Thursday, August 30, 2007

Danny Szetela to Newcastle Racing de Santander

US U-20 and Columbus Crew midfielder Danny Szetela has signed a four-year deal with the EPL's Newcastle. The move will not take place till January meaning Szetela is still available for Crew during their final run to the playoffs. The date also means MLS will not get a transfer fee since his contract concludes at the end of the year.

Szetela was close to signing with Italy's Roma or Lazio but decided to move to England instead.

His time at Columbus has not shown much however he did have a wonderful U-20 World Cup. Newcastle has been a difficult place for players to break into in the past. If Szetela wants to get first team action, he is going to need to really stretch his abilities.

Big Update: Step away from the blog for a day and things go crazy. Looks like Szetela will not be heading to England. Instead he will go to Spain to play with first division team Racing de Santander. The move will take place right away with MLS getting a $150,000 transfer fee.

I like this move a lot better then the Newcastle option, as Spain and Racing seem like a better place for Szetela to develop his game.

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Beckham out up to six weeks

David Beckham's knee injury will cost him 4-6 weeks of play. The injury is a 'ligament strain' in his right knee.

He is under going tests today to learn the extent of the injury. If it is as serious as suspected, Beckham will probably miss both the September 8 and 12 Euro qualifiers for England as well as league matches through early October.

If there is one good side to this for the team, this should probably be enough time for his left ankle to finally heal completely.

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MLS web traffic way up

The arrival of Beckham has not caused MLS's television ratings to soar but it has had a very big effect on their web traffic. Numbers released today show that total worldwide unique visitors to MLS's official website has gone from 478,000 in July 2006 to 1,037,000 in July 2007. As far as the visitors from the US, that number has also grown from 378,000 last July to 594,000 this year.

These numbers do not include visits from public computers such as Internet cafes or access from mobile phones or PDAs.

While the numbers themselves might not be huge, it does show yet another way that the Beckham deal and all the media that went along with it has helped pull people into the league, even if it is only for a short web visit.

Here are the figures:
DateWorld Unique VistorsUS Unique Visitors
July 2006478,000378,000
Aug 2006522,000418,000
Sept 2006250,000222,000
Oct 2006294,000274,000
Nov 2006306,000201,000
Dec 2006230,000159,000
Jan 2007808,000404,000
Feb 2007345,000206,000
Mar 2007392,000252,000
Apr 2007567,000369,000
May 2007521,000281,000
June 2007719,000350,000
July 20071,037,000594,000

It is interesting how much the world numbers have jumped. It use to be that the US made up 80% or more of the MLS traffic, but now it is less then half. I don't know what all it means but it will be interesting to see if the league can keep them and go the increased traffic into something.

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SuperLiga 2007 - Pachuca wins, Beckham gets hurt, LA dooms themselves

LA Galaxy 1 (3)-(4) 1 Pachuca

Before I talk about the outcome I just got to say that last night was a wonderful match. If MLS games could have even half as good an atmosphere as the fans showed in LA's half-filled stadium*, it would raise the level of the sport in this country more then any international signing.

So what about the play on the pitch? This was LA's best game of the season, but even in that, their own mistakes are what killed them. The fact that Pachuca, one of the most power offensives in the world, only got six shots on goal over 120-minutes says a lot. However, what says even more is the own goal the Galaxy surrendered to give Pachuca the lead in the 28'.

The good news is LA didn't bottom out and give up. Even when Beckham went down with a tweaked knee, the team kept rolling and had chances but could not put one away till the very final moment of second-half stoppage time. That bicycle kick goal by Chris Klein is the sort of thing all players dream about and Klein made it happen.

But all that joy was almost erased in the first OT period by another own goal as Xavier defected a cross right towards the net. If it weren’t for Cannon making a fingernail save, Pachuca would have gone up again off a mistake. LA started pushing back in the second OT, but it was not enough so to penalties we go.

Pachuca goes first and Lugo scores. Then come Vagenas with a chance to make up for his own goal mistake and, well his night just got a little worse as his shot is saved. Ray scores for Pachuca but good old Cobi Jones gets LA on the board with their second kick. And then Cannon did what he needed to do for his club and stopped Caballero's attempt and then Klein evened the shootout. Both Masure and Buddle made their team's fourth shots bringing us to the final round.

Marvin Cabrera steps up needing to make it or give the Galaxy a big opening. He takes the shot and bangs it off the crossbar, LA fans go nuts. All they need is one goal and the title is theirs. And who is up, Mr. PK himself, Landon Donovan. The man who stuffed ever pk for the US in the Gold Cup can become the hero. He takes his time making his crosses and kissing his arms and goes for the shot. He goes left as did Pachuca keeper Miguel Calero. The shot is stopped. Donovan is not the hero.

The thing about Pachuca is they don't give you many chances to beat them and if you don't take advantage of what is in front of you, well it is going to cost you. Sure enough, Carlos Rodriguez finished his shot meaning the pressure was on Xavier to come up big for his club. Needless to say, he didn't come up big. In fact, he seemed to shot the ball so far to the right that it almost went over the sideline instead of the end line (okay, that is an exaggeration). And Pachuca win yet another trophy.

LA did perform better then expected but without a victory, it doesn't mean much. As if this game wasn't hard enough, the Galaxy now find themselves in last place in MLS play after Real Salt Lake shocked KC in league play. So no title, Beckham hurt, defense still off and last place in the league, not a great Wednesday night for any club. Still, thanks for putting on such a great final act to the SuperLiga story.

Goals: Pachuca: Own Goal (Peter Vagenas) 28'
LA: Chris Klein (1) 93+

Penalty-kick shootout:
P: Rafael Marquez Lugo (Goal) (1-0)
LA: Peter Vagenas (Saved) (1-0)
P: Luis Gabriel Rey (Goal) (2-0)
LA: Cobi Jones (Goal) (2-1)
P: Gabriel Caballero (Saved) (2-1)
LA: Chris Klein (Goal) (2-2)
P: Julio Mansur (Goal) (3-2)
LA: Edson Buddle (Goal) (3-3)
P: Marvin Cabrera (Crossbar) (3-3)
LA: Landon Donovan (Saved) (3-3)
P: Carlos Rodriguez (Goal) (4-3)
LA: Abel Xavier (Wide Right) (4-3)

* The stadium was only half full because LA can only sell 12,500 tickets to matches held on nights when California State University has classes, so the smaller crowd was still a sellout.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

SuperLiga final - Can LA pull off the great upset?

Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Pachuca CF
10pm ET/ 7pm PT - Home Depot Center
TV: Telefutura (Spanish)
Internet: MLStv

Could the first SuperLiga, a competition that has seen some of the best club soccer played in America in the last ten years, really conclude in such a lopsided contest? Pachuca comes into the match as recent winners of Mexico, CONCACAF and South America's Copa Sudamericana, while LA is having a hard time remembering the last time they won a game.

The good news for the Galaxy, one of the few wins they have earned this year came earlier in the competition against Pachuca and they did it without Beckham. The bad news is Pachuca has only improved since then while LA has played almost 10 games and added a number of players to the injury list.

Pachuca has lost recently as well when they dropped a match this past weekend, however it was due in large part to resting six starters for tonight's match. Fausto Pinto, Gerardo Rodrguez, Damian Alvarez, Christian Gimenez and Juan Carlos Cacho will all come into the game well rested and ready to claim a fourth title in a year. This should terrify any Galaxy or MLS fans.

For the Galaxy to pull off an upset, they will need to do something they have done many times in the past, play great tournament ball. For all LA's faults, they have always managed to punch above their weight in tournament settings. Be it their run from eighth place to MLS champs in the 2005 playoffs or their usually strong play in the US Open Cup, the team clicks in single-elimination settings, but to make history, they are going to need a performance from their offense unlike any they have given this season.

Pachuca will likely surrender a goal or two but their success rests a great deal in their patience. They never seem to lose composure, even when down a couple goals. This allows them to poke around the final third and wait for mistakes. With the Galaxy very prone to making mistakes, this will probably be their undoing.

They need to keep tabs on Juan Carlos Cacho because he can turn a play like few others, but perhaps their best chance of changing the game is keeping Gimenez out of it as much as possible. He is to Pachuca what Beckham is to LA, ie the man who gets it all going. If they could somehow force him into an early card situation or make him track back, it will take some of the heavy pressure off the backline.

If the Galaxy defense can hold (or if Cannon can save them), then they just need to push their forwards up. Pachuca is strong on defense but they have a weakness when it comes to crosses. If Beckham is on the pitch, this should help the club, but they will still need to find someone to get under those crosses. Look for Pavon to be the big target while Xavier or Kelly Gray will probably push forward to add something to the mix.

So LA will need to play a near perfect game to walk out with the $1million prize and the SuperLiga trophy. As if that wasn't pressure enough, if they don't win, there is a good chance coach Frank Yallop will be sacked (and maybe GM Alexi Lalas as well) and their season will be considered a total failure.

We will learn tonight just what the Galaxy have in them.

Predictions: Me LA 2-1 Pachuca, Wife LA 1-4 Pachuca

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MLS Expansion - Does construction ad mean a team for Philadelphia?

The idea of a MLS team in Philadelphia got a bit of a boost yesterday when a member of Big Soccer posted an ad he found in the current edition of the Philadelphia Construction News. As you can see if you click on the image to the left, it is a Request for Quotation on building a soccer stadium in Chester.

Information includes the stadium size (20-30,00), completion date (2010) and owner (MLS).

The fact that this is listed as a MLS project and as private construction seems to suggest to me that this is more of an information seeking ad then anything solid. Since the team owners would probably end up being the actual owners and since they are hoping to use some public money to make it all happen, I'm guessing that the final bid process will be a big different.

Still, this is great news for any fans of soccer in the Philadelphia area. If you do live in the area, you might want to sign the petition in favor of the stadium deal and you might want to check out the Son of Ben supporters club.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lalas - MLS screwed LA with the schedule

LA Galaxy Alexi Lalas is hitting out at MLS for the 'ridiculous schedule' they have to play between now and the send of the season.
"We have bent over backwards to help everybody but the Galaxy," Lalas said. "A lot of people have made a tremendous amount of money on the back of what the Galaxy has brought to their markets this year and I hope that they remember that going forwards.

"Have we played well? No. But this ridiculous schedule that we have been saddled with in an effort to appease absolutely everybody, on and off the field, has taken its toll."
He does have a point as his side has club has 12 league matches over the next eight weeks, however there are three main problems with his argument.

1. He knew about this schedule a long time ago and could have voiced his anger then.
2. Even when his club was well rested, they were still bottom of the table with a 3-5-4 record through August.
3. LA had October 3rd & 10th off, but Lalas added friendlies on those dates. Instead of a road trip that will take them from KC to Columbus to Houston over two weeks, they will now go KC, Columbus, Vancouver, Houston, Minnesota, all in two weeks and all designed by Lalas.

Don't get me wrong, LA did get a crap schedule handed to them that will help others more then it helps them, however Lalas did not complain about it till his club fell to dirt. In fact he made their schedule even harder by adding late season friendlies.

So Lalas can complain but until he explains away the three items above, he issues just seem a little self-serving. Who would have ever thought Lalas and self-serving would be in the same sentence.

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2007 MLS Week 21 Power Ratings

Week twenty-one didn't see any big upsets so things remain pretty calm in the ratings, however, with Chivas coming on fast, they might just be a couple wins away from the top tier.

1. New England Revolution (Last week -1) - They needed a strange couple goals to beat New York but they are still the strongest team in the league as a whole. The defense still makes errors but Reis is good at cleaning most of them up.

2. DC United (2) - Between Fred and Perkins this club has what is needed to bring the cup home to the nation's capitol. The one hiccup in the plan might be their backline. Without Boswell, they get confused.

3. FC Dallas (4) - FCD had a needed week off, which they used to add another striker to their mix. Unless they are planning on going with a 3-2-5 lineup, someone is going to have to go.

4. Houston Dynamo (3) - Like many teams, Houston is having some injury problems but that does not excuse the tie against Columbus while being up a man for an hour in the Texas sun. This team has great defense but their ability to make something off their attacks is lacking. If they can find net, they can find a title or two.

5. Chivas USA (6) - Tossing LA around is not as impressive as it once was but it still counts for good in my book. Everything is falling into place with this club. Unless their road form tanks, they might just be the strongest team heading into the playoffs. Note to all other teams in the West, you don't want to have to beat Chivas in LA in the playoffs. Win now or lose in November.

6. New York Red Bull (5) - A bit of luck and turn a good team bad. Jozy and Juan are still producing and they are getting gold out of their midfield, but they need another option in the mix. The Bulls are good but beatable on any given day.

7. Columbus Crew (7) - What a way to pull out a point in Houston. Their bunker defense is far better then it was last year which gives them an outside chance at the post season.

8. Kansas City Wizards (8) - Their midweek game was great news for the club as it showed people that EJ is not their only option on the pitch to get goals. The drop on Saturday was not horrible but it did show a frontline that is a bit iffy.

9. Chicago Fire (9) - Again Blanco is the engine for the Fire. Their options are opening up but they still don't have much of a stop them before the final third attitude.

10. Colorado Rapids (10) - Destroying the LA 'B-team' is not that unexpected but it does show a club maturing in their skills. The first half saw a lot of quick touches that poked open the many holes in LA's lineup. If the Rapids can be this strong against other clubs, they have a chance.

11. Los Angeles Galaxy (11) - If anyone is looking for some fantastic standup comedy, look no further then LA's backline. Really, it is the single biggest joke in MLS. They stumble, bumble and tumble, and that's when things are going good.

12. Toronto FC (12) - The heart is strong but the team is weak. There is no doubt that their home field gives them more talent then they actually have but with all the injuries, this side just doesn't have what is needed to make that final push.

13. Real Salt Lake (13) - Remember, say something nice or say nothing at all. Okay. Um, let's see, their defense, no, um, their mid, no, okay, their shirts are some of the best looking in the league. Yeah, the 2008 season is just seven months away.

Any now week twenty-one goes off to its eternal sleep.

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Rumor - Wizards to play 2008 season in a baseball stadium

The Kansas City Wizards didn't know where they would play this season's games till February, however they hope to know where they will play next season before 27 September. The reason, that's when Beckham comes to town and they hope to use that game to springboard interest in season tickets.

But to what venue will fans be going?

Although there is no confirmed deal, one Wizards' employee has said the team will be heading to CommunityAmerica Ballpark, home of the minor league baseball KC T-Bones.

The stadium is located in Kansas and is 10-miles from downtown Kansas City and 14-miles from the Wizards current home at Arrowhead.

Team officials are keeping quiet on any discussions, however they will say that they are talking with two primary sites with one alternative site also in the mix.

“We’re negotiating with I’ll say three — but it’s really two — primary sites and we have confidentiality agreements around all three of them, so I can’t really discuss it too much,” Cotton said. “No one place is on the front burner more than the other. I will tell you that we do hope to announce something in the next, hopefully, three weeks.”

I have no knowledge but I would guess a return to Arrowhead is the third option.

If the team does move to the ballpark, they should be able to announce a sellout crowd for every match as capacity is only 5,768 (although they have fit up to 10,345 in on occasion).

Wherever they end up playing, the team hopes it will only be temporary as they continue to look for a site on which to build a permanent stadium.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

MLS Expansion - Public to see St. Louis soccer plan

The bid to build a soccer complex in Collinsville, just outside of St. Louis, is heading into the final phase and if bid leader Jeff Cooper has anything to say about it, the public will get to see as much of the proposal as possible.
"I've got to live" in the Metro East, Cooper said. "I don't want people burning down my house because they think I was slipping something by the Collinsville council."

Cooper said he is so confident in the project that he wants residents to be given the opportunity to see any plans "so the public has a chance to shoot holes in it."
The city council is set to look at the deal at their 10 September meeting. Even if they vote in favor of it at that time, the city will not be tied to the project as it will probably depend on the awarding of a MLS franchise to Copper and St. Louis Soccer United.

The full project will include "an 18,500-seat stadium, 240 hotel rooms, at least two restaurants, several youth soccer fields and nearly 500,000 square feet of office and retail space" and cost about $402 million to build. Cooper is asking the city to become a partner in the deal by issuing bonds as well as pay for some of the infrastructure.

It seems that the only part of the plan with which the city takes issue is the number of homes. Cooper calls for 1600, but the city would like there to be less then that.

With rumors suggesting that MLS will announce at least one expansion franchise in the next 30-60 days, this has got to be good news for soccer fans in St. Louis. If Collinsville agrees to the terms, I don't see how MLS could say no.

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2007 MLS Week 21 Recap or The race for eighth tightens

The weekend is over and the six matches have made the playoff picture a lot clearer. It is safe to say that, failing a run like none in league history, LA and Real Salt Lake are out of the picture and Toronto is all but on that list as well. That means that Chicago, Columbus and Colorado, or the triple C's, are the teams fighting for that final playoff spot. On the top of the table, it looks like DC and New England are the two sides with the best chance of taking home the Supporters Shield and the automatic entry into the Concacaf Champion's Cup.

As far as overall play, the number of shutouts continued to ride high as five of the nine games saw a team earn no goals. That brings the percentage for the month of August to 76% (19 out of 25), which is a drop from last week, but still higher then any other month of the season.

Anyway, here are the regular league numbers 138 games into the season:
SeasonWeek 21
Att per game15,93117,381
Beckham Att (5*)195,84727,000
Beckham Avg Att39,16927,000
Goals per game2.5802.667
Inter-conferenceEast 24-19-18Tie 0-0-1
Ties32 (23.2%)1 (11.1%)
* Number of MLS matches with Beckham in attendance

DC United 1-0 Toronto FC
United did just enough to get it down but without the excellent work of Troy Perkins in goal, Toronto would not be sitting on the longest streak without a goal in MLS history. The good news for TFC is they were pressuring almost the whole match and kept finding the holes in DC's backline, but they could not push one past Perkins.
Goal: Fred (4) 8'
Attendance: 20,093

New York 1-2 New England
You know a game is strange when a goalkeeper gets an assist. There was a bad pk call (which was stopped by Jon Conway), an assist by Reis and an own goal caused, in part, by a foot getting stuck in the fake turf. New York actually looked the better of the two teams for much of this match and earned a point but the luck of the Revs was in full shine. By the by, the Twellman (NE) goal was great quick work while the Altidore (NY) goal was just fantastic.
Goals: NY: Jozy Altidore (8) 30'
NE: Taylor Twellman (11) 46', Own Goal (Carlos Mendes)) 80'
Attendance: 16,017

Columbus Crew 1-1 Houston Dynamo
Where has the Houston offense gone? Hats off to the Crew who managed to go an hour down a man and only concede one goal while still getting a couple good chances at goal. Houston tried to force their way through the Crew line but it just was not happening. They should be glad to get a point but there is no reason they shouldn't have got three.
Goals: CC: Alejandro Moreno (4) 17'
HD: Nate Jaqua (3) 80'
Attendance: 14,351

Kansas City Wizards 0-2 Chicago Fire
Blanco, Blanco, Blanco. To all those who thought the signing of Blanco would be a dude, look no further then this match (or really any of the Fire's last 5). He controlled it and delivered a full three points on his free kick and passing. The Wizards, who were the definition of good offense on Wednesday night, were left wondering how it could all go so wrong.
Goals: CF: Cuauhtemoc Blanco (2) 44', Calen Carr (3) 86'
Attendance: 18,453

Los Angeles Galaxy 0-3 Colorado Rapids
Once you saw LA's lineup, you knew this was not going to be a good night for them but my oh my, I didn't think it would be that bad. Did they even put any defenders on the pitch? The Rapids, who where playing their regular junk ball, seemed just as shocked as everyone else to find such an easy route towards goal but with the win are now in a great spot to catch the last playoff spot.
Goals: CR: Conor Casey (1) 26', Colin Clark (1) 34', Mike Petke (1) 43'
Attendance: 18,086

Real Salt Lake 0-1 Chivas USA
Chivas got the points but they started to show signs of a bad past. Up till about a month ago, the goats needed tons of chances before they could get a goal, thus allowing their opposition to stay in matches. It looked like this issue had been resolved, but it was back on display last night and Real almost made them pay for it.
Goal: CV: Jesse Marsch (2) 31'

So if the season ended today, this is the first round playoff pairings:
New England - Kansas City
DC - New York
Houston - Colorado
Chivas - FC Dallas
Colorado just snags the eighth spot on goal difference from Columbus while Chicago sits one point (and five goals) away.

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Klinsmann to coach LA?

Reports from England suggest that former German coach Jürgen Klinsmann is close to taking over the LA Galaxy sidelines from Frank Yallop.
Jürgen Klinsmann could be about to take over as the head coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy after Frank Yallop, the incumbent, admitted to feeling the strain of managing a losing team under an increased media glare since the signing of David Beckham.
The hiring of Yallop was GM Alexi Lalas's first big decision in LA, however, the past year in charge has seen little improvement in the team. Now one is never sure how much of that is the problem of Yallop and how much of it has to do with Lalas, but in the end, the coach is the most likely to go. But would Klinsmann really take the job?

The article suggests that this might be a long term plan by the team involving a move of Landon Donovan to the new San Jose franchise and the importation of a player from the German 2006 squad (odds are it won't be Khan). Then again, this could all just be talk designed to take your attention away from the fact that the Galaxy are playing some of the worse soccer in league history or the idea that Lalas might be the one on the chopping block.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

2010 World Cup Concacaf qualification process set - US gets bye in first round

Concacaf has announced their qualification structure for the 2010 World Cup and it is remarkably similar to the one used for 2006.

The top 13 teams, based on FIFA's May rankings, in the region get an automatic bye in the first round. These teams include the US, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, Guatemala, Canada, Guyana and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Twenty-two other nations will be drawn into home-home pairings during the qualifying draw on 25 November in Durban South Africa. The 11 winners and St. Vincent will then advance to the second round.

The first round teams will then be drawn into a home-home pairing with the top teams (note that even though St. Vincent is a top team, they will need to play one of the other 12 top teams). The 12 winners of the second round advance to the semifinals.

These 12 teams will be divided into three groups of four. These groups will play home-home series for a total of six matches each. The top two teams in each group advance to the final stage.

The final stage will have six teams play home-home series (10 games each) with the top three earning a spot in South Africa while the fourth place side will have to play a home-home playoff series against the fifth-place team from South American.

So what does this mean for the US? Their next match that matters takes place in the second round, which will probably take place some time in June 2008.

During World Cup 2006 qualification, there was no second round phase for Concacaf. As noted in the comments, there was a second round phase for 2006. I had it noted as the first round for some reason. Sorry about that.

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World Cup 2014 - FIFA inspecting Brazil, Germany will wear Adidas

The FIFA 2014 World Cup inspection tour of Brazil is underway. Representatives will visit five candidate cities during their nine-day trip while 13 other cities will make their presentations in Rio de Janeiro.

Although Brazil is the only country up for consideration to host the finals, they are not guaranteed to win them. FIFA will want to know how the country plans to update their stadiums and transportation options before they award them the 2014 cup.

If Brazil is not granted the finals, the bidding could open up to anyone.

FIFA will make their final decision on October 30, however if the finals are not heading to the land of the samba, changes are we will know about it before then.

In other World Cup news, no matter where 2014 is played, Germany will be wearing Adidas gear. The German FA has voted to reject a $680 million, 8-year deal with Nike and will stay with German based Adidas instead.

The Bundesliga was in favor of a move to Nike, which would have seen them received $68 million more over the eight years. Adidas will pay the FA $27 million per year for the first 4 years and then $34 million per year for the final four years.

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FC Dallas gets Denilson, now who needs to leave?

It is finally official, Denilson is going to Dallas. After months of negotiations, the two sides have reached an agreement that will see the World Cup winner (the fourth in MLS history) take to the pitch as soon as his work visa is granted.

However, before he does that, FC Dallas must make room on their roster, which means trading a senior international (SI). The four players currently on that list are Adrian Serioux, Marcelo Saragosa, Carlos Ruiz and Pablo Ricchetti. So who should go?

The signing gives them a striker which might point to Ruiz. However, he has been playing some good ball of late and does Dallas really want to give up an attacker when they have both Cooper and Mina on the injured list? Also, could FCD find a team willing to pay his salary ($435,000) at this point in the season?

Ricchetti seems to be safe as he new to the club and has looked strong in most of his 13 starts (salary - $126,625).

Saragosa has not been outstanding but he is a good option off the bench and has the lowest price tag of all four players ($71,883). Also, I don't know if FCD wants to get rid of someone that can shutdown counter-attacks as well as he can.

Which brings us to Serioux ($120,500). He is the damaged goods the team picked up from Houston (via Toronto) during the off season. When he is healthy, he can bring strength to a backline, but he has had serious health problems during the last couple years. He would love to go to Toronto but all their SI slots are in use and head coach Mo Johnston has traded him twice in as many years, so I don't think that is an option. If he had been playing, LA might be willing to grab him, but I'm guessing that the last thing the Galaxy want right now is a recovering player.

So who goes? The easy one for Dallas would be Serioux as he really hasn't contributed anything to the club, but my guess would be Saragosa. Even though FCD is a little light in the middle, Saragosa will be the easiest trade. Low cost with a good resume should attract some interest.

Then again, maybe LA would be interested in getting Ruiz back. His amazing ability to get fouled might be exactly what the Galaxy is looking for to highlight the talent of Beckham. I guess New York could also be an option as Altidore might be moving along after this season and the team will need a second attacking option.

So who would you trade away if you were Steve Morrow?

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thursday Night Soccer - LA vs. Chivas - No matter what happens, Jaime Moreno is still king

Chivas USA (9-6-3) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (3-8-5)
10pm ET/7pm PT

The Super Clasico comes to ESPN2 tonight as the teams from LA fight for city pride (but will Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa cheer for his beloved Chivas side or will he wear the Beckham jersey?). In the past, this series has not been so super, however this year things are looking a little different.

The goats, after getting laughed at for the first two seasons of this series now have a good chance of changing things. LA comes into the game hurt and in bad form. They have not won a league match since July 4, and even though their play has picked up since Beckham took the pitch, they are still a low level squad. With both Donovan and Beckham fresh off the plane from Europe, who knows where the Galaxy will turn to jump-start their attack.

Chivas is the quiet team with no real big names that is lurking. With their improved finishing skills and road play starting to look like their outstanding home play, the goats stand an excellent chance of being the out-of-nowhere club for 2007. As far as this match, if Chivas can beat LA, they pretty much kill off the Galaxy's playoff hopes. How sweat would that be for the club?

So what is going to happen? If history is to be a guide, LA will find a way to top their neighbors. Chivas is perfect at homes with the exception of one tie. LA got that tie.
Predictions: Me LA 2-0 CV, Wife LA 3-1 CV

One last note, a big congratulations to DC United's Jaime Moreno for getting his 109th goal last night against New York. It is fantastic that such a classy player holds the record for most goals in MLS play. His playing days might be coming to an end, but he is still fun to watch.

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Brazil's roster for US match

The roster for the September 9, US match is out and it is full of all those amazing Brazilian stars. Is is hard to believe this match has yet to sellout.

Goalkeepers: Doni (Roma), Julio Cesar (Inter Milan)

Defenders: Maicon (Inter Milan), Daniel Alves (Sevilla), Alex Silva (São Paulo), Lúcio (Bayern Munich), Juan (Roma), Alex (Chelsea), Kleber (Santos), Gilberto (Hertha Berlin)

Midfielders: Gilberto Silva (Arsenal), Mineiro (Hertha Berlin), Josué (VfL Wolfsburg), Fernando (Bordeaux), Elano (Manchester City), Kaká (AC Milan), Julio Baptista (Real Madrid), Diego (Werder Bremen)

Forwards: Ronaldinho (Barcelona), Robinho (Real Madrid), Vagner Love (CSKA Moscow), Afonso (SC Heerenveen)
You can find tickets here.

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Kasey Keller to Fulham

America's former top keeper has landed were so many Americans have landed before. Kasey Keller joins three of his fellow countrymen at Fulham in the EPL.

Keller has been without a team since May when he left his German club Borussia Moenchengladbach. There had been talk of a possible MLS move but nothing ever materialized.

Fulham is in need of a quality keeper with starter Antti Niemi out with an injury.

Fulham manager Lawrie Sanchez: "Obviously, with Antti being injured, it was important we added some strength and depth in that area - and Kasey is a proven professional with impeccable international credentials.

"It's vital we have cover in all areas throughout the squad, and I think he will be a valuable asset to us over the course of the season."

This signing marks a return to England for Keller who last played for Tottenham Hotspur in 2005.

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US 0-1 Sweden - Can't win off US soil

The semi-curse of Europe and the bigger curse of non-US based matches continued yesterday as the US men fell to Sweden. The red, white and blue controlled large portions of possession however they could not handle Sweden's counter attacks and were cut apart by their passes. If it weren’t for the wonderful work of Tim Howard in goal, this would have been close to a nightmare.

As it stands, the team as a whole did not look so great. The midfield was incapable of holding up the Swedes and the defensive wings were knocked around all night. However, the most frustrating part of the whole match was the lack in quality of their passing. Time and time again, they just couldn't place the ball where it should have gone, which resulted either in Sweden gaining possession or slowing down the play enough to erase any advantage in attack they might have.

There were a few good field players as Beasley opened up the left side in the first half and improved stuff on the right in the second. Dempsey was good at sneaking in to spots and one-touching balls, although he soft kicked a ball that could have been a goal. Onyewu did a decent job of holding back enough to not get beat by Sweden's quickness and his clearance off the line was pure intelligent soccer. Other then that, not a lot to talk about.

All that said, it is hard to believe that we came just one bounce away from walking out with a tie. If Shaaban hadn't got a little luck off his save of Bradley's 89' header, there would have been a late equalizer. Also, the lone goal Sweden did get very easily could have been called off due to the full body shove that preceded it.

Another good thing is the number of young players who got time in the match. Sal Zizzo, Charlie Davies and Kamani Hill need these types of experiences to grow into full players.

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Fake grass making life worse for LA

The Galaxy find themselves and a bad situation. Sitting near the bottom of the league table while suffering a number of injuries is not a winning combination. What makes it worse is some of those injuries seem to be due to the artificial turf used at various stadiums around the league.

"So far in August, the Galaxy has played four MLS games, three on fake grass, and the team has lost five players as a result."

Those injured by turf include defender Abel Xavier, midfielder Quavas Kirk, midfielder Kelly Gray, defender Ante Jazic and defender Troy Roberts.

The league likes to pretend that there is no difference but anyone who has ever played on fake grass can tell you there is. The ball moves awkwardly, it generates a great deal of heat around your feet and it takes more time to recover; yet four teams play on it.

If MLS is serious about attracting some of the best players in the world through the designated player rule, they are going to need to reevaluate their stance on this issue because very few like playing on anything except natural grass.

I can understand teams that do not have their own stadium being forced to use the stuff, but if you own it, then spend the little extra and give the players the best.

By the way, the LA Times article mentions that there are five teams with artificial surfaces: Toronto, New England, New York, Chicago and Real Salt Lake. Did Chicago scrap their natural grass system at some point in the last few months and I missed it? I don't recall hearing about it but can anyone from Chicago verify that they are still playing on the real stuff?

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

August FIFA Rankings - US falls but still in top 20

The new FIFA rankings are out and there is not a lot of moving around. All five top teams stayed where they were in July and only one team fell out of the top 20 (Uruguay).

Here is the top 20:
RankTeamJune RankChange
2. Argentina 20
9.Czech Republic11+2
11. Mexico 10-1
Team moving into the top 20: Poland.

Team moving out of the top 20: Uruguay

Here is the way Concacaf ranks up:
Rank Team
11 Mexico
17 USA
52 Costa Rica
53 Canada
57 Honduras
63 Trinidad and Tobago
71 Panama
80 Guatemala
88 Haiti
90 Guyana
91 Cuba
95 Jamaica
104 St. Vincent and the Grenadines
119 Barbados
123 Suriname
130 Bermuda
131 Antigua and Barbuda
138 El Salvador
140 Dominican Republic
141 St. Kitts and Nevis
149 Bahamas
154 Nicaragua
156 Grenada
158 St. Lucia
166 Turks and Caicos Islands
177 Netherlands Antilles
179 British Virgin Islands
184 Dominica
185 Cayman Islands
194 Puerto Rico
196 Anguilla
199 Belize
199 US Virgin Islands
199 Montserrat
199 Aruba

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US vs. Sweden - Looking for something in Europe

US vs. Sweden
2:30pm ET/11:30am PT
TV: Fox Soccer Channel (with 30min post)
Internet: Text commintary from US Soccer's Match Tracker

The US men return to action today on a continent where they have not had much success. Is today the day the European curse dies? The last time the US beat a European team in Europe was against Iceland in 1993. The last time they won on the continent was against Romania in 1991. Edit: Wow, did I ever blow this thought. It is strange how I can wake up with some idea in my mind and hold it even when it is wrong. As noted in the comments, the US beat Poland March 1 of last year in Germany. In was the match in the snow. So I could say that the US hasn’t beat a European team on their home soil since Iceland, however, that is also false (Poland in Poland March 31, 2004). Sorry about the mistakes but I am, at more times then I care to admit, a bit of an idiot. Anyway, thanks to everyone who corrected my obvious errors.

The team did get their first ever win as an official FIFA team in Europe some 91-years ago (Aug. 20 to be exact) against none other then Sweden. Will history repeat itself?

Sweden brings a very strong team with a great ability to score and fill out the midfield. They also have a knack for being sharp on set pieces but their defense is still a little iffy at times. In Euro qualifying they have only given up 4 goals from 7 matches so it is not that often that they stink in the back but it is a slight opening that the US must exploit.

A key factor in the exploitation of this opening is Landon Donovan who, as we all know only so well, doesn't have the best of history in Europe. If he can push the run towards Sweden and link up with Dempsey or Beasley, they will be able to cut their way through the line. There are other European based midfield options but since the team seems setup to flow through Donovan, if he isn't producing, things get a little more difficult.

It will be a true test of the backline to see how they deal with the speed Sweden will bring to the pitch. In Gold Cup play, there were a number of times we were beat out wide only to have the middle backs step in to make the save, but Sweden is much better then most of the Concacaf opposition. If they are given a number of chances, they will finish a few of them.

Predicted lineup:
FW: Dempsey
MID: Beasley, Bradley, Mastroeni, Feilhaber, Donovan
DF: Bornstein, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Cherundolo
GK: Howard

Predictions: Me US 2-2 Sweden, Wife US 1-3 Sweden

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Josh Gros's career is in jeopardy

During DC United's match against Columbus this past Saturday, Josh Gros suffered his second concussion of the season and some sources near the player are concerned "the career of the fourth-year midfielder-defender is in jeopardy and he should not play again this season."

The reason for the alarm is due to the way in which he is being harmed by contact with the ball as opposed to knocking heads with another player or hitting the ground.

"On Saturday, after heading the ball off his temple, he complained of blurred vision and was removed. He had a headache and vomited in the locker room. His symptoms subsided within 24 hours, but the club felt further evaluation was necessary."

If such comparatively light touches are causing this many problems, the fear is that he has suffered a much more serious injury then previously thought.

It is always horrible to see this sort of thing happen but oddly it seems to be happening more and more in MLS.

"It's so scary and it seems the last couple years there have been so many more," United midfielder Ben Olsen said. "I don't know what the cause of that is; maybe we are just more aware of the injury now and the science of it is better."

Whatever the cause, hopefully Gros will recover and return to the pitch soon.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Week 20 Power Ratings and other fun numbers

Week 20 was a fun one for MLS action as just about every game had some bit of entertainment. Also, an interesting trend seems to be going on in league play as 6 of this week's 7 games saw a team shutout to bring August's total for shutouts to 14 out of 16 making it the month with the most shutouts by percentage (87.5%) since April (July 17 of 28 (60.7%), June saw 13 of 30 (43.3%), May 9 of 27 (33.3%), April 17 of 26 (65.4%)). In order to be the month with the most shutouts, four of the remaining 10 matches need to end with a team standing small at zero.

Anyway, here are the regular league numbers 129 games into the season:
SeasonWeek 20
Att per game15,83023,740
Beckham Att (4*)168,84766,237
Beckham Avg Att42,21166,237
Goals per game2.5732.857
Inter-conferenceEast 24-19-17Tie 2-2-0
Ties31 (24.0%)0 (0%)
* Number of MLS matches with Beckham in attendance

One last bit on these numbers, this is the first time this season that the league has gone two weeks in a row without any ties. But onward to the ratings.

The top four remain the top four as they represent the top tier of the league. However, the second tier looks like it might grow soon as LA is looking much better of late while Colorado might be showing some sign of life as well. If Toronto gets healthy, the second tier might make up the majority of the league.

1. New England Revolution (3) - Even strong teams tumble at time and that is what happened against Colorado, however they pulled things right back together in KC. Twellman is looking strong as is the midfield meaning the Revs are ready to compete.

2. DC United (2) - The side underperformed against Columbus but they still came home with the full three points. Fred is a workhorse, now if their defense could just look the same.

3. Houston Dynamo (4) - What a way to make a point with a good effort at home. The team still seems to move a little slow and Corey Ashe didn't seem to know where the coach wanted him to go, but the Dynamo still represent some the best of the league.

4. FC Dallas (Last week - 1) - Dallas is still a tough team but too often, especially on the road, it seems like they want the refs to help them with the game. It is too bad as they are a team that is strong enough to win on their own.

5. New York Red Bull (5) - I said it last week and I'll say it again this week, a well rested New York side is dangerous. When even Clint Mathis is showing pure class, you know you have found something special. If they can keep the level of play close to this, they will be near the top of the East.

6. Chivas USA (8) - The goats are the quiet team in the league and now that their road form is getting better, they might just find a way to pull off a shock in the West. If there is one team that could keep Texas from taking the conference, it is Chivas.

7. Columbus Crew (6) - The Crew have cooled of late as their defense is lapsing and their offense is failing to finish. They need to find a way to hold the ball better if they want to finish strong.

8. Kansas City Wizards (7) - KC is heading to bad, yet familiar territory as they look to be walking towards another late-season slide. If EJ doesn't start scoring soon, this team is heading towards heartbreak.

9. Chicago Fire (9) - Blanco, Blanco, Blanco. It might have been against the worst in the league but it was still a great performance. He has brought some much-needed spark back to the fire.

10. Colorado Rapids (11) - They actually got a win and deserved it. The Rapids smothered and spanked the Revs but I've seen this act before. The question now is can they do it again anytime soon?

11. Los Angeles Galaxy (12) - They might not be getting any points but their play has become something interesting. Beckham is obviously the key to much of what has happened but he is not alone. Now if they could do something, anything about their defense, they might have a chance. Joe Cannon is wonderful but allowing 15 shots on goal is just a bit too much to ask of him.

12. Toronto FC (10) - It looks like the injury bug might be getting somewhat better for the side, but they are still weak from it all. This slide is too much to overcome but they will make some late season pain for others.

13. Real Salt Lake (13) - Alecko Eskandarian and Robbie Findley are back, which should give Kyle Beckerman some good options but a bad team is still a bad team.

Week twenty is now passed the expiration date.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

2007 Week 20 Predictions

After about a month without a full slate, this weekend sees the closest thing MLS can get to such an outing. Twelve of the thirteen teams play this weekend with Sunday being the day were the big guns meet, but a most eyes will be focused on New York Saturday night when LA comes into town. It should be a fun weekend of soccer.

Chivas USA (8-6-3) vs. Toronto FC (5-10-5)
Saturday 3:30pm ET/12:30pm PT
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv
The team who cannot win on the road versus the team that cannot lose at home. Okay, it is not a hundred percent true, but that is the way these teams shape up. Toronto is still soft due to injuries while Chivas has had about a month off from MLS play. If I was a betting man, I'd point to a Chivas win however, I'm just a blogger so I think TFC will find a way to pull something out.
Predictions: Me CV 1-1 TFC, Wife CV 0-1 TFC

DC United (9-6-3) vs. Columbus Crew (6-6-8)
Saturday 7:30pm ET/4:30pm PT
TV: HDNet, Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv
United looked less then a team against LA in SuperLiga, but without Beckham on the pitch, will they be able to recover? The Crew has been clicking really nicely of late but the United of recent MLS play will take a lot to beat. My guess is the Crew finds a way to take United to task.
Predictions: Me DC 1-2 CC, Wife DC 2-1 CC

Los Angeles Galaxy (3-7-5) vs. New York Red Bulls (9-7-3)
Saturday 7:30pm ET/4:30pm PT
TV: Fox Soccer Channel (30-minute pre&post), FSE
In a lot of ways, this game might decide LA's season. Will they show up the way they did in SuperLiga or will they play like they did last week against New England? Beckham changed the match on Wednesday but will he be able to do it three days later, on the other side of the continent and on turf? NY is old, but they have had a lot of time off of late, which should give them the upper hand, but LA might just be a new team.
Predictions: LA 2-1 NY, Wife LA 1-0 NY

Chicago Fire (5-8-5) vs. Real Salt Lake (2-9-6)
Saturday 9pm ET/6pm PT
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv
Chicago has kicked it up of late but it has not transferred into a full three points. They are finding ways to control the middle, but they have not pushed it up top. Real is playing the best soccer of the year (if not their history), but they are still a lose luck kind of team. If Blanco is not pressured, he will have a huge game against Real.
Predictions: Me CF 3-1 RSL, Wife CF 2-0 RSL

FC Dallas (11-6-3) vs. Houston Dynamo(10-7-4)
Sunday 7pm ET/4pm PT
TV: Galavision
This match very easily could decide the winner of the Western Conference. Houston is coming off a rough couple of weeks and will probably still be a little tired from their SuperLiga outing. FC Dallas has had a full week off but is still hurting due to injury. FCD proved that they are a full team last weekend, but they do not play well on the road to Houston. The Dynamo should get their first win for their new jersey sponsor.
Predictions: Me FCD 0-2 HD, Wife FCD 1-2 HD

New England Revolution (10-5-6) vs. Kansas City Wizards (8-6-5)
Sunday 8pm ET/5pm PT
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv
KC might be in fourth place, but they stand a real could chance of challenging for the top of the East, but to get their they must beat NE. KC has found new ways of scoring thanks to Eddie Johnson pulling defenders towards him. The Revs are hurting, as showed by their total crap performance against the Rapids, but they seldom fall twice in a row. However, I think Sunday is the day the Revs drop another one.
Prediction: Me NE 0-1 KC, Wife NE 2-0 KC

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Real get their $35 million

The endless saga of the new Real stadium in Sandy looks to be at an end as the Sandy City Council has approved $35 million in bonds that will go to building the new complex for MLS's less successful club.

The money from the bonds will be spent as follows:
- $20 million will be spent to buy RSL's 23-acre stadium ground
- $10.3 million will go to design and construction of public infrastructure
- $4.2 million will pay for parking

About $.5 million of the money will go to paying for the issuing of the bonds.

In return for the money, Real must stay in Utah for 25-years or must repay the bonds, promote Sandy in their information about the stadium and donate 500 tickets to charity for each game.

It is hard to believe that just a few months ago it looked like the experiment in Salt Lake was dead but now they have the funds needed to push the team into a new place. Hopefully the team will use this as a way to restart the club as they head into next season.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thursday Night Soccer - NE vs. Rapids - Can the Rapids not suck?

New England Revolution (10-4-6) vs. Colorado Rapids (5-9-6)
9pm ET/6pm PT

New England rolls into town looking to take sole possession of first place in MLS with a result against the Rapids. Colorado actually comes in on a winning streak (yes, 1 game is a streak), however it was nothing but luck that they sit where they do.

The Revolution have picked up their attack of late, however Michael Parkhurst has a knee sprain, so he might not be able to help get their game move from the back. Then again, this is Colorado they are playing, so there is a very good chance the Revs backline will not see anything close to trouble.

Colorado is a team that creates very little but they know how to bunker down (sort of like Guatemala). It doesn't make for a pretty game, but it can be enough to frustrate the opposition into a tie. If NE expects to just come in a take the match without a struggle, they will end up disappointed.
Predictions: Me NE 2-0 CR, Wife NE 2-0 CR

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Houston Dynamo find an amigo for their shirt

The Houston Dynamo has become the fifth MLS side to sign a jersey sponsorship deal. Starting this Sunday, Houston will wear jerseys with the Amigo Energy logo.

Amigo is a company that was founded four years ago by two Hispanic businessmen, a father and son team, with more than 20 years of collective experience in the Texas deregulated electricity market,

Houston has linked up with Amigo for the next four years for an undisclosed sum. For those wanting to get a Houston jersey with the Amigo logo, they will be available in January of next year.

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MLS Expansion - Philadelphia stadium bid gets PA governor support

The hope of bringing a MLS club to Philadelphia got a big boost yesterday as Pennsylvania governor and former Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell gave his support to the $150 mullion proposal.

"We're very supportive of the concept," Rendell said after a news conference at Philadelphia School District headquarters Tuesday. "I think you could transform the city of Chester."

There is no word on what this support might mean in terms of dollars, but State Rep. Dwight Evans says "proposal to provide state funding could be added to the capital budget in September."

Philadelphia is a market the league has wanted to get into for some time so if a stadium deal with the state can be reached, chances are strong the MLS would head in their direction. However, as with any project that requires public monies, the state will need to prove that this is something that will improve the community and is not just a corporate handout.

It will be interesting to see where the politics take this one.

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DC 0-2 LA - Beckham blasts DC

DC United 0-2 LA Galaxy
This was the night MLS management was hoping for a month ago. Beckham starts, gets a goal, gets an assist and shows that he can alter his club. One bad thing, the game was not broadcast nationally in the US on English language TV. Oh well, I'm sure ESPN2 will show it a few times tonight.

But what about the game? Without a doubt, that was the best 90-minutes LA has played all season (and probably last season as well). What made it so good was having a strong force in the middle that could push the team in the needed direction. Too often this season the Galaxy just surrender the ball before entering the other side's half, thus their offense was mainly long balls to one man up top. However, with control and good passing taking hold last night, they were able to get numbers forward and for the DC defense to stop them.

United, on the other hand, showed very little. Perhaps it was nerves or fear of being the player that injured the star, but they seldom applied heavy pressure to Beckham. Also, their attack was stuttered. Maybe they were expecting the same Galaxy side that failed to show anything in DC last week, but whatever the reason, it was some poor play by the team in black.

Beckham will get the headlines, but Landon Donovan and Joe Cannon also deserve some good notes. Donovan was going at players in a way I haven't seen in a long time while Cannon made more then a few good saves to keep his club ahead.

The question now is can LA keep this momentum? If they do, who knows, the impossible might happen.

Just incase you missed it, here is Beckham's goal. I just wonder how DC's goalie Troy Perkins feels about being part of history?

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

2007 SuperLiga - Can DC smack LA again?

DC United vs. LA Galaxy
10pm ET/7pm PT - Los Angeles
TV: TeleFutura
Internet: Live on MLStv or SuperLiga website

From one coast to the next in less then a week and this time it's not just for three points. Everything points to DC running away with this one as the injury issue has only got worse for LA, but then there is Beckham. He wants to go at least 45-minutes and although he is not the savor, he is a game changer. The way he can pinpoint passes and free kicks could finally be what the Galaxy need. LA's biggest problem is their shocking ability to give away the ball in midfield, but that could change tonight.

United, on the other hand, has a healthy side and Fred is really looking amazing in the middle. Combine that with some good defense and an expanding playing area and you have a DC side on the rise. For United to beat LA for the second time in six days, they will need to force the issue. If Beckham is on the pitch, there is a good chance that almost every pass will be heading his way. If DC can exploit this known event, they could counter any positive it gives LA.

In the end, I think LA will play better then they have in a long time (not saying much), but United will be able to wait them out and get a win to advance to the $1 million final.
Predictions: Me DC 2-1 LA, Wife DC 3-0 LA

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World Club Cup - more money and more teams

FIFA has changed a few things for this year's World Club Cup (Dec 7-16) as they have added an additional team and increased the prize money by $1 million.

In year's past, the six confederation winners were the only clubs to play in the finals, however, they have now added a place for the winner of the host nation's league. That winner will face the winner of the Oceania Confederation in a one-match playoff on the opening day of the tournament.

As far as prices, $16 million is now at stake. 'The champion will take home $5 million, the runner-up will net $4 million, and 3rd place $2.5 million. Fourth place will get $2 million, the two fifth-placed teams will receive $1 million and seventh place will earn $500,000.'

These figures might not be much for the top European sides but for the rest of the world, this could really change the direction of the clubs involved.

FIFA also decided that Japan would host next year's Cup, as it has since 2005, however, there will be open bidding for the 2009 version. Bidding for that event will begin in November.

Here is a rough schedule of the 2007 World Club Cup:
7 Dec - Game 1 - J League Winner (host nation) vs. Waitakere United (Oceania winner)

Quarter finals
9 Dec - Game 2 - CAF winner vs. Pachuca (Concacaf winner)
10 Dec - Game 3 - Game 1 winner vs. AFC winner

Semi finals
12 Dec - Game 4 - Game 2 winner vs. Boca Juniors (Conmebol winner)
13 Dec - Game 5 - Game 3 winner vs. AC Milan (UEFA winner)

16 Dec - Game 6 - Game 4 loser vs. Game 5 loser (Third place)
16 Dec - Game 7 - Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner (Final)

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2007 SuperLiga - Houston's season summed up by pks

Pachuca 2 (4)-(3) 2 Houston Dynamo
What a match. The Dynamo came out just the way they need, but going down a man to Pachuca in the first quarter hour is not the best strategy. Still, Houston found ways of pressuring on attacks and causing pain for Pachuca with their crosses, but it must be pointed out that unmarked players scored both of Pachuca’s goals.

Pachuca does many things well but the thing they do best is waiting. They are one of the best teams at forcing defenses out of position in order to sneak in a player or two. Even with a full 11 on the pitch, it is difficult to beat them, however done a man is near impossible. Yet, thanks to an amazing cross by Eddie Robison to Richard Mulrooney, the Dynamo was able to send it to overtime and then kicks.

Few things, for me at least, sum up Houston's season to date more then the penalty kicks. Tied 3-3, Brian Ching steps up for his shot, much the way he did in Dallas for last year's MLS Cup, but unlike 2006, Ching sent this one off the bar. Close but not good enough.

But wait, they're not dead yet, Pat Onstad came up with a huge save to keep the game level, meaning Joseph Ngwenya has a chance to give his team glory but instead of driving it at net, he tried to get cute with it and chip it in. Easy save by Miguel Calero. And sure enough, one of Mexico's best, Rafael Marquez Lugo finishes the team off.

Houston had their chances but they failed to make anything of them. They were not beat tonight as much as they beat themselves. Seems to be the script they are writing for the season.

On the positive side, Brian Mullan looked great last night as did Wade Barrett. Heck, even De Rosario looked better then he has in MLS play, but was still less then stellar. Also, 21,712 people showed up for a match starting at 9pm on a Tuesday night (and it was still 96 degrees). Great showing by the Houston faithful, I just hope a number of them return this Sunday for their big league match with FC Dallas.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

2007 SuperLiga - Houston looking for payback against Pachuca

Pachuca vs. Houston Dynamo
10pm ET/7pm PT - Houston, Tx
TV: TeleFutura
Internet: Live on MLStv or SuperLiga website

The path is simple, win two games and get a million dollars. As if the budding rivalry between two of the best sides in Concacaf wasn't enough to get the players moving, I'm guessing the amount of money at stake will be. When these two faced off earlier this year, it was a back and forth that really could have ended up any which way, but with Houston in the middle of their season and playing at home, they have to have the upper hand here.

The Dynamo have beat themselves over the last two weeks in MLS play, so they need to come out calm and get some shots on goal right away. Pachuca is a smart team that knows how to wait for their chances however by forcing them to sit a step or two back, Houston can very much limit those chances.

Houston will need to keep an eye on Márquez Lugo because he is amazing at finding space and popping in shots, but more then anything else, they need to find a goal scorer of their own. This team is just not finding net like they once did. Dwayne De Rosario is having one of his worst year's to date and Brian Ching isn't getting the balls in that he needs to smack home, which means it might come down to Stuart Holden or Joseph Ngwenya to be the hero.

In the end, Houston should be able to pull this off, but it is going to be a very difficult 90 (or 120) minutes.

Predictions: Me Pachuca 0-1 HD, Wife Pachuca 1-2 HD

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US Roster for Sweden - Donovan, Mastroeni, Bornstein & a bunch of Yanks abroad

Bob Bradley released his 19-man roster for next Wednesday's match against Sweden and it, as expected, is almost completely European based. The three MLSers making the trip are Jonathan Bornstein, Pablo Mastroeni and Landon Donovan.

This is a very nice blend of folks including the return of Bobby Convey, Steve Cherundolo, Marcus Hahnemann and Josh Wolff from injuries.

There are only three players with two caps or less and, oddly enough, they are all forwards. Charlie Davies (2), Kamani Hill (1) and Sal Zizzo (0) will all be looking to make their mark in a position that is a little weak. I'm guessing it is this lack of experience that has lead Bradley to call Donovan over to Europe. As far as his club, it looks like LA will be without him and Beckham (who looks like he will be called to London but probably will not play against Germany) for their Aug 23 match against Chivas making their road ahead a little harder.

Anyway, here is the full roster:
Goalkeepers: Marcus Hahnemann (Reading, England), Tim Howard (Everton, England).

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham, England), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover, Germany), Jay DeMerit (Watford, England), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard Liege, Belgium), Jonathan Spector (West Ham, England).

Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers, Scotland), Michael Bradley (Heerenveen, Nehterlands), Bobby Convey (Reading, England), Clint Dempsey (Fulham, England), Benny Feilhaber (Derby County, England), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids).

Forwards: Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF, Sweden), Kamani Hill (VfL Wolfsburg, Germany), Josh Wolff (1860 Munich, Germany), Sal Zizzo (Hannover, Germany).

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2007 MLS Week 19 Power Ratings

The long run of Houston at the top of the ratings comes to an end this week after the perplexing defeat in Colorado. Other then that, most of the list stays the same.

1. FC Dallas (Last week - 2) - A strong Crew team kept them busy, but they still found a way to pull out a win, even when going down a man. In the past, injuries have killed FCD but this year it looks like they might have the bench to survive and thrive.

2. DC United (3) - Fred in the middle is pure power. United still fluctuates in quality during matches but the periods in the bad zone are getting much less frequent. Still, how do you only get 1 goal out of a LA side you ran into the ground for over an hour?

3. New England Revolution (4) - Much like DC before them, they showed a solid team that pushed forward yet could only get one goal out of LA. On top of that, their defense has some holes that better clubs will abuse.

4. Houston Dynamo (1) - Back-to-back defeats at Salt Lake and Colorado is not a confidence builder. In both games they played the better 90-minutes but they are failing to find goal again. Maybe it is SuperLiga fatigue, but with a big showdown coming this weekend against Dallas, they need to change course soon.

5. New York Red Bull (6) - A well rested New York side is dangerous. The great news for them, once they get out of August, they don't play more then one game a week for the rest of the season. This should give the old legs enough to provide Jozy Altidore and Juan Pablo Angel what they need.

6. Columbus Crew (5) - This team has some great flow and energy these days but it only lasts about 70-minutes. If they can improve their stamina, the Crew will play in the post season.

7. Kansas City Wizards (7) - The Wizards had the week off, as I'm sure you noticed from the lack of fans in their stadium. Um, you did notice didn't you?

8. Chivas USA (8) - Chivas got to hold out of MLS play for another week and everyone cried. Actually, if they can do anything with their road form, they will challenge for the Cup.

9. Chicago Fire (10) - Chicago was off this week meaning Blanco has gone almost a full month in the MLS without a red card. All those bookies were wrong.

10. Toronto FC (9) - Injuries show Toronto to be without depth. Still a fun team to watch but do not have the talent this year to go anywhere.

11. Colorado Rapids (11) - The Rapids win their first game since May but can't even claim that it was anything other then a fluke. Counting on the other side to score goals for you will only get you so far. Even with a victory, this team looks pathetic.

12. Los Angeles Galaxy (12) - Wrecked by injuries and playing some of the most uninspiring soccer ever, ladies and gentleman the jewel of MLS. There doesn't seem to be any improvement week-to-week with this club. If they don't get 7-points from their next three league matches, Becks and the boys will get an extended winter holiday (which I'm sure Lalas will use to schedule nine more friendlies).

13. Real Salt Lake (13) - Real has decided to just end their season now and go out on a high not. I mean really, they've got a winning streak going, why ruin it by playing some matches?

Week nineteen has now crusted over and been sealed closed.

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