Friday, August 28, 2009

Nine weeks to go and counting

So it's happened once again, CONCACAF Champions League play distracted me from MLS and I missed a midweek game, RSL's 4-0 dismantling of Chivas USA. I think these are the soccer gods' balancing the ledger in a way. Last week, the game I missed I would have picked the other direction. This time, the game I missed I would indeed have picked correctly. So now the books are balanced and I'll endeavor not miss any more games over the next nine weeks.

Much has been written by me and others about the joke that was the refereeing in the Arabe Unido game this past Wednesday, and what it says about both CONCACAF Champions League and CONCACAF itself. One final comment before moving on: It's a teachable moment for all concerned. The lessons are there to be learned and perhaps something good will come out of the whole thing. The key point for Dynamo is that the team got a point on the road, still the only MLS team to do that in group play. So now we move on to Pachuca and the future.

OK, on to MLS. According to Sports Club Stats (and huge kudos to the always excellent Dan Loney for pointing me over thataways. He almost has me becoming a LAG fan, though not quite.): Here are the current probabilities of securing MLS playoff berths:

Crew - 99.7%
Dynamo - 99.3%
Fire - 97.8%
Galaxy - 91.8%
CD Chivas - 88.1%
Sounders - 70.5%
Rapids - 70.2%
Revolution - 69.5%
Real Salt Lake - 38.6%
D.C. United - 38.4%
Toronto FC - 32.6%
Wizards - 1.8%
FC Dallas - 1.5%
Earthquakes - 0.1%
Red Bulls - Out

Hard to argue with most of that, though here's hoping DeRo can get his Reds to climb that ladder and take out RSL. However, he'll have to get a result this weekend in Seattle to do it. More on that in a sec. And team most likely to turn an 88.1 percenter into complete hash? Translates to an English word that rhymes with throat (as in choke).

So it's with this situation in mind that we get on to the Week 24 predictions:

Last week: 3-5
Overall: 70-85 (.452 or 18 games over blind chance)

TORONTO FC at SOUNDERS 2-0 Seattle All I have to say is that Ljungberg pouts in the kind of performance he had here at Robertson last week, then Toronto has no chance. The only one there tough enough to neutralize him is Adrian Serioux, who is out through yellow accumulation (a common occurrence for the guy, no?). Honestly, other than just a flat performance from the home side, I don't see a bad road team like the Reds making it out of Qwest Field with any kind of favorable result. But De Rosario has made a habit of proving people wrong before.

EARTHQUAKES at REVOLUTION. 3-0 New England Another one that looks from the outside to be a real yawner. New England is doing something they haven't done in two years, playing with a real killer edge. Saan Jose, on the other hand, needed an injury time goal from Wondo (Nice one Chris!) to escape the Wizards at home last week. I hope it's an eastern conference final of Columbus and New England in November. That might just be one for the ages (and soften up the survivor to play Dynamo in the HDC a week later, maybe?)

DC UNITED at FIRE 1-1 Draw Last week I predicted that the Chicago/Colorado game would represent the unraveling of the Fire this season, and I was about 12 minutes away from being right! Then of course, the Crapids put out the "Vacancy" sign over the goal and the rest is history. (Bruce Banner scored a score for the Fire? Great, MLS gets Banner, while FC Porto has Hulk. Typical.)

REAL SALT LAKE at WIZARDS. 1-1 Draw Sometimes you just have to make a prediction about which you have no confidence at all. To be honest, I have no idea about this one. The Wizards are woeful, but then again, once they hit the road, so is RSL. So I'll give them each an ugly goal and walk away. Quickly.

las chivitas at GALAXY 2-0 LAG Goat meat man. I saw how many people were suddenly and predictably, saying that Preki's boys had turned it around by dominating the Little Sister of the Poor (aka RBNY and a road weary TFC) and bringing in Jesus Padilla. Then they get completely dismantled by RSL 4-0 the other night. Watch those highlights and you tell me what kind of team that truly is over there. The free fall for the Amerigoats continues as they're never really in this game. Afterwards, look for the same people to openly question whether Preki will last to the end of the season. (However, for Orange purposes, I'm hoping for a 0-0 draw here. Priorities.)

DYNAMO at CRAPIDS 2-1 Orange The Scorpion strikes! Landin will be a beast here, and I look for him to start alongside Ching after that brutal game in Panama on Wednesday for Kamara. Colorado may be putting that late loss to Chicago in the rear view mirror, but they have never played well against Dynamo either on the road or at home. And with Colin Clark out for the season and Conor Casey coming back from a thigh strain, how much does that team miss the playmaking ability and deadly crosses of Terry Cooke? A needed three for Dynamo here.

NYRB at CREW. 5-0 Columbus Scoring a late winner against Dallas is one thing (I still haven't stopped laughing about that game. Feeling down? Check out the highlights again. It's the gift that keeps on giving.), but coming into Columbus and getting a result. Post-JSO or no, this is not a team capable of that. Now c'mon Juan Pablo, prove me wrong. I'll buy and wear a Colombia jersey if you do. Read more!

A whole new level of propaganda

Champions League | Video | Highlights Video | Highlights Video

Click on that link above, my friends, to see how you whitewash the incredible disaster that was that CCL game the other night. In a game with 11 yellows and five dismissals, you'd look at this highlight reel and think: "Wow! Wotta game!"

I think there are dictatorships around the world who have propaganda departments aching for whomever put this video together for CONCACAF.

(Only thing is, just who is this "KEL KAMARA" guy?) Read more!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

CCL as dysfunctional as CONCACAF itself, but need it be so?

The CONCACAF Champions League, it's now obvious, is little more than the lab experiment that proves just how dysfunctional CONCACAF has become under the reign of Jack Warner.

In a wonderful discussion over at Match Fit USA, Jason Davis points out that the "CONCAJOKE Champions League" brings up this question:

Why should the US, and by extension MLS, want to remain in a confederation that allows environments that condone criminal behavior (at least I hope throwing bodily fluids at someone is a crime elsewhere in the region), officiating that is so poor it makes a mockery of the game, and a general disregard for order and properly conducted sporting events?

After Dynamo's experience (seems odd to call it a soccer game) in Panama last night, the frustration is palpable. The thing is, last night at Estadio Agustín Muquita Sanchez showed to all concerned that the CCL is indeed a joke, but right now it's the only thing we've got.

The question is, will it continue to be a lost cause? If it is to be saved, then (a) the impetus and dollars for salvation will have to come from the United States, and (b) Jack Warner's unquestioned hold on CONCACAF will have to end. And these two items will have to interplayed.

Regarding the first, it is clearly in MLS', and thus US Soccer's, interest to keep the tournament going, as well as earn a Club World Cup berth with the title. Without it, MLS will have no meaningful international competition, which will mean it's development path as a league will be retarded to say the least.

As for a rebellion in Warneristan, it will have to be accomplished through an alliance of the FMF and US Soccer. Only the banding together of the two biggest beasts in CONCACAF, presenting a united front, will wrest control away from Jack Warner, and the disproportionate voice he has given to the minnows of CONCACAF. When it comes to government, I am an unabashed democrat, power to the people and everything. But in business associations like this, Mexico and the United States are THE powers in the region and they need to exert that power jointly against the common foe. This is not to downplay the quality of Costa Rica, Honduras and the like. It is in their interest to join a Mexico/US-led rebellion.

Is there any indication at all that Mexico and the US will work together on this level? Well, to be honest, very little that I can see. However, the ground can very well be prepared for the erection of such an edifice, and it happens as MLS and the FMF teams relate in an atmosphere of mutual respect, similar to Nixon and Brezhnev for those of us who remember the Cold War. Pachuca and Dynamo, for example, have such a relationship, born in the fires of the old CONCACAF Champions Cup and SuperLiga. If US Soccer and the FMF can meet in the same sense (probably not until after World Cup qualifying, the Jack Warner's reign of terror can finally end.

With Mexico and US working together, we may just get a meaningful CCL, fair competition between the Mexican and US club teams, as well as other comparably skilled club teams from around the region, events in which clubs from other countries will want to come over here and play, liberation from CONMEBOL's American hemispheric hegemony. I mean, why should the Mexican and US teams have to go to South America's corruption-filled territory to play in the Copa Lib or Sudamericana? We should make them come here.

And this is only going to happen if the FMF and US Soccer realize their joint interest in making it happen. Otherwise, we get, and continue to enjoy, the CONCACAF we have today. Read more!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Air Mullan sez: Welcome to Houston

Found this piece of information over at the very excellent site Du Nord. If you haven't checked out Du Nord, what the heck are you waiting for?

When I was flying home from Mexico City last Saturday we stopped off in Houston, and had to go through customs there. As we approached the main terminal there was a huge "Welcome To Houston Texas" sign. It featured images of the city skyline and natural beauty. It also featured aspects of the area's culture. But what surprised me was the image of a pro sports athlete representing the city. Was it a member of the Houston Astros baseball team? No. Was it a member of the Houston Rockets basketball team? Nope. How about the Houston Texans football team? No again. It was none other than Brian Mullan of the Houston Dynamo soccer team decked out in the customary orange shirt. Very cool indeed.

Il Brucio. That's just how we roll!! Read more!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nine minus one, Week 23 (!) predictions

(Thanks to Nigel Brooks for that image.)

So what with the CONCACAF Champions League game last night, as well as El Escorpion's signing (which may just be even better than this Orange Scorpion), it completely missed my notice that there was indeed an MLS game last night. Not only that, it's one that has some import on Dynamo.

Chicago proved once again how eminently beatable they are at home, losing 2-0 to the Gals on goals from Mike Magee (Did you see his cutback before putting it on frame? Sick.) and Landon. LAG is now only five points back of Dynamo with a game in hand. They could be two points back as they also play Saturday, this time with that British guy we've all been hearing so much about back in midfield.

The LAG-Fire game was the first of an amazing nine MLS contests in Week 23. (Hey, I had no idea about all this weird stuff about the number 23. One ironclad rule about religious sociology, humans will believe anything.) So without further ado, let's get after it.

Last week: 3-3 (with one game, the Amerigoats' 2-0 pasting of NYRB, exactly right!)
Overall: 67-80 (.456, or 18 games above blind chance)

REVOLUTION at SOUNDERS. 2-1 Seattle The Revs are without Stevie Nicol on the bench again, while the Sounders are without Tyrone Marshall on the field. You tell me which is worse. As the game goes on and New England looks around, seeing another team with NFL ties but playing to a packed house, Seattle will get behind them and score. High hopes: If Fredy Montero gets a yellow, he sits this weekend. Same for migraine boy Ljungberg (assuming he plays at all). (And I do not in any way disparage migraine suffering. My wife gets those and they are not anything to dismiss out of hand.) But with Baldomero "Dynamo-killer" Toledo blowing the whistle, watch him award yellow to every Sounder except Montero.

GALAXY at DC UNITED. 1-0 DCU Hmmm. I meant to write "1-0 LAG" there and for some reason my hands revolted and typed DCU. OK then. I go with my hands. Still, LA has been great recently while DC has been rubbish. Did you see their loss against Toronto last week? Best not. But DC is always tough at home, and since they really played only half a game against Maraton, maybe they're rested. Whatever. Go DC, I guess.

WIZARDS at EARTHQUAKES. 2-0 San Jose Slowly, as the game goes on, it begins to down on Peter Vermes that Curt Onalfo was probably the least of KC's problems. To quote Donald O'Connor in Singin' in the Rain, "She can't sing, she can't dance and she can't act. She's the triple threat." They'll make San Jose look good, no mean feat.

TORONTO FC at CHIVAS USA. 2-1 las chivitas Jesus Padilla, that Americano, will perform well, but what really leads to this result is that the Reds are terrible on the road. Chivas finally broke their long, looong non-winning streak in Giants Stadium last week, but then again, isn't a game against NYRB that just what any doctor would order when presented with a streak like that? Anyway, where was I, OH YEAH! This game. Chivas struggles and maybe DeRo bombs another one over Zach Thornton (like this one), but the Amerigoats should win this one.

FC FRISCO at NYRB. 2-0 Dallas Did you see that game that NYRB played against Chivas last week? This team really is as bad as all that. So candystripers, this one's for you.

RAPIDS at FIRE 1-1 Draw So is this the weekend that Chicago's 2009 dream goes down the tubes? First Soumare and Hamlett dust it up in the locker room, then the Galaxy embarrass them, and then finally Colorado comes in and grabs a draw (and possibly a win, which is what I wanted to pick at first before I changed it). Very possibly. To be fair, the fire is still only four points back of the idle Crew (Idle? In a weekend with nine games!!?!?!??) this weekend, and with a win here will be putting serious pressure on the East leaders. But I think you'll see the difference in the East between the Crew and everyone else here.

REAL SALT LAKE at REVOLUTION 1-0 New England Just like I said about the Sounders last week, I will not pick RSL to win a road match until they do it. (And look how that worked out. Hmmm.) And I am sticking with that, even against a hobbled and overworked Revolution team.

SOUNDERS at DYNAMO. 3-1 Houston No matter how they did last week, I don't think the Sounders, playing their second game in three days, are going to be able to walk into Robertson and pull off a win here. Landin may or may not have much time to train with his new teammates, but if he does play, pairing with the Flyin' Hawaiian up front and Holden directing the service (Did you see that ball last night that led to the goal? I've watched it today five times just to see it again. Wow.), I think Dynamo will overwhelm Seattle at home. Added to that is that Dynamo really is none too happy with Seattle after those two short-handed losses against them a few weeks ago. Orange trumps green here. Read more!

Viva el Escorpion!

My one-word response to the Luis Angel Landin signing: Si.

Akinbiyi was the player released to make room for Landin. I said all along that Akinbiyi would be crucial to Dynamo this year. What I meant, I guess, was his roster spot!!

Read more!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

MLS quick picks for Week 22


Rules this week: No thinking. Just go, go, go.

Last week: 3-3
year to date: 64-77 (.454 or 17 games above blind chance)

DC UNITED at TORONTO FC. 1-1 draw DeRo scores early, but DC United comes back because, let's face it, Stefan Frei's rookie aura is wearing off.

CHIVAS USA at RED BULL NEW YORK. 2-0 las chivitas Finally, Chivas find a team it can beat. But you know, I'm not 100 percent certain that Chivas isn't playing worse than NY currently. Still, I'm no dummy, and the rules this week are simple, first reaction is the one I go with.

FC FRISCO at CREW. 2-1 Columbus Frisco scores late goal, but never seriously threaten.

DYNAMO at REAL SALT LAKE 2-1 Orange Hmmm, can Jason Kreis survive the season? I don't think he's going to get fired. I think that one more bad call from an MLS ref and he's going to have a coronary right on the spot! Goal-den Holden makes the same cross he made in Azteca, only this time the taller Kei Kamara connects in a way that Charlies Davies could not.

SOUNDERS at GALAXY. 2-0 LA Seattle has to actually win a road game before I pick them to do so.

FIRE at WIZARDS. 2-1 Fire Peter Vermes era starts off well in the first half, but Fire introduce dose of reality in the second. Read more!

A hearty congratulations to El Tri

Definitely not the result I wanted (as detailed by my previous posts on this site!), but a well-deserved result for Mexico at Azteca yesterday.

Very enjoyable game by two well-matched sides. Among the few things I noticed while watching on mun2:

() Phil Schoen again showed me that he is the best soccer play-by-play guy in the US. If you don't have GolTV, get it now. I know it's a physical impossibility, but if it were up to me, Schoen would broadcast every single soccer game I can ever watch. He's that good. Marcelo Balboa, on the other hand, who I generally am OK with, did not have a good game. Listening to him, I was starting to get altitude sickness. Enough already.

() Very pleasantly surprised to see Stuart Holden hit the field. Even more exited to see him play well. His cross to Davies was a thing of beauty. If Charlie's noggin connects, we're talking about a different game, that's for sure.

() I thought Aguirre's move to sub out Blanco very early in the second half was a stroke of genius. After going the full 90 here on Sunday and then coming back and playing very well in the first half (assisting on the goal), it's clear he was going to be a liability as the game went on. Nice move there.

() I thought Brian Ching had a substandard game, but then again, it's not like he got much in the way of delivery.

() We all know Mexico was going to dominate possession, but the US' constant clearances to nobody was very irritating. The handful of times the US put together 3-4 passes in succession, they looked dangerous. The whole rest of the time, it was frustrating in its ineffectualness. Boys, see those other guys in the white shirts? Yes, pass to them. (Here's your chum.)

() Someone else posted this (somewhere), and it's a minor point, but I kind of wish Bob Bradley would wear a suit on the sidelines. He looks like a college coach out there. Maybe that's just me.

() Best news about the whole thing, with Honduras' 4-0 thrashing of leader Costa Rica, The US is still in second place in the Hexagonal. Standings here. Brian Zygo mentioned that he would like to see Mexico play the CONMEBOL fifth-place team in a qualifier. And while that might be throwing cold water on El Tri fans after yesterday, I have only one thing to say: Better them that us. Read more!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Don't tread, a manifesto

Thanks to Brian Zygo for reminding me about this one. Go, go, go Yoo-ess-effin-ayyyyyyyyy! Read more!

US/Mexico prediction, ESPN and me

Prediction time for US/Mex Wednesday.

(And if you're having trouble seeing this video above, visit this link:

And for more on Howard Power, click here: Or watch it below.

I was on record on Glenn's program last night as saying that it's hard to look at the various factors and predict anything other than a Mexican victory tomorrow. However, as anyone who regularly reads my predictions know, for better or (mostly) worst, I rarely listen to the voices out there other than the ones in my head (and what they are saaying now!! Woo-hoo. What are YOU lookin' at?!?).

Anyway, for no reason that I can detail, I will now go on record with my pick: United States 2-1.

Feel free to pick me apart.

Read more!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Wake up poster-makers. It's time to put something together

If you like this, then check out soccer blog extraordinaire duNord for a primer on how to make them yourself. Read more!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Future Shockers: Silverland exodus; Thierry Henry to Houston?; Weekend

So branching out from the usual look at just this weekend's festivities, let's move into some present weirdnesses and see what the crystal bowl is showing us now about events around the bend (or off the deep end, as the case may be).

1. The indefinite delay of the Argentine Primera Division's 2009 Clausura season (read that story here), which is absolutely shocking to me. Does this mean that there will suddenly be an outflow of Argentine players to leagues around the world? Will the January transfer window be Argentina Month? I just am having a hard time wrapping my head around this one. Here's what The Offside-Argentina has to say about it:

Julio Grondona has put his considerably heavy foot down and delayed the start of the season until clubs pay all the money that they owe to their players. In the Primera seven clubs owe around $30 million to various players. Those clubs - Independiente, Racing, River, Newells, San Lorenzo, Central and Huracan. Another $10 million is owed by 15-ish clubs in the B.

The total amount owed could be higher, because only the amounts reported to organization responsible for protecting the players rights is being counted. Most of the clubs mentioned are springing into action (and by that I mean hocking their grandmothers) to erase the debt and maintain the current start of the season.

So my prediction: A few teams in the bottom of the table go bankrupt and a coalition of Boca, River Plate, Estudiantes and one or two others combine to solve the problem. That or the whole league goes under and there will never be another club match in Argentina. (But I'd got with "A".)

2. Barca's tour through the US and Henry coming to Houston. I have said for a long time that if I can start a rumor that Thierry Henry is coming to Dynamo, I will have accomplished my goal as a blogger. There are plenty of reasons why he should: A top quality organization, easily the class of MLS. A multicultural city with a sizable French population. Close proximity to his good friend Tony Parker. He was already wearing orange last night in Seattle (Though a shade you can see from the Space Station. Wow.)

So help me out here and spread the word: Thierry Henry is coming to Houston. Thierry Henry is coming to Houston. Thierry Henry to Houston.

3. You know, for a team that has never won a CONCACAF Champions League game, and just had the dubious honor of advancing in CCL without winning, this site here is pretty hubristic, which just makes me all aglow over having watched Dynamo punk them last week. So the question is: Will an MLS team other than Dynamo win a CCL game this time around? My guess is yes, but it'll be Columbus vs. PR Islanders. The schedule, etc. can be found here.

4. The madness continues. Last week was proof positive that if you use my predictions of the future as the basis of any actual cash wager, then there is little hope for you. Not only did I miss Frisco's 6-0 beheading of Curt Onalfo, but neither did I predict that the EQuakes would put a four spot on Kasey Keller. Now to be fair to myself, neither did anyone else make those prediction (or at least not that I saw), but I still have plenty of work to make up after two consecutive losing weeks. So, without further ado:

Last week: 2-4
Overall: 61-74 (.452 or 16 games over blind chance)

DYNAMO at FC FRISCO 6-0 Orange I don't actually believe that scoreline, but the point is that if you had to pick any team that could follow a 6-0 pasting with an 0-6 loss, both at home, the candystripers would have to be one of the teams you'd pick, right? To be certain, FC Frisco is not NYRB here, not by a longshot. However, they are not worldbeaters by any stretch. And Dynamo, with the recovered Kei Kamara available off the bench and perhaps Dom Oduro (who I have pilloried on occasion) motivated to bust up his former team, are clearly the superior side. It's hard to beat a team three times in one year (after all, these guys are professionals), but look to see it happen at Robertson North tonight.

GALAXY at REVOLUTION. 2-1 NE You know, I can see the exact opposite scoreline taking place as well. But I'm going with my feeling here. LA played well against Barca, no doubt about it, and New England is on a great run of form, easily their best of the season. New England is at home, and I think that will carry the day, even without the suspended Steve Nicol. (But perhaps even more fun than the game is reading about what a piker David Beckham is because LA lost the game.)

WIZARDS at DC UNITED. 2-0 DCU And BAM, Peter Vermes is fired before the plane touches down back in Missouri. Not really, but I find it hard to believe that DC, as tired as they might be, can't handle this squad, playing with Claudio Lopez.

SOUNDERS at REAL SALT LAKE. 1-1 Draw Seattle is clearly not as bad as they showed against San Jose last week. The only thing is, with RSL you never know what you're going to get. The suspended Jason Kreis will not be there, and who knows what effect that will have? The main factors of Seattle trying to come back from a bad result and RSL at home just points to a draw.

las chivitas
at RAPIDS. 2-1 Colorado
And down goes Bizarro Chivas, who haven't played since getting blown out 2-0 at New England July 19. Dynamo ruined Chivas when Stuie's goal beat those guys here at Robertson Stadium June 10, and the goatlings have gone only 0-7-1 since. Rest or no, they're toast. As for Colorado, they're not that good, but at home at altitude they're more than enough for Chivas.

CREW at EARTHQUAKES 2-1 Columbus This game at Candlestick Park (That place is still there?) is going to be a comedown of sorts for San Jose. After a comeback draw against DCU and a blowout win over Seattle, San Jose is riding high, and they should be deservedly confident. However, Columbus isn't backing down from anyone these days in any circumstances, and it's going to take a top-quality team to beat them. That does not describe San Jose.

RED BULLS at TORONTO FC. 1-1 Draw Toronto got schooled by Puerto Rico Islanders over the week, while RBNY was excruciatingly teased and then dispatched by W Connection in CONCACAF Champions League play this past week. I know those aren't MLS games, but they're indicative of two sides that just are not that good. Toronto is definitely above average and I hope they make the playoffs and get their revenge on Columbus in the first round, though at this point I would be surprised if they did. Still, RBNY, as completely woeful as they are, can not lose every game (can they?). So while 99 percent of people will probably pick the Reds to win, I think it'll be tight, tight enough to end in a drraw.

FIRE at DYNAMO. 2-1 Orange This will easily be the best game of the weekend. The Fire will be coming in tough and rested and eager for revenge after Dynamo stole that win in Toyota Park. But with a larger than usual crowd in Robertson, and Stewie bobbleheads all around, Dynamo will edge out with the win. Read more!