Tuesday, December 15, 2009

SBI sez: MLS has offered Holden BIG contract

Soccer by Ives correspondent Franco Panizo is reporting that MLS has offered our man Stuart a big contract to keep him from moving to Europe, reportedly "ten times his current salary."

Check out the story here: http://www.soccerbyives.net/soccer_by_ives/2009/12/holden-offered-big-mls-contract.html#more (from whence comes that photo above), or read it here:

After enjoying a dream year for club and country, Houston Dynamo midfielder Stuart Holden is largely considered to be the next player in the U.S. pipeline to make the jump from MLS to Europe during the upcoming winter transfer window. But that potential move seems to be in jeopardy after MLS made an unexpected move.

According to reports out of Europe, Holden has been offered ten times his current salary by MLS, and could snub a move abroad to stay in the U.S. This report claims MLS commisioner Don Garber held talks with Holden last week in an effort to keep him from going to Europe.

"I was pretty flattered," Holden told the Evening Times. "It shows the commitment the MLS has in keeping me in the league. I know this decision is going to impact my career."

Holden has not ruled out a move abroad, stating he is considering overseas offers. Scottish Premier League clubs Rangers and Aberdeen have been linked with the U.S. national team midfielder.

Holden enjoyed a career season with the Houston Dynamo in 2009, scoring six goals and assisting on three others in 26 league games. Holden also made his national team debut this year, playing in 12 games.

What do you think of Holden possibly staying in MLS? Surprised by MLS's offer? Think Holden will decide to play abroad anyway?

Personally, I could not be happier with this news. I still think Holden will stay for at least one more year. In any event, I'm not sure a move to the SPL, especially to financially-uncertain Rangers, would be a good move. As an ardent Celtic supporter, I'm biased against the Strangers to begin with. However, assuming he makes the game day roster at Ibrox or in Aberdeen, I just don't think his game shows off its best qualities there. France would be a far better location.

That is, assuming he plays. I think that regular first team, starring duty on one of the elite teams in MLS positions him far better to make the South Africa roster than taking a gamble on landing first team, starring roles anywhere in Europe. Take this deal. Take the money. Stay in the States. Play in South Africa for the US. And then next year or the year after at this time, take the flyer and go.

I know that 10x his current deal still only puts him in the 300-400K range, which is less than what he could make in Europe right now. But money is money and playing and progressing while seeing regular first team action is playing and progressing while seeing regular first team action. If this wasn't a World Cup year, then maybe now would be more attractive. But as it is, and with his position on the US squad not 100 percent assured, then play it safe and take a very good deal.

What do you think? Read more!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Haiku d'Group C: Belo H as long as we've got it

Time to break out the haiku-ometer

Back in the 5-0
B'Belo Horizonte
1 to nil, you lose

Twas a cock you say
As Gaetjens had no passport,
But still, the goal stands.

Revenge on the veldt,
As Three Lions surround US,
No hope for escape.

But with one Jersey
boy, our hearts beat, since all you
Have is David James.

So bring on your best
John Bull, and as the game goes
on, we will hold true.

A hearty hurrah
as all that's red, white and blue
makes the English fears

Come true with a pain
In the gut as they see that
Belo was Act One. Read more!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Back, Belo the H, Group C and World Cup 2010

After a couple of weeks off to R&R and get this holiday madness under way, I am back on the blogging scene.

I thoroughly enjoyed the World Cup draw last week, and for once as a US supporter, I can finally say, "Hey, at least we're not in that group over there."

And by "that group" I mean Group G, as in Golgotha. Brazil, Cote D'Ivoire, Portugal and the North Korean Little Sisters of the Poor. My favorite Tweet after that lineup was decided was (and I don't remember who this was) "What kind of coverage are THOSE games going to get in the North Korean media next June?" That is a brutal group and will easily yield some of the most amazing games. My early pick to get through from there: Brazil and Cote D'Ivoire. See ya Christiano, and try to keep your shirt on next time.

That's not to say that the US' path to the knock-out stages is secure. Slovenia did knock out Russia after all, which is a better team than the US. I'm not that worried about Algeria because, after all, we're not the Egyptians. Still, I don't dismiss them either. Only Arab nation in the tournament, playing on African soil.

I still think the US is the second best team in that group. I like starting off with England because you don't want to play them needing a victory later in the round. And Holy Belo Horizonte Batman, if the Snakes DO start with a draw, it would be epic to say the least. Easily, it will be one of the most-watched soccer matches in US history. That is still a mighty big if, win against Spain last year or no. But hey, that's what makes this tourney so fun year in and year out: Improbable victories, catastrophic English failures and, my early pick, a Brazilian run to the championship.

Fun fact, courtesy of Beau Dure, Tim Howard's amazing spot kick save against Jermaine Defoe yesterday has the English media already getting all weak in the knees about a possible Belo Horizonte repeat. Read this report here and see if you can spot the fear and nervousness. I love it!

That being said, anyone who thinks the US is suddenly a World Cup contender needs to have their head examined. My expectations remain low, though my hopes of getting through the group stage are high. Right now it wouldn't surprise me if the Americans finished second or third in that group, though first or fourth would. I do expect our first victory since 2002 and would hope that at least one commentator would point out that the US was the only team to get a point off the Italians in 2006. Party poopers may justifiably point out that it was via an own goal from the Azurri, but we takes what we can gets around here. And we also got the iconic image of Brian McBride's bloody face in that game, so we'll take it as a marketing win at the very least!

Ah moral victories, the Laffy Taffy of sport!

Some people making great points about this draw that I will not bother to plagiarize because you should read/hear the whole thing:

Jamie Trecker and Kartik Kirshnayer on the US' precarious position on the MLS Talk podcast. Click here.

The inimitable Dan Loney. Click here. My favorite part of that great post from Dan:

10:16. What is this Eng...land of which you speak?

10:17. Yeah, our draw is pretty much over, now. BECKHAMLAND and two other countries, here's some college football.

10:18. Per comment, yeah, Grant Wahl's book just went into another printing.

Simply put, if you don't read Loney regularly, well then I don't know what to call you, but I do pity you.

The indomitable Bill Archer. Click here. If you don't read Loney AND Archer regularly, then take one of those classes at Kumon or somewhere and get your literacy skills up to snuff podnah.

Here's some trademark Archer genius:

As noted a couple weeks ago, CONCACAF Supremo Jack Warner has pledged the full support of the Confederation - and all three of it's votes - to the USA World Cup bid.

then about ten days ago Warner left a meeting with British PM Gordon Brown SAYING THAT "IT'S ENGLAND'S TIME and apparently promising to back that bid as well.

Of course he got what he has been lobbying for, a private meeting with the Queen, although Warner said afterward that the meetings were "not for (his) ego". My guess is that Her majesty was touting the quality of the hotel food or possibly Londons' nightlife. Hopefully that drooling dolt of a son of hers was someplace else at the time.

So it would appear that Jack is done and done, his ballots practially cast, right? I mean Jacks' word is his bond, right?


Last week, after attending a cocktail party thrown by Australia for him and three other FIFA VPs PRESS REPORTS ANNOUNCED HE IS BACKING AUSTRALIA

"If there is a country that truly deserves to host the FIFA World Cup, then it is the island continent of Australia".

Of course there are only two World Cups being awarded, and to a lesser man this might seem to be a roadblock to endorsing three bids, but for jack Warner it's all in a day's work.

And, oh yes, last week he told reporters that he felt Spain/Portugal was "in the lead" for securing a World Cup.

He's scheduled to visit Russia next month. Good thing they're well known for open and above-board dealing.

I stand in awe (and doubled over in laughter). Read more!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Getting Real with RSL

Congrats to RSL and Nick Rimando, one of my favorite players in MLS, for reasons that I have never been able to articulate. I just like the guy. And big props to Cletus on winning his one and only MLS ring. Who would have thought that 10 years ago? And also big props to Jason Kreis. That team had the front page treatment in the Deseret News or Slat Lake Tribune, one of those, right before moving into Rio Tinto last year talking about how they were, in real “Man on the Moon” huge type, THE WORST TEAM IN MLS. Since then, that team has been in two Cup semifinals and now won a Cup Final. Remarkable.

And now reality: I think RSL in 2010 will be the first defending champion since the 2006 Galaxy to miss the playoffs entirely, though this is hardly a unique analysis. That team is good, but nothing more than that. Though of course, they were clearly the better team last night. Next year they have no Movsisyan, and we all know that over the course of a whole season, a date with the Royals is usually one Dynamo at least expect to win, either here or at Rio Tinto. Championship or not, I don’t see that changing next year. I don’t mean to be brutal or anything, just honest. This is a team that just got hot at the right time. Let’s not make them out to be anything more than that. That is, until they prove it over the course of a whole season.

That being said, I do not join the chorus of opinion that says that RSL is proof positive that the playoffs are a crock and that MLS does not crown their true champion.

The solution to these “problems” (if such they are) is to stop this ludicrous Supporter’s Shield title and name the regular season champion something a name that’s befitting, like, oh I don’t know, how about “Season Champion”? Get a trophy befitting the status of champion. Use the name champion, whatever. Just like with the Supporter’s Shield now, the team gets a berth in the Champions League, and in addition, a scudetto to wear all of next season.

Then use the regular season to seed a postseason tournament of eight teams, the MLS Cup Tournament. The winner of that tournament is the MLS Cup Champion.

How so very precedented is a format like this? The regular season champ is the champ, the MLS Cup champ is a champ and the USOC champ is kind of like a champion. You could have a domestic triple, a domestic double or three separate trophy winners. That is just fine by me. We are often accused of being to Anglocentric in our soccer here in the US. Well here is a situation where it works. The USOC = FA Cup. The Season champ = Premier League champ. MLS Cup winner = Carling (League) Cup.

The reason I want to keep the playoffs is that I like tournaments with all of their silly internal logic. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day and upsets happen far more frequently than during the marathon of a regular season run. The regular season does not produce undeserving champions, while it is true that tournaments do. However, this is only a problem when the tournament presents the only title to win. So keep the playoffs. Keep it all. It’s fun and entertaining and leads to debates and discussion and upsets and favorites and the whole shebang. Keep it all. Read more!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Slowly out of the shell: MLS Cup, Ireland and an Orange Future

OK, after taking this week off to mostly just troll other blogs and not comment too much on MLS or soccer in general after letting last week’s loss sink in, I do have some thoughts on a rash of topics:

(But before I begin, I have to tell you my favorite lines from anyone about events so far this week. Dan Loney, who is my absolute favorite blogger out there (http://www.bigsoccer.com/forum/blog.php?u=7720) said that a strike or lockout in February would “put the damn in Gotterdammerung.”

Meanwhile, Bill Archer (http://www.bigsoccer.com/forum/blog.php?u=20531) on the Thierry Henry handball controversy “Soccer is a lot like life: it's unfair. Your heart breaks for Ireland, who've gotten the shaft in this whole deal from Day One, and after 500 or so years of misery you'd think the Irish could catch ONE break in something but I guess that's not to be.”)

(Though, an Irishwoman got to marry Playtherapy, so I guess Bill isn’t completely right on the never catching one break thing!)

As for MLS Cup predictions, I was listening this morning to an interview that Dominic Kinnear did yesterday on World Football Daily. They nailed him down on making a prediction for the final. He said that he had been wrong about every one of his predictions so far, which makes him not much worse than me, as I’m sitting on 3-7 right now, which puts me BELOW blind chance!

But even though I suck, I am going to go with the conventional wisdom here and pick LAG for almost the same reason that Kinnear did, Donovan. And while he meant the new MLS MVP (How is it that this is the FIRST time he has won that award? He is the best American outfield player ever, and there is no one even close to him on that score. Weird.), I’m not talking about Landon, who is perhaps only the second most valuable Donovan on his own team. Donovan Ricketts is going to keep that team in the game. The LAG back line is going to be tested by a strike force that partners much better than Ching and Oduro (or Ching and Landin, more on that later), with speed, creativity and power in the attack. However, frustration will mount as Ricketts pulls their ass out of the fire over and over and over again. It’s always dangerous to place everything on a keeper, but the combo of Ricketts and LAG being so quick in transition means that RSL will be back on their heels after each miss or save from the Jamaican.

Everyone loves Nick Rimando and I count myself in that group, but we all know that Rimando has his flaws and can be fooled and wrong-footed just as often as he can be spectacular. As much as I am rooting for RSL to take the upset win, I will not predict it. LAG wins their third star 2-0. (And no, I do NOT fancy them winning a third star before Dynamo. I am not happy about that and Hainault’s goal should have counted and we should not even be HAVING this freakin’ conversation since with two power outages and a ridiculous call we’re sitting at home and tell me what the frak was the difference in all the banging and falling down in the box between Hainault’s goal and Berhalter’s anyway?!!!? What a CROCK!!...

Ummmm. Hmmm. Wound still fresh I guess.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, Ireland and the Hand of Frog. You know, I don’t blame Thierry Henry at all, not one bit. You play to the whistle and that’s that. If the ref didn’t call it, then that’s where the Ire of Eire should fall. He was his usual classy self after the game when he said that it was indeed a hand ball (contrast that to Maradona’s comments in 1986. What a puerco.), but that he was not the ref. There were four things that happened on that play, any one of which should have called it back. Two French players were offsides (though not Henry), and Henry touched the ball twice, once on his upper arm and once with his hand, bang-bang. I can understand the AR and ref being blocked from the handball, but the AR was not blocked from the offsides. And if he was, how could that have been true? It was a free kick. If you’re not positioned to make an offsides call on a free kick into the box, where the hell are you?

I do not agree that the game should be replayed. Anelka was clearly taken down by Shay Given in the box earlier in the game, which should have been a penalty. No call there, so where exactly is the FIFA conspiracy to get France in and Ireland out? However, ultimately justice is served if (A) that crew does not work FIFA matches anymore and (B) some form of technology review is implemented. It does not have to be like the debacle that is replay review in American pointyball. It could be a simple, simple, no more than 30-second review by a fifth official (or by the fourth official because if he’s not waving in a sub or signaling time remaining, what exactly is he doing over there?) in certain situations that lead to a goal. Kinnear mentioned that in his interview, as have many others. Replay is not evil, but it can be implemented poorly. Avoid that and you can use that power for the good.

On to the Orange, I absolutely agree with many that Dynamo will have an overhaul in 2010. Clark is almost certainly gone, which the team announced earlier this week. I think it’s about 60 percent (maybe more?) certain the Goalden One is gone as well in January. Holden might just stay because of his roots here in Houston, close to his family and he didn’t exactly set Denmark on fire with his performance there on Wednesday. However, he did make MLS Best XI, which I find to be a little surprising, and has established himself as among the favorites to go to South Africa. We’ll see what January brings, but I think it’s safe to say that he’s possibly gone as well.

So where does that leave us? I think it best to assume both are gone, which leaves us with options like this:


Starting at the way back, Tally Hall has proved himself this year to be a more than capable replacement eventually for Onstad, should he ever decide to remove his age-defying Ring of Power and throw it into Mount Doom. For the first offseason that I remember, replacing Onstad is a settled issue.

Moving up, I think Wade Barrett is through. If John Spencer gets one of these head coaching jobs (and I’ve said all along that DC United is a perfect fit for him. Pity poor De Rosario that he has to play for that punk Preki now. That honeymoon is going to last until maybe President’s Day. Playing at home has not exactly been a bed of roses for Dwayne, now has it?), then I think Barrett would be an ideal pick to replace him on the bench next to Kinnear.

Of course, that leaves us with Hainault, Eddie, Little Boswell and Chabala. I do not include Cameron here because even though he was an MLS Best XI as a center back this year, with Eddie back and the hole we have in midfield, Geoff, with his speed, toughness and range moves up to holding midfielder. That drops Mulrooney and his shaky health back to defense. But where does he play? Clearly, the opportunity is at Chabala’s spot. Chewie has all kinds of pace, and had maybe his best game as a pro in the return leg against Seattle, but his passing leaves a hell of a lot to be desired. Work on that, and he’s a stud. Waibel, sad to say, is also pretty much done, though he might be valuable as a part-timer like this year.

Midfield without Holden and Clark is not exactly a disaster with the cast of characters I’ve got listed there. Cameron will be a great holding mid in this league, maybe equal to and with a better passing touch than Rico. He clearly needs to work on his dribbling skills, as he overruns the ball on occasion, but hey, he’s only been in this league for two years and is already an MLS Best XI. If South Africa was coming in 2011 instead of 2010, he’d be getting some serious run for national team play.

Davis in the middle is where he always wants to be anyway, and where he winds up playing most of the time. Just go ahead and put him there. A left-footed CAM could be a force there. He’s a better distributor than Holden, though not quite what DeRo was. And he’s not afraid to pull the trigger on a shot (unlike Holden). Playtherapy and I thought that Davis was the best player in orange at the HDC last week. He has creativity, great delivery and a deadly shot. With Holden gone, CAM is his role.

On the wings we have the fearsome threesome of Mullan, Danny Cruz and Corey Ashe. Cruz, when he played, was fearless and had an impressive work rate over there. He was a terror when the joke that is Thomas Rongen played him in the U-20 World Cup this summer in Egypt. He is exactly like Brian Mullan, and is benefiting greatly from having Mulls as his teacher. Same for Corey Ashe, who credits Mulls with helping him develop his cross. So we have three players for these two spots, which I think is at least one less than we need.

Midfield depth is an area of great need. I don’t think either Mulrooney or Mullan can get through an entire season without injury, though Dynamo will be playing far less games next year with no CONCACAF in either the spring or fall (I think that’s right, isn’t it?). I think they’ll probably be in SuperLiga (if they play that tournament) and put in their usual half-hearted USOC run, so there may be some fixture congestion in the summer, but nothing like what we’ve seen the last few years. Danny Cruz is good, but I doubt he’ll be an effective full-time starter just yet. Ashe is a great sub, but I question his effectiveness over a full 90. Sometimes he's fantastic, and sometimes not. Still, he is getting better and better and I think would have been a strong player in the playoffs if he had not gotten hurt in the Rayados friendly.

This team needs a creative and powerful midfielder to complement this corps. If Holden stays, he’s that guy. If not, then this is a serious hole needing filling between now and April. Jon Michael Hayden and Eric Ustruck are in-house choices, and both looked good at times in CONCACAF and USOC games, but neither seem to be setting any worlds on fire, so I think it’s best not to plan on them being the answer to any questions any time soon.

Up top, oh boy. Another offseason, another set of questions about how to fix the Dynamo attack. Ching is another year older and just had surgery on Wednesday on his knee. Minor surgery, but still. I believe Luis Angel Landin will be an impact player in the league next year, training with this team from Day One, fit and in the flow. He is the best ball-handler on the squad, bar none. If you didn't, you should have seen what Mister 3D and I saw in the Seattle game. For a guy nursing a bad knee, he left it all out there. Now, it’s also true he was awful at the HDC. No question there. I just think that by Memorial Day we’ll know, but there’s plenty there to like. His touch, positioning and presence are impressive to say the least. Two months is not enough time, especially if he’s hurt for a significant part of that time, to assess this guy.

Oduro needs to go. I think we’ve now seen the best we’ll ever see from Dominic Oduro (the Seattle game), as well as the worst (every other game). The pace is great and until he develops a finishing touch, he is a late-game sub stretching a tired defense with amazing pace. Ask anything more from him and you might as well install protective glass in front of the stands on either side of the field because there is not a goalmouth wide enough for this guy. Now I might very well be wrong here, as I didn’t see his Seattle performance coming at all. But we learned in LA not to expect that performance from him. And that’s the deal, when you’ve got someone in his role and with his pace, a solid performance SHOULD be expected. If he can’t deliver, then sayonara, you’re better off without him. With his pace, he’s going to get the ball, and in dangerous areas. Constantly getting it to him there and having him fail throws off and misshapes Dynamo’s entire attack.

Cam Weaver possibly could be a Nate Jaqua type, and if he stays healthy, could provide solid, solid play when Ching heads to South Africa in the summer (assuming he does). I think Weaver, who’s still pretty young, could be the heir apparent to Ching as target forward. Abe Thompson is a sub and that’s all he’ll ever be.

So clearly, help up top is a need. Ching-Landin and Weaver-Landin are the top two choices right now with Oduro as a late sub and Abe Thompson as an even iffier sub. That brings up major ifs and buts, especially about Landin. If he’s a true bust, then Dynamo are screwed and a midseason replacement becomes crucial. Replacing Oduro and adding another forward with pace and presence would be ideal. Conor Casey is apparently very unhappy in Colorado (who wouldn't be?). How great would he look in Orange?

I am not conversant enough about options that are out there to know who can fill those roles, but I do know that Dynamo right now, even without Holden and Clark, are a playoff-caliber squad in MLS. Though of course, just being playoff-caliber is not the goal. The talent triumvirate of Luck-Canetti-Kinnear, Inc. have their work cut out for them. They don't have the problems some clubs have (Did I mention Colorado?), and that is all to the good, but there are serious issues out there to be addressed to be sure.

The offseason is going to be a long one and the tendency is to jump to conclusions. But just hold solid and have faith. By this time next year we could be looking at both work on the construction site that is Dynamo Park and an impending MLS Cup. Orange-colored glasses, you are my friend. Read more!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Orange I have been, Orange I am and Orange I shall remain

Regardless of this result, regardless of any strange non-goal goals, regardless of anything, I remain

Absent the Hainault goal, the result was a well-fought one and deserved, just really, really not what I wanted.

More to be written on this at another date. For now, I sleep late tomorrow and the offseason begins. Read more!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Orange in the stars

I was starting to write a long piece on magical thinking and sending orange-colored positive waves westward for tonight's game. Then I read the stories in the Chron today (listing of the stories and Bernardo's blog post here) about how the entire world seems aligned against Dynamo in favor of the Galaxy, including Alexi Lalas (which actually fills me with something like relief. When that guy picks your team, you know you're in trouble.) And you know what I have to say to that?

Well, take a look at that picture there, and instead of a sunrise, imagine a moonrise.

As a long-committed magical thinker, I have often looked to superstitions and portents when it came to important events in my life, like say the births of my children, engagement to the my wife and (equal in importance here?), major Dynamo games.

So this morning, I was looking at the predawn sky, and one thing I picked out was the spot where M31, the Great Galaxy in Andromeda, lay. I looked over to the Big Dipper and found several more galaxies. Looking at my star chart I saw the presence of many, many more galaxies and know from just a cursory understanding of astronomy and the universe that anywhere I look, if I looked hard enough and with the right equipment, I would find that the sky was suffused with galaxies. They are everywhere on the sky.

And then, faintly, almost imperceptibly on the east, came a slight glow. Before I knew it the eastern horizon was awash in color, and one color in particular.


An orange that blotted out the view of all galaxies, everywhere.

Of course, it's a sunrise and it happens every day, yadda, yadda, yadda. But I know an omen when I (want to) see one. Orange wins, Galaxy loses.

This brings up the subject of superstitions, good luck charms, etc. We all have them. I have a set ritual for home games, and when I alter it, I walk into Robertson Stadium far more nervous than perhaps I should be. For road games, I have had a hard time developing much in the way of a ritual because there are so many different situations in which I will watch a road game. But here's the deal, this morning, I'm looking for something appropriate to wear for today at work as I wait and wait and wait for the game to begin tonight. And what do I find? A completely unused and unworn Dynamo T-shirt from 2007 that had slid back behind the other shirts. This shirt has one star on it, but most importantly, the last time Dynamo were in a Western final, THIS WAS WHAT THEY WORE! And what happened? Let's all look here in the Way Back Machine below and see:

Wow. Nice. I think I like what I see there.

More good signs and lines I am finding around the interwebs:

The Keeper: Tonight the Galaxy have a date with destiny ... or should we say a date with A DYNASTY! Our Dyna-men know what it's like to win at Away Depot Center ... a win tonight and they'll be headed to the MLS Cup next weekend in Seattle.

Away Depot Center. Nice.

Fallas' prediction in the Chron: Dynamo 2-1.

Commenter on Ives: Matchups aside I think Houston's resiliency comes through and Houston wins the match. Also, I think Seattle is better than LA and Houston really controlled that series. I see a 1-0 Houston win.

My prediction: Despite the fact that I am a mere 3-5 in the playoffs so far in predictions, just one game less than random chance would provide, I continue on unabated, secure in my knowledge that I am 2-0 in postseason Dyna-games.

Dynamo 2-1. I'm going with Bernardo.

And oh by the way, did anyone else notice that the Chron today had an extensive front page treatment of the game, as well as making it THE major feature in the Sports section. Huge kudos.

LA Times? Check out the main page online here. Notice something missing? Like ANY MENTION AT ALL, EVEN ONE, OF THE GAME TONIGHT? Now by the time you look at it, the page may change, but at 12:42 p.m. Central, 10:42 a.m. Pacific, the LA Times main page is completely silent about the biggest game in their coverage area today. There's a story about Miguel Cotto, about the Lakers (natch) and another about the Cincinnati Bengals. The Cincinnati Bengals?

It's worth saying again about how much better Houston is as a soccer town than just about everywhere else in the United States.

In the other semifinal (Oh yeah, that.) I like RSL, I like Jason Kreis. I like that team, really I do. And when their offseason begins late Saturday night, they should be able to start a project to be a force in this league in 2010. But earlier Saturday evening, Chicago wins 2-0. Not much drama there. Read more!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ljungberg the ljoser just will not shut up

Check this out from Freddy Ljungberg's blog people:


I’m sorry that it has taken quite some time after the game to post something, but I have actually been quit pissed off and in a bad mood after the game and wanted to think things through before I said anything.

The whole team is of course extremely disappointed about getting knocked out but it was a great atmosphere in Houston and I personally also thought it was really cool that President George Bush was in the stands.

The game itself was more of a brawl then a nice game to watch I guess. Being on the pitch it clearly felt that it was going to be someones mistake or luck/bad luck that would be the decider of the game in the end. Unfortunately that was the case as the goal was discussed after the game and they say it is quite clear from the TV pictures that it was a handball.

But with that said I don’t want to take anything away from Dynamo as they are a very good team and I wish them all the best for the rest of the playoffs!

So basically what he's saying is that Dynamo are fine, but the win was illegitimate and the goal came as a result of a handball (I presume he means on Mullen, but in Ljungberg's brain, you know, this could mean anything). So, good win you cheaters.

This is amazing. You know, I was just starting to think that my harsh comments about Seattle in the previous post were out of proportion, but now. Truly, truly amazing. What a Ljoser Ljerk.

I'm just speechless here. I had a lot of respect for that guy and his play on the field, but this is incredible. I'm "quit pissed off" too Freddie, but not for, I think, the same reasons.

I was sitting right in front of the whole thing and the out of focus Telefutura vid gives a misleading impression. The ball skipped off Levesque’s head and off the back of Mullan’s clavicle/side of his head area to bounce back towards Ching. It was the freakiest thing you’ll ever see, very Magic Bullet. The camera angle does show Mullan’s arm/elbow up along the line of the ball, but TeleFutura’s Zapruder film/video quality is so bad it’s deceiving. The ball was not a handball, just a weird deflection from near the shoulder area. It’s similar to when De Rosario scored one off his face a year or so ago.

Ljungberg can say what he wants, and you will not see me defending that field, but two days after that game is not the time to call the loss illegitimate, which he implies. But whatever, more spice for next year’s games, eh? Read more!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Because it has to be seen and said again

It happened right in front of me, and by the lack of reaction on Keller's face it took me a sec to even realize what had happened!

If you check the highlights page on the Dynamo site, you get the Telefutura call ("QUE GOLAZO!!") and then the Dynamo radio call, with James Clarkson yelling so loud I think it knocked them off the air for a second or two.

My voice I know still hasn't recovered. I rank it behind the Dallas playoff game two years ago (because, hey, it was Dallas we punked), but not that far behind.

One more word about Seattle and then I will let the whole matter rest. I have always made it a point to go up to supporters of the other team (especially in internationals) and shake hands. But after this game, I could not bring myself to do it. I know for a fact that that the Greenies there would have rubbed our nose in it if the Sounders had won. I wanted to shake hands, honestly, but then I saw them raising their scarves after the loss and I just could not. I felt like I do with Cubs fans. If they're going to glory in their losing, then I'm going to leave them to it.

I don't hate the Sounders, I just have had enough with the whole green thing. I'm glad they lost because if they had gone all the way, then just like Ljungberg's whining, we would never have heard the end of it.

And not to be totally a homer here, but this leads me to an even worse Green Meanie. Everyone who complains about the Robertson Stadium field will have no quarrel from me. My graduate alma mater has behaved like a serious disgrace of a landlord. I know UH is angling for their own new stadium and all, but I cannot believe they let their own student-athletes play pointyball on that pitch, much less let it be seen in a national showcase like a professional sports playoff game. Saprissa Stadium, which honestly can't be much harder than that field, at least is smooth. Walk that field and you will see pits, ruts and sand like a dune buggy competition on a hard tack beach had just been run on it. I cannot bring up enough how embarrassed I am as a graduate alum and Dynamo supporter.

That being said, at least it is out of sight, out of mind until February, since, because Mike Magee belatedly remembered how to fall down, that's the last home game there until 2010 (Odyssey V). Sometime later this week, maybe I'll be able to take a more dispassionate look at this weekend's match-ups. Among a few impressions:

1. Who would have thought that skinny kid Patrick Nyarko had it in him to bull through Emmanuel Osei like that to win the ball and start the winning sequence for Chicago? Forget Cootiemac's winning slot job. It was Nyarko denying Osei's little blocking move that made that happen. I have always wanted to see that happen, and while I don't endorse the idea that you can just bull through a guy, I also don't like little namby-pamby screens like that. Also, HUGE kudos to Nyarko for ensuring that the Eastern final isn't played before the Northeast equivalent of Pizza Hut Park's 5-7,000 fans.

2. Does Chivas USA ever lose without ending the series in a fight. Remember here in 2006? Preki going after Dema was classic, easily the best moment in that entire series. Too bad he didn't hit him harder though. Talk about someone who deserves it. (Though, like I said above, I am firmly opposed to needless violence, emphasis on needless.)

3. Drew Carey didn't man up to accept Oscar de la Hoya's bet. Like Hope Solo said a couple of years ago, "I expected more from him." And another quote from that link from Kasey Keller: "Drew is just a little bitch." Come on Drew, man! I am a fan and you have let me down.

4. We are Orange! Read more!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Well, that was fast.

I was kind of hoping for a Dynamo/Columbus final to have the last three champs facing off But wouldn't you know it, the Crew pulled an epic fail, losing a one goal advantage.

At home.

To the worst road team in the league.

Worse than NYRB.

Let THAT sink in.

Bye, bye Massive Bananas.

"Maybe with a few scary moments."

Maybe some prescience there. But with this one, I leave no doubt

"Crew will have to pretty much fall over..."

Thank you Frankie Hey Dude, for making that right.

Too bad my scoreline prediction wasn't as prescient. Oh well.

The highlights are up at MLSnet.com now. Check out the three RSL goals. On the first two, both were directly the result of Hejduk screw-ups. And the best thing was that right before RSL scored the first one, Harkes was going on about what a great game Hey Dude was having! HAH!

Oh, one other thing now. If the Revs dispatch the Fire, New England will HOST the Eastern finals. Read more!

One leg too few no more. Playoff picks proceeding

So again, we take a look at the Orange Crystal Ball moving from the unidextrous to bidextrous results.

The first weekend, I have to say, was more than a little strange. From the sublime of the Dynamo/Seattle match to the ridiculous of Warzycha sitting Moreno AND Schelotto to the utterly predictable of a Steve Nicol-team being Lucy to the Chicago Fire's Charlie Brown to the completely surreal of the HDClasico draw. So without anymore bloviating, we'll start on this weekend:

Regular season: 91-125 for a percentage of .421 or 19 games over blind chance
Playoffs so far: 1-3

I added the first line there just to salve my wounds over last week. But will that stop me? Hell no.

REAL SALT LAKE at CREW. 2-0 Columbus
You know, I have to say that Robert Warzycha sitting both Alejandro Moreno and Guillermo Barros Schelotto took me completely by surprise. If I were RSL, I'd be plenty pissed at being disrespected like that. That being said, controversy or no, the defending champs are going to have to pretty much fall over to lose at home to RSL. For the anarchic nature of it all, I'm rooting for the Royals, but I don;t expect it to happen at all. Crew go through, but maybe with a few scary moments.

REVOLUTION at FIRE. 1-1 New England is in those guys' heads. Expect to see a flurry of shots from Chicago, one after the other after the other, and Matt Reis batting them all aside to get through to the Eastern finals.

CHIVAS at GALAXY. 2-1 LA You know, I really, really hope las chivitas beats these guys, not because I hate the Gals. Really, I don't. I think that team is very, very good. But (A), Dynamo need Chivas to win so we can get the Western Final here in Houston; (B) The sooner this Beckham thing is over the better; and (C) See (A). However, my head says something completely different here. I think we saw in the first 90 the best Chivas can possibly do, while that is not true about the Gals. So Goatpeople, here's one for you. And Gals, see you next week.

SOUNDERS at DYNAMO 2-1 Houston There is no way I can possibly be dispassionate in analyzing this game. None at all. I think there are a great deal of results for which, in a dispassionate sense, you could make plausible cases as likely scenarios. So while I go against my heart in Columbus and La La Land, I can not here at home. Key factors that will play roles are: Dynamo are at home; The Orange are playing with toughness and confidence that was so evident in May and June (not to mention 2006 and 2007); The short field; the Sea of Orange; The experience of being in this position before; The leftover feeling of 2008. So my head and heart are in agreement. I am Orange. Read more!

Great moments in Seattle history

1. Not technically in Seattle, but you don't have to cast a wide net to get this one:

2. Check out these crowds below. Here's a team made mostly famous from Jim Bouton's stories of drugs and debauchery in Ball Four:

3. This courtesy of James Cooke:

4. The 2001 Seattle Mariners

Regular season: 116-46
Playoffs: 4-6


5. The unSuper Oklahoma City Thunder.

And in that same vein:

6. November 8, 2009

And in case any of you think this is unfair: Try this link, courtesy of the always-excellent Bill Archer.

Or, just read this excerpt (but don't east first):

"We all know that Seattle is the center of MLS soccer, that no other city supports its team like this one, that Seattle has set attendance records and every game was sold out this year. And that other MLS towns like to hate on that, like this city is afforded special status because of the support for the team or something ridiculous. Read more!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tuning the crystal ball to the playoffs

Apparently, there are six other playoff teams out there fighting for second place. And, get this, they actually all will play their entire ties BEFORE Dynamo run the Greens on Nov. 8. (Homer? Me? What ya talkin' about?)

So now I turn my prediction energies to the postseason, and just to help myself out I will only predict the first legs (The more games I predict, the better my chance to finish with something approaching respectable. That or crash and burn with great alacrity!). And well I should worry, since last week I went 4-4 in the final week of the season to conclude my regular season prediction rampage at 91-125 for a percentage of .421 or 19 games over blind chance. That's 19 games over, which means that no one, but no one should base any bets here. Or this might happen to you:

But undaunted, we forge ahead. The playoffs are a new season and time to plunge ahead for first leg picks:

DYNAMO at SOUNDERS 1-1 Draw Yesterday's post contains this pick and in keeping with my season-long practice of counting the result and not the score, I start the weekend already up 1-0. We'll see how long that lasts!

CREW at REAL SALT LAKE 2-1 Columbus I know it has become something of a trendy call to have RSL win or tie here as if Rio Tinto is Fortress Utah or something. But you know what, RSL is the weakest team in the playoffs. And of course, so was New York last year, claim the trendmeisters. I concede the point. But eventually, lightning does not strike the same place the same way. I don't think that Crew's recent MLS form is any indicator at all. So go ahead, RSL, prove me wrong.

FIRE at REVOLUTION. 1-1 Draw Chicago is not really an offensive powerhouse, while New England will not be surrendering many chances at home. The Revs have owned this playoff series recently, especially in Foxboro. But I will not pick them to win this game because, let's face it, without Stevie R., they just are not that good, and Larentowitz can not strike cannon shots into the back of the net every week. Fire do what they need to do here to bring the series home next week.

GALAXY at CHIVAS (or is that the other way around?) 2-0 Gals In what the inestimable Dan Loney has termed the PooperScooperClasico, las chivitas is going to be exposed as the pretenders they are. I think the Gals are going to go through Chivas like you-know-what through a goose. But you want to make it interesting? More Loney: "Ideally, this would be a Loser Leaves Town match. If the Galaxy wins, Chivas moves. If CUSA wins, Beckham never returns. I could handle that." You and me both Dan. And while I am really rooting for the Amerigoats here so that the Western final could be here at Robertson, I honestly don't see how that team can beat that team. So Chivas, do your best out there and give us all an upset to remember, equivalent to when KC whipped you in 2007. But don't expect me to put money on you. Read more!

Dynamo beat Sounders 0-0

So let's start the discussion. Here are some of my initial thoughts from tonight:

1. The Onstad Bump: After the game, Alexi Lalas showed the smarts that made him the GM he was when he said that Onstad should have gotten a red card for that contact. "99 times out of 100, that's a straight red," ranted his Gingerness. Well, back here in the real world, if that's a red card offense then it's a sorry state of football we would have here. Instead, Ricardo Salazar (more on him in a sec), figured out what happened, awarded the justly-deserved yellows, and we went on.

Personally, I don't think the bump was intentional at all. Onstad wasn't even looking at Fredy the Flopper when he ran into him. Then Montero went down like he was shot and the party began. So a yellow to Onstad for not paying attention and one to F the F for being a moron. Sounds fair to me.

The event had another beneficial effect as well in that it defanged Montero. How many more times in the game did you see that guy be at all threatening? Heck, Patrick Ianni was more threatening than Montero. If this is what happens, I think Pat ought to bump someone every game.

2. This time, the clear off the line gets called a clear off the line. Well done Mully. Remove the nongoal goal from Seattle's arsenal and what do you have?

3. Salazar. Wow, a quality MLS ref. How did that happen? Can we get that guy every game? He had total command of the game from start to finish and while there were some fouls not called, it seemed to me that that went both ways all night. On balance, for the most part, you weren't aware the guy was even there, which is what we all want from the ref, now isn't it? (Aside from the fact that guy was ripped. I think he could have out bench-pressed everyone on that field. What guns!),

4. Did anyone else find Dominic Kinnear's subs an interesting couple of calls? There you are, fighting in the first, away leg of the tie. Score is knotted all zeros. Game is getting late. You think, well, by the book, the away team will play for the draw and pack it in. Except that you would not be reading Dominic Kinnear's book. His two subs were both forwards for other forwards. Offensive subs. Kinnear was going for the kill. And indeed, towards the end, I think we almost had one. Seattle was clearly tiring and knotting up, while Dynamo were nutting up. More solid link-up play from the midfield to Landin and Weaver and the Orange could be coming home with a lead.

5. The result was far from perfect of course. Landin continues to show that he's slow, though his touch is a wonder to behold. When he came on late, there were just one or two too many passes that, if delivered well, both to Landin and from, would have resulted in clear scoring chances.

Also, the take on Dominic Oduro stays the same, meaning that if the guy had any kind of finishing touch or physical toughness at all, he would be a force in this league. His speed is truly awesome, but all too often, he'll lose the ball on the dribble to even the weakest challenge, or sometimes with no challenge at all. He doesn't read the defensive movement closing in on him quickly enough to find the open guy. And while he had no real scoring chances tonight, how much of that was because he didn't fight off the ball to create those chances? To be fair, his speed constantly stretched the Sounder defense, and with those wheels, he brought something to the table that no one else on the team could bring, especially with Corey Ashe still out. How much slower did Landin look simply because he wasn't Oduro? So Dominic, get in position and beat Keller on Nov. 8, and I'll take back all the bad things I have written about you.

Stuart Holden was solid off the ball, though I would like to see him do more with the ball. He seems to be reverting to the extra pass-happy guy who started the season. I'll say now what I said then: Young man, you have a Howitzer out on the end of that leg. Use it.

6. Draw me with a smiley face. Overall, I am happy with this result tonight. Drawing the away leg and winning at home is a time-honored tradition and I am all for it. If anything, it sent the message that 40K or no, Dynamo is not afraid of this team of no-destiny. What's more, what I saw was a Dynamo squad eager to exorcise once and for all the ghosts of 2008. The team seems focused and ready to do what it needs to do at the Rob Nov. 8. I can't wait. And if anyone knows if Drew is coming, here's a message for you:

Read more!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kevin Payne's fine = Complete joke

So once again, right here on the cusp of the playoffs, when we should all be feeling good about MLS and the competition and the soon-to-be champion, we get reality smacking us in the face that this is a league that is run by a bunch of marketing executives who think that selling toothpaste is the same as running a sports league.

DC DC United president Kevin Payne was fined $5,000 dollars for telling the Washington Post's Steven Goff: "We don't want to play like Colorado or New England, which most of the season sat with eight or nine guys behind the ball. How many people go to watch Colorado or New England play? That's a problem for our league. We can't play like we're a team desperately trying to remain in 14th place in the Premiership. Our market isn't there yet. They want to see something that is entertaining, and DC United has always had a way of playing. Given a choice, we would rather attack than cynically defend. You look at the way Real Salt Lake played when they came here [a 0-0 tie in May] and sat 10 guys behind the ball. You don’t have to do that. Sometimes that is the best way to get a result – if you don’t care about the product, if you don’t care about advertising your league. Long term, who wants to watch that?"

The fine was levied directly by MLS commissioner Don Garber. The official announcement referred to Payne's comments as "detrimental to the public image of the League."

This is nonsensical. Payne was right on the money. Teams that play back, that play anti-football, need to be called out for doing that. No matter what you think about DCU, the sentiment he expressed needed to be said.

I think this is wonderful, like when Landon Donovan incited the crowd in Dallas a few years ago. This is one of those things that makes sports fun.

What's worse is the fact that it would have been so much better for Garber to say something along the lines of: "Well, that's Kevin Payne's opinion and he's entitled to it. If I were New England or Colorado, I might take offense to it, but they can settle that on the field."

Now THAT'S what a commissioner ought to say. Here's where you see a look into the kind of "leader" that Garber is, and by extension, the kind of organization that MLS is: Way, way too much marketing and placement thinking and way, way too little competition and fire. Stir the pot. Get people talking about something real instead of something you're trying to make them talk about through preordained advertising.

This is nonsense and it's Garber, not Payne, who has put the league in a bad light. Read more!

The Orange Ring of Death

After a second half of the season that was a tad weird to say the least, Dynamo get a chance to put on their Tri-umph faces and Lay It on the Line for that third title.

I think this video above truly expresses my feeling about Seattle tonight. And while the truth is I have never once flipped the toggle on an XBox, or done a 360 on top of one, I know for a fact that an Orange Ring of Death exists on those consoles, and that's what I am expecting to see over these two legs, starting tonight.

For a Dynamo team that rarely received red cards, it seems more than passing strange to notice that two games in a row without one is atypical. Hopefully, what this actually means is that the bleeding has been stanched. But we'll see. A stern, disciplined approach is what's called for in these 180-minute ties, especially when you get the second leg at your own playpen.

But I worry about the guys keeping their cool. In the three games watching the Seattles this season, I have noticed a certain behavior among the Greenclads that could be called, er, what is the word? Chippy? No. Dirty? Not yet. Thuggishness? Hmmm. Ah heck, let's just go for D: All of the Above. For a squad that has such a solid attack with pace and creativity and physical presence from Frjeddji Ljungbjerg (Or howjever that's spjelled), Jaqua, Montero and Zakuani, to see players like Hurtado and Brad Evans and the like dishing out the cheap fouls is incongruous to say the least. Hopefully the refs will call the game tight, which can only help. (And this doesn't even include mention of Montero's incessant diving. If Ricardo Salazar falls for that garbage tonight, teh frustration will mount.)

And right here I'd to insert my oft-stated objection to playing this or any game on the fake grass. Both Mullan and Mulrooney suffered injuries playing on State of Washington-approved artificial surfaces, the latter injury a season-ending and potential career-threatening one. All I have to say is that if Major League Baseball can completely eliminate artificial surfaces (with the exception of the Rogers Centre in Toronto. What is it with Toronto anyway?), then so can MLS. The horror must end!

Back to tonight, clearly, composure will be key. Seattle will come out on fire and probably finish in a flurry as well. As I wrote on Glenn Davis' blog the other day: The problem is that without Richard Mulrooney out there keeping everyone cool (see previous paragraph), Dynamo have had a hard time maintaining composure for a full 90. Also, asking an attacking team like Dynamo to play back and patient and wait for their chances is difficult at best. Perhaps this merits Barrett's inclusion in the starting XI?

However, champions adjust and I was heartened to see Brad Davis talking right away on Sunday or Monday about defense winning championships. I think this is where experience means something. Pretty much the entire Dynamo squad have been in these situations many times before, most in Orange, while there are many players in Seattle who have not. There is no substitute for playoff experience, so if the team opens up loose, calm and confident and STAYS that way throughout the game, they will be able to exert pressure and strike when Seattle makes their mistakes.

A cool, calm, composed game and coming home ahead, drawn or no worse than a one-goal deficit and I will consider tonight a success.

Hey, did anyone else notice that Bernardo Fallas gave the goalkeeping edge to the Sounders? (Ratings here.) Even though Fallas does pick Dynamo to take the tie 3-2 on aggregate, this should at least have been even. Odd, is all I'm saying.

So here are my predictions for this series:

Tonight: 1-1 Draw. My worries center mainly around dealing with Seattle's pace and the turf-related injuries. Knee tendinitis and artificial turf are a witches' brew, which will have me watching Landin closely, not to mention Rico (should he play) and Ching. I would like to see a line-up like this:


Subs: Chabala, Weaver, Oduro, Robinson, Waibel, Thompson, Hall

The reason I'd like to see Barrett get the start is for his experience and calm demeanor out there. As a captain, he is solid, to say the least. That being said, as the game goes down the wire and we are protecting a lead or a draw, or even going for a late goal, I'd pull him for Chabala and his speed or Johnny Rocco Robinson and his toughness. And depending on the situation, I'd also get Weaver and head-bump Waibel in there as well.

Like Fallas, I am also predicting Dynamo to go through to the Cup semifinals (this whole "Conference semi," "Conference final" stuff is confusing terminology and it must end), by a 3-2 agg. Both teams have shown difficulty scoring of late, but getting out of here tonight ahead or drawn will be huge for Dynamo.

Just remember boys, this is it:

Read more!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Order from chaos, final weekend picks

"We adore chaos because we love to produce order."
~ M.C. Escher

In the delicious disorder that has marked the final weeks of the MLS season will come some order after this weekend, and it all started in that mudpit in Bridgeview last night.

So did anyone check out that Chicago/Chivas game last night? What a messy, messy beast. And I'm not talking about the weather. I honestly think Chicago's only hope in the playoffs, and I think they are a very, very good side, is to have games go to penalty kicks. Patrick Nyarko has go to be one of the worst-finishing starters in the MLS.

But as for the factors that mean something to the Naranjaverse, I would have to say that we all saw Chivas exposed again for what they are, a slightly above-average side with serious holes in the back filled by the aging Zach Thornton and an attack that can only be described in a way that does disservice to all those out there who are really are anemic. Yesteday I remarked on ow Dynamo is out of sync. But the comparison is that Dynamo is a Maserati that needs some new spark plugs, while Chivas is some random GM car trying to convince themselves and everyone else when they say "May the best car win."

So what I saw warmed my heart for the weekend and has me actually feeling some of that playoff mojo. I can only hope that those guys out on the near left edge of the color spectrum feel the same way.

As for the playoffs, here are my predictions from Oct. 2:

Crew, Dynamo, LAG, Fire, Rapids, Toronto, Sounders, Chivas

If the season were to end right now, I would be dead on with that prediction. Eight for fuh-reakin' eight. I would only have missed on the order, but hey, when you're sitting where I am on the weekly prediction, I will not quibble. However, I will not be counting those eggs just yet as there is some more hatching to be done over the next few days. The Rapids and Toronto have some work to do in order to make my ocho de perfecto come to pass, and you know what, I think they're going to do exactly that.

But before I get to that I just want to interrupt this prediction fest (my final one of the regular season, to offer a very short defense of the MLS playoffs. I know all about the arguments from purists (and I sympathize and agree to a point with ALL of them) that playoffs are anti-football, anti-tradition and make a mockery of the regular season. I agree. However, I also know some things, one is that if there were no playoffs there would be no interest in any games this final weekend. Instead, 11 teams (that's 11 out of 15 people) are playing meaningful games, important games, games that could turn the season on its head. Six of the eight playoff slots have been decided and still, every single game in the final weekend (including last night's of course) is crucial to one or both teams. That my friends is an argument right there for a meaningful post-season tournament. I have written before that the Regular Season Champion needs to be called that, (instead of the nominally meaningless Supporter's Shield) and that is an argument to note. That team, even though it's supported by the execrable Nordecke bunch, should be celebrated and awarded a meaningful trophy. But do not under any circumstances eliminate the postseason tournament. The MLS Cup winner is also a fitting championship and the two honors should sit side by side.

So that's my little soapbox moment, which deserves a separate discussion all of its own. Time to move onto the weekend, and these meaningful games I profess to love so much.

Last week: 3-5
Year to date: 87-121 (.418 or 18 games over blind chance)

TORONTO FC at RBNY. 2-1 Reds Toronto books passage into the postseason with this win, the final one at that awful pit known as Giants Stadium, thus ensuring that Costa Rica's Saprissa Stadium is far and away the worst soccer pitch in the New World. Now, being that this is the final Giants Stadium game, and that Red Bulls are trying to bury this awful season, they will come out inspired, or at least as inspired as they can be. But that turnip can only bleed so much. RBNY will take the early lead and then TFC will return with an improbable goal brought about by RBNY's own incomparable incompetence. Then I fully expect Big Game Dwayne to send his Reds over the top and into the playoffs. (I want so badly for TFC to play the Crew in the first round just because those games are always bloodbaths.) The not-altogether-healthy Stefan Frei steps up big.

(That)D(amned)CU(nited) at WIZARDS. 1-1 Draw Personally, I think Tom Soehn will have a very long and enjoyable offseason, unemployed though he will be as DCU expires with a whimper at the hands of the playing-for-pride Wizards. And just to add insult to injury, I think KC will score late with a goal past Steve Cronin (How bad is Kocic if Cronin is an improvement?) to sink DCU's hopes. And you know, this might just be the best thing for that organization, which is too good to be in this situation.

RAPIDS at RSL 2-2 Colorado Conor Casey will be a beast in this game as Colorado books passage through to the postseason with the draw. RSL salvages some pride with a late goal to draw level, but the Rapids' quality does exactly what they need. Jason Kreis, who deserves to stay coach of this team, will have a long time over the offseason to find out what he needs to do to transition this squad back into the championship contender they were in 2008. Unfortunately, with this draw, Colorado finish with the eighth seed and face Columbus for that great Col v Col match-up instead o the blood battle that Col(umbus) v Tor would make.

FC FRISCO at SOUNDERS FC 3-2 Seattle The Battle of the Dreams. And this, my friends, is where the dallas' dream comes to an end for dallas for a lot of reasons, the first of which is that it's running smack into the face of bigger dream. It has been a truly amazing season for the Seattles, with a USOC trophy, a playoff berth, a chance on the final day of the season to win the West, 30K in attendance every game at home, etc. etc. I hate them grudgingly for all of that, but I'm also realistic enough to see that a final regular season home game with all of that going for them is going to be too much for a Schellas Hyndman coached team, with Superman Cunningham or no. Also, the truly awful Baldomero Toledo will be reffing this game, the same guy who gifted Seattle with that goal that Chabala knocked off the line back in July. That's mojo that Seattle doesn't need, but will enjoy. I think Cunningham will definitely score, but Dallas will fall short here.

EARTHQUAKES at GALAXY. 2-2 Draw I just have to tell you that there is no way on Earth I can be objective in assessing this game. For the Naranjaverse to evolve as it needs to, the Gals MUST lose or draw this game. The thing is, San Jose is a truly awful, awful side, not RBNY awful, but still, you know, B.A.D. Now San Jose helped us last week as much as they could by drawing with Chivas at the HDC, so is it too much to ask for them to do it again? I'm not asking for anything superhuman here, just a draw against their most-hated rivals. Let's face it, as any Bay Area person can tell you, screwing LA is enough motivation no matter the situation. Well, beating them will screw LA the most, but I'm not too sure that's possible. I mean, they're not Rubin Kazan here. But they are a Bay Area side with a chance to really deliver a nasty blow to a SoCal team. So I'm relying on that to beat Donovan, that English guy and Ricketts. My head says there's no way that a team with the quality of LA, in the most important game they've played since the 2005 final, should lose or draw here. But my heart, the organ in my body that is 100 percent Orange, will NOT be overruled. Go San Jose, you bastards, GO!

REVOLUTION at CREW 1-1 Draw And here's where you see the end of the road for Steve NIcol's playoff run. Mister3D and I have spoken often how much we respect what he's accomplished, but also how much we hate the way his teams play, chippy, defensive and quick counter attacks. To be truthful, you can't but respect Shalrie Joseph and those guys, but the Revs have just been snakebit all year, the final blow coming when Steve Ralston went down with that horrific injury. For them to make the playoffs would be amazing considering, but they just would not be able to advance far and provide just a simple, simple opponent for whomever they face. The Crew, on the other hand, have looked nothing like the worldbeaters they were in August and September, but that could be attributed to a number of facts, the main being the early date at which they earned their berth. So I think they'll do just enough to keep from losing at home and then put their focus on the playoffs.

And finally:

DYNAMO at las chivitas 1-0 Orange Dynamo will be without Ching and Ashe (thank you Rayados), and Cam Weaver and Ricardo Clark are nursing knee injuries. However, I still think this team has enough to deny the Amerigoats and come out of the HDC with the top spot in the West. Now, to be sure, things can happen to give us that second leg of the Western semis at home with just a draw here. But Seattle would have to tie or lose to FCD at home to open that window, which I don't expect to happen. So just for once this season you Orange, win and make it simple for all of us. Might this be the game where Luis Angel Landin finds his communication with Brad Davis, Stuart Holden and, most importantly, Brian Mullan? Here's the lineup I would like to see:


But if Rico and Cam can't go, how's this one:


Option B is not as good as Option A up top, but to beat Chivas, the strength will have to come in the midfield and a tough as nails back line. Option B might just be a tougher back line than A with ERob in there. And if Thompson can hold and create space for Landin and Holden on dangerousrun, it might just work. We'll see. Just win baby. Just win. Read more!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Grumbling (and stumbling?) into the postseason

There's a red storm raging and it's threatening to overwhelm the Houston Dynamo, if it hasn't already.

So yes I'll start. I am quite bummed about the guys losing to Metapan, who had neither won nor tied a single game in group play before last night. So, not to be a downer here, but it's very possible that the season, which we all hope lasts five more games, might just be over in three.

Here's what I've been seeing from Dynamo over the last couple of months. Fine play, great effort, but all in support of performances that are just short of winning. The team shows flashes of brilliance both offensively and defensively, but none of the 90-minute effort that was so in evidence this past May and June.

At this point, it's hard to see the team winning at Chivas this weekend, must less doing much in the first round of the playoffs. If they hit a hot team like Seattle in the playoffs, I now am almost expecting Dynamo to lose.

The team is clearly not in sync, and playing with low confidence at the moment. There is no doubt about their effort as the guys are clearly putting everything they have into every moment on the pitch. However, it is clear that they are having difficulty communicating up and down the field. Here are some random thoughts and observations:

1. The red cards. So big props to the team for finishing with 11 players last night. And since when has that been all that big of a deal? The red rash has become both symptom and disease here. At first, it was so improbable as to be laughable. Surely this will stop. But it has been going on for two-and-a-half months now, and it hasn't really stopped. It's hard to have a synced lineup when key players, and usually a different one each time, are missing. And then, playing frustrated and out of sync, stupid things happen and you get more red cards. Champions adjust, and I have not seen much in the way of adjustment here.

2. Conspiracy theory note: It seems that the rash of red cards started after the whole non-goal goal in Seattle. Kinnear said on air that the ref (Toledo) was the same one that screwed us in Salt Lake last year, Ching had his Twitter moment about the event, and before you know it, the refs start passing out the reds like candy at Halloween. I don't endorse this theory, mind you, I only mention it. The truth is, tight refereeing or no, the team has to man up here and take personal responsibility. Ching did that last Sunday when asked about his red, he did not say one bad thing about the borderline nature of the card. He just said "The ref got it right." That's playing it smart because if this happens in the first round, we will have a long winter.

3. Questionable wing play. Mister3D and I noticed a real shortfall here in the LAG game this past Sunday. Chabala (maybe his worst game this season) had a hard time linking up the wing, as did Hainault on the other side. I was beginning to seriously hope for a move to bring in Eddie Robinson for Chabala and move Cameron over there, or even Barrett and sacrifice speed for more solid passes from the back. If Dynamo can't link up the wings, they don't win. It's that simple.

4. Missing Richard Mulrooney. How different would this team look with his calmness and presence in midfield or on defense? I think of all of this season's injuries and absences, his might just be the most significant in terms of keeping the team cool and focused when things start going all weird out there. We miss him in a big way.

5. How many times have you noticed the team over the last few months seem to have no general plan, no focus on what they need to do to break the other team down? I think this can be attributed in a large measure to the injuries (Mulrooney, Weaver, Ashe), international absences (mainly Holden and Clark) and red cards (pick 'em). When was the last time Dynamo fielded the same starting line-up two games in a row? I'll tell you when. It was April 19 and and May 3, which were both wins, against, respectively, Colorado at home and New England on the road. Not only that, but that was the same line-up that played April 11, a 0-0 home tie vs. New York. Those are the only three games all season (!) that Dynamo started the same line-up in successive games. How on Earth do you build up a rhythm and confidence playing together when there are so many different line-ups on the pitch out there at all times?

So this is my somewhat frustrated rant about Dynamo's play (and you notice that I went through this whole post without mentioning Dominic Oduro even once because he's a frustrated rant of a blog post all on his lonesome!). What are your thoughts about what's wrong and what needs to change if we hope to see Dynamo hoisting the Uncle Phil Anschutz Trophy next month?

(And by the way, I full expect the Chicago Fire to take it to Chivas tonight. If the Fire hope to finally put things together tonight at home, with Temoc facing those las chivitas stripes, and clinching a playoff berth on the line, they need to destroy those pretenders. I'm picking Chicago to win 4-2.) Read more!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Goalden One talks some trash

A truly awesome interview with our boy Goalden Holden, who dishes on Rico and "Fat" Ching. Read more!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Six on the undercard and the Main Event

Just in case you needed any help getting fired up for Sunday. And if you're looking for further inspiration there's this:

But before we get to Sunday, we'll spend some time on the weekend undercard:

Last week: 1-3
Year to date: 84-116 (.420 or 17 games over blind chance)

REAL SALT LAKE at TORONTO FC. 2-2 Draw So RSL defeats NYRB late Wednesday night (Q: Were they showing the US game on the screens at Rio Tinto before that game started? And if not, why does RSL hate America?), a result I predicted, which isn't anything to be all that psyched about. I mean, RSL at home is mediocre, while NYRB without JPA can only dream of mediocrity. Now RSL heads north of the border to a TFC team that watched its playoff dream go on life support when they let San Jose draw late in stoppage time last week (screwing with my prediction in the process like they didn't even care). Simply put, both teams truly NEED full points here. Anything less and you can cross them both off your playoff predictions. However, Toronto just seems to come short all too often this season, while RSL is woeful on the road. So, my pick is they'll go over the Reichenbach Falls together, though unlike Holmes, neither will be seen again.

FIRE at REVOLUTION. 2-1 New England If Chicago wins this game, they are in the playoffs and guaranteed to host the return leg in the first round against whomever they play. The Fire are a very good, very dangerous team that is set right on the verge of a truly awesome run. And hence, I am predicting that not only will the Fire get doused in Foxboro, but it will be costly (maybe with an injury) and painful (late strike from Shalrie Joseph or a bad, or rather, standard call from ref Jorge Gonzales). Nothing has come easy for the Fire this season, so why should playoff qualification? As for the Revs, without Stevie R, the team is a shadow of its former self. But the Fire will just not be able to crack Fortress Nicol.

CREW at DC UNITED. 2-0 Crew. Ben Olsen and Chris Pontius are out for DC, while Emmanuel Ekpo misses for the Crewtures.DC is also missing Quaranta and Namoff to injuries and has Milos Kocic in goal. DC, I know you guys are technically still in the playoff race, but let's face it. United has lost three in a row, all at home, and this game will be over by halftime. The only question is whether that will also apply to Tom Soehn's reign as DC boss.

RAPIDS at FC FRISCO. 1-1 Draw. You know, I know that FC dallas is all f'shizzle about their playoff run, and Jeff Cunningham yadda yadda yadda, and they're only two points out of the playoffs and they're at home in front of their tens of "fans," and the Rapids are missing two players to suspension. Yeah freakin' yeah. But you know what, spare me. The team is mediocrity personified. But then again, what do the Rapids have? Conor Casey, that's who, despite his completely ridiculous and worthless miss in the 9th minute at RFK Wednesday (how great would that have been?). The only question about Dallas' run is when will it end? Well, reality is here and Colorado will administer the paddle here. The draw ought to end that playoff run and at the same time complicate Colorado's.

SOUNDERS at WIZARDS. 2-0 Seattle Josh Wollf and Davy Arnaud are probable while nursing injuries, but it won't be enough. Seattle secures a berth here with a win and pulls into a (highly, highly temporary) tie atop the West. Jaqua and Montero both score off feeds from Ljungberg.

EARTHQUAKES at las chivitas 2-1 San Jose. It's no secret what result I want to happen here. I want the Earthquakes to drill these guys, robbing them of all hope and confidence, doubting not only their skills as players but continued existence as human beings. I want goat meat served from all tables in California up and down the coast, instilling the San Jose organization with a heretofore missing sense of optimism for the future. What I expect to get, however, is something totally different. San Jose is beyond awful, and while their late goal salvaged some pride for them in Canuckistan last week, I just am not sure they can pull that off against a Preki-coached side in the running for the top spot in the West. One ray of hope, take a look at this injury report (notables highlighted): CHIVAS USA - OUT: DF Jim Curtin (L ankle surgery); MF Kevin Harmse (R knee tendonitis); GK Dan Kennedy (R knee surgery); FW Ante Razov (R ankle tendonitis); MF Bojan Stepanovic (R knee injury); MF Sasha Victorine (concussion); QUESTIONABLE: GK Lance Parker (R quad strain); FW Maicon Santos (R knee injury); GK Zach Thornton (lower back strain); PROBABLE: FW Justin Braun (lower back strain); MF Paulo Nagamura (L foot contusion); FW Jesús Padilla (R ankle sprain) ... SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES - OUT: MF Darren Huckerby (R hip surgery); MF Andre Luiz (L knee sprain); DF Jason Hernandez (L ankle fracture/sprain); FW Chris Wondolowski (R knee sprain); FW Cornell Glen (R knee sprain) So who's healthy in goal for Chivas anyway? That's three keepers on that list! So I'm going with my heart here and picking San Jose. Screw my record. Screw what's probable. And screw the goatlings San Jose.


GALAXY at DYNAMO. 3-2 Orange The Dynamo are going to miss seriously Corey Ashe and Cam Weaver, and who knows why Chingy did not dress for either US game, and that is the last worrisome thing you will read from me. This is going to be a game for the ages. I firmly expect that Landon Donovan will be a beast, that that English guy who's name escapes me will be delivering dead-on balls and that Donovan Ricketts will be amazing in goal. And then this is what I also believe: 30,000+ people will spur Dynamo on to a crushing win. Davis will be in full delivery mode, putting in two perfect crosses for goals to add to another one from Holden on a set-piece to rip the hearts out of those pretenders. Like the penalty save against Conor Casey earlier this season, this game will be the spur to a six-game unbeaten run (7 if you count the Isidro Metapan game next week) that ends only because the season does, with the reigning Rothenberg Trophy winners holding up the Anschutz model in Seattle. Man of the Match for Dynamo in this game: Johnny Rocco, (aka Eddie Robinson).

And just in case you guys don't get the message:

Read more!