Monday, November 27, 2006

US Women are golden

The US Women have done it again.

The team had never lost a Gold Cup going into the match and they still have not as they beat Canada 2-1 last night in Los Angeles. The US controlled much of the play through out the game, especially in overtime, but it was not the run of play that decided it, instead it was a controversial call in the 119th minute and a penalty kick.

Off some confusing play, the ball came into the box where Natasha Kai (pictured) reached her foot out for hit. The Canadian defender got in the way and the ref blew her whistle and pointed to the spot. Right away, I thought of the Italy-Australia match from the World Cup. This call, much like that one, was going to decide the game. Also, much like that call, it was not very clear that it was the correct one and at such a late part of the match, I think you better be 100% sure of the call. That said, there was no hesitation by referee Virginia Tovar, so I'm guessing she felt very sure.

Just a moment later, Kristine Lilly did what she does so well and got the goal. Game over, US gets the trophy.

It's get to see the program doing so well, but it's hard not to notice how much trouble they were having finishing their chances. Again and again they got to the final third but then either gave the ball away on a sloppy pass or took a long, off target shot.

The good news for the ladies is their fitness. Canada was out of fuel by the start of overtime, but the US still had some in them. If a kid is ever complaining about having to run some additional laps at the end of practice, just direct them to this game for the reason why.

Also, Natasha Kai showed she has all the elements of being the next great US scorer. She is fast, has a great first touch and can play smart. However, she is too quick to take shots and her passes need some work, but that will come with more games.

It is a shame there is not a women's league around where she and so many others could get more of such games (yes there is the USL W-League, but that lacks the needed resources to really develop players). Hopefully this problem will come to an end soon.

On last comment on the game, what was up with the far side lineswomen? How many wrong calls can you make? There were five or six offside calls that were bad and three or four corner kicks that were ruled as goal kicks instead.

Congratulations to the US women.


New York trades Guevara for designated player spot

The stormy relationship between the team from New York and Amado Guevara has come to a close as the Red Bulls have traded him to Chivas USA. The interesting thing is they did so for Chivas's designated player slot (DPS) and a third-round draft pick.

The DPS is what allows MLS teams to bring in big names like Beckham, Ronaldo, etc. Each team gets one, but they can trade it if they want. New York now has two spots. With all the Red Bull money, these two spots and the biggest market in America, it is safe to say someone is coming to town.

Guevara was the center of New York's team for a few years, so his departure is not minor news. He is getting a bit older, but he was still able to score a hat trick in the Bulls final regular season game against KC. Those three goals gave the team the points needed to advance to the playoffs.

"Amado is a tremendous player and his contribution to our team in the past has been undeniable," said Red Bulls coach Bruce Arena. "However, in the long run, by acquiring a second designated player slot as well as a third-round draft pick, it provides us the opportunity and mechanisms to improve our team over the next couple of years."

Guevera never really got along with Alexi Lalas (former New York/current LA GM) and there was a lot of talk that he would not be back for the 2006 season. However, he did return saying that all was fine now. Many wondered what had changed and then Red Bull announced their purchase of the team. Maybe the two were somehow connected.

Guevera will now reunite with coach Bob Bradley. When Bradley coached him in New York, they seemed to get along alright as Bradley gave him lots of space in the middle. It will be interesting to see how he works into Chivas's system.


MLS 3-hour 25% off sale will run a three hour sale today from 12-3pm ET. All items will be marked down 25%. Just thought I would pass this along incase you are looking for some holiday gifts.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

US U-20s to play World Cup qualifiers in January

On Friday, the CONCACAF U-20 qualification draw happened in Los Angeles. The draw put teams in one of two groups. Group A will play their qualifiers Jan 17-21 in Panama while Group B will happen Feb 21-25 in Mexico. The top two teams from each group will advance to the 2007 U-20 World Cup in Canada.

Here are the groups:

Group A

Group B
Costa Rica
St. Kitts & Nevis
Jamaica/Trinidad & Tobago

Jamaica and T&T will play a two game playoff to decide who gets into the group.

The US should be able to handle their group. They beat Guatemala 2-1 earlier this month and the leveled the U-23 Haiti side 5-1 back in October, but who knows what will actually happen in Panama.

The team will begin a training camp on Dec 12 in Bradenton, Florida that will last till January 7th (with four days off for Christmas). They will then take a week break before regrouping for a few days and traveling to Panama.

US Women looking for gold

USA vs. Canada
8:30pm ET
TV - Fox Soccer Channel

Tonight the US Women play Canada for the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup championship. In recent years, Canada has improved their women's game and is now one the America's biggest rivals. These two have already met once this year to decide a tournament championship when they faced off in South Korea for the Peace Queen Cup. In that outing, the US held a 1-0 lead off a Kristine Lilly goal to take the cup.

That final saw both sides play an amazing 90-minutes of soccer and tonight's game should be no different.

The US will be looking to keep their record unbeaten streak going. It currently stands at 31. They will also be looking to keep their record of never losing a CONCACAF title in which they competed intact (they did not compete in the 1998 cup).

By the way, belated congratulations to the US Women for clinching a spot to the World Cup in China with a 2-0 win over Mexico (I guess all US teams from now on need to clinch spots to the big tournaments with 2-0 wins over Mexico). The US dominated, but Mexico did show some good play at times. Their program is ever improving and I would be very surprised if they do not take third place tonight.

Congratulations also go out to Canada. As I said above, they are getting better every year.

Both the third place and championship matches will air live tonight on the Fox Soccer Channel. The Third place match between Mexico and Jamaica starts at 6pm ET with the US-Canada game starting at 9:30pm ET.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Is NYC FC the second New York MLS club?

The simple answer to that question is no, at least not anytime 'soon'. However, the idea is still an interesting one.

An unknown group is trying to start a New York based soccer club from the ground up. They hope to bring together a good team in the USL, get noticed by play in the US Open Cup, land a stadium and MLS franchise deal and win the CONCACAF club tournament to advance to the World Club Cup.

They even have a timeline for these goals:

2006/7 build the club, trial players, locate our home
2007/8 enters the USL
2008/9 Win the US Open Cup
2009/10 Finish at the top of the USL First Division table
2010/11 Enter MLS in a Soccer specific stadium play DC United, LA Galaxy, NY Red Bull (if they're still called that) as well as the top Mexican teams in the MLS/FMF Interliga, and hopefully Santos and Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores.
2011-2012 Play clubs on the level of Barcelona and Arsenal in the FIFA sixteen team Club World Cup to be played in the USA.

Should be a simple undertaking. Go from nothing to world champions in the span of 5 years, why not?

Anyway, I don't know who these people are or if they have any background to even begin making any of this possible, but they are looking for soccer folks in the New York area. If you are interested in finding out more, you can contact them at

I would love to see a team come up this way, but seems a little far-fetched to think that they can do everything listed above in such a short time frame. That is unless they have some serious money behind them.

MLS has recently mentioned the possibility of a second New York team, so the idea is not out of nowhere. However, if these folks did have some deep pockets, they probably wouldn't be looking for so much volunteer help and might have a bit flashier of a web site.

Anyway, I wish them nothing but the best of luck.

By the way, they talk about maybe purchasing the Cosmos name in the 'NYC Soccer' section.


Brazil still #1, USA slips further

The November FIFA rankings are out and there is little movement to report. Brazil and Italy still sit on the top two spots with Argentina now filling in the third.

The big news from the US perspective is that Mexico almost fell below the 20th spot. If that would have happened, then there would be no CONCACAF representation in the top 20. The US also dropped a few spots from 29th to 31st.

These rankings don't really mean much, however, if the World Cup does end up staying in South Africa, I think FIFA will want to give Africa an additional spot in the tournament. That spot will not come from Europe or South America, so who is left? If CONCACAF doesn't have some teams in the top 30, it will be difficult to justify 3.5 entries. The good news is Asia is in an even worse position.

Anyway, here are the top twenty:

RankTeamAug RankChange
5 England 50
7 Netherlands70
10Czech Republic8-2
18 Côte d'Ivoire 180

The only team to fall out of the top 20 was Uruguay who went from 17th to 29th.

So which teams moved the most on the full list?

The biggest gains were Turkmenistan (up 18 to 151), Cuba (up 22 to 46) and Laos who jumped 26 spots to 157.

But what about those who fell? The biggest losers are Antigua and Barbuda down 17 to 126, St. Kitts and Nevis dropped 23 to 141 and St. Lucia fell 39 places to 155.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Cory Gibbs returns to play

One of the saddest days for US fans prior to the World Cup was the day Cory Gibbs (pictured) was ruled out due to a right knee injury suffered in the Morocco friendly.

Six months to the day after suffering that injury, he returned to action. It was the first time he took the pitch for Charlton and it was only in a reserves match, but it was still something great to see (or read about).

He played the first 45 minutes and did not sustain any injuries.

'"The knee was fine," a happy Gibbs told YA. "And it felt good just to suit up even if it was just one half for the Reserves."

"The good thing was I came out injury free," he went on. "I am looking to play maybe one or two more reserve games and get back into the swing of things."'

His side lost 4-2 against the Reading reserves, but the result didn't really matter.

He hopes to increase his playing time over the next couple reserve matches and finally take the pitch with the senior squad.

Charlton could use his help as they find themselves at the bottom of the table in the EPL.

Congratulations to Cory and lets hope he keeps getting better.

Horrible PR move by World Cup 2010 Organizing Committee

Most of the talk surrounding the 2010 World Cup these days centers around how bad things are going. This might not be fair, however the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) did not make things any better today.

News media from around the world were told there would be a press conference at '1pm sharp' today to discuss the progress that has been made. However, 1pm came and nobody from the LOC was there. Time kept moving along and still no LOC members were there.

After waiting 70-minutes the media staged a walk out en bloc.

"We have become accustomed to this kind of thick-skinned arrogance and disrespect towards the media," said one local soccer journalist, "but we had hoped matters would change once the World Cup operation swung into gear.

"Apparently this is not the case," he added.

Representatives from the LOC's marketing company were asked were the board members were and if they were 'having lunch', but the rep said they could not say "because we don't know ourselves exactly what is happening."

There were later suggestions that the delay was the result of very important issues that needed to be resolved before the press conference.

"But why didn't they take this into consideration before the haphazard organization took place?" was a question that remained unanswered.

'Similar confusion emerged a month ago before the LOC's initial briefing on how the organization of the World Cup was progressing, with half the media only informed of the session at the last-minute and the other half not at all.

"This kind of shortcoming will not happen again," said Khoza at the time.'

It is events like this that will keep the 'South Africa is failing' narrative alive. Very simply put, you should never miss a called press conference. Even if someone just stands up and says, "We are not yet ready to make a big announcement, but we will soon", you have done better then not showing up at all.

These same media people that they pissed off today still have deadlines they need to make regarding stories about the World Cup. With total confusion ruling the day, guess what all those stories are going to be about?

Mark this one as another bad day for the South African World Cup.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

1860 Munich wants Josh Wolff

Josh Wolff just completed his try out with Second Bundesliga side 1860 Munich and it seems they liked what they saw. This should mean a contract offer coming Wolff's way soon, but I'm guessing after what happened in the summer with Derby County, he won't get too excited till the deal is done.

In that situation, both MLS and the club had agreed to a transfer, but the UK Home Office killed the deal when they would not grant Wolff a work permit.

If Wolff does go to Germany, it will be a free transfer since he is no longer under contract with MLS.

Hopefully this will work out for Wolff. At 29 years of age, if he doesn't make it to Europe soon, he will never be going.

1860 is currently in the sixth spot in the Second Bundesliga, but they are only 3 points away from promotion to the top league.

If Wolff did make the move, he would join fellow American and 2002/06 US World Cup member Gregg Berhalter.


US-Mexico to meet in Semifinals

Mexico beat Trinidad & Tobago in their first round Women's Gold Cup match yesterday and will now face the USA in the semifinals on Wednesday.

Mexico won 3-0.

"The Soca Princesses put up a battle against the Mexicans, but fell victim to three mistakes by its goalkeeper. The first one came when the T&T 'keeper spilled a free kick from Mexican defender Monica Gonzalez right in front of the net and Patricia Perez slammed home the rebound. At the stroke of halftime, Gonzalez got a goal of her own, lofting a 40-yard shot over the head of the T&T 'keeper. Mexican star forward Maribel Dominguez added the final goal in the second half, running onto a long ball that had bounced over the head of the T&T 'keeper. "Mari-Gol" only had to tap it into the net. "

Sometimes it just sucks being a keeper.

In the other match, Jamaica dropped Panama 2-0. Jamaica will face Canada in the other semifinal match.

Both matches take place on Wednesday. Canada-Jamaica kick off at 7:30pm ET while the US start at 10pm ET. The winners of these matches will advance to the final on Sunday as well as earn a CONCACAF spot in the 2007 World Cup.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Next US coach Klinsmann or Pekerman?

The rumor mills have been in overdrive the last 24 hours concerning the next US men's coach. For so long the talk has been about Jurgen Klinsmann, but no talk has shifted to the south with Jose Pekerman's name taking center stage.

The rumor also claims that Colorado Rapids manager Fernando Clavijo will come on as Pekerman's top assistant. Clavijo has dismissed all talk as untrue saying, "Unfortunately, it's just a good rumor."

However, the source for this rumor seems to be US Soccer President Sunil Gulati, so there might just be something to it.

It appears Klinsmann lost out on the job due to salary demands and control of the US youth set-up. If I had to guess, I would think the youth setup was the bigger issue. Paying a little extra for a top quality coach is something they could budget, but overhauling their youth system is something that would run into a lot of internal resistance.

Pekerman is a good choice, but will not create the media splash a Klinsmann would have. Not that there needs to be a splash, but Pekerman's World Cup did come to an end against Klinsmann's Germany, so expect some comparisons there. Add to it that Argentina was winning the match till Pekerman made some strange substitutions that left his side overpowered by the Germans, and you've got an obvious angle for the news coverage.

That said, Pekerman has been strong on youth development, having won the U-20 youth Championship three times (1995,97, 2001).

If the rumors are true, we can expect an announcement during this week's CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup.

Another part of the rumor has US and Mexico playing a friendly in February.

One last thing, if this is all true, why is Gulati giving this scoop to a Mexican newspaper (La Opinion) (edit - I was wrong, La Opinion is based in LA. It is a Spanish speaking paper that other reports seemed to indicate was based in Mexico. Sorry about the error)? Makes me wonder if he is hoping to get some good press out of Spanish speaking papers to help influence the English press here in the US.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Fulham & Charlton looking at Dempsey

It seems Charlton Athletic is interested in offering Clint Dempsey a trial ahead of a possible move to the EPL in January. However, Charlton is not the only London team interested in the New England midfielder, as Fulham looks ready to bid on him.

Dempsey would not say which clubs are making an offer, however he did say "things are happening quickly."

However, MLS would have to decide to let him go, which they did not want to do during the summer. Still Dempsey is optimistic.

"(MLS is) either going to make money off of me or (they're) not going to make any money off of me.

"I think they're going to take this opportunity to cash in on me, make some money and help further develop this league. At the same time, it allows me to accomplish one of my dreams."

It would seem Fulham is willing to offer MLS £2 million ($3.77million) for Dempsey. That is a large amount of money.

Dempsey is going to Europe, the question is will MLS make some money off it or not. This is not a small amount for the league. To put it in perspective, this one sale could bring the league about 25% of what it will make off the royalties from their new television contracts next year.

Dempsey is a star player, but he will not bring $4 million worth to the league in 2007. Why not make this a win-win situation? Let Clint go to Europe like he wants and get some money from it. MLS could use the money to help build the youth academies they just started, thus insuring more players of Dempsey's skill will be available for the league in years to come.

It really is a simple choice. Let's hope MLS can make the easy call.


Taylor Twellman has hernia surgery, DC United likes land deal

New England Revolution and US international forward Taylor Twellman underwent hernia repair surgery today in Munich, Germany. Dr. Ulrike Muschaweck performed the work.

He will need 8-10 days of recovery before he can play again.

In non-surgical news, DC United is very happy with the US Congress as they past a bill that will give certain federal land to the district. One of the areas turned over to DC is Poplar Point, which is where United wants to build their soccer specific stadium.

The team's President said this of the bill:

"Passage of the Land Transfer Bill is an important step toward D.C. United staying in the District and making a major investment in the DC community. We will work with Mayor-elect Fenty, the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission, other city agencies and the people of Anacostia to finalize plans for a development anchored by United's new stadium."

Translation, first step done, but there is still a lot to do.

The bill awaits George Bush's signature.

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Serioux goes to Toronto Dallas, O'Brien goes to Toronto

What a day for Adrian Serioux (pictured). He woke up as a member of the Dynamo, became part of Toronto FC due to the expansion draft and then was traded to FC Dallas an hour later.

Three clubs in one day, wow.

In return for the trade, Dallas sends always happy midfielder Ronnie O'Brien to Canada. In an interesting twist, this is the second time Coach Mo Johnston has traded Serioux in less then a year. While he was coach of the team from New York, Mo sent Serioux to Houston for Danny O'Rourke. Mo took O'Rourke from New York today.

One would seem to think this trade might be part of the reason FC Dallas did not have a player taken in the draft.

Mo Johnson said to expect more trades in the next 48-hours as at least six of his acquisitions today were made for trade purposes.

Getting rid of Serioux is a bit of a surprise as he is Canadian, thus would count as a domestic player. He is also a strong defender. He missed some games due to injury this season, but did make a good return to form. This is also strange because Serioux wanted to play in Toronto to be closer to his family. If this is true, then he might not be happy with his time in Dallas. Could this hurt his play on the pitch?

O'Brien can be an outstanding midfielder, however he can also be a difficult player who is easily upset. Keeping him in line will be a big test of Johnston's coaching abilities.

Houston fans have got to hate this. Not only did they lose a good back, but they also lost him to their Texas rival.

Update: Well O'Rourke's and Will Hesmer's time in Toronto didn't last long as both were traded to Columbus in exchange for a partial allocation. Hesmer was the biggest surprise for me, but I get it now. The Crew needed another goalkeeper.

Also, Jason Kreis is back with Real Salt Lake as his club gave Toronto a partial allocation to have him returned.

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Toronto FC's Draft picks

Mo Johnson has released his list. Here are the new players for Toronto FC:

1. Paulo Nagamura (Los Angeles Galaxy)
2. Danny O'Rourke (New York Red Bulls)
3. Jose Cancela (New England Revolution)
4. Adrian Serioux (Houston Dynamo)
5. Nate Jaqua (Chicago Fire)
6. Rod Dyachenko (D.C. United)
7. Jason Kreis (Real Salt Lake)
8. Tim Regan (Chivas USA)
9. Ritchie Kotschau (Columbus Crew)
10. Will Hesmer (Kansas City Wizards)

FC Dallas and Colorado did not lose players in this draft

Biggest surprise for me is Will Hesmer from KC. I didn't think they were going to go for a goalkeeper and even if they did, I would have thought they would have gone for someone else. That is unless they plan on using Hesmer as their number 2 and going with a Canadian for their top spot.

The O'Rourke move instead of Buddle is a little bit of a surprise as is Ritchie Kotschau of the Crew. I guess Mo will use him and his 8-years in the league as an achor in the back.

So how did I do with my picks? I only got 4 of the 10 (Jaqua, Regan, Serioux and Nagamura).

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Fox Soccer Channel to air Gold Cups

Fox Soccer Channel (FSC) have won the rights to broadcast both the 2006 CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup and the 2007 CONCACAF Men's Gold Cup.

The women's event takes place next week in Los Angeles. If the US takes first or second place, they will automatically qualify for the 2007 Women's World Cup in China. The US does not play till Nov. 22. FSC will air both the US and Canadian matches on the 22nd (starts at 7:30pm ET). They will also air the third place and final on Nov. 26 (starts at 6pm ET).

For the men, FSC will broadcast all three of their group matches. They will also air one quarterfinal, one semifinal and the final. The winner of the Men's Gold Cup will win the CONCACAF spot in the FIFA Confederations Cup. The event will take place in the US from June 6-24.


Toronto FC Expansion Draft today

Update here.

In just 30-minutes up to 10 MLS players will have a new home when Toronto FC coach Mo Johnson releases his selections for the expansion draft (update: the press conference will not take place till 2:30pm ET)

Mo can take up to 10 players, but can only take one from a team. Here is the full list of players available.

Here is my guess on his picks:

Chicago - Nate Jaqua (F)
Chivas - Tim Regan (D)
Colorado - Mike Petke (D)
DC United - Clyde Simms (M)
FC Dallas - Roberto Mina (F)
Houston - Adrian Serioux (D/M)
LA - Paulo Nagamura (M)
New England - Joe Franchino (D)
New York - Edson Buddle (F)
Salt Lake - Andy Williams (M/F)

Columbus - None
Kansas City - None

For me the biggest surprise would be not taking Canadian Adrian Serioux from Houston. A second surprise, through nowhere near as big would be passing over Buddle. Mo liked him enough to bring him to New York before he got fire, so I don't see why he wouldn't do the same thing in Toronto.

The pick I am the least sure about it Joe Franchino. There are a number of good options from the Revs (such as James Riley or Jeff Larentowicz), so who knows.

What would be really wild is if Mo went with John O'Brien from Chivas. With his injury woes and high salary, I don't see this happening, but who know, Mo might be thinking outside the box, i.e. O'Brien will recover some day.

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Real Salk Lake has a jersey sponsor

At 1:30pm ET today, Real Salt Lake will be the first MLS team to announce a jersey sponsorship deal. The company involved is 'nutritionals leader' XanGo. XanGo is Utah-based, so the connection is a smart one.

No information on the deal has been released, but rumors say it is a $1million per year deal.

My biggest concern about logos going on shirts was how it would look. I really didn't want something on there that clashed with the rest of the jersey. Thankfully, the Real shirt just has the company's name on it, thus blending in perfectly. Hopefully as other jersey deals are announced, this will be a constant thread.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hugo Sanchez is Mexico's new coach

Hugo Sanchez was selected as the new Mexican National coach by a unanimous vote of Mexico's 18 first-division teams. The appointment comes a day after Argentine Americo Gallego withdrew his name from consideration.

Sanchez was very critical of the former coach Ricardo La Volpe due to his desire to play nationalized players and his failure to beat the US in America.

This puts to rest two rumors, Sanchez will not coach the US and Klinsmann is not going to Mexico.

Sanchez has had much success in the Mexican league, but will he be able to make it happen on the national stage?


Reading looking at Eddie Johnson, O'Brien wants to stay in Dallas

Just about every American's favorite new EPL side Reading is trying to line up a trial for the Kansas City Wizards' Eddie Johnson (pictured).

If Reading does end up signing Johnson from MLS, he would experience a reunion with his U-20 national team roommate Bobby Convey.

Johnson has been wanted a move for a while now, but his poor performance since his 2005 injury has dimmed his star. That said, the way he was scoring goals before the injury is always going to attract attention. Also, Johnson's poor play might have to do with him being bored in America. Perhaps a move to a tougher league would bring out the old Johnson.

If Johnson does sign with Reading, he would also join fellow American Marcus Hahnemann. This move would also move Reading ahead of Fulham in the race to have the most Americans on a team (unless Fulham gets the Gooch).

Meanwhile, back in America, Ronnie O'Brien's agent says that stories of his wanting to be traded are not true. He specifically said a move to Toronto has not been agreed to.

O'Brien has never seemed very happy in Dallas, but maybe with the coaching situation in flux, he is waiting to see who gets that job before deciding on his future. Or maybe, as some have commented, his agent is just saying he wants to stay to up his future salary.

On a side note, the picture Matchnight uses in the link kind of explains their feelings on O'Brien don't you think?


U-20 men beat Guatemala, US Women start training

the U-20 men defeated Guatemala 2-1 last night. Surprisingly, Guatemala took the early lead off a Edward de la Roca goal in the 20th minute. This was one of only two shots his team had on the night.

However, Freddy Adu was able to tie the game up in the 63rd thanks to cross into the box by Quavas Kirk.

"Kirk collected the ball along the left flank and created enough space to knock a cross into the box where Adu headed the ball across the goal and past Reyes into the left side of the net. The assist was the first for Kirk with the U-20s. "

The US kept attacking, but they did not get the game winner till the 86th minute when Anthony Wallace put a low shot into goal that keeper Carlos Reyes misplayed, allowing it to bounce over his arms and into goal.

"Adu once again set up one of him teammates off a restart, this time sending in a accurate free kick to the head of Dax McCarty in the penalty area in the 75th minute. One of the shortest players on the field, McCarty rose for his header just inside the box, but his attempt went just wide left.

Despite missing the header, McCarty did end up getting a point when his simple pass from 30 yards out to Wallace led to the USA’s game-winning goal. The University of South Florida freshman collected the ball near the left corner of the penalty area and looked up at goal before hitting a ball that appeared to be a bad cross. The low drive bounced along the ground and took a small hop to allow what seemed to be an easy collection for Reyes, a disastrous mistake that allowed the U.S. to come away victorious. "

This was the last training camp for the U-20 players ahead of the draw for the 2007 CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying Tournament, which will decide the teams that will advance to the U-20 World Cup next summer in Canada.

The qualifying will take place in two groups. Group A taking place from Jan. 17-21 in Panama City, Panama, and Group B from Feb. 21-25 in Culiacan, Sinaloa, which is on the west coast of Mexico.

The draw to decide team groups will take place next Friday (Nov 24) in Los Angeles.

The U-20 will return to camp on December 12 in Bradenton, Florida.

On the other side of the country, the US Women have started their final preparations at the Home Depot Center for the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup. The women were last together earlier this month when the won the Peace Queen Cup in South Korea.

The Gold Cup will also decide which teams from CONCACAF qualify for next summer's World Cup in China. For the US, due to a bye in the initial leg, all they need to do is win their first match and they will be on their way to China. That first match will take place on November 22 at 7pm against Mexico or Trinidad & Tobago.

On the 22nd, they have a chance to make team history if they win. If so, they will have gone 31 consecutive matches without losing. Their current strike of 30 games dates back to Dec. 8 2004.

The Gold Cup third place and final will take place on November 26.


Death threats sent to two Reading players

Ibrahima Sonko and Stephen Hunt have received numerous threatening letters due to their involvement in injuries sustained by two Chelsea goalkeepers on October 14.

Hunt was the player involved in the collision with Peter Cech that caused a depressed skull fracture. In the same game, Sonko knocked Cech's replacement, Carlo Cudicini, unconscious late in the game.

Police are investigating these threats. The two teams will meet again on Boxing Day (Dec 26) at Chelsea.

US men to play Denmark in January

Come January, the men's national team will ride again as Denmark has accepted an invitation to play a game in Los Angeles.

This will mark the first match for the US since the lose against Ghana on June 22. It will also be the first test for the new manager.

It is great to see the national team scheduling games again, however there is still a draw back to this match as Denmark is only planning on bringing players from their domestic league. It is better then them bringing a U-20 team, but still not ideal.

These two sides have met before in LA, with the US getting their first ever result against the team thanks to a 1-1 tie.

Again, this is not perfect, but it is better then sitting out another international date.

Ticket information has yet to be released.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Houston, DC United and CONCACAF Champions Cup Dates

The Houston Dynamo and DC United will represent the US in the 2007 CONCACAF Champions Cup. The Dynamo get the invite by winning the MLS Cup while DC make it in due to their Supporters' Shield win.

In all, eight teams will compete in the Champions Cup. The other known sides are Mexican League Clausura winners CF Pachuca and Central American teams CD Olimpia of Honduras, Puntarenas FC of Costa Rica. The winner of the Mexican League Torneo de Apertura, the Caribbean Champion and one other Central American team will also earn spots.

The Champions Cup will take part in three stages, all of which are two leg home-home series.

Here are the dates:
Quarter-Finals: 1st Leg - February 20-22; 2nd Leg - February 27-March 1

Semi-Finals: 1st Leg - March 13-15; 2nd Leg - April 3-5

Finals: 1st Leg - April 17-19; 2nd Leg - April 24-26

The winner of the Cup will represent CONCACAF in the 2007 FIFA Club World Cup, while the Champions Cup runner-up will be one of the three CONCACAF invitees to the 2007 Copa Nissan Sudamericana (South American Cup).

This tournament has been played every year since 1962, however only two US teams have ever won it (DC United - 1998, LA Galaxy - 2000). This marks DC United's seventh trip to the Cup in 11 years (1997-99, 2000, 02, 05, 07. Houston, being only one year old, has never made it to the Cup before. However, the San Jose Earthquakes qualified three times (2002-04).

With these games being played so early in the MLS season (actually, pre-season), they will be at a major disadvantage. It will be interesting to see if the clubs get some sort of exemption from the league so they can practice early. My guess is this will not happen. So if you are a Houston or DC fan, be ready to get to the stadium to support your side, because they are going to need to feed off the crowd.

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FC Dallas to play Chivas and Cruz Azul; want to host third MLS Cup

Rumor has it that FC Dallas has been asked to participate in an eight-team tournament next summer between MLS and the Mexican League. In addition, it looks like Chivas and Cruz Azul would be two of teams Dallas would face at Pizza Hut Park.

Officials declined to comment on this tournament.

If this is true, those are going to be some amazing games. The two teams played each other at the Park in January and set the attendance record that was only broken by this year's MLS Cup. Both teams bring history and wonderful play to the pitch and would really test FC Dallas.

Also, the fans of these two clubs will bring an intensity that I'm sure will educate some US fans on how to be a 'crazed' soccer fan. Not knocking anyone here, just encouraging everyone to stand up and cheer at soccer matches.

In addition, the club has also asked to host a third straight MLS Cup. The club did an excellent job this year, but I don't see anyway they will get a third chance. With new stadiums in Chicago, Colorado and Toronto, it will be hard to justify bringing it back to Dallas. Even if the league decides they don't want it somewhere that could be cold, one would have to figure LA would have the upper hand.

With all these new parks (plus the one in Columbus) and New York's stadium set to open in 2008, it might be a long time before Dallas sees the Cup again.

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2006 preseason predictions versus reality

Now that the Houston Dynamo are champions and the MLS season is over, I thought it would be a good idea to look back at my pre-season predictions and see just how wildly wrong I was. On March 30th I made my predictions and here is how I thought the season would play out.

DC UnitedDC United
Chicago FireNew England Revolution
New England RevoltionChicago Fire
New York Red BullsNew York Red Bulls
Columbus CrewKansas City Wizards
Kansas City WizardsColumbus Crew

FC DallasFC Dallas
Chivas USAHouston Dynamo
Houston DynamoChivas USA
Los Angeles GalaxyColorado Rapids
Real Salt Lake Los Angeles Galaxy
Colorado RapidsReal Salt Lake

Round one
DC beats New YorkDC beat New York
New England beats ChicagoNew England beat Chicago
FC Dallas beats LAColorado beat FC Dallas
Houston beats ChivasHouston beat Chivas

Conference Championship
New England beats DCNew England beat DC
FC Dallas beats HoustonHouston beat Colorado

FC Dallas beats New EnglandHouston beat New England

Although I don't see it on my pre-season post, I thought FC Dallas would win the Supporteres' Shield, but DC United won that one.

All and all, not that bad in the prediction department. I got the top spots in each conference correct, but my placement on the others was a little off. I nailed the Eastern Conference playoff outcomes, but fumbled in the West thanks to first picking LA to take the fourth spot and second expecting Dallas to beat the fourth spot.

However, I did predicted that New England would lose in the final and I was right, I just had the wrong team from Texas taking the trophy.

Some other interesting things from my predictions:

Christian Gomez is going to have a wonderful year - correct
The Fire will need to survive a grueling road trip to start the season, but if they can walk away from it with 15 points, they will be very well positioned - they got 11 points
The Revs will be a good team this year, but they will suffer from the World Cup - wrong, they suffered for other reasons
New York is still disorganized and will take a month or so to gel - wrong, they never really gelled
Columbus will make a close race out of it with New York for spot number four - wrong
Kansas City will miss (the playoffs) by about 6 points - wrong, they only missed by 1

The big question for (Dallas) is the defense - correct, but isn't that always the case with Dallas?
Bob Bradley is a hell of a coach and he has brought in the talent needed to make a winning club - correct since Chivas was a winning club
Houston is still good and will threaten, but they will not be the juggernaut they were during the 2005 regular season - correct, not a juggernaut but a hell of a threat
Just getting by worked out great for (LA) in 2005, so why not do it again? - wrong
I just don't see a way for (Salt Lake) to sneak past the Galaxy - correct, but I thought it would be for fourth not fifth place
Colorado will not have enough to make it to the playoffs in a much tougher Western Conference - wrong, they were just tough enough.

All and all, not that bad. Now what about 2007?


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Toronto FC gets ready for expansion draft

On Friday Toronto FC will get to select 10 players from the other teams around the league to play for the team. Today, the other 12 MLS clubs had to submit the names of players they were protecting from the draft. Each team got to protect 11 people out of their 28-member roster.

Toronto will get to select any 10-players from the list below; however, they can only pick one player from any team.

The names that stand out for me on the list are John O'Brien (Chivas), Clint Mathis (Colorado), Roberto Mina (FCD) Bo Oshoniyi (KC) Zach Thornton (KC), Cobi Jones (LA) Joe Franchino (NE), Edson Buddle (NY), Tony Meola (NY), Scott Garlick (Salt Lake), Jason Kreis (Salt Lake)

Anyway you look at it, Toronto is going to have a good goalkeeper. There are a number of good choices and it will be interesting to see which way they go. I'm really surprised to see Buddle and Franchino on the list. Buddle did not have a great year, but he was still on of the better spots on the Red Bull line up. Franchino is the Revs current captain and is great on crosses. I would be surprised to not see him in Canada next season.

Anyway, here is the list of players open to Toronto:

Chicago Fire
Bedrossian, Pascal
Brown, C.J.
Capano, Craig
Carr, Calen
Curtin, Jeff
Franks, Floyd
Griffin, Leonard
Gutierrez, Diego
Jaqua, Nate
Johnson, Ryan
Mahoney, David (GK)
Montz, Jared
Plotkin, Brian
Russolillo, Jordan
Ruud, Adam
Sanneh, Tony
Thornton, Zach (GK)
Thorrington, John
Ughiovhe, Idris

Chivas USA
Arias, Esteban
Borja, Carlos
Burpo, Preston (GK)
Corona, Rene
Garcia, Johnny
Helm, Drew
Llamosa, Carlos
Lopez, Rodrigo
Morales, Jesus
Muñoz, Mike
O'Brien, John
Perez, Orlando
Regan, Tim
Robles, Eder
Sanchez, Estuardo
Taylor, Matt
Whitfield, Brent

Colorado Rapids
Clark, Colin
Crawford, Matt
Denton, Eric
Gargan, Dan
Gonzalez, Luchi
Gotsmanov, Sasha
Harvey, Jordan
Jordan, Matt (GK)
Keel, Stephen
King, Aaron
Kirovski, Jovan
Mathis, Clint
Nkong, Alain
Noel, Fabrice
Petke, Mike
Tarley, Melvin

Columbus Crew
Becerra, Ivan
Burch, Marc
Busch, Jon (GK)
Cameron, Knox
Coiner, Ryan
Gaudette, Bill (GK)
Hendrickson, Ezra
Kotschau, Ritchie
Leitch, Chris
Moss, Brandon
Palmer, Noah (GK)
Pierce, Rusty
Retiz, Jose
Rozental, Sebastian
Vasquez, Eric
Walker, Jonny (GK)

FC Dallas
Burse, Ray (GK)
Cassar, Jeff (GK)
Dello-Russo, Michael
Gbandi, Chris
Goodson, Clarence
Mina, Roberto
Moore, Justin
Oduro, Dominic
Pitchkolan, Aaron
Rhine, Bobby
Smith, Alex
Valakari, Simo
Vanney, Greg
Wagenfuhr, David
Yi, Alex

D.C. United
Carroll, Jeff
Deroux, Stephen
Donnet, Matias
Dyachenko, Rod
McIntosh, Ryan (GK)
McTavish, Devon
Mediate, Domenic
Metcalf, Andy
Moose, Justin
Nickell, Matthew
Prideaux, Brandon
Rimando, Nick (GK)
Simms, Clyde
Ssejjemba, Robert
Stokes, David
Walker, Jamil
Wilson, John

Houston Dynamo
Aloisi, Chris
Chabala, Mike
Goldthwaite, Kevin
Gray, Kelly
Holden, Stuart
Hutton, Martin
Lanes, Aaron
Moloi, Mpho
Nash, Julian
Serioux, Adrian
Storey, Marcus
Waibel, Craig
Wells, Zach (GK)
Wondolowski, Chris

Kansas City Wizards
Groenwald, Matt
Hesmer, Will (GK)
Kronberg, Eric (GK)
McMahen, Ryan
Oshoniyi, Bo (GK)
Raad, Sergei
Raybould, Ryan
Roberts, Brian
Shirley, Stephen
Van Den Bergh, Dave
Wahl, Tyson
Watson, Lance
Zotinca, Alex

Los Angeles Galaxy
Enfield, Michael
Gardner, Josh
Glinton, Gavin
Gonzalez, Guillermo
Gordon, Alan
Hansen, Joshua
Jones, Cobi
Martino, Kyle
Miglioranzi, Stefani
Nagamura, Paulo
Randolph, Michael
Saunders, Joshua (GK)
Veris, Kyle

New England Revolution
Abundis, Jose Manuel
Brown, Kyle
Cancela, Jose
Franchino, Joe
Galik, Jani
Gonzalez, Miguel
Haggerty, Patrick
Hernandez, Daniel
John, Avery
Larentowicz, Jeff
Leonard, Marshall
Oka, Arsene
Riley, James
Tomasso, T.J. (GK)
Warren, Doug (GK)
Williamson, Adam
Wynn, Danny

New York Red Bulls
Behonick, Michael (GK)
Buddle, Edson
Camp, Blake
Canero, Peter
Graham, Taylor
Henderson, Chris
Jolley, Steve
Kuykendall, Shawn
Laventure, Jerrod
Lisi, Mark
Meola, Tony (GK)
O'Rourke, Danny
Vide, Joseph
Wolyniec, John

Real Salt Lake
Acosta, Adam
Akwari, Nelson
Besagno, Jacob
Broome, Paul
Brown, Chris
Cutler, Kenny
Garlick, Scott (GK)
Gil, Brian
Harrison, Chase
Hashimoto, Duke
Kreis, Jason
Nolly, Jay (GK)
Novak, Kevin
Sequeira, Douglas
Trembly, Seth
Williams, Andy
Worthen, Joey

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KC Wizards get another 'no' vote on soccer stadium

Last Tuesday the voters of Johnson County voted down a ballot proposal to fund a 300-acre youth soccer complex. Although none of the money from that proposal went to the Kansas City Wizards' new stadium, the team pretty much said that no youth fields meant no stadium.

Still, the club went to the Overland Park City Council to see if they would be willing to support using a tax incentive to pay for the new stadium. Overland Park is a city within Johnson County that makes up about half the population of the county.

Anyway, the City Council gave the Wizards a unanimous 'no' vote with a few members saying they are against the stadium even if the financing changes.

This pretty much kills off any hope the team had of placing a new stadium in Overland Park. Talk now turns to Overland's neighbor, the city of Olathe.

Olathe was in the running before the team picked Overland Park. Seeing as Olathe is part of Johnson County, I'm not sure the Wizards will find much more love there.

All and all, it's a bad situation for the team from Kansas City. They need a stadium to make money, but without a deal anywhere near being in place, the best they could hope for is a new home by 2010. That's a long time to be waiting.

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Dynamo want soccer stadium by 2009

The new MLS Champions are enjoying their victory with a block party at city hall this evening from 5-7pm. This tops off a wonderfully successful first year for the club.

Next up for the club's owners, a new soccer specific complex. Their goal is to be in a new home by 2009.

As anyone who followed the team knows, it was the lack of a stadium that 'forced' the team to move from San Jose to Houston in the first place. The team's owners want a complex that "could be used for other entertainment venues, such as concerts as well as international soccer matches."

It seems they have talked with a number of cities around the area including Sugar Land, Webster and Pearland (see underlined areas on map).

Their current home is Robertson stadium, which is located near downtown Houston on the campus of the University of Houston. They will continue to play there for two more seasons.

It would be great to have a stadium in the city on the team's jersey, but that is a rarity in any sport these days. I don't know much about the area, so I can't say anything good or bad about any of them. However, if they really want to have a stadium opened in 2009, they will need to make a choice soon since it will take about 16-20 months to build it.

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FSC and MLS Saturday nights

Fox Soccer Channel (FSC) will air MLS matches on Saturday nights starting next season. The big news is that these matches will include a live pre and post game show, giving the league their first ever on-site, three-hour live show.

The pre and post game shows will include analysis of the games, the players and involve fans in the action.

In addition, 'the Fox Sports World Report, will feature an MLS weekend preview hosted by Bobby McMahon, a Sunday night recap of all the MLS action played that weekend, and a Wednesday “MLS Pulse” segment reviewing the week’s matches, highlights, news and notes.'

FSC will air 28 weekly games during the season and at least three during the playoffs.

Just getting the games on the air is good, but the additional pre and post game shows will open up the league to even more people. It will explain the game for those who might not live and breath soccer. Hopefully it will also lead to some better production value across the board.

The league will now of games of the week on Thursday (ESPN2) and Saturday (FSC). Hopefully having these games at standardized times will make it easier for casual fans to follow the game. If you know every Thursday at 7pm there is a match, then you don't have to go hunting to find it.

MLS has made a lot of big moves in the last six months that will bring in a large amount of cash and exposure. The question now becomes can the quality of play on the field reach the level needed to sustain and grow the league? The youth academies and reserve leagues are an indication that they are heading in that direction, but there is still the issue of forced parity.

Anyways, it is nice to know that I'll have 28-weeks of doing very little on my Saturday nights other then watching soccer matches. As if my social life needed another knock against it.

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Houston Dynamo are the 2006 MLS Cup Champions

Houston Dynamo 1-1 New England Revolution

Houston wins 4-3 on penalty kicks

After a day of difficult travel and no internet connection, I am finally able to post a story that is 42-hours old. The Houston Dynamo have won the 2006 MLS Cup.

In other news, Lincoln has been shot. More as that develops.

The game itself saw lots of midfield play during the first hour. It's not that it was bad soccer, it was just not very exciting. Then a fellow by the name of Clint Dempsey came onto the pitch and the mode changed.

Dempsey broke the tightness that had dominated the game up to that point. He did made good runs at the Dynamo defense, but the big advantage was the fear he put into them. They coasted over to cover him, leaving holes for other Revolution plays to poke through.

However, even with these openings, New England could not beat Pat Onstad.

To overtime we went.

A strange thing happened in Frisco, Texas, during the break before overtime, it became cold. The sun sank low on the horizon, the wind picked up, a few drops of rain fell and suddenly the beer lines were replaced by hot chocolate ones. It was only in the low 50's, but it felt much different then the start of the match. The good news, this seemed to inspire fans to move around more, which also seemed to pick up the play in overtime.

The whole park was on its feet as Khano Smith put his perfect pass over to Taylor Twellman. When the ball finally went into net, the crowd, which was overwhelmingly pro-Dynamo, let out a gasp.

I must admit, I thought, "It's over. No way the Revolution will blow a lead with just seven minutes left to play." However, the wife leaned over and said "watch out for Ching or Moreno, one of them will tie this up and force kicks"

Before I even had the chance to ask her why she thought this, Brain Mullan placed the cross that Ching snapped into the net.

I looked at the wife in amazement as she cheered wildly.

Next time she makes a prediction like that, I'm calling someone and making a bet.

Suddenly the stadium was as passionate as some of the World Cup matches. Everyone seemed to think there was going to be another goal. Everyone was shouting and cheering, but alas we went to kicks.

Even after surrendering the lead in such inglorious fashion, New England had to feel good about where they were. They have one of, if not the best goalkeepers in the league and had recently won a game on kicks. Even with Dempsey left off the list due to his ankle injury, it was their game to loose.

Back and forth, all good, then Pat Noonan put his shot over the bar and the Dynamo fans go mad. But reality returned as Reis put the stop on Brad Davis's kick. Twellman hits his and Ching just beat Reis to force Jay Heaps to come up big. Sadly for Heaps, he did not.

The orange tide erupted; Houston had won.

Either team could have walked away as a deserving champion, but the Dynamo just happened to have that little extra to make it happen.

Congratulations to Houston and their fans. They put together a fantastic season and have exposed the city for the hotbed of soccer that it is.

Some other items of note:
- It seemed like every time Dempsey went down, he got a foul. I don't think anything sinister was up, but when you have the current star of the American crop on the pitch, I think MLS refs are more likely to call any tackles as fouls.

- New England did a great job containing Dwayne De Rosario and forcing him to play deep.

- How much must it have sucked to be a DC United fan while watching this game. At RFK, the Revs hold a one goal lead for 90-minutes, but they couldn't even hold 90-seconds in Texas.

- Dynamo fans are damn great fans and even better drinkers. They were truly filled with Texas pride.

- I saw in the Dallas paper that New England did not get to practice with the silver balls on Saturday. The reason, each team got 15 for their practices, but New England's were stolen Friday night.

- Also from the Dallas paper, it seems José Manuel Abundis was pissed that coach Steve Nicol didn't put him into the match and no longer wants to play with the Revs.

- The Revolution have not always been a strong team but one could argue that they have been one of the top three teams of the last 5 years, yet they do not have a single piece of silverware in their trophy cabinet. Makes you wonder what it would take for them to win something (Kinney over at DCenters has some thoughts that might be relevant to this).

- Pizza Hut Park is a top quality facility, but with no roof or heavily shaded area, I can only image how deadly the place is on summer afternoon games.

- The beer prices were a pleasant surprise (just $4-5 for a pint). On top of that, they were selling liquor. In fact, the first thing I saw as I came in the East gate was a card table selling hard alcohol. Not what I expected, but very fun to see.

- The parking and traffic were not bad at all. I had read a number of reports about how congested the area gets during games, but it seemed well controlled.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

MLS Cup on ABC today at 3:30pm ET

Just a reminder that the 2006 MLS Cup between the New England Revolution and Houston Dynamo takes place today in Frisco, Texas. The match will air live on ABC at 3:30pm ET.

You can read my preview below.

Enjoy the game.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Beckham rule approved; All 2007 MLS games to be on TV

Major League Soccer's Board of Governors has approved the so-called Beckham rule for the 2007 season.

The actual name is the Designated Player Rule and it will allow teams to bring in a high salary player with only $400,000 of their salary counting towards their $1.9 million salary cap. Each team will get one designated player allocation, which they can use or trade to other clubs. However, no team can have more then two designated players. Current players such as Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Carlos Ruiz (FC Dallas) and Eddie Johnson (Kansas City) will count as their team's designated player.

The passage of this rule means teams can now sign the big names that the rumor mill has turned out of late such as David Beckham. (Updated here)

Although this rule is new, the idea is not. Clubs have signed players in this manor before (with only a portion of the salary counting towards their cap), but the league had to come up with some creative reasoning behind it. Now every team has the same rights.

This rule will only last between the 2007-09 seasons.

This rule is no big surprise and of all the ways for it to be implemented, this is probably the best since it gives each team something. If a club can't get a top name player, they can still make some money by selling their allocation. Hopefully teams will use this to bring in players who will not just sell tickets but also up the play on the field. My guess is New York will be the first team to bring in someone new under this rule.

The governors also announced that, for the first time every, every single MLS match will be televised. This is all the information MLS gave, but it seems to suggest that either teams are no longer responsible to get their games on the air, meaning the league will now front the bill, or that all clubs are now required to air their games.

Next year's MLS Cup will take place on November 18th, but they did not announce a site (edit - the site will be DC).

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Friday, November 10, 2006

MLS 2007 season, playoff, youth academy and expansion

Commissioner Don Garber (pictured) gave his State of the League address today and there are some changes coming.

30 game season
Toronto FC will join the MLS next season as a member of the Eastern Conference. This will give the East seven teams and the West six. The current schedule calls for all teams to play their conference mates 4 times and those not in the conference twice, but starting next season that will be a little different.

The East will still play each team four times (24 games in total) and will play each Western team once (6 games).

The West will play four games against two teams in their conference (8 games) and five games against the other three (15) and one game against each team in the East (7 games).

Playoff format
Eight teams will still advance. The top two teams in each conference move on. However, the other four spots will go to the next highest point earners, regardless of their conference.

Their will also be the same two-leg aggregate goals series in the first round, which gives no advantage to the team that worked hard all year, followed by a one-off in the semi-final and MLS Cup.

Mexico- US club tournament
There will be a tournament starting next season with games played during the middle of the week. Teams will earn spots in the tournament based on their league play. More details will be released on Univision's Republica Deportiva on Sunday.

Youth Academy
All MLS teams will be required to have youth academies. Members of these academies must live in the teams "home territory." Clubs will be able to sign players directly out of their academy without going through the MLS Superdraft. Then can sign 2 players from 2008-10.

Expansion cities
They are currently looking at Atlanta, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Rochester, San Diego, San Jose, St. Louis and Seattle as cities to get a team. They are also looking into New York getting a second team.

The league hopes to expand in 2008 but could wait until 2009 if it is not willing to launch a team without a soccer-specific stadium.

Garber also strongly hinted that more international players are coming to the league.

The youth academy idea is due. It seems odd that this was not done years ago, but whatever. I will be interesting to see the maps of 'home areas.'

I guess the playoff system is better. Had this been in place in 2005, Kansas City would have made the playoffs instead of LA. However, it does setup the chance that two teams from the same conference could play each other in the MLS Cup. I guess it also means the Conference Championship game is dead. I still don't know why they didn't give the Supporters' Shield winner a bye during the first round and only take seven teams, but I guess they have their reason. I mean you wouldn't want to give a really big reward to the team that played best all season long.

The Mexico-US club tournament is going to be good. I just hope that some of the games end up on English language TV.

The 30-game format is not the best for the West and will lead to some team feeling cheated because they had to play (put best team here) one extra time while the other team got to play (put worst team here) instead.

Finally, the expansion cities. Nothing new here, except for New York getting a second team. That's not really new, but it had not been mentioned much of late. That could build up a good derby, but hopefully some other city will get the nod first before the league goes back for seconds.

I was hoping to pass along this information earlier, but the live video cast of the event never took place.

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Adu going to Man U

Just 24-hours after they denied the rumor, it turns out Freddy Adu is going to Manchester United for a two-week trail starting next weekend.

If the club like what they see from the 17 year-old, they could try to sign him during the January transfer window, however, they would need an exemption from FIFA to an international transfer rule preventing such a move until he turns 18. They would also need to convince MLS to sell his contract to them. MLS has a contract with Adu for three more seasons.

Manchester United does have a great youth program, but I doubt he will get many quality minutes with the senior team for the first year or so. If that is the case, I wonder if he might be better going to a side that would put him on the pitch against the best in the world a little sooner.

Before he goes over to England, Adu will take part in the U-20 US training camp in Sunrise, Florida.


2006 MLS Cup Preview - The showdown in Texas

One last match before the MLS season wraps and it might just be the best match of all. Both teams come into the game healthy and in good form. Houston has proven their ability to flood teams with their offense while the Revolution know how to grind games out with their defense. With the stadium in Frisco, Texas sold out, this has all the ingredients of something real good.

Houston Dynamo vs. New England Revolution
Sunday - 3:30pm ET
Radio: Houston - 850am (Spanish), 101.7fm (Spanish); Boston - 680am

New England must be feeling some déjà vu right around now as they return to the MLS Cup in Frisco for the second straight year as both years saw them win their Conference final 1-0 on a goal in the fourth minute (2005 - Clint Dempsey, 2006 - Taylor Twellman). Also, their Western Conference opponent beat Colorado in their Conference final by two goals (2005 - LA 2-0 Colorado, 2006 - Houston 3-1 Colorado). Now the question is will the final end up the same way.

The Revolution will face a hostile crowd this year as thousands of Houston fans will make the 250-mile drive to Dallas to support their Dynamo, but as New England proved against DC last week, they can survive under pressure. When you look back at their match against United, it is hard to believe that they made it out of RFK with a win as their offense was really just one fantastic shot on goal. DC's keeper Troy Perkins didn't even make a single save. Normally that is a really bad sign for the goalie, but in this case it says a lot more about the Revs lack of force up top then Perkins.

Yet they are now in Dallas thanks to their midfield, backline and the ever dangerous (and I mean that in many ways) Matt Reis in goal. The lesson Houston needs to have learned from United's mistake is not to give up a goal early. I said the same thing about Houston last week before they played the Rapids. Sure enough, they made an early mistake (handball in their box), but because the Rapids are the Rapids, they could not hold on to the lead. The Revolution is not the Rapids. An early mistake will all but kill the Dynamo.

Defender Michael Parkhurst has fantastic control in the middle of New England's backline while Avery John and Jay Heaps will make life hell for Houston's Brian Ching and Paul Dalglish.

The question for the Revolution is can they shut things down in the midfield. Shalrie Joseph and Jeff Larentowicz will need to find a way to do something few have done this season, stop Dwayne De Rosario. They had some good luck, with help from Andy Dorman, of taking DC's Christian Gomez out of the game last week, but if De Rosario is something a little different as he is really good at finding little ways out of traps.

One of his favorite ways out is Brad Davis, who can spread the attack up the left side and has a knack for making good crosses into the box, as is proven by his 11 assists this year. Ching and Dalglish will find their way onto these crosses, forcing Reis to make save after save, and Reis might just be good enough to make all those saves.

But just stopping balls all night is not going to win you the game. At some point the New England offense will need to step up and plant a death kiss on Houston. Twellman has returned to form over the last six weeks, and his play seems more physical then it did last year. He's willing to put his body into things and force openings. Add that to his unbelievable ability to redirect balls in ways unimaginable and you have a wonderful option. However, if you don't have the ball, talent doesn't matter.

The biggest thing holding Twellman back on Sunday might not be the defense around him, but the ones a bit closer to center field as they will shut down the average Revolution midfield. If Adrian Serioux has a big day for Houston, Joe Franchino and Shalrie Joseph will be frustrated and Twellman will not be getting balls.

Yet the Revolution will have a 'surprise' waiting for the Dynamo on their bench as it looks like Clint Dempsey will be healthy enough to suite up. There is no way Steve Nicol will start him, but bringing him in as a sub at the hour mark is a great option to have. He will force Houston to either make big plays or foul him.

So how will all this play out?

New England has the advantage of having been through this all just last year, which should allow them to come out calm, but the Dynamo have the more explosive team in general. As long as Houston makes it through the first 20-minutes okay (no goals conceded, red cards or injuries), they should have enough to pull out a win.

The Revolution have counted on their defense all year in pull out low scoring victories, but this game just doesn't seem like a one goal game to me. Because of that, I predict that Houston will celebrate a championship team.

Me - Houston 2-1 New England
Wife - Houston 2-1 New England

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

MLS Cup is Sold Out - Mayors bet pies

MLS Cup 2006 has sold out of seated tickets. There are still a few 'standing room only' tickets left for $30 ($40 at the gate).

Also, the mayors of Houston and Boston have made a bet of pies on the outcome of the game. If the Revolution finally win a Cup, Houston mayor Bill White will send 10 pecan pies up North, however, if the Dynamo pull off the win in their inaugural season, Thomas Menino will ship 10 Boston cream pies to Texas.

The Houston mayor seems confident in his city's team, however, he did not want to guess at a score.

"We have a bunch of fanatic fans, and they won't mind if Boston scores a goal, just as long as we score a bunch more. I am not going to tell you the final score, because then (people) will say that the game was fixed", said City of Houston Mayor Bill White.

Mayor Menino was not as concerned about the integrity of the game.

"I'll tell you what is going to happen: Taylor Twellman will score the winning goal at 2:30 minutes to go." To which Mayor White responded, "if that occurs, I'm going to have a league investigation."

Both the Revolution and the Dynamo are traveling to Frisco today to start their final preparations for the MLS Cup on Sunday.

If you are interested in getting one of the standing room tickets, call 1-888-FCD-GOAL.

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Dick's wins naming rights for Rapids new stadium

The Colorado Rapids has announced that Dick's Sporting Goods has won the naming rights for their new 18,000 seat soccer stadium set to open next April.

As is the way of MLS, no official word was given in regards to the price Dick's paid for the rights, however SportsBusiness Daily estimated it to be worth as much as $40 million. That said, both Jurgen Mianka, spokesman for the Colorado Rapids, and Jeff Hennion, chief marketing officer for Dick's, said that figure was incorrect.

Whatever the number, an extra $1-2 million a year should help the Rapids build their fan base and their team. It also shows how teams with stadiums have an easier time then teams without.

The price tag is still far away from the $7-10 million most NFL teams get per year for their naming rights, however, it is not that far off from the $2-4 million a year most baseball teams get.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Orange tide is coming

The largest pro sports convoy ever is set to happen this weekend as thousands of Houston Dynamo fans turn I-45 into the orange tide highway.

Gallery Furniture in Houston is organizing an event that will see the Dynamo faithful make the short 250-mile drive together as a group.

Anyone wanting to join in the event just needs to show up in their vehicle at Gallery Furniture (I-45N and Tidwell St., 6006 North Freeway, Houston, 77076) between 6:30-7am on Sunday.

Gallery will provide a free breakfast and supplies needed to help people decorate their cars in the Dynamo's colors.

At 7:30am the convoy will depart Houston and should arrive at Pizza Hut Park at 11:30am.

Once at the Hut, Gallery Furniture will treat all convoy participants with a free pre-game tailgate party. Food, courtesy of El Toro Restaurants, will be served but fans must bring their own beverages. Blue Ribbon Sausage has also stepped up to provide enough sausage on a bun for 500 people.

All convoy participants will also get a free Dynamo t-shirt.

There is no cost to join the convoy, so if you are in Houston and planning on making the trip, why not join in and get some free food and a t-shirt. Please note that you will still need to purchase a ticket to get into the Cup final.

If you want to learn more about the "Dynamo Convoy to Cup" visit the Dynamo's web site here or call 713.276.7500.

This is fantastic to see. Nothing like turning the whole day into an adventure to get the fans warmed up.

Update: If ABC or MLS does not have a camera crew covering this event, they are wasting a great opportunity to have some fantastic footage for both the game and future promotions. Think about the video of a hundred or more cars decked out in orange rolling down the highway. That would be good stuff.

Update 2: Joining the convoy just get even better as all members of the convoy will get to park for free at Pizza Hut Park. This represents a $20 savings. So join the convoy, get free breakfast, free car decorations, free t-shirt, free pre-game food and free parking. If you are in the Houston area and planning on going to the game, this seems like a no brainier.

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Wizards lose soccer complex vote

Voters in Johnson County, Kansas, voted down a $75 million soccer complex by a vote of 64-34. The complex was going to build 24 high quality fields for youth players, but critics called it corporate welfare for MLS's Kansas City Wizards.

The Wizards were planning on building a stadium next to the complex, but none of the money was going to go directly to the club.

The owners of the team have said in the past that they have a plan B in case the complex vote failed. It looks like we will find out soon enough if and what that plan might be.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

US Under-20 roster named

In preparation for the their qualifiers for the 2007 CONCACAF Under-20 World Cup, the US U-20 squad will play Guatemala in a friendly on November 15th. Mager Thomas Rongen has called 19 players into a four-day training camp ahead of this match.

Here is the list:

GOALKEEPERS: Zac MacMath (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Nicholas Skverer (NEC Nijmegen)

DEFENDERS: Kris Banghart (N.C. Wesleyan College), Kyle Davies (Pleasanton, Calif.), Quavas Kirk (L.A. Galaxy), Nathan Sturgis (L.A. Galaxy), Neven Subotic (Mainz 05), Anthony Wallace (USF), Tim Ward (Columbus Crew)

MIDFIELDERS: Freddy Adu (D.C. United), Bryan Arguez (Miami, Fla.), Miguel Gonzalez (New England Revolution), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Nico Mosquera (University of Central Florida), Danny Szetela (Columbus Crew)

FORWARDS: Josmer Altidore (N.Y. Red Bulls), David Arvizu (N.Y. Red Bulls), Ellis McLoughlin (Seattle, Wash.), Johann Smith (Bolton FC)

Freddy Adu and Josmer Altidore will get much of the attention on this one, but I'm interested to see what Quavas Kirk and Zac MacMath can do. Kirk has been an interesting player to watch with LA this year and has the physical ability to become something great for the national team while MacMath had a fantastic time with the U-17 squad.

The training camp will take place in Sunrise, Florida.

FC Dallas fires coach

FC Dallas general manager Michael Hitchcock made it official today as he announced that the club will not re-new Colin Clarke's contract as coach. Saying, "This team has one of the most talented rosters. We underachieved and we didn't reach our potential." Adding, ""We've made a commitment to our fans to win championships. I just felt that a change in leadership needed to be taken."

Hitchcock told Clarke at the start of the season that he needed to win the US Open Cup and the MLS Cup, but Dallas failed to each either final.

Assistant coach Steve Morrow has been named as interim coach. He is considered a likely candidate for the full time job; however, there has also been talk about SMU coach Schellas Hyndman taking the helm.

With Clarke gone, the focus now turns to Piotr Nowak of DC United who has been heavily criticized for his team's performance during the last couple months of the campaign and the playoffs.

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MLS Top XI and US Men's Player of the Year

The BASAs are quickly coming to a close but before we get there, there are a few more awards being offered up.

First up in the MLS Best XI. Scaryice had an interesting way of deciding who made the team. He worked a 3-4-3 formation. Here is the team:

Matt Reis (NE)

Jose Burciaga (KC)
Bobby Boswell (DC)
Chris Albright (LA)

Clint Dempsey (NE)
Dwayne De Rosario (HOU)
Kenny Cooper (DAL)
Christian Gomez (DC)

Landon Donovan (LA)
Ante Razov (CHV)
Jeff Cunningham (RSL)

That is a very good team. By the way, six of these players were named to the 'First XI' ahead of the All-Star game with Chelsea, but three of them were not even named to the reserve All-Star team (Reis, Burciaga and Cooper).

Here is my vote. I went with a 4-4-2

GK – Matt Reis (NE)
D – Bobby Boswell (DC), Jose Burciaga Jr (KC), Chris Albright (LA),Eddie Robinson (Houston)
M - Dwayne De Rosario (Houston), Juan Pablo Garcia (Chivas), Clint Dempsey (NE), Christian Gomez (DC)
F - Kenny Cooper (FCD), Alecko Eskandarian (DC)

Of all my choices, Dempsey was actually the toughest. He is a wonderful player when he decides to be, but his work in the MLS this year has not been spectacular. If he was out, I would move Cooper back into the middle and place Jeff Cunningham up top.

By the way, my vote for Eskandarian was one of my most fun. His season was not wonderful, but he played well even with the headgear. Since I didn't vote for him anywhere else, I wanted to give him a nod here.

The other BASA went to US Men's Player of Year. And the winner is, Clint Dempsey. No surprise here.

Kasey Keller found second while Oguchi Onyewu got a much deserved third place. Brian McBride just out paced Bobby Convey for fourth while Landon Donovan came in sixth.

Here is my vote:
1- Clint Dempsey
2- Kasey Keller
3- Oguchi Onyewu
4- Brian McBride
5- Bobby Convey

That's right, my vote is the exact order of the final award. Blows my mind.

Anyway, Dempsey was the name of the World Cup for the US, so his number one spot was never in jeopardy. Keller did some good work in goal while Onyewu showed us the future of the US backline. McBride put everything he had into those matches, but when you are not getting fed balls and are the only person up top, it is going to be hard to get results. Convey was a good flash.

I am surprised to see Landon take sixth as this year has been a horrible one for him on the national team. Even against much weaker teams, he wasn't looking right.

Congratulations to all the winners and tune into tomorrow for the final BASA of the year.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Can I take ______ into the MLS Cup?

A few people have asked about what items they can take with them into the MLS Cup on Sunday. I compiled a list from various emails and sent it to FC Dallas. Here is their response.

Items that you can take in
- confetti
- banners to hang along the sideline walls (but you cannot bring duct tape)
- streamers
- beach balls
- video cameras (as long as they are not professional grade)
- flags (see below for flag pole information)

Items that you can take in if they go through security staff
- drums
- flagpoles

Banned Items
- smoke canisters
- alcohol
- fireworks
- air horns

They directed me to a full list of rules here.

Just a reminder that if you need tickets, Evan Mitz at FC Dallas is offering blog readers priority seating. You can reach him at 214.587.6326 or via email at Groups of 20 or more will get a 10% discount.

A bit or warning, word is tickets are going fast, so if you want to go, you should act soon. Just a reminder, the game is Sunday at 2:30pm local time.


Houston Celebrates - the video

It seems a few Houston fans have taken issue with a statement I made in my Conference Championships review post. The line that got me multiple emails compared the 23,000+ Dynamo fans to the almost 20,000 that filled RFK. It was "They might not have been as loud as their DC counterparts, but it is only their first year."

I was directed to this video put together by the Houston Chronicle as proof to the intensity of the Houston crowd.

The video does show a wonderful appreciation by the fans, and it is something special. My point was not to knock the Houston backers, just to point out that with 10 additional years the DC supporter clubs have developed a great community. The Dynamo are well on there way to reaching that level, but they are not there yet.

By the way, great job by the Houston Chronicle to put together a video like this. Showing the fan interest, while bringing a bit of backstage out into the open makes for wonderful coverage. Imagine what they could do if they were a broadcast media.

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Cobi Jones' Little Feet looking to help in Iraq

Cobi Jones is a legend of US soccer. His time on the national team saw wonderful play, which he also carried over to his MLS side the Los Angeles Galaxy. But Jones is out to do something that is bigger then all his plays on the pitch as he looks to help the children of Iraq.

Jones has teamed up with the Little Feet operation with the goal of bringing 50,000 soccer balls to the children of Iraq by March of next year.

As part of the campaign, Sports Authority stores will have displays featuring Jones, which ask people to make a $10 donation to purchase a ball. All balls will be delivered and distributed with the help of American soldiers currently serving in Iraq. You can also donate online.

There are obviously a number of opinions on the war in Iraq, but hopefully this event will allow people from all sides of the issue to come together and make a difference in the lives of children.

If you want to help out, take a look here.


LA interested in Beckham; sky is blue

Updated here

In news that should bring shock to just about no one, Alexi Lalas said that his team would be interested in signing David Beckham if he decides to leave Real Madrid.

"A move for Beckham is not something we need to discuss at this point because he's under contract with Real," admitted Galaxy president and general manager Lalas. "But if that changes, and there's an opportunity, of course we'd be interested. There are thousands of clubs out there that would love to have a player of his caliber and the Los Angeles Galaxy is certainly one of them. For many people the Los Angeles Galaxy are looked upon as the jewel of MLS. We play in the best stadium, we have had incredible success over the history of the league and we have had great individual players and great teams. There is a tradition of excellence."

All Lalas is saying is if he becomes available, we would be interested in talking, yet the headline of the report is 'Galaxy ready to offer Beckham route out of Madrid.' Couldn't the same be said for many other teams around the world and hasn't Lalas been saying similar things for the last few months?

According to the article, the reason LA is the current focus has to do with Beckham's soccer academy being located in the area. Then again, when New York was getting all the talk, the reason was Becks wants to live in the city, so who knows.

Till he decides to not renew with Real Madrid, any talk is just fluff. However, if Beckham does end up in MLS, chances are LA or New York will be his destination. That is unless Kansas City comes a calling. Oh yeah, Beckham in a Wizards uniform, how much fun would that be? (By the way, that was my attempt at humor.)

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

MLS Conference Championships review - Second best is better then the rest

The East and West have been won by the best teams of the moment. Neither game was a 'classic' but they did show promise for an interesting final. The Revolution will make their second consecutive trip to the MLS Cup while Houston get to the final in their inaugural year.

Anyway, here are the reviews:

DC United 0-1 New England Revolution

The DC faithful were there in full force, but even their best efforts were not enough to bring their side together. As has been the case for the last few months, their backline was weak and inconsistent while their attack missed opportunity after opportunity. They were better, but still not the United from June.

New England really didn't play that great of a game, but they were able to hold together in their back third. Time and time again, they got bodies in the middle of passes, but even when they didn't, United tended to blast their shots way off the mark or right to Matt Reis (not to take anything away from Reis who was fantastic). How they managed to not really threaten with nine corner kicks is beyond me.

During open play, United had little flow as even Christian Gomez seemed out of his natural element in the middle of RFK. The number of times they would build something up just to carelessly pass the ball away was maddening. I haven't seen anything like that since the US-Ghana World Cup match. Again, it was better then what they had been serving up for a while now, but still was not enough.

When Gomez came out in the 81st, United no longer had the options needed to force a miracle last moment goal. Jaime Moreno tried to step-up, but he was too little against the blanket of New England's defense.

The Revolution now has their spot in Dallas thanks to Taylor Twellman's wonderful shot in the fourth minute. Their ability to hold a one goal lead for almost a full 90-minutes will make them a major threat to Houston should they ever take a lead next weekend.

In the end, United might have been the better team of the day, but the match went to the better team of the last two months.

By the way, it is nice to see a visiting team know how to celebrate a victory on away soil without instigating a brawl. Maybe Colorado could learn a few things.

Houston Dynamo 3-1 Colorado Rapids

Those first five minutes had all the makings of an upset, but then the Dynamo started playing their game and within five minutes, the score was tied. Just 11-minutes later, Paul Dalglish struck again to put his side up. Even through they only had a one goal lead, the game was, for all it's promise, over.

Houston connected everything while the Rapids failed to threaten with any sort of consistency. Had it not been for the work of Joe Cannon in goal, Colorado very easily could have been down 3 or 4 to 1 at the half.

Every player on the pitch for the Dynamo played a good game, meaning there was no weak side. The Rapids tried to find some holes, but there were none to be found. Thiago Martin and Clint Mathis were taken out of the game by Houston's marking system and Hovan Kirovski was not getting feed, thus Colorado had no offense.

When Brian Mullan put his volley into Colorado's net in the 71st for Houston's third goal, the victory was secured and the crowd of 23,107 went wild. This was a wonderful outing for the Dynamo, however, they did blow a few big chances. When you have three 1-1s with the keeper and you don't get a goal out of any of them, you have a problem. Yes, Cannon is a good keeper, but there is no excuse for not finishing any of these chances.

Houston now gets to travel the 250 miles to Frisco, Texas, for their chance at the MLS Cup. With the Revolution much further away, you can expect to see plenty of orange in the crowd next week.

So the final has been set. I'm happy to say that I predicted both games correctly, while the wife was only correct with the Houston match (where she also predicted the score).

By the way, wonderful job by United fans. Almost 20,000 of them showed up even through the NFL Redskins-Cowboys game was going on at almost the same time. That said, the big wow goes to Houston where over 23,000 people made it to the game. They might not have been as loud as their DC counterparts, but it is only their first year. Who knows, perhaps their fan interest will help them land a stadium deal of their own very soon.

The team of Dave O'Brien, Eric Wynalda and Bruce Arena calling the DC match was a pleasant surprise. Arena brought a lot of knowledge to the team (including great information about the way New York played them last week), but O'Brien wasn't that bad himself. In fact, I don't think there was a single moment where I was embarrassed by something he said. Maybe if he had called a few more ESPN matches before the World Cup, there wouldn't have been such a negative reaction.

I'm no big fan of Clint Mathis, but he said something before his side's match that should ring loud and clear around the MLS. His quote, "The regular season doesn't really matter, as long as you make the playoffs." Very true.

Finally, D over at DCenters has lost his soul due to the result of the game. No word yet, but rumor has it that the Revolution will own it and it will be passed around amongst the players till the time that DC next defeats New England in the playoffs. First Rev to get the soul, Matt Reis.

For anyone looking to attend the MLS Cup, you can either contact Evan Mitz at 214.705.6752 or email, or go here.

Additional comment - I meant to put this in last night, but forgot. What was up with Fox Soccer Channel during the first 20-30 minutes of the Houston-Colorado match? The camera shots on screen were bouncing around enough to give people seizures while their replay system was playing everything but the event you wanted to see. Fox might be America's soccer channel, but yesterday it was ESPN2 that looked like they actually knew what they were doing.

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