Saturday, January 31, 2009

Slow and slower

Sven-Goran Eriksson was asked on Friday about his options up front for the U.S. game.

"Help me. We don't have a mountain of speedy forwards."

This spawned the following cartoon which appeared in Mural:


A pondering Sven says: I've just realized that we don't have fast forwards.

The snail responds: You just realized that? You are pretty slow yourself.

US-Mexico countdown: No. 12

12. International friendly; Glendale, Ariz.; Feb. 7, 2007: US 2, Mexico 0

After an unsuccessful performance in the 2006 World Cup for the United States, and another heartbreaking second-round ouster in Germany for Mexico, each side turned to a new coach in late 2006. The U.S. tabbed Bob Bradley as the interim boss and he debuted with a win in January 2007. Mexico, meanwhile, turned to the overwhelming favorite and beloved Hugo Sanchez, whom many felt would turn the tide for Mexico and eventually take El Tri to new heights. Bradley and Sanchez met in Glendale, Ariz., with vastly different teams: Sanchez had called on his biggest guns for the game while Bradley went with many young, mostly MLS-based players. Before xx,xxx mostly pro-Mexico fans, El Tri dominated possession early on but could not beat U.S. ‘keeper Tim Howard. Early in the second half, Jimmy Conrad scored off a corner kick to give the Americans a surprising 1-0 lead. Late in the match, in a play that both gave American supporters euphoria and rage, Landon Donovan scored on a breakaway to seal the match. After the goal, Mexico’s Oswaldo Sanchez slid into U.S. forward Eddie Johnson as the American ran by to join his teammates in celebration. The gesture drew the ire of American fans, who have since vilified Sanchez and have pegged him as Public Enemy No. 1. Mexico fans, meanwhile, were far more concerned about their coach who showed some chinks in his armor and were mostly left scratching their heads about the American team they were supposed to have wiped the floor with.

United States: Tim Howard; Jonathan Bornstein, Carlos Bocanegra, Chris Albright (Joshua Gros, 68), Jimmy Conrad; Clint Dempsey (Brian Carroll, 75), Ricardo Clark, Bobby Convey, Pablo Mastroeni; Landon Donovan, Chris Rolfe (Eddie Johnson, 64)

Mexico: Oswaldo Sánchez; Ricardo Osorio, Carlos Salcido, Rafael Márquez; Ramon Morales (Andres Guardado, 46), Gerardo Torrado (Omar Bravo, 62), Alberto Medina (Jose Francisco Fonseca, 46), Pável Pardo, Gonzalo Pineda; Cuauhtémoc Blanco (Adolfo Bautista, 46), Jared Borgetti

Goals

United States - Conrad 52
United States - Donovan 90+

Note: I had originally wanted to include video with all these games, or rather make this a video countdown and have limited commentary but that was asking for too much apparently. This is the first game on the countdown that has the goals online by themselves and not part of some compilation. So you'll be seeing more videos - at least six of the top 10 - the rest of the way.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A stab at a starting lineup

I know it's early still and lots will happen between now and Feb. 11, but I'd venture to say that this is what the US lineup could look like when they line up to face Mexico.


I'd say 10 of the 11 are pretty safe, with the exception being DaMarcus Beasley as Bob Bradley may opt for Jose Francisco Torres on the left given the youngster's knowledge of Mexico as well as his ability and form. An outside shot I'd say may be Jonathan Bornstein in place of Heath Pearce on the left, as Bornstein had success against Mexico in two wins over El Tri in 2007.

But the rest look pretty safe bets to start right now.

Attack mode

Attacking options are limited as Mexico enters the Hexagonal. Here's how Cancha breaks down the top forward options Mexico has at this moment.

Matias Vuoso: Scored one goal in qualifying, against Canada, but has scored just five goals in league play since July.

Carlos Vela: Has had little activity with Arsenal; with the national started to put himself out given what happened in the last round when he scored just once.

Giovani Dos Santos: Just came back with Tottenham a week ago after months of inactivity due to injury; has not scored with El Tri in qualifying.

Carlos Ochoa: Has not scored a goal un the Eriksson era, although he was the most productive forward in InterLiga and has become Chivas' top goal scorer.

Nery Castillo: His inactivity with Manchester City left him out of several national team camps but has returned to Shaktar Donetsk and is having a promising preseason.

Omar Bravo: Has not had much consistency since he migrated to Spain and Deportivo La Coruna and since August has scored just three goals.

Guille Franco: Has been excluded since Eriksson's very first call-ups, reason being his little activity with Villarreal.

And here's an interesting story from El Universal about the lack of a true "Number 9" player. The headline says a lot: "Don't look for him... there is no No. 9."

The writer argues that the long string of capable and productive forwards that Mexico has boasted over the last several decades has been snapped.

Here's a brief (translated) excerpt:

With Jared Borgetti's apparent farewell from the national team, a string of center forwards on the national team with international hierarchy has been snapped. Sven-Goran Eriksson has a giant hole to fill and few options to fill it with.

The list is no small thing: Hugo Sanchez, Luis Garcia, Luis Hernandez and Jared, the team's all-time leading scorer with 46 valuable goals. Who's next? Carlos Vela? He has done nothing yet.

All represented Mexico in at least two World Cups: Hugo Sanchez (1978, 1986 and 1994), Carlos Hermosillo (1986, 1994), Luis Garcia (1994, 1998) and Luis Hernandez (1998, 2002). El Matador is the all-time leading scorer for Mexico in World Cups with four in France.

The author goes through some of the options that have at one point or another been pegged to continue the trend, such as Miguel Sabah and Carlos Ochoa, Omar Bravo, Juan Carlos Cacho and Luis Angel Landin, but none of them have ever lived up to expectations or taken the role and made it their own.

Matias Vuoso, he claims, is the closest thing Eriksson has had to fill the role, but that he wasn't born in Mexico. But he says that Vuoso isn't an internationally capable striker.

Ruiz off to Paraguay

Looks like former MLS scoring star Carlos Ruiz won't be adding to his 82 career league goals anytime soon.

Ruiz has reportedly inked a deal with Paraguayan side Olimpia which will keep him in Paraguay until the summer. If he regains his form, he could end up back in MLS. Or he could remain out of the league completely since he showed nothing in 2008 that would warrant any sort of job opportunity.

Sacha staying?

Sacha Kljestan appeared ready to head overseas to Scotland after a week with Celtic and a hat-trick with the U.S. national team. But Celtic has apparently decided against investing more than $3 million in the American international.

According to this report in the Evening Times, Kljestan's price is too steep for Celtic.

That doesn't mean Kljestan will be back necessarily as the January transfer window is still open for a day or so. But if he does go abroad, it probably won't be to Celtic.

Lights, camera, action

I thought US fans would get a kick out of this. I got this from the 2009 US yearbook.

It's basically players talking about what actors would play fellow players in a movie about the U.S. national team.

Struggling Tri

Here's my latest effort for SI.com.

I was originally going to bring out the Tri-tanic moniker that was tagged on them during the lead-up to the 98 World Cup but decided against it. That team ultimately turned around their fortunes and performed admirably in France. This team, who knows? There are so many doubts surrounding Mexico it's uncertain just how El Tri will come out during qualifying.

With all the injuries and suspensions and given their current form as well history against the U.S. in the U.S., suffice it to say that this will be their most difficult game of the year.

Catching up

Several items of note came down over the last couple of days but I was squeezed out of time from posting them. Here are some of the more notable things that happened over the last couple of days.

* The U.S. will formally announce their intentions of launching a simultaneous bid for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. On Monday, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati will host a conference call and will announce the executive director of the bids and will provide more details on the United States' plans. Apparently, Monday is FIFA's application deadline for both World Cups, and the only stipulation at this point is that the applicant nation has the means to host such an event. It's safe to say the U.S. has the means and wherewithal to host the World Cup.

* U.S. coach Bob Bradley has a squad of 20 players in camp to continue preparations for the opening Hexagonal match against Mexico on Feb. 11. This team features all MLS-based players - save for Charlie Davies - but it doesn't mean it lacks experience. Brian Ching, Frankie Hejduk, Jonathan Bornstein and Ricardo Clark are in camp and all have played in meaningful games against Mexico and have all stood out against El Tri.

Here's the full roster:

GK: Jon Busch (Chicago), William Hesmer (Columbus), Matt Pickens (Colorado Rapids).
Defenders: Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus), Ugo Ihemelu (Colorado), Chris Wingert (Real Salt Lake), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC).
Midfielders: Brian Carroll (Columbus), Ricardo Clark (Houston), Eddie Gaven (Columbus), Stuart Holden (Houston), Jack Jewsbury (Kansas City), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Robbie Rogers (Columbus), John Thorrington (Chicago).
Forwards: Brian Ching (Houston), Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Chris Rolfe (Chicago)

* Pachuca lost to Chilean side Universidad Catolica 1-0 on Wednesday in the first leg of their Copa Libertadores play-in series. Pachuca needs a victory next week in order to qualify for the tournament.

* David Beckham scored another goal for Milan, this one off a free kick. Becks now has two goals in two consecutive games for Milan but suffered an injury that may keep him out of this weekend's match against Lazio. Still, the goal fueled speculation that Becks will stay with Milan as the Italian club continues their pursuit of landing the Galaxy's midfielder on a full-time basis.

More help on the attack

Pavel Pardo said that against the United States, Mexico needs more numbers going forward. More specifically, he said that El Tri needs more players in order to have more numbers on the attack.

Said Pardo: "We've come to realize that when Matias (Vuoso) or (Carlos) Ochoa are alone, they need another player to accompany them up front. It's not the system or the players, it's just that we need more people in the area, more attack-minded players."

Despite their horrible performance against Sweden and the lackluster semifinal performances, Pardo for one hasn't lost faith.

"There are things that haven't gone well but others have been positive, such as the great attitude of the players within the group," Pardo told reporters in Mexico on Thursday. "That alone isn't enough but it's a great starting point. I have a lot of faith that the situation will improve for the best."

Meanwhile, Oswaldo Sanchez said that Mexico will rise to occasion when they need to.

"We have to maintain our faith and remain united," he said, "because we are certain that we will win when we absolutely have to win, and that will be against the United States."

US-Mexico countdown: No. 13

13. Confederations Cup 99 semifinal; Mexico City; Aug. 1, 1999: Mexico 1, US 0

Entering the 1999 Confederations Cup, the United States had the unenviable possibility of having to face Mexico in Estadio Azteca. Sure enough, the fates aligned and Mexico hosted their northern neighbors in a semifinal at the vaunted stadium. As the game progressed, though, the Americans may have thought they had their best chance of pulling out a victory from Azteca for the first time. Mexico couldn’t score as Kasey Keller had made several standout saves in the early going. The Americans were resilient and seemed poised for a breakthrough; Cobi Jones even sent a shot off the crossbar midway through the second half. That long-awaited breakthrough, though, never happened as Mexico once again flexed their muscle in their most prized venue. It took extra time but Cuauhtemoc Blanco eventually finished off the United States with a golden goal, as Blanco tapped a loose ball past Kasey Keller. Mexico went on to win the Confederations Cup over Brazil while the United States left unable to figure out the puzzle of Estadio Azteca.

Lineups
United States: Kasey Keller; Jeff Agoos, Gregg Berhalter, Robin Fraser, Frankie Hejduk; Richie Williams, John Harkes, Earnie Stewart, Cobi Jones; Jovan Kirovski, Brian McBride (Eddie Lewis 78).

Mexico: Jorge Campos; Claudio Suarez, Rafael Marquez, Salvador Carmona; Ramon Ramirez (Jesus Arellano, 72), Gerardo Torrado (Miguel Zepeda, 58), German Villa, Pavel Pardo, Isaac Terrazas (Francisco Palencia, 46), Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Jose Manuel Abundis.

Scoring
Mexico - Blanco 96

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Harsh fallout

Mexico lost to Sweden on Thursday and up next is their toughest rival. Mexico plays the United States in Columbus, Ohio, on Feb. 11 and El Tri has done nothing to erase rising doubts over the state of their national team.

Mexico barely qualified for the Hexagonal and after a 1-0 loss to Sweden the criticism from their media and fans is harsh (the picture is Reforma's cover for Thursday).

Here is a sampling of today's headlines:

Let's pray (Esto)

More doubts (La Aficion)

El Tri is defenseless (El Universal)

Sweden defeats a Tri with scant ideas (El Financiero)

Lack of goals worrisome (Esto)

On the bottom of one of the story from El Universal, several readers posted some thoughts about the national team and their latest setback. I took the time to translate them. Not sure if it represents how a majority of fans feel.

* Deception! Thanks to the mafia that is the FMF which just like our government is full of inept and corrupt people. Why should we be enraged if these kinds of failures have been going on forever? Please tell me something good the national team has done in the last 40 years? Deception and ineptitude!!

* I believe we have many years of the same thing. We've stopped dreaming. I believe that the reality is $$$$. I would be really happy if Mexico did not qualify for the World Cup so there would really be some changes. Note: I do like the team but let's face reality.

* It's an embarrassment what happened to the national team yesterday. Mistakes continue to hurt us. If they continue playing this way, believe me, we won't be going to the World Cup.

* It's a shame to see so much ineptitude and lack of professionalism within the players and the coaching staff. But that's how corrupt the FMF is.

* Poor Tri: no attack, no midfield, no defense. What can we expect? More deception. But it seems as if everyone in Mexico suffers from amnesia. Loss after loss, the same idiotic mistakes are still being made. Who can save us from this debacle? Not even el Chapulin Colorado!

Refuerzos mexicanos?

Chivas USA has one Mexican-born player on their roster and he's on the wrong side of 40. But that may not necessarily mean the club will begin the season with only Claudio Suarez the only player that calls Mexico home.

In camp - but not on the preseason roster because why bother putting that info out there? - is Salvador Sanchez, who has plied his trade in the Primera A Division. Sanchez, 24, has spent parts of six seasons in Mexico's second division. He started with Alacranes de Durango and spent two seasons with Santos Laguna's Primera A affiliate. His best season was the 2008 Clausura, when he played 1,031 minutes over 13 games and had one goal. He played as a defender with Santos and is just under six feet tall so he could add some depth to the backline.

It still remains to be seen whether Sanchez will catch Preki's eye. Given Preki's history with players from Mexico - Jorge Barrera, Roberto Nurse come to mind - Sanchez has his work cut out for him.

With regards to any possible players joining Chivas USA from the mothership, Mural reported that Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Jesus "Gringo" Padilla are still being mentioned as options for the club. According to Mural, Hernandez is open to joining Chivas USA because all he wants is to play but Padilla is not quite as enthused. Mural claims that Padilla is asking for the club to double his salary in order to joing Chivas USA. Not sure what he makes as a player for Tapatio but double his current salary probably would put him well over $100,000. Mexican soccer players get compensated well, even second-division guys that can't get any playing time with the first team like Padilla.

US-Mexico countdown: No. 14

14. US Cup 97; Pasadena, Calif.; Jan. 19, 1997: Mexico 2, US 0

There wasn’t so much back-and-forth in this rivalry quite yet. Although World Cup qualifying was slated for later in 1997, the Americans hosted Mexico in the annual US Cup, only this time the game was played in the relative dead of winter in Southern California. Surprisingly, this game did not draw the masses as only 31,725 showed up at the Rose Bowl to watch a game that drew more than 90,000 at the same venue just seven months prior. The match was Mexican domination at its finest as Luis Roberto Alves “Zague” scored three minutes in while Alberto Garcia Aspe knocked in a goal with 20 minutes to spare to give the Mexicans a 2-0 victory. However, the match became etched in the minds of American fans forever after a fracas between the two sides ensued. During the altercation, which was mostly pushing and shoving between the two sides, Mexico’s Ramon Ramirez kneed Alexi Lalas in the groin in an image that has been etched into this rivalry and is still talked about to this day.

United States: Brad Friedel, Mike Burns, Jeff Agoos, Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones, Jovan Kirovski, Martin Vasquez (Preki, 50), Jason Kreis (Frankie Hejduk, 53), Claudio Reyna, Joe-Max Moore, Brian McBride (Roy Lassiter, 66)

Mexico: Adolfo Ríos, Pavel Prado, Claudio Suárez, Duilio Davino, Ramón Ramírez, Alberto Coyote, Alberto García Aspe (Marcelino Bernal, 74), Benjamín Galindo, Enrique Alfaro (Nicolás Ramírez, 83), Carlos Hermosillo (Luis García, 68), Luis Roberto Alves (Luis Hernández, 54)

Goals
Mexico – Zague 3
Mexico – Aspe 71

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sweden downs Mexico

It was an ugly game but Sweden beat Mexico 1-0.

I'll have highlights when they become available, but just wanted to get that out for now in case you didn't watch the game.

Guillermo Ochoa was in goal when Sweden scored as he shared duties with Oswaldo Sanchez by the way. Alexander Farnerud scored the only goal of the game in the 57th minute as he got free inside the box and banged a shot in off the left post.

The only Mexican players to play the whole game were Leobardo Lopez, Fausto Pinto, Pavel Pardo, Leandro Augusto and Alberto Medina. I'd say all five stand a shot of starting against the US.

ADD:

Okay, here is the goal:

Much to offer

I think I've changed my mind on Brian Ching. Before I was one to put Kenny Cooper ahead of Brian Ching in terms of the national team. I felt that Cooper could be far more effective than Ching if given the chance.

Now, I'm not saying that Cooper has exactly been given that chance - two games isn't enough to judge any player on. Nor am I saying that I've soured on Cooper completely, though I didn't think he looked good at all against Sweden.

But I do think that Ching is a key player for the national team and should start at forward, far ahead of Cooper. Cooper may have a chance to make up some ground on Ching by year's end, maybe by the summmer, who knows?, but for now it should be Ching's show.

That means Ching should be a starter for the Mexico game as well as the March 28 game in El Salvador. The April 1 match against Trinidad will be soon after a trip to Central America and health may be a factor in that game with regards to all players. I wouldn't be surprised if that game we saw a US team that featured some players who hadn't started or played much during the first two qualifiers. Maybe that will be Cooper's chance.

Anyway, here's a column I wrote on Ching for The Press-Enterprise.

League vs national team

How did MLS do when trying to schedule around the US national team and the CONCACAF Hexagonal? Let's compare matchdays:

CONCACAF Hex: March 28 three games - MLS has six games scheduled for March 28, another for March 29.

Hex: April 1 - MLS has no games scheduled for April 1 but one game on April 2 (Columbus-RSL)

Hex: June 3 US-Costa Rica, June 6 three games - MLS has a game on June 4 and 5, four on 6 and two on 7.

Hex: June 10 two games - MLS has one game on June 10: Chivas USA-Houston

Hex: Aug. 12 three games - MLS has no games on Aug. 12, full weekend of games before and after

Hex: Sept. 5 three games - MLS has three games scheduled for Sept. 5

Hex: Sept. 9 three games - MLS has no games scheduled for Sept. 9

Hex: Oct. 10 three games - MLS has three games scheduled for Oct. 10

Hex: Oct. 14 three games - MLS has one game scheduled (New York-RSL)

So how did MLS do? Horrendously. MLS will have games on five of the United States' 10 Hexagonal dates. They will compete head-to-head against the US national team yet again, in what is probably the United States' most important year since 2006. World Cup qualifying will be at stake, the Confederations and Gold cups will be raging on and we'll have MLS games clogging the schedule and making it difficult for fans to follow both their club and country.

Preposterous. You'd think after 13 years MLS would have been able to figure this out. Insetad, it's more of the same garbage.

2009 Chivas USA schedule

Chivas USA's schedule for this season:

March: 21 Colorado, 29 at FC Dallas
April: 5 Columbus, 11 at Galaxy, 18 Seattle, 22 at Toronto, 25 FC Dallas
May: 2 at San Jose, 9 Real Salt Lake, 16 DC United, 23 at Kansas City, 28 Chicago
June: 6 Seattle, 10 at Houston, 14 at Columbus
July: 11 Galaxy, 18 at New England
August: 8 at Colorado, 15 at New York, 22 Toronto, 26 at Real Salt Lake, 29 at Galaxy
September: 13 New England, 19 at Seattle, 26 New York
October: 3 at DC United, 10 Kansas City, 17 San Jose, 22 at Chicago, 25 Houston

First thoughts:
* No games at all from June 14 through July 11. I'm assuming that's for SuperLiga.
* Chivas USA plays the Galaxy and Seattle three times while playing the rest of the league home and away.
* Chivas USA got the short end of the stick on some away games, as games at Toronto and at Houston fall on Wednesdays and are sandwiched in between league matches.
* The season will once again end with a home game against Houston. Chivas and Houston have built up a good rivalry so it's a shame that we'll have to wait until Oct. 25 for them to visit, and by then the game might not mean anything much as it did last season.

2009 LA Galaxy schedule

Here it is by month:

March: 22 DC United
April: 4 Colorado, 11 Chivas USA, 18 at San Jose, 25 at Colorado
May: 2 New York, 6 at Real Salt Lake, 10 at Seattle, 17 Columbus, 23 at FC Dallas, 30 Kansas City
June: 6 at Toronto, 13 Real Salt Lake, 20 at San Jose, 28 Houston
July: 4 New England, 11 at Chivas USA, 18 at New York, 25 at Kansas City
August: 8 at New England, 15 Seattle, 19 at Chicago, 22 at DC United, 29 Chivas USA
September: 12 FC Dallas, 19 Toronto FC, 26 at Columbus
October: 2 Chicago, 18 at Houston, 24 San Jose

First thoughts:

* The Galaxy have six homes games before June. They will definitely need to capitalize on some of those early home fixtures if they want to stay in the playoff race and make the end-of-season games meaningful.
* If the Galaxy are close to or in the midst of the playoff picture come September, there is some good and bad news. Good news: four home games, three against teams who didn't make the playoffs in 2008. Bad news: the Galaxy only has six games in the last two months. Chivas USA, Colorado, FC Dallas, San Jose and Seattle each have eight games in September and October.
* In terms of cross-country trips, the Galaxy did well to get two of their two longest trips out of the way in a span of three weeks as games at New York and New England will come relatively close to one another.
* The Galaxy play San Jose and Chivas USA three times each (MLS has to squeeze all of the rivalries for what they're worth) and play each other MLS team twice, one at home and one away.

ADD: A commenter pointed out that there are no midweek games. I failed to mention this, but this is indeed true... almost - the Galaxy's Oct. 2 game against Chicago is on a Friday night... but that's close enough to the weekend though, right?

Schedule's out

I don't have much time to post but I wanted to get this out here.

The MLS schedule has been released and while I'll try and dissect it later, here are some games of note.

April 11, Chivas USA at LA Galaxy
May 28, Chicago at Chivas USA
July 11, LA Galaxy at Chivas USA
Aug. 29, Chivas USA at LA Galaxy
Oct. 2, Chicago at LA Galaxy

Alright, those were the games I was most anticipating, the Super Clasicos and Cuauhtemoc's Fire team coming to town, games which are certain to draw a packed house... if he plays.

Alonso to Seattle

Remember Osvaldo Alonso? The Cuban defected from the national team and wound up on trial with Chivas USA. He spent the last several months of 2007 with the club but then mysteriously vanished, resurfacing in the USL as an explanation of what happened with him here was never clearly given.

Alonso proved that he does have the ability to make an MLS roster, but that is not here with Chivas USA. Instead, Alonso has joined Seattle and will try to compete for a spot with the expansion club. Alonso spent last season with Charleston of the USL 1st Division but had caught Sounders coach Sigi Schmid's eye while trialing with Columbus.

Not sure what the hangup was with Chivas USA but Alonso could have added some midfield depth a year ago. It was clear the guy could play soccer and he showed that often during training sessions.

Beckham fallout

What if... okay, this is only a what if... but what if David Beckham stays with AC Milan? Then, he won't be with the Galaxy, and season ticket holders who either renewed their seats or purchased them for the first time with the hopes of seeing Beckham play 15 times will have their hopes dashed.

But what if they bought them after club officials assured everyone that Beckham would be around in 2009 no matter what?

The Daily Breeze's Nick Green explored that topic on his blog and posted a letter he received from a season ticket holder.

The latest rumors have AC Milan offering $6.5 million for Beckham as there is now a figure to go along with the initial chatter of Milan wanting to keep Beckham for good.

Feeder team

Chivas USA's youth team has a quality prospect in their ranks, but if he develops it will be for another team.

Mural ran a story today about Leopoldo Morales, a forward on Chivas USA's Under-19 team. The team is participating in Copa Chivas in Guadalajara, which is a well-scouted youth tournament. Morales told Mural that he has decided to stay in Mexico and pursue his options with Tigres.

Morales was born in Mexico and according to Mural does not have resident status in the U.S. Thus, although he is considered one of the best prospects the club has, he hasn't been able to move beyond the Under-19 team with Chivas USA. A way around that could possibly have been to ink him to a youth international slot but not sure if the club would have been willing to spend such a roster spot on a teenager who's never played professionally before.

"I have lived in the United States for 18 years, since my parents took me there as a baby, but I don't have my papers (resident status)" Morales told Mural.

Morales has scored twice in the tournament and was also being scouted by Guadalajara but he told the paper that his mind was made up and he was going to pursue his options with Tigres.

While this may be upsetting to Chivas USA fans, what's worse is that he's not the only one the club has encountered in his situation. If the team comes across a good-looking prospect of, say 14 or 15 years, and they know the kid is undocumented, there is really no point in pursuing him. I know that has happened before, and some talent is going undeveloped.

Morales, though, went through the system for a pair of years and if he does develop it will be for someone else.

Chivas USA opens camp today

Unfortunately I can't make it out to the team's first training session of 2009. It's usually a well-attended day in terms of hopefuls and trialists. I'll try and get some info to you on how the day went regardless but I also thought I'd pass along the team's preseason schedule in terms of games. Thus far, here's what they have lined up.

Sat. Feb. 7: Scrimmage at HDC
Sat. Feb. 21: Scrimmage vs. Hammarby & UCLA at HDC
Sun. March 1: Michael Hoefflin Foundation game at Santa Clarita
Wed. March 4: Scrimmage vs. San Jose Earhquakes at HDC

US-Mexico countdown: No. 15

15. World Cup qualifier; Foxboro, Mass.; April 20, 1997: US 2, Mexico 2

Entering the first-ever CONCACAF Hexagonal in 1997, the United States was a team in transition. The World Cup and Copa America 95 were not too far in the past but the US had to continue evolving and learning from those relative successes. Mexico, meanwhile, was looking to qualify for its second consecutive World Cup and had the makings of a strong team; in fact, El Tri was a heavy favorite to finish atop the Hex. In April, the U.S. hosted Mexico in what was still a budding rivalry that favored Mexico. U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller committed an early blunder, however, as an early clearance attempt bounced off Carlos Hermosillo and led to an easy Mexico goal. Eddie Pope and Luis Hernandez exchanged goals as Mexico held a 2-1 lead midway through the second half. However, the U.S. eventually found their own bit of luck as Gustavo Napoles countered Keller’s earlier gaffe when his failed clearance went into the back of the net. The match ended in a thrilling and exciting 2-2 draw, one that would be the forbearer of such future encounters.

Lineups unavailable (I’ll post them when I find them)

Goals
Mexico – Hermosillo
US – Pope
Mexico – Hernandez
US – Own goal

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bayern debut

Landon Donovan made his official Bayern Munic debut on Tuesday in Bayern's German Cup match against Stuttgart. Donovan came on in the 66th minute of the match, which was already out of hand by the time he came on.

Bayern Munich won 5-1 and had scored all five of their goals by the 60th minute.

Bayern returns to Bundesliga action on Friday when they play Hamburg.

MLS schedule out Wednesday

For many MLS fans, the day the schedule is released is a bit like Christmas. It's a day that is long anticipated and pretty exciting once it hits. Fans plan out their games, circle specific matches on their respective calendars and begin the countdown towards opening day.

Fans don't need to wait much longer. The schedule will be released on Wednesday.

Of course, we already know the home openers for both Chivas USA and the Galaxy. Chivas USA opens Saturday, March 21 at 7:30 p.m. against Colorado while the Galaxy hosts DC United at noon on Sunday, March 22. We'll find out the rest of the schedule, including dates for the Super Clasicos, when Chicago comes to HDC (two games which I'm looking forward to) and the respective midweek games, on Wednesday.

I also hope we'll see some weekends that won't have any games, that MLS complied with their promise of not conflicting with the US national team's World Cup qualifiers. It's absurd that we even have to think about that but 2009 is an important year for the US national team, and the last thing MLS fans who support the US should have to worry about is choosing between their team and their club.

Pachuca's opponent: U de Chile

San Luis and Chivas are already in Copa Libertadores but Pachuca could add to the number of Mexican teams in South America's top international tournament. Pachuca will face Universidad de Chile on Wednesday in the first of two legs that will determine a spot in the tournament proper.

Most of us are familiar with Pachuca, as they've done well in Mexican league play and have met MLS clubs in various competitions in recent years. But what's the deal with their opponents? The Touchline's Sean Grybos took a look at U de Chile ahead of the clubs' play-in series:

Copa Libertadores Preview: Universidad de Chile

In the Preliminary Round, Pachuca will play in a home-and-away series against Universidad de Chile. Pachuca travels to Chile on January 28 and hosts Universidad on February 4. The away goals rule will be utilized if needed. The winner will advance to the Group Stage.

The side qualified for South America’s most prestigious tournament by winning the Group Stage of Chile’s Clausura 2008. In the stage, the club scored 38 points on a 12-2-4 record. Since 2004, a domestic title has eluded La U.

Stadium: Estadio Nacional: With a capacity for over 77,000 supporters, the Santiago-based stadium is also used by the Chilean national team.

Manager: Sergio Markarián: After his successful 2008 run at Mexico’s Cruz Azul where he lead the side to the finals of both the 2008 Clausura and 2008 Apertura, the Uruguayan manager moved to Universidad. Will he find the same amount of success in Chile?

Key Squad Members

Manuel Villalobos: The 28-year-old forward is a capable scorer. He came up through the youth ranks of rivals Colo-Colo but now calls La U home.

Rafael Olarra: This is the defender’s third stint with the club after several forays in Europe. Will the 30-year-old captain be able to organize the back against an efficient Pachuca attack?

Miguel Pinto: The 25-year-old goalkeeper has spent his entire career at the U starting over 100 league games since 2004.

Chivas USA preseason roster

Here's the official preseason roster for Chivas USA. You won't see any players from Guadalajara on there, but I'll try and find out if any are expected at any time during the preseason. I'd expect to see at least one face from Guadalajara here as a return for having plucked the starting left midfielder from Chivas USA's ranks.

Goalkeepers: Dan Kennedy, Lance Parker, Zach Thornton, Doug Warren

Defenders: Nelson Akwari, Jonathan Bornstein, Bobby Burling, Jim Curtin, Dan Gargan, Ante Jazic, Claudio Suarez, Shavar Thomas, Lawson Vaughn

Midfielders: Jamie Franks, Sacha Kljestan, Michael Lahoud, Jesse Marsch, Gerson Mayen, Tony McManus, Paulo Nagamura, Carey Talley, Raphael Wicky

Forwards: Reinier Alcantara, Justin Braun, Kyle Christensen, Alecko Eskandarian, Jorge Flores, Maykel Galindo, Atiba Harris, Nick Perera, Ante Razov

Milan wants Becks

AC Milan wants to keep David Beckham. There's a surprise. Beckham has been playing very well for the Italian club and the prospect of losing him in about six weeks isn't enticing to the club. Never mind that Beckham is already under contract with the Galaxy and MLS and is only there on a short-term loan.

Still, Milan officials said they were "prepared to pay a fee" for the Galaxy's captain, and such a transaction could fetch the league's biggest transfer fee in history.

It's too early to know if and when Beckham will make his return. He's supposed to come back March 9 and if something does happen it probably won't happen until closer to that date. So the entire preseason then will hinge around whether or not Beckham will even return, barring some sort of official He-Ain't-Going-Anywhere statement signed off by Becks, his people and Galaxy/MLS officials.

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena wasn't too pleased about the rumors and more specifically Milan people even bringing up the possibility of hanging on to Beckham for longer than the loan deal. And although he said the loan is in place and will end on March 8, Milan might not take no for an answer.

US-Mexico countdown: No. 16

16. US Cup ’95; Washington D.C.; June 18, 1995: US 4, Mexico 0

The rivalry wasn't really a rivalry in 1995 as Mexico had enjoyed nothing but success against their American counterparts. The United States had scored a victory or two earlier in the decade but those had mostly been written off as fortunate victories by the U.S. In Washington DC this day, however, the United States' performance against Mexico could not be written off as luck. Roy Wegerle scored a key early goal to give the upstart Americans a quick lead and Thomas Dooley and John Harkes added first-half goals to give the Americans a resounding 3-0 halftime lead. Mexico was on the wrong end of a blowout against the U.S. for the first time ever. Harkes' goal marked the first time the U.S. ever lead Mexico by three goals, and Claudio Reyna's second-half strike gave the U.S. the final 4-0 victory, the first and only time the U.S. has beaten Mexico by at least four goals.

Lineups
United States: Kasey Keller; Mike Burns, Marcelo Balboa, Alexi Lalas, Paul Caligiuri, Thomas Dooley, Mike Sorber, John Harkes, Eric Wynalda (John Kerr, 71), Roy Wegerle (Cobi Jones, 20), Claudio Reyna (Tab Ramos, 71).

Mexico: Jorge Campos; Jorge Rodríguez (Missael Espinoza, 68), Guillermo Hernández (Gerardo Esquivel, 46), Manuel Vidrio, Ramón Ramírez, Ignacio Ambríz, Marcelino Bernal, Alberto García Aspe (Alberto Coyote, 86), Luis García, Carlos Hermosillo, Luis Robert Alves "Zague" (Joaquín del Olmo 73).

Goals
US - Wegerle 3
US - Dooley 25
US - Harkes 36
US - Reyna 67

Monday, January 26, 2009

"You suck, ref!"

After having refereed for nearly two months now, I have decided to make an oath, a pledge if you will, about soccer officials everywhere.

I solemnly swear never to utter another negative word at a soccer referee again. Not even at Alex Prus. Not even at Michael Kennedy.

Okay, that may have been my last dig there... but there will be no more negative utterances regarding soccer officials' calls from my mouth ever again. I still, however, reserve the right to question NFL and college football officials' calls.

On caveat: I'm a writer so if a big call is made and that's what I need to ask players and coaches about, then I have to ask them about it. I can't completely turn a blind eye to officials. But on a personal level, mum's the word.

Refereeing high school soccer has opened my eyes not only to different aspects of the game in a positive light but they've made me see the bad part of soccer at the high school level up close. And really, if some of the stories I've heard are true then, as they say, I ain't seen nothin' yet.

I've been yelled at by players, coaches and parents. My vision has been questioned. My integrity has been questioned. My background has been questioned. Basically, most everything you can think of has been questioned. And this isn't just over a matter of a few games, this is rampant.

Abuse towards the referee is commonplace in soccer throughout the world of course but in high school soccer there should really be no place for it. There is a difference between a professional first-division match and a junior varsity girls' soccer game. There just is. I'm not condoning violence towards officials at the pro level but people pay money to see those games, the players are paid to perform and coaches' jobs are on the line, so understandably there is a lot riding on officials' calls at that level. And when a ref makes a questionable call, he/she may very well draw the ire of everyone in the stadium.

But when you call a foul in favor of Valley High's freshman girls team, Poly High's parents shouldn't treat it as if it was a call that would decide a World Cup qualifier. For God's sake, it's a high school game. It's high school yet parents feel they have the right to voice their opinions about every single call sometimes, and that gets old quickly.

Now, I say that "it's just high school" and I say that a lot but that doesn't mean I treat it any less than it deserves. Whatever game I whistle, whether it's a varsity girls game or a freshman girls game (and this season I've done mostly girls games) I treat it as if it's the most important game I've ever done because to me it is. And I have two daughters who I pray will grow up to love soccer as much as I do, and if they are playing on their freshman team and the official doesn't care about the game and doesn't want to be there... well, I don't want to put another parent in that position. I'm going to run and bust my ass as much as possible and put in an honest day's work. That's just my personal philosophy so far on reffing.

Anyway, it is high school and parents are supposed to be teaching children a thing or two about sportsmanship, right? What kind of behavior are parents modeling when they bitch and moan and complain about silly stuff? Or even about important calls? I don't know but if I'm yelling at someone in front of my girls, I'm kind of sending a message to them that it's okay to yell at someone. Look, I'm not saying I don't yell or cuss in front of them (I've got a bad temper sometimes... particularly when it comes to bad drivers) but you've got to try and keep your cool about yourself. And too many parents have lost their cool in games that I've officiated.

I've had parents yell to their team "Come on girls, it's 11 on 13 out there" during a game that their school was not getting the calls they wanted to. At another game I overheard one parent telling another "This is the worst officiated game I've seen in quite a long time" and then jokingly ask "Are there any other referees out there that we can get in place of these guys?" And then I get about a dozen "Come on ref!" or"Did you SEE that?" or "You've got to make that call ref!" every game, plus an unlimited number of groans.

Still, other refs in the area this season alone have been chased on their way out to their cars, have had entire sidelines yelling at them and insulting them and have felt the wrath of many unruly coaches. Thus far, I've gotten off lightly compared to that. But I think it's also because I haven't done many varsity boys games. We'll see what's in store for me next season.

Anyway, most of it I think is funny. It really does make me want to laugh, and sometimes I have to suppress myself from laughing. It's funny to me because most of the time the parents that are complaining don't know the first thing about soccer. They don't understand what it means when I stretch my arms out to my side and motion my hands forward after their kid has been fouled but maintained possession. They have no concept of offside. They don't understand the difference of ball-hitting-hand versus hand-hitting-ball; to them, everything is a handball. I don't know what a "high kick" is but I do know what "dangerous play" is.

Ultimately I've taken a lot of crap but it's a part of the game. I often think to myself how infinitesimally more difficult it is for professional referees. You've got instant replay and thousands of sets of eyes, each seeing a different thing, and playing before thousands of people, not to mention the enormity of games and the speed of game... thanks but no thanks. The abuse is bad enough now; I could just imagine how tough it is at the pro and international level.

Hence my pledge.

Nacionalismo erróneo

Here's a commentary about the ongoing debate over the naturalized Mexicans on El Tricolor.

Now, personally I don't have an opinion on the whole thing one way or the other. I was born here in the U.S. so that really isn't something that affects me.

But I wanted to share this commentary (in Spanish) from ESPN's Roberto Abramowitz.

He's not really seeing eye-to-eye with people like Guillermo Ochoa, who has been critical of foreign-born players on El Tri.

Americans in Mexico: J2 recap

Here's how the American-born players in Mexico fared this weekend for their respective clubs.

PRIMERA DIVISION

Jose Francisco Torres. Played final 12 minutes in Pachuca's 2-1 win over San Luis.
Michael Orozco: Played 90 minutes in San Luis' 2-1 loss to Pachuca.
Edgar Castillo: Played 90 minutes in America's 2-2 draw with Toluca.
Daniel Hernandez: Did not dress for Jaguares' 3-0 win over Tigres.

PRIMERA DIVISION A

Jesus Padilla: Played 90 minutes in Tapatio's 1-0 loss to Tampico Madero.
Carlos Borja: Played 90 minutes in Tapatio's 1-0 loss to Tampico Madero.
Sammy Ochoa: Suspended and did not play in Tecos' 4-1 loss to Jagures.
Sonny Guadarrama: Did not play in Merida's 2-1 loss to Salamanca.
Marco Antonio Vidal: Played 90 minutes in Indios' 3-1 win over Real Colima.

US-Mexico countdown: No. 17

17. US Cup 99; San Diego, Calif.; March 13 1999: Mexico 2, US 1

The United States badly wanted some redemption. Although the national team was in a transitional period, a bad loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup 98 final was still fresh in the minds of the Americans. U.S. coach Bruce Arena was in the infancy of his national team days and was meeting Mexico for the first time. Meanwhile, Manuel Lapuente’s team came into the match with their usual swagger and primed to win their third consecutive US Cup. Played before more than 50,000 fans at Qualcomm Stadium, Mexico opened the scoring early thanks to a Robin Fraser own goal. The match got bloody when, as Fraser sent the ball into the goal, Francisco Palencia knocked goalkeeper Tony Meola out of the match. The then-Cruz Azul man bloodied Meola’s face, and leaft him with a gash that required 25 stitches to close. Hometown hero Frankie Hejduk pulled the United States even with a 51st minute goal but Jose Manuel Abundis scored the match-winner off a close-range rebound as Meola’s replacement Zach Thornton could do nothing to stop Abundis from point blank range.

Lineups

United States: Tony Meola (Zach Thornton, 17); Jeff Agoos, Robin Fraser, Eddie Pope (Ben Olsen, 68), David Regis; Eddie Lewis (Clint Mathis, 83), Chris Armas, Jovan Kirovski, Frankie Hejduk; Cobi Jones, Brian McBride

Mexico: Oscar Perez; Joel Sanchez, Pavel Pardo, Salvador Carmona (Miguel Zepeda, 46), Joaquin Beltran; Raul Rodrigo Lara, Alberto Garcia Aspe, Rafael Garcia (Ramon Ramirez, 60), Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Luis Hernandez, 46); Francisco Palencia, (Paulo Cesar Chavez, 57), Jose Manuel Abundis (Ricardo Pelaez, 77)

Goals
Mexico - Own goal (Fraser) 17
US - Hejduk 51
Mexico - Abundis 57

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Overconfidence?

Mexico's players are dropping like flies as Andres Guardado joined a suspended trio who won't be in Columbus for the US-Mexico game. Rafa Marquez may also miss the game.

Missing such star power has led some to speculate if the US will be overconfident, given that the US is in relatively good shape and playing at home where they've not lost to Mexico in nearly a decade.

I asked Brian Ching whether or not he thinks the US team, and more specifically a Bob Bradley team, will be overconfident. This is what he told me.

"There’s no chance that we’ll ever be overconfident. They could have 11 other starters injured and we still wouldn’t be overconfident just because of the gravity of the game. It’s the first World Cup qualifier from this round, it’s in America and we want to start on right. Regardless of who we play we’re going to come out with the same attitude and I think Bob’s done a good job of drilling that into us ever since he got here.

"He wants us to be ready for every game regardless of our opponent and not take games lightly. A good example would probably be the Barbados game. I think he got a little frustrated with us that we didn’t keep our shape towards the end of the game. He kind of harped on us.

"They have a few injured players but they have a deep roster just like we do."

Goal for the Englishman

Beckham scores!

David Beckham scored his first goal for AC Milan in a 4-1 win over Bologna on Sunday. Afterward, he was asked about his return to the Galaxy and whether or not he may stay in Italy.

"I feel very good here. I arrived in a team that wanted me for years and I play for exceptional fans... I'll stay here until March and then we'll see. Right now I'm focused only on my football."

Anyway, here's his goal.

No take on the naturalized Mexicans

After the US-Sweden match, Bob Bradley fielded a handful of questions about Mexico and the upcoming World Cup qualifier against his team's biggest rivals. One of the reporters asked Bradley about the recent discussion south of the border on the foreign-born players who are part of the Mexican national team. More specifically, the reporter wanted to know Bradley's thoughts on how the reporter put it, the squabble going on down there.

Here's what Bradley had to say.

"I don't have a take on the squabble... I certainly know from my time at Chivas USA the type of pride that Mexicans have in their teams, their clubs and certainly for the national team. There is strong passion and feeling for the team and that's what brings out those types of discussions."

Making excuses already

Apparently that's what I did in my recent SI column. Here's an e-mail I got in response to Friday's column.

"What an apologist. You're 17 days early writing a future piece about why Mexico lost."

And here I thought I was comparing and contrasting the two teams.

US-Sweden fallout

The United States opened their 2009 schedule with a 3-2 victory over Sweden but the result really matters little. Sure, it helps to start the year off on the right foot but ultimately this particular team won't be playing together much.

Instead, the most meaningful impact will be the individual performances, how the players fared and what that means for the U.S. in terms of building up their depth pool.

Here's some of the players I thought helped or hurt their stock.

HELPED

Sacha Kljestan. We knew this kid could play, but we didn't know he could dominate a match at the international level. Kljestan was in control throughout the game and was clearly the best player on the field for either side. Perhaps his week in Scotland helped him gain confidence or maybe his stellar performance was just the result of the work he put in during training camp. Whatever the case, Kljestan might become a regular starter if he isn't already.

Brian Ching. No, he didn't score a goal and he made a mess of one breakaway. But Ching did a lot of the little things that are necessary during games. He's grown into a leadership role and showed that during the game. After Sweden scored their first goal, Ching had the presence of mind to make a long run into Sweden's box, deftly collected the long ball and fed Kljestan for the eventual match-winner.

Danny Califf. Central defense is actually a position of need for the U.S. After Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra, the dropoff is a bit steep. But Califf has shown that he can play in the back at this level. His time in MLS helped him for a move abroad and now years of playing in Europe have benefited the national team. Califf was strong in the back and had several good passes, including the one to Ching on the third goal.

HURT

Kenny Cooper. We were all waiting for Cooper's moment to shine, and that happened in November. But with another opportunity to show what Cooper could do at the international level, we saw 45 minutes of futility. Cooper never seemed to settle in and was not a factor in the game. He could have salvaged his performance with a late breakaway but he could not convert what would have been the fourth goal.

Charlie Davies. Another forward who showed he has a long way to go. Davies was a little active but overall he was not a dangerous player. With forward depth always an area of need, Davies could have states his own case for further call-ups but yet another fruitless match gives reason to doubt if he'll ever take the next step.

Eddie Gaven. Few notices him when he stepped onto the field, and few noticed him when he was on the field. One person in the press box wondered when Gaven had entered the game - and he'd already been in the game for more than five minutes. He's a decent MLS player but a guy with his years of service should be more than just a late-game substitute, especially in a game like Saturday's.

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

Troy Perkins and Robbie Rogers made their international debuts. None of them particularly distinguished themselves but Perkins is in line to become the number three option behind Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Rogers is young and Bradley indicated afterward that the team is "just scratching the surface" with him, so he's definitely a player that Bradley and the U.S. will keep their eye on. It just may take a while for him to fully develop, and Saturday was an important step in his development.

US-Mexico countdown: No. 18

18. Gold Cup ’91 semifinal, Los Angeles; July 5, 1991: US 2, Mexico 0

Not much was expected from the United States in the early 1990s. The U.S. had qualified for the World Cup for the first time in four decades and played like a minnow who went 40 years in between World Cups in Italy ’90. Mexico, meanwhile, was trying to dust itself off after having been suspended from the World Cup by FIFA. Mexico had wins of 3-1 (over Canada) and 4-1 (over Jamaica) to their credit in the group phase while the U.S. also had a strong showing in the group stage, winning all three of their games. A heavy favorite to win their game against their northern neighbors, Mexico instead failed to score in the first half. John Doyle put the Americans up early in the second half while Peter Vermes put the game away midway through the second half. A day later, Mexico coach Manuel Lapuente handed in his resignation. The Americans went on to win the inaugural Gold Cup, beating Honduras in the final.

Lineups

United States: Meola; Caligiuri, Balboa, Doyle, Clavijo (Armstrong, 83), Quinn, Henderson, Murray, Perez, Vermes, Wynalda (Eck, 71).

Mexico: Larios; Hernandez, Herrera, Ruiz, Esparza, Munoz, De la Torre (Espinoza, 57), Farfan, Galindo (83. Garcia), Alvez, Hermosillo.

Goals
US – Doyle 48
US - Vermes 61

Saturday, January 24, 2009

US-Sweden match

I'm here at Home Depot Center for the game. I didn't really want to do a running blog so I won't. However, I will provide some updates and commentary. It's going to help keep me sharp. I haven't covered a game since MLS Cup and that's been a while. Also, reffing has caused me to think like a ref now so I'm paying a lot more attention to contact or possible contact between players and the ball than I am to the usual soccer stuff. I have to stop that.

Anyway, Sacha Kljestan just scored a nice goal. It was a 34-yard free kick, at least that was the distance we think it was. Nice shot, to which one reporter joked "He learned that at Celtic."

Alright, now we're in the 40th minute and Kljestan just picked up his second goal of the game. Kljestan buried a penalty kick and now the US is up 2-0 behind two Sacha Kljestan goals. I wonder if he's got his bags packed for Glasgow yet.

US-Mexico countdown: No. 19

19. US Cup ’96; Pasadena, Calif.; June 16, 1996: Mexico 2, US 2

For the Americans, this was the first US-Mexico game played in the Major League Soccer era. For the Mexicans, it was a chance of redemption over a bad loss to the Americans in this same tournament a year prior. While Mexico did not fully redeem themselves with a victory, El Tri walked away with its first US Cup trophy and celebrated their triumph heartily in front of 92,216 at the Rose Bowl. The matchup had plenty of storylines. US coach Steve Sampson was going up against his former mentor and former US coach Bora Milutinovic, who had guided the US just two summers before to historic moments in this very building. Additionally, Mexican ‘keeper Jorge Campos had a league match immediately after as the Galaxy and Tampa Bay played in the second part of a doubleheader which unfortunately went into a shootout.

Lineups
United States: Brad Friedel; Mike Burns (Mike Sorber 72’), Marcelo Balboa, Alexi Lalas, Paul Caligiuri; John Harkes, Thomas Dooley, Tab Ramos, Cobi Jones, Claudio Reyna; Eric Wynalda (Brian McBride 65’)

Mexico: Jorge Campos: Claudio Suárez, Duilio Davino, Raúl Lara; Rafael Garcia, Enrique Alfaro (Cuauhtémoc Blanco 75’), Manuel Sol, Joaquín del Olmo, Germán Villa; Luis Garcia, Francisco Palencia (José Manuel Abundis 80).

Goals
US – Wynalda 34
Mexico – Garcia 45
Mexico – Blanco 89
US – Dooley

Friday, January 23, 2009

Contrast in styles

My latest column for SI.com.

I took a look at how much of a contrast the US and Mexico are right now, less than three weeks away from their Feb. 11 matchup. Now, that doesn't mean the US has it in the bag; no way, far from it. But as I say in the story everything is falling into place for the hosts.

Landon continues scoring binge

Landon Donovan had two goals in Bayern Munich's latest friendly win, a 5-0 laugher over Mainz.

Here's a link to some highlights the blog No Short Corners has over there.

Anyway, I'm not going to proclaim Landon as having arrived and having overcome his past European demons and slayed them but he's at the very least showing that he deserves some playing time during Bundesliga play.

The annual January HDC match

In preparing for the US-Sweden game, I wondered just how many of the guys we'll see on Saturday will really make an impact for the US national team in 2009 and beyond. This game after all is not a tune-up for Mexico; it's not a reflection on the strength of the US; and it's certainly not a measure of how the US fares against a second-tier European side. The result is not going to matter in the least but how the players perform will ultimately determine the usefulness of this match.

Now, one way to compare the potential impact of this game is to look at how other January games at Home Depot Center have worked out. Save for 2005 when labor strife threatened to derail the US national team, the US has played a January match at Home Depot Center each year for the last five years.

Mostly, it's yielded little in terms of great finds and mostly mixed results.

2004: US 1, DENMARK 1

First, the lineup.

USA: 1-Jonny Walker; 5-Chris Albright (2-Frankie Hejduk, 79), 23-Eddie Pope (capt.), 3-Nick Garcia, 15-Bobby Convey; 12-Steve Ralston (17-Chris Klein, 62), 8-Richard Mulrooney (13-Kerry Zavagnin, 71), 13-Chris Armas (11-John Wolyniec, 88), 7-DaMarcus Beasley; 9-Ante Razov (16-Josh Wolff, 62), 10-Landon Donovan. Subs not used: 22-Kevin Hartman, 4-Ritchie Kotschau.

US Goal: Donovan (78th)

Not a lot of diamonds in the rough here. Players like Nick Garcia and Richard Mulrooney never took that next step to get called up again consistently, Steve Ralston and Kerry Zavagnin were serviceable players at best during their US careers but they were pretty much at that point there. The only true impact players there were Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Eddie Pope and to a lesser extent Frankie Hejduk, Bobby Convey and Josh Wolff, while Christ Albright and the aforementioned players also made the World Cup 2006 roster (technically Albright replaced Hejduk). Wolyniec? Kotschau? Yeesh.

2006: US 5, NORWAY 0

The lineup...

USA: 22-Kevin Hartman; 3-Todd Dunivant, 12-Jimmy Conrad, 23-Eddie Pope (4-Ugo Ihemelu, 83), 2-Frankie Hejduk; 5-Kerry Zavagnin (14-Ben Olsen, 79), 13-Pat Noonan (17-Chris Klein, 77), 8-Clint Dempsey (21-Santino Quaranta, 70), 10-Landon Donovan (capt.);16-Josh Wolff (19-Nate Jaqua, 67), 20-Taylor Twellman (11-Brian Ching, 83). Subs not used: 24-Matt Reis.

Goals: Twellman (5), Twellman (17), Pope (67), Twellman (76), Klein (87)

This is probably the most telling match in terms of how insignificant friendlies can be. Taylor Twellman was on the fence for a roster spot on the 2006 World Cup team. He scored three goals and had a magnificent performance. Brian Ching replaced him with seven minutes remaining and, well, who can remember those minutes? Yet it was Brian Ching who nabbed a forward spot over Twellman. Now, there were other factors involved of course. It was not just contingent upon this game. But how you perform in this game does not necessarily lead to furhter call ups to the national team, a point we will see in the 2007 game. One player who did shine and was poised for a breakthrough was Todd Dunivant. The then-Galaxy player had a great match and seemed to have given then-coach Bruce Arena a viable left back option. Instead, Dunivant was hurt in March, an injury which knocked him out of any possibilities for Germany. By June, new Galaxy coach Frank Yallop shipped Dunivant off to New York and he's never been close to being the same player he was in 2005 and early '06.

2007: US 3, DENMARK 1

USA: 24-Matt Reis; 5- Chris Albright (6-Bryan Namoff, 63), 12-Jimmy Conrad (capt.), 23-Bobby Boswell (4-Dan Califf, 89), 3-Jonathan Bornstein; 25-Pablo Mastroeni (14-Kyle Beckerman, 86), 13-Ricardo Clark, 10-Landon Donovan, 17-Chris Rolfe (19-Heath Pearce, 74); 9-Eddie Johnson (20-Kenny Cooper, 63), 11-Nate Jaqua (21-Justin Mapp, 46). Subs not used: 1-Joe Cannon.

US Goals: Donovan (44), Bornstein (57), Cooper (80)

Here's a case of where this game produced some instant impact players. Jonathan Bornstein and Ricardo Clark played well in Carson that day, as Bornstein got the game-winning goal in his US debut. Both players were important in 2007 with helping the US win the Gold Cup and each played well in Copa America, though the US did not. Kenny Cooper had a goal as well, also in his first US game, but two years later we're still waiting for Cooper to have a legitimate shot at starting. That may soon change as he did well in last year's final qualifier and is ready to go for Saturday's match. Other players with some decent potential have thus far not realized them on the national team, such as Kyle Beckerman, Nate Jaqua, Chris Rolfe and Justin Mapp, though Dan Califf and Heath Pearce have taken greater roles since then.

2008: US 2, SWEDEN 0

USA: 18-Brad Guzan; 15-Drew Moor, 8-Eddie Robinson (16-Michael Parkhurst, 46) 12-Jimmy Conrad (7-Clarence Goodson, 46), 6-Ramiro Corrales; 10-Landon Donovan (capt.) (23-Jeremiah White, 81), 13-Ricardo Clark, 19-Maurice Edu, 22-Brad Davis (26-Sacha Kljestan, 72); 20-Taylor Twellman (14-Josmer Altidore, 46), 11-Pat Noonan (17-Chris Rolfe, 63). Subs not used: 1-Steve Cronin.

US Goals: Robinson (15), Donovan (48)

Impact players for 2008 include Brad Guzan, who saw his fair share of time in goal and even got in some qualifiers; Jozy Altidore, Maurice Edu and Sacha Kljestan... though they were more part of the Olympic effort in 2008 and, of course, Landon Donovan. It's too soon to tell how many of those guys will ultimately become important pieces of the US team going forward but others seem to have fallen off the radar, such as Pat Noonan, Eddie Robinson (even though he scored a goal) and Jimmy Conrad, surprisingly enough.

US-Mexico countdown: No. 20

In case you missed Thursday's post, I'm running a countdown of the Top 21 moments in the US-Mexico rivalry. Skip down a couple posts and you'll find it.

Anyway, on to Number 20.

20. International friendly; Dallas; April 28, 2004: US 1, Mexico 0. Ricardo Lavolpe finally got the same bitter taste of defeat that predecessors Javier Aguirre, Enrique Meza and Manuel Lapuente felt as the U.S. handed the fiery Argentine his first loss in the rivalry. The match was a pulsating and exhilarating affair but did not feature a goal for 90 minutes plus a pair of stoppage-time minutes. Played before 45,048 fans at the Cotton Bowl, the game nearly finished scoreless until Eddie Pope scored at the death. In the third minute of stoppage time, Taylor Twellman rose above the Mexican defense and headed a shot on goal. The ball fell to Pope, who easily slotted a shot into the back of the net.

Lineups
United States: Jonny Walker; Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Pope (captain), Pablo Mastroeni, Bobby Convey; Chris Armas, Kerry Zavagnin, Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley; Josh Wolff (Taylor Twellman 66), Conor Casey (Jovan Kirovski 84).

Mexico: Oswaldo Sanchez; Duilio Davino, Francisco Rodriguez, Ricardo Osorio, Diego Martinez; Pavel Pardo (Israel Lopez 46), Luis Perez, Octavio Valdez (Emilio Mora 67), Hector Altamirano (Mario Perez 61); Jared Borgetti (Omar Briceno 80), Omar Bravo.

Goal
US - Pope 90+

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Marquez ruled out for 1-2 weeks

Might another high-profile Mexican international be absent from the US-Mexico match on Feb. 11?

Days after learning that Andres Guardado will be gone for six weeks, Mexico learned its star defender has been ordered out of action for up to two weeks. Barcelona doctors have told Marquez to rest for up to two weeks after he was diagnosed with strained muscle.

The qualifier is three weeks away.

Also out for the match are Gerardo Torrado, Carlos Vela, Fernando Arce (all suspended) as well as Guardado. Defender Jonny Magallon is close to returning from injury and has targeted a return in early February but whether he's match-fit or plays at all remains to be seen.

The Ultimate US-Mexico Countdown, plus No. 21

We are officially three weeks away from the biggest game of 2009 - at least around these parts - as the United States will host Mexico in a World Cup qualifying match. On Feb. 11, CONCACAF’s two best nations will once again renew their hostilities in what promises to be an emotional and memorable affair.

Just how memorable will the game be? How will it rank against previous US-Mexico encounters? Only time will tell, but I’ve put together what I feel is a comprehensive list of US-Mexico encounters to give us all an idea of what sort of history precedes the match.

From today until the latest edition of US-Mexico, I will count down the top 21 moments in the rivalry’s history. You’ll get one game each day, with the countdown culminating on Feb. 11. Little by little, you’ll be able to read about the rivalry, reminisce about how it unfolded and see why it’s become one of the best rivalries in international football.

Before I get to Number 21, I should let you know about the criteria I used to base this countdown on.

I placed significance on meaningful matches; for instance Gold Cup games generally carried more weight than friendlies, while World Cup qualifying matches and the World Cup itself had the most significance. Having said that, though, only three of the top seven matches involved the World Cup and/or qualifiers so clearly other factors are involved.

Also, sheer drama was a factor as were the circumstances surrounding the match. Lastly, any sort of long-lasting effects carried weight as well. Some friendlies thus had more significance and ranked higher on the list than some tournament games – two friendlies can be found in the top 12. And with all due respect to the Under-17s, Under-20s, Under-23s and women, I limited this to men's senior national team matches. Additionally, I added lineups for the games they were available.

With that, here is the list beginning with the first US-Mexico match of the new millennium.

21. US Cup 2000; East Rutherford, N.J.; June 11, 2000: US 3, Mexico 0. The U.S. put to bed back-and-forth home results against Mexico with a convincing 3-0 win over Mexico in the final version of the US Cup. Internal problems with El Tri forced Mexico to send a squad primarily made of players from Pumas and thus the U.S. handed Hugo Sanchez his first-ever loss against the Americans in this match played at Giants Stadium. Brian McBride scored in the first half while Frankie Hejduk and Ante Razov put an exclamation mark on the rout as the Americans throttled Mexico.

Lineups
United States: Kasey Keller; Tony Sanneh, Carlos Llamosa (Gregg Berhalter 71), Jeff Agoos, David Regis; Earnie Stewart (Frankie Hejduk 76), Chris Armas, Claudio Reyna (captain), John O'Brien (Ben Olsen 64); Brian McBride (Ante Razov 81), Cobi Jones (Jovan Kirovski. 89).

Mexico: Sergio Bernal; Joaquin Beltran, Isreal Lopez (captain), Gerrado Torrado; Luis Perez (Luis Ignacio Gonzalez 66), Paulo Cesar Chavez (Carlos Carino 85), Horacio Sanchez (Jaime Lozano 46), Jesus Olalde; Christian Ramirez Raul Lapizar, Daniel Orsono (Ignacio Flores 77).

Goals
US - McBride 33
US - Hejduk 79
US - Razov 85

How I've spent my winter break

MLS Cup came and went, and then us West Coast-based soccer writers went into hibernation. Okay well, maybe not, but there wasn't much to cover here in the months that followed (I was unable to cover InterLiga due to personal issues not related to this post FYI). Now, the US national team will play a game and the local teams are starting to come out of their respective winter slumbers. Still, the games at Home Depot Center won't come at us quickly until mid-March, when Chivas USA hosts Colorado on March 21 and the Galaxy hosts DC a day later.

But that doesn't mean I've done nothing soccer-related over the last two months or so, and no this blog doesn't count.

Since the first week of December, I've taken up a new side job if you will, a part-time job even though I don't exactly punch in a time card or anything.

I've become a referee.

Yours truly has been officiating high school soccer games in and around Riverside and San Bernardino counties for the better part of two months now, and I've still got another month to go. Actually, the season ends the week of US-Mexico so I've still got plenty of games to officiate.

Now, I didn't want to share this until the season was coming to an end but I decided to write about it now because I feel like I've finally gotten my feet underneath me in terms of being able to properly officiate a game. Also, with US-Mexico approaching that will dominate this blog and my thoughts, so might as well get this out now.

I could seriously write thousands of words on refereeing, and I still might, but if I do I'll be sure and break it up into several different posts.

You're probalby wondering why anyone in their right mind would want to referee soccer games. Well, sometimes I think the same thing. Actually, I've asked myself that a lot over the last two months. Why? But there are a few reasons.

First, it fits well with my schedule. Since I freelance, I didn't have to get permission from my employer or anything like that. Also, it's decent money; I won't say how much but it's more than 50 for a varsity game and more than that for a junior varsity/freshman game, the latter of which you do by yourself.

Another thing too, I'm in shape. I can more than keep up with the players. I ran two 10Ks and a 5K last year and will try my first half-marathon in April, so the running-around part is actually something I embrace. I'm not some morbidly overweight soccer writer/blogger who sits on his arse all day anymore. I run for fun these days, so it helps keep me fit.

Also, though, I love the game and this has given me the chance to see the game in a whole different level. I've seen soccer games from the press box for so many years now that when I got the chance to work around soccer this way I was intrigued by seeing it from the field level for a change. I know the rules of soccer so that part hasn't been difficult; I've just had to adjust to high school rules (ie unlimited substitutions but teams can only sub in when it's their throw-in or corner, no subbing on free kicks, etc).

Overall I'd say my experience has been pleasant... okay, that's a load of bullshit. It's been rough at times and I've slowly, um, well, let's just say I've been improving. Knowing the rules of soccer and applying them are two different things. It's taken me a while to go from thinking "Oh, that looked like a foul" to actually blowing my whistle and calling a foul. I tend to let a lot of contact slide because I have a general rule that I don't like for officials to decide games so I don't call a lot of the little stuff. Soccer is after all a contact sport, but a lot of parents and coaches don't necessarily agree, and they let me know.

Like any official worth his/her salt, I've taken my share of abuse. It was a little hard at first but people have been talking shit about me for years so the only difference now is that I hear it instead of read it. Like I'm going to let the parents affect me? Ha! Okay, the first time I heard it, it started to get in my head but now if I hear somebody talking mess to me it doesn't bother me. I just laugh it off because most of the time they're complaining because they want me to call fouls that don't exist. That and a lot of people don't understand the concept of advantage. Anyway, I'll get more into the abuse part of it in the future because there is a lot I want to say about that.

Anyway, I'm spending the better parts of my weekday afternoons (and some Saturday mornings) blowing my whistle, getting questioned and yelled at, and running around soccer fields in the area. Do I want to make this into some sort of side job beyond what it is now? That would be a resounding NO. I want no part of club soccer. I don't want to think about reffing junior college or college soccer. I'll stick to high school soccer, which is plenty to keep me busy during the winter months.

Well, I just wanted to share that with you trusty readers. Again, look out for more stuff on this as it's what has been dominating my time since early December. As I said, I'll definitely get into the abuse part and share some of what parents have said to me. Until then, I'll probably be busy collecting more stories to share.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chivas USA to open camp

Chivas USA will return to the field on Wednesday, Jan. 28. The club will open its preseason one week from now.

Not sure if any of the rumored players from Chivas/Tapatio are headed here or not, or when they'll join the team if they are but one player who will be there is forward Reynier Alcantara. A source confirmed that the Cuban defector will in fact be part of Chivas USA's preseason efforts.

As far as the rumored players headed north, Arturo Ledesma was being mentioned as a possible starter for Chivas in certain upcoming games, for instance ones that clash with national team games. If Ledesma is even being mentioned as a possible starter, it doesn't seem likely he'd be in mix to head north.

Franklin operated

Galaxy defender Sean Franklin was not in camp today. In fact, he was not in the country. Franklin underwent sports hernia surgery in Germany and is expected to return to the U.S. on Thursday.

Franklin was part of the US national team's training camp roster ahead of Saturday's game against Sweden and wouldn't have been in camp regardless, but this setback now places his return to camp further off into the preseason than had been expected.

The timetable for his return has been set - Galaxy coaches expect him to be healthy in time for the start of the regular season.

Still, the effects of this injury could be felt well into April. A natural right back, Franklin may have gotten the chance to move to right back or continue to hone his central defender skills in the preseason. Now, he won't have an opportunity to do either. It's more likely that he'll play central defense now. If Bruce Arena had thought about moving Franklin to the right, it likely would have been something that could have been explored in training camp. What's best for Franklin at this point is to put him where he played the majority of last season.

J1 Mexican rankings

I like rankings. I've done MLS rankings for a while now and I figured why not do some Mexican league rankings.

So here goes, my first Mexican power rankings. I don't have a catchy name for them, so for now they're just that. I've based these on how strong I think these teams are coming into the season and how they did in the first week. I like teams who do well on the road, and I don't like teams who struggle at home, so that criteria to me is important.

1. Pachuca. Scored four goals and looked impressive doing so, but will get tested quite a bit more by San Luis in Jornada 2.
2. Toluca. Defending champs struggle at home but still formidable squad.
3. America. Salvador Cabanas a maestro at goal scoring.
4. Pumas. Pablo Barrera helps felinos escape Necaxa with full three points.
5. Cruz Azul. Impressive: scored three goals on road in first half. Not impressive: managed just a point.
6. Atlante. Where did all that offense come from? And at Nemesio Diez no doubt...
7. Chivas. Battled to get back in game but ultimately couldn't get a game-winner with a man advantage.
8. Monterrey. Four goals is impressive, especially given the coaching circumstances facing this club entering the season.

Canceled

MLS has been canceled on Thursday nights at least.

Thursday night soccer will no longer be part of the weekly soccer landscape, which I think is a good thing. I'm probably in the minority but I never liked Thursday night soccer. It just didn't work. The ratings were a disaster and games were moved to Thursdays to accommodate a non-existent television viewership instead of being played Saturday when teams could better prepare for their respective encounters.

I understand the need to have MLS out there, to be on a major sports network. But when it bombs out, that makes it even more painful to endure.

LA Times' Grahame Jones wrote about the possibility of ESPN bidding for the rights to English Premier League games, and how that would seemingly trouble MLS suits more than the outright cancellation of their Thursday night TV slot. He also described MLS as the "always hypersensitive" league, and how they went on to issue their own release to counterbalance the effects of the word "cancel."

But canceled MLS was. Cancel, cancel, cancel. The ratings were awful, and that MLS Primetime Thursdays lasted as long as it did is sort of remarkable.

Galaxy opens preseason

The Galaxy officially opens its preseason camp today at Home Depot Center. The club began welcoming back players two days ago but today will be the first on-the-field session of 2009.

The club's two biggest weapons won't be anywhere near the training field, of course, as Landon Donovan and David Beckham are off in Germany and Italy, respectively. Both are at this point expected back sometime in early March.

Until then, the rest of the squad will try and start building some cohesion and an understanding with each other. There is a lot of work to be done, work that needs to be done to improve the league's worst defense and help the Galaxy try to reach the playoffs and snap their skid of three consecutive postseason absences.

Here is the preseason roster:

Goalkeepers: Steve Cronin, Donovan Ricketts, Josh Wicks.

Defenders: Vardan Adzemian, Leo Bautista, A.J. DeLaGarza, Sean Franklin, Michael Gavin, Omar Gonzalez, Brandon McDonald, Mike Randolph, Troy Roberts, Tony Sanneh, Julian Valentin.

Midfielders: Ely Allen, David Beckham, Josh Boateng, Leonard Griffin, Chris Klein, Dema Kovalenko, Eddie Lewis, Stefani Miglioranzi, Mike Munoz, Kyle Patterson, Josh Tudela.

Forwards: Tristan Bowen, Edson Buddle, Landon Donovan, Alan Gordon, Bryan Jordan, Jovan Kirovski, Mike Magee, Israel Sesay

Ricketts enters the preseason as the number one goalkeeper. Cronin and Wicks had their chances a year ago and each left plenty of room for improvement.

Defensively, there are many question marks and the preseason will help sort out those questions. How will central defense shake out? Does Sanneh have anything left? How will the new kids - Gonzalez, De la Garza - live up to their high expectations? Also, Franklin was injured during US national team camp; his health may be an issue in the early part of the preseason, and if it lingers too long it could affect the start of the season.

The midfield has quite a bit of experience with Klein, Kovalenko and Lewis. Each is a little long in the tooth so players like Allen and McDonald (though he's listed as a defender) need to continue to develop to provide capable support.

Up top, Magee and Kirovski stand to get a chance at some playing time. Buddle seems set at one forward position but with Donovan facing time away for qualifiers, Gold Cup and Confederations Cup - if he comes back at all - the need for quality forwards is present. With Gordon also in the mix, the club seems to have four forwards capable of playing, though there are question marks that need answering.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Message to Alexi

A columnist in Mural wrote about Alexi Lalas' statements regarding his feelings toward El Tri. The column San Cadilla featured a message to Alexi and the columnist said that even though the former US central defender would likely not read his words, he wanted to send his message anyway.

He broke it down this way:

1. The hate (in sporting terms) goes both ways.
2. Lalas is just bitter because in his day the "gringos" couldn't hang with the Mexicans.
3. Anyone whose real name is Panayotis Alexander can't be taken seriously as a player, a musician and much less as a TV analyst.

Castillo piles on the hate

Since he's an American, Edgar Castillo was asked about what he thought about Alexi Lalas' comments of the apparent hate that flows from north to south.

Castillo told Reforma that the hate for Mexico is strong.

"What can I tell you about what he said? Over there, all the Americans hate Mexico."

(Again, Reforma is a subscription site so can't link to the story but here's the full quote in Spanish: alla, todos los americanos odian a Mexico.)

Originally, Lalas' comments were taken for more than what they were; in Mexico the media has blown it up as Lalas hating Mexico the country and its people. That's what the media is playing the build-up to this game apparently, how there is a lot of hate from the US towards Mexico. Castillo certainly hasn't done anything to dissuade from that.

Chivas USA update

The rumors in Mural about changes with Chivas are just rumors, a source clarified. Nothing is certain but there could be some players headed this way.

Now, as often happens when there are reports breaking from Guadalajara about movements at Chivas USA, it is seemingly only confirmed when either the player shows up here in person. There have been so many players who were reportedly joining the club or on their way only to have nothing transpire.

With that, the names tossed out were Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Arturo "Zulito" Ledesma and Jesus "Gringo" Padilla. On an aside, it's kind of funny and ironic that part of this move is to help give Chivas USA more Mexican players and Padilla is included in the mix, and although Padilla is, by his own admission, more Mexican than cactus he is also an American.

If they do come, you may need to know more about them. So here's a quick tidbit on each player.

Javier Hernandez was on Mexico's Under-20 team at the 2007 U-20 World Cup. Hernandez has played in 21 games for Chivas and has one goal in that time. He's never really piled up the goal scoring stats but did have four goals in nine games for Tapatio a couple of years ago. Hernandez has played in InterLiga, SuperLiga, CONCACAF Champions Cup, Copa Sudamericana and Copa Libertadores games as well as regular-season games for Chivas.

Arturo Ledesma was a teammate of Hernandez's in the 07 Under-20 World Cup. Ledesma is a six-foot-tall defender who comes from proven bloodlines. His dad Javier was a longtime goalkeeper for Chivas and served as goalkeeper coach for Chivas USA in 2005. Ledesma has also played in Copa Sudamericana and Copa Libertadores for Chivas.

Jesus Padilla is possibly the most interesting and likely one of the bunch to join and possibly stick around. Chivas USA brass - a group that included Preki - was after Padilla a year ago, before the start of the 2008 preseason, but Chivas chose to keep him in Guadalajara. However, with the arrival of Jared Borgetti as a Libertadores ace, Padilla's stock and demand have fallen and the club might be willing to loosen their grip on the San Jose, Calif., native.

As far as the coaching stuff goes, there seems to be no truth to the part about Preki leaving. As I said last night, the coaching moves that happen here, happen here. Those sorts of decisions are made in Carson, and as far as anyone can tell such a decision to let Preki go hasn't been made and probably won't be made anytime soon.

I'll do some more digging and see if I come up with anything more.

Not holding back

Carlos Ochoa has gotten a bit of a new lease on life. He was one of the surprising call-ups by Sven Goran Eriksson when the Swede took over El Tri, and his move to Chivas now puts him on a high-profile club.

Maybe now that he's more involved in the Mexican soccer landscape he feels the need to talk more. He didn't really hold anything back Monday when asked about his thoughts on the US-Mexico rivalry.

Ochoa said Monday that Mexico is superior on all levels.

"With all due respect, the United States' players are physically strong, they've worked for a long time but the Mexican soccer player and Mexican soccer is superior than theirs, with all due respect. We have a better level. We know more about soccer. The only advantage they could possibly have is the work they put in."

Here's the link to the story (thanks RA!)

Ochoa is with the Mexican national team for three days and will have a chance of playing against both Sweden (on Jan. 28) and the United States in Ohio. Should Ochoa and the rest of his Tri teammates face subfreezing temperatures in Columbus on Feb. 11, he said their valiant nature would supersede any sort of weather conditions.

"Us Mexicans are very brave. We've brave and that's going to show on the field. It's going to be cold for them and for us but we're going to be fine. We're going to win."

Americans in Mexico: Jornada 1 recap

Okay, at some point I'll take a look at each American in Mexico. I hope to get to that this week. There hasn't actually been much movement since last season so if you followed along last year I think only Edgar Castillo has changed clubs.

Anyway, here's how Jornada 1 played out (J2 for the Primera A chavalos).

PRIMERA DIVISION
Jose Francisco Torres: Started and played 45 minutes in 4-1 win over Tigres.
Michael Orozco: Played 90 minutes in San Luis' 0-0 draw with Morelia.
Edgar Castillo: Played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in America's 2-1 win at Santos.
Daniel Hernandez: Sat out 2-1 win over Atlas due to suspension.
Marco Antonio Vidal: Dressed but did not play in Indios' 2-1 win over Tecos.

PRIMERA A
Sammy Ochoa: Started and was sent off in the 27th minute in Tecos' 1-1 draw with Lobos BUAP.
Jesus Padilla: Started and played 68 minutes in Tapatio's 2-2 draw with Correcaminos. Padilla scored a goal and picked up a yellow card.
Carlos Borja: Played 90 minutes in Tapatio's 2-2 draw with Correcaminos.
Sonny Guadarrama: Dressed but did not play in Merida's 2-1 win over Socio Aguila.

Donovan's goal

Check it out. No Short Corners has a video of Landon Donovan's most recent goal for Bayern Munich over the weekend. It's a nice goal, really.

Donovan's goal was his second for Bayern Munich. This latest one was against Kaiserslautern in a friendly, a 2-0 win for Bayern.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Shakeup at Chivas USA?

Mural reported in its Monday editions that a possible shakeup at Chivas USA is likely to come down sooner rather than later. Now, I'm a bit leery of certain things but here's what Guadalajara's biggest sports daily reported.

Reportedly, Jorge Vergara and Antonio Cue are not happy with the direction the club has taken and the lack of Mexican players on the roster. Reportedly, Preki and others will be relieved of his duties and the club will bring in a Mexican coach, with Claudio Suarez mentioned as a possible candidate to take over the coaching position.

To have taken Francisco Mendoza from Chivas USA, the mother ship has promised to send players north, and the players mentioned are Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Arturo "Zulito" Ledesma and Jesus "Gringo" Padilla. Jared Borgetti is, of course, set to join as well.

Now, this is all according to Mural. There seems to be some sort of grumbling going on down in Guadalajara about Chivas USA, and this seems to have been some of the fallout.

I'll check in with some sources and see what's going on. Now, as usual, remember that the day-to-day operations of Chivas USA happen in Carson, not in Guadalajara, and any coaching moves would come out of here, not from down there. So if Preki is removed, it will likely be Shawn Hunter's decision and as far as I know Hunter is happy with Preki's job and not looking to remove him.

ADD: Hernandez and Padilla each scored a goal in Tapatio's 2-2 tie in Primera A action over the weekend. Ledezma also started and played 90 minutes. Carlos Borja, meanwhile, also started and played 90 minutes. Borja is of course a Chivas USA cast-off.

Guardado out of US game

Andres Guardado has been ruled out of Mexico's World Cup qualifier against the United States on Feb. 11 in Ohio. Guardado's calf injury will take a minimum of six weeks to heal.

Guardado scored a goal against the US in the 2007 Gold Cup final and has become one of El Tri's best players.

The injury could open the door for Edgar Castillo to play against the Americans. Castillo is a capable left sided player but will have to earn a spot in the starting lineup.

El Tri gathers for first time

Mexico coach Sven Goran Eriksson will have a team in place for the next three days to work on tactics with an eye towards the Sweden game. This is probably many of the same players who, along with the smattering of Mexicans based in Europe, will be in Columbus for US-Mexico.

So if you are a US supporter and aren't familiar with these names, start getting to know them.

Goalkeepers: Oswaldo Sánchez (Santos), Guillermo Ochoa (America), José de Jesús Corona (Tecos).

Defenders: Juan Carlos Valenzuela (America), Israel Castro (Pumas), Leobardo López (Pachuca), Edgar Dueñas (Toluca), Diego Martínez (Monterrey), Julio Cesar Domínguez (Cruz Azul), Fausto Pinto (Cruz Azul), Edgar Castillo (America), Israel Martínez (San Luis).

Midfielders: Antonio Naelson Sinha (Toluca), Pavel Pardo (America), Luis Pérez (Monterrey), Leandro Augusto (Pumas), Lucas Ayala (Atlas).

Forwards: Alberto Medina (Chivas), Cesar Villaluz (Cruz Azul), Matías Vuoso (Santos), Carlos Ochoa (Chivas), Néstor Calderón (Toluca), Marco Fabián (Chivas).