By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer
So there were a couple big(gish) trades in the MLS this weekend that I should mention. First off, Toronto shipped midfielder Julian DeGuzman to Dallas for forward Andrew Wiedeman. It’s a good trade for Toronto, who were paying DeGuzman a hefty salary – and honestly, does a team need two DP’s in central midfield? No. No they don’t. Wiedeman is unproven, but it doesn’t really matter. Dallas has had trouble, well, everywhere this season, so maybe De Guzman will be a good pickup, though I’m inclined to think not.
Meanwhile, the Red Bulls were active, picking up Sebastian LeToux for winger Dane Richards and then snagging goalkeeper Bill Gaudette from the LA Galaxy for a draft pick or allocation money. I forget which. Both good trades. LeToux wasn’t flourishing in the Caps defense-first system, and Richards gives them a little more speed on the wings, which has been missing. LeToux, meanwhile, gives the Red Bulls another good option in the event Thierry Henry takes a month off to vacation in Barbados. Gaudette is a decent backup goalie, which the Red Bulls needed.
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer
All times Pacific, as usual.
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
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
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer
DC United 4 v. FC Dallas 1. A very good match from Nick DeLeon, and the most rare of sightings in the MLS, a good shift from Maicon Santos, leads United to a surprisingly easy romp over Dallas. DeLeon had a goal and an assist, and Santos scored two and assisted on one. The other goal for DC was from Danny Cruz, who I think will be a nice signing. Dallas scored a goal through Blas Perez, but are really, really struggling so far this year. Prediction: DC 1-0
Toronto 0 Columbus 1. Toronto are officially the worst team in the MLS after this loss. Once again, wayward passing (from the increasingly lousy Julian De Guzman) and a defensive error from Logan Emory this time, led to the lone goal of the match, Bernardo Anor’s first in the MLS. This match was instructive in showing why Toronto are usually bad and Columbus are generally a playoff team. The Crew were calm and patient defensively, didn’t try to do too much with the ball, and were rewarded with three points. Toronto were harried in possession in midfield and defense and for all their possession couldn’t force the ball in for the equalizer. Toronto needs Torsten Frings back, because a midfield with De Guzman AND Terry Dunfield is not good enough. Prediction: 2-2
New York 5 Montreal 2. Montreal probably edged this match in the first half, before getting swamped by New York’s superior attacking power in the second half. Thierry Henry had a hat trick and an assist, and Kenny Cooper and Mehdi Ballouchy scored the other goals. Toronto opened the scoring through Sanna Nyassi and took the lead again at 2-1 thanks to Justin Mapp, who is actually one of my favorite MLS players, I think. New York equalized just before halftime on Cooper converting a penalty that was a bad call, then the floodgates opened. After watching Montreal play, they actually pass the ball quite nicely, though I’ll be surprised if the Nyassi/Corradi/Braun forward line combines for more than 12 goals this year. Nonetheless, the Impact gave it a go, but were perhaps a little bit naive defensively. New York looks good in attack, but they’re still a wreck defensively – Ryan Meara probably shouldn’t be starting in the MLS yet, and Markus Holgersson is my early favorite for Worst Defender of the Year (New idea for season ending blog post!). Prediction: New York 4-1
Philadelphia 0 Vancouver 0. Another painfully dull Vancouver match. They sure defend well, don’t they? This probably staves off the calls for Peter Nowak’s head. (Is anyone actually calling for Peter Nowak’s head? I don’t know). Sebastian LeToux had a poor match for Vancouver who had no shots on target in the match (Philadelphia only had two). Vancouver still hasn’t conceded, but they’ll need to get their offense firing if they want to keep picking up points. The Union at this point should hope for finishing with a better record than Montreal and Toronto. Prediction: 1-1
Portland 2 Real Salt Lake 3. The Timbers rally for a late lead against RSL, then somehow contrive to give up two goals the last five minutes and lose. The loss overshadowed a great performance from Darlington Nagbe, who scored both goals, completed 35 of 36 passes and is *this* close to becoming a star in the MLS. Really, this match showed the difference between a veteran, tested squad and one with only aspirations of making the playoffs. Real Salt Lake kept fighting, and Portland panicked a bit. It’s still early, yet. The other goals were from Alvaro Saborio (penalty), the finely named Luke Steele and Kyle Beckerman (the winner). Eric Brunner could’ve won the match for Portland but skied a Jack Jewsbury free kick over the bar right before Steele’s equaliser when it probably would’ve been easier to score. Prediction: 1-1
Seattle 0 San Jose 1. There is a big difference between this San Jose team and last year’s. Steven Lenhart drew a penalty on a fairly dumb play from Marc Burch, and Chris Wondolowski netted the penalty for the only goal of the game, and the Earthquakes got another scrappy victory. Is Wondolowski the only Quake who has scored this season? Regardless, they’re off to a good start. It was a deserved win, even though San Jose isn’t exactly Barcelona with the ball with their horrifically bland hoof and rush style of playing. Seattle is just not incisive enough at this point – Fredy Montero once again didn’t score, and Alvaro Fernandez and Christian Sivabaek were both pretty dreadful on the wings. You would expect the Sounders to improve in their next match, but how much do they miss Mauro Rosales? Prediction: Seattle 2-0
LA Galaxy 1 New England 3. The Galaxy concede three goals at home again – this time to New England of all teams – and fall to their third loss in three matches. That’s now seven goals conceded in three home matches. New England scored twice in the first 13 minutes, from Kelyn Rowe and Lawrence Tierney, and then extended the lead to three in the second half on a Saer Sene header (his second goal of the season). Robbie Keane scored the consolation for the Galaxy. I think the Galaxy will be in the MLS Cup race at the end of the season, but losing to KC this weekend could all but extinguish their hopes of winning a third straight Supporter’s Shield. I know Omar Gonzalez is good, but the Galaxy only have themselves to blame for signing Andrew Boyens as his backup. New England are OK, though I don’t expect them to keep up their recent success. Also, David Beckham was subbed at halftime, and apparently got an angry stylish tattoo and then modeled some boxers in response. Prediction: LA 3-0
Colorado 2 Chicago 0. Colorado get second-half goals from Omar Cummings and Kamani Hill (poor defending from Chicago) and get back to their winning ways. It’s amazing how much better the Rapids are with Jeff Larentowicz playing. He’s probably not international quality, but he is certainly a calm, assured presence in the heart of their midfield. Chicago were a little disappointing – it seems like Dominic Oduro suddenly realized that he was Dominic Oduro and started shooting like it again, which is to say, poorly. Chicago might need to try someone else out at forward. Prediction: Colorado 2-1
Chivas USA 0 Kansas City 1. Sporting Kansas City scrape by for another victory to run their record to 4-0-0. Chivas were toothless again. I’m sure there were quotes from them about how they should’ve won, but when you don’t have any shots on target, don’t successfully complete any dribbles and have one corner you don’t even get into the box, well, you get what you get. This should be the lowest scoring MLS team by season’s end, at least unless Juan Pablo Angel gets some games, and possibly even then. As for Kansas City, well, a win’s a win – and it speaks volumes that they have yet to dominate a match but haven’t yet seemed like losing either. Prediction: Kansas City 1-0
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer
Saturday I was able to head down to Tucson to attend the final and third-place matches of Tucson’s possibly turning annual preseason tournament, dubbed this year the Desert Diamond Cup. I attended last year, when Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake joined FC Tucson and the Arizona Sahuaros for a round-robin tournament. This year they eliminated the local clubs – which I kind of wished they hadn’t – and moved the tournament to Tucson Electric Park (I think it’s called something else now, but it was TEP when I lived there, so TEP it stays.) I liked it at the smaller stadium, though seeing as how attendance was announced as over 10,000, it was probably a wise move on their part. Here is my verdict on the games.
Third place match: Real Salt Lake 1, New York Red Bulls 0.
I was actually a little surprised that both teams fielded largely first teams in this game. Thierry Henry played the whole match, as did Kyle Beckerman, who is apparently the Cactus Pricks’ (FC Tucson’s supporters club. Yes, you heard that right) favorite player. Of the two teams, RSL, as you’d expect, looked the more composed of the two, and new signing Terakazu Tanaka should compete with Beckerman for most ridiculous hair on the team. The Red Bulls were a little wasteful, though Kenny Cooper and Henry combined nicely on a couple occasions. The match’s lone goal came from Chris Wingert, and it was a firebolt. (I just made that word up. Watch it here – goal comes at about the :35 mark.) The atmosphere was good, but the lack of local teams (or Beckham or Donovan or Keane, though I’ll get to that in a minute) made it a little flat sometimes.
Championship match: LA Galaxy 0, New England Revolution 0 (Galaxy win 4-2 on penalties)
OK, a big boo goes to the Galaxy, who didn’t play any starters except Juninho and Todd Dunivant in the match. I know the Galaxy have a Champions League match coming up on Wednesday, but throw us a bone here, guys, OK? Hey, I’m a big fan of Brian Perk and Jack McBean too, but still. As far as the Revs go, though their tournament was a surprisingly good one, they still couldn’t beat the Galaxy’s fourth string with their starters. It’s been mentioned in other blogs, but Saer Sene – a new signing at forward – was unconvincing despite being a foot taller than anyone on the Galaxy. By the end of the match, we were ready to go – it was cold and dull. Sort of a anticlimactic end to what has been a good tournament, with several good goals. On to the regular season!
Oh, one more thing: The second match had twin refs. No joke.
Goal: Mike Magee (1)
The Galaxy’s typical defensive solidity proves too much for the Red Bulls in the first leg of their playoff series. Mike Magee scored the long goal. In truth, the Galaxy could’ve won by a couple more goals, but Frank Rost made some nice saves for New York, and Robbie Keane was wasteful. It’ll be interesting to see if Keane plays in the second leg as he is clearly not match-fit. At the end, there was some fighting initiated by New York’s increasingly useless Rafa Marquez. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were suspended for the second leg. LA definitely has the edge, but as the MLS playoffs have shown before, a one goal lead heading home doesn’t mean a team is going through.
Goals: Joel Lindpere (1), Thierry Henry (1)
Red card: Jan Gunnar Solli
Shots: FC Dallas – 23 (7 on target), New York – 13 (6 on target)
A crushing loss for FC Dallas, who, like many of their matches in the second half of the year, dominated with possession and chances, but were unable to score a goal. Jackson in particular was wasteful, though he has been much better this year as more of an attacking midfielder than a forward. Dallas needs to address their lack of quality strikers in the offseason. After near total domination in the first half (particularly the first 30 minutes) by Dallas, New York broke the deadlock when Joel Lindpere was first to a cross just after the break. Dallas continued to batter New York without scoring, and got even bigger of a lifeline when Jan Gunnar Solli was sent off for a terrible tackle on Daniel Hernandez. They still couldn’t finish the game off, and Thierry Henry made certain of the win in injury time with a goal. New York has to be considerably better defensively in their next match – against the Galaxy. The first 30 minutes pretty much summed up why they haven’t been any good this year. They were more fortunate than anything else to escape with a win.
According to the article here. (NY Daily News)
Basically the gist of it is that he said that the crowd was wrong for booing him, and that the reason the Red Bulls have struggled on defense is because the other players aren’t up to his level.
This might be true, but for the salary Rafa is being paid, you expect more than for him to be oh, the second or third-best defender on the team. He is a huge star in Mexico, but he has always been a little dodgy – even when he played for Barcelona – and when the guy organizing your defense is making critical errors, your team is going to suck.
And the Red Bulls suck.
Go back to Mexico, Rafa. Club America needs some defenders.
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood*Games to watch ^Games not to watch
All times Pacific, as usual
New England (3-5-4 at home) v New York (1-8-4 away). (4:30 p.m.) New York somehow contrived to draw at home with Chicago in a match they might even have been lucky to draw. New England continues to be terrible, getting hammered at Columbus. The Revs are virtually out of the playoff race at this point. New York is treading dangerously close to dropping out of it themselves. But, and this seems to be an ongoing mantra with this team, they should be good enough to win this game. But … Prediction: 2-2
*Columbus (7-4-1) v Philadelphia (3-4-4). (4:30 p.m.) Columbus hammered New England to pull alone into first in the East. Philadelphia is running second after escaping with a home draw against Dallas. This will be an important game in the race for first in the East, though I’m not sure that really matters anyway. Prediction: Columbus 2-1
Houston (7-3-3) v Real Salt Lake (2-3-4). (5:30 p.m.) Houston have been a decent team at home, most recently beating Seattle and Portland there. Real Salt Lake have been disappointing this year, though they figure to be dangerous when they reach the playoffs. Prediction: 1-1
*FC Dallas (8-3-2) v Seattle (5-5-3). (6 p.m.) Dallas should have beaten Philadelphia last week, only to have George John sent off and then conceding a penalty late in the game. They did become the first MLS team ever to win in Mexico after beating Pumas in midweek in the Champions League. Seattle have been good this year, and also won convincingly in the Champions League. The question with this match is, will two sort of tired teams cancel themselves out? Prediction: Dallas 1-0
Colorado (5-6-2) v Chivas USA (3-5-4). (6 p.m.) Colorado continues to roll on. They’ve only lost once in their last 10 in all competitions, and that was a close match against Seattle. They won in midweek Champions League play despite having a player sent off and being horrendous in defense. Chivas have played well lately, though it remains to be seen if Juan Pablo Angel revitalizes one of the weaker attacks in the league. I’m going to say, probably not. But still, they look like they could be a playoff team. Prediction: Colorado 2-1
Portland (6-2-4) v Vancouver (0-4-9). (7 p.m.) Normally this match would be a match not to watch, but given that there is a regional rivalry born in the USL here, and the fact that Portland HAS TO win this match, it could be a fun match. Vancouver could pull this out – Portland are playing their third match in a week, but more likely is that the Timbers will win. Still, they’re probably not reaching the playoffs this year. Prediction: Portland 2-0
LA Galaxy (7-5-0) v San Jose (2-3-5). (7:30 p.m.) This match will be interesting because Robbie Keane – who I expect to be very good in the MLS – is playing his first match for the Galaxy. He makes probably the best team in the MLS even better. San Jose are lousy and are probably one more loss from just playing out the string. You have to feel sorry for Frank Yallop – his player decisions sounded decent in theory, but the players drafted in to replace those moved on just haven’t produced. Prediction: LA 3-0
^Chicago (1-8-2) v Toronto FC (0-6-7). (4 p.m.) Both teams are fairly bad, though Toronto are undefeated in six, which is probably why I have to pick this as a draw. Prediction: 68-68
Sporting Kansas City (5-4-1) v DC United (4-4-3 away). (5:30 p.m.) United are making a serious bid for the playoffs, or possibly (though unlikely) the top spot in the East. Kansas City have also been great since their great road trip to open the season ended. KC are almost done with their enormous stretch of home matches, so they need to get three points here. Prediction: KC 2-1
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood
In a story by Patrick Finley of the Arizona Daily Star, (Link here) MLS exec Nelson Rodriguez has pitched the idea of the league using Tucson (I hope I don’t have to tell you it’s in Arizona) and possibly a site in Florida as potential “spring training” locations for the league.
I for one would be more than happy with the idea – and not just because Tucson is only a three-hour drive away. Some of the teams already do pre-season work in the Phoenix area, but Tucson is a better climate and not a hideous monstrosity of cement and fake breasts. Also, adding a spring training format will only serve to drum up interest in the league as it does with Major League Baseball. Tucson’s spring Desert Classic tournament with the Red Bulls and Kansas City was a success, with some estimates placing attendance for the games in the 10,000 range, which is better than a couple MLS teams get for regular season matches. You have to think that if people will pay money to sit through three hours of watching double-A players try out for the Florida Marlins, they’d be more than happy to watch 90 minutes of soccer. Plus, it raises the possibility of some interesting friendlies with Mexican clubs, which are always competitive and well-attended. Last but not least, Sonoran dogs!!
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.