LA, Houston, Sydney & Osaka - A Pan-Pacific Championship preview
MLS insists this is a very serious international competition, but with only five months to plan it out, no big reward at the end and three of the teams out-of-season, it is hard to see it as more then a friendly. Then again, perhaps the desire to earn starting spots along with Sydney FC's desire to avenge their recent dumping out of the A-League playoffs, some quality soccer could break out.
Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons to watch these games, I just don't expect them to be as tough as the upcoming Concacaf Champions Cup outings. I want to see if LA can find a way to tie together their bunch of rag-tags with the high priced boys of Donovan and Beckham (and Ruiz but I believe he is still recovering from surgery). For Houston, I'm hoping to see what is going on with their front line and how well Boswell fits in. But my interest is not limited to MLS sides as I will also have a lot of fun watching Gamba and Sydney since they are teams I often read about but seldom get to see.
Long term, the PPC could become something amazing, pitting a number of developing leagues against one another to see where they stand (especially if they can land some big dollar sponsors), but for the next few days, I just hope to see some good games.
So what about tonight?
LA Galaxy vs. Gamba Osaka
11pm ET/8pm PT
TV: ESPN Classics
All eyes will be focused on David Beckham to see if he is finally at 100%. Once they are assured of that, I expect eyes to shift to their defensive line and new goalkeeper as Gamba's forward Lucas Severino will be giving them pains.
If LA is to bounce back from 2007, they are going to need to start with their defense as they gave up the second most goals of the league (48), while Gamba was the J-League's top scorer by a large margin (71 in 34 games).
Prediction: LA 1-2 Gamba
Houston Dynamo vs. Sydney FC
1:30am ET/10:30pm PT
TV: ESPN Classics
Hometown hero Brian Ching will love this match, which should make him even more dangerous. But I'll be more interested with his partner Chris Wondolowski. Does he have enough to be a true starter?
On Sydney's side, I'm not sure who is even going to be there. Defender Tony Popovic is always someone to watch as is D/M Mark Milligan, but I'm not sure who will challenge the tough Dynamo backline.
Prediction: Houston 2-0 Sydney