Monday, April 30, 2007

2007 MLS Week 4 Recap or The Visitors Strike Back

Going into week 3, visitors had just a 2-10-6 record yet somehow they managed to win a majority of the week's games. The travelers' record this past week was 4-3 bringing the new visitors' record to 6-13-6. This week also saw something else near magical, no ties. The last MLS week that had a similar outcome was the week of August 21, 2006 (the weekend of Sept 2nd also saw no ties, however there were two ties during midweek play).

As much fun as it is to have winners, five of the seven matches finished 1-0 meaning that the per game goal average stood at just 1.71. On the plus side, there were a good number of fans out to see these games as the average attendance jumped over 1,000 from last week to 14,971.

Anyway, enough with all these numbers, let's talk about some soccer.

Kansas City Wizards 1-0 Toronto FC
You've got to hand it to the fans in Toronto, even with a less then good team on the field, they were excited to be there. As far as Toronto, the first half was the best 45-minutes of soccer they have played all season. Sure that is not saying much, but baby steps are better then nothing at all. They were actually connecting some passes and getting shots while apply some decent midfield play. Then came the second half and KC's dominance of the game. TFC was taken to the mat, yet they still held strong until Eddie Johnson finally connected a shot to give his side the deserved win. TFC did set a bit of history on the night as they became the first MLS side to open up a new soccer specific stadium with a defeat. I don't think that is going to make it in the press release.
Goal: Eddie Johnson 81'

DC United 0-1 Columbus Crew
If the season ended today, the Crew would be in the playoffs. I'm not sure if I'll get to type that again later in the year, so I'm having fun with it now. Anyway, Columbus was nothing special on the night, which tells you a lot about DC. Where has their midfield gone? The good news is their defense is looking better but against a Crew side without Andy Herron, it would be the saddest of sad if they didn't. Anyway, I still think Troy Perkins is just a little off with his placement but he was getting better support from his line. This game should take some of the focus of the back, but without a midfield or a steady attack, DC is going to do a lot more falling before the pick anything up. For the Crew, wow, four games in and undefeated, go Sigi go.

Chivas USA 1-3 Los Angeles Galaxy
Quick recap of this game, Landon Donovan woke up. I've said it many times before and I'll say it again, when Donovan is connecting, LA doesn't lose. Right from the get go he was all over the place, but there was one place where, thankfully, he was seldom seen, kicking dead balls. Having Kyle Martino take most of these was a wonderful move by coach Frank Yallop. Still, his side came out flat in the second half and Chivas found their openings. The space they were creating was fantastic and the work by Jonathan Bornstein was very impressive. But they could not hold it, which allowed for one of my favorite moments of the young season, a goal by Cobi Jones.
Goals: Chivas: Claudio Suarez 63'
LA: Landon Donovan 8', Kevin Harmse 17', Cobi Jones 78'

New England 1-0 FC Dallas
Dallas should be happy that only a bit over 9,000 fans (the third lowest attendance number of any MLS this season) as they were a mess. Their midfield play was nowhere to be found and their offense failed them yet again. Kenny Cooper was almost a non-factor in the match while Carlos Ruiz is having a hard time now that he doesn't seem to get balls in the box. The Revs were good on the day, but still lacking in movement, however the strike by Twellman was fantastic. The team wide technical skill leading up to Twellman's finish was some of the best I've seen in MLS this season.
Goal: NE: Taylor Twellman 13'

Chicago Fire 1-0 Houston Dynamo
Yet again, Houston holds possession for a majority of the game and has nothing to show for it. The first half was very nice with their defense holding strong and those up top getting some great looks at goal. Chicago's packed midfield was causing them some problems, but they were finding ways around it. Then came the second half and it all kind of feel apart. The defense wasn't sticking and the team was having a difficult time moving it forward. Meanwhile the Fire were taking full advantage of this poor form and sending in shot after shot. Sure enough, Chris Rolfe hit net in the 60th. The Dynamo tried some late heroics, but could not finish. By the way, anyone know why the Dynamo supporters’ clubs got kick out of the game?
Goal: CF: Chris Rolfe 60'

There is the weekend rundown. Over the weekend I went 1-4 in my predictions while the wife went 2-3. Our totals for the year stand at:
Wife – 9-16
Me – 8-17

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

2007 MLS Weekend 4 Predictions

Here is a quick, quick preview of all the games this weekend.

Kansas City Wizards (2-1-0) vs. Toronto FC (0-3-0)*
If there was ever a side that needed a home match, Toronto FC is the one. The Wizards picked them apart on Wednesday night, but this should provide an opening for TFC. If they can step up their backline a bit and find some additional attack, they might make it happen. In the end, I think it will get them a goal, but not a win.
Predictions: Me KC 2-1 TFC, Wife KC 1-0 TFC

DC United (0-2-0) vs. Columbus Crew (0-0-3)
Saturday - 7:30pm ET
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv

It is silly to say that DC is in a do or die situation this early in the season, however they really do need to walk away with at least a point. They've had two weeks to solve their defensive problems and if they are not able to do much better against a Andy Herron free Crew, then it is hard to see how they will ever get better. The Crew, on the other hand, has proven that they know how to get the needed goals, but can they do it with so little offense up top? Set pieces are their big hope, but I don't think they will have enough.
Predictions: Me DC 1-0 CC, Wife DC 1-0 CC

Chivas USA (2-1-0) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (0-1-1)
Saturday - 10:30pm ET
TV: Fox Soccer Channel (10pm pre-game plus 30-minute post), FSE

Much like DC, it is difficult to call the third game of the season a life or death match, however it is more of one for LA then DC. After this match, LA has another two-weeks off before they play a MLS game (they play a US Open match on 5/08). If they do not get points from this game, they will have to sit threw two more weeks of wondering 'what are we doing so wrong?' That can really kill a team, which is one of the reasons this will be the best game of the weekend. Anyway, unlike DC, LA's problems are found just about everywhere on the pitch except for in goal. With so many road games late in the season, LA needs to get some points now. Meanwhile, Chivas is looking like a real competitor. They have great technical talent and wonderful control, but can they make it happen two weeks in a row?
Predictions: Me Chivas 2-0 LA, Wife Chivas 0-2 LA

New England Revolution (1-1-1) vs. FC Dallas (2-2-1)
Sunday - 3:00pm ET
TV: Telefutura

FC Dallas's quest to be the first team to finish their season continues this Sunday as they play their sixth match of the young season. On Thursday they were shutdown like never before by a New York defense that found ways of being everywhere and everything all the time. Carlos Ruiz is not in good form and Kenny Cooper still is not using his size to really force advantages. The strangest thing of all for FCD on Thursday was their defense; it actually worked. Had their backline not held together so well, the Red Bulls would not have won by just one. If they can keep that together and find someone actually working against a much easier New England defense, they will win. By the way, I'm still not sure where the Revs are going to find goals, but Matt Reis should provide enough control in the nets to keep them in it till late.
Predictions: Me NE 0-1 FCD, Wife NE 1-2 FCD

Chicago Fire (2-0-1) vs. Houston Dynamo (1-1-1)
Sunday - 7:00pm ET
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv

Houston was picked to pieces last weekend and looked nothing like the team we all expect. Other then Pat Onstad and Ricardo Clark, there really was no good play on the pitch. The good news is Clark, when he is on, is one of the best mids in the league as is Onstad in goal, so they can make a horrible team look passing. If Houston can add a little help from the likes of Ching and Dwayne De Rosario and maybe get Paul Dalglish and Eddie Robinson to wake up from their walking comas, they should be able to handle the Fire. Chicago would do best to go right at Robinson and De Rosario. Their touches have been horrible. If they can keep them from settling, they might get a good road win.
Predictions: Me CF 0-1 HD, Wife CF 1-2 HD

* Due to some technical problems on my end, I am posting this after the Toronto FC match has been played, however I have yet to watch the game.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday Night Soccer - New York v Dallas

New York Red Bulls (2-0-1) vs. FC Dallas (2-1-1)
8:00pm ET

So far this season, the Bulls have owned the teams from Texas, but FC Dallas is looking to get a bit of the lone star state's pride back tonight as they welcome the Eastern Conference leaders to town.

New York will not have the advantage of a thunderstorm, travel tired foes or Clint Mathis tonight, so they will need to come up with a good strategy to win. And with that, all eyes shift to focus on Josmer Altidore. With their Columbian help still waiting for a visa, the 17-year-old will need to lead the club.

Meanwhile in the oil palace, Dallas is also having some visa problems as Argentine midfielder Pablo Ricchetti is still waiting the stamp. In addition, Marcelo Saragosa, Roberto Mina and David Wagenfuhr are all out due to injury plus goalkeeper Shaka Hislop has been sick and had a 60-foot tree fall on his house Tuesday night (thankfully nobody got hurt). Needless to say, FCD is a bit patched together at the moment.

Even with all these problems I think the thing that has the best chance to kill FCD tonight is sloppy defensive play. Dallas does not have a strong line in front of goal and Hislop is a bit unpredictable. If they can keep it tight and force Altidore to take shots from distance, they will keep a clean sheet.

I don't think there will be much scoring in this one, but it will still be an entertaining match. Look for lots of physical play and numerous cards.
Predictions: Me NY 0-1 FCD, Wife NY1-1 FCD

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Pachuca rules CONCACAF, KC loves the rain

Chivas de Guadalajara 0-0 Pachuca CF
6-7 on penalty kicks
It took 120 minutes of play and 14 pk attempts, but in the end Pachuca walked away with the CONCACAF crown.

Pachuca deserves this title as they were the best team through out the whole tournament. I was surprised to see Chivas of Guadalajara close down their attack during the match, but in the end, the better side won.

Pachuca will now represent Concacaf in the FIFA World Club Cup this December.

Toronto FC 0-3 Kansas City Wizards
Now to a much less intercepted or watched game. In MLS action, the Wizards continued the tradition of making Toronto FC look like second division rejects as they smoked them 3-0 in the rain. Before I go any further I really have to salute the 7,500 fans who showed up in the downpour to watch this match. For a wet, Wednesday night, this is impressive.

As far as the game, TFC's fatal flaw was their inability to clear balls in box. Time and time again the Wizards would get two or three chances per attack. Greg Sutton is a good keeper but not good enough to stop three or more shots in a 5 second period. That said, even if they had cleared it, KC probably would have won it back quick enough as Toronto's midfield didn't seem to realize there was a game being played on the field.

There was a bright spot for Toronto as Alecko Eskandarian proved he could still unravel a defense. If he had any support, his side would have got their first goal last night.

Kansas City played another great game, but against TFC, that's to be expected. These two face each other again on Saturday and as easy as this win was for them, the Wizards can't let it go to their head. At some point Toronto will win a game and it will probably because the opposition didn't take them seriously and KC is in a great spot to have that happen to them.
Goals: KC: Eddie Johnson 5', Kerry Zavagnin 55', Yura Movsisyan 70'

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

2007 Week 3 Predictions - TFC v KC

Toronto FC (0-2-0) vs. KC Wizards (1-1-0)
8:00pm ET
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv

We get our first Wednesday night MLS match tonight as the flopping TFC travel to KC with one mission in mind, get a goal. For coach Mo Johnson, this will be a bit of a homecoming as he was on the Wizards team that won their sole MLS cup in 2000.

The Wizards, who looked amazing during their first match, were brought back to 2006 land in Chicago this past weekend. Part of that had to do with Scott Sealy not being around, but that does not explain away all their problems. They were horrible in the middle and without any balls making it through, Eddie Johnson could do nothing.

Thankfully for KC, they are facing a Toronto side that has yet to find any kind of stride. Their passes are easily intercepted, their clearances never seem to leave the area and their attack is painfully awkward. Mo has made a number of changes that might make a difference, but one match is nowhere near enough to make it all come together.

Toronto will get their first goal tonight, but they will not get their first points.
Predictions: Me TFC 1-3 KC, Wife TFC 0-1 KC

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Crew lose to LA, Andy Herron suspended and other disciplinary news

The Los Angeles Galaxy got their first win of the season with a win over the Columbus Crew in their US Open Cup match. LA needed just one goal to knock Columbus out of the tournament. Goal: Nate Jaqua 17'

Hopefully forward Andy Herron enjoyed the match, as it will be his last for a while. The Disciplinary Committee has awarded Herron a four match ban along with a $3000 fine for the elbow he introduced to New England's Jay Heaps in last Thursday's match. It really was an ugly thing to see and Herron deserves this penalty.

Shalrie Joseph, who reacted to Herron's foul play by pushing him in the face was fined $500.

In other disciplinary news, Chivas USA's defender Sacha Kljestan has been suspended for two games and fined $1000 for a serious foul he committed against Real Salt Lake's Andy Williams. I was shocked that Kljestan did not get a red card during the match as this was a bad play. Hopefully Williams will make a quick return.

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MLS still looking at San Diego

Much like St. Louis and Philadelphia, San Diego has been a target market for a MLS team since before the league existed, but never have all the ingredients come together to make it happen.

Turns out, they still are not coming together, but there might be a move in sight.

However, before we get there, let's take a look at why San Diego is of such interest.
It makes perfect sense when you consider the area's soccer demographics: tens of thousands of youth players, some of the nation's best youth clubs, the Sockers' glistening legacy, World Cup TV ratings more than double the national average, nearly 1 million people of Hispanic heritage with a love for the sport, and millions more in Mexico just a short drive away.

The main sticking point has been the total lack of a suitable stadium as the only options are the 70,000 seater Qualcomm Stadium or USD's Torero Stadium, which holds about 7,000. But could that change?

Enter San Jose Padres owner John Moores who has talked with MLS in the past. Moores obtained "'the sole option to lease from the city Qualcomm Stadium for professional soccer' in exchange for waiving revenue from the stadium's naming rights deal." There has been talk about Moores bringing a women's team to the area as part of the new pro league, but is that enough for him to turn down naming rights money?

With the Chargers wanting to move out of Qualcomm and into an American football specific stadium (the stadium was build for baseball as well), there might be some redevelopment happening soon. And that leads us to one more point, Moores is a big San Diego State fan.

So here is the scenario Mark Zeigler is suggesting.
Say the Chargers move out of Qualcomm, and the city redevelops the site. Moores or someone else, armed with two soccer tenants and a homeless SDSU football program, could propose building a smaller stadium somewhere in the county.

This proposal is very interesting in that it is very similar to what we just saw with Lew Wolff and the San Jose Earthquakes. In both cases you have a baseball owner trying to bring a soccer team to a supportive city, but needing a little help from the city and a public university to make it happen.

The potential is very much there for the Chargers to move, even if they do not get a new stadium. The team has threatened to move in 2008, but even if they did, I would imagine it would take a while for the city to agree to redevelop the land. Anything could happen, but with MLS wanted more concrete plans these days before they award a team, I don't think this will be happening soon.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

MLS US Open Cup qualifying - LA vs. the Crew

Qualifying for the greatest cup competition in the US continues tonight as the Galaxy travel to Columbus. I have no idea how this will end up, but one team will finally get their first win of the year. The good news for the Crew is they stand a great chance of being that team as LA has not won a road US Open Cup match since they beat San Jose on August 25, 2005. That stat sounds really powerful until you realize they have only played one US Open Cup road match since that day (last year's final in Chicago).

It will be interesting to see just how committed the Galaxy are to finally getting a win. In 2005, LA used the Open Cup to start a late season rally that took them to the MLS Cup. In 2006, they used the Cup much in the same way, but still failed to make the playoffs. With 2007 off with a bit of a stumble, could they use this game to improve their stride?

For the Crew, they have been playing smart but not in a powerful way. Perhaps a win or go home match is exactly what they need to flip the page and finally start winning some of their games.

If you want to view this game, your only choice is to get to Crew Stadium as no televised version of the game is available. There will be an audio feed for those who have subscribed to MLS's match day audio feeds ($4.95).

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2007 MLS Week 3 Power Ratings

Three weeks in and what do we find? A New York team sitting on top of them all while three of the 'big clubs' sit in the bottom third of the ratings. Could this really be the season the restarts the league like all the 'first kick' promos promised or is this just a statistical blip that will correct itself over the next six months? I have no clue, but I do have some ratings. Here is the way the teams stand as of today.

1. New York Red Bull (Last week - 4) - I never thought I would see the day, but here it is; New York is playing the best soccer in America. They went down a man and still behaved like a team. With more offensive power on its way, this could just be the year that the Bulls stop being the joke of the league.

2. FC Dallas (5) - Colorado's game plan was to stop FCD by stopping Ruiz and it worked till Dallas changed their system. With Ruiz out, they readjusted and threw the Rapids off. Still, the goal they gave up was weak and they were lucky to get to the hour mark tied. Also, the reason Ruiz came out had a lot more to due with an injury then strategy and the last thing FCD needs now is another injury.

3. Chicago Fire (8) - Almost every minute of the match saw the Fire in charge, however they were not able to finish. The good news is they were finally winning balls in the middle and delivering them with good accuracy, now they just need to get a few more in goal.

4. New England Revolution (3) - Twellman is back, Reis is as strong as every and Joseph seems to be proving his value with his play but they still should be concerned. Getting a road point is great but not when you should have got three. How do you leave a man unmarked in the box in the final moments of a game?

5. Colorado Rapids (2) - Great plan in Dallas, however once the opposition changed they could not adjust. The Rapids made some good chances and controlled the midfield for large portions of the game but they were beat by speed.

6. Chivas USA (7) - Everything was roaring for the goats on Saturday night. Their skill on the ball was far better then most MLS clubs and their defense reduced Real's offense to afterthoughts. This was a near perfect game for Chivas, now they just need to do it against teams a little more together then Salt Lake.

7. Kansas City Wizards (1) - Chicago did to KC what KC did to DC their first week. The Wizards were shutdown all over the pitch, but on the plus side, their defense held tight against the constant attack. In a lot of ways, this was a rehash of the 2006 Wizards as they lacked in the middle and were absent up top. The question now is which club will show up for their Wednesday night home opener?

8. Columbus Crew (10) - Can a team survive on ties alone? Well no, but for some reason it impresses me that they have three so far. The Crew found themselves against the wall a number of times, but they would not let the Revs dominate. The fact that they made good on the breaks and threatened more then a few time shows this team has possibility.

9. Houston Dynamo (6) - Where has this club gone? Just about everyone except Pat Onstad and Ricardo Clark was stinking up Giants stadium. Eddie Robinson is a shadow of his 2006 self, Dwayne De Rosario is lost and confused and Paul Dalglish seems baffled by the concept of the game. You would think being up a man for an hour would help calm the team but it actually seemed to work in the other direction. They have a long way to go to make it back to the MLS Cup, but their first step might be actually scoring more then a goal.

10. DC United (11) - The United faithful worked up a new chant during their down week, which goes something like, "New York might be better then us but they still haven't won a cup."

11. Los Angeles Galaxy (12) - Um, have you heard that Beckham is coming. Really, Beckham is coming to LA. Beckham will play right here in LA. Beckham. In other LA news, Donovan still can't center a dead ball.

12. Real Salt Lake (12) - There is so much talent on this team's roster but they cannot find a way to bring it together week after week. Just when it looks like they are on the verge of doing something, they implode. Perhaps adding Kasey Keller could bring some consistency to the program or maybe it's time for John Ellinger to go. The team is much too talented to be playing at their current level and they really have to stop letting in late, late, late goals (for the third time this season, they conceded a goal after the 88th minute).

13. Toronto FC (13) - They had the week off, so coach Mo Johnson decided to trade his entire starting lineup.

So there you have it, the MLS in a nice orderly list.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

World Cup 2010 - team camps and prostitution zones

The preparations for World Cup 2010 are steaming ahead with a number of interesting decisions being made.

Top of the list is a rule that will prevent visiting teams from staying in any of the nine host cities.

The official line behind this is a desire to "spread the benefits beyond the nine host cities" however it might also have something to do with a lack of beds in these cities. Two weeks ago South Africa asked FIFA to allow teams to setup base camps in neighboring countries. They again said they wanted to spread the joy of the games, but added that having teams away from the main cities spreads the demand for shelter amongst fans. With all the other demands they need to work out, taking hotel rooms off the list would be huge.

On a different note, it is interesting to note that the US partly blamed their 1998 results on having a base camp far away from the festivities. They changed that in 2002, which went swell, but 2006 was a different story.

Another idea the South Africans are pursuing is an increase in fan parks as they would like 'every local municipality', not just the host cities, to have such parks. They would also like to see parks in other African countries as well as in the Caribbean "where there are great numbers of Africans, so they can also see and take pride in what is taking place in South Africa". Any addition parks would need to be approved by FIFA.

Finally, the New York Times gives a good rundown of all the issues South Africa is facing in their race to be ready for 2010. Everything from hotel space to stadiums to a lack of good public transportation to training more police in order to decrease the unbelievable crime rate is on tap. However, there is one subject that is bound to get a lot of talk as police commissioner Jackie Selebi's has proposed to set up "... dedicated red-light districts where prostitution and public drinking would be tolerated during the World Cup, as he said they were in Germany."

It is true that Germany allows prostitution, however it is strongly regulated by the government (not that that means it is a great idea). However, with South Africa also facing an AIDS epidemic, increasing the availability of sex might not be the best move.

One other tidbit from the article that could become very important is that the staging time for the construction is so tight "that even a three-week rain delay could wreak havoc." If the stadiums don't keep moving forward, FIFA won't care much about everything else.

By the way, here is the list of host cities, just in case you are wondering:
Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Nelspruit, Polokwane, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria and Rustenburg

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US men to play Sweden in Europe

The US men will play their first match in Europe since the World Cup on Wednesday, August 22nd. The game will see the red, white and blue take on Sweden at Ullevi Stadium in Goteborg, Sweden.

Sweden is a quality team and the US should be happy to get this match. August will see the MLS playoff race off and running, so look for very few from the domestic league to make the trip. This should allow Bob Bradley the roster space to call in just about any European based player he might want to evaluate.

Between this match and the Copa America, the US men have at least four games scheduled against strong opponents in hostel environments. The lack of such games in the past has been one of the issues many people have pointed to as an explanation for the team’s woes in 2006 and it is very encouraging to see US soccer try to fix this problem.

The match against Sweden will air live on Fox Soccer Channel at 2:30pm ET.

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Women's World Cup draw

The year and the country might be different, but the draw ended the same as the US women have the same group stage opponents this year as they had in 2003. Again the red, white and blue will face Nigeria, North Korea and Sweden, but will they be able to walk away with three victories in Group B play?

They will face North Korea, the top team in Asia, on 11 September, Sweden, the 2003 runner's up, on the 14th and Nigeria, winners of the African qualifying tournament, on the 18th. The top two teams from Group B will advance.

Without a doubt, this is a difficult draw as any of these teams could advance. That said, Nigeria is the weakest of the group, but it would be silly to count them out, as their speed alone will make them a threat. With all odds, the September 14th match between the US and Sweden will probably decide who gets first in the group, but North Korea might just steal second place from one of the favorites.

The Wolrd Cup gets underway on 10 September when Germany and Argentina take to the pitch in Shanghai.

Here are the other groups:
Group A

Group C

Group D
China PR
New Zealand

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2007 MLS Week 3 Recap or How New York became the best team in MLS

Who would have ever thought three weeks into the season, New York would be the best team in the league and yet to allow a goal. Who knows if it will last, but for new fans of the Bulls must be feeling a little strange sitting on top of the MLS world. As far as stats, week three saw 16 goals (including Thursday's match) or 3.2 per game and an average attendance of 13,848. In addition, the difficulties of winning on the road continued as no visiting side got 3 points. Of the 18 games so far this season, road teams are 2-10-6. Here is the full recap:

Houston Dynamo 0-1 New York Red Bulls
I didn't think Clint Mathis would be a force in this one and sure enough I was right. However, I thought it would be due to forgettable play instead of a red carded in the 36th. This would have been a perfect place for the Bulls of years gone by to flop around, but they didn't. Their attack, which was dependant on Josmer Altidore, flourished against a baffled Houston back line. Ricardo Clark tried to settle things for the Dynamo, but was getting next to no help from Dwayne De Rosario who played his worst match in years (and not just because of his strange handball in the box). The Bulls denied Houston of any flow and more then earned this win.
Goal: NY: Josmer Altidore 60'

Kansas City Wizards 1-2 Chicago Fire
The score line does not tell the full story of this match as the Fire dominated the Wizards Saturday night. Wave after wave of attack in the first half should have netted them more then one, but Chicago could not finish. On the plus side, their defense was closing ever door KC even thought to look at. The Wizards did have a short spurt of life at the start of the second half thanks to Carlos Marinelli making his début, but it was not long lasting. By the hour mark, Chicago was back in the driver's seat thanks in large part to Calen Carr. The KC offense was brought back to terra firma this week but still managed to get a few good shots in. If goalkeeper Matt Pickens had been a little slower, Chicago would not have got full points.
Goals: KC: Carlos Marinelli (pk) 90'
CF: Chad Barrett 36', Chris Rolfe (pk) 73'

Real Salt Lake 0-4 Chivas USA
When you go down a goal after just 28-seconds, you know it is going to be a difficult night. Bad news for Real, difficult is too kind of a word for what happened to them on that pitch. Chivas ran the match will an iron fist. Again and again, the goats smashed the RSL backline into nothingness. Nick Rimando, who looked much improved last weekend, was again making odd decisions on goal and Ante Razov, Maykel Galindo and everyone else in a red and white jersey were there to make the most of it. As bad as this game was for Salt Lake, the worst part might be the injury to Andy Williams. He was the victim of a bad tackle by Sacha Kljestan and had to come out of the game with an injury to his right leg. If it ends up being as serious as it looked to be, Williams might be unavailable for a number of weeks. On a brighter note, congratulations to Razov for scoring his 100th MLS goal.
Goals: Chivas: Maykel Galindo 1', 9', Ante Razov 43', Matt Taylor 89'

Colorado Rapids 1-3 FC Dallas
Dallas cam out strong in the first half, but had trouble scoring thanks in large part to the Rapids great ability to take Carlos Ruiz out of the game. Still, FCD was able to make chances, but once they finished one of those chances, they relaxed and let the Rapids storm right back into it. The start of the second half saw much of the same as Dallas failed to play with any intensity, that is until coach Steve Morrow took Ruiz out of the match in the 68th, thus destroying the Rapids plans. Almost immediately, FCD was threatening and from that point on they controlled. By the way, if you want to watch two strikers having fun with a goalkeeper, watch the final goal. Cooper and Oduro actually had Bouna Coundoul sitting on the ground as they danced around him.
Goals: CR: Jovan Kirovski 34'
FCD: Ramon Nunez 29', 78', Dominic Oduro 93+'

Week three weekend play saw the wife go 3-1 with her predictions while I just stayed at 500 (2-2). On the season we are both tied at 6-12 (go .333 power).

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

2007 Week 3 Predictions

Week three sees only four matches over the weekend, allowing the clubs with time off to reflect on what is happening. For the teams playing the 90-minutes, they will try to keep the goal scoring fever alive.

Houston Dynamo (1-0-1) vs. New York Red Bulls (1-0-1)
Saturday - 7:30pmET, 7:00pm Pre game and 9:30pm Post game shows
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, FSE

I love that MLS is billing this as a clash of the conference leaders. Technically speaking, it is mostly true (I think Colorado is actually leading the West at the moments due to goals scored), but when you are only in the second week, it just seems like an odd marketing gimmick. Anyway, New York was the second biggest story out of last weekend thanks to the re-re-re-re arrival of Clint Mathis. He was on fire, but it has been years since he has played two strong games back to back, so I don't think he will be the force he was. With Claudio Reyna questionable for the game, I don't think the Bulls will have the offensive spark. I still think their defense will hold together well and with Houston having their own offensive problems, this should be enough to get a point, but it will not be.
Predictions: Me HD 2-1 NY, Wife HD 2-0 NY

Kansas City Wizards (1-0-0) vs. Chicago Fire (1-0-1)
Saturday - 8:30pm ET
TV: HDnet

The Wizards, thanks to amazing play all over the pitch, were the biggest story of last weekend. Eddie Johnson was finally dangerous again, Scott Sealy was sharp, Michael Harrington set records in his début and Jimmy Conrad brought their defense together, but can they keep it going? The Fire, meanwhile, were lost against a 10-man Rapids. If the Fire are to turn their tide, they need Justin Mapp to be creative. DC was able to find holes in the KC defense, but lost it because of bad play on their own side of the field. Chicago should be able to mount a better backline, so the Wizards will not run over them.
Predictions: Me KC 2-2 CF, Wife KC 1-3 CF

Real Salt Lake (0-0-2) vs. Chivas USA (1-1-0)
Saturday - 10:30pm ET
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv

It always fun to see these two clubs play as it is sort of a measuring stick for their progress. So far the series goes to Chivas 3-2 with 3 draws, but neither side has won at the others home. I don't think that will change tonight. Real looks better in attack, but they cannot get it together and their habit of letting in late goals is just about mystifying. Chivas also has a piece missing in their offensive puzzle. They had many good chances against Houston last week, but always found ways to miss net. It should be an entertaining game with Chivas getting the win late.
Predictions: Me RSL 1-2 Chivas, Wife RSL 0-1 Chivas

Colorado Rapids (1-1-0) vs. FC Dallas (1-1-1)
Sunday - 3:00pm ET
TV: TeleFutura

And then we have the Sunday afternoon game. Of all the fine match-ups, this one should be the best. The last time the Rapids were in Dallas, they knocked out a much stronger FCD side on kicks, thus sparking a disgusting display by the Colorado players in front of the Dallas supporters. This display caused goalkeeper Dario Sala to throw punches and get suspended for the first six games of this season. I have a feeling the Hoops Nation has not forgot about these events and games are always better when the crowd has a stake.

The Rapids come into the game playing some of the best soccer in the league. Even when they were down a man, they still held strong on the back and made gold up top. Herculez Gomez likes his new home, but Kyle Beckerman is the guy Dallas needs to take out of the mix. For Dallas, they need to use their home opener to bring a different style to their play. Instead of the hang back and attack model they've used so far, they need to come out kicking. Get Ramon Nunez involved and keep the pressure off their defense. Also, Kenny Cooper needs to throw his weight around and make the Rapids backline commit some stupid fouls. In the end, the Rapids never seem to win in Dallas unless it is playoff time, so I've got to go with FCD.
Predictions: Me CR 2-3 FCD, Wife CR 1-3 FCD

Odd teams out: LA Galaxy (0-1-1), DC United (0-2-0), Toronto FC (0-2-0)

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Friday, April 20, 2007

2007 Week 3 Injury Report

For the most part week three sees teams overall in about the same place as last week. FC Dallas add Marcelo Saragosa and David Wagenfuhr to the list, however Roberto Mina has moved up to doubtful. The most interesting report comes from the Rapids who didn't report anyone. Either their guys all healed up or someone forgot to submit the paperwork.

New England still leads the league with six players on the list, however two of those players some time in last nights tie with the Crew.

Of all the teams with players on the list, the Dynamo are in the best shape with just two and neither of them is listed as 'out.'

It will be interesting to see how much playing time Claudio Reyna gets this weekend.

Here is the full list:

Eastern Conference
QUESTIONABLE: MF Logan Pause (R groin strain)
PROBABLE: MF Ivan Guerrero (R quad contusion); MF Diego Gutierrez (L calf contusion)

OUT: DF Jed Zayner (L knee chondral defect); GK Will Hesmer (R hamstring strain); DF Chad Marshall (concussion)
DOUBTFUL: MF Jacob Thomas (R hamstring strain)

OUT: MF Rod Dyachenko (MCL sprain), MF Jeff Carroll (shin splints); MF Clyde Simms (ankle sprain), MF Kiki Willis (adductor strain)
PROBABLE: FW Brad North (hamstring strain)

OUT: DF Matt Groenwald (blood clots), MF Ryan McMahen (torn ACL)
PROBABLE: FW Scott Sealy (foot contusion); MF Lance Watson (hamstring strain)

OUT: MF Daniel Hernandez (groin strain); DF Joe Franchino (leave of absence)
DOUBTFUL: DF Michael Parkhurst (L dislocated shoulder)
PROBABLE: DF Marshall Leonard (R hamstring strain); FW Pat Noonan (sports hernia); MF Khano Smith (R hamstring strain)

OUT: MF Blake Camp (R ankle sprain): FW Mike Magee (R knee surgery recovery); MF Markus Schopp (sports hernia)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Claudio Reyna (L leg contusion)

OUT: MF Ronnie O’Brien (knee), DF Chris Pozniak (hamstring), MF Maurice Edu (groin)

Western Conference
OUT: Carlos Llamosa (L knee sprain)
PROBABLE: Jorge Barrera (R hamsting strain); Orlando Pérez (L groin strain)


OUT: MF Marcelo Saragosa (R knee MCL), DF Adrian Serioux (R knee surgery)
DOUBTFUL: FW Roberto Mina (L knee), DF David Wagenfuhr (concussion)

QUESTIONABLE: DF Craig Waibel (R hamstring strain)
PROBABLE: MF Stuart Holden (R foot contusion)

OUT: FW Alan Gordon (L foot stress fracture); MF Santino Quaranta (R Achilles)
PROBABLE: MF Peter Vagenas (neck); FW Gavin Glinton (L groin strain); MF Quavas Kirk (plantar fasciitis)

PROBABLE: MF Freddy Adu (L hip flexor strain); MF Steven Curfman (R ankle sprain); DF Eddie Pope (L hip pointer); FW Luis Tejada (L hamstring strain)

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

New England 2-2 Columbus Crew - Recap

For a second week in a row the Thursday night match has resulted in an exciting 90-minutes of play. Let's hope this is a trend that continues for many more weeks to come.

Columbus needed to shut down New England in the middle and for most of the night they did just that. In addition, they applied lots of early pressure and forced the Revs to make mistakes.

Right from the get go Ricardo Virtuoso and company were pressing against New England and sure enough it resulted in some good chances. This attack caused NE to get sloppy and that lead to Ned Grabavoy's goal in just the eighth minute.

But the Revs were not the only team with sleeping defense as just two minutes later Andy Dorman left defenders in the dust and equalized for his side. And then came Taylor Twellman.

Twellman was missing for the first 30-minutes but when he found his place he made the bubble bees pay. He stole the ball from midfield, raced forward with it then slammed a shot in from 20+ yards catching Andy Gruenebaum flatfooted. This is the Twellman we all love to watch. He was confident and strong.

The second half saw tests on both sides of the ball, but it seemed New England's defense was the more disorganized of the two. I don't know if it was miscommunication between Matt Reis and his backline or what, but far too often they seemed out of place. Sure enough, this poor defended allowed the Crew to find an equalizer on an easy strike by Kei Kamara.

Kamara was sitting alone and unmarked in the middle of the area when Frankie Hejduk slipped a perfect low pass to him. The Revs should have stopped the pass and had Kamara marked, but their bad orientation caused them to end up as spectators to the final goal of the night.

In the end, the Crew more then earned their third tie of the season, while New England will go home wondering what happened.

I thought that if Columbus closed down Shalrie Joseph they would have a chance in this match and sure enough, that is what they did. That said, the Revs still could have won this game if they had marked their men in the box.

Both the wife and I were wrong with out predictions, which means I'm not 4-10 while she is 3-11. That is sad territory.

On a different note, I hope MLS reviews the tapes and slap Andy Herron with a one-game suspension. His elbow to Jay Heaps was deliberate and in retaliation. I like Herron but his actions were disgusting.

New England Revolution 2-2 Columbus Crew
Goals: CC: Ned Grabavoy 8', Kei Kamara 86'
NE: Andy Dorman 10', Taylor Twellman 38'

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San Jose stadium deal is dead

Just hours ago it became official, the reborn San Jose Earthquakes will not play in Spartan stadium on the campus of San Jose State University. President Don Kassing and developer Lew Wolff just could not work out a compromise that each could live with.

All along Wolff, who co-owns the rights to restart the Earthquakes, has said he has other options, now we will see what those options might be. He still hopes to fund any stadium with money earned from real estate development, however it is hard to see how the City of San Jose would go along with his current plans if he were not going to build a stadium in the town.

This is a major blow to soccer fans in the bay area. When he purchased the rights to the Earthquakes last year Wolff said he wanted to find a "public agency willing to give him land for a stadium,” as “buying land outright in San Jose could be prohibitively expensive." With San Jose University turning them down, there are not many other public agencies available.

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Thursday Night Soccer - New England v Columbus preview

New England Revolution (1-1-0) vs. Columbus Crew (0-0-2)
7:00pm ET

There might not be a pre-game show but there will still be two good hours of soccer. The Revolution rediscovered their offense this past weekend while the Crew has yet to find net. On paper, this should be a walk for the Revs, but something tells me the Columbus will not just role over.

Columbus's defense is looking better and goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum is making smart saves. This alone will prove more a challenge then what NE saw against Toronto on Saturday. Now the question for the Crew is can they get the offense clicking?

Andy Herron and Jason Garey threatened a number of times against Real put they just could not reach that final reward and facing a backline with Avery John and Jay Heaps is not going to make that much easier. They will need to snag balls in midfield and slam NE with numbers. If they can keep Shalrie Joseph playing deep, they will caught off a big pathway to Twellman and Dorman, thus open up their own offensive chances.

I have little doubt that the Crew will be able to do this for stretches over the fist hour, but I just don't think they have the fitness to make it last. They were able to contain Reyna during their first match but that was because he wasn't getting much help. With the Revolution, they will not be so lucky.

Me: NE 2-1 CC
Wife: NE 1-0 CC

By the way, it's a shame there is not a pre-game show this week as that would be a great opportunity to introduce Guillermo Barros Schelotto to the American public.

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US Women set World Cup sendoff match; Breakers return to Boston

The US women will not know who they will play in this fall's World Cup till Sunday, but they now know who they will play in the lead up to those date.

Between June 16 and August 25th, the women will take on six of the world's best. Here is the list:

June 16 - China - Cleveland Browns Stadium (Cleveland, Ohio) 7 p.m. ET
June 23 - Brazil - Giants Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.) 5 p.m. ET*
July 14 - Norway - Rentschler Field (East Hartford, Conn.) 6 p.m. ET*
July 28 - Japan - Spartan Stadium (San Jose, Calif.) 7 p.m. PT
Aug. 12 - New Zealand - Soldier Field (Chicago, Ill.) 12 p.m. CT*
Aug. 25 - Finland - The Home Depot Center (Carson, Calif.) TBA *
* Live on ESPN2

Five of these six teams will also travel to China for the World Cup.

In other women's soccer news, the new pro women's soccer league has announced the addition of a seventh team to their lineup. Joining LA, DC, St Louis, Dallas, Chicago and NY is Boston. The new team from bean town will keep the name of the former WUSA side Boston Breakers.

The Breakers were the best regular season team in the WUSA in 2003.

By the way, the league will announce one more location at a later date.

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LA has already turned a profit off Beckham

David Beckham's $250 million deal made huge headlines, but many wondered how the LA Galaxy could make money off it. However, once we learned that just $5.5 million of that huge sum was his annual salary and the rest was his cut from jersey sales, endorsements and sponsorships, it became easier to see how LA was going to do it.

Well it turns out that they have already brought in $13.3 million due to Becks' signing. This includes about $4.9 million from increased season ticket sales, $868,000 from corporate suites and $4 million a year from Herbalife for shirt sponsorship.

So Mr. Posh is still about three months away from playing his first MLS match yet he has already paid for more then 2-years of his salary. Not bad. Now the question is can he spark as much on the field as he can at the cash register?

Also from the article, MLS is hoping that Beckham can move the sale of MLS merchandise up the product sales ladder as they currently only manage about $150 million in sales. Matt Powell, an analyst for SportsOneSource's research arm, SportsScanINFO, said "$150 million is a non-event; it's walking around money. I'm sure Beckham is going to make a difference, but this gives you a sense of how tiny this business is right now.''

Mental note, if Powell ever offers to go on a walk with me, take him up on it.

By the way, the NHL sells $400 million worth of product while the NFL brings in $3.5 billion. MLS has a long way to go.

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Houston Dynamo to wear Virginia Tech colors

In a show a solidarity with Virginia Tech, the Houston Dynamo will wear the school's colors during their April 29th home game against the Chicago Fire. These uniforms will then be auctioned off and all funds will be donated to the school's Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund.

In addition, the team will donate $8 per ticket sold to the game.

For those of you looking for some sort of connection between the Dynamo and Virginia Tech, there doesn't seem to be much of one other then concern for those who have suffered from this tragedy.

If you would like to participate in this event, you can purchase tickets here. To make the $8 donation count, you will need to use the promotions code box to purchase your tickets. Select the number of tickets you want and enter 'VT' as the code.

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Real advances; Chivas-Pachuca tied after first leg

Real Salt Lake got their first meaningful victory of the year last night as they downed the Kansas City Wizards 2-1 in their US Open Cup qualifier. I'm sure the fan that was in attendance went wild.

Please don't take this as a knock against the Real faithful because it's not their fault that US Open matches mean so little that their club scheduled a 5pm kickoff time for the match. Then again, who can blame Real's front office for the choice when all you get for winning the oldest cup competition in America is three been and cheese burritos and a two week old gallon of warm milk.

I really like the US Open Cup, but US Soccer needs to figure out if they actually want to support this thing or not. Find a corporate sponsor or come up with some way of making it worth the time. It doesn't have to be much, think if there was a $750,000 prize for the winner with at least half of it promised to the players. I think we would start to see a bit more excitement during these games.

Anyway, enough ranting, Real was able to pull off this victory despite continuing their trend of giving up late, late goals. Jeff Cunningham put them on top in the 12th minute on a penalty kick, but Sash Victorine tied it up in the 88th, sending the match into overtime where Andy Williams had a 15-yard blast smack a post and find its way into goal. The news reports of the game sound like it was a decent 120-minutes of play, but few will ever know.

Real advances to play the Colorado Rapids on May 28th.

Next up for MLS qualifiers sees LA travel to Columbus next Tuesday. Although LA has a strong history in the Cup, I find it hard to believe the club is overly interested in cramming more games into their already overflowing schedule. Proof of that might be their recently added friendly against the Vancouver Whitecaps which will take place on October 3rd or the day after the October 2nd US Open Cup final.

In a completely different tournament, Pachuca CF and CD Guadalajara socked out a 2-2 draw in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup final last night. Omar Bravo was the man of the night for Guadalajara has he notched both goals including an equalizer right before halftime. But Pachuca would not be denied. Down 2-1 in the closing minutes of the match, Marvin Cabrera was able to give his side the much-needed second goal sending the series back to Pachuca all tied up.

The second leg takes place next Wednesday and if you are a Pachuca fan, you must like the position your club is in.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

CONCACAF Champions' Cup Finals start tonight

Okay, a lot of the thrill of the Champions' Cup has gone away since no MLS team will be in the mix, but tonight's match should still be fun to watch.

Pachuca CF and CD Guadalajara will meet in the first leg of the final tonight in Guadalajara. These two are both good sides, but I think the edge goes to Pachuca. They have looked exceptional throughout the whole contest while the goats have stumbled a few times.

The winner of this series will represent CONCACAF in the FIFA World Club Cup in Japan this December.

By the way I was surprised to find out that this is only Guadalajara's second trip to the Champions' Cup final with their first being back in the inaugural 1962 edition. I'm sure that has been mentioned before, but I just didn't catch it.

For those interested in watching these great Mexican sides face off, Fox Soccer Channel will air the game live at 9:30pm ET.

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MLS US Open Cup qualifying begins

For the first time since 2002 not all MLS teams qualify directly for the US Open Cup. Instead, the six worst teams from 2006 will need to play qualifying matches in order to advance to the full tournament.

You might ask what the difference is between these qualifiers and being involved in early rounds and there are really only two. One, there is no draw so the clubs already know who they will play and two, those clubs have a much larger window in which to play these matches.

Anyway, tonight sees the highflying wizards of Kansas City travel to Salt Lake to take on Real. If you are interested in listening to this match, you'll be able to find it on the MLS website, however you might need to pay for the pleasure.

The winner of this match will advance to play the Colorado Rapids.

The US Open Cup has a great tradition but is often treated as a wasteland by clubs. Most of the time they rest their big names in favor of giving the backups a chance on the pitch and with very little money offered as a prize, there really is very little reason for this to change. It would make me only to happy to US soccer put some real money behind this wonderful tournament.

Anyway, if you are in Salt Lake, feel free to show your support for your team and the oldest cup competition in the US. The game starts at 5pm local time so you might need to skip out on a hour or so of work.

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Marcelo Saragosa out for FCD and other injury ills

FC Dallas's Marcelo Saragosa has been ruled out for 4-6 weeks due to a right sprained medial collateral ligament. Saragosa suffered the injury during an innocent looking play in Thursday night's match against LA.

In addition, it looks like FCD will be without defender David Wagenfuhr (concussion) or forward Roberto Mina (left MCL sprain) for their home opener against Colorado on Sunday.

Injuries have this way of making good teams into ‘also rans.’ Dallas is still a bit of a way from that point, but this is an issue that must be causing some concern. If they lost another backfield player, it could cause a lot of headaches for the hoops faithful.

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Italy back in the top spot - FIFA rankings

Italy might not get to host Euro 2012 but they do get the top spot in the FIFA rankings. I'm sure all of Italy is excited about that.

The US moved up one spot to 29th while Mexico popped up three places to return to the full top 20.

And here is the top 20:
RankTeamMarch RankChange
5Germany 50
10Czech Republic9-1
17Turkey 2710

With Russia, Turkey and Mexico moving into the top 20, there had to be three teams falling out. Those teams are Sweden (down nine to 24th), Côte d'Ivoire (down five to 25th) and Ghana (down nine to 28th).

The biggest gains of the month went to Republic of Ireland (31st), Equatorial Guinea (87th) and Azerbaijan (103rd) who all moved up 20 spots, Kazakhstan (116th) who rocketed up 27 places and little Liechtenstein (131) who flew up 31 notches.

Meanwhile, those going in the other direction the fastest were Lithuania (89th) down 13, Tajikistan (145th) down 18 and Bangladesh (176th) down 21.

As far as the US's competition in their upcoming summer tournaments, this is what they will face in the first round:

Concacaf Gold Cup
Trinidad and Tobago - 66
Guatemala - 90
El Salvador - 143

Copa America
Argentina - 2
Paraguay - 35
Colombia - 26

Here is the same information for Mexico:
Concacaf Gold Cup
Panama - 56
Honduras - 52
Cuba - 65

Copa America
Brazil - 3
Ecuador - 30
Chile - 37

Just by the rankings, which means very little, the US will have an easier time in the Gold Cup but a slightly harder time in Copa America.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

De Rosario not feeling the love. Sign of things to come?

Dwayne De Rosario has refused to sign an extension of his contract unless Houston offers him a significant pay raise.

With the likes of Beckham, Blanco, Reyna and others coming into the league and making millions and with Donovan, Adu and Johnson already here doing the same, De Rosario seems to be asking what he needs to do to get a little respect.

"It's very frustrating. At the end of the day, the only thing I haven't accomplished is being MVP of the league, and I'm going to try to win it this year to get more leverage," said De Rosario, who's hoping another solid season will boost his chances of cashing in. "But can I get any more leverage? Two times I was runner-up for the MVP, and we came out champions last year."

In Dwayne De Rosario the league has one of their best stars yet he is paid only about $140,000 a year. MLS has grabbed headlines with their big international signings but they have also set the stage for a backlash from the majority of their players. How can someone of De Rosario's quality feel good when Juan Pablo Angel of the Red Bulls will earn more in just two-weeks then he will earn in a full year?

I don't think he is trying to get the same pay as the designated players, however being up there with Adu and Johnson would be fare and he has a point. If you had to pick one of the three over the last two-years, who would you go with? The others might look good in ads, but De Rosario has smoked them on the pitch.

I have no idea how this will end up but I'm sure this issue will service many times again.

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San Jose stadium deal might be falling apart

Early today the City of San Jose released some documents related to the development of a new stadium that will serve as home pitch for a reborn San Jose Earthquakes. In these documents they stressed that the city would not move forward unless developer Lew Wolff and San Jose State University worked out a deal for sharing the new complex. Now comes word that the negotiations between the two sides are breaking down.

The main issue is that San Jose University wants to "earn about $6 million guaranteed annually" but Wolff is only offering $1 million plus a percentage of future revenues. The University would give about 25 of the campuses 63-acre South Campus to serve Wolff's needs for practice fields and surface parking, thus they feel entitled to more money.

Wolff is set to meet with University President Don Kassing later this week for what might be their last chance to hammer out a deal. If one cannot be reached, Wolff says there are still other possible locations, however he has not named any such locals.

It looks like we might know by Friday if this deal is going to happen.

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Support the Wizards; date Forward Willy Guadarrama

The Wizards have decided that marketing the team might be a good idea so they have come up with some 'cutting-edge' techniques.

“Our mantra this season is to ‘Get Close,’ and everything we can do to do that in both traditional and nontraditional methods are based around this,” Thomson said. “Our players are the biggest asset we have, as they are fun, smart, personable, well-spoken and good-looking. We capitalize on this at every opportunity.”

“Get Close” can mean:

•Checking out player Q&As posted regularly at

•Playing a “Singled Out”-style dating show in which a lucky woman can win a date with up-and-coming rookie Willy Guadarrama.

•Staying up on the team by paying $1.99 a month for Wizards news, stats, scores and more downloaded to your cell phone.

You've got to love the win a date with Willy Guadarrama idea. I wonder if it was his idea.

Anyway, the promotions will include TV and radio ads, billboards and ads at movie theaters.

All jokes aside, I've got to hand it to KC, after years of neglect, the new owners are trying to make something happen. The Wizards have a long way as far as fans are concerned, but little things like this will have nice results. There is no reason professional soccer in KC should be the death hole it has been for a couple years now.

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When will the Crew announce the signing of Guillermo Barros Schelotto?

The rumors of Boca Juniors forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto signing with the Columbus Crew have been going strong for over a week now, but when will we finally get confirmation?

Initial reports said today would be the day for a press conference, however Schelotto himself called it off. There are a number of possible reasons such as visa requirements or not wanting to step on the Juan Pablo Angel news, but if he were to play on Thursday night, one would think the Crew would announce soon.

Could it be that Schelotto is having second thoughts? He told reporters that he had come to a financial deal equal to what he was getting with Boca, but had not decided either way.

For their part, the Crew is staying silent. With the MLS transfer deadline already past, one would think that if there is no news soon then this will be a fish that got away.

If Schelotto does come to the club, he stands a good chance of getting lots of minutes and being the main force in their attack. Like all the designated players, Schelotto is a little past his prime but he is far from totally spent. It would be a great thing for the league to see such a player in it.

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San Jose Earthquakes stadium plans

The City of San Jose has released some information concerning a future home for the San Jose Earthquakes. This report basically just confirms all the information previously reported.

To sum up, Lew Wolff wants to build houses on an area currently zoned for industrial and commercial purposes. He will use the money from the sale to pay for a large portion of the new stadium that the Earthquakes will share with the San Jose State University football team.

However, Wolff needs the city to rezone the property before he can finalize the deal with San Jose State, who, in turn, need to finalize a deal with Wolff regarding the up to 25 acres of university land he will use for the project.

Both the city and university stressed that no taxpayer money will go into the actual building of the stadium, however the city will fund community fields around the site and the university will build other facilities.

It is looking like this will all come down to the City Council and their vote on the zoning change. From a distance, it sounds like they are willing to make the change, however with no vote yet taken, anything could happen. They are still waiting for the $10,000 traffic survey result and there will also need to be an environmental impact study.

You can read the full report here (link is a pdf).

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2007 MLS Week 2 Power Ratings

When the British surrendered to American forces at Yorktown in October 1781, thus ending the American Revolution, their band played a march called "The Word Turned Upside Down."* When I was putting together this week's power ratings, I kind of felt the same way.

Week number two proved, yet again, in MLS, last season is not much of an indication of the next season. That said the bottom three spots are not much of a shock. Anyway, here are this week's ratings.

1. Kansas City Wizards (Last week - Not rated) - What a way to welcome in a season as they exploded all over the pitch. Not only did they score, something that did not happen much in '06, but they also didn't fall to pieces when they surrendered their two-goal lead. Saturday night saw a KC team playing close to a perfect match, now can they make it last?

2. Colorado Rapids (1) - Going down a man in the sixth minute and still managing to almost get a full three points is impressive. The fact that they were able to put a big hurt on the Fire offense plus make gold from there few chances on goal show that this team as lots of possibility.

3. New England Revolution (6) - The injury problems are starting to decrease and Twellmann is roaring back to life. Yes, they dominated an expansion side that has next to no real offensive threat, but it was still a strong victory. Hopefully some of the over 18,000 that made it out will return to see a few more matches.

4. New York Red Bull (11) - Last week it was all Claudio Reyna, but with the middle man out due to injury (how many times will I type that this season?), the rest of the club woke up. Clint Mathis was having one of his 2002 moments, but the big story was their defense. Every avenue FCD attempted to find ended with a Red Bull player snatching the ball away. Now the question is can they do it against a club that has not been flying all around the country and in non-monsoon weather?

5. FC Dallas (4) - They got hammered on Sunday, but they made history, sort of, on Thursday night. A win in LA for Dallas is a very foreign concept, but they were able to do it by sheer offensive power. Cooper and Ruiz didn't get many openings, but they made them work. The weak side for Dallas, and stop me if you heard this before, is their defense. They just don't seem able to clear balls. But the biggest concern for FCD might be all their injury problems. On Thursday midfielder Marcelo Saragosa went down and on Sunday defender David Wagenfuhr got his second concussion in two-years. The season is young, but these knocks can add up fast.

6. Houston Dynamo (8) - I don't know what coach Dominic Kinnear says to his side at halftime but he might want to start saying it a little earlier as the team again looked flat in the first half. The great news for the club is it looks like Pat Onstad is off to another fantastic season, but the bad news is Paul Dalglish seems to be heading in the other direction. Brian Ching has looked good, but you need more then one threat. As of this moment, Houston has not found that second threat.

7. Chivas USA (3) - Just like their opener against Toronto, Chivas controlled large portions of this match but they could not find a way to get the ball in the net. Yes, Onstad was a wall, but Chivas needs to find ways to get past walls. Till they do, they will keep missing chances for great results.

8. Chicago Fire (2) - When you play a full 90-minutes (with stoppage time) a man up and have to get a late goal to salvage a tie, well you have problems. Add to it that they played about 80% of the game on the Rapids side of the pitch and one has to wonder 'what's up with their offensive?' Okay, the wind was horrible, but only three shots on goal? They were able to hold a 1-0 lead in the first match, but if at some point, they will need to get more then one goal in a match.

9. DC United (5) - To say there are backline issues in DC is to point out that the sky is blue. Again and again, KC, like Colorado before them, found their way past the scattered defense and made United pay. The good news for club is their offense seams to be coming together and Fred is looking to be something magical, but does it matter if their midfield can't get the ball to them?

10. Los Angeles Galaxy (7) - I thought about just doing a two word review for the team and those words are 'wasted chances.' I don't want to sound like a scratched CD but how often can Donovan put in poor crosses? Turns out it is quite often. Also, their defense, which last season gave them hope, looked almost as sad as DC's.

11. Columbus Crew (10) - Again the story for the Crew is their defense as their offense keeps trying but is lost. Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum is earning his pay, but much like LA, their offense is often close but with no result. As blah as this team has been, I've got to admit that earning 2 points without scoring a single goal impresses me at least a little bit.

12. Real Salt Lake (9) - Yet again, Real tried to give up points late, late, late in a match as the Crew's Kei Kamara had a great chance on goal in the final minute. However, unlike Dallas, the Crew could not make it happen. Goaltender Nick Rimando looked much better between the posts and their offense was attacking but they just can't find any rhythm. The fact that they only have two points from their two matches kind of depresses me.

13. Toronto FC (12) - Everybody's favorite Canadian whipping boys again find themselves at the bottom of the list. THe negatives are obvious (bad play just about everywhere), so let me say some positives. Alecko Eskandarian can still bring a smile to my face. Even when not getting support, he finds ways of making defenses work. Also, Greg Sutton did his best in goal but when shots are coming your way every seven seconds (maybe an exaggeration), you are bound to let a few go by.

And that's the way I see the MLS ratings two weeks into the year.

* It is not known for sure that the British actually played "The Word Turned Upside Down" as there is much historical evidence to suggest they did not, however it makes for a good story so, as someone once said, go with the story.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

New York about to sign Juan Pablo Angel

If rumors are to be believed, and when it comes to the Red Bulls and any foreign signings they usually are not, New York is about to sign striker Juan Pablo Angel from Aston Villa.

The deal is said to be very advanced. If signed, the Bulls will take the final year of his Villa contract, valued at about $75,000 a week, as well as extend the deal for 12 additional months.

If Angel can return to decent form, this will prove to be a huge signing, however the past three years or so have not been kind to the Columbian.

If this deal were true then one would expect Angel would join the team during the August transfer window, as the MLS transfer deadline was this past Sunday.

Update: Looks like this rumor is true as Arena just annouced that Angel has been signed as a designated player. I did not hear when he will join the club, but it looks like it might be sooner then August.

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LA going for fame not fortune with Beckham

The LA Galaxy have just crammed yet another match into their already packed schedule as they will now play the Vancouver Whitecaps of the USL First Division on Wednesday October 3rd in Canada. This will make their third road match in seven days and will come after the month of September where they will play eight matches.

I can understand the desire to share the fun of Beckham with the Northwest, but their primary motivation at that point should be their MLS season. Come October 3rd, LA will have just four regular season matches left and if their current form is any indication, they may need a lot of points from those matches to make it to the playoffs.

They were scheduled to have their first full week off in a month during the first week of October, but now will go from September 8th to October 21st with no more then four days off between games. On top of that, they will now travel from Kansas City to Columbus to Vancouver and then fly all the way back to Houston for a Sunday afternoon game.

One last thing, with the exception of the week off between a Sept 1st match at home against Real Salt Lake and a September 8th match against Colorado, the club does not have a full week off from July 17th to the last regular season game on October 21st and 13 of the 24 matches are on the road.

The signing of Beckham is exciting but who is going to care to watch him if the entire team is too exhausted to perform?

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World Cup 2010, 2014 news

Amid fears of slow movement on the construction side of things, the 2010 Local Organizing Committee has said that the 'nine cities hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup are ahead of schedule.' However, they did point to Cape Town as a site that has faced some 'hiccups' such as legal issues dealing with the environmental effects of the new stadium.

But there is a new reason coming to life for taking the finals away from South Africa and it has nothing to do with stadiums. Instead some are pointing to South African President Mbeki's closeness with Zimbabwe's President Mugabe as reason enough to move the tournament.

They say:
By supporting and sustaining the holocaust unfolding in Zimbabwe, the Government has aligned itself with the ranks of evil. It is one thing to refuse to intervene when cruelty is rife in a neighbouring country, quite another to fuel it with sympathetic words, pathetic policies and required resources. President Mbeki has repeatedly defended his friend in Zimbabwe at international meetings and before his electorate.

Doubtless he is protecting his left flank, but his refusal to condemn Mugabe's murderous regime and willingness to supply it with free electricity, fuel and food used for political purposes paints him as either a knave or a fool. At best he has fallen under the spell of a cunning man prepared to kill every enemy and to destroy the country in his charge in order to sustain his invidious regime.

It will be interesting to see if this picks up any momentum.

But this is not the only blow to hit the 2010 committee today as Ghana football star and South Africa 2010 ambassador Abedi Pele has been hit with match-fixing claims. This Pele, not to be confused with his namesake Pele of Brazil, has been one of the faces of the finals. If these allegations are true, it might call into question just how deeply was Pele involved in the 2010 planning and did he get anything from it.

Looking ahead to 2014, Brazil have made it official that they want the 2014 World Cup. They turned in their bid on Friday. The government of Brazil must provide a series of regulatory guarantees before a July deadline

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Toronto FC get Danny Dichio

It might not rank up there with another English man coming over to MLS, but the signing of Danny Dichio should, if nothing else, give Toronto FC some possibility for offense.

Dichio is not in his hay day, managing just 5 goals in his last 2 seasons, but he still has some game left in him. It will be interesting to see how Mo Johnson changes his lineup to bring in Dichio. With Buddle off to a slow start, perhaps he will get some bench time.

If nothing else, this signing should give Toronto a good tall man to throw into the mix for free kicks.

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2007 MLS Week 2 Recap or Welcome back to form

There was much improvement in play in week 2, even if the weather was, for the most part, nastier. It was also nice to see the netting of the goals getting used more this week as 16 goals were scored for an average of 2.6 per game, however five teams failed to score. Anyway, here are some quick recaps.

Columbus Crew 0-0 Real Salt Lake
Real was trying to get their offense started against a confused Crew defense but they were just missing that final touch or were just a bit offside. Columbus were able to provide some nice work of their own, however this was a match for the goalkeepers. Both Nick Rimando (RSL) and Andy Gruenebaum (CC) put forward amazing performances that kept their teams level.

Toronto FC 0-4 New England Revolution
Let's try to understate this one, Toronto is having some issues with their backline and their attack seems to be limited. The Revolution was connecting all the dots allowing Taylor Twellman to return in style. For too long Twellman has looked a little flat, but not Saturday night. He was finding every hole, and there were a lot, and sticking it to them. The few times Toronto did venture into New England's territory, James Riley stepped up to shut them down. For the team from Canada, the arrival of Daniele Dichio cannot come soon enough.
Goals: NE: Taylor Twellman 12', 18', Shalrie Joseph (pk) 60', Andy Dorman 72'

KC Wizards 4-2 DC United
In the pouring rain Eddie Johnson was reborn. I thought this would be the best match of the weekend and I turned out to be correct, although a number of United fans might disagree. The Wizards might have got some help from DC's shoes, but even without it, they were by far the better of the two sides. Johnson and Co. picked apart DC's backline, which never found any real structure while the Wizards' midfield ran a lot of the show (to be fair, DC looked better against KC then they did against Colorado). KC's defense lead by a reemerging Jimmy Conrad, also was strong on when United's attack was trying to push forward. If DC can take one thing away from Saturday it's that their frontline seems to be coming together. Now they just need to get the ball.

By the way, as much talk as Johnson will get from this game, and he should, I was really impressed by Michael Harrington and not just because he set a record for quickest ever first MLS goal. He was making runs and causing havoc on a level far above a rookie. Great first showing and I can't wait for more.

Even though I predicted a DC win, I thought that this game would cause people to start looking at them as possible 'paper tigers.' With a defeat, well the talking has begun.
Goals: KC: Michael Harrington 3', Sasha Victorine 8', Eddie Johnson 46+', Scott Sealy 54'
DC: Luciano Emilio 11' Christian Gomez 34'

Chivas USA 0-1 Houston Dynamo
The reason Houston won this match can be tied very much to Pat Onstad. He turned in another amazing performance to keep his club from disaster. Starting at just the 20th second and leading up to just about the last second, his saves of ‘should have been’ goals were wonderful. He made up for a backline who seemed to enjoy giving Ante Razov all the time in the world and a midfield, who for most of the match, with the exception of Ricardo Clark, couldn't get anything past Chivas. The Dynamo stepped it up in the second half but is lucky that Chivas failed with every chance they got, thus costing them at least a point.
Goal: HD: Brian Ching 65'

FC Dallas 0-3 New York Red Bulls
I don't know what Dallas has ever done to Clint Mathis but he sure does hate their soccer team. With Claudio Reyna nursing an injury, the role of leader fell to Mathis and, in one of the biggest shocks of the weekend, he ran with it. In weather that brought back images of the 1996 MLS Cup, Mathis woke up and surged. I only got to listen to the audio feed of the match, but it sure did sound like it was the MetroStar Mathis on the pitch. He setup Josmer Altidore for the first goal and then made a meal of an Altidore pass for the second. Even better news for the Red Bulls, their defense was outstanding and kept Dallas from having opportunities. Dallas's defense was in a bad place before the start of the match, but the loss of David Wagenfuhr with his second concussion in two-years might just spell doom.
Goals: NY: Josmer Altidore 18' Clint Mathis 34', Dave van den Bergh 93+'

Chicago Fire 1-1 Colorado Rapids
The Fire should not be happy with this result as they played a man up for almost the entire match. Roberto Brown went off in the 6th minute with a direct red, which gave the Fire many opportunities, but they did not make much of them. The Rapids were in bunker mood for most of the game and only managed three total shots, yet they walk away with a point. Yes, the wind was playing havoc with any ball that want more then 2 inches off the grass, but that is no excuse for the Fire side. Only getting one shot in the first half is not acceptable. Their backline might be all right but until they sort out their attack, the Fire will keep coming up short.
Goals: CR: Herculez Gomez 58'
CF: Chad Barrett 85'

Week two is now ever and done and I'm happy to say that I did better with my predictions. I went 3-3 on the weekend for a new season total of 4-9 while the wife went 2-4 and 3-10 overall.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

2007 Week 2 Predictions

The big question for week 2 is 'will teams score?' The low, low, low count of last weekend would be great if it was the result of fantastic defense, but sadly it had a lot more to do with weak offense. Anyway, here are my quick predicts for week number two.

Columbus Crew (0-0-1) - Real Salt Lake (0-0-1)
Saturday - 6:00pm ET
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv

This is the match everyone is looking forward to. Okay, I'm lying, but in reality, this actually could be the start of something for either team. Real showed some great ability against Dallas, but lost it do to a last minute collapse. Meanwhile, the Crew spent the majority of the NY match in NY's half of the pitch. If they can wake Andy Herron up, it could become a good shootout between him and Real's Jeff Cunningham. If it does, it might come down to keepers and, now this is another shock, I think the Crew has the better in that category.
Predictions: Me Crew 2-2 RSL, Wife Crew 1-0 RSL

Toronto FC (0-1-0) - New England Revolution (0-1-0)
Saturday - 7:30pm ET
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv

Even though they put on a decent match against the Fire, I'm still not sure the Revolution is a strong team. By Sunday morning, we should know the answer. If they fail to ignite against a clearly wondering Toronto side, they don't have much hope for a strong opening. One has to guess Twellman is going to come to life at some point and if not against TFC then who?
Predictions: Me TFC 0-1 NE, Wife TFC 0-2 NE

KC Wizards (0-0-0) - DC United (0-1-0)
Saturday - 7:30pm ET
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, FSE

This should be the best game of the weekend. DC is finally back at home and their fans are sure to give them some love. The Wizards, meanwhile, are looking to make an impression that will cause people to forget about 2006. DC will need to regain the midfield while they will be looking to restart Jaime Moreno. The Wizards need Eddie Johnson to wake up, but I think their outcome will have a lot more to do with play of Michael Harrington. I think United will win this one, but will look a little soft doing it, thus starting the 'DC is a bunch of crap' talk.
Predictions: Me KC 1-2 DC, Wife KC 1-2 DC

Chivas USA (1-0-0) - Houston Dynamo (0-0-1)
Saturday - 8:30pm ET
TV: Direct Kick, HDnet
Internet: MLStv

With Ricardo Clark coming back for Houston, they should be able to setup some explosive offense that will leave Chivas in the dark. The control he brings to the middle will free up Dwayne De Rosario, which should give folks like Ching and Dalglish space up top. Jonathan Bornstein will help hold the tide on defense, but it will not be enough.
Predictions: Me Chivas 0-2 Houston, Wife Chivas 0-1 Houston

FC Dallas (1-1-0) - New York Red Bulls (0-0-1)
Sunday - 3:00pm ET
TV: TeleFutura

I hear the big plan for the Red Bulls is hope for heavy snow activity Saturday night, thus forcing Dallas to delay their arrival till one hour before kickoff. It might work. Dallas must be feeling great about where they sit. They've been outplayed in both games yet still have 4 points to show for it. Normally I would assume exhaustion would get the best of a weak backline, however, New York has no goal scorers, so it might all come down to their attacking line. If that is the case, the duo of Ruiz and Cooper will make for another sad day at the Meadowlands.
Predictions: Me FCD 2-1 NY, Wife FCD 1-1 NY

Chicago Fire (1-0-0) - Colorado Rapids (1-0-0)
Sunday - 8:00pm ET
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv

Colorado used their newfound midfield abilities and the wide open spaces of their stadium to force United out of position, but you only get one time to launch a surprise. The Fire will arrive with a key sense of what is coming their way and should be able to prevent the bleed. However, the Rapids looked impressive and the Fire did give up a lot of room to New England at home, so I think the Rapids will get the full points.
Predictions: Me Chicago 1-3 Rapids, Wife Fire 2-0 Rapids

Now, can I do better then the 1-5 I did last weekend?

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