Monthly Archives: June 2011

Toronto FC signs Frings, Koevermans to bolster squad

Toronto FC just announced they signed Germany midfielder Torsten Frings and former Dutch international Danny Koevermans, which sounds – at least at first thought – like a pretty bold move for the team. With Frings, they’re getting a hardened, experienced international midfielder, and since last I heard Toronto was last in the MLS in possession in the attacking half, this is a key, key signing. Of course, you never know how a player will translate to the MLS after a career in Europe, but the Bundesliga is a fast, physical league, so I would think that Frings would be a great signing. It’s a little harder to tell with Koevermans, who hasn’t played much in the last year or so with PSV Eindhoven, but he does have a great record of producing for club teams, so it stands to reason that he should be fairly productive – at least for a year or two. It remains to be seen whether the two players will transform Toronto into a playoff team – and at 33 and 32 respectively, these aren’t signings for the long term, but they should bring a substantial bump to Toronto’s competitiveness on the field. And let’s be honest: Thank god for that.

MLS rankings: Week 15

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

A couple crushing wins this week, as Dallas and Columbus hammer Portland and Colorado, respectively. It doesn’t get much better for Toronto, who are played off the park by Real Salt Lake. The Seattle Sounders made it three from three after beating terrible New England, and the Red Bulls continue to suck with probably the league’s best lineup. With Dwayne DeRosario now traded, are the Red Bulls bringing in another DP?

All times Pacific; first number is current ranking, second is previous ranking. I trust you can figure out the rest…

1 – 1. LA Galaxy drew 0-0 at San Jose. The Galaxy have shown shades of this year’s Manchester United team this season, in the sense that they have a lot of painfully dull road draws which are followed by impressive routs of good teams. They’ll probably finish with the league’s best record, but the question is, can they win in the playoffs? Season: 9-8-2, 25 gf, 15 ga; Up next: Seattle on Monday

2 – 2. FC Dallas beat Portland 4-0 at home. The crushing home loss to Kansas City seems to be behind Dallas, who are dominating most of the teams they play. They’ve really been quite a revelation this year – particularly Brek Shea. Season: 9-4-4, 24 gf, 17 ga. Up next: Columbus on Saturday

3 – 3. Real Salt Lake beat Toronto 3-1 at home; drew 0-0 at Chicago. Now that their players (at least the uninjured ones) are back, it seems to be business as usual for the league’s best defensive team. And look out – Alvaro Saborio finally scored. They should thrash New England on Monday. Season: 7-5-3, 18 gf, 9 ga; Up next: New England on Monday

4 – 7. Seattle Sounders beat New England 2-1 at home; beat New York 4-2 at home. After an uneven start to the season, the Sounders have poured it on lately, but now they have to beat their arch-nemeses in the form of the Galaxy. Who will have Landon “Where’s a sexy water fountain for me to take a drink from” Donovan back. C’mon Sounders – show what you’re made of. Season: 8-7-4, 25 gf, 18 ga; Up next: At LA Galaxy on Monday

5 – 4. Philadelphia Union beat Chivas USA 3-2 at home; drew 0-0 at home with Sporting Kansas City. The Union continue to quietly pile up the points and are leading the East. Earlier in the year I doubted they would keep it up all year, but there’s really no reason to doubt it now. They’re a good defensive team, and they’ve continued to win despite Sebastian Letoux not scoring at all, ever. Season: 7-5-4, 19 gf, 14 ga; Up next: At DC United on Saturday

6 – 6. San Jose Earthquakes drew 0-0 at home with LA Galaxy. Earthquakes finish the Chris Wondolowski-less stretch with a disappointing draw, but nevertheless have been playing well lately. In New York, they host a team that in theory should be difficult to beat, but as the Red Bulls have shown, that’s not always the case. Season: 5-5-5, 20 gf, 17 ga; Up next: New York on Saturday

7 – 5. Red Bull New York drew 1-1 at Chicago; lost 4-2 at Seattle. I was impressed with the Red Bulls to start the season, but they’ve been a disaster ever since. Now, at least, they have Rafa Marquez and Tim Ream back, which in theory should shore up the defense. In theory. Where will Dax McCarty play? Season: 5-9-3, 27 gf, 21 ga; Up next: At San Jose on Saturday

8 – 10. Columbus Crew won 4-1 at home against Colorado. OK, it’s official: Now that Andres MenD’oh!za has seven goals – he scored twice against Colorado – I’m officially deleting the “D’oh!” Now. OK, that’s done. Now what? Oh, a trip to the league’s second best team. Season: 6-6-4, 20 gf 17 ga; Up next: At FC Dallas on Saturday

9 – 8. DC United drew 2-2 at home with Houston. Suddenly reconfigured United – who picked up Dwayne De Rosario and Brandon McDonald after drawing against Houston will be … different when they host Philadelphia. Here’s hoping that the changes to the lineup don’t limit what has been a fairly promising season. (In parts, anyway) Season: 4-6-5, 21 gf, 27 ga; Up next: Philadelphia on Saturday

10 – 14. Sporting Kansas City beat Vancouver 2-1 at home; drew 0-0 at Philadelphia. Can you believe this team had four points after eight matches to start the season? Since then, they’ve grabbed 13 points from seven games and are back in the thick of the playoff race. One to watch in the second half of the year. Season: 4-5-6, 19 gf, 21 ga; Up next: At Portland on Saturday

11 – 9. Colorado Rapids lost 4-1 at Columbus. Getting all their injured and suspended players back was supposed to start the Rapids on a win streak. Unfortunately, all it’s resulted in is more suspensions and seven goals conceded their last two matches. Season record: 5-7-5, 19 goals for, 21 goal against; Up next: Houston on Sunday

12 – 11. Chivas USA lost 3-2 at Philadelphia. Chivas need to rally a bit if they’re going to fulfill my prediction of going 10-12-12 with 46 goals scored and 46 goals conceded. Hosting Chicago, who have only won twice all season, gives them the type of match they have to win if they have aspirations of sneaking in for one of the MLS’s 10 playoff spots. (Ugh.) Season: 4-5-7, 20 gf, 21 ga; Up next: Chicago on Saturday

13 – 13. Houston Dynamo drew 2-2 at DC United. Houston have only won one of their last 10 matches, though they had a bit of a respite with a draw in DC. Now they take on Colorado, who has gotten shellacked their last two games. What’s in store? Probably a draw. Season: 4-7-6, 21 gf, 22 ga; Up next: At Colorado on Sunday

14 – 15. Chicago Fire drew 1-1 at home with New York; drew 0-0 at home with Real Salt Lake. With the Fire this season, it’s always been the same mantra: “They’re not THAT bad.” Unfortunately, six home draws and only nine points total at Toyota Park – not good enough for a playoff team. Let’s hope they bring in an octogenarian Mexican midfielder or Swede to save the day. Right, Fire fans? Season: 2-11-4, 18 gf, 21 ga; Up next: At Chivas USA on Saturday

15 – 12. Portland Timbers lost 4-0 at FC Dallas. It’s now entering dire straits (not the band, actual dire straits) for the Timbers, who haven’t won in five – three of those matches at home – and take on one of the league’s hottest teams. Where are the Timbers’ forwards? Season: 5-3-7, 18 gf, 26 ga; Up next: Sporting Kansas City on Saturday

16 – 17. Vancouver Whitecaps lost 2-1 at Sporting Kansas City. Despite losing at Kansas City, the Caps played well. Now with struggling Toronto coming up – twice – they are looking to get back into the playoff race. Season: 2-8-7, 18 gf, 24 ga; Up next: At Toronto on Wednesday

17 – 16. New England Revolution lost 2-1 at Seattle. The Revs, the league’s lowest scoring team, now travel to the place where it is hardest for teams (and people, for that matter) to score – Utah. Good luck. The Revs are a loss away from being the last-place team in my next poll. Season: 3-6-8, 13 gf, 21 ga; Up next: At Real Salt Lake on Monday

18 – 18. Toronto FC lost 3-1 at Real Salt Lake. Hosting the league’s worst team by point total should give Toronto fans hope of finishing June with one win. They play Vancouver again in the Canadian Challenge Cup on Saturday. Unwelcome distraction? Season: 2-9-7, 16 gf, 29 ga; Up next: Vancouver on Wednesday

DC United adds De Rosario, McDonald

So in two separate trades, DC United acquired Dwayne DeRosario from the New York Red Bulls and Brandon McDonald from the Earthquakes. The Red Bulls picked up Dax McCarty from United. I believe the McDonald trade was done for picks and/or allocation money.

I think it’s likely that United are starting to think they might have  a shot at the playoffs. DeRosario adds some offense to the team, though you get the feeling no one loves playing with him too much. McDonald is much-needed on the defensive side of the ball, where DC definitely needs help.

From the Red Bulls’ perspective, maybe this will shore up their ball retention in midfield, or maybe they just needed less ego? I’m not sure.

Player Ratings: Gold Cup Final: Mexico 4, USA 2

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

The U.S. jumps out to a two-goal lead early in the first half, then is run off the pitch for the remainder of the match. Big questions about Bob Bradley after this game, I would think – the U.S. struggled all tournament, but had no answer for Mexico’s attackers, and Bradley made no effort to change that with substitutions or tactical shifts.

Goals: U.S. — Bradley (9), Donovan (22); Mexico — Barrera (28), Guardado (35), Barrera (49), Dos Santos (76)

U.S.

Tim Howard, GK — 6.5; Often left stranded by poor decision-making by the U.S. in defense or bad passing from the U.S. Couldn’t do much about any of the goals, though it might’ve been a rash decision to come out for Dos Santos’ goal, though few players would’ve scored on that play.
Steve Cherundulo, RB – NR; Some will argue that his leaving the game through injury was the key point in the game that swung it in Mexico’s favor. I don’t know if that’s true, but he certainly would’ve been better than the Lichaj/Bornstein switch that helped Mexico score all three goals.
Carlos Bocanegra, D – 6; Played reasonably well in defense but was let down by U.S. full backs getting beat repeatedly by the speed of Guardado, Barrera and Dos Santos.
Clarence Goodson, D – 6; Fairly anonymous in defense like most of the U.S. But did a reasonable enough job of keeping Chicharito from scoring.
Eric Lichaj, LB – 4; Did OK when dealing with Barrera early, but wasn’t able to cope with the trickier Guardado after switching to right back with Cherundulo’s injury. Helped the ball into Guardado’s path for the equalizer.
Jermaine Jones, MF – 6; Fought gamely in midfield, but you get the impression that he isn’t sure whether he’s supposed to be a box-to-box midfielder or a defensive midfielder when he plays for the U.S.
Michael Bradley, MF – 5.5; Gave the U.S. an early lead with a header, but was nonexistent besides and passed poorly. Not match fit or match sharp and probably shouldn’t be starting a game of this magnitude after making three appearances in club football since January. Helps when your dad is coach, I guess.
Alejandro Bedoya, MF – 5; Got forward a lot in the first half, disappeared once Mexico scored. A little too eager to get into the goal area when he should be helping guys out on the wings a bit. Wasteful with his passing.
Landon Donovan, LW – 5.5; Scored to put the U.S. 2-up, but the only thing he contributed besides that was a dumb foul that eventually led to Rafa Marquez leaving the game through injury. Desperately needed to help Bornstein on the left, but didn’t, part of the reason Mexico were so rampant.
Freddy Adu, RW – 7; Strangely, along with Jozy Altidore, was probably the player of the tournament for the U.S. Assisted on Bradley’s goal and seemed to be the only U.S. player who could hang onto the ball.
Clint Dempsey, F – 5.5; Set up Donovan’s goal, but had little impact on the match, especially once Mexico took control. The U.S. missed having Altidore’s hold up play in this game.
Jonathan Bornstein, SUB – 4; Once he entered the match, the momentum switched to Mexico. Couldn’t deal with Barrera (who scored twice with Bornstein defending him) on the right, or Guardado when he switched. Simply not good enough at this level, though he too seems to be a Bradley favorite.
Juan Agudelo, SUB – 5; No impact on the game. Great potential, but considering that he gets more playing time for the U.S. national team than his club team, you could argue he shouldn’t be playing.
Sacha Kljestan, SUB – NR; Didn’t affect the match after coming in for Adu.
Bob Bradley, Coach – 4; Bradley has been in charge for what, five years? I think it’s time to bring new blood into the U.S. coaching ranks. Made questionable substitutions; brought players in who arguably weren’t match fit and gave them starting roles; aside from the Gold Cup win in 2007 and the spirited run in the 2009 Confederations Cup, hasn’t won much of anything with the U.S. team. It’s time for a change.

Mexico

Alfredo Talavera, GK – 7; Couldn’t do much about the two goals, though he got a hand to Bradley’s. The U.S. just couldn’t find a way around him.
Carlos Salcido, LB – 5.5; Struggled with Adu before being replaced with an injury.
Rafa Marquez, D – 5.5; Like the rest of Mexico, seemed caught off-guard with the U.S. goals to start the match. Left with injury.
Hector Moreno, D – 7; More than capable in defense. Helped shut down Dempsey.
Efrain Juarez, RB – 6.5; Struggled a bit early with Donovan putting the U.S. ahead 2-0, but recovered well and had little to do in the second half.
Gerardo Torrado, MF – 6.5; Caught in possession a lot early, but moved the ball well to Mexico’s wingers in the second half and helped snuff out any American threat.
Israel Castro, MF – 6.5; See Torrado.
Andres Guardado, LW – 7,.5; After slow start, terrorized Lichaj and the U.S. defense. His equalizer caused a noticeable drop in the U.S. attacking play.
Giovanni Dos Santos, AMF – 8; Scored an amazing goal, ran the Mexico’s offense, probably could’ve scored several more goals. The U.S. had no one who could stop him.
Pablo Barrera, RW – 8; Like Guardado, ran around, past and by Bornstein and the U.S. defense. Scored twice.
Javier Hernandez, FW – 6.5; Didn’t score, but did a good job moving the ball around well and holding the ball up.
Hector Reynoso, SUB – 7.5; Very solid in defense after coming in for Marquez, and considering how important the occasion, that was quite impressive.
Jose Torres de Nilo, SUB – 7; Also did well after coming in for Salcido.
Jesus Zavala, SUB – NR; Didn’t really have an effect on the match after entering, but that was OK because Mexico were in control by that point.
Jose Manuel de la Torre – Coach – 9; Did what no one has for Mexico in a long time – beat a full-strength U.S. team in a match that matters. Substitutions helped win the match – and the entire tournament for Mexico.

MLS weekend preview: June 23-26

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

*Game to watch ^Game not to watch
All times Pacific, as usual

Thursday

Seattle v New York. (7 p.m.) New York comes into this game minus even more players – Thierry Henry’s red card against Portland wasn’t rescinded, which was fair, since he’s kind of a jerk. Luke Rodgers is also nursing an injury, and they’re dealing with the same Gold Cup absences, though this will be the last week where they’ll have to worry about that. Seattle has been really up and down this season. For having a very capable lineup, they’ve never been super-convincing in scoring goals. Fredy Montero finally scored last week against Toronto, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll turn it into a hot scoring streak. But minus Henry, Juan Agudelo and potentially Rodgers, it remains to be seen where New York’s goals would come from, and we all know how their defense has been lately, ahem, Stephen Keel. Prediction: Seattle 2-1

Saturday

DC United v Houston. (3 p.m.) Last time these two teams played, Houston massacred DC’s shakey defense and rolled to an easy win. That was in Houston, and United have tightened up since then. And Houston have gotten progressively worse. They’ve been particularly guilty of switching off on defense, which doesn’t bode well against one of the better attacking teams in the league.  Prediction: DC 2-0

*San Jose v LA Galaxy. (3:30 p.m.) Thankfully, the MLS didn’t schedule this match at the same time as the Gold Cup final like they did all the other matches on Saturday (except for DC-Houston, obviously). So that leaves a compelling match you actually can watch! Yay! Despite losing at resurgent Kansas City, San Jose have been playing well lately, and they’ll probably have Ryan Johnson back on the wing. The Galaxy had been struggling lately, but they hammered a very poor Colorado Rapids team last week, so they might be back on track. It would be great for the Earthquakes if they won this match, though I don’t think they will. Prediction: 1-1

^Philadelphia v Chivas USA. (5 p.m.) Sorry, the Gold Cup final is at the same time. Blame the MLS. Prediction: Union 1-0

^FC Dallas v Portland. (5:30 p.m.) See above. Too bad, because this would be a good match. Prediction: Dallas 2-0

*USA v Mexico. (Gold Cup Final, 5:30 p.m.) The predicted final happens. The U.S. started slowly but has gotten through the two knockout stages of the Gold Cup without too much difficulty. They beat Panama thanks to a good performance from Freddy Adu. Yes, you heard that right, Freddy Adu. Mexico have outscored opponents 16-1 in this tournament, though they’ve struggled a little bit the last couple matches – and have generally been woeful in the first half, except against Costa Rica. You have to think that their attacking line will be too much for the U.S., but only just. Prediction: I know it’s un-American, but Mexico 1-0

^Sporting Kansas City v Vancouver. (5:30 p.m.) Ugh, another MLS match scheduled at the same time as the Gold Cup final. Seriously? Prediction: KC 3-1

^^Real Salt Lake v Toronto. (6 p.m.) Oh boy. I’m definitely not watching the Gold Cup final so I can see Real Salt Lake struggle to score against the league’s worst team. Prediction: RSL 2-0

Sunday

Chicago v New York. (11 a.m.) Chicago failed to score again at home – this time against Real Salt Lake. In their defense, RSL is the best defensive team in the league. But still. New York will have Henry back, though the Gold Cup guys are gone ’til next week. At this point, the Fire are two points out of the final playoff spot, due mainly to the MLS’ absurd decision to allow 10 of 18 teams to qualify for the playoffs as well as the general parity of a league where the league’s worst team by points-per-match (Toronto) could move into a playoff position by winning one match. So, Fire, you just have to pick up a couple points and you’ll be OK. If a team like Columbus wins the MLS Cup this year, I’m going to be pissed. Prediction: 2-2

Seattle v New England. (1 p.m.) Wow, two teams do the Thursday-Sunday match thing. That’s almost as inane as having 10 teams out of 18 qualify for the playoffs or having one team open the season with 10 straight road matches. Seattle has an excellent chance to move up in the standings with two extremely winnable matches against short-handed New York and a poor New England team. In the case of the Revs, well, they get paid to play soccer, which is great for them. Prediction: You know, since this is the MLS and Seattle perpetually flatters to deceive, 1-1

Columbus v Colorado. (5 p.m.) This would be my “match not to watch” this week if it wasn’t for the Gold Cup final scheduling thing listed below. Columbus had a nice win at struggling Houston, though they are still relying on Andres MenD’oh!za to score goals in order to win matches. Justin Meram has looked good in his rookie season. Colorado should be improving, but they keep just looking like a mediocre club. Omar Cummings might get 90 minutes, though, which should be enough to get them a draw. Prediction: 1-1

10 Questions with A.J. Soares

A.J. Soares: Sorry Beyonce, take a number. – Courtesy New England Revolution

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

A.J. Soares

Team: New England Revolution
Position: Defender
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 170
Age: 22
College: California
More: Drafted #6 by New England … has appeared in 15 out of 16 matches this season for the Revolution … only missed two matches in college career for Cal … A 2010 NSCAA first-team All-American and 2010 Pac-10 Player of the Year

1. At what point did you realize that you could be a professional soccer player?
You never really know until the day comes. I think in college, I was just thinking about being at Cal and then eventually the time came when people started talking about how I could be a pro and that’s kind of when I realized it.

2. How do you rate the Revs’ chances of making the playoffs and competing for the MLS Cup?
I think we have a good chance, always. We have a really good, talented team that works hard. We’ve put some good performances together and once we get a few more, we’ll be on a really good streak.

3. How do you feel the addition of Benny Feilhaber has changed the team?
I think Benny just brings experience. He’s a World Cup veteran and a Gold Cup veteran. He just brings a high level of play and is a high level guy. He’s a cool guy and he adds a lot.

4. Do you have a favorite European club team?
I like Real Madrid, I like Manchester United, but I like American soccer best.

5. What players have you modeled your game after or took inspiration from?
Carlos Bocanegra. I think he’s one of the best American defenders ever, so I try to play like him. I think we’re similar in stature too, so I learned a lot from him there.

6. You guys have struggled to win games on the road this season. How can you turn that around?
Just try to perform like we did at home. I think, individually, everyone needs to think about how they prepare when they’re at home and try to do that on the road.

7. How would you describe your style of play? (as an individual)
My style of play is just reading the game. I try to use my brain more than anything and, you know, always keep intensity high. If you work hard to get to the ball, you can always beat the guy you’re playing against.

8. If you were allowed a specific song to be played when you were subbed into a match, what would it be?
A full song? If it was a full song, I’d do Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and it would be like an eight-minute intro.

9. How would you describe the difference between college ball and playing in the MLS?
There’s a lot more on the line because it’s guys’ jobs and everything, so you’ve got to do the best you can every single day in training to try to keep your job and try to help the team do well.

10. Beyonce or Katy Perry? (Note: “Neither” is an acceptable answer)
Katy Perry, easily. That’s not even a question.

———

Thanks A.J.!

MLS rankings: Week 14

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

This week had its share of fancy goals (Stunners from Juninho, the obligatory Brek Shea wonder goal, Alain Rochat and Fredy Montero), terrible refereeing (Hello Real Salt Lake-DC United), terrible defending (Chivas’ Michael Lahoud and, naturally, the Red Bulls) and some red cards (Thierry Henry, Jhon Kenedy Hurtado and Caleb Folan). Vancouver got their first win in 15 matches, Seattle got a win they barely deserved, and the Red Bulls barely eked out a draw in injury time at Portland.

All times Pacific; first number is current ranking, second is previous ranking. I trust you can figure out the rest…

1 – 1. LA Galaxy won 3-1 at Colorado. After struggling the last couple matches, Galaxy ease to a nice win at Colorado. Donovan should be back after the next game, which only bodes well for them picking up the Supporters Shield. (Best regular season record) Season: 9-7-2, 25 gf, 15 ga; Up next: At San Jose on Saturday

2 – 5. FC Dallas won 2-1 at Chivas USA. OK, so I guess the loss at home to Kansas City was just a blip. Dallas dominate Chivas, but only get all three points when Jackson capitalizes on a Michael Lahoud blunder. Nonetheless, impressive win. Season: 8-4-4, 20 gf, 17 ga. Up next: Portland on Saturday

3 – 3. Real Salt Lake drew 1-1 at home to DC United. RSL aren’t getting crushed by anyone, but they’re just not getting the results you expect them to get. You’d have to say that, no matter how awful the refereeing was against DC United, United probably still deserved AT LEAST a point from the match. Season: 6-4-3, 15 gf, 8 ga; Up next: At Chicago on Wednesday

4 – 2. Philadelphia Union lost 1-0 at Vancouver. Losing at Vancouver on a very good goal from Alain Rochat in itself isn’t too surprising. What is surprising is how inept the Union were offensively, before and after that goal.  Season: 6-4-4, 16 gf, 12 ga; Up next: Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday

5 – 4. Red Bull New York drew 3-3 at Portland. Say what you want about the Red Bulls, but they certainly aren’t boring. Unfortunately, what you can say is that they’re wasteful in attack and awful defensively. Season: 5-8-2, 24 gf, 16 ga; Up next: At Seattle on Thursday

6 – 6. San Jose Earthquakes lost 1-0 at Sporting Kansas City. San Jose competed gamely against a much improved Kansas City side before losing. The weekend match at home against the Galaxy is their chance to prove they deserved to be ranked so high by me. Season: 5-4-5, 20 gf, 17 ga; Up next: LA Galaxy on Saturday

7 – 8. Seattle Sounders won 1-0 at Toronto. For all their pretty passing and ball retention, the Sounders aren’t scoring many goals. It’s good to see Fredy Montero score a goal after skating by all season long.  Season: 6-7-4, 19 gf, 15 ga; Up next: New York on Thursday

8 – 9. DC United drew 1-1 at Real Salt Lake. Another good result, this time at Salt Lake. United were arguably the better side, though you could probably make a case that their penalty was a soft one. But hey, RSL’s was probably even softer. Season: 4-5-5, 19 gf, 25 ga; Up next: Houston on Saturday

9 – 7. Colorado Rapids lost 3-1 at home to LA Galaxy. Rapids outclassed at home by the Galaxy, though they did look better when Omar Cummings came into the match. You get the sense this team will squeeze into one of the final two playoffs spots, in which – as we saw last year – anything can happen. Season record: 5-7-4, 18 goals for, 17 goal against; Up next: At Columbus on Sunday

10 – 12. Columbus Crew won 2-0 at Houston. Andres MenD’oh!za scored again! Is the world ending? But seriously folks, I’m here all night. The Crew overcame the league’s ugliest road jerseys to grab a surprisingly comprehensive road win at Houston. Season: 5-6-4, 16 gf 16 ga; Up next: Colorado on Sunday

11 – 11. Chivas USA lost 2-1 at home to FC Dallas. My prediction for Chivas’ final record? 10-12-12, 46 goals scored, 46 goals allowed, 11th place, no playoffs. Meh. Season: 4-5-6, 18 gf, 18 ga; Up next: At Philadelphia on Saturday

12 – 13. Portland Timbers drew 3-3 at home to New York. Timbers heartbroken by late draw at home with New York. What an unfortunate penalty call. You have to feel for them. Nonetheless, it was a better performance than the last couple. Season: 5-3-6, 18 gf, 22 ga; Up next: At FC Dallas on Saturday

13 – 10. Houston Dynamo lost 2-0 at home to Columbus. I’ve been saying this for a couple weeks, but Houston are edging dangerously close to “Fire the coach” territory – even if it is Dominic Kinnear. They must get a result at DC United this weekend. Season: 4-6-6, 19 gf, 20 ga; Up next: At DC United on Saturday

14 – 16. Sporting Kansas City beat San Jose 1-0 at home. Don’t look now, but positive results against Philadelphia and Vancouver this week could see KC right back in the thick of the playoff hunt. Season: 3-4-6, 17 gf, 20 ga; Up next: At Philadelphia on Wednesday

15 – 14. Chicago Fire drew 1-1 at New England. The Fire are playing better, but need to start getting three points instead of one. They’ll find it tough to score against Real Salt Lake this week. Season: 2-9-4, 17 gf, 20 ga; Up next: Real Salt Lake on Wednesday

16 – 15. New England Revolution drew 1-1 at home with Chicago; drew 0-0 at home with Toronto. Two home draws are barely enough to keep the Revs from dropping all the way to last in the rankings. Though they were betterish against Chicago, they’re still not a very good team. Season: 3-6-7, 12 gf, 19 ga; Up next: At Seattle on Sunday

17 – 18. Vancouver Whitecaps beat Philadelphia 1-0 at home. Whitecaps finally end their 14-match winless streak in a pretty dull contest against Philadelphia. Most heartening about it is the fact that they didn’t look overawed by a team that is likely playoff bound. The Caps will be hard-pressed to pick up points at KC this weekend though. Season: 2-8-6, 17 gf, 22 ga; Up next: At Sporting Kansas City on Saturday

18 – 17. Toronto FC lost 1-0 at home to Seattle; drew 0-0 at New England. Oh Toronto. After draws at LA and New England gave Toronto some hope, a loss at home to punchless Seattle – when they were up a man for 45 minutes – takes it all away again. Season: 2-9-6, 15 gf, 26 ga; Up next: At Real Salt Lake on Saturday

MLS weekend preview: June 17-19

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

*Game to watch ^Game not to watch
All times Pacific, as usual

Friday

*Sporting Kansas City v San Jose. (5:30 p.m.) This game should be interesting for two reasons: 1. Sporting Kansas City’s new stadium is supposed to be quite impressive, and the fan support has been fabulous so far, which can only help an already attacking team attack. 2. San Jose is one of the hottest teams in the MLS – scoring four last week at DC (all four made or scored by Steven Lenhart). Should be a fun, attacking match. Prediction: 2-2

Saturday

^Toronto FC v Seattle. (4 p.m.) Toronto, god bless ‘em, are a terrible team – arguably the worst in the MLS – and Seattle are in a bit of turmoil, in light of all the points they’ve thrown away lately. Though with Toronto’s pattern of play, they could end up losing this match 5-1, the likely result is totally different. Prediction: 1-1

New England v Chicago. (4:30 p.m.) New England are also struggling, coming off a dismal 0-0 draw at home with Toronto that you’d think they have to win if they have any aspirations – of anything. I didn’t watch that match, and let’s be honest: Why would I? Chicago are playing better, though it’s possible that they got rid of Gaston Puerari so they could add the ancient Pavel Pardo (great player though he was, oh, 10 years ago). Weird. Prediction: I can’t keep picking Chicago to win, but this is against New England. Umm… 1-1.

Houston v Columbus. (5:30 p.m.) I haven’t highlighted this in previous posts about this time slot, but I have a suspicion that the bulk of Mexican MLS fans will probably avoid watching this, the Fire-Revs match or Rapids-Galaxy because THE MEXICAN NATIONAL TEAM IS PLAYING AT THE SAME TIME. Oh MLS, when will you learn? Prediction: Houston 2-1

Colorado v LA Galaxy. (6 p.m.) Colorado has an excellent chance for a good result against a Galaxy team that can’t put wins together without Landon “Let me have a drink out of this water faucet. Mmm…sexy” Donovan. Colorado is expected to have Omar Cummings back, which is good, because he’s a good striker. As for the Galaxy? Well, they’ll be good once Donovan is back. Prediction: 1-1

Real Salt Lake v DC United. (6 p.m.) Real Salt Lake are real-ing. Get it? Ha ha. Oh wait, it’s Ree-awl. Damnit. RSL are struggling lately, and are missing a whole boatload of players due to the Gold Cup, though luckily the Canadian contingent will be back early. Oh! DC United are up and down as they have been all season, but I can’t see them beating RSL in Salt Lake – though I think I said that about Seattle a few weeks ago. Prediction: 3-1 RSL

Vancouver v Philadelphia. (7 p.m.) Vancouver have played more encouragingly since Teitur Thordarson (man I love that name) was replaced – however unjustly – as head coach. Eric Hassli in particular has played well lately, including his wonder goal against Seattle last week. You have to think that he’s due for a sending off though, since it’s been like, what, a week? since he was sent off last. Philly are one of the hottest teams in the league, though they aren’t always super-convincing. They should have enough to extend Vancouver’s winless streak to 15, which is a drag, since the ‘Caps aren’t so bad. Plus, Vancouver needs a pick-me-up after the Canucks sucked it up so bad in the Stanley Cup final. Stupid Canucks. Prediction: 1-1

Chivas USA v FC Dallas. (7:30 p.m.) Chivas are utterly mediocre Four wins, five draws, five losses. 17 goals scored, 16 conceded. Logic would dictate that they would win this match 1-0 just to even their record. As for Dallas, they were hammered at home by Kansas City, but you wonder if that has more to do with Kansas City being a very good attacking team that is starting to play better now that they have a home field than Dallas being particularly bad. With that said, it was a bit worrying that they failed to exert their influence on a team that came into the match with only one win. Prediction: 2-1 Dallas

Sunday

Portland v New York. (7 p.m.) Portland have been in a bit of a freefall since their home winning streak ended against DC United. Home will provide a little bit of comfort especially when they’re playing a match against a team with Stephen Keel as a central defender, because man is he not good enough. New York will have Dwayne De Rosario back in midfield after Canada Canuck’d their way out of the Gold Cup. I think Portland will gradually arrest their slide, though if New York has made any headway in its attempts to stop Stephen Keeling their way to draws, it might not happen in this match. Prediction: 2-2

10 Questions with CJ Sapong

CJ Sapong - Courtesy Sporting Kansas City

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

Today is our first edition of our (hopefully regular) segment where I ask 10 questions of MLS players. Our first is with Sporting Kansas City forward CJ Sapong.

CJ Sapong
Position: Forward
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 185
Age: 22
College: James Madison
More: Drafted #10 by Sporting KC … in 2011 has made 12 appearances scoring 1 goal and handing out two assists … generally considered a player to watch in the MLS.

1. At what point did you realize that you could be a professional soccer player?

I’d say my senior year in college. After playing PLD (Premier Developmental League) in the summer, I started to get some interest from coaches, and people started to tell me there was some interest from some of the MLS teams. So, probably at the beginning of my senior season.

2. With Sporting Kansas City getting ready to come home, what do you think about Kansas City’s chances of getting in the playoffs and competing for the MLS Cup this year?

Very high. I think the thing about the MLS is, from top to bottom, any team could win on any given day. Especially with our team, I think we’re a very dangerous team. I think it’s taken us longer than most teams, but I think we finally found our identity and what works for us. I think coming in with more home games than away games, I’m pretty sure we’ll get those results. When we get those results at home, it puts us in a positive mindset for the remaining away games.

 3. Omar Bravo, a huge star in Mexico, what’s it been like practicing and playing with him?

Not just him, but all of the veterans, they’re all classy. With me being a rookie, it gives me something to strive for. It makes me make sure that I’m acting the right way and going about everything the right way. On the field, whether it’s finishing or simple passes, I watch everything that they do. Omar is just, very cheeky and technical. He plays in a way that you can’t ignore. So, I’m always taking stuff from his game and trying to emulate it, if I can.

4. Do you have a favorite team over in Europe that you like to follow?

I have a lot, and it depends on the league. For Ligue 1, I like Marseille. For the Premier League, I like ManU (Manchester United) a lot. In Italy, I like AC Milan. I like (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic. I like watching the game; I’m definitely a student of the game. I’m going to continue to watch as much soccer as possible and take as many skills from other people as I can.

5. You mentioned picking up some skills from Omar Bravo, what players would you say you’ve modeled your game after or taken inspiration from?

(Zlatan) Ibrahimovic, I try to stay strong like him. Thierry Henry, I like his change of pace and his nice finish to the back post. Cristiano Ronaldo of course, just the dribbling part of it. I’d so those three are probably the top three players.

6. We talked about the ten game road trip, and how tough that’s been. How tough has it been for you guys knowing that you wouldn’t get to play in front of the home fans for almost three months here at the start of the season?

It was tough. From the beginning it wasn’t that bad for me because I was just enjoying the experience of going to different cities and playing in different stadiums. As of late, you can definitely tell it’s taken its toll on some of the player’s’ bodies and our sleep cycles are getting kind of messed up. We’re definitely looking forward to the home opener and more home games so we can get results and points, and then start believing in what we’re doing.

7. How would you describe your style of play?

I would say at first it was very laid back. But we have skills and speed, which is a pretty deadly combination. So now it’s like, if you’re going to beat us, beat us. We’re not going to make any mistakes and we’re not going to give you anything.

8. How about you personally (your style of play)?

I’d say, hold the ball and keep possession to try to get a lot of other players involved. Whenever I get around the box, just try to keep shooting and try to score.

9. If you were allowed to pick a specific song to be played whenever you subbed into a match or when you were announced in the starting lineup, what would that song be?

It would either have to be Dougie (“Teach Me How to Dougie” by the California Swag District), or a song that’s called “Pretty Boy Swag” by Gucci Mane. Those are songs that get me really hyped; they get me really in the mood.

10. Other than Matt Besler, who’s sitting right here, who’s the toughest defender you’ve faced in major league soccer?

I’d have to say the right back for New York (Jan Gunnar Solli), just because he’s very solid and he gets forward a lot, so I had to think twice about getting forward and going at him. He kind of locked me up over on the sidelines.

 10b. Last question, Beyonce or Katy Perry?

Beyonce, all day. That’s not even a question! (Editor’s note: I totally agree)

——————————

Thanks CJ!

Aston Villa: Alex McLeish, really?

Alex McLeish: Perspiring ginger

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

I’ve tried not to wade too much into all the drama surrounding the search for the new Aston Villa manager, mostly because there are 58 other blogs out there covering the same story. But now with most media reports suggesting Alex McLeish will be hired in the next 36 hours as manager, I thought I’d weigh in with my two cents.

If you’re a Villa supporter, skip to the next paragraph; for non-Villa fans, here is a little background: Aston Villa spent the last few years contending for a Champions League spot, playing in Europe, finishing sixth in the English Premier League. Last year, manager Martin O’Neill, who had been a reasonable success in the job – I liked him anyway, even though it wasn’t beautiful football – left the team six days before the start of the season. After stumbling through the search process (much like they have this time around), American owner Randy Lerner and the Villa board settled on former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, who essentially tried to remake a team that had already been fairly successful. Some might argue that with the fairly one-dimensional way Villa played – defensive and counter-attacking – this was a good thing, but on an established team with established stars, it was a disaster. Villa flirted with the relegation zone much of the season before finishing ninth thanks largely to January signing Darren Bent. Toward the end of the season, Houllier had a recurrence of the heart ailment that forced him out of the Liverpool job, and the decision was made to replace him. A litany of well-known managers – former Chelsea/AC Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti, former Liverpool/Valencia/Inter Madrid manager Rafa Benitez and Everton manager David Moyes – were sounded out, but none took the job. Curiously, the next choice appeared to be Wigan manager Roberto Martinez, who is young and appears to have strong values for playing nice team football (whatever that means) but who had little success his first two years at Wigan. Martinez also turned down the job. So the Villa board now appears to have turned to Alex McLeish who just recently resigned as manager of Birmingham City, Villa’s hated rivals.

As an American, it’s hard to quantify the hatred the two groups of supporters have for each other – there tends to be violence between groups of hooligans (Ha ha, hooligans! The English are so quaint), and after Birmingham City defeated Villa in the Carling Cup in the fall, there was a large amount of fighting, flares being shot off into opposing stands – that kind of thing. So predictably, Villa fans (and Birmingham fans as well) are horrified at the prospect of a manager leaving his position with the “Scum” and joining Villa. It goes further than that for Villa fans, though, as, despite winning the Carling Cup this year, McLeish has twice gotten City relegated from the Premier League. So, suffice it to say, supporters groups haven’t been too thrilled with this potential appointment – even going so far as spraying graffiti on the walls of Villa’s training center that says “McLeish not wanted” and so on.

So I have two points I want to make about this. First off, I don’t actually think McLeish is a bad manager. It’s true Small Heath (as they’re also known) were relegated twice from the Premier League, but the first time it was shortly after he had joined the team, so it wasn’t quite his fault. The second season, Birmingham were strong, only finishing a couple spots behind Villa in the Premier League. This season, they won the Carling Cup, then followed that with the inevitable drop in play that happens to most smaller clubs when they win a trophy. It’s true that his teams didn’t score many goals – 38 both seasons in 38 games – but that might reflect as much in the players on the team (Cameron Jerome would be a so-so MLS striker) than his tactics. He did manage to get results, relatively speaking, with a weak team of mostly Championship players, all due respect to Roger Johnson and Ben Foster. You would think that with a more solid and balanced team that he would play more interesting football, and he’d likely have some success, though in England, success probably means “Not getting relegated” and “Occasionally competing for a cup trophy” just because we all know you can’t win anything in Europe unless you spend 200 million a year.

Point number two, and the far more negative one, is what this implies for Villa’s leadership. As an American, my view of Randy Lerner wasn’t always quite so rosy as a lot of English football fans. For the most part, he’s done a very good job with the team, but it became clear in the waning days of O’Neill that he realized he wasn’t going to reach the Champions League without a more extensive investment (Cue Villa supporters going on about O’Neill spent too much on wages, etc … – I hear you on that, but we didn’t spend as much as United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs, Man City or Chelsea – don’t delude yourself, look at the numbers). That was largely responsible for O’Neill’s departure. And the Houllier appointment, though on paper not a bad one, was nonetheless not a brave or forward-thinking one to make. If Lerner is unwilling to spend, it’s entirely possible that McLeish will be left with the same situation he had at Birmingham – unhappy fans, albeit perhaps ones with a few more teeth – a team of mid-level (at best) Premiership players struggling to stay competitive through dire football. That’s what really concerns me. The team is likely losing Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, two of its better players, and doesn’t have a goalkeeper. We still have some very good players – Bent, umm…Carlos Cuellar if he stays, Marc Albrighton. But it’s clear that if this team still has apirations of European football, which it … I don’t know if it does, to be honest. But if it does, they need to spend some money. I’m just worried that the appointment of a manager like McLeish implies that they won’t.

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