Saturday, September 29, 2007

MLS Expansion - Gonna bring a team to Seattle, MLS says no, no, no

MLS officials are denying reports concerning the expansion team in Seattle.

"I spoke with (MLS President) Mark Abbott yesterday in Kansas City and asked him if we have a deal in Seattle and he said 'no,'" said league spokesman Dan Courtemanche. "Our goal is to announce the fifteenth and sixteenth teams by the end of 2007 or in the first quarter of 2008."

So could it be that this is another bad rumor or might the deal be just about done and someone from the Seattle organization leaked the news in order to drive up attendance at tonight's championship match? If Seattle doesn't get a team, this story could be almost as embarrassing as Klinsmann getting the US National job.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

MLS Expansion - St. Louis group already working on youth development

Jeff Cooper of St. Louis Soccer United (SLSU) doesn't have a MLS team yet but he is already working on youth development. He did this by bringing the three main your soccer organizations in the area together to form one club that will be affiliated with the MLS team.

"These three clubs represent the cream of the crop in St. Louis soccer," Cooper said. "They've done a great job at allowing every kid who walks through the door a great education, not only in soccer, but in life."

The consolidation allows them to share resources such as soccer fields and training facilities.

"Sharing our resources is a huge benefit," said Dale Schilly, director of Metro United Soccer. Schilly said with one large club, coaches will be able match teams of equal skill rather players of multiple ability within a single team. Cooper said that will keep kids from getting discouraged and giving up on the sport.

They might not have a team yet, but SLSU is already helping the area improve the sport.

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Billionaire new co-owner of Seattle Sounders

The Seattle Sounders have some big pockets in their new ownership group, as Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen is indeed part of it, however Q is the senior partner. I'm guessing the $18 billion bank account was one of the big reasons MLS officials went with this group over that of Atletico Seattle Management.

With Allen in the picture, it is pretty clear that the team will continue to play their matches at Qwest Field. However, with the league pushing to move all clubs to soccer specific stadiums, it will be interesting to see how long this lasts (side bet on which team gets a sss first, Seattle or New England).

Current owner Adrian Hanauer will stay involved with the club, and that is a very good thing.

So there are most of the big pieces of the story, but still I wonder, what does it mean for MLS in the Northwest over all?

First off, the idea that people from Portland or Vancouver might become Sounders fans just because they are a MLS club seems a little off to me. I could see those folks showing up for some of the bigger games but my guess is it would be to cheer on the opposition.

Then there is the figure of Allen. It is great that he has a lot of money and is already involved in the Northwest sports scene, however I wonder if, much like the Kraft family and the Revolution, the soccer team will always be a secondary to their NFL team? The one element that seems to point away from that is Roth being the main investor, but still, it is a concern.

Finally, now that the Seattle option has been awarded, what would stop the two (or was it three) other groups that wanted the team to look down south a little bit at Portland? Just a few months ago it appeared the Northwest franchise would go to the Keston family who were interested in either Seattle or Portland, but obviously they lost out for whatever reason. With Portland having a great fan base and a stadium that, with some upgrades, could be MLS ready within a year, it would seem like a smart bet. Are there any billionaires in Oregon that are interested?

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Some guys have all the luck, then there is Bobby Convey

US national and Reading winger Bobby Convey finally looked ready to challenge for a club roster spot after spending most of last season healing from injury, but then his lucked turned bad, again.

During training today, Convey 'tweaked something right at the top of his leg' and looks very unlikely for this Saturday's match against Portsmouth. This comes two days after he scored a Carling Cup goal against Liverpool.

I really like Convey but for some reason I fear that he might be the current version of John O'Brien (a very talented player who never reaches his best due to injuries). Perhaps I'm reading too much into what could be a minor injury but with Reading needing some serious help, it looked like Convey had a great chance of earning minutes. I just hope this knock doesn't keep him from getting that time.

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MLS Expansion - Seattle gets a team!

Major League Soccer is coming to Seattle starting in 2009!

According to Ives Galarcep, the league will announce Seattle as their 15th team in two-weeks. As part of the move, the USL First Divison's Seattle Sounders will stop playing after this Saturday's championship match against the Atlanta Silverbacks (the link says Puerto Rico but that is who the Sounders beat to get to the final). As if the championship game wasn't enough to get fans going, now they will also be saying farewell to their much beloved club (at least in its current form).

The franchise fee is expected to be around $30 million and the ownership group will involve the owners of the Sounders. No word on the stadium status.

Congratulations to Seattle on earning a team, but does this mean the Portland Timbers new main rival is the Vancouver Whitecaps?

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Freddy Adu on MLS - "I hope they don't do to Jozy (Altidore) what they did to me"

Freddy Adu opens up on his transfer to Benfica, his time in MLS and his own play in a new SI piece out today. Although there are a number of interesting questions in the piece, the part that I'm sure is going to attack the most attention is his take on MLS and their treatment of him.

When asked about how the league created the idea of Adu as savior of American soccer, he says:
I had to be the bad guy after a few years and say: "I'm not doing this appearance. I'm not flying here to sign autographs. I don't want to do it. I have to concentrate on my play. Do you want me to produce on the field or do you just care about what I'm doing off the field?"

And the league understood and was great enough to let me cut back, and from then on the focus has been on getting back to where I used to be. And right now, I can honestly tell you, I am exactly where I want to be.
He is then asked if he was jealous of the way New York's Jozy Altidore became the new young face this past year:
No jealousy at all. What goes through my mind is: "I hope they don't do to Jozy what they did to me" -- with all the hype and everything.
Always interesting to see what the person in the middle thinks of everything going on around him.

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Klinsmann ready to coach again - Eddie Johnson buys jewel-encrusted mouthpiece

Jurgen Klinsmann has announced that he is ready to return to the world of full-time soccer management, but where will he end up. Will it be is old club Tottenham Hotspur or is Chelsea calling or could Alexi Lalas pull off a huge coup and land him in LA? Let's see, if I was a soccer manager, which club would I go for?

In other news, Eddie Johnson had a bit of a shopping spree over the weekend as he purchased $85,000 in jewelry while in LA. On his list, a new watch, necklace and a jewel-encrusted mouthpiece, "like a retainer." Could this be why he sparkled so much during their match with Chivas?

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

2007 MLS Week 25 Power Ratings

Another week and things are all pretty equal. First tier is still DC and Chivas while the rest sort themselves out. No big surprise that these ratings match the standings very closely.

Anyway, here are the ratings:

1. DC United (Last week - 1) - The team continues to roll on. Even when they get outplayed, they find ways of making things work. You need to play perfect to top United and at this point no one is doing that.

2. Chivas USA (2) - The calmest team in the whole league. Go up a goal on them and they don't fall apart, instead they push their way into position and create. What a different side this is from the Chivas of July.

3. New England Revolution (3) - Reis is back and Twellman is looking strong but they still offer the opposition a few too many chances. If the Revs want to top DC, they need to close teams down in the midfield not at the goal line.

4. Houston Dynamo (4) - The Dynamo had their last week off till their season ends. Can their defense keep the season from ending till Nov. 18?

5. New York Red Bull (6) - With Reyna, Doe, Angel and Altidore, they have all the basics they need to push, but they always seem to make things harder for themselves then they need to be. If they can stay healthy and if Waterreus stays strong in front of net, they could be the shock of the playoffs, but that is a lot of ifs.

6. FC Dallas (5) - Who would have thought that a week that had the team at home against Chicago and on the road against LA, that they would only get one point. This team is just not clicking. They play an odd messy style where they just happen to win the ball a bit more then they lose it. Add that to poor outbursts by players and really nothing being added by the DP Denilson and you have a bad situation. Still, few teams can come back late like Dallas can.

7. Kansas City Wizards (7) - The Wizards like to flip-flop between great defense and nothing up top and wonderful attacking with nothing in the back. If they can get the right mix, they will surprise, but I don't think it is going to happen.

8. Chicago Fire (8) - So many points gone late. They had FCD where they wanted them but couldn't kill off the game. They had DC United where they wanted them but made a little error that cost them. If they had got those points, they would be challenging KC for the seventh spot instead of Columbus for the eighth.

9. Columbus Crew (10) - The skill level of the Crew is much improved as they can go more then two passes without losing the ball but they are still a little weak with their final bite. Fix that and they could wink past a slumping Chicago.

10. Colorado Rapids (9) - Is there passion in this team? If so, why can't they ever show it on the pitch. What a sad turn for a club that could offer so much.

11. Real Salt Lake (11) - Unlike Colorado, Real has shown some passion of late. Is it the new management, the new talent or the fear of no job next year? Who cares as whatever the reason, it is finally causing the team to pressure.

12. Toronto FC (13) - They finally get a goal but their defense deprives them of any points. I still think that unlike LA, they actual stand a chance of beating any team on any given day, so that's why they are above the Galaxy.

13. Los Angeles Galaxy (12) - Alright, they got a win; their second of September, but I don't think it would have happened without FCD going down a man. There is no flow to this team and their defense is still the punch line of the league.

And with that, week 25 exists the stage.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Want to own a pro soccer team? It just takes $100

Admit it, at some point in your life you thought about owner a profession soccer team, but with the millions it takes to get involved with the MLS and billions it takes to be a player overseas, you never thought it would happen. But wait, if you have an extra $100, your dream can come true.

Last year there was a great deal of excitement when San Francisco was awarded a USL-First Division team. Even better yet, Dmitry Piterman, chairman of Spanish club Deportivo Alavésk, was announced as owner, making the California Victory the 'first European owned team to compete in any level of the United Soccer Leagues.'

However, this past July, Piterman sold his interest in Deportivo Alavésk and the new owners are not that interested in keeping their American outlet.

Thus enters the California Victory Supporters Association who is trying to keep their team in San Francisco. Their goal, raise $2 million dollars via the sale of 20,000 shares for $100 each, thus making the Victory the first ever fan-owned pro soccer team in the US.

So what are the reasons to think this might work?
1) The Victory will be on sale for cheap (maybe as cheap as $1)
2) Huge fan-base because of huge owner base. The merchandise, sponsorship and shirt sponsorship will be good.
3) Media coverage because of this novel idea of ownership.
4) With the right marketing, the team can average 3000-4000 to break even.
5) Soccer fans around San Francisco would be more involved if they also own part this team.
6) Kezar stadium (10,000 capacity) is great for soccer
Convinced yet or at least a little curious? If so, you can find more at Save the Victory. Having a team owned by the fans would be a very fun turn for the sport.

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2007 MLS Week 25 Recap or a full slate of good games

Week 25 saw a number of ties but also some great goals. DC's Jaime Moreno, LA's Chris Klein and NE's Taylor Twellman had some of the best, but by no means the only good net finders on the week. Also, something that the league can take a great deal of pride in, for the third week in a row, average attendance has increased. It is not a huge jump, but seeing how MLS has a history of seeing numbers drop as the season comes to a close, this is a wonderful change.

The run for the Supporter's Shield seems to still be down to DC and Chivas with United having a bit of an advantage while the fight for the last playoff spot might just be about to lose a team. All in all, a great weekend of action.

Anyway, here are the regular league numbers 167 games into the season:
SeasonWeek 25
Att per game16,10118,878
Beckham Att (5*)195,8470
Beckham Avg Att39,1690
Goals per game2.6832.75
Inter-conferenceEast 27-23-23West 1-0-1
Ties42 (25.1%)4 (50.0%)
* Number of MLS matches with Beckham in attendance
** I cannot locate the attendance numbers for Colorado-Columbus (2 Sept), so the season average is for only 166 games.

Columbus Crew 2-1 Toronto FC
For the first time since July 7, Toronto got a goal, ending their streak at 824-minutes. As great as that news is, it still doesn't solve the issues that team are having on attack or the muddled defense. The Crews first goal found Jason Garey in the middle of the box unmarked while their second saw Jacob Thomas just blast past any attempt TFC could make. Columbus deserved the win on the day as they really only had a couple periods of poor play. They still need to reconnect in their midfield, but they are looking like the team to challenge Chicago for the final playoff spot.
Goals: TFC: Miguel Canizalez (1) 2'
CC: Jason Garey (1) 61', Jacob Thomas (1) 83'
Attendance: 20,127

New England 2-2 New York
So much of soccer is luck and New York had a bunch of bad in that category on Saturday night. They had shots bouncing off the bars, cleared off the line and a goal called back off a horrible offside call. Still, the Bulls would not be denied at least one point. This was a very good outing for the Reds as Juan Pablo Angel was looking dangerous again, Francis Doeis proving to be a wonderful addition and Claudio Reyna played his best game in over a month, causing them to look dangerous on the breaks as well as from free kicks. New England owes a lot to their defense and Matt Reis who, after a few iffy outings, looks strong again. But the talk on this one should be about Taylor Twellman who made everything of the chances he got and kept his team from walking away with nothing. By the way, good move by Bruce Arena to bring in Mathis and Altidore with 20-minutes remaining. It knocked the Revs defense a bit off stride for the remainder of the match. Also, great to see a respectable crowd at this one. Keep it up New York.
Goals: NE: Taylor Twellman (13) 22', (14) 70'
NY: Francis Doe (1) 37', Juan Pablo Angel (16) 84'
Attendance: 16,823

Colorado Rapids 0-1 Real Salt Lake
If there was any doubt that a change of attitude is taking place within the Real franchise, look no further then Saturday's wet match against the Rapids. Yes, Colorado had a number of big players out, but that didn't stop RSL, who had a number of their own big names out as well, from flatting the Rapids. From their play, you never would have guessed that Colorado was the side that needed to win in order to keep pace in the playoff hunt as they were lackluster in almost every department. They could strong passes together, get a decent shot off or stop the Real attack. Okay, the Rapids did have a few good chances but Nick Rimando stepped up when needed and kept his team from falling. The Rapids have the easiest schedule of the three teams looking to claim the final playoff spot, but if they look like they did on Saturday, it is never going to happen.
Goal: Kyle Brown (2) 30'
Attendance: 14,089

Kansas City 1-2 Chivas USA
Chivas finally clinch their playoff berth with this win, but Eddie Johnson tried to make it difficult for them. EJ was the center of KC's attack, but his shots were not the best. The Wizards defense is what let them down on the night as both Razov goals could have been prevented. The first one say Razov beat his defender by a step while his second found him at the top of the box with no one around him, late in stoppage time. The resulting goal is one of the best of the week. Chivas again showed their ball skills and patience in attack and looks now to have all but a lock on the Western Conference crown. For the Wizards, they have to be a little concerned about their current form and the playoff hunt. They are still four points up on Chicago and five on Columbus, but with a difficult final three games DC, at NY and at FCD, they better hope to get three points against LA on Thursday or they could be in some serious mud.
Goals: CV: Ante Razov (10) 69', (11) 92+'
Attendance: 13,214

DC United 1-1 Chicago Fire
Chicago gave DC a run in this one as they owned a majority of the game, but in the end, if you give DC just a couple chances, you are going to pay. The lone Fire goal was the textbook example of what Blanco can do with a pass combined with great ball skills by Chad Barrett, but that goal was nowhere near as amazing as Jaime Moreno's strike in the 86'. His shot some how curled in by just skimming along the bar. When watching it live, I didn't think it actually went in because the angle was just so strange. DC did look a little tired during this game so walking out with a point is very positive. For the fire, this is the second game in a week where they have seen points disappear due to late goals. Not a good way to hold off a playoff challenge.
Goals: CF: Chad Barrett (6) 18'
DC: Jaime Moreno (6) 84'
Attendance: 20,079

FC Dallas 1-2 Los Angeles Galaxy
It is good to know that when LA plays up a man for an hour, they can get the win. So what the question must be asked, what was FCD's Chris Gbandi doing on the pitch last night? Is he on the take from Alexi Lalas because he did everything to help LA except score an own goal. I'm surprised he didn't get a direct red for his ugly revenge challenge on Kevin Harmse, then he follows it up by pull and pushing Donovan in the box two minutes later. This earned him a second yellow and Donovan a free kick. Yet Dallas still did okay in the game. Dax McCarty and Juan Toja stepped it up to keep the Galaxy from rough riding their side into the ground. But in the end, it was Chris Klein with some help from Cobi Jones that gave LA a much needed victory. Denilson continues to look out of place for the Hoops while Carlos Ruiz did not have a memorable return to the Home Depot Center. By the way, with the victory, LA earns their second win in the same month for the first time all season.
Goals: FCD: Dax McCarty (1) 11'
LA: Landon Donovan (7) pk 25', Chris Klein (2) 72'

There you have the recap, now let's look at the playoffs. If the season ended today, here are the first round match ups:

DC - Kansas City
New England - New York

Chivas - Chicago*
Houston - Dallas
* Chicago moves over to the West because they are the fifth team from the East to qualify.

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US men vs. Catalonia officially cancelled

For the past two weeks US soccer has tried to convince the Royal Spanish Football Federation to overturn their ruling and allow the team from Catalonia to play a friendly on Oct. 14, however they were not successful.

Even though the US had agreed to terms that would prohibit any of players called into the Spanish camp ahead of their Euro qualifier to take part in the match, the Spanish officials still believe that it is a bad move for their national team.

Due to the late nature, the US does not have time to find a replacement game, so their next match will take place on Oct. 17, against Switzerland. The men then have one last match for the year a month later in South Africa.

USMNT schedule
17 Oct - Switzerland - 2:30pm ET - TV: Fox Soccer Channel, Galavision
17 Nov - South Africa - 10:00am ET - TV: TBD

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Chicago Fire 1-1 FC Dallas - How not to kill off a match

Chicago Fire 1-1 FC Dallas

So what do you think the Fire coaching staff is talking to Calen Carr and Paulo Wanchope about today? If it is anything but how to keep the ball and waste time at the end of a match, then the Fire are doomed. This was not a pretty game as neither side had much ball control. Again and again, passes were intercepted and knocked out of bounce.

Dallas did start strong, but then they faded. Carlos Ruiz is getting a lot of cheer for the late goal, but he was absent for much of the rest of the game. It is great to see Toja back, but his skill is not yet at the level it was before the injury. Then there is Denilson who didn't really do anything for the full 90. He is still new to the club, so he is trying to find his flow, but I was surprised that he didn't pop to life at some point. But somehow it was all okay as Dario Sala had a really strong performance in front of the net while Clarence Goodson carried most of the heavy lifting. Sure Goodson is a bit of a hot head at times, but he does know how to do what needs to be done (a little like Michael Bradley).

Chicago has got to be kicking themselves over this one. On a night where Blanco finely looked his age (not a good thing), they still managed to hold a 1-0 lead deep into stoppage time, only to see two points disappear. Matt Pickens had a good night between the posts, CJ Brown made some big moves and Chris Rolfe's blast was heart stopping, but other then that, the side was flat. But the thing that confused me the most was the way they ended it. Calen Carr has tons of energy, but why didn't he go to a corner and force a foul? Did he not get any instructions from the coaching staff telling him to hold it? If not, what were the coaches thinking.

Dallas is not a dominant team like DC, but there is one thing they know how to do much better then just about anyone in the league and that is come back late. I can think of at least three games where they have got stoppage time goals and a couple others where they scored late in regular time, so if it was the coaching staff that failed to initiate the 'kill the game' strategy, one has to wonder what hope the Fire have.

So how bad is it that Chicago failed to get the full three points? They are only two points up on Colorado for the final playoff spot with five games remaining, but two of those games are against DC, one is at home to New England and one is on at Chivas. There is a good chance that they will get 3 points or less from those four matches. The only good news for them is they end the season with LA.

The Crew have a slightly easier time as they go to Toronto, face LA and Dallas at home and then end on the road to New England and DC. This schedule should allow them to get 6 points (and maybe a couple more) for the rest of the year.

But the Fire's real concern is Colorado who have two matches against Real Salt Lake and one at home against Toronto FC, plus road games at New England and Chivas. Real is improved and Toronto can always surprise, but of the three in the race, the Rapids have the best chance on paper. It is not hard to image the club getting 9 points from this schedule and beating Chicago for the final spot by just one point.

If the Fire misses the playoffs this year, the final five minutes in Dallas will be one of the major reasons why.

Goals: CF: Chris Rolfe (5) 56'
FCD: Carlos Ruiz (7) 93+'
Attendance: 15,059

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday Night Soccer - Chicago vs. Dallas - Blanco to let it all hang out

Chicago Fire (8-10-6) vs. FC Dallas (12-9-3)
8pm ET/5pm PT
All eyes will be on Cuauhtemoc Blanco tonight as ESPN brings back their Beckham cam, but with a Mexican flare. For the full 90-minutes, there will be a camera trained on Blanco as he looks to give Chicago their first victory in Dallas since Independence Day 1999. What a dry spell it has been.

In addition, the Brimstone Cup is back up for grabs with the Fire needing a victory to keep FCD from claiming it. But the bigger prize both teams will be looking for is playoff positioning. It would take a major train wreck to keep FCD out of the post season, but his game is still mighty important because if they drop it, their chances of taking the West are all but gone, which could easily mean a third place finish. Then again, this might be for the best because there would be next to no way they could face Colorado in the first round.

The Fire sit in the final playoff spot by just a point, but with one game (this one) in hand. So this is their chance to start closing that door. Anything less then a full three points give Colorado and Columbus hope, which the Fire don't want to see happen.

So what needs to be done? Simple, the Fire need to find someone to finish things. Blanco has been doing a lot of the lifting, but he needs a good target. Paulo Wanchope has moments and Calen Carr has energy, but neither one of them have the kill in them. Because of this, there should be a lot of long-range shots, which might work out for the Fire since Dario Sala is having trouble in goal for Dallas.

FCD has a DP of their own in Denilson, but he has yet to take a major role in the team (not a surprise since he hasn't even been with them a month), but this could be his night. The Fire have a good defense, but they do miss marks and can be surprised on counters or surprise play. If Denilson uses some of his better ball work, he could send them in the wrong direction and open things up. Still, he will need another player to step up to take some of the heat. Carlos Ruiz should be that player, but even though he looked solid on Saturday, he has still been off for the season.

There is another possibility for Dallas in the form of Toja, but even if he does see minutes, he is just getting off the injury list so it might not be as strong as it could be.

Overall, both these teams suffer from a lack of goal scoring and, at times, very sloppy defense. Odds are there will be a lot of build up with very little pay off, but one goal will not be enough to win it. The Fire need this game more so look for them to come out pushing early (hoping to catch Dallas sleeping in the first 15-minutes). If no goal comes of that, it will be a long slog.

Predictions: Me CF 1-1 FCD, Wife CF 1-2 FCD

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US men to face South Africa in Johannesburg

The US men will get a sneak peak at the 2010 World Cup on Saturday, November 17th, when they travel to Johannesburg to take on South Africa in the Nelson Mandela Challenge Cup.

This will mark the US men's third trip to Africa with the last game coming eight years to the day before this one. In that 1999 game, they lost 2-1 against Morocco. This will also be only the second time the US men play South Africa. Their last meeting was in June of 2000 when the US won 4-0.

A journey to South Africa will mean the men will play at least six matches outside the US this year.

South Africa might not be a powerhouse team but playing them in a match that is important to them in their home stadium is a good get. The one downside, the next day is MLS Cup so there are bound to be at least a few players that are not available for such a trip.

Hopefully the few days that the US men get to spend in South Africa will give them a taste for country ahead of the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup.

The game will start at 10am Eastern Time but no television broadcast has been announced.

On a different note, I noticed when I was looking at the schedule of games for the team that they still list the 14 Oct match against Catalonia. Seeing as the Spanish Federation voted that game down, I'm wondering why it is still on the schedule. Did someone just fail to take it down or do they still hope to change the Spanish FA's mind?

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MLS Expansion - The Vegas odds

The Las Vegas Sun offers up their odds for the 13 cities often mentioned in MLS expansion talks. They are looking at things in a 'how does Vegas' fit in kind of way, but they don't seem to let the homer symptom overly influence their thought process. Anyway, here are their odds:

Atlanta: 100-1
Cleveland: 60-1
Las Vegas: 10-1
Miami: 35-1
Milwaukee: 75-1
New York: 8-1
Philadelphia: 6-1
Phoenix: 20-1
Portland, Ore.: 40-1
San Diego: 100-1
Seattle: 3-2
St. Louis: 4-1
Vancouver: 70-1

They have a lot more information on the reasons behind these odds, so if you have a moment, you really should read the article.

As far as my thoughts on the odds, they look pretty much like they should, however I think St. Louis has better odds then Seattle. That said, it really doesn't matter much because both those cities would be my top 2 as well.

The New York odds seem a little high, but that might have to do with the article speculating not just on the 15th and 16th MLS clubs but also on the 17th and 18th. Fred Wilpon, an owner of baseball's New York Mets, is interested, but since the plan that seems to be out there calls for a soccer stadium to be built on the current site of Shea Stadium, they will need to wait till 2009 before they could even begin building such a project (that is when the new baseball stadium will open). That said, MLS wants a derby in New York and if there is a chance to have a stadium in the city, they will hold out for it.

It does seem like the Vegas odds are also a bit kind, but maybe they have some inside information (or maybe they are just hearing more about it and thinking it might come true). I would put their odds more at 20-1 with Miami and Portland a little bit behind them. The Miami bid really depends on Boca Juniors. If the club fully gets behind a bid, chances are good for them. As far as Portland, Seattle has very much climbed over them in the current race, but there is a good group of fans in the area and a Northwest derby would be a solid outing. Also, they already have a stadium that, with some improvements, could host games for the first few years.

The Phoenix option is very interesting and I'm guessing the reason heat was not listed in the piece is due to the talk of a stadium with a retractable-roof. There are two good groups going after this bid and both have good pedigrees. It might not have the glitz of a Vegas or the history of St. Louis, but they do draw some good crowds for big games. The problem is, most of those games involve Mexico and as has been proven in many other locations, international match draws don't always mean good local match draws. Still, I agree that they are the city most likely to surprise.

As far as the rest, I think Milwaukee has a slightly better chance then suggested while Cleveland has a little worse. Atlanta should be doing better but no local money seems interested, so their bid looks to be stalled. Philadelphia is probably the city MLS most wants to get into so if the stadium deal moves forward, it should happen. Vancouver seems like a natural fit, however with all the development issues that have been kicked up ahead of the 2010 Olympics, getting a stadium might be a little difficult. San Diego to me seems to be the longest shot due to stadium situations.

What do you think?

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

DC United's Fred not an A-League legend

Before Fred was exciting play at RFK, he was part of Australia's Melbourne Victory. But despite assisting in many goals, including four of the five in the final, his former coach Ernie Merrick doesn't understand why fans and players see him as a legend.

"The Victory coach said it was 'ludicrous that he has become a legend' after being reminded that veteran Socceroo defender Tony Vidmar, now of the Central Coast Mariners, had said after Sunday's scoreless draw that without Fred there was no Victory."

I have to hand it to the author of this piece for his cheekiness as seen in this fine paragraph:
Merrick yesterday said he could not understand the excitement generated by the stamina-packed Fred, whose tireless running and inventive link play did so much to galvanise the Victory strike force, particularly in the grand final where he almost single-handedly set up the five goals for his teammate Archie Thompson.
I'm guessing the reason Merrick is so interested in playing down the contribution of Fred has less to do with what he actually thinks of the player and more to do with his club's current situation. After a championship year, they have come out a bit flat in the current campaign, so Merrick is probably trying to inspire his players by playing down what Fred did.

But Merrick also has some words about Fred and DC United:
"He (Fred) had a terrific game in his last game (the grand final). Never a goalscorer, Fred. We sourced him, we developed him, and he went on to the USA where I have to say he isn't doing as well as he did with us. I think a lot of that is to do with the team that's round about him and the support he got."
Always interesting to see what past coaches think of their players now.

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Heaven Knows LA is Miserable Now - Morrissey attends Galaxy match, cheers for Chivas

It seems that not all the stars cheer for Beckham and the LA Galaxy. Morrissey attended last week's derby between LA and Chivas USA and decided to seat in and cheer for the Goats. He even purchased a jersey to wear during the match.

We'll let you know if Chivas's arsenal stops eating meat and looking really, really sad; lord knows it would be the first time.

For another take on this story, look here.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

MLS Expansion - Seattle group looking at 7 locations for stadium

One of the three groups trying to bring a MLS side to Seattle says they have 7 possible sites for a soccer stadium in the area.

Atletico Seattle wants to purchase enough land to, wait for it, build a mixed-use real estate development along with a stadium. This is very similar to the idea the San Jose, St. Louis and DC ownership groups are looking into.

None of the seven sites are in downtown Seattle, but all of them are located in the same county (King). There are "three sites in Tukwila, two in Renton and one each in Kent and Des Moines." (click on the map to see where these are located). Renton and Tukwila are each about 8-miles from downtown, while Des Moines is closer to 10 and Kent is around 14.

In other news, the group led by Adrian Hanauer, managing director of the Seattle Sounders, is still very interested in being part of the MLS, but the hang up with him might have to due with his stadium choice. He would like the new MLS team to play their games at the 67,000-seat Qwest Field.

"I think Qwest Field would make a good venue because it's in the heart of downtown Seattle," Hanauer said. "It was built with soccer in mind. The sightlines are great, the width of the field is appropriate, you're close to the action and the team and fan facilities are great."

The third bidder in the Seattle business is Jason Keston, but it is unknown if he is still interested.

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2007 MLS Week 24 Power Ratings

There is not a lot of movement going on this week as the tiers kind of stayed as they were. However, it will be interesting to watch Chivas and Colorado over the next couple weeks as either team could go in either direction.

Here are the ratings:

1. DC United (Last week - 1) - Clinched their spot in the playoffs with a difficult win over a much improved Real team on Wednesday. Their backline give Beckerman way too much room, but other then that, things looked much better. Is there any way the road to the MLS Cup doesn't start and end in DC?

2. Chivas USA (2) - They lost their edge and looked beatable at times, but every team is given a slouch game. Still, their mindset of trying to hold a one goal lead for 80-minutes is a bit alarming.

3. New England Revolution (3) - Made mush out of FCD but still missed their marks on a few plays. Matt Reis is going through a minor slump but their offense is opening things up.

4. Houston Dynamo (4) - Dwayne De Rosario is looking more like himself and Brian Ching is on the upswing, but it must be noted that it took two big LA mistakes for Houston to take this game. Don't get me wrong, good teams should make something out of opposition mistakes but it shouldn't be the only way they do so. They are good but not yet a force.

5. FC Dallas (5) - Dallas took another step back even though Carlos Ruiz finally stepped forward. Their defense did a lot but it failed to clear balls while their midfield is soft. If things don't start clicking soon, it looks like they will have another repeat of good season ending poorly with a quick exit from the playoffs.

6. Kansas City Wizards (7) - The Wizards have not looked strong of late but with Scott Sealy giving them another option again and the way they pushed it in overtime against Columbus, all might not be lost.

7. New York Red Bull (6) - Now that Angel is not a mystery to the opposition, New York looks a bit flat up top. Combine that with their age and injuries in the middle and you've got some serious issues. On the plus side, it looks like keeper Ronald Waterreus might be back to early form which can take a team a long way.

8. Chicago Fire (9) - Another team missing offensive options but they still know how to force a few issues. With Blanco, they have gotten more then most people thought they would but without someone pushing into the box, they are not getting all that they can.

9. Colorado Rapids (10) - It might not be the most exciting soccer but the Rapids never really put on a horrible show. The fact that they got a tie off of Chivas shows that they should not be underestimated.

10. Columbus Crew (8) - Another hard weak for the club from Ohio as they saw 3 points turn into none in two minutes of extra time. Up till then they were playing a good game and their defense was looking in tune but those notes, much long their season, have turned sour very fast.

11. Real Salt Lake (11) - The wins are still not coming but Real is no longer a pushover. If they can keep applying pressure, they have the talent to finish a few. Best news of all, it looks like they might not end up being the worst team in the league this year.

12. Toronto FC (13) - Toronto might not be scoring goals but I never get the feeling they walk onto a pitch already defeated. Instead they are always attacking and trying to create things, they just can't get it done. At some point the gates will open and TFC will get the points that reflect their play.

13. Los Angeles Galaxy (12) - Does this team ever have a moment where they think they might win a game? If so, it doesn't show. Like it has all year, their defense killed LA this weekend. Yes, they might get goals (unlike TFC), but they don't ever seem like a team that could win a match.

Now we say so long to week 24.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

MLS Expansion - What a bunch of SoBs

If soccer is to ever be a success here in the US, supporter clubs must play a major role because it is through these clubs that fans unite as a community and that community is what makes a game into a match. At least that is what I think.

And it is because of this train of thought that I love seeing articles like this one in the Philadelphia Inquirer all about the Sons of Ben (SoBs). This is a supporters club for a team that might never exist, yet it is full of soccer fans thinking of creative ways of pushing the sport forward.

Although I'm not sure about the article's implied point that MLS seems more inclined to place a team in the city because of the SoBs, it still conveys a lot of good information including the one thing that might be the biggest factor in landing a team, government support for the $300 million soccer and retail development in Chester.

MLS has always wanted to be in Philadelphia and if the SoBs can help get their elective representatives on board with the idea, it might just become a reality soon enough.

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2007 MLS Week 24 Recap or the race for eighth stays hot

DC United, the New England Revolution (added on edit) and the Houston Dynamo clinched their spots in the post season this week, but the most interesting part of the picture is what is happening in terms of the eighth spot. Chicago, Columbus and Colorado all entered the weekend within a point of the final spot and not much changed. Chicago fought back down a man to take a point, the Rapids pulled one of the biggest surprises of the season by earning a point against Chivas while the Crew's run of 'luck' continued when they lost late to KC.

As far as everyone else, not a lot of dancing going on.

Anyway, here are the regular league numbers 159 games into the season:
SeasonWeek 24
Att per game16,06317,998
Beckham Att (5*)195,8470
Beckham Avg Att39,1690
Goals per game2.6793.375
Inter-conferenceEast 27-22-22East 2-0-1
Ties38 (23.9%)3 (37.5%)
* Number of MLS matches with Beckham in attendance
** I cannot locate the attendance numbers for Colorado-Columbus (2 Sept), so the season average is for only 158 games.

Real Salt Lake 0-0 Toronto FC
How can a team that plays like TFC really go 822-minutes without a goal? They were all over Real on Saturday but they had no finishing touches (even when they were up a man for an hour). There were at least three occasions were it was harder to miss the netting then to make it yet somehow the team from Canada found ways of flubbing them. All credit must be given to Nick Rimando who played a near perfect game between the posts for Real. On the plus side, manager Mo Johnson just got a two-year extension to figure out what is wrong with the club.
Attendance: 20,098

FC Dallas 2-4 New England Revolution
Carlos Ruiz had his best game of the season for FCD but the Revs were able to more then compensate with their pure coverage in the attack. FCD's defense wasn't playing bad yet NE was able, time and time again, to sneak into spots and create the little things that kept Dallas on their heals. The one Rev that looked flat on the night was Matt Reis.
Goals: NE: Pat Noonan (6) 29', (7) 65', Steve Ralston (3) 78', Khano Smith (1) 90'
FCD: Carlos Ruiz (5) 35', (6) 84'
Attendance: 15,289

Columbus Crew 2-3 Kansas City Wizards
This one might just be the one that breaks the Crew's season. They were up 2-1 going into the 93rd minute and they end up getting nothing. The Crew saw their flow return for large portions of this one and were able to make KC suffer for their poor ball control in their own half, but it just all fell to junk in the end. The Crew defense was doing a reasonable job till the end when they gave up a pk in the 93rd and, a minute later, let Scott Sealy beat his man on a last second centering cross. These are the kind of burns that don't heal.
Goals: KC: Scott Sealy (3) 31', (4) 94+', Eddie Johnson (15) pk 93+'
CC: Alejandro Moreno (5) 65', Any Herron (4) 67'
Attendance: 10,217

New York Red Bulls 2-2 Chicago Fire
All season the Fire have had the same problem, they can't do anything with their many build ups. They have gotten better with it, but they still have a long way to go if they hope to hold up some silverware in a couple months. However, coming back and then holding while a man down is impressive. New York is having some offensive problems of their own but most of them have to do with injuries. The best news for the Bulls is how much better keeper Ronald Waterreus looked in this one. Neither of these teams looked like a real threat to the top tier on Saturday but they both have some elements that could become something great with a couple more additions.
Goals: Dave van den Bergh (2) 10', Juan Pablo Angel (15) pk 69'
CF: Cuauhtemoc Blanco (3) pk 54', Gonzalo Segares (1) 70'
Attendance: 20,586

Chivas USA 1-1 Colorado Rapids
I don't know if it was the rain delay or the cats napping but this one was just felt long. Maybe it had something to do with Chivas's plan to just hold the ball after they went up in the 13'. Now I understand that the Rapids are not much of an offensive threat but playing keep away for 80 minutes is a bit much. The game got physical, as Colorado games often do, but even that seemed contained. The game ended in a tie which is about what was deserved although the Rapids tried to lose it with some shoddy defensive work, but Chivas was not going to bite.
Goals: CV: Sacha Kljestan (4) 13',
CR: Colin Clark (2) 76'
Attendance: 14,503

Houston Dynamo 3-1 Los Angeles Galaxy
If you want to see LA's season in just one play, watch Houston's third goal. Ching put a low ball into the box but the Galaxy had three defenders around it. So what do they do? They just stop, allowing Ricardo Clark to sneak in from the side and pop one past Joe Cannon. Oh what must have been going through Beckham's head during that one? The Dynamo owned this match but needed a little luck to control the score as the pk awarded at the start of the second half was weak. LA put a couple good balls in but they could not apply pressure over large stretches thanks mainly to their poor defensive work. Dwayne De Rosario looked much better this week and Biran Ching returned to play for the first time since 19 August, which is good for Houston but he came in as a sub for Joseph Ngwenya why he went down in the 42'. If the Dynamo can stay healthy, they have a chance of a repeat.
Goals: Ryan Cochrane (1) 21', Dwayne De Rosario (5) pk 47', Ricardo Clark (2) 73'
Attendance: 25,217

And there are the games from the weekend. Now for the playoff picture if everything ended today.
DC United - Kansas City
New England - New York

Houston Dynamo - Chicago Fire*
Chivas USA - FC Dallas

Just a reminder that MLS does not have a direct 1-8 playoff system, instead the take the eight top teams from the league and then divides them by conference. *If a conference qualifies more then 4 teams, the fifth place team moves over to the other conference and plays the top seed in that conference.

Since every week I type this someone leaves be a comment saying that I am in fact wrong and the MLS has a direct 1-8 playoff system (1 plays 8, 2 plays 7, etc), I direct your attention to this MLS page explaining that teams will be conference based. This is a change the league made mid-season designed to make the playoffs as goofy as possible.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

High school soccer match outdraws Major League Baseball game

Since we often talk about MLS's attendance numbers, I found this story very interesting. On Wednesday night, the Major League Baseball's Florida Marlins played the Washington Nations in front of less then 400 fans. That same night a 3A high school soccer game saw 400 fans attend. So for at least one night, a MLB team was outdrawn by high school soccer. I'm guessing we'll start hearing about how MLB is a fad and is about to fold any day now unless they bring in some top name international stars.*

Perhaps Florida is the state were sport franchise go to die. It killed two MLS clubs and it looks like both their baseball teams are looking for ways out, but I guess basketball makes it work so it can happen.

Anyway, just something to think about as we head into the weekend.

*Baseball fans, this is a joke.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

2007 Women's World Cup - US vs. Sweden preview

US (1pt) vs. Sweden (1pt)
5am ET/2am PT

This game might be the biggest game for US women's soccer ever. After a hard, unsatisfying tie against North Korea, the US women are all but in a must win position. And what is riding on this game? Perhaps the successful launch of the women's domestic league in 2009. With the new league counting on a strong World Cup and Olympic run, and failure could be a huge set back.

But enough about 2009, against Sweden the team will need to exercise better passing lanes then they did against North Korea. If they cannot find a way to get the ball out of their own third, it is going to be a long night. Shannon Boxx and Heather O’Reilly need to push things forward, which will open up the always strong Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambach (or the Brian McBride of the women's team).

The good news for the team is even though they were outplayed by North Korea, they found a way to get a couple goals. If soccer was a fair game, the US would not have any points right now but due to their own abilities, they are tied with all other teams in Group B.

I suspect that the women will want to make something happen fast, so expect a quick start to this game. Also, as long as it is not raining, don't expect Hope Solo to fumble anything in the box.

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

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Thursday Night Soccer - The final battle for LA

Los Angeles Galaxy (17pts) vs. Chivas USA (40pts)
11pm ET/8pm PT

So this is officially the night that the LA Galaxy live or die in 2007. The reality of the matter is that no matter what happens in this outing, LA is not going to reach the playoffs, however they could still keep from being an embarrassment. For Chivas, a win tonight puts them at the top of the West and since they have a very favorable schedule remaining, makes it next to impossible to imagine them not taking the conference. Needless to say, this derby has an even more behind it then normal.

The Galaxy come into the game having played their best match all season on Saturday. The most amazing part of their last outing was the way they flowed through the midfield. This fluidness allowed for quick attacks by sneaking players behind the Rapids lines, however Chivas has a much stronger backline, so it will not be as easy tonight. Still the big problem remains, LA's defense is weak and that is where the goats will hack away at them.

At the start of the season, Chivas needed dozen of chances before they made anything happen but now they seldom waste anything. This means LA will need to keep Galindo in check and get numbers back fast. This is not something the Galaxy has done much of so far this season.

So what will happen? LA will come out fast but Chivas will get them on a counter-attack. From there, things will unravel unless, Landon Donovan can finally pull out something big. Chris Klein and Peter Vagenas will be strong, but without an added bit in the attack, Sacha Kljestan and Maykel Galindo will shred them up.

Predictions: Me LA 1-4 CV, Wife LA 0-2 CV

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

MLS Expansion - St. Louis area soccer stadium gets initial go ahead

The first hurdle of many has been cleared for St. Louis Soccer United (SLSU) as the city of Collinsville voted to move forward on a pre-annexation agreement. What this means is that the city will work with SLSU to negotiation for annexation of portions of the planned site not currently within city limits.

This is still a long way to a done deal, but with the relatively smooth process up to this point, it does seem that there is a great deal of interest by both parties to make this happen.

MLS President Mark Abbott said of the agreement, "Major League Soccer is pleased with the positive vote from the Collinsville city council to build a soccer-specific stadium and mixed-use development in the city."

"The metropolitan St. Louis area is one of the most passionate and storied soccer markets in the United States. Tonight's vote is a very positive step and we look forward to continuing our discussions to bring a Major League Soccer club to the area."

It seems that the main concern is that money for Collinsville's schools is not diverted to pay for the plan. Both the city and SLSU say that students will not be forgotten.

Overall, more good news for soccer fans in the St. Louis area.

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2007 MLS Week 23 Power Ratings

Last week Chivas expanded the top tier to five teams however; it is looking more and more like it might just be a two-sided affair very soon. Chivas and DC handled their teams much better this week then the other top five and, with their limited injury list, they show no signs of letting up, so might the league now have four tiers? The really good, the good, the all right and the just plan ugly? I don't know but here are my ratings:

1. DC United (Last week - 1) - They did what few others have done this year and got a result at Chivas. On top of that they made a good New England side look second string thanks to great passing and smart positioning. With Boswell back, their defense now complements their offense. A couple more weeks of fine tuning and then they are ready to topple the rest in the playoffs.

2. Chivas USA (3) - Even when they are out played, they find ways to win because they've learned how to make something of every chance they get. With five of their final eight games at home, the Supporters Shield is not an unrealistic goal.

3. New England Revolution (2) - Got a few bounces to go their way, but the team is missing their push. They can find goals but they never really seem to threaten. Also, their midfield has become a little sloppy of late putting way too much pressure on their backline.

4. Houston Dynamo (4) - Finally the offense arrived, but sadly it caused the team to coast. When you are up 4-1 with 30-minutes to go, the game should be put away. The fact that the Dynamo had to work hard late to save all three points and that they used no subs in the process should be a big flashing red light. Their injuries are chocking them, so all a team needs to do is stay with them and then beat them at the end.

5. FC Dallas (5) - A win is a win, but this one against TFC should put some question marks on the team. Denilson is obviously not yet in tune with his team (no surprise as it takes time) but he was not the only one missing passes and failing to make the correct runs. They have the talent to be the best, but FCD just looks like a team out of tune.

6. New York Red Bull (6) - No question about it, this team knows how to play and is not afraid to take some shots, but the age of the club might undue them. With Mathis hurt and Reyna always on the edge of the injury list this team could very easily be without a midfield any given game. Without that power in the center, all the talent up top is wasted.

7. Kansas City Wizards (8) - KC had the week off, which meant they didn't fall closer to the non-playoff realm.

8. Columbus Crew (7) - With luck against you, what chance do you have. If they suffer a couple more injuries, the Crew is going to default on their chance to earn post-season play, which is a shame because they are playing better ball then some who will see additional action.

9. Chicago Fire (10) - Even in the driving rain, Blanco and lead a team to something, but it was Mother Nature that gave them the biggest assist. They are still light in the finishing but have put together a bunch of solid everywhere else.

10. Colorado Rapids (9) - Getting taken to the shade by the LA c-string team is not the way to restart your playoff drive. They gave away passes and could not come close to finishing. Is it a stumble or a return to the norm?

11. Real Salt Lake (11) - There is life in this club. With the playoff dream pretty much dashed, they are putting together some quality. Their passing is better, their defense actual can mark people and they don't look defeated before the first kick. All and all, great signs.

12. Los Angeles Galaxy (12) - So they won't be the worst team ever in MLS, good for them. On Saturday they tossed around the Rapids like a cat with a dead mouse. If they can keep Cobi Jones, Chris Klein and Peter Vagenas hot and finally get something out of Donovan, Saturday will not be a one off.

13. Toronto FC (13) - They gave FCD as much pressure as they got but no goals in over two months means bottom of everything for you.

And now another week is done.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

2007 Women's World Cup - US vs. North Korea preview

US (0pts) vs. North Korea (0pts)
5am ET/2am PT

The top team in the world takes the pitch tomorrow (or later today for them) against one of the less known sides in the world. North Korea always fields a quality team but little is known about them so even though it is safe to say the US is the better team, they might be caught off guard by their opposition.

What is known about the Koreans from the North is that they like to play an aggressive attacking style, much like America. The question is can the US women force them to play their game. The answer might come with the opening lineup as we will finally discover just how hurt Abby Wambach is. If her injury is serious, that is a major striker option missing, which means the ever wonderful Kristine Lilly will have to carry the team.

For the US to win, they will need to find a way past keeper Phi Un Hui and a way of shutting down Ri Kum Suk. Hui is a good net minder but she can be caught flat footed while Suk is, well just about the best player at the finals. But if the US can keep her locked up, North Korea will be forced to find other options.

Since both teams see this as a must win (in a group with four of the top five teams in the world, you don't want to drop points early), expect to see some physical play. Although the US women are tough, they can get out muscled, so they need to keep their ground and be ready to cover for little slips.

In the end, I think Hope Solo will come up with a couple huge saves while Lilly will play a game that reminds us all why, even at the age of 36, she is still one of the best athletes in the world. And if Wambach is not ready, I think Natasha Kai will do us proud.

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MLS Expansion - St. Louis area soccer stadium goes to a vote tonight

The Collinsville City Council will decide tonight if they are going to go along with St. Louis Soccer United's (SLSU) stadium proposal.

Included in this proposal are 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. The cost is just over $400 million. SLSU's chair Jeff Cooper is asking the city to invest $20 million in bonds to get the project started.

Although a positive vote tonight will not guarantee a MLS side to St. Louis, a 'no' vote will all but kill the dream for now. In addition, any 'yes' vote would probably be dependant on MLS award a team to SLSU in the next 90-days or so.

It seems that there has been only positive coverage of this idea so it looks good to pass, but we will know for sure later tonight.

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2007 MLS Week 23 Recap or can anyone stop DC and Chivas?

Another week is over and what do we see but DC on top of the East and Chivas making the run for the West while the league seems to have gone goal happy. Four of the seven games saw four or more goals including a seven-goal outing in Houston.

The playoff race seems all but officially be a race for the final spot, although KC is not in the clear just yet. Still, it looks like Chicago, Columbus and Colorado will provide us the excitement down the stretch. Obviously with a game in hand and a point up, Chicago has the inside track but who knows what could happen over the next five weeks.

Anyway, here are the regular league numbers 151 games into the season:
SeasonWeek 23
Att per game15,96016,325
Beckham Att (5*)195,84727,000
Beckham Avg Att39,16927,000
Goals per game2.6423.857
Inter-conferenceEast 25-22-21West 2-0-1
Ties35 (23.2%)1 (14.3%)
* Number of MLS matches with Beckham in attendance
** I cannot locate the attendance numbers for Colorado-Columbus (2 Sept), so the season average is for only 150 games.

Chicago Fire 1-0 Columbus Crew
Sometime luck is just not on your side. The Crew had to use two subs in the first 20-minutes including one for Schelotto after he got hurt fouling Blanco. They had two shots bounce off the bar and then their keeper slips on the very wet grass to give Chicago a very open net for their goal. The Crew put together some good pieces even without their star midfielder but Chicago comes up with the points and the lead in the playoff race.
Goal: CF: Paulo Wanchope (2) 65'
Attendance: 19,983 wet people

Real Salt Lake 3-4 Houston Dynamo
Houston does like to be dramatic don't they. They roll up a 4-1 lead by the hour mark thanks to a Corey Ashe to Nate Jaqua freight train but then can't keep Real under wraps. Real did not produce much offense but they were able to do something new for the club, find the minor holes caused by a team getting tired. The Dynamo used no subs last night after only using one last weekend. If their injury problems don't improve, look for more problems late down the road.
Goals: HD: Nate Jaqua (4) 6', (5) 48', (6) 57', Eddie Robinson (1) 28'
RSL: Fabian Espindola (2) 18', Carey Talley (2) 69', Kyle Brown (1) 82'
Attendance: 16,104

Toronto FC 0-2 FC Dallas
Neither team seemed like they wanted to win this thing as there was a lot of sloppy play on both ends. However, a couple mistakes by TFC in the penalty box is ended up being the difference on this one as FCD got both goals, including Denilson's first, from the spot. FCD have to be happy with the points but they did not look like a team that could be best in the league on Saturday night. By the way, it has been over two months since TFC got a goal. Wow.
Goals: Denilson (1) pk 36', Abe Thomson (3) pk 87'
Attendance: 16,790

Colorado Rapids 1-3 Los Angeles Galaxy
LA was pent up and ready to let loose and come the second half, they showed the league that, at least for a night, they could be a quality side. Cobi Jones and Chris Klein had very good nights by Peter Vagenas was the reason for this one. Off course, this being LA, they can't have a match without someone getting hurt so both Edson Buddle and Alan Gordon had to go after getting goals. As for the Rapids, if Saturday is any hint, they are returning to the way they were just a couple short weeks ago.
Goals: LA: Alan Gordon (2) 46', Edson Buddle (4) 63', Kyle Martino (2) 70'
CR: Mehdi Ballouchy (1) 89'
Attendance: 22,881

New England Revolution 2-4 DC United
This game seemed to sum up DC's year; some good stuff early, followed by signs off serious weakness only to be finished in spectacular fashion. When the Revs got that their first goal right before the half off a wonderful solo effort by Twellman and then got a bit of a lucky bounce to go ahead in the 54', it just seemed like everything was about to go their way. But what do you know, a little help from Jaime Moreno and DC is right back in it. After that, United just ran the Revs into the ground. By the way, that last goal by Emilio off a tap pass by Carroll was a fantastic group goal. This game showed a lot but what it showed most was the best of the East is in the national's capitol again.
Goals: DC: Fred (6) 31', Jaime Moreno (5) 59', Luciano Emilio (17) 67', (18) 83'
NE: Taylor Twellman (12) 45', Jay Heaps (1) 54'
Attendance: 18,918

New York Red Bulls 0-3 Chivas USA
New York had their chances to get the goats at home but they kept putting their shots just over the bar while Chivas just played solid with their chances. The Bulls really did own large portions of this game but could not get their flow going. Maybe it was Mathis going out in the 37', but they were lacking in the final third and counting on too many long range shots. The fact that Chivas could get out played and walk away big winners shows how strong they are, so why can't they get any fans to their games?
Goals: CV: Maykel Galindo (11) 4', (12) 58', Ante Razov (8) pk 70'
Attendance: 10,292

If the season ended today, here are the first round playoff matchups:
DC United - Kansas City Wizards
New England Revolution - New York Red Bulls

Houston Dynamo - Chicago Fire
Chivas USA - FC Dallas

*Remember that under MLS's confusing playoff system, it is not a direct 1-8 pairing, instead the best in any conference faces the worst in that conference unless the worst in that conference is the fifth side to make the playoffs from that conference, in which case the fifth team will play the top team from the other conference. Make sense?

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

2007 Women's World Cup schedule

The women's World Cup gets underway tomorrow (10 Sept) when Germany (2003 Champions) take on Argentina in Shanghai. The 16 teams in China represent the best the world has to offer. Favorites coming in are Germany, the US, Sweden and host China. There is going to be a lot of great soccer played over the next 20 days, but most of it will take place during late, late night hours here in the states. So get the coffee brewing and enjoy.

Group A - Germany (7pts), England (5), Japan (4), Argentina (0)
G# Date Match Kickoff/TV
01 Sept. 10 Germany 11-0 Argentina
02 Sept. 11 Japan 2-2 England
09 Sept. 14 Argentina 0-1 Japan
10 Sept. 14 England 0-0 Germany
17 Sept. 17 Germany 2-0 Japan
18 Sept. 17 England 6-1 Argentina

Group B - USA (7), North Korea (4), Sweden (4), Nigeria (1)
G# Date Match Kickoff/TV
03 Sept. 11 United States 2-2 North Korea
04 Sept. 11 Nigeria 1-1 Sweden
11 Sept. 14 Sweden 0- 2 United States
12 Sept. 14 North Korea 2-0 Nigeria
19 Sept. 18 Nigeria 0-1 United States
20 Sept. 18 North Korea 1-2 Sweden

Group C - Norway (7), Australia (5), Canada (4), Ghana (0)
G# Date Match Kickoff/TV
05 Sept. 12 Ghana 1-4 Australia
06 Sept. 12 Norway 2-1 Canada
13 Sept. 15 Canada 4-0 Ghana
14 Sept. 15 Australia 1-1 Norway
21 Sept. 20 Norway 7-2 Ghana*
22 Sept. 20 Australia 2-2 Canada*
* Match moved back a day due to Typhoon Wipha

Group D - Brazil (9), China (6), Denmark (3), New Zealand (0)
G# Date Match Kickoff/TV
07 Sept. 12 New Zealand 0-5 Brazil
08 Sept. 12 China 3-2 Denmark
15 Sept. 15 Denmark 2-0 New Zealand
16 Sept. 15 Brazil 4-0 China
23 Sept. 20 China 2-0 New Zealand*
24 Sept. 20 Brazil 1-0 Denmark*
* Match moved back a day due to Typhoon Wipha

G# Date Match Kickoff/TV
25 Sept. 22 Germany 3-0 North Korea
26 Sept. 22 USA 3-0 England
27 Sept. 23 Norway 1-0 China
28 Sept. 23 Brazil 3-2 Australia

G# Date Match Kickoff/TV
29 Sept. 26 Germany 3-0 Norway
30 Sept. 26 USA 0-4 Brazil

Third Place Match
G# Date Match Kickoff/TV
31 Sept. 30 Norway 1-4 USA

G# Date Match Kickoff/TV
32 Sept. 30 Germany 4-0 Brazil

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US 2-4 Brazil - Good match, poor calls and player grades

US MNT 2-4 Brazil
That Brazil won this match is not a big surprise, however it is amazing how much poor calls by Mexican referee Armando Archundia caused the result.

Not to take anything away from Brazil but Archundia did not call an obvious pk against Brazil for the take down of Josh Wolf yet somehow managed to see a foul against Ronaldinho after Bocanegra clearly got the ball away from him. That foul lead to Ronaldinho's goal. That's a two-goal difference in the match, but those we not the only missed calls. Twice Brazil had handballs not called and at least twice hard tackles went uncalled. Other then the card against Robinho for the dive right before the half, he basically let the men in yellow run the match.

But enough of that, let's talk about the play overall because this was one of the best matches by the US in some time. Their passing, which was nowhere in Sweden, returned as did a quick style of play. How nice was it to see the team just take off instead of holding it in the back allowing the opposition to flood all their players behind the ball while they figured out where they wanted to go. Also, nice work taking balls off the feet of the Brazilians.

The fact that the team played Brazil so close that a few poor calls could have changed the outcome of the match does say a lot for the performance the side put on today. Yes, Kaka, Ronaldinho, Robinho and Afonso had their moments, but they were only moments. Brazil did not dictate the pace of this entire match.

The US national team is past the days of moral victories, but this is as close as we can come to having one. We played the best team in the world and were able to run with them. Now the question is can we make this happen again and in a match that counts?

Still, this game made me feel good about the shape the team is taking as we head toward World Cup qualifying next year.

Here are the grades:
Staring XI
Tim Howard (GK) - It is hard to fault Howard on any of the goals but he needs to do more to organize his back line. B
Cherundolo (D) - He watched the wings and forced Brazil to move inside. B
Onyewu (D) - This has nothing to do with the own goal, which he could do nothing about. This grade is for his poor clearance skills, lack of physical play and all around poor marking. C+
Bocanegra (D) - He covered for the mistakes of others and forced balls away from the area. B
Pearce (D) - Was the weakest spot on defense. Brazil was flying down his side. He did put in some good time in attack but was not on top of it in the back. C
Bradley (M) - Did a wonderful job containing in the middle and redirecting attacks, however, yet again, he makes a very stupid play late that costs his time big time. Maybe the key is to never let him play past the 75th minute. B-
Feilhaber (M) - He did a hundred little things that disrupted the Brazilian, but did not play much in the US attack. Still, keeping the ball away from Kaka might have been the best 'offensive' thing he could do. B
Donovan (M) - With the exception of the corner kick that lead to the first goal, he was a non-factor in this one. Did not lead and often gave the ball away. C-
Beasley (M) - He was everywhere and had some great passes. Plus, when he moved back to defense after Arnaud, the line got stronger, but he needs to work on his free kicks big time. B
Wolff (F) - Nothing like taking the action right to the defense but he still gave the ball away a bit too often. B-
Dempsey (F) - He showed some great ball control and his goal was some of the smartest play in the whole game, but he is still far from an attacking forward. His play is that of an attacking midfielder, but if he is going to play up top, he needs to learn how to change things up. Still, great to see a player unafraid to play a little rough. A-

Eddie Johnson (F) (on in the 70' for Wolff) - The good news is he didn't look nervous and even made a couple smart plays, but over all, he was not a threat. Granted he wasn't given much, but a late striker sub needs to create some of his own chances. C
Convey (M) (on in the 71' for Feilhaber) - It was obvious that the year off due to injury has decreased his skill as he was far from good. Gentleman’s D
Arnaud (F) (on in the 86' for Pearce) - He stepped on the pitch with one desire, move the ball toward the Brazilian goal and that is what he did. Also won a couple balls and challenged players. Normally I wouldn't give a grade because of his short time on the pitch, but I did like what I saw so I'll say light B+.

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US vs. Brazil starting lineup

US MNT vs. Brazil
4pm ET/ 1pm PT
Internet: Text commentary

With an hour till kickoff, here is the US starting lineup:


Cherundolo     Onyewu     Bocanegra (capt.)     Pearce

Bradley             Feilhaber
Donovan                                                       Beasley


Dempsey up top with support from Wolff will be fun to watch. Dempsey has had a great start to his season but this will be his hardest test. He will need good balls from Donovan and Beasley, but if they are forced to track back, he might have to take on a multiple players to make anything happen.

The starters that seem to have the most to prove are Donovan and Bocanegra. Not that they are in any danger of getting dropped from national team duty, but they have not been anywhere near their best of late.

Here is Brazil's lineup:
GK: Doni
D: Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Gilberto
M: Mineiro, Gilberto Silva, Kaka, Ronaldinho, Robinho
F: Afonso

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

2007 MLS Week 22 Power Ratings

What a week for MLS. It might not have changed much in terms of the playoffs but, for me at least, it did seem to cement certain trends. Because of these, there was a lot of movement in my ratings including a jump of Chivas into the top tier. So here are the ratings:

1. DC United (Last week - 2) - Talk about an assault. What DC did to Dallas in Dallas was almost criminal. Olsen was flying, Gomez was looking strong and Fred applied the final blow just for fun. United owned every minute and every inch of this match, which seems to be the way of late. There are still minor issues but this club is looking like the one to beat heading into the final month.

2. New England Revolution (1) - The Revs had the week off so Matt Reis and Taylor Twellman could prepare to not be invited into the US camp for Brazil.

3. Chivas USA (5) - This move is one that has been coming for a long time. Even though the goats did not play this past week, they move up based on the poor play of the teams from Texas. But their big test comes Thursday night against DC. If you are a fan of either Texas side, you will want to wear your black & red for this one as United might be the only chance for your team to win the West.

4. Houston Dynamo (4) - Injuries are eating them alive but they did manage to adjust at the start of the second half to get even with KC. However, they can't keep giving up points at home and expect to take the conference or have a chance at the Supporters Shield. With just one win from their last six league games, things are looking down in Houston.

5. FC Dallas (3) - Wow, I haven't seen such a dismal match at home from FCD in a long time. Is Sala back to 100% in goal? Are they taking defensive lessons from LA? How did Troy Perkins not fall asleep in goal for DC? Not the way to introduce Denilson to the team. Dallas is a team that always seems just a few inches away from being as great as they should be.

6. New York Red Bull (6) - The Red Bulls got the rare win without Jozy Altidore in the lineup. Angel is looking smooth again while Blanco was contained by force. I still think their defense is mixed while but with turf advantage, they can move fast.

7. Columbus Crew (7) - Is the Schelotto push fading in Columbus? Last month, it looked like everything was connecting but of late, their attack has gone missing again. They let balls hang around in their half much too long and seem lazy in the middle. The fact that they let the Rapids back in shows that they are still unlikely to make the playoffs.

8. Kansas City Wizards (8) - Midweek they stunk against Real but then they pulled it together against Houston. The team still depends too much on Eddie Johnson which will be their undoing. The good news is they are still in the playoff picture, the bad news is it doesn't look like they will be there for long.

9. Colorado Rapids (10) - For the first time in a while, the Rapids fully deserve the point they earned this weekend. The Crew were not depleted or on a long road trip. The Rapids held in there and kept pushing to find openings. Sure enough, they caught Columbus and found the net. A few more outings like this and they will be moving up the list again.

10. Chicago Fire (9) - When everything flows through one player, what happens when that playing is taken out of the match? Chicago found out against New York. Shut down Blanco and the Fire become the lackluster club they were before the Mexican arrived.

11. Real Salt Lake (13) - Two wins in a row for Real, how amazing is that. The new signings are making waves for Salt Lake, but can it last? Who cares, two wins in a row and nine points in a month, this is strange territory for the team from Utah, so enjoy it.

12. Los Angeles Galaxy (11) - How bad are things for LA, Donovan can't even make penalty kicks any more. This team is just bad, but will they be the worst ever? In terms of points per game, LA still has a chance of being worse the Tampa Bay (2001 - 14pts from 27 matches or .5185 points per match) and Chivas USA (2005 - 18 from 32 or .5625)*. Right now LA has 14 points or .7368 for match, however, if they don't get at least three more in their final 11 games, they will be worse then Chivas. I would hope that even LA in their current form could get those 3 points but I'm not convinced.

13. Toronto FC (12) - They were off and hopefully no one else got hurt. If you can't score goals, you can't win games. TFC hasn't scored in a long time.

And that's the week as I knew it.

*The Tampa Bay record is from 2001 when MLS called off the final five matches due to the 11 Sept attacks, so Chivas is the worst for a fully scheduled season of play.

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