Friday, February 22, 2008

SuperLiga Groups Announced... sort a.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the 2008 North American SuperLiga participants have been decided and groups have been drawn.

Group A
- New England Revolution
- Chivas USA
- Atlante

Group B
- Houston Dynamo
- Chivas de Guadularara
- Pachuca
- DC United

DC United will host all of their matches at RFK Stadium.

It does appear that the actual schedule for this tournament has yet to be determined, as DC United's schedule only has the All Star game listed for July. Now unless MLS has finally realized that a month break in the summer would actually help the quality of play in the league (which I doubt that they would ever do) the lack of schedule matches for July leads me to believe that SuperLiga will take place in July, but they aren't sure as to when exactly. Houston only has one match listed on their schedule, as does New England. Chivas USA have two on their schedule.

All in all, the group looks very tough, so the guys who do take part in the group stage matches should have good matches. I assume that Tom Soehn's priority list for 2008 might look a little like this:

1a. CONCACAF Champions Cup (as it comes first)
1b. MLS Cup
2. Supporters Shield
3. CONCAF Champions League
4. SuperLiga Championship
5. US Open Cup

I haven't heard or seen anything either for or against this, but as the CONCACAF Champions League will be taking place during the same time frame as the CONMEBOL Copa Nissan Sudamericana, I would assume that CONCACAF clubs will not be taking part in that tournament any longer. I will keep an eye out for this one.

I am one of those people who actually likes the SuperLiga. Yes, it is a made up tournament, but most tournaments have to start somewhere. Yes, the matches don't truly test the MLS clubs as they do not have the travel "quirks" of heading to Mexico for group matches. All in all, as I said last year, the tournament is a very good idea and has to begin somewhere.

I would ultimately like to see the group stages involve 6 games, 3 home and 3 away. unfortunately, this type of thing will not be done until MLS rosters get larger and the salary caps get bigger. MLS clubs would pass out if they had the mid week travel matches in Mexico, then the MLS matches, then right afterwards the CONCACAF Champions League matches, which will require more travel matches.

Until MLS increases the roster sizes and the salary caps, the SuperLiga, in its current format, is a good stepping stone to giving more MLS clubs exposure to matches outside of MLS. This is a good start.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Why Pan the Pan-Pacific Championship??

I am trying to figure out why so many people are having such a huge problem with the Pan-Pacific Championship Tournament that is being held in Hawaii? Most of the venom that is being spewed forth from soccer supporters rates around the same level as the bitching that was tossed at the SuperLiga. I am trying to figure out why?

The way I see it, the Pan-Pacific Championship is no more than the Vodafone Cup that Manchester United used to host before their season would start or the Amsterdam tournament that Ajax hosts every year and the Emirates Cup that Arsenal started hosting as well. What do they all have in common?

They are all pre-season tournaments.

Each tournament has a trophy that the tournament winner receives for winning. This tournament (Pan-Pacific Championship) seems to just be following the same path that these tournaments were designed for: a chance for competitive preseason matches.

Yes the SUM talking heads have mentioned that originally Pachuca was invited to take part, and after declining, the LA Galaxy were invited instead, which makes one think that this is less of an MLS warm up tournament than a chance to crown a "champion." I also know that there has already been talk of increasing the number of clubs that take part, which would move the tournament away from the mold that those other tournaments I mentioned use, but so be it if they do.

I honestly think that this and other types of preseason tournaments (Charleston Cup) are great chances for MLS clubs to face off in full speed matches, before they count. As the Dynamo will be taking part in the CONCACAF Champions Cup (a tournament that the games count) getting this tournament experience should help them in the CONCACAF tournament. I just wish that DC United was taking part in a small tournament as well.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

FIFA Rankings: USA #26

The latest FIFA Rankings were released today and the USA fell down 6 spots to #26. This after beating #25 ranked Sweden in a non-FIFA match day match and drawing 2-2 with #16 Mexico last week.

Ghana was the biggest mover on the list, moving up 29 spots to #14.

I guess this would make more of a difference if these rankings really, really mattered for much more than just a conversation piece.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

EPL & Ze Roberto heading to the USA?

Oh, please say it's so!

According to, Ze Roberto will be leaving Bayern Munich after his current contract expires at the end of the 2008/09 season. He plans on heading back to the Western Hemisphere after leaving the beer capital of the world, expect instead of once again returning to Brazil, it seems that Ze is looking at joining up with MLS.

Assuming that this does come about, I would love to see him join up with Emillio and Fred here in DC and anchor the defensive midfield role for DC United. Ze Roberto, in my opinion, has been one of the key reasons why Bayern has shown such better fortunes this season in regards to their efforts last season. His ability to anchor the midfield, while still get ahead and produce in the attack has freed up van Bommel and Ribery to explode in the offense. Imagine how much of an improvement Ze would be over Clyde Simms (not to say Clyde sucks)?

In other news, it appears that the Premier League is following the NFL, NBA, MLB & NHL and will begin holding league matches outside of England starting in 2011. New York, Tokyo & Beijing have all been named as potential venues for Premier League matches.

Hell, if Manchester United are set to face off against anyone at Giants Stadium or even Red Bull park, I will go see it, even if I live in Iowa at the time. You think that Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool or Arsenal have alot of foreign supporters right now, just wait until they can see a league match in their own country.

The only problem I see with this is that were England doesn't have an American Football league, or China have a pro baseball league, China, Japan & the USA do have pro soccer/football leagues. Having a pro league match in their country, might do more harm to the domestic leagues than they will good for the Premier sides.

Hell, I would still go watch.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Match Recap: USA 2 - 2 Mexico

This was a very different match compared to the last two in the series between Mexico and the USA, I can tell you that. Unfortunately, I am not really sure as to how the differences came into play. Different players obviously and different venue have to be mentioned, but the match really had a different feel to it.

On the one hand, you have Mexico, whom has had a huge monkey on their back where it comes to playing the USA outside of Mexico. This match they came out like they did last February and started to push their weight around and put on a display of force. Maybe it is because the Mexican players are all in one way or another, in season; but they were much faster on the ball and quicker with their man marking than the USA.

A much bigger difference between this match and the one last February is that Mexico put away their chances on goal, something that hasn’t exactly been their MO when playing us in the last few years. Although they put away their chances, I do have to question on whether or not their goals were more a result of a better Mexico offensive performance or a result of a pretty poor performance by the USA?

That leads me to the other hand, the USA played a pretty poor match in my opinion. Yes, Onyewu’s goal and Altidore’s goal were great and I honestly think that Deuce was robbed of a goal in the first half (even though he was offsides); the USA didn’t look good pretty much over the whole field.

Our passing and set piece passes looked like they were taken by guys who were too scared to commit the kicks. Michael Bradley spent a lot of the first half making pretty weak passes, a lot of them being ones that lead directly to a Mexico attack.

Our defense, central defense (Gooch & Carlos) looked very uneasy, but then again, the main problem for them was that they were getting run at a little too much, as Bradley and Clark really failed to show that well in the central midfield. I really can’t blame them, they both play the same position and one was really needed to have stepped up to play the offensive midfield position that Benny Feilhaber stepped into once Michael came off the field.

Drew Moor didn’t show me that much, beyond his great pass on Altidore’s goal. He was directly responsible for the two Magallon goals. He failed to stay with Magallon on both set pieces; burn you once, shame on you… burn you twice, shame on Bradley.

Bobby Convey really didn’t show me anything on the left side of the field that should have DMB worried. Convey has a great cross, I know, I have seen him do it once or twice, but he didn’t do anything tonight. His pace was way, way off and he looked like he wasn’t sure what to do with the ball once he got it.

All in all, despite the fact that I think that the USA played poorly and looked at times completely out of sorts and out of sync with itself, I think that this result against Mexico, in the USA, is a very good thing for the USA. First off, it gets that idea that if we face Mexico outside of Mexico we will always win, out of our minds. This is a good thing, especially where it comes to the younger guys. Adu, Edu, Bradley, Feilhaber, Altidore, Moor, and the rest really need to have a different mindset that the other players. They need to know that they are in for a real fight every time they face Mexico. The fact that we didn’t beat them tonight, hopefully it will make a change in their minds.

I am also thinking that this is a good result for the coaching staff. Last season, we went 10-0-1 until the Copa America, which was essentially mailed in anyways (as I think it should have been, it was to give guys overseas experience). Hopefully the coaching staff will be much harder on their preparation for the next few matches, hopefully they will be able to iron out the kinks that we all saw with our defense and passing.

As this match is a perfect simulator for World Cup qualifying (short gathering time for the players and coaching staff) the coaching staff should have a huge amount of info to work on with the players. The result wasn’t great, but it is definitely something that the players and coaching staff can build on.

Let’s just hope that they do.

All in all, a poor performance by the USA and a pretty inspiring performance by Mexico. Mexico played much better tonight than they did 12 months ago. A 2-2 draw isn’t the end of the world. A loss wouldn’t have had Bob Bradley fired, but I wanted to see a much better performance by the USA. They have a few more matches to get their shit together before the matches really start to count.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

USA vs. Mexico: USMNT Roster

Bob Bradley released his final roster over the weekend for this Wednesday night's match against Mexico. He called in a few more Euro based players than expected.

GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan (Chivas USA), Tim Howard (Everton FC).

DEFENDERS: Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham FC), Ramiro Corrales (SK Brann), Drew Moor (FC Dallas), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege), Michael Parkhurst (New England Revolution), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock), Eddie Robinson (Houston Dynamo).

MIDFIELDERS: Freddy Adu (SL Benfica), Michael Bradley (SC Heerenveen), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Bobby Convey (Reading FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Maurice Edu (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Derby County), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Eddie Lewis (Derby County).

FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (New York Red Bulls), Clint Dempsey (Fulham FC), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Pat Noonan (Aalesund FK).

With injuries aside, I can only think of two other players who I would have liked to be brought it, but as Kenny Cooper doesn't really look like he is on the USMNT radar, this is the strongest line up I can think of for this up coming match. The other is Eddie Johnson... yes, I am actually asking for Eddie to be called in. His speed against the Mexican defense, (even if he doesn't take a shot) would cause problems that would have been able to open up things for Deuce and Donovan. However, as Eddie has just made the move to Fulham, he looks to be best served with being left out to take care of his affairs in London.

With this line up, my starting 11 would be:

Parkhurst ------- Onyewu ------- Bocanegra ------- Pearce
Adu ------- Bradley ------- Edu ------- Convey
Donovan ------ Dempsey

I would like to see Feilhaber and Altidore get some time on the pitch for this one, but considering that Benny hasn't played regular minutes for Derby and Jozy only has a few caps under his belt, seeing them play Wednesday night isn't that big a shot IMHO.

With Feilhaber not expected to start, I had trouble selecting who player were in the midfield. As Donovan is listed as a forward, I put him up there, but I can easily see Freddy and Landon rotating back and forth from midfield to forward through out the match. I like the idea of Freddy on the right, as his left foot cutting across the goal could provide some pretty good sweeping crosses.

Last year, when Bradley called in only four Euro based players for this match, I expected a loss to our neighbors to the south. Instead we saw an inspired defensive performance and that all too familiar score line in a USA vs. Mexico match: 2-0. As we have what looks to be a much stronger looking squad being brought in for this match, I fully expect to see us pick up our second victory of the new year.

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