Friday, September 25, 2009

Tipping over: Yallop, the U-20's and the weekend pickfest

This week has me thinking about tipping points. No, not Malcolm Gladwell's book, but rather coaches, teams and the playoff races.

You know, before watching the highlights from the Denver leg of the San Jose/Colorado home and home Wednesday night, I wondered what could possibly go worse for the EQuakes this year.

Now I know. Losing a lead on a stoppage time penalty is gutting enough one time, but for it to happen to you two weeks in a row (and the second time more than deservedly), you just have to wonder if San Jose shouldn't just put us all out of their misery and walk into a shooting range with targets on their uniforms and get it all over with.

This is a team that looks about as organized as an anarchy convention. It makes me think about just how far Frank Yallop has fallen. From winning two titles in San Jose and being hailed as the savior of the Canadian National Team to presiding over the destruction of the 2005 champ LA Galaxy, the GM-ship of Alexi Lalas, the opening rounds of Cirque d'Goldenballs, a bright ray of sunshine of an escape back to the Bay Area, dismal results at Quakes 3.0, another brief ray of sunshine from Huckerby, and now 2009, the worst year yet.

Don't get me wrong. I think Yallop has proven himself as one of the top coaches in the American game, but there seems to be some kind of spectacular rain cloud that follows him around these days. Hopefully he'll be able to escape it before it consumes his career.

One thought, if John Spencer gets a well-deserved manager gig next year, perhaps Yallop comes here to rejoin best bud Dom Kinnear, but with roles reversed from when Frankie hired Dom and lured him into coaching in SJ. Just a thought.

Moving right along to the weekend, my No. 1 footy interest this weekend is in Egypt, following Danny Cruz and the U-20 US team at the U-20 World Cup. The mini-Nats will play Germany on ESPN2 and Galavision at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. Then they face Cameroon on Tuesday at 11:45 am, also on ESPN2 & Galavision, and South Korea at the same time Friday, Oct. 2. You can read more about the tourney here and here.

I don't know enough about the U-20 scene to handicap this tournament, but I do know the US has generally done well there and the team looks good. So, Go USA!!

Back Stateside, after having an absolutely dismal two weeks, my prediction record improved somewhat. The bleeding has stopped, thanks in large measure to Brad Davis, Josh Wolff and David Beckham. Now with the local side taking the weekend off, I can take a better look around the league with these games. I missed the Wednesday night game, which is probably for the better (for my sanity's sake at least), but the weekend looks to be an intriguing list of fixtures, with one in particular.

Last week: 3-4
Overall mark: 77-104 (.425 or 17 games above blind chance)

GALAXY at CREW. 2-2 Draw According to this and this, Becks will miss this game with a possibly suspicious injury. But I really don't think that's going to matter as nothing gets Landon Donovan stoked more than beating down a good team. Of course, the last four points the Crew got should have been only a single one if not for the fact that the Crew go to ground when you breathe too hard in their general direction, then perhaps a LAG win is the most likely result. (Really, Crewtures should be hanging their heads in shame when Lenhart goes in with a flying kick and then has a penalty called against the guy he slammed into last week? That play is the poster child of MLS refs’ inadequacies. The main reason I'm picking this as a draw (Other than the fact that that is the result that most helps Dynamo. I won't lie.) though is that I am a big believer in Schelotto. Dodgy PK calls notwithstanding, the Crew are good. But so is LAG. This just points to a draw for me.

SOUNDERS at REVOLUTION. 2-1 New England The bad times continue for Seattle. The team is having trouble scoring at home (four consecutive Zero Hero performances), but on the road, Seattle has serious problems. The Revs, on the other hand, are making a move in the East, and even though Shalrie Joseph is nursing a sore hip, I fully expect New England to hold serve in Foxboro.

RAPIDS at WIZARDS. 2-1 Kansas City This would be somewhat of an upset, but playing two games in four days for Colorado is going to be tough, and Peter Vermes really does have KC playing better. Cobra Kei is looking to score his first for the Wiz, and I think he gets it at Preston Burpo expense. Also, the Rapids just seem to have a thing about playing in KC. According to the MLS preview, the Rapids haven't won there since the final meeting in 2002, a span of eight games. The Wizards are 6-0-2 in those games, and also won a playoff game in that stretch. So who am I to buck history?

REAL SALT LAKE at FC DALLAS. 2-1 Frisco The previous post linked to Steve Davis' wonderful piece about all that's wrong in Frisco. (Read Davis' blog post here if you missed it.) However, RSL's defense is highly suspect to say the least, and with Jamison Olave serving his suspension for his takedown of Brad Davis last week, I just think that the candystripers have an edge here, even with four players at the U20 World Cup in Egypt.

TORONTO FC at FIRE. 3-1 Chicago Well, this should just about do it for the Reds' playoff hopes. The Fire are still steaming, and rightfully so, about the way their win against the Crew was stolen away from them with that awful penalty call last week. Even though Chicago generally doesn't play well at home, they still play better than Toronto does on the road. If these predictions hold true, then Chicago will be only one point behind the Crew and still very much in the Supporter's Shield and Eastern Conference race. Don't forget the Fire when thinking ahead to the playoffs. The team is dangerous.

RED BULL NEW YORK at Chivas USA. 1-0 las chivitas The Amerigoats barely escaped with the draw in Seattle last week, while RBNY is still pretty awful, though they have been playing better. This game could go either way, but I really don't think it'll be a draw with New York's suspect defense. And with Wolyniec out, I don't see JPA getting any space at all to score. So, over to you Chivas.

EARTHQUAKES at DC UNITED. 2-1 DCU I think San Jose might just lose out the rest of the season. I wish Dynamo played them again this year. As for DC, you would think that a weak opponent like this would be just what the doctor ordered, but nothing ever comes easy for that team. Watch them baaaarely escape with this win.

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