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.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

More on El Tri

I didn't post much on this blog tonight because I was busy updating Goal.com's Mexico page. Check it out for full coverage on Mexico's 2-0 win over Costa Rica.

Come from behind draw

The US looked terrible midway through the second half of Saturday's match with El Salvador, trailing surprisingly by 2-0. But then the States pulled off a pair of goals and finished 2-2 and a late opportunity nearly gave the Americans a win.

In the end, though, it was one well-earned point.

Mexico wins

The way the game worked out, Costa Rica never really had a shot as Mexico won 2-0.

Here are the highlights with some commentary from the Futbol Picante guys.

Meanwhile, in San Salvador

Couple of things from our respective journalists down in Central America.

- Check out Andrea Canales' stuff at Goal.com. Some good stuff from a wealth of different players including Jozy Altidore, Heath Pearce and Jonathan Spector.

- Paul Oberjuerge has some stuff over on his blog too. He's writing for the New York Times. He writes about the country of El Salvador itself. I've never been there myself but I always kind of thought it was the way he described it.

It’s like Mexico. Except moreso. A bit poorer, a little more ramshackle, a tad more random/ad hoc/chaotic. If you wonder where those rickety buses go when Mexico decides they’re too far gone? To El Salvador, apparently. This is a country where every bus is a 30-year-old, soot-belching monstrosity, often with someone hanging out the front door.

Guzan likely starter

Likely US national team starter Brad Guzan talked to Andrea Canales about several things, including facing a penalty kick against Liverpool's Steven Gerrard in his first Premier League minutes.

Not sure what was worse - having the task of stopping an EPL great as your first-ever Premiership challenge or what he went through in 2005 with Chivas USA, particularly in his first five games or so.

Friday, March 27, 2009

More media thoughts

A couple of random thoughts on the media, since Nery got me thinking about the media.

- There are only two American writers who traveled to El Salvador for a World Cup qualifier, Paul Oberjuerge and Andrea Canales. While I'm very excited for both of them since I know them both personally, I think that it is a bit upsetting that only two media people went. I don't think that's a good thing. There will be dozens of writers and media people in Tennessee on Wednesday but that's here, that's a given.

The press corps is scant in a qualifier that will be important, the full team will play (it's not Game 9 after the US has already qualified), and it's on a Saturday to boot (seems it'd be easier to travel for a Saturday match). In my case, I'm a freelancer like Paul but I couldn't justify going there (yes, I did look into the cost) because I wouldn't have made enough off the game to cover my expenses. Not sure about Paul's situation but he recently did some work for the International Herald Tribune, perhaps he sold stories to them. But I really don't know, just guessing.

I guess it speaks to the level of interest the media at large has in this match and in this team, which is not good.

I'm guessing a good number of media people will travel to Mexico City, some may go to Costa Rica but it's still not a good thing that the media is scant down there.

- Bruce Arena was asked recently what he thought of the media in the US recently. It was during the Landon press conference, as a follow-up to Landon's thoughts on Germany and the environment and all that. Bruce said he thought the media here was too negative.

I don't have the full quote but he want on to say that he wished it were more positive but that he's used to the negativity.

Strange how people perceive things. I thought he always got a pass for a lot of things when he was US coach. I wrote a not-so-nice piece on him, just broke down his coaching record and all that, nothing personal of course, and then I got some heat for it. But whatever, people are going to interpret the media how they see fit, whether it's in Mexico or the US or anywhere.

Oh yeah... forgot about that

MLS has a full slate of games on tap for this weekend. Nevermind that the US national team has a World Cup qualifier on Saturday. It's okay, don't bother shutting the league down.

To be honest, it's so infuriating and has been for so many years that I'm all but numb to it right now. I'm just happy that there aren't any games out at Home Depot Center so I can stay home and watch Mexico-Costa Rica and US-El Salvador uninterrupted... well, at least uninterrupted by soccer (soccer won't get in the way of soccer after all). I'll probably have to figure something out about my daughters. Hmm... lots of ice cream and cookies! That'll keep 'em quiet.

Anyway, here's a Week 2 preview from Goal.com's Kyle McCarthy.

A stab or three at a Tri lineup

Well, first here's the preview I wrote for Goal.com and I included my guess at a lineup (not necessarily who I think should start) and here's one of my writers and his stab at a lineup (who he thinks should start.

And here's Futbol Picante. None of us have the same lineup at all.

Safe in San Salvador

Looks like Andrea Canales made it safely down to San Salvador. Incidentally, it's awesome that Paul Oberjuerge made the trip down there. Obviously, I had no idea he was going (thanks for heads up Nicole). I'm guessing they took the same flight down there (how many red-eye flights from LAX to San Salvador are there a night?) so I'm assuming he made it safely as well, but we'll see.

Anyway, Andrea filed her first story, something on the US team participating in a clinic for underprivileged kids. Good PR for the team, so maybe the locals won't be upset when the US drops three on them on Saturday.

Awesome

Just got back from my long day out in Beverly Hills. It took me a while to get out there, find the place and make the long commute back to Riverside and pick up my daughters and then deal with them.

Anyway, I had my interview with Jose Mourinho and it was awesome, easily a highlight of my career. I can't remember any other one-on-one interview I've had with such a prominent figure as Mourinho, especially at the height of his own career. It was pretty surreal to, to see a face like his that I normally only see on television and then have him in front of me.

We talked, a lot, for about 25 minutes but you'll have to wait until the story comes out.

After the interview, which was at a prominent ritzy hotel out in Beverly Hills, I went and got my car. I actually valeted it (had no choice). I waited as BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, a Cadillac Escalade... all these fancy cars for other people and then my Toyota Corolla comes in behind them. Yeah, just a little out of place.

LB and The Special One

As you read this, I'll be somewhere in LA conducting an interview. I've had some pretty memorable one-on-one interviews, exclusives or whatever, but I'm wondering if anything can top this.

I'll be chatting with Jose Mourinho about various things for an upcoming SI.com column. I'm pretty jazzed about it.

I'll let you all know how it went when I get back later this afternoon.

AC in SLV

Goal.com Chief Editor and my former blog buddy Andrea Canales is in El Salvador for the US-El Salvador match. She might be the only American writer traveling to the match. I'm excited for her to have the chance to travel to Central America for a World Cup qualifier.

Anyway, make sure and follow Goal.com to check out her stuff.

Media talk

The fallout from the Nery Castillo tirade seems to have been overwhelmingly in favor of Castillo among the supporters. It seems the Mexican media is very low in the minds of many.

Now, I don't know what journalism is like in Mexico and what standards it follows. It's a different game there, so to speak. But the thing that bothers me is this idea that the media should support the national team and should be positive with the national team.

It's not the media's job to support. That's PR, public relations. The media's job is to report on what happened, report the major storylines, the minor storylines and everything in between, to cover a game or event or whatever from as many angles as possible so the reader or viewer or listener or whatever can get the full story.

The media's job is not to support or trash, it is not to give atta-boys or pats on the back, pick-me-up columns or fluff pieces. That's PR, marketing, whatever. Not media. Sure, you cover and deal with players you like on a personal level and other you don't care for on a personal level. But you have to be true to the job and the profession and remain objective. Media members aren't cheerleaders, and it seems that's a major complaint about the Mexican media, that they aren't supporting the national team.

The team has played like shit. What do you want the media to do? You want Mural to run a cover that says "Don't Worry Tri, Next Time You'll Win" if they lose on Saturday? Should that have been the headline following the US-Mexico game?

Now, there is an element of tabloid and sensationalism that goes on there and that part I can't speak about. I despise tabloids in general and if those are the basis of the complaints, I guess I can't really blame them.

Anyway, here's the Futbol Picante crew talking about the Nery situation.

El Aztecazo

How did anyone ever beat Mexico in Azteca?

Well, here's how Costa Rica did it. Not sure if this will be shown to the players before the game, but it's probably pretty motivating if you're Costa Rican.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gonzalo highly motivated

I had the chance to talk to Gonzalo Segares recently about playing against Mexico and what the 2001 qualifying win over El Tri meant to Costa Rica. It was actually a very interesting conversation and I'm upset a little, okay a lot actually, because I lost my digital recorder and have been unable to post audio clips.

Anyway, here's a link to the story I wrote on it.

Family affair

My tio Sergio is in charge of Santos now, as he replaced Daniel Guzman as manager.

Except, we're not related. But I can call him tio. I mean, how many Buenos are there?

I actually do have a tio named Sergio who lives in Mexico, but his last name is Valenzuela.

In the news

Nery Castillo had his say on how he feels against the media on Wednesday.

Now, it's the media's turn. Castillo, of course, was the headliner throughout including on the cover of Mural.

"He Goes Crazy" reads the headline.

What good is just a headline, though, without a cartoon to accompany it?


Nery Castillo tries his hand at a piñata. As the Costa Rican player dangles saying "He's peeking! He's peeking!" a startled reporter says "Behind Nery, behind, behind... the target is on the other side."

The rundown

Here's some of the highlights from the Nery Castillo presser, translated into English by yours truly.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Nery's meltdown

Might the pressure be getting to the Mexican national team players?

It appeared Nery Castillo was feeling something - pressure, anger, frustration... something - during Wednesday's press conference.

He chastised the media, said they had no business criticizing players because they never played, among other things.

Another Aztecazo?

Costa Rica beat Mexico in Azteca in 2001 in World Cup qualifying.

Can it happen again?

The guys from Futbol Picante say no, but are quick to agree that they really don't have a good reason why they don't think Costa Rica will win.

Towards the end, one of the commentators says something to the effect: If you ask me if Mexico will lose this game, I will tell you no. But if you ask me why, I will have problems giving you even one solid reason why I think that. Perhaps I'm thinking more with my heart than with my brain.

Illustrious quartet

Not all outlets have done this but I've seen on several places how this tournament between Milan, Inter and Chelsea has been scheduled for this summer.

Um... there's this other team called Club America who are also participating in the tournament. Not sure if you've heard of them. I know, you guys barely pay attention to what goes on south of the border, but clearly you must have heard of one of the most popular clubs in the Western Hemisphere.

Ahem.

America, Chelsea, Inter Milan and AC Milan will play in a four team tournament this summer across six US cities. For America, this match presents an opportunity the club does not often have, and that's to measure up against top European clubs. America has played the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United before but it's a good opportunity for the team to play some high-caliber preseason friendlies while making some money in the process.

This series is expected to draw massive crowds as well, since NFL stadiums or other large stadiums have been called on, including the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, which will have played host to a Gold Cup match there prior to this game.

Here's the full slate of games, that kicks off between America and Inter Milan

Sunday, July 19
Club America vs. Inter Milan, Palo Alto 4 p.m. PT

Tuesday, July 21
Chelsea vs. Inter Milan, Pasadena 8 p.m. PT

Wednesday, July 22
AC Milan vs. Club America, Atlanta, 4 p.m. PT

Friday, July 24
AC Milan vs. Chelsea, Baltimore, 5 p.m. PT

Sunday, July 26
AC Milan vs. Inter Milan, Foxborough, Mass., 2 p.m. PT

Sunday, July 26
Chelsea FC vs. Club America, Arlington, Texas, 4 p.m. PT

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Shake-up in Guadalajara

A lot has been going on down in Guadalajara lately, and it may have an effect on Chivas USA.

- Chivas VP Nestor De La Torre left the club for a role with the national team. Nestor has shown his face here in Carson for some time now, and he's been involved with what little player movement has gone on between the clubs.

- Chivas sacked Efrain Flores. That's no real surprise, just perhaps that it took so long to finally oust him.

- Chivas' Francisco Mendoza was banned for two games after a red card on Saturday. Panchito has barely played for Chivas.

There may or may not be a ripple effect. Flores welcomed Mendoza to the club and the move from north to south was streamlined by De La Torre. If the incoming coach wants no part of Mendoza, which isn't really a stretch, perhaps Mendoza might find his way back to Carson in the summer.

It's also possible that whatever promises De La Torre made in terms of players, perhaps with Jared Borgetti, a rumor that was strong in the preseason, will be followed through by his successor or the Guadalajara front office in general.

It just seems that if there was anyone who had Chivas USA on their mind or in their corner down in Mexico, it was De La Torre. Of course, we've seen plenty of suits during the years here but his has been the only consistent one.

Don't know, maybe it's a stretch to think that some front-office moves in Guadalajara would have an affect on Chivas USA but if nothing else one more semi-familiar face won't be seen 'round these parts any more.

Gio out, Castillo in

Giovanio Dos Santos strained his groin on Saturday and left Ipswich Town's game in the 26th minute. The injury will now cost him the chance to play against Costa Rica.

Gio has been ruled out of Mexico's upcoming qualifiers and has been replaced on the roster by Edgar Castillo.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Big loss

Honduras star David Suazo is done for the season after having severely injured his knee while playing for Benfica over the weekend.

How bad is Suazo's injury? Some reports said that Suazo's career is in danger.

Suazo who was in Benfica on loan from Inter Milan is widely considered one of the top players from CONCACAF. If and when he does return, it will likely be a struggle for him to reclaim such a lofty status. The former Cagliari standout will turn 30 this year, and his damaging injury coupled with his advancing footballing age may indeed spell doom for Suazo.

Liechtenstein Beckons Rankings (March 23)

I suppose I should preface this by saying that some teams impressed me with wins and good performances while others didn't and still showed flaws.

1. Chicago. McBride bags winner, Blanco scores on free kick - a winning combination.
2. Columbus. Barros Schelotto still has magic touch.
3. New England. Reports of their demise have been premature.
4. Toronto. Defense still has issues but when Guevara is on form, it doesn't matter much.
5. Real Salt Lake. Season started early for everyone save RSL.
6. Seattle. Three-nil ass whipping of MLS Cup finalists great start for franchise.
7. Houston. Hung right in with MLS champs, but defense wilted at the wrong moment.
8. San Jose. Offense doesn't show much of anything - a sign of things to come?
9. Kansas City. Hirsig > Marinelli.
10. Chivas USA. Nagamura makes up for bad performance by Lillingston and Braun.
11. New York. Red Bulls remind us once again that last year's MLS Cup was indeed a fluke.
12. Colorado. Allowed two goals to a team that had nothing going forward.
13. Galaxy. They'd not have come back against a better defense.
14. DC United. Is Gomez's goal proof that he's back? Well, he did score in last year's opener too.
15. FC Dallas. Defensive questions worsened after one match.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Focus

I probably shouldn't be driving and blogging but I have to focus on the fucking game...

During the post match press conference, Tom Soehn said he hadn't seen a replay of the PK call on Rodney Wallace nor the Landon Donovan header. What he was apparently most upset about was the collision that knocked Devon McTavish out of the game.

"A PK came out of it. The referee has to use a little better judgement. We've got two hits with open head injuries. Stop the game. So I was disappointed" Soehn said.

Soehn said the collision was pretty much the turning point as it forced the team to change plans.

"We had Jaime (Moreno) coming into the game so obviously with two defensive players down we had to adjust. We wanted to make sure one of them was going to come back in so we adjusted."

Marc Burch came on instead of Moreno and DC quickly allowed two goals.

During the first few minutes of the presser, Soehn seemed somewhat composed. But as soon as Goff's question about Crayton left his lips, Soehn shot him down.

"Louis wasn't here. Let's talk about the game today," Soehn said.

Goff quickly asked about Josh Wicks.

"Josh did well," Soehn said and went on to talk about the PK and how its always tough to stop, etc.

I don't know why Crayton wasn't at the game and neither did a couple of fellow reporters. It seems like it was a non-injury issue but I don't know for sure. It just seems that Soehn was awfully defensive about Crayton, and then obviously he unloaded on Goff.

Soehn is probably feeling quite a bit of pressure, and his team had just blown a two-goal lead. The first goal may been a result of a bad call but the second one was not. Regardless, that's not what bothered Soehn the most immediately after the game.

Still, bad call or not Soehn would do best to keep his cool after the game. If he's reacting this way, it seems his head my be on the chopping block more than we realize.

Post-game tirade

Some of the stuff that won't make the match report...

During the post-game press conference, Washington Post reporter Steven Goff asked DC coach Tom Soehn about goalkeeper Louis Crayton. Josh Wicks started for DC and Milos Kocic was on the bench, so no Crayton. Goff asked what many of us were probably thinking, and Soehn apparently did not like the question. He told him that Crayton wasn't here, so to talk about the game.

In the locker room, Soehn apparently hadn't let it go. As Goff and others were talking to Chris Pontius, Soehn and Goff had some more words, though it was more Soehn unloading on Goff. Soehn told him to talk about the positives and then dropped this on him:

"Focus on the fucking game," Soehn said before he stormed off into the coach's office.

It's unfortunate when you are doing your job, and you're one of the best in the business doing your job, and to have the coach unload on you like that. And really, all Goff was doing was asking him a legitimate question.

Suarez is back

Claudio Suarez was around Saturday. He talked during a halftime press conference and apologized for what he said.

Here's a story I wrote on the matter.

I'll have more thoughts on this later.

Nags bags two

I actually prefer to call him Paulinho but that only serves to confuse people...

Still, whatever you call him, Paulo Nagamura is suddenly a goal scorer. He scored twice in Chivas USA's 2-1 win over Colorado on Saturday.

How rare are Nagamura goals? In 2005 and 2006, he combined for zero goals. In 2007 and 2008, he combined for four goals. It took him four minutes to match what it had taken him 104 games to accomplish in the first place.

Overall, Chivas USA played well enough to win but still showed there was plenty of room for improvement. The forwards were out of sorts as Eduardo Lillingston and Justin Braun struggled. Maykel Galindo came in and performed, and if he can get fully healthy soon, the club will be much more dangerous because of that.

Zach Thornton was atrocious on the first goal but made some good saves and showed some decent movement. Still, leaving rebounds and misplaying shots like he did on Colorado's goal was horrific.

Anyway, it's a good start for Chivas USA and next week's game in FC Dallas will be yet another challenge as Sacha Kljestan won't be around. For their sake, Galindo needs to get healthy soon.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wait.... what?

I don't think many expected this.

Claudio Suarez, who said he'd been offended by Chivas USA's offer of "peanuts" when re-negotiating a contract, is suddenly back with the club. Suarez, who said he preferred to play with an amateur team than go back to Chivas USA, is indeed back with Chivas USA. Suarez, who said he was treated like a dog, agreed to terms of after all.

What?

Suarez will be available for interviews in the press box of tonight's game against Colorado at Home Depot Center. I'm guessing, he'll have some 'splainin to do.

Not sure though if the club called and apologized to the player or if the player called and apologized to the club. And really, the club did not look good at all by treating Suarez the way they did. But then again, I don't know that going around and slinging accusations was the best way for Suarez to ride off into the sunset. Apparently, though, that ride will continue at the ripe old age of 40.

Friday, March 20, 2009

More fan mail

The first response I got to this morning's column wasn't what I expected.

But the second one was.

"Do you even follow the MLS. This is the most outlandish, ridiculous post i have ever seen. It's fairly clear to everyone who knows anything about the MLS that RSL will be a top team in the league this year and a top prediction for MLS Cup and the suporters shield. Get a clue before you start making such bold & ridiculous statements. You ruin soccer here."

I should thank that guy for the good chuckle I got. I'm also going to keep his email, so when RSL misses the playoffs I can send him a proper response.

West Coast swing

What a week for the West Coast.

First, Vancouver gets an MLS team. Not sure if it technically counts as a West Coast town since it's in Canada, but it's west enough. Then, Seattle spanks New York 3-0 in their franchise opener. And now, Portland gets invited to the party.

Portland was officially named the league's 18th team on Friday and will begin play in 2011, along with Vancouver. This gives the Western part of the US (and Canada) a full eight teams. That's eight teams that are West of the Rockies anyway (is Dick's Sporting Goods Park officially west or east of the Rockies? They're part of the eight).

It won't happen but the league should stop at 18. This is a good number of teams to have and provides plenty of geographic equality. But the league likely wants a presence in St. Louis as well as possibly another Canadian team so we'll probably get to 20 soon enough.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to Portland-Seattle, Seattle-Vancouver and Vancouver-Portland.

As far as 18 teams goes... I hope the league keeps the schedule at 30 games. That could mean teams play their eight conference rivals twice (nine teams per conference), each team from the other conference once and then there would be a final game which probably would be a rivalry match so we may see Chivas-Galaxy and Seattle-Portland three times a season. I'd really like that number to be two so the games are more special and more meaningful (too many can water down the product) but the league is not about to cut down those types of games.

All those matters will be sorted out in the weeks, months and years to come. For now, rejoice Portland! And Vancouver! Welcome to the league!

US roster for El Salvador, Trinidad

The United States national team announced the roster for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers at El Salvador and at home against Trinidad & Tobago.

First the squad, then some thoughts:

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Marcus Hahnemann (Reading)

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Danny Califf (Midtjylland), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

Midfielders: Freddy Adu (Monaco), DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado), José Francisco Torres (Pachuca)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Xerez), Brian Ching (Houston), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Galaxy), Eddie Johnson (Cardiff)

Yes, that's Eddie Johnson on the list. I don't know if that speaks well of Johnson's ability and time with Cardiff or if it speaks poorly of the depth the U.S. has. Charlie Davies made the second-to-last cut for the US-Mexico match but has apparently been surpassed by Johnson. Maybe US coach Bob Bradley feels that El Salvador will be beneficial to Johnson since he scored his first international goal there in 2004. I don't expect him to play, however, as I'd say he's the fifth-best option at forward. But he is experienced and has had success in Central America, and that has to count for something.

The defense features Jay DeMerit and Jonathan Spector, two players who have battled through some recent injuries. It does not feature Steve Cherundolo. Perhaps Frankie Hejduk will once again start for the US, or maybe Spector could be an option on the right.

I'd expect to see several of these players see time on the field. I don't think Bradley will use the same lineup twice. We may see Jose Francisco Torres for the first time in the Hex as well as Freddy Adu or Danny Califf or Pablo Mastroeni.

Players who saw time or were on the benc in the Mexico game but are not part of this roster are: Marvell Wynne, Ricardo Clark, Jonathan Bornstein. I wouldn't read too much into their collective absences, though. It's likely a combination of the league schedule, the chance to bring other players into the mix (DeMerit, Spector, Mastroeni) and the need to continue giving as many players the chance to see time and participate with the team. Remember, this summer will be busy and we'll likely see the trio suit up for the US soon enough.

Media guide madness

You know it's the start of the MLS season when all of the teams' respective media guides come out. I got a delivery on Thursday and inside was this:

Now, that cool little box was broken, probably got crushed by other packages but it's supposed to have a front with the league's logo on it. Still, I don't really mind since I've got what matters in the media guides. I organized them up top by how I predict each conference will finish, first through last from the right to the left, conference by conference, though I forgot how I had my Eastern middle-of-the-pack playing out.

Anyway, here are four Western teams' media guide covers.

I think the 'Quakes wanted to remind us who their sponsors were, in case we'd forgotten. RSL's got their new digs on the cover, and their spiral-bound book is always a favorite because it's easy to read.

The other four Western conference teams:


Some interesting notes: Tony Sanneh has a full bio in the Galaxy's guide although the club just announced yesterday that he'd signed with the club. I didn't even realize he hadn't signed until I saw the release. And Chivas USA's features one Mexican in the guide, but it's not Eduardo Lillingston. Claudio Suarez is part of that, just like any other player. No truth to the rumor that staff will cross out Suarez's info with sharpies during upcoming games.

And onto the East:

At first glance, Kansas City's looks strange. It looks more like a glorified pamphlet than a guide. If you look at the first picture, it's the one hiding towards the left. But it's the only media guide that comes with a CD, so perhaps some funds were diverted towards that. Still, it's lightweight and easy to carry and that's a big plus.


New York's is always the thickest, which I always find strange. I mean, it's not like they have a wealth of postseason games to document. The little MLS thing in the corner is the part that had broken off the package.

Anyway, thought you may find this interesting. Now I have to go read up on the Rapids and DC, since that's who we've got coming into town this weekend.

Sights seen and unseen

What will we see during the 2009 MLS season? What won't we see?

I took a look at five things we'll see and five we won't this upcoming season for SI.com.

Sounding an alarm

Looks like Seattle will be climbing in my rankings.

The Sounders got off to an impressive start on Thursday, demolishing the Red Bulls 3-0 at Qwest Field. Fredy Montero looks like the real deal while the support looks like it will be strong in the Emerald City.

Seattle set the bar high for Philadelphia and Vancouver (and Portland) for incoming expansion teams, and showed that the previous failures of the four most recent expansion teams can be overcome. Of course, there are still 29 games left to be played but this team showed on Thursday that it could be in the mix for a playoff spot.

New York, meanwhile, showed that their run to MLS Cup was likely a fluke and not the start of something special.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Trujillo signs

Chivas USA signed Mariano Trujillo today, on the eve of the regular season. Trujillo spent time with several Mexican clubs including Morelia and Pumas. Trujillo can play on the right side of the midfield and defense and should be a valuable addition to the squad.

If he plays.

Jorge Barrera was also an experienced Mexican league player who was adept at right back or right mid but never saw action for Chivas USA. He also came in while Preki was coach.

Still, Trujillo has been training with Chivas off and on since last season, so Preki must have liked what he saw, enough anyway to offer him a contract and a spot on the team. I'm not sure exactly when Trujillo last player in Mexico. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking it may have been in the Clausura 08 season but I'd have to look that up. I suppose the only concern then would be how quickly he can acclimate himself to first division soccer. For Chivas' depleted side, the hope is sooner rather than later.

More rankings

Not everyone is down on Chivas USA. SI.com colleague Noah Davis ranks his teams 1-15, and he has Chivas USA at No. 2, but he has the Galaxy at No. 14. Yikes! And he agrees with me that Seattle should start out the year at No. 15. I mean, last year has to count for something, right? And where was Seattle last year?

Anyway, we'll see how Seattle does here in a matter of hours but the rankings just seem to be all over the place, whether it's him or mine or anyone else's. There's no consensus. We don't have any dominant teams here, no Man Us or Barcelonas to mop up the rest of the league; hence the wildly varying opinions.

Soothsayer

My predictions for this season. Half of them will be wrong, I guarantee it. Also, don't compare my Week 1 rankings to how I think they'll finish, because I based Week 1 on how strong I feel they are entering the season, not how I think the season will unfold.

MLS Cup: Chicago over San Jose

Supporters Shield: Chicago

MVP: Darren Huckerby, San Jose

Rookie of the Year: Omar Gonzalez, Galaxy

Coach of the Year: Sigi Schmid, Seattle

Western Conference:
1. San Jose
2. Houston
3. Seattle
4. Real Salt Lake
5. Colorado
6. Chivas USA
7. Galaxy
8. FC Dallas

Eastern Conference
1. Chicago
2. Columbus
3. Kansas City
4. New England
5. Toronto
6. New York
7. DC United

BC reaction

With Vancouver having received an MLS franchise, I wondered what some of the reaction there would be like. Hockey is king in Canada and Vancouver is home to the Canucks but I wondered if the support from the public would be as ardent as it has been in Toronto.

It's hard to say after one day, really. Ticket sales will give a bit more of an indication to the level of excitement, but the mayor of Vancouver said "we are a soccer city." Apparently the mayor watched the Whitecaps of the NASL play in person.

The president of the new club, Bob Lenarduzzi, seems like a perfect person to head the team. He's a former player, a Vancouverite who is committed to his city, and he's known as Mr. Soccer for chrissake.

The new club is also excited about hosting some of the world's big clubs and talked about adding on a DP and even has some sort of residency/youth development system in place already.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Orozco scores

Michael Orozco scored a goal for San Luis in a Copa Libertadores match on Wednesday.

Orozco scored on a header late in their game against Universitario. The goal gave San Luis a 2-1 lead and would have been the match-winner had San Luis not allowed a goal in the 90th minute.

Orozco is the second American to score a goal in Copa Libertadores. The first was... do you know? I'll put the answer in the comments.

Santos win first leg

Atlante got a road goal but Santos got the win in a 2-1 triumph over los Potros in Torreon on Wednesday.

Santos' Darwin Quintero, who has made his presence felt at different times this tournament, scored both goals. The second goal was a thing of beauty. With the game tied 1-1 in the second half, Quintero dribbled towards the penalty area on a quick counter. With Atlante's Federico Vilar well off his line, Quintero chipped the ball from about 22 yards out over Vilar's head and into the back of the net.

From the start of the tournament, Santos had stated their desire to win the tournament. The team has been dominant at home, having won all five of their home games during the tournament.

Morning ramblings

I've got some links for you this morning. Strangely, my PE column was not linked. It happens sometimes. When I have time later, I'll get to the meat of the column as I wrote about how the Galaxy and Chivas USA will struggle to compete in the Western Conference.

Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune takes a look at the MLS season. Zeigler is always worth a read.

Nick Green wrote in his Tuesday column about the local teams' struggles with injuries. Galaxy could be hurting for players on Sunday. Not good. At least they're hosting DC, which is expected to finish towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Vancouver may indeed get an MLS team. Vancouver is set to be announced as the league's 17th team - and second Canadian entry - in MLS. I know some think that Canada should get its own league and why should MLS bother with Canadian teams but I'm all for bringing in Vancouver. It's a city that seems poised to support an MLS team, and while Toronto isn't exactly nearby there could be a rivalry there. Of course, there likely will be a rivalry with Seattle and if Portland gets a team that would add to that as well. Exciting times for Vancouver.

In case you're wondering - because I was too - it's about 140 miles or so from Seattle to Vancouver.

Many on the Goal.com staff, including yours truly, made their predictions for the upcoming season. While not all of my picks are on there, I do chime in on the Rookie and MVP honors.

Don't forget to check out Goal.com's Mexico page for news on Mexico en ingles.

My man Bruce McGuire, formerly of DuNord, has been contributing to the new Bunky County blog. It's not the same wealth of info but some updates nonetheless. Good to see Bruce up and running.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Islanders win

Puerto Rico Islanders pulled off another upset, although I'm not sure it can be called an upset any more.

Puerto Rico beat Cruz Azul 2-0 at home on Tuesday. Sandy Gbandi and Nicholas Addlery scored for Puerto Rico.

We'll see how PR does in Mexico but for now they have the feel of a team that is destined for more.

Donovan outlook: not so bleak

With 2009 being a crucial year for the United States national team, Landon Donovan figures to be a busy man. He'll likely play a major role for both club and country, but just how much he's around for both remains to be seen.

MLS did not shut down when the US national team plays but was a bit more accommodating this year than in year's past.

I figured I'd take a look at how the Galaxy and US national team's schedules line up and how many Galaxy games conflict with US dates. It's actually not as bad as you may think.

Donovan should play in at least the first 10 games of the season. The US has qualifiers on March 28 and April 1 but the Galaxy have no games between March 22 and April 4.

Then, the busy summer starts. The Galaxy plays a home game on May 30, which is a Saturday. The US plays at Costa Rica on June 3 and against Honduras in Chicago on June 6 before heading out to the Confederations Cup. Donovan could play in the Galaxy's game on May 30 and then go to Costa Rica afterward, so I'll give the Galaxy that game, and that brings the tally to 11.

But Donovan probably won't be around for the Galaxy's first three games in June at least. If the US does not advance past the group stage in the Confederations Cup, he might be able to play against Houston on June 28 (US-Egypt close out the group stage on June 21). I'll say the US doesn't advance and Donovan plays in the Houston game, so 12 games with, three games without.

July is a big question mark. If Donovan does not get called up for the Gold Cup squad, then he will not miss any games in July. If he's on the team, he'll likely miss four games, provided the US reaches the final. I'm going to say that Donovan does get called up for the Gold Cup and he'll miss four games. Total - with: 12, without: seven.

He probably won't miss any of the Galaxy's five games in August. And as luck would have it, the Galaxy don't have any games that conflict with any of the Americans' last four qualifiers. So he'll probably be available for all six Galaxy's games in September and October.

Final total - with: 23, without: seven. Of course, this is just by making an educated guess.

Donovan missed 10 games in 2005, the last time the Hex was played. He stands to be around more often for the Galaxy this season.

Get it... slap...

Rafael Marquez will not play a role in Mexico's next two World Cup qualifiers after FIFA added another game to his automatic one-match suspension stemming from his expulsion from the US-Mexico game on Feb. 11.

Mexico assistant coach Francisco Ramirez was also slapped with a two-match ban for an altercation with Frankie Hejduk after the match.

Paying the bills

So I'm busy writing several different preview stories for several different outlets, but I wanted to pass along one thought that I'm following.

The local teams here in SoCal are going to struggle to compete this season. I'll give you the full breakdown when the story comes out, but overall I just don't see Chivas recovering from their injuries or the Galaxy having the necessary depth to compete for a full 30 games.

I do like the Galaxy better than some others. Last year's disaster won't be repeated. I think the team can be average, which is better than the slop they put out last season. Tony Sanneh seems like a reach but it's not like we didn't see another 37-year-old defender come in and perform admirably here at HDC before. Claudio Suarez was washed up several seasons before he joined Chivas USA and he did okay for them.

Yeah, I get that Suarez is a legend and Sanneh was a decent to good player at his best but Sanneh is the type of player that will help ease the Galaxy along and gives the youngsters someone to learn from.

Still, you have to factor in how many games Donovan will miss and how many games Beckham will miss and how difficult it will be when Beckham arrives, and all that will test the Galaxy.

Chivas' problems, well, all you need to know is Carey Talley and Jonathan Bornstein have seen time at central defense during the preseason and could actually start there at some point this year. Both players are valuable to the team but NOT at central defense. If they brought in Abel Xavier on trial, you know they are panicking.

And if Alecko Eskandarian, Ante Razov and Maykel Galindo are not healthy in March, what makes you think they will be able to get healthy and stay healthy once the season is in full swing?

Well, I'll develop those thoughts into a column this morning and hopefully will be able to chime in here on stuff throughout the morning. Until then, I have to go find me some coffee. I ran out yesterday and I'm not coping well.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Locator Beacon Rankings (March 16)

Here's how I see the MLS teams entering this season.

1. Columbus. Schmid's loss may hurt but most everyone else is back.
2. Chicago. That sound you hear is the window closing on the Fire. It's now or never, and now is actually a good bet.
3. San Jose. This team was strong last year as an expansion team. With a full offseason and a year's worth of experience under their belt, expect the 'Quakes to contend from the start.
4. New England. You can't really count out a Steve Nicol-led team, can you?
5. Real Salt Lake. Let's see how this team does when people actually expect something from you.
6. Houston. De Ro is gone but there is still quality on this team.
7. New York. Was MLS Cup run a fluke? Maybe, but Osorio is a good coach and will have this team in contention.
8. Kansas City. Can Claudio Lopez recover? If he can be the potent goal scorer he was expected to be last year, KC will be strong.
9. Colorado. For the first time in a long time, there is hope with the Rapids at the start of the season: Clavijo is nowhere to be found.
10. Chivas USA. Call me crazy but...
11. Galaxy. ... I don't like either one of the SoCal teams this year.
12. Toronto FC. De Ro is massive but the East is stacked.
13. FC Dallas. Defense is terrible; how much it improves in early part of season will determine of FC Dallas can contend at all this year.
14. DC United. Good news: Christian Gomez is back; bad news: Gomez hasn't been relevant in more than a year.
15. Seattle. Sorry, but you have to earn my respect on the field. One win, though, and they may zoom up the charts. Or not. They have to earn it though.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

MLSer for life

The topic of contracts is almost taboo in MLS. Length of contracts is an unknown - at least, it's not readily available. Unlike other American sports where the fact that an NFL player is in the last year of a three-year deal or some baseball player inked a four-year deal with a club, in MLS that topic is not often known. PR people never give you a straight answer if you ask (even if you ask nicely) and players themselves don't always want to share or act like they are uncertain of the length of their deal.

But Paul Oberjuerge tells us exactly how long Landon Donovan's deal is and has more information about option years.

Turns out, it won't be easy at all for Donovan to head across the pond and make his future in Europe. With the length of the deal, the financial demands MLS has for Donovan and his ever-increasing age, Donovan will probably play out his days with the Galaxy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fall from grace

Remember when Giovani Dos Santos was the Next Big Thing? When he was supposed to follow in the footsteps of giants at Barcelona?

That is ancient history by now.

Dos Santos has been loaned out by EPL side Tottenham Hotspur and will now suit up for Championship side Ipswich Town.

It wasn't too long ago that Dos Santos was one of Mexico's best-ever prospects, a player who was ready to star for both club and country for a good decade, that was set to give the Mexican national team a different kind of talent, along the lines of Ronaldinho, and CONCACAF better watch out.

Now, he's on Ipswich Town. I'm not sure if the average Mexican soccer fan knows much about Tottenham but I can almost guarantee you they know virtually nothing about Ipswich Town. Heck, I know virtually nothing about Ipswich Town.

I don't know when the last time Ipswich Town was in the Premiership, or how they're doing in the Championship, or how Gio fits in and what his chances are of playing. But I do know that Ipswich is a far cry from Barcelona. It's banishment, really. And if he's going to get banished from Barca and the EPL, why not play in Mexico? Seems to me, playing for Atlas or Morelia would be better than playing for Ipswich Town.

Still, Gio's star is fading, even if he were playing in Mexico. He's not the wunderkind anymore, not the Next Big Thing.

At this point, he's not a Sure Thing at all.

Gold Cup field

The Gold Cup venues were announced earlier this week (13, lame) but the groups weren't. However, the field is set. Cuba dropped out and were replaced by Haiti.

The full field:

United States, Panama, Honduras, Grenada, El Salvador, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Haiti.

I know the field lacks a bit of luster as we used to see some South American nations in here but this is the way it should be. There are enough teams in CONCACAF to make it an all-CONCACAF tournament, and judging by the absences of Trinidad and Guatemala, it's not exactly easy for the second- or third-tier teams to qualify and reach the tournament in the first place.

Still, I would love the Gold Cup more if it were held every four years. Honestly, I'm not sure about rotating it around to other countries simply because it's a big tournament and I don't know if other nations have the venues necessary to host it. If anything, it should go from the US and Mexico and possibly Canada.

Preseason camp

My latest effort for SI.com.

Friendlies that aren't really friendlies

Chivas USA and the Galaxy will wrap up their respective preseasons over the next two days. While these games will mean nothing in terms of the regular season, they could provide a glimpse of what will be for both local sides.

Chivas USA-Houston: Chivas host Houston tonight at HDC. It's actually being played in the main stadium and should have the feel of a real game. Chivas have a ton of question marks heading into the season as things don't look good in Red-and-White land. Injuries have carried over from the end of last year to the start of this season as players such as Ante Razov, Alecko Eskandarian and Bobby Burling are injured, and all were expected to play key roles for the club.

We should see in what direction the club will turn to in terms of a starting lineup, but we could see something like this both tonight and next week against Colorado: Thornton; Talley, Thomas, Curtin, Jazic; Kljestan, Marsch, Nagamura, Bornstein; Braun, Lillingston.

Normally, this would be a match against an MLS Cup contender but without Dwayne De Rosario and to a lesser extent Nate Jaqua, Houston doesn't have the feel of a favorite these days. They are a hard-working team but that doesn't mean they won't be contenders, just that they'll be the hardest-working average team out there.

Galaxy-Chicago: This game should be good. The Galaxy and Chicago play in Tempe, Ariz., on Saturday. Landon Donovan is back and will play with the Galaxy for the first time this year. That shouldn't really matter to him, as he could wait until the season opener against DC United to play and still do fine but his teammates, especially the new guys, will need to have him on the field to learn to play with him.

Chicago is a favorite, a cup contender, anything you've got. Columbus I think took a hit by losing Sigi Schmid and no other team closed the gap between themselves and the Fire. It's a good thing the Galaxy will be tested against one of the best teams MLS has to offer.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Expansion bids

Miami seemed the favorite for an expansion team until the whole deal unraveled in a matter of days. After Atlanta and Montreal had pulled out, the field was narrow enough already but now it looks as if at least one team is all but a shoo-in.

Portland's city council approved a plan that would clear the way for a new stadium. That last part, the "new stadium," is what MLS likes to hear. If Portland can build a stadium, the city will almost certainly nab one of two expansion bids.

All along, I've been a believer in Portland. I have no connection to the city, have never been to Oregon, but I feel that a presence in the city and another West Coast team would not be a bad thing. With two SoCal teams, San Jose, Seattle and Portland, we've got a nice little West Coast thing going on here. Add Real Salt Lake and Colorado and the league will have a solid presence West of the Rockies.

(Okay, not sure if the Rapids are technically east or west of the Rocky Mountains, but you get my point)

If Portland gets a team and if the team is named the Timbers, we'd have an instant rivalry. Seattle and Portland have a long-standing rivalry and this would add to that. We've seen how great passion rivalries can bring out, and this would add to the benefits of a Portland-based club.

St. Louis also appears to be picking up some steam but for now it seems a toss-up between St. Louis, Vancouver and Ottawa for the other spot alongside Portland as the league's 17th and 18th clubs.

Mexico's rout

Mexico dropped a five-spot on Bolivia on Wednesday in a game that will ultimately serve as a confidence-booster at best.



Matias Vuoso did well to find his scoring touch again with a pair of goals while Leandro Augusto also scored, his strike on a well-taken left-footed free kick.

Augusto probably put himself in the conversation in terms of starting against Costa Rica. He was paired with Gerardo Torrado as Pavel Pardo did not play. It's interesting now for Sven-Goran Eriksson, to see in which direction he goes. You figure Andres Guardado will be a lock on the left, Pardo will be in there somewhere and Fernando Arce is capable on the right. But you've also got Gerardo Torrado as well as Augusto for midfield options, not to mention Sven favorite "Jagger" Martinez, who performed admirably against Bolivia as well.

Of course, the big question marks will be on defense as Rafael Marquez and Carlos Salcido will not play. Aaron Galindo and Jonny Magallon figure to be in line to start but Leobardo Lopez and Fausto Pinto are options as well.

Anyway, with Wednesday's rout the result is meaningless. That Mexico beat Bolivia by a lot does not mean Mexico will beat Costa Rica by a lot. However, for the players who did well yesterday, it should give them confidence and will help Eriksson as he plans the roster and a starting lineup for March 28.

Day late, dollar short

I swear, I am my own worst promoter. I never did link to my PE column from Wednesday.

Well, here it is.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Desperate times

You may have seen Abel Xavier's picture right here on this blog on Saturday. Abel was on Chivas USA's bench during a scrimmage against Chicago out at HDC. He was dressed in street clothes but his presence there was strange.

He's been training with Chivas USA all week.

Now, Chivas USA's defense is paper thin. Before the year started, it seemed as if that position would not necessarily an area of concern. Shavar Thomas was a rock and Bobby Burling proved a great find there last year. Jim Curtin may not be a player you want starting 30 games but he can hold his own and has something of value and then there was Claudio Suarez, who apparently wanted to return.

The season is about to start and suddenly central defense looks weak. The club will allow goals by the boatload if they aren't careful. Curtin is seemingly the starter now, by default. Suarez is done. Burling is injured and won't be back for a while. The club has tried Jonathan Bornstein back there in the preseason and right now it appears he might be in the mix to start as well.

Preki could use a backline of Carey Talley, Shavar Thomas, Jonathan Bornstein and Ante Jazic.

Not sure where Xavier would fit in right now, if he's best suited for the right or central defense, but he would offer experience and leadership but not much else.

Now, I don't think this is necessarily a terrible move. I do think Xavier offered a lot of leadership to the Galaxy, and that can't be overlooked. But his skills weren't the best and he was burned a lot, including once by Ante Razov as his potential new teammate danced around Xavier and knocked a shot past Joe Cannon during a game in 2007.

We'll see what comes of this trial. My guess is he'll join out of desperation on Chivas USA's part, desperation to bring in a body who has seen time recently in this league.

It's Seattle

MLS Cup 2009 will be played in Seattle.

The league's championship match will be held in the Emerald City, which is a great sign for the fledgling franchise. More than 20,000 season tickets have been sold, the club looks about as strong an expansion team that this league has seen and now this.

Kudos to the Sounders. I'd say they have a shot of playing in the game but that's a stretch at this point of the season, no matter how good the team looks on paper. They will have their growing pains for sure. It may be a month or two, maybe less, but they'll struggle like all other expansion teams have struggled.

Still, the preseason could not have come to an end any better for Seattle.

El Tri's Bolivia friendly

Mexico will play Bolivia tonight in a friendly at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.

I've got you covered over at Goal.com.

With regards to the game, I really don't know how much good it will serve. In the long run, some of the younger players like Paul Aguilar and Hugo Ayala may benefit from it, but I don't think either would or should be in the mix to start against Costa Rica. And this roster features a lot of players in that category, not because they aren't talented. They just don't have the experience.

Right now, what is more important than bleeding the youngsters is righting the wrongs, fixing their problems, and how can you fix a problem when half of the team is missing?

I believe friendies are meaningless in general with regards to results; who cares what the final score is tonight? However, this friendly has even less meaning given what Mexico will face in two-plus weeks and the players who won't get to prepare for that game in tonight's match.

The definitive Donovan rundown

I linked to some stories and provided quotes about how the day went, but if you really want to know how the Landon Donovan press conference went down, about all the things that were asked and said, check out Paul Oberjuerge's blog.

Paul spent about four months in Hong Kong, but now he's back stateside and had the chance to attend the press conference and talk to Landon Donovan.

There is not a person who has the perspective Paul does when it comes to Landon Donovan. Nobody. Those of us who worked at The Sun back about 10 years ago had the chance to talk to Landon Donovan the Teenager. But Paul also talked to Landon Donovan the German-based Teenager, Landon Donovan the Youth National Team Star, Landon Donovan the Olympic Star, Landon Donovan the World Cup Standout, Landon Donovan the German League washout...

You get the point.

So aside from all the relevant quotes and information, Paul offers up some thoughts on Donovan and his return from Bayern Munich.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

More Donovan coverage

Some links for other coverage from the Donovan press conference:

Larry Morgan writing for MLSnet.com included some stuff he got from his Galaxy teammates.

Nick Green on his 100 Percent Soccer blog has some more quotes from the presser.

That's it for now. I filed my PE column, which I wrote on Donovan (of course). I'll link to that in the morning. And if I come across some other stuff I'll link to it here.

UPDATE:

Here is a link to video of the press conference shot by my former blog cohort AC.

And of course how could I forget the Galaxy's blog, which has lots of video (thanks J).

Wicks out

Josh Wicks is out with the Galaxy. Wicks was dealt to DC United for draft picks. Ha. Wicks for picks.

Anyway, Wicks' departure isn't a surprise. What was a surprise was that he survived the purge and seemed destined to back up Donovan Ricketts, although having Wicks on the bench would have hardly given anyone confidence. Josh Saunders is now the number two guy.

Non-committal

I felt this was worthy of its own post since it deals with something a bit secondary to his return and the Galaxy and David Beckham and all that good stuff.

Landon Donovan was asked about this summer with the US national team, Confederations Cup and Gold Cup. Now, the US will have two consecutive tournaments once again as they did in 2007 and fielding the same team in both the FIFA tournament and the CONCACAF tournament will likely not be possible or an option for US coach Bob Bradley.

In 2007, Donovan was adamant about wanting to participate in the Gold Cup only and passing on Copa America. Two years later, it's not quite the same tune.

Donovan was asked whether he would prefer to play in only one tournament:

You'd have to ask Bob that. My guess is that he would keep that in mind with guys who are going to miss a lot of games. I don't necessarily have a preference but that's a question for Bob.

LD and Arena on LD

Just got back from HDC, it takes a while for me to get back home, but here I am now writing away.

Some of the notes and quotes from today's presser (and I'm going to update this more as I transcribe more):

Bruce Arena on having Landon back in tow:

It is absolutely critical to have Landon and his quality. This time around we not only expect him to do what he does on the field but we're asking him to do a little bit more and be the leader of this team and do the things off the field that are necessary to make us a good team on the field. Landon certainly wants to do that.

In Landon we have the best player in MLS. We were absolutely thrilled seeing him on the field today. sometimes you don't appreciate what Landon offers. When he stepped on the field today, he was all business, all quality, is well-respected by his teammates, demonstrated all the qualities we believe he has and will continue to have and be even better.

This is a great day for the LA Galaxy.

Landon on his return:

I'm very excited to be back. I had a good time in Germany. It was a very interesting experience for a lot of reasons, some good, some bad, a lot of learning. It made me certainly appreciate having teammates and having people that you are familiar with, comfortable with, enjoy being around. I enjoyed a lot of the players and staff in Munich but there is a feeling here... that is different. It's nice to be back.

Landon on Beckham's situation:

Like all my teammates, past teammates, future teammates, I want the best for him. he's made it very clear that he wants to be there. in that circumstance I'm happy for him. However fromt he Galaxy;'s standpoint it makes it quite difficult. I know from Bruce's standpoint he's trying to build a team and it makes it difficult now to do that because of this situation.

From David's perspective I'm happy for him. From the team's perspective it would be nice to move on now and kind of figure out what's going on now.

As long as he's committed to helping this team win and give us his all, he's still a world class player and we want him on this team.

Landon on whether or not he felt a negative vibe from his Bayern teammates:

I never got the vibe that there was an arrogant European thing there. Actually, on the contrary guys were very respectful. On the field you have to earn your respect and I learned that quickly. If you make plays and do things to help them out, then you earn their respect and they become a little more friendly, a little more nicer in the locker room and they respect you more. Those things I did relatively quickly and I was proud of that.

Landon presser

Landon Donovan will have a chance to discuss his loan deal with Bayern Munich today. The Galaxy have scheduled a press conference for this afternoon and I'll be one of the throngs of hacks out there, awaiting his every word. Okay, maybe that's a stretch but I will be in attendance.

I'll update you on what he says sometime afterward.

Monday, March 9, 2009

An idiot AND a retard

Remember last week when I told you all that I get called an idiot on a weekly basis?

I don't lie.

Just got this in my inbox. It actually made me laugh.

You are an idiot for even suggesting that USL is better than MLS. Ever heard of the US Open Cup? Has Puerto Rico won a semifinal series yet? Well then they haven't done any better than MLS has. Only retards ignore history.

Gold Cup venues

The Gold Cup venues have been announced. It's a stark change from the past, where we've had some sites host more than one matchday. This time, a different approach is in place as 13 different cities will host games.

Perhaps the most surprising venue is the one in Dallas. The honor of being the first-ever sporting event held at the new Dallas Cowboys stadium will be bestowed on the beautiful game as a soccer event while christen the stadium.

The Gold Cup will kick off with a doubleheader at Home Depot Center on July 3 and will culminate with the final, in Giants Stadium on July 26.

Here is the full fixture dates (groups and teams and all that will be determined at a later date)

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, as far as the games go, my guess is we'll see Mexico play on the third day of games, that is on July 5, 9 and 12 in San Francisco, Houston and Phoenix, respectively. I'm also guessing the US will play on the second days, the 4, 8 and 11 in Seattle, Washington DC and Boston. I'm also guessing that Mexico will play its quarterfinal in Dallas... well, that the path for Mexico will line up so if El Tri reaches the quarterfinals they'll play in Dallas.

I don't know how I feel about having the teams travel so much during the group stage and tournament in general. To have a team play in three different cities in three different states across several time zones seems extreme. Teams will adjust as they'll all face the same itineraries but that weaken the overall tournament as well.

I also think that this is too soon from the last time around, that the Gold Cup should be played every four years instead of every other year. The next edition should not be played until 2013, or 2012, and the tournament could be held four years after that and so on. That would build more anticipation and make it more of a real tournament. Not to say it isn't real but the US and Mexico are always aligned so that the likeliest place they will meet for the first time in each tournament is in the final.

Still, I'll be following the Gold Cup and probably will attend our lone matchday doubleheaders out here at HDC. This time around, though, I'll only have one date to circle on my calendar.

Emperor's wrath

Claudio Suarez announced his retirement on the weekend. It wasn't really a surprise to anyone since the 40-year-old defender, uh ... was 40 YEARS OLD. Who relies on 40-year-olds in soccer?

Turns out, though, that Chivas USA and Suarez were still negotiating but the final parting of ways is more like a bitter divorce than a mutually beneficial farewell.

Suarez told La Opinion quite an earful when Suarez made public his intentions of walking off to the sunset.

What he told La Opinion:

Apparently Suarez and the club had been negotiating for the better part of five months, but Suarez called Chivas USA's offers "ridiculous." Although no figure was reported, Suarez apparently felt he was better than the pittance he was offered.

"My economic demands were not grand but they had to respect the fact that I was the image of the club because this club began with the idea of having a roster with a Mexican base and everything has changed. More and more important players are leaving and they are misleading fans with this project.

"I know they have to take care of their money but to be honest they disrespected me with what they offered."

"In fact, my priority was always to stay in the United States for family reasons. Now, this chapter with Chivas USA is closed. I won't re-consider anything. I'd rather play with an amateur club."

Chivas USA, of course, had no comments when approached by La Opinion.

Again, no surprise at all that Suarez is not back and that he has opted for retirement over a return to the playing fields. But it should be sad for the club to have shunned a player this way, a Mexican legend no matter how old he was when he finally retired, a player and above that a person who warrants respect.

Instead, the best Mexican defender of all time wants nothing to do with Chivas USA.

Not the best way to go about business.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Chivas USA update

In their penultimate preseason match, Chivas USA lost to Chicago 2-1. The Fire's goals were scored by Justin Mapp and Brian McBride, the latter of which was a vicious side volley few goalkeepers could have stopped.

Some observations/notes:

* Chivas USA will play Houston in a friendly on Friday at 7 p.m. It will be inside the main stadium and will be the final dress rehearsal for both sides.

* Eduardo Lillingston is signed and sealed and almost delivered. The club offered him a contract and he signed it.

* Maykel Galindo (remember him?) played. He got in sometime in the second half and was rusty. He did draw a penalty kick though.

* Ante Jazic looks pretty solid at left back. Expect him to start there this season with Jonny B in the midfield. Bornstein took a knock against San Jose Wednesday and did not play.

* Mariano Trujillo saw some action in the second half but the former Morelia man is apparently here just as a guest and not on trial. That's what we were told but I'm not buying it. He's obviously not playing for anyone in Mexico right now. He can be useful and would add some experience and pace along the right side.

* Injured Chivas players include: Ante Razov, Alecko Eskandarian, Lawson Vaughn, Atiba Harris, Sasha Victorine, Bobby Burling and Bornstein. And here we thought the offseason would help Chivas regain their strength.

Guest on the bench

Not sure if he was just a "guest" but that's what this appearance was attributed to. Spotted on the sidelines of the Chivas USA-Chicago match was this familiar blond guy.


In other, no-way-this-can-be-related news, Claudio Suarez announced his retirement on Futbol Picante apparently.

Friday, March 6, 2009

No half-hearted effort

Usually when I write something I expect to get feedback from, I am alerted by some e-mail that my SI.com column has been posted.

This time, I beat myself to the punch. My USL/CCL column is up.

Here's the link, but I have yet to get any response.

My favorite line from the story:

"Our teams didn't go into this -- just like they don't go into the [U.S.] Open Cup or the Canadian Cup -- as a half-assed exercise," Marcos said. "It's real. It's a way to vindicate themselves. It's a way to prove that they belong."

Believe

The last two days, I've been consumed with the USL. I'd never really given it much thought outside of Open Cup. I suppose since we don't have a team here locally, at least not in USL-1, it's sort of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind phenomenon.

But I'm starting to come around to thinking that the gap between MLS and the USL is very small.

Since Seattle tore apart Chivas and Colorado and nearly beat Dallas in the 2007 Open Cup, I paid more attention to the USL. I even wrote a column on the Sounders' run for the Press-Enterprise. USL teams knocking out MLS teams in the Open Cup is no surprise to me anymore, since MLS teams don't care about the USOC nearly as much as USL teams do.

There's more to it than just caring and wanting to win, though. USL teams are strong, stronger than many give them credit for. It's not a crackpot, glorified Sunday rec league. And if it is, well, MLS is too.

MLS has so many more advantages than the USL in terms of money and finances and players and talent and even within the scant media coverage given to soccer. MLS is more likely to get mentioned on sports highlights shows than USL.

Yet it's the USL teams who have been the story of this tournament, along with the Mexican teams of course. But the latter were expected to compete, to be there at the end, to continue to set the standard in CONCACAF. Not the USL. The second division. The place where MLS washouts go to prolong their careers.

I don't want to steal any of my own thunder as I wrote a column on this for SI.com. I talked to USL President Francisco Marcos at length yesterday, an interesting and great conversation. You'll have to wait for the SI.com column to come out, but Marcos did say that he thought for a while that if USL teams had the same chance as MLS teams, we'd see what we're seeing now. Something that didn't make it into the column:

Marcos said: I want to make it clear that to enter the competition was always something that was very important to us, just as it is important for our teams to enter the US Open Cup and to do as well as we can because given the overall problem, if I can label it a problem, of not having promotion and relegation, the only way we were going to be able to have any kind of comparative measure or to be able to show to the rest of the world that we to belong somewhere was by being able to play in the same competition where the MLS teams play and where other countries' first division or whatever the case may be also play.

And what happened when USL was allowed entry into the same international tournament as MLS?

Well, only four teams are left in the CCL. Three are Mexican. The other sure as hell isn't from MLS. It's Puerto Rico who rounds out the quartet.

But hey, MLS is the better league, right? MLS has caught up to the Mexican league because... uh what was that... oh yeah, SuperLiga. Right. Forgot about that.

Well, MLS can have the made-for-TV SuperLiga.

USL will be off playing with the big boys.