The Odyssey of Claudio Reyna

Little known fact: someone out there made a documentary starring Claudio (captain america movie) Reyna. There's a website out there dedicated to promoting this film, mainly by demonstrating an audience exists for this kind of movie.

Looks like there's a promo on YouTube (where else?) as well.

So spread the word out there. If you need encouragement, think of Claudio's feed to Brian McBride on our first goal against Mexico in 2002. He's made you feel good, hasn't he?

Cup v. Copa...again...(new angles, though)

Given that the consequential parts of the debate over what kind of team the U.S. Men's National Team (USMNT) sends to the Gold Cup versus the Copa America have been by and large settled, I almost didn't bother with the latest contributions. I'm somewhat glad I did, though, because one of them challenges a foggy assumption about what we'll get out of the Copa, while the other suggests a way to make both the Cup and the Copa work better with the ever-sprawling soccer calendar.

The first comes from Andrea Canales, whose column discards the "Copa first" argument in a tone that approaches mocking - and that's a good thing, given the angle she's examining. That angle deals with respect and how it's earned and so on. The worst I can say about her column is that Canales ignores some practical benefits of the Copa: giving the expected U.S. first-string players experience against stronger opposition; this "what a waste" argument is the one I see most often. But her larger point, even if it's directed against a strawman - put another way, I rarely see the "prestige" argument she keeps attributing to "some quarters" - is that a solid performance in the 2007 Copa America won't do anything meaningful for the esteem in which U.S. soccer is held around the world. Reputation grows from sustained performance and nothing else, a point well supported by her thumbnail history of the past decade.

And, curiously, I'd argue we've reached a place in which we are, in fact, respected; I wouldn't go much beyond that, though.

The other item, this one written by Ken Pendleton for deals in tournament infrastructure and, for what it's worth, I'd say he's on to something. His piece argues for scheduling both the Copa America and the Gold once every four years. As it now stands, both tournaments are biennial (with some deviations with regards to the Copa). There's more to Pendleton's post than simply playing both tournament's every four years - he'd expand qualifying and, like me, look into merging the two tournaments - but the fundamental piece comes with lowering the frequency.

One last thing regarding my general snark about strawmen serving as the only "quarters" thinking that prestige will magically accrue to U.S. Soccer through a decent run in the Copa; this passage comes from Pendleton's essay:

"For example, Brazil crashed out of the 2001 tournament to Honduras in the quarterfinals largely because they only fielded a few players who started for them during the World Cup the following year. Host Colombia went on to win the tournament, but how much prestige did they gain by winning a watered down competition?

It may not be direct, but it's out there.

CONC. Champs Cup: "Real" Previews

There comes a time in the life of an pundit, whether amateur or professional, when he has to admit that he didn't cover all the angles he could before sitting down to write something. For me, that time came today. I can't be sure of the hour, but a sense of inadequacy has seared the event - my reading Jeff Carlisle's preview over on ESPN - into my memory.

The best I can say about the preview I turned in to Write On Sports is that it's respectably accurate in a big picture sense. That I missed so many details - see, Brian Ching's nagging injury (but I read his blog post! he said he was working out...on the beach!! Oh, the lies, Brian! Why!?!), back-up Stuart Holden's absence, the fact that I couldn't name a Puntarenas player besides forward Kurt Bernard - points to a degree of vagueness that gives me no choice but to write the following: read Carlisle's preview and call it a day.

With regard to my original, I'm doing penance by adding details as they come to me.

Well, that's enough self-flagellation for today (ah...hurts so good). There are other previews out there: one a "Fanblog" post on the Houston Chronicle's site devoted to Houston's chances, the other an in-house preview.



Not since the Great Zidane Rumor of February 2007 have we seen an explosion of copy about a player's potential/impending arrival to Major League Soccer. But it's easy to find reports today asking whether Liverpool's Robbie Fowler will "join" fellow Englander David Beckham here in the U.S. of A.

Even with Fowler's agent denying talks are taking place, comments from New England Revolution head coach Steve Nicol seems to be doing enough to keep this one alive. Whatever is happening behind closed doors, fans are ready, eager even, for this trade to happen.

Here's to hoping March will be the Month of Fowler; the vigil starts now. I'll be keeping an ear to the ground till this one either walks living into the light or is confirmed dead.


Champs' Cup: Preview and Predictions

Write On Sports posted my preview for the second leg of the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup this morning, which makes me timely, for once. I'll admit upfront that I phoned in the games that don't feature MLS clubs, but I'm confident there's nothing too outlandish in there (and maybe that's a problem). The copy should read better for the games involving the MLS clubs, though I spent more time on Houston's second leg with Puntarenas and for the obvious reason.

At any rate, maybe it's the prospect of actual games that's possessed me with the urge to predict the future; whatever it is, I can't help myself. I only wish online gambling on this kind of thing wasn't such a hassle.

So, here's what I'm seeing happening (and I must have it bad seeing as I'm going to throw out scores as well):

Deportivo Marquense 0 - 1 Pachuca CF
CD Guadalajara 3 - 0 W Connection FC

Now....drumroll, please...

DC United 1 - 1 CD Olimpia
Don't ask me to justify this score in light of what happened in the first leg, the coaching changes for Olimpia, and climatalogical issues; there's something that tells me that the Hondurans will pull out something better in hopes of impressing any new or prospective coach.

Houston Dynamo 1 - 1 Puntarenas FC
This call speaks to the distance between what I want and what I expect will happen. While I do think Houston will play better - I'll go so far as to think they'll control tomorrow night's game (apart for some snippets tonight, this will be the only one I'll see in full) - the Costa Ricans don't need to play to win. As much as their stadium set-up - narrow field, crappy surface - no doubt helped Puntarenas defensively in the first leg, they still looked plenty composed. Moreover, they'll benefit from the better surface and conditions right along with Houston; there's also the ongoing fitness issue to consider. So, as much as I'm pulling for the second blowout in as many weeks for an MLS club, I'm calling this one against. I have no excuse.

Welcome Back WUSA!

I'm so far past losing the stick up my ass about the disparaging comments some unnamed U.S. Women's National Team player made about Major League Soccer some years back that I probably can't find an example of it in the archives of my several blogs. As such, I have only warm thoughts to emit in the direction of the ongoing and improving project to re-establish the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA).

Hmm. As it turns out, it's somewhat necessary to go back down that dark road, because what that unnamed player said about "not wanting MLS to piggy-back on our success" (weird to read, but it came in the context of the 1999 Women's World Cup) matters today, though in the opposite sense she intended it - at least for now. In ESPN's write-up on this news, Jeff Carlisle spoke to the people working on bringing a soccer franchise to St. Louis. While Carlisle reports that a deal for a temporary facility for a women's team is "close to being finalized" you'd have to think it going to taxpayers and investors with two teams professional teams on the table - which translates to 26 guaranteed revenue-earning events under MLS's current set-up and the assumptions about WUSA's schedule - would improve the chances of approval from either. Then again, maybe that's more an argument from logic that won't hold up to real-world scrutiny.

In any case, bundling teams from both leagues seems like the surest way to go. Being a liberated kind of guy, I don't care which league/gender rides on the other going forward; I'm happy so long as both leagues exist and do well enough to stick around.


China? China?? (Psst...think location...)

A trip to familiar sites showed me that I'm not alone in wondering why the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) selected China for the opposition in an early June friendly. In his post on the subject, Brian of An American's View pointed to some of the practical concerns - notably, China prepares us for the Gold Cup and Copa

I'm not about to dispute that point here - not least because I agree with it - but do want to identify a potential silver lining, or even to paint it on if that proves necessary: the location, as in San Jose.

I'm just saying, when the people who organize club and/or country friendlies try places like Seattle, or more recently, Phoenix, Arizona, they're often trying to make a point - namely, see all these people showing up? Just think that you could have this 16 times a year* with an MLS club (* glossing over, for the moment, the reality that good U.S. national team games will always outdraw Major League Soccer's weekly attendance).

For the sake of the San Jose market, less-than-glamorous opposition aside, I hope this one's a blow-out, one big enough to separate useful people from their money and into league coffers.


It's Designated-Player, not "Players"

In high school, one might sometimes think young girls call one another to coordinate outfits. In a related vein, one has to wonder whether pundits email one another to coordinate colums.

Today, two of soccer punditry's heavy-weights weighed in on the fizzling, petering disappointment once celebrated as The Beckham Rule - e.g. the newly-minted designated player rule - and they reach similar conclusions through different paths. Paul Gardner, writing for the New York Sun observes that the Beckham Rule may have done all it can - e.g. bring in Beckham, a move that rather abruptly shined a spotlight on a league that probably doesn't know the word "spotlight." Ives Galarcep, in an item posted on, mainly laments the designated-player rule's current inability to bring in trick-footed foreign players to Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs' youth development programs time to catch up.

The columns come together in the world of lamentation: i.e. is this all there is?

The more I think about it, the more I think it's both right and wise to say, yes - on one level at least. The more time passes, the more it seems that getting Beckham was a fluke, one built on his rather unique media profile and what that means to MLS. I can honestly think of no other player in the world who enjoys the level of celebrity as Beckham - e.g. the kind of celebrity that goes beyond soccer and into U.S. pop culture (e.g. "Wasn't he in that movie that starred that Indian girl from E.R.?). There are better players out there - plenty of 'em by my count - but those are players whose signing would be significant only to existing fans. Even if it were possible to sign as many world-class players as there are individual owner-operators in MLS, how much marketing upside would we get for all the money this would certainly take? Not enough by my count.

Assuming Beckham is a one-off, where do we go from here? Here again, I think both pundits would agree - and, for what it's worth, I'd nod along with them: since we can't realistically compete with Europe, let's just find any players we can to raise the level on the field. Their names might not mean anything, even to long-time, deeply-geeky fans of MLS - and the list both Galarcep and Gardner produced contains great examples and not a little crossover: Mauricio Cienfuegos, Christian Gomez, Carlos Ruiz, etc. etc. The trick, I suppose, is finding these kinds of players all over again and, when you find them, taking some risks on them, breaking the bank where you have to.

We're at a point where the names don't matter. Beckham's did, but that's done; It's all about what these players can do on the field. That said, when Beckham finally retires from the game, I'm all for finding the closest thing to him and showering him in money...

On a personal note, it's my understanding that the league has placed restrictions on how the New England Revolution can spend money from the trade that sent Clint Dempsey to England's Fulham. If the team can only spend $500,000 of $2.6 million on a player, I say they dump a big-assed chunk of that to flying scouts to Argentina, Brazil, England...I don't care where...till they can find a good way to spend that $500K.


(W)Revs Wrap, 02.27.07: The New Guys

Posted, as always, on The Offside. Today's topic: trying to divine how the New England Revolution's new-boys are doing based on a sentence of three.

The sub-text: how much will we know about these players by the end of the year and is that a good thing?

My comrade-on-blog, Sabin, posted an item on the restrictions that Major League Soccer's honchos are placing on the Revs as they seek to spend cash out of the "Dempsey Fund." I'm comfortable saying this is kinda BS, but, it terms of simply replacing Dempsey, surely they can find someone using the designated-player rule...

....speaking of which (dang it...see above).


(W)Revs Wrap, 02.22.07: New Revs' Blog

Today's check-up on the New England Revolution discovered nothing less than the existence of another Revolution Blog!! Here I thought I was alone! I celebrated the arrival by stuffing a link into my sidebar. Next comes exploring the possibilities for mating and multiplying; the Revs fan species must survive! It must!

And there's some crap in there about where Taylor Twellman likes to eat and Jay Heaps having a kid, etc. (No offense intended to Twellman's palate or Heaps' new bundle, but I find these no more interesting than, I assume, a random stranger would find my taste in food or the arrival of my kid.)


TEAM TALK: Bornstein; Wizards Revival?

The most obvious "big news" to break over the weekend (or just before; can't keep track) came with the injury to Chivas USA's Jonathan Bornstein. For my money, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better consideration of the implications - for the player, his club, and country - than you'll find in the analysis by MLS Underground. I couldn't put it better and, therefore, won't try to. Though, at least with regard to country, we'll see something new in the next U.S. friendly.

Over on the (if-I'm-understanding-this-correctly) new-relocated Bill Urban looks in on the Kansas City Wizards preseason situation/mentality. It's possible I'm alone in thinking this, but the Wizards failure to miss last year's playoffs falls in the top five of "big stories" for 2006. When I look at this team's roster - even the current one - I just can't see how they're not a playoff team. Urban's central point is that, the same digs aside, between the new ownership and the new coaching staff, things feel different in Kansas City. The question of whether it will be enough comes in his conclusion:

"Anyone who witnessed the collective spring in the Wizards players' steps during both training and a couple of scrimmages down here, one might easily argue that the Wizards will finish ahead of Columbus and Toronto in the seven-team Eastern Conference this season. Whether they can finish ahead of New York, D.C., New England or Chicago to qualify for the playoffs will depend on avoiding injuries, crucial bits of luck, and how much production Onalfo can coax from Eddie Johnson."

Anyone else think Urban correctly divided the haves from the have-nots in the Eastern Conference?


GAMES: CONCACAF Return Legs; A Couple Warm-Ups

As we wait for the second legs of the CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinals, some stories are coming in to help us figure what to expect. Naturally, the bigger news surrounds the Houston Dynamo, who have the harder challenge after dropping the first leg 1-0 to Puntarenas FC. As for DC United versus CD Olimpia, Steve Goff may not have intended the comment in this vein, but the weather differential between DC and Honduras may actually be the most intriguing thing to discuss while we wait on this one.

With regard to Houston, though, bad headlines aside - e.g. "Kinnear Eager to Host Return"; of course he is... - even the articles beneath them contain clues of what to expect. For instance, both the dubiously headlined article linked to above and Glenn Davis' "Soccer Notebook" contain hints to what will look different:

"'That field in Costa Rica took a lot away from our game, it took away our wide play,' Kinnear said."

And that's when the Costa Ricans get to scribbling in their notepads. To his credit, Davis also takes frustrated fans to task for failing to understand that crappy fields and dodgy refereeing are part of soccer in Central America. Here, we have low attendance, widespread disinterest, etc., but the fields, have you seen those fields?

In all seriousness, looking forward to Thursday more than I did to junior prom...and senior prom for that matter.

In other news, the Los Angeles Galaxy got something positive out of their trip to Bermuda (after losing the mighty, mighty New England Revolution) when they beat the "Bermuda Select" team by a score of 4-0. Moving to the other tenant of the Home Depot Center, Chivas USA put out the Fuego by an even bigger scoreline (and I'm so, so pleased to have the opportunity to insert cheese into a post). And, no, this means nothing for the regular season, but they're at least winning like they should against weaker opposition.


TRADES: Fowler, Where He Goes, I Go; Delgado Fizzle

I'll begin with a confession: I love Robbie Fowler. It's not just the goals, or that he plays for Liverpool, my adopted (and often-ignored) English club; it's the....the...everything. The goals help, to be sure, but it's more about how efficiently and incisively he plays elsewhere on the field - e.g. the capacity to deliver a killer ball, as he did in this weekend's pounding of Sheffield United; a decade of following Fowler has compiled a reel of dozens of sharp plays besides stored in what's left of my memory. It's also that classic mug that fronts his head; a hundred monkey-sculptors working for a hundred years would never craft a face like that - it simply wouldn't occur to them.

Fun as it was to see Fowler have a great day with Liverpool this past weekend, it's the Fowler-to-MLS rumors that really have me thinking about him. Better still, now and again, he gets linked to the New England Revolution; I mean, what's not to like? Another striker shouting for service...some times getting it, sometimes not...just think of the possibilities...

Of course, the trade may never happen; by the time you reach page four of that BigSoccer thread, you'll see links to articles strongly suggestive that Fowler would like nothing better than to stay at Liverpool. But if Fowler does makes it to MLS, I'll probably develop a deep affection for whatever team he joins - excepting possibly the Los Angeles Galaxy; can't stand them for some reason. I'm just saying, I'm one signing away from this space suddenly becoming, say, a Columbus Crew blog.

In other trade news, I didn't give the Nick Rimando getting reacquired and actually signing with Real Salt Lake story enough prominence last Friday and am doing it now. The fallout from this is actually pretty interesting, what with Jon Conway staying put with Red Bull New York (RBNY), etc. One does have to wonder, though, how excited Rimando is about his new home. Maybe an inside track on a starting spot will help with that.

Finally, if you want to read about the unravelling/unravelled deal to bring Agustin Delgado to RBNY, you could do worse than to read Ives Galarcep's write-up for a Jersey paper; frankly, I'm shocked he got a year ban for what sounds like, at third or fourth hand, simple fighting. If anyone out there knows it was bigger than this, feel free to pass on word. And tucked in the bottom of a Steve Goff blog post is mention of the Kansas City Wizards being interested in some Argentine player named Luciano de Bruno.


FLUFF: The Rumor That Will Not Die; Conway's Jab

With signs finally suggesting the Zidane-to-MLS rumors have finally died, Ives Galarcep turned in a column for ESPN dubbing it a shame that the French great will likely never come. He notes the money Zidane was looking for (big), noted the reasons (Beckham's fault, the bastard), and gets a bit into why the money Zidane requested wasn't out of line: "Would you listen to anything less than $15 million if a player you knew you were clearly better than was making $25 million a season[?]"

An incidentally-related article, from the Boston Herald if you must know, touches on an upside Galarcep saw for Zidane coming out of retirement:

"Zidane headbutted Italy’s Marco Materazzi during the World Cup final and ended his career with a red card. France lost to Italy on penalty kicks."

That that's the last line in the article bears noting: this is the footnote of Zidane's life.

Turning away from Zizou news, a quick interview with Red Bull New York's Jon Conway showed a bit of what the upstart 'keeper is all about. When Metrofanatic asked about how Conway felt about his situation with the arrival of Ronald Wattereus, his answer was telling: "No difference than last year when I was here. 36-year-old ex-international. We'll see how that goes." The kid has got balls, if nothing else.

Descending further into "Fluff" territory, SoccerAmerica wrote a respectable piece on four of this year's rookies: Bakary Soumare (Chicago Fire), John Cunliffe (Chivas USA), Abdus Ibrahim (FC Dallas), and Maurice Edu (Toronto FC). No offense intended to any of them, but you could copy/paste the quotes from 90% of sports articles and get substantively the same copy.

Now in the realm of pure fluff, Ian Plenderleith, of fame bumped into the Kansas City Wizards' Players' Wives Club (third section, by the way). I only call this fluff in terms of its direct relation to the game itself. It actually sounds like a pretty cool thing.


Late Edition: Key Deadlines, Good Post MLS v. USMNT

I'm knocking off for the weekend, but wanted to pass on two late items.

The first involves a deadline that seems plenty significant as we head into next week. It's mentioned smack in the middle of an Ives Galarcep post on Red Bull New York's one-step-forward, two-steps-back attempt to sign a second designated player: "With the deadline for teams to be salary cap compliant set for next Friday, March 1st..."

I'm guessing there will be plenty of spazzing linked to that deadline in the coming days.

The other item just makes a point that doesn't get clearly mentioned all that much: Major League Soccer (MLS), and more specifically the teams that comprise the league, exist to serve their own ends. They are not specifically, or even primarily, about building the U.S. Men's National Team. This point came from a quality post on DCenters. Too right. It's possible I'm stating the point more emphatically than D, who wrote the DCenters post, but this is something you rarely hear stated explicitly. MLS is in this business for themselves and that's the way it should be; these two entities properly intersect only where individual players are involved.

One last editorial note before walking away for the weekend. Assuming things go according to plan, Fridays will look a lot like this from here on out. I'll post something about the Timbers, do my New England thing over on The Offside, and, when the regular season kicks off, I'll link to the previews on and throw out some predictions on coming games, but, that should be all I do in this space on Fridays. In other words, it's my intention to go like hell all week and then chill on Friday. I'll make exceptions for MAJOR stories, but I'm not seeing any of those today (sorry, Nick).

Anyway, we'll see how this goes.


Timbers: Roster, Webcasts...Just Catching Up

I couldn't remember the last time I devoted a post on this site to the Portland Timbers without searching it. With the Timbers being an alleged focus of this blog, that's pretty sad. Worse, the last mention only came through another topic (for example). The last dedicated Timbers post appeared way back on February 2, 2007 - and that one carried a title that no one could possibly have understood. Dang.

Given all that, this week's post will be dedicated primarily to catching up - and it will also be the last time I will speak directly about catching up...unless, of course, I take another hiatus from weekly posts about the Timbers.

Fortunately, that will be easier than ever thanks to a deal the United Soccer Leagues (USL) crafted with Turner Broadcasting to broadcast USL games over the Web. Assuming I can work out the technology, every excuse I've got for missing Timbers games - money, baby-sitting, etc. - just evaporated (this assumption is far from automatic). While this makes me happy on one level, I've still got to figure the number of games I can view in a week winding up divorced...

Moving to more familiar terrain, I unearthed a few more Timbers'-related online resources today, all of which should help me keep up. I've mentioned the (100%-killer) Timbers Blog, which is hosted by the local MSM outlet, but there's also the Timber Mill, which is connected to the Soccer City USA message board: how I missed both of those sites for as long as I have, I'll never know. My visit to the Soccer City message board pointed me to IceFunk, some guy trying to establish a Timbers' presence on BigSoccer - and that seems to be working all right. After that, I've got the ol' bookmarks linked up to the rest of the local media, which means finding stuff shouldn't be all that hard.

Making time to post things, well, that's something else again. But between all that, I ought to find plenty of grist for posts; all y'all should too, I suppose, which raises questions as to what I'm doing here.

Moving on now to actual news...'s mostly personnel related. The most recent signing I'm seeing brought former Real Salt Lake defender Cameron Knowles to Portland. If you're looking for speculation, the aforementioned IceFunk linked to an article from a local biweekly titled the Portland Tribune to suggest that Andrew Gregor, who very briefly played for the Timbers a while back, may show up for a longer stint. The use of word "reportedly" in the article has me wondering whether this is done and dusted, but the world won't end if this turns out to be faulty.

Reaching back a little further (ahem, into the Timbers Blog archive), the Timbers signed a pair of players on February 16: Lawrence Olum and Kevin Meissner. Going back further still (yikes! February 4?!), that's when a pair of last year's players, Luke "Krispy" Kreamalmeyer and Lee Morrison re-signed with the Timbers. I'm embarrassed to admit that only Kreamalmeyer has managed to make a sufficient impression with me, but what success the Timbers enjoyed last year seemed to involve him; I draw a total blank when it comes to Morrison. For the rest of them, I have no friggin' clue. I'll have to see them play before saying much of anything.

Fortunately, that will be - or ought to be anyway - easier than ever to do. Looking forward to it greatly.

World Cup 2014?

Here, I'll pass on with little commentary Steve Davis' deliciously cynical explanation as to why the United States has a better shot at hosting the 2014 World Cup as opposed to the 2018 bid we're reportedly pursuing.

The whiff of sleaze isn't something you'd point out to your dear ol' grandma, but it does match my understanding of the way things work in the FIFA universe. And your grandma would still be proud of the accomplishment.


(W)Revs Wrap, 02.23.07: Bermuda, Eastern Trialists

After accidentally taking a day (or two) off, I'm back on track with posting to The Offside. The first item talks about the New England Revolution's win over the Los Angeles Galaxy yesterday in Bermuda - that and my aspirations to make a trophy to celebrate the Revolution taking the spoils.

The second is more simple: there are two, um, mature Japanese players who joined the Revs as trialists. Don't know anything more about them than what I've got over there, but I'm certainly open to anything that might help the team.


CONCACAF Champs Cup: What We All Saw

It only occurs to me now that I should have written this one first...oh well.

In spite of what wound up being an impressive stupor (hey, it was my birthday) I managed to retain a thing or two about both of last night's CONCACAF Champions Cup games: CD Olimpia v. DC United and Puntarenas FC v. Houston Dynamo. I'll start with what everyone else has said before adding/seconding comments of my own.

It seems wise to start with a couple articles that discussed both games, one by Jeff Carlisle for ESPN (LINK - they're covering this tournament pretty well so far) and the other by Marc Connolly posted on (LINK). Steven Goff, the Washington Post's soccer guy, somewhat naturally emphasized the DC game, and I'm guessing it's not just because he's a local - i.e. DC's was the more remarkable game; but he turned in a pair, one for his blog and the other for the Post (LINK). And, to get all the MSM stuff into one paragraph, the Houston Chronicle devoted all their copy to Houston's loss to Puntarenas.

And, oh my god, I'm a monster. I haven't gotten to the scores yet:

Puntarenas FC 1 - 0 Houston Dynamo
CD Olimpia 1 - 4 DC United

It's that second score that explains why the DC United corner of the soccer blogosphere is so happy today. An American's View posted a nice wrap, though it's worth mentioning that this was the most critical report I've seen on DC's performance; he also found a highlight reel from YouTube, so's all you late-comers can see what you missed (NOTE: worth viewing for Christian Gomez's first and Luciano Emilio's goal alone). DCenters produced a pair (if not more), one written in the first flush of victory, the other after some sober (hungover?) reflection. By the way, I know of no Dynamo blogs apart from Soccer y Futbol, but would invite anyone to pass along links/info if they know of others.

So...what did I see and think? Here goes:

Puntarenas v. Houston
Truth be told, I started fast-forwarding the VCR around the 88th minute thinking that Houston had gutted out a zero-zero draw. Even with the tape spinning faster, the opening through which Puntarenas' Kurt Bernard scored (off a deflection) was big enough that I actually stopped the tape in time to see the goal in real-time. So, yeah, pretty big hole and that lends some credence to the Chronicle's contention that fatigue sunk the Dynamo. Overall, the Dynamo looked ragged - damned ragged at that - and only offense that comes to mind came through Paul Dalglish and Brian Mullan. Otherwise, they looked nothing short of pinned in. To be sure, the field was a factor. Not only was the playing area tight and hemmed in by walls, but it sucked; the thing looked a step down from the junior varsity field I played on in Pullman, Washington and that wasn't even a true rectangle (one corner pinched in leaving no more than three yards on one side of the penalty area). Still, they defended well, even after going down a player with Eddie Robinson's mystery ejection. And, yeah, the officiating wasn't all that good, but it was expected...DC got lucky there.

For all that, though, I'm with the consensus view that Houston is hardly out of the tournament. I mean, if they play like this next Thursday then, yesh, they're doomed. But I don't see that happening. This one ought to be close...

CD Olimpia v. DC United
...unlike the second leg to this one. Dang. I'll start by admitting that when you program your brain a certain way, train it to expect a given outcome, that can really color what you see. I figured that when Olimpia tied the game, thereby cancelling out what could very well have been a moment of brilliance from Christian Gomez (that first goal was beautiful...seriously, go watch, I expected the game would then shape up as expected. This isn't what remotely happened, of course, and it was fun to watch.

Two things - one good, one bad - stood out most for me about this game: Good, DC United passing circles around Olimpia in the opposition's half right around the 73rd minute, which was both incredible and ominous; Bad, the number of times DC's first touches got well away from them - Olimpia gave them insane amounts of space. On this last bit, I know DC will tighten up the touches in the regular season, but I also expect that MLS clubs will press more.

Still, this was a very, very impressive performance for DC; as someone commented after DCenters "first impressions" post, the rest of the league's teams must have been watching this, thinking about their own rust, and thinking, "Oh shit, they're back." (that was from BigKris, for the record). A couple mystery bootings from Facundo Erpen and Clyde Simms' loose marking on the Olimpia goal aside, they even defended fairly well - and those Hondurans had some tricks. On an individual level, I may as well mention what everyone already knows: Christian Gomez is really, really good; another commenter (Matt Y) to the same post got it essentially correct when he advised DC to "pay him whatever he asks." They'd be stupid not to. Also, Luciano Emilio met the expectations I had for him; the (nice, clever) goal aside, he holds up the ball quite well and has great awareness of the players around him; he looks like a rock-star acquistion. The only part of this "attacking triangle" who didn't impress me was Jaime Moreno. He didn't play horribly - apart from a give-away in the first half, which he didn't even bother to chase down (tsk, tsk, tsk) - but he also didn't look like the player he has been up to midway through 2006. That bears watching as the season progresses.

Still, the MLS delegation did us proud - proud to bursting in DC's case. Nice work, fellas.

TRADE-TALK: RBNY, Costa Rican Exchange, etc.

Red Bull New York
I'm days late on this one, I'm sure, but Metrofanatic's front page (on this day, February 22nd) carries a shot of Bruce Arena's mug next to the words, "Expect a signing, likely a DP, 'either this week or next week.'" Ives Galarcep has more, along with some commentary/speculation (Good man; keep it coming). My thoughts: neat-o.

Houston Dynamo
Snuck smack in the middle of the Houston Chronicle's report on Houston's loss last night to Puntarenas FC was this phrase:

"'It's not a big advantage, but it's an advantage,' [Puntarenas forward Kurt] Bernard, a member of the Costa Rican national team rumored to be headed to Major League Soccer, said."

What, what?

Toronto FC
They keep telling me Conor Casey is's like Santa Claus all over again...

TEAM-TALK: Serioux Aches, Garlick Fallout

FC Dallas
While word of the knee injury to Adrian Serioux was big enough - nothing like a second baptism of fire for that team's young back-line - it's some comments from FC Dallas head coach Steve Morrow that pique interest:

"Morrow definitely feels that the Hoops got "damaged goods" but was quick not to assign blame to any one party."

"'I think it's something that the league needs to look at,' he said. 'It's their player and we brought him back here and knew nothing about his physical condition. I think the situation must be addressed and needs to get better.'"

The same quotes appear in the Dallas Morning News' report, but they somehow read more ominously over there. Wonder how this shakes our - or even whether we'll see or hear anything if it does.

Garlick and RSL
So, Real Salt Lake's (RSL) Scott Garlick retired from the game on Tuesday this week. Truth be told, I'm sad to see him go; I always liked ol' Scotty "Pepper" (who owns that nickname, by the way? Tino Palace?) and remember him minding nets for one of DC United's championships. Now comes the question of finding a reliable replacement, so as not to throw rookie Chris Seitz directly into the mix. The Deseret News' report (first link) mentions Red Bull New York's Jon Conway as an obvious candidate, as does Ives Galarcep on his blog. But I see that Zach Thornton's currently both training and, um, between projects. Yeah, he's older, but he's also likely to cost less at this point; Conway's cheap for now, but I'd figure he's heading up salary-wise.

Chicago Fire
Speaking of the Fire and Thornton, you can read more about that here, but I'm passing on the link for the comments on rookie Bakary Soumare. Sounds like he's showing well and raw.

Houston Dynamo
I saw that 'keeper Pat Onstad left Houston's CONCACAF Champs' Cup game early with a pulled right calf. Anyone heard anything about the extent of the injury?

GAMES, etc: Preseason - Records & on TV

I tried something new today: I actually checked the official sites for (most) of Major League Soccer's (MLS) clubs. While there's not a whole lot there that isn't on the main page, I did find a useful thing or two. For instance...

Columbus Crew
...the Columbus Crews' official site provides a handy grid to help fans track their preseason. I didn't know the Crew's preseason record currently stands at 4-1-1. Well, I'll be...

Real Salt Lake
And that 4-1-1 is a patch better than RSL's preseason record: a middling 2-3-1. No offense to either the team or their fans, but that ain't playoff caliber. For all that, I think this is true: "RSL will boast what many believe to be the most talented squad in the team's short history..." Now, if only they'll start playing like it.

Chicago Fire
While I was off staring too much at other things, the Chicago Fire got shee-lacked by the Kansas City Wizards. Holy poop. I wonder what their preseason record looks like - their site is mum on the subject...not that I blame them.

Pioneer Cup - On the Tube
I found this site by total freak accident, but it's telling me that the Pioneer Cup will air on Fox Soccer Channel (look in the upper right-hand corner). Sure hope it's true...and hope other preseason tourneys, like say the one coming up in Puerto Rico, get picked up as well.

FLUFF: Cheerleaders (No pics), Merging Fan Groups, Nunez

I feel inklings of guilt about pointing this out - I mean, cheerleaders have rights too, right? - but I wouldn't have believed anyone actually shows up to cheerleader tryouts for a soccer team without photographic evidence. It does occur to me now, that I've never hung out with cheerleaders, so perhaps it's my inability to understand their motivation...

Speaking of cheerleaders - or, more accurately, supporters' groups (crap...I shouldn't write such things) - Andrea Canales wrote a quote-tastic sprawler of an article about the merger of supporter groups out in Los Angeles. The most interesting part to this, for me anyway, came with the stuff about hooliganism - which is probably why Canales led with it. In any case, it sounds like LA's supporter groups police their own - good thing, too. I don't get the fan violence stuff (which is to say I believe I understand the basic impulse: a guy's balls do weird things to him in his youth; once you collectively let violence in, various kinds of escalations seem inevitable; where was I?). It sounds like a total hassle to me.

Finally, in one of those "what do I do with this one?" pieces, the Dallas Morning News did a preseason look at FC Dallas' Ramon Nunez and his state of mind. I hadn't heard about the "shirt-tossing" incident from last year's playoffs. Very dramatic.

For future reference, I think player profiles that truck in "intangibles" - e.g. a player's mental space - qualify as fluff...though, again, that's not a commentary on the articles themselves....which can be good, bad, or indifferent.


Bummer about Convey

ESPN reports that Convey's season with Reading is over. Ouch. On the upside it sounds like the surgery on his knee is more precautionary than anything.


Trade-Talk: Galindo to Chivas

While I'm pretty sure this is old news - and it's possible I've already mentioned this (yep) - Chivas USA's acquisition of Maykel Galindo from the Seattle Sounders has me sufficiently curious to post it prominently. While LA Soccer News' top-drawer bio more properly belongs to the "Bum-Fluff" category (which clarifies the category nicely by pointing out that I don't count these as weak articles, so much as they contain "soft" content), it should give some impression of who this guy is.

I can't explain why I think Galindo will work out well for Chivas, but seeing I wasn't the only one further piques my interest. This comes from Jeff Bradley's most recent First XI column for

"This is an under-the-radar move that could pay off big for Chivas. Galindo, who defected from Cuba two years ago, can fly. If Chivas had a weakness a year ago it was the lack of a speedy striker to complement Razov."

Here I didn't even know about the speed. I'd just heard good things - even if those things were kinda generic.


Fluff: Herron, What SI Paid Conrad

Even if I can't for the life of me figure out how one finds individual articles on the Columbus Dispatch's website, I think enough of their "tale of woe" profile of Crew new-boy Andy Herron to pass it on (if the link takes you to an index page, hit the link about the earth shaking). For the record, I've always kind of liked Herron and wonder whether the Chicago Fire didn't screw up in letting him go; Herron, for his part, points to a "communication problem" with Dave Sarachan.

Elsewhere, there's plenty of good stuff in Steve Davis' freelancer* for - whether it's Toronto FC's incredible season-ticket sales or word from Chivas USA's player pool - but the item that stuck with me was this:

"Conrad played briefly in Poland, where those European keyboards can be tricky, with goofy characters and letters in odd places. He got frustrated writing direct mails at the cyber cafes, which charged by the hour. So he vented all his angst in a rambling, clever 1,500-word e-mail sent to many recipients - which became the genesis of a freeform column he began penning for"

"'They weren't paying me, so I didn't feel bad about ... writing about whatever I wanted,' Conrad said."

Yeah, I know enough about how little money there is to be found in soccer writing, but, the cheap bastards! Anyway, I loved those columns.


Games 'n' Such: RBNY's Rip Ends

With a hat-tip to Metrofanatic and acknowledging I'm - what? - two days behind on this at least, I can report that Red Bull New York's perfect preseason record came to an end this weekend. RBNY stumbled with a 3-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo and recovered to a crawl with a 1-1 draw against Real Salt Lake.

Ian Plenderleith, a contributor to provided a full round-up of the weekend's scores. The only take-away from that: close scores against unheralded college teams can only mean it's preseason...I hope. I mean, a one-goal win over UC-Irvine? C'mon...

Big Apple Soccer reports that Markus Schopp will undergo an MRI for his groin. Ouch.


Revs: And We're Off

I posted a second-hand game summary for the New England Revolution's first preseason game over on The Offside. For this site's independent record, the Revs topped the mighty, mighty Bermuda Hogges/Select by 3-1. And the best news in the report is word of decent outings for some new and prospective signings.

Here's the record so far: 1-0-0.


Champs' Cup Send-Off

I'm happy to report that there's a fair breadth of coverage ahead of the Houston Dynamo's and DC United's entry into the CONCACAF Champions' Cup today.

On the DC United side, fronted a respectably cautious preview on their "ever-smiling" site, though, not surprisingly, Steve Goff's write-up for the Washington Post adds some tarnish to that silver lining. And the DC United blogs that come readily to mind (An American's View and DCenters) have also chucked some warm thoughts on the fire.

As always, the Houston Chronicle has this covered (and how: LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK - nice local color/flavor on this last one) and the Soccer y Futbol blog chips in nicely with details on the weather, the sun, what to expect from the Dynamo by way of tactics, etc.

Put it all together and you've got something like good reason to 1) be pessimistic about the MLS clubs' prospects, 2) expect to be somewhat bored when you take in these games. If I hear about the "conditioning angle" one more time....I don't know....I'll be forced to blot it out with cheap whiskey? (Sorry: horrible night's sleep last night; that's the best I've got today.) Moving to more concrete details, and differences in team style that will likely manifest during the regular season aside, I expect the tactics Soccer y Futbol expects from Houston will match those from DC United (and I think it's fair to say the DCenters write-up concurs):

"Don't be surprised to see 10 Dynamos in their half when Puntarenas has the ball. It will be a wait-and-see approach to conserve as much energy as possible."

So, no, our guys don't have the legs to play for the ages, but I'm jonesin' so, so badly for the regular season that I'd probably tune in to watch team practice if Fox Soccer was willing to show it. Like a lot of you, I've adjusted my expectations to the point that a narrow loss will be cause enough to celebrate - though that's not to say I believe an actual result is impossible either.

Nice as the local stuff is, I'm going to credit Jeff Carlisle with the best one-stop, combined preview I've seen. There's just lots of good stuff in here, from players to watch on the Central American teams, to one great, big detail I totally overlooked when writing my preview on these games - and that's in spite of looking fairly closely at each tournament since the late 1990s: both MLS victories in the Champions' Cup (DC United, 1998; LA Galaxy, 2000) happened on U.S. soil. That should have been pretty obvious - especially considering I caught the 1998 edition live.

Anyway, good luck to both teams - and their fans. You've got at least one New England fan at your backs.

On a personal note, circumstances came together in such a way as to allow me time and space to watch both of today's games. This made me happy. It only occurred to me this morning that, because I have to tape the Houston/Puntarenas game, I'll more than likely discover the outcome from that game - and likely again and again - when I take in DC United/CD Olimpia. This made me sad.

I don't know what I'll do at this point. Probably watch the Houston game anyway, just to see what they look like. The principle at work here isn't all that different than the one affecting methadone and heroin....

More than You Ever Wanted to Know About Bermudian Soccer

As part of my ongoing attempt to keep readers of The Offside (and this space) up to date on the New England Revolution's preseason tour of Bermuda, I dug deeper than I ever have into Bermudian soccer. Unlike my previous digging in a similar vein, where I basically tuned into the reality that 65,000 people can actually field a national team, I dug more into where Bermuda stands relative to the rest of the Caribbean soccer world for this latest effort. The short answer: a couple miles north of the U.S. Virgin Islands and some long miles south of Haiti.

Anyway, it's kind of fun stuff. Moreover, this should be of interest to Los Angeles Galaxy fans, whose team will face the Bermuda Hogges (aka, the Bermudian National Team) on Thursday.


(W)Revs Wrap, 02.19.07: Dorman's Day

I know the date is off, but my losing life-long war with technology registered still another setback yesterday when I found myself stranded from the login page for The Offside. (Honestly, I'm willing at this point to submit to eating flavored paste from tubes and getting my eyes wired into a see-through computer screen that will allow me to be ever-productive; just give me a friggin' flying car and I'll go peacefully....)

At any rate, I posted yesterday's item today: a think-piece on expectations that Andy Dorman's role with the New England Revolution will grow and if and how he'll cope. All I'll say here is I'm unsure as to whether he's got the "extra something special" to fill the whole left in the Revolution squad by Dempsey's departure. Best case: he'll be a different, less-flashy, but by no means less effective player.

So, Dorman, prove me wrong, you Welsh stud.


History, MLS, and the CONCACAF Champs' Cup

I'll spare you the tales of blind alleys and data I just can't find and will instead just direct you to my tailored preview of the CONCACAF Champions Cup. More specifically, the article looks back over the past few years to see what that tells us about the prospects for Major League Soccer's (MLS) delegation.

I owe a massive hat-tip to the Wikipedia entry on the subject, which reads so, so much better than the official site (you'll find the trip down memory lane here by using the drop menu under "previous tournaments").

If I communicated my point well enough, you should sense that I'm a bit pessimistic about how well the Houston Dynamo and DC United will do this time around - though only pessimistic in terms of one of them winning the title. Our track record simply hasn't been much, especially in recent seasons when the Costa Rican clubs, in particular, seem to have raised their game; that we'll have to face the Mexican clubs in later rounds only deepens a mild sense of dread. And, please, don't read too much into that: I'm really, really hoping both teams show well (and, happily, I'll get to see both games) and will lavish all manners of praise upon them if and when they do.

But, hey, W Connection FC did it, didn't they?

And, by the way, I just saw Climbing the Ladder does its usual great work on breaking down the tournament. Good stuff.


Gold Cup v. Copa: Mixed Up, but Content

The opening round of punditry about the United States' participation in both the CONCACAF Gold Cup and South America's Copa America has produced something of a consensus view, even if it's one with ample shades of grey. The basic point: Bradley will take something like two separate teams to each tournament, a decision that carries the potential to cheat our players out of what the Copa would ideally provide them - a chance at meaningful games against top-quality competition. The second part of this consensus amounts to an "oh well" acceptance that Bradley's position makes sense.

That's not to say everyone is quite on board. For instance, ESPN's Jeff Carlisle takes the strongest position against(-ish):

"Yet I can't shake the feeling that in some ways, the logic is all backwards. The primary reason for entering Copa America is that it provides better competition in a much more hostile environment than the Gold Cup does. But instead of sending its strongest team to Venezuela, the U.S. will be sending its B team. Both Brazil and Argentina have taken a similar approach in the past, but if last summer's World Cup proved anything, it's that even the most experienced American players would benefit from playing in Copa America, and the fact that they won't is a shame."

As you can see, I modified the word "against" above (yes, to the point of making it non-sensical) in part because I don't think Carlisle would disagree with Ives Galarcep's assessment of the circumstances under which Bradley works:

"The reality is that Bob Bradley doesn't have much of a choice when it comes to a preference for one major fact. The Gold Cup is a regional championship that clubs must allow its CONCACAF players compete in. Copa America is not the US team's regional championship and therefore clubs can stop their players from going, especially since that tournament takes place much closer to the European season."

I almost wrote a post last week trying to split the difference between Carlisle and Galarcep; put another way, I think they both have a point, even as I believe Galarcep's better faces up to the realities in play. I'd go so far as to say I was leaning in Carlisle's direction. For whatever reason, I'm not all that sold on the Confederations' Cup as a high-stakes tournament - do participating countries take it as seriously as we think they do? - but the bigger point for me was seeing our players gain this experience. As a result, I'd be comfortable if Bradley turned the logic on its head and take players he is confident are World-Cup-2010-bound to the Copa for some seasoning.

But something I came across today - a Jeff Rusnack column, in fact - gave me a little more to think about:

"Ideally, for U.S. interests, the dates for the tournaments would be reversed. But they aren't, which might not be so bad. After all, Onyewu, Beasley, Dempsey and other World Cup veterans have received their international baptism. Newcomers such as Jonathan Bornstein, Ricardo Clark and Jimmy Conrad are just getting theirs. And there's nothing like a game against Argentina on foreign soil to see whether they're ready."

That's a good argument...dammit. Good enough to knock me from contrarian to agnostic, to begin.

But another consideration has me leaning toward priotizing the Gold Cup - a simple desire to win something. Put it this way: I can't see us winning the Copa America, even with our best squad. Not this year, anyway. But the Gold Cup? If we bring our best squad, I expect us to win. And I'll take a happy feeling - e.g. winning an international tournament - over an intangible benefit any day.


Zidane: Beckham Rule Sent to Bed Early?

With a number of sources suggesting that the rumored arrival of Zinedine Zidane appears less likely today than it did on Friday, perhaps it's time to join Frank Dell'Appa in reining in expectations about a bum's rush of aging foreigners.

As much as seeing Zidane in Fire red (or white, depending on location) would be an exciting thing, that simply must be tempered by the fact that the "French legend" is heading down the wrong side of the hill. And I remain convinced that, marketing aside, these aren't the kinds of players to help Major League Soccer (MLS) take the proverbial next step. Sure Zidane is good - I'm guessing he'd still be better than half of MLS at 40 - but he's not going to win all that many games on his own, not anymore. In no small way, I count this something close to a good thing.

Personally, I'm hopeful that the Beckham Rule's unacknowledged Phase I - e.g. the signing, acquisition, and lavishing of riches upon David Beckham - is now complete. And I think Dell'Appa does well when he hints at what Phase II will look like:

"Beckham should raise the Galaxy's game; but an Andres Guardado or Pavel Pardo could do that as well, for a lot less money."

When I watch the EPL these days, or even the Champions League, I'm watching out for players who bring a lot to their team, who could come to an MLS team as an outright star, but who couldn't command a payout that would demolish a given team's piggy bank. Let's just say MLS needs to think less about Stevie Gerrard and more about, oh say, Bolton's Kevin Nolan.

And, please, don't interpret that example as suggesting that MLS clubs limit their search to England...there's a whole world out there.

Then again, I'd argue the league would be better off still exploring another possibility Dell'Appa raises in his article:

"It makes more sense to contract five high-level players at, say, $2 million each than to break the bank for one import."



Mysteries of MLS Paychecks Revealed

The Washington Post's Steve Goff - or St. Steven, as he may yet be dubbed for such services - revealed some fine-print details of how Major League Soccer (MLS) players get paid for their services on his Soccer Insider blog today.

There's more in here than can easily be discussed in dissected - at least in the time I have today - but it seems fair to describe the overall shape of the contract as pointing to an (extremely gradual) effort to making it harder to describe some league minimums as "embarrassing." That doesn't mean there aren't some weird and/or disappointing details in the numbers, though I'll only focus on the weird for now:

"-- If an MLS team receives up to 200,000 in prize money in a USSF, CONCACAF or FIFA sponsored tournament, the players will get 50 percent of it; if the prize money is more than 200,000, the players receive 50 percent of the first 200K and 30 percent of the amount over 200K."

"-- Players are prohibited from participating in other sports that may impair or destroy his ability and skill as a soccer player: football, boxing, wrestling, motorcycling, moped-riding, auto racing, skydiving, inline skating, downhill skiing, mountain biking, bike racing, rock climbing, rappelling, spelunking and hang-gliding. There are, of course, exceptions and casual family activities do not apply."

A look at this last one points to the happy coincidence that any player earning a league minimum could afford only a few of those prohibited activities (that's a bitch about spelunking, though).

In any case, I'm glad someone's sharing this stuff with the league being tightlipped as they are. Cool resource to have.


U-23/Olympics: Bradley's Moxie

While it's nice to finally know when qualifying for CONCACAF's Olympic slots takes place - March of 2008 - and swell as it is that the U-23s beat an MLS club (Chivas USA), the most interesting item in the Los Angeles Times' report on the Olympic team "taking shape" involves head coach Bob Bradley's state of mind.

What to make of this:

"Assisting Bradley in this week's camp were Thomas Rongen, who has coached the U.S. under-20 national team into this summer's Under-20 World Cup in Canada, and John Hackworth, coach of the U.S. under-17 national team, which in May will try to qualify for the Under-17 World Cup in South Korea."

"It is probable that Bradley will eventually draw players from Rongen's team and, possibly, even from Hackworth's side, by 2008."

"'It's important that we share ideas,' he said of working alongside the two coaches. 'It's important that those programs understand how important they are and that they … are the building blocks. Any time we're all together and we can look at our players and discuss the things we see, discuss the things that need to be better, it helps.'"

Whatever one thinks of Bradley - love him, hate him, think he's the future of the U.S. Soccer program, or someone the USSF is chasing down blind alley - it's hard not to admire the way he continues to behave as if he's already got the top job. I could be alone in reading that into his comments, but I don't think I am.

Bradley may not work out in the end, but it won't be for lack of trying.


("Weird") Moves and (King-Sized) Rumors, 2.16.07

I'll start with the big one - and, from any other source, I wouldn't have given this the teeniest, tiniest bit of credibility. Steve Goff posted word on Soccer Insider that the Chicago Fire has resumed the courtship of Zinedine Zidane. He also notes a decision "could be made" by Monday.

In a word, "wow." Zidane's age and the whole coming-out-of-retirement thing aside, this one would excite me.

In totally unrelated news, in spite of the fact both pieces share the same author (Goff), an article in yesterday's Washington Post reviewed Jay Needham's decision to pass on a developmental contract for DC United and to run with a shot at first-team soccer in Puerto Rico.

DC bloggers have already beat me in responding to this one (no surprise there, of course) and their reactions are, of course, worth the look. I'm fairly close to where DCenters' D was on this - "either Puerto Rico is overpaying for Needham, or DC misjudged its bid and the allure of playing for [Major League Soccer (MLS)]" - only more so. I honestly don't know how one faults Needham for this decision. However justified they may be from a budgeting point of view, MLS's developmental salaries are the sporting world's equivalent of stiffing the waiter; so long as he's got options that will pay more, and so long as he believes he's good enough for MLS, his decision assumes they'll keep an eye on him while he's earning more.

Anyway, I swear I saw one yesterday bemoaning DC's capacity to lose a player to the USL (can't find that one, dammit), but can you blame the guy? Really?

More Preseason: RBNY's Rip

It's not often one gets to write "Red Bull New York (RBNY)" and "3-0-0" in the same sentence - unless, that is, one is noting the early-season record of the team that just beat them. But the 2007 preseason is shaping up very nicely for RBNY, who have managed a perfect record thus far.

It's not so much the 4-0 pounding meted out on the U.S. U-17s; that's a game any top-flight team should manage, really. But the 3-1 win over the Kansas City Wizards and, especially, the more recent 2-1 victory over DC United comes as a surprise - though news of defensive slips out of DC, less so.

In fact, the least surprising thing about all this is the glee RBNY fans are currently experiencing. Enjoy, guys, and don't pinch yourselves too hard...

Then again, it's possible happy the dream won't end. Ives Galarcep cobbled together a first team and formation based, presumably, on what's been used so far. It already looks impressive and, as he points out, will only look more so if RBNY can land Agustin Delgado in the coming weeks.

To steer this conversation toward the New England Revolution, word of a reloaded Red Bull is somewhat disconcerting; it's hard to escape the sense of a nearly-there team standing pat while everyone else improves.


Preseason Results: You Know - For Kids!

Although plenty of games have been played, several more come this weekend with the Disney President's Day Soccer, there'll be more to report in a space very much like this one come Monday. But the teams inked in for DisneyFest include Red Bull New York, Real Salt Lake, the Houston Dynamo, and the Chicago Fire.

I wish none of them luck...well, except maybe the Dynamo, who are relying on this tournament to get them riled and ready for the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions Cup game against Costa Rica's Puntarenas FC.

I'll touch on RBNY's preseason rip in another space; after that, though, the most interesting result came less because of the score itself than some chatter that followed. I'm referring, of course, to....

Columbus Crew v. Real Salt Lake
To begin, there's some wonderful, "homer" coverage at work on this 2-1 win for the Columbus Crew. Depending on whether you read the report from the Deseret News or the one from the Columbus Dispatch, you'll walk away thinking either of the teams did better than the other. (NOTE: The Dispatch's report doesn't seem to have a unique url; if you want to read it, click the article about "midfielder injury.")

But it's a single line from the Deseret report attracting most of the, well, ridicule:

"We go in, we win our first 45 minutes, and that's a win for us in my opinion, and that's all that matters," said Real midfielder Carey Talley. "This is preseason, there would be a lot more pressure on (the second unit) if it were league points and I'm sure they'd do better. But it's new guys trying to get mixed in with the guys battling for positions."

Among those having fun with this is Ian Plenderleith ( is hard to spell) over on; I'll let him speak for himself.

Chivas USA
In the only other preseason results I'm going to touch on here, Chivas USA dropped a game to the U-23s by a 2-0 scoreline. Given that Sasha Kljestan missed a penalty, one has to wonder about the comparative magnitude of this one.

Low on the Learning Curve


Many years ago, Soccer America posed a challenge to its readers: write a brief column naming the worst player in Major League Soccer, stating the reasons why you thought as much. At the time, I chose Rob Smith, who, so far as I can recall played only for the Columbus Crew. My contribution said something like "in a league full of eager dimwits, Rob Smith stands tall above them all." It went on with much worse things following. I still feel guilty for that...though I still don't think of Smith as much of a player.

In any case, I'm trying to learn about posting photos. Bear with me.
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Copa Draw: Sore Backsides or 4-6 Points?

As everyone's seen by now, the draw for this summer's Copa America was completed last night and the three groups set. And here is what the United States Men's National Team (USMNT) and everyone else in the tournament is looking at starting in late June:

Group A
Venezeula (host)

Group B

Group C
United States (gulp!)

As An American's View usefully points out (or that's where I saw it first, at least), qualifying for the second round of the Copa America is a little like reaching the MLS playoffs (not his phrasing, by the way, but mine): 8 of the the twelve teams will make that cut - the top two from each group, plus the top two third placed teams.

An American's View also happens to be the most optimistic about our chances, stating toward the bottom of his post that he "likes the USA's chances of advancing" and doesn't see any reason why we shouldn't get four or six points. The best answer to that optimism appears in Luis Arroyave's Red Card, specifically, this line:

"July 4, the U.S. plays Paraguay in its final group stage game. Doesn't sound very intimidating, does it? Then again, that's what people said about Ghana and we all know how that went."

To get a little tangential, I'm consistently fascinated at how soccer fans (or even political observers for that matter) reach the conclusions they do about which teams will do what. I'm closer to Arroyave's thinking, but holding up Ghana as a cautionary example hardly makes the case for anything more than caution. Put another way, what do I know about the current form of Paraguay, never mind Colombia, who didn't even compete in the 2006 World Cup (right? yep.) On the other hand, why not look at Argentina and wonder whether they won't wilt on the occasion, as they nearly did against Mexico?

At any rate, that seems a fair caveat to insert before posting a roundup of the rest of the prognostications I encountered in today's wanderings: "Totally hosed" reads the headline at du Nord, though that could be a commentary on how lucky Venezuela appears to have been with their group; while the content of his post focuses on his frustration that we passed on the Copa America for so many years, Luis Bueno also doesn't seem to like our chances; and a headline like, "Group of Death Redux" says enough about where Sports Illustrated is with this draw.

UPDATE: I missed a blogger in my roundup: Mike H from My Soccer Blog. He took a unique approach to figuring our chances in Group C: he looked at our past records against the teams in question. Novel idea.

With all this read and acknowledged, where am I?

Think of the Copa as a plate of unbuttered brussel sprouts; this isn't about pleasure or happiness, but health. And long-term health at that. So put me down on the sore backside half of the ledger. Argentina will want to open strong and, with the personnel at their disposal, I'm not sure we can stop them - though I'd still place a call to Francois Oman Biyik in Cameroon for some pointers; my chief, possibly-outdated impression of Paraguay is that they're hard to score against, which should match nicely with our, um, difficulties on offense;

And, no, butter don't mask the fact that brussel sprouts taste like shit.

Player News, 02/15: Emilio, John

(Editorial Note: While I'm not usually much on player "personality" articles, they're definitely a staple of sports reporting; as such, it seems wise to have this serve as a another "round-up" feature. And, every so often, they contain some good stuff, notably when they discuss state of mind/body, struggles, returning from struggles, etc.) with today's first item (ooohhh...pushing ellipses through a parentheses and a paragraph jump...naughty).

DC United
For whatever reason, I expect big things from Luciano Emilio, even I can never remember which of his names go where. Today's Washington Post carries a decent look at the player and his life. But the key detail, and one I never got before, was that the team DC United will play in next week's CONCACAF Chumps' Cup 1st Leg (which I'll get to see - HUZZAH!!), is Emilio's former team. For the record, that's the Honduran club Olimpia.

Kansas City Wizards
This one's a two-day oldy, but the Kansas City Star examined the mental state of a seemingly rejuvenated Will John. I didn't know, 1) that he's young as he is, or 2) that all that much was expected of him. He seems at peace, which could portend a decent year.


Signings/Moves/Rumors: Perkins, Mina & More

(Editorial Note: I have to confess that I felt like my editorial experiment with making sprawling, multi-subject posts did some damage to my visits. Put another way, it seems like readers follow subjects - e.g. a player's name, team names, etc. - while leaving the general information stuff to, frankly, better and first-hand sources. I can't say I blame them for that, but doing posts by subject groupings saves me a good chunk of time while allowing for broader coverage. As such, I think I'll stick with this kind of thing, even as it's not doing me any favors visitors-wise.)

Caveats out of the way, let's look at some of the movement, shall we?

DC United
Surprised as I am it took as long as it did, Troy Perkins signed a new deal with DC United. Let's hope this one's not a parking-lot mugging like the last one, yeah? Not that we'll know; the terms of the deal were not least not till tomorrow, when Steve Goff fills in some blanks (UPDATE: already done, actually, though not confirmed).

FC Dallas
The most interesting signing/rumor news of the day comes out of Dallas, even if it comes at the bottom of a puff-piece on Kenny Cooper's national team ambitions (a player interested in continuing to play for his country? No!!) Roberto Mina signed a new, two-year deal to stay in Dallas, which strikes me as good news for the Hoops; when Mina's good, he's a tough one to contain. But more intriguing than that is word that FC Dallas is chasing a young Colombian midfielder named Juan Carlos Toja. As often happens, I know nothing about this kid and, while I could probably find something in the Spanish-language media (with the help of my new friends!!), it's better, 1) to wait till he signs - why spazz now, and 2) to see how he does if and when he arrives in MLS.

Chicago Fire
Just to make the "rumors" part of the headline add up, I think I'll note the Chicago Fire's interest in Celtic FC forward Maciej Zurawski. That's listed under "Players of Local Interest," which makes sense for Zurawski, but Rafa Marquez?


MatchNight - R.I.P.

Though I discovered MatchNight only recently - and though I never referred to it all that often since finding it - I have to confess to some shock and, well, sadness at reading that the site will shut down on March 31.

Some of their affiliates - UnitedMania and 3rd Degree, though not the little corner of MatchNight I visit most often - have mournfully noted the passing and each have vowed to carry on, but the best bit of this wake I've seen so far on this came from Andrea Canales, which she posted on her team blog, Sideline Views. Here's the part I noted:

"I'm happy about the increased profile of U.S. soccer, but I'm not kidding myself that there are no drawbacks. Nor am I confident that the ones who know best the American game are going to stay involved, either at the media level or elsewhere. The way British press suddenly descended on Los Angeles after Beckham signed made that abundantly clear. You'd think the Galaxy never existed before."

I followed the political side of this world for a couple of years and saw some people graduate up the ranks, though most of that was professional-to-professional, as when a writer for a publication like Reason (to name a favorite) moves up to the Los Angeles Times. MLS Underground noted a similar migration of former Matchnight writers up the soccer-world food chain. One has to wonder what this migration will look like with more and more mainstream media sites now running blogs of their own; in other words, the pros are moving down, to put it crassly, so where do us bottom-feeders go?

For all that, it's not such a bad thing. The pros have the resources...and they can't pull the kind of crap I'm pulling - e.g. writing about a team from across the country.

(W)Revs Wrap, 02.15.07: Trialists from Peru

As will happen from here going forward, I posted my New England Revolution content on The Offside. My contribution for the day is a scrambled piece about a Peruvian forward the Revs have invited to Bermuda. Hope to see good things from him...and hope the editor at The Offside doesn't mind me picking through the innards of my investigative efforts on soccer time....

In a highly related piece of news, I picked up a partner on The Offside New England Revolution Blog. He posts as Sabin and has already turned in a pair of contributions of his own; he introduces himself in one of them and flags a Washington Post article about players that David Beckham should watch out for when he arrives this summer. Three Revs make the cut: Daniel Hernandez (yes!), Joe Franchino, and goalkeeper Matt Reis. Anyone wondering why Matt Reis made the list should ask Alecko Eskandarian; I'm sure he'll have something to say. (The link on the other end of that article is just fascinating, by the way; Esky's a tad bonkers, though in a good way.)

Anyway, glad to have the company on The Offside. I'm hopeful we can establish a good right-brain/left-brain kind of vibe over there.

CONCACAF Champs' Cup Primer

An American's View may have scooped me in noting last night's upset in the CONCACAF Champion's Cup - Chivas de Guadalajara lost to, get this, W Connection FC of Trinidad & Tobago, and with their 'keeper sent off after 20 minutes - but I'm mainly looking forward to when the Major League Soccer (MLS) delegation takes the field next Tuesday.

In basic terms, call this a primer, a place to find TV listings (for the games involving MLS teams, and the general Fox Soccer lineup) as well as the tournament bracket.

I wish I could see every game, but, between work and a one-TV household, I'll have to catch what I can. I tried to catch some of the W Connection win, but there was some kind of technical breakdown, apparently, that stranded me to watch Bristol City (I think) outplay Middlesbrough just before midnight last night.

Anyway, best of luck to the MLS teams. Let's get out of the first round this year, huh? (If you scroll down to "CONCACAF Final Round/Ronda Final here, you'll see that Los Angeles and New England didn't do so hot in 2006.)

Raining on my SuperLiga

Keeping with the day-late tradition of this site, I'm only getting to Ken Pendleton's latest column, in which he accuses Major League Soccer (MLS) of thinking small for building the SuperLiga when a perfectly good and prestigious tournament already exists. That tournament would be the Copa Libertadores, of course.

Even a semi-frequent visitor to this site would know by now that I've drunk plenty of SuperLiga Kool-Aid, just gallons of the stuff. As such, it pains me to admit the man has a point. Especially, here:

"MLS commissioner Don Garber "envision(s) having a Mexican first division and MLS version of the Champions League," but this will never materialize because the Copa Libertadores already serves as the Champions League for Mexican clubs."

And can't you just picture seeing, say, the New England Revolution's name somewhere in the Copa Libertardores grid, squaring off against Internacional (BRA), Velez Sarsfield (ARG), and Nacional (URG). (No? Try another MLS team and see if that helps.)

Pendleton does concede MLS may have a hard time gaining entry to the tournament due to the relatively low esteem in which our little league is held. But he's also largely correct in saying the effort should be made. Then again, I'm one of those people who'd rather see the U.S. qualify in a combined CONCACAF/CONMEBOL "super-region," consequences be damned (hmmm...records of this position may have evaporated with one of the many blogs I've killed).

For all that, SuperLiga is what we've got. And, who knows? Maybe it will take off, courtesy of the wonderful animosity between the U.S. and Mexico. And I still think the SuperLiga has as good a chance of growing the game in the States as anything that's come down the pike, due mainly to accidental awareness MLS will gain when Mexican fans tune in to see their teams. But I'd be lying if I didn't say Pendleton's column doesn't take some rattle out of my noise-maker.

UPDATE: Brian Garrison from An American's View wrote a comprehensive defense of the SuperLiga in response to Pendleton's piece. Excited as I remain about the SuperLiga, I still think Pendleton's overall point holds - even if MLS clubs don't experience any success even in Superliga. But I'll join this discussion over on Brian's site; that he put more effort into his post makes that seem appropriate. Pop over and join the fun if you're interested.)