Friday, May 30, 2008

Does Toronto really want McBride? How about the Chicago players?

Brian McBride is coming back to MLS, that much we know. The question now seems to be where will he land.

Early indications seem to be that he wants to play for Chicago, his hometown team, but first he would need to get Toronto to let go of his rights. So does Toronto really want McBride?

TFC general manager Mo Johnston is being coy about it saying the team 'needs another striker' but also pointing out that they are, 'sitting on a little pot of gold here.' So is Mo just trying to get the offers up or might TFC be serious?

Meanwhile in Chicago, at least one player is a little concerned about the addition of McBride to their roster.
"If [McBride] is asking for designated player money ($400,000 or more), players might get moved or traded or dropped," Fire forward Chad Barrett said. "There's a good chance he would take my spot, but I think I've gotten off to a good start and am contributing. The coaching staff knows that."
With the way the Fire have played this season, a change might not be the best idea. Then again, I think most people would pick a McBride over a Barrett any day (no offense).

But there is another factor in this move that needs to be resolved. If McBride is going for designated player money, Chicago will need to pickup another DP slot* as they are using their slot for Blanco. So not only would the Fire need to give something to Toronto for McBride's rights, they would also need to give up something else to get the second DP spot. That's a lot to surrender, but maybe we now know why coach Denis Hamlett packed his team with forwards during the off season.

As far as salary cap space, Toronto looks to be close to their limit, so they would probably need to clear about $300k to make space for the $400k portion of McBride's DP salary, while Chicago would only need to free up about $100k. (Allocation money might make these numbers a little different)

My guess is the MLS really wants McBride and McBride really wants Chicago, so the league will find a way to make this happen. Just think how much the MLS brass would love to promote the Blanco-McBride connection. Two legends from the US-Mexico national teams coming together in Chicago.

* Under MLS rules are teams received one designated player slot that they can use to sign a player for more then a $400k a year salary or trade to any other club. Only the first $400k of the player’s salary counts towards the team’s salary cap. No team can have more then two designated players.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

MLS Expansion – Philadelphia 'will draw very well’; Increased stadium size?

New Director of Operations Rob Smith thinks his Philadelphia side will be a huge draw come 2010.
"I believe the new team will draw very well," said Smith, who has no plans to give up his coaching duties at Downingtown West. "I think the attraction to the sport has grown tremendously. There are a lot of passionate soccer fans throughout the area . . . people who have gotten to know the sport by playing it or watching their kids play it."
But the most interesting news from this article is not that the person in charge of getting people to the stadium thinks that people will come to the stadium. Instead, it is the possible typo concerning the stadium size.

"A new, 32,000-seat stadium on the Delaware River is scheduled to be ready for the team when it begins play in 2010."

Last I heard, they were planning on a 20,000-seater. I'm guessing this is just a mistake, but if it is true, wow, Smith must really think people are ready to turn out. At 32,000, the field in Chester would be the largest soccer first stadium in MLS, 5,000 more then the Depot that LA and Chivas call home.

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Houston steals a point from FC Dallas

Houston 2-2 FC Dallas

For the second time this season, the Houston Dynamo have stolen a point from FC Dallas with a stoppage time goal. Back in April, it was Geoff Cameron getting the goal in the 91'. Last night, it was Dwayne De Rosario collected a rebound off the post in the 93'.

The point was much deserved by Houston as they controlled the majority of the game, especially the second half. However, this game comes at a cost for them as Eddie Robinson earned a red card for pushing Marcelo Saragosa (who moments early smack him in the back of his head with his cast). Combine this with other injures and the loss of De Ro and Pat Onstad to international duty and the Dynamo are looking at a touch much against New York on Saturday.

But back to Dallas, Kenny Cooper put in a beautiful bending ball goal after catching defender Craig Waibel out of place. Houston regroup at the half and came out fighting. Sure enough, they created havoc in the Dallas defense and Cory Ashe got his first goal of the season thanks to an assist from Brian Ching.

Drew Moor put Dallas back on top against the run of play, but De Ro would not let it stand. The Dynamo put everything forward and caused the FCD backline to fall all over themselves, thus allowing the tying goal.

Overall, it was a good game, too bad less then 9,000 made it out to see it (and at least 50 of them where Houston fans that traveled).

Dallas still looks to be a team that lacks for so much in the middle and defense, although they know how to attack. If they could hold the ball in the middle, they could win the West.

For the Dynamo, they seem to be able to pull out just enough to get results, but no matter how you cut it, this team needs some help. Yes, they started slow last year and picked up, but a big difference is the quality of their defense. With injuries and suspensions a regular, they are looking mighty porous.

FCD: Kenny Cooper (6) 35', Drew Moor (1) 69'
HD: Corey Ashe (1) 59', Dwayne De Rosario (3) 93'

Att: 8,541

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US disgraced by England - Players grades

US 0-2 England

Yes, it was only a friendly but it still stings. What the US men showed yesterday at Wembley was one of their worst performances since the World Cup. With the exception of a couple players, no one had a decent night.

So what can we take from this? First of all, no matter how frustrating it can be at times, the US team is based on Donovan. Without him in the lineup, they are missing a huge part of their game. That said, the US should still be far better without Landon then they were yesterday.

Next, we need technical skills. The number of times players missed their runs or just passed the ball directly to an English player was disgusting and don't even get me started on first touches.

Finally, players cannot just stand around waiting for the ball, they need to go make the play happen. The few times that we created any danger in front of the box were a direct result of Eddie Johnson or Clint Dempsey running at defenders.

I can say one positive thing, they didn't go into a full bunker state at any point during the match. They came close for parts of the first half, but they were still looking for a counter to get things going.

So what about grades? Here they are:

Starting XI
Tim Howard (GK) - Made some good saves and really had no change at the goal he let in. A-
Steve Cherundolo (D) - Looked tired and missed his marks. C
Oguchi Onyewu (D) - Best field player by far. Killed threats, held his marks, covered for others and overall, was a quality enforcer. Still needs to work on his speed. A
Carlos Bocanegra (D) - A little rusty and it showed. Didn't cover well and let England turn him a few too many times. C+
Heath Pearce (D) - Was able to hold the left side alright and cut down on the center balls and provided some help in attack. A-
Clint Dempsey (M) - He was the one marking John Terry on the first goal and disappeared for most of the first hour. Late in the second he started showing his skills and causing some trouble for England, but by then his side had given up. B-
Ricardo Clark (M) - I like Clark but he was over matched yesterday and his frustration lead to some stupid fouls including the one that Beckham used to serve up the first goal. C-
Michael Bradley (M) - He was forced to play much more defensively then he likes and it interrupted his game. His passing was not very strong but he did get some good tackles in. Still, if he was suppose to be the provider to the forwards, he failed. C+
DaMarcus Beasley (M) - There were moments but it was obvious that he is not fully recovered from injury. He was the main person moving the ball forward in the first half, but in the end he is not yet match fit. B-
Eddie Johnson (F) - This was EJ's best match in over a year. He was actually getting some great touches, making space, playing the ball well and drawing fouls. His quick turn kick shot in the second half was the highlight of the match for the US (that's not saying much). If only the midfield had provided better service, he might have made something of it. B+
Josh Wolff (F) - Josh, thanks for the time but we are just going in a different direction. C-

Brad Guzan (GK) (in for Howard 46') - He made some fantastic saves and kept the US from losing by a couple more goals. A
Frankie Hejduk (D) (in for Cherundolo 46') - He's old but he held to England better then Cherundolo. Brought something to the right side. B
Eddie Lewis (M) (in for Beasley in the 68') - Moved the ball better then most in the middle. His center after beating Joe Cole was wonderful. Perhaps his age is not as much of a negative as I thought. B+
Freddy Adu (M) (in for Wolff 68') - Had some creativity but still sent some balls to nowhere land. Should have been in earlier. B
Maurice Edu (M) (in for Clark 78') - He didn't have much time to do anything but he didn't look as out of place as Clark. That said, England was just killing time by the 78'. B
Nate Jaqua (F) (in for Johnson 89') - He came on for the cap. Why Bob Bradley didn't but him in earlier, I'll never know. No Grade

Bob Bradley (Coach) - The late scratch of Donovan threw him a huge curve ball, but still could have done better. With Clark not performing why not give Edu a chance at the half? Also, why did he stick with Wolff for so long? Why not give Jaqua a chance to pair with Johnson for more then just stoppage time? His team was looking flat by the 30' minute but he really didn't bring on the players to change that till after the second goal. C

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Brian McBride coming home to MLS

Brian McBride has decided to leave England and return stateside. Fulham hoped McBride would stick around for another season, but he decided now was the best time. He made over 150 appearances for the Cottagers and netted 40 goals.
"After much consideration with my family, we have decided to leave Fulham after four and a half fantastic years," the 35-year-old forward said in a statement Wednesday on the club's Web site. "I have always stated my intention to return to America at some stage and this seems like the right moment in my career to move on."
"I take great pride in the fact that my last appearance for Fulham saw the club maintain its Premier League status," McBride said. "I leave with some wonderful memories from my time at Fulham, and the club will always be in my heart."
As I said a couple weeks ago, I would have preferred he stay in England because he was a constant bright spot for American's aboard, however that is a very selfish reason. McBride is an outstanding player and a wonderful person who has more then earned all the praise that comes his way. His desire to return home to give his final quality years to his nation's league speaks volumes.

As far as his future home in the MLS, who knows where he might end up. Toronto has his rights, but Chicago is often mentioned as his landing spot (he grew up in the area). I'm sure ever Fire fan would love McBride teaming up with Blanco, but as a commenter said, 'in the grand scheme of what is right and wrong, his place is in Columbus.' It would be very strange to see him in MLS and not in a Crew uniform. Still, if he wants to play for his hometown club, I think even the hardest Crew supporter would understand.

So welcome home McBride, I, like thousands of other US soccer fans, look forward to watching you play.

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Seattle sings $4m jersey deal with Microsoft

They are still 10 months away from their first MLS kickoff, but the Sounders just got a large investor. Microsoft has signed on to be the official jersey sponsor of the new Sounders, however don't expect to see the four-color floating paper. Instead, 'Xbox 360 LIVE' will appear on the front of the kit. The five year deal is worth $4m annually.

This is not a huge surprise as one of the main investors in the club is Paul Allen, i.e. the Chairman of Microsoft, but it is still a big move for the club. The $4m figure places them on the upper end of MLS jersey deals (only LA's deal appears to be worth more). It also means that their entire MLS salary is covered with about $1.7m left over. That's some good starting money for a designated player.

"We all felt the best place to start in Seattle was Microsoft," co-owner Joe Roth said. "It's an international company but also a local company, which is what soccer should be."

With 16,000 season tickets already sold, a solid shirt sponsor and the ability to take some players from their USL side, Seattle might just break the expansion team curse.

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Philadelphia gets WPS expansion team

Just a few months ago, Philadelphia won the MLS expansion lottery, but they will not be the only top-league team in the area as they have also captured an expansion side in the new Women's Professional Soccer league.
"Since signing on the dotted line with our initial seven investor groups in September of last year, we've had our sights set on adding an eighth team to the league," said WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci. "In Philadelphia, we have the perfect foundation for success, combining a strong operating group with the city's recent acquisition of an MLS team to create a prime market for women's soccer.
It is expected that the new WPS team will play at the same stadium as the MLS side, however the teams will have different owners.

Congrats to Philadelphia. Looks like 2010 will be a huge year for soccer in the city of brotherly love.

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US-England preview – Which players need to perform?

US vs. England
3p ET/12p PT
TV: ESPN Classic
Text updates at MatchTracker

At long last the match at Wembley is here. The US come into the game on a role while England are still trying to recover from their Euro flop.

In his first two matches as manager Fabio Capello has not won the respect of the English public, but most of them expect that to change today. So how can the US and Bob Bradley keep Capello from celebrating?

First up, they need to withstand the opening 15-minutes. Nerves for the US will be high as the take the pitch, so they must start solid. A string of quality passes and some positive possession will cool things down.

After the first 15, they need to open up the field and find the weakness in the English midfield. I’m not sure who it will be, but there is always one weak link in England’s middle. As an added bonus, they should start working Rooney, trying to get him angry.

But the biggest thing the US needs to do is take the shot. England is not a side that will be confused by endless passing in the box, as they will just intercept and counter. The US must remember that the weakest spot on the whole English roster is in goal, so for the love of all things holy, take the shot and force the keeper to make the save.

If the US can ride the game and keep England from finding net for the first 60-minutes, the crowd will start to turn on their team, which s when the US needs to turn to some speed on the wings to force fouls thus earning dead ball situations.

Then comes the final quarter hour. If the US are still in it, they need to hold tight on defense but they cannot bunker down. England has way too much offensive talent to let them fire shot after shot. Get the ball to Donovan, Dempsey or Adu and let them run with it as chances are good that they will either create something or get fouled in the process.

In the end, England should win this match, but the US has a chance of pulling off a minor miracle match. Either way, the US should challenge for the full 90 and under no circumstances should they get dominated. If they do not look like a time that could win the game, it will be a failure.

So there is the full game plan, how about the individual players? Every time a professional steps into a game, they feel the need to perform, but some are under more pressure then others to make it happen. Below is my take on who needs to make it happen tonight in London.

High Pressure
Dominic Cervi (GK) – He is very unlikely to see a minute of playing time, but if he does, it will be his biggest interview possible to land a club spot.

Michael Orozco (D) – He is having a very solid season with San Luis and did some good things in Olympic Qualification, but has not shown it with the full team. With a possible opening coming in the central back, a good show might force some pressure on Bradley to take a risk.

Jay DeMerit (D) – After a long break due to injury, DeMerit needs a good night (or at least a good camp) to argue that he is still a factor in the US’s future.

Dan Califf (D) – There might finally be an opening for Califf to punch through. He has looked great in Denmark, but hasn’t had his time to shine with the senor squad.

Ricardo Clark (M) – Pushing his way into the over populated US midfield is going to be a struggle. He has done a good job so far, but he hasn’t stood out.

Freddy Adu (M) – His move to Benfica has not turned out that way he wanted. Three coaches and no playing time is not the way to develop. He has shown what he can do on the youth teams, but if he wants to move clubs, he needs to show with the big boys.

Landon Donovan (F) – Donovan’s 100th cap sees him as a lock for 2010, but there is still the issue of not being able to get it done outside of the US or in high pressure situations. Against Poland he showed what he could do, but he must prove it wasn’t a fluke. Plus, if there is any truth to the ‘he wants to try Europe again’ rumors, a showing against England makes it a lot easier.

Nate Jaqua (F) – Even with the light pool the US has in forward, many our wondering why Jaqua? He had an excellent past year with Houston and his Austrian club, so the nod is deserved, but he needs to show internationally.

Eddie Johnson (F) – With every game that passes by, Johnson looks less and less like the go to guy for the US. His bad time with Fulham combined with the pressure from Jozy Altidore means EJ needs to produce because his chances are running out.

Medium Pressure
Brad Guzan (GK) – He still looks good for a move to Europe, however if he gets minutes in this game, he needs to show that his bad start to the MLS season is just a hiccup.

Carlos Bocanegra (D) – Dumped by his club after riding the bench for months is not the way to keep your spot. With Orozco and Califf coming on strong, Boc needs to show he still has it.

Heath Pearce (D) – The left side is wide open because nobody has made it their own. Pearce is getting his chance.

Jonathan Spector (D) – Looks like he with have limited minutes if any, but if he does take the pitch, Spector we need to show his versatility in the backline.

DaMarcus Beasley (M) – After being out so long due to injury, Beasley needs to show that he is ready for competitive matches. Oh, and he needs to not re-injure himself.

Maurice Edu (M) – A late add of a young player probably means no minutes, but if he does get in, he needs to give Bradley a reason to call him in that does not involve an injury to another player.

Josh Wolff (F) – No contract and getting up there in age, Wolff is a long shot for 2010, but if no one else steps up as a quality forward, he might find his way to South Africa.

Low Pressure
Tim Howard (GK) – Even with all the quality competition between the posts, the big gloves of the US are Howard’s. Add to it his work at Everton and he’s got nothing to worry about.

Oguchi Onyewu (D) – His time in Belgium has served him well. He is looking smart in the back and not committing many dumb fouls. Now if only he could work on his speed.

Frankie Hejduk (D) – Unless some really strange things happen, Frankie is not going to be in South Africa in 2010 and he’s not looking to change clubs, so he has no pressure.

Steve Cherundolo (D) – Had a good season in Germany and no one else is really breathing down his neck at right back, so enjoy this one.

Michael Bradley (M) – After the season he has had with Heerenveen, there is no question that he will be a key part of the 2010 US run. With a move to England likely this summer, this game is a perfect place to introduce himself to the EPL fans.

Eddie Lewis (M) – Much like Hejduk, Lewis is not going to be part of 2010. He should bring a calm to the team in the middle.

Clint Dempsey (F) – A lock for club and country, but he has not looked so great this calendar year. His first full English campaign has taken it out of him, but he needs to show he can still be creative even when tired.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

John Terry named England's captain for US match

US vs. England
Wednesday, 3pm ET/12pm PT
TV: ESPN Classic, Galavision (delayed 7pm ET)

England's coach Fabio Capello has named John Terry as captain for tomorrow's match against the USA at Wembley. Terry becomes Capello's third English captain in as many games.

Capello said: "I told him he'll be the captain and he was very, very happy. It's very important to be a leader and John Terry is a leader."

It seems this game will take place a week after Terry missed some sort of penalty kick. Anyone know anything about this?

Snark aside, Capello hopes to have the full-time captain position decided before England's World Cup Qualifying matches begin in September.

On another note, I didn't realize this until just a few moments ago but every player on England's roster plays in the EPL, except one. The one is David Beckham. So does this mean English players can't make it outside of their own county? Okay, too much snark.

In US roster news, Maurice Edu has been called to London by Bob Bradley after Benny Feilhaber suffered a knee injury in last week's Toulon Tournament while Frankie Hejduk is making the trip to possibly cover for Jonathan Spector who has been experiencing hip joint irritation.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Fulham drops Carlos Bocanegra

Fulham has reduced their American contingency by one as they dropped Carlos Bocanegra today. It is no big surprise that Bocanegra got the boot as manager Roy Hodgson had pretty much benched him for the last three months.

Bocanegra, who will likely be a starter for the US against England on Wednesday, is now looking for a new home. PSV Eindhoven has been mentioned as a possible landing spot. PSV was a good spot for DaMarcus Beasley as few years back and might be the change Bocanegra needs. If it works out, he might even get some Champions League action.

This move is a big one for Bocanegra as he needs to find playing time or else his spot on the national team will be less then assured.

Fulham also let go of Jari Litmanen, Philippe Christanval, Simon Elliott, Ian Pearce, Michael Timlin, Ismael Ehui, and Bjorn Runstrom. Looks like Eddie Johnson will get a little more time to make his mark.

Now the question is will Kasey Keller stick around?

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Trinidad and Tobago finally paid for 2006 World Cup

CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president Jack Warner tried to keep the players of Trinidad and Tobago's 2006 World Cup squad from their rightful payday, but in the end a London arbitrator, like most judges do, ruled against Warner.

At issue was the complete disregarded for law that the T&T FA and Warner showed for the players. In a contract signed before the 2006 World Cup and negotiated in part by Warner, the players were to get a 50-50 split on all money from licensing and endorsement deals made with the federation. In the end, the FA received $28 million in gross profit from the World Cup, but each of the 23 players only collect $5,000. Somebody's calculator is broken.

Although the judge ruled in the players' favor, the exact amount each one will get will not be known till June, presumably after England plays their 'hay, why not vote for us to host the 2018 World Cup' match in T&T on June 1.

Warner has said that if the T&T FA disagrees with the ruling, they will pursue justice in some other way. Any guess as to what that way will be.

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Bradley names 22-man roster for England match

US vs. England
May 38 - 3p ET/12p PT
TV: ESPN Classic, Galavision (tape delayed till 7p ET)

US Men's National team coach Bob Bradley has narrowed his roster down to 22 players with just one week to go till they clash with England at Wembley Stadium. As expected, the list is made up mostly of European based players.

Here is the full list:

Goalkeepers (3): Dominic Cervi (Out of Contract), Brad Guzan (Chivas USA), Tim Howard (Everton FC)

Defenders (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham FC), Dan Califf (FC Midtjylland), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Jay DeMerit (Watford FC), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege), Michael Orozco (San Luis), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

Midfielders (6): Freddy Adu (SL Benfica), DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers), Michael Bradley (SC Heerenveen), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Benny Feilhaber (Derby County), Eddie Lewis (Derby County).

Forwards (5): Clint Dempsey (Fulham FC), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Nate Jaqua (out of contract), Eddie Johnson (Fulham FC), Josh Wolff (out of contract)

Guzan, Clark and Donovan are the only MLS based players to earn a call up.

The obvious name absent from this list is Jozy Altidore. As much as I would love to see Jozy on the pitch for England and Spain, with the Olympics and World Cup Qualifiers coming up, Bradley is probably wants to limit the time he is away from the Red Bulls. Also, if Jozy is suffering from fatigue as Juan Carlos Osorio suggested a few weeks ago, giving him a break now will make things easier later this summer and into next year (especially is he does end up moving to Europe).

That said, there is a strong argument to be made for Jozy playing in England and Spain instead of some of the World Cup Qualifiers as these two games plus Argentina are more likely to reflect what the US will face in 2010 then games this fall.

The name that sticks out the most from this list is Michael Orozco from Mexico's San Luis. He has quickly becoming a challenger for one of the center back positions, but with Onyewu coming off a solid season, Bocanegra is most likely to lose his spot.

I've noticed that some people are surprised by Nate Jaqua's call up but I don't see why. In his 10 games with Altach, he netted five goals and was one of the main reasons the team was not relegated. It is true that Austria is not be a big league but results like that deserve some recognition (not to mention what he did with Houston last year). Add to it the lack of offensive depth for the US men and Bradley's choice makes sense.

As far as surprises, there are not many, but Eddie Lewis is the biggest (and it is not that big). Although he has little chance of being in the mix come 2010, I'm guessing Bradley selected him to bring some experience to the team. Also, if he took Maurice Edu or Sacha Kljestan away from their teams while leaving Jozy with New York, it would have looked a little off.

All and all, this is a pretty A-list roster for the US.

Here is my guess at the starting lineup:





Of all of these, Beasley is the one I'm least sure about due to his recent return from injury. If Beasley doesn't get the start, my guess is Wolff will take it.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

After 5-1 defeat to LA, FC Dallas fire Morrow

Less then 48-hours after one of the worst results in club history, FC Dallas have sacked head coach Steve Morrow. Morrow took over Dallas after the team fired Colin Clarke in 2006. His MLS record stands at 15-17-8.

Assistant coach Marco Feruzzi will take over till a perminant replacement is found.

Although Dallas got off to a decent start during the first couple weeks of their 2008 campaign, they have only managed 1 point from their last four matches. Combine that with the bad taste from 2007 (including the Denilson debacle, even though that was more of managements design) and you have all the reasons Morrow is looking for a new job.

During his year and a half in change, Morrow never really figured out the FC Dallas back line problem. Also, even though he showed some strength in benching Ruiz for parts of last season, he never seemed to be in control of the club.

As far as replacements, SMU coach Schellas Hyndman will be in the mix, like he always is whenever Dallas looks for a new manager, but he probably will not bit yet again. That should open things up. My guess is it will be someone with limited to little head coaching history.

As far as Morrow, maybe he can still get the job at Walsall.

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Toronto's ref dispute investigated by MLS

The league is looking into allegations that Toronto FC was treated in a disrespectful manner by the fourth official during Saturday's match against Columbus. Coach John Carver said referee Mauricio Navarro's attitude towards TFC was premeditated after the league sent around a DVD featuring bad behavior by coaches. Carver was featured in the DVD.

The league is now looking into the issue, but since the refs used for TFC matches are all from the Canadian Soccer Association, any disciplinary action against Navarro will come from them.

It does seem that the referees are starting to get more attention then in the past. As MLS grows and becomes more competitive, bad calls only stand out that much more. I don't know if Navarro did anything wrong on Saturday, but I do like that MLS is looking into it.

As far as Carver is concerned, he stresses that he is a passionate guy when it comes to the game and that his reactions are not meant to be aggressive.

"I'm a passionate guy, we miss a shot, I put my hands on my head," he said. "We don't get a free kick, I put my hands on my head and that's why they don't want that. ... They don't want passionate people."

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MLS Expansion - Garber hints at more then 18 teams for MLS

MLS commissioner Don Garber thinks the league could grow beyond the 18 teams saying, "our sense is that we could have quite a few more than that." This is the most direct indication yet as to the future expansion plans for the league.

Originally it appeared like MLS would hold off on expanded past 16 teams in order to allow the local (US & Canada) talent pool to grow. However, with the relaxing of rules on foreign-born players and the ever increasing interest in investing in the league, Garber seems to be heading in a new direction.

This is good news for soccer fans in St. Louis, Portland, Vancouver, Las Vegas, Montreal, New York City, Atlanta and Miami as it looks like they will not have to fight it out for the final two spots. However, it could be bad for the overall quality of the league unless this increased expansion also corresponds to a large increase in player salaries. Simple put, there are not enough solid players out there willing to earn less then $100,000 to make a league of 22+ teams worth watching.

By the way, it is worth noting that Garber made these comments in Montreal at the inaugural game of Saputo Stadium, the new home of the Montreal Impact.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Australia hopes 2009 & 2010 Club World Cup will lead to 2018 World Cup

Australia hopes their bid for the 2009 & 2010 Club World Cup will help them land the 2018 World Cup.

Their football association's chief executive Ben Buckley said:
"We want to be a strong and positive contributor to the world of football in as many ways as possible," he added.

"Next week's FIFA Congress is part of that strategy, as is the 2015 Asian Cup, bidding for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and also the 2009 and 2010 Club World Cup."
With FIFA meeting in Sydney next week to make the decision on the Club World Cup, chances are very strong Australia will get the nod, but will this actually give them a strong chance at landing the big prize in 2018?

With Europe all but a lock on 2018, and England the obvious front-runner, hosting a relatively small event such as this probably will not change the balance. However, if they can combine this event with a successful 2015 Asian Cup (which has yet to be awarded) and a solid 2018 bid, they might actually position themselves well for 2022.

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Should McBride stay in England or come home? - Poll

As one of, if not the most successful US field players ever in England, Brian McBride has been a solid source of pride for American fans, however those days might be about to come to an end. The soon to be 36 year old is weighing his options and might decide to leave the top-level English league in order to return to MLS.

McBride's contract with Fulham ends next month, meaning MLS would not have to pay a transfer fee, however the Cottagers have offered him a deal for the 2008-09 season. So what should McBride do?

This past season was a very difficult one due to injury, however it did end on a very positive note as he was a key part of Fulham's escape from relegation. His end of season form suggests that he still has the ability to play in the EPL, but if he did stick around, what would Fulham accomplish? Is it worth the pounding his body will take if they end up just fighting, yet again, to stay up? And even if things did go fantastic and they were able to win a spot in European competition, he probably would not be around for 09-10 to enjoy it, so why stay?

If he came back to the US, he would probably have two or three good years left in him that he could use to push the sport in loves in his home country and have a good chance, no matter where he lands, of winning a MLS Cup.

From my own standpoint, it would be great to see McBride stay in England because he is a constant high note for American players in Europe, but that is pretty selfish on my part.

So what do you think?

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Friday, May 16, 2008

MLS Expansion - Is Vancouver's MLS dream over?

MLS Commissioner Don Garber has made it clear, if Vancouver wants to be the second Canadian team in the league, they need a stadium. Greg Kerfoot, owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps, has been trying to make it happen for five years, but no it looks like he has given up as the soccer club will permanently move into the 60,000-seat BC Place in 2011.

BC Place will host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympic games. After the games, the air-supported roof will be removed and replaced with a retractable roof. Once that is done, the Whitecaps will move in.

If this is indeed a permanent move, it looks like MLS will not be in Vancouver anytime soon. However, the team is still negotiation with officials regarding the stadium, so who knows, the dream might still become reality.

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Home for the Dynamo

There is a new group getting into the fight for a downtown stadium in Houston, but this one is neither a boxing legend nor a university. Instead this new group is made up of fans that want to do something other then just complain about the situation.

Thus enters Home for the Dynamo.

Although their goal is to raise money towards building the new home of the back-to-back MLS Cup champions, they are under no delusions about their ability to bring in millions. Instead, they hope to be the epicenter of fan support for the stadium.
Several loyal and passionate fans of the team have gotten together to build this site in the hopes of doing more than just letting off steam or complaining. We are dedicated to supporting the fight for a stadium with our checkbooks. Money is the issue at hand and we have chosen to try and raise as much money as possible for this cause.

The purpose is to make it known to all who are involved that WE are going to act while THEY negotiate. No we dont [sic] think we will raise millions of dollars. That isnt [sic] the point. DOING SOMETHING instead of just talking IS THE POINT. We invite all soccer fans everywhere to join us in this cause. A soccer stadium in downtown Houston is a must as we progress into this millineum [sic].
Having a location for information is fantastic, but will people be motivated enough to actually due anything with it? If they do and their numbers grow, this group might end up playing a role in landing a stadium.

If you are interested in helping them out, they are asking for a donation of $5, which will get you a bumper sticker.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Houston's John Spencer doesn't regret passing Chicago Fire coaching job

Back in January, John Spencer was a few thousand dollars in salary away from accepting the top job in Chicago, but it was not to be. Instead he returned to Houston to spend another season with the MLS Champions.

This Saturday, Spencer returns to Chicago for the first time since he rejected the job however it is Chicago that is looking like the champions. So does Spencer have any hard feelings over his choice?
"I don't regret it," Spencer said this week as his team prepared for Saturday's visit to Toyota Park.
At the time, many people, myself included, thought the Fire's lack of interest in spending money on a coach was the sign of bad things to come, however, so far we have been wrong. The Fire currently sit two points behind Columbus for top spot in the league while Houston only achieved their first victory this past weekend. All in all, the front office in Fire land must be happy with their loss.

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Concacaf Champions League field reveald

Little, old Concacaf is soon to have a Champions League of our own and now we know just who is going to take part within it. In all, 24 teams will take part in this year's Champions League, with four of them coming from the US.

Eight teams will advance directly to the group stage (two clubs each from the United States and Mexico and one club each from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), with the others taking part in a two leg playoff.

Here is the full list of teams:

USA (4 teams): Houston Dynamo (2007 Major League Soccer champion); D.C. United (2007 Major League Soccer regular-season winner); New England Revolution (2007 MLS Cup runner-up); Chivas USA (2007 MLS regular season runner-up)

MEXICO (4 teams): Atlante FC (2007 Torneo Apertura champion); Pumas UNAM (2007 Torneo Apertura Runner-up); 2 teams to be determined (2008 Torneo Clausura champion and runner-up)

COSTA RICA (2 teams): Deportivo Saprissa (Torneo Invierno winner); 1 team to be determined (Torneo Verano winner, or second place team in Torneo Verano if same champion for both Invierno and Verano)

EL SALVADOR (2 teams): CD Luis Angel Firpo (Liga Mayor Apertura winner); 1 team to be determined (Torneo Clausura winner, or second place team in Torneo Clausura if same champion for both Apertura and Clausura)

GUATEMALA (2 teams): Deportivo Jalapa (Torneo Apertura winner); 1 team to be determined (Torneo Clausura winner, or second place team in Torneo Clausura if same champion for both Apertura and Clausura)

HONDURAS (2 teams): CD Marathon (Torneo Apertura 2007 winner); 1 team to be determined (Torneo Clausura winner, or second place team in Torneo Clausura if same champion for both Apertura and Clausura)

PANAMA (2 teams): San Francisco FC (ANAPROF Apertura winner); 1 team to be determined (Torneo Clausura winner, or second place team in Torneo Clausura if same champion for both Apertura and Clausura)

BELIZE (1 team): Hankook Verdes (2007-08 BPFL/RFG Insurance Cup Champions)

NICARAGUA (1 team): to be determined; Winner of playoff between Apertura winner (Real Estelí FC) and winner of Clausura.

CANADA (1 team): to be determined; Winner of three-way qualifying series between Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps.

CARIBBEAN (3 teams): Harbour View FC (Jamaica); Joe Public FC (Trinidad & Tobago); winner of playoff between Puerto Rico Islanders and San Juan Jabloteh (Trinidad & Tobago)

The schedule has the group qualifying or preliminary round going from 26 August to 4 September. The six match group stage starts 16 September and ends by 30 October. The knockout phase does not take place till late February of next year with the final take place the last two weeks of April.

The winner will advance to the Fifa Club World Cup in December 2009.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

US World Cup Qualifying tickets go on sale Sunday; Brazil-Venezuela tickets tomorrow

Tickets for the US Men's first 2010 World Cup Qualifier go on sale this Sunday (happy Mother's day) at 3pm ET/12pm PT. The red, white and blue start their race to South Africa on 15 June at the The Home Depot Center in Carson, Ca. against Barbados.

Tickets prices range from $18 to $65 and can be purchased at, by phone (213-480-3232 in L.A.; 714-740-2000 in Orange County; 619-220-8497 in San Diego), and at all Ticketmaster ticket centers throughout Southern California (including Macy’s, Wherehouse Music, FYE and Ritmo Latino).

This match represents the first ever World Cup Qualifier at the Home Depot Center, so hopefully a full house will come out.

On the other side of the country, tickets for the Brazil-Venezuela friendly on 6 June go on sale tomorrow (9 May). The game is a doubleheader with the New England Revolution and FC Dallas facing off in the second match.

Tickets for the two games rage from $30 to $110 and can be purchased by calling 1-877-GET-REVS or Ticketmaster at (617) 931-2222.

Two great nights of soccer on the coasts.

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University wants to team up with Dynamo in stadium deal; De Rosario kicks like a horse

It is looking more and more likely that if the Dynamo want a stadium in downtown Houston, they are going to need Texas Southern University's backing. Good news for the Dynamo, TSU's new athletic direct Charles McClelland is very interested in such a venture.
"My understanding of the proposal is that the Houston Dynamo and Texas Southern University would share the use of the stadium, including some signage, so it would be the home of Texas Southern University athletics and football program," McClelland said Wednesday, two days after meeting with a city official involved in the stadium negotiations. "We're interested and understand that there has to be a financial commitment from the university, but we are very pleased with the direction of the talks and hope to be able to come to a resolution in the near future."

While McClelland declined to disclose the size or range of the financial commitment because of the ongoing nature of the talks, he is confident the range that has been discussed is "within the capability of the university."
If the two teamed up, the Dynamo would get a stadium, but come fall, it would also be used for American football, so the question is how bad do they want a stadium?

The always entertaining to read Dave Rossman of the Houston Chronicle has his spot on take concerning the situation. To sum him up, the Dynamo need TSU more then TSU need the Dynamo. Why?
It's about the political capital a public institution of higher learning such as TSU brings into the equation.

Even then, while not ready to disclose figures, McClelland believes what the Dynamo and the city are asking is within reach.

Hooray, the Dynamo say. An added bonus. Suddenly, city money being committed to such a project no longer solely finances a private sports enterprise that may or may not generate the tax revenue or jobs it promises to deliver long-term.

Now, it also benefits one of the largest historically black colleges in the nation — one that has played a key role in the advancement of Houston for more than 60 years.

Don't think for a second the city isn't crossing its fingers for TSU to join in the negotiations.
Short of AEG or Golden Boy Promotions covering the ever growing construction cost on their own (something neither is willing to do), going in with TSU is the Dynamo's best chance of getting their stadium anytime in the next four years. Yes, it will suck to see the gridiron lines (although I think the damage done to the pitch by American football is far more offensive), but if the other option is another suburban stadium that makes it more difficult for fans, a few additional lines on the grass are worth it.

In other Houston Dynamo related news, it's official, midfielder Dwayne De Rosario kicks like a horse.

During their match on Saturday De Rosario shattered Chivas defender Lawson Vaughn's nose while attempting a bicycle kick in the box. Sadly, Vaughn will require three surgeries to repair his nose and other facial injuries. When asked about it, Vaughn's agent Ron Waxman said, "I was told it was as if he had gotten kicked in the face by a horse." Ouch.

Hopefully Vaughn will make a full recovery. He is expected to be out for four to six weeks.

The MLS disciplinary committee ruled that De Rosario would not face suspension or fines beyond the already awarded yellow card for the play.

To close out the Houston news, the club signed former DC United forward Guy-Roland Kpene to a developmental contract on Wednesday. His time with United didn't yield much, but with the Dynamo hurting on attack, he might get a better chance in Houston to show what he can do.

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English club interested in FC Dallas manager Steve Morrow

"According to England's Daily Star, Ex-Arsenal midfielder (and current FC Dallas manager) Steve Morrow is a contender to be Walsall boss."

Walsall resides in the English League One (which is the third tier of English football) and recently finished mid-table, 12-points out of the playoffs for promotion. The team's most recent manager, Richard Money, resigned his post after failing to reach the promotion playoffs, thus an opening became available.

Looking past the obvious questions about the source (tabloids have been known to be wrong before), what to make out of this? Would Steve Morrow leave FC Dallas, a team that seems to be just on the edge of becoming something really good, for a chance to lead a third division side in England? Does his contract even have a clause that would allow him to make such a move?

My guess is Morrow would pass on this offer. Morrow has done some quality work scouting and training his FC Dallas team and I don't think he would want to leave before any of the it really paid off. Although a chance to manage in England is probably tempting, I don't think this offer is enough to pull a second year coach away.

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MLS Expansion - Seattle signs their first player

After what I'm sure was a very difficult negotiation session, the MLS's Seattle Sounders FC signed Sébastien LeToux away from the USL's Seattle Sounders. As part of the deal, SSFC will loan him out to SS for the remainder of the USL season*. Makes sense.

Sébastien LeToux proved himself to be a quality player last year after netting 10 goals for the Sounders and propelling them to the league championship. He is one of the main reasons the MLS group argued hard to get permission to sign players directly from the USL club without going through the normal discovery allocation or other MLS hoops, and according to Sounders Coach Brian Schmetzer we shouldn't expect him to be the only player that moves up to the big league.
"(LeToux) is an exceptional soccer player," Schmetzer said. "We've developed him on the USL level; now, he's made the jump to Seattle Sounders FC. We hope to do that with six, eight, 10 of (the USL Sounders) and hopefully we can have a good nucleus of the team for '09. ... The top half of our roster, I truly believe, is better than the bottom half of some of the MLS teams."
The ability for the new MLS Sounders to draw from an established team gives them a leg up that no other expansion team has had.

LeToux alone will not give the team enough offense to make a huge splash in MLS, but he is an excellent start. It is worth noting that he did manage to score three goals during the Sounders three 2007 US Open Cup matches against MLS teams.

LeToux's contract is worth $96,000 a year.

* For those that don't know, the owner of the USL's Sounders Adrian Hanauer is also one of the owners of the new MLS Sounders who will begin play in 2009.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

2008 MLS Week 6 recap - We got ties

This past weekend of play saw a drop in goals and a huge increase in ties as only three matches saw more then two goals while four out of the seven ended tied up.

Attendance numbers also dropped a bit over the weekend, however every team broke the 10,000 mark. Real Salt Lake did the best at 25,571, while Houston came in second with 20,058. On the short side of things, Columbus only had 10,447 make it out while San Jose brought in 10,515. Although the San Jose number might seem small, it actually represents a sellout at Buck Shaw Stadium.

All the other numbers held pretty steady:

Week 6

Season (42)
Week 6 (7)
Att per game
Beckham Att
Beckham Avg Att (6)
Goals per game
Fouls per game
Cards (red)
130 (10)
21 (2)
East 11-1-4
West 1-0-0
9 (21.4%)
4 (57.1%)

Chicago Fire 3-0 New England Revolution
Good news for the Fire, even with Blanco doing next to nothing, they can make things happen if Rolfe and Mapp stay healthy. The bad news, the only team the Fire seem to be able to score a bunch against is New England (7 goals in their two matches this year).

Over on the Revs side of the ball, Twellman can't get back soon enough. They are still creating chances but they have nobody to finish as they have now gone four games without scoring more then one goal in a game.

Goals: CF: Chris Rolfe (1) 29', John Thorrington (3) 50', Stephen King (1) 76'
Att: 10,858

Kansas City Wizards 1-2 Columbus Crew
How hot does the Crew need to get before the good people of Columbus will come see them? Thanks to the amazing midfield work of Adam Moffat and the skill of Robbie Rogers, the Crew looks to be a real horse in this race. Now they just need Danny O'Rourke to stop giving away penalty kicks and who knows what could be.
Goals: CC: Adam Moffatt (2) 4', Robbie Rogers (3) 34'
KC: Claudio Lopez pk (2) 79'
Att: 10,447

Chivas USA 0-0 Houston Dynamo
The first sign that this game was going to be ugly came just as the players were getting ready to step on the pitch as the fireworks went off early hitting the pyrotechnics guy in the face (let's hope he is alright). Anyway, this match got bloody fast as Dwayne DeRosario broke Lawson Vaughn's nose with a high kick in the 9'. Many more reckless fouls followed. In total nine cards were handed out including a direct red on Chivas's Claudio Suarez for pulling down the final player. Needless to say, referee Jozef Batko lost control of this one.

As far as the play, Chivas was playing as many behind the ball as possible while Houston tried to get their offense started. However, Ching is still not in step (his running is off and he couldn't find a ball in the air to save his life) while Franco Caraccio is still not ready for the big time. The good news, once Corey Ashe came in, it opened up the left side of play for Houston and provided for the best soccer of the night. Good news, their defense was looking better, even Boswell, but the final third is still a huge issue.
Att: 20,058

Los Angeles Galaxy 2-2 Real Salt Lake
Note to all defenses, don't give Beckham 10 yards of space. Real had three points in their pocket as they shot ahead 2-0 in the first 20 minutes but poor defended let Beckham carry his team right back into it. Beckerman continued to look good for Real while the main stand out for LA on the night (other then Becks) was Joe Franchino. He did the messy stuff in the middle that lead to the good stuff up top. By the way, LA looked better without Abel Xavier on the pitch.

One last thing, how did Donovan get an assist on the first Beckham goal? It wasn't a quick 1-2 pass situation. I just don't get it.
Goals: RSL: Fabian Espindola (2) 6', Kenny Deuchar (2) 18'
LA: David Beckham (2) 36', (3) 40'
Att: 25,571

FC Dallas 0-0 San Jose Earthquakes
Ronnie O'Brien was again the key for the 'Quakes as he caused pain in the Adrian Serioux free FC Dallas backline, but San Jose couldn't finish. FCD continued their weak offensive still they showed off last Thursday, thus giving Joe Cannon an easy day of it. Overall, Dallas looks off their stride while San Jose and their offside trap are playing better then expected.

By the way, little Buck Shaw Stadium looked great and the crowd was wonderful. Let's hope it stays this way till they get their own home.
Att: 10,515

DC United 0-2 Colorado Rapids
The first test of Marcelo Gallardo versus Christian Gomez is over and Gomez won hands down (even if Simms tied him up most of the match). United lost it in the middle while the Rapids couldn't find a ball they didn't want to shoot. In the end, it was a lackluster day for DC while Colorado finally showed the spark from their first match of the season.
Goals: CR: Jacob Peterson (1) 53', Facundo Erpen (1) 72'
Att: 13,115

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Clint Dempsey sticking with Fulham

US international Clint Dempsey has decided to stay with the Cottagers after signing a contract extension that will keep him in West London through 2010. It had been rumored that if Fulham failed to stay in the Premier League, Dempsey would move along to another top-flight club, but this move seems to kill such talk.

Fulham beat Birmingham City over the weekend to move out of the bottom three for the first time in months, however they are still dangerously close to the drop zone. Since Dempsey signed even though the team might get relegated seems to suggest that he enjoys the club and that they plan on making him a key part of their future plans.

If Fulham do stay up, I'm think the only American that will leave is Bocanegra. If they don't, I see Eddie Johnson and Dempsey sticking around and possibly McBride.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Eric Wynalda returns to the pitch

Former US international and ESPN broadcaster Eric Wynalda is returning to the pitch after being cleared to play for the Premier Development League's Ventura County Fusion.

It has been seven years since he hung up his cleats, but Wynalda feels ready for this challenge thanks in large part to a fruit drink.
He credits this "comeback" to the fruit drink Monavie, which is based on the South American acai berry.

"My life since I retired was the managing pain from 11 surgeries," said Wynalda. "Ever since I've been drinking that stuff, I haven't taken one Advil.

"I've been playing all weekend for a year and a half now."
I smell a jersey sponsorship deal.

With the PDL three levels below MLS, Wynalda should still be able to shine, but I wonder how much juice he will need to drink in order to deal with the pain of playing on high school quality field turf?

So if you live in Southern California and want to see a US soccer legend playing meaningful matches, you now have a good, cheap option.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

VW backs DC and MLS in $4-6 million deal

The rumor is now official, DC United has a jersey sponsor.

Volkswagen has signed a multi-year deal with United that will be worth as much as $3.7million annually for the club. By Vee Dub's commitment to the top-level US league does not end with one shirt as they have also become the official automotive partner of MLS. This partnership will give the league an additional $1-2m annually.

A final official announcement is expected next week.

It will be interesting to see how VW runs with their MLS partnership. Will they use any footage or players in commercials/billboards or are they just interested in having their logo behind Beckham and the rest during press conferences?

For DC, like I said yesterday, this is a good get and at almost $4m a year, it is sure to make their bottom line a lot nicer. Also, having a well known, European based company on a MLS jersey is a very good idea.

This deal makes DC the ninth MLS side with a jersey sponsor. It is also the second biggest sponsorship after LA's $3.5-$5m a year deal with Herbalife.

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2008 US Open Cup - Real smash 'Quakes

San Jose Earthquakes 0-4 Real Salt Lake

Last night's US Open Cup Qualifier was nothing short of a complete disaster for San Jose. From the get go it was obvious coach Frank Yallop wasn't ready to risk his best for the match as Ronnie O'Brien didn't even suit up for the game. Without their top play maker in the mix, the Earthquakes only real chance was an outstanding defensive performance, but this notion was dismissed early when defenders Jay Ayres and Ryan Cochrane collided resulting in a double sub in the first 15 minutes. From that point on, San Jose was dead in the water.

Real's Beckerman scored six minutes later. Done 1-0, the 'Quakes looked to be in trouble, however the true knockout blows didn't come till the 33rd minute when Salt Lake scored twice in less then a minute.

From then on, it was just a matter of killing the clock.

With the win, Real advances to the second round of qualifying where they will take on the Columbus Crew on May 27th.

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Mexico's Pachuca are Champions of Concacaf

For the second year in a row, Mexican side Pachuca are kings of Concacaf. They retained this honor last night by dropping Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa 2-1 in the second leg of the Concacaf Champions Cup final. Pachuca won the series 3-2 on aggregate.

With the victory, Pachuca earns a spot in the Fifa Club World Cup finals this December in Japan.

Congratulations to Pachuca for winner the last ever Concacaf Champions Cup.

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