday @ 7:30pm EST

FC Dallas, fresh from their crushing defeats at the hands of Real Salt Lake and New England, will be looking to rebound on this trip up North. They will still be without Eddie Johnson (he should be back after the All Star Game) and Amado Guevara, but they should still have as much talent on the field as they need to laugh pass the Stars. However, their defense has been distracted by something over their last 120 minutes of soccer and unless it was a debate about the Space Shuttle being able to return to flight, they will have to prove that they are ready for duty. That said, Dallas's biggest advantage has got to be that they are playing a team called the MetroStars who are missing Youri Djorkaeff and Amado Guevera, thus accounting for their complete lack of a midfield. They have a solid man in goal with Tony Meola, but you can only knock so many balls aside before one of them beats you. I think this will start Dallas's recovery from the New England hangover.

MetroStars 0 - Dallas 2


New England Revolution vs. LA Galaxy
Wednesday @ 7:30pm EST

Oh wow, this one should be fun. Both teams are looking for a pick-me-up, but LA needs it more. LA has been on a slide since their June 18th lose to Dallas going 1-2-3 over the last six matches (one piece of good news, they have only been outscored 8-5 during this run). Yes, they have been without Landon Donovan for most of that time, but great teams find a way to keep it together when the star player is away. For proof of that, look no further then New England. They have been without Clint Dempsey, Pat Noonan and Steve Ralston for about the same length of time, but still managed to go 3-1-2 over the same period. New England is also just one point off of first in the East (however, Chicago has played 3 more games) while LA has tumbled from challenging Dallas for the top spot to seeing the not so ravaging beauty that is 3rd place. Something else that seems to be pointing NE's way, they have yet to lose at home this season. LA has not won away from the Hope Depot Center since June. That doesn't sound that bad till you realize that the June in question is the June from 2004. Bad time to be LA?

New England 3 - LA 2

Real Madrid right themselves

After their embarrassment on Monday night, Real have bounced back to their normal form. They came out shooting against Tokyo Verdy and managed to find net in just the second minute. Naruoka was able to tie it up in the 23rd, but Ronaldo would not let that stand for long. In the 27th minute he pushed in a penalty kick to go up 2-1. Ronaldo was able to find net again in the closing moments of the game on a quick counterattack. Overall, the match was pretty even. I'm sure this has something to do with Verdy being a good squad but also because Pavón, Helguera, Gravesen and Owen were all sitting out for much of the match.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Liverpool survive an early scare

After going down a goal in the 21st minute, the lads from Liverpool had to pour it on to defeat the Lithuanians 3-1. Although their win was never really in question, Liverpool did look beatable. Their defense was very lackluster. The second part of this series is next Tuesday at Anfield.

Is there use in the Gold Cup?

Now that the glow of gold is starting to wear off (it has been almost 48 hours), people are starting to ask why was the Cup even played in the first place?

The main article talking about this is by Brian Trusdell, titled "Gold Cup needs work." His main argument is in the second paragraph:

"But outside North and Central America and the Caribbean, the tournament still struggles for recognition. While within the confederation, its members don't always send their best teams, using it instead to re-energize for World Cup qualifying, test new players or begin a rebuilding process."

It is a good point. What is the point of a title if it is not the best team on the field. Do we really want this tournament to be basically a bunch of friendlys with a trophy at the end of it? Would they ever do this in Europe or in South America? I think not.

That said, soccer in Concacaf is not really at the level of those two confederations. I don't mean to suggest that Concacaf does not play top quality soccer, just that it's resources are much more limited.

In the same article Trusdell points out the main reason for having a cup every couple years, money.

"'It's a total success,' Blazer said. 'It didn't start out to finance us, but now it does support all the development programs and pays for all the other competitions.'"

So there you have it. Concacaf needs this tournament in order to keep improving the players of the future. Europe or South America don't have to worry much about this because they have a lot of cash and a long tradition of development programs. Maybe in ten or twenty years, Concacaf will be at a point were they will not need to have tournaments so often to keep the money coming in, but we are not there yet. It is all about the future.

But can't we make it better some how? One suggestion out there is that the winner of the off year tournament plays the winner of the next tournament for the birth into the Confederations Cup. If the same person wins both, no need for a playoff. This is a good offering, but I'm thinking something even bigger.

Concacaf gets four entries into the World Cup. What if Concacaf puts all the chips on the table and says that the winner of the off year cup gets one of those slots. I'm guessing the best teams would be showing up to that event. I know what someone else might say, isn't such a short tournament a bad idea for deciding such an important slot. Well yes, but think of the soccer that would be played.


DC United Stadium?

Rumor has it the DC United is set to announce (perhaps right before their Thursday night match against Chelsea) the building of a soccer specific stadium within the DC limits. Talk of a soccer-focused stadium in the district has been going strong since last year when city leaders pushed for a baseball stadium for the Nationals. Their hope is to have the stadium running by the 2007 season.

This is good news for the MLS. It will mean that by 2007, six teams will be playing in soccer specific stadiums (Chivas, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Jose, Columbus and DC). In 2000, MLS commissioner Don Garber focused the league on building stadiums. His reasons for doing this were two fold.

First, perception. Watching a soccer match played on a football field is distracting. There are so many lines go everywhere that it is confusing to even a devote fan of the game. Also, the size of football stadiums leaves soccer crowds looking puny (it's almost like US football is more popular then US soccer). When you have a 20,000 strong crowd in a 60,000-seat stadium, well it looks 2/3rds empty. This makes it look like no one cares.

Second, financial. When a team is playing at a football stadium like RFK in DC, they have to pay to rent the stadium and in return get about half the money from ticket sales. However, they probably don't get half of food and drink sales that happen in the stadium during a match. In addition, they, more then likely, get none of the biggest moneymaker of them all, parking. This means that their revenue per game is very limited.

With soccer specific stadiums, they can build them to size, so to speak. Why have 40,000 empty seats? If you have a 20,000-seat stadium it increases your chance of a sellout (which is always fun to announce), it looks better on TV and in pictures and, perhaps most importantly, it makes the players feel they are actually playing in front of an audience. Also, it makes the league look much more permanent.

That said, the view against building stadiums mainly deals with the use of money. It costs $50-75 million to build said stadium (I might be off a bit on this, I have built very few stadiums in my life). The argument goes, wouldn't it be better to invest that money in players and advertising instead of racing to finance a stadium? Short-term, I can understand that approach, however, if you are hoping to grow the league, this is a failed solution. You might be able to get some bigger names to come in for a year or two, but once that money is used up, all those players are gone. With a stadium, teams have a steady flow of revenue, which over time will lead to the better pay for players.

Just as a side note, the issue of stadium fees was the major reason MLS pulled their offer of an expansion club in San Antonio, Texas. The issue even came up in the June runoff for mayor. MLS wanted to use the Alamodome (you know, the stadium that sits empty about 360 days a year), but they wanted really good terms. From what I understand, they wanted San Antonio to spend $2.8 million on 14 more luxury suites at the dome, and another $3.7 million on a practice facility. In addition to this, MLS wanted a 5 year rent free lease (with four more 5 year extensions), MLS would keep all revenue from tickets, parking and concessions, MLS would receive half of any revenues from events it co-sponsored (such as international friendlys), the city would receive 5% from any advertising signage sold by the team in the dome, and the city would receive 30 percent of the naming rights payments if a sponsor was lined up by 2006. If the sponsor were signed up after 2006, the city's cut would drop to 20 percent.

Needless to say, the city backed away. As you can see, MLS was basically asked for the whole house to be turned over to them. I can see why San Antonio blinked. Still, it is a shame this did not work, as the Alamo city would have made a great home for a club. By the way, the MLS is currently talking to folks in Houston about using the Astrodome (see dictionary under another big building sitting empty 99% of the time), so maybe a second Texas team is coming after all.


Monday, July 25, 2005

Tokyo Verdy beats Real Madrid

Tokyo Verdy pull out a great upset by beating Real Madrid 3-0.

Beckham, seen here falling all over himself, started after missing a weekend match in China. Real was at almost full strength, so this was not a case of beating the third-stringers. Real Madrid coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo attributed the shock defeat to fatigue. Luxemburgo added that "...some of their players were very dirty especially the number six Toda. He kicked Beckham when the referee wasn't looking."

I know, this was just a friendly and Real has been on one hell of a road trip, but last year, Tokyo got steamrolled 4-0.

Will this mean anything once the real season gets going, no, but it is always impressive when a team beats Real.

Goals were scored by Daigo Kobayashi in the 6th minute, Washington in the 26th and Yamada headed one in in the 53rd.

By the way, Beckham did take a free kick in the 58th minute from very long range that almost caught Tokyo's goalkeeper looking. A few minutes later he was subbed out.

Real play Jubilo Iwata on Wednesday before finishing the tour with a friendly in Bangkok.

The MLS weekend that was

The goal everyone is talking about. Freddy Adu gets the game winner in extra time of the second half making me 0-2 on the weekend. It was a fantastic shot, but who could have guessed LA would not be able to capitalize on any of their many trips into the DC area. DC's goalie, Nick Rimando, deserves as much credit as Adu does in this win.

So, between the DC win and Chivas's surprise victory (see a few posts below) I was down 2 games, no big deal. The DC game was not a big surprise. Both are good times and play great matches when they get together, on to Columbus and KC.

I won, I won. I mean, Columbus won, I just guessed right. All Crew fans (hello, anyone) have got to love the Warzycha era. He is 2-1-0 and looking to move Columbus out of that stinky, yellow fever infested basement they are in. Knox Cameron found the net twice and it would have been much harder if Robin Fraser had not saved a Klein knock that got past Columbus keeper Jonny Walker (take a drink). All right, things are getting better; I'm 1-2 and ready for Colorado and Chicago.

Oh my, was I ever wrong. The Rapids scored 4 goals in this match. Before this match, they had scored 20 goals in 19 games. I might not be the math mind that my nephew Sean is, but I think that is about 1 goal per game. I'm still not sure how they did it. The best I can figure is that luck be a Rapids fan Saturday night. Nkong got 2 goals, Cunningham scored in the 70th and defender Denton got a nice bounce off the post for the other goal.

Oh, this isn't looking good. 1-3, but I still have the Dallas match in hand.

I need a new hand. Real Salt Lake just smashed the crap out of Dallas. Clint Mathis showed his talent, as did Jordan Cila. The Dallas defense, well there was none. After the half, Dallas did come up with some life, but it was only temporary. They must be aching for Eddie Johnson to return.

So, 1-4, wow, not good. But I did manage to get the score of the Salt Lake game correct, just messed up the teams. So would the MetroStars shake the 'Quakes and make me look like the Chivas USA of last month?

The Earthquakes of San Jose did manage to pull out a win, but they tried to loose it for me. In the 32nd minute, Ricardo Clark deflected a cross by Ryan Suarez past his own keeper and into the goal. But remember this is the MetroStars we are talking about. They live to give the ball away. The 'Quakes took advantage of this and tied the game about a minute later on a header by Eddie Gaven. In the 53rd minute, Gaven passed to a streaking De Rosario who took the ball straight up the middle and planted it in the left corner of the net. There were some complaints by the MetroStars concerning Gaven and the use of his hands, but if the ref doesn’t see it, it didn't happen.

So how did I end up? 2-4. Not a very good weekend. Did I mention that I picked the winner of the Gold Cup?

My Guesses vs. Final Scores
Game (my guess) Final score
Chivas - New England (0-2) 1-0
LA - DC (2-1) 0-1
Columbus - KC (1-0) 2-0
Colorado - Chicago (1-1) 4-1
Salt Lake - Dallas (0-3) 3-0
San Jose - MetroStars (2-0) 2-1

US Women melt Iceland in the hot California sun

It was just a friendly, but it is always good to see a win come your way.
I must admit that I watched most of the first have in the small PIP window since the men's game went into extra time, but what I did see was a team coming together. With the new generation of women on the squad, anything could have happen. Thankfully, the best possible result came to pass.
Fotopoulos's two goals are the easy example of what went right, but one must also look at the début performances of Lori Lindsey and Angie Woznuk. Lindsey had a key play in the setup of the first goal. Woznuk was only on for 10 minutes or so, but she also looked good.

With this win, the US women are 7-0-0 in 2005 and keeper Hope Solo picked up her fifth consecutive shutout.



What a game. It was about 120 minutes of pure attack soccer by both Panama and the US.

Each side had a number of opportunities during regulation and overtime, but none of them could connect. Panama did manage to frustrate the US, but not on defense. Their offense was fantastic on the counterattack. The US had to be missing Pope, because they seemed a little unsettled in the backfield. During the first 20 minutes of the second half this problem became obvious. Panama was just running over the US, but Kasey "Just try it" Keller was always there to bring US out of the fire.

The US managed to regain their composure and during the final 15 of regular time, they were on a mission. They kept prodding the Panamanian backline to see if it would give. A couple times it did falter but thanks to either dumb luck (which both sides had a great deal of) or the outstanding work of keeper Jaime Penedo, the US failed in their mission.

So it all came down to penalty kicks.

Now I'm the first to admit, penalty kicks are normally not the way you want to see a championship decided, but it made perfect sense on the night. Both sides played outstanding soccer and both could have ended up holding the cup, so why not let it come down to the coldness of kicks.

When Luis Tejada had Panama's first shot saved by Keller, it just seemed like this was going to go the US's way. The amount of energy a save like that gives a team is immeasurable. Santino Quaranta stepped up for the US and smashed in their first attempt, placing all the heat on Panama. Jorge Dely Valdes smacked the crossbar meaning the US could go up 2 goals. Chris Armas tried to fool Penedo with a stutter kick, but ended up kicking it right to the keeper.
Fellpe Baloy tied it at a goal apiece, but Landon Donovan did not let that stand for long. He buried his shot into the left side of the net. Then came the high-pressure moment for Panama. They had to knock in their next shot or else the US would be but a goal away from victory. Alberto Blanco stepped up, Keller dove the wrong way, and Blanco put his shot way over the crossbar. So Brad Davis could end it. He kicked right, Penedo dove right, but the shot was just an inch or two past his outstretched arm (see photo above). USA takes the Gold Cup!

This was the best match of the tournament.

On a side note, I predicted the US would win 3-1 and guess what, they did. Now granted I thought they would do it during regulation, but still, give me something. I'm going to be looking over my MLS picks (yeah, the ones that I got almost 100% wrong), so let me feel good about this moment.

Also, it seemed like the crowd was about 50-50 for the US and Panama. This was great to see.

Congratulations to the US men's team, CONCACAF Gold Cup Champions.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Gold Cup Final prediction

Where is Bruce Arena's team? For that matter, where is Bruce Arena?

The US side will be without their coach due to his ejection against Honduras, but he won't be lonely. The US will be without the services of defenders Eddie Pope and Steve Cherundolo, midfielder Pablo Mastroeni or forward Conor Casey. So will the US still be able to compete under assistant coach Glenn “Mooch” Myernick? My answer is Donovan, Beasley and O’Brien. I'm sure the US will come out in full attack mode, hoping to get a couple of early goals and then force Panama to do something they have not done well, play catch-up.

As for Panama, if they want to win this, they need goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and their back line to step it up big time. If they can frustrate the US attackers with offside calls and the such, they will have a chance of sneaking out with the cup. However, if the US does get a few goals in the first 30 minutes or so, they will need all the luck that Luis Tejada can bring them. If they go down by even one goal, I think it will be extremely difficult for them to win.

On a side note, it will be interesting to see if the crowd is more pro-US or Panama. It is a bit embarrassing to play a match on your home field and not have crowd advantage.

My prediction: US 3 - Panama 1

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Men or Women, you decide

Both genders National Teams are in action on Sunday afternoon, through if you want to watch the men's game, you might want to brush up on your Spanish.

The US Women, known around here as the best damn team I've ever seen (even if that is not always true), will be playing a friendly against Iceland at 2pm EST (actually 5pm EST, see update) Sunday on ESPN 2. The US Women are on a 6-0-0 run in 2005 and I'm sure they don't want to see that run end in the warm summer sun of Southern California. Also, they will be wearing their new red jerseys, so it should be a lot of fun.

As for the men, they will be battling with Panama to see who gets to take home the Gold Cup of CONCACAF's Gold Cup. The men will be without Pope or Mastroeni, so this might be a little harder then first expected or wanted. The game begins at 3pm and will be broadcast on Univision.

Have fun flipping the channels.

UPDATE: I am a fool who cannot read. The 2pm EST time mentioned above was actually 2pm PT. So no flipping needed.


Chivas USA WINS!!

Chivas USA did something I thought they were not capable of doing; they played a full match of soccer. Yes, all 90 minutes. They were attacking like crazy and their defense didn't look like the potholed streets of Detroit. Who knows, with the way Real Salt Lake and Colorado have been playing, Chivas might just find their way into the playoffs.

Knock one up for the goats.

Friday, July 22, 2005

MLS Week 17 Predictions

Chivas USA vs. New England Revolution
Friday @ 10:30pm EST

So all week I have been hearing about the improvement in Chivas USA's play, but I don't think they have improved enough to pull off what could just be the greatest upset in MLS history. The Revs have got to be feeling good about stealing last week's game from FC Dallas. So even though they will not have Dempsey and Noonan due to their US National commitment, I think they will have enough energy and excitement to see the Goats off.

Chivas 0 - New England 2


LA Galaxy vs. DC United
Saturday @ 4pm EST on ESPN 2

LA looked good versus Real Madrid on Monday. That is the best statement I can make about LA. However, I have to wonder if the 'high' of playing Real might lead to a crash on Saturday. As for DC, they need a win to keep in playoff range. These are the two teams that have defined MLS during the first decade, so it's always fun to watch. Look for some excellent soccer in the final 15 minutes.

LA 2 - DC 1


Columbus Crew vs. Kansas City Wizards
Saturday @ 7:30pm EST

Had this been week 15, there would not be much to write about. However, with interim coach Robert Warzycha hitting some nerves (in a good way) with the Crew, they cannot be written off like a loan to that cousin of yours (yes I'm talking about you Plucky). He, Robert not Plucky, has brought out the talent in players like Knox Cameron and Marcus Storey that are bring back the glory times (which were last year at about this time) in Columbus.

Columbus 1 - KC 0


Colorado Rapids vs. Chicago Fire
Saturday @ 9pm EST

If the Rapids are going to make something of the season, they need to pull out a win against the Fire. This past Wednesday, they did not look good against the Earthquakes, so one has to wonder if they can step it up. One big thing they have going for them is that the Fire will not have Chris Armas (away on national duty) or their Hondurans (recovering from national duty). Look for some cautious play from both sides.

Colorado 1 - Chicago 1


Real Salt Lake vs. FC Dallas
Saturday @ 9:30pm EST

Dallas will be looking for revenge. Last week's last minute defeat by New England cannot be sitting well. They were the better team during the match, but the scoreboard has a cruel way of not caring. Eddie Johnson will still not be around, but Carlos Ruiz should be able to carry the load just fine. With Eddie Pope absent (national duty), Real's defense has gone all soggy. Look for FC Dallas to make use of this soggy backend.

Salt Lake 0 - Dallas 3


San Jose Earthquakes vs. MetroStars
Saturday @ 10pm EST

The Quakes are on a run. They have gone 5-1-1 over their last seven while the Stars have dropped to 5th place with a 2-2-2 showing. The Stars will be without Amado Guevara due to injury and Michael Bradley has been suspended, thus there will be a bit of a talent hole. The Quakes are back home for the first time in 4 matches and have great attackers in Ronald Cerritos, Dwayne DeRosario and Alejandro Moreno. This should be enough to keep the Quakes on Dallas's tail in the standings.

San Jose 2 - MetroStars 0

Eddie Johnson to stay with FC Dallas

Eddie Johnson has signed a multi-year deal that keeps him with FC Dallas.

This is great news to all the FC Dallas fans out there, but this is also a wonderful turn of things for the MLS in general. Eddie Johnson is one of the best US players on the pitch. The fact that MLS could keep him, even though the Portuguese side SL Benfica offered $5 million for his talent, shows that the MLS is not just a farm club system for their bigger European rivals. Eddie seems to agree:

"This announcement is proof that Major League Soccer can compete for top players with any league in the world. I want to play in Major League Soccer and specifically with FC Dallas."

One of the biggest complants I hear from non-soccer fans (also know as the overwhelming majority of Americans) about US soccer is that the players are not high-caliber and that if anyone good does come along, they will be snatched up by Europe. The fact that first Landon Donovan and now Eddie Johnson have both decided to stay in country and grow the league shows that the MLS is coming of age. Add to it that Bruce Arena is looking to the MLS for more of the national teams needs and suddenly America looks like a good place to call home.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure FC Dallas did not offer Eddie as much money as he could have got overseas, but they did offer him a chance to finally break the sport into the US mainstream. I'm sure that the new FC Dallas stadium and his promise of playing time made any move look foolish.

Labels: ,

Panama shocks their way into the Gold Cup Final

Panama continued their Cinderella story last night as they held off Colombia to advance to the final against the US.

I'm sure Colombia is feeling a little cheated after a very poor call in the first half. Colombian Jaime Castrillon headed a ball that bounced off the crossbar, striking Panama's goalkeeper and appeared to cross the goal line before Panama's Julio Medina cleared it, but the ref called it a no goal. Colombia was pissed but instead of refocused on the game, as a more experienced side would have done, Humberto Mendoza decided to play rough. His elbow throwing in the 39th minute got him a free trip to the locker room and put his side down a man. However, Colombia did fight on and when Panama also lost a man, they showed what kind of side they can be. Colombia is a good team, but their youth causes them to play too much of an emotional game. If they can hold that in check, they might just qualify for the World Cup and surprise a few people.

As for Panama, they played their best match of the cup so far. Ricardo Phillips was shining for most of the night. His two goals show how much havoc he was causing the Colombian backfield. They were also able to survive a huge challenge when Luis Moreno was sent off in the 53rd minute, thus allowing Colombia to fight their way back into the game. Colombia did control most of the match from that point on, but Panama prevented them from dominating. This might just come in handy on Sunday since the US has scored 7 of their 11 tournament goals in the final 10 minutes.

Who would have guessed that a team that had never won a Gold Cup match would be getting ready to go for gold?

Maybe it was those crazy eyes!


The owner of those eyes is Jimmy Conrad. Do you think he was excited to congratulate Onyewu on his game-winning header? Wow. I'm just shocked that one of his eyes didn't fall out of their socket.

He's a Keeper

Just came across this article from yesterday's Daily Herald in Provo, Utah. It is a mainly bio piece on Bruce Arena's favorite goalie Kasey Keller, but the reporter does get in a little laugh with this line "...he was...transferred in January to the team with one of the tougher names to pronounce in pro sports, Germany's Borussia Moenchengladbach."

It is also good to see someone who was there reflect back on how far soccer has come in the US over the last 15 years:

"Qualifying for the 1990 World Cup, you were happy to have a game at St. Louis Soccer Park and have it sold out with 5,000, 6,000 people," he said. "And then now, we'll play a game somewhere and if we only have 30,000, we're a little disappointed. So that's a big measure."

Give it a read because it's always good to know the keeper.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

US "heads" to the final

In the final seconds of a thrilling match, Oguchi Onyewu heads in his first goal for the US national side granting them their ticket to the Gold Cup finals on Sunday.

Landon Donovan got an assist for the goal when his free kick found Onyewu by the near post. Onyewu's goal ended a fantastic final 15 minutes for the US side. The US was able to accomplish this even though Bruce Arena (coach) was ejected in the 58th minute for arguing a no call. Arena's ejection seemed to awaken the US squad. This awakening resulting in an equalizer in the 86th minute by John O'Brien. This was O'Brien's first national team goal since the 2004 World Cup.

My first reaction to this match is that the US was really weak during the first 35 minutes. An injury to Eddie Pope in the 13th minute seemed to throw off the initial game plan. Honduras was able to take advantage of this in the 31st minute with a nice goal by Ivan Guerrero (assist from Nunez). However, Honduras lost their keeper in the closing minutes of the first half, thus both sides had to shift tactics.

This was a fantastic match.

Labels: ,

Gold Cup Semi-finals

The chance of America taking the cup grew greatly thanks to cheeky goal by Colombia's Abel Aguilar (which knocked out Mexico), but they should not be looking towards the final just yet. Sure the US has a nice 28 match non-losing streak on home soil going on, but it was tonight's opponent Honduras that last took a game in the states (1 September 2001) and they might just do it again.

Honduras is coming off a very uneven match against Costa Rica, where they dominated most of the first half (scoring 3 goals in the first 35 minutes) but then fell back on their heals for most of the rest of the match, thus allowing Costa Rica to make it very close (final score 3-2). However, the fact that they were able to capitalize on Costa Rica's mistakes plus the way they managed to defend against an all out assault during the final 15 minutes, has got to pump the Honduras ego a bit. Also, Honduras is looking to grab some pride since they have been eliminated from World Cup qualifying. That said, I think their front line of Nunez and Velazquez will have a harder time with the American defense. If they don't get a goal in the first 15 minutes, I think they will have a very quiet night.

On the American side of things, they need DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan to keep chipping in shots, but they will also need goalkeeper Kasey Keller to continue coming up with big saves. They dominated the reggae boys of Jamaica over the weekend plus they just got the great news from FIFA, so I think they will be up for this game. However, I could see them getting very frustrated if they are held without a goal or any good shots on goal during the first 25 minutes or so. Plus, the US seems to have trouble get back into the game after halftime.

My prediction: US 2 - Honduras 0


Onto the other side of things, Colombia vs. Panama

The last time these two met, all of 15 days ago, it was Panama who walked away with a 1-0 win. In that match, Colombia was the better side during the first 45 and Panama was better during the second 45. Panama just happened to score during their better half.

On paper, Colombia should be the better team, but they have struggled during the Cup. They just sneaked into the elimination round, but once they got there, they made one hell of a splash. Their win over Mexico was nothing short of amazing. They played the way they should have been playing during the whole tournament, but I wonder if that was due to their opponent. Will they be as amped to play Panama? If not, will they be going home?

Panama in the Semis, who would have guessed it. A lot of credit has got to go to the Red Tides goalie Jaime Penedo. It is amazing what having the man between the bars catch fire during a tournament can do for a team. Still, they did have to play 120 minutes of soccer on Sunday night, so the chance of fatigue is really there. I am going to guess that Luis Tejada will come out blasting, but if he slows down, it will be hard for Panama to keep their run alive.

My prediction: Panama 2 - Columbia 1


US Men's team ranked 6th best in the World

Is this the 6th best team in the world?

So says the current Fifa Coca-Cola World Ranking.

The US moved up four rankings over the last month to reach this all-time best ranking. According to the US Soccer news release this is due to a "...six-week stretch in which the U.S. has won two World Cup qualifiers in convincing fashion and moved undefeated through their continental championship."

Here is the list of the top 20 teams in the World along with their movement over the last month and their current FIFA point total:

Rank Team +/-Rank Pts: Jul 05
1 Brazil 0 846
2 Argentina 1 787
3 Netherlands 1 781
4 Czech Rep. -2 778
5 Mexico 1 768
6 USA 4 765
7 France -2 749
8 England -1 744
8 Spain 1 744

10 Portugal -2 739
11 Germany 10 723
12 Turkey 2 716
13 Japan 5 715
14 Italy -3 713
15 Iran 2 711
15 Ireland 0 711
17 Sweden -5 710
18 Uruguay 0 703
19 Denmark -3 698
19 Greece -6 698

There are a couple of things I notice in this list. The soccer gods that are Brazil still stand tall (as they should) on this ranking scale. The way they played in the FIFA Confederations Cup should put to rest any thoughts that maybe they have gone soft since 2002.

Mexico got some good points out of the Confederations Cup as well (they were the only team to beat Brazil), but their fourth place finish seems to have prevented them from really firing up the chat (not that 5th in the world is a bad place).

Talking about firing up the chart, look at Germany. Up 10 spots in just one month. That is just amazing. Again, the Confederations Cup is the reason why. With all the worries before hand about Jürgen Klinsmann's handling of the team (especially the rotational defense) and the state of Germany's best know and most hated footballer Oliver Kahn, the way the played spoke for itself. The fact that they almost took Brazil to the mat in the semi-finals helped quiet the squad’s detractors. However, will they be able to do as well when they are not playing on home soil. We'll find out on the 17th of August when they go to Rotterdam to take on the 3rd best (and best of Europe) Netherlands.

On the down side of things, Greece. After last year's big Euro 2004 win, they have kind of, well fallen asleep. In the Confederations Cup, they only managed one tie (against a Mexican squad that had already clinched their trip to the elimination round) and did not find the back of the net once. Don't get me wrong, they are still a good team, but I think it might be awhile before they have another miracle on the pitch.


Welcome and Hello

So why am I here and what am I planning on doing?

I'm here because I have this odd habit of watching, listening and reading about soccer. I'm in no way a crazy or hardcore soccer nut, but I do enjoy the game and thought, why not write about it. So here I am, writing away. Write, write, write.

I'm sure it will get better.