Friday, July 31, 2009

Greatest American Hero and Week 20 picks

It's been a busy week, so I am finally getting my weekly crystal ball readings posted after a few thoughts about the spectacle at Rio Tinto earlier this week.

As for the All-Star Game, I have read so many blogs and comments dissing the existence of the game and, to be honest, I just don't get the objection.

Taking some time off as a league in the middle of the season, honoring the players who have had a stellar first half and putting together a little friendly and top XI, what is so bad about that? Did you see those guys on the field at Rio Tinto? They were having a great time and their enthusiasm was contagious. I was laughing out loud when Kasey Keller came back in and seeing David Moyes joking with John Spencer about him getting into the game instead.

The All-Star Game reminds us all that this is a game after all. It's about fun. It is not a deathly serious thing. Wins and losses in the event mean nothing about either MLS' status as a (to use Steven Goff's NCAA basketball tournament-influenced term) mid-major, MLS players as quality footballers or any other damn thing. No other league in the world does this? Why do I care about that? No no, more important question: Why should I care about that?

Here's what I care about. The 20,000+ in the stands had fun. The players had a gas. The staff and front office workers around MLS enjoyed themselves. It's time to put aside the objections and come join the damn party. (Or don't. It's up to you. Your margarita is mine!)

On the field, even though my league lost, I found it impossible to be upset in the slightest. And the reason for that is in the person of one Timothy Matthew Howard, or as I like to call him the Greatest American Hero. After the shootout, I had one thought only: "That is the man who will lead us into Azteca." Thinking that, and after that game, I went to bed happy.

On to this week's picks:

YEAR TO DATE: 59-70 (.457; 16 games above blind chance)

TORONTO FC at REVOLUTION. 3-0 New England. In the VD Cup (reVs v reDs) both of these teams are coming in at something near full strength, though of course for New England this year, that is something of a relative term. However, Toronto had a tough game at home the night before the All-Star Game, a loss to Puerto Rico Islanders in the CONCACAF Champions League. I watched most of that game and saw a Reds team that was pouring it all out in their international competition debut (or at least DeRo was). What I'm getting to here is that the Reds are tired and in something of a free fall. Contrast that to the Revs, who are coming off victories against las chivitas at home and Dynamo on the road and are finally brimming with something approaching confidence for the first time this year. I think New England is going to run away with this game. And here's an outside (and I hope incorrect) prediction: This is the one game on fake turf too far for Dwayne De Rosario's knees. He will be out for 3-4 weeks after this game. Please, please MLS Players Association, make this a bargaining point and get rid of this curse on the human race.

DC UNITED vs. DYNAMO. 2-1 Orange Here's a nice picture of parity: These two teams have an all-time mark of 3-3-1 against each other. Dynamo have their national teamers back, but are still missing Mullan and Mulrooney (not to mention Eddie "The Invisible Man" Robinson). I do expect a slow start as Holden and Chingy get their Orange legs back. However, DC played that midweek CCF draw against Firpo after drawing at San Jose last week and then flying back out to here. So it makes sense to favor the Orange in a tight battle. And for my personal history as well. I've chronicled before (on this link) that a Dynamo/DC game was my Road to Soccer Damascus moment. I expect no less Saturday night. Here's that moment again for you to make your heart go "Dale! Dale!":

WIZARDS at FC DALLAS. 2-0 KC Can someone please explain the Kenny Cooper to 1860 Munich to me? That team finished 12th in 2. Bundesliga last year and is on a free fall. They are 12th, 11th, 8th and 13th in the 2. Bundesliga in the last four years. Kenny Hassan on World Soccer Daily Friday made the amazing assertion that the team is worse (WORSE!!) than FC Dallas. And you know what, he might be right! Think about that for a second: Worse than FC Frisco. Let that sink in. I know money is money and Europe is Europe, but you're telling me that THIS was the best offer they could have gotten? There's more to this story. There has to be. Back at the friendly caverns of Pizza Hut Park, I expect KC, who is awful in its own way, to just blow past these guys now that they're getting the full reality that Cooper, easily Frisco's best player and, for my money, still their probable 2009 MVP, is gone. The quit will be palpable.

RSL at FIRE. 2-0 Chicago John Thorrington's out for Chicago, while Jason Kreis is out for RSL, who also has a banged-up squad who doesn't play well on the road when they're healthy anyway. Chicago will dominate this game.

CREW at RAPIDS. 1-1 Draw. Has anyone seen Columbus play recently? Those guys are playing with style and flair and finding ways to win, just like last year. Colorado, on the other hand, has been the wall hanging that continually bugs you out of the corner of your eye until you can't stand it anymore. The picture of uneven. So in the Col v Col Confab, why am I not picking a Col win? Two reasons: 1. Schelotto, , the Crew leader, is still out; and 2. Elevation. Columbus is still good enough to salvage the road draw though. I'm not that crazy.

SOUNDERS at EARTHQUAKES. 2-1 Seattle You did indeed read it here first last week when I predicted that San Jose would do well against DC United. (Full disclosure: I picked SJ to win, not tie, but picking them not to lose took some stones by my way of thinking.) But this week, sorry San Jose. I know you're riding high about coming back on DC United and all, but Seattle's run of form recently is better than anything you Trembles have put together all year. Seattle is good and playing good. San Jose, on the other hand, will go into this game missing Arturo Alvarez, and probably Ryan Johnson. And even though Sounders will be without Ljungberg, the Montero-Jaqua-Zacuani front is more than enough for this team. Fun fact: If Seattle wins this game, they will have swept the season series. Last time the Earthquakes beat the Sounders was in 1983 in the NASL. Wow. (When the EQuakes beat Seattle in the Western Soccer Alliance in 1987, Seattle was named the Storm, so it doesn't count! NYAH, NYAH, NYAH.) Read more!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ngwenya returning to Dynamo?

Yes, according to this article here.

It is well known that Dynamo have his MLS rights, and I strongly believe that he fits in here far better than Dominic Oduro (or possibly even Cam Weaver). So I am optimistic. Though I find it interesting to note that this SI and writer Shane Evans does not speculate on his landing spot.

Y'know, Ngwenya seems to be a weird case as this was more than obvious to anyone earlier this season as well as last. But maybe he's finally come around. He would make a wonderful (re-)addition I think.

Here's the full text of the article:

Now 28 years old, Joseph Ngwenya realizes his chances to make it big in Europe aren't as great as they once were.
A former striker for the Los Angeles Galaxy, Columbus Crew and Houston Dynamo, Ngwenya has been floating around Europe since early in 2008 and has since realized his home is in MLS.
"We're in discussions with MLS right now," said his representative Patrick McCabe. "We hope to have it all resolved in the next few days."
Following his departure from MLS after the 2007 season, Ngwenya signed with SK Austria Karnten, but only saw the field once. His contract with Karnten was disolved last summer and he went on trial with Bayern Munich but didn't stuck with the German giants.
He then signed with Turkish club Antalyaspor, but only played three times, scoring once. A return to MLS seems all but sealed following the comments from his representative.
One positive from his venture to Europe was he was able to win his first cap for his native Zimbabwe in 2008, and has received four more since.
Read more!

Coming home thoughts and weekend picks

Boy, it sure was nice watching what is basically an MLS First XI advance to the Gold Cup Final last night. But even nicer was watching Chingy and Goalden take over the attack in the second half, leading to Kenny Cooper's put it away goal. It is whetting my appetite for the second half of the season, I can tell you.

So a shorthanded Dynamo go 3-3-1 on their seven-game road stretch, and even though two of those wins were against USL-1 teams, it speaks volumes about the mental toughness of this squad from top to bottom. Big revelations were these:

1. Watching Danny Cruz go right at people. I feel like Cruz is very much a younger version of Brian Mullan, and perhaps that is directly attributable to going up against Mully every day in training. I remember Corey Ashe mentioning that in his first year how much he improved specifically because he had to endure getting schooled by Mullan everyday. Now it's Cruz' turn and once again it appears to be paying dividends. Cruz is going to be a star in MLS, no doubt about it. He's dangerous every time he touches the ball. (Dynamo should get a recording of J. Fred Duckett's "Cruuuuuuuuuzzzz" call from back in Cheo's day at the Astrodome and play it when he scores. And yes, I'm dating myself with that comment.)

2. Mike Chabala's pace and toughness as an outside back. Chewbacca was solid throughout, and was cruelly screwed by that non-goal goal in Seattle. (If that was called correctly, the record would have been 3-2-2. Think about that!) He's got a nice touch that needs work, but he was very helpful and solid when we needed it.

3. It's not all good. Specifically, Julius James and Dominic Oduro are big dropoffs from the first or even second choices at their positions. It's not all bad as James did make some good, tough plays and Oduro has nice pace, so I guess the best thing to say is that the only consistency we got from these guys was their inconsistency. James allowing himself to get pulled out of position in Toronto allowed DeRo to score in that draw at BMO Field. And if Oduro actually goes right at someone it would be the first time. It reminds me how much I enjoyed Dynamo playing against him when he was in Dallas. Challenge him and he crumbles. Both have a lot of work to do and should not be selected if we can help it.

4. Back to the positive. Important minutes for many, many down-bench players. This can only be good in the long run. There should now be no doubt that Dynamo is the deepest, most talented and toughest squad in MLS. This is no guarantee of any trophies to come, but so many signs are encouraging, aren't they?

Now on to the predictions:

Last week: 4-2
Year to date: 56-66 (.459 or 15 games over random chance)

FC DISASTROUS at REAL SALT LAKE. 1-0 RSL I know that Frisco is not as bad as they were. I know that Atiba Harris fills a small roll, especially with the Gold Cup absence of Kenny Cooper. But let's make no mistake here. The team still has serious problems up and down the field. Not to say that RSL is much better, but the only thing worse than FC Frisco at home (with their customarily embarrassing gathering of people in the stands) is that team on the road. RSL squeaks it out.

FIRE at SOUNDERS. 1-1 Draw After seeing Seattle twice over the last two weeks and watching the way Chicago has played without Brian McBride, I just think that Temoc alone will be enough to salvage a road point here. Seattle is very proud of themselves for making it through late against two shorthanded Dynamo sides. Well, I think Chicago will administer a dose of reality to them. The Fire are starting to pick it up. Though Soumare's absence might just lead to a Seattle goal.

TORONTO FC at CREW. 1-1 Draw. My favorite kinds of rivalries are the ones that I would never have predicted before they exploded into full-scale hostilities. This Trillium Cup business definitely falls into that category. I have no horse in this race, but I do enjoy watching these guys tear into one another. Columbus is clearly getting things into a sort of groove, but will seriously miss Guillermo Barros Schelotto, without whom it is merely an above-average team. However, Toronto have never beaten Columbus, and I don't believe it will come here. The Reds are decidedly mediocre and will completely miss the injured Adrian Serioux, without whom they have a somewhat less-than-tough defense. All signs to me point to another draw, the teams' third against each other this season. I really hope they play each other in the playoffs though, as the match-up will be hugely entertaining to watch.

GALAXY at WIZARDS. 2-0 LAG LA is definitely playing better and is a quality side, and KC without Davy Arnaud and Jimmy Conrad, not to mention Roger Espinoza, are among the worst teams in the league. LA walks to a win here.

REVOLUTION at DYNAMO. 2-1 Orange Dynamo have never beaten New England here at Robertson Stadium, making the Revs the only team to "own" the field here. This madness must end now. And I firmly believe it will. Houston beat New England in the regular season for the first time ever earlier this year in Gillette, and now it's time to break the streak here. With Andrew Hainault and Brad Davis back and a first home game in a month, Dynamo will come out on fire. I have maintained all along that Ade Akinbiyi has been unlucky this season and will definitely be a difference maker in at least two games this season. This could be one of them. Did you see his goal at Starfire this past Tuesday night? Beautiful, beautiful work. The Revs have been getting their act together and Shalrie Joseph is a monster, but Dynamo are not going to be denied here. Their frustrations are going to get let out all over the Revs.

NYRB at RAPIDS. 2-0 Colo. Please. Colorado (even without the High Cs -- Conor Casey and Colin Clark) is at least above average this season. NYRB, on the other hand....

DC UNITED at EARTHQUAKES. 2-1 QUAKES You know, I see no reason to predict San Jose to win this match. The team is in disarray and is truly awful in many ways. DC United on the other hand, is in that scrum in the east jockeying around at the top of the conference an is much better than they have been in years. I have a feeling, though, that San Jose will hold serve at home, though my head says "You are mad!" Well, mad I may be and I fully admit that this pick is wack. But I'm going with it. Prove me wrong DC. Read more!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What is that again about ESPN hating soccer?

(Click here if you can't play the clip above.) Even though they seem to be ambivalent about MLS, ESPN is definitely coming on board of soccer in general. More fuel to support the contention that soccer's trajectory is on an X-15 style climb. Read more!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A mixing bowl of storylines


I was going to post this morning on how Dynamo not just beat Chivas June 10 (And who can forget that classic goal at the end of first half injury time from Goalden Holden), they completely ruined the Amerigoats' season. But Kyle McCarthy at did it for me (minus the Dynamo ruining them angle). Check out that link here.

McCarthy points out that las chivitas is currently sitting on an eight-game winless streak in all competitions (0-7-1, with the draw coming after Chivas USA had lost its first two SuperLiga games), but what he fails to mention is that Game 1 of that streak was right here at Robertson Stadium. I get no great satisfaction in saying "I Told You So" (well, maybe I do, but it depends to whom I'm saying it), but I pointed out throughout that team's early run that it was completely and totally based on the goal-scoring prowess of Nagamura and Lillingston and the goalkeeping of Zach Thornton. Who in their right mind would think that could last all season?

Now Idiot Lalas (not Greg) was spreading a rumor during the Dynamo/TFC game that perhaps the Atiba Harris to FC Dallas deal is a harbinger of an incoming major signing for las chivitas. They need it because that team is thinner than Beckham's temper.

Here's what McCarthy has about that weirdo deal:

In a rather surprising move last week, Chivas USA sent Atiba Harris (14 games, 13 starts for the Goats on the campaign) to FC Dallas in exchange for Marcelo Saragosa. When asked about the deal, Preki said he liked Saragosa's toughness – not a quality the rugged Harris lacks in any way, shape or form – and noted he saw the Brazilian as a midfielder.

“He can press the ball, he's pretty mobile, he's pretty hard and he's got a good mentality,” Preki said.

While those qualities are typical in a Chivas USA player, those qualities also betray the fact that Saragosa is best deployed a holding midfielder, though he occasionally featured somewhat fitfully at right back for FCD. That particular fact makes the deal particularly puzzling considering Saragosa's arrival adds yet another deep-lying central player to a stable that already includes current starters Nagamura and Jesse Marsch as well as the recently acquired Kevin Harmse.

So why then did Chivas USA feel the need to acquire yet another player to fill a role that already appears suitably covered?

“We'll see what he has,” Preki said as he skipped around the question. “From what I've seen from the outside, I like his qualities. How is he going to help the team out? Well, he will help us.”

That explains that, then.


As far as the HDC's other residents, this is my whole comment on the Becks affair:

This is abso-you-know-what-ing-lutely brilliant. I was wondering at what point Becks would start phoning it in again this season just like last year and here we are with him playing exactly one MLS game (and that on the right coast) and it looks like it is indeed upon us.

So the past two years, the Beckham circus has sunk woeful LAG teams. This year, it looks like for his next trick La Dave will sink a (formerly) rapidly improving LAG squad.

What were those security guys thinking anyways? David and Lieweke said they wanted to promote soccer viewership in the US. Letting that guy "shake hands" with Becks (Too bad we live in the era of "Hike the Appalachian Trail" or that would easily make for my favorite euphemism of 2009 list) would have been the most played MLS clip ever.

My hat is off to the Riot Squad. Though I wonder, the release from Il Bruce yesterday said that LARS had banned the guy for life. Who's lifetime was he talking about? LARS' response: "Who, us?"

Truly awesome.


Really, whoever introduced turf to sports should be waiting judgment in The Hague.

(What's that you say, it started here in my beloved Astrodome?


Never-THE-less, that was almost 50 years ago. Did you catch Dom Kinnear on Glenn Davis' program last night putting the blame for Richard Mulrooney's knee problem squarely on Seattle's artificial turf. Now, this isn;t anything about Seattle's turf in particular, but turf in general is an abomination and it must go.

If and when Dynamo Park gets built, we as fans have to make sure our voices are heard on this. No turf.

If you play on grass in the frigid climes of northern Europe (and they do all the time), then we can play on it here. Besides, Houston's growing zone is so lush that anything grows here.


Y'know, I wasn't going to post much on the US Open Cup Game tonight, but then I read this piece from the Seattle Times and the comments. Personally, I hope we destroy those guys now. Read more!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

He's baaaack, plus some other games that mean something

Yes, David Beckham (perhaps distantly related to the chap above?) is indeed back in MLS for as long as his interest holds. My interest in this whole thing, on the other hand, faded about the time he decided he'd phone in the last few months of the 2008 season before creating more drama (as is his custom) in Milan.

I have not read Grant Wahl's book, though I might at some point of course as it's always interesting to see how teams not named Dynamo self-destruct. But from what I have read, I do think Landon Donovan, though he probably should have kept this all quiet until after Becksy was gone for good, was right about the so-called captain deserting the team.

I have not been a Beckham hater, as I have always appreciated his skill and enjoy watching him play when he's at his best, but really, at this point, I don;t see that he has much to offer MLS. He will produce at Galaxy this season, right up to the point that he wants to get back to Milan, which I think will be when he plays in Kansas City or Denver or some other MLS backwater in a league that is not rigged like Serie A.

Whatever. This drama can only help other teams in the western conference, and since Dynamo is in that conference, I am all for it.

So, on to this week's predictions:

Last week: 2-4
Season: 52-64 (.448, 13 games over random chance)

GALAXY at RED BULL NEW YORK. 3-1 LA Come on. Give me a real game. New York is a dead team walking and Becks is out to prove himself after the Wahl book and Donovan and the non-captaincy and all that. The writing is on the wall. However, if NY were to pull this off, it would be an upset for the ages, and, let's face, a typical New York sporting moment. But while my anarchic heart says New York, I have seen that team play recently, and my head says to my heart, "Whoa Podnah. Wait until High Noon Saturday." Speaking of which....

DYNAMO at TORONTO. Orange 2-1. National TV. Chance at redemption after that amazingly bad call on the line last week. Bonus round of the Kei Kamara and his pals vs. Nick Garcia grudge match. I'm going Dynamo on this one. Let me hear ya say: "Dale."

The following three games I definitely will not be watching as the US MNT play at the exact same time. This madness must end. It's as simple as that.

RAPIDS at DC UNITED. 2-0 DCU. Sorry. Still not a big believer in the Crapids. DCU holds serve at home on this one. Did you see that Danny Szetela might sign with DC? Right now, I think they will win the east.

REAL SALT LAKE at CREW. 2-0 Columbus. I know the Crew have been oddly inconsistent this season, but RSL is a horrible road team and the Crew are good. This is an easy prediction to make.

EARTHQUAKES at FIRE. 2-1 Chicago. Trembles easily quelled by Chicago, though San Jose might just make this close. Don't ask me why. I know they suck. I've just got a feeling.

las chivitas at REVOLUTION. 2-1 Amerigoats New England is missing so many guys this season, I almost expect to see them holding open tryouts throughout the Metrowest area. What a snakebit team. Chivas, on the other hand, is finally coming down to Earth after their sizzling start. Still, LA's other team should have more than enough to secure this win. Read more!

Friday, July 10, 2009

A bad feeling about this, I have

Heading into tomorrow's Dynamo v. Sounders match in the Emerald Rain Forest, let's take a look at this team and you tell me what you notice (aside from the fact that's it's a nine-person side with six defenders)


What I am seeing is, if you were to plug another midfielder there and a relatively stout keeper, you'd have a side that could challenge just about any MLS team on any day. Unfortunately, they won't be doing that this weekend as you are looking at nine guys who (with the possible exception of His Imperial Baldness Waibelinho, who is listed as probable) will not be on any MLS field Saturday. The Orange will be as depleted a side as I have ever seen wearing the Houston kit (six defenders out!!) with a possible starting line-up that looks like this:


Subs: Tally Hall, Danny Cruz, Ade Akinbiyi, J-M Hayden, Ustruck/Waibel and some guy picked up wandering the streets

I am still seeing that it's a line-up with promise, but what I am also seeing is that the first team I listed up there would probably beat this second one (possibly even with just the nine of them!).

But. let's start with the positives. The midfield is clearly the strongest asset here. Ashe, Davis, Clark and Mullan are going to have to turn in the games of their lives, but mostly they'll have to be tracking back and supporting the inexperienced back line, especially as the game wears on and weariness starts to set in. It is anathema for any Orange squad to play back defensively, but as this game gets late and the score is knotted up (or, wonderfully, we have a lead), it's likely what they'll have to do. I'm thinking that Kinnear starts in his standard 4-4-2 and then gradually morphs it into more of a 5-4-1 (or maybe even an anti-football 6-4-0!), with Clark especially playing far back and clotting things up for Montero, Jaqua and Ljungberg.

If Seattle gets a 1-goal lead and maintains it for awhile, this whole strategy could go to pot in a hurry, though. Sigi's no fool, and we can all expect the Sounders to push forward early and often. If the guys can weather the early onslaught, or even better, exploit it, then you might see a game. But if Seattle scores early or possibly even makes it a two-goal lead, then it's likely the week ahead could be a long one.

For all of those reasons, my head tells me that it's likely Seattle will win Saturday. Make no mistake, I believe in Dynamo and think the guys will turn in a complete game, but I think it would be foolhardy to expect that that cobbled-together back line will hold against as solid an attack force as Seattle will bring. Expect the Sounders to attack in waves and Dynamo to get few clear chances. An orange-tinted result is doable here, but the lads may just need some inspiration from Sen. Blutarski and his pals:

So, on the picks:

Last week: 3-3
Season: 50-60 (.455, nine games over random chance)

DYNAMO at SOUNDERS 1-1 Tie. What, you think I'm going to pick a loss after that clip?

WIZARDS at REVOLUTION. 1-0 KC Wow, now add Wells Thompson to the list of Revolution players out with injuries, call-ups or suspensions. But even so, that KC team we saw last week is still barely able to play. And yet, we all know Josh Wolff was unlucky in the extreme. Watch him score and be a real hazard for NE all game as the Wizards get a rare road win.

CREW at FIRE. Chicago 2-1 Columbus was very lucky to get that one point at home vs. DC last week and Chicago is starting to play far better. GBS almost rescues the Crew, but in the end the Fire are just too much at home against a Col side lacking Chad Marshall and Robbie Rogers.

FC DISASTROUS at RAPIDS. Colorado 2-0 Frisco may win without Kenny Cooper once, but not twice and not on the road.

TORONTO FC at EARTHQUAKES. 2-1 Reds Dwayne De Rosario goes to town against the Trembles.

CHIVAS USA v GALAXY. 2-2 Draw Landon Donovan just will not let the improving Gals lose in the SuperClasico, but that still doesn't mean that crap side without Donovan Ricketts will win here against a rested and motivated las chivitas. Read more!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Red, White, Blue and Orange

First Goal-den Holden the other night and now Ching Kong tonight. The Red, White, Blue and Orange just keep rolling! Read more!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Collection of videos after the KC win

This was all filmed by Erin Dutka and comes courtesy of Bryan Zygo's post on Major League Soccer Talk. Now if anyone has video of Kei's MJ moves after his goal, please post as I accidentally deleted it from my DVR (DOH!).



Kei Kei the Wonderful Guy (about his MJ celebration)

Super Canuck
Read more!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Open Cup win redux and some love for Jonathan Yardley

Find more videos like this on

Thanks to the Dynamo for posting this video sequence from the win over the Austin Aztex earlier this week. I was stuck here in Houston for the game, but listened to Jonathan Yardley call it on KBME.

I have to say, that Yardley is excellent on the radio. If you've not had a chance to listen to the guy call a game, he's everything you want. Smooth, keeps the focus on the game, constantly updates the minute and score (in the old Red Barber with an egg timer style) and works the booth alone, so no constantly propping up a color guy. We could be seeing a major soccer broadcasting talent aborning here with the Houston Dynamo.

Saturday night, I may just turn the sound down on the TV and turn up the radio to listen to JY.

And I have to say, JY is right. Akinbiyi got robbed on that offsides call. That twice he's gotten robbed on offsides calls that should have been goals (The one in NY being the other). Read more!

To the Death! MLS predictions

With the recent spate of celebrity, ah, moving-ons, what better theme than that for this week's MLS predictions, now that I'm back from vacation and ready to be back in the flow.

With the quicky picks from the Hill Country last week, I'm at 40-57, a .412 mark, increasing my lead over blind chance to a season-best eight games. So I'm starting to feel my oats here, leading to a wild bout of celebrations, much like this guy here:

Well, hopefully, not like that.

On to the picks:

Alright, aliright, RSl has started to play better, I'll admit it. And even though those guys ticked me off earlier in the season but losing winnable games right and left, maybe they are starting to turn things around. But even if they did not, a home game against the RBNY of the Wild West? Well, let's just say it would take a selling job of the first order to convince me that RSL will not win this game. Kinda like this one:

UNITED at CREW. Columbus 2-0 Columbus at home, just one point back of DCU in the Eastern Conference race. The defending champs are rolling. Call-ups might play a big role in this one as Columbus is without Robbie Rogers and and Chad Marshall, while DC suits up minus Santino Quaranta and Dejan Jankovic. However, injuries might be worse as DCU will not have Jaime Moreno, and probably not Luciano Emilio, while Fred is just coming back from an injury. That tilts it over to Columbus and GBS, who will score one and assist on the other, as is his wont. His game is oh so pretty, though perhaps not as pretty as:

FIRE at RAPIDS. Chicago 2-0 The string of clean sheets continue here. The Fire return after a three week MLS layoff missing only Bakare Soumare and Logan Pause, while the Crapids are without both Colin Clark and Omar Cummings. Chicago has their share of problems, true, but I think Colorado is on a free fall to Nowheresville. Colorado just doesn't have a Carson to come bail them out on this one.

DYNAMO at WIZARDS. 2-1 Orange. I will not hide the fact that I am nervous about this game. Even though we've got Rico back, it's no small thing to be missing this list of guys: Ching, Holden, Hainault, Barrett and Waibel. I think that's going to leave Kinnear with a lineup of


Bench: Akinbiyi, Oduro, Cruz, Hayden, Hall, James

The good news is I think this is still more than enough to beat the Jimmy Conrad and Davy Arnaud-deprived Kansas City Wizards. With Espinoza and Christman also out, you begin to see how the Dynamo's depth beats any other team's in MLS. It's the kind of insurance you just can't leave home without these days, right Karl?

RBNY at FC DISASTROUS. 1-1 Tie Oh. My. God. You know, there are those of us who defend MLS all the time. I really do think it is, like Grant Wahl said on World Soccer Daily once, to the rest of the world's leagues like a mid-major conference in the NCAA. But then you get a game like this that comes along and it just makes the job that much harder. Not only that, but loko at this absence list:

INJURY REPORT: FC DALLAS - OUT: DF Steve Purdy (R knee); MF Alvaro Sanchez (R ankle); DF Daniel Torres (R hamstring); MF Marcelo Saragosa (R hip); PROBABLE: GK Dario Sala (L knee) ... NEW YORK RED BULLS - OUT: DF Kevin Goldthwaite (groin); DF Carlos Mendes (L hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: FW Juan Pablo Angel (R hamstring); FW Macoumba Kandji (R hamstring strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: DAL: Kenny Cooper (USA, CONCACAF Gold Cup) ... NY: Dane Richards (JAM, CONCACAF Gold Cup); Alfredo Pacheco (SLV, CONCACAF Gold Cup)

What's left are two groups that are not so much quality soccer teams, but they play ones on TV. Eventually, it's all just an impression, like this guy:

REVOLUTION at GALAXY. 2-0 LA. When was the last time the Galaxy were clearly the superior team? They might just be this time, when you look at the New England injury list (Castro, Shalrie, Ralston, Twellman, etc. etc.). Not only that, but Donnovan is back and LA will be playing new acquisition Eskandarian. The Galaxy will miss Donovan Ricketts, but then again, with New England's makeshift attack corps, whoever is between the pipes for LA might not have much to do. LA should make out like a Smooth Criminal on the night.

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