Tuesday, August 29, 2006

News and Notes - 8/29/2006

Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Article
ESPNsoccernet.com has an article about a familiar topic, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Steve Davis pipes in with thoughts on this tournament, most of them hashed out among those of us who wrote on the 4th Carvinal of Soccer last week. As we all seemed to have beaten this dead horse, I figured I would drop some comments on Steve's article.

The three most interesting points I picked out of Davis' article was that the USSF has the clubs bid on the hosting rights. I honestly thing that is fuckin stupid. I agree with him that they should follow the English FA and have blind draws for each round. That way no one club gets any chance of having a preset advantage.

The second point I picked out was his suggestion that the matches be played home/away instead of the single elimination as they are now. Italy does this with their national tournament so that is how we could model ours on, and this would allow for both clubs the chance to play in front of a home crowd (unless you are RBNY, which means you still play infront of traveling supporters).

The third point I picked out was the change in dates. This is a must for sure. MLS clubs are at their busiest in August and tossing in a few USOC matches just does not seem right. Having the 4th round and Quarter Finals in May/June would allow for less congestion and less fatigue in August and the end of the season. Next season if the MLS/MFL tournament kicks off, August will be just as cluttered, if not more. Move the matches to earlier in the season. This would also give reserve players First Team chances earlier in the season.

Doing something to liven up the USOC is much needed, so any possible change or addition to the current situation is welcomed, but in order to create a bigger buzz for the tournament, something must be done to liven it up.

DC United finally sign Donnet
DC United have finally signed Matias Donnet, Argentinean midfielder formerly of Boca Juniors. Donnet has been in DC for about 2 weeks training with the club waiting for his work visa to clear. Donnet should see some time tomorrow night against the Richmond Kickers and should either be on the bench or starting the Sunday away match against Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center.

I have written about Donnet before and how I think he will be a good addition to the midfield that is already getting gassed. Having him be able to give Adu, Gomez, Gros, Carroll, Olsen and the rest chances to take 45 minutes or 90 minutes off from a match will be huge come the final stretch of the 2006 season and the start of the playoffs. He should also be able to step in for the September 6th USOC match at Chicago, so that is a positive as well.

With the current run of form, the loss of Mediate for the rest of the season, the release of Lucio and the trade of the Baltimore Motherfucker Tino, adding a solid midfielder couldn't come at a better time. I just hope he is everything everyone is making him out to be.

Out of Town
I will be out of town starting tomorrow for a week attending a wedding and some other related events. As this is a one man show right now, there really shouldn't any updates until next Wednesday. With the wedding happening as DC United kicks off against the Goats, I seriously doubt that I will get to watch. I will be attending a football game Thursday night, but it is College Football as I get to see my alma mater Arizona State University Sun Devils lay the smack down on my brother's alma mater Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks. Live sporting events are always fun.

Mediate out for the season.

Domenic Mediate had season ending surgery Monday to repair a broken foot that he received Saturday evening against the LA Galaxy in the 5-2 obliteration. LA Galaxy defender Ugo Ihemelu broke Mediate's foot with a savage tackle 5 minutes after Mediate entered the match.

Best of luck on the recovery and rehab Domenic!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bayern Munich’s chances this season.

Bayern Munich introduced new signing, Mark van Bommel today. Holding a Bayern shirt with #17 on it, van Bommel set his sights high for the new season. Retaining the German Cup, and retaining the Bundesliga Championship are the two most important goals for the season, according to the Dutch International.

When I did my post about the UEFA Champions League draw, I insisted that Bayern were going to end up on the wrong side of the top two of their group and might not even make the UEFA Cup slot. Losing Ballack and Ze Roberto, seemed like huge gaps that Coach Felix Magath would have trouble filling. Looking at the club roster before van Bommel moved over, the two ideal players that Magath should have moved into those roles were Hargreaves and Deisler. Hargreaves seems to be staring in his own “Escape from Allianz Arena,” with Hargreaves playing the Snake Plissken role of Kurt Russell. As the transfer window closes this Thursday, it appears that Hargreaves will not be moving to Old Trafford and will be taking a prominent spot in the defensive midfield role.

Sebastian Deisler has been a quirk in the FC Bayern Munich universe, as well as the German national Team universe to be fair. The kid has got some of the best creative skills anyone has ever seen in a Germany midfielder. He also has a permanent injury bug that is of the likes that not many players have ever seen. His main problem has been the career threatening knee injuries he picked up in 2002 as well as a knee injury that kept him out of the 2006 World Cup and has him in rehab right now. His biggest ailment though is the fact that he suffers from chronic depression, so much that it forced him to miss half of the 2003-04 season. Assuming that his current knee injury heals up, ‘Basti,’ as he is nicknamed, as well as Bayern’s coaching staff, will have to be weary of a future onset of the depression.

Assuming he comes back at full health, a midfield that combines Hargreaves, van Bommel and Deisler will be one that has the potential to match the domestic feats of last seasons, Ballack led Bayern. The three of them should be able to steer Bayern through the group phase of the UEFA Champions League as well, assuming that the work is done on the other two ends of the field, namely Oliver Kahn continues his solid performances in goal and Roy Makaay does not display a howler of a goal attempt as he did against Nuremburg on Saturday. Adding Schweinsteiger, Pizzaro, Podolski and Santa Cruz to the offensive mix and Bayern might be able to match its quarter final run it did last season.

Unfortunately, most of the success this season will fall on the shoulders of Hargreaves, van Bommel and Deisler. If Hargreaves remains a Bayern player, he will need to put forth the effort on the field and not run through the motions and sulk because his bosses wouldn’t let him move on to the land of Boddingtons. Deisler will need to become match fit and ensure to focus on the games, and avoid any depression that might overcome him. Van Bommel will need to fit in with the rest of his new club and provide a good presence in the Bayern midfield.

Down the stretch: DC United’s final 8 League Matches

As DC United try to recover from the worst loss of the season, a 5-2 humiliation to the LA Galaxy, the focus of the club needs to be put on the final 8 matches of the season and the USOC. Here is a quick breakdown off our schedule –

9/03 - @ Chivas USA
9/06 - @ Chicago Fire (USOC)
9/09 - vs. Real Salt Lake
9/13 - @ New England Revolution
9/17 - @ Chicago Fire
9/23 - vs. Red Bull New York
9/27 - USOC Finals???
9/30 - @ Houston Dynamo
10/7 - vs. New England Revolution
10/15 - vs. Chicago Fire

DC United also has a friendly this Wednesday night at the Richmond Kickers. Honestly, with the exception of Rimando and the new guy Donnet, if DC United wanted to have members of Barra and the Screaming Eagles out in DC United jersey’s taking the field, I would be fine with that. That match in all honesty should be canceled.

So we look at the schedule and we have 5 road matches, and 4 home matches. The Chivas USA match I think is the primary concern. We need to get points from that match. Effective defending, light years ahead of the crap we saw on display Saturday night, will be the base for a victory over the Goats. Spearheaded by Ante Razov, the Chivas attack love to run right at the goal and take shots. The defense will actually be in for a similar amount of pressure that the Galaxy gave us, so if anything good came from the obliteration on Saturday night, the defense were given a preview of how the Goats offense should play.

The next match is the USOC Semi-Finals at Toyota Park against the Chicago Fire. As we did against RBNY, I would like to see Nowak start a group of reserves in most of the starting 11. Dyachenko, Donnet, Rimando, Walker, Stokes, Simms and Nickell. Those guys along with Erpen, Boswell, Prideaux and Caroll. Then have the same formula as we did against RBNY. Insert Ben and Jaime or Esky in around the 60 minute mark, maybe give Fred about 15 minutes of work. Keep as many starters off the field as possible. I want us to be able to win the USOC as United should be fighting for everything they are still alive for. That said, if we go out to the Fire in the Semi-Finals, that would be a lot more respectable than getting tossed by FC Toros in the 4th round by PK’s as we did last season.

After those two matches we have 2 remaining matches against Western Conference foes. As the next three matches after the USOC match are within 9 days of each other, resting guys for the matches will be paramount in the scheme of things. Maybe Gomez gets a full 90 minutes of rest for the RSL match? Or Jaime sits out of the New England match, to give him time to rest up for the away match at Toyota Park. Freddy is 17 years old. Aside from his knee bruise, that kid should never get tired and have the recovery time of half the other guys. If Freddy doesn’t go the whole 90 minutes against RSL and the Fire, than his conditioning isn’t what it should be.

With the last two matches being at home, if the situation is right, I would like for Peter to employ the same strategy as he did against RBNY in the USOC Quarter Finals. If we have the 1st seed and the Supporters Shield wrapped up with two matches to be played, starting reserves in these two matches and just giving Jaime, Ben, Gomez, Freddy and Alecko 20 ~ 30 minutes each match should be enough to keep them match fit and to give the reserves good match time. That should provide a good enough refresh period for the playoffs.

Proper personnel management is something that DC United will need to be most concerned with at the end of this season. The addition of Donnet should provide Peter Nowak several different options for how to cycle through the midfield and forwards to allow them the proper amount of rest, yet still get the right amount of playing time for guys and ensure that we still collect as many points as we need to ensure that we attain all of our goals this season (Supporters Shield, USOC and MLS Cup).

Toe not broken, bruised.

Sir Alex Ferguson has got to have mixed emotions about this one.

SNNSI.com is reporting that Rio Ferdinand did not break his toe in Saturday's 2-1 victory over Watford, he just bruised it. As it is not a break, Rio is still being called into the England squad for their two Euro 2008 qualifiers this weekend and next week.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

News & Notes 8/27/2006

DC United Notes
So in the fallout of last nights 5-2 obliteration at the hands of the LA Galaxy, Peter Nowak gave some good points as to what will be done to correct the performance problems that are afflicting United. Check out Steve Goff's report for more info.

Matias Donnet has received his work visa and should be included in the line-up for the match this Saturday in LA against Chivas USA.

Bayern draw 0-0; sign Van Bommel
Bayern Munich drew 0-0 yesterday against Nuremburg in the Bundesliga. Bayern are tied with Nuremburg on points, but sit in second place due to goal differential.

Bayern have also announced that they have signed Mark Van Bommel from Barcelona to a contract till 2010. It is figured that Van Bommel will be paired in the midfield with Owen Hargraves, who is still having Manchester United dreams dancing in his head, but is now $30,000 poorer after being fined by Bayern over the entire tantrum that Owen has been throwing.

Manchester United still 100%, win 2-1 over Wigan
Mikael Silvestre's first goal of the season in the 12th minute along with Ryan Giggs 51st minute goal were enough to keep Man United at the top of the EPL standings, with 9 points from the first three matches after defeating Wigan 2-1. The bigger story around this match was that Rio Ferdinand seems to have broken a toe and should miss both of England's Euro 2008 qualifiers next week. United's next match is against Tottenham at Old Trafford on September 9th, followed by the start of the 2006/07 Champions League campaign with Celtic visiting Old Trafford.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

DC United Recap 8/26/2006

Ugh, that was pretty bad…

DC United put on one of the most uneven performances of the season tonight and were destroyed 5-2 by the defending Chumps, the LA Galaxy. Landon “ Let’s move on” Donovan scored a Hat-Trick with a PK and two goals at the end of the match. I am sure that Peter has them running as we speak.

Ok, lets cut the bullshit. United sucked tonight. I was shocked as I watched the first 5 minutes of the match and was watching United run around like they were coached by Ray Hudson again. None of the defenders or central midfielders were able to figure out what the hell they needed to do, and the Galaxy punished them with the 4th minute goal.

United were gifted the own goal and we actually settled down a bit after the own goal and the coming of halftime brought hopes of a second goal and a 2-1 victory at least. Boy was I wrong. The second goal came, but the composure I have always seen from a United side coached by Peter Nowak was left in the locker room.

The end of the match, pretty much after Erpen’s goal off of a beautiful Gomez free kick, was horrible. We gave up the gift PK, and after that we had our guys up so far, adding to that Mediate’s injury and us playing with 10 men….Donovan got a goddamn hat trick. Someone on Bigsoccer mentioned that we should not aggravate him, as he lit United up for 2 goals last season at RFK…well, he got 3 this year. Where was his play in Germany? Ok, I got that out of my system.

The Galaxy played a good match. They were physical and effective off the run, something that United has failed to do in the last 4 MLS matches. Running off the ball is the biggest gap in United’s arsenal. Esky continues to fail at running off the ball. Walker failed every time to run off the ball when he would pass it to Jaime. He would just stand there, behind him. LA on the other hand would pass and take off up the field and the forward pass was sent up to them. We tried to dance our way through their sea of white jerseys.

So…now we have lost at home, and haven’t won a MLS match since June 15th. We are in the Semi-Finals of the USOC and are still pretty much assured of making the play-offs. What needs to be done now is to settle everyone down and get their collective heads back on target. Start playing as a team again. Mathias Donnet should be getting moved into the fold in the next week or so, including him in the side should provide another offensive boost and a chance for some guys to get more of a rest.

Losing the home undefeated streak might end up as a good thing. We know that we are mortal and that we can be run over. Hopefully Nowak gets the guys back on track. We have a Supporters Shield to win as well as a USOC and a MLS Cup.

Friday, August 25, 2006

DC United Preview - 8/25/2006

DC United vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Saturday, August 26th 2006

This must be old home week. Wednesday we had the old folks from the United Alumni Group return and take a 3-1 beating (Bruce, Richie, Harkes) and Saturday we have Tino returning to RFK with the Galaxy. Feels like a family reunion.

Ok, so we return to league play after a midweek USOC match that saw United actually find the back of the net more than once, exploding, if you will, for 3 goals. United have moved onto a September 6th date with the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park in the USOC Semi-Finals. Enough Cup talk, back to the league.

United are still leading both the Eastern Conference and the Supporters Shield race. LA is currently last in the Western Conference and have gone 5-1-2 since July 1st. United have gone 4-1-3 since July. So the clubs have had pretty much equal results since July 1st. The Galaxy are not as bad now as their record shows. When you go an entire month without scoring a goal, that digs one helluva deep hole to try and claw your way out.

LA won their way into the USOC Semi-Finals with a 120 minute 3-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids, running most of their first team starters for most of the match. They have scored 15 goals in their last 10 matches, so they are able to put points on the scoreboard, something they certainly could not do in May. Their defense has greatly improved, only allowing 3 goals in that same time frame.

United are rolling in off of the 3-1 USOC match, a 1-1 draw against the Rapids, a 0-0 draw at RBNY, a 2-1 120 minute victory over the Crew in the USOC and a 2-1 loss to RSL. In the last ten matches, United have scored 14 goals and have allowed 10 goals. Not so stellar a comparison of the stats, huh?

So what does this all mean?

The Galaxy are coming into RFK with pretty good form in recent matches. They have been playing good defense and they are finding the back of the net. That said, they just ran most of their starters Wednesday night for almost 90 minutes in a match that went 120 minutes. That and the travel involved with flying to DC from LA might be a problem for the Aliens.

United are undefeated at RFK this season and are coming off of 3 quarters of really impressive soccer. We rolled into the second half of the Rapids match with a different mind set and too it to them and were very unlucky not to get a second goal against Colorado. Wednesday night, we sent out a side made up of of 5 reserves, facing a RBNY side that was just at full strength. Our reserve side went into the dressing room at the half tied at 1-1. We gave Benny and Jaime 30 minutes of play and won 3-1. We carry this form over to the match Saturday and we should have a good showing.

Biggest difference will be our defense. As long as Bos, Erpen, Namoff, Carroll and Olsen do their jobs and shut down Landy, Gomez and Tino, we should be fine. If our Gomez can play, which according to MLSnet.com, he is not listed on the injury list, our offense should be able to break their defense.

I will be there to give Donovan as much crap as possible, even though he hopes we all move on. Yeah right, we will all move on when he plays the way we expect him to, wearing a USA jersey. That, Mr. Donovan, is when we move on.

Prediction: DC United 2 - 0 LA Galaxy

Thursday, August 24, 2006

2006/07 UEFA Champions League Draw

Here are my quick impressions -

Easy Groups - D, H & F
Valencia, AC Milan and Manchester United all drew, IMHO, easy groups. Valencia should only really have a problem with AS Roma; AC Milan should only have a problem with...Lille, maybe; and Manchester United should only have a problem with Benfica.

Groups of Death - A, B, & G
Barca and Chelsea plus Werder Breman equals a really tough group. Inter with Bayern and Sporting Lisbon could be just as bad. Arsenal and Porto with Hamburg should be pretty interesting.

My Predictions:(1st & 2nd)
Group A: Barcelona & Chelsea
Group B: Inter Milan & Sporting Lisbon
Group C: Liverpool & PSV
Group D: Valencia & AS Roma
Group E: Real Madrid & Lyon
Group F: Manchester United & Benfica
Group G: Arsenal & FC Porto
Group H: AC Milan & Lille

I really see Bayern failing to make it out of the group phase. They might snag the 3rd spot and get dumped into the UEFA Cup, but their midfield situation seems to be over shadowing everything else this season. Look for them to only be contending for Domestic silverware this season.

Quick Notes

EPL: Manchester United roll 3-0 over Charlton
Behind second half goals from Darren Fletcher, Louis Saha and Ole Solskjaer (say that 3 times fast) Manchester United improved its start to the 2006/07 EPL season to 2-0 with a 3-0 victory over Charlton. After hitting the cross bar several times in the first half, United broke open the scoring in the 49th minute with a Fletcher header.

United currently sit atop the early season table with 6 points, and a +7 goals differential. Manchester United play again this Saturday away at Watford. Hopefully the 100% record will carry through the weekend.

Chelsea have already fallen off the pace, losing 2-1 to two late goals by Middleborogh. The New York Yankees of the EPL took an early lead in the 16th minute with Andriy Shevchenko scoring for the Blues.

CONCACAF Champions Cup Qualifying
CONCACAF Champions Cup qualifying has started for the Central American sectionals. Three clubs from the UNCAF section join 2 Mexican clubs, 2 MLS clubs and 1 Caribbean club in the 2007 CONCACAF Champions Cup.

DC United Recap - USOC 8/24/2006

DC United 3 - 1 Red Bull New York

Now that was a fun game to watch. There were some really questionable calls by the line judges, but overall the match was a very good effort by DC United. United move on to the USOC Semi-Finals to face the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on September 6th.

First off, I have to say I was surprised that Peter Nowak actually started a match without Freddy, Benny, Jaime and Gomez. Gomez and Freddy seemed to be due to injury, Ben...not sure why, and Jaime because he ain't no spring chicken and he has been running out of gas in several matches. So we essentially started out backup keeper, our first team defense, what can be called our first team defensive midfield, as Simms earned the job while Olsen was in Germany, and one of our first team forwards. The rest of the guys were our reserves. RBNY on the otherhand, fielded their first team with the exception of Dema, who was banned for one match due to his last USOC match red card.

Based on the starting line up, I was not too excited about our chances. What I saw was amazing! Our lineup of reserves and first teamers were not only not getting run over by their starters, but we were just as dangerous as they were; scored first and gave up a soft goal. I was impressed by the play of Mediate and Dyachenko, with them progressing along like this, the future should be good.

One thing that shocked me more than that was that at the start of the second half, our composure went to pieces. We were having a lot of defensive flubs and the Bulls were resting in our half of the field. Then the change came. Olsen and Moreno were subbed in and it was the shot of adrenalin that the team needed. Better runs off the ball, better passes, and we scored right off the restart. The difference that Ben and Jaime made last night was huge!

Some quick points:
- Rimando: Nick showed two things last night. Why he is a good keeper, and why he is the backup. That goal last night was all, all his fault. The whole first half he did a great job of blocking shots, but he was leaving way too many rebounds. He ended up giving away one too many and Guevara pounced on the loose ball and scored. The entire second half, Nicky did a much better job of holding onto the ball, or pushing the ball out of bounds. The number of rebounds in the second half were just about nill, compared to about 3 or 4 in the first. I like Nicky as a keeper, but he scared me last night. I understand why Troy is the starting keeper now.

- Marvel Wynne: Ok, I am usually not one to praise a RBNY player...but that kid is good. I was sitting in section 229 last night and through the entire first half, all I saw was that kid run up and down the side of the field. He and Josh went tooth and nail last night. His performance last night reminded me of the way that Roberto Carlos plays for Real Madrid. He is in the back, then he sprints forward so quickly. He will be on the 2010 WC team if he continues to improve like he has.

- Red Bull Supporters: I was actually happy to see that many traveling fans down from NYC for last nights match. They were loud (granted I ended up sitting about three sections in front of them) and the interaction between them and Barra/SE was great. That said, their chants were very unoriginal. "Esky Sucks! Esky Sucks!" (I reminded them that Esky spits) and "Metro, Metro!" Didn't anyone tell them that they changed their name? All in all, I was glad that they showed up. If more Wednesday night matches in either MLS or the USOC have that many or more traveling supporters show up, the league and pro soccer here in the US will get stronger.

All in all, it was a great match. We are now faced with an away match at Toyota Park against the Fire. Hopefully the good form that we have had in the USOC will continue through that match. I am also hopeful for that form to translate to a victory this Saturday against the Aliens of LALA Land.

On a different note, in the spirit of Operation: Deflower I took my brother to last nights match. Other than some gripes about the prices of chicken fingers and the beer selection, he had a great time. He had been to some United matches last season, but this season he had yet to make it out to one of them.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

DC United Preview - USOC 8/23/2006

DC United vs. Red Bull New York
Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Quarter Final
RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Return of the King? Revenge of the Sith? Return of The Bitter One is more like it.

Tonight DC United host Red Bull New York in a USOC Quarter Final clash. This marks the 4th meeting of the two clubs this year, first in the USOC tournament. A United victory will most likely see United play against the winner of the Chicago Fire/New England Revolution Quarter Final match-up that also takes place today. The location of that match has yet to be determined.

The big thing about tonight's match-up is the return of The Bitter One, Bruce Arena. Arena was the first coach of DC United, and has basically been the Don Corleone figure of DC United ever since he left the United Trophy case filled with 2 MLS Cups, a US Open Cup, a CONCACAF Champions Cup and an Interamerican Cup. Now Arena returns to RFK, except he is the coach of the Red Bulls, which are the most hated rivals of DC United.

Ok, so what the hell is going on in the DC United dressing room? They lose to RSL 2-1, attack with passion against the Crew in the 4th round of the USOC, play a spirited and wonderful match against Real Madrid, draw in a listless 0-0 match against RBNY, play one of the worst halves of soccer I have seen from a Nowak coached United side against Colorado, to come alive in the second half. Hopefully the signs of life in the second half of the Rapids match carry over into tonight's match.

Several players have said that last years disappointments in all Cup competitions has been weighing on their minds for this season. They want to win everything that they are in this season, so winning the USOC is a priority for the players. An important step in rectifying the failures of last season will be taken tonight by defeating the Red Bulls. Advancing to the Semi-Finals of the USOC will be an improvement over last seasons 4th round crash, but winning the silverware will erase the taste in their mouths.

Peter Nowak should be able to get the guys up for this one, as this is the perfect chance for them to eff up and get knocked off by the Arizona Cardinals of MLS. I feel that as long as United plays as they did against the Crew at the Soccerplex and as they did against the Rapids in the second half on Saturday, they will send the Bovine back up I-95 with a loss and move on to the Semi-Finals of the USOC.

So who do you play? I would use this starting line-up:


Namoff - Boswell - Erpen

Carroll - Simms

Gros - Adu - Olsen

Head Gear - Moreno

Give Nicky one more start. He did himself well against Columbus and lets have him get himself 90 more minutes. The back three should remain the same as we have had for the season. Carroll and Simms should start in the defensive midfield slots. Have Josh and Benny fill the offensive midfield roles, with Fred taking the Gomez slot, assuming that Gomez is held out due to his tendon strain from Saturday.
Use Walker, Dyachenko, Stokes and Mediate as the subs (USOC you get 4 subs).

Prediction: DC United 2 - 0 Red Bull New York

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

CNN/SI Wahl Article

Grant Wahl has a very good article on CNN/SI.com. The main part is an article on how Clint Dempsey and DeMarcus Beasley both had chances to move to the EPL during the transfer window. The second part is pasted below -

"MLS-Mexican tourney still in plans for '07
According to MLS sources, negotiations between MLS and the Mexican league are ongoing for a 2007 knockout tournament between teams from the two leagues. The mid-week games would be televised on one of the Univision networks (most likely Telefutura).

Although it is not expected to happen in '07, it's hoped that the tournament winner would eventually earn a berth in the Copa Libertadores, the Western Hemisphere's version of Champions League."

So, we have more info regarding this tournament. Not much, but this does shed alot of light on the rumor. Only the two Leagues, MLS & MFL will be involved. Based on this info, I see this being what happens next season -

The Mexican League still has the Interliga, which determines two of the Copa Libertadores spots. The third spot is supposed to go to the club that compiles the best record in the Apertura and the Clausura, but did not win either one. That third spot with be moved to the winner of this new MLS/MFL tournament.

The 2007 Interliga will determine two of the 2007 Copa Libertadores spots, as with the 2006 Apertura and Clausura records. The 2008 Copa Libertadores participants will be decided by the 2008 Interliga and the 2007 MLS/MFL tournament. That is assuming that this tournament does get off the ground.

So, going back a couple of posts, it does look like the situation is being built up for the opportunity for MLS clubs to be allowed to take part in the Copa Libertadores. They will really have one slot and they will have to fight tooth and nail to get that right, but any team that can wade through a knockout tournament made up of Mexican clubs and MLS clubs, should have proved itself worthy of the first round of the Copa Libertadores.

I like this. The idea of a knockout tournament against Mexican clubs alone is one of the best ideas Garber & Co. have ever come up with. Give this tournament 4 years and we will see a rapid rise in the playing ability and skill level of the entire league. Now we just need to get Garber & Co. to scrap the Some Star Game, and we will have a MLS that is truly on the rise.

BTW - go read the Wahl article, Deuce has been royally screwed and MLS has a ticking time bomb on their hands.

MLS Recycler?

ESPNsoccernet.com is reporting that Toronto FC has hired Mo Johnston as their first head coach for the 2007 season. Mo was fired from the same position with Red Bull New York two months ago. He beat out several other US coaches, including current DC United Assistant Coach Tom Soehn.

Is MLS becoming a recycler? I am noticing it more and more often that MLS clubs are starting to recycle their coaches. Frankie West Coast leaves San Jose and returns to LA. Mo gets the boot by the Big Bull and returns in Toronto. Sigi gets canned in LA, surfaces in Cowlumbus. How many clubs has Tommy Rongen been a head coach for? I have lost count. Ray Hudsen, Bob Bradley, and so on. Bruce Arena must also be mentioned, as he left only to return, to another club.

Frankie West Coast and The Bitter One are two exceptions, as they left clubs on top to manage National Sides, only to return to try and salvage their new clubs.

I am hoping that MLS does not continue to be a league where you only find a certain set number of coaches. How many times can a guy do badly at his job with different clubs can you stop asking if it is the players? I know that MLS has brought in new blood (Nowak) but I am sure that there are more qualified, American coaches out there. What about Sasho Cirovski, the current head coach of the University of Maryland? How about Mike Freitag from the University of Indiana? I fail to even think for a minute that they would not at least be tempted by the chance to take over an MLS club.

You see this all the time in England, Brasil and in Argentina, head coach does well, then does poorly, gets fired. The same coach gets hired by another club, starts well, does poorly, gets fired. Wash, rinse, and repeat. In Brasil you run into situations where the same club recycles the same coach over time.

I would like to see MLS make sure that they do not start falling into this same routine.

News and Such

DC United 1 - 1 Colorado Rapids
I was able to take 2 hours off on Saturday from moving to watch the DC United vs. Colorado Rapids match. My quick and to the point reactions are that the first half sucked. Our entire composure, form and performance were terrible. We defended badly and our attack was left in the dressing room.

The second half was much, much better. We attacked more, thanks to Jamil and Jaime seeming to wake up. Based on how bad the first half went, the injury to Gomez, a 1-1 draw was ok. I understand that it felt like it was 1000 degrees on the field, so that adds to how the result is pretty ok.

Ok, so 2 points out of a possible 9 from our last matches sucks balls. Is DC United the New England Revolution of last season? The Revs ran out of the gate, then fizzled. They still made the MLS Cup final, but we all know that they forget how to play soccer in the MLS Cup Final. Is the 2006 edition of the league paper tiger DC United? A win tomorrow night at RFK against the Gotham Engery Drinks should set the club on a better path. A victory of the aliens of LA should be even better.

ESPNsoccernet.com has a really good article on Josh Gros, who should inspire a banner or two celebrating his as the United Jarhead.

Good start of the season.
Manchester United started the 2006/07 EPL season with a 5-1 demolition of Fulham on Sunday. Wayne Rooney picked up 2 goals to start the scoring race, but now gets to have a 3 match holiday due to him needing to take anger management classes due to receiving Red cards whenever he plays a team from Portugal. Paul Scholes gets to join him on the bench as well, due to picking up a Red card in the same preseason match. Manchester United play at Charlton tomorrow, with a second away match against Watford on Saturday.

Good start of the Season II.
Bayern Munich have started the Bundesliga pretty much the same way they finished last season, with wins. They are 2-0 and are tied with Nuremberg and Werder Bremen with 6 points each, atop the table.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What to do about the US Open Cup?

As next week we enter the Quarter Finals of the US Open Cup (USOC), it is worthwhile to discuss how the tournament and championship can be improved or if it should be done away with.

The USOC is a really funny thing here in America. It is the official championship of the USSF, yet it really means nothing, other than the title. What I mean is, in other countries, the club that wins the national Cup, The FA Cup, German Cup, things like that, they are also rewarded with entry into a larger knock out tournament, in UEFA's case, the UEFA Cup. The USOC winner just gets the trophy. I am not saying that this is that bad a thing, but I feel that if the tournament and the Cup itself would become more important if USSF would allocate a tournament berth or something for its winner.

CONCACAF Champions Cup Berth
As of right now the USSF has ties to the CONCACAF Champions Cup tournament. The CONCACAF Champions Cup has two USSF slots, both designated for MLS clubs, the MLS Cup winner and now the Supporters Shield winner (club with the best regular season record). It used to be the two MLS Cup finalists. I believe that the USSF should allocate the second slot to the CONCACAF Champions Cup to the USOC Champion. With there being only one larger tournament to provide entry slots, this sort of limits the options of the USSF to award the USOC Champion.

If the USSF were to allocate the USOC Champion the second slot in the CONCACAF Champions Cup tournament, I think that it might provide a boost to how MLS clubs and fans approach the tournament. It would mean that if a club's season is going down the tubes, yet they are still alive in the USOC, as MLS clubs never have to worry about relegation, they can rest their main players during MLS matches, giving new players some looks, and have them ready for the USOC.

A better way of providing a better motivation for the USOC is to tie it in with the rumored CONCACAF Champions League. Assuming that the CONCACAF Champions League is an expanded version of the CONCACAF Champions Cup, then we should assume that MLS/USSF will get more than the 2 berths it currently has. If CONCACAF grants MLS/USSF 3 berths, then the current formula of having the MLS Cup Champion, the Supporters Shield Champion and add the USOC Champion as the third participant. MLS/USSF can always sub in other teams based on previous qualifications, so if the USOC Champion gets to the MLS Cup final, then the other finalist will get the MLS Cup berth.

Proper scheduling and promotion
Looking at the USOC from a club supporter’s standpoint, one way that the USSF could raise the profile of the tournament is to get the matches scheduled in advance. If you check Manchester United’s website, you can download their entire season schedule. That schedule has all of their EPL dates, along with every UEFA Champions League match date listed, as well as Carling Cup Match Days as well as the FA Cup match days, starting with the round that they will be entering the tournament. Manchester United doesn’t know who it will play in the 4th round of the FA Cup, but it knows that it will be entering the tournament on Saturday, January 27th. They also do not know how far into the tournament they will be advancing, but they have every round from the 4th round to the final match scheduled ahead of time, to ensure for no scheduling problems. This also allows for the Supporters groups to plan out the entire season.

USSF and MLS could sit down at the beginning of the season, along with the USL and PDL and everyone else who takes part in the tournament and schedule everything in advance. MLS clubs should put these events on their season schedule, at the beginning of the season. Doing this allows the club’s supporters groups the ability to plan for the USOC matches and for the club to start promoting their matches ahead of time. DC United announced their match with the Columbus Crew less than 3 weeks out of hosting the match. Unless one of the participants in Real Madrid, having less than a month to promote a non-season match is not that easy.

A different part of the scheduling that would help the promotion of the USOC is to have the matches played on the weekends rather than Tuesday and Wednesday nights. If they are played on the weekends, the attendance would be better, as the clubs could market the matches more towards the season ticket holders and to casual fans. Week night matches run the risk of eliminating the fans that work weekday evenings and those who live too far away to make it to the stadium by the 7:30pm kick-off after work. Working this out with MLS will become a lot easier as more MLS clubs move into their own stadiums. Until all MSL clubs are in their own stadiums, scheduling issues will continue to be a major concern.

Global Positioning
The USOC should remain in use for two reasons: history and practice.

The History aspect is that this is the oldest running soccer tournament in the United States and tossing that history out the door is something that should not be done lightly. As we can take from other countries that have Federation wide knockout tournaments, clubs that might be floundering in their league season can focus on the Cup tournament as a method salvaging their season. As most US soccer leagues do not have a relegation system in place, this is the only other way to offer a chance for a goal at the end of a clubs season. If the Columbus Crew is 30 points out of first in the East and have no hope of making the playoffs, yet they are still alive in the USOC, it still gives the players and the organization a light at the end of the season. They will no longer be retooling for next season, much like many other teams in American sports leagues do.

The Practice aspect is that if we are to align ourselves with the practices of the other soccer playing countries in the world, then we need to have a national champion, much like in Spain, Germany, England and Scotland. Having a national knockout tournament provides for competition across all levels of the sport, which as in the case of Dallas Roma FC this season, is a good thing.

The Final
The final match of the FA Cup, England’s equivalent to the USOC is held every year at the same venue. Historically it is held at Wembly Stadium in London, as Wembly is the official home of the FA. When Wembly was torn down to make way for the money-pit that is now the New Wembly Stadium, the FA moved the FA Cup final, as well as the Carling Cup Final to Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. As this is a cup final, the neutral ground for the event makes the playing field, “level.”

The USSF should do something along the same lines as what the FA does. Have the USOC final be held in a neutral location, hold it on a weekend, and have it in a location that will make it user friendly for the two clubs and their supporters. Having it in non-MLS cities would also generate a certain amount of buzz for Pro Soccer in the US. Las Vegas comes to mind, as they have a stadium in Sam Boyd Stadium that holds 40,000 (which is comparable to MLS sizes) and airfare and hotel rates make the trip very easy for having supporters fly in for the event. Orlando could make a good location as well, considering that they have the Citrus Bowl. Granted that the Citrus Bowl has a slightly larger capacity at 65,000 seats, it is still in a neutral location and Orlando has low airfares and plenty of hotel space for this event.

Having the event on a weekend, one that can become a target destination for supporters groups would definitely increase the interest and profile of the USOC. Making a weekend out of going to Las Vegas or Orlando gives the fans a Championship final as well as plenty of other things to do before and after they attend the match. It would be a win/win situation for USSF/MLS/and the host city.

Off-Line for the weekend.

I am moving this weekend, and starting around 12pm, I will not be posting at least until Monday evening. I wanted to post a couple of things, and I will be posting an article concerning the USOC before I leave today.

Copa Libertadores
Internacional held defending Champions, Sao Paulo to a 2-2 draw last night and picked up their first ever Copa Libertadores. They won the two leg final 4-3 on goal aggregate. They will now go on to face Barcelona and Club America as well as the Oceania Champion, African Champion and Asian Champion in the World Club Cup Championships in Japan, held in December.

Congratulations to Internacional and its supporters!

Kansas City Wizards Stadium Plan
Check out this link to an outline of the proposed stadium deal that will "save" the Wizards from being whisked away to Philadelphia.

I am wondering why only 19,000 seats?

DC United Preview
I really don't have one. Peter better stick a hot poker under the collective asses of every United player and have them run the Crapids into the ground, score goals, and pick up 3 points.

For more info, check out DCenters, Quarter Volley and the Screaming Eagles Podcast for a better preview.

Learning How to Fall?

I am not sure if anyone watched the MTV Reality Series "Tough Enough." It was about a group of 20-somethings who wanted to become pro-wrestlers and 1 was eliminated per week. I always like seeing the behind the scene issues behind things, so watching how these guys train was pretty cool. One of the first things that the pro-wrestlers taught their students was how to properly fall on their back's. They taught them the proper technique on how to fall flat on their backs to avoid injury. They claimed that the technique they taught them they could fall at the supermarket and if they fell properly, they would still not get hurt.

As DC United are now in the midst of their 3 match winless streak, after going 6 straight matches with victories, I hope that they are now learning how to fall. Which means that they will have to get up and get back on their feet. I did not get to see last nights match, but from every media outlet that has a report, from the Washington Post, to CNN/SI, to the DCenters, each one of them suggested that United were very sluggish and looked like shadows of the club that ran at full force against Real Madrid.

United now have two days to return to RFK and take on the Colorado Rapids, one of only two MLS clubs that have been able to hand United a loss this season. Lets see...last night was the first time this season that United were held scoreless, will this Saturday be the first time this season United lose at home? Hopefully Nowak gives the guys a heartfelt, tender, kick in the ass over the next two days.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Maybe in 2008?

According to this website, CONMEBOL is investigating the possibility of including MLS clubs in the 2008 edition of the Copa Libertadores.

The translation from Wordlingo.com is funny at least, but not that great. Can someone do any better?

Change our name to River Potomac

The Washington Post.com has an article about tonight's RBNY vs. DC United match, with this tacked onto the end -

"United Note: Argentine midfielder Matias Donnet, who has agreed to contract terms with the club, arrived in Washington yesterday to meet the team and undergo a physical. If the deal is finalized, it will take at least two weeks for his work visa to be approved." -

Looks like we have another Argentinean. Change our name to River Potomac. And to think some people said I was reaching when I suggested that we form a
relationship with River Plate.

Can someone translate this page for me?


This is evidently saying that the US/North America will never be able to take part in the Copa Libertadores.

I have tried some free website translators, but they suck and don't work.


Edit - I figured out how to translate it. The article says that at the present time, CONMEBOL does not plan on changing the format of the Copa Libertadores, nor does it forsee adding North American Clubs to the tournament. This is the paragraph that has the info -

"Leoz still left clearly that not it intends to give possibility of teams North American will dispute Liberators, and that the Mexican teamses do not go to dispute the World-wide Interclubes, that happens in December, in Tokyo."

I actually understand that statement to mean that North American clubs, in this case being Mexican clubs, will not claim the Copa Libertadores slot for the FIFA World Club Cup. I am probably wrong and he is saying that MLS is SOL if they wanted to get into the Copa Libertadores. Oh well, I guess they don't get more money.

I used http://www.wordlingo.com to translate. Once you pick the right language, it actually works out pretty well.

FIFA World Rankings - USA #23

Nope, I am not referring to Michael Jordan.

The USMNT dropped from #16 to #23 in the latest FIFA World Rankings. Should we even care? Hardly, if at all. These rankings don't really mean crap. They are alot more "normal" if that word can really be used when referring to FIFA, than the ones that were used before the World Cup.

One thing that we will have to remember is that the new rankings will leave a lasting impression on the USMNT, based on the Bruce Arena Legacy. The last 4 years results are what the rankings draw from, and the policy that the USSF and Arena had of playing mostly at home and against mostly CONCACAF sides, will make the US slide down the rankings. This will affect the draw for the next World Cup. It will also effect the choices of other nations when they decide who they will play in any matches. If our ranking falls down far enough, we will have a harder time convincing the likes of England, Argentina, Holland, Ivory Coast, all sides that we need to have matches against to truly prepare us for the next World Cup; to play us.

Do these rankings mean anything? Hardly, if at all. Should we pay attention to them? A little, if not slightly more. Should we try and move back up the rankings? You bet your ass we should.

DC United Preview - "Revenge of the Sith"

DC United vs. Red Bull New York
Giants Stadium, New Jersey
7:30pm EST

After two matches in the first four games of the season, the Atlantic Cup rivalry between the 4 time MLS Cup Champion DC United and the Arizona Cardinals of MLS, Red Bull New York kicks off again tonight. United currently sit atop the Eastern Conference with 45 points, where as the Bulls have 24. This is the first of 2 meetings in less than a week, as United host the Bulls at RFK next Wednesday night in the Quarter Finals of the US Open Cup.

The big story of this match, is the return of the man, the myth, the loser, Bruce Arena. Bruce went away from MLS, namely DC United after leading United to 2 MLS Cups, a USOC, a CONCACAF Champions Cup and the last Interamerican Cup. Bruce went on to become the USMNT coach, where he feels -

"I've probably showed them the finest eight years of the national team they're going to see for a long time." - CNN/SI

Now The Bitter One, (as opposed to Jose Mourinho being The Special One) is now back in MLS after those "fine eight years" as coach of the USMNT. He is now responsible for taking the armpit of the league and turning them into a club that can compete. How he does this, we have already seen a glimpse of, by bringing in his former DC United people and getting former DC United players.

DC United on the other hand, are coming into this match after two weeks away from league play. They defeated the Columbus Crew 2-1 in overtime on a very humid and muggy night in the USOC and played a spirited and action packed 1-1 draw with Real Madrid in Seattle. 8 members of the squad took part in the MLS All Star match, which saw the "Some Stars" shock EPL Champion Chelsea with a 1-0 victory.

I see this match as one of the defining moments of this season for United. They are going into RFK North, facing their most hated rivals, facing their former coach who was sorta the "Godfather" of the club and have a chance to seal up the Atlantic Cup for a third straight season. The Eastern Conference has been a very soft Conference this season, with DC United being the omission to this idea. Red Bull New York still have a chance to make the playoffs this season, but they will not get the 3 points that they need from this match.

United coach peter Nowak will not let this club slip back into the form that had them lose 2-1 to RSL or who drew 1-1 with the Chicago Fire. In the last three matches that Nowak has coached, each one of those squads has run out onto the field and taken it to the opponent. The finishing in the USOC match was lacking, but I am sure that the goal sieve that is the RBNY defense will be less of a problem for the United offense.

Prediction: DC United 2 - 0 Red Bull New York
DC United: 2006 Atlantic Cup Champions

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Arena interview on CNN/SI

Grant Wahl has a very lengthy interview with Bruce Arena about Red Bull New York, his stint as USMNT Coach, the USSF and MLS. He covers how he was dismissed as USMNT Coach, what his thoughts are of the USSF training center, how Red Bull was why he returned to coach in MLS and that there has never been a team as talented as the two DC United squads he had.

I honestly am a little shocked at how Arena has presented himself. I really don't remember this guy being this type of a bitter man. It would really be interesting to hear what was actually said when he and Sunil hashed it out over his position with USSF. Alot of his bitterness seems to stem from his time with the USMNT.

He makes some very valid points, especially that the USSF training facility should be used for the training of the US Soccer teams, not for Tennis or the X Games. How do you build the foundation that the center is supposed to form, when you have a Half Pipe built on one of your fields? Having a training center that has soccer 365 days a year, that is a foundation.

Tomorrow night he returns to MLS play, against DC United. I hope and expect United to give him a good welcome back into the league, with his first loss.

MLS and the Copa Libertadores

The final leg of the 2006 Copa Toyota Libertadores takes place tomorrow night at Beira-Rio stadium in Brasil, home of Internacional. They will be hosting the defending Copa Libertadores and World Club Cup Champion Sao Paulo, whom they have a 2-1 lead on goal aggregate. The Copa Libertadores is the South American equivalent to the UEFA Champions League in Europe, in which the winner represents the CONMEBOL region in the FIFA World Club Cup Championships that is held in December in Japan.

The Copa Libertadores as a tournament has evolved over the last couple of years. Starting in 1998, CONMEBOL has invited clubs from the Mexican Football League to take part in the tournament, with Mexican clubs showing very good results, including 4 semi-finalist finishes and 1 finalist (Cruz Azul in 2001). If a Mexican club were to win the Copa Libertadores title, they would not represent the CONMEBOL region in the World Club Cup, as they are a member of CONCACAF. However, if a Mexican club were to win the Copa Libertadores, it would shake CONMEBOL club football for quite a while.

In 2004, the process in which the Mexican Football Federation selected the clubs that take part in the Copa Libertadores was altered to a separate tournament that is held every January, called the InterLiga. This tournament has been held in the United States (Texas, Arizona and California) and consists of 2 groups of 4. The 8 clubs that take part are based on their combined records in the two phases of the Mexican football season. The two clubs that win the Apertura and Clausura are excluded from this tournament as they will be taking part in the CONCACAF Champions Cup.

As we soccer fans in the USA have just been exposed to a large number of international friendly matches that most had some type of MLS participation involved, it is a natural idea to suggest that in the near future that MLS should try and take part in the Copa Libertadores. In 2005, DC United took part in the Copa Sudamericana, which is similar to the UEFA Cup in Europe, but still has participation from most of the larger clubs in South America. The Copa Sudamericana currently invites 2 CONCACAF clubs to this tournament; PUMAS was invited in 2005 as the runner-up to Saprissa in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, and DC United as the defending MLS Cup Champions. The 2006 Copa Sudamericana will see Toluca and Pachuca take the two CONCACAF spots.

Based on the precedent of CONMEBOL now inviting two CONCACAF clubs to the Copa Sudamericana and that DC United have take part in this tournament, I see no reason for MLS clubs not to be taking part in a future Copa Libertadores tournament. However, I feel that three things need to happen, in this order -

1. MLS clubs need to win the CONCACAF Champions Cup (CCC) at least 3 more times, and preferably, 3 times in a row. That way we show that international cup matches are not too big for us and that we can win in Mexico City, or Monterrey or Saprissa.

2. MLS clubs make a good showing in the Copa Sudamericana. Taking advantage of the path already available to MLS would be the fastest method of entry into the Copa Libertadores. The MLS clubs that do take part in the Sudamericana needs to always, always, make the Semi-Finals at the very least. Having a good showing by MLS clubs will always improve the chances of more MLS and CONCACAF clubs being invited back to the Copa Sudamericana and to the Copa Libertadores.

3. MLS needs to get at least 2 or 3 clubs into the Interliga. That is really the only way that MLS should legitimately get any type of entry into a regional club championship in which we are not members of that region. We need to be able to play well against the Mexican clubs and qualify through this format.

Remember, the only way we will get invited is if CONMEBOL feels that we bring something to the tournament. If all MLS clubs played the way that DC United played last week against Real Madrid, or the way that FC Dallas played against Tigres UANL then MLS will show that they actually have something to bring to the tournament. If MLS clubs continue to play the way that DC United did against PUMAS in Mexico City and get pasted 5-0 or the way the MLS Select Squad did against Real Madrid and lose 5-0, then why would CONMEBOL even feel that we could bring a bucket of water to the tournament?

The first way MLS shows that it would be able to bring something to the Copa Libertadores is by regularly winning our own regional club championship tournament. Why would another region even think of inviting clubs from a league that has only ever one their regional tournament once? I am not talking about having one club win the CONCACAF Champions Cup 3 straight times, as that would only lead to that one club being the only idea to offer an invite. No, having three different clubs go into the CONCACAF Champions Cup and defend the CONCACAF Champions Cup for MLS would be a better sign. Think about it, DC United wins the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 2007, and then in 2008, FC Dallas marches through and wins the cup. 2009, the LA Galaxy or Red Bull New York take the championship. Having three consecutive seasons where different MLS clubs get victories over Mexican or Costa Rican clubs would be a good enough impression and might induce an invite.

The second way MLS shows that it would be able to bring something to the Copa Libertadores is by having different MLS clubs continually take part in the Copa Sudamericana. The Copa Sudamericana is a perfect chance to show the abilities of the MLS clubs as they would be matched up against CONMEBOL clubs. Having MLS clubs in the Copa Sudamericana will not be enough. The MLS clubs that do take part in the tournament will need to get good results, advancing to the Semi Finals at minimum. Anything resembling the 5-0 obliteration that DC United took on the chin from PUMAS last season in the CONCACAF Champions Cup and CONMEBOL will forget where they put MLS’ phone number. DC United’s performance last season in the Copa Sudamericana was actually a very good step. They drew 1-1 at home and lost in a hard fought close match to Catholica, 3-2.

Getting into the Copa Sudamericana might be a little difficult if MLS clubs start routinely winning the CONCACAF Champions Cup, as the winner of the CONCACAF Champions Cup is not invited to the Copa Sudamericana. However, based on the fact that PUMAS reached the Copa Sudamericana finals last season against Boca Juniors, if history is any type of guide for how CONMEBOL operates, we might see a future expansion of the Copa Sudamericana and the inclusion of more CONCACAF clubs into the tournament.

The third way that MLS could get into the Copa Libertadores and the most likely way is to have MLS clubs start taking part in the Interliga. They only real way that this would happen is if MLS/SUM were to throw huge sums of money to the Mexican Football Federation to have at minimum two MLS clubs replace two Mexican clubs. The Mexican Football Federation would have to be on board with this way before CONMEBOL ever gets to decide on this. If MLS gets two or three spots into the Interliga, it would provide a direct avenue into the Copa Libertadores. Who knows, we might actually be seeing the beginning of this type of evolution. The CONCACAF Champions League that has been floating around in so many different rumors just might be a repackaging of the Interliga and the top two clubs in the tournament might get a spot in the next season’s Copa Libertadores.

I would like to see MLS take part in the Copa Libertadores. I think that participating in the tournament would raise the level of play in all MLS clubs that get to take part. Fan support would be high as well, which would give the local fans yet another reason to cheer for their clubs. I think that several MLS clubs right now would have at least put on a good showing, namely DC United, FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo.

In all honesty, I do not see this happening for at least another 5 years. There are too many steps to take for MSL clubs, so this will have to take time. Getting into the Interliga and having more MLS clubs participate in the Copa Sudamericana are good steps towards this.

News and Tid Bits

New MLS Internationals?
CNNSI.com has posted two reports from two other locations about MLS imports. One is from the Washington Post about Matias Donnet, which DCenters reported yesterday from Goal.com. It seems that the deal is going to be announced this week.

The other report is that Red Bull new York are close to signing Italian forward, Christain Vieri, as he is out of favor at Sampdoria, after leaving the club a month after signing with them. You can go to Metrofanatic to check that one out.

Blew their Wad??
Kansas City Wizards scored four goals over the weekend to down the Columbus Crew 4-0 for their first win in 9 MLS matches. I guess they shot their wad, as they were knocked out of the USOC 2-0 by the Chicago Fire last night. However, they have a chance for some payback, they both play each other again tomorrow night in Chicago.

Monday, August 14, 2006

International Addition to United?

A nod to DCenters for finding this first.

Goal.com is reporting that DC United are in the process of picking up Argentine right winger, Matias Donnet. They are claiming that with Donnet's arrival, Freddy would be able to move up into the forward in the event of injury of Alecko or Jaime. As United already have two Argentine starters in Gomez and Erpen, Donnet should be able to fit in well with the club.

I am not so certain about this move. I agree we need to bring another offensive weapon to replace the floss of Lucio and Santino. If Alecko or Jaime do go down, Freddy can step in, but I feel better having him run at the defense from the midfield, rather than up front. If Donnet could step in and play up front, that would be the best of both worlds, play right wing right now, and step up front if we need to give Alecko or Jaime a breather. I will wait an see how this goes.

The search continues….

Frank Dell'Apa has a very good piece on ESPNsoccernet.com about the coaching situation for the USMNT. It seems that Sunil Gulati has hinted that the USMNT might yet still get into some matches this Fall, ones that the USSF is ok with having Mooch coach the side in. Hopefully they are not matches against Andorra or Haiti.

The coaching situation looks to be heading for a final phase to end somewhere around the end of the MLS season, which would make sense from a standpoint of hiring another MLS coach. Dell’Apa seems to believe that the timing rules out a European coaching option, as their seasons are in full swing in November and USSF would have to pay a hefty buyout for their pick. Frank’s opinion is that the next coach will most likely come from MLS or from South America. He also points out that Gulati is still keeping Jurgen Klinsmann very much in the selection process.

Gulati also seems to still be working at figuring out how to get a USMNT side into the Copa America, without causing a problem for the Gold Cup. He sites the double edge sword the USSF faces with being in CONCACAF; we have to play in the Gold Cup and qualify for the world cup in CONCACAF which is no real easy challenge, even though we seem to walk through the other nations; yet playing our region does not prepare our teams for World Cup play, as the other nations we face are better than our regions members.

I am happy that the USSF has resisted doing what every other country from the World Cup that has fired/lost a coach has done, which is quickly fill the job. I would like to see the US playing this Wednesday night against a quality opponent so we all can start to move on from the huge gash we got from the tale of the 4-5-1. With that said, due to the fact that our coaching situation is such a unique one from the rest of FIFA (with Canada probably being the only other exception) we need to take out time and find the right mixture of someone who can handle our “quirks” (MLS, NCAA, transatlantic flights, CONCACAF) yet still take the USMNT program to the next level.

MLS Power Rankings
DC United has returned to the top of the ESPNsoccernet.com MLS Power Rankings. The draw with Real Madrid, mixed with the FC Dallas loss to Houston Dynamo, moves United back on top.

Weekend Round Up

Barcelona run the Red Bulls out of New York.
Barcelona finished their preseason tour of the United States on Saturday with the one match of three against a MLS club, Red Bull New York. They finished the tour with style as they left the Big Apple with a 4-1 victory over the underachieving MLS side. Ronaldihno scored twice for Barca. Djorkaeff scored the one RBNY goal.

I wanted to simply put –


as the comments for this match, but after much thinking about it, I felt that I could add the -



and still be able to write something about it. Still, there was still some urge inside me to leave the write up of this match as –



but that would leave out the one point I wanted to make. Former DC United midfielder, Dema Kovalenko seemed to have had a good first match with his new club, as he started the play that gave Yuri his goal.

Real Madrid knock off Real Salt Lake 2-0 in Utah.
After helping break ground on the new RSL stadium, David Beckham and Real Madrid proceeded to defeat the MLS club that bears their name, Real Salt Lake, 2-0. Ruud Van Nistelrooy scored at the end of the first half on a penalty kick and assisted on the second with a pass to Robinho.

I watched the first half of the match and I really didn’t think that there was that much to it. Neither club looked that great. Jeff Cunningham actually looked like the most dangerous guy on the field. The one thing I did notice was that Real Madrid was not playing anywhere near the tempo and speed that they played on Wednesday against DC United. I know, that sounds so much like the homer that I am, but as I watched the match with my Dad, who really couldn’t give two shits of soccer, caught the beginning of both matches, remarked that compared to the DC United match, Real Madrid looked like they were going at half speed. Now that could have been due to the altitude, Salt Lake City isn’t at sea level, so it might have posed more a problem to Real Madrid than playing in Seattle did. I just thought that they were playing RSL softer than they did against United. I also did not get to see the second half, so I can’t say much for that part and their tempo of play.

Liverpool deny Chelsea/Mourinho/Roman first silverware of season.
I will admit, for 2 hours yesterday, I was a Liverpool supporter. Here in the Washington, D.C. area, NFL fans have a saying, “I like two teams, the Redskins, and anyone playing Dallas.” I am starting to get that way with the EPL. However, my statement is, “I like three clubs, Manchester United, anyone playing Chelsea and anyone playing Arsenal.” I should add Liverpool to that statement, but for the purposes of yesterdays FA Community Shield, I figured I could support them for 2 hours. Liverpool won 2-1.

Riise’s 9th minute strike was a great individual effort. Taking the ball the whole length of the pitch and wisely using the Chelsea defender as a screen, he put the ball away and Cudicini did a very bad job on defending the goal. In his defense, the fact that he was screened by one of his own defenders gave him more trouble than it looked.

Sheva’s goal at the end of the first half was a classic Chelsea strike, and something everyone following the EPL had better get used to seeing. It was so pretty and Sheva looked like an artist as he put the ball away. Very nice, a goal worth $60 million??

Peter Crouches goal looked more like he was on the training pitch, rather than in the FA Community Shield match, the guy was so unmarked it was unreal. John Terry did a very bad job of marking the lanky giant of a forward for Liverpool. The header was nice, but he should have been marked better.

So what is with Michael Ballack? I know he is used to playing in Germany, but in the two matches I have watched him in this pre-season, he has yet to show the form and skill that got him moved to London. Is he going to be one of those players that only play well in their home country?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Sorry, moving next weekend.

I am moving next weekend to Falls Church, so much of this weekend in devoted to packing.

I did however see that the Salt Lake County council offered RSL owner Dave Checketts a brand new deal involving the proposed RSL stadium. ESPN Soccernet.com reported that the deal provides about $10 million more than the previous deals that were shot down by the council. Lets hope for the fans sake that this is what is needed to get the ground broken on a SSS in Salt Lake City.

I am wondering how much of an influence was made by the statement that Garber made at the MLS State of the League announcement last week, when he basically called them out by telling them that they were essentially idiots for not supporting a SSS when the other 5 that have been opened have been cash cows. Also, how much did the site in Seattle on Wednesday night influence their position? Checketts evidently was a part of having Real Madrid play in Seattle and they packed the house and evidently are packing the house right now against RSL. Not to miss or anything, but it would be daft of me to say that the main influence had to have been the ultimatum that Checketts made when he threw down the gauntlet and said if a deal wasn't set by 7:30pm today, he would sell the club as if it were on eBay.

Hopefully, by the time all of us on the East Coast wake up, we will have news of a new stadium deal.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Home on the Range

MLS announced that Red Bull New York will have the ground breaking for their new 25,000 seat stadium on September 19th, 2006. Red Bull Park will be ready for the opening of the 2008 MLS Season.

Will they ever get 25,000 fans to a match that doesn't have Barcelona playing in it?

God I love America. Only in America do you have a club that has won 4 league championships, yet doesn't have a permanent home, but you have a club that has been the armpit of the league, and they get a stadium that will look like this. RBNY are the Arizona Cardinals of MLS.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

News and Info - 8/10/2006

Adriano to Old Trafford? Diarra swoop back on?
It appears that SAF is looking to pickup Brasilian forward Adriano from Inter Milan to replace Ruud Van Nistilrooy, who went to Real Madrid. Inter are claiming that this will not happen, then again, Inter said Ronaldo wasn't leaving for Real Madrid, so who knows. If this actually does come about, a strike partnership of Rooney and Adriano would be pretty nice.

It also appears that SAF is still looking to pluck Mahamadou Diarra from Lyon, which would add to the already new look Manchester United midfield that has already been bolstered by injured Michael Carrick, the return of Paul Scholes and the impending arrival of Marcos Senna from Villareal.

Assuming for one minute that all of this is true, this new look Manchester United might actually be the type of squad that Cheslea might get some heat from. Rooney and Adriano up front, Ronaldo, Diarra, Carrick, Scholes, Senna all roaming in and out of the midfield, Rio, Heinze, Neville and Silvstre in front of Van Der Sar. Things should be looking up at Old Trafford.

Keller voted Gladbach Captain
Borussia Moenchengladbach and former USA international Kasey Keller was named team Captain by the players by vote. Head Coach Jupp Heynckes said that he would have chosen Keller as well, so he is happy with the players choice. This is the first time Keller has ever been named full time captain in his career.

Good for Kasey. He still has two or so more years on him over in Germany, and hopefully he returns to the US in time to be the starting keeper for Seattle SC in MLS. Having Keller anchor the backline for an expansion MLS club in Seattle might be enough to get non-MLS fans interested in a new club up there.

Internacional down Sao Paulo in Copa Libertadores
Defending Copa Libertadores (CL) and World Club Cup Champions Sao Paulo were defeated 2-1 at home last night to fellow Brasilan side, Internacional in the first leg of the CL finals. The final leg will be held next Wednesday at Beira-Rio stadium, Internacional's home field. Both clubs had a man sent off in the first half with straight red cards, one for an elbow in the 9th minute (Sao Paulo) and the other for a punch in the face in the 38th minute (Internacional).

It would be devastating for the defending CL Champion to make it all the way to the finals, just to get knocked off by a domestic rival. I still think that Sao Paulo will rebound and pick up a 2 goal victory and book their place in the World Club Cup to defend that trophy as well.

What a night of football.

2 full matches and a partial one that I missed explode.

DC United vs. Real Madrid
After being told I was an idiot for staying up till 1am to watch a soccer game, I went ahead and got ready for this match. What a match! That was one of the most exciting matches I have seen in quite some time.

Los Galacticos came out ready to play and they showed how much of a gulf there is between the play of MLS clubs and the high power clubs like Real. Their ability to create such quick passes and long field changing passes are head and shoulders above the play in MLS. For most of the second half, I could have sworn that Los Merengues were playing with 12 field players, they always had 2 or 3 guys swarming the ball. Their players also were always, always making advancing runs off the ball, attempting to get an extra inch of space for a pass.

DC United played very, very well last night. That was the best that I had ever seen United play this season. The first half and the start of the second, United looked like it had asked for no quarter and wasn't giving any either. After about the 55th minute, the pressure started to mount for United and Los Galacticos were starting to smell blood. From the 60th minute on, the United defense produced probably the greatest defensive effort I have seen a MLS club ever do.

Some of the highlights for me:

- Cassano's goal. That was absolutely beautiful and something that you hardly ever see in MLS. Troy was in the correct spot for it, but the slight shift Troy did as Cassano started his move towards the far post gave Cassano that extra inch that he needed and he struck. Troy even got a finger on it, but that ball was a rocket and it was in the net.

- Alecko's goal. The United response was one of the best build ups and total plays that I have ever witnessed a United team do. Freddy's run down the right side, his cross into open space, Gros flying in to collect the cross and pass onto Gomez, who tapped it to Jaime who laid it off for Head Gear, who smashed the ball into the far side of the net. That was a build up that players dream of having. It was beautiful.

- Perkins in goal. Troy had just about the game of his life last night. His punch-out of Beckham's cross at the beginning of the match was just the start. Van Nistelrooy's shot right after, Troy didn't skip a beat and came out and snuffed out the shot. The biggest event last night was the Roberto Carlos Free Kick. Carlos launched a rocket at the United goal and Perkins pounced on it, deflecting it off to the left, then two more shots came in off the play, with Boswell deflecting the first shot and Olsen blocking the second, to have Erpen clear it off the line. Troy was on last night.

So, what does this mean?

Not much. DC United just played one of the greatest collection of world football players ever brought together and came away with a 1-1 draw and their heads held high. One of Los Galacticos starting midfielders (pick any of them) makes more money in one season that damn near the entire roster of DC United. Anyone watching the match could see the difference between our style of play and their style of play. Most of the United players were less active off the ball than the Real players. When Alecko got the ball at the top corner of the Real 18 yard box, and should have made a quick move at the goal, he stopped and hesitated. Gomez passed him the ball and he too stopped his movement. Both guys should have kept going, which might have produced another shot on goal.

All in all, it was a great match to watch. DC United represented much better than the LA Galaxy did last season when they faced Los Merengues at the Home Depot Center at the start of their preseason training tour. DC United, as well as the rest of MLS, still have along way to go, but last night they proved that they can play with some of the best the world has.

LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo
Fox Soccer Channel had this match last night as it was the first part of the double header with the Barcalona vs. Club America match in Houston. Live MLS is something I will always turn on to support the league, so I found myself infront of the TV for this one. LA won 1-0 off of a lob from former DC United forward, Santino Quaranta.

The first half was interesting, Houston looked like they were going to get the first goal. Landon really didn't look ready for the match, and I am trying to figure out why he is the Galaxy Captain, was Vagenas the Captain? I guess it pays to be Frankie West Coast's boy, you become team Captain.

It was good to see Tino get on the field and he looked good. He made some good defensive plays along with his looping goal. It is a shame that United didn't keep him, but hopefully the allocation we got for him along with the RBNY allocation yields a good forward.

Barcelona vs. Club America
As this started 30 minutes before the DC match, I watched most of the first half, and then at some throw ins, I switched back to check the score. The first Club America (CA) goal was really nice, and Barca answering right back was great as well. The first 30 minutes were so much better than the slow crap I saw on Sunday night from the Barca/Chivas match.

Why does Max Bretos call them Clooob America? Does Club really translate that long into Spanish? Anyways, the first half hat-trick made me starting to really wonder how well Barca prepared for this trip, if at all. As both of these clubs will possibly be facing each other in the World Club Cup in Japan come December, I was thinking how big would this be for CA to knock off Barca now, even if this was a friendly?

I switched over to the United match and every now and then I would quickly switch back for an update on the scoreline. I was even more shocked when I saw that CA had a 4-1 lead going into the 81st minute. I watched some of the play and it looked like Barca was unable to get anything pass the CA defense and the CA midfield was all over the Barca players. So, with a 4-1 scoreline, and Barca not playing well, I switched back to Comcast and stayed there until the end of the match.

To my surprise, I checked Big Soccer after the United match and I saw people screaming about the greatest comeback ever in 5 minutes. I had to wait until this morning to read about it. CA, even though they most likely had their reserves in, blew one helluva huge lead. Barca in 5 minutes proved why they are the Euro Champs!

So, after all that, my long night of football was over.
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