Sunday, May 3, 2009

Salvation

Under normal circumstances, Indios and Cruz Azul would have had problems drawing people to a game. As it stood, there were few people present for Saturday's game between Indios and Cruz Azul, and it's too bad more people weren't there to witness Indios' dramatic game-winning, season-saving, Primera A-avoiding striker by Javier Saavedra.

Friday, May 1, 2009

MLS weekend preview

Goal.com's Kyle McCarthy takes a look at Week 7 in MLS and provides picks for all the games. If he's correct, it'll be a happy weekend for all area MLS fans.

The game I think most MLS fans are looking forward to, though, is Seattle-Chicago. At this point, both those teams are legit MLS Cup contenders. Seattle's Kasey Keller hasn't allowed a goal yet while Chicago have the highest-scoring offense in the league and are the last unbeaten team in MLS.

As far as Chivas and the Galaxy...

Chivas' Sacha Kljestan hasn't shown up and at some point the team's going to need him to start producing. Will it be Saturday? Atiba Harris is out for the game and the hard-working but unproductive Justin Braun is back in the lineup. I've stopped counting on the re-emergence of Maykel Galindo so who the hell knows when he'll be back to starting or at least dressing for every game. Alecko Eskandarian is at least available for games but it seems nobody has a starting forward spot locked down... except for Braun. Anyway, some steady contributions from Kljestan could help offset that sort of fluidity in the starting spot up top. But Chivas has their tough-as-nails defense to count on, and San Jose's offense has been hit-and-miss so this is a winnable game.

The Galaxy meanwhile hosts a pretty bad New York team. The Red Bulls coughed up two stoppage-time goals against DC United last week and lost 3-2. I don't know how they can come in without their confidence in the toilet. The Galaxy's only getting healthier with Todd Dunivant and Edson Buddle seemingly ready to go. This team's defense has improved to. Donovan Ricketts might be getting up there in age but he's done a lot in a short amount of time. I think it'll be hard for New York to get more than a goal past Ricketts.

Yuckiness


The fallout from both Wendesday's Chivas-Everton match and the swine flu in Mexico has been, well, as Mural put it - Fuchila!

* Chivas and San Luis made it through to the second round of Libertadores where they'll play Sao Paulo and Nacional (Uruguay) respectively, but where will they play?

* Because of the swine flu, it seems Mexico is not an option for Chivas and/or San Luis to host South American teams. Colombia was in line to play host to games as the two Mexican teams were all set to play their home legs in Bogota but the Colombian government said no. FMF officials had said Chile might be an option but everything is seemingly up in the air, and when government officials get involved and are emphatic against something like a soccer game, it makes it hard to get around that.

* I was wondering if this might mean we'd have a Libertadores game here in LA but I read somewhere that the idea of playing those games in the US had been kicked around but discarded. Guess it'd be hard for Nacional to get from Montevideo to Los Angeles for a midweek game.

* I really hope that the series isn't reduced to a one-off game for both, with the matches being played at Sao Paulo and Montevideo, but that could be an option. Chivas at Sao Paulo for a winner-take-all series. A neutral site, even if it's in that country, would be preferable, but a two-leg series would still be the most ideal thing. Don't know, just seems there are a lot of people throwing up roadblocks and if Colombia already said no, if Chile was already hostile in their treatment of Chivas, I wonder if any South American country will say yes to Chivas and San Luis at this point.

* Getting back to the spitting incident, Chivas president Pedro Saez had some damage control and said he was surprised a player of Reynoso's caliber would do such an act. Mural ran a great picture of the incident:

The Everton player said afterward: "I hope he doesn't have some sort of disease." Ouch.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tying their way through

Guadalajara tied Everton 1-1 in Chile on Wednesday and advanced to the second round of Copa Libertadores. They needed just a draw to get by and they did just that.

Of course, the week wasn't an uneventful one. Because of their travel from Mexico City to Santiago, the locals were not exactly welcoming to players while they were out and about in Viña Del Mar.

Which prompted this cartoon from Terrazas:

Chiva tells Everton: Your countrymen treated me like a pig.
To wit Everton replies: And because of you, they'll treat me like trash.

The game wasn't without incident though as there were a pair of red cards at the end of the match.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Where's Sacha?

Chivas USA has the most wins in the league (five), the most points in the league (16), have allowed the fewest points (three, tied with Seattle) and has the best goal differential (plus-seven).

Impressive.

Even more so when you consider that the team's best player, well, supposed best player, has zero goals and zero assists.

I wrote a column on the topic for Goal.com.

Who knows if and when Sacha Kljestan will come out of his funk. He could break out this week at San Jose or he could continue to run around and do nothing offensively.

It's a similar situation to last season when you think about it. Brad Guzan was all set to go to Europe but a deal fell through at the very end. Kljestan spent time in Europe in January but ultimately did not go anywhere, and maybe he's just having a tough time trying to get past that and live up to raised expectations.

Like I wrote in the column, this was supposed to be his breakout year. It's a busy year for the US and Chivas needs to take the next step this year in their own evolution.

So far, Kljestan's been a no-show.

Nearsighted

This cartoon ran in Mural today. With the news down in Mexico dominated by the swine flu, Terrazas tried to take a look instead at the national team camp.


Professor Agurire points to a chart that says:
Order
Discipline
Stability
Responsibility
Seriousness
Pride

He asks Tri: "So you really can't see anything?"

Tri responds: "No. The previous process left me myopic."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More zero attendances

Guadalajara and Tecos will play their home games on the weekend without any supporters in the stands. Jalisco state government officials and the respective Mexican clubs have taken the next step in preventing the spread of the swine flu by shutting down these Primera Division games.

The count is now up to five, with regards to how many games will be played sans fans: Toluca, Pachuca, Cruz Azul, Chivas and Tecos.

That leaves Morelia, Monterrey, Necaxa and Santos as the clubs who might open their doors to the public. Necaxa though have reported three cases of the swine flu among their own players - two youth team players as well as first-teamer Alejandro Castillo. Aguascalientes have also reported two deaths and 30 probable cases, according to Reforma, so Necaxa might shut their doors.

Nuevo Leon has reported one death and 10 cases while Coahuila (20) and Michoacan (13) have no deaths but reported cases, also according to Reforma. While the numbers appear small, health and government officials would likely argue that figure could balloon with such public gatherings as a soccer match.

We'll see what happens when the federation weighs in on the matter. On Wednesday the federation is supposed to decide on the fate of these games (they'll be played, but whether fans will be allowed remains to be seen) but it is likely that most if not all of the Jornada 16 matches will be played minus a major component - supporters.

ADD: The FMF has decided to play all nine of their league games behind closed doors.

Larry Bird Rankings (April 28)

Day late, dollar short.

1. Chivas USA. Team made MAJOR mistake in passing up Stefan Frei... oh wait...
2. Seattle. Keller has yet to allow an MLS goal.
3. Chicago. Making a habit of dramatic road come-from-behind draws.
4. Real Salt Lake. Six goals in less than 40 minutes? How about some of that on the road?
5. Kansas City. Some minor kinks still need to be ironed out, but KC's got a good team this year.
6. DC United. Wonder what DC fans savored more - scoring twice in stoppage time to win a game, or to do that against New York?
7. New England. That's a good way to ruin your goal differential.
8. Colorado. Tough to beat the same team three times in one month.
9. Toronto. 1-0 wins ain't pretty, but they count just the same.
10. Houston. Extension for Kinnear sends message - it ain't his fault the team's sagging.
11. LA Galaxy. Cronin/Wicks/Saunders may have been the problem all along.
12. San Jose. Road losses like Saturday's are compounded by dropped points at home.
13. FC Dallas. FC Dallas hasn't been too bad lately, there's hope after all!
14. Columbus. At least they had...
15. New York. ... a nice run to the Cup.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sick day

Sorry I haven't been around to give my thoughts on the goings-on around MLS and Mexico. My daughter's been sick all day so I haven't had the chance to blog much. Cleaning up vomit is not my idea of a fun day.

I've also been trying to keep up to speed on the swine flu in Mexico as it's affected several games and tournaments. The Under-17 tourney has been canceled and the CONCACAF Champions League final might also be postponed. And more Mexican league games will go on without supporters in the stands.

Anyway, I'll be back later with my rankings. Chivas USA will still remain at number one despite their midweek loss to Toronto. Chivas USA are after all massive.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Chivas-Pumas

I'm watching this game and it seems strange because the game, which is an attractive matchup, is being played with no supporters due to a swine flu outbreak.

But one thing that's bugging me is the commentary. The match is on Telemundo and I wonder sometimes if announcers Andres Cantor and Sammy Sadovnik can do anything except complain about the officiating. No matter what game, no matter what the circumstances, whether it's a league match, an international friendly or a World Cup qualifier, it seems like these guys spend a lot of time complaining about the referees. They second-guess calls - which when you watch them 10 times over in slow-motion are easy to see - and demand yellow cards, red cards, penalties, whatever.

It would be nice if they actually described some of the game action without sensationalizing every single play. To be honest, I watch games here on mute most of the time. I wanted to watch it with the volume up to get a feel of the game action as you can hear a lot of what the players are saying as well as some of the voices from the sidelines, but these guys are making it difficult to sit through their typically wrteched commentary.

Okay, Chicharo just scored. One thing I wondered was if players would celebrate as much when scoring today as normal. Do they play up their celebration for the crowd? Does the energy from the stands feed into their goal celebrations? Or would they just sort of congratulate each other as they would if it was a goal during a closed-door scrimmage? Chicharo's celebration was a bit muted I guess. He seemed excited initially, walked over to the end line but wasn't overly demonstrative.

Anyway, back to hoping Cantor and Sadovnik don't ruin the game for me.

Attendance: zero

What happened if a soccer game was played and nobody showed up?



Actually, it wasn't that people did not want to go to the match but rather nobody was allowed entrance. A swine flu outbreak has hit Mexico City hard and Pachuca, which is based in Pachuca, Hidalgo, near Mexico City, did not allow entry due to rising fears of an outbreak.

Games in Mexico City on Sunday will also feature attendances of zero as America-Tecos and Pumas-Chivas will be played in empty stadiums.

Now, empty stadiums aren't entirely uncommon in Mexico. Every now and then fan violence forces teams to play games in empty stadiums as punishment, but this is the first time in recent history anyway that something other than unruly fans have caused this sort of situation.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Meeting Matt

Here's a story on Matt Taylor that I thought would be interesting. Matt Taylor left MLS with seemingly little possibilities of latching on many notable places, then suddenly surfaced in Germany. Koblenz is not a glamorous club but he's in Germany nonetheless.

Anyway here's the link.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Aguirre's first roster

Mexico won't play a game anytime soon but that did not prevent Javier Aguirre from calling up some players for a quick training camp.

The team features several youngsters (Edgar Pacheco, Hugo Ayala) and some surprising veterans (Miguel Sabah, Oribe Peralta). Also, it featured no South Americans. The only player not born in Mexico on the roster is Edgar Castillo, and his inclusion has never ruffled any feathers.

The roster:

Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (America), Jesus Corona (Tecos).

Defenders: Paul Aguilar (Pachuca), Oscar Rojas (America), Hugo Ayala (Atlas), Juan Carlos Valenzuela (America), Edgar Dueñas (Toluca), Imsael Rodriguez (America), Arturo Rivas (Tigres).

Midfielders: Edgar Castillo (America), Fernando Arce (Santos), Francisco Torres (Santos), Luis Miguel Noriega (Puebla), Israel Castro (Pumas), Jose Maria Cardenas (Puebla), Pablo Barrera (Pumas).

Forwards: Carlos Esquivel (Toluca), Edgar Pacheco (Atlas), Nestor Calderon (Toluca), Luis Alonso Sandoval (Monterrey), Miguel Sabah (Morelia), Oribe Pealta (Jaguares).

Potros near crown

Atlante took a major step towards representing CONCACAF at the FIFA Club World Cup by handing Cruz Azul a 2-0 loss in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final on Wednesday in Estadio Azul.

The two road goals are a major advantage for Atlante, who will head home in a comfortable position ahead of what could be an historic achievement for Atlante.

Entering the tournament way back last summer, few expected much from Atlante. They were the forgotten Mexican club as Pumas, Santos and Cruz Azul were likely to duke it out for the championship. All four teams reached the knockout rounds but thus far Atlante have been the most successful, knocking out Santos in the semis and now close to doing the same to la Maquina.

Atlante vs. Manchester United? Could happen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Du Nord's back

The venerable soccer blog Du Nord is back, in case you hadn't noticed. Check it out here.

It's a pain sometimes running a soccer blog when you don't get paid for it and I'm sure brucio's passion at some point was overtaken by his need to unplug and get away from things. So it's good to see him back in any form. I was enjoying his stuff over at Bunky County as well, but Du Nord is great so welcome back brucio!

Champs don't get in?

I like the US Open Cup, like the history behind it and the whole process of how the tournament is played, how it's open to any club and all that good stuff. I think MLS should give it a bit more respect and maybe set aside some weekends for only Open Cup matches. I realize that is a pipe dream - they schedule six league games for a World Cup qualifying weekend, so no chance of stepping aside for the USOC.

But one thing I do find a bit odd is that the defending Open Cup champions aren't guaranteed of defending their USOC title. Such is the case for DC United, the 08 USOC champs.

DC is hosting FC Dallas in a USOC match tonight. It's actually a play-in game, so this isn't even techincally part of the tournament. If FC Dallas wins, then DC is out and won't participate in the tourney this year.

Just seems a little odd that the champ isn't automatically entered into the following year's tournament. It'd be great for the defending champ to be in the tourney; would make it a bit more interesting and would seem like it'd be a perk of being the champion.

I'm not necessarily complaining, just found it odd. I suppose if you consider that the World Cup champion isn't guaranteed entry into the subsequent World Cup isn't guaranteed entry into the tournament the next season, then it doesn't seem so odd, right?

CONCA-Champions Final

Cruz Azul have a storied history, although the current Clausura 2009 season doesn't exactly show that. La Maquina are struggling in league, having won just twice in 14 games played. But Cruz Azul have a shot of making history as they could win the first-ever CONCACAF Champions League champions.

La Maquina will host Atlante in the CCL final tonight, the first leg of it anyway, and the series will shift to Cancun for next week's decisive second leg.

Cruz Azul have been piss poor in league, as have Atlante. But the way the tournament is set up, the winner will have several months to improve before the FIFA Club World Cup kicks off.

It's of little consolation to the teams' respective Clausura campaign. And the two teams have long ago written the season off. Atlante rested several key players in their game on Friday, a 2-1 loss at Tecos, while Cruz Azul have had a seemingly different focus on the CCL.

It's tough to predict this series, given the two teams' poor league form. Cruz Azul and Atlante each have done well to reach this stage, and each faced a difficult task in the semifinal series. Atlante needed a late penalty to beat Santos while Cruz Azul needed penalty kicks to knock out Puerto Rico.

Cruz Azul have the advantage tonight in hosting Atlante, and with nothing else to play for expect both teams to give all of their efforts to winning the CCL and at least walking away from these last months with something to show for their efforts.

Local tale

My Wednesday PE column on Fontana's Chukwudi Chijindu.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

U-17s open play

The United States Under-17 national team started off its campaign to qualify for this year's U-17 World Cup with a 5-0 win over Cuba. Goal.com's Zac Lee Rigg was in attendance.

I tried to give him some helpful advice earlier today - he said he'd only driven through there before. I told him to stay away from Avenida Revolucion. He wasn't familiar with that place.

Anyone care to enlighten him on that particular part of town?

Piracy

I got a kick out of this story and figured I'd pass it along. It's from the Not LA Times section, a story about Pirates.

Brilliant stuff.

Busy morning

Won't get a chance to do much posting this morning. I'm working on my PE column, writing up a story on Chukwudi Chijindu. You know, I'm so anti-Chivas these days that I figured I'd dedicate my column on some developmental player on Chivas USA.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Don't ya just hate it?

Don't you hate when a supposed quality addition to your team underperforms, leaves and then goes on to do well somewhere else?

DC United fans might feel a bit upset over a former player of theirs who fits this category. Marcelo Gallardo came in with high hopes a year ago but by the end of the 2008 season the club could not wait to get rid of him and his high salary.

Gallardo has regained his health and his form and punctuated that with a goal in the toughest scenario, down a goal at La Bombonera against Boca Juniors. Gallardo's equalizer helped River Plate earn a 1-1 draw with their hated rivals.

Here's something we didn't see enough of in 2008:


Lactate Buildup Rankings (April 20)

1. Chivas USA (4-0-1). Chijindu, Stepanovic, Mayen... who are these guys? Looks like Preki's system is working pretty well after all.
2. Chicago (2-0-3). Draw that felt like a loss, and looked like a train wreck.
3. New England (2-0-2). On wrong end of late equalizer this time around.
4. Kansas City (2-2-1). Strong effort on road when all looked lost.
5. Seattle (3-2-0). Untimely goals allowed, offense has dried up... expansion ills strike expansion side.
6. Colorado (2-2-1). Road magic had to end at some point.
7. Real Salt Lake (2-2-0). RSL's gotta figure out those road woes.
8. DC United (1-1-3). Late equalizer shows possible signs of good things to come.
9. San Jose (1-2-2). 'Quakes dropping points like crazy early on.
10. Houston (1-2-2). Win over Colorado not pretty but Dynamo will take it.
11. New York (1-2-2). At least one MLS Cup 08 finalist now has a victory.
12. Columbus (0-2-3). Crew took week off to reflect on horrid season-opening stretch.
13. FC Dallas (1-3-1). Did all they could to blow two-goal lead but TFC's Wynne gave them a hand in their win after all.
14. LA Galaxy (0-1-3). Come-from-behind road point is encouraging but team still has not shown it can win.
15. Toronto FC (1-2-2). Went 0-1-1 against FC Dallas over two consecutive weekends. TFC stinking up joint once again.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Clasico de Clasicos

Chivas looked like a mess coming into Sunday's game against America. They fired their manager after 17 days on the job (and no losses in three games) and the turmoil may have taken away from their focus.

Then, when new manager Francisco "Paco" Ramirez did not start Javier "Chicharo" Hernandez, one of the club's hottest scorers, it looked difficult. Salvador Cabañas' absence though helped as Chivas were able to pull out a 1-0 win over America on Sunday.

Chivas have a crucial match at Pumas next week; a victory there would all but send the club through to the Liguilla. Regardless, they dealt America a tough setback as America now return home, a place where they haven't won this season, with a load of pressure.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Chivas USA vs. Seattle Sounders FC - match coverage

Greetings. I'm at Home Depot Center and the Chivas-Seattle game is just kicking off. I'll be on here during the match and afterward. Probably won't do a minute-by-minute recap of the action but I'll chime in accordingly. I've got just the two stories to write and file at the whistle so I won't be as busy as usual, though I could always find things to occupy my time.

Anyway, enjoy the match.

10 - Fredy Montero almost scored an incredible goal. He had a breakaway just now, walked past the Chivas defense and had Zach Thornton charging towards him. But from about 22 yards, Montero tried to chip the 'keeper but pushed his shot just wide of the goal.

32 - Sorry. Got distracted by another story I had to finish for Goal.com. See what I mean about occupying my time? Anyway, Chivas just scored. It was an own goal as James Riley knocked a ball into the back of the net, but Jonathan Bornstein set that goal up perfectly. He used his speed to get past a Seattle defender and put a lot on his centering pass, enough so that Riley's clearance attempt, no matter what he got on it, was going into the goal.

The new utilityman?

One of the not-so-surprising moves Bruce Arena made a week ago was starting Sean Franklin at right back. I think it came down to a matter of bodies; with the arrival of Gregg Berhalter, there was an excess in defense and both Tony Sanneh and Franklin got bumped out of the back as AJ De La Garza, Omar Gonzalez, Berhalter and Eddie Lewis made up the Galaxy's defense and picked up a shutout in the process.

Berhalter's gone and won't play against San Jose tonight, but will that mean Franklin's short-lived stint in the midfield will be over? Franklin could easily slide back into central defense with Omar Gonzalez, as the two started the season there together. And that probably would make the most sense, really. But would it? I mean, it seems to make sense in that Franklin has seen a lot of time there in his career, but he's been moving around a lot. He's a right back, central defender, now a right mid.... and he's keeping a good face about, playing where the boss asks him.

I don't know if that's best, though. Franklin was completely at fault for the game-losing goal against Colorado as he got stripped of the ball when trying to make an ill-advised run and coughed up the ball easily.

I'd like to see Franklin settle into a position and stay there. If his best spot is at right back, then let him compete for the right back position. Chris Klein has been woefully out of position there and is far better in the midfield, so let Franklin and Sanneh fight out for the right back spot each week. But the depth is so thin on defense - well, really everywhere on the roster - that you need for Franklin or other versatile players to be able to move from spot to spot depending on injuries and cards and all that other good stuff.

So Franklin thus will likely spend his sophomore season as a utilityman. We'll see where Arena starts him tonight, but my money's on central defense.

Filling the midfield void

Chivas USA will be without Paulo Nagamura tonight. Nagamura picked up a red card against the Galaxy a week ago and will be absent.

Nagamura will leave a gaping hole in the middle of the field. Nagamura's one of Chivas' best and most important players, both with his ability and leadership. I thought he got a bit carried away last week and that temper got the better of him as he kept yapping at the referee and that probably led to a quick yellow on his first booking. He deservedly picked up the second yellow and is now unavailable tonight.

My best guess in terms of filling the hole is with Sacha Kljestan. With Kljestan in the middle, Atiba Harris could slide to the right side of the field and Alecko Eskandarian could get his first start of the season.

Another option would be to move Mariano Trujillo to the right flank, move Carey Talley to right back and have Jim Curtin start in the middle. Curtin's size could match up well against Nate Jaqua, but Curtin's slow and he'll also have Fredy Montero and Fredde Ljungberg to deal with. Talley's not quite as slow as Curtin and might be able to handle that better.

Kasey Keller won't be in goal for Seattle but if anyone thinks that will make for a simple Chivas victory, they're mistaken. Seattle's got a lot of firepower and will put pressure on Chivas' goal. The difference from last week is that Seattle's got multiple weapons up top. Plus, this unit is still difficult to score on. They've allowed one goal in four games, and that was when they were down a man.

I'm looking forward to seeing Seattle in person but would have liked to have seen Keller and seen a full-strength Seattle squad but we'll just have to wait until June 6 for their return visit, at least to see them once again play Chivas.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Aguirre's in charge

Javier Aguirre was officially presented as Mexico manager on Thursday. I wrote up part of my SI.com column on him so I'll save some thoughts for later.

Here's some stories from Goal.com in the meanwhile.

Aguirre said that June 6 will be Mexico's D day.

Some of the many who came out in support of the move were his successor in 2002, Ricardo Lavolpe, as well as a player who earned his first cap under Lavolpe, Andres Guardado.

Here's a cartoon from Mural about the move.


Aguirre sits relaxed in the jeep saying "Calm down, I've come to get aboard the car of optimism" but the driver responds "If we were optimists, we wouldn't have fired Eriksson."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Chivas' novela

I've got a few stories up on Chivas' mess on Goal.com.

Among the highlights: Francisco Ramirez is enthused to be manager while Jorge Vergara insists Arellano was an interim, then goes on to rip into the players.

Classic brawl

It really was too bad that Omar Arellano was fired. We had a little story set to go on Goal.com about Arellano, his thoughts on the Clasico with America and his involvement in the huge brawl in the mid-80s between the teams.

This is quite an impressive brawl. I'll still share it with you here, but too bad there won't be a manager on Sunday that played a direct role in it.

Sacking of Omar

Sometimes, you couldn't make stuff up like this.

No matter how hard you'd try to fabricate something, it just wouldn't seem real.

This is one of those things. If you would have said yesterday at this time that Omar Arellano would not manage Guadalajara in Sunday's game against America, people would think you were crazy.

Well, it happened. Chivas sacked Arellano, just three weeks after he took over for Efrain Flores. Now, the club is onto its third boss in the last 24 days as Francisco "Paco" Ramirez is now in charge of El Rebaño.

Actually, Mural is reporting that Ramirez and Salvador Reyes Jr. are in charge of the team, but who is the boss and who is the assistant will be sorted out, though it appears it's Ramirez.

American fans are quite familiar with Ramirez. He was an assistant coach under Ricardo Lavolpe with the Mexican national team and served in the same role under Sven-Goran Eriksson with El Tri. After the 2-0 loss Mexico suffered against the US on Feb. 11, Ramirez slapped Frankie Hejduk and was banned for two games. Then, Eriksson got ran and Javier Aguirre was hired and is bringing in his own people.

Ramirez was also a finalist in the Chivas USA post when it ultimately went to Preki. At the time, I thought Ramirez should have gotten the job. I guess I liked the idea of a deviation from the Bradley era and thought that Ramirez may have been able to bring in guys like Paco Palencia or Loca Garcia.

Anyway, there you go. The wild and wacky world of Club Deportivo Guadalajara. As the corner of Mural's cover says... Ripley's Believe it or Not.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Midweek kickaround

Some random thoughts and links to fill the morning/afternoon:

- I didn't actually get to write about the attendance figures for my PE column. In case you hadn't noticed, attendance figures around the league are sagging. MLS Daily does an excellent breakdown of this so you can click on this link to check out the figures.

Now, it's a little early in the season to say that the sky is falling or anything but there have been some wretched attendance figures around the league thus far.

* Real Salt Lake drew 11,806 to their season opener against Columbus. Yes, it was on a Thursday night but the game kicked off their home schedule. And it was against the defending champions. They actually drew 13 less fans to a Saturday match against DC United about 10 days later.

* FC Dallas drew 6,524 fans to a Sunday afternoon match against Chivas USA.

* The Galaxy drew 23,317 fans Saturday against Chivas USA. Now, it wasn't the most poorly-attended Clasico they hosted - only 18,260 showed up in June 2006 to watch Chivas-Galaxy, but it was just the second time the Galaxy did not sell out a Clasico.

* The Galaxy also drew just 18,013 to their home opener. It was the first time since the Galaxy moved to Home Depot Center that they have drawn fewer than 20,000 to their home opener.

* Kansas City, Columbus and San Jose (twice) have played home games with fewer than 10,000 in the seats.

Anyway, I'm not going to make any sort of final judgments on this - it's still too early to do so - but this certainly bears watching.

ADD: Thanks to Michoacano, I remembered to add the second part of this attendance thoughts. Not all attendance figures have been negative. Seattle has made a splash in their games, averaging just under 30,000 in three home dates. Chivas USA also has enjoyed a bit of a rise in attendance, which is encouraging.

So while the overall figures look bleak there are some stats to be encouraged by.

- Fredy Montero won't face any sort of criminal charges for an alleged sexual assault. That's good. MLS has nowhere near the media exposure of the major American sports leagues, but it also doesn't have many of the off-the-field problems those leagues deal with either. Last thing we needed was for one of the brighter young imports acting badly. Well now, not sure if he did or didn't act badly but at least there was nothing criminal about his behavior.

- President Obama threw his support behind a US World Cup bid. Here's what he had to say about the matter, according to a US Soccer press release:

Hosting another successful World Cup is important for the continued growth of the sport in the United States. And it is important to me personally. As a child, I played soccer on a dirt road in Jakarta, and the game brought the children of my neighborhood together. As a father, I saw that same spirit of unity alive on the fields and sidelines of my own daughters’ soccer games in Chicago. Soccer is truly the world’s sport, and the World Cup promotes camaraderie and friendly competition across the globe. That is why this bid is about much more than a game. It is about the United States of America inviting the world to gather all across our great country in celebration of our common hopes and dreams.

- San Diego might be one of the venues for some possible World Cup games. Or it might not. The Union-Tribune's Mark Zeigler looks at "America's Finest City" and their prospects of potentially hosting World Cup matches.

- In case you aren't aware, Chivas and America will play on Sunday in the best football rivalry north of Boca-River on this side of the world. I'd put them in the same category and I'm not about to say one is better than the other. Of course, I follow the Mexican superclasico more but that's natural. My family's from Mexico.

Anyway, Chivas didn't look very good against Lanus on Tuesday in Copa Libertadores although they could have won the game had they not had a late goal disallowed.

And for overall coverage of the game and the Mexican league, stop by Goal.com. I'm treating it as a national team game and will have a lot of coverage before the game and on matchday.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Early trends

I'll be working on my Press-Enterprise column this morning, and right now I'm leaning towards writing on the early trends in MLS this season. I'll probably also write about the local teams as well since they've got trends of their own to discuss.

One of the two major early trends this season is the high number of red cards. Two weekends ago there were quite a few red cards handed out; Dema Kovalenko and Andy Iro were sent off on separate days at Home Depot Center alone. But last week, there were even more, seven in all including three during Saturday's Chivas-Galaxy game.

Here's a piece by Greg Lalas for SI.com on the trend.

Now, I know the official for Saturday's Chivas-Galaxy game took a lot of criticism for his performance, and while I agree that there were a lot of cards handed out, I feel that the three ejections were warranted.

* Paulo Nagamura's first yellow may have been a bit soft but he earned it with his constant yapping and aggressive play before that. He nailed Landon Donovan's ankle from behind, however much Donovan embelished the play afterward doesn't matter.

* Carey Talley took a forearm to the chest from Alan Gordon. That's a yellow, and it was his second.

* Gregg Berhalter dragged Alecko Eskandarian from behind and was the last man standing between Esky and the Galaxy goalkeeper. That's a straight red card in any game from high school to the World Cup.

There have been 31 total red cards this season, and it's a bit head-scratching why there have been so many. Not sure what the solution is to stopping such a high number of cards or if there is one really. Hopefully it's just a trend that will pass soon.

I'll be back later with at least one more troubling early-season trend: low attendance.

Hey you people!

Chivas USA will host Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday for the first time, which means the club will go against some former Galaxy figures, including one player who harbors no positive feelings about Chivas USA.

Actually, against their fans.

Here's what Peter Vagenas told MLSnet.com about the possibility of playing in Saturday's game against Chivas USA.

"They busted my window last year, those people. They followed me home and cracked open my (car) window," Vagenas said, referring to the Chivas USA fans. "After the last SuperClásico. It was on their home field and I took the trophy to celebrate with their fans. ... I didn't know who they were but they followed me home and smashed my window. So I owe 'em one."

Vagenas, who has yet to play for Seattle because of injury, was never one to hide his feelings about Chivas USA and reveled in beating his then-rivals. While he now has an allegiance towards another club, those anti-Chivas feelings apparently have not lessened at all.

I'm just wondering you "those people" are. The Union Ultras? Legion? Maybe the front office or the players themselves? Maybe Preki?

Anyway, Vagenas played some for the Sounders in a scrimmage on Monday, but whether or not he travels to LA for the game remains to be seen.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sending out an SOS

Anyone seen Sacha Kljestan?

There was a report of a sighting at HDC on Saturday but wasn't sure if it was him.

I last saw him in January, when he played against Sweden at HDC.

Maybe Kljestan is suffering from the same problem Brad Guzan did at the start of last year. With Europe so close only to be denied at the last moment, perhaps it's getting to Kljestan much like it did with Guzan. Only difference is Guzan's problems had a direct affect on the team as he played like garbage and allowed several goals.

Kljestan's lack of production has not damaged the team thus far. But there will be a time soon when the team needs him to take charge and do something. And it'll be time for him to reappear. With Paulo Nagamura out for Saturday's game against Seattle, that time might be sooner rather than later.

Loon Bird Rankings (April 13)

1. Chicago. Came back three times on the road, escaped with draw.
2. Chivas USA. Have most points in the league; scary thing is, there's a lot of room for improvement.
3. New England. Busiest week in league history? Not for Revs, who had bye week.
4. Seattle Sounders FC. Coming off first loss, Seattle now has some adversity to deal with.
5. Real Salt Lake. Things are going well when Olave scores a goal.
6. Colorado. Conor Casey, a star in the making.
7. Kansas City. Davy Arnaud, a star in the making
8. San Jose. Offense looks like it won't be a problem every week.
9. Toronto FC. Let worst team in the league score late equalizer at BMO.
10. DC United. Crayton inspires zero confidence with games like Saturday.
11. Columbus. Welcome back to 2007, Crew.
12. Houston. If this funk continues, will Kinnear's job be in danger soon?
13. New York. Any point on the road for this team is huge success.
14. LA Galaxy. Maybe top allocation spot for Berhalter wasn't a great idea after all.
15. FC Dallas. Someone aside from Cooper steps it up for a change.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Porous defending

Indios are one of the worst teams in Mexico. They are on the brink of going back to the Primera A as they have a tough road ahead of them in the final four games of the Clausura 2009 season.

But America's crappy defense sure made them look good on Sunday. If America play like this next week against Chivas, the Clasico Nacional won't be much of a contest.

It's actually a bad thing for Chivas that the game is not in Estadio Azteca. America have yet to win there this season.

Clasico aftermath

Saturday's Chivas USA-Galaxy match was a unique game, as all these matchups tend to be. But for some reason it didn't have the emotion, the drama that other matches have featured.

Maybe it's because some of the polarizing figures were absent, save for Landon Donovan of course. No Ante Razov. No Maykel Galindo. No Panchito Mendoza. And we're all still getting used to these new-look Galaxy players as Gregg Berhalter made his MLS debut and was one of six Galaxy players who had never played against Chivas USA before (stat check, Klein, Donovan, Gordon, Franklin have, believe Tudela has but have to go double check, in any case, about half the starting lineup).

Chivas never really looked dangerous after the first opening part of the game and then they went down a man, and the Galaxy never looked dangerous when they had a man advantage for a big chunk of the second half. And then, Chivas didn't look dangerous over the last 10 minutes.

The previous 0-0 draw in the series was a very good game, a game that produced a lot of drama and emotion. This one, meh.

One thing that would make this series even better, though, would be if the teams played only two times each season. Play once in late May/early June and another time in late September/early October. That would be better than three times a season, which is better than four times a season, but still not optimal. But that'll never happen. MLS will find ways to maximize this series rivalry and we'll get a minimum of three Clasicos a year.

I just hope that the next ones feature more drama and intensity (and maybe a few less cards) than Saturday's.

Golazo de alacran

This is goal of the year material in the Clausura 2009 season. I know I've been critical of Luis Angel Landin but this is a great goal. Not sure if he meant to do that but I'm sure he'll take it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Clasico coaches

After Saturday's 0-0 draw between the Galaxy and Chivas USA, Bruce Arena and Preki each seemed a bit more upbeat than you'd expect. Perhaps because at the point that each team went down a man, the respective coaches were probably praying for or at least would have been content with a draw, which is exactly what they got.

Here's audio of Preki's press conference.

And here's Arena.

Friday, April 10, 2009

On the brink

At the risk of providing more fluff...

Reforma reported a couple more things; Aguirre will live in Miami and his two main assistants - Mario Carrillo and Manuel Vidrio - will do a bulk of the scouting in person.

Also, three players Javier Aguirre is considering adding to the national team.

- Paul Aguilar of Pachuca. Aguilar was called up for Mexico's friendly against Bolivia last month but has yet to make his international debut. He didn't get into the game. Aguilar plays defense.

- Zinha. Apparently, Zinha will fill the playmaker role for Aguirre - at least, that's what Reforma concludes. They compare players with similar characteristics who have performed that job for Aguirre in his previous four teams: Maxi Rodriguez (Atletico, 06-09); Patxi Puñal (Osasuna, 02-06); Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Mexico 01-02); Gabriel Caballero (Pachuca 98-01).

- Braulio Luna. The veteran midfielder was a part of the 2002 World Cup team under Aguirre, and he also was on the 98 World Cup team under Manuel Lapuente. Luna's enjoyed a bit of a solid and productive career in recent years. He's 34 so there's the age factor, and how much can he really be counted on for the future, but he seems like the perfect Aguirre player - a hard-nosed veteran who can come in and teach the team a thing or two. He might not play 90 minutes every time out but he could be useful.

USL starts Saturday

Amidst the American soccer landscape, the USL is not often seen or heard compared to MLS... which is not often seen or heard compared to mainstream sports... but nevermind that.

Anyway, the USL did make some noise internationally, however, as Montreal and Puerto Rico did well in their respective CONCACAF Champions League efforts and made MLS look bad in the process. MLS had one-of-four teams in the knockout rounds, and that team (Houston) whimpered out quietly and predictably enough.

Still, Puerto Rico and Montreal eventually crashed out to Mexican teams as well but made their series interesting and gained respect in the process.

Now with USL opening up, where does each team stand with regards to the rest of the first division? Will it be a Puerto Rico-Montreal final? I'm not sure, to be honest, but you can read this informative preview on USL from Inside Minnesota Soccer, which has a season preview for the USL, which kicks off on Saturday (thanks to the awesome Bunky County for this link).

Of course, there's no USL-1 team in Southern California, so this has always made it a bit difficult to keep tabs with. But I have to say Montreal and Puerto Rico's collective efforts made me realize that the USL is a competitive league worth following, or at least attempt to follow.

Be on the lookout

If you happen to be at some ritzy ski resort in the United States, look out for Javier Aguirre.

Reforma reported that Aguirre is enjoying his last days as a free man in the United States, taking in some last-minute R&R with his family at a ski resort in the U.S.

Aguirre, of course, was named manager of Mexico a week ago after Sven-Goran Eriksson got ran out of town. Aguirre is supposed to be officially presented on Thursday and will presumably take over his full managerial duties then - scouting, planning, whatever managers do when the national team is not in session. Then, it's on. He probably won't get a moment's rest when that happens, which is why he's hitting the slopes.

According to Reforma, Aguirre's ready to crack the whip. He's reportedly already spoken to Rafael Marquez and Carlos Salcido about their respective cards and apparently is making it clear to everyone that he will not tolerate such nonsense. Add in Gerardo Torrado and Carlos Vela and Mexico players have had some horrible lapses of judgment in very important games, and that has hurt the team. Reforma said a source told them the following:

"Él no va a permitir eso, si no va a apostar por otros jugadores."

Translation: He won't allow that. If not, he's going to bet on other players.

Jose and me

My Q and A with Jose Mourinho ran this morning on SI.com. Here's a link.

It was great to have the chance to have sat down with such an iconic figure as Jose Mourinho. Pretty interesting fellow.

I may have an excerpt or two that didn't run in the story here later.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Atlante prevail

Atlante beat Santos 3-1 on Wednesday and joined Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions League final.

The match was fairly exciting and intense but seemed to unravel at the end. The match was decided by Rafael Marquez Lugo, who converted a penalty in stoppage time to give Atlante the series-clinching goal. Three red cards ensued as a brawl broke out deep in stoppage time.

Now, I don't know if the call was a penalty or not. The referee called a penalty on Alejandro Figueroa for knocking down Gabriel Pereyra inside the box, and Marquez Lugo converted the spot kick.

I suppose one way around the officiating issue would be to allow for domestic officials in these country-versus-country matches. A Mexican referee would be used to the contact, fouls and dives that exist in the league, and at the very least there would be a lot more familiarity with the teams and the style of play because of that. It;s one thing for a, say Canadian ref to officiate a match between a Mexican and Costa Rican club, but when it's Mexico-vs-Mexico, just seems natural that a Mexican ref would best know how to call the game.

Anyway, here are the highlights.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Knocked out

The Galaxy won't contend for the US Open Cup title this year after getting knocked out of the tournament before it even started by Colorado again.

A year ago, Colorado beat the Galaxy in a play-in match last year and did so again last night in a 4-2 penalty-kick shootout win.

Here's some video from the post-game press conferences - Colorado's Gary Smith and the Galaxy's Bruce Arena.

The Rapids went down a man in the 36th minute but still managed to hold the Galaxy scoreless for the remainder of regulation and the 30-minute extra time session.

Aguirre column

I chimed in with my thoughts on the Mexico managerial position for The Press-Enterprise.

And in case you missed it, I also wrote a column on Aguirre for Goal.com.

The one thing I really didn't address in any column is the thought that Aguirre will inspire confidence in the team and that will help improve things. It's another challenge he has, amidst his wealth of challenges. Now, I don't think the fault for Mexico's current state was Sven-Goran Eriksson's alone, and that now Aguirre is in and everything is right with El Tri. It's not as cut-and-dry as that.

But one argument in favor of a 180-degree turnaround from the start seems to be the confidence Aguirre will instill in the players. I think that was one of the biggest arguments in favor of Hugo Sanchez, that players would do anything and everything for him, that they would play with fervor the likes of which hadn't been seen in a long time.

I just don't buy it. It's not as easy as hitting the confidence button and watching the team dominate. It's not. I'm not saying Aguirre won't turn things around, but I just don't think it's going to be easy.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Puerto Rico-Cruz Azul CCL

Mexican clubs don't lose at home in international competition (unless, of course, it's to fellow Mexican clubs) when it matters.

Case in point: Tuesday's latest opportunity for another team to leave Mexico with a series victory and was the latest evidence that the Mexican clubs are the strongest in the region.

Puerto Rico gave it their all, perhaps gave Cruz Azul a little too much respect, but it took la Maquina 120 minutes and five penalty kicks to get past the gutty little Puerto Rico side.

Puerto Rico entered the game with a 2-0 aggregate lead, went a man up half hour in and still couldn't put Cruz Azul away. The Islanders even had a one-goal lead with less than 10 minutes to go, less than 10 minutes between the USL side and a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League final, but squandered it away too. The two teams exchanged extra-time goals, with Puerto Rico's coming courtesy of a nifty strike from distance by Sandy Gbandi. But Cesar Villaluz equalized a little later for the hosts.

In the end, Cruz Azul won it on penalties, besting the Islanders by a 4-2 shootout score. It's a stinging loss for Puerto Rico, especially since the Islanders had come so far only to lose in such heartbreaking manner.

Now, the final is guaranteed of being an all-Mexico final. Cruz Azul will take on the Atlante-Santos survivor in the CCL final. Although that is a surprise to nobody - at least it shouldn't be - the manner in which the USL threatened to pull off an upset was fairly surprising.

Lillingston audio

Some more post-game audio from Sunday.

Eduardo Lillingston apparently speaks English, but he preferred to talk after Sunday's game in Spanish. I had my digital recorder closer to him and further away from the translator but there is some English thrown in there if you need the help.

Anyway, here's Lillingston talking about the game and MLS and telling me he was going to enjoy the win before thinking about the Galaxy.

First wins

I wrote a bit on this in the comments section of my rankings but wanted to expand on the topic.

Chivas USA and the Galaxy will meet for the first time in 2009 on Saturday, and history suggests it won't be a pretty match for Chivas USA.

Overall, the Galaxy have dominated the series against Chivas USA but in particular the first games of each and every season have gone towards the Galaxy's favor. And none of the games were anything but difficult setbacks for Chivas USA.

In brief:

2005: Galaxy scores three early goals, cruise to 3-1 victory over expansion Chivas side.
2006: Cornell Glen scores two late goals, Galaxy steal 2-1 win
2007: Harmse, Donovan score early, Jones scores late in 3-1 win
2008: Gordon, Donovan score twice each in 5-2 Galaxy win
2009: ???

At least Chivas have managed to score goals.

So, even though the Galaxy's defense is bunk and Chivas are 3-0, this game is anything but an easy match to predict. Based on current form, Chivas should win the game, but based on history Chivas have no shot.

Anyway, just a thought to get the week started. I suppose the Galaxy still have something to work out tonight in their US Open Cup play-in match against Colorado before they can focus on their intra-stadium rivals.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Marsch on match, Galaxy

I jumped in a bit late on the Jesse Marsch conversation so that's why it starts kind of mid-sentence.

Also, a bit of a disclaimer: I wore a Mexican club's jersey to the game so that's what he's referring to.

Here's the link to the audio.

Lively Preki presser

I got my digital recorder back and finally have time to post some stuff.

First up is the press conference from Sunday. Preki joined us and talked about the game and some of the performances. The fun started late in the press conference after Preki fielded a question on the Galaxy and whether he watched the game on Saturday or not.

Here's a link to the audio.

Of course, the bad thing was that I had shut off my video camera when all that happened. I shot video of it for Goal.com, so you can watch the first four minutes of the press conference here.

Lemon Basil Rankings (April 6)

1. Chicago. No Blanco not exactly a hindrance for early-season success.
2. Seattle. Setting the standard in the Western Conference already - does that speak to Sigi Schmid's ability to manage or the state of Western clubs?
3. New England. Efficient and effective soccer.
4. Chivas USA. Not quite like Seattle's 3-0 start but Chivas USA have been unbeatable this season thus far as well.
5. Real Salt Lake. RSL hoping to make Rio Tinto a fortress in '09; so far, so good.
6. Toronto FC. Shaky defense at home not supposed to have been trademark of this year's team.
7. Colorado. Conor Casey-Omar Cummings partnership could be lethal.
8. DC. Slowly emerging as a decent club.
9. San Jose. First road game of '09 not encouraging.
10. Columbus. Was Schmid that influential?
11. Kansas City. Solved, at least temporarily, their defensive issues.
12. Houston. Slow starts have plagued them before, but the slump might last until October.
13. New York. Can't score against 10 men for 76 minute; Danny Cepero was a nightmare too.
14. LA Galaxy. Embarrassing performance against the Rapids.
15. FC Dallas. Will struggle to win six games this season.

Monday morning quick takes

Just a few things before I start the morning:

- Carlos Ochoa scored again, finally. You might remember Ochoa as Chivas' hot offseason acquisition. He did well to find the back of the net in InterLiga and on his debut with Chivas in league. Since his first game, however, he's been nothing but terrible and his ghastly unproductive performances led to Efrain Flores' ouster. Apparently, Ochoa's play had been so bad that some teammates began calling him "El Bloopers," according to Mural. Well, Ochoa scored on Sunday alright - for Tapatio. Looks like "El Bloopers" will be tearing things up for the second-division club.

- By the way, the guy who stepped up and started scoring goals was Javier "Chicharo" Hernandez, who was linked to Chivas USA in the preseason. Hernandez ain't going nowhere now. Also, um, Hernandez > Jesus Padilla. By a long shot.

- In case you forgot, international action returns on Tuesday in CONCACAF as Puerto Rico visit Cruz Azul. La Maquina are in a state of disarray but whether or not that carries over in the CCL remains to be seen. Puerto Rico already pulled off one improbable road win as they beat Marathon. But, well, let's keep the theme going... Cruz Azul > Marathon.

- Also on Tuesday is the return of the US Open Cup, for the Galaxy anyway. The Galaxy will play Colorado again - and that again is on two notes. The Galaxy played Colorado on Saturday night of course, but they also played Colorado in an Open Cup play-in game in 2008. The Galaxy lost both games, on Saturday by 3-2 and a year by 1-0.

- I've got some audio links coming up later as I already posted one online and will have another couple also ready to go.

- One quick non-soccer note: Metallica tickets go on sale Saturday, at least locally. They've scheduled a show on Dec. 11 at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday highlights

Not a lot of time this morning to blog, though I'll be out at HDC tonight for Crew-Chivas.

Here are some highlights you may have missed or want to re-live to get you going this Sunday.





Friday, April 3, 2009

MLS Week 3

As much as I've enjoyed the national team games, this weekend will revert back to league as MLS and Mexican league action will dominate the landscape, at least around here.

For an MLS debriefing, I'd suggest reading Kyle McCarthy's story on Goal.com. He looks at each game and predicts a winner. I probably would have predicted the Crew to do better on Sunday before Thursday's defeat in Salt Lake but I think I might have to agree with his pick in that game.

The match I'm really looking forward to is Seattle-Toronto. Suddenly, that game is probably the must-watch game of the week. Seattle has been fantastic at home, outscoring their opponents 5-0 in two games but now they must travel to a place that hasn't been easy for visitors to get results. And that was when they were a bad team. Toronto also looks like the real deal, and it's their own home opener. And the internationals will return, so Amado Guevara will join TFC fresh off Honduras' whipping of Mexico.

Sven column

I'm away from my computer now but I wanted to post a link to SI.com. I wrote a column on the Sven-Goran Eriksson firing and sort of the overall state of El Tri.

Here's the link to the main soccer page on SI.com. Hopefully my story's up.

If you've been reading my blog, you know where I stand on the issue. Javier Aguirre looks like he's the man, and I didn't really get into that in my column, but anyone who thinks Aguirre is going to be able to flip a switch and have the team firing on all cylinders and having their way with every team from now on is mistaken.

That seemed to have happened in 2001, but the team is much different now, and I talk about that part so read the column to get my thoughts on that aspect.

Aguirre is a good manager but he's spent a lot of time in Europe and one of the complaints about Sven was that he didn't know the league and the players, and Aguirre might not be too familiar with the current league and players. Still, he can probably acclimate himself quicker than Sven. But how much will that really matter? Are there any diamonds-in-the-rough out there that will make an immediate impact? In '01 he lopped some players off the team and some he didn't bring back, including Pavel Pardo.

And also, as happy as everyone is about the possibility of Aguirre coming back, he did have a horrendous loss of his own, the 2-0 defeat at the hands of the US in the World Cup. And remember the little thing about the naturalized players? He kind of started it with Gabriel Caballero. So it's not like he doesn't have his own skeletons.

Anyway, check out the story. And let me know what you think of the move. I'm probably in the minority who doesn't think it was the greatest move.

Sven-toons

A couple of cartoons that ran in Mural over the last two days.

First, this one's after Wednesday's loss in Honduras and ran in Thursday's editions:

Sven says: We're going to regroup and we'll see each other again on June 6.
The Tri guy responds: I'm going to see you again? Don't threaten me.

And this one ran today, as it appears Javier Aguirre is the man:

The sign says: Welcome Home Javier Aguirre
Sven asks: What time does the party start?
Tri trio responds: As soon as the plane for Sweden departs.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sven's out

What began as a leap of faith and turned into a rumor has become reality. Sven-Goran Eriksson is no longer Mexico's manager.

Let's see, Hugo Sanchez - Nov 06 to March 08, Chucho Ramirez - March 08 to June 08; Sven Goran Eriksson - June 08 to April 09....

And you wonder why the team looks like shit...

Gone or not?

Expanding a bit on the story that Mural ran accompanying the cover below, here's a brief translation of the story:

Sven-Goran Eriksson's exit from the national team will be announced on April 27 during the owners' meeting, to give formality to the situation and probably decide his successor.

After the 3-1 loss in Honduras, the pressure became too much for the FMF leadership. The press conference with the manager had just finished and the calls began to put the backup plan in place, the one that federation officials acknowledged having a week ago just in case.

And the time has come. Justino Compean, president of the FMF, asked director of national teams Nestor De La Torre to take the first steps and, in plain view outside the locker room, the ex-vice president of Guadalajara began making phone calls meanwhile the official waited. Sven-Goran was not around at that time.

The rest of the story goes on to talk about how Sven had a talk with the federation, and that after the team bus left the officials continued making calls, and mentions Javier Aguirre and Jose Manuel "Chepo" De La Torre as replacements.

All that seems like a giant leap of faith, to assume that everything that went on after the game would lead anyone to believe that the manger will be gone for sure. Maybe he'll be gone, but it doesn't seem as if that determination was made yet.

Stories are breaking that there will be an emergency meeting today to determine Sven's future, but determining one's future and saying one's future is non-existent are two different things.

Just seems like irresponsible journalism.

Getting the boot

Mexico haven't sacked Sven-Goran Eriksson, though FMF officials did say there would be a review of Eriksson's performance later this month, which could very well mean he will no longer be in charge of El Tri.

But the Mexican media is already kicking him out the door.

Like old times

LB and AC debating yet another footballing topic. This one's on Sven-Goran Eriksson and whether he should stay on as Mexico manager.

Four versus Five

The standings in South America's qualifying table are as follows:

Paraguay 24
Brazil 21
Chile 20
Argentina 19
Uruguay 17
Colombia 14
Ecuador 14
Venezulea 13
Bolivia 12
Peru 7

The top four spots in South America earn a direct berth to South Africa, and right now that would be Paraguay, Brazil, Chile and Argentina.

The fifth-place team, which is Uruguay, would play CONCACAF's fourth-place team in a playoff for another World Cup spot.

The fourth-place team right now is Mexico.

Uruguay-Mexico for a World Cup spot. Yes, there is a long way to go, but that's one possible scenario Mexico would face if El Tri continues to show poorly in qualifying.

Picante analysis

It's only two minutes long but here's some analysis of the Mexico loss from the Futbol Picante guys.

Mexico-Honduras highlights

The camera angle is the exact opposite from what we saw on Telemundo, but here are the goals from Wednesday's Honduras' 3-1 win over Mexico.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

One-sided evening

Seems Jozy Altidore is pretty good after all.

I've got way more thoughts on the United States' rout over Trinidad to come later but I'm focused on the other result, Honduras 3-1 over Mexico.

I've got thoughts on that too. For now, I'd say that Mexico needn't overreact since they've played just once at home and while they are terrible on the road thus far and have one road game upcoming, they do play four of the next five after that at home.

As far as the US, more of the same. Seven points after three games, first place, a World Cup spot is theirs to lose.

Elsewhere, Walter Centeno scored in the 69th minute as Costa Rica beat El Salvador in San Jose.

The standings are thus:

United States 7
Costa Rica 6
Honduras 4
Mexico 3
Trinidad & Tobago 2
El Salvador 2

Bolivia wins in a rout

Not sure what the commentator is saying but it's probably something like this:

"Maradona is a failure! How can he lose this badly to Bolivia and keep his job?? He will get ran out of his job after losing 6-1!"

Berhalter to MLS

US World Cup veteran Gregg Berhalter was recently let go by 1860 Munich and is headed to the MLS.

The Galaxy sit first in the allocation table and stand a chance of acquiring Berhalter, if they choose to keep him and use the choice to take him. It wouldn't necessarily be the greatest choice as you never know what will happen. A year ago, San Jose took Jean Phillipe Peguero once he became available and the top spot in the allocation table moved to Toronto, who subsequently were first when Brian McBride became available. San Jose could have had the opportunity to trade McBride to Chicago since McBride wanted to go to Chicago but instead they got a bust of a player.

Still, the Galaxy could use Berhalter. As talented as Omar Gonzalez is, he's 20 years old. It might do him a lot of good to either play alongside Berhalter or watch and learn from Berhalter. Not that Berhalter is Maldini or anything but Gonzalez could learn a lot from a guy who's spent his entire career in Germany and has played in the World Cup. And the Galaxy's backline is paper-thin to begin with, so this may not be the flashy attacking player that most would probably like but it would fill a need.

Gold Cup schedule out Thursday

The Gold Cup schedule will be announced Thursday.

The dates and venues have already been announced and are as follows:

First Round

July 3 – The Home Depot Center (Los Angeles)
July 4 – Qwest Field (Seattle)
July 5 – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (San Francisco)

July 7– Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio)
July 8 – RFK Stadium (Washington)
July 9 – Reliant Stadium (Houston)

July 10 – Florida International University Stadium (Miami)
July 11 – Gillette Stadium (Boston)
July 12 – University of Phoenix Stadium (Phoenix)

Quarterfinals
July 18 – Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia)
July 19 – Dallas Cowboys New Stadium (Dallas)

Semifinals
July 23 – Soldier Field (Chicago)

Final
July 26 – Giants Stadium (New York)

Now, I'm just guessing here, and I already did this in a way but wanted to do it again, but my guess is that Mexico will play in Oakland, Houston and Phoenix, while the US will play in Seattle, DC and Boston during the first round, respectively.

The cash cow, I mean, the final will be played at Giants Stadium, and I'm sure the chances of the US and Mexico meeting before then will be virtually impossible. Like, the US would have to finish third in their group and Mexico second, and they'd each have to have a plus-one goal differential while having scored seven goals and surrendered six in the first round. Something like that.

Now, here are the teams: United States, Panama, Honduras, Grenada, El Salvador, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Haiti.

I'm going to try and put together some groups here just for kicks

A: Costa Rica, Honduras, Guadeloupe, Haiti
B: United States, El Salvador, Canada, Grenada
C: Mexico, Jamaica, Panama, Nicaragua

I'm probably off but those seem somewhat balanced. Not sure if they'll account for geography, ie will they put three Caribbean teams in one group, will they make sure each group has at least on Caribbean team and one Central American team, things like that.

I guess we'll find out tomorrow morning. In the meantime, is it kickoff yet? US-TRI, MEX-HON... can't wait.

The abyss

Mexico's loss to Costa Rica in 2001 was bad, downright terrible for the Mexicans.

But what does rock bottom look like?

Got you covered

Remember to check back on Goal.com for both coverage on Mexico and their qualifier against Honduras and the US national team's game against Trinidad & Tobago.

Goal.com is staffing the latter as Shane Evans is in Tennessee to provide coverage. Hopefully, at least one future US game will feature coverage from yours truly. But let's not get our hopes up quite yet. After all, I might not be able to find my passport.

Potential US lineup

I was going to write about a possible lineup for the US but then I read Paul Oberjuerge's blog and, well, he pretty much stole my thunder. I agree with him on all points, particularly starting Jose Francisco Torres in Sacha Kljestan's spot. Sacha has been a huge disappointment during the Hexagonal, and I would be shocked if he started in place of Torres.

Paul also suggests one other change that I probably wouldn't have considered - Jozy Altidore for Brian Ching - but I'm coming around to that. I guess I think that Altidore on the field is better than Altidore not on the field. And the only way that might happen is to bench Ching. A means to an end, I suppose.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Castillo speaks

Edgar Castillo answered questions about his missing passport on Tuesday.

More on my own passport plight... I worry about losing my passport so I gave the responsibility of maintaining the passport safe and secure and in a known location to my wife many years ago, after I got the new one, sometime in early '04. I did not want to have the chance to travel and not be able to go because I didn't have my passport.

I hate that feeling, when something tremendously important depends on a document, and I have no idea where that document is. I can imagine what Edgar was going through, and then to have to tell the Mexican Football Federation about losing his passport...

Anyway, I don't know where my passport is but my wife does. Actually, I think it's in a drawer in a file cabinet somewhere, but I trust her more than I trust myself.

Funny thing is, one of the rumors that surfaced was that Castillo's ex-wife, whom he reportedly recently divorced, actually took the passport in question and hid it. That ran in Mural this morning, and while I'm not sure of the validity of it, it's out there.

Hmmm... maybe the other Castillo had a point in the Mexican media getting involved in personal lives... on the other hand, this seems to affect more than just his personal life and more than just himself.

Sven's challenges

Here's an interesting column on SI.com. I didn't write it, but it's on Sven-Goran Eriksson and his challenges with his job as Mexican national team manager.

For those of us who follow Mexican football, it might seem simple enough and a lot of this might be common knowledge, but to a lot of those who don't, this is the kinds of things they don't realize are happening in Mexico. Keep in mind, this was written for World Soccer magazine, so a lot of their readers probably have little or no familiarity with Mexico, so a lot of this may be new to them.

Anyway, though it was worth a read for those trying to familiarize themselves with or get up to speed on Mexico. This was written before the Costa Rica win (it's in the current issue of the magazine).

Losing it

Three players did not travel to Honduras with the Mexican national team. Two had legitimate excuses as Ricardo Osorio (stomach flu) and Giovani Dos Santos (groin) were physically unable to go.

Edgar Castillo, though, did not get to go because he lost his passport. Seriously.

I lost my passport once. I had come back from Japan after the 2002 World Cup and a week later moved from one apartment to another. I swore for years that I had left it behind in the old place because I never remembered seeing it in the new place. Since then, we bought a house, and then another, in a span of about five years, maybe less. While rummaging through my closet here in my current house, I grabbed a camera bag that I hadn't used in a while. I figured I'd put my camera in there since, well, that's what it's for. I wondered what else was in there, since we'd bought that camera bag in 2000 or 2001. I shuffled through the pockets and found my passport. Of course, I'd replaced it in late '03 before a trip to Europe.

I felt like a dumbass. I'm sure Edgar feels like a dumbass too, and one day he'll probably find it. The only difference of course is that my dumb move did not cost me the chance to travel to Honduras for a World Cup qualifier, nor was it publicized until right now. And even then, I'm sure nobody cares.

Lady's Bedstraw Rankings (March 31)

A day late, but here they are

1. Chicago. Four points in two road games not a bad way to start the season.
2. Columbus. Will be tested with two road games in four-day span this week (at RSL, at Chivas USA).
3. New England. See no. 1.
4. Seattle. Fredy's got skills.
5. Toronto. Got a draw at Columbus without Amado Guevara.
6. San Jose. Cam Weaver and Ryan Johnson showing positive signs.
7. Chivas USA. Another first for the team: their first-ever 2-0 start.
8. Real Salt Lake. Have they already passed the torch?
9. Houston. Ching and Kamara return Saturday; problems though may be on defense.
10. Colorado. If Cummings can keep this up, Colorado will contend.
11. New York. Thanks to Jay Heaps, Red Bulls' offensive production has resulted in one own goal in two games.
12. LA Galaxy. No Galaxy games coincide with US qualifying matches; funny how that worked out.
13. DC United. They can't hold leads at home either.
14. Kansas City. Five goals allowed in two games - yikes!
15. FC Dallas. Relegation-bound... well, they could be anyway.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Jonny's back

Heath Pearce has been rather disappointing in two qualifiers, and DaMarcus Beasley was atrocious there on Saturday.

Good to see the best left back is finally with the team.

Jonathan Bornstein will join the US ahead of Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago in Tennessee. Bornstein's stock has risen after Pearce's poor showings against Mexico and El Salvador.

Now, I know I've taken a lot of flak for having heaped praise on Jonny B before, and there has been a lot of support in the Pearce camp. However, I stand by my initial belief that Bornstein should be the first-choice left back. Bornstein offers far more than Pearce does on the offensive side of the ball and he's not a terrible defender either. I can tell you that he would not have gotten undressed like Beasley did on El Salvador's second goal Saturday. That cross never would have gotten off.

Anyway, here's hoping Bornstein not only joins the team well but that he gets the start.

Morning links

A couple of stories to get you going this Monday morning while I head to the gym. I've got a half-marathon in less than three weeks now, so I've got to get some quality runs here soon. Anyway...

- Goal.com's Kyle McCarthy with a look back at Week 2 in MLS.

- Here's my story for the PE on the Sol-Freedom game and the opening of WPS in general.

- Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote a gamer for his paper.

- Another match report, from Grahame Jones of the LA Times.

- A match report from the Dallas Morning News on Chivas USA's 2-0 win. Chivas, 2-0 for the first time in team history.

Robbed

Former DC United midfield Marcelo Gallardo was victim of a robbery at his home in Buenos Aires.

According to this story, robbers broke into his house in the middle of the night and waited for Gallardo and his family to come home. They stole various items and several thousands of dollars in cash.

Gallardo left DC after one season to return to River Plate.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I've got Sol but I'm not a Soldier

So I'm out here at Home Depot Center for the women's opener. The Women's Professional Soccer opener, that is. Sol won 2-0, in case you were wondering.

It was sort of a last-minute thing to come out here but I'm glad I was able to come out. The players were genuinely excited about having a league of their own once again, and the teams played an entertaining match. It wasn't great soccer but it was entertaining and women's pro soccer and that was more than enough reason for people to enjoy the day.

The game drew a crowd of 14,832, about 5,000 more than the Sol were expecting. Now, you may not think that is a great number but consider that the Galaxy drew about 18,000 and Chivas USA drew around 16,000 in their respective home openers last weekend. That, and FC Dallas drew 6,500 or so in their game on Sunday. Who knows how many of those 14,832 will come back but that they were here was enough for players on both sides to enjoy the day.

On a quick side note, I found my digital recorder (yes!) so I'll have audio of some of the players later.

We'll see though how the league can build this into any sort of momentum for upcoming matches. The next game here won't be until April 19, three weeks from now, but if the league can put on more games like Sunday the bulk of these fans may be enticed to come back for more.

More analysis

Andrea Canales chimes in with some spot-on analysis of the US team.

More coverage, including video footage, from Canales who was down in El Salvador for the game.

The only other American scribe, Paul Oberjuerge, has some post-match thoughts on his blog.

Oberjuerge's story for the New York Times.

Point taken

I've got some time now to reflect a bit on the US-El Salvador match. Overall, the US fell flat on their faces for 72 minutes, then got back into the game when El Salvador let them into the game.

There are a few ways to look at this I suppose, the good and the bad. On one hand, the United States played terrible soccer for most of the game, were out-worked, out-muscled, out-everything-ed for more than 70 minutes, fell behind by a pair of goals and still came away with a point. Even at their worst, the US needed just 15 minutes to come from behind and nearly won it.

On the other hand, a more experienced team would have put the US away, may have even scored a third goal, and would have sent a message to the supposed superior team. The US seemed disinterested, lost out there. It may be a bit alarming that the US couldn't muster up the effort and energy to put forth a strong performance on the road from the first minute, and had to wait until the very end of the game to get their acts together.

I think it's somewhere in between. The US did do well to get a point but it is a bit troubling that the Americans were so flawed for large stretches of time, against a team many expect to finish last in the Hexagonal.

Individual performances mostly fell in the terrible category, so I'll highlight the few particularly bad ones.

THE FEW PARTICULARLY BAD ONES

Brad Guzan. It's not that he was necessarily at fault on the goals - and he did come up with a strong save that could have buried the Americans. But Guzan had the deer-in-headlights look we've seen from time to time. He wasn't confident and that lack of confidence spilled over into the defense. When Guzan is confident, makes himself a presence in goal, the defenders play off of that energy. That wasn't the case at all on Saturday.

Sacha Kljestan. We're still waiting for his potential to pay off. He had a good game against Sweden but that kind of performance is needed in games that matter, particularly road games. Kljestan had little impact on the game. His touch was off and his one open shot from distance was awful. Here's hoping Bob Bradley opts for Jose Francisco Torres on Wednesday.

Central Defense. Yikes. I've been critical of Oguchi Onyewu in the past but there is no better way to prove someone's worth than a poor perforamnce in his absence. Carlos Bocanegra made a monumentally horrendous decision to try and clear a ball with a slide tackle that instead went to a player he should have been marking, which resulted in a goal. It was an unbelievably bad decision by the US captain. Danny Califf didn't offer much in the area of support. And why was Frankie Hejduk left alone in the middle of the box to try and clear a cross that came in from the US' left side?

BRIGHT SPOTS

Frankie Hejduk. Yes, he was at fault for the second goal. But his central defense partners left him out to dry a bit. But Hejduk did well to not quit, not give up, continue working hard. He assisted on the first goal with a well-place cross, then buried a header to level terms. Hejduk is and will be a key part of this team during qualifying, no matter how old he is. I dare anyone to criticize his game and his value to the team.

Jozy Altidore. Remember that other forward who scored his first qualifying goal at El Salvador? Let's hope this one turns out to be more useful than the other one. Altidore was in good position to bury a cross, did well to put it in the back of the net. Although that shot looked simple enough, it's a play that a young player like Altidore may have easily pushed over the crossbar. Altidore hasn't been playing much, has never played in a game of this magnitude with the senior team, yet there he was showing maturity and composure while several of his teammates wilted.