Monthly Archives: July 2011

The OLS family welcomes a new member

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

Hi guys – normal blog service will resume eventually, but with the birth of my new baby girl, we’ll be experiencing a temporarily lack of updates. But I’m still watching games, and you will see more updates on here soon.

Who should the U.S. call up for upcoming friendlies?

So just for fun, I made up this list. I might’ve forgot someone, so if anyone feels there are players who should be on the team, but aren’t, comment away. I post this with the knowledge that more than likely Bob Bradley will call up more first-team regulars than you see here, but why not be hopeful that when it comes to three friendlies, that the U.S. would seek to give some playing time to young talent?

Anyway, here’s the list. You might see some as surprises if you read the blog regularly. I picked DC United’s Bill Hamid because, though he has given up a lot of goals this season, his play has been improved lately, and he’s the kind of athletic keeper we don’t really have coming through the pipeline. As for Justin Braun, he’s occasionally terrible, but he has two hat tricks this season and deserves it.

I did include some veterans, because we don’t want to put a complete B team out against Mexico, even if it’s just a friendly. Thoughts?

Tim Howard, Everton -  GK
Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake – GK
Bill Hamid, DC United – GK
Carlos Bocanegra, Saint Ettiene – DF
Tim Ream, New York – DF
Omar Gonzalez, Los Angeles – DF
Eric Lichaj, Aston Villa – DF
Timothy Chandler, Nurnberg – DF
AJ DeLaGarza, Los Angeles – DF
Zach Loyd, Dallas – DF
George John, Dallas – DF
Michael Bradley, Moenchengladbach – MF
Maurice Edu, Glasgow Rangers – MF
Alejandro Bedoya, Orebro – MF
Mix Diskerud, Stabaek – MF
Jack Jewsbury, Portland – MF
Brek Shea, Dallas – MF
Stuart Holden, Bolton – MF
Nick LaBrocca, Chivas USA – MF
CJ Sapong, Kansas City – F
Juan Agudelo, New York – F
Freddy Adu, Benfica – F
Justin Braun, Chivas USA – F

MLS weekend preview: July 23

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

Several of the MLS teams are playing more exhibition matches this weekend with foreign clubs, so it’s a bit of a short schedule.

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

Saturday

*New York v FC Dallas. (3 p.m.) It’s getting more and more to the point where Red Bulls games are ones not to watch, but in this case, they face a tough challenge in Dallas, and at least in theory, they should be better at home than they were in getting crushed by Colorado last week. Despite all the talent, the Red Bulls are missing something. I don’t know if it’s team spirit or … quality defenders … or, I don’t know. Whatever it is, they should be better than they are. Dallas are still playing great, and now the bigger question (to me, anyway) is whether a European club will try to come in and take Brek Shea (8 goals from midfield) off their hands. If they don’t, they should still keep rolling. Prediction: New York should at least draw, but I have to pick Dallas, 2-1

Columbus v Portland. (5 p.m.) After putting four goals past Colorado at the end of June, Columbus have only scored one in their last four matches. Portland didn’t play very well against Chicago, but got the win, which was good enough to end their seven-match winless streak. Columbus seems to go as Andres Mendoza goes. If he misfires, which happens a lot, they don’t win. If he is scoring goals, which he tends to do in bunches, they win. What will happen today? Well, it’s doubtful that Portland, who has trouble scoring anywhere, much less on the road will get something going against one of the better teams in the league. Prediction: Columbus 2-0

Sporting Kansas City v Toronto. (5:30 p.m.) Kansas City have now drawn three straight. They were a bit lucky to get a draw against Houston, who self-destructed and got two red cards in the second half. They’re taking on a Toronto squad that is struggling, but looked considerably better with the additions of Ryan Johnson, Torsten Frings, Danny Koevermans, et al. last week against Dallas, though they just don’t have the pace in defense to stick with Dallas players. KC is almost as fast, but not quite, and I think despite their 10-match undefeated streak, they could be in for a surprise. Prediction: Toronto 2-1

Colorado v New England. (6 p.m.) Colorado crushed the Red Bulls on Wednesday thanks to a hat trick from midfielder-turned-striker Sanna Nyassi, which makes you wonder why he didn’t play striker earlier in the season. With him lining up alongside Omar Cummings (three assists against New York), Colorado suddenly have one of the quickest strike forces in the league. New England got their first win in a long time – and their first road win of the season – in edging DC United in a match that probably should’ve ended in a draw. New England isn’t dreadful defensively, but they can’t score to save their lives, and it would be a big surprise to see them get a result here. Prediction: Colorado 3-1

Real Salt Lake v San Jose. (7 p.m.) Real Salt Lake have returned (more or less) to the immovable mass of the first few matches of the season and haven’t lost in their last six games. San Jose were struggling for a bit, but Chris Wondolowski got back on the scoreboard – twice – against Vancouver, which only bodes well for them. Nonetheless, I can’t see them breaching RSL’s defense – or at least not enough to win this game. Prediction: RSL 1-0

^Chivas USA v Houston. (7:30 p.m.) I don’t actually think this is that bad of a match, but I guess if there’s one to choose NOT to see, this would be it. Chivas  have found a little bit of form lately, having not lost in four matches (only one win in those, but still), and they’ve done so despite having the double whammy of Michael Lahoud (normally a midfielder) playing in defense, where he’s atrocious and Justin Braun as a starting forward (he has one goal other than his hat trick against New York). Houston should’ve beat Kansas City, but Colin Clark and Brian Ching both had rushes of blood to the head and made terrible, red-card-worthy challenges to get sent off, and Houston ended up conceding a goal and drawing. In a way, they should be happy about getting a draw. Prediction: Chivas USA 3-2, for some reason

Seattle’s 7-0 loss to Manchester United wasn’t that bad … was it?

I’ve been reading some of the debate over the Sounders getting hammered in a friendly, at home, by Manchester United yesterday. A lot of the talk, unsurprisingly, has been along the lines of “Oh, MLS, you screwed this one up again!” Well, I don’t think that’s true, really. I mean, obviously losing by seven goals at home is terrible no matter who you’re playing, but I don’t think it’s a true representation of the quality of the league as a whole. And here’s why:

1. Manchester United are really good. I think some people who watch the Premier League (and aren’t Red Devils fans) get so caught up in the race for someone to knock United off their peg that they don’t realize how good the team really is. Manchester United are certifiably either the second- or third-best team in the world, as of last year. They certainly didn’t hurt themselves by signing Ashley Young or David DeGea, either. Do you think United would lose if they played a friendly at Osasuna (in Spain) or Fluminense (in Brazil) or Catania (in Italy)? Probably not. They might even win by seven goals.

2. The Sounders made eight changes at half-time. The Sounders were probably always going to lose this game, but they didn’t help themselves by taking eight of their starters out at half-time with the score 1-0. Would United have scored six goals in the second half against the starters? Maybe, but probably not – 3-1 would be my pick as the most likely result. And I know some will argue that United played several of their reserve players (Mame Biram Diouf, Macheda, whoever that goalkeeper was that played in the second half), but one thing you have to remember is, every player in Manchester United’s team would walk into the starting line-up of an MLS team. Heck, every player in Manchester United’s team would probably get some playing time for Everton, and they’re considered one of the better teams in England.

3. The Sounders have bigger fish to fry. I get the impulse to criticize Sounders management for not trying to win a game against one of the world’s top teams, but Seattle is in the thick of the supporter’s shield (best regular season record) race and starts Champions League play during the week next week, and is in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup. There is just no incentive to risk injury on a team with so much to play for on one exhibition match, no matter who it’s against.

4. The MLS is getting better. No, really. It might seem weird to use such a pasting as an example of improved play in the league, but, at least for 45 minutes, Seattle did compete against one of the best teams in the world. If you look at MLS squads, you could make the argument that every team has at least one guy who, maybe wouldn’t play for a top English team, but would certainly see playing time on a lower-level Premiership team. In Seattle’s case, players like Osvaldo Alonso, Fredy Montero, Alvaro Fernandez and James Riley wouldn’t make United’s bench, but they’d almost certainly make the team at Norwich or QPR or Wigan. And to have a European team come to a match in the U.S. and play in front of 67,000 crazy fans would’ve been unheard of even a few years ago. That’s progress.

A special Only Love Soccer announcement

Baby nudity! Give this site an R rating!!

Hello, soccer friends. Thanks for reading. My wife and I are having a baby, oh, in the next few weeks, so I expect that in the near future, I’m not going to be able to devote as much coverage to the site as I would like to. I will do my best to update it occasionally, but with a baby to take care of, my full-time job and other responsibilities, it’s just unlikely that I can watch the four or five games over the weekend I was trying to earlier in the season. Maybe once all of this happens I can find some way to carve out a little more free time for the site. Wish me luck. And again, thanks for reading.

MLS rankings: Week 18

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

I get the league’s justification for all the exhibition matches against English and Spanish teams – it’s a money maker and they do it every summer. But next to, oh, a major international tournament, it severely disrupts the regular season. And for what? So you can find out that Frederico Macheda would probably be a viable goal scorer in the MLS. Exciting stuff. It’ll be interesting to see how some of the teams pick themselves up after these exhibition matches. The Galaxy beat Columbus after being throttled by Real Madrid. New England was hammered by Manchester United, then lost to Philadelphia. Seattle’s 2nd team gave up six goals in the second half to ManU. Next up: Chicago and Philadelphia. The thing is, of course Manchester United will crush MLS teams. They have to. All it does is highlight the disparity between the money flowing into Manchester, excuse me, Boston or New York or wherever the owners live, and since the major teams in Europe operate without financial restriction, it makes perfect sense that they can stockpile talent. And that’s what makes the current state of European soccer so painfully dull. Nice to see Mame Biram Diouf get a goal for Manchester United, since he probably won’t see a minute for this team in the regular season. But you know what? He’d score double-digit goals in the MLS. Anyway, off my soapbox and on to the rankings.

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

1 – 1. Real Salt Lake did not play. RSL didn’t play, but as noted the last few rankings, have been playing back to almost their best. A visit from struggling San Jose shouldn’t change that. Season: 8-6-3, 22 gf, 12 ga; Up next: San Jose on Saturday

2 – 2. LA Galaxy beat Columbus 1-0 at home. The Galaxy were whipped by Real Madrid – predictably – but recovered for a somewhat uninspiring win over Columbus. And that’s all they need to do, really. Season: 11-9-2, 28 gf, 16 ga; Up next: At Vancouver on July 30

3 – 4. Seattle Sounders won 4-3 at home against Colorado. The big question is, will Seattles 8-match unbeaten streak be adversely affected by the absolute pasting their B team (They were only down 1-0 with the starters in) took against Manchester United? For the sake of their fans, let’s hope not. Season: 10-8-4, 32 gf, 23 ga; Up next: Houston on July 30

4 – 3. FC Dallas won 1-0 at Toronto; drew 0-0 at home with DC United. Dallas had a tougher than expected (maybe) couple of matches against DC United and Toronto, but did what good teams do and got results. Brek Shea continues to have a fantastic year, even if his hair is dumb. Season: 11-5-5, 27 gf, 18 ga. Up next: At New York on Saturday

5 – 5. Philadelphia Union won 3-0 at New England. An impressive road victory over New England will probably be followed by a spanking at the hands of Real Madrid. Nonetheless, Philadelphia have firmly established themselves as the class of the East. Season: 8-7-4, 24 gf, 16 ga; Up next: Colorado on July 29

6 – 8. Colorado Rapids won 4-1 at home against New York; lost 4-3 at Seattle. After improved play lately, the Rapids finally broke out and crushed New York. This will be a team to watch in the push for the Top 3 playoff spots late in the year. Season record: 7-9-6, 29 goals for, 28 goal against; Up next: New England on Saturday

7 – 7. Columbus Crew lost 1-0 at LA Galaxy; drew 0-0 at home with San Jose. The Crew are competitive, but they’re also tied for fourth from last in goals scored. It’s nice that their defense is so tight, but they’re doomed to an unfavourable playoff matchup unless they start putting the ball in the back of the net.  Season: 7-7-6, 21 gf 20 ga; Up next: Portland on Saturday

8 – 6. Red Bull New York lost 4-1 at Colorado; drew 0-0 at Chivas USA. I thought that the Red Bulls couldn’t get any worse than their 11-match stretch where they won once earlier in the year. I was wrong. The first half against Colorado was as bad as I’ve seen any team in the MLS play this year, and that’s including Toronto’s 7-1 loss to Philadelphia. Season: 6-11-5, 35 gf, 28 ga; Up next: FC Dallas on Saturday

9 – 10. Sporting Kansas City drew 1-1 at Houston. KC lucked out a bit in getting a draw at Houston. They face a potential banana peel in hosting Toronto this weekend. It’s a match they should win easily, but Toronto looked better with all the new players in the team, and Kansas City hasn’t shown any killer instinct lately. Season: 5-8-6, 24 gf, 25 ga; Up next: Toronto on Saturday

10 – 9. DC United lost 1-0 at home to New England; drew 0-0 at FC Dallas. After being a fun, high-scoring team the first half of the year, now United can’t score, despite having Dwayne De Rosario in the team. Was trading for him a mistake? Season: 5-8-6, 24 gf, 30 ga; Up next: San Jose on July 30

11 – 11. Chivas USA drew 0-0 at home against New York. Chivas have to be disappointed failing to score goals against the hapless Red Bulls. They’re still on the fringes of playoff qualification. Season: 5-8-7, 24 gf, 23 ga; Up next: Houston on Saturday

12 – 13. San Jose Earthquakes drew 2-2 at home against Vancouver; drew 0-0 at Columbus. After failing to score in ages, the Earthquakes finally came out of their shells against Vancouver. Who was the culprit? Well, Chris Wondolowski, of course. Season: 5-9-6, 24 gf, 23 ga; Up next: At Real Salt Lake on Saturday

13 – 12. Houston Dynamo drew 1-1 at home against Sporting Kansas City. Houston were dead-set on three points against KC and then their players inexplicably went crazy and started committing bad fouls and getting sent off. Poor discipline is to blame for their failure to get three points, and we’ll have to see if that torpedoes their season. Season: 5-9-6, 23 gf, 23 ga; Up next: At Chivas USA on Saturday

14 – 16. Portland Timbers won 1-0 at Chicago. It seems that playing the Fire is a cure-all for struggling teams, and last weekend, the Timbers were the beneficiary. Did they deserve the win? Well, not really. Nonetheless, they’ll take it, and maybe even push on from here, though don’t count on it, unless they can find a remedy for their striking woes. Season: 6-3-9, 22 gf, 31 ga; Up next: At Columbus on Saturday

15 – 14. Chicago Fire lost 1-0 at home against Portland. Alright Fire, I’m not predicting a win for you again this year. You were taking on the team in the worst run of form in the league, at home, and you couldn’t score a single goal. Pitiful. I hope the Fire win the US Open Cup, because it’ll give them something to look at instead of watching the playoffs on TV. Season: 2-12-6, 20 gf, 25 ga; Up next: Philadelphia on Aug. 3

16 – 17. Vancouver Whitecaps drew 2-2 at San Jose. The Caps finally got Eric Hassli back and immediately looked dramatically better. He should be the MLS newcomer of the year. They’re still having trouble winning games, though. Season: 2-9-10, 21 gf, 30 ga; Up next: LA Galaxy on July 30

17 – 18. Toronto FC lost 1-0 at home to FC Dallas. Toronto looked considerably better with all the new signings, though it remains to be seen whether all the pieces can gel before the playoffs are completely out of reach. Season: 3-9-10, 17 gf, 37 ga; Up next: At Sporting Kansas City

18 – 15. New England Revolution won 1-0 at DC United; lost 3-0 at home to Philadelphia. Based on their win at DC, I would move New England up in the rankings, but a dreary home loss to Philadelphia is keeping them in dead last. Season: 4-7-9, 17 gf, 27 ga; Up next: At Colorado on Saturday

Penalties for all

The always excellent NY Times Goal blog has a nice feature on a bunch of weird penalty kicks – especially in light of all the penalty kick madness this past weekend at the women’s World Cup and the Copa America.

Go here to see lots of strange penalty antics.

Backe choses the rest of all-star team and it’s … Tally Hall? Really?

OK, here are the other players chosen by coach Hans Backe to play in the all-star game July 27 against Manchester United. Some of the choices are quizzical, at best, but there is some logic to some of them. Some. Can I say some again?

First off, two teams (FC Dallas and Seattle) are playing in the CONCACAF Champions League on July 28, which is why you don’t see many players from those teams – though why the MLS didn’t put them as part of the inactive roster (which already has four players and will include six more chosen by the players) is a big question.

I want to criticize a couple things, though.

1. Tally Hall at goalkeeper. Maybe Backe sees something I don’t, but I certainly wouldn’t put the mistake-prone Hall in even the top half of MLS goalkeepers, particularly with vastly more deserving guys like RSL’s Nick Rimando (who will probably be a player pick as an inactive all-star), Colorado’s Matt Pickens, Toronto’s Stefan Freis or Columbus’s Will Hesmer available.

2. No Osvaldo Alonso. As noted, Seattle has a Champions League game the next day, but Alonso should’ve been voted to the inactive roster (which I assume the players will fix).

3. Four players from Houston? The Dynamo haven’t been the worst team in the league, but they’ve probably been, oh, the 12th best team. So why do they have four players on the team when, say, Philadelphia or Columbus have 1 and 0, respectively. Not deserving (except for Brad Davis, who is having a great year)

4. MLS favorites. This happens in every league, but the MLS continues to pick players as all-stars based on their name. I’m a huge fan of Omar Cummings, but he certainly doesn’t deserve to play after being injured most of the season – particularly when Eric Hassli is having such a great year. Neither Bobby Convey nor Heath Pearce have played well this season, yet both make the team ahead of players like Jan Gunnar Solli or Tony Beltran. You could say the same about midfield, where neither Kyle Beckerman or Shalrie Joseph have had amazing years yet both got picked.

Regardless, I’d be surprised if this team beat Manchester United.

Here are the players selected: Goalkeeper: Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Faryd Mondragón (Philadelphia Union)

Defenders: Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Bobby Convey (San Jose Earthquakes), Sean Franklin (LA Galaxy), Jámison Olave (Real Salt Lake),Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls).

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Jack Jewsbury (Portland Timbers), Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution), Nick LaBrocca (Chivas USA)

Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Omar Bravo (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Cummings (Colorado Rapids), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Inactive All-Stars (Note that another six inactive All-Stars will be chosen via player voting): Kasey Keller (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Rafa Márquez (New York Red Bulls), Brek Shea (FC Dallas)

Japan defeats U.S. on penalties, wins World Cup

I’m not going to write an extensive match wrap-up since there are so many available elsewhere, but it was a great match and fully deserving of the coverage (and probably the number of viewers) it got. In fact, the quality of the final was a marked contrast against last year’s men’s World Cup final, certainly the dullest one I’ve ever watched.

The U.S. dominated the match in the early going but failed to make Japan pay for slack defending. After going into halftime scoreless, the U.S. took the lead in the second half through Alex Morgan – who was fantastic as a sub, incidentally – and looked to have won the match until U.S. defenders Rachael Buehler and Alex Krieger got into a horrible mess trying to defend a cross, and Aya Miyama poked the ball home to tie. Abby Wambach, predictably, gave the U.S. the lead in extra time with a header in the box after poor defending from Japan, but Homare Sawa (the player of the tournament and Golden Boot winner)flicked home the equalizer late in extra time. In the penalty shootout that ensued, only Wambach scored for the U.S., and Japan defender Kumagai scored the winner.

Despite the loss, the U.S. played very well and could’ve won by 3 or 4 goals. They’ll be disappointed by their finishing – particularly in the penalty shootout. Japan got off to a slow start, but showed great resolve and deserved the win. Somewhat ironically, both Argentina and Brazil (on the men’s side) were knocked out of the Copa America tournament for similar failings in the penalty shootout.

Congrats to Japan and the U.S. for both playing great tournaments – you forced the boys to turn it up a notch and start playing football. (I’m looking at you, Holland)

Garber picks Agudelo, Bravo for all-star game

Though coach Hans Backe will still pick 19 (!) more players for the all-star match against Manchester United, MLS commissioner Don Garber was allowed to pick two players for the team.

And they are: Juan Agudelo and Omar Bravo.

I do like both players. Agudelo has a lot of potential, and Bravo has played fairly well for Kansas City. Is either player deserving of an all-star spot? Probably not. Agudelo has four goals this season – less than Luke Rodgers, who starts ahead of him on the Red Bulls and is surely deserving of a spot, though I doubt they’ll pick too many more strikers for the team. Bravo also has scored four goals, albeit two coming in the season opener. He has been shuttled back and forth a lot between striker and winger.

Clearly both picks satisfy the commissioner’s need to have two of the more high-profile players who would probably not be picked for the team otherwise available to play. I expect Backe will make more sensible choices for the rest of the players.

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