Monthly Archives: April 2012

MLS Weekend Recap: April 30

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer

Montreal 2 Portland 0. Montreal scores two late goals, one through a fairly harsh handball call and the subsequent penalty from Bernardo Corradi, and the other after backup keeper Joe Bednik failed to deal with a Davy Arnaud cross and Sinisa Ubiparipovic scored. Montreal dominated the match, which has prompted me to do a writeup on the Timbers’ struggles, which I’ll post some time this week. Hopefully today. Prediction: 1-1

New York 1 New England 0. Thierry Henry scores his league-leading ninth goal, then goes off injured, and against all odds the Red Bulls keep a clean sheet. Who knew? I didn’t watch this match – sounds like I didn’t miss much, but Red Bulls fans have to be happy that the team’s ongoing defensive miscues came to a halt, however temporarily. Prediction: New York 3-2

Philadelphia 1 San Jose 2. Steven Lenhart scores two goals off headers, one late in injury time, to help San Jose overcome a Gabriel Gomez equalizer in the 83rd minute. The second goal came off a nice bit of juking from Marvin Chavez before crossing – amazing what he can do when he’s not flopping to the ground like he’s been shot. The Union didn’t actually play too badly, which makes you worry about the safety of Piotr Nowak’s job, if they keep losing, since he was suspended for this match. Prediction: San Jose 2-1

Columbus 0 Vancouver 1. A dreadful match is won on Lee Young-Pyo’s free kick, which was either meant or accidental, depending on who you talk to. Columbus dominated possession, but failed to score, which leads me to believe that either the Whitecaps defense is great (it is good, though), or that Vargas is the second coming of Andres MenD’oh!za in the penalty area for the Crew. Prediction: Columbus 2-1

DC United 3 Houston 2. A fairly-barnstorming match where Dwayne DeRosario gets his firsts goal of the season, Maicon “Maybe I’m Not As Worthless As Jeremiah Always Says” Santos scores twice, including the winner, and United win two matches in a row for the first time since 2010. Will Bruin scored twice for Houston, the second one being basically bobbled into the net by DC keeper Joe Willis. Is it time to get Bill Hamid back in the starting lineup? Prediction: DC 2-0

Chicago 1 Seattle 2. Despite the Fire being the better team for most of the match, Seattle takes the lead through an Arne Friedrich own goal (What? MLS awarded an own goal? Heresy!) before Eddie Johnson’s head probably exploded with the realization he had put the ball in the back of the net. Celebrate it, Seattle fans, because it might not happen again in 2012. Chicago pulled one back after a Marco Pappa scored with his corner kick – not intentional. Seattle is a good team, so Chicago fans need not worry too much about this loss, it’s just every other loss or draw they should worry about. Prediction: 2-2

Colorado 4 Chivas USA 0. Finally Chivas back up all the complaining I constantly do about how bad they are with a performance that lives up to expectations. The Rapids got second-half goals from Tony Cascio, Kamani Hill (two) and Jeff Larentowicz, and probably could’ve scored six or seven. My analysis isn’t totally accurate, actually – the teams were fairly even in the first half, but the second half was a nightmare for Chivas. For Colorado, Conor Casey finally got into a game, which has to have Omar Cummings breathing a sigh of relief. Prediction: Colorado 3-1

Real Salt Lake 3 Toronto 2. I actually felt a bit sorry for Toronto after this match, because they were decent and probably deserved a point. TFC only made one horrible glaring defensive mistake to give up a goal, which is a step in the right direction. And sadly, this performance probably gave Aron Winter a couple more weeks as manager, which means they could start the season 0-0-10. Oh, goals were by … *looks at stats* … for RSL, Kyle Beckerman, a Richard Eckersley own goal and Johhny Steele (the winner in injury time). For Toronto, Eric Avila had a great match, scored and hit the post, and Donnell Henry also scored . Prediction: RSL 3-0

LA Galaxy 1 Dallas 1. Pat Noonan (What? He’s still alive?) scores a late goal for the Galaxy to give them a point. Brek Shea scored the first goal on a penalty. A dull match. I don’t think the Galaxy are even in first gear yet, just puttering along in neutral down a slope. Luckily, the MLS’s “Everyone makes the playoffs” policy will probably see them slide in at No. 8 or something. Prediction: 2-2

MLS Weekend Preview: April 28

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer

All times Pacific, as usual.

Montreal (1-2-5) v. Portland (2-1-4). (11 a.m.) The Impact are looking for their second win of the season against a Portland team that ended a four-match losing streak last week by beating first-place Kansas City. Montreal play decent football, but give away too many fouls and are struggling on defense. Portland haven’t played too bad this season, but have given a few bad goals away late in matches. A win in this match would get Portland back in the playoff hunt. Prediction: 1-1

New York (3-1-3) v. New England (2-0-4). (12:30 p.m.) The Red Bulls come into this match after giving up four goals to DC United last week in a horrendous defensive display. They’re still missing Teemu Tainio, Roy Miller, Rafa Marquez, Wilman Conde and Juan Agudelo (who probably wouldn’t be playing anyway, but still) to injury or suspension. Which means that the Connor Lade-Marcus Holgersson-Victor Palsson-Stephen Keel (if he’s fit) defensive nightmare gets another match to show they’re not as horrible as they’ve looked. New England have looked good at times this year, but don’t yet know how to win. I think they’ll struggle to stop New York. Prediction: New York 3-2

Philadelphia (2-1-3) v. San Jose (5-1-1). (4 p.m.) The Union got three points last week against Chivas USA, but did it despite having two players (and coach Piotr Nowak) sent off and not necessarily playing well. San Jose have been the best team in the Western Conference so far. Missing Gabriel Farfan and Keon Daniels, I have a hard time seeing Philadelphia putting together enough in attack to win this match. Prediction: San Jose 2-1

Columbus (2-1-3) v. Vancouver (3-2-2). (4:30 p.m.) The Crew, who haven’t won their last three matches, take on Vancouver, who returned to winning ways by beating Dallas (somewhat fortuitously, I should say). The biggest problem the Crew have had so far this season is their defense. Julius James has yet to play a match, and Carlos Mendes, who would probably be James’ replacement, has also been injured. The Whitecaps still aren’t scoring goals, but they’ve been mostly solid on defense. Prediction: Columbus 2-1

DC United (3-3-2) v. Houston (2-2-1). (4:30 p.m.) United haven’t lost in their last six matches, but still have yet to win back-to-back games. Since 2010. This is actually a pretty good chance for them to do just that. Houston have been playing reasonably well, but are winding up their 7-match away streak to start the season, so will probably be a bit tired. Prediction: DC 2-0

Chicago (2-2-1) v. Seattle (3-1-1). (5:30 p.m.) After a fairly easy stretch of matches to start the season, the Fire get their hardest match of the season so far, taking on the Sounders, who just had a week off. Chicago might have Chris Rolfe playing again, which might help out their struggling attack. The Sounders will probably have Mauro Rosales back, at least for part of the match, which bodes well for them. Prediction: 2-2

Colorado (3-0-4) v. Chivas USA (3-0-4). (6 p.m.) If you went strictly by statistics, you would note that Chivas USA are 3-0-0 on the road so far this season, and are taking a Rapids squad that lost their last home match, to the Galaxy. However, doing so would ignore the fact that Chivas aren’t very good, and can mostly attribute their road success to the fact they are decent defensively and have gotten a bit lucky on the road. Colorado should have Conor Casey back, which has to be a relief for Omar Cummings, who has had to play up front with the likes of Andre Akpan for the last year. Yeesh. Prediction: Colorado 3-1

Real Salt Lake (5-1-3) v. Toronto (0-0-6). (6 p.m.) After two losses and a draw in a 3-game road trip, RSL return home to take on the league’s worst team. Toronto manager Aron Winter keeps talking about how they’re just about to turn it around, but they keep losing. It’s hard to see that changing in this match, even if they play well. I feel like I’ll say this every week until Winter is fired, but I’m amazed he hasn’t been fired yet. Prediction: RSL 3-0

LA Galaxy (3-0-3) v. Dallas (3-2-3). (7:30 p.m.) Back-to-back wins almost has the Galaxy starting to look like the defending champs. They’re still fairly bad defensively, though, and only Robbie Keane seems to be that interested in the attacking end. Dallas have played well lately, but the injuries are starting to pile up. Prediction: 2-2

MLS players who should get a look on U.S. National Team

You stay away!!

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer

The start of a new MLS season is always fun, because a few guys emerge that no one (or very few, anyway) have heard of and become stars in the league. Chris Wondolowski and Brek Shea are two players who weren’t anywhere near the U.S. National Team pool but got there with strong seasons in the MLS. And with Team USA’s World Cup qualifying cycle beginning anew this summer, it’s time to inject some fresh, non-Eddie Johnson or Jonathan Bornstein blood. So what players from this year’s crop of new (or slightly under the radar) should be catching the eye of Jurgen Klinsmann and co.?

Goalkeepers

Tally Hall, Houston. With Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson coming off poor Olympic qualifying performances and not totally solidifying starting jobs this season, Team USA needs another keeper to provide competition for Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando as the backup goalie. After a slightly bumpy start to the season last year, Hall was named an All-Star, and has surely been one of the most commanding American keepers to start this year.
Also keep in mind: Matt Pickens, Colorado; Dan Kennedy, Chivas USA

Defense

Steven Beitashour, San Jose. Beitashour caught the eye after being instilled as the Earthquakes starting right back last season, and his good play has continued into this year. In a national team pool generally devoid of competent attacking full backs, he is a bright prospect to take over for Steve Cherundulo.
Also keep in mind: Chance Myers, Sporting Kansas City

Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City. My first instinct was to pick Omar Gonzales again, just because I can’t understand why he seems to find himself behind Michael Orozco-Fizcal and Edgar Castillo in the USMNT pecking order. But Gonzalez is injured and does have two caps to his name. Besler is anchoring the league’s finest defense, and has provided a level-headed foil to Aurellien Collin, who is a bit of a wild card.
Also keep in mind: A.J. Soares, New England

Midfield

Nick DeLeon, DC United. With the likes of Graham Zusi and Chris Pontius at least called up to camp last year, I can leave those two out of my picks. This year, by far the most exciting prospect in the U.S. National Team pool in the MLS is DeLeon, who has been performing like, well, Dwayne DeRosario. It remains to be seen how his skill on the ball and attacking thrust will translate to the national team, but he would certainly be a better candidate for a call-up than, say, DaMarcus Beasley.
Also keep in mind: Darlington Nagbe, Portland

Forward

Kenny Cooper, New York. I know Cooper already has 10 caps with the U.S., but his name hasn’t been on USMNT radar for quite some time. After a rough season in Portland, he has recaptured his early career form in New York, netting seven times in his first seven matches. And with Klinsmann’s push for a more passing-oriented attack – something that has always been part of Cooper’s game, he could be more of a goal threat than some on the U.S. roster.
Also keep in mind: Will Bruin, Houston

MLS rankings: April 24

1 – 1. Sporting Kansas City (7-0-1 – 21 pts, 12 gf, 3 ga). This week: Lost to Portland 1-0. Despite suffering their first loss of the season, KC stays in top spot. Now they get a week off to stew on the loss. Up next: Montreal on May 5

2 – 3. San Jose Earthquakes (5-1-1 – 16 pts, 13 gf, 5 ga). This week: Beat Real Salt Lake 3-1. The scoreline might have flattered San Jose a bit, but nonetheless, they have come through two big tests with good performances. Up next: At Philadelphia on Saturday

3 – 4. Seattle Sounders (3-1-1 – 10 pts, 6 gf, 2 ga). This week: Didn’t play. The Sounders haven’t been scoring much, but they are (along with Kansas City) probably the top defensive team in the league. Up next: At Chicago on Saturday

4 – 2. Real Salt Lake (5-0-3 – 15 pts, 12 gf, 8 ga). This week: Lost 3-1 to San Jose. Once again RSL played fairly even with, but couldn’t beat, one of their playoff challengers. But, they’re road games, at least. Up next: At FC Dallas on Wednesday

5 – 9. DC United (3-3-2 – 12 pts, 12 gf, 8 ga). This week: Beat New York 4-1. This week is the biggest test for DC in showing they are a playoff team: Winning two matches in a row for the first time since 2010. Can they do it against a tired Houston squad? Up next: Houston on Saturday

6 – 6. Houston Dynamo (2-2-1 – 8 pts, 5 gf, 5 ga). This week: Drew 2-2 with Columbus. Houston have coped reasonably well with their 7-match road trip – and they probably deserved a win against Columbus. Up next: At DC United on Saturday

7 – 10. Vancouver Whitecaps (3-2-2 – 11 pts, 6 gf, 6 ga). This week: Beat Dallas 1-0. The Whitecaps should just keep Hassli on the bench, play LeToux at forward and let Camilo cut from the wings. It works better. Up next: At Colombus on Saturday

8 – 7. FC Dallas (3-1-3 – 10 pts, 8 gf, 10 ga). This week: Lost 1-0 at Vancouver. Dallas might statistically be a playoff team, but unless they find someone who can score goals without Blas Perez setting them up or scoring them, they’re going to struggle to make it. Up next: Real Salt Lake on Sunday

9 – 11. Chicago Fire (2-2-1 – 8 pts, 6 gf, 6 ga). This week: Beat Toronto 3-2. Sure, every goal the Fire scored against Toronto was thanks to poor defending. You still have to capitalize on those mistakes, amiright? Up next: Seattle on Saturday

10 – 12. LA Galaxy (3-0-3 – 9 pts, 10 gf, 10 ga). This week: Beat Colorado 2-1. The Galaxy have won their last two, but this weekend’s match against Dallas is probably a good marker for what seems to be two very equal teams. Up next: FC Dallas on Saturday

11 – 5. New York Red Bulls (3-1-3 – 10 pts, 17 gf, 14 ga) This week: Lost to DC United 4-1. Only Toronto is a more chaotic, awful defending team than New York. But at least the Red Bulls can score goals. Up next: New England on Saturday

12 – 8. Colorado Rapids (3-0-4 – 9 pts, 8 gf, 10 ga). This week: Lost 2-1 to LA Galaxy. The Rapids almost got a Get Out of Jail Free card against LA with the penalty call that wasn’t. But drawing that match wouldn’t paper over the lack of attacking impetus the team has so far. Up next: Chivas USA on Saturday

13 – 14. Columbus Crew (2-1-3 – 7 pts, 6 gf, 9 ga). This week: Drew 2-2 with Houston. The Crew grabbed a point at home against Houston, but their key players have been worryingly unproductive so far. Up next: Vancouver on Saturday

14 – 16. Portland Timbers (2-1-4 – 7 pts, 9 gf, 11 ga). This week: Beat Kansas City 1-0. It wasn’t pretty, but the Timbers four-match slide is over, and against the league’s best team to boot. Now they need to show it wasn’t a fluke by beating Montreal. Up next: At Montreal on Saturday

15 – 15. New England Revolution (2-0-4 – 6 pts, 5 gf, 8 ga). This week: Didn’t play. Players like Lee Nguyen, Saer Sene, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Moreno and Kelyn Rowe must be licking their lips at the opportunity to take on the catastrophic Red Bulls defense. New England’s defense? Well, not so much. Up next: At New York on Saturday

16 – 17. Philadelphia Union (2-1-3 – 7 pts, 4 gf, 6 ga). This week: Beat Chivas USA 1-0. Red cards to Keon Daniels and one of the Farfan brothers is not the way Union supporters hoped their team would gear up for San Jose’s visit. It was nice to see Freddy Adu score, though. Up next: San Jose on Saturday

17 – 13. Chivas USA (3-0-4 – 9 pts, 4 gf, 5 ga). This week: Lost 1-0 to Philadelphia. At some point Chivas’s weird “See, we’re a playoff team, no one can beat us on the road” charade has to end – particularly after losing to a team that was down to 9 men. What better place than Denver? Up next: At Colorado on Saturday

18-18. Montreal Impact (1-2-5 – 5 pts, 7 gf, 15 ga). This week: Didn’t play. After some half-decent matches lately, Portland, who aren’t completely out of the woods with their struggles yet, represents a half-decent chance for Montreal to get a home point or win. Up next: Portland on Saturday

19 – 19. Toronto FC (0-0-6 – 0 pts, 4 gf, 13 ga). This week: Lost 3-2 to Chicago. On the bright side for TFC, no one expects them to beat RSL, so they won’t have to worry about the weight of expectations hanging over them. On the not-so-bright side, everything else. Up next: At Real Salt Lake on Saturday

MLS Weekend Preview: April 21-22

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer

All times Pacific, as usual.

Saturday

Toronto (0-0-5) v. Chicago (1-2-1). (12:30 p.m.) With apologies to TFC and Fire fans, this is another scintillating game of the week for NBC. At this rate, they’re just going to cancel their contract with the MLS. At least the Philly-Columbus match turned out to be a decent one. Or at least I hope so – I didn’t watch it. What was I talking about here? Oh yeah, Toronto hasn’t won yet; The Fire are still in their jammies, waiting for the season to start. Prediction: 3-3

Columbus (2-0-3) v. Houston (2-1-1). (4:30 p.m.) Columbus aren’t as bad as their record (or their ranking, for that matter) suggests, but they’re always one (or sometimes, two or three) mistakes from Eric Gehrig from a loss. It’s hard to judge Houston, who are still on their 7-match road trip and had two weeks off before last weekend’s 1-1 draw in a match shortened because of lightning. Prediction: 1-1

Colorado (3-0-3) v. LA Galaxy (2-0-4). (6 p.m.) Kudos to MLSsoccer.com for resisting the urge to bump the Galaxy up to 4th in their rankings just because they labored to their second win of the year. Colorado have been weird this year – they’re playing nice football, but haven’t created much at all in the way of goal-scoring opportunities, particularly on the road. This match should be a good way to evaluate the comparative strength of both teams. Until LA comes up with a “we’re the defending champs, try and stop us” performance, I’m not picking them to win any more. Unless they’re playing Toronto. Prediction: Colorado 2-1

Vancouver (2-2-2) v. Dallas (3-1-2). (7 p.m.) The suddenly leaky Whitecaps defense takes on Dallas, who have played well their last two matches, but had to score late in both to get three points. The Caps might benefit from resting Eric Hassli, who has yet to score and blew an easy chance against Kansas City on Wednesday. Prediction: Vancouver 2-1

San Jose (4-1-1) v. Real Salt Lake (5-0-2). (7:30 p.m.) RSL’s tour of the MLS’s best continues with a trip to San Jose to take on the Quakes, who have been improving every week. San Jose have been playing nice football and creating a lot of chances, which always bodes well when Chris Wondolowski is lurking in the penalty area. You have to wonder when they’re going to slip up, though. Prediction: 1-1

Portland (1-1-4) v. Kansas City (7-0-0). (7:30 p.m.) I actually think the Timbers, who have lost four in a row, have a chance in this match. They’re taking on the league leaders, who have yet to drop a point, but KC aren’t going to go 34-0 (or however many matches MLS teams are playing this year), AND they played in midweek. So anything can happen. Kansas City are lethal on special teams and rarely allow the opposing side any shots at goal, which is a good way to win matches in this league (or any other league). Prediction: 1-1

Chivas USA (3-0-3) v. Philadelphia (1-1-3). (7:30 p.m.) Another barnburner, this, between a team that can’t win at home (Chivas) and a team that has yet to win on the road (Philly). At least of the two teams, the Union have scored a goal away – Chivas hasn’t even scored at home yet. I’ll pass. Prediction: 0-0

Sunday

DC United (2-3-2) v. New York (3-1-2). (3 p.m.) Despite picking up four points the last two matches, United didn’t play particularly well in either, which was especially disappointing against Montreal. New York is missing Rafa Marquez through suspension, but far more harmful for the team will be the absence of Wilman Conde and Teemu Tainio, both of whom are injured. It’s hard to count the Red Bulls out the way they’ve been scoring goals, but they might be missing too many key pieces to keep DC from scoring. Prediction: 2-2

MLS rankings: April 20

New York's favorite son will miss three matches after more questionable decision-making.

1 – 1. Sporting Kansas City (7-0-0 – 21 pts, 12 gf, 2 ga). This week: Beat Vancouver 3-1; Beat Real Salt Lake 1-0. KC looked uncharacteristically shaky once Vancouver scored in their 3-1 win Sunday, but still held on. Aurelien Collin might be the league’s most dangerous player on set plays. Up next: At Portland on Saturday

2 – 2. Real Salt Lake (5-0-2 – 15 pts, 11 gf, 5 ga). This week: Lost 1-0 to Sporting Kansas City. Despite the loss to KC, RSL showed enough to keep them as a favorite for the MLS Cup. Next up: A trip to the surprise package of the season so far, San Jose. Up next: At San Jose on Saturday

3 – 3. San Jose Earthquakes (4-1-1 – 13 pts, 10 gf, 4 ga). This week: Drew 2-2 with New York. After starting out the season as a long-ball team striking on the counter, the Quakes’ performance against New York was the first to establish that they can actually play some nice football. Up next: Real Salt Lake on Saturday

4 – 4. Seattle Sounders (3-1-1 – 10 pts, 6 gf, 2 ga). This week: Beat Colorado 1-0. After beating Colorado, the Sounders get a week off to hopefully get Mauro Rosales and Steve Zakuani closer to coming back. Up next: At Chicago on April 28

5 – 5. New York Red Bulls (3-1-2 – 10 pts, 16 gf, 10 ga) This week: Drew 2-2 with San Jose. The Red Bulls looked strong on the attack against San Jose, but were fairly well dominated in the second half, and will be without Rafa Marquez, who was suspended for three matches. Up next: At DC United on Sunday

6 – 6. Houston Dynamo (2-1-1 – 7 pts, 3 gf, 3 ga). This week: Drew 1-1 with Chicago. The Dynamo’s seven-match road streak continues with a trip to struggling Columbus, but at least Houston is more than half way through. Up next: At Columbus  on Saturday

7 – 10. FC Dallas (3-1-2 – 10 pts, 8 gf, 9 ga). This week: Beat Montreal 2-1. Dallas has improved dramatically the last couple weeks, though a trip to Vancouver could be a challenge. Up next: At Vancouver on Saturday

8 – 8. Colorado Rapids (3-0-3 – 9 pts, 7 gf, 8 ga). This week: Lost 1-0 to Seattle. The Rapids have been playing nice football, but not creating chances. They must test LA’s defense in this match. Up next: LA Galaxy on Saturday

9 – 12. DC United (2-3-2 – 9 pts, 8 gf, 7 ga). This week: Drew 1-1 with Montreal; Beat New England 2-1. Up next: New York on Sunday

10 – 7. Vancouver Whitecaps (2-2-2 – 8 pts, 5 gf, 6 ga). This week: Lost 3-1 to Kansas City. After not allowing a single goal in their first match, the Whitecaps have conceded six in their last two. Up next: Dallas on Saturday

11 – 9. Chicago Fire (1-2-1 – 5 pts, 3 gf, 4 ga). This week: Drew 1-1 with Houston. You would think after last season’s awful start that the Fire had learned their lesson, but their intensity so far this season suggests that they haven’t. Up next: At Toronto on Saturday

12 – 11. LA Galaxy (2-0-3 – 6 pts, 8 gf, 9 ga). This week: Beat Portland 3-1. Despite a reasonably impressive scoreline, the Galaxy were somewhat lucky to grab three points against Portland. Colorado is a better team. Up next: At Colorado on Saturday

13 – 15. Chivas USA (3-0-3 – 9 pts, 4 gf, 4 ga). This week: Beat Toronto 1-0. Wow, Chivas really have three wins? Who knew? This team needs to start winning some matches at home. Up next: Philadelphia on Saturday

14 – 13. Columbus Crew (2-0-3 – 6 pts, 4 gf, 7 ga). This week: Lost 1-0 to Philadelphia. The Crew have been a disaster the last two weeks defensively. Will Erig Gehrig Gehrig their chances again this week? Up next: Houston on Saturday

15 – 14. New England Revolution (2-0-4 – 6 pts, 5 gf, 8 ga). This week: Lost 2-1 to DC United. The Revs are a work in progress, but at least it should be an interesting one. Up next: At New York on April 28

16 – 16. Portland Timbers (1-1-4 – 4 pts, 8 gf, 11 ga). This week: Lost 3-1 to LA Galaxy. Despite the rough stretch lately, the Timbers are far from the worst team in the league. Can they turn things around against the league leaders? Umm…not so sure. Up next: Kansas City on Saturday

17 – 18. Philadelphia Union (1-1-3 – 4 pts, 3 gf, 6 ga). This week: Beat Columbus 1-0. The Union are OK defensively, but arguably the league’s worst attacking team. Will the addition of new signing Kai Herdling help? Up next: At Chivas USA on Saturday

18-17. Montreal Impact (1-2-5 – 5 pts, 7 gf, 15 ga). This week: Drew 1-1 with DC United; Lost 2-1 to Dallas. The Impact have played well enough the last two matches to get six points, but unfortunately just grabbed one. Oh, expansion teams. Up next: Portland on April 28

19 – 19. Toronto FC (0-0-5 – 0 pts, 2 gf, 10 ga). This week: Lost 1-0 to Chivas USA. Operation Save Aron Winters Job continues with a home match against the Fire. What defensive player’s error will give Chicago three points in this match? Up next: Chicago on Saturday

What if Real Madrid and Barcelona didn’t exist?

I'm not saying La Liga is unequal, but fifth-place Levante's entire organization is worth less than what Real Madrid paid for Cristiano Ronaldo

 

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer

Though I do appreciate the football that Barcelona (and to a lesser extent, Real Madrid) play, I generally find La Liga incredibly boring – at this point in the season, there is a 29-point gap between second place and third place, and a team other than the big two has finished first or second only once since 2004. The last time another team won the league (Valencia) was in the 2003-04 season. This year will be the third consecutive season with at least a 20-point gap between them and the third-placed team, and likely one of the two teams will also win the Champions League. This is probably due to the fact that they take half of the TV revenue for La Liga between them, while the other 18 teams split the difference.

With this in mind, and because I’m weirdly interested in this kind of stuff, I figured out the La Liga table if Barcelona and Real Madrid didn’t exist at all (though obviously ignoring the question of where players like Xavi, Iker Casillas, et al…would play if the two teams weren’t there). And the result? Well, actually, the league wouldn’t be markedly different – but it would certainly be more competitive. I’m not going to bore you with a rundown of each team’s record against other clubs and so on, but Valencia would finish first, and Malaga (currently fourth) would finish second. The biggest benefactors of the exclusion of the two heavyweights are Atletico Madrid (who moves up to third with a +16 goal differential) and Osasuna (mostly due to their 8-0 loss to Barcelona earlier in the year). Interestingly, the team that suffers the most is Villareal, who drop into the relegation zone thanks to two draws at home against Barcelona and Real Madrid (though they did get spanked in their away matches).

So what does this tell us? Well, maybe the power base of Spanish football isn’t dramatically altered among the other 18 teams, but La Liga would be a vastly more interesting league if these two teams, say, shared an equal amount of revenue with the others. Next up: How about the Premier League without the Big 4 and Manchester City? DUN-DUN-DUN!

MLS Weekend Roundup: April 14-15

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer

Saturday

Philadelphia 1 Columbus 0. A Gabriel Gomez Panenka penalty is enough for the Union to notch their first win of the season. Probably not what the suits at NBC had in mind for a game of the week when they signed their deal with MLS. “Get ready America, because Lionard Pajoy and Eric Gehrig are lighting up your TVs! Move over Pujols, there is a midfielder named Bernardo Anor taking over where you left off!” And so on. Columbus were probably the better team but couldn’t score. The Gomez penalty came about because of another Gehrig “Oops!” moment with a handball in the box. Prediction: 0-0

Seattle 1 Colorado 0. A Zach Scott header gives the Sounders the win against Colorado. The biggest storyline of the match was Brian Mullan returning to the place where he practically chopped off Seattle winger Steve Zakuani’s leg last year. Zakuani is still injured. Mullan had a goal ruled off for offsides. Not a super-exciting match, but Fredy Montero showed signs of waking from his traditional six-match slumber to start the season. Prediction: Seattle 2-1

New England 1 DC United 2. I am actually grudgingly getting to the point where I can say the Revs aren’t so bad, and long-time readers of this blog should know how hard that is for me. New England was actually a bit of unlucky to lose this, despite dictating play for most of the match. Jose Moreno grabbed an early goal for New England before Maicon “See, I’m not totally useless” Santos tied it, then substitute Chris Pontius won it with a very nice strike late on. The Revs has a couple chances to tie and/or win it, but poor decision-making cost them in the end. Nonetheless, both of these teams could be playoff teams, though I doubt it. Prediction: 2-2

Toronto 0 Chivas USA 1. The big question now is, “How patient is Toronto management?” I thought after a fifth-straight loss to start the season, which now gives Aron Winter six wins in 39 matches, could end up with him losing his job. Clearly this team needs a change. A big one. As for Chivas, they’re still undefeated on the road, but still very poor in attack. But if they can keep picking up points on the counter, they might be able to stay in the playoff race. Oswaldo Minda got the goal off a header in another lesson in poor defending from TFC. Prediction: Toronto 2-1

New York 2 San Jose 2. This was actually the first match where I’ve been legitimately impressed by San Jose, who rallied to tie the match and probably could’ve – and should’ve won it in the end. New York took the lead through a goal from Kenny Cooper (tied for a league-leading 7) before Rafael Baca equalized. New York retook the lead through Dax McCarty, before Chris Wondolowski scored his seventh. Then San Jose dominated the second half but failed to find the breakthrough. Thierry Henry has seven goals and five assists for New York after six matches. He’s that good. Even though he’s annoying. Prediction: New York 2-1

Kansas City 1 Real Salt Lake 0. Sporting KC stays undefeated thanks to an Aurelien Collin goal (and shocking marking from Alvaro “Is it May yet?” Saborio. Impressive performance from KC, who should’ve had a second goal (from CJ Sapong), but it was incorrectly marked off for a foul. For the record, Sporting’s record of 335 minutes without allowing a shot on target ended in injury time thanks to a Nat Borchers header. Despite the loss, RSL still looks like the second-best team in the MLS. Prediction: Kansas City 1-0

FC Dallas 2 Montreal 1. For the second straight match, Dallas rallies to take three points at the death. Montreal took the lead against the run of play thanks to a Bernardo Corradi penalty (which he dedicated to Udinse player Piermario Morosini, who died Saturday after suffering a heart attack on the field). Dallas rallied late thanks to a header from Blas Perez and then Brek Shea’s winning strike. Nice performance from Dallas, and Shea is starting to return to form by the looks of it. Their Shea/Perez/Fabian Castillo attacking trio is a good one.  Prediction: Dallas 3-1

LA Galaxy 3 Portland 1. I actually feel sorry for the Timbers, who took the lead through Kris Boyd’s goal, had another Boyd goal incorrectly chalked off for offsides, then crumbled after conceding a goal to Landon Donovan late in the first half. Juninho and David Beckham scored after the 83rd minute. The Galaxy won by having better players – their performance wasn’t great again, and their defense is woeful. At their current form, they won’t possibly beat the likes of RSL, San Jose or KC. As for Portland, Jack Jewsbury and Diego Chara have been miserable this season – a big reason why they’re struggling. Prediction: Galaxy 2-0

Sunday

Chicago 1 Houston 1. Goals from Will Bruin and Logan Pause (deflecting in a Pavel Pardo free kick) give Chicago and Houston a share of the points in a match called early due to lightning, something that apparently angered ex-German international and new Fire signing Arnie Friedrich. Overall it was a pretty even match, though the Fire will be disappointed to once again not create much in front of their home crown. Where is Sebastian Grazzini this season? What happened to new signing Federico Puppo? And one more note to the MLS scorekeepers: Don’t give Pavel Pardo credit for an assist because his free kick was deflected in. Why not give the goalie an assist for not catching it?  Prediction: 1-1

EPL: Who’s going to get relegated?

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Djibril Cisse ponders an ill-fated trip to the barber.

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer

The last month or so of the season in Europe makes for exciting watching, with a handful of teams competing for the big prize. The Championship? Nope, I’m talking about avoiding relegation. Most of the big leagues in Europe are monopolized by a few teams (Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, yawn), so I’m going to focus on the real race: Who avoids getting relegated to the second division of English football. Here are the candidates:

15. Aston Villa (7-14-12, 35 points; 35 goals for, 48 against).
Still to play: Sunderland, Bolton, @West Brom, Tottenham Hotspur, @Norwich
Why they’re staying up: Villa are easily the biggest club of the six in trouble, having finished 6th as recently as 2010 (and four times in the last six years), being League Cup semifinalists in 2010 and qualifying for Europe three consecutive times in the last five years. With only the home match against Spurs one that you’d call a likely defeat, they should be able to pick up some points their final five matches. They have a 6-point cushion, and none of the other teams have been too good about picking up six points in four matches, hence their place in the relegation fight.
Why they’re going down: Manager Alex McLeish is an expert at getting teams relegated (See Birmingham in 2009, 2011). With Darren Bent out for the season, who is going to score goals? They’ve only won once in the last four months at home, rendering their three home matches moot. In the league, only Wigan and Stoke have scored less. This is one of the youngest squads in the league.
Our prediction: Sunderland (Draw), Bolton (Win), @West Brom (Draw), Tottenham Hotspur (Loss), @Norwich (Loss)

16. Queens Park Rangers (8-7-19, 31 points; 38 gf, 57 ga).
Still to play: Tottenham Hotspur, @Chelsea, Stoke City, @Manchester City
Why they’re staying up: Their current win, lose, win, lose form would surely be enough for them to finish out of the Bottom 3. Their squad features experienced players like Luke Young, Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Djibril Cisse and Bobby Zamora, surely enough for a team to stay up. Cisse is probably the best striker in the Bottom 6.
Why they’re going down: Players like Luke Young, Joey Barton and Bobby Zamora (not to mention Tommy Smith, Heidar Helguson, Rob Hulse, DJ Campbell, Anton Ferdinand and Dany Gabbidon) are also quite experienced at getting relegated. They still play three teams who will finish in European places, and Stoke played in the Europe League this year. Not easy.
Our prediction: Tottenham Hotspur (Loss), @Chelsea (Loss), Stoke City (Win), @Manchester City (Loss)

17. Wigan (7-10-16, 31 points; 31 gf, 57 ga).
Still to play: @Arsenal, @Fulham, Newcastle, @Blackburn Rovers, Wolverhampton Wanderers
Why they’re staying up: Wigan are practically the Manchester United of the relegation battle, narrowly avoiding dropping to the Championship four out of the last five seasons before pulling it out. After Villa, they are the best defensive team of the Bottom 6. With 10 points from their last five matches, they are certainly the hottest team of the Bottom 6.
Why they’re going down: They have to get relegated at some point, right? Their forward line of Connor Sammon, Franco DiSanto, Callum McManaman and Hugo Rodallega has combined for 6 goals in 72 matches, so it’s no surprise they’re the lowest-scoring team of the Bottom 6. They end the season with back-to-back matches against Blackburn and Wolves, making them the only team that has to play two “relegation six-pointers.”
Our prediction: @Arsenal (Loss), @Fulham (Draw), Newcastle (Loss), @Blackburn Rovers (Loss), Wolverhampton Wanderers (Win)

18. Bolton Wanderers (9-2-21, 29 points; 36 gf, 65 ga).
Still to play: Swansea, @Aston Villa, @Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, West Brom, @Stoke City
Why they’re staying up: With the exception of injury-ravaged Villa, Bolton probably have the best squad of any of the teams in the relegation fight. They also have the most matches remaining of any team. As with Villa, only the home match against Tottenham is one that could be considered a sure-fire loss. Arsenal loanee Ryo Myaichi could probably win matches all on his own for Bolton.
Why they’re going down: Yes, they have one of the best squads, but three of their best players, Stu Holden, Fabrice Muamba and Lee Chung-Yong, are out for the season. Relying on players like Kevin Davies and Tuncay Sanli is great for leadership (combined age: 68), but not so much for scoring (combined goals: 3). Their current midfield four of Chris Eagles, Martin Petrov, Darren Pratley and Nigel Reo-Coker strikes fear into the hearts of no one. Ten different players have played at least one match in defense for this team.
Our prediction: Swansea (Draw), @Aston Villa (Loss), @Sunderland (Loss), Tottenham Hotspur (Loss), West Brom (Draw), @Stoke City (Loss)

19. Blackburn Rovers (7-7-20, 28 points; 45 gf, 73 ga).
Still to play: Norwich, @Tottenham Hotspur, Wigan, @Chelsea
Why they’re staying up: Rovers are the top-scoring of the six teams. Paul Robinson is an experienced goalkeeper. Junior Hoilett is one of the most exciting young players in the league. Yakubu has 16 goals – to stay up, you need a scorer. With a home match against Wigan, to an extent you can say they’re in control of their fate.
Why they’re going down: Blackburn have lost five in a row, never a good way to warm up to the home stretch. They’re also the worst defensive team in the league. They close the season at Chelsea, who will probably need to win to have hopes of finishing in the Top 4.
Our prediction: Norwich (Draw), @Tottenham Hotspur (Loss), Wigan (Win), @Chelsea (Loss)

20. Wolverhampton Wanderers (5-8-21, 23 points; 34 gf, 73 ga).
Still to play: Manchester City, @Swansea, Everton, @Wigan
Why they’re staying up: Because it ain’t over ’til it’s over.
Why they’re going down: Eight points clear of safety, Wolves could potentially win their last four and still get relegated. And they’re not going to beat Manchester City next week. Or Everton in three weeks.
Our prediction: Manchester City (Loss), @Swansea (Loss), Everton (Draw), @Wigan (Loss)

Final OLS table
15. Aston Villa – 8-16-14, 40 points
16. Wigan – 8-11-19, 35 points
17. QPR – 9-7-22, 34 points
18. Blackburn – 8-8-22, 32 points
19. Bolton – 9-4-25, 31 points
20. Wolverhampton – 5-9-24, 24 points

MLS Weekend Preview: April 14-15

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer

This week’s edition of Weekend Preview will be short, since I’m out of town and didn’t bring my computer. All times Pacific.

Saturday

Philadelphia (0-1-3) v. Columbus (2-0-2). (12:30 p.m.) The Union are especially bad, but home advantage should be enough for them to get a point against a Columbus squad that is still reeling from the beating New York gave them last week. Prediction: 0-0

Seattle (2-1-1) v. Colorado (3-0-2). (1 p.m.) The great Fredy Montero Wake-Up Watch continues this week for Seattle. He still hasn’t scored. Colorado are lousy on defense. Prediction: Seattle 2-1

New England (2-0-3) v. DC United (1-2-2). (1 p.m.) New England’s bid to stop being a team I constantly make fun of ended with a fairly comprehensive (for a 1-0 loss) defeat to Dallas. United aren’t great, so this should be a back and forth match. Prediction: 2-2

Toronto (0-0-4) v. Chivas USA (2-0-3). (1:30 p.m.) Only four matches into the season, Toronto is facing a must-win, and Aron Winter has to be especially concerned about having to go job hunting if they can’t pull out a victory against a team as bad as Chivas. Prediction: Toronto 2-1

New York (3-0-2) v. San Jose (4-0-1). (4 p.m.) The big question with each four-goal win for New York is whether or not Thierry Henry can stop being petulant and complainey if his team keeps winning. I’m guessing no. Prediction: New York 2-1

Kansas City (5-0-0) v. Real Salt Lake (5-0-1). (5:30 p.m.) Matches against top teams always have potential for being bore-fests. Hopefully this one will be different. Prediction: Kansas City 1-0

FC Dallas (2-1-2) v. Montreal (1-1-4). (5:30 p.m.) Montreal got their first win of the season last week – against Toronto – but will have a hard time matching their performance in Dallas, even if the Burn have injury issues. Prediction: Dallas 3-1

LA Galaxy (1-0-3) v. Portland (1-1-3). (7:30 p.m.) If the Galaxy fail to win this match, I’m officially not picking them to win matches based upon their lineup, but rather, based on their current form, which means they’ll always lose. Prediction: Galaxy 2-0

Sunday

Chicago (1-1-1) v. Houston (2-0-1). (4 p.m.) I don’t think Chicago will have an ignominious start to this season again, but they need to establish their playoff bonafides by beating an Eastern Conference challenger like Houston. Prediction: 1-1

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