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.)

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