Thursday, March 27, 2008

US 3-0 Poland - We kill you with set pieces, player grades

US 3-0 Poland

Set them up and we'll knock them down. The US rolled over a difficult Polish side thanks to their amazing ability to confuse the defense on free kicks. All three goals were the result of plays from dead ball situation.

Overall the team held together well with the defense looking particularly sharp. Tim Howard had a very easy night in front of net thanks to the work down in front of him. In the midfield, the US won a lot of the possession game and had limited give aways. Up top, well things need improvement.

Any goal is a good goal, so I am not knocking the result, but it would be so nice to get a goal from the run of play (I think I wrote the same thing about the U23s). There is no doubt that America has improved over the last 6 years, but if they want to run with the big boys, a pure striker is needed.

So how did everyone do? Here are my player grades:

Starting XI
Tim Howard (GK) - Didn't have to do much, but he did it when needed. Did a good job organizing the defense. Grade: A
Steve Cherundolo (D) - Kept the right side clear. The couple times he did get beat, he made some good tickles to get the ball back. A-
Oguchi Onyewu (D) - He played a smart, physical game, which closed down options in the center for Poland and didn't earn him a card. This was his best game for the national team in over a year. A
Carlos Bocanegra (D) - He might not be getting the playing time at Fulham, but he still has something. He did get turned a couple times, but he also helped Pearce on the left. Add to it a goal and you have a good night. B
Heath Pearce (D) - Left back is still the weakest position in the US lineup, but Pearce made a good case for himself on the night. His one weak point, bad clearances. B-
Landon Donovan (M) - Landon finally shows something in Europe. His passing was precise, he got back to help on defense and he made himself open for the attack. If only he had finished the breakaway, it would have been a fantastic night. As far as dead balls, I guess Beckham has taught him something. A
Ricardo Clark (M) - Stopped some attacks, but misread plays a bit too often. C+
Michael Bradley (M) - Not a breakout night, but he did a lot of little things, including picking a few pockets. B+
Clint Dempsey (M) - He always seems frustrated these days. His play is still creative, but he never gets the ball in a place where he seems to want it. B
Brian Ching (F) - I'm sure some folks will disagree but Ching showed well. He used his physicality to push his way into space and did okay on the ball. As a target man, he gave the mids a good extra option, which force Poland to double cover him at times. Still needs to speed up his game for the international level and needs to make more of his chances. B-
Eddie Johnson (F) - I really like Johnson, but he has been lost on the pitch for a long time now. He just doesn't seem to see the game happening around him and he is scared to take the shot. C-

Josh Wolff (F) - On for Ching in the 63'. Found his space and placed some good balls. Still making a case for a start. B+
Jay DeMerit (D) - On for Onyewu in the 63'. Proof that there is some serious depth developing in the center back position. A-
Eddie Lewis (M) - On for Donovan in the 64'. Well maybe he is in the running for a 2010 spot. His free kick was perfect and his field play was strong as well. A-
Jonathan Spector (D) - On for Cherundolo in the 72'. Nice work to keep a clean sheet late and he knows how to get the ball out of the danger zone. B+
Benny Feilhaber (M) - On for Pearce in the 85'. He wasn't in much, but he did make a little noise. His game looked better, but with just 8 minutes of playing time, I can't really grade him. No grade.

Subs not used: Marcus Hahnemann (GK), Cory Gibbs (D)

USA - Carlos Bocanegra 12',Oguchi Onyewu 35', Eddie Lewis 73'

One last grade, the new away jersey. Simple black with blood red accents. Looks far better then the home kit. Maybe basic black is the way to go, I mean it is so slimming. A

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

US-Poland starting lineup

Here is the official lineup for the US:


Cherundolo----Onyewu----Bocanegra (c)-------Pearce



Donovan over on the left to help Pearce out is a smart move by Bob Bradley, however it will probably force Donovan into more of a defensive, less wondering style of game.

Ching getting the start, didn't see that one coming. Look for Clark and Bradley to aim more then a few balls in the air his way. It will be interesting to see how the Hawaiian does in the snow of Poland.

Labels: , , ,

US-Poland preview, what players need to perform

US - Poland
26 March 3:30p ET/12:30p PT
TV: Fox Soccer Channel
Internet text feed: US Soccer's Match Tracker

Much like March 2006, it looks like snow will be falling as these two face off in Poland. In that World Cup warm up match, Clint Dempsey scored the one and only goal. Will today be a repeat of that result?

If so, it will take a lot more work by the US as Poland's Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker has reshaped this team since taking over after their 2006 World Cup burnout. His leadership has lead Poland to qualify for their first ever Euro by winning their group (which included Portugal, Belgium and Serbia). In the process, the only surrendered 12 goals in 14 matches and only allowed more then 1 goal in four of those matches (only one of these games was in Poland). This points to a defense that works well together.

For the US to crack their backline, they will need to control things in the middle. This means a lot of work for Michael Bradley and, with all odds, Ricardo Clark. They are going to need some precise passing and smart ball control to free things up in the center. If they can hold, it should allow Landon Donovan to roam a bit, which is when he is most dangerous.

But in their way stand Dariusz Dudka and Mariusz Lewandowski. These two are great at stopping attacks before they are dangerous and are going to be a thorn for Clint Dempsey. He has some great ball skills, but he's looked tired for a couple months now, so he will be hard pressed in this one, which means the big pressure is on Eddie Johnson.

So far at Fulham Johnson has look rather poor, meaning he needs something from today. Even if it is not a goal, he needs to force some chances and lift the pressure off Dempsey, Donovan and Bradley. If he just sits and waits for the ball, he will be a non-factor of the highest order.

Poland has their own issue up top as they really only have one quality striker. Captain Maciej Zurawski. If Onyewu can keep him caged without picking up an early yellow, the US will be in fine shape, but one slip and things could easily tank.

As far as the US's biggest weakness, it is the left side. My guess is Pearce will get the start at left back with Lewis in front of him. No offence to either but Pearce has yet to prove himself and Lewis is a bit past his best. If Poland has a clear road down the left, Howard is going to be busy in the net.

So who has needs to perform? Let's go to the pressure cooker:

Heavy Pressure
Heath Pearce (D) - The US needs a left back, but is he the one?
Cory Gibbs (D) - Has he recovered from injury enough to return to the fold?
Eddie Johnson (F) - Can he do something against a tough side on foreign soil?
Landon Donovan (M) - Will the European cloud of death that hangs over him finally part?
Benny Feilhaber (M) - Is Derby daft for not playing him?
Marcus Hahnemann (GK) - If you are not the number one keeper in the US, the pressure is always on to prove you are better then the rest. With Guzan looking like a lock on the second spot, might Hahnemann be fighting to stay ahead of Keller for that third place?
Jonathan Spector (D) - Showed well for the U23's but he is second in the middle for now. To move up, he will need to be near perfect.

Medium Pressure
Carlos Bocanegra (D) - A lock at center but with no club time, is his hold loosening?
Oguchi Onyewu (D) - He is also a lock for now, but can he play a physical game without getting a card, plus others are creeping up the ranks?
Brian Ching (F) - If he sees playing time he needs to show that he can be a threat like McBride.
Ricardo Clark (M) - Can he handle the big time?
Jay DeMerit (D) - An opening might be coming available in the back but can he get in there enough to prove that he can take it?
Eddie Lewis (M) - Don't think he really has a chance at 2010, but if he wants in, he needs to prove that the age issue been over played.
Josh Wolff (F) - His year in Germany has been good, now can he give some punch to the US attack?

Light Pressure
Clint Dempsey (F) - Can an exhausted playmaker beat a tough defenses?
Steve Cherundolo (D) - Having a solid year in Germany and is the go to on the right.
Michael Bradley (M) - Is killing in Holland, can he do it under tougher circumstances?
Tim Howard (GK) - Hay Guzan, you ain't touching me.

Me: US 1-1 Poland
Michael Bradley will get the goal

Wife: US 1-2 Poland

Labels: , , , ,

MLS Expansion - The Seattle naming conspiracy

I normally try to shy away from conspiracy theories when it comes to soccer, however I think this idea might have merit, so hang with me.

Last week saw the three 'focus group' names leaked to the local Seattle paper. Sure enough, a majority of Seattle fans were upset because none of the names were the Seattle Sounders.

In response to this negative reaction, MLS Commish Don Garber insists that although he respects the value and history of the 30-year-old Sounder name, the league is looking for a name that will still be meaningful '20 years from now or 50 years from now.'

I noticed two things about this statement. First, it doesn't make sense. How can a name with a 30-year track record be thrown overboard for a name that has been 'focus group' tested for only a couple months? Second, why is it that the commish is making this statement and not the ownership group? When the name controversy raged in Houston a few years back, it was Houston President Oliver Luck that faced the press, not Garber.

Anyway, we move forward to the actual voting. After making such a big deal about Seattle FC, Seattle Republic and Seattle Alliance being the best names ever they do something very interesting with the ballot and allow people to write-in a name. Since they already allowed people to submit names months ago, why allow this second round of 'write-in' ideas?

Perhaps this is the reason:
Fans will be allowed one vote per unique email address. MLS Seattle season ticket holders will be given the privilege of receiving the same number of votes as deposits purchased.
And this brings me to the conspiracy. Could it be that the Seattle group decided to manufacture a bit of controversy to increase their email and season ticket lists?

If Sounders had been one of the three 'approved' choices, no one would have paid much attention as it would be a forgone conclusion that it would win, but since it was not there, people got angry and tuned in. This added attention is all but assured to increase the vote (ie submitting email addresses) because no one seems very interested in the three official choices. Also note how you can buy additional votes with a season ticket deposit.

Which brings us to the announcement of the name on 7 April. Since none of the Seattle ownership group have dissed the 'Sounders' title, they will have no need to back pedal as they say 'Due to an overwhelming show of support by the soccer fans of Seattle, we are pleased to announce the Seattle Sounders as our 'new' name.'

In the end, the fans feel they have won a victory by getting the name they've wanted all along while the owners come out looking good for actually listening to the fans, plus they will have all those email addresses for future marketing purposes.

So is this off the wall or might I be on to something? I will be the first to admit that I have no real proof of this, but something does seem off.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Monday, March 24, 2008

Guss Hiddink to stay with Russia through 2010

Guss Hiddink is to every international team what Jürgen Klinsmann was to US Soccer. Meaning, every time a spot becomes available, his name is thrown into the ring.

But it looks like Hiddink has gone the way of Klinsmann and taken his name out of consideration for at least two years as he has signed a new contract with Russia through 2010. This, combined with their relatively easy group draw, means Russia has a good chance of making it to South Africa.

If he does, it will just be a continuation of his streak that includes the Netherlands (1998), South Korea (2002) and Australia (2006).

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

US roster for Poland match

US - Poland
26 March 3:30p ET/12:30p PT
TV: Fox Soccer Channel

Bob Bradley has called 18 players into camp ahead of this Wednesday's match in Poland. Since this game actually takes place in Europe on an official international date, it should come as no surprise that most of the players are not based in the US. In fact, only 3 of the 18 are from the MLS (Donovan, Ching, Clark).

Here is the full roster:

GK (2): Marcus Hahnemann (Reading FC), Tim Howard (Everton FC)

D (7): Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham FC), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Jay DeMerit (Watford FC), Cory Gibbs (Charlton Athletic), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

M (5): Michael Bradley (SC Heerenveen), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Benny Feilhaber (Derby County), Eddie Lewis (Derby County)

F (4): Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Clint Dempsey (Fulham FC), Eddie Johnson (Fulham FC), Josh Wolff (1860 Munich)

Although I'm sure a few people will ask 'where is Adu?', since he is just getting back to his club after two weeks of Olympic qualifying, Bradley probably didn't want to call him in. In fact, since no players from the U23 squad are on the list, this reason should apply to all of them (Altidore, Holden, etc.).

So what about the names that are there?

Feilhaber gets called in after failing to impress Nowak for the U23s. With Feilhaber getting no playing time for the worst team in the EPL, why would Bradley call him in? I'm guessing Bradley believes in him and wants to give him a chance to show himself. Might be corny, but Feilhaber is better then how he is currently getting treated at Derby.

Brian Ching getting the pick is a bit of an eye turner for me as he hasn't looked 100% during any of the pre-season Dynamo matches I've seen. I do think Ching is national team material, but only at top form.

Ricardo Clark was probably an easy pick as he has been showing well in pre-season for Houston, plus he is still riding a 2-game MLS suspension so the international travel will not hurt his club play come opening weekend.

The mad man of Holland, Michael Bradley, gets a very deserved call as he has now scored 20 goals in all competitions, including 2 in a match on Saturday.

Great to see Gibbs back on the list.

Overall, this is really the core of the US national team right here. So what about the new faces? My thought is Bradley will use this game to evaluate the known players ahead of the triple threat matches (England, Spain & Argentina) at the end of May and early June. He will see what he has and then complement it with new faces.

As for a starting lineup, my guess is something like:

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, March 21, 2008

MLS Expansion - Seattle names down to three, Sounders not an option - Poll

The future MLS team based in Seattle is very close to announcing a name, but first they want a vote. Starting next Thursday, March 27, through March 31, the team will allow fans to vote on the team’s name.

As far as the names from which voters will be selecting, "(t)he three naming options will be announced Tuesday, March 25, and were chosen through fan focus groups, internal committees and fan suggestions, but will not include Sounders."

So no, no to Sounders, but what are the other choices? Obviously nothing official as yet, but the Seattle Times has them pegged as Seattle FC, Seattle Alliance and Seattle Republic.

Although I have a feeling Seattle FC will win, I really hope it does not. Between Dallas and Toronto, the league has enough FC's in it, especially for Major League Soccer.

As far as Alliance or Republic, it's like Star Wars all over again. Damn that Rebel Alliance and their desire for a New Republic.

Anyway, I like Republic, because it relates to the historical idea of a separate Northwest state such as Cascadia. A nice tie in to local history, even if it is only subtle, is always a good thing. The downside, fans would probably be called Republicans and that might not go down so well in Seattle.

Alliance is better then FC, but I'm not really sure what they are aligning.

In the end, it will probably end up Seattle FC with some sort of nickname like the 'greens' or 'emeralds of the pitch.'

So what is your choice?

Labels: , , , , , ,

2008 Concacaf Champions Cup - Costa Rica's Purple Monsters stampede to semifinal meeting with Houston

Deportivo Saprissa 3-0 Atlante
Saprissa wins series 4-2

In a game that was often times unruly, both on the pitch and in the stands, Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa managed to walk away with a 3-0 victory and earn a spot in the semifinals.

Atlante showed no offensive muscle, thanks in large part to the absence of Giancarlo Maldonado, which allowed Deportivo Saprissa time to create their chances and force Atlante to make mistakes. Sure enough, the Mexican side made a couple of major mistakes as two of the three goals were own goals.

Deportivo Saprissa showed themselves to be a technically smart team that can cause havoc in a backline, which might be a very bad thing for Houston. Although they are getting better, the Dynamo's final four still are not settled. If Boswell is still less then 100% when these two meet, it might be a long night in Houston.

But Deportivo Saprissa have some issues of their own on defense and with the return of Stuart Holden, the improved play out of Chris Wondolowski and Mr. Clutch himself Dwayne De Rosario, they should make it very entertaining.

DS: Castillo 29'(og), Alonso 40', Cervantes 67'(og)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Olympic Qualifying - Freddy Adu's and team US's are going to Beijing

US 3-0 Canada

This was the game US fans had been waiting for. Finally the play on the field reflected the talent in the roster as Canada was no match for the U23 US men. And although Freddy Adu will deservingly get the headlines, that second goal was pure art, but he was far from alone out there. Altidore, Edu, Holden, McCarty, Spector, Orozco, Wynne, Kljestan, Sturgiz and Seitz all provided key plays that resulted in this victory

Yes, there were little missteps that could still use some tightening, but in the end, last night was as close to a perfect match as anyone can expect to come on the international level. Makes me wonder if all the folks who bashed Peter Nowak after the US's sad sack routine against Cuba last Tuesday are ready to apologize.

As far as Canada is concerned, they have talent, but they were no match for the US on the night. Combine this result with their failure to get out of their group at last summer's U20 World Cup and it points to a youth system that needs some work.

So the US is returning to the Olympics and as of this point, they look like a team that has a chance at a medal.

US - Adu 27', 47', Kljestan 78'

Guatemala 0(5)-(6)0 Honduras

And the other Concacaf spot goes to Honduras. Although the game was not as pleasing to watch as the later match, there was plenty of good soccer on display. Both teams would have deserved the win, so it is only fitting that it went to pk.

The question I want to know is what was Honduran goalie Kevin Hernandez yelling before every Guatemalan shot? Something tells me it wasn't words of encouragement.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 20, 2008

2008 Concacaf Champions Cup - De Rosario carries Houston past Municipal; Pachuca win date with DC United

Houston Dynamo 3-1 CSD Municipal

Houston was outplayed for most of the first half, but held their own enough to keep the score level. Then came the second 45, otherwise known as the Dwayne De Rosario show.

De Rosario was all over the pitch creating chances while slowing Municipal's attacks. His first goal was coated in luck as Municipal's Claudio Albizuris clearance attempt into De Ro's chest was a bit strange. However, luck alone does not explain the goal as it took talent to quickly settled the ball and get off a perfect shot.

The goal gave Houston a bit of a swagger and their passing game greatly improved from that point on. The improve passing gave Corey Ashe an ability to show off his speed and cause some moments for Municipal's backline, which leads to the controversy.

Ashe earned a pk from a light foul by Municipal defender Renato Blanco. Most days, I don't think that would have been a pk and Ashe likely would have got a yellow for a dive, however this one looks to be a makeup call for some series pushing and tripping Brian Ching suffered in the box during the first half.

The second goal lead to a fight after the kickoff, which should have resulted in a red card to Selvyn Ponciano for purposely smacking Chris Wondolowski with his cast (after re-watching the video, Ponciano pauses his arm movement for a moment, slightly looks at Wondolowski, then throws his arm, which is in a hard cast, right into Wondolowski's face). If Municipal went down to 10, as they should have, the game would have been over.

The ensuing restart caught Municipal off guard as Wondolowski finished a fantastic centering ball by Ashe.

Municipal then earned a pk of their own off a light handball call against Wade Barrett. Barrett's arms were protected his chest, which can go either way. There was no intent, but the ref wanted to make up for the light Houston pk, so he gave them the kick. Fair.

But it wasn't done yet as Municipal ran through a suddenly lackluster Houston side and earned, what looked like, a free and clear second goal. However, the ref called a handball, thus no goal. This was the worst call of the game as it was not even close to right, nor was it a correction of a previous mistake. The game should have been 3-2 with a couple more minutes to play.

So Houston was lucky but still deserved the win. However, there are some questions about the Dynamo defense heading into the season as Boswell is still not on the same page and their speed, or lack there of, is bound to cost them. On offense, Brian Ching still does not appear to be fully back from last season's injury and Franco Caraccio needs to learn when to kill off games (I know he is try to impress, but a late sub when your team is up needs to know when to hold off).

Overall, Municipal might not have won the series, but they did win respect. If this game was played again with Fredy García, the outcome could easily go the other way. Still, Houston matches on. Congrats and great show by the 14,348 fans who made it out last night.

Houston will face the winner of Deportivo Saprissa (CR) - Atlante (Mex) series in the semifinals. Atlante leads 2-1 going into tonights match in Mexico.

Houston - Dwayne De Rosario 47', 69'(pk), Chris Wondolowski 75'
Municipal - Guillermo Ramírez 86'

Pachuca 1-0 Motagua

In the nightcap, Pachuca and Motagua played a very unexciting match that was decided by Luis Montes's goal in the 43'. Pachuca is still getting wins, but they are nowhere near as impressive as they were last year as their attack is very forgettable. Still, with goalkeeper Miguel Calero looking strong, DC will have a difficult time getting past them.

Pachuca - Miguel Calero 43'

Labels: , , , , , , ,

US vs. England at Wembley May 28th - It is official

USA vs. England
May 28 at Wembley Stadium
8p local/3pm ET/12pm PT
TV: ESPN Classic, Univision

After a month of rumors, it is now official, the US men will play England at Wembley stadium on Wednesday, May 28. This will be the first time the US has played England on British soil since 1994. As previously noted, there is a good chance this game will also see David Beckham gets his 100th national team cap.

The US will use this game as a tune up for World Cup Qualifying, which begins June 15th. Following the match with England, the US will play Spain at Estadio El Sardinero in Santander on June 4 and we should here confirmation of a June 8 date with Argentina soon.

With England failing to make this year's Euro, coach Fabio Capello will probably use this game to try out some different players ahead of their WCQ campaign that begins in September.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

2008 Concacaf Champions Cup - Houston looks for first KO of the year; DC United dominates

Houston Dynamo - CSD Municipal
Team tied 0-0 in first leg
8:30pm ET/5:30pm PT
Robertson Stadium
TV: Fox Soccer Channel
Radio: KBME 790AM (Eng)

Tonight, for the first time since winning the MLS Cup last November, the Houston Dynamo return to their home pitch and they need a win if they want to keep their chances of becoming the top club team in the world alive. However, to do so, they must get past a very tough side in CSD Municipal.

The two played a feisty game last week in Guatemala that saw a number of quality chances for both sides, but no goals.

If the Dynamo are to win this match, they will need another fantastic performance from, drum roll please, Dwayne De Rosario. With Stuart Holden and Brad Davis unavailable for the match, his team will again look to the Canadian to be their engine. He will need to push the offense by sending in good balls to Ching and Wondolowski as well as taking some long-range shots to force Municipal's defense out of their box. He will also need to work with Ricardo Clark to prevent Municipal from cracking their defense.

The Dynamo's backline looked good in Guatemala, but Mario Rodriguez and Freddy Garcia still managed to make trouble and it is only due to the great work of goalkeeper Pat Onstad that Houston did not lose the match late. They can expect more of the same tonight.

Even with their issues, Houston still has the edge in this one. Everyone will be looking to Ching to provide the goals as their score pool is limited, but Ching has this habit of finding the net when he needs to. Add to it the best defensive line in the league and it should be enough to get them into the semifinals.

Me HD 1-0 Municipal
Wife HD 1-0 Municipal

DC United 5-0 Harbour View
DC wins series 6-1

What a home opener for DC United. On a pitch that might be the best in America, United demolished Jamaica's Harbour View thanks in huge part to the efforts of Fred. He was all over the place on the night. Making the needed tackles to stop breaks while providing perfect passes to setup DC's attack.

Although the first 45 minutes were tight, at no time did the outcome ever seem in doubt. And once United figured out Harbour's offside trap in the second half, the real damage began. Luciano Emilio picked up where he left off last season while Devon McTavish managed a brace to run his campaign total up to three goals from two matches. Really, Devon McTavish.

Santino Quaranta came on in the 64' and had an immediate effect on his side. He cut through the tired Harbour backline and generally caused havoc in front of goal. His two assists are a testament to what he brought into the game and as long as he doesn't let stuff like this go to his head, he looks to be on his way to playing a significant role in United's season.

If there is a downside for DC from all this it is the lack of action their defense saw on the night. No matter who they face in the next round, they will face a tougher test in their final third. Nothing really stood out as a major issue last night but that might be due to the lack of force from Harbour them the strength of the back.

DC United: Devon McTavish 26', Luciano Emilio 63', 66', Devon McTavish 68', Fred 88'

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Roma and San Jose Earthquakes soon to be linked

MLS's own San Jose Earthquakes might be about to get a powerhouse corporate big brother as 'Quakes co-owner John J. Fisher has been linked again to a purchase of Italian heavyweights AS Roma. Fisher has been pursuing the club since last summer.

One of the main issues Fisher will need to overcome if he does moves to own Roma is the image American owners have thanks in large part to what has happened in the EPL. Although Italy is a very different league, Fisher would keep current club President Franco Sensi on as honorary President.

With $2.4 billion in wealth and a proven history in the game, Fisher might just be the person to prove that American ownership of a top soccer side does have to be horrible.

Labels: , , , ,

Toronto wants Amado Guevara

Toronto FC hopes to strengthen their midfield by landing former MLS MVP Amado Guevara. Guevara was last seen in MLS getting the boot by Chivas USA coach Preki due to poor play and a horrible attitude.

Guevara is a very talented player however he only shows it when he is happy. If he is not fully satisfied with his situation, too often his play suffers.

After spending the last year with Honduran club CD Motagua, perhaps Guevara will return to MLS with a fresh view of the league. And maybe the great atmosphere that rolls through the crowds in Toronto will make him feel welcomed. After all, Mo Johnson and Guevara had a good relationship in New York, so maybe it will work again north of the border*. If so, this might be the move the puts TFC in playoff contention.

*I know Mo is no longer coach of TFC, but as Director of Football, he still plays a big role in what happens on the field.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

2008 Concacaf Champions Cup - Can DC ruin Harbour's View?

DC United - Harbour View
Teams tied 1-1 in first leg
7:30pm ET/4:30pm PT
TV: Fox Soccer Channel
Radio: WFED 1050AM (Eng), WACA 1540 AM (Spn)

DC United returns home for the first time since November with the hope that home pitch advantage will give them the extra boost needed to send them into the next round of the Concacaf Champions Cup.

After a rough showing in Jamaica for the first leg, DC hopes the improved playing surface at RFK will allow them to play a game based on their strengths, i.e. passing and speed. If so, we can probably expect a solid night from Marcelo Gallardo who, even in Jamaica, had some dangerous moments.

However, DC will miss Jaime Moreno due to a hamstring injury suffered in the first leg, which will probably result in 5 foot 4 Franco Niell getting his first start for the club. The question he will need to answer is if he has had enough time to work out his role with striker partner Luciano Emilio?

On the Harbour View side of things, they are missing two key players due to visa issues. Both midfielder Kemeel Wolfe and striker Rafiek Thomas were denied access to the US for unknown reasons. Since both of them were very important to their sides 1-1 draw in the first leg, this is a big blow for Harbour.

The good news for the Jamaicans, defender Christopher Harvey is back after serving a one game suspension. Harvey will help steady Harbour's back line and will probably be all over Niell. Combine their improved backline with the strength of midfielder Richard Edwards and forward Kemar Petrekin and United should have a busy night ahead of them.

That said, I've got to go with DC for this one due to the strength of their passing game. This will allow the team to slip in behind Harbour's defense and get some great shots on goal.

It will be a struggle, but United will win.

Me DC 3-1 HV
Wife DC 2-1 HV

One last thing, let’s hope Jamaica and the US can change their rules so future teams will not have to face such visa problems.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Olympic Qualifying - Mexico fails to reach the Olympics

Mexico 5-1 Haiti

Even with a win, Mexico fails to make it out of their group. In a match where they played up a man for an hour, had a penalty kick (which was stopped) and had at least three open shots on goal, there is no reason for Mexico to have failed to get the needed six goals, but they did.

Haiti just collapsed in the final 15-minutes giving Mexico numerous three or four on none breaks, but Mexico could not make the most of them.

Overall, this was one of the strangest soccer matches I've ever seen as even when Haiti was getting stomped in the back, they still seemed to place the majority of their team up top. Add to it a red card for a Haitian player on the bench and another for some odd flight call and you've got a heck of a way to finish up group play.

This means Mexico will fail to make the Olympics for the first time since 1984 and that the US will face Canada on Thursday night in Nashville.

One last thing, I'm guessing Leonel Saint Preux is every Canadian's best friend tonight (he got Haiti's lone goal).

Update: One more last think, Haiti's goalkeeper Johnny Placide was fantastic on the night. I know that seems strange with 5 goals getting past him but he basically played the entire Mexican team by himself for the second half. He stopped shots that he had no right to stop and is the biggest reason Mexico is not going to Beijing. Okay, the biggest reason was Mexico's failure to make anything of their huge number of chances, but you get the point. So when will Hugo Sánchez get the boat for this one?

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Olympic Qualifying - Mexico needs huge win to advance out of group

Canada just washed the pitch with Guatemala's B-team 5-0, meaning the Maple Leafs sit in second with four points and a +4 goal difference. Mexico and Haiti will kick off in 30-minutes with Mexico needing a victory by at least 5 goals to advance out of their group. For Haiti, all they need is a tie to move forward.

Things are looking bad for Hugo Sánchez.

Labels: , , , ,

Olympic Qualifying - US men win their group, look better but still have issues

US 1-0 Honduras

First the good news, the US U23 men were able to bounce back from a dreadful opening match to win their group. In the process players such as Holden, Edu, Kljestan, Orozco, McCarty stood up and showed what they have in them. Although they did not dominate their final two matches, they did control them. However, that leads to the bad thing.

During their 3 group matches, the team had 18 shots on goal and only managed to net 3. Although this doesn't sound that bad, one must remember that 2 of the goals were from penalty kicks. So 1 goal from 16 shots on frame. Even worse is the number of times the team created dangerous situations in front of goal but never got off a shot.

This is an issue that is common across all ages of US soccer. How many times have we seen the national team dominate one of the 'lesser' teams in the confederation only to sneak out with a 1-0 win or a tie (normally thanks to a penalty kick)?

With much of Concacaf playing a pack the back style of game against the US, the solution is having someone that is willing to take the shot. Freddy Adu still has a lot of growth ahead of him, but he already understands the idea of taking the shot. Clint Dempsey gets it and Jozy Altidore seems to have it in him as well, but too many others are not there yet.

But I don't want this post to be all negative, because the team really has looked good the last two games. Yes, they are still giving the ball away too much and there needs to be better communication in front of goal, but compared to were the team was at Tuesday night, things are much better.

Now the question is who will they play next Thursday night. Will Mexico find a way to limp out of their group and setup a 2004 semifinal rematch or will Canada give us another addition of the growing northern neighbor rivalry or will Haiti get at least a point and bring their rough style of soccer to the red, white and blue? Of these three, I think Mexico has looked the worse while Haiti has impressed the most.

Whomever it is, Peter Nowak should have a great understanding of what he can put on the pitch. With the semifinal being the biggest game of the whole tournament (the two winners go to the Olympics), it will be the A-team. Altidore, Adu, Holden, Edu, Orozco, McCarty, Wynne and Seitz plus three more should get ready for the start.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Olympic Qualifying - Does the US even want to win?

US vs. Honduras
7pm ET/4pm PT
TV: Fox Soccer Channel

With Panama dispatching Cuba 4-1, the US is assured of advancing to the knockout round, now the question is what spot will they take? If they can pull of a win against a decent Honduras side, they will take first. Anything less and they stay in the second spot.

Over in group B last night, both Mexico and Canada lost meaning that the best either side can hope for is a second place finish. So if the US do not win tonight, the earliest they could face either North American team is the final.

Does that mean they should play for the tie? In a word, no. Guatemala did not beat Mexico on a fluke, they played the better game. Same goes for Haiti over Canada. With neither Mexico or Canada looking fantastic, facing them might be the best way to go. Still, like all tournaments done over a short period of time, a good team one day can be a crap team the next.

Which brings us to the US and Honduras. With both teams already in the knockout phase, don't expect many stars. Such enough, here is the lineup:




It is great to see Holden in the middle as he was outstanding on Thursday night. If he can combine with Findley and help provide some cover for fellow Houston Dynamo Ianni, the US will be alright on the right side.

Kljestan has also proved himself during this tournament, so he and Holden will be expected to be the fire for the team.

It looks like Peter Nowak is using this game as a test of yet another formation, so I don't think he is overly worried about the result. I even think that if Charlie Davies was not riding a yellow, he would be included in it.

Overall, I'm guessing the team will take a win, but they are more interested in seeing how different players react with each other.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Confederations Cup spot earns US soccer $1.4 million

FIFA has placed $17.6 million into the prize fund for next year's Confederations Cup in South Africa.

"The winners will receive $3.75 million and the runners-up $3.25 million, while the team finishing third will get $2.75 million with $2.25-million going to the fourth-placed country. The other participants will each receive $1.4 million."

The US joins South Africa, Brazil, Italy, Egypt and Iraq in the Confederations Cup. The winner of Euro 2008 and the Oceania Nations Cup will fill the final two spots.

So where will this money go? Hopefully it will be used to improve the youth system in the US. The better the facilities, coaches and training are for the younger players, the better the national team will be in the next decade.

As far as the Confederations Cup, this will be a test run for South Africa. With five World Cup venues being used, we should have a better understanding of just how many glitches we can expect during 2010. Also, since fewer fans travel for the Confederations Cup, this should give the locals a great chance to see some top quality soccer.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

West Ham United to play MLS All-Stars

After hearing names like Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Newcastle, it appears MLS has decided on West Ham United as their opposition for the 2008 All-Star game on July 24. This year's game will take place on the fake grass in Toronto.

As to why West Ham? Perhaps this game is part of the clubs attempt to rebuild their image after the Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano blunder from last season or maybe their are a bunch of Hammer supporters hiding out in Canada that no one knows about.

This match will air live on ESPN2.

Labels: , , ,

Olympic Qualifying - Can the US pull it together?

US - Panama
8pm ET
TV - Fox Soccer Channel

The US U-23s return to the pitch tonight looking to improve on their poor form from Tuesday. Although the team does not have to win to make it into the next round, anything short of a full three points will make it very difficult to sneak by.

With group mates Honduras and Panama all but assured of three points from their remaining games with Cuba, the US is looking at a -2 point weight around their necks (this is because the US only earned 1 point from their Cuba experience. Add to this the goal difference both Honduras and Panama are likely to run up against Cuba and the US has an even bigger mess on their hands).

To make up these points, the team must figure out a way to control the midfield and finish the chances that appear in front of them. My personal suggestion, don't let Freddy Adu be the only quality player on the pitch.

Panama didn't show much in their match against Honduras other then a great ability to lose the ball in the final third (to be fair, Honduras showed much the same), so Nowak and his squad should have time to settle and make some dangerous plays.

Still there is the question of the wing play. With both Davis and Findley having bad nights in the opening match (and with just 48 hours off since their last game), Nowak will need to find a way to seal these gaps.

With Panama likely to play a very defensive game, Altidore is going to need a lot of help up top. If the US can use their speed and overall better stock of players to sneak balls into the box, a full three points will be their reward. However, if they continue to turn the ball over and fail to show a good center, don't be surprised to see the team end the night tied with Cuba on points.

Concerning the other game on the night, I wonder if Cuba will be able to keep Honduras under 7 goals. With most of their starting 11 now calling the US home, it's going to be a crap night for the team.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

SuperLiga 2008 Schedule released

The second edition of the cross-border showdown is booked and if 2007's tournament is any example, we can expect some of the best games of the season.

The four teams representing MLS have been known for some time as they were based on last season's performance, so the main part of today's announcement was the Mexican teams. Houston, DC, New England and Chivas USA will take on Chivas Guadalajara, Atlante, Pachuca and Santos.

Group A
Houston Dynamo
D.C. United

Group B
Chivas USA
New England

Date Match Venue Kickoff (ET)
July 12 DC - Guadalajara RFK Stadium, DC 8pm
July 12 Houston - Atlante Robertson Stadium, Houston 10pm
July 13 NE - Santos Gillette Stadium, Foxborough 8pm
July 13 Chivas USA - Pachuca Home Depot Center, Carson 10pm
July 15 DC - Atlante RFK Stadium, DC 8pm
July 15 Houston - Guadalajara Robertson Stadium, Houston 10pm
July 16 NE - Pachuca Gillette Stadium, Foxborough 8pm
July 16 Chivas USA - Santos Home Depot Center, Carson 10pm
July 19 DC - Houston RFK Stadium, DC 8pm
July 19 Atlante - Guadalajara TBD 10pm
July 20 Chivas USA - NE TBD, LA 8pm
July 20 Santos - Pachuca TBD 10pm
July 29 Seminfinal 1 TBD TBD
July 30 Seminfinal 2 TBD TBD
Aug 5 Final TBD TBD

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Olympic Qualifying: Seven Cuban players defect

In the last 24-hours, seven Cuban U-23 players have defected. The seven include goalkeeper Jose Manuel Miranda, defenders Erlys Garcia Baro, Yendry Diaz, Eder Roldan and Yenier Bermudez and midfielders Yordany Alvarez and Loanni Prieto.

Cuba only brought 18 players with them to the tournament so all they have left is 11. But it is worse then it seems as Roberto Linares, who is one of those 11, received a red card on Tuesday night so he is not available for today's game against Honduras. That means the team will have to play the whole match with just 10 players.

This has become a routine occurrence whenever Cuban teams come to America to play tournaments. Divorcing the politics from this, it is a shame as their U-23 team looked strong against the US and probably could have made it out of the group. Now they will be lucky to get even one more point.

But you can never really take the politics out of things, so to the new Americans, welcome home. As Yenier Bermudez put it, "Of course, my heart will be in Cuba with my family, but I want to have the freedom to better my life, to play professional soccer, to be the best I can be, and for that we had to make this sacrifice."

And it might not take long for this to happen as USL side Miami FC has already said they plan on hosting a tryout for the seven next week. I think Miami's GM Luiz Muzzi summed up what a number of US teams are think right now, "I watched their game against the U.S. on TV, and I thought the Cuban team played very well ... We were kind of scouting that game because anytime a Cuban team comes to the United States, there's a chance someone might defect."

After his performance on Tuesday, goalkeeper Jose Manuel Miranda is probably on the short list of a number of MLS squads.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

2008 Concacaf Champions Cup - We are all DC and Houston fans tonight

The pretending stops tonight as two MLS sides final take to the pitch in games the matter. Both DC United and the Houston Dynamo will represent MLS and American soccer over the next few weeks as they try to earn the Concacaf spot in the FIFA World Club Cup this December.

Last year, both teams looked strong in the Concacaf Champions Cup, but fell in the semifinals to their Mexican opponents.

For the opening round, DC United will play Jamaica's Harbour View while the Dynamo get Guatemalan side CSD Municipal. With both MLS teams still in preseason, these games will not be easy.

DC United at Harbour View
8pm ET/5pm PT
TV: Fox Soccer Channel

Harbour View is in the middle of a very bad run of play, winning just one of their last eight domestic games, plus they might be without striker and former Metrostar Fabian Taylor. I can't tell for sure, but I think he has signed with Norwegian side Notodden FK. The teams website has a news release about Taylor, but sadly my Norwegian fails me at the moment, so I'm not sure what exactly it says. However, I see that there is a poll on the right hand side asking who the team's top scorer will be this season and he is listed as an option.

If it is true that Taylor is gone, United will want to send a big thank you across the Atlantic. Without Taylor, Kavin Byran, who is just back from injury, will need to take over things on top. DC get another break as defender Christopher Harvey is suspended for the match due to a red card from Harbour's qualifier last December.

All of this should allow United time to organize and settle. Their main concern for this match will be stamina as none of them are truly match fit. To combat this, they will need their midfield, lead by designated player Marcelo Gallardo, to control the game. If DC's defense is chasing balls for most of the first half, Harbour will pull out a surprise.

In the end, I think it will be a little bit of a struggle, but DC should get out of Jamaica will no less then a tie.

Predictions: Me DC 1-1 HV, Wife DC 2-1 HV

One last thing, I'm not sure Harbour View coach Lenworth Hyde Sr. fully understands the CCC as he said, "Going out there today we can't give up any goals. The away goal rule is in effect so we have to be very disciplined defensively." The CCC does not use the away goal rule like they do in Europe. Never a good side when your coach doesn't know what type of game needs to be played.

Houston Dynamo vs. CSD Municipal
10pm ET/7pm PT
TV: Fox Soccer Channel

Municipal are also in the middle of a bad streak as they have lost their last two matches 1-0 and have dropped to third in the league, however they still have plenty of class, most of which has spent some time in MLS.

Fredy García spent some time with Columbus, but never really achieved much in their midfield. However, back home with Municipal, he has proven himself to be a threat at any moment. The combination of García with Fred Thompson (not the former presidential candidate) has proven very difficult for teams to break.

But Houston's biggest concern is probably on their own side of the ball. Right now the club is missing a number of midfielders due to injury and Olympic call-ups. Adding to these problems is the lack of cohesion in the back and a bunch of unknowns up top and it might be difficult for the Dynamo to come out of Latin America with anything good.

For this to work, Houston needs an outstanding performance by Dwayne De Rosario with Ricardo Clark picking up the problems before they get to the back line. When they do sneak through, Waibel, Robinson and Barrett will need to watch Bobby Boswell as he is the new man to their lineup.

This one will probably be a bit of a slog as Municipal is very happy to play the foul game. Don't forget Carlos Ruiz played here during his formative days and he still shows what he learned every time he steps out of the pitch (watch out Ricardo Clark).

Predictions: Me HD 1-2 Municipal, Wife HD 2-1 Municipal

So why are we all DC and Houston fans tonight? Simple, if soccer in America ever hopes to gain respect both internationally and locally, we need all teams to win on the international level. If MLS wins the region, they will have a chance to play a major team from Europe or South America in a meaningful competition, which will give the league a chance to catch additional eyeballs. The more people that pay attention to MLS, the better it, and the people that play in it, become.

Full Concacaf Champions Cup schedule here.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Clint Dempsey wants 10 goals

Clint Dempsey had a three targets this season, "finish in the top 10, get 10 goals and five assists" but time has changed his focus.

"Right now we want to get out of the relegation battle, stay up and make things right for next season. The most important thing is that we stay up and if my personal targets are part of the reason for that then great, but staying up is all I want."

Dempsey still hopes to reach his 10 goal, 5-assist season, however he has a way to go. At 6 goals and 0 assists, I think it is safe to say that if he makes these targets, Fulham will not be relegated.

Labels: , , ,

Olympic Qualifying: US limps to 1-1 tie with Cuba

US 1-1 Cuba

The US U-23 men did not get their tournament off to a good start last night as they fluttered their way to a 1-1 tie with Cuba. Although they opened up the match with a very impressive first 15-minutes, the next hour saw the team combine poor passing with lack of aggression and sub-par play in the midfield. Cuba was able to exploit these openings and earn a goal.

If there is some good news for coach Peter Nowak it was the final 15-minutes of play as his team finally started playing together again. Sure enough, once they stopped trying to pass the ball through the Cuban players, they started having much better luck.

Now to breakdown the match:

The Good
Freddy Adu - He was by far the best player on the pitch. His free kicks were dangerous and his skill was obvious, however he disappeared during the final 20-minutes of the first half. Still, he was the threat.

Dax McCarty - Okay, his first half was not the best, but he improved as the match went on. It was his attacking and pressure that woke the team up in the second half.

Sacha Kljestan - He provided some good speed and found his spots.

Chris Seitz - Made a few quality saves to keep a shock result from taking place. Was screaming at his back line trying to get them organized.

The Bad
Charlie Davies - When did Carlos Ruiz start playing for the US? Every time anyone looked at Davies, he drops to the ground to eat some dirt. His dive in the box when he had a great opportunity to score on an open goal was a major mistake. Combine this with his poor passing and it was not a great night.

Chad Barrett - He gave away the ball, missed his marks and never got into the flow.

Patrick Ianni - How did he not get a boot on the pass that lead to Cuba's goal? Also, how did Cuba cause such havoc in front of goal? He did show a little better later in the match.

Robbie Findley - He died out on the wing. He was fast but he showed little ball control and had few decent centers on the night.

The Questions
Jozy Altidore - Was he just exhausted from being the lone striker or does his game not fit well with Adu's? If the midfield gave him more balls, would his night have been better? He looked tanked after the first 20-minutes, but so did a number of other US players, so is this a sign of lack of fitness?

Maurice Edu - Was he missing so much because he was dropping back to cover for defensive mistakes?

Peter Nowak - Five forwards in the starting lineup yet leaving Altidore alone up top?

And that's the way the US U-23s looked to me. They return to action on Thursday night against Panama. What changes will Nowak make to his lineup? Will Altidore again be alone up top? Will Jonathan Spector come in to sure up their back line?

Right now, I still think they have it in them to win the group, but I'm not sure they will have enough to make it to the final and win a spot in Beijing.

Oh, one last thing, what was up with referee Walter Lopez and his red card to Cuban Roberto Lines? His first yellow was for slapping the corner flag after scoring the goal. His second yellow was for popping in a shot less then a second after the offside whistle blew. I can see giving him a warning on the second one but a second yellow is the sign of an overeager ref.

USA – Freddy Adu (Robbie Findley) 14th
Cuba – Roberto Linares (Yordany Alvarez) 42nd

Starting lineup:






Sacha Kljestan on for Altidore in the 46'
Chad Barrett on for Davies in the 61'
Eddie Gaven on for Findley in the 77'

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Re-live Donovan's 35 international goals

It was just under two-weeks ago that Landon Donovan officially became the all-time US Men's goal scorer. To celebrate this achievement, US Soccer has put together a fantastic trip down memory lane as they look back at all 35 goals.

Just launch the interactive viewer and you will be able to see the location of every shot, plus you can watch the video of the goal (I've got to admit, I'm a sucker for this sort of thing).

US Soccer also breaks down the goals by month, year, opponent, venue, minute, etc. Lots of good stuff here, although the one stat that stands out more then any other is not the most positive.

By Country
Grenada - 1 (2.8%)
Panama - 1 (2.8%)
Korea - 2 (5.8%)
USA - 31 (88.6%)

Although the US has played a majority of their matches on home soil over the last eight years, the 88.6% figure is still high. Any way you look at it, it is a bit disconcerting that so many of his goals have taking place in the states. With all the World Cup Qualifiers played throughout Concacaf, I would have thought a few other nations would be on the list.

Looking over the other stats, I think I have discovered Landon's perfect game scenario: US vs. Cuba in a Gold Cup competition in early June at Gillette Stadium. He would start and play the whole match. Odds are he would net a goal in the second half (60% of his goals have come in the second 45), with a good chance of it being in the final 15-minutes (26% of his goals came between the 76-90th minutes).

So enjoy wasting some time look back at the international goals of Landon Donovan.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Nowak names his US Olympic Qualifying roster

Peter Nowak has selected the roster that he thinks will return the US men to the Olympic games. After an impressive showing in 2000, the U-23s won their qualifying group in 2004 but lost to Mexico in the semifinals and missed a trip to Athens.

The US should have a good chance of taking their group again this time around, however the question is can Mexico do the same or will they finish in second and force another semifinal showdown? Either way, this roster looks to be the best U-23 group the US has ever put forward, so they should be ready.

Here is Peter Nowak's full Olympic Qualifying roster:

GK (2): Dominic Cervi (out of contract), Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake)

D (7): Hunter Freeman (New York Red Bulls), Kamani Hill (Vfl Wolfsburg), Patrick Ianni (Houston Dynamo), Michael Orozco (San Luis), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United), Nathan Sturgis (Real Salt Lake), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)

M (7): Freddy Adu (SL Benfica), Maurice Edu (Toronto FC), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Sal Zizzo (Hannover 96)

F (4): Jozy Altidore (New York Red Bulls), Chad Barrett (Chicago Fire),
Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake)

Jonathan Spector (West Ham United) is on this roster even though he was not called into the final training camp early this month. Oddly enough Benny Feilhaber (Derby County) did not make the final roster. Not sure if he suffered an injury, was called back to his club or just didn't fit in with Nowak's plans.

Overall, this is a great group, however there seems to be some weakness in the back. Look for Spector to play a big roll. I'll be watching Orozco as I haven't really followed him much in the Mexican league. He might just be the surprise of the group.

As far as which teams have the most players on the list, Real Salt Lake have the most with three while Houston, New York and Toronto each have two.

The US gets things started on Tuesday against Cuba at 8pm ET/5pm PT. Fox Soccer Channel and ESPN Deportes will air all the matches live. will also stream the matches on the internet.

Here is the full Concacaf Olympic qualifying schedule.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

2008 Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Schedule

Concacaf has two tickets to Beijing for the Olympics this August and eight nations want them. To get there, teams will need to take one of the top two spots in their group and then make it past the semifinals. Both teams in the final on March 20th will represent the region in China.

The Concacaf tournament is taking place in America this time around with games in Tampa, LA and Nashville (Tickets Tampa, LA, Nashville).

Here is the full schedule:

Group A

Group B

Date Matches Venues Kickoff Times
March 11 Panama 0-1 Honduras Tampa, Fl 5:30 ET
March 11 USA 1-1 Cuba Tampa, Fl 8:00 ET
March 12 Haiti 0-1 Guatemala Carson, Ca 5:30pm PT
March 12 Canada 1-1 Mexico Carson, Ca 8:00pm PT
March 13 Honduras 2-0 Cuba Tampa, Fl 5:30pm ET
March 13 USA 1-0 Panama Tampa, Fl 8:00pm ET
March 14 Canada 1-2 Haiti Carson, Ca 5:30pm PT
March 14 Mexico 1-2 Guatemala Carson, Ca 8:00pm PT
March 15 Cuba 1-4 Panama Tampa, Fl 5:30pm ET
March 15 USA 1-0 Honduras Tampa, Fl 8:00pm ET
March 16 Guatemala 0-5 Canada Carson, Ca 5:30pm PT
March 16 Mexico 5-1 Haiti Carson, Ca 8:00pm PT
March 20 Guatemala 0(5)-(6)0 Honduras Nashville, Tn 5pm CT
March 20 USA 3-0 Canada Nashville, Tn 8pm CT
March 23 Guatemala 0(3)-(5)0 Canada Nashville, Tn 1pm CT
March 23 USA 0-1 Honduras Nashville, Tn 4pm CT

Fox Soccer Channel (English) and ESPN Deportes (Spanish) will air matches live in the US while will steam them on the internet.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, March 08, 2008

KC sign Argentine Claudio Lopez as their Designated Player

After months of rumors and speculation, the Kansas City Wizards finally signed Argentine striker Claudio Lopez for the 2008 season. Lopez said of the move, "I had different offers but Kansas talked to me first and I respect that."

The Wizards will call on the 33 year old Lopez a lot since their striker options are thin. This could be a test for Lopez as he has minutes have been limited during his past season with Racing. The good news is he is not coming off any major injury and he has a habit, even now, of finding the net.

Lopez will probably be combined with Scott Sealy up top. This match-up should give KC a dangerous attack that never seemed to come together with Eddie Johnson. Of course this will only happen if the Wizards can provide the support out of the middle, which is where fellow Argentine Carlos Marinelli will probably come in.

Overall, this move is an improvement for Kansas City, however, as with all Designated Players, the proof will come on the pitch. Will Lopez end up being more of an Angel or a Denilson? My guess, a bit in the middle. Lopez will get some good goals as he is a born scorer, but I think he will fade towards the end of the season.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, March 07, 2008

MLS Expansion - Philadelphia sells 2,000 season tickets in a week

In just one week, the new Philadelphia MLS side has sold more then 2,000 season tickets for their inaugural 2010 campaign. Not bad for a team that doesn't have a signal player, coach or date for any games.

This is a really strong showing, however I'm sure more then a few folks in Seattle are unimpressed with Philly’s numbers since they sold 3,000 season tickets within the first 24-hours of their MLS announcement. That said, Seattle has a built in advantage as they already have a strong soccer team in the market (USL's Seattle Sounders), they have a stadium (Quest field) and they had less time till their kicked off their MLS life (15-months compared to 25 for Philadelphia).

One other thing, why is there no link off MLS's home page to the new Philadelphia team? Seattle is linked up top, why not Philadelphia?

If you are interested in buying season tickets for 2010 or just learning a bit more about the future team, here is the Philadelphia MLS web site. On a side note, why is there a picture of Columbus Crew fans on the Philly 'reserve your tickets now' link? I would think the Sons of Ben would be only too happy to give them a local born image.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Game against FC Dallas could decide if Beckham gets 100th England cap

England Coach Fabio Capello might show up in Dallas on March 15th* to see the LA Galaxy take on FC Dallas and decide if Beckham is fit enough to call into camp for England's March 26th match against France.

Last month Capello left Becks off the roster for their game against Switzerland because he was not playing any competitive games, so it is odd that he is being considered for the March 26th game since LA is still in pre-season. LA is playing games, but they are just warm-ups. Are good centering balls against Shanghai Hong Kong United enough to earn him a spot?

Anyway, if Capello is in Dallas, expect to see Beckham play the full 90 and try to force some action (much like the Gamba Osaka game last month).

*Capello might want to check his schedule as he says the game is on the 14th, but it actually is on the 15th.

Labels: , , , , ,

US to play Argentina June 8th at Giants Stadium

It is official, the US Men's National team will face FIFA's top ranked team, Argentina, on June 8th at Giants Stadium.

This match looks to cap off a simulated 'group of death' series for the US men as they play England on May 28th, Spain on June 4th and Argentina on June 8th. Since the first two games are in Europe and the third in the US, it will be interesting to see how coach Bob Bradley deals with issues of fatigue.

The US played Argentina in last summer's Copa America and the 4-1 defeat was not pretty. However, the US did not bring their A-team, so hopefully they will do better in New York.

Although these three games are only friendlies, this is a great test run for the 2010 World Cup. Facing difficult teams in hostile locations (expect Giants Stadium to have a pro-Argentina crowd) is what we all wanted and US Soccer has delivered. Congrats to the federation for making it happen.

US Men's 2008 schedule:
19 Jan - US 2-0 Sweden (Friendly)
06 Feb - US 2-2 Mexico (Friendly)
26 Mar - US at Poland (Friendly)
28 May - US at England (Friendly)
04 Jun - US at Spain (Friendly)
08 Jun - vs. Argentina at Giants Stadium (Friendly)
15 Jun - vs. Barbados-Dominica winner at LA (8pm ET/5pm PT) (World Cup Qualifier)
21/22 Jun - at Barbados-Dominica winner (World Cup Qualifier)

If they beat Barbados-Dominica winner (Word Cup Qualifiers)
20 Aug - Away
06 Sep - Away
10 Sep - Home
11 Oct - Home
15 Oct - Home
19 Nov - Away

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Former KC goalkeeper Chris Konopka signs with top Irish side

After not seeing a minute of playing time in his year with Kansas City, Chris Konopka is hoping to have better luck in Ireland. Irish soccer club Bohemians FC signed Konopka to a one-year deal after the Wizards decided against exercising their contract option.

The Bohs went for Konopka after he trained with them in January. He also had trails at other European clubs.

Konopka is the type of keeper that could develop into an amazing player. At 6' 5", he is imposing in goal, but he knows how to get low to stop shots. He might not be as known as Real Salt Lake's Chris Seitz, but he is very similar (although at this point Seitz is still the better goal stopper).

Perhaps the biggest thing Konopka has going for him in Europe is his ability to land a Polish passport, thanks to dual citizenship, which will make any future moves in Europe easier then most of his American counterparts.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

US vs. England at Wembley almost set - Could it be Beckham's 100th?

The English FA and US Soccer have almost worked out all the details for a meeting at Wembley stadium on Wednesday, May 28th. If the game does take place, Fabio Capello is likely to select David Beckham for the roster, meaning he will finally earn his 100th cap for his country.

On the US side of things, look for a full roster to be called in for this one as the European season will be finished and the only MLS sides that play during the week are DC and New England (on Thursday night).

Combine this with Spain (4 June) and Argentina (8 June - still unofficial) and the US will have a great two weeks of games.

Labels: , , , ,

Bruce Arena - I'm a builder; US will not win 2010 World Cup

Four months into his retirement, former US and New York Red Bull boss Bruce Arena has some thoughts about his time in NY and his legacy.

As far as Red Bull is concerned, he enjoyed it but he doesn't think they gave him the time needed to succeed. "He simply wishes they had shown a little more patience with their soccer team, as he was given just over a year to turn around a team that had very little going for it before he took over in August 2006."

He points to roster changes he made and the fact that the team had a winning season along with a playoff berth as proof that he was moving the club forward. In addition, he changed the structure of the league by adding a Technical Director, which other teams are now doing as well.

Overall, it is hard to argue that Arena had anything less then a good 2007 season with the team. Sure, there were some questionable choices (bringing in Reyna is the big one), but it can be argued that the play of Juan Pablo Angel and Jozy Altidore offset such things. But Red Bull was looking for great, not good.

On international matters, he thinks the unsung hero of US national soccer is Dan Flynn because without him US soccer would have gone bust after the 1998 World Cup.
I’ll tell you that one guy who has never gotten his due and deserves it is [U.S. Soccer CEO and Secretary General] Dan Flynn. He has done a phenomenal job getting that organization back on its feet financially. It was a mess. Today, people are reaping the benefits from it.

In ’98, U.S. Soccer had about a year of financial survival left. And when Dan came in back in 2000, he did an absolutely phenomenal job and he’s made that organization what it is on the financial side. He deserves a lot of credit.
So could this be a bit of a backhand to Sunil Gulati? Since Arena also talks about how he built up the team on the pitch where does that leave the US Soccer President? Perhaps just cheering on the team as some sort of great or super fan.

Although Arena likes the progress the game has made in the US, he feels the size makes it difficult to develop players as it would be easier to have a unified evaluation environment with a smaller country.

Also, he wants to make something very clear, “the United States is not going to win the World Cup in 2010.” And the rest of the world says, "no, really?"

Finally, it looks like Arena might be trying out for Setanta spokesman as he cannot say enough nice things about the soccer station. "At home, I just got Setanta, as well. It’s absolutely great with all the games you get. It’s unbelievable, you get additional Champions League games, you get additional Premiership games and everything else you can imagine. It’s fantastic. ... The other day I watched Gregg Berhalter play in the German Cup game against Bayern Munich. It was fun to watch."

Maybe he could do an ad with John O'Brien.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, March 03, 2008

Can San Jose finally attract Latino fans?

On Sunday, 50,000 fans watched two U-23 sides compete in a friendly in Oakland. The fact that Mexico was one of those two sides, explains the numbers. So obviously there are a lot of soccer fans of Latino heritage in the area (there is a non-news flash). Now the question is can the new San Jose Earthquakes develop a relationship with this community that will result in them turning out to 'Quake matches?

The good news is the new ownership did not waste this chance to start reaching out.
Fans streamed through the gates under a San Jose Earthquakes banner. Earthquakes tickets were on sale. And the Earthquakes had a suite filled with key members of the Hispanic community, in an effort to make connections and create marketing opportunities.
The past version of the Earthquakes, like most of the league, failed miserably in their attempts to bring in more Latino fans, however a lot has changed. The league is more competitive then it was in the late 90's, the SuperLiga has brought meaningful matches with Mexican rivals to the schedule, MLS games air on Spanish language TV, Chivas has invested in MLS and Cuauhtemoc Blanco is now strolling the leagues' pitches. So can San Jose exploit this to fill their seats?

Perhaps this answers that question:
The new Earthquakes have much more marketing savvy than their predecessors. They know they have to sell tickets at the grass-roots level, making them available in local markets. They're coming out with a T-shirt and a team jersey that reads Terremotos, the Spanish word for Earthquakes. They know they can't pander to fans or assume a loyalty that hasn't been earned.
Of course all this marketing helps, but the true way to build up a legion of fans in with the play on the field. If the team puts on a good show, even in defeat, soccer fans of all backgrounds will take notice.

Labels: , ,

Columbus Crew still looking for striker

The Crew have talked a lot about adding a threat up top this off-season, but so far, nothing has appeared. To prove this theory of need, look no further then their 1-0 defeat by the Premier Development League's Ventura County Fusion. For those who do not know, the PDL is the fourth-level in American soccer.

Yes, it was just a pre-season game, but to come up empty against such a lower level team is worrisome.
"Am I happy (with the lineup)? Put it this way: We're still looking," said assistant coach Robert Warzycha, who was instrumental in courting Polish forward Maciej Zurawski before he signed with a Greek team in February.

"There has been progress with this group. But in the long run, we're looking for a forward who can score a lot of goals."
The Crew are not the only team that has been searching for a striker the past few months, however, unlike most others, they have yet to find one of their own.

If the Crew do not land some quality in offense, one has to wonder if 2008 will just be another replay of 2007. Will the team's decent defense be enough to string together an endless amount of tie games to start things off? And will an injury or two combined with a lack of a bench cause those ties at the start to becoming defeats as the season continues? Unless something changes for coach Sigi Schmid, it probably is a safe bet.

Talking about Schmid, how long with the owners give him to try and piece something together this season?

As far as what can the Crew do, with pre-season coming to an end, I think they are going to be forced to turn to players other MLS teams have cut. A Francis Doe, Santino Quaranta (although DC seems ready to bring him back) or someone from the Chicago Fire (with 6 forwards on their roster, 1 is likely to be released) might give them something. In the end, its looking like another long season for fans in Columbus.

Labels: , , , , ,