Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Chivas USA get two awards.

As predicted, Chivas USA coach, Bob Bradley picked up the MLS coach of the year award for his job in turning Chivas USA from the doormat of the league into playoff caliber club. DC United coach Peter Nowak and Chicago Fire coach Dave Sarachan were also in the running for this award.

Bradley took the most dog-shit club in MLS and made them into a high octane, quick strike club. One of the first matches I saw of Chivas USA this season was their first match against the LA Galaxy and Razov shredded the Galaxy defense for 2 goals and Chivas looked like an entirely different club. Bradley did a great job this season, but he still has a lot of work to do. Hiring some anger management specialists might be the first thing on his list. It has also been reported that if Jurgen Klinsmann is selected as the next USMNT coach, Bob Bradley would be hand picked by Klinsi to be his deputy, a position that I and other feel, he would do a good job at.

Chivas USA defender, Jonathan Bornstein was named MLS Rookie of the year. After playing damn near every minute he could, Bornstein picked up 6 goals and 4 assists over the season.

2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup: No Vacancy

CONCACAF announced today that they will not be inviting anyone outside of the CONCACAF region to take part in the 2007 Gold Cup. The entire 12 team pool will be made up of regional sides, excluding any possible guests like Columbia or Japan or such. CONCACAF had been inviting two non-CONCACAF nations to take part in the tournament, South Korea, Brazil, Columbia, South Africa, and Ecuador have all been invited guests for the tournament.

Honestly, I think that is coming from the fact that the Copa America is directly after the Gold Cup and CONCACAF probably only intended to invite two CONMEBOL nations. With the tournaments right next to each other, the CONMEBOL nations most likely declined, for reasons that many thought of why the USA wouldn't play in both. As the USSF announced yesterday that the USMNT will be playing in both, those concerns are nolonger an concern.

I for one think that this decision by CONCACAF is a good one and a horrible one. It is a good one as it will include two more CONCACAF nations in the regional championship, as it should. Expanding the tournament to 16 teams would go even farther towards getting the other regional nations to enter and by some sort of chance, increase their on field abilities by playing in a tournament. That was the good. The horrible is that the big three of CONCACAF; Mexico, USA and Costa Rica will not have even less of a challenge in the 2007 tournament. Without the outside guests, ones that normally are stronger sides than the rest of CONCACAF, the tournament will become more of a "joke" for the rest of the outside world. If we fail to see a USA vs. Mexico final in this years Gold Cup, something is drastically wrong.

Champions League Preview

Today is the start of match day #4 for the UEFA Champions league, with several juicy matches on tap:

- Barcelona vs. Chelsea
- Bayern Munich vs. Sporting Lisbon
- Spartak Moscow vs. Inter Milan

The two main things that I find interesting about the Inter and Bayern matches is if either club can carry its weekend performances over to tonight's matches.

Bayern are leading their group with 9 points and are pretty much assured of advancing to the knock-out stage, but are not doing that great on the domestic scene, which is a switch from previous years. Having already lost 3 matches in the Bundesliga, Bayern are actually making the Bundesliga race an exciting one to watch, instead of them running out to a monster point lead.

Inter are leading the pack in Serie A, and are coming off of a very exciting victory in the Milan Derby (which I was able to watch on Gol TV, gotta love cable TV). Inter currently sit in 3rd place, one point behind Sporting, so if they are able to build off of their victory over Milan on Saturday and continue to build off of their win last round in the Champions League, Inter could jump up to 2nd place, that is if they get a little help from Bayern.

The main match up of the week is the return match between two of Europe's Mega-Powers; Chelsea vs. Barcelona. Chelsea took first blood and all 3 points on Match day 3 with a 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge and have continued to run damn near even with Manchester United in the EPL race. Barca took the 1-0 loss on the chin and followed it up with a 2-0 loss in El Classico, losing away to Real Madrid. Over the last weekend Barca did drop 3 goals on Recreativo Huelva to remain in first place in La Liga. The question is though, will Barca be able to recapture the magic it had last season when it eliminated Chelsea on its way to the Champions League final?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Great quote from the NY Times

I just read the NY Times article on the DC United vs. Red Bull New York match and I loved reading this little part -

"That sent the crowd of 21,455 into a frenzy that rattled the aging R.F.K. Stadium. It was a fitting present for these soccer-savvy fans, especially after they saw their team bow out ungracefully from the playoffs last year with a 4-0 loss to the Chicago Fire in the first round. The crowd was draped in black and their involvement in the game created an atmosphere reminiscent of matches in the soccer-crazed countries of the world. The fans continuously beat drums, rang bells, chanted, waved flags and bounced up and down.

It was an environment that Altidore, who will turn 17 in a week, appreciated. He recalled watching United midfielder Ben Olsen raising his arms late in the game to urge on the crowd on.

“I wish I could play in front of fans like that week in and week out,” said Altidore, adding that he would not trade in his New York fans for anything." - NY Times.com

I tell ya, watching the Houston vs. Chivas USA match last night, the Texan Army can bring it, but seeing all 21,455 faneruptpt when Christian scored, that is something you cannot bottle. Sorry, 21,425 fans alerupteded, the 30 or so RBNY fans in the upper deck sank in their seats.

USMNT going to Copa America

This was just released, but the USSF has accepted the invitation to take part in the 2007 CONMEBOL Copa America.

Now that we know that we will have two USMNT tournaments next summer, finding out how MLS will deal with these two events will be interesting. I also want to know if Costa Rica were given the boot to allow us to take a spot.

Ok, so now we have this announcement, now we gotta wait for the end of November for the announcement on Jurgen.

MLS Playoffs - The Others

New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire
So New England came back from a 1-0 deficit, played without Shalri Joseph (who was on a MLS sponsored holiday), played without Deuce (who was nursing a sore ankle) and played without that many fans in the stands. Not wanting to make things too difficult for them, they even let Chicago add a second goal to their lead, then decided that they wanted to play a lot of soccer against the USOC Champions. New England picked up two second half goals to even the aggregate at 2-2 to force overtime and eventually the Penalty kick shoot-out. They went on to win 4-2 on PK's.

I remember reading something about having Joseph return for the first playoff match might have been a bad thing for the Revs, as they went 6-0 without him. He was suspended for Saturday's match and they come through with a win. Hmmm? I am not exactly sure what happened to Chicago. Did they think that with a 2-0 aggregate lead that it was smooth sailing? Not sure, but I am sure that they have plenty of time now to try and figure out what to work on for next year.

FC Dallas vs. Colorado Rapids
Ok, who didn't see this one coming? I mean, common, Colorado had Cleetus in the starting line-up, beer gut an all! No really, you had to know that FC Dallas was going to implode. They had everything to lose and now if they want to play in the CONCACAF Champions Cup next season, they have got to be cheering DC United on to win the MLS Cup.

So can Colorado pull things out and make it past Houston? They should be getting Thiago Martins back after his MLS sponsored holiday, so they should have more options for their attack. That said, I don't see them having that much luck against the Dynamo.

Houston Dynamo vs. Chivas USA
I was only able to watch the second half, and from the reports, that is wall I needed to see. 7 yellow cards in 9 minutes. That has got to be some type of a MLS record or something. I have never seen a club implode like that in my life. DC United's performance doesn't count, as they never really even showed up except for Perkins and Gomez. First the yellow cards started flying, then Juan Francisco Palencia's temper got the best of him and he was tossed from the match. Then Chivas tried to do anything to get a goal for the aggregate lead, yet they couldn't string passes together. Then De Ro took over.

If Christian Gomez didn't have the season that he has had, De Rosario would be the hands down winner of the Honda MLS MVP award. The guy took over on the left side and sent in a wonderful cross. Brian Ching did well to get his head on the redirected ball from the cross and scored what might have been the most important goal in the Dynamo's short history. Now they are hosting the Rapids next week with a chance to avenge their first round melt down to the Galaxy (yeah, it was the Earthquakes, but the players still remember).

So we have two matches next Sunday (are they both on Sunday, two hours apart?):

Eastern Conference Final: DC United vs. New England Revolution

Western Conference Final: Houston Dynamo vs. Colorado Rapids

Not buying this anymore.

I found this nice little quote from my main man, Fred -

""We did not play well. I think that was one of the worst games we've played since I've been a part of D.C. United," forward Freddy Adu said. "We've played better losing than we did today. We got in the locker room and we were talking about, 'It was horrendous.' We might have gotten away with it this time, but we just can't keep doing this."" - CNN/SI.com

Here is what Alecko Eskandarian said before the game last night -

"Said forward Alecko Eskandarian, "Our mind-set is to go out there and win this game, double the pressure on them until they fold."" - Washington Post.com

What pressure did you guys put on the Red Bulls?

I am nolonger buying what these guys say. We will turn it on in the playoffs, yeah right.

DC United Recap 10/30/2006

DC United 1 - 1 Red Bull New York.

Yesterday was one really long day for me. It sorta started the night before when I got blasted at a Halloween party, only to have to wake up around 9am to get down to Arlington to see some friends run in the Marine Corp Marathon. While I was down on Army/Navy Dr. with a hangover watching all the people pass me as they were on the home stretch of their 26.2 mile race, I saw one guy wearing a DC United jersey which was cool.

The main thing I saw was heart. I saw people who looked like they had been run over by a truck. One guy was wearing a white shirt, but because of the friction, his nipples were bleeding through his shirt, so he had two huge red stains on the front of his white shirt, yet he was still running and was about to finish. I saw people cramping up and I saw people fighting to make one step after another. I saw the type of heart that I failed to see in DC United last night.

In front of 21,455 people, I saw United come within minutes of another post-season collapse. The Red Bulls were everywhere, winning balls, retaining possession and taking shots. DC United looked like a High School team playing against Barcelona. Our passing and positioning was horrible. In the second half, I wanted to strangle Freddy Adu, because he was killing our attack. I am not clear, but in the first half, I think is was Ben Olsen who collected a ball just over the midfield line, and Freddy was on his left, with a ton of space in front of him. Freddy, instead of starting his run forward, stood there. Ben sent a leading pass ahead of Freddy, and all Freddy in his hesitant ways could do is run after the ball as it went out of bounds. Freddy hesitated about 5 times last night when if he actually looked up to find guys, instead of looking down at the ball to see if his left foot was on the ball, he could have been able to get the ball to Jaime or Christian. Donnet couldn't have come on any sooner and I hope that he starts on Sunday instead of Fred.

God that was a tough game to watch. When I wasn't screaming "Freddy, Chelsea is calling someone else!", I was trying to push my heart back down out of my throat. Our defense, particularly Troy and Boz, saved that match from becoming a route. Christian's goal was great and he further solidified his hold on the MVP award, but with out Troy and Boz running the back, we would all be talking about when the first CONCACAF Champions Cup match will be.

I will tell you one thing, if we play like that on Sunday, the Revolution will knock us on our ass. They will destroy us worse that the beating we took from PUMAS last year. Peter Nowak had better get some of the guys to screw their heads on right, or give everyone a trip to the Landsdowne spa, or start breaking Chalkboards like Joe Gibbs used to do. If our guys can get their head's out of their ass's, and can actually perform in ways that we know that they can, then I have no problem expecting to see DC United play on November 12th. Things are serious now, collecting a 1-1 draw does nothing but force you to play another 30 minutes. Goddamnit, focus on your play.

On a side note, I wanted to thank the Screaming Eagles for their awesome Tailgate. I have been a member since 2005, but yesterday was the first tailgate I have been to. My girlfriend and I had a great time and are already planning on going back on Sunday. I recommend the bacon wrapped hot dogs.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I said that the search was a smokescreen.

Evidently, the guy who wasn't interested in coaching the USMNT is in "informal" talks with the USSF for the currently vacant job. The director of the Mannschaft, Jurgen Klinsmann is talking with Sunil Gulati about the USMNT Head Coaching position.

Funny how Klinsi's 6 month break is almost, almost up. Gulati is hoping to get a new coach by the end of the year...which is the end of the 6 months time. Smokescreen.

BTW - CNN/SI spelled Klinsi's name wrong in the title. It's not Kilnsmann.

Edit - They fixed the spelling.

Some Manly Suggestions from the Manly Ferry

Over at My Very Brain, The Manly Ferry has posted the first part of his two part piece as how he suggests that MLS "improve" itself in the scope of its league schedule, league make-up and playoff scheme.

I have already emailed my points to Jeff, as Blogger isn't being nice and letting me leave the comments on their website. Overall, I like his points. They are different from mine, but still offer good ideas. Here is what I emailed Jeff:

"Overall, I like the ideas that you put forward. Changing the scope of the season is a good idea, one that allows MLS to adapt to the rest of worlds leagues, yet still allows us to deal with the other US sports. However, I do feel that a split season would not make much sense to other, non-soccer fans. NHL fans still have a problem understanding why the NHL breaks for 2 weeks for the Winter Olympics. Trying to explain to soccer fans that only follow MLS that the league is on a two month break for the Gold Cup/Copa America/World Cup would be a daunting task, but it would be one that I would still roll out of bed every morning to do.

Changing the playoff format is another good idea, and leaving the scope to 8 clubs is fine, when there are more than 14 clubs in the league, IMHO. Until we get to 14 clubs, I think that MLS should reduce the number of playoff clubs, as I mentioned earlier. Once we get enough clubs to truly show that making the playoffs is a thing that a select few actually get to accomplish, fans and some players will still feel that they are sorta cheap.

I have never thought, with the exception of next season, that a single table would work in the US. The main reason is that with the country as big as it is, in order to get the fans to travel to a majority of the clubs road matches, you need to make most of their road matches geographically close to home. I am pretty sure that is why the NFL and NBA and MLB have done their leagues that way as well.

I like the idea of reducing the number of matches, and the College football like alternating seasons thing would be a pretty good idea as well. I think a 26 or 28 match season would be best. You through in the USOC, CCC and whatever the hell we are doing with the Mexicans and they guys should still be running out on the pitch for about 40 matches a season. That is below the EPL clubs, but hey, they have their problems too.

All in all, I think that your suggestions are very sound and if MLS were to even consider looking into their application, they would be on a good track."

I will be eagerly awaiting the second installment of his suggestions, so we wait until Monday.

Ben Olsen: Underground Artist

DC Style magazine has an interview up with Ben Olsen. The guy likes monkeys. He paints. If anyone has seen his artwork in Adams Morgan, please let me know where they are.

DC United Preview: MLS Playoffs, 2nd leg

DC United vs. Red Bull New York
Sunday, October 29th 6:00pm
RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

So, here we are. The second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Us against them. DC United host their Atlantic Cup rival’s, Red Bull New York, with a 1-0 goal lead over the Bovine. After what I thought was a good performance by United last week (considering the crap they had been showing at the end of the season), United are going to need to come out Sunday night, put together a full 90 minute performance and send the Red Bulls, their coach “The Bitter One,” their whiney ass bitching players, back home to New Jersey.

So in the first leg, we were able to get good possession, take shots from outside the penalty box, and take advantage of our skills and drop a pretty goal. RBNY were able to hit the cross bar and drag down Jaime Moreno. Our defense, where they showed better signs of play when compared to the final season matches, will need to step their play up even higher this Sunday. Even though they pitched a shutout, the defense is the real key to this match.

With 2006 Panasonic Goalkeeper of the Year, Troy Perkins in goal, we are pretty safe here. Troy had a great match against the Cows last Saturday, saving some really difficult shots. Our defensive line is where we need to have some major stepping up done. Led by MLS Defender of the Year, the Cosmo Kid, Bobby Boswell, the United defense needs to really watch itself on breaking down and allowing Yuri or Altidore the chance to break on goal. Like wise, Mr. Erpen, please, if at all possible, please do not choose Sunday night to be another night of scary drama and decide to pass the ball to a RBNY player.

Like in the first match, the main key to controlling the Red Bull offense will be containing the Red Bull’s #1 Spectator, Amado Guevara. Just like in the first match, the man who is more than capable and ready to step up and bug the ever loving shit out of Guevara is none other than Ben Olsen. If Benny marks Guevara any better than he did in the first match, than RBNY supporters will wonder if Guevara even made the trip. You pester and hound Guevara, make him screw up and you cut the head off of the RBNY offense.

With out back line settled, we really need to have a good offensive match Sunday night. Playing for a draw is not in Peter Nowak’s blood, in fact, Nowak seems to be the kind of guy who gives players 100 laps and pushups for even looking like they are running half ass. Getting Gomez, Moreno, Head Gear and Freddy in the mix will be paramount. D at The DCenters brought up the idea that because we were willing to take more shots from the top of the box, the Red Bull defense opened up more, which allowed Gomez to have his run and goal. That is the type of stuff we haven’t seen in a while, since about the Real Madrid match, and it is something that we need to keep doing.

I saw this quote this morning, and I agree with Jaime Trecker 100%:

“Memo to Freddy Adu: If you actually want to have a career overseas, these are the types of matches you need to show up for.” – Jaime Trecker, Foxsports.com

Freddy, you need to step up and cause more problems for the Red Bull defense. The more problems that they have to deal with, the more chances we get on goal. Trecker is right, if you hide and disappear in the MLS playoffs, then how can any European club actually expect you to step up in a league that requires that clubs lose no more than 4 matches a season to just make it to European qualifying? You step up on Sunday, then you get one step closer to booking your ticker to the Old Country.

So, we have a 1-0 lead, and we are at home. The last time we played a home playoff game, we got obliterated 4-0 by the Fire. Sunday we won’t be playing the Fire, but I really hope that some of those guys out there do not get messed up in the head thinking about the last one. The Red Bulls are not a better club, regardless of what some of their whiney bitches say. The game will be tough, but United will win and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Prediction: DC United 2 - 0 Red Bull New York

Thursday, October 26, 2006

News and Notes 10/26/2006

Maradona to coach Honduras?
It seems that CONCACAF might have another high profile coach swaggering into the region. Argentine Diva, Diego Maradona has been linked with becoming the head coach of the Honduras national team. God help all of CONCACAF if this happens. Does Maradona still have his TV show, "Night of the 10?" Will he be able to keep both jobs?

Costs keep rising: 2010 now costs $1.9 Billion
It seems that the earlier reports of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, scheduled to be held in South Africa, were to be held at a cost of $1.5 Billion were way off. Now organizers are claiming that the tournament will cost $1.9 Billion. The extra money might go towards the hiring of an additional 10,000 police officers, to increase security in the crime challenged nation. 1 Billion dollars to replace an entire fleet of aging taxis? I say that the cost will rise to $2.3 Billion by January 2007.

Gomez getting some good press.
DC United midfielder, Christian Gomez is getting a ton of wonderful press these days, as he is in line for the 2006 Honda MLS MVP award. Now if he could only dance, then he would be the whole package. Gomez and the rest of DC United take on Red Bull New York this Sunday at RFK Stadium in the return leg of their home/away series in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. I will be there, preview coming in tomorrow.

Toluca in Sudamericana Hole
Mexican club, Toluca, have put themselves in a 3-1 hole in their first leg of their Copa Sudamericana Quarter-Final series against Argentine club, San Lorenzo. Toluca, one of the two remaining CONCACAF clubs in the Copa Sudamericana, will host San Lorenzo in the return leg on November 1st.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Capitals & United

I was sifting through the DC Sports Bog and I came across this -

"So I have news about my United-Caps mash-up campaign. I got an e-mail from Caps owner Ted Leonsis this morning, reporting that he intends to reach out to United President Kevin Payne ASAP in an effort to get some cross-marketing in place, possibly as soon as this weekend. No word yet on whether promotional materials will feature photos of Caps SuperFan Goat crowd-surfing on top of the Barra Brava." - DC Sports Bog

This is definitely a great way to get more fans going out to RFK. Shouldn't hurt to have more United fans getting interested in going to the Phone Booth either.

Joseph suspended for return leg for New England

MLS fined and suspended New England Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph for the return leg of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, game #2 in New England. Joseph was fined and suspended for giving Fire midfielder Ivan Guerrero an elbow to the ribs in last Sunday's match at Toyota park in Chicago. The Fire currently hold a 1-0 lead in the home/away series.

I know that the Revs are playing at home, but you add this personnel setback with the possibility that Deuce will be out for the match due to his sprained ankle, which he picked up in the match against the Fire, things are not looking good for the defending Eastern Conference Champions.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Well, Duh!??

Am I the only one who finds this story absolutely stupid? Fucking Duh!

No joke that more than 50% of the "injuries" in the World Cup were faked. How else do you get to kill time? Soccer players are the greatest actors on Earth.

I love this one:

"The world body's chief medical officer, Professor Jiri Dvorak, presented his findings to the FIFA referees committee today and they showed a cheating culture at the highest level of the game. " - ESPNsoccernet.com

This is up there with Congress having an Ethics committee.

I forgot, this is from the same organization that is railroading the 2010 World Cup on a country that shouldn't be paying for new Soccer stadiums.

My Very Brain Response

For someone named Brian, typing brain is a lot harder than I thought it should be.


So I posted my piece about the Single Table Theory and how I do not think that it would work for MLS in an environment that would never introduce a relegation system. Following my take on that, I presented ways for MLS to use it's current system and build on it in ways to increase competitiveness and make the matches more meaningful during the season.

Please check out the response that was posted at My Very Brain, as it is a very good one and offers a lot of points that I actually believe in.

The POV I was using for the first piece, and I guess I should have made that clear, is that I honestly do not think MLS is still aware of just how bad they are screwing themselves with a 32 game season, with 12 clubs, then follow that up with a knockout playoff system that only eliminates 25% of the league. As the system right now is broken, I was offering some ideas on how they could fix their system, in a way that they might have accepted.

MLS's current playoff system is broken. When you allow 75% of the league into the playoffs, people have to ask why the long season? As the LA Times had on their website:

"Major League Soccer received the clearest of possible signals over the weekend that its playoff format needs rethinking as a total of only 38,133 fans turned out to see the four first-round matches in Southern California, Chicago, New Jersey and Denver."-- Los Angeles Times

I think the fans have asked this question already.

I honestly think that in order for MLS to actually make the playoffs mean anything, they need to reduce the number of clubs that can play in them. Cut the number of total playoff clubs to 6, 3 per conference. The next thing that MLS should do is truly reward its Conference Champions, and give them a bye to the Conference Championship match, a match that they host. Have the #2 and #3 seeded teams in each conference play each other in a single match at the #2 seeded teams home ground. The winner moves on to face the #1 seeded club in their conference the following week. What is the point of FC Dallas winning the Western Conference if they had to go to Colorado for a match?

In my article, I said that I do not suggest or support expanding the number of play off teams, I never mentioned lowering the number. The primary reason I didn't bring it up is that there have been several MLS officials that have said flat out that the number of playoff teams will not be reduced and that once they have more clubs in the league, that the playoffs will make more sense and mean more. While any statement that uses the phrase "make sense" as a way to describe MLS is like saying "compassionate Conservative," I was simply trying to build off of MLS's position.

As for the MLS regular season, I honestly think that it is too long and they could do away with at least 6 of the matches. Doing something like that would require different planning than they currently have, as it would mean several teams only play each other 3 times instead of the four times, and who decides who gets the extra home game?

Jeff at My Very Brain brought up some issues opposing my suggestions and he says that he will be offering up his own set of ideas as how to deal with these issues. I am going to wait until then to see how he handles the issues he brought up. I did feel though that he misunderstood my approach to the article and my position on the MLS playoffs. For that reason only, I felt that I needed to explain myself.

The Cult of Bozilla is growing!

Bobby Boswell was named MLS Defender of the Year today. He was named over two Kansas City Wizards defenders, Jimmy "I wanna be a writer" Conrad and Jose Burciaga Jr. In his second season with United, Bozilla took control of the defense and anchored the line that allowed only 38 goals all season, most during the end of the season with depleted line-ups.

MLS also announced that FC Dallas midfielder Richard Mulrooney was named the MLS Comeback Player of the Year. Mulrooney was selected over the Chicago Fire Captain Chris Armas and DC United's Head Gear. I guess coming back from a right knee torn anterior cruciate ligament does qualify. I didn't think Head Gear would get this, regardless of being a homer, his season wasn't that great, due to his leg injury.

Congratulations to both guys! United has yet another piece of silverware to put in the trophy case.

The Single Table Theory

So how many have heard the different sides of those who want or don’t want, MLS to move to a single table for its regular season? You know, those who say that it would make more sense than two conferences and if there was a single table, then MLS would logically schedule less matches and that would make them all more important? There are also those out there who say that we don’t need to copy the rest of the world, that the current system is fine and that through expansion, it will even out and the playoffs will make more sense once more clubs enter the league and yadda, yadda, yadda.

I have been thinking about this for some time and I really don’t buy too many of the arguments. I honestly do not think that the single table theory would be “magic wand” that brings more people to the matches or that over night, makes the matches more meaningful. I feel this way for several reasons.

The primary reason is that in a single table, those clubs that are out of playoff contention, would have nothing to play for. In fact, in American professional sports, fans are accustomed to the club that finishes last actually getting a special reward for that failure, the first pick in a draft or the best chance at first pick. Overseas, clubs who finish at the bottom are tossed from the league, punished for their failures as a club to compete. Getting booted from the EPL, regardless of the “golden parachute fund” that clubs receive when they are relegated, means that the club misses out on millions of dollars and changes how the entire club operates. Most of the time, players are sold off to cover the losses or because the club cannot afford to pay them at the EPL salaries.

Until MLS or whom ever is running Pro Soccer in America, introduces a type of relegation system (which will never happen in the US) the true single table will never operate effectively. Until clubs at the bottom are faced with getting sent down to the USL and losing out on revenue that comes with being a club in MLS, that is when the clubs like Columbus and RSL and Chivas USA (in their first season) will fight tooth and nail up to the end. Because the relegation system will never be implemented, we won’t see that.

One point that was made by MLS Commissioner Don Garber was that the playoffs that MLS uses sort of replaces the relegation system and makes every match count. Because in the last week of the league, 11 of the 12 clubs were still in contention for a playoff spot, clubs were fighting for their lives. I agree with Garber on his assessment of the current situation, but I don’t see it working down the road. My thinking is that right now, when you have 6 clubs to a conference, with 75% of each conference making the playoffs, yes, at the end of almost every season, you are going to have everyone alive at the final week of the season. The problem will really start next season, when a 13th club enters the league and they start expanding all the way to 16 or 18 clubs.

With more clubs in the league and in the conferences, the playoffs will be out of reach of more clubs, earlier in the season. If we hit the 18 club level that some are talking about, or even the lower 16 level, without expanding the number of playoff teams, (which I do not suggest nor support) those clubs that truly have dogshit seasons, like Chivas USA last season, will be out of the playoff contention by early August. If a FC Dallas or a New England Revolution run out to a record of 9-0-1 in their first ten matches, which could doom a Columbus Crew that maybe goes 3-3-4 to start their season.

Once we get 16 or 18 clubs in the league, but still only advance 4 to the playoffs per conference, we will get clubs that, already being out of contention, will end up starting their reserves for matches. While this might be great for the club’s future development, MLS will get a problem of the possibility that fans would stay away in even larger numbers, as they wouldn’t care about watching FC Dallas play the Columbus Crew reserves. Having these types of matches at the end of the season, or worse yet, at the beginning of August, would definitely make the matches mean even less than they do now.

This gets us back to how to provide incentives for the lower conference clubs, once they are out of the playoff hunt and how to make more matches meaningful. One way to do this is to still grant the #5 clubs something, like a berth in the MLS vs. MFL tournament. Considering that this tournament is thought to be getting started next season and we would all be foolish to think that all 13 MLS clubs would be taking part, MLS could take a page from their European counterparts. MLS could still have the top four from each conference qualify for the playoffs, like normal, then have the next team each conference qualify as well for the MLS vs. MFL tournament. Again, right now, we would not see the benefit of this arrangement, as this would only leave out three clubs. However, when MLS does get up to 16 or 18 clubs, having the top 5 clubs in each conference be the only clubs to qualify for the tournament, does still give the bottom 3 or 4 clubs something to fight for all the way to the end of the regular season.

I know that Garber & Co. are trying to make MLS as recognizable as possible for Americans, so that more Americans get interested and follow MLS, but one thing I do hope that they do not copy from the other sports is the wasting of half the league, which having the final two tournament berths outside the playoff level would remove that. It would provide late season drama, something that I do think would put people in the stadiums for the matches.

A second way for MLS to increase the quality and worth of each match would be to lobby for 2 more berths into the CONCACAF Champions Cup, or whatever the rumored CONCACAF Champions League is. If MLS were to send the MLS Cup winner, the Supporters Shield winner, plus the two clubs with the highest point totals of the regular season, who did not win the MLS Cup. That in conjunction with the 5th conference spot getting a berth in the MLS vs. MFL tournament, would make the clubs fight harder for every point. We would see more attacking soccer down the stretch of the season and wouldn’t see Houston win 2 out of their last 7 matches, because the 11 points that they dropped at the end of the season could make the difference of whether or not they play in the CONCACAF tournaments or not.

MLS needs to start working with the Mexican Première Division and the other CONCACAF nations to get CONCACAF to support a larger regional tournament. They are starting this by the MLS vs. MFL tournament, and if the rumors are correct, they already have had CONCACAF get its act in gear with a larger tournament. The biggest point of action will be if MLS and or CONCACAF can get some major TV and promotional sponsorship attached to the regional tournament. Get ESPN or FSC or Gol TV to televise the matches. Have someone like Ford (ok, bad example as they just reported $5.3 billion in loses) or McDonalds or Cingular to sponsor the tournament. Get some money behind the event and get some cash injected into it. Once clubs feel the sting of not making the tournament, they will fight harder to get into it.

Once MLS gets larger, we are going to see more and more matches that are played at half speed, because there will be no incentives for some of the clubs. Give everyone something to play for, every match, all season long. You do that and you will get attractive soccer, something that more people will want to see. That Mr. Garber, will get more fans in the seats.

Monday, October 23, 2006

DC United Supporters

Here is a pretty good article about the United supporters who went up to Giants Stadium for the first round match against the Red Bulls. Due to previous arrangements, I was unable to make the trip, but when I watched the match on TV, I could definitely hear the songs, chants and cheers of Barra Brava, Screaming Eagles and anyone else who was there. They were louder that the Red Bull supporters.

For those of you who have yet to experience Barra Brava or the Screaming Eagles, check out Grant Wahl's article about them.

The photo was shamelessly "borrowed" from the above same article.

MLS Playoffs

Random notes following a the rest of the matches.

I found it funny that all 4 teams that won this weekend only have 1 goal leads; that the Western Conference clubs both won with 2-1 scorelines and that the Eastern Conference clubs won with 1-0 scorelines. The visiting clubs won on Saturday and the home clubs won on Sunday. That D'Ro missed a PK to a wonderful Guzan shot block and that the Chivas USA supporters actually stopped the match because they flooded the goal with streamers.

As we have the following results going into the second part of the Semi-Finals:

- FC Dallas 1 up on Colorado
- Chicago 1 up on New England
- Chivas USA 1 up on Houston

The return matches should be interesting. Both Colorado and New England are down a goal and face their matches with personnel problems. Colorado will be without Thiago Martins due to his Red card and MLS Sponsored Holiday, I just hope for their sake that Cleetus doesn't get the start, I mean, damn, I am fitter that he is. New England should know more today or tomorrow, but by the faces I saw ESPN plaster on the screen that Deuce was making, he might have just played his last match in a MLS uniform. If Deuce is out, I do not expect the Revs to be able to do much to a Chicago club that needs a draw to book a trip to the Conference Finals.

Chivas USA looks to be in the best situation of these three clubs, as they head into Houston for the away leg of their series. I was impressed with the play of Brad Guzan, if he keeps his form up, Chivas USA will be heading to the Conference Finals as well.

DC United Recap 10/23/2006

DC United 1 - 0 Red Bull New York

Ok, so this is a little late, but hangovers do that to people.

So a week ago the MLS regular season finished with United taking the short end of a 3-2 loss against the Chicago Fire. Having a week to prepare for the Red Bulls, everyone was talking about how the club looked like it had lost its form and it looked like it didn't have any motivation. After the first 10 minutes of the match on Saturday, I honestly feel that those questions were answered and put to bed.

I saw the original line-up go out there and play as they did in April, May and June. I saw United get the scrappy, 1-0 victory that they used all through the 14 game unbeaten streak to collect points as they marched up the MLS ladder. From Jaime fighting down near the penalty box just as the match started, to Freddy's wonderful service on the free kick, to Erpen's flick-on header off of that free kick. I saw the goods in that match on Saturday.

I also saw a club that is way different from what they were when the season began and that club in the Red Bulls. They looked much better than they did over the season. As their central core of the team returns with better players, I have a strong feeling that RBNY will be a force next season.

I was happy with the match, and from how the other playoff matches went, MLS still has alot of guess work to do as to where and when they will be holding their Conference Finals. United controlled the majority of the match and when they didn't, the Red Bulls never really scared me, even when they hit the post or when they had a through ball roll pass the goal mouth. Our defense showed better form Saturday, but they still have alot to work on. Get some good training in, improve on their performance and execute with better timing on Sunday and then they might be ready for whomever wins the other Semi-Final.

All in all, it was a good match, we got the 1-0 victory and the defense were able to pitch a shutout, something we had seemed to have forgotten how to do. Even though we backed into the playoffs, we won our first match, and are on our way to the Conference Finals. I for one cannot wait until this Sunday.

Friday, October 20, 2006

DC United Preview: The Playoffs

DC United vs. Red Bull New York
10/21/2006 2:00pm EST
Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

"It has Begun!" - Shang Tsung, from Mortal Combat.

I figured that the quote and the source of the quote sorta fit the situation. Then again, "Let;s git it on," from Celebrity Death Match might have worked as well. Nah, the only celebrities in this match are The Bitter One and the Cosmo Kid, Bozilla.

So DC United starts the playoffs at RFK North, the Swamplands of Jersey... Giants Stadium. Facing RBNY seems almost destined, as these two clubs have such a rich history together and the RBNY coaching staff all seem to have United jersey's stuffed away in their closets. As these two clubs duke it out every season for the Atlantic Cup, which United just recently secured with a 2-0-2 record, add the USOC Quarter Final 3-1 victory over the Bovine of the Big Apple and you have a great match up.

Thank god United are facing the Red Bulls. With the funk that we have been in, it seems like the only club we know how to handle and know how to score on in RBNY. Seeing us put 4 goals on the board against them at RFK several weeks ago was a very good thing, minus the 3 that we let in, it would have been a great match indeed. That said, I think that this is the best matchup for United at this time. So lets get into this.

Some feel that the match will hinge on the fact that Giants Stadium has field turf and that should neutralize the United attack. The field turf didn't seem to bother United when we dropped 4 goals on them the first time we went up there. Granted the second trip up was a more even affair, some even said that the Bovine looked stronger than the Black & Red in that match. I don't buy it this time around.

DC United will have its full, first team on the field for first time since about August. I have got to believe that regardless of how bad they screwed the pooch in the final two matches, (the Houston match doesn't count, Ching's goal was an act of God) the ass whipping that Chicago gave us at home last year in the playoffs has still got to sting. I would almost imagine Ben Olsen to have the press clipping in his locker, sort of like Rocky in the fourth movie had the picture of Ivan Drago on his mirror. Keep a constant reminder of why you are working and you never lose focus.

Getting back to the game, I don't see how RBNY are going to be able to truly neutralize every threat that United has. We are going to score goals. The only problem I see is are we going to gift them soft goals like Guevara's goal in the USOC match? Boswell, Erpen, Namoff, Carroll and Olsen had better shore that back line up in front of 2006 Panasonic Goalkeeper of the Year Troy Perkins. Olsen will be the defensive key, as he will need to ensure that Guevara doesn't get a chance to do anything creative with the ball, and by doing so, cutting the head off of their attack. If Olsen does his job, then the rest of the club should be able to do their job and we leave the Swamp with a win.

Prediction: DC United 1 - 0 Red Bull New York

Thursday, October 19, 2006

This is the type of match that the USSF needs to schedule.

I was roaming around the many levels of Big Soccer and came across this nice little thread. If you want to skip the jump into Big soccer, just check this link out.

So the Canadians are traveling to Budapest to take on Hungary. That sounds like a really good idea. Why not play European teams in Europe? I am sure that the Canadians will get a wealth of experience from this match.

This brings me to the USSF. I know that we currently are without a coach, seemingly so that Sunil does not take the wind from Garber & Co.'s sails with the playoffs and such. We are all anxiously waiting for about a month from now when Sunil should be telling us that he has found his man and that the USMNT will be getting back in the saddle again.

According to Washington Post writer, Steven Goff, the USSF has a National Team training camp scheduled for January:

"Steven Goff: If a friendly had been scheduled this fall, Mooch surely would have run the team. With his passing, I can't imagine a game will be held. The next event is a national team training camp in January." - The Washington Post.com

So the USSF is planning on bringing in a group of guys for training camp, which is a good sign. Most likely this will again be an all MLS group, as MLS is out of season and the rest of the planet (well, most of it) is in season at this time. If we look at how last January's training camp went, we will most likely play Canada and maybe someone else. As the FIFA calendar does not have any official dates listed for January, hopefully this January camp will be prep work for a February match in Europe, as FIFA has designated the 7th as an official friendly match day. A match in Europe would be the right way to go.

Have the MLS players attend a training camp in North Carolina or someplace else on the East Coast. Work for about a total of 16 to 17 days. Have them get about 7 days of training in, play a match against Canada in Columbus or Chicago around the 27th of January. Then break camp on the 2nd of February and head over to Europe. The Euro clubs need to release players 48 hours in advance, so any Euro based Yanks that would be called into service would be able to join the team on the 5th. Have them train together on the 5th and 6th, then play a match on the 7th.

Play a match against Ireland if needs be. Scotland, Belgium, Slovenia, Hungary, Denmark; any of them would be good match ups for a USA team that hasn't pulled the Red, White & Blue on for almost 6 months. Not really that hard to think up.

Watching Euro qualifying and friendlies has me jonesing for some USMNT matches. Hell, play Mexico in the Rose Bowl or Azteca for all I care, just get the band back together!!!!

Perkins Wins Goalkeeper of the Year

Troy Perkins was named the 2006 Panasonic Goalkeeper of the Year today by MLS. Leading MLS with 15 wins, Troy earned this award.

Congratulations Troy!

EDIT - I mentioned in my last post that Troy is a second year player. I fucked up. Troy is in his third year, according to MLS. My bad.

United up for several awards.

Coming as no surprise to any DC United supporter, but several United players have been named to the short lists for several MLS awards.

Christian Gomez was named as one of the three finalists for the Honda MLS MVP. Jeff Cunningham from Real Salt Lake and Dwayne De Rosario from the Houston Dynamo were also named. I have to say that this is truly down to De Rosario and Gomez. Cunningham had a great season and did lead the league in goals, but he did fade at the end of the season. De Rosario and Gomez were still giving 100% at the end. Gomez however was the only brightspot for United, and showed just how important he is to the club. Gomez should be lifting the Honda MLS MVP award.

Bozilla was named a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year. Jose Burciaga Jr. and Jimmy Conrad, both from Kansas City were also named in this group. I don't see Conrad getting the call here. He was gone for the World Cup, came back and had an own goal and a red card. He was then on the receiving end of a Deuce elbow that broke his jaw and put him on the shelf for the rest of the season if I am not correct. Jose Burciaga Jr. is a dark horse in this race, as Kansas City's defense wasn't a sparkling display of solidity in the league. Then again, United's defense utterly failed during the last two matches of the season and are the weakest link going into the playoffs. That said, I do think that Bozilla will collect this award.

Peter Nowak was named as a finalist for Coach of the Year. As was Dave Sarachan from Chicago and Bob Bradley over at Chivas USA. Sorry Coach, but despite winning the Supporters Shield and the Some Star performance, Senior Bradley at Chivas USA will take this one. He took the absolute worst club ever in MLS history and remade them into a force in the West. I have a strong feeling that Chivas might even make the MLS Cup finals. Bob Bradley will pick up this award.

Head Gear was listed as a finalist for Comeback Player of the Year award. Richard Mulrooney from FC Dallas and Chris Armas of Chicago were also named as finalists. Alecko definitely has returned from the concussion that Matt Reis gave him last season, but the leg injury did hamper him at the end of the season. Richard Mulrooney was a part of the FC Dallas club that won the Western Conference, but without the work of Kenny Cooper and Carlos Ruiz, FCD wouldn't have won their Conference. Chris Armas will take this award. He was the field general that organized the Chicago defense and was their enforcer. They are one of the top two clubs in the East (and no, United are not the other one) and they have already picked up the USOC this season. Sorry Head Gear, but if you didn't go out to the leg injury and scored maybe 4 more goals this season, this would be your award, but little Armas in Chicago gets this one.

Troy Perkins rounds out the United players nominated as finalists this year, as he is a finalist for the Goalkeeper of the Year. Joe Cannon of Colorado and Matt Reis of New England were also named as finalists. Both of these guys had good seasons, Reis having a better one than Cannon, but Troy gets this award due to his situation. He is a second year player who at the beginning of the season, did not show that he deserved to start, but due to Rimando's injury, was thrust into the goal mouth. Those who grab opportunity by the horns, make the most of them. Perkins was no different. He was absolutely awesome this season. Yes he had some growing pains, but overall, Troy was the best keeper in the league, and will take this award.

The Goalkeeper of the Year award will be announced later today, so we will see if I am right or not.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

News & Notes 10/18/2006

Champions League
Ok, so I followed the ESPNsoccernet feed for the Chelsea vs. Barcelona match to find out if I need to skip Lost tonight and watch it again (I love having DVR). I really don't think it is a must see tonight, I think it can wait for the weekend. However, it was interesting to see Chelsea pull out the 1-0 victory, especially since Barca seemed to be dropping shots left and right for the last 30 minutes. This rivalry only gets better as they now have the return leg at Nou Camp in 13 days. Mark your calendars.

Bayern Munich continued their 100% run in the Champions League with a 1-0 victory over Sporting Lisbon. Considering that everyone, including myself initially, wrote Bayern off before van Bommel arrived, they seem to be doing ok. They are still hanging around the top of the Bundesliga and are pretty much assured of making the knock-out round of the Champions League this season.

El Classico
Having just moved to Falls Church in August, I am still getting used to having both FSC and Gol TV to catch weekend Euro league soccer. I decided to check Gol TV's website to see if they had anything good this weekend and I found:

Saturday @ 09:00am - Werder Bremen vs. Bayern Munich
Sunday @ 03:00pm - Real Madrid vs. Barcelona

Yup, I get to not only watch the match between the top two Bundesliga clubs on Saturday, but I get El Classico on Sunday! Actually, I am gonna have to DVR the Bayern match, as I will be tailgating at the Maryland vs. NC State game that morning. Still, this goes way beyond watching NFL on Sunday.

El Classico. Real vs. Barca. Soccer doesn't get any better than this. Well, maybe live it does. But for someone who has only had to live with having FSC and ESPN as my only home outlets for Euro Soccer, this is like a little slice of heaven dropped into my TV. Add the DC United match that Saturday, and I am gonna have alot of soccer ahead of me. God I love cable TV.

1.5 Billion Reasons to move.

CNN/SI.com is reporting that the cost of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, set to be held in South Africa, has again ballooned to more than $1.59 billion dollars, slightly more expensive than the $300 million dollar cost that was estimated when the country was awarded the tournament.

They are building two stadiums that will hold 70,000 people. Does South Africa have 70,000 soccer fans? I ask because they will have to fill that stadium after the World Cup and as South Korea showed, stadiums not used, start to cost more than some thought.

Why do I get the idea that FIFA and the South African organizers are so hell bent determined to stage the tournament here, no matter the cost, that they will do anything, regardless of the big question of whether of not a developing country should be spending $1.59 Billion (and you know it is going to skyrocket next month) on stadiums that they will use for maybe, maybe, 2 months?

And we wonder why there are poor people in the planet?

3 and out?

I find it funny how so much can change in a few months.

In August, the MLS Some Stars played EPL Champion Chelsea and defeated them, 1-0. Everyone was pouring the accolades on Peter Nowak for doing something that Steve Nicol failed to do a year earlier in Madrid. He was able to gather a group of player together in a short time frame and get them to work as a team, and not only avoid the type of howler that the MLS Select Squad gave up (5-0 ass-whooping for those who have tried to forget), but pulled off the 1-0 victory.

Peter Nowak was riding high, his club was on top of the league and his name was being mentioned on damn near every short list around for the replacement of Bruce Arena for the USMNT coach. At that moment, Peter could have snapped a college kids legs worse than Hristo Stoichkov did a couple of years ago and still come out of it cleaner than a colon after an enema. It is funny how things change after a few months.

Now here we are, 3 days before the start of the MLS Playoffs and everywhere I go in the digital soccer world, I find calls for Peter Nowak to be fired. DC United have sucked for the last two months of the season. They went 3-4-6 in all competitions, 2 of those wins coming against the same club, RBNY (who they face in the first round of the playoffs). This was the same club that had a 13 match unbeaten streak, with a 6 match win streak along the way. United lost their last three matches of the regular season and now seem to have more holes in their defense than the Titanic did as it sank.

So, what happened? Well, several injuries took away guys, namely Esky for four matches and Jaime for at least one. After not really getting any Yellow or Red cards for the beginning of the season, United seemed intent on playing catch up and piled them on like they were going out of style. Something to the tune of 32 yellow cards and 5 Red cards in that same stretch. They had 34 Yellow cards and 1 red for the previous 22 matches in MLS and USOC before that. So needless to say, more guys were given MLS Sponsored Holiday's at the end of the season than they were during the season.

Players aside, most people will and are blaming the late season funk on Peter Nowak. Infact, one side of this can be read here at DCenters. D seems to be dropping less of the blame on Peter, rather than cite other reasons for United failing to get the proper results, such as Jaime seemingly scared to shoot the ball over most of the same time period. If you want to sift through 10 pages of arguments on Big Soccer, then you will see how some other are handling the late season funk.

The one that brought me out to this is from Matchnight. Bill Urban has a long piece about how the club is doing and how everything has transpired...go read it if you want, but here is the last paragraph:

"Nowak clearly rates his abilities at getting the best out of his players above all else and ahead of more mundane personal concerns like tactics and his system of play. His characteristic stubborn refusal to change the system or his tactics as United's season ended with an extended run of poor results, the implicit assumption that he and his players could "turn it on" when necessary, has morphed the conference semifinal tie against the Red Bulls into a sort of referendum on the reign of Peter as a result." - Matchnight.com

As D said in his piece, yes Peter Nowak is stubborn. That is one of his characteristics that the club knew about when they hired him. He also cannot stand losing, almost to a fault. He did pick damn near the entire United squad for the Some Star game, and that was so he could win. maybe not the brightest idea considering the season, but he wanted to win, which made Garber & Co. slap happy. Did Jaime really need to play all 90 minutes against Real Madrid? Doubtful, but he was still out there at the end of the match, huffing an puffing, trying to create chances. That was because Peter wanted to win. I would rather a coach who wants to win at all cost than someone who feels complacent with getting everyone on the field.

The biggest point from this paragraph that bugged me was the referendum comment. Does a coach that has produced three straight playoff appearances, 1 MLS Cup, and 1 Supporters Shield in three years, really need to worry that much about his job? Does anyone remember how shitty United were under Ray Hudson? DC united barely remembered what the playoffs were under Ray. So just because the last 13 matches weren't like the first 22, you want to shit can the guy?

I don't buy it. I love that DC United supporters are so rabid and loyal that the moment the ship starts to slow down or looks like it is going under, they want, damn near demand change, but lets face fact here. Peter Nowak has been doing what he was brought here to do. He has been doing what he always has done. He has put his best team on the field and demanded that they get the job done. As injuries and MLS Sponsored holidays took some of those players away from him, he still did the best he could. Not being able to field Gomez, Gros, and Olsen for the same match would be like the Redskins not being able to field Moss, Portis and Brunell (yes, Brunell is a bad example, as he sucks now too).

Peter Nowak has been one of the most successful coaches in MLS. There are few who have had better 3 year terms than he, and it turns out that one of them was the first DC United boss and his opponent, Arena. Bruce will always be the standard for DC United coaches. If they fail to do as well as Bruce, then they need to be fired. Is it fair, no. That is just life in DC.

Peter Nowak doesn't need a referendum on his job. He has done a great job, with the players that he has had. Do I honestly see DC United winning the MLS Cup? No. I see us getting pass RBNY and then losing to Chicago. But I know that funnier things have happened in soccer, like South Korea making the Semi-Finals of the World Cup and the USA beating Portugal. If the LA Galaxy can win the MLS Cup with the worst record of the playoff clubs last year, the club with the best record this year could too, and if Peter Nowak is holding the Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy at the end of this, then I am sure that people will still want him fired.

The Return of Head Gear!

Alecko Eskandarian, DC United Forward and keeper of the Head Gear, is ready to go a full 90 minutes this coming Saturday in United's playoff opener against RBNY. The Washington Post is reporting that even though his leg injury still slightly bothers him, Alecko and Coach Nowak feel that he is ready to start up front and start scoring goals again. Esky had two goals the first time United traveled up I-95 to Giants Stadium to face the Red Bulls, so hopefully he will find the back of the net again this Saturday.

With United's lack of forward play, Esky's return to the line up should provide an extra spark to the sometimes, "slow" offense that we have seen as of late. If Gomez and Moreno continue their current form, throw in Freddy and his play making skills, adding Alecko should cause some alarm in the Red Bull back line. Now we need to shore up our defense.

I have to say, after dropping alot of crap on Freddy for his play against the New England Revolution and his multiple attempts to draw penalty kicks, the boy stepped up and played a much different match this last Sunday against Chicago. He made several great runs, and was always moving forward. Say nothing of the two assists he picked up by great passes to Gomez. Freddy, you did well my friend, please, for all our sakes, keep it up.

The Post also mentioned that the friendly against Israeli club, Maccabi Haifa, rumored for Summer of 2007 at RFK, is not going to happen. According to DC United Vice President Stephen Zack, next season, with the regular season, CONCACAF Champions Cup, USOC and the tournament with the Mexican league, United just will not have any free space for that friendly. Zack also is quoted as mentioning "a major international friendly." Hmmm, I wonder what might be in the works? We have already played Real Madrid and Chelsea, so would Manchester United be looking to play DC United? I guess we wait and see.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

UEFA Champions League: United Roll

Manchester United rolled to a 3-0 victory over FC Copenhagen in Group F action today. United remain perfect through the first half of the group stage, taking maximum points from all three matches. Celtic are currently in second place in Group F with 6 points, having defeated Portuguese side Benfica with a scoreline of 3-0 as well.

Assuming that this type of form holds over for the remaining 3 Group Phase matches, United should secure a berth into the knock-out stage by their next match. As they have been utter dog shit in the knock-out stage in recent years, finishing first in their group should still remain a priority and ensuring that they avoid a difficult round of 16 match. Along a similar vein, hopefully United will not follow up this match with a howler against Liverpool this Sunday.

This has been a truly happy day!

UEFA Champions League: Arsenal lose in Moscow

Arsenal lost 1-0 to CSKA Moscow today in the early match.

Looks like the sun is shining even though it it raining outside!

Guevara: MLS player of week??

So RBNY Captain and one time spectator, Amado Guevara was named MLS player of the week for the end of the regular season. Guevara dropped a hat trick on the Kansas City Wizards to lead the Red Bull's back to the playoffs. Getting a hat trick is a difficult thing to do, but I still doubt that he should have been player of the week.

Anyone who was at RFK on Sunday knows that a penalty kick is something not to be taken lightly, as Nick Rimondo stopped Andy Herron's penalty attempt in the early moments of the match. Penalty kicks are just about the easiest shots in soccer; easy to make and easy to mess up. I am not saying that Amado's first two goals of the match Saturday night were easy or difficult. What I am getting at though is that when a guy gets a hat trick with two of his goals being from the penalty spot, the soccer fan inside me just doesn't feel that they mean as much as a goal that was scored during the run of play.

I feel that way about 99% of all penalties. Jaime Moreno's 100th MLS goal was on a penalty shot and even though it was his 100th MLS goal, I really didn't give it that much thought. In RSL's 2-1 victory over DC United earlier this season, Jeff Cunningham's two penalty shots that won them the game seemed a little cheap. Not only because they were off of two stupid and cheaply given fouls, but the general fact that penalty shots do not have the same "umph" that other goals do.

One penalty shot that does come to mind as a PK with "umph" was Zidane's penalty in the World Cup final. He later decided to try and impale Materazzi with his head, so I figure most people have forgotten how Zidane took the shot. Anyways, back to Guevara.

Yes, getting three goals in a game is a great accomplishment for any player, but for some reason having two of them taken from the penalty spot takes the air out of the hat trick. Yes each one goes on the board and they all count the same, but PK goals just feel different. Yes his three goals are what lifted RBNY into the playoffs. All that said, I still really don't think he should have been the Player of the Week.

So who would I suggest as the Player of the Week? Well, Cobi Jones should have been up there, as he had a goal and three assists in the Galaxy victory over FC Dallas, 5-2. Landon Donovan with his two goals and one assist in the destruction of the Hoops, maybe he should have been considered. What about Thiago from Colorado? His two goals against FC Fanta went along way towards getting the Rapids the final Western Conference Playoff spot.

Am I being biased? Damn right I am. I just feel that Guevara's hat trick, with two goals from the penalty spot, is like comparing Bud Light to Guinness. They are both considered beer, but one is truly different than the other. Flame me all you want, but reading that Guevara was the Player of the Week just doesn't sit well with me.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

On to the Playoffs

DC United 2 - 3 Chicago Fire

Ok, so we lost tonight. We have a 3 match losing streak. We allowed 3 goals tonight, 2 last week, and the miracle goal from Brian Ching.

I was ok with tonight's match, regardless of the loss. We worked better than we had, gave Benny and Head Gear time off, scored more than a goal, should have had 3 others, but the wood-work wasn't our friend tonight. Other than the fact that our defense wasn't able to run with the Fire on their counters, which lead to their second goal, we were not that bad. If this were a true pre-season match, I wouldn't be too worried about our form for the coming season.
So we travel to The Swamp and play RBNY in a total goals series. Playing on the turf isn't something I would have wanted to have for our playoff series. Our first match up there yielded a 4-1 victory, which would be absolutely perfect in my mind. Our second visit was much of a different experience. Our first encounter with the return of the Bitter One, and a 0-0 draw, a draw that in all honestly we should have lost. We looked like we had problems dealing with the turf, turf that we will have to handle well in order to get the result.

I like our chances against the Bulls, but the turf doesn't really do it for me.

BTW - 14 goals, 11 assists. How do I spell MVP? Christian Gomez.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Copa Sudamericana - Big Two Dumped

The Big Two of Argentine football were knocked out of the Copa Sudamericana last night, as River Plate drew 2-2 with Brazil's Atletico Paranaense, losing 3-2 on aggregate. The defending Cupo Sudamericana Champions, Boca Juniors were also dumped from the tournament, losing 3-1 on penalty kicks.

Boca won their match last night against Uruguay's Nacional, 2-1 which is the same scoreline the two clubs had in the first match of their series, with Nacional winning their home match. With the aggregate tied at 3-3, the two clubs went to penalty kicks, with Boca only hitting one of their kicks. Nacional moves on to play Atletico Paranaense in the Quarter Finals.

River started a different line-up than the one that defeated Boca Juniors on Sunday in the Super Classico, using a mix of starters and reserve players. After winning 1-0 in the first match at River Plate’s Monumental de Nunez stadium, Atletico Paranaense needed only a draw to advance. Atletico Paranaense are the only remaining Brazilian side left in the Copa Sudamericana.

So the big two of Argentine football are out, and CONCACAF, or more accurately, Mexico, have two clubs in the Quarter Finals. Very interesting.

DC United Preview - 10/13/2006

DC United vs. Chicago Fire
5:00pm Sunday,10/15/2006
RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

So this is it, final match of the 2006 MLS regular season. DC United, Eastern Conference (Regular Season) and Supporters Shield Champions, are hosting the USOC Champions, Chicago Fire. These two clubs are currently 1 & 3 respectively in the Eastern Conference and are playoff bound.

United coach, Peter Nowak stated a couple of days ago that the two final matches of the season are like pre-season matches for him, he is using them to build towards the playoffs. Well, United, while looking good in the first 45 minutes and scoring a goal, failed their first “pre-season” test with a 2-1 home defeat to the New England Revolution, the current #2 seeded club in the East. Hopefully whatever it was that Coach Nowak was “trying” in that match, has been tossed or has been fixed, because having to sit through another 90 minutes of the type of form and play that I witnessed for the last 45 minutes of the match, things will be worse.

With this match in mind, with the playoffs and a road trip to either New Jersey or Kansas City in store for United for their first match of the playoffs, I am torn between what should be done Sunday night. One side of me wants to have the normal starting line-up out on the pitch for the first whistle, play balls to the wall and put out the Fire. Knocking off Chicago, who I feel are the most dangerous side in the Eastern Conference, would be huge for the players mentality and will work wonders for their outlook towards the post season.

On the other side, I remember several a United match in which I saw Ben Olsen, Jaime Moreno, Freddy Adu; all look gassed by the 76th minute mark of several matches, and to head into the playoffs without proper amounts of rest, for this team, would be a mistake. So having guys not start, or not play more than 45 minutes or 60 minutes, might not be a bad thing, with the big picture in mind. With that, I suggest the following line-up for Sunday nights match.


Erpen – Bozilla – Namoff

Olsen – B. Carroll

Donnet – Gomez – Adu

Dyachenko – Head Gear

Have these guys start, giving Rod, Adu and Olsen all 45 to 60 minutes of work. Give Ben a warm spot on the bench, a cup of hot cocoa, and have Clyde Simms start the second half. Have Jaime replace Rod at the 60th minute as well as Josh come on for Freddy around the same time. Giving Ben only 45 minutes will go along way towards stretching his play into the playoffs. On the flip side of that, giving Clyde 45 minutes will help him as well. Have Jaime and Josh come on for the last 30 minutes to recharge our attack. Gros to run like a wild child up and down the left side of the field, causing problems and having Jaime come in to work with Christian on the creativity in the attack.

I was truly impressed with how Jaime came on in the second half against RBNY and basically took over the game. Granted, that was against the Bulls, and anyone coming on in the second half could have controlled them, but Jaime looked like he was Jaime of old in that match, and if playing the last 30 minutes helps his form, I say do it again.

Anyways, it is the season finale and the final whistle marks our march towards a fith star and “One for the Thumb.”

Prediction: DC United 2 – 0 Chicago Fire

Thursday, October 12, 2006

FIFA Player of the Year Award. Who votes?

I saw that the short list for the FIFA Player of the Year award has been released. FIFA sends this list to the National Team Head Coaches and Captains for them to vote on the award. Here is what FSC mentions -

"This year's shortlist was drawn up by international experts on FIFA's different committees.

Like the last two years, the coaches and captains of men's and women's national teams around the world will be eligible to vote, FIFA said. They have all received the player lists and will have several weeks to submit their votes." - Fox Sports

Uh, so who votes for the USA? They send the list to the Head Coach. Right...we have no Head Coach, as he quit once he was told he was a short timer. They send the list to the Team Captain. Right...we have none, as our last one retired. So who votes?

I say Ronaldinho gets his third straight, based on his play for Barcelona, winning La Liga and the Champions League.

MLS Still Trying to Get it right?

Over at Logans Revenge, they have a picture of what is supposed to be the rebranding of the Colorado Rapids. Evidently their new owners want to rebrand as they enter their new stadium next season. They are going away from the "Inter Denver" look and moving to "West Denver Ham" look. The colors are cool, but as others are saying, I actually liked their black/blue striped kits. Oh well, MLS is still trying to make up for the god aweful uniforms/color schemes/badges that they started with.

* - Blogger is acting like a spoiled brat, and for some reason I cannot upload the image. Both links have it, so check it out.

Freddy Talking again....

Go check it out for yourself. He says he is going to move to Europe next season, what looks like the start of the 2007/08 season. Chelsea, Manchester United or Real Madrid; it will be with one of them.

Oh yeah, he still says he is conflicted on whether or not to play for the USA or Ghana. Someone in the USSF needs to sit down and figure out if the cap he received for the Canada friendly last January makes him locked down for the USA. If he is, someone needs to get a press release out concerning this.

Mexico Gearing up for Gold Cup, Copa America

The Mexican National Team’s director has announced that they will be sending their “A-Team” to the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June 2007, and are focused on that tournament because of the FIFA Confederations Cup berth that comes with the Gold Cup championship. Mexico will be playing in the CONMEBOL Copa America directly after the Gold Cup, as they have for pretty much that last decade.

So Mexico doesn’t have a National team coach right now, just like the USA. Both teams have offered the head coaching position to German Mastermind, Jurgen Klinnsman, who has yet to accept any type of coaching job since the World Cup. So if both teams are running so similar in operation right now, why is it that the Mexican Football Federation is announcing that they will be sending its stronger team to the Gold Cup and still sending a team to the Copa America; while the USSF is still trying to figure out if they will be accepting the invite to the Copa America, that they had to lobby for?

I have a feeling that this is another sign of how the Mexican’s view global football is different than how the USSF views global football. The Mexican’s know that in order to get a stronger team, they have to play in stronger tournaments. Thus, they have always played in the Copa America when invited. They know that playing in the Confederations Cup is a good thing, as you get the chance to play World Cup bound nations and to possibly play the defending World Champion. Their players have gotten better through these types of tests.

This is another sign of the type of outlook the USSF needs to have. We need to be challenging our players and our teams. If we sent the U-23 team to the Copa America, I feel that this type of move would benefit our Olympic development and would increase their chances of qualifying for Beijing 2008. Sending our strongest team to the Gold Cup to win it and secure the Confederations cup berth would be huge, not only as it would show that we can defend the Gold Cup title in a year were the title actually means something (Confederations Cup berth) but that we are still top dog in our region.

DC United Ready for the Playoffs???

The Washington Post has a piece cover DC United and their run of form as of late. Steven Goff highlights how the club was a juggernaut for the first 3 1/2 months of the MLS season, but have pretty much floundered since then. He has several quotes from the players and front office staff that they know what they need to do and when the playoffs arrive, they will get down to business.

Haven't we heard this before? Didn't D from DCenters and I write about how the guys are all saying the right things, talking about how they know that they need to play all 90 minutes and put forth 100% every match? Didn't we already talking about how they say this, but do something utterly different once the matches are played?

Yes, I know, and Goff says this as well, that since United raced out to such a huge lead in both the Eastern Conference and in the Supporters Shield race, their might have been some since of, "It's cool, baby! We got this shiznit wrapped up, yo!" That said, you have got to ask yourself, when does that type of mentality go away? Granted Coach Nowak said that he is using the last two regular season matches as primer's for the playoffs, will the guys have their heads on straight, when they take the field?

I have to believe, even though I am a DC United supporter and honestly cannot stand any other club in MLS, that DC United as a club, are head and shoulders above the rest of the league. As a collective team, we have the best 11 guys to go out on the field, better than the other 11 teams in the league. That said, I really want to see them start playing like that again. Hopefully, this Sunday at RFK we will start to see that team return. We better damn sure see it on the field in the first round of the playoffs.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Boswell is a Beast!

A sexy beast that is, according to the folks of Cosmo!

Actually, I wouldn't know. But go vote for him, as he is up for Bachelor of the Year in Cosmopolitan.

Copa Sudamericana - CONCACAF gets 2 into Quarter Finals

CONCACAF got two clubs into the Quarter Finals of the Copa Sudamericana, Mexican Champion Pachuca and Toluca. Costa Rican club LD Alajuelense was rudely dumped by Chilean club, Colo Colo after a major thumping to the sound of a 7-2 defeat. and a 11-2 total goals aggregate. Getting two clubs into the Quarter Finals is pretty good, hopefully they will be able to advance farther.

In action tonight, Santos of Brasil face a huge uphill climb as they are down 3-0 to San Lorenzo of Argentina. Even with the match at home, a 3 goal deficit requires a huge miracle. Defending Brasilian Champions, Corinthians are level with Lanus at 0-0 and face a tough battle at Estadio Lanus.

On Thursday night, defending champion Boca Juniors face the return leg of their series with Nacional, with an uphill battle as they trail the Uruguayan side 2-1 after the first half of their home/away series. Fellow Argentinean side, River Plate, are looking to build off of their 3-1 victory over Boca on Sunday to rally past Brasilian club Atletico Paranaense, who won the first match 1-0 at Monumental de Nunez stadium.

Kansas City Suspend Eddie Johnson

The Kansas City Wizards have suspended Forward Eddie Johnson for the remainder of the season. The US international was suspended due to a "pattern" of events, which might have something to do with several shouting matches he seems to have had with teammates. Wizards Head Coach Brian Bliss is unsure whether or not this supsension would carry over into the playoffs, if the Wizards are able to avoid losing to RBNY this Saturday and clinch the final Eastern Conference slot.

I find it interesting just how Brian Bliss chose to word his responses in the article. One that I might just be reading too much into is this -

"When Johnson arrived here, talk swirled of the lethal combination he and fellow World Cup teammate Josh Wolff would form up top for the Wizards, but that never materialized.

"The few times Eddie and Josh were on the field together, they were always dangerous, even when they weren't scoring goals," Bliss said. "I think it could've worked out still if it was given a chance.""

Am I the only one who might beginning to think that Eddie Johnson's stay in Kansas City is going to be a rather short one? It sounds like Bliss has Eddie packing his bags and cleaning out his locker already. Hell, with the number of injuries we have had, DC United could use a large target forward.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Jay DeMerit: Flavor of the Month?

Ok, so Jay DeMerit, a name that Yanks Abroad has been dropping for months, if not years, has just become the Flavor of the Month. He has two media outlets giving him a push, front and center on CNN/SI.com and on ESPNsoccernet.com. ESPN will also have DeMerit contribute regularly with news and reports from life in the EPL. From what I have read about this guy, he deserves this type of exposure.

This sort of segways into something I was thinking about concerning the USMNT. With any National team, you get a coach who has specific players in mind when he makes his roster. Guys who he likes or guys who fit well into his formations and styles. Bruce Arena had his fair share of them, Jeff Agoos being one of them. Now that Bruce is gone from the USSF and coaching RBNY, I was trying to figure out who will be given chances now that a clean slate is upon us with whomever Sunil hires. Will we see a roster that is drastically different than what Bruce had been calling up? Will we see Taylor Twellman given a new chance? Will Landon Donovan be given the #10 shirt and the armband? Will Jay DeMerit get his first cap?

I guess we have to wait until mid-November to find these out. I am guess that we will see all of these things, and more.

If it flops like a duck....

Ok, I just read the funniest damn thing today. On CNN/SI, they have this quote -

"D.C. United starlet Freddy Adu spoke out in frustration about what he believes is unfair treatment from MLS officials. Adu believes MLS officials prejudge him as a "diver."-- Goal.com"

Freddy, if you don't want to look stupid, don't say these types of things. You do dive. I watched you dive twice against the Revolution at RFK on Saturday night. The second of the two was so bad that I am surprised that you weren't yellow carded and the Revolution defense didn't fall over laughing.

Freddy, you are an amazingly talented and gifted soccer player, one who will be making millions of dollars some day to play a game, something that only about less than 3% of the planet gets to do, while about 95% of the planet would probably love to do. That said, you really need to start taking responsibility for your actions. You need to stand up young man! The money and true fame will only arrive once you have.

As I sat in the stands Saturday night, I remarked that the future of the USMNT was on the field. My girlfriend said that I was talking about Freddy. I corrected her and told her I was talking about Deuce. Dempsey was out there running around like a man on a mission. He made such creative and quick moves on the ball that the United defenders were stuck looking like they were glued to the turf. He is so good that I hate him, unless he is in the USA jersey. I cannot wait for him to go overseas, just so he stops scoring on United.

Freddy, you need to step up your game just like Deuce has in the last few years. Once you get to his level, you will be ready for everything else to come. Until that day, I suggest you stay in MLS and keep working at the basics, like staying on your feet and shooting with either foot.

Sale and Stadium News Update

The Washington Post is reporting that the ongoing drama that is the sale of DC United is on the move and possibly heading for the home stretch. Former Duke University basketball player, Brian Davis has been quoted as saying that the sale is close. Davis has stated that the management firm that he operates, Blue Devil Ventures, will be purchasing DC United for $33 Million.

In that same article, the Post mentioned that DC United President had a recent meeting with architects concerning the proposed Popular Point Stadium for DC United. It is good to hear that somebody is still working on that.

Can we please get a new owner and a new stadium? The coffee at RFK is worse that reclaimed rain water.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Still in Question? Copa America Invitation

I found this on a side bar of Steven Goff's report for DC United's weekend match in the Washington Post -

"U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said he will travel to South America and Europe again in the next two weeks as part of his national team coaching search. He has four or five candidates. Gulati also said he will decide by Oct. 20 whether the U.S. team will participate in next summer's Copa America in Venezuela." - Steven Goff

Uh...why is this still even up for debate? Why would we (we being the USSF) lobby CONMEBOL for an invitation to the tournament that I assume we were already invited to, just to turn it down? That is like the popular kid in school asking to be invited to the neighborhood party, just to say, nah, I don't need to attend.

I understand that the questions regarding how to play in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the Copa America are still looming and as we do not have a coach yet, they will be forced to live with any decision that is made. My question is, why is it so hard to figure out how to take part in both tournaments? Mexico does this everytime they are played in the same year, and they seem to handle it pretty well. Why is it so hard?

Myernick passes away.

Glen Myernick, the USMNT Assistant Coach who was known by all simply as "Mooch," passed away this morning after failing to regain consciousness after a heart attack last Friday. He was 51.

My heart goes out to the entire Myernick family. He died much too early and much too young. Rest in Piece coach.

You can check out Mooches bio here.

Big Soccer Interviews Don Garber.

The Godfather of MLS sat down with the folks at Big Soccer and answered member submitted questions covering the full gamut of topics regarding MLS. Most of these questions have been beaten like a dead horse time and time again on Big Soccer, and if you don’t check the multitude of topics over there, I suggest that you do, some are funny and some are informative.

Anyways, I pulled two questions out of the interview along with the answers, two that I was most interested in what Don Garber had to say. You can find the first part of the interview here and the second part here.

"What information can you provide in regards to the MFL/MLS tournament (CONCACAF Champions League?) next summer?

COMMISSIONER ANSWER: Our plan is to announce the proposed competition between MLS and Mexican First Division clubs by the end of the year. We anticipate that the competition will feature MLS versus Mexican First Division clubs in a European Champions League format. Games are likely to take place mid-week with a small rollout in 2007 and a full tournament in 2008 and beyond. . Like most of you, we want to see our clubs continue to raise their level of play. This competition, along with the CONCACAF Champions Cup, provides another means for clubs to test themselves against regional competition."

I am very interested in exactly how this thing will work. First is the basics of the tournament. MLS will have 13 clubs next season, the Mexican Premiera Division will have 18. Will all of MLS eventually play just the top 13 clubs? How about when MLS moves to 16 clubs, will the bottom two Mexican clubs be omitted from this tournament?

The format is interesting as well. As announced at the All Star match, MLS will move away from the Saturday afternoon matches and have a Thursday night “Soccer Night” match on ESPN2 every Thursday. With Thursday night league matches going on, how will the midweek MLS/MFL matches be scheduled? I am wonder about this concerning the CONCACAF Champions Cup as well, but as that tournament only has two MLS clubs involved, those two clubs can just have CCC matches on Wednesday’s and then not be scheduled for the Thursday slot until the tournament is over. The MLS/MFL tournament will be a little different. However, when the actual format is released, we should know more here.

Is there going to truly be anything up for grabs with this tournament? Right now, the CCC is the only venue that MLS and MFL clubs have to play competitive matches against each other. With this new tournament, unless there is actually a goal at the end of the road, will it really just be a series of friendlies? Grant Wahl wrote a piece for CNN/SI that mentioned that down the line it is thought that the winner would get a spot in the Copa Libertadores, which would be beneficial to the performances in the tournament.

All in all, the fact that Don Garber has actually mentioned the tournament and has given us a rough time frame for the real announcement and roll out is a plus for us all. I am looking forward to attending matched at RFK between DC United and Mexican clubs.

"There is near-unanimous consensus amongst MLS fans and the soccer media alike that having eight teams in the playoffs both cheapens the value of the regular season and makes a mockery of the "prize" of qualifying for the postseason. Why does MLS continue to stick to this system despite the overwhelming opinion that cutting the number of teams in half would increase the quality of the season and the playoffs?

COMMISSIONER ANSWER: One benefit to having eight teams qualify is the playoff race, particularly in a League that does not have a relegation battle for its lower-placed teams. The current playoff race involved all 12 teams until last Saturday, when Columbus became the first team eliminated from contention for the postseason. It is intriguing to have the defending champion still knocking at the door, making the other Western Conference teams sweat; it’s compelling to have Kansas City and New York gearing up for a memorable regular-season finale that will decide the final spot in the East. That said, we are listening to what fans are saying (see research I mentioned in Question #8) and we are considering a number of options moving forward. We expect to have more news on this subject following our Board of Governors meeting at MLS Cup."

The very funny thing about this comment is that through all of the bitching and moaning that I and several other people have done through out the season about how the playoffs are a joke and the format is crap, I never saw the format from this point of view. Don Garber actually makes a point here with that idea that in a league without relegation, having all clubs in the fight for the playoffs near the end of the season does make every match count.

You look at the NFL and MLB. Those leagues have teams at the end of the season damn near throwing their games, because they are putting guys on the field to get the experience. You always hear around the mid point in the season that some teams are in rebuilding years. You never really hear about that in soccer. You do in MLS because it is in the US and we all feel that if you are not on top, you are rebuilding.

Do I still have a problem with the current playoff system? Yes. I do think that once the league has more clubs, say around 16, the format will make more sense and it will reward clubs for going strong the whole season. Until that happens, MLS will always be a second half league.
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