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MLS Power Rankings: March 25

1 (4) Montreal (4-0-0, 9 points). Beat New York 1-0; Beat Toronto 2-1. Montreal No. 1, really? Yeah, I know, but they’re the only team that has performed in every match so far this season.

2 (16) Dallas (3-1-0, 9 points). Beat Real Salt Lake 2-0; Beat Houston 3-2. Until the win over RSL, Dallas hadn’t been exactly convincing, but as the second 3-win team in the league, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

3 (1) Los Angeles (2-0-1, 7 points). Beat Colorado 1-0; Drew 1-1 with Chivas USA. Two sluggish performances kept the Galaxy undefeated, but just barely. They need to put teams away, though.

4 (2) Houston (2-1-0, 6 points). Beat Vancouver 2-1; Lost 3-2 to Dallas. A nice comeback against Vancouver kept the Dynamo’s long home undefeated streak going and also ended a bad stretch of results.

5 (15) Chivas USA (2-1-1, 7 points). Beat Chicago 4-1; Drew 1-1 with Los Angeles. A crushing win at Chicago hopefully will be enough to get by far the lowest-attended team in the league to start drawing a crowd.

6 (3) Vancouver (2-1-0, 6 points). Lost 2-1 to Houston. For about an hour, the Caps were the best team against Houston. Then Darren Mattocks failed to score on a break away and the Dynamo scored twice. Still, the Caps are pretty decent.

7 (11) San Jose (2-1-1, 7 points). Beat Seattle 1-0; Drew 1-1 with Columbus. Like Dallas, San Jose haven’t been exactly convincing so far, but a good win against a quality team should be enough.

8 (8) Columbus (2-1-1, 7 points). Beat DC United 1-0; Drew 1-1 with San Jose. The Crew’s win at DC might have been mostly down to good goalkeeping and some luck, but they have to feel like a solid playoff team.

9 (12) Philadelphia (2-1-0, 6 points). Didn’t play; Beat New England 1-0. The Union have only shown glimmers of their potential this season but have been eking out results against so-so teams while their new players try to gel.

10 (6) Kansas City (1-1-2, 5 points). Drew 0-0 with New England; Drew 0-0 with Chicago. Two matches, two excruciating goalless draws. KC were the more dominant in both matches, but aren’t creating – or scoring – chances.

11 (5) Real Salt Lake (1-2-1, 4 points). Lost to Dallas 2-0; Drew 1-1 with Colorado. We’ll probably give RSL a pass this week with so many internationals not playing, but they haven’t looked like the same team so far this season.

12 (7) DC United (1-2-1, 4 points). Lost 1-0 to Columbus; Drew 0-0 with New York. Good defense, virtually no attack whatsoever. Not sure what’s wrong in DC, but they need to get it right before they’re far back of the playoff pack.

13 (9) New England (1-1-1, 4 points). Drew 0-0 with Kansas City; Lost 1-0 to Philadelphia. No shock that the Revs didn’t score against the league’s best defense and minus Jerry Bengtson and Saer Sene. Still waiting for Lee Nguyen and Juan Toja to get on the same page, though.

14 (14)  Toronto (1-2-0, 3 points). Didn’t play; Lost 2-1 to Montreal. I’m enjoying Toronto, who probably have the worst squad – on paper at least – in the league, but seem hungry. The two signings from England are looking good as well.

15 (18) Portland (0-1-2, 2 points). Didn’t play; Drew 1-1 with Seattle. Well, Portland looked better against Seattle, though they gave up the first goal for the third straight match. Now if they can equate dangerous play with goals.

16 (10) Seattle (0-2-1, 1 point). Lost to San Jose 1-0; Drew 1-1 with Portland. It’s great that the Sounders advanced to the Champions League semifinals, but are they doing it at the expense of their league position?

17 (13) New York (0-2-2, 2 points). Lost 1-0 to Montreal; Drew 0-0 with DC United. Another scoreless match, though at least in this case it was because Thierry Henry refuses to play on turf was injured. New York have been desperately poor, though.

18 (17) Colorado (0-3-1, 1 point). Lost 1-0 to Los Angeles; Drew 1-1 with Real Salt Lake. Two decent performances (three if you count the loss to Dallas) have only resulted in one point for the Rapids, who, predictably, are still missing Martin Rivero and Edson Buddle.

19 (19) Chicago (0-3-1, 1 point). Lost 4-1 to Chivas USA; Drew 0-0 with Kansas City. On the bright side, it can’t get any worse for Chicago. Can it?

Wait, you signed who?

Dan Gargan exhibits his "Stop, Drop and Roll" defensive move.

Dan Gargan exhibits his “Stop, Drop and Roll” defensive move.

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

As someone who is more or less a neutral when it comes to MLS teams – I vowed to support whatever team is closest to wherever my job is located after graduation, I’m always amused by MLS offseason transactions. Sure, there are always a bunch of Colombians signed, and the odd designated player no one has heard of who is doomed to play 12 matches and then sign with some mid-level team in Paraguay. But the thing I am always struck by is how many stunningly mediocre MLS vets continue to get signed by new teams – probably at or near their already exorbitant wages. Here are a few examples:

John Thorrington (MF, DC United). Previously played for: Chicago Fire, Vancouver Whitecaps. When Thorrington was younger, he was a serviceable winger, but now he’s 33. Last year, Thorrington made $170,000, which is more than All-MLS defender Young-Pyo Lee or up-and-coming midfielder Gershon Koffie made for the Caps – heck, it was almost four times the amount San Jose paid Steven Beitashour, one of the best players in the league. For this salary, Thorrington contributed one assist in 19 games – which was an improvement over the previous year. In the last 7 years, he’s made 89 appearances total. He probably didn’t sign with DC for $170,000, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the figure was still over $100,000.

Maicon Santos (F, Chicago). Previously played for: Chivas USA, Toronto, FC Dallas, DC United. I get the attraction with Santos – he’s big, he’s Brazilian, he occasionally scores goals in bunches. Unfortunately, as his previous four MLS employers have found, when he’s not scoring goals – and let’s face it, 21 in 88 matches does not count as prolific – he does little else. Don’t worry, Fire fans, based on his past history, it’s doubtful he’ll be with the team by the time the playoffs roll around. I’m going to guess and say he’ll be with Columbus. Here’s a video of Maicon Santos in action.

Eric Brunner (D, Houston). Previously played for: New York, Columbus, Portland. At one point Brunner was seen as a rising star in U.S. soccer ranks, but two seasons in Portland exposed him as a lightweight (despite his height) central defender who doesn’t move particularly well and struggles at set pieces. On the bright side, it’s hard to see him displacing Hainault and Boswell in the Dynamo defense, so as long as they stay healthy …

Chad Barrett (F, New England). Previously played for: Chicago, Toronto, LA Galaxy. Oh, Chad Barrett. Perhaps it’s his Wayne Rooney-esque stature that keeps getting Barrett jobs, because it can’t be his goal-scoring. Barrett’s two-year stint in Los Angeles saw him score 8 goals in 45 matches – and that’s with the likes of Donovan, Juninho, Beckham and Keane supplying him. For this, he was paid more than $250,000 each year. By way of comparison, Alan Gordon, who scored 13 goals in 23 matches for San Jose, earned $120,000. With his average of a goal ever five matches and joining a Revs team without LA’s firepower, he’s got to be at least good for 2 or 3 this year.

Dan Gargan and Ty Harden (D, San Jose). Previously played for: Colorado, Chivas USA, Toronto, Chicago (Gargan); LA Galaxy, Colorado, Toronto (Harden). After earning the MLS Supporter Shield last year for best regular season record, apparently Earthquakes execs decided they wanted no part of success this year by signing two players that are undeniably among the worst regular starters (though in fairness to Harden, his time as a regular starter has rapidly faded) in the MLS. I don’t have much in the way of stats to support this argument, except to say that both played regularly for Toronto in the last two years.

Good luck, MLS fans!

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

Aston Villa to do 3-match U.S. tour in July

I sure hope posting this photo on the web doesn't ruin its resale value

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer

Aston Villa, who are terrible again this year, but it’s worth noting have won the English league, Champions League and FA Cup more than Chelsea, are doing a three-match tour of the MLS ballparks in July. They open against the Union in Philadelphia on July 18, play the Chicago Fire on July 21, and close the tour with a match against the Timbers in Portland on July 24.

I’m all for a tour of the U.S. by Villa, though they never seem to play anywhere I can get to. The optimist in me is hoping that the team will be buoyed by the recent jettisoning of dead wood like Emile Heskey (1 goal in 2012 – yes, he’s a striker), Richard Dunne and Stephen Warnock and a healthy influx of new players, though I’ll probably be disappointed in that end.

At any rate, I hope those of you in those cities get a chance to attend the matches.

Fire sign German international Friedrich

Image

Friedrich at work for Die Mannschaft. Any chance I get to use the term "mannschaft," I take.

I neglected to mention this yesterday, but the Chicago Fire signed former German international Arnie Friedrich. He has 82 caps for his country, played most recently with Wolfsburg after spending nine years with Hertha Berlin. He hasn’t played since 2010 after suffering a long-term injury with Wolfsburg, but he’s very experienced and should be a good MLS defender once he gets up to speed. Also, he’s not Colombian, so I’m not sure how it happened.

For more info on the Friedrich signing, go here. If you’re too lazy, here’s the money quote:

Under cover of darkness, the club brought Friedrich in for a medical in the days between the team’s preseason stays in Ventura, California and Charleston, South Carolina.

“Under cover of darkness.” How mysterious!

MLS weekend preview: August 5-7

Finally, Landon Donovan found someone who was less than six inches taller than him.

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

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

Friday

*Colorado v Columbus. (6:30 p.m.) This is a matchup between the 4th- and 5th-place teams in the standings. Colorado is coming off a 2-1 win at Philadelphia – the first time an opposing team has won at the Union’s ground, and Columbus beat RSL in Salt Lake – the second time that’s happened this season and third overall, ever. Both teams are playing well right at the moment, though with leading scorers Andres Mendoza and Emilio Renteria hampered a bit by injury, Columbus is probably the less potent of the two. Sanna Nyassi has four goals since being inserted into the striker role when Conor Casey went down for the season. Prediction: Colorado 2-1

Saturday

New England v Chivas USA. (4:30 p.m.) The Revs are starting to show an eency-teency bit of life, drawing their last two matches after getting hammered at home by Philadelphia, which would have to be considered the low point of the season. Despite a loss in their last match against Dallas, Chivas have played well, and beat Houston 3-0 two weeks ago. With both teams being on the outside looking in as far as playoff berths, it’s an important match for both teams. You’d have to give the Revs the advantage due to playing at home, but they have yet to put any team away this season convincingly, so it would be a surprise to see it happen now. Prediction: 1-1

DC United v Toronto. (4:30 p.m.) DC are coming off a surprisingly easy win at San Jose, and Toronto ended their four-match losing streak by coming back from two goals down to draw at Portland. United are playing much better defensively, particularly since acquiring Brandon MacDonald from San Jose. Toronto has completely reshaped their team, though the results haven’t really been coming for them. They did manage to advance in the Champions League, though, and with the draw against Portland, they probably showed more fight than they have all season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Toronto pulled what would be a relatively minor upset, though they are incredibly inept defensively without Adrian Cann and Dicoy Williams playing (though they’re not great with them playing either, in fairness.) Prediction: 1-1

Philadelphia v Houston. (5 p.m.) Interestingly, despite Philadelphia just coming off an expansion season, Houston have never beaten them. The Union lost at home to Colorado and drew at Chicago. They’re clearly missing Carlos Ruiz in attack, where Sebastiean Le Toux is having a terrible year. Houston came out of the doldrums to beat Seattle at home, though they can probably thank Manchester United for inflicting a 7-0 pounding on the Sounders prior to the match. Neither team is playing particularly well, but it would be surprising if Houston got a result here – particularly with Will Bruin and Danny Cruz out. Prediction: Union 2-0

Sporting KC v Seattle. (5:30 p.m.) Kansas City hasn’t lost in 14 matches and after their 10-match season-opening road trip, are enjoying an endless stretch of matches at home. Their latest victims were Toronto and Real Salt Lake. Seattle finally came out after taking the pasting at the hands of Manchester United and then losing their Champions League opener and getting thumped by Houston and beat San Francisco to advance to the Champions League group stages. Though these are both good, playoff-bound teams, it’s hard to see the Sounders getting anything better than a draw out of this match. Prediction: 2-2

Real Salt Lake v New York. (6 p.m.) After crushing San Jose a couple weeks ago, RSL have lost the plot, losing to Columbus and Kansas City, the Crew match at home, which never happens. The Red Bulls are still looking for whatever spark they had in opening the season with four wins out of seven – since that point, they’ve gone 2-10-4, though they did get some solace in winning the Emirates Cup in London this week, though WHO CARES? I thought bringing Frank Rost in at goalkeeper would tighten them up somewhat, but it hasn’t helped. But with all that said, New York will always have the personnel to go on a run, it just seems more and more unlikely as the season goes on. Prediction: Real Salt Lake 2-1

*LA Galaxy v FC Dallas. (7:30 p.m.) Oh snap folks, this is the big one! Or it should be. Though the Galaxy were hammered by Portland (!!) last week, they have been mostly the best team in the league this year. Dallas continue to win. At this point, with all due respect to RSL, Seattle and Colorado, these are the two best teams in the league. The big question is, with Landon Donovan and David Beckham shackled last week by the likes of Mike Chabala and James Marcelin, how will they do playing against the upper-tier MLS defenders Dallas has? Since they’re playing at home, I’m going to say they’ll win, though I’d like Dallas to pull this one off. Prediction: LA 2-1

San Jose v Portland. (7:30 p.m.) Is there any doubt over what the game not to watch is? Well, since Vancouver is hosting Chicago, there is. But this is still a terrible match. I actually have enjoyed watching both teams this season. Neither is as painfully dull as Columbus, as low on quality as Vancouver, as mismatched as New England or as wasteful as Chicago. But still, this is a matchup between a team that can’t score – San Jose have scored four goals in nine matches since scoring four in one at DC United. Weirdly, they seem to be a better offensive team without last season’s Golden Boot winner in Chris Wondolowski. Portland have righted the ship somewhat after a bad stretch, but they still have only one win on the road – against Chicago, who has only won once at home anyway – though if they’re going to win another away match this season, this could be it. Prediction: Portland 1-0

Sunday

^Vancouver v Chicago. (4 p.m.) Both teams have two wins this season. Vancouver lost 4-0 in their last home match, are terrible defensively, have a miserable array of forwards except for Eric Hassli and have no one playing in midfield. Chicago are masters at fashioning multiple chances for their array of misfiring strikers to blaze over the bar when it’d be easier to at least force the goalkeeper into saving. Since Chicago are a better defensive team, I have to give an edge to them on this one, but let’s be honest: barring something COMPLETELY IMPROBABLE happening, neither team will be playing in the postseason, and since the MLS doesn’t do relegation, why bother? Prediction: 1-1

Livestrong Park opens, weird refereeing, Lance Armstrong talks

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

Sporting Kansas City opened their home stadium finally last night, and Livestrong Park was toasted with some words from Lance Armstrong. Wow, having a guy who every competitive cyclist in the world says used drugs to open your stadium. Bad omen. So it worked as expected when KC goalie Jimmy Nielsen handled the ball outside of the penalty box and was sent off, and it looked like Sporting KC was headed for a goalless draw. That was until Omar Bravo was clearly brought down in the box – as clear as a penalty as you’ll see really – and the ref waved it on. A really poor, poor call. After that, neither team did anything, and it ended 0-0.

It has to be disappointing for Kansas City. The new stadium looks fantastic, and they were certainly playing very attacking, and to have such a clear penalty waved off that would’ve probably given them three points … well, that’s tough to take. Unfortunately, neither team could really afford to drop points here, so what happens next?

Fire say Castillo returning

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

According to Mlssoccer.com, Nery Castillo will rejoin the Chicago Fire for the upcoming season, even though there have been several reports linking him to transfers overseas, particularly Greece, where he experienced his most (or some might say, only) successful seasons. The question is, do Fire fans care? Castillo failed to score or supply an assist for the Fire in 8 appearances last year despite making $1.8 million.

Castillo is a player who has never lived up to the promise he showed in the 2007 Copa America tournament, where he scored four goals, including a brace in a 6-0 win over Paraguay. Since that tournament, he’s scored one goal for the national team, and a grand total of two goals in 34 appearances, all competitions for Shaktar Donetsk, Manchester City, Dnipro and the Fire.

It’s safe to say that if he indeed shows up this season, it’s a make-it-or-break-it one for him. There might be clubs in Greece clamoring for his return, but it’s doubtful his former team Olympiakos would be in for a player who hasn’t scored a goal in league play since 2008. As much comment is made about Freddy Adu’s struggles to find a team since leaving the MLS, Castillo has now reached what should be “the prime” of a soccer player’s career.

Here is a video of Castillo highlights, all pre-2007:

 

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